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19 January 2012 @ 10:31 pm
Fic: Endurance Past the Point (10 of 19)  
Summary, notes, and warnings are located in the Table of Contents.



Part 10

Daniel had already been in his office for several hours before Jack dropped by after breakfast.  He had returned to his quarters but been unable to sleep, haunted by Sam’s nightmare.  He had tossed and turned, debating whether to share it with Jack.  On the one hand, it seemed a gross violation of her privacy, but on the other, it intimately affected Jack and their working relationship.  He was trying to lose himself in a translation project when he heard Jack walk in.


“Man, Daniel, you look like shit.”  Daniel looked up and Jack realized that he looked even worse face-on than from an angle.  It wasn’t unusual for Daniel to work through the night, but there was an aura of anguish about him that lent a particular pall to his exhaustion.  “Did you sleep at all?”

“No.”  Daniel grabbed his coffee cup and only noticed it was empty after he brought it to his lips.  Sighing, he stood up and walked over to the coffee-maker he kept in a corner of his office.  Emptying the lukewarm liquid into his mug, he set about brewing a fresh pot.  He talked as he went though the motions.

“I spent some time with Sam last night.”

“Did something happen?” Jack asked quickly.  

“She fell asleep.”  Daniel felt like a coward having this conversation with his back to Jack, so he slid the pot below the drip and reluctantly turned around.  “She had a nightmare while I was there.”

Jack nodded slowly.  Surely Daniel wasn’t surprised by that.  “I think that’s to be expected.  She was even having them in the infirmary.  You know that.”

Daniel shook his head.  “Not like this.  She started talking, or yelling really.”  He paused, his face taut in consternation.  Jack waited.  “She was begging you to stop.”

Jack stilled, swallowed hard, and tried to find his voice.  “Me?” he questioned.  

Daniel nodded, his face a mask of misery.  “She said, ‘Jack, please stop.’”

“Stop what?”

“I don’t know for sure.  But when I woke her, she was physically defending herself.  She wouldn’t tell me what it was about; pretty much she just asked me to leave.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen her that scared, Jack.  And I just thought you should know, in case she acts...” he trailed off.  

Jack sat still, processing the information.  He felt sick.  He would endure endless torture himself before willingly letting one of his team be hurt.  The fact that he hadn't been able to prevent it happening to Carter had been crushing.  That she was reliving it every night was nearly unbearable.  The fact that apparently he was now imparting the pain struck to his very core.

He looked at Daniel who was watching him closely, obviously shaken himself, and waiting for his reaction.  Impatience got the better of him as Jack continued to say nothing.  “Jack?”

“What do you want me to say Daniel?  That she’s been through hell and apparently hell doesn’t want to give her back?  That her brain is inventing new and twisted ways to torment her and we can’t do anything about it?”

Daniel grabbed the fresh pot and poured coffee into a clean mug.  Handing it to Jack, he commented, “Anything you want to say, really.”

Jack’s voice was hard as he answered.  “Don’t do that, Daniel.  Not now.  I’m not the one who needs it.”

“I think we all might need a little help these days.”  

Jack looked up at Daniel and saw his eyes reflecting a little of the helplessness Jack felt.  They stared at each other for a minute.  Christ, didn’t Daniel understand that it was impossible for Jack to break down right now?  Maybe later, when this whole thing wrapped up, maybe then Jack would go out for a drink with Daniel, or they’d wind up at his place and the whole night would end up some bizarre parody of a therapeutic bitch session.  But now, he had to put that away because he couldn’t do her any good like that.

Teal’c entered and observed the silent battle of wills between his two teammates.  After a moment, Jack broke eye contact and turned to Teal’c.  “Hey T, how’s it going?”

Teal’c looked between O’Neill and Daniel Jackson trying to make sure that they had finished whatever dispute he had walked in on.  Daniel looked unhappy but resigned and O’Neill was resolved.  Teal’c decided it was safe to intrude.

“I am well, thank you.  I checked in on Major Carter this morning as you asked.”

Both heads swiveled to look at him.  “How is she?” Daniel asked hesitantly.

“She looked extremely tired.  She declined to join me for breakfast, citing a lack of appetite.”

