Planet P4A-991 - Prokopios's Palace, Alexandria :
When Daniel regained consciousness, the first thing he became aware of was that his headache was worse. The second thing was that his wrists were in restraints in front of him. He opened his eyes blearily and found that one of them didn't seem to open fully.
"What happened?" he asked, still a little dazed.
He tried to sit up, but a hand on his shoulder prevented him.
"That's what we'd like you to tell us, Daniel," Jack said sternly, though there was compassion in his eyes.
Daniel forced his mind into some kind of order and shuddered at the recollection.
"It was... it was Sha're again, Jack"
"It was not Sha're"
"I knew that, Jack. It was the same 'thing' again..."
"Daniel, it was not Sha're, nor Melantha. It was Sam."
"Sam?! Oh God! Oh no What have I done?" he cried, struggling against Jack's restraining hand.
"It's O.K., Danny. She's all right... Now. But what in heaven's name got into you to make you go for her like that?"
"I thought it was someone messing with my mind again. I mean, she looked exactly like Sha're did the first time I saw her, she sounded like Sha're, Hell, she even smelled like Sha're, and when she said, 'Danyel' I... I guess I lost it..."
"Well, that's one way of putting it, I suppose," O'Neill said laconically. "There's something seriously out of whack here. Damned if I can see what it is though. One thing's certain, we'd better find out what the Hell it is before somebody dies."
He took his hand off Daniel's shoulder and let him sit up. Sam was sitting on another couch, looking at him. She still looked a little stunned, and bruises were already beginning to appear on her neck. Daniel felt ashamed.
"Oh God, Sam, I am so sorry..."
She nodded forgiveness at him, vocal chords not yet functioning properly.
"Whoa... Are you seeing her as Carter now?"
"Yes. Yes I am!"
"So how come?"
"Hang on a minute, Jack. Let me think..."
Daniel did his best to pull his addled wits together and concentrate. He tried mentally to walk through the events of the morning - waking up feeling like a wrung-out dishcloth - going into the reception chamber - talking to Sam about She'd been Sam then. Teal'c's appearance looking introspective - his giving them an edited account of his part in the previous evening's activities - Jack's arrival - a little half-hearted banter - Sam explaining about his hallucination to spare him having to And how had he repaid her...?
No, stop it, no time for wallowing in self-indulgent guilt... Focus, concentrate - this is important. What happened next? Roxana and the others had come in, looking... blooming - food - not hungry - feeling emotionally empty, drained, desolate...
Quit the self-pitying, Jackson, focus. Next? Going out into to courtyard for fresh air - filling his goblet from the well - sitting by the well sipping the sweet-water - day-dreaming about the past - his illusions of coping - trying to rebuild some belief in himself - 'as you believe, so it is'...
"That's it! I've got it! It's in the water the sweet-water!"
Jack gave him his best 'what, are you nuts?' look.
"It all makes sense, Jack - Sam - Teal'c. Supposing the wells are - I don't know - contaminated with some kind of mind-altering drug?
"Hel-lo, Daniel's about to go off on another tangent."
"Daniel's tangents are usually correct, O'Neill. I am interested to learn what he has discovered about this well," Teal'c said warmly. Sam gave a hoarse croak of a agreement.
"O.K., go on, Danny, amaze me."
"Right, come outside and I'll show you what gave me the idea... Er, could you take these things off now. Please Jack? You can always, you know, knock me out again..."
"I'd rather not, Daniel. I'd like to keep some skin on my knuckles - if it's all the same to you," Jack grunted, snipping the plastic ties.
Out in the courtyard, Daniel pointed out the inscription in the shadow of the coping stones, translating it as he did:
" 'As you believe, so it is.' Perhaps this sweet-water enhances what you believe. The Alexandrians clearly have a lot of skill and knowledge in the use of drugs. Yesterday's offerings were probably just the tip of the iceberg. The ancient Egyptians - and many of the Alexandrians are descended form them - were very sophisticated that way. In fact, some people believe the word 'chemistry' actually comes from 'Kemet', which is the ancient name for Egypt."
"Ya don't say," Jack muttered sotto voce, but Daniel just ploughed on.
"Now, the Alexandrians may also have a handle on a lot other things too - like hypnotism, telepathy and so on - that's way beyond our knowledge. Because it's not 'hard science', we've ignored it. We can't explain how such things work, so obviously they don't. Only perhaps they do... Sam said she thought Melantha was reading my mind. Perhaps somehow she planted in my mind the idea that the next time I saw her, I'd see what I'd most like to see - Sha're..."
Daniel stopped and took a deep breath before continuing.
"Anyway, that idea could have been enhanced, not only by the sweet-water that's been in our systems since we first arrived, but also by the cakes we were eating. Then this morning, when I was out here, I was contemplating systems of belief - and thinking about Sha're... So when Sam appeared, I was already primed to believe that I was seeing Sha're again while subconsciously knowing she wasn't. I guess when you slugged me, the impact on my brain destroyed the illusion..."
