[personal profile] what_works
Fandom: Stargate: SG-1
Title: The Analog Myth (4/4)
Author: Em
Rating: PG-13 for language and violence
Word Count: ~40,000 (in 4 parts)
Pairing: Jack/Daniel
Warning: (highlight to reveal) character death (original character)
Summary: While doing routine negations on a planet that might actually be able to help the SGC fight the Ori, SG-1 stumbles upon a familiar technology—the Vinculum, the nanite-based invention that gives the bearer internet-in-the-brain. How did this technology make it from Tekhne, the planet where Jack and Daniel were first exposed, to Aberdone? And since the SGC is negotiating with the Aberdones and forced to unseal the mission files for Tekhne, how long will it be before this invasive technology makes it to Earth? To make matters worse, the Aberdones have recently experienced a religious revolution and are worshipping a new god . . . one, unfortunately, well known to SG-1.

Notes: Some dialogue lifted from "Abyss."

Continued from Part 3.



* * *


Landry didn't seem surprised by their report that things went badly on Aberdone. Gerard wasn't sure if he was just that pessimistic or if he had already grown used to the trouble that seemed to follow around SG-1.

Jack and Daniel were noticeably absent from the briefing. Gerard wasn't entirely sure how Aberdone and Earth days related, but he thought they'd been off-world for about sixteen hours. That should have given Jack and Daniel time to check out Hammel Technologies and report back to the SGC.

"Sorry you lost your first off-world negations, Ambassador." Landry actually sounded sincere.

Ambassador Vaisey took a deep breath. He'd been quiet during most of the briefing, barely reacting as SG-1 and Landry filled in the details of the investigations he'd had no idea were taking place alongside his mission. Gerard guessed the departure from Aberdone had sobered him.

"I suppose it was a learning experience." Vaisey pinched his shirt closed, fussing with the buttons that would normally have been covered by his tie. "Do we know anything yet about the connection to Hammel Technologies?"

Landry grumbled, his whole demeanor changing. "No. Dr. Jackson missed his check in. I haven't been able to reach either of them."

Sam and Teal'c exchanged a look, both of them shifting in their seats like they were already ready to leave.

"I'd like to say that doesn't mean they were captured, but this is General O'Neill and Jackson we're talking about." Mitchell rubbed his brow. "I assume we're going to in to check on them?"

Sam leaned forward. "If they've been neutralized that means the Vinculum is active. We need a plan for taking it down." She looked directly at Gerard and then everyone else followed suit—even Jacob was looking at him.

"No pressure," he joked.

Sam smiled. "I thought you might have an idea at least."

"You're going to Hammel Technologies?" Vaisey pinched his shirt closed again, this time the fabric sat stiffly shut.

"That's where General O'Neill was headed," Landry confirmed.

Vaisey cleared his throat and sat back. "I just mean . . . if the Vinculum," he coughed. "If it's active and anyone. . . ."

"We could be walking into more zombies," Mitchell bluntly translated.

"I was thinking you should go in with the proper forces," Vaisey mumbled.

"It's a civilian business," Mitchell pointed out. "We can't roll in with the troops without just cause."

"Like you don't have a department just for generating excuses?" Vaisey crossed his arms, regaining some of his old bravado. "This is exactly the problem I have with the SGC—you'll lie to cover your own asses but not when you can actually do some good."

Mitchell blinked, looking like he didn't have a ready come back for that.

"It's not as simple as a lie," Sam started, but Landry cut her off with a raised hand.

"While I appreciate the advice, I'm still the CO of Stargate Command, and you're a liaison between Earth and other planets." Landry placed his hands on the table and leaned forward. "Go liaise." Landry stood up, talking right over Vaisey's next protest. "SG-1, secure transport to Hammel Technologies, save Jack's bacon, and take care of that damn Vinculum." Landry's heated gaze focused on Gerard, and Gerard shrank back in his seat. "Dismissed." The General strode to his office and shut the door before Gerard had straightened up in his chair.

Vaisey shook his head. "This is more dangerous than he thinks."

Teal'c stood up and pushed in his chair, speaking as though it didn't matter. "We have been in worse situations, Ambassador Vaisey. An army of mindless drones is merely . . . unpleasant."

Vaisey froze. Gerard winced and turned to Jacob, finding it easier to make eye contact with his robot brother. Even though he never considered someone would use the Vinculum to completely override a person's thoughts and free will—he couldn't help but feel like Aberdone was his fault.

"Decision's not up to us anyway." Mitchell stood, an extra bounce in his step. "General's orders. Sam, if you need anything special for taking out the Vinculum, grab it. We're leaving in twenty."

Sam nodded and turned to Jacob and Gerard, completely overlooking the way Vaisey adjusted his shirt again, glancing over his shoulder. Gerard gave Vaisey one last glance before leaving the room, feeling sorry that he was poorly adjusting to working with the SGC. He gave Sam his full attention, giving her a list of tools he thought might be necessary for taking out the Vinculum while his thoughts were still wrapping themselves around that very problem.

"It's not as easy as just shutting off the transceiver," Jacob said, reading Gerard's shift in thoughts as though they were still connected by the Vinculum.

Gerard rubbed his lip, shrugging back as an SF passed them in the hall. "Not if they want it permanently shut down." He shared a look with Jacob, knowing what this would mean for Jacob but finally admitting it was for the best. The Vinculum was too dangerous and they'd been selfish and stupid to bring that technology to another planet when they'd watched it rip apart their own homeworld.

"The real problem is the nanites," Sam said. She pressed the button for Level 19. "If we just destroy the transceiver, the nanites could still be reactivated later—like what happened when Daniel visited Aberdone. All Ba'al would have to do is build another one."

"Would he?" Jacob's eyes constricted; he was fully engaged in the conversation and it was obvious. It was almost like being human, closer than Gerard had appreciated while they had their virtual haven. Jacob would fully adapt, and Gerard could adjust as well. They'd lived for nearly two years like this, adjusting and tweaking Jacob's robot body; they could keep living that, making further improvements. They could survive without the Vinculum.

Cold metal touched Gerard's arm—Jacob's hand—and he startled, realizing the elevator had stopped and Sam was holding open the door and still talking.

"—has the resources. Plus if he finds out about his 'success' on Aberdone. . . ."

Gerard rubbed his arm where Jacob had touched him, warming the skin, and moved ahead. He'd spent a lot of time in Sam's lab his first weeks on Earth. She'd given him access to schematics of several androids the SGC had encountered and helped Gerard devise the first interface that allowed them to communicate with Jacob through a computer and keyboard. Those first moments had been tense—Gerard wasn't sure the download had worked, wasn't sure how much of Jacob he'd been able to save. How much hard drive space was needed to hold a human brain? He'd asked himself that on Tekhne, but hadn't allowed himself to consider the consequences until he'd arrived on Earth.

He'd convinced himself that part of Jacob was better than nothing. It was a conviction he was trying to recommit to now.

