DISCLAIMER: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of MGM, Showtime, Gekko etc. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Plot abducted from the ST:TNG Season 7 episode “Genesis” written by Brannon Braga. Written for the FSAC: DW08.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
MONDAY 10:00 AM
"I wish you could come with us," Janet Fraiser said softly. "It doesn't seem fair."
"I'm needed here to supervise and trouble shoot. It can't be helped," Sam Carter shrugged from her position sitting on Janet's overfull suitcase so that Janet could attempt to zip it up. "You'll have a great time with Cassie and Daniel."
"I'd rather have a great time with you. I'm sure Cassie wouldn't mind if "
"No, Janet. It wouldn't be fair on you to stay as well. You know what I'm like when I'm working on something like this. I'd barely see you." She held up her hand to forestall Janet's next comment. "And yes I faithfully promise to take regular breaks and to eat healthily and not pull 24/7 shifts. And I know you've already primed Teal'c to babysit me."
Janet did not take the bait. "I'm trusting you on this, Sam."
Her lover grinned up at her, her dimples making her look particularly mischievous. "I'll be good, I promise."
All her stern warnings fell away. Janet never could resist that smile. And she was going to miss it.
The SGC was more or less closing down for three weeks for a complete overhaul and upgrade of the computer systems and wiring. The original builders of the silo and Command Centre could never have envisaged the use it would be put to or the power and computing requirements that it would need. Major Carter and Sergeant Siler had nursed the systems along for the last couple of years with a mixture of technical expertise, MacGuyvered ingenuity and what more than one technician had described as a kind of voodoo but brownouts and outright failures were becoming more common. The time had come for a complete upgrade. The Gate was shut down as were the main computer systems. The vast majority of staff were given three weeks downtime, including most of the infirmary staff. Even General Hammond was looking forward to working office hours for a change.
As the enforced downtime coincided with the summer break, Cassie was also off school. Daniel had got himself invited to a dig near Alexandria in Egypt and as Cassie was interested in archaeology (this year at any rate), he had invited Janet and Cassie to come along with him. Jack O'Neill was also invited but claimed a prior engagement with a cooler of beer and a fishing pole in Minnesota. Teal'c was invited to go with, and also invited to Egypt but had already arranged to take a group of Academy recruits and marines through the kind of training a young Jaffa warrior would expect to face and had declined all other invitations. And Sam was overseeing the upgrade. Something which she was secretly really looking forward to. It would be a chance to finally get the systems streamlined and working properly together to her specific design.
In all probability she would be too busy to miss Janet. Too much. Hopefully.
FRIDAY 3:48 PM
Five days into the upgrade and Sam realized that she had been outside precisely once. Teal'c had dutifully arrived at her lab at four pm every afternoon to make sure that she went to the commissary to eat something with him and to regale her with the best stories from his day and then she had returned to the lab. Most nights it had been at least two in the morning before she had seen her bed. She realized she was possibly overdoing it when even her dreams were in Windows format.
She had talked to Janet twice and Cassie once. Alexandria was wonderful. There were some British students also taking part in the dig and Cassie's interest in archaeology had gone up another notch or two. She had last talked to Janet late the previous evening.
"I miss you," Sam said. "I keep waiting for you to come into the lab to check on me."
"You miss my nagging? Wonderful!" Janet groused.
"I miss your caring," Sam said, her voice soft and urgent with need. "Teal'c has done his best, but he just hasn't got your touch."
"I'd be worried if he did," Janet said. Sam smiled, closed her eyes, visualizing Janet's impish grin and dark sparkling eyes. "So how are things going?"
"The upgrade's going to plan. I actually spent most of today in Lab 14 testing some dialing protocols before I uploaded them. Some of the DHD 'safeties' that our original dialing program bypassed I've put back in. We shouldn't have a 'Red Sky' incident again.
"No more accidental time travel either, I hope," Janet said.
"No I built that one into the last upgrade," Sam giggled. "The dialing programme is slower but only by 0.25 of a second. I can probably shave some off that without " She shook herself. Janet didn't need to know this stuff. "Anyway I'm time travelling now. It's tomorrow where you are."
"Eight am. And already hot. That makes it midnight there?"
"Just after eleven," Sam said. "So, are you gonna need an extra suitcase to bring back all the stuff you bought?"
"Probably," Janet said. "You know how I get sometimes. I live to shop. Unfortunately my daughter takes after me. She's already got through her allowance. Luckily she has a doting uncle on hand and lots of admirers otherwise I'd be broke already. So have you been home at all in the last five days?"
"Ummm not really, no," Sam confessed. "But Teal'c has made sure I've eaten and rested. In fact he'll probably be in here any minute to make sure I go to my quarters. You can check with him "
"It's okay, I trust you," Janet said. "But please, go home tomorrow tonight. Veg out for a couple of hours, power down that brain of yours, eat pizza, pig out on chocolate icecream and watch infomercials or one of your stupid sci-fi movies. Just for me. Please, Sam."
