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Jolinar of Melkshur
They had spent a quiet evening in, alone in front of the television. Sam had returned earlier that day from a four day mission to PX-404AC, a former Goa'uld colony world, but no one had been there for many centuries. She had been quiet about the mission, a little distant but Janet knew by now that if there was anything she needed to know, Sam would tell her in her own time. After all, the new planet. PX-404 AC had been far from a bust, according to O'Niell's report. An archaeology team and a science team were due to ship out in the next day or so following up SG1's initial reconnaissance.
About eleven o'clock, Janet had gone to get ready for bed. When she exited the bathroom she found that Sam was already in bed, fast asleep. Janet smiled, leant over to kiss her partner and cuddled in beside her.
Janet stirred and opened her eyes. It was a little after four in the morning. The bed beside her was empty and cold. Something was wrong with Sam, Janet could feel it instinctively. Sam wasn't in the spare room, where she officially slept, nor was she in Cassie's room. The young girl was sleeping peacefully. Janet tucked the duvet more securely around her adopted daughter and gently kissed her brow. She checked downstairs. Everything was in darkness but she noticed a slight breeze and realised that the French windows out onto the deck were open.
Sam was outside, staring up into the sky. That in itself was not unusual Sam loved stargazing and conditions tonight were ideal. What was unusual was that Sam was stark naked. Pausing for a moment to admire her pale beauty, accentuated by starlight, Janet nipped back inside for a robe from the shower room.
She joined Sam on the deck. "Not that some of my neighbours won't appreciate the view, but you must be freezing." She slipped the robe over Sam's shoulders and pulled it around her, letting her fingers skim Sam's breasts, the nipples taut in the frigid air. "Come back to bed?"
Sam did not react to her presence. Janet frowned. "Sam? Come on baby, it's freezing out here. Sam?" Janet knew that Sam had the occasional sleepwalking episode. She took a firmer hold on the woman's arm, intending to guide her gently back inside. "Sam? What are you looking for?" She Kept her tone pleasant, non-confrontational.
"The way home," Sam said softly.
"Sam, where is home?"
"Melkshur." Sam's voice was noticeably different, deeper, more resonant. With a start, Janet realised that she was talking to Jolinar or at least whatever fragments of her personality remained in Sam's psyche. This went far beyond sleep-walking.
"Sam, I need you to come inside now," Janet tried to encourage the young woman, knowing that she hadn't a hope in hell of succeeding if Sam/Jolinar got spooked or turned violent. Janet had been taking unarmed combat lessons from Teal'c, but knew that she would stand little chance against Sam who had beaten Teal'c once or twice in practice bouts. "Sam. Samantha Carter. Do you know who I am?"
Sam looked at her properly for the first time. The expression on her face was one Janet had never seen before. Sheer arrogance. "You are the Tauri healer who kept me imprisoned." Her hand reached out to stroke Janet's cheek and then without warning closed around Janet's throat, choking her.
"S am pl ease!" Janet tried to prise the fingers away from her throat. "Sam " She was fast losing consciousness, her vision fading, her knees beginning to buckle and then suddenly the pressure eased.
"Janet? Oh God, Janet what have I done?" She was lowered to the deck, Sam's arms around her. "Janet can you talk? How badly are you hurt? Ohmigod, what did I do!"
"Sam I'll be fine once I've got my breath back," Janet wheezed. "I'm more worried about you " She struggled to sit up. "Let's get inside and get warmed up, shall we?"
They helped each other back into the house, and Janet shut the window and turned on the fire. Sam was curled up at one end of the sofa, shaking with cold and shock. Janet busied herself with the fire, one hand sneaking up to touch the bruises forming on her throat. She had come within a whisker of having her larynx crushed. "I could use a drink," she said huskily. "What about you?"
Sam shook her head. "Uh no, I don't think I could keep it down," she said thickly, uncurling from her seat and making a bolt for the toilet.
Janet was a step or two behind her, holding her friend as she was copiously sick. She had to half-carry Sam back to the sofa, the shakes worse than ever and laid the comforter over her before going into the kitchen for her med kit and some water.
She made a cold compress from a face cloth and laid it over Sam's brow. The second cloth gently wiped across Sam's face and neck. Then she opened her medical kit and took out a thermometer, blood pressure kit and stethoscope.
Sam made no complaint which told Janet a lot about her condition. Her temperature was up a couple of degrees as was her blood pressure and her chest sounded slightly congested her heart rate a little elevated but regular.
"Mom, is everything okay?" Cassie stood at the bottom of the stairs.
"Sam's not feeling too well, Cassie. I wouldn't go in the downstairs bathroom until I get a chance to clean up in there. Could you be a darling and make a pot of tea? I want to get some fluids into Sam."
"Sure," Cassie smiled and Janet was struck again by the beauty that her adopted daughter was becoming.
Then her attention went back to Sam who was crying softly, her eyes closed, tears trickling down her cheeks. The shaking had eased a little but her hands and feet were still cold. "Shhh, baby, it's okay. You didn't hurt me, you didn't hurt yourself except you got a little cold." Sam opened her eyes and stared at her, her breath hiccupping in her throat as she reached up and traced the red marks on Janet's throat, marks that would only darken as the night progressed. Janet knew how bad they would look. She had always bruised easily.
"Liar," Sam whispered. "I don't know what's happening to me. I'm scared, Janet. I'm so scared." Janet held her close, whispering comfort. She heard the ping of the microwave and then Cassie touched her shoulder, handed her two warmed bran bags.
"I thought you could use these," she said, and then pointed to the plastic bucket she had brought in and put under the coffee table "and if she's sick again."
"Cassie, love, I don't know what I'd do without you," Janet smiled. She tucked the warmed bran bags around Sam's cold feet. Gradually, Sam's shaking subsided, her breathing eased and she seemed more herself.
"Sam, what happened on the mission? I know you're keeping something back."
Sam closed her eyes again, her expression tense. "Is this off the record?" she asked at last.
Janet was shocked and surprised that she felt she had to ask. "Sam, my love, we're at home, remember? Anything that happens here, stays here."
Sam reached out for her, stroking her cheek with her fingers. She tried to smile. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have asked but I'm so afraid." She pulled Janet up to sit on the settee and then lay down again, her head on Janet's lap, staring at the fire. "Just hold me and I'll try to tell you what happened."
Janet held her, her fingers lightly weaving through Sam's short blonde hair. Gradually she felt some of the tension leave her lovers' body.
"It started as soon as we'd gated," Sam said softly. "I felt an incredibly strong feeling of deja-vu. I knew the place so well, even though the address had come from the coldcall programme so I knew we had never been there before." She shivered again. Janet gently chafed her hand up and down Sam's arm, trying to give her some warmth. "Pretty soon I figured that these were Jolinar's memories resurfacing again, that this was Melkshur, her home planet. Her host at the time was called Bethan. She was young, they had only been blended for a few years."
"The place was deserted. We came across a ruined village and then a second. I could hear her voice inside my head. This was where she had lived. And then suddenly I was there. It was a market day, there were people everywhere, children running in and out of buildings, people that Bethan had known all her life; livestock being herded, lots of noise, lots of happiness. And then the deathgliders came I saw it all, Janet, as if I was there. Sight, sound, smell, touch all of it so real. And then I was in the ruins again. The others hadn't noticed anything. It had all happened in the blink of an eye."
"The scanner was picking up strong traces of naquada. We followed the trace and came across the remains of a mining operation and what looked like a small scale refinery. We split up to investigate. I went into the refinery."
Sam fell silent again. Janet could still feel her trembling. She kept up the rhythmic, soothing stroking of her fingers through Sam's hair.
"They had made their last stand at the refinery against the Goa'uld," Sam said quietly. ""Hundreds must have died. There was a room there was a room full of bodies. Skeletons, mummified almost. They had been piled in there, the dead and the dying and just left. Jolinar Jolinar remembered. She had been captured. She was forced to carry body after body into that room. Not all of them were dead. Her hands and clothes and feet were red and stinking with the blood of her friends, her family, people she had known all her life." The trembling had changed to shudders, her breath coming in pained gasps. Janet wanted very much to stop this now but Sam needed to tell her this.
"It's all right, Sam, it's just a memory. You're here, with me. Nothing can hurt you here."
Abruptly, Sam shifted so that she was looking up at her, her cheeks were wet with tears. "She took me back there, Janet. She made me experience it as fully as she had experienced it. All I could smell was blood and shit and death. People were screaming with pain. Anyone who refused to work was killed. Jolinar wanted to live. Afterwards she could never decide whether that made her a coward or not."
"Anyway it was so intense that I must have blacked out. I woke in the room full of bodies and dust, thick silvery dust everywhere. God knows how much I had inhaled. My head was splitting. I had lost about twenty minutes. I pulled myself together enough to do a quick recce of the rest of the facility. There was nothing left that was usable. The Goa'uld had been thorough. What I could see was that he processing method was different to anything I'd seen before. I have no idea what the end product looked like. Jolinar did not know either. She never worked at the refinery. But it was the reason the villagers were killed."
"I managed to collect together a few bits and pieces. Anything portable. It'll probably turn out to be junk. And then I headed back to base camp."
"We were camping for the night by a river. I wanted to get the dust off me. I hadn't told the others about the room full of bodies or the other flashbacks. I tried but something, Jolinar perhaps, stopped me. I told them I was going for a swim. In the water it happened again intense bursts of memory, doubled vision. I tried to get out of the water in case I blacked out again. When I came to, I was lying on the bank near where I had left my clothes. I heard Teal'c shout my name. It was almost full dark. I had been unconscious for over an hour."
"Sam, you should have said something about his at your post-mission medical or even spoken to Colonel O'Neill," Janet was unable to keep a note of reproof out of her voice.
"I couldn't. The same way I couldn't tell anyone about the bodies," Sam said. "Anyway after that I was fine no voices in my head, no memories that weren't mine, no blackouts. Until I decided to go walkabout last night. I'm so sorry I hurt you."
"Sam I don't think that you were you when you hurt me. When you were outside, when I found you I'm not sure that you were sleepwalking. You spoke to me. You told me that you were Jolinar of Melkshur. You did not recognise me except as a Tauri. I think you were having another blackout, in a fugue state."
Sam covered her face with her hands. "I once told Martouf that experiencing Jolinar's memories was like being schizophrenic," she whispered. "Jan, what's happening to me? Am I going insane?"
Cassie had brought in the pot of tea and mugs and retreated to a chair in the far corner. She had heard everything Sam had said.
Janet did not want to leave Cassie alone with Sam for any length of time. Sam would rather die than hurt Cassie, but if Jolinar resurfaced Tokra or not, Jolinar had threatened Cassie's life before when the young girl had first sensed her presence in Sam's body. Janet would do whatever she could to spare both of them from reliving that nightmare.
Sam's eyes were closed, her usually pale skin flushed with fever, her respiration quick, a little harsher than normal. She was in an uneasy sleep.
"Yes, Cassie?" Janet glanced up at her daughter.
"Sam is going to be all right, isn't she?"
"I hope so," Janet said. "But if her fever gets any higher I'm taking her to the base hospital."
