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Physician, Heal Thyself
*Unscheduled off-world activation!*
The control room was bustling, the numbers of people present increasing due to the gate activity. As usual, Hammond was among those to arrive.
"We're receiving the Tok'ra IDC, sir," Davis announced.
"Open the iris."
Sam approached the general, having followed him when he'd left the briefing they'd been involved in. "Sir, isn't Doctor Fraiser due back this afternoon?"
"That was my understanding, yes." As he finished speaking, Hammond moved towards the stairs and down to the gate room. Sam stayed with him. They arrived just in time to see the wormhole close behind a single figure standing on the ramp.
"Doctor Fraiser, welcome back." Hammond greeted her.
"Thank you, sir." Janet started to move further down the ramp, stopping in front of Sam and Hammond. "Hi, Sam."
"Hey, you're looking well."
"I'm sorry we weren't there when you-"
"It's okay," Janet interrupted, her discomfort at the subject obvious to Sam. "They told me I was... I didn't wake up as quickly as had been expected."
"You're back early now though, Doctor," Hammond observed. "Did you run into any problems?"
"No big ones, sir. The Tok'ra were getting a little... impatient for Cassie and Aine to join them properly. And to be honest, I don't think they were completely comfortable with me being there. They had plans for Cassie this afternoon, so I thought it just as well I came back earlier. Cassie walked me to the gate on her way out."
"How is she?" Sam asked.
"Looking forward to getting on with her new life."
"I'm glad." And it was more than that. Sam felt relieved, and for the first time allowed herself to feel grateful that she hadn't had to take the symbiote, without the accompanying guilt she'd been living with since the moment Cassie had announced her intentions.
"That is good news," Hammond agreed. Then, his attention returned to the matter he'd been attending to prior to the doctor's return. Looking at her, there was nothing he'd like more than to let her settle back in slowly, find her feet once again after her life had been taken right to breaking point and then turned around so completely in such a short time. But she was needed. And he knew she'd cope.
"Doctor, I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to get straight back to work. Normally I'd ask Doctor Warner to cover things for another couple of days, but we've got a situation that needs your experience."
"Sir?" Janet shifted easily into professional mode, a sight that Hammond was more than happy to see.
"It's Tryan," Sam explained. "He's back."
Janet's curiosity had peaked by the time they made it up to the briefing room. No more was explained to her on the way, she assumed they were going to let Tryan explain things himself.
Her eyes were searching him out the moment she stepped through the door, and it took her a moment to remember it wasn't Daniel - or rather his body - that she was looking for. After all, for almost the entire time she'd known Tryan he'd looked like, if not sounded like, her friend.
Hammond took his seat at the head of the table, waiting for Sam and Janet to join Daniel and Tryan before speaking.
"Tryan arrived earlier today requesting our assistance, or more specifically Doctor, yours." He looked towards the man in question. "Would you like to explain?"
"Certainly. You'll remember me telling you that multiple consciousnesses in one body wasn't possible, that it wasn't sustainable. I was right."
Janet sat up. "Are the others..."
"Still here?" Tryan pointed at his - or rather Pharrin's - head. "Yes, most of them. But I'm afraid none of us will be for long. Things were okay for several months after you helped us relocate our crew. In fact we had no indication of any problem until five weeks ago."
"What happened then?"
"Meeda died. I don't think you met her. She had only been young, twenty-four when we boarded the ship, and as far as we know had no problems with her health. It was a requirement, when the people were chosen. Some called it discriminatory, but most understood that if we were to preserve our race we had to give ourselves the best chance at survival."
Though the humanitarian in her baulked at the concept, Janet also understood its necessity. It was simple triage.
"But I digress," Tryan continued. "Meeda was only the first. A week later, we lost Martice, after another week Lakeet and... Pharrin, were gone. We'd realised we had to do something but all our attempts so far have failed. One idea even caused the death of two further people."
"How many of you are left?"
"If you don't mind me asking," Daniel said, "where are the other fifteen now?"
"They're here," Tryan pointed at his head again, "though they lie dormant. It seems to aid the stability of our situation if one person takes on the role of dominant personality. We do switch, but not as often as we did."
"How do you determine who's... in charge?" Sam asked.
"We allow whoever is most suited to the situation to take over. Others do occasionally break through out of our control, but it doesn't happen often."
Janet nodded, glad that it was Tryan they were dealing with.
"That's as far as we got before your return, Doctor," Hammond explained, then turned to Tryan. "I believe you were about to tell us about a possible solution, and why you need our help."
"Yes. I have information about a world where we might go. We know of an abandoned facility there, a virtual reality facility. I believe you're familiar with the concept?"
Sam nodded. "Though we don't have anything as sophisticated as I think you'd need, we do have some experience with virtual reality technology on Earth, and offworld."
"Yes. The facility I speak of is no longer functioning, but we don't believe it to be badly damaged. It's our belief that it could be altered to host our consciousnesses, without the need for a physical body."
Daniel sat up a little straighter. "Even if it's possible, are you all okay with the idea of living in such an environment?" Realising everyone was looking at him slightly strangely, he carried on explaining. "What I mean is, have you thought about the consequences. If you go there... what happens to you? Do you ever die? Do you ever meet new people, or will it always be the sixteen of you?"
"Likely one or two less, by the time we get there," Tryan corrected. "And that's why we think the risks and disadvantages are worth it. Like most people, we have a strong instinct for survival."
Daniel looked slightly uncomfortable. "Yes."
"So how do you need our help?" Janet asked.
