The man who was not Dr. Jack Danielson looked the quintessential terrorist when Sam Carter first saw him in person. He stood in the center of a gathering, snarling his anger. His cheekbones were high and sharp, and his fury was obvious without her having to understand the words. Surrounded as he was by cowering personnel, it would be hard to take him down without risking anyone else, but her hindbrain was making those calculations even as her body was in motion.
Teyla grabbed her arm, stopping her long enough for her brain to catch up with her instincts. 'Jackie' stopped ranting, hopped to the other side of the small stage he was on, and changed. Suddenly he wasn't a terrorist anymore. He was a poor beleaguered minion who shrugged apologetically as he explained that sharks with lasers attached just took time and money to get.
At least, she was pretty sure he was saying something like that, because she still didn't recognize what language he was speaking.
The rest of the gathering, the audience to a play, she recalled rather belatedly, apparently shared her notion because no few of them were rolling on the floor laughing. Most the scientists on the expedition had been in that place before: having to explain to some military man that science took time.
Carter would have thought it was funny if she weren't so furious. Furious at 'Jackie', furious at Atlantis, and furious at Daniel Jackson who hadn't told her.
She'd already been feeling lonely without any of her old team to keep her company in this new galaxy. She could have done without her friend leaving her a mess with no explanation.
Just that morning she had been able to meet with Atlantis' department heads in order to review personnel records.
That had been the first time she had seen Jackie's file.
Sam had taken one look and snorted a laugh. It had not been a ladylike sound. Embarrassing. But she'd looked up, still amused, and said, "you have a Jack Danielson here? How did I not notice that before? That's really his name? Jack Danielson?"
The "Yeah?" that Sheppard drawled hadn't really been insubordinate, but it hadn't exactly been respectful either. She wondered if this was how General Hammond had felt when dealing with Jack O'Neill.
She knew she could either demand a show of respect from Sheppard or she could try to earn real respect. It had been obvious from the start that she could not do both. Real respect was more important, especially on a civilian base where sarcasm was more the rule than the exception. This was not an easy command.
Going through the staff folders with the rest of the command staff had been intended as a time for her to become familiarized with them all and for them to get familiarized with her. It was important that she show herself as one of them, not as a friend necessarily, but as someone loyal to Atlantis, as someone who was more than just military guidelines. The years under O'Neill's command had gone a long way towards breaking her of those reflexes anyway.
"It's just," she only hesitated briefly before admitting to a bit of illegal history, "I once created a fake identify for Daniel Jackson as a gag gift, so he could go to conferences under a different name than his own. That identity was named Jack Danielson."
She could have picked any name, but that name was a joke. It switched Daniel's own name around and also meant that he had to answer to Jack's name. It had been funny. He'd thought it was funny too, and even used it a couple of times.
"Stargate Command even tried to recruit him a couple of times." She was actually pretty proud of that, although luckily none of those recruitment efforts had been done in person by anyone who would recognize Daniel. Despite that danger, she had created a false identity that could both pass the standard military background checks, and document enough useful skills that Daniel wouldn't have to hide any of his abilities when he used it.
She had smiled a bit smugly.
Then stopped because the Atlantis personnel weren't reacting like she had expected. Expected reactions were a bit of teasing, a bit of congratulations, maybe a bit of one-up-man-ship from McKay. Possibly a bit of disapproval although she didn't really expect that here.
What hadn't even occurred to her was the nervous glances that Sheppard and McKay had shoot at each other. Or Zelenka's sudden focus on his datapad, and Keller's focus on her hands. Even Ronan and Teyla had looked surprised and uncertain.
"What?" She'd put as much command as she could into question. Sheppard had snapped out of his slouch and to attention, which was a good sign. Less good was that he still hadn't said anything, but looked appealingly at McKay.
McKay for once hadn't looked condescending in having to inform her of anything. It was almost worse that he simply looked surprised, "Daniel didn't tell you?"
"Tell me what?" She'd definitely had a bad feeling about that.
"Er, that is the identity you created."
Oh yeah, a very bad feeling.
On the stage, Jackie hopped again to a different position and was suddenly a tired messenger bringing news of an invasion. To arms!
The… good guys, she decided… had come. Having missed the start and still not understanding the language she got a bit confused about what exactly the good guys were trying to do but it was still all very exciting.
The acting was good enough that she felt she was almost getting a sense of the words used.
Which was apparently one of the points of the exercise.
On a base where the shared language was English but the majority of personnel only spoke English as a second or third or fifth or whatever language, the Social Sciences' Story Hour was a time to relax and/or learn. Story Hour was always a story or fairytale of some sort. Sometimes people recognized it, sometimes they didn't, but it was never told in the same language two nights in a row. And every language spoken went into the rotation.
