How the Mighty

“You're kidding, right?  Two days?  We just saved the universe from Apophis *again* and we only get two days off?" Jack groaned in disgust.

"That's right, Colonel.  I don't think I need to remind you that your recent actions were against my direct orders, do I?" Hammond questioned, clearly not seeking a response.

Jack folded over and pressed his head down on the conference table. He felt terrible. His muscles quivered nonstop, head throbbed mercilessly and he was dog-tired. Those damn armbands had been more trouble than they were worth. Drug and alcohol detoxification had nothing on his current misery, he was positive. Oh, yeah, he knew all about detox.

"Doctor Fraiser and Anise both agree these symptoms should disappear within forty-eight hours.  I expect you all back here on Monday morning.  You're dismissed," Hammond said rather abruptly and started leaving the room.

Jack twisted his head and peered out from the cradle of his arms, watching the general make his exit.  They'd really crossed the line this time, and Hammond was seriously displeased.  Everything from tone of voice to body language spoke of displeasure.  Sure, his commanding officer had *said* he understood the adverse effects the Atenik armbands had on him, Carter and Daniel, but he was still disappointed in them. Hell, Jack was disappointed in himself.

He buried his face in the dark again, wretched in both body and spirit.  Wishing the events of the past few days could be erased from existence, stricken from any official or non-official record, Jack moaned softly.  He could feel three pair of eyes boring holes into the top of his head and he knew he had to face up to his team.  Hell, two of them should share in his shame.  He couldn't be the only one feeling remorse for his actions.  Even if he was, technically speaking, the big macho leader of the pack. He slowly raised his head and straightened in his chair.  Daniel sat across from him looking morose, while Carter drooped next to him.  Ramrod stiff, Teal'c eyed all of them with his usual raised eyebrow.

"Two days?" he whispered again.  He couldn't get over that.  He so needed a vacation and two days just wasn't going to cut it.  Judging from how his body felt, the weekend was going to be spent in bed.  What a waste.

"Yes, Colonel.  Two days," Fraiser confirmed his rhetorical question as she breezed into the briefing room.  "I just spoke with General Hammond and he's arranging rides for you all.  I don't want you driving anywhere.  Actually, I don't even want you to leave the base, but the general insisted."

Hammond probably couldn’t stand the sight of them right now.

"No driving?  Hope he knows I'm going to be putting any cab fares I rack up on my next expense report," Jack joked.

Jack took a quick look at his teammates, trying to further assess their conditions.  God, if he looked even half as bad as they looked…Carter's skin was waxy and sallow, enhanced by huge dark circles shadowing her eyes.  Her normally healthy glow was absent and she appeared frail and shaky.  Daniel looked as though he was suffering from the worst hangover in the world, squinting as if to block out some of the offensive fluorescent lighting.  He noted the younger man's hand shaking minutely when he reached for his glass of water.

He sighed in resignation, stood and headed for the door.  Jack knew he should be grateful for even being allowed off base.  If the doc said two days was all they got, then two days would have to do.  The doc and that damn Tok'ra supermodel scientist wannabe had to be right about the effects of the armbands.

But somewhere in the back of his mind, he couldn't let go of the feeling that they weren't.

~~~~~~~~~~

Sam stood in her bathroom, gazing at the reflection looking back at her. Nothing or no one had prepared her for the self-loathing she was feeling regarding her actions while under the influence of the Atenik devices. She cringed as she remembered how powerful and invincible she had felt, a feeling she hadn’t wanted to give up. Sam craved it even now and that was the true cause for her disgust. She was a member of the Air Force and should never have allowed herself to become dependent on any foreign substances. Just the disillusioned look in General Hammond’s eyes had been enough to put red in her cheeks.

And yet, it was there – the desire for power and for the abilities the armbands had accentuated. It was all so far from her reach now. The mirrored image mocked her in complete contrast to the thrill and strength she’d had twenty-four hours earlier. To think just a few short years ago she'd been righteous enough to berate Daniel for becoming addicted to the effects of the sarcophagus. Funny how none of them thought about how similar their behavior was to when Daniel was acting all high and mighty.

She looked horrible no matter how many ways she moved her head around for ‘better lighting’. Sam was starting to have doubts about Janet’s all-clear in regards to SG-1’s health. If anything, she felt worse now than she had yesterday when she first left the base, and she had felt pretty lousy then. Worse than she would have admitted at the time, so happy was she to escape the let down stares from not only the general, but Janet and Teal’c as well. She sighed as she realized her own expression now resembled what she had seen in her friends’ eyes yesterday. Only hers was additionally flavored with illness.

She had a sudden impulse to get ahold of the colonel and Daniel, to see how they might be doing. Maybe she was just a wimp and they were fine. Forging a slow and unsteady path back into her bedroom, Sam made for the phone on her nightstand. By the time she reached her bed, she was out of breath and gasping for air. She closed her eyes and tilted herself sideways to lean her cheek on the headboard. God, it felt like she was suffering from some super strain of the flu. Her muscles were weak and uncooperative. She was convinced something was so not right. There was no way she was that big of a pansy.

She fumbled for the phone, thankful to snatch it up on the first attempt. She hit the speed dial set for the colonel and listened while the phone rang again and again and again. It became rather mesmerizing, lulling her into a semi-trance. She was startled out of it when his weak voice finally answered.

“H-hello?”

“Sir?” Sam said. “Did I wake you? I’m sorry.”

“No, not sleeping. Did you want something, Carter?” the colonel asked.

“I just wanted to see how you were feeling.”

“You want the truth? I feel awful. Haven’t been able to get out of bed all day, in fact.”

Sam was relieved to hear his answer. At least she wasn’t alone in her wretchedness. Janet had warned them they may feel a bit strung out, but she had been concerned at just how bad she felt. To know that the colonel was also suffering was a strange blessing. Even as she was thinking these things, Sam couldn’t help but be worried at the colonel’s almost frail-sounding voice.

“Sir, are you really all right? I mean, you sound a little worse for wear.”

“I could say the same to you, Carter. Let’s just say I am remembering what an ass I made of myself and on top of the physical symptoms of coming down off of those armbands, that makes for a heavy burden,” he said.

Sam winced. The colonel never opened up to her this much under regular circumstances, but any comfort she might have taken from the sharing was negligible in light of the fact that he *had* to be feeling like he was on death’s door to admit half as much as he just had. As much as she would like him to open up more to her, it wasn’t his style.

She sighed unhappily, agreeing with him, “Yeah, it does, doesn’t it? Have you spoken with Daniel at all?”

“No. You’re lucky you got me to answer the phone. I haven’t picked it up to make any calls myself,” the colonel snapped, irritation sounding through along with the obvious exhaustion in his tone.

“Well, I’m going to call him. I might go over to his place, too. I don’t know. I just don’t feel like being alone right now.” She hoped the colonel would pick up on her hint. She thought they all could use each other’s company, to commiserate and all.

“Do that, Carter. If he’s up to it, give me a call back, will ya?” Relieved by his reluctant participation, Sam thought she heard concern creeping into his tone. Curiosity, certainly. “I wouldn’t mind some company myself.”

Oh, boy. That was as close to confession of worry and/or illness she was likely going to get. It was enough. She couldn’t help but smile as a less-than-gentle phone slamming down in her ear abruptly severed the connection. My, my the colonel was quite the charmer. She smiled grimly and disconnected her own line, immediately clicking it back on to dial Daniel. There was no doubt in her mind that the archaeologist would welcome the company. Her smile faded as the phone rang and rang. This time there was no voice answering on the other end and no voicemail picking up. No peace of mind for her.

Worry dogged at her that she tried ineffectively to calm. Daniel could just be sleeping really heavily, oblivious to the world around him. He was known to do that all the time. She disconnected and redialed him again. The ritual was repeated several times, constant ringing, no picking up. Damn, it usually only took her twice to break through his sleep barrier. Worry notched up a level and turned into fear. She rang the colonel again.

“Hello,” her CO’s voice grumbled, not quite as disoriented as before.

“Colonel, Daniel’s not answering his phone.” Sam was panicking and she knew it, but she couldn’t keep herself from being frantic on the inside. And the outside. “I think there’s something wrong. He usually picks up after a couple of tries and he didn’t this time.”

“Carter, calm down. I’ll call a cab and swing by your place. We’ll go check on him, even though I’m sure he’s fine.” The colonel sounded as though he was trying to assure himself as well as her. He was gruff and agitated.

“Okay. I’ll be waiting,” Sam whispered.

An intense cold weaved its way through her veins, shadows chasing away the light. Sweat erupted on her forehead and upper lip, coming from out of nowhere and she was distinctly nauseous. She recognized the signs. Now was not a good time to pass out. Not at all. Gray fuzz seemed to distort her vision. She couldn’t see the bed, though she knew it was only a few steps away. She lowered her hand, which was made heavier by the phone, and took a step. Her limbs shook like saplings in a tornado. The phone fell from her fingers. Sam heard it clatter to the ground and then she was following it down.

~~~~~~~~~~

What the hell was that obnoxious noise? It buzzed like a saw, relentlessly invading his throbbing head. Daniel wanted to scream out for it to shut up, as ridiculous as that was.  Instead, he shoved a pillow on top of his head to muffle the ruckus.  He willed the feather down to block out the irritating sound.

To his surprise, the buzzing ceased as if graciously meeting his needs.  Suddenly feeling the air closing in on him, suffocating and heavy, Daniel flipped the pillow from his face.  He sucked in air too fast, coughing when the chill hit his lungs. God, he felt terrible.  This feeling was far too similar to the withdrawal he had undergone after the sarcophagus addiction.  He shuddered at the memory, the pain from that imprinted like a tattoo in his mind.  He had hoped never to experience anything like that again, but here he was, weaker than a newborn. Just like then.

No, this *was* different.  Then the pain had ripped into him, causing muscles to spasm and contract. The agony was indescribable.  Now, though, he just felt sick. Nausea was a constant companion, cold sweats a frequent visitor and loss of motor control were becoming more common as the minutes ticked by.  This was definitely different, but just as scary.  He'd had people around him then. He wouldn’t turn people away now. 

Phone…where was the phone?  He had a sudden need to call Jack and Sam, though he wasn't sure if it was for companionship or for someone to join his misery party, because everyone knows misery loves company.  Huh.  Both reasons seemed to really be one and the same.  Flipping over onto his back, Daniel looked for his cordless phone again.  He'd searched far and wide for it earlier, with no happy result.  Obviously or he’d be talking to one of his friends already.  He buried his face into his pillow again, muffling the strained laughter as he forced himself to be honest: yeah, he'd looked for it all right. 

From his horizontal position on the bed, unable or unwilling to move from its semi-safe haven. 

He now remembered taking the handset out of the room yesterday, too exhausted to want to deal with callers.  His friends had the tendency to call repeatedly when he didn't answer, knowing that when he was on world he sometimes crashed and was hard to wake.  The logical thing for him to have done was simply turn the phone *off* rather than remove it…but he apparently hadn't been thinking clearly. 

The buzzing noise came back and it was more insistent than ever. It shot spikes right down Daniel's spine.  What the hell was that?  Head throbbing, he stumbled off the bed to locate the cause for his wretchedness.  He half crawled, half walked to his bedroom door, reaching it barely in time to stop himself from falling.  Whoa.  Clutching the doorframe, he finally realized what the noise was.  His phone.  He staggered drunkenly through his living room, stubbing a bare toe on the couch.  Cursing, he tried to grab the wounded appendage.  Balance not being his forte even while not suffering from muscle spasms and embarrassing weakness, he tumbled to the floor and landed in a graceless heap with his chest heaving.

