* * * * * *
George stood in the infirmary unable to account for the condition of Nurse Angela Morhs.
"How did this happen?"
"We don't know, sir. She was awake, then asleep, then in a coma, then standing up, then dead. There's no apparent reason for any of it."
"Are you certain she's dead?"
"Yes, sir. I'm afraid so."
George grimaced as Dr. Warren led him to where he could see her remains.
He'd been hoping to interrogate her about the implants but that was going to be difficult since her skin had literally shrunken itself into nothing more than a rubbery covering for dry bones.
He'd seen many strange things since taking command of the SGC.
This was yet another one...a rather unpleasant one at that.
"How long did this take?"
"After she was declared dead, she just...lost all her body fluid. The baby was expelled through her mouth, sir, along with most of her internal organs. That's why it's so grotesquely wide and we're trying to combat the stench, but nothing so far is working. We put each new item in a container, but they're slowly shriveling up, too."
"Do you have any idea what could cause this?"
"We've run tests on the baby and, well...it's not human, sir. More importantly, it's not Colonel O'Neill's."
"I thought you said the tests were conclusive. If it's not human, then what is it?"
"We've never before encountered this species. Sir, on a hunch, I called in a third party."
"Right, that Dr. Stacey."
"Yes, sir. He examined our equipment and confirmed that someone in the infirmary has been sabotaging results."
"He helped me redo as many of the major tests we could that I needed and between the two of us we came up with some pretty startling results."
"Nurse Morhs is human, sir, but she's a former host to a Goa'uld."
George knew his mouth was gaping, but couldn't help it.
"How is that possible and why didn't that show up on any...ah."
"Exactly, sir. The sabotaging. I'm curious why Capt. Carter wasn't able to sense the former Goa'uld's presence, but of an even more urgent status is the fact that my earlier suspicions regarding the Colonel's and Dr. Corvores' eyes may yet be correct. Now that we can't trust the testing we did on them, we need to get them back here immediately in case they become dangerous."
"I hope not, doctor. They've gone through enough."
"Sir, I have a feeling they've only just started."
* * * * * *
Cassie walked around the Flying J travel center, looking at all of the molded resin statues on the shelves.
She'd seen a couple T-shirts she'd been interested in, but had then seen all the tourist trinkets on this aisle.
Little thimbles, bells, waterballs, and figurines nestled against each other all proudly bearing the "Amarillo, Texas" signature.
She saw Jack grinning as he rifled through the different license plate-sized signs available while waiting for everyone to get out of the bathroom.
For a moment she allowed herself to fantasize that he really was her dad.
She'd be Cassandra Margaret O'Neill.
Her nose wrinkled a bit at the middle name Janet had chosen when signing her papers.
It was Janet's mother's name and it wasn't as bad as Matilda or Nellie, both of which had been suggested by Jack.
It sounded a lot better than Cassandra Margaret Fraiser, though.
She tried not to think of it often, remembering Daniel's advice as a warning as well.
She'd started calling Janet "Mom" just like he'd said and if she wasn't careful, she might slip out with an O'Neill instead of Fraiser and embarrass herself.
But she liked to steal a moment to think about it.
Cassie passed the food place, still not hungry, slipped past where Jolinar was reading a magazine, and into the trucker's lounge.
Before she could take another step, Teal'c's hand was on her shoulder.
"You will not enter this area again, CassandraFraiser."
Cassie looked up at him and shrugged.
It had been a curiosity, but nothing she couldn't live without.
She walked beside Teal'c, grateful his hand was firm, but not restraining.
He gave her more leeway than anyone else did so she didn't mind as much when he was the one to stop her.
A couple boys walked toward them, their eyes looking Cassie up and down before catching the look in Teal'c's eye and scooting on by.
Cassie couldn't stifle a giggle, knowing boys found Teal'c intimidating.
When she was ready to start dating, she'd definitely have to ditch him to get anywhere fun with a guy.
Jack called out a "Load up!" and a few customers looked over, smiling as five people joined up at the door and walked toward the pastel vehicle parked outside.