"That might be a good idea," Cassie said quietly. "Sam feels different."
"What do you mean?" Janet asked, staring up at her. "Cassandra Fraiser you're scaring me!"
"I don't mean that she's got a Goa'uld inside her this time, but she does feels different." Cassie shut her eyes. "Even without looking at her, I can tell exactly where she is." Unerringly she crossed the room and rested her small hand on Sam's brow. "And it's getting stronger." Sam shuddered and opened her eyes.
"Hey kiddo," she said weakly. "What'cha doing out of bed?"
"Helping mom look after you," Cassie smiled down at the woman she thought of as her other mother, someone she loved almost as much as she loved Janet. "You look pretty skanky, Sam, I have to tell you."
"Cassie!" Janet did not appreciate her daughter's turn of phrase, but her comments about sensing Sam had sent her thoughts down avenues that were frankly scary.
"Brat!" Sam managed a smile before her eyes drifted closed again.
"Sam, stay with us," Janet cajoled gently. "I need to check some things with you."
"'kay" Sam said, struggling to open her eyes and sit up a little. "Uh oh dizzy."
"You're not going to barf again, are you?" Cassie backed off.
"Give me some of that tea," Janet said. Cassie handed her a mug of sweet tea. "Sam, sip it slowly. You need fluids and you need to warm through. Now, are you in any pain?"
"Stomach hurts," Sam said, her teeth chattering on the rim of the mug. "And I feel fuzzy. But not nice fuzzy. Falling off the edge of the world, fuzzy." Janet was glad she had kept a hold of the mug, Sam's hands were shaking badly. Sam managed to drink about half a cup before her head started to nod again and she fell back into a doze. Janet laid her down and covered her with the quilt.
Janet put a call through to Aileen McArrie, one of her best clinical technicians who had just come on duty. "Aileen, I need you to pull up Major Carter's last post-mission test results and compare them with the current ones. I know that it will show the presence of Naquada in her blood. What I need to know is if the concentration of Naquada has changed and if the chemical signature is the same. How soon can you do it?"
"The chromatography will take about six hours, Dr Fraiser. Do you want me to contact you at home with the results?"
"If I haven't come in by then, please." Janet glanced over at the sofa where Sam lay in an uneasy sleep. She was dreaming again, her blond fringe darkened with sweat, mussed hair curling around her face. Janet glanced at her watch. It was a little after 8am. Cassie was curled up in the armchair, fast asleep. No way was she fit for school today.
"Janet " Sam's eyes were open and she was sitting up. Janet was at her side in a moment. Sam was shivering, her colour high. "Janet, be careful "
"Sam, it's okay I'm here, I'm here." Janet held her lover close, gently rubbing her back, unsure whether the woman was truly awake or still locked in the dream. Sam's skin was almost too hot to touch. "Talk to me, sweetie, how do you feel? Are you in any pain?"
"Got to keep you safe warn, warn SGC. Osiris Oh god, no! Janet oh, Danny oh, god. Danny!" Sam was shouting now, struggling against her hold. Janet held her firmly, recognising at last where Sam was in her nightmare. The tomb in Egypt where Osiris had revealed herself in the host of Sarah Gardner, and had attacked her, Sam and Daniel Jackson, almost killing Daniel Jackson.
"Sam, it's okay. It's just a bad dream. You're not in Egypt, you're at home with Cassie and me. Sam!" She pulled away from the distraught woman so that she could see her face more clearly.
"It's okay, Cassie," Janet said steadily. "Sam, I need you to come back to me, here and now. Sam!"
The harshness of her tone worked. Sam jerked, gasping for air, blinking rapidly. "J-Janet?"
"It was just a bad dream, Sam. You're running a high fever. I need to know if you're in any pain." Sam started to shake her head and then nodded.
"Inside, deep inside. Like something's broken." Janet took her temperature again and frowned. It was 103 and still climbing.
"Cassie, I need you to go and fill the bath with cold water, and get as much ice as we've got in the freezer and put it in the water as well. I have to get Sam's temperature down, fast."
Cursing herself for not getting Sam to the SGC infirmary when she had first considered the idea, Janet set about loosening Sam's clothing. Sam was shaking with fever, drifting in and out of consciousness. Janet tapped her cheek gently, "Stay with me, Sam. I need to get you upstairs, now and into a cold bath. You have a very high fever. I have to get your temperature down."
She could hear the bath filling upstairs, Cassie rummaging in the freezer. Sam was barely conscious, each breath an exhalation of pain. She was drenched with sweat, her hair on end, her eyes dark circled and sunken. The rapid deterioration in just an hour was worrying. "Sam, we need to go upstairs. We have to get you into the bath, get your temperature down or it's going to kill you. I need you with me on this, do you understand?"
Sam stared at her, uncomprehendingly, her breathing increasingly harsh. Janet managed to get her to her feet and put Sam's arm around her shoulder. "Let's take it slow and steady, shall we?" Sam's skin was almost too hot to touch. She could feel the hammering of her heart against her body. They made it to the fourth stair before Sam started to fall, almost overbalancing Janet as well. Luckily Cassie was behind them and managed to lower Sam onto the stairs. Sam's head lolled she was unconscious again.
"Do you think you could help me carry her?" Janet asked Cassie. "If you take her feet, I'll take her head." They managed to get Sam the rest of the way up the stairs and into the bathroom without bumping her or themselves too much. They laid her out on the bathroom floor for a moment whilst Janet tested the temperature of the water. It was cold enough to stabilise her but not cold enough to send her into shock.
"Okay, sweetheart. One last effort okay?"
Cassie nodded. Together they lifted the unconscious woman and laid her in the water, Cassie almost toppling in as well.
Janet washed down Sam's body, her face and neck. Her breathing had eased a little and her eyes were opening and closing, but there was no sign of recognition in her gaze. She murmured something that neither Janet nor Cassie could make out. Janet thought it sounded Goa'uld.
"Cassie, I want you to phone Jack. Tell him that Sam's been taken ill and we need to get her to the Infirmary. It'll be quicker and draw less attention if we take her rather than get a unit out here. Can you do that?"
"Yes, mama," Cassie said. Janet smiled. Cassie hadn't called her that for a couple of years.
Janet escorted the gurney straight to the Infirmary and arranged for the further series of bloodtests and brainscans. Sam's fever was spiking again and they had her on IV fluids and medium sedation.
The brainscans were identical to those taken a few weeks previously. However, Janet's hunch of some kind of systemic poisoning proved right. Sam's bloodwork showed heightened levels of naquada and another unrecognized substance. Whatever it was, it was reacting with the residual protein markers in Sam's cells.
Janet ordered that the artefacts Sam had brought back be tested for the residue, remembering what Sam had said about the dust she had encountered. Results showed that they were coated in the same unknown substance. Janet wondered if it was part of the refining process that Sam had described. The remaining members of SG1 and anyone else who had had contact with the artefacts were recalled for further blood tests but their levels of naquada remained at trace levels and there was no evidence of the secondary substance. She released them after they had stopped by to see how Sam was doing. Hammond had authorized a second mission to Melkshur to see what else they could discover. Janet had briefed them on what Sam had told her about the refinery and the site of the massacre. She advised them to take level 4 precautions against possible contamination.
Sam's condition continued to deteriorate. Janet prevailed on General Hammond to send a message through the gate to the Tokra for Jacob Carter/Selmac. Perhaps the Tokra knew what this mysterious substance was and how to treat Sam.
Janet would not give up on her. She looked for ways to filter the substance out of Sam's body. Enough whole blood and plasma were on hand to give Sam a complete transfusion and there was also kidney dialysis to consider.
When she next checked on Sam she saw that her friend was awake but groggy.
"Hey, she smiled, reaching out to brush sweat soaked hair from Sam's brow. "How are you feeling?"
"Worst bout of flu ever," Sam whispered, shifting uneasily on the pillow. "Jolinar is very close. She's so angry, so afraid. She doesn't want to remember, but she can't help it."
"Sam, does she know what is wrong with you?" Janet said. "Can she tell us? We think it was something you encountered in the refinery. The dust "
"No don't make me remember!" Sam convulsed, tearing the IV line out of her arm. She tried to get out of bed. Janet held her, pushed her back down with all her strength and weight but it was no use. Sam pushed her away effortlessly, sending her crashing into the wall. Two of her nurses and Doctor Warner came running. Sam reached for a syringe and grabbed a still dazed Janet, holding her in front of her, the needle resting against her throat. The nursing and security staff backed off.
"Stay back," Sam warned. "I won't let you touch me. I'll fill her full of whatever poison you were going to pump into me." Janet could do nothing, very conscious of the slim spike of metal against her carotid artery and the grip of steel that Sam had on the back of her neck.
"No one wants to hurt you, Major Carter," Warner said soothingly. One of the security staff tried to move to the side hoping to edge round the room.
"Stay back!" Sam shouted. Janet could feel the shaking begin in Sam's muscles and knew that she was only minutes away from passing out.
"Sam, no one wants to hurt you," Janet said softly. "Please believe me. Let me go so I can help you. I know you're very confused and probably in a lot of pain. Most of what you're feeling is due to the contaminants in your body and the drugs we've given you to try to treat you. Sam, it's me, Janet. You know how much I love and trust you. I know you don't really want to hurt me. Just put down the syringe and let us help you." She was getting through to the delirious woman. Sam's grip on her eased fractionally. "Trust me, Sam, please. Put down the needle. Can you do that for me, Sam?"
The needle moved away from her neck and dropped to the floor. Sam's grip on her released enough for Janet to turn and end up holding Sam upright as she began to collapse. The SFs moved forward.
"Back off," Janet told them sharply. "She needs rest and quiet. You're just making her more anxious. I'll be fine." She helped her lover to lie down again and began hooking her up to the monitors.
Sam convulsed again. Sam was screaming, Jolinar was screaming. Janet did not know who was the controlling personality. As the others held Sam down, Janet swabbed Sam's forearm and gave her a more powerful sedative.
"Dr Fraiser I think it would be best if we restrain her," Warner said. "For her own safety as well as ours."
Janet nodded, though her heart was breaking. "I agree," she said softly.
"Janet?" Sam's voice was little more than a breath, her pupils huge, eyes glazing. "Sorry I'm sorry " Janet and Alice Tyson, one of her nurses set up the restraints and carefully wrapped the padded cuffs around Sam's lower legs and forearms. A strap went across her abdomen and another cuff around her throat.
Not caring for the moment who could see her, Janet bent and kissed Sam's brow, feeling the fever burn her lips. "I'm the one that's sorry, sweetie," she whispered. "I'm so sorry." Her fingers brushed Sam's cheek for a moment and then she straightened, her professional mask coming down again. "Right, I want her on dialysis let's see if we can leach the poison out of her. Check her fluid balance and her oxygen intake every fifteen minutes and I want her kept at this level of sedation."
"Yes, Dr Fraiser."
Janet straightened up. The room span a little and she realised just how little sleep she had had recently. But she could not rest, not yet. She went to her office and reviewed Sam's test results again hoping to see a pattern, something she had missed the first, second and third time she had looked over the information.
Daniel came to see her. "Janet Sam's father is here. He's waiting in Hammond's office."
