As a precaution Jack decided to push Daniel through the open wormhole to meet with the aliens. Daniel didn’t want him to, but the colonel’s argument was irrefutable. Sometimes the exit was rougher than other times and while a man on his feet would have no trouble to compensate Daniel might have a harder time at it in his chair.
It was a welcome familiarity for Daniel to feel his body being ripped to microscopic pieces and put together again a fraction of a second later on the other side of the galaxy. For the past weeks he had been scarily sure he would never experience it again.
The warmth of the alien planet flowed over him as he took in the idyllic oasis before him. Just like on the team’s first visit to the planet the genie-like woman came to meet them, appearing out of the hazy air like a mirage becoming solid. The three members of the team who had seen her once before still felt some of the awe that registered on Daniel’s face when he saw her.
“Welcome return,” the woman greeted them. Then she turned to Daniel specifically. “Derhaib, Daniel Jackson! Mjuhe sayd derhaiba ekyo konushan miri beti lourah ila Jinileme.”
Jack recognized a few of the words as Arabic; remembering it from his time of running black-ops in Iraq. Daniel however quickly identified the entirety as the spoken version of the language in the alien data base from PQX-830.
“Hello…” he ventured, opting for Arabic since it in a way was one of the components of the language. He received a smile in return, and at the same time a jab in the back from curious Jack.
“She said welcome,” he translated, “and that she was glad to meet the one who speaks her daughter tongue, I think. I’m not entirely sure but I think she’s referring to Arabic.”
The woman’s smile widened and she switched back to English so they could all understand.
“The tongue which you name Arabic is indeed a daughter of ours. But come, the sun is high and the air is warm to you. We may talk further inside the meeting house. There is much you must hear before time turns its wheel out of our reach.”
She led them along the paved path just as she had the first time, and into the meeting house. Teal'c aided Daniel over to one of the divans before he took a seat on the one beside him.
“May I ask your name?” Daniel inquired as the alien lowered herself onto the seat on his other side.
“I am called Pembi-Keran. It means pink ray of light.”
In his mind Daniel picked apart the name. Pembi – pembe, pink in Turkish. Kiran – Keran, Sanskrit, ray of light. Pembi-Keran smirked, as if she knew exactly what he was thinking.
“My name is from the mother tongue of Jihnnsai. The tongues you have named Arabic and Sanskrit are our daughter tongues, as are others among the tongues of Earth.”
“Then I was right, your people has had contact with humans all over the Middle East? And influenced them and their languages?”
Pembi-Keran seemed to consider his question, her dark eyes looking deep into his lighter blue. She nodded.
“A long time ago, my people travelled Jioti Chaarc – this galaxy that you call the Milky Way. Much like you we had a great thirst for knowledge, and in our search of it we met many peoples that we came to know as friends. Among the worlds that we visited was Earth.”
“Did you use the Stargate-system as well?” Daniel was leaning towards her, as if eagerly drinking her words. She giggled a little and continued.
“In this time we travelled by vessels…you would call them space-ships. We came upon the young Earth, where the human race was taking its first steps. In some parts dusyilan – the Goa’uld – had already made their mark, and so we turned to parts untouched by them.”
“Why? Why did you avoid the Goa’uld?”
“Our quest was to learn, and of dusyilan we already knew all we needed and wanted. Thus we befriended the humans that were still purely of Earth to learn of them. At this time our kind only had one purpose; to learn as much as we were able of the Jioti Chaarc and all the things and beings within it. Not until we met the humans on Earth could we imagine a greater purpose than this. Your race is unlike any that we have known, full of passion and glory but also imagination and love deeper than we have ever confronted anywhere else. We began to learn from the humans as they learned from us, and we found that our quest for knowledge was futile without an equal quest for the betterment of Jioti Chaarc. We realized our wandering ways were too fickle for this purpose and so we set out on a new search; for a world to call our own. At long last we came upon the planet which you refer to as PQX-830. We called it Youva – it means...”
“…home.” Daniel finished her sentence, led by the complicated language mix he was beginning to comprehend. “Continue.”
“In order to continue learning, as our thirst for knowledge was still strong, we connected ourselves to the network of Stargates – we call them Dynia-Kapase. Through our Stargate came many travelers and so we were able to remain in our home as we grew and expanded our minds.”
“How come you abandoned Youva if you were intent on staying there?”
