Disclaimer Stargate Sg-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted elsewhere without the consent of the author.
"Tell Jacob to stop," Daniel said.
"Why?" Jack asked, frowning as he struggled to make sense of the…vision.
"Because I'm ready to move on."
"You just giving up?" Jack asked, not able to wrap his mind around someone he knew, someone he cared about, just tossing in the towel.
"No. No, I'm not giving up. Believe me. You remember Oma."
"I think I can do more this way. It's what I want. I have to go now. Please, Jack. Tell Jacob to stop."
Jack looked from the apparition of his friend, to the form lying on the bed. The brilliant white light over Oma's head warred with the warm orange glow of the healing device. It was working. He could sense, feel that Jacob was healing him. Jacob would fix him. Oma…Oma was an unknown quantity, a what if. And Jack hated what ifs.
"Jack. Tell him to stop," Daniel begged. "Jack? Jack!" he yelled, his voice and the bright white light fading. Jack slipped back into the present, shaking his head slightly to clear his mind. Wrapped up in the drama before him, he put the vision out of his mind. It wasn't real, just a figment of his exhausted brain.
Three months later
"Sounds like an interesting planet."
Jack shrugged. "Carter's got the hots for it. And Jonas is rambling on about…something. Some cultural thing he saw in the MALP video."
"Probably the glyphs that look like Norse runes. It could be an abandoned Asgard planet."
Jack rolled his eyes, knowing full well that the gesture was lost in the dimness of the room. It was always dark in here, just a lamp or two and a couple of candles forming tiny areas of light and warmth in the darkness. Personally it gave Jack the creeps, but it was how Daniel wanted it. And he was certainly entitled to have his quarters however he wanted them. It was a small enough concession to make, all things considered. "Yeah. And we'll bring them home and the next time Thor's in the neighborhood he'll claim them and we'll be right back where we started," Jack said ironically. He looked at his watch, awkwardly twisting his wrist to catch the feeble light of one of the candles. "We ship out in an hour. I have to go."
"Can you do me a favor? Tell Jonas to use the lights on the camera. The last video he took was so dark it was almost impossible for me to make out the inscriptions."
"I'll tell him," Jack said. "You need anything before we go?"
"No." He sighed and pasted a twisted smile on his face. "Go. Have fun. I'll be here when you get back," he said dryly.
Jack nodded and turned, opening the door to the hall. He squinted and blinked furiously, fighting the urge to turn back and use the light spilling into the room to get a better look at his friend. He couldn't do that. Daniel had set the boundaries, and Jack respected them. It was the least he could do.
Jack walked into the gate room, pleasantly surprised to discover Sam, Teal'c and Jonas all waiting. Carter and Teal'c were old hands at the 'always be five minutes early' rule, it was just something they'd had a hard time teaching Jonas. He was almost as bad as Daniel that way, trying to cram so much into one day that he was perpetually late.
He felt a pang of regret that he fought to keep off his face. Daniel wasn't like that anymore, wasn't going to be like that ever again. His friend was now a mere shadow of himself, almost a caricature of the man he used to be. He had been ever since that first trip to Kelowna.
In moments like this, Jack regretted his decision; he regretted thinking that he knew better. He regretted not believing, not trusting Daniel. He regretted not being able to let go, to let him go.
Jacob had successfully healed his friend and stopped the progression of the radiation sickness. It had taken the Tok'ra hours to finish the healing and had nearly exhausted him. Fraiser had been amazed. According to the doc, everything worked, at least well enough for Daniel to survive, although he'd never be fully healthy again. Or would he ever look the same. Cosmetic changes were beyond the abilities of the healing device and Daniel had been left horribly scarred.
Because of that, he had asked General Hammond to allow him to move onto the base on a permanent basis rather than exist out in the world and have to deal with questions that he couldn't answer.
The general had agreed and Jack spent weeks disposing of Daniel's apartment and some of its contents, then arranging for the rest to be moved onto the base and into the suite of rooms the general had assigned to Daniel. At Daniel's request, the rooms were on a sub-level, one rarely used by the SGC. He'd become almost a recluse, allowing only a select few to come and visit him. He was always available for consultation, however only through Nyan, who acted as the man's eyes and ears.
