#1 in the Life's Little Problems Series
Life's Little Problems A Little!Danny fic by: Maj. Cliffhanger E-Mail Me
Cam was the first through the gate. With practiced ease, he stepped forward out of the way of those who followed and scanned the immediate vicinity for sign of friend or foe, weapon held at the ready.
There should have been friends...
The SGC had received an urgent call for help from the planet Cimmeria less than two hours ago. Apparently they'd been visited by a Prior. General Landry had given an immediate go to SGs 1 and 3 to check it out. Cimmeria had become an automatic stop for any team that wound up in enemy hands during the height of the war against the Goa'uld. SG-1 in particular had formed ties of friendship with some of the people there. Surrendering them to the Ori without a fight wasn't an option.
Cam glanced around unhappily as he heard those behind him step from the event horizon and move forward.
"Where's Gairwyn?" Daniel asked as he frowned and performed a little pirouette, looking for her.
Cam was frowning and wondering the same thing.
"She should have at least left someone to greet us," Sam offered in concern as she moved to join her teammates. Teal'c stood slightly apart, his attention turned outward as he searched the area for possible threats - and found one.
"There!" He suddenly pointed. Moving from out of the trees to their right was the unmistakable form of a Prior.
"Sam..." Mitchell shouted in warning.
"I'm on it!" she shouted back, already in the middle of putting the case that contained the anti-Prior weapon she carried down on the ground and tossing the lid open.
Cam knew it was going to take her a few minutes to set it up; a few minutes they probably didn't have. They hadn't expected to confront the guy the minute they stepped through the gate!
Even as Daniel and SG-3 moved into defensive positions beside him, Cam quickly opened fire and laid down a line of bullets about three feet in front of the advancing Prior.
He was a little surprised when the guy actually stopped.
"That's far enough!" he shouted. They knew from experience that the guy could stop their bullets. Why had he stopped? Cam wondered for a second if a big enough barrage could actually overwhelm him... Whatever, he wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth!
He needed to stall while Sam got set up.
"How ya doing?" he called, not caring how inane it sounded. "We're looking for a some friends of ours that live in these parts. 'Don't suppose you want to tell us what happened to them, do ya?"
The Prior chose to ignore his words and called out a name instead. "Daniel Jackson."
Daniel and Cam exchanged nervous glances. What the hell did the guy want with Jackson?
"Yeah?" Daniel called back before Cam could claim he wasn't with them. Cam winced, knowing anything a Prior might want with the other man couldn't be good.
The Prior lifted his staff and brought it back down again, planting it firmly in the soil to his side. A bright burst of energy exploded outward, sweeping through and past the small group before they could do much more than blink. In the next moment they were all firing, knowing perfectly well they were being attacked and had about the same chance as a snowball in hell of surviving it!
Surprisingly, the bullets hit their target. Cam saw fifteen to twenty small holes erupt in the fabric of the loose robes and knew the guy was dead before he hit the ground. Or he should be, he corrected the thought as he watched him fall. The crystal in his staff went dark and was shattered by the bullet spray before it too fell to the ground and rolled a short distance from his unmoving hand.
The guy definitely looked dead, Cam thought. Had Sam actually managed to get the weapon set up and activated that quickly?
The guy and his staff suddenly burst into flames and vanished.
Yep. He was dead alright, Cam thought. He glanced back over his shoulder to find Sam - and froze as he realized Daniel was down.
"Jackson!" he yelled. Damn, damn, damn, he thought, as he took the necessary steps to cross the short distance between them.
"Don't touch him!" Sam cried in warning. She'd already come to the same conclusion Cameron had. This whole thing had been a trap and they'd walked right into it.
"That blast of his was meant for Jackson," Cameron called back, ignoring her warning and turning Daniel over. "If he'd meant to attack the rest of us, we'd be out for the count too." He reached for Daniel's throat and was relieved to find a strong and steady pulse. "He's alive. Miller!" he shouted at the SG-3 team member who was closest to the DHD. "Dial us up. We need to get him home. Now!"
"Belay that, Lieutenant," Sam countermanded Mitchell's order and turned back to the co-commander of SG-1 with a frown. "This attack could be the start of a new Prior plague for all we know. We can't take him back to Earth. None of us can go back."
Cam frowned darkly. "Then what do we do?"
"Omega Site," Col. Reynolds of SG-3 answered cryptically.
Sam nodded. "They were established to handle situations just like this," she agreed. "We call them, let them know what happened and then do whatever they tell us to do."
Cam winced. An entire off-world base of doctors and scientists dedicated to bio-medical and hazardous materials research did not sound like a place he wanted to go, but he knew Carter was right. Going back to Earth, or anywhere else for that matter that wasn't set up to handle the worst that the Ori could dish out, was asking for serious trouble. He agreed reluctantly and nodded as he turned back to Lt. Miller. "Do it."
The man nodded and turned back to the DHD to begin inputting the necessary glyphs.
"Everybody else, into MOPP gear," Sam ordered, dumping her backpack to retrieve the specialized clothing they all carried. If the attack turned out to be more generalized than they thought, targeting more than just Daniel, she knew the order would do no good. They still needed to take whatever precautions they could.
She glanced up as she quickly dug out the bright orange suit and caught Mitchell's eyes. "You really shouldn't have touched him, you know."
Mitchell had broken out his surgical scrub pack and was attacking his hands even as she spoke. He glanced back over to her. "I know," he said simply.
His look offered no apology.
She shook her head and turned her attention back to donning the protective gear as the stargate whooshed open beyond her.
* * *
Omega Site was not prepared to handle SG-1. Normally, yes, they would have been; but at the moment they were dealing with SG-12 who'd been attacked by a swarm of giant blue hornets, SG-17 who'd contracted some kind of viral infection which caused contagious blindness, and a large group of refugees suffering from radiation exposure due to an incredibly strong EM emission from their sun which had all but stripped the ionosphere from their planet.
