Chapter 1

The security team had found them in the ancient ruins, wandering about and chattering to one another. Following their standing orders, the security team immobilized them, tranquilized them, and then took them to the nearest research facility. The research team residing at the facility was overjoyed at having four of them to work with.

"Okay, of all the things we've seen, I have to say that these are the weirdest," the team leader said, examining a pedal appendage while their security officer looked on silently.

"Weird or just strange?" their linguist wanted to know.

"Maybe both. Does it matter?" wondered the science officer, hurriedly entering data into a computer. "How much does that one weigh?"

"Eight point oh two," the team leader told her, reading the digits from a nearby screen. "He's a skinny little shrimp!"

"What about that one?"

"Nine point five oh. Good size."

"And the tallest?"

The team leader read the screen and whistled. "Ten point seven three. Big!"

"And the female?"

"Eight point five oh."

"Gotcha."

The one that the team leader had called a shrimp began to stir on his table, muttering under his breath and moving about. While the security officer inched closer just in case, the science officer watched the subject closely, praying that he wouldn't wake up completely. If he did, he'd have to be sedated, and having sedated subjects always slowed the work down to a crawl. To her relief, he settled back down and seemed to slip back into deep sleep.

"Whew," she muttered, entering that incident into the computer. "All right, who are we putting where?"

"Let's put Shrimp into his room first," the team leader said, scooping the inert body up. "I don't like how he almost woke up."

"I wonder if he could see or hear us?" the linguist said, sounding very interested.

"If he could, then he probably thought he was having one weird dream," the team leader quipped, carrying the subject down the hall and into a room.

While the subjects slept, many scans were made of their bodies, and samples of blood, saliva, skin, and hair were taken. Tests were performed to see which foods would be palatable and beneficial for them, and there was even time to make them clothing in a proper style. The team began to choose who would work with which subjects, and as soon as they woke on their own, the work would begin.

Space

He had a nightmare of giants chasing him and shooting at him with guns that shot syringes. He ran, shouted for help, and tried to fight when he saw his friends fall, but nothing he did helped. It was as he was running that he realized he was dreaming.

Daniel woke, feeling as if his body were still asleep. His mouth felt dry and scratchy, and he wished that he could move or go back to sleep. Either one would work. Had he been sick or injured? If so, then why wasn't he in the infirmary? The bed he was lying in didn't feel like an infirmary bed, and…he shifted, fighting stiff muscles, praying that what he was beginning to feel was true was not. He lifted the blankets just to check, and he felt himself blush. That was when he knew that he was not in the infirmary, because the infirmary did not put you to bed naked.

He sat up and looked around in the dim light, wrapping the blanket around himself in a makeshift type of kilt. So, he'd woken up alone and naked in a dark room and he had no idea of how he had gotten there. He didn't like what that implied at all. Where was everyone else?

"Jack!" he called, praying someone would hear him and answer. "Sam! Teal'c! Where are you guys?"

No answer.

"Hello! Anyone?"

Silence.

Slowly, without a sound, the lights in the room increased until it was as bright as daylight inside. He looked around, trying to see how it was happening or who was doing it, but he could see nothing.

"Uh, whoever did that, if you can hear me and understand me, could you come and tell me what happened and how I got here?" he stopped. "Wherever here is," he muttered. Taking a deep breath, he raised his voice again. "Where are my friends? Could you tell me if they're all right, and if it's not too much trouble, could you give me back my clothes?"

Nothing but quiet answered him.

"Look, I'm really not comfortable with this!" Daniel insisted, determined to get an explanation. "Unless those lights are automated, I want someone to come and start explaining right now!"

No answer. Daniel sighed and muttered an Abydonian curse under his breath. He wasn't going to give up, but he had a feeling he'd have to try something different. Something remarkable. Something to get their attention. He turned, looking around the room. It consisted of a fluffy futon-like bed, and one side of it was larger and fluffier to serve as a pillow. There was the blanket, but that was around his waist. There was a table that was bolted to the floor, and very little else. The floor was covered with something like carpet, but it was no fiber he recognized. Well, he couldn't throw something about to get their attention.

I wonder if dancing around the room naked will work, Daniel thought, feeling frustrated. Are they even watching me? I don't see a camera anywhere, though. But who's to say what their type of camera will look like? Maybe they're watching me through something like a two-way mirror, he stopped, looking around. No mirror or glass to be seen. Okay, no observation glass I can see. Maybe a two-way wall?