How could she explain to him that his daughter was in restraints on her orders. She only hoped that he had some answers on the residue and why it was having such a profound effect on Sam.
Jacob was aware of Janet's true relationship with Sam. Selmac had noted it at once and informed him of it and how displeased she would be if he did not treat his daughter with respect. Jacob had hastened to reassure his symbiote that he genuinely liked the young doctor and thought that she was the best thing to happen to his daughter in a long time.
"Sam how is she?"
"She has a dangerously high fever that keeps spiking and there is evidence of systemic poisoning which is affecting her liver and kidneys and causing fluid to build up around her heart. We believe that she came into contact with a refined derivative of naquada. This was on a mission to a planet we identified as PX-404AC but which we now believe from what Sam has told us was Melkshur."
"Melkshur!" Selmac had asserted herself. "You went to Melkshur that was incredibly dangerous."
"Again with the twenty-twenty hindsight!" Jack exploded. "Why don't you tell us these things in advance? You know, put out a handy pocket sized guide to gate addresses to avoid."
"Do you know what they were refining?" Daniel asked.
"About five hundred years ago, Melkshur was a major Tokra stronghold. They lived there amongst ordinary Goa'uld, Jaffar and unblended humans. But the System Lords were becoming a problem. One Tokra scientist, Kavdeh, came up with an additive to naquada that would gradually poison the symbiote. Before they had a chance to put it to use, they were betrayed and Heruer attacked. Virtually everyone on Melkshur was killed. Very few escaped."
"Did they also produce an antidote to the poison?" Janet asked. Selmac shook his head.
"We don't know. Very little of Melkshur survived. Those Tokra we rescued such as Jolinar - were not directly involved in the research. They did not know."
Jacob Carter had spent several hours just sitting by his daughter's bedside. She had so far gone undergone two sessions of dialysis and the results were promising though not as efficacious as Janet had hoped they would be. Unsure of whether what was affecting Sam could also harm Selmac, Janet insisted that he take full quarantine precautions, wearing gloves, suit and a face mask whilst in the vicinity of his daughter. The rest of SGI had gone with SG4 back to Melkshur to try to find more of the contaminated naquada for study. Once they returned he would rest and they could sit with his daughter for a while. He had made it plain to the Tokra High Command that he was staying exactly where he was until this was resolved and his daughter was on the road to recover. For once they had acceded to his request.
*What is it, Selmac?*
*I think I have remembered something that might help Samantha.* Swiftly his symbiote imparted to him something she had remembered about the aftermath of the attack on Melkshur. Her host at the time had been a man called Carson. They had been together for many years at this point. In fact, Jacob reminded her very much of Carson. Carson had been close to another Tokra called Vellin, host to Basia. Vellin and Basia were on Melkshur up until three months before the Goa'uld destroyed it. Vellin was a metallurgist. It was entirely possible that he had been involved in the research project to produce the contaminant that was now slowly killing his daughter.
*Is this Basia still around?*
*I believe so. I last had contact with her some ninety cycles ago. She had changed hosts recently and was on a mission to infiltrate the household of a System Lord called Aum. I believe that she and her host Calyx is still there.*
*A ninety year mission, Jeez, I'm going to have to get used to long term thinking.*
He got up, reached out to stroke Sam's hair for a moment. He could feel the heat of her skin even through the gloves. Janet was keeping her pretty heavily sedated and on strong pain meds, but he had to hope that something of what he was saying was getting through to her. "Be strong for me, Sam, please. I think I'm onto something here, something that might just help you, but it may take a little time. Just be strong, hang on until I get back."
Janet was in her office comparing Sam's test results on her computer. She looked more than half asleep, her eyes dark circled, her face pale. She looked up as he rapped gently on her door as he walked in. "Jacob is everything okay?"
"Janet, I have to go back and check some things out. The old girl's remembered something that could be a lead on one of the Tokra who did the original work on whatever's killing Sam. I need to go find them. Last we heard of them they were undercover in the household of a system lord called Aum."
"SG1 and 4 are due back here in a matter of hours," Janet said. "Why not wait till they get back. See what else they have found on Melkshur. I'm sure the Colonel and the others will want to hear what Selmac has remembered."
"Okay, I'll wait if you promise me that you'll try to get some sleep," Jacob said. "You look absolutely exhausted, Janet."
"I'll try, I promise," Janet said. "But I just want to go over Sam's blood test results one more time first."
"Would you at least let me bring you something from the Commissary?" Jacob persisted.
"If you could scare me up a decent cup of coffee, that would be wonderful," Janet smiled. "And I could really use a sugar boost." Jacob returned her smile. He had liked Dr Fraiser instinctively even before he knew the truth of her relationship with Sam. His daughter was a lucky woman.
"Leave it to me," Jacob said.
He went to the top for the coffee or at least to the coffee percolator in General Hammond's office. Hammond liked his Java hot and strong. Knowing their boss's irregular hours, his staff always made sure that there was a fresh pot waiting. From the commissary he commandeered the last piece of lemon meringue pie and a fresh batch of maple and walnut cookies. Delivering them to a very grateful doctor, he went back to sit with his daughter.
Sam's eyes fluttered open as he sat down beside her bed and for a moment Jacob just lost himself in their blue depths. She had her mother's eyes, her mother's hair. It had hurt him terribly when his wife had died but lately he had been thanking whatever gods were looking down that it had been quick and she had not suffered. And most of all that he had not had to watch her die. As it was, her death had almost destroyed him, but if he had had to watch her go through pain, a slow decline towards death then he would never ever have recovered from it himself. He was still ashamed that he had lost fifteen years of his children's lives because of his inability to cope with his wife's death and make his peace with them and that it had taken a serious talking to from an alien symbiote for him to make amends.
*Samantha is not going to die, Jacob. You are not going to lose her again. We will not let it happen.*
*I know, old girl. But she looks so ill *
*She is strong. She is your daughter. She will continue to fight and we will continue to fight for her.*
"Dad?" Sam whispered, trying to reach out to take his hand, forgetting the restraints that bound her to the bed. He hated that they were there but realised the necessity. He had seen the bruises on Janet's throat and the back of her neck, the legacy of Sam's attack on her and knew that if his daughter was in her right mind she would never have done such a thing. He reached out to her instead, held her hand gently, sensing the trembling running through her body. Her hand weighed nothing in his, seemed almost fleshless, the fingers longer and more delicate than ever, veins and tendons clearly visible under her almost translucent skin. She had lost so much weight the last few days, the fever stripping it from her. And, he reflected, she had never had that much extra weight to lose. Janet had put her on IV nutrition, high protein, high glucose, but it was barely keeping up.
"I'm right here, baby. How are you feeling?"
"Not too bad." He could tell just from the hitch in her voice and the tension around her eyes that his little girl had just told him a blatant lie. Anyone other than his daughter would have probably been screaming in agony by now. But Sam was too much his daughter to show her pain. He had done that to her, made her such a stoic, so afraid of giving in to her emotions, of letting anyone perceive any kind of weakness in her. Carters did not cry. Even now when her body was breaking down system by system, she held herself in control. He had seen the strength of the pain medication Janet was forced to use on her. It was the same stuff they had given him in hospital when he was in end-stage lymphoma. She had to be in the most terrible pain. And there was nothing he could do to help her.
*Jacob. Do not do this to yourself. Sam is dealing with this as best she can. You must be strong for her as well. We must both be strong for her.*
*I know, old girl, but I think I'm really going to need your help on this.*
*I am here for you, Jacob. Samantha is my little girl as well, now, remember?*
"Do you need something to drink?" he asked softly. The minutest shake of her head, her lips whitening even further as if even the thought of drinking or eating anything made her nausea worse. He paused, unsure of what else he could offer his daughter. "Do you want me to get Janet?" A moments hesitation and then a faint nod, her blue eyes closing again, an expression of resignation and fear passing momentarily across her features before she schooled them back into blank stoicism. Jacob had seen that expression on his daughter's face far too often in the days following his wife's death when she had shut herself off from everyone and everything and it scared him so much to see it again.
Jacob stood to one side and tried not to fidget as Janet carefully examined his daughter. She shone a penlight into Sam's eyes, noting the yellowing appearance with foreboding and then into her mouth and throat, tested her pulse, listened to her chest for several minutes, moving the sensor on the stethoscope from one side of Sam's ribcage to the other and back again and then gently palpitated her abdomen at several points, watching Sam's face for clues as to which areas were most painful and then she carefully probed the glands under her jaw and neck and under her arms. All the time trying not to dislodge the various monitors and tubes attached to her lover.
"How am I doing?" Sam asked softly, seeing the apprehension in her lover's eyes even though the expression on her face was carefully neutral. The two of them had come to an agreement about these things long ago: Janet would not hide Sam's condition from her and Sam would not try to be 'brave' if she was in pain.
"The bad news is that there are definite signs of liver failure," Janet admitted. "You are showing signs of jaundice and your abdomen is hard and distended. There is some good news - the fluid around your heart appears to have dissipated somewhat and your breathing is a little better. You are finding it easier to breathe aren't you?" Sam nodded. "Good. The strain on your heart I was worried about earlier isn't happening any more. The last session of dialysis has definitely lowered the levels of the contaminant in your bloodstream and taken some of the pressure off your kidneys but unfortunately you're still too weak to undergo another session any time soon. How is the pain now the truth please, Sam?"
"Hurts," Sam said succinctly. "My head, my stomach, my joints all ache."
"The only thing left to give you is morphine," Janet said. "And that's going to knock you out completely." Her eyes pleaded silently with Sam. Please, let me take your pain away.
"No." Sam's face was set.
"What do you mean, no?" Jacob exploded. "You need help to manage the pain, Sam. You can't go on like this."
"I can't. She will be there, in my dreams, Jolinar. Jolinar will... She will make me remember it all again, take us back to Melkshur, back to Netu, back to the ashrak. So many bad memories. No. No!" Without warning Sam convulsed, her back arching, fists tightly clenched, fighting against the restraints that held her on the bed. Her eyes had rolled back and her breath was coming in explosive gasps. She said something in Goa'uld and Selmac answered in the same harsh tongue. Jacob's hand was on Sam's brow, his head bowed. Seeing from the monitors that Sam's heartrate had almost doubled, Janet hastily prepared an injection of anti-convulsant and began to push it slowly into the IV snaking into Sam's arm. Sam screamed something again, shaking her head, her tone half defiant, half pleading and Selmac replied, his tone conciliatory, trying to reassure the terrified, desperate woman. Sam's convulsions gradually lessened in intensity as the medication Janet had given her took hold and she lapsed into unconsciousness again, sweat standing on her brow, her breathing rapid and shallow. Janet noted that Sam's hands were bleeding where her nails had damaged the delicate skin of her palms. She snagged one of her nurses, told her to bring a dressings pack and antiseptic spray. She also quickly checked Sam's wrists and ankles to make sure that the restraints had not chafed or bruised her skin when she fought against them.
Selmac sat back and then looked up at Janet. She could not control her instinctive and involuntary step back as she saw Jacob's eyes glow.
"Selmac, what just happened?" Janet asked, shakily.
