Incidents Series Part 11: The Rescue Mission Incident
by Maureen Thayer
Categories: Action/Adventure, Drama, Angst
Content Warning: Mild Profanity
Spoilers: Stargate movie
Author's Note: This is the 11th fanfic in the Incidents Series. I would highly recommend that you read the previous parts before this one, if you have not already done so, in order to understand the plot.
This story is told from three points of view: Daniel's, Jack's and Sam's.
Jack once told me that, as an adult, when I was dead set on a course of action, nothing and no one would stop me from doing what I thought I needed to do. I guess that's still true.
I'm sixteen years old now. My memories of foster care are finally all in the past, and I'm regaining my memories of college. From what I've remembered so far, I liked college a whole lot better than high school, even though I was one of the youngest freshmen at UCLA.
Now that I'm so close to being a legal adult, pretty much everyone at the SGC has stopped treating me like a kid. The problem is that, regardless of how people are treating me, I'm still not an adult, which means that I'm not allowed to do things that I would have been able to do if none of this had happened to me.
For instance, though General Hammond started allowing me to regularly help out the Linguistics Department once I turned fifteen, he restricted it to four hours a day, which has now been increased to five. It seems like just when I'm starting to really get involved in a translation, it's time to quit for the day. I know he set the limit because he believes it's for my own good, but it's still frustrating. There are lots and lots of kids my age who are working full time, and some of them are doing manual labor.
Another thing is that I still haven't been given access to any of the restricted information on the SGC's computers, things that I know I had access to when I was an adult. I guess it's the higher-ups who are responsible for that. What do they think I'd do with the information? I mean it's not like I can tell anyone outside the base. I'm not even allowed to leave the base.
That, of course, is another reason why I wish that I'd hurry up and get to adulthood. I was told that once I'm eighteen, I'll be allowed to leave the base for a few hours at time as long as one of my teammates is with me. I'll also be able to work full time, and it's possible that I might even be allowed to go off-world with one of the archeological teams, though that's probably just wishful thinking on my part.
But I couldn't wait until I was eighteen to do this. By then it would be far too late.
Sam and Teal'c had gone on a mission with SG-17. Jack couldn't go because he was still healing from his bullet wound. Five hours after they left, we got an emergency transmission from them. The situation with the native population had gone bad. They were pinned down and couldn't get through the gate. We lost contact when the gate shut down. We managed to contact them a while later and found out that they'd been captured and that some of them had received beatings. Every attempt to contact them since then had failed.
The video feed from the MALP showed that there were a few dozen natives guarding the gate, so sending a rescue team through was out of the question. The plan was to get hold of a Tel'tak so that a team could fly to the planet. The problem was that it would take three days for a Tel'tak to get there, and that wasn't counting the time it would take to get the ship. There was no telling what might happen to Teal'c, Sam and SG-17 in that time . . . if they were even still alive. I was so afraid that Sam and Teal'c were dead, that I'd lost them like I lost Mom and Dad. I barely got any sleep that night.
The next morning, I went to General Hammond, asking him to let me go through the gate to help rescue them. I knew that, with my abilities, I could help fight off the natives. I could lift over fifteen hundred pounds now, which would be more than enough power to toss around a few natives. I didn't want to hurt anyone. I just wanted to rescue my friends, my family. But General Hammond said no, that it would be too dangerous.
"Would you let me do it if I was an adult?" I asked him, getting upset.
"It would depend on whether or not a plan could be devised that would give the mission a reasonable chance of success. Even with your abilities, you would not be able to handle all of the natives that are in that village."
"But you're not even willing to let us come up with a plan because I'm only sixteen."
"Daniel, I understand how worried you are about Teal'c and Major Carter, but I simply cannot allow you to go. And you know that they wouldn't want you to risk your own life for theirs. I'm sorry, but that's my final answer."
After I left the general's office, I tried to figure out what could be done. Even though I'm not a trained tactician like Jack, I attempted to come up with some kind of plan to get past those natives, but every idea I got came right back to me being there to help. I knew how I could do it. I had it all figured out. I could even manage to do it without anyone going with me, because I knew that, once I got on that planet, I'd have plenty of help . . . just not human help.
You see, it turns out that I was wrong. I am Doctor Doolittle. Okay, so that's not really true. I can't understand what animals are saying, and I can't talk to them like Doctor Doolittle does, but I can communicate with them in a way.
It was the day after we got back from Idaho that I discovered this. Rambo, the Rottweiler that saved my life when I was kidnapped, was brought to the SGC for one of my visits with him, and I decided to use him for an experiment.
Ever since that stuff that happened with the wolves, I'd been wondering about how they knew that I was in trouble. Jack thought that they'd somehow sensed my fear across the distance, but I wondered if it was more than that. So, while I was playing with Rambo on the mountaintop, I did my experiment. I made him sit and stay, then I went to a spot where he couldn't see me, closed my eyes, and called to him inside my mind. At first, it didn't look like it was going to work, but then he was suddenly there. I had to make sure that it wasn't just because he didn't like that I was out of his sight, so I did it again, moving away just a few feet the second time. Within just a few seconds of me calling to him in my mind, he came.
The next day, I tried it again, only not with Rambo. I went alone back to the mountaintop to see if I could get wild animals to come to me. I discovered that, when I mentally called to them, they came to me almost right away, but if I didn't call them, they either didn't come at all or took a lot longer.
I wasn't talking to them with words. Instead, I was sort of broadcasting what I wanted them to do with mental pictures and emotions. I mean, when you think about it, what good would it do to talk to them with actual words? They can't understand English, now can they. This is reality, not some silly movie.
I didn't tell anyone about what I'd learned. I was afraid that if I did, the bigwigs would rescind their agreement to end my virtual prison sentence when I turn eighteen. I knew, however, that this ability could make it possible for me to save Sam, Teal'c and SG-17. The natives guarding the gate had both horses and dogs, and I could use the animals against them. Between that, my telekinesis, and the rest of my plan, I figured that I had a really good chance of getting past the natives guarding the gate and to the village, which was where we believed everyone was being kept prisoner. All I needed to do was come up with a way to get through the gate.
I know that a lot of people would call me foolish for even considering doing such a thing, but I couldn't just sit and do nothing as two people I love were possibly being hurt. By the time the Tel'tak got there, it could be too late to save them.
I had to do it. I just had to. If I didn't and Sam and Teal'c died, I'd never be able to forgive myself. It would be my fault that I didn't do everything I could to rescue them.
Putting the first step of my plan in motion, I went to Sam's lab. On the table was a Goa'uld shock grenade. Sam had been studying it to see if she could increase the size of the area that it would affect. It was in pieces, but, thanks to what she'd taught me, I knew how to reassemble it.
With my back to the camera so that it couldn't see what I was doing, I put the grenade back together, then slipped it into the small backpack I'd brought. Then I began moving about the room, pretending that I was aimlessly wandering. I managed to slip an infrared scanner into my pocket.
I returned to my office and hung out there for half an hour, pretending to work. Then I went to the infirmary and tricked Janet into giving me what I needed from her. I felt bad about that, but I had no choice.
I gathered a few more things I'd need, then, after getting dinner, I went to my quarters to try and get some sleep, but all I ended up doing was staring up at the ceiling. So, instead, I practiced using my telekinesis. I'd be using it in ways I never had before, and that was just what I'd be doing to get through the gate. Once I was on the planet, there was no telling what I'd have to do.
