Much to everyone's relief, Patricia showed no signs of sarcophagus addiction withdrawal the next morning, which left the way open for them to start treating other kids. A sample of blood taken from her and sent to the SGC infirmary for analysis had also confirmed that the disease that was killing her had been eradicated.
The job of treating the other sick kids began later that morning. Hours later, the true scope of the crisis was impacting upon the people from Earth with numbing force. As word was spread throughout the city and surrounding countryside that a cure had been found for the disease, people started bringing in their ill children. They trickled in at first, a few here and there, but as time passed, the trickle became a flood. Soon, it was overwhelming, hundreds upon hundreds of dying children lined up to be placed within the sarcophagus. Three-quarters of Janet's staff had been brought through the gate, along with most of the medics, but it still wasn't enough. Many of the city's physicians were brought in to help as well.
The toughest part was rating the severity of each child's illness, the most desperately ill being placed at the head of the line. For some, it was too late to save them, and the air was filled with the sound of weeping parents. Though the sarcophagus would have been able to revive the dead children, the drug that would keep them from becoming addicted wouldn't work on a dead body, so they would be revived only to face death again. The only hope left open to the dead children was that the microorganisms infecting their bodies would die before it was too late to revive them. The sarcophagus could then be used without the drug.
When Egeria said that the sarcophagus could heal two children at once, they began putting two in it at a time, which helped a lot, but the task was still monumental, both physically and emotionally draining everyone there. Daniel could see the effect it was having on all his teammates, especially Jack, whose eyes were dark with pain, that pain growing sharper with each death. The archeologist could only imagine how much this was making his friend think about Charlie.
Back at the SGC, they were still busy getting their hands on every drop of sedative that they could find, along with the IV tubes, needles, and everything else that was needed. Jacob had returned to Earth the day before to help Ellan and Doctor Breck make more of the drug.
Taking a short break, Daniel went in search of Egeria. He found her standing off by herself. When she turned to him, he saw that she was crying.
"It hurts me so much to see this," she said. "These are the children of my people, the people I tried so hard to protect."
"Hey. This isn't your fault, Egeria. You couldn't have known that this was going to happen."
Egeria nodded. "I know, but it still grieves me. I think of all the children who have died over these centuries, all the parents who lost their little ones."
Daniel pulled her into a hug. "I know. But they're getting help now, thanks to you."
Egeria looked up at him. "Daniel, the sarcophagus was not designed to be used this often in so short a time."
Daniel frowned. "You're afraid that it will fail?"
"It will eventually. Is there another that we can procure?"
"I doubt it. The Goa'uld guard their sarcophagi pretty jealously." Daniel released her. "Come on. We need to talk to the others about this."
They found the rest of Daniel's teammates. Judging by the redness in Sam's eyes, she'd been doing some crying, too. The potential problem with the sarcophagus was explained to them.
"If it goes out, can you fix it?" Jack asked Egeria and Sam.
"Perhaps," the Tok'ra queen replied, "but it would take time, time that these children do not have."
At that moment, a voice came over the radios of SG-1. "SG-1, this is Stargate Command."
"Colonel O'Neill here," Jack responded.
"Colonel, we have good news," said General Hammond. "You've got some help on the way."
Before anyone could even ask what he meant, someone abruptly appeared a couple of yards away.
Egeria gasped loudly. "An Asgard!"
"Greetings," Thor said.
"Thor, buddy!" Jack said with a grin, having just informed Hammond that the help had arrived. "It's great to see you. But it sure did take you long enough to answer our call."
"My apologies, O'Neill. Though the human-form Replicators are still trapped within the time dilation field on Hala, there are still other Replicators against which we are continuing to do battle. Much of our time is also being spent in preparing our new homeworld for habitation. Many of our people presently exist as stored minds that are waiting to be placed in newly cloned bodies."
"Wow. Sounds like you guys have your hands full. We wouldn't have bothered you, but we've got a real crisis here."
"Yes, General Hammond has told me about the illness that is killing this planet's children."
"Can you be of assistance?" Teal'c asked.
