Galactic Nursery
By Eilidh17

 

Prologue:

Jack rubbed his hand across his tired eyes and leaned against the nearest tree.  For over a day now SG-1 had been searching the village and surrounding area for their missing friend and archeologist.  Aside from his backpack and glasses, they had come up with nothing.  No sign of struggle, no half-hearted attempt at radio communication, no nothing.  The whole situation had left Jack and his team totally baffled.  After years of serving on the SGC’s elite team, Daniel knew better than to walk off on his own so Jack chose to believe he had been taken from them; Carter and Teal’c both agreed with him.

Watching the body language of the rest of his team, he knew without doubt that time was not on their side and the longer Daniel stayed missing the less likely they were to find him.  “No,” Jack murmured, shaking his head as though the action would automatically dismiss the thought.   Leaving the planet without Daniel was not going to happen.  No one got left behind. 

This whole mission had been a worry from the start.  A ‘cultural enigma’ Daniel had called it when he launched into the spiel that had ultimately dragged them to this backwater planet on the outmost edge of the gate network.  Jack had argued against the mission from the start.  Cultural considerations aside, there was no strategic or mineralogical reason to step through the gate, though Jack had to concede that a nice quiet mission away from their ongoing battles with the Goa’uld could be just what his team needed. 

“Be careful what you wish for next time, O’Neill.”  Jack pushed away from the tree and slumped down on a nearby log.  Resting his P90 across his lap, he let his shoulders sag forward, the strain of the last few days leaving him tired and pissy.  “Where the heck are you, Daniel?”

~oOo~

Earlier:

“What am I looking at, Daniel?”  Before Daniel could answer, Jack raised his eyebrows and pointed a finger in the air, “and I want the answer to be in words I can understand.  None of that mumbo-jumbo stuff you and Carter delight in punishing the rest of us with.”

Daniel turned away from the briefing room screen and frowned at Jack. “Mumbo-jumbo?”

Tapping his pen on the top of the stack of classified files in front of him, Jack sighed and smiled at his friend. “Daniel?”

“Right.”  Picking up the screen remote, Daniel brought up the first picture and referred to his notes. “As Sam has already pointed out, samples taken of the soil on PJ2-119 showed nothing of any importance to the SGC, but the inhabitants of this world bear some further cultural study.  Initial contact with members of the population was made via MALP, which raised some interesting issues.”  Turning back to the screen, Daniel brought up the second image.  A picture of children flashed on the screen, their faces wide with a mixture of fear and excitement as several of them reached out to gingerly touch the camera.

“Holy Hannah,” Sam whispered, leaning further in her chair, “it’s like a United Nations of the species.” 

Jack had to agree.  Having seen the MALP footage when it was first downloaded hadn’t diminished the shock any less.  The children were from a variety of races, some they’d encountered before and quite a few they hadn’t.  Mentally ticking off planets in his mind, Jack had counted about seven races before he started to stumble.

Clearing his throat, Daniel continued. “Technical difficulties with the first MALP we sent through meant that we had no sound.  My first assessment leads me to conclude the planet may act as a trading place for this region of space,” Daniel paused, and pushing his glasses higher up his nose, he flicked a hand towards the screen, “hence the diversity of cultures we’re seeing here.”

“A reasonable conclusion, Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c offered.

“Reasonable yes, but perhaps not right, Teal’c.” Picking up the remote, Daniel fiddled with the device and the screen filled with motion as the image was replaced with a digital video recording.  “Sending through a second MALP, we were finally able to get a sample of the languages being used.  We naturally assumed the mixture of races would produce a diversity of languages, and I was more than a little surprised at the sampling we received.”  Turning up the sound on the recording, Daniel turned his attention back towards his team, and Jack was sure he was waiting for their reaction. 

A cacophony of voices filled the room and Jack winced slightly as his brain struggled to make sense of what he was hearing. “You understand this stuff, Daniel?”  Jack covered his ears lightly and motioned for Daniel to turn the volume down.

“No, and that’s the problem.”  Pausing the recording, Daniel picked up a folder from the table and flipped it open. “I had my linguistics department pick apart the audio track from the recording to try and separate the different languages and we couldn’t find any.  These… people… are all speaking the one common tongue.”

Sam looked perplexed, her brow furrowing in confusion, “How can that be?  I can see Nox, Human, Enkarans, and Nasyans at least.”

