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20 May 2012 @ 10:05 pm
Fic: Compliance [SG1]  
Title: Compliance
Word Count: 2775
Rating: Teen and Up
Original/Fandom: Stargate: SG-1
Characters/Pairings: Classic Team
Warnings: none
Summary: Spooky, disconcerting... whatever you want to call it: everything's gray
Notes: written for writerverse Table of Doom prompt: Gray


Compliance

“Carter?”

The major had barely stepped through the event horizon when the colonel’s questioning voice reached her ears. Looking around dazedly, she automatically continued a step or two ahead to clear the way for Daniel and Teal’c behind her.

“I don’t know, Sir.” She shook her head and immediately headed for the MALP.

Daniel’s reaction had him stopped in his tracks, releasing an explosive exhalation of breath as Teal’c’s momentum on exiting the wormhole propelled him directly into the archaeologist’s back.

“We’re definitely not in Oz anymore,” Jack muttered as he turned in a full circle, his weapon at the ready. Everything was just as the MALP had shown. The gate sat on its pedestal, surrounded by a grassy meadow dotted with flowers, trees to the north and west starting about 150 yards away. Evidence of structures could be seen beyond them, on the higher ground in the distance. It was exactly what they had expected to see, except that it was drained of all color. Everything, including his team, was a muted shade of gray.

The pictures the MALP had sent back to the SGC an hour ago had been perfectly normal. The flowers in the meadow had appeared blue and violet, and the riot of colors in the leaves on the trees had led several people to speculate that the region they were gating into was entering an autumnal season.

“You’re all seeing this too, right?” Daniel looked around, his brow furrowed.

“Oh yeah,” Jack confirmed. “What’s the verdict, Major?”

Sam looked up from where she was studying the readout on the MALP interface. She shrugged. “Everything is reading normal, Sir, just like the data sent back to the SGC: atmospheric gases, radiation: everything checks out. I think we’re safe enough here. I just don’t know what’s causing this.” She gestured around her at the monochromatic landscape.

“Teal’c, you ever see this before?”

“I have not, O’Neill,” the Jaffa replied. “It is most...” he paused.

“Spooky?” Daniel offered just as Teal’c finished with, “Disconcerting.” The warrior ignored Daniel’s suggestion except for a slight raise of his eyebrow. Daniel shrugged.

They stood there for a moment, taking it all in. Jack mentally reviewed their orders: gate in, identify the source of the energy readings picked up by the MALP and determine if it could be useful to Earth, and return. He squinted at the buildings beyond the trees. This whole gray on gray thing was really screwing with his depth perception, but it didn’t look too far away.

“All right, let’s get going. The sooner we get there, the sooner we can get out of black and white hell.” He headed off toward the tree line, aiming for a small gap that looked to be the start of a trail. The others followed one by one, each trying to shake off the discomfort as they moved into the darker gray shadows under the trees.

As they moved through the woods, shrouded in silence, Jack privately thought that Daniel had it right and this was, indeed, spooky. There was an unnatural silence, the kind of hush that is peaceful and calming when walking through a snow-covered winter wonderland took on an eerie tinge when paired with this bleak landscape. It must have been affecting the others as well; no one was talking, not even Daniel.

The trees began to thin after about an hour and soon, they came out into a lighter, but still color-bleached landscape. The town lay about another mile away, the path leading up a gentle incline.

Daniel’s voice broke the stillness, the first sound since they had set out. “I need a break.” Without waiting for an answer, he dropped his pack to the ground and followed after it noisily.

Jack stared incredulously at Daniel, who seemed singularly unaware of his friend’s irritation. He looked to Sam and Teal’c for support, only to find them already shouldering out of their packs as well.

“What the...? Did everybody skip their Wheaties this morning?” he asked peevishly.

Carter sighed as she looked at him, frowning. “I don’t know, Sir. I just feel... tired.”

Teal’c nodded his agreement, although he seemed distinctly disturbed by the feeling. Daniel showed no sign of hearing anything.

Jack shrugged helplessly at the bizarre behavior of his team and shook his head. “All right, ten minutes. Then we finish this thing. The town’s right there, for crying out loud!” He pointed up the hill, but no one looked.

He could feel the edges of Carter’s ‘tiredness’ pressing on him. It was a little like a whirlpool centered behind his eyes, pulling all his thoughts down into it. Shaking it off, he remained standing and observed the rest of his team as they lost in their own thoughts.

