Potential

Episode 5

Written by Tricia Byrne and Divine Joker

Authors: Tricia Byrne and Divine Joker
Status: Complete
Rating: 15+
Category: Angst, drama, action/adventure
Summary: We are their descendants; yet only a few of us carry traces of their existence. Those traces grant those few power for many things that the rest of us can’t imagine. What would it take for us to gain that power? And would it be worth the risk?
SPOILERS: Everything up to the end of S8 is fair game.
Spoilers: Everything up to the end of S8 is fair game.
Warnings: none
Authors' Notes:

Tricia: Thanks to everyone involved with VS9 for wanting me to come along and play in your sandbox. Especially thanks to DJ for following me into the sandbox and bringing an extra shovel to dig me out when things got deep. I sure know that I’ve never had a better writing partner. Of course, I’ve never really had any other writing partner… luv ya, hon!

Everyone else, I hope that we managed to do this justice and you enjoy the little adventures that we’ve put forth.

Archive: Jackfic. Otherwise, do not archive without the authors' express permission.
Disclaimer: The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Sci Fi and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles, and back story are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions, and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea, and the story itself are the sole property of the authors.
 

Potential

Episode 5

~*~*~*~*~*~

Doctor Brightman had been going on for a little more than twenty minutes on the pros and cons of the Ancient gene therapy that Doctor Beckett had helped to develop before his romp into another galaxy.

Obviously, General Jack O’Neill could see the pros to the entire base—or most of them—being able to handle any of the Ancient technology that they came across, especially out in the field.

But really, what good could possibly come from the fact that people were fiddling with what God had given you to live with?

O’Neill looked around the table at his team. Though Carter now headed SG-1, they would always be his team.

Daniel seemed ready to burst at the seams. He’d been champing at the bit to try this procedure. Whereas before this opportunity, he’d only been able to translate bits of writing on Ancient devices, this would allow him to actually use what he was studying. This, of course, was a double-edged sword, as he was also one of the people most prone to blow up himself, the base, and possibly the universe.

Carter was a bit different. She was more reserved about the whole thing. Or at least that was the picture she was portraying. He almost wanted to smirk at how completely transparent his team seemed to him, after knowing them for so long. Carter was silently biting the inside of her cheek in the most subtle of movements and just itching to hear what it was that he had to say.

Putting down the pencil that he had been fiddling with, he decided to stop wasting their time.

“I think I’ve heard enough, Doctor. Thank you.”

He could tell that she was still unused to his bluntness because the doctor stared at him for a long moment before straightening her shoulders and lacing her fingers together on the table.

He cleared his throat and looked steadily at the two members of SG-1 capable of receiving the gene therapy.

“I can’t say that I don’t have my reservations,” he started, watching as Daniel opened his mouth to protest. He held up his hand and Daniel slid back into his seat, watching Jack at the head of the table. “Honestly, Daniel, I know that you’re eager to get your nimble little fingers into all those cool devices out there in the universe, but have you considered what might happen when you start futzing with your DNA?” Daniel blinked at him and O’Neill turned his gaze to Carter and Teal’c beside her. “Carter? Teal’c?”

Carter looked to the tabletop for a long moment and then with a small hesitation, met his eyes again.

“Sir, regardless of our personal reservations—and I think they pale in comparison—this is something that needs to be done for the program and for our survival. It’s unreasonable for us to try and handle situations such as that of Dakara with only one person who has the ability to operate the Ancient machinery. And, no disrespect intended, sir, but you can’t keep running off-world just because there’s Ancient technology that you might be able to operate.”

Teal’c simply inclined his head slightly in agreement.

Daniel seemed enthusiastic to jump at the chance to voice his opinion, but O’Neill was sure that he knew just what he was going to be saying. He pinned the other man with a piercing stare, hoping to quell the outburst before it began. Then, closing his eyes, he released a slow, steady breath before continuing.

“This entire idea goes against my better judgement. However, the President seems to agree with all of you. The first group of people to undergo the treatments will begin tomorrow. Colonel Carter, Doctor Jackson, Sergeant Siler, Sergeant Harriman, Lieutenant Mann, and Lieutenant Rush will report to the infirmary for evaluations and treatments at 0600. That’s it. End of story.”

He watched as Daniel, Teal’c and Carter stood with their usual ease, closing the folders before them and moving together as they filed out of the briefing room and past his office. Doctor Brightman hovered in the room, shuffling her paper together. She didn’t seem to be as much at ease with the informal dismissal as the others. But then, they'd been around a lot longer.

“Doctor? Was there something else that you would like to tell me?”

“No, sir.”

He looked at her expectantly for another moment. “Then I really have to put in a phone call to the Pentagon. I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

Even as he watched her disappear, following the path of his former team, he thought there was something she was thinking that she wasn’t quite willing to share. He hoped he was wrong. Besides, he could tell—despite his misgivings—that everyone having the ability to work Ancient technology would give them a nice advantage over any of the Goa’uld.

The "powers that be" had called this shot, and all he could do was go with the flow and hope that the fallout was minimal.

~*~*~

Colonel Samantha Carter pulled her duffel bag out of her trunk before locking up the car and heading to the check point at the entrance to Cheyenne Mountain. She found it amusing that although she spent more time at the Mountain than at her house, she still managed to pack a full duffel any time an extended stay on base was necessary. Looking back on her life, she’d never have been able to put everything she needed into one spot; her life was too complex.

“Sam!”

Turning at the sound of her name, she smiled when she saw Daniel approaching her with an armful of books.

“Think you have enough reading material?”

He shrugged, almost sending one of the most precariously perched books to the pavement. Smirking, she reached out and took it.

Looking sheepish, Daniel turned and followed her into the shadow of the mountain. “I have no idea how long Doctor Brightman’s going to keep us down there, and most of the stuff I have on Latin was at my house.”

She cocked an eyebrow, stepping aside as he maneuvered into the elevator then reaching across him to press the button for their floor when another voice asked for them to hold the elevator.

As Daniel tried to gather his books together, he stepped behind Carter to make room for the lieutenant who stepped on with them.

“Lieutenant,” Carter greeted him, recognizing him as another volunteer for the gene therapy.

“Morning, Colonel.” He tipped his head politely, slipping his duffel over his shoulder. Doctor Jackson.”

Daniel barely acknowledged him and Carter graced the Airman with a little shrug of apology on his behalf.

The ride down the elevator was rather quiet and Carter found herself contemplating the procedure that she was about to undergo, finding herself—not for the first time—wishing that Janet were there to oversee it.

When the elevator doors opened on Level 21 the three occupants left together, silently making their way toward the Infirmary.

Doctor Brightman greeted them with a brief nod as she bustled past, barking quick, last-minute orders for the nurses to execute in preparation for the procedures.

Glancing around, Carter saw Siler and Harriman sitting on chairs outside of Brightman’s office, nervously waiting for the procedures to begin. Meeting Daniel’s gaze, she tilted her head in their direction and then walked over.

“Good morning, Sergeants.”

“Colonel,” they replied in unison.

Carter didn’t often think of the comfortable familiarity she had with a lot of the people that she worked with, especially considering the situation that they put themselves into. Here, as she settled into an empty chair next to Daniel and his leaning tower of books, while the formality was lax, the respect was hard-wired.

Doctor Brightman finally turned from her nurses, completing her final instructions, to eye the five volunteers sitting in the uncomfortable plastic chairs.

“So, it’s a pretty simple procedure.” She motioned for them to stand and gestured for them to take a bed. As they moved, she continued her explanation. “After the injection, you’re going to be under observation for the next 24-hours. The monitors are staying on you, am I clear?”

