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09 January 2012 @ 09:33 pm
Fic: Endurance Past the Point (4 of 19)  
Summary, notes, and warnings are located in the Table of Contents.



Part 4

Each time she was revived, he had chosen a different method of torture.  And though he always had Jaffa nearby, he seemed to enjoy a hands-on approach to torture.  His eyes reflected a sick pleasure as she suffered at his hands.

This time he was burning her.  An array of metal instruments, many of which he had used previously to slice and pierce her skin, were heated one by one in the fire of a torch before he would hold them to her body.  The smell of her own burnt flesh had caused her to retch more than once as it filled the room.  

Today, he was totally silent.  There were no taunting words, no questions (either relevant or irrelevant), no commands or instructions.  There was only the hissing sounds of burning hot metal on flesh, her own groans and screams, and an occasional reverberating laugh from the Goa'uld.  

It felt like it had been going on for hours this time.  She thought that this was the second or third day of this particular torture.  In agony, unable to move without aggravating raw flesh somewhere on her body, her mind fixated on the sadistic glint in his eyes, she cried out, “God, what do you want?”

He grinned in a sickening sort of way.  “Not information this time.  I just want to see how much you can withstand before your pathetic Tau’ri body cannot take any more.”  He lowered the flat of the knife to her cheek and chuckled as her scream burst forth, a mixture of both physical pain and emotional distress.  This one was so much more fun than the slaves he had tortured centuries ago. They had always broken so easily.  He grudgingly noted that the Tau’ri may be made of sterner stuff than had once been thought.  Licking his lips, he bent to his task, taking advantage of each moment of her tortured consciousness.


~SG1~


She refused to open her eyes when she regained consciousness, instead reaching out with her other senses.  Even when she was fairly sure that she was alone, she opted not to open them, not wanting to see the damage to her body.  She shifted against the hard floor, an agonizing experience which called attention to each of the possibly hundreds of burns covering most of her body.  Based on feel and smell, the ones from the earlier sessions were already festering as infection set in.

“Wakey, wakey, Carter.”

She knew that voice.  She couldn’t refuse that voice.  Pushing up through the pain and fatigue, she opened her eyes.  Her heart beat wildly: They were here!  The Colonel, Teal’c, and Daniel.  O’Neill knelt by her side.  She was momentarily confused as she tried to remember where they were and figure out why the Colonel was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt.  Her cheek responded with shooting pain to the smile that crossed her face.  She’d always liked him in jeans.  But you’re not supposed to think about that, Sam! she admonished herself.  

“You okay, Carter?” he asked, concern evident in his voice.

“Sir?” she mumbled.  “I don’t know.”  She looked past him to Daniel and Teal’c, who seemed to be playing cards.  Where did they get a table and chairs?

Sam shook her head, closing her eyes against the pain that caused.  This can’t be real, she thought.  She opened her eyes again.  They were gone.  

Hallucinations.  I’m hallucinating.  She felt almost guilty at the relief the knowledge brought.  Hallucinations indicated that death was once again near.  As always, she could hope that this time her death would take.

As she laid there wishing she hadn’t chased HallucinationJack away, she tried to calculate how long she had been here.  She estimated  that she had been captive for somewhere between four and six weeks.  Over a month and they hadn’t come for her.  Of course, they probably had no idea where she was.  She had thought that she had accepted that fact long ago.

It was just that when she had heard his voice, those instants before she knew it wasn’t real, for just a minute she had felt safe again.  Too tired and dehydrated to cry, she closed her eyes and wished for unconsciousness.  She was alone.


~SG1~


Planning had proceeded quickly and thoroughly at the SGC while they awaited the arrival of the Tok’ra ship at P9C-345.  It was decided to send SG-1, SG-2, and SG-7 through along with Dr. Fraiser and a small medical team who would stay on the ship.  SG-1’s primary mission was to recover Carter.  SGs 2 and 7 were to secure the building and, if possible, capture Ugallu.

