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Words

Turning and spinning in his mind until

One locks into place.

Like the shooting of a bolt on the gate

Then another and another and another

Until the meaning will be clear.

Anglo Saxon, Norse, Celtic, French, Latin, Hindustani –

He wanders along.

The dust of this planet is a sad brown colour, the scrubby plants seeming to cling to it by the merest scrap of roots. There are tracks in the sand though, footprints of animals and birds, and strange half circular scrapings that Teal’c has said must be a snake. Sam knew the species, posited theories about how it has arrived there, its life cycle, ecological niche. And Jack told stories of snakes he has met.

He wanders along behind

Three soldiers

Then him.

And he wonders what he’d say

Would

Should

Could

Say if the moment was right, if the wheel turned and the opportunity arose.

Up ahead

He

Pauses and slides up his hand, drops down, weapon ready, poised, alert.

And makes a joke.

Sam and Teal’c laugh, soft and understanding, smiling at one another – sparkling blue eyes, the ironic lift of one brow. Something about points and firing lines,

And three soldiers laughing.

Point. Provençal punt; Spanish, Italian punto; Portuguese ponto; Latin punct-um: that which is pricked, a prick, a minute mark like a prick, a dot, a point in writing, a point in space, a point of time, a small measure, a particular of a discourse…

Another word slides into place in his head.

‘Daniel, are you even concentrating?’

He shakes his head and looks up, the floppy brim of his hat a dark disk against the bright sky.

‘Er… yes, Jack.’

His name. Nobody else gets to call him by that name. He is Colonel, O’Neill, Jack O’Neill, Colonel Jack O’Neill, Sir.

‘Well could you concentrate with your eyes open?’

‘I… er… right, er…’

‘Daniel Jackson, have you discovered the meaning of the symbols on P5X-176?’

‘Um… no, that is, I think they might be a runic representation of—’

But they aren’t listening, they heard no word beyond the no. They turn away, and move along, heading straight up the path

Together.

Dutch gade, Middle Dutch Ghegade: companion, comrade, consort, mate.

Another word falls and locks.

And the wheels in his mind turn and turn, seeking, hunting for the final key.

He trips over a low bush, the thorns tearing at his legs.

Any moment, any moment the understanding will rush through like a bright surge of energy and he will have passage through to the far side of the puzzle. The words all made clear to him. Another language fallen to his assault.

Up ahead, the three soldiers speak in hand gestures – a closed fist, two fingers that point the way, then tilt from side to side.

He has no idea what it means, he never can remember.

He drops to one knee and fumbles with his gun.

Rifle

Not allowed to call it a gun but he’s never thought to ask why. Jack is always saying he must take Danny for some proper training, show him a few basics.

But there never seems to be time.

Time. Tempus. Tempus fugit. fugit- past-participle stem of fugĕre to flee.

The word locks into place and he smiles.

But the pulse beams shoot overhead and the bullets rattle and he can’t tell anyone.

Jack dashes back and puts him firmly behind a rock.

‘Stay here. Keep down.’

Jack takes aim and fires off a burst, face fixed to the front, eyes on the enemy. Whole body shaking with the reverberation of the gun. The tang of hot propellant on the dead desert air.

‘Jack, I…’

Another burst of bullets.

Rat a tat

Rat a tat

Rata tata tata tata

Tat.

‘And don’t talk.’

And Colonel Jack O’Neill has slipped away.