“They think you’re a what?”
Daniel grimaced and flicked his gaze to the two small, but highly armed aliens guarding his cell. Scrubbing a hand down his face in frustration, he leaned in close to Jack and whispered, “A god… they think I’m a god.”
“What… again? I thought we sorted this little hero worship problem of theirs out last time we were here, Daniel. Well, I thought you did.”
“So did I!” Daniel replied heatedly, before lowering his voice when one of the little aliens turned a weapon in his direction and growled. “I really don’t know what’s going on here, but it appears there is someone hot-footing it around the galaxy who looks a lot like me. Well, enough to have these guys fooled.”
“Daniel, these guys are all five foot nothing. How could—”
“If you’re wondering how they overpowered me, then don’t bother. Jack, from what little of their language I can understand, they had this planned from the moment the SGC told them SG-1 would be following up on their request for assistance. This was a set up. It’s obvious they didn’t believe me last time when I explained how impossible it was for me to have been here before.”
“Need to work on that cover story.”
“Bite me.”
“So, they bided their time in the hopes you’d return?”
Daniel shrugged, clearly not totally believing his own explanation of events. “That’s the only theory I can come up with,” he said, testing the bars by shaking them, and then quickly stepping back when, once again, weapons were trained on him.
“Well,” Jack stole a glance over his shoulder, “it does explain why they were so friendly and eager for you to check out their temple… hut.”
“And why they didn’t want you, Teal’c, or Sam anywhere near the place when they took me down.”
Jack eyed Daniel from head to toe and waggled a finger at the gash on his temple. “You okay?”
“I’m fine… it’s superficial.”
“It’s a head wound.”
“Yes, so it bleeds a lot more. Really, Jack, I’m fine.”
“Carter can look at it when we get you out of here.”
“About that…” Daniel drawled. “I don’t think a show of fire power is a good idea. Jack, these people base their lives around a very simple belief system that has served them well for longer than their written history. Coming in guns blazing and making off with their god isn’t the best way to make allies.”
Jack wasn’t convinced. “We’re way beyond being best buddies with these people, Daniel. How long did you spend trying to convince them you weren’t this all-seeing god of theirs last time we were here?”
“Long enough,” Daniel conceded wryly.
“There you go!”
“You can’t break me out of here!”
Jack raised a finger to his lips for silence, his gaze intense. “Keep it down, will ya?” He looked back over his shoulder at the two guards. Both were staring intently at him, but quickly turned away when Jack offered them a small smile. “Teal’c is out gathering intel on their weaponry and numbers, and Carter is making good with the local chieftain. You… you just need to sit tight until we’ve worked out our next move.”
“It won’t work.” Daniel turned and sat back down on a tiny bench; the only object in his cell besides a bucket which he assumed was to take care of his personal needs.
“Trust me on this, Daniel. As soon as we’re an hour past our scheduled check-in, Hammond will dial in and we can send for reinforcements. We’ll have you out of there in no time.”
“No, that’s not why it won’t work.” Daniel pushed the right arm of his BDU jacket up and turned his hand over, presenting Jack with a not so neat row of stiches just above his wrist. The skin around the stitches was bruised and red.
“What the hell!” Jack hissed. “I thought you said you were fine?”
Daniel quickly pulled the sleeve back down and over his fingers. “I am… well, I will be if you don’t do anything stupid. They’ve implanted a capsule containing a neurotoxin of some sort. Local juju, I think… I’m not really sure. Anyway, the capsule isn’t soluble, but can be ruptured via electronic stimulus.”
“A remote device?”
Daniel nodded, eyes downcast.
“I thought you said these people were on a development path similar to Earth during the late seventeen hundreds?”
“They are… or at least they should be. Somehow they’ve managed to get their hands on technology that isn’t theirs, and they’ve adapted it for their own purposes.”
“Heck of a way to treat their god.”
“Yes, well… about that. It seems not everyone here is convinced I am who they think I am.”
“Surprise, surprise,” Jack said mockingly. “So the doubters built in some fail-safe just in case you weren’t as all seeing and knowing as they thought?”
“And that’s not all.”
“It never is.”
“This isn’t funny.”
“Do you see me laughing?”
Knocking the back of his head against the cell wall, Daniel sighed audibly, stress winding itself into a knot in the pit of his stomach. “Because there is some doubt among the clan as to my authenticity, they want to test me.”
“Of course they do,” Jack groaned. “And what happens if you pass this test of theirs? They marry you off to the chief’s daughter? It wouldn’t be the first time, you know.”
“Jack,” Daniel warned by drawing out his name. “Unless the SGC can get a team through the ‘gate without the Otakai noticing—which is highly unlikely considering it’s location in the village square—I don’t believe I’ve got a whole lot of options but to play along.”
“We just need to wait for Hammond to dial in—”
“Think about it logically, Jack. The moment even a single person from the SGC steps through the ‘gate unannounced, the chief will release the neurotoxin and it’ll be lights out for me. I don’t know about you, but I’m about done with dying, and I’m pretty sure there’s no Oma around to help me out this time.”
It was moments like this Jack wished he carried a silencer for his Beretta. Out of habit, he reach down to the holster strapped to his thigh only to find the casing empty. The Otakai had confiscated his weapons as a condition of entry to Daniel’s cell. Groaning in the face of defeat by rational reasoning, he let his chin dip to his chest before raising it to meet Daniel’s pinched gaze. “Right, so what do we do now? Can’t toss a little C4 around for effect.”
“Strafing fire is out.”
“Oh, yeah… that’s a given.”
“So,” Daniel shrugged, “we wait and see what this test is and hope to hell I can get it right.”
“You are pretty good with cryptic crosswords.”
“Somehow, I don’t think it’s going to be quite that easy.”
“Teal’c?” Sam pulled the collar of her BDU jacket up higher around her neck as a gust of cold air blasted its way down the gully and on towards the tiny village. “What do you make of this?” she said pointing to softened score marks along the side walls.
Teal’c stopped his reconnoiter and looked up to where she was pointing. Eyes narrowing, he stepped closer to the nearest wall. “A waterline perhaps?”
“More like several… and over quite a length of time, I’d say.” She walked across the rocky gully floor and up to the wall, reaching out and running a hand over the lowest water line. “I’m no geologist, but the rocks embedded in the wall don’t look smooth enough for this to be even a semi-permanent watercourse.”
“What are you suggesting, Major Carter?”
“I’m not sure,” she mused, digging into the earth around a rock. “The soil is heavily compacted, which means it hasn’t seen a lot of moisture. At least not recently.”
“Did not the scan on this planet reveal traces of naquadah in the soil?”
“Sure did, Teal’c. That’s the primary reason the SGC wanted to establish some sort of unilateral trade with the Otakai. Resonance scans revealed several deep veins of naquadah within easy reach of the Stargate, which would make transporting the ore fairly simple.”
Teal’c nodded and turned his attention back to the wall. “Then perhaps this is not a watercourse at all, but a trail cut into the gully by the Goa’uld slaves who once mined this area.”
“There was no evidence of Goa’uld activity on this planet.”
“Not in recent times, no, but the co-ordinates to this world came from the Abydos cartouche, did they not?”
Sam conceded the point with a shrug. “There is that. Still, this gully doesn’t feel man-made, and I’m fairly certain these marks are waterlines.”
“You are suggesting this area has flooded at some point?”
Sam pointed up towards the gully ridge line. “At several points. See the difference in colors from yellows to dark browns?” Teal’c looked at where she was pointing and nodded. “I can’t be sure but I think that difference determines the most recent flood activity to the earliest. The most recent being the deeper color.”
“Does your theory come with the ability to determine when water last coursed here?”
“Ah, no… for that we’d definitely need a geologist.”
Teal’c turned away from the wall and looked across at the village, about a hundred feet further down the gully. “I do not believe this information is of any use to Daniel Jackson.”
“No,” Sam agreed, “and I had no luck with the village chief. I’m pretty sure women don’t play any governing role here.”
“He would not listen to your council?”
“Didn’t even bother to look me in the eye before summarily dismissing me. It’s funny, though, because when we made first contact with these people, the chief was only too eager to talk with me, despite me not knowing what he was saying, but now…”
They made their way slowly back towards the village. Teal’c swept his gaze from one side of the gully to the other, making note of several clutches of Otakai warriors positioned along the thick scrub that lined the ridges. Sure that he’d calculated their strength and disposition; he turned his attention back towards the village. “I do not believe Chief Asmun showed indifference to you because you are female, Major Carter, but because he is unsure of his position in regards to Daniel Jackson.”
“You think?”
“I do. I have heard whispers of dissension among the other village elders. They do not believe Daniel Jackson to be the god Asmun is purporting him to be.”
Sam reached out and grabbed him by the arm, pulling him in close. Out of habit, she quickly scanned the area to make sure they were alone, despite also being aware of the Otakai hidden on the ridge. “Daniel is still trying to understand their language. Are you saying you can?”
“I cannot. However, the Otakai have several words that are replicated in the Goa’uld language. It is this commonality that leads me to believe these people are the descendents of slaves that once mined the naquadah here.”
“Daniel knows this?”
“He does. The common words are few and could be an aberration of the language that has occurred through prolonged trade through the Stargate.”
“Now, you’re starting to sound like Daniel,” Sam said with a warm smile.
“Daniel Jackson is a very good teacher.”
Asmun regretted his blunt dismissal of the Tau’ri woman. Despite his outward appearance of disinterest in her, he found her looks pleasing to the eye and her voice oddly appealing. Her speech, like the guttural tones of the others with her, hurt his sensitive ears at first, and had taken a measure of effort to adjust to, but it hadn’t taken long to understand the basics of their language.
