"Beautiful, isn't it?" Sam asked. She stood next to her equipment, neck craned back as she stared at the strange light phenomenon that sheeted the entire alien sky with rippling rainbow light.
"Yes, it is," Daniel agreed, looking up from the handful of artifacts he'd gathered from the empty buildings in the town.
Sam glanced down at her equipment, making small adjustments to try and capture the atmospheric data as accurately as possible.
"So... what is it anyway?" Daniel asked, getting to his feet walking over to where they'd left their packs under a tree.
"Not sure yet," Sam admitted. "Despite the fact that it looks a lot like the Aurora Borealis, it's not the same. And no, it's not the same optical phenomenon as a rainbow either."
"So not the way to Oz?" Daniel said. He tossed an energy bar to Sam, then tore one open for himself.
"No," Sam said glaring at him. Daniel just smiled to himself as he went back to his work.
"Don't you start with me," Sam warned.
Daniel threw up his hands as if to say "who me?". Sam shook her head. One of the reasons she'd set up her equipment in this location was that Daniel needed someone to watch his six while he explored P5Y's version of a ghost town. The other, possibly more compelling reason was that the colonel had let loose with one too many Dorothy jokes since arriving on the planet. He seemed to think strange light phenomenon gave him carte blanche to indulge his Oz obsession. And where did that come from anyway?
"I know. I would've gone with an 'Alice Through the Looking Glass' motif myself," Daniel said absently, already engrossed in his contemplation of alien cookware.
"Wh...? Oh. Did I say that aloud?" Sam asked, embarrassment coloring her cheeks.
"Yeah," Daniel said slowly, amused. "I take it you didn't mean to."
"No," Sam said flatly, disgusted by her lapse in concentration.
"Don't worry about it. The important thing is that Jack's busy patrolling and annoying Teal'c for now."
"He's a Jaffa. He can take it," Daniel said confidently. "If not--he's probably the only man who can intimidate Jack into silence."
"So how long before Colonel O'Neill gets bored?" Sam asked, chewing her energy bar with a distinct lack of enthusiasm. They were better than MREs... but then, what wasn't?
"Speak of the devil," Daniel said with a sly grin.
"Carter here, Colonel," Sam said, smiling back at Daniel. "We're making good progress, sir. I estimate we'll finish within the allotted time."
"Yeah, peachy. Pack it up and RV at my location."
"You heard me, Carter. Don't make me pull rank."
Daniel started to reach for his radio but Sam made a cutting motion with her hand and shook her head. Puzzled, Daniel nevertheless left his radio untouched.
"Yes, sir. Packing it up now, sir."
"Get Daniel away from his soil samples and meet Teal'c at six."
Daniel's look grew troubled, his unease mirrored in Sam's expression. Daniel wasn't taking any soil samples, had never planned to, and Jack damn well knew it.
"Carter, you copy?"
"Yes, sir," Sam said, never taking her worried eyes from Daniel. "Take Daniel, meet Teal'c at six, and RV at your location."
"I'm about three quarters of a mile due west from where Teal'c and I split up."
"Yes, sir. We're on our way." Sam keyed off the radio, frowning.
"Well, that was... odd," Daniel said.
"Very," Sam agreed. She pulled her radio out and switched to channel six. "Teal'c?"
"You think that's what Jack meant by meeting Teal'c at six?" Daniel asked.
"That's my best guess. Now I just have to hope that Teal'c has the same guess."
"Major Carter? Daniel Jackson?"
"Here, Teal'c," Sam said. "You heard Colonel O'Neill's orders?"
"I did. I do not believe O'Neill was speaking freely."
Daniel sighed. If all three of them thought something was up, chances were something was up. Given their luck--probably way the hell up the creek and paddle-less to boot. Daniel began repacking his equipment while Sam arranged to meet up with Teal'c. Seconds later, Sam joined him and they efficiently and silently gathered their gear. They left all but the essentials with the MALP and set off toward the forest south of the empty village.
Sam led the way into the tree line, alert to any sign of danger. Daniel trailed behind her, looking back frequently, leery of presumably hostile natives sneaking up on them.
"You know--it gets a little aggravating when all the 'uninhabited' planets we go to end up being inhabited," Daniel said. Sam's rueful smile agreed with his assessment. "And why is it that the inhabited uninhabited planets we go to are always inhabited by suspicious, unfriendly people?"
"Well, probably because people who aren't suspicious and unfriendly wouldn't be hiding from the MALPs and UAVs and therefore the planet wouldn't be classified as uninhabited to begin with," Sam said.
"You know that was a rhetorical question," Daniel said dryly.
"My favorite kind," Sam said with a smug grin. Daniel chuckled.
Teal'c waited patiently, his eyes and ears monitoring for any sign of danger. He heard, and identified, the footsteps of his teammates moments before they reached his location. He left the concealing foliage and stepped out right in front of them, causing both Sam and Daniel to startle slightly.
"Hey, Teal'c," Daniel said softly.
"Have you found anything?" Sam asked.
"Nothing," Teal'c said. "Were it not for the fact that I believe O'Neill is acting under some outside influence, I would be certain this world is uninhabited."
"I suppose it still could be," Daniel said thoughtfully. Sam and Teal'c both turned puzzled looks on him. "Well, Jack may have been affected by some machine, or chemical... It doesn't necessarily mean that there are any people around."
"That's true," Sam conceded. "But I think we should assume there are hostiles, just to be on the safe side."
"I concur," Teal'c said. "Until the threat has been identified, we should be prepared for any eventuality."
"How far to the spot where you and the colonel split up?" Sam asked.
"Only thirty yards in that direction," Teal'c said, pointing ahead and slightly to the west of their current location.
"Okay. Whatever happened to Colonel O'Neill presumably happened somewhere between there and his current reported location three quarters of a mile west, so keep your eyes peeled." Sam nodded for Teal'c to take point. She fell in behind Daniel at the end of the line as they set out to find their C.O.
"Teal'c?" Daniel whispered as he dropped to one knee just behind the crouching Jaffa. Daniel hadn't seen or heard a thing but he knew Teal'c's observational powers, not to mention his tracking skills, were better than any human's.
"We are very near the location to which O'Neill commanded us to proceed," Teal'c said.
"Still nothing?" Sam asked as she crawled up on the other side of Teal'c.
"Okay. Daniel, I want you to hold this position. Keep your radio tuned to channel three in case the colonel tries to communicate again. Teal'c and I will stay on six. If you do hear from the colonel, give us two clicks. Otherwise, maintain radio silence. If they're using the colonel to draw us in, we have to assume they--whoever 'they' are--are monitoring our radio chatter."
"Right," Daniel said, immediately resetting his radio.
"Teal'c, you take the south flank. I'll go north. Three clicks if you find anything."
Teal'c gave an abbreviated nod of his head before rising gracefully to his feet and heading off into the forest.
"You okay here?" Sam asked Daniel as she got to her feet.
"Yeah sure ya betcha," Daniel said lightly, showing her the radio in one hand, his sidearm in the other.
"Okay," Sam said, smiling. "Sit tight."
"All right, all right," Jack complained as his captors shoved him into what was apparently this group's version of a briefing room.
The man Jack had pegged as the leader stepped forward and held out Jack's radio. He was shorter than Jack, like most of the men he'd seen so far. But Jack wouldn't make the mistake of thinking they were in any way less than a physical match for him. Well, he wouldn't make that mistake again anyway.
"What?" Jack asked, taking the radio. The man gestured curtly and another stepped forward to show Jack the map. As far as Jack could tell, it was actually some kind of tracking device. He couldn't interpret the writing or symbols, but he'd figured out that the four luminescent green dots were his team. This time, three of the dots were clumped together, not moving.
Jack allowed himself a brief moment of pride. His kids had obviously interpreted his earlier message, otherwise they'd already be here instead of there... wherever 'there' was. Wherever 'here' was for that matter.
