by Winter S. Jameson
Category: Action/Adventure, Drama
Content Warnings: Violence and the aftermath thereof, but nothing too serious
Summary: What happens when darkness falls on a people who have never experienced night?
Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its' characters belong to MGM/UA, Showtime/Viacom, Double Secret Productions and Gekko Productions. This story is merely for entertainment purposes. No money has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. All other ideas and new characters belong solely to the author.
Notes: I was well reminded that I should credit Isaac Asimov for the inspiration for this story. It's been many years since I read the original short story, but it left a definite impression and a favorable one at that. When I saw the movie trailers for I, Robot I was reminded of Nightfall, the only Asimov fiction I've ever read. It occurred to me that it would make a great Stargate story, so here you go.
Daniel Jackson leaned back from his hands and knees to sit on his feet, setting aside the large brush he had been using as he raised a dirty, weary arm to wipe the sweat from his damp brow, glad for the soaked bandana that covered his short brown locks and made what moisture did drip down onto his face bearable. He and the rest of SG-1 had come to P4X-736 five days previously by request of the natives - the Luthanan - to assist with an archaeological dig they were in the middle of just outside of Eros Nor, their main city. The team had made first contact seven months prior to the request, and, finding a society that was at a comparable level of technology and willing to share, entered into a treaty much-welcomed by both sides. And knowing about Doctor Jackson's archaeological expertise, it was a given who they would turn to when a team of Luthananite scientists uncovered the remains of a society they could not explain.
So far Daniel had been just as much at a loss as the original team. Everything that had been uncovered seemed to be from a society similar in advancement to the one that currently stood, and no reason could be found for the original society to have fallen. No sign of an invasion by the Goa'uld, no ready sign of domestic war, no planet-wide spread of disease, nothing of note. In fact, from what records could be found and translated, life had been nearly idyllic. No one even had any theories as to this previous culture's demise.
Colonel Jack O'Neill's main complaint, other than having to hang around watching people root around in the dirt and getting dragged into hauling things around in the meantime, was that this planet didn't appear to have anything resembling night. With two suns and four moons, there was always a significant amount of light in the sky. "It's just not natural," he had grumbled under his breath to his second in command, Major Samantha Carter.
The tall blonde woman chuckled quietly as Daniel continued to discuss the project's particulars with the native scientists. "Maybe not for us, sir. But I'm sure they'd say the same about Earth."
"Indeed, O'Neill," the fourth member of SG-1 commented. The former First Prime of Apophis raised an eyebrow, creasing the golden emblem in the center of his forehead. "I have been witness to many different cycles on many different worlds. There is no one length of day or night."
"Yeah, I know that, Teal'c," Jack said with a sigh. "I just wish it were more like home, that's all." At that point Daniel had returned and filled them in on the specifics of the excavation, bringing the conversation to a close.
At the present moment, the greying colonel sat on an exposed chunk of crumbled wall and mopped his own sweaty brow, watching his archaeologist frown at yet another something or other he had unearthed. "Still haven't figured this thing out, have you, Daniel?"
"No, I haven't," the younger man replied a touch distractedly. "And the fact that I can't even think of a theory is starting to bother me. If whoever built this city was doing as well as everything we've found suggests, why did it all fall apart? Why aren't they the people we met when we came through the Stargate? Why didn't their society survive? I've found earmarks that it could have been some sort of natural disaster, but something doesn't click with that. It just doesn't make any sense."
"Are you absolutely sure there wasn't some sort of plague or disease?" Sam asked as she came up with a tray full of finds the other members of the dig had come up with. "You know as well as I do something like that can be devastating."
Daniel nodded, looking up at his fellow scientist. "You're right, Sam. It can. But I don't think that's what happened here. From what I'm guessing were these people's newspapers that we found, it's obvious nothing like a wide-spread illness was, well, spreading. There was no mention of something like that, and I don't think a disease could spread quickly enough to kill everyone off without some mention of it in the media. Not with the level of technology that we're looking at."
Jack waved his hand slightly to get the others' attention. "Wait a minute. You saw the first example of that language when we first got here earlier this week and you've already deciphered it?"
The linguist blinked in surprise at the question. "Sure, Jack. It seems to be an offshoot of Akkadian. But the native Luthananite language is a variant of Gaelic. There's no apparent connection between the two. Which suggests that there were two completely different cultures at this same spot, the people who lived here," he gestured to the ruins that surrounded them, "and the ones who live there." He pointed to the thriving metropolis to the north. "I just don't understand it, and there's nothing in the Luthanan's history to suggest anything remotely resembling a transition from one to the other."
"So in other words, it was something quick and total that ended this civilization," Sam concluded, frowning in thought as she set down her tray.
"Basically. The earliest texts I've been able to find talk about rising from the ashes and finding a new home before them, but the references are so steeped in legendary terminology and mythical imagery that it's hard to be sure what they're referring to."
"You do know you've only got another two days to figure it out, right?" Jack reminded them. Carter might not have been an archaeologist like Daniel, but they both hated to leave a mystery like this unsolved - and Jack knew it. "And that's definitely as long as I'm willing to be manual labor."
Daniel sighed. "I never expected to solve everything in a week, but yes, Jack. I know."
"Daniel Jackson," Teal'c called out as he joined the other members of his team, his dark skin glistening with sweat and his black tank top soaked. "The Luthananite workers have left for Eros Nor. Tyrian believes he has found something that will interest the Ruling Council and has chosen to present it to them as soon as possible. He asked me to tell you he would return when the meeting had concluded."