A Prior attack did take priority; however, because everyone except Daniel were asymptomatic yet equally exposed to any possible effects of the Prior's staff - and because the facility was full to bursting - SG-3 was placed in isolation room 2 and SG-1 in 'Iso. 3.' Their beds were separated with plastic tenting and each of them had a separate nurse to monitor them, but they were all in the same room.
When Dr. Lam suddenly appeared in the observation room, having been summoned from Earth, the first thing any of them asked about was Daniel.
"No one's telling us anything," Sam complained bitterly.
"I'm afraid there's not a lot to tell," Dr. Lam answered with the cool professionalism that was her trademark. "Dr. Jackson is in a coma and we don't know why. So far his tests are all coming up negative."
"Prior plague?" Cam asked the question that was in the back of all their minds.
"Not that we've found so far," she answered. "If it is, it's definitely not the same as last time. From what your reports all said, it sounds like Dr. Jackson was specifically targeted."
"Yeah," Cam sighed, glancing through multiple layers of plastic to meet Sam's and Teal'c's eyes. "That's kinda what we're afraid of."
"But why?" she asked in apparent mystery. "Why him and no one else?"
It was Sam who answered. They'd all had ample time to think about it. "He's probably the closest thing this galaxy has to an expert on them. And he knows even more about the Ancients."
"Both Daniel Jackson's knowledge of their galaxy and previous experience as an ascended being make him a powerful threat," Teal'c added solemnly. "It is only natural they would seek to eliminate him."
"Then why not kill him?" Dr. Lam asked. "We've seen the Priors literally pick people up and toss them miles away. Why ... this, whatever this is?"
The three friends frowned in pensive thought for a long moment. It was Sam who came up with a possible answer. "Maybe they're afraid the Ancients will ascend him again if they actually try to kill him," she suggested.
"Indeed," Teal'c agreed. "Trapped in a coma, he is as good as dead. They need not risk the Ancients' wrath or the even greater danger that an ascended Daniel Jackson might pose."
"Just the danger that we could figure out a way to wake him up," Cam interjected and frowned up at the observation room. "So doc? Any magic pills in your bag of tricks there? 'Think you'll be able to figure out whatever-the-hell it was they did to him and wake sleeping beauty up again?"
"That's why I'm here, Col. Mitchell," she answered with a nod. "I don't make off-world house calls for fun."
* * *
Dr. Carolyn Lam sighed as she scanned the latest test results and slapped the paperwork down on the desk of the observation room with a loud 'thunk'. "Damn!" she whispered.
Two days and nothing; not a single bleep in any of his testing to give them the slightest clue as to what was going on here. No pathogens, no immunity reactions, no toxins or injuries. X-rays, MRIs, PET and SPECT scans were all normal. Blood work, urine analysis, EKG ... nothing. Even his EEG was normal - and it shouldn't have been. He didn't have the typical suppressed brainwave activity of a coma patient. According to it, he was simply asleep. The fact that he was at the very bottom of the Glasgow Coma scale - no response to stimuli at all, not even pain - made no sense. He should be up and running around ... but he wasn't. The only good thing she could say was that he wasn't on a respirator or posturing.
Dr. Lam sighed again and ran her hand through her hair. He wasn't responding to treatments either. The typical 'coma cocktail' had been administered immediately - thiamine, glucose and naloxene, as well as a battery of antibiotics and antivirals. None of it worked; not surprising given this was a Prior attack. She was considering direct cortical stimulus but wanted to run a few more tests first. The Asgard and the Tokra had also been contacted and she understood someone was trying to get a hold of the Nox."
Extraordinary measures - but then Dr. Jackson wasn't an ordinary man, as much he liked to think he was.
"Doctor?" The physician attending Dr. Jackson in the isolation room below her suddenly called for her attention. He'd been in the process of performing a standard physical exam and now frowned up at Lam in confusion. "His appendectomy scar is gone."
"Dr. Jackson had an appendectomy about five years ago," the man explained unnecessarily. "The scar that was here yesterday ... is simply gone!"
The man gestured at Dr. Jackson's exposed lower abdomen but Lam was too far away. She'd seen the scar before in any case. Dr. Jackson himself had commented on how strange it was that certain scars, like the appendectomy, had carried over from his latest ascension/descension while others hadn't, like the bullet hole in his shoulder where Gen. O'Neill had shot him when he was possessed by Anubis.
"Check the back of his left thigh," she suddenly ordered.
Together, Dr. Carmichael and the attending nurse managed to roll their patient onto his side. Dr. Carmichael glanced up at the observation room again in mounting confusion. "It's not there either," he declared. That was another scar that had carried over and should still be present, from when he was shot by the Honduran rebels in Nicaragua.
Disappearing scars... She frowned in confusion. Had he been struck with some sort of reverse Prior plague? One that healed old wounds and granted perfect health instead of sickness?
That didn't make sense.
"Check his teeth," she ordered abruptly and began leafing through his file to find what she wanted.
Dr. Carmichael frowned in confusion but didn't argue. The nurse helped him open the comatose man's mouth and he used his pen light to make a quick visual inspection. "Twenty-eight," he called back to Lam. "No wisdom teeth, one filling."
Lam frowned down at his dental record. His wisdom teeth had been pulled when he was twenty, but he should have three fillings. "That's not Daniel..." she decided.
"Doctor?" Those in the isolation room hadn't heard her comment.
She quickly depressed the mike button. "That's not Daniel Jackson. It may be a clone of some kind. Place him in full security restraints and draw another genetic profile."
"The genetic profile we already ran should have detected a clone, Dr. Lam," the other doctor argued with another frown.
"Then maybe the Ori are better at it than the Asgard are," she shot back. "Just do it: restrain him and draw a new profile. And get me a set of dental x-rays for comparison as well. I'm going to talk to SG-1 again. Let me know as soon as you're done."
The other doctor nodded and Lam hurried back to isolation room three.
