1 May 1999; O'Neill/Jackson Residence, Earth; 1100 hrs
Jack looked up at the sound of footsteps to see Daniel yawn his way down the stairs and into the kitchen. "About time you woke up," he said, smirking when Daniel threw him a dirty look and slumped into a chair.
"I'm 'gate-lagged," Daniel grumbled, swiping Jack's coffee mug. "It's about midnight in Nagada right now. Gods. I was 'lagged the whole time I was there, and now that I'm back I'm 'lagged again. How does that make any sense?"
"That's just how it works," Jack said, swiping the coffee back. "How'd it go, the last few days?"
"Janet identified two new species of nematode," he said, resting his head on his palm.
"Nematode?" Jack asked.
"I don't really know," Daniel admitted. "They're some kind of worm or something. One is a parasite, but the other protects plants. Like a symbiote—a symbiotic relationship. She's having trouble making them grow in the lab, but she's optimistic about their uses, and she knows how to treat some of the other parasitic diseases that she found on Abydos. Oh, and we all have a little naquadah in our bloodstreams, but it's more significant in the older people, especially those who used to work in the mines."
"More than you?"
"My levels upon first coming to Earth were on the high end of the range, actually," he said.
That was news. "Really," Jack said, interested. "You're not exactly part of the older generation."
Daniel shrugged. "Janet said it could have to do with individual physiology, early sarcophagus exposure during development—because it does emit some kind of...ionized...naquadah something—"
"Ions?" Jack guessed.
"—or just spending so much time exploring the mines as a child. She says a low concentration of naquadah seems to kill certain bacteria for some reason and boost the immune system. It could have something to do with Goa'uld symbiotes' healing ability. Somehow. Either way, no one's comfortable injecting naquadah into people just to test."
"I can see why." Jack snorted. "Exploring mines. Only you, kid."
"Don't laugh at me," Daniel said, folding his arms on the table and dropping his head sleepily onto them.
"All good news from home, then?" Jack said, laughing on the inside.
"More or less. How about SG-1—what've you been doing?" He peeked an eye out. "After getting back from being stuck in 1969, I mean. How could you go back in time and not bring me along?"
"You were on Abydos," Jack protested.
"Well, if General Hammond had seen me when he'd been a lieutenant," Daniel grumbled, facedown again, "maybe it would've been easier to get into this program."
Jack hadn't thought of that, actually. "Well...still. It's not like SG-1 can't get into trouble all on our own without you. "
"Mm," Daniel mumbled. "You must be so proud of yourselves."
Jack flicked his ear. "Hey, wake up." Daniel sneezed into his arms. "Take your allergy meds," he added. "And you've been on Abydos all week, so you're making up the training session you missed today."
Finally, Daniel raised his head. "I knew there was a reason I liked staying on base over the weekends."
"That's what happens when you live with the people in charge of training you," Jack pointed out. "And don't think I haven't seen Teal'c chasing you all over the base when it's his turn to deal with you, and you never complain then."
"Teal'c is scarier. He threatens me with sticks."
"Come on, put on your shoes and take your meds. We're going for a run."
"So," Jack said once they'd come back and showered, "Hammond wants a few more SG teams commissioned."
"Yeah?" Daniel asked, almost done field stripping Jack's gun, slowly but with an increasing familiarity. "Why?"
"So we can do more stuff, basically. He wants another diplomatic team and a couple of military units. The point is, we're going to be adding more technical specialists to the off-world teams."
Daniel paused with the parts laid out on the cloth on the table. "What kind of technical specialists?"
"Mostly engineers and translators," Jack said, as Daniel peered through the barrel before wiping it clean of months-old oil. "Might need you and Dr. Rothman to help with testing the recruits."
"We couldn't say much about the engineers," Daniel said. "You have Sam for that, anyway. But Robert was planning on looking for more cultural experts the next time he's at an academic conference. Most Egyptologists have some familiarity with the Ancient Egyptian language and often other languages, as well as general training as archaeologists and anthropologists."
"That's fine, but more immediately, we're looking for some specialists with military training."
Daniel squinted doubtfully at him. "Are there many cadets studying Egyptology at the Air Force Academy?"
"Probably not," Jack said, "though there are some who've got advanced degrees in that area. And there are plenty of language analysts, and people can learn new languages. They'll have to, anyway, when they find new dialects off-world."
"Civilians can still train and apply for field positions," Jack assured him.
"Okay, but how exactly are Robert and I supposed to help test military officers?" he asked.
"You leave physical and tactical standards up to us," Jack said, reaching to check each part after Daniel finished with it, just to make sure. "But we need people who can think on their feet if they meet a puzzle in the field, and we want the scenarios to be as realistic as possible. Don't worry," he added, "I won't make you fight anyone for training."
"That's good," Daniel said absently as he started to reassemble.
"Yet," Jack added under his breath.
"What?" Daniel said.
Jack gave him his best innocent look. "I said 'pay attention.'"
"Right," Daniel said suspiciously, but he let it go, turning back to pay more attention to what his hands were doing. He worked carefully, slowly, and still a little hesitantly, but speed would come with practice.
