Just a Small Experiment - Part Eighteen


Sam and Danny had just gotten to her lab the next morning when the physicist was called to the briefing room. She quickly set her ward up with his art supplies, gave him a kiss on top of the head, and hurried out. Danny watched her go with a soft smile. He was really getting to like all of those spontaneous kisses and hugs.

A pleasant surprise was waiting for Sam when she got to her destination. Jacob Carter stood as his daughter entered and gave her a large grin. “Hey, kiddo,” he greeted her then stepped forward to take her into an embrace.

She returned it heartily. “Thanks for coming, Dad,” she told him once they separated.

“George confirmed your message,” he said, gesturing at the general who stood at the head of the long table smiling. “I can’t believe the Asgard would be involved in something like this.”

“We believe it may be a rogue agent,” Hammond said, “as this action doesn’t match any previous behavior, as well as the fact that our relationship with the Asgard has been very harmonious up to this point.”

Jacob nodded. “That’s true. I still don’t see what anyone could possibly hope to gain from turning Jack O’Neill into a teenager, though.”

Sam smiled wryly. “We don’t either, Dad. That’s just one of the reasons we’d like you and Selmak to take a look at the results of our blood tests.”

The blended Tau’ri took a deep breath and released it. “Sounds like we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. Let’s get to it.”

“Doctor Fraiser has just reported for duty and has been informed of your arrival,” Hammond told his old friend. “She’s waiting for you in the infirmary.”

“Then let’s go.” Sam smiled at her father and led him out of the briefing room.

Janet greeted them warmly once they arrived in the infirmary. “It’s good to see you, Jacob, Selmak,” she said to the Tok’ra with a smile. “I wish it were under better circumstances.”

Jacob returned the expression and nodded. “So do we.” He glanced at the file folder the doctor was holding. “Now what exactly are we looking for?”

Janet gestured for them to follow, then led them toward the labs. “I’d like to examine the anomaly I discovered in the colonel’s DNA results, as I believe the answer to what really happened to him and any possible way to reverse it will be found there. The genetic team I called in is still going over those results as well at the Academy Hospital.”

“Have they come up with any theories?” Sam asked.

“No,” Janet replied, clearly frustrated. “There was something else that a couple of them were looking at, but they weren’t sure enough to give a name to it yet.”

They quickly settled into one of the labs and began to go over the test results, as well as directly reevaluate the samples themselves. Janet was more than happy to have a new set of eyes with her, eyes that had a wider spectrum of experience to draw from. The lack of that experience was the one thing holding the genetic team back from moving faster toward a solution.

Forty-five minutes of examination and discussion later saw a frown form on Jacob’s face as the older man leaned back in his chair, his eyes narrowed as they stayed focused on the screen in front of him. “I believe I have discovered the reason for the DNA anomaly,” the echoing tones of Selmak announced after another moment.

Sam and Janet turned away from the files they had been examining and moved behind the blended human to also look at the screen. “What do you have?” Sam asked.

“Your previous suspicions were correct. The young man currently here at the SGC is a clone.”

“Are you sure?” Janet said, leaning farther forward as Sam’s jaw simply dropped.

Selmak proceeded to show the physician what it was in the display that led him to his conclusion. “It is a very subtle thing. It is understandable that it was missed.”

Janet gave him a smirk. “That, and you know more than we do about these things.”

“We weren’t going to say that,” Jacob said with a smile, his voice clearing as the Tau’ri resumed control.

“We have to tell General Hammond,” Sam said, looking back and forth between the other two. Then she swallowed a bit nervously. “And the colonel.”

“I’m thinking we should charge admission to that one,” Jacob said with a wry smile. The two women smiled in response.

Then Sam’s expression faded with a sigh. “I’ll go get the general. Once he knows we can figure out how we’re going to tell the colonel.” She gave her father and her friend one last look and left the lab.

It wasn’t long before General Hammond and Sam returned, the older man looking cautiously curious. “Major Carter says you have some new information regarding Colonel O’Neill’s situation,” he said.

“Yes, sir,” Janet said, nodding. She gestured toward Jacob.

“Your theory that the teenage Colonel O’Neill is a clone has been proven correct,” Selmak said when the general looked at him.

Hammond’s eyes widened as he took in the simple statement. “You’re sure,” he said questioningly.