His captors didn't appear to understand English, but Jack hadn't been certain enough of that fact to risk speaking plainly to Carter. And, after all, what was the point of having a couple of geniuses on your team if you couldn't depend on them to read between the lines?
"Not moving fast enough for you?" Jack asked when the leader tapped his finger pointedly on the three dots, two of which had split off moving in opposite directions. "Hey, I know how you feel."
The leader grabbed Jack's radio, wrapping his hand painfully tight around Jack's.
"Right, I got it," Jack said, wrestling the radio away. With a resigned sigh, he turned it on.
"Carter?" Jack waited a moment, getting nothing but the soft hiss of static in reply. "Carter--respond, damn it. Daniel, Teal'c... someone?"
The leader of his captors spit something that unmistakably meant "hurry up."
"Hey! I'm trying here," Jack said. "And this is exactly why I always recommend getting a dog. They're much easier to train..."
"Daniel? What's the hold up? You guys should've been here ten minutes ago."
"Ah... we're coming," Daniel said, trying to keep his tone light despite his concern. "Just, uh, just had to stop for minute. Sam had to... answer a call of nature."
At the initial sharp burst from his radio, Daniel had quickly changed to channel six and double clicked. He'd waited a moment but there hadn't been any response to his hail. Daniel knew the silence didn't mean Sam or Teal'c were necessarily in trouble, just that they couldn't risk making any noise. Daniel had switched back to their normally assigned channel just in time to catch Jack's irritable demand that someone respond now, damn it.
"Well, hurry it up. I don't have all day."
"Right. Well, it could be a while. I think I saw Sam taking the sports section with her." Daniel cringed as he spoke; Sam was going to skin him alive for that. After they all got home safely, of course. But she would make him pay.
"Ooo-kay. Copy that."
Daniel could hear the amusement in Jack's voice, which was reassuring. In Daniel's experience, people taken over by some alien technology/drug/life form didn't normally have much of a sense of humor. The thought that Jack was--probably--just a prisoner was somehow better than the alternatives... although Daniel wasn't quite sure why.
Daniel switched quickly back to channel six, hoping to raise Sam or Teal'c this time. He pressed the send button just as a small but heavily muscled man appeared before him.
Sam swore silently as she overheard Daniel greeting someone. Someone who obviously wasn't one of them. She began to backtrack toward Daniel's location.
She'd fallen back slightly to an area she'd already searched and found clear before responding to Daniel's earlier hail. When he hadn't responded to her answering clicks, she'd quickly tuned to the other channel. She'd switched in time to hear most of Jack and Daniel's exchange. She gave Daniel credit for trying to buy them some time to find the colonel and figure out just exactly what was going on. And vowed a particularly humiliating revenge for Daniel's crack about the newspaper and the bathroom.
Sam hurried back toward Daniel's position, moving in a crouch. With hostiles in the area unaccounted for, she couldn't risk making a target of herself. Seconds later the crack of a single gunshot rang out, Sam's footsteps faltering at the sound. Then she pushed ahead more rapidly.
Teal'c watched the patch of forest where he and Major Carter had left Daniel Jackson. It was empty and silent. No trace of either Daniel or his attacker remained to the naked eye. After a couple of silent minutes during which he remained absolutely still, listening and watching, Teal'c brought out his binoculars.
Teal'c tensed a moment later when he heard footsteps, but the slightly accelerated breathing and hurried gait were familiar to him, and he remained stretched out on the ground, watching the clearing.
"Anything?" Sam whispered as she slid belly down next to him.
"The area has been empty since my return," Teal'c said.
"Any sign of Daniel?" Sam asked even though she knew Teal'c would've had told her already if there was.
"Blood has been shed," Teal'c said, nodding with his head at the clearing.
Sam took out her own binoculars and scanned the area. It didn't take her long to find the blood. It was right where she'd last seen Daniel, hunkered down at the base of a tree.
"Daniel's?" Sam asked, referring to the blood.
"Most likely," Teal'c said. "If it was the attacker who was injured, then Daniel Jackson would likely still be in the area."
"He could be hiding," Sam said. Teal'c gave her a slightly affronted look. He knew it wasn't a lack of confidence in his ability to find their teammate, though, just half hearted clutching at straws. Sam keyed the radio to six and signaled. Neither of them was surprised when there was no response.
Jack closed his eyes. He was sitting on the floor, his back leaning against the wall of his cell. As cells went, it wasn't a bad one. Clean. Moderate temperature. Low but sufficient light. A little on the Spartan side for his taste, but doable in a crunch.
Jack shook his head when he heard the voices from the hall outside the room. Daniel's voice was clearly recognizable as he tried, in a number of languages, to speak to his captors. Unfortunately for Daniel, the goons were obviously well trained. They weren't saying a word. Although, as Jack eventually found out, it wouldn't have mattered if they had, at least not to Jack. He didn't have a clue as to which language these people spoke, but it sure as hell wasn't English.
Jack was pretty sure Daniel wasn't coming to rescue him... although that had probably been his original intent. Jack just didn't get it. Daniel was a smart guy and Jack knew he was perfectly capable of concealing his presence. Yet invariably Daniel got captured. Jack knew it wasn't entirely due to Daniel's lack of military training, but he was damned if he knew what the rest of the reason was.
"Nice of you to join me, Dr. Jackson," Jack said sarcastically, listening to the door open. He didn't bother trying to fight his way out. He'd tried that before. Once. All he'd gotten for his efforts was a brief period of unconsciousness and a wrenched arm.
"Yeah, well, I was afraid you might get lonely."
Jack opened his eyes and glanced at his teammate as the door thudded shut again.
"Christ, Daniel!" Jack shouted, on his feet the second he saw the blood running freely down the side of Daniel's face. He crossed the room and pulled Daniel's hand away from his head. "What the hell happened?"
"Oh, the gun was pointing the wrong way when it went off," Daniel said, allowing Jack to maneuver him to a sitting position on the floor.
"How many times do I have to tell you?" Jack grumbled. "The little hole is the end the bullets come out."
"You'd think I'd remember that by now," Daniel said dryly. He grimaced as Jack quickly inspected the injury.
"I don't think it's too bad. Your brains aren't going to leak out anyway. But you may have to switch to a right sided part," Jack said. He yanked his shirt out of his pants, tearing a strip from the bottom and pushing it against the wound. "Here, hold this tight."
Daniel pressed his hand against the folded swatch of cloth, wincing slightly.
"You okay?" Jack asked.
"You mean aside from being captured and bouncing a bullet off my skull?" Daniel asked.
"Yeah, aside from that."
"I'm open to suggestions," Sam whispered.
She and Teal'c had remained silent and unmoving for fifteen minutes now without any sign of anyone. Normally, she'd be willing and able to carry on the surveillance, waiting for the enemy to get bored and do something that would give him away. But with strong evidence that Daniel was injured she wasn't comfortable waiting for too long.
"The person or persons who have taken O'Neill and Daniel Jackson are obviously capable of great stealth," Teal'c said. He thought carefully for a moment, feeling Sam fidget at his side, anxious but forcing herself to be patient. "I believe we may have to set a trap, Major Carter."
"What kind of trap?"
"O'Neill and Daniel Jackson were both taken while separated from the rest of the team. One of us shall have to function as a lure, drawing out our opponents, while the other lies in wait."
"Right," Sam said, blowing out a breath. "Okay, so who's the bait?"
"Shall we flip a coin?" Teal'c asked.
"I don't think so," Sam said with a quick grin. "Somehow I get the feeling you have the Colonel's double-headed nickel."
"Do you believe that I would stoop to such measures?" Teal'c said, sounding affronted, but Sam saw the slightest hint of a smile on the Jaffa's face.
"Yes," Sam said flatly. She turned her attention back to the ostensibly empty forest for a moment. "All right--I'm it. Just make sure you get the sucker. Alive. We'll need him to lead us to the colonel and Daniel."