"Hm, makes some kind of sense, I suppose," O'Neill said grudgingly, "but how come the sweet-water hasn't affected us, too?"
"How do you know it hasn't, Jack?"
Jack gave him an arrested look.
"Well now there, I guess you have me, Daniel... But the Alexandrians all take their water from wells, including this well, rather than the river, and they don't show any signs of being spaced out."
"Perhaps they're habituated to it?"
Teal'c inclined his head thoughtfully. "As we do not know what effects it may be having on us, I believe we should drink no more of the sweet-water, O'Neill."
Jack nodded. "Yeah, you're right, Teal'c. We'd better find ourselves another source of water - a spring or something above the water level of the wells. Can you do that Teal'c?"
"I will do so, ColonelO'Neill"
When Roxana and the others brought in the afternoon offering of food and sweet-water, S.G.-1 stuck to eating the least exotic-looking of the fruit and avoided everything else. When they'd finished eating, Roxana invited them to join the ladies in the 'recreation chamber', but Jack declined.
"Perhaps tomorrow, Roxie. We're thinking of having a rest right now, and getting an early night's sleep."
"Would you like us to bring next group to your beds here then, Lord Jack?"
Sam turned away, biting her thumb to stop herself laughing out loud. Jack half choked.
"Er, n-no- Thank you Roxie. We really need our sleep to, er, recover our strength for - erm..."
"Oh. We can bring you some delightful confections to stimulate your appetites and chase away the need for sleep," Philomena said brightly, "...though I am sure the Lord Teal'c stands in no such need," she added, giving the Jaffa a hungry look.
"Nevertheless, we will say adieu and see you in the morning. Thank you, ladies..."
After the ladies had gone, the team set about consuming the water the Teal'c had collected from a clear brook that flowed from a spring high up the valley side.
"Wonder how long it'll take to clear the drugs out of our systems?" Jack mused.
"Without a chemical analysis, that's a little difficult to say, Sir, but I'd guess we'll probably start feeling the difference, if there is one, by tomorrow."
"Oh, right. I suggest we take watches tonight. It's not that I suspect they're trying anything on while we're sleeping, but - for whatever reason - we've been a bit lax lately. It'll give us an opportunity to swill out the system a little more during the night too, then Teal'c can fetch us some more fresh water."
The early morning sun cast an entirely different light on Alexandria and its citizens. At the end of his watch, Daniel woke Teal'c to fetch water and followed him into the reception chamber.
"Eew! What happened here last night?"
It looked as if something had drained all the colour from the place, leaving nothing but monotones.
"It would appear that the drugs in our systems are indeed beginning to wear off, DanielJackson." Teal'c said, raising an inquiring eyebrow.
Pale grey plaster was flaking off the walls exposing bare grey brickwork in some places; the cushions on the couches were greasy-looking and the stuffing was poking out where the seams were giving way; the matting on the floor was falling apart and full of rotting food remains and other filth. Litter was everywhere.
"Jack! Sam!" Daniel called back to the guest rooms, "I think you ought to see this..."
The two wandered sleepily into the chamber, stopped and did an impressive double-take.
"Yeurgh!" Sam exclaimed, horrified. "And we've been living in this this squalor! I feel like throwing up! And ugh! What am I wearing?!"
At this point, they all took in their tattered, threadbare robes in shades of off-white to grubby grey. Sam went off to change back into battle fatigues instanter. The men were not far behind, then Teal'c went off to fetch more fresh water.
He had only just returned when Roxana, Melantha, Philomena and Kalandra appeared. At least the team assumed it was the same four girls. They seemed to have aged by a minimum of ten years overnight. Philomena, the youngest, looked to be thirty if she was a day. Her chestnut hair was streaked with grey; Roxana's was nearly white and the others were grey. And they were scruffy and dumpy.
Teal'c breathed in sharply while Jack suddenly looked as if he'd been stuffed... Daniel's eyes widened as the same realization struck him. Then his eyes met Sam's. They made a hasty exit into the passage that led to their rooms whence muffled laughter exploded.
When they returned, looking poker-faced and avoiding exchanging glances, Jack was demanding an explanation from 'the girls' and clearly not getting anywhere. His face was stormy, theirs bewildered. Daniel felt a twinge of compassion for them.
"Er, easy Jack. I don't think they're seeing the room as we do."
"I think they're experiencing the same effects from the sweet-water that we were."
A thought crossed his mind: ~ God, if it was a shock for us, what's it going to do to them?! ~
"Ah, Roxana, you and your people know a lot about drugs, don't you?" he asked gently.
"We have many herbs and alchemical mixtures to improve the flavours of our food and enhance our senses, yes. Why?"
"What about the water in the wells?"
The girls laughed softly.