The Tok’ra nodded. “Very sure,” Jacob’s clear voice answered.

Hammond took a slow, deep breath then released it. “Where does that leave us?” he asked, looking at each of the three people with him in the lab.

“In need of some answers from the Asgard,” Sam replied.

“We can’t fix being a clone,” Janet added.

“I’ll send another message,” the SGC commander said, nodding. “I’m afraid that’s all I can do.”

“The genetics team is still examining the results on their own at the Academy Hospital,” Janet said. “From what I was told when I left yesterday, they should be submitting a report to me sometime later today. I’ll look it over when I have it and let you know if there’s anything else we need to be concerned about.”

Hammond nodded again. “Very good, Doctor. Will you be informing…” The questioned trailed off as a slightly frustrated expression appeared on the bald man’s face. “What exactly do we call him at this point?”

Janet and Jacob shared a raised-eyebrow look while Sam bit her lower lip. “I think Daniel had it right when Jonas asked that question before,” she said finally. “While we know he’s a clone, he still has the memories and personality of Jack O’Neill. We should call him that unless he tells us otherwise.”

“But what about the other Jack O’Neill, the original?” Jacob asked.

“Until we find him and get him back, it won’t really be an issue,” Sam said. “Afterward, well…” She shrugged. She had no idea what was going to happen afterward.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Hammond said decisively. “For now, the colonel needs to be told about his status.”

Sam looked at Janet. “Should we call him here or should we go to him?”

Janet considered it. “Why don’t we bring him here?” she suggested. “That way we can show him the evidence if he asks for it.”

Hammond sent an SF to deliver the message, and ten minutes later the teenage Jack O’Neill walked cautiously into the lab. He paused when he saw Jacob sitting there. “Well, hey there, Jacob,” he said in a friendly tone, although there was a tenseness in his stance. “I‘d heard something about the Tok’ra calling, but I didn’t know it was you.”

“I just got back from a mission a couple of days ago and asked to take this one on,” Jacob replied, wide-eyed. He stared for a moment more, then shook his head and glanced at his daughter. “I know you told me what to expect, but… wow.”

“I think I’ll mark this day on the calendar, Jacob Carter’s speechless.” Jack grinned for a couple of seconds then let the expression fade. “So I was told you guys have some answers about this,” Jack said casually, his eyes wary as he gestured at himself. “Whatcha got?”

“Well, actually, sir…” Sam started, then paused. “It’s actually hard to say…” Her attempt at an explanation faded away helplessly.

Janet shook her head slightly at her friend’s struggle. “We’ve discovered evidence that proves you’re a clone, sir,” the doctor said gently.

A pin drop would have sounded like an explosion in the silence that followed the announcement. Jack’s gaze narrowed as he stared at the petite physician, his mind going at a mile a minute as he did his best to absorb the new reality. “You’re completely sure?” he finally asked.

Jacob quickly showed him the evidence. “Selmak says there isn’t any other explanation,” he concluded.

“So what do we do now?” Jack asked quietly, his gaze dropping away from the others’ faces. No one missed the crease that formed between his eyebrows that went along with the bunching of his shoulders.

“We need to figure out what happened to the original you,” Sam said, relieved that the teenager was taking it all calmly. “We’ll try to contact the Asgard again, obviously, but we’ll review what you told us about what you remember happening to you to see if there are any answers there.”

“Doctor Jackson and Mister Quinn will hopefully be able to add to what we know as well when they return from their interviews,” Hammond added.

Jack’s gaze rose again, and he gave them all a questioning look. “Am I hearing things, or are you including me in that ‘we’?”

Hammond smiled at him. “You share memories with the original Jack O’Neill. That makes you one of us, and we always take care of our own. I’ll need you to stay on base until this is all resolved, but I don’t have an objection to you being part of the team that works on this.”

“Thank… thank you, sir,” Jack whispered, his eyes wide. He started to blink quickly. “Um, could I have some time, General?” he asked at a normal volume, then cleared his throat.

“Of course, son,” Hammond replied a bit indulgently. “Take what time you need.”

“We’ll be here going over everything,” Sam offered. She smiled. “You can join us whenever you’re ready.”

Jack nodded, shot one more look around the lab, then nodded again and left.

