Title: Archaeology (Table of Contents)
Disclaimer: Nothing you recognize is mine. I gain nothing of material value from this.
Chapter 22: Lux et Veritas
1 May 2001; Stargate Room, P4X-347; 1600 hrs
"Where are my friends?"
Daniel tried to open his eyes but couldn't. It sounded like Jack. Jack's voice made his head hurt.
Someone else said, "With the light."
"Get them for me, will you?"
"They won't come."
"Well, try!" Jack snapped. Daniel's head pounded a little harder, and then Jack shook him just to make it worse. "Daniel, come on, wake up."
He opened his eyes just enough to decide to close them again.
"That's it," Jack said, slapping him.
"Stop it, Jack," Daniel tried to say. Instead, he said, "Nn."
"Oh, god," Jack said, but the slapping and shaking stopped. Fingers touched his throat, and some part of him that was still functioning properly remembered that that meant something was going on. "Daniel, can you hear me? Can you open your eyes again?"
Fine, Daniel thought grudgingly, dragging his eyes open with effort. Jack was blurry. His glasses must have disappeared again. "Tired," he said. He thought that was impressively succinct.
"Okay," Jack said. The blur moved away. "Okay."
"We're on '347 again, Daniel. I'll be right back. Stay right there. I have to get the others. Carter!"
Daniel did not have a problem with staying there.
But the fact was that sleeping on the ground outside was very different from lying on a hard, unyielding floor made of whatever rock this floor was made of, and eventually, Daniel decided it would be better just to get up and move to somewhere more comfortable. His arms and legs had a different idea, though, and the first direction he picked had stairs, so he dropped down on the last step he wanted to try getting up and dropped his throbbing head onto his knees. His knees were a lot quieter than Jack.
Of course, Jack came storming back in with no regard at all for people who... Why did his head hurt so much, anyway, and why was he so tired?
He needed coffee. That must be it.
"Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said.
"Yep," Jack said as Daniel wished very hard (to no avail) that they would all go away and leave him alone, but only after giving him a cup of coffee. "Had to bring him back. It was the only thing that was going to keep him alive."
That was unfair. Another cup of coffee would not have killed him.
Someone sat down next to him, not sitting close enough for it to be Sam and too restless for it to be Teal'c. Daniel leaned very slightly toward it. It was definitely Jack.
"...thinks we're addicted to something here that alters our brain chemistry," Jack was saying when Daniel pulled his focus back onto the conversation. "And dollars to doughnuts, it's that damn light."
That was a strange expression. Why would someone compare dollars with doughnuts, except maybe to buy doughnuts, in which case it was just an expression about stakeouts and bore no relation to the matter at hand. Daniel still didn't know what the matter at hand was, though, so maybe they were addicted to coffee and needed doughnuts to go along with it.
"Oh, I don't see how that's possible," Sam said, but Sam thought everything was possible until she found something she didn't think was possible but actually was. The whole SGC was kind of like that.
What was going on, again? Something about the light--which, actually, made a little too much sense. Daniel remembered having to pull members of SG-5 out every once in a while; it was beautiful, he acknowledged, but the others had been absolutely obsessed with it.
Jack stood up. "Ah, screw it," he said, "we're turning that thing off."
"No," someone else said. Too curious not to look this time, Daniel peeked out of his arms and saw all of his teammates stomping off toward the light room. A boy he didn't recognize watched them pass.
"You stay here," Jack ordered the boy, and then they disappeared.
The boy wrung his hands, looking after the others. Finally, he turned around to face Daniel. "Hi," he said, raising one hand in a partial wave and smiling nervously.
Daniel braced himself and sat up mostly-straight. "Hi," he said when it seemed his head wasn't about to throb itself apart. "Who are you?"
"Um," the boy said. He rocked once on his heels, looked over his shoulder as if to see where the others were, then said, "Loran."
"That's your name?" Daniel clarified, intrigued by the boy's obvious understanding. He spoke with some unfamiliar accent--he must be an alien, but..."Your name is Loran?"
"Yes," Loran said, smiling again. "You're Daniel?"
"Uh...well...yes, I am. How did you--"
"I was hiding when you came before," Loran said, looking proud for a brief moment, and then uncertain.
Unsure what to make of him, Daniel offered a quick smile in return. Loran didn't look that young--about the age Daniel himself had been when he'd first been brought to the SGC--but something was odd about him. Then again, if he'd been hiding...
"Oh no," Daniel sighed. "Did we break into your home? You must have thought we were...wait, are you the only one here?"
Loran frowned in puzzlement. "Break...into my home?"
"Is this your home?" Daniel said, berating himself for using idioms that wouldn't mean anything to someone who knew literal definitions, however it was that he seemed to know even that much. "Do you live here?"
"Yes," Loran said again.
"We didn't mean to...come in without permission," Daniel said, reaching up to rub his nose and make sure his glasses were missing, because otherwise his eyes had gone haywire. "Sorry."
"Not--" Loran started, then seemed to think. "It's...O-K," he amended.
Wow. He must have been not only hiding while Daniel had been here with SG-5; he'd been listening the whole time and picked up a lot of their speech. "You're very good at English," Daniel told him, still trying to figure out how he was supposed to deal with the boy. "That's what we call what we're saying--this language."
"I'm very good at languages," Loran confided.
"Yeah, you must be," Daniel agreed. "You, uh...have you always been good at languages? That's my specialty, too."
Loran's face lit up. "Really? Is Jack your..." He paused. "Pater?" he said.
"Pater," Daniel said, excited. "You speak--uh... loquerisne hanc linguam?"
"Lo--oh, uh... Loperis han linjam," Loran corrected, but they were close to being mutually intelligible languages, with some effort, which was what counted. "Ego iam lopar."
"Wow," Daniel said, wishing he had a recorder with him.
"Then Jack is your...pater?"
"Oh, no," Daniel said quickly. "He's not my father. That's 'pater' in English." Then he thought about that question and the question before it and what it implied. "Did your father teach you?"
Loran dropped his gaze and started to rock agitatedly where he stood. "Uh...yes. We learned a lot of languages. Your friends said you had to come here. Do you like it here?"
Huh. Daniel wondered if people had looked at him like this when he'd first arrived on Earth. He must not have been a subtle as he'd thought.
"It's a very interesting place," he agreed, looking suspiciously in the direction where the others had gone. "Like the room with the light--have you been in there?"
"I'm not allowed to go in," Loran said with the casually quick air of something that was obvious, natural, reflexive, and it meant there was someone who did the allowing.
"According to your parents, you mean. Your mother and father."
Nodding, Loran clasped his hands together, glancing again toward the light room. "It doesn't work on me, anyway," he said. "I'm too young. Are you too young?"
"Hm...I don't know," Daniel said honestly. If the light really was addictive in some way, that would certainly explain why SG-5 had been so fascinated with it, and if it was age-dependent, then maybe that was why he'd been somewhat less fascinated than the others. On the other hand, Daniel must have been addicted, too, and in a bad way if Jack had been so frantic after coming back here. "How young is too young?"
"I don't know," Loran said.
They made quite a pair, then. "Were your parents too young?" he said, trying to establish some sort of upper and lower bound--
"Uh," Loran said. He swallowed, then said, "They liked it. I know this language, too," he added, pointing at the Goa'uld writing on the walls.
There was something missing--something huge. Daniel recognized the tactics well enough from himself.
On the other hand... "You can read this?" Daniel said. "I mean, you know what it means?" Loran nodded. "Could you help me?"
The Stargate activated.
("Daniel, no!" Jack yelled.)
"Move out of the way," Daniel said sharply, tugging Loran away from the 'gate as it whooshed open. When had that happened? The image was fuzzy in his mind--maybe it had been a dream.
"SG-1, this is Stargate Command," General Hammond's voice said from a few feet away. Daniel looked past a surprised Loran to a pile of equipment near the DHD. "Please respond."
"They're not going to answer," Loran said anxiously as Daniel waited for Jack to return. "The light...they're...they won't come."
"Right," Daniel said, pushing himself to his feet with a grimace, pausing when his head spun. "Loran, c-can you stand in front of that, please? There's a--"
But Loran seemed familiar with the MALP already and moved in front of it to wave at the camera. "Hi, General Hammond," he said.
"Loran," the general answered after a brief hesitation. "Where are the others?"
Well. Apparently, Daniel had missed quite a bit. He made his way toward the MALP and sat down rather heavily next to Loran. "General," he said, blinking a few dark spots out of his vision and not sure why he was out of breath.
"I'm glad to see you, Mr. Jackson," the general said. "We thought we'd lost you."
Not quite sure what that meant--but beginning to think Jack hadn't been exaggerating about keeping him alive--Daniel said, "To be honest, I didn't have a chance to get the whole story yet, and I don't really remember much beyond--" And then he did with a flood of shame. "I yelled at you. Sir, I'm...very sorry about that."
"That's all right," the general assured him. "Do you need anything?"
"Glasses," he said immediately. "Uh...Jack said we're addicted to something here, so if we have to stay--"
"I'll send supplies through."
"And the...the hand-held computer with instructions that I was trying to figure out before. Loran says he can help with the translation." Daniel didn't think he'd ever worked on a translation with someone younger than himself before. It was an odd concept, but an interesting one.
"Stay clear of the Stargate, son. We'll start sending everything through right away. Anything else you need?"
"I don't seem to have my boots," he added, looking at his socked feet.
Hammond chuckled. "We sent you through in a bit of a hurry--we'll get you some shoes, too. Where's Colonel O'Neill?"
