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formerly known as the cliché!fic
PG, gen. On a nice, peaceful planet, SG-1 undergo a certain transformation. Daniel is passive-aggressive, Sam is angry, and Jack is surprisingly cheerful given the circumstances. Everyone else is stressed.
It was a dark and stormy night. Rain fell in torrents and small waves of ebbing water broke against Jack O’Neill’s boots as he squelched into Cheyenne Mountain.
He was still rubbing water out of his hair as he entered the control
room, twenty-eight levels below ground. Daniel and Carter were perfectly dry.
“How come you’re not…” Jack began, then stopped. “Oh, for
crying out loud. Neither of you went home, did you?”
“Didn’t seem worth it, to be honest,” said Daniel mildly, pointing
at the clock. It was almost four o’clock in the morning.
“Not worth sleeping the night
before a mission?” Jack growled. “I beg to differ, Dr. Jackson. One hour
before we ship out, kids. Jump to it.”
He stomped off, still trailing rainwater. “He’s in a fine mood,”
Daniel commented, idly tapping his fingernails against the side of the computer
Sam was sitting at.
She looked up. “He’ll cheer up once we get going,” she said. “He
Daniel privately doubted that, and felt himself justified when Jack still
seemed inclined to sarcasm as the team assembled on the ramp. “Are we all
quite ready?” he inquired sweetly. “No-one forgotten anything? No-one needs
Before anyone could respond, Hammond’s
voice blared out from the control room above. “SG-1, you have a go.”
One by one, the team stepped into the event horizon and were sent on the
familiar helter-skelter ride across the galaxy.
The Stargate on the far side creaked and lit up. After a second, it
disgorged first a plasma wash and then SG-1, who stepped nonchalantly out onto
the soil of another world and blinked in the bright light.
The Stargate stood in the midst of a rolling plain. The grass was verdant
and soft underfoot, and it seemed to be part of an unbroken, undulating carpet
of green, stretching to each horizon. There were coniferous trees dotted here
and there and snow-capped mountains in the far distance, clear in the still air.
Close to the horizon hung a large purple moon, partially obscured by mists and
reflected in the sunshine-glittered waters of a small lake nearby.
“Well,” said Jack after a while. “The MALP, bless it, appears to
have taken up mendacity as a sideline.”
Sam blinked at him. “When the MALP came through, it was raining,” she
said. “And it was the middle of the night at the time.”
“Which is why we were required to rise so early,” Teal’c said
“Yeah, that’s right,” Sam replied. “Five am in Colorado is midday
“Let’s take a look around,” Jack said, breaking into what could
become a leisurely discussion. Following his lead, SG-1 set off across the
grass, following the slightly muddy tracks the MALP had left. The sun shone
warmly down and somewhere close by, a bird of some sort began to sing.
Within minutes, Jack was
humming a tune under his breath. Sam gave Daniel a triumphant grin and joined in
for the chorus.
Six hours later, Sam activated the Stargate again. It took several
seconds before her transmission was picked up by Stargate Command. “No sign of
habitation,” she reported. “Daniel says he thinks the planet was once
colonised by the Ancients, because there is a Stargate here, but there’s no
sign of them left.”
“What about the Goa’uld?”
It was Hammond’s voice, tinny and slightly distorted over the MALP.
“No sign of them, either. I don’t think they even know this planet
exists. Colonel O’Neill’s helping me take soil samples, just in case there
is any naquadah, but I doubt it. Teal’c is guarding the perimeter, but frankly
I don’t think there’s much to guard against.”
“Understood. Where’s Dr. Jackson?”
“Here,” answered Daniel, standing up. He had been crouched behind the
DHD, clutching a piece of paper with what looked like runes on it. “Ah…
there are some writings on the DHD, which is unusual… the script indicates the
Ancients were here at some point in the past, but it’s an even earlier version
of their writing and I’m not making much headway…”
He disappeared out of sight again, apparently distracted by something
“Very well, SG-1,” said
Hammond after a pause. “Keep us posted.
The wormhole shut down. Sam glanced up at the Stargate in time to see the
plasma dissipate, and something else caught her eye. “Daniel, look.”
Daniel looked. “What?”
“There, on the Stargate.” Sam pointed. “Does that look odd to
you?” She was walking across as she said it, standing within the ring of the
Stargate and peering at its upper edge.
“It looks like some sort of… something,” Daniel said, joining her
in staring upwards.
Sam grinned. “Yeah, it does.” Suddenly realising the inherent danger
of standing within the Gate, she jumped to one side. Faced edge-on, the anomaly
appeared even more prominent. The surface of the Gate was marked by long, smooth
grooves, big enough to accommodate Sam’s fingers and shining as they caught
the light. Every so often, Sam thought she saw a flash of colour coming from
them – pink, purple or bright white – but the sunlight interfered with her
vision and made her uncertain.
From the other side, Daniel
called, “I thought all Stargates were the same?”
Sam nodded, then realised he couldn’t see her. “Yeah, if you’ve
seen one, you’ve seen them all.”
“Well, apparently not.” Daniel jumped across to the steps leading
down from the Stargate. “I think… yes, look here! The grooves lead
Sam moved to see what he was talking about. The grooves extended into the
top stone step, marking it with the thin scored furrows. She ran a fingertip
across it, and then blinked as the length of her finger went straight through
the bottom of the channel and touched something below. Something smooth and
extremely solid. “Daniel.”
Daniel, more used to digging for things, scrabbled through the dust and
sand on the step and felt sticky, wet soil underneath. After a minute, Sam heard
his fingernails scratch stone. “Found something,” he muttered. “It might
be a cover stone of some sort. There’s definitely something down there.”
“Time to go, people!” called a voice from behind them. Jack and
Teal’c were striding up to the DHD. “Hey… what are you doing?”
“Digging, sir,” said Sam, straightening up. “We think we’ve found
something buried underneath the Stargate.”
“It’s metal,” said Daniel without looking up. He was still scraping
away at the step.
Jack looked wary. “Is it going to explode?”
“I have absolutely no idea.” Daniel was clearly distracted. If he
hadn’t been, he wouldn’t have said that.
“Ah.” Jack held up a finger. “Stop right there, Daniel.” Without
waiting for an answer, he went on, “You’re not digging anything up that
might turn out to be dangerous.”
“We’ll come back,” Jack said over him. “Right now we’re
Sam took the hint and began slapping the panels on the DHD. Daniel
didn’t move for several more seconds, then abruptly realised and got out of
the way just before Sam pressed the red crystal.
The MALP struggled over the steps and then plunged through.
SG-1 followed and stepped
into the wormhole. They were suspended for a moment on the edge of the event
horizon, held stationary for a few extra seconds.
Then they stepped out the other side.
“Oh,” said General George Hammond. Within a fraction of a second, he
had yelled, “Med team to the gateroom, stat!” and down on the ramp, Teal’c
had assisted the stretcher-bearers with the other three members of SG-1, but the
feeling of complete and utter disbelief, so succinctly expressed, still
The stretcher-bearers had soon deposited their burdens in the infirmary,
accompanied by Teal’c, the only member of the team capable of standing up.
Within seconds, Janet was inspecting the damage. She blinked in surprise at the
three unconscious bodies on the beds. “Teal’c!” she called. “What
happened? Humans? Aliens?”
“No, Dr. Fraiser,” Teal’c stated. “I believe they are the
remaining members of SG-1.”
With a few quick strides,
Janet had reached the nearest bed. Its occupant was a sleeping teenage boy.
Janet stared. After a moment, the boy’s eyes opened and he stared back.
Janet took a deep breath. “Who are you?”
“Jack O’Neill.” The voice was slurred and sleepy. Janet desperately
wanted to ask more questions, but a cursory examination proved the boy was in no
immediate medical danger, and she moved on to the next bed.
One of her nurses retreated; apparently, they had been quicker off the
mark than she had and had swiftly examined the new arrivals for anything
life-threatening. Slightly reassured, she allowed herself a good look at the
Female, this time, and Janet could clearly see the resemblance in the
blonde hair and small, pale face. When those eyes opened, Janet had no doubt
they would be blue. Quickly, she estimated the girl’s age as about eight or
nine, and moved on to the next bed.
This child was even younger – not more than six, judging by the size of
the bump in the blankets. As Janet stood there, he rolled over and opened his
eyes. He mumbled something unintelligible under his breath.
“You’re in the infirmary,” Janet told him. “It’s all right.”
His eyes closed again, but after a moment, a small hand had been flung
out from under the covers. Janet held it lightly, marvelling at its size, and
sighed. “Teal’c,” she called softly.
“I am here, Dr. Fraiser.” With dignity, Teal’c shook off the nurse
attempting to take his temperature and walked across to the doctor.
“What happened?” she asked him again, and then lowered her voice.
“Quietly, I don’t want to wake them.” And because she couldn’t help
herself, “Are you sure this is SG-1?”
“Extremely sure,” he stated, with characteristic certainty.
“Colonel O’Neill had given the order for our return. Major Carter entered
the symbols into the Dial-Home Device. When O’Neill, Major Carter and Daniel
Jackson entered the Stargate, they were…” He paused.
“Normal?” Janet suggested.
“So something happened when they were en route?” Janet wondered out
loud. “Why didn’t it affect you, Teal’c?”
“I believe it may have done so, Dr. Fraiser.” He spoke so evenly that
it took the doctor a moment to grasp the implications of what he had said.
“Teal’c? Are you saying you’re… younger?”
“I am not certain. However, I feel it is a distinct possibility.”
Having said that, Teal’c allowed the nurse to take his temperature and
Janet felt the time had come to be businesslike. “Give all of them a thorough
check-up,” she ordered. “MRI, the works.” Seized with a sudden thought,
she added, “And get DNA samples from all of them. Have the lab match them up
with the samples we already have.”
As the infirmary staff rushed to do her bidding, the general entered
silently and watched the frantic activity. “Doctor, the children we saw in the
“Are SG-1, sir,” she finished.
He sighed. “I was afraid of that.”
Janet echoed the sigh. “I’d better get down to work.”
Before she did, she made a phone call. Upon hearing her mother was caught
up in some sort of emergency involving SG-1, Cassandra took the news
philosophically and arranged to spend the night at a friend’s house. She also
took the opportunity to order a pizza. Janet stayed awake, researching,
cross-referencing, sending some emails to Chicago, San Diego and New York, and
occasionally walking across and staring at the children in frank bemusement
In the morning, she went to see General Hammond. His door was open and he
looked up as she strode in with her clipboard. “I’m ninety-nine percent sure
they’re SG-1, sir,” she said, jumping straight to the point. “The DNA test
results still haven’t come back. They’re short-handed at the lab, so I sent
a few emails…”
She laid her clipboard flat on the general’s desk. “I contacted Major
Carter’s brother and Colonel O’Neill’s family and arranged for them to
send me these.”
Hammond peered over her shoulder to see two photographs, both bearing
signs of having been hurriedly scanned in and sent. One showed a teenage boy
leaning on his skateboard; the other showed a small girl holding a plastic
action figure and standing next to a man whom Hammond recognised as a younger
version of Jacob Carter.
“I’ll admit it’s not very scientific, sir,” said Janet after he
had had a good look, “but it was the best thing I could think of in the
absence of the DNA tests. You can clearly see the resemblance. Frankly, if the
children turn out not to be SG-1, I
shall be very surprised.”
“And Dr. Jackson?” Hammond asked.
“I wasn’t entirely sure whom to contact for him,” she said
honestly. “But on a hunch, I had a look at some back-issues of the New York Times…”
Hammond took the proffered newspaper cutting, and stared at the faint
pixellated image of a young woman and a child. It was too blurry for him to say
definitively that he recognised the small face, but a resemblance seemed likely
A thought struck him. “What about Teal’c?”
“To be perfectly honest, I’m unsure as to whether or not Teal’c has
been affected by whatever-it-is that did this to the other three. He says he may
have been, but as he was over a hundred years old to begin with, it’s hard to
be absolutely sure. It might be easier if I had a complete medical history for
him, but as you know that’s not possible.”
“Is he in the infirmary?”
“No, as I couldn’t actually find anything wrong with him. I’ve sent
him to his quarters and he knows not to leave the base.”
“Very well. Have you any idea how this happened? And can we reverse
Janet waited for a moment before gathering her papers together. “There
is no documented case of anything like this in Earth’s history, sir,” she
said. “Believe me, I looked. I think we need some expert help for this.”
“Agreed. I’ll have the Tok’ra and the Asgard contacted
Janet stood up and made for the door, but just as she was leaving, she
called back, “General?”