“We did not know it at first, but Youva was already dying when we first set foot on her soil. When her water began to grow scarce we decided to once again take up a search and found ourselves another home. However, as we ventured out into Jioti Chaarc again we found that dusyilan had taken dominion throughout the galaxy by their travel through the Stargate-network. It was only by chance that they had not reached our dying Youva. Thus when we found our new home, that we named Jinileme, we devised a path for our visitors to find us. Here the evil of dusyilan cannot touch us. We are protected, hidden within the very system that led you to us.”
“Hidden? Inside the Stargate system?” Now Sam was the one leaning forward with intrigued questions.
“Yes. It is a necessary precaution to ensure our sanctuary. Only those who have visited the Hall of Gifts on Youva may pass through the Dynia-Kapase here. Thus we have assured ourselves that only those seeking may find the Jihnnsai.”
“How is that possible?”
“If one would attempt to step through that has not seen the Hall of Gifts he would be returned from whence he came. Just as your ‘MALP’ was before your first visit here.”
“But that’s impossible,” Sam protested, even though she had seen it with her own eyes. “Matter can only travel one way through the wormhole.”
“We have altered this in the ‘gate of Jinileme.” The statement had an air of obviousness, as if the feat of altering one of the Stargates’ basic functions wasn’t a revolutionizing accomplishment.
“But, how does the ‘gate know if someone has been on Youva?”
“As you found, the only path to the Hall of Gifts is through Inansh – the portal of faith. Passing through Inansh leaves a mark on the core of a being. Our Dynia-Kapase detects this and receives only those who seek the Jihnnsai. If time had permitted you would have learned this before your path led you here. As I told you on your first visit, the path that was constructed for visitors to find us runs through the gifts you received on Youva. They explain many things, and restriction of entry to Jinileme is one of them.”
Sam didn’t know what to say; she was still awed by the extraordinary changes these people had managed to make to their Stargate, and so Daniel took back the inquiry.
“You said your people is called Jihnnsai?” Pembi-Keran nodded in response to the question and he continued with a pondering tone, “I wonder…do you know there are legends on Earth of beings called Djinns. They are sometimes described with a striking similarity to your...” He gestured at the lower part of her body. “Do all Jihnnsai look like you.” She nodded again.
“This is the form of the Jihnnsai. The shade of the us-hayat varies greatly though. Our temperament and personality is expressed in its color, and sometimes – in extreme situations –it may change its color. I did not know that the humans of Earth had weaved tales of us, but it is not surprising. We have been called many things by the peoples we have met, but Djinns…” She chuckled. “Your people is truly singularly unique.”
“Humans are the only people we have known to gift us a name derived from our mother tongue, as well as creating daughter tongues from ours. Humans learned so much from us, more than any other people we have befriended. No, it is not surprising that they weaved tales of us.”
“The Djinns were believed to be beings with great magical powers, who sometimes granted wishes. There are stories of some Djinns that lived in magical lamps and bottles.” A wisp of a conciliatory smile drifted across Daniel’s face, indicating that he didn’t believe these tales. Pembi-Keran however didn’t seem offended at all.
“Humans have always been very intelligent,” she said with a mix of admiration and pride. “Even when they do not understand us they describe us and our ways into recognition.”
“You mean some of those things are true?” Daniel sat up straighter and gawked. She sniggered at his shocked expression.
“Some…all…’True’ is a shift – a gray zone. The lamps and bottles you speak of are the vessels with which we travel across Jioti Chaarc, their shapes and functions interpreted by naïve minds. Our way upon meeting is that of gifting, as you have seen on Youva, but before we know of a new people we do not know what to appropriately gift them. Thus our gifts are to fulfill what the people wishes for with most heat. In granting these things we also learn a great deal of them, because a man’s wishes is a window to his very core. You will each be granted a wish, as a sign of the friendship between our peoples. But remember this – we do not have magic in the sense that the legends of Earth believe, only technology most likely far beyond yours. Was it not one of your own wise ones who said that technology too far from a man’s comprehension will be impossible for him to differentiate from magic?”
“Yes, that was Arthur C. Clarke…? It’s been proven true many times; the Goa’uld even consciously use it to oppress their human slaves.”
“We have seen this too and many times wished that we did indeed possess the magic to conquer them. In you our wishes have finally been granted and soon dusyilan shall fall from their arrogant position. As the wisdom of the book you call the Bible says, their pride has heralded their downfall.”
“Pembi-Keran, I have to ask you one thing.” Daniel hesitated and searched to find the words to voice the strange suspicion that had begun to form in his mind. “I can’t help but notice...you know a lot of things about Earth, even things that must have happened long after your people left our planet. And you know exactly what to call things so that I understand when you explain. Can you…” ‘Can you read my mind?’ No, I can’t ask that, it sounds crazy.