"Uh..." Daniel rubbed his eyes and looked over his shoulder, where Loran had gone back to lurking in the corridor leading to the light room. Loran shook his head. "They're in the room with the light, which we're apparently addicted to. They're, uh...distracted."
There was a brief silence, and then, "You're alone right now?"
"Loran's with me."
"Why isn't your team there?"
"They're trying to turn it off," Daniel said. "But I think they got distracted pretty quickly. I can go get them--Loran says it doesn't work on younger people, but I don't know if I'm over the limit, so until we finish the translation, I don't want to risk getting stuck with them. It doesn't seem to be harmful in the short-term--just, uh...mesmerizing."
"No, don't go in there," the general said. "Contact us again if you can't figure it out quickly. Are you sure you're feeling all right?"
Daniel took a moment to give that some consideration. "I think I'm okay," he decided. The first, small box popped out of the wormhole. "Oh, I see my glasses!"
"Wait, Daniel," Janet's voice said over the MALP. "I need to you to take your vitals and report them to me right now."
"But there's the computer," Daniel said, pointing as another box slid through. "I need to read it to turn off the light--"
"Sit down, look at your watch, and take your pulse," Janet ordered. "I'm sending some medical supplies through just in case."
Frowning, Daniel obeyed and dutifully reported his heart rate and assured her he was still breathing, and then asked, "Medical supplies?"
"If it were up to me," Janet said testily, "you'd still be in bed in the infirmary until I could be sure your heart wasn't going to stop beating again." Daniel felt his jaw drop open. "Yes, Daniel, that's what happened."
"But I'm fine," Daniel said uncertainly. "Isn't that a normal pulse? I don't have a blood pressure thing with me, but I don't feel like I'm going to...you know...die."
She sighed. "Drink some water, eat a little food if you can. Don't get up too much if you don't need to, and when one of your teammates gets out of that room, have them take a full set of vitals. I'm sending some instructions, and as soon as you start to get a handle on things, I need vitals and samples from all of you."
"Okay," he said. "But I really need to get up to get my glasses." Even as he spoke, a FRED wheeled through the 'gate and stopped just in the right place for the glasses case and the Goa'uld handheld computer to be trapped between the wheels. Luckily, Loran must have been listening, and he scampered up the steps, stretched a hand under the FRED, and handed both over, even turning the computer on for him. "Never mind."
"Keep us informed of your progress," the general said. "If you don't call back in the next few hours, we'll check in again, but keep in mind that I cannot risk sending another team to that planet if you all get stuck in that room. Be very careful."
"Yes, sir," Daniel said. "Thank you."
When the wormhole finally shut down again, Daniel scooted back to where he'd been sitting before and patted the step next to him. "Do you want to help me read this?" he said.
"O-K," Loran said happily.
"How did you do that?" Sam said when Daniel turned off the light.
"How long have we been standing here?" Jack said.
Daniel held up the Goa'uld computer. "General Hammond sent us this thing. Loran and I translated the writing on it. Among other things, it tells how to turn the light off."
"That long?" Jack said, shaking his head.
With a shrug, Daniel tapped his device again and said, "Apparently, the Goa'uld used to use this place as a...a place to get high on whatever it was that made us feel calm and happy when we came here before. But their symbiotes were able to keep them from going into withdrawal after they left."
"Then it is most likely I will be able to leave," Teal'c said.
Jack scowled at his happy expression. "Oh, how nice for you," he said.
"Wait a minute," Sam said. "If you just turned it off, how come I'm not getting depressed?"
"Perhaps it will take some time to feel its effects," Teal'c said.
Jack scowled harder. "Let's take advantage of that," he said, and walked quickly out of the light room. "Loran," he called.
Loran popped back out from where he'd been half-hiding behind the MALP. "Jack," he said.
("Daniel," Colonel O'Neill greeted, hands in his pockets.
"Jack," Daniel answered cautiously, looking up at the hero of Abydos.)
"All right," Jack said, planting himself in front of the boy. "Where did your parents actually go?"
The nervous frown-smile-grimace appeared again, and Loran averted his eyes. "Far, far away from here," he said.
Oh, Daniel thought.
"How far?" Jack insisted. "Which direction?" Loran swallowed and took a half step back but didn't answer. "Kid's hiding something," Jack said, turning back to the team. "You two, with me. Daniel...sit down."
"Jack, you're being a little hard on him," Daniel said quietly, glancing at Loran, who'd wandered to the other end of the room and was rummaging in what looked like a pile of his belongings but glanced back at them every few seconds. "Look at him--I think something's wrong with--"
"I'm not here to be his friend right now," Jack snapped. "Something killed four of our people and could still kill us, and if he knows something..."
"Four?" Daniel echoed, realizing too late he should have asked about SG-5 earlier when General Hammond had called. "You...you mean the rest of SG-5?"
Jack paused. "Yeah," he said, more gently. "We were too late for them. I'm sorry, Daniel, but we're not going to die here, and we're not going to live here forever, either. Stay here and rest, and keep an eye on the kid."
Daniel sat down.
Teal'c and Sam glanced at him, then seemed to decide that disobeying Jack would be the worst of a few bad options at the moment and followed him out of the palace.
He supposed he should trust Jack to deal with Loran properly. Jack tended to err on the side of leniency with children.
"That's my...mother and father," Loren said, dropping suddenly to a seat next to him.
Trying to hide his surprise at the boy's abrupt reappearance, Daniel took the device Loran was holding out. It was some sort of image-displaying technology that looked like a digital camera. Loran must have come from a technologically advanced world, then--if not more so than Earth, then certainly close.
Of course, pre-Latin Italic languages on Goa'uld worlds was something they hadn't seen much before; it was something Daniel associated with the Ancients, or maybe Machello or the Linvris, and others whose races or worlds opposed the System Lords and have never been completely conquered. Maybe Loran had come from one of those planets. He didn't seem afraid of Teal'c, after all.
Loran leaned over to tap the center of the image. "That's me," he added cheerfully.
"Uh...I see," Daniel said. The boy in the picture looked several years younger. "You were a lot younger there," he prompted, not sure if there was a more tactful way to say, 'are your parents dead, too?'
"Yeah, it's old," Loran agreed.
Daniel nodded. "Um. Yes. About that--"
The device was pulled out of his hands. "Can I take an image of you?" Loran asked, holding it up hopefully, and Daniel realized it really was a camera.
"Um," Daniel repeated. Should he be encouraging this, when it seemed an effort to dodge around a topic? Then again, Jack wasn't trying to be Loran's friend now, but Daniel didn't know how to handle the other parts with children that didn't involve being a friend, so surely he could do that. "Sure," he said.
Before he could finish saying the word, a bright light flashed at him.
Loran looked at the device and laughed. "What?" Daniel said. Loran held it back up to show a picture of Daniel with his mouth halfway through a word and one eye squinted shut. Daniel found himself snickering, too.
"I'm sorry that you can't leave," Loran said, "but it's fun here. There are a lot of things to do."
Suddenly, Daniel wondered if that was what he sounded like when he told people like Nyan that he was sorry the man was stuck on Earth, but it wasn't so bad, really. "Um," he started again, glancing outside and wondering if the others were coming back. "Right, about that. You've been here by yourself for a while, right?"
A look that was almost surprised crossed Loran's face before it turned into wariness.
"It's okay, you can tell me," Daniel said, hoping his age would work for him this time and wishing he'd spent more time with people his own age so he'd know how he was supposed to act. "My parents died when I was...fourteen," he offered. Quid pro quo was a mode of communication that seemed to span a lot of cultures and species. "My age, I mean," he amended. Linguistic shortcuts were pervasive. "I had lived fourteen years when my parents died."
"I'm fourteen," Loran said, which could mean anything from about ten to twenty, probably, depending on the planet's cycle around the sun, but it was probably close enough to Earth's terms, judging by what Daniel would have estimated for the boy based on looks.
"Did your parents die, too?" Daniel tried.
Loran shook his head, looking away. "They'll be back," he said in a small voice.
Daniel bit his lip. "You know, I...I'm not sure they--"
Footsteps announced the rest of the team's return. Relieved, Daniel turned, ready to hand the conversation off to people who would know what to do with it, but Sam was pinching the bridge of her nose while Jack bent over and scrubbed a hand through his short hair.
"What's wrong?" Daniel said.
"Oh," Jack said, standing up again as Teal'c kept a careful eye on all the humans in the room. "We're going through that...withdrawal thing again."
Daniel assessed himself and said, "I felt fine the whole time you were gone."
"Actually, sir," Sam said, "I'm starting to feel myself again."
Jack paused and seemed to consider that. "Me, too," he finally said. "What's going on?"
"Well, something other than that light must be affecting us," Sam said.
"Perhaps we should examine the device more closely," Teal'c suggested.
"No!" Loran said.
Daniel turned to look at him again, realizing that someone as smart as Loran seemed to be, and someone who clearly knew something about the light, must have figured out more than just the Goa'uld language on the walls.
Jack narrowed his eyes and marched into the light room. For the first time Daniel saw, Loran entered the room, too, following him. "Jack, don't," Loran pleaded.
"You know how it works," Jack said when Loran stood directly in front of the pedestal, blocking something. "You knew all along."
"No," Loran repeated. "My parents...when they come back, they'll--"
"They're not coming back!" Jack snapped. Daniel winced, his suspicions confirmed.
"They...they will," Loran insisted.
