SG-1 FIC: Uneasy Alliance Title: Uneasy Alliance Rating: G Warnings: None really Summary: SG-1 meets up with a band of children who are facing a serious problem. Author's Notes: Written for the Off-World Alphabet Soup Anthology sponsored by sg_fignewton, who also made some fantastic suggestions on how to fix a plot hole in the first draft of this story, as well as some typos and grammar mistakes... Whew! Thanks so much Fig!!
Something's wrong, Jack thought, as he slowly made his way through the woods. The world suddenly became silent, only the swish of the wind through the leaves that hung over them like a pall. The sounds of the forest seemed to just turn off. Jack stopped suddenly, holding his hand up to stop his team from taking another step, his instincts running on overdrive.
He turned slowly and scanned the area around them. Trees everywhere, dense and leafy, they provided a shady relief from the sun that had shone bright and hot on them before they followed the path that brought them deep into this place. But nothing else seemed out of place. Everything seemed normal.
Everything except for the deep silence that replaced the normal sounds of birds and chittering of small animals that lived here. A silence that sent an ominous chill down his spine.
He listened intently, straining his ears as his eyes continually roved over the landscape. Something was out there, there had to be.
"Colonel," a soft voice said just to his left. He turned to look at Carter, then followed her gaze to see what had caught her attention. Instinct caused him to raise his gun to aim it at a large dark shape rising up from the brush that lined the trail, but he held his fire, waiting to see if the shape was a friend or foe. It didn't always pay to shoot first and ask questions later ... well, not in all situations, anyway. He took a chance and glanced quickly at Carter, glad to see that she had turned slightly away from him to aim her gun at the trees to his left. He knew without looking that Teal'c and Daniel had done the same, forming a circle with their backs toward the center.
"Hold your ground," Jack said in a low growl. He didn't know how many were surrounding them, but he was going to find out before putting themselves in the middle of a war.
"Hey!" he yelled to the one he was facing. "We mean you no harm."
He waited, wondering if his words fell on deaf ears, or even if they were human ears. He had no idea what he was facing. Nothing, but silence again.
"This is not good," he said softly. He didn't get an answer, but then again, he wasn't expecting one. They stood at an impasse for a moment longer; then the one facing him suddenly jumped up and screeched in a high, shrill octave that nearly sent Jack and his team scampering. The air was suddenly filled with yells and high pitched screeches, seeming to come at him from all sides, and Jack figured now was as good a time as any. He pulled the trigger, hoping to stop an all-out attack and got a jolt of satisfaction when he heard a thump and the figure in front of him suddenly dropped back into the woods.
A few more shots rang out, but then the noise suddenly stopped, bringing on the silence again, except now there was a low, soft keening, a strange haunting sound that raised the hair on the back of his neck. He turned to scan the woods surrounding him, but they seemed to be alone again. The rest of the figures that had surrounded them were suddenly gone, leaving only that low keening sound that had changed into a singsong melody.
Jack tried to ignore the terror creeping up as he listened to the crooning. It was the eeriest thing he had ever heard in his life. Even worse was that it seemed as if the original crooner had gained company. The chorus grew and ebbed, and Jack wished they would stop already.
"I'm going to check it out," he said as softly as he could. Carter nodded, while Daniel turned his head to look at Jack. "Teal'c," Jack went on in case Daniel was going to start an argument. "You got my back?" Teal'c nodded, but Jack already knew the answer to that question and had turned to face the Captain. "Carter, I need you and Daniel to keep an eye out for the others. Cover me the best you can."
They both nodded, while Carter responded with the standard, "Yes sir."
He nodded back at them, trying to muster up his courage. No time like the present, Jack thought as he took a deep breath and turned to face the unknown. He moved slowly at first, his gun at the ready as he made his way toward the thing he shot. The keening grew louder, then stopped as he got closer. He stopped as well, listening hard to get an idea of what was out there. He turned back to make sure he was still within eyesight of his team, then took another step closer.
He could see the shape of a figure lying on the ground. It wasn't moving, but Jack waited a moment or two to make sure. He continued to scan the brush and foliage near the area in case there were others as he stepped even closer.
