The Littlest Ancient by iiiionly
Major Paul Davis slaps the classified folder down, pauses to glance around at Carter, Teal’c and me, then turns to General Hammond who’s seated at the head of the table.
The General has his elbows on the chair arms and his fingers steepled together almost in an attitude of prayer.
That’s about what we’ve been reduced to over the past thirty-six hours - prayers of supplication.
For all our high tech gadgetry and over-the-top brilliance in the scientific field, nobody’s been able to come up with a way to reverse what’s happened to Daniel.
“We are still unable to get any of the officials who were in the room to confirm what happened, sir. But this,” Major Davis pushes the folder over to Hammond as he takes a seat beside the General, “certainly adds credence to the claims of this device being some kind of Fountain of Youth. Take a look at the before and after photos, sir.”
The General peruses the pictures carefully, slides them back in the folder and passes the folder to me.
Carter’s looking over my shoulder.
“There are six people in here, Major?” I glance across the table at Davis.
“The eyewitness who went in after Dr. Jackson also provided before and after photos, sir. You’ll note the difference in age is much less dramatic in his pictures than in any of the others. It seems to indicate time of exposure increases the effect of the device.”
“We still have no idea how the device works, Major,” Carter chimes in. “Obviously it physically regresses the individual, but does the regression terminate the natural aging process? Do we know if the regression in the other individuals affected their memories like it has Daniel’s? Do we have any idea how long the device had been activated?”
I prop my chin in my hand and watch the majors play mental ping pong across the table.
“Well, I suppose it will take awhile before we know if the device terminates the aging process. However, according to our source --”
“Does this source have a name?” Teal’c inquires stoically.
“He’s identified himself only as Officer Gonzalez,” Major Davis replies.
“Which would be roughly the equivalent of someone calling himself Officer Smith in this part of the world, Teal’c,” I throw in, just to keep a hand in the game.
“Go on, Major,” Hammond instructs, dropping his hands to the arms of the chair.
“As I was saying, sir, Officer Gonzalez believes he’s regained about five years. He reports no memory loss and does not think he was in the room above two minutes. From the other pictures, our experts believe it’s probable the average age reduction was fifteen to twenty years. In Dr. Jackson’s case, and we know he was in the room the longest, perhaps as much as an hour, he’s physically regressed thirty-three years. Were you able to deduce anything Major, from the testing you did on Dr. Jackson’s clothing?”
“Nothing particularly helpful. It appears the initial energy surge that tossed Daniel across the room was electrical in nature, as opposed to chemical. Those scorch marks are definitely electrical burns. If he’s the one who turned it on, he’s lucky it just pitched him against the wall. The charge appears to have been powerful enough to have electrocuted him if he’d been in direct contact with the device.”
“Just think, all this could have been avoided if he’d just kept his cottonpickin’ hands to himself.”
“Sir, he wouldn’t be our Daniel if he could resist temptation like that.”
“Yes, and he’d still be thirty-nine instead of six, Major.”
“Majordavis, we do not know if the other individuals, those who regained fifteen or twenty years, lost their memory?”
“No confirmation on that, Teal’c. As I said at the beginning, none of them are talking. Our source says all five are said to have taken a medical leave-of-absence. He believes the cover story will be they’ve all undergone cosmetic surgery of one sort or another.”
Teal’c passes the pictures back down the table. “What will happen to Danieljackson now, General Hammond?”
“I’m taking him home as soon as Frasier releases him.”
I’ve already cleared this with the General.
I had to fight Frasier for custody and she very nearly won with her argument Cassie would be company for Daniel.
Like Cassie’s ever home anymore since she’s at the Academy.
For cryin’ out loud! I’ll get him a dog if he needs company. And besides, what am I? Chopped liver?
“I meant,” Teal’c intones, “are we going after the device.”
