Incidents Series Part 13: The Alien Doohickey Incident
by Maureen Thayer
Categories: Humor, Friendship
Content Warning: Mild Profanity
Author's Note: This is the 13th fanfic in the Incidents Series. I would highly recommend that you read the previous parts before this one, if you have not already done so, in order to understand the plot.
This story switches between Jack's and Sam's points of view.
"It's just totally unfair," I lamented aloud.
"Of what do you speak, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked me.
I waved my hand toward a corner of the commissary. "I speak of that."
In said corner sat Daniel and Sam, who were busy chatting away over breakfast, hands gesturing, the occasional smile flashing, eyes bright with interest and excitement. The fact that they were absorbed in an enjoyable conversation was not the reason for my lamentation; it was the topic of the conversation that had me in mourning.
Some kind of alien doohickey had been brought back by one of the teams a couple of days ago, and Carter was fascinated by the thing, mentioning it more than once in conversation. There was nothing unusual or alarming about that. It was Carter, after all. I'd be worried if she wasn't interested in it. No, the problem was that Daniel was fascinated, too, and not because it was covered in symbols or some weird alien language. He was fascinated because Carter had polluted his brain with science gunk.
Yeah, I know that sounds harsh, but I can't help it. The old Daniel wasn't like this. When it came to science, he was more like me. Granted, when Carter started spouting off her technobabble, Daniel was able to understand more of it than I was, but I still considered him to be a fellow member of the Scientifically Challenged Club.
I liked having Daniel as a member of my club. It gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling to look over at him as Carter was technobabbling and see a faint look of incomprehension in his eyes. Now that he's defected to Carter's Scientifically Literate Club, I feel all alone. I don't know which club Teal'c is in. He's never given any clues on how much of Carter's technobabble he understands, and I'm too chicken to ask.
I just knew this was going to happen. As soon as Carter took it upon herself to make Daniel like math and science even if it killed her, I knew that she'd succeed. Daniel is a genius, after all, and probably the only reason why he didn't excel in science and math at school is because he was completely focused on archeology, languages, and all that other stuff he knows so much about. During these weeks that he's been re-experiencing his school years, he hasn't needed to relearn all that stuff, so he's been free to learn other stuff, science stuff.
Carter, of course, is tickled pink that she's converted Daniel into a science lover. She goes on and on about how fast he's learning what she teaches him, how he could very likely get a fourth doctorate in any of several fields of physics. My opinion is that three is more than enough. Who needs four doctorates, for cryin' out loud? There'd already be too much alphabet soup after Daniel's name if he ever decided to write out all the abbreviations for his long, long, long list of bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, and Ph.D's. It would probably take ten minutes to write them all.
Okay, so I may be exaggerating a little.
The point I'm making is that Daniel's head was already crammed full of enough stuff to make me dizzy, and, now, there's even more stuff in there. Now, when Carter spouts off the technical gobbledegook, Daniel will be doing the same, compounding my level of incomprehension.
Like I said before, it's just totally unfair.
But, hey, there is one silver lining to this dark cloud of mine. In only three days, Daniel will turn twenty-one, and I'll get my pizza and beer night buddy back. I can't wait. I've missed those evenings that Daniel came over to my place for food, a beer or two, and a movie or game on TV. Daniel doesn't know it yet, but on the day he reaches the legal drinking age, I'm taking him to a bar and getting him drunk. Ferretti expressed the desire to come along, but I'm afraid he'd go overboard, and Daniel would end up in the infirmary with alcohol poisoning. Then, of course, Ferretti and I would have to move to another planet to avoid being brutally murdered by Fraiser – and probably by Carter, too. Actually, even if we did escape to another planet, Carter would probably track us down with the help of Teal'c, whom I don't think would be very pleased with us either. And they'd do it with the blessings of General Hammond.
So, I suppose I should be big about this and let Carter have Daniel as her science buddy. It might be possible that it will come in handy someday.
He just better not turn down my invitations for pizza and beer because he wants to play with a Naquadah generator or something.
I can't recall the last time I enjoyed myself at work more.
When I took it upon myself to interest Daniel in science, I wasn't sure if I'd succeed. His attention had been so focused on archeology, linguistics and anthropology before that I wondered if I could ever create even a spark of interest in the scientific fields that I love. I can't express how delighted I was to see his brilliant mind take a firm grasp of the things I was attempting to teach him, not because he had to but because he genuinely wanted to learn.
I'm not sure why Daniel never had an interest in science and math when he was in school. Perhaps he just didn't have a teacher who could make those subjects sound interesting enough that they could drag his attention away from the subjects that were his passion. I know for certain now that it's not because Daniel simply didn't have the capacity to do well in those subjects. Since I began teaching him, he's absorbed a staggering amount of knowledge in various fields of physics and astrophysics, so quickly, in fact, that I can barely keep up. I'm certain that the hyper-fast rate of his learning has to do with his accelerated physical development. Daniel's brain is developing equally as fast as his body, enabling him to process and absorb knowledge at a dizzying rate.