"I believe that Jolinar broke through again and took control of the mind. She is not rooted in the present as we are. She firmly believes that she is still Sokar's prisoner, being tortured for information," Selmac said. "The fact that she found herself in a strange place and in restraints only made Jolinar more confused, more agitated. And of course Sam has her own memories of Netu and being tortured by Apophis, the two were feeding off each other. I was able to reassure her for the moment that she was safe and not in any danger, that we were friends, and taking care of her and that no one was going to torture her. I think that she believed me. Certainly her mind is quieter now."
"My poor Sam," Janet said softly, reaching out to stroke her cheek with the back of her fingers, feeling the edge of the cheekbone seeming sharper than usual. She had lost so much weight these last days. "She has so many bad memories of her own to contend with without suffering Jolinar's as well." Part of her realised how tired she must be to be this open about her feelings for Sam in front of Selmac and Jacob. The monitor beeped, noting another temperature spike. Sam was back up to 103 again and her oxygen levels were slipping. Janet reached for the bowl and cloth at the side of the bed and gently sponged Sam's face and neck, willing to do anything to make her lover more comfortable. She fastened the oxygen mask over Sam's mouth and nose again. The knowledge of how little she could do was destroying her. Janet had realised days ago that she might as well be back in the middle ages for all her knowledge and the technology at her disposal was doing for Sam. The nurse brought the dressings pack. Carefully, Janet sprayed antiseptic over Sam's palms and covered the small but deep crescent shaped wounds with dressings to keep them clean and prevent any further damage to the delicate skin, carefully taping them in place.
"If only there was a way we could get the two minds to work together," Selmac mused. "Sam and Jolinar together might be strong enough to fight the damage. The war between their minds is taking far too much of Sam's energy."
Janet glanced up as heard the alarm for offworld activation. "SG1 and 4 weren't due back for an hour or two yet," she told Selmac. "And there are no other teams off world at the moment. It must mean that they have found something that might help or run into trouble themselves. But there's no call for medical teams, so it sounds as if they're okay."
Hammond's voice came over the speakers. "Dr Fraiser and General Carter to the Briefing Room."
"Could you tell General Hammond I'll be along in a few minutes," Janet said. "I just want to make sure that Sam's condition has stabilised again before I leave her."
Selmac's head bowed signalling a return of dominance to Jacob. He nodded, let his gloved hand rest against his daughter's cheek for a moment. "I will tell him. Her temperature is up again," he observed.
"I know," Janet said, adjusting the feedline on Sam's hydration to compensate for her increased fever. "If it continues to climb we're going to have to pack her with ice again. You'd better go, Jacob." With one last caress of his daughter's cheek, he left, but not before he squeezed her shoulder in a gesture of consolation and friendship.
Janet had just about satisfied herself that Sam's condition had stabilised for now when her beloved's eyes opened again. "Hey," she whispered softly.
"Hey," Janet smiled as brightly as she could. "Your dad was here until a few moment's ago. He's in a briefing with the General now. SG1 just came back from the planet. I have to go to the briefing as well. Sam, I need you to do something for me and I know you're going to find it difficult, but just hear me out, okay?"
"'kay," Sam was struggling to keep her eyes open, her gaze unfocused. Janet held her hand, running her thumb gently over the V between Sam's thumb and forefinger, willing her to be strong, to get better.
"Remember that I love you, Sam and that you're very brave," she whispered. "I want you to work with Jolinar on this. Fighting each other is taking up too much of your strength. You need to work together and work with us to beat this. Do you understand me, Sam?"
"Try," Sam murmured softly. "Hard hate anger so angry." Her eyes closed and did not reopen. Janet wiped down Sam's face and neck again, satisfied that her lover was in natural sleep for the moment. She left instructions with her staff that she was to be paged immediately if Sam's temperature rose any higher and that they were to have plenty of ice on hand in case it did.
The rest of SG1 were back all in one piece for a change and with more samples from the site which had already been taken for analysis by the science team under level 4 quarantine conditions. They still could not confirm Sam's story of the room containing the bodies but they had discovered what looked like a mass grave outside the village. Jacob listened to what they had to say and then let Selmac tell them about her contact in the Tokra.
Teal'c nodded. "I have heard of this Goa'uld Aum. She is not a system lord. Apophis was most contemptuous of her and her attitude. He believed that she preferred pleasuring herself to conquest."
Daniel frowned. "I don't have that much - if anything - on Aum. She may be allied to those Go'auld who took on the identities of the Vedic pantheon - worshipped on the Indian subcontinent. The 'good' news is that she may be kin to Nirrti. I'm going to have to do some research."
"I will assist you," Teal'c said.
"Nirrti... And this one is powerful enough that no other Goa'uld attempted to take over her territory," O'Neill said. "I mean, our boy Apophis was no slouch when it came to taking on his fellow Goa'uld. She must have had something going for her. Definitely sounds like someone we ought to take a look at anyway, sir. I wonder what Thor has on her?"
Teal'c turned to Selmac. "The Tokra operative Basia has been in her service for 90 years. When did she last report on her activities? Is it not highly possible that she has been discovered and neutralised in that time or that her affiliation may have changed."
"I do not think she would have been turned. Basia is one of the oldest Tokra and has always been committed to our cause. I will check with the Council to see when she last reported back to them and hope that they will sanction a mission to seek her out. If she has any knowledge of what happened on Melkshur, anything that might help Sam "
"Then if the Council sanction it, I will send SG1 with you, Jacob." Hammond said. O'Neill nodded in satisfaction. "Dr Fraiser how is Major Carter doing?" Hammond's voice had softened noticeably. He had known Samantha Carter since she was a small girl and thought of her almost as a daughter.
"Sam remains in a critical condition," Janet said. "The poison is damaging her liver, kidneys and heart. The kidney dialysis worked up to a point but her condition is currently too fragile to try it again. We've also run out of suitable blood supplies. Her liver is showing signs of failure. If that happens then all I can do is make her comfortable." She didn't want to think about that. Sam dying was not an option.
"She can't have a transplant?" Daniel asked.
"Her physiology is too different. She would reject any human donor organ," Janet explained. "And she can't take a symbiote even for a short while because the poison would kill it. Teal'c and Jacob can't be with her without protection for the same reason. We haven't dared try it but I think the same thing would happen if we tried to use a healing device or a Sarcophagus on her. The poison would negate the effects and it might even make her worse. We can keep her going on drugs for the moment but the cumulative effect on her system will be devastating."
"I see. Then we must hope for a quick outcome." Hammond was interrupted by Janet's pager. Her heart froze for a moment.
"Of course, doctor. Use the phone in my office."
Aware of the eyes following her, Janet tried to walk calmly out of the briefing room and into Hammond's office. She picked up the phone and dialled the infirmary. "Dr Fraiser here. Someone paged me?"
"Yes Dr Fraiser. It's about Major Carter. I thought you'd want to know that her temperature has dropped to 100 and she's breathing a lot easier." It was Alicia, the nurse she had assigned to Sam's care in her absence. "She's sleeping normally, though there's a lot of REM activity."
"That's good news, Alicia. Don't disturb her if you can help it, but keep quarterly monitoring," Janet said. The relief that Sam might have turned the corner was overwhelming. She realised that she was trembling. Then someone was holding her, taking the phone from her nerveless fingers and sitting her down.
"You okay, Doc?" It was O'Neill.
"Yeah, give me a moment," Janet breathed deeply, trying to clear her head. "It all caught up with me for a second."
"You need to sleep." O'Neill handed her a glass of water. "Jacob's going through to the Tokra homeworld now, if you want to say goodbye."
"Yes. I need to tell him something." Janet handed him the glass and then concentrated on standing up again. The room swung crazily for a moment or two then settled down again.
Hammond and Jacob came into the office. "Doctor, are you all right? You look a little pale."
"Nothing a few hours sleep won't cure," O'Neill said. "Jacob hope to see you again soon. I'd better go and see how Daniel and Teal'c are getting on with researching our new Goa'uld."
"Jacob the page was about Sam. She's doing a little better. Just after you went to see Hammond she rallied a little. I managed to tell her to try to work with Jolinar rather than fight her. She's sleeping normally and her temperature is down."
"That's great news. I just hope I can get some support from the Tokra on this. I'd better be going." Suddenly he embraced Janet. "Take care of my little girl for me," he whispered.
"Always," she whispered in return.
She watched from the observation window as Jacob walked up the ramp to the open Gate and disappeared into the pool of light.
Samantha Carter opened her eyes. She was sitting on the bed in the house she shared with Janet facing the mirror above the chest of drawers. In the mirror another woman stared back at her. She was also blond and blue eyed, but there the resemblance ended. "Jolinar?" Sam whispered.
"Tauri. What has your meddling brought us to now?" Sam shielded her face as the mirror shattered.
Before Sam could react, Jolinar had her pinned to the bed, a feral expression on her face. "You are so craven, Tauri. Samantha Carter, last and least of my hosts."
"I never asked to be your host," Samantha replied hotly, arching her body until she was able to lever herself upwards and flip herself so that she was pinning Jolinar beneath her. "So much for your Tokra sensibilities about only taking willing hosts! That's such crap! You're no different to the Goa'uld."
"I had to survive," Jolinar spat at her. "Given the same situation you would have made the same choices. You survive."
"That's what this is about isn't it," Sam said wonderingly. "It's not just what was done to you Melkshur, Netu, the ashrak, it's because you were forced to take an unwilling host not once but twice. You're consumed with guilt."
The young woman arched beneath her, trying to throw Sam off. "No! Don't try to understand me, Tauri."
Sam managed to pin both of her slender wrists with one hand and with the other tried to hold the woman's head still. "Jolinar, if you want to continue to survive, you must listen to me. Do you understand? You must listen to me."
The woman stilled. "Speak, then."
"This is what has happened. You made me your host four years ago. We came back here through the Stargate. You gave yourself away because you had shut me down. The SGC imprisoned us. They didn't know anything about the Tokra. They thought we were Goa'uld. Then the ashrak came. You chose to die to save my life. You died, Jolinar, four years ago. But your memories are still inside me. That is what you are. Memories. You have no independent life. And now I am dying. There is a poison inside me, destroying me. And constantly fighting you is weakening me further. My friends are looking for a cure, but it will take time. Time I will not have if you keep fighting me. You must realise that without me you have no existence. If I die, we both die. If I live, we both live. Is that simple enough for you?"
"You lie!" Jolinar raged. "I live."
"As a shadow, a remnant. Look into my memories," Sam commanded. "See the truth." She let go of Jolinar's wrists, sat back. The woman struggled to a sitting position and glared at Sam.
"Look into my memories," Sam repeated. She caught hold of Jolinar's hand, pressed it to her chest and held it there. "Look inside."
Jolinar closed her eyes an expression of concentration on her face. Sam let her mind empty of all conscious thought. She felt Jolinar's presence but did not fight against it. She showed Jolinar the aftermath of the Ashrak's attack, the weeks of torment and depression she had suffered as she tried to assimilate Jolinar's memories and experiences with her own whilst dealing with the physical after effects of having an alien creature die in your brainstem, the changes to her physiology and all the implications of that; the realisation that she could detect Goa'uld presence and utilise Goa'uld technology. The flashbacks into Jolinar's past that haunted her night and day. The seeking out of the Tokra and the meeting with Martouf/Lantash. The blending of her father with Selmac. Sam's own experiences on Netu. The deaths of Bilar and Sokar. The death of Martouf and then more recently the death of Lantash.
