By the Light
"Are you sure you'll be able to read the instructions, Daniel?"
Careful of the drooping growth which made walking side by side difficult at this point in the trail, Daniel cut off his conversation with Iorund, their guide, and glanced back at Jack. As he turned, Daniel got a spectacular view of the planet looming overhead, despite the tall trees surrounding them.
Jotunheim, Land of the Giants, as these Norse descendants called it. And giant it was, compared to the small moon they lived on.
Seeing the planet floating up above was somewhat disconcerting. He kept feeling that the planet was about to fall on their heads, whereas exactly the opposite was happening.
"If the writing is similar to the samples I've seen in their shrines in the city, yes, with a bit of time, I can figure out whether or not we can help these people."
"Time is something we don't have before the moon slams into Yooyooham."
Daniel rolled his eyes and stressed the proper syllables. "Yotoonheim, Jack."
"What about the warnings Iorund mentioned?" Sam looked around the small, compact man walking between her and Daniel. Their guide wasn't typical of the people living here on the moon - most were tall and strongly built. Despite the technology used for the moon's upkeep, most of the people worked the land by hand, their bodies muscular and in good health. Iorund looked almost dwarfish compared to his brethren. They reminded Daniel of the people from Cimmeria, and were most likely distantly related to Gairwyn's people.
"Sunglasses?" Jack piped up from behind.
"What sunglasses?" Iorund asked, stumbling a little over the word. Although the English he spoke was at least good enough to make himself understood, Iorund often lapsed into his native Germanic tongue, from which Daniel could only grasp a few words here and there. Since Iorund was a scholar and was also the most familiar with English from the scrolls he'd studied through his work, and since he had spent time 'maintaining' the Tomb of Hodur, which was their destination, he'd been the best choice for their guide.
"The thing Jack's wearing over his eyes," Daniel replied with a smile at the man's quick, birdlike speech.
"Nononono," Iorund said, hands flying everywhere in alarm, almost jumping up and down as he stepped quickly before Daniel. "Anything over eyes make discomfort worse. Must look through eyes. Daniel must look through eyes alone. Not with�" he pointed at Daniel's glasses. "Eyes. Nothing more."
Daniel raised a hand to his glasses and adjusted them. Great, he'd have to try and read ancient text in trying circumstances, *and* without his glasses. And if he failed, these people's home, the artificial moon they lived on, would crash into the planet it was orbiting in a few weeks' time because the computers keeping the machinery working had failed, and there was nobody remaining with the knowledge to fix them. No pressure, really.
"I assume your people have attempted to repair the machinery yourselves." Teal'c, walking point, turned to look at Iorund.
"Yesyesyesyes. Told you by now. Nobody remembers. Last historic departed many years long ago."
The trail ended and Daniel saw a long, tall hill up ahead in a large, flat clearing; the well-travelled path led right to it. It resembled the Viking burial grounds on Earth, found on the East coast of North America. Daniel had always wanted to explore them, and never had gotten the chance to.
In the center of the mound of earth was an opening. The Tomb of Hodur, Iorund's people called it, in deference to the blind god of winter, snow and darkness.
"Here." Iorund hurried ahead and trotted towards the entrance.
Considering how flat the ground around them was, Daniel was pretty sure that the chamber inside was artificially created. He smiled at his thoughts. Of course it was artificial; the whole moon was.
Iorund stopped just before the entrance and without stepping over a slightly raised ledge, he stuck his head around the entranceway and peered inside. He quickly popped back and smiled at Daniel.
"I hope so, Iorund." Daniel's teammates had all stopped near the entrance and Daniel reached over to unclip his pack. Jack had joined Teal'c, who was already peering inside the building.
"Think this place will echo if I yodel?"
"Why would you want to�" Sam caught his pack as it released and handed it to him.
"Don't they yodel here?"
"The vikings don't yodel, Jack." He smiled his thanks to Sam, and removed pen, a small notepad and a tape recorder from his pack. "I don't know how long this will take." He placed the tape recorder into his pants pocket, folded his glasses and placed those into a vest pocket.
"So let's go over this again." Jack reached over and closed the flap over the pocket where Daniel's glasses rested. "Once you step through into there, the doors will close behind you thanks to a safety feature, and you'll be bombarded with lights while inside. You're gonna need to try and read everything in there�"
"Or write it down. I might need to do a translation."
"�Or do a translation. None of us can go in until a certain amount of time has passed�"
"Approximately an hour, sir." Sam left her exploration of the mound and came to join them. "Although I'm worried about the intensity of light you'll be exposed to, Daniel. An hour can cause a lot of damage."
"Iorund assured us that the lights won't cause permanent damage, and that it's just uncomfortable. People go in there regularly to keep it clean and tidy. That's one of Iorund's jobs." Daniel looked at Jack, suddenly worried that his friend might scrap the mission. "Come on, we promised we'd help, and we can't do that unless I go in there and at least try and read the text to see if there really are instructions on how to fix the computers."
"They don't have much time, sir. Even now, this moon is in such a low orbit that the engines may not be powerful enough to push it away from the planet's gravitational pull. If we can't fix the problem, we'll need to start evacuating the inhabitants pretty soon."
Jack nodded, and made a motion with his chin. "See ya in an hour."
Daniel nodded and hurried to the doorway. Iorund had said that the moment he entered the room, sensors on the floor would shut the door and begin the light show. It was a safety precaution to prevent anyone from tampering with the machinery � the lights were supposed to be disorienting enough to prevent strangers from being able to concentrate enough to do any damage, and Daniel hoped the Dramamine he'd taken earlier would help combat its effects.
He glanced at the doorway. The supporting structure, like most of the buildings in the city they'd visited, was made of some sort of super-strong plastic-like substance that none of them had ever seen before. It wasn't surprising that this building should be made of the same material. What was surprising was how it had been covered over with dirt and grass to make it look like part of the landscape. Another security feature, maybe? Camouflage? Precautions taken to protect it from whom? He hadn't had a chance to study that much of their history, the moment they learned of the moon's predicament, all efforts had gone to trying to fix it. Perhaps they had Goa'uld come here in their past. Although because of the Viking ancestry, Daniel suspected it was more an Asgard influence.
He gingerly stepped over the raised ridge and placed a foot inside. Nothing happened. He shifted his weight and brought his other foot over. He was in.
He looked around curiously, but as the only illumination was from the doorway behind him, he could only see a few feet in any direction. And all that was evident were mud-covered walls.
"Iorund, where's the writing�" The moment Daniel took a step to turn around, the doorway wavered. An opaque glass now separated him from his teammates, allowing muted light to shine through. If nothing else, he wouldn't have any trouble finding the exit.
He took a cautious step away from the glassy exit and was suddenly bombarded with light so bright that he cried out and immediately covered his eyes with his forearms. Despite his screwing his eyes tightly shut, he still could see the flashes through his eyelids where his arm didn't quite cover them.
He breathed deeply, trying to stay calm. Iorund had told him the lights were bothersome; hopefully in a few minutes he'd begin to adapt to the brightness.
He slowly eased his arm away from his face. Okay, it was bearable now. He cracked open his eyes and saw he could see. Barely.
And there, visible amidst the flashes on the now shiny walls, shone a vibrant emerald green script which Daniel had no trouble reading.
- - - - - -
Jack glanced at his watch for the umpteenth time and raised his leg until his knee was comfortably bent. Daniel had been in that room for fifty eight minutes. Carter had said approximately an hour, which could mean a few minutes more, a few minutes less. He'd been hoping for the few minutes less, but it looked like it would be more.
He could see the disco lights through the thick, dark glass. It was disorienting from this end, he couldn't imagine what it would be like for Daniel.
Jack's watch told him another minute had passed, so he stood up and wiped the dirt from the seat of his pants. He keyed his radio. "Carter, going on an hour."
"Yes, sir. We're on our way back now."
Jack stepped away from the trees and glanced towards the east. Yep, he could see the figures of Carter and Teal'c, who were quickly approaching from their exploration of a small bog a half kilometre away.
Iorund had gone with them but had returned a short time ago, mumbling about being bored peering into the dirty water. He was sitting on top of the mound, singing some kind of tuneless song that was beginning to grate on Jack's nerves.
He walked over to the entrance and leaned near the door in anticipation of its opening. He didn't want to seem too anxious or worried, but he was. Daniel's radio didn't work in there, and despite Iorund's assurances that the place wasn't harmful, Jack didn't trust the alien technology. He'd have been happier allowing Teal'c in there instead, but the Jaffa couldn't read the darned writing.
The lights suddenly stopped and the door folded onto itself, revealing the dark interior.
"Daniel?" Jack peered inside, and was surprised to see Daniel sitting with his back against the wall right next to the door. He had his elbows balanced against his knees, his hands covering his face.
"Daniel. You okay?"
Daniel turned his head slightly towards him, his hands following with the movement.
"You coming out of there?"
Slowly, Daniel lowered his hands. His eyes were tightly closed, his face wet with tears. Daniel reached an arm out blindly and Jack quickly caught it. Daniel stood up with a little difficulty and blindly took a shuffling step, eyes still tightly closed while Jack gently steered Daniel towards him. Jack could see his red, swollen eyelids as Daniel approached. He made sure he had a good hold on Daniel and then pulled him out of the room.
