A Slight Manipulation - Part One

"Unscheduled off-world activation!"
General George Hammond looked up from the report he'd been reading at the sound of the tense announcement and the accompanying klaxons. With a worried internal sigh, he quickly left his office and headed down to the control room. "What have we got?" he asked as he came to a stop directly behind the technician on duty, Sergeant Walter Harriman.
Harriman shot him a quick glance over his shoulder. "No IDC yet, sir," he responded. "No teams are expected back for another two hours."
Hammond nodded, and the personnel in the gateroom and the control room waited expectantly for another few minutes. Finally, Harriman's monitor showed some activity. "It's the Tok'ra IDC, sir," he announced.
"Open the iris," the general ordered after a brief moment of consideration. "Security teams at the ready."
With the guards prepared and in place, the metal shield that protected Earth's Stargate withdrew, and the light of the event horizon shimmered in the center of the alien device for all to see. There were a few more tense moments until, suddenly, four figures fell through the shimmering curtain and onto their knees on the ramp. Everyone's eyes widened when they realized it was four children dressed in plain white smocks with no shoes on their feet who had collapsed on their doorstep.
A boy with sandy blond hair that hung in his eyes looked up nervously and cleared his throat. "Um, he said we should tell you to close the iris," he said into the stunned silence, his blue eyes large and fearful.
When nothing happened immediately, the lone girl in the group brought her head up and glared up toward the control room window. "Daddy said close the iris!" she screamed, then curled in on herself and began to release fierce sobs.
Hammond ordered it done, and follwed it up with an order for a medical team to come to the gateroom. His eyes widened a little further when they took in the small brown-haired boy and the lean black child that completed the set on the ramp, the father inside him wanting to rush down and comfort the obviously distraught children. The military man fought down the urge and reached for the microphone that would allow him to communicate with the new arrivals. "Can you tell me who you are?" he asked, his tone firm but gentle. He needed answers.
The blond boy glanced at each of his small companions, then looked at the men who were still pointing guns at them. "Who are you?" he asked in return, his voice shaky.
"Yeah, who are you?" the brown-haired boy repeated a little more beligerantly, scooting a few inches closer to the child who had first spoken.
"I am General George Hammond, the commander of this facility," Hammond replied, finding it a fair question.
"Is it possible for your warriors to cease in their threatening of us?" the black boy asked, eyeing the soldiers warily.
The general nodded and ordered the guards to stand down. He was just about to repeat his question when Doctor Janet Fraiser and her medical team rushed into the gateroom. The petite woman took in the situation in a glance, and, with only a slight hesitation, slowly approached the frightened quartet, gesturing for the others of her team to stay behind. "Hi there," she greeted them gently as she knelt down in front of them. "I'm Doctor Fraiser. Would you mind if I looked you over, made sure you're not hurt?"
The four children stared at her, the girl's tears slowing down as she brought her head up. Finally the blond boy looked at the others then cleared his throat. "You people aren't going to hurt us, are you?" he asked, hope mixed in with realization.
Janet smiled. "Of course not. We just want to find out who you are, where you came from, and if you're all right. You coming here was quite a surprise."
"We... we were surprised, too," the girl whispered, wiping her eyes and brushing her long, pale blonde hair out of her face.
"We don't really know where we came from," the blond boy said regretfully. "In fact, we hadn't spent very much time together at all when we were rushed out of there."
"Why don't we talk about that later?" Janet said quickly after a quick look up at where Hammond still stood watching the scene unfold on the ramp. "For now, let me and my people take care of you and check you over. We'll take you to the infirmary to do that. Later, you can explain the other things to General Hammond and me. Will that be all right?"
The little girl's eyes widened. "Infirmary? Are we on a military base?"
Janet blinked and shot another look up at her commanding officer. "Yes, we are, sweetheart. Is that okay?"
The tiny blonde grinned. "Daddy works at a military base."
