Daniel ran up to Sam as she put her things away in her locker.
"Where were you on Friday night?" he asked. "Me, and the Greers and Mrs. Greer's cousin Jack all went to Adirondack Park. I wanted you guys to come, too, but we called you Friday night, and nobody was home."
Sam's eyes widened. "You went to the Adirondacks?! We did, too! Uncle Aaron gave us our Christmas presents early. He had lift tickets for all of us and reservations at one of the lodges. We got to go skiing. If we'd known you were there, too, we could have all gone skiing!"
"I don't know how to ski."
"I didn't either. This was my first time. I fell down a lot, but it was really fun. What did you do?"
Daniel did a recap of the day's events.
"That sounds like lots of fun. If we'd known we were all there, maybe we could have done all those things and skied, too."
The ringing of the bell halted the conversation, and the two kids went off to their classes.
At lunchtime, the best friends went into more detail about all the fun they had in the snow. Kenny and Nathan were sitting with them and listened to it all enviously.
"I wish we'd done something fun for Thanksgiving," the blond boy said. "All we did was have a lot of relatives over. I had to share my bedroom with my cousin, Peter. I don't like him very much."
Daniel looked at the smaller boy. "Did you do anything for Thanksgiving?"
"My aunt came and visited. She's really nice. She's my mom's sister and looks a lot like her. She didn't stay with us, though, because my dad said we didn't have room for her. She stayed in a motel instead. She wants me to come visit her in South Carolina and stay a whole week. She even said she'd buy the airplane ticket." Kenny's head dropped. "But my dad said no."
"How come?" Sam asked, thinking that Kenny's dad was really mean.
"He just said he didn't want me to go there. But I really want to go. She has horses, and dogs and other animals, and she said there's lots of different wild birds that live there."
"Maybe he'll change his mind," Daniel said, feeling sorry for the boy.
Kenny shook his head, eyes yet again cast downward. "He'll never change his mind."
Trying to get Kenny's mind off his disappointment, Daniel told him about some of the birds he'd seen in the park, describing them and asking if the boy knew what they were. Kenny identified several of them.
The next day, Daniel had another tutoring session at lunchtime with the black-haired boy. They went to their usual secret place and began the lesson. Daniel had been trying to figure out how he could help Kenny overcome the specific reading and writing difficulties the boy had. He'd discovered that teaching Kenny how to break up a word into its individual sounds and then showing him what letters created each sound seemed to be helping. But it was still slow-going, and, often, Kenny got very discouraged, calling himself stupid. Every time that happened, Daniel gave the boy encouragement and insisted that Kenny wasn't stupid.
There were a lot of times when Daniel wished that he could get advice from Mister Greer on how to help his friend, but his teacher didn't even know that Daniel was helping Kenny, and it had to stay that way.
Quentin took a sip from his coffee mug, his eyes on the papers before him. There was going to be a big English test at the end of the week, and he was hoping that the majority of his students would do well. He had his usual concerns about several of them, particularly Kenny. It frustrated him because he knew that, with the right method of training, Kenny could do so much better. Sometimes, Quentin was tempted to defy the boy's father and have some one-on-one tutoring with Kenny two or three days a week at lunch.
The teacher reached for his cup again and accidentally bumped it, causing some of the contents to spill over the rim. He quickly snatched the papers off his desk and opened one of his drawers for a roll of paper towels that he kept there. He discovered that there was only one sheet remaining on the roll. After using it to mop up some of the spill, he left the classroom to go get another roll from the closet used to store the janitorial supplies. He was reaching for the closet's doorknob when he heard a voice come from inside. Quentin paused in surprise, wondering what mischief some kids might be getting into. Deciding to find out what was going on before confronting the children, he put his ear to the door.
"Is that a 'b' or a 'd'?" asked a voice Quentin was shocked to recognize as Daniel Jackson's. "It should be a 'b'."
"It's a 'b'," said a second child, one that the teacher identified as Kenny Robinson. "Sometimes, I get confused about which way some letters are supposed to go."
"Like 'b' and 'd'?" Daniel asked.
"Uh huh, and 'p' and 'q'. Sometimes others, too."
"Well, 'b' has the circle face to the right, and 'd' has it facing to the 'left'." There was a long pause. "What's wrong?"