"Damn it," Jack mumbled as Daniel lurched against him. "Here, sit." He let Daniel slide to the ground and had him lean against the side of the hill. He reached into a pocket for a handkerchief and soaked it with water. Carefully he placed it over Daniel's eyes. Daniel jumped and gasped, then quickly reached for the wet cloth and pressed it hard against his eyes.
Daniel swallowed hard before replying. "Only near the end. I managed to read half the writing in there. I'm going to have to go back in for the rest."
"Are the answers inside there?"
Daniel nodded. "I think so. But everything's couched in odd phrases. I think I'm missing something, or I haven't found it yet."
"Daniel not fix?"
Jack jumped at the voice coming right next to his ear. Iorund had clambered down the hill without a sound and was standing right next to them.
"I didn't have time to read everything, Iorund. I need more information so once I rest a little, I'll try again."
Jack pushed the canteen against Daniel's arm. "Need a drink?"
Daniel swallowed again and shook his head. "Not yet. Maybe more Dramamine?"
"Oh." Jack got up and went to the tree he'd been sitting under, where he'd left Daniel's pack. As he reached inside for the medication, he saw Carter and Teal'c jogging towards them.
"Is Daniel all right?" Carter asked breathlessly as she reached Jack.
"A little sick to his stomach." Jack waved the blister pack at her and then punched out two pills.
"Here." He took one of Daniel's hands and dropped the pills in them. Daniel licked them off his hand, dry-swallowing them. Jack grimaced at the thought of how badly Daniel must be feeling.
"How bad are your eyes?" Carter was reaching for the wet cloth, trying to pull it away from Daniel's grasp.
"Just a little photosensitive right now." After a bit of tug-o-war, he allowed her to remove the cloth and he blinked his eyes open at her request. His eyes still tearing and bloodshot, he squinted up at her.
"I took some notes." Daniel reached into a back pocket and removed his notepad. Carter took it from him and flipped through it. Jack could see how Daniel's writing went from neat and precise on the first pages and quickly became sprawling and uneven. Carter glanced up from the notes and looked at Jack worriedly.
"I'm not sure I understand any of this," she began.
"No, you wouldn't. At least, not yet, because I don't understand it myself. I need to piece all of this together, and I'm sure I'm missing something. I have to go back in there."
The last was said in a voice that told Jack that was exactly what Daniel didn't want to do.
"What if one of us went in there instead, you think that might work?" Jack thought maybe they could copy down the writing and then bring it out for Daniel to read.
But Daniel shook his head.
"The walls are full of text. History, teachings. It would take you weeks to copy it all down . No, I have to go in there and read it myself to extract the information I need."
"Too bad Iorund's people can't read the stuff, huh?" Jack's tone was dripping sarcasm.
"It's a derivative of Medieval Latin, Jack. I think it might have been written by the Asgard, or even the Ancients."
Teal'c, kneeling beside Daniel, took the wet cloth Carter had put aside. He poured more water from his canteen onto it and raised the dripping cloth to Daniel's face. Daniel pressed it against his eyes once more with a mumbled thanks.
"What about the video camera you are always working with?"
"The light's too strong, Teal'c. Nothing will register. Filters probably won't do much good either."
"Filters are utilized to photograph the sun."
"Yeah, but remember what Iorund said earlier, about needing to see with your eyes. I have a gut feeling that the video camera won't record anything."
"Fine. I'll give you twenty four hours to recover, and I'll see about you going back in tomorrow."
"No, I need to go back now, Jack." Daniel lowered the cloth and squinted at Jack. "Just give me a few more minutes for the Dramamine to take effect and I'll just�"
"Those pills are going to make you sleepy, on top of the ones you took before. You won't be able to concentrate enough to�"
"I can't wait till tomorrow. I don't want to go through this again tomorrow. I just want to get this over with. Please. I'll be fine. I just need my stomach to settle a little."
"Okay, just rest up and we'll see." Jack pushed gently at Daniel's hands, urging him to put the cloth back up.
Daniel did so, and lay back against the sloped ground with a heavy sigh. Jack rubbed his face, watching Daniel, his own eyes threatening to tear in empathy. Carter sat down beside him and placed a hand on Daniel's ankle. At her touch, Daniel's mouth twitched into a quick smile.
Jack picked up the discarded notepad and began looking through Daniel's notes. He was right, it didn't make sense. But even though the notes and hypotheses Daniel had jotted down were way over Jack's head, the fact that Daniel's clear and concise handwriting began to deteriorate a few pages in was worrisome. The last page contained random words and names, the writing crooked and sloppy, unlike Daniel's neat and tiny script. Was this because he hadn't been able to see well enough to write? Because Jack's Spidey sense was jumping all over the place at the moment.
The double dose of nausea medication must have kicked in because the hand holding up the handkerchief was now lax and in the process sliding off Daniel's face. Carter caught it before it smacked onto the grassy hill and gently brought it down to lie on his lap.
Jack hated to send Daniel back into that room; especially now that he was experiencing so much discomfort. Iorund had assured them several times that the lights weren't harmful, but maybe it took several exposures before one got used to their disorienting effects. Maybe they should wait another day or two. Surely they had that much time?
As if reading his thoughts, the planet began to shake, accompanied by a low rumbling. Iorund threw himself onto his knees while Daniel sat up, the wet handkerchief tumbling into his lap at the movement. Carter put a hand out to prevent Daniel from standing as they all waited to see if the quake would get worse. It didn't, and the trembling stopped seconds later.
"What was that?" Daniel looked around him through still-swollen lids.
"The moon is beginning to experience stresses from the planet's gravitational pull. We're starting to run out of time, sir."
"Then I'm going back in there." Daniel got up slowly, moving in a deliberate fashion that made Jack think that his equilibrium was a little off. He stood, swayed to the left, then took a quick step to correct the motion. He placed a hand to his back pocket, then turned around slowly, checking the ground.
"Has anyone seen my notepad?"
"Here." Jack placed it in Daniel's hand and Daniel quickly flipped through it until he found the last filled page. He placed the small book into his pocket and turned towards the entrance.
"Daniel." Jack put a hand out and took Daniel's arm, wondering how Daniel could get the information required in the state he was in. "Can't one of us do this for you?"
Daniel simply closed his eyes and shook his head.
"You need anything? Water? The hanky?"
"No, I'll be fine." He opened his eyes, and looked at Jack. "Thanks." He turned back to the entrance, his foot poised over the sill. "I'll see you all in an hour." He stepped inside Hodur's Tomb and like before, the entrance thickened and darkened.
Jack turned to look at for their guide, who was sitting where Daniel had taken his short nap just a few minutes ago. Jack sat down beside him, flipping the cover of his watch to check the time. He stared at Iorund, and Iorund stared back at Jack.
"Daniel fix now?"
"Yeah, hopefully he will." Jack pulled a couple blades of grass and began passing them through thumb and forefinger.
"Why Daniel not fix then?"
"The light hurts his eyes." Carter sat down beside Jack, watching him play with the grass. "He had to stop and rest for a little while."
"Why not use eyecovers?"
"You said he had to look with his eyes and not through sunglasses." Jack was going to strangle the little man if he had misled Daniel into not using shades.
"Nonononono, not over eyes. Eyecovers fine." He looked at Jack and blinked. Then Jack realized no, he hadn't blinked, something other than his eyelids had moved.
"God damn it!" Jack smacked the ground when he realized the inhabitants here had a membrane covering to protect their eyes, similar to a cat's second eyelid. And Daniel was inside there, with nothing to protect his.
- - - - - -
Daniel simply stood near the structure's exit, eyes tightly shut, his breathing ragged in his ears as he tried to ignore the disorienting sensations of the pulsating lights behind his eyelids.
He knew it wouldn't get any better and that he was wasting precious time, but he needed to psyche himself into opening his eyes and moving to the place where he'd left off earlier. He tried to picture the long rectangular construction before him. He had managed to read much of the text to his left. He had been working on something near the far end of the room when the nausea and dizziness had gotten too much for him. He had made it back to the exit with difficulty, hardly able to walk in a straight line without the wall to guide him.
He took a deep breath and cracked his eyelids open a bit. Immediately his eyes began to tear and hot lances flashed across his forehead and straight into the back of his head. He didn't even try looking deep into the far reaches of the room; instead he kept his gaze unfocused on the wall and began walking towards the other side. Even the floor flickered sickeningly � he was assailed by light from every angle.
He'd gone maybe halfway when he was hit with a bout of vertigo so bad that he had to stop and lean his hands on the wall to keep from falling sideways. The material was surprisingly cool to the touch, and he leaned his forehead against it.
He swallowed back the burning bile and tried to concentrate on his breathing. He hid his eyes, pushing against the back of his hands for added protection from the brightness. Still the light seeped through, colouring the back of his eyelids with reds, yellows and oranges, random images appearing in the back of his eyelids that seemed to augment the dizziness.
This was going nowhere fast. Daniel fished in his vest pocket, where he had placed a blister pack of the anti-nausea meds earlier. He dug out two more pills and dry swallowed those, desperate for relief from the nausea and dizziness.
Eyes still closed, Daniel pushed away from the wall and took several steps blindly, his hand on the wall to help guide him forward. There were square columns positioned every ten feet or so. At first Daniel had thought they were merely there to help support the roof, but when he'd stopped to examine them earlier, he realized that they might be control panels of some sort. They were covered with a clear glassy material that although flickered as brightly as the walls, contained no buttons, writing or icons of any kind.