"Actually, there's two areas we need help with. Major Carter," he turned his attention on her, "we believe you may be able to help us get the system working again." When she opened her mouth to speak, he cut her off. "I know you've got no experience with this particular facility, but to the best of our belief the main problem is with the power unit."
"I could probably fix something there," Sam conceded.
"And Doctor Fraiser. Though our people have knowledge of transferring a consciousness to our own stasis devices, our knowledge of alien systems is limited, and those people who worked on the development of our stasis technology are gone. We don't have the expertise to figure out how to transfer us from this body."
"Tryan, I'm not sure I do either."
"You have more than us. You had no problem working with our technology before, and more than that, your belief that your friend could be saved was more than any of us could match." Tryan was looking at Daniel. "We need your determination as much as anything. And... we didn't know who else to turn to."
"Do you have a gate address for this planet?" Hammond asked.
"Yes," Tryan replied, "I have all the information you should need with me."
"Major, can you spare time from your current projects to help?"
"Yes, sir. I don't have anything on the go that can't wait. In fact, I'd quite like to let Lieutenant Hailey work on the naquada powered UAVs on her own for a while."
"If you're sure she can handle it."
"Very well, then I'm pulling you off that project for now to work on this. We'll call in the rest of SG-1, and send a MALP through. Get a standard UAV on standby too, in case it's needed. Assuming the planet checks out SG-1 will go through and check this place out." He turned to Janet. "Doctor, are you cleared for gate travel?"
"Then you'll join SG-1."
"General Hammond?" Tryan's voice rang with uncertainty, but his posture spoke of a quiet determination. "I'd like to accompany the team through the gate."
The general looked at Tryan, unsure whether or not to grant his request. Sam sensed his indecision, and spoke up.
"Sir, it could be useful to have him along. He knows more about this place than we do."
"Major Carter's right," Janet agreed. "We'll need all the help we can get to make this work."
"Very well, Tryan will join you." Hammond stood. "Dismissed."
Daniel rose quickly and left the room, and not far behind him Sam led Tryan off to show him the MALP.
Janet lingered slightly behind everyone, still taking in the fact that she was back. She was alive, though by every branch of medicine she knew she had no right to be. It was somewhat humbling, and the most personal way in which she ever hoped to be reminded how far Earth medicine still had to come.
"Doctor?" Janet looked up to find the general standing in the door to his office, a concerned look on his face as he addressed her. "Are you sure this isn't too soon?"
"No, sir," she assured him "I'm ready to be back on duty, and I want to help. I was just... thinking."
Hammond nodded in acknowledgement, and a brief silence perpetuated before he spoke again. "Do you have a moment while we wait for the MALP survey to be set up?"
"Come into my office."
Janet followed him, and at his indication took a seat opposite his desk. When he didn't speak straight away, she prompted him.
"You were with the Tok'ra for some time."
"Two weeks, sir."
"As you know, our relationship with them isn't what it was. Anything you can tell me that might help us try to rebuild would be useful."
Janet settled herself in the chair. "Well, sir, I think General Carter - Jacob," she corrected herself, "told you that he's not without his supporters in his views."
"When they returned, he and Selmak were surprised to find out just how much they'd lost the trust of the Council. The situation isn't good for them, and by extension, for us."
"But there are some that still trust them?"
"There are," Janet confirmed, "and they're prepared to back him more than he thought."
"What do you mean by that?"
Janet paused for a moment to gather her thoughts. "These people know the Tok'ra are in trouble, that's not in dispute. But they believe that's even more reason to cooperate with people such as ourselves. They know they can't carry on the fight alone. But, they also recognise the need to keep good relations with the rest of the High Council."
"Doesn't leave many options."
"No. As I understand it - and I could be oversimplifying, sir, this kind of thing isn't my strong point - Selmak has always been an influential person. He believes that keeping Tok'ra intelligence from the SGC is more dangerous than sharing it, and he's managed to convince several others that he's right. He can't promise anything, but..."
"He's promised to continue to help us, where he can."
"Jacob's going to leak information?"
Janet winced. "I'm not sure he'd put it quite like that. But essentially, yes. He and several others, sir. Including Cassie. We can't rely on hearing very often, but they'll be in contact when they can."
Hammond sighed. "I think we're heading for some interesting times, Doctor."
"Yes, sir. It does look that way."
"Thank you. You're free to go."
Jack's attention had wandered from the initial MALP data appearing on the screens. He'd always preferred not to concern himself with trying to interpret the data, he knew Carter would tell him what he needed to know. Instead, he looked down at the UAV being prepped on the ramp below.
"Did you know about this?"
Tryan turned slightly towards to Sam, though his eyes remained fixed on the screen in front of them. "Actually, no. We haven't been to the planet, not personally. I assure you I'd have mentioned it."
The conversation filtered into Jack's mind, and he pulled his gaze from the UAV to focus on Hammond, Carter and Tryan. "Mentioned what?"
"The atmospheric temperature, sir."
Jack turned his attention to the screen, now displaying a visual from the MALP's onboard camera rather than the previous streams of data. "Carter!"
The screen was white with snow.
Lots of snow.
"I'll admit it's a little extreme, sir-"
"It's beyond extreme! Who would want to build anything somewhere like that?" He turned to Tryan. "Are you sure this is the right planet?"
"Actually, sir," Carter spoke up, "it makes sense. If you wanted to build a virtual reality facility, the surrounding conditions would be unimportant excepting where they had an effect on the technology supporting it. Weather like this could actually be an advantage, making it far less likely for anyone else to be interested in the planet."
