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Aberrant: Stargate Universe - One Touch Away from Death [Complete]

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One week after the second mission

"I finally got done pulling those images for you, Colonel," Olivia announced from the door of Lt. Colonel Carter's office as she tapped on the door. She was silently pleased that she'd managed to avoid calling her Major out of habit. With the promotion granted during the President's visit, Olivia was having to remember to change her address.

"Huh? Oh, the PX9-555 images," Carter said, glancing up at Olivia. "That's great," she said, though her slumped posture and flat tone of voice said otherwise. "You can leave them on the corner there." She pointed at a clear section of the desk.

Olivia stepped forward and set the bulging folder down, her dark eyes studying the Lt. Colonel. "Colonel," she said after a moment, "what's wrong? I mean, if I can ask, sir."

Carter looked at her sharply and then laughed. "Nothing gets by you, huh?" She didn't sound completely comfortable with that thought.

"No, it's kinda my gift," Olivia admitted, trying not to feel too awkward given the discomfort in Carter's tone. "My thing, if you will." It was a subtle reminder of just how little Olivia could do in comparison to the other Specialists. She hoped it would calm the other woman. "I'd like to help you with whatever's troubling you, if I can," she added, which was a casual reminder that Olivia was on her side. She'd found it helped to drop small remarks like that into conversations.

The Lieutenant Colonel smiled. "Thank you, Doctor." The smile faded as she picked up the thing lying in front of her. Olivia recognized the Goa'uld hand-held healing device, its red stone vivid against the gold setting. "During the Battle of Antartica, we had a lot of good pilots injured. Some of those that survived combat died due to environmental conditions. It was hard to know that they might have lived, had we found them sooner.

"One in particular was tough," Carter continued, her eyes going distant. "He survived even the conditions, and- When a tragedy happens, and you find dead after dead, and then you find someone alive, they become the one you have to save to make it all worthwhile?"

Olivia nodded, her face sympathetic.

"The problem," Carter said, her expression frustrated, "is that while the healing device fixed his body, it can't fix the damage done to his mind. He's perfectly healthy, save that he'd effectively a vegetable. I can't believe he's gone through so much, fought so hard, only to end up like that, trapped on life support."

"That is hard," Olivia said, reaching out and putting a hand on the Colonel's shoulder. "I'm sorry to hear that."

Carter smiled bitterly. "The really hard thing... and please don't take this personally, but if he were a Specialist, he'd be fine. If only he'd gotten lucky on the genetic draw and had the Ancient gene like the Specialists did, we could use the Artifact on him. It'd probably fix his brain. I mean, it's done that for you, right?"

"To a degree. It didn't completely repair the damage to my memory centers, but it more than compensated for it," Olivia said, her own gaze going distant as her brain began to work. While the brain is called a computer, in reality, it didn't have the hierarchy of folders and files that was necessary to most computers' functions. Instead, 'files' of information were arranged by a complex series of associations. Most people didn't realize the complexity involved of starting a thought process at 'horse' and ending up following it through to horse shoe, then to nebulae and arriving at the Crab Nebula. A computer couldn't follow those labyrinthine connections without some elaborate programing. Olivia's mind had those tangled associations, and something that Colonel Carter had said had just reminded her of something.

"Sir," she asked suddenly, breaking the silence that had fallen over the two women, "what about Dr. Lam's research to introduce the ATA gene through gene therapy?"

"How do you know about that?" Carter asked, surprised.

"I don't know much," Olivia confessed. "But there was a passing mention of it in a report I read a while ago. I remember that they were at the stage for human testing, but I don't recall if they had progressed to that point yet or not. I'm guessing not, or else they would have already been treating him with it."

Carter straightened up; the morose expression was gone, replaced by eager curiosity. "Can you find that report?"

"I'll get it now," Olivia said, moving to the computer and pulling up the electronic copy for the Colonel. Stepping back, she let the other woman read the pertinent part.

"I need to call Dr. Lam," Colonel Carter said when she was done. She had grabbed the phone when she paused. "Doctor... if, by some stretch, Dr. Lam agrees to this, and if we proceed, would you be willing to provide material for the genetic therapy?"

"Me?" Olivia asked, startled.

"Given the reaction Ancient devices have to you, I think your material would provide a better sample for Dr. Lam to use," Carter said, her voice intense. "And I want to give the Colonel every chance I can."

Olivia swallowed and nodded. "I'd be happy to, so long as we're talking blood and not a finger."

Carter grinned. "No, you can keep your fingers."

"Sir... since I'm going to be his donor, can I know who I'm donating to?" Olivia asked.

"His name is Colonel Cameron Mitchell," Colonel Carter said. "You should read his file. He has quite a record."