He opened his eyes reluctantly, afraid to smack into one of the pillars. Through his nearly-closed, swollen lids he saw a vague shadow before him and realized he was inches away from running into one. He skirted around it and began scanning the wall, hoping to catch a word here or there that would miraculously tell him what he needed to do so he could quickly finish his work and just curl up and wallow in his misery.
He couldn't see anything. Everything was a fuzzy white blur, his tears hindering his attempts at trying to read the green script. His eyes felt impossibly huge for their sockets and his lids rubbed painfully against his eyeballs every time he moved them.
His headache was getting worse. He knew he probably had less time to try and study the writing before he became incapacitated again. He tried to hurry, but another bout of vertigo had him falling heavily against the wall.
He pushed off, and then stopped in surprise. For a moment, he'd thought he'd seen a picture he recognized very well. He squinted and rubbed his eyes, ignoring the pain the action brought him. He leaned forward slightly, then moved his head back until the picture came into focus again.
He was right. It was a picture of the repository of the Ancient's that had been downloaded into Jack's brain just over a year ago. Daniel reached out with a shaking hand and touched it. The picture was embossed, sticking out very clearly, unlike the writing, which wasn't tangible when he'd passed his fingers over it.
This was different, and could very well be the key. He looked at the writing around the picture when another bout of vertigo hit him, he suddenly found himself lying on the floor without realizing how he'd gotten from standing to lying down.
He tried to roll over in order to sit up but he couldn't seem to figure out which way to turn to do so.
"No, not now." His voice sounded shaky to his ears.
He had to get up. This might be the answer he'd been looking for.
He tried to concentrate on his body and ignore the shifting room. He raised his right hand and slapped the floor with it. If he could turn onto his right side...
He tried to roll over but after several attempts, realized all he was doing was squirming around on the floor.
How far was he from the door, and would Jack even be able to hear him through the doorway?
God, no! They had to hear him. "Jack! Sam! Teal'c!"
His voice was pathetically weak, his head pounding now every time he took a breath to try and yell out their names. He inhaled deeply, and then coughed as strong acid erupted into his throat and mouth. Desperate now, he somehow managed to turn onto his side and spat out the burning bile before he choked on it.
He made a last attempt to stand, then finally gave up, covering his eyes as best he could with his arms. At this point he didn't even know where the door was, and knew he wouldn't make it out without help.
- - - - - -
"We need to get that damned door open." Jack paced around the entrance, resisting the urge to kick the glassy opening down while Carter and Teal'c searched for a way to open it.
"It will undo when is time."
Iorund was starting to get on Jack's nerves. How could people who lived on a mechanical world be so damn stupid and naive? Why hadn't he mentioned this little detail of membranous protection before letting one of Jack's team inside that hellhole? He'd seen Daniel's condition when he'd come out - didn't he think it strange?
Finally he ran out of patience. He hurried over to the door and smacked it with his fist. "Just blast the damn thing," he told Teal'c.
To everyone's surprise, the glass folded onto itself like it had done earlier and disappeared. There was blinding light inside, like powerful strobes, but worse. He stared at the opening for a moment, then without a word, slipped his sunglasses over his eyes and stepped inside.
Squinting despite the dark glasses, Jack looked down the length of the room for his friend. It was hard to see anything out but he could just make out a dark form lying on the bright floor about fifteen feet away from him. He hurried to Daniel's side, lurching from side to side, aware of Teal'c and Carter flanking him. Walking was difficult, he couldn't make out the walls or floors or ceiling, his whole spatial awareness was off.
Daniel was lying on his stomach, his head nestled in the crook of his right arm, his left arm curled in front of his forehead. Jack knelt beside Daniel and placed a hand on his shoulder.
A low moan answered him and Jack and Teal'c grabbed Daniel's arms, turning him over so Daniel was half lying on Jack's folded legs. Without thought, Jack took his glasses off and placed them over Daniel's face.
Immediately the room became blindingly bright, Daniel a blur before him as the lights danced sickeningly around him in haphazard patterns.
"Let's get him out of here." As Teal'c made to lift Daniel up, Daniel stirred.
"Shhh, it's okay."
"Yeah. Hang on. We'll have you out of here in a sec."
"No, wait." Daniel moved, hands and legs uncoordinated. "Over there. I found something." His voice was thick and slow, his words slurring.
"What did you find, Daniel?" Carter looked around towards the wall before them.
"Ancient's device. Has to mean something. Different."
Carter quickly got up and moved to the wall. "I don't see anything. The wall is blank."
"I see green squiggles on the wall," Jack said, squinting.
"I see the writing also. Iorund instructed DanielJackson to look with his eyes. Perhaps your glasses prevent you from seeing clearly."
"Oh, right." Carter whipped her sunglasses off and moved closer to the wall. She touched something, and turned back to Jack.
"He's right. There's all kinds of writing, but there's also a picture of the Ancient's repository device. But it doesn't seem to do anything when I touch it."
"Maybe more... in here... we need to look."
"Daniel, we can't... we need to get you out of here."
"We're here now. Please. It won't take long with all of us. If we leave now... may not get... 'nother chance."
Daniel was right. The moon was falling fast and if they didn't find an answer, they'd be dooming the inhabitants' home.
"Fine." Jack gently put Daniel down on his side and made sure he was comfortable before moving to the wall to see what Daniel had found.
"It's embossed, see?" Carter pointed to the small replica of one of the few things he hoped never to come across again. Tentatively, Jack put a finger to it, feeling the raised shape of the design.
And immediately, everything went dark.
It took him a few seconds to realize that he wasn't blind; the lights had gone off. There were spots dancing before his eyes and he tried to blink them away. They remained strong and bright behind his eyelids.
And a few seconds later, despite the residual spots, he realized the pillars were glowing softly, as were certain portions of the walls. Carter and Teal'c immediately moved off to examine what looked like built-in consoles in the pillars. Jack, knowing alien technology wasn't his forte despite once having a library downloaded into his head, returned to kneel beside Daniel.
Daniel remained where Jack had left him, his body relaxed enough that Jack knew he was either sleeping, or unconscious. Hopefully it was only the sedating effects of the Dramamine that was affecting Daniel, and not something more ominous. Still, Jack bent down and placed two fingers to Daniel's wrist. He held his breath until he felt Daniel's strong pulse beating beneath his fingers. He was breathing slowly and regularly; Jack figured he was alright where he was for the moment.
He shrugged his utility vest and his jacket off, and gently placed the jacket over Daniel's shoulders, then folded his vest and carefully lifted Daniel's head and placed it beneath his cheek. Daniel cleared his throat and swallowed, wrinkled his nose, and continued sleeping.
"You fix?" Iorund's small shape stood in the entrance. He appeared reluctant to step inside.
"Not yet." Jack bit back an angry curse at the man. "We're working on it."
"Must hurry before Ragnarok. Many believe we go to Valhalla. Hurry. Fix." His shadow disappeared as Iorund moved away from the doorway.
Jack left Daniel and moved to where Carter and Teal'c were huddled before a pillar in the center of the room. "Okay, I know Valhalla, but Ragnarok?"
"I think it means the end of the world." Carter turned to glance towards Daniel before pointing at the pillar. "I think we found it."
"What is it?"
"It's a depiction of a solar system."
Carter shrugged. "The representation of the moon orbiting the planet here is blinking." She pointed to the fourth of twelve planets in orbit around a sun. "It's pretty obvious this represents the moon we're on."
"Anything on here about how to get the motors started?"
"That's assuming that the lore Daniel translated about the moon being able to travel when needed is true."
"So, no 'On' switch?"
Carter frowned at Jack. "If it's here, I haven't found it yet."
"Hey, I found the light switch." Jack beamed at Carter and Teal'c. "So there's gotta be an 'On' switch."
"If the controls here are touch sensitive, as it appears they may be, MajorCarter and I have been unable to initiate a response from any of them."
"You tried touching the moon?" Jack reached a finger and pressed the little blinking moon.
"Yes, sir, we�"
Carter's words broke off when the wall to the right of the pillar separated into two panels, revealing a larger depiction of the moon and the planet. Mathematical formulae flashed on the screen, changing every few seconds.
"How did you do that?" Carter asked incredulously. "Both Teal'c and I tried�" She moved her attention to the changing numbers. "I don't believe this. This is exactly what we're looking for." Her eyes huge and shining, she quickly began examining the console. Jack looked at Teal'c, who merely raised his eyebrows at him.
Daniel coughed, and Jack turned back to him. "Maybe we should get him out of here," Jack said quietly to Teal'c. "If those lights come back on..."
"The lights did not greatly affect my vision." Teal'c accompanied Jack back to Daniel's side. "I shall remain here with MajorCarter, if you wish."
"Yeah. Good idea." Jack reached over and gently shook Daniel's shoulder. "Hey Danny, you wanna wake up?"
Daniel groaned softly and turned onto his back.
"Think you can walk? There's a nice shade tree outside where you can have a little siesta."
Jack pulled on Daniel's shoulder and he sat up, moving slowly and cautiously. Jack picked up his jacket and vest, holding them both in one hand.
"You still dizzy?"
"A bit," Daniel admitted after a few seconds.
