Daniel had some news for them when Jack and Sam returned to Dichar.
"The Dicharins didn't know anything about the ship," he told them. "It was probably buried long before they were brought here. But Ayarla did tell me something interesting about the construction of the temple. She said that among the builders were a group of learned men who possessed knowledge from the time before Dengai brought the people here. These men were used for a special job and were threatened by Bendrak not to speak a word of what they did or saw. After the temple was completed, Bendrak killed the men to keep them silent. I'd guess that those men were the ones who built the mechanism for the column, and I'd bet that they knew about the ship." He looked at his teammates. "So, what did the general say?"
"We've got permission to dig up the ship and try to get it working," Jack replied. "A team of people will be sent through first thing in the morning to start tearing down the temple."
"What about the NID?" Daniel saw Jack and Sam glance at each other. "Come on, guys. I know what finding this ship means. If I'm the only one who can control it, the NID is going to find out."
"Don't you worry about that, Daniel," Jack told him. "We'll keep the NID off your back."
Daniel pushed that concern out of his mind in favor of a more pressing one. "We need to destroy the abikars before someone from the NID decides to come here."
"Yeah, we have to talk to Gennae about that. I should imagine that they'd be anxious to get rid of the things."
"Dengai!" a voice in the distance cried. SG-1 turned to see a Dicharin man running toward the village. "Dengai!" he yelled again.
Daniel hurried up to him. "Eolin! What is it?"
"Dengai has returned!" the man said excitedly. The people nearby began murmuring amongst themselves. "I took a walk to the temple. I wished to spit upon it and the evil that is left there from Bendrak. But when I came within sight of the temple, I saw a glowing form moving about it. It was like the Insharra described Dengai to be."
The members of SG-1 looked at each other.
"Sounds like an Ancient has come to make a house call," Jack muttered. "He'd better not be here for the ship. As far as I'm concerned, it's finders keepers."
Gennae came forward. "Daniel, can this be true? Has Dengai returned after all these years?"
"I don't know. It might be him or it could be another Ancient. We'll go talk to him, all right?"
The chieftain nodded. "Yes, it is good for you to be the one to welcome him. You were once one of his kind."
SG-1 immediately headed out for the temple. Daniel's mind was awhirl with thoughts. This would be the first time he had confronted one of the Ascended since descending, and he was more than a little worried.
They'd been walking for around fifteen minutes when Sam came up beside him. "Are you okay, Daniel?"
"Not really," he admitted. "This will be the first time since I descended that I've come face to face with an ascended being. What if they don't know that I've regained my memory? What if this one decides to take it away permanently?"
"I can't believe that they'd do that, Daniel. Why would they? As some kind of cruel punishment? It's not like you remember everything about when you were one of them."
"No, but I remember some things, like how to control the abikars. They might not be happy about that."
"Then we won't tell them," Jack said. "There's no reason why they have to even know about the abikars. They're all locked away in that vault. We'll just say, 'Hi. How are ya? Thanks for dropping by,' and leave it at that."
Daniel looked at the colonel. "What, no lecture about their noninterference policies? I seem to recall you saying something about doing that the next time you saw an Ancient."
"Nope, no lecture. I'll behave and be nice to the glowworm."
Daniel smiled faintly. "That'll be something to see."
A while after passing the Stargate, Daniel began sensing something. At first, he didn't understand what it was, then it dawned on him. "I can feel it," he said.
"The Ancient?" Sam asked.
"Yeah. It's . . . really different from when I felt Bendrak."
"Better, I hope," Jack said.
"Oh, yeah. It's better. It's sort of like a . . . a tingling inside me. A little strange, but not unpleasant."
They weren't far from the temple when Daniel abruptly halted. "It's coming," he told the others. A few seconds later, they all saw a light moving toward them up the path. Soon, the recognizable shape of an Ancient came into full view. It stopped a few yards away, hovering in midair. "Wait here," Daniel said to his teammates. Then he continued forward. He was around ten feet away from the ascended being when he stopped. A moment later, the Ancient coalesced into the figure of a man with blond hair and brown eyes. Those eyes studied Daniel closely.
"You were once ascended," he said in a quiet voice.
"Yet you are no longer."
"That obvious, huh?"