After five days, the team leads, Jacob, and General Hammond gathered for a final pre-mission briefing.  The latest intelligence reports from the Tok’ra were reviewed and the attack plan was finalized.  Hammond looked at his people, assessing their readiness, especially O’Neill.  Everyone showed a higher level of tension than normal pre-mission anxiety, knowledge of the importance of this one weighing heavily on them.  O’Neill looked like hell, obviously had not been getting enough sleep for weeks, but Hammond saw no indications that he should be pulled.

“Gentlemen, you have a go.  You depart at 1400.”


~SG1~


It had become harder and harder to resist answering.  No longer was she trying to protect Earth; that was entirely too abstract a concept at this point.  She was simply safeguarding Teal’c, Daniel, and Jack.  She knew that even they would fade from her memory eventually, one by one.  And then, what would she fight for?

The beating had been going on for so long, Ugallu constantly shouting questions at her.  He seemed very perturbed, as opposed to the coolly clinical, psychotic calm that he usually exhibited.  

By this time, she was no longer able even to try to prevent the blows that rained down on her, fists and feet impacting against her bones.  She could feel herself losing consciousness, a blissful slide to oblivion.  She was dimly aware of klaxons sounding and heavy footfalls racing along the hallway.  

She slowly tried opening her eyes when she realized that he had moved away from her, only to realize that one was swollen shut.  Peeking through her one good eye, she saw him standing by the doorway listening to a Jaffa.  Blinking slowly, she saw another figure standing in the corner of the room.  As she fixed her eyes on him, Jack came slowly into focus.  Not the Colonel, she thought.  HallucinationJack.

A shadow moved across HallucinationJack as Ugallu came back into view.  He raised his arm, the hand device glowing on his palm, as pain flowed through Sam’s body and mind.  Words reverberated through and around her but she was too tired to try to understand them.  She tried to focus on HallucinationJack standing behind Ugallu, sorrow and compassion playing across his face.  She caught his eyes, trying to hold on through the pain.

Just when she thought her skull was literally bursting open, the pain stopped building.  HallucinationJack was walking toward her.  She tried to sit up but he shook his head as he circled around behind her.  She felt him lie down, felt the warmth of his body press against hers as he wrapped one strong arm around her.  Bracing against the pain she was sure would come, she realized that she felt none anymore.  He murmured soft words of comfort into her ear.

She relaxed into her hallucination and allowed the boundaries between real and unreal to blur.  “Stay with me, Jack.”  She wasn’t sure if she had said it out loud or not, but she felt his nod and a light kiss on her head.

“I won’t leave you, Sam.”

She suddenly became aware of a figure looming in the doorway and tensed, her breaths coming faster as she prepared for another onslaught of pain.  She felt Jack’s breath on her neck as he quietly shushed her.  “You’re safe.”


~SG1~


The initial assault had been worryingly easy.  Word of their approach must have reached the compound and they found it mostly deserted.  The three teams made short work of the initial resistance near the ring platform.  SG-1 quickly began their search for Sam, leaving Ferretti in charge of the other two teams, who would secure their escape route and the rest of the compound.  Daniel, Teal’c, and Jack moved quietly up and down hallways; each empty room they found increased the despairing feeling that she had been moved with the mass evacuation.

Suddenly, Jack and Teal’c heard Daniel’s voice, panic echoing in every word.  “Jack, Teal’c.  I found her.  Oh god, I found her.”

He lowered his voice as he forced himself to walk toward the beaten and bloody woman lying motionless in the center of an empty room.  “Oh god, Sam,”  he whispered. He dropped to his knees next to her and reached a shaking hand out to feel for a pulse.  A wave of relief swept over him as he felt the very faint beat under his fingers.  When he pulled his hand back, his fingers were sticky with her blood.  He could hear Jack skidding into the room behind him, stopping motionless for a second, then telling Teal’c to stand guard outside the door.  

