Daniel flew through the Gate, ducking as shots blasted through after him, praying that the Gate would close before they were able to come through. As soon as he got back to Earth, he would recommend that the inhabitants of P4X-882 not be approached ever again. Anyone who was different deserved to die, according to their philosophy, and that had included a naïve SG-1. His teammates had managed to make it to Earth, but a streak of bad luck had prevented his getting through the Gate with them and the loss of his GDO. It was now in pieces in his pocket, and he knew that reassembling it was far beyond his technical capabilities. Praying against any and all hope that he could make it, he Gated to a world that the SG teams had been exploring lately, hoping that he could meet up with a team and make it back to Earth. So far, it appeared uninhabited, so it was safe for one scrawny archeologist.
The Gate closed, and he collapsed with relief, flopping into the grass where he was and savoring the fact that he was alive. It had been a tense morning, and now that he was no longer in danger the adrenalin that had been keeping him going suddenly sputtered to a stop and made him slow to a halt. He didn't want to move for the next month.
Still, he knew he had to move; he had to get up, dial the Gate, and radio the base so they could open the iris for him. Groaning a little with the effort, Daniel got himself back to his feet and headed towards the DHD.
And froze as he saw the people standing not ten feet away from him, watching.
They weren't an SG team, that was for certain, since he recognized none of them and they weren't wearing BDUs or carrying any equipment. There were six of them in all, and they were regarding him with a mix of surprise and curiosity.
Daniel raised his hand in a little wave to show him that he wasn't holding a weapon. "Hello," he said, praying that this wouldn't be a repeat of 882. "My name is Daniel Jackson."
One man separated himself from the group and stepped forward. "I am Maykell Ludon," he said, regarding Daniel with…curiosity? Speculation? "We saw you come through the Ring."
Daniel nodded. "I apologize if I am trespassing, Maykell," Daniel said quickly, praying that they wouldn't think he was a deity. "I needed a safe place to go for a short time."
Maykell nodded. "The Ring is a transport device. You were traveling? Exploring?"
Daniel blinked, surprised. "You know what the…Ring is?"
"Our archeologists have posited several theories, but the most popular one has always been that it is some sort of way to travel. It is nice to have the theory confirmed," Maykell told him. "From where have you come?"
Daniel felt a wave of relief. "Uh, from a very dangerous place, and I was separated from my team. They managed to make it home but I wasn't able to follow the way they went, so I came here. From here I'll contact them."
"Amazing," another man said.
"Daniel Jackson, I wonder if you would consider staying here at least for the night," Maykell said quickly. "You are the only person we have ever known who has come through the Ring, and we would like to talk with you."
"I would like to, but I have to contact the rest of my team to let them know that I'm all right," Daniel said, surprised and pleased with the sudden invitation. These people were much more friendly than the people of 882! "It will only take a few minutes." Boy, would the SGC be surprised to learn that this place was inhabited after all!
Maykell nodded. "I see. Well, please do so, and then we will head to town and introduce you to our Council."
"That would be nice," Daniel said, dialling the DHD. He radioed the base, and General Hammond sounded very relieved, as did the rest of SG-1, that he was in one piece. He let them know about his GDO and his invitation from the people he'd met.
"Daniel, according to reports, there are no people there," Jack said, surprised. "Sure you didn't get hit on the head? You're not hallucinating, are you?"
"No, I'm not hallucinating, Jack," Daniel told his friend. "They're right here beside me."
"Sure they are," Jack said, not sounding convinced.
Sighing, Daniel tried to think of a way to convince them. Even General Hammond, Sam, and Teal'c sounded as if they weren't quite sure if they believed him, so he called Maykell to his side and asked him to speak to them, after giving him a crash course on how to use the radio.
Maykell was delighted with the chance. Clearing his throat, he pushed the button and spoke. "Hello? Are you there?"
General Hammond's voice came back. "You're not Dr. Jackson. Who is this?"
Maykell's grin was a match for Daniel's. "I am Maykell Ludon," he said. "Daniel Jackson is here with us. He asked me to speak to you so you would believe him."
"Okay, we believe him," Jack said, sounding very surprised. "Daniel, we'll be coming in a little bit, if that's all right with everybody else there? You know, we'd like to meet them too, and General Hammond is nodding, so we have a go."
Daniel smiled at Jack's use of the General's phrase before turning to Maykell. "Could they come?"