That’s something we’ve only danced around so far and I’ve gotten the strong impression the General isn’t too keen on the idea of letting us go after it. I suppose if we were able to pull it off, we’d be the top suspects on the list. However, by refusing to acknowledge there is such a device, the Honduran government has basically given us every opportunity to take advantage of their thoughtfulness in providing such a perfect cover story. If there is no device, how can we have possibly stolen it?
“I think before we give any thought to pursuing that possibility, we need to exhaust all other avenues of returning Dr. Jackson to his appropriate age.”
“Sir, with all due respect, if we’re going to pursue this option, we need to do it quickly, before their government has a chance to bury this thing so deep we’ll never find it again. Right now there will still be a trail. If we let it get very cold, General, we could easily loose the option all together.”
“I understand, Colonel, and I understand your need for action right now, but in the long run we do Dr. Jackson no good if we lose more good men in the search for this device and I cannot put more people at risk. For the time being, at least, that discussion is tabled.”
“We have feelers out to all our allies as well.” Carter taps the pictures back into the folder and pushes it across the table to Major Davis. “The device must work on a similar principle to the sarcophagus and the device Daniel and Dr. Lee brought back last time.”
“Forgive me, Major,” I offer politely, “I was under the impression we’d learned squat about the Telchek device.”
“That’s not exactly true. We’ve learned quite a lot about it, just not how it works, sir. For instance, we know --”
“Spare me. The only thing I’m interested in right now is returning Daniel to his real age. Permission to get back to him, sir.”
“Go, Colonel. It’s obvious we’re not going to accomplish anything more here. Is Doctor Frasier still planning to release him today?”
“It’s a possibility, sir. But there are still some issues the doc wants addressed.”
If I didn’t know better, I’d think she’s stalling because she doesn’t get to keep him.
“He’s not responding, sir. I think we need to tell him his parents are dead. The doc says we can’t throw that at him without some lead time. We’ve agreed to disagree, but she’s holding the upper hand, sir.”
“How’s that, Colonel?”
“She’s the C.M.O., sir.”
“Jack.” Hammond isn’t amused.
“Sir, I believe if I can just get him out of here, he’ll come around. I mean think about it - until his parents died in that accident, Daniel lived an idyllic life. I really don’t believe he understands fear, sir. And that’s part of the problem. He’s frightened and he doesn’t know how to respond to being afraid, so he’s shut down.”
“You’ve discussed this with Doctor Frasier?”
“Yes, sir.” I could have made my point with just a slight hesitation. I don’t think it’s necessary at this point and I really don’t want to piss off Frasier.
“I’ll come with you, Colonel.”
Even better, I didn’t need too and I got the big guns anyway.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I know I’m right.
Frasier’s argument is nothing’s going to look familiar to him. This is a kid who’s been raised in the desert. He’s going to be familiar with sand and palm trees, people with olive skin for the most part, though I know his parents had people of all race and color working their digs.
I think she’s wrong, but like I said, she is the Chief Medical Officer.
I think the unnatural environment of the Mountain is as alien to him as our first trips through the Stargate.
He woke up on a military base, then woke up several more times, groggy and feeling like shit, to find himself being shuffled from plane to plane. This was not the trip you want to write home about. Then ultimately, he woke up on another military base, several levels below ground.
He doesn’t know which end is up. Is it any wonder he’s convinced he’s been kidnapped?
I think just seeing the sun would make a difference to him at this point.
Hammond and I have known each other long enough to be comfortable without small talk. It’s an elevator ride and a couple of twists from the conference room to the infirmary here at the SGC.
Frasier looks up as we breach the double doors, says something to Daniel, and reaches down to brush the hair from his forehead.
He turns his head away from her and she closes her eyes briefly before straightening as Hammond approaches the foot of the bed.
I go to the other side and lower the railing so I can sit down. “Hey, Sport. Had breakfast yet this morning? Or did you wait for me?”
“When are you going to let me go home?” he asks listlessly.
He would turn away from me if he could, except I always go to his left side. It still hurts too much to turn on his right side; you learn a thing or two by the time you get to be Colonel.