The cold sweat once again trickled down his back, followed closely by body-wracking shivers.  Daniel clenched his jaw tightly to stop his teeth from chattering.  God, this was sheer hell.  He again thought of Sam and Jack, wondering how they were doing.  Call them?  They had to be better than he was; he scoffed at his frailty.  He had been the last to get his armband, and the first to lose it.  How discomforting.

“Wuss, wuss, wuss,” the voices chanted in his head.  God, even with the armbands he had been weaker than Jack and Sam.  Sam, for Pete's sake.  He wasn’t a chauvinist, but it bothered him that a woman had more lasting strength than he had. Huh. Maybe he *was* a sexist. Whatever the ruling on that, the bitterness now hit him so hard that he knew it was merely a residual effect of the alien device.  Self-pity always was the hardest hitter when it came to withdrawal from addictive substances. 

He had to stop thinking about his weakness. Maybe that would prevent it from escalating.  He had to reach the phone, he reminded himself.  The cordless was probably dead and he was thankful his pounding head wasn't being attacked by dual bells.  The shrill tone cut off mid-ring, leaving him drowning in the silence of the apartment.  Turning onto his stomach, he pushed himself up with trembling arms.  He forced them to lock and brought his legs up.  He gave up on trying to walk – it was simply too tiring.  Crawling he could manage.  So, crawling like a baby is what he did.  Shaking violently, Daniel wondered how such a short trip could take so long, when his head smacked into the island in the dining area.  He clutched at the wood, willing himself off his hands and onto his knees only.  Almost there.  Just a bit….

He stretched his arms across the counter and felt his fingers connect heavily with the phone, sending it falling to the floor.  He heard it chime as it hit and then he was sliding down the length of the cabinet.  It no longer mattered that he was supposed to call someone…Jack?…Sam?…the only thing that mattered was sleep. 

Darkness beckoned him and he went to it gladly.

~~~~~~~~~~

Jack couldn't stem the apprehensive feeling Carter's call had initiated.  It *wasn't* like Daniel to not answer his phone and, being as they were all off cars for a while, he knew the archaeologist had to be home.  Not even Daniel would dare defy Fraiser's instructions and leave his apartment.  Especially not if the younger man felt as crappy as he himself did at the moment.  He tentatively lifted and made a half-hearted attempt to replace his phone.  It landed a good three inches short of the mark, but he found himself not caring at all.  He couldn't remember if he'd hung it up or not.  If not, anyone calling him would be out of luck.  He wouldn't be here anyway.  He *was* going to defy the good doctor. Concern for his team took precedence over covering his own ass, literally as the case might be. Fraiser had a penchant for needles.

He sat up and watched the bedroom spin around him.  Or maybe it was him spinning?  First one foot, then the other contacted the cold floor.  Damnit, he needed the phone back to call a cab.  As he tried to stand, his legs demonstrated just how unwilling they were to cooperate by turning to mush.  He clutched at his night table, barely able to maintain a kneeling position as his suddenly thick fingers clawed at the phone.  Dialing 4-1-1 had never been so difficult, but he managed to get through and had the lucky operator help him track down the nearest cab company.  By the time he was put through, he was already spent.

“Yellow Cab, area code and phone number, please,” a dispatcher said.

"Yeah, I, uh, need a taxi as soon as possible." Jack could hear his own, slurred voice and randomly hoped the cab company didn't think he was drunk.  Not that it mattered.   He attempted to infuse some authority into his tone.  He didn't think it worked.  "Right away."

“I need your area code and phone number, sir.”

He rattled off his number and address, then dropped the phone without confirmation. He had bigger things to worry about.  Like dressing.  A quick perusal of his attire mad him decide he probably should change but was going to just stay in his pajama bottoms and T-shirt anyway.  He'd just throw on a sweatshirt or something.  What did it matter if all he was going to do was pick up Carter and go to Daniel's?  Both of them had seen him in much worse.  Besides, he really didn't think he was capable of the effort of undressing and redressing at this point.

He staggered to his dresser and tugged out one of his Minnesota Wild sweatshirts. He wrestled it over his head.  It took his all of his flagging strength and he had to creep back toward his bed to sit down.  Halfway there, the ring of his doorbell sounded, reverberating through his head.  Groaning, he switched direction and made his way to the front door.  Everything wavered before his eyes, causing him to stumble over several pieces of furniture.  Finally, the big door loomed before him.  He weakly pulled it open, wondering if it was possible for inanimate objects to suddenly gain mass.  An impatient, overweight cabbie stood at the door, sucking on a cigarette and scowling at him.

"Don't usually come to the door.  You're lucky I'm feeling generous."

Jack winced, both from the abrasive tone of the driver and the sunshine bombarding his retinas.  He fumbled for his shades and keys, not bothering to give a response.  He poked himself in the eye with one of the bows, inducing tears. He cursed under his breath and finally managed to put the sunglasses on. Ignoring the driver, he inched down the sidewalk for the vehicle waiting at the curb.

"You do know you're barefoot, right?" the man scoffed as he passed Jack, heading for the passenger door and holding it open.  "Suppose you don't care too much right now, eh, buddy?"

He looked down at his feet and realized the driver was right. He curled his bare toes self-consciously. It was too much work to go back for shoes now. The twenty foot sidewalk might as well have been a mile. Jack returned his gaze to the cabbie, saying with as much dignity as he could muster, "It doesn't matter.  Just take me to 1707 Rosewood Lane."

"You got it, bud.  Back to home or back to the scene of the crime?"

"Checking on a friend.” Jack was never so happy to feel the soft cushion of the back seat of a taxi.  He sank into it, eyes closing as he leaned his head back.  "Had a rough night."

"Yeah, I can see that.  Don't worry, good ol' Stu will get you there.  Let me know if you're going to ralph, though.  It takes weeks to get the stink out," Stu said, slamming the door and climbing behind the wheel.

His stomach heaved at the mere mention of vomiting and cold sweat returned. He was unable to stifle a weak moan as he tried to swallow his nausea  If he had his eyes open, he knew the world would once again be spinning, even sitting down.  The signs were telltale – he was going to pass out.  Too bad he couldn't do anything about it.

"Hey, you okay back there?  Sleeping?  Damn drunks.  Guess I'll have to wake him when we get there.  Shit, I bet he doesn't even have any money.  Buddy, you'd better be planning on paying me."

Stu's muttering registered on the edge of consciousness, though he couldn't build enough energy to refute the words.  He tried to open his eyes and lift his head, but felt even those functions slipping away.  Giving in, Jack slumped down and let the darkness of unconsciousness take full control.

~~~~~~~~~~

Teal'c admitted to himself that a couple of days ago he had felt a slight smugness at being the only member of SG-1 to not receive any reprimand from General Hammond.  Having his three friends confined to their homes for the entire weekend granted him much time to reconsider that stance.  The corridors of the SGC seemed abnormally quiet without their presence.  Even when on stand down, they were renowned for being on base instead of at their homes.  He had felt the division from them very intensely while they were undergoing the Tok'ra experiment and rather than the gap lessening now the tests were over,  it felt as thought it were growing.

He suddenly felt the need to be close to his friends.  Their homes were frequent retreats when the confines of Cheyenne Mountain became too oppressive even for him.  One of them would offer their home to him, glad to have him as a guest for one or two nights.  Teal’c exited his quarters and made his way to the infirmary, knowing Doctor Fraiser's shift would soon be over.  He hoped that perhaps she would be willing to take him off base.  O'Neill's home was the largest, he had spent the most time there and the other man would be the least surprised by an impromptu visit; also, it would not appear out of the ordinary for him to appear at O'Neill's doorstep uninvited, thus not revealing  his loneliness.  Calling ahead would be courteous, but doing so brought the risk of being told not to make the journey. He knew he had been unsubtle in his amused haughtiness with all three of his human friends and they likely would not wish to see him. That was, as O’Neill might say, most unfortunate.

When he walked through the door, he found the infirmary was unusually quiet. All of the beds were unoccupied.  He located Doctor Fraiser in her office, her head resting on crossed arms and sprawling across the top of her desk.  She had been extremely agitated throughout the course of Anise's experiment, and he believed she had not had the reprieve of a day off in quite some time.  Teal'c felt a spark of sympathy for the doctor, turning to leave her to her moment of relaxation.

"What can I do for you, Teal'c?" her muffled voice halted him.

Teal’c pivoted around. Doctor Fraiser was lifting her head to look in his direction. He cocked an eyebrow with concern.  She did indeed appear exhausted, uncustomary dark circles beneath her eyes.  He glanced at the clock on her wall, noting she had but five minutes remaining on duty. 

"I had hoped you would be willing to take me off base.  I would like to venture to O'Neill's house to ensure he is well. I may also wish to become his houseguest."

"You miss them too?" Doctor Fraiser asked.

Teal'c shifted his head to one side. It both warmed and disturbed him that she was able to decipher his feelings so readily.  He found he was growing more tolerant of the Tau'ri tendency to openly express emotions, even relaxing himself in that regard.  His Jaffa training still occasionally balked at the perceived weakness of revealing feelings for the rest of the world to see.

"It is kind of quiet around here, I'll give you that.  Doctor Warner should be here any minute; I'd be happy to take you."

"Thank you, Doctor Fraiser."

"You know, I've been reviewing Anise's data regarding the Ateniks and those armbands…" she began. She then trailed off with an indistinct expression flitting across her face.

"Have you found something about which we should be concerned?" he prompted, his own unease stirring at the vague concern he now read in her features.  Logic told him that both of them were overreacting, letting their imaginations conjure up worst-case scenarios in the form of unfounded feelings, which seemed, however, very real.

"No, not really."  She sighed, reaching around the back of her head to release her hair.  With a headshake, it cascaded to frame her face, which was marred by a slight frown.  "Just have an off feeling.  I'm sure it's nothing."

It had been his past experience that if Doctor Fraiser had an inclination something was amiss, her suspicion was well founded.  His primta agreed, flipping around his belly in a most distressing manner.  Now more than ever he felt the need to determine if his friends were well. His physical reaction served to increase his uneasy feeling.  Fortunately, they did not have to wait long for Doctor Warner to make his appearance. The SGC’s secondary medical officer entered the office within minutes.

"Looks pleasantly empty in here."

"It is.  In fact, I've got nothing to apprise you of for a change.  With only SG-6 and SG-10 on planets even remotely dangerous, I don't expect you'll see much activity either," Doctor Fraiser said. She hung up her white coat and looked at Doctor Warner.  "As always, call my cell if there's an emergency."

"Of course.  Have a good afternoon and evening."

"You too.”

Doctor Fraiser moved from the office quickly. Teal’c did not linger far behind. He was surprised to see she did not appear to be traveling to the locker room to don her civilian clothing.  He realized his distraction was greater than he had thought – he himself had forgotten to clothe himself properly for leaving the base.  He placed a hand upon her forearm as she raised it to swipe her card for retrieval of the elevator. 

"Doctor Fraiser, I require a moment in my quarters.  I must find something to wear upon my head before I will be allowed to leave the SGC."

"Oh, right," she murmured, her face flushing a bit.  She ran her card through the reader. "I'm sorry.  I'm not usually this flighty."

"It is all right.  I, too, am feeling strangely apprehensive."  That much was manifest – he never would have normally left his quarters with the express purpose of departing the SGC without suitable attire. 

The doctor looked taken aback by his admission, apparently unaware of what he considered to be blatant evidence of his distraction.  The elevator door slid open and two SFs exited.  He nodded to Doctor Fraiser and guided her through the opening.  They rode without speaking, stopping for a short time only at Teal'c's quarters to retrieve the needed headgear and, as an afterthought, he pocketed the key ring O'Neill had given him. 

They remained silent as they finally made their way to the surface.  He found himself very comfortable with the quietude, as Doctor Fraiser's companionship was such as to not require vocalization under normal circumstances.  With the increasing concern eating at both of them, conversation would only have served as a reminder of their agitation. They reached the surface and maneuvered through the checkpoints at last and approached her small car. Teal’c moved to the passenger side.  

"Don't forget to adjust the seat before you get in,” Doctor Fraiser told him.

He would never forget that particular task, having hit his knees quite hard on the dashboard on several occasions.  He much preferred riding in O'Neill's truck, but admitted her car handled much more smoothly. It was comparable to comparing a glider to a cumbersome teltac.  Said glider made a rapid exit once both passenger and driver were situated. Doctor Fraiser chose what Teal’c knew to be the fastest route to O'Neill's house.  It occurred to him they could easily go to either Major Carter or Daniel Jackson's home as well, though O'Neill's was nearest to the SGC.

"Well, I have to say I'm getting a little carried away with worry. Imagination is a dangerous thing sometimes.  Here." Doctor Fraiser threw him her cell phone.  "Do me a favor and call the colonel.  He'll probably answer and yell at us for disturbing the last few hours of his time off but I'll feel better anyway."

"That would indeed be an unwelcome occurrence," Teal'c agreed, hoping she understood he was not entirely serious. 

He dialed the cell phone and lifted it to his ear.  It rang and rang, each tone echoing more loudly in his head than the one before it.  He knew after the fourth ring that O'Neill was not going to pick up.  Frowning, he punched another set of numbers, telling Doctor Fraiser at the same time, "O'Neill does not answer.  I will attempt Daniel Jackson. It is possible they sought each other's company."

Daniel Jackson’s telephone indicated a busy signal. Teal’c was relieved to know his friend was apparently well and was conversing with someone.  On impulse, he decided to also ring Major Carter, frown returning with an accompanying jaw twitch when she did not answer her telephone either.  Two of his three teammates were not responding, which did not necessarily predicate that their situations were unfavorable.  Perhaps both O'Neill and Major Carter decided to travel to Daniel Jackson's apartment.  If that was so, then to whom was the archaeologist speaking on his telephone?

"No one?"  Doctor Fraiser's worried voice disturbed his thoughts.  Teal’c glanced over and shook his head once.  She returned her gaze to the road and clenched the steering wheel more tightly.  "Oh."

He noted their speed increased upon his revelation and he approved of that action.  Teal’c could not ascertain a logical reason, but he was positive when they arrived at O'Neill's house they would not find good news.

~~~~~~~~~~

Janet chewed on the cuticles of her left fingers, steering the car only with her right.  Teal'c's attempted phone calls had heightened her agitation regarding the three human members of SG-1.  Call it woman's or physician's intuition, she just had a sick feeling in her entire body about what the lack of response might imply. Might, she reminded herself. Might wasn’t proof positive.  Her right foot inched down on the accelerator, anyway, and the need to reach Colonel O'Neill's house as soon as possible didn’t dissipate.  She was sickened to think about what they might find. 

She mentally replayed the displeasure she had felt when Anise was conducting her all important experiment on *her* patients…damnit, her friends.  She had known then that it hadn't been a good idea but hadn't been able to put a stop to it, and that was what bothered her the most.  It stuck in her gut that she'd had to sit by while Sam, Daniel and the colonel's bodies quite frankly turned against them.  She knew she shouldn't have caved and let them off base after their return from blowing up Apophis' ship, but had succumbed to irritation with their adolescent behavior.  Stupid.  If it turned out there was something wrong with them now, she knew she had no one to blame but herself.

"Doctor Fraiser, we approach O'Neill's house.  Should we not decelerate?"  Teal'c's calm and deep voice called.

Startled, she pulled herself out of her needless self-condemning thoughts.  The colonel was going to be home – he was just sleeping and didn't hear the phone ringing.  Janet shook her head; she was being placating to her own inner self.  As she pulled the car into the empty driveway, she noted all of the lights were off.  Dusk was falling all around them, and there should be a light or two on.

"Doesn't look like he's home."

"O'Neill could be asleep."

"God, I hope so," she muttered, putting the car in park and switching it off.  Teal'c nearly launched himself out his side. She managed to keep pretty close pace with him as he strode up the long sidewalk.  "Teal'c!  Wait for me."

The Jaffa slowed his pace, allowing her to take up position next to him.  Almost as one, they jaunted up the steps and stood before the big front door.  Teal'c rang the doorbell, and they waited for a good while, receiving no answer.  Janet hoped her theory of the colonel being in a deep sleep was in fact the truth. The alarm bells in the back of her mind now tolled at full blare, though.  Impatiently, she raised her fist and pounded several times.

"Colonel O'Neill?  Colonel, are you in there?"

"O'Neill has given me a key, Doctor Fraiser, for safekeeping.  Daniel Jackson has on several occasions left the SGC without his and O'Neill thought it best if he, Daniel Jackson and Major Carter each kept a spare with me," Teal'c rumbled, a hand reaching into his pocket.

"Well, what are you standing there for?" Janet said, wincing at the desperation in her tone.  She was quickly losing her professional cool.  Luckily, if she were going to do that in front of anyone, Teal'c would be her first choice.  There was something very comforting about his presence. And his reticence. “Open the door!”

"I believe that to be the proper course of action as well."
Janet shifted her weight from right to left foot as Teal'c slid the key into the door, uttering something in Goa'uld under his breath when it jarred open before he unlocked it.  Whatever he'd said, she couldn't agree more.  The colonel would only leave his door open if he was expecting company, which he wasn't.  Teal'c raised a cautionary hand, silently telling her to remain where she was.  He eased the door open just enough to let himself into the house, leaving her standing on the small porch area alone.  Unconsciously, she raised her left hand to chew on her fingernails again as she waited for what seemed like endless minutes.

She fixed her attention on the crack of darkness the open door created, watching for movement.  At last Teal'c returned with an expression on his face even more grim than before.  The mere fact she could discern a change  in his countenance told her the situation was serious.  Images of the colonel injured or even dead sprang up, courtesy of an overactive imagination.  At least she hoped it was only her imagination.

"What?  Teal'c, what's going on?  Is he okay?"

"O'Neill is not here."

"Okay…so maybe he went over to Daniel's?  I don't suppose you'd turn down a ride across town to check it out?" 

"I would not."

"Do you still have my phone?  Maybe you should try Daniel's place again."

"It remains in your car, Doctor Fraiser."

"Well then, let's go."

Janet cast a final look into the dark and empty house before Teal’c shut the door tightly and ensured it was locked.  With anyone else, Janet might have succumbed to nervous chatter, but as they rapidly made their way back to the car, they remained silent.  Those persistent negative images reasserted themselves in her mind, now broadening to include Sam and Daniel as well as Colonel O'Neill.  As they neared the vehicle, Teal'c sped up, racing to the passenger side and throwing the door open.  It took her a moment to realize her phone was ringing and he was reaching to pick it up.  She had a brief flash of hope that it was one of their wayward friends before she thought it more than likely was Doctor Warner.  She cursed the timing, and a second later felt guilty for doing so. 

"Doctor Fraiser’s cellular telephone," Teal'c said.  He paused for a minute, the lines on his forehead deepening.  "I see.  We are at O'Neill's home at the moment, General Hammond.  He is not here.  Yes."

Teal'c ceased speaking and mutely handed her the cell phone, a perturbed look darkening his eyes.  She blinked at him as she lifted the receiver to her ear, not entirely sure she was ready to learn what the general was calling about.

"General Hammond?"

"Doctor Fraiser.  Has Teal'c told you anything?" the general said.

"No."  She shook her head as if he'd be able to see her.  "But I'm guessing it's nothing good, sir?"

"That would be a correct assumption, Doctor.  We've just received a message from the To… our allies.  Apparently Anise has uncovered some rather important information regarding the data SG-1 helped them gather a couple of days ago.  She wouldn't relay it over the radio, insisting on delivering her message face to face."

"Sir, the colonel's not here. I'm worried about all of SG-1 and this only exacerbates my concern.  Before you ask, no, I don't have any medical evidence to back up my – " 

Janet chewed on her lower lip, easily reading nothing good at all in the general's cloaked comments.  If it merited a Tok'ra return trip to Earth, she figured it was bad news. Never mind the fact General Hammond independently arrived at his worried state; she hadn’t told him where she and Teal’c were going and why and she was pretty sure Teal’c hadn’t either.

"Doctor, there's no need to explain.  I'm having SG-9 go to the homes of Major Carter and Doctor Jackson, since they are not responding to their telephones.  Seeing as you're already at Colonel O'Neill's house, I'll have them skip that stop.  I can only hope he's with one of the others.  I want you and Teal'c back at the SGC immediately.  Anise will arrive shortly."

"Yes, sir.  We'll be there as soon as we can."

She clicked off the phone and looked bleakly at Teal'c.  Instant weariness set upon her body and mind at the likelihood that their horrible suspicions were about to be confirmed.  Janet felt anything but benevolent toward the Tok'ra scientist and her methods. The last thing she wanted was to have extensive dealings with Anise.  She'd rather trust her own skills to figure out what had happened.  Of course, she had no idea if anything at all had actually happened.  She was giving herself a headache.

"The general wants us back at the mountain," she told Teal'c, sliding again into the driver's seat.

"Indeed."

Janet had the car in reverse and out of the driveway before Teal'c could even shut his door.

~~~~~~~~~~

General George Hammond stared at the phone, worry eating through his stomach.  Worry and guilt.  Doctor Fraiser had initially been very uncertain about his decision to send SG-1 home, but he had overridden her by forcing her to admit there was nothing wrong with them.  And reminding her of their adolescent behavior, he admitted to himself shamefully.  It was a foolish mistake, spawned by his irritation with the behavior of the human members of his top team.  The doctor's concern had been very apparent in her tone. If he had learned anything on this command, it was to trust his CMO’s instinct.  Whatever Anise had to tell them, he didn't hold out hope that it was positive news.  With SG-1, it so rarely was.  He suspected he was about to find out that Janet had been right about the armbands all along.

He disconnected the phone, redialing the NORAD guard's box at the front gate.  Hopefully he could catch SG-9 before they left the facility.  He drummed his fingers on the top of his desk, impatiently waiting for someone to pick up. He tried and failed to not dwell on the possible reasons for Anise to have to deliver her information personally.  An unconscious shudder shook through him at the prospect.  The woman was as personable as a hunk of muenster.  Okay, the Tok'ra was not so friendly; Freya might have some redeeming qualities.

"General Hammond, sir?  What can I do for you?"

Startled, it took Hammond a moment to remember his line was flagged for all personnel, SGC or NORAD.  The voice on the other end of the phone sounded young and timid, so he tried to make his tone as pleasant as possible.  "Can you tell me if four of my men have left the base yet?  Major Kovachek would have been driving."

"No, sir, I haven't seen anyone from your facility leaving since my shift began."

"Good.  They should be arriving at the gate shortly.  Please tell them their stop at Colonel O'Neill's house is unnecessary, but they are to proceed as directed to the other two locations," he instructed.

"Yes, sir.  Anything else, sir?"

"That'll be all, son.  Thank you."

He hung up the phone, letting it crash loudly into the cradle.  Anise would be here in half an hour.  By then, Janet and Teal'c would be back, and SG-9 would have reported on Major Carter and Doctor Jackson.  Until then, Hammond wasn't sure what to do with himself.  He'd already had to dissuade the NID's request to 'study' SG-1 in the hopes of learning more about the virus that had given them their super strength.  Fortunately, the rapid dissipation of said strength and irritating cockiness had helped.  Now he feared they might have another reason to come knocking at his door. They probably wouldn’t be able to resist the opportunity to make SG-1 their lab rats – alive or dead. No. He wasn’t going to think in the negative.

Hammond abruptly stood up and exited his office. He moved toward the control room with a stiff gait.  The technicians scuttled around, appearing startled by his arrival.  There was no activity from the Stargate, but he paused for a moment to study the device.  No matter how many times he looked upon the alien object – not quite so alien anymore – it always gave him a sharp pang of realization at how big the universe was and how little his role in it.

"I'm going to the surface to greet Doctor Fraiser and Teal'c when they arrive.  We should be back before Anise and her contingent arrive, but in case we're not, please have me paged," he ordered Sergeant Davis, who twitched once with a curious look flitting across his face.

"Yes, sir," Davis said, toning his expression to a blank.

Truth be told, Hammond could not care less if he was around when Anise got here.  This whole mess could have been avoided had she had more information regarding the Ateniks and their damned armbands.  He'd known as soon as SG-1 was unable to remove them that it had been a mistake to agree to the experiment.  Of course, by that time it had been far too late and he'd already been able to sense the changes of personality in his people.  He hoped he was letting his imagination run away with him and that there was a perfectly logical explanation for their inability to contact SG-1. 

His mind supplied images of SG-1 as he had last seen them – pale to the point of being gray, exhaustion lining normally animated faces.  Those things should have made a stay in the infirmary mandatory.  Hammond stalked through the corridors to the elevators. He shoved the mental pictures away.  Sentimentality and self-blame had no place in his position, especially considering he didn't even know if there was truly a problem yet. 

The halls became blurred gray and the airmen walking through them featureless as he strode toward the entrance to the mountain.  He noted the military men and women snapping to attention as he passed, but didn't respond.  He didn't really know why he was making the journey, knowing the doctor and Teal'c would immediately seek him out upon their return.  It wasn't like they had any additional information to share.  Maybe he needed to see for himself that they truly hadn't found Jack in his home, that he wasn't magically with them and everything was just fine.

The phone was ringing as he made it to the initial checkpoint, the guard on duty reaching to answer.  Damnit.  He just knew it was the Tok'ra.  The guard's face snapped up as he spoke into the phone.  He was too far away to hear anything, but, judging from the look on the young man's face, his presumption was correct.  Half an hour?  Hammond checked his watch, stunned to find that it had indeed been half an hour since his discussion with Anise.  Where the hell were Fraiser and Teal'c?  He really wanted the doctor there to deal with the Tok'ra.

"Sir, Sergeant Davis asked me to tell you your coffee is ready and will be waiting for you in the conference room," the guard reported, puzzlement decorating his expression.  "He also said you were all out of sweetener."

Any hopes that Anise was returning to relay good news took a nosedive.  He really shouldn't have harbored them anyway, Hammond told himself.  Had she any positive information, she wouldn't have insisted Janet be present.  He nodded once at the guard, ignoring the enquiring look and pivoting around to return to level twenty-eight.

"General Hammond!"  Doctor Fraiser's voice halted him two steps into his departure.

Again turning, he frowned at the still-uniformed doctor walking briskly toward him.  If she left the complex like that, she must be more worried than he'd figured.  Fraiser scowled as the on-duty guard actually insisted she stop for identification.  He couldn't stop a slight smile at the man's very brave or very foolish dedication to his job.  A glance at Teal'c's face told him the typically stoic man was also extremely agitated and Hammond's smile vanished.  He ran a hand across his bare head.

"Doctor Fraiser, Teal'c.  Your timing is impeccable.  We're needed downstairs."

Both of them frowned and picked up their gaits, shooting looks back toward the guard's desk.  He wanted to join them, assuming they were searching for signs of Sam, Daniel and Jack's return to the base.  Hopefully their *safe* return.  Hammond knew he'd receive a phone call from SG-9 before they'd be brought in, so he knew the action was fruitless.  Still, he was unable to resist one last look as the elevator pulled to a halt and its doors opened.  Nothing, no miracle appearance.  

The elevator car was filled with uneasy quiet as they rode down, each of them training their eyes on the ascending numbers.  As it pulled to a stop on eleven, he caught his CMO jumping slightly as the doors slid open.  She covered it by fumbling for her badge, though her face revealed her disconcertion and displeasure.  An automatic smile played at the corners of his mouth as he recalled her adamant protests regarding Anise during her first visit.  Janet Fraiser was not one to get ruffled easily and he had taken guilty pleasure in seeing her irritation running rampant.  She'd kill him if she ever found out it amused to see her so feisty.

Amusement faded as they filed into the second elevator and he realized this visit from Anise would likely not be any better for Doctor Fraiser, especially if it turned out her reservations had been warranted.  He clenched his fists and tapped them against his hips in a fast rhythm, a motion that was not out of frustration but an attempt to reassure and comfort himself.  It didn't work now, as it had not worked once in his entire life.  He walked quickly toward the briefing room.  Sergeant Davis stood in the doorway, stepping out into the corridor as they approached, a flustered red tint coloring his cheeks.  Hammond couldn't tell if it was a result of the Tok'ra woman he spotted within the room or Davis’ squirrelly nature.  His gut instinct said it was something else entirely.

"General Hammond, I have Major Kovachek on the phone for you.  He says it's extremely urgent, sir."

Hammond gave up all pretense of control and started running for his office, ignoring the statuesque and open-mouthed Anise.

~~~~~~~~~~

There was something in the manner Anise moved her mouth that Teal'c did not like.  It was as if she had to labor to enunciate every word properly, twisting her full lips in an almost comical fashion, as if they were cumbersome to her and over gesticulation with her eyebrows contributed her the clownish appearance.  He could not explain or rationalize the feelings. He simply did not care for the Tok'ra woman.  The longer he was in her presence, the more aware of his own prejudiced and somewhat juvenile reaction he became and yet, even knowing he was basing his feelings on trivial items, he could not prevent them.  Doctor Fraiser appeared to agree with his inclination, her body tense next to his.  He had believed it might become necessary to restrain the smaller woman when Anise had refused to tell them anything until General Hammond returned from within his office.  It would have been a difficult task.

"Major Kovachek and his team have reached Major Carter's home," the general started speaking, exiting his office to rejoin them.  Teal'c did not even have to look at the man to know the telephone conversation had not been good news.  "When they did not receive an answer to her doorbell, they broke in and found her unconscious on her bedroom floor.  They're bringing her to the base."

Kel ma.

"Sir, what about Daniel and the colonel?"

 

"I had the major split up his team.  He'll bring Major Carter in while the rest of them go to Doctor Jackson's apartment.  I don't think it's a rash conclusion to jump to that they may be in trouble as well.  I only hope Colonel O'Neill is actually there."

"General Hammond, if I may?" Teal'c clenched his jaw as Anise's dual-toned voice filled the room.  "The information I have may serve to aid your physicians."

The general nodded at her shortly, sweeping his arms out in a gesture indicating they should all be seated.  Teal'c took a position opposite Anise and regretted it immediately.  Doctor Fraiser remained at his side.  For several seconds, no one spoke.  Finally, the Tok'ra cleared her throat.

"I am not quite sure the best way to state this –"

"You could just spit it out," Doctor Fraiser said, right hand slapping on the table's surface.

"Doctor –"

"No, it is all right, General.  The doctor has reason for her anger.  We do not begrudge her that," Anise continued, looking down for a moment.  When she spoke again, it was only in the voice of her host, Freya.  "Doctor Fraiser, I regret that you and Anise have had differences of opinion, but I ask that you attempt to set aside your reservations."

"Fine."

Anise once again spoke, "Upon my return to Vorash, I had the opportunity to decipher additional tablets referring to the Atenik civilization and their extinction.  It seems I was mistaken in my theory that the limited effect of the armbands allowed the Goa'uld to decimate them.  It was certainly a factor.  However, I now believe the root cause was the proliferation of a plague among those who had worn the armbands.  The majority of the population was felled by the disease, which I believe to be a direct result of the virus injected into their bodies by the armbands."

"But that doesn't make sense.  The virus disappeared within hours of the armbands falling off," Doctor Fraiser said.

"That is true." Anise’s cheeks became an unflattering red hue. Teal’c found himself amused by her discomfiture.  "What I only just discovered was that it resurged again after several hours, though not with the same strength or result.  Instead of increased physical acuity, the Ateniks began suffering only the less fortunate effects of the disease."

"Less fortunate?" General Hammond said and stood.  "Less *fortunate*?  If you'll recall, that virus was killing my people.  Are you saying that's going to happen anyway?"

"I'm sorry, General.  That's precisely what Anise is saying," Freya came forward to say.  "SG-1 will deteriorate as they did before, only at a slower rate.  We are truly sorry."

"Apologies will not repair the damage already done," Teal'c spoke at last.  For once he could not attribute the troubling sensation flowing through him to his larval Goa'uld, but to the contents of his own stomach rebelling.  His friends were going to die?  He could not accept that.  "Why was this information only discovered after your experiment was conducted?"

Anise flinched, the tint already smearing her cheeks deepening.  She looked down at her hands.

  "The tablets upon which the true nature of the virus was recorded were misplaced by my assistant.  I believed I had all the necessary information to proceed."

"Well, I'm positive I'm stating the obvious here, but you made a huge mistake!" Doctor Fraiser said, pushing her chair away from the table.  "One that may cause the deaths of three fine *humans*, not that you care."

"The Ateniks were able to make some progress in slowing the virus.  Perhaps if we applied their treatment to Colonel O'Neill, Doctor Jackson, and Major Carter we could extend their lives long enough to find a cure."

Teal'c's anger increased with every word Anise intoned.  She spoke of his friends as if they were mere tools; subjects for her to study.  It reminded him all too much of his time serving under Apophis, having to witness thousand upon thousands of humans dying as if their lives were worth nothing.  Having to take those lives with his own hands.  This attitude was exactly what had finally helped him decide to break free from Apophis. 

"Extend their lives…" Doctor Fraiser rose from her chair.  "God, you say that like they're cattle or something.  I want all of the information you have; and I want it before SG-1 is brought in."

"Of course. You will have our full cooperation on this matter."

"I should hope so," the general said, losing the control Teal'c knew he had to have been exercising.  He watched General Hammond pace in front of the window, stopping every so often to stare angrily at the Stargate.  "If this error results in the deaths of SG-1, the relationship between Earth and the Tok'ra might be a little…strained in the future."

It was as serious an ultimatum as Teal'c had ever heard and one he knew would not be taken lightly by General Hammond's superiors.  The general would undoubtedly be reprimanded for making an executive decision without first consulting them.  Even should the Tau'ri leaders choose to cite these events as unimportant and continue relations with the Tok'ra, he would ensure their future dealings were as strained as the general implied they would be.  He would be able to function without O'Neill, Major Carter and Daniel Jackson.  But he would not be happy.

"With your permission, General, I'd like to have Anise join me in the med labs."

"Dismissed, Doctor.  You'll keep me informed on your progress."

"Of course, sir."

Teal’c stood as the two women departed and wondered what role he should take.  He was tempted to stand guard at the front gate, waiting for the arrival of his ill friends.  He hoped the wait would not be lengthy, as he felt the separation from them even more acutely than a few hours ago.  He turned to the general to request he take his leave, but before he could speak he heard the telephone within General Hammond's office ring.  Both of them froze for a brief moment, then the general briskly walked into his office.

"Hammond!"

Teal'c could hear a faint trace of the voice on the other end of the line, but was unable to fully understand the words.  It was unnecessary to do so. He needed only to monitor General Hammond's facial expression change from professional blankness to worry. 

"Bring him back to the base.  I'll have my aide contact the local hospitals."

He moved to stand at the open doorway, hands clasped behind his back.  General Hammond slammed the phone down, looking at him grimly.  Teal'c raised an eyebrow in inquiry, knowing instinctively the base commander had information regarding Daniel Jackson and O'Neill.  Based upon the final statement, he assumed it was unfavorable.

"Doctor Jackson was found at his apartment in a similar condition to Major Carter.  Colonel O'Neill was not there," General Hammond explained.  "God only knows where he could be.  I hope someone found him and brought him to a hospital."

"I will be available to conduct a search if the need arises, General Hammond."

"You know I can't let you do that, son.  I think the only thing we can really do at his point is wait.  Perhaps Doctor Fraiser could use your assistance.  Sergeant Davis, can you come in here please?"

Teal’c took the general's brusque words as his dismissal, bowed his head slightly and backed away as the small, silver-haired sergeant moved into the office.  He felt useless, the only one unable to provide any modicum of assistance in either finding or aiding his teammates.  He journeyed toward the infirmary in the hope Doctor Fraiser and Anise would be in need of his help.  At the very least he would be present when his friends arrived.

