Disclaimer: I do not own 'Stargate: SG-1', 'The 4400' or any of the characters associated with either show.
Author's Note I: This story wound up including more of the 4400 storyline and characters than I had originally envisioned. For the three planned sequels, there will continue to be 4400 elements to the story, but they will be Stargate stories, first and foremost. For those who do not watch 'The 4400', have the kinds of character notes I have been posting so far been enough, too much or too little information?
Author's Note II: Once again, I would like to take the opportunity to thank SionnachOghma for his invaluable advice and support in writing this.
The steady beeping of the monitors made an odd accompaniment to Teal'c's deep voice as he read aloud, his tone steady and calming, reassuring in its familiarity. For a few moments, Sam didn't open her eyes, allowing the words to wash over her as her friend read. She could feel herself drifting, and some of what Teal'c was saying didn't make it through the fog in her mind. It sounded like an article on wormhole physics but she was so tired that she couldn't be sure, not until one of the lines caught her attention.
"That's not right." At least, that was what she had intended to say. What actually came out of her mouth was rather different, and contained no comprehensible words whatsoever, merely a mumble, like a sleepy child's. Her muscles would not obey her, and it was only through sheer stubbornness that she managed to open her eyes to look around her.
"Major Carter?" Teal'c sprang up from the hard plastic chair provided for visitors and was by her side in an instant, his hand grasping hers in a warm, strong grip. "Are you alright?" Not waiting for her to respond, he reached over and pressed a call button by the bed. "Do not worry. A doctor will be here momentarily."
A doctor? Not Janet? Glancing around, Sam saw that she wasn't in the infirmary at the SGC, but she also wasn't in Quarantine, so it was an improvement at least. Her mouth was dry, but she managed to croak the word "Where..."
"This is the medical wing of the NTAC facility, Major Carter." Teal'c explained, gently extricating his fingers from her grasp to pour her some water, helping to hold her hand steady as she drank. "You were brought here when you did not wake after your illness was cured."
"You have been unconscious for fifteen days."
"Wow." Strange that she should feel so tired if she had been asleep for so long. "I missed a lot."
"Indeed." Teal'c agreed. To anyone who didn't know him well, he probably appeared to be stern and angry but Sam could see the glint of humour in his eyes. "O'Neill plans to speak to you about your habit for remaining unconscious for lengthy periods. He, Daniel Jackson and Major Mitchell are all anxious to see you."
A doctor bustled into the room, moving to Sam's side and checking her vitals before looking down at her with a thin smile. "Well, Major Carter," he said in a falsely cheerful voice, "you have certainly given us all a few worrying days. Your doctor wanted to have you transported back to her own infirmary, but of course we couldn't allow that until we knew that you were going to be okay, could we? Any pain? Nausea? Dizziness?" She shook her head to all three. "Excellent. Any complaints?"
"If I may," Teal'c cut in, "O'Neill and the others will be anxious to hear that you are awake." Once Sam nodded, he left the room to seek the rest of their team.
"It's understandable that you are tired." The doctor said as he checked her IV. "You've all been through quite a traumatic experience, physically and mentally, and it's only natural that you would feel drained, even after being healed."
"Healed?" Not that she was complaining about not being at death's door anymore, or anything, but she was curious about how she had recovered.
"My nephew – Shawn Farrell." A voice spoke up from the doorway. Tom Baldwin smiled at her as she looked up. "I heard that you were awake, Major, and I wanted to see how you were feeling."
"I'm okay. You found a cure?" Even if Shawn had been able to heal her, and the others, something would first have had to heal him if he was to use his abilities.
To her surprise, Baldwin hesitated before answering. "We didn't find the cure ourselves, a Dr Kevin Burkhoff did – with the help of your own Dr Fraiser. Once they had a cure for one person, they gave it to Shawn and once he got his powers back, he started healing others – although our doctors said that it was a close call for you, so close that the shock of the healing nearly killed you." A disturbing thought, to say the least. "Once Shawn had started healing people, their blood samples were used to make cures for others."
