Author Topic: Chapter 10  (Read 5688 times)

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Offline Daen

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Chapter 10
« on: July 29, 2022, 04:31:39 AM »
"For the fourth time, the well-water is perfectly safe to drink, now. You don't need to go to the river anymore!" Argyros kept his voice as friendly as possible, inwardly wincing at effort. The Havin local jabbered on in his native dialect, apparently continuing to not hear a word he'd said. It was like talking to a tree stump.

He'd been trying for weeks to convince these primitives that they didn't need to keep on killing themselves drinking contaminated water, not since he'd purged the town's well of harmful organisms. Unfortunately, they'd gotten it into their heads that the well was cursed, and insisted on drinking from the nearby river, a source too large for him to purge effectively. Every time he'd left, they'd been using the well, and every time he returned, back to the river. Superstitions were far more resilient than energy shields, he'd found, especially in primitive societies. It didn't help that despite the thatched roof and sturdy wooden walls of the trade house, he was sweltering in the midday heat.

He looked up as the door opened, and whispered a prayer of thanks to the Hesperides for the distraction as a young woman poked her head inside. "Maester Argyros?"

"Come in, Kaota. What is it?" He beckoned her in.

"Visitors for you, Maester, from Beyond." She continued, her accent mangling the words slightly. The younger Havins had picked up his language quickly, naturally, but they all spoke an obscure form of Goa'uld, and his translation program had difficulty keeping up. Yet another reason he hated coming to this planet.

"Send them in." He gestured casually, and then his breath caught in his throat.

One of the visitors was Suna, and by his dress, the other was a tau'ri, tall and dark-haired. Covering his surprise, he smiled widely at them and spread his arms. "Suna, my dear! Do come in! Kaota, please give us the room, and arrange to bring in some tea." She nodded meekly and escorted the elder Havin, still jabbering away, from the room.

Suna hid her surprise well, until they'd gone, and then stared at him. "You know me?"

"I saw you and another tau'ri friend of yours in front of a crowd on Zau, not long ago. It wasn't hard to find out more about you." He pulled a chair for himself and sat, gesturing to the others. "What can I do for you?"

They looked at each other, and neither sat down. The tau'ri opened his mouth, but Suna spoke first. "A sickness has struck our people, and from what the Elder told me, your pact with the Zau binds you to heal them. We'll need you to come with us right away, as time is of the essence." The tau'ri gaped at her for a second.

Argyros wished he weren't sweating; it made him look nervous. "I'm afraid you're a bit behind the times, my dear. Last I heard, you and your… 'deserters' I believe the Elder called you, were stripped of the Zau name. The pact doesn't bind me to you any more than it binds me to him." He looked at the tau'ri, pretending to think about her situation. In truth, this was exactly the opportunity he'd wanted.

Suna seemed taken aback.

"I'm Colonel Marcus, in charge of the Survivors." The tall man finally introduced himself. "From what Suna and others have told me, you could help us a great deal. I think we have a lot we could offer in exchange, if you'd be willing." He looked worried. "We spent nearly a day trying to track you down, and I don't know how deadly, or virulent, this disease is. By now, my people could be dying off. Please, will you help us?"

Argyros gave it a few more seconds, and then abruptly came to his feet. He walked around the table, and reached out to Marcus. "Your arm, please."

He looked confused, but slowly raised his left arm. They must truly be desperate. Argyros thought as he removed a diagnostic band from his pack, and snapped it around the tau'ri's wrist. He pulled up his own wrist display, and began scanning. When he repeated the process with Suna, he didn't need to look hard to find the problem.

"It seems I can help your people, Colonel Marcus. Given the nature of this disease, and the speed with which it will spread, it would be a good idea for us to leave right away. However, it would be better if the Havins continue to think of me as just a simple peddler with some organic remedies. Stay here a moment, please."

It didn't take long to convince the Havins that he had to leave immediately. His visits, while necessary, apparently upset some of them almost as much as they annoyed him. He led his visitors outside of town to the portal, and then bypassed it, going into the woods. When they asked him what he was doing, he merely replied, "looking for something," and moved into the underbrush. There it was. He reached into the foliage, pressed a combination on the controls, and heard the whir of machinery powering up. His skimmer rose a few feet off the ground, shedding branches and leaves, revealing its glistening-silver polish and streamlined design.

Argyros smiled at their openmouthed stares. "You didn't think we were going to walk, did you?"

-.-

"I don't like it." Hargrove stated. He, the Colonel and Ahardt were just inside the camp, looking out at the merchant and his impressive hovercraft-style vehicle. Suna was out there with him, trying her best at small talk in an attempt to keep him busy while they discussed his offer. "For all we know, he's a Goa'uld, or one of their worshippers!"