“Yes, Daniel Jackson, I can.” Pembi-Keran interruption of his train of thought, made him jump in startled surprise. She tilted her head to the side with a mischievous expression. “Does it disturb you?”
He let out a nervous laugh and exchanged a glance with Jack, who gave him a semi-apologetic shrug. Seeing their discomfort Pembi-Keran restrained her amusement and lifted her hands in a placating gesture.
“Remain still in trust,” she conciliated. “While your minds are as open to me as the sky I will not take that which you do not offer freely. Our ways would not allow it. All I have read has been to facilitate our communication. This has been necessary because we followed the decree of the heavens and altered our way to call you here. If you had followed the path we set for our visitors there would have been no need as you would have learned all you needed from our gifts.”
Daniel’s trust won out and he tried to push the knowledge of their host’s mindreading from his mind by steering the conversation towards their errand. He could tell by the look on Jack’s face he wasn’t as prepared to forget about it, but he knew the new topic of conversation would trump his concerns.
“You seem concerned about time. You keep repeating that calling us here is a change of your ways.
“Yeah, what’s the hurry?” Jack filled in, confirming Daniel’s assessment of his priorities.
“The wheel of time is inexorable,” Pembi-Keran replied with urgency in her voice. “You must come to us now, or never shall we meet.”
“Okay…but why did we have to come?”
“You four hold a crucial part in the dance of the stars. We have read in the heavens of your future and it is the very future of Jioti Chaarc. By coming to us at this point of the turning of the wheel, you may glimpse at that which lies before you. If you heed the words of the age-old wisdom of the heavens they may lead you as you walk on, and guide your steps toward the perfect possible future.”
Her words were heavy with foreshadowing. The talk of fate and great destiny made a chill creep along Jack’s spine. Daniel however latched on to the implied means of her predictions.
“You mean to say that you can tell the future from the stars? Like astrology or a prophecy?”
“The Jihnnsai read the signs of the heavens. They tell us of the events that are still to pass in the universe. Nothing is set; we see all things that may come. It is not the future, but a multitude of possibilities.”
“So you try to lead things to the best, for example by calling for us to let us know what lies before us?”
Pembi-Keran shook her head with an almost supercilious expression on her face.
“Our way is not to meddle. In most things the best path is to let things develop in their own time. If you had not come to the Hall of Gifts we would not have searched you out. However, when your message reached us we read in the heavens that you must come to us. All paths to this point in time lead here, and all paths converge from it. Your decision to heed what we have read or not to heed it will determine the very path of Jioti Chaarc.”
The four members of SG-1 gaped at her and into the thick silence enveloping the room Jack muttered, “No pressure.” Daniel was still a bit skeptical about the idea of astrological predictions. As open minded as he was to other cultures and beliefs, the idea of prophesy was something not easy to accept as reality.
“You’re really going to tell us our future?” he asked. Pembi-Keran tilted her head again before she responded.
“The heavens are cryptic even to the best of our readers. The wisest among us have meditated on the things we have read, and what has been derived from the heavens’ movement we will gift you as advice and guidance. Are you ready to receive the knowledge of Jioti Chaarc?”
Daniel looked around to his friends. Jack shrugged non-committaly, but Sam scooted forward expectantly and Teal'c gave one of his curt nods. Daniel joined in with a more enthusiastic nod. “Yes, we’re ready.”
Pembi-Keran rose and stepped into the middle of the room. She made a series of sweeping gestures with her hands and a ornate armchair of dark stained wood appeared. Sitting down in it she turned to Jack.
“Come forth, Jack O’Neill.” Another gesture made a thick pillow appear on the floor in front of her.
Jack pushed down his well-hidden nervousness, and rose to take the appointed seat. When he sank down on the pillow his old injured knee protested with its familiar stabbing pain. As always he ignored the protest from the limb and gritted his teeth to force it into compliance. In response the knee threatened to give out and simply drop him on his butt. The struggle for a controlled descent caused him to involuntarily sway, and Pempi-Keran reached out her hand to steady him.
“Thanks,” he mumbled a little embarrassed after being aided down the last inches. “It usually doesn’t act up like that.”
“A single physical weakness is not a humiliation when there is such strength inside,” she assured him. Her words did nothing to ease his discomfort, so she carried on with the matter at hand. She sat up straighter and her words gained a ceremonial ring, as she recited the divination for him.