I always used to love the brainstorming sessions that Daniel and I often had during our first few years as teammates. Whenever we put our heads together, we figured things out so much faster than either one of us would have if we'd been working alone. Daniel's out-of-the-box thinking and ability to see patterns and connections where others could not complemented my more methodical, structured thinking. We were a good team, and he taught me how to think in a less linear way, to jump outside that box more often.
In later years, we didn't have those brainstorming sessions nearly as often, and I missed them. Now, we're having them again, and it's even better than before because Daniel can now keep up with me when I start technobabbling.
Our present object of interest was a device that SG-21 found on a mission two days ago. Scans have detected an energy signature, but we hadn't been able to figure out what the thing did. Videos taken of some writing found in the same building yielded no usable clues. The best translation that Daniel was able to make was some cryptic comment about freeing the mind of its burden. He wanted to go to the planet to see if he could find some other references, but Hammond had said that wasn't an option at this time because of some possible danger in going there.
"I think we should go for the CT scan," Daniel said, drawing my attention back to our conversation.
I nodded. "You're probably right. I tend to be a little cautious when it comes to putting an unknown form of technology in a CT scanner or MRI. It's hard to guess if there will be a reaction. But it may be the only way that we'll be able to figure this thing out since we can't open it. I'll talk to General Hammond after lunch."
Just then, Colonel O'Neill and Teal'c came up and joined us.
"So, you get that doohickey all figured out yet?" the colonel asked.
Daniel and I exchanged a smile at the word "doohickey."
"Not yet," Daniel replied. "We're going to see if General Hammond will allow us to do a CT scan on it."
"Any chance that the CT scan will cause something unfortunate to happen, like, say, making the thing blow up?"
"I seriously doubt that, sir," I answered. "I'd be more concerned that the X-rays will cause some damage to it. But, at this point, we don't have any other options if we want to figure out what this thing is. We can't do an MRI because, although the outer casing is not made of metal, we don't know what's on the inside, and it's always risky using magnetic resonance imaging on any kind of electronic device."
The general gave us permission to use the CT scanner. He was scheduled to fly to Washington for a meeting and told us to contact him immediately if something happened.
The device was placed in the scanner, and my teammates and I all gathered in the control booth, along with Janet and a technician. The scan went off without a hitch, nothing blowing up. Afterwards, I went with the others back into the scanning room, the technician remaining behind.
As the device was withdrawn from the scanner, we all studied it.
"Okay, so it didn't blow up," the colonel said. "That's nice. Explosions tend to ruin the whole day."
Daniel was leaning over the device, staring at it closely.
"Um, Sam, I don't remember that light being on before," he said.
Before I could finish my question, I was blinded by a golden flash of light. I heard several outcries, one of which was my own.
As quickly as it appeared, the light was gone.
"Is everyone all right?" Janet asked.
"I think so," Daniel replied.
"I seem to be all here," said the colonel.
"I appear to be unharmed," answered Teal'c.
"I'm okay, too," I said.
"Okay, so what the hell was that?" the colonel asked.
"It appeared to be some kind of energy discharge. I wonder what readings I got on the sensors I set up." I turned to the control booth and was surprised to see no sign of the technician. "Where did he go?" I went to the intercom and pressed the button. "Lieutenant Bettenfield?" There was no reply to my query. Instead, I heard a sound that sent my eyebrows rising, along with those of everyone else.
We all hurried to the control booth. There, lying on the floor and curled into a fetal position was Lieutenant Bettenfield, crying like a young baby. Janet knelt beside him and began examining him. Her touch made him cry even louder.
"Janet, what's wrong with him?" I asked.
"I'm afraid I have no idea. He doesn't appear to recognize me at all. We need to get him to the infirmary."
Daniel went to the door and opened it.
"Uhhhh . . . guys? I think we might have a problem."
The colonel and I joined him at the door and gaped at the sight before us. Every person in sight was lying in various positions on the floor. A couple of them were whimpering or crying. One of them was sucking his thumb.
"You know, I should be able to think of something humorous to say right now," the colonel remarked, "but I'm too busy thinking about what Hammond is going to say."
"Sir, we need to find out how widespread this is," I told him.
"Yeah. Teal'c, you help Fraiser get these people to the infirmary. Daniel, Carter, come with me."
As we headed down the corridor, I desperately hoped that, whatever that device had done, it had affected only a few people.
Unfortunately, my hopes proved to be in vain.
Oh, this is so not good.
I've always liked kids. Sara and I talked about having a big family, lots of brothers and sisters for Charlie. Sadly, things didn't work out that way. The thing is, though, that, all those times I imagined having a house full of babies and kids, this situation we'd found ourselves in wasn't exactly what I pictured.
Every single person on the lower eighteen floors of the SGC, with the exception of my teammates and Fraiser, had apparently been reduced to the mental age of an infant. The rooms and corridors of the finest, most secure military base on the planet were filled with the wailing of adult voices crying like babies. It was enough to drive a person insane. I think the only thing keeping me from going off the deep end were sights like the tough Colonel Dixon sitting on the floor, sucking his thumb or Sergeant Siler with the end of that huge wrench he always carries around stuck in his mouth and Carter snatching it away like a horrified mother. Siler promptly started wailing after she took it away, then stuffed his thumb in his mouth. I was thinking that having someone send down a crate of pacifiers might be a stellar idea. I didn't want to think about what else was being put inside mouths. We'd already frantically run around gathering up all weapons that weren't secured away in arms lockers.
