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A Vacation of Sorts
Three of the gunshots Annika heard came from the chamber entrance. Jack, Daniel and Mulder, upon hearing her scream, bolted into the room. Seeing Bes attacking the psychic they reacted at the same time and in the same way. The Goa’uld’s body jerked with the impact and the beam seemed to reverse direction. It shot directly into the middle of Annika’s forehead, making her head snap back before she crumpled.
The fourth shot came from Scully. The FBI agent hadn’t left the room once the concept of being invisible had sunk in. Instead she had bided her time, waiting for the opportunity to help the woman who had risked her life to save hers. Everything had happened so quickly, that in the time it took to pull out her gun and run silently towards the Goa’uld, Annika’s purple haze had dissolved and that monstrous twist of power impacted her friend. In two swift steps she placed the barrel against Bes’s temple and fired.
Scully shimmered back into sight before the dead alien hit the ground. She saw the three bullet wounds in his back and spun round to see the men rushing towards her. "Boy, am I glad I didn’t stand behind him." Then she was wrapped in Mulder’s bone crushing embrace.
Daniel sunk to his knees, dropping his weapons and scooped Annika into his arms. He didn’t bother searching for a pulse. If he was breathing then she was breathing. There was a slight bump on the back of her skull from where she hit the floor, but from the impact he felt it wasn’t serious. He carefully examined their bond. It was faint, barely even a flicker but he clutched it, pouring all of his love into her. The response he received worried him more than her comatose state. There wasn’t a scrap of recognition, only an exhausted confusion over what the connection was. How much of His Angel’s memories had been lost forever? When she woke up would she recall anything at all? Would she remember him?
There was only one thing that kept him from panicking. Annika had said she’d had a vision of a happy ending. I’ll be okay. I know we will all survive this. That’s what she said, so that was what he believed. What he had to believe. Their link was weak, she may not remember anything about him, but he would be her memory. He would help her remember, remember their love, however long it took. Annika promised everything would be okay!
Jack picked up the discarded zat’ and disintegrated the Goa’uld with the ribbon devices still attached. Now there was no chance of Bes being revived in a sarcophagus and that torturous device would never harm anyone again. "Let’s get out of here." He didn’t even try to offer to help Daniel with Annika, knowing that the archaeologist would refuse. Moving through the chamber the colonel noticed a faint purplish smudge on the psychic’s forehead. He put it down to bruising from the ribbon device.
The second they walked into the hall a bright light engulfed them and a moment later they were standing on the bridge of the Asgard ship.
As soon as the little alien determined that all were present and accounted for Thor twisted a smooth stone and two beams shot out from the bow. When they impacted the alkesh it exploded in a spectacular fireball display.
"Hey, we could have used that ship," the colonel protested.
"O’Neill, that ship was a monstrosity." Thor’s big black eyes steadily gazed back at him, while his long fingers adjusted their heading back to Earth. "Built on the death of one our most respected scientists."
Jack’s eyes widened in surprise at the unusually emotional comment.
Gray shoulders gave a slight shrug. "It appears I am absorbing some of your humanity." He turned to Daniel who had sat down against the far wall, still cradling Annika. "How is she, Doctor Jackson?"
"I don’t know." His voice was remarkably calm. "But I’m sure she’ll be alright."
"Something you're not telling us?" Jack asked. It was unlike Daniel to be so sedate. With the woman he loved more than life itself barely alive, Jack expected the archaeologist to be ready to crack right about now.
Daniel raised confident eyes to his CO. "No, you heard her yourself. She said she’d be okay, that we’d all survive."
A worried frown creased the older man’s brow. Obviously Daniel was clinging to the most positive interpretation on the word ‘survive’. Listening to the psychic’s shallow breathing the military officer was not so optimistic. He knew that there were levels of ‘surviving’. Just because Annika continued to breathe didn’t mean she would live in any real sense of the word. Many brain dead people ‘survived’ for years, the hospitals were full of them.
Clearing his throat to shift the sudden lump constricting his airways the colonel forced himself to sound like his normal self. "Sure, Danny. I did give her an order after all."
Thor plucked a different polished stone from the console, intending to scan the unconscious woman. The instant he moved within a foot of the couple a violet bubble shimmered around the two and the little alien snatched his hand back as though burned. The bubble disappeared.
