After seeing Daniel brought away safely to the infirmary Sam had returned to her lab. Normally she would have joined Jack in the vigil at Daniel’s side, but today she felt the need to go back to work unusually strong. Over the past forty-eight hours she had really begun to make progress with deciphering the data base. The letters and words were somehow unraveling before her and by now she didn’t even need to tackle them one at the time to understand. The science that had at first been far beyond her understanding was also making more sense and what before had defied logic as she knew it appeared more and more commonsense.
She had been back at work for several hours now, and was in deep concentration reading the file about ‘energy’. There was a knock on the door. Startled Sam turned to invite the visitor, a young man whose name at the moment eluded her.
“Yirmec,” she said, motioning for him to enter. He seemed bewildered; hesitantly taking a step inside the door as he stuttered:
“E…excuse me, ma’am?”
Sam recognized the words as English, but for some reason she could not understand what they meant.
“Kia dedin?” she asked and by the look on the young man’s face quickly realized he didn’t understand her any better than she understood him. Am I not talking English? She tried again,
“Moosun tuma mjuhe samjhe?”
The young man at the door shook his head.
“I can’t understand you.”
She comprehended the sentiment of the words even if she couldn’t understand their meaning. Frustrated she racked her mind for something to say, something that the young man would understand, something that could possibly help. Someone who can help.
“Jack!” she exclaimed. “Albay Jack O’Neill!”
The man understood, rushing out the door and shortly returning with a vexed Jack in tow. The colonel scanned the room, and seeing nothing that was obviously dangerous he asked:
“Carter? What’s going on?”
Sam didn’t understand his words either, but their years of service together had taught her to understand his body language. Hoping he would read her just as well she tried to explain despite knowing full well that her words would mean nothing to him.
“Mjuhe nehi konushan Angilam, ve mjuhe aniyorum yaha.”
Jack understood alright, this new predicament just proving his suspicions about Pembi-Keran’s ‘granted’ wishes truer by the minute. Leaping to the next logical deduction he gestured to Sam to stay put and ran for Teal'c’s quarters. His wild imagination conjured up an unending series of possible things he could find there, one more terrifying than the one before. To his relief there was no disaster waiting for him, only Teal'c serenely meditating at the centre of his usual overkill of candlelight.
“Teal'c?” Jack breathed the name as he steadied himself against the door frame. The Jaffa’s eyes snapped open.
“O’Neill?” Teal'c lifted his signature inquisitive eyebrow.
“Are you okay?” Jack asked with his breath still in his throat.
“Yes, O’Neill. Is there a reason that I should not be?”
“Something’s wrong with Daniel and Carter. I think the wishes those genie-people granted us back-fired. Are you sure you’re alright?”
Teal'c closed his eyes to searchingly feel every inch of his body. Over the days since they returned from Jinileme he had felt his strength grow, the wish he had made to Pembi-Keran step by step coming to fulfillment. Searching himself he found his regained strength not waning. Then, there was something else stirring on the edge of his consciousness. It was something he hadn’t felt for months. Something that hadn’t existed since that fateful battlefield where he and Bra’tac had hovered at the edge of death for over three days. It was the mind of a Goa’uld larva inside of him. With a gasp he opened his eyes and met Jack’s inquiring gaze.
“What is it?” Jack asked, frightened by the fear in Teal'c’s eyes. The alarmed expression on his face morphed into controlled anger, his dark eyes growing even darker with fury.
“My wish has also been granted in a way I did not intend. We must return to Jinileme.”
Jack was a little comforted by Teal'c’s decisive reaction, even if whatever had gone wrong with his wish had apparently spooked the one guy he thought couldn’t be spooked.
On the way to General Hammond’s office Jack filled Teal'c in on the details of their friends’ situations. It seemed to Teal'c that, despite the infuriating way his wish had been fulfilled, he was the one to get away the easiest.
