A. Rhea King
The Emergency Room at Denver General was chaos to the average onlooker. Normally it wasn't so hectic, but a late spring snowstorm and bus versus semi on I-25 had changed that. It had made a normal Monday morning rush hour into a race against time for many of the victims from the pile-up. Doctors and nurses rushed to stabilize the patients that were a constant stream.
A doctor looked up when the doors opened, watching two paramedics run in with a gurney. The gurney stopped in the spot next to him. He shook his head. The girl had a head wound that had matted her dirty blonde hair. One arm laid across her stomach at a sharp angle and her leg had bone poking through the skin where the paramedics had cut away the leg of her business suit. The doctor turned back to the patient he was working on.
"Patient's name?" the doctor asked the paramedic.
The doctor's head jerked up.
"Did she have a Lockheed-Martin badge on her?"
"Yeah. That's how we identified her. Why?"
From the wounds the girl had, the doctor knew she had a minimal chance of survival. And that was enough to break his heart. She was renowned for her controversial views and theories on the development of space travel and astronomy. She had contributed a great deal to both the science and medical communities and she was only twenty-six. The loss of such a great mind would be a sharp blow to humanity. The doctor grabbed a nurse passing by.
"She needs an x-ray and cat scan, immediately," he ordered the nurse, pointing at the girl.
The nurse motioned to an orderly and the two rushed the woman off.
Deluged with patients, the doctor quickly forgot about Michelle Russell. Someone grabbed his arm with a painful grip and he turned, expecting it to be a friend or relative of a patient.
The nurse that had taken Michelle gripped the doctor's arm in a vice hold. Her eyes bugged and she was pale.
"Doctor, we just finished the CAT scan of the patient you sent me off with."
"How serious is it?"
"Her wounds aren't serious, but... There is this." She held out the developed CAT scan with a shaking hand.
The doctor walked to a light board and snapped the image into place. His eyes widened as his heart skipped a beat. At the base of Michelle's skull and neatly tucked around her spine, was the spine of a wormlike creature.
The Doctor turned to the nurse. "Quarantine her immediately. Call the CDC. Right now!"
The nurse ran off and he began shouting orders to direct patients to other rooms and out of the emergency room.
General Landry looked up at a knock on his door.
"Come in," he called.
An officer came in with a handful of folders. "General O'Neill has arrived, sir. And we just received word back from SG-1. They made contact with the Tok'ra. They are meeting them on P9X-5C9 and should be back here in twelve hours."
Landry saw O'Neill coming up the stairs in the meeting room. He was dressed in fatigues and carried an accordion file folder with a 'Top Secret' label affixed to it.
"And our prisoner? How is she?"
"She regained consciousness twenty minutes ago."
Landry met the officer's eyes. "Is she hostile?"
"No, sir. She's... No."
O'Neill stopped in the door, leaning against the doorframe.
"She's crying, sir."
Landry was surprised by the answer. Even O'Neill looked a little surprised by it.
"Probably thinks it's going to die." Landry turned his attention to the folders that were sat on his desk. "That'll be all."
The officer hesitated. Landry didn't notice. O'Neill did.
"Something wrong?" he asked the officer.
Landry looked up.
"No, sir," the officer said. "Excuse me, sir."
O'Neill nodded once, watching him go. O'Neill sat down in a chair in front of Landry 's desk. Landry recognized the thoughtful expression on O'Neill's face – it was a rare expression but usually resulted in something surprisingly intelligent coming out of his mouth.
"What are you thinking, Jack?"
"A goa'uld crying... That's not normal." O'Neill looked at him, setting the file folder on his lap. "Nothing in this file is normal for a goa'uld, Hank. Are you certain that she is one?"
"She has one in her head. That's enough for me."
"Are you sure it's a goa'uld?"
"Doctor Lam tested its DNA and it came back positive. She is a goa'uld. SG-1 went to track down the Tok'ra to find out if she's one of theirs, but I expect the answer to be no."
O'Neill opened the folder, looking over the data. "This doesn't make sense. She was driving, not even Ba'al drove. Too below him, I think. Her host was a fifteen-year-old run away and prostitute. After being raped and nearly beat to death, the host spent a year on life support with no brain activity. The night they were going to disconnect her from life support, the host regained consciousness. At this point, if the goa'uld controlled Michelle, I would have expected her to walk out of the hospital and off to make our life miserable. Instead, she goes back and finishes high school and earns a full ride to MIT. She earns a masters in physics and a doctorates in astro-physics and microbiology. And to top all this off, her voice would resonate and her eyes would glow. That wouldn't be easily explained away, unless she convinced the host to cooperate. I doubt even a Tok'ra could convince a teenager to cooperate, especially one that ran away from home in the first place."