* * *
With Dr. Lam, SG-1 had gone over the reports again and again, each of them adding every possible detail they could to their earlier account of events, but none of them had actually seen Daniel fall. He'd been standing beside but slightly behind Col. Mitchell when the attack began.
"So it's possible someone beamed him out and substituted a clone in his place," Lam concluded.
"Possible," Sam agreed reluctantly, "but why? The way we were positioned I should have seen the substitution. The fact that I didn't was mere chance. I was too busy concentrating on setting up my equipment, but the Prior couldn't have counted on that. If this were some kind of massive ruse to cover a kidnapping, then wouldn't they have at least tried to separate him from us first? At least make sure we weren't surrounding him the way we were?"
"Maybe they made you all blink at the same time and you just didn't know it." Lam threw her hands up in exasperation. "For all I know they stole him out of here! Yesterday he had an appendectomy scar and today he doesn't. He also only has one filling, not three. Magically healing scars I can somehow buy, but disappearing fillings are a little harder to swallow."
Sam got a strange look on her face. "Unless that's exactly what he did," she said.
"Come again?" Lam asked.
"Swallowed the fillings," the other woman answered. "If the teeth were somehow 'magically' healed along with his scars, they would push the fillings out and he could have swallowed them, couldn't he?"
Lam was frowning in thought. "Maybe..." she admitted. She hadn't even considered the possibility. Dental records had always been the standard fall back for identification purposes simply because teeth didn't heal like that.
Scars didn't just vanish either.
Sam continued her thought. "You said he still had a filling?"
Lam nodded but Sam might not be able to see that. "Yeah," she answered aloud. gI'm waiting for the x-ray results to do a dental comparison.h
"Which filling? I don't know," Lam admitted. "I didn't ask. Why?"
Sam shrugged. "Why's he still got it?"
"I was thinking the Ori messed up on creating a clone," she answered with a frown.
"They're good enough to create a clone capable of fooling our genetic testing but mess up on Daniel's teeth?" Sam asked in clear disbelief.
Put that way, it did seem a little far-fetched. "So what ... this was some kind of 'healing' attack? They're going to put him in a coma and hope he lives forever?"
Cam's face became grim. "'Makes sense to me," he allowed. "The Ancients can't ding the Ori for 'healing' him, right? The fact that he never wakes up is immaterial. He's still alive and well!"
"Damn," Sam cursed softly. "He's right. The Ori might very well be trying to keep him alive and well. If he doesn't die, the Ancients can't ascend him."
"I thought I read somewhere that death wasn't necessary for ascension to take place?" Lam asked, still frowning.
"Not for a hoc'tar, or advanced human," Sam agreed. "We think they can consciously will it to happen; but Daniel is neither conscious nor a hoc'tar. Every time he's ascended before, he's had to die first."
"He also had an Ancient helping him," Cam added, having talked to Daniel about it a little himself. "Oma's not exactly available to do the deed this time around."
"Maybe they don't know that," Sam argued. "Or maybe they're worried about one of her followers doing it. Daniel always said there were others she'd helped ascend. Maybe someone is carrying on her work while she's busy fighting Anubis."
"Someone who would come to Daniel's aid if he were to die again," Cam surmised.
"Sorry guys, I'm not going to try to kill him to find out," Carolyn rejoined, finding that the discussion had taken an esoteric turn she had no desire to follow. "You want to give me some other options here? At the moment, I'm a little stymied."
"Well, I'd still like to know why he has that one filling," Sam decided. "And which one it is. Is he being healed of the oldest injuries first or the newest? Maybe you could detect some kind of energy residue or chemical changes at the sites most recently healed; it just might give us some kind of idea about what's keeping him in a coma as well."
"I can certainly order biopsies and check," Lam agreed. "If the genetic profile and dental x-rays agree with you, then magically healing injuries would at least be a place to start."
"Could you not inflict a minor injury on Daniel Jackson yourself, Dr. Lam, and monitor its healing?" Teal'c suggested from his own infirmary bed. "Would not such observation be more telling than studies of areas which have already been repaired?"
"The biopsies themselves will inflict minor injury, Teal'c, but I agree with what you're saying," she answered with a nod. "It's against all my training to purposely cause harm to one of my patients, but I was going to order a muscle biopsy anyway. I'll just make sure it gets done some place we can watch quite closely."
"'Might want to set up a camera and electro-magnetic field monitors before the biopsy," Sam suggested. "If it is some sort of alien energy field, we should be able to detect abnormal activity at the site of healing. If we can figure out what it is, we might be able to cancel it out and wake Daniel up."
"It's worth a try," Lam agreed and picked up Daniel's thick file once more. "I'll let you know what I find."
"Hey, Doc!" Cam interrupted before she could disappear on them again. "It isn't that I don't appreciate the chance to catch up on my beauty sleep or anything, but - ah - what about us? When you going to let us out of our plastic cocoons so we can go to work on the problem from our end of things?"
"Not for at least eleven more days, Col. Mitchell," she answered with a no-nonsense frown. "And not then unless all your studies are still perfectly normal. The last Prior Plague had a fairly long initial incubation period: about five days. It wasn't until secondary and tertiary contacts with Lt. Fisher started exhibiting symptoms that we think it mutated to become airborne and started spreading so rapidly. We're not taking any chances here. Sorry, but you're under strict quarantine for a minimum of two weeks, maybe longer."
"Great..." Mitchell sighed sarcastically. Dr. Lam ignored him and hurried through the observation room door to order further tests for Dr. Jackson.
* * *
Cameron Mitchell frowned even as he gratefully allowed the nurse to take out his IV and watched as the plastic tenting that had sectioned the room into three little cubicles within Iso. 3 was taken down. "I thought we weren't supposed to be allowed out of here for at least another six days," he noted, glancing to where Dr. Lam stood supervising the proceedings.