"Holy Hannah, what was that?" Sam appeared in the doorway followed closely by Teal’c.
"Have no idea, Major." Jack cautiously approached the non-military members of his team. "The other women all safely tucked away?"
"Yes, sir," she replied absently as she too moved closer. "We gave them some sedatives and they’re all sleeping at the moment." Sam tentatively reached out towards Daniel. Just like before the purple barrier appeared, blocking any contact and she yelped at the shot of electricity that coursed through her hand.
"Ah…Daniel, you alright in there?" The colonel kept his hands by his sides, not a believer in third time lucky.
Wide eyed the archaeologist nodded. "Didn’t feel a thing."
"Seems like your psychic doesn’t like to be touched," Scully curiously observed, joining the group with Mulder in tow.
Daniel gave a short chuckle. "Well, we know that already. Annika’s just not normally so obvious in her deflection."
"What’s that on her forehead?" Mulder gestured to the purple mark that was now a lot more distinct than when Jack first noticed it.
"Bruising?" Jack suggested his original thought.
Both Sam and Scully shook their heads. "A ribbon device doesn’t leave that kind of mark."
"What about the other one? The memory sucker-outerer?"
The two women exchanged glances then shoulders lifted up and down noncommittally.
"Possibly, sir. But I doubt it."
Daniel gently traced the outline of the mark. It was taking the shape of a five pointed star, with the lowest point extending twice as long as the others. Frowning he turned his hand palm up and laid it against Annika’s forehead, like he was testing her temperature. "It’s hot. The rest of her is normal but the ‘star’ is like hot coals."
"Can you touch us?" Sam asked, applying the scientific process of elimination to help solve the mystery.
Daniel cautiously extended his hand. The barrier once again became visible, but he didn’t flinch away from the contact. He ran his arm in an arc and the purple light pulsed around him. "Doesn’t hurt me."
"It would appear Annika Murdoch wishes you to remain with her," Teal’c stated the obvious.
"Ya’ think?" Jack ran a hand through his hair. "Thor, have you ever seen anything like this?"
"Unfortunately not, O’Neill." From the console came a series of short beeps. "We have entered Earth’s orbit."
"Can you beam the women directly to the infirmary?" Jack asked.
"Of course." The Asgard twisted a stone. "They have all been deposited on the assigned beds. Shall I also beam down the rest of you?"
The colonel hesitated his gaze resting on Daniel and Annika.
Daniel shrugged helplessly, knowing what Jack was thinking. He had no idea if the barrier would block out the transporter beam.
"The beam worked when Thor brought you over from the alkesh," Sam reminded them.
"However we do not know if the force field Annika Murdoch is now generating was activated at that time." Teal’c played devil’s advocate.
Mulder nodded in agreement. "No one tried to touch either of them until we were aboard this ship."
Jack made his decision. "Thor, can you beam all of us except Daniel and Annika to the ’gate room?" At the Asgard’s nod he continued, "Then try to send them."
"See you soon." Daniel waved watching the white light engulf everyone else excluding Thor and the two lovers. I hope, he added silently.
"Are you ready, Doctor Jackson?" Thor tilted his head in question.
He struggled to his feet, managing to keep his hold on Annika at the same time. "Okay, Thor."
Daniel held his breath as the beam surrounded them. Normally it took less than a heartbeat for the Asgard transporters to work. When the light disappeared to reveal the familiar gray walls of the ’gate room Daniel had to suck in a deep breath into oxygen deprived lungs.
"Daniel?" Sam hovered a few feet away, not daring to step any closer. "You okay?"
He nodded, taking another gulp of air. "I think we took the scenic route. How long did it take?"
"Exactly one minute and forty-two seconds, Daniel Jackson," Teal’c supplied.
Before anyone could make any speculations, another beam began its descent. The military personnel openly gaped at the sight. Though it took no longer than a normal transport, instead of the usual direct up-down motion, the light curved towards Annika, brushing against the barrier making it glow once more. The beam then resumed its original journey. When it dissipated it revealed a small white stone.
