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Whispers From the Past
When the team members began pulling their packs on, Dara and Illam watched, backing up to lean against the wall of the cottage. Both faces broke into wide smiles when Sam and Casey held their hands out, beckoning the children to join them.
Dara skipped along beside Casey, Illam was walking between Jack and Daniel, attempting to match their strides. Teal’c led the way, taking a different way out of the city, one that didn’t follow the river, but led across the end of the field where the crash site was located. The largest of the pieces glinted in the afternoon sun, but if the children saw them, or even knew what they were, there was no outward sign.
There was no way to avoid the crash site completely. Following the bottom of the hill that they would have to climb, discovering that the ridge they had come down seemed to be the only accessible path, as steep as it was, Teal’c led the team back toward the churned up field.
Illam stopped once, holding his hand up to shade his eyes. He seemed to look from one end of the strewn wreckage to the other. Gave a visible shudder, and then reached for Daniel’s hand. A single tear made its way down the boy’s cheek, and his chin trembled. But he remained absolutely mute.
Dara had looked at the wreckage as well, but didn’t seem as affected. The team quietly discussed the fact that Illam had more than likely discovered his parents, either right after the crash, or soon after. No doubt he had made certain that his little sister had not.
"Illam, do you know where your home planet is?" Daniel asked as they walked along.
"It’s the fourth from the second sun in our system. There’s the big sun, and the little sun. The little sun is too far away to be of any use," the boy said, repeating what he had often heard grownups around him say.
"Does your planet have a name?"
"Bmyhad uv Kumt," Illam replied. "Gold Planet."
"Planet of Gold," Daniel said, translating for his teammates. Whatever the boy had said the first time must have been his primary language, the philologist noted.
"We’ll send a message to the Tok’ra, maybe they’ve heard of this place," Sam said.
"Good idea," Daniel nodded. "In the meantime, where do these kids go?"
"I think Teal’c’s idea of putting them with the Free Jaffa is a good one. We don’t know that their folks weren’t running from something, or someone. If they were, the Jaffa can protect them," Jack said.
"Indeed. There are several camps on five planets. If it is necessary, the children can be moved swiftly. There are those who lost their children to the Goa’uld. Their hearts would rejoice in the arrival of children in need of loving homes," Teal’c added.
Casey smiled. Well, that certainly cinched things for her. Peace washed over her, and she knew that it was exactly what needed to be done, for the children, as well as for those who would be their caregivers.
Dara had slowed down, and Casey glanced at her to determine the reason. "Oh, baby!" She knelt down to pull away several burr-like plants that were stuck to her ankles.
Further examination revealed that while Illam didn’t have any of the plants on his legs, he did have several scratches. Teal’c knelt down, and Jack helped the boy onto the Jaffa’s back. Daniel swung Dara into his arms.
"They never made a sound," Casey marveled, tears in her eyes. "I should have remembered she was barefoot!"
"Something tells me these kids have had it rough for longer than the time they’ve been here," Jack mused, lifting Teal'c's pack from the ground, looping one strap over his shoulder.
"Maybe their parents escaped?" Daniel suggested.
Casey tugged on her lip. "There was no way to determine if those pilots were male and female," she said softly.
Four pairs of eyes swung in her direction. "Radar?" Jack asked quietly.
"I’m not sure. From his reaction, I think that Illam was...close...to the pilots, or at least one of them."
"Maybe a father, and grandfather?" Sam asked. "The other pilot could have been a female...but if not, maybe an uncle?"
The seer shrugged. "I don’t know. I’m just seeing...war. There was a war. I don’t know where. It’s been going on for a very long time. Children...children are taught from a very early age not to cry, not to make a sound if they were...if they were traveling. They had to be very quiet." She shook her head. "That’s it...just a few very vague images and feelings."
"It’s enough, Angel," Daniel said softly.
"Let me know when you need a break," Jack said, falling into step behind Daniel.