Sam was packing a bag with the tools she'd discussed with Gerard. "I know it didn't work with the ones in Daniel or the General, but . . . these are Earth-based nanites, is there any chance an EMP would knock them out?"

"I wouldn't think so." The scientists at Hammel should have taken EMPs into consideration when developing their nanites—it was a fairly basic precaution for this kind of nanotechnology.

"Well, we can't remove the nanites," she complained.

"We can change the base code," Gerard blurted. Once he'd said it that solution seemed obvious. It was the easiest way to assure that the nanites wouldn't be able to operate with any other transceivers. "We'll send out an update—change their programming so they can't receive any other transmissions."

The normal whirring of Jacob's body as he shifted minutely next to Gerard suddenly stopped.

"Can you deploy that through the Vinculum?" Sam asked.

"From a transceiver we could. Assuming the Vinculum's been deployed to enough individuals, an upload from me or Jacob won't do it. We couldn't be sure we'd gotten everyone." Gerard pressed his lips together and deliberately kept his gaze away from Jacob. "The only way to be sure all the nanites are altered is to send it from the transceiver."

"Will Jacob's transceiver work?"

"My transceiver is short range," Jacob said, his voice as dull as ever. "Even broadcasting inside Hammel, it won't be powerful enough to overcome their transceiver."

"The one in Jacob was only meant to extend a few feet." Gerard gestured the distance between the two of them—they hadn't need to make it any stronger; they were rarely outside of each other's line of sight. "We'll have to get to Hammel's transceiver."

Sam nodded. "We have to go in for Daniel and General O'Neill anyway." She hefted the pack over her shoulder. "Do you need a computer for this?"

Gerard tapped his temple. "Jacob and I can write the code using our Vinculum." Gerard tapped his temple again, feeling empty at the prospect of actually writing this code and destroying his creation . . . and for damning Jacob to his robot shell.

"All right. Cam and Teal'c are probably waiting for us." She readjusted the pack on her shoulder and headed out.

"Gerard." Jacob's speaker crackled like a catch in his throat.

"I don't know what else to do," Gerard whispered.

They were both quiet for a moment and then Jacob moved, following Sam out of the lab. Gerard trailed behind, grateful Jacob had mentioned turning on the Vinculum. He wasn't ready to face Jacob's opinion about what he was voluntarily doing.




They arrived at Hammel Technologies without fanfare. Gerard almost thought it was unfair since these would be his final moments with the Vinculum, but he figured the others not only wouldn't understand, but probably wouldn't want to understand.

Their contact with the NID, Agent Barrett, told them Level 5 had been where Jack and Daniel were going, but couldn't give them any more information. Apparently whatever happened to Jack and Daniel had shut down Hammel entirely.

"Be on the look out," Mitchell advised, signaling for Teal'c to move forward into the building. They weren't ready to fire, but their weapons were in their hands, ready to be ready.

From outside they could see the lobby was empty, the receptionist and guard duty stations both unmanned. The parking lot was still full, though, so someone still had to be in the building.

SG-1 went first, and as soon as Gerard crossed the threshold of the building he felt it—five hundred voices in his head, all connected through the Vinculum. He shut off his thoughts, trying to prevent them from slipping into the easy stream that characterized this bastardized Vinculum.

Did you hear them? Jacob asked, meaning Jack and Daniel.

Too many voices to tell. I'll sort it out in a minute.

"The Vinculum's active," he reported quietly. "And it feels like everyone in the building has access."

"Ba'al?"

Gerard closed his eyes, concentrating for a moment. "Doesn't feel like it. There's something there, but it's not as strong as it was on Aberdone."

Mitchell and Sam shared a look before bringing up their weapons and scanning the walkways from the second and third floors that looked down on the lobby.

"Can you give us a head count? Or tell us if the way is clear?" Mitchell kept his eyes on the walkways, moving farther into the room.

"If I push too hard, they'll notice us."

Jack and Daniel are here, Jacob said. I can't find them, but people are thinking about them. Something about . . . torture.

Gerard's stomach dropped. "We need to get to that transceiver. I say we start on Level 5."

"Good enough plan. Split up? Sam, you take the roboto boys and head up the elevator. Teal'c and I will take the stairs." Mitchell tapped Teal'c's arm, letting Teal'c take point.

Sam nodded swiftly and headed towards the elevator, Jacob falling into step behind her. His feet clanked across the floor, not exactly the quiet gait even Teal'c affected as he and Colonel Mitchell crossed the lobby to reach the stairwell.

Sam pushed the button for the elevator, her arms tense around her weapon, waiting for the car to arrive and the doors to part. There was no movement and no sound; only the muffled voices in the Vinculum let Gerard know other people were here.

The car was empty when it arrived—Gerard didn't hear anything on the Vinculum about anyone noticing the elevator movement—and they got in, pressing the button for Level 5.

Gerard. Jacob tugged hard on Gerard's thoughts and they were in the Vinculum together, back in Gerard's workshop on Tekhne, several half-finished projects cluttering his workspace and shelves. He thought he remembered some of the items laid out on the table, one a magnetic pocket watch that had been passed through his family and that he and Jacob had been instructed to share.

Are you really going to do this? The fluorescent lights shone through Jacob's glasses, obscuring his eyes. He stood with his hands on his hips, though, so Gerard could imagine the hard look Jacob must be giving him.

We can't let the Vinculum destroy another planet. That much they both could accept.

Upgrading through the transceiver though . . . it's going to affect everyone with nanites. Everyone. He tilted his head down, his eyes coming into focus. Gerard. His voice squawked with static, even though they were in the Vinculum, like a nervous tic.

It's the only way to push the code to everyone. Gerard shrugged, trying to put on a brave face. He'd spent a long time on the run, dodging patrols on Tekhne, and expecting the worst. He hadn't expected to readjust so quickly to the possibility of having family and home. It wasn't that he didn't know what Jacob was getting at; he just didn't want to think about what he was sacrificing.

Jacob nodded once and stepped back. He didn't suggest that Gerard protect himself, or that they both run away. He just nodded and accepted his older brother's decision. Gerard had a record of making bad decisions when it came to the Vinculum; this one was less selfish, but he wasn't sure this one was any better than his other decisions.

I'm sorry, he said.

Jacob looked down and flexed his hand, making a fist. I know. He felt Jacob push then, a gentle shove, and Gerard was out of his virtual workshop, the elevator sliding past Level 4.

Jacob was standing next to Gerard, the lights on his face dim. Gerard could still feel his thoughts in the Vinculum, and he took a moment to appreciate that.

* * *


Jack? Jack! It was almost like searching in the dark. Daniel had been right there next to Jack and then something—probably whatever was in the Vinculum—had pulled Jack away. Now that thing was keeping Daniel at a distance, sealing off Jack from Daniel. It didn't matter how much he called—Daniel couldn't reach him.

No, Daniel thought, nothing was going to stand in his way. He punched into Jack's thoughts, reaching for Jack until he felt something, felt him, and then he grabbed and was pulled in, pulled right to Jack.