As soon as we were able, Daniel, Carter and I got on the speakerphone with General Hammond, and, not surprisingly, he was anything but amused.
"Major Carter, do you have any idea how this could have happened?" the general asked.
"Not yet, sir. Doctor Fraiser is running scans on a few people to see if she can figure out what's going on. As for why she and SG-1 weren't affected, I can only guess that it has to do with our proximity to the device. It could be that the people who designed it set up a kind of safe zone shielding the operator from its effects."
"Do you believe it was designed to act as a weapon?"
"Well, if it was, it would be pretty effective," I answered. "Turning your enemies into the mental equivalent of babies would ensure a completely bloodless takeover."
Daniel shook his head. "I don't think it's supposed to be a weapon."
"Why do you say that?" Hammond asked.
"The bit of writing that I translated said something about freeing the mind of its burden. That sounds more like this was meant to be something beneficial, maybe even some form of therapy."
"Daniel, I can't see how this could in any way, shape or form be beneficial," I responded.
"Well, maybe it's not supposed to work as radically as it did. It might have been designed just to remove traumatic memories. I really think that we need to go back to where the device was found and see if we can find more references to it."
"Didn't SG-21 find evidence of some kind of very large predator living in the area?" I asked.
"Yes, they did," the general replied, "which is why I'm hesitant to allow anyone to return there."
"Well, if it's some kind of animal, I could probably control it," Daniel said.
"We don't know that for sure, Daniel," I responded. "You've only dealt with Earth-type animals, not something that's completely alien. For all we know, your abilities won't work on some carnivorous alien beast."
"The colonel is correct," Hammond stated. "If we cannot find a way to reverse what's happened, I will consider the mission, but only in that event."
"Sir, we could really use some help down here," I told him. "Short of keeping everyone sedated, there is no way that just the five of us are going to be able to handle this. We haven't had any disasters yet, but, sooner or later, someone is going to start playing with something they shouldn't. We've barricaded the control room to keep everyone out, but there are other sensitive areas where curious hands could do a lot of damage."
"I can understand your situation, Colonel, but until we determine that anyone sent down there will not succumb to the same . . . condition, I cannot send any assistance."
"I understand, sir."
"Keep me informed. We will be setting up a temporary command center at the base entrance. I'll be flying out in a transport as soon as I get off the phone with you."
"Thank you, sir. As soon as we know something, we'll contact you."
After the call disconnected, I turned to Daniel and Carter. "Okay, we need to lock down every area of this base that we don't want someone getting into. It's a good thing the room with the self-destruct device can only be accessed with a code. The thought of someone in there banging on that thing or randomly punching buttons makes me break out in a cold sweat."
We headed to Level 19 first, where most of the science labs were. Though we'd already shut all the lab doors, some of them weren't locked, so it was possible that someone had managed to get in a room.
When we got there, we found Felger in one of the labs, playing with some kind of weird-looking device. Carter's eyes widened in horror, and she rushed forward.
"No, no, no," she said in the same panicked-but-trying-not-to-show-it tone of voice a mother might use if she found her toddler playing with a lit cigarette lighter while sitting in a puddle of gasoline. She plucked the device from Felger's hands.
"You mustn't play with that," she told him.
Instead of crying over being deprived of his toy, Felger grinned up at her and made happy baby sounds.
I know I shouldn't have said it, but I couldn't help myself. "I think he likes you, Carter."
She gave me a dirty look. "We need to get him out of here."
Daniel and I managed to carry Felger out of the room and deposited him in the corridor.
"Sir, we're going to have to get everyone off this floor or something like that may happen again," Carter said. She called down to the infirmary. A short while later, Teal'c arrived with a gurney.
Two at a time, we got all the scientists and other personnel on that level down to the infirmary. A frazzled-looking Fraiser had us put them on blankets on the floor, all the beds already occupied with sedated people. She gave each of the new arrivals a shot to put them under.
"We're going to run out of sedatives soon," she said.
"Have you learned anything yet?" Carter asked.
"Actually, I was just going to call you. According to the results of the tests I did, there is no sign of any brain damage. Based on what I've learned, I don't believe that the memories of those affected have been erased. I think they are just being blocked or repressed."
"You mean like what happened to me," Daniel said.
"Are you saying that they'll eventually get them all back?" I asked.
"That I can't say, sir, at least not yet. If that is the case, we should see some signs of it within a matter of hours. Right now, everyone I've seen appears to be the mental equivalent of infants ranging from a few weeks old to seven or eight months. If they regain memories at roughly the same rate as Daniel, by this time tomorrow, some of them should be walking and perhaps even beginning to talk. Regardless, there are going to be some more problems we'll have to deal with, one being bodily waste. I've already had to change a few garments."
"No way, Doc," I said. "There is no way I'm going on diaper duty for a bunch of Marines and airman!"
