was first published in the zine 'AG4: Recognition'
It was only as Daniel leant on the balcony's railing, the wood just starting
to warm in the morning's sun, and bent to sip his third coffee of the
day, that he noticed the dry cleaning tag was still pinned to his jacket
sleeve. With a sigh he tugged at it, deliberately trying to block out
the yells of frustration coming from inside the house.
Here on the decking - octagonal, richly red, hanging out over the treetops
of the valley below - Daniel could close his eyes and listen for the susurration
of leaves, the soughing of wind, the delicate cries of the birds that
were their only neighbours for ten miles south, thirty miles north across
the mountains. He could gather a measure of calm against the brewing hurricane
of the day ahead. He could try and still the voice that told him, in a
doleful monotone of doom, that this day, this wonderful, historic, shatteringly
important day, was sure to 'gang agley' the moment the television cameras
closed in on Jack doing bunny ears to whatever unfortunate delegate sat
in front of him.
"Daniel! Where the hell are my dress shoes!?"
The dry cleaning tag slipped from Daniel's fingers to flutter in the breeze
before descending in an elegant spiral to the forest floor below.
Oops, Daniel thought. There goes the neighbourhood.
"No, not in my - " the heavy sarcasm stopped. "Wait a minute." More muffled
bangs and thumps and then Jack huffed out into the sun to join Daniel.
"How did you know? Did you put them there?"
Daniel sipped his coffee. "Wild guess."
"Huh." Awkwardly, Jack hopped first into one shoe, and then, grabbing
Daniel for balance, the other. "Alright. I'm ready. You ready?"
For what? Daniel almost asked, but the pessimism that was filling him
didn't really belong here and he simply shrugged instead. Jack peered
"Okay. So what's going on with you, Mister Glass Isn't Even Quarter Full?"
Jack took an ostentatious breath of air and patted his chest. "Damn, that's
as good as any coffee. Best thing I ever did, buying this place."
Since Jack said something similar almost every morning, Daniel's response
was weary. "You didn't, I did, and coffee is sacred and therefore beyond
"Oh, yeah, you may have forked over the cash," Jack said, facing into
the morning, his eyes delighting in the line of mountains that embraced
them, the forest that softened the hold, "but who pushed you? Who told
you to go for it, to score one for the gipper, to make the final touchdown?"
"That and a dozen other sporting clichés. You, Jack."
"Exactly." Jack placed his hands down on the railing with a proprietorial
air and beamed. "So - you want to tell me what's made the lord and master
of all he surveys such a miserable suck-gullet this morning?"
Jack waved dismissively. "You know what I mean."
"Suck-gullet? Where do you come up with these things?"
"It's a gift." The smile gentled, became warmer. "I come from a long line
of O'Neill wordsmiths. Now what's going on, Daniel?"
Daniel sighed. For a moment his mind flashed onto the book he'd carefully
buried at the back of the cleaning closet a week or so ago - the latest
in the long line of Stephen Rayner's bestsellers. This had been the definitive
history of Stargate Command, a book launched in a firestorm of publicity
to coincide with today's first meeting of the Council of the United Worlds,
being held in the newly built Chamber of Planetary Congress. With the
billions of predicted television viewers - Coulson had said it was going
to be the biggest television audience in the history of humankind, and
why wouldn't it be? - and the opportunity for Stephen Rayner, head of
the archaeological and anthropological department of the SGC, to welcome
publicly for the first time all the Council representatives of Earth's
allies… Well, he'd be a fool not to have his book lining up in stores
all over the world to seize the most conspicuous moment of any human being's
career. And Stephen Rayner, as Daniel Jackson had learned, painfully,
over these last six years, was not a fool.
That book was at the heart of Daniel's disquiet. And as he'd gone to the
ridiculous lengths of hiding it under the toilet cleaning supplies in
order that Jack would never read it and become incensed on his behalf,
it was hardly something he could bring up now. So he shrugged and gave
a half-grin of his own.
"Nervous, I guess. A big day, Jack."
"Oh, yes. A big day. Very big." Jack nodded. "Immense. Stupendous. Gigantic."
"Definitely. Definitely defining." Jack paused, then gestured at the magnificent
view before them. "You know, we could just go fishing."
Daniel twisted slightly to see him better. "Fishing?"
"It's a nice day."
"We could go down to Gordon's place, throw in a line…"
"See what the fish are up to…"
Daniel gave a genuine grin. "Or…"
"Or," Jack conceded. "We could go and be on television."
"Shake Thor's hand."
"Thor! Yeah, you know he's about as buzzed as I've ever seen him."
"How can you tell?"
"I don't know. He's got a sort of - "Jack waved his hand, helpfully. "A
gray kinda glow to him."
"And George will be there."
"I saw Lotan last night. He sends his best. Did you know there's even
one of those Gadmeer critters onboard?"
"Really?" Daniel frowned. "How is it coping in the atmosphere?"
"Brings its own little sulphur bubble wherever it goes."
"Handy. Did you see Chaka there?"
A slight grimace from Jack. "You know he's still got that… problem…?"
"The - you know - the hygiene issue…"
"Oh. You think we should send a team with deodorant to Chaka's place?"
"Couldn't hurt." Jack adjusted his cuffs, squinting at the light reflecting
from the row of medals across his chest. "And then there's Lya. You've
always a had a thing for Lya."
"I did not."
"You so did."
"Oh, okay, what about Kynthia?"