"It's okay to go to the 'firm'ry?" the smallest boy asked.
"It's like a hospital for military people," the blond boy answered, giving the brown-haired boy a tiny smile as he gazed down at him. "Doctors and nurses will check us out and see if we're okay." He looked the auburn-haired doctor in the eye. "Is that right?"
Janet smiled and nodded. "That's right. But before we go, can you tell me your names? That way we'll know what to call you."
She got a shy smile from the blond boy. "My name is Daniel Jackson," he told her.
Before anyone could register their shock, the other children chimed in. "I'm Samantha Carter," the girl said proudly. "My daddy's Captain Jacob Carter."
"Jack O'Neill!"
"I am called Teal'c."
There was a moment of silence once the introductions had been made. "Doctor, please take the children to the infirmary and run whatever tests you need to," Hammond ordered as soon as he had recovered from his momentary lapse of composure. "Let me know what you find."
With that, everyone went into motion, sweeping the kids away amidst their growing expressions of confusion.
* * * * * * * *
Small Daniel sat at the desk in the large conference room set up with four cots that he and the other children had been moved to after they'd been examined and questioned. He wished he could have told the adults what they wanted to know; it was hard to explain what you didn't understand yourself. All he knew was that his memories were fuzzy up until the moment he woke up in the middle of a strange machine, a large man with the symbol of the Phoenician god Melqart in the middle of his forehead glaring at him from beside a richly dressed man behind the controls. Daniel wasn't sure what the robe-bedecked man - who the boy guessed was a scientist of some kind - meant when he said the result was the closest so far to what they had theorized would occur, and no one here at the military base knew either.
The blond boy took in his companions. He'd only spent an hour or so with them in the room he'd been led to after refusing to answer the scientist's questions - the younger boy and the little girl had already been there, while the black boy had come in a while later - before the man the girl said was her father rushed in and took them to the huge stone ring that eventually brought them to this military base. Daniel was feeling a mix of emotions about the other children, one that was awfully confusing. On one hand, he would almost swear he'd never met any of the others before in his life. On the other hand, he felt an amazing connection to them, one that suggested he knew all three of them very well. As he couldn't see any reason to mistrust them, he had decided to go with his gut feeling, and do what he could to help and protect them. He just hoped the rest would make sense later.
The younger boy, Jack, was lying on the floor, coloring in a book he'd been given by one of the nurses. His light brown hair was unruly, and often fell into his brown eyes. He had a wide smile that seemed to bring out an impish twinkle in those eyes, and Daniel could see him getting into trouble on a regular basis. He wore a simple outfit of a black T-shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes that was similar to what the others had also been clothed in upon their arrival to the room. Thinking about it, it had felt good when Jack had edged closer to him, seeking protection as they stood on the ramp surrounded by people with guns. A strange inner voice said it was about time he could return the favor, but Daniel quickly filed the confusing thought away with the rest of the things he was hoping would sort out by themselves.
The black boy, Teal'c, sat cross-legged on a pile of pillows in a far corner, apparently trying to meditate. His course black hair was closely cropped, and his eyes were dark brown. His build was surprisingly lean and muscular for one so young. He'd been very quiet from the moment he'd been escorted to their room on the other side of the ring, only saying four or five things. Daniel wondered where he came from, and resolved to find out when the boy was finished.
That left the girl, Samantha - she'd told him to call her Sam on the other side of the ring - sitting at one of the tables pretending to read one of the books that had been left for them. Her pale blonde hair hung a couple of inches past her shoulders, and her eyes were a bright blue-grey. She'd been very sad before her father had pushed them through the ring. He could understand that; if his parents had made him go away, even if it was to save him like Sam's father said he was doing, it would make him sad, too. But when she had gone through without arguing and without crying, nodding her understanding when her dad had said he was working undercover and couldn't go with them yet, Daniel realized just how brave she was. He could only hope to be that brave someday.
