Stargate Horizons


Sam swung high into the air, high enough that the chain was just beginning to jerk, but not too much.  She didn't dare go higher.  The last time she was on a swing, she went too high and almost got jerked right off her seat.

The girl looked over at Daniel.  He was swinging at less than half the height she was.  He didn't really look like he was having all that much fun.

"Come on, Daniel.  Swing higher.  It's more fun."

The boy increased the height of his swinging fractionally.  Sam gradually slowed until she was matching Daniel.

"Don't you like to swing?" she asked.

Daniel shrugged.

"Do you like the merry-go-round?"

The question resulted in another shrug.

"Come on.  Let's try it."

The two kids stopped swinging and went over to the merry-go-round.

"You get on, and I'll push," Sam instructed.

Daniel climbed on and grabbed a bar.  Sam took hold of another bar and began running, getting the merry-go-round spinning at a good speed before jumping on.  Daniel didn't move, holding onto the bar like his life depended on it.

Gradually, the wheel slowed.  Sam jumped off and got it spinning faster again.  After getting back on, she looked at Daniel and saw that he still wasn't smiling.

Determined to find something that her friend would think was fun, Sam let the merry-go-round slow back down.  She jumped off and stopped it.

"Let's do the slide," she said.

As they were walking toward it, Daniel paused, his eyes going to something off to the left.  Sam looked that way and saw an elderly man with a metal detector.

"Do you know what he's doing?" Sam asked Daniel.

The boy shook his head.

"That's a metal detector.  You use them to find hidden things that are made of metal, like coins, and jewelry.  Mostly, you just find junk, though."

Daniel's whole face had lit up with interest.

"You want to go see?"

The boy nodded, the most vigorous nod she'd ever seen him give.

They went over to the man.

"Hi," Sam said.  "Daniel's never seen a metal detector before, and he's really interested in it."

The man smiled.  "Well, they're quite the invention.  I've found some pretty nice stuff with this one.  I once found a diamond earring that some lady lost.  She gave me a nice reward when I turned it in."

Just then, the detector beeped, indicating that it had found something.  He ran it over the place a few times, finding the precise spot.

"Let's see what it found this time."  He knelt on the ground and carefully searched the grass.  Not seeing anything, he pulled out a little trowel to dig.  Daniel got right down on the ground beside him, eyes staring intently at where the man was digging.

Soon, a quarter was unearthed.

"Ah.  That's nice," he said.  He held it out to Daniel.  "There you go, Son.  A little souvenir."

Daniel stared at the quarter, then up at the man's wrinkled face.  Tentatively, he took the money, giving the man a little smile.

"He says thank you," Sam said, speaking for her friend.

The man patted Daniel's head.  "You're welcome."  He filled in the hole, put the grass back in place, and got to his feet, as did the boy.  "Say, would you like to try it?"

Daniel's eyes lit up, a real smile brightening his face for the first time since Sam had met him.  He nodded.

"Okay."  The man handed the detector to the boy.  It was too tall for him, so the man had to keep hold of the handle.  "All right, just start swinging it back and forth.  You have to keep the bottom part level with the ground and no more than a couple of inches above it."

With the man's help, Daniel started moving the detector back and forth over the grass.  Within five minutes, the tool signaled that it had found something else.  This time, the man let Daniel do the digging.  The boy was careful not to damage the grass, scooping it up and setting it aside before he began to dig.  His excavation resulted in the unearthing of a beer bottle cap.

"Well, they can't all be treasures," the man said.  He reached for a plastic bag that was tied to his belt and dropped the cap in.  "I hate litter," he explained.

Daniel handed him the trowel, giving him a little smile.  The old man smiled, too.

"You're welcome," he said.

Sam and Daniel went back over to the playground.

"Do you want to go on the slide?" Sam asked.  She received a shake of the head.  "What would you like to do?"

In answer, Daniel headed back to where their stuff was.