The brown-haired man sighed again. "I'm not going to get anything done if he keeps doing that," he grumbled. "I don't think he understands that we're really leaving at the end of the week."
"Probably not," Jack agreed. "So why wouldn't Tyrian let you bring a team of archaeologists in again? The rest of us aren't exactly specialists in your field, which is what they need."
"He said the Ruling Council didn't trust anyone else from Earth since formal diplomatic relations hadn't officially started yet," Daniel explained for the fourth time since they'd received the request to come. "They haven't met anyone else from another planet in their recorded history, so they're being cautious." He shrugged.
"Sir, take a look at that," Sam said breathlessly, awe in her tone.
Jack adjusted his sunglasses and looked toward the point in the sky the major was pointing at. "Wow, it looks like the suns are lining up." He cocked his head slightly to the side as he considered the positions of the four moons that were all visible. "And I think one or two of the moons are lining up, too."
"I believe they are all nearly in alignment, O'Neill," Teal'c corrected him, also looking at the sky.
"Talk about a total eclipse," Daniel whispered, entranced, his hand shielding his eyes. "No one mentioned this was going to happen. I wonder how long the alignment lasts."
"I guess we're going to find out," O'Neill said with a shrug that did nothing to hide his growing interest. "I wish we had some equipment to record this." The others shared an amused look at their CO's expense, the comment totally going against his hard-ass, completely unintelligent persona.
"I do, too, sir," Carter murmured, stifling a chuckle.
The four of them were quiet as they watched the shadow of the impending eclipse wash across the landscape, thoroughly fascinated by the astronomical phenomenon. The sky grew darker and darker as the last of the celestial bodies slid into place. Finally, the grand conjunction was complete, and, since the last moon was quite a bit larger than either of the suns, everything was pitch black.
There was no time to even comment on what had just occurred when blood-curdling screams and sounds of destruction came from the direction of Eros Nor. "Tell me we remembered to bring flashlights," Jack snapped as he scrambled out of the wide excavation pit and headed toward where he thought SG-1 had left their packs.
"They should be with the rest of our gear, sir," Sam replied as she did the same. "I don't know if we'll have time to get to the city, though. The eclipse shouldn't last that long."
"Don't count on that, Major," the colonel threw back. "We have no idea how long it'll take the moons to move."
"Why do the people not activate alternative light sources?" Teal'c asked, having already reached the backpacks and started to sort through one by touch.
Daniel tripped over the kneeling Jaffa's legs as he joined him and barely caught his balance. "I doubt they have alternative light sources, Teal'c," he answered. "I have a feeling this doesn't happen too often. Ouch!" he cried as someone smacked him in the hand with a flashlight, having used his voice as a way to find him in the dark.
"Sorry about that, Danny," Jack apologized. He turned on his own light. "Let's get to the city and figure out what's going on. I get the feeling we're not going to like it."
Jack was right. When the four members of SG-1 reached the fallen and mangled iron gates that had formerly stood to either side of the main entrance archway in the thick city walls ten minutes later, the sky was still dark and screams could still be heard. Only now they were louder and mingled with the distinctive sounds of weapons' fire and masonwork falling, glass breaking and vicious cursing. Wild panic had gripped the Luthanan, and Eros Nor was in the middle of a city-wide riot.
"They've all gone insane," Sam whispered, horrified.
"To them it must be the end of the world. To go from constant light to even a temporary lack must be terrifying," Daniel murmured in response.
"There's nothing we can do here," Jack declared emotionlessly, the beam of his flashlight just catching the flicker of regret that swept over his features. "I think we should get to ground and wait this out. When the eclipse is over we'll see what we can do for the survivors."
Daniel turned to face him incredulously. "But Jack..."
"No, Daniel!" the older man cut him off sharply. "There's no rational thought going on here! Like Carter said, these people are crazy. When the suns come back out, so will their brains. And then we can talk. Until then, the best thing we can do is hide. Now let's move."
It wasn't fast enough. A large group of natives had seen the illumination from the Tau'ri flashlights and raced toward what they perceived to be salvation. The formerly civilized people savagely lunged for the tiny shafts of light, tearing into the holders of those shafts as well as each other, breaking the devices in the struggle, and the next thing any of the off-worlders knew they were battered and bruised and dragged away from each other, lost in the dark of the eclipse.
Teal'c fought against the pulsating crowd, but it was as futile as fighting the tide. He watched with stricken eyes as his friends were swallowed by the returning blackness that followed the sounds of broken glass and cracking plastic, then listened as their protests grew fainter then undistinguishable from the roar of those that surrounded him. Only his greater strength and heightened senses kept his body safe from anything more damaging than the occasional cut and bruise as he abruptly went with the flow and slowly separated himself from the throng. He could only hope the quiet place he found himself in at the end of his ride would continue to be safe until the large, slow-moving moon uncovered the suns.
The Jaffa waited until he heard the evidence of the riot begin to calm, the air beginning to fill with the sounds of the dying. They were much too familiar to the warrior, and regret seeped into his heart much like it did when he would survey a decimated battlefield, a living banner of yet another victory for his lord Apophis. He could only wonder if this time there would be anyone left to mourn those he heard moaning out their last breaths. He'd sensed and felt too much as he made his way to his resting place to believe there was much left.
