Part Three Teal'c
...I did enjoy that first swim and each one after that. I especially enjoyed learning to 'cannonball.' "
"I assure you that I am not. O'Neill tells me that no one can 'cannonball' better than I. We competed for size of splash. He conceded victory to me."
That day I discovered what 'fun' was I will never be able to thank my brother for teaching me that.
"With O'Neill's help, I discovered that kelno'reem while immersed is deeply refreshing."
"As in holding your breath?"
"For how long?"
"Currently, eight minutes."
Janet tells me that there has been no change in his condition, he breathes, his heart pumps blood, all of his autonomic functions, well... function. His non-autonomic functions though, don't.
I'm sitting here in the chair from hell waiting.
Even if the chair wasn't from hell, it would be sitting here in this hell. My friend lies in limbo, hell's waiting room. The only good thing in this entire room, except for a living Jack, is the folded towel I swiped to cushion the hell chair.
Jack would find this really rather funny.
'Why all of the current religious talk?' I can just hear him. 'I thought that you were into ancient religions, way before the heaven and hell thing.' I would then have to explain that heaven and hell is as old as man's first thoughts, like he didn't already know. He just likes to get me going, actually he likes to see how 'fast' he can get me going.
'Jack please get better, who will get me all wound up again?'
I've been talking to him, but this once he isn't listening. I feel that something is turned off, that he isn't there.
That really scares me more than I want to think about.
SG-2 and Teal'c left for P3R-336 six hours ago. They immediately sent Sam's samples back as fast as they could dial up and she and some others have been studying them.
Ferretti visited before leaving, he told me that he and Teal'c would return to where Jack collapsed, that they would take his route there, he didn't want to miss anything that might help. He's a good man, he thinks highly of Jack, looking up to him as the excellent role model he is.
Of course, Jack doesn't believe he is, just as he believes that he has no right to happiness. He's lived through too many tragedies; he can't see his own true worth. Maybe he never will. He holds himself to an impossible to attain standard.
I reach over and place my hand upon Jack's arm; I need to feel his warmth, to assure myself that at least his body is here, I just wish I knew where his mind is.
I turn to see what has Captain Jenkins so excited.
Right there in front of me is the creature, it's beautiful, the Colonel would be unable to resist it, he would revert into that little boy that surfaces playfully from time to time.
Just seeing it brings a smile to my face and joy to my heart, I can just see his face when he saw...
This creature attacked the Colonel. Why am I thinking such cherishable thoughts about it, I should be pinning it to the wall with a very large pin, with extreme prejudice.
Does it broadcast a telepathic message? 'Love me so I can kill you.'
"Captain, what were your thoughts when you first saw it, I need to know exactly."
"Well, this is embarrassing, but I was in awe of its beauty, hoping that it would come closer, that I could hold it. I very much wanted it to fly over and land on me. Weird huh?"
"No, not at all. It's perfect, it encourages it's victims to willing submit to being stung."
Captain Jenkins looks startled and begins to back away from the 'butterfly' as I look for a container to capture it in.
Jenkins has allowed it to escape in his induced rapture.
Hope swells in my heart.
The lab report in my hand makes absolutely no sense; the only thing I do understand is that there is a significant amount of isobutylphenyl propionic acid present in his bloodstream. The Colonel's knee must be acting up, why else would I find that much Advil in his system? He been using it's anti-inflammatory properties and it being a painkiller helps.
'I have a good idea why that is showing in the analysis, but does it have anything to do with what is going on?'
Over the last 24 hours I've had three complete chemical analysis of Colonel O'Neill's blood done, enough to chart out the quantity of chemical debris in his system. Inputting the numbers into the line graph shows some interesting tendencies, I'm no chemist, but I do need to understand some biochemistry. As the painkiller decreases the unidentifiable debris increase, but is there a symptomatic manifestation also?
Cross checking neural responses against the increase in debris is alarming, reflexes have decreased, respirations have lowered slightly, light stimulus reaction is decreasing and pupil size is increasing.
Is the venom self-replicating? On Earth, there are molecules that can replicate chemically by using a crude key template method. Thereby increasing its solution ratio, very rare and only under even rarer conditions. This is an offworld venom, perhaps it can do that easier. I just hope it can't do it a lot easier.
Otherwise, we've lost the Colonel before we even got this far.
What puzzles me is why is it replicating now, if that's what it's doing. Was something inhibiting it? The only likely candidate would be the painkiller he's been taking. A little experimentation can prove or disprove my theory, but only if I can get enough of the venom to run the tests.
I pick up the phone, dial the medical lab, and ask if they have used all of the venom sacs we removed from the Colonel.
The news is good.
They have four left.
I call Sam next to let her know of my findings, she might have found something new too.
This stuff was just too... alien.
He is going to die and I can't do anything to prevent it.
Janet provided the proof that something is going on, but the tests she's done doesn't bear out our conclusions.
He is going to die.
I've seen the graphs of his neural responses, they're decreasing, and when they decrease enough... he will die.
It's Antarctica all over again; I hold all the cards but can't see the solution right in front of me.
I... I can't help it.
I watch the tears splatter across my work surface, drenching the result of these futile experiments. The tests that condemn him and me. The spreading of the stains used on the slides through the puddles of tears mesmerize me.
One slide lying across another different colored slide mingle their colors, so pretty, so useless, so...
I shove them both under the microscope, what is happening. This isn't right; I've already proved that this doesn't work. This can't be, but it is. How can I duplicate it?
Saline solution, salt, sodium chloride. It's... well, it's so alien.
We don't really know the chemical formula for the venom... it is alien.
I can't logic it to death, but I can ding it to death. So far, ordinary chemicals affect it. That 'that acid' or painkiller slows it down, salt helps the acid to stop it.
Is there something that can be used to remove it?
I hurriedly set up an experiment using salt and the acid. I introduce it to the venom. It... It... I don't know what it just did but the venom doesn't do anything now, it's inert.
I have absolutely no idea why.
Nanites! Could this be a molecular evolution of nanites? The Ancients were probably advanced enough to create molecular machines. That would be beyond any current culture's level of scientific knowledge. What better way to produce molecular machines but by creating a living, breathing creature that can secrete them, which explains the 'butterflies.'