"Hey, you two," Laura said.  "Are you having fun?"

"Uh huh," Sam replied.

"We saw you with that man," Jacob said.  "That was nice of him to let Daniel try the metal detector."

"Daniel was really interested in it.  The guy found a quarter and gave it to him."

Laura smiled.  "Really?  That was sweet of him."

Daniel got the toy bucket and shovel, looking at Sam for approval.

"You want to play in the sand?"

The boy nodded.

"Okay, we can do that for a while."

The first thing Daniel did was fill the bucket with water from the drinking fountain.  They went to the sandbox, and Daniel poured some of the water into it, wetting the sand just enough so that it would stick together.  Then he got busy.  Sam wet another part of the sand, and started on her own construction project.

Along with the bucket and shovel was a whole set of plastic tubes, cookie cutter-like shapes and other things to use for making various designs.

Sam was so focused on her own work of art, which was made mostly of stars and crescent moons, that she didn't pay attention to what Daniel was doing.  When she finally looked, she just stopped and stared.  Somehow, Daniel had managed to create what looked like an ancient Greek ruin, columns and all.

"Wow.  That is so cool.  How did you do that?"

Daniel simply shrugged.

Sam turned to her parents.  "Mom, Dad!  Come look at what Daniel made."

The two adults got off the blanket and came over.

"Holy Hannah," Jacob said.  "You did that, Daniel?"

The boy nodded, looking embarrassed.

"That's beautiful, sweetheart," Laura said.  "Yours is, too, Sam."

Sam shrugged.  "Mine's just a bunch of shapes.  Daniel made like a Greek temple or something."  She looked at her friend.  "Can you teach me how you did that?"

Daniel smiled, another real smile, and nodded.

As the two kids got busy on a joint project, Jacob and Laura returned to the blanket.

"You know, I'm beginning to wonder how smart Daniel really is," the captain said.  "The reading I could dismiss as just a special gift, but that sand sculpture is something else.  It looked like something out of a history book.  For all I know, it was.  He's eight years old.  How many kids that age could build an ancient Greek ruin out of sand?"

"I know what you mean.  One minute, you'd think that he has below average intelligent because of the way he's acting.  And then he turns around and does something like that."

"He's definitely a mystery."

Sam and Daniel's joint project was another Greek structure.  Sam showed it off proudly to her parents.

"Pretty impressive, you two," Jacob said.

"Thanks," Sam responded.  Daniel's 'thank you' was in the form of a smile.

"Well, I think it's time we all had our lunch," Laura said.  She called to Mark, who was playing frisbee with two other kids.

The picnic lunch consisted of chicken sandwiches, fruit, macaroni salad, chips and, for dessert, the cookies Laura had baked.

"Do you like everything, Daniel?" Laura asked.

He nodded, biting into his sandwich.

After the meal was finished, all the trash thrown away and the leftover food put back in the cooler, Mark returned to the two friends he'd made, who were now tossing a small football back and forth.

The sound of loud arguing drew the attention of the others.  Two men were yelling at each other in Spanish a couple dozen yards away.  Jacob frowned, not happy about such a display in a public park.

"Can you tell what they're saying?" Laura asked him.

"Only bits and pieces.  My Spanish is not very good."

Daniel reached into the little backpack he'd brought and pulled out a notepad and pen.  He wrote something and handed it to Jacob.

"Daniel says that they're arguing about a job that the taller man didn't do the way the shorter man wanted it done."  Jacob looked at Daniel.  "You can understand Spanish?"

Daniel nodded.

Jacob chuckled.  "You read Egyptian hieroglyphs and can understand Spanish.  Hey, you made those Greek ruins.  I suppose that means you can read and speak Greek, too, eh?"

Jacob had just been kidding, so he was more than a little shocked when Daniel nodded his head.  The captain blinked.

"You understand Greek?"

The boy nodded again.

Jacob exchanged a look with his wife.

