The Twilight Zone
Jack caught Daniel stuffing several chocolate bars into his backpack as he entered the embarkation room. Fastening up his pack as he walked up to the edge of the metallic ramp where the rest of his team was waiting for him, Daniel looked up and caught Jack staring at him.
"You're gonna have to share those, you know," Jack told him, adjusting his baseball cap on his head.
"Huh uh, you want chocolate, you bring your own. I'm tired of being the only one who remembers to bring dessert on missions," Daniel huffed, as he slung his backpack over his shoulder.
"I bring dessert," Jack argued, raising his voice slightly over the sound of the intercom, which was announcing that Chevron Five was engaged.
"Yeah, right. A half empty bag of stale licorice isn't exactly what I call appetizing. Teal'c at least brought donuts last time."
"Don't worry, Daniel. I've got some hot chocolate you and I can share tonight," Sam said to Daniel, with a twinkle in her eye.
"Yum. Maybe next time we can add marshmallows?" Jack asked.
"Only if you bring the marshmallows, sir."
"Daniel, you have got to learn how to share," Jack scolded.
"Not gonna happen, Jack. Um, wait," he said, looking through the pockets of his backpack. "Here." He handed Jack a sticky candy who's wrapping had nearly disintegrated. "See, I'm sharing," Daniel said, as the Stargate burst to life. He turned away from his friend and joined his other teammates, while Jack tried to rid himself of the mess on his hand. Jack finally led them through the Stargate, trying to wipe away the sticky residue from his fingers on his pants after he'd dropped the candy in the garbage bin.
As the Stargate spit out the four members of SG1 onto the raised platform which housed the 'gate itself, Jack deftly stepped around the discarded MALP and to the side of it, taking a long look around. "Whoa," he exclaimed softly, hefting his gun into a more comfortable position. "This place would be great around Halloween. Just throw in a couple of tombstones over here, a few skeletons over there, a black cat or two, some chains…" Sam turned towards her Commanding Officer as she moved past him and down the stone steps, smiling to herself, his sense of humor rarely surprising her anymore. Teal'c merely ignored him and continued on his way, checking out the perimeter around the 'gate. Daniel gave Jack a fretful look as he walked by, which Jack missed, as he was too busy admiring the ambiance of the place from atop the platform. "Welcome to The Twilight Zone," Jack intoned, humming the theme song to the show.
Dead, leafless trees surrounded the stargate, their naked limbs adorned by long withered vines hanging down to the ground. The trees extended several thousand feet in every direction away from the Stargate. Not a scrap of grass grew anywhere, and the only sound was the sigh of the wind moaning through the dead, dry vines, making rattling and slithering sounds. Boulders and large rocks were littered amongst the trees. The area was eerily dark, as if dusk were fast approaching.
Tearing his eyes from the captivating view, Jack drew himself up and got back to his job. UAV recordings had shown signs of ancient habitation several miles away from the gate, and SG1 had been sent out to investigate. The area around the Stargate was strangely similar to that of the Land of the Light, in that the luminosity remained constantly low near the Stargate, while the sun rose and set normally farther out.
Jack, turning to survey his team, noticed Daniel standing still near a large rock, staring intently at it, video camera in hand. Jack figured he must have found some interesting scribbling on the rock. Teal'c was still checking out the perimeter, and Carter was crouched not far from Daniel, gathering soil and plant samples.
Jack approached Daniel, pushing the clingy dead
vines away as he walked amongst the trees. "Whatcha looking at?" he
asked Daniel pleasantly. To Jack's surprise, Daniel jumped nearly a
foot in the air, and turned towards Jack with a look of horror on his
face, nearly falling over his feet in his fright. "Whoa, Danny. What's
got you so spooked?" Jack asked, extending a hand to steady his friend.
Daniel looked at him in fear, his breath coming in quick pants.
"Daniel, what's the matter."
"Geez, Jack! Don't sneak up on me like that!" Daniel exclaimed, when he finally managed to catch his breath.
"I don't sneak, Daniel", Jack argued, ignoring
Daniel's glare. "Skulk maybe. Slink, prowl. But I do not sneak. Anyway,
what were you looking at?"
"Nothing, really. I was listening to...can't you hear it?"
"I don't know…there's something out there, Jack." Daniel looked around anxiously.
"Geez, I'd have thought all those years of exploring tombs and caves looking for curses and mummies would have cured you of the eebie jeebies."
"What?" Daniel asked, distractedly. "Curses don't exist, Jack, they're just legends people made up to keep grave robbers away from the treasures. And mummies are already dead, they can't hurt anyone. This is, I don't know, something different. Something alive." His voice had dropped to a whisper.
Now Daniel's words were starting to unsettle Jack. Jack mumbled under his breath, "maybe that something just wants some of your chocolate." Ignoring Daniel's glare and trying to change the subject, Jack indicated the movie camera in Daniel's hand, ignoring the urge to check if something was creeping up behind him. "This footage would make a great backdrop at a Halloween party, Daniel. They'd never believe this place otherwise."
"Yeah, well they probably won't believe us anyway. The camera's not working, the batteries just died." He waggled the camera back and forth to prove his point.
"What, didn't you check the batteries?"
"Of course I checked the batteries," Daniel said impatiently. "They're fresh. I don't know what happened, the camera was working fine before at the SGC."
Jack noticed Daniel's eyes were darting to and fro while talking to Jack, as if he were constantly searching for something. He didn't think he'd ever seen Daniel so spooked before. He felt a sudden chill run up his spine at the same time as Daniel quickly turned to look in the opposite direction, as if he'd heard a noise behind him. Now Jack was really beginning to feel nervous too. "Don't do that," Jack griped.
He peered into the twilight, trying to see if he could discover what Daniel had heard, when he suddenly felt movement behind him. Turning quickly, Jack came face to face with Teal'c. "Geez, Teal'c, don't sneak up on me," Jack complained.
Teal'c merely raised an eyebrow. He had found his footsteps to be very loud in this place, they seemed to reverberate strangely amongst the dead trees. "The perimeter is clear, O'Neill. Except I have found something you may wish to have a look at." He pointed in the direction he had just come from. "Carter," Jack yelled. Sam looked up at his call. Jack pointed in the direction that they were heading for, and she nodded her head, indicating she understood.
Jack and Daniel turned and followed Teal'c, Daniel giving Jack a worried look. Daniel lagged behind slightly, constantly checking behind them as they walked through the dead trees.
"Teal'c, do you find this place a little…spooky?" Jack asked Teal'c in a low voice when Daniel was out of earshot.
"The setting is very similar to what you would term a ghost story. Is this what you mean by spooky?"
"No, not really. I mean, yeah, the setting is cool, really. But something seems to be affecting Daniel, and I feel that…no, just forget I mentioned it." They stopped beside something white lying amidst the remains of two dead trees. "Oh boy, this gets better all the time," Jack quipped, staring at the skeleton Teal'c had discovered. He hummed the theme song from The Twilight Zone once again.
Crouching down to have a better look at the grisly find, Daniel surmised that the bones Teal'c had found were very old. They hadn't been disturbed, which meant that there probably weren't any predators in the area. The clothes that adorned the skeleton were in tatters, almost disintegrating at a touch. There was no way of knowing how this person had died, but he had been lying here for many many years.
"Sir," Carter said quietly behind Jack, causing Jack to jump slightly and Daniel to nearly leap into Teal'c's arms. "What?" she questioned, looking at her teammates in puzzlement. "It's not like I sneaked up on you guys." At Jack's raised eyebrow, she indicated the hand held readout she had been working with. "This damned thing isn't working", she said, shaking it slightly. "I got a strange energy reading off it earlier, and now it just died on me."
"Maybe your batteries are from the same batch as Daniel's. The ones for his video camera are dead too."
Sam looked up at Daniel, who nodded his confirmation. "This has to be more than a coincidence." Flipping off the protective covering of her watch, she looked at it and stated, "my watch stopped." Teal'c and Jack both checked their own watches, confirming that theirs had stopped too. Jack clicked his radio on, and didn't even get static. "Dead," he declared. Then wishing he hadn't said anything when he looked over at the skeleton again. Glancing over at Daniel, Jack noted that he'd made no attempt to check his own equipment. He was too busy nervously looking over his shoulder.
- - - - -
The longer they remained, the more restless and jittery Daniel became. He kept looking back at the Stargate longingly, and Jack thought that he just might cut this mission short if his strange behavior continued. He decided he'd had enough of this twilight zone, and ordered the team onwards towards the area where the UAV had discovered the ancient signs of a town. As they finally neared the edge of the dead woods, they could occasionally make out living trees amongst the lifeless ones, although their growth was somewhat stunted. Farther on, the trees were healthy, and other plant life could be seen growing in the sunlight. He could hear what he thought were birds chirping in the distance, although the sound appeared to be slightly distorted. Just inside the fringe of the dead trees were tall, thin, wooden poles planted deep into the soil. They were about six feet high, roughly ten feet apart, with an egg-sized crystal set on top of each one. They seemed to follow the edge of the dead woods in both directions, for as far as they could see.