Was I willing to kill someone with my powers? There was no question that I had the ability to do so, but the thought of actually taking someone's life made me sick. I knew that while I was on SG-1 I probably killed quite a few people, but that didn't make the thought of killing someone any easier to take.
It was midnight when I left my quarters. I went to the commissary to get some fruit to take with me just in case, as well as something else I needed for my plan. Fortunately, no one was in there, so I didn't have to answer any awkward questions about what I was doing.
After dropping the fruit off at my quarters, I went to the video monitoring room.
"Daniel," Airman Seagate greeted. "What are you doing wandering around at this time of night?"
"Can't sleep. I'm too worried about Sam and Teal'c."
"Hey, they'll get out of this. After all, they're SG-1, aren't they?"
I nodded and held out a cup of coffee. "I brought this for you. I remember you telling me that you sometimes get sleepy when you're on duty here at night."
He took the cup. "Hey, thanks, Daniel. I appreciate that."
I handed him some sugar packets and creamers. "I didn't know how you liked it, so I brought these."
I watched as he added two sugars and one creamer, then took a sip. "Well, I'll let you get back to work. See you later."
I left the room, hoping that Airman Seagate wouldn't be too terribly mad about the sleeping pills I'd put in his coffee.
I went back to my room and started putting everything in my backpack, including the food I'd gotten. I changed into black pants and a matching T-shirt. And then I waited.
After giving the sleeping pills an hour to work on Airman Seagate, I returned to the monitoring room and peeked inside. He was snoring away in his chair. Knocking him out meant that I wouldn't have to worry about him setting off the alarm when I carried out the next part of my plan.
I went down to Level 28 with my backpack. As quietly as I could, I crept up the stairs and looked into the control room. There were only two people in the room, which was what I expected. I was about to find out how good I was at using my telekinesis.
I tore off two pieces of duct tape from the roll in my pack, then made them float across the room, keeping them low to the ground. Preparing myself, I sprang my attack. The duct tape flew up and sealed shut the mouths of the two very surprised technicians. Before they could remove the tape, I telekinetically pinned their arms to the armrests of their chairs. I walked up to them, and, using some more tape, bound their arms to the chairs, ignoring the look of shock in their eyes. After apologizing to them, I rolled them away from the console. I'd come to the trickiest part of my plan to get through the gate.
I typed in the address of the planet my teammates and SG-17 were on. As the gate began to dial, I went down to the gate room. Before the guards could do anything, I snatched their weapons away and tossed the guns across the room. Then I pinned the men to the floor.
"I'm really sorry," I said to them. "I wish I didn't have to do this, but I have to help Sam and Teal'c. They might die if I don't. Tell Jack and General Hammond that I'm sorry I had to do it this way."
"Daniel, don't do this," said one of the guards. "You're just going to get yourself killed. The major and Teal'c wouldn't want that."
"I'll be okay. I've got a secret weapon that nobody knows about."
At that moment, the wormhole finished connecting to the planet. I took the shock grenade from my backpack and went most of the way up the ramp. Turning on the grenade, I threw a pitch that I knew would make Jack proud. I then went the rest of the way up the ramp, took a deep breath, and, for the first time in my memory, stepped through the Stargate.
Jack and Sam had both talked about what a trip through the gate felt like the first time you did it. I'd been hoping that, though I had no conscious memory of going through, my body would remember and not be affected by it.
Whether that was the reason or it was something else, I felt fine when I stepped out the other side. Any thoughts about the thrill of the trip didn't last long as I was faced with a couple dozen men armed with bows and arrows. In the light of the campfires I saw around two dozen more lying unconscious on the ground, thanks to the shock grenade.
Before they could shoot at me, I telekinetically shoved all of them as hard as I could. There being so many, I wasn't able to push them very far, but it was far enough. I ran like crazy toward the tree line, all the while sending a message to the natives' horses and dogs. I guess they got the message because the horses began going nuts, kicking, bucking, and running around as the dogs started knocking down everyone who was upright, snarling and barking the whole time. I heard a lot of confused yelling, but I didn't take the time to watch the show. Instead, I hurried toward the village, my eyes gradually becoming accustomed to the darkness. I knew that the distraction of the animals wouldn't keep those men busy forever. They would come looking for me. When they did, I'd have to be ready.
I pulled out the infrared scanner and turned it on. As I continued through the woods, I kept checking the screen often. About ten minutes had passed when I saw that I had company. Seven people were on my trail.
I began gathering things from the ground, a rock here, a heavy limb there. And then I found a hiding place and waited. It didn't take long for the men to come into view. I waited until they were close enough, and then I attacked. The rocks and limbs went flying through the air to strike the men in the head. They all fell to the ground and didn't get up. I really hoped that I hadn't hurt any of them seriously.
I resumed my journey to the village, hoping that I'd be able to get there without something catastrophic happening.
I am going to kill that kid. Of all the foolish, lame-brained things Daniel has done, this tops them all, and that's really saying something. I thought for sure it would be impossible for Daniel to exceed the level of stupidity that he'd shown on a few occasions in the past when he was an adult, but I failed to consider that not only was this Daniel we were talking about, it was a teenaged Daniel, which would increase by a factor of ten the likelihood of him throwing out any common sense regarding his own health and welfare. You parents of teenaged boys probably know exactly what I mean.
I'm not the only one who's pissed. As part of Daniel's escape plan, he tricked Fraiser into giving him some sleeping pills, which she thought were for him. Instead, they ended up in Airman Seagate's coffee. I really don't think I'd want to be Daniel when she gets her hands on him for his next physical.
As for General Hammond, he didn't look like he was all that mad. He just looked really worried. I'm worried, too. Make that downright terrified. When I think about Daniel alone on that alien planet, surrounded by armed natives who would probably choose to just shoot him rather than capture him, it makes my stomach clench so hard that I almost feel sick. He's a sixteen-year-old boy who has no training and no knowledge that would tell him what to do in any number of dangerous situations he could encounter. All he has is a telekinetic ability that won't be nearly strong enough if he has to go up against a hundred or so natives. How can he possibly succeed and get out of this alive? For all we know, he might already be—
God, I can't think about that. It'll drive me insane.
Despite the fact that I'm royally pissed off at Daniel, I can't help but admire the way he managed to get through the gate. I wonder how long it took him to come up with the plan. Of course, without his telekinesis, it wouldn't have been possible. I have to admit that I'd love to have seen the look on the faces of those technicians when they suddenly found themselves gagged by duct tape that seemed to magically appear out of nowhere.
The shock grenade that the guards in the gate room said he tossed through the gate makes me feel a little better about whatever plan Daniel devised for what he'd do once he got on the planet. That grenade was a smart move and would greatly reduce the number of natives he'd have to deal with on the other side. But it wouldn't have taken care of them all. When Hammond and I first discussed the options for rescuing Carter, Teal'c and SG-17, we talked about using a shock grenade, but, according to the video feed from the MALP, the natives were spread out too far for the grenade to get them all. Only around half would be taken out, leaving at least a couple dozen to fill anyone coming through the gate full of arrows.
I knocked on the door of Hammond's office and heard him tell me to come in. Like me, he received the news of what Daniel had done via a phone call rousing him from bed. Also like me, he'd rushed to the base.