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Two days later

The helicopter set down on the familiar landing pad at Groom Lake, but for once, Olivia wasn't nervous about being in the whirly-bird. She wasn't helping repel an alien invasion or unintentionally aiding the NID; she was just here as a medical donor, and she couldn't happier about that. Of course, she was doing more than serving as the source of the genetic material; otherwise, General O'Neill could have done it. He had the ATA gene and strong reactions to the Ancients' devices, too, though his experiences had been less traumatic than Olivia's. Her secondary reason for being here was to serve as a mentor. When Colonel Mitchell woke up, he was sure to be disoriented and lost. Hopefully, she could temper that.

In the seat next to her, Lt. Colonel Carter was unbuckling. Olivia tended to her own restraints as soon as the blades started to wind down. She hopped out, appreciating suddenly her newly fit body. The last time she'd gotten out of a helicopter, she'd practically fallen, but her balance was so much better than it used to be, thanks to Declan pushing her and training her. The co-pilot handed over her bags and she and Carter headed toward the Jeep. It carried them to the base's hospital, where Colonel Mitchell was being cared for.

They would have been here yesterday, but Dr. Lam and her staff had raised objections to non-consensual human drug trials. Carter had been arguing with her ever since; Olivia got to hear all about second hand. It hadn't ended until the IOA had stepped in and decided that since Mitchell couldn't give consent, they would give it for him. That didn't make Olivia comfortable with it; if anything, if they wanted this done, she felt like balking more. But she didn't want to abandon Colonel Mitchell to a life as a vegetable, not if this would help him.

Inside the infirmary, Dr. Lam was still reluctant. As a nurse swabbed Olivia's elbow and started to draw blood, Dr. Lam faced off with Carter. "Colonel," she said icily, "I want to reiterate my objections to this procedure."

"Noted," Carter said calmly, but her blue eyes snapped with anger. "Shall we get started?"

"Yes, Colonel," Dr. Lam said, her mouth set in a tight line as she turned away.

After giving blood, there was little for Olivia to do but wait. "Colonel, can I see him now?"

"Sure," Carter said, nodding. "Let's go."

He was alone in a room; Olivia wasn't sure what she'd been expecting. It wasn't this vital-looking man who looked like he'd jump right up out of the bed at any moment, complaining about being attached to the machines. Carter had healed his body; it looked perfect, healthy. Hesitantly, she crossed the room and stood next to his bed. "Hello," she said, aware from reading his file that his brain was in pretty bad shape. He probably couldn't understand her, assuming there was enough of him there to hear her. "My name is Olivia, and I'm going to be your genetic donor. I wanted to come and see you, and to let you know that if something goes wrong, I'm sorry. I'm not sure I feel good about doing this without talking with you first, so I'm going to feel really bad if something does happen.

"But," she added, stepping forward and taking his hand, "I don't think anything bad is going to happen. Instead, you're about to embark on a new journey. You're about to become the front line of Earth's defense, in a way you have never imagined. It'll be scary, but you'll become something so strong, so powerful. Someday, we will have Ba'al shaking in his boots. Even the least of us, me, is incredibly powerful. And you're about to join us."

She didn't have much more to say, really, but she pulled up a chair and kept talking, telling him about the other Specialists and their abilities. She also told him about her time in Area 51, glossing over the classified research, and about her missions at SGC. After several hours, Carter and Lam came in; Olivia was a little surprised at the speed, but Lam had been working on this procedure for a while. "Have you been here the whole time?"

"Yeah, I have to wait, might as well wait here," Olivia said, smiling a little.

Dr. Lam stepped forward and injected Mitchell. "It's done," she said shortly, looking upset.

"How long?" Carter asked.

"We'll test him in four hours," the doctor said. "We'll know then whether it took or not."

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Olivia fell asleep in the chair. It wasn't comfortable, and thankfully, she didn't relax enough to slip into REM sleep, so she didn't suffer the embarrassment of any nightmares. The noise of Dr. Lam returning to take samples from Mitchell woke her up again and she lifted her head to watch. "How long will the test take?" she asked.

"About an hour," Lam replied, handing the sample to a technician. As the technician left, Dr. Lam asked, "How are you doing, Doctor?"

"I've been well, mostly," Olivia said, smiling. She was pleased that Dr. Lam had remembered. "The damage from the pentagon has been negated by the Artifact."

"A non-consensual exposure, rather like Colonel Mitchell's, hmm?" Dr. Lam asked. "I recall hearing that you weren't ok with that."

"I may have felt better if I'd know about the ATA gene, and that I had it," Olivia said, feeling a flash of anger. "At the time, I thought I was going to die. Colonel Mitchell isn't going to have that uncertainty."

"I just couldn't help but note the irony," Dr. Lam said, standing up and leaving the room.

Olivia knew that she was right, that Colonel Carter was right, but Dr. Lam's words still bothered her. She wished that Mitchell could have given consent. Still, it was done, and all they could do was push ahead.

After an hour, Colonel Carter returned. "We're good," she said eagerly. "We're going to put him on a MALP and roll it in. With his arm rigged in a sling, we should get him to 'touch' the Artifact."