"Daniel, how many languages can you speak?" Laura asked.

Six fingers came up.

"You can speak six languages?!" Sam exclaimed.

Jacob stared at the boy.  "Daniel, are you telling the truth?"

The boy frowned, his chin lifting.  He nodded.  Then he wrote something, giving the pad to Jacob.  It said, "English, Arabic, Spanish, German, Greek, and French."  The man read the list aloud.

"Wow," Sam said.  "You must be really, really smart."

Daniel blushed, ducking his head.

Smart?  Jacob was thinking more along the lines of a genius.  And they had this kid stuck in the first grade?  Someone at that school was definitely not on the ball.  More than one someone, most likely.

Laura laughed.  "And you can add Egyptian hieroglyphs to the ones he can read.  Are there any others you can read?"

Daniel nodded.

"Which ones?"

Daniel took the pad and started writing.  He gave it back to Jacob once he was finished.

"Hieratic, Demotic and some Akkadian and Sumerian cuneiform," he read out loud.  He couldn't tell whether or not the words were spelled correctly, though he suspected they were.

"What are those?" Sam asked.

"I think they're dead languages, ones that people don't use anymore, like hieroglyphs."  Jacob looked at the boy sitting before him, a child who was almost frighteningly smart.  "Daniel, who taught you all this?  Your parents?"

The boy's gaze dropped, and he nodded.

"What did they do for a living?"

Daniel wrote, "Archeologists."

Jacob was beginning to suspect something.  "Daniel, where did you grow up?"

"Mostly Egypt," was the written reply, "but we went lots of places, all over the world."

So, Daniel was probably also having to adjust to living in the States on top of everything else.

"Have you ever attended a public school before?"

Daniel shook his head.

Damn.  Another thing the poor kid got tossed into with no preparation.  No wonder he seemed so lost.

Deciding that they needed to lighten the mood, Jacob suggested that they all go play frisbee.  Daniel's expression made the captain guess that the boy had never played the game.

"It's okay if you've never played before, Daniel," he said.  "We'll teach you."

And that's what they did.  Jacob showed the boy how to throw the frisbee, the right way to move his arm and twist his wrist.  After a few practice throws, the child was doing moderately well, though he'd need a lot more practice to get the frisbee to go where he wanted it to go.

They all had a good time.  Even Mark came over and joined in on the fun after being called over by his dad.  The two adults were delighted by the smiles that came to Daniel's face whenever he succeeded in catching the frisbee.

An end was finally called.  As Jacob, Laura, Sam and Daniel returned to the blanket, Mark returned to the boys he'd been playing with earlier, who had been joined by a third child.

"So, was that fun, Daniel?" Jacob asked.

The boy nodded, smiling.

"What kind of things do they play in Egypt?" Sam asked.

Before the boy could answer, there was a loud crashing sound from across the street.  The source of the noise was a big chunk of concrete that a crane had been lifting.  The slab had fallen, breaking in two upon impact.  A heated argument was now going on between the crane operator and another made.

The sound of a wail of torment jerked everyone's attention away from the accident.  Daniel's eyes were wide and staring, filled with utter horror.  His chest was rising and falling rapidly with deep, gasping breaths, and he was shaking violently.

Jacob cursed silently, instantly recognizing what was happening.  He grabbed the boy up into his arms, putting Daniel on his lap.  The child struggled against him, making that awful wailing sound again.

"Shhh.  It's okay, Daniel," Jacob murmured into his ear.  "It's okay.  You're safe.  You're safe."

"Mama, what's happening?" Sam asked, getting scared.

Laura held her close.  "I don't know, honey.  But it's going to be all right."

For a full minute, Jacob tried to talk Daniel out of the flashback within which the boy was lost.  Finally, the child stopped struggling.  He became complacent, almost limp.  Jacob looked down at him to see him staring straight ahead, eyes dull and lifeless.

"Daniel?  Can you hear me?"  There was no response.