Teal'c simply nodded. As Sam cautiously made her way toward the tree Daniel had used for cover, Teal'c rose to his feet and moved sideways through the undergrowth, never losing sight of Sam. Suddenly, Teal'c sensed a presence immediately behind him. He turned.
Standing at a short distance from her objective, Sam heard a faint rustle of leaves close by and to her left. Assuming that it was Teal'c, she moved closer to the tree, eyes searching for any trace of Daniel or his abductor. Once at the foot of the tree, she slowly turned in a full circle. As she turned her eyes came to rest on a pair of sandaled feet that definitely didn't belong to any of her teammates.
"Uh oh," Sam said, raising her eyes to compact figure of a man.
"Want to bet on who it is this time?" Jack asked, hearing footsteps in the corridor outside the cell again.
"I'm going to say Teal'c," Daniel said, sitting against the wall at Jack's side, still holding the makeshift bandage to his head.
"Really? Why?" Jack asked.
"Because if I say Sam and she finds out--which she will because you'll tell her--she'll get mad at me for thinking she's easier to capture than Teal'c."
"Whatever," Jack said. Really, there was such a thing as over-thinking a situation. Now if he could just convince Carter and Daniel of that. He watched with resignation as both Carter and Teal'c were escorted into the room.
"Er... reporting as ordered, sir," Sam said as the door closed and locked behind her.
"Funny, Carter," Jack said flatly.
"Are you injured, Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c asked.
"It's just a scratch," Daniel said, taking the bandage from his head.
"A nine millimeter scratch," Jack said. Daniel touched his fingers to the injury gingerly, then checked his fingers for fresh blood. Concluding that the injury had stopped bleeding he set the cloth aside.
"They shot you?" Sam asked. Aside from being taken prisoner, their captors hadn't shown any sign of violent intent toward her.
"Not intentionally. He was trying to arm wrestle me for the gun and..." Daniel made a little gesture at his head.
"Wait--you had time to fight the guy?" Sam asked.
"Um... yeah. Why?"
"I barely had time to even see my guy's feet before the lights went out," Sam said, chagrined.
"I, too, was rendered unconscious before I could do more than note the other man's presence," Teal'c admitted.
"They've got some kind of stun gun," Jack said, which was as close as he got to admitting that he hadn't fared any better than Sam or Teal'c.
"Oh. Well, don't feel bad," Daniel said. He got up and started studying their surroundings. "Staying conscious long enough to get shot with my own gun isn't exactly something I'll be bragging about."
"Don't worry about it, Carter," Jack said, getting to his feet. "They were using your radios to track you. And they're damn sneaky. You didn't have a chance."
"We changed our communications to another channel," Teal'c said.
"Doesn't matter. I think they can home in on the energy signal. As long as your radios were turned on, they could find you."
"Why didn't they just come and get us to begin with?" Sam asked.
"Because it was easier to let you come to them," Jack explained with a shrug. "They didn't go after you until you refused to march blindly into the lion's den..."
"Bull," Daniel said from the corner. He ran his hand down a column of symbols carved into the gray-green marble of the wall, squinting in an attempt to see the writing more clearly. He wasn't about to let Jack know that his vision was a little wonky.
"What?" Jack said, whirling around to look at Daniel.
"What?" Daniel said, finally looking away from the wall, his fingers lingering along the grooves of the writing. The exasperated look on Jack's face was enough to remind him of the thread of the conversation. "Sorry. You said lion's den. These people worship the bull."
"As do I on occasion," Jack said sarcastically.
"The bull, Jack," Daniel said.
"Do you mean a real animal? Or some kind of mythological beast?" Sam asked.
"Minotaur," Jack blurted out. "That's mythological bull."
"Yes," Daniel said slowly, eyeing Jack suspiciously. Jack's misspeaks were rarely as innocent as he maintained. Daniel shook his head and turned back to the wall. "Actually, that may be what we're dealing with here. And the Minotaur was only half bull."
"Half?" Jack prompted.
"Half bull, half human. According to mythology, the offspring of a heavenly bull and Pasiphae, the wife of King Minos. Minos had a labyrinth constructed to imprison the Minotaur and protect the population of Crete."
"The queen was getting it on with a bull?" Jack said with a disgusted look.
"Heavenly bull," Daniel corrected.
"It certainly is."
"It's a myth, Jack."
"What does this myth mean in terms of our captivity?" Teal'c asked.
"Yes, let's cut to the bottom line, shall we?" Jack added. Teal'c gave him a dirty look. His question had been meant seriously and without sarcasm. "Does anyone have any idea of where we are?"
"We're in a city, but that's all I can say for sure," Sam said. "I came to just as we were being brought into this building and I caught just a glimpse. But I have no idea where we are in relationship to the stargate."
"Perhaps more importantly--what do these people wish with us?" Teal'c asked.
"Haven't a clue," Jack said. "I don't speak the lingo."
"Then how did you know they wanted you to radio us?" Sam asked.
"Body language. They're very good with their hands," Jack said, casually rubbing his elbow although he couldn't suppress a grimace. "He did call me Barbie, though. If that means anything."
"Barbie, sir?" Sam said skeptically.
"I think it was probably 'barbaroi'," Daniel said. Jack gestured for him to explain. "Ah... barbaroi. Barbarians."
"They knock us out and toss us in a cell and we're the barbarians?" Jack said.
"Well, basically it means anyone who isn't Greek. Which would be... us."
"Were you injured during your capture, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked, noticing Jack rubbing his elbow again.
"No. I'm pissed off more than anything else." Jack turned to Daniel, who was going back and forth between the two columns of writing on either side of the back wall. "So, Daniel--what, if anything, can this myth tell us?"
"The story says that King Minos demanded that young Athenian men and women be sent to him as a sort of blood payment for the death of his son. The Athenians were sent into the labyrinth, from which it was impossible to escape, as sacrifices to the Minotaur."
"So we're... sacrifices?" Sam asked.
"I don't know," Daniel admitted. "It's just a myth."
"But if these people believe this mythology, will they not attempt to re-enact events of particular significance?" Teal'c asked.
"We don't even know if these people are... what?" Jack said.
"Minoan," Daniel supplied. "And I think they are."
"Are you sure?" Sam asked.
"No, but the fact that the writing is Linear A is a pretty good clue. I don't have a precise translation... I mean, there are a few intriguing allusions here but not enough to say conclusively that they are Minoan." Daniel waved a hand around the room vaguely. "And even if they are, Minotaurs are kind of hard to come by these days."
"What if the bull is a Goa'uld?" Sam suggested.
"That makes an odd kind of sense," Jack said.
"It does... but no," Daniel said. "I don't think a Goa'uld would voluntarily use an animal as a host."
"I agree," Teal'c said.
"They use Unas as hosts," Jack argued.
"That's different. The Unas may be less evolved than we are, but they're sentient creatures," Daniel said. "Besides, the Goa'uld didn't have a whole lot of other choices at the time... having just slithered out of the primordial waters of their home world."
"But bottom line--we're the equivalent of the Athenians, right?" Sam said.
"These people may, in fact, regard all strangers as enemies and therefore as suitable sacrifices," Teal'c said.
"Well, that's just rude," Jack said. He watched as Daniel wandered around the room again, continuing to squint at the walls in the dim light.
"Daniel?" Jack prompted.
"This is a labyrinth," Daniel said absently.
"No, it's not," Jack refuted firmly. "It's a room."
Daniel turned to eye Jack.
"Hey, I know a labyrinth and I know a room," Jack said. "This is a room."
"Sorry, Daniel, it looks like a room to me, too," Sam said in response to Daniel's questioning look. Before Daniel could debate the point, the back wall of the room shifted, with a grating of stone on stone, to reveal a passageway.
"Okay, a labyrinth it is," Jack said, acknowledging his error good-naturedly.
"Sir?" Sam asked. She and Teal'c had moved to either side of the doorway, straining their eyes but unable to see more than a few feet into the unlit corridor.