She seemed to eye both Carter and Daniel after that comment, her familiarity with their visits to the infirmary coming to the fore. The Doctor might actually get used to their visits over time, and then the General’s annual check-ups might raise more of a kafuffle than one of SG-1 riding an infirmary bed.

Not surprisingly, Carter and Daniel took beds beside each other, their belongings landing in the middle as they settled onto the cots. Daniel glanced around, watching as the nurses went about setting up the needles and Carter eyed the instruments with distaste.

Doctor Brightman looked around. “Has anyone seen Lieutenant Rush?”

Carter looked around, making eye contact with each of the officers and Daniel before giving her own negative answer. Then, she glanced over Brightman’s shoulder as the woman in question came rushing over to them.

“Sorry that I’m a little late, Ma’am. I was trying to get everything in order before I was out of commission for a little while.”

“That’s quite all right, Lieutenant. Just please, find a bed and settle down.”

Turning back toward the six anxious participants, the doctor seemed to give Carter an apologetic smile before continuing. “Just to make sure that there are no questions about what is going to be happening, I’m going to go over the procedure once more.”

“First, we’ll be giving you a series of small Lidocaine injections to numb the area. Then, we’ll be injecting the retrovirus into your spinal column. This will assist with the transition. The retrovirus will infect the local spinal fluid cells and spread from there. Since the majority of all cells for the body come from the spinal column, it will react as a vector for the distribution of the cells throughout the body.” Brightman paused for a few seconds and Carter found herself looking at the other beds to see if anyone was confused. “After the procedure—which takes a little more than thirty minutes—it will be important for you to lie down and remain monitored for the next twenty-four hours.”

They’d already had the procedural briefing, but there was something to be said about being thorough when one was injecting something into one’s spinal column. Carter watched as Siler seemed to blanch for a short moment and then gathered himself as he shifted on his cot.

Brightman stepped in between Daniel and Carter and tugged on the dividing curtain.

“Slip into the gowns and someone will be with you in just a moment to give you your first shot.” She said it with such ease, that some of the discomfort that Carter felt with having a needle in her back slipped away.

Taking a deep breath, she gave Daniel a reassuring glance before the opaque cotton slid between them.

Over the rustling of starched gowns and falling clothing, she heard Brightman talking with Siler, the unfortunate man to choose the first bed.

“You’re up first, Sergeant. We’re going to head down the hall to the Observation 1 and Sergeant Harriman is going to room with you.” There was some shuffling as Carter straightened out her outfit. “Do you have everything you need for right now?”

Carter heard Siler give a muffled reply as she situated herself back on the bed. A smile crossed her lips. Knowing the man as she did, he would never have everything that he needed unless he was allowed to roam around the SGC looking for something to fix, adjust, or tinker with.

Settling into the bed, she opened one of the latest books that she’d bought with the intention of reading the newest popular theories in astrophysics. She found it amusing to laugh at how much she knew of these theories to be law and how much she could blow out of the water in a heartbeat if given the chance.

Flipping through the opening pages of "Changes Within Physical Systems And/or Conservation Of Energy And Momentum: An Anthology Of Current Thought (Contemporary Discourse in the Field of Physics)" by Ray Villard, she tried to relax and keep her mind off of the hesitant thoughts that flitted through her mind. Usually she wasn’t filled with self-doubt, but she wished more than anything that she could have someone that she felt closer to——like Janet——present for the procedure.

The sound of the curtain being pulled back pulled her from her thoughts.

“Are you all set, Colonel? Doctor Brightman is just about ready for you.”

Closing the book and pushing all doubts from her mind, Carter forced a reassuring smile on her face. “Thank you, Lieutenant. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.”

“If you’ll follow me, you’ll be boarded with Lieutenant Rush for the twenty-four-hour observation.”

For a moment, she had thought that she would have been roomed with Daniel, but after a swift look to the nurse, she clarified.

“I know that you and Doctor Jackson wouldn’t have minded sharing the observation room, Colonel, but I don’t believe that Lieutenant Rush is all that familiar with Lieutenant Mann.”

Carter ducked her head, sorry for her assumption. “Of course.”

Slipping the book under her arm and the duffel over her shoulder again, Carter followed the nurse down the hall, her shoulders itching from the starched, standard scrubs.

Lieutenant Rush was already sitting up on a cot when Carter stepped into the room and with a small, “Ma’am,” in her direction, returned to listening to what it was that the other nurse was telling her. After receiving direction from the Lieutenant as to what they were going to do, Carter slid onto her own bed and sighed as she watched a long needle slip into Rush’s back right next to her spine.

With a sharp intake of breath, Carter winced.

Brightman turned to her and with a wave of her hand said, “You’re next, Colonel.”

Carter took a series of deep breaths to try and calm her increasing nerves. The nurse standing next to her bed instructed her to roll over on her stomach and opened the slit in the back of her gown. Crossing her arms around the pillow under her head, Carter faced toward the opposite wall, unsure that a preview of the procedure was what she needed.

Brightman came into her line of sight and gave a reassuring smile that did absolutely nothing for the increasing sense of nervousness welling up within her. She felt the doctor’s gloved hand carefully lower the waistband of her scrub pants and then there was a brief poke as the first needle pierced her skin.

Closing her eyes she tried to think of anything but this: her experiments that were waiting for her to return to the lab, the next planet on their rotation, anything.

Then the burning started.

Right from the point of the pin prick and spreading out circumferentially, the burning continued.

Carter closed her eyes and bit her bottom lip. She’d been through much worse, this was nothing compared to the Goa’uld pain stick or the ashrak’s device.

And then it stopped. The burning went away and the pain was gone.

“Do you feel this, Colonel?”

Carter opened her eyes and forced her voice out in something more than a whisper, “No, just a little pressure.”

“Good, that’s what I want to hear.”

Carter grimaced into the pillow and wiggled her fingers, testing her capacity for movement. She rolled her neck and froze as a stinging slice of pain curled down her spine.

“How long is this going to last, Doctor?”

“The pain or stiffness?”

“Either? Both?”

“Pain’ll be there for a couple of hours—and it might get worse once the Lidocaine wears off, but you’ll be stiff for longer than that, I’m sorry to say.” Brightman jotted something down on her clipboard and Carter felt the slight vibration as she hung it on the edge of her bed. “You’ll need to stay in bed. The longer that you remain lying down, the less likelihood there is of developing a spinal headache.”

Carter felt the slight pressure as her dressing was applied to the injection site and then Brightman’s gentle hand as she urged her to roll over.

“Would you like your book, Colonel?”

Taking a deep breath, she suddenly couldn’t seem to decide between sleep and reading. “Thank you, that would be nice.”

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the heavily bound book and watched as the doctor set it within reach on the small bedside table.

“It would be good if you could stay awake, Colonel. Generally things like this will give you a fever or other symptoms of being sick and we can better monitor you if you can tell us what you’re feeling.”

Sighing with defeat, Carter reached out to gather her book to her. “I’ll try, Doctor.”

~*~*~

Daniel Jackson hated needles. He’d always tried to put on a good show in front of the rest of his team, but he detested them more than anyone——no matter how much Jack might have vocalized about them.

Shifting uncomfortably on the bed, he tried not to think about it, tried to let his mind wander anywhere but to the small pin-prick of pain in the lower portion of his spine as the first needle pierced his skin.

“You need to stay very still, Doctor Jackson.”

Daniel didn’t make any reply, just squinted his eyes shut as the burning sensation began and started to spread.

It would all be over soon.