Daniel shrugged. "So I believe, according to what Sam said."
"General Carter would know."
"Tuplo will be there, too."
"Narim. Who still waxes lyrical, I might add, about you figuring out that
distress signal and rescuing those Tollan butts after their little dustup
with the Goa'uld."
"We probably should - " and Daniel gestured back towards the house.
"The car will be here in about two minutes."
Daniel paused. "How do you know?"
Jack cocked his head towards the valley floor and the thin ribbon of road
winding towards them. "Saw it down there. So. How do I look?"
Daniel stepped back and considered the man before him. Sixty years old
now, but still trim and upright, the shoulders back with military constraint,
the face a little more lined, the hair almost all silver. And still dangerous.
Still knowing what lay beneath the surface of things, how to read the
world about him. There would always be, Daniel guessed, that glint in
Jack's eyes that told anyone smart enough to listen that here was a man
not to be trifled with. He felt an odd little flutter of pride, and said,
Jack puffed up a little. The man was so vain, Daniel thought with affection.
He opened his own arms, inviting inspection, and Jack surveyed him critically.
"Mister GQ. Stephen will shit the moment he sees you." At Daniel's frown,
Jack held up his finger. "Oh, that's right, I forgot. Doesn't matter that
this guy weaselled his way into Washington, kiss-assed his way into the
Stargate program, and sucked God knows what to become your boss, a situation
that lasted all of one day before you quit I might add. No, Daniel Jackson
is not bitter and twisted about Stephen Rayner, the Face of Stargate Command
because Daniel Jackson is not as human as the rest of us."
"What? You're saying I should be - what, jealous?"
"No, Daniel," and the teasing tone disappeared from Jack's voice and face.
"You should never be jealous of him. But you know, no one would blame
you if you felt a…"
"A - ?"
"A twinge. Each time he goes on Oprah. How many is it now? Five times?"
"Six." Daniel shrugged, trying to appear as dismissive as he wanted to
feel. "It doesn't keep me awake at nights, Jack. We have a good life here."
"You betcha. And we shall not for one moment hope Mister Stephen Rayner
falls flat on his face in front of billions." Jack straightened his perfectly
straight jacket and gestured towards the house again. "Shall we?"
The Chamber of Planetary Congress was a truly magnificent building. The
gold in the fifty-four thousand panels that lined its exterior surface
gave a soft shimmering effect to the dome, an effect highlighted, unbeknownst
to the public, by the hazy impenetrability of a Tollan designed defence
shield. The complex consisted of two structures - one, the golden Chamber,
and the other the public auditorium cum stadium linked by a path that
twisted between the two to shape an infinity symbol. In the interest of
cost effectiveness the stadium could be used for baseball in summer, ice
hockey in winter, but today it would hold one hundred thousand specially
invited and screened guests who would view the proceedings of the first
Planetary Congress by means of a giant holographic display in the centre
of the stadium.
The planning that had gone into this day had been immense - Daniel knew
that Paul Davis had come close to a nervous breakdown, scurrying between
continents trying to assemble the guest-list without starting major and
minor conflicts wherever he went - but no one could have planned the weather.
The sun shone with a blazing brilliance, and that was just sheer luck.
Because as spectacular as the Chamber was on a dull day, when the Colorado
sun came out in full splendour the Chamber dazzled.
Jack put on his shades as their official car crawled to a stop. "Look
at these people!" he said, shaking his head slightly. "You think they're
all going inside?"
The crowds stretched as far as the eye could see in any direction, and
"No. Most of the guests in the Chamber would be there by now, and there's
far too many out here to be in the stadium."
Jack gave him a light punch on the arm. "Guess they just want to be here,
soak up the magic." He opened the door, and gave him a grin made inscrutable
by the shades. "See you inside."
"Yeah. Break something." Jack needed to hurry - due to the television
coverage, all the Chamber members, seated on the central platform and
thus under the constant scrutiny of the cameras, were asked to present
themselves early in order to have makeup applied. Nothing was being left
to chance on this day of days, not even the complexions of the wannabe
Daniel followed more slowly out of the car, almost immediately being knocked
aside as the crowd, seeing the official car and then Jack in his uniform,
gave a howl of concerted recognition and rushed forward. Daniel heard
a muttered swearword from Jack and then watched in growing amusement as
the figure in blue ducked and ran, pursued by gasping women and cries
of "Colonel Jack! Colonel Jack!" The rank was the telltale sign; these
people recognised Jack from Stephen's book, where the adventures of Colonel
Jack O'Neill, Major Samantha Carter and Teal'c had been immortalised in
the public imagination. Daniel had to admit that Stephen had a way with
words; his book read like an adventure epic.
At a far more leisurely pace Daniel followed the glowing path, blue with
Arelian stones of exquisite design and colour, up to the main entrance.
He nodded to the guard at the front door and passed through into a foyer
of such astonishing beauty that for a moment his mouth dropped open. This
was the first time he'd been inside, and the traceries of stone that hung
like lace seemingly from mid air, reflecting all the soft colours from
the ceiling, were mesmerising. He was so transfixed by the glories wrought
by Xeranthan masons that he didn't hear his name until it was called for
the third time.
"General! Oh, I'm sorry!" Daniel reached out and shook George Hammond's
hand with genuine warmth, and was warmed himself by the honest affection
in his old commander's eyes.
"Daniel! You're looking well."