"The sweet-water tastes so pleasant, we have no need to improve it."
"Daniel, what are you thinking?" Sam asked.
"I'm thinking that whoever contaminated the wells, it wasn't the Alexandrians. Which begs the question, who did?"
"Well, Daniel?" Jack asked tetchily. "I presume you're going to answer it...?"
"The obvious suspect is Renenutet."
"Yes. Prokopios said that Renenutet came back after Alexander had thrown her Jaffa off his world and that Philomena was the last child to be born after Renenutet cast her curse on the men. Now, if you remember, Jack, I told you that the last time Alexander visited Deuteros - P4A-991 - was about thirty years ago which I'm guessing is about Philomena's age now."
"And...? So...?" Jack demanded, still in the dark.
"Well now, supposing, when Renenutet returned, she also polluted all the wells with some sort of mind altering drug, probably with a slow release mechanism which is still contaminating the water. Everyone drinks the water from the well. It tastes very pleasant, so no one's going to go looking for an alternative. I think that the way the Alexandrians are seeing their city is the way it looked back then. They still believe it looks that way now so they've never seen the need to clean up or... or redecorate... or..."
Teal'c was looking at the two younger sisters speculatively, almost accusingly.
"I believe I have seen you before, have I not?"
Jack gave him a sharp look as if he thought Teal'c was also disappearing into the realm of fantasy.
"Of course you have, Teal'c - every day since we arrived."
"I mean, before we arrived in this city? Am I not correct, Melantha?"
All three sisters looked guiltily at each other.
"Meaning?" Jack asked.
"Meaning that before I succumbed to the darts in the forest, the people I saw were Melantha and Philomena."
"I am very sorry, my lords," Roxana said quietly, "but you know about the curse. We wanted you to stay for the Ananeosy. We were desperate..."
"Ah yes, the curse," Daniel said. "I think I see how it works now."
"Yes, Jack. I think that when everyone was unknowingly doped up with the 'belief drug', Renenutet calls the men together, does an impressive cursing ritual of some sort, and tells them they're all infertile and impotent."
"And they believed her? Come on, Daniel, that's a bit far-fetched isn't it?"
"Not really, Jack. You see, in some primitive cultures, they have a ritual called 'pointing the bone'. If you want someone dead, you don't go to a hit-man like we might, you go to the shaman - or witch doctor - and get him to point the bone at your enemy. Your enemy then believes he's going to die, and three or four days later, he does die, yet autopsies on the bodies show no physiological cause of death. They just died."
"You putting me on. Really?"
"Yes really. So, when a goddess tells you you're under a curse, you're going to believe her. The next time you try to have sex with your wife, you believe you're going to fail, and because you believe you're going to fail, you do. And the same thing happens to everyone else so you're convinced that the curse is working and you're all doomed to childlessness."
"Are you suggesting, DanielJackson, that the men of this planet are not actually impotent, they merely think they are?
"Guess I am, Teal'c."
"Then ColonelO'Neill and I will no longer be required to complete the Ananeosy?"
"If I'm right - and we can persuade the men of it, I don't think you will."
"In that case, Dr. Jackson, I shall be profoundly thankful."
"Hang on, Daniel. I've been drinking the damn' sweet-water since we arrived. How come it didn't make me impotent to?"
"I think probably it just enhances the beliefs you already have. You weren't cursed - in fact, whatever combination of drugs you ate gave you the feeling of being a... well for the want of a better word, stud - and the sweet-water would have enhanced that."
"Oh God! And I suppose all this is going to have to go in your report to General Hammond?"
" 'Fraid so, Jack," Daniel replied with a slightly smug grin.
"Well do us a favour, would you? Just stick to the basics, O.K.?"
"Ah, how basic would you like me to make it, Jack...?"
It was a long and difficult meeting that they had with Prokopios. Breaking down thirty years of ingrained belief in such a profound deception was far from easy, especially when that deception had been created by a goddess.
Then there was the problem of whether or not to order the covering of all the wells. To strip away the delusion that the men were infertile and impotent was one thing; to reveal the sordidness of their beautiful city could well be a step too far.
Finally Daniel came up with a compromise solution. They would use Renenutet's sweet-water drug to their own advantage. It would be announced that S.G.-1 - the lords and the lady 'sent by Alexander' - were to bless the water in the wells in his name, which would not only undo the curse but make all who drank the water super-fertile and able to fulfil all the requirements of the marriage bed.
"We'll come back and visit next year," Sam said to Kalandra and her cousins, "and see how you're going on. If you don't have quite a few bouncing babies by then, well, we have other means of giving you children - without wearing out our menfolk."
The return to the Stargate went without incident. There was no sign Renenutet's Jaffa.
"In fact," said Teal'c, "the only recent footprints are our own. It would appear that we only saw the Jaffa because we believed they were here."
"And 'as you believe, so it is'," said Daniel, and stepped through the Stargate.
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