He heard something else then, a small snuffling sound, and he turned toward it, his gun aimed directly at a tree. There was a small head peeking out at him from behind the tree and Jack was shocked to see that the face was that of a child. The kid's eyes grew wide, then darted back to hide behind the tree again.
A kid, Jack thought with a renewed sense of shock. What was he doing out there?
He didn't have time to think though, because the keening started up again. Jack turned back to see another child, older than the first one, squatting in the brush, his hand held out as if reaching for something. Jack wasn't about to give that kid anything, so he waited, watching, wondering what the child was going to do next.
The kid stood up, his hand still reaching out, and Jack gripped his gun as he looked at the other hand. It seemed to be empty, but his survival all these years had depended on him being careful, and he wasn't going to stop now. He waited tensely as the child began to walk toward him and Jack could now see that it was a young man, who seemed to be about 13 or 14 years old. His dark hair was long and unkempt, and he looked like he was swaddled in an oversized shirt worn over a pair of loose fitting pants. The boy stopped and looked a little puzzled, but then came forward as he brought the other hand up to show Jack he wasn't holding anything.
Jack didn't buy it. He continued to watch the kid warily, waiting until he was within a few feet, then said, "Stop right there." The boy stopped, looking for all the world like he was wishing he hadn't ventured out like this. Jack could see the fright in the boy's expression, but surprisingly, the kid held his ground. He's brave, Jack thought with a touch of irony. He had to give him that.
He lowered his gun slowly, depending solely on his team to keep him safe now. He didn't slack up on his grip, though. This was just a kid, but Jack knew from experience that kids weren't always as innocent as society would like to believe. So he held onto his gun and tried to communicate.
"Hello," he said with a small smile. "My name is Jack O'Neill." The kid didn't move, just stood there while the keening in the background had turned into soft sobs. Jack had a sudden horrible thought that maybe he had shot a kid, but he squelched that thought and concentrated on the one standing in front of him.
"Do you understand me?"
The boy shook his head. Jack squinted at him for a moment, wondering if the boy was pulling his leg, then tried again. "We came here to talk to the adults." There was now some hissing sounds coming from his right, but Jack focused on the child in front of him. The kid was frowning and shaking his head, giving Jack the impression that he had said something stupid. Kids, he thought grumpily.
"Where are your parents?"
There was a loud moan from the brush and the sobbing stopped almost immediately. The kid standing in front of Jack turned to see what was going on, then looked back at Jack, indecision making him look younger than he first appeared. He clearly wanted to go check it out, but he stood his ground, staring at Jack.
"Your friend?" Jack asked, pointing toward the figure on the ground.
The boy nodded, his attention wavering between Jack and his friend. Jack smiled to himself. So the kid could understand him. He tried another track.
"Mind if I go look to see if I can help?"
The boy turned his full attention on Jack, and with wide eyes, shook his head vigorously. "No," he finally said. "Leave us alone."
"We won't hurt you or your friends anymore," Daniel said from behind Jack. "I promise. As long as you don't hurt us, we won't harm you."
The boy didn’t respond, just stared at Daniel. Jack could see he wanted to believe, but the evidence of what the strangers could do was lying on the ground moaning and groaning for all he was worth. Or maybe, it was all she was worth. Jack strained to get a better look and based on the features, he thought maybe the figure on the ground was female.
"Let us help your friend," Daniel said in a coaxing tone, still trying to get through to the boy. "Please. We can help."
The kid looked back at his friend, then at Daniel. Backing up a few steps, he motioned to Daniel to move forward. Jack took a step to go with him, but the kid got panicky and the others in the trees started their screeching and wailing. Jack stopped immediately, deciding to wait to see if they would let Daniel come through on his own. He wasn't sure why it seemed important to him to follow up on this, but he supposed it had something to do with the fact that a kid had come forward. Not many people would send their children out to face the danger alone.
Silence fell around them once again, giving Jack the confidence that he had made the right decision. He braced himself for an attack, just in case, but there really didn't seem to be any danger. Daniel walked over to the figure on the ground and began to speak to it in low tones. Jack left him to it. After all, Daniel always seemed to have a way with this stuff.