“In contacting the Tok’ra, it might be an idea to make sure Jacob
sees to this personally. Sir.”
General Hammond nodded and smiled. “You may well be right.”
She smiled and departed. When she got back to the infirmary, the children
Jack opened his eyes to be faced with a blurry white ceiling. He blinked
several times and pulled the covers away from his face. Instinctively, he made
to get up, but was prevented by a gentle hand on his forehead. “Don’t get up
yet.” The voice was just as gentle.
Jack resisted. “The others?” he asked hoarsely. He wasn’t, now he
came to think about it, exactly sure who the others were. What their names were,
even how many of them there were, was a mystery. But he knew, as instinctively
as he knew to breathe, that there had been others. That there were
“They’re fine,” said the voice. Its owner was coming into focus
now; a woman in a white coat was sitting at the side of his bed, doing something
to a machine that beeped. “They’re just fine. Teal’c will be coming in to
see you in a minute.”
“Wanna get up.” He didn’t know why it was such a compulsion. His
feet itched to be moving.
“I’m afraid I can’t let you do that yet,” she said, and her
voice, although still soft, held an edge. “But you can have breakfast if you
Jack thought about this seriously. “Do you have any Froot Loops?”
She was gone for quite a long time, but she returned eventually and when
he’d sat up, she gave him a tray and spoon. He inspected the cereal, ate a few
mouthfuls without pausing, but then something about the multicoloured shapes
caught his eye. The ring – that was important. Somehow.
The woman – he supposed she was a doctor – was still sitting there.
She looked at him for a moment, then asked, “What’s your name?”
“Jack O’Neill,” he mumbled.
“Do you mind if I call you Jack?”
“What else you gonna call me?” he asked through a mouthful of cereal.
She merely smiled at him. “What’s the last thing you remember?”
Jack stopped chewing for a moment and thought about it. “Before I ended
up here? I don’t know… I think I’ve been here before. It looks kinda
familiar. And I was with some others. I don’t what we were doing. I don’t
know,” he added, shrugging helplessly.
“Can you tell me anything you remember?” She never seemed to raise
“What, anything?” he asked,
and she nodded. “Um. I like Froot Loops. I like hockey, too. I’m the goalie,
and once I got my leg nearly broken ‘cause some guy whacked me with his stick.
Um… I was born in Chicago. I’ve got two brothers. They’re okay but little
brothers are a pain in the ass. My mom doesn’t like it when I say that.
She’s pretty cool though. She’s a really good cook. She makes me chop onions
for her. She thinks I don’t do good enough at school. I don’t like school.
Is that enough?”
“Just about,” she said, and grinned. “One more question. How old
“All right, Jack. I’ve got to go and see to the others now, but the
nurses are here if you want anything. Okay?”
He nodded, and was busily attacking the Froot Loops again as she left.
Sam groaned. She hadn’t had any intention whatsoever of getting up, but
once awake, she couldn’t go back to sleep. After a pause of several seconds
while she extricated her head from the blankets, she sat up and yawned.
“Good morning,” said someone. It wasn’t her father.
Sam blinked. “Morning,”
she said uncertainly and instinctively started chewing her hair. “I don’t
think I know…” She stopped. Now she came to think of it, there weren’t
many things she was confident she did know. And for someone who was used
to knowing about things, that was strange in itself.
“I’m Dr. Fraiser,” said the speaker, seemingly aware she was having
trouble knowing what to say next.
“Oh,” said Sam, and feeling introductions ought to be two-sided, said
shyly, “My name’s Samantha.”
“Samantha?” the doctor repeated. “Do people ever call you anything
She considered. “Sam,” she said at last, “but only my dad calls me
that. And my brother calls me names sometimes, but he’s a jerk.”
“What’s your brother’s name?” asked Dr. Fraiser gently.
“Mark,” she said, and was pleased that there were some things she was
“All right. Do you know where you are?”
She looked around properly before answering. The bed was a hospital bed,
wasn’t it? It was big and covered in white sheets and made of metal. And the
room reminded her of a hospital, with its beds and its machines that made
beeping noises and the people in nurse’s uniforms. And the doctor. It looked a
little bit familiar, but not really.
“No,” she decided. “I don’t think so.”
“Do you remember anything about before you came here?” the doctor
asked, and Sam noticed she hadn’t told her the name of the place.
“No,” Sam replied, “but I remember people.”
“I don’t know. Just people.”
She’d said it without thinking. She knew there were people, and she
tried to think about them. They were grown-ups, weren’t they? Or were they?
She wasn’t sure. And she wondered perhaps if they had all been boys. She
didn’t like that thought. She didn’t like boys. They were all like Mark, who
was so loud and mean and told her she should play with dolls when she wanted to
play with his X-wing fighters.
“Just people. Right.” The doctor smiled at her. “How are you
feeling, Sam? Do you feel ill at all?”
She shook her head. “I’m okay. Bit tired.”
“Well, you can rest as long as you like. Tell you what, I’m going to
get breakfast for Jack, so I can get something for you. What would you like?”
Sam smiled. “Can I have anything I like?”
“If we have it, yes.”
Sam was quite sure she knew what she wanted. “Blue Jell-O?”
Having dealt fairly successfully with the other two, Janet approached the
last of the children with somewhat less trepidation. He was sitting up in bed as
she came near, and staring into space as if he could see something no-one else
could. For some reason, Janet felt as if she were attempting to get close to a
shy but potentially dangerous wild creature, and tried not to make any sudden
movements as she seated herself in the chair by the bed. “Hello, Daniel,”
she said softly.
There was no answer. The child didn’t even turn to look at her. Gently,
ever-so-gently, she reached out and touched him on the arm. He looked then,
staring straight at her with wide eyes.
“Hi,” she tried again. He didn’t respond, still staring but without
For a moment, Janet was
struck with doubts. In the continued absence of DNA results, there was a
possibility that the child wasn’t who she thought he was. But even as she had
the thought, she knew it was farfetched. The resemblance was too striking –
the bright eyes, the unruly long hair that would darken in colour over the next
thirty years, even the stubbornness – for this to be anyone other than Daniel
After the silence had stretched to a minute, Janet felt the time was ripe
for another attempt. “Daniel, sweetheart. How are you feeling? Can you talk to
Daniel’s eyes flicked across to her, but his expression remained
impassive. Janet groaned inwardly and stuck her tongue out at him, expecting at
least a smile.
She got one, but it was the merest flicker of mirth, gone in an instant.
She waited, but he said nothing. The silence began to stretch out again.
Jane shook her head and gave up for the time being. “If you want
anything, just ask,” she said, as reassuringly as she knew how. He showed no
sign of having heard, and she couldn’t help heaving a sigh as she stood up.
“What has transpired in my absence, Dr. Fraiser?” asked a familiar
low voice, and Janet looked up.
“Hey, Teal’c.” She paused for a minute, beckoning to a nearby nurse
and indicating Daniel. “Just watch him for a moment.”
The nurse nodded. Janet turned back to Teal’c. “They’re all awake
and I’ve just been trying to talk to them.”
“Are they aware of their true identities?” Teal’c asked. He was
standing in the doorway, leaning against the frame.
She shook her head. “I don’t think so. Colonel O’Neill – well, Jack
– seems to be the most responsive. I managed to have a fairly productive
conversation with him. I wouldn’t like to make a definitive judgement at the
moment, but I would say he remembers clearly anything that happened before he
was sixteen. He’s dimly aware that lots of other things have happened since
then, but I don’t think he could tell us anything more than that.”
“No doubt his mind is clearer because he is the eldest.”
“Yes, that’s what I thought. Sam’s not quite so clear-headed, but I
did manage to talk to her. Daniel, however…” She paused.
“What of Daniel Jackson?” Teal’c prompted gently.
“He hasn’t said a word. I’ve tried talking to him, but it’s as if
I’m not even there.”
“Perhaps it is because he is the youngest.”
“Yes, well, I did think of that. But all children talk by the time
they’re six or so. Most of them do it to excess. And Daniel, of all people…
I just don’t understand it.”
Teal’c nodded. “Things may improve with time. Would it be acceptable
if I attempted to engage the children in conversation?”
“Of course, Teal’c. Go right ahead. Just don’t let any of them get
“Are they not in good health?”
“Oh, they’re fine, they’re fine.” She ran a hand through her hair
distractedly. “Where on earth am I going to get clothes for them all?”
One of General Hammond’s least favourite duties consisted of
coordinating Stargate Command’s billion-dollar annual budget. However, in
doing it, he had ensured there was a specific allocation for “miscellaneous
expenses”, or what Jack O’Neill in his elder days had referred to as
“the folks you talk to when aliens have buggered off with your credit
Consequently, some airmen were summarily dispatched to Colorado Springs
with the relevant portion of the budget, and when they returned, the vaguely
harassed doctor managed to outfit her three charges without being reduced to any
of the more melodramatic ideas that had flitted through her head, such as
attacking hapless fatigues with scissors.
Jack, paradoxically, was the easiest of the three for the infirmary staff
to deal with. He eagerly consented to getting up, getting dressed and eating
another bowl of Froot Loops. He waited for the other children with smug teenage
superiority, and seized the opportunity to make friends with the big guy
standing by the door.
In contrast, Sam ate breakfast only under sufferance (it was green) and
pouted when she saw the clothes laid out for her. Apparently, the airman sent to
buy clothes for an eight-year-old girl had forgotten, or had never known, that
Samantha Carter hadn’t been the sort of girl who appreciated pink. And frilly
bits. Janet found herself resolving to find out whether there was any way to get
a pair of jeans into the mountain, and also to make sure the commissary started
stocking blue Jell-O again. Following the Urgo incident, the food servers had
grown used to the idea of SG-1 absconding with their weight in desserts and were
only too happy to cooperate.
Daniel was a problem. Despite his silence, he made his views known. One
of the nurses, after spending a quiet minute oohing and aahing over both Daniel
himself and the small boots she had been told to make him wear, carefully sat
him on the side of the bed and tied up the laces of the boots.
When she turned round a second later, the boots were on the floor with a
pair of socks carefully folded up and laid over the top. She blinked and stared
at the child for a minute, then patiently made Daniel pull the socks on once
more and tied up the shoelaces.
This time, she looked round in time to see Daniel taking off the boots
and folding the socks with archaeological precision. Unsure as to whether or not
she should scold him, she merely tutted a little and tried again.
Three attempts later, she conceded. Daniel had made his point. Silently,
he dropped off the side of the bed and went to join Jack and Sam at the door.
Teal’c was in charge. There were no more tests to be conducted, but the
children could hardly be allowed to run free around the base, so he proceeded to
take them up to one of the upper-level VIP rooms, keeping a sharp eye on them so
they didn’t wander and making sure no heavy military boots landed on
Daniel’s small feet. As they made their way through the corridors and
elevators, curious eyes followed their progress. The SGC grapevine had only had
about eighteen hours to get into gear, and consequently the identity of the
children was the subject of much speculation. The current pool, being run by
Sergeant Siler, had best odds on alien children with bubonic plague, on account
of its explaining why they had been in the infirmary so long and also not being
Once Teal’c had shepherded his little flock into the VIP room and shut
the door behind them, he realised his next task was to introduce them to each
other. Ignoring the strangeness of it, he ensured his expression was impassive
as ever as he asked, “O’Neill, do you know who I am?”
Jack gave Teal’c a good look. “No.”
“I am Teal’c. You will be under my guard from here onwards. Do you
Jack shrugged. “Yeah. Teal’c, huh? Cool name.”
“Indeed. Do you know who these children are?”
Jack shrugged. “Nope. I’ve seen them around, though. Hey, what’s
“Samantha,” said the owner of the name in a tone of voice that
clearly indicated the conversation was over.
Jack held up his hands. “Whoa. Okay.” Deliberately turning his back
to her, he turned to Daniel. “What about you? Why don’t you talk? Teal’c,
why doesn’t he talk?”
Daniel said nothing. Teal’c said, “We are currently unsure of the
reason,” and took a moment to stare at Daniel, who was clutching a pencil. It
had been Dr. Fraiser’s idea to give him both the pencil and a large sketchpad,
in hope of encouraging him to communicate. Daniel had responded by immediately
settling down and beginning to draw something, no-one knew what. He was
drawing now, staring at the page in fierce concentration.
However, Sam was looking bored, and Teal’c, aware of the limited
possibilities the base had for amusing children, was seized with an idea.
“O’Neill, I must take Samantha somewhere. You will not move from this room,
and you will watch over Daniel Jackson.”
Jack shrugged. “Okay.”
