Chapter 20

The Jaffa shoved Jack and Sam back into their cell with no regard for who already occupied the space. Hurtling forward, Jack landed on top of Reynolds, who was stretched out near the cell door, intent on taking a snooze, and Sam elbowed a waiting Daniel in the nose before falling to the floor in a heap of arms, legs, and the red cheeks of severe embarrassment.

“I'm sorry, Daniel!” Sam exclaimed the minute the Jaffa had left, their stoic faces displaying no sorrow whatsoever for their actions. “I didn't mean to hit you.” She sent an acerbic glare at the retreating backs of the Jaffa for good measure.

Daniel sheepishly rubbed his nose as he extricated himself from his former leader's limbs. “That's alright, Sam - you didn't exactly have any control over where you went. I'm just glad you didn't break my nose. Besides,” he muttered, “I should know better than to stand so close to the door by now.”

Jack climbed off Reynolds, equally as apologetic as his former second, but instead of acting casually, he opted for a more sarcastic approach. “You live to serve under me, don't you, Colonel?”

Reynolds couldn't help but laugh at such an outlandish response to what really hadn't been a choice for the General. “You can count on me, Sir,” he quipped with a grunt as Jack rolled completely away and he was able to sit up. Now that he was in a more appropriate position, he assessed them both. “You guys alright? Did he clone you? You look fine, but that could be misleading. Maybe Ba'al just did the torture thing?”

“He did both,” Jack told him with a groan as he stretched out with his back to the wall, surprised that he was so sore, considering that he hadn't been roughed up too enthusiastically. Yet the buried memories that the session had revived still played like a dreadful movie in his brain, causing soreness in every extremity. He took a shuddering breath in order to contain the mental pain caused by those images, then hoped that no one had noticed. One thing he knew he couldn't handle right now was anyone's solicitude.

Sensitive to any of his mood indications, Sam's gaze slid from Daniel to Jack. She wanted to ask him if he was alright the minute she heard his sigh, but already knew that he most definitely was not alright. His memories were clearly still haunting him, and in spite of his tightly clenched eyes, that session with Ba'al had to have released several things he would rather have stayed buried.

And speaking of their recent Ba'al session, the remnants of that pain stick still sizzled her nerve endings. The occasional muscle spasm reminded her of her own torture quickly enough, and suddenly she wanted nothing more than to lean next to Jack against the wall and go to sleep. “Think I'll join you,” was all she said as she curled up beside Jack with her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes.

Daniel was too familiar with Goa'uld torture methods not to recognize the results of a pain stick when he saw them. “Sleep will help you the most, Sam.”

“I know.”

“We'll wake you if anything interesting happens.”

But Sam was already asleep.

* * *

It wasn't Daniel who woke them what seemed like ten minutes later. “Get up, Tau'ri!” the First Prime yelled at Jack. He gleefully kicked him hard on his leg for good measure.

Glaring, Jack knew this soldier couldn't help his harassment of the prisoners; he was really no different than any Jaffa they had encountered.

And right on cue, the First Prime again ordered, “Get up, Tau'ri scum!” He fingered his pain stick with a joy bordering on obscene. “Or I will encourage you.”

The Jaffa kicked him again, then leered at Carter. Jack struggled to make his muscles bend and retract in a body that protested any movement. When he didn't proceed fast enough for the Jaffa, he hauled him to his feet and mercilessly threw him at his cohorts also in the cell. “Lord Ba'al wants a word with you!”

Jack did his best to force his eyes open so that he could keep track of Carter. “Mustn't keep the old boy waiting,” he slurred at the same time, then tripped over his feet when the First Prime did his nasty Jaffa best to march him and Sam away.

“Move!” the man yelled, and that much noise in Jack's ear was incentive enough. The Jaffa herded the two humans toward the clone room.

Jack tried to think why he and Carter had to return to the clone room so soon, but besides having to face another round of torture just for the fun of it, he couldn't think of anything. Unless... enough time had passed for old Ba'al to realize the reality of the situation; thanks to the Asgard, Jack O'Neill couldn't be cloned. Jack hoped beyond hope that enough time hadn't yet passed.

However, the minute he entered the cloning chamber and no clone greeted him, he knew that he was wrong.

It was the same as before. He and Carter were cuffed to opposite walls, able to see the other, but not touch. A moment later, Ba'al sauntered into the room, his thoughtful pose thoroughly faked. He looked like he actually cared what became of his two human captives, but Jack knew better. “Quit the show, Ba'al,” he said, making sure to sound bored. The last vestiges of sleep vanished as he spoke. “We know you're faking it.”