"Wonder what these are for?" Jack said to himself.
"They look like they're probably markers, sir, indicating the edges of the twilight zone." She grinned at him as she adopted the name Jack had christened this part of the woods.
"Teal'c, ever see anything like this?"
"I have not, O'Neill. But I believe that they would be indicative of a fence."
"Yeah, but fences are usually used to keep something from coming in, or stop things from getting out," Daniel said in a low voice.
"Things? Daniel, what things?" Jack looked at Daniel, who simply shrugged.
As they neared the crystals, Jack found himself somewhat reluctant to approach them. He slowed down slightly, feeling like a kid out on a dare, about to enter a haunted house. He felt the hairs on the back of his neck start to rise. Sam and Teal'c had continued on between the poles, and were already walking in the sunlight. Jack looked back at Daniel to see how was coping, and saw that he had come to a stop. He was standing several feet away, staring intently at the 'fence'. "Daniel, come on, let's go," Jack called. Daniel didn't move, he didn't even blink. Getting a little frustrated at his friend's demeanor since they'd arrived on the planet, Jack turned back and walked towards Daniel, noting how he felt slightly less edgy as he walked away from the edge of the woods and those damned poles. He thought that Daniel's behavior was definitely starting to affect him as he grabbed Daniel by the arm and towed him towards the waiting sunlight. As Daniel felt himself pulled near the poles, he started to struggle, and managed to break out of Jack's grip.
"Jack, I can't. I can't go through there," Daniel gasped, backing up quickly, nearly falling in his haste to move away from the horror he felt coming from the crystals. There was no way in hell that he was going to walk through those poles. He felt strange around them, as if they were giving off some kind of an aura. In all the years he'd gone excavating in old tombs and caves, he'd never come across something that gave him the chills like those crystals and poles did.
"Daniel, it's just a piece of wood with a bit of glass on top. Look, there's sunlight, fresh air, live trees. Doesn't that sound more appealing than this dreary place?"
"Jack, I can't. Please, can we just go home?"
All right, that was way weird. Daniel was asking to leave? "Daniel, are you feeling all right?"
"I don't know," he moaned. "I just want to get out of here. Please Jack, let's go back to the Stargate." Daniel lowered his head, his arms wrapped around his torso, staring at his feet. "I just want to go home," he whispered.
Jack knew something was definitely wrong with his friend at this point, if Daniel asked to go home. Normally they had to drag him back to Earth, he was always so interested in what a new planet might offer. "Carter, Teal'c," he yelled to his waiting teammates. "Come on back, we're leaving." Keeping his eyes on Daniel, he saw Daniel's look of relief at Jack's decision. Actually, now that the decision was made, Jack himself was glad to be leaving this place.
Daniel wanted nothing more than to get away from this area. He kept seeing things out of the corners of his eyes, thought he heard voices in the wind, fingers stroking through his hair, on his skin. Those poles were the worst, though. It was like the crystals atop the poles were evil, and when he got within several feet of one, he had felt his skin crawl all over his body. Having to cross them to get into the sunlight would have meant getting within five feet of one or the other, and he didn't think he could manage to get that close. Daniel had always enjoyed watching horror movies, but at the moment, he felt like he was living one.
- - - - - -
They returned to the Stargate along a circuitous route, and they had gotten more than halfway to the 'gate when Sam discovered another skeleton. This one wasn't quite as old as the previous one, and it was lying near what appeared to be some kind of ancient ruins. Several pillars had once surrounded what appeared to be an extremely large boulder with a deep hole carved in the center. All of the pillars were in pieces, obviously having fallen to the ground and broken upon impact. In the boulder's niche sat a large, flat metallic looking device, with a large pile of small crystals sprinkled on top and beside it, with more littering the ground around the boulder. The whole area was surrounded by several smaller poles adorned with crystals on top. Jack toed a small dusty crystal lying exposed on the ground near his foot, and bent down and picked it up. He held it up to the light, trying to look through it. Giving the area a cursory look, Jack made the decision to hightail it out of there just from the fact that Daniel hadn't even approached what should have been an archeological find. He just stood back watching them, hands beneath his armpits in a self-hug.
They quickly made their way to the Stargate, Sam going directly for the DHD and dialing home. Jack stood near Teal'c, throwing the crystal up in the air, catching it one-handed. Daniel stood beside Sam, impatiently shifting his weight from one leg to the other. As the wormhole activated, Carter raised her arm and pointed the GDO strapped on her forearm towards it. She punched in SG1's code, and as she pressed the last number, Daniel sprinted from her side towards the wormhole. "No, Daniel! Don't! Colonel, stop him!" she screamed.
Wanting desperately to be away from the feelings and sensations he was experiencing, Daniel had seen Sam punch in the codes and knew that it was safe to go through the Stargate. Panic had been mounting through him for the past hour, and it was taking all of his self-control up until this point to hold everything together. At the sight of imminent escape from this planet, he lost that control and his instincts took over as he made a run for safety.
Jack grabbed at Daniel and missed as he ran by him, but Teal'c was faster and managed to tackle him as Daniel reached the steps leading to the 'gate. Daniel lay there a second, trying to catch his breath, then attempted to get up and make a run for the wormhole once again. Teal'c grabbed onto Daniel's leg, and Jack threw himself on top of Daniel to prevent him from getting up again.
Sam came running up to them. "Shit, that was close. Sir, there's no telling whether the codes got through to the SGC. If there's a dampening field preventing anything electrical from working, then it's most likely that the GDO isn't either."
"Carter, you couldn't have mentioned that before you activated the damned wormhole," Jack panted, trying to hold onto a struggling Daniel. "Daniel, damn it. Hold still."
"Sir, we need to get a message through to the SGC, and have them confirm that they've received our transmission codes. Let me get some paper from Daniel's packsack." Reaching between Jack and Teal'c, she took Daniel's bag from him and rummaged through it, finding pen and paper. She wrote a quick note, then threw it through the rippling wormhole. As she disengaged the Stargate, Jack and Teal'c released Daniel. He sat up slowly, his head on his knees.
Tugging on Daniel's arm, Teal'c urged Daniel up and away from the stairs. Should the 'gate activate, they'd need to be away from the path of the vortex. Jack patted Daniel's arm and said, "it won't be long now, Daniel." He shivered slightly, visions of Daniel smashing against the closed protective iris dancing in his mind. If Carter hadn't reacted so quickly…damn, they could all have gone through the 'gate without realizing that their codes might not have been received.
Daniel was bewildered. Escape had been so close. Why did they stop him, he had been just a few feet away from the wormhole. Jack had said that they were going home, why had he changed his mind? Daniel stood there shivering slightly, his head hanging in despair. He wanted to get away so badly. He kept his eyes shut, not wanting to see those strange lights.
After ten minutes, Jack concluded that the note hadn't been received. "Carter, dial Earth again, let's give this another try. Teal'c…" he simply said, pointing towards Daniel with his chin. Teal'c nodded and stood beside Daniel, who had barely moved since the 'gate had disengaged. As Carter began keying in the glyphs on the DHD, Daniel lifted his head in interest. Teal'c grasped Daniel's arm in a firm hold, ensuring that he didn't charge for the wormhole again before it was deemed to be safe.
After Sam pressed the seventh glyph and then the central crystal on the DHD, Jack stood by, expecting the Stargate to come to life once again. Instead, nothing happened. No kawhoosh, no vortex, no wormhole. All seven chevrons had lit up, but instantly died before engaging the 'gate. Swearing under her breath, Sam quickly dialed the coordinates for Earth again, only to have the same thing happen again.
"Sir, the same source that's drained the batteries must also be blocking the Stargate. I'm thinking maybe that alien device we saw near the second skeleton might warrant a closer look."
"But the gate worked just ten minutes ago," Jack argued.
"So did my equipment, at first. I'm sorry, sir. I should have realized, everything initially worked when we got here, and then the energy was apparently blocked or drained somehow. I should have dialed another safe gate address in the first place, and we could have gone home from there."
"Not your fault, Carter. You couldn't have known." Jack gave the order for them to move out towards the ruins, Teal'c leading Daniel gently by the arm. He hadn't spoken since Teal'c had tackled him on the stairs of the 'gate, he'd barely acknowledged their presence.
"Sir, what's wrong with Daniel," Sam asked Jack softly, as they walked ahead of their teammates. She'd never seen Daniel so jumpy, and his panicking and making a run for the stargate was so out of character.
"I think this place is wigging him out." He didn't admit it to Sam, but he had sympathized with Daniel's panicked dash to the Stargate. He had felt the same compelling urge to leave this place in a hurry. He could see no immediate danger, but all the same, his instincts were yelling at him to leave.
"I'll admit that the atmosphere is a little weird, but it's not like Daniel to panic like that."