"I must first analyze the disease before I can answer that question. Can you provide me with blood and tissue samples from an infected person?"
Jack looked out at the virtual sea of sick children. "That's not going to be a problem."
"I will also need samples from someone who is not ill."
Thor was given several samples, and he took them back to his ship.
Egeria's gaze went to Daniel and his teammates. "You are allies with the Asgard?"
"Oh, yeah," Jack replied. "The best of friends."
"Earth is an Asgard-protected planet, Egeria," Daniel explained. "Which is probably the only thing that's saved us from being destroyed."
Egeria shook her head. "There is so much for you to tell me."
Jack smiled. "Yes, well, now that Thor's here to help, we'll probably be able to get out of here in no time. Then we can tell you all about how the Asgard became our best buddies."
It was twenty minutes later that Thor returned. By that time, Janet had joined them to await the prognosis.
"I have analyzed the pathogen," the Asgard told them. "It is similar to one that we have encountered previously. The original form was engineered to kill Goa'uld."
That shocked everyone.
"By whom?" Teal'c asked.
"A race of beings called the Maisu. They were ultimately eradicated by the Goa'uld. In their attempts to destroy the Goa'uld, they created a microorganism that would infect the symbiote but would show no symptoms until the Goa'uld used the sarcophagus. The microorganisms would absorb the unique energy of the sarcophagus and convert it to a form that was poisonous. The Maisu infected many Goa'uld-controlled worlds with the pathogen, picking ones that were favored most for harvesting hosts. Unfortunately, it soon mutated into a form that was fatal to humans, resulting in the death of over twenty million people."
"Well, that sure didn't work out like they planned, did it," Jack remarked.
"If the microorganisms were in the hosts, how would they get into the symbiotes?" Sam asked.
"They infected the host's brain tissue, then passed into the symbiote through the ganglia that connected the symbiote to the brain."
Jack started to get nervous. "Uhhh. This disease isn't contagious, is it?"
"Not in its present form. From my analysis, I have determined that it is transmitted from mother to offspring in the uterus. It then remains dormant until certain conditions cause the pathogen to begin multiplying."
"Do you have a cure?" Janet asked.
"Yes. The microorganisms are extremely susceptible to a specific form of radiation. My ship is presently irradiating this entire area. The effects should become noticeable within one of your hours."
"I'm assuming that this radiation isn't harmful to people, or animals, or anything else that we wouldn't want to kill," Jack said.
"Not at these levels."
"Okay, there's something that doesn't make sense," Sam said. "This planet was never used by the Goa'uld. So, why did the Maisu infect it?"
"They would not have done so," Thor responded. "There must be another explanation."
"Well, we don't know the whole history of this planet," Daniel said. "It's quite possible that it was temporarily colonized by people who were infected, perhaps carriers of the disease. They died off or left, but the disease remained."
"Sitting dormant all this time until one of Estrania's people came in contact with an infected item and contracted it," Sam added.
Daniel nodded. "It could be that if we asked Marcus, he'd say that archeological evidence was found of humans living here in the past." He turned to Thor. "So, what about future generations? Will the radiation stop this disease from ever show up again?"
"Yes. The radiation will kill the pathogen even in its dormant state. Once the disease has been eradicated in the people who are alive now, it will no longer be passed on to future generations."
"This is excellent news," Teal'c said, relief showing on his normally impassive face.
"You bet it is," Jack agreed. "Thor, you are my hero."
"Thank you, O'Neill."
"This explains why the kids had such a negative reaction to the sarcophagus," Janet said. "Apparently, even in its present mutated form, it still reacts to the energy of a sarcophagus. We're actually very lucky that the drug worked since what was happening to the kids wasn't really the same thing as withdrawal."
"What is this drug of which you speak?" Thor asked.
He was told about the drug and what its side effects were.
"We have over two hundred children who are now under sedation to prevent them from feeling the pain of the drug," Sam told him. "It would be great if you could do something about that as well."
"The Asgard have never heard of a drug that prevents the negative effects of a sarcophagus," the Asgard stated. "From where did you get this drug?"