"So are you," Daniel said, sincerely; the burdens of command gone, a happy
retirement in Georgia commenced, and Hammond looked ten years younger
- and twenty pounds lighter. "It's good to see you."
"And you." George beamed. "Never thought I'd live to see this day, Daniel.
No need to tell you there were moments I thought we'd never live to see
the Earth secure. But it looks like we've done it."
"Looks like." Daniel gave a smile to the woman at George's side.
"Oh, allow me. Doctor Daniel Jackson, this is Denise McDonald, my sister
in law from Mobile. Denise - Daniel."
"It's nice to meet you, Doctor Jackson," Denise said, extending her hand.
"You're here for the festivities too?"
An inane opening, but Daniel knew all too well the rigours and pitfalls
of polite conversation, so he gave her a break and nodded. "I used to
work at the SGC with General Hammond. With SG1, as a matter of fact."
He had no idea why he added that last, and he knew almost at once that
it was a mistake.
"Ah. That must have been exciting." But the woman was looking at him doubtfully,
and her smile was becoming more brittle. "I declare, I have met so many
people today who say they used to work at the SGC, and not one of them
was mentioned in Doctor Rayner's book." She gave a light laugh. "I suppose
he'll just have to write another one. Have you read it? Sooo fascinating."
To his utter dismay, Daniel felt a blush begin to burn its way up his
cheeks. George's face, too, was turning red, but Daniel knew the man well
enough to recognise anger, not embarrassment.
"Well, all the personnel from the SGC have been given front row seats
for this ceremony, Denise." In an aside to Daniel, he added, "Apart from
anything else, it saved any arguments about order of preference for all
the national delegates." He raised his voice again. "So I have no doubt
you will meet many SGC people here today, my dear."
"I'm sure." Denise gave another false smile to Daniel. "Have you met Doctor
"Yes, yes I have." Daniel willed the blush to fade and kept his tone civil.
"I actually studied with him at the Chicago Institute."
"Oh?" Denise's tone was arch with sweetness. "Do you think he might sign
his book for me?" She pulled open her large tote bag and there Daniel
saw the cover he'd last seen squashed beneath the bleach in a darkened
cupboard, Stephen's face dimpling as it was framed in the 'Gate. "What
a pity he didn't mention you in his book, you being an old school friend
The resentment building in Daniel's gut faded away and in its place the
sardonic humour that had rescued him so often in the past began to surface.
"Oh, but he did."
George was simmering. "Denise, you don't know what you're - "
"He did?" Denise pulled the heavy book out and awkwardly turned to the
index. "Johnson, was it?"
"Jackson," said Daniel, his eyes telling George that he really didn't
mind. The woman fussed a little and then gave an exclamation.
"Why so you are. There's a footnote here, George, on page 13. Did you
really help Samantha Carter open the Stargate?"
Hammond gripped her elbow. "Why don't you go and get settled inside, Denise?
I think most of the Earth delegates are already on stage. You'd hate to
miss the start."
"Oh. Oh, alright, George dear." Denise clutched her bag. "Do I have the
"You have your ticket and security pass," George said heavily. She nodded,
gave a wave that would have been flirtatious in a woman thirty years younger,
and left. George expressed a harsh breath.
"I apologise, son. I don't know how my wife and she could possibly be
related. But the girls love her, and family peace demanded a sacrifice."
Daniel laughed. "It's fine."
"No, it's not fine." George's face was mottling again. "That book is a
damned disgrace! There's not a man or woman at Stargate Command who doesn't
know what the program owes you. Hell's teeth, what the good goddamned
planet owes you! You should sue the smug son of a bitch!"
"It really doesn't matter." But it felt good, nonetheless, to be reminded
that once upon a time he'd earned the respect of a man like George Hammond.
"I'm an archaeologist, sir. I know better than most that there have been
whole civilizations that have left nothing more than a footnote in history.
And we both know that there have been heroic men and women with no one
left to tell their stories, who didn't even get that much."
George looked at him, keenly, then nodded.
"You always were the best of us, son. I see that hasn't changed."
A new wave of red crept up his cheeks, and Daniel ducked his head. "We
both know that's not true, sir. I talked, and I was stubborn. They can
put that on my headstone."
A warning bell sounded, and both men looked towards where the stream of
people going into the Chamber was thinning.
"After you," said Daniel politely, and he and George followed them.
George disappeared inside, with a backwards nod towards him, and Daniel
stepped up to the security barrier. From there he could see into the Chamber
itself, and the vision was even more beautiful than in the foyer. Rows
of seats lead down to the central platform, which appeared to be carved
in its entirety from a single slab of pearly stone. More of the tracery
effect hung from the walls, and Daniel had images of cathedrals and Spanish
moss combined. As the person in front of him was scanned he looked up
at the domed ceiling. It was made of a porous mineral from P4X655 that
responded almost like flesh to the infusion of liquid; and as he watched,
the soft green was flooded with a darker hue until the entire Chamber
was glowing like a glade in the heart of a forest. One circle of stone
high above the central platform was left undarkened, and through this
streamed the glorious sun, a spotlight of such ethereal beauty that it
left Daniel awed.
On the platform itself he could see Sam, her hair a flag of silver in
the shaft of light, and beside her Teal'c's massive presence.
"Your pass, please sir," the guard said. Absentmindedly Daniel handed
it over, gaze leaving the delegates and sweeping up to the play of green
liquid through the veins of the stone high above the audience's heads.
"I'm sorry, sir, this pass is not current."