"It isn't a Prior Plague," she told them simply. "We still don't know exactly what it is, but... You were right, Col. Carter. There is an energy field of some sort being emitted by Dr. Jackson. Almost ... a subharmonic vibration. We picked it up quite by chance this morning when a technician was recalibrating the monitoring equipment. Quite strong actually. None of you have it."
"So that's what those electrode thingys were for this morning, huh?" Mitchell realized, obeying the nurse's silent command to hold a wad of gauze in place where the IV had been.
Lam nodded. "Combined with the fact that none of your test sites are healing at an abnormally fast rate, I feel safe to declare you free of any possible infection." The various biopsies she'd ordered for Daniel had completely healed even as those who performed the procedures watched; the biopsies she'd subsequently ordered on SGs 1 and 3 hadn't. The detection of the energy field had been the last piece of the puzzle she'd needed to confirm that whatever was happening with Dr. Jackson wasn't going to happen to the rest of them.
"What about Daniel?" Sam asked in concern, ignoring the nurse and swinging her bare feet off the side of the bed. It would be good to get out of the blue hospital scrubs and into real clothes. "Any change?" They hadn't seen much of Dr. Lam in the last five days and the doctors who'd been attending them had been rather tight lipped.
"Hmm..." Dr. Lam nodded unhappily. "But I don't think it's good."
"'Don't think?'" Sam echoed, confused.
"You'll have to see for yourselves. Come on."
Cam did a sharp double-take even as he hopped off his bed. "You're taking us to him?"
"His observation room," Lam answered. "We're still keeping him isolated. Just to be safe."
"But he's not contagious...." Cam frowned as he joined Sam next to Dr. Lam. Teal'c appeared directly behind him.
"We don't think so, but can't be sure yet," Lam corrected him. "We just know you aren't."
"Oh." Cam frowned unhappily.
Lam nodded and turned to lead the way. It wasn't far; all of about a hundred and fifty feet, actually. There was a pair of guards on the isolation room door, but none on the observation room. A nurse who was monitoring equipment from the other room rose as they entered.
Sam was the first to get a good look at the isolation room where Daniel lay. His bed was in the middle of the room, surrounded by equipment and three people in full level A bio-chemical suits with self-contained respirators. A decontamination chamber was set up between the main room and the door.
Lam wasn't kidding when she said they weren't taking chances.
Daniel lay unmoving in the middle of his bed dressed in a simple hospital gown, tubes and wires and various equipment surrounding him. The layout and setting was entirely different from the time Sam had been forced to watch helplessly while her friend slowly succumbed to the horror of radiation poisoning, but the sight still brought a shiver to her spine.
"You said there was a change?" she asked, tearing her eyes away and turning to find Lam as the doctor brought up the rear, following Teal'c into the small, darkened room and closing the door behind them.
The doctor nodded and moved to turn on the closed circuit monitor, which brought up a picture of Daniel's face on the screen.
"Oh my god!" Sam exclaimed in surprise.
It took Cam a moment longer to realize what had shocked Sam so badly. "Holy mother of-- That's ... that's Daniel?" he asked in disbelief. The resemblance was undeniable, but the man on the bed was ... well, he wasn't a man: he was a teenager; about eighteen or nineteen at a guess!
"He's aging in reverse?" Sam asked in shock, glancing from the monitor to the room beyond to try and convince herself that what she was seeing wasn't real.
"About two and a half years for every day," Lam confirmed with a grim little nod. "And we don't know how to stop it."
"Eight days...." Sam did the math without half thinking. "That makes him about twenty."
Again Dr. Lam nodded. "According to his dental records," she agreed. "His wisdom teeth are growing back."
"Wait...." Cam frowned in confusion. "Growing back? But ... they were yanked, right? I mean, I can see scar tissue dissolving and disappearing, I guess, and his teeth receding back into his gums as he gets younger and younger, but ... how do you get back something like wisdom or baby teeth when they don't exist anymore?"
Lam could only raise her eyebrows and shrug. "He also has his appendix back," she supplied.
Sam was frowning pensively. "Isolated individual temporal inversion?" she muttered quietly.
"Whatever it is," Lam interrupted her thoughts, "we've got to find a way to stop it. If we don't...."
"If we don't," Cam finished her thought for her, "then in another eight days, Daniel Jackson will de-age to the point where he will cease to exist!"
"No," Lam corrected him. "He'll die."
It was Sam who explained. "He'll transition from a teenager to a child, then a child to an infant, and finally into a fetus. Without a womb to survive...."
Cam nodded grim understanding. "He'll die. But I thought we decided that's what the Ori are trying to avoid here?"
Sam shook her head. "That was a guess," she refuted. "There's no way for us to really know why they're doing this."
"I would dare to suggest that our 'guess' may yet prove correct, Col. Carter," Teal'c observed from the back of the room, stepping forward to join in the discussion for the first time. "We do not know that the ultimate end of this process will result in Daniel Jackson's death. It could stop well short of that. A ten year old Daniel Jackson would be of no threat to them. However, should it turn out that death is indeed the ultimate goal, then they may have still achieved their aim if their chief desire is to keep him from being ascended by the Ancients. I doubt very much that an infant can be transformed in such a way."
"What about Shifu?" Sam asked.
Teal'c lifted an eyebrow, acknowledging the validity of her question. The phone in the observation room interrupted before he could answer.
"Hello," Lam answered curtly. There was a brief exchange, consisting mainly of 'yeah' and 'okay' on the doctor's part, before she hung up and turned back to SG-1. "The Odyssey has arrived. Kvasir is aboard."
* * *
"Hmm ... interesting."
Sam swore if she heard that phrase one more time she was going to deck someone's little gray butt! Kvasir was not her favorite Asgard. While she was forced to acknowledge that he was certainly smart and probably the best mind to help tackle this problem, his people skills were in need of some definite work.
"Um...." Cam frowned, reading Sam's escalating frustration far easier than the Asgard apparently could. " 'Think maybe you could be a little more enlightening with your comments there, buddy?" he dared suggest lightly.