“My ass,” Jack grumbled, then shook it off.  There wasn’t much he could do right now short of strong-arming Carter to the mess.  “Well, we still have to eat and then I want to fill you guys in on our next offworld mission.  It’s not for another week, but I want to see if we can’t work some of the kinks out beforehand this time.”


~SG1~


Sam showed up for her morning check-in at the infirmary and dutifully let Janet poke, prod, and draw more blood.  

“Can I go home, Janet?”  Sam’s voice was pleading as she looked at her friend.

Janet sighed.  “Well, your electrolyte levels and organ function indicators are continuing to remain steady.  But I am still worried about your weight; you’ve actually lost a few pounds since I released you.”

“And you think that keeping me here is going to help me gain weight?”  Janet had to smile at the petulant look on Sam’s face.  

“No, I can see where commissary food might not be the most appealing diet.”  Sam felt a glimmer of hope as she watched Janet consider the facts.  The fact that she hadn’t outright said no yet was encouraging.

Janet’s concern about Sam’s weight was only part of the equation, as far as the doctor was concerned.  She was also worried about potential behavior problems and the continuing nightmares (evidenced by Sam’s drawn appearance this morning) when her nearest friend was, at best, 15 minutes away.

“You really think you’re ready to be on your own?”

“I think,” Sam paused.  “I just really need to get out of here.  Please?”

“Tomorrow.  If nothing changes, you can go home tomorrow night.”  Sam jumped off the bed where she was sitting and hugged the smaller woman tightly.

“Thank you, thank you.”  Relief radiated from the blonde.

“But you are still under the same restrictions.  Light duty, check in and out with me or someone else here every day, and don’t overdo it at home.”

“I got it, Janet.  You’re the best!”  

She left the infirmary for her lab and smiled as she settled at her work desk.  Picking up the notes for her report on the data analysis from Ugallu’s device, she glanced at it briefly then put it aside in favor of reviewing MALP and UAV analyses of several planets being considered for future missions.


~SG1~


Jack was on hyper-alert all day, waiting for something to happen with Sam.  Although his sixth sense was usually spot on in these matters, nothing happened.   After what Daniel had told him about her dream, he felt reluctant to visit her in person, instead shooting her an email late morning asking about lunch.  She declined.  Apparently, she also declined Daniel and Teal’c’s in person invitations, but they were able to confirm that she was working in her lab, alone, but seemingly in good spirits.  He had seen the update from Fraiser and figured he would make sure to see her before she left the mountain tomorrow.  

~SG1~


The following morning found Jack meeting with Hammond to go over upcoming mission assignments.  Not particularly fond of the administrative minutia, Jack was relieved when he heard the knock on the door and Harriman’s tentative request for entry.  His relief was short-lived when the door opened and he saw the look on the gate tech’s face.

Walter kept his eyes on the general as he spoke.  “Excuse me, Sirs.  There’s a data breach in progress.”

Jack swore.  “Those bastards at NID again?”

Walter shook his head, still not looking at the colonel.  “No, Sir.  It’s coming from inside the mountain.  I, uh... well, I identified the source as Major Carter’s laptop.”

And there’s the third, Jack thought as he slowly stood up, his face impassive despite the emotions churning in his gut.   

The general noted Jack’s lack of surprise as he also headed to the door.  “You two, come with me.”  In the elevator, Jack brought the general up to speed on Lt. Blaine’s concerns about Carter.  The three of them entered Sam’s lab to find her busily tapping away at her laptop, oblivious to everything else.

“Major,” the general spoke when she showed no signs of acknowledging their presence.

“Sir?”  She looked up, her smile faltering when she saw the somber expressions on their faces.

“Please step away from your computer.”  Her eyes widened in confusion, but she did as he asked.  Harriman slipped past her to take her seat.

“What’s going on?” she asked the colonel.  She can’t quite read her CO’s face, but something is definitely wrong.  He remained silent, clenched fists jammed in his pockets.  The general responded with his own question.

“What have you been working on, Major?”

She glanced over to where Harriman was now working on her computer and back to the general, confused.  “I was reviewing the specs for the cold dialing program, Sir.”

The general looked past her to where Harriman was shaking his head.  “Let’s see it,” Hammond instructed.  The tech turned the laptop to face the others and Sam leaned down to look at the activity history now displayed on the screen.  She read bits of it aloud as her puzzlement grew.  “Iris codes...  active offworld... removable memory.”  Her hands reached for the keys as she said louder, “Sir, this isn’t possible.”

