Teal'c stepped into the hall, checking either direction before Major Carter joined him. She had not found any trace of their target, and he could feel her frustration like a palpable beast that stalked her. He wished he had words that could assure her of his faith in her abilities, but the concepts that he might share with a fellow Jaffa did not translate into English. He might offer her his assurance that she was ral tora ke'na ma... one whose skills and dedication force the universe to bend to their will so that all circumstances yield to their greatest desire. After seeing the systems lords fall one after another, Teal'c could well believe she had that power. But only Daniel would understand his words, and the translation of 'lucky' seemed wholly inadequate.
"Hey, Teal'c," Carter offered him. He tilted his head in her direction as they both headed back toward Major Crimes where they hoped to find Daniel waiting with young Blair. Carter kept her own counsel as they passed guard until they were finally alone in the elevator. "Does Ellison seem a little abrasive or is it just me?"
"Blair Sandburg would be wise to choose another teacher," Teal'c said, unwilling to comment more on the sacred relationship between a young man and his chosen teacher.
"I take that as a yes." She sighed and studied the blank doors of the elevator. He could almost hear her brain begin to sift through information. "I don't like the way he physically intimidates someone sixty pounds lighter and a foot shorter than he is. And I bet Sandburg is a good ten years younger than he is." Carter fell silent, a distant expression on her face. She and Daniel were so very much alike, which is one reason for O'Neill's insistence that they never share a tent. They were both able and competent. Teal'c certainly respected Carter as a warrior; however, both were too likely to lose themselves in their own thoughts. And right now, her thoughts were clearly not charitable when it came to Ellison.
The elevator doors opened and for a second she stared down the wide hall without moving. The doors started sliding shut before she got off and started down the hall with a new determination in her step. Right now, Teal'c did not envy Ellison's position as the center of the major's ire. Carter hit the doors of Major Crimes, and her posture changed so quickly, that Teal'c's hand fell to his zat'nik'tel hidden within his clothing.
She turned to him. "They're gone." The anger Carter had reserved for Ellison now turned on Daniel. "Dammit, he was supposed to stay put."
Somehow Teal'c doubted Daniel or Blair had been kidnapped from a guard station, not even with Daniel's luck, so that meant they had willingly left.
"We need to get to the car." Carter turned and rushed by him back toward the elevator, and he followed. At times like this, Teal'c did miss commanding his own team. While he accepted that his judgment in following the false god, Apophis, was so flawed as to preclude him taking a leadership role again, he could still engage in some fantasy about Daniel and a little Jaffa discipline.
"The colonel is going to kill us if we lose him again," Carter muttered in the elevator. A prisoner gave her a salacious look, but when he caught Teal'c expression, the man quickly turned back to face the front of the elevator. "I can't believe him," Carter continued muttering, probably not even noticing the unwanted attention.
"Daniel Jackson shall be fine," Teal'c offered, but given Daniel's rather spectacular history with abductions, Teal'c could admit to feeling some apprehension. From the look Carter gave him, she felt the same way. The moment the elevator opened onto the garage, Carter was almost running to the car.
A police officer stopped to watch Carter hurry by, either because of her odd behavior or her attractiveness. So often Teal'c could not tell in this culture. Certainly he found Carter eminently suitable as a potential partner and he would have made an approach to her long ago if Daniel had not explained certain cultural expectations regarding team members abstaining. On the other hand according to Carter, most men found her skills unappealing. Earth males were not logical. This officer, however, seemed most interested.
She unlocked the trunk of her car, and the officer's hand moved toward his weapon. Ah, so the interest was professional.
"We shall be able to track Daniel Jackson and Blair Sandburg and discover where they have gone, correct?" Teal'c asked loud enough for the officer to hear.
"We should. Just as long as Daniel hasn't found the bug in his tape recorder, I'll be able to get a location on them in just a second," she assured him as she pulled out an oversized case and began to turn on the electronic equipment she had brought. Rather than leave, as Teal'c expected the officer to do, the man came closer.
