“I tell ya, I’m going nuts!”
I thought my little declaration would get a bite out of Carter, but nope. A slight shudder—as though I caught her off-guard—is the most she gives me, preferring, instead, to keep her gaze fixed on whatever it is that has her so damn glued to her laptop.
Now, see, this is a change from the Carter of not so long ago. There was a time when me strolling into her lab had her straining every muscle to come to attention. It was respect back then. Now? Nadda. Don’t get me wrong, though, because her turning up in my office is a different thing. She gets all tense—checking the proverbial coast is clear of ‘our’ leg-hugging tyke—before she’ll even dare to utter a word. See, our tyke is one freshly descended and very smaller than normal archaeologist, who—for reasons we can only speculate over—has a deep seeded fear of Carter.
Last time any of us saw Daniel, he was picking off bugs with a P90 before being mysteriously zipped away. According to Carter, the Replicators beamed him up with their nifty beaming thingy. They did the same thing to her not too long ago, only back then it was a lovesick Fifth with an axe to grind and some deluded fantasy to fulfill.
Anyway, after the whole kidnapping Daniel incident, the Replicators started to make good on their plan for galactic domination and did a real number on the System Lords. If anyone expected me to get all teary-eyed over their loss, they’d be sadly mistaken. The Replicators, however, didn’t stop at snacking on Hat’aks. Nope, they decided to advance on Dakara. The Tok’ra poked their heads into proceedings—okay, just Jacob—and then Ba’al showed up for the party dressed in his gooldy best and forcing his ‘higher than thou’ attitude down our throats. Anubis got himself lost somehow; and Carter and Jacob reprogrammed the weapon at Dakara, sending a lovely message to the Replicators, who went to pieces. Literally.
Would have been quite the heroic ending if not for Jacob and Selmac checking out on life towards the end. Not taking away anything from the old General’s death, but I could feel the seams of Earth’s already shaky friendship with the Tok’ra fraying just that little bit more. All in all, it was a pretty crappy couple of days. Carter had lost her father and we’d lost Daniel.
Or so we’d thought.
Really, should have known something was up. Ya, see, during all of this there were a few freaky things that made me wonder if our formerly ethereal teammate hadn’t dipped his toes in the Ascended pond again. I was gonna kick his butt six ways to hell if he had, but at the same time, those instances of freakishness saved our collective assets.
In that moment of quiet that inevitably comes into being after such a hectic week of playing hero, what was left of SG-1, that old coot Bra’tac, and yours truly, gathered around the hallowed oak table for a briefing.
“I still don’t understand what happened,” Carter says, looking more than a little perplexed. She hates it when there’s a mystery to be solved and she doesn’t have all the clues. “One minute Anubis is about to push the button that ends all life in the galaxy and the next minutes he’s just… gone.”
Hey, I don’t have a problem with that!
“Indeed, it is a great mystery,” Teal’c readily agrees with a raised eyebrow. How does the man do that?
Bra’tac, who I never truly took for being a great believer in all this Ancient mumbo jumbo and gobbledygook, decided he’d found some faith. “One can only assume he was vanquished by some beings. If not, why would he forfeit the weapon and his army?”
Damn! I hate it when the old guy makes sense…which is most of the time. Carter obviously agrees with him, and for once, we find ourselves locking gazes in some kind of freaky understanding.
“You think?” she says to me, using my favorite catch phrase.
“I do.” Heck, what else was I supposed to say? To disagree would require me to give a reason why, and I don’t do that whole subjective reasoning thing very well.
“It’s the only thing that would explain the self destruct not going off.”
Hmm…bad wiring? Replicators in the circuitry? Bats in the belfry?
“Of what do you speak?” Bra’tac asks.
“O’Neill believes that Daniel Jackson was somehow responsible.”
I do? Sure, why not.
Before I can answer in my own defense, there is a flash of light from my office that triggers the base alarms.
“Sir?” Carter starts to stand, rubbing her eyes. “I think it came from your office.”
Really? What gave it away? The blinding flash? “Stay here,” I order in my best base commander voice. Naturally, no one listens to me. Teal’c is off down the stairs, probably looking for a weapon. Carter decides to cover my six, while Bra’tac covers hers. Old geezer!
I peer around the door jamb, expecting Thor to be sitting in my chair or a Replicator to be hanging from the light fittings, but instead—and much to my total dismay—I find a kid curled up on my desk, totally buck naked and shivering.
“Carter, get me a blanket.” My ever ‘thinking on her feet’ 2IC decides to improvise and pulls down the SGC flag, offering it up to me. “You call this a blanket?”
“Close enough,” she shrugs.
At the same moment our mysterious kid springs from my desk and all but leaps into my arms, his mouth open in a silent scream, eyes locked firmly on Carter.
~The Smallest Thread~
I gotta feel sorry for Doc Brightman. She gets this perpetual ‘deer in the headlights’ look on her face every time something new and perplexing is thrown her way. Us turning up in her infirmary with a flag shrouded kid glued firmly to my chest was one of those occasions. Much like Teal’c, the good Doc tends to speak with her eyebrows, lifting one to indicate a question, and two for something akin to ‘what the heck!’. This time, though, her face is unreadable, which is just plain scary.
She motions for me to put the kid on the nearest gurney, but my little limpet had other ideas. He’s got me in a death grip so fierce that I can feel my circulation starting to seize up.
“Here, let me try,” she offers, attempting to uncurl his fingers from my shirt. Kinda reminds me of that scene in Alien where they’re trying to peel the face sucker off the guys head, and I have an acid spurting thought as she slowly releases one finger and then the next.
Carter—all sense of timing and common sense gone down the drain—offers to help out, and even before she’s taken one step forward, the kid stiffens in my arms and head butts me in the face.
“Back up, Carter!” I order, sure he’s split my nose in two. Hands raising in surrender, Carter gets the message loud and clear and slowly moves away. In the end, and much to my relief, Brightman orders everyone out of the infirmary except me and the kid, and sets about getting us settled on a bed.
“Can you tell me what happened, General?” she asks, pen poised and ready to make notes.
Let’s see, what did happen? “Well, we lost our archaeologist and gained a kid.” I guess that about sums it up.
“You’re saying this is Doctor Jackson?”
Did I say that? “Did I say that?” Is there an echo in here?
“Well, that’s what you inferred.”
“Look, Doc. One minute we were in a briefing, next minute there’s this bright light in my office, alarms going off everywhere, and I find junior here curled up on my desk.”
“I heard the base alarms,” she says with a nod of agreement. “And you have no idea who this is?”
Said limpet appears to have fallen asleep with his head under my chin, drooling happily away on my best BDU blues.
“Not a clue,” I say with all confidence.
“So, not Doctor Jackson then?”
“Well, if it is, he’s lost a little weight, not to mention some height.”
As she’s scrawling away on her notepad, she mumbles, “Not the strangest thing I’ve seen around here.”
I pretend I didn’t hear her. “What was that?”
She looks up at me. “Nothing, sir. I’ll need to get a blood sample from him.”
“Yeah, and you might want to check for bombs in the teeth… you know, that sort of thing. Wouldn’t be the first time the goold have used a kid to get at us.”
“You think the Goa’uld beamed him into your office?”
“No, I think this kid was descended into my office, but that shouldn’t stop you from checking him out anyway.”
“Yeah, the whole naked thing is a bit of a giveaway. When Shamda and his goat boys found Daniel, they said his arrival was preceded by a bright flash of light, before he appeared on the ground, buck naked.”
Slightly puzzled, she replies slowly, “I guess that makes sense.”
Hallelujah! Someone gets the whole naked thing. Now perhaps she can explain it to the rest of us. “It does?”
“Well, it makes sense as to why you would think he was descended.”
Do’h! So close! “How ‘bout you stick him while I hold on tight for the ride. Unless you think zatting him might be a better option?” I am kidding, of course.
“General, zatting isn’t a recognized or approved form of sedation.”
The woman does not understand my brand of humor.
~Pulling the Thread~
Doc opted for a quick jab of her ‘approved’ sedation, before she ran the kid through every test known to mankind, and a few I’m sure she made up along the way. At that point I was starting to wonder if Fraiser had left a handbook of ‘how to do’ in her office before she died. Wouldn’t surprise me really, woman was a true legend.
Limpet, as I’ve christened him, has been unfurled from his flag and draped in an over-sized pair of scrubs with the arms and legs rolled up.
“You can stand down the bomb squad, General.” Brightman returns Limpet’s chart to the slot at the end of the bed and moves to check on the monitors she’s attached him to. “There was nothing abnormal in his preliminary blood work.”
“No bombs hidden in teeth, odd mechanical heart doodads?”
“He’s a perfectly normal human child of approximately five years of age.”
“What about his DNA?”
“Well, it’s safe to say he has some,” she replies, deadpan.
Damn! She does understand my humor! I’m in the company of a professional comedian.
She gives me a small smile, the first I’ve seen from her since she took over the CMO position from Fraiser.
“The DNA will take a while longer.”