It was difficult to climb the incline that led to the top of the ridge. Jack helped Daniel as much as possible, since his sense of balance was off with the added weight of the little girl in his arms.
Illam held tightly to Teal’c as the giant man struggled to move upwards. Sam and Casey were having troubles of their own, sliding back on almost every other step.
Jack was about to declare that they’d never reach the top, and that they were going to have to search for another route back to the Stargate when Teal’c pulled himself over the edge. He leaned down, offered his hand to Daniel.
It took another thirty minutes for Jack, Sam, and Casey to be close enough to be pulled over. Packs were dropped and opened, water was handed out and gratefully consumed.
"Should be easier from here," Jack said, wiping his face on the sleeve of his shirt.
"Cooler, too," Daniel said, still wheezing slightly from the exertion of the climb.
Jack picked Dara up, led the way into the shadows that hugged the lower branches of the trees. Illam was riding piggy-back on Teal’c once again. Daniel had grabbed Teal'c's pack, and dropped back to cover their rear.
A A A A A A
The trek through the forest was no easier than it had been on their arrival to the planet. The addition of the children, who needed protection from the bushes that were so prevalent, slowed the team down even more. The shadows began to deepen as the sun dropped lower in the sky.
Teal’c had dropped back, allowing Jack to make a path through the brush, Daniel carrying Dara once again. Sam and Casey watched their rear and flanks...always alert to any potential threat that might be looming.
The initial trek to the valley had taken the team a little more than two hours. Returning took three and a half. The sky was a cover of black velvet above them, dusted with the sparkle of thousands of stars.
The attached scope lights on P90’s guided their way, and they all gave a sigh of relief when the huge stone monument came into sight. Casey ran to the DHD, carefully cleaned off the collection of leaves and other detritus that had accumulated on it.
"Dial us home, Radar," Jack said quietly.
The ‘whoosh’ of the event horizon caused the children to jump, although both were grinning at what looked like water within the circle of the ‘gate.
Sam sent the IDC, and after the required ten seconds for the iris to be opened on the other side the GDO flashed 'All Clear', and the team moved forward.
Illam turned his head to look in the direction from which they had emerged into the clearing. "Goodbye, Poppy," he whispered.
Daniel’s heart lurched in his chest. How many times, to how many people, had the boy whispered goodbye? He reached up and patted Illam’s back, followed Teal’c into the event horizon.
Jack brought up the rear, pausing to look around one last time. His gut told him that the Prometheus needed to check upstairs. There was a ship up there, somewhere, he thought, his eyes scanning the night sky. A ship that held the answers to who these kids were, and how they had come to be alone on an empty planet.
A A A A A A
General Hammond was waiting at the bottom of the ramp when SG-1 came through. "Colonel," he said, as soon as Jack was halfway down the ramp.
"And who do we have here?" the general asked, nodding toward the children Teal’c and Daniel carried.
"That would be Illam and his little sister Dara," Jack replied. "They understand some trader language that Daniel managed to pick up. Seems there was a ship that crashed on that planet. Results were these two left alone, for about six months if what we found is correct."
General Hammond’s gaze shifted to Casey. Who lowered her head, her cheeks faintly pink. "I see. Get your check ups, and then we’ll debrief."
"Yes, sir." Jack led the team to the corridor.
When Casey was beside the general, she stopped, still staring at the floor. "I’m sorry, sir," she whispered. "I didn’t see them, I didn’t see the crash site, I didn’t even see the city! Just that stone, that’s all I saw!"
"Did you find the stone?" Hammond asked gently.
"Yes, sir. Daniel said that the text is exactly like what's on the pillars SG-12 found, and that one part of the ‘sign’ was in an Ancient dialect he understood."
"Then I don’t understand the need for any apologies."
Her head came up, her green eyes brimming with tears. "You’d think something as...important...as a crashed ship and orphaned children would have come through!"
