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rocketfic | tiger by the tail

Title: Tiger By the Tail by Rocketchick
Rating: 15+ Pairing: Sam/Janet
Notes: Part 8 of 9 of the Ancient Air Series. Sequel to Cloak and Dagger.

It was Saturday. Cassie wanted to play chess.

Truthfully, Elaine had lost all track of the passage of time, and it didn't really matter to her what day it was. The teen's visits were just about the only thing keeping her sane in the sterile, windowed isolation room.

So they played, and made small talk, and nibbled at the tasteless hospital lunch provided on plastic trays. It was a comforting routine, one that made them forget Cassie could make the pieces move on the board behind the glass with little more than a thought, and that her new friends were at risk of dropping dead at any given moment.

In the iso room across from Elaine's, Joe would watch them both attentively, but rarely spoke. Though he was scarcely older than Cassandra himself, he had taken a decidedly big-brotherly approach to the young woman, and seemed perfectly content just to know she was safe in his field of vision. He imagined Doctor Fraiser would want it that way, and for some reason that was incredibly important to him.

Had he asked, he might have discovered that the weekly chess games were incredibly important to Elaine, too, and that she was similarly unsure why.

After a couple games, they abandoned the pieces to chat amiably. Topics ran the usual gamut for these most unusual circumstances: the latest eliminations on reality TV, Cassandra's ravenous (and - like herself - adopted) love of football, and Teal'c's latest experiment with facial hair.

"Hey, Elaine?" Cassie asked idly after a while. "Why are you guys in quarantine, anyway?"

"We were exposed..." the lieutenant began.

"... to alien 'stuff.' Right. But you didn't tell me it was little metal machines."

Elaine blinked. In point of fact, no, she hadn't told Cassie about the nanocytes. Given the security levels attached to their collective condition, she was fairly certain no one else had told the teen, either. "How did you know that?" she asked warily.

"I can see them," Cassie breathed. She was looking almost through Elaine. "They're in your brain. That's probably why they can't figure out how to get them out of you."

Her breathing quickened inexplicably, and Elaine leaned closer to the glass. "They tried an electromagnetic pulse to disable them," she revealed quietly.

"And it slowed them down, but didn't completely kill them. Hold still."

"Cass..." Elaine barked.

"Hold still," Cassie insisted, as her gaze turned steely with concentration.

Behind her, Joe was on his feet, so close to the glass barrier of his room that his breath fogged his view. "Lieutenant?" he called, pitching his voice low so as not to attract undue attention.

"You guys really need to relax," the teen muttered, even as Satterfield froze in place. Alarms began to sound all over the complex. Various medical staff burst into the isolation ward, but drew up short when they saw the tableau before them.

"We've lost monitoring on Satterfield," announced an officious voice from the hallway, before the head physician at the Area 51 installation rounded the corner. "What the hell is going on?" she demanded.

"I turned off the monitor," Cassie said calmly, while she concentrated on something no one could see.

"It's all right, Doctor," Elaine called. She tried to stay perfectly still, but knew full well that whatever Cassie had planned was incredibly dangerous. One false move and a wayward microscopic machine could leave her paralyzed, or worse.

"That's not for you to decide, Lieutenant," the doctor spat as she approached. "Ms. Fraiser, just what do you think you're doing?"

Cassie flicked her gaze briefly at the doctor, stifling resentment that it wasn't her own adoptive mother standing there looking so profoundly annoyed at her. With a deep breath she returned her focus to Satterfield, and the complex puzzle of tissue within her skull. She could easily pinpoint the individual machines, most of which lay dormant in the twisted pathways of Elaine's gray matter. Everything was moving here; the brain pulsed with electrical activity even as Elaine's circulatory system shuttled blood all around it. It took Cassie a few moments to decipher the patterns, but soon she was able to gather the nanocytes into bunches that she could manipulate more easily.

No one could pinpoint exactly when they saw it, but eventually there was a tiny metallic clump of shed Goa'uld machinery hovering in front of Satterfield's face, borne on Cassie's will and the lieutenant's own tense breath.

Long minutes later, Cassie's shoulders slumped. She spared one more glance at the medical staff, and nodded toward the expelled cluster of nanocytes, no larger than a grain of sand. "Do you want those anywhere in particular?"

The doctor shook off her paralysis and pointed toward a sample dish in the back of the iso room. Cassie deposited the nanocytes with one last burst of concentration, then relaxed.

"So... she's clean. Or whatever," the teen announced with a shrug.

Sam shrugged into her coat and stepped out onto the precarious balcony attached to their latest refuge. From across the walls and spires of the abandoned alien city, a dim, tired sun climbed slowly into the sky. She took a sip of tea from the mug she carried, and watched Janet watch the city below. "Hey," she murmured.

Janet turned and smiled. "Hey yourself. Get enough sleep?"

"I guess so," Sam said, exhaling loudly. "I still feel like I went eight rounds with Teal'c."

The ghost of a frown crossed Janet's features as she studied her friend. "Well, we should get started soon. Finish your tea."

"Yes ma'am," Sam chuckled. She shifted a bit closer to drape an arm across Janet's shoulders, releasing a sigh of contentment when Janet wrapped an answering arm around her waist.

If Janet even noticed just how much of Sam's weight she was supporting in that moment, she didn't bother mentioning it.

"What the hell is going on in here?" George Hammond barked.

The chaos in Area 51's medical labs had reached a fever pitch. Doctors stood and argued with each other while microbiologists nearly tackled each other to get a better look at the lab results.

After a comprehensive CAT scan, not a trace of Nirrti's nanotechnology remained in Elaine Satterfield's system. The fact that a teenager had managed to excise the machines by mere force of will and without even breaking a sweat had the scientists up in arms.

A slim exotic-looking woman in a labcoat stepped forward. "General Hammond," she greeted. "I'm Doctor Lam, Area 51's CMO."

"Doctor," he replied tersely. "I believe I asked a question."

"Yes, sir. It appears Lieutenant Satterfield has been completely cleared of the nanocyte infection."

"Well, that's good news," he said, beaming. He took in her frown and the continued anxious buzz of scientific activity around her. "Isn't it?"

She dipped her head. "Mostly, sir." To head off his obvious impatience, she led him to a relatively quiet corner of the lab to explain. "We don't know how Ms. Fraiser did it. Or if she can do it again without causing harm to the other patients."

He glowered for a moment and looked over her shoulder at the frenetic scientific buzz around them. "Where are they now?"

"Still in isolation, General."

"Hey, Joe? You want me to..."

"No," he said, interrupting immediately. "I mean, thank you, Ms. Fraiser. But... let's just have the doctors do their thing."

Cassie grinned, even as he backed cautiously away from the glass. "C'mon, Joe. I promise it won't hurt."

"Don't tease him," Elaine called. "He's really bad at being teased."

"Yes, ma'am," he agreed. "And I'd prefer not to have my brain scrambled today, thank you, ma'am."

"I'd say that's a good idea, Airman," Hammond said as he stalked into the ward. The two soldiers snapped to attention, and he offered them a kind nod in greeting. Finally, he smiled down at Cassandra. "I hear you're quite the miracle worker today," he drawled.

Cassie blushed a bit. "I don't really know how. I can just see the little things."

"Do you think you could help the others?" he asked gently.

"Yes, sir," she said automatically. Military or not, the General's bearing inspired a willingness to do just about anything he asked.

Hammond turned toward Kirkovich. "What do you think, son? Willing to give it a shot?"

The young airman paled, but offered a tentative nod. Cassie gave him a confident smile, then concentrated and got to work gathering the tiny specks of machinery she now recognized with ease.

To be continued...

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