"Well, I hate to admit it, but Daniel's not the only one who's feeling jumpy."
"Carter, tell me this place isn't getting to you."
"No! I mean, you can't be serious? You think the place might be haunted?"
"I didn't say haunted, I just said that I feel that there's something here…like a ghost, maybe."
"So you think the place is haunted."
They were nearly to the ruins when Jack felt a breeze caress his hair. As the wind started to pick up, Daniel stopped walking and turned quickly, looking behind him. He turned again, facing again the direction they had been moving in. "Oh God, Jack. It's coming," he moaned. Jack could feel it too. It was almost electrical, like his hair was trying to stand on end.
Behind them, it was definitely coming from behind them. Daniel had turned again and was staring in that direction, his eyes wide. He backed up slowly, edging closer to Jack, away from Teal'c, who remained where he was.
"Sir, what's wrong?" Carter asked, raising her voice slightly above the sound of the growing wind.
"Can't you feel it, Carter?" Jack asked.
"Feel what? Sir, you're beginning to sound like Daniel. It's just the wind, there's probably a storm coming up. We can't even see the sky from here." Sam was worried, first Daniel was acting completely out of character, and now the Colonel was aping Daniel's earlier comments. She moved slowly towards the Colonel. Teal'c was still several feet away from them. Then suddenly it was upon them.
It came with the wind, a green shimmer, zipping first by Teal'c, rounding by Daniel, over Sam, and finally enveloping Jack. The pain caught him completely by surprise. He saw a green flash surround him, ripping into him, sending jolts of pain from his head, down into his feet, his fingers and toes curling involuntarily. His hand closed convulsively around the crystal he still held, and he felt it cutting into his palm. His body hit the ground, he had no recollection of falling. He couldn't breathe, couldn't move. He could hear Sam yelling from far away, Daniel calling his name. The sounds faded quickly as he lost consciousness.
Daniel ran towards Jack as he felt the wave of energy pass by him and wrap itself around Jack. He saw his friend jerk with the contact, and heard him yell in pain as he was quickly engulfed by the green glow. Sam was closer, and reached Jack as he collapsed to the ground. She was already trying to turn him onto his back as Daniel threw himself down beside his friend scant seconds later. He reached a hand to help Sam turn Jack over. As he touched Jack's body, a bolt of energy threw Daniel several feet into the air.
It all happened in seconds. Sam saw Daniel get thrown and land roughly on his back, the momentum of the blast rolling him onto his stomach. Strangely, the energy that tossed Daniel into the air like a toy didn't even give her as much as an electrical shock. They had both had their hands on the Colonel at the same time. She saw Teal'c change his course to go to Daniel, so she continued her examination of the Colonel. He had a pulse, albeit a bit slow, but she noted with alarm that he wasn't breathing. She finally managed to turn him onto his back, and got him into position to start giving mouth to mouth.
As Teal'c arrived by his fallen comrade, he saw that Daniel was stirring. He looked up and saw Sam start to give Jack mouth to mouth. He glanced at Daniel again, decided that O'Neill was in more immediate need of attention. Going to his friend, he placed a hand to O'Neill's neck and felt for a pulse. Satisfied that there was nothing he could do for the moment to help Sam, he returned to Daniel.
Daniel had hit the ground hard. He was lying there totally disoriented, although he wasn't sure if it was from the landing or from the surge of energy he'd felt go through his body as he touched Jack. He tried pushing his arms down to raise his body up, but they didn't seem to work properly. He couldn't tell if he was lying on his back or stomach, or whether he was pushing or pulling his arms and legs. He tried turning around onto his side, and momentarily thought that he had finally succeeded when he realized that it was Teal'c who had caused the movement, feeling his strong hands on his body. After several tries, he managed to open his eyes, and saw his friend's blurry face above him. Taking a few deep breaths, he pushed again and with Teal'c's help, managed to sit up. He saw Jack lying several feet away, with Sam attempting to breathe for him.
He tried to get onto his hands and knees, to crawl to Jack, but Teal'c held him back. As he watched helplessly for what seemed to be an interminable amount of time, he finally saw Jack take a breath on his own. Sam sat back, trying to catch her own breath, wiping the sweat from her face. Jack took a second breath, a third. Patting Daniel's arm in reassurance, Teal'c left him sitting up against a tree and went to help Sam turn Jack over into the recovery position. Daniel stubbornly tried to get to Jack again, this time managing to get up onto his knees, when suddenly his stomach contracted and he was violently ill.
Teal'c returned immediately to Daniel, helping support him while his stomach heaved. His stomach finally emptied, and he started coughing along with the dry heaves. Daniel started to panic when he couldn't seem to get enough air in his lungs between the coughing and the heaving. Teal'c held him firmly, rubbing his back. When finally the heaving stopped, Daniel found himself leaning heavily against Teal'c. He was sweating profusely, his skin feeling chilled in the cool atmosphere.
Sam sat beside Jack, her hand on his back, the other on his wrist, keeping track of his pulse and his breathing. She was watching Daniel worriedly, but saw that Teal'c had things well in hand. She felt Jack stir beneath her hands, and helped turn him onto his back when he attempted to do so himself. He opened his eyes, looked at her. "Welcome back, sir," she said with a smile.
Jack felt terrible, his head was pounding, his whole body was aching. He opened his eyes to find concerned but unfamiliar blue ones staring down at him. "Who the hell are you?" Jack croaked.
"Colonel?" Sam questioned. "Identify yourself," Jack ordered, noticing that the woman was wearing BDUs. He made an attempt to sit up.
"Major Samantha Carter, under your command of SG1, sir," she reported, trying to assist him to sit up.
"SG1?" Jack finally made it up into a sitting position, and looked around. He saw two other individuals dressed in similar garb sitting on the ground several feet away, one obviously sick or injured, leaning heavily against the other. "Report and identify," O'Neill barked at them. A very muscular man wearing a tattoo on his forehead looked up at him and replied, "I am Teal'c." He saw the other person leaning against Teal'c raise his head, and Jack recognized him when their eyes met.
"Jack?" Daniel asked weakly. "Are you all right?"
"Doctor Jackson." Jack responded. "Where the hell are we?"
"What? We're on P3…3...something. What's wrong, can't you remember us?" Uh boy, he couldn't remember this planet's designation. Maybe it would come to him when the trees stopped spinning.
"Sir, whatever jolted you must have caused some amnesia."
"Amnesia? What happened to me? And what's this P..3..whatever?" Jack put his hands to his face and pressed down on his eyes, trying to force the headache away through sheer will.
"You were attacked by some kind of energy force, sir. It knocked you out, and you stopped breathing for a while. It also threw Daniel over there when he touched you. Sir, are you in pain? Can I get you something?"
"Headache," he admitted reluctantly.
Daniel managed to extricate himself from Teal'c's hold and this time made it all the way to his friend. Dropping heavily beside Jack, he said, "Jack, what can you remember?" Teal'c crouched down by Daniel's side, while Carter found a blister pack of painkillers, offering two to Jack along with her canteen.
"I remember you," Jack said, swallowing the painkillers with a grimace. "You came to Cheyenne about three days ago, to work on the…" Jack lapsed into silence when he realized he was about to mention a top-secret project. His brain must have been addled to make him so careless.
Daniel closed his eyes briefly. Four years, Jack had lost almost four years of memory. "You mean the Stargate? Jack, I translated the glyphs on the Stargate. We went through it four years ago." He swallowed against the urge to heave again. "The four of us are a team. We go through the 'gate and explore other planets, meet new people, fight the Goa'ulds." Daniel felt his heart grow heavy as he saw the familiar cold look in Jack's eyes, something he hadn't seen since the time when they'd fought Ra.
"Um, no, Goa'ulds. That's right, you wouldn't remember Ra…shit. It's a really long story, Jack". Daniel swallowed again as a wave of lightheadedness hit him. He closed his eyes momentarily, and hadn't realized he'd leaned sideways until he felt Teal'c's hand on his arm, preventing him from falling over.
"Four years, now that's kind of hard to believe."
"Sam, do you have a mirror?" Daniel asked.
She rummaged through her pack, and handed Jack a small compact mirror. He looked at himself, his hand coming up to touch his silver hair. "How did this happen?" he asked. He never thought he'd grow silver so quickly, four years…
"You constantly blame DanielJackson for the colour of your hair, O'Neill," Teal'c stated. Daniel felt himself blush, he hadn't heard Jack say that before, but he figured that he must have said it to his teammates for Teal'c to repeat it.
"O'Neill, you and DanielJackson are both injured, and the Stargate is inoperable at the moment, so we are unable to return to Earth. I recommend we make camp and permit you both to rest and recuperate."
Listening to the man speak, Jack said, "You're not from around here, are you?"
"He's not human, Jack," Daniel answered.