"All right," Sam relented. "I'll sign out tomorrow. I promise."
"That's my good girl," Janet's voice purred in her ear, making Sam shiver. There were noises in the background, Janet's voice faded for a moment as she talked to someone else. Then she was back. "Sorry love, gotta go. Daniel's arranged a side trip for us to some ruins that aren't on the usual tourist trail. Even though they've been there a couple of thousand years we've got to go right now." More noises off. "He says hi by the way and hopes you're not working too hard."
"Okay, tell him hi from me as well," Sam said, "and have fun. I miss you."
"I miss you too, sweetheart. I have to go. Bye."
Remembering the call, Sam glanced at her watch and then stretched, making appreciative noises as the vertebrae in her back realigned themselves. Her back and neck were stiff. A night at home did sound rather good. Just what the doctor ordered in fact. It was almost four really too late to start anything new this afternoon. The hours she had put in this week no one would begrudge her making an early start for home. Decision made, Sam shut down her computer and reached into her desk drawer for her bag and keys.
She met Teal'c at the elevators. "I was just coming to invite you to eat with me, Major Carter," he said.
"Actually I'm heading off home for the evening, Teal'c," Sam said. "I promised Janet the last time she called that I'd spend at least one evening this week at home. So I'm going to buy something to eat at the deli on the way, and spend the evening with my feet up catching up on some tv. You're welcome to join me if you want."
"If you do not mind, Major Carter, I will decline at this time. Today's training has been particularly irksome. Though I cannot achieve the same level of kel'nor'eem I once did, some time spent in meditation would be most useful, I feel, and I can best do that in my quarters."
"Okay. I'll see you tomorrow, Teal'c," she smiled up at him and headed past him towards the open lift.
FRIDAY 4.35 PM
Dr Lee and Dr Ambrose both reported to the Infirmary with flu-like symptoms just after four pm. Dr Warner drew bloods and tagged them for priority analysis and did a quick check-up, not liking his readings at all. "Dr Lee, I want to keep you here for monitoring. Your temperature is three degrees below what it should be and shows signs that it is still dropping."
Dr Lee shivered, "Is that why I feel that I can't get warm?"
Warner nodded. "It looks like something has affected your hypothalamus. It could be a flu bug, it might be food poisoning. I'll test for bacterial infections."
"Bill's freezing and I'm burning up. Are you sure this is the flu or foodpoisoning?" Dr Ambrose asked testily, taking the thermometer from his mouth and squinting at the reading. 101. The nurse took it from his hand and popped it into his mouth again, glaring at him. "I mean, neither of us is puking our guts up," he said, somewhat indistinctly.
"Yet You don't think we've caught something from those artifacts do you?" Lee asked.
"Can't see how. They've been in isolation. Neither of us has handled them directly," Warren Ambrose frowned. "Unless "
There was a commotion at the door. Dr Felger staggered in, his assistant Chloe unconscious in his arms. "Need some help here," he gasped. "She's heavier than she looks. She just keeled over." Felger's face was running with perspiration. As the SF took Chloe from him he wiped his arm across his brow and pulled at his crumpled sweatstained shirt. "Why is it so hot in here?"
"It's not. You're running a fever, Dr Felger I suggest you make yourself comfortable on that bed over there and wait until I can examine you."
Felger tottered over to the bed and collapsed onto it, then appeared to notice Drs Lee and Ambrose for the first time. "Hey guys, you not feeling so good either?" He frowned. "Is there something going round? Or did you have the meatloaf as well "
Alicia, the head nurse took Dr Warner aside for a moment. "Doctor, we've had seven calls from labs on level 19 in the last hour with people complaining of feeling ill and wondering if they should check in with the infirmary; some can't get warm, like Dr Lee, others feel like they are running fevers."
"I think I need to alert General Hammond," Warner said. "We may have a serious outbreak of food poisoning on the base."
FRIDAY 5.15 PM
Sam stopped off at the deli on the way home. She was hungry for something specific. Protein not just protein, meat. Red meat. Her mouth watered at the thought. Meat. Savouring the taste, the texture, the action of tearing, rending meat from bone, the solid warmth of fresh meat in her mouth, her stomach, the coppery taste of blood trickling down her throat...
"Miss can I help you?" the butcher asked. Sam realized that she had zoned out.
"Sorry long day," she excused herself.
She bought two pounds of raw hamburger, a pound of blood sausage (something she had never considered buying never mind eating before) and a pound of lamb's liver. Janet had been going on at her lately about being anemic again. Eating liver could only be beneficial, couldn't it? Sam almost shivered in anticipation as she stowed her purchases in the trunk of her car.
Her muscles were stiff, she felt unusually restless, uncomfortable in her own skin. She got home, stowed her purchases in the fridge and went to get changed into her running gear. A couple of miles round her usual circuit to chase away the cobwebs, get the blood really flowing.