“Where are we going?” Sam asked Teal’c as they moved off down the
“You will see,” Teal’c replied, and wondered about what he was
doing. Ry’ac had never been a scholarly child; few Jaffa children were. He was
not entirely sure how to handle matters.
A few minutes later, they returned to find Jack engrossed in
channel-surfing. The intermittent noise had not broken Daniel’s concentration,
and now Samantha had something of her own to concentrate on. Despite the fact
the age of its borrowers was generally slightly higher, the base library had
proven fairly fruitful – the girl was now reading the Dorling Kindersley Encyclopaedia
of Space and the Universe, and relative quiet ensued.
Eventually, Jack tired of flicking through channels, and Teal’c watched
him carefully, wondering what he would do next. Jack’s attention now turned to
the other people in the room, and he wandered over to Sam with a vaguely bored
expression on his face. “What you readin’?” he asked.
Silently, Sam held up the cover so it faced him.
“Encyclopaedia of space… hey, who reads an encyclopaedia ‘cause
they want to?”
“I do.” Sam wasn’t looking at him.
“Well, I think it’s boring!”
“Well, I don’t happen to care what you think.”
Jack paused. “Big words for a little kid.”
Teal’c, whose experience of Tau’ri children was admittedly limited,
was still sure he could predict what would happen next. There would be more
childish words, then possibly tears. Children were a universal phenomenon –
even Jaffa children were not born knowing discipline.
He prepared for the inevitable.
Which never came. After a moment of tense silence, the pair withdrew from
the conversation as if it had never happened, and both sat down, facing away
from each other. Teal’c raised his eyebrows and caught Daniel’s eye. The
youngest child smiled briefly at him and returned to whatever daydream he had
been lost in.
All in all, it was an unusual scene, and lasted a few seconds more before
alarms sounded and klaxons blared and a familiar voice yelled, “Unscheduled
Gate activation! Incoming traveller! Unscheduled Gate activation!”
Next to a couple of photographs of Sam, Mark and their mother, Jacob’s
most treasured possession was his GDO. It was a pity that he didn’t get to use
it as often as he’d like, he reflected upon activating it and then plunging
into the wormhole.
The icy, helter-skelter ride had a curiously invigorating effect, and
when he was deposited on the ramp of Earth’s Stargate, he felt quite ready to
cope with whatever George and the SGC were about to throw at him. He was swiftly
followed by Malek, who had consented to come along for the trip. The Tok’ra
had long since learned that missions alongside the Tau’ri tended to require as
much manpower as possible.
The general had come down from the control room to meet him. “Good to
see you, Jacob.”
“You too, George. But despite the fact you specifically requested my
presence, I’ve a feeling this isn’t entirely a social call.”
Was that a grimace? It could have been – Hammond was shaking his head.
“You’re perfectly right, of course. We thought you, of all the Tok’ra,
ought to see this. It’s SG-1.”
“Sam?” he asked quickly. “Is she okay?”
George hesitated, then didn’t answer. “This way.”
Jacob followed. Out of the gateroom, through the twists and turns of the
various corridors, up in the elevator, along to the infirmary. Malek was at his
side, but clearly not possessed of the same sense of urgency. But there was
someone else sharing his feelings; Selmak shifted, and while she seemed content
to remain dormant for now, Jacob had no doubt he’d be hearing from her fairly
They went through the infirmary doors with a thump. Teal’c was already
there – so was Dr. Fraiser – and so were a teenage boy, a young child,
“Sam?” he almost yelled.
She pouted at him. Such a familiar expression set in such a familiar
face, and he had to wonder if he were dreaming. And the other two… yes, it got
better, they were Colonel O’Neill
and Dr. Jackson.
Only a fraction of a second passed before Jacob made the obvious enquiry.
“What the hell happened here?”
“We’ve been hoping you could tell us that, Jacob,” Hammond said,
and probably would have said more if Dr. Fraiser hadn’t broken in.
“Sir! The DNA tests are back!” She blinked as she realised she’d
jumped into the middle of things. “Sorry.”
“That’s quite all right, doctor. What do they say?”
“They’ve only confirmed it, sir. The chances are one in several
million of their not being SG-1.”
“The children are SG-1?” exclaimed a new voice.
Oh, yeah. On the ball
Jacob thought, and detected a flicker of amusement from Selmak’s direction. He
stopped his train of thought immediately. Now was not the time to be getting
“Yes, they are,” said Hammond, all graciousness even at a time like
this. “Can the Tok’ra help return them to their usual selves?
“We’ll do our best,” Jacob promised, and Malek concurred. The other
Tok’ra was intelligent in his own way, and was soon in conversation with Dr.
Fraiser, discussing DNA and degradation and deletion mutation and who knew what
else. The three children were standing in Teal’c’s protective shadow, and
Jacob smiled at the thought of the former First Prime playing nursemaid.
He was trying to ignore the fact Sam was pouting at him in a very
familiar way. While he would do his utmost to get his daughter, the
naquadah-reactor-toting Major Samantha Carter, back where she belonged, it was
nice to see that look again.
He took a step across towards the children. Teal’c had moved back to
allow him access to them, which Jacob considered a vote of confidence. After a
moment of awkwardness, he said, “Hi, kids.”
“Hi. Who are you?” asked Jack. It wasn’t an impolite enquiry,
merely curious. Jacob had a feeling Jack’s tendency to get straight to the
point was not something that had developed in adulthood.
Before he could answer the question, Sam jumped in. “He’s my dad,”
she said calmly.
Ah, so she does
suddenly realised he might scar his daughter permanently if Selmak made an
appearance, and mentally broadcasted some frantic messages which she received
A little reassured, Jacob sat down on a chair and the children gathered
around him, Sam sitting in his lap, Jack standing a calculated distance away and
Daniel sitting at his feet. “Yes, I’m Sam’s dad,” he confirmed. “My
name is Jacob. I’m here to help.”
“With what?” Sam asked.
“Getting you all back to normal,” he said.
“This isn’t normal?” Jack asked, and answered his own question.
“Well, I’m normal, but she hates
everything and everyone and the little kid doesn’t talk. Yeah, I get it.”
“Perhaps he’s just shy,” Jacob answered, ignoring the comment about
“Yeah, right.” Jack frowned. “He grabbed my Froot Loops earlier.
Just took ‘em. Just like that! All he had to do was ask.”
“Did you really?” Jacob asked Daniel, but as expected, got no answer.
Daniel appeared unaware he had been directly addressed.
“He’s weird,” Jack said
disgustedly. “Just sits and draws all the time.”
Jacob glanced down at the sketchpad Daniel was working on. “Can I see
what you’re drawing?” he asked, and confident he would get no answer, gently
took the pad from him and looked at it. “Oh,” he said. “You haven’t
finished that yet, have you.” It was a statement, not a question. “I’d
better give it back.”
He suited the action to the word, and Daniel continued without comment.
He was concentrating fiercely, biting on the end of his pencil.
Sam shifted on Jacob’s lap. “What’s the matter?” he asked her.
“Are you going to stay?” she asked him, chewing a lock of her hair.
“As long as you need me to,” he promised, with the sudden realisation
that what he was saying was close to the truth.
It was one of the strangest briefings Janet could remember. To start
with, there were too few people. Only herself, Hammond, Malek, Jacob and
Teal’c. SG-1 weren’t there, of course, and although Janet had wondered if an
exception would be made for Jack, apparently not. No doubt Teal’c had arranged
for an unfortunate airman to take care of the children for the duration.
It had been decided earlier that Malek would speak. To her surprise,
Janet had found she enjoyed working with him. He was more diffident than most
Tok’ra, and they had established a rapport.
“As you know, Dr. Fraiser
and I have been studying SG-1’s DNA in greater detail in an attempt to further
understand their recent transformation. It has been of great interest to us both
– manipulation of human DNA is rarely achieved with this degree of subtlety
and accuracy, and it is clear that whatever did this to the children is
extremely technologically advanced. There is the potential for a great detail of
study. To put things into simple terms, the basic structure of the children’s
DNA has not been altered. They retain the genetic traits they have always had.
However, it is clear that something has been changed. I don’t know how
familiar you are with the underlying mechanics of human ageing, but again, put
in basic terms, human DNA degrades over time. As a child grows, different
sequences of genes are expressed and different proteins synthesised, but even
having reached adulthood, the ageing process continues because DNA replication,
while mostly accurate, is not perfect. Errors creep in.
“In the case of SG-1, something has reversed this process of genetic
degradation. The children’s DNA has been returned to its earlier pristine
state. Accordingly, the genes being expressed within their cells are those of
young children as opposed to three adults. I have reason to believe that
Teal’c, too, has been affected, although as Dr. Fraiser says, our
understanding of Jaffa genetics is much less comprehensive. However, his greater
age beforehand has resulted in a minimal phenotype change.”
Malek paused and Hammond took the chance to break in. Janet smiled
inwardly – even when he had the right to betray a little impatience, he always
attempted to keep things as polite as possible. “What about their memories?”
Janet took a turn speaking. “While their DNA has been changed, their
experience hasn’t.” She paused and clarified, “Your genes don’t govern
the effects of your environment on you. What I would expect to see is SG-1 with
all their adult memories. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.”
“It is quite possible that their memories will yet return,” Malek
said. “This is a quite unprecedented event, and we cannot say anything for
“Colonel O’Neill seems aware that there is a large gap in his
memory,” Janet added. “What’s to say that’s just a precursor to his
remembering everything? Also, Teal’c…”
“I am in full possession of my memories,” Teal’c stated. “But I
have not been regressed to my formative years. However, I have noticed that the
children do not always behave as one might expect. I suspect they are aware at
some level that they are indeed adults.”
“Which could well prove the key to it,” Janet said, nodding at him.
“What about reversing it?” Hammond asked.
Malek looked uncomfortable. “It cannot be done with existing Tau’ri
or Tok’ra technology. Our best chance is to go back to the planet where this
occurred and attempt to ascertain how and with what it was done.”
“I’m not comfortable with sending another team back there,” Hammond
said. “What’s to say it won’t happen again?”
Malek paused. “Teal’c – you said it didn’t happen immediately
when you arrived on the planet?”
Teal’c shook his head. “It did not. I was unaware that anything
untoward had occurred until our arrival on Earth.”
Hammond swivelled round and tapped on the keys of the laptop controlling
the presentation. “Here’s the last time we saw them as adults. We got it
through the MALP SG-1 sent back through the Gate.”
It was the recording of the transmission Sam had sent. Vaguely fuzzy, she
was nevertheless unmistakably an adult. Her voice was scratchy but familiar. “No
sign of habitation. Daniel says he thinks the planet was once colonised by the
Ancients, because there is a Stargate here, but there’s no sign of them left.”
Within a minute, Daniel himself had appeared. Although he was more
distant from the MALP and half-hidden by the DHD, he was also clearly
recognisable. “Ah… there are some
writings on the DHD, which is unusual… the script indicates the Ancients were
here at some point in the past, but it’s an even earlier version of their
writing and I’m not making much headway…”
Hammond switched it off. “There you have it. SG-1 were adults at this
point, which was only about half an hour before they came back through the
“Wait,” Malek said. “Dr. Jackson had reason to believe the Ancients
were once on the planet?”
“Indeed,” Teal’c told him. “Just before our departure, he and
Major Carter discovered a device buried beneath the other Stargate. Daniel
Jackson believed the Ancients were responsible for putting it there. However,
Colonel O’Neill believed we should return to Earth as soon as possible, so we
did not unbury it.”
“The Stargate,” Janet said suddenly. “If you were going to scramble
someone’s DNA, the Stargate would be perfect for it.”
They all looked at her, and she was moved to explain further. “Well,
think about it. The Stargate completely deconstitutes you into your component
molecules and reconstitutes you on the other side. What better time to alter
some of those molecules?”
“DNA molecules?” queried Malek.
When it was clear no-one else was going to say anything, Hammond took
charge. “Well, people, what do we think? Is it safe to go back to the
“Absolutely not.” Janet shook her head. “If it’s the Stargate –
possibly accompanied by the alien device Dr. Jackson found beneath it –
that’s doing this, then another team would have their DNA altered the moment
they stepped through.”
“SG-1 were not affected until their return, Dr. Fraiser,” Teal’c
“That doesn’t matter. It’s still too much of a risk.”
“There are other ways of returning to the planet,”
Malek said. “Possibly by ship?”
“Do the Tok’ra have one they can lend us?” Hammond asked.
“We can find out,” Malek replied. “In the meantime, may I make a
“Thank you. It may prove helpful if some study was made of the alien
Stargate. I believe there is some video footage of it, and Dr. Jackson cannot be
the only linguist on the base.”
