Free Fall

Part 1

"This is really...very...impressive."

Sam's head swiveled from side to side as she tried to take in every detail, her eyes wide with wonder.

"Our ancestors provided us with a beautiful home," Councilor Toma replied.

"Very beautiful," Daniel agreed. He was standing just to Sam's right; Jack and Teal'c followed a few steps behind. All four were gawking like tourists despite having seen more than a few impressive sights in their years at the SGC.

The Councilor and several lesser members of the Mennoni government were taking SG-1 on a sightseeing tour of their world. The route they walked took them through an area that could've been mistaken for any high end shopping district lined with chic boutiques and pricey cafes. The architecture was clean and elegant, the flowers and greenery provided subtle touches of color that complemented the pale gray color of the buildings. There was just one catch; SG-1 knew they weren't in just any shopping district. This one was on an artificial planet, a manmade satellite, designed and constructed to mirror the world on which the inhabitants had originated. A world that was no longer capable of supporting life.

"We have duplicated our homeworld to the best of our abilities," Toma said. He gestured at the shops and cafes with obvious pride. "One would not question that he or she was on a real, living planet."

"Not in this area," Jack said, raising his eyes. Outside this district, or any of the residential neighborhoods, walking the tunnels that crisscrossed the city the illusion broke down. Raising your eyes gave you a glimpse of endless gray metal, not blue sky.

"It takes a significant amount of energy to project the holograms that reproduce a natural appearing environment, so we use it only where we believe it is most appreciated." The Councilor paused, then turned to face SG-1. "In areas dedicated mostly to work, people don't seem troubled by the sight of glass and metal. But in their homes, their neighborhoods, they are more comfortable looking at the sky, even if it is only a holographic sky."

"That's understandable, I suppose," Daniel said. "Especially in the beginning, when people were used to seeing a real sky. But the Mennoni have been here for generations now. I would've thought that most people would accept whatever their surroundings are as 'natural'."

"According to our sociologists, that is true." Toma frowned. "I must confess that there are a few who despise our attempt to create a sense of the natural world. They want us to turn off the holograms and expose the true boundaries of our home."

"Why?" Jack asked.

"They claim that to live this way is to live a lie." Toma shook his head in a gesture that spoke of his obvious exasperation with this school of thought. "What's more—they want us to leave. To build ships and venture across space."

"Actually, that brings up something that I've been wondering about," Daniel said, tearing his eyes away from his observation of the natives.

"I think I have the same question," Sam said. She shared a look with Daniel, then turned to Toma. "You've designed this amazing space station. You obviously have the technology and knowledge necessary to develop space flight. So why haven't you tried exploring further from home?"

"For what reason?" Toma asked. "There is nothing out there."

"We are out there," Teal'c said.

"Yes, you are, aren't you?" Toma said, chagrined. "I suppose we may need to reconsider our policy in regard to this matter."

"Especially now that you know the stargate can take you to other places," Daniel said.

"Just be careful," Jack interjected. Toma and Daniel both turned to look at him. "It's not all sweetness and light out there."

"A good argument against exploration," Toma said, sounding somewhat relieved.

"I don't think Jack is suggesting that you shouldn't explore," Daniel said with a questioning look at Jack. "I think he's merely advising caution, right?"

"Caution would be a very good attitude to take," Jack said. "There's a lot of really cool stuff out there, but there's also some very scary stuff."

"Toma," Sam said, catching the Councilor's eye. "How long did it take your engineers to build this...planet?"

"Nearly twenty years."

"Twenty?" Jack asked.

"It seems like a long time, I know."

"Actually, I was thinking twenty years didn't sound long enough," Jack said. They had seen only a portion of the artificial planet, and that seemed impossibly large and complex to Jack. He couldn't imagine the amount of manpower that must have gone into building this orbiting city-world.

"In truth, although we began to move into the planet even before the twenty year mark, it took much longer than two decades to fully realize our plans," Toma said. "Initially we were only concerned with the essentials for survival: food, water, air. The rest came with time."

"You are to be commended," Teal'c said. "Your world is a place of great beauty as well as a superb technological achievement."

"Thank you," Toma said, beaming. "It may seem immodest of us, but we are quite proud of our home."

"Councilor Toma, I'd really love to talk to some of your engineers," Sam said, and not for the first time. Jack tossed Daniel a knowing grin. Daniel simply shrugged in return. Sam's eagerness was something he understood all too well.

