Summary: Dr Fraiser is recalled to active duty to take part in a first contact mission
Info: Musical accompaniment: Brightness Falls by David Sylvian
"They describe themselves as a commerce planet, though its really confined to one city, Cerulon. Think of 19th century Shanghai. Cerulon is also the only place where males are allowed, the rest of the planet and society is closed to them. Although the Demetrioi will tolerate any male members of our delegation their movement and access will be severely curtailed, and they will not be allowed out of Cerulon. It may be as well to send a purely female delegation," Daniel said.
"I had come to the same conclusion," Weir sighed as she looked at the depressingly small roster of female staff she had to choose from. It disheartened her that there was somewhere even worse than the Foreign Service for its representation of women. "Colonel Carter is the obvious choice to go. Dr Fraiser..."
"She's not cleared for Gate Travel yet..." Daniel interrupted her. Something in him quailed. He had witnessed his friend's death just a year ago, helpless to do anything. It still shook him to the core to see her alive and well. The experience had given him a taste for what everyone else must have felt when he had de-ascended.
"Well, that may have to be expedited," Weir said. "We need her input on this. The medical technology that the Demetrioi could potentially offer us could be life-changing for millions. I think... Lieutenant Hailey from SG16 and Dr Fica from your department have skills that complement the delegation and they both have offworld experience..."
Daniel nodded. Lieutenant Jennifer Hailey, once Sam Carter's protégé and now a seasoned officer in the SGC in her own right was well known to SG1. And Juliana Fica had made no secret of her interest in learning more of Demetrioi society, preferably by direct observation. Indeed, most of the information in his briefing notes had come from her. They were both good choices.
"And myself, of course."
"You? Well, yes, of course," Daniel said hurriedly as the woman frowned. "Your standing and experience as a diplomat and linguist could be very useful to the mission."
"I know I might not be what you're used to Dr Jackson but then this isn't what I'm used to either. Administrating... I tended to leave to other people. I was always out there, meeting people, talking, watching, working at the front end..."
"You miss it," Daniel said.
"Yes, yes I do," Elizabeth Weir said softly. "And I admit I'm being selfish. I want to go through the Gate. I want to see what's out there. And the Demetrioi seem to be a good place to start."
Janet Fraiser read through her file again almost guiltily. It still made deeply uncomfortable reading, but she could not seem to leave it alone. Every couple of days or so at least she would open it up, read through the dispassionate official prose. She had died on P3X-666. They had left her body behind along with the other dead in their retreat from the planet. Her remains had been scavenged by Anubis. He had put her in a sarcophagus, brought her back to life with the sole purpose of torturing her for information - brought her back to life but had not healed her. Several days later, the Tok'ra had discovered the truth of what had occurred on P3X-666 and that their missing officers were still alive. The SGC had mounted a rescue mission led by Major Samantha Carter. Janet herself was gravely ill when they found her. According to the triage procedure she had written herself that should have been it. She should have died again - would have died without the indomitable will and particular talents of one Samantha Carter and a Tok'ra healer called Shenara. Together they had worked a miracle keeping her alive until they got back to the SGC and the medical teams could take over. It read like something out of science fiction. But then that was pretty much par for the course since she had first set foot inside the Cheyenne Mountain complex.
The healing device. Sam had used it, poured herself her very soul into it, through it and into Janet. Combined with the ongoing medical support from the team who were beginning to believe that this was not indeed one miracle too far, they brought her back from the brink of death, healed her injuries as best they could. Brought her back to this life.
She thought she was coping. They all thought she was coping. And for a while she had. Admirably. Everyone said so. It added to her legend. But now she knew the truth, knew how thin the veneer of normalcy was over the chaos beneath. She wasn't sure when the void had opened up under her, whether awareness had crept up on her over the months since the attack or whether she had just woken up one morning with the stark realization that this was it, this was how it would always be. An all pervading sorrow that nothing seemed to touch. And she wasn't brave enough or strong enough or good enough to do anything other than survive. And Sam... Sam had been so wonderful, so strong for her.
A voice in the deepest darkness. A whisper. "I shouldn't be here." Yet what were the alternatives? Sam and Cassie, her friends and colleagues - they were all so happy that she was alive, so eager to help her overcome any obstacle. How could she be so ungrateful to resent them for it? How could she...