"Just how cold is it, Major?" Hammond asked.
"Our readings right now indicate a temperature of thirteen degrees. I'd expect that to drop another twenty, maybe thirty degrees at night."
"What does that mean?" Tryan had no understanding of the scale they measured temperature on, or the effect of such temperatures on the viability of the mission.
"It means no overnight trips," Hammond started, "so long as the facility's within half a day's travel of the gate. And you'll need to wrap up warm."
"Assuming the UAV shows us something worth visiting," Jack added.
Right on cue Siler indicated that the UAV was ready for launch. Hammond gave the order, and the small craft shot forward and into the event horizon. There was a short period during which everyone was silent as they waited for the UAV to reach its destination.
"Receiving telemetry now, sir," Sergeant Davis announced. Sam was already engrossed in what was on their screens.
"Hopefully we'll see the facility when the UAV shows what's over this incline."
Tryan was fascinated by what was happening in front of him. "There! There it is!"
The UAV had indeed now cleared the incline, and in the centre of the screen stood a building approximating a Goa'uld mothership in size. That, however, was where the similarities ended. The structure was dome-shaped, and a dullish silver in colour. On initial inspection there was no damage apparent, which reassured Sam that a repair may indeed be possible.
"It looks good, sir."
"And it's within an acceptable distance," Hammond agreed, "you have a go for the survey mission."
"Can we get any closer to it with...that..." Tryan indicated towards the screen with his hand.
"We should be able to get quite close," Sam replied, "give me a moment." Sam returned to the controls, and the picture on the screen appeared to zoom in on the facility as the UAV got closer.
Sam actually winced as it hit the ground.
"Well," Jack announced, "if we weren't going before, we are now."
Daniel was seriously considering asking someone to adjust the temperature controls in the gate room. They'd been waiting for Sam and Janet for a good ten minutes now, and he was beginning to understand why Jack had chosen to carry the bulky extreme weather jacket rather than stand there wearing it. Now Daniel had his pack on, he wasn't taking any of it off. But he wasn't excluding the possibility he might melt, either.
Finally, just as the gate began to dial, the two women entered the room.
Or rather, Sam walked into the room accompanied by a rather large jacket, held up by what may or may not have been a pair of legs in thick expedition trousers.
"Doc, that you in there?"
A well padded hand reached up and pulled down the jacket's hood to reveal Janet's head, still warmly encased in her hat.
"Ahh, there you are. You know, the Air Force never ceases to amaze me."
"Sir?" Sam asked, desperately trying to stifle a grin.
Jack didn't shift his attention from the doctor. "Who'd have thought they'd make extreme weather gear for one so..."
"Watch how you finish that sentence, sir."
"Small," he finished. Then, as if the thought just occurred to him, "Hey, do you share that stuff with Hailey?"
The glare Janet sent him was more than enough to send him walking up the ramp towards the now open wormhole, followed by Daniel, Teal'c, and Tryan. Sam turned to Janet.
"You know that's his way of welcoming you back, don't you? We all... every one of us, the colonel included, we... felt how close this one was."
Janet started to walk up the ramp herself, leaving Sam to rush after her. "Not so close," she replied.
"I didn't," she cut Sam off, and entered the wormhole.
"So what do you think?" Sam asked Janet. They, along with Tryan, were now inside the facility and inspecting the technology.
"I'm not sure. This bit here," Janet indicated a terminal, "seems as though it might be a controller for that." She pointed at a bay which appeared to be the right size and shape for a human. "But I have no idea how it all actually works."
"Do any of the controls make any sense? Are any of them configured in such a way they might indicate their purpose?"
Janet looked again. "No, I don't think... No wait. That, there, that section looks like it monitors the user's vital signs. And here..." Janet took a closer look. "There's nothing on the screen right now, obviously, but all the indicators are that this is for EEG monitoring, or the equivalent."
"Would that be necessary on something like this?"
"I'd say that depends on how long a person remained connected. For something short term, like our systems, I don't think anyone would believe that kind of monitoring necessary."
"That's a good sign then, isn't it?" Tryan asked. "It would indicate this was meant for long-term use."
"Yes," Janet replied, "but it also emphasises that the person's physical body was still important. We don't know that the facility will work properly with no stimulus from these monitors, and obviously in your case this is something to consider."
"Could we fool the computer into thinking there were bodies in these alcoves?"
"It's worth a try. I can work on a program that would send a realistic input in each case. With your help, Janet."
"Sounds interesting," Tryan commented.
"Of course, I still have to work out a way to interface between your body," Janet gestured towards Tryan, "and the machine itself. The connectors here obviously weren't designed with this in mind."
"You managed to transfer us back into this body," Tryan added. "Is the principle not the same?"
"The principle, yes, but this is a far bigger undertaking. I'll admit I've had some experience with this kind of thing, I've had experience with the human consciousness transferring to electrical data storage devices." Janet had to summon all her willpower not to look at Sam, not to remember her friend's emotionless face, or the moment she thought she'd lost her. "I've seen that our consciousness can be transferred via electrical circuits, but the experiences gave me only a very crude understanding. You need to know that I can't say for certain that I know what I'm doing."
"Understood," Tryan responded.
Sam turned to address Tryan herself. "You were right about the power source being a problem," she confirmed. "This unit's burnt out. The good news is, I think I can hook up a naquada generator without too much problem. Of course, I'd have to get it approved, but I don't see any reason why General Hammond would say no."
"So this really may work?" Tryan asked.
Sam looked at Janet and smiled, a smile that was for the most part returned. "It looks that way."