"Alright," Olivia said nervously. "Let's do it."

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Cam was in a dark place. It hadn't always been dark. At first there had been a great deal of light and flashing and color. And pain. There had always been pain, but some time ago things had changed. The pain had gone away suddenly and things had gotten brighter. He had hoped the light and color would get to where he could see what was around him. He had tried to move toward it to move out of this place where he was trapped but he couldn't remember how. He'd stretched toward it with unseen hands but there was nothing to grasp, nothing to touch or hold onto. Since then he felt like he was slowly being pulled down further and further into the darkness.

At first he had fought, oh how he had fought to find his way out of his dark prison. It did no good. It was as if there had once been a way out but the door had closed and the jailer had thrown away the key. He didn't know how much time had passed since he had been here, hours or days, he wasn't sure; it felt like years floating in this darkness each day the light fading a little more. Now it was almost completely dark.

Even memories of the pain and the light and color from before were getting somehow more distant and harder to reach, and there was nothing from the time before the pain. It was as if his existance began there, but somehow he knew that it did not. If he could just remember what had come before the pain he knew he could escape, but there was so much darkness between here and there and he was so tired, tired of figthing, tired of trying, tired of floating in the dark.

Then there was a sound in the darkness with him. It was very faint, so faint that at first he didn't notice. After a time the sound got closer. He was still there in the deep deep place, but the sound was coming to him. It was music he was sure, but the melody kept changing and he could never quite make it out or recognize it. He knew if he could then he could open the door to this place. He tried to move toward it, but as hard as he pushed he could not seem to make any headway against the relentless nothingness that surrounded him. After a time he stopped trying and just enjoyed the music until it finally stopped. He was sad when that happened and it seemed darker still now that there was silence. He knew. The darkness was almost complete now. Once it was there would be no more Cam.

The darkness was pushing him down now, down deeper where no light could get to at all, the place where he would cease to be. In those last seconds he heard another sound. It was very different from the music that had been his companion for the short time before. It was harsh, it was steady, it droned and he felt like he knew it somehow, or knew sound like it. This was it, the light was going, but he had never quit anything in his life and he wasn't going to start now. He gathered the last of his will and stretched toward the light and pushed against the darkness as it pushed harder and harder at him.

He pushed back. He was getting angry, he was not going to let the darkenss win! He felt the light drawing closer. Only a little at first, but he listened to the sound and used it as a ladder, pulling himself hand over hand back up and toward the light. It seemed to take forever, but he was making progress he was getting closer, he was winning! Finally he came to a place where the sound and the light seemed to converge into a single point. As he reached out to it, light and color and sound and energy burst open the world. In that forever moment he could clearly see two paths before him he could take either one. One path abandoned the darkness and the light and the pain and whatever had gone before it but down that path there was more light and music and other beautiful things to which he could put no name. The other path took him back through the light and color and pain and the darkness that had been his existence for as long as he could remember and to the things that had gone before. He stood on the brink for what seemed like eternity before choosing to go back through pain.

He reached out and he understood. He remembered. He was Lt. Colonel Cameron Mitchell of the United States Air Force and had been shot down during the Battle of Antartica. But there was more than just what had come before the pain. He understood the sound and what it was. It was a simple machine, and he was touching another one, one infinitely more complex. In that moment he understood both, he was one with them. His body was laying on top of the simple machine, but the other one was rewriting his body, changing it in a deep and complex way. Like he had with the darkness, he 'pushed' his way inside the big machine and made it tell him what it was doing.

He knew that from the moment he connected with the big machine up until he 'pushed' his head was exploding with unbelievable pain, but he'd spent so much time with pain since the crash that it was a dull thing that he could ignore. Then he was free of the pain and floating inside the machine. It seemed like he had all the time in the world. The macine was doing things to his body and he wanted to know what so he asked it and it told him in incredible detail, so much that he couldn't absorb it all, but somehow he did. Then he knew, it was unbelievable what he knew. He prayed he would be able to remember it all when this was over and he felt the machine respond to his prayer, and he understood that too as he watched the machine make more changes in him. He made more changes now that he knew what was possible, but time had run out. The machine had already completed the bulk of it's work and was powering back down.

He gave a mental sigh and moved back into his newly renovated body. He didn't know how any of this came to be or where he was, or many of dozens of questions he suddenly had, but he knew one thing. Cameron Mitchell was back!


In the observation room several doors down looking on via cameras and medical gear, Olivia, Carter, Lam and two med techs waited breathlessly as the malp moved into the room and slowly and gently eased Mitchell up to the Artifact. As it got closer the alien device lit up just as the Specialists all described from their experiences. Doctor Lam watched medical monitors closely not bothering to look at the video feed. In the very last seconds before his finger touched the device she began to see an increase in heartrate. "Damn it. I wish I could have an EEG on him. I think..." She never finished the sentence because that was when he made contact and all of the monitors blew out in showers of sparks. The others in the room saw as the last image on to be relayed back to the room, Mitchell's hand limply held out by the straps looking rather ironically like pose of God reaching down to touch Adam from Michael Angelo's Sisteen Chapel. A full minute elapsed as Carter looked at her watch before she would allow anyone to race down the hall to look in the room and go to Mitchell's aide.