Quickly she warmed up, doing a few stretching exercises before setting off towards the park. She felt so good, so powerful, her long stride eating up the distance. She could feel that people were watching her, appraising her, desiring her as she ran past them but she ignored them. None of them were worthy of her attention. She ran up the slow incline to the park, gratified to find she was not in the least bit winded when she reached the top and then took the cinder path meandering through the trees, past the boating lake towards the aviary and the small petting zoo at the other end of the park.
The air felt good on her skin, she raised her face to the late afternoon sun, half closing her eyes against the glare. All her senses seemed to be enhanced. She hadn't felt this powerful, this charged since the Atoniek armbands. God, that had been good whilst it had lasted! The strength, the power, the sense that nothing was outside her grasp. She could smell the popcorn from the vendor down by the lake and something else, something that almost set her salivating again. Hot dogs. She thought about switching her route to the path that would lead her down to the lake so that she could get herself a hot dog but reminded herself of the feast that awaited her at home. Real meat raw meat blood. Much better than that boiled reconstituted pap.
Her stomach growled and she increased her pace. She passed two people walking dogs and both animals suddenly pulled away from their owners, spooked by something as she went by. One started to whine and cower away from her, almost pissing itself on the spot, the other growled at her, its hackles raised, lips curled back. Their owners looked on, nonplussed at the unusual behaviour. Sam resisted the urge to growl back, assert her obvious dominance and ignored them all, humans and canines. Sam wasn't in the mood for such easy prey. Greater challenges awaited her.
She could smell them now, the animals in the petting zoo. The rabbits and guinea pigs, the ducks, the goat and its kids. And in the aviary beyond, parrots and macaws, along with owls and a couple of falcons that got used in displays around the local schools. She slowed to a walk as she approached the first enclosure. Rabbits. Plump, juicy rabbits. She could almost hear the crack of bone as her teeth bit into the thick fur with ease, taste the hot blood flowing down her throat, the quick shake that would break the neck. Her nostrils flared. She could smell them, their fear, how it quickened the blood. Their flesh would be tender and sweet. They were too slow and stupid to escape her speed, her cunning. Too tame, too easy. The birds were calling, screeching in panic. One of the falcon's dashed itself against the wire mesh of its cage. The goats bleating their distress, running back and forward in their pen. They knew she was there, knew what she was. An attendant came running to see what the problem was. Sam growled softly under her breath, irritated by his intrusion on her feeding ground. Yet he too would be easy to take, his flesh plump, soft. A blow to his face to break his nose, send shards of bone into his brain, her teeth and nails ripping through the unprotected flesh of his throat or his belly, hot savoury blood in her mouth the aperitif for the soft inner organs, muscle, bone rich with marrow
Sam Carter shook herself out of what ever trance state she had fallen into, gazing at the small animals. The rabbits were unusually still and quiet, curled together in a corner of the pen, shivering and unresponsive to the children's calls and caresses. And the parrots were still screeching over something, the unpleasantly shrill noise causing people to back away, their hands over their ears. In fact all of the animals seemed unusually disturbed though she couldn't see why. She wondered what had spooked them. Perhaps there was a storm coming. One or two of the younger children seemed to have picked up on it as well, running to their mother's in tears. Weird Dismissing it from her mind, Sam backed up a step or two and started running again, falling into the easy loping rhythm that ate up the ground, heading on the back end of the loop that would take her towards her home.
Back at her house she showered quickly, the water as hot as she could stand it. Her muscles felt easier, looser, but she was still aching somewhat. She would have to watch her posture, or start moving around more, she told herself. Sitting at a computer hour after hour as she had been doing recently could not be good for her. Maybe she should give in to Janet and take up yoga, work on her flexibility and posture. She slipped into a pair of comfortable jeans and a short sleeved pale blue jumper and decided to stay barefoot. It felt right, today. She needed that connection.
She still felt restless and somewhat out of sorts. And hungry. Very, very hungry. Padding into the kitchen, she retrieved her purchases from the refrigerator. She lit the gas and set a skillet on the stove, dribbling a little oil into it. Whilst she was waiting for the pan to heat through she unwrapped the meat. The sight of the slick shiny dark red liver entranced her, set her mouth watering. Sam picked up a piece, intending to drop it into the pan to sear it but something about the faintly slippery texture on her fingers drew her. She had expected to be revolted, not to feel this excitement. What would it taste like on her tongue? Before she realised what she was doing she raised the sliver of raw meat to her mouth and bit into it.
Sam closed her eyes, savouring the taste. The meat was cold of course, too long dead, but the spark was still there. This was what she wanted; this was what she had been craving. She swallowed the morsel and picked up another piece of liver. The oil in the skillet began to smoke. She ignored it. Still chewing the liver, Sam tore open the package of raw hamburger, picked up a handful and crammed it into her mouth. She closed her eyes. A little taste of heaven. It brought up such images in her mind, the joy of the chase, the kill, being strong, powerful, so much more cunning than her enemies, her prey. The joy of simply being alive. She crammed another handful into her mouth.