Jack's eyebrows went up involuntarily. What the hell had he gotten himself into? Four years. That meant Charlie died four years ago. How could he have survived that long without his son? He pulled his thoughts back into the present with reluctance. He looked his team over. He agreed with the big man's assessment, though. He felt like shit, and Jackson didn't look much better. Probably best to hunker down and lick their wounds for a bit.
With the help of Major Carter, he got up and looked around. He could see a Stargate away in the distance, through a small forest of dead trees and vines. "We're not on earth," he stated. At the Major's nod and his recollection of Jackson's words 'We go through the 'gate and explore other planets', he suddenly realized that they were in trouble. They were wounded, he was literally amongst strangers, and they were stranded on another planet, for crying out loud.
He noted that Jackson needed a bit more support from the alien, he looked ready to pass out any moment. "What's this about the Stargate not working?" Jack asked the Major, trying to find a way to distract himself from the pain in his head as he limped along.
"We ran into a problem, sir. I suspect that there's an alien artifact causing some kind of dampening field preventing any kind of energy use. We were attempting to explore the ruins where the artifact was found, when you were attacked." Jack nodded at her explanation, then started to tune her out as she went on about electro magnetic fields and other terms he had no understanding of. "How do you know so much about these things?" he finally interrupted.
"I'm an astrophysicist, sir."
"Oh great, I have a team made up of one sick archeologist, a scientist and an alien. What the hell was I thinking when I decided to go through that gate?"
He ignored the glare that Sam gave him. She continued to explain about Jaffa and Goa'ulds as they walked through the dead trees. The Major led him to a spot near some sort of ruins and a huge boulder, and she helped him sit, leaning against one of the trees.
Daniel had begun to shiver slightly during their short walk. Teal'c helped Daniel to the ground beside the Colonel, and then rummaged through his pack for the compact emergency blankets that they all carried. He deftly wrapped Daniel up in the blanket, placing Daniel's pack under his head as a pillow, while Sam did the same for Jack. Daniel fell asleep almost immediately, while Jack tossed a little, his headache keeping sleep at bay. His mind seemed unable to shut down enough to allow him to sleep. He saw Teal'c and Carter go to the ruins and look around.
He stared at Doctor Jackson sleeping beside him. He could see fine lines around his eyes that he didn't remember being there when he'd first met him three days ago. Or was that four years ago? This was all so confusing. Jackson looked older, less naïve somehow, but then the shorter hair could be the reason for that. Jack had difficulty in accepting that he'd lost four years of his life, all he wanted to think of was Charlie, and that he'd soon be joining him. When he'd been reassigned to the Stargate mission, Jack had known that he wasn't coming back. What had happened to make him change his mind? He closed his eyes, and sleep came unexpectedly.
- - - - - -
Sam got up in frustration and walked over to a nearby tree and threw herself down against it. She and Teal'c had been examining the alien artifact for the past two hours and neither could come up with any idea what it was for. She suspected that it was the cause behind the dampening effect, which included the problems with the Stargate, but had no way of proving it. Teal'c had left the camp several minutes previously to walk the perimeter, ensuring that all was safe. The metallic device lying in the niche seemed to be fused inside of it, she couldn't remove it to examine it more carefully. The handful of small crystals lying on it seemed to fit on the device in some sort of pattern, but most had been disturbed, many of the crystals were spread around the boulder. She had no way of knowing what the pattern was, or more, what the device did. She also couldn't figure out why the poles were situated around the ruins, also similar to the ones running along the perimeter of the woods. Another fence?
She heard rustling coming from where her two teammates were sleeping, and she turned her head to see Daniel push the blanket away and get up. He walked unsteadily towards the ruins that she had just abandoned, and she saw him stop before the boulder, just outside of the boundary delineated by the poles. He put his hand out and reached for the artifact resting in the boulder's recess, but his reach fell short by several inches. It looked to her like he was trying to press through an invisible force. His eyes were closed in concentration, and he was breathing quickly, almost gasping.
"Daniel," Sam said softly. He didn't appear to hear her. His whole body appeared to be straining to get through whatever was preventing him from reaching into the fenced off area. She got up and went to him, standing beside him, not touching. She finally put out her hand to touch Daniel's shoulder, and was surprised by Teal'c voice cautioning her, apparently he had returned from his rounds. "Do not touch him, MajorCarter." She quickly drew her hand back, remembering what had happened to Daniel when he'd touched the Colonel. She saw sweat pouring off Daniel's face, his face was contorted, and he seemed to be in pain.
"Daniel," she repeated. "Can you hear me?" She started to worry when she saw his whole body start to tremble as he continued to strain against the invisible barrier, his breaths coming more forcibly. As she looked back at Teal'c in concern, she saw that the Colonel was awake and had also approached, and was watching them. After a few more seconds, Daniel let his arm fall, unable to reach his goal. She couldn't resist this time, and put a hand out to him, touching his back as he dropped his head dejectedly, trying to catch his breath. Sam drew back in shock as he snapped his head towards her; instead of seeing Daniel's clear blue eyes, his eyes were totally blue. It was as if the whites of his eyes had absorbed the colour of his irises.
He looked at her for a few seconds, and then those too blue orbs rolled back into his head and he collapsed at her side. Both Teal'c and Jack lunged forward as Daniel fell, but Sam just stood there at the shock of seeing Daniel's eyes change. Her mind was racing, she didn't think he'd been possessed by a Goa'uld, his eyes hadn't glowed, they'd just…changed.
Teal'c had gathered Daniel in his arms, supporting his head against his chest. His body was shivering violently. She reached over and with trepidation, peeled back an eyelid. And sighed in relief, Daniel's eyes appeared normal. She checked the other just to make sure. She felt his pulse, and to her dismay saw that it was very slow, and noted that his skin felt very cool. His body continued to shake, and they moved him back to the blanket, covering him with a second one to try and keep his body temperature up.
Teal'c finally gathered Daniel up gently in his arms, trying to keep the shivering man in contact with as much of his own body as he could in an attempt to warm him up, and covered them both with the blankets.
Jack had gone and gathered wood to make a fire, Sam had said that they needed to get Daniel to try and drink something warm. It looked to Sam like Daniel was suffering from mild hypothermia, although she couldn't figure out how his body temperature had dropped so quickly. It must have had something to do with the change in his eyes, or the effort he had expended in trying to reach the artifact.
Daniel stirred against Teal'c. "Cccold," Daniel tried to say.
"DanielJackson, do not attempt to speak. You are safe now. Your body temperature has fallen; we are attempting to warm you up."
"Jjjjj'ck, where's Jjjjj'ck?" Daniel asked, his teeth chattering.
"I'm right here, Jackson," Jack replied to his query. He saw Daniel try to turn towards his voice, so he moved into Daniel's line of sight.
"Okkkay?" he asked Jack.
"Yeah, you'll be fine," Jack answered.
"Nnnno. You. Okkay?" He deliberately enunciated each word to try and make himself understood.
Jack was stunned, here was a man who was barely conscious, sick, and freezing from some unknown reason, and he was more worried about Jack's state of health than his own. "Yeah, I'm fine. Don't worry about me." He had a sudden flash of memory of Daniel jumping in front of a weapon similar to the one Teal'c was carrying, taking a hit meant for Jack himself. He tried to concentrate on the memory, but it fled as quickly as it appeared. Irritated with himself, he spoke a little more harshly than he meant to. "What the hell were you trying to do over there, Doctor Jackson?"
"Whh Why? Wha happ'ned?" Why was Jack being so formal? And what had happened to make him so cold? He couldn't stop shivering, couldn't seem to warm up. The others didn't seem to be affected, he didn't remember anything other than going to sleep a while earlier, after Jack had stopped breathing. Jack seemed all right, though. Although he did seem to be annoyed at Daniel for some reason.
"You gonna tell us why you were trying to play with the artifact over there."
"Nnno, sleep'ng." What was Jack talking about? He'd been asleep, and he woke up in Teal'c's arms, feeling like he'd had all the heat sucked out of him. He tried to will his body to absorb Teal'c's warmth, he felt so good against Daniel's cold body.
"You mean to say you don't remember trying to reach those…you ever sleepwalk, Jackson?" Jack asked.
Daniel ignored Jack's comment, as Sam had settled beside him with something for him to drink. Oh heaven, it was something hot. He sipped the sweet hot chocolate through chattering teeth. In between sips, he tried to relax in Teal'c's arms, as much as his shuddering body would allow him to. He felt the warm liquid finally start to bring heat into his body. His back was also starting to heat up from Teal'c's body heat as he lay against him.
Jack sat there watching his two teammates caring for Jackson. He felt helpless in a sense; he was recovered enough to help, but they seemed to have things under control. He examined the faces of his teammates as they worked, and he vaguely remembered seeing the same expressions of worry and concern on their faces before. Recalled times when they looked at him with the same looks of care and anxiety. The feelings these memories invoked felt strange. The fleeting feelings of companionship and caring were warring over the feeling of devastation he felt over Charlie's remembered death.