What I don't get is why the telepathic lure?
If I had created this, I would want to be able to disable it easily. Very easily, by using readily available medications to halt it's program, or chemical imperative.
It makes sense, it's logical, the Ancients were... are a logical race.
Salt is in every living thing, it's needed for cell chemical reactions. That can be used as first line deterrent if the molecular nanites found themselves where they should not be, slowing any damage, making treatment possible. The acid would be the means to further slow or stop their actions.
What would destroy them or remove them from the environment they're accidentally introduced to?
I don't have enough raw venom to test every imaginable substance to find those two answers. I have to arrive at them logically, but how can I do that if I don't understand the first thing about the culture that originally constructed the logic. I can't.
I wonder how far Daniel has gotten on translating what he found on P3R-336.
There might some answers to this problem there.
Teal'c has returned, he and Ferretti were unable to find any more of the 'butterflies.' They didn't know that was what they were looking for, but the description they did have would have fit them to a tee, but they didn't see any at all. Sam and Janet think that even if they had it wouldn't help Jack. We do have that one stowaway from the samples, now Sam's prize possession. She is reluctant to dissect it, but milks it for fluids, analyzing everything that she can without damaging it too much.
Janet has been trying a few things that Sam has suggested. She's raised the sodium level in Jack's body, but that can have all kinds of adverse effects, so she's also injected that painkiller he had been using before he was stung. Both are helping, her tests show that, but she can't reverse the effects enough to get him to wake up. At least he isn't in danger of dying, Janet's sure of that.
However, he may never waken if she or Sam don't come up with something.
Sam has asked me to continue working on the translations of the inscriptions that I found and recorded at the buildings near the gate, I never really got to finish recording them though. What with Jack's collapse and our hurried trip home to get him help. General Hammond asked for my recording equipment and a description of what didn't get recorded, I just couldn't give an adequate answer, I don't remember exactly and too much has happened since then.
Realizing that I had no answer for him, he told me SG-2 would record everything, as if I'd never been there.
I could tell the General's worried about Jack too. He always ducks in when someone is injured, but only for Jack does he come in the middle of the night, well except once or twice when I was here, but so was Jack. His relationship with Jack is much like Jack's with me, kind of an older mentor/father figure relationship. I know that Jack deeply respects him. Jack's own father, rarely mentioned, is another of those wounds on his soul. It's one of the few things that he and I have in common, a distinct lack of fatherly love.
I had it until my parent's tragic deaths, but I don't think Jack had even that much. I've always wondered where he learned to be such a good father with no example in his life.
I should be up there with him, keeping him safe. I have found it difficult to be there for him this time; he's not really there. Even Teal'c feels that lack of what makes Jack... Jack.
Still he stands guard over the body that had housed Jack, hopeful, as I am that Sam and Janet will solve this.
She asked for my help and here I sit my mind going off on tangents when I should be translating.
Surely, something here can help?
Shoved into a corner of my lab is that 'lawnboard socket' from P3R-336, I have barely noticed it since it's noisy arrival twelve hours ago. In that time I have reasoned out a line of experimentation into the 'molecular nanite' problem and promptly reasoned myself out of it.
I stare at my captive, so beautiful, so damningly dangerous.
If I let myself, I can fall under its spell, which I now know is not telepathy. Pheromones like those that Hathor used, but unlike Hathor's these are not a one shot deal. It was a relief, minor, but a relief that it wasn't mind control of some kind. Everyone at the SGC has been tested for esper abilities, and been rated. The Colonel tested the highest before the Ancients download. I'm thankful that General Hammond kept the testing and ratings his tightly held secret, if the NID ever found it, some of us would undoubtedly disappear.
Just guess who they would take first.
I was uneasy when the General started the telepathy investigation right after our mission to Nem's world. As I learn more about wormhole physics and actually see more of the universe beyond the Gate I have come to accept the existence of the whole line of what Earth believes to be a 'pseudo science' which includes telepathy.
I would rather deal with good old fashioned pheromones; I can detect them, analyze them and neutralize them. My poor captive here is the worst for wear because of the analyzing phase. I don't even know what to feed it. I've given it plain water and sugar water, it has touched neither, and it'll probably die of shock, like a bird does after it collides with a car.
Glancing at my watch, I'm surprised that it's after 2:00 a.m.
I should get something to eat, shower and sleep. I've analyzed all I can analyze of the 'butterfly.'
I lock up my lab, but instead of heading toward the showers, my feet first carry me to the Colonel.
I walk through a thankfully quiet and dim Infirmary towards his private room, peeking around the doorjamb I find that he is not alone. Janet stands near the head of the bed holding one of the Colonel's large, elegantly long fingered hands in both of hers, clutching it to her chest, she is muttering softly to him. Some reports and folders are resting near his covered feet. The low light at the bed head softly illuminates his lean, handsome, still sun-burnished face. My gaze continues over his rugged stubbled jaw, which is in direct contrast to his boyish long lashed eyes beneath soft graying temples and reddish brown cap of soft bristly hair. The lack of tension in his features wipes away many of the hard years he has experienced, giving him an almost angelic present, one of God's warrior angels come to Earth.
So appropriate for the Colonel, warrior angel, savior of Earth, venerated by the Asgard, indulgently tolerated by the Nox, suffered silently by the Tollan, respected by the Tok'ra, feared by the Goa'uld, but most of all loved by me, Daniel and Teal'c.
Oh, we're not the only ones in love with him, Janet and Cassie, the General, Ferretti, even the Marines of SG-3 are too. Everyone knows that this man would lay down his life for any of us, even a Tok'ra. He always survives, always wins the day, mostly, and he never quits.
Seeing him, here, now... I have no answers and hope is hard to find without them.
Janet has seen me and swings her head in a silent 'come hither.' I close with her, my eyes on that lone tall body in the bed until I stop to look at her.
"He's a very tactile person, not that he lets on. I think that maybe after his son, he was afraid to touch anymore but he always responds better if touched. Here, hold his hand and talk to him. I need a short break."
"Just a short one, I only stopped by before going to bed. I want to get an early start on this problem."