"What's the word on the Tel'tak, sir?" I asked.
"We'll be sending SG-3 and 11 to P19-736 to pick it up at dawn. Fortunately, that planet is closer to their destination than our original pick-up point was. It will take two days for them to get to M85-231."
"A lot can happen in two days, sir."
"I know, Jack, but, at this point, there's nothing else we can do."
"Still no response."
I frowned at the news. "Have you come up with any ideas on what Daniel meant when he said he had a secret weapon? I've been trying to figure out what he could be talking about, but I haven't a clue."
"I'm afraid not." Hammond gave a sigh. "I feel partly responsible for this, Jack. I can't help but think that I should have agreed to let Daniel accompany a team through the gate. At least then he wouldn't be alone."
"Sir, I'd have given Daniel the same answer. You couldn't have known that he'd do this."
"No, I suppose not. I just pray that we're not going to lose him because of it."
I stared at the village from my hiding place at the edge of the forest. I'd had to deal with two more groups of natives along the way, all of whom got the same treatment as the first batch. I knew that I'd been lucky. I'd caught the people at the gate off-guard. They couldn't have anticipated that a lone person would come through and somehow manage to get past them.
Seeing that the way was clear, I left the trees and crept up to the outskirts of the village. I was glad that there was no moon out.
I wasn't sure what time of night it was, but I could see that there were still people wandering around. That could be both a good thing and a bad thing. If I could manage to disguise myself as a villager, it would be a good thing since I could then walk around freely, and no one would question why I was out and about.
I peeked in a few windows until I found a house that looked empty. I slipped inside, glad that this society apparently wasn't big on locking doors. I found a hooded cloak and put it on. After stuffing all the things I thought I might need in my pockets and the pockets of the cloak, I hid my backpack and started looking for some kind of jail. This was the weakest part of my plan. I really had no idea where my friends were being kept. In the quick radio message that Sam had been able to broadcast after they were captured, she said that they were in a cell inside a building in the village, but that didn't mean that they hadn't been moved since then. I didn't know what I was going to do if they'd been taken somewhere else.
I wandered around the village, moving casually so that I wouldn't attract attention. I tensed up when I saw some armed men who appeared to be searching for me. I didn't know if any of the guys who were at the Stargate got a good enough look at me to be able to identify me, so I kept my face turned away from them. As I passed by them, I overheard what they were talking about. All the natives I'd knocked out had been found, and no one had been seriously hurt, which was a major relief to me. Some of the men had said that they'd seen rocks and branches flying through the air as if under their own power before they were knocked out. This coupled with what happened at the gate was apparently making some of the natives feel a little spooked.
I didn't relax until I was well beyond the sight of the searchers, then I picked up my pace.
I'd covered what I guessed was around three-quarters of the village and was starting to get worried when I saw a building with guards standing at the door. Unlike most of the other buildings, which were built with wood, this one was made of solid brick. That had to be it. The question was where inside that building were my teammates and SG-17?
Cutting through a side street, I went around to the back of the building. I noticed that there were very small windows with bars up at the top of the wall. The windows were around sixteen inches long and eight inches high, way too small for anyone to fit through, even if there weren't any bars. But they were big enough to see through.
I stood beneath one of the windows. Making sure that no one was around, I used my telekinesis to lift myself up. I'd done it before for fun, so I'd gotten pretty good at it. Once I'd reached the window, I took a quick peek inside. The cell was empty. After lowering myself to the ground I went to the next window and did it again.
I checked four cells that way. Some were empty, others had one or two natives in them. And then I got to number five. I almost cried out when I looked inside and saw Sam. She was alone, and I wondered where the others were. I decided to check the next cell over and found them there. Their captors must have separated Sam because she was a woman.
I heard someone coming and quickly hurried away from the jail. I hid in a doorway until the two people were gone, then I went back to the prison.
From what I'd seen, there were no guards outside the cells, but that could change if the guys searching for me decided that, to be on the safe side, they'd better increase the number of people guarding the prisoners. I would have to work fast. Thankfully, a whole lot had changed since the last time I attempted to do something like this.
For about the hundredth time, I went to the bars of my cell and looked out, hoping to see someone I could try reasoning with again, though I seriously doubted that it would do any good.
We had all thought that the meet-and-greet with the natives was going well. Teal'c and I had joined SG-17 because intel indicated that there was some advanced technology in the village, and General Hammond wanted me to take a look at it to see if there was anything worth trading for or if it was just junk. The latter proved to be the case. It turned out to be useless bits and pieces of things most likely left behind by whatever Goa'uld had brought the ancestors of these people to the planet.
We were on our way back to the gate when, suddenly, we were attacked by people with whom, just a short while ago, we'd been conversing cordially. Though we managed to make it to the DHD and dial out, we were pinned down by enemy fire and couldn't get to the gate.
We had very little cover, and there were a whole lot more of them than there were of us, so we had no choice but to surrender.
Since then, the natives had been demanding that we tell them where something called the Istriall was. We had no idea what they were talking about, so we couldn't tell them. All of the guys had received beatings, though nothing severe yet. Because I was a woman, the natives hadn't harmed me, but I knew that would soon change.
I wished that Daniel was here, the adult Daniel, that is. Chances are that he'd have been able to get everything straightened out, and we'd all be home. He had a way with people that I always admired. So many times in a crisis, he'd managed to make someone see reason or even forged a friendship with somebody who had been an enemy, like he did with Chaka.
A sound drew my attention to the back wall. I frowned when I saw cracks in the bricks, almost certain that they hadn't been there the last time I looked. My eyes widening, I watched as the cracks got bigger, spreading out in all directions. And then the bricks began bulging inward, chunks breaking off. Soon, there was a hole completely through the wall. I gasped as a face peeked in through it.
"Hi, Sam," said a smiling Daniel.
I hurried up to the wall and knelt down. "Daniel, what are you doing here?" I whispered harshly. "I can't believe that General Hammond let you do this."
"Um . . . we can talk about that later. I need to hurry up and get you guys out. Someone could come at any second."
Daniel quickly made the hole big enough for me to get through. He then got to work on the wall of the cell holding Teal'c and SG-17. I looked around, wondering where the rest of the rescue team was. I came to the conclusion that they must be keeping a lookout for approaching natives.
Teal'c and the others were as surprised to see Daniel as I was, but wasted no time in crawling through the hole.
"Where's everyone else?" asked Major Humboldt, the leader of SG-17.
"Uhhh . . . there isn't anyone else," Daniel replied. "I sort of . . . did this on my own."
We all turned to him in shock.
"You came through the gate all by yourself?" I nearly shrieked, keeping the volume down with an effort. "What were you thinking?! I can't believe you could do something so foolish, Daniel."
Daniel launched into a hasty explanation that also sounded like a plea for understanding. "They wouldn't let me come to help rescue you, but they couldn't send a team without me because there were too many natives guarding the gate. They were going to send a Tel'tak, but it would have taken three days to get here, so I . . . so I decided to come myself."
I was so tempted to tear into Daniel right then and there about how colossally stupid his actions were, but this was neither the time nor the place for it. But oh was he going to get it when we were back on Earth.
"Come on," I said. "Let's get someplace out of sight."
Just then, we heard a shout coming from inside the jail.
"I believe our escape has been discovered," Teal'c remarked.