The smoke alarm beeped loudly, bringing her back to herself. Quickly she took the smoking skillet off the hob, turned off the gas. Her hands were stained with blood, her nails rimmed with it, bits of hamburger lodged under the edge of her nails. She could feel the dry stickiness around her mouth, coating her teeth and her tongue. The stink of blood in her nostrils combining with the stink of overheated oil added to the sensory overload. The liver was gone, so was most of the raw hamburger. The raw meat lay heavy on her full stomach. In a daze, Sam staggered to the back door and opened it to allow cooler air into the room to dissipate the haze from the burnt oil. The smoke alarm hiccupped and fell blissfully silent.
Sam drew in a couple of deep lungfuls of cool air, desperate to settle her nausea. Holy Hannah, what had she been thinking? What the hell had she been thinking? God knows what kind of food bug or parasite she could have given herself eating raw meat like that. She was never going to hear the end of it from Janet when she found out, that was for certain. What the hell had gotten into her today?
The smoke had largely gone though there was still a strong smell of burning pervading the house. Sam stepped back into the kitchen and as she was closing the door, caught sight of her reflection in the glass panel. She appeared very pale apart from the dark stains around her mouth, and on her cheeks and chin. Her brow and upper chest glistened with sweat, her eyes seemed different, dark, glittering, feral, her face sharper, her features changed in some indefinable way. There was a bloody handprint on the door, the sticky residue adhering to the white paint. Her nails were thickly crusted with blood and fragments of raw meat, every swirl and loop of her fingerprints delineated in dried blood.
Without warning her overfull stomach rebelled and Sam started to vomit, bent double by the force of it, falling to her knees. The stench of warm, raw, barely digested meat filled the room, sickening her even further. Choking for breath, long skeins of saliva and digestive juices roped from her open mouth, her eyes were blinded by hot tears as she retched helplessly again and again and again.
At last it was over. She was on her hands and knees now, trembling with reaction, too weak to stand again. This was bad, this was really really bad. What was happening to her? She crawled away from the stinking mess, making it as far as the hallway before she lost consciousness.
FRIDAY 8.00 PM
"At first I thought it was food poisoning or maybe a 24 hour bug but as soon as I looked deeper, I could see it was much more serious Drs Ambrose and Lee were the first to report symptoms. They were working in Lab 15. Then Dr Felger and his assistant who were working in Lab 17. Then Nyan and Dr Zucher who were in Lab 9 across the corridor. Then the SFs who were in the guardpost at the end of the corridor " Dr Warner plotted the spread of affected personnel. "Then a few hours later we started to get cases from levels above and below level 19. Currently we have twelve cases in the infirmary and isolation rooms. Another eight people have reported symptoms and are resting in their quarters. We're very lucky that we're on shut-down at the moment, it's really cut down on possible contact vectors. However it also means that I'm running on a skeleton staff in the infirmary as well. We're bringing in everyone still on base for checks, and staff from the Academy Hospital are tracking down anyone on the outside who visited the base in the previous twenty four hours."
"What was happening in Lab 16? That seems to be ground zero" Hammond asked.
"Today nothing. But yesterday Nyan, Dr Lee and Dr Ambrose were working in there on some artifacts brought back by SG6 a few days ago from what looked like an abandoned Goa'uld stronghold. They thought they might be weaponry of some kind but now Nyan has tentatively identified the artifacts as belonging to Nirrti."
Nirrti. Even dead that bitch was still causing them grief. It could not get any worse. "So have we unleashed some sort of bioweapon here?"
"The artifacts have been in strict quarantine since they were discovered before they were brought through the Gate. There is no way that this could be airborne. No one has been in direct contact with them, not even when they were on the planet. Lab 16 works on level 4 quarantine measures, pressure barriers, air scrubbers. Everything in there was upgraded and checked only a few weeks ago. It exceeded code requirements. All the seals have been rechecked and are holding. We're not picking up any sign of biological contaminants. One of the devices is giving off a weak electromagnetic field that's all. If it's anything more exotic, unfortunately the best people to tell you that are all in the Infirmary. We ran every conceivable check "
"I'm sure you did, Doctor. Well Wildfire has been instituted and as of now we are on a Level Five lockdown. We're on our own on this, Dr Warner. No one gets in or out until you can assure me that this thing is contained."
Sam managed to raise herself from her stupor long enough to crawl along the hall towards her bedroom. Everything ached and all her senses seemed to be distorted. Whatever bug she had picked up it was fast and vicious. She sat on the bedroom floor for a moment or two trying to come to some kind of decision of what to do but along with filling her joints with concrete her brain seemed to have turned to cottonwool. She remembered how good the hot shower had felt earlier and managed to pull herself to her feet, staggering into the bathroom. Her back and ribs ached she must have pulled something when she was throwing up which reminded her of the mess in her kitchen and nauseated her all over again. She hunched up over the toilet bowl and vomited and dry heaved until she was hollow and sore.