"Someone buried those bodies!" Jack yelled, and even Sam flinched a little at that. Loran fell completely silent. Daniel could see him trembling. "Now, how do you shut that thing off?"
And Loran ducked under one leg of the pedestal and opened it.
1 May 2001; Light Room, P4X-347; 2000 hrs
Sam grimaced as Loran opened the pedestal's control panel and then fled the room, looking like he was about to cry. Colonel O'Neill closed his eyes for a brief moment, then ordered shortly, "Figure this thing out."
"Yes, sir," Sam said, eager to have something to do as the colonel followed Loran back out. She crawled under the pedestal with Daniel to one side of her and Teal'c to another.
"So...you found them," Daniel said quietly once the colonel had left. "Loran's parents."
"We found two partially-buried human skeletons by the ocean," Teal'c confirmed, "with stones marking each grave."
"He's been alone here all this time," Daniel said. "I can't imagine what it must have been like."
"You think he's telling the truth about this only working on adults?" Sam said, hoping to steer the conversation onto more productive--safer--ground. "Janet says he's addicted, too, judging by his bloodwork."
"Maybe it's just the light that affects people differently," Daniel suggested, carefully sliding one panel of the base lower to expose what looked like writing under it. "But it's not what we're actually addicted to, and whatever that is affects everyone equally. I got just as addicted, but I was able to shake off the effects of the light more easily than the rest of SG-5."
His finger paused on a symbol as he said it. Sam glanced at him, but he moved on, and she couldn't tell whether he'd just been stuck on the translation or caught up in the whirlwind of missteps and disasters that couldn't seem to let them go lately.
"Anything?" he said a moment later, looking at her.
"Uh..." she said, turning back to her own work. "Well, this is pretty standard Goa'uld crystal technology, but the way these are configured... I'd love to dismantle this and see exactly how it's set up." He raised an eyebrow at her. "In other words," she clarified, "I can probably figure out how to manipulate it, but I need someone to tell me what to manipulate."
"Perhaps this will be of assistance," Teal'c said. Sam leaned over to see what he was doing before she remembered that she didn't understand what he was reading, anyway. "The text states that human slaves cannot be removed immediately from the planet."
"Removed," Sam echoed in disgust. "Like the humans are pieces of baggage to move around."
Daniel perked up, though. "But useful baggage. The Goa'uld wouldn't have wanted them to die; it says here that, uh...I think this refers to an imbalance, in the sense of 'insanity'..."
"The withdrawal would have seemed like a sort of insanity, I guess," Sam agreed, shivering as she remembered a very unbalanced Daniel with a gun.
"Well, the whatever-it-is has to be...decreased?" Daniel said, squinting and leaning in so close his nose actually touched the base of the pedestal before he backed up and blinked rapidly. "I think that says something about a reduction."
Sam snapped her fingers. "That makes sense. If stopping cold-turkey kills you, then there must be a better way to stop."
Two puzzled stares fixed on her. "Cold...turkey," Daniel said, wearing a slightly disturbed expression that said he was probably imagining a hypothermic bird.
"It means stopping all at once," she explained. "Is there way to reduce the...output of this thing incrementally? And then we'd need to know the maximum safe rate of decrease..."
"These control the power level," Teal'c said, reaching over to point out a row of crystals in front of Sam's face. "The instructions say that each level must be maintained for a minimum of..." He paused, thinking for a moment. "I believe that is slightly less than thirty hours."
Sam sat back on her heels in dismay. "There are...these make up twelve switches. If we keep to that minimum, it'll take two weeks before we can leave."
"At least we'll get out eventually," Daniel said, leaning back to sit against one leg of the pedestal. "I've been on longer missions. We all have, if you count the Enkaran relocation."
With a sigh, Sam wondered why they couldn't have had this extra time on that other planet, that one where there had been all that unusual solar activity...until she remembered that she was now stuck on a planet with some of the most advanced technology they'd seen yet.
This might not be all that bad, really.
Just then, Colonel O'Neill returned, steering a tear-streaked but calmer Loran in front of him. "What's the news, kids?" he said.
"Well, sir," Sam said, setting the first switch and climbing out from under the device, "the good news is that we can turn it off."
"Don't let them!" Loran said immediately, turning wide eyes to look at the colonel. "They'll die, just like my parents."
Which explained how the boy's parents had died.
"He's right; that's what would happen if we shut it off all at once," Sam said. "But Daniel and Teal'c were able to translate the writing, and we've determined that we should be all right if we turn it down little by little. I've already turned it down a notch with no immediate effects, and if it turns out it's not working, we can always power it back up and look for another solution."
"Okay," O'Neill said, still looking a little suspicious. "So...what's the bad news?"
"It will take two to three weeks for the process to be completed safely," Teal'c said. Daniel shrugged from where he still sat under the pedestal, making no attempt to get up.
The colonel managed to find an optimistic outlook, however. "Two to three weeks in a palace by the beach?" he said. He took a breath and shrugged. "Teal'c, you don't have to hang around. Why don't you head back and let Hammond know what's going on."
"Very well," Teal'c agreed.
"You might have to move the FRED, Teal'c," Daniel called, and was interrupted by a yawn. "Sorry. I shouldn't have left it in the path of the kawhoosh."
Sam had to look away. After what had happened to Barber, and what had almost happened to Daniel, she wouldn't be seeing that vortex the same way for a long time. "And then you'll leave?" Loran said, looking up at O'Neill again.
The colonel glanced up at Sam, raising an eyebrow in question. "I think we all will," he said. "Right?"
It took her a minute to realize he was asking about the addiction and not about the problems and questions that would come with taking an(other) orphan home with them. "Uh, yeah. He should return to normal along with the rest of us."
"Then I can go with you?" Loran said.
"Sure," the colonel said easily, because it wasn't up to Loran to worry about the things that would make it more complicated than a simple 'sure.' "Come on--let's go see Teal'c off." The colonel looked at her and nodded back once toward Daniel before leading Loran back into the 'gate room.
"Need a hand?" Sam said, bending to reach toward him. Daniel grabbed her arm and pushed himself to his feet rather shakily. "You okay?"
"A little tired," he admitted, looking exhausted. "But very...relieved you're not all going to die because of..." He stopped.
She ushered him toward the 'gate room, realizing that, as much as SG-1 might feel that loaning Daniel to other teams was bad for his health, Daniel must feel that being loaned out was bad for the other teams' health.
Before she could say anything, though, they were back in the main chamber and Teal'c was dialing the SGC. "Oh, wait," Daniel said once the wormhole was open. "Can you tell them to send...ay, I should have made a list of what I'll need to finish the translations--"
"I thought you already did the translation," Colonel O'Neill said.
Daniel raised his eyebrows. "Of the tiny amount of text on the pedestal, yes, but there's more all over the palace, and there are rooms SG-5 never finished documenting..."
"I will gather what equipment I can find that seems necessary, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said. "Perhaps you can all later send for the items you require for the duration of your stay."
"Ice cream," O'Neill said immediately. "A freezer?"
"There's a thermal...something...thing down that way," Daniel said, pointing down one of the corridors. "Lieutenant Barber thought it was how they kept things warm, but there was something about adjustable temperatures... I didn't pay a lot of attention, to be honest."
"I'd like to take a look at that," Sam said, interested.
"Told you you'd like it here," Daniel said. "Unambiguous, concrete things to measure."
Sam started to answer but couldn't decide whether that was a joke or an insult or just a comment, so she closed her mouth. Daniel looked surprised, too, and then took his glasses off to wipe the lenses, ducking away from her gaze at the same time.
"Just the ice cream," the colonel told Teal'c, not seeming to have noticed the odd exchange.
"Oh, and coffee?" Sam added.
"Janet's instructions say 'no caffeine,'" Daniel said as he waved a hand toward the untidy pile of supplies that had been sent through for them. "I already checked."
With the wormhole open and the IDC already sent, Teal'c turned and raised an eyebrow at them all. "We'll call if we need anything," Sam said.
"Thanks, Teal'c," the colonel said, still holding onto Loran with one arm. "And let General Hammond know about Loran, too. It's probably best to get things rolling so he can settle in somewhere as soon as we get back."
"Very well," Teal'c repeated, nodding to them all and adding a small smile for Loran. "I wish you the best of luck. I will return when I can."
"Wait!" Loran said, pulling away from the colonel and running into an adjacent room. Teal'c stopped obediently. Loran returned a moment later with what looked like a gun, until he neared and it became clear it was just a plastic toy. "You almost forgot," he said, handing it over.
Sam felt her eyebrows rise, but Teal'c accepted the toy very seriously. "Thank you, Loran," Teal'c said, and then pushed the FRED through and followed after.
The heater Barber had found could be set as low as negative thirty-four degrees, so their ice cream stayed safe. The colonel seemed amused that she'd actually checked and that the SGC had actually sent them ice cream. Loran was off playing with something and didn't notice. Daniel was sleeping and didn't notice, either.
"Are you feeling all right, sir?" she said quietly, unable to erase the idea that she might have flipped the wrong switch and that they'd commit suicide before they could figure it out and fix it.
"I'm stuck on a planet for two to three weeks, Carter," the colonel said in answer.
She nodded. "I could try to speed it up, but I don't know if it's worth the risk."
He waved a hand. "Yeah, I know. Don't try anything funny unless Teal'c comes to visit, just in case we all go..." He pointed a finger to his head and glanced at Daniel.
Checking to make sure the two more-or-less kids weren't in hearing range, Sam asked, "How did the rest of SG-5 die? Did they all commit suicide, or...?"