The Asgard paused to blink up at him for a long moment before turning his attention back to his equipment. "I seriously doubt you possess the necessary scientific vocabulary to understand anything I might say, Col. Mitchell," he replied loftily.
Sam gave his little shoulder a decided nudge. "Try me," she told him bluntly.
Again the Asgard turned to blink up at them, focusing on Sam for the first time. "Ah, Col. Carter. Yes, I suppose you might understand at least a part of it." He turned back to his equipment. "Your basic premise was wrong, I'm afraid: Daniel Jackson is not aging in reverse."
"He's not?" Cam blinked at the man - teenager - in the other room who quite definitely looked to be several years younger than he should.
"No," the arrogant little alien continued in his rather superior way. "Reversed aging would imply that instead of getting older he was in fact getting younger, which would necessitate time being reversed on either the atomic or at least sub-molecular level. That is not what is happening here."
"Then what is?" Sam asked.
"I do not know," the alien answered bluntly, clearly displeased by this fact. "It almost appears to be a disease process; and, no, before you ask, it is not contagious," he quickly assured them.
Lam, who had looked momentarily alarmed, relaxed again.
"Something, and it pains me more than I can say to admit I don't know what, is devolving his physical characteristics into that of a younger DNA signature, but his DNA itself is not being affected. That is, while this appears to be a teen aged Daniel Jackson..." he gestured at the young man on the monitor before them, "...he is not the teen aged Daniel Jackson you would have known had you known him when he was a teenager."
The three humans and one Jaffa in the room frowned at each other in confusion. "Okay," Cam sighed, "now that just did not make any sense at all. Wanna try again?"
"Wait," Sam interrupted. "Let me try...." She frowned in deep concentration for a long moment. "What you're saying - if I understood you correctly - is that while Daniel may appear to be getting younger, he is in fact, still forty. Right?"
Sam turned to the others in mild excitement as she began to explore the thought. "It's like that time General - then Colonel - O'Neill was infected with the nanocytes on Argos!"
"Wait...." Cameron quickly dredged his memory for the mission file she was referring to. "Argos ... Land of the Light!" He had it. "The Goa'uld Pelops used some weird nanite technology to rapidly age his 'chosen people' in an effort to study human evolution."
"Exactly," Sam agreed. "He was trying to shorten human evolution so as to create hoc'tars, or advanced humans, as the perfect hosts. Col. O'Neill got infected by eating a cake but, because he wasn't born there, the effect wasn't real. It was only an illusion! That's what this is, only is reverse!"
"No, Col. Carter." The Asgard interrupted her with a grim shake of his head. "I am afraid you are mistaken once again. The changes we are currently witnessing in Dr. Jackson are indeed very real. They are most definitely not a mere illusion."
"So..." Cam was confused again, "he is getting younger?"
It was Lam's turn to express her exasperation. "I thought you just said he was still forty!"
"Exactly," Kvasir replied with supreme confidence.
"Hold it, guys...." Sam stopped Cameron before he could be more than just tempted to tear the little gray monster apart. She frowned pensively at Kvasir. "Genetically, he's forty," she surmised, "physically, he's twenty. The affect is on the cellular level, not the atomic?"
"Yes," Kvasir nodded, pleased that she finally seemed to get it.
She glanced back up at a still confused Cam. "Don't ask," she said simply, not wanting to take the time to explain. She needed to pursue the thought instead and turned back to Kvasir. "Something is reading his DNA and ... what? Re-inventing him? In a younger form?"
Kvasir cocked his head to the side, examining her word choice with a thoughtful frown. "That is not how I would have put it, but it is essentially correct. Every time Dr. Jackson's cells undergo mitosis they are being forced to assume a 'younger identity', for lack of a better term. The subharmonic vibration your instruments picked up is the result of the absorption of sub-atomic energies necessary to effect this change. How those subatomic energies are being directed and controlled, is the real question.
"It's quite fascinating, really!" He glanced up from his instruments again. "This could be of considerable benefit to our own genetic scientists like Heimdall; who, as you know, is fighting even now to stabilize Asgard DNA which is slowly degrading as the result of generations of repeated cloning."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Cam said hurriedly and gestured him on. "Can you reverse it?" he asked the single most pertinent question in everyone's mind. He could care less about the science behind it; he just wanted to get Jackson back!
"I cannot," the little gray scientist answered gravely.
That was not what any of them wanted to hear. "Why?" Cam demanded, forcing himself to remain calm.
Kvasir cocked his head to the side as he tried to explain, speaking to Cameron as if he were a child. "I know the 'what' and 'why' of what is happening, Col. Mitchell, but I do not know the 'how'. Until I can figure out the 'how', I fear I cannot even begin to theorize a solution, let alone postulate a methodology to reverse it."
"Damn!" Cam sighed, banging his hand with a lot less force than he wanted to against the back of the nearest chair.
Kvasir continued as if Cam hadn't spoken. "At this time, I can suggest only one possible course of action."
Cam turned back around even as Sam voiced the question on the tip of his tongue. "What?" she asked.
The Asgard blinked up at her. "A cryogenic sleep chamber."
"Of course!" Sam exclaimed, wondering why the hell she hadn't thought of it herself. "The Ancient's sleep chamber from Antarctica. We can use it to at least stop what's happening until we figure out what's doing it and how to reverse it!"
"I thought the Asgard still had that?" Cam noted with a frown. Thor had never returned the device after beaming it aboard his ship and releasing Jack from its grip a couple of years ago.
"We do," Kvasir confirmed. "I can have it sent here via the stargate on Earth. It should only take a few hours of your time. Perhaps a day at the most."
"Then do it!" Sam agreed readily; anything to buy a little more time to work on a solution.
The Asgard nodded solemnly. "I will need to return to the Odyssey and attempt to contact an Asgard vessel closer to home, which can then relay the request to High Council. I am certain they will approve the loan."