This fact he and the other elders had chosen not to share.
Checking his office door was secure; Asmun sat down at his desk and took out a heavily bound book from a drawer. The book was old, even by Otakai standards. Thick hide bark from the sacred Lhalu tree protected the time-worn pages when the book was being stored, but only infrequent handling would keep the contents alive for future generations. Asmun carefully unwrapped the book, spreading the hide out until it completely covered the table top. Reverently, he turned the cover over and starting sorting through the pages, one at a time, paying respect to the images of several Okatai deities as he scanned over them.
The pages drifted by, their contents largely a mystery to him as the script they were written in had fallen into disuse by the Otakai. Only a few shards of the ancient language remained in use today, and those were mostly spoken and not written. Another failing, he chided himself, acutely aware that with each generation that came before, there had been a diluting of their oral and written history. Very soon, no Otakai would be able to read from their sacred tome, let alone understand the old language. Suddenly angry with himself, Asmun turned the pages several at a time, only slowing when he came to the chapter he was looking for. Really, there should have been no need to search through the book when he knew exactly where to find the passage that had occupied his thoughts for well over a year now.
The image leapt out at him: A man seated underneath the sacred Lhalu tree with his arms spread wide to encompass the Otakai people nestled at his feet. This was Arra, principal deity to the Otakai. The picture was iconic and had been replicated on parchment in every household in the village and beyond. All Otakai knew the face of their god, and all respected his position as the forefather of all their gods.
So who was this man that walked among the stars wearing the face of their god, but denied his place in their teachings? Fumbling through his pocket, Asmun retrieved the control to the learning device they had implanted in Daniel Jackson. He laid it down next to the book and studied it and the image; a wave of guilt washing over him.
Asmun’s leadership over the Otakai had been under threat from the moment he had allowed Daniel Jackson to return through The Eye with his people several months ago. Even among the Otakai, there have been people that look similar to each other, despite having no clan relationship. A fact that is even stranger still, when the similarity comes from someone as far away as the ocean clans. Asmun understood this, and could have easily explained away Daniel Jackson’s resemblance to Arra as being nothing more than a coincidence… had he not visited the people prior to arriving with the Tau’ri.
He remembered that chilly spring night, when the moons hung so low in the sky that the clan children held on tight to their mothers, fearing the balls would drop down on them while they slept. The notion was borne from an old story passed down through the ages from one generation to another. Most children knew the story for what it was, but on those rare nights when the moons were so close you could almost reach out and touch them, it was twisted into something to be feared. Asmun laughed lightly; even his own children had been known to cower under their mother’s skirt on several occasions.
On this night a ball really did fall from the heavens, descending slowly through the clouds until it settled on the ground. The Otakai were at evening meal, a meager feast from the last of their winter supplies to celebrate the start of the spring plantings, and the last real opportunity to come together as a clan. Planting time was busy for the Otakai. To Asmun, it seemed his worries for the clan were dictated by the cycles of the seasons, each one bringing with it great challenges to their survival. Some years the plantings went well and their winter stores carried the clan well into the following harvest, but other years they had seen starvation and despair take whole families to their graves. Hunger always bowed down to pride, and Asmun would never trade with the other clans for food. But on this night there was more than just the following day’s plantings to worry about. The heavens were weeping; tossing water down on their already plowed fields, quickly turning them to mud.
As the ball of light kissed the ground, not even stirring the tall grass as it landed, Asmun and several of the clan’s warriors gathered their weapons and descended upon the apparition.
Faith is not something readily given. Like trust, it is earned through goodwill and understanding. Asmun supposed a measure of reverence fell somewhere in the equation, or else why would anyone have a fear of the unknown? However, on this night, he wasn’t sure what to believe when the ball of light seemed to collapse in on itself and a man walked from its center. So like the image of Arra that both Asmun and the warriors were rooted to the ground, this man greeted them with his arms wide and a caring smile on his partially cloaked face.
“Please,” he said clearly in the language of the Otakai, “don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.”
His help had been immeasurable.
The Otakai were hunters and farmers, traveling from one land to another, depending on the season. The summer months always found them at their traditional lands to the east of The Eye, until recently when the lands became infertile from constant harvests. Several of the farmers suggested rotating the crops with others that released nutrition into the soil, but there was no time to waste a harvest when winter was so close. So the Otakai had taken a new ground for the summer harvest and left the old to regain its strength for future generations. Asmun never liked being so close to The Eye, most especially when travelers came through, destined for the ocean clans. Some of the visitors were amiable and happy to trade wares with them, but most carried a bearing that Asmun and the other elders found disconcerting. Still, land was limited and the clans all had their boundaries… they would have to live near The Eye in the summer months.
Asmun, like the rest of the Otakai, regarded Arra with awe and just a little trepidation. After all, how often did your god suddenly drop from the heavens to pay you a visit? He wagered not very often. The trepidation came about when Arra introduced himself formally.
The word rolled around Asmun’s mouth like a sour Tapha berry. Sure that he’d misheard, he took the sacred Tome and showed it to Daniel, paying particular attention to the page that bore their god’s likeness. Daniel smiled when Asmun showed him the page. Shaking his head and resting his hand over Asmun’s, Daniel gently closed the book.
“Thank you, Asmun, but this is not me, though I can see a similarity.”
Asmun figured he’d better learn to like the name “Daniel”.
Daniel had only been with them for a few hours when the rains became so heavy that it seemed a wall of white water had descended from the heavens. Clouds crashed together overhead, shooting down lightening that lit up the earth all the way to the mountain clans. Thunder shook the ground with such force that the healer’s houses slipped from its foundation and crumbled like firewood. The Otakai were terrified, and yet Daniel stood in the middle of the storm and smiled fondly at the heavens, not a single drop of water falling on his robes.
Asmun was mystified.
And then the ground shook even more. Moments later a sound like no thunder Asmun had ever hear before, roared up the gully with such force that the Otakai trembled in fear, uncertain of what was happening. Asmun order the families to their homes to pray to Arra. What other choice was there? Before he could turn back to his own home, he looked towards the gully and right into the heart of a giant wall of water that was rearing up to attack the village.
Ahead of him, and in a pose that left Asmun rooted to the spot out of sheer curiosity, stood Daniel with his arms spread wide. The giant wall of water picked up debris from across the gully as it barreled down upon them, but Daniel showed no fear. He lifted his head to where the face of the beast might be and mouthed words Asmun could not hear.
The water appeared to hang in the air for a few moments, before splitting down the center like dry tree bark, each half veering away from the village and onto a new path of lesser destruction. Stray rivulets of water rained down on the village like a summer’s day shower, and Asmun smiled as the cold drops struck his face.
“Arra,” he breathed, totally in awe of the man’s powers.
“No.” Daniel turned towards him, hands now dropped to his side and a tired smile on his face. “Not Arra, but thanks for the compliment. I am sure he’s a gracious deity.”
“You saved our village.”
“Yeah… about that.” Daniel looked past Asmun to the houses beyond. “If you get a visit from someone called Oma Desala, could you pretend I was never here?”
Before Asmun could answer, Daniel’s body glowed brightly and in moments his form was totally lost to a ball of pure energy… and he was gone.
Asmun closed the tome and began to wrap it back up in the hide. He was confused, almost as much so as the day when Daniel and his companions arrived through The Eye many months later. And it was the total lack of recognition that he found most bewildering. This man… who looked so much like their god, yet refused to acknowledge his status to the Otakai, looked into Asmun’s face as though he was seeing him for the first time. How could this be? What had been even more intriguing was Daniel’s inability to understand the Otakai language, when only months earlier he and Asmun had shared a long conversation about the history of the clan and their ancient writing system Daniel seemed to find so fascinating.
At the time, Asmun had thought back to the short conversation they’d shared once Daniel had saved the Otakai from the mountain of water, and wondered if this “Oma” person was one of the people he now walked with. That would at least go some way to explaining why Daniel had treated Asmun as though seeing him for the first time, if he didn’t want Oma to know he had been here before. The strangeness of their language made even the most basic of conversation difficult, but Asmun was able to glean names of Daniel’s traveling companions, and there was no Oma.
So what was wrong? Daniel’s last visit was brief, and Asmun was sure it was his insistence that he was Arra that had forced him and his companions back through The Eye to wherever they had come from. No, that couldn’t be right. The Tau’ri—a title Daniel had introduced himself as—were seeking to trade for a metal neither the Otakai or the other clans had any use for. What was being offered was beneficial to all, and so the Tau’ri had left with a promise to return. At least, Asmun was fairly certain that was their intent at the time.
The visit had divided the clan and cast doubt over Asmun’s ability to lead them. No longer did some of the other elders regard Daniel as their god-incarnate, but as someone who perhaps was out to deceive them for the good of his own people. How could someone who was so benevolent in one instant, become indifferent the next? Asmun could only answer with what his eyes had seen and his heart believed… only the two were in direct opposition to each other. Only a god could throw up his hand against the elements and win, and only a god could descend from the heavens to walk among his people.
Asmun pushed the tome to one side and picked up the learning device. With the appearance of a small polished stone, the device hardly looked menacing, although Asmun knew only too well how much power he held in his hands. The learning device was something his grandfather had obtained from a passing trader when he was an Otakai elder. Back in a time when there was strife between several other clans, Ma’Asmun, his grandfather, imbedded several of the small capsules in captured enemy warriors as a form of punishment for those who would not cooperate. They were dark years, when clan fought against clan for what little tillable land there was. But with the march of time the reason for the fighting was lost to the past.