Which left the hopes for his friends. The last thing he had seen before the flashlights had been broken in the struggle over them was the three Tau'ri being washed away and apart in the sea of insane humanity that held them in its grasp. The years he'd spent with the SGC, and SG-1 in particular, had taught him of the strength of the human race, the ability to overcome overwhelming odds, the amazing tendency to survive that which he would have said at any other time in his life was inescapable death. These people, these friends, this family had shown him the necessity of holding onto hope, the alternative being a life unworthy of living, something totally devoid of meaning. No, he would continue to hope for his friends' survival; there was no other option. There never was.
The cobbled stones beneath his feet rumbled and a cloud of dirt and dust rained down on him from above a few moments later. Teal'c smothered a cough with his hand and blinked away what had fallen in his eyes. When the dark brown orbs were finally clear, he could see a decided difference in the sky above: light once again began to shine down on the world it had wrapped itself away from. The still-mated suns began to slide out from behind the pitch black moon like the phases of Earth's satellite in fast forward. Calm normalcy was born once again in the city of Eros Nor. Teal'c just wasn't sure there was anyone left to appreciate it.
The large man hurried off in the direction he'd last seen his teammates, automatically avoiding the bodies of those who had not survived the madness of the eclipse. Piles of rubble covered once-wide avenues. In fact, there weren't many buildings left standing at all, and those that were were neither steady nor whole. It reminded the Jaffa most recently of the pictures Daniel Jackson had shown him of the devastation left behind from the bombings of both London and the cities of Germany during World War II. He closed his eyes for a brief moment and wished for his friends to have made it through the wide-spread destruction, then headed off in one of the directions he thought the others had been taken.
He had carefully made his way through a bloody and body-littered mile of terrain, the rubble and periodic checks for survivors making the trip much longer than it would have been normally, when he saw a sight that stopped his heart. Ahead of him, half-buried by broken bricks and shards of glass, was a head of short, blonde hair the exact shade of... The face was turned away, but it was very apparent that the body was lifeless. The puddle of blood beneath the awkwardly-tilted neck was evidence of that. With only a brief pause in his stride, Teal'c moved forward, not noticing his breath catching with every other attempt.
"Major Carter," he whispered, briefly running a gentle hand through the golden locks before gathering his nerve and stepping around to face the deathly image he knew would haunt him for the rest of his days.
It wasn't her.
He couldn't say who the woman was who stared sightlessly back at him from her half-exposed grave nor how long he stared at the evidence that there was still hope he would be returning home with all three of his teammates. He barely noticed that his eyes had filled with tears, first of grief and then of utter relief. He didn't feel another pile of debris shift and tumble behind him, the stones coming to rest against his legs. And he didn't hear the light coughs and cut-off groan of a figure freeing itself and joining him.
"Teal'c?" a raspy, feminine voice queried softly. "Are you all right? What happened?"
The sensation of a gentle hand on his right shoulder made him twist his head around sharply. There, bedraggled and dirty, a ragged cut on the left side of her forehead with blood running down her cheek, but most definitely alive, stood Major Samantha Carter, her bright light blue eyes watching him carefully yet with undisguised joy. "Major Carter?" he returned, his left hand coming up to cover the smaller one that still rested on him.
She smiled wearily. "Yeah, I'm here. I managed to jump back out of the way when this building gave way, but one of the falling bricks got me upside the head. I've been out of it since." The blonde major took a closer look at what had captured the big man's attention. "Oh my God," she gasped, her grip tightening as her body swayed. "Did you... Were you thinking... You thought that was me, didn't you?"
"I saw her from behind and saw the color of her hair. I could not help but to think..." Teal'c's voice choked off as he bowed his head and tried to gather his composure, his hand falling back to his side.
"It's okay, I'm all right," Sam said quickly, moving closer and wrapping her left arm around her friend's waist. "I understand why you thought what you did. But I'm fine, especially now that you found me. What about the others?"
He shook his head before raising it, once again in control of himself. "I have not encountered them in my search. But I will continue on until I find them."
The shorter woman nodded, letting out a small moan at the action once she swallowed away the almost overwhelming feeling of nausea it caused. "That was stupid, Sam," she muttered to herself. She cleared her throat and spoke at a normal volume. "I'll help you, Teal'c. We probably shouldn't get separated. Who knows if we could find each other again in this mess?"
"First allow me to do something about your injury." Teal'c took a handkerchief out of his back pocket and wet it with water from the canteen that rested on his hip.
As he reached out to clean the blood from his companion's face, Sam remembered her own canteen and took a few short sips in deference to her still-upset stomach. "That's better," she commented, her voice much clearer. She flinched as Teal'c touched a particularly sensitive spot. "Has that stopped bleeding yet?"
"I believe so," the Jaffa replied simply, finishing his task and putting the moist cloth away. "Are there any other injuries I should be made aware of?"
"Well, my right foot is pretty sore, but I don't think anything's broken and I don't feel any blood in my boot. Other than that it's just a bunch of small cuts and bruises. I should be fine until we get back to Earth."
"Then I believe we should continue our search for Colonel O'Neill and Daniel Jackson." The two of them headed back the way Teal'c had come to follow another guessed trail from where they had been ambushed by the gate.
Two hours later, the Jaffa and the limping major were approaching the center of the business district of Eros Nor. Their journey took longer than it would have normally due to Sam's need to stop a couple of times to throw up as well as Teal'c's need to provide her with an anchor due to her poor equilibrium. Both of them were subdued by the sight of almost total and complete death and destruction. So far, they had found no survivors amongst the bodies strewn amidst the rubble - which hadn't helped Sam's nausea - and no sign of either of their friends. Only the presence of the other kept them from sinking into despair.
A particularly large mound of rubble in the center of an otherwise empty square drew the SGC personnel's attention. "If memory serves, I believe this was once the main power station for this section of the city," Teal'c commented.