"I have a bad feeling about this," Jack said, regarding the dark passage with a grimace. He turned to Daniel who was staring wide eyed into the tunnel. "Daniel?"
"Anything you can tell us about this... labyrinth?"
"Jack, it's just..."
"A myth. I know." Jack turned to study the door their captors had brought them through. "No, we're sticking tight right here. We know there's a way out from this room. We don't know what's in there."
Even as Jack spoke the words, the door from the hallway opened and four armed men entered.
"Daniel," Jack drawled.
"You speak the lingo."
"Maybe..." Daniel stopped as one of the men addressed them. "Okay, that's very similar to Classical Greek."
"So?" Jack prompted.
"So I speak the lingo," Daniel agreed. Reassured by the presence of his team at his back, Daniel held his hand out to the aliens in a non-threatening gesture.
"Ou'lete. Eimi Daniel Jackson. Esmen hodoiporoi apolemoi ek Gehs."
Jack sighed. For some reason Jack had never fully comprehended, Daniel still did the 'peaceful explorer' spiel even when taken prisoner and facing armed hostiles. The guards didn't seem too impressed by Daniel's words. They simply remained silent, pointing their weapons at the team.
"Daniel?" Jack said.
"I'm trying," Daniel muttered. "I'm trying to tell them we're not a threat. That we'd like to be friends."
"Esmen hodoiporoi apolemoi. An bouloimetha humeterois summakois," Daniel said, turning back to their guards.
One of the men stepped forward, pressing the business end of his weapon against Daniel's chest.
"Or... not," Daniel said quietly. He felt Jack's hand on his shoulder, gently but firmly pulling him back.
"We got the message loud and clear. We're going," Jack assured the guards. The man who'd threatened Daniel didn't back away, but he didn't try to stop Daniel from retreating either. When all four were at the entrance to the passage, one of their captors barked an order. The man on the end stepped forward and held out four torches.
"Well, that's big of you," Jack said sarcastically.
"Jack, I suggest you not argue with him unless you want to find your way through a maze in the dark," Daniel said under his breath as he reached for the torches.
Jack just grimaced as he accepted one of the torches from Daniel. He studied it while Daniel passed the last two to Sam and Teal'c. A simple wooden shaft was crowned with a sort of metal reservoir that contained some kind of liquid fuel. The wicks that sprouted from the reservoirs were new. And unlit.
"Ah... you know, these won't do us any good if they're not lit," Jack said to the aliens, pointing at the top of the torch. Silently, the head captor waved a device at them and all four torches burst into flame at once.
"Okay, that was kind of cool," Jack admitted.
The head guard pointed at the passage entrance, his meaning unmistakable. Keeping a wary eye on the man, Jack shepherded his team into the dark tunnel. He hoped that the guards would leave once they'd entered the passage, leaving the room available as an option for escape. Moments later, SG-1's options narrowed despite Jack's wishes. As soon as all four of them were in the passageway, the door slid closed behind them. The head man shouted something after them, looking smug.
"It would appear we have no choice but to proceed through the maze," Teal'c said, apparently unconcerned by the development.
"Yep, it's that choiceless thing all over again," Jack said sourly. He glanced at Daniel. "What was that 'toe fairy' thing he was going on about?"
"To therion," Daniel said. "It means monster. Beast."
"So... there probably is some kind of... bull in here?"
"I think it would be prudent to proceed on that assumption, yes," Daniel said.
"Sir, this is going to be impossible," Sam said, staring in frustration at the umpteenth cross tunnel they'd encountered since entering the labyrinth. They'd stuck to the main passage so far, venturing off only slightly into the cross tunnels. "We need a plan."
"A plan to the labyrinth would be nice," Jack agreed.
"If I may, sir," Sam said, knowing full well that the colonel had understood the intent of her comment. "I'd suggest we start at the beginning and use some systematic method to explore. For example, take the right turn every time we encounter a cross passage."
"Carter, you do realize that, depending on how big this place is, we could spend days--weeks even--traipsing down every hall?"
"I know, sir."
"Sam's right," Daniel said. "We have to choose some method or we'll just stumble around in circles."
"The biggest problem is how to keep track of all these passages," Sam said. "Some will be dead ends, some will intersect. We need some way to know which corridors we've already explored so we don't end up retracing our footsteps."
"I suppose I should probably mention that when Theseus went to slay the Minotaur he met Ariadne, the daughter of King Minos and one of the few people who knew how to get out of the labyrinth. She immediately fell in love with Theseus and helped him escape by giving him a ball of string to mark his path."
"Daniel," Jack sighed.
"You're telling me the only way out is the way we came in?"
"If this is set up to resemble the labyrinth from the legend." Daniel shrugged. "That's a pretty big if."
"Regardless, we must find some means to mark our path," Teal'c said.
"How?" Sam asked, looking at the walls. The stone was light gray and obviously of a lesser quality than that of the entrance room, but that didn't help. All their gear had been taken. They had nothing with which to write on or gouge the stone.
"I'm fresh out of bread crumbs," Jack said.
"What about...?" Daniel held his torch against the wall briefly. When he moved it away, a sooty smudge marred the light gray surface.
"Okay, Hansel," Jack said, clapping Daniel on the back. "You're in charge of the trail marking."
"Hansel?" Daniel muttered as Jack headed down the corridor again.
"Could've been worse," Sam said, passing Daniel.
"Could've been Gretel."
"Oh, God! Sorry," Sam said, pressing her free hand against her gurgling stomach and flushing with embarrassment. Daniel snickered and Sam smacked him in the shoulder.
"Let me guess: you kids didn't eat lunch," Jack said.
"We did," Sam protested weakly.
"We started to," Daniel admitted. "And then you ordered us to come meet you."
"Let's take a break," Jack said. There wasn't anything Jack could do about food or water, but he could at least make sure they didn't exhaust themselves. If they did meet up with some monster, strength and intelligence would be the only two weapons they'd have.
"I don't need to stop, sir," Sam said quickly.
"I know, but I still think it would be a good idea." Jack couldn't keep his eyes from flicking to Daniel.
"I'm fine," Daniel said, straightening up indignantly.
"Good for you. I still want to take a break," Jack said. He gave Carter a pointed look and she went over to try and convince Daniel to let her look at his wound.
Jack slid down the wall to a sitting position, sighing inwardly as the weight came off his knees. Daniel might not have any kind of serious head injury, but the blood loss might have been enough to make him more susceptible to dehydration and fatigue.
"Happy now?" Daniel asked Sam when she stepped away, satisfied that he wasn't seriously injured. Jack leaned his head back and closed his eyes, forcing himself to not smile at Daniel's annoyance.
"It's ugly, but I think you'll live," Sam said lightly.
"I could've told you that," Daniel grumbled.
Jack opened his eyes just a slit, just enough to see Carter's nod. Assured that Daniel was in no danger, Jack tried to relax. Teal'c was still prowling around, venturing just a short distance into some of the cross passages. Jack let him go. The big guy had more endurance than the rest of them to begin with, and someone needed to keep a watch, minimal as it was.
"So what happened when this Thesaurus guy killed the bull," Jack asked, looking across the hall at Daniel.
"Theseus," Daniel corrected automatically. "It marked the end of the blood payments from Athens."
"That's it?" Sam asked, expecting something a little more dramatic.
"Well, no... this is Greek mythology after all. It goes on and on... But that's the end of the Minotaur's story," Daniel said. "It's been postulated that the myth is based on the real history of Athenian domination by Crete. The slaying of the Minotaur is a metaphor for the rise of Greek culture and their escape from Minoan domination."
"Rumors, lies and fairytales," Jack sing-songed.
"Jack..." Daniel shook his head in exasperation. "Tell me this--do you remember anything factual from history classes about Crete or Athens? Names? Dates?"
"Not really," Jack admitted readily.
"But you do remember the Minotaur."
"What is your point, Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c asked, returning to stand next to where Jack was sitting. Jack nodded his agreement with the question.