Really? Well, that’s sworn me off all those Maury Povich ‘Who’s your daddy’ programs for life. “Then when can we expect him to wake up?”
Brightman nods towards the bed. “He’s awake now.”
What? I turn my attention back to Limpet, who is staring up at me from under a whorl of bed head hair, one hand curled under his chin. I’m not sure why I didn’t notice this the first time we locked eyes in my office—perhaps it was the whole naked kid on my desk, alarms blaring, blinding light drama—but he has the most brilliant blue eyes. That is, once I’ve pushed aside a few unruly blond bangs to find them.
I hook a plastic chair with my foot and drag it over, parking my weary butt alongside his bed. “Hey,’ I offer in my best caring tone. “You got a name?”
Limpet blinks slowly and licks his lips, and I’m pretty sure he’s going to answer me.
But he says nothing.
“Okay, well, I’m Jack,” I say, pointing to my chest as if to emphasize my identity. “And this,” I toss a thumb over my shoulder at Brightman, “is Doctor Brightman.”
“I don’t think he understands you, sir.”
Really? What gave that away? “You wanna try?”
“He either can’t understand you or can’t hear you.”
“Oh, he can hear alright. How do you explain his reaction to Carter? He definitely heard her before he saw her.”
“You didn’t mention that.”
“I didn’t think it was relevant or I would have.”
Brightman steps in closer and crouches down to his eye level, and for a moment it looks like she is going to pull out her penlight of death and blind the poor kid with it.
“Hello,” she whispers. Now, see, I tried that and it didn’t work.
Limpet, living up to his new name, fixes his gaze firmly on me and appears to ignore her completely. I start to wonder if this is a woman thing he’s got going here, although he hasn’t done that whole stiff as a board and scared witless routine with Brightman.
She stands back up and moves away, telling me she has other patients and that if I have other duties to attend to, she’ll have one of her nurses’ sit with him. I check the time on the wall.
“Na, I’m good,” I say, looking first at the kid and then back at her. “Shoulda bugged out of here a few hours ago.”
After the doc has left, I turn back to Limpet to find him asleep again, hand still tucked under his chin and those errant bangs of his falling against his eye lashes. Whoever this kid is, he’s going to be a real lady-killer when he grows up.
“This is a joke, right?” I had an inkling Brightman was a comedian at heart, despite her outwardly cool exterior, but this has gone beyond funny and all the way up to cosmic giddiness. “Oh, I get it.” I waggle a finger in front of my face, a sure sign that I’m on to her attempt at humor. “You think because there’s one of me running about the place that Daniel might like his own… Daniel.” Why doesn’t that sound right? “Right. Gotcha. Did Carter put you up to this, because it’s just the kinda thing she’d do.”
Funny. Brightman doesn’t look amused. “General, if you’d like, I can have Doctor Warner read over these results again and confirm them for you?”
I'm trying my best not to do that whole squinty-eyed, brow-furrowing thing. You know the one that makes it look like I’m so utterly confused that everyone thinks it’s a put on and I actually know more than I pretend to? Oh, they don’t know how wrong they are.
I swallow hard and tear my gaze away from Limpet. “You’re trying to tell me that this… kid… is Daniel?” Huh! I’ve just discovered that I can talk and laugh maniacally at the same time. I think this is what is loosely called desperation.
“The DNA is a perfect match.”
“We’re not seeing any sign of the genetic drift that is present in the DNA of a clone, so… no.”
“Okay, so what happened to the rest of him? You can’t just shrink a person.”
Brightman looks slightly exasperation. “As this is my first downsizing case, I don’t have any clear answers for you.”
“What about the unclear ones?” Yep, definitely desperation.
“You, yourself, thought the child had descended, so I can only assume something in the process went wrong and resulted in de-aging Doctor Jackson. Or—”
“There’s an or?”
“Or perhaps he was deliberately sent back this way.”
She has a point, albeit a very small one. “You know, this isn’t Daniel’s first trip down Ascension Avenue. He’s been there and got the t-shirt to prove it.”
“I know that. You’re point?”
I step away from the bed and motion for Brightman to follow. No way do I want the kid listening in on this conversation. “My point is that the first time he ascended, he had to die first. Now, with that in mind, it would stand to reason that the Replicators had him killed or were at least responsible for his death.”
It's clear Brightman didn’t understand. “I need to speak to Colonel Carter. Call me when he wakes up. No, wait… I’ll have Teal’c come and sit with him.”
“We’re more than capable of looking after him, General.”
“If this is Daniel, then no, I’m not sure you are.”
~Picking at Threads~
So, here I am in Carter’s lab, ranting about my impending psychological breakdown and subsequent move to mental health, while she pretends to totally ignore me.
At least I think she’s pretending.
“Yo!” I snap my fingers in front of her screen. “Carter!”
She looks up slowly from the monitor and gives me a half-smile. “Sir?”
“You didn’t hear me come in?”
“Are you mad?”
“So, you did hear me?”
“No, sir. I mean, yes, sir. You said you thought you were going mad.”
Hey, no thought required here, it’s more a statement of fact. “I am going mad.”
“Why is that?”
“You haven’t heard?”
Carter goes back to tapping on her keyboard, which I was pretty sure she's doing just to look busy. “About what?” she says without looking up.
I snag a stool and sit down heavily. Her desk is a clutter of bits and pieces from who knows what, and I set about playing with it all, mostly because I like annoying the heck out of her.
“Yup,” I say, chasing an odd looking battery around her stapler, past her coffee mug, and through some weird alien doohickey that probably should have been crated off to Area 51 years ago.
“Could I have that back?”
“What? This thing?” I tap the battery once, before sending it off on its little obstacle course again.
“Yes.” She plucks the battery up as it rounds the doohickey, heading for home base. “It’s a prototype power core for an Earth-based version of a zat gun.”
“We have those?” Am I not getting memos again? Walter!
“No, sir. We have prototypes, nothing operational.”
“Oh, cool!” Stand down, Walter.
She puts the battery away in the top draw of her desk and leaves me looking for something new to annoy her with.
“So,” she says, sitting back on her stool. “What was it you wanted to tell me?”
“It’s about Daniel.”
Carter sits up straight, her attention now firmly focused on me. “What about him?”
“Well, he’s alive and... well.”
“He is? Why didn’t you tell me? Where is he?”
“Whoa, slow it down here, Carter! My brain can only process one question at a time.”
“Sorry, sir. It’s just that I can’t believe no one told me he was back. Do we know where he’s been?”
“That I can’t answer, but I can tell you where he is.”
“You can? That’s great!”
“He’s in the infirmary.”
She starts to slide off her stool. “Ah, not so fast,” I say before she can make a break for the door. “You can’t see him.”
“Well, because the last time you got close to him, he nearly split my face in half.”
“He nearly…” Confusion quickly gives way to realization or, in Carter’s case, the light bulb doesn't so much as flick on but explode. “The boy in your office?”
“Yup. The very one. Brightman just confirmed his DNA is a perfect match for Daniel’s. And, before you say it… no, he’s not a clone.”
“Impossible! I know!”
“The Ancient’s did this. They had to have.”
Same conclusion I came to, but I want to know her reasoning. “Besides the fact he descended, what makes you think that?”
“Daniel told us that lessers—us mere humans—aren’t capable of ascension without assistance, so it stands to reason that descension would require the same level of intervention. Unless, of course, Daniel figured out how to do it on his own.”
“You think that’s possible?”
“I’d only be speculating, sir, but it does stand to reason that his body might remember what it was like to ascend and descend, making it possible for him to do so on his own.”
“Bit of a stretch, don’t you think?”
Carter shrugs, clearly not taken by her own brilliant reasoning. “Yeah, like I said, it’s pure speculation.”
“Let’s assume that he can’t ascend and descend on his own.”
“So?” Help me out here, Carter.
“So, if he can’t do it on his own, that would mean that he had to have help.” She pauses for a brief moment of brow furrowing and lip chewing. This is Carter in her deductive reasoning mode, which means I need to brace myself for one of her rambling sessions. “If he had to have help,” she continues on, “then he had to have been dying at the time. Oh my god, sir, the Replicators killed him, and if they didn’t then he had to have died when we activated the weapon on Dakara! They beamed him to one of their ships, which would have disintegrated when the beam hit it!”
Give the girl a kewpie doll! No, wait…
“I don’t suppose you’ve got some brilliant theory as to why Daniel is now a five year old? Archaeologists don’t just get smaller in the cosmic wash. I mean, that’s a hell of a lot of shrinkage we’re talking about here.”
“Is it possible something went wrong during the descension process?”
“I’m the one asking the questions, Carter.” I’m also the one clutching at straws and then mentally turning them into little stick figures out of sheer frustration.
“Then I don’t know. The only person that knows anything about the ascension and descension process is Daniel, and he only knew it while he was ascended.”
“Ah, yes. Amnesia is such a pain in the butt.”
“In the case of his ascended memory, I don’t think the amnesia was to blame.”