Jack, Daniel and Teal'c stood outside, crowding round by the entrance where the shape of the building gave some small amount of shelter from the snow. The UAV lay, amazingly, in one piece in front of them, exactly where it had fallen when it crashed.
Far from melting, Daniel now felt like he would never thaw out.
"How much longer do you think they're going to take?" he asked.
"Interesting, isn't it," Jack commented, "when you're on the other side. Bring you to a snow planet, with no ancient ruins or monuments, and you're all ready to go home, eager to get home, begging to-"
"I'm not begging. I'm cold."
"We are all cold, Daniel Jackson."
"You're cold?" he asked Teal'c.
"I have felt the cold much more since the loss of my symbiote. It is a most unpleasant experience."
Jack smirked. "Welcome to our world."
"O'Neill, this world does not belong to-"
"Teal'c, it's just a..." Jack trailed off as realisation set in. "You knew that."
It was Daniel's turn to smirk, though it didn't last for long.
"Daniel? Go and check how long they're going to be."
"You really want me to move?"
"I believe that's what I just said."
Daniel sighed, and moved off.
"Is that wise?" Teal'c asked, when Daniel was out of earshot.
"Sending him in after them? Possibly not. But it serves him right for smirking."
"I believe I shall be more amused if he does not return, and we are forced to go and retrieve him."
"Whatever floats your boat, Teal'c."
"I do not have a-"
"Oh, don't even try it."
The ramp became almost treacherous as SG-1, Janet and Tryan descended, snow falling off them with every step. Hammond grimaced from his position by the gate room door.
"Welcome back, SG-1. Doctor Warner's expecting you in the infirmary, we'll debrief in an hour when you've all had time for a warm shower."
"Thank you, sir," Jack replied.
All six of them traipsed off, leaving a trail of melting snow behind them right down to the infirmary. Janet tried not to complain at the thought of being subjected to a physical, she knew it would just leave her open to be the butt of an endless stream of jokes. And that aside, she was tired. She wanted to help Tryan and the others, there was no question about that, but after their trip through the snow she was starting to wonder if maybe it had been too soon after all.
It was too late now though, she couldn't back out. She didn't want to. Not when another of them could die at any time. She just wished this had happened next week.
The hour until the briefing passed both too quickly and not quickly enough, as the thought of having to engage her brain once more was not one she relished. Thankfully the first part of the briefing required very little input from her, as Sam outlined the conditions on the planet, and the condition of the virtual reality facility.
"Doctor, how confident are you that you can facilitate the transfer?" Hammond's question brought her fully into the proceedings.
"Nothing's certain," she replied, "but I think it's worth a shot. It's certainly better than the only current alternative."
"Agreed. Tryan, if you and the others are happy, you have a go to proceed."
"Thank you, General."
"Actually, I have a question," Daniel chimed in.
"Go ahead, Doctor Jackson."
"What happens to the physical body you now inhabit?" he asked of Tryan.
Janet couldn't believe the thought hadn't occurred to her. The physical body was her domain, her specialty. Yet in this case, this particular body had dropped off her radar.
"It is something we have discussed," Tryan admitted. "We have agreed that Keenin should retain our body. He's the youngest of us, in fact the only child. We believe he deserves the chance of a normal life."
"Where would he go?" Jack asked.
"To our people, and the planet they now inhabit. They are aware of the situation, they know what to expect. He'll get as close to a normal life as possible."
"His life ceased to be normal the moment he boarded that ship," Jack replied. No one knew quite what to say, but no one disagreed.
"Is it possible for us to speak to him?" the general asked. "I'd like to confirm that this is what the boy wants, despite his young age."
"Of course," Tryan replied. It was obvious the instant Keenin took over, the body language becoming much more withdrawn, and frightened.
"Keenin?" Janet asked, pulling the boy's attention to herself. The others around the table let her continue, knowing she had the best chance of getting the child to open up. "Do you remember me? I'm Doctor Fraiser."
"Yes. I remember."
"There's no need to be afraid, we're trying to help you and your people."
"You're trying to stop what happened to my Dad happening to us." Tears sparkled in Keenin's eyes, but none fell.
"Yes, that's right. We'd like to, if we can."
"I'd like that. I don't want... I don't want to die."
Janet, as before, felt the need to draw the boy into her arms despite his physical appearance. Being in a briefing, she refrained. "We don't want you to die. Do you understand what's going to happen to you?"
"Yes. The others are going to leave this body, and I will live with our people in my Dad." A small smile showed through the tears. "They told me it's like my Dad lives on in me. And not just because I'm his son, this is special."
Janet smiled back at him. "They're right, it is. Are you are being very brave."
Keenin smiled, and then the smile faded as Tryan returned as the dominant personality. "I hope that helped."
"It did, thank you," Hammond replied. There was one more thing bothering Janet though, and she took the chance to address Tryan.
"I know Daniel asked you something similar before but... I have to be sure. You have fully considered what this means for you, haven't you? If this works, that's it. You're stuck together in this virtual reality indefinitely. We don't know if it's possible for you to... for a natural end to happen in there, and we don't know what effect it would have on the system if it was."
"We don't know a lot about this whole situation. But show me an alternative solution, and I'll gladly think again."
"I wish I had one," Janet confessed. "I just want to be sure you know what you're doing, before we become responsible for doing it to you."
"We'll always be nothing but grateful for the help you've given," Tryan replied, looking around the table. "That goes for each and every one of you."