"Sometimes, I . . . I get mixed up on right and left," Kenny replied in a low voice that Quentin could only barely hear.
"Oh," Daniel said. "Um . . . okay. You write with that hand, don't you? That's your right hand. Do you think that you'd be able to remember which letters face in the direction of the hand you write with and the ones that face the hand that you don't write with?"
"I don't know."
There was a moment of silence. "You're really good at remembering the names of birds, aren't you?" Daniel asked.
"Okay. What kind of bird starts with the letter 'b'?"
"Um, well, there are all kinds of buntings, like the painted bunting, which is really pretty."
"And what about the letter 'd'?"
"I like the dodo bird. It's a funny-looking bird that went extinct a long time ago."
"Okay, what if you picture a bunting sitting on the hand that you write with and a dodo bird sitting on the hand that you don't write with? Then, when you're writing b's and d's, you just remember which bird is sitting on which hand. Do you think you can do that?"
There was excitement in Kenny's voice when he answered a few seconds later. "Yeah, I think I can."
In utter amazement, Quentin continued listening as Daniel used the same memory technique for the other letters that Kenny sometimes wrote backwards.
Bursting with pride for his star pupil, Quentin walked away and went to one of his fellow teachers to get a couple of paper towels. He wondered how long Daniel had been secretly tutoring Kenny. However long it had been, it sounded like he might actually be succeeding in helping the boy. How many children that age would even consider doing something like that?
When Daniel entered his classroom after the lunch recess, he noticed that his teacher was smiling at him. He didn't know why, so he pretended not to notice. He was curious about it, though, and found himself glancing at the man from time to time for the rest of the school day. He saw the smile three more times.
After the ringing of the final bell, Quentin called Daniel over. He waited until the last student had filed out of the room before speaking.
"Daniel, I know that you've been helping Kenny with his reading and writing."
The boy's face filled with worry. "You weren't supposed to find out. Kenny doesn't want his dad to know."
"Yes, I realize that, and don't worry. I have no intention of telling Mister Robinson about it. It'll remain our little secret."
Daniel relaxed. "Thank you, Mister Greer. I really did want to tell you so that I could ask if you knew how I could help him better."
Quentin nodded. "Sure, I can give you some advice, although, from what I heard, you're already doing an excellent job."
Daniel's eyes widened. "You heard us? When?"
"Today at lunch. I went to get some paper towels from the janitor's closet and heard you and Kenny through the door. That's how I found out what you were doing." Quentin rested a hand on the boy's arm. "Daniel, I want you to know that I am very, very proud of you. What you are doing is a wonderful thing."
Daniel ducked his head. "Is that why you were smiling at me this afternoon?"
Quentin laughed. "Yes, it is." He patted the boy's shoulder. "You'd better hurry along before you miss your bus. Will you be helping Kenny again tomorrow?"
"Uh uh. We only do it a couple days a week."
"Well, then perhaps you and I can get together at lunchtime, and I can explain a little about why Kenny has problems with reading and writing and how he can be helped."
Daniel smiled. "Okay. Thanks, Mister Greer."
"No, Daniel, thank you. You're making it possible for me to do something that I've wanted to do for quite a while now."
The next day at lunch, Quentin talked to Daniel about the learning disability that Kenny had and how there were ways that the boy could be helped.
"Kenny said that his dad wouldn't let him stay after school and let you help him, but I don't understand why," Daniel said.
Quentin sighed. "It's hard to explain, Daniel. You see, I believe that Mister Robinson doesn't want to believe that Kenny has a problem. He wants to think that Kenny is fine. That's why he's making the decisions he is. Unfortunately, they're the wrong decisions." He smiled. "But, together, you and I will help Kenny anyway. Okay?"
Daniel smiled as well. "Okay."
Daniel's fifth appointment with Doctor Pine was after school that day. Things had been going well during his talks with the psychologist, the boy finding it progressively easier to talk to the man about the death of his parents and the feelings he had about it. Because of that, the therapist decided to finally ask a question that he'd been putting off until he believed Daniel was ready.
"Daniel, I really appreciate how honest you have been with me during these sessions," he said. "I know that it hasn't always been easy for you. There's a question that I have to ask now, and I really need for you to be truthful with your answer. All right?"