The learning device felt heavy in Asmun’s hand. He turned the small oval object over and then held it up for inspection. There was nothing on either side, save for one small indentation that served as the mechanism that would rupture the capsule in Daniel’s wrist. Asmun had no real idea how the device worked, only that the toxin it released would slowly immobilize and then kill its victim if an antidote wasn’t administered quickly enough. The use of the device had gone against his better judgement, but many of the clan elders had insisted upon its use as a means to punish Daniel Jackson, should he prove unable to pass the test they had set for him.
The mid afternoon sun was making the heat inside the cell blocks barely tolerable, and as Jack left to check on Sam and Teal’c, he donned his shades for good measure. Across the small courtyard, he could see the rest of his team walking back from their tour of the gully, no doubt checking out the Otakai defense perimeter. Although not overly tall, the Otakai were a powerfully built race, and Jack had taken their measure from the first moment he set eyes on them several months ago. Broad-shouldered, heavily muscled, and with ears that leant themselves towards exceptional hearing, Jack was only too aware of how big a threat these people could pose if angered or challenged. The Otakai were also hard to tell apart with everyone having long black manes of hair pinned to the back their heads and very similar facial structures. He wasn’t sure if it was a social custom, but only the men seemed to be present on both occasions they’d visited these people, although he’d heard distinctly feminine voices coming from several houses, along with children’s laughter.
Taking a moment to survey this part of the village, he made a mental map of every building in the vicinity of the cell block, as well as the distance to the Stargate and the gully beyond. Every possible escape route was laid out in his mind.
Jack let his gaze linger on Daniel’s cell block before he caught up to Teal’c and Carter. “News?”
“We’d need to get a geology team to confirm things, but it looks like the gully has been subjected to some severe flooding in the last few years. Teal’c has a theory that the gully may be man-made.”
“Carter, didn’t I send you off to talk to the head honcho?”
Sam winced tightly. “Yes, sir, but Asmun didn’t want to talk to me. In fact, he dismissed me without so much as a word.”
“What did you say to him?”
“Nothing. Not for a lack of trying, but he simply wasn’t interested.” Sam stared over Jack’s shoulder to the village elders hut and shrugged. “A distinct turn around from the last time we were here. What about Daniel?”
“Cooling his heels in detention with some neural toxin bomb in his wrist.”
“They implanted him with something?” Sam said incredulously.
“In his right wrist. He actually let me see the stitches this time!”
“What possible reason could they have?”
“Oh, you know how it works, Carter: Daniel makes good with the locals who in turn believe he’s their all-knowing god.”
Teal’c cocked his head to the side and frowned. “Elder Asmun did question Daniel Jackson about his resemblance to their god Arra during our initial contact.”
“Yeah,” Jack said with a wave of dismissal, “but I thought we cleared that up.”
“I’m not so sure, sir,” Carter chimed in. “Asmun and some of the other elders seemed rather put out by Daniel’s flat denial of even a passing familiarity to their god. Perhaps something transpired while we were gone that pushed Asmun into reacting like this.”
Jack looked taken back. “So this is what? A set up?”
“Maybe. They did request SG-1 be present for the final stage of negotiations.”
“A set up.”
“Sir, the Otakai need this treaty.”
“And I get the feeling from watching Asmun interact with several of the other clan elders, that he was likely forced into this situation. They need supplies and farming assistance for their own survival and yet there seems to be some unresolved issue with them concerning Daniel’s identity.”
“You saw the image they showed him last time. Do you think he looks like this all seeing all, knowing god of theirs?”
Sam tipped her head from side to side, seemingly undecided. “There was some genuine resemblance.”
“Very damn general if you ask me.”
“The return of one’s god is a powerful motivation for irrational devotion, O’Neill.”
Jack stared hard at Teal’c. “You mean blind devotion.”
“The level of personal appreciation and respect is irrelevant. There are still many worlds whose populations practice reverence to long dead gods through fear of their return.”
“So you think that’s what’s happened here?”
“I am uncertain,” Teal’c said with a solemn nod. “However, I believe the gully the Otakai have chosen to make their home in may in fact be artificial, and that the Goa’uld who once ruled this world had it created by slaves as a means to transport various minerals through the Stargate.”
“Fascinating as hell, but doesn’t do Daniel a whole heap of good.” Jack thrummed the stock of his P90 in frustration and let his gaze wander across the mouth of the gully behind Teal’c and Carter. Off in the distance he could see Otakai warriors moving about the area, watching them keenly but apparently making no attempt to hide their presence from the team. “They want to test him… or so Daniel said.”
“A test? Did he say what kind?”
“No, Carter. I doubt the conversation got much further than that before they sliced him open and implanted that damn neurotoxin. I’m guessing failure comes at a price.”
“A swift acting one,” Carter confirmed. “Asmun must control the device remotely somehow.”
“Bah!” Jack snatched the cap off his head and beat it against his left leg in frustration. “This is getting us nowhere fast. Teal’c, you think this gully is artificial, right?”
“I believe so.”
“But neither of you sense a Goa’uld presence?”
“Not in the general vicinity of this village. It is unlikely the Goa’uld have visited this world in many generations.”
“So they abandoned this place despite the presence of naquadah deposits in the ground? Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”
“Abandoned is perhaps the wrong word. The System Lords have been engaged in territorial wars for many millennia and the slaves of this world, like so many others, would have been left to fend for themselves while the ruling minor Goa’uld relocated his forces to the battle front. It would have been their intent to return at some later point in time.”
“And yet here they are not.” Jack slipped his cap back on and crimped the brim. “Suggestions?”
“Until we find out exactly what this test is the Otakai have planned for Daniel, I’m not sure there’s a whole lot we can do, sir.”
“What about Fraiser?”
“If they let us contact Earth. It really depends on how fast acting the neurotoxin is and whether Asmun is determined to use it.”
“You think he might be bluffing?”
Sam shrugged. “I think there’s a distinct possibility he’s being pressured by the other village elders into a course of action he might not agree with. Hard to be sure when we know nothing about the Otakai other than what we’ve seen first hand.”
“Okay, Carter, take Teal’c and head to the ‘gate. If they let you dial home, I want you to apprise Hammond of the situation and see if you can get Fraiser here.”
“What about you, sir?”
“I’m going to appeal to Asmun’s better nature.”
“Perhaps it would be best if you were to meet with him unarmed, O’Neill?” Teal’c nodded at Jack’s hand and the tight grip he had on his weapon. “Your negotiations may prove more fruitful.”
Jack could play cool when he had to. He took stock of Asmun’s tense bearing, the way he offered a seat with a wave of his hand that was neither sincere nor wholly friendly, and the long, lingering gaze he fixed Jack with when he had forced his way into the man’s office.
The guards that trailed Jack through the door were dismissed with a curt nod, a clear promise of retribution to be decided if ever he’d seen one.
“Please sit, so that we may talk.”
Jack paused mid-stride and caught himself, his brow furrowing in confusion. “And suddenly you can speak near perfect English?”
“You forget, Colonel, we had time to study you on your last visit.”
“Daniel’s a smart guy, speaks more languages than any person I know, but I don’t think even he could pick up one this quickly. If I was a betting man, I’d say you could understand us the whole damn time.” Jack ignored the offered chair, but added under his breath, “Sneaky bastards.”
Apparently Asmun heard him. “Our society may not be at the level yours clearly is, Colonel, but I believe respect is a concept you are well aware of.”
“Something to be earned before I give it, in my book.”
“And which book would that be?” Asmun took up the seat behind his desk and casually closed the open book he had been reading when Jack disturbed him. Jack couldn’t make out the writing, had no chance of understanding it anyway, but there was a small gesture of reverence in the way Asmun handled the book.
“A little light reading?” The book looked familiar, but Jack couldn’t quite place it.
“Trying to change the subject won’t work, Colonel.”
“And neither will holding a member of my team hostage.”
Asmun’s gaze hardened. “At our most northern pole we have a clan called the K’aHular; the word meaning faithless in our old language. They are called this because their forefathers chose to abandon the gods they worshiped for countless generations, in favor of a life devoid of purpose and a clear path.”
“Do you have faith, Colonel? Is there some god that commands your blind obedience and love in a way that cleanses your soul with the mere thought of their being?”
“This isn’t about me.”
“In a way it is. You want your teammate back, your companion. But when the Otakai look at this man, we do not see a traveller from another world; we see our god, freshly descended from the heavens to walk among us. A god who held back a torrent of winter flood waters that would have washed our village away and pulled our children from their beds and into a cold, watery grave. We see our savior.”
“Oh, for crying out loud! Does the term ‘mistaken identity’ mean anything to you people? Daniel is not your god, nor did he part the Red Sea for the Israelites. He’s just a regular guy with a highly irregular job.”
“Then it is you who has mistaken his true identity.”
“What? I thought we cleared this little misunderstanding up last time or was that all a ruse?”
“A ruse?”
“You know… a deception.”
Asmun slumped back in his chair, the stiff posture he’d held for so long melted away. “It wasn’t our intention to deceive you. At least not mine. The council of Otakai elders could not agree on whether Daniel Jackson was telling the truth, and there were too many coincidences we could not simply explain away. They would have had me hold him then, had I not convinced him that trade with your people was just as pressing as understanding why Arra was feigning a disinterest in his people.”
“Because he’s not Arra?” Jack said petulantly. “Holding him here against his will is putting a serious crimp in any potential trade negotiations with you people, and, hey, let’s not forget the time bomb you’ve stuck in his wrist.”
“Then how would you explain away his actions to our people?”