"Hmm?" With difficulty Daniel dragged his eyes back to the guard. "What?"
The guard held the security pass as he might hold a dead mouse.
"This pass is not valid."
"Um - well, that's just not true. I came here with General O'Neill." Daniel
could tell that really didn't help, but for the moment his brain was having
trouble grasping the problem. "My name is Daniel Jackson, I have a seat
with the SGC personnel in row 3, and I'm sure the pass is fine."
The guard swiped it again. Even Daniel could see the red button glowing
was not a good thing.
"I'm sorry sir, I'm going to have to ask you to step aside."
Daniel became aware of three people impatiently shuffling behind him.
His words of just one minute before - "I talked, and I'm stubborn" - reverberated
in his ear. One look at the granite of the guard's face and Daniel could
tell that neither attribute was going to help him here, and suddenly the
likely explanation came to him with a sickening rush.
Stephen! One last petty power play, and his own pettiness rose up inside
him in a wave of anger that demanded release in the kind of tantrum a
five year old would regard with kinship and pride. Daniel's leg twitched
with the urge to kick the guard in the shin and create a level of fuss
that would draw all eyes to him and his plight. If Stephen thought he
could get away with this - if he thought for one second that Daniel Jackson
would just roll over for this kind of malicious, vindictive, mean-spirited
bullshit, he'd -
"Sir? Step aside, please, sir."
He'd do nothing. How could he? This day was far too important for personal
grievances to disrupt, and Daniel didn't resist as he was firmly moved
aside to allow those behind him access to the wonders of the Chamber.
Sue him, George had said. But Daniel had known, even without the advice
of a lawyer, that Stephen had been far too cunning. Daniel's story was
all there, in the book; everything he'd accomplished, every adventure
he'd survived. But Stephen's wording had been beyond ambiguous - it had
disingenuously offered the suggestion that it had been he, Stephen Rayner,
a man whose modesty and commitment to national security prevented him
from stepping forward into the limelight, who had been such an integral
part of SG1.
'A certain archaeologist - and security reasons prevent me from mentioning
my own, or anyone else's name at this point - travelled to the alternate
world of P3R233, bringing back a message of such portent that without
it the world we know and love would no longer exist'. 'A certain archaeologist
managed to bring Lotan to an understanding of what his function would
mean to the Enkaran people and, at enormous personal risk, stayed on the
doomed ship in order to save two races of beings.' 'A certain archaeologist…'
The deep sense of disappointment that overwhelmed Daniel at that moment
surprised him. It was visceral, a sort of bone gripping ache that left
him feeling bereft and alone, a child at the door of the biggest birthday
party the world had ever seen and he the only one without an invitation.
Well, that was ridiculous in itself. Daniel gave himself a mental shake,
and turned towards the sunlight of the open park outside. There were billions
of people who were unable to be present for this moment. There were thousands
right here, milling about the buildings, wandering along infinity simply
so they could tell their grandchildren, "I was there." It didn't matter
to them whether or not they saw the thing firsthand; they were here, as
witness, as tribes had always gathered for momentous occasions throughout
the history of humankind. Who was to say Daniel's place wasn't here, with
And it was a fine sentiment, one whose merits Daniel could recognise;
but the frustration, and the feeling of alienation from all he'd once
been and had - the camaraderie of belonging to a close-knit field team,
the sense of purpose and common passion shared by every member of the
SGC, the access to wonders and dangers and thrills beyond the imagination
of most of the people now wandering about the stadia - was so intense
that it almost made it difficult for him to breathe.
He had been right when he said that he and Jack had a good life. Daniel
had spent the last five years writing an account of the languages of the
Furlings and Ancients. It would probably be read by a handful of people,
but Daniel had the solace of knowing that for that handful it would be
invaluable, the indispensable resource for future generations. Any academician
would admit to hoping to leave that kind of legacy, and Daniel was human
enough, Jack's accusations aside, to want that small achievement and glory
Jack had settled into semi-retirement with far more alacrity than Daniel
would ever have thought. He read, voraciously - another surprise. He hiked
and fished and hunted and proved to be a birdwatcher of immense patience.
His telescope was permanently set up on the balcony and the clearness
of the mountain skies, away from Colorado Spring's night-time glow, was
a blessing he recognised out loud almost every night. Daniel was discovering
a side to Jack he'd never suspected before, and it was as much a delight
to him as their ongoing relationship of niggle and swipe.
Retirement had its privileges and joys; but it also brought with it something
that Daniel had resolutely refused to face until this precise moment.
The world and its concerns had largely passed him by; and to feel discarded
in your early forties, your efforts forgotten, your work marginalised,
was a pill more bitter than he'd ever realised before this second.
A thunderous cheer emerged from the stadium to his right, and Daniel guessed
that Alec Coulson had stepped up to the microphone. Since its public revelation,
the Stargate program had used Coulson as a spokesman of sorts, and his
urbane charm had done much to ease the concerns of a world left to rationalise
religious dogma and isolationist hubris. Daniel suddenly realised that
being here, in the grounds of the Chamber itself, would be excruciating.
Not knowing how Sam would look and sound, taking the Oath on behalf of
the planet; not seeing all the various wonders of the guests as they beamed
down from Thor's ship, currently in orbit somewhere above the blue of
the late spring sky; not feeling the electricity of the moment in the
Chamber as the Congress was convened for the first time. He fished in
his pocket and came up with a billfold containing fifty-five dollars,
nowhere near enough to pay for a cab home.