Daniel Jackson walked slowly and carefully toward the figure lying on the ground, grateful that the boy let him get this far. He was pretty sure the others hiding behind the trees were mostly children, if not all of them, and he was intrigued. Was this a game the children on this planet played? Was it a ritual they had to go through? What kind of traditions did the culture on this planet have that allowed their children to run wild in the forest?
His mind was racing over the various scenarios, already planning on what he would need to document this society's intricacies that made them unique, but then he turned his focus to the figure on the ground as he knelt down to see who Jack had shot.
The girl lying in the dirt looked to be about fourteen years old, maybe fifteen. Her dark hair was twisted in a single braid that lay next to her head, while she stared at him warily with wide eyes filled with tears. Daniel could see terror deep within the depth of her gaze, and that bothered him a little. "Don't worry," he said softly. "I won't hurt you, I promise."
She continued to stare at him through her tears, while two little children around six or seven huddled next to her head, their bodies trembling. Daniel didn't know if the trembling was from the cold, but he suspected it was more out of fright.
"It's okay," he said with a soft smile. "I'm going to try and take care of your friend here, okay?"
Two sets of bright blue eyes just stared at him and Daniel sighed. He turned his attention back to the girl on the ground and said quietly, "Are you hurt?" He reached to touch her arm, then hesitated when she pulled back from him. He waited for a moment while the girl worked through her fear, but she was really scared. He could see the hesitation in her eyes. "Just to see how bad it is," he coaxed. "That's all."
It took a minute, but she finally gave in and nodded. Daniel moved closer and went to work looking for signs of blood and gently moving her arms and legs to see if there was anything to indicate a wound. Her eyes were wide, and he could see she was frightened, but she still let him look. She whimpered slightly when he touched her left arm, then held up her right hand to quiet the little ones who were now stroking her hair and crooning in that strange rhythmic tone.
"Shush," she told the little ones. They quieted again, and Daniel took up the slack.
"My name is Daniel," he told her as he sat back, satisfied that she had not been hit by a bullet. "We didn't come here to hurt you."
He glanced up to smile at her as he talked, and saw the raised eyebrow that showed her skepticism.
Daniel got the point. "Sorry about that," he said with a small smile.
She didn't respond, which was okay with Daniel. "We should take you to a doctor," he told her. "Can we take you to a healer?"
The girl shook her head. "No," she said in a soft whisper. "No healer."
"We can take care of this, but I think you would be better off letting a healer..."
This was said with some force, so Daniel put his hands up as if in surrender, but before he could say anything to convince her to change her mind, Jack spoke up.
"Daniel? Everything okay?"
All three children looked around with terror in their eyes, so Daniel did what he could to try to calm them. "It's okay. He won't hurt you. I promise."
"He scared me," the girl said in an accusatory tone. She then looked a little ashamed as she added, "And I fell out of the tree."
"It's okay," Daniel said as he tried to hide his grin. "I won't tell anyone, I promise."
She shrugged, then winced. Daniel gave her an encouraging look, then said in a loud voice, "It's okay, Jack. It's just some kids."
One of the little kids jumped at the raised voice, and moved closer to the girl on the ground. She put her arm around him and said, "Go tell the others I'm fine and that they should go back to the hideaway. Rarick will stay with me so that we can find out why they are here, and we will be there soon." The children looked like they were going to argue, but the girl said. "Go do as I say. Leasie and Corin will keep you safe." The little ones looked at each other, then nodded and got up to leave. "Tell Leasie to close the hideaway until I get there."
The children moved away, but stopped when they heard a voice say, "You would have us just leave you here?" Daniel looked up to see that a boy about the same age as the girl moved into their little corner of the forest. "No. I won't."
"Yes you will," the girl snapped. "Go, Corin, and do as I say."
"What is going on here," Jack said from behind him.
"Daniel?" he heard Sam say. She came up to kneel down next to him and he saw her smile at the girl on the ground. The girl seemed somewhat surprised, but then gave Sam a timid smile.