“We’ve managed to isolate nearly a dozen different species from this one piece of footage and several more that we can’t identify.”  Shutting down the recording, Daniel brought up another image on the screen, and taking a moment to zoom in, he tapped the screen lightly with his pen. “This is a species that we’ve never seen before.  I’m pointing this one out specifically because these two, um, people are the only adults that we can see, which makes this whole picture all the more interesting.”

Jack stared at the image on the screen.  Humanoid in general appearance, the two aliens had almost white skin.  Their close-cropped hair looked more like tiny bird feathers that grew in clumps on their head, and large black oval eyes rounded off their ensemble.  A vague picture of a zombie popped into his mind and Jack shrugged off the image.  “How do you figure that, Daniel?” he asked, slouching back in his chair and lacing his fingers behind his head.

“Because, with a crowd of children this big and a species mix as diverse as this, I would expect more adults than just the two we can see here.”

“Could there not be more adults close by?” Teal’c asked.

“There could be, Teal’c, but I would think an alien device coming through the Stargate might give cause for the adults to keep the children away and investigate it themselves.”

Sam nodded her agreement. “You’re right.  They don’t seem to be alarmed by the presence of the MALP at all.  Having never gated here before, I can’t imagine they’d be familiar with our technology.”

Jack watched as Daniel put the remote back down on the table and slid into the nearest chair. “It’s the language that has me intrigued.  So many species, all chattering away in the same language, is not something we see a lot of in our travels.”

Thrumming his fingers on the table, Jack asked, “So not a meeting place then?”

“I doubt it.” Daniel rubbed at his forehead and Jack wondered if his friend was fighting off a headache. “Teal’c, in your time as First Prime of Apophis, did you ever come across a situation where the Goa’uld transplanted this many different species to the one world?”

Jack flicked his gaze from Daniel to Teal’c and watched as the big Jaffa frowned slightly and shifted his bulk around in the chair. “I have not, DanielJackson.  It has long been known amongst the Jaffa that the Tau’ri home world was the preferred place from which all slaves and hosts were taken.”

“But Teal’c, most of the species we are seeing here aren’t necessarily humans from earth, but are at least humanoid.  We already know from our encounters with many of these worlds that our physiology is quite similar, if not exact in some cases,” Sam remarked.

“You are correct, Major Carter, but the Goa’uld would not go to any great lengths to gather species from various different worlds and co-locate them when they can obtain what they require from one source.”

Jack could see were this conversation was headed. “Earth,” he added, wondering if Daniel’s headache was contagious. 

Teal’c tilted his head to the side and nodded. “That is correct, O’Neill.”

A stifled cough from the head of the table drew Jack’s attention to General Hammond, the man having largely been forgotten as the topic was being tossed around the table.

“What is your recommendation, Doctor Jackson?”

“Well, sir, I think it goes without saying that the SGC’s cultural mandate makes this planet a perfect next mission for SG1.  An opportunity to see a variety of species and cultures interacting on such a scale is something we haven’t seen before.  I would like the opportunity to hear the language up close and get some more audio samples for the linguistics department to work on.  It seems quite unique and we haven’t been able to find any of the root words unique to the traditional spoken languages of the worlds we’re seeing represented here.”

Yep, there goes our boy straight into professor mode, Jack thought as he watched the slightly bewildered look on Hammond’s face grow.

“If Teal’c’s theory on host and slave selection is correct, and I think we can assume that it is, then I don’t think the Goa’uld have visited this world, at least not recently.  Their lack of fear at seeing the MALP also gives way to the conclusion they are used to seeing different technologies pass through the gate.  If the inhabitants do have a trading post established here, we may be able to benefit from any advanced technologies they possess.”

Damn, Jack thought, letting a smile pass his lips, the kid made his point well.  Even he couldn’t argue with that last line.  Looking back at the General, it didn’t surprise Jack that the man agreed.  Rising from his chair and gathering up his stack of briefing files, Hammond looked down the table and declared SG1’s next mission to be a go.

~oOo~

 

“Nothing to say about the trees, Jack?”

Jack shouldered Daniel good naturedly as he passed by. “I think it’s all been said before.”

Stepping down from the stone dais at the base of the Stargate, Jack pulled his shades over his eyes and tipped his cap forward.  The twin suns in the system made for an incredibly warm day and he was sure the temperature was a fair degree higher than Carter had warned them it would be.  “Pack your sunscreen, did you, Carter?”