A look of recognition came to the Ancient's face. "Ah, you are the one."
Daniel's eyebrows lifted slightly. "The one?"
"I was not there when you were made mortal again, but I know of you. All of the Ascended do."
"Ah. Well, it's nice to know that my reputation precedes me. So, are you Dengai?"
"No. I am called Evin Har. I was a short distance from this world when I sensed an abikar being used. I came to investigate."
"Oh." So much for keeping the abikars a secret.
"There was a Gorrum here?"
Evin Har looked at him sharply. "Bendrak? The Ancients have sought him for many years."
"I know. I think he's been here almost the whole time. He's been playing the role of an evil spirit to the people of this planet for around a hundred and fifty years, and I'm sure that he was on the planet long before then. The abikars he had are probably some of the original ones stolen by the Gorrums."
Evin Har looked at Daniel closely. "You remember much for one whose memory was taken."
Daniel stiffened, his heart rate increasing. "Yeah."
"And how much is it that you do remember, Daniel Jackson?"
The archeologist paused. "Everything about my life as a human before I ascended. Almost nothing from the time I was ascended. I once used an abikar when I was ascended. When I saw the abikars here, it triggered something in my memory. I eventually remembered everything I knew about them and the Gorrums."
"You are fortunate that Bendrak did not kill you."
"Um, no, I'm not. He . . . did kill me. I just didn't stay dead. That wasn't the first time it's happened. I sort of have a habit of returning from the dead."
Evin Har stared at Daniel for so long that he started to get nervous. Then the Ancient began moving toward him. Daniel heard a movement behind him and knew it was Jack.
"Jack, stay there," he said.
"Daniel," the colonel said, not hiding the concern in his voice.
"I will not harm him, Jack O'Neill," Evin Har assured him.
The Ancient stopped about three feet from Daniel. "It was you who used the abikar?"
"Yes," Daniel admitted.
"You would have died, then. Your body could not have survived the process."
"Um . . . yes, I did. I didn't stay dead that time either, as you can see."
Evin Har stared at him a while longer, then smiled faintly. "A pearl diver may search the ocean floor for many years before finding the one oyster that contains the pearl that will bring them great wealth."
"I was wondering when you were going to start talking that way," Daniel murmured. "I suppose it would be too much to ask for you to go back to plain English."
"Wisdom speaks in its own language, Daniel. We must train our ears to understand it."
"Yeah. That's what I thought you'd say."
"Where is the abikar that holds Bendrak?"
"In the village with the others. Bendrak had over two hundred of them. Most of them are still in their altered state. Bendrak was forcing the humans on this planet to kill two hundred of their own people each year and store the life energy in the abikars for him to feed on."
An expression of regret flitted across Evin Har's face. "Bendrak was the last of the free ones. All that remains of their race are trapped upon their world now, and they will soon be gone. No more will die at their hands."
"That's good to hear."
"I will take the abikars with me. The one holding Bendrak will be destroyed."
The archeologist nodded, happy to hand the responsibility over to the Ancient. It would save them from having to make up a story about how the abikars were destroyed.
Daniel met Evin Har's eyes. "There's something I want to know, though chances are that you won't tell me. In fact, it's probably a waste of breath for me to even ask."
"Answers cannot be given if the questions are never asked."
"Yes." Daniel took a deep breath. "Why do you choose not to help others? Why do you sit by and do nothing when you could do so much with your power?"
"Do you ask this question for yourself or for the knowledge of all?"
"For myself mostly, though it is something that we all want to know." As Daniel stared into the Ancient's eyes, he came to a decision. "When I was ascended, I possessed all the powers you do. I could command wind and fire, create storms out of clear skies, and strike down foes with bolts of lightning, yet I was still powerless for I was not allowed to help even a single person who was in need. When I finally made the decision to do what was right, to break the rules of the Ancients and try to preserve life, I was cast down and made mortal again. You did it to punish me, and many would think of it that way. I did for a while. Yet, now, I see the truth. The real punishment was being ascended and not being given the freedom to do what I knew in my heart was the right thing. Now that I'm human again, even though my life can be measured in the span of a few short years and my body can be killed by the littlest of things, I am more powerful than I ever was while ascended because I have the freedom to help make things better, even if just a little bit. Immortality and all the power in the universe are worthless if you spend all eternity turning a blind eye to the horrors that are taking place. I would rather have only a few more decades doing what I can to help than have forever doing nothing at all."