With the overweighing arguments of three thirds of SG-1 being affected, the two of them didn’t have a hard time convincing the general of their need to go confront Pembi-Keran. Having gotten the green light Jack and Teal'c headed for the infirmary to inform Daniel. On his vow to keep his ‘crazy’, as Jack called it, contained he was released from his bonds. To Jack’s relief Daniel was able to speak with Sam and fill her in on the plan as well. The sight of them chatting away with Daniel making intermittent translations for him and Teal'c painfully reminded Jack of a time when his favorite geek had been the only one who understood him. At the same time it was reassuring. He could always trust Daniel’s linguistic genius to figure any communication issues out.
It wasn’t long before SG-1 stepped through the Stargate onto the sandy soil of Jinileme. There was no Pembi-Keran coming to meet them this time, so they headed into the village on their own. The first person they met was a child. Sam knelt down to speak to the little girl, and soon she had the directions to Pembi-Keran’s house.
There was only a drape in the doorway so they entered without knocking. Pembi-Keran sat on the floor, a fan of papers spread around her with complicated calculations and diagrams. Next to her was a telescope aimed through an open window in the roof that hinted that she was at work with astrological predictions.
“Hey, P-K!” Jack yelled with a razor sharp edge in his voice. “We have a bone to pick with you.”
The hostile approach didn’t seem to bother Pembi-Keran in the least. She rose slowly and gracefully from the ground, with a dignified pleasant expression on her face.
“Have you returned to make your wish, Daniel Jackson?” she asked, ignoring Jack’s angry presence. Nonetheless it was Jack who answered her.
“We’ve come so you can take back what you did.”
“What have I done?” She tilted her head in a questioning way. Jack’s response came with exaggerated clarity, and indicatory gestures to match.
“You… the wishes…you didn’t exactly give us what we asked for.”
Pembi-Keran smirked, and her voice earned a gloating tone.
“Oh, but I did.”
“No you didn’t!” Jack was really getting angry now, his fingers itching to bring his weapon up against her and force the answers he wanted from her.
“Jack,” Daniel stopped him with a hand on his arm, a gesture that reassured him that no matter what the archaeologist still remained the sensible one of them. He stepped past Jack and took the word.
“Pembi-Keran. You have to undo what you’ve done. This is not what they meant with their wishes.”
She sneered and answered with condescension:
“They should have considered their choices more carefully.”
Is this about Jack not accepting your advances? Daniel formed the words in his mind, aware that if he spoke them out loud he would be betraying Jack’s trust. Pembi-Keran laughed.
“No.” She swept by him to invade Jack’s personal space, just like she had done once before, and whispered in the colonel’s ear. “This path is not your doing, in more than your poor phrasing.”
Jack jerked away from her with distaste on his face.
“So why did you do this?”
“You did it.” Pembi-Keran floated back to the centre of the room. As she turned to face them again her eyes bored into Daniel’s with a sudden steely hardness. “Think, Daniel Jackson, riddles are your domain. You know the answer to this one as well as every other.”
Her words were teasing, each one pointed to get a rise out of him. The reaction from his friends was faster than his own, their support, trust and reliance crashing into his back like a tidal wave of protest. Reassured by the feeling Daniel searched his mind to piece things together, speaking out loud as he always did when thinking hard.
“You say we did this…” Pembi-Keran raised an eyebrow that made him rectify the statement. “No, ‘they’ did it.” He turned around to consider his friends. “They should have considered their choices more carefully,” he quoted her as he turned around again. “The wishes, they backfired because of how they phrased them. It’s just like in the legends; the magic comes with a price. In the stories there was never a wish that didn’t turn wrong, because the wisher could never be specific enough. Jack wished for me to be walking, jumping and rushing into danger, so in turn I walked, jumped and threw myself into danger. Sam wished to understand the data base, so she began to understand but the knowledge changed her mind and pushed away the things she already knew. Teal'c wished to be strong like when he had a prim’ta, so he got a new prim’ta that made him strong again. These are the things they wished for – that’s why you maintain that you have done nothing wrong, right?! They are however not the things they wanted, so you have to take them back.” By the end of his speech Daniel’s voice was almost as sharp as Jack’s had been when they walked into the house but the expression on Pembi-Keran’s face remained the same mix of gloating tease and superiority.
