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nightspear ([personal profile] nightspear) wrote2009-06-14 12:30 am
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Archaeology (24/30)

Title: Archaeology (Table of Contents)
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Nothing you recognize is mine. I gain nothing of material value from this.
Pairings: Gen.

Chapter1 Chapter2 Chapter3 Chapter4 Chapter5
Chapter6 Chapter7 Chapter8 Chapter9 Chapter10
Chapter11 Chapter12 Chapter13 Chapter14 Chapter15
Chapter16 Chapter17 Chapter18 Chapter19 Chapter20
Chapter21 Chapter22 Chapter23

XXXXX

Chapter 24: Points of View

XXXXX

25 June 2001; Embarkation Room, SGC; 0900 hrs

The thing with having the DHD was that they'd all gotten used to casually touching it whenever they needed to dial the 'gate. This was not normally a bad thing, unless something on the other side started sending EM pulses back at them and trying to fry their DHD.

The good thing was that, since EM pulses tended to do funny things to their electrical systems and computer overrides, using the DHD as the 'gate's power source meant they only had to pull the plug to shut down a wormhole. After the thing with Bauer, when Teal'c and Martouf had had to cut the power (literally), they'd managed to find a (relatively) safe way to disconnect the DHD manually via a panel next to it.

Unfortunately, Jack hadn't been paying attention when Carter had explained it.

Fortunately, he had people who did listen to that kind of thing, and Teal'c entered the 'gate room to push Jack away before he could try the wire-cutting thing again, while Daniel flipped one of the levers on the wall.

Unfortunately, Daniel wasn't so good with the electrical systems, either, and all the lights went out while the wormhole stayed open. "Oops," Daniel said. Teal'c pulled him out of the way, too, and finally flipped the right switch himself.

By the time the Stargate shut down, the emergency lights had come back on.

"Okay," Jack said, then turned and ran toward the control room, Daniel and Teal'c behind him. "Okay?" he repeated.

"Yes, sir," Carter said. "Thanks for turning off the rest of the power, too, guys. The computers in here were being fried."

"Yes," Jack said, glancing at an embarrassed-looking Daniel. "It was on purpose."

"We should be able to turn everything back on in a minute," she added.

There was an airman bent over Sergeant Harriman on the floor. "Dr. Fraiser's on her way," General Hammond said.

"Carter, you okay?" Jack said, trying to see the hand she was cradling by the dim emergency lights.

"Yes, sir," she said distractedly. "I wish I could explain what happened, but until the equipment's back up--"

"So...you're as much in the dark as the rest of us," Jack said.

No one else seemed to appreciate his humor. The lights flipped back on.

...x...

By the time they figured out what it was...

Actually, as far as Jack could decipher from Daniel and Carter's babbling, they hadn't figured it out yet. "A lot of our systems are burnt out," Carter said, sounding frustrated, "including the best diagnostic tools we've got. With the quarantine in place, we can't access equipment that could tell us what we're dealing with."

"But it has accessed information about us?" Teal'c said grimly.

"It's hard to know exactly what it was doing," she said, "but it branched out through very specific areas before power was cut off--it went through network and language software and databases, and then systems and applications software."

"Learning to read, to listen, to talk," Daniel said optimistically. "Whatever this is could be trying to communicate with us."

"And figure out everything in our computers," Jack pointed out. "Which, by the way, got fried and started to fry a couple of people in the process."

"That's true, sir," Carter agreed. "But it's possible it really was just trying to establish peaceful communication, and our hardware just wasn't advanced enough to handle it. We simply have no way of knowing yet. We're still in the process of running scans and purging the mainframe."

"Is this some kind of Ancient technology?" Hammond asked.

Daniel shook his head. "So far, Ancient planets and technologies we've seen seem to be meant for use by humans or someone compatible with humans. P9C-372 showed structures that don't match anything that anyone recognizes from ancient Earth or off-world. My opinion, sir, is that whoever or whatever inhabits that planet arrived after the Ancients left. They're completely alien to us."

"And that is why you believe it attempted to communicate with us through our computer systems," Teal'c said.