Everyone's gaze went to Egeria. Daniel introduced her to the Asgard.
"Egeria is the name of the Goa'uld who bred the Tok'ra," Thor said.
"Yes, this is her," Sam responded.
"But we had understood that Egeria was killed by Ra two thousand years ago."
"Yeah, everybody was wrong about that," Daniel told him. "It's a long story, one that we can tell you later." He suddenly thought of something. "What about the kids who died before we could get them into the sarcophagus? The radiation would kill the microorganisms inside them, too, wouldn't it?"
"Yes," Thor confirmed.
"Then we can save them!" Sam cried. "We're still within the period of time that the sarcophagus will revive them." She looked at Thor. "How long will we have to wait until the microorganisms are dead?"
"The radiation would have begun to kill them immediately. It should be safe to use the sarcophagus in another ten of your minutes."
Thor was given a sample of the drug, along with blood and tissue samples from one of the children who had been injected with it. He beamed back aboard his ship to analyze them as well as to begin the process of killing the pathogen everywhere else that it was infecting the planet.
As soon as the Asgard was gone, SG-1, Jacob, Janet and Egeria went to where the bodies of the dead children had been placed. Many of the family members had wanted to take their dead children home, and it had been quite difficult to convince them that all hope was not yet lost. Janet and SG-1 would now be able to tell those families that their little ones would be returning to them.
The minutes that followed were ones of great joy for the families of the children who had died, most of whom broke down and sobbed tears of happiness as their kids were brought to them alive and well.
As promised, within an hour, everyone began to see the results of the radiation treatment in the live children as their condition started displaying marked improvement. Thor returned shortly after that with both good news and bad news.
"Because of its nature, I cannot safely cleanse the drug from bodies of the children," he said. "However, I can provide a medication that will temporarily block the ability to feel pain so that the children will be unable to feel the drug's effects. They will need to be injected with it once each day."
Relieved that the kids wouldn't have to be kept sedated, Janet told the Asgard to make the medication.
By the time he returned again, SG-1, Egeria and the others were watching the last of the kids who'd been given the antidote to the disease leave with their parents, well on the road to recovery. The sun was going down, and preparations were being made to move the children who'd been given the sarcophagus drug inside for the night.
Once all the kids were indoors, they were given the medication created by Thor, and sedation was ceased. SG-1 and the others finally stopped to eat and rest for a while. What they really wanted to do was go home and to bed, but, though over half of the medical personnel had been sent back through the gate, it had been agreed that the rest should stay to monitor the children through the night.
That evening, SG-1 and Egeria went to Marcus' house, the man having insisted that they be his guests for the night. He'd wanted Janet to stay there as well, but she decided that she'd feel more at ease if she remained near her patients.
Daniel was heading toward the library to join Egeria and his teammates when he saw Marcus. The man spotted him at the same time and came over.
"Daniel. There is something I have been meaning to show you. Please come with me."
The archeologist followed the magistrate to a little room. On a pedestal at the center of the room was something that Daniel instantly recognized. Marcus walked up to the statue.
"Fate can sometimes work in strange and unexpected ways," he said.
"To you, this statue was a source of embarrassment. To Egeria, it was something that had great meaning to her. To my family, it was something that dramatically altered the course of our future."
"As I am sure you know, Titus was born a slave. He was given his freedom along with the other members of his family when Egeria freed all her slaves, yet the fact remained that he was not born a freeman. Though he was ultimately elevated to a high position in Egeria's palace, there were still some who looked upon him and saw a slave."
Daniel frowned. "How do you know this?"
"It is in Titus' memoir." Marcus smiled. "You are in it as well. He thought very highly of you." The smile changed to one of pride. "After Egeria gave the statue to Titus, the position of him and his family changed in the eyes of many. Egeria herself, our god and queen, had entrusted the family of Aurelius with the duty of keeping safe an item that had great meaning to her. If she did that, then, surely, it must mean that the family of Aurelius had gained great favor in her eyes. When the people of our new world were setting up their government, some wanted Titus to be one of our magistrates, but he refused. He said that he was a scholar and had no interest in politics. Years later, one of his grandsons gained that position."
