Originally published in The Seventh Chevron #3, 2001
"Faster!" Jack O’Neill yelled with a glance over his shoulder to check on pursuit. "Faster! They’re gonna try to cut us off before we can reach the Stargate."
Behind them, the Jaffa yelled like hounds who have scented their prey. The hunt was on.
"Got the adanite, Carter?" Jack bellowed breathlessly.
She patted her pockets. "Yes, sir, I have it. It’s going to make a tremendous difference." The drug, made from a plant that grew in abundance all over Adana, was reputed to be a completely non-addictive painkiller that worked on a wide variety of conditions and could be safely applied directly to wounds. If continued testing proved it to be as effective on the people of Earth as it was on the Adanans, it would be one of the most valuable things ever brought back through the Stargate. The Adanans were willing to trade for something as simple as bulk fruit products; for some odd reason that Carter could probably have explained with detailed science terminology that Jack hadn’t bothered to listen to, the soil of their world grew magnificent vegetables but did slightly less well on fruits, and, ever since the Adanans had risked gate travel for themselves, they had been offering trades for foodstuffs. Adanite was plentiful; it grew like weeds in the hedgerows, in the ditches, in people’s yards, the way grass grew on Earth, or it grew in vast fields that looked a lot like wheat.
Adana was a pastoral world, farms and villages, and the people seemed happy—or would have seemed happy if not for the periodic Goa’uld incursions against which they seemed to have no defense but the hand-held bombs they called ‘nitros’, which were not unlike primitive grenades. They didn’t often use them because, of course, the snakeheads retaliated when they did. Instead, the Adanans retreated into well-concealed caverns like the Byrsa had. Carter said that at least the Goa’uld were smart enough not to wipe out the planet in retaliation. They came to take adanite the locals harvested for them under pain of further retaliation, and the Adanans set aside whole fields of it near the Gate to placate them. Jack was sure that, one day, the Goa’uld would be greedy for more. On the other hand, they wanted adanite, not so much for themselves, as their symbionts would heal them and rid them of most pain, but to use as a hold over subjugated worlds. Jack wasn’t sure if their unwillingness to do their own harvesting had anything to do with the threat the locals feared or whether working in the fields was beneath the dignity of the Jaffa who apparently came to take their tribute home.
The problems with going to Adana were several, Daniel had explained at the briefing. SG-3 had been the first to visit since the coordinates were prominent on the Abydos Cartouche, which meant, of course, that the Goa’uld knew of it. They’d gone in expecting war and had marched, heavily armed, to the Adanan village closest to the Gate that the UAV had revealed, five kilometers away. They were met with happy villagers who had whipped up a great banquet, warned them about the Goa’uld, and even concealed them when the snakeheads made a surprise visit. They even gave the team a sample of adanite to take back with them to consider trading. Doctor Fraiser and the lab techs who studied it were ecstatic.
So SG-1 went next. They met with the city council. Susonna Vorulester, the head of the council, was delighted with them. "We suspect you come from the home world," she said. "Earth. You are human. Our scientist says you are human." She waved a long-nailed hand at the scrappy little guy with the tools and instruments who had insisted on taking blood samples and listening to their heartbeats. "We have seen many who resemble us, but none who resemble us as you do—except those who were uprooted as we were and brought away from Earth."
"Whereabouts on Earth do you come from, do you know?" Daniel asked, fascinated. "I’d want to suggest England, but your designs here aren’t entirely consistent with that."
"We were brought from various parts of Europe and Britain," Susonna replied. "Our traditions are very strong, and we have books from before, which some were carrying when we were taken. A ship came and brought with it a Gate, as you call it. We call it the doorway. They sent us through the doorway and we came here. More and more of us came here, and we now have twelve settlements. Most here did come from England. None have been sent through in at least two hundred of this world’s years. They are longer than the years back home but we have adjusted, adding two months at the start of the year."
"So, when did you come here, do you know?" Daniel’s eyes glittered with eagerness. He loved stuff like this. Jack had to grin at his enthusiasm.
Susonna closed her eyes and recited, as if it were a well-known lesson. "In the year of our Lord Seventeen Hundred and Two, the snake beings came, bearing a doorway to a world beyond the stars. They sent us here, to a green and growing world, where we were trapped. We could not open the door to return home."
"This, then, became home," continued her right-hand man, Tobin Tarrant. He was tall and lean and bucolic—that was the word Daniel had used to describe him. Jack thought he’d have looked right at home in bib overalls, chewing on a straw. "Once we overcame the night dreads, we found the land good for farming. We—"
"Whoa, back up there," O’Neill inserted. "The night dreads?" He didn’t like the sound of that much, especially since the sun was sinking lower in the sky.
"The spirits that mourn when the light goes," Susonna said with a dismissive wave of her hand. "They are fearful indeed, souls in torment. But we learned to our cost they do not harm us if we stay within once night falls; they only wail and cry. Sounds cannot destroy us, Colonel O’Neill. They can only harm us if we choose to let them or if we are foolish enough to go out among them." She shrugged. "None have ever come out of the mists and harmed us in our homes, and we have been here on this world for near three hundred Earth years and we are safe from them as long as we stay within walls."
"Alien life forms?" Carter jumped in. "Do you know what makes the sound?"
Everyone looked shocked. Tobin arched bushy brows. "We do not disturb them. They do not disturb us. We stay within shelter once the night falls. Thus have we lived at peace here for all these years. Why should we seek out trouble, when trouble is often content to seek us out? Nay, we leave them to their ghastly wails, and fill our silences with song and merriment. It drives away the spirits of the doomed."
Jack had to say it wasn’t his favorite idea of twilight pastimes, but if it worked for them, he was all for it.
"Since the dark comes and you are strangers, we will send you back now," Susonna suggested. "You will reach the doorway well before the night spirits begin their dirge. You may return, of course. And in return for the supplies you have brought us, here is more of our adanite, processed for you and ready for your doctors to test it. We welcome this treaty, and I would hope that, one day, I could step through the doorway with you and visit Mother England." She gestured everyone to their feet. "Rule Britannia," she cried. "God save the King." The council echoed her.
"It’s a queen now," Daniel offered. "Queen Elizabeth the Second."
The council regarded him with fascination. "None before now to second Good Queen Bess?" Tobin offered. "Ah, this is news indeed. The word will go out. Perhaps, at your next visit, you could bring us an image of our Queen, so that we could do homage to her as is only right. You will see that the adanite is presented to the Second Bess?"
"We’ll certainly try," Carter said quickly.
Susonna bowed her head in acknowledgment, and then turned to Teal’c. "You, the good Jaffa. You hearten us. Would that more of your kind would see that the Goa’uld are not gods but monsters."
"I try to inform them," Teal’c acknowledged.
"It is well." Susonna rose to signal the end of the audience—just as a boy of twelve in a baggy homespun tunic burst into the room and stood panting, white-blond hair in wild disarray.
"Mother, Mother, the snakes come!"
O’Neill’s heart sank. "Oh, great, they’ll cut us off."
"No, for they never guard the doorway," Susonna insisted. "Come." She unrolled a map and lay it on the table. "Your device, your M.A.L.P. is here, and we will conceal it until you return. They will not know you are here for none here would ever offer them information. If you circle here and pass through the Standing Wood, you will come out on the far side of the doorway and you will not find Goa’uld. They will be quick, taking the supplies we have left to pacify them, but you will be gone before they return."
"They don’t fear the night terrors?" Daniel asked as he shrugged into his backpack.
"With their staff weapons, they fear nothing," Tobin said. He spat on the floor. "Someday, some will make them fear. Although they do not stay here into the night, either. Perhaps they simply do not admit to fear." He reached out and grabbed the boy by the shoulders. "Nigel, take the children to the shelter, now."
"Yes, uncle," agreed the boy. He shoved his hair out of his eyes and raced out the door, yelling, "Teams twelve and fourteen, to me."
"Go quickly now," Susonna urged. She handed several small packets of processed adanite to Carter, who tucked it into her pockets. Armed and ready, SG-1 hurried from the council chamber. One of the councilmen came with them and pointed to a path that led down a hill into a thick grove of trees. "There." He passed O’Neill the map. "Take it with you. We will conceal your M.A.L.P. and food supply. We will welcome you on the next visit. The Goa’uld usually only come once each month, when the moons are both full. After tonight, you will have four of your weeks when you can visit us with impunity."
Jack muttered something about appreciating the warning they’d had of this visit, but he knew they had come without scheduling first. Still, the locals could have warned SG-3 or told SG-1 when they arrived. Too late to do anything about it now, but he meant to speak harsh words to Susonna at their next meeting.
"Come on, Jack," Daniel objected as they raced through the trees. "It’s all so natural and usual to them that they probably didn’t even think of it. They’ve got a system worked out and they have to live here after we’ve gone. The Goa’uld don’t seem to do them much harm, and they’ve got tons of adanite."
"So they should just give it to the snakeheads?"
"It evidently prevents the Goa’uld from taking people from here to serve as hosts, Colonel," Carter reminded him.
"Unless this is all a set-up and we’ve just been offered as the main course," the Colonel groused. He checked his MP-5 to make sure it was ready.
"I believe them," Daniel said. "Maybe they should have warned us, but they did what they could to help. After all, they aren’t a military unit. They live by hiding and placating. It’s kept their world from being destroyed. Maybe it’s not as satisfying as destroying the Goa’uld with their little nitro bombs, but there are only twelve villages here and there are a lot more Goa’uld out there who could come and destroy their towns from orbit. Don’t knock it, Jack, unless you know what it’s like to live like that."
"I just hate the thought of the Goa’uld getting all that adanite," O’Neill muttered. Actually, he hated a lot more the thought of his team in jeopardy because the local council didn’t have enough of a military mindset to warn them away if this was Goa’uld Day.
"They don’t need it for themselves," Daniel objected.
"On the contrary, Daniel Jackson," Teal’c inserted. All this running and he never got out of breath. Junior was good for some things. "A severe wound would cause pain, even to a System Lord, before the symbiont could heal him. They believe themselves gods. A god in pain would quickly convince subjugated peoples that he was not a god at all."
"And a god who could dispense a substance to ease pain in his subjects might be venerated all the more," Carter put in. "Not all System Lords would rule by power and domination. Some might even allow the chosen few to worship them sincerely. I don’t like them getting adanite, either, Colonel. But I don’t see how we could stop them. This system works. It might not be the way we’d want to do it, but we don’t have to live here all the time. We can’t fault them for it."
They reached the end of the woods then and looked out across a field that looked like the local equivalent of wheat. Jack knew it was actually adanite, and it was about waist high. He was running through a field that might be worth thousands of dollars back on Earth. Far ahead in the distance, Jack could see the top of the Stargate, on its rise. There didn’t seem to be any Jaffa about.
"Would they leave the gate unguarded?" he asked Teal’c.
"If, traditionally, this planet had never threatened them, they might," the Jaffa replied. "We must not assume that none remain on guard, however."
"Then let’s get across this field fast. Once we’re on the other side, we can sneak up the hill and see. Or maybe wait until they go back." O’Neill led the way into the field. The ground was rough underfoot, and it made running difficult, but they didn’t have a choice.
"If we wait too long we’ll be up against whatever it is that howls in the mist," Carter reminded him.
"Never hurt anybody, Carter."
"Possibly because the folks never go out in the dark. We’d be invading their turf. And they wouldn’t hide every night if it hadn’t hurt them, a lot, when they first came here."
He didn’t like the idea. For all he knew it could be some trick of the wind or maybe the adanite itself sang in the dark. He didn’t want to find out by first-hand experience that the wailing was the tormented ghosts of the original natives of the planet—or of creatures that drained humans of their blood.
"Quick, kiddies," he said. "Whatever it is, let’s not mess with it."
They raced through the adanite. Carter went down once and popped up immediately.
"You all right, Carter?"
"I turned my ankle, sir, but it’s not bad. I can still run."
"Watch her, Teal’c," O’Neill decided. There were lines of pain on Carter’s face, but she was determined and moving. Jack let her and the Jaffa get a little ahead of him so that he’d notice if she went down. Daniel ran at his side.
"I hope we can come back," he wheezed. "I want to see those books they brought with them. Just imagine, Jack, they’ve kept the traditions alive ever since; they know everything their ancestors remembered from Earth. They’ve even started printing their own books. They’re stubborn and pugnacious, and they’ve made the best of a bad situation without complaint."
"Yeah." Jack had to give them that. Eighteenth Century England hadn’t been the most enlightened society going, but these people had adapted, spread out into their villages, worked out a system of holding off the Goa’uld, and even mastered gate travel on their own even if they hadn’t found the correct symbols to return them to Earth. Maybe they’d tried, but the Gate at Giza had still been buried. Had to give them that. They deserved better than having to hide in caves every month when the Jaffa came.
Speak of the devil. The cries of pursuit cut off Daniel’s answer, and Jack whirled to look behind him. A troop of Jaffa burst out of the trees, yelling. A staff weapon fired and blasted the wheat not two feet to Jack’s left. He staggered sideways, knocked into Daniel, and both of them went down.
"Hurt?" Jack asked.
"No, I’m okay. You?"
"Fine. I suggest you run like a bat out of hell." Jack jumped up and fired off a burst at the Jaffa. They ducked involuntarily but they didn’t stop coming.
Daniel set off in the direction of the Stargate. Jack followed, angling slightly to the right so he could keep an eye on all his people.
"Faster!" he bellowed. "We can’t let them cut us off."
"I can do it, Colonel," Carter said, but she had started limping badly and he heard her breath whistle out in pain.
"Teal’c—Carter," Jack called a warning, just as the Major took a wrong step and vanished into the wheat.
Teal’c reached down after her. The light was going fast, and he pulled her up and slung her over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry. Jack wondered whimsically what they called that on Chulak, where they didn’t have firemen, at least as far as he knew; then they were running again, staggering out of the adanite and starting up the final slope. A few more staff weapon blasts came close, but not close enough to hurt them.
"Dial us home, Daniel." Jack whirled to give the command, then his stomach knotted up hard and tight.
Daniel was nowhere in sight.
"Daniel!" he bellowed at the top of his lungs, then he realized that was stupid. The Jaffa would notice—
Or did they have him already? He sought them out; there they were, near the base of the hill and coming up fast. All three of them. Running. No trace of a prisoner.
No sign of Daniel anywhere. He must be down in the adanite. Had he been hit? If so, he’d gone down without a sound.
Teal’c deposited Carter beside the DHD and took aim at the enemy with his staff weapon. "Daniel Jackson is not in sight, O’Neill."
"What do we do, sir?" Carter punched in the code for Earth as O’Neill took out his GDO to send the recognition code.
"We blast the Jaffa and go look for him," he decided. He started to put the GDO away.
"O’Neill!" Teal’c’s warning made the Colonel’s heart sink into his boots. A dozen more Jaffa plunged out of the woods and started across the field. "We cannot take them all," the Jaffa added.