"Perhaps whoever sends the messages, knew that you would find the children. The planet was on the list of scheduled missions," the general pointed out kindly. "I believe that it was just as important that Doctor Jackson find that stone."
"Maybe," she allowed, having forgotten that it was from the pile of MALP readings that she had found the planet where the stone wall was located.
"Your gift isn’t exact, Casey. No one around here expects it to be. However, it seems to work exactly as it should, giving us the information that we need in that moment," Hammond continued.
She gave the base CO a small smile. "Thank you, sir. Just wish I could pick up a few more of the important details."
General Hammond smiled. "You pick up what we need, Casey, and I for one am eternally grateful."
Her slight smile widened the tiniest bit. "Thanks."
He watched as she hurried out the door. He couldn’t even begin to fathom what the young seer experienced with each ‘download’. He did understand that her gentle, caring heart was often battered when what she...witnessed...and what could be done regarding that information were at odds. And that she had a tendency to blame herself for not seeing what she believed she should.
When the team stopped at the elevator, Daniel glanced behind him. "Where’s Casey?"
"She was right behind me," Sam said, turning to look down the corridor.
Just as the elevator doors opened, the blonde came running down the hall. Daniel leaned against the door, keeping it open. "Angel?" he asked quietly, noting how pale her cheeks had become.
"I’m okay," she replied, too weary both in body and soul to catch her ‘slip’.
Worried glances were exchanged among her teammates. "Radar, anything you need to share?" Jack asked nonchalantly.
"No reason. Just making conversation," Jack replied, watching as the numbers counted up as the elevator moved toward the twenty-first level.
"I just needed to apologize to General Hammond," she sighed, understanding that her teammates were curious as to why she had hesitated in the ‘gate room.
"Apologize? What for?" Daniel demanded.
"Because I didn’t see the crash site. Didn’t see them," Casey replied, motioning toward the children. "Because I didn’t see an entire freaking city. Just one wall, one stone."
"I think we already know that the stone was important," Daniel said. "It could hold the key for translating those pillars, and the documents I found."
"I know," she said softly.
"The planet was already on the mission list," Sam pointed out.
"I know that too," Casey said, giving a weak smile. "General Hammond reminded me of that as well. It’s just so frustrating...to see something that seems important, only to find out there was so much more I should have been looking at!"
"You see what you see, Case," Daniel reminded her gently.
"I know. I’m lodging a complaint," she sighed.
"You do that," Jack grinned. "And say hello to Miss Eloise for me when you do."
As intended, the quip brought a giggle. "Right. I’ll do that."
The elevator stopped, and the doors slid open. Jack checked his watch. "It’s just after ten. How about we hit IHOP after the briefing?"
"I could eat," Daniel said, watching his wife.
"Me, too," Sam said.
"Do you think they’d let the kids go with us?" Casey asked.
Sam ran her hand over Illam’s head. "We’d need to fix this first."
"Radar, it might be a bit much to toss them out into the world, even if they are with us," Jack reminded the seer gently.
She sighed. "You’re right. I guess I wasn’t thinking. Maybe we could bring something back for them?" Casey suggested.
"That is very doable," Jack agreed.
Satisfied, Casey slid her arm around Daniel’s waist. Smiled to herself when she felt him step closer.
Janet looked up when the team walked into the infirmary. "Well, I see you made a couple of new friends on this trip."
"Illam and Dara," Daniel said, putting the little girl on the closest bed. "There’s a bit of a language barrier right now."
"Well," Janet smiled at the little girl, ran her hand over the top of her head, "I think we’ll do okay, won’t we, sweetie?"
Dara smiled at the pretty lady. Looked at Casey, then Daniel, waiting to be told what she should do, or not do.
"Dara, this is Janet," Daniel said gently. "She’s a doctor, and she’d like to take a look at you. Is that all right?"
Dara nodded, smiled shyly at the dark haired woman again.