Sam carefully nodded her agreement. "I never would have thought it would have collapsed, though. It looked extremely structurally sound when they gave us the grand tour."
"Do you believe we would find survivors?"
"I suppose there's a slim chance. Like I said, the building seemed pretty sound. There may be pockets where people could have escaped being crushed to death. Unfortunately, I'm in no condition to start that kind of intensive search, not to mention a total lack of the proper equipment and the fact that we're still missing two teammates. We'll have to send a team in as soon as possible when we get back." The physicist's expression grew slightly distant as she considered what that team would need to take care of things properly.
Leaving the woman to ponder the problem for a few moments after making sure she had a firm hold on her balance, Teal'c moved toward a dark stain on a number of pale stone slabs that had formerly made up the outer wall of the power plant before disaster struck. If he didn't know better, he would have sworn it was blood. He began to carefully make his way over a small mound of debris to test his theory when a sharp, muffled cry echoed in the unnaturally quiet air.
"Jesus! Not another one!"
"Did you hear that?" Sam asked, her eyes wide as she watched Teal'c step back as quickly as possible.
"I did. There is someone alive trapped under the stones. We must free them."
"Just hold on!" the blonde called out. "We'll get you out as soon as we can!"
There were a couple of beats of silence before the voice called back, "Carter? Is that you? Or am I just dreaming again?"
Blue met brown in startled surprise. "Yes, sir!" Sam replied, finally recognizing the man needing their assistance. "Teal'c and I are here. We'll get you out!"
"Oh, thank God. You wouldn't mind hurrying, would you? I'm not sure just how much air is left in here."
"We will work as quickly as possible, O'Neill. It should not take long."
"I knew I could count on you, Teal'c. So, is it tomorrow yet?"
Sam and Teal'c shared a confused look. "I'd say it's only been a couple of hours or so, Colonel. Did you sustain any kind of head injury?" The major lightly bit her lower lip at the thought, regretting that the majority of their supplies were still with their backpacks at the dig site.
"No, no, my upper half is unscathed, relatively speaking. I just wanted to know if it was tomorrow yet, that's all."
"I do not understand. Why would you ask such a question, O'Neill?" the Jaffa queried between efforts, the rocks he was manhandling clattering as they bounced against the cobblestone pavement of the square.
Sam just knew the hidden man smirked in the brief silence before an off-key warbling of "The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow" filtered through the rapidly receding rock pile. "Oh, that's awful, sir!" she declared through a laugh. The song finally stopped when Jack was seized by a coughing fit.
"So, Carter," O'Neill rasped out when he could catch his breath, "how about a sit rep?"
"Well, Teal'c has a small number of cuts and bruises, and I think I've got a mild to moderate concussion under the cut in my scalp if the way my vision keeps doubling on and off is any indication. I also appear to have sustained a minor injury to my right foot. As for the city... you'll have to see it to believe it, sir."
Only the sound of crashing stone resounded for a long moment. "I don't recall hearing anything about Daniel in that report, Major. Care to tell me why?"
Sam sighed. She really didn't want to have to tell him this... "We haven't found him yet, sir. Teal'c found me first, and then we stumbled across you. I'd continue the search while he unburies you, but I'm not really in any condition to do that alone."
"No, no, I don't want you doing that, especially with a concussion. Just get me out of here. We'll figure it out then."
"I will continue to search for Daniel Jackson when you are free, O'Neill. Major Carter will remain and tend to your injuries."
The much-smaller pile of rubble twitched. "What makes you say I'm injured, Teal'c?"
"I found evidence of a stain of blood on the pile of debris. When I came nearer to make a closer examination, I apparently put pressure upon your person. Considering the proximity, I would deduce that the blood is yours and you are injured." Teal'c never paused in his work as he answered Jack's innocently-toned question.
"Not to mention the shout that alerted us to your presence," Sam added.
"Fine, fine," Jack grumbled, realizing he was caught. "I think my right leg is broken."
Just after the older man's admission, Teal'c managed to finally push aside the slab that made up the outer wall of the pocket O'Neill's top half had stayed relatively unscathed in. Jack's right arm flew up instinctively to block the light of the suns while his left snatched at the sunglasses that hung from their cord around his neck and slipped them into place. "I guess it is tomorrow," he quipped as the big man in front of him clapped a meaty hand on his shoulder in obvious unspoken relief. Sam looked on with a huge grin.
"You know, I thought what I heard earlier was the dying cry of some unknown, tone deaf, indigenous life form. Apparently I had it backwards. It was the birth of some unknown, tone deaf, indigenous life form."
Teal'c and Sam spun around quickly in surprised dismay, the blonde blinking back a wave of dizziness, and Jack narrowed his eyes behind the tinted lenses to assess the unexpected disruption. There, on top of a hill of rubble at the edge of the square behind them, sat a figure on a wide, precariously balanced slab of this planet's equivalent to concrete. They all relaxed as he waved. "Hi, guys! You wouldn't believe how great it is to see you all alive and well." He paused. "Okay, alive and mostly well."
"Probably as good as it is to see you in the same condition," Jack threw back. "Get your ass down here, Daniel!"
They couldn't quite see the archaeologist's expression, but the hop up to his feet had a spring in it they only saw when he in a good mood. "I'll have to bring the rest of me as well, I'm afraid, Jack. I hope you don't mind."
