The aliens had taken most of the zat'nik'tels that had been brought back from the mission to Apophis's ship, but there was one left which Sam took. After urging by Jolinar, she took the hara'kesh too, which had come from the ashrak. Sam and Jolinar both took this as indication the ashrak was dead - one less problem to worry about.
*Be careful! They almost saw us!* Jolinar warned, for the third or fourth time.
*If you think I'm so careless, why don't you take control from me? Can't you?* Sam asked, irritated. She was also voicing something that had started to puzzle her.
*Did you hear nothing of what I said? I am not Goa'uld, I am Tok'ra! I do not take control against my host's will - unless we are in grave danger. Which we soon will be if you continue like this!*
*Tok'ra. That is supposed to mean anything to me?* Sam grumbled. She peeked her head out into the corridor. Seeing no one, she hurriedly ran to the door that lead to the secondary power grids and emergency engineering. *Damn, it's hot here!*
*Now is not the time, but I will show you my memories later. Then you will understand. For now I suggest, ah, ceasefire? Just until the current situation has been resolved.*
Sam hesitated, then took a deep breath. *Yes. I agree.* She closed her eyes for a moment, then grabbed the handle of the door at the same time she held her zat'nik'tel at the ready. *Here goes nothing!*
She stopped just inside the door, staring into the dimness. It was very hot and humid, and the room was almost dark, except for a dull red light. She could vaguely make out some sort of tangled, web-like material along all the walls, and hanging from the roof.
*It looks like some sort of organic material,* Jolinar offered.
*Yes, it looks that way...* Sam carefully edged closer to the strange growths on the wall. *It's everywhere! How could it have grown so quickly? Unless I've been unconscious for weeks or months!*
*I have examined your body and I do not believe you have been unconscious for more than perhaps a few days. Less than a week, at least.*
'Then this makes no sense!* Sam carefully pushed the slimy-looking tentacles - or whatever it was - with her zat'nik'tel. Then, she almost jumped as she heard a moan and saw movement in the wall, some three feet to her left.
"Oh, my god!" Sam realized in horror that it was a human being, embedded into the organic wall. She forced herself to grab hold of the tangled mass of organic tubes and tentacles and pull them aside somewhat. It was slippery to the touch. "Siler? Oh, no!" She began pulling and tearing at the alien growth, finally managing to free the man.
He fell out on the floor, unable to stand on his own. Sam helped him to sit up against a part of the wall that had not been covered by the alien organic material.
She held her hand against his forehead. "You've got a high fever. Let's get you to the infirmary and see if we can find something for it. You need water, at the very least." She sighed. "I'm afraid there aren't any of the doctors or nurses there."
Siler coughed. "No... they're probably all in here."
"What?" Sam frowned. "What do you mean 'all in here'? In this room?" She peered into the darkness.
"Yes. And the adjacent rooms. We've all been... stung. Captain Carter, we're... transforming. I've seen three change already. I can feel it... inside. I am changing. It will... happen."
"No! I refuse to believe that! I will find a way to save you, all of you!" Sam insisted.
A roar was heard from further inside the room, followed by a sticky, ripping sound. Someone was escaping the organic wall on their own.
"Who is there?" Sam shouted, raising her gun and aiming it at the noise.
The only answer she got was a moan, followed by a roar. A man walked towards her, and she recognized him as a young Lieutenant that had been assigned to one of the SG teams a couple weeks ago.
"Lieutenant Jenkins, right? Are you okay?" She looked worriedly at the man as he walked slowly, stumbling, towards her.
He stopped maybe 5 feet from her and roared, then grabbed hold of the top of his head with both hands.
*I think we should get out of here. Quickly!* Jolinar suggested.
*He's seen us. If he turns into one of the alien creatures, then we'll have to kill him.* Sam swallowed hard and winced as the Lieutenant ripped away the skin and outer layers to reveal the alien inside. *God! That's not a sight I'll ever get used to!*
"Kill him, Captain!" Siler screamed. "I've seen it before! Kill it!"
She took several steps back while the creature before her tore off the rest of the human skin, as if it was offending it, roaring at Sam.
She fired at it with her zat'nik'tel, and the blue energy played harmlessly over it's body, as if on a layer outside it. A natural forceshield. It opened its mouth and appeared to laugh, the mandibles working in a way that seemed a mockery of that sentiment.
"Your... race... will fall. We will... take your... world!" it growled.
Sam fired again, but the creature barely reacted. "What the..." She dropped the zat'nik'tel and grabbed the MP5 that was hanging in its strap around her neck and shoulder. The alien was coming closer, and she fired at it point-blank, not even caring to aim.
The tentacle she had seen in action on the recordings suddenly shot out from the middle of the creature's face and went for her, lightning fast.