"So, if you and Rothman could make a list of things that you think would reflect off-world issues," Jack continued, "and things you think they should be expected to know, that'd help. Pull some situations—or adapt them—from actual missions or projects for practical tests."
Silence answered him, and Jack wondered for a moment whether these exercises in distraction were too distracting, but then Daniel handed the pistol to Jack for inspection. "Okay. I can think of a few right now. It would help if we knew what you usually do to the recruits..."
"What do you mean, 'what we usually do to them'?" Jack asked as he checked to make sure everything was in place. "You make it sound like we're torturing them."
Daniel raised his eyebrows at him. "I've heard the new people complaining about their testing. Apparently, you're mean."
"I'm mean?" Jack repeated. "I approved someone whose best insult was that I'm 'mean?'"
"No, that was my version; he was much less polite," Daniel assured him. "But I was asking so that we have a general idea of what you're looking for."
"Well, I brought some stuff back with me, too," Jack said. "I'll let you read over what kinds of things we've done in the past. Go and wash your hands—I'll put this away."
2 May 1999; O'Neill/Jackson Residence, Earth; 1000 hrs
Jack checked his watch, not sure who might be at his door. With a shrug, he stood and pulled the door open. "Sara," he said, only half-surprised once he saw her face.
Sara stood awkwardly on the step, dressed in what he recognized as slightly more than casual for her. Businesslike, almost. "Hi, Jack," she answered. "Can I come in?"
"Ah..." he said, then stepped back. "Yeah, sure."
She gave him a tight, polite smile, then squeezed past him and into the house. He closed the door, and when he turned around, she was looking into the kitchen as if assessing it, and Jack was suddenly very conscious of plates still unwashed in the sink and two empty mugs that hadn't even been brought to the sink yet. It was dumb—she wasn't here to judge his housekeeping skills—but he had a good idea of why she was here.
"So," he said, "can I get you something to drink, or..."
"Some water would be nice," Sara said, sounding completely calm, though he knew her well enough to see that she was as uncomfortable as he was.
Water was easy. There was never much in the way of perishable foods around the house, but water was plentiful, a fact that, even after over a year, sometimes still made Daniel pause. "Why don't you come into the living room," Jack invited. She nodded and followed him to a couch. "How are you?"
"I'd rather not beat around the bush," she said as she sat.
Jack studied her expression warily. "Okay."
She dipped her head for a minute, and when she raised her eyes again, they were steely and determined. "I came for an explanation, Jack. I think I deserve that much."
And she did, of course she did. How was it right for her to see a walking, talking copy of her son—a copy of their son—and then get fed some line about 'classified, can't say'? That wasn't fair to anyone. "Yes. You do. But—"
"What was that thing?" she interrupted. "I know what—who it looked like, but..."
"It wasn't him."
Sara gave him a severe look. "Yes, I managed to figure that one out all on my own," she said dryly, but with more than a hint of a bite in the words.
Jack tightened his jaw. She knew this routine, knew how the job worked, knew the position she was putting him in just by asking, and knew what he would inevitably have to say. And she knew Jack, knew him—she must know how much he'd want to say this, how much it meant to him, too, had to know he wasn't being evasive without good reason. "You know I can't say anything."
"It's classified," she said flatly. It wasn't a question, so Jack didn't answer. "Top secret, matter of national security, hush-hush, confidential..."
"I know how this works," she said, her voice dropping to an intense quiet. "But...my god, Jack—you people can't barge into my life with my ex-husband and son and then forget about me!"
"It wasn't him, I know. So who the hell was it? Why did I see someone who looked exactly like you, who knew everything you knew, and when I turned around, it was Charlie? And what in the world is Stargate?" She exhaled. "No, I don't care about Stargate. You want to keep that under wraps, fine, but... I was promised an explanation. And all anyone can tell me is that they can't tell me anything?"
Jack opened his mouth to say, 'yes, that's all I can tell you,' but then closed it, because he wasn't sure that the next words out of his mouth wouldn't be 'no, I'll tell you everything.'
A sneeze sounded from the top of the staircase, and then footsteps, descending quickly as a congested voice called, "Hey, Jack, I just thought of something about—"
"Daniel, wait..." Jack called back quickly.
"—that time on P3X—"
The words cut off with another sneeze. Daniel appeared around the railing, rubbing at an eye and looking confused, until his gaze lit on Sara. "Oh," he said, his eyes widening and a notepad flipping shut. "I'm sorry, I didn't hear—" He stopped abruptly, looking from Sara's startled expression to the bookshelf where a photo stood, even though there was no way he could see it from his angle. "Oh. Oh! Uh, I'll...uh, I'll just..." He flushed and pointed in the direction from which he'd come. "Sorry."
"No, I'm sorry," Sara said, standing stiffly. "I didn't realize you had company, Jack."
"No, no, no, no," Daniel said quickly. "I'm not—please don't...it's not that"—he sneezed again and blinked—"not that important. I'll stay out of the way until you're. Done. With the." He gulped and looked to Jack. "Um."
