Title: Diplomacy

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: Nothing you recognize is mine. I gain nothing of material value from this.

Pairings: Gen.

Note: This is the sequel to "Translations" and follows directly from it. If you didn't read the first story, you will be rather confused. The fun starts right here in this chapter.

This story delves deeper into...well, story, I guess, and action. In the last book, Daniel was pulled into the SGC as a victim and chose a way for himself not to be helpless and remain a victim; in this installation, he must learn what it means to take on the adult-like responsibilities that come with his decision. Again, events sometimes fall a little out of sequence, things repeated from canon missions tend to be treated in an off-screen or missing scenes way unless it happens differently here, and aliens don't speak English without an excuse.

Spoilers: This will cover approximately the events of season 2, just as "Translations" approximately covered season 1. Again, information from later seasons may pop up, and there are a couple of major season 3 and season 1 episodes that migrated into the season 2 timeline in my AU.

Here we go!

XXXXX

Duty and Deception, Part I

XXXXX

10 June 1998; SGC, Earth; 0830 hrs

"No," Robert said flatly when Daniel met him coming in for work that morning.

Daniel frowned. "What? Just like that—'no?'"

"Yes." Robert glanced at the notebook in his hands and continued past him toward their office.

"It's not some big issue like you think it is," Daniel said, speeding up to match Robert's pace. "It's just something Sam suggested."

"Well, of course they're going to be trying to make you military."

"It's not..." Daniel huffed. "Just for some basic courses or BCT. Or something."

Robert shook his head. "You can do better than that."

"It's a good school. It is," he insisted when Robert gave him a look. "Sam studied there, and she's one of the most intelligent people here. I dare you to deny that."

"Okay, first, Captain Carter did not get her PhD at the Air Force Academy, and second, she's a scientist."

"So are you."

"She's a physical scientist," Robert clarified. "People don't join the Air Force because they want to be archaeologists. There are, like, two other people here who do any archaeology at all. Just Lithell on SG-7 and, uh, whatshisname, the guy on SG-3—"

"Captain Recceo. And he's a marine," Daniel corrected. Besides, SG-3 was primarily a combat team, not research, so no one on that team usually acted as an archaeologist.

"See? And they're always off-world, anyway, so... My point is, the Air Force Academy isn't the right place to learn this stuff."

"I know, but...it's the right place to go for the Stargate program," Daniel said.

"That's what this is about?" Robert said. "Really? Come on, you really want to join the military, Cadet Jackson?"

"There's nothing wrong with the military," he said, though he admitted silently that his name sounded odd with a rank attached to it. "And I'm just talking about...taking courses from them or reading the books they use. General Hammond said I probably could, too. Languages and things. Unofficially taking courses. What's wrong with that?"

"Oh, I don't know, you could go after a degree," Robert said, "and you'll get better training at a civilian school that actually offers majors you're interested in. You could be good at this, Daniel. I mean, you remember the Daniel Jackson who came through the mirror?"

"As if you would let me forget," Daniel muttered. Robert wasn't shy about bringing up the alternate him when he was trying to make a point. "He was smart. I understand."

"And he was on SG-1 without being military."

Daniel sighed, because it was a point that frustrated him in more ways than one. There were differences between the position and authority the alternate...him had held and Daniel's own status. The other had had enough clout to oppose convention without worry of losing his place at the SGC. "He opened his reality's Stargate; they wouldn't have not let him onto a team."

"Like they're gonna kick you out of here," Robert scoffed. "They wouldn't've let him on SG-1 if his expertise weren't valuable—cultures, mythology, archaeology, languages—"

"I speak Goa'uld better than he did," Daniel said defensively, "and at least three Egyptian dialects he didn't. Maybe even more." Well, more fluently, anyway.

"Yeah, well, he spoke about fifteen languages that you don't."

"Earth languages, which are derivatives of more ancient tongues and aren't as useful off-world," he automatically countered, not wanting to admit he was just a little—tiny—bit envious of that. "Anyway, he was older and had more—"

"—more training. Like in college, and grad school after that."

Daniel scowled. "Robert, I'm not going to waste ten years trying to get every degree that an alternate 'me' had."

He had agreed to think about Sam's suggestion of Air Force training, mostly because the Academy was nearby and because many of the personnel on base still looked at him like he didn't belong here. Even Teal'c was more easily accepted by some of them, since he was one of the best warriors here, even if he was alien. Besides, most of the Tau'ri Daniel knew were either enlisted airmen and marines or had come from one military academy or another.

It was part of adapting to this new culture, wasn't it? It was about...well, not quite survival, but it was the difference between thriving in the SGC and being marginalized within it.

On the other hand, many of the civilian scholars seemed to have a certain amount of either apprehension or condescension toward the military, and certainly some of that sentiment was returned. And Robert had a point—Daniel wanted to join an exploration team, and if he had to adapt to military rules for that, but he was a researcher first. Even Teal'c, who taught him to fight, didn't try to change that. But Daniel had no official authority at all. He was lucky to be regarded as well as he was and knew he had to blend in enough, or that regard could easily turn to suspicion or disdain. Just as his parents had assimilated into the Abydonian culture, he needed to become part of this culture if he wanted to accomplish anything.

Not that that would stop him from speaking when he was right about something. But sometimes, when it didn't hurt anything, he would need to bend.

"You could get all those degrees," Robert was saying. "Take some time away from here to go to school, and then come back. I'm not saying you have to, and not right this second, obviously," Robert added when Daniel crossed his arms. "But you need to learn from other people besides me. I'm not a teacher."

"Of course you are."

"I'm basically a grad student who got, like, an emergency promotion to department head. It's not the same thing, Daniel."

"What's not the same about it? You've been teaching me for a year."

With a frustrated huff, instead of answering directly, Robert said, "Look, there are only a few subjects you really need to work hard on to pass the GED—you could do that in a year, I'll bet. It'll be good to get some basic knowledge about subjects you missed growing up, anyway, if you're sticking around on our planet."

