Wait for that wisest of all counselors, Time. — Pericles (490 BC – 429 BC), from Plutarch, Lives


13 August 0725 hours

“So you’ll go and check out this planet Hammond’s got scheduled, and you’ll probably be back in time for dinner.” Ferretti shrugged. “Piece of cake. The way it’s raining on P2A-870 this morning, it isn’t like we could probably go there this afternoon anyway.”

O’Neill scowled at his bootlace, saying nothing as he pretended to work out a knot. He knew Ferretti’s light tone was meant to reassure, but right now everything was getting on his nerves. Hammond had a point about needing to keep the top brass in Washington happy, but that didn’t mean he had to like it.

“Jack, you know me and the guys will stay right here on base the whole time you’re gone. The minute you get back, if Hammond says ‘Go’, we’re all gonna go find the colonel.”

O’Neill gave the bootlace a savage jerk and finished tying it. “I know that, Lou. I also know when I’m being given busywork, and that is exactly what this feels like.”

Ferretti shook his head. “I can’t say I blame you there,” he acknowledged. “But what else can you do?”

The maddening thing was that Ferretti was right. “It still sucks.”

“Sure it sucks. Tell me something about all of this that doesn’t suck.” Ferretti clapped him on the shoulder. “Look, you go find me some more of that crazy pink grass or something. We’ll hold down the fort while you’re gone, okay?”




Cromwell swallowed. Seen up close, the al’kesh was an imposing vessel. Even in this underground hangar, its sleek lines hinted of deadly potential. He’d felt that power under his command these past three hours, as Sabar guided him through another training flight in this, the largest craft in the Tok’bel fleet. Accounting for the difference in length-width ratio, it rivaled the C-130. “You know, there are times I still can’t believe I’m flying something this big.”

{“You’re doing quite well at piloting a vessel of this size, Neirin.”} Sabar clapped him on the shoulder, smiling. Cromwell sometimes wondered about the familiar gestures the Tok’bel leader used. With which of the pair had they originated? After all, Cadogan used them too.

He turned the thought aside to focus on more immediate matters. “Thank you. I won’t say it was easy the first time I tried it, but it’s getting easier. I’ll need to keep practicing if I want to have any hope of being able to handle a ha’tak, though.” If the al’kesh was big, the ha’tak was enormous — nearly half a mile across. The Tok’bel tech specialist Garlen, true to his word, had managed to build a simulator of the giant ship’s controls, but no matter how much time Cromwell spent using it there was just no real substitute for actually maneuvering in space.

Together, they turned and made their way toward the tunnel that would lead them back to the heart of Caer Ynys. As if reading his most recent thoughts, Sabar asked, {“How comfortable do you feel with the simulator?”}

Cromwell snorted. “I’d better plan to get a lot more flight time in, that’s for sure. I have to admit I’m glad we’ve gained some breathing room from that accident at the shipyard.”

Sabar palmed the control for the airlock the Tok’bel kept in place as a precaution should something damage the hangar’s egress and breach the forcefield that held its atmosphere within. As the door slid aside he gestured for Cromwell to precede him into the chamber. {“Agreed,”} he said as he joined the colonel and touched the control panel again. {“We’re looking at late summer, earliest. Think you’ll be ready by then? If not, you know I originally had planned to pilot that vessel myself. I can always lead one of the teams and — “}

Cromwell shook his head and palmed the lock’s inner door open. “We can’t risk you.” They entered the long tunnel that sloped gently downward to the rest of the base, booted feet echoing from the crystalline structure that surrounded them. “I’ll be ready.”




13 August 0815 hours

Hammond turned from the observation window as the wormhole sizzled out of existence within the Stargate’s ring. Seeing SG-1 off on their recon mission to P3W-924 had given even him mixed feelings. O’Neill’s irritation had been palpable, and the general had noted Major Ferretti watching quietly from a far corner of the Gate Room. The major was likely there to lend moral support, but he and his men really should be taking advantage of their downtime to get some needed rest before — hopefully — being sent off on a search-and-rescue once SG-1 returned.