"We're glad to help when we can," Hammond stated. Looking around at those present himself, he could see how quiet the occupants were – particularly Doctor Fraiser. "I think it's time to call it a night. Major Carter, Doctor Fraiser, Tryan, I want you to start work on this in the morning. You'll head through the gate as soon as you're all ready. In the meantime, get some rest. Dismissed."
Everyone involved elected to stay on base that night. It was easier, what with the late finish and the early start that was going to be needed the next day.
Janet was glad to be able delay going home, alone. She wasn't sure she was ready to face her empty house.
She also wasn't sure she could sleep. After an hour of tossing and turning, she finally gave up and headed to the commissary for a drink. When she arrived she found the usual spattering of people for the time of night, which left plenty of space for her to find a spot on her own. Once she'd picked up a drink she wound her way through the tables to the back of the room.
Despite her need for solitude, Janet automatically turned at the sound of her name. She found Tryan sitting nursing his own drink, and could now see the SF assigned to him sitting at the table behind. "Tryan, shouldn't you be resting?"
"I should, but I can't. Even when I start to relax, the others... they're anxious. We all are. No one knows what's going to happen, any one of us could be..."
"Yeah." He shook his head, as if the physical act might take away his problems. "Would you join me for a while?"
"Umm, well," Janet wasn't sure what to say.
"I hope you don't mind me saying so, but you seem a little preoccupied." He tried not to smile when Janet's surprise briefly showed in her eyes. If he was honest with himself, he too was surprised that he was being so forward. Still, he'd started now. "I can tell something... something's just happened to you. Quite apart from your arrival earlier, it's in everything you do. And everything your friends do." When Janet didn't speak, he began to wonder if maybe he had gone too far. "I'm sorry."
"No! No. It's just..." Janet pulled out a chair, seemingly having made her decision. Though the first thing she did upon sitting down was turn to the SF behind him. "Airman, are you due a break?"
The SF looked up at her, hoping it didn't look like he'd just been paying attention to everything that was said. "No, ma'am, not for another hour."
Janet pinned her gaze on him, and said, "Are you sure?"
The airman shifted in his seat a little, seeming now to understand what she was saying. "Actually, ma'am, you may be right." He looked at his watch. "It's later than I thought. Though I really shouldn't..." He trailed off, waving his hand in Tryan's direction.
"That's okay, you're dismissed."
"Thank you, ma'am." He got up and scurried out of the room, leaving a half-drunk mug of coffee behind him.
"I think he's scared of you," Tryan observed.
Janet smiled, finding some amusement in the situation. "They all are. You'd think being in the military, a little blood wouldn't bother any of these boys. But associate it with a needle and..." Janet trailed off, and Tryan couldn't help but smile at her implication.
"Can't say I blame them." Janet almost laughed. "So..."
"Did something happen while you were with the Tok'ra?"
Janet's eyes widened. She hadn't been aware he even knew who the Tok'ra were.
"Doctor Jackson explained where you'd been when the general and Major Carter went to greet you."
"He did? What exactly did he say?"
"Please don't think he was betraying any... personal information. He just answered my questions, told me who the Tok'ra were."
"So, what happened?"
Janet thought for a moment, unsure where to begin. Part of her still wanted to say nothing, but she knew she needed to talk, and she thought maybe talking to someone so removed from the situation might be a good place to start. After all, everyone else she could turn to knew her too well, whether they be her friends, or colleagues. She'd always believed that there were two reasons she was reluctant to seek health advice herself, including anything resembling counselling. One was the automatic belief that she knew what was wrong, and that there was no need to bother one of her colleagues. But the other was simply that they were her colleagues, she knew them and they knew her, and seeking their professional advice on a personal matter was... embarrassing.
As much as she recognised the frank stupidity in the attitude, she also knew it was only human nature.
"I was ill," she started. "No. That's not entirely accurate." She stopped, gathered her thoughts, and started again. "I got injured offworld. Staff blast. It was bad, very bad. I... I almost died. Would have, if it weren't for the Tok'ra, and my daughter. They took the decision to implant me with a symbiote, temporarily, to heal me. I didn't even know until I woke up, and..."
"And it was all over. I was cured. And Cassie... Cassie was a Tok'ra."
Tryan didn't want to ask, but knew he had to understand if he was going to help. "Cassie, she's..."
"Cassandra, my daughter. Up until two weeks ago, she lived on Earth. She was going to college, she had everything to look forward to and now... I know she knew what she was doing. I know she did it for me, and I'm grateful. But... when I woke up to see her there, I was so relieved. For those first few moments she was all I saw, all I knew."
"I realised where I was. It was at that moment I realised... we don't send people to the Tok'ra on a routine basis. We don't make it a policy to run to them with our medical problems. They may have access to technologies that we don't, but they're not there to be our doctors."
"From what I've seen, you don't need them to be."
He was glad to see the slight flush on Janet's cheeks. "No, well..." It didn't take her long to regain her composure. "This time, we did. I did. And for me to be there... there was really only one thing they could have tried."
"Cassie could tell the moment I realised. It wasn't how she'd planned to tell me I'm sure, but she rushed into it then, telling me how it was the only option, they'd tried everything - literally, everything - but there was only one choice left." A wry grin appeared on Janet's face. "Funny how it was only at that moment I realised I had a sore throat. Apparently they didn't think to fix that wound until I mentioned it."
Tryan had no idea what the doctor was referring to, but he gave a little smile and a nod regardless.
"You know," she continued, "it's not even any of that that bothers me. I was there two weeks before I came home, recuperating, and spending time with Cassie. Aine - her symbiote - kept herself to herself. I still don't really know anything about her. That bothers me, a little, but it gave me time to get used to Cassie's decision."
