Unification

 

 

The

Anunnaki Unification

A Stargate SG-1 Fan Fiction Story

 

Book 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michele Briere


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a work of fan fiction. The Stargate universe and characters belong to the people and agencies listed in the Acknowledgments. All other characters belong to the author, Michele Briere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2015 Michele Briere

All rights reserved.

ISBN-13: 978-1530151554 

ISBN-10: 1530151554 


 

 

Acknowledgements

 

All characters except those of the Stargate SG-1 universe belong to me. The characters and universe of Stargate SG-1 do not belong to me. All rightful credits can be found here at the IMDB on the Stargate SG-1 page which reads: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118480/companycredits?ref_=tt_dt_co

 

Production Companies

·                     Double Secret Productions

·                     Gekko Film Corp.

·                     Kawoosh! Productions IX (season 9)

·                     Kawoosh! Productions VII

·                     MGM Worldwide Television Productions

·                     Sony Pictures Television (2005-2006)

·                     Stargate SG-1 Production (II) Inc.

Distributors

·                     MGM Worldwide Television (1997-2006) (World-wide) (all media) (sales)

·                     MGM Domestic Television Distribution (1997-2005) (USA) (TV)

·                     Sony Pictures Television (2005-2006) (USA) (TV)

·                     Showtime Networks (1997-2002) (USA) (TV) (original airing) (seasons 1-5)

·                     Sci-Fi Channel, The (2002-2006) (USA) (TV) (original airing) (seasons 6-10)

·                     MGM/UA Home Entertainment (2001-2006) (USA) (DVD)

·                     CanWest Global Television Network (1997-2004) (Canada) (TV) (original airing)

·                     Chum Television (2004-2006) (Canada) (TV) (original airing)

·                     CITY-TV (Canada) (TV) (repeats)

·                     Sky One (1998-2006) (UK) (TV) (original airing) (repeats)

·                     Channel 4 Television Corporation (1999-) (UK) (TV)

·                     AXN (2007-) (Hungary) (TV) (repeats)

·                     Audio Visual Enterprises (1998) (Greece) (VHS)

·                     Image Entertainment (USA) (DVD) (laserdisc)

·                     MGM Home Entertainment (2003-2005) (Germany) (DVD)

·                     OnTV / CH (all media)

·                     RTL2 (1999-) (Germany) (TV)

·                     Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (2005-) (Germany) (DVD)

·                     TV6 (2008-) (Estonia) (TV) (re-release)

·                     TV6 (2011) (Hungary) (TV) (re-release)

·                     Veronica (2004-2008) (Netherlands) (TV)

Special Effects

·                     Atmosphere Visual Effects

·                     Enigma Animation Productions Inc. (digital effects)

·                     Gajdecki Visual Effects (GVFX) (digital effects)

·                     Image Engine Design (special effects)

·                     Northwest Imaging & FX (digital effects)

·                     Northwestern Effects Group Ltd. (prosthetic and animatronic effects)

·                     Pinnacle Post (digital effects)

·                     Rainmaker Animation & Visual Effects (visual effects)

·                     Rainmaker Digital Pictures (digital effects)

·                     SPIN West VFX

·                     Smoke and Mirrors

·                     Solstice Imaging

·                     Steve Johnson's XFX

Other Companies

·                     Act One Script Clearance (script research)

·                     David Cowan Enterprises Inc. (computer engineering)

·                     Department of Defense (we gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of)

·                     Department of the Air Force (we gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of)

·                     Energy Film (stock footage)

·                     Gastown Post and Transfer (post-production services)

·                     Rainmaker Digital Pictures (post-production services)

·                     Sharpe Sound Studios (re-recorded by)

·                     Stargate SG-1 Productions Limited Partnership (production services provided by)

·                     U.S. Space Command (we gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of)

 


 

Preface

 

These chapters were written during Seasons 7-10 of Stargate: SG-1. Because of this, some aspects of the story, such as same-sex marriage, are not yet legal. Please overlook these aspects; if I changed it now, a lot more would have to be changed.

This is fan-fiction. The characters of Stargate, and the alternate universe of Stargate do not belong to me, I’m only borrowing them. The Anunnaki belong to themselves, but I borrowed them, too; so far, they haven’t complained. The rest of the characters are mine. I also made up my own original First Flight astronauts, instead of using the real ones. This is not a slight against our heroes, only respect to not use them in a fictional situation.

This story follows our SG-1 team on continuing adventures of life, love, and their irritation of a certain Goa’uld. This story contains pairings of straight and gay partners, as well as our threesome of Jack/Sam/Daniel, so if you are easily offended, don’t read this. If you are under age, you’ve been warned: I don’t want to hear from your mama about this. The smut has been removed in this version, as well as a few other scenes changed and added.

There’s a lot of gay talk in this mainly because, at the time this was written, there was a lot of coverage in the news about gays in the military, as well as religion being forced onto military personnel, and problems at the Air Force Academy, so there’s a great deal of commentary on these subjects. I’m giving my own two-cents on those subjects.

No profit is intended on this story. I wanted to make it available to people in a portable format, and the prices of these books are the lowest I was allowed to set them with CreateSpace and Kindle.

Note: There are a few lyrics in this, so thanks to Shinedown and John Hiatt. Information was borrowed from the United Nations website. There are probably a few others I need to mention, but for the life of me, I can’t think of them.

Writers need love, too, so feel free to drop me an email at michele.briere@gmail.com!

There is more to be found at my website, www.michelebriere.com , including The Gatekeepers, an original, on-going story, a fun, light-hearted space opera.


 

Table of Contents

 

Anunnaki Unification. 1

Acknowledgements. 3

Preface. 6

Table of Contents. 8

Chapter 51. 1

Chapter 52. 26

Chapter 53. 53

Chapter 54. 83

Chapter 55. 103

Chapter 56. 119

Chapter 57. 131

Chapter 58. 157

Chapter 59. 188

Chapter 60. 216

Chapter 61. 243

Chapter 62. 274

Chapter 63. 295

Vocabulary. 341

 

 

 



 

 

Chapter 51

When they had returned home, Sam spent time resting in bed and Jack updated his mother. Maggie put her arms around him, knowing how it hurt him to lose another child. She then went into the bedroom and spent some female time with Sam.

Jack took Daniel by the arms and looked him in the eyes.

“She doesn’t understand,” he said gently. “You lost a child, too.”

“I know she didn’t mean any harm,” Daniel said. He leaned on Jack’s shoulder. They decided that they didn’t want to know who the paternal donor was, not unless it was necessary for pathology. As far as they were concerned, all three were the parents. They had been honest with the children and told them that a newly created baby had died. They were a little more detailed for the older kids, but Davy wasn’t quite sure how Sam could have been pregnant if she didn’t have a big belly. They took out the picture books and reminded him of what an embryo looked like and how big it was. While it was still the size of a pea, they wouldn’t have known Sam was pregnant just by looking at her. Davy nodded thoughtfully and then kissed Sam on the cheek.

With the kids all out, they lay quietly in bed for a while, Sam resting against Jack’s chest as he stroked her hair. She lifted her head and rested her chin on her hands as she contemplated Jack’s face. Although something about his unusual genes had taken about fifteen years off him, there were still enough lines on his face to make him interesting. She found it interesting that the scar on his left eyebrow had remained; a white line of hair amidst the dark blond. She traced a delicate fingernail along his lower lip. Jack’s lips were relatively thin, while Daniel had full lips, and yet they both kissed exceptionally well. Although they were both male, their differences made them unique.

“Are you sure you’re alright?” Jack asked.

She nodded. “I’m feeling fine,” she said. “Besides. Any leftover wounds have been healed by you.”

Jack pushed the hair from her eyes. “I’m talking about a little deeper inside,” he said. “Honey, no one expects you to get over this immediately. If you want some time off from work, I can make it happen.”

“I need to work,” she said. “I didn’t even know I was pregnant, much less had time to love the baby. I’m fine. Really.”

He gave a nod.

“Go on,” she said. “Find out for yourself.”

His mouth twitched and he sent a feeler inside. She was a little raw, and mostly confused.

“What are you confused about?” he asked. She was still for a moment and then slid off to lay next to him, her arm across his chest, fingers playing with the curls on his chest.

“I’m supposed to be…. sad,” she whispered. “No, that isn’t the right word. I don’t know… depressed. I am depressed. But I know that it’s hormones. Am I such a bad person that I can’t….”

“No,” Jack said, shaking his head. “Honey, you can’t second-guess yourself like that. You said it yourself; you didn’t have time to love the baby. I’m sad, Daniel’s sad, and you’re sad. Honey, I don’t know when a baby is a baby. When it’s a person. Is it a person at conception? At birth? When its heart begins to beat? Dr. Rand said to think about… the fetus… as a tumor. Sam, I saw what was sent to Dr Lam; take Dr. Rand’s advice. No one will think less of you for it. Sure, it wasn’t much more than newly split cells, but even I could see that it was forming wrong. We will have a baby, and he or she will be beautiful and healthy.”

He took her face between his hands and looked into her blue eyes. “I’m going to be selfish and say that I want to see you pregnant. I want to see our baby born. It’s your choice, but that’s my say on the matter. Now. My dear Colonel. How are my ships coming?”

Sam smiled and pressed her mouth to his chest.

“With all the naquadah that Teal’c brought us, plus what was taken from several Goa’uld planets, we have enough for twelve more 303s and the 302s for them. I’d like to try out the new model, though. I’d like to cut it to a couple of Prometheus class and Daedalus class, two more science ships, and use the rest on the new patrol ships. We should get five patrol ships out of the rest.”

Jack thought about it and slowly nodded. “Will the patrol ships be ready by the time Henry takes his place on the council?”

Sam thought about it. “We could probably make one ready,” she said. “We’d need to put it ahead of the 303s.”

“Do we really need to do this?” he asked. “There are a lot of ha’taks and smaller ships sitting around.”

“Yes, but the Jaffa have been taking them,” she said. She opened her mouth to say more and then thought about it, eying him suspiciously. “Did you just distract me?”

He smiled at her. “Did it work?”

She punched him in the chest. “Beast.”

They showered and found Daniel changing a diaper. Olivia saw her other parents and grinned, waving a foot in the air.

“Fang, no,” Daniel scolded the pup. The puppy was investigating the interesting smells in the small can.

“I’m going to work,” Sam said. She kissed Daniel and then picked up the naked baby. She held Olivia close for a moment and then kissed her round cheek. A small, red-furred head poked up to see the changing table.

“Sam kiss?”

She gave the ears a scratch and bent to peck the cub on the head.

“Good morning, T’Keet.”

“Good…. morrrnnning,” the cub returned. She twitched, pleased with herself.

“Where’re the kids?” Jack asked.

“Katie hos-pi-tal, Matteeee friendzzz, Staceeee reeeeding, Daveeee cartoooonzzzz. Jaaack, no understaaaand cartooonzzz.”

Jack took a paw and swung her up and around to his back. “It’s a Tau’ri rite of passage,” he told her. “Just keep watching; you’ll get it.”

After T’Keet put herself nose to nose with Daniel and begged to be allowed into his clan for a while, they found themselves agreeing to cub-sit for a couple of weeks. The neighborhood kids were excited to be playing with an alien cub, although the SF had to stop curiosity seekers and the media from disturbing their family street. Having been around other humans for a year, T’Keet was pretty well adapted to human living conditions. A few things needed to be explained, such as household plumbing. She also needed to understand that most human children didn’t sleep all piled together. T’Keet found that odd. Davy, however, was quite happy to share his bed and cuddle with a living stuffed animal.

On Jack’s end of the deal, he heard from a few conservative generals and other government-type officials. Allowing an alien to scamper about the planet was too dangerous. Jack reminded them that the alien in question wasn’t wearing clothes so where would she hide the suicide bomb? Considering the fact that Henry was rolling around on the White House lawn in front of the press corps with the cub and his grandchildren while Jack argued with the generals, the arguments didn’t get far.

A few scientists wanted all sorts of tests on the cub. Jack told them what to do with their tests while Sam sent out copies of stock records on the Sua and Daniel offered a two hundred page report on the Sua culture. He apologized for the brevity of the report, but he was up to his eyeballs in paperwork.

What halted T’Keet in her tracks was meeting Ronnie. Ears and whiskers popped up and twitched. She didn’t know there was a third kind of human; what was this one? Daniel had a hard time trying to explain the concept of transgender. He finally gave up when T’Keet’s ears flattened, effectively shutting them to more sound.

Fang also gave the cub a curious sniff over and T’Keet was pleased to return the gesture. She, too, was taught how to take the pup for a walk, although she didn’t understand why Fang just couldn’t use the toilet like everyone else. She tried instructing the pup on proper procedures and was rewarded with face licks.

They took her along into town on trips, spooking the civilians, and introduced her to ice cream. All the sugar wasn’t good for her, Sam and Daniel both tried telling Jack; he didn’t listen. T’Keet spent most of the night completely wired. The other two insisted that Jack stay up with her until she settled down. T’Keet was on a sugar-free diet after that.

With the cub on his back, Jack went to his office and picked up a faxed report.

“Sam!” He slowly walked into the living room. When she showed up, he handed it to her. She quickly scanned it, frowning.

“Where does he come up with this stuff?” she asked out loud. “Okay, I’m getting a new assistant. I’ll send this to General Taylor.”

“That Rusty person checked out,” Jack commented. “It’s up to you, but I get a good feeling about her. And Livie likes her.”

Sam thought about it for a moment before her brow cleared. “Oh, right. CMS Wilson.”

“Why didn’t the mikku turn up that ship when we did the planet-wide naquadah search?” he asked. “I don’t get it. The hit we got showed only enough naquadah to make less than two percent of that ship. What’s the rest?”

“We don’t know, yet,” she said, keeping pace. “The chief’s file looks good. I’ll interview her for the position. I’m disappointed about Coulter, though. I met his wife; she seemed happy to me. And yes, we will do another scan and refocus on the naquadah mix.”

“Okay, I’m not happy with this mikku thing, I don’t care who invented it,” he declared.

“Well, then I’d say dig into those memories and fix it,” she said sweetly. She patted his face and went to find her shoes.

Jack thought about it. “Was that a snap?” he asked.

“Yes, it was,” Daniel confirmed. “You’re the one with the downloaded knowledge; try helping her instead of continually telling her to reinvent the wheel. Jack, I know you’re scared to try reaching for the knowledge, we all know what happened the last couple of times. But those were immediate downloads and your brain didn’t have time to adjust. You’ve had time and we know you can bring up the knowledge when you want to. Quit being a sissy and just do it.”

Jack scowled.

“What sisssssseee?”

“Someone who is afraid to do something,” Daniel said.

“Oh. Jack sisssseee?”

“Not usually.”

Fine!” Jack declared, tossing his arms up. “I’ll go….. conjure a ghost.”

“Da!”

He looked at the floor. “Yes, your majesty?”

Chubby arms were held out. Jack bent and picked her up, settling her on a hip and buzzing her check. “At least someone loves me,” he muttered.

“We all love you, Jack,” Daniel said. “Even when you’re being a wimp.”

“What whhhimmmmpah?

“Never mind,” Jack said, as Daniel ignored them and went into the bedroom to change. He handed the baby to Jerrie who was doing her best to stay out of the contest of wills. After a short intro to T’Keet, Jerrie had added another child to the group without much effort. The cub was easier than expected; she was able to reason and caught on quickly. Everyone hoped that curiosity didn’t kill this cat, though.

The front door opened and Matthew walked in. “Are you awake?” he asked snarkily.

“Unfortunately,” Jack said. “Did you need something?”

Matthew shrugged. “Just wanted to talk. Stuff.” He was making a point at not looking at Jerrie or Davy on the floor in front of the TV.

“Uh huh. Come on.” Jack put T’Keet on David’s back and herded the boy into the bedroom. Daniel was making the bed, having put fresh sheets on it. Jack took a corner and helped before sitting on the edge. “Wass up?”

Matthew was mulling something over in his head. “Um. Jonathan said….. if I wanted to, and if it’s okay with you, I can spent some time on Kalam.”

Jack glanced at Daniel. “You mean to spend some time with the women there?”

The boy was bright red as he nodded. Jack took a deep breath as he stood and paced a few steps, considering the information. “I’m of two minds on that one, Matty. I’ll be honest with you; an older woman taught me when I was your age. I’m not sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. It was a positive experience, but maybe teenagers are supposed to experiment with each other. I don’t know, Matt, let me think about it.”

The boy agreed and left the room with a sigh of relief. Daniel had something he was holding back.

“Go ahead,” Jack said.

“In cultures where sex is conservative, if not outright puritanical, there tends to be more abuse,” he commented. “Sex isn’t taught as a happy occasion, it is either a necessity or an assumption on the man’s part that he is due a woman’s services. Look at all the reports of abuse in this country. If you look at someplace like the Netherlands, where sex is much more open, the divorce rate is lower. I think that sending Matty to Kalam for the purposes of sex-ed would get us all in a hell of a lot of trouble with the law here, but if he’s visiting his cousin, or older brother, whatever you want to call Jonathan, and things happen, how would that be any different than if he was messing around with his girl here?”

“Are you seriously suggesting we send a newly fifteen-year old boy to an alien planet to get him laid?” Jack’s eyebrows went into his hairline.

“No,” Daniel said evenly. “Not out loud. Jack, I don’t have an issue with this. I’ve spent too many years in and around tribes for this to be of concern. Most boys his age are betrothed and taking part in the community. Skaara was a man at fifteen and about to be married.”

Jack nodded, not very happy with the situation.

“And what about Stacey?” he asked.

“What about her?” Daniel asked, blankly.

“When she’s fifteen or sixteen, are we sending her to Kalam, also?”

Daniel paused in the inspection of his shoe. He was dressing up for a television interview about his new book. He tipped it and a puppy chow nugget fell out.

“If she wants,” he said bravely before shoving his glasses into place.

“Uh huh. I’ll remind you of that when she’s caught climbing out her bedroom window at midnight,” Jack promised.

Jerrie needed to take the kids to the pediatrician’s for their checkups before they could begin their summer programs, so Jack took T’Keet with him. They had shared cub duties, getting the locals used to seeing her with various adults as they went around town. As much as Gen. Landry was enjoying playing the doting grandfather, the SGC wasn’t an appropriate place for the cub, so Jack and Sam usually took turns taking her to work if they didn’t leave her with Jerrie. They learned to use the baby-carrier for her. Her claws left their uniforms shredded. They suggested trimming the claws but T’Keet’s reaction was so violent, they needed to stop and contact M’Net. Trimming claws was almost as bad as trimming a mane; it was disgraceful. The adults apologized and left her claws alone. It certainly explained her wide-eyed examination when she saw humans trimming their own nails and hair. She spotted a picture of a younger Daniel with shaggy hair and gave her approval of the more proper mane.

The little cub was quickly adapting to the new routines and culture. Once when the phone rang, and Jack answered it, “O’Neill,” T’Keet had quickly learned the routine and answered it herself, “T’Kt,” she had said politely. “Ooookaeeeee, I telllll Sammm.”

The adults were amused but asked her not to answer the phone.

“Sir, this is Gavin Taylor,” said the man on the phone. Jack handed a sippee cup to the baby.

“Relax, Gavin, Jack is fine,” he said, shaking his head. “You’re a general, now; we can be a little more familiar.”

“Yes, s…. thank you, Jack. I just received the report about Major Coulter. I’m not sure what to say about this; I’ve never had a problem with him and I certainly never noticed anything when I saw his wife. I was at their wedding.”

A sippee cup was handed to the cub. She had no idea those fruits she loved came in liquid form. “Well, I’m no expert in this area, I just know that my instincts reared their ugly head so I had him checked. My head of security did the investigation, and I trust his word. I think what I’m more concerned about is how he’s going to retaliate. He’s had a few years with access to highly sensitive information. We have a gag-order on him, but if he decides to spread information far and wide before we can shut him up…. How much does he know?”

“He knows a lot,” Taylor admitted. “S… Jack, will you allow me to deal with this? I’ve known him a long time and I’d rather this came from me.”

“I’ll let Colonel Carter know,” Jack said.

That was something Jack had been avoiding –how to deal with disgruntled ex-employees. It was one thing to discharge your typical slacker, but how did one guarantee a gag on an Area 51 major who had access to significant information? There were still plenty of toys and experiments going on that the public did not know about. All the research into the Ancient DNA and Asgard cloning was happening at Area 51. Jack pursed his lips in thought and called Sam.

“Did Taylor call you? He’s going to handle the major, so don’t worry about it. Sam, how much does the major know about the genetics lab?”

“All the departments are highly departmentalized,” she said. “No one really knows what the other hand is doing. Coulter may know a little more than others. I’m not sure how to find out how much he knows without risking his curiosity.”

Jack wrinkled his nose and squeezed the bridge. “Okay. I’m sending Nick to you. The moment Taylor is done with Coulter, get him into the memory lab; Nick is going to make sure the major loses some of his memory.”

“That’s borderline,” Sam warned him.

“I know,” Jack nodded. “Can’t be helped. I don’t trust him.” He hung up with Sam and began the paperwork for a HomeWorld security breech. His bells were ringing. On a whim, Jack called DC.

“Agent Barrett, please. General O’Neill. Thank you. ….. Agent Barrett, long time no bug. Tell me something –is Leo Coulter one of yours? Area 51. Thank you.”

He hung up. Barrett would check a few sources and call back. The NID wasn’t too happy with current events; they were unable to get their fingers into the pie. They still argued on the Hill for a role in HomeWorld Security, and not only did Jack absolutely refuse, the NID’s own record wasn’t the most convincing especially when certain SGC Top Secret records were somehow leaked to congress and the senate. At least Barrett was easier to play with than most of the others. His former crush on Sam may have had something to do with it. Barrett did have a sense of ethics, though, something other agents seemed to lack.

Jack’s cell phone rang halfway to his office.

“O’Neill. Hmm. Okay, thanks. No, we’ll figure it out. Barrett, how much do you make? And you live on that? Want to work for me? I’ll give you twenty thousand more. I don’t know; come on out and we’ll find you a spot. Just keep your eyes off my wife.”

He hit a speed dial. “The NID says Coulter isn’t theirs.”

“What made you think of that?” she asked, stumped, at times, on how his mind worked.

“I don’t know, just a hunch. He’s working for someone, Sam, and it isn’t us. Listen, I’m bringing in your Agent Barrett. I have a hunch about him, too; have him tested ASAP, would you? I will bet you anything he turns on more than pretty science girls.”

“His DNA is already on file,” she said, putting up with his jab. “All government agents are on file for identification purposes. I’ll get his started right now. Do you think he’ll play ball?”

“I think so,” he said. “He’s always seemed uncomfortable with some of the NID’s games. Reynolds was a good find in their sand box; I think Barrett will be, too.”

“He picks up on technology pretty fast,” Sam said, thinking out loud. “He pieces things together, too. I have an idea on what to do with him, unless you have something.”

“No,” Jack shrugged. “You can have him. I did tell him to keep his eyes off my wife, though.”

You did not!” she gasped. “God, Jack, you can be so impossible at times.”

“Yes, I can,” he agreed. “So, do you want him in Colorado or Nevada?”

“Nevada,” she said. He could hear her eyes rolling.

T’Keet ran ahead of him into HomeSec. The guards watched her slide to a halt across the slick, tiled floor and race back to them.

“I T’Kt!” she announced importantly, holding out her ID badge. Amused, they waved her on. She had gotten over her kittenish fear of a camera and was proud to have an ID of her own made on her first day to work with Jack. The guards saluted Jack and signed him in. T’Keet had originally wanted to stay with Daniel, but Jack wasn’t too keen on it. Daniel didn’t have the security necessary to protect her. At HomeSec or Area 51, she could explore. Jack did have to send out a memo forbidding anyone from giving her sugar. Fruit began to disappear from desks but the fructose didn’t seem to have the same reaction as cane sugar did.

Jack sat down at his desk and logged into Sam’s private files. He found the section containing the proposed specs for the new ships. Project Good Neighbor. Jack had to think about it before his brow cleared. Border patrol. Fences. Right. The next generation of starships were more elegant than the current series; the X-4 was a little bigger than Daedalus but it was also more sleek and maneuverable for fighting in tight spaces. He noticed that it was labeled, “Firelight.” He raised an eyebrow; it wasn’t the usual type of ship name. There were plans for five Firelights. Each section had a science and medical ship plus four smaller, Argos-class ships for exploration. He noticed that the bays on the ships were given more room for additional gliders. He tapped the monitor and waited for Sam to appear in the upper square.

“Why five sets of ships?” he asked. She did a quick leap.

“Because our galaxy is circular,” she said. “Not square. Five makes for better coverage.”

“Oh. Why Firelight?”

“Because fire not only sheds light, it also destroys, cleanses, and renews the seeds of life.”

“You’ve been listening to Daniel,” he accused.

“Do you want me to change the name?”

“No,” he shook his head. “It’s fine. I was just curious. These look good, Sam; do we have the necessary amount of naquadah?”

“Yes, we do,” she was pleased to tell him. “From what Teal’c brought in, what was found on Lord Yu’s planet, and what we’ve dug out of various mines, we have plenty to last us a while.”

“Did you figure out what that jumper was mixed with?”

“Not yet,” she said. “We’ve isolated the element, but we haven’t seen it before. It isn’t registered with any of our surveys in the SGC files. The Asgard don’t know what it is.”

“Really.” Jack’s eyebrow went up. “Alright. I’m not happy with something sitting on this planet and we don’t know what it is.”

“Neither am I,” she agreed. “We’re working on getting it off-world. The only ship with a large enough bay is an Asgard ship. As soon as Thor can spare someone, I’m going to have it taken to the Alpha site. Jack, I need the specs for the new ships to go to the United Worlds council. We’re going to have aliens on the crew, so we need to make sure the ships have appropriate arrangements. Other worlds will have their own ships, but ours are going to include allies on the crew.”

“I’ll send them to Inanna,” he said. “What’s Thor doing?”

“Not sure,” she said. “He said something about no longer needing to hold our hand.”

The phone on his desk rang and Jack held up a wait finger to Sam.

“O’Neill. Who? Put him through. Alan, what’s up?” As he listened, he glanced at Sam. He put the phone on speaker.

“……insisting that their kid is innocent, Jack; they’re moving to press charges against Katie.”

“That’s bullshit, Alan,” Jack informed the man. “That boy wouldn’t take no for an answer and Katie decked him. The parents are only pressing charges because of me.”

“I agree,” his lawyer said. “Unfortunately, it’s their right to sue anyone they damned well please. God bless America. Their kid has the bruises, Katie doesn’t.”

“So, if Katie had allowed herself to be raped, she’d stand a better chance at winning a court battle?” Sam asked, indignant. Alan King paused.

“Correct, Colonel. I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were there.”

“I’m not,” she said. “That’s immaterial. There is no way in hell that boy is getting away with this. Jack, can we use a memory device on that kid?”

“Not legally, no,” he said. “I’m considering calling in Zu.”

“Oh, that’s good,” Sam agreed. “Will they believe him?”

“Probably not.”

“What’s a memory device and what’s a zoo?” Alan asked.

“Nothing we should be telling you,” Jack said. “Do you have any recommendations, Alan?”

“Yes,” King said. “Go ahead with the fight. Sheriff Richardson’s office sent over a file on that kid. Boy’s been reported more than once for mishandling his dates.”

“Good,” Jack said. “Do what needs to be done, Alan; I’ve trusted you with everything else.”

He hung up with his lawyer. “If we need to, Katie goes off-world,” he told Sam. “I’m not allowing that boy to win this.”

“I have an idea,” Sam said. Jack wasn’t sure if he liked the glint in her eyes.

The next day, a local news station was filming a mini-documentary at the high school. The JROTC class was present as were several members of the AFA’s martial arts team, the SGC’s combat trainers, Jaffa trainers, and the US military’s top martial arts award winner and newest SGC member, Colonel Mason Addison. The reporters were pleasantly surprised to learn that Addison and General O’Neill were first cousins. Mason’s wife and sons were also present for HomeSec’s unexpected show and tell. The boys, Mark age twenty-one, and Keith aged nineteen, both politely kissed Sam’s cheek upon meeting her. They weren’t sure about Daniel, but shook hands with him anyway.

“General O’Neill, how does this help the kids?” the reporter asked, thrusting a microphone into Jack’s face. “All this seems a little too extreme for kids to be learning.”

“We baby our kids too much,” Jack said. “Ten years ago, I would have agreed with you, though. Matt, come here.” He brought Matthew close, an arm across his shoulder. “This is my son, Matthew. He turned fifteen a week ago. Kinda on the skinny side, I know. So was I, at his age. Go show ‘em what you’ve learned this year, Matt. Matty never learned anything about self-defense before this past year,” he told the reporter.

Although nervous, Matthew went to the center of the circle, meeting Teal’c in the middle. The Jaffa had put on a show earlier, drawing gasps from the crowd as no thrusts and jabs were held back. Blood was spilled, including some of Jack’s. Matthew made the appropriate greetings and held his ground, waiting. The crowd of civilians didn’t expect much except to see the alien Jaffa toss out a few half-hearted jabs until the boy went down. What they got was a teenager who found his feet, centered and grounded. Matty met Teal’c’s every move, fell and rolled before leaping back to his feet. Being smaller, he was able to dance around Teal’c, swing up on his staff, and landed his feet on Teal’c shoulders, making the warrior stumble. The crowd gave a startled gasp and clapped. Matthew eventually fell under Teal’c’s advances, but Jack’s point was proved; even a small teenager could learn to defend himself against a much larger adversary. Sparkling with pleasure, Teal’c accepted Matty’s bow of respect before grasping the boy’s forearm.

Vinnie also showed off his skills. His own training was much like Matthew’s: suitable for a smaller person instead of a large man. He also made a good showing against a Jaffa. He then went back to his friends, accepted shoulder claps, and took back the hand of his new boyfriend. Much to the interest of the media. Bosco stiffened as the camera shot toward him. He gave his son a hug and ruffled the boy’s hair as the rest of SG-3 cheered their boy.

After a short break, the center of the circle was re-staged with an old couch and a made-up car frame. Katie, dressed in her dating best and drawing a few whistles from the crowd (Jack glared), sat in the passenger seat. One of her JROTC mates, a larger boy, a football player, sat behind the wheel. More whistles ensued. Jack was a little uncomfortable watching her kiss the boy but perked up when she began to resist. When he didn’t take no for an answer, and getting her blouse torn in exactly the same place as before, Katie shoved her elbow into his chest. His explosion of air was audible across the circle. She jumped from the car and he followed. He grabbed her shoulder and Katie turned, shoving her foot into his crotch and snapping the palm of her hand across his jaw. The boy went down, moaning and holding himself. Jack snickered.