"Well," Carter said, "we can't expect other species or even other cultures to have the same methods of communication as we have. Electrical signals are probably more familiar to this...race than speech would be."

"Okay," Jack said, holding up a hand, "why are we assuming it was communicating and not trying to kill us?"

Daniel and Carter glanced at each other, and then Daniel offered, "Innocent until proven guilty?"

"That's not good enough right now, Mr. Jackson, not when this much damage has been done to our base," Hammond said.

"We sent a probe to their world first, sir. It's possible that they might have done the same."

Unmoved, Hammond said, "Maybe. But until we know for certain that there will be no repercussions from this incident, this mountain will be kept locked down, operations will not resume, and no one will open that 'gate again, especially not to P9C-372."

"So now it's a probe," Jack said. "It's probing us."

"It could be," Daniel said.

"I don't like being probed," Jack said.

Daniel frowned at him. "Well, sir," Carter finally said, "maybe this other thing didn't like being...probed, either. I was able to isolate a waveform that could well have been meant as something like a probe."

"Is that what this is?" Dr. Fraiser spoke up, pointing to an image in front of her.

"That's right," Carter said. "It's time-magnified and scaled for detail, but those are the high-frequency oscillations we received."

"It looks like high-amplitude tracings of an EEG," she said.

"E-E-G?" Daniel repeated.

"Electroencephalogram," Fraiser explained. "The electrical signals we get from the brain. The frequency isn't what I'd expect from a human brain, of course, but it could fit a similar pattern. The point is that this entity, whatever it is, seems to have some sort of sentience or advanced enough programming to--"

The lights died.

"I thought we fixed that," Jack said.

The projector turned on.

"I thought Siler fixed that," Daniel said.

The camera turned on, swiveled around, and fixed on them.

"Okay," Carter said, staring, "that's not us."

"I believe it is, Major Carter," Teal'c said, because a live image of them was appearing on the screen.

Jack looked up at the camera, not quite believing yet that this wasn't a weird joke of some kind, and stood up. The camera followed him. He checked the screen--okay, it was following them in real time. "It's watching us," he said, moving warily toward the screen to look directly into the camera.

The camera focused on Jack for a moment, and his image loomed disturbingly large on the screen.

"Well, it's clearly trying to communicate something," Daniel said helpfully.

The screen flashed to black, and then began scanning through--

"Are those personnel records?" Hammond said.

It stopped on Jack's file. "Apparently, sir," Jack said, then told the thing in the camera, "Yeah, that's me."

Just as quickly, the camera turned away from him to fix on Carter, and then Daniel, and then Teal'c, rifling through the computer's system to bring up each file. "It's learning," Daniel said, sounding caught between fascination and unease. "About us--who we are, what we do..."

Hammond tore his eyes away from the screen and turned to Carter. "Put a stop to it, Major," he ordered, sounding much closer to uneasiness than interest of any sort.

"Sir," Daniel started, "we don't even know what its intentions are--"

"Mr. Jackson, I can't allow an alien technology into our computer systems," Hammond said sternly, "whatever its intentions."

...x...

So then, they isolated the whatever-it-was in the MALP room. That was the easy part.

Jack wanted to blow it up, and Teal'c got his zat ready, but Daniel wanted to talk to it and Carter agreed. Before Jack could snip its power away, she decided to try the 'we're peaceful explorers' thing by typing into the computer.

Jack should have realized sooner. Friendly aliens didn't just happen to come through computers to say 'hi.' It was a trap.

"We don't know it was a trap," Daniel said later in a low voice as they stood waiting outside the infirmary.

"Carter's lying half-dead in there," Jack snapped, jabbing a finger toward the infirmary door, where Dr. Fraiser was setting up a speech synthesizer so they could talk to it again and Martouf was sitting by her bed. "It lured her to the computer and then tried to take over her body."

"Well, what did we do?" Daniel returned. "We lured it into a feeling of safety and distracted it by talking to it, and then you tried to kill it! You don't think it saw you getting ready to cut its power, just as we sent Sam to talk to it?"

"I didn't have a choice!" Jack exclaimed. "This thing is dangerous--"

"And so are we! Maybe it didn't think it had a choice."