If only they hadn't went to Kelowna, or if only he hadn't left Daniel alone with Jonas. If only Jacob had arrived earlier, before Daniel had been so close to death. If only Carter had been able…no. That wasn't fair. She tried. They all tried. They all did every thing they could to save him. It just hadn't been enough.
The gate opened with a dramatic whoosh and Jack pulled his thoughts from the past to the present. He knew from experience that recriminations accomplished nothing but to haunt you in the dark hours of the night. They distracted you. And distracted leaders usually accomplished nothing more than to get more of their people killed. "Ready to go?" he asked, deliberately interjecting enthusiasm into his voice.
So far, they'd only been on a handful of missions, the most notable of which being their recent attempted recovery of Anubis' abandoned hatak ship. Jonas had proven himself on that mission. Something Jack was glad to see. At first, he'd been skeptical of Daniel's suggestion that Jonas take his place in SG-1. But Daniel had been right there too. It had certainly been awkward for a while, however the Kelownan was quickly fitting in. Having him on the team would never be the same as Daniel, but he was doing a good job.
"Yes, sir," Carter said, resting her hands on the butt of her weapon.
"We were in fact awaiting your arrival," Teal'c said, his tone more than a little teasing.
Jack ignored the jibe. "Let's get this show on the road then," he quipped. Carter nodded and she and Jonas walked up the ramp, followed by Teal'c who paused to wait for Jack to join him.
"Sir?" Jack turned to see Nyan hurry into the room. He glanced at Teal'c then nodded, silently telling the Jaffa to go ahead and go through the gate. "Daniel wanted me to give you this." Nyan held out a slip of paper. "He looked over the MALP video again and thought that these locations held the most promise." Nyan opened the paper, reading off the list. "He likes the one north of the temple the best, but the one on the east side looks good too."
Jack took the paper and shoved it into his pocket, silencing the man with a glare. "I'll give it to Jonas on the other side." Nyan nodded and stepped back as Jack turned and strode up the ramp. He crossed the event horizon, habitually closing his eyes as he felt himself be pulled apart by the wormhole. It was silly; it wasn't like he was protecting his eyes, but it made him feel better. He stepped out of the gate and instinctively took a deep breath, then choked, coughing violently. His eyes went wide and he desperately looked around. Carter and Jonas were both collapsed on the ground, Teal'c staggering towards the DHD.
Jack heard the wormhole snap shut and realized that he needed to move, now. He staggered forward as Teal'c dialed. Jack knelt over his two fallen teammates. Both of them were deathly pale, their faces and lips tinged blue.
Fighting the overwhelming urge to breath, he dug his hands into Carter's vest, leaving the heavier Jonas to Teal'c. The wormhole opened and Jack dragged Carter forward, hoping that Teal'c would send the IDC correctly. At this point, it didn't matter…they were just as dead either way.
Teal'c joined him and together they dragged their teammates up the platform and through the gate. The clanging of his boots on the ramp had never sounded so good as Jack dragged Carter's feet clear of the gate, then collapsed to his knees, his chest heaving as he tried to fill his starved lungs with air. He could see that Teal'c was in the same state as he; both unable to do more than watch as the medics hurried up the ramp. And unable to do more than shrug his shoulders in response to Hammond's question. What the hell just happened?
"Colonel?" Hammond said, walking into the infirmary. He waved at Jack, motioning at the man to stay seated on the bed. Both Jack and Teal'c were still affected by whatever they'd breathed in on the planet, the oxygen masks helping a bit. Carter had regained consciousness but was still obviously weak, lying on the bed, occasionally coughing as her lungs purged the alien inhalant. Jonas' condition seemed to be garnering the most worry, Fraiser and her team working on him behind closed curtains. "What happened?" the man demanded, standing at Jack's bedside.
Jack shook his head. "I don't know, sir."
"That planet was not capable of supporting human life," Teal'c said. "We could not breathe and we could not immediately return to Earth with the SGC holding the gate open."
"It was ok," Sam croaked. Hammond turned to face her. "The MALP showed Earth like atmosphere." She coughed and brought the mask back to her mouth. Fraiser had already told him that a few more minutes and both Jonas and Carter would have been dead, with Teal'c in close pursuit.
