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Who Catch and Sing the Sun in Flight

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He stands at the control console in the center of the projection room as at an altar, wreathed in a runic conjuring of light. It is a cathedral of data: the glow of the display's glyphs blurs the detail in the dimmed panels and bulkheads beyond it, conferring an illusion of shadowy, echoing space twice the physical dimensions of the compartment, which are considerable as it is. Over the decades he has spent in here, he has more than once felt a queer vertiginous displacement, caught an imaginary scent of stone, heard wind and voices in the sometimes eerie harmonics of the ship's vibration -- children's laughter, a few words of Abydonian, his wife calling his name. More than once, especially in recent years, he has lurched for the doorway, jolted to realize that he has been lost in contemplation of the cartouche and failed to heed the faraway warning sounds, and if he doesn't run for his dwelling in the city right now the sandstorm could trap him in this chamber for days. Each time, when he has regained his bearings, he has pulled up not in sour 'get a grip, old man' reproach but on a wave of heartbreak: to have been home again, if for no more than a single heartbeat, only to find that it was a micro-dream, a trick of perception between one blink of the eyes and the next ... and to be absurdly, achingly grateful for the gift of it.

The past fifty years has been, in its way, a trick of perception between one blink of the eyes and the next. He is achingly grateful for the gift of it, and he deeply grieves its ending.

He hears no wind or voices in the ship's vibration now, only the thrum of power coursing through Odyssey's metallic bones, but the sense of sacred, vaulted immensity persists as long as the rotating lucent display is active. For half a century he has been the only worshipper in attendance here, both celebrant and supplicant. Fifty years: more than half his life, but for many an entire lifetime. Without computers, he could have studied the Abydos cartouche for a lifetime and gotten nowhere. With computers, he has studied the Asgard knowledge base for a lifetime and gotten nowhere. He knows the history of their race, now, and the full history of the Ancients; he knows the story of the Five Races, he knows who and what the Furlings were and what became of them; he knows everything it is possible for the human mind to grasp in one lifetime of the information the Asgard passed down -- and it's not enough.

Not enough to satisfy him, and not enough to save them.

The knowledge and technology of the Asgard must be brought safely back to Earth. That is the mission objective, never abandoned; that is the priority that trumps all other needs and preferences and wishes. He long ago came to terms with his own mortality, and he's certainly well practiced at dying, but he always came back, before, and this erasure will be permanent: the self he has come to be over these five decades will cease to exist. Memory is not the entirety of identity, he knows that from personal experience, and if Teal'c survives, Teal'c will remember, so all will not be lost to oblivion ... they would die anyway, and soon, of old age, and they're suiciding in order to give their younger selves another chance, which is a better reason than the Asgard had ... but the fact remains that in a few minutes, when they execute Sam's plan, he is going to die.

So here, in this strange cold luminous space that has become his refuge and his temple, he makes his peace with the act they are about to commit, and says goodbye to their home that will be unmade and the selves they will be no more.

Then he moves calmly to the doorway, and through it, leaving the soft glow of the display hanging silent in the vacant space behind him.