Exactly ten minutes later, Jack barked, “Okay, everyone on your feet.”

Despite their earlier borderline insubordinate behavior, they responded almost instantly. Maybe they really did just need a break, he mused as they set off at a good pace to the hilltop town.

As they entered the outskirts of the apparently deserted town, Jack waited for his team to do their thing. Daniel would normally be wandering this way and that, pulled by each fascinating brick or stone he saw, already chattering about how they’d need to extend the mission length so that he could make a complete assessment. Carter should be pulling out some gizmo or other and making notes. Yet neither of them were showing any signs of interest in the town around them, simply trudging along. Teal’c was the only one behaving in anything near a normal manner, his eyes alert and scanning for threats.

They continued walking through until they approached a large, stone building sitting in the center of the town. There was writing in some script Jack didn’t recognize overtop the ornate entryway. Teal’c and Sam stopped and stared at Jack; Jack stared at Daniel as he gazed at the writing. He thought he could feel that eddy of fatigue starting to build again.

Need to get out of here, he thought. Need to finish the mission.

“Daniel?”

Daniel started at Jack’s voice and looked around. “What?”

Jack held back the biting retort that was ready to fly from his lips. Normally, he couldn’t get the archaeologist to shut up. Now, today, when all he wants to do is finish this as quickly as possible, he can’t drag a word out of him.

“What does it say?”

“Oh! Um... the hall of.... order?” He sounded uncertain. “Maybe this was their courthouse or...”

Jack cut him off. “Carter?”

“Yes, Sir?”

“Take some readings?”

She pulled her something-o-meter out of her vest pocket and studied the display intently. “The power reading seem to be coming from inside, Colonel.”

Giving one last look around the silent streets, Jack motioned for them to head inside.

The doors at the top of the stairs led into a large open area with pillar in the center. Jack shook his head as he felt the feeling of tiredness morph into lethargy. ‘Get in, get out.’ He slowly turned around noting doors leading from the chamber in each of the four directions.

Carter was walking slowly around the perimeter, checking her device. After one complete circuit, she returned to the northern doorway, to the right of the entrance and cautiously peered through the doorway. Daniel was standing entranced by some squiggles on the central pillar and Teal’c was, well, Teal’c was just standing.

“Colonel,” Carter’s voice broke through the silence. “The readings are spiking both to the north and west. But the highest concentration seems to be through here. There’s a stairway leading down. I’m thinking there might be an outlet device through there,” she indicated the western door, “but the source is probably located beneath us.”

Jack nodded his head. “Okay, Carter, find the power source and figure out if it’s something we want. Teal’c, you go with Carter.” He looked at back at Daniel with the scarily blank look on his usually expressive face and turned back to the other two. “I don’t know what’s going on here, but everyone is losing focus too easily. I want check ins every 10 minutes and both of you try to keep each other on task, all right? I’ll stay here with Daniel, see if he can figure out what the purpose of this place is.”

The two nodded their agreement and stepped through the doorway. He listened to their footsteps head down the stairs before turning to Daniel, who was watching him. As soon as he had Jack’s attention, he started talking, pointing to different areas of writing on the pillar as he did.

“So, Hall of Orders may be a more correct translation. It indicates here that this is where the people know the will of their god. It indicates that the western door leads to an audience chamber and that there is a... ‘orb of speaking’. A goa’uld communication device!” Daniel shook his head and continued looking at the writings. “These people were so... broken, subservient that the goa’uld kept only a minimal presence here, relying mostly on the.... let’s go with ‘priest’ to ensure that their orders were carried out.”

After a moment, Jack realized that Daniel had stopped speaking. He turned from the colorful painting he had been absorbed in to find Daniel looking at him quizzically.

“What?” Jack asked, defensively.

“Aren’t you going to check it out?”

At Jack’s blank expression, Daniel pointed to the western door. ‘Crap, now I’m doing it,’ Jack thought, disgruntled at being caught woolgathering.

“Yeah, check out the goa’uld order place thingy,” he repeated and moved over to the door. As he did, he answered Teal’c’s first check in call. They had found a device that seemed to be active and Major Carter was currently examining it.

“Understood. Any problems, Teal’c?”

There was a pause before Teal’c answered. “Nothing that we are not currently aware of, O’Neill.” Jack took that to mean that they were continuing to have trouble focusing, same as he was. Daniel, however, was on his game now, continuing to examine the pillar. Jack could hear him muttering bits of phrases aloud as they struck him. “The will of the most sacred and benevolent blah blah blah... shall be known through our intermediary... none shall act without our permission...”