There was a long silence after Daniel finished speaking.
"A lantern casts only a small circle of light," Evin Har said gently. "Though we may see clearly that which the light reveals, the darkness beyond remains a mystery, and there is far more hidden by the darkness than what can be seen within the light."
Daniel stared at the Ancient. "Are you saying that there's some hidden purpose behind this, some big reason why the Ancients stand on the sidelines?"
"A truly wise man knows when to find knowledge by seeking it and when to be patient and let the knowledge be revealed in its own time."
Daniel sighed. "Which means that we'll know what this is all about when the right time comes and you're ready to tell us."
Evin Har merely smiled.
"All right, so what now? You go off, taking the abikars with you, and we just keep carrying on like before, trying to do whatever we can to stop the Goa'uld before they take over the galaxy?"
"The flesh that covers the body is soft and easily torn. It is the bone that lies beneath that is strong."
"The greatest strength comes from within," Daniel murmured, understanding the Ancient's words. Did he mean that the power to defeat the Goa'uld was within the human race?
Evin Har nodded slightly. "That which is hidden can be a far greater weapon than what can be seen, for if the enemy cannot see it and knows not of its power, they will be unable to defend against it."
Though Daniel wasn't sure what Evin Har was talking about, he began to suspect something. His suspicions were confirmed by the Ancient's next words.
"The ship that Bendrak stole he intended to take back to his homeworld so that more of his kind could escape. But he did not succeed in hiding his intentions, so we were prepared for it."
"Ship? What ship?" Jack asked in a convincingly curious and innocent voice.
Evin Har looked at him, smiling knowingly. "He who feigns ignorance would often be wiser if he spoke nothing at all, for his claims of ignorance are lies that can be revealed, whereas silence is not a lie."
'Crap. Even I understood that,' Jack thought. 'So much for getting to keep the ship.'
Daniel opened his mouth to say something to the Ancient, but the words froze on his lips when Evin Har turned and stared at him piercingly.
"Most live their whole lives without ever leaving their childhood behind," the Ancient said. "It is the rare individual who achieves true maturity of the mind and spirit. Such ones gain a power that cannot be understood by others, for those others still see childish things. But beware. He who bears great power must look upon it as a deadly serpent of which he is the master. If it is not treated with caution and respect, it may turn and strike him. It is only in understanding the serpent and its nature that it may be handled safely."
Daniel's mouth hung open. Did he just understand that correctly?
The Ancient slowly backed away from Daniel. "The path that you set your feet upon years ago is still the one you walk, Daniel. It is the path to which you must stay true, for it is only upon it that you will find yourself."
With a final look at all of them, Evin Har lost his human appearance, becoming once again a creature of light. He floated upward into the sky and disappeared from view.
"Ummm . . . okay," Jack said, confusion in his voice. "What was that all about?"
"He's letting us keep the ship, Jack," Daniel told him, still not quite able to believe it.
Jack stared at him. "He's what? Okay, now that can't be true. These guys never let us have the cool toys. They always say we're too young to play with them."
"Well, maybe Evin Har thinks we've grown up enough to 'play' with this one."
"No, Daniel Jackson, you are mistaken. I believe it is you whom Evin Har feels is mature enough," Teal'c stated.
"Teal'c's right, Daniel," Sam said. "He was talking to you, not us. Besides, he had to know that you're the only person on Earth who can control that ship. He wasn't giving the ship to us, he was giving it to you."
The Jaffa nodded. "You are the master of whom he spoke. It is only you who can truly understand the power and, therefore, handle it safely."
"Works for me," Jack said. He slung an arm over Daniel's shoulders. "So, Daniel. Ya gonna let your buddies go for a drive with you in your new 'car'?"
Daniel smiled. "Sure, Jack, just as long as you don't mind that I'll be the one to do the driving."
"Nah, that's fine with me. Just don't get any speeding tickets."
"I'll keep that in mind."
Jack took a couple of steps down the path, then paused. "Oh, and, Daniel?" he said, looking at the archeologist over his shoulder. "You did a whole lot better job telling the glowworm off than I would have."