"It has been arranged, Major Carter," Toma said patiently. "First thing tomorrow morning you will be shown all that you wish to see."

"But if we could just...," Sam began.

"Carter," Jack said in his most parental tone. "Councilor Toma said tomorrow morning, so tomorrow morning it is. Now what do you say we just do the meet and greet thing today?"

"I just...."

"Ah!" Jack said, waving a finger at Sam.

"Yes, sir. Tomorrow."

"I'm just going to run out to some of the shops down the street," Daniel said as soon as they had finished their evening meal.

"Is that wise?" Jack asked, his eyes following Daniel as he carried his dirty dishes to the small kitchenette in their guest quarters.

"Can't be any more dangerous than, say, fighting the Goa'uld," Daniel said.

"I just meant...." Jack shook his head in exasperation. "You could get lost."

"Not much chance of that. It's a planned city, Jack. It's laid out in a grid. Very simple, very easy to navigate."

"What's so important that you have to go wandering off without our guides?" Jack asked. The Mennoni had been warm and gracious hosts and Jack had no reason to be concerned about Daniel's safety. That had never stopped him from worrying in the past, and it wasn't going to stop him now.

"I thought I'd see if I could find something in one of those little shops for Janet."

"Something you're not telling us, Daniel?" Jack asked. Sam and Teal'c suddenly lost interest in their meals, raising their heads to gaze speculatively at Daniel.

"No," Daniel said slowly, taking in the inquisitive looks directed at him. "Just that we usually only bring back injuries or disease for Janet. I thought this would be an opportunity to find her something unique. Something that doesn't involve blood."

"I'm sure she'd appreciate it, Daniel," Sam said, poking her fork at the rest of her vegetables.

"Okay, fine. And if you happen to see something for Cassie...?" Jack hinted. "Her birthday's coming up."

"I'm on it," Daniel said, smiling as he closed the exterior door behind him.

"I wonder if I could get Toma to show me to a library or something," Sam said, checking her watch.

"Tomorrow, Carter," Jack said with an exasperated look.

"Sir, I don't think you understand how incredible this place is," Sam said.

"Probably not, but it'll still be here tomorrow."

"This 'planet' can sustain several million people easily," Sam said. She could resign herself to waiting for the full tour, but she couldn't—wouldn't—rein in her enthusiasm. "Do you have any idea of what it takes to support that kind of population?"

"Indeed I do not," Teal'c said.

"Well, I don't really know either," Sam admitted. "But it's far beyond anything we're capable of. They grow crops, raise livestock. They have museums and parks and...."

"And plumbing and waste disposal," Jack said.

"That, too," Sam said, her appreciation undented. "Their methods of recycling alone could be immensely valuable to us."

"Just one of the many things we'll be considering if and when we establish formal relations with the Mennoni," Jack said.

"Is this satellite capable of flight?" Teal'c asked.

"It's my understanding that it isn't," Sam said. "They intended for it to remain in orbit around their planet."

"For what reason? Their former home world is no longer capable of sustaining life, and is not expected to ever be able to do so again," Teal'c said.

"Sounds to me like the Mennoni didn't know there was anything else out there," Jack said with a vague wave toward the ceiling. "From what the chief military officer told me, they didn't even know what the stargate was."

"I suppose we should just glad that they decided it was worth bringing with them when they left their homeworld," Sam said. "Admittedly, it's not the symbol of state they thought it was, but if they'd thought it was just some weird old relic they might've left it behind."

"Better not let Daniel hear you calling relics weird," Jack said.

"Nor should you allow him to hear you suggest that such relics should be abandoned," Teal'c added, looking at Sam with an arched eyebrow. Sam made a dismissive gesture at them before stacking her dishes and carrying them to the kitchenette.

"The thing that would make me a little uneasy about living on a satellite like this is what if something happens?" Jack said, following behind Sam. He placed his dishes in the odd looking machine that was still recognizable as a dishwasher. Recognizable, that is, after Sam told him it was a dishwasher. Then he moved aside to allow Teal'c to do the same.

"Like what?" Sam asked.

"Asteroid. Mechanical failure." Jack shrugged. "This entire place could be destroyed in minutes."

"They do have measures in place to protect against something like an asteroid," Sam said. "And no, I don't know exactly what those measures are and I won't until tomorrow."

"Hey, watch the insubordination," Jack said mildly.