Maykell smiled and gave a slight bow. "Of course. One of us will remain here to meet them."
Daniel thanked him warmly and then transmitted that information to Jack, who said that they'd be there in about two hours.
Once Daniel was done with calling home, Maykell led him and the rest of the group away from the Gate and towards the hills to the east. As they walked, Daniel asked questions about the society, what the planet was called, and about their history. Maykell waxed eloquent about history all the way to the hills, and once they reached the crest, Daniel saw (of all things) a van.
"You have vehicles?" he said, surprised.
"A good number of them," Maykell assured him.
"What powers them?"
"A special kind of power cell," Maykell said as they all piled into the van. "It only needs to be changed once a year."
Daniel wondered if they would be amenable to trading power cells for other things. Such power cells could bring an end to the dependence on fossil fuels!
The ride took about half an hour, and during that ride Daniel kept his fellow passengers at a run with questions. It seemed that they were all either historians or archeologists (Maykell was both) and they had gone to the Gate to study it. Their history began with their arrival on the planet and continued to the present day. They'd been brought to the planet by a cruel slave driver whose name had been struck from the records after his death during the rebellion against him. They called him "Unspeakable" whenever they wished to refer to him, and to call someone a "son of Unspeakable" was the worst insult anyone could use. The people were passionate about their history, and to choose history as your field of study in school was very laudable.
They reached their destination, and Daniel stared at it in shock. Those SG teams must have been walking around the planet with their eyes closed! How could they have missed a city? "That's impressive," Daniel said, staring. "You know, other teams who came to this world failed to find this place."
"That is because we did not allow them to find it," Maykell said. "We did not know why they were here, so we hid ourselves and the city."
"How?" Daniel blurted, curiosity overcoming him. "How do you hide something that...big?" Were these people on a technological par with the Nox?
"With screens," another man said. (Daniel still had not learned all their names.)
"Screens?" Daniel echoed, not quite understanding.
Maykell nodded. "We simply put up screens. Your eyes do not see what they think they see when they're looking at a screen."
"I'm sure that will make sense later," Daniel said after thinking about it furiously for a moment. "Maybe after a year or so of thinking."
Maykell chuckled as they drove into the city and down one of the streets. It appeared the van they were riding in was able to drive on road and off road, which he found very practical. They pulled up to a large building and parked, and several men and women came out to meet them, looking eager and pleasant.
"Maykell," the eldest woman said. "You have been gone for a very long time."
"We apologize, Elder," Maykell said, giving a slight bow. "We have met someone that arrived through the Ring. Daniel Jackson, this is the Council, and Councilmembers, this is Daniel Jackson, who came through the Ring seeking a temporary sanctuary. We invited him for the night on your behalf."
Daniel bowed. "It is an honor to meet you, Councilmembers," he said, hoping that they wouldn't decide to send him straight back to the Gate. This place was interesting!
The Council bowed back. "An honor to meet you as well," the same woman said. Apparently, she was the head of the Council. "Please, come inside. A meal has been prepared."
That surprised Daniel. Had they known he was coming? How? Perhaps Maykell had something like a radio? Hmm.
Inside the building was a gorgeous mosaic on the walls, the floor, and even the ceiling. According to what his hosts said, the mosaic represented their first two centuries of history after the fall of Unspeakable. Daniel found it all fascinating, and he indulged in a few minutes of staring at it until he realized that he was keeping everyone waiting. The Council, Maykell, and Maykell's group led Daniel through a door into another room. This one was a dining room, consisting of a table packed with food and cushions around the table for the guests to sit on. Daniel was seated at the Elder's right, and within a few minutes Daniel was at a run with questions. Where had he come from? What had been the danger that threatened him? What kind of work did he do? History? Oh, that was interesting! They asked several questions about his work, but Daniel only gave them short answers that he would explain more fully later, if he were allowed to. After all, he hadn't received approval from General Hammond to reveal everything he knew to these people yet.
"It sounds as if you are often gone from your home," one of the Council said. "Your family doesn't mind?"
Daniel wished that hadn't come up. "I don't have a family," he confessed.
The Council exchanged looks of surprise. "You don't?"
Daniel shook his head. "No. My parents died when I was young, and I have no brothers or sisters. The only relative I have left no longer lives nearby, and he and I were never close."