Some people attended to learn other languages; many went to learn to follow a conversation without knowing the language; most people went because there was no TV and here was free entertainment.
Since coming to Atlantis, Sam had discovered that they had a lot of traditions and the vast majority of them hadn't been reported back to Stargate Command. Most of weren't important, not individually. But combined, they created a whole culture as foreign to Earth as any other distant site.
Teyla had told her of this particular tradition and suggested she attend.
After all, Jackie was one of the more frequent and more popular storytellers. It was a good way to see what Jackie was to Atlantis. "Community is the most valuable thing we have in Pegasus," Telya had explained. "Many people from Earth think that weapons and shields are more important because of the Wraith but that is not so. They are important, yes. But more important is community. Jackie helps to make Atlantis into a community."
Sam recalled the earlier meeting.
Her stomach had knotted. Daniel had done this to her with the identity she had given him.
She'd ignored the emotions and counted to ten. "Then who," she'd spoken very calmly, "is the person answering to this name? Because I distinctly remember leaving Daniel back on Earth. And this person," she checked the file again, "has been here for two years now."
"Ah," McKay had looked uncertain, then cast a quick glance around at the others, "does anyone know what his original name is?"
"Doesn't matter." It had been Ronan who spoke. "He told me he hasn't used his real name in years. He didn't even tell the guy who recruited him."
"Really?" McKay had asked with bright curiosity and hadn't even seemed to notice that this wasn't the time for it. With McKay for an example, it was no wonder why Ronan hadn't bothered to learn tact.
"Yeah. He said there are Runners on Earth, it's just done different." Another one of those shrugs. "Said he hadn't used his name since he started running."
"And did he tell you what he was running from?" Carter had heard the edge in her own voice.
Ronan apparently hadn't. "Nope."
She had expected a difficult command; she had even expected to have no unreliable files given the original loss of contact and then the inclusion of Pegasus natives. She had not expected to have an Earth-native with a completely made-up file. It added insult to injury that the lies were her own. She was significantly less proud of her hacking ability now that it had been used to fool her.
"And you, Colonel Sheppard? What do you know about this man?" She was not going to let him weasel out of this. If he was half the leader the records showed him to be, then he would damn well know something.
Sheppard sat straight in his chair, looking military proper for once. "I know that the Atlantis Expedition was a second chance for a lot of us. I know that the Social Sciences have the lowest mortality rate of any department since he took over their training. I know that he's liked and respected by our allies. And I know that he never intends to return to Earth."
Which was all very good and well, except that it didn't answer the question, now did it. Carter was beginning to think that the crisp military posture was a bad sign for actually getting any sort of useful information out of Sheppard. She still had to try, though.
"Do you know what happened to his first chance?"
Sheppard's lips thinned in displeasure. He was saved from having to answer though by McKay bursting out with, "Come on! He was a terrorist, okay? He did bad, bad things. Daniel didn't exactly share the details but Jackie has some astronomical price on his head. The good guys want him dead for being bad, and the bad guys want him dead for not being bad anymore. And we like having him here because not only can he take care of himself and get along with all the native groups, but he's also the only person on Atlantis who can speak with everyone in their native language."
"He's a terrorist." Sam had just repeated. She'd had a bad feeling, but it hadn't really occurred to her how bad this could be. She'd looked around at the whole of Atlantis' command personnel. "You've been harboring a terrorist?"
"All of us and Daniel Jackson, too." McKay had pointed out. Sam had wanted to punch him so bad right then. Yes, she knew that Daniel had betrayed her, she hadn't needed McKay to point that out.
Lucky for him, Teyla had interrupted. "Dr. Jackson thought Jackie would be helpful to us, Colonel Carter. He has been proved correct in this." Teyla spoke soothingly but with more than a hint of steel in her tone. "I do not know Earth culture, but in Pegasus, we value those who help us regardless of their past."
Carter gritted her teeth. "We have background checks for a reason. If he's a terrorist, then we can't have him here."
"Yes," Sheppard said, "we can."
And that was just one step away from real insubordination. They stared at each other without blinking.
Teyla broke the deadlock again. "Since we are discussing a person, I suggest that Colonel Carter meet Jackie herself so that she is not dependent on a file she knows to be false." Carter had turned to look at Teyla; Sheppard had looked down at his hands; Teyla appeared oblivious. "I believe that Jackie is doing Story Hour tonight. I believe it would be educational for you to attend, Colonel."