Jack opened the door in the far wall and froze. The entire room was filled with skeletons, sitting or lying on the floor, usually in groups of two or more. With a sinking feeling, he noted that many of the groups had smaller skeletons with them as well: families. They looked as if they all had been facing the same direction. He looked past them to see an empty pedestal, its surface about the right size to hold a goa’uld communication device.

He could still hear Daniel behind him. He backed away from the room, closing the door quietly but firmly as he did. “I found the townspeople,” he said, burying the disturbing horror of that room behind the factual, military persona.

Daniel looked up interested, but his questions died on his lips when he saw Jack’s face. He walked past Jack and opened the door himself. Jack activated his radio.

“Carter, Teal’c, you there?”

“Here, Sir,” came Carter’s reply a few seconds later.

“Any chance that device you’re looking at could be lethal?”

“No, Sir, I don’t think so. I can’t really say what it’s supposed to be doing though. It’s emitting some type of EM energy, actually looks like something we might see on an EEG.” She trailed off for a minute. Jack heard Daniel close the door behind him and turned to see the archaeologist looking pained. His eyes met Jack’s in stunned disbelief.

“They just... they sat there and just died.”

Jack reached out a hand to pat Daniel’s shoulder, trying to ground him in the present. “EEG?” he questioned Carter.

“Brain waves, Sir.”

Another silence. “Carter!” Jack barked into the radio as he watched Daniel begin studying the inscriptions around the doorway, still shaking his head.

“Sir?”

“What could that mean?” he asked slowly, enunciating each word clearly.

He waited another minute, hoping that this silence meant she was thinking, not spacing out again. Or, if she was, Teal’c would follow instructions and bring them back around.

Suddenly, the radio sparked back to life at the same time Daniel started speaking.

“Colonel, I’d really need Janet to confirm this, but I think...”
“Jack, I know what it does...”
“It manipulates brainwaves.”
“Makes the populace more servile, easier to control.”
“Probably suppressing the areas of the brain linked with independent thought.”
“Maybe something like a truth serum, making people more open to suggestion.”

Jack was trying to absorb the information while simultaneously wondering how the hell they were doing their wonder geek thing when they weren’t even in the same room. Hell, Carter couldn’t even hear Daniel!

Sam was still talking. “I think we can safely assume that this is what is causing some of our problems focusing, Sir.”

“Can you turn it off?”

“I see the mechanism, but, given our experiences on P4X-347, I’m a little wary of just turning it off.” They could hear Teal’c say something to Carter, then she spoke again. “The mechanism only has two states: off and on. There are no intermediate steps.”

“Okay,” Jack answered. “Turn it off. We have the whole walk back to the gate to see if we have any adverse reaction; better than finding out back on Earth.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Then head back up here. We’re going home.”

Jack and Daniel looked at each other as they waited to see if they could feel anything when she stopped the EM device. They both jumped when about five seconds later, the room went from gray and grayer to a myriad of clashing colors.

“O’Neill, what do you see?” came Teal’c’s voice over the radio.

“Color,” Jack answered questioningly.

“Us, too, Sir. I’ve recorded the wave pattern, so Janet can confirm, but it seems likely that the EM waves were also interfering with our visual cortex. Maybe an unintended side effect.

“We’ll be up there in a few minutes, Colonel. Carter out.”

“You all right?” Daniel asked Jack, his glance straying to the closed door.

Jack’s jaw tightened. Daniel was well aware that kids were a hot-button issue for him. “I’m good,” he answered shortly. And it was true, would continue to be true until he got his team home and got himself out of the Mountain.

“What do you think happened in there?” he asked Daniel, his masochistic streak overriding his sense of self-preservation.

Daniel looked sick. “I think this section talks about how their god left them; how they would wait for his return.”

“Wait?” Jack asked.

“Yeah. This planet outlived its usefulness, so the goa’uld left and took the communication device, but didn’t bother to turn the mind-zapping machine off. So, they just waited for more instructions.”

Their reflection was interrupted by the return of Sam and Teal’c and they hastily headed back to the path that would lead them to the gate.

Despite the sense of urgency, it took twice as long to get out of the town as it did to on the way in as Daniel kept stopping to point out some unique feature or other of the architecture or the way the houses lined up. Jack reined him back in every time, but he had to hide a smile. Why did he ever think he wanted a Daniel who just followed his every order? Being able to actually compare the two, it was no contest: he’d take the real deal every time.