Daniel smiled. "One of Titus' grandsons became a magistrate?"
"He did indeed, and he was only the first of my family to do so. In almost every generation since then, a member of the House of Aurelius has been a magistrate or held some other position in our government. There have been sixteen chief magistrates who bore our name."
Daniel stared at the statue, amazed by how something that he had looked upon as a source of embarrassment had ended up affecting the lives of so many people.
"There is something you might be interested to know," he said. "Rome, the civilization that your ancestors came from, grew into the greatest world power of its time. It remained so for many centuries, becoming a huge empire that spanned a large portion of the known world." Daniel smiled. "The name of one of its emperors was Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus."
Marcus' eyes widened. "Marcus Aurelius?"
Daniel nodded. "He became known to history as the last of the five good emperors. He was also one of the most important Stoic philosophers."
"Marcus has been a name used by my family for many, many generations. It was the name of my great-grandfather."
"It may be that you and that other Marcus have a common ancestor."
The chief magistrate laughed. "How amazing. Thank you for telling me. This will be something for my memoir."
Saying good night to the man, Daniel went on to the library.
"Where have you been?" Jack asked.
"Just talking with Marcus."
"Ah. Well, we were talking about Thor. We were telling Egeria how we met him and the other Asgard."
"Yes, speaking of Thor, he has been told that we need something else from him, hasn't he?"
"Yep, though we didn't tell him what. We figured that the explanations could wait. Once he gets through here, then takes care of some other stuff, he'll be going back to Earth. He said that it shouldn't be more than a few days."
"It is a wonder that you and the Asgard are such close allies," Egeria said.
"Yeah, if it wasn't for the Asgard, none of us would still be alive," Daniel told her.
"They named a ship after me," Jack announced proudly.
"Which was blown up on its maiden voyage."
Jack glared at Daniel. "Did ya really have to mention that part?"
Jack's mouth suddenly quirked upward. "Hey, Egeria. There's something here that I bet you'd just love to read."
Now, it was Daniel who was glaring. "Jack, don't you dare!"
Totally ignoring him, Jack went and got the book about SG-1's archeologist. Egeria's reaction, however, was not what he expected.
"Ah, yes," she said with a smile. "Titus' tales of Daniel's adventures."
"You knew about them?!" both Daniel and Jack exclaimed.
"Of course. Titus showed them to me once they were complete. I very much enjoyed reading them."
"But they're all wrong!" Daniel complained. "Why didn't you have him correct them?"
Egeria's eyes sparkled with amusement. "Only a few things are incorrect, Daniel. I saw no harm in letting the stories remain as they were. Titus was so very proud of them."
"Did any of the Tok'ra ever read them?" Sam asked.
Egeria shook her head. "I told Titus that it would be best if he shared the stories only with his family, that is until the day I said goodbye to him. I then told him that he could share them with others."
"When you gave him the statue of Daniel," Jack said.
Surprised, Egeria looked at him. "You know of that?"
Jack's grin was back. "Oh, you bet we know. Actually, if it wasn't for that statue, our first meeting with these people probably wouldn't have gone so well. One of the guards at the Stargate recognized that Daniel's face was the same as the one on the statue and thought he was a god. You know, I bet that statue's somewhere right in this house, seeing as Marcus' family has been its caretakers for some two thousand years."
'Yes, it is, Jack,' Daniel answered in his head, 'and there is no way that I'm telling you where.'
Egeria smiled again. "I am pleased that Titus' descendants kept the promise that he made to me to keep the statue safe."
"Yep, Titus apparently did a bang up job of telling everyone all about our Danny Boy here. The whole planet probably knows about him. He's become a legend, a living legend now."
The archeologist subjected the colonel to another glare. Jack was having entirely too much fun with this.
Jack tapped the book. "So, how about if you read those out loud to those of us who can't read Goa'uld?"
"Jack, I told you that I didn't want them read aloud," Daniel said in a tone of warning. "That means by no one."