Her telephone rang rousing her from her dark thoughts. She had lost track of time. She answered it: it was Sergeant Harriman. The briefing was about to start. Janet eased herself to her feet, locking her calipers and reached for her crutches. Today was a good day she could do without her chair which was parked in the corner of her office. One day she might be able to do without the chair altogether, but not yet. It had been a huge adjustment for her to make but she had welcomed the challenge, needed it. Something told her that it shouldn't be easy, this second chance, that somewhere, somehow there was always a price to pay. On the bad days she was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. But this was a good day, she told herself, banishing her dark thoughts of a few moments earlier. She was doing the job she loved, she had her friends, family and loved ones around her.
Janet had been discharged from the military on health grounds but the SGC had just hired her right back again as a civilian consultant working mainly out of the Academy Hospital, but several days a month here at the SGC. She had more money, fewer hours and greater freedom to do the pure medical research that she loved. The infirmary could call on her if needed but officially she had no patient load. Sam had reorganized her hours as well, on the days Janet was working at the SGC Sam made sure she was available to drive them both home at the end of the day. Although retaining her leadership of SG1 and remaining on active Gate status Sam had argued and the new administration had readily accepted that her time and abilities could better be served analyzing the technology that came through the Gate. Although she still worked insanely long hours she made time for Janet, for them. The anguish and fear of losing Janet still drove Sam to a worrying extent. Her anxiety was tapering off, but several times a week Janet would still look up to find Sam just staring at her from the doorway, as if she was checking that Janet was really here, that this was not some weird dream or alien induced fantasy. All that Janet had to do was look up at smile at her and after a few seconds, Sam would smile back and then she would be gone. Until the next time. And they were both getting better at talking to each other about it, about any concerns or worries that they had. Janet was less afraid that one day Sam would just leave her again. Things were different now.
Above all Janet was coming to terms with not being dead. With her life not being over. With her life being... different.
Master-Sergeant Harriman opened the door for her, ushered her inside the briefing room. Elizabeth Weir was already there along with several other familiar faces. Sam greeted her with a bright smile. Janet lowered herself down into the seat next to Sam, handing her crutches off to Harriman who stowed them behind her. She nodded to Daniel and Jennifer Hailey and exchanged a quick smile with Dr Juliana Fica who she knew by sight and reputation but had not really had the chance to get to know properly yet. That was the downside of the SGC's expansion and her own reduced role in the organisation. Once she would have known and met everyone within days of their arrival at the SGC.
"This briefing is to discuss a proposed mission to a planet designated P2N-338..." Weir began. Daniel handed out summary documents detailing what they knew of the Demetrioi. "Dr Fica, I understand you have already made a study of their society."
Juliana Fica looked up, somewhat surprised to be singled out when her superior was in the room but quickly warmed to her theme. She was an attractive young woman, her green blue eyes contrasting pleasantly with her café au lait skin and dark curly hair. Janet put her age in her late twenties, early thirties. On Daniel's recommendation, the SGC had recruited her straight out of graduate school. "Yes, Dr Weir. I was with SG8 when we made the first contact with the Demetrioi delegation."
"This was on the mission to P3R-814?" Sam interrupted.
"Yes. The Demetrioi have an alliance with the Cartageni, have done for hundreds of years. The Cartageni facilitated our first meeting with the Demetrioi. They are highly advanced, peaceful, strictly matriarchal..."
"Erm, where are their men?" Janet asked.
"There's nothing sinister going on... they were very quick to assure us of that. The Demetrioi system is made up of several planets. Men are welcomed on all but the main one. We saw no evidence that they were mistreated or prejudiced against in any way but that they cannot set foot on that planet."
"I see," Janet looked down at her notes again.
"As I was saying, strictly matriarchal. The ruling house can trace its lineage back to Ancient Greece. They were brought to the planet by the Goddess Demeter hence their name - eighty generations ago over two thousand years in the past. Their library contains the writings of Eratosthenes but not Cicero for example which dates them in the late first century BC."
"They are the same era as Cassie's people," Janet stared at Dr Fica, then at Dr Weir. "On P8X-987 - the Hankans."
"Approximately from the same timezone and area, yes," Daniel confirmed.
"Then this Demeter was a Goa'uld obviously," Sam said.
"Yes, but she has not walked amongst them for many generations... and from what we know she seems to have been fairly benign," Dr Fica continued. "She made no excessive demands on them for tribute, slaves... "
"Not their usual M.O," Weir commented.
"No, not really. But then Demeter was always fairly benign. She's one of the Mother Goddesses, also known as Ceres or Deo and equates to Isis..."
"Well if she's Isis, we know why she hasn't been round much lately..." Sam said.
"I'm sorry, Major, but the timeline doesn't work out. According to Dr Jackson's research, Isis was banished and imprisoned long before the Demetrioi were taken. This has to be a different Goa'uld."