"The planet is also divided into compartments," Sam continued. "If there was a failure, like a hull breach, in one area, then the rest are automatically sealed off. And every sector is equipped with escape pods. Lifeboats, I guess you'd call them."

"Oh, that's reassuring," Jack said dryly. "I don't suppose any of them has seen 'Titanic'?"

"They didn't have a lot of options, sir," Sam said. "Their planet was dying. It was—is—extremely unstable, geologically speaking."

"Without the capacity for interstellar travel, and unaware of the purpose of the stargate, they would have been hard pressed to find an alternative," Teal'c said.

"I know," Jack said. "And I'm not knocking this 'planet'. I just don't think I'd be happy living in a tin can."

Jack opened his eyes the moment the door lock to the bedroom he shared with Daniel was activated. He'd been lying, still fully dressed, on top of his bed. Daniel's bed was empty which meant that Jack wouldn't be going to sleep yet. He couldn't, not until everyone was accounted for, and yes, there were times he did feel like a single father riding herd on three teenaged kids. Three overly educated and stubborn kids who had no consideration for the physical toll that such vigilance took on their elders.


"Jack?" Daniel closed the door and turned on the overhead light. "You still awake?"

"Just resting my eyes," Jack said, scooching over to the side of the bed and sitting up. "What did you get?"

"A bracelet for Cassie," Daniel said, pulling a small white box from his pocket and handing it to Jack. He sat down on the edge of the second bed while Jack assessed his purchase.

"Nice," Jack said. He closed the box and handed it back to Daniel. "What about Fraiser?"

"Scarf," Daniel said, pulling strip of fabric from a small bag.

"Silk?" Jack asked after leaning over to rub a corner of the material between his fingers.

"I think so. The Mennoni equivalent, anyway." Daniel held the scarf up in front of him. "It's pretty, right?"

"Don't ask me," Jack said, lying back down. "Very early in our relationship Sara told me to stick to flowers and chocolate because I had lousy taste in clothes."

"Ouch," Daniel said as he folded the scarf and tucked it back in the bag.

"Pfftt yeah," Jack said. "I mean—I have style."

"So did I miss anything while I was out?"

"Daniel." No way was Jack buying that attempt at changing the subject. Daniel simply wasn't that inept at conversation.

"Jack, I'm probably the last person you should be asking about style. It's really...not my thing."

"True," Jack said. Daniel simply scowled in response. "So aside from finding bribes...."

"Bribes?" Daniel said indignantly. "I merely.... Janet works very hard and we don't exactly make it easy for her. I just thought it would be nice if I tried to show some appreciation for once."

"You've got a physical coming up, don't you?"

"Jack." Daniel shook his head in exasperation. "Not everyone operates with an ulterior motive."

"But you do have a physical coming up."

"Well...yes. But that's not the point."

Jack lay back on the bed and tucked his hands behind his head, grinning.

"Shut up," Daniel muttered.

"Anyway, you were saying?" Jack prompted.

"Actually, I did have an odd encounter while I was out."

"Of course you did," Jack said with a groan.

"I was approached by a man," Daniel said, ignoring Jack's less than enthusiastic reaction. "He wanted to know if I was really from another world. He wanted to know what it was like on a 'real' planet."

"Sounds like normal curiosity about the new guys in town," Jack said.

"Yes, except that he told me that he and his associates were fighting to end the lies of the Mennoni government." Daniel gave Jack a bemused look as he remembered the conversation. "He all but told me that the fascist police state was trampling the rights of the common people."

"Wow, that takes me back."

"He was serious, Jack."

"Hey, so were we back in those days."

"He's obviously one of the people Toma was talking about. And he claims that any political or social dissension is penalized."

"I haven't gotten any sense of fear or suspicion from anyone that I've talked to," Jack said. "This guy could be your garden variety malcontent. Or a nut job."

"Possible. Or he may be representative of a genuinely repressed minority," Daniel said. "I'd kind of like to know which before we consider entering into any kind of formal relationship with the Mennoni."

"I agree on principle, but have you really seen any signs of trouble?"

"Other than this man?" Daniel asked pointedly. "He just wants to leave. And the fact that he does is a little odd, given that this planet, artificial though it may be, provides everything most people could ever want. There's abundant food. They have the arts, and sports, and education and everyone who is able to work is gainfully employed."

"A few fish and the place would be perfect."