“I’ll have it turned over to his department immediately. Thank you,
Malek. And you, Dr. Fraiser. This has all been very informative, and I hope
we’ve done some way in deciding how to help our people.” He paused, and
seemed about to dismiss everyone, but stopped to ask, “Jacob? You’ve been
very quiet. Do you have anything to add?”
Jacob smiled. “Oh, I think their memories are coming back.”
“How so, Jacob?” asked Hammond.
“Because I took this from Daniel earlier.”
He laid the sketchpad flat on the table and flipped it open to the first
page. There, with all thirty-six symbols crisply rendered, was a perfect drawing
of the Stargate.
Nyan and Robert Rothman were both sitting and staring at a priceless
Goa’uld artefact from P3X-785. They had labelled as it an artefact because
neither was sure what it was exactly.
“It’s not a bomb,” Nyan said thoughtfully.
“No,” said Rothman, just as thoughtfully.
There was a long pause.
“We need Daniel back,” said Nyan, and breathed a sigh. He put the
object to one side. The next item on the list, marked as extremely urgent, was
some scratchy MALP footage of a Stargate.
“We’re supposed to be studying it,” Nyan said intelligently.
“It’s a Stargate!” exclaimed Rothman, exasperated. “They’re not
made to measure! All of them are the same!”
“Not this one,” said Nyan stubbornly, pausing the tape. “Apparently
this one is different.”
“Okay, okay.” Rothman held up his hands. “If it’s that important,
why don’t we just go to the planet and look at it?”
“In case the same thing happens to us as happened to SG-1,” Nyan
Rothman didn’t seem convinced. “Huh. SG-1.” After a minute, he
added, “Are you in the pool? Alien children? We’ve got inside knowledge!”
Nyan groaned. “It’s disrespectful.”
“Gallows humour,” Rothman responded. “You live and work in this
place, you’re allowed to be a little crazy.”
The door burst open. It was
Dr. Fraiser. Nyan took a step back. His experience with Stargate Command’s
Chief Medical Officer was limited to her constant insistence that he was
delicate, he needed to take care, his alien physiology made him different, and
no matter how luminary he was in other fields, in terms of staying healthy Dr.
Jackson was not a good role model.
She wasn’t looking at him. She was advancing on Rothman, who was doing
a passable impression of a deer in headlights.
“Dr. Rothman,” she said sweetly. “Do you speak Arabic?”
The question was so unexpected that it took him a moment to compose an
answer. “Not with a great degree of fluency, but I can get by, yes.”
“Good. Can you teach it to me?”
Rothman blinked at her. “Um… I can try. When would you like
“Now. Come down to the infirmary in five minutes, please.”
She left. Nyan stared at Rothman. “What was all that about?”
Rothman didn’t reply directly, sweeping everything he had been working
on into an untidy pile and muttering darkly. “They’re all nuts. This place
is nuts. Howling lunatics. Off their collective rocker. Nuts.”
Nyan wasn’t really listening. “This might have something to do with
“Daniel?” Rothman glanced up distractedly as he made his way to the
door. “Lord love him, he’s the worst of the lot.”
Nyan smiled to himself as the door closed. There was something to be said
for this place. It was never boring.
He went back to studying the MALP footage. Fast-forward, rewind, pause
– and maybe somewhere there would be a clue.
Daniel was quite sure something was different. Everything was wrong, but
somehow right, and he could almost remember it, but not quite. It was like the
sand, running through his fingers, burning by day and cool by night. It was like
the words, my heart, my mother, twice; my
heart of my coming into being, with one stroke changed, so the whole meaning
was changed and it was all almost right but not enough. He had drawn it –
hieratics, over and over again, then demotic, then the symbols he knew and did
not know, and the ring.
The man had taken his drawings. He hoped they would come back.
The walls were smooth grey in this room, and they hummed. It was
interesting, but there was no sunlight. No scorching bright light that he hid
from under a thick hood and felt the heat of in the sand beneath his feet.
Instead there was cool air, and dim lights, and people.
The boy was trying to talk to him again. Daniel smiled inwardly; it was
nice of him to keep trying, especially as Daniel had calmly absconded with his
breakfast. He couldn’t ask for it, but the food was such bright colours, like
nothing he’d ever seen, that he hadn’t been able to help himself.
The boy was still talking. Daniel wanted to reply, but the words were
floating out of reach again. So close. They were so close. If only he could
remember! He could speak, he could ask for his drawings back, he could do so
He could find what had gone wrong.
But before a word could drop from his lips, the boy had gone. He sighed
deeply, a childish sigh that nevertheless resonated through his bones, and
turned his attention to the other child in the room. She was sitting primly in a
chair, reading a book without pictures. He didn’t know if he dared talk to
her. She was older than he was, and hadn’t so much as glanced in his direction
yet. Abruptly, he decided to not even try, and slowly got to his feet and walked
to the door. The room’s remaining occupant was standing beside it, and he was
a big man with a golden symbol on his forehead. It looked like a serpent.
The man didn’t speak. Perhaps he knew his words would mutate and
disappear before they reached Daniel’s ears, and didn’t want to waste the
effort. Daniel stared up at him. Then he moved on, reaching for the door handle.
Maybe he could make a start on finding the sun.
But before he could take another step, he felt his feet leave the ground.
The man was lifting him, and he squirmed wildly as he was placed into another
chair. The man said something before he let go; Daniel was not listening, mostly
concerned with the fact his feet were still not touching the ground.
He was just considering making another attempt for the door, when it
opened from the other side. A woman stepped in, and he remembered he’d seen
her before – she wore the white coat and moved around during the night.
Without so much looking at anyone else, she dropped to her knees in front
of him so they were at eye-level.
“Daniel,” she said, and spoke some more, slowly so the words
Hebrew, Biblical, possessive and faithful and ringing out beneath stars and
God is my judge.
And in a flash of sunlight, he understood.
This time, it wasn’t a reallocation of budget but rather personnel.
Hammond was quite interested to know why certain members of Dr. Jackson’s team
of civilian archaeologists, experts on cultural cross-pollination, had been
called away from their usual work in favour of pressing business in the
He would also have liked to know why Jacob had requisitioned a Polaroid
camera and why Malek was taking so long in contacting the Tok’ra for use of a
ship and above all why his flagship team had regressed thirty years without any
warning, but had decided to stick to attainable goals.
But before he could page Dr. Fraiser and ask her some questions, he was
distracted by the patter of small feet. Taking a deep breath and reminding
himself that matters couldn’t get any more surreal than they were already,
Hammond peered round his office door.
He was greeted by a small person bearing a very serious expression.
Hammond had to take a second to remind himself that he was actually looking at
Dr. Daniel Jackson, thirty-six years old and responsible for the existence of
the Stargate Project.
Despite the overall strangeness of the situation, he couldn’t stop himself from smiling. “Over here,” he said softly, and let the child methodically make his way into the office and sit on the floor by the open door. “I’m usually better with children,” Hammond told him, “but I’m your commanding officer and I don’t want to give you a complex.”
Five minutes later, Dr. Fraiser appeared, looking stressed. “I turned my back for a moment and he wandered off!” she exclaimed.
Hammond chuckled. He couldn’t help it. Colonel O’Neill had said the same thing word-for-word on several occasions.
“Come, Daniel,” said Dr. Fraiser sternly. Daniel stared for a moment, looking mutinous, then reluctantly followed.
Hammond called them back. “I see you’ve got him under control?” he said, amused.
“With a little help from Dr. Rothman, yes,” she replied. Seeing he expected an explanation, she turned. “At first I thought Daniel might have learning difficulties, maybe even autism.”
“Learning difficulties? Autism?” Hammond’s tone indicated he was dubious.
“I agree, that didn’t seem likely. The problem is his childhood records were all turned over to the authorities when he was placed in foster care, and the records…”
“Have all gone missing,” Hammond supplied, and off her look, “It happens a lot.”
“Right. Well, short of involving other government departments, there’s not much we can do. So I started thinking. As far as we know, Daniel grew up in Egypt and other places in the Middle East and never came to the States until he was eight. On a hunch, I asked Dr. Rothman to teach me some Arabic.”
Hammond nodded at Daniel, who was tuning out the conversation. “He speaks Arabic?”
“Apparently. Also French, Yiddish and some Dutch.”
“If you remember, Claire Ballard was Dutch,” she reminded him. “Oh, and Dr. Rothman’s been looking at Daniel’s drawings and says he can cope with hieroglyphs and demotic script. I’m sure he must understand at least some of what we’re saying – he probably isn’t used to hearing much English, though.”
“Well.” Hammond sat back. “At least that’s one mystery solved. How are we doing on changing SG-1 back into adults?”
“To be perfectly honest, I can’t achieve much without Malek’s assistance,” she said. “He says our best shot is to retrieve the machine that apparently did this.”
“For which we need a ship.” Hammond sighed. “According to Jacob, Malek is having to petition the Tok’ra at a difficult time. They need all the ships they’ve got.”
Janet shook her head. “This is just as important. I really don’t know what the long-term effects of this are going to be, and I don’t even want to think about it being permanent.”
“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that,” Hammond said soothingly, but the effect was marred by the alarms all over the base beginning to wail.
The general was on his feet in a second, heading downstairs. From behind him, he heard the doctor say sharply, “Come, Daniel!” and smiled to himself. By the time he was standing in front of the control room window, the dialling computer was registering a transmission. “It’s the Tok’ra, sir,” said the sergeant, and Hammond nodded.
“Open the iris.”
Down in the gateroom, the iris spun out of the way, revealing the familiar shimmering surface. A few seconds later, Malek stepped out onto the ramp, looking slightly the worse for wear. He was alone, and the defence team in the gateroom stood down.
The debriefing was short and to the point.
“There is no ship.” It was the symbiote rather than the host talking. “The number of undercover operatives among the ranks of the system lords is decreasing, and all ships are being used to retrieve the last ones. There are none to spare.”
“So what does this mean?” Hammond asked. “My people are going to stay like this?”
“We regret we cannot help.” Malek’s tone was peremptory.
“Jacob?” Hammond looked over at his old friend.
Jacob shrugged. “I don’t know, George. I don’t like this any more than you do. I don’t want my daughter eight years old forever.”
“SG-1 cannot remain like this.” It was Teal’c speaking, and with the sort of authoritative calm that reminded Hammond that Teal’c had once commanded armies.
“Agreed.” Hammond was decisive. “If the Tok’ra can’t help us, then we’ll have to find a way to help ourselves. Dismissed.”
If she had been allowed to give in to her first impulse, Janet would have stayed on the base overnight, working on a cure with Malek. The Tok’ra had not gone back through the Stargate, ostensibly because Jacob refused to leave, but Janet harboured a hope that he would yet prove to be helpful.
But it dawned on her that the one thing she was always prescribing, no matter how bizarre the affliction, was a good night’s sleep, and she could do worse than setting a good example. Like any other workplace, the SGC did suffer a depletion of numbers round about five in the evening, and for once she joined the throngs of people going up to NORAD and ground level. Twenty minutes later, she was home with Cassandra, who had managed fairly well in her absence, although the dog had got into the trash again and there were bits of shredded pizza box everywhere.
They spent a quiet evening at home. Cassandra was watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer when suddenly, she turned and asked, “What happened to SG-1?”
Janet looked up. “It’s hard to explain.”
“No, it’s not.” Cassandra was quite definite about that. “You just don’t want to tell me.”
“Are they missing?” Cassandra was almost used to their being missing. They reappeared on a regular basis.
“No, not this time. They’re on the base.”
“Can I see them?”
“No.” Janet was adamant. “You can’t.”
“Not even Sam?”
“Not even Sam. She’s… not feeling her usual self.”
“Mom, what happened to them?” Cassandra was beginning to get angry. “They’re my friends too!”
“I know, I know. I just don’t think you ought to know yet.”
Cassandra said nothing, merely looking mutinous. Janet decided the time had come to change the subject. “Don’t you have school tomorrow? It’s getting late.”
“You’re changing the subject.”
“Cassandra, go to bed.”
Cassandra glared and went, slamming the door behind her. Janet stared after her and wondered how much of her life she was destined to spend coping with rebellious children. She wasn’t entirely sure why she had chosen not to tell Cassandra. The girl had a much higher security clearance than most people, and if this looked like being a permanent state of affairs, then she would have to know.
That was it, Janet decided as she swept the pizza box bits off the kitchen floor. Telling their friends and family would imply an acceptance of what had happened to SG-1, and she didn’t want to accept it. She wanted to change it.