Sam tried not to look worried about that. Ever since her possession by Jolinar, Janet had been concerned about the effects that the naquadah and Goa'uld protein marker in her system could have on another person and the thought that other 4400s could have been injected with it was a troubling.
"...of course, we couldn't use yours, we weren't sure that it would be safe for you to donate." Tom remarked, unknowingly answering her unspoken question. He was silent for a few moments, as though debating how much he should say, and then he sighed before continuing. "You'll be hearing a lot about this on the news once you go home, so I guess you might as well hear it from me now rather than wait."
"The sickness, it wasn't a natural one – it wasn't even a sickness! It was a side effect to a substance that NTAC Centers have been administering to 4400s, without their knowledge, since shortly after you guys first left Quarantine. It was part of a plan to stop you developing abilities... I'm not the best person to explain the science, I can get my partner or Dr Burkhoff to talk to you if you're curious, but I want to assure you that it was the work of a small handful of people, that most of the people working at NTAC had no idea what was happening and that those responsible have already been taken into custody, pending trial."
It was a lot to digest, and Sam's first thought was of 'Maia's' words. 'You must look to the people of your own time to learn the cause of your illness.' If she had been right about that...
Outside the door, she could hear the sound of rapid footsteps and of her teammates' voices but there was something else that she needed to clear up first.
"Isabelle Tyler – is she still a baby?"
"Hey, Sam!" Daniel called excitedly, entering the room ahead of the others, a display of coloured balloons clutched in one hand. "How are you feeling?"
"Carter, I'm only going to say this once – comas are not funny!" Jack said good-naturedly. "You need to nip this habit in the bud, once and for all."
Sam scarcely registered their arrival, her attention focused on Tom, whose expression was one of shock and curiousity.
"How could you possibly know about..."
Sam cut him off, glancing towards her friends. "Guys – can we have a minute?"
"Carter?" Jack glanced from her to Tom, confused – understandably so – by her behaviour.
"Please, sir. Agent Baldwin and I need to talk."
He wasn't happy, none of them were, and she was going to have a lot of questions to answer once they returned, but they left without further argument, stepping out of the room and leaving them alone. Sam saw a camera in one corner of the room and, reaching out with her mind, she switched it off, happier than she ever would have thought to have her abilities back. After coming so close to losing them, after seeing what was at stake, she would never take them for granted again.
"How do you know about Isabelle?" Tom demanded. "We've only known for a few days, and you've been out for the count since before she grew up." He drew one of the chairs towards the bed and sat down, watching her closely. "Did you..." He chuckled wryly. "I can't believe that I'm about to ask this question!"
"Did I 'see' anything when I was out?" Sam finished for him. Baldwin's own vision was well-known.
"Yes. She told me that they had spoken to you about Isabelle before."
"They did – and if you're here to get me to kill her, I'm going to tell you the same thing I told them. I wouldn't kill a baby, and I'm not going to kill an innocent person. She may be an adult now, but she's done nothing wrong."
Sam couldn't argue with that, and she didn't want to. "What if she does?"
"Then I'll deal with her." He promised.
Shifting a little to make herself comfortable, Sam could feel something hard under her pillow and, reaching under it, she withdrew an envelope containing a flat plastic case of some kind. Turning it over in her hand, she saw the name on it and remembered 'Maia's words about the weapon that they were to leave for her. She handed it to Tom. "I think that this is meant for you."
The next day, Colorado Springs
"Sam!" Alert to her movements, Jack hurried to intercept her when she tried to stand, gently pushing her back down on the couch and firmly tucking the quilt around her. "You're supposed to be resting." He scolded lightly, as though he had never even dreamed of escaping when he was supposed to be recuperating in the infirmary. "If Fraiser had her way, you'd be tucked up in the infirmary, or at least on bed rest."
"I just wanted to get a drink," Sam argued half-heartedly, despite knowing that it wouldn't do any good. Ever since she had been released from NTAC's medical center and flown back on a plane chartered by the Air Force, Jack had been hovering over her almost like a mother hen, refusing to let her lift a finger. Although she never would have admitted it, at least not to any of her teammates, she didn't hate the attention.