“Well, I wouldn’t start with kidnapping!”
Asmun drew the book in closer and opened it up, flicking reverently through the pages. “This is Arra,” he said turning the book towards Jack. “This is our god.”
“You showed us this last time.” Now Jack could place the old tome. On their first contact visit to the Otakai, after the villagers had recovered from their initial shock at seeing Daniel, Asmun had quietly led the team away and showed them the chapter on Arra. “I get the resemblance, but that’s as far as the relationship goes. Listen, you gotta know we won’t let you do this to Daniel.”
“Do what?”
“This test you’ve got planned for him. Whatever it is. The way Daniel tells it, if he fails he’s a dead man walking. Not going to happen.”
“You have no choice.” Asmun looked at Jack’s weapon hanging from its harness and smiled softly. “Your weapons are far beyond anything we have, but there are only three of you… and there are many Otakai. True, we would suffer losses, but Arra grants us an eternity at his side for our service to him. We are not afraid to die.”
Jack teased the trigger guard of his P90 for effect. “Yet, you’d kill Daniel just for failing your test. Doesn’t that mean you’d be killing your god?”
“If he is Arra then he will not fail the test. He will have nothing to fear. In two nights, the water from the winter thaw will course down this gully as it did this time last spring. Arra descended from the heavens and protected the village, pushing the water away with nothing but his hands. Our salvation was at hand from a threat we did not know existed.”
“So that’s it? I take back everything I said about the Red Sea. Are you nuts?”
“This should be but a simple task for Arra, especially as reprisal from the one he called Oma never occurred. He will be free to do his bidding for our people.”
Jack’s gut knotted and the chair suddenly looked very inviting. “Oma?”
“Yes,” Asmun confirmed with a brisk nod. “Daniel wished us not to let Oma know he had visited us. When he returned with you several moons ago, I sought to learn your language, to know if this Oma walked among you. It would have gone a long way to understanding why Daniel was unable, at first, to understand our language when he could do so before, and why he chose not to acknowledge his prior visit.”
Jack slapped a hand to his forehead and groaned. “Look, I think I know what’s happened here, and you gotta believe me, Daniel isn’t your Arra.”
“You can prove this?” Asmun sounded hopeful but looked skeptical. “The other village elders require a burden of proof before they will be swayed to remove the device from Daniel.
“Proof? Nope. And I doubt even Daniel could explain his way out of this one adequately.” Explaining the Ancients to the Otakai in terms of race not religion was something Jack just couldn’t see happening.
“Then the test stands, and in two night’s time he will have to stop the waters once again.”
Daniel took off his glasses and hooked them over the neckline of his t-shirt. Despite it not being an overly warm day outside, the temperature inside his tiny cell block was bordering on uncomfortable. He shifted on his hard bunk bed and tried to find some comfort against the wall, not even noticing when Jack entered the room and stood beside the locked and heavily barred cell doors.
“Not quite the Hilton?”
Daniel jumped and fumbled for his glasses. “Room service is a bitch,” he said, sliding them over his ears and pushing them up the bridge of his nose. “I tried complaining to the maid, but…”
“Didn’t leave her a big enough tip?”
“Something like that. Any luck with Asmun?”
Jack shrugged and rattled the cell door, fixing his gaze on the nearest guard; his intent clear. Reluctantly, and after double-checking that Jack had been totally disarmed, the guard strode forward and unlocked the door.
“A little privacy would be good,” Jack quipped as he slid into the cell, shooting the guard a filthy look as the door banged shut.
After a moment’s hesitation, the guard exited the room and left them alone.
Daniel settled back against the wall. “I take it you weren’t able to secure my release?”
“With that thing stuck in your wrist, I’m not inclined to do anything to piss these people off right now. At least not until we have Fraiser on the ground.”
“They let you dial out?”
Jack hooked the only chair in the cell with his foot and dragged it closer to the bunk. “Carter and Teal’c are working on that now. I, on the other hand, had a rather interesting chat with your buddy Asmun.”
“Let me guess, he still swears I’m their god and no amount of proof is going to sway him?”
“Funny you should mention the word proof.”
“Oh, yeah, but you’re not going to like it.”
Daniel turned his wrist over and exposed the red and swollen incision to Jack, biting back a groan at the amount of pain just the simplest of movements caused him. “Can’t get any worse, Jack.”
“I’d say so.”
“Damn. Hopefully Fraiser will be here soon.”
“Yeah, but no guarantee they’ll let her tend to me.”
“Why wouldn’t they?”
“I’m their deity, right? At least an incarnate of him… if nothing else.”
“Well, yeah, so?”
“Off hand, I can’t think of a single religion where a god would require any type of healing that he couldn’t already do for himself.”
Jack let out a long breath and closed his eyes. “Asmun isn’t stupid, you know. I doubt he’s going to stop us from letting Fraiser look at your wound.”
“Ever the optimist? I’d like to think you were right, but we’ve run up against religious zealots and cultures that can’t be easily reasoned with before. The Otakai are no different in that respect.”
“Asmun is. At least, I think he is. Let’s just say that you being here in a past life might not be so far from the truth.”
“Okay,” Daniel drawled out purposely, “How so?”
“The condensed version? About a year ago, you dropped from the heavens in a ball of light and stopped the village from being swept away in a flood.”
“I did?”
“Yep. The whole resemblance to a very old and hand-drawn image of this god of theirs could have been passed off as a coincidence if you hadn’t actually payed them a visit.”
“Crap. Positive reinforcement.”
“If you want to get clinical, yeah… I guess so. Anyhow, now Asmun is under pressure to either prove or disprove your identity.”
“And the language aspect wouldn’t be helping.”
“I don’t know,” Jack mused, “I’d say he picked up our lingo pretty quickly, if you ask me. A little freaky.”
“Ah. Well that explains how you know so much.” Daniel shrugged. “Could be a natural talent.”
“Walking encyclopaedia? Have to say, his repertoire of spoken English was better than an average high school graduate. Sue me for having some suspicions here.”
“Hello?” Daniel used his good hand to stab a finger to his chest. “Natural talent. Would you be so skeptical if it was me that picked up a new language so quickly?”
“Hell, no! You get paid to be that bright.”
Daniel made no effort to hide a smile. “Well, I guess I don’t need to wonder why The Others kicked me out on my celestial butt.”
“Yeah, seems you couldn’t stop sticking your nose in other people’s affairs. Nothing new there.”
“Now what?”
“Now it all comes down to that proof I was talking about.”
“You want me to try and prove to these people that I’m not their god? Seriously? Besides the whole flaw in your plan with me having practically proven my godliness to them in my ‘past life’,” he used a single air quote to reinforce the comment, leaving his bad arm cradled across his lap, “even if I do pass this test of theirs, that’ll just seal my fate completely. The Otakai aren’t going to want to just let their god step through the Stargate, never to return.”
Jack conceded the point with a wry smile and a half shrug. “Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”
“Sums it up adequately. What exactly is this test of theirs anyway?”
“You remember Moses?”
“Yeah,” Daniel said slowly. “What about him?”
“Well, instead of parting the waters, you simply have to do what you did last time.”
“Which was?”
“Stop the village from being swept away.”
“We have to stop meeting like this, Carter.”
Sam pulled up to a dead stop with Teal’c close behind. She was red-faced and had abandoned her boonie to scrub a hand through her hair in frustration.
“They won’t let us dial out, sir.”
“I tried to reason with them.”
“Indeed. Major Carter was most persuasive with her argument.”
“The Otakai warriors refused to listen and appeared to be most interested in Major Carter’s other attributes.”
“They ogled you, Carter?”
“I wouldn’t exactly call it that, sir,” Sam stumbled over her words and finally gave up. “Okay, then yes, they refused to take me seriously. To be fair, I don’t think they were ever going to listen to our request.”
“How so?”
“Teal’c gave them his most threatening stare.”
Jack looked between the two of them and then settled on Teal’c. “That whole way of the warrior, death glare didn’t work?”
Teal’c opened his mouth to speak but Sam beat him to the punch. “Not so much as a flinch, sir.”
Jack looked over Sam’s shoulder to the small village square and the Stargate situated at its heart. The sun was directly above the ‘gate, beating down with enough force that he had to cover his eyes from the glare coming off the topmost chevron. Otakai warriors formed an almost perfect circle around the ‘gate, canvassing not only its perimeter, but the DHD as well. Asmun was nowhere in sight.
“They’re waiting for us to do something stupid,” he said dryly.
Teal’c grumbled his disapproval loud enough for the closest warriors to turn in his direction. “Yet they have made no attempt to disarm us.”
“Except on our conjugal visits to Daniel.”
“Perhaps we’re not a big enough threat,” Sam stated flatly, glancing back over her shoulder.
“Oh, we’re a threat to them. Asmun knows as much. He just doesn’t believe we’d be stupid enough to do anything that might force him to open up that capsule he’s imbedded in Daniel’s wrist. No, Carter, the man is clearly confused and under pressure here, which makes him dangerous.”
“You managed to talk to him? What did he say?”
“Let’s just say that our archaeologist tried his hand at galactic good-guy while he was ascended. Took the role of Moses a whole step further and, instead of parting the waters, he turned them back completely.”
Sam stared at him blankly. “Sir?”
“Daniel took a leaf out of Oma’s book and crossed the line to save these people. And in two night’s time, he’ll get the chance to do that again when this whole gully floods.”
“That’s the test?”
“No enough for you, Carter? You need something a little more First Commandment?”