Jack watched as his 2IC huffed and shook her head. “It’s a little warmer than we’re used to, sir, but nothing we can’t handle.”

“Just asking, wouldn’t want you getting burned.”

Eyebrow rising at the casual remark, Carter smiled, and pulling her diagnostic tool from her vest, walked away from the dais to start her scans.

“There’s no one here.” Daniel sounded perplexed. “I expected, after the last encounter, there would be someone here.”

“You did phone ahead and tell them we were coming, didn’t you?” 

“Funny, Jack.” Daniel rolled his eyes and didn’t seem the slightest bit amused.

Jack snorted, and patting Daniel lightly on the shoulder, turned his attention towards Teal’c. “Let’s go, kids, Daniel’s got a mystery to solve.”

~oOo~

 

Jack shrugged his pack higher on his shoulder and let out a soft whistle.  The small village the MALP had identified earlier loomed in front of him.  Its stark white buildings glittered in the forefront of a crystal green sea, reminding him of pictures of the Greek Islands.  Fifty feet ahead of the team, Teal’c found a well worn path that led through a lush field of fiery red flowers that immediately sent Daniel into a round of sneezing and rummaging through his pack for his antihistamines.

Jack winced in sympathy as Daniel rubbed at his reddened and watery eyes. “I thought that didn’t happen to you anymore since you… you know?”  Jack pointed to the sky and then to the ground, a movement that elicited a small smile from his friend.

“Descended?  Fell back to earth, Jack?”

Jack chuckled. “Yeah that.”

Popping out two tablets from the z-pack and tossing them in his mouth with a wash down of water from his canteen, Daniel shrugged, “So did I.  Guess that’s one test Janet is going to have to do again.”

Setting off again, Jack muttered, “Oh, Joy!” and let Daniel pass ahead of him on the path.

 

~oOo~

 

“I guess you’re up, Daniel.”  Jack tilted his head toward the gaggle of villagers who appeared at the edge of the city, their rowdy cries of laughter alerting the team to their presence before they actually spotted them.  Dressed in brightly colored robes and carrying satchel-like bags draped over their shoulders, the group looked like they were out for a lazy Sunday stroll.  The arrival of the team right in their path didn’t seem to faze them at all.  The group, mostly children, stopped their laughter and smiled brightly, some stepping forward but halting just short of Teal’c, whilst others stayed with the three adults accompanying them.

Pulling his boonie off his head, Daniel muttered a, “Oh, right,” and took a cautious step forward. “Hi there, I’m Daniel.”

Trying his very best not to tap his fingers impatiently against his P90, Jack kept a careful eye on the larger members of the group.  The adults seemed more cautious about the strangers, their large, cold, black eyes drifting across each member of the team, but not once giving away any intent.  This alone made Jack nervous, but the lack of actual threat had him holding his instinct in check and waiting on Daniel’s progress.

Listening to Daniel as he introduced the other members of the team, Jack looked across at Teal’c and Carter, pleased that the military faction of his lot had the good sense to spread themselves out, making a sudden escape easier.

“Daniel?”  Taking a half step forward, Jack brought himself up square with Daniel’s shoulder. “Any progress?”

Shaking his head and pursing his lips, Daniel sighed. “Not yet.  Getting them to talk one at a time would help.”

Patting his friend affectionately on the shoulder, Jack looked down at the children now tapping Daniel lightly on his leg and smiled. “You live for this type of thing.”

“Yeah.” Gently pushing away the little hands, Daniel reached out, and stroking the nearest child on the head, frowned and looked up at Jack. “Odd.”

“What is?”

“They’re not quite right.” 

Jack had no idea what Daniel was talking about and looking over the collection of children gave him not a clue. “Something you need to share with me?”

“Don’t know yet.” Squinting against the glare of the midday sun, Daniel pulled his boonie down further and smiled at the small children now clearly besotted by their new friend.  “I can see the different species in these children but there’s something else as well.” Tilting his head in the direction of a lively, shaggy haired boy, he whispered, “This boy is clearly Nox, but then he’s not.  His skin is just a few shades too light and his eyes aren’t quite right.  Can you see what I mean?”

Trying his best not to stare at any one child too long, Jack could see that Daniel was right in his observations.  These kids weren’t quite right.  Each child was a specific species for the most part but with a little something added to the mix.  Looking past the children at the three adults behind them, Jack was suddenly drawn to their features. “What about them, Daniel?”