We hurried away down a street as an alarm began to ring. I was desperately wishing that we had our weapons. I figured that the odds of us making it to the gate were a thousand to one.
Not even ten seconds later, I revised that estimate.
Three armed men appeared in front of us. Before they could so much as lift their weapons they went flying through the air to slam against the side of a building.
"Holy cow!" said Lieutenant Weisberg, his wide eyes going to Daniel. As for me, I was beginning to get some idea on how Daniel had managed to get here.
"Okay, I think we must be near the edge of the village," I said. "I'd say our best chance is to get to the forest, then circle around the village to the gate."
Daniel handed me something. "Here. I brought this. It kind of came in handy." I saw that it was an infrared scanner. I didn't ask where he got it. I knew it must have been from my lab.
The men retrieved the bows and quivers of arrows from the unconscious natives, though I doubted that any of them had much experience firing a bow.
We made our way to the edge of the village, keeping a lookout for natives. We had to deal with several more, most of whom were quite handily taken care of by Daniel. Maybe there was a chance that we'd get out of this after all.
From the shelter of a building, we looked out across the meadow that we'd have to cross to get to the forest. There was a large corral full of horses off to the right, but no sign of any humans. Unfortunately, that soon changed. A party of around twenty men suddenly appeared. They spotted us and began to fire their bows at us. Under a hail of arrows, we hurried away down the street and out of the line of fire, but we knew that the natives would soon come after us.
"Daniel, can you handle that many men?" I asked.
"Not for very long, not long enough for us to get to the trees."
"Then we have no choice but to cut through the village," said Major Humboldt. "We'll encounter more resistance, but it may be in smaller pockets."
"No, there's another way," Daniel said.
I turned to him to ask what he had in mind, but fell silent when I saw him close his eyes. A few seconds later, I heard the sound of horses neighing loudly. There was a crashing sound, like something made of wood being knocked over and broken apart. And then there was another sound, that of dozens of running horses. The sound grew steadily closer, and I felt the ground begin to shake.
At least sixty horses came barreling around the corner, heading straight toward us. They stopped around ten feet away. My mouth hanging open, I watched as Daniel ran up to them and rubbed a few noses. He turned to us.
"I hope all you guys can ride bareback," he said, then proceeded to get up on the back of one of the horses as if he'd done it a hundred times.
It being our best chance of getting out of this situation, the rest of us followed suit.
With us clinging to our mounts and crouching low over them so that we'd be harder targets, the entire band of horses took off down the street, thundering through the village like a moving earthquake. People ran in alarm from our path, armed and unarmed alike. The unmounted horses had surrounded us, their bodies acting as a solid wall of flesh between us and the men who'd shoot us if given an opening. There could be only one explanation for the horses' actions: Daniel was somehow controlling them. This was way beyond anything he'd ever done before.
In a very short time, we'd made it to the other side of the village. And then we were out in the open. The moon had come out, and, in its light, I saw that a group of mounted natives was after us. I called to Daniel and pointed over my shoulder at them. Seconds later, every one of the horses ridden by a native came to a very abrupt stop. More than one man went flying out of his saddle. I couldn't stop the smile that came to my lips.
Far faster than we could have made it by foot, we reached the Stargate. My heart sank at the sight of at least fifty men there. I wondered how we were going to get past them.
As we got closer and closer to the gate, the horses showed no sign of slowing down. I glanced over at Daniel and saw a look of determination on his face. Whatever it was that he had planned, I had a feeling that the natives would not be prepared for it.
Not swerving, the horses plowed into the midst of the natives, the men scattering to avoid being trampled. We came to a stop at the DHD, our equine protectors forming a barrier all the way around it and us as we dismounted.
As I hurried toward the DHD, I glanced at the MALP and, to my horror, saw that it was smashed, the video and audio equipment destroyed. I no longer had my G.D.O., and neither did any of the others. The natives took them along with everything else after they caught me talking to Stargate Command on my radio. We had no way to contact the SGC and tell them that it was us, which meant that they wouldn't open the iris.
"Daniel, the MALP has been destroyed, and we don't have a G.D.O. We have no way of sending the IDC to Stargate Command."
"It's okay. I have my radio. I brought it just in case." He pulled it out of a pocket and handed it to me.
The radio was given to Daniel by Colonel O'Neill when he was ten. The two of them had fun radioing each other from different spots on the base, pretending like they were in a mothership, surrounded by Jaffa and in search of a Goa'uld they'd been sent to take out. I joined in after a while, and even Teal'c got in on the fun. Lieutenant Colonel Ferretti had volunteered to play the part of the Goa'uld and performed a very dramatic death scene when Daniel 'shot' him. Though the radio was government property, I now realized that we never got it back from Daniel. It was a good thing that we didn't.
Somewhere beyond the horses protecting us, I could hear the natives yelling and trying to get to us. A few human cries of pain led me to believe that the horses were objecting. And then I heard a cry of pain that did not come from a human. I looked at Daniel and saw his eyes widen in horror. Then, before any of us could stop him, he ran off into the midst of the horses.
The scream of a horse in pain was still ringing in my ears as I hurried to where I'd heard the cry, horses moving out of my way at a mental command from me. There was only one horse left between me and the natives when I saw what had been done. One of the horses had been shot. It lay still on the ground, an arrow in its neck, and the man who shot it was lifting his bow to shoot another horse.
"No!" I screamed. I shattered the bow and threw the guy back twenty feet. I turned toward the other natives just in time to see several of them fire at me.
In the instant before the arrows would have hit me, my mind instinctively reacted, shattering them in midair. Fury burning inside my brain, I focused my power on the natives' bows. Every one exploded into bits. Judging by the cries of pain, I think I might have also broken a few hands.
For a second, anger over the death of the horse and what these people had done to my friends made me want to do more than just break a few hands, but the part of me that knew it would be wrong to seek revenge took control.
At that moment, the gate activated. I heard Sam calling my name frantically.
The horses cleared a path for me, and I ran back to the DHD. Sam was on my radio.
"Stargate Command, this is Major Carter. Come in," she said into it.
"Major Carter!" called General Hammond's voice. "What's your situation?"
"We've escaped, sir, thanks to Daniel, but we don't have a G.D.O., and the MALP is out of commission. We need you to open the iris, General. I'm not sure how long we'll be able to hold off the natives, even with the, uh, help we have."
"We're opening the iris now, Major. Come on through."
We made it all the way to the platform with the horses shielding us from the natives. As we ran up the steps, I ordered the horses to go back to their corral after we were gone, wishing them a final goodbye and a thank you. And then we were running though the event horizon.
Both Jack and General Hammond were in the gate room when we came out the other side. By the expression on Jack's face when he looked at me, I knew that I was in for it. But, at that moment, I really didn't care. Sam and Teal'c were safe, and we'd all made it home.
"Are there any injuries?" the general asked.
"Nothing severe, sir," answered SG-17's leader. "They gave us guys a beating or two, but it wasn't bad."
"All right, all of you go to the infirmary, except for you, Daniel. Colonel O'Neill and I wish to speak to you."
Uh oh. Yeah, I was going to get it all right.
As the others left, I went with Jack and General Hammond to the general's office.
"What the hell did you think you were doing?!" Jack shouted the second the door was closed.