"Nevertheless, it will have to be done, Colonel. We have to consider the health hazards."
"Janet, is there any indication that this is contagious or that what caused it is still in the air?" Sam asked. "I've run scans and can't find anything."
The doctor shook her head. "There is no evidence that we're dealing with a contagion. I have every reason to believe that, unless that device is still transmitting something, the base is now safe."
"Then we can get some people down here to help," Daniel said.
"The sooner the better."
We contacted the people up top, and they said that they'd let General Hammond know about the situation as soon as he arrived.
Hammond contacted us a while later and talked with Doctor Fraiser. He then agreed to send down a small team to start with, including some medical personnel.
We were all happy to see the team and even happier when they showed no signs of mentally being turned into babies. When, after an hour, everyone was still all right, Hammond sent down more help, including all the off-duty medical personnel. He also sent down a crate of sedatives and a few dozen boxes of adult-sized diapers. You have no idea how happy I was that I was not going to have to deal with the lovely task of putting them on . . . and taking them off.
Since keeping every affected person continually sedated was not something Fraiser wanted to do, we set up several "playrooms" on Level 17 and put the majority of the personnel in them, keeping them entertained with a bunch of toys that I talked Hammond into sending down. Leaving them in the care of their 'babysitters', my teammates and I went to go meet General Hammond, who was coming on down since it appeared to be safe for him to do so. Once he arrived, we all went to his office.
"I'm afraid that I haven't had much time to devote to figuring out what happened, sir," Carter said. "We've been pretty busy just trying to keep everyone out of trouble."
"Fortunately, for the present, we have the situation mostly under control," Hammond responded. "Major, I want you to devote all your time to that device. We need to know how it works and if there is a way to reverse what's happened."
"Yes, sir. I'd like to have Daniel helping me. He might see something I don't."
"I really doubt that, Sam," Daniel responded. "You still know a whole lot more about this kind of stuff than I do."
"That may be so, but even in the past, you were able to figure some things out that I failed to see."
"Daniel, you go with Major Carter and help her," Hammond said. "The quicker we get this situation resolved the better."
I glanced at Daniel, who was staring intently at the computer screen displaying the data recorded when the device activated.
"Look at this, Sam," he said, turning my attention back to the screen. "There's a small spike right there." He punched in something on the keyboard. "It seems to coincide with the moment that the CT scanner was turned on."
I nodded. "You're right. It appears to be a spike in the device's energy output." I leaned over him and typed in something else, studying the readout. "After the initial spike, the device gradually built up a charge, then released it."
"Then it was the CT scanner that activated it."
"It appears so. The question is why? It seems pretty clear that it was the X-rays. I'm just worried that they may have damaged some of the internal components, and we won't be able to undo what happened." I sighed and straightened. "Not that I have any idea how we can do that anyway."
Daniel picked up the device and studied it. "Isn't it kind of strange that there are no buttons or switches or anything else like that?"
"Not necessarily. It may be that it was controlled through some kind of computer interface."
"Which would mean that, without that computer, we couldn't control it."
"I'm afraid so."
The phone rang, and I went to answer it. It was Janet. She told me that there were some new developments and asked us to come down to the infirmary. We headed right over there. When we arrived, we were surprised to see that several of the people who were acting like babies just a short while ago were now wandering around unsteadily on their feet.
"The effects have reversed?" I asked with a sense of relief.
"Not exactly," Janet replied.
No sooner had she said that when one of the men toddled over to a bedpan . . . and stuck it in his mouth. A nurse rushed up to him and took it away, then handed him a toy.
"Oh, boy," I said. "Don't tell me."
Janet's head nodded. "Yes, they're still under the effects, but they're now roughly the equivalent of babies twelve to eighteen months old. Some have even reached the toddler stage. It happened quite suddenly. There appeared to be no progression at all."
"This is a good thing, isn't it?" the colonel asked. He, Teal'c and General Hammond had arrived moments after Daniel and I did. "Doesn't it mean that they'll be back to normal soon?"
"There's no guarantee of that, sir," Janet answered. "And I'm a little concerned about the erratic brainwave pattern some of them are exhibiting. This situation is not like what Daniel has been experiencing. He has been regaining his memories at a constant, steady rate in sync with his physical maturation. What's happening here is not following any kind of pattern. Some of the people haven't shown any progress at all, whereas others have made sudden leaps. And I have no idea why."
A call came over the P.A. for General Hammond, saying that there was trouble on Level 17. He went to a phone and put it on the speaker.
"Report, Sergeant," he said.
"Sir, we've got a major issue here," said a harried voice. In the background, we could hear shouting, laughing and screaming. "All of a sudden, a lot of the people down here started walking and running around. Sir, they're acting like a bunch of toddlers. We can't control them. There are too many of them. We need—" There was a curse and then some more shouting. It sounded like the phone receiver was dropped. The sergeant then came back on. "Sir, several of them have escaped. We need backup here."
"I'll send more people right away, Sergeant. Hold the fort as best as you can." The general hung up and turned to us. "It appears that the situation is no longer in control."