* * * * * *
Hagar sent signals one way and then the other, trying to get a handle on at least one body if not both.
How did he get disconnected from his own body?
He hadn't known it was even possible.
His fear had shorted him and now he was scrabbling to gain purchase in one or the other.
He could feel his mind almost connect and then he'd lose the feeling.
He tried again and again, each time hoping he would succeed.
* * * * * *
Amber had filled up the vehicle and then parked it.
As soon as Janet stepped up to it, Amber left the Bunny and walked into the travel center to quickly use the bathroom knowing Janet would keep an eye on Hagar until someone else got there to take over.
Janet watched Amber head in and turned as Teal'c guided Cassandra into the Voyager.
"He is still unresponsive?"
Janet nodded to Teal'c, continuing to eye the Goa'uld for any change.
*Good thing Jolinar can drive.*
*Don't think Jack'll ever forgive her for nearly backing over his foot, though.*
*Not that it was deliberate or anything.*
Janet smirked, knowing as well as Sam that Jolinar had definite talent when it came to getting on the Colonel's nerves.
*Have you noticed how chummy Amber and Jolinar have become?*
*I thought that was interesting. Cassie's really becoming friends with them, too.*
*Yeah. I'm glad Amber jumped in like that to fuel it up while Jolinar went inside, though.*
*Wouldn't do for the Colonel to kill Daniel while torturing Jolinar.*
Janet choked at Sam's deadpanned response and tried not to laugh when she turned around and found herself eye to eye with Jack.
"You ready ladies?"
Janet nodded and then waited for the comment on her having had to pee twice in the last four hours of their drive as well as at this stop, but Jack just winked at her before getting in the back with Cassie.
*He's taunting you silently, you know.*
*Yes, I know...that's okay, though. As long as no one else hears it, I can pretend I don't notice.*
Sam smiled at Janet's attitude and took over gratefully as soon as the door was shut.
Jolinar took shotgun and Sam fought down her nervousness at being behind the wheel.
*It's okay, Sam. Just take your time and remember you're not technically on duty, so just ignore the Colonel.*
Sam grinned and relaxed under Janet's amused reassurances.
"Nice and easy..."
Jolinar's brow furrowed and she started to say something, but Jack's sharp yelp made Jolinar's head swivel, hoping to see whatever it was that had caused Jack pain.
*You know, you don't actually have to enjoy his suffering.*
*Of course. It would not be a true pleasure if I were forced to enjoy it.*
Daniel sighed and relaxed his mind, enjoying the strange restfulness of true Kel No Reem.
He had had Teal'c to guide him into a deep meditation before, but under Jolinar's tutelage, he'd achieved depths of peace his mind had never experienced.
He was able to put aside each trouble and then bring them back, one by one, to examine and if no solution offered itself yet, he was able to objectively push it aside to look at the next thought.
He was able to recall memories he'd long hidden.
Jolinar was unable to reach him in this state so he had set an internal time to awaken.
Daniel brought forward his quest for Sha're...just her name had the ability to rivet his entire being in one direction.
He felt her fingertips dancing across his closed eyelids and then felt her smile against his cheek as she coerced him into waking up to start working.
He could see the twinkling laughter in her eyes each time he tried to learn a new job the other men had done for years.
His heart swelled again at the pride in her voice as she spoke of him to others and the calm acceptance of each lesson he gave on their history and his language.
Her affinity for languages had surprised him, but he quickly grew to love hearing her soft accent with each new language he taught her, knowing she would probably never use them except while speaking with him alone.
* * * * * *
Nora kicked some more rocks out of the way as the Major came up behind her.
"What'd you find?"
"Looks like dragon eggs. They were partially buried in this miniature avalanche, sir."
Nora glanced back at him as he stepped around her to take a closer look.
"They look like round, but rather ordinary rocks. Are you sure they're eggs?"
"No, but the way those dragons keep looking at us suggests they are."
Terry looked at Frome, disbelief written in his eyes.
Frome pointed up behind him where two greystone-colored dragons, each about half the size of the Stargate, rested...alertly watching the two SG-13 teammembers.