"My point is that mythology can be a very effective way of retaining at least some elements of ancient history, or of illustrating certain concepts or philosophies."
"Much the same technique is used in your Christian Bible," Teal'c said.
"The Parables," Daniel said with a nod. "Same concept."
"It still amounts to filling people's heads with nonsense," Jack argued. "Come on, Carter, back me up here. You don't go for that mumbo-jumbo stuff."
"It's not all mumbo-jumbo, sir," Sam said, although she was highly skeptical of anything that couldn't be proven with hard data. "As Daniel said, it's an effective method of teaching moral lessons."
"Yeah, well... this bull thing has to be... bull, right?"
"Okay, now that's a bull."
Jack stood back, eyeing the rough drawing on the wall with an eye to threat assessment. It was crudely sketched with what appeared to be charcoal, possibly from a torch used by the last intended sacrifice to pass this way. Despite its lack of detail, the picture managed to convey a real sense of threat.
"Yeah, it's..." Daniel said vaguely, his eyes glued to the drawing, his apprehension sharply increased by actual evidence of the labyrinth's occupant.
"Big horns," Jack nodded soberly.
"Carter?" Jack called sharply, turning away from the wall. He and Daniel quickly walked over to the cross tunnel Sam and Teal'c had entered. They hadn't gone far, and the reason for Sam's surprised exclamation was soon evident.
"Well, they're human," Daniel said, crouching down to examine the jumbled pile of bones. "But... they're all intact."
"And that's significant because?" Jack asked.
"Well, I'm assuming if you've had a run-in with a bull, especially the bull in that picture, you'd have at least a few broken bones," Daniel said.
"He's right, sir. There's no obvious trauma to the skeletons," Sam said, kneeling beside Daniel.
"Perhaps they died of starvation," Teal'c said.
"Not comforting," Jack said. He scrubbed at his face, thinking. They'd been in the maze for going on twenty-four hours... with who knew how many more hours, or days, still ahead. They'd already put out two of their torches, trying to conserve their only available light source.
What Jack wanted to say was "we're screwed." What he did say was, "All right, kids. Looks like there's been at least some activity in this area. The drawing, the... bones. I know it doesn't jive with Carter's plan but my gut is telling me to go this way. However, since I don't have any better reason than gut feeling, I'm more than willing to listen to other ideas."
Daniel, Sam and Teal'c all shook their heads mutely.
"Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil," Jack said, pointing at Daniel, Sam and Teal'c in turn. That earned him three equally indignant glares.
Daniel started to open his mouth but Sam tugged on his sleeve and shook her head.
"What?" Jack asked as Sam and Teal'c started to move deeper into the passage.
Daniel looked at him a moment longer, then shook his head and turned to follow Teal'c.
"Hey! I want to know what he was going to say," Jack protested, hurrying to catch up.
"Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said quietly. He glanced at Sam and Jack, lying along opposite sides of the hall sleeping. "Should you not be resting?"
"I did." Seeing Teal'c's skeptical reaction, Daniel shrugged. "I will. I'm just... I'm trying to remember if there's anything in Greek mythology that might help us."
"Such as the plans to the labyrinth?"
"Well, no... nothing that specific." Daniel sighed. "The problem is that myths and legends were passed down by word of mouth so there are a lot of slightly different versions of each story."
"Kind of like playing Telephone," Sam said with a yawn.
"I am unfamiliar with that game," Teal'c said.
"It's a kid's party game," Jack said from his side of the hall.
"I thought you guys were asleep," Daniel said.
"Not any more," Jack shot back, stretching slowly before sitting up.
"See, Teal'c, in Telephone one person makes up a short story and whispers it to another person. That person tells another person and so on and so on," Sam explained. "The last person tells the story aloud. It's pretty funny."
"I see," Teal'c said although he obviously didn't.
"The funny part is that the story the last person hears bears little resemblance to the story the first person told," Daniel said.
"Yeah, like it'll start out with a lady walking a dog and end up with a baby kissing a frog," Jack said.
"Very amusing," Teal'c said flatly.
"Maybe you had to be there," Jack said, massaging his temples to try and get his fatigue dulled mind working a little more quickly.
"Okay," Jack said, wagging his finger at Teal'c as he climbed to his feet. "Don't play this game with me. I know you. You understand us humans a lot more than you let on."
"I never meant to imply that I do not understand, O'Neill. Only that I do not find it amusing."
"Oh. Okay." Jack looked at Daniel and Sam for help, something neither of them seemed inclined to offer. "Well, since we're all awake we might as well push on a little further. Carter, take point."
Jack watched as Sam strode purposefully down the passage. Teal'c fell in just behind Sam, but Daniel hesitated.
"Guess he told you," Daniel said, a small smile on his face.
"Yeah," Jack admitted. "I thought he would've quit doing that by now."
"I don't think he'll ever quit."
"Let's take thirty," Jack said after Daniel stumbled over his own feet again.
"I'm fine," Daniel protested. His double vision had cleared and aside from a headache, he didn't feel he was in any worse shape than the rest of the team. He was just a touch light headed after more than twenty four hours without food. If it weren't for the water they'd found a few hours earlier, trickling through a crack in the ceiling, they'd all be feeling even worse.
"You're exhausted," Jack argued. "Just like the rest of us. We're taking a break."
"Daniel, do you think there's a King Minos here on this planet?" Sam asked as she settled down on the floor, leaning back against the wall.
"Ah... I suppose there could be," Daniel said.
"And this King--aside from the whole sacrificing barbarians gig--he was a good guy? A benevolent ruler? Wise and fair?" Jack asked hopefully.
"Um... no. He was considered to be fairly cruel, even by the standards of the time."
"Great," Jack said.
"Is it not most likely that this King Minos, if he exists, is a Goa'uld?" Teal'c suggested.
"That's what I was wondering," Sam said with a nod.
"I don't know why not," Daniel said. "The King Minos of Earth legend claimed to have received his kingdom from 'the Gods.' He may very well have been a vassal to some higher Goa'uld."
"What happened to him? In the myth?" Sam asked.
"Oh. Well, after... some more stuff that you probably aren't interested in, he was killed by the daughters of another king. They poured boiling water on him," Daniel said.
"Well, that sucks," Jack said.
"Probably," Daniel said with a nod. "Then Minos became a judge in Hades."
"But if Minos was a Goa'uld, he could have left Earth and come... here," Sam said.
"We have seen no Jaffa," Teal'c pointed out.
"Maybe he doesn't have any," Sam said. She shrugged at Jack's skeptical look. "Well, Daniel said Minos' power was declining. He may not have had many followers to begin with."
"And without new symbiotes, whatever Jaffa he possessed would have died centuries ago," Teal'c said.
"How do you know there aren't any new symbiotes?" Jack asked.
"Alone, without a queen, he would be incapable of producing any larvae," Teal'c explained. Jack shuddered. As far as he was concerned, any knowledge of Goa'uld reproduction was too much.
"How do you know he's alone?" Daniel asked curiously. "I mean, what would've happened to the symbiotes his original Jaffa carried?"
"It is merely supposition as I have never heard of Minos. However, if he is indeed a Goa'uld, and if he has isolated himself on this planet as it appears he has done, then he would not have allowed those symbiotes to be implanted upon reaching maturity."
"Because they would be potential rivals for power," Sam guessed.
"That is so."
"Snakes and bulls," Jack said grimly. "You know--AAA really should start issuing travel alerts for these places."
Sensing that Jack wanted to speak with him, Teal'c slowed his pace to meet and match that of his C.O. As Sam and Daniel drew away, chattering rapidly at each other, Teal'c gave Jack a pointed look.
"Okay, here's the thing," Jack said, acknowledging Teal'c. "We're going to run out of time pretty quickly here. Well, maybe you aren't, but Carter, Daniel and I--if we don't find some food and more water soon we'll be in no state to fight this bull or whatever it is."
"I understand, O'Neill," Teal'c said.