When it didn't look like she was going to continue any further, Tryan prompted her again. "So what is it that's been on your mind so much?"
"What am I so important?" Janet blurted. Then she seemed to realise what she'd said. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean that to come out like that, it's-"
"You're confused as to why your friends would go to such lengths to save you?"
"No! Yes! I don't know!" She took a deep breath. "She told me, Cassie, that they contacted everyone. Everyone. We've never... we don't do that. It's a huge use of resources, and unfortunately... unfortunately loss is part of our job. We know that, we all accept that when we start the job. I knew and accepted it the day I signed up. We've contacted the Tok'ra before, but never the rest. Never the rest."
"I wish I could tell you why."
"I wish I could believe I was worth it."
Sam, Janet and Tryan worked on their particular aspects of the problem well into the following day. Sam had the naquada reactor configured by lunch time, then moved her sights onto the programme to convince the computer it was receiving telemetry on the occupants' vital signs. Janet had delivered some data for her to work with barely an hour into their working day. It was while Sam was sitting at her laptop working on this that Daniel found her.
"How's it going?"
Sam finished typing her current line of code, then turned her full attention to Daniel. "Good, I think. I'm almost done."
"Really? Wasn't that a little quick?"
"There wasn't as much to do as I thought, particularly on configuring the reactor. Our systems are remarkably compatible with the facility."
"Yeah, I'm tempted to ask for time to study it when our schedule lets up a bit."
"Don't hold your breath," Daniel joked, "could be dangerous."
Sam grinned. "Danger's part of the job."
"Still," Daniel continued, "this is good, right? Maybe we won't lose any more of them."
"It would certainly make a nice change for things to just go right, for once," Sam commented. "Especially this time."
"Janet's first mission back?"
Daniel and Sam shared a glance, both of them aware that although Janet had been making every effort to appear okay since her return she was obviously still dealing with what had happened to her, and determined to do so on her own. The moment was interrupted as movement at the door caught their attention and Jack popped his head into view. "How're you folks doing, any progress?"
"Yes, sir," Sam replied. "Five minutes, and I'll have the program ready."
"Keep at it. Doc Fraiser and Tryan are finished with their work, we're ready when you are."
Sam found she wasn't surprised that Janet had also finished so quickly. "Give me twenty minutes, and I'll be in the gate room all prepped and ready to go."
Jack smiled at them, then his head disappeared back round the corner and his footsteps could be heard drifting down the corridor.
"I should go," Daniel said, already halfway towards the door, "get geared up. I'll see you in a bit."
"Yes, bye Daniel," Sam replied, her attention already refocused on her work.
The walk through the snow was no more pleasant the second time than it had been the first, and Janet was more than happy to reach the facility and head inside. She did briefly spare a thought for the colonel, Daniel and Teal'c stuck outside keeping watch, while the rest of them got some pretty damned decent shelter. It didn't last long though, since she was soon engrossed in the task in front of her.
Both she and Sam were surprised by the ease with which they were able to set up their systems. Once the power supply was connected properly, it was a relatively simple process to configure the computer to accept their commands. Tryan found himself with nothing to do but watch the two women work, and he was amazed at how easily Sam adapted herself to working with alien technology. It was second nature to her, but something still very new to himself.
It felt like no time at all had passed when they indicated it was time to begin, and he stepped up to the bay Janet indicated with some trepidation.
"It's okay," she told him, though Tryan wasn't so sure he was reassured by the site of her rifling through her medical supplies - especially when she stood triumphantly clutching a needle and syringe in one hand, and a vial in the other.
"What's that for?"
"Sedation. By choice, I'd never connect you up to this kind of system without some reduction in conscious level. It's perfectly safe, especially since I'm not using full doses here so you can have some control over who transfers when. I'd imagine each one of you will become rapidly aware of your surroundings once you enter the virtual reality, and are no longer under the influence of the drug in this body."
"So we'll wake up as soon as we're in?"
"That's what I would expect. Obviously, I have no evidence, but-"
"Okay, I'll agree to the sedation."
"Thank you. And I wanted to say..." Janet glanced over at Sam, reassuring herself that her friend wasn't listening. "Thanks for last night, for talking. I think it helped, a little anyway."
"I'm glad I could be there. I'd like to offer to do more but with things how they are... I have no way to stay in touch."
"There's an interface here, right? So that people can interact with the virtual environment without actually entering it."
"That's what we think that station is there, yes." Tryan was pointing at a console just beyond Sam, on the opposing wall to where he was currently stood.
"Then who knows, we may well speak again."
"I hope so," Tryan replied. Then he turned his attention back to where they were now. "Right. Let me just make sure I have this straight: I'm to keep Keenin with me, make sure everyone else... leaves first. Then I allow myself to follow, leaving Keenin as the sole occupant of this body."
"You've got it. You'll do fine."
"And you're sure I'll be able to do that, with the..." he paused to think, "sedative in our system?"
"As sure as I can be. People react in different ways to the medication, but given your relative response to the pain you were experiencing the last time we met, I'd say it was a good bet you'll be able to keep enough control to do what you have to."
Tryan got himself into position, and closed his eyes. For some reason it was important to him that the last time he saw anything outside the confines of the virtual reality was under his control. "Okay, I'm ready."
"Transfer fourteen complete," Sam announced. She had been monitoring the actual transfer of consciousnesses from Pherrin's body to the computer system, whilst Janet kept her attention on how the process was affecting the body itself.