“Please don’t touch that computer, Major,” the general said firmly.

She stood quickly, pulling her hands back.  “Of course not, Sir.”  She turned to face the two superior officers.

Harriman spoke up, very reluctantly.  He had always admired Major Carter and was finding it hard to believe what he was seeing.  “It looks like she was trying to download the codes and the locations of our offworld teams.”  He turned the laptop around again and tapped some keys.  “She was also looking at the files on the Alpha Site.”

“Would you like to revise your earlier statement, Major Carter?”

“No, Sir.  I was...” she trailed off as she tried to envision the cold dialing program code up on the screen, but there was just that hazy void again.  “I can’t remember,” she whispered, a sliver of pain jolting her even as the pieces started to click into place.  The headaches, unusual behavior, lapses in memory.  Her eyes locked with the colonel’s and she could see the same recognition in them.  “Oh god.”  

Jack spared her one look of compassion and sympathy before his eyes shuttered.  

Hammond stood quietly, no less aware of the obvious conclusion than his people.  Sam Carter was no longer in control.  He stood back for as long as he could to allow them to come to terms with what would have to happen now.  

He turned to the gate tech who looked stricken as he stared disbelievingly at the laptop screen.  Hammond spoke quietly.  “Sergeant, I want a full listing of everything the major has looked at or downloaded since her return.  I want to know if there’s even the slightest hint that any of it made it past our security.  Major.”  He raised his voice as he turned to where Carter was silently processing the emerging reality under Jack’s watchful gaze.  Trying to keep his tone sympathetic but firm, he said, “Colonel O’Neill will escort you to the infirmary.  I want every test run that Dr. Fraiser can think of.  We will all reconvene once we have the results.”

Their muted “Yes Sir”s carried them from the room and they began a silent trek to the infirmary.  Sam’s thoughts were a mass of questions and self-recrimination.  Why hadn’t she seen what was happening?  She had rationalized not telling Janet about key symptoms, the headaches, the memory loss.  She had refused to even admit the extent of her symptoms to herself.  It made no sense, unless her suspicions were right and she really was no longer in the driver’s seat of her own body.  

She could feel him and she drew some small comfort from his presence even as she could feel him closing himself from her by the minute.  Physically, he had already increased the normal distance between them.  She could feel him conspicuously not watching her, at the same time she knew he was aware of every move she made, ready to counter any attempt to make a break for it.  A nearly hysterical chuckle broke forth as she contemplated reassuring him that she had no intention of running; that she wanted answers as much as he did.  But though he may want to believe her, he couldn’t afford to.  For that matter, neither could she.

They entered the quiet infirmary.  Janet stood and greeted them with smile as she walked toward them, always happy to see members of SG-1 entering on their own two feet.  Her smile dropped as she neared them.  The colonel’s expression was purposefully blank and Sam was pale and shaking ever so slightly.  “What’s happened?” the doctor asked.

Jack replied in a matter-of-fact voice.  “We need you to run some tests on Carter.”

Janet’s lips quirked uncertainly as she looked back and forth between the two of them.  “We’ve run just about every test I know of on Sam since she got back.  What exactly are you looking for?”


“Goa’uld devices, anything those snaky bastards have tried to get past us before or anything that you’ve ever thought they might try.”

“We’ve done all those tests, Colonel.  I...”

Sam’s tightly controlled voice cut her off.  “Janet, please.  Just run the tests.”

Janet looked at her, reading the stress and edginess in her friend.  “Okay.  You know the drill.  Go grab a gown and get changed.”  Sam retreated to the end of the infirmary, pulling a curtain shut to give herself some privacy.

Addressing the colonel, Janet asked, “What exactly am I looking for Sir?  What happened?”

“Anything that may be controlling Carter’s behavior.”  He thought for a moment.  “Better call MacKenzie in on this too.  It might not be physical.”

“But something did happen?  Sam’s done something already?”

He nodded.  

“What if, what if we don’t find anything, Colonel?”

“We have to, Doctor.”  He wasn’t willing to accept that Carter was doing these things voluntarily.  “Keep looking till you find it.”