“You are brilliant,” he whispered to Sam.

At the hand on his shoulder, Jack turned and saw the sheriff. “Remind me not to play poker with you anymore,” Richardson said.

Everyone was clapping for Katie, and Sam went into the circle to discuss self-defense for girls. To make her point plainer, another alien was suddenly present in the circle. A large feline on two feet. Paws. The crowd gasped once more, and took a step back. Sam picked up a staff and took on M’Net. He pawed her across the field a couple of times, and took a few smacks of the staff from her, before she knelt in his back with her teeth buried in his neck. Jaffa, SGC and HomeSec personnel howled for her, raising fists and staves. M’Net was introduced as the Sua delegate to the United Worlds and the commander of the Sua warriors. A small red ball of fur ran out and scurried up to M’Net’s shoulders.

“I T’Kt!”

Everyone laughed. The cub paused and then stood on M’Net’s arm and patted him between the ears as she hooted and bounced in pleasure, shaking M’Net by the mane. He seemed resigned to the rough handling.

“I think we may be in trouble once she, or he, becomes an adult,” Daniel commented. Jack agreed. Sam was spitting fur from her mouth.

The civilian crowd mingled with the military and aliens, feeling free to walk up to people and ask questions. Although the townspeople were proud of their military, they tended to step aside, claiming respect for their space. They were really a little afraid of the strong presence that played with aliens and jumped across the galaxy on a whim. Seeing the military at play with their families present, the civilians relaxed. The aliens got the most attention, especially M’Net and T’Keet. Not that T’Keet was complaining about the attention.

Sam leaned into Jack. “When I was on M’Net’s back, he said he wished I was a male. He was enjoying the biting.” Jack tossed his head back and laughed.

His phone rang.

“O’Neill. Hi, Francis, coming over to play? Naw, just having a little show and tell. How’d you hear about it? It isn’t live. Oh. Gotta love the military’s rumor mill. Just Jaffa and Sua. No, M’Net and T’Keet. Yeah, she’s got them eating out of her hands. Paws. No, they’ll be gone in a few hours. Sure.”

He turned to Sam and paused as his belt was pulled from the back. Daniel leaned in from behind.

“Three o’clock,” he said low. Jack and Sam turned.

“Uh oh,” they muttered. Baring down on the group were protesters. From the signs being carried, it was everything from abortion to non-Christian aliens to gays to the poor abused children being raised by non-Christian gay aliens to aliens secretly in charge of the world. The news camera spotted them.

“Andy.” Jack caught the sheriff’s attention and pointed. Andy spoke into his radio as he moved toward the approaching group. While the military technically had no jurisdiction over civilians, not allowed, by the US Constitution, to work on US soil without the president and congress putting martial law into effect with an emergency bill to temporarily suspend Constitutional Law, the SF nonetheless beat him to it and formed a line between the party and the on-coming. One old lady was halted by the new line. She glared up at the SF towering over her and popped him on the head with her sign.

“That’s enough, Mrs. Willard,” Andy said. “Apologize to the nice young man.”

“I won’t!” she spouted. “Disrespect to his elders! Getting in my way….. Move, you over-grown….!”

“Mrs. Willard, don’t make me call the nursing home to come and get you,” Andy warned. “Why don’t you tell me what the problem is?”

“I don’t wanna talk to you, Andrew Richardson, I want to talk to that…. that….. that!” Andy looked over his shoulder. She was pointing at Jack.

“Jack, did you run over Mrs. Willard’s cat?” Andy asked.

“Not me,” Jack said, shaking his head. “Although our pup was recently chasing something furry….”

“Brought shame to this town!” Mrs. Willard declared, waving her sign. The others behind her cheered. A few Amens were shouted. “Consorting with men! Involving children in his torrid affairs, AND encouraging the rest of our boys and girls to do the same! And his own brother a PRIEST! Bringing aliens here and destroying our Christian values! For shaaaaame!”

Sam stepped forward. There were a few mutters of warning from behind her.

“If you want to discuss military issues, you can talk with the general,” she said quietly. “If you are going to get malicious about my family, you’ll need to take it up with me. Ma’am.”

Mrs. Willard glared at her. “Hussy!”

Jack hung off Daniel’s wide shoulders, relaxed. Mrs. Willard’s eyes were scrunched into cherry pits.

“Daddy, why’s the lady angry at you?” Jack looked down. He squatted and Davy climbed onto his back.

“Don’t know, son,” Jack said, standing up. He grabbed Daniel’s arm for balance. “Ooof. I think Aunt Sam is trying to figure it out.”

A man came out of the protesters crowd and put a calming hand on the old lady’s arm. “Now, now, Mz. Charity, you’re getting ahead of things here.”

“HA!” People looked around at the yelp.

“Oh, was that me?” Jack asked innocently. “Sorry. Please continue.”

The man stepped forward, edging carefully away from Sam.

“General O’Neill, I’m Reverend Gilchrest,” the man said. “Our concern is that the influence of these aliens has begun to turn our people away from God, sir.”

Before Jack could get out the diatribe that was on the tip of his tongue, Daniel stepped forward.

“Jack, how about I handle this?” he suggested.

“Good idea,” Jack agreed. “You do that. Me and Davy are going to play on the jungle-gym.”

“I don’t think so.”

Jack and Daniel both turned to see Michael, arms crossed and waiting.

“What?” Jack asked.

“I’m pulling rank, Jack,” Michael said. “I’m the older brother, and I’m going to insist that you deal with this.”

“Not,” Jack said, wondering what got into his brother.

“Come here, David,” Michael said, holding his arms out. Davy slid off Jack’s back. “I don’t know what your problem is with all this, Jonathan, but you WILL deal with it. You force me to deal with my issues, I’m forcing you to deal with yours. Or I will call whomever in the universe I need to call to make you deal with it.”

“I don’t have an issue, Michael, I just know better,” Jack told him. “And you know exactly where my knowledge comes from.” The pastor and his people, and anyone else within hearing, looked from one brother to the other, wondering what was going on.

Michael stepped in close. “I don’t care how many times Daniel has died and returned, there is still a Higher Power,” he said in a low voice, unheard by anyone else. “You are ignoring that aspect of the entire situation.” He turned to the waiting reverend and held a hand out. “Michael O’Neill,” he introduced himself. “Reverend, if you don’t mind, I’d like to get back to you on this. My brother will be attending the next religious council meeting and I’d like to personally invite you along. This issue will be addressed.”

The reverend agreed and took his party away. Jack spun and glared at his brother. “Boundary,” he snarled, pointing at the ground. “You’ve crossed it. No one has the authority to order me to a discussion on religion. No one! I don’t believe in it, Michael; you deal with it. Try giving me an order again, and I will personally ship you out to Hell. I know the address!”

Jaffa and a few SG personnel winced. Unaware of doing so, Jack had switched to Ancient. Michael hadn’t understood a word of it, but he knew the tone. Jack was pissed.

“Jack.” Daniel was looking at the ground. Between Jack and Michael, where Jack had pointed, a line about a yard long of grass had turned red.

 


 

Chapter 52

 

The neighborhood SF were all carefully watching for invasions of reporters or cross-bearing zealots as four-wheelers zoomed up and down the street. Kids and adults laughed and yelled to each other. A shop-owner from Denver showed up on Jack’s doorstep and asked if he could convince a few of his men to ride the four-wheelers in a commercial for the store. Jack said he’d think about it but first he wanted to give them a try. He called several SGC families, and twenty small buggies were soon racing around the neighborhood. Since most of the neighborhood along the route up Cheyenne had become the home to SGC and HomeSec families, there weren’t too many civilians who were complaining to the sheriff about the ruckus. Andy leaned against the hood of his car as he watched the kids playing. The small kids and the big kids. One four-wheeler came to a stop a couple yards from Andy.

“Hi, sheriff!” Davy called out, waving excitedly. He sat in front of Jack, covered in protective gear and a helmet. He was tickled that Daddy was letting him steer.

“Hello, David, how’s the ride?” Andy asked, returning the wave.

“It’s SWEET!” the boy declared. Andy laughed and nodded. Katie and Matthew had their own rides and were racing with Reynolds’ teenagers, while Stacey was riding carefully in front of Daniel and arguing with him to let her ride it herself. He was considering it; the other kids her age were doing it on their own, and she did have a helmet and padding. Even Jessie Bosco was riding her own four-wheeler. Sam rode in close and said something to Daniel. He reluctantly stopped and got off the bike.

“Be careful!” Daniel said worriedly as Stacey slowly started out on her own.

Jack shook his head at them.

“Is he always so…..?” Andy asked.

“No,” Jack said. “I think he’s going through some growing pains. Captain Kaplan and his family moved in up the street. Stacey took one look at Kaplan’s thirteen-year old son, Simon, and was struck speechless. Daniel isn’t taking it well, which is actually funny considering his former stance on being an open and cool Dad.”

Andy smiled. “Captain Kaplan? Say that three times fast.”

Jack chuckled. “Yes, it's a bit of a tongue-twister; we’re working on a promotion for him. People trip over that every time.”

There was a toot! behind him and he jumped out of the way.

“Move it or loose it!” his mother yelled as she came speeding past him.

“Aren’t you supposed to be chasing down speeders?” he asked Andy.

After getting everyone to sign releases, the ATV owner went back to Denver a happy man. Having all the families playing on his toys went much better than just the military at play. Jack was set to buy all the kids (their own, not the neighbor’s) ATV’s but Daniel and Sam vetoed him. The kids had plenty to play with. They could even play off-world. With aliens. They didn’t need four-wheelers. “But...” Jack began. “No, Jack.”

Leaving the kids with Jerrie, the adults left for HomeSec. Sam kissed her men and walked through the arch to her own office. Her office was in a quiet uproar over the sudden discharge of Major Coulter. Sam’s new admin, newly made 2Lt. Rusty Wilson, was wide-eyed at her unexpected promotion. Not only to second lieutenant, but as the new assistant to Colonel Carter! If talk was any indication, it won’t be boring. Rusty called Col. Davis for advice. He told her to expect the unexpected. Always. If the colonel disappeared in thin air, let him know, but don't worry unless he tells her to worry. He told her to keep in contact and email him whenever she had a question.

Daniel was trying very hard to keep his patience with the person on the phone in Jack’s office. Jack was fairly sure he was gently patronizing the person in Hebrew. Jack wasn’t surprised, considering the latest insanity in the Middle East. Some idiot fired off a few rounds across the border and killed several Palestinians. Of course Palestine returned the fire. Jack called Henry and Henry called various leaders. No one was willing to meet with Jack. Henry’s personal opinion was that they were afraid of the mind-reading rumors. Henry didn’t tell them that Jack could read them from halfway across the globe.

“Just a hot-head on the street,” Jack told Henry. “The government won’t say anything one way or another. Any excuses….. Henry, the UN really needs to take responsibility for their mess over there.”

Henry sighed. “Won’t argue with you, there, Jack, but unfortunately you know as well as I do that it isn’t going to happen. Those two countries are going to have to learn to get along. The UN displaced a country once, they won’t do it again. We can't tell them about Enki's historical revisions, the entire place would go up in flames.”

To Jack’s amusement, several shady government types had cornered him when the rumors began to circulate about his abilities. They were concerned about top secrets. Jack laughed and told one of the men to quit cheating on his wife with another man, and don’t tell him about keeping secrets. The man paled, refused to look at his partner, and left. Jack then had a private meeting with Henry and Maynard. Silent hell broke loose and quite a few ex-Personages were warned to keep their fingers out of any further dealings; the current Administration had a mess to clean up.

There had been many questionable acts cleared up by Jack’s curiosity. The Middle East issue was only one of them. Various government-types had begun scrambling to clean up any incriminating evidence that was still lingering. It really didn’t help; Jack was looking into bodies, not paperwork. He discovered that it was easier as he practiced. He could do a light scan of the town while he was changing the baby. Jack had the dirt on everyone. A few were of concern to him, so he passed on ‘anonymous’ information to Andy. A couple of people tried to take shots at him. Nick dealt with them before bothering to tell Jack to keep his head down.

“Jack, President Dayan wants to talk to you,” Daniel said, holding his hand over the speaker.

“Tell President Diane…” Daniel held out the phone. “…..if he doesn’t cut the crap, I’m going to sanction him,” Jack responded, raising his voice to be heard. “I know damned well who ordered that soldier to fire and so far, I’ve kept it to myself.”

Daniel and Sam had found that a Jack who knew everything was an irritating Jack. Unfortunately, Jack did have the right to sanction a nation belonging to HomeSec. He couldn’t interfere with the workings of a nation, but if they signed a pledge to behave, and they didn’t, Jack could take away their rights to participate in HomeWorld Security. The Middle East was already on a temporary pass; they could send people to serve aboard ships, but the countries would not have access to the technology. One word from Jack and the Middle East would be cut off completely. Any personnel already serving would be given the choice of returning home or aligning with another country.

Israel had accused Jack of anti-Semitism on more than one occasion. Jack would laugh and tell them to get over themselves. On more than one occasion, Daniel expounded on Semitic languages and their relationship to modern Middle Eastern Arabic, Hebrew, Egyptian, and a few others. During one occasion, Jack opened his cell phone and hit the record button. The next time someone accused him of anti-Semitism, Jack sent them the recording of one of Daniel’s impromptu lectures.

The one thing that had made the Middle East pause was not alien technology itself, but the fact that the technology was allowing the West to use something other than oil as their main energy. The citizens may not yet understand, but the leadership knew which way the wind was blowing and it wasn’t in the direction of their oil fields. Another irritation of Israel was the fact that the rest of the Middle East was reluctantly enjoying Jack’s directness when other country leaders were playing political games. When Jack told them something, they were learning to trust his word. Jack had something others didn’t –he had Daniel.

Daniel hung up the phone and discovered Jack just inches away.

“Yes?” Daniel questioned, slightly cross-eyed, looking at Jack so near.

“I want to do it on my desk,” Jack told him, an evil twinkle in his eyes.

“You have a one-track mind, do you know that?”

“What’s your point?” Jack asked from Daniel’s neck.

“Aren’t we supposed to be going over wedding plans?” Daniel asked.

“We’re already married.”

“Not our wedding, Paul’s wedding.”

“Oh. Right. That’s a girl thing, Danny; I want to make out.”

“I will have sex with you, right here, on one condition,” Daniel told him. Jack lifted his head from Daniel’s chest.

“You’re bribing me for sex?” Jack couldn’t believe it.

“Yup,” Daniel nodded.

“What’s the condition?” Jack asked suspiciously.

“For the next twenty-hour hours you speak nothing except Ancient,” Daniel said. And he said it in Ancient. Jack opened his mouth and Daniel held up a finger. “If you speak in English, or any other language, I won’t respond. And I will inform everyone else who speaks Ancient of the deal.”

“That’s low,” Jack grumbled.

“What?” Daniel asked in Ancient.

Jack scowled. “The deal is canceled in case of emergencies.”

“Of course,” Daniel nodded. “But you summarize after, to me, in Ancient.”

Jack considered the deal.

“And you will NOT agree now only to renege when we’re done,” Daniel continued.

“Not very romantic of you,” Jack grumbled.

“Ana mish fahim,” Daniel said, shaking his head in non-understanding.

“I said…..” Jack hesitated, knowing he was going to regret it. “Kwayis, mashi?”

Daniel smiled. “Mashi.”

Much to Jack’s enjoyment, Daniel was feisty during their playtime, too. The fact that a certain governor from California was being forced to cool his heels in the outer office was only more of a turn-on.

Afterward, while Jack quickly brushed his teeth in the small washroom, Daniel chuckled, sucking gently on Jack’s neck.

“Love you,” Daniel said softly.

Jack spit. “Love you, too. Now go away.”

“Ey?”

Jack repeated it in Ancient.

California wanted its own generator. With examples of Las Vegas, DC, Colorado Springs, and St. Petersburg all showing signs of better air and much lower electric bills, California was feeling left out. Jack promised that Los Angeles would get a generator. The governor went away happy despite the hickey on Jack’s neck and the image of a very happy Dr. Jackson that had left before hand. Jack called Sam.

“Would you please set up…..”

“Ey?”

Jack sighed, knowing it was going to be a long day. There was no way he’d get around the deal, not with Sam. She’d tattle on him. He began again, switching languages.

“Would you please set up LA with a generator?”

“Already preparing for it,” she said. “They have a heavy grid, so we need to reorganize it. All the high volume cities are being reorganized. We should have ten more up and running by New Year’s.”

After acknowledging it and telling her to send a report to his inbox, he was halfway into town when his phone rang again. “Where are you? Stay put, I’ll be there in ten.”

He turned off the main road and headed up to the lake. A group of SGC teens had gone to the lake for a party. Jack allowed Matthew to go with them. Col. Reynolds’ kids had gone up as well as eight others, so he felt Matty would be in safe hands. Jack looked at his watch. They had been at the lake for almost five hours. He parked and hiked in the last couple hundred yards.

There was a fire going in the pit, the music was loud and irritating on the head. Most of the kids were attempting to dance. Most of them were too drunk to succeed. Jack looked at his watch again. He walked up to the group and waited. There were a few more kids than he was expecting to see. One of the kids crashed into him and laughed hysterically.

“At ease, Mr. Flynn,” Jack said easily. One by one, the kids noticed the three-star in their midst. “Mr. Meador. Have a seat. Miss Smart, that t-shirt would look prettier on. Dana Moore, I thought you had the flu? Mr. Lewis, step away from the fire, son; roasting chestnuts isn’t for another six months.” He yanked a baseball cap off someone’s head and held it out. “Keys. Everyone. Now. I see three trucks, I want to see three sets of keys.”

The teens quieted. Only the CD box disturbed the peace of the woods. Jack bent and tapped the power button. Matthew was across the glade, looking unhappy as he sat close to Reynolds’ older kids, Robbie, twins Josh and Emma, and, surprisingly, Tressa Hammond.

“Did one of you drive?” Jack asked them.

“No, sir,” they answered. They all caravanned up with others.

“Get in my truck.” Jack pointed a thumb over his shoulder. He waited for a moment and then opened the radio. “Captain Pennick, please send a van to Lake Turner and pick up nine intoxicated teenagers. Make sure they’re delivered personally to their parents. After you take names.”

The kids were staggering in place, a few of them collapsed onto logs. The smell of pot was in the air, along with cigarettes. Jack didn’t say anything. He turned and went to his truck. Matthew and Tressa were in the front while the three Reynolds’ teenagers were squeezed into the back.

“Is everyone alright?” Jack asked.

“Yes, sir,” they murmured. He could sense the guilt from them.

“You were right to call,” he assured them. “I want the truth, everyone. Are any of you high?”

“No, sir,” Matty immediately said.

“A little buzzed, sir,” Robbie admitted. “But we didn’t actively take anything, it’s from the smoke in the air.”

“Okay,” Jack nodded.

“Jack? I’m not feeling well.”

Jack immediately pulled over and stopped. Tressa jumped out and hid in a bush. Emma went to help her. Jack reached under the seat and handed out a bottle of water.

“Alright, honey?” he asked a couple minutes later. He had babysat her and her sister a few times when they were small; she trusted him as much as she trusted her grandfather who had taken custody of them when their parents died. Tressa was white around the gills as she nodded and got back in.

“We didn’t know it was going to be like that, sir,” Emma said. “They said it was just a little down time with some music. We expected to see a little beer, but not like that.”

“I didn’t recognize a couple of the kids,” Jack said.

“New families, sir,” Josh told him. “Most of the beer and pot came from them.”

“We asked Matty to call you when it started getting out of hand,” Robbie said. “I would have called Dad, but he’s off-world.”

“I’m glad you called, son,” Jack assured him. “You did the right thing. Tressa, where’s your grandfather? At school?”

“Yes, sir,” she said weakly.

“Okay, I want you to crash at my place for the day,” Jack said. “You can sleep it off in Daniel’s den. It’s nice and quiet and dark. You never did handle chemical smells well. Jerrie will take care of you. You three, I’ll drop you off at your home. I want you to take it easy, too. No driving until the pot is out of your systems.”

They passed a van driven by SF. Jack stopped and handed them the cap of vehicle keys and gave quiet instructions. After letting the Reynolds’ kids off, and after having a short talk with Mary, Jack drove Matty and Tressa home. Tressa had laid down on the backseat after the others left. Jack glanced at Matty and slid an arm across the boy’s shoulders.

“You did good, son,” he told the boy.

“They’re going to pick on me for this,” Matty glumly predicted.

“Who? Robbie and….?”

“No,” Matty shook his head. “The others.”

Jack looked at him. “Matt, a few weeks ago you showed them how to kick Jaffa ass, and you’re worried about being picked on by dumb jocks?”

Matthew thought about it. He reluctantly smiled and watched the passing neighborhood. When they got to the house, the kids got out of the truck and went into the house while Jack told Jerrie what had happened, and called Daniel for lunch.

Once at the restaurant, Jack found a loaded burger waiting for him. He sank his teeth into it with a grateful hungry moan. Daniel watched him, picking at the remainder of the fries.

“Kids okay?” he asked. It was in Ancient. Jack nodded and wiped his mouth.

“Fine,” he said. “A little buzzed from the second-hand smoke. I’m a little buzzed, and I was only there for a few minutes. Head is a little achy.”

“Well, this might be giving you an even bigger ache,” Daniel said. “There’s a group of picketers outside city hall. In this time of great crisis, they feel that it is important, now more than ever, to remind our citizens of proper family values.”

Jack thought about it and narrowed his eyes.

“Is that a non-pointing finger?” he asked.

Daniel nodded. “Yes, it is. Lots of Mormons.”

Jack thought some more. “That’s a little calling the kettle black.”

Daniel smiled. “A side-subject on that –the town has a lot of kids who were kicked out of a cult. I’m wondering if you can get dispensation to offer them a life off-world or send recruiters to them. The Alpha site could use a few more settlers, and the kids seem to be good with their hands. The crew already there should be able to get the kids straightened out.”

“That’s a possibility,” Jack said with a nod. “Wouldn’t they be better off in school?”

“Maybe,” Daniel shrugged. “The stats say they’ll fall through the cracks no matter where they are. The way they’ve been raised….. I’d be surprised if more than one in ten manages to overcome their conditioning. Not without outside help.

“Andy said he’s hesitant to arrest any of them, minor offenses, because they’d never survive in jail.”

“I’ll talk to Henry and Francis.” He scowled as he thrust a fry into ketchup. “Danny, it’s those assholes running those cults that should be arrested.”

“I know,” Daniel said. “And the cult leaders will be arrested for abuse. Our laws, though, protect freedom of religion. Any religion. Jack, I’ll be the first to stand and extol the virtues of an education, and I’m telling you those kids are too naïve to survive on their own. Not in our society. They’d be eaten alive by the sharks, not to mention the way they’ve been raised to treat women. A good percentage of those boys are rapists and pedophiles in waiting.”

Jack frowned as he considered what Daniel was saying. “If I remember right, Major Baldwin used to work with at-risk inner-city kids. Did Peace Corps work, too. We can’t force these kids to go, but I’ll talk to the Powers that Be and see if we can at least offer them an alternative.”

Probably to test Daniel’s patience, Jack decided he needed to have an urgent talk with the mayor. About the cult boys, of course. Mayor Stivers, a good Episcopalian boy, wasn’t one of Jack’s fans.

“That is your fault,” Stivers said, poking a finger toward the window and the picketers when Jack and Daniel entered his office. The two holding hands wasn’t helping Stivers’ blood pressure, nor did it win Jack any friends when they walked through the small crowd. Jack blinked innocently.

“Barny, I don’t know those people,” Jack said. “How could I have upset them?”

“Bernard,” Daniel corrected.

“Ignore them, Bernie,” Jack said. He took a seat without being offered and tugged Daniel down into the other seat. “They need to get a life and stay out of business that isn’t theirs. Just tell them to go home and get out of your hair.” He glanced at the man’s shiny dome. “We wanted to discuss all these kids that were kicked out of their cults. Excuse me –communities. If I take them off your hands, will it make you a happier camper?”

Stivers looked from one man to the other, suspicious.

“Are you talking about sending them…. out there?” He jerked his chin toward the ceiling.

“To space?” Jack asked, his face blank. “No, there’s no air in space, Bernie; they wouldn’t survive much more than a few minutes. I’ve been there, Bernie; it’s cold. I’m talking about a couple of planets that are being colonized. The kids know how to use their hands; the colonists will put them to work and get rid of the brainwashing at the same time. All voluntary, of course. I have to clear it with a few others. What do you think?”

Stivers would have to discuss it with various other city officials before giving Jack an answer. Outside the front door, they found a camera and microphone in their faces. Jack gave friendly waves at the crowd shouting at him about his lack of morals and ethics.

“Tildie, you know I…..”

“Hildie, Jack.”

“…..don’t like sneak attacks,” Jack complained.

“Come on, General, just a moment of your time,” the young reporter insisted. “How do you respond to accusations that you are corrupting the morals of children?”

Jack tossed his head back and laughed. “I’d say ask my children,” he said. “A couple hours ago, my fifteen year old son called me from a party. The people he was with, other teenagers, were drunk and smoking pot. My son trusted me enough to call me and tell me what was going on and ask me to come and pick him up. How’s that for moral corruption? Have a nice day, ma’am.”

He slid an arm around Daniel’s waist and headed for their vehicles. Andy was leaning against his own car, waiting for them to exit the building.

“Can you possibly stay out of trouble for one day?” he asked as the men approached.

“You’re talking about Jack, right?” Daniel asked. His butt received a love-tap.

“Andy, don’t you have anything better to do than follow me around?” Jack asked.

“No, really,” Andy admitted. “First of all, you are our Number One priority; I always know where you are. When you’re home, anyway. Two –with all the military here, my job is much easier; crime has been cut down about thirty-two percent.”

Jack snorted. “Tell that to the kids up at Lake Turner smoking pot and getting drunk.”

“I know,” Andy sighed. “Your boys passed names on to me. You want to take care of it?”

“No,” Jack shrugged. “You said you’re bored. It was on public property. Just let me know if you have any problems.”

“’kay. Jack, are you aware that someone dug up about five-square yards of grass from the high school field? Do you know how much grass that is?”

Jack thought about it. “Why would someone dig up all that grass? It’s half the lawn.”

“To study that red line you made,” Daniel told him.

Jack shook his head. “It was only about a yard long. I’ll find out who and make sure it’s fixed before school opens.”

They walked around for a while, receiving curious stares as they chatted in Ancient. One store owner came out and stopped them, begging Daniel to make her little bookshop a stop on his book signing tour. Daniel wasn’t aware he was going to be touring, he really didn't have time for it, but promised to do one day in her store signing books. She went back into the store, very happy.

“Yo, Dr. J!”

Daniel looked around and saw a group of college students at an outdoor café. They had the music up and were enjoying themselves.

“Malcolm, not taking summer classes?” he asked.

“Just two,” Malcolm said. “Not today, though. Neither are you.” He sidled up to Daniel, a speculative look in his eyes despite Jack’s presence. “Does your old man let you dance?” He lifted his arms and tossed his hips close, the techno-beat of the music encouraging him. Daniel answered the gleam and met the young man, their chests mere inches from each other. He teased, responding to the music for a moment before stepping back.

“He does, but only with him and our wife,” Daniel told the disappointed young man. “And believe me –Jack can dance.” He took Jack’s hand and walked away with a jaunty step. Malcolm’s friends laughed and egged him as he pretended to faint in Daniel’s wake, almost falling over the café fence as he watched Daniel’s rear end walking away.

A few stores away, Jack glanced at Daniel. “Do you get hit on often from students?” he asked.

Daniel chuckled. “Often enough,” he said. “They’re only playing.”

……..“Don’t, Jack.”

“What?”

Daniel paused and turned to him. “You’re thinking about our age difference again,” he informed Jack. “I don’t care, and you know it.” He put his hands on Jack’s shoulders and looked into the brown eyes. A cell phone rang. “I love you. Quit it.” He pecked Jack’s mouth and then looked at his cell phone before answering it.

“I’m in town with Jack. We can stop by.” He hung up. “We need to stop by the SGC.”

They started walking back toward Jack’s truck. “I’m not fun, Danny,” Jack said after a couple of blocks. “Don’t you want to go out and dance with them?”

“No,” he said honestly with a shrug. “I did when I was in college. It’s been a long time since I felt the desire to be a kid. I like going dancing with Sam once in a while. As for you being fun –Jack, I have never had so much fun in my life, as the fun I’ve had since meeting you. Now quit it and drive.”

Jack drove, happy with Daniel’s hand on his thigh.

“Why are we going to the Mountain?” he asked after a mile.

“Because,” Daniel said. Jack looked at him. He stopped and began to turn around.

“Noooo,” Daniel said. “Jack, you have to check in with Dr. Lam. She’s put up with you this far, but she does have the authority to order you in, and you know it. Enki says you’re at full mode and after this last incident you really need to get checked. Carolyn needs to compare the before, during, and after scans. And you’re doing very well with the Ancient. I knew you could do it.”

Jack mumbled something.

“What?”

“I said, it’s easier if I don’t think about it,” Jack said loudly. “Someone in there is doing the translating, and it isn’t me.”

“Of course, it’s you,” Daniel said, patting his leg. “Now we need to get you to start scribbling engineering schematics. Put that Masters degree to some use. You know you could get a Ph.D. out of this.”

“What would I do with a Ph.D.?” Jack asked. “Not all of us have a need to collect Ph.D.’s.”

“General Doctor Jack O’Neill.”

Jack considered it.

“Does that mean we can play doctor?” he asked.

“Only if the anal probes are warmed first.”

“You drive a hard bargain, Doctor.”

Jack put up with the light thingy flashing in his eyes. He still didn’t understand why they insisted on looking into his eyes with a penlight when all the action was happening in his brain.

“Stop glaring,” Lam said. She put the light into her jacket pocket.

“I feel fine,” he insisted.

She nodded. “And according to the machines, you are fine.”

Reynolds came into the infirmary. His face was a mess; cuts, scrapes, and small burns.

“Hey, Jack. Daniel.” He and Daniel knocked paws.

“What happened to you?” Jack asked.