"I didn't have a choice!" I shouted back. "You wouldn't let me help rescue them!"
"And so you decide to go running off to do it all by yourself?! You could have been killed, Daniel, or did that thought not enter your brain?"
"I don't care! If I didn't go, then Sam and Teal'c might have been killed, and it would have been my fault because I didn't do anything to save them!"
That shut Jack up. He just stared at me after that. It was the general who spoke next.
"Daniel, though I understand why you felt the need to help your teammates, what you did was very foolish. You were one lone sixteen-year-old boy against hundreds of natives."
"No, I wasn't alone."
"What do you mean?"
"I had help from the animals."
"I can talk to them," I said. "Well, no, not really talk to them, not with words, and I can't understand what they say to me, but I can sort of communicate with them. It's hard to explain."
Jack frowned at me. "Daniel, when did you find out you could do that?"
"After we got back from Idaho."
"You didn't tell us."
"I was afraid that if the people in charge knew, they wouldn't let me go off base after I turned eighteen."
Jack and General Hammond shared a long look.
"All right, Daniel," the general said. "We're not done with this conversation, but, right now, you need to get over to the infirmary for a checkup."
"I'm okay. My head doesn't even hurt from all the times I used my telekinesis."
"Nevertheless, it's standard procedure for everyone coming back from a mission to receive an exam."
I didn't think it would be a good idea to let them see me smile at that remark about a mission, so I hurried up and left.
My first mission. Well, okay, not really. It was just my first mission since being downsized, the first one in my memory. It also wasn't an official mission . . . or approved. But it was still a mission, one that was a success. We were all safe and back home.
But then I thought about the horse that got shot. It died protecting me, just like the three other dogs with Rambo that attacked the men who kidnapped me. The difference was that I didn't ask the dogs to protect me. They did it on their own. Those horses were there because I told them to be there. That horse would still be alive if I hadn't.
The exam included an MRI, which I was told was done to make sure I didn't have a symbiote in me. I wondered why they thought that was necessary even on missions that had nothing to do with the Goa'uld.
Janet asked me a lot of questions about how much I used my telekinesis and whether or not I got even the smallest of headaches while everything was going on. I could tell that she wasn't happy with me either, and I wondered if I'd be subjected to a round of "vitamin shots" as punishment. I apologized to her about the sleeping pills.
At the debriefing, Sam, Teal'c and SG-17 talked about the meeting with the natives and how it suddenly turned bad.
"Do you know what the Istriall is that they were talking about?" I asked.
"No, they never said," Sam replied. "Whatever it was, it must have been pretty valuable to them."
"I wonder if someone decided to steal it because they figured that everyone would think you guys took it."
"That's possible. The people who questioned us didn't want to believe that we had nothing to do with it going missing." Sam smiled slightly. "Ironically, I was wishing that you were with us to talk to them. You might have been able to convince them that we didn't take the thing. You were pretty good at things like that."
That made me wonder if I could have just gone through on a diplomatic mission instead, through the natives probably wouldn't have been interested in listening to a sixteen-year-old.
Once the others got done telling their story, it was my turn. I could tell that everyone was surprised about all the things I did, especially the stuff about the animals. Sam asked a couple of questions to get more details about how my communication with the animals works.
"It sounds like some form of telepathy," she said, "though I have no idea why it only works with animals."
"Are we sure it only works with animals?" Jack asked. "Daniel's never actually tried with people."
Sam shrugged. "I suppose he could give it a try."
I tried to talk to Jack the same way that I do to the animals, but it didn't work.
"It may have to do with the differences in the human brain," Sam said. "Or perhaps animals are simply more receptive to telepathic communication. Regardless, it really is amazing."
We continued the debriefing. When I got to the part about how I used the horses to get us all out of the village and to the gate, I saw Jack smile.
"Well, that's certainly a unique method of escape," he said.
I thought again about the horse that was killed, and my gaze dropped to the table.
"Daniel, what's wrong?" Sam asked.
"They killed one of the horses."
"A native shot one of the horses. He was going to shoot another one, but I stopped him. Then I destroyed all the bows."
I felt Sam's hand lay over mine. "Oh, Daniel. I'm sorry. I know how much that must be upsetting you."
"I should have broken all their bows when we first got there. Then everything would have been fine."
"Daniel, give yourself a break," Jack told me. "You're sixteen years old and have no memory of doing anything like this. You couldn't be expected to think of everything."
General Hammond nodded. "Well, I think that's enough for tonight. We all need to get some rest." He looked at Sam, Teal'c and SG-17. "Since I'm guessing that none of you got any sleep, I want you to take tomorrow off and relax. That goes for you, too, Daniel. No working tomorrow. Understand?"
"Yes, sir." I said. Now that it was all over, I was really getting tired.
I went straight to my quarters. I didn't even bother getting dressed for bed. I just stripped down to my boxer shorts and collapsed on the bed.
I woke up nine hours later, my stomach rumbling. After taking a shower and getting dressed, I went to the commissary for some lunch.
Throughout the meal, people kept staring at me. I bet that everyone was talking about me, the crazy kid who went running off by himself on a foolishly dangerous mission. Yeah, I could just imagine what they were saying.
That's when I saw Airman Seagate. I hadn't expected to see him so soon, thinking that his shift wouldn't be starting until later. I immediately lost my appetite. I knew I had to go apologize, but I didn't know what I was going to say.
Gathering up my courage, I went over to his table. He looked up at me.
"I'm . . . I'm sorry I drugged you," I said. "I only did it because I had no choice."
I was expecting him to yell at me or, at the very least, give me a lecture. Instead, he laughed. Totally surprised, I stared at him.
"So, what did you put in my coffee?" he asked.
"Uh . . . some pills I got from Janet. She thought they were for me. I told her I didn't think I'd be able to sleep. I sort of . . . gave you a little more than she told me to take."
"Well, whatever they were, they sure did work. I haven't slept like that in years." He got a big smile. "You'll have to excuse me, though, if, the next time you offer me a cup of coffee, I turn it down."
I smiled, too. "I can understand that." My smile went away. "I need to apologize to the guys who were in the control room and gate room, too. I really didn't want to do those things, but there was no other way I could get through the gate."
"I'm sure they all understand, Daniel. You were looking out for your team, just like an SG team member should."
After finishing my lunch, I went to my office to write my report. I knew that I always wrote a report after a mission when I was an adult, so I figured that I should this time, too. General Hammond and his superiors would probably want to have all the details on what I did on the planet. I didn't really know what the correct way to write a mission report was, and I didn't have access to any of the reports I wrote when I was an adult, so I'd just have to do the best I could.
"Hammond told you not to work today," said a voice from the doorway. I looked up as Jack came into the room.
"I'm not working. I'm writing my report."
"You're not required to write a report, Daniel."
"I know. I just thought that General Hammond might like to have one."
Jack rolled one of the chairs up to my desk and sat on it. I wondered if I was going to get the lecture that I'd known I would get sooner or later.
"You do realize that what you did was utterly foolhardy, don't you?" Jack said. "I'd put the stupidity level all the way at the top of the scale."
Jack's words really stung. "I didn't think I had any other choice. I was afraid that something terrible would happen to Sam and Teal'c if they weren't rescued right away."
"And what about something terrible happening to you, Daniel? In all your planning, did you not consider that even once? And what about how Sam and Teal'c would feel about it? Did you honestly believe that they would want you to put your own life at risk for them?"
