Things That Go Bump
by Kathryn A
Spoilers: set after "Show and Tell"
Author's notes at end of last chapter.
Daniel shot out of his office like an energizer bunny looking for something to bash. He looked up and down the corridor and spotted Jack.
"Jack! Have you seen anyone?"
"Well, I saw the President back in '73..."
Daniel's face crinkled up in annoyance. "No," he said sharply. "Did you see anyone," he said, slowly and clearly, "coming out of my office, just now, into this corridor, down which you are currently walking?"
"I'm not walking down it now," Jack said.
Daniel glared at him.
"No, I haven't seen anyone," Jack said. "Just you."
"Are you absolutely certain?"
"Yes, I'm absolutely certain," Jack returned. "What happened?"
"Someone smashed the vase I was working on," Daniel said.
Jack poked his head in the door. Sure enough, there were fragments of mud-coloured crockery all over the floor, with darker markings which Daniel had been trying to decipher all week. "You've got some special pot-glue, don't you?"
"It's not funny, Jack," Daniel said. "It was a priceless artefact!"
"It was a pot with pictures on it," Jack said.
"Which somebody smashed," Daniel said.
"Somebody you didn't see and wasn't there," Jack said.
"I heard the crash," Daniel said.
"Look, you probably just put it down on the edge of something, and it tipped over by itself," Jack said.
"I was not careless," Daniel said, and sneezed.
"Perhaps you just sneezed," Jack said.
"Gentlemen!" an unexpected voice intruded. They had been so busy arguing they hadn't noticed General Hammond approach. "What's going on?"
"I just went to get some coffee," Daniel said, "and as I was walking down the corridor towards my office, I heard this crash from my office, and I rushed to the door and the pseudo-Mycenaean vase from P3X455 was smashed on the floor. But there was nobody there, and I didn't see anybody leaving, either. And neither did Jack."
Hammond frowned. "Colonel?"
"Didn't see a soul," Jack said. "But we do have a smashed pot."
"We will continue this discussion in my office," Hammond said.
"It was just a --" Jack began.
"That was not a suggestion, Colonel."
Hammond's office looked like the aftermath of a hurricane. Jack wondered if one of Daniel's weather deities had escaped. Papers were scattered everywhere, in a cascade from the desk to the floor. The globe was lying on the floor, spinning slightly. Maybe it was a curse as a result of the broken pot. Better not mention that to Daniel though, or he'd spend the next half hour explaining to Jack what the pot actually said on it.
Jack caught a sudden movement in the corner of his eye, a grey streak, but when he looked, there was nothing to be seen.
"What the --" Jack exclaimed.
Hammond stared grimly. "I think that confirms it. We have a Reetou on the base."
Daniel sneezed. "It could be just a coincidence," he ventured.
"Once is chance, twice is coincidence..." Jack began.
"Three times is enemy action," Hammond finished. "Captain Carter had one of her experiments interfered with, and I have three people lying unconscious in the infirmary with toxic shock."
"Ah," said Jack.
"Since Teal'c is offworld..." Hammond began.
"We can't get any warning-cramps from Junior," Jack finished.
"I'm putting the base on alert," Hammond said. "Divide into teams, use the Tok'ra devices to determine if there are any Reetou hiding on the base."
Sam sighed. It was like searching for a gnat with a pocket-torch. True, these were very large gnats, but sweeping the Reetou-detectors back and forth would only work if the whole base was locked down so that any hidden Reetou would have nowhere to go.
She started mentally drawing diagrams of a system which would be more efficient. Could they hook up detectors alongside the lighting system? What kind of coverage would that give? How much power would that take? Of course it was all academic, because they didn't know how the devices worked, and Hammond had forbidden her to take one apart because they didn't have enough to go experimenting with.
Jack tapped her on the shoulder, and she jumped.
"Going dreamy on me?" he asked. "I thought that was Daniel's speciality."
"Just cursing limited resources, sir."
They kept on sweeping.
Hammond glanced around the briefing room. "Dr. Frasier, do we have any more victims?"
"Two more, I'm afraid."
"Well, the cook says some of his chicken thighs have vanished, but it might just be a peckish airman."
"The sweep came up clean, sir."
Hammond turned to Teal'c, who had been recalled from offworld. "Teal'c?"
"My symbiont has not detected the presence of Reetou," Teal'c said. "It remains undisturbed."
"Fine, so we have an invisible intruder who isn't a Reetou," Jack said, leaning back in his seat.
"I agree," Dr. Frasier said. "This... malady isn't consistent with what we know about the Reetou. If it weren't for the other incidents, I would conclude we're dealing with some sort of toxin or allergen. The symptoms mirror those of anaphylactic shock: rapid pulse, unconsciousness, obstructed airflow, cyanosis, rashes, nausea, diarrhoea, cramps, confusion and slurred speech. Treating with adrenaline helps somewhat, but only to a degree."
"So it isn't a disease?" Hammond asked.
Janet Frasier shook her head. "The symptoms don't match, and the incubation period isn't right," she said. "Lt. Jones was last offworld two weeks ago, and Dr. Radai just joined us three days ago, and hasn't been offworld at all, yet he collapsed only a few hours after Lt. Jones. But until we find the vector for this thing, I'm recommending quarantine."
"An invisible intruder with poison darts?" Jack suggested.
"Are we certain that it's invisible?" Sam said.
"Well, nobody saw anything," Jack said. "That kinda says 'invisible' to me."
"Only because we were expecting Reetou," Sam said.
Jack stared at the ceiling of his quarters and sighed. Quarantine sucked. But until they solved the invisible intruder problem, nobody was allowed in or out. What he wouldn't give for his own roof, a crisp clear night, and his telescope. Just him and the Pleiades, and maybe a nice cold beer.
A bit of cobweb fluttered in the corner of the ceiling, and a long-legged spider clung hopefully nearby.
"You're not long for this world, my friend," Jack murmured. Here we are, in the most top-secret base in America, well below ground, and we can't even keep spiders out. Spiders and cockroaches. And invisible alien intruders.
He sighed again, and sat up. He'd get up and bug Carter, she was probably awake. He got dressed, then sat down on the edge of his bed to put on his boots.
His toe touched something in the bottom of his boot.
"Faugh!" Reflexes born of too much time in Iraq had his vulnerable feet up on his bed, the suspect boot held shut, and the other boot held poised ready to squash whatever ugly critter was making its uninvited home in his footwear. He tipped up the suspect boot. Something fell out all right, but it wasn't a scorpion. Jack gawked at it.
Then he started to smile.
First he went to the cook, to requisition certain supplies. Then he went to the stores, to requisition certain other supplies. He baited his trap, then lay on his bed, face down, feigning sleep.
Then he waited.