Soon after Jack had disappeared from sight, Hammond looked at the others. “I’ll leave you to this,” he told them. “Let me know if you discover anything further.”

“Of course, sir,” Sam said. The general nodded and left.

“I should get back to the infirmary and finish my shift-change review.” Janet smiled. “I hadn’t been here very long when I was told Jacob was here.”

Sam returned the expression. “I completely understand. I barely had time to get settled in my lab when I was called to the briefing room.”

Janet nodded. “Why don’t we meet back here in a half hour?” she offered. “I think we can spare that.”

“Actually,” Sam said, her eyes growing wide as the mention of her arrival that morning reminded her of something important, “how about we move this up to my lab?”

“Ah, Danny,” Janet said knowingly. She nodded. “That should be fine. I’ll meet you both there in a half hour.” Janet gave both Carters another smile and headed out.

Sam turned to look at her father. “Was there anything you needed to do here before we go up to my lab?”

Jacob shook his head. “No, nothing. Actually, it’ll be nice to be able to just spend a little casual time with you and Danny before we get back to this. It’s not like I had much of a chance to do that the last time I was here.”

Sam smiled. “That sounds like a great idea, Dad. Come on, let’s go.” The two of them left for the physicist’s lab on level nineteen.

“So how are Mark and the kids? Have you had a chance to talk to your brother lately?” Jacob asked as they entered the elevator.

“I talked to him for a little while a few days ago, actually. Not nearly long enough to try to explain about Danny, but he filled me in on how things are going for him. Julie and the kids are doing great. Mark said he was thinking of coming out to visit a friend of his in Denver in a couple months, and that he’d like to drive down and see me, too. I guess I’ll get my chance to explain things then.” Sam shook her head as the car came to a halt and the silver doors slid open, the father-daughter pair immediately heading out and down the hall. “That’s bound to be tons of fun. But I’ll be sure to tell him you said hi.”

“Your cover story is sound, Sam. You’ll be fine. And I think Mark will love Danny.”

Sam gave him a grateful smile. “Thanks, Dad.” They walked into her lab.

Danny was more comfortable the second time around with Jacob, showing the Tok’ra what he’d been drawing when requested and smiling shyly at the resulting praise. Janet joined them as promised, and the trio proceeded to work for a couple of hours before breaking for lunch. They were all a little frustrated at their lack of progress.

Janet was forced to leave the commissary early when one of her nurses called her away to deal with the consequences of an unfortunate incident on level twenty-three. When the mid-day meal was finished - in a much more subdued fashion - Sam and Jacob decided to have a brainstorming session until Janet was able to rejoin them or Jack had settled things for himself and returned from wherever he’d hidden himself away. Neither Carter could blame the teenaged clone; the reality he was facing had to be difficult to come to terms with.

Once Sam had laid Danny down for his afternoon nap and met her father back in her lab, the two of them talked through everything they knew about what was going on. It started mostly with Sam going into more detail, her message to the Tok’ra filled with just enough information to convey the general circumstances and sense of urgency. Jacob requested appropriate clarification as she spoke. As time went on they realized they had more questions than answers, which had them back at the utter frustration stage they’d found themselves in just before lunch.

Finally it came time for Sam to check on Danny, his naptime just about over. Jacob and Selmak were reviewing the lab results once again when she left the lab with a promise to help him with it upon her return. Her father smiled and accepted the offer before shooing her off.

Leaning against the wall to the right of her VIP room door when she got there was a sight she didn’t expect to see. Sam stopped in her tracks a few steps away, her eyes wide and blinking.

“Surprise,” the teenager said with a smirk.

“Um, what are you doing here?” Sam asked, utterly confused. Why hadn’t he come to her lab? It wouldn’t have taken much to find out where they’d moved when they couldn’t be found in the infirmary labs.

“Waiting for you,” Jack replied simply. “I didn’t know if the kid would still be sleeping so I figured it would be best not to go inside.” He shrugged.

Sam gave him a small frown. “I meant why didn’t you join us like we asked you to,” she clarified.

Jack sighed. “Actually, I haven’t really been here all that long. When I finally calmed down enough to do some thinking instead of fighting off the urge to maul a punching bag - or the nearest loudmouthed marine, whichever came first - I came to a few conclusions. The first of which was that I probably wouldn’t be all that much help in piecing together exactly what happened.”