"Loan?" Cam asked in disbelief. Sam's touch on his shoulder and a simple shake of her head warned him that pursuing the thought that the chamber was rightfully theirs to begin with wasn't a bright idea - and would only delay Kvasir from asking for it. "Okay," he subsided. "Whatever."
"Just tell them to hurry, Kvasir," Sam added. "Please."
"Of course, Col. Carter." The alien was already moving for the door.
* * *
They were in the cafeteria trying to convince themselves to eat when the off-world activation announcement caught their attention. Without a word, the three friends rose as one to hurry through the corridors of Omega Site, hoping it was Earth and the promised sleep chamber from the Asgard. It had been just short of a day since Kvasir sent off his request and Daniel wasn't getting any ... older.
Definitely not getting older.
They entered the control room just as the first of several FREDS came through the gate. It was nothing more that a scheduled resupply transport. Given how busy Omega site had been over the last several days, Sam wasn't surprised. She turned to Col. Roberts who was watching the resupply with a bored frown. "Any word from Earth or the Asgard about the sleep chamber yet, Colonel?"
He shook his head, as aware of the need and concerned by the lack as she and everyone else was. "Any luck finding a cure?" he asked in return.
The three friends shook their heads - or two of them did; Teal'c just looked grim.
"The Tok'ra is still with him," Cam volunteered unnecessarily. The man had arrived just over an hour ago to offer whatever aid he could. Unfortunately, if Kvasir couldn't figure it out, Cam didn't hold out a lot of hope a Tok'ra could.
There was a sudden burst of light at his side and Cam jumped along with everyone else in the room. He turned just in time to see Carter swept away in an Asgard transport beam.
"Kvasir!" Cam shouted at the ceiling, despite the obvious fact the little gray alien couldn't hear him. "Damn," he sighed, more angry that he hadn't been beamed up as well than by the fact that Sam had been taken. "Someone needs to tell those guys to warn a body already!"
* * *
"Whoa!" Sam exclaimed softly as she suddenly found herself some place else and stumbled under the slightly heavier gravity of the Odyssey as compared to that of the planet.
"Welcome aboard, Col. Carter," Kvasir greeted her amicably. "I apologize for the abrupt transference but I thought it necessary we speak at once. Beaming you aboard was faster than beaming down myself and having to go look for you."
Speak at once, she thought; that sounded urgent. She quickly shoved her minor irritation aside to step forward. "What's up?"
"I am afraid we have a problem."
"With the cryogenic sleep chamber?" she asked in mounting alarm. Had the High Council denied their request? That seemed incredibly unlikely.
Kvasir nodded gravely. "It seems the scientists who were comparing it to the one housing our humanoid ancestor have ... disassembled it for study. No one was expecting that it would be needed. They are attempting to put it back together now, of course, but do not expect to have it completed for at least another week."
"Daniel doesn't have a week!"
"I know, Col. Carter," the small alien answered. "A ship with Asgard cryogenic chambers has been dispatched to join us here, but the chambers were not designed for human physiology. They will have to be modified to properly sustain Dr. Jackson. The ship should arrive sometime tomorrow morning."
Sam closed her eyes and lifted a hand to rub her forehead where a painful headache was beginning to bloom. She needed rest rather badly but wasn't about to sleep until they'd managed to save Daniel. "By tomorrow morning, he'll be all of twelve," she noted off hand, feeling the weight to time speeding by.
"Yes," Kvasir nodded. "But in this case, that is good."
"Good?" she asked, looking up in confusion. How could any of this be considered good?
"Asgard cryogenic chambers are not large enough to hold an adult human male," Kvasir pointed out. "We will not have to construct a larger pod and reconfigure our systems for size differentials, as well as human physiological differences."
She winced and put her hand to her head again. "Right," she offered simply, refusing to argue about whether this was good or not. "How long to reconfigure?"
"They are making the adjustments en route," Kvasir answered. "The system should be ready to receive Dr. Jackson as soon as they arrive. He can be beamed directly into it and thereafter held safely until such time as an answer to this dilemma can be found."
And they were no closer to finding that than they had been ten days ago. Sam sighed and dropped her hand, forcing herself to nod.
* * *
"Hmm," the Tok'ra offered pensively as he released his concentration and lowered the healing device he'd been using to scan Dr. Jackson. "That's odd."
"What is?" Lam asked from where she stood beside the bed monitoring Daniel's vitals. The level four containment protocols had been dropped when Kvasir confirmed he wasn't contagious.
"The energy field his body is emitting," Delek explained, looking up. "It's very similar to that created by my healing device but at a higher frequency. It is interfering with my ability to properly assess his condition."
Lam stepped forward as she eagerly glommed onto this small bit of information. "Similar?"
"Very," the Tok'ra answered, "though I suppose that's not too surprising given the fact that the technology, like that of the Goa'uld sarcophagi, is based on an Ancient device discovered by the Goa'uld Chak several thousand years ago - and rediscovered by Dr. Jackson and Dr. Lee only recently."
"The device Dr. Jackson found that was believed to be the basis of the Fountain of Youth mythology back on Earth." Lam nodded, immediately realizing what he was talking about. "Of course! According to the myth, people would go to the fountain and either bathe in it or drink of it to have their youth magically restored; the old would become young again."
"Dr. Jackson did not report seeing such an affect when it was first recovered, doctor."
"Maybe not, Delek," she answered, brushing it aside. "The fact that the device could reanimate the dead was never part of our mythology either, but the idea that it could reverse aging was! There has to be a connection here!"
The dark haired Tok'ra was frowning pensively at the boy on the bed before them. "A different setting perhaps?" he offered pensively.
"If it's Ancient technology then perhaps the Ori used a similar device to attack Daniel, or translated the affects of such a device through that staff of the Prior." She waved the thought aside as unimportant. "Whatever. If it's the same sort of technology and the Ancient device can do this and we just didn't know it, then maybe it can undo it as well!"
