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.
SATURDAY 11.00 AM
Major Carter's neighbours were seriously thinking of forming some sort of residents committee to politely force this woman to move out of their community. This was the second time in a year that they had been ushered out of their houses at gunpoint because of some security situation. And this time the people with guns were also wearing some sort of containment gear, the sort you saw on television worn by people dealing with disease outbreaks or nuclear disasters. They were all questioned as to whether they had had any contact with the blonde woman in the last 48 hours. Rumours began to spread that it was some kind of Ebola virus that was on the loose. But within an hour most of the people had moved on, leaving the air force major's house sealed with two armed guards outside it.
"She was definitely at the house," the team leader reported to Major Davis. "There were signs that she'd been taken ill traces of vomit and blood in the kitchen and bedroom, discarded soiled clothing and wet towels on the floor in the bathroom. Her car is still here, her uniform, ID and dogtags, money and credit cards and her cell phone, but there's no sign of Major Carter. One of her neighbours recalls her coming home around five last night, then going out for a run as usual. She got back into her house around six thirty p.m. last night and no one recalls seeing her after that or hearing anything unusual until about five a.m. this morning when there was a short disturbance at the back of the houses that seems to have been a stray animal of some kind. The local PD did tell us they had a report of a big cat possibly a mountain lion prowling around in the early hours, but nothing since. Major Carter didn't speak to or have contact with anyone in the neighbourhood so we've sealed the house and are maintaining a minimal presence only. She'd apparently stopped at a local deli on her way home last night there were bags and wrappers in the kitchen. We sent a team there already - the owner said she was the only customer at the time and he served her himself. Said she seemed kinda distracted. He's in quarantine and a hazmat team is checking the premises. Lucky for us she was his last customer of the evening." He hesitated. "We also asked the neighbours if Major Carter had a cat of some kind but not for some time apparently. There was scat, fresh animal droppings on the floor in the bedroom and more in the garden. Whatever animal made it was quite big. There are some tracks too, from the house all the way across the yard - some human, some feline. They disappear into the bushes that mark the property boundary."
Major Davis knew about the transformatory nature of the virus: the team leader in the field did not. Was it possible that Major Carter had mutated into some form of large feline large enough to be mistaken for a mountain lion? "Have the droppings sampled and analysed see if they can determine what kind of animal made them," he ordered. "And get some casts made of those tracks if you can or at least some decent photo's to give some sense of scale."
Colonel O'Neill was on his way from Minnesota, having been extracted from his remote stronghold by helicopter and a bunch of marines as every attempt to contact him by more conventional means had failed. Dr Fraiser and Dr Jackson were due to arrive back in Colorado some time in the next eight hours, their return from Egypt having been expedited by special transport arrangements and the diverting of a Secretary of State's private jet. They had been briefed and were being kept informed of the situation. Davis only hoped that he had better news for them when they arrived.
Dr Timothy Harlow and his team had taken over a wing of the Academy Hospital and were working on the notes and records that Dr Warner and his team had accumulated before and after Wildfire had been called. Harlow confirmed Warner's hypothesis that the virus was aggressively atavistic, systematically reactivating dormant DNA sequences in the human body transforming it into something both old and new. NORAD had been evacuated and its staff tested but they all seemed to be symptom-free so far.
Samples retrieved from Major Carter's house were brought to the Task Force lab's at the Academy Hospital under Level 4 biohazard containment for analysis. Most of the blood trace found in the kitchen was animal blood, consistent with the remnants of several packages of raw meat found on the counter and corresponding to Major Carter's purchases at the deli the previous evening. Analysis of the vomit traces found in the kitchen and bathroom showed evidence of partially digested raw meat. Traces of blood found in the bathroom and bedroom where the Major had evidently injured herself on glass shards from a broken mirror showed clear signs that she had indeed contracted the virus and was in the process of mutating. There was a lot of damage to furniture and fittings and clear evidence of claw marks and the remains of what had been identified as a nightshirt on the bedroom floor along with a scattering of light coloured animal hair and a pool of urine and feces.
SATURDAY 9.00 PM
She moved swiftly through the gardens and green spaces. Memory and instinct told her where she needed to be. She was growing stronger by the minute, more confident in this new form. A beloved family pet was no match for her teeth and claws, the rabbit had time to let out one dismal squeak before her jaws closed over its head and Mister Fluffy was no more. It was nothing more than a snack however and still she hungered. As the day grew on she began to encounter more people. She spent most of the afternoon and early evening lying low in a copse of trees watching a scratch baseball match in the park. A loose ball came within feet of where she lay, the child scrabbling after it, its hand coming close enough for her to lick it if she had a mind to. But she was content to lie low.
The park closed for the day, the green spaces were quiet at last. Her domain for now. She went down to the brook and drank then sniffed the air. Beasts, close by. Well fed. The wire fence intended to keep out foxes and coyotes proved no match for her strength and bulk, the rabbits and ducks easy prey. She was no indiscriminate killer however. She ate what she killed and when she had eaten her fill she killed no more. The survivors huddled together in the remains of their pen, still and silent in the face of the predator.