Mitchell opened his eyes just as the concerned group raced through the door. He felt a little disoriented but he knew that would pass, his entire genetic code had just been rewritten after all, a little nausea and discomfort were to be expected. He shouldn't even be awake right now, but he had commanded the machine to juice him enough to be alert in the shortest possible time. Where there were alien devices there might be hostile aliens after all.

He was starting to put pressure on the straps to break them when he heard a human voice, a female voice, "It worked, he's alive!" He knew that voice, and it sounded like music.

He relaxed and lay back, "Would someone please take these restraints off, I think I'm going to hurl."

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Olivia did a little hop, thrusting her fist into the air when she saw him moving. "It worked, he's alive!" she crowed triumphantly, ecstatic at this victory. She wanted to rush in and help him, but stood back as the medical professionals attended him instead. She watched as they shifted him onto his side so he could vomit without choking, then moved him to a gurney.

When they rolled it out, Olivia was right behind them; she wait patiently as they poked and prodded before she could take it no longer and slipped up next to his bed. "Hey, Colonel, glad to see you moving around," she murmured, grinning. "How's your head? If it was half as bad as mine was, you probably wish someone would crack it open to relieve the pressure."

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Cam did gag as he was being manhandled onto the gurney, but he'd been fed by IV for many weeks now so there was nothing to come up and he just dry heaved for a couple moments before he got accustomed to the new position. The woman who moved up next to his gurney was beautiful but he was confused. He'd never met her before in his life but he knew her voice and she seemed like a friend. "My head is not happy right now, but I'll live." There was a sharpness about his gaze that was surprising given what had just happened to him. Livy knew from the reports she'd read that the other specialists had all lost consciousness for a time after their experience with the artifact and their headaches had been so bad that they had not been able to function for minutes if not hours after awaking, but here he was awake and conversing and looking fairly sharp.

"Half as bad as yours? Sounds like you had the same treatment I just had?" Aside from trying to figure out how his body had changed, his mind was racing.

What were the facts as he knew them? Aliens had attacked Earth. The pilots had been given a briefing to that effect just before the battle, but Cam had suspected alien technology the minute he got into the cockpit of the 302. It just had too big of a leap in technology to have been the next step in development. You couldn't fool him, he was too big a history buff where planes were concerned. The 302s had been three or four steps beyond what should have come next beyond stealth fighters.

So aliens were real. Earth had somehow captured or discovered or bargained for their technology. The 302s were obviously closely related to and reverse engineered from those alien fighters they'd encountered. Then there was the machine that he had just be effected by. It was one very serious piece of medical technology far beyond anything modern science had to offer. It had saved his life, he was sure of that.

"Cam Mitchell, and you are?"

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"Dr. Olivia Jenings-Izumi," Olivia said, taking his hand and shaking it. "Yes, it's a mouthful, so you can call me Olivia." She smiled as she spoke, and Cam saw her exotic eyes study him closely. She was smart; that much was apparently from the shine of intellect in her eyes. But she was also fast - she seemed to only need seconds to decide something.

"Colonel, the Battle for Antarctica was on March 19 of this year," Olivia said, trying to warn him with her eyes to brace himself. "It's now October 12." She laughed. "I forgot. It's my birthday. Well, you making it through this is probably one of the best gifts I've ever gotten."

"Do we know each other?" he asked, looking a little confused.

"Not really," Olivia said, walking along the bed as they wheeled it back toward the infirmary, "but I did get personally vested in your recovery, for a few reasons. First, I'm a proto-hippy, which means I'm genetically required to care about humanity in general. You're also a hero who was responsible for keeping the Earth safe, which is good, because it's where I keep all my stuff. And speaking of genetics, you had to undergo-"

"Are you sure this is the time?" Dr. Lam interjected.

"Yes," Olivia said, meeting the other woman's eyes. "Look at him. He's completely lucid." She glanced down at him and her expression softened again. "I'm not sure how you're doing it, but you are."

"I still think he needs his rest before you tell him everything," Dr. Lam insisted. Carter opened her mouth and then shut it, watching the conflict.

"As I keep telling people lately, we're capable of more than anyone who isn't a Specialist can understand," Olivia shot back, her lips thinning as she pressed them tight. "Don't set his limits. Let us set them. He'll tell me wh- if he's had enough." She looked down again, her smile back for him. "You had enough yet?"

"No, ma'am," he said, grinning at this unexpected ally.

"I'm the doctor, and I have the final say in this matter," Dr. Lam said, her eyes narrowing. "My patient needs his rest."

