Cheating the Higher Duty
Chapter 1 - Visit
Daniel Jackson perused the listings of certain Mayan artefacts he kept in his cluttered office. He was missing an item, as usual, but was confident that the stone tablet was either in the briefing room or crammed into a draw with spare instant coffee sachets.
The lure of coffee drew him to looking in the draw. Several cheap hotel coffee sachet packages...check. Spare pair of glasses...check. Tablet...missing. Frowning so that the frames of his glasses dug into his face, Daniel found his empty coffee jug and two sachets, beginning the long journey from office to hot water dispenser.
The halls were near to deserted. Daniel checked the time on his watch and sighed. The only person to talk to would be Sam, but she’d be too busy pouring over some new technological wonder in the depths of her lab. Teal’c might be awake, but the chances of barging in on a Jaffa attempting meditation and getting away without an invitation were too slim. The Colonel was most probably lulled to sleep by his new Game Boy.
Daniel considered the infirmary, wondering if Doctor Frasier was still up. Then he remembered she wouldn’t be there at midnight. With a pang, he realised she wouldn’t ever be pouncing on escaping patients again. Even so, his feet took him to the infirmary. He didn’t dare enter, but looked through the doorway briefly.
Doctor Miller was fussing about some equipment. She was new to the facility and, while as tenacious as her predecessor could be, just wasn’t Janet. The Stargate project fascinated the new doctor and old files on old intergalactic viruses were the main source of her enjoyment.
Daniel left her to it, wending his way to the hot water dispenser. Coffee was supplied near to the tap, but it had become increasingly nasty since Dr. Frasier had left. She had campaigned constantly for beverages that wouldn’t send insomniacs to her regularly. But now she was gone...Daniel had seen Sam lose it completely over her death. It had affected them all.
But the archaeologist didn’t know how he really felt about it. Was he as distraught as Major Carter? No, he didn’t think so. He didn’t quite agree with Jack’s “a good friend always sticking needles in me”, but remembering the many times Dr. Frasier had been just that made him smile a little.
Daniel pulled his jug full of hot water away from the tap and threw in the packets of coffee, watching a dark colour diffuse through the lukewarm water. He lifted the jug to his lips and, without any embarrassment, took a quick swig from it.
“You don’t know where that jug has been,” a voice said behind him.
Daniel began choking. He dropped the coffee jug and coughed up the offending drink. He spun around and saw her, geared up in her usual white coat with a stethoscope around her neck. Her soft brown hair hung around her ears and her lips were pressed into a smile. Daniel managed between coughs and pauses of disbelief, “Janet?”
Chapter 2 - Explanations
“Hello Daniel,” she said measurably, as if their meeting was completely normal.
Daniel looked at her warily. Janet Frasier did not appear taken back by his strange behaviour, instead folded her arms across her chest. “Don’t look so surprised. You all of people should know that death isn’t the end.”
“But I saw you die!” Daniel burst out, ignoring his soaking boots.
Janet bent down and retrieved the coffee jug, offering it diplomatically across the distance between them. “I suppose I did die...but I was given the choice to continue my duty at a higher level. I chose to become ascended because I saw it as the only way to return. I have so much to finish here. I don’t want to be stranded helping those that don’t matter to me.”
Daniel squeezed the bridge of his glasses. “Not meaning any offence, but from what I remember ascension is the exact opposite.”
“I know,” she replied patiently. “Hear me out. When you became ascended, there was nothing but spoken rules stopping you from helping your friends. No one could stop you. The only action that the others could carry out was to have you descended.”
Daniel shook his head, saying quickly, “That’s crazy, Janet! I don’t remember anything about how I came back. How can you base a chance on assumptions made about my own experiences?”
Doctor Frasier let her arms fall to her sides. “You don’t remember, but I know what happened. The others will have no other choice than to do what they did for you. But I need your help to do it.”
There was silence. Daniel could hear the steady ticking of his watch and the hum of the over head light. Janet had fixed an intense gaze on his face, but tore away her eyes at the approach of heavy footsteps coming down the corridor.
“I have to go,” she told him simply and vanished into a vacuum of light.
Samantha Carter rounded the corner, a notepad balanced in one hand and an empty mug in another. When she saw Daniel she nodded briefly and held her mug under the tap. Daniel didn’t know what to say or do. Most likely mentioning Dr. Frasier would distress Sam and she would think he was grasping at straws.
“How are you holding up?” He chose the safest question. It could mean any number of things.
Sam looked up at him, a forced smile working its way across her face. “I’m fine. You should get some sleep Daniel.”
She turned around, completely forgetting about adding anything to the lukewarm water. Daniel cleared his throat.
“Yes?” She stopped slightly in her walk.
It was at the tip of his tongue to say he’d seen Dr. Frasier. But the haunted look floating in Sam’s expression was disquieting. She didn’t need false hope. Daniel gestured at her mug. “You might want some coffee with that.”
He walked past her as soon as he could without a backwards glance.
Chapter 3 - Asking the Colonel
Colonel O’Neill was busy hunting for batteries for his Game Boy when Daniel came through the door, troubled and rubbing tired eyes. Without turning around, Jack used a free hand to wave him over. “Make yourself useful. I’m missing batteries.”
Daniel watched the Colonel root through a pile of unfinished paperwork for a moment then asked carefully, “When I was ascended and came to you, did you ever get the feeling I wasn’t telling you something?”
“You’re finally remembering,” came Jack’s muffled voice as he stuck his head in a drawer.
Daniel took that as a yes. He absently picked up a battery he found and tapped it on the cluttered desk. “Did I ever, at any stage, take risks to help my friends rather than do my duty?”
Jack reappeared, scowling. He snatched the battery away and shoved it into his game boy. The device beeped softly. He didn’t seem to have noticed Daniel’s question, but after his toy was proved to be working, answered distractedly, “Sure, sometimes. What’s with all the questions, Danny boy?”
Daniel attempted a nonchalant shrug.
“It might help with my memory,” he pointed out.
Jack looked at him suspiciously and stood up from his crouch by his desk. He hadn’t set aside the game boy yet, which meant he wasn’t about to spend any more time talking to Daniel than was necessary. The Colonel tilted his head to one side slightly. “I’m kind of busy right now.”
“Yes, I can see that.” Daniel rolled his eyes. “Just one more question.”
Daniel knew the answer, but he just wanted to clarify. He was fairly certain he hadn’t chosen that path just because he wanted to cheat death.
“Did I ever tell you why I chose to become ascended?”
“Yeah, you wanted to move on,” O’Neill recalled. “Something about helping people on a different level…”
Jack was now seated at his desk, concentrating earnestly on his game boy. Unfazed by the sudden shift in attention, Daniel walked out into the corridor. Ascension, for him, hadn’t been just a way out of death. He hadn’t known there was another option. But Janet had. He frowned to himself – she didn’t seem the type of person to cheat her way out of something.
Daniel continued along until he came to his quarters. He supposed that Dr Fraiser had too many ties keeping her down. She had her daughter, Cassandra, for one. Maybe there was more to it than he realised.