Daniel started getting worried. "What question?"
Doctor Pine looked at the boy intently. "Do you ever think that there might have been some way for you to have saved your parents?"
Daniel's gaze immediately dropped to his lap.
"I can understand why you might think that," the doctor said when his patient didn't reply. "It's only natural that, when something bad happens to someone we love, we think, 'If I'd done something different, maybe it wouldn't have happened.' Have you thought something like that?"
After several more seconds, Daniel's head nodded.
"Can you tell me about it?"
It took a few more seconds for Daniel to reply. "I thought that maybe if I'd been closer, I could have pulled them out before the coverstone fell on them," he admitted in a small voice, his eyes still downcast. "Or if I'd been faster eating breakfast that morning, everyone wouldn't have been hurrying so much to set things up in time. Or-or maybe when the chain broke, if I could have run really, really fast, I could have pushed Mom and Dad out of the way. Or. . . ." Daniel's voice faded into silence.
The psychologist leaned forward. "Daniel, first of all, I want to make clear to you that the death of your parents was in no way your fault. What happened was not because you took a bit longer to eat you breakfast or because of anything else you did. Your parents are responsible for their own decisions. It was their choice to stand under that coverstone while it was being put in place, and even if you skipped breakfast completely, they'd probably still have done it. As for you thinking that you could have saved them. . . . It happened really fast, didn't it, Daniel. One second, that coverstone was being held by the chain, and, the next, the chain broke, and the coverstone fell."
Daniel began hugging himself.
"No matter how fast you ran, no matter how close you'd been, there wouldn't have been enough time for you to get them out. There isn't a human being on this entire planet who could have moved fast enough to pull your parents out in time. I know how much you wish that you could have saved them, Daniel, but it just wouldn't have been possible."
The boy was now crying, and Joseph decided that it was time to end the session. He turned to Diane.
"I think that's it for today. We'll see you again next Wednesday."
Daniel was silent on the trip home and went straight to his room once they arrived. Ever since his parents died, he had tried to think of some way that he could have saved them, someway he could have stopped the whole terrible thing from happening. Doctor Pine said that nobody could have saved them. Was that true? Maybe if Daniel had been a grown-up instead of a little kid, he could have found a way.
If he had a time machine, like the one in H.G. Wells' book, he could go back in time and warn his mom and dad, tell them what was going to happen. But there was no such thing as a time machine. He would never be able to go back and save them. They were dead, and nothing would ever bring them back to life.
Daniel was feeling a little low the next day, and, as usual, Quentin noticed. He'd have liked to talk with the boy and find out what was wrong, but he had an appointment with the principal during the lunch break. The teacher was concerned that it was going to be yet another lecture on spending too much personal time with Daniel.
At noon, Quentin went to Ted Parker's office, prepared for another confrontation, but the confrontation never happened. It turned out that the meeting was about something else.
"An old friend and colleague of mine is going to be coming over from New York City this weekend," the principal said. "It's regarding Daniel Jackson."
Quentin frowned. "What's this about?"
"Laurence works with gifted children. I told him all about Daniel, and he's very interested. He wants to run some more tests. I've contacted Daniel's foster mother, and she'll be bringing him in Saturday morning. I've also contacted his caseworker since she needs to be involved in this as well."
Quentin's frown deepened. "Involved in what exactly?"
"We'll discuss everything on Saturday, that is if you can be here. After Daniel's test scores have been evaluated, we're going to have a meeting. Since you're Daniel's teacher and, therefore, are most familiar with how well he's been doing in class and any particular facts we may need to be made aware of, I'd like you to be there."
The teacher nodded, having a bad feeling about this.
Daniel wasn't very happy when he learned that he was going to have to take more special tests. The last time he took those tests, they decided to take him out of Mister Greer's class. What would happen this time?
On Saturday morning, Daniel met Doctor Laurence Beach. The middle-aged man smiled down at him.
"Hello, Daniel. It's nice to meet you. I've heard lots of good things about you. I understand that you are a very smart boy."
"I'm not all that smart," Daniel insisted. "I'm just good with languages, and history, and things like that."