Carter shrugs. Daniel was sure his ascended memory had been taken from him as punishment for his actions on Abydos. Fraiser, on the other hand, was more clinical in her assessment, and theorized that his brain wasn’t able to hold the knowledge while he was in his human form. She had my experience with that damn head sucker device to back her up. As for me? I blame magnets.
Well, I would have… had I been asked.
~Annoying Little Threads~
I’ve gotta get used to thinking of this kid as Daniel. Not an easy task, considering the last version we had to play with was more mature and came complete with a P90 and a slightly jaded view of the galaxy. He was a seasoned explorer, academic, and collector of rocks, all of which made him a handy guy to have in the field.
What we have now is anyone’s guess.
Have to hand it to Teal’c; he certainly has a way with kids. Not a very successful way, but he’s putting in a monumental effort to drag some kind of response outta him. I can’t tell from this distance, what with my hearing not quite what it used to be, but I think he’s fallen back on his old Setesh guard joke. Talk about scraping the bottom of the comic relief barrel!
“Hey, Teal’c.” I toss a thumb over my shoulder in the universal sigh for ‘get outta my chair’ and he acquiesces with a nod. “Wanna see what Carter is up to?”
“Is she in need of assistance, O’Neill?”
No, she’s tapping random keys on her laptop to present the illusion of being busy. “Well, no… not exactly.”
“Then I would prefer to remain here in the company of young Daniel Jackson.”
“Suit yourself.” I squish my butt back into an infirmary chair and slide in closer to Daniel’s bed. Now, it’s not that I mind being ignored, but I could have sworn he was facing Teal’c when I first came in.
“Hey,” I say with a tap to his too-small shoulder. He shudders under my touch, but after a moment of what I take as hesitation, he turns to face me, eyes hooded under his mop of a fringe. “How you doin’ there, buddy?”
As predicted, the best Daniel gives me is a long stare, punctuated every so often by a slow blink. It’s not that I’m not used to this type of reaction from his adult self, but I was kinda hoping this sort of behavior was something he’d picked up later in life. I guess not.
“Afternoon, General.” Brightman scares me six ways to hell by sneaking up and announcing her arrival from right behind my chair. Damn that woman and her stealth abilities!
“Doc,” I manage to drawl, after pulling myself together. “Do the words ‘Napoleonic Power-monger’ mean anything to you?”
“Not particularly, General. Should they?”
“Only if you believe in reincarnation.” See, I have this theory that Fraiser didn’t die, but instead transferred herself into Brightman in some bizarre attempt to carry on in her self-appointed job of bamboozling base commanders. She did a fine job on Hammond from time to time. Me? I saw right though her. Cough… right.
Brightman pushes past me, seemingly ignoring my comment. Her gaze drifts down to Daniel, who is still watching us from under his unkempt hair, and then back over to me. “General, nothing surprises me anymore, not even reincarnation.”
Ah ha! Janet Fraiser is alive and well!
“However…” Uh, oh… “If you’re using the term in reference to the firm hand my predecessor wielded while in charge of the infirmary, then yes, I do believe I know the phrase quite well.”
Nuts! RIP, doc. I had such high hopes that you might have—
Brightman looks up from her note making. “General?”
“Did you hear that?”
She raises her brow questioningly at me. “I didn’t hear anything, sir.”
The big guy stares blankly at me, which either means he has all the answers or none at all. A little hard to tell at times, but I’m taking the lack of dialog as a sign he heard nothing.
My earlier fears of slowly going nuts are coming to fruition.
Okay! Now I definitely heard that! I look at Daniel who is looking at me. It’s a kinda super-freaky stare off, which I lose because he can hold his gaze way longer than me.
“He’s hungry.” I’m still caught in a staring contest with the kid.
“Doctor Jackson is hungry?”
No, the janitor on level 17 is hungry. “Yep.”
“And you know this how?”
Let’s review the facts here. I heard something that neither the doc nor T did. Okay, make that fact… singular. So, either I’m going nuts—the most likely explanation—or this kid has found his way into my mind.
My two remaining brain cells are quivering in fear.
Oh! Nope! Make that one.
“Hmm?” Dang! Day dreaming again.
“I asked you how you knew Doctor Jackson was hungry.”
Let’s try a new tactic here. “Am I the only one who finds it weird to be calling a five year old ‘doctor’?”
Brightman doesn’t miss a beat. “His title isn’t in question, sir.”
No, just my sanity. Oh, I know! I hold up my watch for her to see. “Kids like to eat frequently and I figure he must be getting a little peckish.”
She hesitantly nods her agreement; eyes slighted just enough to tell me that she’s not quite buying my reasoning, but is prepared to let me off the hook. Phew.
“I’ll see what I can find for him.” She’s so deadpan that I sometimes wonder if she was hiding when personalities were being handed out.
“You know,” I say, turning back to Daniel who is still engaged in a stare-off, “if you’d said you were hungry just a little louder, I wouldn’t be sitting here looking at an impending psych evaluation.”
Daniel finally breaks the stare and gives me a slow blink as though he’s fighting to stay awake. He turns his head towards the pillow and, for an instant, I’m fairly sure his lunch would have to become supper and he settles in for a nap, but…
“Doc’s gone to get you something.”
“Soon? I don’t think she’ll be long. Think you can stay awake that long?”
“Sure doesn’t look like it.”
“Really?” I pull the blanket up over his shoulders and tuck it in around his neck, taking a moment to smooth the hair away from his face. He feels slightly cold to the touch, but with all the gadgets Brightman has attached to him, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t need my input.
Hey, kinda forgot the big guy was standing there. “T?”
“Are you unwell?”
“Unwell? Ah, no, well… the knees, the back, some niggling sciatica. You know how it goes.” I pray to whoever is tuned in to this conversation that Brightman isn’t taking note of my litany of aches. “Why do you ask?”
“You were engaged in a conversation with yourself.”
“I was?” I was? Appears I still am.
Well, that can’t be right. “And you didn’t hear Daniel speak just now?”
“I did not.”
“You didn’t hear him thank me and then ask how long until lunch?”
“I heard you respond in a manner that would imply such statements were made, but I did not see nor hear Daniel Jackson respond.”
Teal’c is doing that staring down his nose ‘thing’ he does to me from time to time. The one that tells me I’d better believe what he’s said for my own sake.
“I think I’m going nuts!”
Dang! Did I just say that out loud?
“That was my conclusion, also.”
Gee thanks, Teal’c.
“And this is the commissary.” My announcement, complete with a theatrical sweep of the arm to encompass a room currently full of snacking Marines, seems to be lost on Daniel. He’s holding onto my other hand with a bone-breaking grip, hiding himself behind me as though he doesn’t want anyone to see him. I can’t see his eyes from this angle, but I know Daniel, and despite his obvious fear of what is going on around him, I can just imagine his keen eye is taking in every little detail.
Teal’c waves us over from a table he’s procured in the quietest corner of the room, and I can already see he’s stocked up with a supply of Daniel’s favorite foods, minus coffee. Like Carter, Daniel—the adult version—was kinda partial to Jell-O. Initially, I thought those two had nutted out some food related prank just to annoy me—matching desserts, matching IQs, matching BDUs—but Daniel’s request for pineapple flavored Jell-O put paid to that ridiculous notion. I mean, sheesh, who likes pineapple flavored anything? It didn’t stop the commissary captain from promptly ordering it in by the box load, though. Favoritism has always been alive and well when it concerns one Doctor Jackson.
I deftly usher my little limpet through the Marine obstacle course and over to our table, noting his head is still buried in the crook of my arm and his grip is now approaching vice-like proportions. An extraction crew might be necessary.
Teal’c pushes out a chair and I set about gently persuading Daniel to park his butt down.
“Oh, for the… Daniel will you just sit down?” I didn't mean to raise my voice, but the lack of blood flowing to my hand was becoming life-threatening.
“Perhaps Daniel Jackson would prefer to sit on your lap, O’Neill.”
Oh, great idea there, Teal’c. Just encourage the kid why don’t ya? I was never a fan of letting Charlie sit on my lap at the table when he was in a ‘mood’, so there is no way I'm going to let Daniel get away with it.
In perfect synchronization, a dozen Marines turn their attention on me. “What?” I snap, wondering if I’d been thinking out loud again. It wouldn’t be a first.
While I ponder my next witty retort to a room full of Jarheads, Daniel has unglued himself from my side and slid into the chair closest the wall. He’s all curled up there like a cat, his blond bangs falling over his eyes, and his far-too-big scrubs dangling down over his wrists. I don’t know how many times between the infirmary and here we’d stopped to roll the sleeves up, only to have them dragging on the floor a few minutes later. Brightman promised Daniel some user-friendly clothes, but conceded he’d have to put up with the scrubs until she could shop for him.
I tried to ignore the painfully loud “oohs” and “aahs” of the nursing contingent in the infirmary. Daniel plus blue scrubs as always equals overzealous female adoration.
Daniel breaks me from my procrastination by playing with a cup. He turns it upside down, around and around, and then peers into it longingly.