"It is worth exploring," the man answered with a nod, "yet I fear Dr. Jackson does not have the time such an endeavor would require. It would take at least a day or two to even convene the Tok'ra High Council, let alone persuade them to permit me to bring the device here and experiment with it on Dr. Jackson. It is a very powerful and dangerous object."
"It may be the only hope he has!" she exclaimed in frustration, ignoring the sound of the door behind her.
The man turned to frown on the young Dr. Jackson again. "The Asgard are returning the Ancient sleep chamber you found in Antarctica, are they not?" he asked.
Sam, leading SG-1 back from the gate room, was the one to answer. "No," she told them grimly, surprising both Dr. Lam and Delek as the team re-entered the room. "They took it apart and can't get it back together again in time. They're sending a ship with one of their own cryo-pods instead and are trying to modify it for human physiology. It's supposed to be here tomorrow but I'm not holding my breath. What's this about 'it might be the only hope he has?'" she asked, having caught only the tail end of their conversation.
Lam and Delek quickly brought her up to speed on what they thought they'd discovered so far.
"Really?" she asked, surprised and intrigued at the same time. She quickly moved over to one of the computers in the room and started tapping on the keyboard. "Let me call up a trace of the energy pattern."
A moment later, the screen lit with the jagged, wiggly line of a recorded energy trace. She frowned at it for a long moment and then called up another energy trace, overlaying the first in blue with the second in red. They were close but didn't match. She erased the second trace and with a deeper frown called up a third trace. At first it appeared to be quite different. Then she compressed it a little, squeezing it inward, and suddenly they had a near perfect match.
"What's that?" Cam asked, finding himself getting excited about something he didn't understand at all. All he knew was it seemed to be a step in the right direction.
"It's the residual energy trace of a sarcophagus, only at a higher frequency," she answered. "We managed to record it when Jack was addicted to the sarcophagus, after Ba'al captured and tortured him. His body, like Daniel's now, was practically vibrating with it. We were able to mimic certain parts of it to help ween him from the affects. His withdrawal was a lot less severe than Daniel's had been just a few years previous."
"So you can mimic this instead and...." Cam's excitement waned and he frowned. "Nah, that would only make it worse."
"Not if we can set up an inverted wave to cancel it out! We might not be able to reverse what's happening to him, but we might be able to at least stop it."
"Then do it," Lam ordered. "He doesn't have a lot of time to spare."
Sam turned to Delek. "Let's get on it."
With a nod, the Tok'ra stepped aside and followed on her heels as she quickly led the way back to the lab she'd commandeered earlier in the week.
* * *
Kvasir frowned, or at least came as close to it as an Asgard could. "You are missing several layers of the phased energy modulations," he noted critically.
"We're not trying to duplicate it exactly," Sam answered with more patience then she truly felt. "We'd have to build our own sarcophagus to do that; we're just trying to cancel out the energy pattern being emitted by Daniel's cells." Delek had already explained that several times.
"Without an exact match you may simply alter the pattern, rather than cancel it out. Or you may in fact setup an oscillating harmonic waveform which could rip Dr. Jackson's cells to shreds."
Sam rolled her eyes and fought to contain her frustration. She was well aware of the dangers involved. "We don't have a whole lot of choices here, Kvasir," she rejoined quietly as she adjusted the gain on the L4 waveform again. It kept dropping out every time they increased the frequency for some reason, whereas the K7 waveform got stronger. There had to be a crossover going on in the crystals of the healing device somewhere but she couldn't find it.
"You could place him in a cryo-sleep chamber until such time as we are able to perfect this process."
Delek glanced up hopefully. "Has 'The Daniel Jackson' arrived yet?"
"They are still experiencing trouble with their hyper-drive."
Sam shook her head and kept her attention on her equipment.
"'The Mjolnir' has been dispatched instead."
"And I assume one of its cryo-chambers is being reconfigured for a human physiology en route," she added. "If it's not ready, or something happens to them like it did 'The Daniel Jackson' ... we're out of time, Kvasir. If they arrive before we're done here, fine - I'd love the chance to test the equipment first before playing around with it on Daniel - but if not, we can't wait." She finally glanced up to give the little gray alien a pointed glare. "Now are you going stand there and keep telling us everything we're doing wrong, or are you going to help us? We really don't have time to debate this right now."
"Have you tried linking the primary control interface with the power crystal in tandem rather than parallel?" he suggested. "It might prevent the energy bleed-over effect you seem to be struggling with."
* * *
Sam swallowed and forced her hand to stop shaking as she pressed the electrode into place on Daniel's upper arm to monitor his cellular energy levels. God, but he was so young! The de-aging process almost seemed to have accelerated. She knew it was an illusion, but there was just such a huge physical difference between the sixteen year old version she'd last seen and the ten year old laying so still and quiet before her now.
"Okay, Daniel, we're about ready to try this," she told him gently, not knowing whether he could hear them in his comatose state or not. She had to believe he could and that his mind was basically unchanged by the effects of his physical transformation. Working under any other assumption would be impossible. "If this works the way we think, then whatever mechanism your cells are using to draw energy from subspace will basically be shorted out and your cells should return to normal; or at least normal function. I'm hoping that by interrupting everything the process will actually reverse itself, but at this point I'll be happy if we can just turn it off. The effect should be immediate. I'm very glad you're unconscious at the moment because I have absolutely no idea if this is going to hurt or not."
She glanced up and caught Delek's eye. He nodded, indicating he was ready. He moved away from the radiation array they'd devised to handle the energies of the Tok'ra hand-device. The energies themselves had been drastically tweaked and boosted so as to bathe Daniel's form in an even field. They had to make sure to effect all his cells at the same time or the result could be more than disastrous.
She glanced up at the observation room where Kvasir, Teal'c, Cam, and Dr. Lam all crowded together to keep an eye on everything. "Close the shield," she told them.