Jack hesitated only a second as he caught his first glimpse of his 2IC.  Of all the scenarios he had imagined, this wasn’t the absolute worst, but it was up there.  Teal’c nodded his assent to guard their backs as Jack looked at Daniel.  “Is she...  What’s her condition?” he gruffly requested.

Daniel licked his suddenly dry lips.  “She’s alive, Jack.  Barely.”

Jack nodded and suddenly bent down to scoop her up in his arms.  “Radio ahead and let Ferretti know we’re coming through.  Then let Fraiser know she’s got a patient coming.”  Racing back down deserted hallways, Jack tried not to think about how he could feel each one of her bones, nor how disturbingly easy it was to carry her was now.  Her face was drawn and emaciated under the swelling and bruises.  The now filthy tunic was bloodstained and singed, more holes than cloth.  He deliberately pulled his mind back to the task of putting one foot in front of the other.  

Ferretti joined up with them as the approached the ring platform.  Jack started talking the moment he came into view.  “Status, Major?  Anyone found Ugly yet?”

Ferretti answered.  “No, Sir.  So far, it appears to be mostly abandoned.  We’re sweeping the place now, clearing out any Jaffa remaining.”

Jack nodded.  “We’re taking her back the gate planet now.  I’ll send the ship back for you.  You good with that?”

“Absolutely, Colonel.  We have this under control.  You take care of Major Carter.”

SG-1 was already positioning themselves on the ring platform and they disappeared in a flash of whining sound and light.  Ferretti took a moment to process what he had seen.  Carter looked bad.  He had to assume the fact that they were rushing her back to the gate meant she was alive, but he certainly hadn’t seen any indication of life, except in the cautious way O’Neill carried her, carefully cradling her head on his shoulder.  Turning back, he vowed to take as many Jaffa alive as possible.  He wanted information on the bastard who had done this.

SG-1 materialized on the orbiting ship, finding both Janet and Jacob waiting anxiously.  The doctor moved immediately to do a visual assessment, then started barking orders.  “Colonel, put her on the gurney over there.  Lieutenant, we need an abdominal ultrasound en route and a blood draw.  Let’s start some IV fluids.  Once we’re back at the SGC, we’ll need an MRI and...”

The words started to blend together to the four men anxiously watching.  Jack gently placed Sam on the gurney and backed up just far enough to stay out of the medical staff’s way.  He looked at Teal’c.  “Can you let them know to get us back to the gate planet?”

Teal’c nodded and left.  Jacob looked between Jack and Daniel.  “What happened down there?”  His voice was tight and strained.  

Daniel answered when he saw that Jack couldn’t tear his eyes away from Sam.  “This is how we found her.  She was alone by the time we got to her.”

“Was she conscious?  Did she say anything?”

Daniel just shook his head, unwilling to trust his voice much further.  He shakily sat on a bench along the wall trying to rub Sam’s blood off his fingers.  Teal’c returned and silently took a seat  next to him.  

It was the pain of the blood draw that first pierced through to Sam’s consciousness.  And voices, that was different.  Usually there was just the one voice, but there seemed to be several all talking at once now.  The sounds bounced around her head; the more she tried to concentrate on them, the more they seemed to slip away.  Daring to peek through a barely opened eye, she saw slivers of the shadowed gold beams of a Goa'uld ship.  What now?

She felt a hand extending her arm again then something cold against the inside of her arm.  She tried to pull her arm away but found that the hand wouldn’t let go.  She felt the cold steel point of a needle and summoned the little energy that remained to her.  Instinctively, she lashed out, pushing against her assailant, trying to struggle up to a seated position, trying to open her eyes.  Frantic and exhausted, she did not make sense of what she was seeing as she continued fighting.

As one of the orderlies was thrown against the wall, Fraiser called out, “Colonel, we need your help!” He had already started moving toward the bed.  “Hold her still.  We’ve got to get this IV in; get her sedated.”