Landry was smiling by the time O'Neill finished.
"You know who you reminded me of just then?"
O'Neill shrugged. "A talk show host?"
"Doctor Jackson. He made the same exact arguments as Teal'c practically drug him through the gate. The last words out of his mouth before he crossed the event horizon were, 'If Sam, Teal'c or I can't stay, then get Jack back here. Have him question her before we hand her over to the Tok'ra. We may be looking at a new goa'uld tactic or even breed.' And then he left."
"So that's why the president ordered me recalled from Russia at your request?"
"At Jackson's request, actually. Saying it was mine was more persuasive."
O'Neill opened the folder, pulling out a photograph. It was of three people: two adults in their late forties and a young woman in her twenties.
"Let's hope it's a new tactic and not a new breed; we'd never be able to detect them like if they can hide among us this easily."
"I agree. Shall we go meet her?"
O'Neill stood, setting the file folder on the desk, but tucking the picture in his shirt pocket.
"I'm going to go get a cup of coffee. I'll join you in the interrogation room."
Landry nodded once.
O'Neill walked out of the office into the conference room. He glanced down at the gate as he passed the windows. A small part of him longed to go on a mission through the gate just one more time. O'Neill looked away and his travel lust went back into hiding.
O'Neill sipped his coffee, watching the girl. Did he call this thing Michelle Russell? He was never sure what to call a host once a goa'uld took over, especially when the goa'uld, like this one, didn't offer up a name for itself. Landry appeared on his left, also watching her
"She's crying," O'Neill stated.
Landry looked at him. "So?"
"Never seen a goa'uld cry. It's different. Is it possible this coffee has gotten worse?" O'Neill looked into the steaming, dark brown liquid in his cup.
Landry smiled. "New staff. I like it, actually."
O'Neill looked up at him. "You like it? This is awful." O'Neill handed him the cup. "I have to know how she learned to drive. What was it the Asguard told Carter? Oh yeah. They're too advanced to understand simpler technologies. I would think driving would be too simple for a goa'uld."
Landry started to comment but O'Neill was out the door before he could. He looked at the coffee, sniffed it and sat it down on a counter nearby.
O'Neill walked into the room and fell into the chair opposite Michelle Russell. He watched her silent tears fall, watched her fingers twine together, untwine and twine again. She was nervous. A goa'uld that was nervous? Not even the Tok'ra showed signs of nervousness. She avoided his eyes. She stopped twining her fingers and put her hands in her lap.
"WHAT?" she suddenly demanded, looking up at him.
O'Neill stared, repressing how surprised he was by her reaction, and that her voice didn't resonate.
"Hi," O'Neill said.
"What?" she quietly asked.
"I said, hi."
She looked away again, tugging on her shirt.
"Most people say hi back when someone says that."
She looked back at him with burning hatred. "Do they? Even when they're being held prisoner without knowing why?"
"Oh..." O'Neill leaned against the back of his chair. "I think you know why. You're just playing dumb."
"Lets pretended, for a moment, that I don't. That the last thing I remember was thinking, 'Oh shit!' as my car was hurtling out of control into the back of a Hummer. Let's pretend for a moment that I don't remember hearing and feeling every bone in my body breaking and being in agony. And let's pretend, for a moment, that I woke up chained to a bed and miraculously cured. Let's pretended, shall we?"
O'Neill smiled. "Okay. Who are you?"
"You're military, obviously," she motioned at his clothes, as best she could handcuffed and chained to the table. "You're going to tell me you don't know?"
"I thought we were pretending that we didn't know anything right now."
Her eyes narrowed. "Michelle Elizabeth Russell. Who you are?"
"General Jack O'Neill."
There was a flicker of recognition to his name, so quick that he almost missed it.
"And you know who I am, don't you?" O'Neill asked.
"Still pretending we don't know anything?"
"I don't know anything."
"Then let's talk about that worm in your head."
"It's not a wor--" Michelle looked at the table, clearly realizing her mistake.
"Who are you?"
"I told you."
"No. You told me who the host is that you've enslaved, not who you are. And why doesn't your voice resonate? I've only seen Tok'ra do that and that's when the goa'uld isn't in control."
Michelle didn't answer.
"Michelle, or whoever you are, this will go much easier if you cooperate. Are you working for a system lord?"