She leaves me in a situation I've dreamed about. This man and I, together... Just not quite in this way, me awake and him obvious to the world. I awkwardly hold his surprisingly heavy hand in mine, bringing my other up to grasp it too, both insist that I pull the lax limb to my breast to bear it's comforting weight better. I find myself mirroring Janet's position, I begin to speak to him, telling him about what I've done to date to get him out of this situation, I'm reporting.
My mouth speaks reassurances and details while my mind wanders down that avenue lined with my unspoken feelings for this man. I was attracted to him before I had ever met him. His report on Abydos spurred my mind to places I'd never imagined. His words sent shivers down my spine, the possibilities. When he stood up to me without ridiculing me, I fell hard. He was so different and as time and circumstances showed me more of him, I found even more to like. His boldness, the remoteness and sorrow he could project, his fierceness to protect others, his gentleness with many, even his stupid jokes and those beautiful eyes.
I definitely have feelings for Jack... no, the Colonel. He is my CO; I can't afford to think of him as Jack. I don't know if he has similar feelings, I don't know if he still pines for his ex-wife, or even if he has a girlfriend. He is so private, he'll talk and talk and never say a thing. Maybe one day, there can be more than friendship between us, but friendship's enough for now. Just this level of emotional commitment to him will nearly kill me if he dies or doesn't awaken. Just as it would for Daniel, Teal'c or Janet.
Maybe I'm lying to myself.
I reach over and brush my fingers through his hair, an indulgence that I had not permitted myself before. I had gone 'all scientific' as the Colonel would say, to my utter horror. Another sign that I'm lying to myself about this man. I push these thoughts from me, more complicated than any formula I know and revel in the sensations of touch. His hair is so soft. I trail my hand down his cheek feeling the burn of whiskers, lifting my hand I stroke it up his arm through the dark chestnut downy hair there to finally join in a two handed grasp of his hand.
Hearing Janet moving through the outer infirmary, I gently lower his hand to his side softly smoothing the limb into a comfortable position. Being able to touch him has renewed my faith in finding a solution. His advice, given whilst dying in Antarctica, regarding rest as a remedy to mental stalemate comes to mind. I am determined to rest for his sake.
I need a clear head; he needs my head clear.
I move across the room and, as Janet enters, I silently thank her and move on.
I stand outside O'Neill's room. GeneralHammond is here.
Out of respect for my warrior brother's CO, I leave him to visit in peace and solitude. He comes often, usually late at night. He sits close with a hand resting somewhere on O'Neill's body and confides to him all the happenings of his day. As if he were the subordinate not the superior, his fond regard evident in every action.
I believe O'Neill holds similar feelings for the older warrior.
I have given my trust grudgingly in the past, but for O'Neill it was given instantly and without thought.
I have never regretted it.
I give my trust to all those who hold O'Neill's trust. GeneralHammond was among the first to whom I gave that trust, I have been... disappointed, from time to time, but no longer. I have learned of the constraints of 'Command' - so different here than on Chulak. Personal honor does not necessarily lend itself to professional trust. That trust is not wholly in control of the person it is directed from. O'Neill has spent many hours imparting that wisdom to me, many desperate hours, a condition so foreign to his nature. It's presence sharpened my resolve to comprehend, I am most thankful for the knowledge that now enables me to make wise decisions based on the subtle pressures of the politics of command.
Such politics must be similar in nature to that that takes place between individual Goa'uld. A parody of it, seeming the same on the surface, but Goa'uld have no honor. The pressures are not the same but the effects can be, Tau'ri politics have opened to me a new way of viewing the enemy, a new line of strategy to use. If brute force cannot be employed, guile can be. In this the Tok'ra see the truth, but not the whole truth or even the only truth.
The Tau'ri's way is better, employ any and every weapon to overwhelm the enemy.
All out war.
O'Neill has explained to me that that is not true, that the Tau'ri have not engaged in 'all out war.'
'Hell, most of the planet doesn't have the faintest idea what's going on!' Was his response. He told me the sad history of a 'military police action' his nation had undertook just before he came of age to enter combat. It was politically unpopular, even in the military; many died unnecessarily for a very important ideal. He fervently wishes to avoid repeating such an action. This was one of the few times I was thankful that he is as young as he is, to have lost such as he under conditions like that would truly be regretful.
He lives, and in living, he fights. With his hands, wits and every fiber of his being.
Yet, I am uneasy, his body resides within the room behind my back, but where is that which is O'Neill?
I, like DanielJackson, do not feel his presence.
"I don't know Sam, all I have here are dedications to the 'fields of remembrance.' "
Daniel flings down his pad of paper in disgust. 'Why use that word?'
" 'Remembrance?' "
"Yes, and something about 'departures' which falls in line with my idea of it being a transit point in the Gate system."
He's back to that transfer point theory again, is that getting in the way of his thinking? I drag a chair over to him and tap a finger on the work surface before him, attracting his attention.
"Daniel, proof or supposition, can you be reading your own desires into your translation, I know you're good, but this is the language of the Ancients. You had a hard time understanding the Colonel when he spoke it."
Daniel is easy to read. That's what makes him so good at first contact. A total lack of guile. I watch him consider my question.
"Umm... that's always possible. When I was trying to understand Jack the least likely of meanings were frequently what he meant. Most turning out to be the oldest meaning. Now why hadn't I thought of that before..."
Gee, Daniel, you can't think of everything, this is exactly why SG-1 exists, four heads are better than one, we're like a think-tank.
"Probably because you were too busy taking care of him after he almost blew himself to kingdom come getting the SGC disconnected from that black hole. I shiver every time I think about that, he was so mad at me for wanting to watch what was happening on P2A-870."
"He was just upset about Hank and his team, they were dying before his eyes. He took their deaths hard and you know what he can be like under conditions like that."
He must have talked to the Colonel about SG-10, about their deaths. A flash of pain crosses his face. The Colonel must have taken them really hard if Daniel reacts like this. When the Colonel is frustrated, he can strike out verbally, his famous sarcasm sharp.
"Hostilely frustrated," I mutter quietly.
I felt so cowed by his words, the expression on his face a physical blow, I'd never been so embarrassed by my curiosity in my life.