"I know that," Jack snarled. He didn’t want to know that. He wanted to blast them all, to blow them up, to zat them into oblivion and race down into the adanite field to find Daniel. But even as he weighed the options and reached for his zat, he saw more Jaffa emerging from the path that led to the village. They could never take that many, and if they did, they’d be calling down retribution on Susonna’s people for it. Daniel might have been hit; he could be dead already, and if he wasn’t, he’d have the sense to lie low. No, the only thing to do was go through the gate that kawooshed open behind him, and come back tomorrow to find Daniel. If he wasn’t hurt, he wasn’t readily visible to the Jaffa, either. The mist was coming up, thickening as he stood scanning the field for an indentation in the adanite that might indicate a fallen archaeologist. They’d want to get out of here before the night haunting started, too. They might not even search for him.
Right on cue, a ghastly wailing rose up out of the very air, a cry that sounded like souls in torment. Even the Jaffa froze. They were close enough that the Colonel could see the fear that spread superstitiously across their faces. Even expecting it, even knowing it hadn’t harmed the locals, Jack’s guts lurched at the sound and a cold chill ran up and down his spine. "Sweet," he muttered. Hastily, he sent the recognition code.
"Indeed," Teal’c replied dryly. He took aim with his staff weapon and fired. The nearest Jaffa jumped backward. The wails rose in a ghostly chorus, like doomed souls.
"We will return, O’Neill." Teal’c reached out and encircled Jack’s wrist and tugged him to the gate. They grabbed Carter, one on either side of her to support her, and plunged through the gate just as the Jaffa reached the top of the hill.
** *** **
"It’s a mild sprain," Doctor Fraiser said half an hour later. After a hasty briefing with General Hammond in which O’Neill and Teal’c had explained what had happened, they had been released to the infirmary to see Carter. She sat on one of the diagnostic beds, her shoe off, an ace bandage around her ankle. "She’ll be fine," continued the doctor. "I’ll want her off it for a few days, but there shouldn’t be any trouble after that."
"But we have to go back for Daniel," Carter objected. "I can walk, now that you’ve got me bandaged, and my boot will provide support. We can’t leave him there."
"We’re not leaving him there, Carter," Jack told her. "But we’re not taking you. We’ll take the Marines. We’ll get him back. First thing in the morning, we’re heading back there, armed to the teeth."
"Daniel Jackson may be already—"
"Don’t say it, Teal’c," Jack snapped. "We couldn’t see anything in those weeds. He might have hurt his ankle like Carter did, and he’d have the sense to stay low. You can bet those Jaffa took off the second they could dial up home. You could see they were scared to death of those night dreads. They wouldn’t have stuck around to look for Daniel. Gotta say I could get into their heads over that."
"Night dreads?" asked Doctor Fraiser in surprise.
"Some native creatures that howl in the darkness," Sam replied. "It was very ghostly. The locals stay indoors and don’t go out in the dark. But they also say the sounds have never hurt anybody or at least not for a very long time."
"Probably because they’re inside," Jack offered. "Daniel isn’t." He didn’t like the sound of his own words, and he grimaced. Damn it, he’d hated leaving Daniel there. Night dreads or Jaffa, neither one of them was a good choice. Daniel might be a prisoner of the Goa’uld right now.
Or taken by the night dreads.
Three strikes and you’re out.
"One other thing, sir," Carter ventured. She didn’t look happy. "Those Jaffa may have recognized Teal’c. Even if they didn’t, he had a staff weapon. If they have Daniel now, they know who we were. They could be waiting when we go back through the gate to get him."
"I know that," Jack snapped. "So what’s the alternative? Leave him there? I don’t think so."
"No, I know we can’t do that," she said patiently. "But even if Daniel’s free and in hiding, we may have compromised the Adanans. We have to go back, but we’ll need to be ready for trouble."
Three strikes and you’re captured? Three strikes and you’re dead?
Hang in there, Daniel, Jack thought in frustration. We’ll get you out of there.
If you’re still alive.
"We will find Daniel Jackson," Teal’c insisted. But Jack heard what he didn’t say. ‘One way or another. Alive or dead.’ And the pang that twinged inside must have been waaaay too visible on his face because the Jaffa and Carter, and even Doctor Fraiser, carefully avoided his eyes.
** *** **
The painting was very bad. It looked like it had been executed by a left-handed monkey who didn’t know a thing about composition or style or color. It was recognizable only in that it was utterly stylized, and in the red hair and the clothing of the subject; the way the skirt was expanded was called a farthingale, wasn’t it? He wasn’t sure how he knew that, but he did. Elizabethan.
"Good Queen Bess," he murmured. His voice sounded weak and shaky, but that went with the way his head pounded.
A young woman with equally red hair moved into his line of sight. It wasn’t a painting of her, for she wore a simple tunic over a long skirt that draped about her ankles, nothing like the period clothes in the picture. "Shh, you must rest."
Behind her, beyond this small room, something cried and wailed in the darkness. It was the kind of ghastly sound that could turn a man’s bones to water, but the red-headed woman wasn’t fazed by it. Was she deaf? No, she’d heard him speak. Maybe she knew what the sound was and didn’t fear it. If it didn’t alarm her, then it wouldn’t hurt him, either, would it?
"I have made some broth for you," she offered. "Do you think you can drink it? It is hot, and the night is chill."
His stomach twisted nastily at the thought of food and his head throbbed. Eating was definitely unappealing. "I’m not hungry."
"It will wait. I will leave it on the hob." She set it on the shelf of a fireplace. Fireplace? That was strange. He didn’t remember being anywhere with a fireplace. Or with bad art of Queen Elizabeth I, either. "Where am I?"
And then the emptiness that lurked inside hit him like a physical blow. "Who am I? Who am I?"
Startlement ran across the woman’s pointy features. "You don’t know? You don’t remember?" Her eyes grew intense with shock, and, for an instant, he saw a flash there, as if she should have expected that. Why? Because he had hurt his head?
He sought for himself inside. He remembered speech. He remembered words. He remembered Queen Elizabeth. Why couldn’t he remember himself? Oh, god, who am I? Where am I? Do I know this place? I can’t remember any of it. Do I have amnesia?
"I don’t remember," he said. "I don’t remember you. Should I?" He looked down at himself to see if there were any clues. He was wearing a voluminous nightshirt, homespun like her tunic, and a blanket covered him to the waist. Bare wrists emerged from the capacious sleeves. No clues there, none except that the sleeves were too short. Was that a clue? Or was it simply the style? He couldn’t remember and trying to recall only made him dizzy.
Her eyes narrowed in thought. Or in regret. He couldn’t tell. She was silent a long time. "I never thought you wouldn’t remember," she said in a very small voice. "I thought you would know." He had a sudden, uneasy expression that she was lying. Or denying the possibility. He wasn’t clear-headed enough to tell which.
"Uh...what happened to me?"
"The Jaffa chased you. You were out when they came. You fell into a cavern. They could not find you, but I found you and brought you here. Why were you outside so near to dark? I could hear the night dreads above me in the tunnel."
"I...." Caverns and tunnels were nowhere in his mind. "Was I...alone?" he asked. He didn’t think he’d been alone. He was sure of it. There should have been someone with him...someone who mattered....
"Who would be with you?" She bowed her head over her folded hands then she looked up at him. "You are Peter Monkton. You are my brother. I am your sister Eliza. Named for Good queen Bess. You knew her. Why do you know her and not me?"
There was nothing familiar about her at all. "Peter," he said the name aloud, but it didn’t spark his memory. It was no more familiar than the girl’s pointed face. "Peter Monkton. Queen Elizabeth." Only the name of the long-dead queen rang bells in his mind. He knew she was long-dead, too. But he didn’t know how he knew that or why. "Jaffa?" He knew the Jaffa, too. At least he knew the automatic hatred that burned through him at the mention of them. "I know Jaffa."
"They plunder us," she said. So that explained the hatred. "They take our crops. We hide when they come. You must have been caught afield and tried to reach the opening into the caverns. You were not wounded by their weapons; I think you struck your head when you fell through the concealed opening." She touched his forehead with gentle fingertips, and he winced involuntarily. "That’s why you can’t remember. You’ll remember when your head heals."
No. This was wrong. This was not where he was supposed to be. He knew it. He was certain of it. There was something more. There were faces hovering at the outskirts of his mind, faces that would not swim into focus. None of them were this girl’s face. Eliza? No, he did not know her. He was sure he didn’t know her.
"I don’t belong here," he said.
The girl’s pale blue eyes clouded with unhappiness. "Peter, please, you have to remember. I’d be alone without you. Alone here to work the farm with nothing. You’re my brother. You’re Peter. Please try."
The pain in her face was genuine, the fear of loss, the dread of solitude. He felt bad for hurting her, but this was so wrong. He didn’t belong here. He didn’t wear baggy nightshirts like this, or lie in a hard, sagging bed. Yet there were male garments draped on pegs on the wall behind her, tunics and leggings different from the long skirt she wore beneath her own tunic. There were boots too big to fit her dainty feet. His clothes and shoes? There was a gun propped in the corner, a rifle of some kind. It didn’t look familiar to him, either. It was bulky and unwieldy and so very long. Why did he remember shorter weapons with different grips? Maybe they were kept somewhere else.
He looked around the room, past the girl’s bowed head, trying to seek out patterns, trying to determine why it felt familiar. There was no...electricity, that was what he was trying to remember. Oil lamps spoke of an earlier period in history, or possibly a camp. Yet she had spoken of a farm. But the life here was primitive. He knew that. It was different from the world he knew. Somehow it was different. Yet, he could not remember the details of that world, only the contrast. And he could not remember people other than Eliza, only feel their absence, almost see their faces. Maybe he didn’t stay with Eliza all the time. Maybe he’d been visiting the farm from the city and she wanted him to stay. Maybe that was it. City? What city? He couldn’t remember any of it.
But his head hurt too much to think. If he could only sleep, if the pain would go away, maybe he would wake up and know himself. Peter Monkton. I’m Peter Monkton, he told himself. And a voice deep inside prodded at him and insisted, No. He didn’t know what he had lost, but he knew he had to find it again. More than his identity. People. People who mattered. A life that wasn’t this one. He couldn’t stay here, could he?
Eliza raised her head and watched him. "Peter, try to rest," she soothed. "It will be better in the morning."
The ghastly chorus outside began to die down, and she cocked her head to listen. "The full moons are rising," she said. "It will be peaceful now. Go to sleep, Peter."
"Moons?" he echoed in astonishment. That was wrong, wasn’t it? Moons, plural? Wasn’t there supposed to be only one?
Yet, the concept of more than one wasn’t as alien as his instinctive reaction had made him think.
Confused, Peter let himself sag against the pillows only to wince as that put pressure on a tender spot on the back of his head. He shifted slightly, tangling up in the baggy nightshirt. He knew he didn’t usually sleep in something so encompassing. Did he? Did he really know anything?
I’m lost. I can’t find myself anywhere.
Help me, Jack.
His eyes shot open. That instinctive plea had come from somewhere deep inside himself, so instinctive that it transcended his amnesia. He couldn’t put a face with the name. He couldn’t put anything with it except a sense that if he could find Jack, in reality or in his memories, everything would be all right.
"What’s wrong?" Eliza asked, alarm in her voice. "Did you remember?"
"Where’s Jack?" he asked fretfully. His head throbbed and she fuzzed before his eyes. "I have to find Jack."
"Shhh, rest. I’ll find him for you, I promise. In the morning, when it’s light. I’ll find him. Just sleep now."
"Do you know Jack?" Maybe there was hope after all.
"I know two Jacks in the village," she admitted. "I don’t know which you mean. Only rest now, for you make yourself ill. If you waken hungry, the broth is on the hob." She stroked his forehead with a gentle hand. "It’s all right, Peter. I’ll watch out for you in the night. It will be better in the morning."
The touch was soothing, but it was a stranger’s touch.
Where are you, Jack? He thought desperately, and then he lost the battle to stay awake and drifted into confused and tortured dreams full of faces that never sharpened into focus, rooms he didn’t recognize, a huge circle full of rippling blue light, a hot, desert sun, the warmth of someone in his arms, someone with an abundance of long, dark hair. That image brought a sense of both happiness and torment and he struggled through the dream, wading through the quicksand of amnesia to reach a place where it would grow clear, but it would not come. Jaffa in armor. Shooting at him. Goa’uld. That was clear. He knew them, knew the threat. Knew the faces that fuzzed before him. But when he awoke, hot and tousled and feverish, they faded again into a confused jumble that he couldn’t untangle.
"No! Don’t go!"
Only the unfamiliar room rewarded him. The girl, Eliza, was not there, but sunlight, pale yellow sunlight, filtered in through the fitted panes of irregular glass in the window. He was still Peter but a stranger to himself.
And he was trapped in a world where the Goa’uld came at will.
"Jack, where are you?" He tested out the name for hope of recall, but there was nothing, nothing but a familiarity he could not understand. "Why did you leave me?" he whispered, and that didn’t conflict with the pressure in his mind. Jack had left him here, left him to be Peter in this strange place.
"No," he murmured. "That can’t be right."
The room was as strange as it had been the night before, and there was no Jack present. With a sigh, he sat up.
His head pounded but the room didn’t spin around him and his stomach had settled. He was sore but hungry.
Cautiously, he ventured to his feet and explored the room, opening the doors. One of them opened into a very old fashioned water closet. Plumbing, but extremely primitive plumbing. Hydraulically operated, he thought, studying the toilet with interest. All right, so he understood the equipment. He used it and returned to the main room. There was a mirror over a chest of drawers; the glass was puckered and irregular but it showed him his face, a face with a darkening bruise on his forehead not far from the left temple. His eye was a little puffy, but it hadn’t swelled shut. The lighter bruise on the back of his head didn’t show, of course. But, take away the proof of his injury and the face, at least, felt right. He recognized himself. The hair—hadn’t it been longer? The blue eyes, bluer than the girl’s. They didn’t look alike but for their eye coloring, but that needn’t mean he wasn’t her brother.
But that just felt so wrong. Why would she lie? If it were a lie, he would remember one day and prove her wrong. But there had been an aching sadness in her voice when she talked of being alone on the farm. And if he were not her brother, whose were the clothes in this room?
He sat down and stuck his foot into one of the boots. It fit. Not perfectly, but that could be the fault of the design. The farm didn’t look rich enough for Peter to have had his boots custom-made.
He caught himself. He was thinking of Peter as someone other than himself. Was that typical of amnesia? Or was it simply those half-memories, those dreams?
Hunger prompted him to investigate the contents of the hob. The soup from last night was gone, but in its place was a bowl of something that looked like oatmeal, a pot of herbal tea from the smell of it, and a covered dish that held scrambled eggs, although they were of a peculiar brownish shade, and what might have been a slab of ham. It smelled good, and his appetite had returned, so he sat down at the small table and helped himself. It was delicious. Maybe if he could regain his strength quickly, he could regain his memory. The ham wasn’t quite as he expected, but similar. Even the brown eggs tasted good, although his mind made comparisons. Different from normal eggs. Were they chicken eggs? The eggs of a different bird? Were there even chickens on this world with two moons?