"It wasn't Earth like. More like Moon like," Jack said. "Is it possible the MALP screwed up?"
Hammond shook his head. "We send back a team in full hazmat gear and retrieved the MALP. The atmosphere was fine. Sargent Helerman even took off his mask and had no problem breathing."
"That does not make sense, General Hammond," Teal'c said. "It takes many years for a planet's atmosphere to change this significantly."
"I don't care what Helerman breathed in. It wasn't normal air," Jack protested.
"I think we have sufficient evidence to back your claim, colonel," Hammond said. "There's no doubt that it happened, the question is why." Janet stepped from behind the curtain, pausing as she took in the sight of the four waiting people. "Doctor?" Hammond said, prompting her to walk forward. "How's Mister Quinn?"
She sighed. "Not too good," she said. "He's suffering from severe hypoxia. He's still unconscious"
Jack shook his head. "Is that normal?"
Janet shrugged. "Lack of oxygen affects different people differently. Plus we have Jonas' alien physiology to consider. He could wake up in an hour."
"Or?" Jack asked, picking up on her tone.
"Or it could be longer."
Hammond nodded. "And the rest?"
"Colonel O'Neill and Teal'c can leave, although I do want to check them over before they leave the base. Major Carter, I want to keep here for a while longer. I have no idea if there was just a lack of oxygen on the planet, or if there was something else that effected them."
Hammond nodded. "Let me know if there's any change," he told the doctor. He turned to Jack and Teal'c. "As soon as you two feel able, I'd like you to join me in the briefing room. If there's some problem with the MALP telemetry, we need to know about it. The next team may not be so lucky," the older man said.
"We've run a full diagnostic on every MALP, including the one Helerman recovered. They're all working properly, sir," Davis reported, the Sargent being pressed into service to brief them on the technical aspects in Carter's absence.
"Something sure as hell went wrong," Jack said, frowning and glancing out the window as the gate started to dial. SG-8 on a standard recon, his memory supplied.
Davis shrugged apologetically. "I don't know what to tell you, sir."
Hammond nodded and Davis typed in a few commands. The view screen flickered to life. "That's SG-7 recovering the MALP. There were no problems, colonel."
Teal'c frowned and leaned forward. "That is not the planet we were on earlier today."
"What?" Hammond asked.
"He's right," Jack said. "There wasn't any grass and the sky was purple, not green."
"Colonel, that's where SG-1 shipped out to this morning," Hammond said.
Jack shook his head. "No, sir. It wasn't." The general looked to Teal'c.
"We did not visit the planet in that video today."
Hammond stared at the pair; his broad face growing pale as the ramifications set in.
"Sir," Davis said urgently. "SG-8."
The quartet stared at each other for a second, then jumped to their feet, dashing down the stairs. "ABORT!" Hammond yelled. "ABORT!"
"Sirs?" Graham Simmons said, turning to face them as the last member of SG-8 stepped across the event horizon. "What's wrong?"
Jack stared in horror as the gate snapped shut, not knowing if he'd just witnessed the death of four officers or not.
"It doesn't make any sense, Daniel," Sam said, handing him the can of pop she'd brought from the commissary. Her friend took it, struggling a bit with his gloved hands to open it. He never left his suite of rooms anymore, at least not during the day. She'd heard a rumor or two that he'd often walk the halls in the wee hours of the morning and occasionally travel to the surface. But never in the daylight, and never without being covered from head to toe, complete with floppy hat and gloves.
She knew his scars were bad, Janet had hinted as much. And she knew it bothered him to be so disfigured, probably more than he'd ever let on. Nyan or the other three original members of SG-1 did all of his running for him, delivering food or doing any shopping he required.
"We've used the dialing program for years. If there was anything wrong with it, it would have shown up by now," she said, sitting on a stool.
He shrugged, taking a bite of his sandwich. "Maybe you've picked up a virus."
She shook her head, abandoning her dinner. "No. Not only does the mountain have firewalls a mile thick; there's no sign. It's like…like someone scrambled up the destinations. We dial the Tok'ra and we get Argos. We try it again and it works just fine. It's like the computer is randomly dialing the wrong planet."