"But you don't have a wife or children?" the Elder persisted.
"Poor lad," she said, patting his knee. "Alone in the world. Any family here would be happy to have you."
Daniel shrugged. "It's not that important. I mean, I'm used to it." By this time, the meal was finished, and servers were pouring drinks for everyone and handing them out. The Elder requested that a special drink called cabas be brought, to toast Daniel's arrival.
"You must try this," she said, filling his cup herself and handing it to him. "It is our very best."
Daniel took the cup and looked at it. "Is it wine?" The color was similar, but the scent reminded him of an orange creamsicle.
Maykell chuckled. "It is a fruit juice, Daniel, and it is a great favorite. Try it," he said, taking a drink from his own glass.
Fruit juice could still get me drunk, Daniel thought, remembering some celebrations on other planets that had given him a hangover with 'fruit juice.' Still, not wishing to appear rude he took a sip and smiled as the taste hit him. This stuff tasted like everything wonderful at once! It tasted like ice cream, birthday cake, cinnamon buns, and chocolate walnut cookies! In the next moment he'd taken two more mouthfuls, and he felt himself smile. Oh, the rest of SG-1 would love this! He went to take a third mouthful and realized his glass was empty. Without being asked, the Elder refilled his cup and he thanked her warmly. The stuff didn't taste like alcohol--there was no heat to it or even warmth, and he didn't feel dizzy or even tipsy. It was fruit juice with an incredible taste! He could see why it was a favorite!
He put his glass down, savoring the taste after his latest drink and smiled. Oh, if it were possible, he would take a barrel of this stuff back to Earth with him. It was fabulous! "I don't know when I've enjoyed something more," Daniel told the Elder.
"We're glad you like it," she said kindly. Talk turned to other matters, and for a few minutes Daniel was able to ask some questions of his own. He was in the middle of a question about the layout of the city when suddenly he couldn't get the words out. It was as if his tongue had gone to sleep! Oh, no, was he going to have an allergic reaction to the cabas? Didn't they happen faster than this, though?
"Is something the matter, Daniel?" the Elder asked, seeing his distress.
"Ah...fill...fuhnee," Daniel managed to get out. "Sumtin's wrong."
Maykell was at his side in a moment, pulling him away from the table and helping him to lie down on the cushions underneath him. "It will be all right in a little while, Daniel," Maykell told him, a hand on his shoulder to keep him prone.
"Wha's goin' on?" Daniel persisted, beginning to be frightened.
If Maykell or anyone else made an answer, Daniel didn't hear it. Sleep swooped down with gentle arms and carried him away.
Jack didn't like the fact that Daniel was on that planet alone. He and the rest of SG-1 were ready within an hour, suiting up as the Gate was dialed, and as soon as they reached the Gate room everything was ready for immediate departure. Jack wanted to head through the Gate at a run (he knew how trouble-prone Daniel was), but he managed to hold himself to a sedate walk. On the other side was their escort, a single man who introduced himself once the Gate had closed.
"I am Lidan," he said with a nod of his head. "It is good to meet you, but I fear you have made a useless trip."
Jack stared at him. "I'm Colonel Jack O'Neill," Jack said. "What do you mean, a 'useless' trip?"
Lidan sighed. "Daniel said that he remembered something and he needed to return to your world right away. We asked him to wait for you, but he was determined, so we had to let him go. He said he would return and I was assigned to wait for him, but he has not come back."
"He hasn't been to our world," Sam said, sounding very surprised. "That doesn't sound like Daniel at all."
Jack shared her opinion. "Are you sure he left?" Jack asked, fixing the man with a patented Jack O'Neill gimlet stare.
The man had to have ice water running in his veins, because he didn't even flinch. "I am certain."
"Why would Daniel Jackson ask us to come when he was not even going to be here?" Teal'c wondered.
"I dunno," Jack muttered, looking around. There was the Gate, the grassy hills around them, and Lidan. No Daniel, no sign that something was wrong, but they still suspected that there was something not quite right about this place. "When Daniel arrived here, what did he do?"
"He came with us to town, looked around, asked questions, and then he came back here and left," Lidan answered.
"Well, looking around and asking questions sounds like Daniel," Sam said, fighting a smile. Daniel was a question machine.
"Do you remember which symbols that Daniel Jackson dialed?" Teal'c asked.