Jack suddenly knew exactly how Jackson felt, he had been freezing himself at one time, in terrible pain, surrounded by tons of ice. He shook the memory off with a shake of his head.
Daniel had finished the hot chocolate, and was lying limp against Teal'c. Sam used the remainder of the hot water to make them all some coffee, and heated up a few MREs. As she approached Jack with his share, she said in a low voice, "Sir, did you see his eyes?"
Looking back at Daniel who seemed to be dozing, she said, "they changed, they were totally blue. I mean totally, even the whites of his eyes were a vibrant blue. Just before he collapsed."
"Isn't that what you told me of the Ghouls…Goa'ulds?"
"No, their eyes simply glow, they don't change color like that. And what would have caused the hypothermia?"
"You know, it looked like he was trying to get to that thingamajig inside there. Something was preventing him from getting near it. Maybe if you take one or two of the warding poles down, that won't happen again."
"What did you just call them?" Sam asked, puzzled to hear such a term come from her Commanding Officer.
"You called these things warding poles."
"No I didn't."
"Yes sir, you did." She decided to let it go. "You know, those crystals could be emitting some kind of energy field that Daniel's sensitive to. He didn't seem to want to cross similar ones earlier when we attempted to leave the twilight zone."
"The twilight zone? What kind of dumb ass name is that?"
"Don't look at me, you're the one who named this place." And she walked off to the ruins, deliberately humming the tune. She carefully began dismantling the two nearest poles, cautiously pulling them out of the ground and laying them aside. As she did this, Jack turned to Teal'c and asked, "how's he doing?"
"He appears to be sleeping, and his temperature is nearing normal. He has ceased shivering." Jack finished his coffee, feeling relieved that Jackson was doing better. He hadn't really cared for the man upon meeting him, he thought he was a total bumbling idiot, regardless of his supposed genius. But somehow in the past hour, he seemed to be recalling feelings of camaraderie and familiarity. And not only with Jackson, but also with the other two team members.
Jack got up and went to examine the ruins, which Daniel had attempted to reach earlier. He gingerly pushed the poles Carter had pulled out of the earth farther away from the boulder with his foot. Poking a finger through the pile of crystals lying beside the alien relic, Jack stirred them around thoughtfully. "Better take them all down, Major", Jack suggested. She nodded and continued to pull the remaining poles out. "What do you think just happened here?"
Pausing from her work, Sam threaded her fingers through her hair in thought. "I'm not sure, but it looks like Daniel might have been possessed by some sort of entity. Whatever it is, it must have used up a lot of Daniel's own energy to maintain itself. It's like it drained him of his life force."
"Are you saying he's possessed by a ghost?"
"No sir, not a ghost. But we have encountered various types of life forms that seemed a bit strange to us at the time."
Jack looked back at Daniel, who was now sleeping deeply in Teal'c's arms. For some reason, his heart lurched at the sight, and he felt that he should be the one sitting with Daniel. Why was he being pulled towards caring for a man that he didn't know, didn't remember? Someone, who at first sight, had irritated the hell out of him.
He just had to ask, he couldn't rely on his memory to provide the answer. "Major? What is Daniel to me?"
Sam looked at Jack carefully. "He's your best friend, sir. Actually, you kind of adopted him after he came back from Abydos. He doesn't have any family. His wife was first taken by a Goa'uld, and then she died not too long ago, so we're all he really has."
Jack walked back to the camp, sitting down beside Teal'c and Daniel. Jack stared down at the sleeping man, trying to figure out what this man saw in Jack to consider him a friend. Teal'c spoke up softly. "I believe MajorCarter to be correct in her assumption of DanielJackson's behaviour." Geez, the man had good hearing, how could he have heard their conversation from over here? "He appears now to be suffering from exhaustion. Something has greatly fatigued him, apart from draining his body heat. We must endeavour to discover what this being wants with him."
"They probably just want to go home, just like we do."
"They?" Sam questioned.
Jack shrugged. "They, it, whatever."
Taking a deep breath, Carter added. "Sir, seeing how Daniel reacted to those 'warding poles' situated around the ruins, it's possible that they were deliberately placed there to keep him, I mean the entity inside him, away from either the ruins, probably from the artifact inside. Also, the placement of the 'fence' around the woods is probably meant to keep the being enclosed here in the twilight zone. So you may be right, it's possible that the entity simply wants to escape from here."
"O'Neill, earlier DanielJackson appeared to have perceived this being before it made contact with him. His behavior here was not normal. You do not recall this, but he kept requesting to go home. It could very well be possible that he was in communication with the entity."
Jack felt that his head was spinning in circles. He needed to get his team out of this place; one of them was injured, possibly possessed, and he himself was operating under a handicap. With his memory loss, he was missing possible strategic information, chancing him to make a bad judgement call. But worst of all, there appeared to be no way to get home if the Stargate wasn't working. Possibly this alien knew the way out, but if they allowed it to continue using Daniel's body, it would make Daniel sick by simply possessing his friend. He was definitely out of his league here, he didn't know how to deal with ghosts. Give him a target he could shoot at, now that he could handle.
- - - - - -
They took turns resting that night, or what passed as night in the twilight zone. They could see the sun rising and setting on the outskirts of the wood, but the luminosity inside the dead zone never changed. It never got dark enough to say it was full night, but it never got very bright either. They took turns at standing watch, and when the sun had fully risen, Teal'c had offered to go look for fresh water. They emptied all their canteens into one, and Teal'c headed for a large stream the UAV had shown to be near the ancient settlement they had originally been intending to explore.
Daniel's expressionless face gazed over the small camp as he lay under the blankets, his overly blue eyes taking in every detail. Slowly sitting up, he turned his attention to the ruins situated just beyond the camp. Noting that the warding poles had been removed, he threw off the blankets covering his body and made his way there. Sam and Jack carefully watched his movements, allowed him to settle before the pile of crystals before making their way beside him.
Kneeling before the boulder, Daniel appeared to be examining everything very carefully. Then slowly, he reached a hand into the niche and removed several crystals. This time nothing prevented him from reaching his goal. Examining each crystal, he carefully placed them on the artifact in specific spots. These were immediately absorbed into the metal, meshing with the artifact so that only the tops of the crystals stuck out. There were a few hundred crystals, and Daniel seemed determined to place each and every one in the artifact. Occasionally, he would reach in and remove one of the crystals from the metallic plate, either placing it elsewhere or putting it aside. He was obviously following a design that only he could see.
After an hour's time, Jack could see that Daniel was growing weaker. He had about one quarter of the crystals embedded in the metal, and Jack was afraid that the being occupying Daniel's body was taking too much out of his friend. "Major, procure some nourishment for him," Jack ordered. Sam looked at Jack strangely before doing as the Colonel had requested. He had almost sounded like Teal'c. Jack didn't notice her scrutiny, he was too preoccupied in watching Daniel. As Daniel paused, examining yet another crystal, Sam put a hand on his arm to get his attention.
When he turned to look at her, she said to the alien, "you're burning up too quickly. Daniel's body needs energy to keep going, or else it's going to collapse. You need to replenish some of the energy that you're taking from Daniel. Can you eat some of this?" She offered him one of Daniel's chocolate bars, the wrapper already torn open. Daniel's alien eyes looked at the bar, then turned to look at Jack. "She's right, take it." Jack insisted.
Daniel put out a shaking hand and took the candy bar. He brought it up to his mouth, taking a small bite. He chewed slowly, as if experiencing the action for the first time. His eyes opened wide in surprise at the taste. He took another bite, and while chewing, turned back to his work. Occasionally Sam would nudge his arm to remind him to continue eating, and when he finished, she offered him their remaining canteen of water. Helping him tip it up, she encouraged him to drink as much as he could take. She noted that his hands seemed slightly steadier afterwards. She also noted that his body temperature seemed higher than normal, as if he was running a fever.
"Can you speak?" she asked. Daniel ignored her, returning to the crystals. "Can you tell us what it is that you're doing? Maybe we can help." No reaction. She looked up at the Colonel, he simply shrugged his shoulders.
"Are you a prisoner here?" she asked. He stopped his efforts and pinned her with a steady gaze. "That's it, isn't it?" Motioning to the crystals, she continued. "Will this stop the dampening field? Will it allow the Stargate to work again?" He frowned slightly at her words. "The Chaapa'ai?" she corrected. Daniel turned his head in the direction of the Stargate, and looked back at her. He made a careful up and down movement with his head, which she took to be a nod.
"Look, we're all stuck here until you can get the Chaapa'ai to work. Isn't there something we can do to help?" Obviously he didn't want their help because he ignored her and had turned back to sorting the crystals.