"Did you say that Sandburg is missing?" he asked. Teal'c was surprised; most people avoided him.
"Indeed. We left our friend in the company of Blair Sandburg, and they have vanished."
"Fuck. Ellison's going to go on the warpath for sure," the officer swore with an exaggerated flinch.
"James Ellison?" Teal'c asked. Often times, many generations of family would serve in the same guard station, and many individuals within each generation would serve, so perhaps another Ellison was protective of young Blair Sandburg. If both James Ellison and Blair Sandburg were sworn to the same tec'ma-te, it might explain the way Blair endured Ellison's poor manners.
"Big guy with a huge attitude? Yeah, that's the one and only Ellison. The last time Sandburg got grabbed, he was a real bastard about it."
"The last time?" Carter asked, her hands pausing as she turned a concerned expression toward the officer.
"Sandburg's got a reputation around here. I mean, he's a stand-up guy... a lot more reliable then you might think what with the hair. He even holds his own in a crisis. But when he gets kidnapped, Ellison is a real dick about it. Last time it was Martin Smallwood. Ellison punched him out and nearly fed him to a crocodile. Before that was Mark Cantor and before that it was Vincent Lazar and then a druggie with some flower name and David Lash and the list goes on. It never ends well for whoever grabs the kid, but when we joke about him being a trouble magnet, we're not actually joking."
Teal'c exchanged a concerned look with Carter.
"If Sandburg's in trouble, I'm not telling Ellison, not with the mood he's been in lately," the officer continued. Holding up his hands as though ready to surrender at the thought of confronting Ellison, the officer backed away.
Carter cleared her throat. "I'm sure they just wandered off somewhere. Daniel and Blair are both into anthropology and archeology. They're probably just having coffee somewhere and talking about dirt." Teal'c had known Major Carter long enough to know that her tone of voice suggested that she did not believe her own words.
"Yeah, well for your sake, I hope so. When Ellison is in one of his moods, he is not the nicest person." With that, the officer turned and left. Teal'c looked at Carter who had the electronics case balanced on the bumper of the car.
"It's never easy, is it?" She asked with a sigh. "Okay, let's track down our trouble magnet before their trouble magnet gives our trouble magnet an even bigger case of bad luck."
"Were bad luck contagious, would we not already be contaminated?" Teal'c asked as he moved to the passenger side of the car.
"You think we aren't? We just can't afford another strain of the virus," Carter said with a small laugh. Once she got in the car, she turned on the small devise in the case she had taken from the trunk. The machinery hissed for a second, and then the sound of car traffic, the steady thrumming roll of engines and tires against asphalt, came through the small speaker.
"We have audio," Carter said cheerfully. "I really should have bugged him a long time ago. I can think of more than one planet where it would have saved us a lot of time."
"Indeed. Except Daniel Jackson does often lose his equipment while getting kidnapped," Teal'c pointed out. For years, he had shared a tent with Carter, and he shared a closeness with her that approximated the closeness Jaffa normally shared with each other within a command. She turned to him with a smile.
"Ah, if I put the bug in his weapon or his supplies, he'd lose it. I put it in his tape recorder."
Teal'c nodded. "Daniel Jackson will not easily part with his tape recorder or notes," he agreed, remembering the one time that O'Neill had suggested using the pages of a notebook for kindling when they had found themselves in an unexpected snowstorm. The two men had nearly come to blows over the paper and only the dried bark Teal'c had found ended the feud.
A voice came over the radio.
"Hey!" Blair Sandburg shouted. Teal'c stiffened at the implied threat. "Geez, learn to drive, idiot!" he shouted a second later.
"I don't think there's any hurry," Daniel's voice came through the speaker as Carter started the car.
"They're heading west," Carter said as she guided their vehicle toward the exit.