"No," O'Neill said, sitting loosely on the steps, his frustration and irritation drained away now. "One tried; wife stopped him. Another one was found on his apartment balcony, but he'd passed out, so we're not sure...you know. They were all unconscious by the time someone went to check. And then they coded, a few hours before Daniel did."
There was an AED in their pile of equipment. Sam hoped no one would need it anytime soon.
"So," she said hesitantly, "the suicides...they were just because of the withdrawal and the...the depression from that...right? Sir."
As if hearing her unspoken question, he looked again at Daniel. "Yeah," he said. "I'm sure. Don't worry, Major. Daniel's not--"
"Jack!" Loran said. They turned to see the boy gesturing enthusiastically and holding up a toy of some sort. "You have to see this."
The colonel smiled slightly, shrugged at her, and followed Loran away into the next room.
Sam glanced back to see that Daniel was still asleep and sat back down, starting to sort through the supplies the general had sent through. Her laptop was even there, which was nice--now, if only they'd sent some way to recharge the battery, too, she'd be set.
Although...with the amount of power that must be needed to keep this place up and running, if she could locate the main sources, she could probably jury-rig some--
"Sha'uri?" Daniel mumbled.
Sam looked up from her computer's boot-up screen as Daniel turned over under a blanket and muttered something that probably wasn't English. She glanced around the room, but Loran must have dragged the colonel off for show-and-tell, so she left her laptop to one side and crept closer. She could make out the word for 'kill' in Goa'uld (even she knew that one in a few languages) and reached out to see if she could make him calm down without waking him up.
Before she could even touch him, though, his eyes snapped open, and he started violently upon seeing her face in front of his. "Sorry, sorry," she said, wincing. "You, uh... Bad dream?"
He stared at her several moments longer before he looked around the room, breathing a little too fast. "Um," he said, then closed his eyes again.
"Daniel?" she said cautiously.
"Yeah," he said.
She scooted around to face him fully. "Wanna talk about it?"
Instead, he sat up and said, "Not really."
Sam didn't like to push, not when it came to serious, personal things like this. Sha'uri and Shifu were right now rolled up into what might just be the biggest personal thing currently on Daniel's mind, which was pretty impressive considering what went on in his head, so the instinctive voice that told her 'don't ask' managed to beat down the voice that was really, very curious about what the dream had been. She wasn't going to ask how Shifu had given them the same dream, either--the image of a boy turning into energy kept prodding at her, and it unnerved her in some deep-down way she couldn't describe.
"So it's some kind of energy?" Daniel said.
"What?" Sam said. Daniel nodded in the direction of the light room--he'd changed the subject. "Oh--well, that's what I'm assuming, since we didn't find any foreign substances in any of the samples and since the pedestal doesn't seem to have a reservoir for a substance..."
"But a power source is basically a reservoir for energy, right?" Daniel said. "If we're assuming they built a battery that's lasted all this time, how do we know they didn't have a reservoir of some chemical that lasted this long? If you're assuming it's an energy because you didn't find the chemical, why wouldn't we assume it's a chemical because we can't detect the energy?"
"Well...I admit it's...possible," she said. "But it's less likely, just based on what we know."
Daniel opened his mouth, then closed it, looking annoyed, but didn't respond.
"Not that it's not possible," she repeated, confused. Hadn't the colonel said Daniel was mad at them about something and he didn't know what? Maybe that was what this was. Whether or not it was justified, she found herself trying to explain, "We know for certain that their power crystals can last a long time, and we've never seen evidence of a chemical that could or would last so long without being degraded or running out, that's all."
"Yeah," Daniel said.
Sam couldn't tell whether that was agreement. "Um..."
"No, it's not... I just hate having my brain...influenced by things no one can see," Daniel said, flapping a hand at his head. "It feels like I'm always going insane or something."
"No one likes this, Daniel, but we'll get over it--two weeks will be over fast."
"It's just...doesn't it feel like you want to be angry but you can't?"
"I don't feel like I want to be angry," Sam said. "Are you angry about something?"
Daniel furrowed his brow. "I should be sad, at least. SG-5 is dead. And every time I think about that, I keep thinking about how much I want to finish reading that pillar." He pointed, and for a moment, he actually did seem to be distracted before he shook his head. "I'm getting tired of not knowing whether I'm thinking things because they're me or because something's telling my brain to think them."
On second consideration, Sam wondered if she wasn't as frustrated with the situation as she might have been exactly because of that--the colonel had managed to hold onto being pissed off from the withdrawal for a while, but even he was calm now, and the only thing really bothering Sam was that she didn't have anywhere to plug in the AC adapter for her laptop. "Okay," she conceded, "it is a little weird."
He huffed. "It's going to get worse, isn't it?"
"Well, it might be okay, going down one step at a time," she said.
"Because the Goa'uld are notorious for caring about the comfort of human slaves," Daniel said.
Actually, it would be in the Goa'uld's interest to make sure their slaves didn't get uncomfortable or annoyed enough to do anything like rebel, which would only mean more trouble for the masters. She frowned. "What's going on? Are you feeling off again?"
"Are you?" Daniel said uncertainly. "I think I have a headache."
"That's probably just from today and yesterday; I didn't decrease it that much," she assured him, then stood, glad to be busy with something. "Let me get you some aspirin, and then go to sleep and see if you feel better when you wake up."
"I'm sorry," he said as she rummaged through the medical kit to find what she was looking for. "I have no right to be annoyed at you."
Sam thought over that odd wording as she fished out some water. "Since when?" she said, handing everything over. He glanced at her but didn't answer. "Let me guess," she said, too curious to be wary anymore. "Since Shifu gave you that dream?"
He leaned back against the Stargate platform. "I'm going to change the subject," he said.
"No, really," Daniel said.
She sighed. "Okay."
"I don't have a subject to change it to," he said after a short wait.
She laughed, only to stop and wonder if it was funny or if she was a little high. "We'll talk tomorrow, then. I'll find buttons to push and you can read the instructions to tell me what they do."
"That sounds like...a lot of fun, actually," he said, smiling ruefully himself. "Good night."
7 May 2001; Palace, P4X-347; 1500 hrs
It wasn't until they'd been at the Goa'uld palace for almost a week that Jack realized he'd never actually seen Daniel in real, full-on geek-out mode in the middle of an off-world project. He was ashamed to admit that it took being tripped over by a distracted Daniel to realize this.
The oddest part was that, after tripping over Jack at the bottom of a staircase, Daniel wobbled but kept his feet, and then lunged to catch the notes that almost dropped, so he ended up on the floor anyway (but the papers were safe). And then he got up and kept walking. Jack had serious doubts about whether he'd noticed having fallen at all and didn't think his eyes had left the notes the entire time.
"Ah...hello?" Jack said as Loran appeared at the top of the stairs and watched them.
"Hold on, wait, hold on," Daniel said, not looking up. "I'm going to lose my place. Sam, where are you?"
"Here!" Carter's voice called. "Where are you?"
"I'm coming!" Daniel yelled back, and then he disappeared around a corner.
Loran ran lightly down the staircase. "Maybe I should help him so he won't lose his place again," Loran suggested.
"Nah," Jack said, waving a hand. "They'll make you dizzy."
"I'm smart," Loran told him.
Jack grinned. "No, I was talking about their running around and being weird. I know you're smart. Why is it I always get stuck with the brainy kids?"
"You're brainy, too," Loran said.
"I've got a brain," Jack corrected.
"That's what I meant," Loran said.
"Well, thanks for that."
Loran plopped down onto the step next to him. "There are lots of empty rooms," he said, gesturing vaguely around them. "Why do you all sleep in the room with the Stargate if there's so much space everywhere else? There are beds upstairs."
"Force of habit," Jack said, not wanting to explain that he, at least, wouldn't sleep well off-world without his team in sight. A Goa'uld palace was never going to feel familiar enough for that. "It's pretty comfortable there."
Looking dubious, Loran nonetheless left it alone and said, "Jack, do you want to see something?" Jack silently told his knees to stop complaining as he smiled and trooped up the staircase after the boy.
He returned later to find both of his scientists missing. Normally, on a quiet planet like this and inside a Goa'uld palace this huge, he wouldn't mind so much, but Loran started flipping out.
"Maybe they forgot and they left," Loran said, his eyes wide. "Jack, Jack, they'll die!"
"They didn't forget," Jack said calmly, reaching into his pocket for a radio. "And don't worry. Remember this?"
"Oh," Loran said, calming down. "Can I try it?"
Jack looked out the nearest window, saw Daniel's bandana and the top of Carter's head bobbing along toward the entrance, and said, "Sure, go ahead."
Like he'd been doing it all his life--or maybe listening to Jack too much--Loran pressed the button and said, "Carter, Daniel, where are you?"
Okay. Definitely listening to Jack too much.
Daniel stepped inside, holding his radio in one hand and a box in the other. "We're right here, Loran," he said into the radio, looking somewhere between amused and bemused, with just enough annoyance thrown in that Jack knew they must have been outside the range of the Goa'uld happy drugs.
Loran lowered the radio and gave it back to Jack. "We were afraid you'd forgotten that you weren't supposed to leave for long," he said.
Carter was carrying a toolbox with her when she came in and raised an eyebrow at Jack. Jack shrugged at them. "Whatcha up to?" he asked.
"There's an automatic fishing mechanism down at the pier," Carter said.
"Automatic...fishing mechanism?" Jack repeated. "What does that even mean?"