Jolinar's grief was almost more than Sam could bear. Instinctively she cradled the woman in her arms giving what comfort she could.
"I just want to look in on her for a moment and then I will rest, I promise, Colonel." The man was virtually escorting her to her own infirmary! Janet had to admit she was secretly glad of his steadying hand. She was woman enough to admit that she was just about out on her feet. She was long past the point of exhaustion.
"I'll sit with her whilst you're sleeping. Any change I'll come get you straight away, scouts honour. It'll take Jacob some time to convince the Tokra and find the information we need. And Daniel and Teal'c are busy with the research thing." Janet could sense his unspoken thought too clearly I'd just be in the way. The Colonel and Daniel Jackson had been rubbing each other up the wrong way recently. Scientific discovery and the military mindset seemed to have reached an impasse. Yet they were still a team. The best.
Alicia looked up as they entered the room. "Dr Fraiser, I was just about to call you."
"What is it?" Janet asked, shaking off her fatigue in an instant as she scanned the monitors, putting together the picture for herself. Sam's temperature was around 101, her oxygen flow was good. Her blood chemistry was not. More and more toxins were building up in her system. Sam's skin now had a distinctly yellowish cast to it. "The liver damage is getting worse," she explained to O'Neill. Janet went through the list of medications she wanted to use with Alicia who rushed off to get them organised. Pushing the Colonel out of the way, Janet checked Sam over gently, not wanting to disturb her from the first quiet sleep she had been in for days. She observed Sam's brain activity readings curiously. "She's in sustained REM sleep, unusually long duration. There's a lot of brain activity in the areas to do with memory. She must be interacting with Jolinar."
"Is that a good thing?" O'Neill asked.
"I hope so. Jacob and I told her to try to work with Jolinar and conserve her strength rather than use it up fighting with her."
O'Neill shrugged. "It's just that Carter's been trying to block Jolinar from her mind for three years now. Suddenly trying to cooperate Did you know that she once told Martouf that coping with Jolinar's memories in her mind was like being schizophrenic?"
"Did Sam tell you that?"
"Marty. He cared a lot about her. He was a good guy. He didn't deserve Well " He looked down, swallowed.
Janet remembered her promise to him. "Okay, Colonel. When did you last have something to eat?"
O'Neill gave her one of his patented looks. "Are you asking me out on a date, doc? Cos I know someone who won't be too pleased about that "
"If you count going to the commissary as a date, Colonel, I don't wonder your social life is as interesting as I hear it is," Janet smiled. "I think we should both let Sam get her rest and go and have something to eat before one of us passes out."
"I am sorry we did not get to know each other better," Jolinar said. "Or under different circumstances."
"So am I," Sam said. "Martouf told me a lot about you."
"You liked him," Jolinar said.
"Yes." There was no point denying it. Sam had never figured out just how much of her feelings for the Tokra had been Jolinar's echoes in her mind and how much had been her own native feelings. "But I was already with someone else. Nothing happened between us." It would have been too weird. Incest mixed with necrophilia. She didn't want to go there.
"You resemble Roshna closely. It would have been easy for Martouf to fall in love with you. And Lantash. He likes liked blue eyes. And you like brown."
Sam gasped as a figure materialised in front of her. Janet smiled and opened her arms. Sam wanted nothing more than to bury herself in that embrace. "What are you doing?"
"I'm dead, remember. We're inside your head. I'm not doing anything. This is the one that you love. I remember her, the Tauri doctor. She was afraid of me, hated me for taking you away from her."
"You had just threatened to kill our daughter," Sam reminded her. She shuddered, remembering all too clearly the sensations of being trapped in her own body, listening to her voice threaten to kill the second most important person in her life. "And we didn't know that you were Tokra. We didn't know about the Tokra. Not then. Not that what you did to me exactly showed the Tokra in a good light."
Janet's image came towards her. Sam gasped as fingers trailed down her cheek and along the line of her jaw. "Stop this." Dark chocolate eyes gazed up at her. The image looked and felt real. Seductively so.
"I'm not doing this. You are."
"Make it stop!" With a parting caress across Sam's breasts, Janet backed off and sat in a chair at the other side of the room. She looked amused by the situation.
"Would you prefer then the lover we shared, even if it was only ever vicarious on your part?" The air shimmered and Martouf appeared. He stood behind Jolinar and slipped his arms around her waist, kissing the nape of her neck with familiar ease.
"It is good to see you, my love."
Jolinar purred "Or would you prefer me to look like this?" Her shape morphed into Janet.
"Oh, that's not playing fair," the Janet who was observing them from the armchair pouted, her dark eyes gleaming.
"I agree," Martouf smiled standing back from the transformed Jolinar, his pale eyes glittering. "Jolinar, my love, you must play fair with Samantha." He came towards her, a smile on his face. Sam could only remember that he was dead that she had killed him. She could not let him touch her any more than she could touch the illusory Janet. She had to keep her focus here.
Sam closed her eyes, exerted her control again. Much as the possibilities offered by two Janets intrigued her, she would bend this scenario to her will. She had a strong mind, she knew she did. She would win. After all, she was the real person here, wasn't she?
False Janet and False Martouf faded away. With a knowing smirk, Jolinar resumed her own form. "Very well, have it your own way, Samantha." The setting faded around them and reformed as the Gateroom. The gate was open and active, the event horizon shimmering, blue light playing across their skin. This was Sam's domain. Here she was supreme.
"Are we going somewhere?" Jolinar asked. Suddenly she sounded a lot less sure of herself.
"We're going back to Melkshur. That's where all the answers lie." Taking a firm grip on Jolinar's arm, Sam hauled her up the ramp towards the open Stargate.
Basia had last filed a report on her activities in Aum's household eight years ago. It contained tantalising hints but no more than that of the power that Aum wielded; the reason why the system lords continued to leave her alone. Since that time there had been no communication from Basia. Garshon was honest with Jacob. Her host, Yosef, had lost a child before she became Tokra so Garshon knew what Jacob was going through. And Samantha Carter had proved her worth to the Tokra many times over.
"We do not know if Basia is alive or dead. We have no explanation for her continued silence or even if she is still in Aum's service. If you and SG1 wish to seek her out, then we do not object. Any new intelligence from that quarter would be useful to us. But I regret we can give you little assistance in the matter. You know how stretched our resources are at this time." She handed him a data crystal. "This is everything we have on Basia, her hosts, her contacts, every report she has ever filed before and after the events on Melkshur. We regret that there seems to be only a little information about her time on Melkshur. That was a bad time for the Tokra. We lost far too much, many of our people."
Selmac shared a little of what had happened at that time with Jacob. *Melkshur was just one of a series of raids that wiped out almost a third of the Tokra alive at that time, Jacob. Only now, five hundred years later, are we anything near strong enough to make another stand against the System Lords. With the help of the Tauri this time we may even prevail.*
*This is why Garshon is so eager to cooperate all of a sudden?* Jacob observed.
*One of the reasons. Giver her some credit, Jacob. The Tauri have proven themselves to be staunch allies, time and time again. Samantha is particularly well thought of and not just because of her link with Jolinar.*
*I am sorry, old girl. Sometimes I think I spend too much time with Jack.*
*O'Neill is also valued amongst the Tokra for his battlecraft as well as for his honesty and direct speaking. Though in matters of tact and diplomacy * Both host and symbiote shared the joke.
"Good luck Jacob, Selmac," Garshon said. "I hope that you find what you seek."
"Thank you, Garshon." He bowed respectfully before taking his leave.
He gated back to the SGC, entrusting the precious data crystal to Daniel's care. Daniel promised to have the data analysed as quickly as he could.
Jolinar pulled herself free of Sam's grasp as soon as they exited the Stargate, turning to confront her. "I don't know what you think you will achieve by bringing us back here."
"I want you to show me what happened when Melkshur fell. There may be a clue here that can get us out of this," Sam said. "Show me the day when the Goa'uld attacked."
Suddenly the ruins became whole buildings once more, people appeared all around them going about their daily business. Children ran in and out of the adults playing some complex game of tag. Jolinar walked through them towards what looked like a Viking long house set a little off the main street. It appeared well kept and well used, prosperous, a family home. Sam paused for a moment, acclimatising herself to the sights and smells around her before following Jolinar. It was a lot like the VR experience the Gamekeeper had plugged them into on P Hard to believe that this was all in her head.
"This was my home," she said softly. "I lived here with my host's family." The door opened and a grey haired man emerged, axe in hand, followed by a boy who looked to be about twelve years old. "My host's father, Annik," Jolinar explained. "Her little brother, Pavel. She had two older brothers, Kelvin and Annar and a younger sister Bel. Her mother Sitra and her mother's parents Corman and Belanna also lived here. Bel was named for her. My host was named for her father's mother. She died the year my host was born. She was a great leader amongst her people."
A voice from inside the house called them and both men turned to see a young woman appear in the doorway carrying a sealed jug and a parcel of food. She was strikingly pretty with long dark hair and violet eyes. "Me," Jolinar whispered. "That was my host Bethan. She became my host when she was very young, little more than sixteen years old in your terms. She contracted something similar to what you call polio and was very close to death when I arrived. My previous host Tallis was old and ready to move on. Bethan accepted me immediately. Not just because taking a symbiote was her only hope for survival. We were very happy together up until this moment. This is when everything changed."
They heard the whine of the deathgliders overhead. The nature of the crowd around them changed, people looking up and then away, anxious to find their loved ones and get to safety. "We had known for months, years even that we were living on borrowed time," Jolinar whispered. "We knew that this day would come. We were not complacent fools. We had made contingency plans but we never got the chance to put them into play; we were betrayed from within. We never discovered who it was." They watched the young girl's face change as Jolinar took control. All deference to her father was gone as she barked a series of orders at him. He obeyed without question. Pavel joined his father in defence of his community. Jolinar went back into the house for a moment then came back out with a hand device on her forearm, the activating crystal nestled in her palm. She set off in the opposite direction to that taken by her father and brother. She was heading towards the refinery.
Sam and Jolinar followed her.
"Basia certainly knew about the project," Daniel said, handing out transcriptions of the relevant parts of the file, "though she doesn't exactly go into detail about it, unfortunately. And there's nothing here that could help Major Carter, not that I can see anyway. Dr Fraiser is still examining some of the information."
"So we go straight to the horses mouth then," Jacob said.
Teal'c wondered not for the first time why so many Tauri sayings revolved around equine anatomy.
"Permission to accompany General Carter," O'Neill said crisply.
"Permission granted, SG1," Hammond said. "Dr Jackson, I want you to consult closely with Dr Fraiser before you go, get all the information she can give you about Major Carter's condition and what she has learnt about the poison."
"Yessir," Daniel was at his most solemn. Sam's growing weakness terrified him. Sam was one of his closest friends. His inability to help her had hit him hard. His arguments with Jack had caused him to distance himself from her as well in recent months. He had not wanted to put her in a difficult position with her commanding officer.