"So tell me what you want – and I'll make Daniel get it for you." Jack said, glaring at Daniel when he heard the other man smother a laugh.
"I say enjoy being treated like a princess while you can, Sam." Mitchell advised good-naturedly. "Once you're better, it's back to missions, and slogging in the mud and the rain and eating MREs that taste like chicken..." He laughed as he dodged the pillow she telekinetically flung at his head. "Using your superpowers counts as cheating!" He protested indignantly. He hefted the pillow, ready to return fire, but a glower and a pointedly cleared throat from Jack made him rethink the wisdom of retaliation, and he opted to throw it at Daniel instead.
A potential pillow war was averted when the doorbell rang and Mitchell sprang to his feet to answer it, returning a few moments later with Janet, who carried a large box of chocolates. "From me and Cassie," she explained, laying them on a side table and making her way to Sam's side to sit down next to her, feeling her forehead with the back of her hand.
"No fever." She said. Although she had witnessed the healing personally, it still seemed too good to be true, and a part of Janet was half-afraid of a relapse, or that the inhibitor had done irreparable damage to Sam's immune system, even though the tests had all come back negative. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm fine – I promise." Sam insisted. "Shawn's healing worked perfectly."
"You know, you gave that poor boy – and the rest of us – quite a scare when you flat-lined, and then when you wouldn't wake up even after your vitals had been stabilized." Janet remarked, shuddering slightly at the memory of how horrifying it had been to see her best friend slipping away in front of her. She would have liked to be able to stay at NTAC as the men of SG-1 had – none of the NTAC officials had dared to challenge their right to be by their friend's side, especially once the cause of her illness became known – but SGs 4 and 5 had run into trouble offworld and she had had to return to the SGC. "The doctors at NTAC couldn't figure it out; it looked as though you were in a coma, but your brain was still very active, far more than average."
"We tried telling them that's normal for you, but they wouldn't listen." Jack quipped.
"How many did we lose?" Sam asked. She had put off asking the question, afraid to know what the answer was, but she couldn't put off learning it any longer.
Janet hesitated a moment before telling her. "Twenty-eight," she said at last, "and if it hadn't been for Shawn, you might have been the twenty-ninth. Sam, I am so sorry about the inhibitor, I should never have given you those shots..."
"They'd have been able to tell from my blood samples if I hadn't been taking it, and given me bumper doses at NTAC check-ups, and who knows what effect that would have had?" Sam pointed out logically. "If they were determined to administer this inhibitor, they would have found a way to do it, no matter what. At least Shawn was able to cure the rest of us."
"Shawn Farrell is indeed fortunate to have been given such a precious gift – as you are to have your gifts, Major Carter." Teal'c observed quietly.
"So now that everyone is off the inhibitor, does that mean that the 4400s who don't have abilities will start developing them?" Daniel asked, trying to imagine what the world would be like with more than four thousand people with superpowers in it. He honestly didn't know if it was going to be wonderful or frightening.
"That's what Dr Burkhoff thinks – and I would say that he's right. Without the inhibitor, their bodies will be able to produce promicin so they should be able to use the abilities they would have had without interference."
"What about people who already have abilities, people like Sam," Mitchell turned to Sam, "if you were able to use your abilities when NTAC was pumping the inhibitor into you, what do you think it's going to be like without the inhibitor? Do you think that you'll get a new power, or just get better at using the ones you already have – or maybe it'll be both." He speculated aloud.
"I guess I'll find out soon enough, once I can practice again." Sam said brightly. "It'll be interesting to see what happens."
"Since when are you so excited about practicing?" Jack asked good-naturedly.
"Since I woke up."
"Fair enough." The doorbell rang a second time. "Why do people keep doing that?" He grumbled. "It's not like I lock the door." He rose from his chair, crossing the living room and making his way into the hall, opening the door to reveal General Hammond, whose face was almost completely hidden behind masses of flowers. "First you're a pizza delivery boy, and now you're a florist." He joked as he took the bouquets from him. "I just hope that we have enough vases left."
Once relieved of his burden, Hammond made his way into the living room to Sam's side, taking her hand in his and bending down to kiss her cheek. "How are you, Sam?" He asked gently, concerned.