Janet smiled again, and gently began to run her hands over Dara’s jaws and throat. Took the stethoscope from around her neck, listened to the child’s heart. Then examined the scrapes and cuts on her ankles and feet. "Bring me a standard antisept tray," she told Jill.
"We didn’t even think about them being barefoot," Casey said, her green eyes reflecting her guilt. "We must have walked through thorns somewhere, I tried to be gentle when I pulled them out."
The doctor flashed a reassuring smile at the seer. "Several of the scratches are older...they’ve been there for a couple of days."
Jill rolled a cart to the bedside...laden with a bowl of clean water, a bottle of soap, a bottle of betadine, a tube of antiseptic ointment, and a box of bandages. Two washcloths and two hand towels completed the kit.
"Let’s get your feet cleaned up, and make certain you don’t get any infections," Janet smiled.
Daniel translated, wrapped his fingers around Dara’s small hand when she reached for him.
"If you want to sit beside her, that’s fine," Janet said, already washing one foot.
He settled himself on the bed beside the little girl, watched as Janet and her assistant tended those little feet. In a matter of minutes the job was finished.
Janet turned to Illam, who was standing between Jack and Teal’c, leaning against the colonel’s leg. "Your turn," she said brightly.
Dark eyes sought comfort from the man beside him.
Jack gave a lazy smile, led the boy to the bed across from his sister, and dropped onto it. Illam immediately jumped up beside him, wiggled around until he was posed in exactly the same way as the colonel. Casey and Sam began to snicker. "What?" Jack asked innocently.
"Any idea what happened to his hair?" Janet asked as she performed a cursory examination.
"Jack, Daniel, and Teal’c," Casey replied.
Janet raised an eyebrow. "I have clippers. We’ll have to cut it close so that it will all grow out evenly."
"If you’d seen him before we cut it, you’d understand," Jack groused.
"We did the best we could," Daniel added.
Jill had restocked the tray, brought it back to the bed where the little boy sat.
Illam had watched as the doctor took care of his sister’s feet. He never made a sound as the same thing was done to him, although he did reach out and slip his fingers beneath Jack’s. For his part, Jack made certain he didn’t draw attention to the action, just gently pressed his fingers against the boy’s.
Dara yawned widely. Snuggled against Daniel’s side.
"It was night, planet side," the archaeologist explained. "The day/night cycle there was about eight, maybe nine hours each."
"I’ll let the general know that the children are all right. For now, since they’re comfortable here, let’s just put them in bed. I can keep an eye on them," Janet suggested.
The team crowded around the beds, tucking the little ones beneath the clean sheets, Daniel explaining that although they had to leave, Janet would be there. Illam nodded solemnly, then smiled when Daniel promised to have a treat for them when they woke up. The nurses and med techs exchanged smiles when Casey began to sing a soft lullaby, her teammates remaining close, making no sign of leaving the infirmary until the children were asleep.
Assured that for the moment, the two would sleep soundly, the five submitted to their own examinations, then headed back down to level twenty-seven.
"We have to find clothes for them," Casey said, sliding her ID card through the scanner.
"Janet knows her staff pretty well, and who has kids; I can guarantee they’ll have clothes here this afternoon," Sam replied. "I’d even bet she’s already making phone calls about it."
When they stepped onto the elevator, Casey wrapped her arm around Daniel’s waist. "Do you think we could make a stop at Toy’s R Us on the way home?"
He smiled. "I think that can be arranged."
Jack had his hands in his pockets, leaning against the back wall, his head down. He glanced up and smiled when Casey put her hand on his arm.
"Are you all right?"
"Yeah, I’m okay," the colonel replied. "He just sort of reminds me of Charlie."
For a moment, no one said anything. Jack rarely spoke of his son. "I watched you with Illam," Casey said softly. "You were an awesome dad. It makes me wonder just what Charlie’s task was, that he was able to leave so soon."
Jack’s head jerked up, and he stared into green eyes. "What?"