“Someone stepped on a nearby landmine,” Reynolds said. “I got in the way of the blast. Thank God I didn’t lose an eye. I heard you were here. Would you mind? Before Mary and the kids see me?”

Jack put a hand out.

“Wait!” Dr. Lam quickly attached more electrodes to Jack and then a few to Kevin. She had a tech bring over a camera to record the process from the outside. “Okay.”

Jack put his hand on Reynolds’ chest. He noticed a slight undercurrent in his body; like touching a wire with poor insulation. The energy seemed to flow in one direction –down his arm and out his hand. He took his hand away and looked at it, flexing his fingers.

“What?” Daniel asked, stepping closer.

“Nothing,” Jack said, shaking his head. “I’m starting to notice a light sensation of current.”

Daniel took Jack’s hand for a moment. “Well, I don’t sense anything external,” he said. “Maybe a slight chill, but that could be the fact that it’s a little cold in here.”

Kevin’s face was slowly and surely healing before their very eyes. Dr. Lam watched, fascinated. He frowned at her and took a step back as she closed in on his space.

“Is that recorded?” she asked the tech.

“Yes, ma’am,” the tech said, not quite believing it. He was new…..

“Don’t even try it,” Jack warned. The tech took a startled look around.

“Sir?”

Jack shook a finger at him. “I have lots of tricks up my sleeve, son,” he said to the tech. “You signed a confidentiality clause when you signed on here; you keep your mouth shut.”

“What’s going on?” Daniel asked in Ancient.

“He’s considering the amount of money he could get for this information,” Jack told Daniel and Reynolds.

“I’ll keep an eye on him,” Kevin said with a nod. The tech gulped, not understanding, but knowing they were talking about him.

“We knew it was only a matter of time,” Daniel said.

“I’d like a little more time,” Jack stated.

Mason came into the room, wearing BDU’s with SGC insignia. He looked at Kevin’s face and didn’t say anything. Jack looked at the stitches going up Mason’s forearm.

“And what did you do?” Jack asked.

“Mauled by a mountain lion,” Mason said. Jack looked at him. “Really. I was running around the mountain and I ran into a mother and cubs.”

“How’re Mel and the boys?” he asked. His cousin still didn’t want his wounds healed in warp-speed time. “Settling in?”

“They’re well,” Mason nodded as he watched the healing. “Mark will be starting his senior year at Penn State soon, so he won’t be here for long.”

“What’s Keith doing?” Jack asked.

“He doesn’t know yet,” Mason said, trying not to growl in disapproval. “He doesn’t want to go to college, he doesn’t want to sign up…… I'm ready to kick him out.”

“He’s nineteen, Mace, give him a break,” Jack said. “He’s still a kid. Why don’t you send him off-world for a while? I’m considering sending some kids to the Alpha site to help with farming. Kalam also needs new blood. Although, they are a little male-heavy….”

Mason gave Jack a look. “I am not sending my son to Kalam,” he stated. “It’s bad enough I have to watch out for my ass when I’m around those guys, I’m not giving up my son’s ass.”

Jack shrugged. “It really isn’t that bad. Feels pretty good, actually.”

Mason made a quick exit.

Daniel smacked Jack’s arm. “Quit terrorizing him.”

Jack chuckled as he slid off the exam bed. “Doc, you’re done with me, right? Yes, you are. Colonel, find my cousin someone to beat up, will you?”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Reynolds’ smiled.

“You going to make it to Paul’s handfasting?”

“If I’m on the planet, sure,” Reynolds nodded.

They checked in with Landry, and Daniel found himself cornered by Nyan. The young man had a wild, almost desperate look around his eyes as he grabbed Daniel by the shoulders.

“You have to tell me,” Nyan pleaded. “Does she like me? Do I have a chance? Is she seeing anyone? Please, Daniel, tell me, I can take it.”

Jack and Landry looked at each other and then at the short alien scientist.

“Who?” Daniel asked. He patted Nyan, settling him.

Ronnie!” Nyan moaned. He collapsed into a chair. “Dear gods, she’s a dream! Beautiful and brains…..”

Daniel looked at the generals.

Oh, boy…..”

Jack left Daniel to explain the facts of life to Nyan, and followed his nose out of the Mountain and down to Mason’s new house, which was at the far end of Jack’s neighborhood. Having Mason and his family nearby was another good thing for Maggie; she just needed to remind the boys not to fight whenever they ran into each other. Jack had to admit he wasn’t feeling as antagonistic toward Mason as he usually did. Maybe they were beginning to understand each other.

“Hi, Jack,” Melanie greeted him from the flower bed.

“Hey, Mel, you need some help?” he asked.

“Would you bring that bag of mulch over here?” she asked, pointing to a large plastic bag. He lifted the thirty pound bag and grunted as he plunked it on the ground next to her.

“Is Mason alright?” she asked, digging a spade full of mulch into the ground.

“He’s fine,” Jack assured her. “I just came by to see if Keith was around.”

Melanie paused at the unusual request. “Yes, he’s playing a computer game, last time I checked.”

“Okay if I go in?”

“Yes, of course.”

Jack remembered Mason and Melanie’s wedding, the moms having talked Mason into inviting Jack, but he wasn’t around for the births of their sons. Both boys were born overseas while Mason was on tour. He didn’t know them well, but neither seemed as hard-headed as their father. He heard computer sounds and followed them. Most of their things had been unpacked; a few boxes still sat in corners.

He watched the boy from the doorway of the bedroom. Keith sat back on his bed as he played with a hand-held game control.

“Hey,” Jack said. Keith looked up, surprised to see him.

“Jack, hey.”

“You settling in alright?” Jack asked, coming into the room. He took a chair and turned it around, straddling it. Keith shrugged. “There’re a few older teenagers in the neighborhood. Nice guys.”

“I saw your dad a little bit ago,” Jack tried again. Keith punched at the buttons.

“Complaining about his lazy-assed son?”

“No,” Jack shrugged. “He sounded frustrated, more than anything. A father wants his son to be happy and successful. He doesn’t understand you not wanting to go to school or sign up.”

“He wants me to have his life,” Keith muttered, his father's scowl on his face. “I don’t want to hold a gun and I don’t give a shit about more school.”

“What do you give a shit about?” Jack asked. He sent a feeler out and then drew back, slightly confused. “Keith, what’s going on? Son, you do know that a lot of people are going through some unusual changes, don’t you? If something weird is going on inside….”

The boy who didn’t want to hold a gun made short work of the trolls on the computer screen. “Music,” he said after a moment.

Jack waited. “What about it?”

“Can you really do…. things?” Keith asked, trying to hide something in his voice.

“Some,” Jack admitted. “Got any scrapes or cuts on you?”

“Huh?”

“You’re a kid,” Jack pointed out. “Anything half-healed?”

Keith considered his body and then pushed out a leg. He pulled the denim leg up to show a scrape on his calf. Jack touched the hairy leg for a moment. To Keith’s amazement, he watched the scrape heal before his very eyes.

“Cool,” he said, poking at it experimentally.

“So, you going to tell me about music?” Jack asked. The boy pulled his jeans into place and tried to disappear into the corner of his bed.

“Are you going to tell my dad?”

Jack frowned. “Keith, I’ve known your father all my life; I can’t imagine him hurting you.”

Keith shrugged. “I’ve had my share of red butts,” he said. “I guess I earned them. I …. hear music.”

Jack waited. “What do you mean, you hear music?”

“Music,” the teen repeated. “Everywhere. All the time. I figured out how to fix the car because it sounded wrong, so I kept tweaking things until it sounded right again. I can’t… shut it off. I think I’m going crazy.”

Jack took his cell phone out and dialed. “Honey, did Keith’s test come through yet? Uh huh…… okay, thanks.” He put his cell down and looked at the boy. “Keith, some people are just developing a small section of their brain, that’s all. Didn’t you read about the evolution thing happening? For some people, it’s little things, like being able to study better and understand more at an earlier age. For others, it’s a little more concentrated. You hear music. Well, okay, so let’s find out what that means for you. Is there anything that doesn’t sound like music?”

Keith thought about it. “It’s only electronic stuff,” he said. Jack looked around the room. He turned off the computer, unplugged it, unplugged everything else that was plugged in, and shut the light off.

“How’s that?” he asked. Keith looked inward.

“Quieter,” he said, a little surprised. Jack patted him on a leg.

“Come on, kiddo, we’re going to my place.”

“My place” turned out to be HomeWorld Security. Melanie wasn’t quite sure what the boys were doing, but she went along when Jack encouraged her. They both signed in and had pictures taken for ID’s. For reasons they didn’t understand, their tags were also imbedded with a copy of their DNA.

“Sometimes prints and pictures just aren’t enough,” Jack said, considering how many times they had run-ins with an evil copy of Samantha Carter. “Don’t worry about it.” He led them down to the labs, being inevitably stopped along the way for signatures. Paul ran downstairs and slid to a halt. He held up two pieces of cloth.

“Which one?” he urgently requested.

“For what?” Jack asked.

“The table cloths,” Paul said, slightly impatient.

Jack shrugged. “You’re the one getting married,” he said. “Why don’t you ask Nick?”

The cloths dropped. “Are you kidding, sir? His side of the closet is black for a reason.”

“Oh. Melanie, which one?” Jack asked her. Paul helpfully held up the cloths again.

Unsure of the pronouns being used, she hesitantly gestured toward the teal lace.

“That one looks nice with your eyes,” she offered.

Paul smiled and sighed in relief. “That’s what I thought, too. It looks nice with Nick’s eyes, too. His are very green. Thank you.” He ran back to the stairs, happily petting the cloth. Jack shook his head; his colonel was in queen mode.

“He’s usually more together,” he said. “He’s getting married in two days.”

Halfway across the lab, Jack noticed that he had only Melanie at his side. He stopped and looked around. Keith was standing still, slightly dumbfounded.

“What is it, son?” Jack asked.

“The sound is different,” Keith commented. He absently tapped on his ears.

“Boggs!” Jack called out.

“Biggs, sir.”

Jack opened his mouth and then paused, eying the man suspiciously. “Shut everything off.”

“Sir?”

“Everything, Captain. Shut it off. Power down.”

They waited until all the machinery was off.

“Almost normal,” Keith said.

“Honey, I don’t understand,” Melanie said, brushing at her son’s hair. “What’s going on?”

“He hears music, Mel,” Jack told her. “It’s one of those new things that’s been happening. Electricity sounds like music to him and it’s been causing him to question his sanity. We’re going to try and fix it.”

“Captain, this is Keith Addison and his mother Melanie. Colonel Addison’s family and my cousins,” Jack said. “Be nice to them and help Keith.”

 


 

Chapter 53

 

“Paul, that doesn’t make sense,” Jack complained over the top of his newspaper. “You were going to tag her so she can beam around.” Davis' parents were refusing to attend, but several of his cousins and old school friends caught wind of the handfasting, and let him know, in no uncertain terms, that they were behind him. Much to Paul's surprise, he had burst into tears when his cousin said she wanted to stand up with him. He hadn't allowed his stress over his parents to be shown for so long, that he didn't realize he had been holding in a volcano of pain.

“And she doesn’t want to get beamed around,” Paul said. “She started quoting Star Trek and talking about her molecules getting mixed up. She told her father she’s going to Utah for an interview, and she's flying in to Denver, driving here.”

“That’s pretty weak,” Sam commented. “Never worked on my father.”

Jack looked up again. “Oh? Where did you go?”

She smiled and took a bite of her jam-covered toast. “To Miami,” she said. “Spring Break.” She held the toast for Olivia. The baby liked the taste of the sweet strawberry as her excited wiggling attested.

“You rebel, you,” Jack said. “Wish I had known; I like you in a swimsuit. If we could only get you into a bikini….”

“Nice try,” she informed him. Olivia held her sticky fingers out for Fang to wash. “Honey, don’t do that,” Sam told her. “Doggy germs.” She took the baby into the kitchen and put her hands under the faucet. While Sam’s back was turned, Jack fed Fang a finger-full of jam.

“How’d your day of Ancient go?” Paul asked.

Jack rolled his eyes. “It went,” he said. “Gave myself a headache. I didn’t know I knew all those words.”

“I’m not wearing this!”

They turned to Nick who came out of the bedroom with Daniel and a tailor behind him. He was tugging at the dark teal cummerbund around his waist.

“Why? You look very handsome,” Paul told him, standing to go and adjust Nick’s tie. “And the color does match your eyes.”

“I look like a southwestern poser,” Nick informed him. “I want it leather.”

“Would you rather I had chosen pink?” Paul asked, arms crossed. Nick’s eyes narrowed.

“Alright, guys.” Daniel separated them. “Nick, we would tell you if something looked wrong on you. The teal is fine. Paul, you need your pants adjusted a little; you’ve lost a couple pounds.” Jack raised an eyebrow and buried himself in the paper again.

“Nerves,” Paul complained, rubbing his stomach as he followed the tailor into the bedroom.

“Nick, are you sure there isn’t anyone we could fly in to be with you?” Sam asked. Olivia held out her arms and Nick took her.

“There isn’t anyone, thank you, Sam.” She draped a cloth over his shoulder, protecting his suit from baby drool.

Someone beamed into the middle of the living room.

“Hello.”

Jack groaned. “It’s Lenny and Squiggy.”

Jonathan flicked a finger at him and took Olivia from Nick. He pressed kisses to her round cheeks, making her gurgle and smile.

Squawk!

“I wanted that,” they heard Ninurta complain from the kitchen. Jerrie came out, hands on her hips.

“If those two are going to mess up my kitchen, they can clean it,” she declared.

“Don’t mess the kitchen!” Jack yelled back.

Running steps were on the stairs and Davy came in and flung himself at Jonathan. Sam took Olivia from him and let Davy climb over Jonathan who groaned under the weight and fell to the floor.

“Where’s Daka?” Jack asked.

“On the ship,” Shara said, watching the two on the floor. “We didn’t exactly get permission to adopt him, so we’re a little concerned about showing his face on the planet.”

“No, really?” Jack asked, his eyes wide in mock-surprise. “Bring him down, let him play. If anyone says anything, we will deal with it.”

More people beamed in. Inanna, Enki, and Erra. Inanna passed around a few royal kisses and plucked at Nick’s collar.

“Look at you, handsome,” she commented. “I like the leather, but this works, too.”

“See?” Paul informed him as he came out to see what the commotion was about. Inanna planted a sisterly kiss of congratulations on his cheek. His cell phone rang and he excused himself. “No!” everyone heard from the bedroom. Paul came out, white-faced. “The rabbi has tonsillitis!”

Daniel took the cell phone and tossed it to the couch. “You have a house full of people capable of handfasting you guys, so relax and pick someone.”

Paul immediately grabbed Daniel's arms, a wild look in his eyes. “You do it! Please please please!!!”

Ninurta came out of the kitchen munching on a bagel.

“He is NOT wearing that to the ceremony,” came a shocked voice from the bedroom doorway. They looked at the tailor. The man was staring aghast at Ninurta.

“You don’t like it?” Ninurta asked, flicking at his worn leather kilt.

“No, he won’t be wearing leather,” Paul assured the man. “He knows how to dress up. Let’s just deal with my pants.” He ushered the man back into the bedroom with Jonathan trailing behind.

“Must he sing?” Jack asked plaintively.

“Yes!” Paul called out from the bedroom.

Jack looked around. “I am still the general, right?”

“For the moment,” Daniel said, tossing a spoon at him.

Enki sat at the table and stared at Jack. Jack stared back.

“Fang needs a walk,” Jack decided.

“He went thirty minutes ago,” Sam reminded him. “Do we need to sit on you to keep you down?”

Jack considered it. “Would you?”

She smiled and squeezed his cheeks, puckering his lips, and pecking them.

“I don’t know how I did it, it just happened,” Jack informed Enki. He assumed the old man was staring at him in expectation of conversation regarding the red line in the grass.

“You’re stubborn, Jack,” Enki told him. Someone snickered.

“Not,” Jack said, frowning. “A little. Maybe.”

“Want to see something interesting?” Daniel asked Enki. He tossed the old man a magazine. “He finished that book in two days.”

Enki flipped through the puzzle book, taking a moment to figure out the various types of puzzles.

“Even the advanced puzzles,” he noted. “Relatively easy, actually. These are advanced for you?” he asked Daniel.

“For a lot of people,” Daniel said with a nod. “We’ve been working on his vocabulary for a few years through crossword puzzles, but it’s only recently that he’s been speeding through these.”

Jack looked at the men and shrugged. “What? They were easy.”

“And two years ago you would have been trying to find someone to cheat off of to get them finished,” Daniel reminded him. “Jack, those advanced pages are Mensa puzzles. And you whizzed through them –with a pen. You were not really a slouch in the brains department before this, you were just lazy about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were closing in on Sam’s IQ. You’re definitely past mine. A couple of those puzzles were giving me headaches.”

“I don’t know what it is with you guys,” Sam commented. “Col. Shepherd hides it, too. I had an email from McKay…..”

“He emails you?” Jack questioned.

“Unfortunately,” Sam said. “He discovered that Shepherd coasts through Mensa tests, too. Rodney is feeling snubbed. Shepherd won’t join the Atlantis Mensa club.”

Jack considered asking the obvious questions and changed his mind.

“What’s menses puzzles?” Davy asked, climbing onto Jack’s lap. The adults smiled at the verbal error.

“Mensa is a group of smart people,” Daniel told him. “It’s just the name of their group. They use very hard puzzles to test people. To see how well they learn.”

“Oh.” Davy thought about it. “Is Daddy a smart people?”

“He doesn’t think so, but he is,” Daniel assured him.

“I think so, too,” Davy said, putting an end to the argument.

Jack poked him. “Why don’t you go help Paul with his pants?”

“He’s a big boy, Daddy, he knows how to fix his pants,” Davy explained.

“Oh, right,” Jack nodded. “Then how about you go out and play?”

“Are you trying to get rid of me?”

“Yes, I am.”

David gave a big, put-upon sigh and slid off Jack’s lap.

The phone rang and Jerrie answered it in her room.

“Jack, it’s a Dr. Hyman from the hospital,” she said from around the door. “He has a question about Katie.”

“Dr. Hyman?” Jack questioned. “Are you serious? Please tell me he isn’t an OB/GYN.”

She handed him the phone.

“O’Neill. Yes, Doctor, I’m aware of it; file it under current weirdness and just let her help. Dr. Lam can assist you in directing Katie’s education. Thank you, I appreciate your concern.”

“Apparently Katie is diagnosing people by looking at them and it’s beginning to irritate the medical staff,” he told the group after he hung up. He drummed his fingers on the table for a moment.

“Most of the kids I’ve met seem to be doing odd things,” he commented. “A few aren’t doing much of anything except being kids. All of ours are off the charts, even Miss Thing, here.” He tugged gently on Olivia’s toes. She was currently nestled against Ninurta’s chest. “She seems to be a couple months ahead. Catching onto words easier than her brothers and sister did, trying to walk already. Davy senses people’s emotions, Katie, like I said –diagnosing people. Matthew finds depth and connections in information, Stacey picks up languages faster than light-speed and her drawing is getting better.”

“She’s pretty good at guessing the three-dimensional shape of something if she sees only one side,” Daniel told them. “Her dimensions are excellent.”

“And one of Mason’s sons, Keith, hears music,” Jack said. Sam nodded.

“Yes, especially in electricity,” she said. “The smallest amount has a musical tone for him. He likes the naquadah better; says its tone is more even and tranquil.”

“The National Educators latest newsletter says they’re contemplating giving all primary, secondary, and college level students a new placement test to see if we’re imagining things,” Daniel commented. “The entire curriculum may need to be changed.”

Enki was in contemplation as he pulled on his beard.

“I think it’s Katie, Matthew, and possibly David who may need to be watched,” he suggested. “All of their talents have far-reaching possibilities. We don’t know where Olivia is going, yet, but Zu had some interesting commentary on her. David might be able to hear a lie or omission, but it’s Matthew, especially, who will need direction. His talent could be used for negative purposes.”

“Information,” Jack said. Enki nodded. “He isn’t up for that kind of pressure. He’s learning self-defense, but I can’t see him becoming someone like…. Well, Nick, for the lack of a better example. Matty isn’t ‘covert’ material.”

“Not now,” Daniel conceded. “But we don’t know what kind of man he will become.”

“I believe in nurture over nature,” Jack said. “Matty will be fine.”

“I know he will, Jack, he’s a terrific kid. I’m just saying…..,” Daniel argued.

Sam put a hand on his arm. “You’re saying life happens,” she clarified. “All we can do is love the kids and raise them the best we can. The rest is up to them.”

Daniel pointed and nodded.

“I agree, Jack,” Enki said. “Unless something extreme happens, Matthew is too gentle a person to act covertly. Don’t worry about him. I think, though, you might want to teach him that not everyone who crosses his path will be as ethical as he is.”

“You do realize he managed to change the subject?” Daniel asked the old man. Enki twinkled.

“Oh, I have several thousands of years experience in dealing with precocious boys like him.”

Ninurta ignored him.

“I asked him to turn my coffee mug from brown to lapis,” Daniel said. “I think his focus needs focus. My cup is now one big piece of lapis.”

“Yeah, and what’s the point of me being able to do this stuff?” Jack interjected. “I’m not Superman, I’m not going to fly around the world turning water into wine.”

Daniel looked at him. “Very good, Jack; nice choice. And speaking of religion…..”

“No.”

Thankfully, Jack was saved by the bell. The phone, actually. Someone needed Daniel at his lab. Paul wasn’t happy to be minus Daniel the day before his handfasting, but Jack offered him Olivia’s help. Paul turned on his heel and went back to the bedroom and the tailor.

“You be nice,” Sam scolded. “He was invaluable to our handfasting, you should be more supportive of his.”

Jack sighed and stuck his head in to apologize. He then escaped the madhouse and stopped in to see his mother. At least she could be counted on to feed him. The peanut butter cookies were nice and warm and chewy as he dunked them into the cold milk.

Maggie put a few dishes away and sat across from him.

“I’ve been trying to understand this thing you did,” she said worriedly. “That red line they said you made in the grass. And this healing thing you do.”

“Believe me, Mom, I’m trying to understand it, too,” he said. “Some people can do things because of genetics. Remember I told you about the Ancients living here on Earth so long ago? Some of them mated with humans. Their genes are still in some people. You know all those stories about Irish magic and stuff? A lot of the old Celts had the genes.

You and Dad had their genes. It’s the luck of the draw that I can do a few things. Between those genes and something that happened to me a few years ago, I can do a lot more than most people with the genes.”

“Does your brother have these genes?” she asked.

“Yes, of course,” Jack nodded. “But his didn’t turn on in his brain the same way mine did. He can use some of the Ancient stuff, if he wanted to, but that’s about it.”

“Do the kids have them?” she asked.

“No,” Jack shook his head. “The genes need to come from both parents. Olivia didn’t have them to pass on to Megan, and neither Megan nor Andrew had them to pass on to the kids. The stuff the kids are doing is just part of the leap process.”

She thought about it and shook her head. “Well, it’s all beyond me,” she concluded. “I remember a number of times I heard my mother say, “Well, I never…” and I do believe this is one of those times.”

Jack chuckled and nodded. “I remember Gram saying that, too,” he said. “I think she would have rapped my ears for my latest choices.”

“She would have chased you around the neighborhood with a switch for your latest choices,” Maggie informed him with a knowing waggle of a finger.

“Yes, ma’am.”

Michael found him at their mother’s house just before Jack was about to leave.

“No.”

“Jack…..”

“I said no.” Jack stood his ground, feet almost dug into the floor itself. “I do not have to defend my opinion. I could care less what someone else believes; I am not going to defend my beliefs and lack thereof.”

Michael sighed and sat. “Jack, no one is asking you to defend yourself. We want to hear your opinion, that’s all.”

“Why?”

“Because you have overturned the entire apple cart and the world is interested,” Michael said. “Billions of people DO believe, in whatever manner they see as Truth, and they are looking to their religious leaders for answers. The leaders need to consider your opinion because of who you are. Jack, you have the entire world in the palm of your hands. Everyone watches your every move.”

Jack’s eyes grew bigger. “That’s….. I’m getting better shades for our bedroom window.”

“Your sex life is a different subject,” Michael said dryly. “It’s minor compared to whether or not there is a God. Jack, we need to understand. I know there’s information that no one can have, I made you a promise and I will keep it, but some people are wondering what you are NOT telling them. People are not stupid, Jack, they can read between the lines and you’ve left some very big openings, and once Daniel’s book hits the shelves in a couple weeks, people are really going to be looking for answers. The leadership needs as much information as you can provide.”

“Then talk to Daniel,” Jack whined.

“We have been,” Michael said. “And he’s been a great deal of help. Our problem with him is that he speaks our language instead of letting us in on his own personal beliefs.”

The eyes narrowed. “Oh, really?”

Daniel was tracked down in his new lab at HomeSec. He was oblivious to Jack’s entrance until Jack silently came to a halt at his back. Daniel’s hands were inside large, rubber gloves, working under a sterile hood.

“Please don’t make me drop this,” Daniel said carefully. He was attempting to separate a sodden mass. It was found in a swamp and local archaeologists asked him if he had a way of fixing it so that they could figure out what it was.

“Why don’t you just dry it out?” Jack asked.

“Because it would disintegrate. Not that I don’t treasure your presence…..”

“I’ve agreed to go to the meeting tonight,” Jack said. Daniel paused, almost dropping his mess.

“Okay.”

“You’ll come with me, right?”

“Of course, I will. I’m glad you’re doing this, Jack. Go away?”

Jack went away. His cell phone rang on his way to his office. There was probably a pile of papers that needed to be signed.

“O’Neill.” He paused as he listened. “Yes, I agree. Get all teams rerouted to the planet, I’ll call in the ships.”

He hit the comm as he jogged to his office. People jumped out of the way; their general wasn’t usually rushed about anything, but when he was…..

“Sam, you and Paul get into uniform and get moving. We’re sending everyone out to meet up with the Jaffa. Some planet was hit by a very large asteroid and there are a couple million people to evacuate. Apparently it took out a chunk the size of Texas.”

Abigail took one look at her boss and began to prepare for holding down the fort. Jack hit the intercom on his desk as he sent out an all-call from his computer. “Daniel, drop the mud and find me a planet. P7X-893 needs an emergency evacuation. Get a gate address for them. We need it yesterday.”

All the ships were notified and headed home to pick up personnel and supplies. Jack called the Joint Chiefs and informed the Navy that since they had been complaining about being left out, they could prepare anyone they could spare to help with the evacuations. Get IDs entered into the database immediately and the 303s would begin beaming people up as soon as they were near Earth.

Taking advantage of the Heaven’s Bow in orbit, Jack had himself beamed home. Sam and Paul were organizing their staff as they dressed.

“Is it bad guys, Daddy?” Davy asked, sitting worriedly on the couch.

“No, son,” Jack assured him. “Something bad happened to a planet and we’re going to help the people.” He stripped on his way to the bedroom and picked up the BDU’s that were left on the bed for him. “Jerrie, I’m taking Sam and Daniel with me,” he called out. “Stay put, we’ll call in when we can.”

“Yes, sir.”

Inanna’s family had already beamed up to Heaven’s Bow and begun preparations for their ship. The door to Daniel’s den opened and Michael poked his head out. He had been rummaging through Daniel’s books.

“What’s going on?”

“Michael, I think it’s time you got your hands dirty,” Jack informed him. “I’m drafting you.”

“You’re what?”

“Paul! Get Michael into a pair of my BDUs!”

Jack shoved his brother toward the bedroom. “Jack, you can’t….!”

“Jack, it’s Carolyn,” Jerrie said, holding the phone out. Jack took it and gave her an update. All medical staff except a peripheral staff would be going on the trip.

“General, I’d like to take Katie with me,” Lam said.

Jack stopped. “No -are you kidding?!”

“I’m not kidding,” she said. “We could use her in triage. She did an excellent job with the Koreans that were transferred here. She knows by looking at people how serious their condition is. We need her.”

“She’s a kid. I don’t think so.”

“She’s a kid who lives in your house,” Lam pointed out. “She’s underage, so you do have the final say, but don’t think less of her because of her age. She can handle it. I’ll keep her with me.”

Jack looked at Sam, thinking hard. He looked around and focused on a picture of Katie that was hanging on the wall. He went to it and touched it, forcing himself to center and find her. ….Scared, yet….strong. He hadn’t touched in with Katie in a while and wasn’t expecting to get the sense of belonging she was feeling.

“Let me talk to her.”

Katie was handed the phone.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” he asked. “You are still a kid, Katherine; you are not expected to be up for something like this. Things you saw after the bombing will be minor compared to this. A chunk of planet was blown away by an asteroid, do you understand? If you decide you cannot handle it, we cannot stop to bring you home.”

“I understand, Dad,” she said, sounding more mature than she ever had before. “Please. I want to do this. I think….I need to do this.”

“Alright,” he sighed as Sam gave him a nod. “Go with Dr. Lam and follow every order. As a medic, she’s your C.O.”

He hung up and saw the look on Jerrie’s face. “You, too?”

“I know you need me here, but I can help, too,” she told him. “I have first-aid training.”

Making a decision, Jack called Hammond and updated him. “George, we could really use all available hands,” he said. “Are your kids up to the challenge?”

“The older ones, sure,” Hammond immediately assured him. Everyone who was legal age and capable of the pressure would be recruited as emergency troops. By year four, that was just about all the seniors.

Matty wanted to go, also, the moment he walked in and found out what was going on.

“No,” Jack said.

“I’m fifteen and I’ve been training with your guys for almost a year,” Matty reminded him. “Are the Kalam teenagers going?”

Jack sent him to change into his new BDU’s.

“I think the rest can be managed by Mom,” Jack told Jerrie. “We should only be gone a couple of days. You can come with.”

On impulse, Jack called Michael’s friends from the religious advisory board and invited them to help with the evacuations. Feeling pious over the poor, lost aliens, they agreed. Jack knew they had assumed they would be presiding over the wounded and dead. Jack was pleased to inform the incoming Korolev to beam them up. When word reached Washington that Jack was allowing civilians to help, the equally pious of the country’s leadership also volunteered. Jack accepted the offers from the most irritating of them and told the others that they were needed to stay home and mind the store but thank you very much for the generous offers.

Maynard called him.

“And where were all these humble politicians when hands were needed to rescue the Koreans? They’re full of shit, Francis, and I will put them to work. They haven’t done any real work in years. And I haven’t kidnapped anyone except my brother,” Jack told him. “Everyone else volunteered. We need all the hands we can get to save as many people as possible.”