The room he was in was orange and small, but the walls went up forever. Jack was dressed in dark brown; the holes in his shirt looked like they were ringed with recent blood. The edge of Daniel's vision caught his own shirt—a cream sweater he couldn't remember ever owning. Jack was facing away, so he did the thing that seemed natural.

"Hi, Jack." He waved when Jack turned but didn't say anything.

"Daniel." Jack didn't seem terribly surprised to see Daniel, which Daniel counted as a good thing.

"What're we doing here?" Daniel stood up, examining the inset windows—there must be lamps shining light through the frosted glass; they didn't seem to be in room along an exterior wall. Daniel took another moment to appreciate the sparse cell; it felt goa'uld. (Oh how hilarious that even out of the field, Jack was still being captured by the goa'uld.)

"I don't know, Daniel. Why don't you tell me why you're popping in on my hell."

"Well, something was attacking you through the Vinculum." Jack's eyes glazed over and Daniel suddenly had the feeling Jack wasn't there any more. His expression was vacant—doll-like—and it reminded Daniel sharply of the last time he'd been trapped in a virtual world, the times when Amelia had left him there and her vessel sat empty but ready for her return. "Jack?"

And like that there was life in Jack's eyes again.

"Daniel." Jack said his name the exact way he'd said it when he first noticed Daniel, that flat not-surprised, not-quite-believing tone that meant Daniel had some work ahead of him.

"Where'd ya go?" Daniel kept his voice light, sing-songy.

"Nowhere I haven't been before." Jack's voice was equally plucky, which meant he was worse off than he'd admit.

There were scuffling footsteps from above. "Jack. The guards are coming." Daniel wasn't quite sure what to do—he shouldn't be here, what would they do if they saw him?

Jack moved towards one wall and put his hands against it like he was getting ready to do a push-up.

"Jack!"

A hum filled the room and the arrowheads on the walls rotated until they were pointing perpendicular. Jack now appeared to be standing on the wall. The guards couldn't see Daniel, or at least they paid him no mind as they walked towards Jack. Daniel took a careful step, orienting himself the same way as everyone else, and took in the jaffa who had come for Jack. Their foreheads were stamped with Ba'al's mark.

Of course! The thing in the Vinculum—the files had mentioned an upload. It was Ba'al. Ba'al had uploaded himself into the Vinculum!

Daniel took a deep breath, wondering how much his muddled connection with the Vinculum would protect him. He followed behind the guards carefully, ending at a throne room. The hair rose on Daniel's arms as he approached—something was warning him off from the room—still, he wasn't about to leave Jack alone in there.

He hurried to catch up, but the door was already closing and Daniel only caught a glimpse of Ba'al's long flowing black robes before the doors shut with a loud thunk. The jaffa didn't exit and Daniel could only hear the murmur of voices for a long time (one definitely goa'uld, the other he guessed was Jack's), and then—Daniel winced at the grunt of pain, the slow whine that colored Jack's next mumbled words.

Daniel stepped back, looking around the edges of the door, trying to find a handle or a motion-sensor, something that would let him open the door and at least see what that bastard was doing to Jack.

Daniel hit the door in anger, realizing it wasn't what Ba'al was doing to Jack now; it was what Ba'al had already done to Jack. Jack hadn't told him much about it, but Daniel had read the debriefs from his missing year; he knew Jack had been captured and tortured by Ba'al and that it was sleight of hand and dumb luck that had sprung Jack before he'd been really lost. Sarcophagus withdrawal had followed, along with a few sealed psych evaluations that Daniel had never (and would never) ask about.

But it was Jack's worst nightmare, Daniel knew. A total loss of control, an utter breaking of his will. Jack had given up while he was here.

"Jack!" He pounded on the wall again, not caring if he'd be noticed. If he was noticed and taken captive, he and Jack would be in it together; Jack would know he wasn't alone; Daniel would have done something to stop it.

He heard metal scrape against metal, like a gate opening, and then the sides of his vision darkened. When the darkness irised out again, Daniel was in Jack's cell. Jack was on the floor, his head bowed over his knees, his hands curled over his head.

Daniel kneeled in front of him. "Jack." His hand hovered over Jack's head—even here uncertain of where their relationship stood—and he dropped it before Jack looked up.

"Nice of you to stop by."

"I'm not leaving you," Daniel said. "I promise I'll stay with you 'til this is over."

"It'll never be over." Jack's words were hollow, broken, and Daniel wondered how long it had been for Jack before Daniel had found him. Time was relative, and even though it had been minutes for Daniel, he couldn't guess how long it had been for Jack.

"Yes, it will."

"Daniel. You have to end this."

Daniel blinked, both at what Jack was implying and at the sudden familiarity. The cell, their clothes, the lights, the wonky gravity—everything swirled in Daniel's vision like he could see the pattern of the moment, see through the cracks of this place and had a clear sense of a larger picture. He could feel his sureness that this was the Vinculum and that the only harm being done to Jack was mental, but he also felt uncertainty, the fear that Jack wouldn't make it through this unscathed. He remembered offering Jack help Ascending.

This is my memory, too, Daniel said into the Vinculum. I was here while Jack was being tortured, but I don't really remember. . . .

"I can't go back in there," Jack insisted. "If I go back, I swear to God, I'll give Ba'al what he wants, I'll tell him."

"What?" Daniel's brain was still reeling, trying to catch up from his epiphany.

"That he loved her."

"'Her' who? Wait." Daniel shook his head: none of this mattered. Whatever happened then—whether Daniel actually remembered it or not—didn't matter. What mattered was that this was the Vinculum (Daniel had to emphasize the word to keep himself grounded) and Jack was trapped in a virtual reality world of their memory. That it happened to be a memory they shared was probably why Daniel could slip in so easily . . . hopefully undetected.

"Jack, I need you to focus." He reached for Jack's shoulders but his hands passed through. He'd been Ascended in the memory, so no corporeal touching, he reminded himself. (Their relationship had hardly changed, his brain couldn't help snarking.)

"Jack. Look at me."

Jack raised his face, but there was a hollowness in his eyes Daniel hadn't expected. He didn't remember Jack looking like that; couldn't believe he'd forgotten that look.

"Jack. Please. Hold it together. I know what this seems like to you—I know what it feels like—but it's not. We're not—" Daniel made a frustrated noise, wheeling his hands around. How was Jack supposed to believe Daniel that this wasn't reality? Daniel was convinced he was going crazy in his virtual world when he could see and hear Jack, so why wouldn't Jack think the same thing? The Jack in this memory wouldn't even remember Daniel's little trip through the Matrix because that had happened after Daniel descended.

Wait, maybe there was something there. . . .

Daniel sat down across from Jack, keeping eye contact. "Do you remember Gerard? The Vinculum?"

Jack's eyes glazed over again, like they had the first time they'd been in the cell together. This time Daniel knew what it was: something—Ba'al, Daniel corrected—was controlling this place and keeping Jack from acknowledging the Vinculum. That's what Daniel needed to do; he needed Jack to remember the Vinculum.