"Fine, sir." She assured him. "I'll be back to work before you know it."
"Don't hurry back." He cautioned her, "not until Dr Fraiser gives you the all clear, understood."
He smiled apologetically. "I would have been by sooner, but I've been in Washington for the past couple of days, dealing with some business." He looked around the room, from one face to the next, as though considering his next move, deciding whether or not he should say anymore, before continuing. "I hadn't planned on saying anything until the end of the week, when it becomes official, but since you're all here, I think that you should be the first to know."
"Know what, sir?" Jack had a sinking feeling that he knew what was coming.
"I'm retiring." His words fell like a bombshell, momentarily stunning them into silence.
Daniel was the first to recover his voice. "Isn't this very sudden, sir? I mean, you never said... not that you had to get our permission or anything like that," he added hastily, "but... it's a big surprise." He finished lamely.
Hammond's laugh was humourless. "It wasn't something I had planned, son. Let's just say that of the options available, it was by far the best."
Jack could understand that. Calling one of the Joint Chiefs a stupid son of a bitch and telling him to kiss your ass tended to be a bit of a career killer. Hammond was very lucky that he was allowed to escape with retirement.
"God, sir, I am so sorry..." Sam began, knowing that he had argued on her behalf over going into Quarantine and that this was probably the result of those arguments, but Hammond cut her off with a gentle squeeze of her hand and shake of his head.
"This isn't your fault, Sam," he smiled wryly, "and let's face it – it's long overdue."
Nobody could argue against that; the easy assignment that had been intended as a quiet way for Hammond to pass the last few months before he was due to retire had wound up lasting over nine years. Jack suspected that, despite the circumstances of his retirement, his commanding officer – former commanding officer – was pleased that he would now be able to spend more time with his family.
"Who's going to be running the SGC now, sir?" Mitchell asked.
"The President has selected a new candidate; I'm afraid I don't know who he's chosen. I'll find out tomorrow, and I'll let you know as soon as I do."
There was silence as they digested this information.
General Hammond was one of the foundation stones of the SGC. Years ago, Jack had said that Daniel had built the SGC but, truth be told, it had been Hammond's efforts more than anything else that had built up the Stargate Program once it became clear how many worlds the stargate could give them access to. He had been the one who had successfully lobbied for the funding to expand the operation to include more teams, to explore different aspects of their missions. He had been the one who had kept the Stargate Program from becoming a mere vehicle for the gathering of advanced alien technology. Under his leadership, they had defended Earth from Goa'uld and Replicators, and kept the planet safe from threats that the vast majority of the population might never learn about.
It was strange to think that the SGC would continue without him, but it was going to have to.
"So, are you going to tell me what's going on or am I going to have to order you to spill your guts?"
"Sir?" Sam glanced up at Jack, startled by the sudden question.
"No S-word, remember?" He reminded her before elaborating, "You've been different since you woke up. You're more interested in practicing your superpowers than I've ever seen you, and then there was the whole thing at NTAC – what did you have to talk to Agent Baldwin about that the rest of us couldn't hear?"
"It's a long story."
"I've got nothing but time." He regarded her silently for a few moments. "If I didn't know better, I'd say that you'd had an epiphany while you were out."
"You could say that."
"Sam?" He pressed gently, worried. "Talk to me. Please."
The horrific images she had seen were still so strong in her mind. Famine and destruction. A huge city in an arid landscape with walls a thousand feet high Her friends, dying in front of her...
Slowly, hesitantly, she began to speak.
There was no need for spoken words here. One needed only to think, and that thought was shared with all of the Others.
--Why did we lie to her? She would have helped us, even if we had not exaggerated the risks. We could have been honest.--
--We could not take the chance. She is too important to us. If she is to succeed, we need her to fully embrace her task.--
Author's Note: The third instalment in this series, "Trojan Horse", should be appearing in the not too distant future, and will include some Sam/Jack shippyness and the appearance of two familiar faces from the Stargate universe who have not made an appearance so far.
Thank you for reading and reviewing this story. I hope that you've enjoyed it. :-)