- - - - - -
Nearing the third hour, Daniel had filled in nearly three quarters of the crystals. To Sam and Jack's estimation, there was no rhyme or reason as to why he'd place a crystal in a particular spot. There was no design, no image, no pattern whatsoever. By this time, Daniel was leaning wearily against the rock, his breathing was ragged, and he was very obviously totally exhausted. Jack rose and knelt down beside his friend. He said, "I think that's enough for now, you're in no shape to continue, and you have to let Daniel recover."
The being inside Daniel looked at Jack, then at the small heap of crystals piled before him. He was obviously thinking over what Jack had just said. His decision made, he placed the crystal he'd been holding in his hand back with the others. He looked up at Jack once again for a moment, and then Daniel's eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed against Jack. As Jack caught him, he was shocked at the feel of Daniel's freezing body. Hadn't Carter said that he'd been running a fever?
They gently carried him the few feet back to the camp and covered him with the blankets. He was barely shivering, and Jack knew that it wasn't a good sign. His body was either too weary to attempt to warm itself up, or his body temperature had gotten too low. Pulling the blankets off of Daniel, he crawled in beside him, pulling his friend up against his own body as Teal'c had done the previous day, nestling Daniel's head onto his shoulder. He could feel the chill coming off Daniel and into his own body.
Sam built up the fire, and placed a container with the last of their water nearby to warm. Jack looked up at the Major when she pulled the blankets off Daniel's back and slid in behind him, spooning against him to add her own body heat. Daniel was sandwiched between his two teammates.
Slowly the trembling began. His body was slowly absorbing the heat from his friends, and that was enough to remind his own body that it needed to warm itself up. Jack pulled the blanket up loosely over Daniel's head, trying to keep as much heat as possible cocooned around him. As Daniel lay shivering in his arms, Jack suddenly recalled another occasion when Daniel had been ill and had lain in Jack's arms out in the field. Details were vague, but the image played in his head.
Other images came to the fore…Daniel lying in a corridor, his chest a bloody mess. Daniel strapped to a bed, ranting and raving. His team running and fighting, the smell and sounds of battle. Teal'c dressed in strange armor. Teal'c sitting in a middle of a room surrounded by candles. Carter sitting across from him in a briefing room. Carter sitting behind bars, her eyes glowing. Jack lifted his head and looked over at the Major. "You were possessed by a Goa'uld?" he said incredulously.
"Sir, you're starting to remember? That's great. Only it wasn't a Goa'uld, it was a Tok'ra. What else do you remember?"
"Only a Tok'ra, like there's a difference. They're both snakeheads. And it's just feelings and flashes. They're gone before I can examine them closely." He suddenly realized that he remembered the Goa'uld, and the difference between them and Tok'ra. He sighed. "I do know now that you all mean a lot to me," he admitted. He found that if he didn't try to force the memories, they came back to him spontaneously.
Daniel stirred slightly in his arms, trying to push himself away from Jack. "Shh, Danny, it's okay," Jack said. "Don't move, it's okay. I've got you." Hearing Jack's voice near him, Daniel settled down again.
Sam, seeing that Daniel was waking up, uncurled herself from around Daniel and got up to prepare a warm drink for him. Daniel moaned slightly at the loss of her warmth at his back. She added sugar to the hot chocolate, and quickly returned to her teammates. Handing the cup over to Jack, she helped raise Daniel into a slightly more upright position, so Jack could help him drink the warming liquid. Daniel's teeth clattered against the edge of the cup as Jack encouraged him to take a sip. Sam insinuated herself under the blankets again, curling up against Daniel's back.
Sleep overtook Daniel even before he finished the drink. His head dropped back onto Jack's shoulder, and Jack could feel Daniel's cold nose pressed against his neck. He placed one hand against Daniel's nape, the other holding him tightly against him. He felt Sam pressing against Daniel's back, her hand occasionally brushing his own as she moved it up and down Daniel's arm in a comforting gesture. It took a while, but Jack finally felt Daniel start to warm up, his shivering lessening as the minutes went by.
By the time Teal'c returned with the water, Jack had also fallen asleep. As Daniel's body temperature had started returning to normal, Sam had gotten up, not wanting to overheat him. He was obviously still suffering from exhaustion. Whenever the being overtly occupied Daniel's body, it burned enormous amounts of energy, leaving Daniel extremely tired and weak. The byproduct of this energy use was hypothermia. Sam was afraid that it would soon weaken Daniel so much that his body wouldn't be able to recover outside of the infirmary.
The good news was that the Colonel was regaining his memory.
After another meal of MREs, Sam and Teal'c sat around, waiting for something to happen. They felt helpless, there was nothing they could do until Daniel recovered enough to allow the entity to take over again and finish doing whatever it was doing with the crystals. And Jack, even though he didn't show it, was still feeling the effects of the shock he'd attained when the entity attacked him. The fact that he was sleeping so deeply now proved that he hadn't fully recovered.
"There's something I don't understand, Teal'c. How do you think Daniel got possessed by this thing in the first place? It attacked the Colonel first, not Daniel. Why did it leave the Colonel and go into Daniel?"
"Perhaps it is because DanielJackson was able to sense its presence better than ColonelO'Neill. Is it not peculiar that you and I were unaware of it?"
"Well, not really. It could be that your symbiote protected you from its effects, and perhaps Jolinar's protein markers did the same for me."
Teal'c nodded his head in agreement. "There is something you may find of interest, MajorCarter. When I was away from this area, my watch commenced working once again. As did my radio, although all I received from it was static."
"Then the dampening field is affecting only this
area. I wonder if those crystals on top of the poles might be some kind
of amplifier. If we took enough of them down, maybe we could get the
Stargate to work again."
"I don't think that's a good idea, Carter," Jack said. She looked up in surprise, not realizing that he had woken up. He sat up carefully, trying not to wake Daniel. He reached over for a pack and placed it under Daniel's head, and adjusted the blankets around his friend. Walking over to his teammates, he sat down beside them. "Did you stop to think that whatever imprisoned the thing that's inside Daniel, might not take too kindly to our trying to help it escape from the twilight zone. If we start digging up its fence, we might just wake it up. Having one ghost around is more than enough, if you ask me."
"Sir, whatever put those poles in the ground couldn't have been ghosts. They would have needed hands," she said with a smile.
"Carter, you ever hear of telekinesis, teleportation, and all the other spooky things a ghost does? Who's to say that they didn't just make those poles appear in the ground."
"Sir, with all due respect, I think that you're carrying this ghost thing just a little too far."
"Carter, just a few hours ago, who would have thought that one of our team would be possessed by a ghost. Hmmm?"
"You've got a point, sir."
"So I really don't think it's a good idea to advertise what we're doing. At least not yet. Let's just wait and see what happens when our resident ghost finishes with its little toy in the rock over there."
- - - - - -
They sat around the camp, waiting for Daniel to wake up. Jack hated waiting. Being a soldier, he knew that a large part of his duty meant having to be patient and waiting for the right moment before taking action, but it didn't mean he had to like it. Carter was in the process of heating up the last of their MREs for supper. Seeing that their meal was almost ready, Jack got up and walked over to Daniel. He'd been sleeping for most of the day, and except for the chocolate bar the creature had eaten earlier, Daniel hadn't had any food in over 24 hours.
"Rise n shine, sleeping beauty," Jack called out, gently shaking Daniel's shoulder. Daniel mumbled something and rolled over, turning away from Jack. "Daniel, it's time to get up now." He shook Daniel with a little more force, this time getting a response. Daniel opened his eyes, staring at Jack sleepily. Jack nodded his head towards the campfire, indicating Daniel was to get up and join them. Daniel looked over, saw Sam and Teal'c waiting for him. He sat up, rubbing his eyes.
Jack reached over and plucked Daniel's glasses from inside his pack, where he had placed them for safekeeping while his friend slept. Yawning, Daniel took them and gathering one of the blankets over his shoulders, got up with Jack's help and stumbled the few feet to join his friends. He accepted a dish of stew from Teal'c, and took a mouthful. He hadn't realized he was so hungry, and dug in with gusto. As he was chewing, he realized everyone looking at him. "What's the matter, do I have dirt on my face?" he asked self-consciously.
"No, we're just glad that you're you, is all," Jack replied. They were all relieved to see Daniel's clear blue eyes, rather than the totally blue eyes of the entity.
"What do you mean? Of course I'm me," he said, talking around a mouthful of food.
"Noooo, you've got a visitor inside you, Daniel."
"Jaaack, what are you talking about?"
"Tell me something, do you still feel that there's something out there, following you?" Jack pointed towards the woods behind Daniel with his fork.
Daniel thought about Jack's question, and looked around, suddenly realizing where he was. "Oh, we're still in the twilight zone. And no, everything here feels normal, actually. Except for the fact that I'm so hungry, and tired."
"Well, that's because whatever it was that was following you, decided to come and take up housekeeping in your body." Jack put his food down, he suddenly lost his appetite.
At Daniel's puzzled look, Sam said, "Daniel, we think some kind of entity is possessing you…"
"You mean I…I…I've got a ghost inside of me? Well, get it out!" Daniel looked at his friends in alarm.