She shrugged slightly. "We’re all here for a reason...there’s a purpose for our journey. Take you for example. You’re a protector. There are a lot of people who have needed your protection, still need your protection. Sam’s intelligence is adding to our knowledge of energy sources, viable ways of producing energy without fossil fuels. Who knows how many other people that knowledge will help, or even save? Daniel’s brilliant mind is unraveling mysteries of the past, to help guide us into our future. Teal’c is the hope of freedom for an entire race of people. Whatever Charlie’s task was, it was completed very quickly."
"His death was an...accident," Jack said, barely able to get the words out. "An accident that was my fault."
Casey shook her head resolutely. "No Jack, it wasn’t your fault. It was meant to be. If not in that moment, then soon...a car, a truck, a fall...he was ready to move on to the next level."
Not another word was said as the team walked into the briefing room, took their seats at the conference table. General Hammond noted the subdued air that hovered around the team. "Tell me what happened," he said quietly, settling at the head of the table.
Jack studied Casey for a moment. For the first time in years the band of pain that always squeezed his chest when he thought about his son lessened slightly. The seer had a unique way of viewing things, and considering her...connections...he wondered briefly just how many times what she said wasn’t the closest to The Truth that he was going to get. He couldn’t help but respond to the warmth of her smile. "It was interesting, sir," he said.
"It was quite a hike from the ‘gate to the city...which was where that rock wall that Radar saw just happened to be. Between us and the city was a crash site...Major Carter and Teal’c weren’t able to find any pieces large enough to give us any idea of what kind of ship it was," Jack said.
"Whatever it was, it was small," Sam said.
"Indeed," Teal’c nodded. "It appeared to be a small landing craft of some type."
"Landing craft?" Hammond asked.
"Yes, sir," Jack replied. "Chances are, there’s a ship in orbit above the planet."
"Tell me about the children."
"Found them as we were going into the city," Jack said. "Illam had a clock of some sort...it was broken...date was six months ago. So we’re assuming that’s how long they had been there."
"Apparently their grandfather was still alive," Daniel interjected. "He built a fire pit and a fire, taught Illam how to tend it, where to find roots that were edible. Before he died, he wandered into one of the houses down the street from where he had set the kids up, told Illam never to enter that building."
"He was aware he was dying," Hammond surmised.
"There were two pilots. I’m no forensics expert, but from the scene, I’d say one of them survived the crash, lived for a few hours," Jack continued. "As badly as that ship was torn up, how the old man and the kids survived is a mystery...unless they bailed before the crash."
"And the message for Doctor Jackson?"
"Well, sir," Daniel said, clearing his throat, "The stone that Casey saw was a sign...for the local library. The first section of text is the same as what was on the pillars that SG-12 located. However, the lower section is a dialect of Ancient that I’m familiar with. It’s possible that if the two sections say the same thing, I’ll be able to establish a key, and decipher the text."
"About the kids," Casey said, glancing at Teal’c. "We sort of thought that the Free Jaffa would be willing to take them. Wherever they’re from, those people are at war, and have been for a very long time."
Hammond looked from the seer to the Jaffa. "Teal’c, would Master Bra’tac agree to this?"
"Indeed. There are many Jaffa homes that are devoid of children because of the Goa’uld. To have young ones at the hearth again would ease the heart of at least one grieving mother."
"What about the language barrier?"
"They seem to understand and speak a basic trader’s language," Daniel said.
Again the general looked over at the Jaffa. "Do any of the Jaffa speak such languages?"
"There are several Jaffa who have learned to communicate with traders," Teal’c replied.
"Very well. I leave it to you to contact Bra’tac and discuss this with him. I suggest that you do so as quickly as possible," Hammond said. "From what you’ve told me, getting those youngsters settled into a home environment as soon as possible is exactly what they need."
Teal’c inclined his head.
"I’ll expect written reports on my desk by the end of the day." With that, the general gave a nod at the team, and returned to his office.