Her joints throbbed and her skin prickled and itched. Her thoughts swam muzzily she should contact the SGC, let them know she was ill. She hadn't been offworld for over a week so she doubted it was something she had contracted elsewhere unless it had one hell of an incubation period. But teams were coming and going all the time. If it was something one of the other teams had brought back with them no doubt the SGC would be contacting her. Probably with a quarantine unit and a hazmat team. Dr Warner was almost as hot on that kind of thing as Janet and she had written the book for the CDC back in the day. Sam dry heaved again, whimpering softly. It felt like her head was splitting and her skin belonged to something else. Janet why wasn't Janet here taking care of her?
FRIDAY 9.00 PM
Dr Warner discovered the discrepancy. He double checked his information before going to see Hammond. "Sir, there's something else you need to be aware of. Although most people who were in the affected areas stayed on base overnight or have already reported in today, Major Carter was working in Lab 14 most of the last two days. Apparently she signed out to go home just before Dr Ambrose and Dr Lee reported their first symptoms this afternoon. No one has seen her or talked to her since. And given her proximity and length of exposure to the probable source "
" it's highly likely that she's also beginning to show symptoms," Hammond whispered.
Warner nodded. "Given how it is progressing in Drs Lee and Ambrose, she will be showing the first physical changes about now." He coughed harshly, holding a handkerchief over his mouth. Hammond noticed the scaly appearance of the skin on the back of Warner's hands.
"Has " Hammond coughed drily, cleared his throat. "Has anyone attempted to contact Major Carter, informed her of the situation?" It was a measure of how ill he was feeling that he had to ask. Normally he would have contacted her himself not caring to delegate the task to anyone else.
"I believe Sergeant Harriman did attempt to contact her by telephone earlier this evening but was unable to speak to her directly. He did manage to leave her voicemail to contact the SGC immediately before he was taken ill himself," Warner said. "I'm afraid his symptoms have rapidly become acute, sir and further attempts to make contact with Major Carter have been unsuccessful."
Hammond looked at the red phone on his desk. "We need to alert Major Davis to this at once, get him to cordon off the area around Major Carter's house and send in an extraction team under full quarantine conditions. Have you any idea how this is being passed on?"
"Is Major Carter contagious, a danger to public health? I have no idea. There doesn't seem to be a transmission vector for this that we've found so far by that I mean we haven't yet isolated how it's passing from person to person. It's not passed on by physical contact, transfer of bodily fluids and it isn't airborne as we understand it. It's acting like a retrovirus on the system but " the doctor shrugged wearily. "We're working in the dark at the moment, I'm afraid. But taking full quarantine precautions with the Major is highly advisable, sir. She will be highly disorientated, delirious and probably in a lot of pain. Given the Major's exceptional combat abilities, she could be a danger to herself or others who attempt to approach her if she believes they are a threat."
Major Davis rose to the occasion. Colonel O'Neill was located and a SF team sent to extract him from his Minnesota hide-away with all possible speed. Transport was arranged to return Drs Fraiser and Jackson from Egypt as quickly as was feasible. Hammond brought Davis him up to speed on the latest developments including the imperative need to locate and quarantine Major Carter. He put his phone on speaker mode so that Warner could talk to him as well. As the conversation progressed, Hammond's voice grew progressively harsher and it was obviously becoming increasingly painful for him to talk.
"The CDC is on standby as is FEMA," Major Davis said. "A team is on its way to Major Carter's house now to secure the area and assess Major Carter's condition. She'll be taken directly to the Academy Hospital in a quarantine unit and isolated there for further tests. Then they'll start tracing any contacts she might have had since she left the Mountain."
"We still don't know the transmission vector and although everyone within the SGC is now showing symptoms we haven't seen any new cases outside the SGC either at the Academy Hospital or amongst the general population as yet. Though initial cases did seem to take twenty four to thirty six hours before symptoms were apparent. Your people have copies of all our files and the latest test results," Warner said. "We'll keep charting the progression as long as we can."
"When we locate and retrieve Major Carter we'll begin a full range of tests on her," Paul Davis said. "We have the best minds working on this, don't worry. If a cure can be found "
"Major Davis will continue to co-ordinate efforts on the surface until Colonel O'Neill gets here," Hammond said, wiping his forehead with his wadded up handkerchief. The environmental controls must be acting up as it suddenly seemed warmer than usual in his office and he was perspiring heavily. The obvious truth hit him suddenly and he looked up at Warner who nodded sympathetically.
"Yes sir, you're showing the first symptoms " There didn't seem much more to say.
"We know you'll do everything necessary, Major Davis," Hammond said, his voice harsh and breaking. "Thank you."