"Jack has class this afternoon. If your friend went to her, we need enough time to talk him into believing you're a good guy and not one of those spook types out to get her," Blair answered.
Teal'c truly resented the way humans all seemed to name their children using the same names. Obviously, Blair did not speak of O'Neill, yet the name was the same. Even more aggravating, he did not use a complete name which would allow them to identify the destination Blair and Daniel had chosen. Teal'c looked at Carter, but she didn't seem to know the name 'Jack' either. She frowned as she headed into traffic.
Daniel gave a weak laugh. "Just... let's not get killed driving there."
"Oh man, that's rich. You should see Jim drive. His insurance guy hates him. Seriously hates. I am an old lady driver compared to him." This happy and ebullient young man did not sound like the same scientist they had met in the squad room.
Whatever Blair Sandburg had promised, Daniel sounded hopeful that it would provide useful information. "Do you really think your friend can help us?" Daniel asked, and from the tone, he sough reassurance, not information.
"If she knows anything about spooks, and if she thought she'd seen too much—"
"She did," Daniel interrupted.
"Well then, she would have gone to Jack Kelso. He is the only one with the connections to know what's going on and the moral center to avoid getting sucked into the spookland power grab. Man, I hate people who think they're above the law and play these fucking power games."
"Are we still talking about the NID? Not that I have a problem hating the NID, but it sounds like you have something else on your mind."
"That obvious, huh?" Blair sounded almost embarrassed. Teal'c wondered why a man would need to feel shame about disliking those who abused their power. Most humans were a bit of a mystery to him with their strange morality and odd rules, but Blair Sandburg seemed more odd than most.
Daniel seemed to understand Blair far better than Teal'c did. "It just seems like you're having a shitty day."
"Politics, man. It's all about the politics."
"I think politicians were the eleventh plague of Egypt."
"Totally. Man, if the flies and boils and locusts didn't make the Pharaoh give up, politicians sure would have."
"Yeah, but Yahweh turned politicians loose on the world, and like cockroaches, letting them in is easier than getting rid of them." Daniel joked. He sounded happy and playful. Until his moment, Teal'c didn't realize just how rarely he had heard that particular tone from Daniel any more. O'Neill's deception and abandonment had hit Daniel hard, but no harder than having lost O'Neill for months, unsure of whether or not he survived—no harder than his own near death at the hands of Linea or their imprisonment on Ne'tu . Perhaps their difficulties were finally beginning to dull Daniel's enthusiasm. However, the sharp and sardonic tone he could hear though the speaker now was the Daniel he had first met.
"Step on one, and a dozen more come scurrying out," Blair agreed.
"So, what's your cockroach's name?"
"Which one? Man, right now, my world is just cockroaches." Blair's voice lost its enthusiasm. "The university is giving me shit. A student plagiarized his paper and when I called him on it, he actually threatened me. Man, I have no respect for people who don't take care of their own business. And then..." Blair's voice grew angry. "Then the university just wants to whitewash the whole affair. Dr. Sidney Oldham tells me that I'm too black and white. He says to just give Ventriss a C... Give him a C! Man, he cheated. This Ventriss threatened me and he raped one of the girls on campus, but his daddy has more money than God. So, hey, we should just brush the rest under the carpet."
"What did you tell them?"
"I basically said a polite version of screw you. Man, if I don't find some sort of proof that Ventriss is the one in the wrong, my goose is well and cooked. Shit."
"I would have done the same thing," Daniel said so quietly that the road noise almost drowned the soft words that came through the speaker. Carter had closed the distance so that Teal'c could see the back of the two men's heads. Sandburg was driving, and he was exceeding the posted speed limits. Daniel laughed, and now Teal'c could see him turn to Blair as the microphone relayed his words. "But then again, considering how unpopular I am in scientific circles, I might not be the best role model."
