** See Title Chapter for full story notes and disclaimers.
PART TWENTY-SEVEN NOTES: And so we've come to the end of this section of the Hostilities Trilogy. Thank you all so very much for your awesome comments and support throughout its posting. It'll be a while before Part 3 will be completed, but it is plotted out and I assure you I will finish it. Jack and the Kraea have a reckoning ahead of them and nothing will stop him. Happy reading!
To Lynette, beta of awesome, thank you for the continual support. You've never let me down. To Annie, beta mistress of the back-up, thank you for the quick assist. You both made this story a far better product. Any remaining mistakes are all on me.
As always, any and all feedback is appreciated.
PREVIOUSLY ON STARGATE: SG-1...
Jack turned to look back at the people lying so still on the beds, mouth tightening once again. He hated waiting. It seemed there was little else he did anymore-wait and worry.
"There's nothing any of you can do here," Brightman said not unkindly. "I'll inform you as soon as there are any changes, sir."
Recognizing the veiled dismissal, he nodded. "Then we'll get out of your way, Doctor. I'll be back up in two hours for the next round." With a sweeping gesture, he motioned the other two toward the door and the decon chamber. At least this turn in the torture suit had been brief. He could only hope the next time would be even shorter. And if luck was with them, they wouldn't be necessary at all in another day.
AND NOW, PART TWENTY-SEVEN...
"What happened?" It was a true miracle that kept the question from shattering glass and rupturing eardrums. Jack knew it wasn't his own shaky control. He kept his seat as he stared across the width of his desk to hold Dr. Brightman's steady gaze. He couldn't keep his hands from clenching as they sat on his thighs however.
"I don't know, sir. I've gone through his records twice." The doctor was visibly affected by the events of the last hour, her normal confident manner eroded by the days of exhausting work and the blow they'd been dealt when Isaacs had seized without warning, dying in a matter of minutes. "Cpt. Isaacs's records clearly show him as A-positive. His ID tags corroborate it. Yet when I ran my own test after, I received an AB-negative result. I did it twice."
Jack didn't bother asking the obvious question. Brightman would have no way to know who'd jacked up the man's records. It was an instance where the price had been too high for some unknown person's lack of attention to detail. The worst was that Isaac's death could have been avoided if only for a missing letter and symbol. "Calaway?"
"Responding well. Her vitals are up encouragingly and she's actually showing signs of waking. We're ready to administer her second dose. Her blood type was correct, sir." The hard tone left Jack in no doubt that Brightman had also retested the lieutenant.
"Re-type everyone immediately, all personnel, not just the ones showing symptoms of the virus. There may be others with incorrect information in their records. We start with the sick and go from there."
Obviously, Brightman had thought about the solution and not the problem, a quality Jack appreciated more than he could ever say. There was more than enough blame to go around once his people were healed. "Proceed, Doctor." He accepted her nod of thanks silently and shoved down his anger at the additional loss of life. "How are Daniel and Davis?"
"Hanging on, sir. We'll dose them along with the most affected as soon as they're typed. In addition to blood typing, all personnel will need to go through the injection series before we can lift the quarantine." She gave a tight smile that held a hundred thoughts. "If Lt. Calaway's response in indicative, I anticipate a full recovery of all personnel within two days." One corner of her mouth tipped upward. "I would anticipate a lot of hungry people, sir. Many of them have been fed intravenously for some time."
"I'll warn the commissary to expect an influx over the next couple of days. Can you estimate testing time for all personnel?"
"Four hours, but the sick can be completed and administered within two, sir. If there are no other surprises, all treatments will be completed within the next twenty-four hours." She tilted her head to the right, one eyebrow rising eloquently. "If I may, sir, I think you just might have used up your miracle allotment for the year with this one."
She startled a grunt out of him with her blithely flat tone. If asked, Jack would have said she didn't have it in her. "I can't disagree with you there. Here's to hoping we don't need a second one. And put yourself in the next group of typing. We need you healthy."
"Yes, sir. I'll send an hourly update unless that surprise shows up," she said, then stood to leave when he said nothing else. At the door she paused, one hand on the knob. "Turn it off before twenty-two hundred tonight, sir."