She withered a little under his scrutiny. “Sorry, sir… no. Teal’c and I did find evidence that a flood had come through this gully fairly recently, so it must be a yearly event, probably the result of the change in weather melting the snow on the Alps.” She looked past Jack and nodded towards a nearby range of mountains. “Flash flooding would be an almost certainty here.”
“Nothing almost about it, Carter. The way Asmun tells it, this was the first time he’d settled the clan in this area, so he had no idea they were in danger. Along comes Daniel to not only play god, but couple that with his resemblance to this Arra of theirs, and, well… you can see the problem.”
“It would be most difficult for a devoutly religious people to be swayed from their reasoning in the face of such proof,” Teal’c agreed.
“Yeah, well proof is the name of the game here. In Daniel’s own words-- he’s damned if he can prove himself and damned if he can’t.”
Sam smiled tightly and turned back towards the Stargate and its ring of neatly placed Otakai warriors. “If we can find a way to convince them to let us dial out, then I think I have an idea how to save Daniel.”
“Plan A?”
“I’d call it plan Lee.”
“Lee? That snivelling weasel of a--”
“Whatever you might think of him, sir, when he’s left to his own devices he can do some brilliant work."
“Give it to me straight, Carter.”
“Actually…” Sam took one last look at the Otakai and stepped closer to Jack. “Might be best if we hold off on the details until we’re sure we can’t be overheard.”
“Ah, right. So, Fraiser?”
“There is to be no further contact with your people until this matter has been revolved.” Asmun stood fast, his hands clasped behind his back in a posture Jack was sure was meant to radiate defiance. It wasn’t working. Lack of leadership qualities not withstanding, Jack simply wasn’t buying the guy’s act. There was a nervousness about Asmun that worried him.
“No? That’s it… just no?”
“What more is there to say, Colonel?”
“How about, oh… I don’t know… yes? I’ve already given you my word we won’t try to break Daniel out. Hell, even if we could, the guy wouldn’t go.”
“And for that I only have your word?” Asmun still refused to face Jack.
“Hey, leader to leader here… I’m showing you some respect.”
“No, you are bargaining from a position of lesser strength.”
“Fine. You don’t believe me, then why don’t you march yourself across to that tiny cell you’ve got your god holed up in and ask him?”
Jack could see Asmun’s shoulder muscles ripple under his shirt, a sure sign his last comment had struck a chord with the man.
“What? You that unsure of your position here?”
Asmun spun to face him, eyes dark and unreadable. Jack almost flinched.
“Chose your words wisely, Colonel. The village elders may have their opinion on your companion, but I control the device that can end his life.”
“See, I’m a little confused about how that works. On one hand you’re quick to kill him, but on the other you want to prove he’s this great god of yours. Not a whole lot of sense there.”
“Your point?”
“What the hell is going on here? Daniel does this test of yours and fails. Then what? You kill him for that failure or is the device intended to make sure he actually makes the attempt? Seems like a pretty harsh way to treat your god, don’t you think?”
Asmun once again presented his back to Jack and resumed staring out the window. “I speak for the clan, but that is all I do. The other elders lead by quorum and control the critical affairs of all Otakai. In this way, we have lived for thousands of years.”
“So you’re a figurehead only?”
“My words hold weight, but only in certain situations.”
“And this isn’t one of them.”
“Then help us out here! You have to know Daniel isn’t this god of yours.”
Shoulders slumping ever so slightly, Asmun turned slightly to look over his shoulder, offering Jack the first sincere expression he’d seen from the man.
“That thought had occurred to me. I am not without compassion, but neither will I be swayed by the faith of another man’s convictions. I know what I saw on the night Daniel Jackson visited us, and yet you have offered no proof to explain why I should believe this was not him.”
“I’m not asking you to believe it wasn’t him. All I’m trying to prove is that he’s not this god of yours and that what you’re about to do will end badly for all of us if you don’t stop it now.”
Asmun pulled out his chair and sat down heavily, his hands seeking the heavily bound book off to one side of his table.
“Arra tells us that truth can be found where doubt hides most, and that only a fool would listen to words spoken by the wise and not the words themselves.”
“Ah, then Arra is most… wise.”
“You have no idea what that means, do you?”
“Sure!” Jack chuckled lightly and then mellowed at Asmus bewildered look. “Okay, no, not really, but somewhere in there I heard the words ‘truth’ and ‘wise’, and they hold a lot of weight where I come from.”
“Perhaps our world can learn something from yours after all.”
“Daniel’s the diplomat here and he can explain these things a whole lot better than I can, but we came here to offer our help to you people, to make friends. This is what we do.”
“Then explain to me why I should believe Daniel Jackson is not Arra.”
Jack drew in a long breath and looked briefly up at the ceiling, as though asking for his own divine intervention, before turning his attention back to Asmun. “You remember Daniel mentioned Oma, right?”
SG1 stood to one side of the Stargate; Jack and Teal’c keeping a close eye on the roaming Otakai warriors while Sam took some atmospheric readings with her diagnostic tool. Overhead, the weather had turned decidedly nasty. Clouds heavy with rain had rolled down off the mountains and settled to form a storm front over the plains, turning the bright day dark.
Jack tugged at the collar of his jacket as a gust of wind blasted the back of his neck. “You sure they got the message, Carter?” he whispered when he was sure they couldn’t be overheard.
“Positive, sir.” Sam tucked the tool back in her vest pocket. “Janet knows there would be no reason for us to toss back one of Teal’c’s tretonin ampoules, especially when she gave him a more than ample supply for this mission, and knowing we all carry excess supplies in our vests. Besides which, I made sure it was evident the seal had been tampered with.”
“And the message?”
“Not a problem. The device was given a code name for external reporting protocols. Doctor Lee would know exactly what I was talking about.”
“He knows Daniel was injured and that we’re stuck here while we sort through some diplomatic issues with the treaty. I couldn’t be certain who was listening in on the conversation on this--”
“Colonel O’Neill!”
Jack hissed through his teeth and quickly turned to face Asmun; the other man shuffling his way across the town square, his robe pressed flat against his body as he fought against the driving wind.
“Nice weather you’re having here.”
If Asmun heard the comment he chose to ignore it. “Where are your people?” he asked, drawing up alongside Jack and casting his gaze quickly over Sam and Teal’c and then up to the darkened Stargate. “I have managed to allay the fears of the other elders, but I fear their patience wears thin.”
“It takes time to gather the equipment our healer needs,” Sam offered by way of an excuse. “I’m sure they won’t be too much longer.”
“Good. Good. I have prepared a room close to the cell block, should it be necessary to gain quick access.”
The wind picked up and almost blew Jack’s hat off his head; he caught it quickly and stuffed it in the front of his vest. “What exactly does that mean?”
“Only that…” Asmun’s words were drowned as the Stargate came to life, the inner ring grinding metal on metal and adding its own tune to the rising voice of the wind.
With the lock of the last chevron, the wormhole sprung to life and spat out Fraiser and a male member of her staff, complete with equipment kits. Janet stumbled as the wind whipped her face.
“Doc!” Jack took the stairs two at a time and relieved her of a kit bag. “We rolled out the red carpet for you.”
“I can see that,” she added quickly, not failing to note the ring of Otakai warriors surrounding the ‘gate. “Quite the gathering.”
“All for your benefit. I take it you’ve got all the equipment you need?” He tested the weight of the bag in his hand, nodding once as she smiled slyly at him. “Good. Don’t want you leaving anything behind you might need.”
They alighted the stairs and gathered at the base of the ‘gate; Asmun kept a respectful distance. “General Hammond sends his regards, sir. He hopes you can find an amicable solution to the situation.”
“Don’t we all, Doc. This is Asmun,” Jack said, waving the man forward. “He’s the spokesman for the clan. Head honcho… that kind of thing.”
Janet nodded sagely, affording the man a measure of respect. “You have a place for me and Captain Markham to set up a treatment area?”
“A space has been made for you, yes. Unfortunately, you will not be able to visit Doctor Jackson until after the morning meal, as is our way for the treatment of prisoners.”
“Prisoners?” Janet looked across at Jack questioningly.
“We didn’t exactly have time to give the general all the details.”
“That’d be an understatement, Colonel. All General Hammond said was Daniel had been injured and SG1 was stuck here indefinitely.”
“Yeah, well, that’d be the condensed version. Come on, Doc,” Jack pointed towards the cell block, “let’s get you settled and we can fill in the blanks.”
The hut Asmun had ushered them to reminded Jack of very old barracks buildings, the type more at home in a late 50’s war movie. Wooden floors and walls were capped with a thatched roof, and windows that should have been open and letting in the breeze were sealed tight.
“Airy,” Jack said kicking at the first of a neat row of rustic sleeping cots, all lined up against one wall with a blanket and pillow piled neatly on each one. “Takes me back to my cadet days.”
Janet set her pack and equipment down, turning to face the door as it snicked shut. “They’ve locked us in?”
“Don’t sweat it, Doc. They probably think we’re going to break Daniel out in the middle of the night.”
“What exactly has he done?” She knelt down beside her equipment case and opened the lid, surveying the contents before taking out a smaller container and holding it up to Sam. “Doctor Lee said you’d know what to do with this.”
Sam took the case and smiled, lifting the lid and checking out the equipment. “Small but very effective,” she muttered softly, “at least I hope.”
“You hope?” Jack scrubbed a hand through his hair in frustration. “Give it to me straight here, Carter, will it work? Better still; how about telling us what the hell ‘it’ is?”
Carter closed the lid and handed the box back to Janet. “Here. Keep it with your equipment so the Otakai don’t have a reason to question what it is.”