"Carter's in a coma," he hissed. "That's not an accident. It was watching us the entire time."

Daniel narrowed his eyes. "You're saying it knew Sam and I wanted to talk to it."

"Yeah," Jack said.

"And the device in the MALP room was created as a delivery system in order to invade the body of Major Carter," Teal'c added.

Daniel's chin rose, but Jack nodded, glad someone was on the same page as him. "Yes."

"So, basically," Daniel said, his tone far too mild while his eyes glared into Jack's, "what you're saying is that if we'd listened to you in the first place and blown it up"--Jack started to answer--"No, seriously," Daniel snapped. "I'm asking: is that what you're saying?"

Taking up the baton, Teal'c said, "If we had destroyed the entity, Daniel Jackson, Major Carter would not have been adversely affected."

"Because that's what we do, right?" Daniel said. "We blow things up when we don't understand them. I mean, that's almost how this program was started in the first place, yes?"

"Don't make this about Abydos, Daniel," Jack said angrily.

"It's about whether or not we should try to communicate with unknown, sentient entities before trying to destroy them," Daniel retorted, coiling tight in anger. "Your laws say we assume innocence until we've proven guilt."

"Something took over one of my people and refuses to leave. That's guilty."

"But we didn't know that before, and it might not have happened if--"

"Perhaps," Teal'c interrupted. "And yet, all that matters is what has now occurred, not what might have been."

Daniel looked incredulous. "Of course it matters what we do when faced with unusual circumstances with incomplete intelligence!"

"What matters," Jack said, "is that a member of our team is being held hostage by an alien in her own body, and we need a way to get it out."

"Look," Daniel said, "I know your first instinct is to protect--both of you--and I understand that, but if you're saying we should have just blown it up because we didn't understand it, then we might as well stop trying to communicate with anyone anymore."

Jack gritted his teeth, glancing at the infirmary and hoping for another miracle to save his second-in-command. "I don't care right now what we did or didn't do," he said. "At this moment--right now--Sam could die. Do you get that?"

Daniel somehow wound himself even tighter. "I know that," he said, his voice steady while his fists clenched tight at his sides. "But she wasn't wrong to take that risk."

The worst part was that Jack knew he was more likely to kill Carter than the entity was. As far as he was concerned, the entity was as parasitical as the Goa'uld, and successful parasites invaded to survive, not to destroy their host, but it was wrong about whether or not they'd let it live in her. It was Jack--and anyone else at the SGC with a brain and a gun--who was in danger of pulling the trigger. Part of him hoped he wouldn't be the one to have to do it. Another part knew it was his responsibility and hoped no one else would have to do it.

...x...

In the end, the entity in Carter refused to leave and Fraiser determined it was going to grow and grow until it rewrote her mind, if that hadn't happened already. With nothing left to try, Jack held a zat in his hand and followed Daniel in to talk to it.

Teal'c, Martouf, Hammond, and Fraiser all watched from the observation room. Daniel dawdled at the beside for a long moment, studying the entity in Carter as the entity studied him through Carter's eyes. Jack resisted the urge to tell him to hurry the hell up.

Finally, he cleared his throat and said, "Hello. My name is Daniel."

Carter's hand rose and landed on the keyboard connected to the speech synthesizer and began to type, her eyes never leaving Daniel's face as it did so. "I am aware," the entity said.

Daniel seemed surprised for a second, then said, "That's right. You read our files."

"Yes."

"Then you know our purpose here," Daniel said. "You know that our job is to explore, and that my job specifically is to facilitate communication between ourselves and other peoples."

The entity tilted Carter's head and continued staring at him. "Yourselves wish to terminate."

Yes, Jack thought emphatically. "No," Daniel said, shaking. "Our...selves... We wish to protect ourselves and to learn about you. Perhaps you interpreted it as aggression, but the person whose body you took--Sam... She only wanted to talk to you."

"I am aware," the entity repeated. "For this reason, this one was utilized."

"Okay," Daniel said, looking frustrated, and then he stopped and visibly made an effort to keep calm. "You say that we wish to terminate, but isn't that what you're doing to Sam? If you leave her mind, you and she can both live. There are other...vessels for you to inhabit without destroying a life like you're doing now."

"Leaving this mind would cause termination," the entity said.

"You left that device in the MALP room," Daniel pointed out. "Go back there."

But the entity was unmoved. "I have already grown beyond its capacity," it said.

Daniel started to turn around toward the observation window, then looked back at Carter. "Why did you do this?" he demanded. "Why did you come here if you were going to take Sam's--"

"You attacked," the entity said.

"We..." Daniel started, looking confused, then realized. "No. We sent a probe. It was a...an initiation of contact, to see if the planet was safe for us to--"

"Radio energy was emitted from your probe," the entity interrupted. "Contagion. Much damage was caused within. It spread before we knew it was poison."

"You're saying...your world was damaged by radio waves from one of our probes," Daniel said, glancing uncertainly at Jack. Jack felt his grip tighten on the zat gun and forcibly loosened it, focusing carefully on the fact that Carter was in a hospital bed. "We didn't mean to hurt you. You know our protocol, so you must know that."

The entity opened cocked Carter's head to one side. "Yet it is done."

Daniel took a moment to pull his thinking cap back on and said, calmly, "So you came here to...what? If you knew our technology was dangerous to you, then--"

"To preserve my world," the entity said, "by destroying you."

Unable to keep quiet anymore, Jack pointed out, "Well, that's not going to happen."

"If I had been able to complete transmission," the entity said, "you would have been destroyed. My world would have been preserved."

Jack narrowed his eyes, thinking quickly as Daniel said, "Well, in a way, you succeeded. We won't go back there. Your world can repair the damage we did, and we won't send any more probes through."

"Yes, we will," Jack said.

Daniel didn't turn as he said, "Jack?"

"We'll send dozens of them, one after another," Jack said, completely serious. He'd send them himself. "I don't care what it does to you. You've read my file--you know I'd do it."

"No," the entity said.

"Leave her," Jack said. He raised his zat. "Now."

"Jack," Daniel said again, more insistently.

"Daniel," Jack said, not looking away from Carter's face. "We're going to do this my way. General?"

Through the speaker, Hammond leaned forward into the microphone and said, "You're damned right we'll do it."

"If you want to preserve your world," Jack repeated, "leave Major Carter right now."

Carter's hand trembled on the keyboard. The entity swiveled her head from Jack, to Daniel, to Hammond, and back, then yanked the leads from her head and leapt out of bed.

And then it all went to hell.

...x...

Teal'c and Daniel left at some point after Jack killed Carter with a zat.

He wasn't sure exactly when or why or where, or who'd dragged whom away, or where Martouf had disappeared to, but Jack was the only one left in the infirmary when Janet Fraiser finished hooking Carter up to the life support systems and scanning her. He thought he should talk to Daniel, because Sam was different from the countless other people they'd lost in the last months and years and none of them was ready to deal with it, then chickened out and decided Teal'c would be a better person than Jack to be around right now.

"...don't know if she ever told you, Colonel, but Sam made a living will," Fraiser was saying. Jack didn't look away from Carter. "No extraordinary means."

"Yeah, she told me," Jack said. Of course she had. With the things they faced, they all knew each other's wishes, some of them written into their medical record and some of them only spoken occasionally and understood by all. That was the part the entity hadn't known; if it had, it would never have thought that Jack wouldn't be willing to kill Carter to kill it.

He heard footsteps near the door.

Jack looked up to see Daniel walk in with Teal'c behind him. Daniel opened his mouth as if to speak, then closed it.

"The entity appears to be isolated in the device in the MALP room," Teal'c said. "General Hammond has ordered it to be destroyed. The entity must not be allowed to spread further."

"Good," Jack said. He wanted the thing dead. Daniel started to speak again and then stopped again. Fraiser's heels clicked toward the two of them at the door, and Jack wasn't sure if she was explaining life support and living wills or trying to comfort or maybe grieve with them, but he didn't want to look away from Carter to find out. She'd be gone soon enough.

"SG-1 to the MALP room immediately," Hammond's voice suddenly announced.

Jack stood, almost grateful for the crisis, because he knew how to handle those and was not ready to handle pulling the plug on a teammate. Teal'c's zat was already in his hand again, and a snapped, "Jackson," was all it took to shake Daniel out of a fog and spur all three of them toward the MALP room.

When they arrived, Martouf and Siler were herding a handful of technicians away from the mainframe that was surrounded by explosives. Jack took a second to think that that would have been Carter in charge of this under better circumstances, then pushed that thought away and turned to the Tok'ra.

"It seems the entity has returned," Martouf said, pointing to where the device had begun powering on again by itself. With a hint of bitter satisfaction, he added, "I believe the best course of action now would be to destroy it entirely."

"All right," Jack said, unable to help a vicious bit of pleasure in the thought that they were going to get to terminate it, after all. "Let's blow it."

The screen turned on as Siler handed Martouf the detonator, and words began to appear.

"Wait!" Daniel cried, pushing Martouf's arm down with a hand. "Wait, wait, wait--look at that!"

I AM HERE, the screen said. As Jack watched, the words began scrolling down the screen until it said I AM HERE I AM HERE I AM HERE--

"The entity," Teal'c said.

Daniel shook his head as Siler turned uncertainly to Jack, and already Jack could feel a spike of anger that, even now, Daniel was trying to defend the thing that had gotten Carter killed.

But...

"No," Daniel said excitedly, "it said it couldn't go back, it was too big. Jack, that's Sam."

Jack felt his fists try to clench. "Daniel, I shot her twice," he said, hating the reminder, hating the thread of hope trying to sneak in, hating the look Daniel would wear when they found out for sure they'd been wrong and Carter was dead for good.

Still going, Daniel said, "But it was...the...the thing." He spread his arms out the way the entity had spread Carter's arms just before Jack had shot her. "We assumed it was transferring itself out of her body, but it wasn't, because it couldn't fit, so it was transferring Sam's consciousness out of her body instead, and when you shot her, you killed it, but she's still alive and she's in there--"

"Why?" Jack said, wanting to believe him but refusing to yield until he had a good reason and knew it wouldn't come crashing down later. "Why would it do that?"

"Because you threatened to destroy its world, Jack! It knew it had to save Sam to preserve its world, so it sacrificed itself and let her live."

I AM HERE, the screen said.

"It's Sam," Daniel repeated, not pleading and not desperate, but certain.

Jack turned to the wall and picked up the nearest phone. "Get me Hammond," he said.

XXXXX

27 June 2001; Infirmary, SGC; 1700 hrs

It took almost a day after being transferred back into her body for Carter to be alert enough for any sort of meaningful conversation. She was alive, though, which was what counted.

Teal'c was already in the infirmary with her when Jack stepped in. "How is she?' he said, looking at Carter sleeping on the bed.

With a smile, Teal'c said, "She was awake for some time and seemed well. Dr. Fraiser says that she will recover fully."

Before Jack could say anything else, Carter shifted slightly and said sleepily, "'m still here."

Jack couldn't quite manage to hold back a smile as she pulled her eyes back open. "Hey," he said, sticking his hands deep into his pockets. "How're you feeling?"

She blinked at him, then smiled back. "Colonel," she said. She pushed herself into a sitting position and raked her hair into semi-neatness. "I'm fine, sir."

"Uh-huh," Jack said, not believing that a bit. "That must be why ol' Doc Fraiser's not letting you leave yet, huh?"

"Well, you know Janet, sir," she said self-consciously.

Nodding, Jack agreed, "Yeah. She's a good doctor."

Carter made a face but didn't argue. Dr. Fraiser said she was lucky enough not to have been fried by all the electricity that had been flowing through her. Personally, Jack was counting it lucky that she was alive at all. "Have you seen Daniel, sir?" she asked hopefully.

"Why--hoping he'll bring you your computer?" Jack said, because he wasn't bring it to her and he was pretty sure Teal'c hadn't, either.

"Maybe a little," she admitted.

"He's meeting someone on the surface," Jack explained. "He'll be right back."

Just then, Daniel stuck his head around the door and said, "Okay, she's--hi! Sam." Carter raised a hand and waved. Daniel glanced at Jack, who nodded, and then said, "I have someone here who wants to see you."

Carter looked confused for a moment but then lit up when Cassandra Fraiser stepped cautiously into the infirmary. "Cassandra! What are you doing here?"

Grinning, Cassie made her way to the bed for a hug, saying, "You're not happy to see me? They said I could, as long as I'm 'properly escorted'... Not like I've never been down here, anyway."

Janet appeared in the door from her office upon hearing her daughter's voice and joined them while Jack and Teal'c gave Cassie her obligatory hugs and then backed away to make room for the women.

Daniel looked a little bemused by Cassie's bedside chatter and chose to hang back with Jack and Teal'c. When he didn't say anything for a while, Jack gestured them out and said, "Something wrong?"

Following Jack into the hallway, Daniel said, "I'm just impressed by how Cassandra manages not ask what happened."

"She's probably used to it by now, between her mom and us," Jack said. He, for one, was hoping she would jump right over the rebellious teenager stage.

Daniel nodded but looked down and stepped back a little. "What?" Jack said warily.

"I've been thinking about the entity..." Daniel started.

"Let's not," Jack said, hoping to cut this off before it blew up into something worse, because it would, without a doubt.

Sure enough, Daniel pressed on and said, "Just think about it, though--haven't we been in situations like that before, but on the entity's side?"

"No," Jack said, because he'd never invaded another person's body as an electrical signal and downloaded the other person into a computer mainframe.

"Not the exact details, obviously," Daniel said, scowling. "But imagine if our iris had been down and someone had sent a probe through to us that happened to be...radioactive, say. What would you do?"

"What are the chances of that?" Jack said.

Daniel stared at him, then said, "Actually, the entity reminded me a little of you." Before Jack could retort, he went on, "It didn't care what our intentions were or about our lives. All it cared about was that we'd hurt it and its world and it had to stop us from doing more damage."

Jack pulled them a little farther from the infirmary and said angrily, "Carter might not have been awake while that thing was inside her, but you were. You heard what it said--"

"That it was trying to stop us from finishing the...the...genocide we'd started on its planet?"

"We stopped," Jack said, more frustrated now, "and it was still willing to let Carter die. We got it to stop using her body as its vehicle--and how is that not like the Goa'uld?"

"The Goa'uld don't take hosts out of self-defense," Daniel said. "They take slaves who weren't hurting them to begin with, and then they don't offer to sit back and share information in exchange for survival; they seek more power by hurting more people."

"You just don't want to think you were the advocate for someone like the Goa'uld," Jack accused.

Daniel looked stung, but he quickly slapped his anti-Goa'uld blinders back into place and said, "Well, if we take the parasitism out and consider the damage they cause instead, then I'd have to say we acted a bit like tyrants or terrorists this time, too."

Jack threw up a hand. "We'll never go back to that planet now. All of their people are back to being safe. Misunderstanding solved. What more do you want?"

"That's not the point," Daniel said.

"How is that not the point?" Jack said exasperatedly. With some people, he argued about what the answers were. With Daniel, they had to bicker about the question, too.

"We messed up," Daniel said. "And then we won by threatening to kill an entire planet when all the entity wanted in the first place was to stop us from destroying its home. The response to...to an unknown quantity should not be to destroy it!"

"But now their world is safe from us and ours is safe from them," Jack returned. "And Carter's alive."

"So the end justifies the means."

"Sometimes, yes, it does!" Jack said firmly.

Daniel folded his arms.

"What would you have done?" Jack said, not wanting to continue the argument but not satisfied with the look Daniel was giving him. "Let it stay inside Carter?"

"Do you think I wanted Sam to die?" Daniel said too evenly to be anything but absolutely furious.

"Gentlemen," General Hammond's voice said, making them both turn around to see him in the hallway, watching them. "I think we should put this behind us."

Jack nodded, but Daniel swallowed and said, "Sir, all due res--"

"I know, Mr. Jackson," Hammond interrupted. "I agree that mistakes were made because of several misunderstandings, but we had to deal with the situation at hand. Teal'c ensured that the security of the base was not compromised, even by Major Carter. Colonel O'Neill's threat saved Major Carter's body from the entity. Your quick thinking saved Major Carter's mind."