Daniel called in with a gate address and the SGC had teams begin evacuating people through their gate to a temporary home. The Prometheus was in a neighboring solar system and stopped at a gated planet long enough to pick up personnel and put them down on the wounded planet, taking hours off the transport schedule. The non-military and students were sent down with orders to flag anyone not ambulatory. Pets were rounded up and tossed through the gate.

The entire planet was undergoing massive quakes and coastal towns were being evacuated first before the coming tidal waves hit. The sky was beginning to darken from all the soot that was being shot into the air by volcanoes. Argos reported that the planet was beginning to tilt. The ships landed in fields close to towns and took on everyone they could before departing and hustling to the holding planet, dropping people off, and going back for more. Towns nearest to disaster zones were assisted first. Allies began to arrive and assist in the relocation.

Gliders zoomed over the planet, using infrared to find people still alive. Unfortunately, the volcanic heat was starting to hide the signatures. Jack found young Grant and sent him to the other side of the planet with an SG team. The two of them focused on mental signatures in order to locate survivors. A few of the academy students were surprised to see Grant, and to see him dressed in leather and working in concert with the general. A few others were able to sense the presence of people and helped the ground teams.

Katie wasn’t the only one able to tune into a body, much to her own amazement, so there were a small handful of people hustling around looking at the wounded and calling out degrees of injuries for the medics. From the commentary Jack heard, the medics found the assistance helpful even if they didn’t believe it at first. Even T’Keet was bounding over rubble and notifying rescue teams when she smelled a living person.

Instead of praying over the dead and wounded, the clergy found themselves being pushed by squad leaders to do nothing more than collect the living and either shove them through the gate or help them onto ships. Michael discovered that Jack had been serious when he said he’d be getting his hands dirty. Having claimed to have worked hard all their lives, they had their definition of ‘hard work’ re-written.

A couple of senators and congressmen kept looking around for the cameras so that there was proof of their working with the poor aliens of the doomed planet. Much to Jack’s surprise one of the senators, Brame from Mississippi, actually dug in and worked as hard as the rest of the troops. Paul reminded Jack that Brame was ex-army who worked his way up the ranks to major during Viet Nam. Jack didn’t care what the man thought about three people being married as long as he did the job assigned.

Only the kids got time off for food every few hours and a couple hours of sleep. For two, maybe three days, they’d survive. Most of the kids were legal age; only Katie, Matthew, Vinnie, and a couple others belonging to SG personnel, were underage. No one was really counting the non-Tau’ri children. While Jack was reviewing the evacuation plans, Katie was taking a two-hour power nap in a corner behind him. Matthew and Vinnie staggered in and fell into a Sua pile across the room. Colonel Reynolds came in shortly after and stuck his head into a bucket of water. SG-1 had taken the boys under their wing.

“Found an old woman caught under rubble,” Reynolds said after coming up for air. He used his shirt to wipe his face. “Vinnie’s still thin and small; he squeezed into the space and helped her out. I will never doubt the bravery or strength of a little gay boy again.”

Jack was exhausted, but he managed to crank one side of his mouth up. “All the kids deserve commendations,” he said quietly, looking at the sleeping boys. “We’ve had three fall under the pressure of real life; I’d say that’s not bad considering we have over sixty with us. How’s the field look?”

“Most of the immediate disaster zones are cleared,” Kevin said. He came to the board and marked off the zones. “The Sua are doing a final sweep with those noses of theirs. If you or Kendrick could finalize the area, that would be great. It’s going to take about a month before the planet is completely uninhabitable, so I recommend that the extended troops can be sent home tomorrow. We can take a little more time with the rest of the population. God, Jack; I wish we had had the time to clear out Korea like this.”

“I know,” Jack agreed, looking out across the deserted city. People had escaped through the gate with nothing more than the clothes on their backs and maybe a few treasured items from their homes. Their gate had been standing unused for centuries, their legends having told that it was from ancient times, from evil demons that had enslaved their ancestors. To say they had been surprised by it coming to life and seeing strange people running in and encouraging them to return through the stone hole would be an understatement. Soon after, more strangers showed up, appearing from nowhere and ships appearing in the skies. Strangers who wanted nothing more than to help them escape the death of the planet. “There were several hundred thousand people on the continent that the asteroid took out, though. Better than eleven million.”

“How’s the queen?” Reynolds asked after a moment.

“Walking through the infirmaries, I think,” Jack said, looking up toward the Argos in a low orbit. “Inanna’s taking care of her. I know the lady’s upset, but we needed to get things moving and I wasn’t about to beg for her permission every time I gave an order.”

“She’s in shock,” Daniel muttered, stumbling out of a sleeping pile and hunting for a loaf of the local bread. The bread was heavy, having been baked with dried fruits in the dough. “Men don’t give orders in this society. She’ll need to get over it.”

Jack and Reynolds both raised eyebrows. “Pretty radical, Dr. Jackson,” Jack said. Daniel lifted a shoulder.

“I’m too tired to be correct,” he said, biting into the bread.

The local government turned out to be extremely matriarchal. The ruling council was caught between accepting assistance from male strangers who seemed to know what to do in such an emergency, and arguing about taking orders from men. There weren’t many matriarchal societies, but they had run into a few on prior missions. Jack called in Inanna to deal with the women who wanted to argue, while everyone else who wanted to help was welcomed and formed into teams. Jack was a little annoyed by all the politics going on when the planet was dying.

The queen’s youngest daughter, Lisianna, was also annoyed. She was more level-headed and knew when to accept assistance from someone no matter what their gender. Lisianna quickly grasped who was doing what and who was who, and presented herself to Jack. Jack found a young lady who wasn’t afraid of work. He sent her off with Sam.

“Any leftovers from Ra?” Daniel asked.

“A few odds and ends in various museums,” Reynolds said. “They’ve been sent up to Prometheus’ hold. I didn’t notice anything spectacular, though.”

Colonel Jeffries came into the compound carrying a child who was sniffling and clinging to his neck.

“This little one was hiding under her bed,” he told them. “Could we get someone to take her upstairs and checked out? See if her parents can be found?”

Reynolds immediately called to the Argos. Children separated from parents had turned out to be a problem. In all the hustle and bustle, children were lost, hands dropped, and fear sending them into hiding.

“Cheers, mate,” Jeffries said, turning the child over to Reynolds. The Brit chucked the child under the chin, promised her she’d be taken care of, and took a loaf of bread with him as he went back out. Jack gently touched her cheek. Unknown to her, the scrapes on her face and arms began to heal.

There was an intake of breath behind him. Reynolds gave him a look and took the child away to find her family. Jack sent out a quick feeler.

“Rabbi, how’re you doing?” he asked without turning around. He touched the wire in his ear. “O’Neill. Well, do the best you can, Captain. We can’t force them to leave. People have survived worst. I can’t think of any people off the top of my head, but I’m sure it’s been done. You might try explaining the concepts of ‘nuclear winter’ and ‘extinction level event.’ Out.”

“Daniel, if you’ve caught a second wind, see if you can convince a settlement on the far northern continent that they really need to leave.”

“Are you sure?” Daniel asked quietly in Ancient.

“Yes, I am,” Jack responded. “I’ll be fine.”

The sky was noticeably darker after the couple of days that they were there. Water was showing signs of poison; mostly sulfur. Herders had rounded up their cattle and pulled them through the gate despite warnings from the scientists that the cattle might not be able to eat the grasses and grains on the other side.

“Do you walk on water, too?” Rabbi Aviram asked, stepping slowly to Jack’s side. Jack thought about it.

“Hey, old man,” he called out toward the pile of sleepers. “Can I walk on water?”

Enki lifted his head from somewhere in the pile. “You could try,” he suggested. “Shara’s our best swimmer; I’ll make sure he’s on hand to rescue you. The mouth-to-mouth part might interest him enough to volunteer.”

“No, I can’t walk on water,” Jack told the rabbi. He held out a hand toward Aviram’s arm and the long gash that was hastily bandaged. Aviram hesitated and then gave him a nod. Jack touched him for a moment.

“Did you get your shots?” he asked. Aviram nodded.

“Yes, before we got here,” he said. He removed the bandage and looked at his arm. The edges of the gash were visibly knitting. He murmured something in Hebrew.

“That’s about all I can do, rav, really,” Jack said.

“I have heard soldiers saying that you can read the thoughts of everyone all at once,” Aviram said. “You can hear the entire world.”

Jack shook his head. “The guys are as superstitious as anyone else. I can sense someone’s presence, if they’re close by, like you are, and I can sense their emotions. I don’t read minds. Haven’t you ever sensed someone near by?”

Aviram thought about it. “I guess I have, yes.”

“Well, I’ve practiced a bit at it, that’s all.”

“And the healing? Has God so blessed you?”

Jack glanced at him. “I don’t know about that,” he said. “It’s a recent thing. Lots of people are doing things, you know that.”

The rabbi looked closely at him and slowly nodded. “Yes, I believe I am beginning to understand why you do not believe in God. You see His secrets unraveling before your very eyes. But, Jack, think about this, would you? The universe, life, is logical. Does that not suggest to you a conscious effort behind the writing of the laws? No, we won’t argue about it here. Please… Think about it? For me?”

After the rabbi left, Jack shook his head and continued with the scheduling. He notified several teams to send their civilians home; the worst of the evacuations were over. He thought it would take longer, but fifty plus ships and a stargate made a big difference. Jack arched his back, stretching until joints popped.

“You keep healing people like that, it’ll become public,” Ninurta warned him in Ancient, taking note of the people scurrying about the headquarters. He had extracted himself from the pile of sleepers and took a small loaf of the fruit bread.

“I know,” Jack acknowledged. “I’m not so worried about that as I am about what happens if Earth finds out that Enki and the Ancients are the Creator that they’ve been looking for.”

“Yes, that’s a tricky one, isn’t it?” Ninurta agreed unhelpfully. “It doesn’t negate what the rabbi says, though, does it? A conscious effort did go into the writing of the laws. Why don’t you just tell them that you’re agnostic? It isn’t quite a lie.”

Jack thought about it. “And it would get them to leave me alone,” he thought out loud. “For a while, at least.”

The locals may not have been able to understand the Ancient and Jaffa languages being frequently used, but they stopped questioning male-rule when word began to circulate that Jack was a healer. Jack’s wife was seen as a strong leader, and Sam being in the field to help in leading troops comforted them. Most of the locals went to Sam for direction, which took a lot of responsibility off Jack; he could concentrate on the background of the evacuation.

Movement caught his eye and he turned to see Katie waking up. She was watching him from exhausted eyes.

“Did you understand any of that?” he asked.

“No,” she said, shaking her head. “Can I ask you something personal?”

“Sure, honey.”

“Are you having an affair with Ninurta?”

Surprised, Jack turned to look at her again. “No, honey, of course not. What makes you think that?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. Just… the energy, I guess.”

He handed her a bottle of water and a piece of fruit. “Sometimes when two people work closely together in life and death situations, they rely on each other so much that it feels like sexual energy, when it isn’t. That’s all.” The line in Jack’s ear pinged and he touched it.

“O’Neill. Well, beam him out! Oh, fer…… alright. Take me to him.”

Moments later, Jack was stalking his way through a group of villagers. SG-1 was standing defensively as Daniel waited for the guards to get tired of pointing arrows at him.

“Daniel, what are you doing?” Jack asked, coming to a halt next to Reynolds.

Sam beamed in along with SG-3. The women muttered about ‘magic’.

“Jack, just chill, will you?” Daniel asked. “I’m fine.”

“Daniel, you have …1, 2, 3….. nine women pointing arrows at you. In what way is this “fine”?”

“I’m negotiating,” Daniel said.

Jack crossed his arms and waited. He felt a hand on his back.

“Let me?” he heard Sam ask. He nodded and she stepped forward.

“May I ask what the problem is?” she asked the archers.

One of the women lifted a haughty chin.

“These men say we must leave,” she informed Sam. “They say our world is dying. It is a demon-lie and we will have no more of it!”

“It isn’t a lie,” Sam assured her. “An asteroid, a very large rock from space, hit a southern continent. I can show you the damage.”

The woman’s eyes narrowed. “You are under their control.”

“We are a military organization and General O’Neill is my superior officer,” Sam clarified, gesturing toward Jack. “That is all. We are trying to help you. Most of your people are already on another planet and they will make their new home there. We want to help you to survive, too.”

The woman poked at Daniel with the tip of her arrow. “This one touched me without permission.”

“Daniel, apologize for touching the lady,” Sam told him.

“I did,” he said.

“Well, tell her again.”

“I’m sorry for touching you without permission,” Daniel said easily.

The woman looked closely at Sam. “These men will obey you?” she asked.

Sam leaned on her P-90 and shifted. “Well, he’s one of my husbands, so if he doesn’t obey me, he’ll be sleeping alone.”

Someone hid a snicker as the women relaxed slightly and whispered amongst themselves.

“You have more than one man?” the first woman asked.

“The general is my other husband,” Sam said, cocking her head in Jack’s direction. “He only gives orders when we are at work.”

“Two is an honorable number,” the woman reluctantly conceded. “I have three.” Her chin was held high, daring Sam.

Sam inclined her head respectfully. “You must be very powerful and wealthy in your village, to support three men. Will you allow me to show you the damage to your planet? It might help in decision making and making sure your men are safe.”

The women whispered again.

“We will hear your words,” they decided.

“Thank you. Daniel, do you have your laptop?”

“It’s in my bag,” he said. “They took it.”

“May I have the bag he was carrying? There is an instrument in it that will show you the damage.”

The woman sent one of the men to fetch the bag. He held it out to Sam from a polite distance and stepped back when she took it.

“Thank you.” She took the laptop and powered it up as the women gathered cautiously around to watch. She brought up the active monitors from the Prometheus in orbit and carefully told her audience what they were seeing. They didn’t really understand how the gash in the planet could hurt them on the other side of the world. Sam looked around and found a round melon.

“General, would you please take a shot at this?” she asked Jack, offering a silent apology for the order. Jack understood. He aimed and hit the melon once. People jumped at the unexpected sound and looked at the melon. Sam tried to roll it. “That’s what your planet is going to do,” she said, exaggerating slightly. “It’s going to keep trying to turn, but it’s going to get stuck on that hole and it will turn on its side. Are there caves here? What kinds of things grow deep in the caves where no sunlight ever goes?”

“Poison plants,” someone called out. Others called out names of plants and poisonous insects.

“Right,” Sam said. She held her hat over the melon, shading it. “The blast into the planet kicked so much dust into the air that it will be years until the sun will shine again. All the plants will die. Without plants, people and animals will die. We can’t force you to leave, but this is what is going to happen if you stay. Before the year is over, you and all the plants and animals will be dead. We want you to live. We want you to grow and we want your children to grow.”

The villagers looked at the clouded sky and the poor melon as they considered Sam’s words.

“Where is Queen Hannan?” someone asked.

“She’s on one of our ships helping people who were injured,” Sam said. “We can bring her here, if you’d like.”

The people would like that very much. While the queen was being found, Sam had Lisianna beamed in. The villagers were somewhat relieved to see the young lady as she walked around, reassuring people of the good intentions of the strangers and that she had flown in their ships and had seen the damaged land with her own eyes. The land was rumbling and breaking apart near the damage and it was spreading along the ground’s power lines. Mountains were being born amidst red rivers so hot that they burned and melted everything in their path. Some people wanted to know about the evil god that had brought their ancestors to the planet. Sam assured them that the god was dead; they can live as they will on the new planet and no one will bother them.

The queen was beamed in, impressing the people once more by the magic. She smiled with a superior grace and walked among them, letting them see that she was alive and well. Jack was glad Inanna was dealing with the queen because he would have walked away from her two days earlier. He contemplated vetoing a protectorate status for them, and then decided he was being pissy; can’t condemn an entire society based on the arrogance of one queen. She flicked her robes away from the grubby hands of a child. Jack scowled and shifted his feet.

“You alright?” he asked quietly as Daniel came to his side.

“I’m fine,” Daniel said, wiping his glasses on the hem of his shirt and rearranging them on his face. Several people had recommended laser eye surgery but Daniel shuddered at the thought of a laser beam in his eyes. “They’re a little more conservative than the city people. New York versus Kansas. I did make a discovery, though.”

“What’s that?” Jack asked.

Daniel leaned in and nudged Jack’s arm with his. “Think I can get Sam to dress up in one of those archer outfits and hold an arrow at me while she makes me do things?”

 


 

Chapter 54

 

“Paul, if you don’t keep still, I’m going to tie you to a chair,” Daniel threatened. Davis was in the midst of a panic attack two hours before his handfasting.

Paul paused and then shook his head. “Don’t tease me, Danny.” He took it well, having his ‘day’ pushed back due to the off-world emergency.

Daniel yanked him still again and adjusted his tie. Across the room, Jack was having a glass of wine with Nick whose own panic was more subdued. Jack took the glass from Nick’s hand and shoved his head between his knees.

“Don’t you dare faint on me,” Paul warned him.

“You know, you’re being pretty mouthy lately,” Nick commented from between his knees.

“Just offering excuses,” Paul said helpfully.

The door opened and Inanna came in.

“Speaking of queens,” Jack commented. She swatted at him.

“You shush. Are you gentlemen deliberately being fashionably late or will you be joining us shortly?” she looked at Paul and Nick. They looked at watches.

“Oh, shit!”

Everyone hustled to their posts while guests watched in amusement as the wedding party hurried out to the yard behind Paul and Nick’s house. There were a couple of ducks in the pond. Jack wondered how they managed to get ducks to attend. Zu was in a tree, eying the ducks with a look Jack was sure boded ill for the ducks.

“And they pick on women for being late,” Cassie said from the sidelines. There were chuckles around her. Harper sat next to her, trying not to look uncomfortable with gays, lesbians, and people wearing leather, multiple piercings, and tattoos all sitting nearby. Others in uniform were also wiggling, trying not to stare at the small, select crowd. Some assumed that the oddities were from Nick’s side of the guest list.

The party was hastily reassembled, the grooms having been a week late due to off-world complications. Daniel stood at the front of the isle, facing the guests.

“We apologize for being late,” he said. There were smiles and soft laughter of understanding. Paul and Nick tried to rush to the front of the isle.

NOT….. that late,” Daniel scolded them. Jack caught the backs of jackets and pulled. The men slowed and walked properly, much to everyone’s amusement. They came to a halt in front of Daniel and nervously waited as Jack and Paul’s cousin Rebecca stood a step behind them.

“Looks like a shot-gun wedding,” someone murmured. There was laughter and the tension was released. Paul smiled and hung his head for a moment before taking Nick’s hand.

“I’ve known Paul for a long time,” Daniel said. “If anyone deserves to be loved, Paul does. And having gotten to know Nick over the past year, I encourage everyone to see how his heart shines for Paul. This is truly a match made by the gods.

“As we all know, same-gender marriages are not legal in this state. This is a handfasting. Paul and Nick’s contract with each other can be viewed and witnessed after the ceremony. Marriage or handfasting, the words are merely semantics. Paul and Nick love each other and have invited us all here to witness their promises to each other. Please give them your attention and bear them your witness.

“Paul and Nick are here to confirm in the presence of witnesses a lovers' covenant between them and declare a partnership to establish a household together. This agreement into which Paul and Nick are entering is a holy covenant, made in faithfulness and peace to stand forever. It is a covenant of protection and hope. It is a covenant of devotion, joining hearts like the covenant David and Jonathan made, as it is said: And Jonathan's soul was bound up with the soul of David. Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. It is a covenant of mutual loving kindness.

Get yourself a companion. This teaches that a person should get a companion, to eat with, drink with, to study with, to sleep with, to confide all one's secrets, secrets of the heart, and secrets of worldly things.

“Paul and Nick commit themselves to a life of kindness and righteousness as a family and to work together toward the communal task of mending the world. Paul and Nick pledge that one will help the other at the time of dying, by carrying out the last rational requests of the dying partner, protecting each other from indignity or abandonment and by tender, faithful presence with the beloved until the end.”

Daniel paused, looking out at the guests and Jack and Sam for a moment, smiling quietly at them, before looking at the grooms.

“Paul, will you speak the words?”

Paul turned to face Nick, taking both hands in his and clearing his throat.

“I will espouse you forever. I will espouse you with righteousness and justice and loving kindness and compassion. I will espouse you in faithfulness and you shall know my heart is true. I shall treasure you, nourish you, support you, and respect you.” His hands trembled slightly as he slid a ring on Nick’s left hand.

Daniel waited until Paul had himself together.

“Nick, will you speak the words?”

Nick was silent as he tried to find his voice.

“I will espouse you forever. I will espouse you with righteousness and justice and loving kindness and compassion. I will espouse you in faithfulness and you shall know my heart is true. I shall treasure you, nourish you, support you, and respect you.” His hands were also trembling as he put a ring on Paul’s finger.

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is stronger than death.” Daniel motioned to Davy to come forward and took a length of blue silk from the boy’s proud hands, and sent him back to Sam’s side. Daniel held the silk up to the sky for a moment.

“The Lover's Knot is a symbol of the harmony that is found between two people who, in acknowledging one another's individuality and uniqueness, acknowledge their own. With the closing of this ceremony, celebrating their commitment to each other, Paul and Nick intend to: One: Continue living together and sharing all expenses and ownership of their assets. Two: Practice honesty and understanding with respect to their physical and emotional lives. Three: Strive to support each other's aspirations as they change, evolve, and possibly separate them professionally. Four: They intend to leave a space to re-evaluate these intentions on or around their anniversary each year of their lives together. With this Knot, they seal their promises to each other and embark on their journey unending.”

With their hands together, Daniel wrapped the silk around their wrists and arms, gently draping the end of the silk over their joined hands.

Together, Paul and Nick turned to face their guests and said together,

“We promise to try to be ever open to one another while cherishing each other's uniqueness; to comfort and challenge each other through life's sorrow and joy; to share our intuition and insight with one another; and above all, to do everything within our power to permit each of us to become the persons we are yet to be. We also pledge to establish a home open to the spiritual potential in all life; a home wherein the flow of the seasons and the passages of life are celebrated through the symbols we hold dear; a home filled with reverence for learning, loving, and generosity; a home wherein ancient melody, candles, and wine sanctify the table. We declare this union to be valid and binding.”

They faced each other and, looking into each other’s eyes before leaning in to press their lips to one another’s. Nick, usually reticent of public displays, flushed at the applause and cheering.

Jack was resigned when Jonathan and Ninurta stepped up to the front with a guitar.

Live in my house
I'll be your shelter
Just pay me back
With one thousand kisses
Be my lover - I'll cover you
Open your door
I'll be your tenant
Don't got much baggage
To lay at your feet
But sweet kisses I've got to spare
I'll be there - I'll cover you
I think they meant it
When they said you can't buy love
Now I know you can rent it
A new lease you are, my love, 
On life - be my life
Just slip me on
I'll be your tenant
Wherever - whatever - I'll be your coat
You'll be my king
And I'll be your castle
No you'll be my queen
And I'll be your moat
I think they meant it
When they said you can't buy love
Now I know you can rent it
A new lease you are, my love, 
On life - all my life
I've longed to discover
Something as true as this is
So with a thousand
sweet kisses 
If you're cold
I'll cover you 
And you're lonely
With a thousand sweet kisses
I'll cover you 
You've got one nickel only
With a thousand sweet kisses
I'll cover you
When you're worn out and tired 
With a thousand sweet kisses
I'll cover you
When your heart has expired
Oh lover I'll cover you
Oh lover I'll cover you

Before anyone could move, Ninurta shouted,

“Zu! NO!”

With a startled squawk, Zu dropped the struggling duck. Laughing, everyone surged forward to congratulate the couple.

Jack leaned against Daniel’s shoulder and watched as Paul welcomed his family to his home.

“Parents didn’t make it?” Sam asked quietly, watching Davis with a small contingent of cousins that had come out from California to support him. She stood in front of the men and leaned back into their chests. Someone kissed the back of her head.

“Nope,” Jack said.

“Looks like the younger half of the family did, though,” Daniel commented. “That’s nice. I’m happy for him.”

“You and Stacey will be spending time with your family next week,” he reminded Daniel.

Daniel shook his head. “I wasn’t thinking about me,” he said. “I’m just finding it strange that it took so much for our families to either find us or accept us.”

“It’s mostly the younger ones,” Sam said. “Maybe it has something to do with the rest of the changes. A lot of the argument against the changes has been coming from the older generations and not so much from the younger ones. I still don’t talk much with Mark.”

“You guys knock it off?” They looked to see Cassie standing with her hands on her hips. “It’s a party. Go have fun and stop analyzing everything to death. And, Jack? We took a vote. You’re singing at least once today.” She turned on her heels and strode back to Harper.

Jack watched her. “It does say General on my uniform, doesn’t it?” He was beginning to wonder about it.

“……well, I’m hungry, too.” They turned to see Shara trying to reason with the bird. “If you cannot wait, then go into the mountains to hunt. Leave the ducks around here alone. Just make sure you clean off the blood before you come back or you’ll scare the civilians.”

Zu squawked something at him and flew off toward the tree line. Daniel winced.

“He really does have a colorful vocabulary,” he commented.

“You have no idea,” Shara groaned. “You try living with him for a couple thousand years.”

They made the rounds, meeting and greeting before finding food and settling at a table. Olivia was in a mood to be held and fed by Sam, so Jack took care of Davy while Daniel answered as many of Stacey’s questions as he could. Starting with why she couldn’t go with them. Her age didn’t seem to be the answer she was looking for.

“Daniel, have you ever heard of that old wives tale about having children just like you?” Jack asked.

“I am not like this,” he protested.

“Yes, you are,” came responses from several other tables nearby. Daniel looked around and glared. He pushed his glasses into place.

“An intelligent mind needs a constant flow of information,” he said.

“Daddy, my flow is blocked,” Stacey informed him, patting him on the arm.

There was laughter all around them as Daniel tried to come up with more answers. Jack noticed Harper was intent on something in the distance. Cassie was walking with Jonathan, talking and listening, their arms around each other’s waist.

“Oh, chill out, Dean,” Jack told him. “He’s her best friend, that’s all. Go dance with someone.”

Harper glared for a moment and then took a breath.

“Yes, sir.”

Children screeched as they ran around and played, mindful adults keeping them from getting too close to the pond. Without Jonathan to sing, several of the Anunnaki beamed down drums and stringed instruments and got a strong beat going. A few of the women and a couple of elegant, pretty men, danced in a seductive blend of middle eastern and off-world styles. Colonel Reynolds, although as exhausted as the rest of them, was continually running after Harley who had a toddler’s energy and kept trying to get in the way of the dancers.

“Kevin, let him dance, if he wants to,” Ninurta called out. “He’s fine.”

“Can I dance, too, Daddy?” Davy asked, looking over his shoulder at Jack.

“Sure, go for it,” Jack said. Davy slid off his lap and ran out to the dancers. He held his arms out and twirled around. The dancers smiled at him and helped him to coordinate his feet.

“Well, this looks familiar,” Jack commented, slinging an arm across Daniel’s shoulders.

“Almost a déjà vu,” Daniel smiled. “He’s come a long way, Jack.”

“Yes, he has,” Jack nodded.

“Sir?”

Jack saw Paul standing nearby.

“May I introduce you to my family?”

“Absolutely,” Jack immediately said, and stood for the presentation.

All in all, seven more people came down at the last minute from Oregon and California. Most of Paul’s family were either his own generation or the next younger. They were proud of Paul as they stood somewhat rebelliously behind him.

“While everyone was away, Cassie showed me around,” Rebecca told him. “Seeing how many people were standing with Paul made me realize how wrong our parents are being. We decided to make a united front. If the parents are going to condemn one, they’ll need to condemn all of us.” Even the man in the yarmulke agreed.

“Power to the people,” Daniel said, smiling and shaking hands.

“I think some of this may have been my own fault,” Paul admitted. “I assumed that since my parents and their siblings rejected me, my own generation would, too. I didn’t ask.”

Daniel tugged gently on an ear in reprimand. “Martyr complex,” Daniel informed him.

The man in the yarmulke, Shafir, put an arm on Paul’s shoulder. “He was always reticent to express himself. It probably didn’t help that our faith is very opposed to homosexuality. I’ve known people to commit suicide over the internal war. I’m glad Paul has found his peace.”

“Shafir is a councilor,” Paul told them. “He talks like this all the time.”

“I have a question,” Jack said, raising his hand. Daniel and Paul were slightly worried. “Why do you have a name from the New Testament?”

They relaxed.

“It’s just the American version of Saul.”

Paul’s family also relaxed at discovering that the general wasn’t intimidating like generals were shown to be in movies. A few of them had books to be signed, which Jack, Daniel, and Sam willingly signed before Paul excused the group to go and find Walter.

Jaaaaaack…….”

There was good-natured laughter as Jonathan leaned against the microphone. Jack pointed to his throat and waved.

“Get up here, Jack.”

“You may as well,” Sam said, jiggling the baby on her knees.

People clapped, laughing as they encouraged Jack to his feet.

“Jonathan Charles!”

“Shit,” Jack moaned, putting his face in his hands. Maggie stood up and pointed to the stage, much to the entertainment of the crowd.

“On one condition,” Jack said, standing up.

“What condition?” Jonathan asked.

“Daniel plays the piano.”

Daniel went to the front and started pounding out Chop Sticks as people laughed.

“Hey, Daniel.” He looked up and saw Harper waiting. “I’ve been meaning to ask –why the piano? You can’t take it on digs. Wouldn’t a guitar have been more useful?”

“Maybe,” Daniel acknowledged. “But I had run into a couple of finds that seemed to be musical and there was a piano nearby, so I learned the scales in order to use the tones. That was an interesting…..”

“Daniel!” several people yelled, laughing. Daniel pouted for a moment.

“Okay,” he said. He turned and pounded on the keyboard. “And now, the end is near, and so I face the final curtain….. Oh, sorry, Paul, wrong theme….”

Come to me, cover, hold me, Together we'll break these chains of love…. No, not that one…..”

I said Hey Dizzy Mama let me go into your…. Oh, no, not in front of the kids….”

“Dizzy, dizzy, let’s see….Dizzy, I’m so dizzy my head is spinning, Like a whirlpool it never ends….” Daniel paused and looked at Jack.

“I know that one,” Jack said, shaking his head at Daniel’s antics as the guests laughed. They entertained with a few oldies with Daniel finally losing Jack with the Purple People Eater. Jonathan kicked them off the porch and went back to Paul’s requested list.

“Why does he goad me into that?” Jack asked as they caught their breath.

“For the same reason Davy likes to dance,” Daniel said. “It’s good for you.” He planted his mouth on Jack’s for a moment and then released him to go and dance with their kids.

“I don’t know why you fuss about it,” Sam said. Olivia was asleep in the crook of her arm and Sam wasn’t of a mind to set her down anywhere. “You have fun, so what’s the deal?”

“I sound like a frog,” Jack complained.

Sam smiled at him. “You sound fine,” she assured him once more. “Your voice is a little husky, but you’re enjoyable to listen to. In fact, I like it even more when you croon into my ear when we’re taking a bath.” Unable to resist, Jack smiled and kissed her while Mary smiled indulgently next to them. Sam was discovering the friendship of other women, a welcome change from her life with mostly men.

“Oh, way TMI,” Matthew said as he came up to them.

“Hey, you just wait,” Jack told him, pulling the boy into a loose choke hold. “Bubbles are a good thing.”

“Noooo, Daaad,” Matty complained as he wiggled. “I want to go to the mall with Vinnie and Rob and Tommy.” The young boy was enjoying his visit to his old home and seemed more relaxed. Even Tommy’s mother seemed to have a healthy glow about her.

“Alright,” Jack said, releasing him. “Go home and change your clothes, first, and call me if you go anyplace else. Eight PM. You may have forty dollars out of my stash.”

“Thank you!”

“Don’t spend it all on crap!”

“I will!”

“I thought he’d sleep for days, after the weekend you guys had,” Mary said. Harley was finally asleep and napping against her shoulder.

“He’s a boy,” Jack shrugged. “He slept for about nine hours and then he was on the go again.”

“Jack’s brother Michael was down for the count until just before the ceremony,” Sam told Mary. “Called this morning and did nothing and complain about all his aches and pains. He forced himself out of bed.”

“He’s an old man,” Jack said, the side of his mouth tipping up in amusement. He flexed an arm, making a muscle. Sam shot a napkin at him. Jack’s cell phone rang.

“O’Neill. Hey, Andy, what’s up? Who? Where is he? Alright, thanks; I’ll deal with it.”

“Do we have anyone in orbit?” he asked Sam.

“Just the Heaven’s Bow,” she said. “What’s going on?”

Jack looked around and motioned to Reynolds. “Colonel, take a couple of guys and get over to the Mountain Deli on 3rd. Corporal Servi has apparently parted with a fuse and is zatting the cold cuts.”

As Reynolds nodded, kissed his wife and touched his son’s head and left after motioning to his team, Jack had an image in his head. He looked around and swiped a crayon from the kids’ table. Sam and Mary watched him begin drawing on a napkin. It only took five minutes before he paused, considered his sketch, and then nodded. He handed it to Sam.

“It’s a zat,” she said, looking from the napkin to Jack.

“It’s how to turn off the third setting,” he said. “I don’t think they were meant to stay on a 3-zat setting. It was probably a war-time thing and the Jaffa didn’t know to change it back.”

She looked at it again and patted his shoulder. “Good Jack. It’s a start.”

“And let’s find out why Corporal Servi has a zat, shall we?”

Daniel came up behind Sam and gently lifted the baby from her, handed Olivia to Jack, and took Sam’s hand. Jack watched them head to the dancing section of the grass.

“So. Mary. How’s tricks?”

The party list had been small, just immediate friends. Paul wasn’t too sure that anyone else would be interested, but Daniel convinced him to invite a few of the SGC and HomeSec personnel that he had worked closely with over the past year. Paul was sure they would make an excuse not to attend, but to his surprise almost everyone on his list accepted. Some of the old-timers like Mrs. Arthur politely refused. The new Mrs. Hammond made her regrets only because the timing was bad; her youngest daughter was in labor and she and George were heading to Maine to greet the new grandbaby. Ronnie showed up, and on the arm of Nyan who was almost a complete head shorter. Jack wondered exactly how much Nyan was aware of with his new date.

What stunned Paul more was the addition of his own family. His cousins chided him for not contacting them sooner. Not all of them were so conservative. They lived in California and Oregon, for the love of G-d! Jack made a mental note to send out invitations to his own family for their summer cookout. Joey had already knocked him in the shoulder and threatened to arrest him, if he didn’t keep the lines of communication open.

“Mary, is it a good thing for our kids to be making eyes at each other?” Jack asked, looking out over Olivia’s tiny shoulder. Mary followed his gaze. Katie and Josh were sitting close and smiling shyly at each other as they talked.

“Well, I supposed I can deal with you as a possible in-law,” Mary informed him.

“Much better than Malek,” Jack muttered.

“I’ve met Malek,” she said. “I thought he was a very nice person.”

“He has a snake in him, Mary.”

Harley was waking up and she wiped the sleep-sweat from his face with a napkin dampened with water.

“Isn’t there a difference between Tok’ra and Goa’uld?” she asked.

“Yes,” he reluctantly admitted.

“So you’re damning him for the color of his skin?”

Jack looked at her from over Olivia’s shoulder. “Kevin has lived with you for how long?”

“I have allowed him to live for twenty years come this November.”

“I thought this was a patriarchy?” he asked the sky.

“That’s a fallacy,” Mary commented, pressing kisses to her son’s round cheeks.

Jack looked suspiciously at her.

“Davis!” he called out. “Remind me to have a conference with Colonel Reynolds.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Jack.” Inanna came up and sat, buzzing Olivia before handing Jack her palm pilot. “We need to talk.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Jack sighed. He put Olivia down and she immediately grabbed legs, trying to keep on her feet before falling to her knees. She wasn’t happy about it, and then spotted Daniel and Sam and began a determined crawl toward them. Adults carefully stepped around her and made sure she was safe from big people feet.

Henry would be relocating to Colorado come the following January after officially transferring the reigns of the presidency to whomever won the November elections. The HomeSec council had accepted Henry’s nomination as the Tau’ri representative to the United Worlds council. When not dealing with galactic issues, Henry would be a full-time grandpa.

The world was beginning a steadily increasing demand for alien technology and alien cures, and Henry’s current job was to study up on projects and determine the order of what would be released to the public, when, and the timeline. Henry thought it would be easy until he was handed the list of projects verses needs. Once he was the Tau’ri representative, he was going to have to think as a Tau’ri, not an American.

Inanna needed Jack to look through a few borderline admissions to the unification. The council was split down the middle and unable to come to an agreement. Just before Jack put his two-cents on the board, he paused.

“I’m missing something,” he guessed, seeing Inanna in her ‘waiting for him to get it’ mode.

“Are you?” she asked. “What?” She was speaking Ancient. Daniel or Sam had gotten to her.

He thought about it. “I can’t reach across the galaxy,” he told her. She shrugged.

“Maybe, maybe not,” she admitted. “The Ancients can tell when someone violates their laws from anywhere in the universe.”

Jack carefully considered her. “Why don’t you read them?” he asked.

She smiled. “I could,” she said with a nod. “But how would that help everyone else? If we know that one proposed representative has a negative agenda and we refuse to allow the planet in because of that person, how do we know that the person wasn’t set to be immediately replaced by someone who DID represent the good of the planet? We can’t judge an entire civilization based on one idiot. Take your former president as an example.”

Jack lifted an eyebrow and considered only the summary commentaries on the screen. “Point,” he acknowledged. Both Inanna and Bre’tac gave a tentative thumb’s up, so Jack granted a provisionary status.

“You contacted Argos?” he questioned, seeing the planet on the list. “Do you really think they’re ready to take on the galaxy? They haven’t even cut their primary molars yet.”

“They are an innocent people, yes. A visiting SG team mentioned the United Worlds and the people all agreed that they wanted to discover what they’ve been missing.” Inanna frowned in memory. “It’s a terrible thing that was done to them, I agree; I have volunteered to look after them myself. I explained to them how a few of us take on the role of mentor for certain civilizations and they were grateful for the guidance. Their growth should prove interesting. Jack, I do ask that you grant me this favor.”

He thought about it. “This will be a seriously big favor,” he warned. “I don’t think they’re ready.”

“No, they’re not,” she agreed. “Which is why I’d like to be their guide. And I accept the onus.”

“Alright,” he said, shaking his head as he signed the list.

“Jack, you should know that Edora is on our agenda.”

He sat back, watching the party settle into small, friendly discussion groups. Paul and Nick were surrounded by cousins all intent on updating Paul with information and getting the low-down on his life during the past ten years.

“She asked after you. She’s happy, Jack; she remarried. Would you like to….”

“No,” he said, shaking his head. After being stranded on Edora for three months when their gate was buried, he fought it, but knew he had to survive. She wasn’t the woman he wanted, but he could have survived with her and her son. He may have even fallen in love with them. Almost.  “I’m glad she’s doing well. Add Edora to the Protected Worlds list. I’ll sign it.”

Inanna nodded and stood. She pressed her mouth to the top of his head and took her note pad back.

“Salim, ahu,” she murmured, touching his cheek and going to find something to eat.

Jack searched himself and found that he was at peace with his decision. He had been right to leave Laira. It was loneliness that had made his initial decision to stay on Edora, and it had been Sam and Daniel that made him return home. He was fine with it. Davy leaned against his knees, holding his face up. Jack smiled and stroked his cheek.

“Daddy, will I get married one day?” he asked.

“I hope so,” Jack said. “Do you have anyone in mind?”

“No,” Davy smiled and shook his head. “Is it okay if I marry a girl and a boy like you did?”

Jack studied him. “Do you like boys, too?”

“I guess so,” Davy said, lifting a shoulder. “I think some boys are pretty just like I think some girls are pretty.”

“As long as you are happy, you can marry anyone you want,” Jack told him, stroking a lock of silky hair from the boy’s face. “You need a haircut again.”

Later in the evening, Jack was still smiling to himself as he stepped out of the shower and returned to the bedroom.

“What are you smiling about?” Sam asked, taking off her earrings.

“Davy,” Jack said and told them about his conversation with the boy.

“Not surprising,” Daniel said around a pen in his mouth. He took the pen out. “He sees a person’s heart, not their gender.”

Since Sam was ‘indisposed,’ Jack crawled onto Daniel, dislodging the notebook.

“You know, one of these days I’m going to make you say pretty please first,” Daniel informed him as Jack wiggled Daniel’s pajama bottoms off.

“Pretty please.”

Chapter 55

 

Jerrie was bending over them, gently shaking Jack’s shoulder.

“Sir, urgent call,” she whispered, holding out the phone. Jack took it from her.

“What?” he grunted into the phone. A moment later he sat up. “That has to be one of the stupidest things I’ve heard in a while,” he said as he shook Daniel awake. “Bring home whoever is nearby and have them wait for my call.” He handed the phone back to Jerrie and looked at the other side of the bed, just to make sure. Sam was definitely not in bed.

“What’s going on?” Daniel asked, rubbing his eyes and searching for his glasses. Jack had jumped out of bed and began hauling his clothes on.

“Apparently someone let Major Coulter onto the base and he’s locked himself and Sam in her office.”

Daniel hopped out of bed and also began to dress. “Who’s in the solar system?”

Europa can be here in about an hour,” Jack said. “They need to round up their scientists from a couple of moons at Saturn.”

They left Jerrie holding the fort and sped out to HomeSec. Jack used a few back roads, kicking up dirt. Local police considered stopping him but decided that there must be something happening, for the general to be driving recklessly. They ran through a side-door, into the building, and down to the lab. The arch was already up and waiting for them. Jack and Daniel ran through and came out at the Area 51 lab.

“Someone turn the shields off and report!” Jack shouted.

“Sir, Major Coulter is demanding his record cleared and an honorable discharge,” Lt. Wilson said as she jogged alongside the men.

“How’d he get in?” Jack asked.

“He convinced a few friends on staff that he left personal belongings in the office and he needed them back. He waited until I took a short break, sir,” she reported.

“Everyone deserves a pee-break, Lieutenant,” Jack said. “I’m not blaming you for this. I do want the names of those ‘friends’ of his, though.”

The SF outside Sam’s office stood aside for the general and let him in. Jack held up a hand, halting those behind him. He quickly felt around for Sam’s energy pattern within himself. She was alive and a little irritated, but not afraid.

“She’s fine,” he told them. Wilson didn’t understand but Daniel did. Jack hesitated and then opened the intercom to Sam’s office. “Major? It’s General O’Neill. You’ve got my colonel and wife in there. You know how this will end, so how about we cut to the chase?”

“The charges against me are bogus, General,” came the major’s voice through the intercom. “I want them dropped and I want an honorable discharge.”

“Major, it ain’t gonna happen,” Jack told him. “Especially not if you continue to hold Colonel Carter hostage. I’m not negotiating, Major. You release her, and then you and I will talk.” He pulled Daniel close and whispered. Daniel gave a nod and left the room.

“Major, both your wife and your daughter have been treated multiple times for bruises and sprains,” Jack said. “How do you explain that?”

“I wouldn’t hurt my family, sir,” Coulter said. “My wife is clumsy, sir. It wasn’t me.”

“There are several reports from your neighbors about loud fights,” Jack said.

“We argue, sir,” Coulter said. “All married couples argue.”

“Yes, they do,” Jack admitted. “Most married couples don’t end up in the emergency room, though. The colonel in there can tell you we argue, just ask her. But we have never lifted a hand to each other. Are you going to tell me that you’ve never hit your wife? Maybe gotten a little pissed with her and put her back in her place?”

“That isn’t abuse, General; it’s my right to reprimand her,” Coulter insisted. “My marriage is not the business of the military. I love my wife, and you and everyone else is out of line interfering in my business.”

“Spousal and child abuse is the business of the military, Major,” Jack said. “Under the Family Advocacy Program: each branch of the military services has a Family Advocacy Program that operates in accordance with DoD Directive 6400.1. They are designed to prevent child and spousal abuse, to promote early identification and intervention in cases of alleged child and spousal abuse, and to provide programs of rehabilitation and treatment for child and spousal abuse problems. To the maximum extent possible, DoD cooperates with responsible civilian authorities in efforts to address the problems to which this Directive applies. Each branch of service maintains a central registry containing data on reports of alleged child and spousal abuse.”

As Jack continued to quote military regulations at Coulter via the intercom, he kept looking at his watch. He stopped in mid-sentence after hearing a crash in the room.

“Major? What’s going on in there?” Jack called out.

“Coming out,” he heard Sam call. The door opened. Sam tugged on her jacket and smoothed her hair into place. She had a scratch on her cheek, but nothing more. “You can take him, now,” she said. “He’s probably going to have a doozy of a headache when he wakes up.” She looked at her nails and frowned before buffing them on her uniform.

The SF went in and cuffed the man lying on the floor before shaking him awake. Jack looked at him.

“What took you so long?” he asked.

“He had a gun on me and I couldn’t reach him,” she said. “He started pacing when you wouldn’t shut up, and when he came near I kicked him in the groin and punched the side of his head. He went out like a light.”

Jack canceled the Europa and had Coulter taken downstairs into the dungeon. He sent Daniel down to monitor the deposition that Barrett would be conducting via the Tok’ra memory device. He hated that nasty toy, but it did come in handy.

“Did you have breakfast yet?” Jack asked Sam.

“Yes, I did,” she said. “But I can use some lunch.”

Her admin looked from one to the other and decided to take Colonel Davis’ advice and not ask.

While Sam got her office back in order Jack went down to the dungeon to check on Daniel. Ex-NID Agent Barrett was sitting with Daniel. Jack didn’t like the look on their faces. Barrett motioned and Jack bent down.

“This man is deep undercover,” Barrett whispered. “He’s Trust. We’re extracting as much information as we can. I’d like to take him off-world to Delta site.”

“What’s Delta site?” Jack whispered. Barrett gave him a look.

“His wife and daughter are caught in the middle; I suggest telling them he’s been killed in an accident. Nothing left of his body.” He handed Jack Coulter’s tags.

“Alright,” Jack said and put the tags in his pocket. “Keep him on ice until Prometheus can get here; I don’t want him anywhere near the SGC. And find out how he got in this far.”

“Working on it,” Barrett said. “He’s been programmed pretty well. I’d say the Trust is using one of these Tok’ra devices on their own people.”

“Great,” Jack said, puffing noisily. He thought hard and then hit a speed dial on his cell phone. “Did you find anything unusual in Coulter’s background? He’s a mole. The Trust. No, Barrett is taking him to Delta site. You and Paul take your week. I insist. Nick, you’re allowed to miss one, now and again.”

“He got by Nick’s background check?” Daniel asked. “Someone has talent in creating paper-trails.”

Jack scratched at his nose before tugging thoughtfully on it. “Barrett, find out if Coulter and a young lady named Brynn Sheely are working for the same people.”

“The woman you tried out as a nanny?” Barrett asked.

“Yes,” Jack nodded, not surprised that Barrett knew about it. “She’s in an Irish prison. Sam can get you the files.”

“Jack,” Daniel began, hating the dirty tricks aspect of interrogation. He was pacing a little, his arms wrapped around himself.

“Daniel, we need to know,” Jack said, knowing what was bothering Daniel. “If this was a simple case of stupidity, I’d let it go, but it isn’t. He’s been programmed. We need to find out what that programming is. I’m not asking you to participate, but you need to understand why it needs to be done.”

Daniel wasn’t happy about it, but he did understand.

“Where’s the ship?” Jack asked, giving Daniel’s shoulder a squeeze. Daniel left with Jack, leaving Coulter in Barrett’s hands, and led Jack through the underground maze to a large bay holding the ancient jumper that they had brought over from Austria.

Scientists dressed in white suits buzzed around the ship, some writing on hand-held boards and others talking into recorders.

“Who’s in charge?” Jack asked. Daniel looked at him. “I mean, who’s in charge when you’re not here.”

“Dr. Frito,” Daniel said. Jack returned the look. “Don’t, please. Just Fritz. She’s over there.”

Jack looked across the room and spotted the professor, an older woman with frizzy white hair flying away from the pins attempting to hold it captive. She absently pushed coke-bottle glasses back to the top of her nose and then pulled them down again to look over the top of them.

“Fritz,” Daniel called, waving an arm. She blinked blankly and then smiled.

“Where do you find them?” Jack whispered. Daniel ignored him and went across the room with Jack tagging behind.

“Hello, Daniel,” she said. “Is the fire out?”

“We’re good,” Daniel assured Fritz. “How’s it going with the ship?”

She turned to the ship, tossing her arms out wide to encompass the vessel. Jack jumped out of the way of the clipboard.

“It’s been quite fascinating,” she informed them. “I don’t believe this ship is necessarily older than the current ones, but I do believe its purpose was different than the others. Come, come….” she waved at them to follow her.

Inside the ship, someone, or several someones, had plastered the panels and walls with sticky notes. Jack looked closely at them. Most were written in various languages, and a few had multiple languages on single pieces of paper. They reminded Jack of Daniel’s notebooks.

“Most of this is Ancient technology,” Fritz said, stepping over feet sticking out from under a console. “There are aspects that don’t fit, however. Someone had attempted to force the crystal technology with a gaseous technology, hence the hollow tubing. The gas had long since dissipated. What’s been interesting, though, is that the main function of the ship remained.” She pushed on her glasses, waiting. Daniel pushed at his own glasses.

“I don’t read minds, Doctor, spill it,” Jack finally said. She blinked at him, having forgotten his presence.

“It’s a gigantic tape-recorder,” she said.

“Excuse me?”

“It has been the witness to our entire civilization,” she said, the clipboard once more sailing through the air. “Everything that has ever happened on this planet has been recorded. We haven’t actually been able to turn on the replay but we know it’s recording. From the amount of stored data, we estimate it has approximately ten thousand years worth of history recorded. It’s still recording.”

Jack touched a side panel and sat on the small seat that extended. Several people looked at him, not having realized that the seat was there. He clasped his hands between his knees, looking at the floor as his mind raced. Daniel ran his hands over his face and locked his fingers behind his neck as he paced in thought.

“Did Colonel Sheppard go over the ship?” Jack asked.

“Just a cursory exam,” Daniel said. “Mainly to check for weapons.”

Jack stood. “Everyone out.” The scientists paused, looking from him to Fritz. “Out. Now.” Daniel jerked his head toward the door and motioned them out. He closed the door behind them, ignoring their protests.

“This could destroy the planet,” Jack said. Considering all the historical mysteries, past and present, secular and theistic, having facts presented to the world could ignite Armageddon.

“I agree. Are you prepared to make this decision on your own?” Daniel asked.

“I don’t know,” Jack admitted. “I was expecting to fight weapons, not knowledge.” He stood and paced, yanking on the back of his neck as he looked around. “We need to get this ship off the planet before I consider mentioning it to people.”

“I think I’d like to know who did this before we do anything else,” Daniel said. “If the Ancients didn’t put it here, who did? It isn’t Furling, definitely not Nox or Asgard.”

They opened the door and went out.

“No one goes in there,” Jack ordered. He palmed the door shut and locked it. “I want all data sent to my office immediately. Including any secret copies that anyone was hoping to make money on. Don’t think I won’t know if anyone ‘forgets’ a piece of paper.”

“But, General!” Fritz protested, her eyes even bigger behind the glasses. “You can’t do this!”

“It’s done, Doctor,” he said. “Daniel, I want everyone who isn’t here, brought here. Get them out of their bath, their blow-job, their after lunch shit, I don’t care. Here. Now. Everyone should be tagged; get the Europa back here.”

Daniel inclined his head, not arguing. Jack called Sam down and then called Michael. “Mikey, I need to ask you something,” he said when the line was answered. “If you were offered absolute, physical proof that your religion was true, or not, would you be willing to hear the answer? What if that answer wasn’t what your heart wanted to hear?” Jack waited. “I can feel your panic, Mike. No, I’m not making the offer, I’m just asking.”

“What’s going on?” Sam asked when he hung up.

“That jumper has been recording Earth history for about ten thousand years,” he told her. She immediately pieced together the puzzle.

“Oh, my,” she breathed, wide-eyed. “But the analysis of the mountain puts the ship there millions of years ago.” Confusion crossed her face.

Jack nodded. “We can work on that later; I’ve put the ship off-limits for the time being,” he told her. “Daniel is gathering up all off-duty personnel. Dr. Fritz hasn’t been able to get the replay button to work. I’m pretty sure I can.”

He sat across from her, stretching his long legs out as he tilted his head back, staring at the ceiling.

“I’d like your thoughts on this,” he said. “Your personal feelings.”

She leaned back, lacing her fingers over her stomach. “Personally, it won’t bother me one way or the other,” she said. “Whatever the reality, it won’t affect my work. On a broader level, though, billions of people will feel the effect.”

“It’s a powder keg,” Jack agreed. He palmed the door open and let Daniel back into the ship, much to the irritation of the scientists hanging around and scowling. They had tried to get the door open and succeeded only in fraying tempers.

“Are we sure this isn’t an Ancient ship?” Jack asked.

“We’re sure,” Daniel said. “We have a small dilemma. Enki was here about ten thousand years ago, and he didn’t notice anything happening in Europe. There really wasn’t anything to watch happening, in that time period.

“The Neolithic Revolution - introducing village life, the cultivation of crops and the rearing of animals - arrived in Greece in about seven thousand BCE from its region of origin in the Middle East. It would take about three thousand years to spread to the Atlantic coast and Britain, pushing back the way of life of the hunter-gatherers at an average rate of slightly more than a mile a year. Tribes speaking Indo-European languages, and living as nomadic herdsmen, are well established by about two thousand BCE in the steppes which stretch from the Ukraine eastwards, to the regions north of the Black and the Caspian Seas.

“Over the coming centuries they steadily infiltrate the more appealing regions to the south and west - the Caspian -occasionally in something akin to open warfare, and invariably no doubt with violence. But the process is much more gradual than our modern notions of an invading force. In Europe the first Indo-European tribes to make significant inroads are the Greeks. They move south into Greece and the Aegean from the eighteenth century BCE.” He paused and looked at them.

“So who the hell was in Europe in eight thousand BCE?” he asked them. “We have cavemen and agronomists meeting up with…. who? The Ancients were gone by then. As a race, anyway, and the Sumerians didn’t show up in the Middle East until about four thousand BCE.”

Sam nodded. “True,” she said. “I have a question: We know that the Ancients were escaping from something. They went from here to the Pegasus galaxy, where they accidentally created the Wraith, and back to here where they died out. So, who were they originally running from?”

“Is this relevant to the ship?” Jack asked.

Sam shrugged. “It might be, I don’t know. Maybe whoever they were running from put the ship in the mountain, and said mountain dates to millions of years old. Maybe whoever it belonged to timed it in and got stuck inside the mountain?”

“Good idea,” Jack said. “It may be relevant. I’d like to discuss the information this ship quite possibly holds, anyway, and how we are to deal with it. We have three major religions that will blow up, if this box says what I think it will say. Those three major religions are pretty much in control of most of the world. Do I honor truth and let the information out, or do I leave them in ignorant peace? Such as it is, considering the state of war out there. I asked my brother how he would feel about learning facts that may not be to his liking; he pretty much had a melt-down, and I hadn’t even gotten to the good part. That’s just one man.”

“Jack, how do you know they never existed?” Sam asked. They looked at her as she stood to watch the scientists out the front window. “Playing devil’s advocate…..  Let’s ignore the question of whether or not the God of Abraham existed. Did Abraham exist? If he did, all three of those religions are still legitimate. Their message is still appropriate. All three have messages of peace and love and kindness. Granted, all three also have messages of violence, but I think that might be politics talking through the authors, not the spirit of their deity. If you decide to release the truth, can it be released in a certain manner?”

“Kicking their crutch out from under them, any way it’s done, will still have the same effect,” Jack said. “They will fall on their asses and start blaming each other for the kick. They can’t play nice now, what makes you think they’ll play nice when they’re in full-blown panic?”

“I think you should destroy the ship.”

They slowly turned to Daniel.

“Did you say something, Dr. The-Sky-Is-Falling-Save-The-Clouds?” Jack asked.

Daniel nodded and waved a wrist. “I know, I know…..” He put his hands over his face for a moment. “You’re right, Jack; the tribes of Abraham will destroy themselves and half the planet if they find out that their God was no more and no less than any other god. Send the ship into a sun and destroy it.”

“I have to disagree with you, Daniel,” Sam said. “Now, hear me out on this….. You have spent almost a year being open and honest with the kids. You have preached on and on about having them grow up with open minds. Now you are faced with the ultimate truth and you’re NOT going to tell them? How does that work?”

“It would be a loving-kindness to keep this from them,” Daniel said.

“It would be a loving-kindness for their kids to grow up in a world without war,” Sam said.

“There is no easy answer for this one,” Jack said, breaking the silence. “We need to have a talk with this world’s religious leaders. If for no other reason then for the UW’s rule, and the UN’s laws, of self-determination.”

“Jack, I think we need to take a look at the history before making any decision,” Daniel said. “We could be panicking for no reason.”

Jack puffed noisily into his hands and then nodded. He turned and looked over the console, hesitantly putting out a hand. Sheppard wouldn’t have known to look for it and it was highly unlikely any of the scientists outside would have the necessary gene for it. A brief thought entered his head –he wondered if he could get his TV to work on mental power…..

“Well, if it’s still recording, it would make sense that it’s kept up with language shifts…. World map,” Jack said mainly to himself before raising his voice slightly. The screen shifted to an image of the planet.

“Here,” Jack said, touching the screen. The Middle East was brought into focus. “Daniel, what date are we looking at?”

“Try two thousand BCE,” Daniel said. “To start with. Move forward from there.”

Jack called out the date and new locations as Daniel prompted him.

“Can we find out who killed Kennedy?” Jack asked him. The screen abruptly changed. “No, go back!” he ordered. “I wasn’t speaking to you.”

They watched for several hours, the silence punctuated now and again by new commands from Jack. By the time he told the ship to stop, Sam was wiping her face.

“Jack, you can’t make this decision on your own or with us,” she said, clearing her throat. Daniel handed her a paper towel from a nearby kit that was left on the floor.

“I know,” he said quietly. “Daniel, make me a list of relevant world leaders and invite them to a very private meeting. Sam, no one goes near this ship. Collect all documentation on it and prepare to expunge all of it. Depending on the outcome of the meeting.”

“What are we doing in the meantime?” Sam asked.

“We will continue with our lives and deal with this tomorrow. The ship isn’t going anywhere; this doesn’t need to be done now.”

“Jack, one more thing?” Daniel asked. “Ask the ship who created it.”

The group waited, a little abashed that no one had thought to ask the simple question. Jack asked the ship the question.

“Lanta’ana,” the ship said after a moment. The vocal speakers hadn’t been used in a long time..

“Hmmm. Could be a form of Atlantean,” Daniel said. “Or Lantian, as the Atlantis team is calling them.” Sam agreed.

“The Atlanteans are the Ancients,” Jack said. “The Ancients made the ships the Goa’uld and Jaffa have been using, so who created the hybrid form of this ship?”

“Lanta’ana.”

“It may have been programmed to say that,” Daniel commented. “How about asking it to show us its creators?”

Jack asked. “Looks like an Ancient to me,” he said in thought as they stared at the screen. “Maybe the those crystal tubes and the gas were part of the recording aspect? The gas is gone, though…” His voice tapered off while thinking out loud.

“If the ship was jumped back in time, maybe it wasn’t meant to be inside a mountain and it got there from a malfunction in equipment? We don’t know if those tubes were an original part of the ship, or if they were an attempt by the crew to get out of the mountain and it didn’t work,” Sam suggested.

“Well,” Jack stood, “it doesn’t really matter. We know jumping is a bad idea, so we are not keeping this thing. Let’s get everything on this ship rounded up.”

Dr. Frito was not happy upon being told to shut down the project and turn in all materials. Jack threatened to wipe her brain of all knowledge and reduce her to a sniveling toddler in droopy diapers. Dr. Frito had heard that such a device existed. The promise was given. Jack locked the ship and had his own SF brought in to see to the shut-down.

 


 

Chapter 56

“Hey.”

Jack looked up to see Mason sticking his head in the door.

“Come in,” he said. Mason went into the work room, holding his hat in his hand.

“Sergeant Emmerson’s house went down last night,” Mason said after greeting Sam. “Little girl’s in pretty bad shape.”

Jack shook his head and pulled his wallet out. There were a handful of bills in it and he put them into the hat. He looked up at the others in the room and more wallets were taken out.