The man patted his shoulder. "Well, these tests are going to give us a better idea on the ways in which you are smartest and how intelligent you truly are. I know you're probably nervous about this, but don't be. We're just curious about what you know and how well you can learn things. We'll also be seeing how good your memory is. All we ask is that you do the very best that you can, nothing more."
The testing began soon after that. It was still going on when Quentin arrived. He was surprised to see Jacob standing outside the principal's office with Diane Underwood. The two men shook hands.
"I wasn't expecting to see you here," the teacher said.
"Diane called us and told us about the new tests and the meeting. Laura would be here, too, but someone had to stay home with the kids. Do you have any idea what this is about?"
"No, not really. Tom wouldn't discuss the details with me. All he said is that this friend of his works with gifted children."
Just then, Lucy Merrick arrived. It was around ten minutes later that the principal came out of his office with Daniel.
"The tests are all completed," he said. "We're going to go through them now. It'll take a while. Perhaps you can all go to the teacher's lounge and relax for a bit."
They did what Mister Parker suggested. Quentin put on a pot of coffee and made a cup of hot chocolate for Daniel. Everyone wanted to ask the boy what had been included in the tests, but decided against it. They'd be finding out soon enough.
Knowing that Daniel could not be present for the discussion on the test results, Quentin went and got several fifth grade history books to keep the boy occupied. Diane decided that she'd rather stay with Daniel and keep him company, so she and the boy remained in the lounge as the others went to the principal's office when they were asked to return. Chairs were found for everyone, and they all took a seat.
"I'm sure it will be no surprise to any of you that Daniel did very well," Doctor Beach said. "The tests I gave him included some standard IQ tests. There were also some additional tests on memory retention, as well as ones that tested his capacity to learn things beyond his present grade level. There were a few other specific tests as well, one of which revealed an extraordinary and rare ability within Daniel."
"Which is?" Quentin asked.
"Daniel has an amazing capacity for leaps in logic, to come to a correct conclusion without first going through the step-by-step process of logic to reach the answer. You see, many of us, when presented with something to be reasoned out, would almost always think along a straight line, going from A to B to C and so on, finally coming to a conclusion based on a logical process of thought. Daniel, however, has a natural ability to jump from the presentation of the problem to a solution without going through those steps of logic. In other words, he can jump from A all the way to Z without going through the rest of the alphabet. This enables Daniel to reach an answer with extraordinary speed, far faster than the average person.
"That alone makes him a very special child, but there's far more to his intelligence than that. In several areas, Daniel is scoring four to five grades above Grade 3, the grade many children his age are in."
"Wait a minute," Jacob said. "Four to five grades? But that's seventh and eighth grade! The principal said that Daniel could reasonably be put in just sixth grade."
"Yes, that's right. You see, it has to do with the disparity between what Daniel has learned and what he's capable of learning. Daniel's present level of knowledge puts him at the fifth and sixth grade level, his lowest scores being in the hard sciences. However, what he would be capable of learning in the proper classroom environment is far higher. His level of memory retention is very impressive, not quite photographic, but far above normal. He possesses a staggering amount of knowledge in the areas of history, cultures and mythology."
Jacob nodded. "He's told us way more than we'll ever remember."
Doctor Beach nodded as well, clearly not surprised. "The child appears to soak up knowledge like a sponge. The thing that truly amazes me is his skill with languages. You already know that Daniel is fluent in six spoken languages. He also has a pretty good grasp of a seventh language, Italian. You know as well that he can read and write five dead languages. But that is only part of Daniel's linguistic knowledge. He actually knows a smattering of an additional five languages, and, even more amazing, can actually speak ancient Egyptian! Now, let me clarify that by saying he can speak it to the best of what our knowledge is of the spoken form of the language. Since the language in its original form hasn't been spoken in many centuries, we can only make guesses on how words were pronounced based on related languages and other knowledge we have. But, to the best of what we believe the language sounded like, Daniel can speak it."
"Yes, we already know about the ancient Egyptian," Quentin said. "We found that out last Halloween when he proceeded to teach me several sentences in that language."