“Daniel, we’re doing our best to track down your parents, but we haven’t been able to locate them. I’m sure they’re frantic by now, they’re probably searching everywhere for you and we’re crossing paths trying to find each other. If we can talk Doc Janet into letting you out of here, would you like to go home with me? At least until we can find your folks?”
The kid turns his head, looks me straight in the eye, and says, “Why are you lying to me?”
I’m sucking air I’m so taken back, which naturally just reinforces his correct assessment. It never occurred to me a six-year-old would have the balls to call a spade a spade, but then, that’s our Daniel Jackson. Six, or sixty, he’s gonna call it like he sees it.
Obviously this, too, has been deeply ingrained in him from a very early age.
I close my mouth.
“Then maybe it’s time we tell him the truth, Colonel,” General Hammond murmurs. “Doctor?”
Frasier’s frowning, but she gets she’s been overruled. “Yes, sir.”
The blue eyes flit back to me, search my face, and fasten with morbid dread on my own eyes.
Whether he’s accessing adult Daniel’s memories or not, I can’t tell, but he knows already. He knew before we got on the first plane.
“All right,” I reach for his hands.
He offers no resistance and I have to swallow past the rock suddenly blocking my air passages.
“You’re right, Sport, I haven’t been exactly truthful. Your parents are dead.”
His hands are passive in mine.
He swallows hard, blinks, and two fat crystal tears slide down his cheeks. “They’re not in here anymore,” he says, pulling a hand free to spread his fingers over his heart.
I spread mine over top of his.
“I’m sorry, Daniel, I’m very, very sorry. It happened a long time ago, years and years ago.” I touch his chin, pick up his cold hand and close my fingers around it, oblivious to the other two still standing here. “I know there’s no way you can possibly comprehend that at the moment. You were involved in an accident yesterday that erased several years of your life, including all your memories of what’s happened during those years.”
He’s looking at me like I’ve lost my mind.
He’s six, for cryin’ out loud. In Daniel’s head it’s 1967.
Let’s see - had he been born and bred in America, he might have been exposed to Star Trek, Land of the Giants, or ‘Danger, Will Robinson’, the original version of Lost in Space.
I know he’s seen the remake. Teal’c happens to be big into science fiction.
However, it’s unlikely, having lived his first six years on various digs over Europe and the Middle East, he’s even been exposed to I Love Lucy, let alone sci fi.
Fortunately for me, inspiration strikes.
“For now, can you think about it this way? Imagine the evil god Telchek had imprisoned you in his dungeon for thousands of years, but you never grew old. Essentially time stands still for you. Imagine one day you break out of his fortress and you find outside the fortress time has gone on. The whole world has changed. Nothing’s the same anymore. The people you knew are all gone, the house where you used to live is nothing but ruins; heck, you may even want to excavate it it’s so ancient, when you accidentally stumble on it again.”
I give his hand a squeeze.
Okay, so he’s still looking at me like I’ve lost my marbles, but at least I’ve got him redirected into a less literal interpretation of what’s happened.
Eventually we’re going to have to explain everything.
I don’t think twenty-four hours out we’re going to get much coherence.
He closes his eyes, soundless tears flowing steadily as he rolls to his good side, toward me, and holds out his arms.
I gather him up as carefully as I can, mindful of his still badly-bruised body and snug him against me so we share one heartbeat.
I don’t have words or actions that will ease this monumental hurt he’s suffering. I can’t take away his pain, or even share it in any meaningful way.
I can be his safe harbor until the storm is past.
I have every intention of being his anchor when he’s ready to begin exploring this strange new world.
Peripherally, I’m aware Hammond and Frasier have drifted away. Mostly I’m focused on the small, warm, heaving body in the circle of my arms.
Predictably, when the initial storm is past, there are questions.
Some of them are relatively easy.
“What happened to them?” he asks, scrubbing his wet face with both fists.
“You remember the cover stone you were telling me about yesterday? The one that was going to get you a huge display in some world famous museum?”