He squeezed his eyes tighter, desperately trying not to notice the white hot pain lancing his spine but unable to notice anything but. Steely fingers were twirling up into the base of his skull and then, blissfully, the pain subsided, leeching back out of his system and leaving him trying to catch his breath.

Through the pounding of the blood in his ears, he could hear Doctor Brightman shifting along the floor, and then her gentle voice softly asking if he was all right.

"Uh huh," he groaned, holding as still as possible.

A small huff of amusement met his response and he felt a whiff of annoyance at her levity.

"That's actually much more verbal than the answers I received from either Sergeant Siler or Harriman."

Daniel wasn’t sure what it was about that comment that made a slight smile come to his face. He quickly schooled his expression before carefully rolling over and stretching slightly to ease the stiffness.

“Would you like your journal or your book, Doctor Jackson?”

Daniel fought to open his eyes, not quite sure what it was that was making him so tired. “Neither.”

Doctor Brightman seemed to examine him closely before moving a bit closer. “Are you sure you’re okay, Doctor Jackson?”

“Uh huh, just tired,” Daniel admitted, letting his eyes flutter shut for a few brief moments.

“I’m afraid that I can’t have you falling asleep on us right away, Doctor Jackson. You need to stay awake so that we can monitor your progress, understood?”

“Yeah. Sure. No problem.” He said as he waved his hand in a very nonchalant fashion.

“I’ll turn the TV on for you. I hear there’s some really interesting program coming on the History channel in a few minutes.”

“That’s nice.” Daniel murmured before consciousness slipped away from him completely.

~*~*~

Carter was having a really difficult time keeping her eyes open. Even the conversation with Lieutenant Rush had been stilted and nearly incomprehensible. She could see by the hooded look of her roommate’s eyes that sleep wasn’t far from her thoughts.

“We need loud music or something,” Cater started, glancing at the slowly slumping Rush.

“Mmmm. Shot of caffeine straight into the bloodstream.”

“I can run up to my truck and see what I got there, if you want, Carter.”

The tinny voice of the General slipped over the intercom and both women bolted upright to see him watching them from the observation window. He waved to them cavalierly, his hands slipping casually into his pockets.

“Hey, sir.”

“Sir,” Rush began, her body language showing her discomfort with the presence of the base commander anywhere near her while she was in a hospital gown.

Carter was non-plused, having been laid abed too often in the last eight years to care about whether something was bare under just a simple scrub set.

“So, think you have any good music up there that will keep us awake, sir?”

“I know that I have some Andrea Bocelli in the truck. You never know though, Cassie might have left some angry girl music in there the last time I let her borrow it.”

Smiling though she really didn’t feel like she had the energy Carter replied, “Somehow I think we’ll manage without that, sir.”

“Well, the offer’s there, ladies. Just don’t tick off the good Doctor Brightman and go to sleep.”

Glancing over, Carter noticed that Rush seemed to be losing her battle with the comfortable numbness that came with sleep. “We’ll do our best, sir.” Even as she said it she could feel her eyes drooping shut.

~*~*~

O’Neill turned the volume down on the mic before him. “Is that normal, Doc? Usually you have to order Carter and Daniel to take a break. Here we want them to stay awake and they’re dropping like flies.”

For a moment, he thought that he might have seen a flicker of worry cross her normally stoic features, but she turned to him with ease.

“It just would have made my life easier if they had stayed awake, General. Their bodies are going through a minor infection, injected almost directly into their spinal fluid. Any sickness wears the body out.”

“You injected them half an hour ago, Doc.” O’Neill’s heavy eyes fell through the glass to settle on the passed out Carter and Rush. He watched their monitors blip steadily, his own worry easing with the continuing regularity of their heart rates.

“I’ll let them be for another hour or so and then wake them up to see how they’re feeling.” With a nod to her commanding officer, she picked up her clipboard and slipped from the observation room.

Left alone, with more than a few questions still floating in his head, O’Neill pulled a chair to him and resting his chin on his palm, stared down into the dimmed room.

After all, Daniel had already been passed out for half an hour and nothing had gone wrong with him. But then, why hadn't his worry decreased any?

~*~*~

The rhythmic sounds of monitors beeping and pumps flowing greeted Sergeant Siler as consciousness slowly returned. Fluttering his eyes to adjust to the light, he cast a drowsy glance in the direction of Sergeant Harriman’s bed. The man appeared to be sleeping soundly.

“How are you feeling, Sergeant?”

Siler turned over to be greeted by the calm face of Doctor Brightman. “Nothing other than the usual, Doctor.”

“Good. That’s very good,” came the reply as he watched her jot down a few notes. “Let’s take your temperature.”

“Um, sure, Doc.” Though he really didn’t feel any different from when he normally woke up from an unplanned nap, his head was slightly cloudy and he tried to discretely shake off the feeling.

The doctor’s keen eyes watched him for a long moment and then reached out with thermometer in hand, gesturing that he open his mouth. Dutifully, as followed by many years of routine check-ups after injuries, he accepted the gauge and allowed his eyes to slip closed again.

“Are you still tired, Sergeant?”

After a moment’s thought, he shook his head, waiting until she removed the thermometer before adding, “I’m just a little foggy.”

“That’s not too unusual and it will pass.” She wrote a few more things down on the clipboard and then, casting a glance over at the still sleeping Harriman, slipped from the room.

Siler flexed his fingers, raising his hand to his face to see if anything seemed physically different. He knew from the briefing that there wasn’t going to be anything like that, but given some of the things he’d witnessed during his job here at the SGC, he wasn’t entirely sure if he could have believed the report.

Pulling his attention away from his own hand, he once again turned to examine Sergeant Harriman. Why hadn’t the man woken up yet? Had everyone fallen asleep? Suddenly feeling bored he reached over and picked up the small circuit that he’d brought with him so that he could repair it in his spare time. After all, how much trouble could he get into with a small soldering gun?

~*~*~

Lieutenant Ted Mann took a slow, heavy breath as consciousness returned. His chest felt heavy. His mouth felt like he’d fallen asleep in the desert at high noon and no one had bothered to wake him. And to top it off, he was covered in a sheen of cool sweat.

He wanted to open his eyes, but wasn’t sure he could find the energy. He tried to open his mouth to call for a nurse or Doctor Brightman, but his tongue didn’t seem to want to work, almost as though it were slightly too big for his mouth.

“How are you feeling, Doctor Jackson? It’s good to have you back among the conscious.”

Mann heard the voice and tried to turn his head in the direction of the sound, straining against muscles that seemed to be under some other, foreign, control.

Was that it?

Was this what it felt like to have your brain and your body invaded by a Goa’uld?

He shuffled though his last memories, the fuzzy images laden with fatigue and disorientation. He’d been on base, voluntarily going to the infirmary… for what?

“It seems that the therapy put everyone to sleep.”

Therapy. Gene therapy. Something in his chest seemed to relax; his immobility had nothing to do with the Goa’uld and everything to do with that stupid injection that he’d taken in his spine.

Through the fog of his barely conscious mind, he could hear the rough timbre of Jackson’s voice answering Brightman. He couldn’t make out the words just yet, but he was sure that if he tried to move a little, it would clear a lot of things up.

Shifting his head, an intense, unbearable pain sliced through his mind, a brilliant flash of red and yellow searing his retinas as he slipped uneasily back into unconsciousness.

~*~*~

Daniel could barely focus on the words that Brightman was saying. The residual pain of the injection was still itching his back and the sluggish feeling of just waking up was clouding his thoughts.