"So if you have any way of finding this thing fast, we need to do it."
"I have attempted to discern a trail, but it is nearly impossible in these conditions."
"What? No, Teal'c," Jack said, offering a reassuring pat on the shoulder. "I'm not expecting you to do the impossible. There's no way you could find a trail on a stone floor. All I'm saying is--if you have any idea of how to find our way through this maze, I'd like to hear it."
"We could separate. That would allow us to cover more ground in a shorter time," Teal'c suggested.
"No," Jack said flatly. "Not without our radios, or any other way to communicate. It's too dangerous to split up."
"Then I am afraid I do not have any ideas, O'Neill. Not as yet," Teal'c admitted reluctantly.
"Okay, well, if you do--just sing out," Jack said, disappointed but not surprised. "In the meantime just... follow your nose. The other issue is that when we do meet up with this monster, we've got nothing to fight it with."
Teal'c thought carefully for a moment. Then he nodded at his torch.
"Many animals fear fire."
"True," Jack agreed.
"And if that does not work, we can use the torches as clubs."
"I have to tell ya, Teal'c. That doesn't fill me with great confidence."
"Have you noticed that the stone is rougher here," Sam asked Daniel. "Back in that first room, and the first part of the maze, the walls and floor were very smooth, like the stone had been polished. But the deeper we go, the more unfinished the stone is."
"Well, I suppose not too many people come this far into the maze so the workers didn't worry as much about appearances," Daniel said. "Or maybe I should say that the people who do come this far... well, their opinion doesn't count for much."
"You know they're 'discussing' back there," Sam whispered, glancing surreptitiously behind them at Jack and Teal'c.
"Yeah. Jack doesn't want us to know he's seriously worried about our chances of getting out of here."
"How stupid is that?" Sam asked indignantly. "Like we need to be protected?"
"Like we can't figure it out ourselves," Daniel agreed.
"Exactly," Sam said with an emphatic nod. "You know I think the world of the colonel--I really do--but some days I'd like to kick his ass."
"Get in line," Daniel said with a smile.
"Come on, Daniel. Rise and shine," Jack said, nudging Daniel's hip with the toe of his boot. Groaning, Daniel rolled over and sat up.
"Whoa," Daniel gasped, throwing a hand out to steady himself when his head started to spin.
"Daniel?" Sam said.
"Fine," Daniel said, squeezing his eyes shut and shaking his head to clear it. "Just sat up too fast."
"How many fingers am I holding up?" Jack asked, displaying his middle finger.
"Bite me," Daniel shot back as he climbed to his feet.
"Well, we know his vision and his warm fuzzy morning personality are intact," Jack said. He still wasn't sure if insisting that they all stop and get some sleep had been a good idea. They needed to be rested, and sleep was one resource they had available to them. But it also just prolonged the time they had gone without food and water.
"We needed the rest, sir," Sam said, understanding where her C.O.'s thoughts had gone.
"Why does this shit always happen to us?" Jack grumbled, looking at Carter and noting the pinched appearance of her features. Teal'c didn't look so bad, but Junior always gave him an edge.
"Um... first contact team?" Daniel said.
"There wasn't supposed to be any contact this time, first or otherwise," Jack said. "This was supposed to be a Carter scientific doohickey thing and a Daniel digging in the dirt thing."
"Well, the galaxy is full of surprises," Sam said. She grimaced as soon as the words were out of her mouth, knowing it was a lame excuse for an explanation.
"Most of which jump up and bite us in the ass," Daniel said wryly.
"May I remind you of General Hammond's advice upon such matters?" Teal'c said, his tone making it very clear that he intended to share whether Jack approved or not.
"Let's hear it," Jack said, gesturing for Teal'c to take point.
"Cease your bellyaching and get on with it, Colonel," Teal'c quoted.
"There was no reason for Hammond to say that," Jack said, trying to ignore Daniel and Carter's ill-disguised amusement.
"Of course not," Daniel agreed. "He'd be taking away your greatest skill... given that bellyaching is your forte."
"I'm not a bellyacher," Jack insisted.
"Sir, you do know why the Navarrons agreed to diplomatic talks?" Sam said.
"Because they liked us?" Jack said. He heard Daniel's exasperated sigh from behind him. "Because they like you?"
"Because they were tired of your complaining and they hoped that SG-9 wouldn't be so... irritable," Daniel said.
"That's not true," Jack said.
"And because they thought you were kind of cute," Daniel conceded.
"Excuse me? I'm a six-two full bird colonel--I am not cute," Jack said.
"No, sir. Not in the least," Carter agreed.
Jack sighed and marched on determinedly in an effort to end the conversation. He knew enough to quit when he was only slightly behind.
"O'Neill, I believe I see a light at the end of the passage," Teal'c called softly several hours later.
"The cliché is 'light at the end of the tunnel', Teal'c."
"Ah, no, Jack," Daniel said. "I think he really means there's a light at the end of this passage."
"Well, there's good news. Are you sure?"
"Just in time, too," Sam said, watching her torch gutter dangerously low. Daniel held out his torch, the only one they had left, and lit it from Sam's.
Jack and Teal'c moved quickly but quietly to the end of the passageway. Unlike all the entrances they'd found to other passages, the one they found here had writing etched into the stone arch above it.
"Daniel," Jack prompted. Daniel moved closer and studied the words before nodding.
"To theriou oikia," Daniel read.
"There's that 'toe fairy' again," Jack said.
"The monster's house," Daniel translated, waving his hand at the carved inscription.
"Way to go, Teal'c," Jack said with admiration. "So how'd you do it?"
"As you suggested, I followed my nose."
"Excuse me?" Jack said.
"When I began to pay very close attention, I was able to determine that the air from some passages was fouler than others. I assumed, correctly as it turned out, that passages which merely led to other empty passages would have little odor. Passages connected to the beast's home would carry some of the beast's smell."
"So you led us to the stinkiest place?" Daniel asked.
"Works for me," Jack said.
The arched doorway led into a short corridor that bent in a sharp S turn. Teal'c paused only briefly before entering the chamber and moving to the left. Jack followed immediately behind, crossing to the opposite side of the room. Jack was barely aware of Daniel following behind him; his attention was aimed at assessing their surroundings.
The room was lit, but Jack couldn't see the source of the light. There seemed to be a glow emanating directly from the ceiling that left the floor of the chamber draped in shadows. Jack peered through the gloom, almost missing the creature lying watchfully in the center of the chamber.
"My god," Jack whispered harshly.
The creature's large, roughly triangular head reminded him more of a bison than a bull, but either way the horns were wicked looking. The short, thick neck broadened into shoulders, arms and chest that appeared more human than animal. A distorted human: the barrel chest was impossibly deep, and the muscles that ran across the broad shoulders and down the sparsely haired arms were twisted somehow. Like they'd been hooked to the wrong places and pulled out of their true path.
The chest narrowed quickly into a pelvic girdle that, again, was more animal like, lean and furred, although the hip bones seemed to flare out a touch too widely. The hind legs were thickly muscled at the top, narrowing quickly down to lethal looking hooves. A gnarled six inch stump of tail was barely visible.
The front limbs ended in odd fleshy appendages, something like the crude three fingered hands a child might make out of clay. The eyes that stared balefully at them were unexpectedly pale. Jack at first thought the creature might be blind, but when he raised his torch, it was obvious that the animal was tracking his movements.
Jack had never seen anything so... unnatural. And he fervently hoped he never would again. Daniel stepped forward slightly and Jack grabbed his sleeve, exasperated.
"What?" Daniel said. "Look at it. I think it's sick."
"Maybe," Jack said. "But even a sick animal can be dangerous. Sometimes more dangerous."
The beast lifted its upper body and made a deep growling noise that resonated through the chamber. Jack decided to interpret that as a threat. Around its neck he could now see some sort of emblem dangling from a chain. But even though the beast didn't make any overt move toward them, Jack still didn't trust it. The behavior could simply be an act to lure them closer.