Making sure that his blanket was secure, he sat down by the table and waited. Someone had to come or something had to happen sometime soon. While he waited, he found himself falling into an old nervous habit: writing with his fingers on the tabletop. It had driven his foster mother crazy because she always had to clean up his smudges, but it was something he wasn't able to stop doing. He let his eyes wander around the room until he realized that his fingers were doing an awful smudge job to the table. Then, he looked again. The markings on the table weren't smudges, they were what he'd been letting his fingers write! Somehow, the table changed color where he'd written and kept the image. Incredible!

Quickly, Daniel wrote the same message in as many languages as he could, praying they would recognize one. I would like to talk to someone. I have questions to ask. Cuneiform, heiroglyphics, English, Russian, Abydonian, and every other language he knew. They had to see one that would make sense to them eventually. Didn't they?

Space

"So, we have the products of a literate society, and this one is knowledgeable of several languages," the linguist said, studying the forms of writing that had shown up on the table. "Interesting. Any thoughts on his language?"

"Shrimpy's speaking one that we don't know, and we don't know the writings, but apparently he's able to speak. He should be able to learn our language with no problem, if you'd want to teach him," the team leader said, watching their subject continue to write.

"I'd love to," the linguist told him. "He's very intelligent. Look at the way he's trying several languages, hoping we'll recognize one."

"I'd say that the sooner we start teaching him, the better," the science officer said, handing the linguist a suit of clothes for him. "Obviously he's uncomfortable without clothing, so take him these before he starts to be really frightened. Good luck."

Space

Daniel was in the middle of writing the message in runes when he sensed someone behind him. Turning, he saw a very, very tall being who was regarding him (he hoped) benevolently. Feeling like a child again due to the being's size (and hoping he didn't mind the marked-up table), Daniel stood and gave a little bow. "Hello. I'm Daniel Jackson."

The being looked at him. Daniel found himself wondering if the being's skin was actually that color of...gray? Blue? Lavender? Was he or she changing colors just to confuse him, or did that indicate emotion or something else?

"Where are my friends? We are peaceful explorers from Earth. We meant no harm when we came here. I would like to see them."

The being held out his hands (he was sure it was male) and Daniel saw that he was holding what had to be clothes of some kind. "Thank you!" he cried gladly, taking them. Within moments, he was dressed and feeling much more comfortable. When he compared the being's clothing to his own, he saw that the outfits were of similar cut and color. The pants tied with a drawstring, and the shirt was belted closed like a robe. The fabric felt similar to the cotton pajamas in the infirmary back at SGC.

"Thank you," Daniel said sincerely, folding up the blanket. "That's much better. Can you tell me your name?"

His new friend pointed at him.

Daniel blinked. "You...want to know my name?" He tapped himself on the chest. "Daniel. Daniel."

The being shifted colors. "Dannul."

Daniel felt himself smiling. "Close enough. You?" he asked, pointing at the being.

"Ahntas."

"An-hass?" Daniel said, trying to pronounce it the way the being did.

"Ahntas."

"Ahnt-as."

The being nodded his head once, shifting colors, and then he moved to sit down by the table, waving Daniel over and motioning for him to sit as well. Once he had done so, the being pointed to the table before smoothing his hand over it, making the writing disappear. Daniel was reminded a bit of the Magna-Doodle that Cassandra had played with while she'd been at SGC. The being held out a hand toward Daniel, indicating that he wanted him to write something.

"Oh. Okay," Daniel said, moving his finger over the tabletop. He wrote his name in English, just to see how the being would react to it, and then he pointed at it and read it. "Daniel. That's my name. Daniel. Daniel. What's yours?"

The being wrote something in a looping whirling script that reminded Daniel strongly of Sanskrit. A connection?

"Ahntas," the being said, pointing at it.

Daniel smiled. "Ahnt-as," he said, pointing to it, and then he pointed at his own name. "Daniel."

Ahntas shifted colors, and Daniel was certain that shifting colors meant amusement or a change in emotion. Okay, good. If he could just learn to read the different color-shifts...

The being rose then and went to the wall to press his hand against it. Under Ahntas' fingers a...cabinet opened, revealing what had to be food and drink. Ahntas gathered it all into his hands and carried it to the table, and as he did so, the cabinet closed of its own accord. Daniel had never seen anything like it, but Ahntas acted as if it were normal. Perhaps to him it was. He set the table quickly with two plates and glasses, placed a bowl of fruit and a plate of what looked like bread in the center, and a pitcher of what could only be water beside them.