She went to bed herself not long after that, but she couldn’t sleep for a long time. Having just about drifted into unconsciousness, she swore robustly and comprehensively when the phone rang at five in the morning. Still muttering darkly, she grabbed the receiver. “Hello?”
“Dr. Fraiser?” The anonymous voice was very polite, very reasonable, very apologetic and absolutely immune to argument. Sorry for the inconvenience, the early hour, etc, but it really was absolutely vital she came at once, as in now, please.
Janet slammed the phone down, staggered around the room getting dressed, and ten minutes later when she was somewhat more awake, looked in on Cassandra.
“What’s happening?” The girl was sleepy but concerned.
“There’s been some sort of emergency… I have to go. Can you manage?”
Cassandra looked at her for the few seconds it took her sleep-befuddled mind to process this, then mumbled, “Hope it works out okay,” and went back to sleep.
Janet took it as an affirmative that yes, she could manage, and within minutes was on the road to the mountain, driving through deserted streets and cool morning air. She saw no other cars on the way, and when she signed herself in at the gate, noticed she was the first of the base personnel to do so. With a sigh, she descended in the elevators, waved at the guards and at length, reached the infirmary.
One of the night nurses met her at the door. “Sorry,” she whispered. “But he’s been up for hours and he keeps asking for you, and we’re afraid he’s going to wake the others…”
“Who is?” Janet asked, but the nurse was distracted. Janet shrugged and made her own way across to where the children were sleeping. Ordinarily she would have objected to three healthy people taking up beds in the infirmary, but clearly they couldn’t go home and the space wasn’t currently needed. Apart from anything else, putting them up here gave Teal’c respite from babysitting duty and the chance to kelnoreem in peace.
Only one of them was awake. Jack.
“Hey, Doc,” he greeted her as she sat down beside him. “Level me with here. What’s going on?”
She paused, trying to see the difference in his expression. “You remember.”
“Damn right I do. And no-one will tell me what happened.”
Janet forced herself to look at it scientifically. “What’s the last thing you remember?”
“We were on that planet. P3X…” He paused. “Seven-three-seven, I think, but don’t quote me. Some planet. Real nice place, though. Had a lake with fish in it and everything. Anyway, Teal’c and I were going back to the Gate, getting ready to ship out, and there’s Daniel and Carter digging something up. Turns out Daniel’s discovered some gizmo buried underneath the Stargate. He wanted to get it out, but he didn’t know if it was going to explode or not, and I figured that if it did, it would blow up the Gate. So I told him to leave it for now, we’d come back later, and Carter dialled up, we went through, and… I woke up here. Like this! What the hell’s going on? What’s happened to my team?”
“Daniel and Sam are fine,” she said, pointing to the bed next to Jack’s. “Asleep, though, so don’t talk too loud.”
Obediently, he lowered his voice. “Is that fine as in fine or fine as in…” He pointed to his own head.
“They were affected the same way, yes. Malek says the device Daniel found below the Gate may well be responsible for doing this to you while you were in transit.”
“Great. The Tok’ra are here. That’s all I need.” Jack sounded exasperated and horrified at the same time. “I feel about sixteen, for crying out loud. What is this, SG-1: The Teenage Years?”
Janet shook her head. “Not quite. You were each regressed by the same amount of time. Because you had more years to lose, so to speak…”
Jack caught on immediately. “Oh, no. How old?”
“Sam is about eight, and Daniel’s a couple of years younger.”
“Great. Fabulous. My scientists are infants.” Jack exhaled deeply. “What about Teal’c?”
“Currently in his quarters, meditating. Thirty years is nothing when you’re more than a hundred to start with.”
Jack appeared swayed by this logic. “I can see that.” And then, as the situation hit him again: “Puberty is supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience! I don’t want to be sixteen again!”
“We’re hoping it won’t be for long,” she assured him. “Now your memories have returned, we could use your help.”
He seemed puzzled. “What do you mean, memories have returned?”
Janet thought about it. “You don’t remember the last two days?”
“I’ve been asleep for two days?”
“Not asleep, no. Awake and cheerful. Do you not remember any of it?”
Jack’s brow furrowed as he thought. Finally, he asked tentatively, “Were Froot Loops involved?”
She nodded, and he groaned and hid his head under a pillow. Several seconds later, he showed no sign of wanting to emerge.
She knew it was probably an unprofessional thought, but she was looking forward to his reaction when the other children woke up. That would be… interesting.
Nyan had almost fallen asleep on his desk. His head was on the table and one arm was flung out over the edge of it, fingers limply gripping the remote control and aiming it at the screen.
Forwards, backwards. He had long since given up on the footage of the Stargate itself and was just watching the entirety of the tape. No sign of habitation. Over and over. No sign of habitation. No sign of them left. Over and over and over again. Daniel thinks the planet was once colonised by the Ancients.
“Did,” Nyan corrected himself. “He did think that, before he lost all memory of anything that happened less than thirty years ago!”
“Talking to yourself again in the mirror again?” Rothman asked. Nyan hadn’t heard him come in, and turned round to see the other scientist was at least as tired as himself.
“Not in the mirror, no,” Nyan replied sleepily. “Just talking to myself. What did Dr. Fraiser want?”
Rothman groaned. “That was yesterday! Have you been on the base all this time?”
“Yes, and so have you,” Nyan said calmly. “We’re short-handed, you know that. Did it have something to do with Daniel?”
“What? Oh, yeah… yeah, it did. It appears our beloved department head has lost the ability to speak English. I’ve been translating.”
Nyan didn’t ask why he found the idea of translation so distasteful. He really was falling asleep, he decided. He wondered if being consciously aware you were falling asleep somehow negated the falling-asleep part, and re-evaluated the earlier diagnosis – he was not falling asleep, merely traversing the state of exhaustion, planting a flag and emerging out the other side.
With an effort, he sat up, ignoring his protesting shoulder muscles, and stretched his arms out. The remote control hit the floor, but he ignored it. “Robert, where’s the coffee?”
Rothman glanced at him. “We’re out of it, and the commissary doesn’t open for another” – he glanced at his watch – “two hours. Nyan, it’s five in the morning. It’s not often I say this to a friend and colleague, but I really think you should go to bed.”
Nyan ignored all of this. “Do you think Daniel would mind if I took some from his office?”
Rothman sighed. “No, I don’t think he would, but Nyan, really, I don’t think…”
Nyan was still ignoring him. He stood up and yawned, shook his feet out to try and get some feeling back into them, and walked stiffly towards the door.
“It’s your funeral!” Rothman yelled after him, but Nyan was too far gone to care as he wandered somnambulistically down the corridor. It was perfectly quiet. The night shift were getting tired as the hours wore on, and the morning influx of people hadn’t started yet. Nyan rubbed at his eyes as he realised he was inches away from walking into the wall. Why was he here again?
Coffee. Caffeine. And it was the one thing Daniel could always be relied on to have in liberal quantities. He even took it offworld with him. Everyone in the department had been treated at least once to one of his impassioned rants on the inhumanity of USAF commissary coffee.
Nyan let himself quietly into Daniel’s office, feeling a little guilty. When he was in residence, Daniel rarely even closed the door, but Nyan still felt uncomfortable at breaching another man’s sanctum. The room was a mess – there were papers everywhere, all manner of artefacts from a dozen different worlds, and the computer keyboard was buried in post-it notes and yes, half-drunk cups of coffee – but it still felt curiously unlived in. It took a moment for Nyan’s sleep-deprived brain to process, but he realised it was because the room was already covered in a thin layer of dust. The archaeologically interesting pieces tended to accumulate dust anyway, but without Daniel to get rid of it, even the papers were attracting it. Nyan’s footsteps were stirring some of it up in small clouds.
Abruptly, he reminded himself he was here for a reason. He knew the relevant drawer, and quickly found what he was looking for, but as he reached the door and made to close it behind him, he paused. Someone ought to shut down the computer at least, and maybe do something about the dust…
It would be some sort of recompense, he decided. Not that he wouldn’t replace the bag of coffee beans he had taken, but still.
Gently, he shifted some of the papers out of the way and uncovered the computer mouse. A few clicks, and the computer hummed into silence. Nyan remembered Colonel O’Neill’s chagrin that an alien had mastered Linux before he had, and smiled as he pushed the mouse back into place. The dust was rising. A quick glance at one of the shelves revealed a box of tissues – Daniel’s antihistamines weren’t infallible, and he was always having an allergic reaction to something – and Nyan pulled a couple out and began dusting. The computer screen first, then the two framed photographs on the desk – one of Daniel in Egypt, sitting on a camel, and the other of Sha’re, her eyes staring intensely out of the frame – and then the papers.
The top one had less dust than the others. It was grubby, though, covered in fingerprints and smudges and crumpled at the corners. Nyan glanced at it, not really looking, but something caught his attention. Sharp, angular characters were standing out in stark white, not drawn on the page but standing out in relief against a background of smudged crayon. It reminded him of a brass rubbing. For a moment, Nyan stood there, trying to think where he had seen it before with the symbols dancing before his eyes, and then the coffee dropped from his hands.
Two minutes later, Rothman looked up in surprise as Nyan came running in, waving a piece of paper at him and mumbling incoherently. “What’s up with you?”
Without pausing to explain, Nyan ran back towards the desk he had been camping out on, reached out for a non-existent remote control and floundered. Patiently, Rothman reached down to the floor and grabbed it. “Here.”
Nyan pressed the button. Rothman watched as the same old MALP footage wound forward. “Where’s Dr. Jackson?” asked Hammond’s voice.
“Here.” Daniel was clearly visible behind the DHD, and Nyan paused the tape.
“There,” he said breathlessly, pointing. “Look.”
Rothman did so. “What am I looking at?” he asked presently.
Nyan jabbed at the screen. “There. Look what Daniel’s holding.”
Rothman peered at it. “A piece of a paper? With” – he squinted – “stuff on it? Is that the Ancients’ writing?”
Nyan waved his own piece of paper. “Look! This is it! I found it in Daniel’s office!”
Rothman frowned. “I’m sorry, I’m not with you.”
“Robert, Daniel took a rubbing of the DHD before they left. Translating this” – he shook the paper for emphasis – “could be a clue to fixing what happened to them!”
Rothman took it from him. “Are you sure this is it? How did it end up in Daniel’s office?”
“I don’t know, but I’m sure.” Nyan sat down with a thump, all his earlier weariness suddenly hitting him again. “We’ve got to take this to General Hammond. Or the Tok’ra. Or someone.”
“We ought to make sure we can translate it first,” Rothman said, taking it from him. “It’s not as if we’ve got Daniel to help, remember. Let’s see… we could possibly cross-reference it with the writings at Heliopolis, also the information that was downloaded into Colonel O’Neill…”
He was talking to himself. Stretched out over the desk, Nyan was fast asleep.
By mid-morning, Sam was still asleep, Daniel was still mentally six years old and was holed up somewhere with his drawings again, and Jack had been to petition General Hammond. As he was once again Colonel Jack O’Neill, himself in mind if not in body, he ought to be accorded the same privileges as he had been before this little debacle. And he wasn’t asking for anything much, not a return to active duty, or anything like that (Hammond’s blood pressure appeared to be rising at the very idea), but only the freedom to move around the base without Teal’c shadowing him every step he took.
Surprisingly, Hammond was ready to grant him this, and the same for Carter once she could prove her memory had come back. It only later dawned on Jack that Teal’c was allowed the exact same privileges as he was, and if the Jaffa chose to take a path round the SGC that was exactly the same in every particular as his, Jack’s, chosen route, then that was his business.
So he wandered round the infirmary and got in the way of the nurses, then he wandered round the corridors and annoyed the airmen, and he wandered down to the control room for the purpose of irritating Carter, before realising she wouldn’t be there. Without turning round, he said, “Teal’c, what do you say we go and see if Carter remembers who we are yet?”
“I was not aware you knew of my presence, O’Neill.”
“Well, you are now. It’s like having your own personal bodyguard,” Jack groused.
“It is for your own safety, O’Neill. You are not yourself.”
“All right, all right.” Jack held up his hands. “Lead on, Macduff.”
Teal’c raised an eyebrow but did not comment. The mismatched pair proceeded to make their way up in the elevator and reached the infirmary in time to hear sounds of a commotion. Jack stuck his head in. “Hey, Doc.”
“Colonel, we’re a little busy right now…”
Jack listened carefully. “Is that Carter yelling?”
A second later, he was rewarded with the sight of a very angry small girl. It dawned on him that she must have learnt restraint over the years; in all the time he’d known her, he’d never heard her in such a fine old temper. “No, I do not want to sit down and be a good girl!” she was shouting. “I don’t want to play with dolls and eat Jell-O! I want someone to tell me what the hell is happening, damn it!”