He went over to the window and looked out at the morning. There was no trace of the girl, Eliza, no feeling that she was in the house with him, but when he looked out the window he saw her scattering grain for the fowl. They were definitely not chickens, not unless chickens regularly had vivid green plumage and long, fuzzy topknots. Why would he know chickens and not these birds? That was crazy. Wasn’t it?
"What do you think, Jack?" he asked aloud. "Am I going crazy?" That sent a shiver through him. Had he gone crazy before? Was he crazy now? Was this only a dream, a delusion? Beyond the girl and the not-chickens he could see one of the moons just now sinking toward the horizon. It was smaller than he had expected and it was faintly pink. A pink moon? Something in the atmosphere, Sam would say....
Now there were two of them in his mind. Two men, Jack and Sam. He frowned, put up his hands to massage his temples. That wasn’t right, somehow. Had they both abandoned him here? Was he crazy? If so, why people his reality with the unfamiliar: the strange birds, the pink moon, the unfamiliar plumbing? Why not make it match what felt right? Wasn’t there something, some ability that when things were too far outside one’s frame of reference, one converted them mentally into things that made sense. Would that mean he’d think the birds an unusual hybrid rather than an alien species? That he’d simply assume the house very old fashioned? But why a pink moon?
"My head hurts," he said aloud. "Damn it, Jack, where are you?
"Where am I?"
"I don’t like this, Colonel," General Hammond said. "I think we should wait."
O’Neill’s voice rose involuntarily. "Wait? Just leave him there, sir? He could be hurt. He could be a prisoner. Hell, they could have even taken him off world already, and you want to wait?"
"There could be a troop of a hundred Jaffa waiting for you the second you step through the gate," Hammond reminded him. "If they recognized you, there will be."
"We don’t know that they did, General," Carter offered. "They’d know we had a staff weapon, but they weren’t close enough to identify Teal’c. They might have just thought we were there to steal adanite."
"And are you willing to risk two SG teams that you’re correct, Major Carter?" Hammond persisted. "I want to rescue Doctor Jackson as much as you do, people. But I can’t compromise this base and throw teams away when we have no proof that Doctor Jackson is still on Adana or even alive."
Jack flinched. He knew Daniel might be dead. He’d known that from the moment he realized Daniel wasn’t with them yesterday. But a part of him didn’t believe it. A part of him knew with a certainty that he could not explain, that Daniel was still alive and needed him. "Sir, if the Jaffa had recognized us, they’d have tried to follow us through the gate," he reminded the General. "We put the iris up as soon as we got back. Nobody came after us. This adanite has got to be popular. Maybe they didn’t think we were from Earth so much as that we were adanite poachers. They might have watched the gate for a while, but that doesn’t mean they’d be waiting for us now. We can send a M.A.L.P. through or a UAV. That would let us know."
"I’ve considered that, Colonel. First we’ll see if we can contact the council through the M.A.L.P. already on the planet. If the locals haven’t seen any Jaffa, we’ll send another through. If they’re waiting at the gate that will tell them exactly who we are, so I’d rather try to contact the villagers first. But since we can’t abandon Doctor Jackson to them, I have already determined to send a second M.A.L.P. through if contact with the first is inconclusive. If there are no evidence of Jaffa at the Stargate, I will send a UAV through after it to scan a wider area. If we find no evidence of Goa’uld or Jaffa waiting to spring a trap, you and Teal’c will accompany SG-3."
"Sir, my ankle is much better today." Carter’s face held determination, but there was a cane propped up against the table beside her that she obviously wished were invisible.
"Major Carter, Doctor Fraiser has already told me she will not yet clear you for a mission through the gate. You might face a situation where you’d have to run for it, and that could endanger the team. I appreciate that you want to help rescue Doctor Jackson, but your presence there might endanger him instead."
Carter subsided, but she didn’t look happy. Jack couldn’t blame her for that. He’d hate to be benched at a time like this. "Don’t worry, Carter, we’ll bring him home," he promised her. She lifted her eyes and met his gaze and both of them acknowledged the unwelcome truth that it might already be too late.
Then I’ll bring him home to rest, dammit, Jack thought bitterly. It was so stupid. How could he have missed Daniel going down? He hadn’t even cried out. There had been nothing, no warning, and Carter was already hurt. Shit, shit, shit. Why do you do these things to me, Daniel? You better be all right.
** *** **
Peter Monkton dressed carefully in a pair of leggings that seemed too long and a tunic with sleeves too short. Local style? Something old that he’d outgrown? There was a bowl of water for him to wash with, and a razor blade to shave with. Shaving with a straightedge razor had never been one of Peter’s favorite treats, but it was not unfamiliar to him. Why did he think there was something better? Feelings like that, feelings that struck so consistently, only convinced him that he did not belong here. Yet Eliza had appeared so sincere, so worried about him. Why would his sister lie? Maybe she hadn’t. Maybe Peter had gone away to live in a city and had only come to the farm for a visit when he had been caught out at dusk. Yet that didn’t ring true, either. Surely he would have known about the night dreads, the howling in the darkness, if he had lived here before he went away.
I always think of Peter Monkton as ‘he’, Peter thought. I don’t see him as me. He’s a stranger to me. I’m a stranger to myself.
He gazed at himself in the puckered mirror. "Peter Monkton," he said, shaping the syllables carefully. There was nothing in them that resounded through him. Surely, even with amnesia, he would know his own name.
"Jack," he said aloud. That seemed much more familiar than ‘Peter’ did. Who was Jack? He wasn’t Jack, or he wouldn’t have called upon the unknown man to help him. Instinctive reaction? Surely he could depend on them. He would simply have to memorize them as they happened, to keep track of them, note them scientifically.
Scientifically? There was nothing of science in this primitive room. Yet the term wasn’t wrong. Scientist? Was he a scientist? If only he could push his way through the wall that blocked his conscious recall. "Jack, come on," he said. "Show yourself to me."
Only blurred faces lingered in his memories.
"Well...so they’re blurred," he said aloud. "Make them sharper. What do you know about them?"
Thus adjured, he concentrated, shutting aside the fear that ran through him at the emptiness inside. Blurred faces. There had been three of them, hadn’t there. No. There had been the woman with dark hair, too. Only she brought such a well of sadness that it gushed forth to flood his consciousness with a grief beyond bearing. A grief he’d learned to live with, a grief he held inside as he went on with living. He was sure the dark haired woman was dead, or at best, lost to him forever. A lover? A wife? Who are you? He asked her. "I can’t remember you."
Why did that feel like a betrayal?
The other three, then. With a resigned sigh, he looked past the dark-haired woman, past the memory of grief and laughter, to the other three figures in his mind. None of them were Eliza, his sister. She cared; he had seen the fierceness of her insistence when she told him he was Peter. But the shadows that peopled his mind like ghosts meant more to him than the pointy-faced girl who shouldered the burden of the farm with such strength.
Jack? Was one of them Jack? He concentrated on the vague image that came to mind at the name. Grey hair? Short hair. But the face didn’t spring to clarity. "You’re Jack," he said to it. "I know you are."
"Do you remember?"
He whirled guiltily to face Eliza. She had a basket propped against one hip with five green-shelled eggs in it. I do not like green eggs and ham. The peculiar phrase popped into his mind unbidden. And added weirdly, Sam-I-am. How odd. There had been a man called Sam in those flashes. Was he Sam? No, that felt wrong. He wasn’t Sam. Sam wasn’t...a man?
"I don’t remember. I’m trying, but only flashes come." He reached out to take the basket from her.
The display of manners appeared to surprise her, and she deposited it on the table. "The chittens are laying well."
"Chickens," he said automatically, then stopped, afraid he’d offended by correcting a regional accent.
"Chickens are what we had on the home world," Eliza said automatically. "These are like that, they say, at least like the stories. But not quite."
"Green eggs," he said. Weren’t eggs white or brown?
"Yes. You know all this, Peter."
He wanted to insist he was not Peter, but he couldn’t, not when no name came to replace it, not when she had taken him in and protected him from whatever it was that howled in the night. If he couldn’t remember himself, how could he take Peter away from her?
"I can’t remember," he reminded her.
She brushed past that. "Did you find your breakfast?"
"Yes, it was good. Thank you."
"I’m glad to see you dressed. I think your arms grew while you were away. I’ll let the sleeves out on your other tunics."
"Thank you." That took care of one of his questions, and so naturally that it was only a few seconds later that he realized he could scarcely have shrunk in height to make the leggings too long. More proof that he was not who she claimed? But if not, why did she claim it? Did he resemble the missing Peter? Surely not in both appearance and voice. Too much coincidence that he be here unable to remember and to resemble a missing brother who was not here—and not be him.
Yet every passing moment only served to convince him that he was not Peter Monkton.
Jack’s not here, he thought fiercely. If I were Peter, Jack wouldn’t.... He didn’t get the sense of loss from the memory shards that clung to the name ‘Jack’ that he did from the dark-haired woman. He didn’t think that Jack was dead.
But then, who was he? The woman was wife, lover, companion, lost to him. He could feel that even though he couldn’t know it consciously. But Jack....
Friend. He’s my friend.
Yes. That felt right. That touched a place inside him that validated it, that reassured him. A part of him stood apart from the claim, as if friends were still new to him, as if he had often walked alone. Yet ‘friend’ felt right, a gift from a past he suspected had not always been kind to him.
How much of this was his imagination, a trick of the mind to fill the emptiness?
No. It was real. He knew it was real.
"Does your head hurt this morning?"
"Yes, a little," he said as if it didn’t matter. "But it’s better than last night." He fingered the shadows of his bruise. It was sensitive to the touch. "I’m not dizzy and I was hungry for breakfast."
"Good. I hoped you would be."
Accents. Regional accents. Her voice was different from his own, crisp yet with slightly slurred edges. His own was...was what he was used to; but hers was different, with a faint sing-song quality. Was that more proof that he was not what she claimed him? Surely a brother and sister would sound the same. He wondered how long he had been away in the city. He wouldn’t ask. He wouldn’t encourage her to tell him lies.
But there she stood, young and sincere, and full of hope. Why would she lie? Why would she claim him for her brother if she wasn’t his sister? And why would he feel such fierce revulsion at the very idea. Not because he saw her as something more, as lover rather than sibling. He didn’t, not for an instant. Adversary rather than sibling, perhaps, but she was not Jaffa; at least he didn’t think she was. She wore no sigil on her forehead to indicate service to a Goa’uld.
He didn’t know what to believe. He had to hope that the reason he couldn’t remember was that he’d injured his head when he fell and that, as he recovered, he would remember. Until then, he had to be wary and alert. If she were lying to him, he needed to know why. It was possible that everything simply felt wrong not because it was wrong but because his mind was clouded. He couldn’t be sure. Maybe he should just play along with her until he remembered. What else could he do?
"What should I do today?" he asked her.
"Rest and regain your strength. I will visit the market to sell the eggs. I have the rest of them packed in the cart already."
"Should I come with you? Will there be dangers? Jaffa about?"
"No, they will have gone. They only take the supplies and go." Her face darkened. "Sometimes they take...more, but not often. All we can do is give them the adanite and hope for the best. They are too many to fight."
"Adanite?" That sounded familiar, but he couldn’t place it.
"Have you forgotten even that? Our healing crop that soothes the pain of wounds. I rubbed it on your head last night while you slept. I will give you some to apply to yourself while I am gone."
He didn’t remember her treatment, but he wouldn’t object to something that would take the pain away. "You grow it for the Goa’uld?" he asked. Goa’uld? Was that a new memory? Why did it evoke such instant hatred in his mind, a hatred that was matched by Eliza’s? Her eyes darkened and her mouth tightened.
"Yes, for the Goa’uld," she admitted. "They don’t enslave us, but the threat is always there. We must not fight them too much or defy them in any way, for they tell us there are other worlds where the people serve as slaves. As long as we give them adanite, they are content to leave us alone. But it is a threat we do not like. Sometimes," she added unhappily, "they take people away. Slaves. Or to serve as...hosts."
"Hosts?" the word resonated through him like knives digging into his heart. "They take hosts here?"
"You understand that? You remember it? Something so horrifying would be hard to forget. When I was a child, they took my older sister, Anne. She struggled and cried and—and you tried to fight them but they wouldn’t let...you stop them." She closed her eyes. "I can still hear Anne weeping as the Jaffa carried her away through the doorway."
Peter looked involuntarily at the door, even though he had the feeling she wasn’t speaking about the entry to the farmhouse.
"The circle doorway to other worlds. You remember that?"
An image filled his mind, a huge circle, glowing with ripples like the surface of a pond. "I remember," he admitted. But why did he remember stepping into the ripples as if he did it every day? Maybe that was it. Maybe the Goa’uld had taken him, had done things to him. They could do that, alter a person’s memories, couldn’t they?
She sighed. "I still miss th—Anne." Then she whirled around, snatched up a shawl that lay across the back of a chair, and draped it about her shoulders. "I will go to market. If you want to scatter feed for the chittens, it’s in the blue bucket hanging on the fence outside their run. Do it after the midday meal." She took several dishes out of a cupboard. "Do you think you can fix food for yourself at midday?"
"I think so. Where is the food kept?"
She showed up a cupboard, and stairs that led down to a place she called the cold cellar. "There is a joint hanging there. Bring it up and cook it over the fire. Can you cook over a fire?"
He studied the firepit and the huge old oven. "I think I can figure it out."
"Good. Peter? Be cautious. Do not answer the door if any come while I am gone. The Jaffa may be about. After several days, when the Jaffa have been gone a time, I will tell the villagers that you are here, and it will be safe. But now, so close after their departure, let us not give the villagers cause to make a mistake."
The last thing he wanted was to be handed over to a troop of Jaffa. He couldn’t remember much about the Jaffa, just knowledge that came automatically when the need came. Until it came voluntarily, he would go along with Eliza.
So he stood in the doorway and watched her tug the small handcart down the path in the direction of the village. He couldn’t see it, but he saw a church steeple rising out of the trees maybe four kilometers away. Kilometers? He could measure distance in his mind but he couldn’t remember the face of his friend.
Frustrated, angry, helpless, he closed the door behind Eliza and set out to examine the farmhouse for clues that would help him to regain his memory.
** *** **
"You must be wary, Colonel O’Neill." Susonna Vorulester’s filtered voice came through to him. She was peering into the camera on the M.A.L.P., and her eyes were wary and pained. "The Jaffa returned this morning; they said they had pursued outsiders through the gate, outsiders armed as they were."
"What did you tell them, Madame Chairman?" General Hammond asked.
"That strangers must have come to harvest adanite. That we did not trade with you, only with the Goa’uld. We do not think they know we sometimes trade through the doorway. I am not certain I was believed, but we had concealed your device." She touched the M.A.L.P. "And the fresh and canned fruit you brought us. We were prepared. They could find no proof that we had traded with you, and they said they found you in the fields where adanite grew. I think they were not surprised that strangers would come to take it away. But they were angry and said that, in future, we must capture invaders. We lied and promised that we would. A lie to Jaffa is no lie, no crime. They do not deserve our honesty."