"How, Daniel? How do you propose we get it out? Exorcism?" Daniel could see that Jack was worried, or else he wouldn't have snapped at him. It sounded like the old Jack, come to think of it, Daniel realized that Jack hadn't addressed him as 'Doctor' or 'Jackson' since he'd gotten up. He'd forgotten that Jack had lost his memory. But he was more worried about the fact that he wasn't alone in his body.
"Well, then how did it get inside of me? Just do the opposite!"
"We think it entered your body after it tried going into the Colonel. It probably happened when you touched him after he collapsed." Daniel threw his half empty plate aside in disgust. "Daniel, it wants to fix the Stargate, that's why it's using you."
"Daniel, finish your supper," Jack ordered. Daniel sat back and glared at Jack. "Daniel," Jack started, then softened his voice. "Danny, the thing inside you is burning you up too fast. You have to keep your energy level up." He picked up Daniel's discarded plate. "Eat. Please."
Daniel reluctantly picked up his plate and resumed eating.
"It's not a Goa'uld," Jack said. When Daniel didn't look at him, Jack continued. "It'll probably leave you when it finishes fixing the Stargate."
"You don't know that," Daniel said softly.
"No," Jack whispered.
Sam handed Daniel one of his chocolate bars as she took his empty plate. She continued, "we think it's using your body now to manipulate the relic we found to try to turn off the dampening field so that we can use the Stargate again. That's why you're feeling so tired. Do you remember feeling cold earlier?"
"Yeah, come to think of it, I remember dreaming that I was freezing." He sat looking at the chocolate bar in his hands.
"Daniel, eat the chocolate bar. You need the calories." He started unwrapping the candy bar at Sam's words.
"Wasn't no dream, Danny. You were suffering from hypothermia. And I'm afraid that Casper is gonna have to come out again at least one more time to finish what he started over there."
Having finished his dessert, Daniel got up and walked unsteadily over to ruins Jack had pointed to, seeing them up close for the first time. He bent over to examine the crystal-embedded metal slab, then bent to examine the broken pillars surrounding the boulder. He shrugged off the blanket, throwing it down near the discarded wooden poles.
"The ghost did all of this?" Daniel asked, fingering the crystals embedded in the metal plate.
"Yeah," Jack answered, coming up behind Daniel.
"It's incredible," Daniel exclaimed.
"What does it mean?" Jack asked.
"I have no idea."
Daniel looked back at Jack questioningly. "Oh?"
"Well, considering you've spent several hours playing jigsaw puzzle with the crystals over here, I thought, maybe, you'd have an idea what it was supposed to mean."
"Well, there's no discernible pattern that I can see. Is this what Sam thinks is causing the dampening field?"
"No, she thinks that this might stop its effects, though."
Daniel returned to the pile of crystals, and kneeling before it, picked one up. He examined it carefully before placing it on the metal slab.
"Daniel?" Jack asked.
Daniel turned to look at Jack, and Jack saw that the alien was back. Daniel's essence had been swept away with the resurgence of the alien being. Sighing, he turned back towards Sam and Teal'c and intoned "he's ba-ack."
For the next forty five minutes, Daniel continued to place the crystals, the task going more quickly because there were less spaces to choose from. As he finally picked up the last crystal and set it in place, Daniel looked around in confusion. He suddenly started rooting around on the ground desperately, obviously searching for something. They could see that there was an empty space on the metal sheet, one crystal was clearly missing. Jack knelt and took hold of Daniel's arm, getting his attention. Placing his closed fist before Daniel's face, Jack opened his hand wide, exhibiting a crystal sitting in its midst. Daniel sat back in relief, leaning weakly against the stone. As Jack turned to place the crystal in its spot, Sam and Teal'c gasped in surprise as they saw Jack's face. His eyes had turned totally brown. Like Daniel's, the whites of his eyes had absorbed the colour of his irises.
Smiling, Jack gave the impression of someone who had deliberately held back a piece of jigsaw puzzle, only to proudly say that he was the one who put in the last piece. As the metal absorbed the crystal, all the crystals lit up and a humming sound became audible. The back of the stone recess collapsed and two fist sized rocks were exposed in the previously hidden area. Jack reached in and reverently lifted them out. At his touch, one began to glow. He handed the second to Daniel, and at Daniel's contact with it, it too began to glow.
Sam stepped closer to examine the rocks, and saw that they were actually large crystals. She looked up at the Colonel, and saw him staring deeply into the crystal, tears in his eyes. She looked over at Daniel, and saw that he was crying too.
"Sir, what's next?" she asked, trying to get his attention. When he didn't respond, she gently touched his arm. Sam shivered slightly when those dark orbs looked up at her.
"Get to the Chaapa'ai, quickly, before they come," the being who was Jack said stiffly. He got up off his knees, and turned towards the Stargate. Daniel cradled the crystal against his chest, and putting a hand to the boulder, attempted to get up. And failed when his legs gave up, landing him on his side. Teal'c stepped up to Daniel, and hefting him by the shoulders, managed to get him onto his feet. Daniel sagged against Teal'c as Teal'c placed his arm around the younger man's waist.
"Before who comes?" Sam asked. O'Neill shook his head and said, "you would not wish to meet them." He started off in the direction of the 'gate at a brisk walk. Sam ran to gather their packs and weapons before going to help Teal'c with Daniel. Handing half the supplies to Teal'c, she hefted Daniel's arm around her shoulder. They made their way towards the Stargate, trying to keep up with Jack.
Sam was still aware of the humming sound, it seemed to be coming from all over, and not only one direction. On a hunch, she managed to flip the cover of her watch single handedly, and saw that it was working again.
Motioning for them to bring Daniel to the DHD, O'Neill stood back and waited. As Daniel leaned weakly against the DHD, he extended a shaking hand towards the first glyph. Sam reached up and held his hand, preventing him from beginning the dialing process.
"Where are you dialing to," she asked Jack.
"Home, of course."
"Of course. And what about us?"
"The Chaapa'ai will continue to function after we leave, you will be able to return to your own home world. We must make haste. They will soon be aware that we are escaping."
"Who? Who will know? Who did this to you?"
"The inhabitants of this world. We are explorers. We came hundreds of years ago. The people here did not take kindly to visitors, and captured our essences in these crystals, securing them behind the warding poles. We have been hoping for release all this time. Other visitors came, but even though we were able to merge with them, we were unable to get them to disable the warding poles. They died quickly. At first we did not realize it was due to the joining, afterwards, we were too desperate to care. We must return home, our people will help release us from the crystals."
"So those two skeletons we found…"
"There are two more. Perhaps if they had not come singly, we would have been able to merge with one and communicate to the other, as we did with you. But unfortunately, once joined, both flesh and energy are susceptible to the wards. Now, we must move quickly. They have a guardian, and he will surely be coming soon. We must escape. And your friend is weakening. We must release him, 'else he will not recover this time. Permit him to finish," he said, motioning to Daniel.
Sam removed her hand, and Daniel began to dial. After pressing the seventh glyph, Sam activated the center crystal for him. Nodding his head once to show his thanks, he made to move towards the activated Stargate. Sam and Teal'c helped him up the stairs, Jack joining them before the wormhole. Both held up their crystals before them, and removed their hands. The crystals floated in the air, devoid of support. Jack turned towards Sam and Teal'c, and said, "we thank you." His eyes rolled back and he fell to his knees. Daniel followed seconds later, falling limp in his friends' arms.
The two crystals glowed more strongly, and floated into the wormhole. Seconds later, the Stargate deactivated.
Sam took the brunt of Daniel's weight as she and Teal'c lowered him to the ground, holding his body in her arms. She checked his vitals, noted that his pulse was very slow, his breathing very shallow. His skin felt very cold and clammy. "Damnit, we have to get him home now. He needs medical attention."
Jack found himself on his knees before the Stargate, feeling very tired and chilled. He couldn't remember how he'd gotten here, but at Carter's words, he turned slightly and saw her holding Daniel in her arms. "Not again," he said to himself. He managed to get himself upright, while Teal'c picked Daniel up gently in his arms. They all moved off the platform while Carter dialed Earth. The Stargate activated once again, and she sent the GDO code through.
Looking up at the Colonel, she stated, "sir, we can't be sure that the codes got through."
"Damn. Try sending a note again."
She nodded, and quickly found pen and paper, threw the hastily scribbled note into the wormhole. Deactivating it, they waited impatiently. Jack was standing beside her, shivering, thinking that they'd been through this not so long ago. Jack realized that his memory had returned, but was too tired to think about it at the moment. Teal'c had laid Daniel down beside the DHD.
Seconds later, the Stargate activated, and the MALP came to life. Staggering to the camera, Jack said, "Boy are we glad to see you."
Hammond's tinny voice came through the speakers. "SG1, what's your status? We received your note. Your codes came in perfectly clear. You've a go to return home."
