Cam Mitchell had grown up ordinary, which in his fernal family meant that he was the odd man out. He was the son of eighth generation deigma. Back in Auburn, Kansas it was said that no one had seen the true form of a Mitchell in well over a hundred years. Once the abilities hit, most of them at the very least perfected any imperfections on their person by shifting their form.
Such a strong background should have meant that Cam would be a deigma as well since fernal powers and abilities are genetic. But puberty came and went and Cam did not manifest any abilities. His younger brother Cole inherited everything their parents had to give them, but it seemed to have bypassed Cameron completely.
Auburn was a fernal community, settled in the 1800’s by the more peaceful and community minded of the Allos, the other world. Most were deigma, though there were several allaghi cartels and a few haima blood covens in town. Of course Auburn had their share of alastor, they were everywhere, the dead rise wherever they fall and even the fernal of Auburn eventually came to the end of their mortal lives and fell, some to rise again.
High School was tough, being one of the only kids unable to change his form, or perform any feats of strength or mental prowess. It kind of sucked. He was checked over by a fernal doctor of course, to make sure there wasn’t anything wrong with him. His folks weren’t rich however, and couldn’t afford to send him for intensive genetic testing, nor could they afford any course of treatment that might be offered. And so, he just accepted that he was the school weirdo and made the best of the situation.
Possessing a friendly nature, Cam had enough company during his school years that he wasn’t lonely. He played football with the mostly allaghi team at school, coming home bruised and broken more often than not after the other players changed their form and went completely animal on the field. Keeping up with a two hundred pound shape changed cat-kin or wolf-kin as they attempted to play was not easy. Cam spent a lot of time getting tackled and flattened into the mud.
Frank Mitchell, Cam’s dad, had served in the Fernal Branch of the Air Force until an untreatable injury forced him to retire. Following him into the service was a logical step, but Cam wasn’t eligible to join the Fernal Branch. He enrolled instead in the mundane Air Force Academy and was sworn in as an officer in the Air Force. He didn’t care, they let him fly and Cam took to the air like a duck to water.
Recruited into a special flight squadron under the command of the SGC, Cam learned that there were other worlds beyond the mundane and fernal. There were other worlds besides the Allos. He loved flying F-302s, he enjoyed serving with the Snakeskinners. Until he went down in a battle over Antarctica defending Earth, critically injured.
When he woke in the hospital, there were two doctors standing over him. One was haima, not unusual; a lot of fernal in the medical field were haima, they handled blood better than a lot of other races. The other was a mundane doctor. He wondered about the haima doctor until they explained to him that the trauma of his injuries had apparently activated a recessive ability and brought on abilities that had been dormant within him. He had come into his power late, but his blood had bred true after all!
He was transferred to a fernal wing in a hospital near the SGC command center in Colorado Springs. They medicated him heavily, not wanting him to deal with the hormonal and physical changes that would come with using his abilities. He had not grown into them as most fernal children did. He had woken all at once, and it would likely be overwhelming until he mastered control over what he could do.
His mom and dad were happy that Cam was happy about the abilities. Wendy said they loved him no matter what, which he knew, but now he felt more normal, like one of the family. They sat and answered all sorts of questions about what he could expect when he first transformed himself, trying to help him prepare for the first time.
Digesting all the discussions and reading he was given, he anticipated pain; everyone warned him there would be pain. After recuperating from the injuries sustained in the crash, Cam was pretty sure he could handle the pain that would come with his first alteration.
Cam had scars from the accident. He wasn’t going to attempt anything fancy the first time he used his new abilities. He would just get rid of the worst of the scars. He was still SGC, and they were mundane, so he couldn’t go morphing his face completely on a vain beauty shift. There would be no way to explain that away at work, plastic surgery could only do so much.
The medication was slowly being tapered off as he healed physically. He had to learn to walk again, the damage from the crash was so extensive. If he had been able to shift his form since childhood, like other deigma, he might have been able to speed his recovery using his abilities. But that was way beyond him until he learned to control things.