O'Neill followed him down to the Infirmary. Teal'c was busy discussing strategy with Selmac, pooling what knowledge they had about Aum and her operations. Daniel's files had contained a little information about her, that she was a goddess of abundance and pleasure. She seemed to have a knack of turning enemies into friends. Following their experience with Hathor and Seth, Daniel had posited that she used a kind of nishta. Whatever it was would be unlikely to affect Teal'c or Jacob and both Jack and Daniel were hopefully immune by now having been infected by both Hathor and Seth in the past but they could take nothing for granted. Hopefully the technology they had used to rid themselves of Seth's nishta would work again.
But all that would be immaterial if Carter's condition meant that she would be dead before they got there. It was hard, but that was the way he had to look at it. If she wasn't going to survive long enough for them to get the cure then they would not go. The mission would be scrubbed. Aum was unknown territory; their one contact was most probably compromised or at least so deep undercover that their motivations were suspect. They would try other options or at the very least make sure that Sam had her friends and family around her in her last hours.
Jolinar watched as her younger self joined a small group of Tokra to defend the naquada refinery. They were hopelessly outnumbered. Groups of Jaffar were ringing down from Heruer's mothership which was in orbit. Deathgliders wheeled overhead, taking out anyone who broke cover. There were several fires burning already and many dead and injured.
Sam knew that she was not really here but it was hard not to react as if she was. She felt incredibly exposed standing in the middle of the courtyard as Jaffar appeared at the gateway and began to fire on the refinery. Sam realised that this was what was important to Jolinar. "What was happening inside the refinery?" she asked. "Do you know? Did you see where they were working on the process? Did you see or hear anything that could give me a clue on how to cure what's wrong with u.. me?" She had almost said what's wrong with us, almost acknowledged the duality of their nature.
"I don't know," Jolinar whispered. "Maybe. None of my hosts were scientists until you."
They were inside the refinery now, passing machinery, conveyor belts. Raw ingots of naquada were piled along one wall, ready for shipment. Sam stopped to examine it. It looked high grade ore, possibly weapons grade.
Groups of Tokra and unblended humans were milling around an open door. "What's in there?" Sam asked.
"I don't know," Jolinar repeated, sending her a deeply irritated look. "I never saw inside that room."
"Okay. What about the other Tokra here? Can you remember any of their names. Did any of them get off Melkshur?"
Jolinar scanned the faces one by one, tolling off the names of host and symbiote in her memory. Most she had never seen or heard of again. "That one there, the woman with the short red hair. She is Carel, host to Vasey. I met them again about ten years after. And the man behind her is Gerrard, host to Deacon. Deacon is now blended to a woman called Abby. They are the only two who survived this, I think."
Sam committed the names to memory. "Would they know more about the ore processing?"
"Possibly. Certainly Carel and Vasey did." The images around them wavered. "Can we leave, Sam, please. This is so painful for me."
"I am sorry, Jolinar. I did not mean to hurt you." They were back in the Gateroom. "I think I need to wake up now, tell them what else we've discovered."
Jolinar nodded gravely. "Be strong, Samantha. For both of us."
"Hey." Janet had just about finished the hourly check on Sam's condition when she noticed that her eyes were open and following her movements. "How are you feeling, Sam?"
"Pretty rotten, to be honest," Sam whispered hoarsely. Janet reached for a glass of water and a straw and let Sam take a couple of sips to moisten her mouth and throat knowing that any more than that would make her nauseous again. "What did I miss?"
"Your dad is back. The Tokra Council especially Garshon were very helpful. They gave him copies of all the information they had on Melkshur and on Basia and her host. General Hammond has authorized a mission to Aum's planet to try to make contact with Basia."
"There are couple of other names you might want to check " Sam broke off as Daniel and O'Neill entered the room. "Sir!"
"Good to see you awake at last, Carter," O'Neill said. "The Doc been bringing you up to speed?"
"Sir, I also have some information from Jolinar," Sam said.
"Okay compare notes with Daniel. I need to talk to the Doc for a moment." Laying a gentle but insistent hand on Janet's arm he drew her out of the cubicle and down the corridor towards her office.
"Okay, Doc. We might have to make some hard choices here. Bottom line, it's going to take us at least a week to get to Aum's planet and back. Her gateroom is heavily defended so we can't take the shortcut. That doesn't take into account any time it takes to ferret out the Tokra and see what she knows. Our intel on this is sparse to say the least. What I'm saying and I hate to ask, you have to know that Doc how long has Carter got?"
It just seemed as if she had closed her eyes for a second. She had been talking to Daniel, she remembered that much. She had given him the names of the Tokra from Jolinar's memories Carel, host to Vasey and Abby, host to Deacon. He had been in the process of telling her about the intel from the Tokra database when she had felt overwhelmingly tired again.
Now, she was sitting on a flat surface of some kind, overlooking a lake. Everything was still. It was as if she was sitting in the middle of a picture postcard. She recognized it as the jetty in front of the lakeside cabin that the Carter-Fraiser household tried to escape to for a couple of weeks in the summer saving the world not withstanding. It was strange. She could move, but everything else seemed frozen. The sunlight on the water was petrified into glowing diamonds.
Looking down at herself, Sam saw that she was wearing faded cut off jeans and a baggy t-shirt emblazoned with the logo of a band she had never heard of. Her feet were bare. The air was warm, but absolutely still. There was no noise.
She wheeled around, her heart pounding. "What?" It was Janet. The scene around her suddenly came to life again, the sun dazzling her momentarily as it glanced off the water.
"You forgot your sunglasses. And your hat. You don't want to get a headache." Janet was wearing a pale peach coloured strappy sundress that came to just above her ankles and her feet, like Sam's, were bare. A wide brimmed straw hat was perched on her head, her hair loose around her face and bare shoulders. With the heat bringing a glow to her cheeks she looked incredibly beautiful. In one hand she carried another straw hat and a pair of sunglasses, in her other, two bottles of beer, her fingers curved around the necks, frost just beginning to perspire on the glass.
This had and had not happened.
It was as if several of her memories had been cut and pasted together to form something new. She remembered Janet in the peach summer dress, but she had worn it at a barbecue at Jack O'Neill's last summer and Sam hadn't been able to take her eyes off her the entire day. The details of the lake and the cabin were correct. And her own attire she finally recognized the T-shirt. It was one of Feretti's. She had borrowed it about three months ago when a game of basketball had got too much of a contact sport and her own shirt had been ripped.
"Jolinar?" she asked.
"No, it's me or rather you. Call me your conscience, the angel on your shoulder," Janet smiled. She handed Sam the sunglasses and hat and then the beer bottles, then sat down on the sunwarmed wooden jetty. She patted the wooden boards, indicating that Sam should sit down beside her.
"Things aren't going too well," she said. "Your body is beginning to fail. Janet is very worried. She has just lied to the Colonel to ensure that he goes with your father to Aum to find Basia and hopefully the cure for you."
Sam held her bottle of beer to her forehead, feeling the coldness seep into her bones. "The likelihood is that I will die before they can possibly get to Aum and back, isn't it."
"That is the most likely outcome," Janet agreed softly. "Janet will do everything she can to maintain your life, but you're already suffering from multiple organ failure. She's running out of options"
"I already made nice with Jolinar. Is there anything else I can do? I don't want to die, Janet. I don't." The air was suddenly a lot colder. The scene changed. They were standing in a grove of trees, the ground around them covered in snow, more falling from an opal sky. Janet was wearing a long russet coloured woollen coat with matching hat, gloves and scarf. Sam looked down at herself. She was in black leather trousers and a long black coat. Her biker boots were heavy with snow. Sam remembered. They had come here to choose a Christmas tree their first Christmas with Cassie. Cassie had caught them making out. She had made snow angels with Cassie.
"You must be strong. Remember the love that you have here." Cold lips brushed hers.
"Will you stay with me?" Sam asked.
"Always." She took Sam's long fingered hand in hers and laid it over her heart. "We are the other half of each other's soul, you and I. We have always been together, even when we did not know of each other's existence. We will go on together. Time is just a physical law. What we have is beyond that."
"Dr Fraiser Major Carter is awake and is asking for you," Alicia crouched beside the sleeping woman. Janet opened her eyes and swung her feet off the couch she had laid down on for a nap what seemed like only minutes before but, as she glanced at her watch, had actually been closer to six hours ago. That explained the stiff neck. It was the longest sleep she'd had in nearly a fortnight. She tidied herself up a bit, splashed some cold water on her face and followed Alicia back to the ward.
"She seemed to be having a pleasant dream before she woke," Alicia said. "She murmured something about snow angels."
Janet smiled at the memory. "When we went to choose the Christmas tree the first year that we had Cassie, Sam showed her how to make snow angels. You should have seen the pair of them. It was difficult to tell who was the biggest kid."
Even in six hours she could see that Sam's condition had deteriorated. Her temperature was high again, her hands and feet swollen with oedema's as her body's fluid balance continued to worsen.
"Sam, I'm here," she bent over her sick lover, stroking her cheek with her fingers. It was three days since Sam had last been conscious for more than a few seconds. Janet had seriously begun to fear that she would never wake again. "Sam?"
The shadowed eyes opened slowly, a tremulous but brilliant smile set the gaunt face alight. "Janet?"
"I'm here, baby," Janet said softly. "Do you need something for the pain?"
A slight shake of the head, a frown as if she was trying to marshall her thoughts. "Jack, Dad. I need to speak to them."
"They're not here at the moment," Janet said carefully. She had decided not to tell Sam about the mission to Aum, or her conversation with Jack O'Neill.
"Mustn't they mustn't risk their lives for me," Sam said, her grip on Janet's hand tightening. "I won't let them do it. I won't let them go chasing rumours and shadows to find a cure for me. It's not worth risking their lives for. I'm not... I need to tell them."
"Sam, love. I'm sorry. It's too late. You've been unconscious for the last three days. We got a message from your father and SG1 a few hours ago. They're already on Aum's planet and they've made contact with the Tokra operative. What you have to do now is hold on for them, do you hear me?"
Sam's eyes glistened with tears. "Hard so hard," she whispered. "Hurts so much."
"I told Jack you would hang on until they got back. Don't make a liar out of me, please, Sam," Janet said, her own tears spilling down her cheeks. "Sam?"
She had drifted under again. Janet sat beside her a few minutes longer, running her fingers through the soft blonde hair. Sam still had a tight hold of her hand. Janet had taken the decision to dispense with the restraints the previous day. It was obvious to everyone that Sam Carter was far too weak to go anywhere or hurt anyone in her current state. Janet had already caught two of the SF's talking about her in the past tense when they thought she couldn't hear them. They had shut up pretty quickly when she fixed them with one of her 'looks'.
Her thoughts drifted back to the conversation she had had with Colonel O'Neill three days earlier. "I need to make some hard decisions, Doc. Is Carter going to make it through the next week, because that's how long minimum it's going to take us to get to Aum and back. Jacob doesn't think we should gate directly so we've got alternative transport set up and waiting. There are too many damn unknowns, so it comes down to this. Can she last long enough for us to find a cure for her?"