He felt hot. His skin tingled and he felt slimy, like someone had dipped him in a vat of oil. The sheets clung to him, making him feel enclosed, wrapped tight in the material as though he would never escape.

On some level, he knew that he’d been conscious enough to answer the questions that Brightman had posed, but not conscious enough to express his concerns for the way that he was feeling. He was fairly certain he had a fever, wondered if this was typical of the gene therapy, and then decided that sleep was much better than thinking.

~*~*~

Walter Harriman felt consciousness begin to return and fluttered his eyes open. Looking about the room, he noticed that his roommate was wide awake and toying with some sort of device that was placed on his tray table. A small assortment of tools scattered around it and across the man’s lap as he sat up in bed.

“You don’t give it a rest for anything do you, Siler?”

The man shrugged slightly, his attention barely moved from the device.

“What is that, anyway?”

“A transformer.”

Harriman had been expecting some vague answer—that it was some alien device—but then he wondered why it was that Siler would be working when he should have been as tired as he was. Harriman had to yawn before he posed another question.

“How long was I out?”

“Nothing more than a couple of hours.” He slipped something together and then frowned in appreciation. “I wish the Colonel had allowed me to keep something a little more work intensive in here.”

Harriman shook his head. “Why are you working at all? We’ve got twenty-four hours to do nothing, and you’re fixing transformers?” He pulled himself up higher on his bed and began looking around for a book when one of the nurses came in.

“Ah, Sergeant, it’s good to see you up. How are you feeling?”

For the first time, Harriman took self-inventory, skipping along his aching muscles to the heavy feeling in his legs. “Pretty good.”

“No headache?” she asked, just as her cool hand slipped up against his forehead.

Harriman shook his head.

The nurse frowned as her hand brushed across his forehead. “You’re a little warm and clammy, Sergeant. Let me take your temperature.”

Before he could give his consent the thermometer was being placed in his mouth.

Walter wasn’t sure why he found the whole routine that the nurse went through to be odd and mundane, but it felt useless to him. Wasn’t a fever after something like this normal? Wasn’t that one of the things that they’d gone over? Why was she making such a big deal over it?

The device between his lips was removed by the woman’s concerned hand as the other remained on his forehead.

“Your temperature is a little high. Just about one hundred, but I’m going to have Doctor Brightman come in and give you a once over. Are you sure that you’re not experiencing any other ill-effects?”

Harriman thought over everything. Most of the things he was feeling he wouldn’t consider out of the ordinary. He was anxious. He wanted to be cleared so that he could leave the infirmary. He wanted to test the gene therapy and find out if it had succeeded. He wanted to be able to do something with it—not that he wasn’t happy with where he was. Few people could say that they had a job like his, but compared to most of the people that he worked around, being ‘Chevron Guy’ or the ‘Colonel’s Lackey’ was a bit dull.

He’d bet that half the people on base didn’t even know his name.

“Yeah, I’m sure. I feel pretty good, actually.”

~*~*~

Lieutenant Rush watched the nurses attend to Colonel Carter. Her own fever had been dismissed as nothing to be alarmed about and she wondered why the Colonel was still unconscious.

She hadn’t anticipated slipping into sleep so easily, but now after slowly waking up, she felt antsy and ready to work. Looking at the Colonel, she kept thinking of what she could be doing to help her; check her pulse, watch the temperature, administer drugs——all these things slipped along her consciousness.

But she wasn’t allowed to move.

All she could do was sit by uselessly and watch her co-workers do what she wanted to do.

Now, in retrospect, she didn’t know why she had volunteered. She didn’t need the ability. In fact, she actually had no desire for it. In the back of her mind, she was hoping that it wouldn’t work so that she could slip back into her simple and useful routine of working with the injured; healing the sick and discovering anything alien to do with the systems of mission returnees.

She sighed as the nurses slipped out of the room with a caution for her to stay in bed and not try anything. Biting her lip, she let her eyes drift from the door to where the Colonel lay.

Rush knew they both were connected to the monitors with the sticky pads and thin wires extending from under their scrubs to the monitors. She could hear the Colonel’s steady, though slightly elevated, heart rate. It wasn’t high enough to be dangerous, she knew, and was likely caused by the fever, but still, her fingers were itching for her to do something.

Just as the urge became too much, the door slid open again and Doctor Brightman came in, a clipboard under her arm, a worried crease in her brow. Without preamble, she gave the Lieutenant a cursory exam; a longer, more focused one to her roommate and without a word said, left the room again.

Lieutenant Rush had no undeniable urge to help the Colonel anymore, but she still wondered what it was that was keeping her asleep.

~*~*~

They had left him behind.

Daniel wasn’t dead and they had left him behind anyway. She still wasn’t sure how she could tell that he was alive, that the memory of his death was false. But she knew that they never should have left after the fire. Something else was going on down on that planet and they needed to find out what it was.

As the Colonel hugged her, the temperature in the room dropped and she found herself lying next to him, shivering and numb.

The Colonel was injured and she couldn’t help them. She’d done everything that she could, but there was no hope in repairing the DHD with the few materials she had at her disposal. He was injured and they were trapped under layer upon layer of ice. They were going to die here.

She could feel herself slipping into darkness and a soft voice tickled at the back of her mind that this was it.

No, no, this wasn’t it.

Her mind was not her own.

This was what it was like. This was what every host went through. The pain, the torment, the uncertainty, the despair. This was what they went through until their former selves could no longer take it and withered away to nothing.

This was the possession of the Goa’uld.

And as the memories of her and it merged, she felt herself slipping away…

~*~*~

Monitors were screaming at him and he wanted to tell them to turn it off; to let him sleep because he was so tired. The hundred pounds of lead weighing each of his limbs down didn’t seem right, or even necessary, but he couldn’t even open his mouth to ask for them to be removed.

He couldn’t even feel his fingers anymore; there had to be something done about that.

Then he realized that he might not have been able to feel his fingers, but everything else was on fire; every nerve, every blood cell was searing his senses and he wanted to scream in agony.

The monitors blipped, skidded and continued with their noises and he wanted to tell them to finish working on Doctor Jackson and pay him some mind, that he was the one who was in pain. Just because the Doctor wasn’t doing so well didn’t mean that they should ignore him completely.

Pain was released like a sluice along his veins, seeping in from his bicep, his chest and his thighs, but he could follow its path or discern its course. It was taking him over, blinding him to the fact that he couldn’t move, couldn’t speak…

… couldn’t breathe…

~*~*~

The General had perched himself in the observation lounge a little over half an hour ago after moving from the observation room where Lieutenant Rush and the Colonel were rooming. There hadn’t been anything wrong in that room; Carter had a controlled fever and Lieutenant Rush was entirely awake, reading on her cot.

Here, Lieutenant Mann was in an entirely different situation.

Even through the sound-proofed glass, he could hear the screaming monitors, the harsh commands coming from Doctor Brightman, and the confusion in everyone else’s words.

And through it all, Daniel slept.

~*~*~

Doctor Brightman ran a hand across her brow as she examined the report before her.

O’Neill was not happy, that much everyone on the base was sure to know—he wasn’t the kind of man to keep it quiet—and the meeting that they would be having in a matter of minutes wasn’t about to make him any happier.

Closing the file that was currently sitting in her lap, she gathered up her data and headed toward what would be the worst meeting she’d had to date.

~*~*~

The General and Teal’c looked up as she entered the room, making her feel even more uncertain of her conclusions, if that were possible.

“What do you have for us, Doctor?”

Spreading the folders out on the table, she took a deep breath and began.

“The best we can tell, sir, we have three different cases of rejection going on here.”