"I wouldn't work for a fucking system lord!" she snarled.
O'Neill's brow furrowed a moment. Something else had been bugging him since she began talking and he just realized it. Her diction, her slang, was human. It wasn't elegant or grammatically correct, it had flaws, wrong word choices.
"You've put so much work into fitting into human society. Why? I thought goa'ulds were better than their hosts. Superior."
"This is bullshit," Michelle muttered.
O'Neill knew he wasn't meant to hear the comeback, but he couldn't let it go. What was it about this goa'uld that piqued his interest so much?
"What's bullshit?" O'Neill asked.
She didn't answer.
O'Neill leaned forward on the table, clasping his hands together. It brought him closer to her. For a moment he recalled all the other times it appeared a goa'uld was secure only to have it attack him. For a split second he asked himself why he felt so comfortable getting close to her. That only brought him back to wondering what it was about her that piqued his interest and realizing his original resolution of the thought was bogus. Everything about this one was bogus. Including any threat his past experiences told him she was to him.
"Who... Are... You?"
She didn't answer.
"Did you do finish high school that your host started and earn your degrees at MIT to blend in? Until you found your golden opportunity to try and take over the world?"
Michelle didn't answer.
"Upset that your servant caught you?" O'Neill taunted.
She didn't answer.
"Which system lord are you?"
She didn't answer him. She made a face though, one of disgust and disdain. Was it aimed at him or the system lords?
"I know you're just dying to gloat about how superior goa'uld are to humans. You'd be wrong, of course. After all, we did catch you."
Michelle's head lifted. O'Neill's smile dropped. The look on Michelle's face wasn't pride; it wasn't even that annoying smug look he'd seen too many times on goa'uld. It wasn't fear. No. This was different. This was... A revelation. What had she just had a revelation about?
"Ko..." Michelle hesitated.
Her eyes flashed golden and her voice resonated when she replied, "Koshare."
O'Neill's eyes narrowed. He knew she was lying. He felt it in his gut.
O'Neill grimaced, shaking his head. "Now, you see, that was too easy. What are you hiding, Koshare, ya old...worm?"
Michelle looked away.
"Koshare, the Tok'ra are coming to take you back with them. And if you don't start talking to me, you will talk to them. They don't have laws governing how to treat prisoners."
"The Tok'ra are inferior to us!" Michelle spat. It lacked the usual pride and forcefulness he'd heard so many times.
O'Neill sighed, trying to make it sound sympathetic. "I guess you'll have to remind yourself of that when they've put you through a few weeks of sleep deprivation and excruciating pain."
O'Neill stood and walked to the door. He motioned the guard outside to open it before looking back at her. She was crying silent tears again. So much emotion for a goa'uld. The light came on. That was what bothered him. She was emotional and it wasn't forced or fake emotions either. She was truly angry, truly scared.
The guard opened the door.
"Take her back to her cell," O'Neill ordered as he passed.
Landry was waiting in the hall.
"Maybe we shouldn't hand her over to the Tok'ra so soon, Hank," O'Neill suggested.
O'Neill looked back. Two guards came out of the room with Michelle; both prepared to shoot if she made even the slightest wrong move. They passed the two and she didn't even glance at O'Neill.
"Because if that girl is a goa'uld, she's the most submissive, scared goa'uld I've ever seen. She wouldn't hurt a fly."
"They've tricked you before."
"The president wants her off world as quickly as possible. We have larger problems than a goa'uld to worry about right now."
Landry nodded. O'Neill looked down the hall. She was gone with the guards, but his mind was still on the interrogation.
"I'm going to stay until we send her off to the Tok'ra."
"I received word from SG-1. That will be tomorrow morning."
"I'll have enough time to close on my house and still go fishing," O'Neill joked.
Landry laughed, walking away. O'Neill let his smile fade. He only wished he had time to understand Michelle better.
Michelle solemnly watched the soldier take off her cuffs and chains. The guard gathered them up and backed out between two soldiers armed with machine rifles. The cell door closed with a click. The armed guards took position on either side of the door, watching her, the third left. Michelle turned, looking around the cell. She walked over to the bunk, staring at it for a few minutes. She sat down and pulled off her shoes, hugging them to her chest as she laid down with her back to the guards. Michelle reached into her left shoe and pulled the insole up. She pulled out a device the size of her palm with a smooth depression in the center and seven LEDs along the rounded edge. Michelle slid it into her bra. She hugged her shoes tight, closing her eyes. Silent tears erupted and she pushed her face into her pillow to muffle her bawling.