Had to happen. To be honest, I’m surprised he hadn’t asked earlier, especially when Reynolds dropped by for a visit sporting a Vente sized Café something-or-rather from Starbucks.
“Juice,” I offer as a poor substitute, knowing full well I’m going to be hit with the glare from hell. Teal’c doesn’t give him time to respond, instead grabbing the carafe and pouring a liberal amount into Daniel’s cup, smiling with his eyebrows.
Lunch is a tug-of-war match. Everything I suggest is met with stern resistance, but somehow Teal’c manages to get enough down Daniel’s throat to keep Brightman off our backs for a while. The encore performance being a sizeable serving of pineapple Jell-O.
So, as I sit here watching Daniel coat his place with sauce and mustard, a trick I like to think he learned from me, my mind wanders to Carter. She’s dying to see Daniel, but I can’t say the kid is thrilled at the prospect. I took a team picture to him while he was still holed up in the infirmary and attached to Brightman’s gadgets and widgets, and the reaction from him was pretty… intense.
He took flight faster that we could think and scrambled his way to the very top of the bed. Leads flew off and alarms wailed in protest all around us. The picture was trampled in the eschewing chaos, but that was nothing to the look of sheer horror on Daniel’s pale face. Brightman had managed to connect up her pulse oxy thingamajig, and called for a sedative when the numbers started flashing ‘Danger Will Robinson’ at her in red. Daniel, meantime, had curled himself up and was clinging onto the headboard like it was a lifeline. Teal’c and I tried to detach him from the railing, but his fingers were so rigid that I was afraid of breaking them. In the end, the doc was choiceless and a sedative was the only way to settle Daniel down. Cowardice got the better of me, and when Brightman was handed the syringe, I turned away.
~Threads of Many Colors~
“All the colors of the rainbow in one kid-sized pack.”
I’m pretty much a legend at my local Walmart, especially in the craft department. Me and Crayola, well, we’re the best of buddies. I used to buy them for Charlie, and then for Cassie when she was living with Doc Fraiser, and not to mention a whole planet of Orbanian kids that put a serious dent in my credit card. Try getting reimbursed from the Air Force for several thousand dollars worth of crayons! Filling out forms in triplicate is nothing compared to explaining why you bought them in the first place, without, I might add, breaking the almighty non-disclosure agreement. Funny how the finance department readily accepted my excuse that arming Marines with crayons was the first stage to teaching them the fine art of writing mission reports.
Daniel is sitting at my desk, his legs swinging back and forth as he scribbles on page after page of my printer paper. It was all I could find at the time, and infinitely better than coloring on the classified mission file he found first. I couldn’t have cared less, and I’m sure Dave Reynolds would have appreciated the irony of a kid scrawling all over his carefully worded notes, considering he has quite a brood, himself.
Teal’c felt it was important to let Daniel express himself through drawing, and knowing his older self’s affinity for the written word and any chicken scratchings he could find, I guess I can see the point. Brightman agreed, and so here we are. Actually, it’s pretty hard to hide behind an impassive mask and not be taken by the seriousness Daniel is devoting to his latest masterpiece. I can just see his tongue peeking out from between his teeth, which he occasionally uses to lick his lips; and his brow is knotted in either thought… or a need to take a trip to the bathroom.
He treats the Crayola pack like something to revere, carefully replacing each crayon once he’s through with it. I can’t quite see what he’s drawing, so I let my curiosity get the better or me and reach for the nearest picture. Daniel looks up at me through his curly bangs with a quizzical expression on his face, and I wonder for a moment if he’s about to tell me off for touching his stuff. He opens his mouth and I think he’s about to speak, but he shuts it quickly goes back to his drawings.
As I cast my finely honed kiddy-art eye over Daniel’s work, Teal’c looks over my shoulder and nods thoughtfully, apparently impressed with what he sees. Daniel has drawn a sandcastle; well… that’s what it looks like to me. A collection of buildings of various sizes, all colored in earthy beige tones. I think back to Charlie at this age and I’m forced to concede that Daniel’s drawing skills are pretty advanced in comparison. I’m so busy trying to figure out the meaning of the picture that I only just catch Daniel passing another drawing to Teal’c. He’s insistent, virtually crawling out of his chair and onto the desk to thrust the image in Teal’c’s face, one finger stabbing at the blue blob in the center. Teal’c takes the drawing and nods his thanks, but I can see a current of underlying concern in his eyes as he takes in the details.
“O’Neill,” he says quietly, gaze fixed on the drawing. “I believe young Daniel Jackson is trying to tell us something.”
“What you got there, T?”
Teal’c hands the picture to me and I can see that besides the blue blob there is also a caricature of a person with blond hair. Carter? The blob is more of a cylindrical shape with something like long feelers coming out the front.
“This image resembles the Replicator ship that kidnapped Colonel Carter while you were being held at the Ancient outpost,” Teal’c suggests softly.
“Indeed. Did you not come across an image of the vessel in the Daniel Jackson’s computer when your consciousness was transferred by Thor?”
“Oh, probably, but you know me and mind uploads and downloads. Don’t remember a thing.”
Teal’c grumbles and looks up at Daniel, who is head down and sketching furiously, one hand covering his work as though he’s hiding the answer to a math's test. “The reason for his distress with Colonel Carter is now clear to me.”
It is? “Wanna clue me in here, buddy?” I have my own theory, but was hoping not to share until I had something concrete to offer.
“I believe it was the replicator version of Colonel Carter who kidnapped Daniel Jackson.”
The crayon in Daniel’s hand snaps loudly, the pieces falling onto the table.
~Unraveling the Thread~
Hmm. Carter isn’t taking the news as well as I’d hoped. We’ve known about RepliSam (as I’ve chosen to call her) for some time now. Hell, Carter nearly ballsed up her career not too long ago by letting her Lego twin gain access to the Alpha site computer. It’s all old news now, and yeah, Fifth did meet his maker, but Carter barely got out of jail free there and I know she’s still keeping a mental check on her actions in the field. What do they say? Once bitten, twice shy… yadda.
No escaping the look on her face right now as she tries to internalize the news. Shock and realization all rolled into one makes for an interesting sight, especially when you’re not on the receiving end.
“Yep. You wanna see the pictures he drew?” I strum my fingers on the folder I’d deposited on her workbench, while trying to gauge what her reaction will be from her carefully schooled expression. “Kid should take up cartooning for the Simpson’s. Think he’d draw a mean Burns.”
Carter levels me with a hardened gaze and I unconsciously squirm under her scrutiny. Can’t quite tell what she’s thinking now, but she reaches out towards the folder and then pulls her hand back before making contact.
“So,” she clips, keeping her lips bunched for a moment. “You mean to tell me that you and Teal’c figured this out from a bunch of pictures Daniel drew? Nothing more concrete than that?”
Well, I wouldn’t quite put it so harshly, but yeah. “It’s a common and proven psychoanalytical approach, adopted quite extensively by child psychologists around the world.” Geez, did I just say all that? That’s my quota of big words used for the day.
“I know that, sir, but this isn’t your average child and this isn’t a typical situation. We don’t know where Daniel has been or even is this truly is him.”
“You don’t trust Brightman’s test results?”
“It’s not a matter of trust, but more knowing that we simply don’t have the ability to test for every eventuality. We can test a person’s DNA and compare it to what we have on file, but that in no way excludes the results from being accurate.”
“We make do with what we’ve got, Carter.”
“Exactly!” She stands abruptly and strides away from her workbench, beginning what I know will be an irritating pace of her office. “Just because the results say he’s not a clone…”
“Doesn’t mean he isn’t one created with a technology we don’t know about?”
She pauses mid-stride. “Too farfetched for you, sir?”
You betcha. “I’m not the one having trouble with all of this.”
Carter goes off in a wide arc and swings herself back around to the bench, pausing with her hand over the folder and looking at up for me as though she needs my permission to open it up.
Annoys the crap out of me. “Unless you’ve got x-ray vision, I’d suggest the tried and tested method. Just open the damn folder, Carter.”
She huffs her annoyance and flips the cover over. The first picture, and one that Daniel drew after the sketch of the Replicator ship, shows an image of what Teal’c and I have decided is our adult Daniel, dressed resplendently in his robes from Vis Uban. The blue is a giveaway there. Next to Daniel is a crudely drawn likeness of Carter, complete with her hand firmly wrapped around his. At least to my untrained eyes, that’s what it looks like.
“Her hair is shorter,” Carter grumbles, turning the picture one way and then the other, like it might make a difference.
“She’s a Replicator, Carter. I doubt her hair actually grows.”
Carter shrugs off the suggestion and stares at the image for a while longer before her face drops and she sags back onto her chair, defeated. “It’s her.”
“I knew the moment the beam struck him that it was the Replicators. I guess I just didn’t think it was her.”
“We’ve been over this, Carter. There was no way of truly knowing how many of these creatures were lurking around the galaxy in one form or another. Heck, I’m surprised they didn’t try and infiltrate Earth and the SGC. Wouldn’t have been too hard to replace one of our own, and we both know the possibility always existed.”