True darkness fell, the frost-hazed moon rising above the trees. Though this land she had found was green and pleasant and the prey just waited to be killed something drew her onward and she moved out, keeping low and to the treeline, ghosting across the open spaces. She had to cross several roads to reach her target, the headlights of oncoming cars momentarily dazzling her as they swerved to avoid her, horns blaring noisily. She ducked into the undergrowth again, moving through the gardens until she reached her target.
The house was dark and quiet. The kitchen door was a weak spot, the bottom panel no match for her bulk and power. Inside, she could smell her own scent and that of her mate and the female cub. There were other scents now, another animal, a dog. She growled, but the scent was several days old at least. She expressed her displeasure and reclaimed the territory for her own. The human males had been here as well. Again the scents were familiar but disturbing.
Her clawed feet skittered on the tiles as she nosed fruitlessly at the cupboards and then rose up on her hind legs to sniff at the objects on the worktops in the place where food smells were the strongest. A jar of dried pasta smashed onto the floor and she nosed at it hopefully but found the hard dry stuff unappetizing. She would have better luck outside.
The yappy dog from two houses down that annoyed the life out of Janet when she was trying to sleep after a night shift would disturb her sleep no more.
They had been traveling for almost twenty hours when they stumbled off the private jet at Peterson Airbase and were directed towards the waiting Hummers. Major Davis greeted them, his expression grim and ushered Daniel and Janet into the car indicating that Cassie should ride up front with the driver. He joined the two doctors in the back of the car. Taking a briefcase from the floor he handed them both computer notebooks containing the relevant files. "This is the situation as of now. Wildfire has been instituted, the SGC is under lockdown. Luckily with the computer refit and upgrade there were only thirty five people on the base in the time period. Thirty four of those are accounted for and in quarantine at either the SGC or the Academy Hospital."
"And the thirty fifth?" Daniel asked.
"That would be Major Carter," Major Davis met Janet's steady gaze. "Her whereabouts are unknown at this time. She signed out to return home just before the first cases were confirmed. In the confusion, her absence was overlooked until the following day. By that time " He shrugged. They were just approaching the Academy Hospital. "We know that she went home. She may already have been feeling the initial effects. The gate guard reported that she seemed distracted. On the way home she stopped at a delicatessen and bought a large quantity of fresh meat. There is evidence that once she got home she ate at least some of that meat raw." Janet frowned at that but did not interrupt his report. "At some point during the evening she must have begun to experience more severe symptoms and become disorientated. We believe that she left the house in the early hours of that morning. She was not there when we sent a team to secure it the following morning and is still at large." He paused as the car was waived through the checkpoint and turned into the driveway of the Hospital. "Colonel O'Neill should also have arrived by now. I'll continue the briefing when we're all in attendance."
Twenty minutes later they were in the conference room. Janet greeted Dr Harlow cordially, Daniel and O'Neill with more reserve. They still hadn't quite forgiven the man for trying to use Teal'c as a Petri dish. Dr Harlow brought them up to speed with the latest findings from Major Carter's house.
"DNA analysis showed a mixture of feline and human DNA, the human DNA was a match to Major Carter."
O'Neill reacted with horror. "Oh god, something ATE her!"
"No sir, as far as they can tell, it IS her," Janet said reading ahead on Harlow's briefing notes. "There is evidence that her metamorphosis had begun and that she may now be feline."
"You're saying Carter's a cat!"
"From the one verified sighting we have of her, more like a mountain lion," Davis tactfully corrected his superior officer.
Recorded feed from a CCTV security camera in the park near the petting zoo gave them a clear view of what Sam Carter had become. A mountain lion, unusually pale in colour, almost ghostly in the moonlight, slender, muscles rippling as she easily scaled the fence in one leap dropping onto the roof of the shelter, walking along the ridge before dropping down into the compound.
"It's incredible " Janet breathed. In whatever guise she was in, her Sam was beautiful.
Harlow sighed. "I know. But we have a technician and an SF in isolation at the Academy Hospital who are in the process of becoming hominids. Information we received from within the SGC before we lost the link told us of several cases of amphibian and reptilian transformations as well as hominid. As you can imagine, the physical transformations are even more extreme than those you experienced during the Broca incident."
O'Neill was still processing. "So she's got a tail now?"
"So it would seem," Harlow said drily.
"Do we have any idea where she is now?" Daniel asked.
"Mountain lions like shady areas to hide. She's probably somewhere in the tree line bordering the park or near her house or some other area familiar to her. She'll lie low during the day, come out to hunt at twilight," Davis said.
An SF entered the room and handed him Major Davis a note. Major Davis read it then stood up. "We may have a lead on Major Carter. She seems to be heading towards your house, Dr Fraiser. Apparently there have been reports of a large cat-like animal prowling the vicinity, probably a mountain lion. And several small pets have gone missing."
"Presumed lunch?" Jack smirked. Janet glared at him. He shrugged unrepentant and turned to Davis again. "Proof that Carter's still in there somewhere if she's heading towards familiar territory. What are your orders with regards to Major Carter?"
"To capture and tranquilise the animal and bring her back to the containment unit at the Academy hospital for further study and assessment," Davis said.
"I want to be part of the team," Janet said, fatigue and jet lag forgotten.
"Of course," Major Davis said after getting the nod from O'Neill.
"When was the last time we heard anything substantive from inside the SGC?" Jack asked.
