Everywhere the eye could see were soft hills of perfectly manicured green lawn, dotted with rows and rows of white crosses and stars. The number was staggering to see, the physical representation of those who had given their lives in the service of their country. The effect of the unbroken line after line of stark white against vibrant green was almost hypnotically dizzying, straight lines blurring with diagonal.
Standing in orderly rows close to the casket with the other military members of the Stargate project, Jack, Sam and Janet wore their dress uniforms, every edge of the blue jackets and white shirts and slacks or skirts crisply pressed and in place. Belt buckles, buttons and medals shone. As members of the Special Services, Daniel, Teal’c, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan did not possess official uniforms beyond the blue or khaki work uniforms for Stargate missions. They had opted for dark suits, white shirts, and ties, remaining behind the Sergeant’s civilian family and friends with the other scientific personnel. Teal’c wore a black fedora to hide the gold symbol of Apophis on his forehead.
Qui-Gon rested one hand on Obi-Wan’s shoulder, comforting him as they listened to the minister speak of the Sergeant – his life, his family, his love for his young wife. He let the religious aspects of the service, the words of God and heaven, slip through his mind unheard. With a brief mental thought he reached out to his Padawan. / / Why do some of the graves have stars instead of crosses? / /
/ / It’s…// Obi-Wan concentrated, searching the memories gained from Daniel. / / … the Star of David. For the Jewish members. / /
Qui-Gon could only see the backs of the family members. The shudders that shook the Sergeant's wife, his mother leaning into her husband, the brother's hand discreetly wiping tears from his eyes, were the expressions of their grief.
The minister yielded to General Hammond, who spoke briefly and simply of privilege and loss. The privilege of commanding a young man eager to do his duty; the dreadful loss of his life and the emptiness that followed. He did not speak the truth he was forbidden to say - of the brave sacrifice in the secret war against the Goa'uld. Nor did he perjure himself with the lies of a training mishap. Bad enough when he had to force that statement through his lips during the call home that no commanding officer wishes to make. The falsity would not be repeated at this solemn occasion.
At his nod, seven soldiers raised their rifles, firing shots in the air in unison. They fired again and once again, honoring the deceased with a 21- gun salute. A mournful bugle played taps as the flag was removed from his casket, folded into a triangle, and handed to the widow.
Scattered murmurs of conversation began as the service concluded. Expressions of sympathy, practical questions of the location of the wake, idle comments made to break the silence of grief. People moved around, as if seeking direction at a moment when life has revealed it will give no easy answers.
Teal'c, Daniel and the Jedi remained together, everyone hesitant to speak. Gesturing to the surrounding environment, Daniel finally offered, "This must seem odd to you."
"Odd? In what way?" Qui-Gon asked, not understanding the question.
"All this land. All these markers. It's a bit different from funeral pyres."
"It is different from the Jedi, yes. But there are many worlds in the Republic that bury their dead."
"It would be an interesting study," Daniel replied. "On whether Jedi philosophy decided that bodies should be released into the Force before or after Coruscant ran out of space. An examination of whether religious practices were dictated by practical economics and land-use availability.” He blinked for a moment as if realizing the words that came out of his mouth. “Oh god,” Daniel moaned, partially dislodging his glasses to rub at the bridge of his nose, “talking about academic studies at a funeral sounds really…dorky.”
Qui-Gon smiled sympathetically. “I have attended many funerals on many different worlds, Daniel. It is always difficult to talk in the midst of loss."
Patting Daniel lightly on the back, Jack offered, "I think he means saying dorky things is a universal constant."
The scientist jumped slightly, not having noticed the approach of Jack, Sam, and Janet. "Thanks, I think," he replied ruefully.
“We would like to show you how the Jedi remember.” Qui-Gon gazed at the small cluster of friends. “It will require a mental connection.” His request was met mostly by eager nods. As scientists, Janet and Sam found exposure to telepathy fascinating. Though his brief bond with Obi-Wan had been unplanned that event had changed his life, and Daniel welcomed the chance to recreate its closeness. Teal'c admired the power of the Jedi's minds and was curious to explore.
Jack sounded suspicious as he asked, “It’s not going to be like last time, is it?” While he appreciated the Jedi's abilities, he secretly found experiences which required mental connections unnerving.
“The technique is similar, but the results will be quite different,” Qui-Gon replied.