Daniel grinned. "Thanks, Jack. I guess my communication skills come in handy every now and then."
For the sake of his peace of mind, Jack insisted that they make sure the ship was still there. When he saw the temple, he relaxed but still chose to take a look down the ship's hatch. Assured that the ship was, indeed, still there, Jack contacted SG-3, who were still at the village. Colonel Reynolds told him that an Ancient showed up and took the box that the Dicharins called the Vault of Life. The villagers were all excited about the appearance and saw it as a good omen.
Since there were still a few hours to go before they were due back at the base, SG-1 decided to stay at the ship and get some work done. Sam had brought some equipment along, and the first thing she did was run some tests on the shield surrounding the temple.
"I can't penetrate the shields with any of the sensors or scanners I brought," she announced. "I'd be willing to bet that a ship in orbit would be unable to detect the presence of the Ancient ship."
"Well, that's cool," Jack said. "We could really use something like that."
All four of them entered the ship. As Sam studied the propulsion system, Jack and Teal'c checked for visible structural damage. Meanwhile, Daniel began familiarizing himself with the controls and onboard systems. He eventually came across the ship's diagnostic system. From it he found out why Bendrak had landed on Dichar. A malfunction in the navigation system had wiped all the star charts from the ship's memory. Without the charts to guide him, the Gorrum would have gotten hopelessly lost. Daniel figured that Dichar was probably the first habitable planet that Bendrak came across.
"Okay, if the only thing wrong with the ship is that the star charts were lost, that's no big problem," Sam said when he told her what he'd learned. "We can download new charts. We just have to hope that the system isn't damaged physically."
"According to this it isn't," Daniel responded. "If I'm reading these diagnostics correctly, the only thing that's wrong is that the charts are gone." A smile suddenly came to his lips. "Of course."
"What is it?"
"Remember what Evin Har said? He said that Bendrak failed to hide his intentions, so the Ancients were prepared for it. The ship must have been booby-trapped. They probably placed traps on all their ships, and Bendrak sprung the one on this one. The star charts were deliberately wiped from the ship's memory so that he couldn't make it back to his homeworld."
"Why didn't they just set up a booby-trap that would disable the engines or something?" Jack asked.
"Because there would be the chance that Bendrak could fix physical damage to the ship," Sam answered. "Deleting the star charts couldn't be fixed unless Bendrak managed to get hold of new ones, and, considering how few cultures there are in the galaxy that are advanced enough to have interstellar travel, his chances of stumbling upon a planet where he could get hold of charts would be extremely small. In fact, without charts, he'd have no idea what direction to go in to even find a habitable planet. It would be like being stranded out in the middle of a forest with no idea where the nearest habitation was. Which direction would you take?"
Jack grinned. "But we do have charts, so that means we're in business. As soon as we get the ship dug out, we can fly it home. Um, how far from home are we, anyway?"
"It would take a Goa'uld cargo ship a minimum of a week to get to Earth from here, sir," Sam replied.
"Yeah, but this ship's gotta be faster than that, right?"
"That would be a fair assumption, O'Neill," Teal'c agreed. "This craft is more technologically advanced than a tel'tak."
Sam nodded in agreement. "There's really no way to know how long it will take."
Jack turned to Daniel. "So, you think you'll have your driver's license by the time we get this thing unburied and ready to go?"
"I think so. I really wish that Sam could read the Ancients' language, though. Some of the technical things I've been reading are way over my head."
"Well, maybe you could teach me," Sam said with a smile.
Daniel returned the smile. "Any time, Sam. In the meantime, I guess I could translate some of this stuff and give it to you."
Since there wasn't anything more for Jack and Teal'c to do on the ship, they went back up top. About half an hour later, Daniel called to Sam.
"What's up?" she asked as she came up beside him.
"I just had a thought. We've guessed that the Ancients rigged the ship so that the charts would be deleted if Bendrak stole it. Okay, so what were the Ancients planning to do once Bendrak was stuck wandering around lost? Their goal would have been to capture him, so they'd have to have a way to find the ship, right?"
"Yes, you would think so."
"It could be that they have the technology to detect the presence of other Ancient ships, regardless of whether or not the ships are cloaked. But, if that's the case, what about what's going on with the temple?"