"We're not leaving you here with them," Corin repeated stubbornly. "They're adults. Can't you see that?"
"Of course I can see that!" the girl snapped. "I'm not stupid."
"What's wrong with adults?" Jack wanted to know.
"Adults are stupid," Corin said with a look that said that everyone should already know that.
"I'm not stupid," Jack shot back.
"Jack," Daniel said wearily.
"Go do what I say," the girl on the ground said fiercely.
"You can't tell me what to do, Teann," Corin said in defiance. "I'll do what I want."
"You have to go and help Leasie," Teann told him. "She needs help."
"No I don't," said another girl who was about the same age as Teann. She had materialized from behind a tree not far from where they gathered. "He's always trying to be in charge, and he can't even build a fire."
"I can," Corin insisted. "You always get in the way."
"No I don't," said Leasie.
"Everyone, just stop," Jack said.
"Yes you do," Corin said, totally ignoring Jack.
"Stop it!" Jack said again, his voice louder this time.
"You can't tell me ..." Corin started to say, but Jack cut him off with a finger pointed straight at him.
"Shut it!" he said in a voice so loud it shut everyone up.
"Now," Jack said in a much calmer voice. "Let's do this rationally." Daniel couldn't help but grin while everyone else was now watching Jack. Corin still glared at the man, though. Jack glared back for a moment, then tried a more reasonable approach.
"Okay, let's start with something simple. Where are your parents?"
Sam Carter sat with the child on the ground as the Colonel tried valiantly to gain control of the situation. She had to smile at the way he finally got through to everyone. He and the child named Corin were a lot alike so it would be interesting to see who won this match. Knowing Colonel O'Neill as well as she did, Sam decided there was no contest. She'd put her money on him.
She smiled at Teann, glad to see that she was sitting up, albeit with a sheepish expression.
"Our parents are dead," she said in answer to O'Neill's question. The little ones who had been hanging close to Teann moved in closer, almost as if in a protective manner. Sam smiled at them and one of them, a little boy now that Sam got a good look at him, smiled back then shied away.
"All of them?" the Colonel asked as he looked around at the children. Apparently he thought these kids represented more than one family.
"Adults die before they get old enough," Corin said in an oddly strange voice. He had lost the bravado within the last few minutes and Sam had to wonder about that. What happened?
"Old enough for what?" Daniel asked.
Corin shrugged and looked away, suddenly not wanting to be a part of this conversation. Sam watched him for a moment, then turned back to Teann, who seemed to be at a complete loss. "Hey," Sam said softly. "What's wrong?"
Teann shrugged, then winced. Sam immediately brought her hand up to smooth back the dark strands of hair that lined the girls face. "It's okay," she soothed. "Try to relax."
"What happened to the adults?" Colonel O'Neill asked. He, too, had taken on a softer, more soothing voice, and Sam was glad he took the effort to reach them in a different way.
"They died." This came from the boy who had been the one to come out with his hands stretched outward.
"Rarick," the girl named Leasie said in a quiet yet pointed tone.
Rarick ignored her. "They all die when they become of age," he said defiantly. He looked around at the children and said, "We all will."
"Shut up!" Corin suddenly shouted, his bravado apparently back in full strength. He glared at his friend, then growled, "Don't say that!"
"Why not? It's true."
"No, it isn't!" Corin had become so red in the face that Sam worried for him a little. Did little kids have heart attacks?
"Stop it!" the Colonel yelled again, this time with his finger pointed at Rarick. "Both of you just stop it!"
Both children quieted down for a moment, but then Rarick said softly, "It's still true."
Not to be outdone, Corin nearly screamed at his friend, "You're a liar!"
"Hey," Colonel O'Neill said, his finger now pointing at Corin. "What'd I say to you?"
Both boys quieted down again, albeit a bit reluctantly. The Colonel gave them one more look, then tried again. "Let's do this without the shouting, fighting, or dramatics, shall we?" He looked over his audience, glaring in particular at Corin, then went on. "We need to talk to some adults. If there are none, as you say, then we'll keep going until we do find one." The two boys looked skeptical, but Colonel O'Neill was not to be deterred. "I can't believe that on a planet this size, there is not one adult." He glanced around at the kids once more than said. "Anyone?"