“A wish granted cannot be taken back,” she told him matter of factly. Daniel racked his myth-knowledge for a solution.
“But they can be undone, can’t they?”
Pembi-Keran tilted her head and Daniel knew she had seen his intention in his mind.
“Consider carefully, Daniel Jackson,” she warned, “the consequences of this choice are grave for you.”
With a chill he realized to what she was referring. If he undid Jack’s wish he would be returned to the wheelchair, unable to walk, stuck on Earth… He shook his head decisively.
“I know, but I don’t really have a choice do I? Sam can’t go on not understanding English. Teal'c…he could remove the prim’ta, I suppose, but I…” He shot a glance at Jack. “Who knows what I’ll do. And besides, this wish shouldn’t backfire, should it? Making things undone usually worked in the stories. It’s the only wish with clear consequences; too simple to go wrong. But just to be sure,” he added, “I want you to read the wish from my mind. That way I don’t have to put it into words and it can’t backfire because of poor phrasing, right?”
For the first time Pembi-Keran seemed stumped. She stared at Daniel, opening and closing her mouth as if she didn’t know what to say. It was obvious she hadn’t seen this latest development coming. So much for reading minds and seeing the future, Jack thought triumphantly, I guess not even genies can keep up with Daniel.
“I can!” The Jihnnsai snapped her head in his direction, the fire of anger evident in her eyes. “No matter how confident, there is no one able to formulate a sufficient wish. In all our travels we have met not one creature who could do this.”
Jack’s gloating spread to his lips with a smirk.
“Go ahead, try him,” he urged with a nonchalant tone. “We trust him. And by the way, if you assume he can’t do it just because no one else has been able to, you’re in for a surprise. You won’t be the first to make the mistake of judging him after the standard of others.”
“Is that so?” she questioned pointedly, her still irritated eyes shooting back and forth between Jack and Daniel. Jack smiled even wider.
“Search my mind.”
“I have,” she snapped, “but I do not believe you. I will however grant his wish, and you will see that my assumption is accurate.”
Without flourish she lifted her hands and beams of smoke shot out to envelop Daniel, Sam and Teal'c in separate pink clouds. When the smoke dispersed Daniel swayed, his legs suddenly failing him.
“Jack!” he called with a hint of desperation in his voice, but the colonel wasn’t alone to rush forward to halt his fall. Three pair of friendly hands gently lowered Daniel onto a pillow on the floor.
“Does this mean it worked?” he asked, his eyes connecting with Sam’s to see if she understood him. She nodded with a grateful smile.
Teal'c shut his eyes and let his mind wander into the place reserved for a prim’ta, in search of the evil of its mind. He found the pouch in his stomach empty, and nodded to his friends in affirmation of the efficiency of Daniel’s wish. His feelings however were mixed, the joy of being free of the Goa’uld resuming its struggle with the fear of becoming weak.
Jack was also ambivalent on the results. It was evident that the earlier wishes had been undone, but this time he didn’t want to celebrate prematurely.
“We’ll stay here until we know for sure there aren’t any…side effects of this wish,” he ordered, regretting having to put a lid on the excitement of his team. Pembi-Keran snorted derisively.
“Are you now doubting your friend?” she asked. “Were you not the one who assured me he would not fail?”
“No, I don’t doubt him. You on the other hand, I don’t trust as far as I can throw you.”
The anger returned to her face with indignation shooting like flashes from her eyes.
“I have granted his wish, read it from his mind as he requested. If it – ‘backfires’ – only he is to blame.” She paused, her expression mildering as a realization made its way over her features. “It will not however,” she stated with surprise.
“Re-e-ally?” Jack’s sardonic reply couldn’t have made it clearer that he didn’t believe her, even without the derisive wag of his head that came along with it.
“I am not the one who made your wishes fail,” Pembi-Keran irritably insisted. “The granter has no power in the Gifting. The outcome lies within the phrasing of the wish. This is the way of gifting inherit in the structure of Hediye.”