"I found a reference to it in there," Daniel said, pointing in the direction of a corridor. "It has a sensor...thing--"
"A transmitter," Carter corrected. "But it's stuck into the water--"
"--and it's supposed to attract food, according to the notes I found," Daniel said.
"So we turned it on. A bunch of fish swam toward it, and a cage closed over them, so the transmitter must emit some sort of...energy, or sound or...something that attracts the fish."
"Aw," Jack said. "That's...that's not fishing!"
"If you came here to get high, wouldn't you want an easy way to get food, sir?"
"I'd want to fish on my vacation, Carter," he retorted, "and that's not it."
"They're not really fish, either," Daniel piped up, setting down his box and opening it up to reveal a dead, long and floppy fish.
"Daniel!" Jack said.
"I like those fish," Loran told them. Jack glanced at him in surprise, and he added, "The heating machine is very good. To heat the fish."
"They're probably still fish or close enough to fit the biological definition, just different from ones on Earth or Abydos," Carter told Daniel as he crouched over his dead fish and poked at it. "And we didn't kill it for fun, sir. We thought we could try it for dinner tonight instead of MREs again, and Daniel wants to"--she made a face--"look at the insides."
"What?" Jack said.
"Doesn't it look like a Goa'uld?" Daniel said, picking it up and holding it closer.
"No," Jack said.
"It kind of does," Daniel said. He stroked a finger down the back, as if feeling for something.
"It's not a Goa'uld," Jack said.
"Yeah, I know," Daniel said, tapping a fingernail against it. "Look at how hard the scales are."
"You can take them off, too, and they don't break unless you hit them very, very hard," Loran said, showing him, and suddenly the two of them were playing with fish scales.
Jack sighed. Loran had an excuse--he'd had years to do nothing but things like playing with fish scales. Daniel was just playing with fish scales for no good reason. "Give me that," Jack said, snatching up the fish to gut it for dinner, since they seemed set on fish tonight. "I'll give the scales back to you two when I'm done."
"The materials scientists at home might be interested in the scales' structure if they're really that strong," Carter said, and then, "Oh, I should have collected mineral samples while we were there. They'll want to compare the composition of the scales with the--"
"You guys took your trip to the beach today," Jack said, picking up a knife. "No going back out until tomorrow."
"I can do that, Jack," Daniel offered, following him as Loran stayed behind to explain the finer points of playing with fish scales to a rather dubious-looking Sam. "You don't have to."
"Nah," Jack said. He'd found out from their team fishing trip last year that Daniel could clean a fish, more or less (and was fascinated by the difference Tau'ri-sharp steel made in the gutting process), but Jack was pretty much bored out of his skull here, anyway. "You guys caught the fish; I'll get it cooked."
"I'm not being altruistic," Daniel clarified, still following. "I want to see the skeleton."
Jack rolled his eyes. "Where's this room with a heater Loran was talking about?" Daniel pointed. "This must be the kitchen," he commented, dropping their catch on a table and looking around until he found the disposal chutes they'd found everywhere through the palace. "There wouldn't be knives here, would there?"
"There were, but you can't use them."
"Because I took them," Daniel said. "We're allowed to steal from abandoned Goa'uld structures. Oh, Jack, the craftsmanship is...is incredible. The knives are made of some kind of stone, but they're really sharp, and that's after years and years--obviously, they were stored well, so that's probably part of it, but it's amazing. I wonder how they were made."
"Right," Jack said, skillfully ignoring him and using a field knife instead. "So what've you been up to today?" he said as he worked.
"Wishing an archaeological team were here," Daniel sighed. "Jack, there's so much to see here, and I don't know what I'm doing."
"Well, SG-5 asked for you to come. They must've thought you'd be helpful."
"Captain Lithell would have known so much more about their stoneworking abilities just by looking at things," Daniel said. Jack glanced up, but Daniel didn't seem to notice as he teased a vertebra out of the fish, carefully pulling it free of the tissue surrounding it as he said, "I wonder what Robert would have said if he'd seen this."
"Looks to me like you and Sam figured out most of the important stuff," Jack said. Daniel washed his bone under a tap on the wall Jack hadn't even known about. "Like that," he added, nodding toward the running water.
Daniel turned it off and looked closely at the bone. "It's different from a Goa'uld vertebra," he announced. "I bet the biology department would want a whole skeleton anyway, though. I think they're trying to formulate theories about the evolution of everything everywhere, ever."
"I'll bet," Jack muttered, rolling his eyes.
"How's Loran?" Daniel said after checking outside to make sure the boy wasn't around.
"Ah...he seems okay," Jack confided. "But I don't know... Sometimes, I'm not sure he completely gets it. I mean, he does know past tense in English, right?"
"Yeah. He still talks about his parents like they're alive?" Daniel said. Jack nodded. "It could be this place, keeping us all a little too relaxed. You'd be going out of your mind with boredom and yelling at us otherwise."
"Hey, I'm capable of yelling at you in any state of relaxation," Jack defended. More seriously, he said, "You want to spend some time with Loran? Maybe he'll talk to someone his own age."
"I don't even know how to talk to people like Cassandra and her friends," Daniel said, "much less..." He jerked his head in the direction of the 'gate room.
That was fair enough. Daniel had no idea anymore how to relate to most people his own age, and even a few years made a lot of difference to someone Loran's age.
"Besides, you're good at it," Daniel said. "He doesn't need someone like me. He likes you."
"He called me brainy," Jack said. Daniel snorted. "Oh, sure, laugh at me. See if you're my favorite brainy kid anymore." Daniel didn't answer. Jack looked over again to see him frowning. "Ah, come on! You're not going to take that seriousl--"
"No, no," Daniel said quickly, rolling his eyes. "But, uh...have you thought about what we're going to do with him, back on Earth?"
"Well...there's always the Land of Light. Or place we sent the Nasyans--we've got more than a few friends on safe planets."
"Jack..." Daniel said, then stopped and said again, "But...he likes you."
"Yeah, well," Jack said. "Don't forget about Cassie. There's precedence for stuff like that. We could find a place for him somewhere on Earth where we can keep an eye on him."
"You've been spending a lot of time with him here," Daniel said, and then, tentatively, looking intently at his fish bone, "I know people on Earth can be adopted by parents at his age. And in his case, it might be the most sensible step to take."
"Are you saying we should adopt him?" Jack quipped.
Daniel's head popped up to stare at him. "I'm serious, Jack. Are you thinking about it?"
"He doesn't need a parent who goes off on crazy, get-yourself-killed schemes every few weeks," Jack pointed out, not mentioning that the idea of adopting anyone at all was iffy at best for him, for other reasons. Daniel knew that already.
He fell quiet, then, until Jack would have thought he'd left if it hadn't been for the sound of his occasional shifting around as he looked out the window.
Just as he was about to ask how to use the thing that was supposed to heat their catch of the day, Daniel said, "I'm sorry I tried to shoot myself."
Jack's knife slipped. "Ah, geez," he snapped, more from surprise than anything else. He moved his cut finger away from their dinner and turned toward the tap.
"Ay...sorry," Daniel said as he twisted a switch under the tap to turn it on. Jack stuck his finger under the running water. "Here, let me see it. Is it bleeding?"
"It's fine," Jack said shortly. It was, too--it stung like a paper cut and wasn't much more serious than one, unless the fish had had some horrible disease.
"I'm sorry," Daniel repeated.
Jack twisted the switch back off. He accepted the ridiculously large square of gauze that was probably the only one Daniel had on his person at the moment, pressing a corner to his finger until he was sure it was no longer weeping blood. "Look," he said, but couldn't find the right thing to say after that.
"I didn't remember it," Daniel said anxiously. "Today, while we were outside, I asked Sam about what I'd missed while I was in withdrawal, because the last thing I remember was being disrespectful to General Hammond and"--he winced--"stomping up to my room."
"You didn't remember?"
"Not much. Not at all, by that point."
"You weren't in your right mind," Jack said stiffly, picking up his knife to wash it.
Daniel nodded earnestly. "I wouldn't have used a gun if I had been."
The knife slipped again, and Jack barely moved out of the way to avoid it this time around. "Excuse me?" he said, incredulous. "That's what you have a problem with?"
"Well," Daniel said, "I was in bad shape then, and I could've slipped with the gun--even hurt someone else. I mean, at least what Dean Barber did with the kawhoosh was more--"
"Daniel--stop!" Jack snapped, slapping the knife back down on the table where he couldn't drop it anymore. Daniel's eyes were wary, though, so he forced himself to calm down as he said, "What, have you been thinking about this? The best ways to kill yourself?"
"I'm just going through the events logically," Daniel said, looking confused and a little annoyed, and how the hell was he allowed to be annoyed at that? "I think about a lot of things."
Jack raised his hands but dropped them when he couldn't find anything to do with them. "Including suicide?"
"Everyone's thought of suicide, at least in passing," Daniel retorted. "It's a perfectly natural thing for me to think about, especially after what just happened."
"I don't want you to be thinking about the details of how to do it," Jack said harshly.
Then Daniel's eyes narrowed and he folded his arms. "Well, that's a difference between us, then. You don't think about things you don't want to do, and I don't do everything I've ever thought about! Jack, you think I'd actually consider killing myself? Is that what you think of me?"
"You're making it sound like that!"
"Well, I'm not that irresponsible," Daniel said angrily, which only made Jack angrier and not a little scared.
"That's it?" Jack said. "You wouldn't kill yourself because it'd be irresponsible?"