"Not perfect, but it's damn close," Daniel agreed. "So why would anyone want to leave? What if there's something going on, something we don't know about?"

"And what if this guy just has a bad case of cabin fever?" Jack asked.

"Cabin fever? How?" Daniel asked. "Hell, NASA has people who spend long periods of time on the space station, a much smaller space, and they seem to manage just fine."

"Those people have been rigorously screened before they get assigned to that duty. They're highly trained, highly disciplined. And they know it's only for a limited time," Jack pointed out. "Some people have trouble with big spaces, some people with small spaces. Maybe for some people this 'planet' is small enough. Maybe they just can't handle the thought of never seeing a real sky or breathing fresh air."

"But this is all they've ever known," Daniel argued. "It shouldn't seem 'false' to them."

"And apparently it doesn't to most people," Jack said. "But there always has to be a few that just have to be different."

"So?" Daniel said.

"So we'll keep our eyes and ears open," Jack said.

"So…what kind of political system do you have, Toma?" Daniel asked.

"Political system?" Toma repeated, glancing over his shoulder at Daniel.

"For example, how did you become a Councilor?"

"I was chosen by the Mennoni people."

"Elected? And who has the right to vote?" Daniel asked. Jack, strolling along at Toma's side, sighed. Having sent Sam and Teal'c off to explore the exciting world of civil engineering, Jack and Daniel had accompanied Toma to a formal meeting with the governing council. Unfortunately, in Jack's opinion, the meeting had consisted of mostly ceremonial crap. Nothing of any significance had been discussed, and evidently wouldn't be until the following day.

"Every man over the age of majority," Toma said. He paused to indicate that they should turn into the next street.

"Every man. What about women?"

"Yes, of course. I meant man in the sense of all mankind." Toma said with a bemused look. He turned to Jack. "It is nearly midday. Perhaps we should rejoin Major Carter so that we may have our meal."

"Carter?" Jack said with a surprised look.

"Surely after an entire morning of technical education she will be more than ready to take a break?"

"Not a chance," Jack said with a snort of amusement. "See, there's something you should understand about Major Carter. You could lock her in a room for a week with a pile of technical manuals and she'd think you were doing her a favor."

"You have very dedicated teammates, Colonel."

"Dedicated is one word for it," Jack said half under his breath. He shrugged in response to Toma's confused expression. "It'll be simpler to just go and enjoy our meal. Carter will straggle along eventually."

"And Master Teal'c?"

"Let's find out." Jack grabbed his radio. "Teal'c?"

"Yes, O'Neill."

"You and Carter ready to take a meal break?" Jack tapped his foot impatiently as a long silence ensued. "Still there, Teal'c?"

"Apparently we are not yet ready to dine."

"Give it an hour," Jack said, checking his watch. "Then I'll come and relieve you."

"That would be greatly appreciated, O'Neill."

"Master Teal'c does not seem to be enjoying himself," Toma said.

"Could be that. Could be he's just really hungry," Jack said.

"There is an excellent café just down this street. Shall we?"

"Daniel?" Jack had to turn and look for Daniel. He kept slowing down and drifting off. "Daniel."

"What?" Daniel asked. Jack gave Daniel a questioning look while patting his stomach. "Oh, okay, sure."

"Please, follow me," Toma said.

"Toma, about these people who don't like the artificial sky…. What do you do about them?" Daniel asked.


"Are they allowed to speak out publicly?"

"Any man may speak, as long as he does not speak deliberate falsehoods or attempt to incite violence," Toma said.

"Really?" Daniel paused, thinking. "And who decides what constitutes an incitement to violence?"

"Daniel," Jack snapped. He understood Daniel's purpose. He even agreed with it, but there was such a thing as grasping at straws. "Just give it up, okay?"

Daniel narrowed his eyes at Jack, but remained silent. After a moment he slowed his pace and drifted to the side, his attention apparently captured by some bit of culture. Jack rolled his eyes and gave Toma an apologetic shrug.

"Is there a problem, Colonel O'Neill?" Toma asked, watching as Daniel wandered across to the other side of the avenue.

"No. It's just.... It's Daniel's job to find out whether the people we meet are the right kind of people. The kind of people with whom we'd like to establish diplomatic relations." Jack grimaced and put his hands out in a pacifying gesture when Toma took a step away, clearly offended. "Don't take that the wrong way. We're not saying that you're the wrong kind of people. In fact, you seem to be exactly the right kind. But sometimes people are not what they appear."