Recovering in a hospital could be trying for someone that could see the fernal. They could sense him too. More than once he had woken to find an alastor standing beside his bed, staring at him. The newly risen tended to be dense and odd until they found their way and their minds returned. Being around so many roaming alastor started giving Cam nightmares. It was even worse the day a coulro tore out of the morgue and got as far as the parking lot before hospital security tackled the dead thing and dragged it back inside. Cam couldn’t wait to get out of the hospital.
When he could walk without pain, the medical team decided he could be taken off the medication keeping his abilities in check. He had been looking forward to the day for so long that like a child on Christmas Eve, he could not sleep. His first attempt at using his abilities would be closely watched by a doctor that was coming in especially to deal with his case. She was a specialist in “late-comers” – those that came into abilities later in life or had abilities thrust upon them by circumstance.
A blonde lady with a cheery smile poked her head through the door of his room and asked, “Lieutenant Colonel Cameron Mitchell?”
“Hi! I’m Kate Heightmeyer.” She came in and walked over to where he was sitting in the chair beside his bed, waiting anxiously for someone to come and get things started. He shook her hand when she offered it.
“I’m a psychiatrist, I’m also a ‘late-comers’ specialist, someone should have told you I was coming. I wanted to talk with you before the rest of the team arrived. How are you feeling today?”
He smiled and clasped his hands together on his knee to keep them occupied so he did not fidget. “Yes, I was expecting you. I’m nervous, excited, a little worried.”
“Those are completely normal feelings for someone in your situation. Now, has it been explained to you what you should expect the first time you try to use these new abilities?”
“Pain, but I can deal with it. My parents and brother have been drumming tips into my head for weeks, ways to ease into things, mental exercises to calm myself while I’m working through a shift.”
“Very good, it helps having family experienced with the use of the abilities. I need to explain to you before we start that I’m kleftis, as you know it is the law that I reveal that.” It made sense now why she was a specialist in her field. With her ability, it made perfect sense. He noticed then that she was wearing white gloves.
He nodded and gave her a smile as she looked at him, waiting for him to either accept or reject her. “I think I understand. I don’t have a problem with it.”
“Good. So if things get out of control, if the team determines that you are a danger to yourself or someone else, I will touch you. The result is an immediate drain of energies and usually a loss of consciousness. This is temporary, as is the loss of the ability. When you wake, everything will be back to normal.”
“But I’ll be back on the drugs, if I go wacko.”
She blushed lightly. “Well, yes, that is usually what happens if I have to step in.”
“I’m glad someone will be there to back me up, I was a little worried about what would happen if I lost it.”
She had a notebook open on her lap and she pulled a pen from her pocket. “Have you thought about it? Do you know what you’re going to attempt to do?”
Holding out his leg and tugging up the leg of the hospital scrubs, he pointed to the jagged scar that ran from thigh to ankle. “I was going to try to wipe that away.”
“Good! I approve. It is new tissue, still malleable and what you plan isn’t anything requiring too much concentration on an image. You’re just trying to coax the flesh back into factory specs, so to speak. I think it will go well.” She had to know so many things about the different fernal races, in order to do her work; Cam was impressed with the young doctor.
The medical team arrived and he was taken to a room with padded walls. He was given an injection to negate the remainder of the drug in his system and hooked up to machines by tiny wired pads stuck all over his body. He saw that there was a camera blinking in the corner, no doubt recording everything for posterity. He smiled up at it and gave a wave.
He felt the drug fading and began to feel warm and tingly. As he had been instructed, he reported each symptom he felt to the medical team. A nurse was taking note of the times and everything he said.
“Someone is wearing really strong perfume,” he was suddenly overwhelmed by the scent; it was making him a little queasy. “Vanilla, I smell vanilla.”