"No, I know they wouldn't, but . . . but I had to go. I could just do nothing."
Jack sighed and shook his head. "You are exactly the same as you were before. This hasn't changed you one bit."
I stared at him. "What do you mean?"
"You did stuff like this all the time when you were an adult, risking your neck to help people, even people you didn't know from Adam." He tugged at a lock of his hair. "You see this? You did that. There was nary a grey hair on my head before SG-1 was formed, and I had to deal with your complete disregard for your own safety. I'd hoped that growing up with a new set of childhood experiences would change things, but I see it didn't. I'd also hoped that this facet of your personality didn't form until you were an adult, but I now think you were born with it."
"I'm sorry," I said, feeling ashamed that I'd made Jack worry so often.
Jack's eyes caught mine. "Daniel, do you have any idea how scared I was when I found out what you did? During every minute you were gone, every single minute, thoughts were running through my mind about you being killed."
My gaze dropped to the desktop. I was feeling worse by the second. I hadn't really thought about how worried Jack and everyone else here would be.
"I haven't told you about Charlie."
I looked at Jack. There was something in his voice that I'd never heard before. "Who's Charlie?"
What?! Jack had a son? "You have a son?"
"No, not . . . anymore."
"When Charlie was ten years old, he accidentally killed himself with my gun."
Oh, God. No one ever told me about this. Nobody ever even gave me a clue.
"I lost my son, Daniel, and it nearly sent me over the brink. I was so close to the edge. You know what brought me back? You."
"Yeah. It was on the very first mission through the gate. We didn't know anything about the Goa'uld, and the mission went south. Most of my men were killed. We'd have all been goners if we hadn't gotten help from some of the locals. I was all set to die, go out in a blaze of glory and end my misery. You know what you said to me? I still remember every word like it was yesterday. You said, 'I don't wanna die. Your men don't wanna die. And these people here don't wanna die. It's a shame you're in such a hurry to.' I couldn't get those words out of my head. They made me realize how pointless throwing my life away would be. They gave me a kick in the pants and the will to keep fighting."
Jack looked at me in the eyes. "I know what it's like to lose a son, Daniel. If I'd lost you, too. . . ." He didn't continue, and his eyes fell away from mine.
My throat felt tight, and my eyes were burning with tears. I realized now how irresponsible I'd been, not just with my own safety, but also with the feelings of the people who cared about me. If I'd been killed, Jack and everyone else would have had to live with the grief of my death.
"I'm sorry," I whispered, turning away from Jack. "I was just so afraid that Sam and Teal'c were going to die."
"I know you were, Daniel. We all understand that. But you have to remember that you have people who care about you very much, people who would grieve for the rest of their lives if you were to die."
I quickly wiped away the tear that fell down my face. I didn't want Jack to see me cry. I wasn't a little kid anymore.
I felt Jack's arm go around my shoulders, then, suddenly, he was hugging me. I hugged him back. He gave me a smile when we separated.
"I've been thinking that it's time we begin your training," he said.
"Yeah. Teaching you the military hand signals, survival techniques, stuff like that. Teal'c has been teaching you some Jaffa martial arts since you were ten, but I think it's time that we expanded your training to include what we guys in the U.S. Military learn. No weapons training, though. We'll wait on that until you're eighteen, which will be in less than a week."
I stared at Jack, wondering what the reason for this was. "Why do you want to do that?"
"So that, when you go on your next mission, you'll be more prepared. It isn't going to be all that long before that happens, you know. I talked to Hammond about this a while back, and he agreed that there was no reason to wait until you were your original age before we let you join SG-1 on missions."
I started getting excited. "Really? I was afraid I'd have to wait until after I started remembering being on missions."
"Nope. After all, when you joined SG-1, the only experience you'd had was that first mission, and you had no experience at all when you went on it. You're already going to be a lot more prepared this first time than you were that first time since you know what's out there. So, I see no reason why you can't join us on missions once you're twenty-two or twenty-three."
"Wow. I can't wait."
"Yeah, that's how I thought you'd feel. I'm glad you're happy about that because, now, we come to what your punishment is going to be."
My happy mood instantly vanished. I was really hoping that I'd get out of this without some kind of punishment.
"It wasn't easy trying to come up with one," Jack told me. "Obviously, we can't ground you. You're not allowed to go anywhere anyway, you don't watch much TV, and you don't talk on the phone or do any of the other usual things that teenagers do, so taking away any privileges like that would be useless. So, we're going to take away another privilege. No translations for the rest of the week and weekend. I think it's incredibly weird that not allowing you to work would be considered a punishment, but you're a strange kid."
My heart sank. I wouldn't be allowed to do any translations at all? "But what if something really important comes up that only I can translate, like something in a dialect of Ancient that nobody else here knows?"
"If we decide that it's something that can't wait, then we'll give it to you, but I don't foresee that happening. You're getting off easy, Daniel. I also wanted to ban you from your office, but Carter said that would make it harder for you to do your schoolwork. Oh, by the way, you can expect a lecture from her, too. She's also seriously ticked off that you pulled that stunt. You're lucky that she went home today. Otherwise, she might have already given you a piece of her mind."
I sighed. "Yeah, and I'm probably going to be tortured by Janet during my next physical."
"Could be." Jack got to his feet. "Well, I'll let you get back to writing that report. Run off a copy for me, too, okay?"
I got my report finished and gave it to General Hammond, then I took Jack's copy to him. I'd already emailed one to Sam. I also made one for Teal'c and took it to his quarters.
"So, are you mad at me, too?" I asked him.
"I am not. However, I am not pleased by the choice you made to go against the wishes of General Hammond and place your life at risk."
"But you told me that your son started helping Master Bra'tac try to convince Jaffa to rebel against the Goa'uld when he was around my age."
"That is true, but Rya'c had already received a great deal of training and was prepared for the dangers he would face."
"So, you're saying that if I'd gotten the same kind of training, what I did would have been okay?"
"No, Daniel Jackson. You were told by General Hammond that he could not allow you to go through the gate on a rescue mission, yet you chose to ignore this and disobey him. That showed disrespect toward his wisdom and his leadership."
I was horrified by what he'd said. "No! I respect General Hammond more than almost anybody!"
"Yet you chose to disregard his statement that you were too young to join a rescue mission, believing that you were correct, and he was not."
"No, I-I didn't think. . . . I mean, I thought. . . ." What was I thinking when I decided to go to the planet? I was thinking that General Hammond was too hung up on my age and was disregarding the fact that my paranormal abilities could give a rescue team a big advantage. I was being disrespectful.
Feeling utterly ashamed, I left Teal'c's office without another word and went to my quarters, where I really thought about the things that Jack, Sam, Teal'c and General Hammond had said about what I did.
When we all made it back home safely, I'd felt so good that my plan had succeeded, and I'd managed to rescue my teammates and SG-17, but the truth was that what I did was foolish and reckless, inconsiderate of the feelings of others, and probably not even necessary. Sam, Teal'c and the others probably would have been fine even if I hadn't gone. The natives probably would have just kept them locked up and not done anything to really hurt them. When the rescue team arrived in the Tel'tak, they could have easily gotten in, pulled everyone out, then been on their way without any problems. Instead, I came charging in and nearly got myself and everyone else killed. If it hadn't been for those horses, we wouldn't have made it out.