“Do you think?” 

“I do.  Genetics isn’t my strong suit,” Jack frowned when Daniel snorted at the comment, “but I’m fairly sure that the little extra bits might have come from the same species as our friends over there.”

“You’re right Jack. Genetics isn’t your strong suit.  Until we know what’s going on here, I think we should keep our observations to ourselves.”

Tilting his head in Daniel’s direction, Jack whispered, “Well, unless you can figure out how to communicate with these people on some level, this mission could well be a bust.”

Reaching out and detaching a small tyke from his leg, Daniel muttered back, “Leave the language to me and I’ll let you play king of the kids.”

 

~oOo~

 

Children and escorts in tow, SG-1 headed toward the village as the first of the twin suns headed towards the horizon.  Lush overgrown meadows slowly gave way to tended fields as the path they were following turned into a slowly widening road that appeared to lead into the heart of the city.  White clay buildings, reminiscent of the Mediterranean, were dotted along the road at regular spaces. 

“Amazing,” Carter breathed as she wiped sweat from her brow with a bandana, “I can see this place doubling as an off world resort for tired SG teams.  Just look at that ocean!”  It was a postcard moment as the lowest of the suns kissed the horizon and sent beams of dying sunlight across the clear green ocean.

“Does it not seem strange, O’Neill, that these people are not afraid of our presence?” Teal’c asked, his face neutral as he scanned the growing crowd.

“They could be used to visitors,” Sam commented, tipping her head good-naturedly at a group of adults. “It would seem to make sense if this place is some sort of trade planet.”

Sounding unconvinced, Teal’c stated simply, “I have seen nothing that would indicate any center of trade, Major Carter.”

“I’m curious about the adults,” Daniel spoke up, slowing his pace as they passed by another section of housing.  “Is it just me who thinks it’s odd the adults here are all from the one race and yet the children are all a mix of others?” 

Jack looked around at the crowd, kicking himself mentally that he hadn’t paid enough attention to what Daniel had been saying from the start of the mission.  Something was definitely amiss here.  The adults who came out to greet them were all from a race they had never encountered before.  Another fact that made him equally uneasy was the fact that not one of them had uttered a single word and yet the children were quite animated in their interaction with the team.

“Damn,” Jack cursed under his breath.  The clues were all there, and yet again he’d failed to pay attention to them.  “Is this something we should be concerned about, Daniel?”

“I don’t know, Jack. Unless you count genetic divergence as a threat, I don’t see anything to worry about at this point.”  Daniel stumbled slightly as one of the children latched on to his leg and dragged him sideways.  Regaining his footing and gently prying the child’s arms away, he smiled. “There’s probably a simple reason for the species blending we are seeing here and hopefully once I get a handle on the language, we should be able to get a better picture of what’s actually happening.”

Jack shrugged his shoulders and shuffled the dead weight of his P90 from one arm to another, strumming his fingers on the butt of the weapon. “You go, Daniel, and get a handle on your stuff,” Jack flicked a hand in the general direction of the population, “just be careful.  Something doesn’t seem quite right with this idyllic society.”

“Idyllic, Jack?”

“You know what I mean.”

 

~oOo~

 

Watching Daniel do his ‘thing’ had turned out to be more boring than normal.  Jack found himself marveling at the fact that he suddenly yearned for a nice ancient ruin with lots of rocks to keep his archeologist amused.  Linguistics was definitely not Jack’s favorite past time despite his passing acquaintance with the language of the Ancients and the scattered remnants of Arabic picked up from his time in the Gulf War. 

This time, watching Daniel wallow aimlessly with little progress was just plain boring.  Sitting on a small stall in what passed for the city town square, Jack looked across at the other members of his team.  Carter had amused herself quite nicely with a small group of young girls, all of whom seemed inordinately impressed with the color of her hair.  Not that he saw the point of their fascination, as quite a few of the little scamps had blonde hair as well.  Now acutely aware of Daniel’s observation about the adults, he was fairly convinced the attention being given to Carter’s hair was because none of the adults were blonde. None that they had seen thus far, anyway.