~SG1~


It was hours later that they sat around the briefing table.  Jack took his place next to the general, gratefully noticing that Daniel and Teal’c maneuvered a still withdrawn Sam into the chair between them.  She had been mostly silent through the afternoon, answering Janet’s questions in brief, one or two word answers.  MacKenzie had insisted on conducting his session with her in private.

Janet’s face indicated what she was about to report before she even spoke.  “None of the tests show anything unusual.  I’ve gone back and reviewed all test results since Sam came back, I’ve compared today’s tests to historical data on file, and I’ve found nothing physically anomalous.”  The tension level in the room ratcheted up slightly before she continued.  “But Dr. MacKenzie believes he may be able to shed some light on what’s happening.”

All eyes except Sam’s turned to the psychiatrist.  “I am fairly confident that we are dealing with some type of psychological mind control, possibly post-hypnotic suggestion or some form of operant conditioning.”  He looked at Sam.  “Major, would you please share with everyone what you told us earlier?”

Sam tensed a bit as everyone’s focus shifted to her.  She wanted to look to the colonel for reassurance, for that gentle understanding look of support, but didn’t for fear that it wouldn’t be there.  He had left the infirmary once the SFs assigned to shadow her had showed up.  She knew that he would do everything in his power to make sure she was treated fairly, but that his priority had to be the good of the base, of the planet.  He would lock his emotions away until they found an answer for this.  She expected nothing less from her CO.

“I’ve been having headaches.  At first I thought they were just part of my recovery, but looking back...”  She winced a bit as the constant dull ache started to sharpen and throb.  “It seems that they would get worse at times when I would talk about what happened, or when I tried to use the object Ferretti’s team brought back.  After it was destroyed, I felt better, normal.”  The pain in her head was continuing to build.  She tried to focus on breathing through the pain.  

“There’ve also been memory issues.  I don’t have any concrete recollection of connecting the power leads to that device.” Her voice was shaking with the stress of controlling her pain response.  “I don’t remember doing anything in my lab this morning either.  I... My brain tells me that I was looking at the cold-dialing program, but I can’t see it.  I can’t see the iris codes either, for that...”  

She dimly heard the colonel’s “What the hell?” as the pain morphed into agony and her vision blurred.  She slumped forward in her chair, pressing her hands into her skull.  She could feel Daniel’s hand on her back as he called her name, Teal’c kneeling at her other side.  

Janet was rounding the table immediately, pulling a syringe from her pocket and uncapping it as she went.  After she had administered the medication, they could all hear the major’s stuttered breathing start to even out.  

“What did you just give her, Doctor?” Hammond asked.

“A concentrated form of a migraine medicine, General, to help blunt the pain.”  She shot a scathing look at MacKenzie as she said pointedly, “It worked earlier.”

Before Jack could say a word as the doctor’s implication set in, the general followed up.  “Dr. MacKenzie, you knew this would happen?”

MacKenzie stammered a bit, possibly thrown by the coldly murderous look on Jack’s face.  “Well, this was quite a bit worse than what happened earlier, but I felt that a practical demonstration of the type of conditioned response Major Carter is experiencing would be...  You have to understand that this was significantly more extreme than her reaction when she told us this earlier.”

By this point, Sam had regained an upright position and was breathing fairly normally.  When Janet said ‘blunt the pain’ that was accurate, but unfortunately that was all it did.  Instead of sharp talons tearing at her skull, she now felt as if a balloon were being inflated inexorably from the center of her brain, pushing and compressing everything in its way.  

The general looked at her.  “Major, are you all right?”

She nodded slowly.  “Yes, Sir.”

“Very well.  In light of Dr. MacKenzie’s ill-advised, but very illuminating, demonstration, I recognize that your actions were dictated by forces outside your control.  However, I know that you understand as well as I do that there is a very real security concern here.”  She nodded again.  “Major Carter, you will be restricted to base for the time being and your security clearance within this facility will be deactivated.  I will not restrict you to your quarters.  You may have full access to any non-classified area such as the commissary, the gym, the infirmary, but you must be accompanied at all times outside your quarters.  I give you my word, Major, that we will do everything in our power to find a way to make this right.”

“Thank you, General.”

Daniel’s eyes swung between Sam and the general with a look of disbelief.  He looked toward Jack, who was sitting stony-faced, then at the others around the table.  No one seemed to have a problem with this.  He spoke up, “I’m sorry, General.  It sounds to me like she’s under arrest.”  