"Our last direct communication with General Hammond was twelve hours ago and with Dr Warner ten hours ago. Since then there has been nothing."
They all knew the odds. The base was in lockdown, the Gate was sealed. Thirty two people were inside, all of them are going through some kind of physical transformation and they had no clear idea why it was happening nor how to stop or even reverse it.
"Our best chance of finding a solution is probably off-world," Daniel said. "We have to get back in there and open the Gate. I'd also like a closer look at the artifacts that seem to be at the heart of this, to see if I can corroborate the analysis that they belong to Nirrti."
"We can't get back into the SGC in person until we know what we're dealing with," O'Neill mused, "so it's a bit of a Catch-22. I do remember Carter a couple of weeks ago telling me about something young Hailey was working on that might come in useful. We need her and her gizmo on our team. Major Davis you and Doctor Fraiser concentrate on getting hold of Carter. Daniel and I will work on getting back into the SGC and shutting this thing down before any more of our people feel the need to audition for National Geographic."
SUNDAY 4:00 AM
Janet rode with Major Davis back to her house. Cassie was staying with Catherine Langford for the duration so the house was empty and dark. A patrol from Animal Control were already waiting outside as were a couple of local beat officers. A small crowd of onlookers had also gathered despite the early hour.
Davis went to talk to the PD officers to get an update on the local situation. "She's definitely in the vicinity," he told them when he returned to the Animal Control truck where the two officers were loading their weapons with tranquiliser darts. "Two sightings and another missing pet dog. The owner's not happy. Apparently it was some sort of pedigree animal."
That could only have been Mrs Edelman's precious Truffles, the Pomeranian with the particularly penetrating yap that could be heard over half the neighbourhood. No one else would be mourning the loss, Janet thought.
As soon as she opened her front door, Janet could smell the strong ammoniacal smell of urine and feel the draught from the smashed panel in the back door. Traces of animal hair and scat on the kitchen floor as well as the broken pasta jar told its own story.
Officer Sloman, the Animal Control officer was on the radio to his colleagues. Officer Crandall was taking samples of the scat and the animal hair. He held a few strands up to the light. "I'm pretty certain it's the same animal that was responsible for the depredation at the petting zoo and the incident at the other house across town. The hair is an unusually light colour, very distinctive." There were two clear paw prints on the tiled floor. Janet mentally compared them to the size of Jack the dog's paw prints and realised just how large an animal they were dealing with. Truffles would have been a snack. Crandall was more methodical, taking out a small ruler and laying it alongside the paw print for scale. "Quite a big animal."
Both men were curious about what was really going on. They had been told that the mountain lion had been part of an experiment and was a very valuable animal. It was to be captured alive and as humanely as possible before being turned over to the Air Force. Anything further about the situation was a matter of national security and they knew as much as they needed to know. Neither man could quite get their heads around what the Air Force might want with a mountain lion.
The plan was to set up two snipers one in the upper storey of her house, the other in the trees opposite. As soon as they sighted 'the animal' they would take their shot. The powerful animal sedative would act within seconds. Once she was down Animal Control officers would move in and secure her. She would be taken to the Academy Hospital and held in the same secure unit where the other two victims who had left the SGC before the Wildfire was called were housed.
Janet waited in the house with Officer Sloman from Animal Control. They watched the treeline as the sky began to lighten.
"No sign so far," the voice of Officer Crandall the other sniper crackled over the radio. "There are no reports of any further sightings or disturbances. Maybe she's moved on or returned to the park area or the area where she was first spotted."
"No, she's here, I'm sure. I want to try something," Janet said. "I think she'll come to me if I go out there."
"Forgive me ma'am but why would this animal come to you?" Sloman said. He eyed the small slender woman dubiously. "This is no pet we're talking about. That cat is big enough to do you some serious damage. It hasn't attacked a human yet, but it has made some predations close to property. It's not afraid of humans. If it sees you as a threat "
"She won't," Janet said with all the confidence she could muster. "Don't worry, I won't go out into the open, just onto the porch," Janet said. Before Sloman could say anything more she slipped through the screen door and onto the porch facing the yard.
The light breeze was blowing past her towards the trees. If Sam was looking for her she would be able to pick up her sense with ease. Janet scanned the treeline, looking for any sign of her. She heard Sloman shift his position behind her; mutter something over the radio to Crandall.
"All clear so far," he whispered. "Maybe she has gone back to the park. Easy pickings there."
Janet was staring at a patch of darkness under some low lying shrubs. She crouched down to get a better view. She blinked. A ghostly image appeared for a moment and then disappeared. Eyes the pale mask of a muzzle. "No " she murmured. "That's not what she's looking for right now." The shrubs rustled lightly in a breeze that wasn't there and then there she was, at the treeline, ghost pale in the early dawn light.
Slowly, Janet got to her feet, her fingers pressed to her lips. She was shaking with reaction. Hearing the fantastic story laid out and seeing the tapes and the physical evidence was one thing. Actually witnessing for herself the beautiful creature that was her lover transformed in the flesh with her own eyes was something else entirely.
"Don't get between me and the animal, ma'am," Sloman warned her. "I need her to get just a bit closer, make sure I make the optimum hit. Crandall, if you think you've got the shot Just don't spook her."