Leaving Carter to her day care duties, Jack found Teal’c scowling at a small boy.  Being deftly guided away by one of the adults, Jack had to wonder what the child had done to earn the stare from his Jaffa friend.  He didn’t have to wait long.  One child leaving had slowly been replaced by another one.  Taller in height, the boy stood on his toes and attempted to press a finger into Teal’c’s forehead tattoo.  Jack smiled at the sight and turned his head quickly away at the last moment when he saw Teal’c suddenly look in his direction.  Seeing the scowl on Teal’c’s face suddenly darkening, Jack wondered if he hadn’t hidden his amusement quickly enough.

“Jack, I think I’ve made some progress,” Daniel announced breathlessly.

“You’ve picked up the entire language in one conversation and we can go home with this mystery solved?”

Daniel blinked, and Jack could see the effort his young friend was making to bite back some witty remark. “Your faith in my abilities is appreciated but misguided,” Daniel replied with a smirk.

“I thought you said you’d made progress.”

Jack could just hear Daniel growl softly, “Jack.”

“Sorry, all this sitting around is making me grouchy.  What have you got?”

Detaching himself from his entourage of small followers, Daniel took a seat beside Jack. “I think I’ve identified the root structure of the language.  From the words I’ve picked up it seems to be a straight word-for-word swap.  Handy really because it makes putting the rest of the language together quite simple.”

“Yes, simple really.”

Daniel rolled his eyes and clucked his tongue. “Their sentence structure is similar to Mandarin Chinese and has a clear preference for the possessive. The tonal and guttural inflections are slightly harder to master but I think the linguistics team should have it solved in no time.”

Jack was impressed, and flipping the cover off his watch, he let out a soft whistle. “Not bad at all.”  Glancing across at Daniel, he smiled at the confusion etched on his friend’s face. “I had a bet with Carter you’d have the basics cracked in under an hour.”

“Oh,” Daniel remarked, leaning sideways to look at the time, “how did I do?”

“Fifty seven minutes.”

“Really?  Cool!  What was Sam’s guess?”

“Half an hour.  She had a little more faith than me.”

“Oh.”

“Sir!”  Jack looked up as Carter strode across the small village square, her weapon resting comfortably in her arms. “We have company,” she remarked, motioning to a small group of adults heading towards the team. 

“Heads up, buddy,” Jack stood and dragged Daniel up by the arm with him, “looks like it’s time you put all those cool new words to use.”

Shrugging away from Jack’s grip, Daniel looked at the group and sighed. “Those cool new words equate to a small handful, so I hardly think I’m prepared for this. I guess this is what we came for though.”  Stepping forward, Daniel held his hands out in a gesture of peace. “Resa, Iy'es tekla ci, Daniel.  Hello, my name is Daniel,” he announced, and Jack saw a small smile of satisfaction on his friend’s face when the group stopped and stared at him open mouthed.

“That’s my boy.”

 

~oOo~

 

“Well, that was one of the more interesting conversations I’ve had recently,” Daniel sighed and dragged a hand across his weary eyes, “at least one that’s gone absolutely nowhere.”

Jack looked up at his young friend immediately, sensing tiredness radiating from him like a beacon. “I thought you were getting a handle of this language communication stuff?”

Daniel blinked slowly, his eyelids at half-mast. “The language is difficult but not impossible, Jack, and it’s only been a day.” Stifling a yawn, he added, “Oh yeah, Koza is the name of the village and its people so I’m assuming it’s also the name they give to the planet.”

Sitting up on the small cot that passed for a bed, Sam glanced in Daniel’s direction, her brow knitted in thought. “Bit of a stretch, don’t you think, Daniel?  This village is too small to be named after the planet.  I’d expect something more the size of a city.”

“Says something about their population size, I guess,” Jack added, half-heartedly, flipping back on his cot and lacing his fingers behind his head. “Maybe this village was much larger at some point in time.”

“No,” Daniel piped up, suddenly looking more alert than he had been, “I think we would have seen structural evidence of that.  You could be onto something though.”

“I could?”

Daniel stood up straight and stretched the kinks out of his back, and biting back another yawn, he added, “It’s possible that something is affecting their population numbers, which would explain the size of the village.”

Jack couldn’t see where Daniel was headed with this. “But we’ve seen plenty of children. Heck, they’re everywhere.  Population numbers don’t seem to be the problem.”

“Damn,” Daniel cursed softly, “the clues are in front of me and I keep missing them.”

“What have you missed, Daniel Jackson?”  Teal’c asked, standing quietly on one side of the small room.