Jack closed his eyes for a minute and reopened them, between relief and dismay at the interruption. "Sara, don't go. This is Daniel, a friend and a...coworker. Daniel, Sara O'Neill."
With another glance at Jack, Daniel stepped forward to shake her hand. "Pleased to meet you, ma'am," Daniel said politely, almost the exact same words as the first words he'd spoken to Jack on Abydos two years ago.
"Call me Sara," she answered slowly.
"Sara," Daniel amended, still with an eye on Jack.
"A coworker of Jack's?" Sara asked dubiously, her gaze unerringly finding the shape of his dog tags through his thin shirt—wearing them, again, for lack of pockets in his sweats. "You're in the Air Force?"
There was barely a pause before Daniel answered, "No, I just work for the Air Force—a civilian intern with the linguists and the diplomatic staff." He gave her a nervous smile. "I'm very sorry for interrupting your..." He looked between her and Jack, his expression practically screaming 'sorry, sorry, sorry—leaving right now.' "...your conversation," he finished.
"I don't suppose," Sara continued, "that you would know about what happened earlier this week?"
Jack froze. Daniel did, too, flicking another glance at him, and then babbled, "Yes, I remember that. And everyone regrets very much that you were pulled into it, in such an invasive way—we didn't expect at all that something like that would happen...but...but none of us completely understands how it happened. I know how that sounds, but we did our best and really weren't able to understand the phenomenon completely, but it's...the situation is definitely contained now, so you'll never have to...and...so the." He shut his mouth abruptly, cutting off any further rambling that might lead to something he really wasn't supposed to say. Jack breathed again.
Sara stared at him suspiciously until he started to fidget, and then said, "I see."
"I'm sorry," Daniel said again, edging away. "I should really leave you to talk. I just came down to get...but I can come back..."
"Your meds are in the kitchen," Jack told him.
"Right," Daniel said, then all but ran to retrieve his antihistamines and retreated up the stairs.
Once he'd gone, Sara turned to Jack again. "He's young."
"Yeah," Jack said, because there was no lie that would hide that.
"Impressive. You've got him trained to toe the line already."
"I didn't tell him to say that," Jack said, trying not to bristle or to scoff at the idea that Daniel, of all people, toed any line but his own. "He really shouldn't have said as much as he did, in fact. But everything he said was actually true."
"I've gotten pretty damn good at knowing when something's being covered up, Jack," she said.
"And you've always been able to tell when it's the truth, too," he said.
"You won't tell me anything?" she asked. "Was that thing...some kind of robot or something? I saw the electric shocks, and the way he was acting, like he wasn't even human..." She laughed a little desperately. "Was it some twisted cloning experiment? Christ, I mean, is this what you do, do you see things like that all the time?"
Jack shook his head. "I've never seen anything like that before," he said truthfully.
"Jack..." She sighed. "I get it, okay. I don't really care what you're doing in that mountain. Just tell me you aren't doing some...experiment using our son. I have to know that."
He felt his eyes widen at the implication. "For cryin' out loud, Sara! I would never—" He took a second to think about what the possible explanations were and let out a slow breath. What was she supposed to think, after all? "What you saw was not... It didn't come from our work. We were just as surprised as you were, believe me. The only thing we had to do with it was making sure it never happens again. And it had nothing to do with our Charlie. I would never let that happen."
She pressed her lips together. "You know, for a few seconds, when I saw him...I almost...I thought—"
"I know," he whispered.
"And seeing him there, of all places..."
"I know. I'm sorry."
She nodded shortly. "Me too. I...I should go."
Sighing, Jack started, "Sara—"
She stood. "I know, Jack, I know. It's not about... Look, I remember this dance. I just...can't play along right now. You understand."
Jack understood. They always understood, even when they didn't or couldn't know; that was the way this worked. He nodded. Sara replaced her bottle of water on the table, unopened.
When they were at the door, he plunged his hands into his pockets and said, "Sara—how have you been? I would have...called."
She stopped with her hand halfway to the doorknob, gave him a tight smile, and said, "You should have. But I've been okay, Jack. How are you?"
"Okay," he said. "Good. Glad to hear—good." She waited another second, smiled sadly, and pulled him into a brief hug. Then she opened the door and left.
"I'm sorry," Daniel said immediately, when Jack knocked on his door. "I didn't know she was..."
"Not your fault," Jack said. "Bad timing."
Daniel looked past him into the empty hallway. "She left?"
"I didn't know she was coming, or I wouldn't have—"
"Wouldn't've changed anything," Jack told him. "Carter taught you to babble as a cover?"
"She said it works," he admitted. "I didn't know what to say."
"It's all right. So what were you going to say before when you came downstairs?"
There was a long pause, and then Daniel finally said, "It was just a question about the training scenarios you mentioned. That's all. Like I said, it's not...urgently important. Robert sent an e-mail with some possible projects to use as a basis..." He had a sheet of paper in his hand, looking unsure whether to hand it over.
"Fine," Jack said, taking it from him. "I'll give you guys more details about what we want. Actually, I've been thinking you might be able to help with the testing portion itself, but we'll see how the general wants to run it. Don't worry too much about it for now." When Daniel only nodded silently, he added, "This thing today, it'll happen again. One day, it might be someone you know asking you something you're not allowed to say. Let it go. There was no good way for that to go."