"We are sorry we came at a time when your people were endangered," Hammond responded. "If we can assist, we would like to do so."
"We are grateful, and we shall honor our treaty with you. But do not return today, for they watch the doorway for your return."
"One of our people, Doctor Jackson, disappeared on the way back to the Gate, the doorway," Carter explained.
"Disappeared? Taken by the Jaffa?" Susonna’s face tightened with concentration. "They mentioned no capture. They might have recognized your garb and weapons; they would certainly know that he was not of our people. Had he been captured, they would have brought him here to accuse us of betraying them. If he were...dead, they would still know he was a stranger and they would have brought his body. Perhaps he was merely separated from you. We will send out people to search for him."
"They will wonder at the Gate, the doorway, opening, if we don’t come through," Hammond replied. "Madame Chairman, we will cease transmission now, and try again tomorrow at this time. I thank you for your consideration."
"I will hope to have Doctor Jackson with me when you contact us again."
Hammond gave the order to shut down the gate, then turned to a fuming O’Neill. "Colonel, you can’t go through into an ambush. I won’t risk my people under such conditions."
Carter jumped in before Jack could speak. "If they were watching carefully, they’ll know we tried; they may be able to monitor the M.A.L.P. transmission. If they can trace it to the village, we may have endangered the Adanites simply by dialing up. At best, they’ll wonder at the Gate opening with no one coming through and they’ll go on alert."
"So we should just sit here safe and let them do what they will to Daniel?" Jack exploded. "If we go through with sufficient force...."
"No, Colonel," Hammond disagreed. "I should hate to lose Doctor Jackson. But we don’t know what size force is present at the gate. They’ll have plenty of warning as the gate powers up. There could have been dozens of Jaffa ready to blast you the second you stepped through the gate. Susonna doesn’t appear to believe they have Doctor Jackson, which could mean he was separated from you and he’s lying low. It won’t hurt him to wait a few days for a safe retrieval."
"Unless he’s lying in a ditch, bleeding to death," Jack burst out involuntarily. "He might need us right now, sir."
"If his condition was that critical, Colonel, then we may already be too late. The Adanans seem willing to assist us. We’ll let them. I know their medical abilities are less advanced than our own, but we don’t know that Doctor Jackson is hurt. He might have been unable to respond to your call yesterday because there were Jaffa right on top of him and to speak would be to give away his position. He may have simply gone to ground. But I will not fling additional SG teams into a known ambush when we don’t know that Doctor Jackson’s need is immediate. Not only do we risk lives but we jeopardize the Adanans. Right now, the Jaffa only know that someone came, someone they saw in a field. They don’t know it was someone from Earth. If I send people through now, they will know. There is too much at stake to risk for the life of one man, a life that may not be in jeopardy."
"But he could need us right this minute," O’Neill argued.
"Daniel Jackson is clever and resourceful," Teal’c interjected. "He will hide well and await a safe time to return. If he is at liberty, he will know when the Jaffa leave and will be able to utilize the DHD on his own."
"So we just leave him?" Jack made a gesture of disgust. "Thanks a lot, Daniel, you helped us out more times than we can count, but now, you’re on your own. Never mind if you’re hurt, you can hide out and wait for the Jaffa to take off." He gave an exasperated snort. It was worse that he saw the General’s point. He saw Teal’c’s. Daniel might very well be fine, and it wouldn’t be fair to the Adanans to bring down Goa’uld wrath on their planet. But he hated it.
"Daniel wouldn’t want us to be killed trying to rescue him," Carter offered.
He made an impatient gesture, not to refute her reasoning, but because it was true. Daniel was either safe or he...wasn’t. And if he wasn’t, he either needed their help now...or not at all. But even if he was in deadly peril right this minute, rushing through the gate to get zapped with staff weapons wasn’t their best option for saving him. Too much attention to the planet might only make the Jaffa more suspicious.
"Okay, yeah," he said at last. "I know we can’t go through now."
"Daniel Jackson is well able to conceal himself," Teal’c added. Jack knew it was true; the guy had survived a year on Abydos, after all. He’d handled himself just fine on more worlds than Jack could count. But he’d have felt a heck of a lot better about it if he hadn’t thought that Teal’c was trying very hard to convince himself.
** *** **
Peter Monkton prowled restlessly around the farm once Eliza had vanished down the path to the village. Something there should feel familiar, something should ring a bell in his mind, should speak of familiarity, of home. But nothing did. He investigated the larder in the cellar and nodded approvingly at its layout. He examined the few books that he found; one was a Bible, which shouldn’t have surprised him. The pages were stiff and yellow and he had the idea that the printing process here was time-consuming and expensive. What kind of books would the average farmer have? One of them was a history of the planet Adana from the time the people were brought here, the Goa’uld incursion in native villages in England, Scotland, France, what was now Germany. The coming of the Goa’uld to small, remote settlements, snatching up people where they stood. Those taken hadn’t understood it at first, only that beings with strange weapons that shot fire, weapons far bigger than muskets and far more portable than cannons, had come and herded them into small groups. The Goa’uld had evidently used ring devices to beam them up to the ships. Some among the captives knew a little of history and suspected Egyptian designs.
The Goa’uld had put them down here. Peter couldn’t tell from his quick skim if the Goa’uld had possessed a gate on the ship and had sent them through—the idea of gates on ships was not foreign to him; come to think of it, Goa’uld ships and Gates felt natural as if he’d experienced them more than once. He could almost see the corridors with golden panels inscribed with hieroglyphics. Even stranger was the certainty that, if he could see those hieroglyphs, he could read them.
The original ‘colonists’ had been given instructions. They would be left in peace if they harvested the adanite and made it available to the Goa’uld at set times. Realizing that even burying the ‘doorway’ in the ground would not stop an enemy who had ships that could journey between the stars, they had no choice but to comply. Being human and stubborn, they partitioned off a part of their lives to that purpose and kept the rest entirely separate. They did enough to avoid reprisals, but they kept their own cultures from Earth and passed down all they could remember over the generations. Those who had carried books when they were snatched treasured them as the proof of a past they would never forget. They pooled knowledge. Peter had to approve of the way they had met, strangers from different countries who had not spoken each other’s language, to share knowledge. Since the majority of the colonists were from England, they selected English as their native language but made certain the other languages would be maintained as well. They wanted to forget nothing. Someday, when they had learned enough, they would learn how to use the doorway, would learn how to go home. So far, in their trips through the doorway, they had not found Earth, but they hoped to.
Peter was fascinated. The story of their society impressed him tremendously. He was so caught up in it that he hadn’t noticed at first that what the book called the ‘doorway’ he called the ‘Stargate’.
Wait a minute. He was so surprised he jumped to his feet. Stargate? The word itself made him feel like he was remembering, like it was important. Stargate? He frowned at the printed word. ‘Doorway.’ That was their word. ‘Stargate’ was his. Why was that? Did the different villages have their own names for things? English was his own language, the one he thought in, but there were differences between his speech and Eliza’s. Maybe that only meant he’d been living in another village. Yet speech drifted, changed. Chaucer’s English was different from Shakespeare’s, Shakespeare’s different from Peter’s own. Had they struggled here to stick to what they remembered? And, if so, why would Peter’s language, nearly three hundred years later, be much the same?
Was knowing things like the Queen’s name in the portrait the same as knowing the date? And even if he did, the planet had a longer cycle than Earth’s did. He knew that, too. More basic knowledge? Remembering? Why was he so sure that he had passed through the Stargate? And why couldn’t he remember the act of doing so?
He set aside the book to finish later and went to stare at his face in the mirror. Peter Monkton.
No. Everything in him screamed that was wrong. He didn’t belong here. He belonged...where? In a city? Out beyond the ‘doorway’? But how could that be? The Adanans had never learned how to find Earth. They traded through the ‘doorway’ but Peter suspected that most of the traders came to them.
But if he were a trader from an alien race, would he look human? Would he remember things of Earth?
Frustrated, he pounded his fists down on the top of the dresser. Why, why, why couldn’t he make it clear?
The mirrored image didn’t answer.
It was late, past lunchtime, but he had been so caught up in his reading that he hadn’t noticed. He went outside to feed the chittens.
The name intrigued him. Recognizing the need for domestic fowl, had the ‘colonists’ selected a likely bird and domesticated it? Chosen a name for it that was similar to the chickens they were familiar with? Had they named other animals for their similarity to Earth animals? He was fascinated with the process. It felt right to question, to try to understand.
The chittens looked very much like green, fuzzy chickens—and how did he know what chickens looked like? Why did he expect eggs that were not green? I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-am.
Peter-I-am? No. Peter-I-am-not. Sam is someone else, someone I should know, like Jack. But I am not Peter.
He knew it down to the soles of his feet.
But if he wasn’t Peter Monkton, who was he? Why was he here? And why did he remember things that Peter Monkton could never have seen?
And who was Jack, the man who stood firmly in his memory between himself and all that would make him Peter Monkton? Why wouldn’t that shadowy face come clear? And why had he instinctively called out in his mind for help to him?
More real than anything else was the positive certainty that Jack would help him, whoever he was.
If he had been here.
But he wasn’t here. Peter was here. No. Not-Peter was here. That was who he was until more came back. He was Not-Peter.
Hurry up and find me, Jack, he thought. I want to be more than what I’m not.
But Jack didn’t come. No one came but more chittens, fluttering around his feet.
"I don’t understand," he said to the chittens, who ignored him and concentrated on the seed he flung. "I don’t understand anything."
** *** **
Not-Peter had just refreshed himself with a lunch put together with a couple of slices of something that was not beef—it didn’t taste familiar to him but he compared it automatically in his mind to beef, another proof that this was not his place—warmed over the fire and eaten between two slices of crusty bread spread with a bright yellow butter. There were green vegetables in profusion, and he cooked them in one of the pots hanging near the stove. He didn’t know how to work the stove; the flues and heating surface were unfamiliar but he figured it out enough to make do. There was milk, too, but he didn’t think it was cow’s milk or goat’s milk. He wondered what was domesticated here for meat and milk.
After lunch, he went out to explore the barn, a huge, ramshackle building far larger than the tidy farmhouse. Bales of hay, or at least something equivalent to hay, were neatly stacked, and animals that were almost cows—at least almost the way his tricky memory told him cows should look—munched away placidly in their stalls. Shaggier than he had expected them to be, with longer horns, and a weird yellow color, but not so very different. He saw a few buckets he assumed were there for milking, but decided he would leave that for Eliza, although he had an idea he knew how to do it.
Everything he saw fit patterns in his mind of a time that was not now, of a place that was not home. What he couldn’t understand was why. Why would Eliza tell him he was Peter if he were not? Why pretend when, at any moment, his memory might return and refute her explanations? Was she afraid to be alone? Not if she ventured into tunnels and found him, not if she went alone and unarmed to the village?
Then, was she afraid of solitude? A lack of companionship? Of living by herself? The farm must be her family’s, and she had none left? Did she hope he would never remember, that he would stay and be her brother, and fill the empty hours with companionship? Not-Peter understood that. He could almost remember someone at his side, someone he cared for, someone he loved, and the empty space beside him was a reproach he didn’t even understand. The dark-haired woman in his mind had been his wife, his mate, his companion. He was certain of it, just as he was certain she was lost to him. He would ask Eliza when she came back from market, ready to see if she would lie to him, if she would hesitate, trapped, if she would make up a story. How agile was her tongue, how quick her guile?
He heard something in the yard and he snatched up a pitchfork as a weapon in case it were someone else before he left the barn to confront her—
Only to jerk to a horrified halt at the sight of six Jaffa, leveling staff weapons at him.
Trapped! Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. He couldn’t fight them off with a pitchfork. They would arrest him; they would take him back through the Gate with them and he would never get home….
He dropped the pitchfork before they could ask him to. Amusement ran across their faces.
"You. Farmer," said the leader in a voice dripping with contempt. The tattoo on his forehead was unfamiliar. Not-Peter didn’t know which System Lord it represented. It was a stylized bird done in three quick lines. A raven? A hawk?
Play along, play along. His mind was quicker than his conscious reasoning. He sketched an awkward bow and said hastily, "How may I serve you, my lords?"
"We are looking for a runaway," the spokesman continued. His tattoo was gold, the others’ black. Rank designation? "Have you seen a stranger hereabouts?"
He frowned. Was he the stranger, the one sought? Was that why Eliza insisted he was her brother, to protect him? But wouldn’t the Jaffa know? Wouldn’t they recognize him? Or would they know him by some other sign? Clothing? Tools? Weapons? They didn’t seem to know him, though. He might be safe, if he were careful.
"My sister and I are the only ones here," he replied, trying to pitch his voice like hers. "I have seen no strangers here at all. What kind of stranger? Someone from beyond the…doorway?" Had they noticed his hesitation at the terminology that didn’t feel right to him?
"What kind of stranger does not concern you," spat the Jaffa. "But my lord requires knowledge of all strangers. You would not lie, human?"
He shook his head. "No. I have seen no one but my sister, but I was hurt and I was in bed until today." He touched the bruise on his forehead. Even as he did it, he wondered if it was wise to call attention to it. He hoped they wouldn’t ask how he’d been hurt. He started to make up a story in his mind.
But they weren’t interested in his bruise. Instead, the leader dispatched two of them to search the barn, one to search the chitten coop and two more to search the house. Not-Peter hoped that if he had arrived with anything different, clothing or weapons, that it would be well concealed.
It must have been. The Jaffa returned shortly. "No sign of a presence," he reported. "Clothing for two, man and woman. This man’s size."
The lead Jaffa grabbed Not-Peter’s chin and tilted his head to stare at him. "You fear me," he purred with amusement and satisfaction. "That is good. Your kind should fear us. Tell me once again, have you seen a stranger?"
"No." It was true. "I have only seen my sister. When did your runaway run away?"
"Last night," admitted the Jaffa.
"I was in bed yesterday. I saw no one." And not a lie in that. "I only saw Eliza." Also true.
The Jaffa’s eyes held his own. They were deep brown, intense and penetrating, and they were not kind. He knew he was nothing to the Jaffa, that they would as soon kill him as walk away and leave him standing, but in the end, this Jaffa released him.
"These farmers lack the wit to lie, and the courage," he murmured to his minions. They laughed contemptuously but they turned away.
He needed more information. "My lord?" He made his voice tentative and nervous at his presumption.
The lead Jaffa turned back, his eyes smoldering. The tip of the staff weapon came to rest against his chest.
"My lord, if I should see a stranger, where may I report it to you?"
"You see how they become obsequious when frightened," the Jaffa said instructively to his men. "It is easy to frighten them. These folk of Adana have no spirit, no backbone." He raised his chin and looked down at Not-Peter, although they were of a height, as if daring him to refute the scornful words. "If you dare, we remain at the Chappa’ai, the ‘doorway’ till dusk. If you have the stomach for it, report your findings there."