“Good,” was Jack’s assertive response. Janet arched her eyebrows at Sam, who studiously avoided her gaze. The Doctor mentally shrugged and promised herself that some day she would get to hear the full story of what happened on Coruscant.
Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan turned their heads slightly to gaze into each other’s eyes. Their shields dropped, allowing the free exchange of thought. Quickly, they erected a combined shield around their innermost minds, leaving only their surface thoughts accessible.
Daniel was easily pulled in, his prior experience bonding with Obi-Wan making him receptive to the mental tug. Jack came next, followed by Sam, Janet and Teal’c. Concentrating on the mental linkage, Sam lost conscious awareness of her physical surroundings and flinched when General Hammond placed a hand on her shoulder. From the lack of conversation and blank expressions on his people’s faces, the stocky General realized something unusual was happening. At a gentle request from Qui-Gon’s mind to his, Hammond entered into the invisible circle.
“So what now?” Daniel asked. The Jedi were carefully maintaining a series of shields, not allowing an uncontrolled free-flowing exchange.
“Now think of the Sergeant,” Qui-Gon instructed. “Only him. What you remember about him.”
The first angry image came from the General. The fear, the hopelessness, the rage generated when seeing two members of SG-3 dragging the Sergeant through the gate, his wounds obviously life-threatening. The fourth team member following on their heels, still wildly firing back through the watery surface, the bullets disappearing into the wormhole. Janet’s mind leaped in with the frustration of using everything learned from her years of medical experience, knowing with one glance that her efforts would be unsuccessful but unwilling to concede without a fight. The overwhelming wish to sit down and cry undermining her professional detachment as she called the final halt and noted time of death.
The others recoiled slightly, unaccustomed to unrestrained emotion from two who were always so carefully controlled at the base. Powerful feelings roiled behind the detached veneers, feelings that could rarely be freed.
“Back further,” Qui-Gon said softly but without chiding. “Back to happier times. Before the loss.”
An image from Teal’c leaped out, remembering an evening spent playing ping-pong as the Sergeant patiently showed the large Jaffa how to hold the paddle, watch the ball, and surprise your opponent with a devastating spin. Sam contributed next, a quiet evening working in her lab when the Sergeant unexpectedly dropped by with a fresh cup of coffee and a few minutes of chat. He’d listened quietly to her excited explanation of a new technological discovery and smiled with an “I don’t understand a word you’ve said but I’m glad you’re happy” look. From Daniel floated a memory of the entire SG-3 team and many other Stargate members, in full combat gear, helping to rescue him, Sam, and Jack from the clutches of Hathor. The Sergeant had been almost indistinguishable from the rest of his comrades until Daniel caught the flash of a quick, reassuring smile amidst the grim sternness. Jack echoed that memory, adding the sense of comforting relief and pride, to know that such sturdy devotion and courage was supporting him.
Other memories drifted forth, minor moments, lengthy conversations, a practical joke, an anguished decision. Some were vibrant, striking images seared into the brain, others almost forgotten incidents coaxed out of the dim recesses by Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon. Not the sum total of the man, for none had shared his childhood or his early training, but the portrait of his life during his time at the Stargate project, seen as snapshots and videotape within the collective mind, experienced by all to remember the person who gave his life for his world.
The sound of slamming doors didn't register, as the others piled into cars and drove off. Time passed but the eight stood in the bright sunshine, not moving or talking, the stream of thoughts flowing until they trickled off. As the Jedi carefully broke the mental connections, the eight shifted restlessly, awakening muscles which had stiffened from standing in one place.
"He may be with the Force," Obi-Wan said quietly, "but he will always be with us in our memories."
Somber voiced, Jack added, "He was a good man, doing the best job he could."
Nods affirmed his statement as Sam hugged Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. "Thank you. That was a beautiful way to remember."
That embrace broke the stillness and for only moments, a massive group hug ensued, each person's arms stretched around several different people. Everyone squeezed and held tight to imprint this memory in their mind, basking in their united friendship but wondering if some day this moment would be shared after another funeral service. Then Hammond stepped back, once more the General, his posture military-perfect. He nodded briskly to the Jedi as the rest copied his example, detaching and coming almost to attention. "My thanks also, Master Jinn."
"And now?" Qui-Gon asked.
Janet said, "He had an aunt in Virginia. There's a wake at her house."
Qui-Gon's expression inviting more explanation, Jack continued, "A wake is like most American events. Food. Talking. That sorta thing."
"And then," Hammond said, "we do what soldiers do in war. We go back to fighting."
- the end -