"He's been resting for seven months!" Olivia said, exasperated. "He's had his power nap."

"That's my judgment call," she told the smaller woman.

"And your judgment is flawed," Olivia snapped. There was shocked silence from the staff; that wasn't something that was said to doctors, not in the military. "You're used to treating humans, not specialists. You don't know what you're doing. At least Dr. Fraiser's been treating us for the past months."

"Specialist," Carter said, and that simple rebuke brought Olivia short. As Olivia fell into a sullen silence, Carter looked to Dr. Lam. "He'll be transferred to SGC now, anyway. Would you call Janet for a consult, see what she thinks?"

"Alright," Dr. Lam said, glaring daggers at Olivia before walking away. Even as Carter turned to tell Olivia to squeeze in whatever she needed, the petite woman was already doing it. "Alright, Colonel, what do you want to know the most? We may be on short time. Top three questions, please."

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"I assume from the fact that I'm here that we won the battle." He looked Olivia in the eye, "Who are the Aliens? How did we get involved with them? Are we still in danger?" There were far more than those three questions going through his mind, but those seemed like the top three. After a moment he shoed the med tech away and sat up. He was a bit wobbly at first as the blood rushed away from his head but it only lasted a moment. He worked his hands and wrists then swung his arms around and rolled his head around on his neck stretching his long disused muscles. Thanks to the Artifact and to Carter's earlier healing there was no deterioration that he would otherwise have faced. He listed to Olivia's answers to his questions and since Dr. Lam wasn't back he he asked another, "So after months of being in a coma shouldn't I be in pretty bad shape? But except for the after effects of the Ascension device I feel better than I've ever felt in my life." It didn't even occur to him as he said it how he knew what the device was called, he had interfaced with it when he had touched.

He was just standing up and doing some bends and dips to stretch his legs when the Doctor came back in her face looking even redder than when she had left. He was pretty sure it wasn't embarrassment either. Before she could explode at him he said, "I would really like to stretch my legs Doc. How bout letting me walk back to the examination room from here instead of riding this... thing." He pointed to the Malp ignoring the stretcher that was visible through the open door.

Dr. Lam's face lost a little of it's color as she saw him moving about so easily on his own. She gave an exsperated sigh and threw up her arms, "Fine, but if you fall on your face I'm not tending your broken nose!" She paused a second the added her eyes narrowing menacingly, "Strike that. I will tend your broken nose and I'll use the most stringent unpleasant medicines I can get my hands on. See how you like smelling Dettol for a couple days."

Cam put his hands up in a placating gesture, "Easy Doc. I'm feeling better than I've ever felt in my life actually, except for the after effects."

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"Wow, you don't start small," Olivia chuckled, then launched into a quick summary of the Goa'uld and the threat that they had posed to Earth. Perhaps the most startling thing to Cam was the length of the shadow war with the 'snakes' though it made perfect sense when he thought about it. She ended up touching briefly on the Asgard as well before she was done.

"Well, you feel good because you're a specialist now. Colonel Carter fixed your body with a Goa'uld healing device, then the Artifact finished patching everything up. Specialist is the official name that Homeworld Defense has tagged those of us who have been affected by the Ascension Device," Olivia said. "All specialists have noted an improvement in their physiques, even those who haven't progressed beyond human norms."

"Wha-?" he asked, but Dr. Lam's return stopped that question. Olivia and Carter watched him do exercises, as did the other female tech with great interest. As he'd fended off the Doctor, Olivia added, "I'll be right here with him, for a while at least. We have a lot to talk about." She leaned close enough that her breath brushed his shoulder as she added, "You probably need pants before you engage in more exercise." She tugged on the sleeve of his hospital gown. As he went red, she chuckled and said, "It's tied shut, but they flap around when you move too much."

"Right," he said, trying to reclaim his composure - and finding it easier than he remembered. "Beyond human norms?"

Olivia nodded. "Some specialists have shown super-human abilities. I have two teammates who have greater-than-human strength, and my third one is at the peak of human possibility. One can fly-"


Olivia nodded. "He took me once. It's fun." She glanced at Cam with curiosity in those eyes. "Do you have any idea yet on what you can do?"

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Cam thought about it for a moment but didn't answer right away. "I'm pretty sure I am stronger and healthier then I used to be. My memory is better too. When I interfaced with the Asencsion device I accidentally asked it to help me remember what what happening. I think..." He paused for a second looking like he was lost in thought. "Yeah, it downloaded a bunch of medical stuff into my head, I can still remember it."

The walk back to the area 51's infirmary was enjoyable. Cam reveled in being able to just Move at will. He'd been trapped so long in that dark place that just walking was an incredible feeling. Once they arrived he quickly requested clothes and received what they had on hand. He had just finished pulling on a pair of sweat pants and a sweatshirt when he looked over at the Doctor, "You should take another blood sample, I'm pretty sure everything is finished now."