“That’s me. Sorry.” Doctor Heightmeyer tore open a paper packet that a nurse handed her and rubbed a moist paper soaked with alcohol over her wrists, her throat and behind her ears. “Better, Colonel?”
“Yes. Just Cam is fine, Doctor.” Now he smelled rubbing alcohol, but it was fading quickly.
“Call me Kate and I’ll agree.”
“Deal. I smell a whole bunch of stuff now. Heat from the computer, salt, damn, I smell sweat.”
“Unusual, an increase in scent ability is not a deigma trait,” one of the doctors that was near a computer remarked.
Kate tapped her chin thoughtfully. “Hhhmm, I wonder,” she said. She reached for her large shoulder bag and began to dig through it.
“Someone is screaming for a nurse, they’re shouting that they ripped out their IV,” Cam told them. It had suddenly grown very noisy in the room; he was hearing voices and machinery. He raised his hands and pressed them to his ears as it got worse and worse. “Ow, this hurts. I hear people, a lot of people in pain.”
“Someone will help them, Cam, I promise. Try to be calm. The nurses on the floor will hear their calls as well.” Kate came over and crouched down in front of his chair and rested her gloved hands on his knees. “Cam, do you need to stop? Is it unbearable?” He focused on her face; her lips were done in a light pink lipstick.
She had asked if he need to stop. Stop? If he stopped, he might never find out what he could do. “No, I can deal with it.”
She smiled. “Good. Now, stick out your tongue, I want to check something.”
He did as he was told and she placed a narrow strip of paper on his outstretched tongue and pulled it across the surface and away. “I want you to tell me what you taste.”
Taste? Okay, this was weird. No one had ever mentioned anything to him about hearing and tasting being different for deigma. “I taste licorice, no make that peanut butter. Eww. Fish?” His tongue was tingling madly and the taste was changing quickly. He started reciting what he tasted, “Lemon, pickle, something I can’t identify, vanilla frosting, chicken, marshmallow, strawberry, and now mint.” Mint was the last thing he tasted. He opened his eyes and looked at Kate. “That’s it, all gone now, I just taste a residual of mint.”
She was watching him intently. “Cam, I want you to remain very calm. I’ll be right back; I need to speak with my colleagues.” She patted his knee and went over to talk in a quiet huddle with the other doctors. He grew nervous when he noticed that one of the nurses was preparing a syringe and side-eying him.
His parents and brother had told him that shifting felt like water flowing over the skin. He had not felt anything like that yet. He looked down at his scarred leg and then up at the team. It looked to him like they were going to call a halt to the test. He couldn’t let that happen, he needed to know what this thing inside him waiting to get out was. He stared at his leg and went through the imagery exercise his dad had taught him, thinking of clear, unblemished, undamaged skin, of his leg as it had looked before Antarctica.
Heat washed over him from the top of his head down to his toes. His leg didn’t feel any different, but Cam felt something happening throughout his whole body. Crap, what had he done? “Kate? Something is happening, I’m hot. I feel weird.”
She ran over and crouched beside him. “Listen to me carefully, Cam. You are not deigma. You are not going to be able to use most of the preparation that was done for today. You need to remain calm, and try to will the change not to happen. Tamp it down.”
He wasn’t deigma? “What am I?”
“Allaghi, a changer, and from the taste test, you’re cat-kin. The taste you couldn’t identify from the strip was catnip, only cat-kin pick that up. There are other markers for the other races. Cam, you are not a small person, with your height and build, you are going to be lethally dangerous in cat form. Let me take it today, call it off, we’ll do more preparations for an allaghi first transformation and we will try this again.”
Allaghi? Cat-kin? He knew a few back in Auburn, had childhood friends that had been cat-kin. “No, I want to ride it out if I can. How did this happen, Kate, how does a ninth generation deigma become allaghi?”
“It was a recessive gene. I’m sure if we were to run tests on your family, we would find the markers in your parents and brother as well.”