Well, he could walk into the town's centre from here. A half hour would
see him in the main street, and the walk would do him good. Without another
thought he turned on his heel and headed for the anonymity of a city centre,
pushing his way through the enthusiastic crowds, burningly aware that
anonymity was already the one thing he had an abundance of today.
The trek was begun in petulance, but as he strode down the nondescript
streets of Colorado's outer suburbs he felt his mood shift and lighten.
It was a magnificent day. Nature had its own balms. And then again, Daniel
Jackson had enough experience of real tragedy to find perspective shifting
just beneath the surface of his ire. The thought of Stephen Rayner, even
now probably stepping forward to receive the rapturous applause of the
Chamber audience and beyond that, the world, would sour the most beatific
of men, but Daniel found a small wriggle of amusement begin in his belly.
Oh, dear, Stephen! What he had sold and perjured and lied about to bring
himself to this position. And even now, at the very height of his triumph,
he was still threatened enough by little ol' Doc Jackson that he pulled
a stunt like screwing up Daniel's security pass. What does it profit a
man if he gains the whole world but loseth his soul?
As he walked he passed by homes buzzing with expectation. Children were
herded inside, away from their games and despite their protests, to watch
the affair on television. Daniel sympathised with their howls; it was
far too nice a day to be spent inside watching grown ups spout on and
on. And it was precisely so that children could play, careless and happy
and cruel with the thoughtlessness that comes with no fear that he and
all the other members of the Stargate Command had risked their lives.
It was for just this; the small but well-tended gardens, the man swinging
his child up onto his shoulders, the woman scolding a puppy, the petty
problems and silly joys of every person on the planet. For the first time
in history, Earth had a place in the community of the galaxy. People of
Earth had stretched out their hands and helped others in need, finding
friendship as reward for sacrifice and their own security as reward for
risking it all. Who the hell cared who were the ones doing it? What mattered
was the world would bear the harvest of their efforts, and Daniel Jackson,
if he was any kind of man at all, could take his comfort in that fact.
Another, more pleasant surprise as gentle contentment spread inside him.
He'd never sought praise or recompense. He would always regret the loss
of those he loved. But that would be his only regret, and the vow though
silent was heartfelt as he entered the city centre and saw huge groups
gathered about television screens set up in the town squares. He glanced
at the screen, but saw beyond it a cinema showing 'Tomb Raider Meets the
Mummy'. Angelina Jolie versus Alec Coulson? No contest. With a secret
smile and no hesitation whatsoever, Daniel handed over fifteen of his
fifty-five dollars and wandered into the multiplex.
Above each delegate's seat was a small, floating, pearlescent globe. Sam
called them intergalactic conch shells, and with good reason. They had
been sent to Earth by the Nox, who advised their use as a means of engendering
more useful discussions - they remembered all too well the failings of
a young race. Each globe remained softly glowing white until a delegate
touched it, at which time it became golden and amplified the speaker's
voice. While a globe was lit, no one else's could be, and thus no-one
else would be heard. There were two catches, however; the globes remained
lit for only two minutes, and they could be used only twice by the same
speaker in any given session - ensuring all would be heard, but none could
monopolise proceedings. Rarity made speaking opportunities precious, and
words, tone and timing were to become accordingly well-considered.
Now all globes bar one were muted, appearing as if bubbles in a moonlit
wake, and the Earth delegates had all taken their places on the darkened
central platform. The crowd's murmurings had gradually softened until
a breathless silence had descended upon the Chamber, and all eyes were
fixed upon the solitary shaft of light that joined the only illuminated
globe at the midpoint of the platform. Into the light stepped a figure
known throughout the world as the man who had rendered the Stargate explicable
and therefore safe.
"Ladies and gentlemen," Alec Coulson said, and his voice resonated with
the gentle musical hum that accompanied any transmitted through the Nox
globes, "welcome to the Chamber of Planetary Congress. Welcome, too, to
all of you currently watching this incredible moment in your homes, your
places of work, on screens set up in parks throughout the entire world.
This is a triumphant moment for us all. Indeed, in the history of the
human race it is difficult to think of a more significant, more transcendental
point in time." He paused to let the gravity of the occasion work its
magic, then smiled, beneficently. "Very shortly you will witness the arrival
of our allies from over eighty different planets. That I can stand before
you and say that is in no small measure due to the tireless efforts of
the man I am about to introduce." Coulson's eyes crinkled in the way known
to weaken women's knees on any given continent, and he smiled more widely.
"Although, as they say, he needs no introduction. Please welcome to our
Chamber the man known as 'Doctor Stargate' - Doctor Stephen Rayner!"
The Chamber resounded to the warm, even feverish applause that followed.
The excitement that had been building for months had begun to crest, and
erstwhile sedate heads of state were shifting forward in their seats hungry
as schoolchildren for the sights about to unfold. The shaft of light dimmed
briefly, and then brightened again to reveal Stephen Rayner, clad in a
grey silk suit that seemed to shimmer along with the Nox globes and render
him a creature of the stars. He dipped his head, modestly, and the applause
rose as it was meant to. At last, as if bowing under the weight of their
approval and love, he raised his hands in mute supplication and the noise
died away. He touched the globe.