"And after?" he ventured tentatively. "My lord, I will not go out in the darkness and face the terrors." That would sound convincing. He hoped.
"We will waste no more time here," the Jaffa replied. "Perhaps your night terrors will devour our runaway. I would rather have brought his carcass home to my lord, but either way, his death will serve. You do well to fear the terrors in the night, little farmer. But remember this, no matter how dread they are, they are not as dangerous to you as I am."
Not-Peter pretended to shudder. He was nervous and uneasy, but this man’s arrogant bluster was not as frightening to him as it would have been if he were only what he wanted to appear. He would have liked to suggest that the night dreads must be fearful to Jaffa as well, if they meant to leave by dusk, but he didn’t think the man he was supposed to be would dare, so he only bowed his head in mock surrender and hoped the Jaffa was not perceptive enough to see that his submission was a lie.
"Now what? I grow weary of your insubordination."
"What did he do, your runaway?"
"And why do you wish to know that, little farmer?"
He took a deep breath and hoped the Jaffa would take it for fear, for screwing his courage to the sticking-place. "So I will not inadvertently make the same mistake and call down your wrath, my lord." Any information at all, any bit of knowledge, was valuable, and it might help him to find himself.
"You cannot commit his crime, little farmer. For he is not from this world. He is from a world that rebels against our power, and we shall crush him beneath our boot heels."
Yes. That had to be it. He was from the other side of the Stargate. And be very careful. Do not use that word to the Jaffa. That will show them that they are right to search here. Can’t let them know. Jack, stay away, they’re waiting.
Jack? That instinctive urge to warn burst into being but it didn’t bring memories with it. He hoped the Jaffa’s arrogance would misread the misery and frustration that ran across his face.
"Enough," snapped the Jaffa. He backhanded Not-Peter once across the face in casual cruelty, then, with a sneer, marched off, his troop sweeping after him.
Staggering from the blow, Not-Peter righted himself. If only the old legends were true, that a second blow would restore memory to an amnesiac, but that was only a staple of bad fiction. How many television programs….
He could remember television, but this world didn’t have the technology for television.
Why, why, why did things that didn’t matter come so easily, and things that did hide behind the wall that blocked his mind? He had to know. He had to.
Okay, time to think. He’d make a chart, listing the things that he knew, the things that were different. The things that were wrong. Surely this amnesia in itself was wrong. It wasn’t supposed to work this way. Another convenience of fiction, surely? A blow to the head might confuse the time around the accident. It wouldn’t take away a life and leave behind the things that were part of the routine. Yet it had—or something had.
Fine. He had amnesia. He wasn’t Peter Monkton, but Eliza had claimed he was, for her own reasons. Whether they were to fill her loneliness, to help her run the farm, or for other personal gain he hadn’t thought of yet, or whether she had told him he was her brother to protect him from encounters with the Jaffa, she had lied to him. He knew he wasn’t who she claimed.
He was almost positive he was the man the Jaffa were searching for.
But he knew Earth. The things he had read in the history book were familiar things. The language. The countries. Good Queen Bess. Did that mean that, after the book had been published, that Adana had found Earth again, or Earth had found them? Did that mean he had come here through the Stargate, evidently a term in use on Earth if not on Adana? Did that mean he was lost here, hiding from pursuit? If so, would Eliza have left him without warning? Or was it the best thing she could do, leave him in happy ignorance, believing her story?
And would he be wise to pretend he still believed, to see what would happen?
He didn’t think she meant him ill, unless she had gone away to allow the Jaffa to come unimpeded, and he doubted that very much. He didn’t think she could have expected Jaffa, or she would not have gone so easily, alone, unarmed. Yet the Jaffa acted as if they knew this world, even if they meant to leave at sunset. So they weren’t an ongoing presence here. Eliza had said something about waiting till they had been gone several days. They came and went but didn’t stay here all the time. So why did they come? For the adanite she had mentioned? To take…hosts? Eliza had spoken of hosts and it had sounded familiar, but now it hit him harder. Did that mean he was closer to recall?
Hosts. That kicked at one of his barricaded memories and made his gut wrench with a pain he couldn’t understand but that hurt all the same. He knew without realizing he knew, about the Goa’uld, about their use of humans as hosts. Someone he loved had gone that way, he was sure of it. But his vague memories of Earth didn’t include Goa’uld there.
Why couldn’t he think?
He pressed his fingertips against his temples and rubbed fiercely. The bruise twinged as he brushed it, but he didn’t take his hands away. He had to remember. He had to. But he couldn’t.
He went back to the house, took out the jar of adanite, and applied it carefully to his bruise. The pain receded so quickly as to seem miraculous. No wonder the Jaffa came for it, although the Goa’uld’s snakes would heal them without it, wouldn’t they? Damn it, why can’t I think? Why can’t I figure it out?
He took up the history text again. Maybe there were answers in here, not about his own situation—how could there be?—but about this world. He went back to the start, to the point where the Goa’uld had left them to obey. Left them to form their own society, how they had modeled it after the homeland. But something in the text made him hesitate. If was as if something were missing.
What was this? He flipped a page.
"At first, the memories of home were carried by the strong." Now what did that mean? Anything to do with remembering appealed to him, so he went on. "The world would steal our knowledge from us. A Goa’uld trick? The early settlers knew not."
But that was crazy? Eliza seemed to know about Queen Elizabeth the First. She knew the names of other countries. She even had the picture of the Queen that he had seen when he awakened. But if his memory loss was due to something inherent to the planet and not to the blow to the head, perhaps Eliza had felt safe telling him a lie. Perhaps she had even meant to comfort by assigning him an identity. But what could take away a man’s personal memories and leave in their place an emptiness filled with random recall?
He read on. "The rule was firmly established that none shall leave their homes in the darkness. The danger is in the darkness, and no rule means more. Even unto the present day, it is enforced. The tunnels offer us safe passage; the earth is strong and guards us from the night dreads."
The night dreads! Eliza had spoken of them and also of a tunnel where she had found him. Had no one in the centuries since the Adanans’ arrival here learned to understand what the night dreads really were? Were they wraiths, stealing away memories? Were they a native life-form? It was more than the sounds they made, it had to be. A sound could not steal a man’s memories.
And if the memories were stolen away by the night dreads, could they ever be restored, or were they gone forever?
But they weren’t gone. Not all of them. He knew names. He knew Jack, he knew Sam. There were others that peopled his fragmented memory, the woman with dark hair, the woman he was certain was dead. There was a world beyond the Stargate, a world with television and other things that seemed natural. Green Eggs and Ham. That was something, too, a book, he thought. But something in the night dreads drew away memories. Not completely, or maybe he’d been partially shielded in the tunnel.
And not completely for the locals, either, because they knew their history. They must have seen it happen to some and had taken precautions. But he had heard the night dreads himself, when he awakened, wailing dementedly outside the window, and Eliza had heard them, too, and she had not lost her memory. So what was it? What did it mean? Did the enclosed building take away the full potency? He had to have answers.
He made himself think of Jack. Somehow, Jack’s name had come to him, come instinctively. That had to mean something. The night dreads hadn’t taken away the sense of comradeship that went with the name; they hadn’t removed the instinctive trust and reliance. Those things were still here. Jack was his friend. He knew that, even though he couldn’t prove it with specific words and incidents. Just as he had known, instinctively, that the Jaffa at the Stargate meant danger to his friends.
Jack had gone away, back to Earth, but he would come again—and walk into a trap.
Or, worse, had he fallen victim to the night dreads himself? Did he linger somewhere else on this planet, his mind empty of Not-Peter?
That thought stung worse than his own amnesia did.
"I didn’t mean to forget you, Jack," he said and squinted with his mental eye into the depths of his memory. But the shadowy outline that was Jack didn’t swim into sharper focus. It just remained, stalwart and stubborn, as if he could nudge Not-Peter into remembering him by waiting.
For an instant, at the thought, the image swarmed closer. He could almost hear the words spoken, almost see the arched eyebrow that went with them. Damn it, Jack, I’m trying, he thought. You better be safe on Earth. I don’t want you to have forgotten me, too. If that had happened, would there ever be any going home, for either of them?
He needed to talk to Eliza. He couldn’t simply play along any longer, not when so much was at stake, not when Jack might come back through the Gate with the other shadowy figures that Not-Peter could barely perceive. Sam? Someone else? A…Jaffa?
That couldn’t be right, could it? But somehow, he could remember intense brown eyes, not like the eyes of the Jaffa who had just confronted him. That man’s eyes had been pitiless, but the ones he remembered had been kind and sure.
"Who are you?" he said aloud. "And who am I?"
"You are Daniel Jackson," said a voice behind him.
He jumped and whirled to find Eliza standing there, breathing heavily as if she had been running. "I didn’t know," she said. "Well, I didn’t know your name. But I know it now."
"You lied to me. You told me I was your brother." Daniel Jackson. That was it. That was right. He had never felt right being Peter Monkton, but he was Daniel. He knew it with complete certainty. Daniel-I-am, he thought wryly. It didn’t bring back his memories; he was really no better off that way than he had before she spoke, but, inside him, something had clicked. He knew who he was. Maybe he didn’t understand all that entailed, not yet, but he was himself again, and it felt as if his world had been crooked and was now suddenly straight. Jack and Sam and the Jaffa were still vague in his mind, but they were real; he knew they were real.
Eliza bowed her head, not in guilt but in regret, then she raised her chin and met his gaze head on. "I had to tell you something. I knew the Jaffa might come. I knew you were one of them from beyond the doorway. But if I told you that and Jaffa came, you would betray yourself by mistake. You were confused by the night dreads, and they would take you away. I would never let them do that."
"They took your brother, didn’t they?" Daniel asked gently. That was why she’d claimed him as brother, not mate, because there had been a brother, the one the clothes belonged to. It must have hurt her to call him by her brother’s name, when the broken-off words she’d spoken last night suggested he had been removed by the Goa’uld.
"Yes. He tried to stop them taking Anne and they hurt him and went away. He hated them ever since, and then, three months ago, they came again and he thought they wanted to take me. He made me hide in the straw, and he went out to face them. I think he fought them in my defense. I never saw him again. Later, Susonna said he had been taken away through the doorway. Those who go through the doorway never come back." A tear slid down her cheek. "When I found you in the tunnels, I was alone and afraid, but I knew you were one of the strangers, one of the ones from Earth. I had to hide you; the Jaffa might seek you even in the night, although they fear the night dreads as we do." She put up a hand and brushed the tear away. "When you awoke and I saw that the night dreads had taken your name away, I gave you Peter’s. I wanted to protect you, but a part of me wanted…things to be as they had been, so I would not be alone."
"You don’t have a boyfriend? A beau?"
She shook her head. "I did, once, but he died. Now there is none. It was Peter and I against the world, and then Peter was taken, and now I am alone." She squared her shoulders, accepting her fate. "I went to the village today to find out if Susonna and the Council knew how you came to be in the tunnels, and that is when I learned that Jaffa came yesterday and that they had chased you and your friends. I think you fell into the tunnel; the opening should have been smaller. I think part of it crumbled away beneath your feet as you fled. I think you fell by accident. The crop was high; your friends might not have seen."
"Why were you in the tunnels?" he asked.
"Because yesterday many of us stayed long in the village to see you and your friends. I did not see you, only the woman with the fair hair and the big Jaffa who has turned to good. When word came that Jaffa who were not good had come, many of us returned home through the tunnels. I was on my way home when I saw something on the tunnel floor ahead of me, and I crept close to see—and found you. I was so frightened because I could hear the dreads above me, but they were not close overhead, so I dragged you quickly from the opening. I hid your weapon and your clothes in the tunnel; the entry to it is concealed carefully; if the Jaffa search, they will not find it."
"They did search," he said. "They came, but I told them I was your brother and they believed." He stopped, horrified. "If they were the same ones that took him, they might have guessed."
She curled her lip. "You think they remember us that well? How would they know how many brothers I have, if any? We are less than animals to them. One reason many of us are glad you came was because you stand up to them. Even if you had to go home in haste, you fight them. I wish we could fight them. For Peter. For Anne." She brought up her hands and covered her face.
Daniel put his arms around her and held her gently a minute until she regained control. When she struggled free, he plunged in with a practical question. "How did you learn my name?"
"Your friends used the communication device you gifted us with, and the M.A.L.P. Is that the right name? They concealed it from the Jaffa until your friends could return, but, with the doorway open, they could talk to Susonna. She said she warned them not to come, that the Jaffa guarded the doorway."
"Did they agree to stay away?" It would be just like Jack to risk….
That thought trailed away as he registered it consciously. It seemed he could only have Jack and his other friends through involuntary reactions, and he hated that.
"They will try again tomorrow. Unless the opening of the gate will make the Jaffa wait longer. All of us know of it. None would speak of it to Jaffa." She went to the sink with its pump and ran water over her hands, splashing it on her face.
"Did you tell Susonna—she is your leader, is that right? Did you tell Susonna I was here?"
"Because there were Jaffa about. I will go through the tunnel tonight and tell her when they are gone. There are too many secrets and the more people who know, the greater damage." She averted her eyes. "And because, for one more night, I thought it would be good to have a brother." Shoulders slumped, she admitted, "That was wrong of me, but I have been lonely."
"Eliza, if Susonna knew you were lonely, couldn’t she help?"
The girl hesitated, then her head came up. "I thought I could endure, without help."
Daniel took both her hands. "I think I’m like you, used to being alone. I don’t think I could ask easily for help, either. But there’s something inside me, where my memory won’t go, that tells me that my friends would help me if I needed it. If only I could remember them. Your friends will help you too. You have only to let them."
Her fingers curled around his. "But…."
"Eliza, tell me about the night dreads. This book says they affect people’s memories, but it doesn’t say how."
"We don’t really know how. We had to learn, to our cost, when we came here. We never go out into the darkness, for the night dreads steal the soul." When he started and tried to pull free, she tightened her grip. "It isn’t really the soul," she explained hastily. "They thought that in the olden days, when we first came here. The Goa’uld brought us here because they would not risk themselves to gather and process adanite; they thought we were…were expendable. They could always steal more humans to serve as their slaves. But they forgot how bullheaded we English are. We don’t give up. We dig in and fight back. We’re stubborn. So we learned. We made a special point of remembering. All our history, we learn it carefully, and we honor it. Memory is a triumph. So every child learns all about our past in school, about how important it is to remember. If one is made to forget, the knowledge will continue. It was hard at first, but we learned. No one has been lost to the night dreads for near one hundred years until you came."
"And you don’t think maybe we would have liked to know about this?" Daniel heard a wry note in his voice that reminded him of Jack, of his fleeting memories of Jack.
"We thought you would be gone before dark. Besides, it is to our shame that we have never learned to understand what it is that moans and wails in the darkness. Some say it’s ghosts, the ghosts of other races the Goa’uld brought here long ago to harvest adanite. Some say it is a native phenomenon. Those who study the sciences and the humors of the body have risked the night to test it, but they always came back without their memories, so now it is forbidden."