Jack took Daniel's right arm, while Teal'c took his left. "We'll just pull you up slowly, okay?" Daniel nodded, then bent his knees and brought one leg forward. Jack and Teal'c took Daniel's weight and hauled him upright, keeping a hold of him when Daniel swayed heavily towards Teal'c. Immediately Teal'c wrapped his arm around Daniel's chest, holding him close while Daniel leaned on him.
"I will not let you fall. We must turn in this direction in order to leave this place." Teal'c urged Daniel towards his right and slowly they led him towards the exit. Just as they neared the door, Carter called out to Jack.
"Sir, I need your help."
"Can you manage?" Jack asked Teal'c. Teal'c nodded, and Jack relinquished his hold on Daniel's arm. "I'll be back in a minute," he promised.
He went over to Carter, who was leaning forward, face inches away from the panel, with one finger tracing a trajectory around the planet.
"I need your finger." She grabbed Jack's hand before he could ask why and stuck his index finger out. "It looks like for some reason this place is reacting to you, and not us." She moved Jack's hand towards the panel, and touched his fingertip to the moon. Immediately it went from brown to green, blinking rapidly.
"You touched the door, and it opened immediately. Both Teal'c and I had touched it when we tried to get it open, and nothing happened." Still holding onto his finger, she slowly traced an outline from the moon leading out and away from the planet, as if tracing a new orbit for it. "You touched the picture on the panel, and the lights went out. I'm pretty sure Daniel touched it when he found it. I touched it, and nothing happened."
"Maybe it has to do with the stuff that was in my brain... this place must be connected to the Ancients, right?"
"Probably. Maybe the download left a marker of some kind in you." She finished tracing the outline, then used Jack's finger to press the moon again. A small click ensued, and it turned from green to lavender. The imaginary path Carter had traced glowed the same colour.
The numbers suddenly stopped, the screen cleared, and then a new set of numbers began scrolling down the side of the screen. She released his hand, examining the display carefully.
"What did you do?"
"Hopefully, I just changed our orbit."
A low rumble began deep beneath Jack's feet. The slowly growing vibrations caused dust to trickle from the ceiling. Carter grinned at Jack, then continued monitoring the printouts. The moon soon began to veer upwards on the display, moving away from the planet.
"How'd you know to do that?" Jack waved at the slowly moving picture.
"Lucky guess, sir." At Jack's disbelieving look, she added with a mischievous grin. "I saw sketches of it in the books Daniel was studying."
"Ah." Jack waved towards the panel. "So, will you be needing my finger again anytime soon?"
"Not for the moment, sir. If my calculations are correct, the moon should be back in its original orbit in forty eight hours."
"Cool." Jack took a moment to admire her handiwork, then turned to his 2IC once again, pointing over his shoulder towards the door. "I'll just go and check on Daniel. Call me if you need me."
Daniel was curled up in the shade beneath a large-leafed tree, covered with Teal'c's jacket. Teal'c had moistened a sterile bandage and had placed it over Daniel's eyes, then had repositioned Jack's sunglasses over it so they held the bandage in place.
"MajorCarter has initiated the change in orbit?"
"Seems like. I'll stay with him. You wanna go back in there and back Carter up?"
"Very well." He stood, then glanced down at Daniel. "He is extremely drowsy."
"Might be the Dramamine."
"He has admitted to ingesting more of the drug to combat the nausea."
"That's what... five, six pills in the past three hours? I don't think that much will hurt him. At least if he's sleeping, he's not feeling any discomfort."
Jack added his jacket to Teal'c's and repositioned his vest beneath Daniel's head. At his touch, Daniel stirred, his hand coming up towards his face.
"Don't touch. Teal'c's put a bandage over your eyes."
"Yeah..." Daniel's breathy answer faded and Jack thought he'd fallen asleep again, until he spoke. "What's that noise?"
"Motors. Carter got the moon to move."
"Really?" Daniel licked his lips.
"Really. You were on the right track. She says we'll be in proper orbit in two days."
"Isn't that fast? It took... months for the moon to get this far out of orbit." He smacked his lips again and Jack remembered one of the side effects of the Dramamine.
"Want some water?"
Immediately Jack took his canteen and put it to Daniel's mouth. He raised Daniel's head up and let him drink several deep swallows before nudging it away. "Let's see if your stomach can handle this much first, okay?"
Daniel nodded, then turned his face into the vest, snuggling despite the lumps beneath his cheeks.
"You need anything."
"No." Daniel moved his right shoulder as Jack adjusted the jackets, making sure Daniel was well covered. " 'M fine." He raised his hand and curled it beneath his chin. "Thanks."
He didn't move again and Jack was pretty sure Daniel had drifted off. He made himself comfortable, stretching his legs before him, and stared up at the sight of the planet looking down on them. He wondered how long before it began to recede from the moon's sky.
- - - - - -
Something was digging into his temple and pinching the side of his nose. His mouth was very dry and pasty, his brain thick and full of cotton. His ears felt blocked, like there was a dull pressure pressing against them. His forehead throbbed, and his eyes burned. Still half asleep, he turned his head, trying to rearrange his glasses by rubbing against his pillow, too lazy to reach up and take them off.
He felt warm fingers against his cheek, adjusting the glasses, presumably Jack's since he'd just spoken. The pressure against his nose disappeared, and he wriggled it, trying to coax the lingering discomfort away. When he tried to open his eyes, he found there was something wet covering them. For a second he was confused, then suddenly his heart thumped hard and fast in his chest when he realized there was something wrong with his eyes. He gasped, both in dread and pain.
They hurt. The skin around them felt raw and sensitive, almost like a sunburn. But it was his eyes themselves that throbbed, despite the cool, wet compress pressed against his face. It took a few seconds longer, but memory finally filled in the blanks - the strong, strobing lights, the writing, the moon's descent towards the planet.
It became hard to draw a breath. He knew he was starting to panic, knew the lights had done something to his eyes. He started panting, unable to fill his lings with air. Even with his eyes closed, he felt the world spinning around him.
"Easy, take it easy. It's okay, you're safe."
The sound of Jack's voice helped calm some of his fear; at least he wasn't alone. Memory of being trapped in the room, alone, helpless, dizzy... he reached out blindly. "Where are you?" He tried to keep the panic out of his voice, but failed.
"I'm right here. Don't worry." Jack grabbed his hand. There was pressure on his shoulder and Daniel thought Jack was leaning over him. "How are you eyes? Still hurt?"
"Yes." He pressed his lips together. "Where are we?"
"We're just outside the building. Carter and Teal'c are checking the doodads inside." The pressure on his shoulder eased and then Jack was fumbling with something on his face. "We found the controls, Carter's shifting the moon back into position."
He realized then the weird vibrations he'd felt in his ears were coming from beneath him. Machinery?
"Look, I'm going to lift the bandages and have a look at your eyes. We're in the shade and the sun's pretty low, so it shouldn't be too uncomfortable." Jack let go of Daniel's hand and he felt Jack's fingers steady against his face. "Ready?"
Daniel nodded. The wet wad of cloth was lifted away and water dripped down his temple. Unable to help himself, he pressed his eyes tightly together nervously.
"Your eyes are a little swollen." There was a gentle touch around his brows and temples. "Can you open them?"
Daniel tried to relax and opened his eyes. It felt like there was sand in them and he blinked a few times. Despite the wetness from the compress, he felt tears run down his face. Then it hit him.
"Jack?" His voice sounded high and shrill as he reached a hand out again towards his friend.
"What is it?" Jack's voice was soft, calm.
"I can't see."
His hand fumbled in the air for a few seconds, and then Jack was squeezing his fingers. Hard.
"Okay, let's not panic here. You were exposed to pretty bright light for quite a while. I'm sure it's just temporary. Like snow blindness."
Daniel nodded, his chest labouring even harder for air. He could feel sweat begin to mingle with the tears on his face. His head began to pound as his pulse raced.
But what if it wasn't temporary? People went blind while staring at the sun, didn't they? Or at welder's arcs? What if this was the same type of light intensity that damaged corneas forever. Oh God, what if this was permanent.
"Maybe you should keep your eyes shut. I'll just put the bandage back on. It's probably best to keep your eyes covered."
Jack let go of his hand and a second later, something soggy and cool was placed on his face, and Daniel shivered at the feel of it. Then he felt Jack's hand, still wet from handling the cloth, touch his cheek and neck.
"It's going to be all right, Daniel. You have to try and calm down."
"I k...know." He tried to take a gulp of air and force his breathing to slow. It just succeeded in making him gasp harder. He raised his hands to his temples and squeezed. His headache and dizziness were getting worse, and he felt his stomach begin to burn with bile. He retched twice, swallowing down the acid when his stomach calmed.
Despite his struggling gasps for breath and the buzzing in his ears, he heard the sound of Jack's clothes rustling as he stood and quickly walked away from him. Daniel raised his head and tried to follow Jack's progress with his ears but the movement made his head hurt worse. He tried to relax and managed to do so a bit when Jack's footsteps stopped not far away and he called out something to Sam.
Seconds later, Sam and Teal'c were there with him.
"Daniel." The bandage was peeled back once again. "Colonel O'Neill said you couldn't see."
He nodded, and when a hand touched his, he quickly grabbed onto it like a lifeline. He opened his eyes again at Sam's request, trying to concentrate on the touch of Jack's fingers squeezing his own back.