"How can you call yourself her mother? You did not give birth to her," Nirrti challenged.
"I have cared for her these last three years since you wiped out her people. I have come to love her as if she were my own child."
"Love her sentimental and weak she nearly caused the destruction of your race, yet because she is a 'child' " Nirrti drew herself up, her eyes flashing silver. "I have crafted her line, waited for her for thirty generations she is my creation and I claim her as such."
"Your 'creation' " Janet spat. The hand holding the gun remained rock steady. She was running out of time. The alarm could be raised at any moment. Already, someone was knocking on the door
Janet woke with a start, glancing at the time on the travel clock by her bed. It was a little after 5 a.m. She took a deep breath, trying to push the residue of her nightmare from her mind. It had been a long time since she had had that dream. Across the room Cassie stirred uneasily but did not wake. The tapping noise at the door was repeated and she heard Daniel's muffled voice, "Janet! Jack's on the phone. There's a problem " This could not be good, it being 5 am and all. Shrugging on a robe more for decorum than warmth Janet padded to the door.
Daniel was more-or-less dressed. He handed her the phone. "Janet we've been recalled to the SGC," Jack O'Neill's voice was unmistakable, as was the tone of authority. "There's a Wildfire situation. Your plane leaves in an hour."
Her mind unfogged in an instant. "Cassie and I will be ready in fifteen minutes, sir," Janet said. "Do we have any idea what we're facing?"
"Major Davis says it is a disease and that it had something to do with Nirrti some artifacts that one of the teams brought back from one of her abandoned labs. Unfortunately it wasn't recognized as one of her places until it was too late." Janet tried not to show what the mention of that thing's name did to her, her nightmare still fresh in her mind. She had nearly lost both Cassie and Sam to Nirrti's experimentation in the past. "There'll be a full briefing pack and secure link set up for you on the plane. We need your input on this as quickly as possible."
"Yes, sir," Janet said. Her expression must have told Daniel everything she was feeling. He laid a comforting hand on her shoulder for a moment, took the phone from her again, nodding and making affirmative noises as Jack fired orders at him over the phone as he went back along the corridor to his room. Janet closed the door and went to wake Cassie.
Hurriedly both women dressed and packed and were downstairs within twenty minutes. A yawning waiter was serving breakfast of pastries, yogurt and fruit. Janet choked down half a cup of coffee, excused herself and went to a phone. After what seemed an age she got through. The phone at Sam's house rang and rang and rang. No one picked up, not even the voicemail. Sam's cellphone just directed her to leave a voicemail, which she did, asking Sam to contact her to let her know she was okay, as soon as she was able. She did not bother to try and ring the SGC: if it was on a Wildfire lockdown only authorized secure lines would be open.
"Mom is Sam okay?"
"I couldn't reach her, Cassie," Janet tried not to show the dread that had stolen across her heart. "She's probably up to her eyes trying to solve this thing. You know how she gets."
Cassie nodded, her face somber. "Mom "
"I know, I'm worried too. But Sam's faced up to and beaten Nirrti three for three. We have to remember that."
SATURDAY 8:00 AM
Twelve hours after 'Wildfire' was declared, the researchers (those who were still on their feet) in the SGC and in the hastily convened group working out of the Academy Hospital under Dr Harlow had a slightly better idea of what they were dealing with. The disease started with a rapidly developing fever or a reduced temperature leading to severe chills with attendant memory loss and confusion, overwhelming fatigue, headaches and nausea. Within six to twelve hours of first symptoms appearing severe muscle and stomach cramps, arthritic symptoms in the joints, breathlessness and chest pains incapacitated the sufferer. Twelve to eighteen hours after first symptoms were noted, physical changes to the body began to occur including changes to bone density, curvature of the spine, deformation of joints. Over-development or loss of body hair. Thickening and discolouration of the epidermis including scaling and pigmentation changes. Loss of faculties, particularly speech; enhancement of other faculties, particularly hearing and sense of smell. Some were developing characteristics that were definitely proto-human. Others were going through changes that seemed even stranger. Dr Lee appeared to be developing gills and while he was still able to vocalize had indicated that he found the normal air temperature and humidity almost painful. His body temperature was now eight degrees below human norm. He was being treated in one of the containment labs that could be climate controlled.
"Some of the changes resemble those on file for the Broca Incident. We thought at first that we were dealing with a variation of the same pathogen but the histamine treatment Dr Fraiser developed does not appear to work in this case. And its not working off the neurotransmitters this time: alines and colines aren't showing the same level of disruption. This is hitting the leucine instead," Dr Warner shook his head. Sometimes it didn't pay to be a doctor, cataloging each symptom and knowing what the next stage of illness would look like. "I'm way out of my depth here, General. And I'm also beginning to show symptoms myself. Though charting my own condition has been extremely useful from an epidemiological point of view, I don't know how much longer I can continue to be effective."