As Sam and Jack couldn't help but laugh and Teal'c raised an amused eyebrow, the ground began to shake, sending rocks of various sizes tumbling down from their peaks. Unfortunately, before Daniel could jump clear, the slab he was standing on joined the trend. Because of the one hundred and eighty pounds of man on top of it, the chunk of concrete didn't topple like its brethren, instead sliding down flat, causing Daniel to, in a desperate attempt to maintain his balance and his health, thrust his arms to the side and brace his legs like a surfer riding a giant wave. His three teammates watched with growing terror as the brown-haired man somehow managed to keep his place amidst the bumps and unexpected twists and turns, continuing the ride across the cobblestone pavement, and finally slowing down enough to merely bump into the rubble of the power station with a loud crunch and stop.
It was the final jerk in momentum that did Daniel in. He'd leaned back slightly to account for the stop he saw coming, and when it finally came he tumbled back onto his rear and rolled off his impromptu surfboard onto the uneven pile of debris only a few feet from where his friends were frozen in place. He blinked up at them.
A slight chuckle began to burble out when it was apparent that no harm had come to the wayward linguist, followed almost immediately by stronger sounding snickers. Finally there was full-blown laughter, and Jack O'Neill, the source of it all, had to tear off his sunglasses to wipe away tears. "Hang ten, big kahuna!" he managed to gasp out between fits.
That broke the stunned silence. Both Daniel and Sam followed their CO's example and began to laugh while Teal'c allowed himself an amused smile. "So what happened to you, Daniel?" Sam asked when things finally wound down. Teal'c went back to his work, striving now to unbury the rest of O'Neill's body.
"When my flashlight shattered I couldn't fight the momentum of the crowd anymore," Daniel began as he came over to help the Jaffa with his task. "I don't think they meant to do it, but a few fists and elbows connected." He gestured briefly toward his face where a beauty of a shiner was forming around his right eye. "I'm surprised I managed to keep a hold of my glasses."
"So what about the blood?" Jack asked suspiciously, eying various cuts and scrapes, firmly convinced the other man was holding back something.
Daniel shrugged. "I fell. It only took me a few seconds to realize I wasn't getting up in that mob, so I curled up into a tight ball hoping to stay unnoticed. It even worked for a little while. Then someone tripped over me." He cringed at the memory.
"What happened?" Sam asked again, sitting down on the flat rock that had delivered Daniel. "Did he pull a knife on you?"
"Um, no." The words were a little drawn out, the archaeologist's tone showing his reluctance to continue. "Needless to say, he wasn't happy, but he didn't use a weapon on me."
Jack nodded. "I don't think anyone was thinking clearly enough to use a weapon on anyone else."
Daniel silently conceded the point. "Anyway, the man decided to take out his frustrations - and he used me to do it."
"Used you as a punching bag, eh, Daniel?" O'Neill commiserated, his voice and expression a mix between humor and anger, leaning more toward the former considering the youngest member of his team was standing there in front of him to relate the tale.
"No, actually," was the surprising response. "He picked me up and threw me through a pane glass window - one of the few that were still whole at that point I'm sure. When I landed I figured I'd be safer playing dead and stayed down. No one bothered me after that."
"He what?" Sam blurted incredulously.
Daniel grinned sheepishly. "Did I mention he was a big guy? Almost as big as Teal'c."
Jack just blinked at the brown-haired man then pointed to the bandana that had formerly been gracing the other man's short-cropped locks and was now tied around his left forearm. "I take it that one was pretty bad?"
"Not too bad, but the worst of the lot. It's just a precaution."
A few minutes later, Daniel and Teal'c managed to uncover the colonel's legs and maneuvered him to where Sam sat waiting. "I'm going to have to set this, sir," the blonde major warned him after checking him over.
"Only if you took the class," Jack retorted, his eyes narrowing.
"Two of them, actually." She looked up at her other two teammates. "Could you guys get me something to use as a splint and some rope or material to tie it? Not that I have an objection to tearing cloth from our shirts, but we don't have a lot to spare." She gestured wryly at her sweaty, dirt-covered tank top.
"That's what we get for helping you dig around in the dirt, Daniel," Jack commented with a grin. "Now we're unprepared for a medical emergency."
"We'll find you something, Sam," Daniel said, ignoring his team leader with practiced ease. He and Teal'c left to do just that.
Ten minutes later, the salvaged supplies were gathered and Sam had done what she could for the colonel's leg. She turned to face Daniel, who now sat next to her staring out at the disaster surrounding them with an absent, melancholy expression. "What's wrong, Daniel?"
"I figured out what happened to that other society. I'm just not sure it was worth the price."
"Do you believe the previous people who lived in the ruins reacted to the eclipse as did the people of Eros Nor, Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c asked from where he stood facing the three seated Tau'ri.
The anthropologist nodded. "There's no reason to believe any differently. Obviously the suns and moons fall into perfect alignment once every few thousand years, or something equivalent, because otherwise there would be legends of the great darkness or the like. There would be some kind of record, some kind of warning that this could happen. And since these people never had any kind of experience with even a partial eclipse, seeing it happen had to be like watching some great unseen force snuffing out their light like we would a candle. It would be like the end of the world. And it truly was."
Jack took in the sorrowful glint in his best friend's eyes and sighed. Now that everything had settled down and the four of them were safe, the reality of what they had just witnessed started to crash down on all of them. "Yeah, it was. And as much as that sucks, I still have to say I'm glad they didn't drag us along with them. We were lucky to get out of that mob more or less intact."
"No one else I saw was," Daniel muttered. He rubbed his face with both hands. "That's why I was so happy to hear your voices. I was afraid you hadn't made it."