“Do they know the cause?” he asked.

“Fire chief is saying a short in a wire,” Mason said. Jack took the hat from him and put it on a table.

“Stand on that,” Jack said, pointing at a platform sitting in the floor. Before Mason knew what hit him, several technicians had surrounded him and were helping him into a flight suit. The addition of a parachute and air tank gave him pause.

“Open the hatch!” Jack called out as Sam gave Mason a quick tour of the control panel. Mason looked up and saw the roof retracting. He shielded his eyes from the glare of the sun.

“Up you go,” Jack told him. The controls were almost identical to the controls in a glider, so it wasn’t too difficult to get them activated. The platform began to slowly rise from the floor and Mason quickly grabbed the small railings on the sides of the panel. Much to his surprise, he didn’t feel any movement.

“Inertia?” he called down.

“Same system as the ships,” Sam said. “It’s built into the control panel’s body. There is also a shield that will come up in about…..”

Click…

“….now.”

Mason gave an experimental poke and found that he was indeed isolated.

“How far up am I going?” he asked, afraid to hear the answer.

“Take it up to the space station,” Jack said. “There’s a glider waiting for you up there to bring you back down. You’re leaving the platform up there. It’s new equipment to help with walkabouts and repairs on the satellites.”

“And you can’t have a ship take this up because…..?” Mason waved a hand, waiting as he looked over the edge at Jack who was getting smaller by the moment.

“Just curious,” Jack said.

“Uh huh.”

“Come on, Marine, it’s a new toy,” Jack said encouragingly. “Where’s your enthusiasm?”

“It became a little more careful after that Jaffa incident,” Mason told him.

“I’ll watch your hat for you,” Jack promised.

“Is this some sort of revenge, Jack?” Mason called down. “Because I think it’s my turn!”

They watched Mason ascend into the air until they could no longer see him clearly. Jack hopped onto the mikku and tuned into the magic flying carpet. Mason was adjusting his oxygen tank as he came nearer to the outer atmosphere. Just above the Earth, several gliders were also keeping an eye on him.

“I wanted to do it,” Sam complained to Jack.

“You can take up the next one,” Jack said. She looked at him. “Alright, so sue me,” he said. “I don’t want you falling.”

“But it’s okay for your cousin to fall,” she said.

“It’s okay for Mason to fall, yes,” Jack nodded. Sam shook her head at him. “Mom doesn’t need to know about this.”

“Hmm. Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this,” she informed him, leaning back against a table.

“Tell me what?”

“I don’t know,” she contemplated. “You’re a little too cocky; after this…..”

Jack looked quickly toward her stomach.

“No, not that,” she said.

“Bummer. Tell me, woman,” he commanded, getting in close. Her techs carefully ignored them as he nuzzled her neck. Sam smiled and slid her arms around his waist.

“We came up with another Level 9,” she whispered into his ear. Jack lifted his head.

“What?”

“In Scotland,” she said. “A woman this time. From Orkney. She says her family traces their lineage a thousand years back to the Bay of Skaill. I don’t know about that, but… there’s an ancient village there called…. Skara Brae.” She waited, watching him closely. He pulled back and sat down. “Her name is Kaid Ryrie and she has a two year old son. His name is Skae.”

“Oh, my God,” he muttered. His face paled and she handed him a glass of water.

“I was going to ask Daniel to check it out when he comes back from Oregon.”

“Yes,” Jack nodded. “How much does she know?”

“Not much,” Sam shrugged. “She knows that the Ancients made their home in Northern Europe, for the most part, and that some humans still have Ancient DNA; just what everyone else knows. She’s been told that’s why her family has a tradition of doing weird things. We told her that we’re tracking the DNA to see if we can pinpoint the location of the original Ancient home here on Earth. She wants to know if there’s some sort of reward for having this DNA. Apparently their village needs a new roof and heater for the school. She’s the Head Teacher; their form of Principal.”

“Get them their roof and heater,” Jack immediately said. “Take it out of my private funds, if you need to.”

He took a long drink of water.

“Does Keir know?”

“Not yet,” Sam said. “He’s going to burst buttons when he finds….”

“Not yet,” Jack said. “I need to think. We might just leave her where she is. If Keir finds out, he’ll out her from sheer pride. I don’t want that. Yet.”

“Does he know about our Johns?” she asked.

“He knows that Jonathan is first batter up with Sheppard as second,” Jack said. “God help us. He’s curious about Jonathan. No one has satisfied that curiosity.” Jack scratched at the top of his head. “A fourth Level 9. We need to bring in this woman. Let me work on the logistics. I don’t know what I want to do with her, yet.”

“And if she refuses to play?”

Jack looked at her.

“It’s a possibility,” Sam said. “Not all women are going to fall at your feet just because you gaze at them with those pretty browns.”

Jack shrugged. “Then I’ll sic Daniel on her. He speaks Gaelic.” He blinked his pretty browns at her. She sent him back upstairs to his reports.

After dinner, Jack fumed as he looked at the email. Someone broke silence about the unknown ship.

“Don’t respond, Jack,” Daniel told him. “Ignore it completely. Look what happened over that DiVinci Code book when the Vatican had a hissy. Hundreds of other books with the same topic, and they were ignored. The Vatican takes an interest and the entire world also takes an interest. Just ignore it.”

“Alright,” Jack reluctantly said. He began writing a memo to send out to everyone. “Hey, do you think there’s anything to that DiVinci stuff?”

“I don’t think so, but we can look through the ship’s log, if you’d really like to know,” Daniel said. “I’m thinking that the so-called Royal Blood is actually the Ancient DNA, though. I think that if Jesus did exist, he was an Ancient. He had all the characteristics. Lots of mythological figures had the Ancient characteristics.”

“But in the Middle East?” Jack asked, leaning back in his chair as he watched Daniel on the screen.

“Red haired mummies dressed in tartan were found in China,” Daniel pointed out. “There’s always a weird exception to any rule.”

“What do you make of the weird DNA from the ship’s mummies?” Jack asked, bringing up the report the labs had sent him.

“Not sure, yet,” Daniel admitted. “Definitely Ancient, but we don’t know what the other part is. Some sort of hybrid, maybe. Like us.”

“I sent it out to Thor,” Jack said. “See if there’s anything in his files. They’re the hybrid experts.”

“How’s it going with the family?” Jack asked, bringing the box with Daniel’s face in it back onto the main screen. Daniel smiled. He and Stacey had been with Martin and Joy for a week, meeting the rest of the extended family.

“It’s going well,” he said. “Most of them are very accepting. No lectures about sin. A couple of the old men tried to corner me, and I ended that real fast. They did try to add us to the Mormon roster. That ended quickly, too. All in all, it’s been a pleasant week. I’ve been helping Martin with his landscaping and Stacey is learning how to be the little woman of the house. Oh, and she wants to go to Pompeii to see Roman bathhouse frescoes. I’m not sure she’s ready for that kind of reality.”

Jack laughed. “I’m glad to know she isn’t being completely corrupted.”

“I miss you.” Daniel smiled, unaware that Jack had taken a wash-able marker and was drawing horns and cat whiskers on Daniel’s face on the screen.

“We miss you, too.”

Jack shut his computer off and went upstairs. He collapsed onto the bed, his face landing between Sam’s breasts.

“Yes?” she questioned, tugging gently on the cowlick that refused to stay down.

“I miss our Danny,” came his muffled voice.

“Our Danny will be coming home tomorrow night,” she reminded him. She stroked his hair and pressed her mouth to the top of his head.

There was a knock at the door.

“Come in,” they called out. Jack turned onto his side. Katie looked in.

“Bad time?” she asked. The adults shook their heads and she came into the room. “Can we talk about boys?”

“Of course,” they said. Sam patted the mattress space next to her and Katie curled up next to her. It had taken Katie a while to relax, and once she understood that Sam wasn’t going to try and take her mother’s place, Sam became more of a big sister. Jack was glad Katie had a female to talk with, and with Maggie, Cassie, and Jerrie, Katie had a sisterhood to lean on.

“Josh Reynolds asked me to go out with him,” she said.

“Josh is a nice young man,” Jack said with an approving nod. “Do you want to go out with him?”

“Yes,” Katie said. She picked at the bedding. “I think I may want to do more with him.”

“Do you like him that much?” Sam asked, giving her hair a stroke.

“Yes. He hasn’t said anything about that. I mean, we haven’t done more than… kiss a little,” Katie confessed, her face reddening. “He…. well…..”

“Turns you on?” Sam teased gently. Katie buried her face in a pillow. Jack reached into the bedside drawer and put several small square wrappers into Katie’s hand.

“Honey, you know we won’t judge you, no matter what you decide,” he told her. “If you feel the time is right, at least be protected. No glove, no love. And remember the M-SAT’s. School starts in a couple of weeks; if your grades suffer when school starts, we will be discussing this again. No dates on a school night.”

Still red-faced, Katie kissed their cheeks and bid them good night.

Sam looked at Jack who groaned and hid his face in the pillow. She chuckled and poked at his head. “Are you going to do bed-check or am I?”

“I’ll do it.” Matthew was told to sign off the internet. Jack didn’t know what kids had to talk about online, when they spent all day together talking, but they sure spent a lot of time talking about it. He checked in on Davy and found the boy asleep. Jack took the plastic light saber and turned it off, tucked the boy in, and closed the door. Olivia wasn’t quite asleep; she saw Jack poke his head in and grinned at him, offering him her bottle of water. He went to the crib and picked her up.

“Please tell me you’re not interested in boys, yet,” he pleaded softly with her. She stilled for a moment, studying his face before bouncing on his arm. A rather loud sound issued from below and she laughed at him.

“I’m glad you’re so expressive,” he told her. “Please –don’t hold back, tell me what you really think.”

She babbled at him and patted his cheeks with one hand and a bottle. Jack puckered up and she allowed the buzzing kiss.

He went into the kitchen and looked out the window. Fang was chasing a rabbit around the yard. The leash runner was the only thing keeping him from the fuzzy animal. The rabbit seemed to know this and hopped in circles just outside Fang’s reach.

“Jack, everything alright?” he heard Jerrie ask softly.

“Everything is fine,” he said. “Just checking in. How are you? Any midnight conversations we need to have?”

“No, I’m good,” she said with an understanding smile. Some days midnight was the only time he had to talk. “Can I make an observation, though?”

“Sure.”

“Seems to me you get a little restless just before something fairly substantial happens.”

Jack thought about it. “Like what?”

Jerrie came into the kitchen and leaned against the frame as she hugged her bathrobe to herself. “Well, the day before Korea nuked itself, you were wandering around and checking in with people. The day before you were shot in DC, you wandered. I don’t know how restless you were in Reykjavik, but from Sam’s commentary, you were a little unfocused the day before she had that problem. This may all be coincidence, but could you keep your guard up tomorrow?”

Jack scratched at his chest and handed the baby to her. “Maybe I should make my wanderings a little more global tonight.”

He hadn’t tried a world-wide sweep since his melt-down after the first time. None of the other ‘walkers’ were nearby to keep watch on him, so he began to head down into Daniel’s den. A mental reminder made him stop, turn around, and head back to his bedroom.

“Sam,” he gently touched her shoulder. She snuffled and turned. “Are you awake enough to come down to the den?”

“What? Why? Is something wrong?” she sat up, pushing her hair as she turned the lamp on.

“I don’t think so,” Jack said. “Jerrie just pointed something out and I think it’s worth a walk around the planet. I want you to sit with me and keep an eye on me. Just in case.”

She nodded, stretching as she slid out of bed and followed him into the living room and down into Daniel’s private space. The closing of the door seemed to shut out all time and space, giving them the sense of being between the worlds. Jack sat on the floor and tried to find his center. After the third try, he groaned and leaned his head back against the couch.

“Push up a little,” Sam said, tapping him between his shoulder blades. He moved forward a few inches and she slid down behind him, catching him between her legs. “Alright, lean back against me.”

Jack settled against her chest, finding comfort. “Good,” she said. She reached around and smoothed his brow with gentle fingers. His hands rested on her thighs and he felt himself begin to drift.

His first stops were with family members. Everyone was fine. He’d have to talk with his mother, though; she was hiding quite a bit of depression. He realized that his father and Megan had died almost a year before. The town was basically alright, just the usual riff-raff out and about. …. Daniel was fine as was Stacey and everyone else in the Applegate house. He considered teasing Daniel, but not with a little girl sleeping next to him.

Jack used a mental image of a world map to navigate his way around the country. He had seen the Earth from space enough times to have a clear image in his head. He mapped it as though on a search mission, stopping to concentrate at key locations. Some of the stops didn’t make sense to him, but his mind wanted to stop anyway. Nothing seemed to be happening there, except his brain acting like the puppy sniffing out some invisible object. He made side-notes on possible problems in the Middle East, but that was nothing new. He found himself being shaken.

“What?” he asked, his tongue feeling a little thick.

“You really need to learn how to breathe when you do that,” Sam said in his ear. Jack took a deep breath and relaxed further into her. She slid her arms around his waist. “Anything?”

“No, I don’t think so,” he said, giving his head a shake. “The usual crap here and there.”

“Well, maybe try again tomorrow,” she suggested. “There may not be anything happening yet. I think Jerrie has a point –you do get restless just before something happens. You may be unconsciously picking up on someone’s intentions.”

“Honey, I tuck the kids in all the time,” he said. “I go for a glass of water, and I check in on them. I am frequently up in the middle of the night and nothing happens.”

“Nothing?” she questioned.

“Well….. nothing I’d consider alerting the media about,” he said. “I do get jumped, once in a while, through no fault of my own….”

Sam slid her hands across his stomach and into the silky silver fur. His body may have rejuvenated, but for some reason his hair remained gray and on its way to silver. The coloring was a sharp contrast to his tanned skin. Many women, and a few men, tended to follow him with their eyes as he walked through town. “I wouldn’t say you’re entirely blameless,” she told him. She pressed soft kisses along his jaw line.

 


 

Chapter 57

 

Daniel and Stacey got home from their trip to meet Martin and Joy’s family just as word came through that Bre’tac was on death-watch. Experienced SGC people, people who knew of Bre'tac's importance on the galactic stage, came to a standstill as SG-1, original team and current team, went through the gate to check on the old man.

They had just walked through the gate to Chulak when a small body shot out of the brush and threw itself at Jack.

“Hi, buddy,” Jack greeted the boy, swinging him up. “I take it your fathers are here.”

“Yes, Papa,” Daka said.

Jack looked around and saw Jonathan and Shara coming from the direction of the bush that had been growing into the path.

“Hey. Where’s Teal’c?”

Jonathan thumbed back toward the town. “He’s been spending a lot of time at Bre’tac’s bedside,” he said.

Jack put the boy down, his heart feeling heavier than the child. “Damn. I had hoped he wasn’t as bad as rumor made him to be. Colonel, get the SGC on the horn.” Reynolds gave a nod and went to open the gate for the communications.

“He’s old, Jack,” Jonathan reminded him. “He’s well past life expectancy already. Most people are just waiting. More and more Jaffa are beginning to come in with the excuse of visiting family.”

“Has Teal’c been officially brought onto the council?”

“As of last week,” Jonathan said with a nod. “It’s been kept quiet, though. There are still a few people out there who would like to see the Jaffa nation weakened by Bre’tac’s death. We’re standing by while Teal’c gathers his inner circle together. There will be a vote for the leadership two days after Bre’tac dies. We’re pretty sure it will go to Teal’c, but you can never tell around here.”

A quarter of a mile up the path, they were met by a party of Jaffa. “Tek’ma’te, O’Neill.”

Jack held out his hand and clasped forearms with Rak’nor. “Tek’ma’te. How are you, Rak’nor?” Not much for small talk, at the moment, the Jaffa warriors led the way back to the village.

“Jack, how’s our girl?” Jonathan asked. Jack reached into a pocket and pulled out an envelope. Jonathan began looking at pictures, smiling as he passed them to Shara.

“The little one is walking and getting into everything,” Jack said. “And the big girl is dating Josh Reynolds.”

Jonathan glanced at Col. Reynolds.

“He’s a good kid,” Reynolds insisted.

“Yes, he is,” Jack said, giving Reynolds a pat. “I agree. She’s been smiling and humming, lately, so let’s see where it goes.”

As they came nearer to the village, more off-worlders could be seen. It wasn’t only Jaffa who were gathering for the impending death of Bre’tac.

“Where is he?” Jack asked Rak’nor. The man led him to Bre’tac’s home where there were many people waiting outside. Most of the women were keeping things clean and making sure people were fed, while the men talked and sparred. There were Tok’ra and Anunnaki warriors mingling with the Jaffa. Jack assumed the queen was around somewhere. He found her at the table in the main hall of Bre’tac’s house. Inanna stood and greeted Jack when he went in, pecking his cheek.

“He’s been going downhill for a while, and he began to spiral early this morning,” she told him.

“That bad?”

“A few more hours, maybe,” Enki said. Jonas Quinn was at the table, his hands wrapped around a mug.

“Jonas.”

“Jack.”

The usually amiable Quinn wasn't in a mood for small-talk, either.

“Where’s Teal’c?” Jack asked.

“Inside,” Enki said, pointing his beard toward the stairs. Jack went up, glanced at the guards, personal students of Bre’tac, he thought, recognizing a few, and went into the room. The window was open, a light breeze blowing the curtains. Teal’c stood at Jack’s entrance. The big guy’s face was drawn into a sorrow Jack hadn’t seen since Teal’c wife had died. Jack took his forearm and then went to the side of the bed. Jack thought he was asleep, but Bre’tac opened his eyes. He wasn’t able to focus very well, but he knew Jack’s voice. Jack sat gently on the side of the bed.

“Master Bre’tac,” Jack said softly.

“Hhh…uman,” Bre’tac whispered. Jack smiled; what was once an insult, had turned into a running joke between them long ago.

“Will ya stop calling me that?” he begged. “What is this I hear about you leaving us? Who’s going to kick my ass, if you’re not here?”

Bre’tac’s hand twitched and Jack took it, locking the weakened fingers around his arm. The old man tried to say something.

“Master Bre’tac has left a request of you, O’Neill,” Teal’c rumbled. “He wishes for you to join me as nar’roog.” Jack looked at him. “It is a place reserved for close family members. To set the funeral fire and assist in the freeing of his spirit.”

Jack looked into the old man’s face. “I would be honored, Master Bre’tac.”

The gnarled hand on his arm twitched again and Jack found his hand being drawn upward. Not knowing what Bre’tac wanted, he let his muscles relax and his hand be taken until it rested on Bre’tac’s chest.

“I don’t….. do you need me to hear you?” Jack guessed. “Inside?” Bre’tac gave a small grunt which sounded like an assent. Inside, Jack found waves of anger and disgust. Behind them fear was being fought. Fear at losing a battle. Fear of the unknown.

“There’s nothing to fear,” Jack leaned in and whispered. “Remember Daniel? Remember all that he told us? All that we’ve learned? You can still fight, but you’ll be doing it someplace else. Your enemy is gone. You die free, Jaffa; you die in victory as the greatest warrior who ever lived.”

Some of Bre’tac’s pride seemed to resurface and he looked in Teal’c direction. Teal’c bowed deeply. “You will be remembered for all eternity as the warrior who conquered the Goa’uld and freed his people and the galaxy of enslavement, Master,” Teal’c promised.

Several hours later, people in the house looked up when the door opened. Teal’c and Jack stood at the top of the walkway.

“Master Bre’tac is gone from us,” Teal’c announced. “He died free, as we all may now die free.”

Jaffa left the house to spread the word as several women went upstairs to prepare Bre’tac’s body. “We will attend him,” Teal’c said, putting a hand out to stop them. The women hesitated; it was unusual for the warriors to deal with the cleansing. Rak’nor and Rya’c directed their brothers to gather the supplies from the women and went into the room. Jack joined them.

There was no preservation of the body on Chulak. When non-Tau’ri heard about the custom of pumping the body full of chemicals, most didn’t believe it. Teal’c was horrified when he learned about it. There wasn’t much that horrified Teal’c. Jack had already changed his Living Will to prevent that from happening to him. When he was dead, he wanted to be cremated right away. Although, if he Ascends, that part of the Will will be null and void.

He wasn’t sure what to do, so he followed the instructions of the warriors while Teal’c, Rak’nor, and Rya’c dealt with Bre’tac’s body directly. All the bedding was gathered and set aside, all signs of illness taken away. Jack looked at Bre’tac’s bared stomach. The symbiote pouch was still visible, but the edges had begun to knit together. At his age, Bre’tac’s pouch would never have completely closed like Teal’c’s was doing. Jack stepped up to the bed and reached out his hand. After years of listening to the doctors in his life, he knew some of the body’s cells continued to function for a time after death. He concentrated and the warriors stepped back, watching. When Jack lifted his hand, the pouch was sealed shut and the tattoo on Bre’tac’s forehead was gone. All signs of Bre’tac’s former slavery had disappeared. Teal’c inclined his head in gratitude while the other warriors around the room looked at O’Neill with a strange light in their eyes.

By the time they were done, SGC teams had begun to arrive. Sam, Daniel, and General Hammond, were waiting with Inanna. Sam’s eyes and nose were red and Daniel’s eyes were glittering suspiciously. Outside, the courtyard was filled with people, all silently waiting for Bre’tac to be brought out. Ships had begun to crowd the sky. One of the ships was Tau’ri, but it was hard to tell which one at that distance.

The body of Bre'tac was lifted onto a carrier and hoisted into the air by six men Teal’c, Rya’c, Jack, Rak’nor, and two others, and carried down the stairs as everyone stood silently, making a path for them to walk through. Whispers began as people noticed Bre’tac’s changed appearance. They set him on a table in the middle of the courtyard for people to walk by and view the body. Considering how many people had already gathered, it would take a while.

Jack felt the presence of people next to him and knew Sam and Daniel had joined him, waiting for the Jaffa to view their leader before off-worlders took their turn. Teal’c stood at the front, near Bre’tac, his strong presence making it known that the Jaffa were not without guidance. All around the village, teams from the SGC and the Prometheus, the Earth ship above, stood honor guard and continued to do so even as Bre’tac was eventually lifted once more and carried for the three-mile hike outside the village to a sacred grove used for funerals.

A pile of wood had already been formed into a pyre, with Bre’tac’s bedding stuffed in between the timber to be used as kindling. Warriors lifted Bre’tac to the top of the pyre, laying him to rest. Teal’c and Jack took the torches from two warriors and stood at the head and foot of the pyre. As one of the moons arose over the treetops, the pyre was lit.

One by one, people came forward and tossed small items or spoke words into the fire. Many warriors tossed their old, wooden training staves into the fire, sending them on with Bre’tac for him to use in his afterlife. When Teal’c indicated that it was time to leave, Jack allowed Prometheus to beam him up and he stumbled to his quarters where he crashed onto the bed. Someone came in and undressed him and slid the sheets over him. The comforting feeling told him it was his partners. His hair was stroked and his forehead pecked just as darkness fell.

A soft stroke at his cheek woke him and he forced one lid open.

“Hey.”

“….caffeine.”

Sam handed him a mug. “I thought I just went to bed,” Jack groaned, leaning back and pulling a pillow over his face.

“You went to bed ten hours ago,” he heard her say. The pillow moved.

“I did?”

“You did,” Sam nodded. “You did a major healing and your energy was sapped with the long day.”

“Major healing didn’t bring Bre’tac back,” Jack said. She put her mouth in the middle of Jack’s chest.

“I know. Jack, removing Bre’tac’s tattoo and pouch was a kindness, but you may have started something unexpected.”

Jack looked at her and sat up, putting the pillow behind his back.

“Alright, tell me.”

“The Jaffa are beginning to think you’re come kind of ….. deity.”

Jack swore.

Sam nodded. “Yes, that about covers it. The Jaffa who know you are laughing about it. Do you know how much it takes for a Jaffa to laugh?”

Jack thought about it. “Well, that Teal’c, he’s a crack-up….”

“Where's Daniel?”

“He's walking around with his camera and recording everything. Once the Jaffa understood the concept of photography and video, they approved of Bre’tac being memorialized. People are lining up to tell him their own ‘Bre’tac’ stories. From what I hear there are some whoppers going on, but he’s getting all of it. Quite a few troops supplied him with digital chips when he ran out of his own. Teal'c approved it.”

“As long as the Jaffa are okay with it, I’m okay with it,” Jack said. “The records do not go anywhere except my office when he’s done. I will release them after I’ve reviewed them.”

“He thinks the recordings could be cut into a book and possibly a DVD, if you’ll approve. Not only historical value, but also major interest to anthropologists and sociologists. He said something about never getting to witness a true, uncontaminated pagan rite.”

Jack tugged on Sam’s wrist and she leaned forward to rest against Jack’s chest. “Have Paul take care of the reviewing and editing; he seems to have a talent for it. A memorial would be nice. Our own stock footage can be cut in.”

“Jack?”

“Huh.”

“You need a shower.”

The SF didn’t blink when Jack emerged with Sam following behind. At least only Jack had damp hair. They beamed down to the village. Most of the visitors had left, only the Prometheus was still in orbit and that was because Jack was off-world and more than a few ships tried to enter the solar system to take advantage of Chulak’s present weakness only to be turned away at the sight of all the allied ships crowding the space.

“Sir.”

Jack saw Col. Davis standing a few yards away.

“Honeymoon over?” Jack asked.

“Yes, sir,” Paul said with a nod and a small smile. “The timing sucks a bit, though. Sir.”

“It sucks big time, Colonel,” Jack agreed as they continued to walk. “I’m glad you’re back, though.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Jack took a piece of fruit from a table as they went into the council building that they were borrowing with permission of the Jaffa council. Many of the locals were looking at Jack and whispering as they passed.

“What’s that about?” Paul asked. Sam told him what Jack did for Bre’tac.

“Cat’s out of the bag, now,” Paul said.

“I know,” Jack grumbled. “Not quite sure what to do about it.”

“Don’t do anything,” Daniel said as he came within hearing. Jack looked at him. “Just continue to be yourself. No matter what you say or do, people are going to interpret their own way, so you may as well not bother giving them any more ammo.”

“Daniel, Jack being himself is enough to give people plenty of ammo.”

They looked at the man lounging in a chair, one leg thrown negligently over the arm. Cigar smoke was blown into the air.

“I need to talk to you,” Jack said. “After the meeting.”

“Alright,” Enki shrugged, not acknowledging an order, just the request.

The room was full. The council representatives sat around the table while their attendants waited around the sides of the room. Jonathan was present as the interm-Tau’ri representative, Inanna, Jonas, Teal’c, and fifteen other worlds who could make the meeting. The sound of hooves sounded on the brick and the Mulakma representative, Atis, trotted in, his beaked head held high and proud.

“Late as usual, Atis,” someone around the table snorted.

“When one of my wives wishes my attentions, who am I to refuse her?” Atis said. There were chuckles around the room. “All of Mulakma offers condolences to Chulak.” Atis made a deep bow to Teal’c. The big guy stood and returned the gesture. “And I personally offer my sincerest wishes to the memory of Master Bre’tac. He spoke with me, warrior to warrior, and offered advice on how to speak with….. others.”

“Thank you, Lord Atis,” Inanna said, bringing the meeting together. “I believe this meeting was called by General O’Neill. Jack?” Inanna sat and offered Jack the floor. He stepped forward and placed a thin box on the far end of the table.

“Well, folks, I’ll get to the point,” he said. He smacked the box and motioned to Sam. “Bre'tac never stood on ceremony when it was time for duty, so let's follow his example. Between the mines on various planets, a generous gift from the Masharu, and the hoard from Anubis’ warehouse –thank you, Teal’c- the Tau’ri have a large supply of naquadah. Colonel Carter and her team have come up with a proposal for its usage. Sam?”

Sam got the box to work and presented herself to the room. “Our first priority, to be honestly selfish, is to get our planet’s power supply entirely on naquadah enhanced generators. We have a few cities working on it and the pollution problem is diminishing greatly. The amount of naquadah needed is minimal, however, so there is a great deal sitting around waiting to be made into ships and whatever else we can come up with. It’s the ships I’d like to talk about today.” She tapped on the control for the box and images began to appear in the air above the box.

“Cool,” Jonathan commented, leaning in closer to look at the holographic images.

“We took the technology from the Goa’uld communication balls,” she told him, pleased at his reaction. “These are plans for patrol ships,” she told the group. “At the moment, we are thinking three ships per sector, two for military, one for science and medical, with one larger… mothership, as it were… to monitor each sector. The motherships can hold a compliment of five hundred and the patrol ships will hold a crew compliment of two hundred people. Give or take. Both types of ship will have adjustable quarters for non-human crew members. Such as nest-boxes for the Mulakma.” Atis dipped his beak at her.

“And pillow rooms?” Ninurta asked.

“Pipe down in the peanut gallery,” Jack said, waving a finger at him.

“You can negotiate pillows with the ship’s commander,” Sam told him. Ninurta perked up and she shook her head. “Anyway. We are not suggesting replacing ships belonging to individual worlds; these ships belong specifically to the Unified Worlds. If any members would care to donate their ex-Goa’uld ship for an update, it would help distribute the naquadah further.”

“Sam?” Jonas raised his hand and she nodded to him. “What about worlds without naquadah? Will they benefit from the supply you are holding?”

“That will depend on the planet,” she said. She walked slowly as she tried to formulate the words she knew would be needed when the question was asked. “We will assist worlds that are full members. We can help them to advance themselves, but we will not hold their hands. I’m sure you all understand the damage that can happen to a society that is not allowed to grow on its own.” There were reluctant acknowledgments from around the table. “Many worlds are doing fine all by themselves. Look at Langara. Believe me, I understand how frustrating it can be; there are many things that the Asgard …. and others…. are still refusing to tell us about.” She paused to look at Inanna. The queen smiled passively and sipped her drink.

“We would like to build a ship factory,” Sam said. “We need input from everyone as to a recommendation for a planet to build this factory on. Earth certainly isn’t large enough.” She toggled the computer to begin showing them schematics. People around the room began to wander closer.

“All the ships will be on exploration patrol,” Sam said. “The science ships will spend their time exploring mostly deserted cities and planets, digging up information on the culture that lived there. They will be the ones who will put together the missing pieces of the Human puzzle and to assist with planet-wide epidemics. We don’t mean to be exclusionary, Lord Atis; our world is missing a great many people. Of course, the ships will be available for anyone who has a need for their services. The military vessels will be patrolling their sector, checking in on member planets and keeping an eye on closed-worlds. Each ship will also have teams specially trained for First Contact missions.”

“Sam?” Jonathan raised his hand. She nodded at him. “Have you been watching Star Trek reruns?” The few people present who understood the reference chuckled.

“Hey, they had some great ideas way ahead of their time,” she said, wagging a finger at him. “A lot of military and medical application concepts came from Star Trek. Like Colonel Davis’ idea of the hand-held MRI.”

“And laser guns,” Jonathan agreed. Jack pointed a zat at him and he quickly ducked under the table.

“Anyway,” Sam continued. “We considered dividing the galaxy up into quarters, but decided that left too much space for pirates and others to begin occupying out of the way places. By sectioning off five patrol areas, we can cover more territory in less time and be on hand quicker in case of an emergency.” She paused and looked at the room. Everyone was captivated by the ships dancing in the air. “That’s our proposal for the Unified Worlds to approve. Or not.”

“I’m assuming that the center of this patrol would be…. Earth?” Inanna asked.

“Not necessarily,” Sam said, shaking her head. “We're pretty much out in the middle of nowhere, so it wouldn't make sense for Earth to be the center. If we can come up with a planet appropriate to our ship-building needs, we can also put in office space for the UW. That would be the center of the pie.”

“What about Dakkara?”

They looked at Teal’c.

“Where humanity was first made into First Primes,” Daniel commented from the peanut gallery.

“Indeed,” Teal’c said, giving a nod. “I would need to speak with the Jaffa Nations council on this matter; however, I can see no greater tribute to the memory of those that have gone on before. Although the Ancient weapon on Dakkara no longer functions, the rest of the buildings do. There are plenty of rooms for office space and a large gathering auditorium. We are also excavating the sites where the Ancients built their ships. Dakkara is, I believe, made to order.”

“T, the council will need to understand that the Jaffa won’t be the overseers,” Jack said. “If they agree to allow the Unified Worlds to use the office space, it would be under our own control. They can’t just evict us when we don’t play their game. They will be donating it, in perpetuity, to the Unified Worlds.”

“I understand,” Teal’c said as he frowned. “There will be many that will not understand and will resist. Dakkara is a sacred place to all Jaffa.”

“It’s a sacred place for us, too, T,” Daniel said. “Those First Primes were from Earth. They are our ancestors, too, and by resisting the Goa’uld they saved the First World from further occupation. They will be honored for their sacrifices. In fact, I think a memorial of some kind should be created. Maybe a statue to stand in front of the main council building or a memorial wall showing the stages of Jaffa enslavement and development. It can be concluded with Bre’tac’s story.” He looked meaningfully at Jack and then around the table.

“Wonderful idea, Daniel,” Inanna said, reaching over to pat his shoulder. “Teal’c, how about telling the Jaffa council that if they will donate the planet to us, we will hire their best artist to create an appropriate memorial for the original First Primes, and the Jaffa Nation will have their own section of offices and living quarters? Will that help to ease the way between us?”

“It might,” Teal’c said thoughtfully. “Could you provide images of such memorials from Earth?”

“I’ll get them for you,” Daniel promised.

There was agreement around the table and murmurs of discussion.

“Good,” Inanna declared, signaling the next order of business as Ninurta completed his notes. “For some unpleasant news. We have a complaint from citizens of Balistar. This complaint was smuggled out to us by an underground organization which says that there are quite a few missing persons. Coincidentally, these missing persons are all people who oppose their government’s action of disappearing people who oppose the government.”

“Are they still on probation?” Jack asked.

“They are,” Inanna nodded.

“Get a team in there and get to the bottom of it.”

She held up a finger to mark a point in the air. “Which brings us to something I would like to discuss with the council. As most of you know, there are a few people who are developing more advanced mental abilities. Should we set up a special force made up of these people, and if so, how do we set limits to what they can and cannot do? We may start with good intentions, but how do we keep from creating monsters?”

“How many are available to us at this time?” asked Kendra from Cimmeria.

“That information shouldn’t be made available,” Jack said before anyone else could speak. “For security reasons. We wouldn’t want someone getting hold of you and forcing you to talk. We will identify those individuals who show promise, work out protocols for them, and figure out the internal policing. As for Balistar, we can throw a team together and send them in for an inspection. Has anyone taken the liberty of starting some notes on security?”

“I have,” Jonathan said.

“Good. You can head up security,” Jack said, not surprised. It’s the first thing he would have done. “Put together a list and we’ll discuss it.” Jonathan’s eyes flashed for a moment and then settled.

When the council was concluded, Jonathan cornered him.

“I’m going to ask nicely that you stop giving me orders,” he said quietly. Jack paused.

“I’m sorry. You’re right,” he admitted. “Are you up for taking command of security?”

“I don’t know,” Jonathan said. “I’m actually happy doing some farming, teaching, and taking care of Daka and Rushell, once we get her home. I don’t want to get involved in bureaucracy again. I’m doing this as a favor until Hayes can get here.”

“Well, I certainly can’t force you to do anything,” Jack said. “I think you’re bullshittin’ yourself, though. We both know you won’t be able to sit still if something happens and we both know you’ll kick yourself from one end of the galaxy to the other if something happens and you could have prevented it. If you still need time, you take your time. I have a lot of it. I’ll ask Jonas to do psychic investigator if you’ll forward me your list of recommendations. I’d rather get the list from you.”

Jonathan gave a nod and turned.

“Hey.” He turned back. “Who’s Rushell?”

“Little girl,” Jonathan said. “She’s about six, from some small mining colony. Most were wiped out in an earthquake. She’s deaf. Enki said it looks as though her eardrums were destroyed. Don’t know if it was an accident or not, but it’s an old wound. He’s going to grow her new ones.”

Jack nodded thoughtfully. “Was she treated well?” he asked.

“Not really,” Jonathan said. “A disability in a mining colony makes for a waste of food and space.”

“Well, bring her around so we can help her forget,” Jack said. Jonathan gave a nod and turned again. “Jonathan.” Jack waited. “I’m sorry. You deserve to be a father, too.”

Jack yanked on the back of his neck as he walked through the village to find a drinking mug filled with anything. He spotted Rya’c and a few other Jaffa and joined them, crashing his head onto the table. Someone put a mug in front of him and he felt a hand caress his back before someone sat next to him.

“That was a good meeting,” Daniel said. “I didn’t realize so much had been accomplished already. Sam’s concept went over well.”

“Is it possible that Jonathan really doesn’t want to work with us in this?” Jack mumbled from the table top.

“Yes, it is,” Daniel said. “He has a different soul, remember? He could do the job, he certainly knows how, but it wouldn’t make him happy. Self-determination, Jack.”

Jack took a long drink from the mug, making a face at the raw taste of the local hooch.

“We’re getting a new grandchild,” he commented. “Little girl named Rushell. She’s deaf. Until Enki can fix her.”

Daniel reached out and examined the bowls of fruit and bread before choosing a purple sphere that he knew was sweet and juicy.

“He is happy.”

They looked at Teal’c who had come quietly to the table.

“Jonathan,” he said. “He is happy. He is no longer you, O’Neill; he has become himself. Caring for his son and his new family makes him happy. He is the center of their home.”

“Happy?” Jack looked at him. “T, I don’t think I’ve ever heard you talk like that before.”

“Were it not for the Goa’uld, caring for our families are where we all would have been,” Teal’c said. “I wish that I had been here to watch Rya’c grow up and to help him. His mother suffered greatly in my absence.”

“Father, you were always here when I needed you here,” Rya’c said, not looking at his father who stood behind him. “You are here now. I miss mother and I wish you would have been with us when I was a child, but you are here now.”

Teal’c gave Rya’c shoulder a squeeze and took a piece of bread and cheese as Jack looked around. SG personnel strolled casually through the village with Jaffa friends, children ran and played with wooden training staves, non-human aliens wandered around greeting new friends, Grant was taking lessons in the training circle, a group of smaller children were chasing a familiar red bird through the nearby woods, Sam took Daka from Jonathan’s back to hug the child, and a Mulakma was giving rides to squealing children while parents watched with slight looks of concern. Jack drank the rest of his fermented juice and leaned backwards until he was against the ground. Daniel and Teal’c looked down at him and went about their conversing with the rest of the table.

“Jack, Enki said you wanted to talk with him. He has time now, if you want,” Inanna told him. Jack got up from the dusty ground with a groan, tweaked Daka’s side, making the boy giggle, and excused himself, walking back to the conference room with the queen.

Most of the council representatives had left the meeting room to socialize and stop by Bre’tac’s home. Jack took a look around, noted those still present, and sat across from Enki.

“You need to practice the shields, Jack,” Enki told him. “You’re broadcasting very loudly. And I think I may know what’s happening with you.”

Jack was blank. “I didn’t tell you what the problem was,” he said.

“I just told you you’re broadcasting,” Enki said to the simple child. “Here’s what’s happening. You know about timelines, right? Of course, you do. The closer we get to a particular timeline, the most likely timeline that we will take, the more you are picking up on it. Some timelines are nodes within time; events that happen on multiple timelines. Think about it as a live electrical current that you can sense. Remember that time doesn’t exist on the quantum level, so, in the right light, the past, present, and future are all in existence in the now. The closer you get to the future-now, the more you are able to sense its presence.”

“I’m clairvoyant?” Jack questioned, not quite believing it.

“No, just good at reading the writing on the wall,” Enki said.

Jack considered it and knew he’d have to sleep on it. For many nights. “Is that how you guys turn up at conspicuous times?”

“Sometimes,” Enki admitted with a quirk of his mouth as he re-lit his cigar. “It gets easier after a thousand years or so.”

Jack pursed his lips as he thought. “Is there anything I could have done to help Bre’tac?”

“No,” Inanna said, leaning over and touching Jack’s arm. “He was old, Jack; it was his time. Only a sarcophagus and a symbiote would have helped, and you know he wouldn’t have wanted that. He was ready.”

Jack nodded and tilted his chair back, shutting his eyes with a groan. “Alright. So how’s our boy, Grant, doing?”

“He’s no longer walking around and jumping at shadows,” Ninurta said. “We’re having to use a little tough-love to teach him not to intrude, but he’s learning. You were right to send him to us, Jack, he’s a walking disaster. He’s giving all of us shielding practice.”

“And if he’s unable to learn?” Jack asked.

“Then I will deal with him,” Enki said. His grave look was all Jack needed to know.

“He’s a good kid, don’t get me wrong,” Ninurta said. “He just isn’t used to controlling his own mind and this is a unique experience. He was flying a little high on himself until he caught his buddy, Jonathan, in the middle of a romp with us. It did cause him a moment of introspection, though.” There were snickers from Shara, Gibil, and Erra, and a smile from Jonas. The men had their heads together over a list of potential security people. Considering the needs, the list wasn’t very long and contained a mostly Anunnaki contingent, with a couple of Tau’ri and Langaren names. The Furlings seemed to be guiding, but not really interfering, which meant Enki, Inanna, and Ninurta wouldn’t be on the psi-patrol.

“Did I hear my name?” Jonathan came in and added a name to the list. Ninurta summarized the conversation and Jonathan nodded. “Yes, that one did rock his world a little. He knew I was with Shara, but knowing and seeing are sometimes two different things. His spirituality makes him more open to alternative pairings than most people would accept, so he didn’t wig out.”

“Have you corrupted him yet?” Jack asked.

“Not quite,” Jonathan said. “He’s questioning himself, at the moment. He sees that it’s fun and pleasurable, but he isn’t sure if he wants to go there. I did kiss him. He wanted some empirical evidence. He admitted that it wasn’t bad. A little weird, but not bad. I related.”

“Jack? He knows,” Jonathan confessed.

“He knows what?”

“About us,” Jonathan said. Jack frowned. “He took it from my head before we got a clamp on him. In fact, it’s the main issue that made Aba threaten to wipe his entire mind and make it a blank slate. Grant’s been behaving himself since then. He slips from time to time, but he’s doing better.”

Jack strummed the table top with the tips of his fingers. “Alright. I don’t want him on security until he proves he’s completely reliable. His ethics are still in play and I want to be able to trust him.” The men at the other end of the table scratched through Grant’s name which was at the top of their short list.

“We do have someone that is almost as good,” Ninurta said. “There is a Langaren woman, Jenessa, who is able to pick up immediate thoughts. She is highly ethical and she’s been practicing for a while. Her talents are much like Zu’s in that she hears immediate thoughts the way he sees immediate images.”

Jack looked at Jonas. “She’s from a small mountain community,” Jonas said. “She’s their local wise-woman. When she heard what was going on with the unification, she came in and introduced herself to me. Said the ancestors told her to do it. I wasn’t going to argue with the ancestors.”

“Her heart is an honest one, Jack,” Enki said. “We approve of her. In fact, she’s been helping with Grant. She actually whomped him on the head a couple of times when he slipped.”

“She reminds me a lot of Mom,” Jonathan said with a smile.

As their security list was negotiated, Jack signed off on several reports handed to him by Ninurta. Pirates had begun taking advantage of worlds unsupported by Goa’uld masters and the new UW had stepped in a couple of times to chase the pirates off. Jack told his security boys that they also needed to come up with a prison planet; scattering the flies won’t do anything except bring them back to the feeding ground. A prison planet needed a court of law. Jack felt a headache coming on and understood Jonathan’s bureaucracy comment. Inanna recommended a high court of twelve legal experts from membership planets. Member worlds could have the choice of prosecuting in their own courts, each world being under their own laws, for the most part, or they could request a trial by the high court. Jack was finding new respect for the Founding Fathers of the US.

Another problem they would need to deal with was the Aschen pirates. The group in a far corner of the galaxy was slowly growing as they captured worlds. The report said that one of these worlds had entered a zero-population growth. Jack made a note to have Landry send a team to check it out, and to have someone check out the planets in Aschen space and see if any would be supportive of a UW outpost.

He signed off on a list of new member worlds, pausing as he noted Edora had signed the treaty as a protectorate. He signed them in. Many worlds with under a million citizens had agreed to the treaty. Many had not. Earth didn’t have a perfect record with some of those worlds, and others were either xenophobic or simply wanted to be left on their own and attempt to go it alone. The Unified Worlds would keep an eye on those and wait for a signal that they would be open to talks once more.

Many other abandoned planets, whether to extinction of the race or to disease and pollution, had been claimed by UW teams for future colonization. Science teams were excavating whatever the previous civilization had left and any diseases that were still present were being treated with new anti-viruses. They were then left to the natural forces of the planet until they were needed. Hanka, Cassandra’s homeworld, was one of those planets being decontaminated. All of Niriti’s toys needed to be rooted out before anyone would be allowed to live there. Technically, Cassandra was the ‘owner’ of the planet, being the only survivor of the colony. Jack made a note to see if she wanted to do anything with it; knowing her, though, he was sure she’d look at him as though he were out of his mind and turn the planet over to the UW.

Hands slid over his shoulders. They reached down over his pecs and to his stomach. Jack halted the hands before they reached any lower.

“We can either go home and have sex or I can drag you out into the forest and bend you over a log.” There were snickers around the room as Daniel nuzzled Jack’s neck.

“I recommend logs,” Shara commented.

“Yes, they do have their uses,” Jonathan agreed. The others also murmured their agreements.

“Oooooh,” Shara paused, his eyes widening. “Over the lower rim of the Stargate.”

“That could be a rush,” Erra agreed. “Who knows when someone will dial in?”

“Especially a busy gate like the Chulak gate,” Shara said. “Why didn’t we think of that before?”

“Wait until the guests are gone,” Inanna told the boys. “You’ll scare some of them.”

Daniel tipped Jack’s head backwards and pecked his mouth upside down. “Ignore those reprobates,” Daniel told him. “If you are done signing that thing, let’s go. One would think that with all their talents, one of them would have learned to forge your signature.”

“Actually, he has a very easy signature,” Ninurta said. “I do have a few manners, though.”

Jack signed the remainder of the reports and handed the tablet back to Inanna.

“Alright,” he sighed. “Since I’m a kept man, I suppose I should pay for my upkeep. It’s a chore, but someone has to do it. I’ll take one for the team.”

“Just one?” Daniel asked. “And here I had gone out and bought flavored oils.”

 


 

Chapter 58

A soft clattering sound came from the direction of the sink. Jack looked out from the shower.

“Whatcha doin’, buddy?” he asked Davy. The boy had carried a chair in and knelt up against the sink to see into the mirror. Jack rinsed and turned the shower off. He gave himself a quick rub down with the towel and wrapped it around his waist before stepping out of the shower. Davy had a can of shaving cream out.

“Shaving,” Davy told him.

“Oh, I see,” Jack nodded. He took a clean razor, left the protective cap on it, and waited until Davy had his smooth face covered in white foam. Jack stepped behind the boy and held the razor to Davy’s cheeks. He carefully instructed the boy in the art of shaving, leaving the smooth skin gleaming. Davy rinsed his face and studied himself proudly. Jack wiped foam from his ears and lifted the boy down.

“My turn,” Jack said as he pushed the chair out of the way. Davy rushed off, patting his cheeks. Jack smiled and shook his head as he spread foam on his own face.

“What was he doing?” Daniel asked as he stumbled in. He used his head against the wall to prop himself up as he leaned over the toilet.

“Shaving,” Jack said.

“And he came to you for lessons?” Daniel said. He flushed and turned the shower on. “I’m surprised you have a face left, the way you shave.”

The smell of peppermint filled the room as steam began to come from the shower. Jack’s butt was still feeling a little sore from their evening of romping through various scented oils.

“Shower is slippery,” he heard Daniel comment.

“The oils,” Jack said.

“Oh, right. Jack? My ass hurts. How many times did we go at it?”

“Don’t know,” Jack said. “There were six flavors of oil and I think we went through all of them. I don’t think I’ve slept, yet.”

“Sam was already gone when I got up,” Daniel said.

“She got up just before I did. I don’t know how she does it, Danny; she was all wide-eyed and bushy-tailed.” He leaned over the sink and spat out the toothpaste.

“This is her fault,” Daniel informed him. “She’s the one who insisted on tasting each of the oils.”

“Did she have to use us as her tasting boards?” Jack asked. “This isn’t her fault, this is your fault. You bought the damned things.”

“Is that a complaint?”

Jack opened the shower curtain. “No, it isn’t,” he said and leaned in to peck at Daniel’s mouth. “But you do know that she’s a little behind schedule in jumping one of us with one of her fantasies.”

Daniel paused. “Oh, dear. We’ve created a monster and she hasn’t fed in a while.” Jack flicked soap from a nipple and left before he was tempted into doing something his body wasn’t up for.

Jack put Fang on his runner and filled his dish while Olivia ran barefoot in the grass. She fell on her diapered bottom, her face stunned for a moment before something in the grass took her attention. Jack was at her side before she could eat the worm.

“Nasty,” he told her, swinging her up onto an arm. “When you are in a remote village somewhere, you can eat the worms. Not at home, though. It makes Daddy cringe.” She babbled and pointed. Not having much else to do, Jack let her steer. They explored the trees, discussed the mailbox in great length, and watched a neighbor’s cat stalk a bluejay and fall head over tail as it missed the feathers. Olivia thought it was a very humorous moment and pointed at the humiliated animal as she blew raspberries at it. The rocks on the driveway crackled and he saw an SF coming up the drive.

“Good morning, sir,” the man said with a salute. Jack returned it.

“It is a nice morning, isn’t it, Major?” he asked. Olivia jumped against the arm under her butt. Jack tightened his grip. “Livie thinks so, too.”

“Sir, may I speak freely?” the major asked, almost breaking a smile as the baby babbled.

“Sure.”

The SF glanced at the baby. “It’s….”

“She’s eleven months old, Major,” Jack pointed out. “Speak.”

“Yes, sir. There’s been a few complaints,” the major said. “Well, more like grumbles.”

“About what?” Jack asked, switching Olivia to the other arm.

“Colonel Davis, sir.”

Jack thought about it, waiting. “What about him?”

The SF shifted feet, clearly uncomfortable. “It seems he and Nick like to… play outside? They’ve startled a few families a couple of times. Parents don’t know what to tell their kids when they ask why they can’t play in the woods.”

Jack chuckled and nodded. “I’ll talk to him. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. Any complaints about my house?” The major hesitated, shamefaced. “It’s okay, Major; we will keep it closer to home, too. How’s your wife?”

The SF brightened. “She’s fine, sir, thank you.”

“When’s she due?”

“In October,” he said proudly. “It’s a girl.”

“Congratulations,” Jack said, shaking the man’s hand. He gave Olivia’s fuzzy head a stroke. “It’s a strange species, but well worth the effort.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Dad!”

Jack looked back at his house. Katie stood in the doorway, wrapped in an orange robe with her hair in a green towel. She was holding a small mirror up and poking at her face. “Dad! I need you!”

“What?” he called.

“I have a date with Josh! Freakin’ pimples! Fix it! Pleeeeeeze!”

Jack sighed and looked at the SF. “Honest. They really are worth it. Face the teenage years with courage, soldier; they will be the most trying.” He went back to the house and redacted the red blemish with a peck on her head.

“You know chocolate does that to you,” he reminded her. She scowled at him and went back to watching her skin heal.

“When a boy gives you chocolate, you eat the chocolate,” she informed him. She pulled the towel off and fluffed her hair as she spun around and rushed back up the stairs.

“Daniel!” Jack called out. Daniel looked out from the library. “You haven’t bought me chocolate in a while.”

“Yes, I did,” Daniel said. “I ate it.”

Jack set Olivia on the floor and she toddled quickly to Daniel. He caught her and lifted her, putting noisy kisses on her face as she inspected his face with curious little fingers. The TV was on and Jack looked over to see Davy sprawled on the floor watching his Saturday morning cartoons.

“Where’s Stacey?” Jack asked.

“Bike riding with some of the girls.”

“Which girls?” Jack asked. Daniel shrugged.

“Girls up and down the street,” he said. “Her usual cohorts.”

“Oh. Would one of those girls happen to be Molly Than?”

Daniel held Olivia up and blew on her belly. She screeched and kicked.

“I think so, why?”

“Nothing,” Jack said. Daniel slowly lowered Olivia to the floor.

“Why?” Daniel asked again.

“It’s probably just coincidence,” Jack said. Daniel moved in until they were nose to nose.

“Why? And don’t make me use the full name.”

Jack frowned. “That’s mean, Danny. The Thans live next door to the Kaplans.”

It took Daniel a moment….. “As in Simon Kaplan?”

“Could be.”

Daniel headed for the door and was pulled back.

“She’s fine,” Jack assured him. “She’s doing normal little girl things with other normal little girls. Giggling over normal little boys happens to be one of those things.”

“Daddy, Sheriff Richardson wants you,” Davy informed him without taking his eyes from the TV. Jack looked at him and then at Daniel. Daniel shrugged.

“Did the sheriff call, buddy?” Jack asked.

“No,” Davy said, shaking his head.

“So, how do you know he wants me?”

“Don’t know. He does.”

Jack reached. He then looked at Daniel and picked up the phone. “Andy. Jack. Oh, you know…. Yeah, sure, how many? Tell them to come by my office on Monday and let me get a look at them. I’ll decide what we can do with them. Anytime.” He inclined his head and walked toward his office. Daniel shut the door behind them.

“You know those ex-cult boys around here?” Jack asked, perching on the edge of his desk.

Daniel thought about it. “You mean the boys who were kicked out of their homes? The off-shoot Mormon cult?”

“Yeah, them. Andy’s boys arrested a few of them last night. B&E. He wants me to see if I can do anything with them. The boys are so clueless, they’d be eaten alive in jail.”

“And they’ll probably need some remedial classes to catch up on what they were not  taught in school. If I remember right, there is no more draft,” Daniel said. Jack waved a hand at him.

“I’m not going to draft them,” he said. “Just find them a job. You can help me interview them and see if we can come up with an appropriate place for them.”

There was a knock and the door opened. Sam stuck her head around the door.

“Hi, honey,” the men said. She came in, wiping the sweat from her neck with a towel.

“How was your run?” Jack asked.

“It was very nice,” she said. “You two need to start joining me.”

Jack lifted his shirt and looked at his flat stomach while Daniel pulled self-consciously at his t-shirt. Weight had always been his enemy.

“What are you saying?” Jack asked her.

“I’m saying you two are starting to huff and puff when you walk a long distance,” she informed them. “If we were still at the SGC and going off-world every week, would you qualify us for duty?”

Jack thought about it. “No, I guess I wouldn’t. Alright, we’re back on a regimen.” He looked at his watch. “Matty’s game is in three hours. Are we all going?” Sam and Daniel would be going with him. Sam went for a shower while Jack reminded David of his brother’s ball game. Daniel was still lying on the couch in Jack’s office. Jack went back in and looked down at him.

“What’s the problem?”

Daniel lifted an arm from his face. “Nothing. Just tired.” Jack went back into squatting position.

“Danny, you know we love you,” Jack said. He put a hand under Daniel’s shirt and stroked the smooth skin. “A few extra pounds won’t change that.”

“I know,” Daniel muttered. “I like the muscles and all, but I don’t want my life to revolve around the gym.”

“Then don’t,” Jack said with a shrug. “I like your muscles, too, but you’re no longer required to live up to military standards. You’re a civilian, not a meat-grinder. Sam’s right in that I need to start working out again; I need to set an example for the men and women under my command. And who knows when I’ll need to be in combat again? I don’t have a problem with your extra inch, Danny. I believe I heard Paul refer to you as a teddy bear. You’re our teddy bear.” He put a kiss on Daniel’s stomach.

Daniel glared at him from under an arm. “Alright. I’ll give myself to Major Brice’s tender mercies.”

Jack leaned in and kissed him. Daniel reluctantly responded and began to relax under Jack’s attentions. “Only if you want to,” Jack told him, holding Daniel’s eyes. “A few extra pounds isn’t going to get you kicked outta bed. Danny, you’re not lazy and you’re not a junk-food junkie. Any more than the rest of us, anyway. We have our days. Relax and enjoy life. You’ve earned it.”

“Daddy.”

Jack looked toward the door where Davy stood. “How come you didn’t tell us you were going to be on TV?” the boy asked. Jack looked at Daniel. Daniel got up and they went into the living room. Jack didn’t know he was going to be on TV because whoever had the camera had hidden it.

“….and this isn’t the only so-called healing that has taken place,” the reporter was saying over a shaky, grainy video of Jack picking up a little girl from a fallen bike. She was crying and holding her arm. Jack knelt in front of her, talking low and reassuringly as he gently touched her arm. The girl soon stopped crying and nodded, flexing her arm. The camera zoomed in and the image was split: one side showing a bloody gash in the arm and the other side doing a fast forward, showing the wound seeming to repair itself in seconds. Jack recognized the girl from one of the neighborhood families.

“……there are also rumors of military personnel being healed after General O’Neill visited their hospital rooms,” the reporter said. “There is a report of General O’Neill being shot, yes, shot, ladies and gentlemen, in the chest, injuring a lung, and yet he is out of the hospital within forty-eight hours.”

“Get Sam out of the shower,” Jack told Daniel. “And round up the rest of the kids.” He picked up the phone and called the guard house, putting them on alert.

The news image switched to a man whose identity was obscured.

“The general isn’t the only one with odd things happening,” the man said. “His daughter volunteers at the Academy Hospital and she has a remarkable degree of…..”

Jack picked up the phone again. “Are you watching the news? Look at Channel 8. Hell might be about to break loose.”

“You still want me to ignore this?” he asked when Daniel came out of the bedroom with Sam right behind him. She was dripping wet and wrapping a towel around her body.

“Yes, for now,” Daniel quickly said. “We already have the story of leaping to back us up; we can pin all this on that. Just let this happen, Jack. We knew it would come out eventually.”

“We have a leak,” Sam said as she watched the news. “Who the hell would know about you being shot? It was on the base and you were operated on upstairs.”

“No, I want him to…. never mind, I can deal with it a lot faster,” Jack said into the phone. “Call Washington and warn Maynard and Hayes. I don’t know yet. Daniel is still telling us to sit on it. His weirdness radar has been a little off lately, but he’s usually right.”

“In researching this story, we came up with something unexpected,” the reporter was saying. “All over the world, there are stories just like these beginning to crop up. Millions of children are doing unusual things and learning at an elevated speed, and a few are going the extra mile. Although spontaneous healing, such as General O’Neill has been seen to do, has been spotted in a few other people, no one seems to be doing anything as advanced as O’Neill. Watch this home video of the general in action.” A video was shown of Jack yelling and a red line suddenly appearing in the green grass. “Not hours later, that patch of grass was dug up and removed by government officials. General O’Neill’s oldest son is seldom seen and mysteriously absent, any threatening elements have disappeared, his neighborhood is guarded by Special Forces, and his house is a no-fly zone. There is also a report of a cadet from the Air Force Academy who was taken abruptly out of class a year early and given a field promotion. According to the young man’s family, he is on a special assignment off-world. Students at the Academy say that this young man, Grant Kendrick, was able to read minds! Yes, you heard me, folks –read minds!”

Jack made another phone call and put the base on alert. “Call Kalam,” he told Landry. “Tell them to stay away, and for God’s sake, keep Kendrick out of the area completely! Send a couple of SF to Kendrick’s folks and make sure they’re alright.”

The door opened and Paul came in, holding the earwig as he talked quietly into it. Nick came in after and shut the door.

“…no, sir, he is advising that we hold,” Paul said into the tiny filter. He and Nick stood and watched the news, waiting for Jack to issue an order. “Well, sir, the leaping information would actually take care of it. I’m putting together a statement for the press. Yes, sir.”

Nick opened his mouth and Jack held up a hand. He closed his eyes and concentrated. After a moment, he went into his den and quickly ran over the bookcase until he found what he was looking for. He pulled it down and rapidly skimmed through it, scanning faces. He stopped.

“Get me this man,” he said, tapping the picture and handing the book to Nick. The man memorized the face and the name and left the house. Jack picked up the phone again. “George, I’m sending Nick to fetch one of your kids. Sorry, if I’m stepping on toes. Again. Oh, I’m a little ticked. I also want to know who the leak in the hospital is. I’m going to look at ID’s in a moment. My bigger concern is who leaked my medical records. There are extremely few people who have access to those. No, not yet. I’ll let you know. Thanks, George.”

Katie slowly came down the stairs, hearing the commotion.

“No one goes nowhere alone today,” Jack told her. “Josh may come here and visit, but I don’t want you outside without an escort. That means one of us or a guard.”