“Maybe not, but I should have realized she was behind Daniel’s disappearance. And really, it makes perfect sense.”
It does? I note Carter doesn’t make an effort to look at the other pictures in the folder, instead continuing to scrutinize this one.
“How's that?” I ask, attempting to draw out her conclusions. Blood from a stone sometimes.
“Because she’s essentially me and it can’t be a coincidence that the Replicators set course for Dakara at the same time the Goa’uld did. They were both after the same thing and, if I was her, Daniel would be the one to provide the intel she needs.”
“What type of intel?”
“We already know the Replicators can gain access to our minds through physical interfacing.” That’s Carter’s fancy way of saying they stick their grubby hands in our brains. “So imagine what she could find if she did the same thing to Daniel?”
Well, certainly not last week’s hockey scores. Another match unwatched all because this little planet has suddenly turned into hub central for the galaxy’s most over stated and worst dressed enemies. Oh, and the Tok’ra… can’t forget them. I think my eyes must have glazed over or done something funky because Carter rolls her eyes at me and continues on like I need her question to be spelled out clearly for me.
“His ascended memories?”
And a bell rings somewhere in my mind. “Oh!” Wait! I pull the folder open and rifle through Daniel’s collective masterpieces, searching for one particular drawing. “Remind you of anything?” I ask, and slide the image what I think is a set of ruins over to her.
She studies the drawing closely, doing that whole turn it this way and that thing again, before finally settling on one particular angle.
“Dakara?” she says with a fair degree of hesitation in her voice.
“I couldn’t tell at first.” Who are we kidding here? I didn’t have a clue. “But if Dakara is one of the earliest Ancient outposts in this neck of the woods, then I figure Daniel would have known about it when he was…” I waggle my finger at the ceiling. “All knowing and glowing.”
“You think she knew about Dakara all along or dragged it from Daniel’s mind?”
“How the hell do I know what a Replicator thinks, Carter?” I hesitate to add that knowing what goes on in her mind would easily be enough to scare me off, and that goes doubly for her… double. Damn Lego blocks! “I think we’re wandering off the path here. The fact is she kidnapped Daniel for his Ancient knowledge.”
“So, he’s probably remembering his own interrogation at her hands. Well,” she says with a throaty sigh, between rubbing her eyes with the heels of her palms, “I guess from a child’s perspective that would be a very scary thing to remember.”
“Pretty sure I wouldn’t care for remembering her interrogation techniques at any age.”
Carter shifts back on her stool and rubs her hands down her BDU pants. It’s almost a subconscious action because I can tell she’s still mentally working through everything I’ve presented her with. I wonder if her palms are genuinely sweaty or she’s trying to wipe away imagined blood spilled by her replicator self.
“Yeah?” she says after a beat, lifting her gaze to meet mine.
“There’s something else you need to see.”
She looks confused, but reaches for the folder probably thinking that there is more there for her to see. I pull her hand away and shake my head at her silent inquiry. It’s a sin of omission on my part, but Teal’c agreed with my judgment and decided his time would be better spent with Daniel, leaving me to reveal the kid’s fate to Carter.
I withdraw a piece of paper from my breast pocket and unfold it gently, almost making each action deliberate and time consuming. I don’t mean to draw out her curiosity like this, but there’s no other way for me to adequately convey that what she’s about to see is going to be painful in oh so many ways.
Taking one last look at the image, I lay it flat on the table and get up off my seat. Unfortunately, this is one moment Carter will have to savor herself, because I’m fairly certain there is nothing I can say that will help deflect the guilt she’s about to feel. We all know she isn’t responsible for what happened to Daniel, but he died at the hands of someone wearing her face… and that’s the clearest memory he has.
Children are innocent, and this picture doesn’t lie. Daniel has drawn this moment like he’s standing outside of his own body and taking note of every detail, every nuance. No longer dressed in his robes, he has on his black shirt and matching BDU pants, and is standing face to face with RepliSam. Like everything else he’s sketched, the figure representing his adult self is quite accurate, if not a little cartoonish. RepliSam is crude, her face a mash of colors topped off with shockingly short yellow hair.
It’s the Terminator-like blade jutting from her hand and impaling Daniel that fully tells the story of his last moment alive.
I feel lost and it is not an emotion I would care to discuss with either O’Neill or Colonel Carter. Solitude is what I desire; the time to process the measure of separation I am feeling towards Daniel Jackson, and the unnatural silence that has fallen between us.
If I were to adequately sum up the events of the last few days, then my best response would be to acknowledge that I miss our often one-sided, but very animated discussions. There is something innately soothing when watching my friend take the smallest thread of information and weave it into something incredulous.
The unspoken bond O’Neill has with this young incarnation of Daniel Jackson is something I do not share, to my disappointment. I am not sure what passes between them, nor can I tell whether it is an exchange of words or emotions; this is not something O’Neill has chosen to share. However, the boy has been left in my care while O’Neill sees to Colonel Carter, and I can see a depth of understanding in his eyes that tells me no physical communication is really needed.
Daniel Jackson’s office is as he left it, much like it was when he first ascended. It is not a time I care to reflect on with much more than a passing thought. Death, as O’Neill would put it, is a one-way street, and grief can be measured by the worth of what we have lost. How do you accept what has been returned to you when you are still mourning its loss? I will admit it is an experience I never wished to live through again, but one for which I clearly have no say in. Daniel Jackson is back… again… but he is not someone I quite recognize.
“Daniel Jackson,” I say softly, not wanting to break him harshly from his in-depth study of the case of books that line his office. “Should you wish, you may take some of these books to your room. I believe the light there would provide a better environment for you to read them.”
He pauses with one hand just short of touching the spine of a leather-bound book and the other grasping the shelf as leverage. I know he heard me because from my vantage point I can see his brow creasing in thought. I believe my suggestion was quite clear and yet it is eliciting more concentration from the boy than I would have anticipated. Perhaps, in that respect, there is much more in common between the child and his adult self than I had credited.
He passes over his initial reading choice and continues along the shelf, pausing every few moments to inspect a particular volume or subject. I almost wonder if he is looking for something in particular. A momentary distraction comes when the door to the office creaks on its hinges as O’Neill enters the room. Wordlessly he juts his chin in Daniel Jackson’s direction and lifts one eyebrow questioningly.
Keeping my tone low and even, I tell him “I believe Daniel Jackson is seeking a particular book.”
“He has not chosen to share.”
“Not sharing his toys, eh? Oh, Daniel?” O’Neill sidles up to the workbench and hooks a stool with his foot. “Whatcha’ looking for?”
The moment is surreal. I can see it in their facial expressions and feel a pang of regret at once again being left out of their conversation. Words, expressions, feelings are being passed between the two and yet nothing is being said.
“Well,” O’Neill says after a few minutes, his face twisted into a sour expression. “Can’t say that was very nice.”
“Something is wrong?” I ask in the hopes of being let into their silent repartee.
“Nothing I’d care to repeat verbatim.”
“He appears preoccupied.”
Daniel Jackson turns towards us with a book in his hand, his gaze sliding from O’Neill to me and back again. The book he carries is small and bound in some type of animal hide that has started to disintegrate with age and excessive handling. He caresses the cover, fingers dancing along the spine and over faded gold lettering that is mostly unreadable.
The stool O’Neill was about to sit on is forgotten as he locks gazes with Daniel Jackson once again. He pales, all color draining from his face as he blindly seeks the edge of the workbench for support. “No,” he breathes on the exhale, the softly spoken word cutting the air like loud music. “Cursum perficio?”
“What?” he mumbles and blinks slowly, reacting as though he is not quite sure he heard me. “Cursum perficio. I know I shouldn’t know what it means, but I do.”
“I trust that you will at least share the meaning?”
Daniel Jackson opens the small book and rifles through the pages briefly, stopping at a particular point and handing the book to O’Neill, a sad smile tugging at his lips.
The pages are written in Latin, which Daniel Jackson once explained is the modern version of the language of the Ancients. O’Neill reads a passage and swallows hard. Closing his eyes, he snaps the book shut and repeats like mantra, “No, no, no… this has to be wrong. It's wrong, isn’t it, Daniel?”
The blond curls that fall down over Daniel Jackson’s face seemed so endearing hours earlier when we shared a meal in the commissary, but now they reveal eyes that plead forgiveness and hide a sorrow I cannot understand.
Beside me, O’Neill radiates fear like a beacon in the night. “It means ‘My journey is over’.”
“How’s things… h-how have you been?”
I could have sworn I hit the sack after an evening of a few too many conciliatory vodkas and three pieces of stale pecan pie that should have been tossed out with the commissary’s week-old meatloaf and three veg. The vodka was Russian bootleg, courtesy of Colonel Chekov and his need to encourage the forging of strong diplomatic ties through mutually painful hangovers. Rough? Burn the fleas off an Unas. Good old Abydonian moonshine has nothing on this stuff.