“Jack O’Neill, heed the words of the heavens. Have faith. You will conquer the one you fear; you will prove to be the stronger one. But heed this, even though your past conflict will be rightened to your advantage you will both have to swallow your pride. Unless old enemies become allies the universe itself will fall.”
Silence fell in the room as Jack and his teammates considered her words. Eventually Jack was the first to speak.
“You can’t make that a little clearer?” he requested with joking hopefulness.
Pembi-Keran shook her head, her eyes serious despite the smile playing on her lips.
“As I have told you, the heavens are cryptic even to those Jihnnsai that have dedicated their lives to reading its signs. What has been decided for you to hear is the result of lengthy meditation. Meditate on your messages,” she said to all of them, “together and on your own, to find the true meaning of the words. Teal'c, it is your turn.”
She extended her hand again to aid Jack in standing. He accepted with another mumbled ‘Thanks’ and returned to the higher seat of his divan. Teal'c stepped forward and contrastingly graceful seated himself onto the pillow, his strong legs smoothly folding into the familiar lotus position of Kelno’reem. Pembi-Keran nodded approvingly, before she retook her formal posture.
“Teal'c, heed the words of the heavens. Your dream will come to pass, but there will come a time when you must choose your allegiance. As the threads of your unwavering hope come together you will stand at a crossroad. Choose wisely; the lives of many rest in the balance.”
Teal'c received the prophecy with a nod and filed away the precise wording for consideration during his next session of Kelno’reem. Even though her no longer needed, or was able to, achieve the deepest levels of meditation he had found that the stillness of the habit still served him well in sorting his thoughts and making decisions. Pembi-Keran gave a pleased nod and turned to the female member of SG-1.
“Samantha Carter, come forth.”
Sam sat down, almost as gracefully as Teal'c. Her heart carried even more skepticism than Daniel had expressed earlier, especially concerning the somewhat new-agy deliverance of their ‘prophecies’. In her logical scientific mind there was very little room for flummery, but she decided to keep her lack of belief in those things to herself. There were many things she had not believed until she witnessed them with her own eyes, and there may still prove to be some fact to this latest seeming fiction. Daniel's constant insistence, ever since their very first mission together, had also taught her not dismiss a culture just because she didn’t agree with it. If for no other reason than to be better than Jack, she always tried her best to heed his admonition.
“The heavens do not require your belief, Samantha Carter, but your choice to heed its words or not will.” Pembi-Keran’s words were uncomfortably on point, and made Sam a little suspicious of her earlier assurances to not read their minds more than permitted. Almost afraid she tried to banish the thought from her mind, but to her relief Pembi-Keran said nothing about it.
“Samantha Carter, heed the words of the heavens. Your greatness still awaits. As a warrior you are skilled, but the brilliance of your mind will be the tipping point of a galaxy. When one path comes to a close, that which another desires will come to you. A new range of lives will depend on your wisdom to guide them.”
Finally the turn came to Daniel and Pembi-Keran rose to bring her chair to him on the divan. He quickly put his hand up to stop her.
“No, I can do it.“
“You must not.”
“It is your way, isn't it?” he asked with a gesture to the set up in the middle of the room. Pembi-Keran nodded. “Then I want to do it right. Teal'c, will you give me a hand?”
Teal'c bowed his head and rose to supply the support of his steady hands. Jack and Sam weren't far behind, hurrying to extend their hands as well. Surrounded by his three teammates Daniel shakily got to his feet. He leaned heavily on Teal'c and step by step moved to the pillow. When he sat down Teal'c’s grip kept him from falling to quick, while Jack and Sam still hovered right behind. Pembi-Keran, who had been observing the transportation, encompassed them all with an admiring smile.
“You have good friends, Daniel Jackson, that hold you very dear. Their concern for you have been obvious in their minds since they first set foot on Jinileme.” Daniel nodded and ducked his head as he felt his cheeks heat, but her following words were more worrying than embarrassing. “Their importance to you will continue to bring you both into and through grave danger.”
“Is that my message?”
“No, and yes.” She straitened up to her prophesying position. “Daniel Jackson, heed the words of the heavens. Old habits die hard. What’s been done once may be done twice, but the choice is yours. What you have forgotten must return as you make your choice once again. You must learn what you have many times taught; that things are always in the shift and some matters are not as you thought. Still you must not abandon your struggle. Time again as time before the fate of Jioti Chaarc will rest on you.”