Teal’c’s eyebrow simply rose, while O’Neill gave her the patented ‘continue’ look.

“The Naquadah in Colonel Carter’s system seems to be acting as a counter- agent to the effects of the gene therapy. The fever is the side effect of her immune system battling the gene therapy in much the same way that it would battle an extremely virulent bacteria that she could have come across. Chances are that once it has countered all of our effects, the fever will break and she will recover completely. I have monitors on her in case the fever spikes or her condition changes in any way, but I don’t expect any unforeseen problems.”

Taking a breath, she paused before moving on.

“Doctor Jackson’s case is slightly more complicated.” She took a deep breath and another glance at the sheet before her. “From what I can tell, when he was younger, he must have contracted some strain of malaria. Malaria hibernates in the blood until something triggers its activation again; when that happens, fever, hallucinations, paranoia… everything springs to the surface.“ She glanced at the two men sitting with her, watching for comprehension.

“So, he’s got malaria?”

Doctor Brightman cocked her head to the side. “In a way, yes. When the Ancient gene went to bond with his cells, it also invaded the DNA in the dormant malarial cells. That DNA decided that the gene wasn’t supposed to be there and triggered his white blood cells to, in essence, fight back. It triggered his malaria and now he’s experiencing it again.”

There was silence for a long moment and she wondered if she would have to go into a more detailed explanation until the General looked at Teal’c and swiped a tired hand over his face.

“Sounds like fun. Didn’t like it when I had it.”

Brightman glanced at him in surprise until she remembered that she had read that in his file. A man with his kind of history was bound to have experienced malarial type symptoms at some point. She had to keep reminding herself that she had to stop underestimating the General.

Teal’c merely dipped his head in the General’s direction and waited quietly for her to continue.

“I can’t dose Doctor Jackson with medication for the malaria because I don’t know how it’ll affect his natural immunities, or how the anti-parasitic drugs would interact with the gene therapy. I’m keeping it for a last resort, but I doubt he’ll need anything. He’s healthy and young, he should get through it without too many difficulties.”

“And Lieutenant Mann?”

“Is an entirely different and dangerous matter. His body is reacting to the virus in a completely different manner than the others. His fever is uncontrolled, he’s developing a rash and lesions on his arms, chest and thighs, and his mental status is seriously altered. His white blood cell count——the infection fighting cells in his blood——is through the roof.

“We’re trying antiviral drugs, but given the engineered nature of the retrovirus, there’s a strong possibility that they won’t be effective against the gene therapy virus. His fever’s over one hundred and four and none of the usual antipyretics—medicines to bring down fever—are working. We’ve got him on a cooling blanket and are using cool baths, but that doesn’t seem to be helping either. We’ve even tried ice packs, though that in itself has an element of danger, if the fever is brought down too quickly. In short, we’re trying anything short of a symbiote, but nothing is having an effect.” She frowned and shook her head. “Frankly, at this point, sir, I don’t think that even a symbiote would help.”

~*~*~

A body that wasn’t her own was running through a series of tunnels. Faces that were familiar and yet not seemed to move and coalesce before her.

Selmak/her father morphed into Garshaw who then became Teal’c, Daniel, Martouf, and then the General.

She knew these people. All of them were like family to her on one level or another. She wanted to reach out, wanted to touch them, wanted to hold onto them like the last remaining vestiges of a life that she felt slipping away.

Her father, Martouf, Garshaw, one way or another had all been lost to her. Everyone close to her had been lost to her for some piece of time, Daniel, Teal’c, the General. She couldn’t keep them safe, couldn’t protect them.

The walls of the crystal caves began to crumble around her, leaving her bare, open and exposed. The memories that Jolinar had been trying to impart seemed to be fading along with them. Pieces of her were slipping away and there was nothing that she could do to stop it.

Carter’s eyes fluttered open. She wasn’t sure what she expected to find. Teal’c sitting in her bedside chair was not it. She tried to smile, tried to reassure him that she would be all right, even though she wasn’t sure that she believed it.

Teal’c’s hand felt so cold as it picked hers up that she visibly shivered under the touch.

“You are still ill, Colonel Carter,” he said softly, his heavy voice filled with tenderness.

Still weighed down from the weight of sleep and nightmares, she felt her chest constrict with the threat of tears and frustrations. The worry in her friend’s voice scared her and she swallowed thickly to try and find her voice.

“… wrong?” she managed to whisper.

“You have a bad fever, Colonel Carter; indeed, you have had one since shortly after your injection.” He reached to the side, past her eyesight and came forward again with a small glass with a straw sticking over the lip. “Drink slowly,” he advised.

The water was cool, perfect for the fire that was ravaging her body. She shifted uncomfortably on the bed and glanced around the dark room. Lieutenant Rush was sleeping off to the side, the monitor attached to her was steady and even.

She moved her gaze up to the glass looking down on her. Through the soft reflection of the dim room, she could see the General sitting there. He was reading through a manila folder with the usual red striping down the side. He glanced down at her for a moment and then back to the folder, gracing the room with a double take after realizing that she was awake. The folder slipped down to the desk before him and he stood still for a moment before disappearing down the stairs.

Teal’c gently removed the cup from her fingers and with a final glance to her, softly removed himself from the room.

The General took his spot in just a few seconds and she thought that he looked tired in the darkness.

“Hey, Carter.”

“Sir,” she said, licking her dry lips.

“How’re you feeling?”

She assessed again for a long moment and then sighed. “Sick.”

He smiled softly, his right hand falling useless to the bed beside her. “That’s what happens when one gets a fever over one hundred and three.” He stood a short moment in silence, watching her eyes drift open and closed.

“Daniel?” She finally managed.

“Egh. You know good, old Danny-boy, always has to try and one-up everyone. You have a fever of one hundred and three, he has to have one of one hundred and four.” Pausing and looking away for a moment his voice softened, “You’ll both pull through though, Carter.”

Something about the tone in his voice put her on alert. “Siler? Everyone else?”

“Siler, Harriman and Rush are fine. You, Daniel, and Mann all spiked high fevers. Guess fifty/fifty isn’t the worst odds we’ve faced, though.” O’Neill looked away for a beat and Carter felt her eyelids growing heavy again. “Daniel’s having a relapse of malaria. He seems to be dealing with it well though; he’s sleeping most of it off.”

“Ted?”

O’Neill’s eyebrows perked up and he gave her his teasing grin, “Ted?”

“Lieutenant Mann, sir.”

His face clouded over before he answered. “Lieutenant Mann isn’t doing so hot.” Again, the General glanced away for a heartbeat before filling her in. “We’re not sure why, but his fever’s so high, he’s developing lesions and the Doc isn’t entirely sure how to fix it.” He paused as he watched her yawn. “Get some rest, Carter. I’ll be around later.”

Despite her desire to stay awake, to hear what she was missing, she knew that she would never be able to stay awake too long. Even she could tell that her fever was still high and sleep was calling.

Her eyes drifted closed as she watched O’Neill’s back disappear through the doorway.

~*~*~

Something was wrong.

Blinking heavily, Daniel rubbed a hand over his face. There was an uneasy feeling sitting low in his gut, his instinctual response to feeling out of place. He felt alone, isolated and confused as to why he didn’t feel right. He looked around and noticed the nurse quietly standing next to the lieutenant’s bed.

“Hey?”

The nurse started in surprise and quickly moved over to his bed.

“Doctor Jackson, how are you feeling?”

Before he could respond, though, she was checking him over, looking intensely at his monitor and he couldn’t suppress a shiver of premonition that something was still very, very wrong.