He wasn’t going to say anything, however. In Ferretti’s shoes, Hammond knew he’d probably do the same thing. He mounted the spiral stairs and snagged a fresh cup of coffee from the Briefing Room’s always-ready pot on the way to his office. Settling in at his desk, he surveyed the day’s allotment of paperwork. Getting back up to speed after the loss of two weeks involved more than just catching up on the survey schedule. The military operated on a steady diet of dead trees and multiplicate reports, an inordinate supply of which had found their way to his in-basket over the past several days. He shook his head and got to work.

It seemed he’d barely made it through a third of his coffee when the klaxon blared, announcing an unscheduled offworld activation of the gate. He was halfway down the spiral staircase when he heard Simmons announce, “We’re getting SG-1’s code, sir.”

“Open the iris,” Hammond ordered. The trinium-alloy panels retracted, and soon the team emerged from the rippling event horizon. Teal’c carried a limp figure whose straggle of long white hair indicated advanced age.

There was no telling what SG-1 might have found in the scant quarter-hour they’d been gone, but it had obviously been sufficient to make them return posthaste and with company. Hammond grabbed the microphone. “Medical team to the Embarkation Room.”




Cromwell woke in the pale light of dawn to the patter of sleet against the cottage windows. Third straight day of this weather, he groaned inwardly, burying his face briefly in the pillow. This late in winter, periods of rain alternated with snowfall, turning the ground to slushy mud that frequently refroze when the temperature dipped at night.

“Nye?” Tesni’s voice, close by his ear. He could feel the warmth of her body as she snuggled next to him, and the curve of her belly now nearly seven months with child. A moment later he felt a kick in the small of his back. Little early to be practicing for soccer tryouts, kiddo.

“Oof,” breathed Tesni. “Someone’s certainly awake.”

“So I noticed.” Cromwell shifted, stretching. His hands met chill air as they left the shelter of the covers. “I’ll go and take care the fire while you stay put until it warms up a bit in here.”

In woolen robe and house-slippers, he padded to the cottage’s main room. It was a relatively simple matter to poke at the embers of the banked fire and bring it back to life, then feed the renewed flames with wood until he achieved a cheery blaze. Warmth radiated from the fireplace within a few short minutes, but he noticed that his hands were still chilled as he swung the kettle-bar over the flames to heat water for tea. His throat was scratchy too, he realized. Damned inconvenient time to come down with a cold. I’ve got at least a dozen different things to accomplish this week, and no time to be sick.

Tesni joined him as he was pouring hot water into the teapot. She set out bread and cheese on the table, then took a tin canister from the cupboard. “I think it’s a good day for some hot porridge, don’t you?”

Cromwell coughed before answering. “I won’t say no.”

His wife’s expression grew concerned. “Hmmm. The sound of that cough… ” Her hand was cool as she felt his forehead. “You have a fever. You’ve probably caught that cold that’s been making the rounds.” In the past two weeks a number of the local populace had endured the sniffles, and a few of the younger children had broken out in a rash that had kept Rhun, the local healer, busy with lotions and poultices. Cromwell remembered having had chicken pox when he was six, and could sympathize with them. Still, he knew it was best to get that out of the way at a young age. At least the adults were only coughing.

“Not much of a surprise, I suppose.” He wasn’t often ill, and he’d contracted a cold perhaps twice since arriving on this world. Generally he found that if he just set his mind to ignoring the discomfort, they passed within a couple of days or so. “I’ll be all right.”

As the day wore on, however, the symptoms grew worse rather than better. By evening he admitted to himself that this felt more like the flu than a simple cold. After he and Tesni shared a light supper, he pled fatigue and went to bed, fortified by a tea brewed from willow bark and slippery elm — Tesni’s ready remedy for such maladies.

He awoke to daylight, vaguely aware that it felt much later than his usual time of rising. Full daylight seeped around the window’s drawn curtains, and he heard Tesni moving around in the next room. His throat felt like it was on fire, and the rest of his body seemed to have followed suit. He was undeniably feverish, and more than a little achy. Definitely flu, or something equally unpleasant.

Tesni entered, carrying a basin and cloth. “Oh, you’re awake? Good.” She dipped the cloth into the basin, squeezed it out, and placed it against his forehead. It was blessedly cool and smelled vaguely of witch hazel, just as his mother and grandmother had used when he’d had fevers as a child. “Rhun should be here soon to see you.”