The Colonel shook his head. "I doubt it. A Goa'uld wouldn't care about healing humans, and he certainly wouldn't trade with them as equals. Just to be sure, though, I was careful to keep both DHDs out of his sight on our way back here."

Cayo stepped out of the triage tent, and pulled off his white mask. "You yourself argued that he was no threat, back on Zau."

"That was before he was here, at the Redoubt! I say we blindfold him before bringing him in." Hargrove looked at Ahardt. "Or, can we move the sickest people out there to him?"

Ahardt sighed. "We've got six people in critical condition, and a third of the base is showing symptoms." He sounded exhausted. "We've already lost two people. I don't want to risk moving anyone in the last stage, and that includes Desousa."

"We don't have a choice." The Colonel decided. "He'll have to be let into the camp. And no blindfold," he added. "There's no telling how he'd react."

Hargrove frowned, but he didn't see any alternatives, either. Over the past two days, the disease had spread rapidly through the SR, frightening a lot of people.

"We have another problem, sir." Cayo continued. "Some of the more impressionable recruits fear that this disease is a punishment brought on by our defiance of the gods." He looked disgusted. "I… impressed upon them the foolishness of that notion, but if nothing can be done to cure it, outright panic may start to grip some of them."

Hargrove signaled Suna, and she quickly escorted Argyros into the camp. At a nod from the Colonel, Ahardt and Hargrove followed him into the infirmary tent.

-.-

Haley looked up as three more people entered the med tent, and breathed a sigh of relief as none of them appeared sick. That would be the last thing she needed right now. There were more than twenty patients lined up on the sides of the tent, so many that the other end had been opened out to get more room. A few Survivors moved in and around the sick, placing oxygen masks, administering injections and checking vital signs.

One of them was a stranger; definitely not one of the Survivors. Nelson led him to a cordoned corner with the six worst off, and he immediately set to work, methodically scanning patient after patient with his strange wrist device. She was about to ask what was going on when Suna tapped her shoulder. "Can I speak to you outside?"

Whatever was going on could wait a few moments. The stranger was being closely watched, after all. "Sure."

It was early evening by now, to Haley's surprise, and a refreshing breeze washed over her. "What is it?"

"I wanted to tell you…" Suna hesitated. She looked uncertain, for once, and not very happy about it. "Tony told me of your daughter, Sylvia."

Haley's heart contracted suddenly. With the health crisis all day, she'd almost put it out of her mind. Tears she'd almost forgotten came back with a vengeance, but before she could respond, Suna took her by the shoulders. "I wanted you to know, my own parents were taken from me when I was not much older than she is. I missed them terribly," she rushed on, "but my memories of them brought me strength, too. Every time I thought of them, I knew they were with me, inside, and I knew I could go on. If Sylvia is anything like you, she will be strong, as I was." She looked like she had more to say, but didn't know how.

On instinct, Haley hugged her fiercely. She mumbled a thank-you into Suna's shoulder, and cried quietly.

When she finally let go, Suna gave her a nervous smile. "I should like to meet her some day. Perhaps I will get the chance."

"I'd like that too." Haley sniffed, wiping at her eyes. "Come on. We should get back inside."

-.-

With his scans complete, Argyros began pulling a few alien tools, including what was obviously an injection needle tube, from his bag. In one smooth motion, he placed the needle to his own arm, and pushed it in.

Both Hargove and Ahardt jerked in surprise. "What are you doing?" Ahardt protested as the tube began filling with blood.

Argyros pulled the needle, and responded calmly. "Extracting some of my blood, of course."

"But why?"

Argyros gave them both a level stare. "Should I explain my every action to you, or should I stabilize your friends here?" They looked at each other, baffled, before Hargrove nodded at him. "Better."

The alien merchant, or whatever he really was, placed his blood in a larger container, and turned it on with a button on his own wrist device. The red liquid rapidly concentrated on one side, with clear liquid on the other side, as the machine continued to hum.

"Amazing." Haley whispered as Hargrove twitched in surprise. He looked back, and saw her and Suna watching as well. He could tell she'd been crying recently, but her voice was steady enough. "It must be some kind of high-tech centrifuge. He's using it to separate the red blood cells from the rest."

"A cytoplasmic separator, actually." Argyros responded. "I'm removing the elements of my blood that are incompatible with your people's bodies." He turned the device off, pulled out more vials and carefully measured a portion of his altered blood into six of them, each with a blue-tinged liquid already inside. He handed them out, keeping one for himself. "Shake these well and then inject the contents into their circulatory systems, please." He then suited actions to words, and injected Desousa's forearm.