She looked beseechingly at each of them in turn, her eyes finally meeting pardon in Sam’s face. Sam thought hard on what she had said, and spoke thoughtfully.
“It’s a technology, right? So it’s kind of a design flaw?” She shook her head, like one might shake a piggy bank to persuade a coin to fall out. “I…I kind of know it is in the data base, but I can’t remember the details of how it works.”
Pembi-Keran attempted a comforting smile, but the gesture completely passed the downcast major by.
“It is there. Your memory fails because your wish has been undone. You cannot retain what you learned under its influence, but you might still learn it as you would say – ‘the old fashioned way’.” Her words did little to encourage Sam. Pembi-Keran shrugged and continued, “About Hediye, as I have said before, there is no magic – only science that runs beyond your insight. If it was magic Hediye might not have been flawed. Our scientists have found no way to mitigate the literality of the granting, but it is theoretically possible to pose the perfect wish. However, we have always believed that phrasing it correctly would take a lifetime of considering.”
Jack gave her another scornful sneer.
“So why’d you say Daniel’s wish won’t backfire?”
“He has done the impossible. His wish is without flaw.” Her awed acknowledgment made Jack’s sneer turn into a proud smirk that widened as she continued, “Purity of heart made him wish to benefit others instead of himself, a key to the problem we had not even imagined. Your wishes have been undone and no ill shall follow. However, it saddens me to see him sacrifice so much. With your permission, Jack O’Neill, I shall make a new attempt to grant your wish for him.”
SG-1 spoke in unison – or shouted rather – and Jack placed himself protectively in front of Daniel. Pembi-Keran laughed at their trepidation.
“I will not use the Hediye this time, but another device that is likely more familiar to you.”
She extended her left hand palm up and her usual pink smoke rose from the palm in a cloud. When it dissolved a palm-sized red and golden object lay in her hand.
“A healing device?” Sam questioned. “You can use that?”
“How? Do you have naquada in your blood?” Sam couldn’t help her curiosity, despite Jack shooting an annoyed glance her way.
“When we learned of the dusyilan we found some of their technology could be useful. We developed a serum that allows us to use dusyilan devices for a short time.”
“So you can really heal me?”
Daniel pushed Jack aside to address Pembi-Keran, but Jack stubbornly and protectively stayed between them.
“No side effects?” he asked suspiciously.
“No side effects,” Pembi-Keran ensured.
Jack reluctantly inched away, throwing a last inquiring look to Daniel who reassuringly nodded his resolve to let her heal him.
“It’ll be fine, Jack.”
Having received their permission Pembi-Keran made a pile of comfortable pillows appear on the floor and on her unvoiced invitation Daniel was laid down on them. Next she produced a small needled vial from thin air. She placed it on her neck and injected herself with the naquada serum, and with a flex of her fingers the healing device in her hand lit up. She gave it an approving nod and sank to the floor beside Daniel.
“Are you ready?”
He nodded confidently, but his hand instinctively grabbed for Jack’s hand. Equally instinctively Jack moved in close again and let his hand be grabbed – the defensiveness radiating from every inch of his body.
It was evident that Pembi-Keran had as much experience in using the healing device as any Tok’ra or Goa’uld. As soon as she positioned the device and activated it Daniel felt the energy surge into him. It hurt, just like when Sam had healed him, but the treatment was quick this time and the pain subsided almost straight away.
He wiggled his toes, then his feet. He bent his legs, and a goofy smile appeared on his face when they obeyed without effort. Finally he sat up, and met the mirror of his expression on Jack’s face.
“Now, that’s what I’m talking about!” the colonel exclaimed. “Why didn’t you do that in the first place instead of all that wishing mumbo-jumbo?!”
“You did not ask,” Pembi-Keran responded as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. The nonchalance infuriated Jack beyond words, but he realized he was sick of questioning this alien and her ways. He shook his head wearily and got to his feet with a grunt when his knee protested. Extending a hand to help Daniel up he proposed: