My brain tells me it's sunset. It's been sunset for over an hour, which my mind tells me is odd. Still, an hour long sunset is easier to grasp than the truth: my feet are planted on another world. Actually, if I'm being honest, my butt is planted on a tarp on another world.
Dusk won't hit for another hour according to the scientists who are stationed here. Full night is only six hours long before the gas giant this moon orbits gives us another two hours to observe it. Then the pretty purples and blues it shows will be a hint of color behind the not-the-same-shade-of-blue sky as it was when my training party arrived earlier today.
I hear footsteps behind me and turn to see Master Teal'c. He sits beside me.
"You react differently from most Tau'ri. By the end of their week here, all of them will have come out to view the sunset or the sunrise, but you are the only one to do it on the first night. And you were alone." The deep calm tones are soothing in this eternal lavender air.
"Is it dangerous? I asked before I came out."
"No, Captain Pierce. I merely comment on your actions."
"Part of me wishes there were a concert playing."
"I am very fond of the Beatles. Major Carter has informed me they no longer play concerts."
I smile at Teal'c. "No, they haven't for a very long time. I was thinking more of classical music or jazz, something without words."
"Colonel O'Neill has played opera for me. Classical is similar, I believe."
"Yes. No voices, usually, just the music."
Teal'c lets the silence fall again. As the moon's rotation takes us farther from the light of the gas giant what appears to be a long, green braid appears overhead.
I gasp. "There's a ring?"
Teal'c answers, "Yes, Captain Pierce."
The sounds of the night are different. I can hear small animals in underbrush, as I would on Earth, but the insect and bird noises are completely different. I shiver.
"Why do you wish music, Captain Pierce. Unlike many of the Tau'ri, you seem comfortable with silence."
"God is everywhere, but He's easiest to hear in silence." I look at my companion and then say, "I can believe the light show is just a special effect -- like something in a movie or at the planetarium. But the sounds tell me that what I see is real. It's beyond my imagination."
This time the silence isn't comfortable. After a moment, Teal'c says, "I did not want you here."
Teal'c turns toward me. "Do you know why?"
"No. I'd have thought having someone who can help with translations would be a plus."
"I have known for a long time that the gods are false. They are parasites using human bodies. How can you allow yourself to believe? How can you encourage others to do the same?"
I nod. "You understand that the God I believe in doesn't need a human vessel."
"Daniel Jackson has given me a copy of your Bible. I believe it states he has chosen many vessels. Abraham was told to destroy his son to prove his loyalty. Ra has done the same."
That startles me.
"But God sent a lamb instead -- replaced a human sacrifice with an animal." I want to wash the comparison with Ra from his mind.
"Did he not also command Noah to build an ark which would preserve very few while the rest of the Earth was destroyed? It is an action not unlike many orders I have heard Apophis give. Tests of loyalty are frequent when a god is fearful his true nature will be discovered." Teal'c has not raised his voice, but the words feel like an attack.
"Yes. The book of Genesis says so. But the myth is much older. Vast floods are still possible today, we just understand their causes. We can prepare for them, but our ancestors could only reach for explanations after the fact."
Teal'c looks at me. "Do you not believe every word of the Bible is true?"
"Some people do. Some denominations have it as a tenet of their faith. It's not a tenet of mine." This is not the time to go into the finer points of Unitarianism. "The churches who do have that as their tenet rarely allow women to hold pastoral positions. There are some quotes in the epistles of Paul which would preclude it."
"I took my protest to General Hammond when I was first told of your appointment. He informed me there are Air Force regulations requiring a chaplain when enough requests have been made."
"Yes. Father Freitas at NORAD dealt with, still deals with, the Catholics who work for the SGC, but, unfortunately, he still hasn't been cleared to know about the Stargate. They've been looking for a chaplain for over six months. Do you know why they picked me?"
"You read Sanskrit. You speak and read Farsi including its ancient Earth version. We have many who speak Ancient Greek and Latin, but Daniel Jackson is hopeful that you will be able to learn Ancient as well. He says he worked with you on a dig."