It was that bravery that made the tears standing in her eyes so hard to bear. Making up his mind, Daniel stood up and went to sit next the little blonde girl. "Are you okay?" he asked softly.
She glanced at him and sniffed. "Yeah. My daddy goes on secret missions a lot, and that scares me sometimes, but he always comes home. He will this time, too."
"How old are you?" he asked, unaware of the other two boys staring at them.
"I'm six." Sam smiled suddenly. "Daddy was home for my birthday and everything. He gave me my Matt Mason doll." The smile faded as quickly as it had appeared. "I wanna play astronaut with him when he comes home."
Daniel reached out and laid his hand over one of hers, the book she'd been holding now lying flat on the table. "He'll come home, just like you said," he reassured her, giving her hand a squeeze. "He always came home before, so he'll do it again, I know it."
Sam smiled weakly at him. "Thank you," she whispered.
"My daddy goes away, too." The two children seated at the conference room table were startled by the younger boy's unexpected addition to the conversation. Jack wore a serious expression on his tiny face as he watched them from the other side of the table. "Mommy doesn't like it, but Daddy comes back. He says he'll get to stay all the time soon, and just fix the airplanes. I can't wait."
"How old are you?" Daniel asked him.
"I'm four." Jack raised his right hand with four pudgy fingers held up. "I'm a big boy now, Daddy said so." He cocked his head to the side. "What 'bout you?"
Daniel couldn't help but smile. "I just turned eight. My parents are putting together an exhibit for a museum in New York, but they took a day off to spend my birthday with me. They're going to start constructing everything any day now." He frowned. "Why couldn't I remember that before?" he murmured to himself.
Sam's brows creased. "What did you say?"
"Nothing," Daniel replied quickly, not wating to worry anyone.
"I, too, am eight years of age," Teal'c said as he silently joined the others. "However, I do not know if my years equate to yours."
"Our years?" Daniel asked, echoing the confusion of Sam and Jack. "What do you mean?"
"From what I understand from what I have heard the adults here discussing, this is not the planet where I currently reside." There was a moment of silence that the other children had no idea how to fill, then Teal'c continued. "I am a Jaffa," his expression twisted into one of barely controlled rage, "of the planet Chulak."
Daniel blinked while Sam and Jack just stared some more. "You're an alien?" Sam asked before Daniel could think of a more diplomatic way to phrase the question.
Teal'c struggled to get himself under control, although he wasn't completely successful. "On this planet, yes, I would be considered an alien. There are even those on Chulak that consider my mother and I to be so. My mother says that this attitude will change, however. We are all Jaffa."
"I take it you just moved to... to Chulak," Daniel asked. His confusion was quickly turning to excitement. He was talking to a real, live alien!
"It was necessary," Teal'c replied through gritted teeth. "We were no longer welcome in Lord Cronus' domain."
"Cronus? You mean the leader of the titans from Greek mythology?" Daniel asked, confused again.
Teal'c's eyebrow rose. "I speak of the System Lord Cronus. Have you not heard of the Goa'uld?"
Jack took a step toward the Jaffa boy as Daniel and Sam shook their heads. "What's the goolds?" the youngest child queried, his brows furrowed. "Are you gonna bring 'em to take over? Chris says aliens always try to take over when they come."
A second black brow rose to join the first. "The Goa'uld are gods that rule over many planets. If they knew of this planet I do believe they would come to impart their rule upon it. However, I will not be the one to bring them here to do so."
"Wait a minute," Daniel said quickly. "If the Goa'uld are gods like you said, why wouldn't they already know about us, about Earth?" He leaned a bit forward when Teal'c turned his head away, a muscle in the dark jaw twitching. "You don't think they know everything, do you? Something made you question that, didn't it?"
"I have reason to believe they are not perfect, to doubt they know everything," Teal'c said without returning his gaze to the others. "My mother says I should not think such things, that there is a reason these events have happened that only the gods can understand." The tick in his jaw grew more pronounced. "We will see."