He looked back over at Col. Carter and Olivia, "Rest is the last thing in the world I want. How bout you two tell me some more of what's going on and the Homeworld Defense and how us Specialists fit in. We've got advanced space worthy fighters, do we have bigger space ships? Have we been to other planets yet? Or is that too classified." He gave a grin that reminded of a boy looking to get into some mischief.

Col. Carter smiled and started to speak, "I'm afraid we will have to wait until you've signed an NDA before we can tell you any more."

She looked apologetic, but before she could say anything else, a man wearing a suit stepped into the room and smiled a politician's smile. "Oh, don't worry Major, uh, sorry, Colonel Carter." The slip was passed over with practiced ease. "I'm sure Colonel Mitchell won't have any problem signing, he already signed an NDA regarding the 302s and proved not only his discretion but his heroism at the Battle of Antarctica." Pulling out his credentials he flashed them to Carter. "Brian Lord, I sit on the board of the IOA as the United States' representative."

He reached over to shake Mitchell's hand. Cam took the hand and shook it warmly, he could sense a subtle tension in the room now, but he figured he'd reserve judgment till he knew what was going on. The man was too slick though, and he decided to be wary around him, more so than with Olivia and the others anyway. "IOA?"

"International Oversight of the Stargate program and all things related to it." Brian moved to lean casually against a table. "Welcome to the program Col. Mitchell. We look forward to having you on board."

The room fell into an uncomfortable silence as everyone waited for someone else to speak.

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Olivia tensed as Lord introduced himself. Her research into the IOA told her that his position was the highest in the organization. Her good mood was gone instantly, and her gaze was cold as she silently asked, Are you the one who sent Hatchins after me? Are you the jerk who decided to torment an unarmed woman with the man who once hurt her?

He wanted something, something important or else he wouldn't be here, and it was likely something to do with Colonel Mitchell. Her mind ran through various ways to warn him without giving away what she was doing. It was rather difficult; if he was aware of what was going on with her, he was probably expecting her to do or say something. She wished she could say something, but even if she called Carter and had her pass the phone over, it would be monitored by Area 51's internal system. IOA could come after and check out what had been said.

"I know I enjoy being on the program," Olivia said, breaking the silence. "It's a good program with good people - most of them." She looked at Lord. "One or two bad apples."

"You always get that, anywhere," Carter said quickly, giving Olivia a hard look.

"Yeah, sometimes they develop naturally, other times they're added," Olivia said, trying to reassure Carter with her eyes. "Either way they should be pruned, right, Colonel?"

"You should always deal with disciplinary issues," Carter said, looking at her as if she'd lost her mind. Olivia was focused on Lord's reaction, however, trying to see if there was any sign he knew what she was talking about.

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Cam may have been just moments out of a coma but even he could tell there was some kind of subtext to what Olivia was saying, something between her and Lord, but he was betraying nothing. Something about bad personnel being placed in the SGC by the IOA perhaps? That seemed to be the gist unless he'd seriously missed his guess. Col. Carter seemed to be at a loss as to what was going on so perhaps it was something to do with the Specialists, but wasn't Carter one herself, else why would she be here... No that wasn't the way it would work, they would put regular military types in charge of the special people.

"Scuse me for interrupting, but a question just occurred to me, There are only a few specialists aren't there. Why is that?" He waited for an answer.

Lord looked sharply at Mitchell appraising him. "An excellent question. The NID who experimented with the machine, discovered that in order to survive exposure it required the ATA gene. Anyone without the gene ends up either dead or hideously deformed. Even with the gene there is a high probability of negative results. You were lucky to survive Colonel. On the other hand if you hadn't been exposed you would surely have died anyway."

Dr. Lam looked like a thunderhead about to let loose the fury of mother nature on Lord but then she got a grip on herself. "I hope this is the last time that terrible thing is used. Despite the result it was wrong to use the Colonel as a guinea pig."

Lord smiled that politician's smile, "I believe the Colonel will agree it was worth the risk."

Cam nodded distractedly as he put the information together in his head with what he knew from the device itself. In order to work the thing required a basic level of compatibility, the device made primary use of the ATA gene and without it's presence the changes being written would definitely be fatal. He could see exactly how that would occur. It was never meant for use on individuals with physiology different than it's creators. Perhaps it could be modified to work on another key gene. He thought he might be able to do that, but then he looked back up at Lord and realized what that would mean. Endless hordes of supersoldiers. He decided to keep that thought to himself. If he could alter it in one way maybe he could alter it in another and make it so that it wouldn't work at all on those without the gene.

That was when another thought occurred. Olivia had been a donor... he hadn't had the ATA gene! That meant there was nothing to stop someone from cranking out supersoldiers made to order. That was grim. Maybe he could turn the device off entirely instead.