A A A A A A
Daniel was studying the tracing paper, comparing the lines of text, hoping that something would present itself, just one mark that would unlock the hidden meaning of the cuneiform. He translated the Ancient that he recognized, frowned at the ‘message’ the words formed.
‘Family is determined not by blood, but by love. For it is not the blood that flows through a heart that binds family together, but the love that fills it.’
Now why would that, lovely sentiment that it was, be carved on a stone beside the door of what could only have been a library...He frowned. Actually, the only books present had been behind the counter. There had been that very large, thick book...he needed to see the pictures that Casey had taken...
He sifted through the notes on the table in front of him, found the digital camera, began to sort through the images. His frown deepened. Each line of cuneiform was punctuated as if it were a list of...something.
He took a deep breath. Began a symbol by symbol comparison. There...he recognized that symbol, it was one of three that had seemed familiar to him. Step by step he worked on the puzzle.
A grin lit his face when he realized that he had a word. Head. Okay, it was a start. If that corresponded with that...and that symbol corresponded with that one...then this symbol must be the same as that one... "Holy shit!"
Casey looked up from her place at the desk. "What?"
"I think I did it," Daniel said softly.
"You’ve figured it out?"
"I think so."
"I knew you would," she smiled. Then returned to her own task. When he had completed the translations, she’d know it.
He carefully unwrapped the leather binding of one of the books he had brought with him. Symbol by symbol, line by line he began the tedious task of translating the marks on the page into Ancient. And then again into English.
Neither were aware that Jack had stopped by the office to remind them of the visit to IHOP...nor heard him as he complained to Teal’c that the two were identical in their ability to lose themselves in their work when absent replies were the only response they gave. Daniel never noticed the passage of time; barely looked up when Casey put a sandwich beside him, when hunger had finally driven her to the commissary. Never noticed when she refilled his coffee mug.
It was after six when he stretched, his back protesting after hours spent bent over the pages, tediously copying and transcribing symbols. "It wasn’t a library," he said quietly, his eyes still moving over the papyrus.
"It was a place for records."
"I think it was where they kept track of families...who was the head of the household, and the names of the people he...or she, I suppose some of these names could be feminine," he mused, "were responsible for. That’s the reason for the sign beside the door."
He glanced over at her. She was still working. "Casey, did you hear anything I just said?"
With a grin, and a shake of his head, Daniel walked across the office. Carefully moved long blonde silk to one side, began an assault on soft skin that had her squealing with surprise.
"Daniel Jackson! You just scared the bejeezus out of me!" she declared, one hand over her pounding heart.
"You didn’t hear a word I said, did you?"
Daniel chuckled. "I suppose turn about is only fair."
"So what did you find?"
He excitedly led her to the work table. Showed her the sheets of papyrus, the way the cuneiform was carefully written, explaining each line.
She picked up the sheet of paper than held the translation for the stone sign. "That’s beautiful," she said softly. "It’s true. Look at us...the team I mean. We’re more family than most flesh and blood relatives."
"That sign makes me wonder if the families listed here are families of the heart," Daniel said.
She ran her fingers over the ancient writings. "I wonder why they’re listed this way?"
"It might be for legal standing. Perhaps by registering, they were eligible for social programs. Or maybe it was just as simple as making certain that those listed as family were allowed the same rights as those related by blood ties," Daniel replied.
"You know, maybe this is a sign that we’re doing the right thing as far as Illam and Dara are concerned. They’ll be with a family who will love them, and protect them, take care of them...regardless of the fact that there won’t be blood ties," Casey said softly. "Family of the heart."
"Like our family," Daniel said softly. Two faces flashed in his mind...and older man and a young man...not related by blood, but loved just the same. "How would you like to go to Abydos?"
Startled, Casey looked up at him. "Abydos?"
"I have family there I’d like you to meet...and I want them to meet you," he said quietly. "I think you’ll like them."
She smiled, knowing exactly to whom he was referring. "I’d love to meet your family," she said.
He pulled her into his arms. "They’re going to love you."
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