And it was educational because whoever Jackie was, he was a superb actor. That made him less trustworthy rather than more in her opinion.
Except… she forced herself to think beyond the betrayal. Betrayal by Daniel just didn't make sense. Not really.
Daniel had wanted to go to Atlantis. He'd wanted to go badly. So maybe he had sent whoever Jackie was as a proxy. If he couldn't go, at least this little bit of him could.
So, Daniel had trusted him.
Of course, Jack always said Daniel trusted too easily.
Thinking of Jack, though, Sam watched Jackie acting out the one-man skit and thought Jack O'Neill did undercover work and he would never do something like that while on a mission. You can't let people know that you are capable of acting when the mission depends on fooling them.
Whatever language Jackie was speaking, he was speaking it easily and fluidly, giving each character a different accent, a different speech pattern. She would bet he spoke it like a native. Another way of letting people know he could fool them if he wanted to, something a person with any survival instinct should not do while undercover.
Letting your allies know, though, that was important. In a dangerous situation, having your allies know what you were and weren't capable of, that could be the difference between life and death as certain as keeping your enemies from that knowledge.
"There are many languages spoken on Atlantis." Teyla spoke softly from beside her after the story had been completed and everyone started talking.
"Which is why everyone is supposed to speak English." That had been an important decision when the expedition had originally been put together. There had to be a single shared language because in the face of untold danger, translators were really impractical. Although really the Ancients had had a solution to that as well. She quirked a smile. "The translation device works on guests too. You are speaking English."
"Yes," Teyla spoke peacefully but without particular humor, "that is because I am speaking English. I have learned it with Jackie's assistance. The Ancestors created the translation devises for trade, not poetry. For community and story telling, it is better to listen to the rhythm of speech rather than a translation."
"Translations may not be perfect, but they help." Sam pointed out. "For one example, I couldn't exactly follow the fight scene in the skit. I have no idea what the fight was about."
"They were fighting about something important."
Sam frowned. If McKay or Shepherd, or even Ronan, had said something like that she would have assumed that they were merely being difficult. Teyla was trying to communicate something.
"Knowing what the object is, that is not important," Teyla continued. "Translation would only tell you what the object is, but it would not tell you if it is important."
"I think you are proving my point for me, Teyla," she confessed. "Because I have no idea what you are saying but the translation device might."
Teyla merely looked even more thoughtful than she usually did. "When I first met your people, I heard someone humming a song. It was lovely. A lullaby. I didn't need to know the words to know the intent."
She hummed a bit of Rock-a-Bye Baby and Sam nodded. Lullabies were probably pretty universal.
"Later, I heard the same song sung aloud. It is about an abandoned infant who falls to his death."
Sam paused. She'd been working with alien societies for nearly a decade now, and thought she'd had a pretty good grasp on what parts of Earth culture were shocking. She had never even considered lullabies.
"Okay. The intent is actually the opposite of the words. And the translation devices don't recognize that?"
"No, they do not. One must always speak very directly when depending upon translations. There is no room for metaphor or poetry or humor. That is a failing of the Ancestors. Not a failing of the languages. Jackie is very good at meeting other cultures and learning other languages. He demonstrates for us that it is possible to appreciate and comprehend even without understanding the words."
Sam watched Jackie moving through the crowd, chatting with everyone, speaking a dozen languages at once, laughing and relaxed, looking completely different from any of the characters he had played.
Jack O'Neill had once told her the hardest part of working undercover was suppressing any humor. Humor was too hard to fake and real humor could give you away easier than anything else. Anyway, fanatics rarely laughed.
Jackie laughed at something someone said, switched into evil-terrorist-mode for a sentence or two, and then broke out with another laugh. He looked relaxed.
She would bet anything that Jackie, whoever he was, really was comfortable and relaxed here on Atlantis. Relaxed despite the constant threat of the Wraith. It occurred to her to wonder how big the price was on his head back on Earth that this was the more relaxed environment.
Looking at him, playing around, teasing with language like mock weapons. Words were weapons in any battle, as Daniel had demonstrated over and over again through the years. But when they were used in mock battle, used to play and tease, they could be a joy. Daniel had sometimes been like this, but only when it was just their team together, when he had felt comfortable enough to show off and tease.
It wasn't often that he had felt like he had nothing to fear from anyone.
The world shifted perspective and the knot that had been her stomach all day finally relaxed. Jackie here wasn't a betrayal. He was a present. If Daniel was here in Atlantis by proxy, then he was also here with her, if only by proxy.
She'd gotten as far as she was by trusting Jack and Daniel. So why not give Jack Danielson a chance?