“Now there’s the Carter we know and love,” Jack remarked to Teal’c.
He had caught her attention. “And who are you?”
Jack drew himself up to what was left of his full height. “I am your commanding officer, Major Carter.”
She seemed somewhat disbelieving., but Janet and the nurse drew back, apparently ready to let Jack handle it. “You’re Colonel O’Neill?”
“Afraid so.” He guided her to sit down on the edge of a bed, and contrary to what he had expected, she didn’t resist. “There was an accident on that last planet, Sam. That doohickey Daniel found did this to us when we were coming through the Stargate. It’s taken a couple of days for us to remember who we really are.”
She took a deep breath. “I know who I am. I am not eight years old!”
“That’s the spirit.” He grinned. “Your dad and the other Tok’ra are working on a cure.”
“Dad’s here?” She seemed almost calm now, and Jack relaxed a little. “He must have had a shock.”
Jack nodded. “Lots of people did. Teal’c here, for instance.”
She looked up and appeared to notice Teal’c for the first time. “Hey, Teal’c. Sorry about the yelling.” She paused. “You too, Colonel. I was just sick of being treated like a little girl.”
She paused for a moment, then peered at Jack as though she couldn’t quite trust her eyes. “I don’t believe this is happening.”
“Hey,” Jack said, grinning, “you think this is bad, wait ‘til you see Daniel.”
“Daniel!” Janet suddenly jumped to her feet. “He was right here! Where’s he got to now?”
Sam looked confused. “Surely he can take care of himself?”
Jack shook his head violently. “He’s not got his memories back yet.”
“Our memories came back at different times?” Sam asked quickly. Even the way she was sitting was different, Jack noticed; far less shy little girl and much more air force major.
“Yeah, looks like it. Teal’c got ‘em back in seconds, I took a couple of days, you until a few minutes ago, and Daniel still hasn’t. Isn’t that right, Doc?”
Janet nodded. “What this basically means is we’ve got a six-year-old loose in a military base. Look, you two stay here, and I’ll…”
Jack interrupted her. “We’d be more use if we helped look. Carter, you and Teal’c go down to the gateroom, I’ll take a look round this level. We’ll find him.”
He was up on his feet and out the way out of the door before he’d finished speaking. After a pause to appreciate the sight of the ex-First Prime of Apophis going off on a mission with an eight-year-old girl in pink shoes, he headed off in the other direction. He had wondered for a moment whether perhaps the doctor wasn’t overreacting slightly, but he did have personal experience of Daniel’s regrettable wanderlust, and the many equally regrettable incidents that had often followed. Besides, he was sure he’d heard Hammond talking about having found Daniel in his office the day before, and he knew Daniel was capable of travelling a surprising distance in a very short time.
Maybe she wasn’t overreacting, after all.
The corridors were full of people, and Jack debated the merits of simply yelling Daniel’s name. He might attract a lot of attention, but he was doing that already – the news had gradually filtered through the grapevine that the brown-haired teenage boy currently being seen around the SGC was none other than Colonel O’Neill, and should on no account be approached too closely – and so he decided he had nothing to lose.
There were some echoes and some startled muttering from nearby personnel. No answering voice, no footsteps…
Jack inwardly slapped his forehead. There wouldn’t be an answer, would there, not with Daniel’s continuing refusal to speak English, and definitely no sound of footsteps, not with those small boots still sitting in the infirmary resolutely unworn.
“Daniel!” he yelled again, simply so he could make a lot of noise and prove to himself he was being effective. He was still attracting a few turned heads, but he was leaving the more populated parts of the level now, heading towards storerooms and supply rooms and – oh, no – weapons lockers, and there were dozens of places for one small boy to hide.
“Daniel,” he tried again, quietly just in case the shouting was scaring him. But as expected, there was no answer. Jack slowed to a walk. Maybe, just maybe, he’d catch a glimpse of blonde hair, the patter of feet…
Jack looked up, saw a pair of surprised blue eyes, and took a violent step back. “Sorry,” he muttered. “Wasn’t looking where I was going.”
“So I see.” The man was smiling, and seemed to know him. It took Jack a moment to recognise him in return as Daniel’s Bedrosian research assistant – if Daniel was still qualified to have a research assistant, which seemed doubtful at this stage, seeing how he was six and missing…
Jack realised his thoughts were wandering. What was the guy’s name? “Uh… Nyan. Have you seen…”
“Daniel?” Nyan supplied.
“Yeah! You’ve seen him?”
“This way.” Nyan led and Jack followed, past the storeroom doors, towards the elevator and down one level. Jack was just wondering how much further Daniel could possible have gone when Nyan finally came to a stop. Jack went through a door behind him to find himself in one of the labs. There was someone else already there, and he looked up at the sudden entrance. “Nyan! I told you to go to bed! And who are… oh, Colonel O’Neill.”
“Dr. Rothman,” Jack said as graciously as he could. The constant double-takes were something he was getting used to.
Rothman went back to whatever he was studying so intently, Nyan ambled off to the other side of the room, and there, sitting on the edge of the table with bare feet swinging back and forth, was…
“Daniel!” Jack jumped forwards. “Do you know how worried we’ve been? Don’t run off like that!”
Daniel appeared unaffected. Without looking up, Rothman muttered, “He can’t understand you, Colonel.”
Jack ignored that. “You,” he said sternly, “stay here. Dr. Rothman – where’s the phone in here?”
Rothman waved one hand in a vague sweep. Jack found it himself and quickly called the search off. Janet sounded harassed, and he wondered exactly how many grey hairs Daniel had given her over the last few years.
With a sigh, he reached for one of Daniel’s hands. “Come on, Danny.”
Daniel stared at the hand holding his own with a bemused expression. Jack pulled slightly and he launched himself off the table and landed lightly on the floor.
“Thank you. Now we’re going back to the infirmary. The doc’s going to be having kittens, you know that?”
“Um… Colonel?” Nyan looked up. “We could… if you wanted… I mean, we’ll watch Daniel if you want.”
“We will?” Rothman asked with thinly veiled incredulity.
“You will?” Jack was highly sceptical. Something about the young scientist’s wide-eyes and drawn expression caught his attention. “How long since you’ve slept?” he asked shrewdly.
“That’s not important.” Nyan waved him away. “We’re his colleagues. We’re technically responsible for keeping him occupied.”
“He’s on my team!” Jack protested, but less full-heartedly than he’d intended. Daniel seemed quite happy here, busy playing with the sheets of paper Rothman had spread all over the table, and Janet was quite stressed enough, and they had offered…
“Colonel?” Nyan prompted.
Jack sighed. “This is probably against my better judgement. If I have any left. And if Dr. Fraiser doesn’t like it, you’ll probably be hearing from her shortly. But as far as I’m concerned, you’re welcome to him. Unless of course… Daniel, is that okay with you?”
“Daniel.” Rothman glanced up, then muttered a few words that arrived in Jack’s ears as melodic gibberish.
Daniel didn’t speak, but he nodded. Jack raised his eyebrows. “He’s a smart cookie. Surely he should have picked up some English by now?”
Rothman merely smiled. “I think you of all people should know how stubborn he can be, Colonel.”
Jack sighed again. “All right. Keep a good eye on him. If he gets lost again it’s not just me you’ll have to answer to.”
And knowing they would shortly take unconscious offence at being ordered around by a teenager, he left.
Once he was sure the door was firmly closed, Robert Rothman stood up, walked round the desk and dropped to be at eye level with Daniel. “You know, you are the most awful child,” he said conversationally.
Daniel smiled sweetly and started swinging his feet again.
Nyan laughed. “He certainly is. Better not tell Colonel O’Neill. Robert, have you finished yet?”
“Almost.” Rothman had begun gathering his sheets of paper together. “If you’re right and this is the rubbing Daniel is holding in the MALP transmission – I wish you could tell us,” he added in Daniel’s direction. “Anyway, if you’re right, then I’d say I’ve made some headway. The markings on the DHD are some kind of instructions on how to… I don’t know, reprogram it, for lack of a better word. The only bits I’m not sure of are the beginning and the end.”
Nyan stood up. “In that case, Daniel, we’re going to see General Hammond. Come with me?”
Daniel obediently jumped off the table and toddled over to him. Nyan took his hand, and together they went out of the room with Rothman trailing after them.
Jacob Carter was never precisely sure about his status within the SGC. On the one hand, he was a general, equal in rank to George Hammond, and had done his years of service with the best of them. But on the other hand, he had retired, and even before that had never been assigned anywhere near Cheyenne Mountain. When Hammond went through his list of personnel, his old friend Jacob wasn’t on it.
And then there was Selmak, still oldest and wisest among the High Council and currently renting space inside his head, but as Jacob was constantly reminding himself, they weren’t the same person. Selmak’s sense of humour still needed work, for one thing, and Jacob had grown tired of explaining all the Wizard of Oz references.
But when he approached Hammond’s office to hear the vague sounds of an argument inside, he knew he ought to knock. Whatever his rank, it was only polite, and gave whoever it was in there some warning not to throw anything in the direction of the door.
“Come in,” called a harried voice, and Jacob entered.
“Jacob,” Hammond said, looking up at him. “What can I do for you?”
“Am I interrupting?” Jacob asked. The argument, whatever it had been about, had ceased, but the parties concerned were still there – two vaguely familiar strangers, and a child.
One of the other men broke in before Hammond could. “Sir, perhaps you’ll understand this. We have a way to change SG-1 back!”
“You do?” Jacob asked, trying not to sound too hopeful. Bespectacled men in white coats waving bits of paper had never boded well at any point in his entire military career.
The man nodded. “We’ve been looking at the MALP footage of SG-1 on P3X-737.”
“Like Malek said to do,” Jacob said, catching on. “You’re part of Dr. Jackson’s department.”
“Yeah, I’m Robert Rothman and that’s Nyan over there.”
Jacob nodded, looking at the younger of the two scientists. A one-named mystery. Although, probably not so mysterious considering the SGC’s track record with alien refugees.
Rothman was still speaking. “This piece of paper” – he waved it – “is what Daniel was working on when he was transformed. We think it’s instructions on how to work the device buried under the Gate.”
Hammond appeared unconvinced. “Dr. Rothman, Nyan, I appreciate your efforts, but I can’t help but be very uncertain about this. What if the device simply does the same thing over again? And how are you so sure those instructions, as you call them, are from the planet in question?”
Jacob frowned. “Sorry to interrupt, but I thought everything SG-1 were carrying would have been quarantined or destroyed.”
“It should have been,” Hammond replied. “Dr. Fraiser saw to it.”
Nyan shook his head. “This is Daniel’s writing,” he said. “And we saw him holding it in the MALP transmission.”
“That exact piece of paper?” Hammond asked. “Can you be absolutely sure of that?”
“We could always ask him,” Jacob said, wondered why he was suddenly on their side, then realised he already knew the answer.
Nyan shook his head. “We have tried.” He pointed to where Daniel was sitting, watching them all in silence. “His memories are only returning subconsciously.”
“The MALP transmission,” Rothman said suddenly. He seemed distracted. “Daniel was holding this piece of paper in the MALP transmission. Following which they came through the Stargate.”
“Yes?” Hammond said. Jacob, who remembered the signs, knew he was getting impatient with all this.
“So what if he came through the Gate still holding it? Would it have been quarantined then?”
Nyan jumped in. “I found it in Daniel’s office. I bet someone just took it out of his hands and then put it one side, and then later someone else saw it and put it on his desk because they didn’t know what it was.”
“That’s contrary to procedure,” Hammond said.
“But it could have happened,” Nyan persisted. “And if we’ve translated it right, we could change SG-1 back.”
Hammond appeared to come to some sort of decision. “Gentlemen, I’m not going to dismiss this out of hand, but I am going to have to think about it. Dismissed.”
Dejectedly, Nyan took hold of one of Daniel’s hands and led him out of the room. Rothman took a moment to grab his papers, and then he was gone, too.
“Interesting babysitters they make,” Jacob commented once they were out of earshot.
Hammond smiled. “So they do. I have to tell you, Jacob, I’d love to have SG-1 back round about now.”
“You’re not the only one.” He thought for a moment, then smiled. “You remember Sam at eight, don’t you? Not her best age.”
Hammond looked like he did remember. “She ran her mother ragged, but you were proud of her, Jacob.”
“I still am. But I think I’d like her back to her usual self.”
Hammond was pensive. “It’s been four days. I think we might have to consider this could be permanent. Malek still can’t get a ship?”