“That’s not true, sir,” Sam automatically protested.

“Oh, come on, Carter, you know it is. Finding all the facts, especially the scientific ones, is your specialty, yours and Daniel’s.” He considered it for a second. “I suppose and Jonas’, too. Not to mention the fact that you’ve got Fraiser and your dad here helping. That’s not where my strengths lie.” His voice caught as he mentally pulled himself up short. “Well, you know what I mean.” He blew out a loud breath.

“I do, but we were hoping to go over what you remember about your experience with the Asgard if you’ll recall.”

Jack’s eyebrows rose. “I know you remember what I told you. I’d even bet you could quote it back to me word for word. You don’t need me there to rehash it.”

Sam’s frown deepened. “But if you’d gone over things again with us, you might have remembered something new that could provide us with some more answers.”

The teenager shook his head. “I doubt it. In fact, I have a feeling we’re not going to get much further on this until Daniel and Jonas get back and/or Fraiser’s genetic team finishes up their review of her test results. And once we start to move forward a bit, I’ll come in a little more handy. See, I’m fully aware that I’m better at strategy and tactics. I come in once you guys have the beginnings of theories and poke holes in them so they can become the best theories they can be. Then we can get some real answers and put an effective plan together.” He smirked as Sam’s expression turned startled.

“You know,” the blonde physicist said after a pause, “I always knew that dumb colonel act was just that. I just never thought I’d see the day when you’d admit to it.” It was her turn to smirk.

“You know,” Jack shot back, mimicking her tone, “if you tell anyone I said that, I’ll deny it.”

“Of course you will.” Sam’s smirk turned into a grin.

Jack grinned in return. “Anyway,” he continued, becoming a bit more serious albeit not by much, “I figured I’d do you a favor and take the squirt off your hands for the rest of the afternoon. Give you some space to do your work. I happen to know it’s a gorgeous April day outside, and I’m thinking the kid should get some fresh air.”

Sam chose not to question how the young clone knew what the weather was like, figuring the answer was more than obvious. It certainly explained where he’d been all this time. “I suppose that could work,” she agreed. “We can always call you in if we need you.”

“Exactly,” Jack said expansively. “And don’t worry. I wasn’t planning on trying to take him any further than the top of the mountain. We can do a little bit of hiking.”

“That actually sounds like fun,” Sam said. “You’ll want to make sure you bring him back down to the commissary at supper time, though.”

“Hey, that’s a given. All that exercising is bound to work up an appetite anyway.” Jack gave her a small smile. “I’ll make sure I give you a call when we get back inside,” he assured her.

Sam returned the smile. “Then I hope you guys have fun. Let’s go get him ready.”

Danny was awake and rubbing his eyes when Sam and Jack walked into the room, and he gave the pair a sleepy smile when he saw them. They returned the expression, Jack’s smile widening a bit more when he saw a plush yellow ape sticking out from under the covers. “Good to see you’re enjoying your little buddy there,” the teen said, pointing at the ape in question.

“That’s our way of making sure Danny never wakes up alone,” Sam replied as Danny blushed and nodded. “Sunshine just keeps our boy company until I or someone else we trust gets here.”

“Sounds like a good system to me,” Jack said with a smirk and a shrug.

“I was wondering if you’d like to spend the afternoon with Jack here,” Sam offered as she sat down beside her ward on the bed. “I still have some work to do with my dad and Janet, so I wouldn’t be able to give you the attention I’d like to, at least not until supper.”

Jack’s expression turned into a gentle smile when Danny’s curious gaze switched to him. “It’s up to you, but I think we’d have fun walking around on top of the mountain.”

Danny hesitated briefly, then spoke. “You don’t have to help Sam?” he asked quietly.

“Not yet,” Jack replied. “When they get all the facts together and start to figure out what they’re going to do next, then I’ll jump in to help out.”

“Oh.” The boy chewed on his bottom lip for a long moment then took a deep breath. “I’ll go walking with you.”

Jack was surprised how happy the declaration made him. He grinned. “Hey, great. Then why don’t I let you two get ready while I wait outside? We’ll head out whenever you want.”

Sam and Danny both smiled at him. “Thank you, sir. We won’t be long,” she told him.