"No kidding," Colonel O'Neill muttered.
Very quickly, mayhem began to rule as progressively more of the affected people quite suddenly reached the mental age of two and three-year-olds. Possessing the speed and strength of adults, it was proving to be a challenge to control them. All of the remaining off-duty personnel had been called in, but restraining the "kids" without harming them was getting harder and harder to do.
Daniel and I were heading back to my lab to take another crack at the device when we heard the sound of running feet and childlike laughter. We saw Colonel Reynolds come running around a corner and go shooting by us, the bronze eagle from General Hammond's office clutched to his chest, a huge grin on his face.
"Come back here, you little brat!" bellowed a familiar voice. Colonel O'Neill came barreling around the corner, hot on the trail of his fellow colonel. "You give that back or I'm going to paddle your britches!"
I watched my C.O. vanish down the corridor, Reynolds' gleeful laughter echoing back to us, then I turned to Daniel. Our eyes met.
"Jack appears to be keeping busy," Daniel remarked mildly.
"Yes, it would seem so."
We continued to the lab. When we got there, we found Doctor Felger trying to get into the lab next door. When he saw us, he grinned hugely and ran up to me. My breath whooshed out of my lungs with a loud "Umph!" as he threw his arms around me and started hopping up and down, bouncing me right along with him. I know I could have taken him down with my hand-to-hand combat training, but I didn't want to hurt him.
Thankfully, Daniel came to the rescue. Using a technique he probably learned from Teal'c, he managed to extract me from the arms of my very rambunctious fellow scientist without causing harm. He then sat Felger down on the floor and produced a candy bar from his pocket.
"Want some candy?" he asked. Upon getting a smile and a big nod from Felger, he unwrapped the bar and gave it to the man, who proceeded to stuff it in his mouth, getting half the chocolate on his face.
"Thanks, Daniel," I said. I glanced back down at Felger, who was smiling up at me blissfully with his chocolate-covered mouth.
Daniel grinned mischievously. "I think Jack's right. He does like you."
I slapped his arm lightly. "Don't you start with that. Come on. We need to call someone to come get him."
Once Doctor Felger had been attended to, Daniel and I entered my lab to once again attempt to figure out the device and how to undo what it had done.
"I wish the general would let us go to that planet," Daniel said. "I might be able to find the key to this thing in the writings there."
"Me too, but, for right now, we're just going to have to try to figure it out on our own."
I am so not having fun. It was bad enough when everyone was acting like babies, but this is a hundred times worse. Take it from me. This is the stuff of horror movies. The Shining? Friday the 13th? Nightmare on Elm Street? Forget all those horror flicks. I guarantee you that having to deal with hundreds of adult-sized toddlers running around an underground military base with all kinds of fascinating – not to mention dangerous – things to get into would become the starring attraction of your nightmares.
I suppose it could be worse. It could be a base that wasn't underground. Then we'd have to deal with people escaping to rain havoc on the poor, unsuspecting public.
My most recent challenge was trying to retrieve from Reynolds the bronze eagle from General Hammond's office. Somehow, Reynolds managed to get into the office. I was with Hammond in the briefing room and turned just in time to see the leader of SG-3 abscond with the statue. He led me a merry chase through the SGC, but I finally caught up with him. You have no idea how tempted I was to clock him one, but considering that, as far as he was concerned, he was only three years old, I figured that decking him would be sort of like child abuse, so, instead, I bribed the eagle away from him with the promise of cookies and milk. Then I took him back to Level 17, where a phalanx of guards had been stationed to prevent another escape. They were all armed with zats and tranquilizers. Yes, I know what you're thinking, that zatting the equivalent of a two or three-year-old would be mean, but given the choice between that and the danger of letting them run free, zatting was definitely the lesser of two evils.
"So, how's it going, Captain?" I asked one of the guards.
"Like we're watching over the daycare from hell, sir," he admitted. "We've had to break up several fights over toys. I have six kids at home, and I thought that was bad, but it's nothing compared to this. In fact, this makes me long for the relative peace and quiet of my house."
I patted the man's shoulder. "Buck up, Captain. I'm sure that Carter and Daniel will have that thing figured out soon."
Deciding that I needed some fuel to recharge my energy, I headed to the commissary for an early dinner, having missed lunch. I was a couple of yards from the door when I saw Teal'c coming out, and I stopped dead in my tracks. Splattered all over his face was orange goo that I recognized as mashed yams. Draped over his shoulder was a kicking and screaming Walter Harriman.
"Trouble with supper, T?" I asked.
"It would appear that Sergeant Harriman does not enjoy the flavor of yams," the Jaffa replied, his expression telling me that he was in no mood for jokes.
"Um . . . yeah. Charlie was the same way when he was a baby. But, hey, it could have been worse. You should see the mess creamed spinach makes."
"I do not intend to ascertain the veracity of your statement, O'Neill."
"Uh, noooo, I should imagine not." I stepped aside and gestured for him to proceed. He strode by me, back stiff, the sound of Walter's wailing fading long after they'd both disappeared from view.