Egeria handed the book back to the grey-haired man. "If Daniel does not wish for them to be read aloud, then I must abide by his wishes."
"Damn," Jack responded with a sigh. "Well, it was worth a try."
Deciding that going for a walk so that he didn't throttle Jack would be an excellent idea, Daniel asked Egeria if she'd like to accompany him. She jumped at the chance.
In the cool night air, they strolled through the city. The buildings all glowed softly under the light of the moon and the street lamps.
Egeria let out a happy sigh. "It is so beautiful. When I sent my people through to this world, I worried about what their fate would be without my protection. I hoped that they would do well, that they would thrive and grow, create a civilization that would span the length and breadth of the planet."
"They probably will eventually. The losses due to the plague slowed that down a lot, but, someday, they'll expand to other continents. They have ships and have explored some of the other landmasses. A few islands off the coast are inhabited. Now that the disease will no longer be a problem, their population will grow even faster. I'd love to see what this world will be like in a couple hundred years."
Egeria glanced at him. "That would be quite possible if you were still ascended, would it not?"
Daniel's gaze fell to the road upon which they were walking. "If you're asking if I wish I was still ascended, then the answer is no. I remember almost nothing from that year, but I remember enough to know that I was all but powerless to do much of anything to help."
"You said that the Ascended have rules that forbid them to interfere in the lives of other life forms. They would not let you help others at all?"
"From what I understand, I managed to get away with a few little things, mostly because I was sneaky about it." Daniel looked at her. "I wanted to help you ascend."
Egeria was surprised. "You did?"
"Yeah. You were dying, and I wanted to save you, but the others wouldn't let me. I was so angry afterwards. It really hurt to just stand there and watch you die when I had the power to save you."
Egeria stopped and pulled him into a hug. "But you did save me, my Daniel," she murmured. "I am here, alive, because of you."
Daniel closed his eyes and held her tight. The feeling that had stirred inside him as he held her last night returned, stronger now, stronger and deeper. That feeling scared him. He couldn't let himself feel things like that, not for someone to whom he'd have to say goodbye soon.
The approach of two people coming down the street made them separate. They resumed walking. After a while, Egeria slipped her hand into Daniel's. He smiled down at her and gave the hand a squeeze.
Egeria's thoughts went to the day that she and Daniel took their walk through her city and the dinner they shared afterwards. That had been a wonderful day. She could not say the same for this day since much of it had been marred by such great tragedy, but this evening, being here now with Daniel, would be added to her happy memories.
But how many more happy memories would there be? Once her symbiote body had been cloned, her consciousness would be transferred into it. She would likely then be blended with a host. She would be expected to rejoin her children and resume her role as their queen and mother.
Egeria glanced at the man walking beside her. As an unblended human, Daniel could have no part in that life. She could no longer hide from that fact, pretend it was not so. The only time she would ever see him was on the occasions that he and his team came to the Tok'ra base or she visited Earth.
Feeling sorrow begin to take hold, Egeria pushed those thoughts from her mind. She was here with him now. That is the thing upon which she needed to concentrate.
The next morning, as they walked to the building where the children who had been treated with the sarcophagus spent the night, Jack grabbed Daniel's arm and slowed their pace so that they dropped behind the others a few yards.
"So, how late were you and Egeria out on your little stroll?" the colonel asked.
"I don't know. I don't have my watch set to the time on this planet. Late, I guess." Daniel frowned at the older man. "Do you have a problem with that?"
"No, no problem. I just think you need to keep in mind what she is."
Daniel's frown deepened. "And what is that, Jack?"
"A woman who used to be a Tok'ra snake and, in a few days, is gonna be one again."
The archeologist glared at him. "Jack, I am really getting sick of your attitude about Egeria."
"Hey, I didn't mean it like that," Jack quickly said, seeing that Daniel was getting angry. "What she did to save these kids makes her an okay lady in my books. But the fact remains that she'll be a symbiote again soon. Once she is, how long will she live? A couple thousand years or so? Unless you've figured out a way to ascend again, you can see how this is gonna end."