“Daniel, it’s okay.”  She smiled weakly at him.

“Dr. Jackson, you cannot be suggesting that we allow Major Carter to continue to access sensitive information while under the control of an alien influence?”

“Well, no.  But why not just let her go home?” he continued to press, trying to fight for his friend and teammate.

Sam jumped in before Hammond could answer.  She knew how that Daniel wouldn’t give up easily and wanted to put him at ease; she didn’t want to cause any more problems than she already had.  “Daniel, if I’m compromised, then I represent a threat to Earth.  They can’t just let me walk around.  General Hammond is already being very generous in allowing me so much freedom within the complex.”  He looked unsure.  She pushed the pain away for a minute, trying to project her sincerity and gratitude to her teammate.  “It’s for the best, Daniel.  I’m okay with it.”

Reluctantly, he acquiesced.  Privately, he reserved the right to revisit this conversation with Jack or Hammond later.  For now, he would allow Sam the dignity of not having to publicly convince him that her punishment was fair.  Hammond dismissed Sam and she left quietly, followed by the SFs.

“Now people, I want to know how this was done and how we fix it.”  Hammond’s tone was icy.

MacKenzie shook his head.  “I should have suspected this.”

“Why Doctor?”

“Major Carter told me the other day that she has been inserting the members of her team into her dream memories of her captivity.  I assumed that it was just a manifestation of latent resentment at the amount of time it took to rescue her.  Given what we know now, I can see that it is because we really are her enemies.”

“Not Carter’s.”  Jack’s voice was hard, carrying a not-so-subtle warning edge, as he spoke for the first time.

“Colonel?”

We are not Carter’s enemies.  We are the enemies of whatever that sadistic son-of-a-bitch put in her head.”

MacKenzie blanched and put a hand out in a conciliatory gesture.  “An important distinction Colonel.  I apologize.”

“Don’t forget it.”  He glared at the shrink for a moment more before continuing.  “The only thing that seems obvious to me is that however this brainwashing was done, it was done badly.”  They all looked at him.  “Think about it, she keeps getting caught.  She’s way too conspicuous about it.”

“I disagree, O’Neill.”

Jack’s eyes swung down to Teal’c.  “Uh, Teal’c, none of us would be sitting here right now having this conversation if she hadn’t gotten caught.”

“I do not believe that to be a weakness of the conditioning, but rather a sign of Major Carter’s attempt to fight it.”  Teal’c saw the mostly blank stares from around the table and continued.  “Major Carter is very strong, but obviously cannot defeat the conditioned responses.  However, I do believe that it is possible that she may have channeled her actions to alert us to the situation.”

“Like a cry for help,” Daniel suggested.  Teal’c nodded.  Daniel looked at Jack’s doubtful stare and said, “Come on.  Like Sam doesn’t know five ways to get around the computer security system.  Did she even try?” he asked the general.

Hammond shook his head, thoughtful.  “No.  I had Sgt. Harriman go over all of Major Carter’s activity.  She simply went straight in to copy the files.”

Daniel smiled.  “She’s fighting it.  That’s a good thing, right?”

Janet smiled supportively.  “It is a good thing, Daniel.  But you saw what fighting it does to her.  We still need to find some way to reverse its effects.”

The silence at the table indicated that no one had any ideas to offer.  Hammond stood.  “I will inform Jacob of this development.  Possibly the Tok’ra have some idea what we’re looking at.  Doctors Fraiser and MacKenzie, you will continue to monitor the major’s condition.  SG-1, I need you to maintain your mission schedule, but all other long-term projects can be put on hold until we get this figured out.  Dismissed.”

Everyone filed out until only Jack and the general were left.  “Colonel?”

Jack cleared his throat.  “I was just wondering if there’s any possible way we could keep this out of the official reports, Sir?”

Hammond sighed.  “I’m sorry, Colonel.  I can’t do that.”

Jack’s face tightened.  “General, if the NID gets wind of this, who knows what they’ll do to her.  You know what they’re capable of.”

“Colonel, I will do everything in my power to keep that from happening, but I cannot withhold this information.  Major Carter has intimate knowledge of almost every system on this base as well as almost every mission that is currently slated.  She has been compromised.  The President has to know.”