"Eliza," Daniel persisted, suddenly afraid in the pit of the stomach. "Do the memories ever come back?"
"Most do. Some very quickly, some slowly. But some not at all. And we do not know why it happens the way it does. The ones who study science have sought to find a pattern in it, to say that people of certain temperaments, people of certain ages, men more than women or women more than men, but it isn’t like that. We might not have the…the technology you have, but that does not make us stupid."
"No one would think you’re stupid, Eliza. Your people are very brave and resourceful." He wished he had a list of the types of people who had recovered quickly. If hundreds of years of scientists hadn’t solved it, how could he when he had been like this less than a day? He suspected from the way his mind worked, the way he had sought information, that maybe he was a scientist himself. But being a scientist had not prevented those brave souls who had risked the night from losing their memories, any more than it had prevented him.
"It might help, seeing your friends," she ventured. "Sometimes, that has worked, the unexpected arrival of a loved one. Sometimes not. Doctor Brewer, the doctor of our village, says that the ones who remembered that way cared very deeply for their loved ones, and the ones who didn’t, well, didn’t. But he says it is more than that. That’s not enough."
"Tell me more. I can’t stay like this. I have to remember. I have to get my life back."
"People remember some things. Names, maybe, or places. But they can’t do it when they try, only by accident, if something jogs them."
"It’s that way with me, too. But I want to know more about the night dreads. Has anyone ever seen anything in the dark? And if I was hurt and fell into the tunnel, how could they reach me?"
"I think you may have landed on the edge of the tunnel, long enough for them to get you, and then fallen after. But I don’t know."
"Just hearing the night dreads isn’t enough, because both of us heard them last night, when I woke up. I remember hearing them outside the window. So it is more than the sound, isn’t it?"
She bobbed her head. "We all know there are things in the mist. We don’t know if they are solid. Maybe they are wraiths. Spirits of the doomed."
"Ghosts?" he asked doubtfully, and a fleeting thought tracked through his mind. Who you gonna call?
"The minister says that there are no ghosts. The council argue about it. I don’t think they are ghosts. I think this planet is different from Earth. I think they have different life here. The chittens are different and so are the cattle. We still call them cattle, even if they are different from what we know. You have pigs. We call ours pogs. The birds and the trees are different, and even the soil is different. Until we could trade for foods, we were unhealthy at first, but the Goa’uld allow us the trade because we stay here and harvest for them. If it were safe for them to be here, we would be slaves, but since it is not safe at night, we are only servants."
"I don’t think it could be ghosts, not really. Just a lifeform of this planet, or an energy feature," he said slowly. "I know there are many different kinds of life out there. I can’t remember how I know, but if I came through the Stargate, the doorway, from Earth, I must have gone to other worlds, too. With Jack and Sam and the other one."
"The good Jaffa? His name is Teal’c."
"Teal’c." That sounded right.
"And Jack is really Colonel O’Neill and Sam is Major Carter. We know all your names."
Jack O’Neill. Sam Carter. Teal’c. Hearing the names of his friends made him feel more whole—but all the more frustrated because they were still names, still vague images in his brain. It was as if the night dreads had taken away his family and left him with nothing but fleeting shadows.
"Thank you," he told her fervently. "Just knowing that helps."
"Maybe, when you see them, you will remember."
"I hope so." Dear God, he hoped so.
"I must go out and harvest more adanite now, while the sun is high," she said. "I see you have read the history. That is good; you will know of us. Read more, if it pleases you."
"But shouldn’t I help you?"
She planted her feet, hands on hips, and regarded him. "No, not yet. Your head still aches. You are not yet well. And you feel your loss so strongly. I will go. It is safe out there."
He shook his head. "No. It’s not. There are Jaffa about, and if they wanted to take you once, they may again. I didn’t know before, when you went to the village. I’ll come with you. If you let me have my gun, I can try to protect you."
"No, not that. If they see the gun, they will know. I will take the musket and several nitros just in case, but I must harvest. We have to meet quotas, you see. I have my small share. Peter harvested before, but now that he is gone, men from the village take turns to help me. Today, all is in disarray because the Jaffa have come back and lurk in the village. They will not interrupt harvest."
"I could come with you so you wouldn’t have to be alone out there."
She waved her hand at the window. "It is not far. You may come and sit in the yard in the shade. But I will not risk the life of an ally from Earth." Her chin spoke of pure determination. She’d been right when she said her people were stubborn.
It was the best offer Daniel had. So he snatched up the history book and came along. Soon, he was ensconced in a handmade wooden seat beneath a spreading tree with smooth bark, a straw hat on his head, the book in his hand and one of the nitro bombs on the ground beside him where he could snatch it up and throw it if he needed to.
He didn’t read. Instead, he thought about the night dreads. Energy beings, perhaps. Beings that fed on—memory? They didn’t take it, though, not if bits came through involuntarily. What they took was the conscious ability to access it. What would Sam make of that? Or Doctor Fraiser?
Doctor Fraiser? Someone else from the past that was stolen. All right. That meant he still had his memories. Or did it just mean he only clutched at fragments of them? Nasty thought. He didn’t want that to be right, and it couldn’t be, not if people regained their memories. Memories couldn’t grow back; they had to be there all along, unless there was brain damage, and he didn’t think he had any of that. He could think lucidly, clearly. He could reason. His headache was a normal one that would follow a blow to the head. He wasn’t dizzy. His eyes weren’t dilated. He wasn’t seeing double, just a little fuzzy as if he…wore glasses? So maybe it was like a computer that contained all its data but that lacked a directory. You couldn’t access a file if it wasn’t listed.
Glasses? Computers? More from his past. Was he remembering more—or just thinking harder? These people had made history into a religion, a definite coping mechanism. What the world tried to take away, they compensated for. They refused to consider themselves slaves, and they were in actuality treated better than the Abydonians, who had been….
Abydonians? Was his memory starting to come back faster? He couldn’t consciously recall the Abydonians, but that fleeting glimpse told him that maybe they had considered the Goa’uld to be gods. The people of Adana didn’t consider them that. They hated them, and didn’t worship them.
Think, Daniel. He concentrated hard, not on his memories, which slid away from him as if they’d been greased, but on the night dreads. They took the conscious memory, blocked the unconscious recall. No one had seen solid bodies in the mist or physical evidence that there were solid bodies, such as footprints, artifacts, ruins, at least none that he’d spotted in the history. So they might be beings composed of energy. If so, they would feed on energy rather than solid matter. The electrical energy of the human brain? What they took didn’t kill; at least there was no mention of deaths in the history. So, were they energy vampires, drinking memories the way Dracula would drink blood? Or was it the memories themselves that energized them?
Lacking technology and experience with other worlds and cultures, the Adanans had built up the importance of conscious memory, and had withdrawn inside walls to protect themselves until it became a way of life. The daring had tried to solve it, but in spite of their knowledge of Goa’uld and Jaffa, and of other races who must come through the Stargate or by ship to trade with them and the ones they’d met on their own trading expeditions, these were people who had made few advances technologically. The Goa’uld had probably wanted to avoid that. It let them have the technology of their time period; rudimentary printing presses, apparently. Nothing like electricity or power transportation. Their society worked and they had thrived as much as possible, but not as much as they might have done without Goa’uld interference, and not as much as they would have done in a world where they might have been free at night.
Daniel couldn’t help wondering if there was a way to communicate with the night dreads.
Surely their scientists had wondered that, too? Or had they perceived them as simply a threat, and not, possibly, a race of indigenous beings native to Adana?
If they were intelligent, could communication take place? And what was it about caves and the walls of a house that could keep them out. If they weren’t physical, couldn’t they simply drift through like ghosts?
Had the scientists who ventured into the night attempted communication, or had they merely tried to observe? He flipped through pages of the book but could find no specific answers. They had ventured into the night to confront the danger, it said. They had gone with tools they had made, and tried to learn how to destroy the night dreads.
For tools, should he read ‘weapons’? Maybe they had alienated the beings in the night?
And maybe he was making this up out of the whole cloth.
Flipping through the pages, a word jumped out at him. "Ruins."
Wait a minute.
He read eagerly. The first settlement, it seemed, had found the ruins of an abandoned city. There was little left of it, just the outline of walls, and sometimes, the farmers dug up strange chunks of something that was not metal or wood, something shaped by men. Or by what the authors would have perceived as men. There had been a native civilization here at one time.
Goa’uld cities? Driven away when the night dreads attacked? Or something that had belonged to the night dreads? Had the Goa’uld destroyed them because they were too powerful? Was that why they’d brought humans here, because they’d learned over the millennia that humans were resilient? They could have destroyed the natives and replaced them with those they’d believed would be less trouble. The Goa’uld had ships and could attack from space. He didn’t know how he knew that, but he did know it.
Maybe the Adanans couldn’t solve their problem because they simply didn’t have the knowledge or the skill. It was to the Goa’uld’s advantage to leave them to the world and not to risk the night dreads; they would want a compliant population of ‘servants’ if not actual ‘slaves’. But the Adanans were still slaves, even if they didn’t want to call themselves that. They might not worship their masters, but they danced to their piping even so. And they hated it.
Could anyone communicate with the night dreads? Should he try? What did he have to lose, anyway? He had lost so much already; what he had left didn’t fill the void. Could they take away more? Or was he the best one to explore the situation? He didn’t want to lose his fleeting memories of Jack, of Sam, of Teal’c, of a world that was not Adana, of the woman with dark hair. But he didn’t have them now. He had nothing but a chance to go home in the morning, if the Jaffa went away, if they didn’t take the opening of the Stargate as proof that the Tau’ri intended to return.
Tau’ri? Another memory. Were they coming faster now, or was he just trying harder? He still couldn’t get the memories to come when he called them. Only by not trying did he have any luck.
So how could he lose more? No one taken ever lost more than that. From the history, he knew that the returnees could always function, could remember the impersonal parts of their lives, and that some of them did remember, slowly or quickly. He would be no worse off if he faced the night dreads again than he was now.
He’d have to do it. He wouldn’t tell Eliza what he intended; he was positive she would try to stop him. Maybe he could communicate with the night dreads. And if they were instinctive, primal, unable to communicate, he would be no worse than before.
He would beg paper and pen from Eliza when they returned to the house, and he would leave a note, explaining what he meant to attempt. It could be given to Jack if he failed. Yes, that was what he would do. He would go out openly and face the night dreads. He would try to open his mind to them, to offer communication. If it didn’t work, surely he would survive and have the opportunity to remember when his friends came for him. The one certainty in the midst of his confusion was that they would come. They would always come. They had come for him before. They had…had believed him dead before and even then had never given up. He couldn’t remember it, but he knew it with every fiber of his being. If he lost what he’d gained, if he lost Jack and Sam and Teal’c entirely, they would still find him and take him home and maybe seeing them would make him remember.
Suddenly, he was positive that it would.
** *** **
"This sucks," Jack O’Neill muttered. "This really, really sucks."
"Indeed," agreed Teal’c. "It does, indeed, suck."
Carter gave a faint, smothered sputter of laughter at the unlikely slang from Teal’c. "What good would it do us to go through, sir?" she asked. "We can’t help Daniel if we’re captured. We don’t know what armament they have, and we’d be sitting ducks when we came through the gate."
"We could go through with a howitzer," Jack suggested idly. It wasn’t the solution, of course. There wasn’t a good one, short of checking with Susonna in the morning to see if the Jaffa were still there. They’d do that at the first possible moment. The time was different on the planet; it would be five a.m. here when it would be safe to contacting Susonna again. The days on Adana were twenty-five hours long; that had interested Daniel tremendously, the way a lot of useless information thrilled him. God, Jack missed that. Daniel might drive him nuts with a flood of irrelevant data in the heart of a crisis, but it was just…just so Daniel. And always, in the heart of his babble, were a few kernels of knowledge that were useful to the current crisis, even if Jack didn’t always realize that till later.
Who’d have thought the dweeb he’d met before the first Abydos mission would come to be so important to his own comfort and well-being, to his very sanity at times. It had been Daniel who had brought him back from his depression after Charlie’s death. It had been Daniel who had stood firmly at his side when the ancients’ knowledge had been jammed into his brain and he lost the ability to communicate with anyone—anyone but Daniel. It had been Daniel who had stood with him all along, aggravating him, laughing at him and with him, exposing him to a far wider world than he’d ever believed possible.
Now Daniel was out there, trapped on an alien world full of Jaffa, full of other dangers. He might not even be alive. He might be lying dead in that field of adanite. Or he might have been grabbed up by the Jaffa and taken away through the Gate to who the hell knew where. The Adanans might not have known; they couldn’t have an eye on the gate at every possible second, and if they’d gone through in the dusk last night right after the rest of SG-1 had returned to Earth, the Adanans, who didn’t venture out in the darkness, wouldn’t have even seen him go.
Then there were these night dread guys—ghosts, aliens, animals, whatever. Daniel might have been overlooked by the Jaffa and gobbled up by the night dreads. Heck of a name for them, too.
Conscious of Carter and Teal’c gazing at him, he said, exasperated, "What? What do you want me to do? Risk all those people over there? Risk getting blown away? Convince those Jaffa that was really somebody from here they chased and not just more of the ones they trade with?"
Carter’s face softened. "I know we can’t go back yet, sir," she said. "And Daniel will understand. He’ll lay low and wait for us."
"Daniel Jackson is a survivor," Teal’c added.
Jack was glad of their attempts at comfort, but he could see his own worry reflected in their eyes. SG-1 was meant to be four people, not three. It just felt so wrong.
"If the Jaffa are still there in the morning…."
"What, sir?" Carter asked.
"Then we come out shooting and blow them all away." He knew he couldn’t do that; it wouldn’t help one little bit. But maybe a nice squadron of heavily armed Marines…. He spread his hands to show he didn’t mean it. "Waiting sucks."
"I’m glad you’re so articulate, Colonel," Carter dared to kid him.
He stuck out his tongue at her.
When he saw Teal’c arch an eyebrow, he said, "What? It’s just…just an Earth thing, Teal’c."
"An Earth thing for schoolboys, Teal’c," Carter clarified. "Human males have the ability to revert to schoolboy status at will."
"Indeed. Your culture continues to astonish me, Major Carter."
"Here now, let’s have a little respect for my rank," Jack chided them. They were good folks. His whole team was.
And, dammit, he was gonna get Daniel back, come hell or high water.
So he better be prepared to face fire and flood when the gate opened in the morning.
** *** **
Darkness settled over the farmhouse in its lonely valley and Daniel, who had just partaken of a bowl of rich, savory stew, a side order of steaming greens, and a piece of apple pie made from traded fruit that Eliza had brought back from the village, felt replete. As strong as he was going to get. The headache had retreated until he had to concentrate to remember it. His stomach was happy with the food he’d eaten, and his eyes were focused. Eliza had brought him his glasses and that made a wonderful difference. He’d always been able to read without them, but now the distances were clear, too.