"I have never before seen such an animal," Teal'c said from the other side of the room.
"I wonder what's wrong with it," Daniel said.
"Illness, as you suggested, Daniel Jackson. Or old age," Teal'c suggested. "This creature may have been here for a very long time."
"Hey, for all we know this is what it looks and acts like normally," Jack said.
"I could be wrong, but it looks like something that's been engineered," Sam said, standing just a few feet from Teal'c.
"Parts of it look animal but other things suggest a human to me, sir."
"Just looks freaky to me," Jack admitted.
"I think Sam's right," Daniel said, disgusted by the thought. "It looks like something that's had its DNA scrambled together from several species."
"Any snake vibes?" Jack asked Sam.
"No, sir. I don't sense a Goa'uld."
"Okay. So it's some kind of genetically engineered beast, possibly sick, definitely not Goa'uld." Jack paused. "Any suggestions?"
"There is a door on the far side of the chamber, behind the beast," Teal'c said.
"What?" Jack said, instantly fixing his eyes on the far wall, trying to see the door. "Are you sure?"
"It couldn't be that easy, could it?" Sam asked skeptically. "We get to that door and we're free?"
"I don't think there was anything easy about it, not when that 'animal' was in its prime," Daniel said.
"I'm not convinced it's going to be all that easy now," Jack said, still eyeing the creature warily.
Teal'c stepped carefully closer. Jack tensed, but waited to see if Teal'c could bait the animal into moving, into giving them some idea of its abilities. The beast simply sat on its haunches, glaring at Teal'c. Jack nodded for Sam and Daniel to stay back, close to the door, then he began to slowly move forward on the opposite side. Maybe if they threatened it from both flanks it would...
"Whoa!" Daniel exclaimed softly as the beast rose up into a semblance of a bipedal stance. It was several feet taller than any of them in that position, an imposing sight, but it didn't seem capable of staying upright for long. It lowered to its front limbs, issuing another low bellow.
"It is sick. Or something," Sam said, noting that the creature appeared to have difficulty bearing weight on its front legs.
"I believe we can defeat it, O'Neill."
"Do we have to?" Daniel asked.
"Daniel?" Jack said, keeping his eyes on the monster but aiming his exasperation straight at Daniel.
"Well, it's sick. And it didn't ask to be like this," Daniel argued. "If we can get past without hurting it, we should."
"I believe it may be a kindness to kill the creature," Teal'c said.
"He's right, Daniel," Jack said, unable to really fault Daniel for his compassion toward the animal. "Who knows how long this thing has been down here, alone. Suffering."
"I'm curious, though," Daniel said.
"When are you not?"
"I wonder how long it has been here," Daniel said, ignoring Jack. "I wonder if this is the original Minotaur. And is it the source of the myth... or the result of it? Would the Goa'uld have engineered something like this just to play on the myth?"
"That would not be surprising," Teal'c said. "If the myth already existed, the Goa'uld would not have hesitated to take advantage of the story."
"Fascinating," Jack said dryly. "But ultimately not something I really care about at the moment. What I do care about is finding a way past that thing."
Daniel grimaced but couldn't really argue with Jack's objective. Teal'c suddenly swung his burned-out torch at the animal. He was too far away to even think of hitting the animal, but his action provoked a reaction. The creature moved sharply in Teal'c's direction, only a couple of steps, but obviously prepared to meet the threat.
"Okay, so the old critter still has some life in him," Jack observed.
"We could just wait, sir."
"Well, someone must come down here periodically to take care of it. And the caretaker would have to have some way to restrain or subdue the animal, so if we just wait..."
"Does that thing look like anyone's been taking care of it?" Jack asked.
"No, but there has to be someone who feeds it and cleans up," Daniel said, taking up Sam's argument. "I know it doesn't smell the greatest now, but it would be a whole lot worse if it wasn't mucked out once in a while."
"But how often?" Jack said.
"I would say not very," Teal'c said.
"Okay, so what do we do then? I don't think hitting it with our torches is going to make much of an impression," Sam said.
"Not right away," Jack agreed, dismayed by the thought of having to try and bludgeon the creature to death.
"Sam," Daniel said sharply. He crossed to Sam, motioning for her burned out torch and handing her his lit one. He returned to Jack's side of the room and silently knelt and started rubbing the end of the torch against the coarse stone of the chamber floor, grunting softly with effort.
"Uh... Daniel?" Sam said, bewildered by the sudden exchange.
"What's he doing?" Jack asked, not wanting to take his eyes off of the creature for too long. "Daniel? What are you doing?"
Just as Jack was about to lose his patience, Daniel was suddenly standing behind him, handing him the upside down torch, the end of its wooden shaft sharpened to a rough point.
"If you have to kill it, just... make it quick," Daniel said grimly. Jack looked at Daniel, then at the stake before nodding sharply. He waved Daniel back and looked over at Teal'c.
"I shall attempt to draw its attention, O'Neill," Teal'c said. He moved forward, making threatening jabs and swings with his torch. The creature divided its attention between Jack and Teal'c, apparently sensing that Jack was prepared to join the fight. Teal'c inched closer and closer, goading the animal. Eventually, the animal was forced to focus its attention on Teal'c, turning in his direction. Jack seized the opportunity to move forward.
Jack barely heard Daniel's shout as the animal turned back quickly. He had to jump back to avoid the horns. Even as the creature tried to move toward Jack, Teal'c rushed forward and slammed it across the head with his torch. The creature let out a roar that echoed deafeningly in the chamber. Teal'c swung again and the enraged creature swung its heavy head toward him.
It was several long minutes as Teal'c continued to try to draw the creature out, tried to focus its attention on him. Jack stayed poised, waiting for the opportunity to drive the stake in a path he hoped would go just under the animal's ribcage and into its heart, or any vital organ for that matter. Finally the creature, growing angrier at Teal'c's constant harassment, turned far enough toward Teal'c that Jack saw his chance. He lunged forward, thrusting with all his strength, planting the stake deep in the creature's chest. But this time Jack couldn't move fast enough. The creature's head twisted around sharply, its horn catching Jack in the shoulder as he tried desperately to get out of the way.
"Colonel?" Sam called as Jack went flying.
"Fine," Jack shouted back between curses. He peddled his feet, trying to push himself along the floor and away from the animal. As he watched, the creature took two tentative steps in his direction and then collapsed heavily to the floor.
Carter and Teal'c cautiously approached the creature while Daniel hurried over to Jack.
"You okay?" Daniel asked, kneeling down beside Jack.
"I think so, but I don't think I'll be using my left arm for a week," Jack said. His shoulder hurt like a son of gun, but on the plus side, he couldn't feel the pain in his elbow anymore. His entire arm was numb all the way to his fingers. "It didn't gore me, did it?"
"No, looks like it must have caught you mostly with the side of the horn, not the point," Daniel said, relieved to find only a small tear in Jack's jacket and underneath it only a superficial laceration. He ran his fingers around the joint, provoking a sharp yelp from Jack.
"What are you doing?" Jack asked.
"Just checking. You sure it isn't dislocated?"
"I'm sure. Kind of surprised, actually, that it isn't," Jack admitted. "For a minute there it felt like it was going to pull my arm right out of the socket."
"It's definitely dead, sir," Sam reported as she and Teal'c joined them.
"Good. Let's get the hell out of here."
Daniel grasped Jack's right hand and pulled him up. Teal'c was already at the back wall, looking for the way out. He was very aware of his teammates waiting patiently behind him.
"I cannot see any recognizable means of opening the door," Teal'c finally admitted.
"There's nothing in the writing?" Sam asked, joining him before the door, thickly covered in raised symbols.
"Nothing. It is merely the story of the Minotaur. In essence, the same story Daniel Jackson told us."
"Teal'c?" Sam said, peering at one symbol. "This is the only mark that's indented rather than raised. Maybe..."