He was watching her intently, her movement, her concentration and he found himself watching her face, her eyes and thinking there was something different about her.

“Doctor Jackson?”

She’d been speaking, but there was something…

His eye blurred and his world stretched into surreal colouration for a few short moments and then her eyes glowed.

Daniel felt the fear rush through his body at the image before him. Thoughts jumbled in his mind quicker than anything he could remember happening in the past. The Goa’uld have infiltrated the base. He wasn’t sure when or how but they had, and he needed to do something about it.

As soon as he got away.

He tried to calm himself, tried to relax enough to allow the nurse to casually finish her duties before he completely panicked, but his efforts were for naught.

The well of emotion began low in his stomach and built up, spreading out in a sickening feeling that wracked his entire frame.

He couldn’t take it anymore. He couldn’t stand the feeling. He couldn’t sit there and do nothing while these bastards continued to take good people away from them.

Sha’re.

Kawalsky.

Sam.

Jack.

Janet.

The list of names of those that had been permanently affected or killed by the disgusting snakeheads was too long to name them all. And he just couldn’t take it anymore.

Daniel Jackson screamed as he leapt from the bed. His hands reaching out and grabbing for his nurse even as the strain and pressure tore the IV’s from his arms.

The pain barely registered. It was but a mere tickle in the back of his overactive mind. All that mattered was subduing the creature before it could go about its business unnoticed.

The blood was pounding in his ears, the sickening pull of fear lashing behind his eyes, blurring everything from his vision but the reddening face of the nurse-turned-Goa’uld.

Pain sliced down his forearms, but his hold remained. There was nothing that could stop him from helping his friends this one time…

Something pinched his bicep and he looked down to find Doctor Brightman standing away from him, two burly Marines holding either arm and the falling nurse slipping to his feet.

“…Daniel…”

His head snapped around again to find the General on his left side, a worried expression covering his tired face.

“Jack?”

O’Neill’s voice was long in reaching his ears; there was a delay from the movement of his mouth to the understanding of his words.

“… reaction to the… you have to go back to sleep, Daniel…”

“She was Goa’uld, Jack.” He said, though he could feel the pull of tears clogging his throat.

He hadn’t succeeded; the Goa’uld was still there and he could see her being helped from the infirmary by some of the other nurses on staff.

“Jack, no!”

He sprang at the door, wanting… *needing* to show to everyone that he was right and that the woman who had been standing by his bed was a Goa’uld infiltrator.

Something was stopping him and in slow motion, dragged down by whatever drug the Doctor had put into his system, he felt himself falling to the floor. His vision was blurry, but he could see the General leaning over him. Again, there was a lot of displacement, and concentrating on the way that Jack’s mouth was moving was putting a dull throb into Daniel’s head.

“Go to sleep, Daniel. You’ll feel better when you wake up.”

And because he was the General, the same man beside whom he’d fought for so long, Daniel didn’t think that there was anything wrong with that order and promptly passed into unconsciousness.

~*~*~

Still shaken by the violence of Daniel’s hallucination, the General shook his arms away from his body, as if to shed something invisible and creepy. Gathering himself, he continued on his way down the hall, slipping into the observation room where Harriman and Siler were soundly bickering about the usefulness of working while in the infirmary.

“Would you two just be quiet and relax? God knows, I might not allow you anymore down time for the next month if you wanna work while you’re allowed to… well, *not.*”

Two sets of eyes shot up to the window and with a smart, but sheepish, “Yes, sir,” and with a none-too-subtle glare at each other, they both childishly turned their backs on each other. He was happy that they decided to turn their focus on whatever it was that either of them had brought into the isolation to keep them occupied.

Satisfied with the turn of events in that room, the General stepped down into the hall only to find Doctor Brightman rushing past him into Daniel’s room again.

“Code Blue, people!”

~*~*~

Doctor Brightman paid little attention to the fact that General O’Neill was right behind her as she rushed into the observation room, completely bi-passing the now-unconscious Doctor Jackson and heading instead to the convulsing form of Lieutenant Ted Mann.

The sweat that had been pouring off of the man soaked through the sheets causing them to stick to every curve of his body. Glancing briefly at his chart Brightman sighed, “Latest temperature reading is at one hundred and seven. He’s going to suffer brain damage if he stays at this temperature for much longer.”

General O’Neill shifted out of the way as a nurse moved to the bedside of the convulsing lieutenant, carefully administering something to his IV.

Brightman turned toward him, her thumb and middle fingers pinching at the bridge of her nose. “We’ve done everything that I know how to do, sir. The Tok’ra, the Tolan, maybe the Nox or the Asgard? They might be able to help him. He doesn’t respond to anything that I do and I can’t figure out why. I put him in ice packs and the fever stays, alcohol baths and the fever continues to rise, I give him muscle relaxers and the febrile convulsions only continue.”

She moved out of the room, leaning against the wall of the hall outside for a moment. “With Colonel Carter and Doctor Jackson, we can explain their reactions to the therapy. Colonel Carter because of the Naquadah in her system and Doctor Jackson because of the unexpected reaction with his previous exposure to Malaria. Now that we know about these reactions, we can prevent them from occurring in other people by screening them for it. There’s nothing that I can pinpoint from Lieutenant Mann’s dossier that sets him apart from anyone else. He hasn’t been blended with a Goa’uld, hasn’t contracted malaria, never had meningitis, hepatitis, immune disorders or a handful of other things that I would think could cause interference with the gene therapy. As of right now, I have no way of guaranteeing that this won’t happy with one out of every six people that we attempt the therapy on. Or even more, once we weed out anyone else that may have the more subtle reactions.”

O’Neill’s head dipped and a hand rubbed across his brow. “Carter and Jackson? They’ll wind up like this?”

“No!” Brightman’s head shot up. “No, being that we know what’s causing their reactions, we’ve been able to treat them in time to stop the fevers and other symptoms by treating the cause. The fever is basically just the body’s immune system fighting the invasion of an outside pathogen—in this case the genetic manipulation re-igniting an old infection. In Colonel Carter’s case, it’s slightly different but the same principle. What we need to do is find out what the gene has re-ignited in Lieutenant Mann that’s causing his immune system to react. Once we identify and treat that, we could help him. But it might be beyond that point by now, and I haven’t a clue as to where to begin to try and identify what it could be. I’ve been over him time and again.”

“Okay, so what haven’t we done?”

She looked exasperated at his simple question. Then, letting her eyes slide closed she sighed. “Wait.”

O’Neill cleared his throat. “Which isn’t the best plan.” It wasn’t a question, and she didn’t need it to be. There was little they could do for the lieutenant until something… happened.

“No, sir. No, it’s not.”

~*~*~

There was something wrong with the man before her. She could tell that there was something for her in his eyes, a strong feeling and devotion that touched her heart and left her warm. She knew that there was something in her for him too, but it wasn’t what she had wanted.

He held out his hand to her, his fist closed around something and her breath caught in her throat.

Finally.

She watched the fingers uncurl, a deep anticipation curling in her gut, the small displacement of feeling disappearing in the hope for something solid… real… continuing…

… a house leapt from his palm and landed on her shoulder, causing her to glance at it with concern. With every breath she took, it got larger and heavier, bending her back and shortening her breath.

“Sam, do you need any help? Maybe you shouldn’t be considering this…” Daniel’s voice was laced with concern, but distant and without looking, she knew that Teal’c was standing by his side.

“I need to consider it, Daniel. I might not have another chance.”

The house doubled in size.

Teal’c just raised an eyebrow in consideration.