Sam nodded her understanding. Dr Fica continued. "As I was saying. Demeter or Demetra was the goddess of crops and fruit and was responsible for their cultivation. She assisted with the harvesting and ensured that the crops matured. One of her names actually was the corn-mother. The economy of most of the Greek city-states in antiquity was one based on the cultivation of wheat and as a consequence the traditions and legends surrounding her are numerous. In Greek mythology she was the sister of Zeus and the daughter of Cronos. Her daughter by Zeus was Persephone who was carried off into the underworld by Hades giving us one of our most enduring legends. Whilst her daughter was lost Demeter's grief was such that no crops grew, no flowers bloomed and the world was thrown into famine. Even the gods suffered from the lack of gifts and sacrifices. Zeus and the other gods tried to persuade Demeter to see sense but she would not relent. Demeter discovered at last that her daughter had been abducted by Hades and that Zeus had not only known about it all along but even approved of the match. She persuaded Zeus to tell Hades to give up Persephone and return her to her mother. But it could not be permanent. Persephone became Hades spouse by eating the seeds of a pomegranate that he gave her, symbolizing the consummation of their relationship. Because she had eaten the pomegranate seeds she would have to spend a proportion of each year in the underworld with Hades."
"The world in winter," Hailey said.
"Exactly," Dr Fica smiled. "Now Demeter wasn't completely benevolent. If she was not worshipped in a way that pleased her she would send famine either by killing crops or by blighting the land in some way causing the land to miss a growing season or bringing down hunger on a person. There is an account of Triopas, king of the Thessalonians who tore down a temple of Demeter. Hunger was brought on him and he could never afterwards be satisfied by any amount of food."
"Sounds like a parasitical infection or perhaps a metabolic disorder," Janet murmured to herself, realizing only when Fica fell silent that she had actually spoken aloud. "I'm sorry, Dr Fica, please continue."
"The worship of Demeter was centered around the 'Eleusinian Mysteries' which celebrated the abduction of Persephone and her return to Demeter therefore symbolizing the annual cycle of death and rebirth in nature as well as the immortality of the soul. Of course, given what we know about the lifecycle of the Goa'uld it takes on a completely new significance. Another festival in her honour was the Cerealia, celebrating the joy of her daughter's return, when Demeter caused the Earth to bring forth flowers, fruit and grain.
"One thing that is unusual about the Mysteries is that all were welcome to join, regardless of status or gender, as long as initiates spoke Greek and had not committed murder. It was a religion of the people, with no priestly caste. Again, not usual Goa'uld practice."
"Actually," Daniel interrupted. "I noticed a point of interest with the name of the Demetrioi themselves. It means 'beloved of Demeter'. It was also the term the Greeks used to refer to the dead."
"So these people think they're dead?" Weir asked.
"Perhaps their initial journey to the planet was couched in terms of a trip to the afterlife. At this point we don't know if they were brought through the Stargate or transferred by ship. It may be that some form of suspended animation such as we saw on the Stromos and in the Antarctic base to preserve Jack..." Daniel saw Sam's face darken and hurriedly changed the subject. "Well, there's a wealth of information waiting to be uncovered, the Demetrioi archives are extensive and exceptionally well preserved. I'm sorry, Juliana, please continue..."
Used to her boss's enthusiasms, Juliana had waited patiently for him to rediscover he was not the one making the presentation today. Janet watched her curiously, wondering if there was any matchmaking to be done between the two archaeologists. Sam obviously recognized her train of thought and squeezed her hand under the table, casting her a sidelong glance. Janet put her speculation on hold for the moment and returned her attention to the briefing.
"Dr Jackson is correct about the importance of the Demetrioi archives and their state of preservation. As well as the history of the Demetrioi they seem to contain plays and writings by classical author's that are long lost on our world the entire text of Sophocles "Epigonoi", several books of poetry by Hesiod previously known only through references in other works, and works by Archilochos and Euripides that..." finally aware of the amused glances being shared around the table at her obvious enthusiasm and excitement, Juliana ground to a halt. "Suffice to say to any classical scholar it will be a treasure trove."
"All well and good, and I'm very happy for the classical scholars," Hailey said wryly, "but why are we so interested in these people?"
"Their society is unique. They are also the central hub if you like of a loose confederation of worlds that have long been free of the Goa'uld. They are potential allies and offer access to offworld technologies if we are deemed suitable trading partners," Fica said. "Their own technology appears to be significantly in advance of ours in several key areas, particularly in medicine and chemical engineering."