Teal'c stared at the children and wondered when the next outburst would occur. It had been his experience that many human children shared the same impulsive characteristics that shaped their futures and brought on fights and squabbles that held no consequence to the issue at hand. O'Neill seemed to have them under control at the moment, but Teal'c wondered if their impetuous behavior would have them arguing again.
He watched as the children squirmed and tried to find a way to avoid the question. He shook his head slightly as he thought how different these children were from those of the Jaffa.
Still, he waited patiently while O'Neill tried again. "Come on, there has to be an adult somewhere on this rock."
The children stayed quiet. The child named Corin stood with his back partially turned away from O'Neill, trying hard not to cry. Teal'c was surprised to see the moisture in the boy's eyes. He had seemed to be very ... Teal'c tried to think of a word that would fit. Strong, he decided. The child appeared to be strong, yet there were tears in his eyes.
Never judge a book by its cover, he remembered O'Neill saying to him during his early stay at the SGC. This situation seemed to fit that adage very well.
O'Neill took another look around, then said, "Look ..."
"Maybe you can talk to Shrana," the girl named Leasie said. "She can tell you what it's like."
"No!" Corin shouted again. But it seemed that he was done fighting. "No," he said again, much quieter.
But his denial came too late. O'Neill turned to Leasie and said, "Who is Shrana? Can you take us to her?"
Teal'c didn't pay much attention to the girl. Instead, he watched the boy named Corin. He sank down to the ground to sit crossed-legged, then lowered his head as if in defeat. It was odd behavior for a child of that age, and more so for a child who appeared to want to be the best in everything. Teal'c wondered at the strangeness as Leasie went on to explain.
"She is of age and she is dying. Maybe she can tell you more."
O'Neill nodded. "Let's go, then," he said with a clap of his hands. He turned to the others, then lost the smile on his face as he saw Corin on the ground.
"Hey," he said with a renewed grin. "What's up?" No response, but Jack was insistent. "Come on. Let's go."
Corin didn't move. He just sat there for a moment, then without looking up, he said in a very small voice. "Shrana is my sister."
Some kids can be such a pain in the neck, Jack thought wearily. But for every aggravating kid, there was always a deeper reason for the behavior, and sometimes that reason can be devastating. Jack tried to ignore it, but the defeat and anguish in Corin's voice nearly broke his heart.
"Hey," he said softly to Corin. He reached down to tug him by the arm and said, "Come on. Let's go. Maybe we can save her."
Corin got up, although it was more out of an automatic mode than anything. Still, Jack could see that the kid's heart wasn't in being the tough guy anymore and that bothered him a little. "Come on," he said again in an encouraging tone. "We'll do what we can."
"No one can help her," Leasie said quietly. "She will die, just like the others."
"Give us a chance," Carter told her, as she stood up and brushed the dirt from her pants. "We've helped other people before. Maybe we can do it this time."
The children all looked skeptical, but they seemed willing to lead the way, so Jack jumped on the opportunity before they changed their minds. He went over to Teann to help Daniel get her to her feet as the smallest children took off toward the woods, seeming to lead the way.
He glanced at Teal'c, who nodded in silent agreement to watch their backs, then turned to follow the little ones.
They walked through dense woods, following a path that led them away from the Stargate. The path they followed turned into a trail that was barely noticeable, yet Jack could see that it was well traveled. The woods seemed to get darker as they went, then cleared up almost immediately as they came into a small clearing surrounded by woods on all sides. The little ones stopped and looked back at them, while Leasie and Rarick rushed past them all, running and doing cartwheels, as if they were in a competition.
Kids, Jack thought as he watched them play. Somber and scared one minute, then goofing off the next. They seemed to feel safe here, even if they were in clear view of anyone who happened by. Jack couldn't help but wonder if they felt safe because there might be some adults around.
"Is this your home?" he heard Daniel say. "Is this where Shrana lives?"