Jack tried not to shudder at the thought that he'd given the order that had almost gotten Carter's mind blown up.

When no one else spoke, Hammond added, "I know better than to try to micromanage how this team is run, but I'd rather you didn't spend time arguing about the reason your team runs at all."

"Yes, sir," Daniel muttered.

"Yes, sir," Jack repeated.

Hammond checked his watch. "Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to say 'hello' to Cassandra. If you're going to continue--far be it from me to make the two of you stop fighting--then leave it outside the infirmary."

"Sir--" Daniel said before the general could leave.

"What is it?"

"When you said you'd send more MALPs to their planet even after we knew what it would have done to them, was that a bluff?" His expression said he was hoping the answer was 'yes.'

"It would have depended on what the entity's response was," Hammond said.

"Then...it was a bluff," Daniel said.

"Mr. Jackson," Hammond said bluntly, "there are scenarios in which I would have authorized that action to be taken. I'm very glad none of them happened."

Daniel pressed his lips together as the general entered the infirmary to a renewed round of happy greetings and a call of Uncle George!

"So," Jack said.

"I'm sorry it didn't work like we hoped," Daniel said, but there was still something under the words that Jack suspected he'd be hearing more clearly if the general hadn't just ordered them to play nice. "But not that we thought it was an option that had to be explored."

"We don't just blow things up for no reason," Jack said. Daniel looked like he disagreed, and Jack supposed he had a right to--he knew the story of Abydos and the nuclear warhead, and just before the SGC had started up the second time in 1997, it had almost happened again and killed thousands for a misunderstanding. "We learned our lesson from Abydos," he added.

Finally, Daniel nodded very slightly, and Jack suspected that had been part of his hang-up, if not the whole thing. They were never going to agree on this completely, and that was supremely annoying, but okay. "You were protecting the base," Daniel acknowledged. "And Sam."

Jack took a breath and forced himself into a jauntier mood. "Between us, I think we've got most of the bases covered. Come on--I want to catch up with Cassie, too." Daniel still didn't look happy as they returned to the infirmary, but at least he wasn't arguing anymore, which Jack thought was the best he was going to get.

...x...

"You don't have to stay with me, sir," Carter said later that night when she saw the clock, looking embarrassed.

Shrugging casually, Jack said, "Nah. I just find it hilarious to watch those guys."

Carter followed his gaze to where Cassie, Daniel, and Teal'c were gathered in a corner of the infirmary, trying to make some vaguely normal conversation that made some kind of sense between the three of them. "Now that must be an interesting conversation," she agreed.

"They were talking about pineapples, last I checked," he said.

"Pineapples, sir?" she repeated.

"Something about how they don't really look like pines or apples," Jack said, shrugging. "I don't know. You know how they are. So..." he said, turning back to things that made more sense, like aliens possessing his teammates, "you really don't remember anything about what happened? Dr. Fraiser said your brainwaves weren't...waving."

She hesitated. "I got glimpses," she admitted. "Flashes. To be honest, it was a little bit like being taken by Jolinar, at least in the beginning before I learned to watch what was going on. But besides that...I don't remember much after I first tried to talk to it and before it transferred me into the mainframe."

Jack nodded. They'd let her body be taken over twice now, and if Jolinar hadn't exactly been their fault, they'd actually sent her into this one. "You okay?" he said.

"I'm okay, sir," she assured him. "Ironically, Jolinar was a little more disturbing--we shared minds that time and I was awake more."

As far as Jack was concerned, both times had been pretty damned disturbing.

"Janet says you shot me," she added.

"Ah...yeah," Jack admitted. "Sam, look--"

"Obviously, it was the right thing to do at that point, sir," she said quickly. "I would have been...well, eventually overwritten, and if it had gotten into the base... Thank you."

"I've got your back," Jack said quietly, more grateful for the absolution than he wanted to admit.

"Yes, sir," she answered with a nod.

"But we locked out that address."