"Maybe it doesn't like the Beta gate," he suggested with an awkward shrug, hiding his disdain. For someone so brilliant, she could be abysmally stupid. Sam shrugged back, picking at the crust of her sandwich. "That's what happened to you guys this morning? You got a wrong number."
She nodded. "Yeah. Our mission was to P3X456, we went to P4X236. That planet was deemed inhospitable, but we were leaving the MALP behind for a few weeks to gather atmospheric data since having a gate on a non-human supporting planet is a rarity."
"Was it bad?"
She nodded soberly, her hand instinctively going to her throat. "We couldn't breathe. From the blood tests she did, Janet thinks the planet's atmosphere was mostly nitrogen and carbon dioxide, with very little oxygen. Another couple minutes and Jonas, Teal'c and I would have died."
"How is Jonas?" he asked, hiding his regret behind concern. It wasn't supposed to happen this way, no one was supposed to get hurt, it was just supposed to be a joke. He smiled internally at the imagined sight of Sam and Jonas gasping for breath. It was really too bad he'd missed it, it must have been quite humorous. "Janet said it effected him badly."
"He's still unconscious." Sam sighed. "She was going to run some tests and see if there was any brain damage. Humans can go without oxygen for about 4 minutes before brain damage sets in. It may be different for Kelownans."
"How about the other teams?"
"We've got nine off world, including SG-8. So far, we've made contact with three and recalled them. As for the other six, we can't make contact. Right now we're just hoping that the problem is only affecting outbound wormholes and they can make it home ok. The problem is, if any of them need reinforcements, we can't help them. If we send a team out, we have no idea where we're sending them. All outbound gate travel is off limits until we figure out what's wrong," she said. "Which is what I should get back to." She got to her feet. "Do you need anything?"
He shook his head. "I'm fine. Besides, it sounds like you have bigger problems than me to deal with."
She smiled and gave him a light pat on the arm. "I'll talk to you later," she promised, quietly leaving the room, her mind already on solving the problem at hand.
Sam walked down the hall, scrubbing her hands over her face. She squeezed her eyes shut, hoping vainly that it would help the burning dryness she felt. She was tired. Which was silly given that she'd spent about six hours earlier today either unconscious or lying in bed.
She wanted to go home and sleep, Janet definitely wanted her to go home and sleep, but she couldn't. Not until they figured out what was wrong with the dialing computer. There were too many lives at stake to risk it, especially with the near miss of Anubis' recent attack still fresh in everyone's mind. Even if they managed to get all the off-world teams back safely, the gate was still too unreliable to use. Unless she could solve this, it would probably be the end of the SGC.
She walked into her lab, stopping short at the sight of an all too familiar looking face. "McKay, what are you doing here?" she demanded. "And WHAT are you doing on my computer?"
"Hello, sexy," he quipped. "You're actually lucky that the Pentagon detoured me from my flight back to the wonders of Moscow and sent me to study those gliders and whatever else they salvage from that ship you crashed," he said. "Otherwise, it would have taken me three times longer to get here." She didn't answer, but moved to stand by him, her arms crossed over her chest and a defiant look on her face. He sighed. "Look, Hammond didn't know how long you'd be out of commission. And since time is of the essence, he thought maybe I could come and help," he said sincerely.
"He thought that?" she asked. "Funny, he didn't mention it to me."
"Well, he agreed with me when I put it to him that way," Rodney said. "You need help, I'm here to help."
She shook her head, fighting back a wince at the twinge from her stiff neck. "What have you got?" she asked, moving to look over his shoulder at the screen.
"You've got a hacker. And a pretty good one from the looks of things." He punched a few buttons and brought up a screen. "Someone got into the code and basically scrambled things up. At the base, the computer still knows which planet belongs to which address, but when you dial there's a randomizer that sometimes picks a different destination."
"So if we rewrite the code, or better yet, go to a back up of the program, we should be fine," she said.
He shrugged. "Sure. For the short term. In the long run, you still have a hacker out there. One that's good enough to breech base security, get into a system that's supposed to be secure and get out undetected."
She sighed. "So, even though we know how to fix it, we can't, not until we find this hacker."
"Right," he agreed. "You guys have the dialing computer segregated from the main base system, right?"
"Yeah. Learned that one the hard way," she said.