The blonde major had been right, and fifteen minutes later Jack and Danny were walking along one of the easier paths on top of the mountain. No words were said for some time as the pair merely gazed at the glory of nature all around them, one with contemplative consideration, the other with a sense of awe and wonder, still not used to these sights. They both were glad of the silent company beside them.

The sudden rustling of bushes beside the trail the young men were walking on had them stopping in their tracks and turning their attention toward the source of the sound. Jack subtly shifted position to one that allowed for protection of the younger boy, and they waited. A couple of minutes later, a red fox slipped out from the undergrowth, pausing a moment when he saw he had an audience before jogging off once he was sure he was in no immediate danger.

“That… was cool,” Jack said a bit breathlessly once the animal was out of sight.

“What was it?” Danny asked, staring off in the direction the fox had gone.

“A fox,” Jack answered. “A red fox.” He grinned. “Cute little guy, wasn’t he?”

Danny nodded, then turned his head to look at his companion. “Have you seen foxes before?”

Jack’s expression softened. “A couple times, but mostly in pictures. This is the closest I’ve ever been to one, that’s for sure.”

“I never even saw a picture before,” Danny commented, his eyes dropping shyly.

“Oh, you’ve got plenty of time to see all kinds of things up close. I’m sure this’ll just be the first sighting of many.” Jack ruffled the younger boy’s hair.

Danny brought his head back up and smiled. “I guess you have time now, too, since you’re littler for good. Maybe you’ll get to see more foxes up close.”

Jack’s smile faded, weakly reforming only when he saw concern flare to life in the bright blue eyes in front of him. “Yeah, I guess so. That’d be pretty cool.”

Danny frowned. “You still don’t like being littler. Is it because you’re a clone?”

“Uh, well…” Jack started blinking, totally thrown off-guard by the insight. He stared at the smaller person for a long, stunned moment, then took a deep breath and collected himself. “I remember being older. I remember doing things it turns out I never really did. It’s hard to like the feeling that I haven’t really done anything at all.” He shook his head and turned away. “Come on. Let’s keep walking. This day’s too nice to waste just standing around.”

“But you can do them for real now,” Danny protested as he hurried to catch up to the now-walking young man. “You’ll get bigger and can do all the things yourself.”

“Oh, not everything would be worth repeating, that I know for sure.”

The little boy’s scowl deepened. “So don’t do the things you don’t like.” His tone was filled with childish petulance.

Jack shot him a quick glance and looked away again. “It’s not like I need to do any of those things,” he said quietly. “You guys already have someone who did.”

“But you didn’t, and we have you, too. Now that you’re littler, you can do all the things you remember that you like, and then some new things that you like. Maybe you can find some new ways to help fight Anubis.”

“I don’t think you really understand what’s going on here, kiddo,” Jack said with a humorless chuckle, coming to a stop. “I’m a clone of Jack O’Neill, a copy. And a defective one at that. There’s nothing special about me, nothing unique, nothing more I can really add to the equation.” He sighed and let his eyes close.

“What does unique mean?” Danny asked, also having stopped.

The corner of Jack’s mouth twitched upward, but there wasn’t enough in him to complete the expression. “It means one-of-a-kind. Definitely not a description of me.”

Danny let loose a quiet sigh that was so much older than his frame. “But it is, Jack. I know you remember all the things the first Jack does, but you’re littler, so you can do more than that. And you can do all the things the first Jack didn’t get a chance to do. I think that makes you really special.”

The passion and sincerity in the little boy’s words had Jack staring at him in utter shock for a long moment. The kid really meant it. The kid knew full well that the Jack standing in front of him was a clone - and somehow understood what a clone was, probably thanks to Carter - and totally accepted the idea. Heck, not just accepted it, but saw it as a positive thing, something to be embraced. And he’d put it into such simple terms that Jack could see it, too. The teenager was more than just a copy; he was the embodiment of the potential of the original.

It was amazing what the eyes of a three-year-old could see.

A three-year-old who was a clone himself, not that he knew that.

Jack squeezed his eyes shut as the realization of what he’d been saying about clones hit him. Way to set up some serious self-doubt in the future, Jack. Unless he could show the little boy how right he’d been all along…

Drawing himself up to his full height and opening his eyes, Jack looked at his young friend and smiled comfortingly. “You make a lot of sense, kiddo. I think I was a little too close to everything to see it that way.”