"I'd rather be unpopular than an accomplice to academic fraud. But then I'd rather be an accomplice than out on my ass. Man, if I don't have my dissertation, I'm just not sure what I do have... not anymore. And without that teaching fellowship, the money for tuition dries up."
"You can't get a part time job?"
Blair didn't answer right away. "There are complications," he finally admitted. Teal'c could hear the deception through the speaker. "I'd rather try to keep things like they are, but it's like I'm doing a balancing act, and I'm starting to lose my balance. They want me to pass Ventriss, just send him wandering out into the world with a degree that means nothing. I just don't think I can do that. Teaching underclassmen really sucks. Sucks monkey balls." This time, Blair's laughter sounded pained.
Teal'c could see Daniel reach out to touch Blair's shoulder. Something about Blair's statements seemed untruthful, but Daniel still seemed to trust the younger man. Then again, sometimes Daniel was too quick to trust.
"Don't assume it's all underclassmen who pull this," he told Blair. "Did you see anything about this huge lawsuit with the University of Chicago and the Egyptian government getting a court order for the return of some artifacts?"
"Totally. The university tried to claim that they needed something like six months to examine the artifacts before returning them. Man, I am totally on Egypt's side on that one. The university had no business trying to set up their own timelines and just arbitrarily tell the Egyptians when they could get their own treasures back."
"Maybe." Daniel did not sound convinced. "Anyway, I went back to the University of Chicago a week ago, and I found a piece of evidence that could have been land breaking in archeology. It would have rewritten the textbooks." Daniel laughed. "Of course, it later turned out the lab had contaminated the sample and I had a plain old funereal urn, but my point is that another archeologist stole the lab results and tried to take credit for the find."
"No fucking way!"
"Fucking way," Daniel countered. "Even better, he and I worked together under Dr. Jordan at Chicago. He was our mentor and Steven and I came through the doctoral program together. I can't claim I always have the moral highroad here, but his ethics crumbled in the face of a little profit and fame."
"Asshole," Blair quickly declared. "I hope he got what he deserved."
Daniel took several moments to answer. "Maybe a little too much."
"I tracked him to a small pyramid in Egypt where he was trying to screw me out of my discovery. The roof caved in, and he was badly injured."
Blair stopped at a red light, and when he turned to face Daniel, he appeared genuinely concerned. "Oh man. Karma's a bitch."
"More than you know. He has nominal aphasia. His career had been taking off, and now he's on disability."
"Whoa, hey, you're talking about Steven Rayner."
"You know him?"
"No way. But I read his book, and it was drivel. The conclusions were derivative at best, and he included some pretty questionable work just because it was sensational. No way did that deserve to be on the bestseller's list."
"Obviously, most people didn't agree." Daniel's voice sounded brittle. "I just... I felt guilty that I wanted a rock to fall on his head and it did."
"Yeah, I hear you. Karma is not usually that efficient. But, man, you know you're not to blame, right?"
Daniel nodded, but the traffic was moving again, so Teal'c could not see his face. "My head knows."
Blair's curls bobbed as he nodded at that. "I definitely hear that. Getting the head and the heart to agree... not always the easiest thing in the world."
"As irrational as it sounds, sometimes I feel like my work on that artifact or my hatred and jealousy are somehow to blame for the current situation. People were hurt. It's like the worst part of my life now spilled out onto the people I used to care about."
"I hear that. I totally hear that," Blair agreed softly.
Carter shook her head and hit the accelerator hard enough that Teal'c could well imagine O'Neill was driving. "I can't believe he feels guilty about that mess. Steven and Sarah were not his fault."
Teal'c did not answer, but he had no right to judge another man's guilt. He carried enough of his own to know that a man had to come to terms with his own heart.
The two scientists in the next car were quiet, but Carter appeared more distressed than Teal'c would have expected. "I can't believe he never talked to us about this," she said grimly.