"I've been coordinating with Dr Harlow at the Academy Hospital over the video link. I've sent him copies of all our test results and findings including recordings charting the changes to Dr Lee in particular. Dr Harlow confirms our findings. Our DNA is definitely undergoing a transformation being somehow resequenced and our cells are mutating as a result. Somehow our introns have been activated part of the DNA sequence that regulates the transmission of genetic information they aid nucleotide substitution and prevent or control mutation." Warner paused, sensing that he had lost the General several sentences earlier. "Introns and so-called junk DNA contain our evolutionary history, if you like. It's like " he searched for a suitable analogy. "When you call up a document on the computer and make revisions to it and save it. It overlays the previous version but does not destroy it. Bits and pieces of the old document can still be found on the hard disk. What we are is the latest version, but bits of the old versions that have been superceded or improved are still with us. Something in this retrovirus is activating those redundant elements and transforming our people not only to earlier versions of human evolution but also into other collateral lifeforms. Remember we have huge amounts of DNA in common with most other species on this planet. And beyond. Whether or not his symbiote would have protected him from this or not Teal'c is definitely infected now. His DNA is exhibiting the same changes."
"Does he know?" Hammond asked.
"Yes sir," Warner said. "He didn't take it very well. He er gave some of the gym equipment a hell of a work out and now he's kel-nor-eeming. I think he's hoping to stave off the changes for as long as possible."
"He's had ninety years or more of near perfect health. I'm not taking it too well either, Doctor," Hammond said. "Is there anything you can do to stop this thing?" It was a strange and deeply unpleasant sensation to know that your body was mutating and you were helpless to do anything about it. He could feel the way his bones were articulated was subtly different to what it had been only a few hours before. His back ached fiercely and his fingers seemed shorter and stubbier. It was physically harder to speak and he prayed it wasn't his imagination but it seemed to be getting more difficult to 'find' the words.
"Somehow it's acting on the leucine, altering the patterns, the programming of our bodies if you like. It's way beyond our current level of science, sir. We've only recognized what these are and what they do for the last couple of decades. Our technology for manipulating them is extremely basic. The best we could do is try to slow down the process using the same kind of RNA inhibitors that Dr Harlow used to stabilize Teal'c's condition a few years ago " Hammond nodded, recalling the incident, "but they are still largely experimental. However Dr Harlow believes and I agree with him - that trying that at this stage could be more dangerous to our people than letting the process continue. Unless we can track down exactly how this was done and the optimum method of reversing it I'm sorry General... We're really going to need outside help on this one, sir." Raising his gaze towards the ceiling Warner attempted to convey to General Hammond that he didn't just mean from the scientists already gathering on the surface. They might have to call on assistance from a lot further afield.
But General Hammond was no longer listening. He stared at the dusting of dark red fur that seemed to be sprouting across the back of his hands in horror.
The dream was vivid, the colours strange, too bright, auraed and smeared with a layer of otherness. She was back in the park, running along her usual path. There was another jogger ahead of her, an older male, overweight, puffing along, perspiring heavily. The wind carried the stink of him to her. She hungered. This one would be an easy kill. An old male, past his prime, weak and exposed, on the edge of the herd. A culling that no one would miss. He seemed oblivious of her presence as her long legs ate up the distance between them. At last he was within striking distance and she leapt at him, judging it perfectly, her strong jaws fastening on the back of his neck as she dragged him down, her claws already ripping at his flesh. The one shrill scream he managed to get out before she silenced him forever thrilled her senses. The taste of warm bloody flesh in her mouth as her strong teeth sheared through his bone the strong taste of marrow bursting on her tongue the rich stink of his shit as his intestines slipped out of the gutted belly, spilling across the grass. She grabbed for his liver, bit into it, the blood rich tissues deliciously fragrantly warm. His sightless eyes gazed up at her as she gorged herself, his head almost fully turned around on his fractured neck
Sam woke with a start, the vivid strangeness of the dream confusing her senses. Whatever bug she had caught, whatever had caused her to throw up earlier that evening was still working its way through her system leaving her feeling incredibly hollow and ill. She shivered, groaning softly at the pain that thrilled through her body. Everything seemed to hurt, her feet, her lower back and ribs especially, her bones ached, her muscles were sore, unnaturally stressed, her lungs felt hot and desiccated. She took a deeper breath and coughed harshly, her head swimming. If she had not already been sitting down she would certainly have fallen.
Her coughing fit passed. She looked around her blearily, frowning. There was soil on the bedroom carpet, a set of muddy footprints leading from the door to the bed and her feet were filthy. Yet she remembered having a shower before she went to bed. Had she been sleepwalking?