Jack tried to grab her hands but she was all over the place.  “Carter!” he yelled, trying to penetrate the panic.  “Carter, it’s us.  We got you.”  She paused for just a second, just long enough for him to grab her hands, holding them tightly against his chest.  She started to struggle again as he urged her to lay back on the gurney, but he leaned down with her, kept talking quietly.  He could feel her heart hammering against her ribcage.  “You’re okay, you’re safe.”  He just kept repeating the mantra over and over as he slowly moved one of her hands away from him.  

Fraiser nodded at him to continue as the she and the nurse gently resumed the IV insertion.  He could feel Carter tense beneath him, so he took his free hand and cupped her cheek softly, allowing his thumb to brush one of the few unmarred spots on her face.  It almost seemed to him as if she turned into his touch.  He felt the hand he was still holding begin to go slack as the sedative hit her system.

Fraiser said, “Thank you, Colonel.  We’re good now.”

Reluctantly, he stepped away from her once more.  Janet continued talking in a low voice to her staff as they performed a number of the portable tests they had been able to bring.  As they neared the gate planet, she stepped away from the gurney and turned to the four waiting men.

“It’s not good.  She’s going to need surgery to address internal bleeding, the evident damage to her face and head could easily indicate intracranial trauma.  She’s got some broken ribs.  She is obviously malnourished and severely dehydrated which is going to make surgery extremely risky, but I don’t think we can afford to wait.”  She turned to Jacob.  “Sir, as her father, you have the right to make the decision.  We can postpone the surgery until we have her a bit more stable, but we run the risk of her bleeding out.”

Jacob looked at his daughter’s teammates who looked as lost as he did.  “Jack?” he asked.  For all the closeness that he and Sam had rebuilt over the last couple of years, he was sure that the colonel would have a much better idea of what she would do in this situation.  

Finally, Jack nodded at him. “Do the surgery,” he said, silently begging whatever was out there that he was making the right decision.  

The ship’s pilot came back to let them know that they were in position to ring down to the planet.  Jack immediately resumed mission mode.  “Daniel, Teal’c, Jacob, and I will ring down first and make sure the area is secure and dial the gate.  Doc, you come down with Carter and your team and go right through.”  With one last quick look at Sam, they ringed down to find the gate area thankfully clear and in minutes were stepping back into the SGC to see the medical team hurrying the gurney into the hallway.  

Hammond was waiting for them at the bottom of the ramp, his face frozen in an impassive stare.  He nodded to the team.  “Colonel, report.”

“General,” Jack acknowledged.  “It looks like Ugallu had cleared out of there before we arrived.  There was some token resistance, but nothing big.  Ferretti is still back there directing the cleanup.  As discussed, we’ll send whatever Jaffa we take alive to Bra’tac after questioning.  Any technology comes back here.”

Hammond nodded.  “All right, Ferretti can handle the mission debrief.  We will talk more when Dr. Fraiser gives me her medical report.  Dismissed.”


~SG1~


It was hours before Janet came out of the OR.  They’d all taken showers and changed and then made their way to the makeshift waiting room (really just some chairs out in the hallway).  Daniel and Teal’c took turns going to get coffee and sandwiches for everyone.  It was obvious that Jack and Jacob were not leaving until they learned the outcome.

Jacob was able to maintain a certain level of composure as his worry was tempered by Selmak.  He spent much of the time watching Jack.  He would spend long periods of time with his head in his hands, elbows on his knees.  Then suddenly he would jump out of the chair like it was electrified and pace halfway up the hallway and back.  He jumped every time anyone entered the hallway and visibly wilted when it wasn’t Fraiser.  The anguish that emanated from him was almost too much to be near.

Jack could feel Jacob watching him.  At first, he didn’t have the energy to deal with whatever Carter’s father wanted to throw at him.  But there’s only so long he could put up with the staring and not talking.  The silence must be Selmak’s doing, because he was damn sure that Jacob Carter was not this patient.