Doctor Beach smiled. "The child is simply amazing. He also knows quite a bit of ancient Greek and some words and phrases in a few other dead languages, both spoken and written. This is nothing short of extraordinary! Daniel's scores when it comes to language learning and retention are completely off the scale. With training in those areas, I have no doubt that he'd be fluent in some twelve to fifteen languages by the time he reached his teens. I can't even begin to speculate how many he'd know by adulthood."
"So, what are you saying?" Lucy asked. "What does all this mean for him?"
"I am involved in a privately run program for very special, gifted children. It's operated out of New York. We have set up a school with highly trained teachers who specialize in the various fields. All the children there are taught everything that they'd learn in a normal school, but with extra emphasis on the areas in which they are most gifted. In addition, subjects are taught that a child generally wouldn't begin receiving schooling in until they reached much higher grades, like, for instance, linguistics. I'd like to enroll Daniel in that school."
"But you said that it's in New York City," Quentin said, frowning.
"Yes, just a few miles outside, actually. Daniel would have to be transferred there." Doctor Beach looked at Lucy. "From what I understand of the foster care system, that wouldn't be a problem. It's a boarding school, and we do charge a monthly fee to help pay for the expense of boarding the children, but it's no higher than what the average foster family is being paid for each child they foster. We have a couple of other foster kids at the school right now."
Just the thought of Daniel being put in some boarding school where he'd have no one to love him or care for his emotional needs made Jacob want to scream, "No!" But he couldn't say no. He had no power to stop this from happening. It was entirely in the hands of Social Services and Daniel's caseworker.
The captain looked at Lucy. There was a slight frown on her face. Whether it was one of displeasure or deep thought he did not know.
"I have some knowledge of boarding schools, Doctor Beach," the woman said, "and what I know about some of them is not something I like."
"If you're concerned about corporal punishment, Mrs. Merrick, I can assure you that does not happen in our school."
"But what about family?" Quentin asked, clearly worried. "Who cares for the children, gives them love and attention? There's more to a child than just his mind."
"Yes, of course there is. We have the equivalent of nannies who help look after the younger children, and, of course, we have games and sports for the kids to play."
"But none of that is the same as having parents nurturing and loving a child," Jacob stated.
"No, but, as I'm sure you know, boarding schools are quite common in some countries. Parents have been sending their children to such schools for generations."
Jacob was very tempted to say that most of the parents who send their kids to boarding schools are people who have no desire to care for the kids themselves and want the children out of their hair.
Doctor Beach looked about at everyone. "I understand your reservations. We are hoping that, eventually, we can put a tutoring program in place, but that's still several years off. Daniel has the potential to go incredibly far, have an amazing career in linguistics or whatever other field he chooses to pursue. But he needs proper training to reach his full potential. We can give that to him."
"Doctor Beach, do you know anything about Daniel's history?" Jacob asked. "Have you been told about his parents' deaths and what he's gone through since then?"
"Yes, I was filled in on all that."
"Then you must know that he is still recovering emotionally from what happened. He needs love and understanding, people to make him feel safe and wanted. Excuse me for saying this, but he isn't going to get that in a boarding school."
Doctor Beach frowned slightly. "From what I understand, Daniel also has a great thirst for knowledge. I believe that, in our school environment, where the focus is on feeding the mind and nurturing the intellect and where the normal problems and stresses that kids have to deal with outside of school do not exist, Daniel will flourish. Yes, it might take him a few weeks to fully adapt, but once he is immersed in learning, I believe he'll be fine."
Jacob thought of the sweet, loving, sensitive child that Daniel was being put in such an emotionally sterile environment, and it made him sick. Who would nurture that side of him there? Who would give him hugs and kisses? Who would be there to make him feel better after a nightmare or when he was crying for his parents?
Doctor Beach looked at those assembled, his eyes coming to rest on the only person there who would be involved in the decision: Daniel's caseworker.
"Think it over, Mrs. Merrick, and discuss it with your supervisor. I just ask that you not take too long to make the decision. If we're going to enroll Daniel in my school, we'll want to do it when the next semester begins."
Quentin, Jacob and Lucy all got to their feet and left the room, then slowly headed down the hall toward the teacher's lounge.
"I don't think I have to tell you what I feel about this," Jacob said to Lucy after a few seconds. "I don't think Daniel belongs in a place like that."