~~~~~~~~~~

A number of uncharitable and downright bitchy comments were constantly at the tip of Janet's tongue as she tried to focus on Anise's grating voice.  Deep down she knew she was truly angry with herself for having allowed the Tok'ra to conduct an experiment on three of her patients, her *friends*.  She was as careless as Anise when it came to fully researching the outcome, although, in her own defense, the Tok'ra scientist had been less than forthcoming regarding a number of key aspects of the Atenik armbands.  Had she known a virus was the cause for the superhuman abilities, she never would have authorized it.

"So, three injections of this a day," Janet said, holiding up a vial of fluorescent yellow liquid against the light, "and their decline should be slowed by several days.  Do you really think that's enough time?"

"It will have to be, Doctor Fraiser," Anise told her.  "We also should remember that the Ateniks were not human. Evidence suggests their physical makeup was very different from that of the human body.  This may work to our advantage."

Despite herself, Janet saw a little bit of logic in that particular argument.  A very little bit. She scowled at the tube, furrowing her eyebrows in thought. 

"I can try to synthesize this, in case we need more than you've brought."

"That will not be necessary.  Before I arrived, I took the liberty of doing just that.  Because I arrived alone, however, I left most of it back on Vorash.  I will return there immediately to retrieve the rest, as well as to inquire about Selmac's location.  Should we not be successful, his host may wish to be here."

"You think?" 

This wasn't good.  SG-1 hadn't even been brought into the infirmary, and already her emotions were zigzagging.  Janet just couldn't shake the feeling that she was going to be forced to sit around and do nothing, counting on Anise's magic antidote to work miracles and counting on SG-1 to get themselves out of trouble.  As a physician, that was horrible.  As a friend, it was far worse.  She needed to find a way to occupy her mind and her body while they waited.  Sam would be here soon and then she could obtain a better assessment of what they were dealing with. She sighed. She shouldn’t take her frustrations on the person most likely to help.

"Sorry, sorry. I know General Carter would want to be here – thank you for thinking of that,” she muttered before transferring her attention. “Lieutenant Wells, would you be so kind as to escort Anise to the embarkation room?"

"Yes, ma'am.  Right away."

Janet tracked the figures as they left the lab, then averted her eyes to stare at the phone.  Willing it to ring wouldn't really work, she knew, yet she couldn't seem to stop herself.  Again, her imagination got away from her and she pondered all sorts of scenarios to explain why it was taking Major Kovachek so long to bring Sam in.  That alone was enough to keep her busy and prevented her mind from wandering to the conditions of Daniel and the colonel. It was a six of one or half dozen of the other as far as she was concerned.

"Doctor Fraiser, is there anything I can do to be of assistance?"

Janet jumped at the deep voice intruding into the quiet. She shifted until she was facing the door, where she saw Teal'c towering.  She knew he must feel somewhat adrift in the sudden chaos of nothingness.  He always was one to do rather than wait and goodness knew if *she* felt frustrated at her helplessness, then he would feel it in quadruple.  Unfortunately, there was nothing she could think of to help him keep his body and mind occupied. 

"I don't think so, Teal'c, I'm sorry."  She looked around the small infirmary, still searching for something. She had a moment of inspiration.  "Wait, I take that back.  It would be really great if you could coordinate the effort up at the NORAD entrance – I'll send some of the orderlies with you.  The teams bringing Major Carter and Doctor Jackson in are doing so in a non-traditional manner.  In other words, no ambulances.  We'll need those gurneys up there."

Before she'd even completed her suggestion, Teal'c was moving.  Janet watched him closely for several minutes, alarmed to note a slight slump to his shoulders.  Suddenly feeling the need for a stiff drink, she moved to give him a hand in gathering materials.  It wasn't as soothing to her as she would have liked, but anything was preferable to standing around chewing her fingernails.  A pang of sympathy shot through her as she realized this must be how General Hammond felt every time a team was late to arrive home from a mission. 

Too soon, Teal'c and her entourage of orderlies were on their way out the door and she was left alone.  She chewed on her lower lip again, an idiosyncrasy she thought she had left behind long ago. At the rate she was going, she’d break skin soon. Janet moved to each of the three stations she'd already prepared and triple-checked that she had everything she might need.  She eyed the near-glowing ampoules of Anise's potion with distaste.  Part of her was still skeptical regarding anything the Tok'ra scientist said…she might actually do them more harm by following Anise's plan, given the already disastrous track record.  She didn't have any other choice.  Scowling, she absently rubbed a small bottle with her thumb as if it were a worry stone.

Nervous voices flitted into her subconscious, pulling her away from her glum reverie.  Janet snapped to attention, depositing the ampoule onto the tray and turning to watch the door.  Within moments, two white-clad men fairly flew through it, gurney sandwiched between them.

“Over this way, please, gentlemen.”

 Janet saw Sam's unmoving form, her friend’s face as white as the sheets, and braced herself for the worst.  She scooted out of the way, scanning Sam’s body and impatiently pressed close before flickering her gaze back up to the face. 

"Janet?"

Janet reeled back slightly.  Heartened by Sam's conscious state, she leaned over and brushed a hand across the other woman's forehead.  "Sam.  It's going to be okay.  Can you tell me what happened?"

Well, that was certainly a stupid question.  One, she already knew what had happened and two, Sam had been unconscious for who knew how long.  Still, Sam could clarify the symptoms for her, give her hope that Anise's assessment was incorrect.  Janet kept her hand on a warm forehead as the major shifted around weakly, eyes closing again.  Frowning, Janet resisted the urge to violently shake her friend in a foolish attempt to bring her back to health.  Now there was science at its best. She moved her hand to a wrist and felt a pulse beating too rapidly for her own comfort.

"Janet?"  Sam whispered, eyes opening to stare straight at her. 

Through her.  Leaning closer, Janet gasped when she realized Sam didn't register the movement. Because she couldn't see.

~~~~~~~~~~

Sam couldn't figure out how Janet had got in her house or, more importantly, what her friend was doing in her bedroom.  Her whole body ached, so it was just as well.  A doctor seemed an appropriate uninvited guest.  What was wrong with her?  She had never felt so bad in her entire life.  Pervasive weakness in her muscles was apparent without even attempting to move them, and she was abnormally hot.  Like someone was lighting matches, blowing them out and flicking them at her. Her skin prickled and seared. 

"…okay.  Can you tell me what happened?"

What happened?  Wasn't Janet supposed to tell her that?  She furrowed her eyebrows once, scrunching her closed eyelids tightly before opening them to peer up at her friend.  Confusion railed through her as she saw nothing but indistinct shapes blurred in a deep graywash, her bedroom walls completely unrecognizable to her.  She might as well be in a sterile room.  Blinking rapidly, she squinted in the hopes of clearing the film from her pupils.  Sleep usually didn't take this long to dissipate.

"Janet?" she asked again, hoping on some level that she was wrong.  That she was still sleeping and this was some strange dream.

The dark shape moved and she could just distinguish an arm reaching for her face before a cool hand enveloped her forehead.  Sighing, Sam thankfully leaned into the cool caress and closed her eyes again.  Not a dream. Janet would tell her what was going on and ease the panic forming in the back of her mind just as she always did.  It was okay.  It would be.  Flu?  She was so hot, her mouth arid.  A cool cloth replaced the cool hand, making her shiver in appreciation that quickly turned to chill.  It was so cold.  She swore she had turned the thermostat up when she had got home last…when had she come home again?  An image of General Hammond's face scowled at her and she flinched back as if he were her father issuing a reprimand.

"Yeah, it's me, Sam," Janet whispered, and even through her confusion Sam could hear an odd note in her friend's voice.  "I'm going to have a look into your eyes, okay?"

Frowning, she tried to nod in understanding but succeeded only in flopping her head uselessly.  Janet called something to someone, then there was a sudden and welcome influx of warmth.  Muscles she hadn't been aware were tense with distress relaxed, by will of whatever was flowing into her veins.  Wait.  More than Janet was here?   Tinny beeping noises suddenly cut through her confusion and she realized she wasn't at home.  Infirmary.  Despite the warning, Sam jerked when someone gently lifted her right eyelid.  Oh, God, she hadn't even seen it coming.

She squirmed, panic breaking through the flow of drugs to dampen common sense.  Holding her more firmly, Janet murmured something she supposed was meant to calm her down.  Pain accompanied the panic, a far more effective deterrent to motion than any words could be.  It felt as if someone had opened her up, poked at all her organs and then done a bad job of sewing her back up.  She moaned, her fright increasing at how weak she sounded – like an hour old kitten separated from its mother.  Not herself.  The drugs reasserted themselves in counterpoint to her panic, easing her body if not her mind.

Racing, hermind struggled to remember what had happened to make her so sick.  She recalled looking at her pathetic reflection in her bathroom mirror.  Calling the colonel, then Daniel…who hadn't answered.  Fear, worry.  Were they sick too?  Lifting her head off the pillow and opening her eyes wider as if doing so would make them see, she searched the haze for signs of either teammate.  What about Teal'c?  No, Teal'c was fine because of his symbiote; because he couldn't participate in Anise's experiment.  The armbands, of course!  It never should have taken her so long to figure it out.  Gasping, she remembered her dizziness and tumble to the floor.  Then nothing.  The colonel must have come over and found her.  That meant he was all right.

"Colonel O'Neill?  Daniel?" Sam asked, forgetting about her sightlessness for the moment.  There was a long pause and she strained to see Janet through the fog.  Squinting yielded very little result, though she thought she could make out an outline of her friend's form.  "Janet?  What?"

"Teal'c and I went to the colonel's house earlier today and he wasn't there, nor had you or Daniel responded to phone calls.  SG-9 found you and are on their way to Daniel's apartment.  Hopefully, he and Colonel O'Neill are there, but we're also calling all the local hospitals and mor…the hospitals."

"The armbands.”

"Yes," Janet confirmed, taking up her hand.

How long had she been unconscious?  Trying to focus was becoming increasingly difficult but she felt as though there were something she needed to tell Janet.  She blinked slowly, then decided just to keep her eyes closed.  Thoughts skulked around in her head or, more accurately, ghosts of memories and Janet's words.  The colonel sounding so tired on the phone, yet worried; her relief that he took her concern for Daniel seriously and was on his way over to set her at ease…but he hadn't shown up.  No, Janet had said he wasn't here, that they were looking at hospitals and somewhere else.  Somewhere that had made her friend choke on the word.  Dead…they thought the colonel could be dead?

"That bad?"  Please, no.

"Yes," Janet said. 

Sam was grateful for the honesty even though it sickened her heart.  The colonel, Daniel…dead.  Or *dying*.  Janet clearly wasn't sure she could work a miracle like she always did and that scared her more than her own symptoms, more than anything had in quite some time.  Sam opened her eyes.  She could still discern a slight shift in her vision as her eyes jostled with tiredness and drugs.  Deeper gray teased and she didn't know if it was caused by approaching unconsciousness or blindness.

"It's okay, Sam.  Just rest now.  Everything will be okay."

Janet was lying and doing a poor job of it at that.  Sam tipped her head in the direction she believed her friend was situated, hoping her expression of disbelieving reproach wasn't actually as blank as her eyesight.  Tightening of fingers on her cool hand told her that the message had been received as she succumbed to complete darkness. 