"Yes, he can be that way. Let's see... he pushed through my request for some research materials. I just got a copy of one of the books I wanted. Here it is..." Daniel roots through a few boxes on the floor. He straightens holding up a handful of computer CDs.
"Proof of what an frustrated Jack can achieve. He couldn't get actual book, it's in a museum, but he had the Air Force commission an archival team from the Smithsonian to visually copy the book."
"They had a Presidential Request."
The man is just full of surprises, to use that kind of pull just to acquire research information. Strange. He has no ambition, beyond duty, at all.
"Jack can work those political strings when he's motivated."
"Just what is this book?"
I gesture to the CDs he is shuffling through, arranging them into some kind of order. What kind of book can be this important I wonder? Daniel holds up the book he used when Jack was under the influence of the Ancients' download, I recognize it immediately.
"The book, 'this' book was based on. Just the oldest known Latin dictionary, an infamous tome. Reliably dated, written before Latin was known to have evolved on Earth."
More Goa'uld influence? Very scary. How did Earth survive this long?
"Oh yes, it's a literary 'Shroud of Turin,' totally unbelievable and completely authentic. A dichotomy, one I only know about through sheer chance, hearing of it from an out-of-favor Professor on my second dig in college. Too bad he has since died, he would have been a big help."
Daniel begins loading up the disks in the computer. He loads and unloads a couple of disks, oh-ing and ah-ing.
He's making me a little impatient; I start bouncing a foot.
"This is really exciting, there are meanings listed that don't appear in this," holding up the other reference, "for example the word for departure 'decessus' also means death derived from another Latin word meaning 'to go' as in depart or die. No wonder, it is the common root for 'departure' but originally it meant departure as in 'dying'."
"How does that change your translation."
'Finally!, here we go...'
"It changes everything. 'Fields of remembrance,' probably means fields of dead or graves. Sam, that whole planet is a cemetery, the 'lawnboards' are headstones in the biggest graveyard ever found."
His widening eyes and raising volume shows his excitement at making this breakthrough.
"So, the whole planet is just one cemetery, essentially a big garden, planet sized. Everything there would be geared to gardening, keeping the lawns tidy and green. God! Daniel, the 'butterflies,' they're pest control. They're there to combat anything that doesn't belong, the Colonel didn't belong!"
What are the odds that the Colonel would be in just the right place to encounter them and be in just the right frame of mind to allow them to touch him? Astronomical.
"It makes you wonder just how alien the Ancients are. I had assumed that they were humanlike."
"Me too, even the Asgard make that assumption. Looking human doesn't make one human. We've already met non-human humans, the Nox. They look very human, but their powers are not at all human. The Ancients could be the same way. Humans or the Asgard might even be a hybrid offshoot of them. The Colonel's interaction with the Ancients' device provides some proof of that. So does the ability of the Asgard to help him."
"Well, finding out the planet is a cemetery really doesn't help you does it?" Daniel looks defeated by his inability to provide something earth shattering.
"Not really, but it changes my perspective some. Is there anything else in those inscriptions? Anything could help; I'm looking for insight into how they think, how they reason. Anything at all?"
I tap my finger against the remaining CDs on his desk, hoping for just a crumb of information.
"There are some panels that appear to be credos or societal philosophies. I have some of it here..."
Popping up a window on his computer reveals photographic stills of the panels and all overwritten with the English words of the translations he has done. The sheer volume of translations he does on a day to day basis always impresses me, he's always looking for assistants, yet still does the bulk of the work.
"See, they honor the elements, each should be present to achieve any desired result. It is the basis of their science in a convoluted way, at least to us. Philosophy and hard science is seen as one and the same, inseparable. Much as the Nox sees things, nature and science are interlocked, it can't be one or the other, but a mix of each. I'm not talking about the periodic table, but earth, fire, water and air. Which, when combined properly produce the periodic table as we know it."
"An atom is composed of air or space, fire or energy, water or movement and earth or matter."
The concept is simple, but the application isn't I've been trained to think differently, well, I'm just have to retrain myself.
"So it makes sense to you?" Daniel seems just a tad surprised.
"Yes, if looked at in very broad terms. How can I apply it to the nanites?"
"What do you know already?"
"I have the nanites in an living organism which can be slowed by salt and a type of acid."
The flash of comprehension across his face is shocking fast as is his reply.
"Water, earth and energy, you need a metal."
"What? How did you come up with that?"
I know that he can see the confusion on my face. I'm as smart as he is but sometimes I think he has the answers in advance.
"Water is the organism, salt is earth and acid is energy, reactive. I'm just using your 'broad terms.' "
Daniel shrugs guiltily, like he had stolen the idea instead of applying it.
"Oh, okay I can see your reasoning. So we need metal, but what kind of metal?"
I study his face hoping for another revelation; he's so good at them.
"Since you have acid, salt and water, why not one of the ancient metals?"
He's so cute when looking hopeful.
"You lost me, ancient metals?"
Our minds work so differently and our knowledge is so dissimilar. Many times, I can't follow his reasoning.
"Metals known before man learned to forge, anneal and alloy. Such as iron, copper, gold and silver, all metals that can be used direct from where they're mined or found."
"That's four, three more than we need. I suppose iron is out because of iron in the blood. Gold is out because it is stable, thereby inert..."
I am ticking them off on my fingers, but I still have two.
"Might as well toss out silver too, it's always been considered more air than metal."
I look at him strangely wondering about that statement and he doesn't seem to think I require an explanation. He assumes that I know more than I do about his area of knowledge, I really need to have a talk with him about that. With silver eliminated...
"Leaving copper. Copper..."
"I don't know how copper could be helpful?" Daniel muses, interrupting my thoughts.
I start arranging what I know into what I can do and what I can't do.
"Well, I know how to inhibit and stop the nanites..." Daniel interrupts my thoughts, again.
"You also know how to turn them on."
Now that statement really interrupts my thoughts.
"Yes, by introducing them to a living organism."
I am so glad he interrupts, because I didn't see that at all. And...
"That leaves how to remove them. Holy Hannah! I know how to cure the Colonel."
I'm totally stunned. I have the answer. Just being around Daniel I gain a dozen IQ points.
Today I needed them.
Poor Daniel, he's brilliant, but he has his blind spots just like I do.
I try to explain.