"Thank you, Alec. And please, let us hear some applause for a man who
has devoted billions of dollars to make this a reality - Mister Alec Coulson,
ladies and gentlemen!" The applause came promptly, the audience willing
and generous, but Stephen allowed no more than ten seconds of it before
he raised his hands again for silence. "My friends - because I feel that
at this moment, everyone on the planet is my friend, waiting with me for
the crowning glory of humanity's existence - my friends, what we are about
to witness is a manifestation of our destiny. We are about to take our
place amongst the rulers of the universe. Sometimes words are not enough
to express our feelings at times like these - although, in truth, there
never has been a time quite like this before, eh?" And the relaxed wink
that accompanied it brought a laugh, as the audience grabbed at his casualness
in the face of what seemed to them to be something quite overwhelming.
He dipped his head again. "If I have, in any small way, been a part of
bringing us all to this apex of human endeavour, then may I just say that
A brilliance flooded him, and then a collective gasp swept away his words
as the Asgard beaming device deposited eighty-four off world delegates
into their respective places interspersed amongst the Earth members. The
gasp was followed by exclamations - of joy, of amazement, of excitement.
It was as though a flock of brilliantly plumaged birds had suddenly descended
amongst a scattering of sparrows, and the immensity of the spectacle had
even the toughest despot or politician gripping their armrests in astonished
"Ah - er, yes, indeed," Stephen said, recovering well. "Ladies and gentlemen,
members of the Planetary Congress, I give you - the leaders of the free
peoples of the universe!"
A storm, a wave, a wall of applause. From the stadium next door came a
bellow that sounded kilometres away. The ceiling's membranous stone shifted
again to allow a myriad of spotlights to stream down upon the newly arrived
delegates and they stood revealed in their strangeness and familiarity
like gods of the ancient past. Many in the audience were sobbing openly,
the emotion too much for them to bear, and everywhere people shook their
neighbour's hand, or pounded their back, or embraced in the sheer wonder
of the moment.
Stephen Rayner stood silently, his arms open in invitation of the love
that was pouring upon them all, his gestures seeming to suggest that he,
too, was finding the magnificence of it all only just within his ability
to cope. Eventually, almost reluctantly, he reached for the globe and
reactivated its golden light.
"On behalf of the peoples of Earth, may I say 'Welcome!' You do us great
honour. I'd like to invite one of Earth's oldest and best friends, Thor
of the Asgard, to be the first to address this assembly." Stephen stood
back from the globe, and it dimmed, its purpose served.
Audience members craned their heads to see as the slight grey figure rose.
An elongated hand reached up and touched the Nox globe at its seat; and
then the vast majority of Earth's inhabitants heard an alien speak for
the first time. It was not what they expected.
"We cannot commence," Thor said softly. "There is one of great import
not yet here."
The Chamber became still for a thudded heartbeat, two; and then erupted
with a flurry of whisperings and shocked glances, everyone trying to find
the seat that remained empty as if it would give a reason for this dreadful
Thor's gentle voice continued, an echo of rebuke in its tone. "Where is
Daniel Jackson? He must be here! It is Daniel Jackson who is responsible
for earth's continued existence. More importantly, it is Daniel Jackson
who is responsible for much of the goodwill that exists here today. Daniel
Jackson must be here." He sat, and immediately a light turned golden across
the Chamber. The spotlight swept to this new speaker; a tall, impressive
man wearing a bizarre headpiece.
"Where is Daniel Jackson?" the man said. More mutterings, and now there
came a soft whump of sound that seemed to echo up from the earth itself.
It was the sound of three billion people simultaneously opening a large
book and flipping to the index. "I am Tupelo, of the Land of the light.
Daniel Jackson saved my daughter, when none - not even I - was brave or
compassionate enough to do so. Daniel Jackson must be here."
Stephen Rayner, his face grey, stepped forward and placed his hand upon
the central globe; it remained pearly and mute. Another globe goldened
"Where is Daniel Jackson?" It was the silvery voice of the Nox representative,
Lya, who stood in the soft glow as if a nymph from an ancient woodland
had suddenly come to life before them. "Daniel Jackson risked his life
to save my own when I visited Earth to speak with the people of Tollana.
His heart is good; he has opened it to the universe and the universe found
it pure. He should be heard. Daniel Jackson must be here."
Alec Coulson joined Stephen Rayner in thumping at the mid-globe and at
his touch it brightened again. He lent forward as if speaking into a microphone.
"Doctor Jackson is here… Daniel, if you'd like to come forward, it sounds
as though you have some friends to welcome." He gestured towards the inner
circle of seats, where the Stargate personnel had their places, and the
spotlight swept around it with increasing speed until it lit upon the
single empty seat. "Oh, dear. Well, it seems as though - ah, perhaps Doctor
Jackson had some other - "
Another golden glow, this time from the furthermost seats.
"Where is Danyel Jacks'on?" The contrast to Lya's charming sound could
not have been more distinct; this was the voice of a being all too many
of the delegates now in the Chamber would have dismissed as a beast. "Cha'ka
say Danyel our friend. Danyel speak for Unas. Danyel - here!"
Alec Coulson tried to speak again, but the globe remained unlit. The audience
could see him shrug to Stephen Rayner who looked as though he was about
to pass out.
A new voice; sibilant, breathy. "Where is Daniel Jackson? I speak for
the Oannes. I am Nem. Daniel Jackson endured great pain to find the truth
of my mate's fate; it is thanks to him that I am here today. Daniel Jackson
must be here."