Daniel folded his arms and nodded, clearly only partially convinced. "It must be hard, never being allowed to tell. Or never being allowed to know. Especially—" He stopped. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm good," Jack said. "You learn. It will happen again, kid. That's how it goes." Jack waited for him to nod again, then left the room for his own. He closed the door behind himself, knowing Daniel wouldn't intrude for a while. He checked to see that his pistol was secured, unloaded, safe, then slumped into a chair with a sigh.
He sat until the sound of the kitchen sink and quietly clinking plates and cups reminded him he wasn't alone, then pushed himself to his feet and went to join his friend.
5 May 1999; SGC, Earth; 0800 hrs
All three of them were staring intently at Carter's laptop, and none of them noticed his presence when he walked in. Daniel and Teal'c were both holding a cookie in one hand, but the food seemed to have been forgotten in favor or whatever they were watching. "Exciting movie?" Jack asked, and finally Carter raised her head.
"Records from the Pentagon, sir," she said.
"Ah. Not exciting." He stopped and stared at Daniel. "Whoa. What happened to you?"
Daniel grimaced. So did Carter. "I took him to the barber last night, sir," she said.
"There was this device in the lab," Daniel explained, scratching self-consciously at his shortened hair. "Sam and the engineers were working on it, and I was trying to translate the words on the side of it. You know how I was saying a couple of weeks ago that there are some technologies that respond to vocal commands?"
"What did you do?" Jack asked warily.
"Apparently, that device responded to the word 'kek,'" Daniel said, brushing at a lock of hair that no longer existed.
"Well..." Daniel swallowed.
"'Kill' or 'death,'" Teal'c supplied. "In most cases."
Jack sighed. "What did you do?" he asked again.
"It kind of blew up, sir," Carter admitted.
"Just 'kind of?'"
"Actually...yes. We'd taken out some of the core already, so the fire was easily contained and extinguished."
Jack took a closer look at her and caught sight of a mild burn on her arm. "Let me guess," he said. "Daniel was closest, and his hair was a casualty."
"Sergeant Siler was closer," Daniel offered. "But Janet said he'll be fine in a few days."
Carter gave him a sheepish glance and refocused on her laptop. Teal'c gave him a look that said, 'I know exactly how you feel.'
"So," Jack said, resisting the urge to bang his head against a wall or laugh out loud at them all, "you decided to watch movies from the Pentagon, because nothing else could possibly match that level of excitement?"
"Oh, just wait, Jack," Daniel said, enthusiastic again. He claimed the mouse and rewound the black-and-white footage. "Did you know they worked on the Stargate as early as the 1940s? The Pentagon sent these records to us over a year ago, but there are hours of video and no one's had the time to watch more than the very beginning."
More like no one had had the patience to watch it all—what could there possibly be in research fifty years old that the current scientists hadn't already read or figured out themselves? "Until you got your hands on them, of course," Jack said dryly, moving so he could see what they were watching. "This is why you stayed on base last night?"
"And...Carter, are those...?"
"Chocolate-walnut, sir," Carter said, pushing a bag of homemade cookies toward Jack. Daniel pulled it back toward himself, and Teal'c reached over the top of his head to claim it. Jack snatched the cookie out of Daniel's hand instead.
"Healthy breakfast," Jack said, taking a big bite before Daniel could grab it back.
"Oh, is it morning?" Daniel said as Carter glanced at her watch.
Jack snorted. "How long have you people spent watching repeated failure?"
"They did not fail, O'Neill," Teal'c told him. "They simply did not know it at the time."
Jack raised his eyebrows. "What? What's that supposed to mean?"
Daniel gave him a quick smile and clicked 'PLAY.'
"Manually dialing the 'gate," Jack commented. "Ah, the good old days. Don't miss 'em a bit."
"Just watch, sir—it gets better," Carter said. She shook her head in wonder. "The probability of their finding a working address by random chance was phenomenally small."
He gave her a sharp look. "You're not telling me—"
On the monitor, an unstable vortex kawhooshed out, and Jack let his sentence trail off. He received three 'I told you so' looks.
Turning back to the video, he watched a man in what looked like a diving suit walk into the event horizon, several other men holding a tether that was attached to his suit.
"Oh, God," Jack said, realizing what was about to happen a second before the wormhole closed and the tether was cut off.
The monitor went blank and then looped back to the beginning. Carter paused it again.
"They only had the barest idea of how it worked or what it was supposed to do," she said. "They probably only understood that they'd lost a man, and even if they'd sent someone else after him, they'd have had almost zero chance of getting back to earth without knowing how the DHD works or how to dial back."
"They didn't," Daniel added. "Didn't send someone else, I mean. I went through every report of everything they sent, and there's nothing following this incident. It looks like that might be why they shut the program down and didn't reopen it again for decades."
"Then that man's been stuck there for...over fifty years," Jack said. If he was still alive, even. "Do we know what that address was?"