“I doubt there’s much I need him for,” Cromwell protested. “I’ll admit I don’t feel well at all, but I’ve had this kind of fever before. I’ll be all right in a couple of days if I just rest and ride it out.”

She shook her head. “Neirin, I don’t think you’ve had this before, or you wouldn’t be having it now.”

“It’s just a fever and cough, with a few aches. I’m good.”

“Oh for… Look!” Tesni grabbed his hand and waved it before his eyes. It was covered in small red spots.

Cromwell groaned at the sight. “If this is what it looks like, I had it when I was six years old. I shouldn’t have been able to get it again.”

“There are more than one kind of pox, you know,” she replied, rewetting the cloth. “Two of them will keep you from getting any of the others, but if the one you’ve had isn’t one of those… ”

He cut her off. “I’ve had one type, and been — ” how do you translate ‘vaccinated’ into Pridanic? ” — I was given a treatment on my homeworld that prevents the others.”

She arched an eyebrow at him. “For your entire life?”

“It should. This must be something different that we don’t have back home.” He was seized by a fresh thought. “You probably shouldn’t be anywhere near me, given you’re with child. It could be dangerous.”

Tesni shook her head. “I’m perfectly safe, and so is the baby. This looks every bit like rose fever, and I had that when I was eight. If you’ve had rose fever you can’t get any other pox, so you needn’t worry.”

A knock at the door interrupted them. Tesni excused herself to answer it, and a moment later ushered a tall, spare figure into the bedroom. Rhun set a large leather satchel on the dresser, then moved to lean over the bed. “So, Neirin, let’s see what we can do for you.”

The healer quickly assessed the colonel’s condition, examining his skin and eyes, and the lining of his mouth and throat. He drew a curious trumpet-shaped tube about a foot long from his bag and placed its bell against Cromwell’s chest while holding its other end to his ear. So that’s the local version of a stethoscope, the colonel mused as Rhun listened to his heart.

“Deep breath, please.”.

The inhalation turned quickly into a bout of coughing, and Rhun withdrew the instrument. “As I expected,” he said. “You’ve contracted rose fever, and what sounds like a chest cold along with it. The cold is going around everyone, but I’ll admit I’m surprised you’ve also caught the spots. Most people have this when they’re young, before their teens. I gather you didn’t?”

Cromwell shook his head. “I thought I had, but it must have been a different ailment. One set of spots looked like any other to me when I was a boy. I only remember they weren’t much fun.”

Rhun chuckled as he washed his hands in the basin Tesni brought. “I imagine not. At any rate, you’ll live. I’ll give you some lotion to keep any itching at bay, and willow-bark tea should help with that fever. Beyond that, all you can really do is rest. Three or four days in bed should do, and another three lying low at home.”

“I don’t have that kind of time to lie around,” said Cromwell, pushing himself upright in bed. Tesni moved to his side and laid a hand on his shoulder, but he shrugged it off. “I’m a busy man.”

“You’re a sick man,” Rhun countered. “Rest is the only cure for this. Get some.”




13  August 1143 hours

This just keeps getting better. Hammond resisted the urge to swear as he turned away from the infirmary door. It wasn’t enough that Doctor Jackson now occupied a bed there, trapped in the frail body of the elderly man SG-1 had encountered on P3W-924, but the team’s second foray hadn’t brought them any closer to a solution. Teal’c and O’Neill had accidentally swapped bodies, courtesy of the same alien device that had caused Jackson’s predicament. Captain Carter was examining the machine in her lab, using the colonel and Teal’c as subjects in her quest to learn how to make it reverse the process. Meanwhile, Ma’chello — its creator — was at large somewhere in the Springs, wearing Doctor Jackson’s body. At least Hammond hoped he was still in town.

“Sir?” Fraiser’s voice, behind him. The general turned to find her standing just outside her office. “I’m doing the best I can for Daniel. When Ma’chello is located and brought in, we’ll find out how to reverse the exchanges.”

If he’s found in time,” Hammond said, just a bit more harshly than he’d intended.

“Right now, sir, it’s the only hope Daniel has.” Fraiser assessed him with a look. “In the meantime, is there anything I can do for you?”

Only if you can turn back time, Doctor. Aloud, he said, “No, Doctor Fraiser. As you said, all we can do is wait.”