“They will never let me live this down,” Cam chuckled and shook his head.
“Let’s get you through this, and then we’ll work on other concerns. Now, find a focus.”
“Got it,” he had practiced this much with his mom. He concentrated on the bell tower at the church; he had always loved climbing up there as a kid. It was a calm place of good memories in his mind.
“The allaghi usually concentrate on one body part to start the change. Pick something, maybe a paw, since you can see your hands and feet?” At his nod, she continued, “Now, imagine that your hand is becoming that paw, your nails are becoming claws, you can imagine fur where there is hair on your skin now, thick fuzzy fur.”
As he did that, he felt the heat surge into his hands. They began to tingle and itch. “Itchy.”
“It’s happening, kept going, you’re doing great. All your vital signs are excellent. You can do this Cam.”
He had been expecting agonizing pain. He had been prepared for levels of discomfort that would bring him embarrassment because he was being observed through the process. But when it happened, it was like sliding into a pair of too tight jeans: awkward and tight, but he was doing it. Soreness, yes, he eventually felt pain, especially when his bones began to lengthen, change and stretch. He saw the muscles morphing and flowing under his skin. He saw his hands changing into clawed paw-like hands. Cat-kin retained enough human attributes to operate in their changed form; he would still have his thumbs. He held his hands up and fur began to erupt, golden and smooth.
“A lion, you’re lion-kin,” Kate gasped as she watched him. No one was touching him as this happened, Kate was the closest to him, standing within easy reach, but she did not touch him.
It hurt when the rest of his body started to follow into the major parts of the change, especially when his midsection morphed. “Don’t hunch, Cam, don’t give in to the urge to go onto four legs, or you’ll always walk that way. Stay straight; train your body from today to be upright, even though the muscles are tight and pulling you forward.” He was glad she was here, telling him the things an Allaghi parent would have instilled in their offspring upon their first change. He didn’t feel quite so lost and alone.
“Good, good, you’re doing wonderfully! How do you feel?”
“Mouth hurts,” he mumbled, though it was hard to get the words out. He felt the sharp points of long incisors when he ran his tongue around his mouth.
“Yeah, teeth are a bitch. I keep a tube of baby-teething gel in my purse, it helps ease the ache. I’ll get it for you.” She waved to a nurse and her purse was brought over. She dug through and came up with the gel.
She held it out to him. “A small test of your dexterity. See if you can get it open and into your mouth. I don’t think any of us here are brave enough to put their fingers into the mouth of a lion.”
He had minor trouble twisting the cap off because it was a tiny tube and his hands seemed to be double the size they usually were. He did get it open though, and he held it in his palm for her. “Squeeze some?” The request came out garbled because of his new tongue and teeth, but she seemed to understand that he didn’t trust himself to squeeze out the required amount and only the required amount of gel.
Squirting a bit on the tip of one finger, she cautioned him, “Concentrate on keeping your claws sheathed now. You don’t want to pierce your cheek accidentally when you’re doing this.” No, he certainly didn’t want to do that. He was able to spread it around the teeth that were causing him the most pain and he grinned gratefully at her as it subsided.
“Okay, that, you can’t do that. We’ll get you a mirror and you’ll have to work on your expressions in private, but that right there, if it was meant to be a smile, looked like you were about to leap at me and tear out my throat. Scary, man, very scary. Don’t use it unless you mean it.”
When he laughed, the sound came out harshly. His vocal cords had been affected. The heat began to subside. “Not so hot now.”
Kate looked over her shoulder at the doctors monitoring him. “How’s the numbers?”
“It looks like he’s stabilizing into the form now. Numbers look good, holding steady, no slippage. I think he’s fine, we’ve got a bouncing baby allaghi on our hands.”
“Try standing, Cam,” Kate held a hand out to him and he took it and let her tug him up. He weaved a little on his feet unaccustomed to the new height. He towered over Kate, who seemed like a child beside him. Her hand was tiny in his.