"That's why Daniel brought this to Teal'c and me," Carter said. "I've almost finished identifying all of the glyphs by computer enhancement of the footage, and then we can see if it matches anywhere we know."
"Who was he?"
Daniel shook his head. "The written records stop before that...uh, experiment happened. I've found the names of the scientists, but there's no way to match a name to the face. But...what about..."
"What?" Jack prompted.
"My parents used to talk a lot about Dr. Catherine Langford. I know she was the one who restarted the program leading up to Abydos '82, and her father was the one who uncovered the Stargate at Giza. He was in charge of this," Daniel added, gesturing toward the monitor. "I can't imagine that she wouldn't know."
Carter was nodding enthusiastically. "Yes, I worked with Catherine when we were developing the dialing computers a few years ago. She doesn't have clearance, but I don't see why that can't be changed."
"We're not exactly afraid she'll find out about the top secret Stargate," Jack agreed, and now Catherine's name had been mentioned, he was a little ashamed that no one had thought to contact her sooner. He himself hadn't been involved with the research done on Stargate dialing between the two Abydos trips, so he hadn't seen her in over a decade, since he'd told her after the first mission that her two protégés were still alive and well and living on another planet. It didn't seem right that she, of all people, should be kept completely out of the loop.
"Well, she might know who that man in the video is," Daniel pointed out. "Could we ask the general to get her clearance?"
"I don't see why not," Jack said. "Restricted access, maybe, since she's not fully involved in the program anymore, but I don't see the general turning it down."
"Got it," Carter said, moving aside so they could see snapshots of the glyphs enhanced and blown up. "This is the address they accidentally dialed."
After a moment's thought, Daniel said, "It might be close to Abydos. It's almost the same address, but with Sagittarius replaced by Aquila. If it's as close to Earth as Abydos is, planetary shift wouldn't have been a problem. But I don't recognize the coordinates."
"Teal'c?" Jack said.
"It is unfamiliar to me, as well," Teal'c said after another moment.
"I recognize this one," Carter said. "At least, I think I do."
Daniel frowned, as if displeased that he hadn't, in fact, memorized every address known to Stargate Command. "Which planet is it?"
"I think this was one of the ones left from the Ancient database, not the Abydos cartouches."
"So it's not a Goa'uld planet," Jack said.
"No, sir, probably not," she said. "But there's another problem. I'll double-check, but I think we tried to dial into this address just a few weeks ago and couldn't get a lock."
"Why not?" Daniel asked.
Carter grimaced. "Any number of reasons, you know that. Maybe the 'gate was buried."
"Or destroyed," Teal'c said.
"Either way," she said, "we can't get through."
"Oh," Daniel said.
7 May 1999; Langford Residence; 1000 hrs
"You let a strange man in the house?"
"Yes, I'm sorry—he says he knows you."
The voices reached them before they saw her. Jack stood as she walked into the room, and Daniel followed a second later. "Catherine," Jack said.
Dr. Catherine Langford stopped in her tracks, gaping. "Jack O'Neill? Is that you?"
"It's good to see you again," he said, torn between a friendly greeting and standing at attention. "It's been a while."
"It's been...sixteen and a half years," she corrected. "Has something happened?"
"Yes, actually," Jack said bluntly. "General George Hammond replaced General West, for one, and he has authorized me to update you on a few things concerning the Stargate." When she only waited, he finished, "Catherine, we've restarted the program."
Catherine looked alarmed, then a little suspicious. "They made me retire a few years ago. Why now? Did something happen? And why am I being told?"
"Why don't we sit down," Jack suggested, and it was only then that she seemed to notice Daniel's presence. She looked as though she were about to ask, then changed her mind and sat. "As for why you're being told...it was decided that you shouldn't be kept out of the loop, considering how much of your life you devoted to the project."
"It was decided," she repeated flatly.
Jack gave Daniel a sideways look. "It was convinced," he amended.
"You went back to Abydos. When?"
"In October of 1997."
"19—" Catherine gave him an accusing look. "That's almost two years ago! And you're just telling me now?" She shook her head, then asked, "Did you see Melburn? And Claire?"
Jack nodded solemnly, hearing Daniel shift next to him. "That's the other reason we came. You were the only other person who knew they were still living there. Catherine...I'm sorry. They were killed shortly after we went through and met them."
"Oh my god," Catherine said, pressing a hand to her heart. "Killed?"
"There was an attack," Jack said as gently as he possibly could with news like this. "They fought back with the Abydons. You worked closely with them for a while there, and I thought you should know that they died as heroes, to the Abydons and to us."
She took a settling breath. "And that...that's why the program has been restarted?"
"It's related," Jack said. "As it turns out, the Stargate goes all over the galaxy, not just to Abydos. Earth was attacked by the same aliens that attacked Abydos, and we've been trying to learn more about them ever since."
"What about..." Her gaze settled on Daniel. "You're their son," she said, not as a question.
Daniel glanced at Jack, then looked back. "Yes, Dr. Langford," he said. "How did you..."
"You take after them," she told him with a hint of a sad smile. "And I know they were hoping to find somewhere to start a life for themselves, away from..." She waved a hand vaguely. "Away from all of this. You were born there, then." He nodded, wearing an expression that was more curious than surprised. "I guess they found their new life," she said. "I'm sorry for your loss."