Mercifully, the bottle was only half full. Unfortunately, I’ll be forever emotionally scarred by the memory of being tucked into bed by a towering Jaffa sporting the eyebrow of intense ridicule. Don’t think I’ll ever live down burping vodka and pecan pie fumes in his face, either.
“Good actually. Well… maybe a little less than good. You?”
“Oh, you know how things are in the afterlife.”
“So, you’re dead?”
“Technically yes… and no.”
As far as conversations go, this one is positively bizarre. Why? Because I’m asleep. I know this; can sense myself lying on my bed with the limpet barely a few feet away in his, and Teal’c sitting guard on the floor between us. That's the last thing I remembered before starting my inevitable slide towards a morning hangover.
“Nothing is ever black and white with you, is it?”
“Jack, I need your help.”
Daniel old pal, old chum, part-time poltergeist, remember that lovely padded cell you called home for a few days? Nice crisp white walls and floor. Soft on the butt, well… soft on just about everything. That’s the kind of help I need right now.
“I’m asleep, aren’t I?”
“Yes, but that’s not the point.”
Don’t you love it when Daniel’s in the zone and everything he needs to get out has to be done at light speed? He rolls his hands over and over as though the mere act might help him speak faster. Yep, good old Daniel of the Clan Luigi has more hand signals than a school for the deaf or a meeting of the Italian Hand Wavers Association at a local restaurant.
“I’m asleep and having a conversation with my dead best friend and that’s not the point?”
“Well, not if you consider that I’m not really dead, no.”
Okay, so we’ve established that I’m asleep and having a conversation with an apparently dead but un-dead Daniel who, I might add, is his usual six foot something self and dressed in that particularly fetching cable knit number Carter bought him for his thirty-something birthday. Now why is that? I kinda expected the guy to turn up in a pair of denims and a plaid shirt. You know the stuff—standard Jackson attire. Seriously, two deaths and he’s still in the same clothes? I sense a distinct lack of laundry facilities in the afterlife.
“You know,” I say looking him up and down and frowning, “you really could have changed for the occasion.”
Love it when he draws my name out. It means I’m starting to really piss him off.
“We don’t have time for this.”
“For what exactly? I’m asleep… ergo this is my dream and I’m pausing the conversation to discuss your wardrobe habits.”
There it is. Two words that tell me we just went from a pleasant dream to a nightmare. “That’s playing dirty.”
“Sorry, but I need you to focus here. Daniel’s in trouble.”
“Yes, but I’m talking about my other me.”
“I get it. Just not sure I want to talk about him.”
“Replicator Sam kidnapped me for information about the weapon the Ancients hid at Dakara.”
“Yeah, we kinda figured that part out. She did the whole Terminator thing on you.”
Daniel winced and subconsciously rubbed at his chest. “I’d served my purpose and for her to hold on to me any longer would have been bad. I managed to take control of her Replicator army away from her for a short time.”
“That was your doing?”
“Making them stop? Yeah, for all the good it did. There was just too many of them for me to maintain any long term control.”
“You bought us some valuable time.”
“Jack, she killed me but I didn’t ascend.”
“You didn’t?” Could have fooled me.
“Ascension can only be achieved at the moment of death.”
“Was a little too late on the scene. From what I’ve been able to get from her, the Others tried to stop her from ascending me again. They argued, but in the end Oma broke away and managed to take me to some kind of halfway point to ascension.”
“A stop along the way?”
“More like a diner. Great waffles. Anubis was there.”
“Eating waffles?” And doesn’t this conversation just get freakier and freakier.
“Drinking coffee mostly.”
“Jack, Oma is gone. She took on Anubis in a fight for all eternity.”
“Over the coffee?”
Geez, brain dead here. “Spell it out for me, Daniel. I’m asleep, remember?”
“Only your body is resting, your mind is wide awake and talking to me.”
Really? “I thought it was your mind that required rest? You know, the whole reason we get shuteye in the first place?”
“Can we get to the point here?”
I really wish he would. “Sure, point away. I’m all ears.” Wait! No, I’m not. Can't see any of me at all!
“Oma left to fight Anubis and the Others didn’t know what to do with me. In their eyes I was damaged because Oma hadn’t ascended me at the moment I died.”
“Which wasn’t her fault.”
“No. It didn’t matter, though. If a lower is chosen for ascension then their essence needs to be guided from the moment of death. Waiting too long means the whole is diminished.”
I bite down on my tongue and all those flaky comments of years gone by. “What are you then? Heck, what is the kid?”
“He’s that part of me the Others were able to return.”
“As a kid?”
“No choice, Jack.”
“And this Cursum perficio?”
“My journey is over.”
“I know what it means… just not what it means.”
"He's dying. It's nothing you can see or Brightman can fix. Jack, you need to take him to Kheb. If you don't... I don't think there's a way back for me."
“Kheb? Dead monk, Jaffa everywhere, mystical juju, thunderbolt and lightening—”
“Yes, very, very frightening. Jack, you really need to start taking me seriously.”
Really? I’m awake in my own sleep, talking to my partially ascended teammate whose only earthly connection comes in the shape of a much younger version of himself, and he wants me to take him seriously? “I’m trying!”
Hey, isn’t that usually my line? “Look, Daniel, it’s not that I don’t trust you, but Kheb didn’t exactly work out so well for us last time. Give me something to work with.”
“Oma is gone, Jack. She's not coming back.”
“No. It was the only thing she could do to prevent Anubis from gaining access to the weapon at Dakara and then taking over the combined forces of the System Lords. Eradicating the replicators meant that the galaxy was there for Anubis to take."
“And this has exactly what to do with Kheb?”
“Jack, Oma didn’t work alone. She wasn’t the only ascended Ancient who flouted the rules and went against the Others. There is a way to fix this, I know there is.”
“The writing is literally on the walls at Kheb. A way to let those who supported Oma know that we need help. That I need help.”
I want to ask him how he knows this but in the blink of an eye he’s gone, and my next view is of Teal’c standing over me with a glass in one hand and two Tylenol in the other.
"You look as though you have witnessed a paranormal being, O'Neill."
Kill me now.
~Threads of Life~
“And there you have it, kids. Oma is off kicking Anubis' oily ass for the rest of eternity. This is good news, right?”
“And you say you were asleep, sir?” Carter is wearing that look she gets when someone, usually Daniel, introduces something into a mission briefing that she can’t logically explain. I liken it to her looking like she’s listening when in fact her mind is focused on some harebrained experiment she’s running in the bowels of the SGC.
“I was.” I look to Teal’c, who holds my gaze for a few seconds and then nods in agreement.
“Both O’Neill and Daniel Jackson were asleep at the time this conversation was reported to have taken place.”
“Reported?” I ask in my best General tone. “Where else was I if I wasn’t there?”
“I believe had Doctor Brightman tested the level of alcohol in your bloodstream, she may have questioned exactly how you were capable of carrying out any such conversation.”
“You were drinking?” Carter is staring me down like I’m a first year cadet.
“I wouldn’t exactly call it drinking, Carter. More like a toast to wrap up the latest round of US-Russian program negotiations.”
“Over a bottle of Russian vodka?”
“Half a bottle. The point is Daniel... both Daniel’s, need our help. And if our Daniel says the answer is on the walls at Kheb, then I say we have nothing to lose by checking the place out.”
“What about me, sir?” asks Carter. “I’m not exactly Daniel’s flavor of the month right now.”
She’s not. I think it’s time Limpet and I had a little man to little-man chat. “Leave it with me, Carter.”
And with that, I mentally sign off on a mission to Kheb to search for who knows what on walls that I could have sworn were covered in squiggles with no actual meaning. Carter gathers up her folders and shrugs at me as she leaves the briefing room, while Teal’c gives me his customary stiff nod, followed by another prolonged stare that tells me he thinks I’m just as nuts as I’m starting to think I am.
"Walter!” I call out because I know the master sergeant has been listening in to our every word.
“Yes, sir,” he replies from my office, just out of view.
“When I approve a mission based on the advice of my drunken self having a telepathic conversation with a partially ascended teammate, then I know it's time to consider retirement."
"Shall I get the papers for you, sir?"
"Stand down, airman."
Pack a picnic, kids. We're going to Kheb.
I know I've said it once before, on some mission I can barely remember the details of, but talking to Daniel is like talking to a brick wall. Talking to a smaller yet equally smartass version of him is more like throwing myself at said wall and knowing I'm not getting up.
"Daniel," I say as he skillfully colors in the energy conduits of some blueprint Siler has given him in blinding fluorescent yellow sharpie. At least I think they're conduits. Could easily be the sewerage pipes from the base latrines on level 22, the ones claimed by the Marines and avoided by even the best-equipped hazmat teams. "Oh... Daniel."
Failure of communication is a long-known fact of life when it comes to Doctor Jackson. Usually, it's more me ignoring him because trying to understand anything he says leaves me with either an impending brain bleed or a burning desire to punch him. Ignorance is that happy medium that leaves him thinking he's way smarter than me, and me actually knowing he's way smarter. I fire guns and kill the bad guys... after he's tried to talk to the bad guys and they've decided they want to kill him.