~~~~~~~~~~

Davis seemed to eye him even more nervously than usual upon entering his office. The sergeant's expression bordered somewhere between fear and distress.  He was a picture of abject woe and Hammond could probably blame some of that on his own foul mood.  He sometimes forgot to curb his own reactions to those innocently around him…which was certainly the case here.  The thought of SG-1 succumbing to an experiment he had questioned from the very instant it had been suggested not only worried him, but rankled him as well.  He never should have allowed the Tok'ra use his people. 

"Sergeant, have there been any phone calls from any of the local hospitals?" Hammond asked, waving his hand at his chair in an unspoken gesture for the other man to sit.

"No, sir," Davis said, knitting his eyebrows for a fraction of a second before smoothing his features to remain neutral.

Of course there hadn't been.  Sergeant Davis was one of his most competent staff members and he would have immediately brought news of Jack to his attention.  Hammond rubbed his palms across his desk and shot Davis an apologetic look.

"I'll make the calls, sir."

"Thank you."

Davis shut the office door and left him in solitude.  It only lasted thirty seconds. His phone rang and filled the dread-heavy air.  He answered the phone sharply and waited for a response.

"General Hammond, Major Carter has arrived and is being taken to the infirmary," Teal'c's voice reported. 

"Is she…"

"She remains unconscious.  She does not appear well."

That was a given, though Teal'c's interruption was uncharacteristic and spoke of how severe the Jaffa believed her condition to be.  He wished he could race down to the infirmary to see for himself anyway, perhaps even see something to contradict the assertion.  Anything.  Until all of SG-1 were safely in the mountain his place was in his office, guarding over the rest of the base as he always did.  It certainly wasn't fair, but then nothing in a command position seemed to be.  More often than not, the disadvantages beat out the perks and he sometimes longed for the early days of his Air Force career, the optimism and enthusiasm of being a wet behind the ears lieutenant. 

"Keep me informed, Teal'c," he commanded, hanging up the phone and resigning himself to his duty and his thoughts.

Turning back time wasn't an option for his outlook, no more than it was an option to go back and make it so he had put his foot resoundingly down to the Tok'ra in this instance.  His gut had screamed alarm but he'd let the constant pressure to prove the viability of the SGC through obtaining advanced technology get to him.  He should have known from their experiences with the Eurondans that most good things came with huge bad strings attached.  This time it was his people who might suffer death, though, and he felt hypocritical for admitting what a difference that made.  He should have listened to the looks Janet had given him.  She had known as well as he that this hadn't been likely to turn out well.

No.  With a snap, he pulled himself out of that downward spiral.  Sitting around moping certainly wasn't going to help SG-1 and neither was hiding away in his office, hiding behind the façade of duty.  His duty was to his people and right now some of his people were in trouble.  The injured or sick always got top priority. This situation was no different.  Decision made, Hammond rose and headed for the door, greeted by the sound of a knock before he'd even left the vicinity of his desk. 

"Come!"

The door opened a crack and the ingratiating, overly sympathetic face of Freya peeked in. He bit the inside of his cheek in frustration, seriously beginning to take a personal disliking to the woman and her pet snake.  He figured she had more bad news to impart and then would be on her merry way to do her Tok'ra things.  Great…he was channeling Jack again, sarcastic thoughts more over the top than he usually indulged in. 

"General Hammond, Anise and I will be returning to Vorash in the hopes of contacting Jacob Carter.  Doctor Fraiser agreed it would be good for him to be here," Freya said, and he heard the sympathy there.  He almost believed it to be sincere.  "I wished to apologize again for this entire affair."

And again, too little, too late.  Mentally dismissing the apology, Hammond found himself stuck on the fact she and Janet believed it necessary to bring Jake back to Earth, especially because he was likely on an operation of some sort or another.  That could only mean time was short and hope was scant.

"Very well," was all he could think to say, knowing it really didn't correspond with any information she had shared.  "I'll see you off."

Freya deferred to him and silently followed him through the briefing room to the control room staircase.  He smiled as he saw the Stargate swirling to life without his instruction to dial Vorash, Davis' subtle way of telling the woman not to let the wormhole hit her on the way out.  Despite the humor to be taken at Freya's expense, Hammond did think she was bearing too much of the brunt for their worry and dissatisfaction with the Tok'ra alliance and had to feel somewhat bad for it.  He tamped down his petty thoughts, issuing her a tentative smile as he ushered her toward the embarkation room.

"Please do your best to locate Jacob. I know he'll want to be here."

"I will General Hammond, be assured of that," Freya said, then bowed her head to allow Anise control.  Expecting it, he was able to withhold his wince at the grating, deep tone of Tok'ra.  "And I will continue my research in the hopes of discovering a means to prevent the deaths of SG-1."

Hearing those words spoken out loud was harsh and terrible, unwelcome in his ears.  He clenched both his jaw and his fists but nodded his head in acknowledgment, waving a fisted hand toward the open 'gate.  Without further comment, Freya and Anise walked up the ramp and, for the first time, Hammond hoped to see the Tok'ra return sooner rather than later.  Not because he believed Anise would truly come up with something but because he knew Jake would really want to be here.  Jake needed to be here.  He watched the wormhole reshape itself after making way for the woman, turning away as it promptly shut down. 

As he climbed the stairs back to the control room, he decided that rather than be in the way up in the infirmary he would traverse to the mountain's entrance to await Daniel's arrival and, God willing, Jack's.  He entered the room, eyes immediately locking on a tense, pale Sergeant Davis, who shook his head in sad negative.  Hammond envisioned the worst – that the hospital searches had resulted in news he was not prepared to hear and Jack was already dead. 

"Sir?"

"Yes, airman," he said, opening his eyes again.

"Colonel O'Neill is at Memorial Hospital, sir.  He was brought in almost a day ago by a taxi cab driver…"  Hammond held his breath.  A day ago. He couldn't figure out why the hospital hadn't been in touch with them as Jack's papers would have clearly labeled him an Air Force officer.  "They apologized for not having the chance to contact us sooner.  I asked about his condition, sir, and they wouldn't release that information."

Of course they wouldn't, but it didn't matter.  Hammond knew what Jack's condition was. 

"Very well, I'll contact them.  Did they tell you where he was?"

"Intensive Care, sir."

Goddamnit.  Chances were good the civilian hospital would be disinclined to move a critical patient and resistance could be expected. Hammond tossed about several ideas for the best course of action, finally deciding a phone call wouldn't be effective. 

"I'm going to the infirmary to see if Doctor Warner is available to accompany me to the hospital. With any luck, we’ll transition and transport Colonel O'Neill to our facility," he announced, spinning around and heading back down the stairs. 

At last he had something to do and while it wasn't an enviable task, it was still something.  He reached the elevator, pushed the up button and waited an incredibly long time for the door to open.  Impatience cropped up, and he decided not to wait and to take the stairs.  He huffed and puffed up six flights of stairs. By the time he reached the seventh, he vowed he’d start exercising more. He dragged the door open, glad the infirmary was only a few steps away.  He leaned on the wall for a second, trying to gather his breath.  As he reached the infirmary, he heard the mechanical slide of elevator doors opening. 

He instinctively got out of the entryway and drew away from the personnel rushing through the door.  Through the white-clad arms and torsos, Hammond caught a glimpse of Daniel lying terribly still and pallid on the gurney.  He had to look away, gaze skittering around the room and landing on Sam's equally inert form.  The multitude of machines already hooked up to the young woman told him nothing except the direness of her condition.  Confident he would no longer be an obstacle, he inched a little closer.  Both SGC doctors were talking rapidly but quietly to the rest of the staff, both looked grim. 

He had no time for this.  He had to go get Jack.

He watched Daniel being hooked up to monitors and his stomach became heavy with helplessness.  Hammond cleared his throat and focused his attention on the archaeologist's immobile hands before movement on his left distracted him.  He turned to find Teal'c at his side, looking at him with deceptive disassociation blanketing his features.  They didn't speak over the background of murmurs and beeps, sharing a moment of understanding sadness.

"Doctor Jackson?"

The hesitant voice of Doctor Warner captured his interest, pulling him back to the activity surrounding Daniel.  Hope sparked when he witnessed the young man's hand move on its own, not as a residual effect from the people still poking and prodding at him.  Moving closer, Hammond was not surprised by Teal'c matching his strides.  As he drew up to the bed, he saw blue eyes barely open a crack, clearly unfocused and confused.      

"Daniel?" Janet coaxed from the other side of the bed, leaning over as she gently clasped the ill man's arm and rubbed it.  There was no reaction other than a long blink.  She glanced over to him and Teal'c.  "Before you arrived, Major Carter was awake and aware for a couple of minutes, sir.  I'm hoping for the same with Daniel."

"But?" Hammond asked, feeling as though she was leaving something unsaid.  He wondered why she was addressing him instead of continuing to talk to Daniel.

"But…nothing."  She turned to the man on the bed.  "Daniel?"

"Where…" Daniel rasped, startling Hammond even though he had anticipated a response.

"In the infirmary." Janet moved her hand up to Daniel's damp forehead and brushed aside the clinging tendrils of hair plastered to it.  "Can you tell me how you feel?"

Hammond glared at her with irritation.  In his estimation, the question was rather beating a dead horse.  Confusion was predominant on the young man's features, but running a close second was pain. Anyone could see that.  Janet shook her head slightly, and he relaxed as he understood from her wordless warning that she had good cause to inquire.

"Not, um, not…well?"

"I know, we've given you something to help with that.  Other than the physical pain, is there anything else you can tell me?  Anything at all?"