“That’s what I came to see you about,” Jacob replied. “Malek and I are being recalled. We could stay if we were actually doing anything to help, but…” He shrugged. “I don’t want to leave Sam, least of all now.”
“I don’t want to give up,” Hammond said definitely. “You know, I think I might have to let Dr. Rothman and Nyan try their idea.”
“We’ve no idea what could happen!” Jacob protested. “What if it happened again? What next, embryos?”
“I won’t send any additional personnel through,” Hammond responded. “But I suppose the decision lies with Colonel O’Neill and Major Carter. If they feel they want to risk it, I won’t stop them.”
“What about Daniel?”
“Colonel O’Neill is his next of kin – I’ll talk to him and see what decisions need to be made.”
“All right.” Jacob nodded. “Can we trust those two? Rothman and Nyan, I mean?”
“They are both eminently qualified,” Hammond said, “and they want SG-1 back as much as we do.”
“Okay.” Jacob shrugged. There was a pause, and then his voice distorted. “I believe their idea should be attempted,” rasped Selmak.
Jacob’s eyes flashed gold and Hammond nodded. “As you say.”
He couldn’t help but think it was an impressive way of making a point.
Nyan delivered his presentation to an audience of two adult humans, two Tok’ra, one Jaffa and three children.
“As far as I understand, the DHD itself caused SG-1’s earlier transformation,” he began. “The specific words used are plerique ulis, which as Dr. Jackson has earlier surmised, are the root form of the Latin plerique utilis, which means ‘many functions’ or, in our sense, multitasking. I’m taking this to mean that the DHD controls both the Stargate and the device buried below it.”
He smiled awkwardly. Having never delivered a presentation without Daniel’s help before, he was nervous, and Rothman had refused outright to help him explain things.
“Therefore, the warning on the DHD is to all potential users of the Stargate – they must enter a specific sequence of symbols before they can then enter a Stargate address if they don’t want to be affected by the ageing device.”
“So, it’s like a security system?” Jack asked suddenly. “Unless you know the password, you can’t go through?”
Nyan grinned despite himself. They were understanding him. “Almost, Colonel. I would say it’s more of a defence system. From what I’ve been able to put into context, the Ancients on this planet – who have long since moved on from this region of space – had to defend themselves against some sort of enemy – it’s not quite clear in the text who this enemy were. The Ancients didn’t want to kill them outright, so they engineered a way of making them harmless.”
“Clever,” said Jack grudgingly.
“So why didn’t this happen when SG-1 arrived on the planet?” Hammond asked.
Nyan consulted his notes. “I’m not sure, sir.”
“I think I know,” Sam said. “Imagine every time someone tries to invade you, you get an army of children wandering over your planet. Much better for them to leave first, and act as a deterrent against coming back.”
Nyan waited to make sure no-one else was going to speak, and went on, “The password is probably lost forever.”
“It is not in the writing?” Malek asked.
“No,” Nyan replied.
“Well, it wouldn’t be,” Jacob put in. “It would be like setting a password on your computer and then writing it on a post-it and sticking it to the screen.”
“Exactly,” Nyan agreed. “However, I think we may be able to manage without it. I wondered exactly how SG-1 programmed the device without knowing it, as clearly none of them were trying to do so. But they did enter some symbols into the DHD.”
“Earth’s Stargate address,” Sam said. “I remember, it was me who dialled home.”
“I believe that somehow, SG-1 programmed the device as well as the Stargate when they returned home. So, if they enter the symbols in reverse…”
“We’ll change back!” Jack said enthusiastically, and then realised he sounded like a teenager.
“I think so.” Nyan looked uncertain. “Parts of the translation are unclear, and without Dr. Jackson’s help…
“I’ll take my chances,” Jack interrupted.
Hammond glanced at him. “Are you sure about that, Colonel? There’s a possibility this won’t work and you could get even younger.”
“By thirty years?” Jack asked dubiously. “I’ll be minus eighteen?”
“Ah, no.” Nyan had found the relevant part of his notes. “There’s a failsafe on the device. You can’t get any younger than approximately two years old.”
“Colonel O’Neill, this is your decision,” Hammond said. “Do you want to go through with this? If you do, I won’t stop you.”
“Neither will I,” Janet said quietly. “I think we’ve reached a point beyond medical ethics.”
Jack considered. “I’ll do it,” he said finally. “Fun as this has been, I can’t stay this way. If I do, SG-1 will be disbanded, and I can’t allow that.”
“Sam?” Jacob prompted.
Sam looked quietly determined. “I want to do it,” she said. “Even if it doesn’t work, I’d like to think we tried. If I’m capable of thinking.”
Jacob looked worried, but wisely didn’t comment.
Teal’c was the calmest person in the room. “If O’Neill and Major Carter are to do this, I must also,” he said in a tone that allowed for no argument. “But who will speak for Daniel Jackson?”
“Daniel,” Jack said quietly, looking at Daniel sitting quietly by his side, “what do you think?”
The customary silence followed, and Jack sighed. “He’d want this,” he said, but sounded doubtful.
“He seems very happy as he is,” Malek said suddenly, and no-one was ready to argue the point. For a moment, all eyes were on Daniel, who seemed oblivious to all the attention, scribbling away with his now much-chewed pencil.
“Dr. Jackson is a very valuable asset to Stargate Command,” Hammond began, but Jack interrupted him.
“He’s on my team, sir. I want him back.”
Hammond didn’t argue. “Very well, Colonel.”
Teal’c was in charge of the mission, despite Colonel O’Neill’s protest that he was still in command of his team. Ignoring him completely, the Jaffa had shepherded his small flock into the gateroom and up the ramp. They presented an interesting sight. Hoping for the best, Janet had made sure they were outfitted in fatigues several sizes too big for them, and they looked even smaller than they really were when they were faced with the shimmering surface of the active wormhole.
“SG-1,” Hammond said, aware his voice might be faltering slightly at the idea of sending three children halfway across the galaxy without so much as a packed lunch, “good luck.”
Teal’c nodded at him, gently ushered Jack and Sam forwards, and without ceremony, lifted Daniel before plunging into the event horizon.
Up in the control room, a more-than-usual amount people were gathered so they could see the computer screens. Janet was there and hoping she didn’t need to be; Jacob and Malek were watching proceedings with more than detached interest. Rothman and Nyan were both looking intimidated; as a general thing, only the first contact teams and technicians spent much time in the control room.
“Receiving MALP telemetry,” one of the technicians told the general. Hammond looked up at the screens to see the pattern of dots resolve itself into a faintly fuzzy image. He heard the sound of the MALP camera revolving, and suddenly Teal’c came into view.
“SG-1, this is Stargate Command,” Hammond said. “What’s your status?”
“We are ready to begin, General Hammond,” Teal’c stated.
Nyan cleared his throat. “Ah… General. I need to…”
“Of course,” Hammond said, standing back. “Teal’c, Nyan is going to instruct you in what to do.”
“Right.” Nyan peered at one of his pages of notes. “Firstly, you need to reset the DHD. Major Carter should know how to do it.”
“All right, I’ve done that,” came a childish voice from somewhere behind Teal’c.
Nyan consulted his notes again. “Okay. Press the red crystal.”
Teal’c disappeared from view for a moment. “O’Neill has done so,” he reported.
“Now, this is the difficult part.” Nyan looked helpless for a moment. “General Hammond, it would be much easier if I just went through and helped…”
“No, son. We’ve been over this. We do it like this or not at all.” Hammond’s words were chiding, but his tone was not, and after a second Nyan sighed and began again.
“Now, enter Earth’s Stargate address.”
“Won’t that deactivate the wormhole?”
Hammond frowned and stared at the screen. “Who said that?”
“It was not I, General Hammond,” Teal’c informed him.
“Not me either,” came another male voice. It was Colonel O’Neill, and after another second, Hammond and Nyan heard the sounds of scuffling and a vague commotion.
Teal’c remained the only person visible in the camera’s field of vision, but after a moment they heard Jack’s voice again, tinged with a distinct note of exasperation. “Once again, your timing is impeccable!”
“Colonel,” Hammond called, “who are you talking to?”
The MALP suddenly began to emit static, distorting both the sound and picture. It took a few seconds to clear, and when it had done so, it was Jack on screen instead of Teal’c. “Daniel, sir,” he said. “Apparently Dr. Jackson has chosen this moment to regain his memory.”
“Not my fault, Jack!” yelled a voice from the background, and Hammond was sure he recognised a familiar note of frustration in those dulcet tones.
Aloud, he said, “Welcome back, Dr. Jackson. Teal’c, Nyan has more to tell you.”
“Right, yes.” Nyan appeared more confident than he had been. “What you have to do next will involve deactivating the wormhole from this side, so you’ll have to remember it. Once the Stargate shuts down, press the red crystal. Hopefully, it will alter the DHD’s output and reprogram the Ancient device…”
While Nyan was speaking, Hammond was sure he could hear Colonel O’Neill saying something along the lines of: “No, I don’t know why you’re six years old, just be a good boy and shut up…”
Teal’c listened carefully, and once he had said he understood, Hammond gave the order. “Shut it down.”
The wormhole dissipated into nothingness. “Now what?” asked Malek from the back of the room.
“Now we wait,” Hammond told him, and took a step back.
The next few minutes seemed to pass very slowly indeed. Nyan seemed particularly nervous. “It may not have worked,” he said worriedly. “I wasn’t sure exactly how to separate the functions of the DHD, and Teal’c might not have programmed it properly, they could have gone further backwards instead of forwards…”
“Nyan, shut up,” said Janet unexpectedly. “You did your best.”
He did as she asked, but he was on the point of wondering whether they had accidentally blown up the DHD when down in the gateroom, all seven chevrons lit up.
All eyes were on the dialling computer. After a wait of several tense seconds, it responded to a received transmission.
“It’s SG-1, sir,” the technician said.
Hammond opened the iris himself, laying one hand on the panel without looking at it, and the barrier metal spun out of the way. The med team were already on their way to the gateroom.
As they watched, the event horizon shimmered. SG-1 stepped out.
“I’m not sure what to make of this,” Jack said some time later.
“What, Colonel?” Janet asked, shining a light in his eyes.
“The fact I am depressingly forty-five again, but keep having urges to eat excessive amounts of breakfast cereal.”
“You do that anyway, Jack,” Daniel called. He was lying on top of one of the infirmary beds, looking rather contented.
“And you can shut up, Daniel, you’re ten years younger than me.” Jack tried to turn round and glare at him, but Janet managed to stop him.
“I don’t know what that has to do with it,” Daniel argued. “Surely the fact I am ten years younger then you and don’t eat excessive amounts of breakfast cereal only makes it worse.”
“You drink excessive amounts of coffee,” Jack said. “You eat excessive amounts of Carter’s chocolate and walnut cookies.”
“Everyone eats excessive amounts of Sam’s cookies, Jack.”
“Which is why I hardly ever make them,” Sam put in. “Oh, hi, Dad.”
Jacob had been standing outside the door for several minutes, listening to the conversation with some amusement. “Hi, Sam. How are you feeling?”
“Grown-up.” She sighed blissfully. “I can sit on the bed and my feet still touch the floor!”
Daniel seemed to agree. “It’s underrated, having your feet touch the floor. Although I wouldn’t mind them touching some other floor. My apartment floor, for instance,” he added pointedly.
Janet took the hint. “You’re in perfect health, all of you,” she said. “I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t be allowed to go home.”
“There’s a first,” Jack muttered.
“I’ll recommend you’re given some downtime,” she continued, ignoring the interruption. “I daresay you’d all appreciate it.”
Jack swung to his feet immediately, but before he could head for the door, someone else came through it.
Daniel sat up. “Nyan.”
“Hi,” said Nyan diffidently. “I thought I’d come and see how you were doing.”
“We’re doing just fine, the doc says,” Jack replied. “I believe we’ve got you to thank for getting us back to our usual selves.”
“Thank you,” Sam added. Nyan looked very uncomfortable, and at length turned to the member of SG-1 he was the most comfortable with.
Daniel looked up. “Yeah?”
“I’ve got a message for you from Robert.”
“Oh?” Daniel seemed surprised. “What is it?”
Nyan’s brow furrowed. “I didn’t quite understand it. He said I should say that even if you don’t remember what a horrible child you were, he does, and he promises not to tell Colonel O’Neill as long as you do those translations from P3X-658.”
“Oh.” Daniel blinked. “I have no idea what he’s talking about.”
“Right.” Nyan nodded, added, “Glad you’re back,” and disappeared back out the door.