"Which would mean your hacker had to use the control room computers, but he didn't. I already checked them."
"So they hacked in externally?" she asked. "That's not possible."
"Apparently, it is. And he'll probably do it again and again until someone gets killed."
"I don't suppose you have any way to track this guy down?"
"Astonishingly enough…I do." He smiled, reaching into his pocket. "Samantha Carter, meet Waldo." He held up a CD.
"A cute little program I wrote. You'd be surprised what you can accomplish when you live in the land of 3 TV channels, none of them in English. All I need to do is get on the network and run this. I link it to the hacked program and it'll track it down to its source, or at least the computer he used to hack into the system, maybe further if he's really stupid. You do need to take the system off-line," he said. "If he's even a little computer savvy, he'll know we're onto him and cover his tracks."
She shook her head. "I don't have that kind of authorization." He rolled his eyes. "But the general does." She looked at her watch. "He should still be in his office."
Rodney got to his feet and followed her from the room.
Jack walked into the control room, Teal'c hot on his heels. "Mckay?" Jack asked, frowning. "Who the hell let you in?"
"You know, I get such a warm and fuzzy feeling from this place," he quipped back. "Isn't she cute when she drools?" He jerked his thumb towards Sam, who was hunched over one of the consoles, fast asleep.
"It would be wise if Major Carter did not hear you make such a remark," Teal'c said, his lips twitching.
Jack snorted then sat down, spinning a chair to straddle it, laying his arms over the back. "Any luck?" he asked.
McKay shrugged. "Waldo's going as fast as he can. You guys got one hell of a computer system, and a lot of security barriers for him to break through."
"Security barriers that are supposed to stop hackers," Jack said. Hammond had retired an hour ago, staking claim to one of the VIP rooms. He'd left orders to be notified as soon as McKay's program revealed anything significant. Which was probably where Jack should be, and obviously where Carter should be.
"Colonel O'Neill, the only computer that's one hundred percent hack proof is one that's not hooked up to anything. A computer network is a hacker's dream. You get into one, you've gotten into them all." The computer dinged and the screen flashed. "Waldo, buddy," Rodney said, rolling his chair forward, rubbing his hands briefly.
Jack perked up, leaning over. "What cha got?"
Mckay typed furiously, then frowned and did it again. "This isn't possible."
"What?" Jack asked.
"This just is NOT possible," McKay insisted.
"Tell me or I will go find a gun and shoot you," Jack threatened loudly, casting a quick glance at Sam who had been woken by the conversation. Teal'c stepped forward, purposefully looming over McKay.
The scientist swallowed and frowned. "According to Waldo, the hacker didn't infiltrate the base from the outside. Which is good."
"McKay," Jack said warningly.
He looked down, then met Jack's gaze. "It was an inside job. The work of an artist."
He looked deliberately at Sam, who was just raising her head, blinking tiredly. Jack and Teal'c both followed Rodney's gaze. "What?" she asked sleepily. "What'd I miss?"
"They can't honestly think that Sam did it," Daniel said.
The doctor shrugged. "No one wants to, but there is the fact that the dialing program was re-written on her computer and they found a disc in her locker."
He shook his head, raising his arm so she could check his blood pressure. "There's no way. Besides, she almost died."
"Only because the colonel delayed. Normally, they could have been there and back in about a minute. Are you feeling ok?" she asked, noting the reading in her chart. These daily checkups were a part of his routine now; something Janet claimed was necessary given his severely compromised immune system, plus other ailments caused by the radiation. Jacob's healing device had been able to repair his organs to mostly normal, but Daniel knew he'd never be healthy again.
Chronic anemia often left him exhausted and meant that he rarely left his quarters. Which really was for the best given the state of his immune system which meant that the simplest cold could rage nearly uncontrolled through his body and kill him in days.
Of course, it was also easier not to leave. Janet and his teammates were used to his appearance, many members of the SGC weren't and he soon grew to resent the pity and averted eyes of the people he passed in the halls.
He raised his hand, studying it in the pale light. His skin was rough and uneven, pocked and lumpy with scar tissue. The healing device hadn't been able to fix that. Just as it hadn't been able to help the weeks of agony he'd endured as his body struggled to heal itself.