"Jacob?" Laura inquired, fear in her voice.

"We need to take him someplace safe and quiet."

Laura nodded and got to her feet.  "Sam, help me get the things in the car, and go get your brother."

When Mark came over, Laura explained that Daniel was sick, and they had to go home.  As the three of them got the car packed, Jacob remained where he was, holding Daniel's motionless form.

When he started getting up so that the blanket could be picked up, Daniel abruptly showed some signs of life, clinging to him with surprising strength.  Jacob stood, carrying the boy.

"I'll take him to the car," he said.  "Sam, give me a hand."

The three of them went to the car.  Jacob knew that, for the sake of safety, he needed to put Daniel on the seat and buckle him up, but he was pretty sure the child would have none of that.  They'd just have to be less safe for the trip home.

Sam helped her father and Daniel get settled on the front passenger seat.

"Daddy, what's wrong with Daniel?" she asked.

Jacob looked at her and saw that she was on the verge of tears.  "I'll explain when we get home, sweetheart.  But Daniel is going to be all right.  I promise."

Daniel drifted into sleep on the way to the Carters' home, which was a relief to Jacob.  Once they arrived, he carried the boy to the master bedroom and laid Daniel down after Laura pulled back the covers.  He removed the child's shoes and tucked him in.

"Jacob, what happened?" his wife asked.

The captain began to pace.  He was upset, and the pacing was an effort to calm down.

"He had a flashback, Laura!  A flashback, just like a lot of the guys who've come back from Nam.  What the hell happened to him?"

"My God," Laura whispered.

"He should be getting treatment, not shoved into a foster home with strangers, tossed into a school he's never been to before, and left to deal with it on his own.  You damn well better believe that I'm going to be talking to some people about this.  What a crock of shit!"

"Jacob.  Your language," Laura whispered, afraid that their kids would hear.

Jacob stewed in silence for another minute.

"Sam is scared," his wife said.  "You need to talk to her and explain this."

Jacob nodded.  He took a deep breath, calming himself.  He and Laura then went to the living room.  Sam was on the couch, hugging a pillow to death.  It looked like she'd been crying.  Mark was reading one of his comics, acting like he had no interest in what was happening.

"Daddy?" Sam inquired in a tiny voice.

Jacob sat beside her.  "Okay, first of all, Daniel is sleeping, and he'll be just fine.  I need to explain to you what happened.  Daniel had what's called a flashback.  Sometimes, when something terrible happens to someone or they see something really bad, the memory of what happened will suddenly come back so strong that it's like it's happening all over again.  The person can't tell the difference.  I think that concrete block falling triggered Daniel's flashback, although I don't know why."

"What was the flashback of?" Sam asked.

"I don't know, Sammie.  I wish I did.  It must have been something pretty bad."

"He'll be okay?"

"Yes, he'll be fine.  He just needs some rest and for all of us to be very gentle with him after he wakes up."

"Is he going to have another one?" Mark asked.

"Not today and, hopefully, not ever again."  Jacob gave his two children a long, hard look.  "I don't want either one of you to talk about this after Daniel wakes up.  You got it?"

The kids nodded.

"Now, get this straight.  Having flashbacks doesn't mean that someone's crazy or weird or anything like that.  It's happened to many people.  A lot of men in the Armed Forces, people just like me, have had flashbacks after being in combat."

"Have you ever had one?" Mark asked.

"No, thank God, but there are a few men I've served with who have.  It's a rough thing to go through, even more so for a child."  Jacob's gaze focused on Mark.  "So I want you to be nice to him, and I don't want you speaking one word about this at school or to your friends.  That will just make it hard for Danny."

"I won't say anything," Mark promised.

"You called Daniel 'Danny'," Sam said to her father.

"I did?"

"Uh huh."

Jacob thought about it.  "Yes, I guess I did."

"Why don't you two go to your rooms," Laura suggested.