What followed was the most interesting language lesson/meal he'd ever had, and it was clear to Daniel that Ahntas meant him to learn his language. By the time Ahntas was putting the dishes back into the cupboard, Daniel knew every piece of fruit, the names of the bread and water, and the words for plate and cup and eat. Hurriedly, he wrote it all down on the now-clean table and waited for what Ahntas was going to say next.

"Dannul?" Ahntas said, holding up his hand before pressing it onto the tabletop. Like the writing, the image stayed. "Gahba."

"Gahba?" Daniel repeated, pressing his own hand on the tabletop. "'Gahba' is 'hand'?"

Ahntas repeated it, pointing to his hand. "Gahba. Gahba."

"Okay, gahba," Daniel repeated. "Gahba." He stopped to point at his foot. "What is this?"

Ahntas looked at him, so Daniel pointed to his hand, said the word, and then pointed to his foot while waiting for Ahntas to speak.

"Hagba."

"'Hagba' is foot," Daniel said to himself, writing it down. "Okay, it seems we have some kind of root or stem there..."

Over the rest of the morning Daniel learned all the major parts of the body, and then he learned the names of all the furniture in the room. Usually, he had to tap or touch what he wanted to learn the name of since pointing was not easy to do with Ahntas. It seemed that Ahntas only used pointing when it was something near to his body, and not something across the room.

"All right, we've got floor, ceiling, wall, cupboard, bed, blanket, and table. Good. Now, since I've been such a good student, maybe you can tell me something about my friends." Daniel turned to face Ahntas, considering how to approach this, and returned to the table. Ahntas followed him to see what he was doing. Quickly, Daniel drew four stick figures and pointed at one. "Daniel. This is me. Daniel."

Ahntas regarded him with...Daniel hoped it was interest. He kept going, pointing to the other three figures. "Sam. Jack. Teal'c. Where are they?"

"Heihn."

Daniel looked up, surprised at the word. "Heihn? What is 'heihn'?"

For an answer, Ahntas erased the figures representing the rest of SG-1 and repeated the word. "Heihn."

"Oh, please don't tell me they're dead or gone," Daniel said anxiously. "Heihn is...dead? Gone?"

Ahntas only looked at him for an answer.

Daniel re-drew the three figures and pointed at them. "Heihn?"

"Heihn," Ahntas confirmed. He sounded determined, not happy as he had been earlier when Daniel had been learning words.

Daniel thought about this. "Heihn" could mean anything: dead, gone, left, blown-into-smithereens, I-don't-want-to-talk-about-that-now, your-drawing-stinks. How could he get Ahntas to tell him what he wanted to know when he couldn't even speak the lanaguage beyond the most concrete and simple of words?

I hope Jack never finds out about this, because if he does, I'll never, EVER hear the end of it, Daniel thought bleakly. He pointed to his three stick figures one last time and repeated the word before waiting for an answer.

"Heihn," Ahntas said patiently, and once Daniel heard the word, he put his head down on the table and pretended to cry.

That got results. Immediately Daniel felt Ahntas' hands on his shoulders, trying to lift him from the table and look at him. That was when he heard it: "Heihn, heihn. Heihn aldand. Dand."

Daniel looked at him, keeping a very doubtful expression on his face. "Heihn?"

Ahntas appeared to consider how to answer him. Then, he pointed to the three figures. "Dand." Slowly, so Daniel could watch, he erased them. "Aldand." He drew them again."Dand." He erased them. "Aldand."

"'Dand'? That's alive? They're alive?" Daniel demanded, looking hopeful.

"Dand," Ahntas confirmed, and his colors shifted to a bright pink when he saw Daniel's relief. Daniel jotted all of it down. "Heihn" was apparently "no," or something denoting a negative state since Ahntas had used it as "no" and to tell him that they were not dead or gone, which was "aldand." "Dand" was either "alive" or "here." What was "yes?"

"Ahntas," Daniel said to get his attention. "Heihn?"

Ahntas looked at him.

Daniel pointed at Ahntas. "Daniel."

Ahntas shifted colors to something like green, which Daniel took to mean confusion. Daniel repeated his name, pointing at Ahntas the whole time.

"Heihn," Ahntas said at last, catching on. He pointed at Daniel and said very clearly, "Dannul."

Daniel pointed to himself. "Ahntas?"

"Heihn."

He pointed again to himself. "Daniel?"

"Keihn!" Again Ahntas shifted to a bright pink.

Quickly Daniel jotted down that "keihn" meant "yes" and that bright pink was either amusement or happiness. Okay, this was going well. Now he only had about one hundred thousand or so words to go. In order to avoid further confusion, Daniel asked for the gestures for "yes" and "no" and was relieved that they were the same as the ones he was used to using. Good. In the next moment, however, he got a surprise.