There was that eerie silence again, Jack thought, as all the kids seemed to shut down. No one spoke. They just stood and stared at the adults in the group with wide eyes, almost as if they had committed some crime.
"What?" Daniel asked as he looked from one person to the next. "What did I do?"
"I will take you to her," Teann said, having decided to follow through on her earlier plan. She moved away from Jack and looked straight at Corin. "Maybe they can help."
Corin shook his head, but he didn't say anything. But the glare was back and Jack couldn't help but grin when he saw it. There was still a spark in that kid after all.
"This way," Teann said. She walked past Jack and led the way to a log that had been a left over from a storm some time ago, stepped up on it, and then disappeared.
Jack stared at the log in disbelief, not quite sure what happened, but knew that there had to be a logical explanation. He studied the log then watched as Rarick got up on the log, gave them a wide grin, then followed his friend in the same fashion.
"That's it," he said, having decided to find out what's going on. "Carter, you're with me. Teal'c, Daniel, stay out here and keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary."
"Wait a minute Jack, you need me in there," Daniel said, but Jack cut him off.
"No. I don't."
"Yes. You do," Daniel insisted.
Jack stared at him for a moment, knowing deep down that he could do this on his own, but then decided Daniel may be an asset after all. The kids did seem to trust him. "Teal'c?" he said with a glance at the big guy.
"I have no need to go in, O'Neill," came the response.
Jack nodded and indicated with his head that Daniel should go first. Apparently, Teal'c knew Daniel as well as Jack did.
Stepping up on the log was the easy part, Daniel discovered. Sliding down a steep incline, however, took some getting used to. He went down fast, then slowed when the incline leveled out. He landed on his rear at the bottom. Trying to ignore the pain, he groaned a little as he stood, then fell forward and hit the ground again when someone slid right into him.
"Whoops," he heard Jack's voice from behind him. "Get out of the way next time."
Daniel just grunted as he stood up again, this time much quicker to avoid Sam's descent. He got his bearings then looked around with amazement. He was in what looked like an underground village. There were rooms, with windows and doorways, built into the sides of the cave, a communal fire pit in the center, hammocks strung up in various places, and torches along the wall in ornate iron handles. One wall had what looked like chalk drawings that were clearly made by children, and there were even a few rugs scattered around the pit. Daniel took it all in with a fascinated interest. He felt like he had landed in a gold mine.
"Wow," Sam said as she came to stand next to him.
"Yeah," Daniel agreed with a great deal of enthusiasm.
"Cool," Jack said from his left.
"We shouldn't have brought them here." This came from Corin, who shoved his way past Daniel and strode up to where Teann stood next to the fire pit. "You don't even know them."
"Maybe they can help us," Teann said defensively.
Corin apparently wasn't buying it. "What if they can't?"
"Hey," Jack said to interrupt another argument. "It's too late. We're here now, so why don't we just meet this Sharon person and see if we can help?"
"Shrana," Daniel said in a side whisper, for all the good that would do.
Jack nodded and turned to Teann, who Daniel had deemed was in charge. Apparently, Jack agreed.
"Will you take us to her?" he asked.
They were led into one of the rooms and Daniel was surprised at how big it was. The walls inside this room were bare and the room was sparsely furnished, yet there were plenty of signs that it was a well-used room. Two roughly made mattresses with coverings and blankets were placed along opposite walls, and there were dishes set up on a small table at the other end of the room. Daniel found himself automatically cataloging the items for documenting when he got the time, even as he noticed the girl in in one of the beds.
Sam didn't hesitate. She went directly to the bed and knelt next to it. "Hello," she said with a small smile. "My name is Sam. Are you Shrana?" The girl nodded, then coughed. Daniel took in her appearance and began to worry that maybe they should have been a little more cautious before entering the room. She was definitely sick; her eyes were sunken and dulled by the illness, whatever it was, and her skin seemed to be almost translucent in the dim interior of the room.
"Everyone gets sick when they become adults," Leasie said quietly. She stood next to the mattress and looked down at her friend with a resigned expression. The attitude bothered Daniel. No child should have that much acceptance of a fate destined to be short lived. She shook his sadly as she said, "Everyone."