Was I this stupid and foolhardy when I was a real member of SG-1? How many times did I put the lives of my teammates at risk by pulling some stupid stunt? Jack said that I did things like this all the time when I was an adult. Maybe this was one of the reasons why he and I argued a lot. Maybe SG-1 would be better off if I never went on a mission again.
When a knock came on my door, I ignored it. I didn't want to talk to anyone. Dinnertime came and went, and, still, I stayed in my quarters, feeling sadder, and stupider, and more of a detriment to my team by the hour.
In the morning, I'd tell Jack that he didn't have to bother training me for anything, because I wasn't going to be a member of SG-1 anymore. Then no one would have to worry about me doing something stupid and dangerous ever again.
I hadn't been on base very long the next morning when Carter, Teal'c and I received a summons to General Hammond's office. When I got there, Teal'c and Carter were already there, and there was a frown on Hammond's face.
"Is there a problem, sir?" I asked.
"I'm afraid so." He handed me a folded piece of paper. "I found this on my desk when I came in this morning. It's from Daniel."
I read the letter, feeling my heart sink to a location down near my feet.
"Crap," I cursed.
"What is it, Colonel?" Carter asked.
"It's a request to be removed from SG-1."
"He thinks it's the best thing for the team, that he's a detriment to it. He thinks that we'll be better off without him, Carter."
I saw her eyes fill with distress. "But how can he possibly feel that way after all the times that we told him how valuable he was to the team and to the program?"
I tossed the letter onto the desk, suddenly angry again, this time at myself. I thought about what I'd said to Daniel yesterday. I told him that he'd been stupid and foolish, that he'd failed to consider the feelings of others. Not one word of praise had passed my lips over the courage he'd shown, his willingness to risk everything to save his team, his intelligence in devising a successful plan, and his ability to carry it out and remain calm in the face of danger.
After reading his report, I was amazed at how well Daniel handled himself. Sixteen years old, and he'd managed to single-handedly pull off a mission that a lot of twenty-year veterans could not have done better. And he'd done it all without taking a single life. The same probably couldn't have been said if a team had been sent to the planet in a Tel'tak. The ship wouldn't have had beaming technology, and the rings would have been of no use, which meant that the team would have had to land the ship and go in on foot to get the prisoners. Could they have made it all the way to the jail and back without having to take out any natives? Probably not.
The fact was that Daniel pulled off a highly successful mission that incurred no human casualties on either side, yet I was so fixated on the fact that he did something that could have gotten him killed that I didn't give him the credit he was due.
I told the others what I was thinking and saw realization dawn in Carter's eyes.
"We never even thanked him," she said, sounding upset.
"I fear that I, too, did not express admiration for the feat Daniel Jackson accomplished," Teal'c admitted. He told us what he said to Daniel yesterday, and I knew it was probably the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. As an adult, Daniel's self-image was never all that high, and we'd succeeded in crushing any pride he had in what he managed to accomplish. Couple that with his age and the emotional extremes that teenagers often experience, and was it any wonder that Daniel reacted as he did?
"We need to do something," Carter declared.
"Yeah, we do," I agreed. "Come on. Let's go talk to him."
I felt absolutely horrible. Daniel had managed to pull off a daring rescue that may have saved mine, Teal'c's and SG-17's lives, yet did we give him even one word of thanks? No. We were so hung up on the fact that he'd gone off and done something incredibly dangerous that all any of us thought of doing was telling him why he shouldn't have done it.
Daniel has always put the welfare of others above his own. He is the most selfless, self-sacrificing and compassionate person I've ever met. They're among the qualities that I most admire in him, yet when he once again exhibited those very qualities by going to that planet alone to rescue us, I got mad. Would I still have been that mad if he'd been an adult? No. Oh, I wouldn't have been happy that he'd put himself at such great risk, but I'd also have been grateful and admired what he'd managed to do. It was because of his age that I reacted like I did.
No, it was more than just that. Daniel being turned into a child had made me feel more protective of him. I'd always respected the adult Daniel's strength, his capacity to survive against all odds. Even though he was a civilian, I hadn't felt the need to protect him from all threats. I'd felt confident that he could handle himself well in a crisis. As time went on, and he became more proficient in the use of weapons, in being a "soldier," I'd gotten to the point where the fact that he was not a military man made no difference to how I acted toward him on missions. He was a teammate, equally as capable in a battle situation as Teal'c, the colonel and myself. I trusted him to have my back no matter what.
During the past weeks, I'd watched Daniel age from a small child, when he truly needed our protection, but he wasn't a little child anymore. He was only a few days away from being a legal adult and had already shown that he could stand up to a test of his courage and fortitude and come out a winner. I had to put aside the image of the child and show him the same respect and confidence in his abilities that I did when he was an adult. Daniel deserved nothing less.
Daniel wasn't in his office, and knocks on the door of his quarters went unanswered. The colonel wanted to use his keycard to override the lock, but I said that wouldn't be right.
"Daniel, if you're in there, please answer," I pleaded through the door instead. "We need to talk to you." There was no reply.
"I do not believe that Daniel Jackson is there," Teal'c stated.
"Then where is he?" asked the colonel. He went to a phone and called the checkpoints.
"How long ago?" he questioned a moment after calling the one that was at the door leading to the mountaintop. He then let out a low curse. I could faintly hear the man on the other end say something. "No, I'll be right up," the colonel said to him. "I'm sure it's fine."
"What's wrong?" I asked after the colonel hung up.
"Daniel left the mountain early this morning, barely after dawn. Someone else was on duty at the checkpoint then, and the guy who's there now didn't take note of the time that the checkout sheet said Daniel left."
I started to get worried. "Dawn? But that's three hours ago."
"Yeah, and it's not exactly warm out there. Come on. We need to find him."
A short while later, we were on the mountaintop, looking for our missing teammate. A search of the usual places yielded no sign of him. Fortunately, at this time of year, not many of the personnel came up there for a stroll, so Teal'c was able to find Daniel's trail. We followed it deep into the forest. We all grew concerned when it became evident that Daniel was traveling steadily downhill. He wouldn't actually descend the mountain and go away somewhere, would he?
That question was answered after we'd been on his trail for half an hour. We all stopped at the sight ahead of us. Daniel was sitting cross-legged on the ground, and he wasn't alone. A doe and fawn lay beside him. Several rabbits, squirrels and a few other small creatures were congregated all around him. Amazingly, there was also a fox, which was sitting in his lap like a dog and seemed to be paying no attention to animals that it would usually be hunting as prey. The nearest tree was covered in birds, and several more were perched on his knees and shoulders. With the exception of the birds in the trees, every one of the animals was touching him in some way, as if trying to bring some measure of comfort.
As incredible as the sight was, what struck me most was Daniel himself. He sat with head bowed, shoulders drooping. And he was crying. I couldn't see his tears, but I could hear his occasional sniffle. It tore me apart.
Just then, the animals became aware of our presence. The birds scattered, and some of the smaller animals ran off. Daniel looked up. Seeing us, he quickly turned his face away and wiped his cheeks.
By the time we'd reached him, all the animals were gone, the little fox on his lap being the last to leave after it bravely growled at us for several seconds.
Daniel said nothing as we all joined him on the ground.
"Daniel, we're so sorry," I said.