"Where is Daniel Jackson? I am Narim, here on behalf of the survivors
of Tollana. Daniel Jackson rescued us not once, but many times, lastly
when we were but a group of refugees adrift in space. It is because of
him that you now have the defence capabilities you do. He taught us that
a young race could still be wise and honourable. Daniel Jackson must be
"Where is Daniel Jackson? I am Hedrazar of the Enkarans. Daniel Jackson
risked his life to save my people and the Gadmeer. Without his efforts,
one or both of our peoples would no longer exist. Daniel Jackson must
Somewhere a television editor, perhaps knowing that schadenfraude makes
for great viewing, closed in on Stephen Rayner's horrified expression.
An older man wearing a silver skullcap rose with immense majesty. "Where
is Daniel Jackson? I am Bra'tac; I speak for the Jaffa, free and enslaved
throughout the galaxy. Daniel Jackson recognised our humanity. He refused
to kill those enslaved by the Goa'uld even though he placed himself in
great danger to do just that. Many times he has travelled to planets seeking
out allies and offering friendship. Daniel Jackson must be here."
One by one the delegates rose, the details of their comments varying,
the underlying message the same. Those in the Chamber watched open mouthed
as the new and exotic allies from across the galaxy informed them of a
hero they knew nothing about.
Stephen Rayner tried to grab the globe from above General Samantha Carter's
head; her look was enough to freeze the movement. Instead she reached
her own hand up to bring it to life.
"Where is Daniel Jackson?" she said, and her voice rang out through the
vast Chamber with all the authority of the leader of Stargate Command.
"Daniel opened the Stargate for all the people of Earth. Time and again
Daniel was responsible for saving us and our allies. He has sacrificed
more and given more than any other man on this planet. Daniel Jackson
must be here." A sotto voce comment resounded in a diminishing echo as
she sat back down. "And would be if a weaselly little sonofaitch hadn't
apparently…" The rest was lost as the pearl dimmed.
Another speech in praise of the absent Daniel Jackson, and another; someone,
possibly from the Stargate personnel section, began a slow rhythmic clap
and others in the Chamber took it up, a percussive accompaniment to the
testimonials coming from the stage. Alec Coulson's sangfroid had deserted
him; he could be seen arguing vehemently with a technician at the foot
of the platform and gesturing towards the spotlight, as if suggesting
the techs should stop illuminating what was becoming something of an unpredictable
disaster. The man shrugged. The lights and the globes were interconnected,
a marvel of technology. No human hand was directing them at this point.
Thor stood again, and raised his arm. "Daniel Jackson must be here!" he
said. The clapping stopped. A moment of anticipation; and then there was
a shaft of brilliance, and a figure in a slightly crumpled suit appeared
blinking before the Congress. In one hand he held a large container of
Coke; in the other, a super jumbo sized container of popcorn. Or at least,
that's how he appeared for all of two seconds, before the shock of being
unexpectedly transported from the delights of twenty foot high Angelina
to becoming the object of scrutiny of the entire world impacted upon his
motor control system and both hands flew up into the air. The Coke flashed
in a brilliantly lit arc that crossed the platform and sprayed with elegant
inevitability onto the heads of three elderly delegates; the popcorn exploded
into a shower of fluffy yellow that descended in magnificent slow motion
onto the heads of twelve delegates on the other side of the platform,
including the President of the United States and Nelson Mandela.
And thus it was that the very first words heard in the Chamber of Planetary
Congress from this lauded paragon of human virtues were not exactly what
"Oh, shi -!"
"And here," Jack said, pausing the DVD with the remote as they re-watched
the ceremony, "is where you can see the exact precise second that Stevie
Rayner's head imploded in fifty parallel universes where they're smart
enough to let heads do that kind of thing."
"I can't believe you swore in the Chamber," Sam said, gently knuckling
Daniel's hair. He was sitting on the floor at her feet, and hoped that
at some point in this day he would run out of blushes.
"Hey, I got a great response from the stadium crowd," he muttered. Jack
saluted him with his beer.
"That you did, Daniel. The roar from there sounded like a Rose Bowl touchdown."
"I was not at all displeased to see Rayner's discomfort," Teal'c intoned.
"He is a kal'shak! It would be my great pleasure to disembowel him without
the use of a knife."
"Ewww!" Jack shuddered. "Do you always have to bring violence into the
conversation? Anyway, I don't think anyone needs to disembowel our Stevie
boy - he looks pretty well gutted to me."
"Hey, look," said Sam. "This is where you try and wipe off the Coke, Daniel.
Half of which landed on me, I might add."
"Was that a new suit, Daniel?"
"No, Jack, it was one of your old ones."
"Like hell!" Jack abruptly leant forward, peering at the screen. "That's
your old one. The sleeves don't seem to mop up Coke too well, do they?"
"Can we just - " Daniel gestured with his hands. "Fast forward all this?"
A chorus of "No!" and Daniel subsided again with a sigh. Beyond the television,
visible through the sweep of windows that lead onto the balcony, the sunset
was magnificent, touching the tips of the furthermost mountains with a
deep rose pink. Silhouetted against the colour were Narim and Lya, both
their guests for the night. Daniel wished he were outside with them where
the morbid curiosity that kept him pinned here watching the world's biggest
ever embarrassment couldn't manifest itself.
Onscreen Thor was stepping forward and taking one of Daniel's sticky hands
in his. The microphones couldn't pick up what was said, but Daniel's reluctance
to advance towards the mid-globe was easily discerned. After several exchanges,
and with drooping shoulders, he advanced and touched it. It glowed with
gold, awaiting his second speech in the Chamber.