“Relax, boys. Carter’s a smart kid, she’s got her eyes on the ball.” The General’s voice was much more solid and close then Daniel’s and her eyes skittered around her field of vision but she couldn’t see him.

“Sir?” She breathed.

He continued without even seeming to hear her. “She’s blown up suns and defied the laws of physics. A decision like this is nothing…”

Her thoughts paused as she felt a flash of indignation that her future was as simple to decide upon as building her little technological machines.

“Sir.”

“Carter?”

“I don’t think that was quite as easy as you would think.”

“Carter.”

“It’s not, sir. It’s my future.”

“What’s your future, Carter?”

Her gut clenched and the nervousness of the conversation turned into a stinging pain and she gasped.

“Carter?”

She groaned in pain and bent forward, a warm hand catching her shoulder and squeezing her gently in comfort.

“Lay back, Carter. I’ll go find Brightman.”

“Sir?” Her hand reached up and weakly clasped his wrist.

“Carter?”

“What’s going on, sir?”

His hand stayed on her shoulder, his eyes meeting hers as if he were looking for a sign of recollection. “You don’t remember?”

Her eyes closed, willing the fuzzy haze in her head to evaporate. “I remember, sir, what I meant was, why is everyone running around? What’s happening now?”

“Ah.” The General’s hand moved from her shoulder and quickly joined the other stuffed in his pockets. He swayed back on his heels slightly, “Daniel went through a few pretty bad Malarial hallucinations. You know how he gets, no one does crazy better than Daniel.” He tried to smile a bit, but she knew what he was doing, she’d seen him do it too often, knew him too well. He was trying to lessen a blow by cracking a joke. “He’s sedated and resting in his room now. Lieutenant Mann’s fever spiked again. He’s sitting at about one hundred and seven now and Doctor Brightman can’t seem to get it any lower, but she seems to have stalled it from going any higher. Either that or it just isn’t going to go any higher.”

“What’s causing it?”

“That’s the thing, Carter, we have no idea. Brightman seems to think that if we did, we could fix things. With you and Daniel, we were able to figure out what set you apart from the others, what aspect the genes didn’t get along with. With Mann, we have no idea what it was. There’s nothing in his family history, nothing in his service record that should explain any of this.”

“Have you checked out the planets that they visited on rotation?” Her eyes were growing heavy again, but she wanted to try and help, wanted to try and figure out what was going wrong with the procedure. Maybe, even if it were too late for Mann, maybe it wouldn’t be too late to save the project for others that wanted to undergo it. Maybe it would work on them.

“I’m not following, Carter.”

She sighed, wishing she felt better and had her usual amount of patience to explain anything at any length. “SG teams come into contacts with all kinds of things on missions, sir. Maybe something that the Infirmary staff deemed harmless was enough to set off the genes?” Doing her best and failing miserably at suppressing a yawn, she shifted back into the pillows hoping the cramping in her back would stay away long enough for her to get some decent rest. “I dunno, sir, I’m sure Doctor Brightman would have already thought of that.”

“Rest, Carter. And in case she hasn’t, I’ll be sure to ask her.”

~*~*~

He watched her a moment as her eyes closed and then, as another nurse appeared at the door, turned to go ask the doctor if she had, indeed, thought of that angle.

Pulling his steps, he turned to glance at his former second in command, surrounded again by tubes and wires and, avoiding any glances from the nurses, moved out of the room.

He passed one door and turned into the last, finding Doctor Brightman leaning over Mann again, a worried crease lining her brow.

“Doc, Carter just posed an interesting thought before she passed out again. What does his last rotational physical say? Was there anything out of the ordinary there?”

She blinked, thinking and then, with a curt nod, disappeared around the door.

“Jack?”

To his right, Daniel was stirring, his fever-ridden face blotchy and red. His eyes were watery and bloodshot and even as he lifted his head a small bit to see him, he licked his chapped lips.

“Go back to sleep, Daniel.”

“I can handle it, Jack. I know I can.”

The General took a deep breath and waved a hand ineffectually over Daniel’s feet.

“You’re doing good. You are.”

There was a pause and O’Neill thought that Daniel was thinking over his response before his hardened voice broke the General’s thoughts.

“You don’t think I can do it, do you? You’re always putting Sam and Teal’c ahead of me, because you don’t think that I can hack it.”

Daniel struggled with himself, groaning with exertion as he levered himself up onto his elbows.

“Always, ‘Carter, do this’ and ‘Teal’c, do that’ while I sit in the background and wait.” O’Neill pursed his lips, about to cut Daniel off when he started again. “I’ve been with the team for as long as they have; longer, in fact. Why can’t you trust me to pull my weight?”

“Daniel, I’ve never…”

“Yes! Yes, you have. We’ve always been at odds, Jack, since the moment you stepped into the Mountain and took over the project. I was never quite good enough because I was a scholar.”

The General winced. “At the beginning, maybe, but Daniel, you’ve proved over and over that I can trust my life in your hands.”

“But you don’t, Jack. In the thick of it, it’s always Sam or Teal’c. I can pull my weight, Jack. I can.”

The strain of leaning up became too much for Daniel and he fell back onto the bed. He blinked hard, staring up at the ceiling and O’Neill realized that he was picturing himself in another time and place, the disorientation of landing on his back was throwing him off.

“I can do this, Jack. Trust me.”

Lowering his voice, placing a consoling hand on his friend’s arm, O’Neill whispered, “I do, Daniel. I have for a long time.”

Turning away after a moment and heading out into the hallway, he looked for Doctor Brightman.

Once he saw her, he made a bee-line in her direction. “Anything, Doc?”

“Nothing concrete, sir, but I do have some ideas for a few more tests to run. If you’ll excuse me,” she moved off down the hallway barking orders to her staff in a cool, crisp style that still shocked the General at times.

~*~*~

Siler watched as the machine before him glowed with the touch of his hand. He had no idea what it was or what it did—that was for the scientists to figure out—but ultimately one of them would wind up breaking one in the process and they would need someone to fix it. That job could now fall to him.

Turning, he watched as one of the archaeologists tried to decipher something for Harriman who was toying with another device; while someone else tried to explain yet another device to Lieutenant Rush.

Siler zoned out for a moment as the enormity of it all finally hit him. The three of them had succeeded. Two members of SG1 had undergone the same procedure as all of them and look at what had happened. Yet, the three of them came out of it unscathed. Harriman seemed confused by it all, Rush seemed almost annoyed that it had worked on her, while he was excited as anything.

He couldn’t wait to find out about this new technology that he could now operate. From operation came understanding, from understanding he was sure Colonel Carter—whether she could operate it herself or not—could reverse engineer it, and then they could fix it and build more like it.

He wasn’t so much sitting at the bottom of the totem pole at Stargate Command, but he’d always thought that there was little use for him and that he was easily replaceable. Now?

Now, with the ability to work with many of the Ancient devices that SG teams discovered in the field, Siler was one of the important few with the knowledge and the talent to work with and fix them.

He felt invincible.

And yet, sitting in the isolation room, with Colonel Carter sick beyond one wall and both Doctor Jackson and Lieutenant Mann sick on another, he still felt vulnerable.

As another group of nurses and doctors rushed by their door, he watched as Rush watched with a look of concentration on her face. He knew that there was something serious happening next door, whether it be about Doctor Jackson or the lieutenant, he couldn’t guess, but by the words and orders bouncing down the cement walls to their room, it wasn’t looking good.

~*~*~

The General sat in the observation room, looking down at the swarm of nurses surrounding Lieutenant Mann’s bed.