"Sir, wait," Carter yelled. "Daniel's suffering from hypothermia. We need something to keep him warm when we go through the Stargate. Can you send a couple of sleeping bags through?"
Hammond replied, "They're on their way. Hang tight, people." They could hear the call for a medical team in the background as Hammond spoke to someone near him. Within moments, two sleeping bags came flying through the gate. "We have them, sir. We'll be coming through in a minute," Sam said, as she picked them up.
The Stargate deactivated as she unzipped one of the bags. She and Teal'c gently maneuvered Daniel into the bag before Teal'c dialed Earth's address once again. Jack had attempted to help, but found that he had trouble coordinating his movements. Sam unzipped the second bag, and put it over Jack's shoulders. He looked up at her in surprise. "Sir, you're also suffering from mild hypothermia. That's why you're so cold." He nodded at her explanation.
Teal'c picked Daniel up again in his arms, and together they all stepped through the blue pool of liquid air. Arriving in the embarkation room, Teal'c went straight to a waiting gurney, gently depositing his friend on it. Fraiser gave Daniel a cursory exam before ordering her team to rush him to the infirmary. She then turned to Jack, assuring herself that he wasn't in any immediate danger. They followed the petite doctor to the infirmary.
- - - - - -
Jack sat back exhaustedly on his cot, huddled beneath several blankets, a cup of hot soup in his hands. He was watching the medical team working on Daniel. His friend was hooked up to an EKG machine and a blood pressure monitor. An IV was delivering warmed saline into his bloodstream. Janet had explained to Jack that they were trying to heat Daniel up from the inside out. An oxygen mask was also delivering warmed oxygen, and an insulated blanket covered his body.
Jack had an idea as to how debilitated Daniel must be. If the entity had overtly occupied Jack only for the short period of time it did and he felt as awful as he did now, imagine how much worse the damage was to Daniel? Jack was thankful for their help, but he wished it hadn't come with as great a cost as his friend's health.
Suppressing a shiver, he took another sip. His body was begging for him to lie back and go to sleep, but he was waiting vigil over Daniel. His memory had returned completely once the entity had left him, although by that time, he'd regained a good portion of it except for various small details. He couldn't believe that he'd been possessed the whole time, and hadn't even suspected.
Sam and Teal'c entered the infirmary, Sam coming to see the Colonel, Teal'c heading off to sit by Daniel. They had just finished debriefing General Hammond, Jack had been excused on the basis of his current condition. She approached her CO and took a seat on the side of his bed. "How's he doing?" she asked.
"I don't know. Janet said that they're trying to warm him up, but he's not responding very well to the treatments. She said that his body is just too weak. I think she's worried about his heart…she said something about the continued hypothermia creating a strain." Jack could see that Daniel was lying very still in the bed.
"I wish there was something I could do."
"I know, so do I."
"Sir, are you all right? I mean, your memory…"
"Yeah, Carter, the thing put everything back where it should be. And then some." As he spoke, his eyes didn't leave Daniel's bed.
"Oh, it left a couple of little Post It notes in my brain, kind of like telling me that the reason it took my memory away was so that while my brain was busy working on trying to remember things, it would send little messages to me through the backdoor."
"Like when you advised us not to take the fence down?"
Jack nodded. "Also, I think it was trying to guide the thing that was in Daniel. That one was a youngster, and it was a little lost. Seems that the one inside me was its mentor. It also left an invitation, it wants us to come and visit its home planet. I have the gate address in here." He pointed to his head, "in case you don't remember the glyphs."
"Sir, do you think that's wise? After what they did to Daniel?"
"They had no choice, Carter. They weren't exactly themselves at the time. Parts of them were bound to those honking crystals, they weren't even able to communicate properly. They'll have been returned to their normal states once they got home. And you know, those piles of crystals Daniel's Casper was playing with? They were simply a toy. An honest to goodness type of Rubik's Cube the kid had been playing with before they got caught. Their captors simply linked the toy to the warding poles, knowing that nobody other than Casper could get it to work." He shook his head in disbelief.
"General Hammond informed us that he's locked the gate address out of the dialing computer for the twilight zone planet. He doesn't want us to take a chance of our meeting up with the natives, in case they're still as xenophobic as they were when they met the aliens. Although they might have changed in the past few hundred years since the ghosts were imprisoned."
Jack saw that Daniel was beginning to stir. He and Sam got off the bed and joined Teal'c, Jack dragging his blankets with him. He went to the opposite side of the bed from Teal'c, where Sam pulled up a chair for Jack's use. Daniel was barely conscious, now shivering uncontrollably. Jack saw his hand come up and attempt to remove the oxygen mask from his face. Teal'c grasped Daniel's arm, preventing him from reaching for it again. He gently placed his arm back under the blanket.
Jack repositioned his own blankets over his shoulders to cover his exposed neck, trying to stop the chill he continuously felt. He reached under the insulated blanket and took Daniel's freezing fingers with his own chilled ones. Leaning over Daniel slightly, he began to speak to his friend. "Hey Danny. I have an idea how you're feeling right now." He cleared his throat slightly. "Those ghosts really did a number on you, didn't they? It's okay, you'll be warm again soon." Daniel's eyes opened at the sound of Jack's voice, trying to focus on his friend. Jack reached his other icy hand onto Daniel's cheek, careful of the mask on Daniel's face. As cold as Jack was, Daniel's skin felt even colder. He could see and feel Daniel shivering. It was a good sign, though, as his body was attempting to warm itself up again.
They could see Daniel's lips moving under the mask, he was trying to say something. "Do not attempt to speak, DanielJackson. You must conserve your energy. Rest assured that you are safe. We have returned to the SGC."
Daniel was clearly agitated, and was trying to ask Jack something. He was shivering too much to get the words out clearly, and his obvious exhaustion wasn't helping either. Jack finally realized what Daniel was trying to ask. "Danny, it's okay. Casper's gone. The ghost went home. There's nobody else inside you – you're you again. You can relax now, Teal'c's right, you're home, you're safe."
Daniel closed his eyes in relief. He hoped Jack was right, he didn't want to live the rest of his life with a ghost in his body. He was so cold, so tired. He finally began feeling safe again, surrounded by his friends, his family. He was feeling sleepy again. His body was shivering so hard, though, he didn't think he'd be able to fall asleep.
Jack stroked Daniel's cheek lightly. "You know, I'm kinda disappointed here. You'd think that after everything you've just gone through, you'd have learned how to share a little by now. Here you are, not wanting to share your body with a poor little homeless ghost."
Jack saw Daniel's mouth quirk slightly in a smile before sleep came and carried this friend away.
As Jack sat there beside Daniel, he knew that he should return to his own bed and sleep, but he was loathe to move. He had snuggled both hands under Daniel's blanket, curled his fingers around Daniel's colder ones. The heat just felt too good to leave. His own body soon stopped trembling, and as his own hands warmed up, he felt Daniel's hands start absorbing the heat from them.
He was almost dozing when he felt a hand on his face. Opening his eyes, he saw Doctor Fraiser's huge brown eyes looking down at him. "Colonel, you should get some rest now. Daniel will be doing nothing but sleeping and eating for the next few days, as should you. You're not going to do him any good sitting here. Let the rest of your team sit with him." She smiled kindly at him.
Jack looked up and saw Sam and Teal'c's concerned looks. He took another look at Daniel, he was still shivering, but his body was definitely warmer now than it had been earlier. He allowed Janet to help him to his own bed, and smiled as she tucked him in. He enjoyed the sensation, he was so tired, it was almost a luxury. Sam had taken up vigil in his vacated chair. He knew that Daniel was going to be all right, otherwise Janet wouldn't have sent him off to bed. He curled up on his side, his heart feeling lighter than it had in days, and fell asleep to the comforting sound of Sam's soft voice as she spoke with Teal'c.
- - - - - -
Daniel shifted nervously as he stood behind his team, staring at the blank video displays. They were waiting for the MALP to reintegrate on the other side of the galaxy, all the equipment was set up to receive its telemetry. They had just dialed the coordinates that Jack had been given by the ghostly entity several weeks ago, and they had no idea what to expect at the other end. Jack had insisted that they had received an invitation to visit, but Daniel, having just recently gained his strength back after his ordeal in the twilight zone, wasn't all that anxious to go and visit.
Initial video feed from the planet showed what appeared to be a paradise world. Lush growth, flowers, plants, greenish/blue sky. As the MALP's camera panned, an ethereal being floated into view, and was soon joined by a second. They seemed to examine the MALP at first, and then both appeared to look towards the camera. Suddenly the beings solidified slightly, morphing into the images of Jack and Daniel. Although they still looked slightly wispish, they definitely resembled the two SG1 team members. They smiled, and the Jack lookalike beckoned. Then they both changed back into the translucent forms they had first appeared in.
"Well, if that's not an invitation, I don’t know what is," Jack stated. "Come on, kids. Casper's a-waiting."
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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.