"You're mostly right. The fact that I can help out when there's an overload of translations and have an aptitude for languages is probably a big part of the reason."
"Did you also work with Daniel Jackson on a dig?" Teal'c was curious.
"I met him on a dig once. He and his mentor were in charge of it. I did some grunt work to help get practicum hours for my Master's degree. So, he's evaluated my reports and seen my work, but I haven't had a chance to do the same with him."
Teal'c looks up and I follow his eyeline. There's a faint pink ring that can be seen just inside the green braid. The gas giant has completely disappeared and the stars are coming out. Half the sky seems to have a golden veil covering it.
"Master Teal'c, the SGC will not hold regular services. I'm a chaplain without a chapel. General Hammond chose me because my doctorate is in Pastoral Counseling." I take a deep breath and add, "If you want to know what I believe, well, I believe that sitting here beside you is a miracle. I see God in that miracle because half the night sky shimmers with gold. I can hear life all around me, and it's not mice and owls like it would be on Earth, but something so completely different that I'll never see. This beauty, life throughout the universe, those are the signs God has given me that He exists."
"Major Carter explained when we came to this world the first time that the shimmer you speak of is because this moon is on the outskirts of one of the planet's rings. We see the stars through the ring." Teal'c's voice is grave.
"Having an explanation increases the miracle. It doesn't diminish it. God keeps giving us all these clues, and He's given us the brain to help figure them out. He must have been so proud of Charles Darwin."
"You surprise me, Captain Pierce."
"Please, it's Sheila. What's so shocking?"
"When I said I wanted to know more about the Tau'ri, Major Carter and Daniel Jackson spoke to General Hammond and got me subscriptions to magazines and internet access for newspapers. I am particularly fond of one called Discover. There is much controversy over Charles Darwin."
"Yes. In the United States, there is. I don't think there should be. The idea that was so prevalent in early Islam is the one I find inspiring. God is in everything, so we study everything to find God. How intricate is the math, how perfect the physics, that we get to see a green braid and a pink ring around a gas giant?"
"I do not believe in any God, Sheila Pierce."
"Maybe one day you will, Master Teal'c. But I won't proselytize. You'll find your way to Him or you won't. Choice is important."
He inclines his head toward me. "You said we would never see the creatures around us."
"Well, not the nocturnal ones."
"Be very still." And with that Teal'c leans forward and slides his hand along the ground, palm up. He makes a little whistling sound and suddenly a small animal has come out of the undergrowth. It follows the noise until it steps right on to Teal'c's outstretched hand.
He raises it up gently. Under the fading light the fur, I assume it's fur, appears to be dark grey with a touch of pale green at the tips. The eyes are huge like an oppossum's, but there's one on the top of the head as well as two in the front. When it bares its teeth they appear to be those of an herbivore.
I look at the creature in awe; Teal'c watches my reaction. I can't tell whether he approves or not.
"One of the scientists in your group is a bio-engineer. He'll be studying some of these. Is your flashlight accessible?"
I slip it out of my pack slowly aware of the little creatures eyes staring at me.
"Point the light towards me, but not directly at the creature's face then turn it on."
When I do as he asks, the fur turns a uniformly dark green to match the plantings around me. It also pees all over Teal'c's hand. He puts his hand back on the ground and the creature skitters off.
I hand Teal'c a wipe from my pack.
"Thank you, Sheila Pierce."
"No. Thank you, Teal'c for showing me such a miracle."
"They hope to analyze the creature's reaction to use for combat fatigues."
"Finding out how to do it doesn't make it any less a miracle." It's full dark now. I stow the wipe in a baggy for later disposal.
Teal'c helps me up and folds the tarp. "I shall walk you to your billet."
"I appreciate it."
I take one last look over my shoulder. The braided ring has disappeared completely. The stars still shine through a golden veil. I murmur to myself, "Praise him in the firmament of His power."