Daniel stared down at the ground. "I know that, Jack. Egeria and I are just friends."
"Are you? Don't tell me that you haven't noticed the way she looks at you. She's still in love with you."
Daniel sighed softly. "I know."
The archeologist looked at him. "And what?"
"I've noticed that you've been spending quite a bit of time with her, and then there's the fact that you arranged for her to stay in the room across from yours."
"I did that so that, if she needed to talk, I'd be nearby. I was being a friend, Jack."
"Yes, a friend. I just hope that's all she is to you, Daniel."
The archeologist didn't reply for several seconds. "Jack, I know that, once she's in her cloned symbiote body, we'll have to say goodbye again. I am well aware of that. Therefore, I would like to spend as much time with her as I can while I have the chance. Can you understand that?"
Jack sighed silently. "Yes, Daniel, I can understand that."
As he watched Daniel increased his pace and catch up to the others, Jack hoped that his best friend wasn't going to end up getting his heart broken yet again.
Once they were certain that the Egeranian doctors would be able to handle the care of the children who had been healed with the sarcophagus, the group from Earth bid everyone goodbye and headed for the Stargate.
"They understand that the kids still need to get sunlight every day, right?" Daniel asked Janet.
"Yes, they are aware of that."
"I shouldn't think that would be a problem anyway," Jack remarked. "It's summer, they're kids, and they don't have TV, Xboxes or computers. Enough said."
"They will have to be careful, though," Janet said. "As long as they are taking that medication Thor gave us, they will be unable to feel any pain at all. If they receive an injury, they won't even feel it. That could pose a risk."
"Did you explain that to the parents?" Daniel asked.
The doctor nodded. "They'll be watching the children closely."
Sam glanced at her C.O. "What about the UAV? Are we still going to send one out to see what's over that ridge?"
"That's been put on hold," he replied. "Hammond figured that it could wait until things have settled back down." He glanced at Egeria. "We've sort of got more pressing matters to deal with right now."
Daniel had noticed the glance. It reminded him about what would be happening once they returned to Earth. There were a whole lot of people who wanted to talk to Egeria. Actually, "pick her brains" would probably be a more accurate description. He was going to have to make sure that they didn't push her too hard.
SG-1, Janet and Egeria were joined in the debriefing by Jacob and Ellan.
"So, this disease isn't going to be a problem anymore?" Hammond asked, wanting to confirm what he'd already been told during SG-1's check-in.
"Nope," Jack answered. "All the kids on the planet will be cured, and no more will be born with it."
"Excellent. This has been a successful mission all around, then."
"So, are we going to destroy the time travel thing now?"
Egeria looked at Jack in surprise. "You are going to destroy it? Why?"
"That was the deal. We use it to get you back, then we destroy it."
"We're worried that the Goa'uld will find out about it," Daniel explained. "You see, up until a couple of weeks ago, Selmak and I were the only ones who knew it existed. I didn't tell anyone here, and Selmak kept it a secret from the other Tok'ra."
Jacob took over the explanation. "We were afraid that if the wrong people found out about it, they'd try to get their hands on it and use it for their own purposes. Now, however, it is no longer a secret, so the only safe course of action is to destroy it."
"Why do you not simply have the Asgard take it?" Egeria asked. "I would think that it would be safe in their hands."
"Well, we could," Sam replied, "but, unless they set it up in a permanent location, it would be of little use to us." She explained how the device worked.
"We should tell them about it anyway," Daniel said. "They might want to study the technology."
Hammond nodded. "We'll hold off on destroying it until we've talked to Thor. For the present time, we do not have to worry about the device being used since it has been disabled again."
Ellan spoke. "General Hammond, the High Council would like Egeria to come to the Tok'ra base so that they can welcome her."
"Of course. Would this afternoon work? We have some people from our government and military coming to speak with her tomorrow morning."
Egeria frowned in puzzlement. "For what purpose?"
"I haven't told her everything yet, General," Daniel said.
"Well, then I'd say that you should get that done, Doctor Jackson."