Hargrove shook off his surprise and moved to the next one. "You heard the man, people. Get to it." He hadn't had much first aid training, but he knew enough for a simple injection. Apparently, so did the others.

Within minutes, their condition improved. Their breathing became less labored, and their fevers came down slightly. Ahardt and Haley were astounded, and began spinning theories.

"Obviously, his blood has some basic immune-boosting properties-"

"And the other liquid was a catalyst of some kind-"

"But how could that separator thing make sure there'd be no rejection?"

"People, people!" Hargrove spoke up. He gestured to the nearby beds. "Take it outside."

They both apologized and stepped away from the other patients.

"Thank you." Argyros looked at him, sounding relieved. "If you will give me a few minutes, I will prepare more injections for the rest of your patients. Could you see to it they receive them? I should speak with your Colonel after I am done."

-.-

Being a Healer hadn't been a calling for Argyros, so much as it had been an assignment. Despite that, over the years spent finding sicknesses and eradicating them, he had developed an affinity for the task. Even after those years, he still felt dismayed at just how fragile the human form could be. It was hard to imagine that's what his ancestors had been like. These tau'ri must be either enormously brave, monumentally stupid, or a combination of the two, he thought.

He finished the last immune booster supply, gave it to one of them, and rose to leave the tent, immediately missing the familiar weight of a weapon on his belt. Usually, he went without it to avoid awkward questions from trading partners, but this time, he'd left it in his skimmer intentionally and obviously. These people were skittish enough with his presence; he didn't want to add tension by entering the camp armed.

He looked over the camp as best he could, given the unsurprising presence of the two armed guards waiting for him outside the tent. They wordlessly escorted him back to his skimmer, where their Colonel Marcus waited. From the use of his name, Argyros was fairly certain the word 'colonel' was a title of some kind.

"I hear my people are doing better." He opened without preamble. "I wanted to thank you for that." He extended his hand.

Argyros followed his example, curious, and Marcus grabbed his hand and moved it up and down. He assumed it was some form of thanks, and wanted to tell them how unsanitary that was, considering their fragile immune systems. Instead he nodded as meekly as he could.

Marcus released him. "I assume your help comes with a price."

"Not in this case, Colonel." Argyros assured him. "Given the urgency of your need, I felt it was only fair to stabilize your people first, and discuss the situation later. You should know, though," he continued, "that I had neither the medication nor the authorization to cure your people for good. In order to do that, I need to make contact with my people. That kind of intervention will carry a price, though."

Marcus smiled thinly. "Naturally. As you can see," he waved an arm at the forested hillsides, "we don't have any crops to trade for your help. I've been told that your deals on Zau and Cha'havis were for food."

They could both see Major Hargrove and a tau'ri woman approach from the tent.

"Your information is correct, Colonel, but food is about all such primitive societies could offer in trade." Argyros said carefully. "I suspect a culture as sophisticated as yours could compensate us in other ways, though."

Marcus glanced at him cautiously. "What ways, exactly?"

Argyros spread his hands placatingly. "Allow me to return through the portal. I'll discuss that with my superiors, and return with enough medication, and their offer."

"And how do we know our people won't be dead by the time you get back?" Hargrove put in harshly.

A suspicious group indeed. Argyros found it refreshing, though. At least these people were smart enough to ask these questions. He looked purposefully at Hargrove, and then back to Marcus. "I will only need a few hours. Your people now have several days at least."

Marcus looked at the woman, who nodded after a moment.

"All right, but two of us will go with you. I'd like a chance to speak to your superiors face-to-face."

Despite himself, Argyros was surprised. Suspicious and brave. He shook his head. "I'm sorry, my destination has to remain unknown, for security reasons."

Hargrove spoke up again. "You've seen where we live. It only seems fair we see your place." Marcus gave a ghost of a smile at that.

"I'm afraid that particular condition is non-negotiable, Colonel." He could only imagine the Proxen's face if he brought offworlders back with him. The man would probably have a coronary on the spot.

Marcus gave it some thought, and finally nodded. "Hargrove, take him to the 'gate and let him dial. When he's back, bring him home. Make sure he has the privacy he's insisting on, too."

"Colonel, if he dials from our 'gate-"

"He'll know this address, I know." Marcus cut him off. He gave Argyros an evaluative glance. "He trusted us when he came here, and he helped us when he didn't have to. Now it's our turn to show a little trust."

Hargrove gave him a sharp glance, Argyros noted, which Marcus returned stoically. Eventually, he nodded angrily, and beckoned the two silent guards.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2022, 05:15:11 AM by Daen »