“It can be hard to understand lots of things,” Danny told him in a tone meant to mollify. “I have to try hard every day, because so much is new and different. But Sam and SG-1 and Janet and Sabrina all help me. They can help you, too.” He smiled shyly. “Maybe I can, too.”

“Hey, you already proved you can,” Jack said expansively, gently laying a hand on the smaller boy’s shoulder. As he looked down at the blond boy, he was surprised at the surge of intense emotion he felt. He somehow knew that from that day forward he would do whatever he could to help and protect this precious child. It was the least he could do in exchange for the gift of hope he’d been given that day.

It was a feeling that couldn’t be expressed in words, however. “Thank you, Danny,” Jack said once he’d knelt down in front of the other boy, the only words he could come up with. “What you said means a lot to me, and I’ll never forget it.”

Danny smiled in return, a bright smile that lit up his whole face. “You called me Danny,” he said with a giggle.

Jack’s expression turned confused. “Um, that’s okay, isn’t it? Would you prefer that I call you Daniel?”

“You can call me Danny,” the child assured him. “Sam calls me Danny because she loves me, and I think you did it for the same reason.”

Jack merely wrapped the kid up in a big hug, grinning to himself when he felt little arms return the favor. “I think we can walk for a little while longer before we head in for supper,” he said once they’d pulled apart. “Maybe we’ll see some more animals along the way.”

Danny nodded, his smile never fading. “I’d like to see another red fox.”

And the two of them walked on.

* * * * * * * *

After a brief call to the physicist’s lab, Jack and Danny met Sam, Jacob, and Teal’c in the commissary for supper. The Jaffa had joined in the brainstorming session soon after the young pair had gone topside, but the discussion over the meal revealed that they hadn’t made any headway. In fact, they’d been happy for the interruption as the frustration level was rising quickly.

It was a pleasant meal, and soon after the five of them returned to the lab. They weren’t there long when two more people made an appearance.

“Hi, everybody,” Daniel said in a tired voice from the open doorway, Jonas smiling and standing a step behind and to the left of him.

“Daniel!” Sam cried with a sudden wide smile. “It’s good to see you. And you, too, Jonas. How was your trip?”

“Exhausting,” Daniel replied, stepping into the room.

Jonas followed. “But extremely fascinating. There are so many different kinds of terrain in this country, and the people we talked to were very friendly.”

Daniel nodded. “More friendly than I thought they’d be,” he confirmed. “Of course, we offered them some vindication, so maybe it’s not so surprising.”

“So what did you two find out?” Jack asked. “Are we any closer to some answers?”

“I’m not sure about the answers exactly,” Daniel said, laying the battered leather messenger bag that had been hanging on his shoulder onto the lab table. “We did get some more information.” He pulled a small journal out of the bag.

“We definitely confirmed your vision,” Jonas told the teenager. “Not that we really doubted you.”

Jack waved off the reassurance, never having thought they had. “So these people you talked to remember the same things happening that I do?” he asked.

Daniel opened his journal. “All the accounts were basically identical, and matched your version of events exactly.”

Jack pointed at the open book in the anthropologist’s hands. “You aren’t even looking at that,” he protested.

“I do have a pretty good memory, Jack,” Daniel retorted with a roll of his eyes. “Not to mention that Jonas and I have been going over everything during our flights. I’m more than familiar with the material.”

“Just making sure,” the teenager said haughtily.

“So everyone was cooperative?” Jacob asked. “They were all willing to talk to you?”

Both Daniel and Jonas nodded. “Like I said, most of them are hoping for some vindication,” the anthropologist said. “They want their stories proven true.”

Jonas sighed a bit sadly. “We couldn’t promise that, of course, but even the renewed chance was enough for them.”

“Have you reported to General Hammond yet?” Sam asked.

“Daniel called the general on our way here from Peterson,” Jonas explained. “We told him we’d go over things with you first, then contact him for a briefing.”

“So, Jacob, I take it you’re here in response to all this?” Daniel asked, giving the blended man a smile.

Jacob smiled back. “Something like that. Then I thought I’d stick around and see if there was anything else I could do to help.” He shrugged.