"You can't leave the team, Daniel," Colonel O'Neill told him. "We need you."
"No, you don't," Daniel whispered. "SG-1 is better off without me. I take stupid risks and put everyone in danger. If I hadn't gone to that planet, everybody would have been rescued in the Tel'tak without anyone's life being put in danger."
"What makes you think that? Do you think that the ship could have just swooped in, snatched everybody up, then flown off without firing a shot? Well, think again. The team would have had to land the ship and gone in on foot. Chances are that they'd have met resistance. And they couldn't have gotten everyone out of that jail the way you did. They'd have had to attack the guards and breach the front entrance. Once they were in there, they'd have been in danger of being trapped."
"And, by then, one or more of us may have been dead," I said. "There's something that we didn't reveal in the debriefing. The last time that the village leader talked to us, he made some threats. He said that, if we didn't talk, in the morning, it would be more than just beatings that we'd receive, and he made it clear that being a woman would not save me any longer."
"He intended to torture us," Teal'c said.
"You saved us from that, Daniel. You may have even saved our lives. When they couldn't get anything out of us, the natives might have killed one or more of us."
The colonel spoke up. "Daniel, what you did may have been irresponsible when it came to your own safety, but it was also very courageous. Every member of an SG team is expected to put the lives of their teammates ahead of their own, and that's what you did. On top of that, you managed to pull off a mission that not another person in the SGC could have done. You set out to do something, and you accomplished it with intelligence, courage and some pretty impressive tactics."
Daniel shook his head. "You're just saying that to make me feel better. You don't have to lie to me. I know I screwed up. What you guys said to me before was right."
It really upset me that Daniel thought we were lying to him. A denial was on my lips, but Colonel O'Neill beat me to the punch.
"Hey. You get one thing straight, Daniel," he said. "Since you were turned into a kid, not once have any of us lied to you about anything. We are not saying this just to make you feel better. We're saying it because it's the truth, and it's something we should have said yesterday."
"We messed up, Daniel," I told him. "We were so focused on the thought of what might have happened to you if things had gone wrong that we failed to even say thank you."
"For my part, I failed to extend to you the same respect and honor I would have shown if you had performed a similar feat when you were an adult," Teal'c stated. "Many times, you have defied the will of others to do what you believed to be right, and, each time, you accomplished things that helped bring success to a mission that might otherwise have ended in defeat or the deaths of many. I have always felt great respect toward you because of these things, yet I did not show you respect this time because your youth and my emotions altered my perceptions. And for that I am deeply sorry, Daniel Jackson."
"We're all very proud of you for what you succeeded in doing, Daniel," the colonel said. "We don't want you to leave SG-1. Without you, it just wouldn't be the great team that it is."
At last, Daniel lifted his head and looked at us, tears swimming in his eyes. That was the last straw for me. I sprang forward and engulfed him in a big hug.
"You are an amazing, wonderful person, Daniel," I whispered, "and don't you ever think otherwise."
"Come on," the colonel said after the hug ended. "I'm getting cold, and my butt's starting to hurt sitting on this hard ground. Let's go back inside and have a nice cup of hot cocoa before we start Daniel on his training. He'll be going with us on missions before we know it, and the more we can teach him before then, the better it will be." He stared closely at Daniel. "Right, Daniel?"
Daniel hesitated before replying. "Right, Jack," he then said, two little words that made me breathe a silent sigh of relief and probably did the same for Teal'c and Colonel O'Neill.
We all got up and started making our way back up the mountain.
"By the way, Daniel," I said. "I never asked you where you learned to ride a horse so well. I was pretty impressed."
"Oh, I started learning in Egypt when I was six. I learned to ride camels, too. The grandparents of one of my foster mothers had a ranch, and we went there several times, so I got to ride a lot."
"Yet another talent to add to your long and varied list," the colonel remarked. "Just don't ever try to get me up on one of those things. I had no choice but to ride on one of our missions, and that was enough for me. I'm lucky I didn't break my neck."
That comment made Daniel smile. "Well, how about some riding lessons, Jack? You never know when it might come in handy again on a mission."
I decided to get in on the fun. "He's right, sir. I know I was sure glad that I'd had some lessons when I was trying hard not to fall off the back of that horse."
"No thank you," the colonel responded emphatically. "Don't get me wrong. I like horses just fine . . . from a distance. Though I may act like a horse's ass on occasion, this ass of mine will never again be placed upon anything of an equine nature."
"If you say so, Jack," Daniel said with the tiniest of smirks, "but you don't know what you're missing."
"You know, Daniel. I think I can live with that."
As I entered the gym for my first hand-to-hand combat training session, I looked around at the other people there. They all smiled at me, and a couple guys even gave me a half-salute. Colonel Dixon of SG-13 paused as he passed by me.
"You are one gutsy kid, Jackson," he said. "You'd make a hell of a Marine."
I blinked in surprise and watched him leave, recognizing that, coming from him, that was probably the highest of compliments.
Smiling, I turned back around and walked up to Jack, who stood waiting for me on the mat. He studied my face closely with narrowed eyes.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"That peach fuzz is getting pretty thick."
I touched my cheek. I turned seventeen today, and my whiskers were getting pretty long. I should have started shaving a while ago, but I'd been putting it off. Though, in the beginning, it wouldn't be quite as often, once my facial hair growth reached full speed, to remain even remotely clean-shaven I'd have to shave two to three times an hour, a thought that made me shudder. How would I get anything else done? All my time would be spent shaving. I was seriously considering letting myself grow a beard.
Janet told me that I could try a depilatory cream or gel, which contains a chemical that dissolves the hair shaft. It would allow me to go up to four hours between shaves. I'd need to be checked for an allergic reaction first, though. She was going to talk to some dermatologists to find out which products were the safest and most gentle to the skin.
"Yeah, I'm putting off shaving for as long as I can," I said.
Jack smiled. "Well, I can certainly understand that." I saw something in his expression change.
He shook his head. "It's nothing."
"I think it is."
Jack let out a sigh. "I was just thinking about how fast the time has gone. Less than two months ago, you were four. Now, you're a man."
"Well, not quite."
"Daniel, you may not be a legal adult yet, but, in a lot of ways, you're already a man. I may not have thought about it that way before, but it wasn't a child who went alone to that planet and faced overwhelming odds to save the people he cared about."
I ducked my head. Jack's words made me feel good. His opinion of me was very important, more important than anyone else's. I wanted him to be proud of me. It had really hurt when I thought that he, Sam and Teal'c didn't feel that way.
Since yesterday, my teammates hadn't missed an opportunity to show me that they are very proud of me and respect the person I am. Sam has begun teaching me all the various hand signals used by the military, as well as Morse code and other things she believes I should know. Teal'c has stepped up my training in Jaffa martial arts techniques, saying that we would begin basic training with a staff in a couple of days. He's told me more than once that I'm doing very well.
And, now, I was here, ready to receive my first lesson in military hand-to-hand combat.
"So, you ready for your first lesson?" Jack asked. "I'll warn you now that your ass is going to be sore from all the times I plant it on the mat."
I grinned. "I think I can handle that, Jack."
Jack nodded. "Good. Then let's get started."
I stepped forward, thinking that, sore ass or not, I was exactly where I wanted to be: a member of SG-1.
THE END . . . until Part 12.