"We hope that Dr Fraiser will be accompanying the expedition to address any medical questions that arise and a Dr Emilia Cook will be joining us in the next day or so once she has completed her orientation. She formerly worked with Colton Industries and Mr Colton himself recommended her to us as one of the best researchers in chemical engineering he had come across," Weir smiled and handed everyone a dossier on Dr Cook.
Sam was still focused on Weir's previous statement regarding Janet accompanying the mission. "Dr Weir, I wasn't aware that Dr Fraiser had regained active status." She felt Janet tense beside her and turned to her partner, her eyes wide with remorse. "Sorry, Janet. I didn't mean to talk about you as if you weren't here."
"Apology accepted," Janet smiled. "And I was wondering about that myself, Dr Weir."
"The Demetrioi have assured us that Dr Fraiser's mobility problems will not present any difficulty for her whilst we are guests in their city. Their buildings and transportation services are fully disabled-friendly. Apparently a little over thirty years ago they suffered an epidemic of something that sounds very like polio. A substantial minority of their population were left partially paralysed or with mobility difficulties," Dr Jackson said.
"Erm, one more thing of interest," Dr Fica said. "In art Demeter is always depicted as fair haired and beautiful, in the hymns she is described as a goddess of unsurpassed benevolence. The Demetrioi have kindly presented us with a representation of their goddess..." She activated the viewscreen to show what appeared to be an icon, rather like those produced by the Russian Orthodox Church. It was an object of incredible beauty, the pigments almost glowed and the artistry was obviously of the highest. What was most intriguing however was that the face and colouring of the woman portrayed in the icon bore a startling resemblance to Major Carter.
Weir stared from the viewscreen to the Major and back again with an incredulous expression. Everyone else just stared at her. Sam could feel the blush rising in her cheeks.
"Amazing!" Hailey breathed. "So the rumours about you talking to your plants are true, then," she grinned cheekily at her friend and mentor.
Sam did not deign to reply though her expression was eloquent. Janet, no less amazed voiced an immediate concern. "Won't Major Carter's likeness to the image of their goddess be taken as some sort of... insult? Will it put her in danger?"
"Far from it," Dr Fica said. "Such individuals are considered harbingers of good luck and fortune. They are considered particularly blessed. Major Carter will be in no danger, I assure you and her presence will be even more of an asset to the mission."
Partially reassured, Janet tugged at Sam's hand under the table and leaned in to whisper in the Major's ear. "Well it's no surprise to me love. I always knew you were a goddess."
Janet continued to leaf through the briefing notes. A phrase from Dr Fica's report struck her suddenly: "Every mother contains her daughter in herself and every daughter her mother, and every woman extends backwards into her mother and forwards into her daughter." She empathized with Demeter's grief at the loss of a daughter, remembering those terrible days when she thought Cassandra was going to die because of what Nirrti had done to her.
Even though Cassie had not come into her life until she was almost twelve years old, Janet could not have loved her more if she had given birth to the girl herself. Following her severe illness around her sixteenth birthday and the revelation that she was a potential hac'taur, Cassie had grown even closer to both her mother's. Janet's brush with death on P3X-666 and her long recovery had made the child a woman. She had been willing to give up her college plans to stay and care for Janet if that was what was required. In the end she was persuaded to go, but did transfer to Denver from her first choice of CalTech so she could get back to Colorado Springs most weekends. Her studies in biochemistry were going well however.
Janet worried how her daughter was going to take hearing that her mother was going through the Gate again. But Cassie more than most knew how important the Stargate Project was not just to her adopted world but to all the displaced humans out there. Sam had already voiced her misgivings and as Janet listened to the rest of the briefing, she realized that she herself had not stated whether she felt she was ready to resume traveling through the Stargate no matter how 'disabled-friendly' the Demetrioi were. It just seemed to be assumed that she was.
Perhaps it was what she needed, to get out of the hollow place she seemed to have fallen into. The situation seemed safe enough and Sam would be beside her every step of the way. And that, that was a brightness in her soul.
Reading over her own copy of the material, Sam could only remember how lost she had been when Janet was presumed dead after the attack on P3X-666. That awful limbo that she had fallen into, not daring to feel because she knew it would destroy her. The slow heavy sense of sorrow like being held deep under water. She could so relate to Demeter's grief, wandering the earth for nine days and nine nights without eating, drinking or bathing, in search of her daughter. She was brought back to the present by Dr Weir's question.
"This festival that we have been invited to participate in what do we know about that?" Weir asked.