Daniel sighed at his persistence. "Robert—"

"You're not even fifteen yet; you've got time to think about it," Robert insisted. "Just think about it. Okay?"

"Fine, I'll think about it," he said, partly to make Robert stop bothering him and partly because it wasn't like he had to make a decision soon, anyway.

"Fine," Robert said. "So now...how far did you get through that book?"

Daniel passed over the history book Robert had picked for him. "Through the first four sections."

"Uh huh," Robert said absently, thumbing through the indicated pages. "You read all this? Are you just reading through, or taking notes and..." Daniel opened a notebook and waved it in Robert's line of sight so the pages of notes were visible. "Never mind, you geek. Do you sleep? You know, ever?"

Daniel rolled his eyes, closing and collecting his books. "I usually spend time training with Teal'c before or after work, but SG-1 has been on Nasya for the last few days, so I've had a lot of extra time."

Also, the general had been willing to give him a chance at the SGC, true, but there would always be restrictions holding him back until he at least caught up to the minimum educational requirements. He wouldn't be a full employee here until he passed a test that showed he knew the names of Earth's countries and how to do math, which, really, was a little ridiculous, since it wasn't like the GED was going to prove that he could translate alien languages.

Besides, Daniel wasn't sure he would be staying on Earth for as long as that kind of education planning suggested. If they found Skaara and Sha'uri, maybe things would change. Who knew when they might reach some turning point in the war against the Goa'uld?

But Robert was the one who had control over hiring personnel in this department, and he had insisted. Daniel knew it was well-intentioned, despite how illogical it was, so he would study and learn the things Tau'ri people learned in high school. It turned out that learning it wasn't actually all that bad, after all; Earth's history and mythology was tied closely to many of the Goa'uld's, and maybe learning things like basic physics would make him feel just a little less stupid when Sam tried patiently to explain some device to him.

Robert stepped into the linguistics office next door to drop off a reference book they had borrowed earlier, then returned, repeating, "I don't get why SG-1's still on the Nasya mission. They made contact, and now we're trying to set up a long-term research station—that's usually our thing more than theirs. Or at least one of the other teams."

"They reported back over the weekend that it was a Goa'uld planet until a few hundred years ago," Daniel told him. "Their language is very close to Teal'c's dialect of modern Goa'uld. A research team is supposed to replace them in a few days."

"Huh. Well, maybe the general will let us go along," he mused. "I should ask him. You're the best Goa'uld speaker here besides Teal'c, so he'll have to let you go, and then he'll have to let me go, too, to keep an eye on you," he reasoned triumphantly. "Hey, you're pretty useful."

"Thanks, Robert," Daniel said dryly, but he reveled quietly in the knowledge that they might both actually be allowed to go see Nasya if Robert recommended it, now that General Hammond was approving more off-world trips for them.

He looked up at the clock as they reached the office, then picked up the smaller of two piles on Robert's desk. "These are the assignments you want me to take for today?" Daniel asked, opening the first folder to see which he was supposed to do first. "What... You want me to cover debriefs? Are you sure?"

"Two teams got back yesterday with stuff that needs to be looked at. SG-3 videotaped something one of the natives off-world said to them, and they're looking for a translation. SG-5 had some artifact with—"

"—with 'unfamiliar script,'" Daniel read from the notes of SG-5's preliminary report. "'...did not recognize the...'"

"That's the one. And look at the writing, obviously, but I want you to listen to what they say about the planet and see if there's anything else important about the artifact that they didn't notice."

"Um. Robert, don't you usually sit in on meetings when there's a cultural question?" Daniel said. "I thought the point was that I don't know enough about artifact analysis."

Robert shrugged. "You can identify what's out of place, or if something looks suspicious, even if you don't know exactly what it is. We'll discuss after if you're not sure. And you've gone with me to enough debriefings—it'll save time if only one of us has to sit through them."

"So why me and not you?" Daniel asked.

"Because I'm the boss and I say so," Robert said as he sat down at his desk. "You're more likely than anyone to recognize off-world languages. Recceo thought the people they recorded sounded Egyptian. If you don't think you can figure it out, bring the recording back up here, and we'll see if anyone in the department recognizes it."

"I didn't say I couldn't do it," he said defensively, skimming through the reports as he turned to leave so he could look at the video before the first debriefing at 1030. "I'll figure it out."

Robert snorted. "You do that."

Daniel started out, then stopped when he opened the last folder in the pile. "Robert?" he asked, poking his head back in. "What's this?"

The archaeologist raised his eyebrows. "Captain Carter asked me to give that to you. Homework."

"Ay," Daniel muttered, frowning at the sheet of math problems Sam wanted him to finish. "Can I do this after SG-3's debriefing?"

Robert shrugged. "Whatever. Just have it done before Carter gets back."

...x...

10 June 1998; SGC, Earth; 1100 hrs

"And you're certain Ma'at was no longer there?" Daniel asked, pulling off his glasses and looking up from the notes he had jotted down while watching the video and listening to the recorded speech. "The Goa'uld, I mean."

"Like we said," Colonel Makepeace said, sounding half-impatient and half-bored, "there were no signs on the planet that we could see. That's what the guy was saying?"

Daniel nodded. The speech had been an Egyptian dialect, and though it was closer to how Teal'c would have pronounced it than it was to the Nagada dialect, it was easy enough for him to understand. "He said their goddess left many generations ago. That's likely why they were so anxious when SG-3 arrived," he added, gesturing toward the mission report. "They must have thought you were gods yourselves, or at least sent from Ma'at."

"Uh-huh. Not the first time that's happened, and it probably won't be the last," Makepeace remarked. "Is that it?"

"Ye...no, one more thing. The man said that he wanted to give your team a...an offering of some kind, or a gift? Was there something he gave you?"

"Yeah, he gave us a bag of rocks," Makepeace said.