Jonas narrowed his eyes slightly. “Anything else?” he repeated.

Sam sighed. “We started to go over the blood test results, trying to figure out what was going on, when Selmak recognized something in the anomaly Janet told us about.”
“Oh come on,” Jack said with a roll of his eyes when Sam hesitated to continue. “Look, they figured out I’m a clone, okay? Something went wrong with the process, and it left my body younger than the original. We still don’t know how or why.”

“Well, that was short and concise,” Daniel commented after a brief, stunned moment of silence.

“It’s pointless to beat around the bush about it,” Jack muttered, crossing his arms over his chest.

Daniel nodded. “True. So now that that’s cleared up, what’s next? Anyone have any ideas?” The teenager gave the archaeologist a reluctant half-smile when he realized he was included in the general query.

Teal’c’s expression was approving when he gazed at Daniel. “We should review the information you and Jonas Quinn have obtained, Daniel Jackson,” the Jaffa suggested.

“Right. Well, like I said, all eight people we interviewed had stories that match Jack’s.” Daniel glanced down at the open journal he still held.

“Except none of them experienced any kind of physical changes as a result of the abduction,” Sam added.

“No, they didn’t, but everything else is bang on. Taken while sleeping, floating paralysis, out of body experience. Now, admittedly, all of this does sound familiar, cliché even, if you watch enough TV, but, um, they all described four green globes that seemed to defy gravity, buzzing around them like insects. That’s too specific a detail to be a coincidence.”

Jacob nodded. “You’ve got a good point there.” He considered it for a moment. “So I take it the descriptions of their abductors match up with the Asgard?”

Daniel smiled. “Short, big eyes, no hair, weird voice? That would be a yes.”

Jonas frowned. “From everything we were told, I don’t think there was anything malicious in the intent here. All eight of the subjects said the Asgard who took them tried to reassure them, telling them not to be afraid and that they’d be safe soon.”

Jack rolled his eyes again. “Yeah, that makes me feel so much better.”

“No, that’s important,” Daniel refuted. “If this wasn’t malicious, there’s a chance we can talk to whichever Asgard is responsible and get the original Jack back.”

“Not to mention answers to how he did it and why,” Sam added. “Although so far the Asgard haven’t responded to our attempted communications.”

Before anyone could say anything further, the phone in the lab rang. “Carter,” Sam said when she answered it. She listened for a moment. “Of course, sir. We’ll all be right there.” She hung up and looked at the others. “That was General Hammond. I guess Janet’s in his office and says she has the results from the genetic team. He’d like us all to come to the briefing room so we can hear her report.”

A few minutes later, SG-1 plus Jacob reported to the briefing room as requested, Sam making a brief detour to take Danny to their VIP room and set him up with his art supplies. Once they were seated, Janet and General Hammond came out from his office and joined them at the large table. The doctor’s eyes lingered on the teenager in their midst before taking her seat.

“Doctor Fraiser,” General Hammond said once he’d taken his seat at the head of the table, “why don’t you go ahead and present your team’s findings?”

“Of course,” Janet replied as she rose to her feet, a manila folder open in front of her. She glanced at its contents and sighed. “I received the genetic team’s results an hour ago and looked them over. From what was presented, it appears that something is happening to… Jack’s body at the cellular level. Basically, the genetic structure is growing more unstable.”

“And what exactly does that mean?” Jack asked quietly, his body tense.

Janet sighed again, pain becoming visible in her features. “In simple terms, you’re dying, sir. This is actually similar to what happened to the clones in the rogue NID lab. I’d… I’d like to take some more blood samples and track the progress of the degradation, see if we can’t come up with a solution to reverse it.”

Jonas raised his hand slightly to get everyone’s attention. “What about Doctor MacDonald’s serum?” he asked. “We know it worked on Daniel. Um, the younger one.”

“I thought of that,” Janet told him. “I currently have a sample being tested, and I was planning on looking over those portions of Doctor MacDonald’s notes that pertained to the serum. I want to be as sure as I can be before I start using it.”

“Exactly how long do I have?” Jack asked, his eyes narrowing. “Because I have to tell you, I feel fine.”

“You’ll start to feel symptoms as your condition worsens, but it’s hard to say when that will be,” Janet told him.