He nods, lays his head against my heart with a sigh, and wraps both hands around my arm.
“You were right. There was a lot more than just a cover stone found on that dig. The New York Museum of Art won the bid to display the coveted artifacts Dr.’s Claire and Melbourne Jackson uncovered, including an extremely well-preserved tomb they planned to reassemble as the main attraction of the display. There was . . . an accident . . . during the reassembly. As I understand it, a chain broke . . . they were killed instantly. The important thing to remember, Daniel, is the last thing they knew, they were doing something they loved.”
And as I knew would be the case, some of them are not so easy.
“How come I didn’t die too?”
A sigh escapes me, despite my best efforts to hold it in.
The universal question.
“The easy answer to that would be you weren’t under the cover stone when it fell. But that’s not what you’re asking is it?”
I get a minimal head shake in response and another sigh out of him.
“I don’t have an answer for that question, Sport. I don’t even have a guess. But I can tell you I’m thankful you weren’t under that cover stone. Years later, when you were grown and came to work with me, you saved my life when I was very sad because I’d recently lost my own son.”
“How can that be?”
“See, there’s no easy answer to that question either. You’re just gonna have to trust me on this one. Maybe someday it will make sense again.”
“If they died, what happened to me?”
“Well,” I begin again, wanting to frame this as positively as possible, despite the fact I’m still pissed at Nick for abandoning this kid all those years ago. “You also mentioned yesterday your grandfather worked mostly in South America. He felt his dig wasn’t an appropriate place for you, that you needed to be in school, and he couldn’t do that. So he allowed the state of New York to take custody of you. Until you were about sixteen, when you moved into a college dorm, you lived with several different families who took in children temporarily.”
“Where were you?”
Since I’ve already been exposed for lying about his parents, guess it doesn’t matter now if he figures out how old I am.
“That would have been a little more than thirty years ago? I would have been eighteen, just starting at the Air Force Academy.”
“It doesn’t feel like it happened a long time ago.”
“I know it doesn’t, Sport.”
He’s quiet for a long time, then sighs heavily. “What’s going to happen to me now?”
Ahhh, the sixty-four million dollar question.
“For the immediate future, you’re going home with me. In the meantime, we’re trying everything we can think to get you changed back into the big you.”
“What if that doesn’t work?”
“What do you want, Daniel?”
Perhaps that’s not a fair question. I have to keep reminding myself he is only six.
But something happened to Dr. Jackson when he ascended; something I don’t think can be erased, or changed, no matter what else happens to him.
I once had the repository of the Ancients downloaded into my brain. Fortunately for me, the Asgards took it out, otherwise my head would probably have exploded. But because of that, I experience things from a different perspective.
Essentially, when Daniel ascended, the same thing happened to him, only on a much broader scale, and he was able to access it in a way I never could have. Whether they couldn’t, or just didn’t, take that from him when he returned to human form nine months ago, Daniel is now open to the universe in a way that’s hard to comprehend and even harder to explain.
The best I can describe it would be to say he understands things that to a mere mortal are incomprehensible, though not necessarily on a conscious level. It’s more an intuitive gift, if you will, that makes him more responsive . . . more . . . vulnerable, I guess . . . to life.
Now the last thing I need or want is a more vulnerable Daniel Jackson. But frankly, we’ll take him anyway we can get him. We’ve discovered, here in this universe anyway, a reality without a Daniel Jackson in our lives sucks big time.
So what am I trying to get at here?
All right, maybe it is unrealistic to ask a six-year-old what he wants, but I’m not asking just any six-year-old, I’m asking the Littlest Ancient.
In the multiple layers of connections SG-1 shares with Daniel, thanks to that download, I have an extra layer neither Carter, nor Teal’c, share with him.
It gives me just a smidge more instinctive understanding of where Daniel’s coming from – usually.
So when he sighs again, kneels up on my thigh, slips his arms around my neck and says, “I just want to go home,” I know what he wants.
And I can do that for him.
“Okay, buddy, let’s go home.”