"Uh. Sorry? Rocks?" Daniel repeated.

"No, seriously, Jackson," Captain Recceo spoke up, "they were little pebbles in a bag. Rocks."

"Was that their form of currency or something?" he asked, frowning. "Were they precious rocks of some kind?"

"How should we know?" Makepeace said. "We took 'em to the lab on twenty-first for analysis. Seemed pretty useless, if you ask me, unless you're looking for paperweights."

Finding things that were uninteresting was fairly common—not everything could be a miraculous high-tech device. Still, Daniel was learning that the military teams and the research departments often disagreed on exactly what 'interesting' meant. He might not be a trained archaeologist, but Robert was right—he'd picked up enough over the past months that he thought he could at least recognize most of the time whether or not it was something Robert should look at. That was the whole point of having civilian researchers here with different mindsets from the military personnel, anyway, wasn't it?

"Do you mind if I see them first, sir, before they start any tests?" he asked, directing the question to General Hammond.

"That's fine, Mr. Jackson," the general told him easily. "Let us know if you find anything."

"And, Colonel, do you want a copy of the translation, once I write it out?" he asked Colonel Makepeace.

"Not particularly," the colonel told him.

"Keep a copy in Records," General Hammond suggested. "Is there anything else? Any of you?"

"No, sir" echoed around the table, and they stood again, preparing to leave—

The alarms blared.

"Medical emergency in the embarkation room!" Sergeant Harriman's voice said. "SG-1 and refugees returning from Nasya under heavy fire—all security teams, medical personnel, and medics to the embarkation room immediately! I repeat—"

"Move, Jackson," someone next to him barked. Used to the protocol now, Daniel jumped aside by habit, standing out of the way to let military personnel pass. If there was trouble in the embarkation room, the people with medical or combat training went first.

SG-1, though...that meant Jack, Sam, and Teal'c, under heavy fire...

Once all of SG-3 had rushed out of the briefing room, heading toward the armory, Daniel made to follow, only to stop again when the general ordered him sharply, "Stay out of the 'gate room!" Then the general left, too.

Daniel let out a wordless sound of frustration into the empty room. Even the window here was useless, since the shields had been lowered, so he hovered near the staircase connecting the briefing room to the control room, straining his ears. After the third muffled sizzling sound he heard, he cocked his head and tried to figure out what it was. When he couldn't decide whether it was from an energy weapon hitting a wall or hitting flesh, he quickly stopped trying to think about it.

Then, finally, finally, came the now-familiar sound of the wormhole closing, and Daniel reasoned that the general hadn't said anything about watching from the back of the control room.

By the time he arrived, everything was already over. He scanned the people's faces through the control room window and relaxed fractionally when he saw all of SG-1 on their feet.

Then he took a second look and realized that, though the Stargate was again inactive, the situation was nowhere near 'over.'

'Medical emergency' was right—it wasn't the first time the SGC had received refugees, or even wounded ones, but it was the first time that the 'gate room had filled with injured so quickly. As he watched, horrified, two people rushed out through the side blast door, carrying a third between them on a stretcher. Jack was giving a hurried report to General Hammond, the one familiar sight among all the Nasyans' burned or bleeding forms, while Teal'c assisted with first aid and transport.

Sam, oddly, didn't seem to be doing much of anything. Daniel inched forward, squinting down at her for a closer look, because, barring other complications, she should be helping the medics.

Unless she was hurt herself—there was something red on her face that could have been blood...

But then Jack walked up behind her, no doubt asking if she was all right. From the easy way she moved as she jumped in surprise and then answered, Daniel could see that she was as unharmed as the rest of the team and let out a relieved breath.

He lingered another minute, shifting indecisively from foot to foot, then huffed impatiently and turned back to the briefing room to wait for his orders.

He'd just barely stepped back in when Robert came running, calling, "Daniel!" Someone rushed past him, and he scuttled to one side, saying, "There's a massive overflow of Nasyans, most wounded. We need everyone who speaks Goa'uld to help with interpreting. Come on. Who else speaks it at all? Us two, Teal'c...?"

"Um—one or two more," Daniel said, following Robert out with a mixture of anxiety at what was clearly a dire situation and relief to be doing something. "Lieutenant Hagman knows a little; he can help if he has a dictionary. And most people know a few stock phrases, so—"

"Right, Hagman's upstairs. I'll go get him from the office. You go to the infirmary and help Dr. Fraiser with whatever she needs. Teal'c's busy with the heavy lifting now, but he'll probably join us later to help with information gathering."

"Yeah. Okay." Daniel took a final glimpse at the flurry of action in the embarkation room.

"Daniel—"

"Sorry, I'm going, I'm going," he said quickly starting to move away.

"No, that's not—wait, Daniel!" Confused, he stopped. Robert looked over his shoulder, clearly impatient as well, then said, "Some of these people are badly wounded—burns, mostly, and other injuries; it's not pretty. Tell me right now if you don't think you can—"

"I can," he interrupted, remembering the times he'd had to run past bodies smoking from Jaffa staff weapons and hoping he wasn't lying now. Without waiting for any more warnings (hoping there weren't any more to give), he hurried past Robert to the elevator, leaving the man to catch up to him. "What will happen to them all?" he asked. "What exactly am I supposed to say?"

"Transport's on its way to the Mountain," Robert said, a little breathlessly, jogging to pull even with him. "The most critical ones need to be stabilized here first, and then they're going to the Air Force Academy hospital. The rest—what we need from you is to get as much information from them as possible to keep track of all the Nasyans. We're trying to keep numbered tags on each of them to keep track—"

"Tags?" Daniel echoed.

"Yeah, like hospital ID bracelets. This way we won't lose track of anyone," Robert said. "So you need to get names, what they remember of the attack, what might have caused it, anything."

"Atta—they were attacked? By whom?"

"Uh...I don't think we know? But you'll probably piece it together yourself before long if you talk to enough people."

They reached the elevator just as the doors were closing and squeezed in together, along with two medics and an SF handling two patients between them.

Daniel couldn't see any injuries on the first patient, but he was unconscious, so something must be wrong. The other, though, was a woman whose wounds were all too visible. She was unconscious as well, and covered with a blanket as she lay on the gurney, but her arms had been left uncovered, as well as her face.

Burns, an objective part of his brain realized, but the rest of him was caught wondering whether the redness of the woman's skin was from blood or from the heat of whatever had caused her burns, and (ay naturu) surely human flesh couldn't look and smell like that and still be alive...

"What are you two doing here?" one of the medics snapped, doing something with an IV line from his side of the gurney. "Emergency protocols are in effect—"

He was interrupted by a moan, because the woman wasn't only alive, she was waking up, too...

But when her hoarse, pain-filled wails started, all thoughts of blood and fire fled Daniel's mind, and he pushed past Robert to the side of the gurney, moving so that his face was directly over the woman's and holding his empty hands up in the universal gesture to show he wasn't threatening her. "Kel shak, kel shak! Tel nok'tiak ma'waé. Cal mah."

Her eyes, wide with pain and terror, fixed on his face above hers and the cries subsided to whimpers. "Keestra..." she moaned.

"Te keestram," he promised, watching her unsuccessfully fight the fall back into unconsciousness. "Shashan. Cal mah, nok. Cal mah. Te keestram."

"That's what he's doing here," Robert whispered to the medics when both patients were out again.

"What'd you say?" one man asked.

"Uh...it's safe, we're friends, we'll help you..." Daniel told him, backing away from the gurney and twisting his hands together to hide the way they shook. He took a steadying breath. "Robert, can we teach people how to say simple things like that, at least, to keep them calm?"

"Yeah, I know, I will. I caught, uh, 'cal mah;' that means 'sanctuary?'"

"Sanctuary, safe. And..." The elevator opened, and Daniel stepped out to let the medics and the patients through. "And, Robert—"

Robert stayed in the car to reach the 18th level. "We have the preliminary dictionaries upstairs—we'll look up whatever else we need," he said, instructing, "Go with them, I'll be right there."

Daniel nodded at the closing elevator doors and started making his way toward the infirmary, only to realize for the first time just how many wounded refugees there were (hundreds, surely), because immediately, he could see the people still being carried through the halls, a few lying on gurneys or pads serving as make-shift beds in the hallway until someone rushed them inside.

That wasn't even the worst part, in a way—the ones not hurt, and the ones with only minor injuries, were frantic and trying to speak to anyone wearing a Tau'ri uniform, which only made everything worse when neither party understood what the other was saying and the Tau'ri tried desperately to stop them from leaving without injuring anyone further.

Janet was nowhere in sight—she must be in the infirmary itself, which, gods, must be at least as chaotic as it was out in the halls—but medics, nurses, and anyone else not off-world were all doing their best to contain the situation.

"No, Colonel," he heard someone say.

Jack's voice said, "Dammit, then you calm her down, Johnson—"

"We're already running out of space; we can't go around sedating people on top of that!" Nurse Johnson countered. Daniel turned to see the two of them struggling with a hysterical young woman, clearly trying to be gentle while trying to make her stop moving. She was barely standing on her own, but it didn't stop her from trying to pull away.

"Where is he?" she was nearly sobbing in her Goa'uld dialect and beating weakly at them with obviously burnt fists, pushing away the soaked gauze the nurse had in her hand. "My husband—let me go, what have you done with him, I beg you, I have to find him, let me go, let me go, let me—"

"Listen to me!" Daniel said loudly, also in Goa'uld. Other heads also turned his way, but he ignored them for the moment and ran toward the woman in Jack's grip. "We will find him," he said, even though he knew it might be false optimism. "Please do not fight us—others are hurt, and we need your—" What was the word for 'cooperation'? "Uh... You must...not fight us so we can help others."

"Help us?" she repeated.

"Yes. You are with friends." Daniel glanced at Jack, who looked like he wanted to step in but thankfully stayed silent. "My name is Daniel. He is Jack. We are your friends. We brought your people here to help you." She stopped struggling but continued to look around herself nervously. "Your name?" he tried.

"Talia," she said finally.

"Talia, go with..." 'Nurse?' 'Doctor?' Jaffa didn't need healers, so Teal'c had never thought to teach him the Goa'uld equivalent. "Go with this woman. She will help you, and soon we will take you somewhere else to...um...help your...injuries. We will look for your husband."

Jack looked at him sharply when the Nasyan—Talia—collapsed limply into the support of their arms. "Daniel?"

"She'll cooperate if you need to treat her," he said as an answer. Johnson nodded and helped the woman to a free space, guiding her down to the floor against a wall. "Jack, where's Janet?" The man hesitated for a moment. "Jack!"

"In the infirmary, why?"

"I'm supposed to report to her and gather whatever information the Nasyans have," Daniel said, starting to make his way there and trying not to look at the still, quiet—and some not-so-still-and-quiet—Nasyans lying in the hallway on sheets...gods...

"Might have to wait on those interviews," Jack said, looking around as if trying to identify which cluster of people to try to break up next.

"Stop—get away from me!" someone called. "Where have you taken us?"

He turned to see a man trying with little success to push away a medic and climb to his feet despite the blood-stained bandage wrapped around his leg. Daniel started toward him and almost crashed into Jack as they both moved the same way at the same time.

Jack met his eyes. Don't get stubborn now, Daniel thought, straightening his spine. Let me help.

Nodding once, Jack said, "I'll tell Fraiser you're out here. Be careful."

"Robert and others are coming," Daniel said, relieved, already hurrying to the wounded Nasyan. "Jack—tell people 'cal mah.' It means 'safe.'" Without waiting for an answer, he dropped to his knees beside the injured man, forcing himself to look at the eyes and not the wounds. "C-cal mah," he said uncertainly, then caught sight of the plastic band someone had wrapped around the man's wrist, hastily labeled '156.' Daniel pulled a small notepad from his pocket, labeled the page with the number, and said more firmly, "You are safe, with friends. What is your name?"

...x...

10 June 1998; SGC, Earth; 1800 hrs

A hand fell on his shoulder. "Daniel."

Daniel looked up wearily and wondered when Jack had gotten there. "I thought that was everyone in the infirmary," he said, pushing himself away from the wall he'd been leaning against to rest and looking around the nearly empty hallway. "Someone else?" He had been splitting his time between the halls, where some of the uninjured were still huddled, and one of the side wings, while Teal'c and the others worked in the larger, main areas of the infirmary.

"No, no, stop," Jack ordered, grabbing his arm and pulling him to a halt when he started to move mechanically toward the door. "It's done, Daniel. They're moving these two"—he looked at the remaining Nasyans in the hall—"into the temporary bunk rooms. The last of the critically injured were just stabilized and taken to the hospital."

Already? He turned toward the man now being led away. "Oh. Mahiu debehen...uh, ahtaj...yi shay!" He rubbed his eyes and tried to focus. "Um. Wait, I need to ask that man about the...the thing. The attack. I was going to in just a minute—"

"You already did," Jack said.

"No I..." Daniel blinked. In truth, he couldn't remember whether he had or not. "I did?"

"Yeah," Jack said gently, despite the obvious fatigue in his expression. He jerked his head toward the infirmary. "I just saw you telling Rothman and Fraiser. Check your notes—I'll bet the guy's name is in there."

"Oh." He squinted at his notepad but couldn't really tell—he'd stopped trying, at some point, to remember which face went with which name. It had all begun to blur together in a haze of numbers and names and the same account of 'I-don't-know' over and over...how long ago had they started? "What time is it?"

"SG-1 got back from Nasya almost seven hours ago," Jack said. "And you're making even less sense than usual, so it's time for you to sit down and breathe for a minute."

"I make sense some of the time," he protested without thinking, but followed mindlessly to a chair set against the wall and dropped gracelessly into it.

Jack stuck his hands into his pockets, his lips twitching a little in amusement. "You'd like to think so, wouldn't you?"

Daniel thought that, if he hadn't been so tired, he could have thought of a good response to that. How was he so tired, anyway, when it was barely 1800 hours? A lot of the trained men and women here could literally work for intense days at a time, and here he was, already resisting yawns. "It's really...it's all done?"

"All done, kid," Jack said looking down at him with a smile. "You did a good job. Now...I know some of what you saw today..." Jack hesitated.

"It wasn't pretty," he said, guessing what Jack was going to say and borrowing Robert's words.

"You all right?"

"The others worked with the most badly wounded," Daniel said, "because they just had to try to keep people calm for the medics and give basic information and instruction. Teal'c and I can actually hold a conversation in Goa'uld, so we were"—(mostly)—"talking to the people who were...uh, well, still able to hold a conversation. No one really knew anything, anyway. About the attack."

Jack raised his eyebrows, unappeased. "So...you all right?"

I learned today that staff blast wounds don't bleed very much, because the heat burns away the part of the flesh that would have bled. "Yes," he said. "How many...I mean..."

"We saved over two hundred people, including the wounded," Jack said.

Daniel knew some people hadn't made it—he'd seen far too many of the refugees taken away covered with a sheet—but a whole planet...surely there had to have been more than two hundred people living there. And he was certain there had been many more brought to the SGC, even—there was a page in his notebook labeled '301,' which meant... "But how many—"

"Over two hundred Nasyans are alive, Daniel," was the firm answer.

Biting his lip, Daniel looked down and nodded. "Okay. That... Okay. Right." Suddenly, he realized he was talking to Jack, which he'd been hoping to do ever since the alarms sounded that morning. "Wait, what about SG-1? Everyone's fine?"

"Looks like it," Jack said, taking a seat next to him with a groan. "A little sore, maybe, but we're all okay. Teal'c is finishing up with some of the Nasyans while Carter...well, I'm sure she's doing something, somewhere. Usually is."

"Good." Daniel yawned.

Jack quirked a smile. "Long day, huh. Wait 'til you try your hand at boot camp sometime."

"I missed SG-5's debriefing this afternoon," he said inanely, then wondered which rogue part of his brain that thought had come from.

"Yeah," Jack snorted, "I'm pretty sure that was rescheduled, kid. You may have noticed a bit of a situation around here recently."

"Ti'u," Daniel agreed, not bothering to put in the effort to drag out the word in the right language.

Jack shook his head. "When's the last time you had something to eat? Wanna join me?"

("I can't do anything else for this man—I'm giving him a dose of painkillers and a sedative. I'm sorry," the doctor said, packing up his equipment and hurrying to the next patient.

The Nasyan man moaned and whispered, "What...what did he say?"

"He said..." Daniel started, unsure, then lied, "He said you're going to be okay. Sleep.")

"I'm not hungry," he told Jack in a would-be casual tone that ended up sounding anything but.

"I know," Jack said quietly. "C'mon. Let's get out of the Mountain." Daniel couldn't help turning to look back toward the infirmary, half expecting Robert to come out and tell him something was wrong and he needed to get up and do something. He blinked as a body stepped into his line of sight and looked up to see that Jack had stood and moved to block his view. "There's nothing we can do here right now; they're just cleaning up. We'll assess the situation tomorrow."

"They're being relocated to some other planet?"

"Yeah, the three new teams and SG-1 are gonna be looking into that tomorrow. Dr. Fraiser will be at the Academy hospital most of the day..." Jack grimaced a little, then said, "We're gonna need interpreters here on base and someone over at the hospital, just in case. Teal'c sticks out in public a little more than you, and we need him helping with off-world business from here, so..."

"I don't mind if you need me to go to the hospital," Daniel said honestly.

"I thought you'd say that," Jack sighed. "It's about the safest place you could be, anyway, with that much security around. But that's tomorrow. For now, whaddya say we go home?"

"Sure," he answered, taking Jack's hand and pulling himself out of his seat. "Sounds good."

XXXXX

11 June 1998; USAF Academy Hospital, Earth; 1030 hrs

"Cassandra," Daniel greeted, stepping into Janet's office at the hospital the next day, where the girl was waiting while Janet checked on her patients. Cassandra looked up as he came in and let the door fall shut behind him, a few of her fingers yellow from what looked like paint.

"Hi, Daniel," she said, smiling politely. "I've never seen you come here before."

"I've never been here before. I was talking to some of the patients. Ja—your mother said I could stay in here with you for a while." Until, or unless, one of the patients needed something that no one else could understand. "I haven't seen you in over a month."

"I haven't seen you, either," she said.

"Oh. That's...true," he said intelligently.

They'd met once more after her arrival on Earth and adoption by Janet, on a day when Sam had taken her to a nearby park to play for the first time. Jack had insisted on going as well, and Daniel and Teal'c had somehow both ended up going with him.

It felt odd, sometimes, talking to Cassandra. He thought they should have a lot in common, being from off-world, orphaned by a Goa'uld and brought to Earth, but the similarities were superficial. Hanka's culture seemed fairly similar to Earth's, compared with that of Abydos, even with a similar climate and government and educational systems; they were just several decades behind in technology. It was partly age, too—Jack had laughed at him once when he'd said that, but what he'd meant was that the few years between almost-twelve and almost-fifteen made a difference, whatever the culture.

Looking down at her now, it struck him that, literally for the first time in months, he was the oldest one in the room and was here in an official SGC capacity; he actually was supposed to be the adult this time. "So...how have you been?" he said, awkwardly trying to make some conversation as they waited. "Have you settled in with Janet?"

She nodded, carefully putting down her paintbrush. "I like it with her."

"And with Sam, yeah?" Daniel said. Sam had confided to him later that she had seriously considered adopting Cassandra herself. The only thing stopping her had been her fears about not doing it right, or not knowing what a young girl would need. There was also the fact that she was at least as busy as Janet—when she was actually on the planet—and not ready to have a child of her own, not when she was in the thick of battles and off-world so much of the time.

As if reading his mind, Cassandra said, "I haven't seen Sam in a while."

Daniel grimaced. "Oh. Well, you know, she talks about you a lot, but she's been really—"

"—busy, I know," she finished for him, sounding like she really did understand, though it didn't mask her disappointment. "Everyone is. Are you waiting for them, too?"

"Um, yeah. There's been...yeah." He really needed to ask someone how much Cassandra knew about the SGC, beyond her own experiences. Conversations could get very awkward very fast otherwise. Faster, anyway. Quickly changing the subject, he asked instead, "What...uh, what else have you been doing?"

"I started going to a school here in America. It's almost the end of the school year for them, so I won't really start until it's autumn. But my teacher says I'm a talented artist," she said, a little proud and a little shy, as she turned the picture so that it faced him.

"It's...it's nice," he said after a while. "Um...what is it?"

"It's a rainbow," she huffed.

"A...rainbow?" he asked blankly.

"From when it rains," she said, as if it should be obvious. Well, how should he have known? On Abydos, it was rare to see more than a minute of rain at a time in Nagada proper, and their rain certainly didn't look like what Cassandra was painting. Most times, Nagadans only knew of a distant rainfall when they traveled for trade, when the river in the Badari province began to rise during the fertile seasons. He himself had seen four rains in the village itself that he could remember, each of them barely lasting long enough to haul vessels outside to catch the water.

Daniel peered more closely at the picture, though, to humor her, then suddenly remembered a picture he had seen in one of Dr. Barr's books. "Oh! It's like Bifrost." When she looked blank in return, he explained, "It's a bridge connecting Midgard—Earth, I mean, to Asgard. The Æsir used it to travel back and forth between their realms." There was even a word for it in his mother tongue—khin'mut pati, the kiss from the sky—so obviously rainbows happened sometimes on Abydos.

"Shush!" Cassandra scolded, whispering, "We're not supposed to talk about traveling to other places besides Earth. And everyone knows Asgard's not real."

"W—no, well, it's just...it's a myth," he said uncomfortably. "And it's a myth here, so people here know it, too. Well, not necessarily everyone here, like right here in the hospital, or even everyone on...uh, in America, but some people..." He trailed off as the rest of her words registered. "Did you just...Asgard? Who says that it's not real?" Did schools on Earth normally teach Norse mythology? Or...

She shrugged. "There were stories on—in Toronto," she said, which was what she'd been told to call her homeland of Hanka. "People who said they were taken by some being from Asgard."

Daniel blinked. "Really? But...wait, if they were taken, how did they tell the stories?"

"They don't actually get taken, Daniel. It's just a story people tell." When he still gaped at her, she rolled her eyes. "A lot of them had had too much drink the night before. Everyone knows it's just an old legend—something people tell as an excuse."

"Are you sure?" he asked, his thoughts whirring and excitement growing. "Because, you know, I've been wondering why certain pla—places have people who speak Germanic languages like English when they shouldn't have had any contact at all." English had developed on Earth, after all, as far as he knew, after the Goa'uld had left. But both Hanka and Cimmeria had English-speakers, although the Asgard presence on Hanka was obviously much less. Still, it was a connection... "What else did they say? Did they describe Asgard? I mean, could we..." He trailed off.

Cassandra had turned away and was smearing a finger idly against her Bifrost now, and Daniel realized with a jolt of horror what he'd almost said. Could we go back to your homeworld and ask your people about their legends?

"I'm sorry." He cleared his throat. "I-it's a nice painting," he offered lamely instead, kicking himself mentally for getting carried away. She turned back and raised an eyebrow at him in a way reminded him of her adoptive mother.