Sam placed her fingers on one side of his face. "I'm going to shine my flashlight into your eyes. Keep your eyes open and tell me if you see anything." She took her hand away and then suddenly there was something bright shining in his eyes.
He cried out in surprise, not expecting it to hurt. Pain lanced through his head and bright spots danced behind his retinas, adding to the nausea and dizziness. All his senses began to fade as the agony took a good hold of him.
"It's okay, breathe through it. Come on, try to take deep breaths."
He tried to follow Jack's instructions, locking onto the feel of warm skin holding onto his hand and his insistent voice trying to keep him grounded. Slowly, the pain lessened and his breathing grew less ragged.
"Daniel, I'm sorry."
"It's okay, Sam." He tried to smile, but couldn't quite manage it. "The good news is that I did see some light."
He heard only silence and could only imagine the looks all three of his friends were giving one another.
"That is good news, isn't it?" he asked a little nervously.
"Indeed. The fact that the light pained you is also a sign that that your vision is still functional." Teal'c's voice came from his right. Daniel guessed he was sitting or kneeling beside Jack. "But to be safe, it is best you keep the covering over your eyes."
"We'll keep the bandages wet for a while yet," Sam said. He heard water gurgling and figured she was soaking the cloth again. "It'll help a little with the swelling." She placed two wet fingers against his cheek in warning, then replaced the soggy bandage. "I'll get you something for the pain." He heard her fumbling in one of the packs and a few seconds later, her fingers were nudging his lips. He opened them obediently and she dropped three pills into his mouth. A plastic water bottle followed and he gratefully swallowed the pills. "I gave you another Dramamine. It should help a little with the nausea."
Daniel didn't have the heart to tell her that the pills weren't doing anything for his queasiness.
"Carter, can you manage those controls yourself while I get Daniel back to the SGC?" Jack's hand pulled on Daniel's fingers as he shifted slightly.
"Sir, I can't do anything with the controls, they don't respond to me or Teal'c like they did for you. But that's not the problem. I don't think we can get Daniel home at the moment. Teal'c and I just discovered something and�"
"We're only a couple miles from the 'gate. I can get him home and come right back in a couple hours."
"It's not the distance, it's the 'gate itself." She puffed out a mouthful of air. "It'll be easier if I show you."
Jack was quiet for a moment, then his voice was soft when he spoke. "Teal'c, you mind staying with Daniel?"
Daniel didn't hear Teal'c's answer but there were more rustling sounds and then Jack was letting go of his hand. But before Daniel could protest, Teal'c's larger and warmer hand encircled his. Feeling slightly embarrassed but grateful for the contact, Daniel listened as Jack followed Carter back into the building.
Daniel realized someone was missing.
"It appears he left when the moon began to change course. I presume he went to advise his people that we were successful."
"Teal'c, what did you and Sam discover?"
- - - - - -
"See this panel? It's a topographical layout of the area around us. This is where we are, and here's the Stargate."
The building they were in was laid out in blue on the map, and the Stargate was very evident, a red, circular shadow, the DHD a small red dot to the right of it. There were other shapes around them, mostly reds with a few blues that Jack couldn't even begin to guess at what they were.
"We've ascertained that blue means functional, red means offline."
"And you figured this, how?"
"These controls here." She moved to another panel farther along the wall. "These are obviously not working." The printout areas beside the various red icons and maps were blank. Conversely, right next to it, a bright blue panel showed a flow of data moving too fast for Jack to make much sense from it. Even if he could have read the data.
"So why turn the 'gate off?"
"Well, whatever propulsion is moving this moon, it needs a lot of energy. I'm betting it's using the energy stored in the Stargate itself for part of its fuel."
"So we can't turn it on..."
"And won't be able to use it until someone dials in and restores the charge."
"We're not due to report until 1500 hours tomorrow."
"So General Hammond won't contact us until at least 1800 hours."
"You said it would take two days for the moon to change its orbit."
"So assuming the 'gate's offline for two days, what'll happen if someone tries to dial in during that time?"
"They won't get through until the moon's computer system disconnects."
"So we're marooned here for forty eight hours, maybe longer." He didn't mention Daniel needing medical help now. That much was more than obvious. "Can we force the 'gate open?" Jack moved his attention back to the topographical map and touched the picture of the Stargate. Immediately a loud claxon began to ring, and the picture of the 'gate began to blink.
"What'd I do?" Jack yelled over the deafening alarm. There was a rumble beneath his feet and a small tremor shook the room. The vibrations Jack had gotten accustomed to became harsher, stronger.
"You need to deactivate it or else it'll become unstable." A blue area was blinking and she pointed towards it. Jack immediately punched it. The alarm went off with a shrill wail, and the Stargate turned red again. The shaking stopped and the vibrations resumed their normal state.
Carter moved to the picture of the moon orbiting the planet and stood reading the display. Jack could see the moon had made some progress, albeit it hadn't moved very far in the arc Carter had drawn with his fingertip earlier.
"Looks like we're still on track," she told him with a relieved smile.
"Well, I'll just go see about setting up camp." He decided to get out of the room before he touched something that blew them up to kingdom come.
- - - - - -
Jack came out of his light doze to the sound of Daniel moving restlessly beside him. He lay still, waiting to see if Daniel would settle, like he'd done previous times during the moon's 'night' period. Although the light reflecting from the planet up above lent a weird glow to the dark, bathing them all in an unearthly ambience.
But Carter, whose turn it was at sentry, quietly stepped between Jack and Daniel and knelt beside the restive man the next time he shifted. This led him to believe Daniel had been pretty restless while Jack had slept.
"Are you okay?" Her voice was pitched low so not to disturb Jack or Teal'c.
"Sam?" Daniel's bedroll rustled as he twisted towards her.
"Yeah, it's me. Are you in pain? Do you need something?"
There was a pause, and Daniel's voice seemed hesitant.
"I'm fine. I... I'm sorry I woke you."
"You didn't wake me. It was my turn on watch."
Jack quietly turned onto his side, watching from the light of the campfire as Carter adjusted the bandages over Daniel's eyes. They'd wrapped his eyes with dry bandages, deeming it to be too uncomfortable for Daniel to try and spend the night with a wet, sopping mess on his face.
"You didn't answer me, Daniel. Do you need something stronger for the pain?"
"Please. My head's killing me."
"I'll be right back." Carter smoothed the hair back on Daniel's forehead before getting up and getting the first aid kit. Jack sat up. If Daniel was this acquiescent, he must be hurting bad. Jack could at least try and comfort his friend a bit.
"Hey, why didn't you tell us you were feeling worse?"
Daniel jumped slightly at Jack's voice, then turned his head towards him with a soft sigh. "I wasn't sure who was up... I didn't want to wake anyone, and I sure as hell would have if I tried to find the packs on my own."
"Here, Daniel." Carter knelt beside them and dropped two pills into Daniel's palm. She helped him sit up and held a water bottle to his mouth while he drank.
"Thanks." He winced when Carter helped him back down and Jack couldn't help miss seeing Daniel clutch the sides of his bedroll with fisted hands.
"I'll sit with him," Jack told her after a moment. She nodded, then got up and resumed her place on the other side of the fire. Jack took a moment to wrap his sleeping bag over his shoulders against the chill of the night.
"You still dizzy?" he asked when Daniel didn't seem about to let go his death grip on the material.
"Yeah, a little."
"Want some more Dramamine?"
"It doesn't seem to help much."
"We got that other stuff. Compazine? It might help." Jack reached for the first aid kit that Carter had left beside Daniel's bedroll. He flicked his flashlight on and flipped through the various meds until he found the anti-emetic. "Here." He pushed a pill from the blister pack and held it to Daniel's mouth, then helped him up to give him some more water.
He put the first aid kit away and checked the camp, out of habit. Carter was dividing her attention between himself and Daniel, and keeping watch on the woods around their camp. Teal'c was sitting quietly in kel-no-reem, but Jack knew he could come out of his meditation at a moment's notice should the need arise.
The first time he noticed it he thought he might have imagined it, catching the movement through the corner of his eye. But the second time Daniel shivered, Jack reached over and laid his fingers against his forehead to test him for fever.
Daniel's skin was cool and clammy. No fever, but he was definitely chilled.
Daniel shook his head, and Jack noted he was breathing quickly through his mouth. The fire had died down, leaving Daniel's face in shadow. Jack grabbed his flashlight and just as he was about to check his friend out, Daniel groaned and twisted onto his side. He began retching, struggling to move away from his bedroll. The more he tried to move, the more he struggled.
Jack grabbed Daniel by the shoulders, afraid he'd roll into the fire. "Easy, easy, I got you." He tried to unzipper the sleeping bag to allow Daniel a bit of freedom from its cocooning folds.
Daniel continued to struggle and vomit, coughing and gasping at the same time. Then Teal'c was there, helping Jack hold Daniel down on his side while the sleeping bag was pulled aside.
Then the fire flared as Carter fed more wood to it, illuminating the campsite.
Daniel finally calmed when there was nothing more for him to bring up. He lay half on Jack's legs, half on Teal'c, with one hand wrapped around Jack's knee. He was shaking now, and moaned softly when Jack tried to lower him back to the ground. Jack tried to rearrange the sleeping bag, coaxing Daniel to slide back down into it so he could untangle it from around Daniel's legs and hips.