Read: scared out of his mind that he'd been left alone one more time. The other three members of SG-1 shared a knowing, sympathetic look. "But we did, Daniel," Sam said soothingly, putting an arm around his shoulders. "We all made it."
Daniel nodded, allowing himself to lean into the embrace for a brief moment before smiling at each of his friends and rising to his feet. "Speaking of, Jack, how did you end up like this? I would have thought you would have been able to find a safe little hole to hide out in until it was all over."
"I did," Jack replied indignantly, crossing his arms over his chest as Sam focused her attention back on him and used her bandana and canteen to clean out his numerous cuts and scrapes. "It's not my fault the main underground generator blew."
"Is that what that first earthquake was?" the shaken archaeologist asked as he finished pulling himself together, doing his best to avoid looking out anymore at the toppled city. "I was lucky I was out in the open. I'd just crawled out of the building I'd been thrown into."
"Yeah, that's what it was," O'Neill confirmed with a nod, shooting a quick scowl at his 2IC when she scrubbed a little longer than he thought necessary at a sensitive scrape on his forearm. "And since I was in the center of it all, of course the building where I'd found my safe little hole would decide to give up the ghost at that point. As you can see, this whole section came tumbling down. I did my best to wedge myself into the far corner, but the way everything was shaking it was hard to stay there. I slipped when the outer wall decided horizontal in pieces was infinitely more fun than vertical and together, and it buried my legs. And I'll have you know they were fine up until that point. Geez, Carter, do you have to rub so hard? Is this some kind of revenge for the classes crack?"
Sam finished with the last of the cuts and smiled at her CO. "I'm finished now, sir," she said sweetly. "And I would never even think of doing something like that for revenge. They trained us not to in class, as well as being completely and utterly thorough - even when dealing with the most difficult patients."
Teal'c raised an eyebrow while Daniel covered a smile with his hand. "O'Neill, if the first quake was indeed the main generator exploding, I believe the second shock may have been one of the connected generators in the grid that abounds beneath the surface."
"That would make sense," Sam agreed. "The strange pressure system they used could back up along the connections and cause that kind of backlash."
"I think it came from this way," Daniel said, walking a few yards to the northwest. He peered out into the city from the edge of the square. "I don't see any craters, though."
"You probably wouldn't," the physicist of the group explained. "The secondary generator ring isn't close enough to the surface for that. Now if it were the third or fourth ring I think we'd see something."
"But how could you tell the difference?" Jack quipped.
Daniel glanced back at them, his eyes wide, before gesturing for quiet. He concentrated on the direction he was facing for a long moment then suddenly gasped. "Oh my God!" he exclaimed. "I think I hear somebody! I think it's a little girl!" He took off at a dead run.
"Daniel!" Jack called after him, knowing how futile the action was. "Damn!" he swore when the archaeologist was out of sight. "Teal'c, follow him. Carter, help me up and we'll trail behind like good little injured teammates."
"But, sir, you really shouldn't be using that leg..."
O'Neill shook his head as the Jaffa disappeared after the team's wayward member. "I am not sitting here while Daniel takes his life in his hands for the possibility of a survivor. We'll take it nice and steady, but we're moving. Is that clear, Major?"
Sam's jaw clenched. "Yes, sir. Crystal."
Jack sighed at the unexpressed anger and frustration. "I'm sorry, Carter, but I can't just sit back and wait. You have no idea the kinds of things I was thinking happened to the rest of you while I was camped out under that wall. Now, please, let's go."
"I'm sorry, sir," the contrite woman replied as she helped the grey-haired colonel to his feet, bracing herself carefully to help take his weight. "I understand completely. And I think you'd be surprised at how many things our trains of thought had in common." The two of them hobbled off after the other half of their team.
Teal'c's chase was hampered by the need for careful footwork amongst the debris field the buildings of Eros Nor had become, the lack of a clear line of sight to Daniel Jackson's position, and the necessity of keeping O'Neill and Major Carter in range long enough for them to know where he was going next. The echo of the archaeologist's scrambled passing kept his friends coming, a beacon and a comfort - if he was still making noise like that he was still alive and in one piece. The Jaffa could only hope that he would stay that way long enough to give him time to catch up.
The chaotic sounds stopped abruptly ten minutes after the hunt had started, the echoes fading seconds later. Teal'c rounded a corner to find Daniel searching frantically for a way to get inside what was left of a shaky-looking building at the far edge of another wide clearing. "Daniel Jackson!" the big man yelled in warning. "You must take care! The walls look as though they may collapse at any moment!"
The archaeologist shot a panicked look back at his friend. "I know!" he cried back. "That's why I have to hurry! Can't you hear her crying?"
Teal'c did have to admit there was a low, muffled sound that appeared to be that of a child crying coming from the half-tumbled structure. He was just about to rush over to help the other man when a strangled cry from behind caused him to turn and look back at the pair that had been following. "Teal'c!" Sam shouted, struggling to keep some semblance of balance as Jack leaned heavily on her. "The colonel's leg won't carry him at all anymore. Can you help me?"
"Forget that!" Jack contradicted her, giving her a pain-filled glare. "Just keep Daniel from doing anything stupid up there. You can both come back for us."
Once again on that fateful day time was not on SG-1's side. Teal'c had just turned back to follow O'Neill's orders and caught sight of Daniel starting to make his way through a hidden gap when the air was suddenly filled with flying debris and the concussive blast of an explosion. The Jaffa barely made out the younger man's form being tossed backward at an astounding velocity before he threw himself to the ground and covered his head in self-preservation. When the sky finally stopped raining brick, wood, and glass, the dark-skinned man jumped to his feet, dislodging the layer of dust and pebbles.