It was not as fast as Jolinar, though, who grabbed control and threw herself at the side, narrowly avoiding the stinger. She had continued firing as she did so, the shots flying in all directions. Now she aimed the weapon at the aggressive being and emptied the clip into it. It growled, then fell to its knees, then to the ground where it lay, growling in a low voice. Greenish-black blood oozed from several wounds on its torso, and the stinger-tentacle flopped harmlessly.
Jolinar looked at it, heart pumping and adrenaline coursing through her veins. She took a step away from it.
*Were we stung?* Sam asked, nervously.
*No, we were not.* Jolinar looked at the MP5 in her hands. *Curious weapon. It is most fortunate that it did not malfunction before it did. At least the creature is damaged enough that it is not attacking us.*
*It didn't malfunction, it just ran out of bullets. Give me control so I can rearm it.*
Jolinar immediately rescinded control. *That is not very useful. Our weapons are vastly better.*
*Sure, but the zat didn't work, right?* Sam told her sarcastically as she put a new clip in her MP5 and immediately fired several more times at the wounded creature.
"Is it dead?" Siler asked.
Sam had completely forgotten about him, but now she nodded at him. "Yes, I think so." She gingerly kicked at the motionless alien. "It's dead."
"You're still host to the Goa'uld," Siler observed tiredly.
She hesitated. "Yes. Right now we have... a working relationship."
Siler snorted. "I guess it doesn't matter. These creatures are probably..." He coughed. "As much enemies of the Goa'uld as we are."
*Try shooting the being with the zat'nik'tel.*
*It's already dead! Besides, the zat did nothing before!*
*Are you unable to say a whole word? Zat'nik'tel! And if at all possible, we do not want anyone to know we are here, so it would be better if the creature could be disintegrated.*
*Whatever.* Sam picked up the zat'nik'tel and rapidly fired at the alien being three times. This time there was no apparent layer around the creature, protecting it, and with the third shot the creature disappeared. "Wow!"
A groan from Siler made her turn back to him. "Sergeant?"
"I can feel... how I am changing. Captain Carter, you must kill me." He looked at her earnestly.
"No! We'll find some way to cure this." She looked around at the room, shuddering at the thought of her friends and coworkers being trapped along the walls, entangled in the slimy organic web. "There has to be something we can do." She helped Siler to stand. "Come, let's get you to the infirmary so we can do some tests."
Before leaving level 23, Sam had taken a peek into a few of the rooms beside the one she had found Siler in, and all the ones that had to do with the emergency power and secondary power grids were filled with the alien organic material - and presumably people, trapped in the walls. She had not checked, but she had heard muffled groans from inside.
They had made it to the infirmary without being discovered, but only just.
Now Siler was lying on one of the examination tables and Sam had looked at the area on his back where he had been stung. The wound looked like the one she had seen on Ferretti on the screen, and that was more than a little disconcerting, considering what she knew had happened to him.
She had taken some samples from the wound itself, and from Siler's blood. Both had contained massive amounts of some kind of tiny parasite or perhaps large vira. From what she and Jolinar could tell, they were rewriting Siler's DNA and rebuilding his body, transforming him into one of the alien creatures.
An injection of immune globuline together with a drug Sam had mixed from Jolinar's instructions had strengthened him temporarily, but it was not long before he was as weak as before.
*Do you have any suggestions?* Sam asked, desperate.
*I am not a biochemist, but the Tok'ra have many who are skilled in this area. We should take the samples, and perhaps one of the dead creatures with us and leave the base.*
*Leave the base? What about the people here! They don't have very long! Besides, I doubt we'll be able to escape. Remember the guards?*
*Which for now are merely drugged humans. Soon all or most will be those creatures, and we do not have the firepower to take more than a few of those down. I understand your reluctance to abandon your friends and comrades, but if we do not, your whole world could fall to these - then the whole Galaxy. They must be stopped!*
Sam was silent for several moments. *Yes, they must be stopped, but I am not leaving yet. I am going to spend a little longer trying to find a cure - or at least a way of slowing it down. If you don't agree, you will have to take control and force me away!*
*You know I will not do that,* Jolinar grumbled.
Sam rose quickly from where she had been studying the samples. Doing so, she suddenly realized she had not felt either pain or dizziness or a long time. She wondered if the Tok'ra had anything to do with that.
"Captain, you have to kill me!" Siler implored her. "I can hear them in my head now! The aliens. I don't know how much longer I can hold back, how much longer I'll be me!"
Sam walked over to him and looked at him with a pained expression. "Please let me try one more thing. I have an idea." Her gaze went to the monitor showing his readings, which were clearly far from normal. She sighed inaudibly and went to find some strong antiviral drugs, and some anti-parasitical as well.
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