Jack snatched up the Asgard communication device even as Thor’s voice crackled around the room. "O’Neill, did Doctor Jackson and Annika arrive safely?" He sounded concerned.
"They did," Jack confirmed. "What happened?"
"I am unsure. The transporters required nearly four times the amount of power normally used." It was clear the alien was confused by the technical hitch. "And I cannot explain why it took so long to rematerialize."
"We’ll just add it to the growing list of whacky things happening down here."
Jack handed over the device to the major. "Carter, you tell him."
"Sir, I don’t know what happened," Sam protested, but she was talking to the back of his head as he turned his attention back to Daniel. With a sigh she began relaying their observations of the warped transporter beam.
"Hey look, her eyes are open," the colonel exclaimed.
Daniel’s head swung up. He’d been concentrating on their bond. It seemed a little firmer, however there was still no recognition. "Annika?" He waved a hand in front of her face. Nothing. She was staring ahead, eyes unfocused.
Scully studied the psychic’s blank look. "Probably only a reflex."
Jack bit back the wisecrack that almost jumped out of his mouth. The lights are on but nobody’s home. "Let’s get her to the infirmary. General, can you clear the halls?" He glanced at the control room window where Hammond was watching them from above. "I’ll explain later."
The general nodded and immediately his voice rang out over the loud speaker.
Daniel adjusted his grip on the unconscious woman. "You will? Can you then explain it to me?"
SG-1 and the FBI agents protectively circled the pair, both to stop any stragglers from getting accidentally zapped by Annika’s force field and to shield the couple from curious eyes.
"Better put her…er…you…in the isolation room." Jack led the way through the now deserted hallways, though they caught sight of gawkers from the connecting corridors. A glare from Teal’c sent them scurrying away.
In the single room, Daniel maneuvered himself onto the bed, sitting up against the headboard with Annika lying between his legs, her head resting on his chest.
Janet raced into the room followed closely by the general. "What’s happened?" She automatically moved to examine Annika.
As one everyone lurched forward to stop her.
Startled by the emphatic chorus, the doctor stopped short. "What?"
Jack plucked a pen from her white coat pocket. "Observe." He tossed it towards the couple. The shield sparked and the pen fell to the floor.
"Colonel, I think I’d like that explanation now." Hammond’s voice was slightly dumbstruck.
"Er…Right…" Jack thoughtfully scratched his chin. "Ah… well…I got nothin’." He glanced at the expectant looks planted on his teammates' faces. "Anyone feel free to jump in."
The general sighed. "Perhaps you should start at the beginning."
Janet cast an anxious look at her patient, which Daniel saw.
"She’s okay." He was still buoyantly confident. "I’ll let you know if I sense any change."
"Permission to remain for the debrief, General?" the doctor asked.
"Granted. Okay people, let’s make ourselves comfortable."
While Jack and Teal’c procured the necessary chairs, the general took the time to officially introduce himself to Mulder and Scully. Over the next two hours they took turns filling in Hammond and Janet on all that had happened since Bes left Earth’s orbit. Scully supplied the details of Annika’s sabotage efforts and what transpired in the audience chamber, including her invisibility stint.
"I wondered where you sprang from," Mulder grinned.
"Wow, she did it!" The pride in Daniel’s tone was clearly evident. "The whole Nox hiding thing. She’s been trying for weeks to master that trick." His voice trailed off and his arms tightened around the comatose woman in his arms.
The silence was heavy in the medical room. Daniel ignored their concerned looks, knowing all of them were wondering if Annika would ever be able to function normally again let alone use her psychic abilities.
There was a hesitant knock and the general’s assistant poked his head around the door. "Sorry to interrupt, sir, but the President is on the phone wanting an update about SG-1’s current mission."
"Thank you, Lieutenant." Hammond rose. "I suggest we all take a break."
After a minute of uneasy shuffling, Jack caught Sam’s eye and motioned to the FBI agents.
Sam cleared her throat. "Mulder, Scully, why don’t I show you where we can get some coffee and something to eat."
"Food sounds great." Scully jumped to her feet, dragging Mulder with her.
"Don’t get too excited," the major warned with a grin. "Remember this is the military, we’re not known for our high cuisine."
The three left, closing the door behind them.