But Ba'al refused to respond to Jack's goading. Instead, he stood directly in front of Jack and stared at him, his pose growing even more thoughtful than it already was.

Jack lowered his brows as he stared back. “You look like you care, but I know you don't give a rat's ass about me any more than I do about you. So knock it off. You're freaking me out.”

Ba'al ignored Jack's caustic words to continue his staring. In a great show of thinking, the System Lord rubbed his fingers on his chin.

At last, Ba'al gave a confounded sigh. “I admit that you puzzle me exceedingly, O'Neill.”

Jack gave a sardonic grin. “I have that effect.”

Ba'al did some more of his staring, peering at Jack from another angle. “I see no outward mechanism that would indicate such duplicity,” he mused aloud.

Jack's brows rose, and he smirked as his old companion, sarcasm, came to the fore. “You're right - there's not a duplicitous bone in my body.”

Ba'al ignored him, his thoughtfulness growing more concentrated as he continued to assess his captive. “No... it must be a part of him,” he murmured to himself.

With a sense of foreboding, Jack felt the hair on his neck stand on end, but refused to look as if anything Ba'al said could bother him, playing dumb instead. “What's a part of me?”

Still, Ba'al mused on. “It must have been added at a later time, and by someone else - from what I hear, the Tau'ri do not have these kinds of capabilities.”

“Oh,” Jack muttered. “You know us Tau'ri - we're full of surprises.”

Ba'al once again ignored the interruption to his studies. “It could be a part of his blood, such as a concentrated collection of naquedah.”

Jack grimaced - thoughts of blood, his in particular, always set his teeth on edge. If it was the accepted belief that he had naquedah in his blood, then why not simply test him by making him activate some kind of Goa'uld device? Not fully understanding yet, he advised himself to remain silent. If Ba'al wanted to think that he had something in his blood, who was he to contradict him?

He hoped against hope that Ba'al wouldn't figure out that he did indeed have something inside him, something that interfered with the cloning process, though thinking that something was in his blood wasn't quite the right way go about figuring this out.

In order to distract the System Lord, Jack decided that playing dumb was again the way to go. “I don't have any idea what you're talking about.”

It was a statement that made Ba'al give a short nod. Which made no sense - either he wanted to torture the information out of Jack, or this was all a waste of time.

“Look, this hanging around thing is...”

Movement from the First Prime cut Jack's glib statement short. The Jaffa abruptly slammed the heel of his palm into Carter's right shoulder.

The audible pop told those listening that he had just dislocated her shoulder.

Carter made no sound, but pain raced briefly across her face before she once again took control of her expression to show only extreme boredom.

“Hey!” Jack instantly protested, but the look of satisfaction in the First Prime's eyes told Jack that his yell had fallen on deaf ears.

“Let's start again, shall we?” Ba'al drawled, still sounding disinterested. “I have run my clone program three times, and three times I have been favored with a much younger version of you than I find helpful. Now, why is that?”

Not wanting to simply give him the information that the Asgard had futzed with his DNA, Jack simply snorted, “I already told you - I don't know.”

A second Jaffa swung a metal pipe at Carter's left arm, instantly breaking it. The squeak Carter let out was subdued, but no less surprised.

“Hey! Stop it!” Jack uselessly yelled, knowing that it wouldn't do anything for him, but it might do something for Carter. So Jack yelled, though if he'd been unsure before, he now understood that this was indeed another torture session - mind torture for him, and physical torture for Carter. Ba'al knew that Jack wouldn't long be able to withstand someone hurting Samantha Carter. He'd tell Ba'al whatever he wanted to know before long. It was Ba'al at his diabolical best.

“Wrong answer,” the System Lord conversationally said. “One more time - some kind of anti-cloning device - where and what is it?”

And once more, Jack played dumb. “I'm telling you, I have...”

The pipe swung to connect painfully hard with Carter's ribs. The crack and her resulting grunt carried all the way over to Jack.

Ba'al crossed to Jack's other side, adjusting his angle of study. “Is it part of your blood?”

All Jack could do at that was shrug his shoulders. “I...”

Speaking of blood, red swelled from Carter's mouth when the First Prime slammed his fist into it.

Jack's open distress was obvious now. He was close, so close.

As if Ba'al could smell capitulation, he nodded again, and the First Prime grinned as his fist met Carter's jaw for a second time.

Carter's head snapped to the side, but silence ensued. Her gaze swept across the room to drill into Jack's, and the smallest shake of her head told him to say nothing no matter what they did to her.

But Ba'al was relentless. “Or is it part of your bones?”

Following Carter's advice, Jack's silence was rewarded by another smack at Carter, this time at her right thigh. Jack didn't hear anything break, and hoped that she had incurred nothing more than a bruise this time.