"I'm fine," he replied automatically, the thumb of his right hand rubbing the skin at the base of his left wrist. Somehow, even Janet didn't know how, that small piece of his skin had been spared the skin lesions. The skin was still normal there, soft and smooth, a constant reminder of how things used to be.
She looked at him, then nodded, shoving her equipment back into her bag. "Ok. You should get some sleep, the more run down you are, the more your body is stressed. I want to check your blood count tomorrow, it may be time for another transfusion," she said, referring to the blood transfusions he received on a regular basis to make up for his damaged bone marrow's inability to keep up with his body's demands.
"How's Quinn?" he asked.
She shook her head. "Not good. He's still in a comatose state. I'm starting to wonder if it's more than just hypoxia."
"What else could it be?"
She shrugged. "For all I know, he ate something before they left and this is some sort of allergic reaction. Or maybe Kelwonans hibernate every once in a while. I just don't know. I mean, he looks human, but he's not. He's got a different metabolism and nutritional requirements than the rest of us."
"Sounds like you should get back to him," he said. "I think he needs you more than me."
"Go. Take care of your patient," he dismissed, picking up a book off the table. "I'll be fine," he insisted at her skeptical look. "You have more important things to do."
She waited a few seconds, then turned and left, quietly shutting the door behind her. He sighed and set down the book, trying to deny the feelings of loneliness that swept through him. She'd left him, just like he'd known she would. Just like she always did.
She never stayed any more, never spent any personal time with him. Just like everyone else. Oh, they stopped by. But he knew it was motivated more by pity or duty than by a real desire to be there. He could see it in their faces, in how quickly they usually found excuses to be somewhere else. How they would never look him in the face, yet would stare at his hideousness when they thought he wasn't paying attention. He was like a side show freak, one they were ashamed to admit that they knew.
He opened a drawer and pulled out a small hand mirror, the only reflective surface he allowed in his rooms. Shifting so that the light shone over his face, he stared at his reflection. It never changed, no matter how hard he wished, how desperately he prayed, it still remained the same.
He brushed his hair aside and ran his fingers down his cheek, feeling the uneven surface of his face. Some of his skin was unnaturally smooth, like the surface of a blister, all texture gone, other pieces was rough and hard, like one huge scab. Some of his nerves had been damaged and there were areas that he couldn't feel, and other areas that were almost super sensitive.
He didn't even look human any more, humanoid certainly. But not human. He was a monster, an aberration, and a mistake. It didn't have to be like this, wasn't supposed to be like this.
At first, Daniel had thought it was just a drug-induced hallucination, his unconscious mind trying to make sense of dying. But the more he thought about it, the more he knew that it was real. Oma had offered him ascension, and he'd wanted it. Wanted it so badly, but been denied.
Why? Why had Jack ignored him? Why hadn't he stopped Jacob? He should have trusted him, cared for him enough to let him go. He was willing to honor Sam's wishes a year ago and turn off her machines, why couldn't he have done the same for him? Jack and Hammond had been willing to defy the NID to preserve Teal'c's body. Hammond had even been willing to kill Teal'c before he allowed the Jaffa to become the latest lab rat for the NID…why didn't he deserve the same respect? They chose to cut off ties with Kelowna to give Jonas sanctuary, choosing a single human life over the untold benefits of the naquadria.
Did they care for him too much to let him go…or not care enough to have his fate matter? After all, what did they need him for now? The gate was open; they had Nyan and Jonas to do all their translating for them. He was pretty much extraneous, like an extra set of sheets for the bed in the guestroom. Something that was handy to have around, but really wasn't necessary.
Jack hadn't believed him, hadn't trusted him. Just like so many times before, he hadn't believed in him. If he had, then he wouldn't be living like this. He wouldn't be this scarred, pathetic creature, doomed to live the last of his days in virtual exile.
With a surge of anger, he threw the mirror, enjoying the sound as it shattered against the far wall. It was all Jack's fault. Jack was going to listen to him this time. He was going to listen and he was going to pay.
Sam lay on the bunk, her body craving sleep, but her mind steadfastly refusing to shut down. There was no way; no way in hell she'd hacked the system. Both the colonel and the general said they knew that. But they'd still insisted that she take up residence in one of the isolation rooms until they could get to the bottom of it. Logically it was a good precaution to take. If she really was guilty, then keeping her away from the computers was the only way to prove that she wasn't really covering her tracks. But logic didn't make her feel any better.