“From what I’ve seen, I doubt they’d know what most of the stuff in here is,” Janet said smartly, replacing the box in its hidey hole. “Anyone care to tell my why they’re withholding medical help for Daniel?”
Teal’c moved away from the door and took up a position at the foot of Jack’s bed. “The Otakai believe Daniel Jackson to be a reincarnation of one of their primary deities.”
“A god?” Janet’s brow rose in surprise and she smothered a smile. “Isn’t that a little cliché, given his intense dislike of the Goa’uld?”
“Yeah, well, Daniel and cliché make good bed partners.” Jack got up from the cot and shook out his legs, looking across at Teal’c and nodding back towards the door. “Keep an ear out for our hosts?”
Waiting a moment for Teal’c to take up position by the door, Jack called Carter over. “Wanna dazzle us with this plan of yours, Major?”
Sam smiled tightly and stared back down at the still open equipment kit, and the small box Janet had just returned there. “You remember when we tried to capture the Kull warrior a few months ago?”
“Hard to forget failure, Carter. I gather you’re referring to the Tok’ra force shield here?”
“Yes, sir. We’ve since taken that technology and adapted it for use in more practical areas.”
“Not defensive?”
“You didn’t get the updated progress reports?”
Jack tried to hide his frustration but the muscles on his jaw clenched involuntarily. “I can either answer you or you can give me the very abridged version of the report. Your choice.”
“Basically, sir, we’ve modified the technology so it can be use as a repelling field to encompass a larger area.”
“So, instead of keeping something in…”
“We can push it away. Yes, sir. We haven’t had time to subject the technology to testing on a larger scale, but all the computer models have returned positive results.”
“Untested?” Jack pinched the bridge of his nose and scrunched his eyes tight, before meeting Carter’s strained gaze. “How about we keep that last piece of information from Daniel?”
“Probably for the best. The unit Janet brought with her is a prototype only--remotely activated with variable settings depending upon the requirements of the user. If the Otakai go through with their plan to make Daniel hold back the flood, then I should be able to use this device to activate the field as the water hits. All anyone should see is the water responding to his commands, much like they claim it did last time.”
“Last time?” Janet said in surprise. “You mean he’s done this before?”
“Long story, Doc. Apparently Daniel visited these people while he was ascended and did a Moses act on them.”
“He saved the entire village from destruction,” Sam added quickly.
“Right, so this is why they believe he’s some sort of god?”
“No… not quite. There is the fact that he actually bears some resemblance to one of their primary deities, which has lead the elders of the clan to want to put his identity to the test.”
“I guess trying to explain Daniel’s ascension in terms these people can understand is out of the question?”
“Did that,” Jack said sourly. “Okay, tried to do that. Asmun isn’t the issue - I think he gets that Daniel isn’t this god of theirs and kinda understood my explanation of ascension. I get the feeling the guy is stuck in a real bad place here.”
“So he’s a figurehead for the Otakai?” Janet asked, confusion coloring her expression. “Not so much a leader but a spokesman?”
“Something like that.” Jack shrugged and turned to Carter. “So, this device is hand-held?”
“Kinda. We can activate the field remotely, but much like we did with the drone, the actual device itself needs to be set up somewhere. In this case, I’d suggest hiding it on Daniel directly.”
“On Daniel?” Janet didn’t sound convinced. “Would that be dangerous?”
“Long-term, yes, but if this plan works then he should only have it on him and active for a very short time. Enough time to perform his act of god and disappear.”
“And why are we having him disappear, Carter?”
“Sir, if Daniel pulls off this little stunt of his for the second time, it’s going to banish any doubts the Otakai have over who he is. If anything, it’ll reinforce their belief that he is a living reincarnation of Arra.”
Jack let out a long-held breath and mumbled, “Catch-22.”
“Exactly,” Carter reaffirmed with a nod. “If we fail then Asmun will have no choice but to release the neurotoxin…”
“Killing him,” Jack stated emotionlessly.
“Yes, but if he succeeds then the Otakai will probably have a lot to say about letting him return with us, and we’ve already ascertained that taking him by force isn’t going to work.”
“So, what then?”
“Like I said, sir, we make him disappear. Turn the table back on the Otakai by telling them his final act of saving the village cost him his life.”
“Sounds a little melodramatic.”
“Maybe, but if we get this right then Daniel will be back through the ‘gate within minutes of the field collapsing.”
“Whoa, hold up there…. field collapsing?”
“Basically, I can remotely collapse the field to encompass Daniel, effectively hiding him from view. It’s similar in a way to how you would bend light. You remember the Tollan--”
“Aht!” A sharply raised hand from Jack cut Sam off mid sentence. “Save the lecture.”
“The field can be remotely manipulated to make it look like Daniel disappeared.”
“See, that wasn’t hard.”
“No, sir.”
“I’m sorry,” Janet interrupted. “Doesn’t this all hinge on these people letting us back through the ‘gate right away? Not to put a finer point on your plan, but if they don’t let us through quickly then Daniel could be looking at more than short-term exposure to whatever type of radiation this device emits.”
Jack smiled thinly, and muttered, “That’s where Asmun comes in.”
Daniel shivered despite the blanket one of the guards had offered him sometime during the night. Comfort was a luxury the Otakai guard wasn’t about to afford him, and he was sure the roughly thrown blanket had come at the insistence of Asmun or someone else higher in the chain of what ever command structure these people used.
On his left side and facing the cell door was the only position that allowed him more than a few seconds of sleep. His wrist ached mercilessly, and turning his arm over was an exercise in extreme pain that he’d quickly learned wasn’t worth the effort.
He dozed lightly now, drifting in and out with the changing of the guard and their raised conversations, which, he was sure, was meant to keep him awake.
Daniel jerked awake to the sound of his name and cracked open one eye, blinking at the daylight flooding in through the open cell door.
“Jack?” he croaked around dry lips and throat.
“The one and only. Well, not only… I brought you a visitor.”
Daniel tried to sit up by pressing his back to the cell wall and levering himself up onto his good elbow, only it didn’t quite work and the effort had him collapsing back onto the mattress. He felt Jack’s hand on his right bicep pulling him up again.
“Not too steady there,” Jack said, shuffling beside him as he finally managed to sit up unsupported.
“Long night.”
“Not so much.”
“Well, good old Doc Fraiser decided a house call was in order. Didn’t you, Doc?”
Daniel quickly blinked his tiredness away as a cool hand cupped his cheek and tilted his head upwards until Janet’s face came into view.
“Good morning, Doctor Jackson.”
“Hey,” was all Daniel could manage. Janet smiled warmly and set her medical kit on the bed beside him, ushering in her medic with a wave over her shoulder. “As we’ve only got a limited amount of time to check you over, let’s get started.”
Daniel scrunched his brow in confusion. “Limited?”
“Yes, Daniel, limited,” Jack confirmed, letting go of Daniel’s arm. “Does the phrase ‘God heal thy self’ sound familiar?”
“Actually… no.”
“Well, that would be because I just made it up. Seems your good buddies the Otakai don’t believe their god should need the use of a healer.”
“Which makes a lot of s-sense.” Daniel jerked suddenly when Janet pushed up the sleeve to his jacket and tried to roll his forearm over. “Ow!”
“Sorry,” she said around a forced smile as she cut away the makeshift bandage to reveal the wound beneath. “How long ago did they do this?”
“Ah, yesterday,” Daniel replied. “Shortly after we arrived.”
“Please tell me they used some type of anesthetic on you because the incision has been rather crudely made and not very well closed up.”
Daniel stayed silent, refusing to meet her questioning gaze.
“Primitives,” she muttered under her breath. “I’m sorry, Daniel, but aside from cleaning the wound and giving you a shot of antibiotics, there’s not a lot more I can do here under these conditions. I wanted to get you on some IV medication but the chief here…”
“Yes. Asmun. He insisted on basic care only.”
“That’d be right. He doesn’t want anything done that might further affect the way his people already regard me. They’re not quite sure of my stature… of who I am. That’d be my fault.”
“No,” Jack cut in sharply before Janet could answer. “Don’t play the blame game here, Daniel. You did what you thought was right and saved these people.”
“Yeah, add water and… hello… one god incarnate!” Daniel flinched and tried pulled his arm away as Janet disinfected the wound, but she held firm and glared warningly at him to hold still.
“Still not your fault,” Jack returned, trying to keep Daniel’s attention focused on him. “A mission to a planet you visited during a celestial romp? Hell, I wouldn’t have placed a wage on those odds.”
“And yet here we are.”
“Carter has a plan.”
Daniel tilted his head and glared at Jack, eyebrows knotting quizzically. “She does?”
“Hinges on you having a little faith…”
“Oh, that’s funny, Jack.”
But Jack’s expression hardened and he lowered his tone, whispering, “… and pulling off a little disappearing act.”
Lightning crackled on the horizon, a precursor to the roar of thunder that rolled down from the mountains, to wash across the plains. Asmun shivered slightly as the thunder swept under his feet, at the same time inhaling deeply the rich smell of the coming rains. Behind him, and some distance away near the center of the village, Daniel had been moved from his cell to the small building the Otakai used for their weekly offering to Arra.
“Looking for trouble?”
Asmun had heard O’Neill approach; familiar enough was he now with the man’s wily gait and the peculiar odor from his hand weapon, that he could sense him coming from quite some distance away. He raised his right arm and waved towards the distance ranges and up to the rain-heavy clouds, dark and dangerous. “A storm gathers over the mountains.”
“An emissary from the mountain clans has come to warn us of the building danger from their glacial rivers.”
“Is that who that was?” O’Neill briefly looked over his shoulder towards the village, even though the emissary had already left. “So… not an intergalactic bible salesman?”
