Things That Go Bump
by Kathryn Andersen
"Ladies and germs, I have found the phantom pot-smasher," Jack said, and held something up. It was greyish-brown, furry, and Jack was holding it limply by the tail. "Clue number one: I found this in my boot."
"A mouse?" Sam exclaimed.
"It appears to be dead," Teal'c said.
"I also happen to have the perfect 'alien' bait." Jack held up his other hand. There was an empty tin of tuna in it.
"Cats don't knock people out," Daniel said. He sneezed.
Sam looked at him speculatively. "You wouldn't happen to be allergic to cats, would you, Daniel?"
"A bit, but -" he sneezed again, "that doesn't mean that we have an invisible cat on the base."
"Not invisible," Jack said, "just elusive."
"It still doesn't explain the unconscious people in the infirmary," Daniel said.
"Coincidence?" said Jack.
"I'll believe it when I see the cat," Sam said.
"How can you doubt me?" Jack put his hand theatrically on his chest. "I'm wounded to the core."
"What if it's an alien cat with poison claws?" Sam said, half-seriously.
"Then we all need to be vewy, vewy quiet," Jack said. "Follow me."
"Shhh," Jack said. The others peered in the door. In the corner of his room, something small and grey was curled up on a grey blanket on the floor. It was a cat, small, thin, and the exact same shade of grey as the concrete walls and floors of the complex. A saucer with a few flecks of tuna sat on the floor beside the blanket. He shut the door softly behind him.
"It really was a cat," Daniel said, and stopped himself from sneezing just in time.
"It needs a name," Sam said. "Heisenberg. From Heisenberg's uncertainty principle -"
"I know what Heisenberg's uncertainty principle is," Jack interrupted. "No."
"Halley, then," Sam said, undaunted. "Because it comes out of the dark when it feels like it."
"Not bad," Jack mused.
"It should be called Sha'kek," Teal'c said.
"Small warrior," Daniel translated. "Personally I'd go for Odysseus, unless of course one wishes to go for the Roman form and call him Ulysses..."
"It's my cat," Jack said. "I'm naming him Nemo."
The food stopped vanishing, and Daniel was taking extra anti-histamines, but the mysterious ailment did not cease. Janet still had no idea what was causing it, and the base was still under quarantine.
"Daniel? I was just wondering if you'd eaten," Jack said, poking his head through Daniel's door. The archaeologist did not appear to be in his office. The usual signs of a work in progress were there - books open, scribbled notes, squiggles on the blackboard, and of course, the "rocks" that he was trying to translate - but Daniel himself was not evident. Maybe he was getting some coffee, or something to eat.
He tried the commissary in case Daniel was already there, but the tables were free of archaeologists. He went to Daniel's assigned quarters in case he was getting some kip (odd time of day for it though) but there was no answer. He went back to Daniel's office just in case he'd only been out for a cup of coffee, but he still wasn't there.
He poked his head inside Carter's lab. "Carter, have you seen Daniel around?"
"No," she said. "Maybe he's having something to eat."
"Just came from there," Jack said.
"Getting something from the archives, perhaps?"
"And started reading it," Jack said. "I swear, he has absolutely no sense of time."
"Yes, he does," Carter said, smiling. "He just thinks in terms of centuries rather than minutes."
"Yes, well he still has to eat like us mere mortals - and so do you," he said. "Help me find Daniel and drag him to the commissary."
She looked at her work and hesitated.
"Or do you also think in terms of centuries?"
"I just -" she broke off and laughed. "Fine."
The archives were dusty. Tall metal shelves filled the area, some lined with binders, some with neatly labelled boxes, others with artefacts with labels tied on with string.
"Daniel? Daniel, you here?" Jack called. "Even Ghengis Khan had to feed his troops. Daniel?" He started walking down the aisles. Carter went in a different direction.
"Sir! I found him!" The tone of her voice had him going from a stroll to a sprint in nothing flat.
Daniel was collapsed on the floor, curled up, clutching a pot protectively between his arms.
Jack knelt beside him. He patted the archaeologist's cheek, trying to get his attention. "Daniel. Daniel. Wake up!"
Daniel's eyes fluttered. "Ja-ack?"
"Didn't drop the pot."
"Yes, the pot is safe, you didn't drop the pot. You can give it to me," Jack said, reaching for the pot.
Daniel cringed. "No, you'll break it!"
Carter knelt on his other side. "I won't break it," she said. "I know how to deal with delicate equipment."
"True," Daniel said, almost lucidly. He relinquished the pot to her hands, then flopped back onto the ground as if his concern for the pot had been all that was keeping him aware.
Jack shook him. "Daniel! What happened?"
"Pebbles with knives," Daniel muttered, and lost consciousness.
Jack hovered by Daniel's side as he was taken to join the other victims in the infirmary.
"Stay on the path!" Daniel cried. "The pebbles with knives!" Then he began to sing softly, "Kree, kree, sha'la kree..."
"Colonel," Dr. Frasier said, "you can't do him any good here. Get some sleep."
Jack stirred sleepily and looked at his watch. Amazing what a difference a couple of hours kip could do. And how scratchy army-issue blankets could be if one slept fully clothed on top of them. He noticed movement in the corner of his room.
Nemo was playing with something. He stood primly, his back to Jack, still but alert. Then he would pat, claws extended, at something that Jack couldn't see clearly. Something trapped, something that Nemo wasn't going to let escape. Jack got up softly and tiptoed closer, not wanting to spook either the cat or what it had caught. Jack looked down over Nemo's shoulder, at the prey. He thought it was a small grey mouse at first, but it moved too jerkily and - and it had - far too many - legs.
He froze. Dammit. Why did it have to be BUGS? He stepped furtively backwards, intent on procuring his boots, a container, and something heavy suitable for walloping things, in that order. Or maybe a pair of heavy gloves.
He put on his boots as quietly and quickly as he could, his own breathing sounding loud in his ears. When his last lace was done, he looked over and realized the container was moot - Nemo was looking smug with some grey legs sticking out of his mouth.
"Oh no you don't!" Jack said. "You're not eating the evidence!" He pounced on the cat, and found that getting something out of a cat's mouth was only slightly more difficult than getting one to take medication. Bleeding fingers and several curses later, he was holding something which felt as if it had sixteen legs and eighty claws, but eventually the remains of the bug were in a damp pile on the floor and Nemo had yowled out the door. Jack scraped up the bits with some cardboard and took them to the infirmary.
"Here." Jack dumped the makeshift container in front of Janet.
She brushed a stray hair away from her face. She said, "And this is meant to be - what?"
"It was almost Nemo's dinner, but when it was alive, it rather looked like a spider. A honking big alien spider. The kind that bites people."
"Ah. So I was right, it is a toxin - or a toxin combined with an allergic reaction. But at least now that I have a sample, we can create an antidote. But how could this creature get on the base? How big was it?"
"About the size of a mouse. Trust me, if something like that had come scuttling in through the gate, we'd have noticed it."
Janet tilted her head, studying the bits of spider. "Hmmmm. But what if it didn't walk in? What if it... hatched?"
"Uh-oh," Jack said.
The room still smelled faintly of chemicals, despite the air-system scrubbers going full blast. Daniel lay on his bed, the colour coming back into his face second by second after Janet had given him the shot.
"Jaa..ck?" Daniel's eyes fluttered open as the antidote finally started taking effect. Then, urgently, "There's alien spiders on the base, Jack!" He started to sit up.
Jack pushed him back down again. "Been there, done that, got the fumigators in. They may have been alien, but they still got killed from good old-fashioned bug spray."
"Oh." He blinked. "It jumped on me in the store room. Did you get all of them? How did they get here?"
Janet sighed. "It seems as if Lt. Jones decided to take a souvenir of his most recent trip offworld; he picked up what he thought was a rock. It turned out to be a nest of spider-eggs; this species coats their nests with mud, like mud-wasps, then they add a layer of mica on the outside, for extra protection."
"Maybe he wanted to hang it on the Christmas tree," Jack said.
"He'd kept the rock in his locker, and two weeks later, the spiders hatched. He opened his locker door, and..."
"Nemo was probably chasing spiders when he knocked all those things over," Jack said.
"And Lt. Jones?"
Jack sighed. "Discharged. With a bad case of arachnophobia."
Daniel put the toothpick down and studied his handiwork. You could still see the cracks, but thanks to careful sweeping of his office floor he'd managed to find all the pieces, even the tiny ones. The dancing figures coursed gracefully across the vase, and the cursive writing was whole again. Now maybe he could get some work done.
Nemo strolled into Daniel's office.
Daniel placed himself between the cat and the vase, and glared. "Not this time, you don't!" he said.
Nemo blinked at him serenely.
Daniel sneezed, and knocked the vase onto the floor.
This was written for Hephaistos, winning bidder of Wolfpup's Katrina Charity auction. She wanted a Stargate story, gen, early seasons, team oriented, with emphasis on Jack and Daniel, set in the SGC, a "light-hearted whodunit", with bonus points for Daniel being knocked out and having a woozy conversation with Jack.
Hopefully I have delivered.
Thanks to Judith Proctor for beta-reading.
Thanks to Jonathan Burns for brainstorming, and Don Sample's story "Misunderstandings" for making me think of spiders (albeit, my spiders were much more benign than his).
The 'Egyptian' words were completely made up, without reference to anything else.