So he was relieved when a knock sounded at the door, and he moved quickly to open it. "Sam!" he said, surprised but pleased to see her. "I've been hoping to talk to you ever since you left for Nasya last Thursday—how are you? And what are you doing here?"

She stared at him blankly for a few seconds before her expression cleared, as if just registering who he was. "Daniel. I'm here to see Cassandra."

"Oh. Uh...sorry," he muttered, backing away, a little confused at her cool expression but berating himself for feeling that way. It had been a busy couple of days, after all, and he saw her all the time, while Cassandra had always had a special relationship with Sam even though they rarely had time to visit each other.

"Sam!" Cassandra cried happily, her own face lighting up prettily in delight.

He pulled the door open wider and frowned as Sam walked by him close enough that her shoulder brushed against his—he thought he could feel something odd, like a prickling of gooseflesh on the back of his neck...

Idiot. He shook himself. She just wanted to spend a few minutes with the girl; it certainly didn't mean anything was wrong. Sam was kneeling and acting as warm as usual to Cassandra, anyway. He moved to sit on the couch so they could talk in private, trying not to listen as they exchanged pleasantries.

Then Cassandra gasped.

Daniel glanced up involuntarily and saw her stumble away from Sam's hug. "Cassandra," Sam said, coming to her feet, "what is it?"

Cassandra didn't answer and instead backed away, then turned and ran past a startled Daniel to hide behind the couch where he sat. He looked up questioningly at Sam, who gritted her teeth, lifting her chin a little and beginning to walk toward them, her purposeful stride completely unlike Sam's usual gentle attitude around Cassandra.

Alarmed, Daniel stood as well, his sudden movement causing Sam to pause and turn to him...

Her eyes glowed.

Goa'uld.

"Ay naturu," he breathed. "Na nay—Sam, not you, too..."

He looked around the office, but there was nothing he could use as a weapon, and he wouldn't, anyway, even if he could hope to touch someone as skilled in combat as Sam, because gods it was Sam...

They stared at each other for a second, and then he sprang past her toward the door, seeing her move at the same time. He expected to be intercepted and opened his mouth to call for help, but she hadn't been trying to reach him, and he was stopped by a small squeak behind him and a distorted voice, commanding, "Stop, now!"

Slowly, he turned, and his heart dropped.

Sam had pulled Cassandra from her makeshift hiding place and now stood behind her, one arm easily holding the girl's body immobile and the other hand wrapped loosely around her neck. Cassandra's eyes were wide. "Do not call out," the Goa'uld said.

"Sam, don't," Daniel begged, his words running over each other now. "I know you can still hear me, Sam, that's Cassandra you're holding—you can fight it, please, you have to try to—"

"I have no wish to harm either of you," the Goa'uld said calmly, and she (it?) released Cassandra, as if to prove it. The girl immediately scampered back behind the couch as Sam's body moved toward the door again. Torn between the instinct to put himself between the Goa'uld and Cassandra or stay between the Goa'uld and the door, Daniel found himself frozen. Sam's jaw tensed determinedly. "But if you make a sound, I will not hesitate to kill everyone in this building, starting with the girl."

A whimper came from behind the couch.

"Sam," he said again, still hoping they could get past the snake to his friend. Her eyes bored into him and flashed with unnatural light, and he knew with a sudden, boiling hatred that he wasn't talking to Sam, not now. "Orak, Goa'uld," he snarled helplessly instead, fully expecting the insult to be brushed away with a sneer or a fist but too furious to care.

Instead, Sam's face twisted in anger. "I am not a Goa'uld!" it growled, as if a refusal to speak in its native tongue would prove the words. "It is they who are the abomination, not I."

"You won't win," he said.

"You won't live if you try to stop me."

"Dal shakka mel, ha'taaka!" he said, hoping his terror wasn't leaking through the bravado.

"Will you let little Cassie die free, as well?" it taunted. Daniel reflexively shifted toward the girl.

The Goa'uld was faster and blocked his path, the edge of a knife at his throat. Daniel froze, not daring to swallow or breathe or do anything at all but wonder whether weapons were supposed to be allowed in the hospital, except of course Sam, of all people—or the monster controlling her—could find a way to smuggle one in.

"If you dare to make a sound or stop me from leaving," it whispered, "I will kill her, you, and everyone else in my path. Samantha Carter is not suspected by her people—even without the strength of a symbiote, she could kill many before she was stopped."

Daniel licked his lips and glanced toward the couch, where he could see only a lock of Cassandra's hair from around the side. The blade pressed lightly against his skin, and he nodded very slightly. The knife disappeared at once, and he stepped back reluctantly, clearing the Goa'uld's path to the exit.

A smirk appeared on Sam's lips. "A wise choice. Tell no one I was here."

He glared at it as it walked confidently past him, burying his anguish for his friend and fear for what was happening in the warmth of anger. "Dal, Goa'uld," he hissed as it reached for the door.

A muscle in Sam's jaw twitched. "I am Tok'ra. We are not the same as the Goa'uld who are your enemy."

He narrowed his eyes, suspicious and confused. "You are tok Ra? You're too late. The Tau'ri destroyed Ra over a decade ago."

Sam—it smirked at him again. "The Tau'ri have grown powerful in the time since the Goa'uld reign here," it agreed. "But you still have so much to learn, Daniel."

"What...?"

The door clicked shut behind her. Daniel stared at it for a while, not quite believing it had just left without even hurting them, and not quite believing he had just stood by and watched it leave. Because there was a Goa'uld out there, now, walking free, and Sam was undoubtedly going to the SGC now...

Gods, he had to tell someone. But it had said it would kill Cassandra—

Stupid, he thought. It couldn't possibly know what they were doing once it was gone. He would wait just long enough for it to leave, and then get a message to the SGC.