“Look, Jacob, whatever it is you’re trying to say or trying not to say, can it just wait until we have some news?” Jack said when he could stand the silent observation no longer.

Jacob made a wry face.  “I just wanted to thank you, Jack.”

“For what?” he scoffed.  At this point, he didn’t feel like there was any reason to be grateful to anyone at all.

“For being her friend.  Sam has grown so much in the past few years; she’s exceeded my wildest dreams, both as a daughter and as an officer.  And I can tell from my talks with her that much of that is due to you.”

Jack shook his head.  “Some friend.  If I’d been a real friend, I would have dragged her away from this place and gotten her to take a real vacation.”

Jacob raised his eyebrows, a slight smile crossing his face.  “Is that what’s bugging you?”

“One of many, many things, Jacob.”

“Jack, Sammie’s always been like that.  Other kids would look forward to summer vacation for trips to the beach, hanging out, doing nothing...  Sammie would start planning her summer camps in January: space and science usually, but sometimes just to liven things up a bit, she’d throw in a theoretical math camp.  That’s just who she is.”

He paused, waiting to see if any of this was sinking in.  It didn’t look like it.  “Jack, she’s strong and I have to believe that she will pull through this.”  He could see Jack’s doubts at that statement, but forged ahead anyway.  “And when she does, she is going to need you more than ever.”

When Janet finally came out, Daniel and Teal’c had joined them in the again silent hallway.  “She made it through the surgery,” she preemptively addressed everyone’s most pressing question.  “I’ve called General Hammond.  He asked us to meet him in the briefing room.”  Silently they all filed to the elevator, her weary attitude warding off any questions on the way.

As they sat down, Janet gratefully accepted a cup of coffee from Daniel.  They settled and all eyes turned to the doctor.  She took a sip and put the cup down.  “She’s not out of the woods yet.  I am hopeful given the fact that she made it through surgery, but the next couple of days are going to be critical.  We addressed the internal bleeding and the ribs.  She is dangerously underweight and severely dehydrated.  We will slowly ramp up her electrolyte levels over the next week and provide IV nutrition.”

She sighed.  “I suspect that Sam was placed in a sarcophagus one or probably multiple times during her captivity.  The level of damage that we are seeing is just not commensurate with the amount of time she was missing.  The oldest bruises and lacerations I saw on her were, at most, four days old.  Now either they left her alone most of that time, or they used a sarcophagus.  I became convinced when I noticed that there is no sign of the gash on her arm sustained during SG-1’s last mission.  There should have been several months of healing before the scar disappeared.”

Hammond asked, “Well, are we sure that this is our Major Carter?”

Janet nodded.  “As sure as I can be, Sir.  Her DNA matches up, there’s no sign that she’s a robot or a clone or any other type of replacement we’ve seen before.  I think the sarcophagus theory best fits the facts at hand.”

There was silence again as each of them considered the ramifications of what she was saying.  It was Daniel who first spoke up.  “So, he could have tortured her to death any number of times.”  What he had seen earlier was bad enough, to imagine that she had lived through it more than once...  His eyes fell to his fingers again, long since cleaned, yet he found himself rubbing at them once more.   

Jack looked at his friend tugging at his fingers, remembering the horrible days after Daniel had stopped using Pyrus’ sarcophagus.  “Doctor, will she experience the same type of withdrawal symptoms as Daniel did?”

Janet looked regretful.  “I have no idea how many times he may have had her in there.  It’s hard to say for sure, but I believe it’s likely that we’ll see something along those lines.  This is another cause for concern, given her weakened physical state.”

Jacob looked at Janet.  “When will she wake up?”

“I’m keeping her on a light sedative for the time being.  Her reaction to waking the last time was extreme enough that I want to give her a few more hours before we try it again.  I’ll start weaning her off it sometime in the next 12 - 18 hours.”

“Very good,” Hammond said.  “SG-1, you are on stand-down until further notice.”