“Do you always make light of a dangerous situation?”
“Nope. Consider myself more of an equal opportunity offender.”
Asmun ignored O’Neill’s attempt at levity and turned his attention back to the distant mountains, their peeks now fully shrouded in dark clouds, heavy with rain. “The mountain clans are very shrewd. Long ago they discovered if they blocked off part of the river that courses through their territory, diverting it to a deep collection point, they would have a plentiful supply for the long summer.”
“They built a dam.”
“A dam?”
“It’s a method of retaining water. Most come with a floodgate to release specific amounts when the levels get too high.”
Asmun looked sideways at O’Neill and then back up to the mountain ranges. “I suppose then a dam would be correct. The dam gets too full during the wet months at the end of summer and the water often exceeds the height of the wall the clans have built.”
“When the warmer weather comes around again at the end of winter, the clans release some of this water into the natural flow of the river. I am unsure as to the reasoning for this.”
O’Neill frowned. “So that’s what that guy was doing here? Warning you about the release?”
“Yes. The lowering of the wall to release the excess water when the melt commences has become somewhat of a tradition to the mountain clans, but not one we were fully aware of until Arra visited us last. My people have never camped in the vicinity of the Eye before and did not know of the danger.”
“It’s a one way trip. You know that, right?”
Asmun frowned at the sudden change of conversation. “For your friend?”
“Faith really does not come easy to you.”
“Who said anything about faith? I told you about ascension.”
“You did.”
“And you also know Daniel is no longer ascended.”
“That he is mere flesh and blood? You told me this, but I have had time to consider your words and their many meanings. You would not be the first to tell elaborate tales to save your own kind.”
“Are you kidding me?” Jack grabbed Asmun by the shoulders, and before the man could utter a protest, he spun him about to face Daniel on the far side of the clearing. “I’m not sure how many ways I can put this to you, but does your god generally look like he’s gone ten rounds in the ring with a heavy weight? No, forget that, you wouldn’t know what a heavy weight was. My point is - does he look fine?”
“You place me in a difficult situation, Colonel O’Neill.” Asmun quickly averted his gaze and turned back towards the vista of mountains. “In these final hours, I have little choice but to follow through with the wishes of the elders. I am not the only one holding judgement over Daniel Jackson.”
Jack took a moment to consider Asmun’s words. “You mean someone else has one of those remote things?”
Asmun nodded tightly.
“For the love of… Who?”
“I am unsure.”
“How can you not know?”
“There was a time during my father’s reign as clan chief where it was decided he would carry one device and the other would be locked away, only to be brought out for questioning purposes or ritual rites such as this one. Admittedly, I recall no time in my life where the devices were used as a test of faith, but none-the-less here we are. Not knowing who carries the second device merely ensures that I can not go against the clan’s decision when the time comes.”
“Like damned if you do and damned if you don’t?”
“I am unfamiliar with that phrase.”
“Doesn’t matter.” Jack scrubbed his hands through his short hair and let out a long breath. “You remember I told you about the Ancients and their non-interference rule? The reason Daniel got his celestial butt kicked out of Clan Oma in the first place?”
“I do.”
“Same rules apply here. He helps your people out, parts the water, whatever… and they’ll take him. Only this time he won’t be coming back. There will be no miraculous ascension to the heavens. No nothing.”
Asmun looked positively worried, his face paling in the dying light of the day. “But if he passes our test…”
“If he passes your test, the Ancients will take him away for having used his powers to interfere with the natural order of things here. If he doesn’t use his powers, you and your cronies will kill him anyway. Either way, he’s a dead man.”
“He will succeed and Arra will pass back into the history of the Otakai as a generous god who sacrificed himself for his people!”
Jack scowled at the rapturous look that suddenly crossed Asmun’s face. “And we lose a teammate! You really don’t care that you’re killing an innocent man?”
“I believe all life is sacred…”
“Yeah, as it applies to the Otakai. Look, just do one thing for me. When Daniel is gone--and he will go--let my people go home. You’re not the only ones who honor their dead.”
Daniel swayed and caught himself on the door frame as two sturdy Otakai warriors tried to usher him out of the hut. He was aware of Sam closing in on his position, her blond hair and height marking her like a beacon among the dark-haired Otakai.
“Daniel!” she called, running the last few feet to jostle one of the warriors away and grab him under his arm before he fell flat on his face. “You’re burning up.”
“Yeah?” He swallowed hard, fighting down a rising tide of vomit. “Funny, I feel cold.”
“It’s the infection. You just have to fight it for a while longer.”
“From the capsule they put in your arm. You don’t remember?”
Daniel blinked rapidly, trying to push the fog out of his mind. Above him, the moons hung low in the darkening sky, almost smiling down upon them all. “I’m not sure,” he whispered after a moment. They took a few stumbling steps away from the hut and out into a clearing, where the other Otakai warrior released his grip with a low grunt and a shove. Daniel heard Sam say something in protest but it was lost to him as he suddenly shivered.
“My jacket?”
“I have it here, Daniel Jackson.” Teal’c’s strong voiced virtually boomed out of him from behind as he held out Daniel’s jacket. “O’Neill suggests you wear this to protect you from the coming storm.”
Daniel wasn’t convinced. “It’s too hot.”
“Fever,” Sam whispered to Teal’c, who now stood in front of them. “Maybe you should get Janet?”
“I will try, but Asmun has forbidden Doctor Fraiser from assisting Daniel Jackson any further.”
Sam led Daniel over to a small stool and made him sit down, tossing the jacket around his shoulders and threading his arms through, mindful of his damaged wrist. “There,” she said in satisfaction, zipping the jacket up and placing her hand in one pocket and then quickly out again. Grabbing him by the chin she raised his head to eye level. “I need you to keep this on, okay?”
“My jacket?”
“Hot or cold, no matter how you feel, promise me you won’t take your jacket off.”
Daniel nodded slowly, brow furrowed in confusion. “Sure.”
“There’s our boy!” Jack drew up short and bent down to Daniel’s level. “All dressed up and no place to go, right?”
“Whatever you say, Jack.”
“You don’t look so hot.”
“Don’t feel it either.”
Jack placed a hand on Daniel’s shoulder and looked back over at Asmun, who was deep in conversation with several other clan elders. “Looks like they’re ready to get this show on the road.”
“There’s one thing that doesn’t make sense to me about this, sir.”
“Only one, Carter?”
“It’s the timing. How can they predict the same event will happen on the exact same night every year?”
“I wondered the same thing, until Asmun told me the clans on the mountain add to the spring thaw by release the valve on some homemade dam they have up there. I get the feeling this is kinda their monsoon season. He said something about a ritual. I don’t know.”
“And Daniel just happened to show up on that very day?” She looked down at Daniel, who just shrugged.
“That’s Mr. All Seeing and All Knowing for you.”
“The Otakai have a complex calendar system, much like the Maya did,” Daniel said softly.
“So 2012 is going to be bust for them as well?” Jack harped with a crooked smile. “Break out the doomsday placards.”
“It’s not funny, Jack.”
“No, and neither were human sacrifices, and yet I’m seeing an alarming trend here.”
“What do we do now, sir?” Sam zipped up Daniel’s jacket and patted one of the pockets.
“I guess Daniel takes his spot and we wait for the waterworks to begin.”
“My spot?”
“Yes, Daniel. I know you don’t remember what you did last time, but Asmun tells me you walked out to meet the rising wall of water, said some mumbo-jumbo he couldn’t hear, and then left in a ball of light after saving their collective butts. Job done.”
“Right,” Daniel said sourly, “and that’s so going to happen again.”
“I need you to trust me here, buddy.”
Daniel looked wearily up at Sam, almost squinting to see her in the fading light. “You’re sure this will work?”
“Positive!” she said, almost too quickly. “You need to take your cues from me. When I say we’re heading to the ‘gate, I need you to make sure you’re right there with us. Don’t talk to anyone. Janet will go through first and then you. I’ll follow behind and turn the device off as soon as I get to the other side.”
“See! Easy as!” Jack slapped his shoulder good-naturedly. “I have every faith in you.”
Daniel looked up to the horizon, and to the dark clouds beyond that had virtually stolen the day away. A stray drop of rain landed on his cheek and he shuddered, fear twisting a knife in his belly.
Jack figured there would be some pomp and ceremony; that Asmun would whip the eager crowd into a fever as they waited for their messiah to do his little act. Glancing over at Daniel alone in the clearing at the edge of the village, shoulders slumped and almost drenched to the bone, he doubted his teammate was feeling particularly godly about now.
To Jack’s left, the rest of his team, plus Fraiser and her medic, were perched high up on an embankment overlooking the river, the same location the Otakai warrior caste had chosen to observe them from days earlier. Beyond Daniel, the river snaked to the right of the village and out of sight among the dense vegetation that crowded its banks. Asmun and the other elders must have been sure of themselves, choosing to stand at the edge of the village, within plain sight of Daniel.
Or within range, Jack thought bitterly.
It would be too easy for whoever was holding the other device to get twitchy at the last moment and release the toxin into Daniel’s bloodstream. Jack checked each of the men in turn; noting their stance and the position of their hands, anything that might give the bearer away. There was nothing. They all looked defiantly towards the mountains, as though they had nothing at all to fear. Only Asmun let his doubts betray him, his face a mask of uncertainty that he tried to hide with little effort.
The rain, only a light shower just an hour ago, was now pelting down, turning the clearing into one large pool of mud. Torches on high posts lit the area, casting an eerie glow as they struggled to stay lit against the rising ferocity of the wind and rain.