"I definitely understand your misgivings. I have them as well. But I also have to take into consideration how this would benefit Daniel's future. When it comes to scholastic achievement, foster children very often fall behind. The rate of dropouts is much higher with kids in the foster care system. To give a child in foster care this kind of opportunity. . . ." Lucy's voice trailed off. "We will definitely think long and hard about this, Captain Carter, and we will try very hard to come to the best decision for Daniel."
No one said anything to Diane and Daniel about the school in New York, not wanting to upset the child. They all exited the building to the sight of snow falling.
"I need to get home and check to make sure I haven't gotten any calls about one of my cases," Lucy said. She bid everyone goodbye and hurried to her car.
Jacob looked down at the boy who might soon be taken away from them. "So, Daniel," he said, putting on a smile. "Would you like to come over to our house tomorrow? I'm sure that Sam would love to have you."
The child smiled brightly. "Sure! That would be great!"
Jacob chuckled and ruffled his hair. "Okay. As long as we're not all snowed in, I'll come get you before lunch, that is if it's okay with your foster mom."
"That's fine," Diane replied with a smile.
"All right, we'll see you then."
Jacob watched the woman and child leave, then turned to Daniel's teacher. "So, what do you think about all this?"
"The truth? I don't like it. As a teacher, I do understand Doctor Beach's point of view, but Daniel in a boarding school for gifted children?" Quentin shook his head. "Sure, he'd get a great education, but that's pretty much all he'd get."
"My point exactly. I wish we had some say in this."
Quentin frowned. "So do I."
The next morning, Lucy got a surprise call from Daniel's teacher, asking if they could meet and talk about Daniel. She agreed, and they arranged to meet at the Child Welfare office that afternoon.
"Thank you for agreeing to this meeting, Mrs. Merrick," Quentin said as he sat down across from her desk.
"I assume that this is about Daniel. I also assume that it has something to do with the boarding school."
"Yes, it does. Mrs. Merrick, let me say this plain and simple. Sending Daniel to that school would be a huge mistake."
The woman blinked in surprise. "I'm surprised to hear that, considering that you're a teacher."
"Yes, I'm a teacher, but I'm also a guy whom I'd like to think has gotten to know Daniel pretty well since he came into my class. He is, indeed, quite brilliant. He has an amazing mind. But he's also a child of great emotional depth and wisdom. He is very caring and incredibly selfless for a child his age. There is a student in my class whom I'm certain is dyslexic. I haven't been able to formally test him yet because his father refuses to give permission, and his mother is dead. I recently discovered that Daniel has been trying to help him with his reading and writing. Eight years old, and he's spending some of his lunch breaks attempting to teach the boy. I found this out after I happened to overhear one of the lessons, and I have to say that I was amazed at what I heard. Daniel is so patient and understanding with Kenny. It almost brought tears to my eyes. Daniel is special in far more ways than just his mind, Mrs. Merrick. He also has a special heart and soul, and, in that school, there will be no one to feed those things."
"I do agree with what you're saying, Mister Greer," Lucy said. "I have never been a fan of boarding schools. But we have to weigh all the pros and cons and decide what is going to be the best thing for Daniel's future. The kind of genius he possesses is not something that comes along every day. We're going to have a meeting Monday morning to discuss it."
Quentin's expression firmed. "All right. Then I'll give you something else to discuss. I'd like to offer you a deal. You keep Daniel here, in this school, and I'll tutor him after school hours and on weekends. I can't teach Daniel linguistics, but I can arrange for him to get all the books and language learning tapes I can lay my hands on. I have friends in all levels of education, including college, and I have access to a lot of educational materials."
Lucy stared at him closely. "Why are you offering this?"
"Because I care. Daniel is a very special little boy whom I want to see grow into the kind of man I think he can be, someone who is not only brilliant but also a very good person on the inside. There aren't many truly beautiful souls in this world, Mrs. Merrick, but I believe that Daniel is one of them. Please give his mind and his soul a chance to blossom."
Lucy searched the teacher's face for several seconds, then nodded. "All right. I'll present this at the meeting. To be completely honest, I do have some serious reservations about letting Daniel go to that school, at least at the present time, when he's still recovering from the death of his parents." She gave him a smile. "You are a good man, Mister Greer. I wish that all children had teachers like you."