"Respectfully suggesting we leave the nest, sir."
Terry just shot her a look as he led the way back out of the small canyon she'd found.
"I can't believe you saw dragons there and went in anyway."
"They didn't stop me and I got the feeling that unless I actually touched the eggs themselves, I'd be fine."
"It was a needless risk, Frome."
Terry looked at her to see if she meant it and wasn't assured.
He was going to have to talk to Gen. Hammond if she didn't get her impulsiveness under control.
"What if they'd eaten us?"
"We'd be dead, sir."
Terry rolled his eyes and reigned in his retort.
* * * * * *
Jack glared at Amber, rubbing his arm where she'd viciously pinched him.
Amber glared at Jack, ignoring Cassie's wide-eyed stare at Jack's arm.
They were both miserable and the mental sniping had reached new heights.
Cassie's teasing comment about them acting like an old married couple had sparked yet another argument.
**I am not a mother hen.**
**Jonathan, you are such a mother hen it's not even funny.**
**Oh I hope you never have kids.**
**It would serve you right if we went to a planet where we'd been cloned and they had...oh...triplets or something.**
Jack stared at Amber in disbelief.
**Yuck! Knowing my luck they'd all be girls, too.**
Amber glared at him.
**Got a problem with girls?**
**Just ones who make me feel like my stomach's going to explode. Take some gas medicine or something.**
Jack moved as fast as he could, whipping around in the seat and hauling up the medicine case Janet had put back there.
Opening it, he found the gas tablets and popped two out.
Amber put her sunglasses on and pushed past Teal'c to the gas station behind him.
**Get back here!**
**Ooo...big word, Jonathan. Make sure you don't choke on it.**
Jack shoved past Teal'c, slipping his sunglasses on as he went and ran after Amber as she fled around the Travel Center.
**Where do you think you're going to go?**
**Away from you. Duh. Ya think that's why I'm running?**
Jack glared at her back and smiled as her sandals slowed her down just enough that he'd easily catch her before their next lap.
* * * * * *
Syla finished her sample gathering and turned around to call to Greg...and instead found herself nose to nose with a dragon just a little bigger than she was.
He was a shimmery blue and yellow, with bits of red showing as his scales moved with each new breath he took.
She couldn't hear a sound from him and froze as still as possible as the dragon wrapped a wing around her, pulling her closer.
For one insane moment, she thought he was going to kiss her, but instead he sniffed her from head to toe.
Adrenaline pumped wildly through her body as her eyes zeroed in on his sharp teeth, claws, and wing tips.
He opened his mouth, as if to roar, but she again heard nothing.
He closed his mouth, cocking his head a bit at her, and then released her before rising to meet a larger companion in the air.
Syla stood, transfixed by the way he simply jumped straight up before spreading his wings to fly.
Greg's mouth gaped openly what he'd just seen.
His eyes met Syla's, their view of each other no longer obstructed by the curious dragon.
"Are you okay?"
Syla nodded mutely before responding in a similarly raspy whisper.
"We should report this."
"Yeah. We should."
They both looked up in time to see another sparklingly intricate sky dance between nine dragons of delightfully contrasting colors.
* * * * * *
Sam and Jolinar stared as the Colonel chased Amber around the building and out of sight.
Jolinar turned to Sam.
"We are on a time schedule. Let him walk."
"Umm...Jolinar, we need the Colonel to..."
"No, we need Amber. Allow Amber entrance, then let the Colonel walk."
"He's the one who..."
"She is joined to his mind. She will tell us how to go."
"Jolinar, we can't leave him behind."
Janet glared at the air around her.
*Does she actually think we'd do that?*
*I doubt it. Probably wishful thinking.*
Janet just shook her head.
* * * * * *
Peri looked into the eyes of the woman with whom she had shared her life force for so very long a time.
The mirror of the medicine cabinet shook in the hands of the weak grandmother.
Peri had tried everything, but age was simply not something she could combat.
The woman was almost three hundred and forty nine years old.
