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Story Data

Posted August 5, 2015

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Series: Starting Over

Title: Setting Free

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not. I claim nothing but the plot.

Rating: PG-13.

Summary: A:tS, SG-1. "Well, isn't this lovely," Wes muttered, dangling resignedly from a pole in the middle of the village square. 2300 words.

Spoilers: A:tS up to "Ground State" (4.02). General SG-1 Season 6.

Notes: For KerrAvonsen.

"Well, isn't this lovely," Wes muttered, dangling resignedly from a pole in the middle of the village square.

The rope looped around his ankles had been carefully secured; he was in no danger of losing circulation in any extremities. But the sensation of blood rushing in his head was very unpleasant, and with his wrists also tied, he was unable to either reach the ground or climb the rope above him.

Such an excellent impression he was making on SG-1's first off world mission since Colonel O'Neill's return. He'd hoped to put off any such eventuality until such time as he had proven his competency beyond reasonable doubt... but he supposed he had ample proof by now that his new job was as subject to the whims of the fates as his old one. The ways of the Moirai were, as ever, fickle.

Perhaps literally; he'd have to have another look through the SGC's records. It would explain a great deal if that particular segment of the Greek pantheon owed its origins, as did so many others, to extraterrestrial influence.

Wes sighed, carefully turning his head to get a better look at the architecture of the square as he made another slow revolution at the end of the rope. It seemed fairly standard to what he'd seen in the files of previous Stargate missions to low technology worlds; a false similarity imposed not by uniformity of cultural origin but by that of their overlords, the parasitic Goa'uld they worshiped as gods. Even on worlds that had not seen Jaffa soldiers in hundreds of years due to struggles between individual Goa'uld factions, natural disasters, or successful uprisings, the stamp of Goa'uld presence could still be seen on everything their former slaves built, from gardens to garb to garderobes. That was why he'd been so intent on examining the stelae at the gate-- the heavily decorated upright stones he'd been translating aloud when the previously welcoming natives had suddenly gone mad and swarmed the team. They hadn't matched anything on SGC record.

They had, however, shown a tantalising likeness to a demonic script he'd first encountered in the Watcher's Council's esoteric libraries. Wes was beginning to think, given the natives' reaction, that it might have been more than just a resemblance. An elementary mistake he should have known better than to make.

One or more of the men must have had zat'nik'tels, or an equivalent technology; he'd felt a shock, then collapsed and blacked out before he could hit the ground. He'd woken only when the throbbing in his head had grown too painful to ignore, with no sense of how much time had passed between those two moments. He had a vague memory of the colonel shouting and the rapid report of P-90 fire, but he wasn't sure whether the rest of the team had made it back through the gate; wherever they were now, it certainly wasn't with him.

In fact... Wes frowned and tightened his abdominal muscles, partially lifting his torso to get a more upright view of the buildings around him. There didn't seem to be anyone else in the square at all, which seemed more than a little ominous. He'd been imprisoned in a dramatic manner in a very public space; so where was the public? One would think the residents would be readying decaying vegetables to throw at him, if nothing else. But the only hint of spectators he could detect was the occasional glint of eyes at the crack of a window shutter or from behind a mostly closed door. That was a fear response... and somehow he doubted it was fear of him.

His stomach began to ache, and he slumped back again, staring down at his dangling hands; they were slightly swollen from the altered flow of circulation. Lord only knew how long he'd been hanging there before he woke; he would have given much at that moment for an aspirin.

"My kingdom for a knife," he sighed, craning his neck to try to get some idea of what he might yet have in his pockets; his handgun was missing, and his BDUs unfortunately did not accessorise well with his favourite collapsible sword, but a day in which he left his quarters without at least three hidden weapons was a day in which the sun did not shine. And on those days? Definitely more. If only he could reach any of them. Without contact with the ground, he daren't attempt any magic, but a knife would still be useful.

"Must not be a very valuable kingdom, if that is the measure of its worth."

The intruding voice took a moment for Wes to interpret; the words were an inchoate blur of noise for several long seconds while his brain struggled to fit the alien speech to a pattern he could recognise. Fortunately, it was a pattern not far from his thoughts-- there had obviously been some drift in pronunciation over the years, but it was the same general dialect as the Geshundi variant on the stelae.

"Hello? Is someone there? ...Is this really necessary?"

After the display at the gate, he confined himself to English in his reply; it had occurred to him that this might be a sort of test, a reason for there to be no listening ears nearby when he woke up. Likely, speaking Geshundi again would earn him another violent reaction. Better to leave the interrogator guessing.

A rough chuckle, in a register too low for most human voices, was his reply. He heard footsteps-- and then felt his gorge rise in his throat as a gray-skinned, grotesque being that could only be a Geshund itself emerge from the shadowed doorway of the largest of the buildings. Upside down as he already was, he was hard put not to make his situation even less appealing at the sight of its sores, misshapen limbs, and unsettlingly fluid walk.

It didn't answer his question; instead, it stopped just out of his reach, staring at him from foully yellow eyes. "My people tell me that you profaned the holy language with your unworthy tongue," it said, tilting its head to examine him more closely. "They brought you to me for my judgment."

And for his nutritive value, no doubt. Geshundi had particular dietary needs, and if this one was descended of a group scooped up with the human population when the Goa'uld removed them from Earth, it would have a very limited pool to procure from. A visitor who could be said to have broken some cultural rule would be an easier source for his people to accept than one of their own number; perhaps even the reason the stelae had been erected right in front of the gate. A creative trap; though it implied a greater spread of demonic languages in the galaxy than Wes had previously understood to be the case.