Janet nodded, stepped a little to the side and off the porch onto the path. Sam followed her every move but did not approach any closer. Moonlight and shadow dappled her pale fur and her eyes appeared to be almost silver. Janet held out her hand. "Hey, Sam," she whispered. "Do you still know me?"
She heard a curious half-grunt, half chirrup sound and the cat came a few steps closer before its ears flicked back and it melted away into the shadows again.
Her keen ears had picked up the sounds of vehicles and people at the other side of the house. She heard a door open and two three people come inside. One scent was familiar. Her mate. She would have come to reunite with her then but the other scents were not familiar, not the cub not the males that she had smelt earlier. These were two other males. She stayed in the shadows and watched.
The door she had used to enter the house opened and her mate and one of the males came out for a moment before the male retreated back inside. He was carrying a gun. Her mate was afraid, she could smell it. She eased forward to the edge of the shadows. If her mate was in danger
Her mate moved slowly away from the house, her gaze skittering across the ground, from tree to tree. Then she looked directly towards her. She eased forward out of the protection of the undergrowth, showing herself to her mate, sensing the change in her mate's demeanor. Her mate was afraid, not of her but for her. There was danger, a trap. They were using her mate as bait.
Her mate appeared to be in no immediate danger. She chirruped a greeting, a warning and melted back into the shadows again to wait. The males were arrogant, impatient, it did not take them long to react to their apparent failure. One came out and confronted her mate, standing over her. He made a careless mistake, his back to her. Time to even the odds, to rescue her mate.
The little death came on the wind as she leapt. She too had been careless. The second male had also been waiting inside the house. Her chest burned and she fell, rolling helplessly, her strength taken from her. The second death brought the darkness down on her. Her last thought was for her mate. Her touch was gentle as ever as she soothed the hurts, her dark eyes glassy with unshed tears. And then she was gone.
The porch door banged behind her. Sloman came out. "With all due respect, ma'am," he hissed, "what do you think you're playing at? This isn't a pet kittycat who will come when you call." He was pretty much in her face now, furious with what he saw as her interference. "This is "
He heard the snarling growl somewhere behind him and then the dart from Crandall's gun whistled past his ear and buried itself in the mountain cat's chest. Quickly, he turned and put another dart in her flank. She was barely six feet away from him about to leap on his back. The cat rolled across the grass in an uncontrolled sprawl, tried to get to its feet again but the powerful drug was too much. Janet made to run towards her but Sloman grabbed her wrist.
Janet Fraiser had faced down marines, senators, Goa'uld and Nishta crazed flyboys in her time. One ticked off Animal Control Officer was no match for her. With a smooth move of her own that Sam had taught her, Sloman found himself clutching air. "She wasn't attacking me. She was protecting me. From you," she spat at him. "Now let me check my patient."
Sam was panting heavily, but her heartbeat was strong, her eyes closed to mere slits. Janet carefully removed the darts from her flesh and made sure that she had no other injuries. Two shots of the powerful sedative would keep her under for the next six hours at least. Grunting with the effort Crandall and Sloman lifted the unconscious mountain lion onto the baseboard of the cage and rapidly constructed it around her before wheeling it around to their truck parked out front. Local PD officers and a group of SFs were keeping a small crowd of locals back as they loaded Sam's body into the truck. Janet accepted a radio from one of the SFs.
"Dr Fraiser here, sir," she informed Colonel O'Neill. "We got her."
SUNDAY 8.00 AM
No one got much sleep. Colonel O'Neill had tracked down Lieutenant Hailey and her 'gizmo' and had spent the night hours working out how to get it into the locked-down SGC. Dr Harlow and Daniel Jackson had spent most of the night going over the downloaded data records pertaining to Nyan's tests on the materials SG6 had brought back that seemed to be the source of the contagion.
"It's Nirrti all right," Daniel confirmed gloomily.
"Dr Jackson has been able to translate the material downloaded from the datapads that were found at the scene and from that I've been able to extrapolate that the device does indeed somehow activate 'the sleeping code of life' in other words all of the dormant DNA in the host body what we call Introns. They are evolutionary holdovers - sequences of DNA that provided key physical and behavioural characteristics millions of years ago but are no longer necessary," he reminded them. "She was hoping to de-evolve potential hosts into a more powerful physical form. In this case Major Carter's feline characteristics were derived from introns which still contain an earlier configuration, a common mammalian ancestor."
O'Neill considered this bizarre notion for a moment, looking down at the slumbering mountain lion. "So what'll it take to change her back to change them all back?"
"We can't not by conventional methods," Harlow said flatly. "We're babes in arms with this kind of technology."
As always, O'Neill looked to Janet. She had pulled miracles out of her as hat before. She could do it again.
"He's right. Colonel I can't emphasise how far beyond the current state of human technology this is. We barely have the vocabulary to understand it never mind the techniques to utilize it. We really need to get in touch with our allies on this one the higher the technology level the better. The Asgard or the Nox for preference," Janet said. Harlow nodded in agreement.
"Unfortunately, our only way of doing that easily are stuck twenty eight levels down," O'Neill groused. "The Prometheus is broadcasting a continuous signal but so far no takers."
"It is amazing to think about literally something out of science fiction. Our people have been transformed into long lost links in the evolutionary chain, lifeforms that have not been seen for hundreds of thousands of years," Daniel said softly. "It's a pity in a way we can't make a closer study."
"I can't see Carter thanking you any time soon if she finds you volunteered her for a guest spot on Wild Kingdom. My concern is protecting our people making sure we have the situation under control before any of NID's less savory employees turn up." He frowned. "What about Teal'c? He hasn't got Junior anymore. The tretonin won't protect him from this?"
"I doubt it," Harlow said. "All humanoid life has a similar genetic pattern. The virus should have affected him in the same way. He will also have devolved into an earlier form of life."
"Sweet," O'Neill closed his eyes trying not to wonder what primordial Jaffa looked like.
Beside him, Daniel unsuccessfully stifled a yawn. They were all running on fumes. "Okay," O'Neill decided. "We'll reconvene at two p.m. Until then get some food and some shut eye. Let's hope clearer heads bring us some fresh ideas."
No one protested. Janet kept a cot in her office for such occasions but sleep was the last thing on her mind at the moment.
Janet crept closer to where the mountain lion lay in its cage. Even drugged and tethered she could only marvel at the wild power of it. And the horror that somewhere, somehow this was her Sam.
This was no were-creature. The phase of the moon had no bearing on this. The transgenic radiation emitted from the device retrieved from Nirtti's lab had done its work all too well.
Janet unlocked the cage and crept inside. Unhesitating, she reached out and buried her fingers in the pale gold pelt of the mountain lion, feeling the strong muscled flank beneath. The faintest growl or was it a purr emanated from the cat.
"Hey, Sam," she whispered. "I can't leave you to your own devices for five minutes, can I? Look at the mess you're in "
She wasn't imagining the purr. Sam knew her. Janet ran her hand across Sam's flank and then across her head, the velvet muzzle. The ears flickered, the ice blue eyes opened a little wider but the drug still held the cat fast.
Janet touched the warm flank, running her hand through the thick pale fur. She laid her head on its chest listening to its slow strong heartbeat. How much of Sam was still in its mind, she wondered. "I will get you back, love," she whispered. "I will get you back." She curled herself up in the cramped space next to the cat, her hand stroking across the velvety muzzle.
The sound of Sam's strong regular heartbeat, the feel of her warm breath against her skin lulled her into the sleep that had been denied her since their return from Egypt.
Nirrti was waiting for her on the edge of sleep. Sam crouched at her feet, her form blurring between human and cat. Behind them other forms flickered in and out of existence.
"What do you make of my creations, Dr Fraiser? Are they not sublime?"
"What you have done is abomination," Janet said sharply. "You have no right "
"I'm a god, remember," Nirrti smiled darkly, her eyes glittering. "Do I not have the power to shape creation to my will? It does not get more god-like than that." Her hand was resting on Sam's head now. The woman's eyes were closed, she shivered under the touch, her expression fleetingly troubled.
"We will stop you."
Nirrti laughed richly. "Your plans will come to nothing. You are a weak and foolish woman. Your sentiment, your love will undo you. Even now. My creatures will prevail against you. They will crack your long bones and suck out the marrow. Your act of mercy your sickening compassion gains you nothing. It never did. Not with the child, not with the woman. You called her abomination remember. You should have killed her, put her out of her misery when you had the chance."
"No. Sam is not an abomination. Neither is Cassie. You your experimentations, they are the abomination." In her fury, Janet advanced on Nirrti intending to go toe to toe with the woman. She stopped, a cold shiver down her spine as Sam, in animal form again stepped between them snarling at her, teeth bared.
"Your sentiment will be your undoing. You call yourself a scientist. How can you do that and condemn what I have done, the advances I have made. Tell me you're your scientists will not take my devices and turn them to their own ends. Every ruler seeks to have stronger armies than their enemy. Can you honestly say you're your rulers do not have the same intent. Samantha and my other creations will be but the vanguard of an army of thousands, millions. And while they live on, whilst my work and my creations live on then so do I."
Sam advanced on her. Janet stood her ground. "We will get them back. We will get them all back. Your machines will be destroyed. No one will ever put your perverted knowledge to use again."
Nirrti just laughed. "We shall see. It may be, Doctor Fraiser, that I understand human nature better than you. I grow tired of this." She gave Sam's sleek head one last caress. "Kill her."
Sam growled and leapt. Janet closed her eyes. "I love you Sam," she whispered. And the expected blow never fell
"No. I will not kill on your command. I do not serve you," she heard Sam say. Janet opened her eyes to see Sam in her own form once more standing between her and Nirrti, her stance protective. This was her Sam who would do anything to safeguard her friends, her loved ones no matter the danger to herself. "Janet, take my hand." Without a moment's hesitation Janet twined her finger's with Sam's. Nirrti screamed her frustration, her face dark with rage.
"I am not finished with you," she threatened.
Sam turned to face her a final time. "Yes you are." And suddenly Nirrti's head slipped to one side, her face livid eyes glazing over. Janet realised that this was how she must have looked when Wodan killed her.
The dream changed as dreams do. Janet found herself standing beside Sam in one of their favourite places, the Garden of the Gods looking down from somewhere on Pike's Peak across the valley floor. Behind them was a cave. "I will wait for you here," Sam said. "I know you will find me. I am yours. You will not let me go."
"I will not," Janet promised. Sam's form started to blur again and then it was the great cat who was looking at her through sapphire eyes. But Janet was not afraid. The cat nudged at her then lay down on the rock, basking in the afternoon sunshine. After a moment's hesitation, Janet sat down beside her.
Janet liked this part of the dream much better. The sun was warm on her skin. She reached out and began to gently rub between the cat's shoulder blades. The grunting purr grew in intensity. Whether feline or human Sam loved back rubs.
It was suddenly later. A campfire was burning and they were just sitting on a blanket together watching the flames flare and fade. Sam was in her own form once more. With the expedience of all good dreams their clothes were gone and they were both naked. Sam Carter loved to make love by firelight. She liked Janet to be on top on such occasions so that Sam could watch the firelight play across her form bringing out the red of her hair, the cream caramel tones of her skin, shadows flickering across her breasts and belly, the interplay of muscles in her arms and legs as she moved against her lover, point and counterpoint.
It was her dream after all. Janet teased her way up the creamy lightly freckled expanse of skin reveling in the soft strength of her lover's body. "You are mine," she said, cupping generous breasts in her hands, bending to take one nipple and then the other in her mouth, laving the sensitive flesh.
"I am yours," Sam's voice was hoarse with need. This was her Sam, not the scholar, not the soldier, her bright beautiful girl. "You will find me."
"I will find you," Janet promised. "And bring you safely home." She caressed the pale cheek, smiling as Sam turned her head into her touch, softly kissing her palm.
"You always do," Sam said, reaching for a kiss. Her cool lips touched Janet's, the tip of her tongue swiping across Janet's generous lower lip in a familiar gesture. Janet deepened the kiss craving her touch, the familiar contours of her lips and mouth.
"I miss you, I miss you so much," Janet gasped. Sam's hands roamed over her body as her lips and tongue plundered Janet's mouth again and again. Janet knew that his was only a dream and it broke her inside that it would soon end and she would wake to the awful reality of the situation. It was only a dream yet she could feel Sam's pulse beneath her fingers, smell her unique musk, relish the silk softness of her skin against her own. It was too much to bear. Hot tears cascaded down her cheeks.
"Shhh shhh sweetheart. It's okay, it's going to be okay," Sam whispered, holding her close. "We have this time, don't let's waste it wondering what's real and what isn't. I want to make love to you, Janet. I want to make you safe and loved. I want to show you just how beautiful you are."
It might be her dream, her own ego talking but Janet glowed inside, surrendering herself to the moment. She felt Sam's strong yet gentle touch caressing its way across her skin. She gasped as she felt Sam's lips close about her left breast laving the nipple, her fingers gently pinching and twisting at its twin. Lips tongue and fingers danced across her flesh in a complex rhythm designed to produce maximum arousal in minimum time. Head spinning, Janet could only gasp out Sam's name again and again in a rising cadence as she approached her own peak. Flesh became fur became flesh again, the spectral image of the mountain lion cast across Sam's curved form for a moment before Janet's control reasserted itself.
Enough was enough, with a growl that matched anything Sam could produce Janet surged upwards, turning them again so that Sam was on the bottom and Janet could feast upon the bounty of her pale sweat pearled skin, listening in a daze to the familiar small sounds of delight and arousal that her lover made at this time. Long fingers stroked at her centre and Janet eased herself into a better position gasping as the flat of a thumb pressed on her clit before pinching it gently. Sam's nimble fingers traced the lines of her folds, gathering the moisture that they found there. Crystal blue eyes gazed into hers, windows to a soul that was unique that she would recognize in any guise. And with that Janet let herself go, screaming Sam's name before collapsing to lie on top of her lover, holding her closely for a moment before resuming her own assault. Her lover was almost ready for her own release, her skin flushed a delicate rose as Janet stroked and kissed her with a practiced but no less loving touch. Back arching Sam keened her release. Janet's hands stilled, gentled, soothed as Sam's breathing settled and the flush faded from her skin. Janet lay beside her, her head pillowed on Sam's breast their limbs entwined as they were every night the two women spent together from the very first.
"We will get through this," Sam said softly. "I have faith in you. You will prevail."
"You have to keep fighting, Sam," Janet said. "Don't give in to it. Fight to come back to me."
"I always do, I always will," Sam said, gently kissing her brow. "You have to wake up now, Janet. They're looking for you."
"I don't want to lose you, Sam," Janet sobbed.
"You won't. I'll be here, remember, waiting for you." With one last caress her lover rose to her feet. In a moment the great cat stood there. Its tongue rasped against her cheek for a moment, its tail brushing against Janet's leg and then it turned and walked into the cave.
"Janet!" Her name was being hissed in a concerned whisper.
"Whut!" Janet muttered sleepily. She blinked slowly, stiffly raised her head, wondering where the hell she was for a moment. And then she remembered. The great cat next to her slumbered on, one huge paw gently resting on her hand, the pad velvet against her palm. Its tail twined around one of her ankles. Daniel stood in the doorway of the lab, white faced, handkerchief at the ready. Cat dander, she remembered. Luckily she didn't share that particular allergy.
"Janet are you sure you should be " words failed him and he gestured.
