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Once it was confirmed that SG-7 was authorized to begin negotiations for the naquadah mining rights, arrangements were made as per Nandanian custom for them to be guests until an official agreement was reached. They spent the next couple of days learning about the lifestyle of the people, the agricultural and social structures, anything where they might be able to offer an adjunct in return for trade.
One of the most valuable things they had to offer was discovered when Jessica visited the local healer, a woman named Mira. She lived in a small but comfortable house not far from the center of town. After introductions were made, Mira took her out back where they sat and discussed the health concerns of Nanda, and the technology they had. Jessica saw a little girl playing near the garden, and she figured it was Mira’s daughter since she looked like her in miniature. When the little one noticed they had a visitor, she came skipping over to them.
"Aylen," Mira said, "this is Jessica. She’s one of the people visiting us for a while." Turning to Jessica she said, "This is my daughter Aylen."
Jessica breath caught in her throat. Aylen was a lovely child. She had her mother’s brown hair, light blue eyes and fair skin. What was unexpected were the deep scars that covered the left side of her face.
"Hello, Aylen," Jessica said, smiling at the child.
Aylen smiled back shyly, staying close to her mother.
"Run along and play, little one. I’ll fix us something to eat in a bit."
Watching her head back out to the garden, Mira answered Jessica’s unspoken question.
"Aylen came down with Schoen’s when she was three years old."
"What is Schoen’s?"
"It is a disease that has plagued us for a very long time. When a person contracts it they develop a high fever, cough, tiredness. After a while the boils break out. It used to be lethal, but we have developed a treatment that has lessened the severity of the illness. Most survive, but unfortunately we have not been able to prevent the scarring."
Smallpox. The word echoed through Jessica’s mind. She had seen pictures of it, and from what she remembered, the scarring from it looked exactly like the scarring on Aylen.
"Mira, would it be possible for the doctors, the healers I know to get blood samples from some of the people who have had this disease?"
Mira nodded slowly. "I think that would be possible. Why?"
"On my planet we had a disease like Schoen’s, but we were able to eradicate it. By looking at the antibodies in the blood, we might be able to tell if it is the same disease, or one very similar, and may be able to help develop a vaccine or treatment, against it."
Jessica could see the spark of hope in Mira’s eyes. "If you let me know when, I’ll have ones who have been affected by it here. They would be more than happy to help if there’s a chance for a new treatment."
Jessica made a note to contact Janet as soon as possible to see what she could arrange. After promising to get back to Mira when she knew something Jessica left, pausing for a moment outside the door to get her bearings. Just as she was about to head back, she felt a touch on her leg. Looking down, she saw Aylen staring up at her, a small smile on her face. Jessica knelt down beside her.
"Hey there," she said. Aylen held up her little hand, and Jessica saw she had a white flower that resembled a daisy, undoubtedly from the garden where she had been playing. "Oh, how pretty. Is that for me?" Aylen nodded her head. "Thank you Aylen, it’s beautiful." Aylen’s eyes lit up when Jessica gave her a hug. "Now, you best go back inside to your momma; she’ll be worried about you if she can’t find you." Another smile, another hug, and the little girl disappeared inside.
Looking at the flower in her hand, she pictured Aylen’s sweet face. We could erase those scars. She wondered if her suspicions were correct, and if Janet might be able to help put a stop to the disease. She doesn’t need to go through life looking like that. The question was, could she get approval to help one child? Standing up, Jessica decided to talk to Mitchell about it, hoping to convince him this could be added into the negotiations.
Later that day they had a meeting amongst themselves, going over the information they had managed to gather. Pisano and Spencer had made a list of crops to supplement the ones the Nandanians already had, along with livestock. Agricultural management systems were also deemed relevant. Jessica added the medical information, especially the possible link between Schoen’s disease and smallpox. Replication technology was also listed as a possibility. They planned to transmit the list during their next scheduled contact with General Hammond, and then proceed with opening talks tomorrow.
"Colonel, I need to talk to you about something," Jessica said as they made their way back outside.
"Okay." He waved to Spencer and Pisano. "We’ll catch up with you at the gate in an hour."
Jessica walked until they were away from the other people around them.
"What’s up?" Mitchell asked.
"Today when I talked to Mira, getting the medical info, she introduced me to her daughter, Aylen. She’s about six years old. When she was three, she caught Schoen’s disease, and has some pretty bad scarring from it. I was wondering if it would be possible to have Sam come and help her with the healing device, maybe as part of the negotiations."
Mitchell looked thoughtful. "I don’t know if we could do that. It’s one thing to offer the possibility of a vaccine to the general population. It’s another to offer to help just one individual." Mitchell was surprised when Jessica reached out, grabbed his hand and started pulling him through the square.
"Watson, what are you doing?"
She didn’t answer, and Mitchell was smart enough to realize it was best to just follow along. After a while Jessica slowed. It was then that he spied the young girl in the yard ahead of them. She turned toward them as they drew closer, and Jessica raised her hand, waving. The little girl hesitated, then smiled, running to Jessica as they came to the yard.
"Hello, Aylen. I want you to meet a friend of mine. This is Colonel Mitchell."
Cam knelt down in front of the girl so he wouldn’t tower over her. "Hi, Aylen."
"Hello," came the soft reply.
"Is your momma home?" Jessica asked.
Just then Mira stepped out onto the front porch. "Jessica," she called, waving.
"Hi, Mira. I wanted you to meet Colonel Mitchell."
Mira came over to them, picking up Aylen in the process. "Hello, Colonel. How are the negotiations going?"
"Well, we’ll officially start tomorrow. We have some information we need to send before we get started."
Mira nodded. "I do hope it’ll be possible for your people to try and help us find a better treatment for the Schoen’s disease."
"We’ll do the best we can, though we can’t promise anything."
"I understand. Any help you can offer, though, would be greatly appreciated."
"I’ll talk with you later," Jessica said. She reached out and ruffled Aylen’s hair, causing her to giggle. Saying her goodbyes, Mira headed back to the house with Aylen.
Waiting until they were inside and the door closed, Jessica turned to Mitchell. "Do you understand now what I’m talking about?"
Mitchell looked at the house. "I understand Jessie, but whether or not it would be allowed, by our side or their side, I don’t know."
She looked him directly in the eye. "You tell me, if that was your daughter, wouldn’t you want to give her a chance at a normal life, where people aren’t staring at her every time she walks by?"
He looked at her silently for a moment, the muscle in his jaw moving rhythmically. Finally he said, "I can’t make any promises, but I’ll see what I can do."
Jessica let the breath she was holding out, visibly relaxing a bit. "That’s all I ask, Colonel."
That evening Jessica was back to translating the Nandanian historical texts. She had gotten to the part that explained the balance of power and the hierarchy, but she was having trouble translating two terms with respect to who ruled the Nandanian people, and the ones who held the important positions within the government. After going through the description over and over again, she realized she was going to have to ask Brojorn what the phrases meant.
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