Janet... Where was Janet? Muzzily, she remembered - away in Egypt with Cassie and Daniel, taking advantage of the shut-down. Janet would have her cellphone with her but it would be hours, days before she could get back. No sense in worrying her. She would phone the SGC, get in touch with the base Infirmary, describe her symptoms to whoever was on duty and see what they said. Though if they wanted her to come in someone was going to have to come collect her. No way would she trust herself behind a wheel feeling like this. She coughed again, the sound deep and chokingly wet, groaning softly at the wave of nausea that roiled over her. Luckily she had not been offworld in several weeks so it was unlikely to be anything too exotic. It was probably a case of stomach flu. Janet had wanted her to get a flu jab this year but she had never quite got round to it. She remembered feeling tired and confused about things as well as more than a little sore when she crawled into bed the night before and of course she had lost her dinner and passed out in the kitchen earlier. A flu bug, maybe a touch of food poisoning from her little culinary adventure. Janet always said she was going to poison someone with her cooking one of these days. Though Sam eating her meat raw had probably not been what she had in mind at the time.
Her co-ordination was definitely off, her vision very blurred. Even her skin felt strange. In reaching for the phone she knocked it onto the floor. She felt for it, wincing as her ribs and back protested. Just dragging air into her lungs was suddenly a study in torture. Her fingers did not seem to be working properly. They looked odd, foreshortened. Her nails her nails definitely needed cutting, and she blinked, trying to clear her vision but the strange aura persisted, the illusion of fur growing on her arms did not go away. It was sparse, pale golden. It felt soft. Hesitantly, she touched it with her painful, cramped fingers and resisted the urge to lick it. She whimpered softly. With shaking hands, she pulled at the neck of her nightshirt and looked down at herself. It was growing everywhere. Her body looked different, strangely articulated, her ribcage, hips and knees subtly wrong. Her breasts seemed smaller, her nipples dark against the pallor of her skin. And more of the fur. Maybe it was something more exotic than stomach flu after all. Or she was hallucinating. Her back hurt so much when she shakily tried to stand that she dropped on all fours intending to crawl, which for some reason seemed easier to handle.
Sam remembered the phone and reached for it again, pulling it towards her and pressing speed dial for the SGC at the second attempt. She tried to ask for assistance but her voice was not working, her words came out as a growling snarl, animalistic. She couldn't quite remember what it was she wanted to say anyway, even if she had been able to articulate the words. "Hel help plis," she croaked. "Janet need Janet." There was no meaningful reply, no soothing words to ease her troubled mind. The voice at the other end of the phone sounded strange as well, too impersonal, almost mechanical. A recorded message, she realised but her mind was too befuddled to follow its meaning. Then the line went dead. It was easiest just to lie where she had fallen on the carpet, curled up around her misery.
She zoned out for a while. Another wracking set of muscle spasms brought her back to herself. Help she had to get help. Carter's did not just give up and This was wrong. Very, very wrong. The fine hair covering her body was definitely fur now, a thick glossy pelt on her forearms, ribs and chest, white grading through to sand in colour. Her teeth ached and were sharp on the edge of her tongue, her jaw felt different. Her vision was better but strange. With a start she realized that she was 'seeing' scent trails. She could smell Janet's presence so strongly, for a moment it was as if she was in the room. It was comforting and yet at the same time annoying; another female in her territory. She made the territory hers again, growling softly to herself. The nightshirt was irritating her, she tore it from her body her strong claws and teeth easily rending the thick cotton fabric.
Sam moved about the room restlessly, occasionally trying to stand upright but finding it easier more natural now to move around on all fours. She tested her claws against the wall, digging into the plaster and against the door, the panel giving way beneath her blow. Splintered wood scratched and cut her still tender skin and she growled again, blood dripping onto the carpet. The door was no match for her strength. Then she saw the Other. Like her but not her. There was only one. Only her. This was her place. Growling and snarling she ran at the Other and the Other ran at her challenging her but instead of sinking her teeth into the warm flesh of her enemy there was only cold and sharp and a sound like the world breaking apart. White light glittering all around her and more pain. She growled angrily, her tail swishing.
Tail? Why did that surprise her hadn't she always
Hurt and confused she ran down the stairs, prowling around the half-familiar place testing her teeth and claws on various things. The smell of raw meat and vomit was brightly pungent. She nosed at the mess but the miasma of illness that tainted it made her think twice about returning to that meal. The smell of the female was strong here too. And there were other smells a female cub, near grown, though that scent was dimmer, and fainter still the scent of other humans, two perhaps three of them, all males. So many in her territory. She growled again and paused to mark her territory once more, just to show the interlopers that she meant business.
She could smell water now and her thirst was overwhelming. She padded into another small room that smelt strongly of flowers and another scent that made her eyes prickle and burn. She growled, shaking her head. She still could not see the water. She nosed at a white rock and part of it moved slightly. She nosed at it again and it lifted aside and there was the water. It smelt and tasted strange but it was palatable. She lowered her head to drink, lapping at the water until she had taken her fill.
That scent again. The female. Her mate. Where was she? The scent was old. She had to find her she had to go but where?
The screen door was no match for her powerful frame and she padded out into the yard.
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