"The hospitality of this village leaves something to be desired," he managed to reply, swallowing again as the Geshund flushed livid colours in response. "Tell me where my team is."

From what he could remember, the Geshundi as a people were very fixated on destiny; there was a reason theirs was the language preferred by esoteric scholars for prophetic analysis. They actually had verb tenses that could handle events which are already known to have happened but temporally speaking have not happened yet, among other quirks; very useful in a Watcher's line of work. A by-product of that was their culturally ingrained belief in the outcome of one-on-one duels of any sort: for he on whose side Destiny fell would always win, and any cheating that occurred along the way was surely witnessed by and therefore a part of Destiny's plan as well.

"I really don't think you're in a position to make demands from me," it chuckled. "But perhaps I'll let you live a while longer anyway. A little extra tenderising to bring out the flavour."

Wes shuddered, then froze as he felt the shift of a knife sheath at his back. Finally; now he was getting somewhere. He shifted his body, ostensibly to stop his slow spin so he could maintain eye contact with his interrogator, and reached up to clasp his hands in what would hopefully appear to be a resting position on his back.

"The longer I'm here, the more time you give them to find me," he taunted the being as he got a grip on the handle of the knife. "If they're not here, they will be; and if they're dead, others will come."

Probably too late; but the thing about buying time was that it spent equally well in anyone's hands. Even his. Wes got the knife unsheathed, then turned it around to press against the rope looped around his wrists.

"You think I should fear their wrath? I have not feared a human since the day I saw a Jaffa strike one of them down for daring to look at him," it sneered, baring its teeth at him. "You are hopelessly outclassed."

Did it know for sure he could understand it? Wes couldn't say; but the conversation had given him the time he needed. The rope around his hands finally parted, and he swung upward again, tightening his abdomen until he could reach the rope above his feet and slash it in twain with the recently sharpened blade.

Of course, he realized about the time he hit the ground that perhaps he should have figured out some better way to land first-- but instinct sent him rolling, bruised and aching but whole, out of the way before the Geshund could react and draw its own knife to lunge at him.

"There is always hope," he spat back-- then nearly got himself skewered as he froze in incredulity that those words had even come out of his mouth. He'd never have been able to say that back in Los Angeles; in fact, he remembered telling himself the day he'd met Colonel O'Neill that there could be no new beginning for him, no fresh start. Only going undercover in a new theatre of operations.

He was going to have to have a little talk with himself about arrogance again, it seemed. But not until he'd finished the task at hand.

He spun out of the way again as the Geshund lunged, flashing into a quick clash of blades; more drawn out than it should have been. He was getting out of practice. Finally, he managed to grab its arm with his free hand and bury his own blade in its shoulder; nonfatal, but a clear win in its culture.

It dropped its blade, then staggered back, injured limb limp at its side. "You are no ordinary human," it said.

"No," he shook his head, glancing around the square again. He hadn't won free yet, but he'd given himself space to make a case, and he wanted to make it clear to the hidden watchers that he understood exactly what he'd done. "I'm Tau'ri, and a student of your people. I have disarmed you; it is fate, and now you must let me go."

"No!" it hissed in reply, taking a step forward to pick up the knife with its other hand. "I captured you; it is fate. You are mine!"

"No," Wes insisted, kicking his hand to send the knife flying. "Your people captured me; they answer to you; you have cast away your blade; I am free. It is fate. Let me...."

"Ahem!" Another voice broke the tableau before he could finish: one he'd spent the last few weeks learning to respect and answer to. "So. Wes. The nice folks at the gate suggested you might need help refusing an invitation to dinner? So we went back and got a few marines to play."

Relief rolled through Wes in a wave; ridiculous, as he'd already freed himself, and he'd known they would come. But some deep part of him still hadn't been expecting it; some shred of doubt he hadn't been able to let go. He smiled as he glanced over his shoulder, nodding to Teal'c, Carter, the colonel and the backup crew of SG-3 who were glancing curiously at the rope apparatus still hanging above him.

Hope indeed. Where there's life, or so the quote went; what an absurd moment to realise that he'd actually begun living again.

"I appreciate the thought, Colonel; but I believe I have the situation under control," he said, lightly.

"I can see that," Colonel O'Neill replied, P-90 still at the ready. "You about ready to blow this popsicle stand?"

"More than ready," Wes replied, taking a step back from the Geshund.

Its eyes narrowed into a hateful glower, but it didn't interfere as he turned toward the protection of his own people.

"Tell me you at least documented the script...?" he murmured, glancing at Carter as they trudged back to the gate, trailing a crowd of glowering natives sprinkled with more Geshundi.

"Don't worry, I had two of SG-3 take care of that when we come back through-- I figured you'd ask," she replied with a smile.

O'Neill snorted. "What is it with you linguistic types? Daniel could remember the address of a safe gate even in the middle of being strangled to death; I know you can shoot, but I still thought I'd be picking pieces of you out of the bad guy's teeth, and we roll up to find you fending the guy off with a knife. Were you always this much trouble?"

"I couldn't say," Wes replied dryly, "as I don't remember much before I was three years old."

"So that would be a yes, then," O'Neill groused; but he, too, was smiling as they walked back through the gate.

To home.


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