"I was not watching," Lidan admitted with chagrin. "I was not certain if the symbols were something he could share with us or not. He did tell us that some things had to remain secret, so we respected that wish."
"Damn," Jack muttered. What if he had gone back to 882? But why would he do that? None of this made any sense. "How long ago did he leave? Just before we got here or earlier than that?"
"Earlier. He was only here a short time."
Sam began asking questions about the planet's time, and within five minutes she'd calculated that Daniel had left a half-hour earlier than their arrival.
"We were still suiting up at that point," Jack said. "And the Gate was dialed right after that. That's a really tiny window to get back to Earth, and the fact that he didn't arrive on Earth..."
"Where else would he go?" Sam asked.
Jack shook his head. He didn't know, and he was praying that Daniel wasn't in some kind of trouble. "I don't think he could have gone to Earth. His GDO..."
"His GDO was smashed!" Sam said. "Then, he couldn't have come home!"
"Look, Lidan, he didn't come to our planet, so where did he go? What did he say, exactly?"
"He said that he'd forgotten something and needed to return to your world, and he went. He didn't say anything else."
The look on Jack's face told the other members of SG-1 that their CO was suddenly very suspicious. Something about the situation was not adding up. Daniel knew better than to go haring off on his own--he and General Hammond had made sure that he understood that--and it wasn't like him to leave people hanging offworld. No, there was something not right going on here. "Could you show us around until Daniel comes back?" he suggested.
"Of course," Lidan said, smiling. "I was hoping you would like to look around."
That was surprising--none of them had expected that Lidan would be so accommodating. They'd expected him to hurry them away, but now he was leading them away from the Gate and saying that he was hoping they would enjoy their visit. Jack and the rest of SG-1 followed, and Jack was certain that something was very wrong here.
When Daniel woke up, his head ached, and his body ached in every joint. Something felt...wrong. It felt as if he'd been crammed into a jar and had only just been taken out, and his muscles were still cramped from the confinement. He fought to open his eyes, and he blinked to clear them. He didn't have his glasses, and everything around him was blurry. Trying to sit up was impossible, and when he tried to move his muscles fought him. What was the matter with him? Why was he hurting? What on earth had happened?
Still struggling, he managed to make it onto his side, but in the next instant he lost his balance and slammed against something, something...he put out a hand, trying to figure out what it was. It felt like...bars? Bars?
"Easy," he heard as someone came up to him. "It will take a little while for you to feel better, but it won't be that long. You're Daniel, aren't you?"
"Yes," he rasped out as he felt hands turn him back onto his back. What he felt underneath him was a bed, and he was covered up, but where had the bars come from? What were they, and why were they there? Even more disturbing, he didn't recognize the person with him. "Who are you?"
"I am Physician Karres," he heard the person say. "I'm the one overseeing your case, as well as others in this ward."
"Physician? Ward? Where am I?"
"You're in a medical facility," Karres explained. "The Council sent you here."
"Have I become ill?" Daniel asked, not understanding. "The last thing I remember is feeling odd, and then I suppose I passed out."
"That is what happened, yes," Karres admitted. "How do you feel now?"
"I ache," Daniel complained. "Why? What happened?"
"You're not ill," Karres said, patting Daniel's shoulder in a manner meant to be comforting. "How you're feeling now is the result of a medical procedure."
"Procedure? What for?"
"To put you in your current state," Karres said, handing him a pair of glasses. "These have been made to fit you, and they're as close as we could make them."
Daniel took them and put them on, and he looked up at Karres, still not understanding. The glasses worked very well, but they weren't his own. He looked around, and he saw that the bars were actually bars. They formed a guard on either side of the bed and enclosed it entirely, like a crib, except that they weren't as high as the guards on a crib. He'd seen a child's bed in a museum of Victorian furniture once on a field trip during elementary school, and this bed reminded him very strongly of that. Hospital beds on Earth had rails on them to keep patients from falling out (God knew he'd been in enough of them while working for the SGC), but wasn't this taking it just a touch far?
That was when he noticed his hands. Something seemed very wrong with them. They seemed...cramped? The skin was shiny, very different from what he was used to seeing, and the fingers looked shorter. That was when he realized just what was different. His hands were smaller. Looking at himself he realized that his entire body was smaller. He stared up at Karres, horrified and not willing to believe it.
"What the hell did you do to me?!"