She heard the lock rattle and looked up, frowning as a shrouded figure entered the room "Sam?"
"Daniel?" She got to her feet and walked over to him. "What are you doing here?" If it weren't for his voice, she'd not have recognized him. He was covered from head to toe, a floppy hat and upturned collar shrouding his face.
"I thought you could use some company." He shut the door behind him and turned off the overhead light, leaving the lamp beside her bed as the only illumination in the room. "Come on," he said, pulling the door open.
"Daniel, I can't. I'm confined to quarters."
"That's not going to be a problem." He reached out and took her hand in his gloved grip. "Let's go." He pulled her from the room. She tried to resist, but didn't pull too hard for fear of hurting him. "Don't worry, they're ok," he said as she stared at the unconscious guards lying on the floor.
"Daniel! What did you do?"
"Sam, are you just going to wait in there until whoever's framing you finishes the job?"
"No. I'm going to wait until McKay clears my name."
He snorted, leading her to the elevator. "McKay doesn't give a damn about clearing your name. He's the one that hacked the system," he lied, pulling out his card to summon the elevator. The corridors were deserted, which wasn't surprising given the late hour.
The car arrived and he pulled her into it, punching the button for level 21.
"Where are we going?"
"You'll see," he answered cryptically.
"Daniel, look. This isn't a good idea." She stepped forward, her hand going for the emergency stop.
"Don't," he said, pulling a pistol from his pocket.
"Daniel?" she asked, staring first at the gun, then up to his hidden face. What the hell was going on?
The elevator pinged and the door slid open. "The base is mostly deserted at this time of night," he said, waving the gun. "But you wouldn't want any innocent bystanders to be hurt, now would you?" He jerked his head. "We're going to the infirmary. Move."
She did as he ordered, glancing over her shoulder, trying to judge the distance. "I'll shoot you before you could disarm me," he said. "You know that. You taught me."
She led him into the infirmary, her eyes scanning the room. It was dim; the lights lowered to make it easier for the patients to sleep, although she doubted Jonas appreciated the effort.
The Kelownan was the only patient at the moment and the quiet hiss of his respirator sounded horribly loud in the quiet room. He gave her a shove, forcing her to stand by Jonas' bed. "Daniel, what are you doing?"
"Turn it off," he ordered.
"What?" she asked, horrified. Janet said Jonas was totally dependent on the respirator right now. If she turned it off…."NO." She shook her head and crossed her arms over her chest.
"Turn. It. Off," he said, cocking the gun.
Sam stared at him, trying to look into the deep shadow of his face to see his eyes. She couldn't see anything, in fact, if it wasn't for his voice, she'd not believe that it was him. "I won't. If I turn it off, he dies. It's murder."
"It's mercy," he said coldly. "And I should have known you wouldn't have the guts to do it." He squeezed the trigger and she futilely raised her hands to ward off the bullet. The flash filled her eyes and a horrible force struck her in the chest, throwing her off her feet. She vaguely felt herself fall, her body no longer in her control. Oddly enough, she never heard the report; the only sound her ears could hear was her own thundering heartbeat.
Lying on the floor, she watched his feet come closer. He squatted down and cocked his head, staring at her quizzically. "It's a miracle you survived this long," he said, reaching out and grabbing her hand.
He stood up, pulling her partially to a sitting position. She tried to move, but her arms and legs wouldn't obey her commands. She heard him curse, then saw him shove the pistol into the back of his pants. He took her wrist in both hands and twisted her body, ignoring her choked cry. She felt her hand brush over something then his fingers deliberately manipulated hers, twisting her wrist painfully until she felt something click.
Done, he dropped her arm and she slumped back to the floor. "You know, you DO manage to ruin everything you touch. Here's another corpse for your collection," he said.
"What the hell is going on?" she heard Janet demand.
"Aah, Janet. I was hoping to run into you," Daniel said. Sam heard the doctor cry out, then their voices faded, leaving her alone with only the steady beep of Jonas' EKG to keep her company. Struggling to breathe, she listened to it fumble and stutter, becoming increasingly erratic until it settled into a steady, mournful note.