"And is it solely Dr. Jackson's responsibility to determine the 'rightness' of those whom you meet?"

"Not solely, no. We're all responsible. Daniel is simply more…dedicated to that aspect of the mission than some of us."

"He is very suspicious."

"He really isn't," Jack said. "Truth is—Daniel tends to look for the best in people."

"And who, may I ask, determines if you are the right kind of people?"

"Well, obviously you—the council—will decide whether we're suitable allies."

"What I meant to ask is—what makes you believe that you have the right to judge us? What makes you believe that you are better than us?"

"First of all—we're not better. Hell, that's one of the very big reasons we need to be careful about the people we deal with," Jack explained. "We have our faults. And we make mistakes. We really don't need to be getting involved with people who might 'encourage' our more negative traits."

"I think I understand now," Toma said.

Jack glanced back over his shoulder. Daniel was lagging far behind, his distraction apparently now genuine, rather than a not so subtle message to Jack.

"Should we wait for Dr. Jackson?" Toma asked, following Jack's gaze.

"No, don't bother," Jack said with a rueful shake of his head. "He gets this way every time we go somewhere new."

"Like Major Carter?"

"Very much like Major Carter," Jack said. "I'm telling you—you can't take either of them anywhere."

"And yet you do," Toma said.

"Yes, I do. And most of the time I'm glad I do," Jack admitted. "Not always, but most of the time."

"The café is just here," Toma said, gesturing toward Jack's right.

Jack took one step toward the café and then all hell broke loose. The familiar sharp boom of an explosion barely had time to register in Jack's mind before the concussive force knocked him flat on his face. He immediately pushed up to his knees, looking back over his shoulder where dark smoke and debris filled the street. "Toma?"

"What happened?" Toma asked, struggling to get to his feet.

"Get help," Jack ordered. He scrambled to his feet and began fighting his way against the people running from the location the blast.


As Jack approached the place he'd last seen Daniel, the going got easier because there were less people to struggle against. Less struggle because none of the people were moving. Bodies were strewn carelessly, like dolls thrown by a child in the midst of a temper tantrum.

"So help me god, Daniel, if you're dead again…." Jack ignored everyone who wasn't wearing olive drab. Even then he almost missed Daniel, partially hidden under the bodies of several locals. "Daniel!"


Daniel was struggling to free himself from the dead weight. Jack grabbed one of the people, obviously beyond help, and heaved his body off of Daniel. Unaware of what Jack was doing, Daniel startled at his sudden freedom of movement.

"It's okay. You're all right," Jack said, quickly kneeling down to help Daniel sit up.


"Daniel?" Jack gripped Daniel's face between his hands and tilted it up for inspection. Daniel winced at the touch of Jack's hands. Then Jack winced when he saw Daniel's face. He eased his grip, understanding now why Daniel had reacted negatively to his touch. There'd obviously been enough distance, and enough bodies, between Daniel and the explosion to save his life. But his face and hands looked scorched, reddened and raw. He was squinting, his eyes watering with irritation.

"Um…Jack, I don't want to be an alarmist here but...I can't see you," Daniel said, reaching up with one hand to grab onto Jack's wrist.

"Close your eyes, Daniel."


"It's temporary," Jack said. "Just close your eyes so they don't get hurt any worse."

"Worse than blind?"

"It's temporary," Jack repeated. "Just...let me get us out of here."

"What's going on?" Daniel asked as Jack helped him to his feet.

"Some kind of explosion," Jack said. "Here, hang on to my shoulder."

"How bad is it?" Daniel asked, shuffling tentatively behind Jack as he tried to pick a clear path away from the scene. What spooked Jack the worst was the near silence. Too many dead bodies, and the walking wounded were too deeply in shock to be making much noise.

"Bad enough," Jack said, his face grim. A sudden tremor made them both hesitate. "Damn it."

"Another one?" Daniel asked. He dug his fingers more tightly into the fabric of Jack's jacket as Jack began to move again, and at a faster pace.

"If I had to guess," Jack agreed. He covered Daniel's hand with one of his own for reassurance, and reached for his radio with the other. "Carter? Teal'c? You there?"

"Colonel? What's going on?" "Some kind of explosion. Accident, bomb: I'm not sure. What's the situation at your location?"