“Seven and a half feet, definitely lion-kin. Go ahead and roar, Mitchell. This is gonna be fun.”
Roar? He could barely talk. “How?”
“Deep breath, feel it from here,” she patted his belly, “Just give a bellow like you’re really mad. Try shouting ‘Argh!’”
He cleared his throat and took a deep breath and then did what she said, he bellowed. What came out was like something out of a movie, a deep, threatening lion’s roar. Beside him, Kate clapped her hands and bounced on the balls of her feet. “Bravo, that was great!”
The nurses were tugging the remnants of the monitoring pads off his fur. Luckily, he had been wearing hospital scrub pants, so he still had his modesty preserved, though the thin cotton pants were skin tight now. He took a step forward, then another. Walking wasn’t too bad.
“How are your injuries from the crash, Colonel?” One of the doctors asked.
They were all so tiny now, he felt like patting their cute little heads. He recognized that he was slightly giddy. “I don’t feel anything, doctor, no pain at all, anywhere. Not even my teeth anymore.”
“High tolerance for pain, that’s a good trait for an allaghi. Try walking around the room; get accustomed to your new form.”
He did so. Kate stayed at his side, even though she didn’t have to. She was turning out to be someone Cam saw as a potential friend. She must be lonely, kleftis didn’t have a community, they tended to be loners and outcast in many places because of their ability; to ‘steal’ the abilities of others. She had been kind and supportive through this, he was sure it would have been a disaster without her calming presence. He promised himself that he was going to do everything he could to keep in contact with her.
“Will I always be like this when I change?” he asked Kate as he slid to the floor to stretch.
“Yes. Very few allaghi change into more than one form. Some are able to master the skill, but most do not. It takes a lot of practice.”
He couldn’t help himself, he threw his arms up and did a full body stretch. When he was done, he was purring. Dammit.
“You are adorable,” Kate laughed and rubbed his lightly furred belly. He still seemed to be a man, according to what he saw when he looked down, just a big man with golden fur and muscles and claws. She held out a large hand mirror to him and he looked at his new face for the first time.
How odd. He turned his head from side to side. He still looked essentially like himself. He had his own blue human eyes, not cat-slitted eyes. His nose was broad and flat and he had whiskers. He twitched them, it tickled. His hair was shaggy, but still the same sandy brown as his human hair. He had thick sideburns that trailed down his throat. The golden fur started at his throat.
“I’m a cat,” he said stupidly as he looked into the mirror and turned his head from side to side, looking at his pointy ears.
She sighed and patted his leg. “I told you that.”
“If you touched me without your gloves on, would you be a cat-lady?” he asked as a nurse came over and jabbed him in the arm with a needle, taking a few vials of blood.
“I would. I take the aspect of the person I touch, right down to the color of the fur. I’d be a golden lioness.”
“It suits you, with your blonde hair and your eyes. You’re probably a really pretty cat lady.”
She waved a hand at him in dismissal. “Colonel Mitchell, are you flirting with me?”
He shrugged. “A little, but you’re really not my type, I prefer men.”
“I thought so. Anyway, do you want to stay like this for a while or are you ready to be human-shaped again? You have to be hungry; a change like this takes a lot of energy. Feeding you when you are in cat-form will eventually bankrupt the hospital.”
“I am hungry.”
“It is best not to eat unless you are staying in this form long enough to digest the meal.”
“Why?” he wondered aloud.
She patted his belly. “Fill this puppy up and then shrink it down to normal size when you change…”
“Oh, right. Messy.”
“Painfully so,” Kate agreed.
“I have a lot to learn about being allaghi.”
“Don’t worry, there is no rush, you have time to learn. Now, to begin the change back, concentrate on your hands again and think of how you looked before…”
Stretched out on his back in his hospital room, Cam pressed the ‘send’ button on his cell phone and put it to his ear.