Janet was horrified by his question but totally understood his need to ask it. "Sam would be the last person to want anyone put into unnecessary danger on her behalf," she said softly. "All I can say, Colonel, is that if her condition remains stable and she doesn't contract any secondary infections or medical conditions, such as pneumonia, she can probably survive for several more weeks at least. We are still testing everything that was brought back from Melkshur in the hope that they used something locally another mineral or a plant extract to make the poison. We haven't given up hope and neither has she."
"Okay," O'Neill held her gaze for a long moment. "It's a go then. Jacob has a plan worked out. We're going in a Goa'uld merchant Jacob of course, with Daniel as his lo'tar and T and myself as their bodyguards. Aum is known as a market for minerals of all kinds so in theory no one should look twice at us. Jacob has all the necessary codes to get in touch with Basia. Once she receives our message we meet, deal, get the necessary and high tail it back here. Cakewalk."
Janet managed a smile. She had spent hours watching over them in the Infirmary after 'cakewalk' missions before.
Jacob and SG1 mingled with the crowds in the central bazaar in Aum's main city, Jangri. They had been here a little over eighteen hours and had seen very little sign of Goa'uld activity. It looked to be a prosperous place, possibly even a good place to live, warm, airy, nice architecture that looked vaguely Middle Eastern, lots of shady colonnades in which to sit and transact business; whitewashed buildings, terracotta and sand coloured tiles. The air was rich with spices, sweat and dung. O'Neill, who had picked up some Arabic and Urdu in his time in the Gulf was personally pleased to be able to follow some of the conversations they overheard in passing. Everything seemed normal. The main palace was guarded by Jaffa, their markings of what looked to be the horned head of a cow. Other than that they had seen very little evidence of any major Goa'uld presence. Jacob had informed them that there were several Goa'ulds in the vicinity but they seemed to be keeping a low profile. Certainly no one gave them a second glance.
"It all fits with what I researched. Aum appears to have taken on the persona of several different Hindu goddesses. Her name is that of the creative energy of the universe itself according to Vedic traditions but the image she portrays is closer to that of Radha, beloved of Krishna. She was supposedly creative, life-sustaining, auspicious, benevolent, loving and redemptive. Her symbol was the cow. Before she became Krishna's consort, Radha was a milkmaid "
"All fine and dandy, Danny. But how does any of that help us? I mean Hathor introduced herself as the queen of sex, drugs and rock'n'roll, the friend and protector of mankind, yada yada, but when it came down to it she was just another homicidal snakehead bitch. And then of course there was your friend and mine, Nirrti. Nothing I've seen or heard so far says this snake will be any different." O'Neill was hot, sweaty and was pretty sure that he had stepped in something that resembled camel dung and his 'costume' left a lot to be desired. Baggy trousers of a dark blue silky material that fastened tightly around his ankles and were held at the waist by a lighter blue cummerbund, a sleeveless leather waistcoat that covered his back but not his front. He had refused to wear the turban, and was not allowed to wear his sunglasses. The bright light was giving him a headache already and he felt distinctly unprotected. Mind you, standard Jaffa armour would have been torture in this heat a one man semi portable sauna. The Jaffa powerstaff in his right hand and the zat concealed in his cummerbund cum belt were scant comfort. He missed his P90 keenly.
"Guys, we're nearly at the rendezvous point," Jacob said, indicating the busy street café ahead of them, hoping to preclude yet another argument between Jack O'Neill and Daniel Jackson. He had begun to appreciate just how much of a stabilising influence his daughter was on Jack O'Neill's mercurial temperament. Selmac agreed. He closed his eyes momentarily as Selmac asserted herself. "The message we received back from Basia precisely conformed to Tokra ident and security codes. I have no reason to believe that she has been compromised. But I would still like us all to be on alert just in case all is not as it seems." Jacob and Selmac were in total agreement on this point. They wanted to get this over and done with as quickly as possible, get the information and hopefully the antidote to the poison from Basia and get back to Sam in time to save his little girl's life. He didn't want to imagine the consequences if things went wrong.
*Nothing will go wrong, Jacob.*
"I agree with O'Neill. We should be safe rather than sorry," the big Jaffa rumbled. Teal'c was scanning the crowds with a disapproving air. Every day seemed to be some sort of festival in Jangri. It was wasteful. He suspected everything and everyone. He was dressed in much the same manner as O'Neill; additionally his tattoo was hidden by a large dark blue turban. The others thought that he looked like something out of the Arabian Nights one of the genies, perhaps - not that they would ever tell him that. Besides, O'Neill thought that his own costume pretty much put him in the same story. If there was a slightly puny and pale genie in the Arabian Nights.
The coffee shop was as Basia had described it. At the invitation of the café owner Jacob and Daniel, ever the coffee connoisseur, tried the local brew, Jack and Teal'c declined, taking up their role as bodyguards to the Goa'uld merchant and his clerk. Jacob was dressed in his richly decorated Goa'uld robes marking him as a minor goa'uld in the service of Lord Yueh, Daniel was only slightly less flamboyantly dressed, acting as Jacob's lo'tar and clerk. They were supposedly here to buy and sell minerals naquada, trinium and other rare elements that were the basis of the crystal technology used by both Goa'uld and Tokra.
*Jacob, there is something strange here. Do you sense it?*
*Not sure that I do, old girl. What's the problem?*
*Music. I hear music. But when I try to listen to it, it fades away.*
Jacob closed his eyes, listened. There it was, a few notes, vaguely familiar, tantalising and then it faded away as if the wind had changed direction. But there was no wind.
"So, how long are we supposed to wait?" O'Neill asked.
"Give it an hour," Jacob said. "This is one of the main places for trade in information as well as minerals. Everyone else looks as shifty as we do. We fit right in." He closed his eyes again.
"Jacob you okay?"
"I'm not sure. Something strange is going on. Do any of you hear music?"
Daniel shrugged. "I don't hear any music?" he frowned, concentrating then shook his head.
"Me neither," O'Neill looked around him, squinting in the bright sunlight. "T?"
"There is something," Teal'c said softly. "My primta is uncertain."
"I hear it, but if I try to listen to it, it just fades away, as if the wind's changed direction or the radio station has drifted off signal. The weird thing is that I almost recognise it."
"Yes," Teal'c said softly. "Most strange."
"Okay by the way, what does our contact look like?" Daniel asked, mentally cataloguing the faces around him.
"She is quite tall, red hair, pale skinned," Selmac said. "She will be dressed in dark red robes and will be accompanied by two servants, both also dressed in red."
"Then she's heading our way," Daniel murmured, indicating behind Jacob. O'Neill and Teal'c concentrated on monitoring the servants. Neither appeared to be armed, but both had an air of confidence that spoke of honed training about them. These men could take care of themselves. O'Neill was pretty sure that Teal'c and himself were projecting the same confidence. They eyeballed each other in silence.
"Do not worry. They are loyal to me. We can talk freely in front of them. I trust you can make the same assurances about your men?"
"I can," Selmac said.
Daniel stood and indicated that Basia should be seated. He called over the waiter to get Basia a cup of the coffee variant that he and Jacob were already drinking. Basia studied Jacob for a moment. "Selmac, it has been a long time."
Jacob's eyes flared. "It has indeed, Basia. Thank you for agreeing to meet with me."
"Your communication pre-empted one of my own to the Tokra High Council. I felt I had been silent long enough. It was time to rejoin the outside world."
"There were concerns," Selmac said. "You have been out of touch for a long time, Basia."
"It was necessary," Basia said. "It took time to arrange things, to become part of the hierarchy here. And I was happy. I am happy."
"Yes," Selmac looked around him. "Everyone seems happy here."
"That is because of Aum. She is not like the other Goa'uld. You will see."
That did it as far as O'Neill was concerned. "Excuse me, but we have no intention of 'seeing'. We came to find you, to get some information from you that might save someone's life. Then we go. You come with us or stay - that's your affair."
"Information?" Basia looked at Selmac. There was a look on her face that Jacob did not like.
*Getting a bad feeling about this, old girl*
*I am beginning to agree with you. O'Neill feels it too.* She was getting better at reading the Tauri.
"You were on Melkshur shortly before it fell to the Goa'uld. We know that the Tokra were developing a poison fatal to symbiotes and that you were involved in the project. We need to know what you can remember of the process and whether an antidote can be made. It is very important."
"Why has a five hundred year old failed project suddenly become important?" Basia asked. "The project was abandoned because the poison killed the host as well as the symbiote. The Goa'uld attacked a few months later and virtually everyone then on Melkshur was wiped out."
"A good friend of ours is dying. She accidentally came into contact with the poison you made," O'Neill said.
"It should have had no effect on an unblended human "
"For a time she was host to Jolinar. It left her changed," Selmac explained.
"I see. You take great risks coming here and seeking me out just for the sake of a colleague. There is more to your tale. Tell me the truth."
"She is the daughter of my host," Selmac said. Basia nodded thoughtfully.
O'Neill could see that some pretty heavy internal communication was going on between host and symbiote. He honestly had no idea which way this would go. The two bodyguards remained unmoving, Teal'c equally poised. He couldn't keep still. He could see that Daniel was itching to ask a million and one questions. Thankfully he was experienced enough now to know that this was so not the time to get curious.
"Jolinar and I knew each other well, once. For a short time we inhabited hosts who were related," Basia said. "When I heard that the Goa'uld had attacked Melkshur It was a terrible time."
"Do you know how to counteract the poison," O'Neill asked. They were getting way off the point here, dragging this encounter out far too long. And he really didn't need to hear about the good old days with Jolinar.
"It is possible, but difficult," Basia said. "And I cannot do it here."
"Then we'll take you back to Earth with us," O'Neill said.
"I cannot leave Aum. That would be unthinkable." There was genuine alarm in her voice. O'Neill sensed Teal'c tense beside him. What the hell was going on here?
"Then you have to tell us everything you can," Daniel said. "Our friend is dying."
"Meet me tonight, at my house," Basia said. "I'll help you as much as I can. Selmac, I will give you my reports for the Council. Be here at sunset. I will send Mikrit to guide you." She indicated one of her silent guards. "And now I must go. I have another appointment."
Janet stared at the computer screen in amazement. It couldn't be that simple, could it? There it was, a direct correlation: every time Sam's temperature rose above 103, the level of the poison in her bloodstream and tissues decreased a little more, as if it was slowly being destroyed by her overheated body. The only problem was that keeping Sam in a state of fever long enough to destroy the poison completely would almost certainly leave her brain damaged. And to do it over a longer period of time, inducing and then reducing fever would leave Sam open to all sorts of complications and secondary infections. She was already on antibiotics to stave off pneumonia and other secondary conditions caused by her long-term immobility.
She had to try it. She could not just sit back and hope yet again for another alien intervention to save her lover, whether it was a Sarcophagus or a Tokra healing device courtesy of Jacob, or some piece of Asgard technology or a Nox just happening to stop by. She was the CMO of this base for a reason. Jacob Carter and the Colonel could be back in the next hour or the next week or never be seen again.