"I bet that the nanites would prefer to join to copper more than anything else. It would be simple to test but how do I apply it?"
I know this is the answer, its application can't be that difficult and all I need is someone with the right knowledge. Just as I came to Daniel for insight in the way the Ancients thought, now I need someone to help me apply my new knowledge.
Of course, Daniel interrupts with the answer to my problem, again.
"Janet could give you some ideas, after all that's more her area isn't it?"
"Yeah, I'll go see her, thanks Daniel."
"Well, it does bind well with large organic proteins. Non-toxic to higher forms of life, non-corrosive in high moisture environments, which means it will not migrate away from where we put it. Protein binding is the easiest way to form copper oxidizes, true oxidation requires heat and other gases, not something a lifeform can survive. Did it work in your experiment?"
Placing her elbows on her desk, she leans toward me eagerly after rattling off that bewildering array of information that is way over my head.
She's doesn't admit to being a chemist but she knows way more than I do about it.
"Beyond my wildest expectation." I grin at her, scooting back against the back of the visitor chair shoehorned in what little space she has between the wall and her office door.
I'm relieved, we have an answer.
The Colonel is going to be okay.
"We could try running his blood through a modified dialysis machine. Yes, haemoperfusion, it's used to place blood in direct contact with a 'chelating' agent. Used mainly for chemical and alcohol poisoning. One of the new machines is capable of it. If we replace the block of chelate with copper wires or plates for the blood to run across that should work, less chance of bruising the blood cells. I am assuming that there has to be actual contact for binding to occur. How fast does it take to happen?"
Picking up a pen she begins to scribble on a pad of paper.
'Is she making a list?'
"At contact, that's the fastest I've ever seen, especially since copper's crystalline structure is not the best for any kind of binding, the nanites must be programmed to sense the structure and aid the bonding."
Bringing up a knee I cross my legs and begin to bounce my free foot.
"Will this remove them all?"
Now Janet looks right at me, her list-making forgotten.
She's asked the $10,000-dollar question, the wrong answer condemns the Colonel and she knows it.
"It should, it will take time because they can replicate themselves, we'll get the active, unbounded ones. Those are the ones that seem to have the ability to replicate. Once bonded to their preferred site, they lose that ability. At least I think so. As for the bonded ones..."
'No!' Know so; have to know so, for the Colonel! I bounce my foot harder.
"From the blood work done on the Colonel, there are a lot of unexplained debris in his blood serum, his liver and kidneys are having no problem ridding his body of it. Could the debris be the remains of those that bonded? So far your reasoning of the Ancients' logic is to make the nanites higher lifeform friendly."
She asking for confirmation and something else, what?
"Yes, that's true. Your theory fits in with what seems to be happening. Since the nanites are a form of 'pest control' , the Ancients' wanted to avoid 'pesticide poisoning' of the population. Chemical key binding is not finite, otherwise some forms of medications would only need to be administered once in the life of a person, but they need daily doses. The binding breaks down; new unbound sites are created which need to be filled with medication again. The same applies here, the debris are too great for just the binding process, and they must break away once the site becomes inactive. Have you been able to narrow down just where they are binding?"
I can see from Janet's face that I provided the 'what' she implied earlier, I'm not quite sure what the 'what' was though. My foot slows down as I wait for her answer.
"Not really, but what, I and the lab techs, have eliminated leaves too many bad places for the binding to be occurring."
Janet does not look happy, a little fission of fear flies up my spine. I ask the dreaded question.
"Such as?" My foot is frozen, how bad can her answer be?
"Most of the sites involve neural pathways and brain function."
"That is bad. But, once we start reducing the active nanite population the effects that they have on the Colonel should manifest themselves gradually."
"Only god and Ancients have any idea what those effects will be."
I've been asked to do many things since being assigned to the SGC, mainly the impossible. I discovered that impossible is easier than I'd ever thought. When lives depend on being able to do it, it easier than finding that you can't do it and someone dies. Living with a death that I could have prevented is something that I really don't like to think about.
Luckily being a sergeant removes me somewhat from being directly responsible, not totally, but it helps.
I admire the officers assigned here, General Hammond, Colonel Makepeace, Captain Carter and Colonel O'Neill.
O'Neill in particular, he tries to hide his concern for all of us here, but if you watch carefully, you can see it.
Mostly I see it when there is an unscheduled incoming traveler, as the Gate connects, everyone is watching the event horizon form, but if you watch the Colonel, you can see his face. On it is that kind of fear you see on a father that can't immediately set his eyes on his child in a crowd, that quick soul searing terror that exists until the child's safety is determined.
Right now Captain Carter and Doctor Frasier have literally placed Colonel O'Neill's life in my hands. Thank god, they don't ask the impossible of me, but something easy to achieve. I would do the impossible it they asked. I know that he would do it for me.
...What do you think." Captain Carter has raised her voice; I haven't been paying attention.
"I'm sorry, I was thinking. Could you repeat that." I feel the slight burn on my face; she smiles understandingly, one of the reasons that I respect her. She doesn't flout that incredible intellect, she's down to earth, and I can talk to her. She's military all the way, but she understands that a human stands in every uniform and acts accordingly. She's a good officer and Colonel O'Neill is honing her into a great officer.
"I was asking if the density of copper wire per square inch would be a problem with uniformity of aperture."
"We don't want to bruise the blood cells, forcing them through something too restrictive or using too great a pressure to slam them into the wires," interjects Doctor Frasier.
She's another person on my list of respected officers, she's fixed me up a few times, she has a great capacity for compassion and a real feel for healing.
Not just a 'mechanic'.
"That shouldn't be a problem, the base has a computer-controlled laser drill platform. We do a lot of specialty one-off manufacturing of equipment for the base. With that tool, we can be extremely precise with the hole spacing. Plugging in the wires will probably be the most difficult, but if I cool them prior to insertion pressure bend can be minimized, giving a smoother flow."
"Too bad we don't have enough time to do special wire, fluid flow dynamics could be improved greatly by modifying the cross sectional shape of the wire to provide better through-flow," muses Captain Carter.
"I could do that further down the line, at least tool up some jigs to do that for future need. If I keep it all at the computer design level and make sure that the raw material is stocked it would be available for immediate manufacture."