"But I want to be here when Daniel wakes up," Sam said.

"We'll let you know when he's awake."

The kids left, Sam quite reluctantly.

Jacob got off the couch.  "I need to call Mrs. Underwood."

"Are you going to tell her what happened?"

"Not over the phone.  She probably has no clue what's really wrong with Daniel."

Jacob called the woman and told her that Daniel wasn't feeling well and was resting at the Carters.  He assured her that the boy would be brought home as soon as he was well enough.

Throughout the next hour, Jacob and Laura took turns checking on Daniel.  It was Jacob's turn when the boy woke up.

Confusion and a touch of fear filled Daniel's face.  Then he saw Jacob and sat up.

The captain sat on the edge of the bed.  "Hey there.  How are you feeling?"

His head bowed, Daniel's shoulders shrugged.

"Do you remember what happened?"

The child started hugging himself, hunching over in an apparent attempt to make himself smaller.

"Hey.  It's okay, Daniel.  I understand what happened.  I've had friends that the same thing happened to."

That got the boy to look at him.

"They're called flashbacks," Jacob explained.  "I know they can be very scary.  Have you had any before?"

After a while, Daniel gave a hesitant nod.

"How many other times?"

The boy raised two fingers.

Jacob cursed silently.  "And have you been having bad nightmares, too?"

The head ducked again, moving slightly up and down.

"How often?"

Daniel didn't reply, and Jacob guessed that he couldn't answer by showing fingers, which meant that there had been a whole lot of nightmares.

Jacob felt like pulling the little boy into his arms and holding him tight, but he didn't think that Daniel was emotionally ready for something like that.  The child's posture was screaming that he wanted to go hide somewhere and be alone.

"Do you feel up to seeing Sam?" Jacob asked.  "She is very worried about you."

After a moment, Daniel nodded.

Jacob went to his daughter's room and told her that Daniel was awake.  The girl was instantly running to the master bedroom.  Before Jacob could tell her not to, she was on the bed and hugging Daniel.  The boy froze for several seconds, stiff and unresponsive, then, much to Jacob's surprise, he relaxed and laid his head against Sam's shoulder, actually returning the hug.

'Well, I'll be,' Jacob thought to himself with an inner smile.

The two friends remained that way for a few more seconds, then drew apart.

"Are you okay?" Sam asked Daniel.  He nodded his reply.

"Would you like to lie down for a while longer or come into the living room?" Jacob asked.  The boy answered by getting out of the bed and putting on his shoes.

Upon their arrival, Laura went to the kitchen to get some juice for the two kids.  The smile she put on her face was a bit strained, but Jacob doubted that the children noticed.

The two adults chatted about this and that, keeping the conversation light.  Daniel sat in silence, sipping on his juice, not looking at anyone.  Sam was right beside him, her arm around his shoulders.

"Daniel, would you like to go home now?" Jacob asked after the juice was gone.

Sam objected.  "Can't he stay longer?"

"Not too much longer, Sammie.  Mrs. Underwood is probably concerned.  I called her and told her that Daniel wasn't feeling well."

Daniel picked up his backpack, which had been sitting on the coffee table, and held it tight against his chest.

"You don't have to go yet, if you don't want to, Danny," Jacob said gently.

Daniel got off the couch, which told Jacob that he was ready to go now.  He probably wanted to be alone.

"Say goodbye to him, Sam," the captain told his daughter.

The girl, looking very unhappy, said goodbye and gave Daniel another hug, which he did not return.

"Can I come with you to take him back?" she asked.

"No, I need to talk with Mrs. Underwood."

A while later, Jacob and Daniel were at the boy's foster home.

"Hi, Daniel," his foster mother greeted with a smile.  "Did you have fun?"

Daniel nodded slightly.

"He's still not feeling well," Jacob said.

"Oh.  Well, go on to your room, then," Mrs. Underwood instructed.

Once the boy had disappeared around the corner, Jacob turned his attention to the woman who was his guardian.