Halfway to the gate, Jack asked, “So anyone feel any withdrawal symptoms? Depression, headaches, sudden urges for pie?”

Teal’c looked shrewdly at him. “If a desire for pie is a symptom of withdrawal, you must be continually suffering from an addiction, O’Neill.”

Carter laughed as she explained, “Often withdrawal will trigger cravings for certain foods, possibly trying to replace the endorphin rush of the addictive substance.

“And, no Sir. I’m not feeling anything. I don’t think the device did anything except suppress will... and color.”

“Oh, no, Carter. I’m pretty sure it made me psychic. I foresee several fun filled days in the infirmary for all of us.”

“I think your psychic powers are faulty, O’Neill. The infirmary stay will almost certainly not be fun filled.”

Jack shot Teal’c a look as Daniel started dialing the gate. “Just wait, big guy. I’ve got a whole series of colorblind jokes that you haven’t heard yet. It’ll be a blast.”


 
 
 
Jenjennickels on May 21st, 2012 03:34 am (UTC)
The had me giggling.

Very good and I love the premise of the planet... the gray and the people just waiting to die. Definitely spooky.
magickmoons: daniel sloooowlymagickmoons on May 21st, 2012 01:59 pm (UTC)
Thanks. Oddly this was the first one I started for the Table of Doom, then it just went pfft! But I picked it up yesterday and wow, it just finished itself :)
Jen: sg1: jack/sam_smallwritingjennickels on May 21st, 2012 03:07 pm (UTC)
I love when that happens. Sometimes what a story needs is to sit in a box and wait for awhile.

Now I totally want to steal the idea of a colorless planet. I just like that imagery so much.
magickmoons: sarcastic jackmagickmoons on May 21st, 2012 04:31 pm (UTC)
Steal away! I'd love to see what you do with it :)
Jen: sg1: jack_smirkjennickels on May 21st, 2012 10:24 pm (UTC)
Oooh, more plot bunnies. They sure do multiply like, well, bunnies.
magickmoons: jack danielmagickmoons on May 23rd, 2012 06:21 pm (UTC)
You want to talk about plot bunnies? I just 'organized' all my plot bunnies / WIPs. Total number: 43. And that's just what I've uploaded or created on Google Docs - there's a whole 'nother buttload on my hard drive.

Of course this comprises both one line ideas and couple thousand word beginnings of epics... God, I have to finish something!!
Jenjennickels on May 23rd, 2012 08:17 pm (UTC)
I have over 40 WIPs going. Most are at least several paragraphs long. Then there is my notebook that just has ideas without any content (just notes). There have to be at least 30 in there. I'm working on getting those transferred to the computer so they're all in one place.

I also have a ton of stuff finished (which amazes me sometimes). I've made it my mission this year to complete some of these unfinished stories before I start new things. So far... haven't done any, lol. I have added wordcount to 2 stories previously started which is a step in the right direction.
Fig Newton: fic recsg_fignewton on May 21st, 2012 11:13 am (UTC)
Read it. Like it. Recced it. :)
magickmoons: jack danielmagickmoons on May 21st, 2012 02:00 pm (UTC)
Wow! Thanks so much. I just read the rec; you make it sound so good :)
One Whose Honesty is Stronger Than Her Fear: bounceamilyn on May 23rd, 2012 03:38 am (UTC)
Very cute. I especially like the conversation about pie and withdrawal causing cravings.
magickmoons: teal'cmagickmoons on May 23rd, 2012 01:39 pm (UTC)
Thanks, I'm glad you liked it :)
Ami Ven: Carterami_ven on May 23rd, 2012 05:15 am (UTC)
Very nice! The colorless planet is a great idea, and I love the team banter (especially from Jack's POV) but the little skeletons are just so sad...
magickmoons: sammagickmoons on May 23rd, 2012 02:27 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I'm glad the banter worked; it's not my strong suit. Sorry for the sads, I hope the ending picked you back up a bit though!
Sid: Jack gate and skysidlj on July 2nd, 2012 08:18 pm (UTC)
Very creepy and spooky! Good thing Jack was able to stay more-or-less on task. Years of training and experience pay off!
magickmoons: classic team collagemagickmoons on July 3rd, 2012 08:36 pm (UTC)
Glad you liked it. Yeah, I figured Jack's training would make him less likely to totally give in... glad that came through :)