"I." Daniel nodded uncertainly, eyes darting away and then back. "Thank you."
"Were they happy?"
"They..." he tilted his head, then gave her a tentative smile. "Yes. They were. They were very happy there. How did... They told you they were planning to stay on Abydos?"
"Oh, no," Catherine said. "Not in so many words—obviously, no one knew what they would find. But...I think they were hoping. Always had big, romantic dreams of finding something like that." After looking over him for another moment, she turned to include Jack. "Now, tell me what you're doing with Melburn's boy...ah...?"
"Daniel," Jack filled in.
Catherine nodded and studied Daniel's face again. "There must be quite a story to tell."
His eyes lit up. "I've heard a lot about you," he said. "My father said you said you saved their life when you recruited them."
"Nonsense," she said briskly. "They were young and resourceful—they would have found a job somewhere whether or not I came along."
"All the same, Doctor, I'm glad you did," Daniel told her, sounding almost shy, and Jack wondered how many childhood tales he'd heard about the legendary Dr. Catherine Langford.
Catherine melted and gave him a warm smile. Then she turned to Jack and scowled at him. "And what do you think you're doing, not telling me right away that you'd opened the Stargate again?"
"Ah..." Jack said.
"That's what I thought," she said. "I devoted decades of my life to that project, you know. I can't believe no one thought I deserved to know."
"We can show you now," Daniel spoke up.
"That's the other reason why we're here," Jack clarified. "If you wouldn't mind the trip, we can show you our little operation, give you a tour..."
"I have a lot of questions I've been hoping to ask you," Daniel added timidly.
"Well, so have I, young man, and it's about time someone invited me over," Catherine said, drawing herself up sternly, though the excited twinkle in her eye made her look about as old as Daniel. "What are we waiting for?"
7 May 1999; SGC, Earth; 1300 hrs
"Catherine!" Carter greeted happily when they reached the briefing room, where General Hammond, the flagship team, and their head archaeologist waited.
"Samantha," Catherine returned with a bright grin. She was a little more wary when General Hammond walked toward her. "General."
"Dr. Langford," Hammond said politely.
She shook his hand but glanced at Jack in question. "Oh, he's not like West was," Jack assured her, keeping an eye on his CO to catch the reaction when he added, "He's a teddy bear." He received pursed lips and a glare for that one, but he decided not to take it personally. "And this," Jack said, turning to the other member of his team, "is Teal'c."
Teal'c bowed formally.
Catherine leaned forward excitedly to shake his hand. "They were telling me about you on the way here."
"I am honored to make your acquaintance," the Jaffa said.
"You speak so well," Catherine said, surprised and fascinated.
"When it is appropriate," Teal'c told her.
When she released Teal'c's hand, he stiffened and glanced at Daniel, who grinned at him and said, "Wedjat. Chel nak?"
Jack started to remind him that it wasn't polite to speak in foreign languages around guests, but Catherine said, "That's right. You recognize the wedjat eye, then."
"Indeed," Teal'c responded, his expression becoming at once both more respectful and more wary.
When he saw the others' curious looks, Daniel explained, "Oh, it's just..." He pointed at his own chest and then at the necklace Catherine was wearing. "The Eye of Horus, or of Ra. It's said to be the sign of the gods, but it was good luck for us instead, wasn't it? My parents said that necklace played a part in starting the Great Rebellion."
"It is further proof that the Goa'uld are not all-powerful gods," Teal'c agreed.
Catherine fingered her necklace. "That's right," she said. "I gave it to Melburn before they left."
"And he gave it to Claire after we were done," Jack added, remembering. They'd all been a little drunk then—some of them drunk on the success of the Rebellion and most of them on strong Abydonian booze—and she'd only just remembered in the morning to give it to Jack to give to Catherine. 'Tell her it brought us good luck,' they'd said.
"It brought us good luck," Daniel said, like a line from a favorite bedtime story.
Catherine smiled back. "I haven't taken it off since."
"Where was that found?" Rothman asked. "That looks like another artifact found in, uh, Giza, I think, in the early 1900s."
"I'm sorry, I don't think we've met," Catherine said, turning to him.
"This is Dr. Robert Rothman," Hammond said as Rothman stood so fast he almost tripped. "He's taken over in the Egyptology and archaeology arena."
"Dr. Langford," Rothman said, "I've heard so much about you. I've read almost all of your work." Catherine raised her eyebrows. "I—I mean, I did a masters thesis on work relating to your research on the Giza excavations. And of course I've read everything you've done with the program here."
"I see," she said, looking amused as she took a seat. "I'm glad to see the military hasn't locked archaeologists out of the program. To be honest, General, I was almost expecting that to be the case when I heard the Stargate was back online."
"There's no danger of that happening, Doctor," Hammond assured her.
"Catherine," Jack said, "I admit we may have had a...tiny question for you."
She took half a second to look surprised before nodding sagely. "An ulterior motive. They only ever want me for my brain," she said conspiratorially to Carter, who grinned back. "Go ahead."