"I don't--!" Daniel started, then quickly looked out into the corridor again and lowered his voice. "I don't want to die, Jack. Is that better?"
But Jack could still see Daniel staring at his parents' graves while wondering why he was alive and, after Rothman, crying when he thought no one else was watching, and if this thing with Shifu had been the last straw, and some depression had been there to be amplified until he could stand with a gun to his own head... Jack didn't know how the hell he was supposed to answer that, because that was not better than much of anything except being actually dead.
"Jack," Daniel repeated, more gently, "I don't want to die. I really don't. But of course I think about it sometimes. We walk into every mission knowing we could die, even if we're not expecting it, but I would never do it to myself."
"Knowing you could die," Jack echoed.
"Well, I couldn't be effective on the team if I didn't accept that risk," Daniel said, sounding surprised. "That's the nature of...of the missions we take. But it doesn't mean I won't try to avoid it if at all possible. I'm just sorry for putting that image"--he held his hand like a gun--"in your head; that's all I meant to say. Why would you think I'd ever...?"
"I don't know what you're thinking lately," Jack admitted, more shaken than he wanted to admit by the realization that Daniel had reached a point at which he was not only used to the possibility of dying but also comfortable with it. "You give us cryptic lines about...dreams and new paths, and whatever else Shifu did to you. How am I supposed to know what the hell any of that means if you won't tell me?"
Daniel's eyes darted away. "Do you think we should cook the--"
"Stop," Jack said. Daniel stopped. "At this point, I think we deserve to know what's going on."
Immediately, the defensive look returned. "You deserve to know? It's not about you!"
"If it's about you, it's about us," Jack retorted. "And if it affects you, it affects us, too, so think about that." When Daniel only crunched his arms together more stiffly, Jack tried, "Let's start with this one. Why do you have to pick a new path?"
"Oma Desala told me that, too, more or less," Daniel said.
"Maybe you need to stop listening to aliens."
"I am an alien to you."
"Well, then, I'm an alien to you, and I'm telling you to stop listening to glowy octopi."
"Octopodes," Daniel said. "It's not second declension Latin. And most people say 'octopuses.'"
"I'm not laughing," Jack said.
Daniel sighed. "It's not about... It's not that simple."
Jack stomped hard on the desire to shake him hard and see if an answer fell out. "Well?"
"Well...what if I'm doing it all wrong?" Daniel said.
"You're not," Jack said.
"That's not the point."
"How is that not the point?"
"Jack, what if I wanted to... What if I found out..." Daniel trailed off, having apparently bumped into something even he couldn't manage to articulate in words. "I don't always like..." he tried, then stopped again.
"...what we have to do?" Jack finished.
"What I do," Daniel clarified. "It's not just the SGC. It's me, myself. But I don't know anything else. I've never been anyone or anything else."
"If he told you not to be who you are, maybe you shouldn't be listening to him."
"Shifu didn't say that. I realized it a while ago, I guess, but I didn't dare to think about it too much, because I didn't want to change it."
"Change what?" Jack said. "Daniel, what could you possibly want to change about yourself?"
"I wanted to help people when I started, three years ago," Daniel said.
"And you have."
"Have I?" Before Jack could start to think back and list things, Daniel said, "No, think about it, Jack. Nothing I've done with SG-1 in the last...months, at least, couldn't have been done better by a trained military officer."
"That's what this is about?" Jack said, reminding himself that Daniel was seriously upset about something to stop himself from scoffing. "You think you're not being enough of a civilian?"
Daniel must have heard the scoffs anyway, though, because he looked hurt. "I know I'm not your perfect subordinate," he said stiffly. "But I used to spend half my time trying to justify things to you with military reasons and the other half trying not to think that way for Robert, and now that he's gone... I don't know if I'm filling my purpose anymore. I think I've forgotten what that was to begin with."
"Maybe you never knew."
"So I'm going to tell you what it is right here and now," Jack said firmly. "Your job is to be a member of SG-1 and the Social Science department. You tell me in the field when you see something we miss, and you tell people on base when they're missing something because they've never seen it in the field."
"But what's the point?" Daniel said, frustrated.
("None of it means anything," Daniel said. The gun pressed against his skull.)
"We've helped a lot of people," Jack said. "You're a part of that. Do you think I'd let you onto my team if there weren't a damn good reason for it? I know you were messing around when Bauer was on base. I need someone like that."
"If we'd let Bauer get on with the project, the same thing would have happened at the SGC, and he would have been kicked out sooner for incompetence. And the Tobin mine, with Heru-ur and Apophis...given what happened, letting it kill all of us probably would have been better in the long run. And--"
"You did the right thing with the available intelligence at the time," Jack said. "No one else could've solved that. Blame me or Jacob for Heru-ur if you have to blame someone. You had good intentions, Daniel. You always do."
"You always have too much confidence in my good intentions," Daniel said, wearing an odd expression that unnerved Jack because he didn't understand it.
"I don't think so," Jack said.
"Well," Daniel said, "then if I ever abused that, you'd be in a bad position, wouldn't you?"
"You wouldn't," Jack said, exasperated.
"You don't know that. I don't know that."
"You always think too much, anyway."
Daniel scowled. "Maybe you don't think enough."
Jack pushed down his first retort and said, "Then we make a good team, don't we?"
Daniel took a deep breath, then let it out slowly, moving to the gutted fish to place it inside some device that Jack thought looked like a drawer made of gold with buttons on the side. Once he'd closed and--presumably--turned it on, he said, "I don't always have good intentions. Sometimes I don't even think about the people we might be helping until after we've already killed the enemy. It's always about the Goa'uld first these days. It wasn't always like that for me." He frowned. "Or maybe it was, and that's the problem."
"Same results," Jack said cautiously.
"But it matters that I don't--"
"What matters," Jack interrupted, "is that you're learning when you need to stop thinking like it's a puzzle and get the job done. That's not a bad thing." When Daniel didn't look convinced, he added, "I wouldn't be having this argument with anyone else. That's what you do--you think about stuff, and sometimes you think too much, but what matters is what you end up doing."
"What if I don't do the right thing?" Daniel said.
"You would," Jack said, "and if you didn't, I'd have Teal'c sit on you until you thought again. And if Teal'c agreed with you, it probably means I was wrong to begin with, and if Carter thought you were wrong--"
"She'd assume I had good intentions and try to convince me gently until it was too late."
"That's...pessimistic, even for you," Jack commented, and all of a sudden, he was starting to understand what must have happened in Shifu's dream. "The point is, if I'm wrong, you'll stop me, and if you're wrong, I'll stop you. That's how it works."
"We have the team," Daniel said.
"We have the team," Jack repeated, hoping that was the end of that. "I've given you outs before, in case you wanted to leave, but by now, Daniel, it's not you and then the rest of us anymore; it's all of us. I swear, if you tried to leave now, I'd fight you to keep this team together. Okay?"
"I don't know what temperature I set that to," Daniel said, pointing at the oven.
"I will let your fish burn if you don't answer my damn question," Jack warned.
Daniel looked down. "Even though I'm not the kind of person you'd have chosen on your own?" he asked, unusually insecure for someone usually so comfortable with his abilities.
"You think I'd sit in a ship with a bomb if I didn't trust the person disarming it?" Jack pointed out. "Or go make nice with the Unas with anyone but you? We're a good team, Daniel. The only thing stopping you from being with SG-1 all the time now is other teams' grabbing for you and rules that say you're not old enough."
"Really?" Daniel said, looking caught between surprise and hope.
"And a better score at the shooting range," Jack amended, then admitted, "But even that's small fries for you by now. Requalify when we get back to base, grow a couple of months, and you're solid. Okay?"
"Okay," Daniel said.
Jack nodded. "Okay," he said, and then radioed Carter to tell her to please help, because they couldn't figure out how the oven worked.
13 May 2001; Palace, P4X-347; 1100 hrs
Teal'c's most recent return to P4X-347 was greeted with much hope. "What'd the doc say about our bloodwork?" O'Neill asked immediately.
"That she does not yet wish you to leave this place," Teal'c told him.
"But even if we go back now, we'd live, right?" Major Carter said. "It's not that big of a jump down anymore."
"Dr. Fraiser does not wish to take that chance. General Hammond is in agreement that you should wait for the process to be completed as instructed on the pedestal."
"Oy," O'Neill sighed.
"That's only a few more days, right?" Daniel Jackson said, looking to Major Carter.
"Yeah," she said. "Teal'c, are you staying?"
"Indeed," Teal'c told her. "Because you are likely to return to base soon, General Hammond has advised me to remain with you instead of joining SG-3 to begin another mission."
"Did you ask General Hammond about me?" Loran said, looking anxious.
"I did," Teal'c told the boy. "He says that you are very welcome on Earth. Because of the secrecy of the Stargate program, you must remain with SGC personnel for a short period of time. There, you can become familiar with the customs of the Tau'ri and decide to remain with a family on Earth or to relocate to another planet where we will introduce you to many friends."
"Wouldn't I have friends on Earth?" Loran said.
"We'll make sure you find lots of friends wherever you pick," O'Neill assured him. "Some rules will be more complicated on Earth, because you can't talk about other planets or the Stargate or the place you came from, but if you decide to stay there, we'll check on you and make sure you stay happy."
"And, uh," Major Carter said, looking at Teal'c, "speaking of...families who don't have clearance..."
"General Hammond has identified individuals with high levels of security clearance," Teal'c said. "As well, Dr. Kalene has expressed a willingness to care for Loran."