Teal'c gently pulled Daniel back into position and Jack folded the material over Daniel's legs. Daniel raised a trembling hand to his eyes, trying to rub through the bandages. Jack caught his hand and pulled it away from his face.
"Carter, let's try some morphine," Jack suggested softly.
"Yes, sir." She reached behind the men and took up the first aid kit. Within seconds, she'd injected Daniel with the pain killer.
"Hold on, Daniel. You'll be feeling a bit better in a little while." Jack put a hand on Daniel's shoulder, feeling the muscles beneath his fingers stiff and tense with pain. Slowly, as the medication began to kick in, Daniel began to relax and the shivering slowly abated.
Hoping Daniel would manage to fall asleep now, Jack ordered Carter and Teal'c to bed. He figured none of them would get any more sleep, but he was up and wide awake, and although he'd already had a turn at guard duty, he may as well let Carter get some rest.
It was another hour before he was sure Daniel slept. The remaining hour until daylight was long. Teal'c eventually got up and suggested Jack lie down just before the sun came up. Jack did so, closing his eyes wearily.
He woke up when the sun was high in the sky, the smell of coffee teasing his nose.
- - - - - -
Daniel listened to the quiet sounds of camp around him. There had been muted conversation, quiet footsteps, occasionally the smell of food. He knew he'd been drifting in and out of sleep, with different sounds and smells to listen to each time he woke. But at least the haziness of mind had dulled the lances of agony in his eyes and along with some of his dizziness and nausea. As long as he was careful moving his head, he could cope with the queasiness.
He stretched carefully and turned onto his back. Immediately someone reached over and placed a gentle hand to his shoulder.
"You awake?" Jack's voice was soft, probably in order not to wake him if Daniel was still sleeping.
"I'm awake." Daniel turned his head slowly to his right, towards where Jack's voice had come from.
"Think you can eat something? You've been asleep most of the day."
Daniel paused and thought of the idea of food in his stomach. His stomach rumbled, answering for him.
Jack chuckled. "How about we try a little broth and some Compazine? If that stays down, we can try something a little more solid in an hour or so?"
Jack helped him sit up and braced him against a tree trunk. He hated not seeing, hated that he wasn't sure exactly where he was in relation to the rest of the world.
There were a few rustling and gurgling sounds, and then a warm cup was placed in his right hand. He smelled chicken soup. He took a careful sip; it wasn't too hot, and it tasted wonderful. Jack handed him a pill and he washed it down with more soup.
"How's the head?"
Daniel raised his left hand and fingered the bandages still wrapped around his face. He tried to open his eyes beneath the bandages and could still feel quite a bit of discomfort when doing so. He was pretty sure without the morphine they'd been giving him, he'd be writhing on the ground in pain. "Not bad," Daniel admitted. Then he remembered their mission. "Are we still on the moon?" He listened for the telltale rumbling sounds of working motors and managed to identify them from the background noises of wind, rustling leaves and birds.
"Yep. Carter's still in there keeping an eye on things. There's no telling how old the machinery is and she's afraid something might give way."
"And send the moon back into the planet?"
"Oh. Right." Of course. They had no idea what kind of alien devices were buried deep inside the moon's interior. If something overloaded and blew up, they could lose their artificial gravity, or oxygen or heaven forbid, the moon itself could be vaporized. And everyone along with it. "Shouldn't we maybe try to evacuate the inhabitants as a precaution?"
"No can do, remember? The Stargate's being used by the computers."
"Mmm, right. I forgot for a second." Daniel drank the remainder of the broth, and realized he was still hungry. His stomach gurgled again, unsatisfied.
"Was that a sound of complaint, or of happiness?"
"I'm still hungry," Daniel answered. He jumped, startled, when he felt Jack take the empty cup away from his hand. Then something soft and spongy replaced it. Daniel raised it to his nose, and smelled bread.
"It's just a bun, but it might help fill you up."
Daniel smiled his thanks and broke off a small piece. He chewed slowly, wanting to make sure anything he ate would stay down.
"What about Iorund? I haven't heard him around lately."
"He vamoosed not long after Carter got the motors running. You know, that's kinda weird. I would have thought that some of his people would have come to investigate � at first we thought he'd run off to tell them the good news but I'm sure they all heard for themselves. Anyways, Teal'c's gone to the city to see if anything's�"
"Sir, I need you to�Daniel." Sam's voice held warmth and Daniel heard her footsteps hurry to his side. "How are you feeling?"
"Better. Hungry." He held up the half-eaten piece of bread as proof.
"I'm glad." He felt her fingers on his cheek, a soft, quick touch, and ducked his head in embarrassment.
"You needed something, Carter?"
"Oh, right." Daniel could imagine her blushing when she realized she'd been sidetracked. "I need another course adjustment. It'll just take a second."
Jack sighed. "Just show me where to stick my finger." Jack patted his arm. "You okay by yourself? I'll be right back."
"I'll be right here," Daniel answered, twisting off another piece of bread and sticking it into his mouth. He chewed slowly, realizing he was getting sleepy again. He swallowed the mouthful and tried to relax. He could hear the faint sound of Jack and Sam's voices becoming more muffled as they walked deeper into the bowels of the hill.
He woke up a while later, disoriented, and with a crick in his neck. He straightened up and realized he was still leaning against the tree. Someone, probably Jack, had placed a blanket or a sleeping bag up against his shoulders and it slid down onto his lap when he moved.
Daniel yawned mightily before returning the greeting. "Sorry."
"Sleep well?" Daniel rubbed his neck. "Yeah. I miss my bed, though."
"I got an MRE here, if you think your stomach can handle it. It's been an hour since you took the med."
"Sure." The last of the dizziness seemed to have left him, probably thanks to the Compazine, and he really could eat something. Although there was a more pressing business he needed to take care of first. "Um, Jack, could you help me to the bushes?"
"Just give me a sec and... okay, MRE's heating." Daniel pushed the blanket away and with his hand against the tree, slowly stood. He felt Jack's hand on his arm guiding him. Thankfully they didn't have to go far before Daniel was able to relieve himself.
He felt shaky and weak, but that could simply be from lack of food. There was a tenseness around his forehead, vestiges of his earlier headache? He wondered vaguely how long ago he'd been given the last dose of pain killer. He really wasn't looking forward to a return of that kind of pain.
He slid back down to his former seat, thankful to be off his feet. Jack fiddled with something while Daniel tried to make himself comfortable on the ground. Then the smell of beef stew hit his nose. His mouth watered and he gratefully accepted the small tin plate when Jack placed it into his hands.
"Careful, it's hot," Jack warned. Daniel fumbled with the spoon, feeling the heat against his lips as he brought it to his mouth. He blew on it before taking a bite. It was delicious.
He forced himself to eat slowly despite his hunger. Still, by the time his stomach felt that it had had enough, there was still considerable weight and heat in the plate. He dropped the spoon into the plate reluctantly, but he didn't want to push his body.
Daniel simply nodded and Jack took the food away.
"When Sam wanted... just now... why did she need you to...?"
"Ah. Big mystery. I'm kinda doing this backseat driving thing since the controls respond to only me."
Daniel thought a moment, then realized it wasn't that mysterious. "Well, this place was probably built by the Ancients, if that sign of the repository I found in there is any indication. And since you had the�"
"Repository of the Ancients downloaded into my brain. Yeah, I know. Carter made the connection."
"Iorund mentioned the last... historian, is that what he called him?... died off many years ago. Maybe there's a repository here on the moon and the knowledge gained from it has been passed from generation to generation."
"Well, if there is a repository, it's probably been depleted, just like the one that got me. Remember, the team that went to study it found it to be totally useless."
Daniel shrugged. His head was starting to ache again and he was tired. "What time is it?"
"Just after four. And just for the record, we're officially overdue."
"So... no reprieve, no rescue, no going home."
"No, at least not until sometime tomorrow."
Daniel's eyes were beginning to burn. He squeezed them tightly beneath the bandages. He felt the tightness of his skin, the swelling of his eyelids. The motion caused his head to ache.
"Yeah?" He really wanted to lie down now but was afraid the movement would make his head start to hurt more.
"It's been a few hours since your last shot of... you need some more?"
Hating himself for this weakness, Daniel simply answered, "Please."
He felt Jack's knee brush his leg and wasn't surprised when he felt his hand cup his nape. "Look, don't be afraid to ask for the meds. We've got plenty to help you out for a few days, if it goes that far."
"Thanks." It was hard for him to ask for help, to appear so vulnerable, but Jack seemed to understand.
"Anyway, you know how much this stuff costs, and I'm just glad it's coming out of your pay check."
Daniel smiled at Jack's attempt at a joke, and tried to keep still as the pain began to escalate. He heard Jack fiddling with what he presumed was the first aid kit when suddenly there were sounds all around them.
"What the hell is going on?" Jack exclaimed, yelling loudly over highly-pitched orders in a language that sounded almost familiar.
There was a short tussle nearby and then Daniel heard Jack cursing. Something cold and sharp was placed against Daniel's neck and he froze, instinctively realizing something had gone very, very wrong.
- - - - - -
Jack swore again as more armed men swarmed into the clearing. They'd surprised him, quickly surrounding him and Daniel, making sure to take away all their weapons while they held a knife to Daniel's throat.