After dinner, I decided to escape to the quiet of my seldom-used office for a while. I opened the door to discover that the light was on. Before I could question why, two things happened: someone planted two very wet, sticky hands on my face, and I tripped over something on the floor. Regaining my balance and wiping the wet stuff from my eyes, I looked down at my fingers and saw that they were now covered in bright blue paint. Then I saw what I'd tripped over, a set of watercolor paints. In the next moment, I became aware of the state of my office walls. They were covered in technicolor swirls and splotches. And then I saw the artist.
"Ferretti!" I bellowed.
With a laugh, he took off, me in hot pursuit.
"Ferretti, you are so going to get it!"
I let out a sigh. "This is getting us nowhere."
"We just don't have enough to go on," Daniel said, leaning back in his chair. "We know that it was the X-rays that triggered the device, but we don't know why or how we can reverse what was done."
"Well, if we wait long enough, the effects might reverse on their own. Janet says that some of the affected personnel now seemed to be around the age of four. She's still worried about the erratic brainwaves, though."
"I think we need to go see the general and try to talk him into letting us go to the planet."
I nodded in agreement. "You're right."
We left my lab and got on the elevator. It stopped a couple of floors down, and the other person on the elevator with us got off.
The doors were just beginning to shut when I heard laughter reminiscent of what Daniel and I had heard earlier in the day. Daniel stopped the doors from closing, and we stuck our heads out of the elevator. Lieutenant Colonel Ferretti appeared, covered in multicolored paint and laughing in delight. He ran on past us and skidded around a corner.
"Ferretti, when I get my hands on you, I am going to tan your hide!"
We turned our heads to see Colonel O'Neill come into view. There were two big blue hand prints on his face, and his right boot and pant leg were spattered with still more paint.
He went streaking past and vanished around the corner. I turned to Daniel.
"I'm beginning to see a pattern here," he remarked.
We resumed our journey to the general's office, where we stated our case for going back to the planet.
"Sir, there have already been some minor injuries," I said. "It's only a matter of time before someone gets seriously hurt or some vital equipment gets damaged."
General Hammond sighed. "I'm afraid you're right, Major. All right, you and Daniel have my permission to go to the planet. Your teammates will be going with you. I'd send a backup team as well, but we really can't afford to lose the manpower here. I've recalled all the off-world teams that I can to help out here, but, unfortunately, as luck would have it, the majority of teams were on base at the time the incident took place."
An hour later, we were in the gate room. I noticed that Colonel O'Neill had managed to get the paint off his face.
"So, is Ferretti still breathing, Jack?" Daniel asked, smiling slightly.
The colonel glared at him. "Oh, yeah, he's still breathing. I need to keep him alive so that I can make him clean up the paint in my office once he's got an adult brain again."
I tried not to smile. We'd heard about the redecorating job that Ferretti had done.
Just then, the wormhole formed. We ascended the ramp and walked through the event horizon. As we stepped out the other side, I glanced at Daniel. He was smiling, his eyes bright with excitement.
Apparently, the colonel had also noticed our twenty-year-old teammate's expression.
"Excited about your first official mission, Daniel?" he asked.
"You bet. I didn't get the chance to enjoy my last trip off-world."
"Well, let's all hope that this is a nice, quiet one."
We made our way to the ruins. It appeared to be midday there, which would give us several hours before darkness fell.
Once we got to the ruins, we headed straight to where the device had been found. Daniel immediately got busy trying to read the script carved in the walls. I remained with him, running my scanner over the walls, as Colonel O'Neill and Teal'c kept an eye out for trouble outside.
"I was right before that the root language for this is Aramaic," Daniel said after we'd been there for around fifteen minutes, "but it's undergone so many changes that I'm having a hard time translating it." He pointed at one passage. "This seems to be talking about seeking a way to relive the joys of more innocent times."
"Well, that would seem to fit with your idea that the device was meant to be used for therapeutic purposes. Blocking unpleasant adult memories and returning someone to the mental state of a young child would, in essence, enable them to relive more innocent times."
Another hour passed as Daniel continued to read what was on the walls. I left him to it and searched the rest of the building, figuring that there might be more here than what SG-21 found.
"Sam, I think I've found something," Daniel said over the radio.
"I'll be right there."
I returned to the room and walked up to Daniel, who was standing before the far wall.
"I can't be a hundred percent certain of this translation," he said, "but, according to this, there are two devices that work in tandem with each other, and it's the other device, the one we don't have, that is the controller." Daniel frowned slightly. "This here says, 'With the rhythms of nature we bring peace and joy to those who suffer.'" Suddenly, his eyes widened. "That's it!"
"What's it? What did you figure out?"
"The rhythms of nature, Sam, the various wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum. The X-rays of the CT scanner activated the device because that's how it works! The different wavelengths of the spectrum act as a-a kind of dial, controlling how much of the subject's memories are blocked. Most likely, the shorter the wavelength, the further back a person is regressed into their childhood."
I started to get excited. "So that would mean that the longer wavelengths might reverse it."
Our eyes met. "Microwaves!" we shouted simultaneously.
"They're on the opposite end of the spectrum from X-rays," Daniel said excitedly.