Hammond smiled. "Were you aware of research done on the Stargate before our program was started?"
"In the 1940s, up until 1945," Daniel added.
"Yes," she said easily. "My father and a team—mostly physicists—tried to make it activate. But they stopped their work in 1945, like you said. They never succeeded. Of course, from what I'm hearing about the...the planetary shift issue, I suppose they never had a chance."
So she didn't know after all. Jack glanced sideways at the general, whose expression remained impassive. "Okay," Daniel said. "I was looking over past records and was very surprised to find out that there had been testing at all. Even General Hammond didn't know the details until recently."
"I think it was even more classified than it is now," Catherine said, "and records weren't as easily organized. If it weren't for my father—and the fact that I knew some of the people working on it—I wouldn't have known it was happening, either."
"We were wondering—" Daniel started.
"Do you know why they stopped?" Jack interrupted smoothly. "Big discovery. Takes a lot of work to turn that thing over and over, and a lot of drive to want to do it. Must've been something big to make them give up."
She pursed her lips, folding her hands on the table. "Well. There was an accident. An explosion—precautions and regulations back then weren't quite the same as they are now. One of the scientists was killed, and I suppose it made them realize they were flying blind."
Carter nodded sympathetically. "Was it someone you knew?"
After a moment, Catherine smiled sadly. "Ernest Littlefield. My fiancé."
Jack felt Daniel's eyes snap to him but forced himself to ignore it as he said, "I'm sorry we had to bring that up, Catherine. Thanks for helping us set the record straight. We're doing our best to make sure nothing like that ever happens again."
"Well," Catherine said, "of course it won't, not with Samantha here to make sure things are running properly." Carter hesitated little, then gave her a smile.
"Thank you, Doctor," Hammond said. "Now, I'm afraid there are areas here that are unsafe, but you're welcome to look into other sections—Dr. Rothman and Mr. Jackson, I'm sure, would be willing to show you some of the archaeological discoveries that have been made."
She opened her mouth to answer, but Lieutenant Simmons' voice called over the PA, "Incoming wormhole!"
Jack stood, hearing and seeing the rest do the same. Catherine was up, too, but she was looking out the window, where the Stargate had started to turn.
"SG-9 is scheduled to return," Hammond said, and the room relaxed noticeably as Simmons added, "SG-9's IDC received."
"My God," Catherine breathed, her hands pressed against the window as the iris opened to show the shimmering, blue event horizon as Kovachek stepped through onto the ramp, followed by his team. "I never thought I'd see it again."
"I should go greet them," Hammond said. "Doctor, we can't tell you how much we appreciate your contributions here."
"Dr. Langford, we can show you around," Rothman offered.
Jack caught Daniel's arm before he followed them to the elevator. "We tried the address again," he said quietly. "No lock."
Daniel lowered his voice as well. "So Ernest Littlefield is lost."
"She's already grieved," Jack said. "You understand?"
"We're going to talk it over," he added, gesturing toward where the general was returning. "Until we decide..."
Daniel bit his lip, looking troubled, but nodded. "I won't say anything."
14 May 1999; SGC, Earth; 1300 hrs
Someone was snickering when Jack approached Rothman and Daniel's office. "Kal tek, Teal'c," Daniel scoffed. "Ona ne'naé hasshak, shek kree."
Inside, Daniel was leaning back in his chair, his legs crossed on the chair seat in front of him. Teal'c stood at what Jack would call parade rest in anyone else and was about as relaxed as it got for Teal'c. He answered shortly in Goa'uld. Daniel started, looking at Teal'c suspiciously, then leaned back again and laughed.
When Teal'c turned around and saw Jack, Daniel noticed his presence, too. "Hey," Jack said. "What are you two giggling about?"
"Oh, um, it's...wasn't about you, Jack," Daniel said quickly, which was somehow not very reassuring. Teal'c said something else in Goa'uld, and Daniel smirked, ducking his head until his face was wiped clear.
"What—what?" Jack said.
Someone walked past him into the office—the new, fresh-faced civilian archaeologist, Blinky, Binsky, something like that—and told him, "I think they were talking Jaffa weaponry, Colonel, nothing suspicious."
"Aw, Cameron, you ruined it," Daniel complained as the archaeologist—Balinsky, that was it—pulled a book from the shelf, chuckling.
"You need this for the next hour or so?" Balinsky asked.
Daniel barely glanced at it before saying, "Not me."
"Don't you two have work to do?" Jack asked, stepping in as the archaeologist left with a gigantic reference tome in his hands. "Especially you, kid. Aren't you supposed to be busier when Rothman's off-world?"
Daniel dropped his feet to the floor. "I was supposed to make an assessment on some symbols that SG-1 found on some world with some interesting people who didn't speak any language they recognized. But I seem to be missing someone's report, Jack."
"Ah," Jack said, hiding his smile along with his chagrin. "That report."
"Wasn't it supposed to be filed this morning?" Daniel asked.
"I'll do it soon," Jack said. "Besides, there's not really much in it that wouldn't be in Teal'c or Carter's." Nothing to do with the symbols, anyway. "Seriously, were you guys making fun of me before?"