Now these newcomers were dragging an unconscious Teal'c in their midst, unceremoniously dumping him a few feet away from the campfire. Teal'c fell and rolled on his stomach. His hands were tied behind his back, but other than his unconscious state, he looked to be unharmed.
Moving slowly, Jack motioned he'd like to go to Teal'c. The men moved back, and Jack took a quick count as he crab walked towards his friend. Fifteen out here in the open and armed to the teeth, and three going into the mound for Carter.
"Jack, what's going on?"
Jack glanced at Daniel, relieved to see that the knife had been taken away from his throat once his hands had been tied, although his captor remained crouched close by.
"We just got invaded by a bunch of Iorund's people. Looks like they're looking for trouble. Just stay put and don't move." He could see Teal'c was breathing and two fingers to his carotid artery revealed a strong pulse. "They got Teal'c."
"What? Is he okay?" There was a slight tussle as Daniel attempted to get up, which ended in Daniel being roughly pushed back to the ground. Jack didn't miss Daniel's soft gasp of pain.
Jack turned his attention to Teal'c again. At a guess, Jack would say Teal'c had been zatted. Then again, he didn't see any zats on Iorund's people but a few were holding strange looking weapons that could be just as deadly if they were powerful enough to knock out a Jaffa.
And speaking of Iorund, there he was. Jack almost missed him amongst their attackers until he was pushed to the fore. The small man had been beaten; there were scrapes and bruises on his face and arms, and his hands were also tied behind his back. He looked up at Jack, a terrified look on his face.
"Iorund, what's happening?"
"Sir, what's going on?"
Carter came out of the doorway, struggling and spitting mad, until she saw how badly outnumbered they were. When she spied Teal'c lying on the ground beside Jack she made to rush to him, but two of the men escorting her grabbed her arm and forced her to her knees. They quickly tied her hands behind her before allowing her to get up.
As Carter was led towards them, Iorund spoke in a soft voice. "Unbelievers they are. Path to be followed, not wishing for change. Believe this be Ragnarok. Go to Valhalla." He said several words in his native language, and Jack caught Daniel shifting his attention towards Iorund.
"You mean they don't believe we should have changed the moon's orbit?"
"Yes. Believe we to die, as is. Bad to change way of home." He spoke a few more words in his native tongue and Daniel answered him falteringly in the same language, until one of the captors barked an order at them.
"Jack, these people believe it's their destiny to die with the moon. They don't believe we should have changed the moon's orbit, and that by doing so, we've just ended their chances of rising to their version of heaven."
"Valhalla?" The men were listening intently, although Jack couldn't tell if they could understand the words to their conversation.
"Yes. Heaven. Utopia. Shangrila. They think it's the time of Ragnarok. It's essentially a fight between good and evil, between the Asgard and the Giants � hence the name of the planet, and if the moon were actually built by the Asgard, don't you see? The moon is falling into the planet Jotunheim, Land of the Giants. Everything fits."
"Great. Oh, I just love when little details like the possibility of fanatical insurgents are left out when we get a call for help."
"What about the rest of the population?" Carter shifted on her knees, earning her a look of warning from one of her guards.
"Leaders taken. They keep for prisoner. Many more in city."
"I regret I was unable to warn you." Jack jumped when Teal'c suddenly spoke. Jack looked at his teammate, glad to see his eyes were open. "I arrived too late to help the leaders, and in the process of their attack, I was overpowered by a weapon similar to a zat'nik'tel." Teal'c sat up slowly, wary of the weapons trained on him and the wide-eyed looks and murmurs.
"Are you okay?" Jack kept his hands in full view - strange that everyone had been tied up except for him.
"The effects are somewhat more debilitating but unlike a zat'nik'tel, it is geared more towards the host than the symbiote. My primta already begins to lessen my discomfort."
One of the armed men motioned to Teal'c to go sit a few feet away from Daniel, against a tree, and then Carter was placed on Daniel's other side. Their tethers were twisted behind the trees and hammered into the bark, effectively pinning his team to the trees.
"Iorund, tell them they're wrong." Despite the pain Jack could hear echoing in Daniel's voice, his friend spoke strong and clear. "The moon's trajectory has been changed, they won't die. There will be no battle between Odin and Loki today."
Iorund spoke softly, trying to repeat Daniel's words, but the men quickly shouted over him. Daniel told him to try again.
"The moon wasn't meant to fall into Jotunheim." In his rush to speak, Daniel pronounced the foreign word nearly the same way Jack had earlier. If their predicament hadn't been so dire, Jack would have smiled at that. "You said yourself, your historics have all gone, and none ever took their places. If you'd have had someone to work the machinery in Hodur's Tomb on a regular basis, like your forefathers had done, this whole problem would never have arisen."
This time, when the men jeered Iorund, the little man spoke more loudly. There was a bit of grumbling, a little more listening, while several simply spat in both Iorund and Daniel's directions. One walked over to Daniel and whipped the bandage off his eyes. Daniel turned his head away from the sun's glare, his eyes still closed. The redness and swelling was obvious even from where Jack stood and some of the men muttered in surprise.
"It's in your history," Daniel called out, opening his eyes to mere slits. "Read the texts. There has always been someone appointed to work in the Tomb of Hodur. But when the last sickness decimated much of the population two hundred years ago, those with the knowledge died, and none were able to take their place. People are now going to die for nothing! There will be no Valhalla. There will be only wasted death."
One burly man with neatly braided red hair walked over to Daniel and casually pointed the alien weapon at him, and fired. Daniel jerked several times, and fell limp, dangling slightly forward, his bonds the only thing keeping him from falling face first onto the ground.
Jack and the others yelled their protests and three men had to hold Jack back, preventing him from going after the man who had shot Daniel. Iorund, on the other hand, was talking fast and furious, his voice carrying over the others. Jack hoped he was conveying Daniel's words, and that this hadn't all been in vain.
Then the man who shot Daniel walked over to Jack and with the weapon, motioned him to enter the tomb. Jack wondered why he, out of all his team, was the one who had been chosen to go inside, and he had a sneaking suspicion that Iorund was the one who might have imparted a certain bit of knowledge Jack would have liked kept under wraps. Then again, the small man looked like he'd been tortured and beaten, so he really couldn't blame him.
Jack glared at Red and refused to move, until Red pointed the weapon at Daniel once again. Not knowing what a second blast might do to his friend, Jack quickly stood up and began walking towards the tomb's entrance.
Most of the men accompanied them inside, all looking around in awe and curiosity. They weren't sure where to go and Jack sure as hell wasn't going to give them a clue. He wondered if he could try to hit the light switch, wondering if the strobes might incapacitate them, but if they were equipped with those second membranes in their eyes like Iorund, he'd be the one ending up in trouble.
They eventually found the depiction of the moon and planet, and Jack was forced over to it. He knew that they could simply overpower him and do what Carter had done � use his touch to change the course of the moon. Red pointed the weapon at him, and Jack simply crossed his arms and looked back innocently, raising an eyebrow. If they were going to deliberately plunge the moon to their deaths, he wasn't about to help them, no matter how much it hurt.
And it sure looked like it was going to hurt like hell.
But before Red could pull the trigger, several men approached him, arguing loudly. A few others joined in and before Jack knew it, an all out argument had erupted. Jack could only pray it was Daniel's words that had them disagreeing so passionately. Maybe seeing what the Tomb truly housed had helped make them believe Daniel.
- - - - - -
Oh, god, his head. The pain was so blindingly intense Daniel wished he would die. He endured it; he had no other choice.
One eternity later, he became aware of pain in his shoulders and wrists. And neck. His breathing hitched and he tried to take a deeper breath, but couldn't. It took a while for his brain to begin to function again, but he eventually realized the reason he couldn't breathe properly was due to the way he was leaning forward, compressing his chest.
He tried to push back with his legs and only ended up sending searing pain into his back, neck and head.
Lights danced behind his closed eyelids and a whining sound buzzed in his ears. When his pulse slowed, he felt a warm hand supporting his chin and he found he was leaning back against something hard and unyielding. Still, the position was better than before.
"Don't try to move." Jack's voice was quiet, spoken close to his ear. "I've gotten the guard to agree to let me give you some morphine, let's not give him the idea that I'm getting a weapon out." Jack's hand let go his chin and he felt his head fall forward, drooping helplessly. Jack touched his arm and he felt a prick in his upper arm. "It'll sting for just a sec... okay, all done. You'll start feeling better in a little while." Jack rubbed the injection site and put his hands on Daniel's head, raising it again.
"Hey, you still with me?" Fingers rubbed at the back of his neck, helping ease some of the stiffness from his earlier uncomfortable position.
Daniel forced his eyes open, surprised when a blurred figure appeared before him. His eyes still felt gritty and swollen and still part of the reason for his killer migraine, but the relief of knowing he could see was almost tangible.
"Wha?" He licked his lips, his tongue feeling twice the size it should and not exactly working properly.
"Freakin' idiot hit you with this world's equivalent of a zat. According to Teal'c, it's much nastier."
"Worse, much worse." Daniel tried to raise a hand to rub his aching forehead, but his arms wouldn't move. It took several tries before he realized his hands were tied behind his back. His memory came back in a rush.
"The moon. Are we falling?" He tried to raise his head to look up, afraid to see the planet Jotunheim bearing down on them. But from the angle he was at, all he could see was the top of Jack's head and a whole bunch of fuzzy treetops.