The doctor was fascinated by the screen in front of her, watching as the jumble of readings that had been the EEG of sixteen people gradually cleared. Now they were at the point where, after the next transfer, she should see it return to the recognisable pattern of one person.
"Okay Sam, there was a minor change that time I didn't notice on any of the others, but it doesn't seem to have affected them. It could have been masked before by the number of signals."
"We're okay to continue?"
Janet took a deep breath. "I don't have any evidence to stop."
"Okay. I can see the last transfer starting now."
All being well, it was Tryan now moving across. This one felt different. Part of it, of course, was that she knew which person was mid-transfer. With the others she had no way of knowing. The other part was concern for... a friend. Despite only meeting twice, Janet had found in him someone she trusted, worked well with, and as she'd found last night, could confide in. The thought of anyone she knew being forced to live in a computer like this wasn't a pleasant one.
"Almost there," Sam announced.
"We're stable here." Janet glanced at the blood pressure monitoring, then back to the EEG.
"We're still- No, no no no, damnit!" Janet made a grab for her pack. "Not now, don't do this to me now," she muttered.
Sam, meanwhile, had come over to join her, and could now see what Janet already had. Pherrin's body - now Keenin's - was convulsing in front of them, the EEG readings confirming the seizure. "What can I do?" Sam asked.
"Nothing, I don't feel comfortable disconnecting him from the link in this state, we don't know what damage that might do."
Sam looked at the syringe in Janet's hands, watching as her friend drew up the drug from the vial she'd grabbed from her pack. "What's that?"
"A fast acting anticonvulsant." Janet stepped up to Keenin, and carefully administered the drug.
"Will that work?"
"I hope so. But I have no real way of knowing."
Sam stood motionless for a second, then moved to Janet's previous position. Maybe she could be some use by keeping an eye on the monitors.
She didn't like what she saw. "Janet!"
"I could be wrong, but I think his pressure's dropping."
Keeping half her attention on the convulsing body in front of her, she called out, "What's it reading?"
"Seventy over forty."
"Damnit, I don't understand! There's no reason for that to be happening."
Sam paused before raising her next suggestion. "Maybe we should transfer him over. Before this gets any worse."
Forgetting herself for a moment, Janet turned to face Sam. "He wasn't supposed to go over! He doesn't... he wouldn't be prepared. He wouldn't know what was happening."
"He'd be alive."
"Depends on your definition."
"This may not be permanent, who knows what could be done later. The Asgard maybe..." Sam had wondered about the possibility of cloned bodies, but didn't really know if it was feasible. "Right now, it looks to me like we're losing him."
A thump as Keenin's head hit the side of the bay made Janet's decision for her.
"You're right. Start the transfer."
Janet hoped like hell she was doing the right thing.
"They must be almost done by now," Jack commented. "There's nothing happening out here, let's go see what's keeping them.
Daniel sure as hell wasn't going to argue, and quickly fell in beside Jack. Teal'c somehow managed to get ahead of them.
They entered the facility to find a rather subdued scene. The two women were packing up their equipment, but there was a solemn silence about them. Teal'c noticed that Janet, particularly, seemed very slow with her movements.
"Doctor Fraiser, are you well?"
"Teal'c? Oh, yes, I'm fine. Just a little... shaken up."
Jack looked across at Sam.
"We almost lost Keenin," she quietly explained.
"But he's okay?"
"We think so, sir. We'll find out when we connect up to that interface in a second, assuming it works."
Jack nodded, and moved off to join Daniel and Teal'c. Sam went over to Janet.
Janet put the last of her equipment in her pack, then stood up, mentally pulling herself together as she did. "I am now. Let's do this."
They moved over to the console, and Sam started tapping at the control panel. Janet shifted on her feet, trying to dispel her nervousness. She wasn't normally like this, she could control her anxiety over patients better than this.
She was better than this.
"How's it coming?" she asked.
Janet shifted again, then made a conscious effort to plant her feet and stay still. Her fidgeting wasn't going to help Sam work any faster.
Janet was at the console in a second.
"Hello, this is Doctor Janet Fraiser. I'm trying to contact Tryan."
There was nothing for a second, then an image of a man Janet didn't recognise appeared on the screen, with several other people visible in the area behind him. "Doctor Fraiser."
"Yes, it's me. What are you seeing?"
"Well, I think what I'm seeing is... you."
"We are all appearing to each other as we were before, how we looked before. We... didn't expect this, though I suppose we should have."
"Things are okay in there?"
"I don't know what I imagined it would be like, but this is... it's not perfect, of course, but better than we could have hoped. We're okay."
"Are you..." Janet trailed off, then kicked herself for doing so. "Did everyone make it okay?"
"We did." Tryan's attention was distracted by something inside the reality, and he turned away for a second. When he turned back, there was a small child just visible in the bottom of the screen. "Doctor Fraiser, I have someone here who wants to see you."
Keenin. It had to be. "Hello, Keenin."
Keenin looked up at her with wide eyes, obviously overawed by everything that had happened. "Hello," he shyly replied.
"You wanted to say something to the doctor, Keenin."
Keenin nodded. "Yes. Thank you."
Unable to help herself, and despite how she'd previously been feeling, Janet smiled back at him. "You're very welcome."
Keenin then pulled away from Tryan, and disappeared from view.
"He knows what happened," Tryan explained, "as much as any of us do. We assumed, and explained, there must have been a problem. That you sent him here to save him."
"You've nothing to be sorry for."
Janet didn't seem convinced. "We've got to go."
"Yes. Have a safe trip. And look after yourself."