“Cameron honey! We’ve been waiting for you to call! How did it go?”
“It went okay, great even. The result was a little unexpected.” A lot unexpected. He heard his mom repeat what he said for his dad’s benefit.
“Oh, how so?” his mom asked.
“Well, you know how they said it was a recessive gene that was activated?”
He could hear her moving around the kitchen, the clatter of pots and pans. It was nearly dinner time back home. He wondered what they were having. “Yes, we remember. And I’m making chicken, in case you were wondering, which I know you were, you are a predictable boy that always calls at dinner time and always asks me what I’m making.” There was a smile in her voice; he wished he could see it.
“Well, it wasn’t a deigma gene that I had activated.”
His mother went quiet. Maybe he should have gone home to deliver this news in person. “But everything went okay Cameron, right? You’re not hurt, are you?”
“No, no, I’m fine. The rest of the damage from the accident, all the nerve damage and deep tissue scarring is gone.”
“How son?” his dad’s voice came on the phone, his mom had passed it over, they did that frequently during calls.
“I’m allaghi, Dad. We have the gene in the family; the deigma is dominant, allaghi recessive. When I changed back to human form, the damage was corrected.”
“Allaghi? Well I’ll be damned. We’ve got a changer in the family, Wendy.” Far from being upset, it seemed his parents were fine with the idea and the last of Cam’s worries about the situation dissipated.
His mom stole the phone back. “What kind of kin are you? I can’t wait to tell the rest of the family and the girls at church. Wolf-kin, horse-kin, goat-kin, bird-kin?”
“Cat-kin, lion-kin actually, it was pretty cool, Mom. Weird, but cool.”
“Well, if it was cool, then I suppose I don’t need to worry too much about you. Is there someone there you can talk to, to get the ins and outs of being allaghi?”
“They hooked me up with a specialist; she’s been really helpful and supportive. She just took a run to the bookstore in town to get me some reading material. I think everything is gonna be okay Mom. You guys can stop worrying about me.”
“We’ll always worry, son. We love you.”
“Love you too.” He closed the phone and flopped back against his pillows, wondering about how he was going to work his new abilities into his future assignment at the SGC. Maybe he needed to consider transferring to the Fernal Branch. But he liked the SGC. He’d have to think about it long and hard. General O’Neill had offered him his choice of positions when he was back on his feet and ready to return to duty. Maybe he could talk to the General and work out something.
He had not expected to be given command of the elite team, but he found himself trying to lure the members of SG-1 back into the SGC to be part of the team again. Surprisingly, it was Sam Carter that was the hardest to convince. He couldn’t tell his team about the Ori, what they really were. It hampered their investigations and battles on numerous occasions because of The Trust, the oath that protected all of Allos from the mundane world. It felt wrong, withholding information. He even went to General Landry about it, Landry was a shifter and understood better than anyone how to operate within the law and still hold to The Trust. He also understood Cam’s frustration with the renegade fernal that were mockingly calling themselves The Trust. It was one of Landry’s top priorities to catch them.
Keeping human form was often the most difficult thing to do, he could have broken free of numerous bindings and cells, but he had to wait until no one was watching, difficult when his team was also captive. He did get a chance, when they faced clones of Ba’al. He took down three of the bastards himself, in lion-form. Vala almost caught him, but he changed back just in time and managed to keep her from examining the bodies too closely. His temper nearly gave him away numerous times; he had to learn to control his anger.
In the past it had not been so dangerous to let go once in a while and have a tantrum. But now, high emotions could force a change. He was still learning control.
Auburn seemed different when he went back for his reunion. Vala talked her way into the trip, and that meant everyone had to be on their toes around her. He found himself highly amused watching Vala try to keep the SGC secret while everyone around her was protecting The Trust.
The day his life changed, again, was when SG-1 went to Atlantis. Things would never, ever be the same.