"We got a short reprieve. I think when the bad guys saw the machinery inside the tomb, they started having doubts. Everything is put on hold for the moment. I think they've gone back to the city to talk with the big guys."
"Colonel. You're the only one right now with the ability to use the computer. If we could buy time, maybe stop the motors, we could use the Stargate and get you out of here."
Daniel turned to Sam, who was a fuzzy green blur against a fuzzier, greener blur. He squinted, trying to get her face into focus. The movement wasn't as painful as before, the screwdriver in his head beginning to loosen the screw that had been digging into his brain. "And in a few more months, Sam, these people will die when the moon loses its orbit again."
"But during those months, we could try and talk to the people, convince them they're wrong."
"They are extremists, MajorCarter. They do not listen, and talking will be a waste of time."
"We have to do something," Daniel whispered. "Jack, like Sam said, you're the focal point here. Can you escape?"
Daniel felt something shake his right leg and he looked down. Only then did he realize that Jack's left foot was tied to his right.
"They left my hands free so I could take care of you. You were out for so long, they were starting to get nervous."
Daniel let his head rest against what he now knew to be a tree trunk, closing his eyes, trying to think of a solution. His headache had lessened considerably, his head felt light and airy, and he knew the drug had finally kicked in. His thoughts began to fragment, and after a while he stopped trying to chase them and simply sat there, listening to his friends talk. Even that soon faded away.
Daniel jerked awake when Jack shook his shoulder. He blinked several times at the large blur near him, then realized his friend was leaning close.
"You awake now?"
Daniel nodded, realizing something was up since Jack was whispering.
"They're back, and it looks like they brought the head honchos with them." Jack moved aside and Daniel could now see a small crowd moving through the path, all heading for the Temple of Hodur. Their movement made him dizzy and he closed his eyes after a short while.
There were a few murmurs from the guards around them, but once the throng had entered the tomb, the sound of their voices became muted.
"I made twenty-five, sir."
"So did I. Plus the six guards here, that makes thirty-one."
Jack, Sam and Teal'c continued to talk about their situation while Daniel allowed himself to drift. He hadn't meant to doze off, hadn't realized he'd done so until Jack yelled loudly as Daniel's leg was gripped cruelly and someone cut Jack loose from his ties.
Several men dragged Jack into the Tomb and Daniel knew that they'd come to a decision. They were going to destroy the moon.
- - - - - -
Jack gripped his aching arm as the goons who'd forced him to trace a direct path right into the planet marched him back outside. They were all cheering, a few making loud ululating sounds that sounded strangely like a yodel.
His team was waiting for him with looks of resignation on their faces. Even if they were allowed to be set free, the Stargate was still offline.
Daniel watched him as Jack took a seat next to him. He gave his arm a final massage and dropped his hands into his lap and looked at his fingers. He refused to look up and watch their doom approach.
"Carter, any idea how much time before...?" Right, he wouldn't look, but he'd still like to know when to shut his eyes and start to cringe?
"What kind of trajectory did they�"
"Straight line - we're going in fast."
"Oh." Jack heard her swallow. "Five, six hours?"
"Maybe less. But we'll probably be dead long before that. Even if we survive entering the planet's atmosphere, the poisonous air will kill us before we hit."
The ground beneath them lurched, the sound of the engines whining audibly as the trees shook violently. Several of the men looked around worriedly. Several others laughed and clapped one another's backs.
"Or if the moon breaks apart first."
Then came a sound that was familiar, but which Jack couldn't quite place. He knew he'd heard it before, and that it had meant safety and well-being. It wasn't until several of the guards disappeared in a blur of wavy lights, did he realize what was happening.
"Thor," Jack said simultaneously.
The huge spaceship slowly came into view over the trees. Jack lost no time in digging into the first aid kit and coming up with a razor blade to slash through everyone's bindings. Even before he cut through Teal'c's, the inside of Hodur's tomb lit up in gentle illumination, and the shaking around them stopped. The vibrations of earlier returned, purring even more softly than before.
While Jack freed Carter, Teal'c helped Daniel up and on cue, their surroundings disappeared and they found themselves inside Thor's ship. Daniel staggered, off balance from the sudden change in scenery. Sam grabbed his arm and Daniel nodded his thanks. He wasn't too steady but he'd be damned if he'd show how lousy he felt.
"Good timing," Jack said as the little alien walked towards them.
Thor inclined his head, accepting Jack's words as thanks. "I apologize for not arriving sooner. When you initiated the change in course, we received an automated signal and realized the moon was in trouble. Since the course change had been effected properly, we did not hurry to verify that all was in order. Had we known of the problems which had occurred during the last few cycles of the peoples' lives, we would have immediately corrected the problem."
"Those people you beamed up... you didn't...?"
"I have not harmed them, Doctor Jackson. I will speak with them and assure them they had simply made a wrong assumption."
"What about the moon? Iorund said the last of the technicians died. What if something else goes wrong?"
"All will be taken care of. I have already chosen several with the proper genetic coding to access the moon's controls and the appropriate information will be provided."
Thor walked to a small console, and twisted something. "The Stargate is now operational. You may now go home. My thanks for helping the people."
Daniel blinked, and found himself in a bright clearing, the Stargate looming over them. Immediately his head flared with pain as the sunshine blinded him. He closed his eyes, bringing his forearm over his face.
Someone was holding onto him securely so he relaxed slightly. He heard the sound of the Stargate turning and he turned towards it, anxious to get out of the sunlight.
- - - - - -
The doorbell rang, its chimes pulling Daniel out of the depths of sleep. He looked up blearily, his face mashed into the couch cushions, the strains of Enya coming softly from his stereo. The doorbell chimed again, this time resounding with three impatient rings. Daniel reluctantly pushed off the warm, cozy nest he'd made for himself on his couch.
He passed his hand over his sleep-encrusted eyes, then opened the door, gazing blearing at Jack, who was leaning against the doorjamb.
"Oh, I'm sorry, did I wake you?"
Daniel realized there was no way he could lie; his glasses were sitting on the coffee table, and as he looked down he could see his clothes were rumbled, and although he didn't raise his hand to feel for it, he was pretty sure the wetness along the side of his mouth was drool.
"Sort of. I had nothing better to do." Which was an understatement. Forbidden to watch television, work on his computer, read, or do any other myriad of little things that might strain his eyes, Daniel had opted for the easiest. He'd listened to relaxing music, and had promptly fallen asleep.
Jack pushed off the doorjamb and Daniel moved back to allow his friend inside. "You have some..." He pointed to the side of Daniel's head and then waved at his own hair.
Daniel rubbed the sleep spikes away as he walked back to the couch to get his glasses. He picked up the blanket and threw it over the back of his couch. Jack immediately sat down, looking over at Daniel.
"I thought you might need a bit of distraction - you know, a game of chess, cards, conversation."
Daniel smiled. Yeah, he could use a diversion. Although his eyes were much better and improving quickly, he would go stir crazy over the next forty-eight hours with the restrictions imposed by Janet.
"You know where the chess board is." Daniel waved to the cupboard to their right. "I'll be right back." As Daniel headed for the bathroom, he heard Jack get up and start rummaging through the drawer.
"Hey, got any beer?"
"In the fridge. Help yourself."
When Daniel returned to the living room, the chess set had been laid out and waiting for him on the coffee table. Jack returned from the kitchen, a beer in hand and a glass of juice in the other, a bag of munchies under his arm. He handed Daniel the juice and sat back down on the couch and opened the bag of chips with much rustling and tearing of plastic wrap.
Daniel settled in a chair opposite his friend and took a sip of orange juice. Jack stuffed several chips into his mouth, wiped his hands on his pants, twisted off the beer cap and threw it down the hall.
"I'm going to walk in here late one night, barefoot, and step on that thing," Daniel said with a smile at Jack's habit. He took a handful of chips as Jack handed him the bag, and made his first move on the chessboard.
"Been there, done that."
They played in silence for a few moments, until Daniel brought something up that had been bothering him since their short conversation with their friendly neighbourhood Asgard. "What do you think Thor meant about people having the right genetic coding to use the equipment on the moon?"
Jack shrugged. "Dunno. Carter thinks it must be something the Asgard introduced into Iorund's folks to allow only certain people access to the machinery. Sort of like a safety feature."
"Then why were you the only one able to make the controls work?" Daniel took some more chips and chomped away as Jack looked up at him, startled.
"You don't think Thor...?"
They stared at each other in perplexity.
"Nah," Daniel said at the same time as Jack. He licked the salt from his fingers, and contemplated the board.
Daniel reached for more chips. "Most likely. Or maybe a latent gene of some kind from your ancestry." He grinned up at Jack. "Hey, I didn't know you had Viking blood in you."
"Funny." Jack nodded at the chips in Daniel's hands. "Don't eat too many of those. Carter and Teal'c are bringing supper."
Daniel sat back, contented. Funny how just two days ago, they'd almost died. The worst part of that experience had been his feeling of helplessness; knowing there was nothing he could have done, especially when he'd been blinded.
But his team had been there for him, had helped him through everything. Had been a source of stability throughout those long hours.
And now, here he was, at home, nearly healed. And here they were, still taking care of him. Daniel thought life was good.
Until Jack spoke up, breaking their easy silence.
"So, think I should take up yodelling?"
Author's Comments: For my Heartsisters
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DISCLAIMER:The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.