"Dannul. Litha." Daniel, bed.

Daniel looked at him, a bit surprised and very confused and wished he knew the word for why. "Litha?"

Ahntas nodded. "Keihn. Litha, Dannul."

"Why?" Daniel asked, not understanding why Ahntas was saying the word for bed. Was he trying to talk about it, or was Ahntas telling him that he wanted Daniel to lie down?

Ahntas rose and went to the bed before patting it with his hand. "Litha."

"Yes, I understand that's a bed," Daniel said, approaching him. "What about it?"

Daniel got the shock of his life when Ahntas suddenly swooped down and picked him up, much the way an adult human would pick up a child. Ahntas laid him down very gently and covered him with the blanket before saying, "Mosa."

"Mosa?" Daniel repeated, carefully getting up when Ahntas made no move to keep him under the covers or on the bed.

Ahntas nodded. "Mosa," he said, pointing to the bed and then pointing at Daniel. "Aben."

"Sleep and awake?" Daniel asked, understanding. "Lying down and being up? Okay, I get it." He went to the table and wrote the words and their meanings. Then, he decided to try something. "Jack mosa?"

Ahntas shifted to pink once again. "Jack mosa. Tilk mosa. Sam mosa. Dannul abend."

"So, they're all asleep and I'm awake," Daniel muttered to himself. "Okay."

Ahntas motioned for Daniel to come close again, so Daniel complied. Once more, Ahntas picked him up and laid him down, but when Daniel tried to get up again, Ahntas placed a hand on his shoulder. "Heihn, Dannul. Mosa."

"You want me to sleep? Why?" Daniel asked, surprised.

"Mosa," Ahntas repeated. "Ahntas gehend."

"Gehend?" Daniel parrotted, trying to determine what it meant. "Gehend?"

Ahntas simply nodded, as if reassuring him about something. By this time, Ahntas was tucking the blanket in, effectively tucking Daniel into bed so well that it would be a challenge to get back up again without help. "Mosa, Dannul."

"Heihn," Daniel protested. "Heihn mosa."

"Keihn mosa," Ahntas insisted. "Ahntas gehend qan Dannul abend. Mosa."

Daniel fought to get up. Since the blanket had been tucked in under the mattress and he was lying on the mattress, his own weight was keeping him trapped. He tugged at the blanket in an attempt to get up, determined not to do what Ahntas was telling him to do, but Ahntas was having none of it. Carefully, he moved his hand toward Daniel's face and placed it over his mouth and nose while Daniel tried to pull away. "Mosa, Dannul. Ahntas gehend qan Dannul abend."

Whatever was coming out of Ahntas' hand smelled very sweet and strong, and almost immediately Daniel felt his eyelids droop and a deep feeling of tiredness overcame him. As he fell asleep, he found himself wondering if that was the way they had been put to sleep before.

Space

The rest of the team had nothing but congratulations for Ahntas when he returned to the observation room.

"That was very well done," Liora, the science officer, told him. "Very well done."

"Not bad," Tehere, the team leader, commented. "We've learned a few of his words and he's learned some of ours. Good."

The security officer, Soro, nodded. "You were communicating."

"Well, I think most of the credit goes to him," Ahntas said, shifting pink. "He's very smart, and he was working very hard to understand me and communicate. I was a little worried, though, when he claimed he didn't want to rest. Having him asleep when we're not working will keep him from worrying about his friends."

"I don't understand why we won't let them see each other," Soro commented dryly. "It would keep them from worrying."

"We want them to communicate effectively with us before we allow them to get back together," Ahntas reminded him. "To do that, we have to keep them apart. If we allow them to be together they may cease using our language and shift back to theirs."

"Oh."

"So how are the rest of them doing?" the linguist asked, examining the monitors that allowed them to see into each room.

"Well, Sam, the female, is learning words," Liora reported. "She's a lot of fun to work with, and she was very glad to get the clothes."

"So was Dannul."

"So were all of them," Tehere reported. "I spent some time with Jack, and he's not patient at all. He kept repeating his friends' names and shouting a lot of words in his language. I don't think he's going to be easy to teach."

"And Tilk?" Ahntas asked, intrigued.

"He said his friends' names and repeated them at intervals," Soro said. "He's obviously a security detail, so I figured we would have the common ground between us. That didn't work out, though. All the words he said were his friends' names."

"Well, we'll get them to learn a few more words before we let them see one another," Tehere commented, jotting things down in his log. "All right, let's make our reports and get back to work."