The corners of the teenager’s mouth turned downward. “Say it anyway.”

The petite physician stared at him for a moment before speaking. “It could be weeks, days… I don’t know for sure. You’ll notice fatigue at first. In the end, your body’s vital organs will completely shut down.”

“It is like what happened to the kids at the lab,” Sam murmured, eyes wide.

“Doctor MacDonald’s serum has a good possibility of working,” Janet said reassuringly. “And even if it won’t in its current form, we might be able to use it as a foundation for a serum that will.”

“Selmak and I would be more than happy to help you with that,” Jacob offered quickly. Janet smiled at him and nodded her acceptance of the assistance.

Hammond looked around at everyone at the table. “So what can be done in the meantime?” he asked. “And where do we start searching for the… original Colonel O’Neill?”

Daniel considered it. “Let’s think about this for a moment. The people Jonas and I interviewed can’t be suffering from this genetic degradation; it’s been over nineteen years since any of their encounters, and they’re all still alive to talk about it.” He looked at Janet. “That wouldn’t be possible if the degradation were present, would it?”

Janet shook her head. “No, definitely not.”

“That suggests we’re dealing with the originals and not the clones,” Daniel concluded.

“And we already know with a certain degree of certainty that it’s an Asgard that abducted them in the first place,” Sam added.

“The Asgard clone themselves,” Teal’c said. “It is their form of reproduction.”

Daniel nodded again. “Their very existence depends on their ability to clone their bodies and then transfer their consciousness from one to the next.”

Sam looked at him. “But they suffer from grave medical conditions due to thousands of years of cloning.”

“Which will ultimately lead to the fall of their civilization if they can’t solve the problem of diminishing returns in their cloning technology,” Daniel completed the train of thought.

“And how does making a faulty clone that’s younger than he’s supposed to be and falling apart at the seams help fix that?” Jack asked snippily.

“It doesn’t,” Jonas said, realization dawning in his eyes. “It’s not the clone itself that’s supposed to help find a solution.”

Jacob nodded. “But the original would, at least theoretically,” he added.

Hammond looked around the table again, wanting to be sure he was following everything correctly. “Which means?”

Sam looked at him. “Well, in all likelihood, the Asgard responsible took the original people and replaced them with duplicates so as not to arouse suspicion.”

“And then they studied the original for a period of time then switched them back,” Daniel continued the new train of thought.

“So you think whoever took the… original Colonel O’Neill is going to return him?” the general asked.

Jonas shrugged. “It makes sense, sir. Colonel O’Neill’s clone being so much younger had to be a mistake.”

Hammond looked at the Kelownan. “What makes you think that?”

“The previous actions of the Asgard responsible indicate his desire to remain covert,” Teal’c answered.

“And this is just a little bit obvious, don’t you think?” Jack gestured at himself with his eyebrows raised.

“It’s a good bet that the Asgard doesn’t even know there’s a problem, or else he would have tried to fix it,” Sam mused.

Hammond’s mouth twitched slightly upward. “Well, they’ll figure it out when they try to switch him back.”

Sam shook her head slowly after a moment of thought. “I don’t think that’s the real issue here.” She looked at her teammates one by one.

“We need to try to catch the Asgard behind this,” Daniel added, immediately following where Sam was going.

“It could end up being our best chance of not only getting Colonel O’Neill back, but of saving Jack here,” Jonas said, also following along.

“I believe intercepting the next switch to be our only opportunity to apprehend the Asgard responsible,” Teal’c declared.

Jack looked around the table with an expression of incredulity on his face, and just a hint of appreciation for the sentiment of wanting to save him in his eyes. “And just how were you planning on pulling off that little stunt?” he asked gruffly. “We don’t know how or where he’s going to try to make the switch.”

Daniel smiled at the teenager. “That’s what we can work on while Janet and Jacob work on your new blood samples and Doctor MacDonald’s serum. There has to be something in the abduction stories that will give us a clue.”

Hammond nodded. “It sounds like we have a plan, people. I’ll leave you to it. Dismissed.” He rose from his seat and headed back to his office. The rest of the people at the table dispersed soon after, splitting up to take care of the tasks set before them. They all knew it would not be easy. Back to Gen Fiction          Back to Part Seventeen          Go to Part Nineteen

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