Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. I have written this story for entertainment purposes only and no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author(s).
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story was inspired by the Jackfic Word of the Month, Forgotten. This is basically just a retelling of the battle reenactment scenes in "The Gamekeeper" episode, which may be old news for some of you, but I do like the sinister undercurrents in this story, so I'm posting it in case others like this stuff, as well.
-- Shattered Memories --
The landscape is familiar; he's been here before. The road, trees, even the buildings invoke a memory that tease him with the familiarity of it all, yet something is different - a slight shift in reality that ruins the tranquility of the surroundings, while keeping him from reaching the real memory that lies hidden behind the scenery.
Jack O'Neill stands there in the road, with Teal'c by his side, both confused and uncertain, as they try to figure out what has happened to bring them to this place. The familiarity continues to tug at Jack and he walks toward the building, hoping to find a reason for their sudden appearance outside of it.
Something wicked this way comes. He remembers the phrase; perhaps it was the title of a book or a movie, though the plot escapes him at the moment. But the words worm their way through his mind, warning signals telling him that something is wrong, something dangerous. He looks around hoping to find a clue, but the serenity of the familiar countryside seems to mock him and he sees nothing out of the ordinary.
He and Teal'c stop near a low wall made of stone alongside the road, to take inventory of their memories in order to figure out how they got there. Their memories are vague at best, each remembering arriving on a planet and walking through a colorful garden, while looking for signs of humanity to explain the presence of the neatly manicured garden. How the garden turned into this countryside is beyond him, but there has to be an answer somewhere, a logical explanation that would explain why he and Teal'c have found themselves next to this wall beside the road, a totally different change of scenery from the beauty of the garden. He briefly wonders where the rest of his team are, hoping that they are still back in that garden looking for both Teal'c and himself, and not being held captive by whoever, or whatever, kept the garden alive.
Guns automatically come up when the sound of an engine signals someone is coming. He realizes with a certainty that his worst fears have come to pass when three men get out of the truck and call out to him, old friends of which two of them happened to be dead. He doesn't necessarily believe in ghosts, but then again he remembers a time when he didn't believe in aliens and life on other planets either. The three men walk toward him, calling out to him and telling him to get his ass in gear, it's time to move out.
This can't be happening, Jack thinks, as he watches the trio of men walk toward him. Charles Kawalsky died months ago when a Goa'uld got hold of him and wouldn't let go. His old friend, John, passed on years ago during a mission that had gone wrong from the get-go. Horror dawns on Jack as he realizes why the scenery is so familiar to him. The memory springs from the far recesses of his mind, playing out clearly as he remembers that particular mission. He tries to work through the horror of his suspicions, his mind churning out scenarios of why this particular memory, long since forgotten, has surfaced. Nothing concrete comes to mind, and he realizes that the mission is going to go on as planned no matter how hard he denies it is even happening.
Teal'c is no help in working out what is happening to them. In fact, the others see him as one of their teammates, and Jack can't help but stare at Teal'c, as his friend sees himself in the reflective glass of a window. His normally bald head has grown hair seemingly within the few moments they had arrived at the scene and Jack watches fascinated as Teal'c runs his fingers through the thick hair.
But the mission is going to go down once again and Jack follows the others, moving into position, hoping that this time they are successful. He tells John about the sniper on the roof, but destiny and fate don't give up so easily, and the mission ends the way it did the first time around, with John begging Jack to take care of his wife, as he lay dying next to a cart.
John has died once again, while shots are fired from some bushes alongside the building and Jack and Teal'c run back toward the wall to find shelter from the rain of bullets. They manage to duck down behind the wall, only to bring their weapons up once again when the sound of a truck pulls up in front of them. Oh God, Jack thinks as he watches his old teammates jump down from the truck. What is going on here?
He sits there and watches as his friend, John, walks toward him once again, telling him to lower his gun. John had been a friend for many years, spending many Sunday afternoons with Jack and his family, watching sports or barbecuing in the back yard and generally relaxing. John died on that battleground all those years ago, and Jack knows that a sarcophagus had not been around when the man breathed his last. Yet, here he was, safe and sound, and about to die for the third time around and Jack can't, for the life of him, understand why.
He can't just stand by and let John get himself killed again. There has to be something he can do different this time. So Jack follows his teammates into the yard once again and tries to convince John that not only is there a sniper on the roof, but that there are several men in the bushes waiting to cut them all down. They take care of the snipers, but once again the rules are changed. John still dies no matter what Jack does to try to stop it.
He and Teal'c make a run for the wall to find shelter behind it, only to raise their guns once more when the truck carrying his dead comrades drive up once more. Something different happens this time though. There are people, draped in dark clothes and veils, standing in the background, and Jack realizes that this whole charade is a set up. There is something larger going on, more sinister than reliving the same dark memory over and over. He can't quite figure out exactly what that something is, but he is determined that he isn't going to cooperate any more.
His frustration builds as one of the strangers comes up to him in order to convince him to continue watching his friend die over and over. "You keep changing the rules on me," he snarls at the stranger. The stranger, who calls himself The Keeper, is insistent, but Jack knows that there is nothing he can do - or could have done, for that matter. John's destiny had been decided all those years ago. Nothing he can do now will bring John back to the world of the living.
With this knowledge running through his mind, Jack decides to sit this one out, while Teal'c sits with him, both wondering if they are doing the right thing. The gunfire in the background sounds loud and accusing to Jack's ears, but he holds his ground. This is not real, he tries to convince himself, it's just another memory, a shattered memory at that. He waits while the memory plays out differently once again, knowing the end result will be the same no matter how many times he plays the game. It was like watching the entire scenario through a broken mirror, each shard reflecting pieces of the memory, distorted and hazy, leaving Jack confused and worried for John, while frustration and grief hovers over the whole lot.
No more, he decides. He's not going to play anymore. The Keeper's anger at his refusal doesn't bother Jack, he just wants out. But The Keeper leaves them there, giving Jack no opportunity to put the memory back in the recesses of his mind. He is stuck in this nightmare, he realizes, as the truck pulls up again and his teammates pile out. Jack refuses once again, but this time he and Teal'c are swept away from the scene just as the gunfire erupts in the field behind him and Jack finds himself in a museum along with Daniel and Carter, relief that his current teammates are well lasting only a few seconds. The Keeper is here, trying to convince Daniel to relive his own worst nightmare and Jack is having none of that. He wants out and he finally finds the way out through The Keeper's weakness. The Keeper, it seems, doesn't want the other participants to know about the well-manicured garden. Jack knows what he has to do now. He tells the residents of the gardens that are waiting for them, causing The Keeper to surrender his resolve and to give into to the blackmail. Jack and the rest of SG-1 are finally allowed to leave, and they do so, hastily, through the Stargate.
Frustration takes over as Jack faces memories that don't exist. The pieces of glass that represent his earlier memories are now scattered over a memory that never happened. Hammond and Fraiser are reflected in the shards of this memory, but they are only fragments of a reality built up in the minds of Jack and Daniel. Fragments that are falling apart, and Jack is determined to dispel the memories altogether. He wants to be in the here and now, not in the `what was' and `what could be'. It takes awhile, as memories and reality swirl in the depths of Jack's mind, making him wonder what is real and what is pure bunk, but he finally convinces The Keeper that it would be in everyone's best interest to free the unwilling participants of a game only The Keeper wants to play.
Jack and his companions are free to leave. To go home to their world, and he is more than ready. "This is real," he and Daniel say at the same time, as they watch The Keeper lose it over some flowers. This is real, Jack thinks, as he walks toward the Gate.
It has to be.
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