* * *


The elevator dinged before the doors parted, and Gerard felt sure it had given away their location and fifty pairs of Ba'al-controlled hands were going to reach through the slowly opening doors and haul him out of the elevator by his collar. He breathed a sigh of relief when the hallway in front of them was empty.

"How many people would you estimate are still here?" Sam kept her voice low, moving forward slowly and scanning the area.

"About five hundred or so." Gerard felt into the Vinculum a bit hesitantly, trying to confirm that number. "It's difficult to tell exactly how many—"

Sam held her fist up and Gerard snapped his mouth shut. There weren't many options for hiding places in the brightly lit hallway. One thing in Tekhne's favor—there were so many crumbling buildings, there was always a cracked wall to climb inside or a collapsed column to duck behind.

Sam flicked her hand towards the wall and Gerard moved, pressing himself against the wall. Sam turned the corner, leaving the brothers unprotected. Gerard wished desperately that she'd given him a zat. The zats weren't too different from the energy weapons he was used to on Tekhne and even though he was a terrible shot and tended to tense up when he was nervous, having one in his hand might have actually helped with the heart palpitations.

He waited beside Jacob a moment, breathing more heavily than normal while Jacob stood stock still, his chest not needing to rise and fall with every worried breath. There were no outward signs of whether or not Jacob was worried and for a moment Gerard wondered if Jacob was actually in there at all.

Sam returned after a moment and jerked her head, indicating that they should follow, and they all stepped out into the T-junction.

"I heard a lot of machinery at the end of this hall—I'm hoping that's where they have the transceiver." She led them down the hall, carefully moving past the closed doors. There was a loud thud behind one of them—like a body hitting something hard—and she paused. Gerard thought she might investigate, but after a moment she moved on. He glanced back, but the door stayed shut; no one was following them . . . in fact, so far the floor—just like the lobby—had been empty.

Sam peered around the next corner and then quickly ducked back, flattening herself against the wall. Gerard heard the voices through the Vinculum before he heard them with his ears.

"North hall. Intruders."

They opened fire, the first shots just meant as a warning, forcing Sam to stay tucked safely behind the wall.

"I think we found the transceiver," Sam said, grimacing. "You're connected by the Vinculum, right? Can you put them to sleep like you did on Tekhne?"

Gerard shook his head. "The system's too different, they've stripped away a lot of the safeguards. I'll kill them." He'd like to avoid that, if at all possible.

Sam frowned more sharply and hefted her weapon. Gerard suddenly realized keeping them alive might not be on her list of priorities. She readied her weapon and rolled around the corner, firing like this was what she did every day.

Gerard flinched, torn between covering his ears and keeping himself ready to run or hide. Jacob stepped up, and Gerard held a hand out, meaning to pull him back, protect him. When Jacob turned to Gerard the lights on his face brightened slightly.

Metal body, Gerard. Let me do something useful.

Jacob stepped in front of Sam. "There're six of them. Can you aim through me?" Jacob's voice was loud through his speaker and Gerard was pretty sure the others had heard him.

Sam fitted her weapon under Jacob's arm and fired. There were grunts and fewer gunshots. Gerard could feel a flare of pain through the Vinculum (they were really unshielded, the scientist in him couldn't help noting), but he didn't feel any of the voices disappear so he could only guess that Sam had injured the scientists rather than killed them.

Jacob took a step forward and Sam moved with him. The gunfire stopped.

"Come on. There are probably reinforcements on the way." Sam kicked fallen weapons clear as she moved up the hall.

Gerard followed behind them, trying not to notice the blood that spattered up against the wall, trying to ignore the girl in the striped shirt with a bullet wound in her shoulder. He'd done this before on Tekhne, walked right past the injured to his own safety. Sometimes it was all he could do.

Jacob opened the door at the end of the hallway, stepping into the room and circling it. The whirring of the machinery was immediately soothing and only then did Gerard realize his body had still been thrumming with the staccato of the weapons' fire.

"Here," Jacob said. Gerard traced the signal in his mind, agreeing with Jacob's assessment. The main transceiver had a light on the front, pulsing yellow, indicating that it was transmitting.

"We've found the transceiver," Sam reported through her radio. "Our position's been compromised."

"Yeah, we know," Mitchell's voice crackled over the radio. There was weapons fire from further away, but still too close for Gerard's comfort.

Sam exhaled heavily and then jerked her head towards the door. "Get started. If you need me . . . I'll be out here." She looked around and then grabbed a nearby table and flipped it over in front of the door, making herself some cover. "I'll hold this position as long as I can."

"Sam." Gerard didn't know what he wanted to say, but her name was all he got out. Jacob grabbed his arm and tugged sharply, shutting the door once Gerard had cleared it.

"Let her do her job, Gerard; we'll do ours."

"Looks like we got lucky," Gerard mumbled.

"If you call it that." Jacob's eyes narrowed, his vision focused on the transceiver. Gerard had always known exactly how Jacob saw the world through his robotic eyes. He'd spent a long time adjusting Jacob's vision through the monitor, trying to get it as natural as possible—not quite high-definition, but something more akin to reality. But this time he didn't think he knew quite was Jacob was seeing.

"I'll handle the hard connection," Gerard finally said. "Start working on the software." Gerard worked quietly, using a screwdriver to pry off coverings and expose fiber optic cables. He tested each cluster, moving on when he'd determined he hadn't found the right ones. When he'd levered off the fourth cover he started to question their layout. It wasn't making sense to Gerard, like they had purposely designed their transceiver to slow him down.

He unscrewed the fifth faceplate. "Are you almost done with the code?"

Jacob's gears whined in a noise Gerard associated with a nod.

When you upload the new code it shouldn't cause any disruption to the nanites' regular operation. In the Vinculum, Jacob wiped his brow with his forearm and then adjusted his glasses. The virtual console on which he worked had several screens, all flashing information that updated every few seconds as Jacob's brain processed the information faster than he could display on the monitors.

"Good, I doubt Jack would be very happy with us if we accidentally fried his brain."

He's kind of picky about that, isn't he? Jacob smiled his crooked sardonic smile and Gerard felt his heart clench.

I'll miss that smile, he'd said before he could stop the thought.

Jacob sniffed and twisted his lips. It'll still be here. Just. . . .

Just, Gerard thought to himself, just I won't be able to see it. He flicked his screwdriver, torn between continuing to look for the right connection and blowing off the entire mission—there had to be another way for them to remove Ba'al's control and deactivate the nanites. Jack was in charge of Homeworld Security and sympathetic to Jacob's situation. Maybe if they found another way Jack would allow them to keep using the Vinculum, just between the two of them. What they'd done hadn't hurt anybody.

The girl Gerard passed in the hall with the gunshot wound in her shoulder flashed in his mind, then the blood that was sprayed on the wall from the other wounds Sam had inflicted. There was a planet out in the cosmos in which fifty-two percent of the population had lost their free will.

Gerard was ashamed he had to keep talking himself into this.

He pried off another cover and didn't even need to check the cables—he'd found what he was looking for.

"All right, I'll hook up your hard drive and then we can upload the revised code."

Jacob turned, squaring his robot shoulders to Gerard. His front chest plate was badly dinged from the bullet ricochets and light reflected off the newly raised edges. "If I asked you to leave?" The voice from his speaker was so dull and lifeless; Gerard would have to work harder to fix that.

"It wouldn't matter. They won't—we can't do this again. We've ruined two planets with our arrogance. We have to . . . accept our fate."

Jacob didn't respond, but pulled back his chest plate, revealing the transceiver and hard drive that Gerard had installed in place of his lungs.

Gerard made quick work of the connections, focusing on the task at hand and not the end result. "All right," Gerard said after a few moments. He snapped in the final wire and checked the connections. "Everything should be hooked up now. I think, I think we're ready."

Jacob's chin raised slightly, the gears clacking as they moved. In the Vinculum he took the same stance, his mouth a thin line, resigned but bravely facing his fate. He turned away from the virtual interface, facing Gerard head on.

Thank you for what you could give me.

Gerard swallowed, not sure he had the right words for this moment or that he ever would have the right words for it. How could I give you any less?

Jacob's mouth softened in a smile and he nodded. Maybe we'll try those android bodies again.

"Yeah," Gerard said. "Maybe." He pressed a button on Jacob's transceiver that would upload their new base code to the Vinculum. He waited for a moment, watching Jacob, expecting him to disappear slowly like a puff of smoke or maybe for the edges around his Vinculum-vision to fade in until he was alone in his head.

But nothing happened.

* * *


"Jack?" Just as before Jack's eyes gained life again and he focused on Daniel once more. "Jack, do you remember our friend Gerard?"

Jack blinked a little, scrunching his face in confusion. "Why are you bringing up Gerard?"

Gerard didn't seem to be directly linked to the Vinculum in Jack's mind, good.

"I want you to think about him." Daniel paused between his sentences, letting the words stack on top of each other. "Think about how we met him. Think about the missions we've been on that involved Gerard." Daniel pushed with the Vinculum, trying to slowly feed Jack his own memories, coax the same thoughts out of Jack's mind, too.

"Missions? We've met Gerard once, Daniel, and I'm not sure why you're calling him our friend. We left that planet on rocky terms at best."

"Right," Daniel enthused. "And then we went back. To help him save his brother." Daniel conjured a mental picture of Jacob—the dark circles around his eye sockets, the lights by his mouth, the shoulder plates that didn't quite cover the inner workings so wires and gears could still be glimpsed from under his arms.

"You saved me, too. From Dawes, from Amelia?" He constructed another picture, this one of himself in a chair with wires attached to his skin and leading off into the ceiling. He hadn't seen the image himself—there hadn't been a mirror in the room—but he'd seen it in Jack's mind and the image had stayed with him, burned into his own brain as it'd been burned into Jack's.

Jack flinched, his eyes squinting like he was seeing double vision through the Vinculum, trying to sort out the virtual vision from what was directly in front of him.

Daniel pushed forward, encouraged. "We're working with Gerard again. To stop his invention from being abused on Earth." He didn't have a picture for this, just his hope that Jack would remember. "Jack. Please. This was three years ago." Daniel waved his hand over his head. "Someone's stuck you in here because this is when you were broken. It's easy to control you when you're like this. Jack! Come on! You're better than this!"

"That's where you're wrong!" Jack yelled the words, loud and true, and they echoed in Daniel's mind like a memory he'd chosen to forget.

"I'm not wrong about this, Jack," Daniel quietly said, something like anger boiling beneath his skin. "I'm not wrong about you."

Daniel focused on the Vinculum, trying to take full control of himself in this memory, and he grabbed Jack's shoulders, this time touching him solidly. He gripped Jack's shirt, holding on to the course fabric, trying to center himself on keeping that feeling in his hands.

"I'm not giving up on you, you bastard. And I'm not letting you give up on yourself either." The words flared inside Daniel, more true and honest than he'd been with Jack in a long time.

"You can put an end to it," Jack said, like he was on some automatic replay.

"I never will," Daniel said, feeling like he was scratching at the surface of something else.

Jack sagged in Daniel's grip, so broken he could only make the motions of his memory, not live them.

"Jack!"

There was a noise in the corridor above them, metal scraping against metal like a door opening.

Jack stood up and moved over to lie on the floor, his feet against the wall that would soon be the floor.

"Jack!"

Jack wasn't even paying attention to Daniel any more. Jack was trapped in his memory, in the Vinculum, and Daniel didn't seem to be able to rouse him . . . yet, Daniel resolved.

He lay down next to Jack and grabbed his hand. "I'm not leaving you."

The guards didn't seem to notice Daniel, and that was fine. Even though Jack's hand was loose in Daniel's grip, somewhere underneath this memory, Jack would know Daniel was staying—and that was worth something.

The gravity shifted, the guards pulled Jack away, and Daniel followed, staying with Jack through the torture, the knives, and even the moment when the gates opened behind them and gravity dropped them sideways to Jack's death.

* * *


"That—shouldn't that have worked?" Gerard checked the wires, confirming that everything was fine in the physical connection. It must be something in the transceiver itself. Do you think they protected it against tampering?

Jacob snorted. Maybe that's something we should have considered doing.

Gerard gave the robot a look before doing one more check on the leads. Gunshots from outside the door startled his hands from the connection, though. He'd nearly forgotten Sam was still outside and that other Vinculum-controlled, armed people were heading their way.

We don't have a lot of time, Jacob cautioned.

We'll have enough. Though Gerard wasn't so sure about that. He tried to ignore the bursts of sound, focusing solely on the connections. He'd done this before. He'd worked in the middle of a firefight before. He could do it again.

He wiped the sweat from his brow and attempted the upload again, this time without the fanfare. . . . Still nothing.

"Shit."

Something slammed against the door and there was a grunt of pain. It only happened once and the gunfire kept up, so Gerard couldn't guess what had happened and he couldn't spare the time to slip into the Vinculum for some reconnaissance.

Gerard, we have to do this now.

I know, I know. It didn't make sense why the hard drive upload wasn't working, though. Everything was connected correctly and the code was right and—think, Gerard!

He felt Jacob move deeper into the Vinculum, deeper than he'd gone in a long time. His thoughts stretched between the robot and the Hammel transceiver, spanning the space between the wires, if it was possible.

Jacob! What are you—?

The lights on the robot's face went dead, and then Gerard realized what Jacob was doing.

The physical connection wasn't cutting it. Gerard couldn't see Jacob any more but he could hear his voice like it was coming from all around him, he could feel the way Jacob was being broadcast through the Vinculum—he wasn't just receiving Jacob's thoughts any more, he wasn't leaning half way to reach Gerard as Gerard leaned half way back. Jacob was there, directly in Gerard's thoughts.

You uploaded yourself, Gerard said needlessly.

Something slammed against the door again but this time Gerard could clearly hear Sam call for help.

Go, Jacob said. Help her. I'll handle this.

But the code—Jacob, if you upload it from inside—This isn't like the hardline on Tekhne where you were contained. You're dispersing through the Vinculum.

Jacob appeared clearly in Gerard's vision, like he'd always been standing in front of Gerard but Gerard had been looking everywhere else except for at him.

We have to accept our fate, he said. He exhaled a breath and then Gerard was pushed out of the Vinculum, his eyes only focusing on the real world. He blinked and then moved to the door, wrenching it open and catching Sam as she fell into the room. Ba'al's mind-controlled followers pushed towards them, grabbing at Gerard as he tried to help Sam regain her feet. He pushed at them and punched, not doing much to gain any ground.

"Sam!" Mitchell's voice crackled over her radio, but Sam and Gerard were too busy fighting for their lives to answer. Gerard glanced over his shoulder, worried someone would slip past them and get to Jacob, and he got an elbow to his face for the trouble.

Sam kicked out, hitting the biggest guy in the stomach, and gained some room so she could get to her feet and dig in. It didn't matter though, because the scientists and employees of Hammel Technologies surged forward like a wave of humans, stepping over anyone who'd fallen, their hands outstretched and grasping. The doorway was acting as a bottleneck, slowing them down some, but Sam had lost her P-90 and Gerard was never good at hand-to-hand-combat and there were too many of them, regardless.

Fingernails scratched down Gerard's arm and he pulled back and threw a punch, trying not to wince when he struck the man's nose. He'd think of them as humans later, he assured himself, after.

He reached through the Vinculum, trying to find their thoughts, see if there was anything he could do to slow them down or convince them to stop attacking, but he couldn't identify any individuals. Jacob was there—on the edge of Gerard's mind—but Gerard could only feel the shape of his presence. Daniel was there, too, but he was muted and Gerard couldn't get a good lock on him. No one else was identifiable, though. It was like the Vinculum had completely erased them and Ba'al had filled them with nothing.

And then Gerard was filled with nothing—or it was like being filled with nothing, the moment when everything went away.

The Vinculum zombies still pushed forward, so at first Gerard wasn't sure if what had happened to him had affected them at all, but then he heard someone scream from outside and the hands that had been reaching for his face suddenly dropped and the blank expression on the woman's face turned to confusion. Gerard pressed with his thoughts, trying to get into the Vinculum to investigate, but there was nothing for him to push into—his nanites were no longer receiving the transmission. Jacob had finished the upload.

Sam hesitated for a moment and then moved forward, helping people off the floor and encouraging them to go back out through the door. Gerard thought he heard Mitchell's voice, but he turned away from the crowd to check on Jacob.

The robot was still connected to the transceiver and hadn't moved. The lights on his face were still dark and he was stock-still. The subtle whir in his chest that let Gerard know Jacob was alive was silent.

"Jacob?" Gerard whispered. He touched Jacob's arm; for once the metal didn't seem cold.

Gerard moved to Jacob's hard drive, typing on the small keypad he'd attached to the outside shell. He typed into the interface, trying to reboot the system. Maybe being connected to the transceiver had just blown a fuse or triggered an automatic shutdown—Jacob must be still there. He'd gotten back through the physical connection. Jacob knew what he was doing.

"Gerard?" Sam's voice was soft, her hand on his shoulder gentle.

"N-no." The system came back online, the whir in his chest starting again, but Jacob didn't move; the lights were still off. "No!" Gerard pounded on Jacob's chest, like he was trying to restart his brother's metal heart. Sam pulled at his arms, pulling him back away from the robot shell.

"Gerard."

He sagged in her arms, suddenly feeling the weight he was carrying.

"We'll take him back to the SGC," she said. "Something probably just went wrong from hooking him into the transceiver. I'll help."

Gerard shook his head. He knew. He knew what Jacob had done and that there wouldn't be anything to fix it. He'd saved his brother from the Vinculum once, but he wouldn't be able to do it this time. This time Jacob was really dead.

"Is it still transmitting?" Sam nodded to the transceiver. A light flashed on the transceiver in a steady pulse, the same light that had been on when Jacob and Gerard had first entered the server room.

"Yes," Gerard said. He pulled away from her slowly and went to confirm it. The transceiver was warm under his fingers, the machinery hot from its normal operation and the additional heat from the extra bodies and weapons fire. There was still a signal coming out of it—the Vinculum was still working—but Gerard couldn't hear it any more. Jacob had irrevocably altered Gerard's nanites as his last act. There was no more Vinculum for Gerard, but there was still a signal. Gerard wondered if any part of Jacob was still transmitting in that signal.

"We'll have to destroy the supply of nanites," Sam said. "I'll see if I can find someone who worked on the project. Maybe they'll know where the supply is stored."

Gerard nodded, trying to shut down his wondering. He needed to focus on something else, on doing, but speaking seemed so hard.

"We'll have to find the General, too. You didn't hear anything about them on the—" she hedged at the word, and Gerard was grateful to not have to hear her say it.

"No, I didn't," he said instead, his voice rough. "But Daniel's out there. I'll find them."

She hesitated and Gerard felt the way she moved towards him before moving away. "I'll check in with Cam. Maybe he and Teal'c have already located them."

"Yeah," Gerard said, his eyes still on the lifeless robot. "Maybe."

* * *


Daniel had watched Jack be tortured and die seven times. The first time back in the cell Jack had come alive again and yelled for Daniel to come back, but Jack hadn't been able to hear Daniel's promise that he wouldn't leave. The fourth or fifth time Jack had stayed on the floor and stared up at the ceiling. He had blinked a few times, but no tears fell. Daniel had wondered if there wasn't enough water left in Jack's body to produce tears.

Jack was dangerously close to breaking; Daniel could feel the way he teetered on the edge. The torture wasn't doing good things for Daniel either—seeing Jack like this wasn't easy. Daniel understood now how Jack had felt when he'd found Daniel wired into the Vinculum, still weak from his own mental torture.

This time Jack was sitting down, his arms over his knees, head hanging limply between his shoulders. Daniel sat next to him, their hips pressed together in a touch only Daniel could feel. Maybe it wasn't comforting for Jack, but it was all Daniel could do and, dammit, he would continue to do it.

There were footsteps from above—the guards arriving again.

Jack looked up, not moving into position for the gravity to change.

"I can't do this, Daniel. I can't do it again." He ran his hands over his head, cupping them over his neck.

"We're in the Vinculum. If you could just remember, you could take control." Daniel put his hand on Jack's shoulder and rubbed in a small circle.

"Daniel?" Jack turned to Daniel, surprise evident on his face. Daniel yanked his hand away, unsure if he should be touching—not if Jack could see him again.

"You can . . . see me?"

Jack looked down pointedly at their hips. "Well, you're practically sitting in my lap."

"Oh." Daniel scooted away slightly, his cheeks heating.

"No, it's—" Jack cleared his throat, dropping one hand so it landed palm up in the space between them. "You're back."

"I've been here." He didn't know why Jack could see him now, but he wasn't about to lose the opportunity. "Jack, you have to focus, okay? You remember Gerard?"

"Yes—" Jack cut off his sentence and closed one eye, wincing and bowing his head.

Daniel could feel something, a pressure in the back of his mind, like someone was pouring water against his ear. He closed his eyes when the pressure increased and became unbearable, and then the pressure released and when Daniel opened his eyes the Vinculum was dark and he was alone.

"Jack?"

He heard footsteps and turned to see Jacob. Jacob was haggard looking, with dark circles under his eyes that extended past the frames of his glasses. The shirt he wore was rumpled, like he'd been in a fight.

"I didn't expect to see you," he said.

"What—? What are you doing here? What happened to Jack?" There were a thousand other questions in Daniel's mind, and maybe Jacob got a sense of a few of them because he winced and held up a hand.

"We changed the base code of the nanites. It was the only way to prevent the Vinculum from being used on Earth." Jacob pushed up his glasses and straightened the cuffs of his sleeves. "None of the nanites can receive the Vinculum any more."

"None?" Daniel was clearly proof that wasn't entirely true.

Jacob smiled wryly. "None except for yours. Possibly because yours were never adapted to operate with this version of the Vinculum."

"Possibly," Daniel repeated. He looked around at the dark, a little surprised Jacob hadn't created some kind of virtual world for the two of them. "I guess you can still interact with the Vinculum because of your transceiver?"

"I, yes," Jacob hedged. He took a step to the side, then turned and clasped his hands behind his back, walking forward, his face intent like he was watching something out a window. "Ba'al is still in the Vinculum—you knew that, right?" Daniel nodded. "Just make sure Gerard knows the Vinculum isn't safe."

"Wait." Daniel stepped forward, sniffing out what Jacob wasn't saying. "Why can't you tell Gerard that yourself?"

Jacob turned his face, looking over his shoulder. Daniel could just see half of a smile.

"You're not a stranger to sacrifice, Daniel."

Jacob was as enigmatic as he'd been on Tekhne. He'd loosened up during his time on Earth, lost some of his pessimism and had started living again. Daniel had had hope for him. "Is this you saving me again?"

"You didn't need saving. But I did save Jack." Jacob turned fully, grinning. "Tell him that, will you?"

Daniel nodded, thinking he'd probably be telling Jack quite a few things after this mission. "Is there anything else I should tell Gerard?"

Jacob looked away and took a deep breath. It felt like they stood like that for a long time, both of them silent and thinking.

"Nothing will make this easier." Jacob held out his hand to Daniel. "He already knows everything I have to say."

"Still."

Jacob shook his head. "Once the transceiver is off, have Sam erase Hammel's systems."

"But won't that—"

"A version of Ba'al is still in here and has some control. It's better this way."

Jacob's eyes were bright behind his glasses, but there was determination there—acceptance for a crap fate, not regret; Daniel knew that feeling. Daniel finally took the offered hand and gave it a firm shake. "It's been a pleasure."

The corner of Jacob's mouth lifted. "For me as well. Oh. You may not want to tell them your nanites are still operational. I'm afraid there's nothing I can do to shut yours off."

Daniel smiled tightly. "I'll talk to your brother about that."

Jacob hummed, and with a gentle mental push, Daniel was waking up in the real world, his cheek pressed against a cool metal table, his face turned towards the back of Jack's head.

Jack moaned something unintelligible and sat up, the movement rippling up from his shoulders.

"Jack?" Daniel wiggled, trying to leverage himself off the table.

Jack turned his head side to side, stretching his neck. Daniel felt heavy and sore; how long had they been out like that?

"That wasn't just a really bad dream, was it?"

"Something like it." Daniel winced for Jack, sure he was feeling raw and exposed, the same way Daniel had when he realized Jack had witnessed some of his own personal collapse.

"Wonderful."

"Jack—"

The door burst open then, startling them both.

"Well, well, our wayward babes. How's about a rescue?" Mitchell moved into the room, pulling a knife from his tac vest. He cut Daniel's bonds first and then moved to Jack. Teal'c stood at the door, facing out of the room.

"What's the situation?" Jack rubbed his wrists, already in General mode. Daniel guessed they'd talk about what happened to them later—or maybe never mention it again. Sometimes it was hard to get Jack to talk . . . which Daniel now acknowledged wasn't actually the problem. Jack had never wanted to talk but they'd always communicated; somewhere along the way they had both stopped listening.

"Good, sir," Mitchell reported. "The Vinculum is down and everyone's been coming around. They're a little discombobulated, but seems like whatever Ba'al did didn't have a lasting effect."

"Yeah." Jack's eyes slid to Daniel, and Daniel smiled back tightly. "Cover story?"

"Technology gone wrong." Mitchell shrugged. "No one's really asking deeper questions. Must have a hell of a nondisclosure agreement."

Jack grunted and loosened his tie.

"I need to talk to Sam." Daniel couldn't let Jacob's message go undelivered for too long. He had a feeling if he waited, Gerard would do something foolhardy (it was the kind of thing Daniel would do in Gerard's position).

"She and Gerard are dealing with the transceiver." Mitchell jerked his head over his shoulder. "Still trying to decide what to do with it. Can we get the authority to confiscate it?"

Jack patted his pockets and then pulled out his cell phone. "Give me ten minutes."

Daniel glanced back at Jack but he was already on the phone.

"Follow me, Daniel Jackson." Teal'c nodded to Mitchell, and Daniel followed behind, rubbing the back of his neck, promising himself that he'd spend time with Jack tonight and work this out. Opening lines of communication was, after all, his job.

* * *


Jack rubbed his brow, glad the debrief for this hell of a convoluted mission was over. There was still cleanup to do—Sam was individually testing the nanites of everyone who was exposed to the Vinculum at Hammel Technologies, and they still had to track down the security breach at Area 51, and Daniel had advocated that they return to Aberdone via ship to see if there was anything they could do to help at least the forty-eight percent of the population without nanites . . . but those were things that could be handled another day.

"Not that I have anything in my office, but you look like you could use a drink." Hank set a glass of water in front of Jack.

"Yeah, maybe." Jack sipped slowly at the water. "Be glad you never had any alien technology shoved in your head."

Hank chuckled. "You volunteered for it a few times."

Jack grinned into the glass. "I've gained wisdom in my old age."

Hank responded to a light knock at his door and Ambassador Vaisey entered. "Ambassador. I thought you'd be back with the IOA by now."

Vaisey politely greeted both generals, ignoring Hank's ribbing. "I've been thinking about what was reported during the debrief. The Vinculum at Hammel Technologies was similar to the one on Aberdone."

"Internet in the brain tends to all be the same." Jack set his glass on the corner of Hank's desk, getting ready to pull rank and shut down Vaisey as quickly as possible.

"I'm, uh, starting to understand that." Vaisey cleared his throat and stood up straighter. "You should keep those mission files sealed. All of them. We're not, I don't—"

"You have the authority to make that decision?" Jack raised an eyebrow, amused that Vaisey was now singing Jack's tune.

"It's my recommendation, sir," Vaisey said like a soldier.

"It's mine, too," Jack said. "I'll handle the IOA when they feel like nipping at my heels. You just write your little report and submit it through the SGC. We're good at handling these things."

"Yes, sir." Vaisey looked between the two of them and for a horrifying moment Jack thought he might try to salute them, but finally he edged back out the door.

"I don't think he'll be requesting to go off-world any time soon," Hank chuckled.

"At least not with SG-1." Jack hefted himself out of the chair. "Speaking of SG-1. . . ." He pointed out the door and waved to Hank as he left, promising he hadn't forgotten he owed Hank a steak dinner for putting up with his old team.

He found Daniel with Gerard in Daniel's office. They were sitting close together, speaking in quiet tones. Jack hesitated at the door, not sure if he should interrupt, but Daniel waved him in without looking up—sometimes it felt like Daniel could read his thoughts even without the Vinculum.

Gerard didn't stop speaking as Jack approached, but he only caught the tail of what Gerard was saying. "We can use the transceiver in the . . . robot."

"It's still functional?" Daniel's voice was soft and his shoulders were rounded forward. He sat that same way when he visited SG-teams in the infirmary.

Gerard nodded. "Come by my lab, or . . . I, I guess I'll be here for awhile."

"We'd like your help tracing the security breach at Area 51," Jack offered.

Gerard jumped and his wide eyes reminded Jack of when they'd first met on Tekhne. He'd been lost then, on a constant edge. "Oh. I, yeah. Yeah, right, I can help."

Jack stuck his hands in his pockets and rocked on his heels, not sure there was anything he could say to make Gerard feel better.

Daniel's phone rang then, and even though the conversation was short, Jack picked up Carter was on the other end just from the tone of Daniel's voice.

"Sam could use your help in her lab," Daniel told Gerard. Jack could tell there was more to Carter's message, but Daniel was still trying to figure out how to say it. "They're unloading the robot."

Jacob's body, Jack translated. Gerard held his breath for a moment and then stood up. Jack wouldn't have noticed his hesitation if he hadn't been looking for it. He made a mental note to make sure Gerard saw a counselor. Sometimes psych evals were bullshit, other times they kept a gun out of someone's mouth.

"I'll talk to you later, then?" Gerard muttered goodbye as he left, leaving Jack and Daniel alone together.

"So," Jack said, stepping forward and taking the stool Gerard abandoned.

"So," Daniel agreed. He put both hands on the front of his stool and leaned forward slightly. "You got a place to stay tonight?"

Jack checked his watch—it was going on one in the morning. Had it really only been a little over twenty-four hours since they'd last had this conversation?

"I was thinking, maybe I'd stay with you."

Daniel's lips split in a brief grin. "You're sure? Because I'm going to want to talk."

Jack pulled a face. "We talk now?"

"I was thinking we could try it out. I mean, since we can't just read each other's thoughts any more." Daniel grinned again, the corners of his eyes crinkling.

"You think we have a lot to talk about?"

Daniel snorted, putting his feet on the floor and sliding off the stool. "Probably."

Jack held up a finger. "I reserve the right to veto topics."

Daniel grabbed the keys on his desk, slinging his jacket over his shoulder. "I reserve the right to push until you tell me anyway."

Jack looked down and shook his head. "Back to basics for us?"

"I'm a linguist," Daniel said. "You're a soldier. Somehow we'll work it out." Daniel tilted his head, beckoning Jack on, and they walked out of the base together, Daniel bringing up some myth he'd heard on some planet about how the ancient gods would come to take back the technology they'd left behind and the planet would be left with nothing. Most days that didn't seem like a bad idea to Jack—the Aberdones would have been better off had that happened, and Jack was still gunning for retiring to Minnesota where he could fish all day and lose his cell phone. Despite the death, though, and the mayhem, and the destruction of everything Jack knew and loved about Earth, the Vinculum did seem to keep bringing Jack and Daniel back together. Maybe it wasn't all bad. . . .

Who was he kidding? The thing sucked.

Daniel flicked off the radio as they got in the car, and started speaking as soon as the engine turned over. "I was trying to get to Atlantis, not leave you."

"I . . . got that." Jack smiled, only now noticing that since the whole trip-in-the-head, he'd felt that from Daniel, understood that Daniel wasn't leaving him even though Daniel had never said it, even though Jack had been alone in front of Ba'al.

Daniel glanced at him, the streetlights striping his arms, his face mostly in shadow. He was quiet then and Jack realized they were already saying everything that needed to be said—just by sitting next to each other. There was something about the ways they were quiet that spoke volumes, so long as they were both listening.

Jack settled back in his seat, watching the trees pass as they drove out of Cheyenne Mountain, and he couldn't help feeling smug. Jack and Daniel had this between them, they didn't need technology to read each other's minds.


~Comments and feedback are better than reading your mind.
Back to Master Post.

Date: 2010-07-10 05:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sopdetly.livejournal.com


I loved this, honey. It's a very satisfying cap to the trilogy. :D I am forever impressed by your ability to write Plot, without sacrificing Character. As usual your OCs are fabulous (Vaisey *giggles*), and I find myself very much hoping that Gerard somehow finds some way to get his brother back. *snuggles you*

Date: 2010-07-18 04:35 pm (UTC)
theemdash: (SG-1 Jack/Daniel Touchies)
From: [personal profile] theemdash
Thank you! You know how much I enjoyed writing this and enjoyed writing all my OCs. Plot is fun. I've finally discovered that. ;)

Gerard is a smart man—I think the real question is whether or not a soul can be captured in a hard drive.

Date: 2010-07-12 06:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] laetificat.livejournal.com
LOVED IT.

Date: 2010-07-18 04:35 pm (UTC)
theemdash: (SG-1 Jack)
From: [personal profile] theemdash
Thanks! (I'm a little surprised you read it!)

Date: 2010-07-18 07:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] laetificat.livejournal.com
You wrote it! So I read it. Skipped one or two parts. :)

Date: 2010-07-29 01:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jd-junkie.livejournal.com
This fic is a great ride, and I love your Jack and Daniel so much.
Really immersive, summer reading. Just the thing.
Thank you!

Date: 2010-08-01 12:46 am (UTC)
ext_2799: (Default)
From: [identity profile] lavenderlocks.livejournal.com
It is 01:44 *yawn* but I stayed up to read as I truly enjoyed the first two stories in this series.
You did not disappoint me!!
Wonderful characterisation and world-building, but best of all the story itself, truly original ... with little hints of authors like Asimov, I think.

Delightful, worth staying up for, thank you so very much for your efforts! :D

Date: 2011-02-27 06:32 pm (UTC)
ext_33206: (Jack/Daniel)
From: [identity profile] roadrunner1896.livejournal.com
~Comments and feedback are better than reading your mind.

This proves you haven't read my mind yet. ;)

I want fic where Gerard aks about C3P0 and Teal'c shows him Star Wars. There should be ice cream and jello, too!

Love how Jack gets all the aliens into it. ;)

Hope Gerard finds a way to get his brother back without taking Ba'al out, too.

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