"She's burning up," Sam said from her position near the mattress. "And her breathing is shallow." She looked at Jack and added, "We really should get a medical team out here."
Daniel nodded in agreement as Jack said, "Yeah. I can see that." He looked around at the others who crowded in the room, then said, "Carter, take Teal'c and head back to the Gate to send a message to Hammond. Tell him we need a medical team out here with hazmats, and whatever else they're going to need."
"Yes, sir," Sam responded dutifully.
"Daniel," Jack continued. "I know what you want." Daniel gave him a quizzical look, then grinned when Jack added, "You stay here and do what you do best. I'll stand guard outside."
"It's an unusual form of an autoimmune disease," Doc Fraiser said as they stood outside the hidden village. She and her team had arrived within an hour of the request and they spent nearly a day and a half running tests on every child they could find.
Jack grimaced at her, wondering if she was going to go into an in-depth discussion of the disease. Even though he was interested and probably needed to know what was going on, he was just as happy not to have to hear the gory details.
"It's not something we've ever had to deal with on Earth," she said, completely unaware that Jack was gearing up to hear all about it anyway, "But it is definitely a unique form of the disease."
"Is there a cure?" Daniel wanted to know.
"And can it be prevented for the rest of the children?" This came from Carter, who was holding hands with one of the littlest kids. She looked down and smiled at the child before looking back at the Doc. "Is there anything we can do to keep them alive for years to come?"
"Actually, there is," the Doc said. She then nodded at Daniel. "To both questions." She went on to tell them all about it - something about missing nutrients and supplements - but Jack barely heard her. His attention had been drawn to a boy who had his back to a tree, glaring at them.
Jack figured he knew what was going on in that kid's mind. At least he thought he did. Fear, distrust, anger, hope ... Corin had to be fighting the urge to believe that things would change, despite Daniel and Sam's encouragement that he do so.
Jack supposed it wouldn't hurt if he tried his own brand of encouragement.
He walked over and stopped a few feet away, not wanting to scare him. Corin held his ground, but the glare told Jack that trust was a long way off.
"Your sister is going to get better," Jack told him with a level expression. "And the Doc over there knows what needs to be done to keep you all healthy until you are as old as me."
Corin grunted, but the look in his eyes as he glanced over at the doctor betrayed his attitude. Jack could see that he really did want to believe.
"Shrana was little when my mother died," Corin said as he watched the group of adults talk. "She never let anyone hurt me, or ..." he stopped for a moment then, and Jack waited. He understood the pain and the fear all too well.
Corin looked at Jack for a moment, then turned away to study the trees in the distance. "I promised her that I wouldn't let her get sick," he said with a small sob.
Hence the anger and bitterness, Jack thought as he reached out and put his hand on Corin's shoulder. Corin didn't pull away, which surprised Jack for a moment, then he pulled the kid into a hug, holding him tightly as the boy broke down and cried.
"She's going to be okay," Jack finally said. "She's going to be glad that you brought us here to save her."
Corin stiffened for a moment, then pulled back to stare at Jack. Tears still streaked down his cheeks as he shook his head. "I didn't …"
"Yeah, and you didn't try to stop us from letting the Doc and her people find out what's wrong with her either. Good thing, because if you had, we wouldn't have found the medications she's going to need to get better."
Corin's expression slowly changed as he processed Jack's words. There was a renewed sense of hope in the boy's eyes. Jack grinned at him. Just a little more, he decided. "She's going to be glad that you were here to help her."
Corin gave him a shaky smile, and he nodded his head, apparently ready to believe that he had come through on that promise he had made to his sister.
"She's going to get better and will be up and around before you know it," Jack told him with as much confidence as he could muster. "And you'll be back to taking care of her again."
Corin nodded again, his attention back on the trees. Jack could see he was working on something in his mind, but was still surprised when Corin turned back to him and said, "Thank you."
"Hey, no problem," Jack said with a broad grin. He clapped his hand on the boy's shoulder and added, "Come on. Let's go see what we have to do to make sure no one else gets sick!"