"Teal'c," Jack called out before the Jaffa could take off, "are you all right?"
"Don't move, sir," Sam choked out from his side where she had shifted after shielding him from the blast. "You don't want to make your leg any worse than it already is."
"I am unharmed, O'Neill," Teal'c answered his CO's question before it could be repeated. "And what of yourself and Major Carter?"
"I think we're both gonna make it. Daniel?"
"He was thrown back by the explosion. I was just about to search for him."
Jack nodded. "Do it. We'll try to catch up. Ah!" he said, holding up a hand to stop Carter's immediate protests as Teal'c quickly left. "I know my leg is screwed up, but Daniel's probably hurt out there. And considering how close we are now to the edge of the city, we're going to have to keep going this way to get to the Stargate anyway."
Sam frowned. "But, sir, we're not exactly under enemy fire here. Teal'c should be able to go to the gate and send for a medical team to come get us once he finds Daniel. There's really no reason for you to keep taking chances with your leg."
"I can't explain it, Carter," O'Neill said low and intensely. "All I know is that we need to keep going, to be there when Teal'c finds Daniel. I get the feeling that lack of enemy fire or no, we're going to have to rush to the gate. Now, I can see you've done an exceptional job on my splint, and it's holding up well. Just be my crutch and take it slow and steady, and we'll both be just fine. Come on, Major. Daniel needs us." Sam straightened and nodded, and soon enough the two of them were plodding along after their teammates, unaware of what they'd find at the end of their trip and scared of the possibilities.
Seven hours later, three members of SG-1 were resting in the infirmary back on Earth while Teal'c stood at the foot of Jack's bed and watched over them all. Daniel had come out of surgery a while before and was still unconscious - and therefore still making his friends nervous, even though they had been told by Doctor Bill Warner that there would be no permanent damage to the archaeologist's back or spine. Only reassurance from the lips of the young man lying on his stomach in the bed between the laid-up forms of Sam and Jack could dispel the worry the team felt.
Teal'c had found the injured linguist half-buried in a large pile of loose dirt near a section of the city wall that had been in the middle of repairs before the eclipse. The soil had cushioned Daniel's landing enough to save him from the feared state the others had expected to find him in. In fact, he'd been barely holding on to consciousness when Sam and Jack had stumbled over to check on him as Teal'c continued to dig him out. His arms and legs twitched as he tried to turn to face the sound of their approach, and he smiled when they leaned over into his field of vision to save him the trouble. "Oh good, you're all okay," he whispered, then promptly passed out.
And then came the rush for the Stargate. Sam was afraid of internal bleeding, and since Daniel had been moving his limbs the risk was considered acceptable enough for Teal'c to gently carry their youngest member while Jack stubbornly clung to his 2IC as the pair of officers insisted on keeping up with the smooth, almost jolt-free pace the Jaffa set. An hour later they were home.
Now they shared concerned looks and talked very little. Jack had thought the realization that the four of them had bore witness to the end of a civilization had set in while they were still on the planet, but he'd been wrong. The near-total destruction on top of the amount of bloody carnage that they'd been surrounded by and nearly part of was shocking.
"Colonel," Sam asked hesitantly, "do you ever wonder why we seem to be the lucky ones? Why we survive when others don't?"
"Of course," Jack replied simply. "It's called survivor guilt. You just can't let it get to you, or you won't survive next time."
"But why the four of us out of an entire city of people? The four of us instead of an entire civilization?"
The older man shrugged. "I can't answer that, Carter. And I wouldn't presume to try. I can only guess that we have something left to do."
"I believe you are correct, O'Neill," Teal'c concurred thoughtfully. "There is a purpose to our survival, whether or not we understand it. And while we must mourn the passing of those who sacrificed their lives for us, knowingly or otherwise, we must also not hesitate to go on, or they will have made those sacrifices in vain."
"It's not that easy, Teal'c," Sam said, sorrow in her tone.
"Nothing worthwhile ever is," came a whispered voice from the middle of the group.
"Daniel!" the blonde woman cried, controlling her volume at the last moment.
Jack grinned as he turned to look at his friend, even though he could only see the back of his head. "Hey, Danny-boy, welcome back to the land of the conscious. How are you doing?"
"Numb, although I'm guessing that has a lot to do with a lot of drugs. Did everyone make it back okay?"
"My leg's broken in a couple of places, Carter's got a concussion and a bruised arch on her right foot, you've got a bruised spine and a mild concussion, and Teal'c came out of it without a scratch, as usual."
"On the contrary, O'Neill," Teal'c contradicted him from his new position at the side of Daniel's bed as he helped the younger man get a sip of water. "I did indeed receive many scratches as well as numerous bruises from the inhabitants of Eros Nor. I am merely not injured severely enough to warrant a lengthy stay in the infirmary."
"Not to mention the miracle drug you take every day," Jack shot back. The Jaffa nodded his concession of the point.
Daniel gave a small nod to let his dark-skinned friend know he'd had enough then sighed. "What about survivors?" he asked as his eyelids slid shut.
"General Hammond sent SG-6 and 12 to do a preliminary search and rescue," Sam explained. "No one's told us if they've reported back yet."
"I'm sure we'll find out everything in the debriefing," Jack added. "Hammond said he'd have it up here sometime tomorrow when you were more up to it."
"Here? In the infirmary?" Daniel asked sleepily, his eyes never opening.