Sam nodded, understanding his logic. "I see what you're getting at. Why would Bendrak bother having the cloak activated if it wouldn't hide the ship from the Ancients?"
"Of course we don't know that for sure. It could be that they were just hoping he'd starve to death before he found a planet with life forms he could feed off of."
"But it still makes you wonder. It could be that the cloak isn't coming from the ship. Bendrak might have jury-rigged something from spare parts that would block the Ancients' sensors."
"But where is it, then?" Daniel wondered. "And what is it drawing its power from?"
"Maybe one of the stones in the walls is fake. Or perhaps it's hidden within the center pinnacle. That would be the most logical place. Wherever it is, we need to find it. If it can block out any kind of scanner or sensor it would be of enormous value to us. We're going to have to do a thorough search of the temple before it gets torn down."
SG-1 returned home as scheduled. Jack was eager to tell Hammond the latest news and impatiently suffered through the post-mission physical. Needless to say, he was the first one to speak when the debriefing began.
"So, General, you know how all those advanced races out there never let us have any of their technology, saying that we're too primitive, or too young, or whatever?" he said.
"Well, we just graduated to the big boy's club."
Hammond's brow knit. "Please explain."
"An Ancient showed up on Dichar, sir," Sam told him. "He detected the use of the abikar and came to investigate. Daniel spoke with him. He knew about the ship and apparently guessed right off that we knew about it as well."
"And he didn't take it?"
"Why would an Ancient allow us to keep one of their ships?"
"Ah, but that's the thing, General," Jack said. "There's no doubt that he's letting us keep it, but it isn't us that he gave it to. He gave it to Daniel."
Hammond's eyebrows rose, and he looked at the archeologist. "To you specifically?"
"I think the Ancient made it pretty clear that he was leaving the ship in Daniel's care, sir," Sam said.
"Apparently, he thinks that Daniel here is grown up enough to handle it," Jack added, a look of pride on his face.
Hammond leaned back in his chair. "Well, this is an interesting development. I'm afraid, however, that both the military and the government may not respect Doctor Jackson's 'ownership' of the ship."
"Well, whether they do or don't isn't going to matter in the end since Daniel's the only one who can make it work," Jack said.
Hammond looked at Sam. "Major, is there any chance that the ship's systems could be converted to operate with standard controls?"
"Well, sir, that all depends. If the technology in that ship is like the abikars, I wouldn't even begin to know how to change it or even how to graft an additional set of controls onto it. I mean, we're talking about a technology that reads complex thought patterns and is able to recognize which thoughts are commands to the ship and which aren't. Just the fact that the ship is able to understand Daniel's thoughts when he is, no doubt, thinking them in English rather than the Ancient language, means it is advanced enough that it's actually translating the brainwave patterns directly rather than just picking up on the words in Daniel's mind. And it does all this without physical contact. I'm not saying that I couldn't try, sir, but I have serious doubts that I'd get anywhere, and if the Pentagon really started pushing and sent over a team to work on the ship, they could wreck the system beyond my ability to repair."
Hammond nodded. "I will pass that onto the president in my report."
"And there's something else we need to consider," Daniel said. "I've been thinking about what Evin Har said, and I'm pretty sure that he and the other Ancients believe as the Nox, the Tollans and others believed, that the human race, as a whole, is not mature enough to be trusted with highly advanced technology that can conceivably be used as a weapon."
"His words did, indeed, give that impression," Teal'c stated.
"Okay, so, for whatever reason, Evin Har has a different opinion of me and decided that I could be trusted to use the ship wisely." Daniel glanced around at the others. When everybody just looked at him, he continued. "If you managed to convert the ship to use standard controls, our government could choose to have someone outside the SGC fly it for who knows what kind of mission. I would no longer have any control over what the ship was used for. I kind of have a feeling that the Ancients wouldn't be too happy about that."
"He's right, General," Sam said. "Evin Har clearly intended for Daniel to retain control of the ship. If he doesn't, the Ancients could choose to take it back . . . or worse."
"And we really don't want those guys ticked off at us," Jack added.
Hammond nodded. "I tend to agree with you, and I will pass on all your thoughts and concerns to the president. But, in the end, the decision is not mine to make."