Janet's smile was slightly more controlled than that elicited by Keenin, but it was there. "I will if you will."
"Then we have a deal."
Five cold people emerged through the gate back on Earth, once again leaving the ramp dripping with melted snow.
"Welcome back, SG-1, Doctor Fraiser." Hammond greeted them.
"Good to be back, sir," Jack replied. "And may I say, it'll be good to be warm again."
Sam turned to roll her eyes at Janet, but found her friend's attention was focused somewhere deep within herself.
"Can I assume the mission was a success?" Hammond continued.
"Yes, sir. I understand things were a little dicey for a moment, but as they say, things have a habit of working out in the end."
Hammond ignored what he assumed were Jack's attempts at provoking some kind of response from the doctor. They weren't working. She stood with the team, moved with the team, but her attention was anywhere but there. He was concerned for her, and once again questioned the wisdom of sending her out so soon.
"We'll debrief in the morning," he announced the moment he decided it. "I think you've had a long enough day to be getting on with, and I assume there's nothing I need to hear that can't wait."
"No, sir," Jack agreed.
"I suggest you all go home, and get some rest." Hammond turned and walked away, and one look at Janet convinced Jack, Daniel and Teal'c to follow, leaving her with Sam.
"I'll drive you home if you like," Sam offered. "You look exhausted."
Janet started to follow in the direction the others had just left, but Sam stayed with her. "I'm fine, my car's here, I'll-"
"Janet, you need to start looking after yourself. Your car's here but..." She faltered, trying to find a way to say what she wanted to. In the end, she decided to be direct. "I'm not convinced you are. Not completely."
Janet sighed. She stopped walked and turned back to face into the room. "I'm not. A part of me's... out there somewhere." She waved her hand towards the gate.
"Let me take you home. I'll stay a while. We can talk, or not, that's up to you. But you look like you could use a friend."
Finally giving in, Janet smiled. "I could. Thank you."
"That was quite a welcome back," Sam commented, as she brought Janet's coffee through to her. Coffee probably wasn't what her body needed right now, but it was something familiar, so she'd figured it couldn't hurt.
"It was," Janet agreed. She sank further into her sofa, enjoying the comfort of home. The Tok'ra furnishings could hardly be described as plush. "I think it helped, though."
Sam didn't make any verbal reply, but her expression conveyed her curiosity.
"I know I'd never recommend jumping straight back into work," Sam opened her mouth to jump in, but Janet wouldn't let her, "But, it reminded me that not everything's changed. I still have a job to do, I still have a life here. I still have a life."
"Really? You've still seemed a little... preoccupied, to me, since we got back."
"Oh, I am. None of that changes the fact that I'm going to miss Cassie like crazy. It's going to be a long time before I'm used to her not being around."
There was nothing Sam could say to make that better, so she chose to stay quiet. They sat and sipped their coffees, watching the flames dance in the fireplace, for a good few minutes before Janet spoke again.
"What happened to the documentary crew?"
Sam was a little surprised by the question. "What made you think of them?"
"Oh, nothing really." Janet thought for a moment, and then decided there was no reason not to tell her friend why she'd really asked. "It was Bregman - I think he was trying to ask me out."
"Well, that would explain it."
"What he said. Or rather, what I heard. The crew disappeared quite quickly, apparently General Hammond managed to sort something out while..."
"Before I went to the Tok'ra."
"Yes. But I never quite bought that, not as a reason to stay away permanently. They, or rather he, was too persistent before. Anyone who pursued the colonel with quite such dedication would have taken more than a quiet word from the general to put them off."
Janet inclined her head, acknowledging the truth in that statement. "So what was the other reason?"
"That he was finding it hard to cope with what had happened."
"It did look that way."
Janet sighed. "I'm not saying I was actually interested in pursuing anything, but-"
"This job has a nasty habit of getting in the way, doesn't it?"
"I guess that's not something I have to tell you."
Sam stared down at her coffee, and thought of Pete. Just because she'd recognised their break-up was for the best, didn't mean she hadn't missed having him around.
"You were right before." Janet's voice cut into Sam's thoughts for the second time that night.
"It was close. Too close. It's not just Cassie I'm finding it hard to deal with. It's hard thinking... It was too close."
Sam reached out and placed her hand over Janet's. "I'm always here. If and when you want to talk about it, I'm here."
The doorbell rang, preventing Janet from making any reply.
"I'll get it," Sam volunteered, and was halfway to the door before Janet had managed to climb out of her seat. She came back a minute later with the colonel, holding someone special in his arms.
The sight of Cassie's dog almost made Janet cry right there.
"I still don't understand why she had to call this little fella 'Snoopy'," Jack groused. "Have you any idea how I felt taking him for walks and calling that in the middle of the park?"
Janet hardly had time to sniff back the threatening tears before the door rang again. Sam beat her to it once more, this time returning with Teal'c, Daniel, and flowers. "It's turning into a regular little party," she commented.
"I hope you don't mind us dropping in," Daniel said, "we wanted to bring you these." He indicated the flowers that were now in Sam's arms, and Janet got up and took them from her.
"They're beautiful," Janet replied. "Thank you. But, I thought I heard something about dinner with Sarah tonight?"
"I cancelled. We can do that anytime and... this was more important."
"Well then," Janet smiled, and looked around at her room full of people. She was sure it wasn't a coincidence that they all turned up tonight, but despite any previous wishes to spend time alone, she found herself glad they were there. "I guess I'd better put these in some water."
Written by: LauraJo
Betas: Jen & Vicki
Producers: LauraJo & Vicki