A horn sounded in the distance. Jack almost missed it over the wind, but it seemed to grow louder in a matter of seconds, and he realized he was actually listening to a chorus of horns as they reverberated down the gully.
“It comes!” Asmun yelled in both Otakai and English, pointing to a spot over Daniel’s head and to the wide river bed beyond.
It was hell on high. A discord of sound and color that seemed to rise from nowhere to tower over the treeline, barreling down the gully with so much force and speed that Jack wasn’t sure any of them would survive.
“Carter!” he called out, as rivulets of water smacked him in the face, a precursor of what was to come. Carter held her jacket closed with one hand, the other hidden among the folds. She nodded tightly, and he could just see enough movement of her hand to know that she had activated the field.
He turned his attention to Daniel, easier that way not to see the horrified look on Fraiser’s face as she clapped her hands to her ears and buried her face in Teal’c’s chest. The leading edge of the concussive blast of wind that led the torrent down the gully had just hit Daniel with enough force that he struggled to stay upright. Fighting back the urge to run down and help him out--aware his team were being flagged by a dozen heavily armed warriors--he gritted his teeth and blinked away the water trying to blind his eyes.
Daniel looked at Jack for a moment, as though taking a visual cue from him. It must have been enough, because seconds later he raised one hand just above head height, palm facing outwards.
A white wall of water, peppered with splashes of color from the debris it had collected on its destructive path towards the village, sped past Jack, almost fully climbing the edges of the deep gully. Mercifully, the water level appeared to have receded to some extent, and Jack figured the structure of the gully was probably somehow responsible. Despite all of this, there was still enough height and speed to totally obliterate the tiny village - Daniel and the Elders right along with it.
The wave cleared the edges of the gully and blasted out like a watery explosion.
And the shield flickered.
Unseen until now, the force shield lit up spectacularly in a muted blue color, ever-more visible as the mountain of water collapsed down on it. His whole body shaking, Daniel managed to hold his ground as the water slid over the top of the shield, clearing all but some of the outer huts of the village and washing away into nearby fields. What was left of the wave split off left and right, dispersing into the nearby forest and quickly losing momentum.
More water poured down the gully behind the initial wave, but as Jack turned towards his team he could already see Carter watching events through her field glasses, her hand still tucked under her jacket. She was trying to gauge when it would be safe to turn the shield back on itself and block Daniel from view.
They moved like a well-oiled machine. Jack turned back to Daniel just in time to see the shield flare brightly and for him to instantly disappear from sight. Around them, the crowd gasped, some of the warriors pushing forwards towards the clearing, only to be held back by Asmun. The clan chief had left the gathering of elders and rushed over to where Daniel had stood, gazing down at the ground and then up at the heavens, smiling and nodding knowingly.
Next to him, Teal’c was ushering Fraiser and the medic towards the ‘gate, with Carter in tow. As she passed by, still not meeting his gaze but wearing a rehearsed look of distress on her face, he grabbed her by the arm, and whispered, “Dial it up, Major.”
“Yes, sir.”
“You go straight through, don’t wait for me.”
Jack worked his way down from the side of the gully, along the same worn path Teal’c and the rest of the team were now following, until he managed to push his way through to Asmun.
“Colonel!” The man’s demeanor dripped satisfaction, and Jack instantly hated him for that alone. “The Otakai once again owe their lives to Arra!”
“Whatever you say,” Jack responded coolly. “I wouldn’t go looking for a repeat performance next year.”
Asmun unexpectedly grabbed Jack by the arm and pushed him away from the gathering crowd of villagers and towards the ‘gate. “Now, now! Ours is not to question our god. However, I have decided it would be a far wiser option to move the clan away from the great ring.”
Jack jerked his arm away from Asmun, and growled softly, “You don’t say!”
The chevrons on the ‘gate locked and seconds later a wormhole spilled out and settled in the ring.
“As promised,” Asmun said smugly and cast his gaze towards the open ‘gate. “You and your people are free to go, with our blessing. And here…” He grabbed Jack’s right hand and pressed a small object into his palm, closing his own hand around it. “Should you still wish to trade with us, then perhaps you could consider this part of the barter. You may be able to figure out how it works.”
Jack pocketed the object without looking at it, and wordless followed his team through the ‘gate to home.
“For his own wellbeing, Colonel.”
Jack looked down at Daniel through the observation room window. Nurses buzzed around him while he slept on, still looking as pale and ill as he did the moment Jack stepped through the ‘gate and saw him lying on the ramp.
“You took the…” Jack made a sawing motion across his left wrist. “You know, the Nintendo…”
“You mean the neurotoxin capsule?” Janet didn’t even bother to hide her smile at his interesting choice of words. “Yes, sir. The device was safely removed with no lasting effects, other than the crude surgical procedure used to insert it. That will take some healing.”
“The word meaning ‘to segregate or separate’, among other things.”
“Now you sound like Daniel.”
“And I take that as a compliment. I chose to put Doctor Jackson in isolation because I can at least control the amount of access his team has to him.”
“Us?” Jack looked crestfallen.
“You. Actually, you in particular. Rest and recuperation from his injuries, as well as any potential side-effects from his proximity to the shield device, is what he needs most right now, not you sitting there playing with his IV fluids in an attempt to amuse yourself.”
“Carter said there should be no lasting effects from the shield.”
“And I have no doubt she’s right, but putting that aside for the moment we still have his other injuries to contend with. So, at least for the next day or so, I’m going to leave him in isolation where my staff and I can better dictate visiting hours. Are we all square on that, Colonel? Or do I have to pull rank?”
“You just did,” Jack muttered half-heartedly under his breath.
“Good! I hear from Sam that the Otakai leader gave you a little souvenir of your visit.”
“Less of a souvenir, more a friendly reminder! You know, the guy actually thought we could find out how the thing works and use it for ourselves. Carter was all over it like a rash.”
“Can you blame her, though? Regardless of what they used it for it is still a piece of alien technology.”
“Damn instrument of torture. Asmun genuinely believed he could use the remote as a gesture of good faith in any future trade relations we might have with his people.”
Janet looked down at Daniel. One of her nurses was smoothing out his bed sheet, while another finished changing the dressing on his wrist. “Knowing Daniel, he’ll probably push to maintain some sort of open dialog with these people.”
“Have you ever seen the General in a really bad mood?”
“That bad?”
Jack smiled lopsidedly and headed towards the door, stopping to look over his shoulder and nod towards the observation room window. “Mind if I go commune with our resident god?”
“Five minutes, Colonel. And not a second more.”
“Thanks, Doc.”
“You know,” Daniel said around a wide yawn, reaching up with his good hand to cover his mouth as an afterthought, “I think I’ve finally discovered that ascension was overrated.”
Jack never doubted it for a moment. “What brought this on?”
Not lifting his injured arm, but at least flexing his fingers and paying attention to the dull throb in his wrist, Daniel studied the back of his hand as though the answer might have been written there. “Because all that power and knowledge is useless if you can’t remember having it.”
“Too much of a good thing is dangerous?”
Daniel shrugged and pushed away the tray of food he’d been picking at. “Maybe. Yes. I guess when you can’t predict the consequences of even one selfless act, then it makes the decision to act a little harder to make.”
“Having a zen moment are we?”
“Nothing,” Jack mumbled, and then after a moment, added, “Teal’c and Carter came by to see you earlier.”
“They did?”
“Yeah. You were sleeping. Carter wanted to check you hadn’t done another one of your disappearing acts again.”
Daniel studied Jack for a moment, trying to put the pieces of what he was saying together. “The radiation? Oh! From the Tok’ra force shield?”
“You knew about that?”
“I wasn’t born yesterday, Jack. Besides, I figured Sam had determined the dosage to time ratio and decided it was worth the risk.”
“My, my, aren’t you the trusting one.”
“Nice to know she cared, though.”
“Well, she’s not up for a repeat performance of last time. None of us are.”
Daniel let the statement hang in the air; there was nothing he could say that would effectively erase the past and the pain of his ascension. His death. They had to move on. “What about the Otakai?”
Jack’s lip twitched, like he was about to break out into a sneer. “What about them? You gotta know Hammond was royally pissed at what happened, even when he could see they were blinded by their own faith.”
“I don’t believe Asmun was left with much of a choice, Jack.”
“He could have done the right thing and not demanded SG1’s return. The SGC isn’t short of diplomats and SG9 have been itching to get their teeth into a good treaty or two. No, we fell for his plan. I should have known better after the first visit.”
“So you’re making this all your fault?” Daniel tucked his arm back into its sling and regarded Jack over the rim of his glasses. “I don’t think so. No more than it’s my fault for having visited these people the first time. What were the odds?”
Jack dropped his feet off the end of Daniel’s bed and straightened up in his chair. “With you?” he huffed. “You’ve always had this thing about saving anyone who needs it, fighting the good fight. Who knows how many places you visited while you were flying about up there?”
“Places to go, people to meet?”
“Sounds like something you’d do.”
“So? What?”
“Nothing.” Jack pushed the chair back and stood up, shaking his legs out and simultaneously reaching out to snag a piece of toast from Daniel’s tray. “We can’t look at each mission in terms of you having been there and done that while you were… ascended. I’m hereby evoking your godly status and returning you to your regular duties as SG1’s archaeologist, linguist, and all round pain in my butt.”
Daniel blinked rapidly a few times and then frowned. “Really? Pain in the butt is in my job description?”
Jack smiled and turned towards the door. “It is now.”
“Hey, wait,” Daniel called out after him. “You never answered my question about the Otakai! Jack!”

The End



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