"Can we talk in private?" he asked.  "It's about Daniel."

The woman looked slightly startled by the request.  "Um . . . yes, I suppose so."  She joined him on the porch and shut the door almost fully, leaving it open just a crack.  "Was there trouble?"

"Mrs. Underwood, are you aware that Daniel is suffering flashbacks and frequent nightmares?"

The woman blinked several times.  "I-I-I. . . .  No.  I mean, I knew he was having some nightmares since he sometimes cries out in his sleep, but flashbacks?"

"He had one at the park, and he admitted that it wasn't the first one."

"Oh my lord!  I had no idea.  I thought that only happened to veterans, like the men who have fought in Vietnam."

Jacob didn't bother commenting on that.  "Do you have any information at all about Daniel's history?"

"Well, yes, some.  I know that he spent a lot of time in other countries, Egypt mostly, although I understand that he does have U.S. citizenship.  His parents were archeologists."

"And you don't know what happened to them?"

"No.  They were killed quite suddenly is all I know.  It happened in New York City."

"Were they living there at the time?"

"I would assume so," Mrs. Underwood replied.

"What's Daniel's last name?"


Jacob paused.  "Ma'am, do you know why Daniel was put in the first grade?"

Mrs. Underwood glanced back over her shoulder through the crack, as if looking to see if someone was there.  "Well, I don't like to talk about such things.  It isn't kind, you know.  But, well, Daniel is . . . slow, the poor thing.  The school decided that first grade would be the best place for his, um, limited intelligence."

Jacob let out a snort of disgust.  "The people at that school aren't very bright, then, nor very observant.  If they'd bothered doing a bit of investigating and took the time to question Daniel, they'd have found out that, not only is he not slow, he's actually extraordinarily brilliant."

"He . . . he is?"

"From what little I've learned after just spending a few hours with him, I'd say he has a genius level IQ."

"B-but the way he acts.  And he doesn't talk."

"It's obvious to me that he acts that way because of what's happened to him.  That kid saw or suffered something that traumatized him so badly that he's having flashbacks about it."

Mrs. Underwood looked like her legs were about to give out.  "I-I didn't know.  I had no idea.  We were told that Daniel had gone through a bad experience and that he was very withdrawn because of it.  He wasn't abused.  I know that.  We're always told when we foster an abused child.  I just thought that he was upset about his parents' death."

Jacob could think of a few choice words he'd like to say to the people who were Daniel's caseworkers.

"What should I do?" Mrs. Underwood asked, twisting the hem of her blouse.

"Daniel should have some kind of therapy to help him recover."

"Oh, but we couldn't possibly afford that, and I don't know if the State would pay for it.  Won't he eventually get over it by himself?"

Jacob had to stop himself from saying something nasty.  The woman was obviously out of her depth on this.  The real people at fault were the ones in Child Welfare who handled Daniel's case.

"I'll do some checking on it," he said.

"Oh, would you?  That would be so kind of you."

"Just don't treat Daniel differently.  Don't walk on eggshells around him.  However, you might want to consider not treating him like he's mentally slow.  From what I could see, he likes to be helpful.  Give him chores to do, if you don't already.  And he's an avid reader, from what my daughter tells me.  She's seen him with two books that are not children's books."

"Yes, I know he likes books, but I just thought he was mostly looking at the pictures."

"Well, he's not.  Take him to the library, and I bet you'll be surprised by what he checks out.  He's into history, especially ancient Egypt."

"How did you find out all of this?"

"From my daughter and through observation, Mrs. Underwood.  It didn't take much effort."

The woman must have heard the slight note of censure in his voice, because her back stiffened, and her tone turned slightly frosty.

"Well, if you will excuse me, I need to get back inside.  I have three other foster children besides Daniel to care for.  Thank you for taking care of Daniel."

The woman opened the door and stepped back inside.  Jacob nodded to her and left.

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