“The Kozian adults are all just that… Kozians, but the children are hybrids, and for the most part, they are more part other race than Kozians.  I’m starting to suspect the Kozians have fertility issues and are using off world species to breed their own population.”

~oOo~

 

Jack mulled over Daniel’s observation for a split second, “You’re kidding, right?”

“I think he’s right, sir,” Carter piped up.

“You too?

“Jack, it makes sense.”

Sitting up on his cot and swinging his feet over the side onto the floor, Jack added sarcastically, “To you maybe.”

“I, too, am forced to agree with Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c added, strumming his fingers down the side of his staff weapon, “I cannot think of any other reasonable explanation for what we have seen here.”

Jack felt his gut tighten.  They could all be in very real trouble here if Daniel’s theory was correct. “Your saying the Kozians are using borrowed DNA to beef up their own population because they can’t create their own kids?”

“Borrowed would imply that they intended to return it, O’Neill,” Teal’c added.

“And I don’t think that’s the case here.” Rocking back on the balls of his feet, his fists jammed into the pockets of his BDU jacket, Daniel looked towards the closed door. “I think we need to be more concerned about they acquire their samples.”

That was all it had taken for Jack to order his team from the village and back towards the Stargate.  Not wanting to alert their hosts to their fears, Daniel had politely thanked them for their hospitality and explained that they were needed elsewhere.  The Kozians took this information in their stride and saw the team to the edge of the village. 

Jack’s hopes of getting SG-1 through the gate and back to earth were dashed when, two miles from the gate, bad weather had set in, erupting in a cloud burst that sent them all running for the nearest cover.  With lightning crashing all around, and the ground turning into mud, Jack swore and ordered the team to set up camp.  Two miles didn’t seem that far but with the rain approaching torrential levels and night setting fast he saw no choice but to wait the storm out and head to the gate in the morning.

~oOo~

Blinking his eyes against the glare of the morning sun, Jack could have cursed himself for not taking more precautions with his team when they bedded down that first night.  The need simply hadn’t been there.  Deciding the Kozians, in light of the perilous conditions, had hardly constituted a threat, he ordered the team to make camp and set up a three hour watch rotation. 
Wind speed increasing and rain hampering their every move, it had taken over an hour to establish camp, and with their rations consumed cold, they had quickly succumbed to sleep while Daniel took the first watch. 
Jack had been the one to discover Daniel missing.  Having set his alarm to wake him in three hours, he’d stumbled past the wind breaker on the tent and called out to his team mate.  Not getting a response, and immediately fearing the worst, he quickly checked the area and woke the rest of the team.  A few scattered personal items were all they recovered, and for all intents and purposes, their archeologist had disappeared into thin air.

~oOo~

“Right.” Slapping his thigh and hefting his weapon, Jack stood and crossed the clearing toward the remaining members of his team. “Carter, Teal’c, pack it up, we’re leaving.”

“Sir?”

Turning away, Jack looked towards the path leading to the village. “You heard me, we’re leaving.”

“Should we not be continuing the search for Daniel Jackson, O’Neill?”

“We are, Teal’c,” pointing towards the path, he huffed, “Dollars to donuts they know where Daniel is and this time I’m not leaving without answers.”

“They weren’t exactly happy to see us yesterday, sir.”

Thinking back to their last encounter with the aliens, Jack quickly conceded that Sam was right. “And that alone should tell you something, Major.”  Jack didn’t wait for his 2IC’s reaction and set off down the path, hearing the scrambled movements of his team behind him.

When Daniel had first been discovered missing, Jack had ordered SG1 back to the alien village in the hopes that his archeologist had simply decided to return on his own, an option that didn’t sit well with Jack. He countered that with the certainty that Daniel wouldn’t simply wander off by himself.  As a member of a first contact team, Jack knew without hesitation that Daniel knew better than to jeopardize himself by setting off without backup or even letting his team know where he was going.

The villagers’ reaction to the team’s return the day before had given Jack reason to pause and think.  The square, so recently filled with lively and chatty children, was unusually quiet.  Houses were closed and Jack swore he could hear the faint murmur of voices behind closed doors.

“No welcoming committee,” Jack said.

“The village does seem unusually quiet,” Teal’c muttered, bouncing his staff weapon in the palm of his hand as he walked the perimeter of the small square. “Perhaps they are partaking of their evening meal.”