"Our spectacles look different," she had explained. "I thought to conceal them, and when you could see me well enough, I merely waited. Lucky they were not broken."
The frames had been slightly askew, probably from the blow that had knocked him out, but it had been possible to straighten them carefully. He was glad to have them. He wanted to face the night dreads with every advantage he could.
When the howling began outside, Eliza jerked and stiffened, then she relaxed. "They are back," she said, and then, quickly, "Would you enjoy another piece of pie?"
"I would enjoy it," he said, "But I don’t have room for it. I’m full. You’re a good cook, Eliza, a good baker."
"Peter could cook wonderfully well," she said. "Better than me. I miss him, Daniel. I really miss him."
"I know you do. I’m sorry."
"It wasn’t your fault. I know what they do to humans out there; they make them into Goa’uld, or they make them slaves, or they kill them. Don’t protect me, Daniel. I’m strong."
"I know you are, Eliza. And I wish I could tell you that we could find Peter for you, out there. If I know my friends, we can look while we’re out there." He didn’t really know them, not consciously, but he did know them in every way that counted. They wouldn’t actively seek Peter Monkton, who could be a Goa’uld by now. But if they should encounter him, and if it were at all possible, they would bring him home.
"That is kind of you." She began to gather up the dishes. "At least the Jaffa will have gone home now. They fear the night dreads. They never stay here in the night."
"Never? Then Jack could come—" He shook his head. "No, it wouldn’t be safe for him either. I hope he doesn’t think of that. If he does...."
Somehow, the worst thing of all would be to finally come face to face with Jack—and have him look back with the indifference of a stranger.
"Susonna would have told them not to come till morning," Eliza reassured him.
Would Jack listen? Why did he think Jack was every bit as stubborn as the Adanans?
And how was he to get away, into the dark, if Eliza was right here? Would she try to stop him? He wouldn’t risk her.
He took the letter he’d written to Jack out of his tunic and laid it on the table. He’d folded the paper over and written ‘Colonel Jack O’Neill’ on the outside. Writing the name had felt good, somehow.
Eliza gathered up the remains of the joint of meat and turned to the cold cellar. He watched her go, and the door banged shut behind her. Quickly he took out the note he had written for Eliza and placed it on top of Jack’s message. Then before his resolution failed, he turned, stepped out into the night, and closed the door firmly behind him.
I am here, I want to talk to you, he thought with all his strength into the night. I am Daniel Jackson, from the planet Earth. Will you talk to me?
The night dreads howled away indifferently. Were they going to ignore him?
He concentrated, not only in words in his mind, but in a desire to communicate. They wouldn’t speak English, would they? Was telepathy separate from language, did it transcend it? Or would communication be impossible between species so incredibly different?
And, bottom line, did the night dreads even possess the concept of language, of communication?
He let his mind drift, opening himself up to what little he did remember. The shadowy images of his friends bunched in his mind and waved for attention and he let himself revel in the involuntary recall for as long as he could. This is what you have stolen from me, he thought to the night dreads. I want to talk to you. To learn of you. To share information.
None have tried before.
The communication felt so strange and yet so natural that, at first, he didn’t realize the eerie tone in his mind was anything but another inaccessible memory slipping past the barriers.
They didn’t know to try. They are strangers here, and from a place where there were none like you.
You are a stranger here. You come from these beings’ home. Yet you speak to us directly and do not cower behind the shields.
We have always respected the barriers, from the time when our brothers used them to draw back and replenish. It would be an iniquity to violate that taboo.
I don’t understand. But I want to understand. My name is Daniel Jackson, although you stole that from me. You took away my memories, all but the ones needed to live. But humans need more than to live. They need their memories of love and joy and pain to make them whole. You took away who I was and left me a stranger to myself. I want to understand why.
You are angry with us. Yet you ask why? This is interesting. Maybe you are not as different from our brothers as we have come to think.
Who are your brothers?
They are gone, gone these many revolutions of the sun. Destroyed, destroyed by those who came from beyond this place.
A wave of great sorrow flooded over Daniel as an incredible sense of loss beat him down, nearly driving him to his knees. He had never known such pain—or had he? In the sense of loss and agony drifted tangles of memories, not just his own but the memories of other humans who had lived here, who had lost the ones they loved. And Sha’re, beautiful, loving Sha’re....
"Oh, god," he said aloud. He couldn’t remember, could only know and feel as he saw her die all over again, trapped in her own mind by the Goa’uld that struggled to kill him. The loss was as fresh as the moment it had happened, and the pain beat behind his eyes, a pain compounded of the recent wound and the lash of the energy from the ribbon device. It was only one pool of memory in a vast ocean of darkness, but it was real and it was his, and he embraced the pain because it was part of Daniel Jackson, part that he had believed gone. He would never surrender memories of Sha’re voluntarily, no matter how fiercely they hurt him.
You, too, have lost. But you have not lost as we. We acknowledge the depth of your pain, but you have not lost the other half of yourself.
I have. She was my wife. My mate.
And do you slowly wither and die because you cannot draw sustenance from her any longer? Or do you thrive with the help of your friends?
"You took my friends away from me," he snapped aloud. Would they even understand that? He reinforced it with a thought. "You took everything that made me who I am. I won’t give it up again. I won’t give up Sha’re, even if it hurts." He caught himself and pushed the pain away, holding it at bay. "Wither and die? Tell me. Can I help?"
After we drew away your Sha’re and your friends, you still wish to help us?
There was a stir of confusion around him, as if he were in the middle of an invisible crowd of people, all jostling for position to stare at him better. He realized with shock that the farmhouse was no longer visible. Where was he? Was he even standing here, or was all this taking place inside his head?
"I want to communicate," he said. "To find out why you steal people’s selves away."
To live, was the answer, in a ghostly chorus, vivid with pain, fierce with hatred. The Goa’uld killed our brothers.
"Who were your brothers?"
He does not understand. He cannot understand.
"Not if you don’t try," Daniel insisted. "I don’t know if there are answers for you, but if we don’t try, we’ll never find them. Tell me your history. The people of this world have come so close to losing their background that they have made history so important that everyone must learn and remember. You threaten that. You threaten to take away their memories."
They do not remember?Surprise filtered into the eerie chorus.
"When you take them in the night, you take away what they are. You took my friends from my mind. You took my life. You took memories of my wife."
Those memories caused you pain. Would you cling to them?
"Yes," Daniel insisted fiercely. "If I gave up the pain, I’d have to give up the joy, too. I don’t only remember how Sha’re died. I remember how she lived. Don’t you see, that’s too valuable to me to give it up. I want to remember that, to remember what made me love her so much. I can feel it, but you’ve taken it away. I want to have my friends back. Even when I couldn’t remember, I called out to Jack. It was instinctive because he’s my friend. Do you understand friendship? Do you understand love?"
We understand loss. We lost our brothers. Those you call the Goa’uld destroyed them from the sky; they cast down fire and we felt our brothers flicker out. All the joy you speak of, all the bonds that tied us together were snuffed out in an instant, leaving us alone.
The ruined city? Could that be it? "Were they...physical beings? Solid, like myself?" He touched his chest to make his point.
Solid? Yes. Like you? Different. Taller. Fuzzier.
An image came into Daniel’s mind of a tall, hairy being erect like a man but shaggy like a bear or a great ape. The face was intelligent, conscious, aware.
That is an image of our brothers. They were many, as we were, and they nourished us as we did them. You talk of memories stolen. We did not know we stole. We shared with our brothers, gave sustaining energy and they gave us dreams.
"A—a symbiotic relationship?" Daniel was fascinated. "You lived together in harmony?"
Yes. They within their city walls, we in the night. They came out to us for the communion in the twilight, and we celebrated our oneness.
Daniel had an image of hundreds of furry natives, emerging from a golden, glowing city, standing in rapture while the ‘night dreads’ swirled around them, opening themselves up to a sharing of the minds. He saw joy in the furry faces, a fierce elation as they gave and took with equal sharing. Then, replenished and full of joy, the furry beings returned to their great city and the night dreads danced in the mists, energized by the sharing.
Daniel didn’t know how long he stood watching the play of memories from the aliens. It could have been minutes or days. Time had ceased to matter, and all that existed was the display of the peaceful, joyous life that the two races had shared.
Then, abruptly, great ships darkened the sky, the vast Goa’uld vessels. Daniel had a hasty image of the furry beings—they called themselves the People—trying to talk to a Goa’uld, who dictated terms to them; they would give over the adanite for Goa’uld use. The Goa’uld would control the planet; the People would become slaves to them, or they would die.
They were a proud race. They said they would never serve. Before they would become enslaved, they would die.
So be it, agreed the Goa’uld, and fire leveled their city. Those of the People who survived were systematically hunted down by troops of Jaffa and blasted into oblivion. It had happened before, on many planets, but it still hurt Daniel to watch it happening through the ‘eyes’ of the night dreads. They saw their brothers destroyed before their eyes and there was nothing they could do to fight back, for they possessed no physical awareness. Sharing with those who had destroyed their brothers was unthinkable, even to communicate. So they shrank back into the night and solitude. And then, finally, other beings came, beings like Daniel, brought here by the Goa’uld.
The night dreads watched. They didn’t call themselves night dreads, of course. They called themselves the Unity, because they shared a mind. The Unity watched and waited and learned that the dread Goa’uld had brought these newcomers here to do what their brothers had refused to do, and they had despised them for it.
"They had no choice," Daniel offered. "They were stranded here, alone, and they didn’t understand. In the place they came from, they had no concept of other worlds and other races of beings. They didn’t know what had happened to them, so they simply made the best of it. They were never your enemies."
We saw that in the times we tried to share with the individuals. They had no group mind; they were not a unity of their own. They did not know of brotherhood. But we learned they hated the Goa’uld as we did. But they quickly learned to dread us, to name us such, to shun us. We could not go in to them in their villages. We could not go unwanted, we could only snatch the dreams we needed from the solitary in the dusk, but they were not like our brothers, and they took no joy in it. Still, we wither without it and we took. But...you tell us we took what they could not spare?
Daniel nodded. He wasn’t sure they’d understand a nod, so he continued. "Yes. When you took, it stayed taken. It wasn’t a sharing, it was a theft. You didn’t understand that. Your brothers could share and keep their memories. Humans can’t, not like that." And he hesitated. Because if the Unity were as pitiless as the Goa’uld, or too desperate, they wouldn’t care. They would only know their need as they withered from the lack of dreams. But they couldn’t be utterly ruthless or they would have invaded the Adanans’ homes and taken from them, regardless of the barriers of walls that would never stop beings of pure energy.
There was a long silence. Daniel was conscious of stars overhead but nothing around him but mist, thick, churning mist. Was the mist itself the Unity? The Adanans said it lived in the mist, but maybe it was the mist. Or maybe the energy simply resembled mist when it tried to solidify, when it wandered around in the dusk seeking its lost brothers.
So, what was the answer? The humans on Adana wouldn’t give up their memories, not when memory had become almost a religion to them. They weren’t the People, who had an inherent ability to share without surrendering their memories. Or could it be that the humans didn’t understand, that they fought and turned it into a struggle where there needn’t be one? Had he struggled when they took him in the field? He couldn’t remember.
And then, he could. The memory was clear to him abruptly, not all memory but that memory, as if they knew and understood what he needed to know. He saw himself running, running, pursued by Jaffa. He saw Jack just ahead of him and Teal’c supporting Carter, who had hurt her ankle, and, for the moment, they were names and identities rather than friends, and he hated that. But a staff weapon blast hit near to him and knocked him from his feet. He landed hard, and he hit his head on a rock. He saw it as if from outside himself, the Unity showing him their images. It had not been dark yet, then, but maybe they were always about and only able to feed or whatever they did in the darkness. He heard Jack yell his name, heard the Jaffa beating about in the brush seeking him, even heard the whoosh as the Stargate opened, all distorted through the Unity’s recall since their senses were not physical, tangible ones. Then, as if they realized how late it was, the Jaffa raced for the Stargate and dialed home. They were as afraid of the Unity as the colonists were.
Daniel saw himself rouse in the twilight, prop himself up, rubbing his forehead. "Jack?" he ventured doubtfully, "Where are you?" He struggled to rise and sank back, dizzy. The Unity gathered about him, interested. They sensed he was different, that he was not from here, and they were intrigued. Maybe they could unite with him as they had the brothers. They swooped in and engulfed him and felt the memories with great joy. But Daniel struggled and fought them, and tried to get away. He didn’t understand, either. They left him and watched as he staggered to his feet and tried to run. Then the ground beneath him opened up and he fell into the protected tunnels. They looked down at him through the opening and mourned, but they could not go down; that was space apart from them and they would never violate it. They saw Eliza find him and bend over him, saw her start of surprised realization as she recognized him as one of the ones from Earth, saw her grab him under his arms and drag him hastily away from the opening above.
He saw the Unity mourn as they realized the ones from off world could not sustain them either.
So we shall die, the Unity continued. Not yet, for we have strength yet, but eventually, for we have no sustenance. It is a painful way to die, Daniel Jackson, to die of hunger and loneliness.
"I know," he replied. "And that’s what you give anybody you touch among the settlers. You didn’t leave me any of me. Any of Daniel Jackson. You gave me Sha’re just now, but only the pain, none of the joy. You didn’t give me Jack or Sam or Teal’c, just their faces as they had to leave me here. So you gave them pain and you gave me emptiness. And you gave the people here fear and drove them to cower in their houses in the darkness." He put up a hand. "You didn’t mean to, but that’s what you did. Maybe they couldn’t have helped you, and maybe humans can’t. Maybe we could learn to; I don’t know. But there are other races out there. Maybe there is someone out there beyond the Stargate who could share with you. I can’t remember; you took that away. But I think we have allies out there. Maybe they would know."
You would do that for us?
"What else can I do?" he asked. "That’s why I came out here, to see if I could understand."
Why did none do this before?
"Because they didn’t know. They didn’t understand. The sound of you in the night reminded you of legends of ghosts and demons from their home world and they were afraid. You’ve seen enough of humans to know what I mean, haven’t you?
He felt their affirmative. Daniel Jackson, you are a wise human and we are very grateful to you. We do not understand humans well, but we have tasted of them over the revolutions of the sun. We have shared with you now, when you were unafraid. You have given us a great gift of strength that will enable us to endure, and you have given us hope. There was a collective pause. This, then, is what we shall give you in return.
And suddenly a pulsing, overpowering pain filled his brain and he staggered, collapsing to his knees as he clutched at his skull. There was a burst of blinding light, and then it faded and took away all light with it. As he slid down into the darkness, he was positive that he had failed.
** *** **
"They are dead," Susonna Vorulester proclaimed. "At least they lie before the gate insensible. None would venture near but they are not sleeping. They came through the gate, some dozen or so of them and positioned themselves with weapons. Our scouts watched them. Then, suddenly they cried out and they all fell down. It is safe to come through the—"
"General, let us go through," Jack interrupted. "I don’t know what happened to those Jaffa, but—"
"You could go through and have the same thing happen to you, Colonel."