"Thank God," she said with a slightly horrified laugh. "Um...sir--"

"Yeah," Jack said.

"When's our next mission?"

"Not in the next few days. Probably not another week or so, at least. They're still trying to fix all the computers around base. You that eager to get out?"

She shrugged. "I hate being stuck in the infirmary," she admitted.

"Well, Janet says you're going to have to put up with being stuck until tomorrow, at least," he said. "I'm sure you can make a nuisance of yourself and get sprung by then."

She smiled and looked like she was already plotting how best to annoy the doctors so much that they kicked her out. "Sir, I think I remember seeing you, uh...sitting with me," she said, then gestured toward her head with a still-burned and bandaged hand. "While the entity was in here. You must be tired--you guys don't have to stay with me the whole time I'm in here."

Jack shrugged, finding it easier to treat it casually now there was no danger of her dying. "I'll leave soon. Dr. Fraiser's here through the night, so I was going to drive Cassie home later. I don't think Daniel really wants to go home tonight, though, so you'd better tell him and Teal'c not to hover while you're sleeping, or they probably will. I'll be back."

"You really don't have to," she said again.

"Yeah, well," Jack said, waving once as he went to collect Cassie. "Take it easy."

XXXXX

8 July 2001; O'Neill/Jackson Residence; 0600 hrs

One morning a week later, when Carter had fully recovered and SG-1 was almost ready to step back into the field, Jack tried to drag Daniel physically out of his bed.

"Whadoyouwan," Daniel mumbled, trying to burrow back under his sheets.

"Physical assessment," Jack said. "We gotta go."

Daniel stopped and squinted up at him. "What? Today? Really?"

"Really," Jack said. "Get up."

"I just had two days of tests with Janet," Daniel said, frowning and rubbing his eyes. "I turned down a research mission for that. That wasn't a dream, was it?"

"Nope," Jack said. "Today's my physical assessment."

"You had yours at the same time that I had mine, Jack. Wait, it's Sunday and we're off duty for--"

"Get up," Jack repeated, and tugged at Daniel's leg until he slid halfway onto the floor. "Teal'c wants you in the gym at 0800."

"Oh," Daniel said, untangling himself. "The unofficial kind of physical assessment. But why--"

"Happy birthday," Jack interrupted. "I get you for a few hours at the shooting range this afternoon when Carter and Teal'c are done with you in the gym."

Daniel blinked. "Oh," he repeated, scrubbing vigorously at his face to wake himself up. "Um. Okay. I'm up."

"From now on," Jack said, waiting for him to collect himself and find his clothes, "if SG-1 gets called in for backup, that includes you. If we get assigned a mission that requires purely military action, that can include you, unless there's a specific reason it doesn't make sense. If we--"

"I get it," Daniel said. "If you fight, I fight with you."

Jack opened his mouth to argue, because that was simplistic, then stopped, because it was true. "Yeah," he said. "In the field, you're still less experienced, so if we need to split up duties, obviously I won't assign you to do something Teal'c or Carter would be better off doing--"

"Jack," Daniel interrupted. "We've done this before, more than we like to admit, and half of that by accident. It's just that I'm old enough that you don't have to feel guilty sending me to do something that involves a gun. I understand how this works, unless you really want me to stop arguing with you or...or to play a different role on the team."

There was no way to argue that, either. Not much would change in practice, except maybe that they'd be with each other a little more than before. "Then nothing really changes on that end," Jack said. "I'll have more gray hairs, though."

"No offense, Jack," Daniel said, "but that was going to happen anyway."

"Yeah," Jack said. He nodded. "Okay. Be ready to leave in half an hour."

"It's so early," Daniel said with a shirt halfway over his head. "I need coffee."

"Then you'd better hurry up," Jack said. "And make your bed."


From the next chapter ("The Others"):

"Oh, please, yes," Harlan said, turning from Sam to Teal'c to Jack. "It is a very big...e-emergency. Erm. You must help...you."

"Uh-oh," Daniel said.


Note: The science in this episode is either over my head or so nonexistent that I simply cannot fanwank it. This makes me very sad. On a better note, after this chapter, the plot and the action heading toward the end will pick up again :)


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