Jack wasn’t convinced. Leaning back on the balls of his feet, he let out a soft high whistle as two villagers turned out of a side street and approached the team.  Stopping just short of Jack, they began speaking rapidly, their hands waving in the air as they gestured towards the path leading from the village.

“I think they want us to leave, sir,” Carter offered, her own weapon now slightly raised and her finger resting outside the trigger guard.

“I got that bit, Carter.  Stay alert.”  Stepping forward, Jack let his own weapon slide from his grip to hang suspended by its clip on his vest.  Hands held out in what he hoped would be taken as a sign of peace, Jack turned towards the villagers and said, “Hello there, we’re just looking for Daniel.”

The tallest villager stepped forward, his pale skin looking even paler in the evening hue. “Danyaht,” he muttered, and turning slightly, he pointed over his shoulder. “Danyaht, vocer'li.”

“Vicer… vocer… I don’t understand, what is vocerli?  Carter?”

“No idea, sir.”

Slightly more animated, the tall Kozian appeared slightly frustrated and stabbed at the air over his shoulder as though Jack should be able to understand him. “Danyaht, don’ai vocer’li.”

Jack shook his head slowly, and deliberately hoping the Kozian would recognize the universal gesture for ‘No’, said, “I’m sorry I don’t understand.  We need to find Daniel.”

A flurry of cries filled the air as the lead Kozian yelled out at the top of his voice in a kind of singsong.  Moments later a disturbance behind the small crowd caught Jack’s eye as yet more of the adults walked out from a side street, a small child in tow.

As the group neared, Jack heard Carter give out a small cry, and looking closer at the child, he could see why.  Jack blinked in surprise and did a double take at the sight of the small boy standing just behind one of the Kozian adults.  The child’s bright blue eyes and blond bangs set off a fear that he didn’t want to admit to.  A muffled curse from his immediate right told him without pause that Carter had seen the same thing.

Shaking his head, he pointed the tip of his P90 towards the small child. “Tell me what I’m seeing here, Carter.”

“I think its Daniel, sir.  The resemblance is uncanny even at this age,” she replied.

His voice lowered to a mere whisper, Jack added, “So? What? You think they’ve somehow downsized him overnight?”

“This is not Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c warned, his voice cold and stern.

“Actually, I think you’re right, Teal’c,” Sam added. “He sure looks like Daniel, but as with the other children we’ve seen, he’s not quite right.  Skin is too light and the hair looks coarser than human hair.”

Jack took a small step forward, and putting his weapon down at his side, bent down on one knee. “Daniel?” he called softly, looking the child squarely in the eyes.  The bright smile he was greeted with in return nearly broke his heart.  There was no doubt in Jack’s mind at all that this child had some of Daniel’s DNA.  What the heck do we do now? Jack thought as he glanced up at the rest of his team.

Looking down at him, her face a mask of confusion and sorrow, Sam shook her head slowly. “If this child is a combination of Daniel’s DNA and one of the Kozians, then where is our Daniel?”

Biting back a grunt of pain from his abused knees, Jack stood, and resting the P90 across his forearm, strode towards the small crowd of Kozians, his gaze not leaving the child’s once.  Holding out his hand, he called, “Daniel,” again with the smile but this time the Kozian adults closed ranks, hiding the child from Jack’s sight. 

“Sir?”  Sam pleaded from behind him.

“I see it, Carter, but we are not leaving here without answers and preferably not without our Daniel.  You and Teal’c swing around the back.  Let’s see how far these people are willing to take this.”

Jack heard the rest of his team split and move off in opposite directions, circling the crowd and swinging around behind them.  Nervous eyes followed them as the Kozian adults drew into a tighter circle cutting off Jack’s access to Daniel altogether.

No, he thought, not Daniel.  Tightening the grip on his weapon, Jack crossed the rest of the distance to the child in a matter of a few paces but pulled up short when the lead Kozian broke away from the crowd and stood facing him with a hand held out.

“Nia,” he said firmly but Jack was having none of it.  Seeing Carter and Teal’c now standing behind the crowd, he raised his weapon and fired a single shot into the air, well above everyone’s heads.

“I have no idea what ‘Nia’ means, but this baby,” he paused, tapping the side of the P90, “means business. Think of it as the galactic words for ‘give it up.”  Watching the slightly panicked looks on their faces, Jack was fairly sure his message was getting across.  Sometimes a show of strength wielded more meaning than words alone, though Jack was confident Daniel wouldn’t agree with him on that.  Daniel.