"Daniel’s there, sir. I’m going to bring him back." With or without your permission. "Whatever happened to those Jaffa didn’t happen to Susonna’s people. They’re human and they’re still walking around."
"Teal’c is a Jaffa," Hammond reminded him.
"I will accompany O’Neill," Teal’c insisted. "It is my place to assist him to rescue Daniel Jackson. If what affected those Jaffa affects me, I can be returned when the teams come back with Daniel Jackson."
Carter, who was still benched because of her ankle, looked frustrated and gnawed at her bottom lip.
Hammond studied him. "I don’t like it, Colonel O’Neill. I don’t like it at all. It still could be a trap. But you’re right that the Adanites are uninjured. You and SG-3 have a go. But at the first sign of trouble, I want you to turn around and come back here. Is that clear?"
"Clear, sir," Jack confirmed. Both of them knew it wasn’t quite the same as saying he’d obey the order, but then he was pretty sure Hammond had phrased it that way on purpose. "Come on, people," he said. He leaned in to be visible to Susonna. "We’ll be with you shortly, Madame Chairman."
"We will await you, Colonel O’Neill."
It was eerie seeing the sprawled bodies of the Jaffa as they stepped through the Gate. There wasn’t a mark on any of them. O’Neill watched Teal’c out of the corner of his eye to make sure he wasn’t going to keel over, too, while the Marines checked out the bodies. "They’re not dead, sir," Johnson reported. "Just unconscious. Almost as if they were in stasis."
"Well, let’s drag them off to one side and tie them up," he decided. "We don’t want them waking up and coming after us."
He was impatient to get moving. There had to be answers.
To his surprise, a delegation came out from the village to meet them as they finished binding the unconscious Jaffa. There was Susonna, and Tobin, and with them a slender, red-haired young woman Jack hadn’t seen before, a distraught young woman who looked as if she had been crying. Jack didn’t like the look of that.
"We have news," Susonna said. "Right after we shut down the communication, Eliza came to us. She found your friend Daniel and took him in."
"Then he’s okay?" Jack felt relief well through him only to slip away when he realized no one was in sight.
"No," said Susonna gently. "He’s missing. The night dreads stole his memory. He knew many things but not his own past. He wanted to find out what had happened, what caused the night dreads to steal memories. He said he thought he could communicate with them."
Jack groaned. "Damn it, Daniel," he muttered under his breath. He should have known. That was exactly what Daniel would try to do.
"He sneaked out when I was in the cold larder," Eliza said. "I did not know what he intended or I would have watched him more carefully, stopped him. I meant this morning to bring him to the village and tell Susonna he was found. But he left me a note that said he meant to try to communicate with the night dreads, that he had nothing to lose because his memory was already gone."
Ouch. Jack felt his muscles tighten up. He could picture it all too well. Daniel, racing madly into danger, the way he was so good at, without Jack to rein him in. He’d gone out and confronted whatever it was that lurked in the darkness, and from the look of things, he hadn’t come back.
"He left this for you," ventured Eliza, holding out a folded piece of parchment.
Jack took it. On the outside was written, ‘Colonel Jack O’Neill’ in Daniel’s familiar scrawl.
Shit. Jack’s fingers tightened over it but he loosened his grip before he could crumple it, and unfolded the paper.
Entities or a phenomenon called the night dreads have taken away my memory. I have only flashes of you and Sam and Teal’c. I remembered your names but little more, and Eliza has told me who you are and who I am. I can’t remember much but I remember that I trust you.
I think the night dreads might be an intelligent life form. I’m going to try to communicate with them. I’m the best one for the job because I know I’m a scientist and I can reason with them. Also, I have no memory to lose. So I will go out into the night and try to deal with them.
If I fail, I’m sorry because I know you’ll be angry with me for trying. But I had to do it. Don’t be angry, Jack. Try to find a way to help these people. They shouldn’t have to hide in the dark.
I can’t remember much, but I miss you.
It was signed simply, ‘Daniel.’
"Damn it," Jack groaned. He passed the note to Teal’c, who read it silently, then looked up at the Colonel.
"Daniel Jackson is very brave."
"He’s the biggest idiot ever born," Jack snapped. Nobody took that wrong, which didn’t surprise him at all. He turned to Eliza. "Did you look for him?"
"Not in the darkness," she admitted. "I was...afraid."
"Conditioned not to go out at night," Susonna interjected. "No one would, ever. It is our great weakness and we apologize."
"I looked this morning," Eliza said, her eyes on her shoes. "I looked all around the farm and I looked all the way to the village. I didn’t find him."
"Did your night dreads ever steal anybody before?" one of the Marines asked quickly. Jack nodded in approval at the question.
"No. None were ever lost, just their memories, and that has not happened for many long years. The night dreads respect our walls, or else they cannot pass through them," the council woman offered. She glanced over at the bound Jaffa. "What happened to them?"
"We do not know," Teal’c replied. "They sleep, but they do not awaken. I have never seen such a thing among my people. It is not the kel’no’reem, but it is a trance state that is somewhat akin to it. They cannot rouse on their own."
Was Daniel out there, lying unconscious in the same way, somewhere no one could ever find him? Would he die like that? Jack wanted to lunge in all directions and search for him, so he could have the privilege of bawling him out. It would be the best bawling out he’d ever achieved. He counted on it.
"They’ll wake up eventually," called a familiar voice, and Daniel himself emerged from behind a clump of bushes and hurried up the hill toward them. He looked eager and excited and not one little bit guilty for his crazy grandstand play. "The Unity did it to them, put them into a trance state so that you could come through the gate without getting blasted the second you stepped through," he announced proudly.
"Daniel Jackson!" exclaimed Teal’c in astonishment and the Adanans muttered in surprise. The red-haired girl, Eliza, gasped and ran to hug him before she stepped back. Daniel gave her a sheepish, apologetic smile and squeezed her hand.
"It’s okay, Eliza," he said. "I’m sorry I scared you."
Jack was speechless. Ever single reproach of the massive bawling out he’d planned fled his mind and he could only stare in crazy delight. Daniel was wearing native clothes and his glasses perched somewhat crookedly on his nose. There was a huge, vivid bruise on his forehead, but he was steady on his feet. What’s more, he looked like he was in total control of the situation—which was more than could be said for Jack himself.
"Daniel?" Jack ventured as he watched the approach. Did Daniel know him, really know him? Or was he reacting by rote. Jack couldn’t tell. Daniel had to be okay, didn’t he? Or did he just remember the girl because he’d met her since his memory had been taken?
"Hi, Jack," Daniel said and then he grinned. A real Daniel grin, not the tentative smile of a stranger. That had to be right, didn’t it? For an instant, colossal relief shone in the blue eyes, banishing shadows. Whatever had happened to him, it had been bad. But Daniel was okay with it now, that much was clear. Something inside Jack that had been wound too tight finally relaxed.
"You remember me?" he ventured, holding up the note. He had to have that clear before another second had passed. No one else said a word.
Daniel hesitated as if he were making sure, then his smile lighted his whole face. "I remember everything," he cried triumphantly. "They gave it all back."
Jack let out a whoop of triumph and grabbed Daniel in a bone-crushing hug, pulling him in tight and curling one hand up through the tousled hair. After the first startled second, Daniel’s arms closed around him in equal relief and they just held on. They let go only because human beings need to breathe. Daniel was still smiling. He looked happy and complete and full of confidence and elation.
As soon as the archaeologist stepped backward, Teal’c caught him by the upper arms and inclined his head at him, and the look on his face would have been a broad grin if he’d been one of the Tauri instead of a Jaffa. "I am glad that you are well, Daniel Jackson."
"Thanks, Teal’c. It’s good to see you, too."
But Daniel had taken one hell of a stupid risk and suddenly rage boiled up uncontrollably in Jack. "What were you thinking?" O’Neill yelled at him. "Going out alone to talk to the night dreads! What the hell kind of a note is this to leave me?" He brandished the paper in Daniel’s face. "Have you completely lost your mind?"
"No, only my memory for a little while," Daniel replied hastily. "But it’s okay, Jack, I’ve got it back now. You don’t know how great that feels. I was still me; I mean, I could still think and reason, and I knew a little, but I couldn’t find me, or you or Sam or Teal’c." He glanced around in surprise at the armed Marines, at the Adanans. "Where is Sam? Was she hurt? I saw her go down. Come on, Jack, tell me."
"Twisted her ankle," O’Neill said hastily. "She’s fine but Fraiser wouldn’t clear her for a rescue mission."
"I bet she didn’t like that."
"You called that one." For an instant, Jack chuckled in agreement, then he let the fury come back.
But Daniel plunged on before Jack could berate him further. "That’s good. But I had to know what happened to me—to people on this planet since they first came—and there was a chance that I could communicate and get it back. And if I couldn’t, if it was just a natural phenomenon, I wouldn’t be any worse off than I already was."
"You’re crazy, Jackson," O’Neill insisted. "You don’t know that. It might have made it worse. You might have lost the rest of your mind. Geez, that was a stupid risk. How could you do that? Giving me still more grey hairs. I’m gonna go white before I’m another year older at this rate."
"But it worked, Jack. That’s what counts, isn’t it?"
"Worked! Worked!" he grimaced. "You went out there by yourself when you knew something in the dark sucked people’s brains out? You don’t need a leash, you need a keeper. Did you get a license to do crazy things out a cereal box or were you just born with the knack? I swear, next mission through the Stargate I’m gonna handcuff you to Teal’c." He held up a warning finger to the Jaffa before he could speak. "Ah, ah, no interruptions, I’m on a roll here."
Daniel just stood there and grinned at him. Smartass.
But Jack knew he wouldn’t have him any other way. He felt the anger start to wind down and would have grabbed it back if he could. It was just safer. "What were you thinking?"
"Repeating yourself, Jack?"
"What do you do, keep a scorecard?"
"Excuse me, Doctor Jackson?" It was Susonna. "You said the night dreads gave you back your memory. Is this true? You communicated with them? Please, tell us. We have lived with this fear all our lives. Did you end it?"
Daniel beamed. "Well, they won’t take your memories away anymore, if that’s what you mean. They didn’t realize; oh, they knew you were afraid, and they respected your walls and buildings but they couldn’t help themselves when someone was outside. They’ve been slowly dying over the centuries, and the memories are what keep them alive."
"Huh?" Jack stared. "You want to explain that, Danny-boy?"
So Daniel talked, told a story about some big hairy guys who used to live here on the planet. They had resisted the Goa’uld. "Sounds like we found the Wookiee home world," Jack commented sardonically.
Daniel laughed. "They did kind of look like Chewbacca, now that I think of it. But the thing is, they had a symbiotic bond. Maybe it was like the Tok’ra, except that it wasn’t a permanent bond. They would merge and share minds and it was good for them both. Humans are different. They found that out when I talked to them. Because when they gave me back my memories it felt like they were exploding my brain. They were very sorry; they didn’t mean to hurt me, and I’m fine now, really, Jack," he insisted when O’Neill grabbed him by the chin and turned his face so he could study him carefully.
"Well, gotta give you that, you look it. Never mind that half your forehead is purple and you’ve nearly got a shiner there."
"They didn’t do that. I fell down."
"Yeah, natural grace, that’s you."
Daniel made a face at him. Then he turned to Susonna. "Anyway, they figured out that the human brain doesn’t work properly for their kind of sharing, so they won’t do it anymore. But that leaves them in a real bind. Jack, they’ll eventually die if they can’t share. It’s what they feed on. If they stay here and hold back, they’ll be gone entirely, probably in another fifty years or so."
"Sounds rough." Jack wasn’t sure where Daniel was going with this.
"But, Jack, listen. We’ve got allies out there who aren’t human, whose brains are different. Maybe Thor’s people will know of someone who can co-exist with the Unity. I think we’ve got to ask, to find out."
A real do-gooder, that was Daniel. Never mind that the Unity, whatever it was, had put him through the hell of taking away his memories and stranding him on an alien planet. Okay, so, technically speaking, they hadn’t done that. They’d got him after Jack had been forced to leave him here—not that there had been anything else he could have done. If he’d stayed, the Jaffa would have gotten them, and if not, it would be all of SG-1 who had gone ga-ga.
"Okay, we’ll ask," Jack agreed hastily. They’d given Daniel back himself, and in essence returned him to his team. They deserved something for that.
"But you don’t get it, do you, Jack?" Daniel plunged on. "They hate the Goa’uld as much as we do. The Goa’uld destroyed the other race that lived here. They blasted their city from orbit and killed them all. That’s why the Goa’uld brought Susonna’s people here, because they didn’t know about the Unity and anyway, the Unity aren’t physical and can’t harvest adanite, and the Goa’uld needed someone who could. The Unity hate the Goa’uld for killing the race they call their Brothers. And look what they can do to Jaffa." He waved his hand at the bound Jaffa, who were still unconscious. "Give them a world and people to share with and they can turn into a new secret weapon for us. Don’t you see? They want to help. Once we’ve gone home, the Adanans can take off the binding, and the Unity will wake the Jaffa up and they won’t realize we’ve even come and gone. If the Goa’uld try anything like retaliation, the Unity will defend them. We can work out a schedule for our trades that doesn’t tie in with any time the Jaffa regularly come and, with any luck at all, they’ll figure that either I got away when they weren’t here or that I’m lying out there dead. Do you think these guys are gonna admit they took a little nap?"
Jack felt a smile start. He liked it. He liked it a lot. "Sounds like a plan to me. All right, Daniel. You did good. But if you ever do anything like that again...."
"You’ll what?" Damn it, Daniel was laughing at him.
Jack pretended he didn’t notice. He was too happy to have him back in all his rash enthusiasm to worry about a little thing like that. Besides, he couldn’t think of a single thing. "You’ll just have to wait and see," he promised ominously. They beamed at each other.
"Doctor Jackson, we thank you," Susonna cried and pumped his hand, Earth fashion. "Our people will always remember what you did for us. We will erect a statue in your honor."
Daniel blushed crimson. Jack stored up the memory of his chagrin to tell Carter when they got home. He’d have to sneak back and get photos of the statue when it was done. Daniel would never live it down.
"You must dine with us," the Adanan leader continued expansively. "We will fix a wonderful breakfast. Oh. Can the night dr—the Unity contain the Jaffa until then?"
Daniel closed his eyes and concentrated, then he nodded vehemently. "They can keep them unconscious indefinitely. But they won’t, more than a few more hours. It wouldn’t be good for them."
"Like we care," Jack muttered under his breath. He caught himself. "It won’t affect Teal’c, will it?" he fussed.
"I am unaffected, O’Neill," the Jaffa reassured him. He didn’t look affected, anyway.
Daniel shook his head. "No, it’s not like a blanket thing that hits all Jaffa. It was a conscious attack on those Jaffa."
"Okay, then, good." Jack turned to Susonna. "So, what’s for breakfast?"
Daniel suddenly grinned. "Depends, Jack. How do you feel about green eggs and ham?"