Being prepared is important at the SGC; it's one of Colonel O'Neill's tenants.
"Hmm, let me see your designs and I'll see if I can get it approved, I can already think of a few applications in projects I'm currently working on. Who knows whom else it can help? I just hope we never need it for this kind of thing ever again."
Captain Carter's face takes on a pained look; she's probably picturing Colonel O'Neill as he is now. Having seen him myself, I was shocked at the difference. He is usually a dynamo of motion, but he was like a wax duplicate of himself in the Infirmary. I could feel my heart skip a beat or two at the sight. I shake the image from my mind to reply.
"Yes Ma'am, I fully agree." Turning to Doctor Frasier I ask, "Do you have any idea how many of these special screens I should make?"
"I'm sorry Sergeant I have no idea. Sam, do you?"
Even Doctor Frasier's 'all business' demeanor doesn't cover her worry. Surely, the Colonel will recover?
"No, we'll just have to try them and see how long they will last. I would think that at first not long, lasting longer as the population of nanites goes down in the Colonel's body."
She shifts her stance nervously, flashes of emotion flitting across her face. Many thoughts must be burning through her mind. From some of the emotions I can catch, not all of those thoughts are about the screen packs.
"Then I'm keep making them until you say otherwise, Captain." I know that I'll make more even after they ask me to stop, just in case.
Better safe than sorry I always say.
"Thank you Sergeant Siler."
"Oh, Janet. What's up."
I stand over the modified dialysis unit peering at the flow counters; the machine had been attached to Colonel O'Neill over an hour ago.
Connecting him to the machine entailed a minor operation; I needed to install a Venous Catheter, which I inserted into his chest.
While Sgt. Siler modified the dialysis machine I carefully fed the Colonel small doses of Heparin. It's a very necessary drug when using a dialysis machine, thinning the blood to prevent it clotting in the machine. No adverse effects so far thank God. I had to risk trying it, if his system refused to tolerate it our devised treatment would not work. This is the only drug I'll risk until his system is clean, we don't know enough about what's going on.
"How do we know if it's working?"
Her face answers my question, it hadn't really occurred to her yet. She has been working long hours with little sleep. Typical for her, once her interest is peaked she'll worry at a problem until her body rebels. I don't like it, but that's Sam in a nutshell. I'm finding that when the Colonel is involved in a problem she is far worse, pushing past where she would naturally let go. She's at least been sitting since before the machine was switched on, by the Colonel's bedside, quiet and withdrawn.
It's not rest, but it's better than dashing around looking for solutions.
"I... I hadn't thought of that exactly. We should pull the current filter pack and replace it. I'll do some tests on it, there should be a simple way to determine how encrusted it is and whether it's still useful."
She tells me this thoughtfully, more to herself than to me, I can see that her attention is more on the Colonel than on the filter pack.
"Okay, I'll shut off the flow to change out the filter."
I'm not sure that she even heard me, I'll have to stick with her to keep her focused. She needs to get some rest.
Getting her out of here will be the first step towards that goal. Turning away from her I call my nurse; it takes two to do this.
I return to the Colonel's room to wait. It will be a few minutes before my nurse arrives; she was in the middle of treating a minor injury. So, I watch Sam as I have been during all the time we've both been here. I watch her and she watches the Colonel. I know that she has feelings for him and I have discovered, during the Colonel's unguarded moments here in my domain, that he has feelings for her.
Not that either would admit to or even show them, they're both too professional and too in love with their job to endanger it by letting their emotions for each other dictate to them.
It's too bad; Jack glows around her, if you know how to look for it. She brings him to life, like Daniel does only much, much more. Unfortunately, he could be just another Jonas to Sam, someone who needs someone to straighten them out, to save them. Jack needs someone, to straighten him out and save him, but not in the way Jonas needed that. Jonas damaged Sam, maybe beyond repair, and that's why I am, in a way, glad that they are both avoiding getting emotionally involved with one another.
Sam could so easily destroy Jack, he's still emotionally fragile in regards to relationships, probably always will be. He's damaged too, far more damaged than Sam, but with the right person, he could be reborn. I have always wondered just what he was like before Charlie's death or even before he turned away from Frank Cromwell.
I've seen her abortive movements to touch him, but she's only looking, not touching. Could my friend have so little control that once she touches him she would be incapable of letting him go, losing herself and her hard won career so easily. I hope not. Knowing Jack for only this short time, I realize that if that happened it would not sit well with him, he so easily slips into guilt. His fault. His fault for being unable to move away, to prevent her touching him even in the condition he is currently in. His fault. That would be all he would see.
Fifteen minutes later I hand the biohazard bagged filter to Sam and follow her to her lab; I want to be there during the tests.
I couldn't think sitting there next to Jack... ah, the Colonel. Only his face existed, I so wanted to touch him. Do I have a right to that? I'm his friend, touching should be okay and if I touch him could I pull away again? Yes, I would have to, if only for him. I need to keep focused on the problem on hand; I can't sink into a mire of imagined pledges of envisioned unvoiced love. I'd already done that with Jonas, giving and giving to a man who had no idea how to return my outpouring of devotion. Misplaced devotion it was, I realize now that I had no real love for him, I was in love with the idea of love. I convinced myself that I loved him and he loved me. My greatest wrong was trying to change him to match the vision I had of him and I was so wrong.
I must never repeat that.
The Colonel. What do I feel about him? When I read the report he wrote on the Abydos mission I was thrilled, impressed and titillated. How could someone step into the unknown like that? He had touched and utilized the greatest piece of technology yet known to man.
Is that what I felt, a kind of envy?
When I finally did meet him, I assumed that he was like the other men in the military. I spoke out at him, unfairly. His reaction was spit and fire, but not at my being a woman, but as being a scientist. I treated him as I had expected him to treat me. The fact that he never retaliated in any way for that whole episode illustrated just who he was. I belittled myself in my assumption more than I did him. Respect for him took root that day and has grown steadily since. Sure I had to prove that I had the skills and the knowledge, but he didn't push me for more and in return he has treated me respectfully and trusted my judgement. He treated me as his 2IC.
Is that what I feel, respect for my superior officer?