"If we are very lucky we will be taking part in the Eleusian Rites," Fica said. "They were highly secret rituals performed annually to mark the turning of the seasons. The Lesser Mysteries were held in the Spring, the Greater in the Autumn. We have been invited to attend the Greater Mysteries. The ceremonies extend over nine days, marking the nine days of Demeter's wandering and grief. We don't actually know much about the original festival here on Earth: it was considered a sacred mystery, no one who took part was supposed to speak of it, ever. But there were processions and feasting and fasting, dancing, pageants re-enacting the story of Persephone's abduction and some form of sacred marriage of the people to the land."
"No one talked about it afterwards?" Hailey asked.
"It was a capital offence to do so," Fica explained. "Especially what took place in the Telesterion or inner sanctum."
"But we are sure that taking part in this ceremony won't involve any danger to us," Weir asked.
"Yes ma'am," Dr Fica said. "We're as sure as we can be that it is safe. The rituals are fairly benign. The only sacrifice was usually a young pig. They were sacred to Demeter."
Dr Fica's notes were thorough. It was plain that she was indeed Daniel's protégé. Sam read with interest and growing disquiet the story of Demeter and the infant son of Metaneira who, while wandering the earth in disguise, she acted as nurse for. She had tried to make the child immortal by anointing his limbs in 'ambrosia' and placing him in the fire every night. Metaneira had interrupted the process before it was complete and as a result the child remained mortal. To Sam it sounded awfully like an attempt to make a hac'taur. They had encountered several Goa'uld with designs on reengineering the human genome most notably Pelops and Nirrti. Her own foster daughter was the product of such advanced genetic engineering and Sam still had nightmares about Nirrti's experimentation on her DNA when she was the Goa'uld's prisoner.
"Only those who spoke Greek and had shed no blood or had subsequently been purified were eligible to participate in the rituals at Eleusis," Hailey quoted from the report. "Well, I can see a couple of problems right there. I don't speak a word of Greek... and I'm... well, I've been on active service with the SGC for nearly three years now. I'm pretty certain I've shed blood." Her gaze sought out Sam for a moment before skittering away.
After her first mission through the Stargate Sam had resolved never to keep a count. She was an expert marksman, she knew. O'Neill had called on her for her sniper skills more than once. She was also the team's munitions expert. From setting defensive perimeters around their camp to mining a ridge set to blow with the first footfall detected upon it to sabotaging a Goa'uld mothership or blowing up a star... thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands had died because of her. But you couldn't think like that, not and remain sane.
"You'll be coached in the proper form of words before the ritual by a mystagogus or sponsor. Another official called the Dadouchousa will take those who need it through another ritual to purify those who have shed human blood," Dr Fica said. "You have to remember that the Mysteries were celebrated for almost two thousand years during which time the Greek world evolved tremendously in both intellectual and religious aspects. They have had another two thousand years of evolution in this place, in a society that is profoundly matriarchal. This is an incredible opportunity."
"I'm sure we all appreciate that, Dr Fica," Elizabeth Weir said. "But the Demetroi also present the best chance of a meaningful alliance we've seen for quite some time. Not just for the cultural and trade links. We have mutually beneficial technologies that can be exchanged that will improve the lives of everyone in both systems. As such the President has asked that I represent Earth's interests in these discussions. Colonel Carter will be leading the mission and co-ordinating our activities. Dr Fraiser, you of course will be looking into the medical technologies, Lieutenant Hailey you will be assisting both Colonel Carter and Dr Cook with the scientific, engineering and military aspects of the mission. Dr Fica, you will be our cultural liaison and will assist me in the treaty negotiations. I think your insights into the Demetroi will be invaluable. Dr Cook should be with us the day after tomorrow. We'll meet again then. The mission is due to start in one week. You will all be familiar with the briefing materials by then. Thank you for your time, ladies."
BRIGHTNESS FALLS LYRICS David Sylvian
I hate to go
Don't leave me alone with this sorrow
The body's heavy
The getting's slow
Lost in moments
Caught in moments
The night is starless
And stands below
And I need you by my side
I love you so
Don't leave me alone in this hollow
When brightness falls
Who'll come running?
When brightness falls
Who'll come running in?
Saved by silence
Save by noise
Save by lightning
Saved by joy
Building on emptiness
And all you broken hearted people
The hurt heals slow
And who can believe in tomorrow?
When brightness falls
Who'll come running?
When brightness falls
Who'll come running in?
The ticket's exploded
Only one way out
Live in lightness
Lost in lightness
There's nothing left to write about
And time's no longer
The greatest injustice of all
On this new day.