"Kalene?" Daniel Jackson said. "Who's that?"
"She's a new member of the counseling staff," Major Carter said, nodding in approval. "She seems very nice."
"I can't stay with you?" Loran said, looking first at O'Neill and then at the rest of them.
"Well..." Daniel Jackson started.
Teal'c did not like the look in his eye and interrupted, "For the first few weeks, you will indeed be near us. Because of our medical protocols, you must first undergo tests to ensure that you will remain healthy."
"Because of the...contagio...conta-gion?" Loran said, looking in question at Daniel Jackson.
"Contagions," Daniel Jackson confirmed. "Or you can say 'diseases.'"
"Diseases," Loran repeated.
"Right," O'Neill said. "Loran, you'll be given some medicines to keep you from getting diseases, and we'll introduce you to a doctor who'll talk to you and figure out what you need. And then you'll get a few choices and you can pick where you want to stay. How's that sound?"
"Why can't I help Daniel translate things?" Loran said. "I could help."
Daniel Jackson looked like he was partway to agreeing. "Well--" he started again.
O'Neill gave him a sharp look and said, "You'll have plenty of time to do that when you're older. At least wait until you're Daniel's age. Besides, you'll be so busy making friends that you'll forget all about us."
"No, I won't!" Loran said. "Of course I won't, Jack."
"I'm joking," O'Neill said with a fond smile. "But if you want to help us, you can do it when you're older. Don't worry; we'll help you figure things out when we get to Earth."
"Oh," Loran said uncertainly. "Okay."
"Come on," O'Neill finally said, gesturing. "You were going to show me how to play a game upstairs, remember?"
"Yeah," he said. "Sam, you have to come, too." Teal'c watched with some amusement as Loran and O'Neill raced each other up the staircase, Major Carter following behind with a chuckle.
"He already showed me the game," Daniel Jackson told Teal'c when he was not also invited. "Loran likes Jack best, anyway."
Teal'c was not surprised at this. "It would seem that he enjoys working with you," he offered.
Daniel Jackson grinned ruefully. "Yeah, I don't...really know what else to talk to him about. So, that part about staying with SGC personnel for a while is so he can talk to a counselor, right?"
"That is a significant part of General Hammond's concern," Teal'c agreed. "Loran showed me an image that his parents took before they died. He could not have been more than ten Tau'ri years old then. He may be the same age you were when you first began working with us, but I do not believe he is so prepared."
Loran had spoken to Teal'c as a child waiting for his parents to return for him, whether or not he truly believed it would happen. Dr. Mackenzie and General Hammond believed--and Teal'c agreed--that Loran should be treated as the child that he was.
Daniel Jackson finally nodded. "Yeah. He's..." He looked up, where the others had disappeared. "Yeah. Okay. It's not like I started working right away, either, not without help from you guys."
"And he has no home to return to--he does not know the address. The Tau'ri believe children like Loran should not be placed into a war."
"Mm. They don't want to make the same mistakes with him that they made with me."
"You are not a mistake, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said as he set down the tubes that Dr. Fraiser had sent for bloodwork, though the words were also true.
"I wouldn't want them to make those mistakes, either," Daniel Jackson said quietly. Teal'c glanced up and received a small smile in return. "I'm not saying I regret how everything played out with me, but...well, I didn't completely understand what I was signing up for when I joined the SGC, even though I thought I did. Loran must not, either."
"Nor did the Tau'ri understand, at that time," Teal'c said. "Nor, in fact, did I."
"No--of course," Daniel Jackson said, shrugging. "It's not like anyone could've predicted the way things happened, and I certainly didn't make matters any easier. There wasn't much of choice with me, yeah? But for Loran..."
"It is the opinion of many," Teal'c added carefully, "that children--like Loran--should be given more than one option in the case that they wish to...choose another path at a later time."
He finished pushing the equipment out of the way, feigning casualness until Daniel Jackson said, "You've been waiting weeks for a good chance to say that to me, haven't you."
"We have been concerned about the things you said after the Harsesis child left the SGC," Teal'c acknowledged.
"If you're not busy, do you think you can be concerned while helping me with something?" he said. He pointed down the corridor. "I've gotten to the last couple of rooms, and there's some text that I think I'm translating right, but I don't know what it means--"
"I would be happy to assist you," Teal'c told him, then followed him down the corridor.
"What I find really interesting," Daniel Jackson said, gesturing widely with his arms as he talked, "is that the majority of the...the main comfort rooms are all in that one block of space. There are rooms upstairs, but I think they only feel huge to us because they seem to be designed for many people to stay in each, not just one person."
"Then they are most likely quarters where the slaves stayed while their Goa'uld master enjoyed the pleasures of this place," Teal'c said.
Daniel Jackson nodded eagerly. "That's what I thought! And I think a lot of rooms were actually meant to allow slaves to work. Oh, here it is," he said, gesturing inside a room.
Teal'c stepped in and looked around curiously. "Have you determined the identity of the Goa'uld who used this palace?"
"Dionysos," he answered. "Have you heard of him?"
"He was said to be insane," Teal'c said, recalling what little he knew of that Goa'uld. "He has been dead for hundreds of years."
Daniel Jackson made a face. "Insane even for a Goa'uld, huh. The myths say he was afflicted with madness, and he was often associated with losing one's rational mind. I've always assumed that was related to the part about drinking a lot of alcohol, though."
"Then it seems this was a fitting place for Dionysos."
"Mm-hm. Okay, uh...what's this line mean?" Daniel Jackson said, bending toward the bottom of a pillar and pointing at a phrase. "'Dis kel'ma rakeram.'"
Teal'c raised his chin in surprise, but Daniel Jackson did not notice and continued speaking.
"Now, if I'm understanding it correctly, I'm pretty sure that has something to do with how, in Tau'ri mythology, Dionysos is known as the 'twice-born' god, but this makes it sound literal. Does that mean something specific?"
"Indeed it does," Teal'c said, "though I have never truly heard of its occurrence. It is a ritual in which a Goa'uld implants a second, larval symbiote within himself before it is fully mature and prepared for true blending."
"Really?" Daniel Jackson said, sitting and leaning casually against the wall. "That's possible?"
Teal'c considered but had to admit, "I do not understand how it could be. I have never heard of a successful dis kal'ma rokaram. It is believed to be nothing more than a legend."
Daniel Jackson frowned thoughtfully. "Maybe it wasn't implanted in the Goa'uld itself, but the Goa'uld implants it into someone else as a...a non-Jaffa incubator and the stories exaggerated some aspects. In the myths, Zeus, the father of Dionysos, saved him as a larva--I mean, as a fetus--because his mother had died, and implanted Dionysos into his own leg until birth."
"You may be correct that the implantation took place in another," Teal'c said. "Such early blending is said to affect the larva greatly--perhaps that was the reason for Dionysos's madness."
"Maybe Zeus was a little crazy, too, since he allowed it to happen," Daniel Jackson suggested.
"I have never heard of the Goa'uld Zeus."
"Maybe he never made it into the System Lords because he was crazy."
"That is possible," Teal'c said as he also sat down on the floor, so that he and his friend's eyes were at the same level.
Daniel Jackson stared at him for a moment, then turned back to the pillar. "Uh," he said. "And, uh...this is all...well, okay, it's extolling the virtues of Dionysos...you know what annoys me a lot about Goa'uld records?"
Patiently, Teal'c' said, "I do not."
"I never know who wrote it. I can imagine a Goa'uld being egotistical enough to write about himself, but would he really take the time? But if it's a Jaffa, or a human slave--"
"A Jaffa is more likely," Teal'c said. "The slaves are not taught to write, but some Jaffa are. One of my brothers, Fro'tak, worked in the Hall of Records on Chulak."
"Right, of course, no human literacy. But still, the different perspective between a ruler and his worshipers...well, it makes a difference," he explained. "But I don't suppose a Jaffa would be allowed to sign his name on a pillar or anything like that."
"No," Teal'c confirmed.
Daniel Jackson shrugged. "Yeah. That's all I've got. Thanks for your help, again."
Teal'c nodded and waited for more. When nothing followed, he said, "Is there anything else you wish to ask me?"
"Well...maybe," Daniel Jackson said, lacing his fingers together. "It's kind of personal."
"You may ask me anything," Teal'c said.
He hesitated again, then said very quickly, "What would you do if you had unlimited power?"
Teal'c did not think that was very personal, in comparison to the kinds of things of which they regularly spoke. "I would destroy all of the Goa'uld," he said simply.
Nodding, Daniel Jackson pressed, "But when that's done, you still have all this knowledge and power, and no one can stop you no matter what you do--what would you do next?"
And then Teal'c understood what the true question was, so he said carefully, "I hope that I would act as honorably as you yourself would in that position, Daniel Jackson."
Daniel Jackson snorted. "You know exactly what I'm talking about."
"A dream is not life," Teal'c said. "Do not judge yourself by a dream that another gave you."
"No, no, it wasn't like that. In the dream, the only thing Shifu did to Sha'uri and me was give us knowledge; the rest... Gods, it was so real, Teal'c. Everyone acted exactly as they should have."
"Except you and Sha'uri," Teal'c said.
"But see, even that..." He shivered. "Everything I did in the dream... I still remember how it felt, and why I did it, and even now it doesn't feel...foreign. Like part of me really wanted to do it--me, not Shifu. Naturu." He sighed, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees. "How can any part of me want that?"
"I cannot help you if you do not tell me what occurred," Teal'c said. "Perhaps together, we can discover the true meaning of Shifu's dream."