However, this version of Daniel appears to have inherited the lion's share of his adult self's stubbornness.
I grab the sharpie mid squiggle and hold it just out of reach.
"It's rude to ignore your elders."
He gives me a mental giggle accompanied by a physical smile, right before he does that grabby hand thing kids do when they want something. In this case... the sharpie.
"Not so fast, Picasso. We need to talk."
"You don't even know what--"
He blinks slowly at me and lowers his hand back down to the table, the blueprint and sharpie forgotten.
"Look, Daniel. We have to go somewhere. Offworld. We can't do it without Carter."
"Right. How did you--"
And doesn't this just get freakier and freakier by the minute. "You spoke to Daniel?"
Limpet nods slowly, blond bangs swishing over his eyes and he lifts one hand and taps the side of his head with a finger. Here.
"Off course you did." So, Daniel has been making house calls to most of the major players in this little adventure, except for perhaps the one he needs to the most.
~Threads of Kheb~
It's a bright sunny day on...
"Carter, what planet is this again?"
"P9Q-292, sir," Carter snaps back without even pausing to think over the answer. She's like that, all smarts with little effort. So is Daniel. Both of them. Daniel Junior is currently bouncing up and down on Teal'c's shoulder and slapping the top of his head. If the small guy would give up a word or two, I'm sure he'd be telling Teal'c to giddy-up or go faster, or something like that. Carter, for her part, keeps her distance, preferring to hang back behind us and bring up the rear with Feretti, while the rest of his team has our point and flanks.
Right! So, it's a bright sunny day on...
"We couldn't just call it Kheb?"
"We do, sir, although Kheb is more a reference to the temple rather than the planet itself, but given--"
"Aht!" Putting an end to this now before she goes full blown science mode on us. "So, Kheb it is, then."
Don't know why I asked.
According to the latest intel, no one has visited the planet since we were here last. Well, at least no one has been to the temple via the Stargate. The temple complex looks much the same as it did when Oma did her squid impersonation and took off with Shifu into the ether, while simultaneously taking down an entire squad of Jaffa.
It's not until we pass through the gates that we can see how overgrown the place has become.
"Someone sacked the gardener?" I say, which earns me a frown from Daniel as Teal'c gently lowers him to the ground. "I guess all knowing and all seeing doesn't equate to all doing as well."
"Was the monk that protected this place not killed in our last encounter here?" asks Teal'c.
"Then perhaps Oma DeSala has been too preoccupied to assign another caretaker."
"It's a temple, Teal'c. It's supposed to look all mystical and...overgrown."
"Then what is the purpose of your complaint, O'Neill?"
A snort of approval from Carter, who has been trying her best to stay out of Daniel's way, has Daniel hugging my leg and sneaking a disproving look at her over his shoulder.
"She won't bite, Daniel."
But he doesn't care.
"All clear," calls Feretti from the temple entrance. His team have checked the place out and set up a perimeter all in the time it took for us to discuss horticultural skills and the employment efforts of rogue Ancients.
"Good man. Carter, you hang back here and scan something while Teal'c and I take Daniel inside."
"Scan something, sir?"
I wave to the little hand held doodad she likes to carry on missions. "You know. Make that thing work. Take some readings, look for power sources. All that stuff you do so well."
"Right," she says stiffly and without so much a witty comeback. I hate leaving her out here when she should be inside with us, but it's pretty clear my attempted man-to-man talk with Daniel achieved nothing more than me helping him color in the rest of Siler's blue print. And those conduits? Definitely sewerage pipes.
Hi ho, hi ho.
There is nothing more in this world I like than to be proven right. Well, at least in my own mind, where I get to think I'm right even when I have no empirical evidence to back myself up.
We are back in the main temple room. That place where our bigger version of Daniel once thought he started fire with his mind, and where we all communed bare foot while simultaneously trying to ignore the smell of serious foot odor from having trekked all the way from the Stargate on a hot day.
And, once again, the writing on the wall means absolutely nothing to me. "Makes about as much sense as it did last time."
"Your interpretation of the writing has changed in some way, O'Neill?"
"You used the words 'about as much', which would imply that there is now something in this writing that you understand."
"No, it would imply that like the last time we were here I found nothing on these walls that made any sense."
"Then perhaps it is good you are not employed by the Air Force as a linguist."
And there you have it, folks. Teal'c at his snarky best.
"Don't you laugh at me, Daniel. You're the reason we're here."
All I see is wall after wall of nonsensical squiggles, while Daniel, at barely half the height of his former self, runs one small hand over each symbol with a reverence reserved more for an adult. And this is probably where I fall down in this whole 'view of the universe' mentality that Daniel has when he buries himself in some new culture. I see a kid looking at writing that surely someone his age has no chance of comprehending, but then I'm reminded that at ten times his age I don't understand them at all.
"General, come in."
Daniel flinches and toddles away to another part of the wall. Teal'c follows close behind.
"I picked up a weak signal just outside the compound."
"Unknown. Feretti and I are going to investigate now, but it definitely wasn't active when we got here."
"Let me know what you find."
My well of happy thoughts ran dry years ago, which means I'm already thinking Jaffa at the gate and booby traps. You get the idea. Any scenario that might explain why my best laid plan, conceived with the help of a bottle of Russia's best, is likely to end up being one of my worst.
I have a track record in that regard.
He' points to a segment of wall that, to me, looks like all the other segments of walls. Covered in squiggles. So, I try to look interested and wander on over to see what the kid has found.
Now, if I remember the first mission to Kheb correctly, which, admittedly, is not going to happen, these squiggles are actually Zen Koans, so I'm guessing whatever Daniel has found is going to be something profound.
What is the color of wind?
"What is the color of wind?" I say out loud so Teal'c can at least get the gist of some of our conversation. "Depends where it comes from?"
So shoot me. My first response probably wasn't the best, but at least it gets a small smile from Teal'c, the uncrowned king of all things fart-related. Pity Daniel isn't laughing. Instead, he does that grabby-hand thing and waits for Teal'c to pick him up.
Once settled in Teal'c's arms he leans forward and points to another segment of writing, this time further up the wall.
What is the color of wind?
I do a quick squiggle check. "They're the same?"
Daniel wriggles and Teal'c puts him down. He crosses the room and points to another spot on a different wall.
What is the color of wind?
It's pretty clear I'm no linguist. That was Daniel's job. But it doesn't take much to see the same group of symbols repeated at intervals all over the walls.
"And the rest is?"
Safe to say, I'm pretty confused. "So? What now?"
"It's a Goa'uld long range probe."
"Like that thing Dixon's boys found?"
"Exactly the same, although this one looks like it's been damaged at some point."
"What's it doing now?"
"Sitting on the ground, mostly in pieces, sir."
"You blew it up?"
"Colonel Feretti landed a couple of well placed shots before it could fire back at us. It went down quickly, which suggests it was already damaged."
"What have I told you about blowing stuff up, Carter?"
"That it's your job, sir."
Damn straight it is. A general has to get his kicks somehow. "So?"
"I'm fairly sure it got off a message before we, ah... deactivated it."
"So, we can expect company sometime soon?" And here is me without my dress blues.
"That would be my guess. Sokar must have sent the probe back after the loss of his patrol. It was probably programmed to alert him to any activity at the temple. Like an early warning system. There are scorch marks on its exterior casing, but it's hard to tell whether it's from a lightning strike or something else. The damage is old."
"Would that explain why it didn't send out a signal as soon as we arrived?"
"That would be my guess, sir. It probably has some safe setting in its program code that forced it to go into sleep mode after it was damaged. So it's sensors likely registered our movement but the probe itself took a little longer to boot up. There's just one problem with all of this, sir."
Only one? "And that would be?"
"Apophis took over Sokar's domain when Netu was destroyed. Anubis essentially replaced Apophis."
"And with Anubis now gone, that leaves us with Ba'al."
Goa'uld politics, eh!
"Colonel Feretti has sent Penhall and Cramer back to the gate just in case someone decides to act on the probe's communication. Any luck there?"
"Well, Daniel has discovered the color of wind."
"He's on to something, Carter. I'll keep you posted."
~Gathering the Threads~
"It means 'my journey is over' or something like that."
Teal'c eyes me suspiciously for a moment before focusing his attention back on Daniel, who has one of his older self's journals out and is copying squiggles from the walls down... using crayons.
"Daniel Jackson Junior said this to you?"
"He did. A while back. Our Daniel said the kid is broken, can't be fixed. The Others or Oma didn't quite make him right... or something. Listen, I don't really understand this stuff, but I get the feeling this Daniel knows his fate and what has to happen. I'm not afraid of dying but I certainly try not to do anything that might speed things up."
"There are many who would disagree with you, O'Neill."
"Yeah, well, there's a difference between putting yourself in danger for the sake of what is right, and being downright stupid with your life. This kid, though..." I wave a hand at Daniel, who is far too entrenched in his notes to care about us, "he understands what the rest of us are trying to figure out."
"He is Daniel Jackson."