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"Of course Mitchell should be an exception, not a rule," Olivia said softly. "He had nothing to lose, and everything to gain." She smiled at him, even as that cold knot of concern remained tight. She didn't like Lord being here, and even if he was giving no indication of knowing about Hatchins, she didn't trust his motivations. "The risk is too great to people who aren't dying. But we might be able to use this to save more lives, like we just did."

This is the truth of the moment: they might be able to save some more lives, even at the risk of condemning them. Should they deny them a chance at Heaven because of the fear of Hell?

"We can't be the NID about this," Olivia added. At Cam's look, she quickly explained, "The NID was capturing people with the ATA gene and forcing them to touch the Artifact. They got a few civvies that way, as well as members of the SGC. That's where the majority of the specialists come from - NID kidnappings and experimentation." She paused to see if Lord would weigh in on this; to see if he had something to add.

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Lord frowned, "Yes, what the NID did was appalling. That kind of behavior cannot be allowed, it tarnishes our nations good name. Going forward we do not have any plans on what to do the artifact, but seeing what it has done for Colonel Mitchell, I'm sure there will be debate among the IOA members. No doubt some will wish to use it further and others will want it locked up and the key lost. Seeing the Colonel here I think I might be inclined allow a reasoned use in the event of medical need."

Dr. Lam huffed and was about to say something she might have regretted later, but before she could Lord added for her benefit, "Don't worry Doctor, I would not vote to approve any non-cooperative uses of the artifact. Col. Mitchell here was an exception due to his Heroism at the Battle of Antarctica. Anyone touching the artifact ought to do so knowing the consequences and the risks. There will be no more unknowing victims, that much I can insure." He seemed quite sincere about that last bit, of course he was pretty smooth about the whole speech, but the last bit held a ring of conviction about it.

Cam kept his thoughts to himself, but he was already making plans to get back to the artifact room and see if he couldn't turn the thing off. It didn't take genius to figure out that people with abilities like his and the other Specialists would be very dangerous in the wrong hands. What if Hitler's SS had been Specialists? They would all be speaking German right now.

He said aloud, "Well, for myself I appreciate that it was used on me, but even though I'm grateful and wouldn't have it any other way, I can see that it could be very dangerous to have folks with these abilities walking around out of control. Seems you would have to be very careful of the loyalty of anyone given the treatment."

Lord's eyes narrowed ever so slightly, "Very astute observation Colonel and one reason I believe no one should undergo the treatment without first being carefully evaluated." He smiled that smooth smile again and made a gesture of tipping a hat to those in the room. "Well, if you will all excuse me, I must be getting back to Washington. I just wanted to be here for the attempt at healing you Colonel, and let me say again how pleased I am that we were able to save the life of a true American Hero. Ladies, it was a pleasure."

Colonel Carter just nodded and smiled politely in reply, Dr. Lam pointedly turned her back on him.

Cam knew he needed to do something, "Ladies, I need to stretch my legs a bit if you don't mind, all this talk of almost dying... well, I'd like a few minutes if you don't mind. Doctor, I'll submit to any tests you want afterwords. Olivia, can accompany me if you want." He had a feeling that she would be alright with what he wanted to do.

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On impulse, Olivia put out her hand. "Mr. Lord, it was a pleasure to meet the head of the IOA," she told him sincerely. "We should talk again, in the future." Her sensitive skin recorded all kinds of facts about him during their brief contact. She focused on his fingertips; she wasn't sure if she could, but she wanted to try to grab his fingerprints. Consider it a test of your limits.

Releasing his hand, she let him go for now. If he'd sent Hatchins after her - and there was a chance that an underling had done it without his permission - they could settle the score later. If he was responsible, she'd see that he was head of the IOA for long.

"Ok," she said to Colonel Mitchell, moving back to his side. She was sure that he had more questions; if he had something more than that in mind - well, she knew Carter's phone number, and Mitchell would find her to be a lot less helpless than she appeared to be. Plus, she sensed a purpose, carefully hidden, behind his casual words. Once they'd shaken Dr. Lam and drifted away, Olivia asked, "I get the feeling you want something from me. What is it?"

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Cam looked up casually at the ceiling as if thinking, but noted the cameras with their red blinking lights that noted they were on and observant. He pretended to hide a yawn behind his hand, and said "I'd like to walk for a moment in quiet thought for a moment if you don't mind."

Once they got closer to the artifact room he noted that the cameras were not blinking. He had noticed that on his way to the infirmary but hadn't thought much of it until he had realized what was going on. "Sorry, I dind't want to say anything until we were out of earshot." He pointed up to the deactivated camera. "I want to turn that device off so they can't make a private army of people like us, but I wanted your thoughts on it first. I could tell something was going on back there with you, but not knowing the history, I didn't want to do anything without more intel."

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Olivia nodded at his request, falling into silence. She had wanted to say something to Lord so badly; to let him know that his mole was known. She wanted him to know that Hatchins was a gross, blind creature that had been drug out into the light. But he might have removed Hatchins, and then they wouldn't know who the mole was. For StarGate Command, for her team, she held her tongue.