"We were not, O'Neill," Teal'c said. "I was relating a folktale of my people."
"It's similar to an Abydonian one," Daniel said, "but I still think he's making up the part about the knives and the falling rocks."
Jack raised his eyebrows, looking from one to the other and unable to tell which of them was trying to pull whose leg this time. "Right."
"What about you—what are you doing here?"
"I believe O'Neill is attempting to avoid writing his report," Teal'c said.
"Funny," Jack told them sourly. "Next time someone accuses you guys of an alien conspiracy, I'll back 'em up."
Teal'c looked like he might take offense at that, but Daniel shrugged and pointed out, "It would be harder to make that believable anymore, now that more people around here are learning Goa'uld and Abydonian."
"Who's learning Abydonian?" Carter asked as she knocked and slipped in.
"Well, I think everyone should," Daniel said.
"Oh, here we go," Jack muttered.
Daniel gave him a look. "It could be helpful. You're all at an advantage, since you have Teal'c on your team, but I've heard about all sorts of odd blunders teams have made by linguistic accident. Once, when I went with SG-2, we asked someone for a spare duck."
Jack frowned. "You what?"
"Well, not on purpose. It was an odd language," he added defensively. "I was still learning it."
"We've done things like that, too," Carter said. "There was that time when we needed to ask some people a few questions for clarification. Teal'c was guarding our camp at the moment, so the colonel and I had to make do with the bits and pieces of Abydonian that we know. We tried to ask about their stone quarries."
Teal'c smirked. "O'Neill in fact requested that they present their battle axes."
Daniel made an 'oh' face. "That's...impressive. You know, anytime you want someone to go with you to help translate, so it's not always on Teal'c..."
"Yeah, we know," Jack said, some amusement fading away. "You wait and see."
He wrinkled his brow, looking from Jack to Teal'c and then to Carter. "Wait and see what?"
"Wait and see, Mr. Jackson," Jack repeated. "So anyone here have lunch yet?"
"What?" Daniel asked, thrown by the change in topic.
"Lunch. Sustenance. Food."
Daniel looked up at the clock. "Oh. We haven't," he said, indicating Teal'c and himself.
"I've been running diagnostics all morning," Carter said.
Jack shrugged. "I'm procrastinating, you're waiting for me to finish procrastinating, Carter's running diagnostics...c'mon. You can tell us the folktale while we eat."
"Uh," Daniel said, holding up a finger as he came to his feet, "you really don't want to hear it while you eat." He made a mark on one of the folders on his desk and moved it over to Rothman's pile of stuff. "And I was just kidding about the procrastinating. Sam already gave me the video she took of the symbols, so I don't really need your report, Jack."
As they trooped out and headed for the commissary, Daniel waited for Carter and Teal'c to be engaged in some conversation or other before turning to Jack and asking, "Have you tried Ernest Littlefield's planet again?"
"Yeah," Jack confirmed. "Twice over the last week, just in case." Carter had spat out a few improbable but possible theories that gave them reason to keep trying: the 'gate was immersed in water and might be open occasionally when the tide was out; there was a local superstition that kept it buried only at certain times; the calculations were off and had to be readjusted. No one liked the idea of leaving a man stranded out there, and plenty of people were interested to know what they could find on non-Goa'uld planets.
"And...?" Daniel prompted.
Jack shook his head. "No."
Daniel chewed his lip. "He was a brave man. Do you think...should we have told Dr. Langford?"
"The general decided to tell her before she left," Jack said.
They hadn't been sure whether to tell her—that her father had lied to her, that her fiancé might have been alive and alone for fifty years, and that they finally knew and couldn't even go through to find him and bring him back. What was the point? But—"She deserved to know he went out as a bona fide hero, not just in a random accident." She'd taken it well enough, though, and it had earned them a little more respect from her, too, for not hiding it.
"He deserved for the world to know," Daniel said.
"The world can't know," Jack reminded him.
"I understand; it just doesn't seem right. No one will ever know his story, or the story of other people here who gave their lives."
"We know it," Jack said. "The people here know it. Maybe one day, the project will be declassified, and the whole world will know it."
"And until then?" he asked.
Jack dropped his hand on Daniel's shoulder and steered him into the elevator after Carter and Teal'c. "Until then, we make sure it wasn't wasted. We move on. All right?"
Daniel glanced at the other two. Carter was still talking, but she paused to give him a smile, and Teal'c nodded minutely, so that Jack wondered if they'd been listening the whole time. "All right," Daniel agreed. "There are many stories left to tell."
Final Notes: Thank you for sticking with this to the end, and thanks to all those who commented on previous chapters!
The sequel to this, book 3 ("Brotherhood"), is posted. I'm planning on more-or-less stopping after the fourth book ("Archaeology"). I am keeping this universe open, though, so I can keep playing around in it; there's one arc I'm especially interested in exploring beyond season 4, and that kind of thing may happen as shorter stories or one-shots.
Anyway, thanks so much for staying with me. Please let me know what you thought, specifically or overall—I really appreciate all your feedback!