Daniel opened his eyes wider, fear evident in them.  Fear but almost no recognition.  Hammond's own apprehension escalated, though he couldn't say with certainty why. 

~~~~~~~~~~

Darkness slowly gave way to light and Daniel could feel himself floating.  Buzzing of voices or bees or something carried on above and all around him and was punctuated by tenseness that was tangible even in his fuzzy state.  He felt himself being forcibly moved from a semi-reclined position to flat on his back.  Pain.  There was so much. It came from every part of his body, and he was both cold and hot.  He wanted to slide out of the grip held on him but he couldn't move a muscle. He thought the evasive maneuver wouldn't be very fruitful anyway. 

Beyond the physical pain, he felt…wrong.  He had a vague sensation coursing through him that he couldn't quite pinpoint.  Thick.  Congested, maybe?  He couldn't remember if there was a specific reason for the strange feeling. He should remember something, right? He concentrated on the finding that information in his memory for a while.  After several minutes, Daniel decided it was…what was the…useless. It was useless. He focused instead on making his eyes open to let whomever was above him know that he was aware.  Sort of.  Someone must have taken a bottle of crazy glue to his eyelids, because they wouldn't do what he wanted.  More poking and prodding came. There was a sharp stabbing on the top of his left hand followed by pressure and warmth.  Almost immediately after this, his head seemed to clot even further and his body was jostled.  He finally opened his eyes a crack.

"Doctor Jackson?"

Okay, he was somewhere where people knew him.  That narrowed it down to…the SGC.  With that realization, he started to hear faint, familiar sounds beyond the rumbling voices.  Beeps from the infirmary stuff.  Right, that made sense.  Daniel knew Doctor Warner's voice and tried to respond.  He blinked slowly and his vision started to clear somewhat. He saw both Doctors Warner and Fraiser leaning over him.  He made his left hand to move. His head started to hurt.

"Daniel?" Doctor Fraiser said, rubbing her hand along his right arm.  She glanced away as he blinked again, to someone else in the room, apparently.  "Before you arrived, Major Carter was awake and aware for a couple of minutes, sir.  I'm hoping for the same."

Fraiser called Sam, Sam, unless to…

"But?" General Hammond's voice called out.

"But…nothing," she said, looking back to him.  "Daniel?"

"Where?" Daniel asked, surprised at the question as well as how softly it came out.  He knew where he was.

"The infirmary."  The what? Doctor Fraiser sounded worried as she took her hand from his arm and placed it on his forehead.  "Can you tell me how you feel?"

"Not, um, not…well?" he muttered. He couldn’t find the words.  He was so…something.  Not right. Fraiser stared at him. A crinkle formed between her eyebrows. He suspected that wasn't what she wanted to know.

"I know, we've given you something to help with that.  Other than the physical pain, is there anything else you can tell me?  Anything at all?"

It felt as if there were something much bigger at stake than his feeling terrible.  He fought to put the pervasive pain aside. Daniel couldn’t think about anything. Nothing came to mind except niggling worry about why she had asked the question. She had asked him something, right? Fraiser stared at him. He remembered what she…what else? He thought she wasn’t asking just because of him. Oh, God.  The reason for her concern became clear to him. It was a driving force so cold and dark he couldn't help but panic.

"Jack?  Sam?" Daniel said. He watched Doctor Fraiser's face as closely as she watched his.

"Sam's here," she said. She looked uncomfortable. 

For several seconds, the only sounds he heard were the beeps of machines and then Doctor Fraiser began speaking again.  Words tumbled from her lips, but it was as though a barrier had been thrown up in his brain. Daniel didn't understand anything.  He could hear the worry and sadness in her tone, see it on her expressive face, but the meaning of the actual message was lost to him.  Panicking, he jerked his head off the pillow, mind scrambling to catch up or catch anything.  Nothing, there was nothing but emptiness, a void of scary incomprehension.  Breathing harshly as he was pushed back to a reclining position, he opened his mouth to tell the doctor to slow down, in case that might help him understand.

Language abandoned him, the world turning into a mixed-up, slow-motioned place.  Why could he think what he wanted to say but not communicate it? Why could he not understand anyone else but know he didn’t understand? He spoke gibberish, frightened by the frightened looks he received in return.  Warmth of drugs gained a foothold in his body and he felt himself fading into the darkness they offered.  He heard his name called more than once. His name was the only word he recognized amid the animated but senseless conversation playing out around him.  Daniel closed his eyes and was afraid that he wouldn't wake up again.  Or, if he did, that he wouldn't be himself but a shell.  The sick thought that he wouldn't even be aware if that ended up being his fate accompanied him into unconsciousness.

~~~~~~~~~~

He had thought the presence of his friends at the SGC would have provided him a certain level of comfort.  How wrong he had been, the erroneousness of his belief evidenced by Daniel Jackson's insensible mutters echoing throughout the room.  Doctor Fraiser opened her mouth, shock clearly imprinted on her face and for long seconds no one spoke.  Stepping closer, Teal'c watched Daniel’s eyes losing the slight focus they had possessed for such a short time.

"Daniel, I don't understand.  Can you repeat that?  Daniel?"

There was no response, only a lengthy blink.  Teal'c did not see any comprehension within Daniel’s expression and did not understand the childlike murmur that was emitted.  He had not heard such speech in many years. It had been since Ry'ac was but a small boy learning to say his first words. The comparison of Daniel with Teal’c’s own infant son chilled him.  Language was one of his friend's greatest strengths and to hear him reduced to such was indeed frightening.  He did not understand what could be the cause of such a reduction in ability.  Doctor Fraiser looked as disturbed as he felt, her face paling as she looked away from the archaeologist to General Hammond and himself.

"Doctor Fraiser, what was that? What did he say?" the general said, stocky frame stiff with tension.  "One of his other languages?"

Teal'c almost laughed at the suggestion but did not blame General Hammond for his hopefulness.  If it were that simple, then the intense feeling of dread surely would not exist within his own person.  He looked upon Daniel’s now unconscious form for a moment, then tore his eyes away to glance at Doctor Fraiser again and allowing hope to rise. 

"No, sir.  I think…I think…." Doctor Fraiser stammered, features set in a mask of horrified comprehension. 

She moved her hand from Daniel’s forehead, waving it over the still man first and then flicking it toward Major Carter.  Teal'c suspected he did not want to hear Doctor Fraiser’s reasoning, foolishly believing that her refraining from giving voice to it would negate the possibility.  Because Doctor Fraiser was usually correct in such matters. 

"I have an idea of what might be happening."

"And that would be?"

The doctor studied the monitors attached to Daniel Jackson, reaching over to toy with the intravenous line attached to his left hand.  She, too, was apparently wishing to avoid the declaration.  Clearing her throat, she abandoned her nervous mannerism and said, "Sir, when Major Carter was awake, there was something wrong besides the organ failure."

All of them, himself very much included, cringed as Doctor Fraiser stumbled over those damning words. Organ failure. She straightened her shoulders as if to bolster herself but her face betrayed the effectiveness of the motion. Her visage was pale and stricken.  He doubted that the news she had to share could be any worse than that which they already knew, and his impatience grew.  General Hammond brought himself alongside Doctor Warner and the motion prompted the Doctor Fraiser to continue.

"She couldn't see.  I attributed it as another effect of the Atenik virus, which of course it is, but logic dictates that Doctor Jackson would be suffering the same degradation of sight.  It was clear to me that he could see us, sir, so that theory is disqualified.  However, and this is only a guess…"

She trailed off, but Teal'c already surmised the direction of her line of thinking.  He said it before she could, "The skills that the Atenik armbands strengthened most greatly in Major Carter and Daniel Jackson are now those which are most impacted by their decline in health."
"Yes.  It's really difficult to know if that's true at this point, though.  All we have is Daniel seeming…slower and we haven't tested Major Carter's eyes, and with both of them unconscious we may never have the chance."

"Does this really make any difference?" General Hammond asked.

"I'm not sure, sir, but it very well could.  I'll know more after I figure out how far the virus has overtaken them and how the serum Anise provided works.  We haven't even had time to determine if the variance between Atenik and human physiology is significant enough to change the ultimate outcome of the bug."  Doctor Fraiser looked over her shoulder at Major Carter for a moment, turned back to Daniel Jackson, and then focused on General Hammond.  "Any news on Colonel O'Neill?"

"Actually, that's why I came down, Doctor.  He was apparently admitted to Memorial Hospital over twenty-four hours ago."

"Do you have any information about his condition?"

"They wouldn't release anything to me, but I don't expect he's any better than Major Carter or Doctor Jackson.  He's in the Intensive Care Unit.  I was on my way to bring him back here and thought either you or Doctor Warner might accompany me."

"That's a good idea, sir.  And, actually, if he's been under medical supervision for that length of time, he might be in better shape," Doctor Fraiser commented, chewing on her bottom lip.  Teal’c frowned. He had not witnessed the doctor exhibit that habit prior to now. "Doctor Warner, could you take some of the serum and administer it to Colonel O'Neill?"

"Of course."  Doctor Warner nodded and moved away from them. 

Teal'c was gladdened O'Neill's location had been discovered. With the news, the tension in his muscles relaxed but only ever so slightly.  His friends were still in grave danger, their lives depending on a potential cure he did not fully trust and factors beyond the control of medicine.  If the virus was indeed attacking his teammates' heightened strengths, did that mean death was not the ending for them?  If not, would the loss of sight, knowledge, and, in O’Neill’s case, physical prowess be any better?  He was not certain and, selfishly, believed they would still be as lost to him.

"Perhaps I should accompany you as well," Teal'c said, though glancing at his still friends made him hesitate in his decision.  The need for activity that he had wished for only minutes earlier dissipated slightly with their arrival.

"I don't think that will be necessary, Teal'c,” General Hammond said. “It might be best if you stay here with Doctor Jackson and Major Carter to wait for Anise's return."

He tipped his head to the side in agreement as the general straightened his shoulders and began walking toward the approaching Doctor Warner.  The two men left without another word, intent on their new mission.  Mentally wishing them speed, Teal'c looked around the still bustling infirmary for a chair.   
"Do you believe there to be a way to increase the effectiveness of the Atenik serum?" he said. He was not entirely sure if he was speaking to Doctor Fraiser or merely giving voice to his concern.

"I'm just not sure, Teal'c," Doctor Fraiser said.  "At this point, I'm really counting on there to be a big enough difference in symptoms that Anise's prediction of death is overzealous."

"Indeed.  I will sit with Daniel Jackson and Major Carter while we wait for O'Neill to arrive.  Perhaps if you have time, you will join me?"

"Thank you, Teal'c.  I don't know if I can take you up on that, but I'll keep it in mind."

Teal'c gave Doctor Fraiser a smile and then maneuvered a rolling chair in between Major Carter and Daniel Jackson's beds.  The nurses had finally left the vicinity, indication the tests were complete and confirmation that there was nothing to be done unless Doctors Fraiser and Warner were able to devise a means to save his friends.  He had more faith in them solving the terrible issue than Anise, whom he would not be saddened never to see again.

From a closer proximity, Teal'c could see with more detail how ill his friends were.  Even in good health, Major Carter's features were light and fragile.  Since he had joined the SGC, she had seemed to become thinner and thinner, her striking cheekbones becoming more prominent, her eyes more luminous.  He had always considered her a beautiful woman, but now those features seemed to him too delicate and breakable. She looked like finely crafted porcelain, something to admire but not touch.  He struggled to remain stoic.  He wished for her to open her eyes and be able to see him when she did.

Teal'c transferred his attention to Daniel.  Instantly, he knew he would fare no better in trying to find some comfort through closeness.  The creases customarily lining the archaeologist's face, lines that had made him appear harder, older and wiser, were gone, making Daniel appear as delicate and young as Major Carter.  Never had he considered his friend so much younger than he, though the number of years separating them was great.  No, Daniel possessed knowledge and heartache that belied his numerical age.  Seeing him now, unshielded, was crippling and painful. 

"How are they doing, Teal'c?"

Startled, he turned to find Jacob Carter standing at his left side with a pensive, troubled look on his face.  Teal'c frowned.  He had not even heard the announcement of an incoming wormhole.  He observed the Tok’ra’s dirty clothing and wondered what sort of mission he had been on. It seemed apparent to him that it was something very important. He felt a brief flicker of appreciation for Anise’s input on that matter. Very brief. 

"Jacob Carter, it is good that you are here."

"Yes." Jacob Carter sighed heavily, head bobbing around in search of something.  "Anise explained what's going on but I know she didn't try the healing device.  Selmac and I'd like to give it a shot but we didn't have time to retrieve our own."

"There is additional information you require before such an attempt is made.  Doctor Fraiser believes in the possibility that the virus is not affecting SG-1 in the same manner it would the Ateniks."

"How so?"

"Daniel Jackson and Major Carter have both exhibited signs that particular body functions were being attacked more virulently. These functions correspond with the attributes accentuated in each of them by the armband devices.  Upon moments awareness, Major Carter's eyesight was faulty and Daniel Jackson could not seem to understand when attempts were made to communicate with him," Teal'c quickly imparted, displeased at having to repeat the unsavory information.  "Perhaps it would be wise to refrain until that is confirmed."

"That would have an impact on the healing process," Jacob Carter said.  "But can we afford to wait?  What about Jack?"

"O'Neill was taken to a civilian facility.  General Hammond is on his way there now."