"Well, I can tell you about the IOA, but it's all personal, and therefore biased," Olivia confessed, crossing her arms as her expression went stony. "First, their official line." She laid out IOA's mission and structure, as well as some of the things they had done in the past in official actions. Then, she got to the personal. "In my own experiences, they first tried to intimidate me to spy on my own team and the SGC, without the knowledge of the chain of command. When I went to the general, they punished me by finding someone from my past who..." She stopped and sighed. It always seemed to come back to this, as if she were tethered by a line to that dark night, destined to always come back around. But the cord was getting wrapped around the pole, and it was coming faster and harder, and someday, probably someday soon, she was going to slam into the pole choking.

"Basically, I can't tolerate him." Olivia tried to keep the pain and fear out of her eyes; she was only partially successful. Strange that she was most scared of him when he wasn't around. "We have a bad history, and he would never have gotten into the SGC save that someone with a lot of pull forced him in. So no, I have zero love for the IOA."

She looked at Cam, still struggling with her emotions, as she added, "You probably should ask someone else, for a more balanced view."

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Cam smiled and clapped her on the shoulder. "No, that tells me all I need to know. They are definitely not people we want with a private army of supermen backing them, but we do have to play their game. We just have to do it better than them. If I can turn the thing off, and I think I can, then we will hold an ace card over them, the trick is that they can't know we've done it. So if you don't mind, watch the corridor for guards. With the cameras out they will probably have someone patrolling the halls."

He slipped inside the Artifact room and moved to the point where it began to power up. Here goes nothing... He didn't know how it was that he was doing it, but he slipped up to the device and touched one of the non-activated symbols. As soon as he did the compulsive feeling that was drawing him to the device stopped and he was able to 'access' it's programming. One hand on the device, his eyes shut he sent his mind inside probing it for control. The device was complex beyond anything he could imagine, but from his earlier exposure he had some understanding of what it did and how. Besides, what he wanted to do now was about as simple as could be. He just wanted to lock it down so others couldn't use it, it's not like he wanted to tweak it to work for those who didn't have the ATA gene or anything crazy like that.

The thought of messing with the device and changing parameters was tempting. He had all the medical knowledge that it had downloaded into him after all, but now wouldn't be a good time to try. Memorizing something was different than really understanding it and he wasn't sure which was the case yet, not without time to reflect on what he'd been given and right now he only had minutes or seconds before a guard came along and discovered them.

The nice thing was that the device was open to command, it wasn't restricting access in any way, that made it easier than it otherwise could have been. Even so it was more complicated than anything he'd ever tried and this was too important to allow to fail. He focused all his effort and managed to eventually find a subroutine that would allow him to change the access parameters. He grinned to himself as he ordered it to only respond when given a 30 digit series of symbols hit in a specific order on the flat surface of the stone-like surface.

And that was all there was to it. He withdrew from the device and quickly moved back to Olivia's side and getting the all clear from her they moved back up the the hall. "I couldn't turn it off, but I did lock it down. Set up a 30 symbol entry sequence that has to be keyed in before it will activate. I doubt the IOA or anyone will figure that out. You said the thing had enhanced your mind right? Does that include photographic memory?"

Olivia nodded, "Yes, for good or bad, I can remember everything I see."

Mitchell smiled, "Good, once we get out of here I'll draw the symbols for you in order in case something ever happens to me someone will be able to activate it if the need is great enough."

Once back in the infirmary, "I think I've come to terms with things. Doctor, I'm at your mercy." He grinned at her in a offhand flirtatious way.

Dr. Lam frowned at his playfulness and shooed everyone else from the room. "Alright, you can all see him during visiting hours. Right now I need to ensure that he is in good condition and figure out what effected that thing had on him."

24 hours passed before Cam was discharged from Dr. Lam's infirmary into Col. Carter's custody. From there the trio flew back to Cheyenne Mountain and the SGC where he was given a full briefing and signed the obligatory NDA form.

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Seeing Area 51 had been strange. It had been like coming home after a semester at college; coming back to a familiar place that didn't quite fit anymore. Being there for a night left her feeling strangely exposed, and she didn't sleep well. She was relieved to get back on the helicopter and go home.

It was odd. A year ago, she'd have laughed if anyone insisted that she'd ever think of level 25 of Cheyenne Mountain as home. Now, it held some of her closest friends and a man that she was maybe coming to care about. It also held enemies, but they were fewer there. She felt mostly safe in the underground complex.

Olivia lingered around as Cam did his paperwork, then showed him around the SGC. She even took him to the control room so that he could see the Gate. When she'd shown him all the essential places and shown him where his room was, he showed her the symbol code. With their secret secure, she started to leave, then smiled and said, "Welcome to the SGC. If you need anything, let me know."

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