I grinned. "Daniel, you've figured it out!"
"Well, maybe. We don't know for sure if exposing the device to microwaves will cause it to reverse the effects."
"But it does make sense. I've been thinking about something. Obviously, the ones who created that device would have needed to limit the number of people it affected."
"You're thinking that there might be some kind of shielded room here somewhere?"
I nodded. "They'd put the subjects in the room and activate the device."
"I guess we should try to find it. The other device may be in there."
I contacted Teal'c and the colonel. As they helped me look in some of the nearby structures, Daniel remained behind to videotape all the writing on the walls so that he could translate it back on Earth.
Colonel O'Neill, Teal'c and I had been searching for nearly half an hour when we found a large room with a glass-walled booth in the center. My scanners told me that we'd found what we were looking for.
"This room is heavily shielded," I said. "The device could be activated in here without any danger of the effects traveling beyond these walls." I went to the booth. "This looks like a control panel. Sir, I think this might be the other piece of the puzzle. Daniel should be able to read these controls and determine the right setting." I looked at my C.O. "Colonel, in order to test this, we're going to have to bring some of the affected personnel here."
"Then I guess we'd better head back to Earth and discuss this with Hammond."
We were all gathered with Hammond in the briefing room. Fraiser was there as well. Daniel and Carter had just finished explaining their theory and what they believed would get us out of this mess we were in.
"Excuse my ignorance, but aren't microwaves going to cook anyone inside that room like they're in a big microwave oven?" I asked.
Carter shook her head. "Obviously, we wouldn't use microwaves of that intensity, sir. Low-intensity microwave radiation won't cause thermal heating. Also, from what Daniel and I learned, the device turned on almost immediately after the CT scanner was activated. It just took a while for it to build up enough power to release the energy wave. It's very likely that the microwaves will only have to be broadcast for a fraction of a second. It won't be any more dangerous than standing in front of your microwave oven as you cook a bag of popcorn."
Hammond turned to the doc. "Doctor Fraiser, what are your thoughts on this?"
"Well, sir, obviously, I have some misgivings about experimenting on anyone."
"Do you believe it would be better to wait for this to resolve itself?"
"Unfortunately, I don't think we have that luxury. Lieutenant Dupont suffered some nasty second degree burns on his left hand and arm when he snuck into the kitchen and touched a hot burner. There are four people in the infirmary with broken bones and three more with various other injuries. Airman Withers has a Grade 3 concussion from falling down the stairs when he attempted to restrain one of the affected personnel. If this isn't reversed soon, someone could get critically injured or even killed. I've also noticed an increase in the erratic brainwave patterns, which has me worried."
Hammond's head nodded. "Very well, then. We will select a few of the affected personnel and take them to the planet."
I raised my hand. "Sir, I nominate Ferretti and Reynolds." I looked at Teal'c. "And I'm betting that Teal'c would cry no tears if we also picked Sergeant Harriman."
"Indeed," confirmed the Jaffa.
"We will leave the selection up to Doctor Fraiser, Colonel."
Fraiser agreed that Ferretti and Reynolds would be good subjects since they were both around four years old mentally, but she said no to Harriman because he was still much younger, only around two.
And so it was that we headed back to the planet. Accompanying us were Doctor Fraiser and four corpsmen, who were carrying our guinea pigs on stretchers. Ferretti and Reynolds had been mildly sedated so that they would remain quiet on the journey. The device was in a case being carried by Daniel.
As soon as we got to the shielded room, Daniel went to the control booth and began studying the console. He nodded.
"This is it all right. These dials control the wavelength that's broadcast."
"Okay, so where do we put our test subjects?" I asked.
"It looks like any place in the room outside this booth will be within range."
I told the corpsmen to set Reynolds and Ferretti down beside one of the walls. The four men then exited the room.
I turned to Carter, Daniel and Fraiser. "Are you sure that all of you want to stay in here? What if something goes wrong and you get zapped by that thing?"
"We already know that there is an area around the device that is a safe zone, sir," Carter responded. "Daniel needs to operate the control panel, and I want to be here just in case he needs help."
"And I need to be in here in case of an emergency," Fraiser stated.
"What about if it doesn't work at all?" I asked.
"Then we'll try the lowest setting, which appears to be in the range of radio waves," Daniel replied.
"Well, good luck, then. I am going to be removing myself from this vicinity. I'd prefer removing myself from this planet, but I'll have to make due with waiting outside the building."
Daniel smiled. "What's the matter, Jack? Afraid that the effects will leak outside the room?"
"Let's just say that my motto for today is 'Better to be safe than sorry.' I don't want anyone having to change diapers on me."
Teal'c and I left the room, shutting the door behind us. We joined the corpsmen outside the building and then waited. We didn't wait long. We'd been there for maybe four or five minutes when the radio crackled to life.
"It worked, sir," said Carter. "Both Colonel Reynolds and Ferretti appear to be back to normal."
"We're on our way," I told her. We returned to the room. Fraiser was kneeling beside Ferretti and Reynolds, who were sitting upright, looking a little woozy and more than a little confused.