"The emblem the beast wears," Teal'c said immediately. He returned to the animal and tore the emblem, chain and all, from its neck.
"That's one way of making sure you couldn't just sneak past the critter," Jack said. He glanced at Daniel. "The only way out is to kill it."
Teal'c returned and placed the emblem into the depression. Seconds later, the welcome sound of grating stone signaled their freedom.
"Wow. Fresh air," Daniel said, taking a moment to inhale a deep breath.
SG-1 had exited the Minotaur's labyrinth to find themselves on the side of a low mountain. Before them, just beyond the foot of the mountain, was a large city encircled by a high stone wall.
"I'd guess that's where we entered the maze," Sam said, staring at the city. "Sir?"
"These are not people I want to know," Jack said firmly, dismissing the idea of going into the city without a second thought. "Let's just go home, kids. Assuming that we can find the way home. Anyone have any clue as to where we are?"
"I believe this is the mountain we saw in the distance southwest of the village we were originally exploring," Teal'c said. "The stargate should be directly behind us on the other side of the mountain."
"You sure?" Jack asked.
"Reasonably certain," Teal'c responded.
"Okay," Jack said. If Teal'c was wrong, they'd have to return and take their chances with the people in the city. But at that moment, Jack preferred relying on Teal'c's reasonable certainty to expecting any kind of help from the locals.
"But the first order of business is to find..."
A sudden familiar sound filled the air. Jack gave a resigned sigh as rings appeared and disappeared leaving behind a man in rich purple robes. Olive complexion with heavy lidded dark eyes, the haughty sneer on his face marked him as a man accustomed to being obeyed.
"... water," Jack finished, eyeing the newcomer and his two human attendants warily.
"Daniel Jackson, I believe this could be... ," Teal'c began.
"King Minos, yes, I think you're right."
"Sir, he's a Goa'uld," Sam said in a low tone.
"Of course he is," Jack said.
The Goa'uld immediately began speaking, his voice low but authoritative. Daniel listened, his brow creased in concentration. Finally, having heard enough to know where the Goa'uld's speech was headed, Daniel interrupted. Minos listened for a moment, apparently surprised by Daniel's audacity. Then he angrily cut Daniel off, his volume growing as he seemed insistent on making Daniel agree with whatever he was saying.
"Wait, wait--did he mention Xena?" Jack whispered loudly. Sam turned a disbelieving glare on him. Somewhat taken aback, Jack pulled back and fixed Sam with his best colonel stare in retaliation.
"Daniel Jackson is telling King Minos that he is obligated to allow us to go free as we have defeated the Minotaur," Teal'c translated.
"Is that true?" Jack asked.
"I do not know," Teal'c admitted. "Daniel Jackson is very convincing, however, Minos says that we are outsiders and not entitled to any such consideration."
"Come on, Daniel," Jack muttered under his breath, watching Daniel's determined look as he continued to argue with the Goa'uld. Minos shouted angrily and Daniel shouted back, pointing at the king's attendants. Minos glanced at them, apparently regretting their presence.
"Daniel Jackson has changed tactics," Teal'c said.
"To what?" Sam asked.
"He has informed King Minos that if we are not allowed to return to our home then his world will be invaded by our fellow warriors," Teal'c said. "He is also reminding the king that we have more powerful weapons than those of his warriors. And that the king's warriors are aware of this fact. King Minos is not pleased."
"Ya think?" Jack muttered. "Hey, Daniel."
"What?" Daniel asked sharply. He was afraid to turn his back on the seething Goa'uld, or to miss anything the man said.
"Does he have the manpower or firepower to defend himself?"
"He says he does... but I don't think so," Daniel said.
"You're calling his bluff?" Sam asked.
"Look at his eyes," Jack told Sam. "He knows he can't take us on. He has to let us go unless he wants to get into a fight he can't win. Right, Daniel?"
"Yes," Daniel said slowly, not even close to trusting that the Goa'uld wouldn't try some kind of trick.
"So ask him if he'll give us a lift back to the Stargate."
"You're joking, right?" Daniel asked, turning incredulous eyes on Jack.
"It can't hurt to ask, right?" Jack turned to face Minos. "Right?"
Minos spit words at Jack that sounded distinctly unflattering even to his untrained ear, then resumed his argument with Daniel.
"What, Jack?" Daniel said, irritated by the distraction.
"How do you say 'bite me' in Greek?" Jack asked.
"Bainete!" Minos thundered imperiously, lifting his hand again and blinding SG-1 with a flash of bright light.
"What the hell?" Jack said, opening his eyes to see the weird rippling rainbow light above him. He sat up to find the stargate directly in front of him. "Huh."
Jack saw a glimpse of olive drab cloth out of the corner of his eye. He reached out blindly with his left hand, assuming that it was one of his team. As he tore his eyes from the gate, he realized that his hand was patting Carter's cheek. He snatched his hand back, remembering that his 2IC had a tendency to bite.
"Carter. Hey, Carter," Jack said, shaking her shoulder.
"What happened?" Daniel asked.
Jack turned to the other side to see Daniel lying next to him, squinting up at the sky.
"Apparently Minos gave us a lift back to the gate," Jack said with a jerk of his head toward the gate. "Could've done without the unconscious bit though. Now where the heck is..."
"I am here, O'Neill," Teal'c said from behind them when Jack started looking around.
"Good. Glad to hear it." Jack turned back and shook Carter once again.
"Sir?" she said groggily.
"Yep," Jack said, climbing to his feet. Sam quickly followed, looking around her with a dazed expression.
"W-why?" Sam asked, looking at the gate.
"King Minos did not wish us to remain on this planet," Teal'c said, walking up to stand behind Sam.
"Well, he could've said that right from the get go and we could've avoided this whole unpleasantness," Jack said sharply.
"No," Sam said slowly. "The people here probably don't know that anything, any one, exists outside of their world. Our presence was a direct threat to his rule. He needed to defeat us. Having his Minotaur kill us would help maintain his claim of divinity. For all we know the whole town would've had a big feast to celebrate."
"That is entirely possible," Teal'c agreed. "Such an event would increase the fear and respect the people have for their ruler."
"But when we killed the Minotaur and Daniel twisted his arm into letting us go..." Sam continued.
"He couldn't afford to let us wander around," Daniel said, still lying on the ground. "He was afraid of what his people might learn from us."
"You planning to get up anytime soon?" Jack asked, looking down at Daniel. Daniel's forehead creased in a frown of concentration. Then he gave Jack an exasperated look.
"Xena?" Daniel said pointedly.
"Maybe they get cable," Jack said, holding out his hand and pulling Daniel to his feet.
"I suggest we leave immediately, before Minos regrets his decision to release us," Teal'c suggested.
"Excellent idea," Jack said. "Carter, dial it up."
Daniel turned to look behind them at the distant mountain. Jack's gaze followed, puzzled, but after a minute he knew, he just knew what Daniel was thinking.
"But those people..." Daniel turned to stare at Jack. "We know... okay, we're reasonably confident that Minos doesn't have much--no Jaffa that we've seen, some technology but nothing we can't overcome."
"I know. But we're tired and hungry and a little banged up," Jack explained. "We know the lay of the land; we know what we're up against here. We'll go home, get some rest. Then we'll bring a few other teams back with us and liberate the people. Okay?"
"So, Daniel, I'm curious. You told us what happened to King Minos and the Minotaur. But did Theseus' story have a happy ending?" Sam asked as she punched in the glyphs for the Land of Light, their fall back when they lost their GDOs.
"Not exactly. When Theseus returned home he was supposed to raise white sails on his ship so that his father would know that he'd survived. But Theseus forgot and his father committed suicide before Theseus reached the shore."
"Probably too busy fooling around with that Arachnid chick to remember," Jack said with conviction.
"Ariadne," Daniel corrected without thinking.
"An arachnid is a spider, sir," Sam said.
"Whatever," Jack said with a careless wave of his good hand. "It's all Greek to me."
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