"Maybe so, but there isn't enough space in that head of his to know everything that Daniel knew... knows. And face it, Teal'c, with what Daniel has seen and been through in his life, well, I wouldn't inflict that knowledge on anyone, especially not my younger self."
"You do, in fact, have a clone. Would not your last statement be relevant to him also?"
He just had to go and bring the kid up! He went his way, I went mine, but the school still likes to remind me of his poor class attendance and somewhat lacking grades. Carter tried to explain the whole fork in the road concept, where his life only mirrors mine in memories, and everything he does now is a consequence of his actions. I get it... but you'd think with my memories on board he would at least settle for getting better grades!
I digress. Happens all the time!
"Let's not go there. Not now."
There's a tugging on my pant leg and I look down to see Daniel staring up at me through his scruffy blond bangs.
"Twenty seven? Twenty seven what?"
What is the color of wind?
"On the walls? Twenty seven times?"
"You want us to touch all twenty seven sets of symbols? Is that right?"
"And then what?"
Cursum perficio. Home.
Again with the Cursum perficio! "Home?"
He doesn't answer me this time, but instead turns to Teal'c who lifts him up and takes him to the first wall. Despite our one-sided conversations, Teal'c has the smarts to work out what is going on and what needs to be done. I grab Daniel's journal, brushing aside the colored crayons, and start writing down the numbers as he and Teal'c move from one set of symbols to the next.
The room is warm. Almost hot. I didn't notice it before, but as we get down to the last few sets of symbols I can feel sweat beading on my head and the crayon in my hand growing slick and harder to press down with.
Carter's timing is impeccable, if not somewhat annoying. I put the crayon down in the crease of the journal pages and reach for my radio. "Go ahead."
"The gate has activated."
Crap! I figured Ba'al was too busy mopping up Anubis' forces and taking over his harems to worry about some alert from a long-range probe he likely knows nothing about.
"Penhall said a bright ball of white light with tendrils just came through. He and Cramer kept their distance and didn't engage."
"Tell them to maintain their position. You and the rest of SG-2 come inside the entrance to the temple. We're in the main room, same as last time."
"On our way."
Carter and SG-2 are no sooner in the temple when the bright ball of light Penhall reported draws down from the ceiling almost directly above us and settles in the space between myself and where Teal'c is holding Daniel. The kid has a smile on his face a mile wide, his brilliant blue eyes capturing the light of the slowly coalescing Ancient.
It's not Oma. I kinda figured it wouldn't be given her current predicament.
The light dies to a semi halo that is wrapped around the form of a lady in a white dress with long brown hair and brown eyes. She casts her gaze over each of us, a small tugging at her lips, until she stops at Daniel and takes a small step forward.
"Howdy, Ma'am," I interrupt in my friendliest tone, because I already know what Ancient beings are capable of, especially those that like to bend the rules and flex their powers when they aren't supposed to. "I'm General--"
She has me there. "That would be me. And you are?"
"My name is Morgaine, although Daniel Jackson knew me by another name during the brief time he was ascended."
"So you've met before?"
"In a sense, yes. Ascension affords those who take the path the ability to sense others around us without necessarily interacting with them."
"Any idea of what Daniel's path is?"
"We each determine our own path, General O'Neill. Where that leads is not for others to decide."
So, just as cryptic, all-annoying, and all-knowing as Oma. "Yeah, well, Daniel's path got a little messed up along the way."
"Oma was stopped by the Other's before she could reach him at the time of his death. She did all she could, given the restraints of her abilities."
"Not as powerful as she thought she was?"
Morgaine tilts her head to one side and frowns in that way someone does when they're trying to figure things out. I'm going to call her confused.
"I believe you misunderstand the concept of ascension. We do not become all-powerful or all-knowing. Our abilities are limited to purposeful actions based on what we can achieve by intervening in a problem. And only if we really have to. Daniel Jackson's attempt at defeating Anubis at Abydos failed not because he didn't have the power, but because he did not consider what the outcome of that defeat would mean. We are not the protectors of the galaxy and, as such, we cannot simply step in and right what we see is a wrong."
"To err is human?"
"If that analogy helps you to understand our motives, then... yes."
I look across at Daniel, who is still staring at Morgaine like a child who wants his mother. His mouth is slightly open like his is trying to formulate words, and arms are slightly outstretched like he is reaching out to hear.
"What about him?"
Morgaine's hardened features soften again as she looks over at Daniel. "His journey is over."
"Just like that?"
She steps forward and takes Daniel into her arms, her smile deepening as he wraps his little legs around her waist and nestles his face into her neck. Behind her, towards the temple doors, I see Carter press a hand to her mouth as she fights back a whimper.
We're losing him. The only part of Daniel we had left
I love you, Jack.
I love you too, kiddo.
The moment is short. I almost don't want to look as Morgaine and Daniel dissolve away into a ball of light and float softly up through the ceiling. Gone.
"So that's it?" Carter says.
"Looks that way, Carter."
"There are those among the new Free Jaffa Nation who oppose the use of Dakara as a base for our leadership, fearing the weapon there may become a symbol of struggle rather than one of peace."
I look down at my briefing folder, to a picture of the weapon in action. The image is slightly grainy, probably pulled from some long-range sensor off one ship or another. Bra'tac brought the image with him, along with other pieces of intel from the recent battle with the replicators and subsequent formation of the new nation. I'm pretty sure something isn't sitting right with the old warrior.
"Word has reached the hierarchy of the newly formed council that Ba'al has taken over Anubis' vast empire, as well as those of several other System Lords, and intends to focus his intelligence gathering efforts towards an eventual overthrow of both Dakara and Earth."
"Makes sense," says Carter as she sifts through the intelligence reports. "I mean, both places have Ancient weapons that are more than capable of repelling pretty much any force he could set against them. Anubis tried that and failed. If Ba'al could control either of those weapons he would be almost unstoppable."
"True, but there are many Jaffa who remain undecided about the new nation, and who have openly spoken of returning to their former domains, regardless of who the ruling System Lord might be."
"Better the devil you know?" I offer, because I can see how tempting it looks to be under the shield of a powerful figurehead rather than facing the ongoing struggle of protecting just one planet with a fledgling force. Of course, I'm not going to say that out loud.
"Perhaps," Bra'tac says. I know the old guy is pro peace at all costs, and he'll go the full distance to make it happen. "Let us not speak no further of these things."
Yes, let's not.
"What of Daniel Jackson?"
Which one? It's been a few days since Limpet went off with Morgaine. And a few more days than that since Daniel paid a visit to me in my Vodka soaked dream.
"I guess he's got his path to take and we've got ours."
"No I don't."
Carter looks up and towards my office. "That sounds like--"
"Daniel!" I say perhaps a little too quickly.
"I'm in here!"
That's Daniel! I'm out of my chair faster than my poor knees can keep up with, only to step through into my office and find him...
"No! Don't come in!" he says, covering his crotch with one hand and holding the other up to stop me from coming any closer. "Something, please!"
The only thing within arm's reach, and big enough to cover him with, is the same thing I used last time, only on a much smaller person.
"Here we go again." I pull the flag down and hand it to him, trying to avert my eyes. Modicum of decency and all that. "We only just got the flag dry cleaned from last time!"
Daniel wraps the flag around his waist and slowly makes his way into the briefing room, much to the delight of a clearly impressed Bra'tac and Teal'c, and a slightly embarrassed Carter.
"This is getting to be a habit, Doctor Jackson," I say as he slips into a chair next to Carter and I sit down next to him. I grab the desk phone and place a quick call for Brightman to come check on our freshly descended teammate, even though I know she'll have him ushered out the room before he can give much of a debrief.
"Habit?" he asks, brow furrowed and squinting at me.
"You know. Showing up naked in my office, the flag, all that interesting stuff."
"You don't remember?" says Carter, reaching out to touch his arm. I can see relief wash across her face when he doesn't flinch away from her.
"Ah, no. The last thing I remember is Replicator Sam turning her right arm into a spear and running me through."
Now it's Carter's turn to flinch.
"It's okay, Sam. I know it wasn't you."
"So you don't remember coming back from another date with Oma, only a couple of decades younger and a whole lot shorter?"
"No!" Daniel shrugs and shakes his head at me, just as Brightman comes in with an orderly pushing a wheelchair close behind. He's starting to look more than a little worried.
I don't personally see any reason why Morgaine or the Others would erase Daniel's memories of being a child, not when the rest of us remember so clearly. Perhaps his memory loss is a side effect of whatever was done to return him to human form, or perhaps he didn't want to remember. Either way, I'm not going to waste a whole heap of time worrying over it, not when we have enough security footage to cause him some major embarrassment.
Brightman ushers Daniel away with a warning not to go anywhere near the infirmary until she gives him the all clear. All of which will give Carter enough time to loop the digital recordings together, Teal'c to make popcorn, and me to try and find some way of explaining Daniel's return from childhood and ascension to the Pentagon and President, in words that even I can understand.
Just another day at the SGC!
I wonder if Walter still has those retirement papers?