"It's not like I'm going anywhere for a while, and Fraiser wants to keep an eye on Carter."
Sam stopped him with a gesture as she bestowed a fond look on the prone man to her near left. "Don't bother, sir. He's asleep again."
"Which is what the rest of you should be doing as well," Doctor Janet Fraiser said as she made her presence known, stepping over to Daniel's bed and checking him over. "You've all had a rough day. Now you know Daniel's going to be fine, so you can finally relax." She shot a look at the Jaffa that had moved out of her way to the foot of the archaeologist's bed. "And that means you need to get some sleep, too, Teal'c. No camping out here all night. They'll be fine." Teal'c nodded and took his leave, and soon enough the relief Sam and Jack felt at Daniel's short conversation had them following in the linguist's wake. Janet merely smiled at them all and returned to her office.
General George Hammond stood at the end of Daniel's bed the next afternoon listening to SG-1's recounting of what had happened on P4X-736. "So you believe that the Luthanan had no idea there was going to be an eclipse yesterday?" he asked as the story wound down.
"None, sir," Sam replied. "An event like that would have been momentous for them. I'm sure they would have said something. Actually, I think I'd like to set up some monitoring equipment to measure the speed of the different revolutions of the moons and the planet itself. It would be interesting to know how often these eclipses take place."
"Oh, wow. I just realized..." Daniel said, his words trailing off.
The others looked at him, although the archaeologist couldn't see Jack as he was still facing Sam as he lay on his front. Teal'c had chosen to stand at the foot of the major's bed. "What is it, Daniel?" Sam asked.
"The Luthananite language has no word for 'night'. I never noticed it before. The closest they come is 'shadow', and even that is - was - held in superstitious regard. I'm guessing that's the reason they were so skittish with you when we first met them, Jack - at least until you took off your sunglasses. You had shadows over your eyes."
"You think they'd have taken up the practice themselves considering the constant sunlight," Jack retorted.
"Not necessarily, sir," Sam refuted. "My guess is their eyes adapted over time so they wouldn't need anything like that."
"And so, when nightfall finally came, however temporarily, they didn't know what to do. Evil shadows had swallowed their world, thus everything was lost," Daniel concluded. There was a brief pause. "Were there any survivors, General?"
Hammond sighed internally at the quiet question, not liking the news he had to deliver. "I'm afraid not, Doctor Jackson, although the search of the city isn't complete, and I still have people checking the outlying villages. But," he continued quickly as he saw the guilty flinch the young man gave at the announcement, "at Major Carter's request SG-6 checked out the site where she said you had thought you heard the little girl."
"I did hear a little girl," the brown-haired man insisted softly.
"I heard the child as well, General Hammond," Teal'c supported his teammate.
"According to Major Griff, there was no sign of any human remains in the vicinity. When they examined the site to determine the cause of the explosion, they found what was left of one of the generators you described after your first mission. SG-12 came across a sound similar to a child's cry not too long after, although they thought it was a little too loud. Soon enough there was another explosion, and they also found the remains of a generator. Our best guess is that the sound you heard was the pressure building up in the generator that blew. There was no child, Doctor Jackson." The general shifted over slightly and gave the prone civilian an encouraging, sympathetic look.
Daniel blinked as he managed to gaze back at the bald man. "No little girl?"
"No, Doctor Jackson. No little girl."
"There you go, Danny," Jack said expansively with a wide grin. "No need to beat yourself up. You didn't fail anyone back on the planet."
Daniel smiled as well. "No, I guess not." The smile faded. "But everyone else still died."
"I know that, son," Hammond replied gently. "There wasn't anything you could have done. You had no way of knowing there was going to be an eclipse, or what the Luthanan's reaction was going to be to one. None of you failed. You just got caught up in an unfortunate turn of events."
"I still want to know how we made it," Sam said with a touch of frustration. "How do four people manage to survive the destruction of an entire city, an entire civilization?"
"A large part of that was luck, plain and simple," the younger man responded with a slight frown of thought. "But another major part of it was the fact that we weren't there for all of it, and even when we were we weren't panicked. We had the sense to hide, knowing it was all going to be over sooner or later."
"I concur," Teal'c said with a nod. "Our knowledge allowed us to avoid the violent panic of the rest of the citizens of Eros Nor."
Jack scoffed. "What I don't get is why those people, and the ones who were there before, destroyed everything when they lost it. It doesn't make any sense."
"Since when does insanity make sense, Jack?" Daniel shot back.
"Well, gee, Daniel, since you've been throwing out guesses for everyone else's questions, I figured you might have something for that one, too."
Sam had to fight back a laugh at Daniel's mocking face as he silently repeated Jack's comment while Teal'c raised an entertained eyebrow and Hammond pretended not to notice. "Sorry, Jack," the archaeologist said finally, amused irritation thick in his tone. "That one's a little beyond me. You'll have to ask the next insane person you come across - and don't even go there."
"You take all the fun out of things, Daniel," Jack complained.
"There's always Doctor MacKenzie, sir," Sam offered, barely keeping her expression in check. The colonel nodded his concession of the point.
The general was going to let them know he had all he needed and wish them a quick recovery, but the bantering wars had begun, and his presence was practically forgotten. The older man smiled at the antics of his premier team and sent out a silent prayer of thanks to whoever or whatever watched over them. He then slipped out of the infirmary unnoticed to the sound of echoing laughter, his heart secure in the knowledge that soon enough SG-1, the four people who had managed to become like family to him and were more than that to each other, would be back on their feet doing what they did best, and what no one else could do better. It was definitely something worth looking forward to.