The monitor was making its ungodly warning that the patient didn’t have a pulse and the harsh orders of Doctor Brightman didn’t seem to be making any difference.

He didn’t like this position; didn’t like having to sit and watch while one of his men died a painful death from something that he had ordered to happen. O’Neill understood the necessity of the tests and couldn’t disagree with how beneficial it would be having the abilities he sported spread more evenly around Stargate Command.

But even the cost of one life should have been avoidable, and he couldn’t help but feel the weight of his guilt taking up its common residence just under his heart.

His command had been riddled with deaths like this; an accident, a mission or even a training exercise with him in lead. It was something he knew and lived with and it made him understand the phrase ‘burden of command’ with that much more personal interest.

Resting his head in his hands, he said a silent prayer as he heard the never-ending drone of the machine fall silent as one of the nurses finally turned it off. Brightman had made the call official. She had done everything that she could for the lieutenant and as of yet they still hadn’t found out what had caused it.

Were they so fragile that something that their own medicine seemingly couldn’t even detect would be enough to cause a gene to kill them?

Had they loosened the restrictions too much when they were given the go-ahead for wide-spread testing? Should they have kept it limited to the few that had received it in order to go to Atlantis? What would he have done if it were Daniel on that bed instead of Mann? Or Carter?

Granted, Mann was one of his men. A good one. Nothing would replace him, or anyone else under his command. But Daniel, Carter, or Teal’c? They weren’t just his subordinates. They were his friends. They were his family. There was a small line there that he had crossed long ago.

The door to the observation room opened and Doctor Brightman entered. “I’m releasing Sergeants Harriman and Siler, sir. They’re both fine, and I need the room. I’ll be moving Lieutenant Mann’s body there for the autopsy.”

“Understood, Doctor.”

~*~*~

Her eyes snapped open. In the split moment of brightness that assaulted her eyes, Carter was blindsided by the remembrance of the fever-dreams that had wafted through her mind in the past day.

Confusion and pain, love and loneliness; nothing that was entirely new to her, but raw to dwell upon anyway.

The gentle beep of the monitor by her head was soothing, something that her years on the leading teams of explorers had exposed her to numerous times. If it meant that she was healthy, she liked it. However, more often than she cared to remember, it had been one of her friends tied to the same machine with erratic noise emanating from its speakers.

Now was not one of those times and she sighed while falling back against the cot’s pillow.

She glanced to her left and noticed that the Lieutenant’s bed was empty and made up and drawing on the memory of seeing her watching her sometime in the middle of her fever, she made a hopeful assumption that Rush was sitting somewhere, happily drinking coffee… or some such mundane, human activity.

Carter blinked her eyes again and saw Teal’c reading a folder in the observation room above her.

“Teal’c.”

Her words were soft, but he heard and with a short glance, left the manila folder and reappeared at her side a few short moments later.

“Colonel Carter, it is good to see you awake.”

She smiled weakly. “I’ve been better.”

“Indeed you have, and you have been through worse. Still, it is good.”

She reached out and touched his hand, the tacit reminder of her health flushing her arm at his warm touch. She smiled up at her friend. “Lieutenant Rush okay?”

“Indeed. She, as well as Sergeants Siler and Harriman have all been discharged. Daniel Jackson is still in bed, but is slowly over-coming his malaria.” The Jaffa seemed to pause and his dark eyes dropped to where their hands were still touching.

“Teal’c? What about Lieutenant Mann?” Though in her gut, she knew that the fact that he hadn’t told her actually told her everything.

“Lieutenant Mann’s body has been moved to Observation Room Three. The autopsy is ongoing.”

She felt her body visibly slump against the pillows behind her, her eyes closing as she digested the loss of yet another member of the SGC. “What the hell happened?”

“Doctor Brightman is attempting to determine that.”

~*~*~

General O’Neill gathered up the files that he’d had spread out across the observation room and glanced at his watch yet again.

Carter was fully on the way to recovery, just needing a bit more R&R to be back on her feet, nothing out of the ordinary.

Daniel was resting comfortably and getting his Quinine and should be in a complete state of remission again soon. Though they would be monitoring him quite closely for some time.

Harriman was still in shock at how much paperwork Jack had gotten done while sitting down here watching over all of them. It seemed this was a better venue for him than his office.

Siler, Siler was already managing to have the techno-heads down in the lab going nuts because he wanted to fiddle around with some of the new technology to see what he could to with it. Trouble was, they were afraid with his track record he’d wind up melding himself into a wall or something, maybe something worse, maybe melding them into a wall.

Thinking back to the beginning of the discussion about the gene therapy, O’Neill had always thought that there was something off with it. With only a 50% success rate in some of the base’s top professionals, he knew that the higher authorities wouldn’t be condoning any more ventures into the human gene project any time quickly, especially not if Doctor Brightman didn’t have some solid answers for them.

The General looked at his watch and with a sigh, noting that he’d just spent the last five minutes gathering wool, held the folders to his side and left the room.

~*~*~

Doctor Brightman ran a tired hand over the lines of her face as she scrubbed up after the procedure. Of all of the duties her job entailed this was, by far, the least pleasant. Sparing herself a few moments to relax before finishing up, she turned the water off and grabbed the towel to dry off so that she could give the General his briefing.

Her report wouldn’t be written for a while yet, but she knew that wouldn’t matter. The General would want her finding right away. Chances were he would never read the report anyway, so she could just as easily save them both the time and present it orally.

Wrapping the towel around her neck, she headed out to meet up with the General and fill him in on her findings.

“Doctor?”

She jumped slightly at the short tone to O’Neill’s voice.

“Enough to have a plausible theory, sir.”

O’Neill nodded and opened the door to the observation area. “Let’s hear it.”

“After re-reviewing the mission logs, talking with Lieutenant Mann’s team mates, and performing the autopsy, I was about to uncover something that I have to admit I missed in the previous exams.”

O’Neill’s face remained stoic. “None of us is perfect, Doc, not even Carter.”

“It seems that Lieutenant Mann had gotten rather friendly with a local woman on his last planet, sir.”

“Friendly?”

“Yes, sir.”

“How friendly?”

“Well, the complete extent of their relationship is unknown. What I can tell you is this; he had some sort of close physical contact with her. Enough to catch what would be the equivalent of the virus that causes cold sores here on earth.”

“Okay?”

“That virus somehow affected the retrovirus that was used in the gene therapy in an adverse way and caused the traumatic reaction.”

“So he died from something as simple as a kiss?”

“It’s possible, sir.”

“You know, things like this never happened to Captain Kirk.”

~*~*~

O’Neill decided to make it a point to check on both Carter and Daniel before he left, but there was little more he wanted right now than to sit back with Homer and down a few relaxing beers.

Daniel was sleeping when he stepped into the infirmary, but with a glance at the monitor still beeping steadily over his head, O’Neill knew that there was nothing to worry about. With a small nod of confirmation to the nurse, he turned to check on Carter who was talking quietly with Doctor Brightman and Teal’c.

“Half an hour, Teal’c. If she’s not back, I’m sending reinforcements.”

O’Neill raised his eyebrow at the unexpected humour from the normally straight-laced doctor.

Just then Carter glanced at him and graced him with a tired smile. “Sir. The Doc says that I can be escorted to the commissary for some tasty food. Care to join us?”

“They have tasty food here? When did this happen?”

“I suppose when you were not looking, O’Neill.”

With a grin at Teal’c, General O’Neill waited for his former team mate to struggle off of the bed and then, offering a shoulder as a crutch, led her and Teal’c out of the silent infirmary and down for something to eat.

~ The End ~

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