"I'm - um, I'm sorry about…" He stopped, and frowned, and peered up and
around at the huge audience before him. "Um - I don't really know what
I'm doing here. My name is Daniel Jackson. I - uh, I was with the Stargate
program for a long time, and I had some pretty amazing - experiences,
I guess you could call them. Adventures, maybe. Anyway - " he breathed
out, heavily, and blinked about him again. "I guess Thor suggests I should
say something. I don't know why. Sam - um - General Carter, she's the
one in charge now, you really should listen to her. If ever there's an
award for single most brilliant mind on a planet, it should go to her.
She's pretty incredible.
"Or you could listen to Jack O'Neill. He's the guy who risked his life
for Earth again and again. We wouldn't be here if it weren't for Jack.
Or Teal'c. I mean, Teal'c gave up everything - his home, his family, everything
he was - in order to do the right thing. How many of us can say that?"
Daniel twisted on the spot, searching out his friends in the delegates'
ranks, only to be met with huge grins and shakes of heads.
"But if I had to say something - I mean, what I - okay, well, here's what
I really think. This is not a moment of triumph. Not for us." There was
a deep silence in the Chamber and Daniel frowned. "It's a beginning. A
humble first step." He looked down, gripping the podium. "We have much
to be ashamed of. We're not united as a planet, as a single people. We
still make lousy choices based on all the wrong reasons. How many children
have died today in your countries from diseases and hunger we can easily
avoid? How much of the planet was ruined today in your countries in the
name of mineral development and resource utilisation? How many of you
needed bribes and flattery and pleadings to be here because you thought
you were that important? The Nox" - he paused, and a smile lightened his
face - "they're right when they say we are very young. We're like the
toddlers of the galaxy. We haven't learned to share. We haven't learned
not to make a mess where we live. We fight with our brothers and sisters.
We lose our balance when we get excited. We can't play nicely, we have
no sense of restraint when we're angry, and we're so egocentric we think
the universe revolves around us."
The cameras sweeping the Chamber picked up shock and dismay on many faces
in the crowd. But understanding, too; and here and there a wry acceptance,
a nodding approval.
Daniel shook his head, slowly. "But here's the thing; we're like very
young children in other ways, too. We can love deeply. We want to be friends.
We can embrace strangers without prejudice. We can experience wonder and
joy and want others to have that too. We have a deep and abiding desire
to learn, a sense of curiosity that remains exceptional. There is no reason
for us to be slapping ourselves on the back here over a job well done
- it isn't, it's not even properly begun. But equally, there's hope, real
hope, for the human race to have the time and opportunity to grow up."
He shrugged. "We need to start doing that if we're to take our place in
this Congress with any kind of honour."
He looked down at his hands again. "Okay, well, that's it. This is pretty
incredible, folks. Let's not blow it."
There was silence - on the television, and in the living room high up
in the mountains. Jack's voice was sudden in the growing dark.
"Pretty incredible," he said, softly; and it was as if his words were
the signal for the storm that broke on the screen. Applause; wild, cacophonous,
incredible applause. It was applause born of relief, of a deeper recognition
in the souls of those gathered there that a human had stepped forward
and shown the humility and the heart that the occasion demanded. The puffed
up pride, the trumped up self-congratulations - they were out of place
here. Everyone present was wrestling with a sense of inadequacy, whether
they recognised it or not; everyone there was looking for the inner resolve
to meet the demands of being a citizen of the universe. And now a good-hearted,
plain speaking man, unheralded before the moment, had stepped forward
to show the way. The applause rang out, drowning out Daniel's astonished
"Oh", the swell of affirmation from the delegates as they rose with the
audience and added their voices to the sound of a world waking up.
Jack turned the sound down after several minutes.
"Damn straight," was all he said, and Daniel felt Jack's hand grip his
shoulder, while Sam cupped his hair and bent forward to kiss it. For bringing
a warmth deep in his soul it beat the hell out of all the well-wishers
who crowded around him after the ceremony, all the phone-calls from hundreds
of book publishers and movie producers the world over that jammed his
phone all afternoon until he switched it off.
"I didn't realise they - um, liked it that much," he admitted. Jack's
"Too lost in the moment?"
"Yeah. I was hardly ready for all that, you know."
"Huh." Jack's voice reflected an unmistakable leer. "Good thing you weren't
- you know - "
"All I'm saying," Jack said, raising his hands defensively. "Angelina's
got a hell of a hot body."
"Jack," Daniel said, suddenly squirming around to face his friend, "you
didn't arrange all this? Last night, when you went up to Thor's ship,
you didn't say anything..?"
"Me?" Jack looked put out. "As if. Why would I go to the delegates and
tell 'em you were being shafted, get 'em all stirred up? That would have
taken far too long and if you remember there was hockey last night. I
needed to get back." Daniel continued to glare at him suspiciously for
a moment or two before slowly settling back down.
"Jack, if I thought for a second you'd used the opening of the Congress
to score something over Stephen - if you'd hijacked that ceremony just
to humiliate him - "
"Not to humiliate Rayner. No, I wouldn't do that," Jack assured him.
"Well, good," said Daniel, slightly mollified.
"Besides," Jack added, his grin devilish in the growing dusk, "I wouldn't
want to put 'a certain archaeologist' on the spot now, would I?"
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