I have found out some of the awful things the Colonel has lived through. My heart aches at what I know and what I have seen. Does that provoke my need to touch me, a maternal instinct? A need to comfort the suffering.
It that all it is, compassion for his pain?
Or am I so lonely that I gravitate towards the closest male, available or not. What a completely demeaning thought, to him, to me, I really have no idea. His presence confuses me emotionally. I find him funny and endearing. I know when he asks me to explain the science behind something that it's all an act when he can't understand what I'm trying to explain. It's a game to him. He's trying to amuse me. I find that flattering.
Do I have these feelings for him because he pays deliberate attention to me?
This whole line of thought is a moot point; I can't do anything about approaching him because it's not approved of due to our command relationship. I haven't the faintest idea what his thoughts and feelings for me might be. I need to push this to the back of my mind and forget it, especially if I'm going to get him out of this little fix he finds himself in.
I resolve my little internal dilemma just in time; I open the door to my lab and allow Janet to enter.
Placing the bagged filter on my work surface, I sit down to think some more, not about the Colonel, but about the nanites and how they might affect the copper they are bonding to. Janet slides onto a chair on the opposite side of my lab table with a similar but more worried expression on her face. She probably thinks I need some sleep, especially after watching me 'zone out' next to the Colonel's bedside. She'd be right. I do need sleep, but I can't while the Colonel needs help and I intend to solve this for him first.
I stand up and start assembling equipment. Grabbing a plastic tray I dump the screen pack into it and rinse any blood from it using distilled water, I next carefully cut a wire lose using a dremel tool. I drop the wire onto a slide. Pushing the clutter from around my microscope I place the wire unto it and begin peering at it. I know I have a few unattached wires, in the samples Siler had provided. I place a piece next to the used one to compare.
There is a visible difference, but not enough to help.
I need a fast, simple test.
Will the nanites cover all the copper? If they do, I can use a test for the presence of copper to detect its presence. I can create a sliding scale that can be established for the amount present which will conversely show the amount of nanites present. Yes, that could work! I don't want to do a chemical test, but a spectral test will not harm the sample and will give very precise readings. Grabbing a test vial I tweezer the used wire into it and step over to the spectrometer, place the sample into it and program it to read for copper density.
I have the answer in mere minutes, less than one-percent copper present and 99-percent of contaminant.
"Janet, I have an answer for you now."
"That was fast."
"Well, no distractions here. Change that next filter out after 30 minutes of usage and I'll test it too. This screen pack is nearly 100 percent encrusted with nanites. Only I don't know just when it reached that point. The second one will give me a better idea."
"I'll do that and what will you be doing?"
"I'm going to put my feet up and rest until that time. I'll need to test a few more screens to get a grip on their longevity; the rest can be projected from the data gathered at that point. Then I think I'll sleep for awhile, I'm wiped."
"Sounds good to me."
All of SG-1 has closed ranks around Colonel O'Neill; they and Dr. Frasier have done the impossible, devised a plan to cure him. Sgt. Siler engineered the filter packs that will replace the normal packs in one of the dialysis units here on base. To think that I had balked when Dr. Frasier, backed by O'Neill insisted that one or even two units were not enough. That men should not perish because of this very top-secret work they do. I am ashamed at what I had thought at the time, O'Neill explained his reasons. His impassioned plea for top-notch medical care ignited the same zeal in me.
I had, at the time, too long ridden a desk.
Colonel O'Neill has in the last two plus years chipped the moss off of this old 'deskrock', bringing back the officer that I was and through his example pushing me to exceed my own expectations. He leads by example, the truest form of leadership known. He will never order anyone to do what he cannot. I'm not talking about the ability to program a computer or pilot a plane, but the ability to step into a situation and conquer it, to take the bullet if need be. He leads from the front, at the brunt of the action. There to shield his people if need be to allow them to accomplish the task he needs them to do. As I once had done in those long ago jungles of Viet Nam.
He has taught SG-1 well, he has taught everyone at the SGC well. They are a testament to his ability to lead. No greater honor can be had.
I pat his arm fondly. Daniel Jackson is curled up on a blanket on the floor sleeping, where I am sure that Teal'c insisted he be if he was to remain. Teal'c values those whom O'Neill values. He will guard them in his leader's absence. This is why I come late in the night, to have these deep thoughts without interruption, to study his face unseen by others, to allow my thoughts a silent voice, minus an audience.
The man is a handful, but well worth it. I wish for more like him, but there is only the one. If there were more I don't believe I would survive it. Things happen around him, he's a cosmic locus. Stand near him and watch the universe revolve around him, to survive you need to stand very close or be sucked out into the whirling arms of happenstance spinning off from him. Unless, of course, he has tied that special rope to you, that rope called friendship, then he will dive down it to you and haul you back to safety, totally heedless of any risk to himself.
I didn't believe in fate until I met him.
I am relieved that I made the correct decision to send SG-2 and Teal'c back to P3R-336. No one was hurt, everything was retrieved and parts of the answer to O'Neill's illness were found in Captain Carter's samples and the additional video of the inscriptions.
Neither alone might have been enough for those two geniuses to arrive at this solution.
Standing I assess my officer, just as I had several weeks ago when he awoke after forcing the Stargate to disengage from a black hole bent on sucking the Earth through the Stargate. At great personal risk, he exploded a bomb saving the planet, yet again.
I wish though he could avoid the Infirmary time. It wears on me as well as him.
I cross the room and step into the main Infirmary.
"Teal'c, thank you for the privacy. You will keep me posted?" I grasp his upper arm and squeeze gently, trying to express my profound gratitude to this loyal man and friend. I am relieved that he is here for O'Neill. I can leave without feeling a truly crippling guilt knowing he is present.
"You are most welcome GeneralHammond. You will be informed on his progress, have no fear."
Teal'c inclines his head with a raises one eyebrow, sealing his statement with his usual dignity and grace. His loyalty is without question and I am assured that he will keep me appraised. O'Neill is very lucky in his choice of friends.
"Thank you, take care of him."
"With my life."
I am conscious of a hand on my back.
I'm not sure where I am, putting out a hand I feel a blanket then a cool floor.