"Cassandra," he said, hurrying behind the couch. She squeaked again when he appeared over her head, and he stopped, hands held out, unthreatening. "Did she—did the Goa'uld hurt you?"

She rubbed her neck but shook her head. He looked more closely and couldn't see so much as a bruise—the Goa'uld had been almost gentle with her, as hard as it was to believe. His own hand rose involuntarily to his throat to feel skin that had not even been nicked.

"She felt different," Cassandra said. "That's how I knew."

"It's okay," he said meaninglessly, ignoring his curiosity at that statement for the moment. "She's gone now—you can come out." She shook her head. "Uh, okay. That's okay, too. Just...wait there for a second," he said. "I'll go find your mother, and—"

"No!" she protested, finally coming to her feet. "Don't."

He wasn't sure whether she didn't want anyone to know or just didn't want to be left alone, but she was probably right, anyway, that if the Goa'uld was still out there, they shouldn't let it know they were trying to find help. From here, they had no way to know whether or not she'd left the building. "Okay. Okay, then...let me call Jack," he decided, looking warily at the telephone on Janet's desk, thankful that Jack had made him memorize the numbers to dial in an emergency and wishing he had practiced calling people from a telephone before. It didn't look too difficult to use, though, compared to other Tau'ri devices. Surely it wasn't harder than dialing a DHD.

"She'll kill us if we tell," Cassandra said.

"No, she won't. I won't let her," he promised, as if he had a hope of stopping a Goa'uld by himself if it tried to do anything. But he knew a bluff when he heard one. "I'll just tell Jack to...to come here and, uh...he'll protect us, okay? I won't say anything over the telephone."

She bit her lip, then said, "I'll watch the door."

"No!" he said quickly, because shadows were visible through the door's cloudy glass, and maybe it was paranoid, but he really didn't want to test a Goa'uld more than he had to. "Don't. Just. Um. Lock the door, Cassandra, and then stay away." Just in case.

The telephone wasn't difficult to use, as it turned out. Unfortunately, neither Jack nor General Hammond was in his office, and trying to reach them by anything other than a direct line only led to someone on the other end who proved much more difficult to handle than the telephone. Apparently, the secrecy surrounding the program was so tight that there were layers of technicians between him and the SGC, the first of whom didn't seem to have any higher clearance than the employees on the upper levels of Cheyenne Mountain.

"What do you mean, 'which Daniel Jackson?'" he said, looking nervously over his shoulder. Cassandra was watching him from where she now sat against the back wall of the office. "No, I wouldn't be listed in your systems as an employee yet, but... Yes, I work at—I live on the base most of the time. I need to speak with Colonel Jack O'Neill."

"You're calling from within the Academy hospital—is this a medical emergency?"

"No," he said without thinking, then silently cursed himself. "I mean, yes, kind of; it's more a—"

"Sir, Colonel O'Neill is in a meeting with the general right now. I can give him a message if you would like."

"Fine," he said, because that would have to be good enough, racking his brains and unable despite himself to remember which phones were secure and what exactly he was allowed to say if they weren't. "Even if you have to interrupt them. Tell him Cassandra Fraiser and...yes, that Fraiser...Cassandra and Daniel Jackson have to speak to him immediately." Jack would be alerted by their two names alone, Daniel was sure. And if not... "Tell him—or any other officer on the deep-space telemetry project—that we found a snake."

"You...found a...?"

"Those exact words," Daniel snapped, trying to imitate that tone of voice that commanders used to make people listen. "Daniel Jackson and Cassandra Fraiser found a snake. Please. It's urgent."

"I'll have someone tell him."

"Thank you." A shadow paused outside the door, and he stiffened, but he soon realized the build was completely wrong for Sam, and the person continued past.

That done, he checked the door once to make sure it was securely locked. He considered moving something in front of it as a barricade, then decided that, if he was strong enough to move it, a Goa'uld would be strong enough to push it away. Besides, the door was their only way out, too. Daniel let out a breath and slid down the wall to sit next to Cassandra. He tried to think of what Jack usually said in situations like this, then settled on, "Are you okay?"

"She felt different," Cassandra said again, sitting with her knees pulled up to her chest and turning her head to look up at him.

"What do you mean?" he said.

"Like...I don't know. Different. Like I could tell there was something inside her. Like the way I feel near Teal'c, but stronger. Worse."

Daniel first thought was that maybe humans on Hanka were able to sense Goa'ulds, somehow. His second was that maybe something Nirrti had done had left the ability behind as a side effect, which made him realize that of course it was from what Nirrti had done—Teal'c had mentioned being able to sense the naquadah in Goa'uld bodies, and Janet said Cassandra still had naquadah in her blood. In fact, he had felt something odd when Sam walked near him, too, and he still had a tiny bit of naquadah in him—perhaps just not enough to have ever sensed anything from the larval Goa'uld inside Teal'c like Cassandra could.

He wondered if that was a deliberate strategy by the Goa'uld who ruled over naquadah-rich planets: if their slaves always felt subconsciously that there was something physically different or imposing about the Goa'uld's presence, it would be easier to pose as a god, or at least as someone who shouldn't be opposed.

But that was neither here nor there, so he pushed the thought aside and said, "I know what you mean. I felt it, too. But we'll tell Jack, and they'll take care of it."

Except they had no way to take care of it, he knew—not even a Thor's Hammer anymore, or anything like it. Just a Goa'uld inside a friend. Skaara and Sha'uri and now Sam, gods.

"She'll kill us," Cassandra said.

"No, she won't. Sam is still in there, and she won't let it happen. Just wait and see," he lied. "I'm sure everything will be fine."

He wasn't sure whether or not she believed him, but she sighed and leaned back against the wall. "Okay."


From the next chapter ("Duty and Deception, Part II"):

Daniel shrugged. "Those were the only words it said in Goa'uld. Said it was 'tok Ra.'"

Teal'c stopped with his ID card halfway through the reader. "Tok'ra?" he repeated. "Those were the exact words she used?"