Janet stumbled behind Daniel, struggling to keep up in her heels. She fought to free her wrist from his grasp, inwardly surprised at the strength of his grip. She hadn't thought he was this strong. "Daniel. Daniel. Let me go!" she demanded.
"Why?" he asked, pausing to turn and face her.
"Daniel you're…you're obviously not feeling well. We should…"
"No!" he yelled, pushing her against the wall. He shoved the pistol into her face, pushing the barrel under her chin. "I'm not going back. I'm not going to be your pet project any more."
"What are you talking about? Daniel I…" He tightened his grip and pushed harder. "You're not my project, Daniel," she whispered. "You're my friend. A very good friend and…maybe something more."
"You're just like the rest. You can't stand me."
She shook her head. "No. I…"
"I see it in your face. All you feel for me is pity."
"No." She felt her voice break and tears well up. She slowly raised her hand and laid it on his cheek, feeling him flinch under her touch. "I don't pity you. I would never pity you. I…"
"DANIEL!" She heard O'Neill yell. Daniel spun, effortlessly pulling her in front of him as he faced Jack. "Let her go," the colonel ordered, his sidearm held unwaveringly in his grasp. Teal'c stood behind him, armed with a zat.
"Or what? You'll kill me," he sneered. "Hell, I'm dead man walking. Just ask the doc here."
"Daniel, I don't know what's wrong," Jack said. "Let the doc go and we'll go talk about it. I'm sure we can fix it."
"You had your chance to 'fix it' months ago and you didn't have the balls."
Janet listened to the tone of her friend's voice and felt her heart jump as she realized what he was doing. "Colonel!" Daniel immediately shifted his grasp, covering her mouth with his hand.
"It's the only way," he whispered, cocking the gun and pointing it at Jack. In slow motion she watched O'Neill's eyes narrow, his head shake faintly, his finger tighten on the trigger. She saw the brilliant yellow flash blossom from the barrel of the gun, a tiny bit of metal emerging from the fire. She heard Daniel grunt, his exhaled breath ruffling her hair. She felt his arm convulse for a second, then loosen. He fell away and she could only stare at Jack as she heard Daniel slump to the floor, his pistol skittering across the cement.
O'Neill stepped forward, breaking eye contact. She shook her head and turned, kneeling at Daniel's side. "Over?" he whispered, choking on his own blood.
"It's over," she confirmed, making no move to help him, no move to stem the flow of blood. She took his hand in one of hers, lying the other on his cheek. "It's all over," she said, tears streaming down her face. "All over," she repeated as his eyes fluttered shut for the last time.
"Doc…I…" Jack said, standing behind her.
She knelt over and kissed his cheek, then stood up, turning to face Jack. "It's what he wanted," she said. "It's what he's wanted from the beginning.
"Jacob. Stop," Jack ordered calmly, his doubts now replaced by certainty.
"Are you serious?" Jacob asked, the device still glowing in his hands. Carter looked at him, horror on her face. Jack remembered that same face, still and white, covered in her own blood, her eyes staring sightlessly forward. "It's what he wants," he said.
"Someone else tell me what to do," Jacob begged.
"Just let him go," Jack said. Jacob stopped, the golden light fading. Daniel took one more breath then his heart stopped, the monotone of the EKG echoing in his ears like an accusation.
The stained sheets covering Daniel bucked, then slid to the side, a glowing form coalescing from among the bandages. The world flashed and Jack turned, finding himself in the gateroom. "I'm gonna miss you guys," Daniel said.
Jack stared at his friend, now whole and healthy. "Yeah, you too," he said.
"Thank you, for everything."
"So what…See you around?" Jack asked, stalling for time.
Daniel shrugged. "I don't know."
Jack watched his friend turn and walk up the ramp. "Hey. Where are you going?"
"I don't know."
Jack watched Daniel leave, then the world flashed again and he was back in the infirmary. "Colonel?" Sam asked, looking from Jacob to him.
"It's what he wanted, Carter," Jack said. "It's how it had to be," he whispered, turning and leaving the room. He walked down the hall, surprisingly enough, not feeling grief, just relief. Relief that it was over, that his friend was at peace…relief that he'd made the right decision.