She wouldn't live to see her next year and Peri tried not to mourn, but couldn't hold back her sorrow at the loss of her dearest friend.
*I'm so tired.*
*Is there nothing you can do?*
*Each time I heal you, something else falls apart. I'm doing the best I can and I'm not giving up.*
*Yes, you are. I can feel it in your thoughts. I'm going to die.*
Peri shifted, loss slicing mercilessly through her heart.
*I don't want to die. I've lived too long to die now.*
*I'm so sorry. A piece of you will live in me. I will never allow anyone to forget you.*
*Will I die alone?*
*I don't understand.*
*Will you stay with me until I'm dead? Wait until I'm gone to join a new host?*
*If that's what you want.*
Eloise Ven Frances sighed, knowing the heart of her symbiote.
Peri was the most loving and generous creature on Earth.
If she couldn't heal her, then there was no hope.
Eloise looked again to her trembling hands, feeling her insides pull apart as different systems failed and Peri scrambled in a desperate attempt to heal them.
It wouldn't be much longer and Eloise allowed her fear-driven tears to fall.
She didn't want to die.
* * * * * *
Teal'c divided his attention between the Goa'uld and the two running around the building.
He was most disturbed by O'Neill's behavior.
Teal'c listened to Jolinar's dialogue with SamanthaCarter and smiled inwardly.
She was an intriguing Tok'ra.
Her rivalry with O'Neill was most amusing.
However, it was time to go.
Teal'c looked around to make sure the Airman was securely fastened to his seat and stepped quickly forward, catching AmberCorvores around her waist and carrying the squealing woman to the vehicle.
Her legs flailed as she alternately mentioned his questionable ancestry and hygiene between begging him to let her go.
Teal'c refused to allow his mouth to curve, but knew by the twinkle in SamanthaCarter's eye as she watched, that his amusement would be apparent to those who knew him.
AmberCorvores twisted, trying to get enough purchase to kick him, but only managed glancing blows.
He was impressed with her spirit, having been afraid that it had been damaged by her mental experience of late.
"We must depart, O'Neill. You would do well to temper your response to AmberCorvores' taunting."
AmberCorvores glared up at Teal'c as he released her into the vehicle.
"I wasn't taunting him. He's a big baby and can't handle a little gas. That's all."
"If you'd just take the stupid pills, I wouldn't have to deal with it on top of the cramps."
Teal'c looked from one to the other, surprised AmberCorvores was allowing her emotions to show so completely.
Her normal response would be to remove all emotion from her expression.
Teal'c filed that fact away to examine later as it became obvious that O'Neill was going to force the issue.
"Why do you not take the pills, O'Neill?"
"Yeah, Jonathan...since you like 'em so much."
Jack glared at Teal'c for encouraging her and then sighed.
**Just take the pills.**
**Those taste awful. I only take the watermelon-flavored capsules.**
**You're kidding right?**
**No...Janet bought some at the store. They're in her purse and I took them while I was in the bathroom so you can just wait for them to take effect. Like Teal'c said...why don't you take those. Might as well see if they help.**
Jack looked at Teal'c who was obviously waiting for Jack to make a move and then glared again at Amber.
**Why didn't you tell me you'd just taken them?**
**I did. You misunderstood and went psychotic.**
Jack's mouth twisted in pained irony as another set of cramps attacked.
**Well, Teal'c thought it was funny, so I guess it's okay.**
**Yeah, when his eyebrow is cocked at that particular angle, it means he thought it was funny.**
Amber grinned at the different images his mind sent and then Jack winced as he felt her get sucked into another memory.
It wouldn't have been so bad, except that he didn't stop feeling her body's current situation while she was otherwise occupied.
Jack took Amber from Teal'c's grasp, carefully settling her into her seat in the back.
He smiled as Cassie buckled her in and then took his own seat noticing Janet was driving.
Then he remembered Janet saying Sam was going to drive and he sighed, reigning in his sharp tongue.
At least Carter wouldn't try to run him over.
He settled back trying to find a comfortable position.
* * * * * *