A smile teased his lips when she slipped through the door without even turning around. Brightman might not have been with the SGC long, but she certainly had its commander pegged. Suddenly, he felt just a little bit better.
Total body count was limited to eleven, thank God. Raheer's cure and Brightman's quick reaction with the failed blood type had stopped the virus before it could reach epidemic status. Eleven is bad enough. I shudder to think of how much worse it could have been.
The SGC is silent at this time of night. Well, as silent as it ever gets. Many still remain in the Mountain, recovering their strength and awaiting a full, clean bill of health. Brightman herself is clear. The virus hadn't gotten a good hold on her before her injections began. Daniel and Davis had gotten the treatment in time. For a while there, none of us were sure their ravaged immune systems would prevail.
My eyes track over the eleven biohazard containers neatly spaced and aligned in formation, pristine red, white and blue draped over each. I force down a surge of resentment, hating the fact I can't tell their families what really happened to their loved ones, that they'll never even get to mourn the bodies in whatever fashion they would have chosen. No, my eleven men and women can't be released from these containers and will make one final journey through the Stargate to end on the volcanic world I had jokingly dubbed New Vulcan so many years ago. There, the containers, their bodies and the virus still trapped within their cells will be eradicated. Their families will receive the folded flags I now stared down at, condolences from the President and a grateful nation, and a handful of lies all in the name of protecting the world's greatest secret.
Some days I wonder if all the cloak and dagger is worth it.
My hand rises of its own volition to rest on a field of blue with white stars. I don't need to see the face through the heavy glass to know who lies beneath my hand. Cary Martin, the SGC's behind the scenes logistics mastermind. The quiet giant who never failed in his many years as my sounding board. The man who would never retire in a few years to that tropical paradise he'd dreamed about. The man who could have left the target that was my command with a single word, yet chose to stay. Cary Martin, my friend.
Heavy fabric wrinkles beneath my palm is it tightens into a fist. So many dead. So many irreplacable men and women. Too many left behind over the years on far flung worlds, impossible to recover, and now eleven more exiles will join them. I knows it's the price of my profession, but I can't help wishing my people didn't have to pay it for me.
I've spoken with the survivors. They are even more determined than I to solve this puzzle. Most of them are dealing with the losses as expected, having become used to the dangers inherent twenty-seven floors beneath the surface. Some, however, are not. Survivor's guilt, they call it. Me? I don't buy into that. Some days the dice just don't roll in your favor and there's nothing anyone can do to change it. I'll give them time to work through the feelings, then get their emotions and intellects pointed in the correct direction. Righteous rage, I know, is a powerful motivator.
Maj. Harris isn't to that point yet. His team, except the unlucky Cpt. Isaacs, survived. He doesn't have to tell me he'd trade his life in an instant to bring any of the dead back-the dead his team had unknowingly killed. I saw it in his eyes when I told him what had happened and how they'd gotten sick in the first place. I haven't told him the specifics about Isaacs's death yet. He needs a little bit of time before he gets slapped with that as well. Then again, I may just never tell him. Some things it's better not to know. I'm not sure what he's going to decide regarding his continued service with the SGC. I'd hate to lose him, but I'll let him go if he asks. He's paid enough. However, something tells me he'll stick around, if only to help us track down the Kraea.
Just the name is enough to tighten my gut in hatred. They have billions of lives to answer for. I'd thought the Goa'uld were a bunch of mass murdering, dominating pricks. Shows what I know, right? But they won't get away with it this time.
I straighten the wrinkles my hand made, smoothing the familiar heavy fabric. My lips quirk up slightly as I give one final tap to the container. Martin would be chewing my butt for standing here talking to dead people instead of downstairs hunting down the Kraea. "I hear you, Sergeant." Striding toward the door, I pull the mantle of command back over my shoulders, hardening my resolve for the months to come.
If it's the last thing I do as commander of this facility and these people, I will find them. I will stop them.
And I'll work with the devil himself to make it happen.
cont. in Part 3 of the Hostilities Trilogy, Final Hostilities...