"What the hell happened?" the leader of SG-3 asked.
I grinned evilly. "Oh, that is a looong story, Reynolds. Luckily, we've got lots and lots of video recordings that we can use to fill you and everyone else in."
Once the doc determined in the infirmary that Ferretti and Reynolds were physically okay, we began the job of getting everyone else back to normal. It took several hours to transport all the affected people in groups to the planet and reverse the effects of the device.
The sun had dropped well below the horizon when we were heading back to the Stargate with the last batch. We'd almost reached the gate when a bone-chilling howl had us all turning.
"Oh, crap," I said as I saw what was coming at us.
The thing was half again the size of a polar bear, with a mouth full of huge, very sharp teeth.
"Go, go, go!" I yelled.
We made a mad dash for the Stargate, and Carter began to dial. As soon as the wormhole had formed, people were running like crazy through it. I noticed Daniel standing still, staring intently at the creature. The thing was starting to slow down, but I wasn't about to wait and find out if our young Doctor Doolittle could talk to it. I grabbed him by the arm and hauled him through the gate.
Just to be on the safe side, I ordered the iris to be closed. There was no sound of an impact, so, apparently, the creature chose not to follow us through.
"I think I was getting through to it, Jack," Daniel told me.
"Uh huh. Then again, it might have been slowing down to pick its target. I am perfectly content not knowing if you could have made friends with it."
After the debriefing, I went home, insisting that Carter do the same and that Daniel go to his quarters and get some sleep. It was no surprise that, when I arrived the next morning, it was to find both members of SG-1's brain trust hard at work again.
I entered Daniel's office and walked up to where he sat looking at his computer screen. I saw that he was looking at the videos he'd taken of the text.
"So, find out anything new?" I asked as I perched on the edge of the desk.
"Yes, as a matter of fact. I've learned that they abandoned the project when they realized it wasn't going to do what they wanted."
"Well, the purpose of the experiment was to act as a form of therapy. They figured that enabling someone to relive the carefree moments of their early childhood would help relieve stress, depression and other things like that, but there was a problem."
"After the subjects were returned to their adult mental state, they had no memories of the things they did and experienced while they were in the childlike state. Since they couldn't recall being like happy little kids again, no benefits were gained."
"So, does this mean that nobody here remembers anything from when they were kidified?"
Daniel stared at me. "Kidified?"
"Hey, I had to come up with something to call it."
"Ah. Well, the answer is no. From the moment the device was activated to the time we reversed the effects, their memories are a complete blank, which is probably just as well, when you think about it. I know that I sure wouldn't want some of those memories."
I grinned. "Yes, well, before I left for home last night, I put all the video tape recordings from yesterday in my office for safe keeping."
"Are you kidding? That's prime blackmail stuff, Daniel. Besides, I want to watch Ferretti squirm when I invite him to my quarters and give him a personal showing of all the stuff he did. That, of course, will be after he cleans up every drop of paint in my office."
"I think I'm beginning to feel sorry for Ferretti."
I waved at the screen. "So, does it say anywhere about the jumps in age that was happening?"
"No, from what this says, that wasn't supposed to happen. It also appears that the youngest age they ever took someone back to was three. Sam has a theory. She thinks that it has to do with the way a CT scanner works. It works differently from a regular X-ray machine in that it fires multiple beams of X-rays from different angles. She thinks that might have overloaded the device and caused it to malfunction. We're probably lucky it didn't short circuit."
"I hear that Area 51 wants the device."
"Yeah. General Hammond told the president that he didn't think that would be a good idea. If this technology was misused, it could be very dangerous. I just hope that the president agrees."
"Well, maybe if he doesn't, you can do something about that."
Daniel studied my expression. "You mean destroy the device?"
"It's something to think about." I gave him a smile. "I see that I was right about you."
Daniel frowned in puzzlement. "Right? About what?"
"Just yesterday morning, I was thinking that Carter teaching you all that science gunk might come in handy someday, and it did. According to Carter, you're the one who figured everything out. You figured out that the writing was talking about spectrum wavelengths and that that's how the device works. Now, I suppose it's possible that you'd still have figured it out even if Carter hadn't filled your head full of all that stuff, but it might have taken you longer."
Daniel shook his head. "If I hadn't figured it out, Sam would have."
"Maybe, maybe not. She doesn't think she would have just from that sentence you read on the wall." I smiled again. "She's really proud of you, you know . . . and with good reason."
I watched in amusement as Daniel blushed and ducked his head.
I stood upright. "Well, I'm off to go find Ferretti. You want to join me later when I torment him with the videos?"
"Thanks, Jack, but I think I'll pass."
"Your loss." I headed for the door. "Oh, one more thing. I'm glad that the memory thing with you isn't like it was in this situation."
"I'm not sure what you mean."
"I mean that I'm glad you're getting to keep all your memories of being a kid again."
Daniel smiled. "I am, too, Jack. I wouldn't want to give up these memories for anything."
With a little nod, I left his office and headed down the corridor.
"Prepare yourself, Ferretti," I murmured. "You are mine."
THE END . . . until Part 14.