Jack had metaphorically sat up at the sound of his name. “Nyan, wait!” he called, but he was too late. “Damn scientists,” he muttered. “That almost sounded like blackmail material.”
Daniel smiled. “Let’s go, shall we?”
“Yes, let’s.” Jack stood up. “Doctor, it’s been a pleasure, as always.”
She held up a warning hand. “Be careful what you say, Colonel. I’ve been babysitting you, remember.”
He nodded and saluted. “Yes, ma’am!”
“Thanks, Janet,” said Daniel. “I get the feeling I probably didn’t make life easy for you.”
“You made life interesting,” she said tactfully, and returning to more secure territory, “Make sure you get some sleep, Daniel! Downtime is not an excuse to work all the time!”
“Yes, ma’am,” he mimicked, and disappeared with Jack.
Sam laughed as she watched her team-mates vanish. Even Teal’c had been in a hurry to leave. “Bye, Janet. Tell Cassandra I’d like to see her soon.”
“I will.” Janet nodded.
Sam turned to Jacob. “Dad? Are you coming?”
“I’ll catch up with you,” he promised, and when he was sure she was gone, turned to Janet. “Dr. Fraiser, I’d be obliged if you’d give this to your daughter.” He pressed an envelope into her hand. “Take a look yourself if you like.”
Janet opened it. “Oh,” she said, and grinned. “But don’t you want…”
“I have copies,” he assured her, and jogged off down the corridor to catch up with his daughter.
“What’s the matter, Sam?” he asked as he came near. She looked much less cheerful than she had been a few minutes before.
“I wish you didn’t have to leave so soon,” she said. “I was sort of wishing you would stay for a while, and maybe we could go down to San Diego.”
“We will,” he promised. “Not now, but I’m sure I’m owed some leave. We’ll go, don’t you worry.”
They had reached level twenty-eight. Malek joined them in the control room, looking anxious. “We grow late, Jacob. The High Council request our presence.”
“I know,” Jacob said exasperatedly. “Hang on one second, won’t you?”
“Go,” Sam told him. “You wouldn’t want to annoy the High Council, would you?”
“Indeed he would not, Samantha. However, it has been most pleasant being in your company once again.”
“Thanks, Selmak.” Sam smiled.
“Bye, Sam.” It was Jacob’s voice again; he gave her a quick kiss on the cheek before heading down for the gateroom. Malek stayed to input the address into the dialling computer, and then followed.
Sam watched through the glass as they both climbed the ramp, turned to wave and then were gone into the wormhole.
“What part of downtime don’t you understand, Carter?” Jack had appeared in the control room unnoticed.
“Just saying goodbye to my dad, sir.” Sam turned and smiled.
“Ah.” Jack paused. “I just came to say… I don’t know if you’re busy tonight, but I thought a little get-together would be nice. Daniel and Teal’c are bringing beer.”
“I’d like that, sir,” Sam said, and she meant it.
Down in the gateroom, mostly uncommented on, the wormhole shut down. Also uncommented on, it shut down at its other end on the opposite side of the galaxy. Jacob had emerged a few seconds before, and he sighed as the cool military base was replaced with hot desert air.
They had time to go down into the tunnels and refresh themselves before the Council meeting, so Jacob quickly made his way to his own quarters and safely stowed away his GDO. While he was there, he couldn’t resist stopping to glance at the photographs. His wife looked out at him, and he smiled. In the other photograph, an awkward-looking Sam and Mark also caught his attention for a moment, but only for a moment.
He reached into his pocket and drew out another envelope. It was already open, and a Polaroid snapshot dropped out. There was Sam, again – eight years old and pouting – and there was a familiar brown-haired teenager, trying not to smile and failing, and at the back was a Jaffa, former First Prime of Apophis, holding up a startled-looking six-year-old.
Sam didn’t look awkward in this picture, he decided. She looked just right.
Sam hadn’t wanted to refuse the invitation. But she had got so distracted with all the work from the last few days to catch up on, and she’d been giving Sergeant Siler a hand with the capacitors in the Gate, and she couldn’t leave the base without a brief look at her pet project, the portable naquadah reactor in her lab, so what with one thing or another she was running late by the time she emerged from the mountain into the chilly evening air. Changing into civvies usually meant changing into whatever crumpled clothes she had left in her locker three days before or whenever the last time she left the base had been, so she went home first, quickly getting changed and grabbing a bottle of wine from the fridge on her way out. By the time she reached Colonel O’Neill’s house in Colorado Springs, she knew she would be the last to arrive.
She paused on the doorstep before ringing the bell. The air was pleasantly cool, whipping through her air, and she breathed in, feeling refreshed and free for the first time in days. There was a great deal to be said for adulthood.
Presently, she noticed the sound of voices and laughter coming from somewhere near at hand, and realised they must be on the roof. Turning away from the door, she made her way round the house to the ladder and clambered up, feeling grateful for her coat and leather boots without heels.
Daniel looked up first. “Sam!”
“Hi, Daniel,” she responded. “Hey, Teal’c.”
Teal’c drew back to allow her a place to sit. They were fairly cramped on the ledge where the colonel generally sat with his telescope, but Sam liked it. It was strangely comfortable.
“Greetings, Major Carter,” Teal’c said, and Sam shook her head.
“Teal’c, we’re off duty. You can call me Sam.”
“That works,” she said and grinned. “Where’s Colonel O’Neill?”
“Gone to get beer,” Daniel said, smiling, “and as you’re off duty, surely you don’t need to call him that?”
She stuck her tongue out at him. “Touché.”
Jack chose that moment to stick his head out of the skylight. “Anyone want a beer? Oh, hello, Carter. Was starting to think you wouldn’t be joining us.”
“I’m here now,” she said mildly, and off Daniel’s look, “and I think you can call me Sam.”
“All right, Sam, do you want a beer?”
She nodded and caught the bottle he tossed at her. After a moment, he climbed out on the roof to join them, and sat himself down next to Daniel, who, by dint of much sprawling, was taking up more room than anyone else.
“So,” said Daniel after a while. “We’re all here, but what’s the occasion?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Jack replied. He sounded very relaxed. “I figured some team bonding was in order. You know, following our latest experience.”
Sam raised her eyebrows. “Experience? Is that what you call it?”
“It’s one way of putting it,” said Daniel. “You know, Janet was considering putting us all in therapy. With Mackenzie.”
There was a chorus of disgusted noises. “You can’t be serious,” Jack said. “I’m sure we would have noticed if we’d gone crazy.”
“In the case of yourself, O’Neill, it would be most difficult to tell the difference.”
There was a pause as the three human members of the team stared at Teal’c. Finally, Daniel shrugged and laughed. “It’s all in the delivery,” he said.
“It is as you say, Daniel Jackson.”
“Huh.” Jack looked indignant – all a show, Sam knew. “I’m being mocked by an alien. I don’t know if I should stand for this.”
“Be nice to him,” Sam cautioned, “he’s been babysitting us all for the last three days. Isn’t that right, Teal’c?”
“It is indeed,” Teal’c responded. “It was a most interesting experience. I am almost sorry I did not know you as children.”
“Almost being the operative word there,” Daniel said.
Teal’c almost smiled. “Indeed.”
Sam sighed. “I still can’t believe we actually regressed for two whole days and none of us can remember any of it.”
“Except Froot Loops. I can remember Froot Loops.” Jack shifted, putting down his beer bottle. “So, Teal’c, what did you think?”
“About what, O’Neill?”
“About us as kids! Were we little angels, or what?” Jack sat back, waiting for an answer. Daniel was slightly less recumbent, and Sam found that even she wanted to hear what Teal’c had to say.
“I have had limited experience of human children,” Teal’c said. “I would not like to judge.”
“Ah, come on.” Jack grinned. “Otherwise no more beer.”
Teal’c bowed his head. “Very well. You, O’Neill, were the most obedient and well-behaved. You followed instructions and you showed an inquiring mind.”
Daniel started to giggle – something he only ever did when severely stressed or drinking, Sam remembered –and dropped his empty bottle so it rolled off the roof and fell into the yard. “Well-behaved? Followed instructions? Jack?”
“Hey!” Jack was mock-indignant. “Why is that so hard to believe?” But even Sam was giggling, and he gave it up as a bad job.
“What about me?” Sam asked.
Teal’c paused a moment before answering. “Female Jaffa children tend to be timid and gentle in their ways. They do not play with their brothers’ toys.”
Sam smiled wryly. “Nothing like me, huh?”
“Indeed. I found it strange, but most refreshing.”
“What?” Sam was suddenly very interested. “Really?”
“It is a thing I have admired about the Tau’ri,” Teal’c replied. “Their women are taught well and grow to be strong. Like yourself, Samantha.”
Sam smiled again, but warmly. “Thank you, Teal’c. That means a lot.”
Jack paused a moment before breaking in. “Danny-boy next.”
Daniel grimaced at the nickname. “If you start to sing, Jack, I will push you off the roof.”
Jack contented himself with humming the first line. Teal’c gave him a look and he stopped.
“Daniel Jackson. You were a most unusual child.”
“No kidding.” Daniel smiled suddenly. “I was what the psychiatrists politely term a problem child.”
“You still are,” Jack told him, and just to add further insult: “Space monkey.”
“That’s touching,” said Daniel lazily, and sprawled out again.
Teal’c wasn’t finished. “I was unsurprised to see you retained your tendency for exploration.”
“Which means you wandered off all the time,” Sam explained kindly.
Daniel seemed almost pleased by this assessment. “When I was a kid,” he said dreamily, “my parents were always busy on digs and I used to wander round keeping myself busy. Anyway, I used to get lost a lot. Everyone panicked that I’d fallen down a well or off a pyramid or something and they would hunt everywhere, and eventually they’d find me asleep somewhere in the sand. After a while, my mother actually employed one of the local workers to follow me wherever I went.”
“What happened then?” Sam asked gently.
“He used to get lost with me.”
Jack snorted. “That’s priceless, Dr. Jackson.”
Daniel didn’t say anything, but he was smiling as he looked up at the sky. Sam followed his gaze and saw the last of the light was fading. The stars were coming out close to the horizon, and it was getting chilly.
“You know what I think?” Jack asked suddenly.
“Tell us.” Sam answered when it was clear that no-one else would.
“It’s not fair that Teal’c got to see us as kids, but we never got to see him as one.”
Daniel propped himself up on his elbows. “He is old enough to be all of our grandfathers…”
“That is true, Daniel Jackson.” Teal’c’s expression was impassive as ever, but Sam could have sworn he was amused. “Mine was a warrior’s childhood. I entered my training with Master Bra’tac when I was but seven years of age.”
Jack blinked. “Huh. When I was seven I was practising my pitching and learning how to ride a bike.”
Sam smiled at the thought. “When I was seven, I spent all my time fighting with Mark. Oh, and I cut Barbie’s hair off with nail scissors.”
“Why?” Daniel asked.
“I don’t really know,” Sam admitted. “Eventually I flushed her down the toilet, so that was all right.”
Jack raised his eyebrows at that, but he hadn’t given up on his earlier idea. “Teal’c, what kind of kid were you? Did you like sports?”
Teal’c still seemed amused. “There was little time for recreation, O’Neill. Like Ry’ac, I had much to learn.”
“Huh,” said Jack again.
“Maybe we all did,” Sam said quietly. She wondered where her father was now.
“You know,” said Daniel thoughtfully, “last time Mackenzie got his hands on me, he told me I should embrace my inner child. There’s irony for you.”
“What did you say?” Sam asked.
“Oh, that my inner child is a precocious spoiled brat with abandonment issues and he really shouldn’t play with fire.”
Jack nodded. “You tell him. The man’s a quack.”
“Indeed,” Teal’c said. “We were children, and now we are adults. There is nothing complicated about it.”
Silence descended following that, but a comfortable silence broken only by the occasional stirring breeze. They were all looking up at the sky now, which was almost black and dotted with thousands of twinkling points of light, reflected over and over in the mirrors of eyes.
As she settled back, Sam followed her commanding officer’s gaze up to the northern quadrant of the sky. She wondered if he knew he was looking almost directly at Abydos’ star, and then thought of the telescope, the long nights of retirement following Daniel’s happy ending, and decided he must know.
“Tell me,” he said presently, “what is it the Nox are always saying about us?”
Silence stretched out again for a few moments, and above them a star fell. Softly, Daniel quoted: “The very young do not always do as they are told.”
Somehow, Sam wasn’t surprised when he spoke again. “We’re growing up,” he said, addressing the stars and the sky, and to her ears it sounded pleasantly like a challenge.
Below them, the world turned. In the morning, they were old enough to be hungover.
complaints, rotten tomatoes...