Lam and Teal'c both reached up to bring down the lead-lined door to protect the observers from the energy pulse. They'd have to watch the monitor. The energy was such that it shouldn't effect electronic equipment, but it would most definitely effect people. Even so, the most sensitive medical equipment had already been removed from the room and several nurses and technicians were standing by to reconnect it just as soon as they were done.
"Okay, Daniel," she told her friend at last, resting a hand on his small shoulder. "I've got to go now but I'll be right back in here as soon as we're done. With any luck you'll open those eyes of yours and ask me what the heck took so long." She offered his unmoving form a weak smile. Then, patting his shoulder, she turned to leave. "Be back in a minute," she promised.
It was two minutes, actually.
Once the door was sealed behind Sam, Delek triggered the hand device. The equipment connected to it took the energies to a transformer at the foot of Daniel's bed, which then distributed it to the array of eight capacitors they'd situated to either side of him. It took a little over a minute for the energies to build up to the required levels. With the click of a button, the capacitors were allowed to discharge their energies in one large burst, not unlike the original blast of the Prior's energy staff.
The equipment was then immediately turned off and the door of the isolation room unlocked. Sam was the first one back in, followed closely by Dr. Carmichael and two nurses. The doctor had his stethoscope out even as Sam connected the electrodes on Daniel's arm to a hand-held multimeter. A madly oscillating phased waveform was the last thing she wanted to see.
"He's seizing!" the doctor suddenly called, ordering anti-convulsants even as the nurses fought to restrain the small boy before he fell out of the bed.
"Something went wrong, Sam," Delek announced, observing the readings on his own equipment. "I think we made things worse, not better."
"Worse?" Cam exclaimed in the background.
"This looks like we reinforced the wave pattern, not...." Sam frowned up at the observation room despite the fact that the shield was still closed. "Check the feedback loop. Make sure the polarity was reversed and the waveform inverted."
'Polarity reversed'... sounded like something out of a bad sci-fi show, she thought even as she quickly bent to double-check that all their electrical connections to the radiation array were good.
"Sam," Delek called back quickly, "the frequency changed."
"Ours or his?"
"His," Delek answered.
"The energy signature his cells are producing appears to be getting higher in frequency as he gets smaller," Kvasir decided. "Quite possibly because there are less cells to have to effect."
"I thought we decided to take a reading just prior to activating the energy array?" she snapped as she turned back to Daniel. The nurses had gotten him locked into the restraints, but neither they nor the medications the doctor had ordered were having any effect. His small body continued to jerk with uncontrolled spasms.
"I did," Kvasir assured her haughtily. "We apparently lost the match in the time it took for the capacitors to charge. The deviation is predictable, however, and I am attempting to reprogram the energy array to allow for it now."
"V-fib!" Dr. Carmichael called behind Sam even as Daniel suddenly went still and his reconnected cardiac monitor began to sound a shrill warning. "Code blue. Get the crash cart." The alarm was abruptly turned off as the doctor and nurses sprang into action.
Sam could only watch in silent horror as Daniel's small body jumped under the forces of a cardiac counter-shock.
"Nothing," the doctor announced. "Charge it again."
"I doubt it will do any good," Kvasir stated from the observation room. "The energies Daniel Jackson's cells are presently emitting are sufficient to interfere with normal neural conduction."
"Just get the damn energy array recalibrate, Kvasir!" Sam snapped angrily. Why did the Asgard always have to sound so calm and assured about everything?
"My god," Dr. Carmichael exclaimed softly. "He's getting younger as I watch!"
"The recalibration is complete," Kvasir announced. "Please clear the room."
"Start charging the capacitors!" Sam ordered even as she turned to grab the nearest nurse and shoved him toward the door.
"I can't leave him now!" Carmichael exclaimed.
"You'll never get him back unless we can cancel out the energies coursing through his cells," Sam translated Kvasir's earlier words bluntly and grabbed him by the shoulder to spin him toward the exit as well. "Out! Everyone out! Now!"
In the observation room, Cameron Mitchell was close to panic. "What the hell is she doing?" he demanded. "His heart's stopped!"
"The only thing she can, Colonel," Lam answered him with cool detachment. "Counter-shocking his heart won't do any good if the cardiac plexus is misfiring."
"Meaning?" he demanded sharply, not understanding a word she just said.
"His heart is short circuiting." Lam folded her arms and frowned at the little gray alien at the main computer console in the room. "Whatever you're going to do, Kvasir, you'd better do fast. Dr. Jackson will be dead in less than five minutes."
"I am done, Dr. Lam," the alien replied calmly. "It is up to the programming now. Timing is critical."
A few moments later, the reprogrammed capacitors released their stored energies and another pulse of energy flashed across the monitor in the observation room.
"You may re-enter, Col. Carter," Kvasir announced even as he began to power down the equipment.
The door of the observation room quickly slid open, but this time it was Dr. Carmichael and his staff that raced back to Daniel's side first.
"My god..." the doctor exclaimed softly, freezing for an instant before shaking himself free of his shock enough to reach for the side of his patient's neck. "We have a pulse!" A nod saw an ambu-bag positioned over the boy's mouth and nose as the doctor swung his stethoscope into position.
Sam froze as well as she came up beside Daniel. The bed no longer held a ten year old. If this second energy pulse hadn't worked, they wouldn't have time for a third. The boy who suddenly turned his head and blinked his eyes open couldn't be more than about five!
She told herself the fact that he was awake was a good sign.
The fact that he was yelling for his mother, wasn't. Forcing herself to ignore the terrified screams, Sam quickly caught up the electrodes still attached to his arm and plugged them into her sensor.
What she saw had her biting her tongue to keep from shouting as she turned to smile at the frightened little boy. "We did it, Daniel," she told him happily. "We did it!"
"Where's my mama?" he screamed. "I want my mama!"
* * *
To be Continued in
LLP#2: 'Snips and Snails and Puppy-dog Tails'