Daniel shared a look with Sam as he sat back in his chair. "Well, there aren't any Goa'uld here," the boy said finally. "You can think about it all you want. Whatever you decide is all right with us." Sam smiled and nodded when Teal'c turned his head back in surprise.
Jack rushed over to the Jaffa and hugged him around his waist. "'m just glad you don' wanna take over. You're a good alien." Teal'c stared down at the smaller child, his expression showing how bewildered he was by such a show of affection. He said nothing even after Jack finally pulled away with a big grin for him.
Sam leaned forward. "Who's Chris?" she asked Jack.
Jack's smile turned into half-grimace, the way only a small child and sibling can do. "He's my brother. He's five." He held up his right hand again, this time with all five pudgy fingers spread wide. "He watches movies at the theater with Daddy and Gabriel and tells me 'bout 'em. Mommy won' let me go yet."
"Gabriel's another one of your brothers?" Daniel asked, fighting back a smile.
"Uh-huh," Jack agreed, nodding. "He's..." The tip of his tongue stuck out of his mouth as he manuevered the right amount of fingers into place. "He's seven. And then Beth is... nine." He proudly put up two more fingers, leaving only the thumb of one hand pressed against its palm.
"I have a brother, too," Sam declared. "His name is Mark and he's ten years old. He can be mean sometimes, but sometimes he's fun." She shrugged with a child's nonchalance.
The smile Daniel had failed to hold back turned a bit wistful. "I don't have any brothers or sisters. Mom always says that I'm their little miracle. I think it would be neat, though, to have one. It wouldn't matter which."
Sam reached over and patted his hand. "You can think of me as a sister if you want," she offered sincerely. "I bet you'd make a better brother than Mark, anyway."
"I, too, have no siblings," Teal'c added to the conversation, the change in subject having relaxed him. "Are siblings important on this world?"
"Not always," Daniel explained after giving Sam a smile of thanks. "Some couples don't have any children at all. Some couples can't. But I've always thought family was important, and you don't always have to be related by blood to be family. I had a nanny for a while when Mom and Dad and I lived in Egypt while I was younger that was like a second mom for me, and she wasn't related to us at all. It's like that."
"Related by blood? What's that mean?" Sam asked.
Daniel shrugged a bit shyly. "That just means a brother or sister, or an aunt or uncle or cousin or something like that. Someone you know you share a relative with."
Sam nodded her understanding. "I get it."
There was a short moment of silence that was broken by Jack going up to Daniel and unceremoniously crawling into his lap. "What're they gonna do with us?" the little brown-haired boy asked softly, laying his head against the older boy's shoulder.
"I don't know, Jack," Daniel answered just as quietly, sharing a serious look with the others as he wrapped his arms around the younger boy. "I don't know."
* * * * * * * *
It was close to dinner time when Doctor Janet Fraiser made an appearance in the children's converted VIP room. "I suppose you kids are hungry, huh?" she asked with a small smile once she'd stepped inside and the guard outside had closed the door behind her. "I've had trays for each of you sent down from the commissary."
"Thank you," Daniel said shyly, looking up from his seat at the table where he was drawing with Jack next to the reading Sam.
"Yeah, thanks!" Jack enthused, grinning brightly at the newcomer.
"Is there a problem with the tests you conducted earlier?" Teal'c asked from his corner of cushions. He had told the others he was performing a Jaffa ritual, and would speak with them again when he was through.
Janet shook her head. "No, not really. At least, not the ones that are complete. There are some I have to wait for a little longer. You're all healthy and uninjured."
Sam rolled her eyes playfully. "We could have told you that."
Jack looked at Daniel. "Uninjured?"
"Not hurt," the older boy replied.
"Nope, not hurt! Gimme the yellow crayon." He accepted the crayon when Daniel handed it to him and started to draw something in one of the unmarked corners of his sheet of paper.