I jerk upright, slowed by that same hand. Squinting blearily before me is lurking a lump, which pushes my glasses into my hands. Donning them I realize the dark lump is Teal'c, he assists me to my feet and gently pulls me towards the bed.
He points at a moving body upon the bed.
A moving body!
My smile nearly splits my face in two, Jack's body is moving. I bend down to study his face, it's streaked with tears, is he in pain? Is he having a nightmare? That thought causes me to take a very quick step back, nearly treading on a bewildered Teal'c.
He doesn't ask why and I know that he'll reason it out faster than I can explain. He and I have seen what can happen when Jack is not fully aware.
Turning to Teal'c I say, "You should get Janet," in a whisper, afraid of disturbing Jack. He nods and leaves the room. Turning back to the bed, I try to calm Jack's increasing motions.
"Jack, Jack you're safe. You're home. Please open your eyes." I softly but firmly speak to him, but still keep my distance. He moves restlessly, there is no movement beneath his eyelids, but tears still leak out. Is he dreaming, a lack of REM says no. Pain? Where's Janet!
Janet quietly arrives, her soft-soled shoes preserving the room's hush at her quick appearance. Only the rustle of disturbed bedding can be heard. She immediately goes to Jack, touching him. I try to warn her.
"Janet, nightmares?" She quickly scans his face, finding the same lack of eye movement.
"I don't think so, this is not his usual behavior." I can see the frown on her face; she's worried; I'm suddenly cold.
She feels his forehead before using the... whatever it is, in his ear that tells her his temperature. Peeling back an eyelid, she attempts to gauge his pupil reaction with her penlight.
'Darn, Jack really hates that.'
Stepping back to view all of him she watches his movements, abruptly stepping back she leans down to capture a moving arm. Holding it, she tries to smooth it to stillness, vainly.
'Is she gauging the strength behind his movements?'
Next, she carefully leans over his chest to inspect the connection for the quietly humming dialysis machine. Satisfied she picks up a cloth, moistens it and gently wipes the tear trails from his face.
Having erased the false evidence of an emotion Jack denies he has she retreats to the end of the bed and begins jotting things into his chart.
"Uh, Janet..." I barely breathe out. I slid a few steps towards her, glancing from Jack to her and back again.
"Daniel, no need to whisper. He's not awake, not yet."
"But the tears..." 'Pain?'
"I expected this, some bodily functions have been off line since his initial collapse on P3R-336. His body is trying to adjust. With the added handicap of the chemicals floating in his body and just how they may affect his awakening is anyone's guess. I'm expecting at least some atypical behavior."
She gives me a small encouraging smile during her brief inattention to Jack's chart.
"Affect?" 'This is bad isn't it?'
"Yes, all the tests we've been able to perform indicate that the sites the nanites attached to are neural connections, most for higher brain function."
I can't see her face, it's still stuck in the chart, it's frustrating not be able to see her face, her eyes. To be able to judge just how worried I really should be.
"Higher brain function... that's bad isn't it?" 'Brain damage.'
"It's not good, but I will have a nurse with him 24/7 and I'll be staying on base until he is cognizant." She is all business, emotionless.
"That's good." My voice is very faint; I feel my hope fading. 'Oh, this is really bad.'
"I need to step out and order up some equipment, I'll be right back." She states, glancing at me as she replaces the chart at the foot of the bed and turns to step out. Her face was blank.
I'm left to my own mind's devices, to diagnose Jack in the worse of terms. My eyes are pulled in his direction. He's not dreaming, not awake. I latch onto his arm as if I'm a limpet; I'm not going to let go until he wakes up. I stare at his face; Janet's right, he not awake, and he's still not there. With his body moving again, it can't be long now, I hope he'll be able to get back from wherever he is.
'Don't be gone, Jack.'
My eyes prickle hotly betraying my fears.
Janet returns with a nurse who has a set of restraints in her hands. I quickly stand, blocking their access to Jack.
"Janet..." My eyes widen in shock and horror must surely show on my face, how do I fight one friend to defend another.
Her face hardens in resolve, which hardens my own.
"Daniel..." Her shoulders stiffen as she takes a half step towards me.
"No way in hell." I slightly widen my stance, forcing my fury to the surface in my words, and feel a guilty satisfaction as Janet's eyes widen in surprise.
"You would rather he injure himself?"
I watch her surprise melt as mine grows, but she expresses her own fury toward me. Astounded by her reflection of my own emotion, her words suddenly click. Does Jack's distaste of restraints, his dignity are they worth the possibility of injury if that can be prevented?
"Well... no, but can't you sedate him." I practically whine. I'm unsure of the correctness of my stand now.
"You would rather I injure him?"
'What... what does she mean. Maybe I could...'
'...Restrain him myself if needed.'
"You would rather he injure you."
'Not strong enough? How about...'
Her impatience is plainly evident on her face and in the way she is standing, fairly dripping from her words.
"No damn it, I wouldn't." My patience breaks with those words, but I have to ask.
"Why no sedatives?"
My anger shows in my exaggerated gestures. Both of us are nearly shouting at each other. I loom over her; her head tilted back to look me full in the eyes.
"You know how little we know of the chemicals involved with the nanites, I will not risk him for anyone's sensitivities, even his own."
Janet words start out loud and lower in volume as she speaks, with a nearly visible effort she imbues her words with her determination to protect Jack at all costs.
It is that determination to protect our friend that forces me to step out of their way. My bravado burned from my frame by her logic I slink away, feeling beaten, foolish.
I watch the nurse attach the straps expertly to the frame of the bed.
I'm feeling more than a bit like a coward.
Do I feel that way because I backed down to Janet or Jack?
Janet is only aware of Jack as she attaches the hated restraints around his ankles and wrists, careful to prevent chaffing, loose enough on the straps to allow some movement, but tight enough to prevent abrupt damaging movements. She loosely belts down his hips and chest, she isn't immobilizing him, just restricting or slowing his actions. The care with which she does this reforms my cowardice into concern. This is necessary. It's to keep him safe.
I can live with that, even in the face of Jack's fury of betrayal.
The nurse is suddenly there dragging a chair to a corner near the door. So intent was I on Janet that I don't know when or for how long she was gone, but it is clear that she is here now for the duration, making herself comfortable.
She will be here for the long haul, as will I.