For several seconds, Jacob Carter did not speak. There was much information to process. Teal’c waited, empathetic to the other man’s likely overwhelmed state.

"I'd like you to at least go get the healing device, Teal'c.  Just in case."

He knew this was Jacob speaking, not General Jacob Carter.  Not Selmac.  Teal’c immediately moved to comply with the request, but was halted by the thought such an action would simply cause their relative impotence in the situation to be highlighted.  Rising, Teal'c ushered the other man into his vacated chair, then walked to another, which he wheeled back to the bedsides for himself.  

"Teal'c?"  The tone was indignant, tired and heartrending all at once, and Teal'c inwardly winced at the depth of feeling conveyed.

"I am certain Doctor Fraiser will complete her tests soon.  Until then, perhaps we should attempt to speak with Major Carter and Daniel Jackson, in the hopes they are cognizant of our presence."

Belief that comatose patients could hear what went on around them was a prevalent one to the Tau'ri, and one Teal'c had heard with some fascination.  He was not certain he believed it valid, yet somehow believed this technique might help his friends, Jacob Carter, and himself.  He reached out and laid a hand on Major Carter's delicate fingers.

"Maybe you're right."

They sat in silence, then Jacob Carter cleared his throat.

"It is more difficult a task than I anticipated," Teal'c admitted, speaking for both of them.  He brushed his fingers atop of the major's, then dropped both his hands into his lap.  Even this simple task was overcoming him.

 

"Maybe we should just talk to each other at first.  Kind of ease into it."

"What should we discuss?"

"Oh, I don't know.  I could tell you some great stories about Sam as a kid.  Don't worry, Sam, I won't tell him anything embarrassing.  Even I'm not that bold." Jacob Carter laughed easily, though Teal'c could still see the tension lining his eyes.  The general picked up Major Carter's limp hand, cupping it between both of his.  "I pity anyone who gets on my daughter's bad side."

"Indeed."

"And you can tell me more about Daniel.  Stuff my kid hasn't shared."

Teal'c found himself relaxing, uplifted by Jacob Carter's company.  He would not delude himself into thinking his chosen task would prove vital to the recovery of his friends, but he did believe in its importance.  He smiled, lulled by the stories the other man relayed.  Envisioning a carefree but disciplined Major Carter was indeed preferable to seeing the unmoving shape before him, and he gladly did so.

"One of Sam's favorite things to do was to put together model cars.  We bought the first one for her brother, who completely abandoned the thing after about twenty minutes.  But Sam picked it up and wouldn't stop until she had the whole thing done.  She couldn't have been more than four, but her eye for detail was astonishing.  I knew then that she was something special.  She went through model after model, each one more intricate and difficult than the last.  She still works on cars, or trucks, or motorcycles.  Anything with an engine to rebuild.  Did you know that?  She’s a regular grease monkey."

"Grease monkey?  That is not a term with which I am familiar."

"Mechanic," Jacob Carter clarified.  "But enough about Sam for the moment.  What about Daniel?  Does he have any dirty secrets?"

"He does not, though it may surprise you to know Daniel Jackson has a somewhat eccentric taste in entertainment," Teal'c revealed, suddenly feeling guilty and uncomfortable sharing this particular piece of information.  He doubted his friend would appreciate either of the Carters knowing it.

"Eccentric?  Hmmm, sounds interesting.  Details."

At that moment, Teal'c became aware of how similar Jacob Carter was to O'Neill.  Both men held a sharp wit and a devilish nature quite unusual for members of the military.  The reminder sobered him. He found himself unable to continue. 

"I should not.  I will choose another subject on which to speak," he said, turning to fully look at the archaeologist. 

Nothing came to mind, only an intense sorrow that he may never again be witness to the sharp intellect of Daniel Jackson or to the joy of discovery lighting Major Carter's eyes brilliant blue.  His mind unwillingly traveled to thoughts of O'Neill and he found no comfort there.

~~~~~~~~~~

The heavy fog covering him could only mean one thing – he'd been given massive doses of drugs.  It made thinking difficult but not impossible and it took Jack only a minute to realize he was in the infirmary.  Three seconds beyond that, he remembered why.  Cursing Anise, her mother and her mother's mother – did snakes *really* have mothers? – he attempted to peel his eyelids open, unsurprised by their unwillingness to work for him.  Being unconscious for long periods of time had a tendency to do that to a person.  Apparently.  Fighting the drugs, he managed to crack one eye open.

Not the infirmary.  Whiter, bigger.  Hospital.  Sick…sick.  Crap, Carter and Daniel. 

The haze started to disappear as his team members' last appearances solidified in his mind's eye, along with the memory of fierce pain.  Not 'shot in the shoulder' pain, more 'all night at a kegger' pain, followed by a long day blistering in the sun, and then finally soaking sensitized skin in icy *salt* water.  He knew without question that his friends had been suffering as much as he.  What he didn't know was if he ever made it to Carter's house – or if either her or Daniel had passed out like he had but were lying in their homes, unaided.  Still hurting, where he had the blessing of medication for whatever it was that ailed his body.  Those damned armbands, what had the doc said about their effects?  Killing them while making them strong.  He was damned sure they were just killing now.  A rush of panic for his friends had him moving.  No, not moving.  Why couldn't he move?  Heart pounding, he groaned in earnest, which brought a scampering of feet and a frowning face floated above his.

"Mister O'Neill!" a pint-sized nurse exclaimed, apparently surprised by his awakening.  He wondered if it was a prerequisite that a person had to be tiny to work in the medical field.  Then Shorty the Giant Male Nurse appeared behind Lil' Missy and shot that theory to hell.  Whoa, his head was scattery.  "Get the doctor, Tim."

You tell 'im, he thought.  Wait, Tim…as in Tiny?  Jack would have chuckled if not for the terrible non-sensation from the neck down dogging all the worry cells his brain could spare from the concern for Daniel and Carter.  He didn't need the doctor to tell him there was something seriously wrong but he *wouldn't* mind someone telling him his friends were okay.

"Danh…"

Well, that was sure to get his question answered.  He blinked in frustration and he turned his head slightly to the side as Lil' Missy disappeared from his field of vision.  He tried to grab at her arm to halt her progression, groaning when the impulse gave absolutely nothing in the way of movement.  But she did stop, popping back to his bedside with a look that was filled with poorly hidden, compassionate pity.  He wanted to pound his fist into the mattress, was startled when he thought he felt the rustle of cotton beneath his fingers.  The nurse apparently didn't notice anything, bending away again and returning with a plastic cup and straw.  She lifted it to his lips and she brushed the thin tube from the nasal cannulae aside he hadn't even known he had.  It was really bad, then. 

He took a couple quick swallows, then ejected the straw and opened his mouth to try talking again.  "I have to –"

"Just rest.  Doctor Sicora will be here momentarily," the nurse interrupted.  "You've been unconscious for over twenty-four hours."

"No, you don't understand," Jack said, voice coming out a weak whisper.  He raised his head a fraction of an inch off the pillow. He had to flop back down when his neck muscles quivered as if he was a baby.  He blew out a breath.  "Others, like me…need help.  You need to call Cheyenne Mountain."

"Actually, we've been in contact with them." A male voice approached and Jack moved his head a little to look at the man he assumed was Doctor Sicora.  "They're aware you're here."

He relaxed slightly at the news, taking it as a sign General Hammond knew about the…problem he was experiencing.  With any luck, the base commander had already checked in with Carter and Daniel and they were okay.  Not like him.  They were probably all on their way to whichever hospital he had been taken. Any minute, they'd come racing into the room, as fit as ever.  He was deluding himself and he knew it.

"Are you feeling any pain?" Sicora picked up a clipboard from the end of the bed and scanning it with a detached, professional expression. 

Because the question was asked, Jack supposed he was expected to feel something other than numbness.  He clutched at the possibility they had medicated him so thoroughly that the paralysis was a result of that, not the armbands.  He almost shook his head 'no' but stopped when he became aware of a niggling, nondescript sensation.  A full body ache, breaking through the deadness of his limbs.  Not-quite-deadness, he corrected, concentrating on moving his hand. 

"Colonel O'Neill?  Any pain?" the doctor repeated, professionalism notching into concern. 

"None that I can't handle," he said, too devoted to his task to pay much attention to the doctor.

"What does that mean?"

His hand moved!  The monitor hooked up to his heart beeped faster at his excitement translated into a physiological response.  It also brought an upsurge of intensity to the dull ache, escalating it to a coiling sharpness, and he grunted in discomfort.

 "I'm feeling something but it's not too bad yet."

"Yet is the key word.  I'm going to go ahead and give you something for the discomfort, as you seem in a bit of distress.  Rachel?"

He didn't argue as Lil' Missy stepped up, syringe at the ready.  He watched her insert it into his IV line and depress the plunger, while the pain escalated to another level of intensity.   For the first time in his life, being strapped down to a bed and drugged to the gills didn't seem that bad an option.  In fact, Jack wished the analgesic would kick in faster but the fog he'd felt upon waking up crawled back in slowly.  He drifted toward it, closing his eyes.

"How long do you think he has?" Nurse Rachel said, her voice barely breaking through to his ears.

"I honestly can't say.  I've never seen anything like this before – the rate of failure is astonishing.  And terrifying.  Even on life support, I think he'll be maxed out at a week.  Poor bastard."

The words were damning and Jack wanted to protest, kick and scream that he wasn't dying.  If he was dying then probably so were two other members of his team.  Family.   He tried to open his eyes but the darkness pulled at him, vicious and strong. 

"Doctor, an Air Force general just showed up at the desk, demanding to see you about this Jack O'Neill guy."

The voice was muffled by distance but still rang clear in Jack's ears. He opened his eyes.  He waited for vital additional information – that accompanying said Air Force general were an Air Force major, a guy in geek’s clothing and a linebacker who spoke funny. 

None came.  His head spun with the painkiller's effects and the worst-case scenarios every commander had nightmares about.  He faded, uncertain whether or not he still had a team.

~~~~~~~~~~

The error was inexcusable, the consequential delay unacceptable.  Hammond really didn't know what had possessed him to believe his rank in the Air Force would expedite Jack's transfer, or Doctor Warner’s for that matter.  It wasn't significant who he was, or who Jack was for that matter.  To these doctors and nurses, the only thing of importance was the care of a critically ill patient, including concern for his welfare while under the roof of this hospital.  Hell, they wanted the same thing as he.  He commended their tenacity and ethics, and he'd let them know that someday.  But today he was pissed as all get out.

"What do you mean you won't authorize the move?"

"Pretty much what it sounds like, sir.  Colonel O'Neill's condition is far too serious to even entertain the idea," Doctor Raymond Sicora said.  "Doctor Warner, I'm sure you concur with me?"

"I understand your concern.  However, Memorial does not have access to the necessary equipment for the best care possible.  I agree Colonel O'Neill's condition is dire. I believe we should be allowed to take him to where he'd receive the top treatment," Doctor Warner said.  "I can have my chief medical officer contact you if you need further confirmation."

"So, because you, the general here and this mysterious Doctor Fraiser have wings on your shoulders or whatever, I'm supposed to roll over and let a critically ill patient be moved unnecessarily?"

Hammond bristled, unaccustomed to hearing anyone other than Jack O'Neill speak so flippantly in his presence.  He gritted his teeth and struggled to maintain composure at the rapidly deteriorating conversation.  This all was ridiculous.  Point blank – he needed to get Jack to the SGC as quickly as humanly possible and his patience at this roadblock had just expired.  At least Warner had been allowed into the ICU and had been able to administer the serum, for what it was worth.  He hadn't been able to read anything useful from the doctor's face upon his return.

part 2

 

 

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Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. This is a parody for entertainment purposes only. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted anywhere without the consent of the author.