"Sam would never hurt me," she said confidently, easing to her feet and ducking out of the cage. After a moment's hesitation closing and locking the door again. "I'm sorry, Sam," she whispered. "Soon, I promise."
Janet brushed herself down and made a vague attempt to tidy her hair. "What's up?" she asked.
"Jack's got a plan together. He's about to authorise the mission to retake the SGC."
SUNDAY 2:00 PM
Jack O'Neill was talking strategy with Major Davis, Lieutenant Hailey and Dr Harlow. "So Plan A is going in, locating the device Daniel has identified and finding its off-switch."
"We don't know how to turn the device off we don't know that turning it off will do anything for our people," Dr Harlow pointed out.
"At least we know it won't affect anyone else," Davis said. "The radiation has an extremely short half-life once the device is deactivated within an hour it should be safe enough to go down there for ourselves "
"Perhaps we don't need to turn it off," Jack O'Neill took his zat from his hip. "Three shots with this "
"We could try rigging the MALP with a zat," Hailey said, pulling a sheet of paper towards her and starting to sketch out a schematic. "Once we know what we're looking for we can soon detect if the radiation levels begin to fall and it's safe for us to go down and secure the Gate, see to our people."
"And what then?" Davis asked. "How do we get them back?"
Doctor Harlow shrugged. "I don't know. None of the therapies we've tried on our subjects here have made any difference. According to your reports Nirrti is dead. Unless she left some clue in her notes And I'm afraid if we continue to experiment blindly, and antagonize their immune systems any further, the consequences "
"I might have an idea on who could help with that," Daniel said, taking a seat at the table and looking over Hailey's schematic with interest. "But we'd need to go through the Gate "
"As the man said, Nirrti's dead," Jack said. "That I'm sure pretty sure of. You're not suggesting we go look up Linea are you or," he blanched, "Anise."
"I've read your reports about the people Nirrti experimented on," Daniel said. "There was one who could read minds."
Jack remembered the ravaged face and twisted body, the intent blue eyes. "Egar he did more than read Nirrti's mind, he absorbed all of her knowledge," he remembered. "You're right on the money there, Dannyboy. We need to find Egar."
Janet shuddered. Sam had suffered horrendous nightmares for weeks after that mission. Having had a front row seat for Adelbrecht's molecular disintegration, Janet had had a few bad dreams herself knowing how close Sam had come to suffering the same fate.
Daniel nodded. "Hopefully he has the knowledge that can reverse the process. Anyway, it's our best hope."
SUNDAY 7.00 PM
They had winched the robot MALP down the main access shaft. Lieutenant Hailey had manipulated its extensor arms to place a shaped charge around the lock on the door and then retracted the MALP up a couple of levels. Even through the MALP's auditory systems, the explosion was deafening, the access hatch blown off its hinges leaving a large dent in the wall opposite. Hailey lowered the MALP again, detached it from the winch harness and maneuvered the robot over the lip of the hatch and into the SGC. They were all crowded around the lap top screen as she remotely drove the robot along the corridor towards lab 16. They had glimpsed various shadowy figures on the edge of the floodlights but so far the bright lights and the noisemakers on the machine were doing their job and scaring the mutated SGC personnel away. The glimpses they had seen were bad enough. They had seen iguanas, hominids, great apes and lemurs. For now they seemed quiescent but all too soon hunger and thirst would rive them. One thing they did see en-route was what O'Neill shakily identified as a sloughed snake skin, like a discarded glove, the fingers and thumb clearly separated. The mike was picking up growling off-camera, what sounded like a hooting noise like a troupe of baboons or howler monkeys and the occasional deep grunting sound. They were in no doubt that the MALP was being tracked by more than one of the transformed SGC staff but so far it was being left alone.
"I'm picking up the EM field that Dr Lee mentioned in his notes," Hailey reported. "The artifacts are still in containment." She manipulated the sensor arm to tap the entry code into the storage facility. They watched via the camera as the door slid open. The camera mounted on the robot clearly showed the devices lying on the shelf. "Not detecting any atmospheric contaminants. The EM field is relatively weak but it's also putting out some fairly esoteric high amplitude wavelengths I've not seen anything quite like it before."
"Can you isolate the device that's emitting the field?" Davis asked. "If we can't turn it off we're going to have to destroy it."
Hailey put on the sensor glove and waved her fingers. On the screen they could see that the extensor arm on the MALP was mirroring her movements. "Any movement I make Rover can duplicate. And with the VR unit I can see what it sees. As well as the zat, I made sure it was loaded for bear, sir, in case we had to blow any bulkheads on the way. There are several shaped charges at your disposal." She settled the head unit over her eyes. "Entering the containment unit now." They watched on screen as the robot's 'hand' picked up the device.
Daniel edged closer to the screen, trying to pick out any markings. He had copies of the photographs that had been taken of the device and the notes that Nyan had entered onto the computer system. "Can you turn it over and hold it up to the light?" he asked.
Hailey manipulated the sensors and upended the object, holding it firmly in the rubber tipped metal claws. They saw a faint circle etched on the bottom of the device, several indentations on the inner and outer edge of the circle. Currently they did not match up.
"I've seen this before," Daniel said. "We need to line up the indentations and open it up. It's the equivalent of a 'battery compartment'. It'll enable us to remove the naquada power core. That should stop the field from being emitted."