Ba'al paced in front of Jack, hands clasped behind his back, his thoughtfulness again in full force. “Is it in your skin, perhaps?”

Jack couldn't help himself - he laughed. “Yeah, my skin sheds anti-cloning molecules.” He looked at Ba'al head on for the first time. “Do you know how dumb that sounds?”

Carter's left leg suffered the same fate as her right, and in spite of a clear desire to muffle all sound, she couldn't quite restrain her resulting grunt.

Pride in just how much his former 2IC could handle burst in Jack. “Forget my blood - she not screaming enough for ya?”

Carter's left shoulder shattered.

“Stop it!” Jack next yelled, his voice ferocious.

“Then tell us what we want to know,” Ba'al nonchalantly commanded.

Jack responded with a helpless, “I don't know what you want to know!”

Ba'al's poise crumbled. “Why is it that you cannot be cloned?”

“And I told you, I don't..!”

Another nod, another punch to Carter's ribs. She gasped at the pain, her breathing growing raspier by the minute.

“Look!” Jack desperately called out, “It has something to do with my DNA - I don't know what it is!”

Another punch to her dislocated shoulder - another grunt of pain.

Carter's cry tore at Jack. But still she was able to vigorously shake her head in his direction, her meaning clear - he could hear her 'Don't tell them, Sir!' echo in his head.

But Jack's desperation was mounting. “Something...” Jack was going to tell him how the Asgard thought he was too special to be cloned, but suddenly realized that mentioning the way the Asgard had meddled with his DNA would amount to saying that they had broken the Protected Planet's Treaty by interfering with one of Earth's inhabitant's natural progression. Even a meddling of an individual was enough to void the Treaty. It would be a Goa'uld free-for-all.

But all hope was not lost. Jack suddenly gave a wolfish grin and hoped against hope that Ba'al didn't know as much about the Tau'ri as he thought he did, specifically about the Tau'ri time line. “I don't know what she did, but good old Doc Fraiser did her thing again. I'd say that you can ask her, but - oh, yeah! Some System Lord's dumb Jaffa killed her!”

The pipe raised up to slam into Carter's broken arm a second time, but Jack didn't give the Jaffa time to assault her again before going on in as acerbic a voice as he could muster. “Clone me all you want - you'll never overcome her safeguards!”

Ba'al was shaking his head again. “But why you, and not all of SG-1?” His puzzlement glowed from his eyes - or maybe that was his symbiote - sometimes it was so hard to tell. “You forget - we have already successfully cloned Samantha Carter and Daniel Jackson - but you claim that only you are immune to cloning - why?”

Jack's smirk conveyed his challenge. “Common practice for Earth Generals.”

“Selmak's host is an Earth General,” Ba'al immediately protested. “Yet we've detected no tampering with his...”

“Ah, But neither Selmak nor Jacob is head of the SGC - I am!”

Carter's ankle gave a crunch as the pipe collided with it. Not surprisingly, Carter didn't make any sound at all this time, no yell, no grunt - unconsciousness had already claimed her. Her bonds were the only thing holding her up any longer.

“Cut her down!” Jack yelled, and struggled helplessly against his own bonds. “You're killing her!”

Ba'al gave a shrug of his own shoulders and politely informed, “It is you who is killing her. Tell me what I want to know, and I will be merciful.”

Jack stopped his struggling long enough to say through his clenched teeth, “I told you, I don't know anything else!”

A fist gave her a kidney punch. Carter was so out of it by now that she hardly moved.

“Tell us!” Ba'al hollered in Jack's face.

“If I knew, I'd tell you!” Jack hollered back.

“Perhaps you need further incentive.” Ba'al turned to address his Jaffa. “Prepare the table.” He whirled back towards Jack, his cloak flying. “If you are so set on defying me, then you leave me no choice. This time we will make certain to take all of 'it' in our efforts to persuade you.” His authoritative voice rang out in the room, “Throw O'Neill into the cell with the others. Her...” And Ball turned with a wicked gleam in his eyes to gaze almost seductively at Sam. “Take off both her legs and throw her in with him.” His gaze took in O'Neill's growing horror with a supreme sense of satisfaction. “He can watch her bleed to death, knowing there is nothing he can do to stop it. Perhaps then he will be more... forthcoming.” His smile widened as he took in Jack, then Sam, and purred, “What you can't kill can still be destroyed.”

The First Prime was already moving in anticipatory excitement. “Yes, my Lord.” He bowed his head in a show of obedience, then signaled to his cohorts closest to O'Neill to haul him away. Jack struggled against his captors even as he knew it would ultimately do no good - he watched as Carter fell farther and farther behind.

Chapter 21

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