"I think I know the meaning--"
"Do you know everything already?" Teal'c said. "Open your mind. There may be some meaning that you were unable to see."
Daniel Jackson frowned. "Okay," he said.
"What did you see in your dream?" Teal'c prompted again. "You said that Shifu gave all of the knowledge of the Goa'uld to you and his mother."
"Right," Daniel Jackson said. "Right, yeah. And, uh...and then Sha'uri and I designed a..." He made a face and held up his hands as if to encircle a ball. "It was a system that would detect any threat to a planet that the Goa'uld could pose. They needed me and Sha'uri, so they did everything we told them to."
"They?" Teal'c repeated.
"The SGC, the Pentagon, America, Nagada, Abydos," Daniel Jackson said. "We separated tasks among people--I said it was for security, but by then, I was already...planning more and trying to make sure no one would be able to figure it all out."
"What is it you were planning?"
Daniel Jackson shrugged, his lips twitching in what was almost a smile. "What do you think? I had the world ready to do anything I wanted. What comes after that?"
Teal'c considered saying again that a dream was constructed of fears and desires, not truth, but, because he could not be sure whether it was a fear or desire, or perhaps both, he remained silent.
"We needed Earth and Abydos," Daniel Jackson continued, "for technology and naquadah, so I stayed on Earth to...to 'supervise,' and Sha'uri stayed on Abydos. Even from the start, I thought she was acting suspicious, and soon we were...spying on each other, threatening each other..."
Like opposing System Lords, forced to ally temporarily but still guarding their own territories and seeking to gain more, Teal'c thought. "I see," he said.
"Yeah," Daniel Jackson said, looking down. "By the end, I'd been planning for months to take control of Tau'ri governments as soon as I had the firepower in place to reinforce it. Sha'uri and I were just waiting to betray each other, and eventually, we both did."
Thinking quickly, Teal'c said, "How is it that your friends allowed such a thing to happen?"
"Sha'uri set up prisons. Mine accidents. I...got you all to leave in other ways. You were the first."
Teal'c raised an eyebrow. "I am honored."
"It's not funny!" he snapped.
"Indeed it is not. If I was the first, then you believed I would have remained true if I had stayed."
Daniel Jackson bowed his head again. "Of course you would. You knew. You always knew. You tried to stop me--you said..."
"If I did not prevent this from befalling you," Teal'c said, "then I failed you."
"That's exactly what you said. So Sha'uri and I found a mission that...that...it doesn't matter. But when you didn't come back, people started to wonder. We got Kasuf to look after Shifu to keep him busy, and I told everyone Sam was insane and threw her in prison when she started asking questions. Sha'uri did the same to Skaara. I made Janet retire, locked Martouf in an asylum..."
"Then you understand," Teal'c said reasonably, "that if ever such a thing were to happen, you would be surrounded by those who still saw the truth. I am certain that it was for that reason that you sent us away in your dream."
He shook his head. "But part of me was willing to do those things to them. To you."
"You would not have--"
"I was so angry," Daniel Jackson interrupted. "Sam... She listens to people because they're above her in rank, over my advice, and when I told her to listen to me, she refused. And I knew how much it would hurt her if everyone thought she was mentally unstable, so I did that, too. And what I did to you...it felt good."
He stopped and did not seem about to continue. Teal'c did not ask what had happened to O'Neill. "You said that the message of the Harsesis was that no one could have all of that knowledge without being corrupted," Teal'c said.
"We were so sure it would be okay. How could knowledge be evil?"
"The knowledge you had was not only facts," Teal'c pointed out. "To know Apophis is to understand how much he hated, how much he loved power, and what he would have done for it. That is what his knowledge brought to you."
"Data, knowledge, memory," Daniel Jackson said, frowning at his hands. "And none of the wisdom to use it. If someone completely, really good had taken that knowledge..."
Teal'c raised an eyebrow. "Such a person would not be whole. No human--or Jaffa--can truly know nothing of evil."
"I just never realized there was so much of that in here." He gestured toward his head.
"Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said bluntly. "There is a part of you that wishes me gone, is there not?"
"No!" he denied, shaking his head emphatically and looking alarmed. "Teal'c--"
"I am grateful for your friendship," he said gently, "and I know that you value mine. But I regret that I have taught you much of hate and of vengeance."
"I don't hate you," Daniel Jackson said quietly, sounding more like the child Teal'c had met almost four years ago than like the brother he was now. "That's all...behind us. In the past."
"What has passed between us," Teal'c continued, "we have suffered and survived together. To deny it is to deny who we are."
"I wish you hadn't done...some things," Daniel Jackson said tightly, not looking at him. "My parents. Skaara and Sha'uri. But I don't hate you. I can't."
"But you have reason to be angry with me," Teal'c said. "And you have so often found yourself powerless that you would welcome the ability to take power from those who have commanded you. These are not thoughts to be ashamed of."
"Until I act on them."
"Do you remember the Atanik armbands?" Teal'c said. "You did not blame O'Neill or Major Carter for their actions then."
"They were drugged," Daniel Jackson said, "and they destroyed Apophis's mothership."
"They also injured several people when they left the base for no other reason than carelessness in their desire to enjoy their power," Teal'c reminded him. "They even injured us, their friends."
"They didn't mean to, though. I meant to, in my dream."
Teal'c suppressed a sigh. "And yet they were very much themselves--only unstoppable. If you blame those devices or the Tok'ra for their actions during that time, then you must also blame the Harsesis or the Goa'uld knowledge for anything you or Sha'uri did in your dream."
Daniel Jackson considered. "But all of that...it's still in me."
"Indeed," Teal'c said, "just as O'Neill and Major Carter were truly pleased to be so powerful. Yet it is not all that they are."
"I don't like that about me."
"You are a good, whole person, Daniel Jackson, and it is not in spite of the parts you fear."
Still frowning deeply, Daniel Jackson said nothing.
"I have not yet answered your question," Teal'c said. "If I had the knowledge of the Goa'uld, I would destroy them. Then I would revive them and torture them to death again. Their race would become slaves to us, as we have been slaves to them. I would allow you, my friend, and Tau'ri itself to fall before I allowed anyone to stop my rule over the Goa'uld."
Daniel Jackson's mouth had fallen open and his eyes were wide. "Uh," he said. "Wow."
"Fortunately," Teal'c said, "none of us has that power."
"Yeah," he said, looking discomfited. "Teal'c, you wouldn't really. I mean...not you."
It was astonishing to Teal'c that Daniel Jackson, of all people, could think so well of him. Teal'c could admit to himself that, if he had been given the chance, he would have done his very worst to the Goa'uld. He wished fiercely for that chance, even as he was ashamed--he could see even now the looks of betrayal on his friends' faces if he did such a thing. "Think with your mind," Teal'c said, "not with your heart. Would I do such a thing?"
For a moment, Daniel Jackson stared at him, and then looked away. "Maybe," he allowed, but added loyally, "but only in an extreme set of circumstances."
"None of us is invulnerable to corruption. I would perhaps have believed you the closest."
"That's...a bad choice of belief," Daniel Jackson said.
"Perhaps." Teal'c leaned forward. "You have shown me more kindness and forgiveness than I deserve. You are deserving of my trust. I will not forgive you for what you have not done and what I trust you would never do."
Daniel Jackson did not move for a long time and instead blinked at the pillar nearby, as if considering the words written there. Finally, he sighed and said, "Do you think we're doing the right thing? What we do at the SGC?"
"That's it? Yes?'"
"Yes," Teal'c repeated simply.
"We've done good things," he said.
"Indeed we have."
"How do I know I won't...slip and do the wrong thing, for the wrong reasons?"
"Because you fear it too much."
"I don't like the idea that the only thing holding me back from doing something--from wanting something terrible is fear," Daniel Jackson said.
Teal'c raised an eyebrow. "What holds us back from such things but fear of what we would become? Did I not show you that you cannot succeed if you hold back for fear?"
"That was in the gym, and it was about fear that you'd hit me if I missed a punch."
"Then do not miss," Teal'c said. "There is too much good in you to waste fearing yourself."
Standing up, Daniel Jackson said, "You all have too much faith in me."
"Trust in us, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c countered, pushing himself to his feet as well.
O'Neill's voice sounded from above, followed by Loran's. Daniel Jackson glanced upward, as if he could see the others. "Jack trusted me," he said quietly. "That's what happened to him."
"And Shifu told you he was proud of the choices you have made, not in the dream, but outside it, on your own," Teal'c reminded him. "If you will not believe us, perhaps you will believe him."
"I believe you," Daniel Jackson protested.
"Then you must therefore believe in yourself," Teal'c said. "Did you learn from the dream?"
"A little too much, maybe."
"Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said, "is it possible to learn too much?"
"That doesn't sound like me, does it," he said, laughing weakly. "So...what do you think Shifu meant about choosing another path?"
"I think your path cannot be chosen but must be made," Teal'c said. Daniel Jackson looked surprised, and then thoughtful. "And you will neither make nor walk that path alone."
"Well," Daniel Jackson said. "Good. I have a feeling I'll need you guys on whatever path it is."
"As we will need you," Teal'c said.
"Okay," he said, nodding, no longer lost in thought but rather found in purpose. "I can do that."
"I have something I need to tell you," Daniel said carefully. "I'm sorry--I should have before, last time, but I wasn't authorized to say just yet."
Tutting, Nick turned and continued walking. "Typical government bureaucracy. Authorized this, authorized that..."