Teal'c did not answer that either, but he could understand quite well. Daniel had not caused the events of that day. His lover had been taken as a host, and it was the goa'uld Osiris and Steven's own greed which had led to the confrontation. However, guilt need not be logical, and Daniel clearly did not want the illogic of his thoughts brought to light. Even more, he would never complain to any of them. Teal'c and O'Neill had both killed more than they could account for. Major Carter, while not as often in position to use deadly force, had often killed, both during and before she joined the Stargate program. How could Daniel complain to them about his own soiled hands when theirs were so much more tainted?
"Has he ever come to you with this?" Carter asked.
"He has not," Teal'c informed her. He wasn't sure if she was upset or comforted by that information. Daniel Jackson was far more likely to confide in O'Neill than the rest of them, but from the sound of his guilt, he had not shared this with anyone. Carter fell silent.
Daniel was the first to interrupt the silence in either car. "So, what are you doing to do with your problem?"
"Who knows. I'm sure as hell not giving him a grade, but that doesn't mean they won't go over my head. Seriously, it's not that hard to go over my head in academia or basketball." Blair laughed, and Daniel appeared to take that as a sign that the conversation had grown too serious.
"There are cultures that revere shortness."
"Says the man who has a good five inches on me. Oh, and then there's the part where you made that up."
"I don't have more than four inches on you," Daniel teased.
Daniel just laughed.
Their car grew quiet again as they passed a series of crosswalks where students walked lazily through the traffic, forcing the cars to slow.
"Some days, I just wish I was out of academia," Blair said wearily. "I mean, you did it. You walked away from the grants and the politics and the fucking backstabbing each other over rubber chicken. Are you glad you did?"
Daniel took his time before he answered. "Most days, yes."
"Maybe I'm just having a bad day here, but there are times that I'm just searching for an excuse to just say 'fuck it'. And I know there are people on that campus who just want to find a way to tell me to fuck off. There are too many people ready to tell me that." Blair's voice was weary.
"Have you thought of looking for other work? Surely you could finish up your dissertation and just move on." Daniel didn't go as far as to make an offer, but his desire to help was palpable, even through the microphone.
Carter turned and gave Teal'c an incredulous look. "He's trying to recruit. The colonel is going to kill him."
While he didn't approve of actually killing Daniel, the attempt to recruit the Blair did seem precipitous. Of course, Daniel was not well known for his reticent nature or cautious decisions. However, Teal'c suspicious mind saw patterns in both the coincidence of finding another scientist in such dire straits and the timing. Not more than seven months ago, Daniel had recruited the scientist Nyan from a world where he was in danger. And now here was another intimidated scientist with the skills the program needed in a place where Daniel was sure to meet and work with him. It conjured thoughts of conspiracies and infiltrators and NID plans.
Blair, however, did not seem quick to press his advantage. "It's not that simple."
"It's never simple. But if you need a change, there are opportunities out there."
Carter gripped the steering wheel a little tighter. "Daniel... don't go there," Carter whispered to herself.
"If you change your mind, give me a call."
"Shit," Carter sighed, sounding more resigned than angry. Teal'c could understand her frustration. Colonel O'Neill would want to know that Daniel had made even this tentative approach, particularly since they had no background information on Blair Sandburg.
Blair appeared pleased by the offer. "Thanks man. Sometimes it's just good to know that there's an out."
The car reached the university and pulled into a student lot, forcing Carter to circle around to a public lot that appeared to charge an unreasonable fee for simply parking a car.
"Let's go get our archeologist before he decides to adopt this guy," Carter said as she put the car into park and flipped off the tracking equipment braced on the console between their seats. Teal'c got out and looked across the vast wasteland of cars to where Daniel and Blair were walking across the concrete. Daniel did appear to have taken Blair into his trust. The two walked so closely together that Daniel would not be able to counter any attempt to disable him, and yet he appeared entirely at ease. Either Blair was a young man in great distress or the NID had devised a particularly effective trap to ensnare Daniel Jackson's trust.