"Any change, Daniel?" Janet paced alongside the bed, frustrated that she was unable to examine Annika herself.
"No." He placed a gentle kiss to her forehead. "Come on, My Angel, convince these doubters. Give us a sign that you’re still with us."
Annika remained motionless.
Daniel rolled his head back in an attempt to loosen the crick forming in his neck. "Boy, I’d love a cup of coffee."
"Maybe we could experiment…" Janet cut off when the door flung open and bounced against the concrete wall.
"What the hell?" Jack sprang to his feet, ready to berate the guards outside. The bewildered faces of the two Marines who peeked through the threshold had him biting his tongue. He spun back to the bed. "Annika?"
"O’Neill, duck!" Teal’c pushed the man down as Daniel’s favorite mug hurtled through the air, zipped through the barrier and hovered in front of the stunned archaeologist.
There were startled cries from the hallway and a full coffee pot followed by a bowl of sugar floated in, also passing through the barrier like it didn’t exist.
Excitement coursed through Daniel. "That was an excellent sign!" Her face remained impassively blank but when he joyfully caressed their bond her response was getting stronger.
The colonel could barely contain his relief and reacted in typical Jack fashion. "Hey, what about us?" he demanded of his team member. "We could all do with a caffeine fix!"
A few seconds later, three more cups bobbed into the room.
With delighted grins, Janet, Teal’c and Jack snagged the floating mugs.
Daniel poured himself a cup of the steaming brew and added sugar, then watched in amazement as the pot moved away to fill the other mugs. "Annika wasn’t kidding when she said she’d mastered her gift."
When it reached Jack he gave a mock scowl, "Pretty slack, Annika, you forgot the milk."
There was a light rush of air and the colonel cried out at the sharp invisible flick against his ear. "Ow! That’s insubordination!"
"You deserved that, O’Neill." Teal’c held his cup steady for the hovering pot while it poured. "Thank you, Annika Murdoch."
Running footsteps outside announced Sam, Scully and Mulder’s return.
"Is Annika awake?" Sam’s voice was hopeful. Her face fell when she saw the psychic’s unchanged position. "But we saw the cups…" She waved her hand in a flowing motion.
Daniel held up his coffee, his smile lighting up the room. "I asked for a sign that she was okay."
"Yeah, but she’s still off with the fairies…Ow!" Jack rubbed his ear against another flick, but his grin was just as wide as Daniel’s.
"Daniel, do you have any indication of how long it’ll be before Annika wakes up?" The doctor in Janet reasserted itself; her patient was still physically comatose after all.
The forgotten pen rose off the floor and nudged the doctor’s coat pocket. Janet fished out the notepad she always kept in there and placed it on the bedside table.
The pen scratched out a word.
Jack gestured to Sam to hand over the Asgard communication device tucked in her pocket from earlier. "Thor, buddy, you still hanging around?"
The alien’s response was immediate. "I am still in orbit, O’Neill."
"Any chance you could come on down? Annika requests your presence."
"She has regained consciousness?"
They could almost hear the little alien’s puzzlement echoing through the milky stone. "I shall beam down presently."
The white light began its descent and no one was really surprised when the beam once again detoured to Annika’s shield before resuming its normal path and the Asgard materialized. "How very interesting." Thor turned towards the bed. "Annika absorbed part of the beam’s energy. I felt her consciousness during the transport."
"Hey, the star thingy is changing." Jack gestured to her forehead, keeping his hand well away from the force field.
They watched the angry purple mark fade to a soft lilac. Daniel tested the spot and found it was no longer hot to touch. Annika’s eyes flickered closed. A second later they popped open and gone was the unseeing zombie of before.
Everyone held their breath, not daring to speak as violet eyes took turns focusing on each of their faces. They were searching for a spark of recognition from her. Did she know who they were?
Annika studied the concerned people watching her watching them. Her mind was a bit fuzzy. Why are they all staring?…Sam; Major, teammate, friend… Mulder; UFO nut, FBI agent recently hooked up with… Dana; scientist, doctor, fellow abductee… Janet; doctor, friend… Teal’c; ex-First Prime, friend… Thor; Supreme Commander of the Asgard fleet, not the puppy… Jack; Colonel, wiseass, best mate to… Her body was almost numb with pins and needles, she didn’t feel the arms tucked protectively around her. Her eyes traveled back across the sea of faces…Jack, Thor, Teal’c, Janet, Dana, Mulder, Sam…Where is he?