"Nothing here, just lots of alarms going off. What do you think it was?"

"We're not going to wait to find out. Head for the gate, Major. Daniel and I are on our way."

"Yes, sir. Carter out." "You okay?" Jack asked, guiding Daniel.

"Not entirely, no," Daniel said, keeping a tight grip on Jack's jacket. "Just keep going."

"Stay there," Jack said, settling Daniel into one of the two seats in the cockpit of the lifeboat. Another explosion and the ominous creaking noises that followed had changed their plans. They might've been able to make it to the stargate, but then again they might not. Jack had decided that it was time to find a hiding place and hunker down until they could assess the situation more accurately.

"You're not really thinking of abandoning ship, are you?" Daniel asked as he felt around, trying to create a mental picture of his surroundings.

"I hope we don't have to," Jack said, his voice slightly muffled. There was a dull thump, and then Jack's footsteps drawing nearer. "I just figured this was a fairly safe place to hide out until the excitement calms down."

Daniel heard Jack settle into the pilot's seat, and then they were suddenly moving, tumbling end over end. Jack and Daniel were both thrown around the cabin. The only thing that kept them from being too battered was that the moment they disconnected from the planet they lost its artificial gravity. Weightlessness eased the trauma, but it did nasty things to Daniel's stomach until gravity suddenly returned and Daniel thumped painfully to the floor.

"What happened?" Daniel called out. His stomach continued to keep rolling even after the gravity engaged. He didn't know if it was the result of a concussion or because his brain was receiving conflicting messages about his orientation in space, but he had to take some deep breaths to maintain control.

"Another bomb would be my guess," Jack said, his voice tight. That wasn't what Daniel had meant but...that made, four explosions that Daniel was aware of. "Damn it."


"Nothing," Jack said sharply. "I just…I'm trying to figure out these controls. I got the artificial gravity activated, but that's as far as I've gotten."

"Where are we?"

"Daniel, just...let me work here."

Daniel bit his lip to keep himself from asking what exactly Jack was working on. When he felt like he could move without losing his lunch, he started to feel around, trying to orient himself. He slid his hands up a wall, and started to get to his feet.

"Stay there, Daniel," Jack shouted from somewhere to Daniel's right. "Just sit still, stay quiet, and I'll get you when I've got this sucker under control."

"It's okay. I can find my way."

"Sit the hell down, Daniel."

Daniel sat down. He'd never seen the inside of one of these ships so he had no way to truly know where he was or how to get to where he needed to be. And Jack obviously had his hands full at the moment. If Daniel thought that there was anything he could contribute he would've kept going no matter what Jack said. As it was, he knew he'd only be a distraction.

"Major Carter, report," Hammond said, hurrying into the gate room.

"I'm not entirely sure what happened, sir," Sam said as she reached the bottom of the gate ramp. "There was at least one explosion."


"Possibly a bomb," Sam said.

"Evidently there exists a faction of political dissidents on Mennona," Teal'c said. "Just yesterday Daniel Jackson was approached by someone who indicated that there is an organized opposition to the government. Daniel Jackson and O'Neill were going to attempt to investigate, but thus far we have had no confirmation of the man's statements."

"And you think these people are now setting off bombs?"

"Honestly, General, we don't know. Teal'c and I weren't even in the section where the explosion happened."

"And Colonel O'Neill and Dr. Jackson?"

"We had radio contact with Colonel O'Neill," Sam said.

"And they're both unharmed?" Hammond asked.

"They're both alive, sir, yes. Colonel O'Neill ordered us to return to the SGC. He said that he and Daniel would follow as soon as they could."

"Get down to the infirmary and get yourselves checked out," Hammond said. "We'll give them an hour, then dial out and attempt to establish contact again."

"Sir," Sam protested.

"We have to give them a chance, Major. I have great faith in Colonel O'Neill and Dr. Jackson's abilities to extract themselves from a dangerous situation."

"As do I," Teal'c said.

"I do, too. I just…I hate leaving anyone behind," Sam said.

"One hour," Hammond promised. "Then we'll go after them."

Daniel woke with a start, aware only that someone or something was looming over him, touching him. He instinctively lashed out only to have his hand caught before it could make contact.

"Whoa, take it easy there," Jack said, releasing Daniel's hand and sliding his own hand up to Daniel's shoulder. "It's just me."