"Can I ask you something?" Daniel asked Janet once he saw Jack engrossed with his picture.
Janet gave the boy a little smile and came closer to the table. "Sure, Daniel. I'll try the best I can."
Daniel frowned for a moment. "Is it okay if I ask more than one?"
The doctor couldn't help but laugh. "That'll be fine, Daniel. Ask away."
"When did you get all this stuff for us? I wouldn't think a military base would have toys and clothes and things for kids just lying around."
"That one's easy. We sent someone out for it all while you were talking with General Hammond and me. We wanted you to have something decent to wear and didn't want you to get bored while we figured out what to do."
Daniel nodded, thinking hard. He gave the auburn-haired woman a piercing look before putting forth his next question. "Why do some people look at us like they know us? Or knew us," he corrected himself. "Something strange happened before Sam's dad sent us through the ring, and I think maybe people here knew us before that."
Janet ran her lower lip through her teeth before responding. "What makes you ask that?" she answered as the other children paused in what they were doing to look at her.
"I noticed the way the nurses looked at us, and they whispered to each other a lot while we were there. And then you and General Hammond asked us questions like we should be able to answer them." Daniel shrugged, a bit frustrated at not being to put everything he was thinking into words. "You just seem so familiar with us, and I don't think I've ever met you before." He barely kept himself from shouting.
Janet noticed his struggle and sighed. "I don't know what to say, Daniel. I'm not completely sure what to tell you about what's going on. And until I get all my test results back, I can't be sure about what's happened. I suppose I can say that we have a team here with people that have the same names as all of you, and that similarity is... surprising. I guess we can't help but treat you like the friends that aren't here right now."
"You think we're them," Sam chimed in, her expression deadly serious. "You think something happened that made us little."
"I don't know," Janet said helplessly, mentally bemoaning the obvious intelligence the preliminary DNA results suggested she should have been expecting. "I don't know anything for sure."
Before anyone could say anything else, a knock came at the door that announced the arrival of dinner. Once Janet help the airmen that had brought the meals set them up, she gave the children an apologetic smile. "I'll see what I can figure out from the tests I've run. One way or the other, don't worry. We'll do what we can to help you." With that, she followed the airmen out of the room, and the door was closed behind her.
Jack squirmed in his seat once the children were alone. "We're s'posed to be big?" he asked eagerly.
Sam shook her head as Teal'c looked on curiously and Daniel stared down at his plate. "I don't know, Jack," she answered quietly. "Maybe we're just sorta like the team that works here. What do you think, guys?" she asked Daniel and Teal'c.
"My father never spoke of such things occurring, but he did say that many strange things may happen when dealing with other worlds," Teal'c said thoughtfully.
"Something strange has happened," Daniel murmured, not looking up. "Something weird. But right now no one can do anything about it." He finally raised his head. "I don't know why, but I feel safe here. Doctor Fraiser said the people here would help us, and I believe her. I think we should trust them and let them do whatever they have to. Hopefully they'll let us look around and explore while they figure it all out." He began to smile. "If having an alien here doesn't bother them, I bet they have some pretty cool things. Maybe even stuff from other planets."
Sam's eyes widened and her expression became awestruck. "Really? Stuff like astronauts would get?"
Daniel's smile widened as well. "That's what I think."
Jack pounded on the table. "I wanna see! I wanna see!"
Daniel quickly covered the younger boy's fists before he knocked over all their food. "We'll see it, Jack. If not tonight, then maybe tomorrow. Right now we should eat. I'm really hungry." The others nodded their agreement, and they dug into their meals.
Once they were finished, they sat around talking about everything they might see when they were allowed to look around the base. Teal'c shared stories with them that his father had told him, and Sam talked about things she had seen in movies. Daniel spoke of myths his parents had taught him while they were working at various dig sites around the world. By the time the kids crawled into their cots that night, they were more than looking forward to the next day.
That's when all the fun would begin.
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