"My Angel?" Soft breath caressed her ear, even as she felt a gentle tug beneath her solar plexus.
Her head swiveled around to see wonderfully blue eyes looking back at her. There he is! Daniel; lover, soul mate, made life worth living… Ignoring the shooting pricks assaulting her limbs, Annika twisted sideways to cup his face in her hands and sought Daniel’s smiling lips. Now, THAT she could feel! Her love surged through their bond and was embraced eagerly at the other end. "Hello, My Love."
"Welcome back." His voice was thick with emotion.
"How’s that for a rabbit out of the hat?" She kissed him again.
"I told you there is always one hopping around." Daniel hugged her closer.
"I’ll take a wild stab in the dark and say Annika’s memory is intact." Jack’s quip reminded the couple that they weren’t alone.
"How do you feel?" Janet asked the relief evident in her voice.
Annika grimaced, flexing her fingers as her sense of touch returned to normal. "Like an electric eel."
The doctor grinned. "I’m not surprised. By my count you’ve absorbed three, possibly four, separate energy beams, not including the ribbon devices. What do you remember?"
She was tempted to teasingly say ‘Nothing’, but one look at her concerned friends had her stomping down on the impulse. "I remember Bes sucking out my memories. I saw him die, but by that time I had no concept of what was happening, who he was." Her body involuntarily shivered. "I saw the beam condense and backwash into me, then nothing."
"Intense trauma can cause blackouts…"
Annika interrupted the doctor. "That’s not what I mean. My mind was completely blank. I had no idea of where I was, or who or even what I was. There was no sense of identity, like I was floating in limbo with only this ball of light bouncing around my skull. Then I was surrounded by a presence…" She gently touched Daniel’s cheek. "In hindsight I’m assuming that was you. At the time I didn’t know what it was, but it made me feel safe, hopeful, not alone…I wasn’t going to let it go, so I latched on. There was a surge of power…"
"That must have been when Thor beamed you to his ship," Sam theorized.
"I guess," Annika shrugged. "I wasn’t aware of anything physical, all I knew was that the light began breaking up. When there was another burst of energy, I gripped it too. I didn’t know how it was doing it, but the power was merging the light with my mind. After that I could hear voices, but couldn’t distinguish any words. It wasn’t until Dana described us teasing Bes that I understood anything being said."
"Which reminds me," the colonel scolded. "We really have to discuss when to back off mocking a Goa’uld…" His voice broke off when he saw the incredulous looks from everyone else.
"Wouldn’t that be the pot calling the kettle black, sir?" Sam voiced the question they were all thinking.
"Anyway," Annika continued. "My memories started filtering through. I still couldn’t move physically but…" She crooked a finger and the now empty coffee pot rose in the air for a few seconds then settled back on the bedside table. "...My gift was fully intact. About the time Jack was whining about having no milk…"
"I don’t whine," the colonel spluttered.
"…I realized I needed one more jolt to my system." Annika reached out to grasp the Asgard’s hand. "Thank you for beaming down."
Thor seemed startled by the contact but then returned the light squeeze. "I am pleased I was able to assist your recovery."
Jack was the first to realize the significance of the gesture. "Hey, the shield is down."
"Shield?" Annika hadn’t a clue of what he was talking about.
Daniel explained what they had witnessed while she was unconscious. "You also have an interesting memento from fighting the hand devices."
At her questioning look Sam fetched a mirror.
Annika studied the lilac star decorating her forehead then ruefully commented, "Looks like I’ll always remember my first encounter with a Goa’uld."
Janet ordered everyone out of the room so she could fully examine Annika. Now that she was able, she wanted to make sure there were no residual side effects from the ribbon devices. When Daniel protested his eviction the doctor reminded them all that they had to report to the infirmary themselves anyway for their own post mission check ups.
"But this was an unofficial mission," Jack groused, his dislike of that particular protocol was well known.
Janet shooed him out of the room. "Then you can unofficially report to the infirmary."
Still grumbling the colonel left with the others.
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