"Jack?" Daniel said. He pulled himself up into a sitting position, Jack's hand remaining firmly on his shoulder. "God, did I actually fall asleep?"

"Passed out, I think. How are you feeling?"

"Eyes hurt," Daniel admitted, trying to fight past the discomfort so that he could open his eyes. "Feels like my eyelids are made of sandpaper."

"Yeah, they're kind of swollen. I'm going to wash them out with water," Jack said. "Make sure there aren't any chemicals or dirt in there irritating them."

"What's our situation?" Daniel asked, gritting his teeth while Jack irrigated his eyes.

"Oh, I'd say about as FUBAR as it can get," Jack said.

"Could you be a little more specific?"

"The drive engines are gone—my guess is they were damaged when another explosion knocked us out of the docking bay. But on the positive side everything else seems to be working."

"Do we have control of the ship?"

"I used the thrusters to get us straightened out, but we're just coasting now," Jack said tersely. Daniel felt Jack hand him some kind of cloth to wipe the water from his face. He dried off and then accepted Jack's help in getting to his feet.

"Are we coasting in any particular direction?" Daniel asked as Jack guided him back to his seat in the cockpit.

"We're in orbit around the original Mennoni planet."

"And how long can we do that?"

"I don't know for sure without being able to read the instruments," Jack said. He sat back, staring at the instrument panel. "My best guess is that we have life support and supplies for a couple of weeks."


"But our orbit is degrading," Jack admitted. "My guess is two or three days."

"So we'll crash?"

"Probably," Jack said. "I don't think the thrusters have enough power to control our descent. Even if they do, Carter said the planet is like hell. And I'm not talking the sissy version we saw on Netu."


"Okay? That's all you've go to say?"

"Well, fixing space ships really isn't my forte," Daniel said.

"Unfortunately, it isn't mine either." Jack looked around the cabin, then slammed his hand against the flight controls. "Damn it."

"We've been in worse situations," Daniel said.

"No, we haven't." Jack paused when Daniel grimaced. "Well, maybe we have, but that doesn't make me any happier about it."

"Can't say this was on my top ten list of things to do either."

"You didn't want to get stranded with me? I'm crushed. I'm devastated. I'm...."

"Full of it," Daniel interjected. Jack stuck his tongue out at Daniel. "And quit looking at me like that."

"Like what? Wait—you can see me?"

"A little. Blurry, but that's better than nothing."

"That's great."

"You said it was only temporary."

"Ah…yeah," Jack said hesitantly. "I lied, you know."

"I know," Daniel said with a smile. "It's okay. You told me what you thought I needed to hear."

"No, I told you what I thought I needed to in order to get your ass moving."

"Same thing," Daniel said, shrugging off Jack's confession. "The station...?"

"Not looking so hot from our angle."

" rescue from that source then," Daniel said.

"I wouldn't count on it. Especially since I can't seem to raise anyone on the radio."

"How much control do you have? Can you steer?" Daniel asked.

"With the reverse and lateral thrusters? A little, sure. That's how I got us to stop flipping over," Jack said. "But the thrusters weren't meant to propel the ship. They aren't that powerful."

"Are they powerful enough to push us into a stable orbit?"

"I don't think so."

"If we could give the thrusters more power, could you do it then?" "If I'm reading the schematics correctly there are three separate power cells. One for the drive engines, one for the thrusters and all the cockpit controls, and one for life support."

"So if we can divert the power from the drive engines…."

"It's shot, Daniel. The blast must've damaged the power cell when it blew our drive engines to hell."

"So what about the power for life support?"

"It's the power for our life support," Jack said. Daniel could hear the unspoken "duh" at the end.

"How much would we have to divert?"

"Rough estimate—at least half," Jack said.

"So we have to do it, don't we?"

"What's the point of achieving a stable orbit if we only have maybe a week of life support left?" Jack asked.

"What's the point of having two weeks of life support if we're going to crash into the planet within the next forty-eight hours?" Daniel countered. "From what Sam said it's mostly terra infirma down there."

"I don't know how to divert the power."

"You managed to bring up the schematics on the ship's computer?"

"Yeah, but I can't read the writing," Jack said, gesturing irritably at the screen. "I'm just going by what I can figure out with the visuals."

"I can read it."

"Daniel, you can see a little—which is fabulous news, don't get me wrong—but you'll have a hell of a time trying to read this tiny writing."

"No choice."

On to Part 2 of Free Fall.

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