“Carter,” Jack looked up at his 2IC, “get the kid.”

“Sir?”

“You heard me, Major, grab the kid before I have to do more than fire one round in the air.”

Sam bustled her way through the small crowd, and reaching out, she grabbed the child by the arm. “Come on,” she whispered sweetly, tugging at the child. 

The boy wasn’t having any of it though, his cheeky smile quickly vanishing into a scowl as Sam tried to pull him away.  Eyes watering with the first usher of tears, he cried pitifully, “Haldona,” and reached out to the nearest Kozian woman.

“Sir,” Sam yelled above the child’s wailing, “We don’t know that this is our Daniel, we could be taking this child away from his mother.” 

“Carter, he’s only been missing a few days, how could he have bonded with someone so quickly?  Pack it up, let’s go.”

Caught up in a physical and emotional tug-of-war with the woman, Carter tried her best to free the child from the Kozian’s grip. “My point exactly, sir.  It seems more likely that this child is a clone of some sort.”

“It is possible,” stated Teal’c, keeping a watchful eye over the crowd, “that the Kozians are employing advanced DNA and cloning techniques.  Each clone has been created, genetically bonded to their biological parent.”

“What!” Jack exclaimed. “This all sounds like hocus-pocus to me!”

Trying her best to pry the Kozian woman’s fingers away from the child, Sam muttered from between clenched teeth, “It’s all theoretical, sir.”

Jack leveled his eyes at Carter, lips thinning, he sneered, “I don’t give a rat’s ass, Carter, grab the kid and get him over here.”

The distasteful look on Sam’s face wasn’t lost on Jack as he watched his 2IC break the tenacious grip the Kozian woman now had on the child and gather him up into her arms.

Twisting his small body around and flinging his arms out, the boy’s wails filled the air and stung Jacks ears like he’d been hit.  Memories of saying goodbye to Charlie as he left for the Gulf war suddenly shot to the front of his mind.  Sara waving a sad goodbye as she struggled to keep Charlie from slipping from her grip while Jack strode his way up the rear of the C130. 

Where the heck did that come from, he thought as Sam struggled her way through the frightened crowd, the boy’s head now bouncing on her shoulder.  His frantic cries dimmed to a muffled sob as he sucked vigorously on his thumb.  Well, I’ll be.  Maybe thumb sucking is universal as well.

Locking his emotional baggage away where it belonged, Jack backed away from the crowd as Teal’c and Carter headed back down the path away from the Kozians, feeling the tension ease with each retreating step. 

“Take our six, Teal’c.  I want to put some distance between us and them.  Carter, how’s the boy?”  Jack could already see he was asleep in Sam’s arms, his mouth forming a round ‘O’ from where his thumb had slipped out.

“I think he’s cried himself to sleep.” Gently shrugging the child higher in her arms, she sighed. “He’s actually a bit of a dead weight.  Where do we go from here, sir?”

Tipping his cap back further on his head, Jack looked back at the Kozians and grimaced. “Right now we get back to the gate and see what Fraiser has to say about this whole mess.”

Carter looked concerned. Her brow furrowed, she chewed on her lip and Jack sensed a question was looming behind her eyes. “Whatever it is, Carter, spit it out.”

Shaking her head slowly and glancing back at the still agitated crowd, she muttered, “What if Daniel is still here?  We could be walking away and not know either way, sir.”

Jack wasn’t blind to the obvious; it was something he’d struggled with since they’d discovered the child.  What little search the Kozians had allowed the team to conduct of the village had turned up nothing, not so much as a clue.  Access to some of the buildings had been cut off to them and not wanting the situation to turn ugly, Jack had to concede the loss and carry on.  Teal’c had not so helpfully informed Jack that they could be places of worship, and whilst Jack was forced to agree, he couldn’t help but wonder if they were more than that.  The urge to simply go back there and march straight in was an option Jack was willing to hold in reserve for the time being.

“We’re not walking away, Carter.  I’m sending you and the boy through the gate and Teal’c and I are staying.”

“Sir?”

“We both know there’s more going on here than we’ve seen and most of our problems are lost in communication.”

“You think you can get through to them?”

Shaking his head, Jack conceded, “No, Carter, after that little display I don’t think I can.  Not going to leave without another try, or at least a look at what they’re hiding.”

Part 2

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