Hailey took a deep breath. "Take out the battery. I get it. Here goes." Making sure she had a firm grasp on the artifact she extended another arm and flexed the fingers, zoning them in on the faint indentations. She rotated her 'wrist' a quarter turn and the indentations lined up. The central circle raised up and the acid yellow glow of liquid naquada could be seen. Carefully Hailey drew out the capsule and set it aside. She returned the device to the containment unit.
"The EM field is dissipating fast," she reported. "No longer detectable."
"Theoretically it should be safe for us to go down there now," Daniel said.
"Does it mean that our people will start to change back on their own?" Davis asked.
"We think not," Daniel said. "The process might have gone on too long. And I would have thought that if that was the case then we would have seen it with the affected personnel who had left the mountain. Once they left the range of the EM field they should have returned to normal."
"Daniel is right," Janet said. "Something else in that lab must reverse the process. Always supposing Nirrti got round to building something that would do it."
"Yeah, her track record on that kind of thing isn't great," O'Neill said, remembering the devastation of Hanka. "Her definition of cleaning up after herself was more on the lines of lobbing in a weapon of mass destruction."
Colonel O'Neill, Major Davis and SG teams 3 and 6 got kitted out with zats and tranquiliser guns before abseiling down the shaft following the same route as Hailey's mini-MALP had taken. A few minutes later Lieutenant Hailey and Daniel Jackson joined them with the two members of SG4 who had not been inside the mountain when Wildfire was called. Inside the SGC they found a different world. The power was out, the place was in total darkness necessitating them all to wear night vision helmets. The air was stale and cold the air circulation units were also down. All the doors had to be manually ratcheted open.
Their strategy was simple: locate and either stun with a zat blast or tranquilize with the dart guns that they were all armed with the de-evolving staff as they came across them hopefully with the minimum of casualties on either side. They had some idea from Warner's notes of the transmutations that had taken place before Warner's condition became too acute to continue reporting.
There was a sharp stink of animal scat concentrated around the canteen area and the bathrooms where the transformed personnel sought out sources of food and water. They found more sloughed snake skin and a few pools of blood but no bodies. Davis and SG3 headed down towards the infirmary and isolation rooms where the first cases had been treated and confined. O'Neill and SG6 headed for the main operational areas whilst Daniel, Hailey and SG4 made for the laboratories where the artifacts were housed.
Davis's team found twelve transformed personnel in the infirmary and isolation rooms who they managed to tranquilise without too many problems. There were two reptilians, two gorilla's a chimpanzee and an orangutan, the rest were various types of proto-human. There were gouges on the outer door of the infirmary which had been made by something large and powerful, but there were no signs of it now. They moved back towards the kitchens and mess hall.
SUNDAY 10.00 PM
They reached the briefing room overlooking the gate room. O'Neill played his torch beam across the floor of the gate room, across the surface of the gate. The IRIS was in place, everything looked secure. There was no sign that anyone had been in there. They were all alerted by a noise coming from Hammond's office. The door was ajar. Baxter and Bailey went and stood either side of the door, Baxter pushing it open as O'Neill shone his torch into the room. Sitting on the desk, a peaked cap with General's insignia looking absurdly small in his huge hands was an orangutan. Somewhere beneath the jowls and folds of skin and the orange fur O'Neill swore he could just make out the features of his commanding officer. "Sorry sir," he said and fired the zat. The orangutan let out a soft sighing 'Oook' and seemed to fall asleep. "Trank him as well," O'Neill instructed Baxter. "The General's got a hell of a left hook at the best of times. I don't fancy tangling with him like this." After checking that the huge primate was uninjured and breathing easily, O'Neill reported the location and disposition to Dr Fraiser and Dr Harlow who were waiting on the surface, locked the office door and went into the control room.
Something had been living in there until quite recently. There was a nest of assorted clothing, towels and flags under the main console along with an empty water bottle, banana skins and candy wrappers. Someone had raided Harriman's stash. In the opposite corner of the room near the door was a pile of droppings. Baxter swept the room. A movement out of the corner of his eye made him turn just in time to get another handful of droppings in the face. Something grayish white and fast scampered out of the door and down the corridor. Before they could react there was a squeal of fear and the creature shot back into the room and under the console even faster than it had left. There was something in the corridor that was even more scary than they were.
Baxter wiped baboon crap off his face with his sleeve, took aim and shot the baboon that was cowering under the console with a trank dart. It slumped, still whimpering softly. O'Connell and Gomez hastily smothered their grins and raised their weapons as something in the corridor growled, loud and deep enough that they felt it in their bones. "Baxter, get our new friend in the office with the General," O'Neill ordered. "Bailey see if you can get a look at that thing. Be careful."
O'Neill's sixth sense had gone into overdrive as they approached the gate control room and operations. Something had been tailing them for some time, whenever he checked behind him, there was a seemingly sourceless shadow sliding away into the darkness. Captain Bailey confirmed his suspicions. "Whatever it is it's big and it's bloody silent," he said. "Didn't manage to catch more than a glimpse of it so far but it looks powerful. Something between a werewolf and a grizzly."
Jack had the sinking feeling that they were about to find out what primordial Jaffa looked like.
To Be Continued
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