Quickly she updated Sam's medical notes with the new information and her new instructions as to the course of treatment. Inducing the fever had to work, it just had to. Sam was running out of other options.
Daniel spent the rest of the day sightseeing around Jangri and learning more about the culture and social structure of Aum. Teal'c went with him to keep him out of trouble. Jacob and O'Neill continued to talk tactics. Both had a bad feeling about the whole situation. They were fairly certain that they were being watched and that Danny and Teal'c had probably picked up a tail as well.
As sunset approached, they made their way back to the café. Mikrit was waiting for them. Silently he signalled them to follow him. The four men did so. He led them through a series of back streets and narrow alleyways to a doorway set in a high wall. They followed him through the doorway and found themselves in a formal garden, a large house ahead of them.
"If this is Basia's place, she's done well for herself," O'Neill said quietly.
Jacob nodded. Selmac could sense the presence of several Jaffa and more than one Goa'uld nearby. He decided not to say anything for the moment. O'Neill was wound up tight enough as it was. Teal'c must have been able to sense them as well but seemed to have made the same strategic determination.
They followed the young man through the formal gardens and into a colonnade. At the far end there was a door. Inside the building they followed a passageway before entering a more ornate doorway into a large domed chamber. The roof was pierced with skylights, and in the dusk lit by many candles, most hanging in candelabra's from chains set into the ceiling. The walls were painted a deep blue, inlaid with gold, the tiled floor thick with rugs and furs. In the centre of the room there were low tables laden with fruit and sweetmeats, around them couches, cushions and chairs. Only two were currently occupied. One was Basia, the other another woman. She was veiled and remained seated as Basia stood to great her guests.
"Welcome Selmac and Jacob. Welcome O'Neill and Jackson of the Tauri. Welcome, Teal'c."
"Thank you, Basia," Selmac said. He realised that the other woman was also a Goa'uld. The music he had been hearing all day seemed if not louder, then more insistent. He tried to resist it but it was becoming more and more difficult. Unbidden, images came to their mind, Jacob dancing with Elizabeth, his wife, Selmac/Serouche dancing with their mate Brangwen/Bort centuries ago on another world entirely.
"Who's your friend?" O'Neill asked. The question brought Selmac back to reality. The other woman in the room removed the veil that covered her face. She was young, flawlessly beautiful, her skin a dusky cream, her long black hair woven with jewels and gold thread. Her eyes were huge, chocolate. Then they glowed.
"I am Aum," she said.
Aum. This was big. And bad. O'Neill glared at Basia. "You sold us out, you snakehead bitch!"
"I did my duty," Basia said. "Nothing happens on this world that Aum does not see. She knew of your presence and realised its significance from your first footfall on her land." Jacob swayed as the music seemed to redouble in intensity.
"It's okay, Jack," he said. "This might actually save us some time in the long run. Perhaps she has something that can save Sam."
They were the right words to calm his companion down.
Janet had not left Sam's side for more than twelve hours. She had reduced Sam's anti febrile medication until Sam's fever had reached 103. Now her problem was maintaining it at that level, not letting it drop below the magic number and keeping it from going any higher and inducing febrile convulsions and other complications. She was taking bloods every half hour and Aileen was rushing them through. For the last five hours the levels of the contaminant in Sam's bloodstream had shown a slow but steady decrease. It was working. But Janet was increasingly worried about the strain it was putting on Sam's body.
Before she had begun this new course of treatment she had taken the time to phone Cassie to give her an update on Sam's condition as she had done most days since Sam had fallen ill. She had described to her daughter as best she could over the phone the treatment regimen she was about to begin and the likely complications and chances of success. There was a long silence at the other end of the phone.
"Momma, if anyone can save Sam, you can," her daughter said. "You just have to believe you can do it. I know Sam would never have any doubts, and I don't either. We love you, momma and we trust you to do what is best."
Janet fought hard to stop the tears welling up in her eyes knowing that if she gave in to them now she would never stop. "Thank you, sweetie," she whispered, her throat tight. "I have to go now, but I'll call you again in a few hours to let you know how she's doing."
Looking over Sam's latest results, she was beginning to believe it herself, that Sam had more than a ghost of a chance of coming through this. She had to. Janet did not know if she could live without her lover any more. These weeks of illness had been like the evil foretaste of a nightmare, the living nightmare that would be her life without Sam. She had to get better, she just had to. There was no other possible permissible outcome.
The meeting with Aum had been one of the weirder experiences of his life to date, O'Neill decided. There had been only pleasantries; she had listened to their case, readily given Basia permission to do any necessary research to find the antidote to the poison and promised that all of her resources were at their disposal. She was all sweetness and light.
So why did he feel sick to his stomach. And why couldn't he get that stupid fucking tune out of his head?
Aum had promised to meet with them again in the morning. They had been given quarters within Basia's house, a good meal, a fairly decent bottle of wine. No one had threatened them, no one had hassled them or even given them a hard stare. O'Neill realised that he was now singing the tune under his breath.
"I don't know what the hell's up with me," he announced. "I've had this tune running through my head for hours now. I can't get rid of it."
"Me too," Daniel said. "Weird and you thought you could hear music earlier, General Carter."
"I still can," Jacob said. "This can't be right."
"Semuta," Teal'c said, looking up at them. "It is a form of hypnotic compulsion through music once used by some Goa'ulds to enforce their control in a peaceful manner."
"Is that why I haven't been able to get this particular song out of my head all day?" Jack asked. "It was a song that Sarah and I danced to the day she agreed to marry me." For some reason every moment of that incident came back to him with perfect clarity.
"Mine is a song that Elizabeth and I danced to the day she told me she was pregnant with Mark," Jacob said softly. "Selmac remembers Serouche and her mate dancing. Daniel, is it affecting you?"
"I hear the music of Abydos from my marriage to Share," Daniel said softly. "It's weird, it's there but it fades away if I try to focus on it."
"I hear the music that Shauna'c played to me on the night we first made love," Teal'c said. He bowed his head as if ashamed with himself for revealing so personal a memory. "She was a most accomplished musician." For a moment the grief of her murder welled up in him again and his anger at Tanit, the Goa'uld who had been her executioner. He felt his hands curl into fists.
"So we're all hearing music that we have an emotional response to," Daniel said slowly. "I wonder how it's being transmitted?" He looked around. "I mean, I don't see anything that looks like a surround-sound speaker. And I presume we're all hearing different music."
"Major Carter would no doubt have been able to devise a way to protect us against this conditioning," Teal'c said.
"Well, she aint here so we're just going to have to fend for ourselves on this one. Apart from hearing this damn tune over and over again, is anyone feeling any other effects?" O'Neill asked.
"A little fuzzy around the edges," Jacob admitted. "Selmac feels it as well."
"My alertness is affected," Teal'c said. "I have a strong urge to dwell on the memories that the music awakes in me."
"I can't stop thinking about Share," Daniel said softly.
"Well we're all going to have to get our minds right on this, okay. We have a mission here, remember. Sam's counting on us." O'Neill was taking refuge from his own discomfort in sarkiness. He didn't like to remember how good he and Sarah had been together. And how he had thrown it all away.
"Much as I hate to suggest this, I think that we really do need to wait until we can speak with Aum again tomorrow. If she had any real ill intent against us, wouldn't she have acted by now?" Daniel said. "And she has been okay with us so far. We should try to keep on her good side."
"Suppose this semuta the reason that everyone is 'happy' here? And why people like Basia don't want to leave," O'Neill said. "We should get the hell out of Dodge whilst we still can."
"I agree with Jack. I tend to count trying to brainwash us with this semuta as ill intent," Jacob said. He seemed to be coping with the affects of the music better than Selmac so she was content to let him take the lead for the moment whilst she concentrated on setting up some kind of mental defence against the semuta. "But I also agree with you, Daniel. We need to get a few things straight with Aum. And if she doesn't play ball this time, we definitely need to get away from here. If my daughter has to die, then I don't want her to do it alone. I need to be by her side."
"Okay, we meet as arranged tomorrow. But I want to do a double guard, check on each other regularly just in case this semuta completely drives us wacky."
To O'Neill's surprise they survived the night intact, unmolested, and reasonably rested. They realised that the music faded if they kept their thoughts focussed. The gravity of Sam's illness was enough. "Remember keep your eyes on the prize," Jack counseled.
Mikita escorted them back to Basia's chamber. He was as talkative as he had been the day before despite both Jack and Daniel's attempts to get him to tell them more about Jangri and its inhabitants. Aum was in attendance, reclining on one of the couches, sipping what looked and smelt like lemon tea. Basia stood to greet them. She held a slim box in her hands which she handed to Jacob.
"I believe this will help your daughter. I studied my records and memories from my time on Melkshur. This is the antidote to the poison she has become contaminated with. She will need to be injected with the drug every six hours for three days. At the end of that time the poison will have been neutralised. I warn you that it will be painful for her and there may be long term effects. But she will live."
"Thank you Basia," Jacob said. "If this works then I am in your debt."
"An interesting point," Aum said. "What price do you set on your daughter's life, Jacob Carter? What price do you set on your colleague's life, Colonel O'Neill?"
"I might have guessed that this wouldn't just be a humanitarian gesture," O'Neill spat. "You snakeheads aren't known for those. Genocide is more your line." Daniel placed a restraining hand on his arm but O'Neill shook him off. "Don't, Daniel. This isn't the time or place for diplomacy."
"My sister Nirrti has her methods, I have mine," Aum said. "I trust you will find them and me more agreeable."
"Believe me when I say I have no intention of finding out," O'Neill tried to get his temper back under control, but every sense he possessed told him that they were on incredibly dangerous ground.
"What do you require in payment for the antidote?" Teal'c asked.
"Typical Jaffa directness," Aum laughed. "I wish to travel to Earth with you. To meet with your leaders. To trade knowledge and technologies. Aum has been isolated for long enough. From what I have heard, the Tauri are becoming a force to be reckoned with in the Universe. I wish to see that for myself."
"You wish to come with us yourself, not send a representative, Basia for example," Daniel said. "That's unusual."
"It's not a decision we can make. There is Earth's security to consider and the security of the Tokra. Colonel O'Neill would have to discuss it with his superiors and I would need to consult the Tokra High Council," Jacob Carter said.
"I understand," Aum smiled. "Very well. I shall allow Jacob Carter and Colonel O'Neill to return to Earth through the Stargate with the antidote as a measure of good faith on my part. You will return in three days with the decision of your government. Daniel Jackson and the Jaffa Teal'c will remain here as my guests until your return."
"Not gonna happen," O'Neill said. "Not " He staggered slightly as Aum raised her hand. The volume of the music and their unconscious response to it seemed to intensity. It was their first proof that Aum was in control of the semuta.
"Do you not wish to save your friend, O'Neill?" Aum asked, her voice soft, pitched intimately. "I know how you feel for her."
"You know nothing," O'Neill said. He willed himself not to listen to the music. He would not listen. He would not
"Colonel O'Neill, Jacob - it's good to see you, but where's the rest of SG1?"
Jack blinked, turned to Jacob who looked equally dumbfounded. Behind them the wormhole deactivated. Hammond stood at the foot of the ramp looking up at them. The two of them were back at the SGC.
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