The door opened again and Michael came in. “Jack, what….?”

“Mike, I really need you to stay with Mom for a while,” Jack said. “I’ll send a couple SF with you. I don’t want her bothered. And unplug her phone.”

“The SF have this neighborhood blocked off to anyone except locals,” Michael said. “They weren’t going to let me through except that one of the men recognized me. If it’s that serious, shouldn’t I take the kids with me?”

“No,” Jack said. “They’re safer here. I’ll have the kids taken off-world, if I need to. You and Mom, too, so don’t worry. Daniel and Paul will put a statement together and we can hope that it takes care of most of the damage.” Michael reluctantly nodded and left.

“How about Gabriel?” Paul asked. Jack looked at him. “Well, he is the Director-General of the World Health Organization. If he steps forward and makes a statement, won’t his presence give greater credence to the fact that there is nothing for people to get upset about?”

“Good,” Jack said, pointing in emphasis. “Call him. And I want a closed studio when I speak with the press. Just one reporter, one camera. Not someone excitable.” He took note of the baby sleeping on a large pillow. “I want my children to live normal lives. This needs to be taken down a few notches.”

Ignoring advice from Paul, the family attended Matty’s ball game. Jack’s personal guard took deep breaths and followed the family. They didn’t usually all go to the games, but it was time for a show of unity. Since Matty’s team was composed of all SGC off-spring, there were a lot of military present at the ball field. Seeing Jack, Sam, and Daniel, and all the kids, the military made room in the center of the bleachers. Once the family was seated, the troops surrounded them. The reporters wandering around the field took one look at the blockade and decided to wait. The Anthem was played, everyone stood and sang, and the game was on.

“Any news on the leaks?” Landry had joined them to cheer on their team.

“One of Kendrick’s former roommates,” Jack said. “He’s about to be dishonorably discharged. Still hunting down the med tech from the hospital. Seems he’s MIA. I’ll find him. Dr. Thorn and I will be holding court in New York tomorrow in a news studio. Colonel Davis and Daniel are writing responses.”

Landry looked at Daniel who was clapping and whistling at their team. “I see he’s working hard at it,” Landry commented. Jack glanced at Daniel.

“Actually, he is,” Jack said. “Daniel –healing abilities….”

“Just another one of those odd things happening with evolution. Saves on band-aids in the house. Wave to Matty, Liv.” Daniel held Olivia up high so she could see her big brother. It was a bit far for her to make out exact faces, but she jumped against Daniel’s shoulders and yanked on his hair anyway.

“See?” Jack said to Landry. “The band-aids thing is good. I didn’t think about that one.”

“Jack.” He looked at Reynolds who was trying to get his attention. Kevin jerked his chin and Jack turned.

“Sic ‘em,” Jack told him. Reynolds climbed down from the bleachers and moved silently across the grass to the ice cream stand. Stacey was getting Grandma Maggie a Sno-Cone. Before the man behind Stacey knew what was happening, he was surrounded by Reynolds and a couple of SF. Startled, the man dropped his cell phone which he was snapping pictures and recording onto his voice mail. Reynolds ‘accidentally’ stepped on the phone and apologized. While the SF escorted the protesting man out of the park, Kevin stayed with Stacey and walked her back to her family. Daniel looked at them.

“What’d I miss?” he asked. Jack told him. “Where is he?”

“He’s gone,” Jack said. “Stace, honey, we’re having a problem with the media today, so please keep one of us or an SF with our. You want to tell us what the man said to you?”

Stacey handed Maggie the Sno-Cone and wondered if she was in trouble.

“Jack, it’s my fault, don’t blame her, please,” Maggie said, feeling terrible for getting the girl into trouble. Jack waved at her.

“I’m not blaming anyone, Mom, I’m just concerned,” he said. “No one’s in trouble except that reporter for not identifying himself and sneaking in a conversation with our daughter.”

“I didn’t say anything important,” Stacey said. “He asked me if I was one of the O’Neill kids. I said I was a Jackson kid but you’re my Dad, too.”

Daniel hooked an arm around her, pulling her in and planting a kiss on her cheek, “That was very good,” he told her. “Did you say anything else?”

“No,” she said, shaking her head. “That was when Col. Reynolds came over.”

“She’s fine, guys,” Sam said. “The Tigers are about to win, so chill!” Sam put an arm around Stacey and pulled her down to the bench. They were up moments later, yelling and jumping as two boys ran home while the run to first base was called out. The ball thrown to the catcher was missed and the last boy slid across the base. Tigers 4-3!

While parents rushed to find their children, Jack motioned to Reynolds.

“Tell both teams they’re invited to my house,” Jack said. “I’ll get dogs and burgers on the way home.”

Matty ran up and Jack caught him. “You made a great triple!” Jack informed him. “And that run from second! Like the wind!” Matty hung off Jack’s neck for a moment and then slid to the ground. “What?” Jack asked, seeing the look on the boy’s face.

“It’s just….. my… father… always told me what I did wrong. When he came to my games at all.”

Jack pushed the hair from Matty’s face. “Do you know what moves you did wrong?” Matty gave a nod. “Then why should I waste my breath telling you? Don’t worry about it; we’ll practice and you’ll do your best the next time. It’s just a game, Matt. The world won’t end if you drop the ball. Bombs, yes, baseballs, no. I’m proud of you, so forget Andrew. He doesn’t deserve your memories. Come on; you can help me find stuff for a cook-out. And maybe a stop at the barber’s.”

The next day, Jack sat in a private New York studio and talked with a famous reporter. Gabriel came in from Geneva, deciding at the last minute that he wanted lunch at his favorite Greek restaurant. Which wasn't in Greece. They assured the talk show host that there was nothing untoward going on. Odd things were happening to a few people because of the entire evolutionary thing, but there was nothing for people to get upset about. Jack demonstrated his abilities by healing a freshly made scratch on the host’s hand and Gabriel told everyone that Jack had done the same thing to him and he had seen Jack heal others. He made a point that he had never seen Jack harm anyone and didn’t think Jack was the type of person to harm someone. Outside of a battle situation. When asked about getting shot, Jack laughed and opened his uniform, showing the world his bared chest. Even his battle scars had mostly faded away, much to his disappointment; he earned those scars, dammit! He didn’t know where the story came from about almost losing a lung, but he was sound and healthy. Sure, he had been shot a couple months back; a graze on his shoulder. He flexed for the camera. His shoulder was fine. The two of them spun a good story and Gabriel filled it in with science talk about evolution.

And the missing cadet and Jack’s son? Jack laughed it off. Yes, the cadet was on assignment for him; the young man had done a service to his country, no Jack wasn’t going to specify, and the young man was rewarded with an off-world mission. As for Jonathan, well, he was living off-world because that’s where he wanted to live. He was helping some friends establish a colony. Not an issue, as far as Jack was concerned.

Once more, Jack and Gabriel warned the world not to be afraid of the changes some people were going through. It was normal. Weird things might begin to crop up, but it was now normal. And maybe some reporters should learn to be a little more responsible about their reporting.

While Jack was playing in front of the cameras, Daniel had stopped at a gas station on his way home from the store. Olivia was in her carrier in the backseat. She was making noises and enjoying the sound of her own voice as she looked around.

“Dr. Jackson.” He looked around and saw that a local newspaper reporter had pulled up to the pump next to him. Daniel knew there were two SF close by; it was his concession to Jack for leaving the house. He glanced at Olivia. She was watching the strange man, but she wasn’t upset about anything.

“Bill Weller,” Daniel acknowledged, recognizing him from around town. “How’s the Fifth Estate?”

The man smiled in appreciation. “It’s well, thanks to all the fodder over the past year.”

Daniel also smiled in appreciation. He wasn’t too nervous about this particular reporter; Weller wasn’t the hyper type, which kept his articles usually buried somewhere in the center of the paper.

“I’m honestly not following you,” the man said. “I just saw you as I was driving by and thought I’d stop. Can I get a quote from you?”

Daniel thought about it. “What we have to do is to be forever curiously testing new opinions and courting new impressions.” Walter Pater.”

Weller smiled again and nodded. “That’s a good one, I hadn’t heard it before. Doctor, I live in this town, so I know there’s nothing to be feared about all these changes going on with people. Hell, my own kid is learning things faster than I ever did at his age and I envy him. I had a hell of a time in school. I think like all good parents, I want better for him than I had. At least I hope I’m being a good parent. Is there anything you can say to the parents about their kids?”

“Love them,” Daniel said. He put the hose back and leaned against his car. “Love them and support these new things that are happening. This is a normal thing that is occurring. We’ve known about evolution for years. We’ve seen it happen in other species, right before our very eyes. Now it’s happening at home. Yesterday the world was flat, today it’s round. This is still the same world and we are growing up. We are being told to accept responsibility for our actions because if not, we will destroy ourselves. Look at North Korea. The actions of one man who refused to accept his neighbor. Eleven million people are dead because of one man. Eleven million, Bill. And the rest of us billions will be cleaning up his mess for years and God knows what all that radiation is going to do to the population and the planet. Chernobyl is still coming up with oddities and that was only a small localized spill. Mother Nature is telling us that we are no longer children. She thinks we are ready to be adults. Let’s honor the Mother by accepting Her challenge.”

“And do all these changes have anything to do with this alien partnership?” Weller asked.

“You mean the Unified Worlds?” Weller nodded. “No, not really,” Daniel said. “We aren’t the only humans to be going through this leap, just the largest concentration of humans. It’s happening on a planet called Langara, too. The unification is about worlds coming together to support each other. To look out for each other. Our world happens to be one of the few with such diverse separation of countries. Most worlds are under one government. Most worlds have only a few million people to their populations, thanks to the Goa'uld decimating them. We are just barely squeezing into the Unified Worlds. There are rules, a treaty, which all members need to follow. Believe me, we’re barely making it. I think the UW council is taking a few shortcuts because of General O’Neill. After the Korean incident, I certainly wouldn’t have accepted us on the membership roster.”

“Treaty? Can we read it?” Weller asked.

Daniel shrugged. “Sure, it isn’t a secret.” He took out his BlackBerry. “What’s your email?” Surprised, Weller told Daniel his email address. “I’m sending this from my public email, so don’t abuse it…. there you go.”

“Who wrote it?” Weller asked. “The… who are they…. Anun….”

An-un-naki,” Daniel supplied, and spelled it out. “They had input, but I wrote most of it. The initial council representatives tweaked it for their needs.”

Weller glanced at his cell phone which was recording the conversation. “What about colonization? This is a pretty crowded planet.”

“There will be no colonization unless people start behaving themselves,” Daniel told him. “If they can’t get along here, we are certainly not going to inflict the rest of the galaxy with our garbage. Responsibility begins at home.”

Daniel cut the conversation off and excused himself. “My responsibility begins with making sure my children eat and have my attention while their other two parents are out of town.”

He drove out of the gas station and glanced at Olivia in the mirror. “How was that, Liv?” he asked. “Not too much damage?”

She considered him and then held out her bottle. It was empty. “Da! Bbbbbbbrrrr….” He reached into the bag at his side and came up with another bottle. He handed it back to her and she sucked happily on the juice.

As Daniel waited at the stop light, a parade of classic cars went by. He took his sunglasses off to better admire the view. A thought struck him and he picked up his cell phone. It took about ten rings.

“What? Daniel, I’m doing an interview.”

“Then why did you answer the phone? You owe me a birthday present, right?”

Jack looked at Gabriel and their host and the red light on the camera. “Yes?” This should be good, he thought to himself, and put the phone on speaker while holding a finger to his lips, shushing everyone.

“A car.”

Jack looked at the phone. “You have a car.”

“I don’t have a cherry red ’67 Mustang.”

Gabriel put a hand to his mouth, trying to keep silent. Their host took the cue and also kept silent.

“A what? Daniel, do you know how much a ’67 Mustang costs?”

“Jack, it isn’t too often that I splurge, so I’ll get it myself, if I have to.”

Jack rolled his eyes and lowered his face into a hand for a moment. “I’ll go halves,” he finally said. “We may need to take out another mortgage…. Daniel?”

“Yes, Jack.”

“While you’re on the line, how about answering a few questions from our LIVE audience.”

There was silence. “Why did you answer the phone?!” Daniel hissed. Gabriel and their host, as well as the crew, began laughing.

“Well, I was kinda hoping you were going to talk dirty to me,” Jack said, arousing more laughter. Daniel swore at him in Jaffa. “Knew I could count on you, honey buns.”

There was silence. “Honey buns?”

“Sweetie pie?”

“Sweet…… Jack!

“What’s that song I seem to remember hearing years ago…… sugar kisses.”

…… “Gabriel?”

Gabriel got hold of himself and cleared his throat. “Yes, Daniel?”

“Do me a really big favor? Smack him.”

Gabriel backhanded Jack’s arm as the crew laughed.

“Dr. Jackson? It’s Larry. Can we talk a moment?”

“Yes, of course,” Daniel said. Jack moved his phone closer to the microphone. “And it’s Daniel, please. How are you, sir?”

“I’m fine, thank you. We’ve been discussing these rumors of miraculous healings, as I’m sure you are aware. Could you comment on this?”

“I’m sure both Jack and Dr. Thorn have been reminding everyone about this leap we are going through, so I won’t bother to repeat them. All I can say is that it’s nothing we haven’t seen others do. Off-world, I mean. I think we would have begun this sooner if not for our societies being semi-phobic about anything that a sacred text doesn’t tell them exists.”

“Are you saying our society is in the midst of religious hysteria, Daniel?”

“Do you disagree?” Daniel countered. “We have lots of examples of so-called strange things happening through the history of this planet, but no one believes it if it isn’t verified by the AMA. How many people, mostly women, were burned or drowned in recent history in Africa for no other reason than a freak fever or whatever? We are barely out of the dark ages, Larry. It’s happening and people need to accept it.”

Their host leaned over the table, looking thoughtfully at the innocent cell phone. “According to General O’Neill, he’s able to heal cuts and scrapes. We cut my hand and he healed it right in front of us, so I’m certainly not going to deny his skill. How far does it extend, though?”

“Are you asking if he can raise the dead?” Daniel asked. Jack lowered his head for a moment, knowing what was coming by the tone in Daniel’s gentled voice. “His father and his niece, the mother of the children he adopted, are dead. His son Charlie died about ten years or so ago; if Jack had had the ability then, he certainly would have saved his son. No, Larry; Jack’s our band-aid guy, no more, no less.”

The crew was silent. “Thank you, Daniel,” Larry said after a moment. “General, I’m sorry for bringing up those memories. I knew about your family, but I didn’t follow the pieces.”

“I’m fine,” Jack said. “It’s okay, Danny. How about we change the subject? I believe the topic of marriage was on the list.”

Their host nodded, grateful for the opening. “Daniel, would you mind?”

“Not at all,” Daniel said. “I’m all for marriage. What about it?”

“There’s another round of arguments to amend the Constitution, specifying man-woman only marriage,” Larry said.

“Short sighted of them,” Daniel said.

“How so?” Larry asked, curious.

“Well, out of the hundreds of worlds that we know, only a very small handful are specific on that subject. Most planets don’t care about who marries whom as long as everyone is legal age and consenting. Actually, most planets have what we call common law marriage or handfasting, which is what we did for our ceremony. And no one places emphasis on numbers within the union. Other planets consider it legal because there is a contract between the parties and there were witnesses to the vows and the signing of the contract. A few planets have a spiritual leader that blesses the union, but it isn’t necessary; other than that, it all boils down to contracts. We may be more advanced than most worlds in the technology department, but our social skills are lacking. We need to catch up and remind the government that the bedroom is none of its business. The government’s business is civics, not my bedroom. …. Oh, hey, I need to go. The baby is making her bad diaper face and hell is about to break loose.”

“Thank you for taking time for us, Dr. Jackson,” their host said. “You’ll be on the show with your new book soon?”

“Yes, in a couple of weeks,” Daniel said hurriedly. “Jack –Mustang.”

“Yes, Daniel.”

There was the sound of an unhappy baby making her situation known just before the line was disconnected.

“Larry, do you see what I deal with everyday?” Jack whined. “Out of left field, Lar. I never know what Daniel or Sam are going to come up with, much less the kids, and yet people seem to think my family is a danger to the American way of life. He wants a ’67 Mustang, Lar. Cherry red. How American can you get?”

“And you’re going to get it for him,” Gabriel continued.

“And I’m going to get it for him, God help me,” Jack said, leaning back wearily in his chair.

“And speaking of the Man,” Larry said, watching the two in amusement.

“Who –Daniel?”

Gabriel shook his head. “Capitol M, Jack.”

“Oh. How about we not go there?” Jack suggested.

“I read an advance copy of Dr. Jackson’s book,” Larry said. “There are enough holes in it to drive a spaceship through.”

Jack lifted an eyebrow. “That’s a good one,” he said, shaking a finger. “But I’m afraid you’ll need to ask Daniel about any holes. I didn’t help him write it.”

“Come on, Jack, you are infamous for your anti-religion stance,” their host said.

“And?” Jack asked. “I am anti-ignorance and anti-intolerance. I don’t care what other people do or how they worship, so give me the same consideration. And I’m not going to explain myself; it’s no one’s business.”

After discovering that no one goes where Jack doesn’t want to go, they took phone calls from their listening and viewing audience. Many people tried to push Jack into the discussion and they all failed. A few military personnel wanted to know about gays in the military. Jack told them that if Alexander the Great could deal with it, so can they. Gabriel was more helpful, answering questions from worried parents about the odd things their kids were doing. He also encouraged anyone not tagged with the new locator ID’s, that they should do so. He assured people that the tags did not monitor thoughts or any brain activity; the tags only told a machine where that person was at any given moment. It was a great invention in the face of kidnappings and runaways. The tags were being given out for free, so if anyone tried to charge them they were to notify the authorities. Gabriel also swung the conversation to medicine and let everyone know that his office was putting a protocol together for Stage 3 human trials for diabetic and heart disease cures, and they could thank General O’Neill’s people for bringing the ideas in from the stars. The phones began to ring off the hooks.

Once out of the studio and away from people, Gabriel picked up a newspaper from a vendor before they got into the cab.

“Jack, I don’t know what you’re hiding, something to do with religion, but is it that serious?” he asked quietly. “I get the feeling this is more than personal preference; you know something.”

“Enough to destroy the world,” Jack said after a moment. Gabriel studied him for a moment and then nodded.

“Alright.”

After contacting most of the world’s religious leadership, Jack was confused. None of them wanted to attend a meeting with him. As far as they were concerned, there was nothing he could tell them that would make the world a better place. Their own faith was more important than anything he could say and if his words and whatever he had that he was calling facts would do nothing more than cause war, then they didn’t want to hear it. Jack took a step back. He had to admit that he was wrong to try and force this on them. They were right –if it would not bring peace, don’t bother them with it.

“Religion and society have a symbiotic relationship,” Daniel had told him. “One does not grow without the other. If society is in a growth spurt, it will need religion to grow with it. Take away the religion and the society falls apart. As important as that ship is, we need to destroy it. It kills me to say it, but I’m saying it. Destroy the ship.”

They were all conflicted about the ship, changing their minds in mid-sentence, having no previous experience to rely upon to guide their decisions. None of their allies were helpful, not even Thor or Enki. They even sent a message to Thanatos. He didn’t know about the ship, either, and also recommended getting rid of it. No good could come of it, if the information brought death and destruction. Society would revert to the Dark Ages and have to start over again. Jack called in the Prometheus and had the ship towed to a far solar system that had no habitable planets, and dropped the ship into the giant ball of fire. The explosion seared several nearby planets to a crisp, making Jack and Sam thankful that the ship wasn’t sent to their own star.

Jack’s day wasn’t any better when he got home. Malek was sitting on his couch and Katie was sitting close by. Jack did feel a little better when Josh Reynolds came out of the bathroom and sat next to Katie after greeting Jack.

“Who needs what?” Jack asked.

“Pardon?” Malek looked blankly at him.

“Well, you only visit when you need something,” Jack said. There was a squeal and Olivia toddled across the living room at him, arms waving, trying to keep her balance. Jack picked her up and kissed her before setting her on his hip. “I’m feeling used, Mal. You don’t write, you don’t call…..”

“Dad,” Katie reproved. “He brought Uncle Danny some archaeology things they can’t translate.”

“Oh. Alright. Staying for dinner, Mal? Hey, where is everyone? I assume Daniel is holed up downstairs.”

“Yes, and Aunt Sam is taking care of those cult boys,” Katie said, following Jack into his bedroom. “She’s getting them tested. Finding out what they can do and everything. Matty is with grandpa at choir, Davy went to a movie with Nanna, and Stacey is at Major Brice’s house with Jerrie. Helping, I think.” Jerrie had been excused for a few days while the major took his wife on a small vacation. Aunt Jerrie was watching over her nieces.

“Good,” Jack commented. He put Olivia on the floor and found a fresh shirt.

“Why is Josh smiling at Malek?”

Katie’s cheeks pinked.

“Can we talk about that later?” she begged.

“Now, please. Have a seat.” Katie flopped onto the bed. “What’s going on?” Jack asked, standing in front of her.

“I like both of them,” she whispered. “Josh likes both of us.”

“He’s bisexual?” Jack asked. Katie shrugged.

“He isn’t sure,” she said. “He thinks he might be.”

“And where is Malek in all this… liking?”

She shrugged. “We haven’t talked about it,” she said. “I’m not an idiot, Dad; Malek doesn’t even live on this planet. Long distance relationships don’t work here, much less across the galaxy.”

“Watch it,” he warned. He went to the door and stuck his head out. “Joshua! Front and center. Malek, please hang for a moment.” He waited until Josh was in the room and shut the door. Josh looked from Jack to Katie, wondering what was going on.

“Mr. Reynolds, teenage crushes are usually cute, but I have a lot going on,” Jack informed him directly. “Save me some time playing guessing games and tell me what you have in mind for Katie and Malek.”

Josh’s face changed colors as he tried to look anywhere except at Katie and Jack.

“Sir, I…..”

Jack shook his head. “Come on, Josh; consider my current lifestyle. I’m the last person to judge you. My main concern is Katie getting hurt.”

“I wouldn’t hurt Katie, sir,” Josh immediately said. Jack sensed the truth in him.

“I know, son, but you and Katie are both interested in a man with a snake in his head who happens to live on another planet. Do I need to forbid Malek from stepping foot on this world?”

“No, sir,” Josh said, shaking his head. “I haven’t said anything to him. I don’t want to make him uncomfortable. I…. I wouldn’t know where to begin.”

Jack studied him for a moment. “Kate, go keep our guest company,” Jack told her. “And do not mention this conversation to him. Talk about…. medicine.”

“Yes, sir,” she said and reluctantly left Josh alone with Jack.

“Have a seat, son,” Jack said, giving a nod toward the foot of the bed. He was pretty sure Reynolds wouldn't mind this chat. Josh sat. “You’ve never gone out with another boy?”

Josh hung his head. “No, sir,” he confessed. “I’m not even sure…..”

“Be sure,” Jack told him. He pulled up a chair and turned it around, sitting backwards on it. “I can’t guide you in gay relationships, I’m not gay. I can tell you that communication is a little different. You talk with your friends differently than you talk with a girl you like, right? That kind of difference. I certainly don’t have an issue with multiple relationships. My concern is your age. You don’t have the experience to know how to manage one relationship let alone two. I’m fifty-five, son, and there are days I’m still running in circles. Have you talked with your father?”

“No, sir,” Josh said, shaking his head. “He knows that I…. look at other guys. Sometimes.”

“Well, I think you should talk with him about this,” Jack said. “Your father is a good man. He may be a little confused by all this, but he’s trying. I trust him at my back; you can trust him, too. And I’d like to trust you with my daughter. She’s been hurt, she doesn’t need more pain.”

He gave Josh money and told him to take Katie out for dinner. Josh’s stomach bottomed out, knowing that the general was going to open a discussion with Malek.

“Malek, I want to talk privately with you,” Jack said, sitting on the couch, keeping an eye on Olivia. “Just us, toss formalities out the door.”

Curious, Malek nodded. “Alright.”

“Those two are both just barely entering adulthood,” Jack told him, jerking a thumb at the door. “They are confused with hormones and I don’t want to see them hurt. They both like you. I mean, they are both sexually interested in you.”

“I know,” Malek said, not sure where Jack was going with the conversation. “I have been mindful of your wish to not invite Katie’s advances.”

“Yes, you have, and I appreciate it,” Jack acknowledged. “I’m not sure what to do about this. Same gender preferences, while not new, are becoming more and more prevalent in young adults. I don’t have a problem with that. My concern is it’s new enough that our kids, and their parents, don’t understand it much less how to deal with it. Josh is very confused. He knows he likes girls, he certainly likes Katie, but he also has a growing crush on you and that’s a new thing for him.”

Malek took a thoughtful deep breath as he slowly nodded. “I, too, do not know how to proceed,” he said. “I admit that I…. we… could possibly have feelings for Katie. She is young, though, by your planet’s standards. Joshua is a handsome young man, and he has a kind heart, but he is also young. If he were able, I would invite him to the Tok’ra and consider him as a bedmate. I do not wish to risk the wrath of Colonel Reynolds. What is your recommendation? Should I stay off this world?”

“No,” Jack sighed and rubbed at the stubble on his cheeks. “They need to learn how to control and focus their feelings. Absence won’t help them to do that. You just continue to be yourself and let them deal with their emotions.”

“Good,” Malek said. “Because there are few that I would trust to bring you private information. There is evidence that new Goa’ulds are taking planets along the outer rim.”

 

Chapter 59

 

“Come on, move your ass!”

The men groaned under the whip master’s evil rule. At five a.m., they were rousted from their cozy bed and forced to don sneakers and sweats. Much to Jack’s surprise, he made only three miles before he ran out of breath. Daniel was wheezing at two miles. Both men staggered to a halt and forced themselves to keep on their feet and walk it off. Sam stopped when she noticed her troops weren’t behind her and then jogged back until she found them.

“Wusses,” she informed them.

“Hhhhheartlesss,” Daniel sputtered, waving a dismissive hand in her direction before collapsing onto the dirt path and wincing at the bright sky above.

“I’m old,” Jack informed the woods.

“So?” Sam asked. “I’m heading up to the pond for a swim before we turn around. And no, I’m not wearing a swimsuit.” She turned and continued her run along the path. The men looked at her and then at each other.

“Now there’s incentive,” Jack said, groaning as he forced himself to his feet. He held out a hand and hauled Daniel to his feet. The pond was a small lake about two more miles into the forest. The path was on a slight incline and the men were feeling it in their legs as they half-walked half-jogged their way to the pond.

By the time they found the pond and attempted to drown themselves by sticking their heads into the water, Sam was already wet and splashing about. Her sneakers and clothing lay neatly on a nearby boulder.

“Cool off before you get in,” she called to them. “The water’s a little chilly and you’ll get muscular cramps if you’re too warm.”

“Yes, Mother,” Daniel called back. He fell back onto the dirt and huffed at the sky.

After about fifteen minutes, their bodies were at ‘room’ temperature and they began to undress. Sam came out of the water, dripping wet, Aphrodite stepping out from the foam as the sunlight sparkled from the drops of water clinging to her skin. She straddled Daniel’s legs and he fell back to the dirt.

“We have an anniversary next month,” she informed him.

“Yes?” Daniel caressed her cool, wet back.

“Are we adding five years to the contract?” she asked. Jack leaned on an elbow, watching them.

“I’d like that very much,” Daniel said. Sam leaned down and brushed their mouths together. Daniel relaxed, offering whatever she wanted to take.

“I’m ovulating,” she told them after a moment. “Are we going to do anything about that, too?”

Jack brought himself closer and put a hand on Sam’s lower back. He kissed a nearby hip and then Daniel’s mouth. He looked into Daniel’s eyes for a moment and then up at Sam.

“Is this what you want?” he asked her. Sam took a deep breath and nodded.

“It is,” she said emphatically. “Clock is ticking and I’d like to have a baby at least once in my life. I have a desk job and I’m not running around the galaxy anymore. This is the time.”

“We do have that report from the Tok’ra,” he reminded her.

“I know,” she said. “We have thirty-two SG teams, now, not to mention our new Unified Worlds. We are a power. I’ll go on the mission if you need me to, but I’m needed here more than I’m needed in the field. We’ve handled a baby, four children, and our jobs for a year, we can handle another baby. If I get pregnant in the next few days, the baby will be born around May. Olivia will be in preschool next fall. We can deal with two babies for the summer, with Jerrie’s help. If you guys are not ready for another baby, it’s okay, I understand.”

Jack nuzzled her belly and licked a drop of lake water. He felt fingers on his back and looked at Daniel. The younger man smiled at him and pulled him down for kisses before turning their attention to Sam.

When Sam was ready, Daniel helped her onto Jack. She rode him, gently, firmly, taking him, her mind centered on their connection. Part of her imagined energy flowing from him into her. She felt the energy flowing from them and into her. Even more strangely, a greater energy wrapped around all three of them, fusing their energies together, gaining strength as she switched partners.

“Are you doing that?” she whispered to Jack, looking into his dark eyes. Her own blue eyes were darkened with passion as Daniel caressed her from the inside out.

“No, honey,” Jack said. “We’re doing it.”

The morning was spent loving, swimming, talking, and just being together. It had been a long time since they had spent quality time without interruptions. Sam had dibs on their little wigglers. Come hell or high water… or snakes….. she was going to be pregnant by the time they left the lake.

“I have a request,” she said, being lazy and staring at the sky. Jack had thoughtfully found a small log and brought it over for her to raise her legs. She insisted that there was no medical evidence that raising the legs made the little swimmers flow faster, but Jack wasn’t taking chances.

“Another one?” Jack asked. He turned his head, blinking sleepily. She made a half-hearted swipe at him.

“If we have a boy, I’d like to name him Jacob.”

Jack smiled and took her hand, lacing their fingers.

“I thought that was a given,” he said.

“Jacob Charles?” she said, turning to look at him. Jack stilled and then leaned over to brush her lips.

“Thank you.”

“And if it’s a girl, Claire Marie,” Sam continued. Daniel spread a hand across her belly and nuzzled her shoulder.

“Last name Carter?” he asked.

“Would it bother you?”

“No,” Daniel said. Jack echoed him and leaned over to press his mouth along Daniel’s spine. “This is new territory for us. Two men, one woman -it makes sense for the baby to have the mother’s name. Jack?”

“I'm fine with it.”

Daniel lay his head close to hers, smiling as Jack couldn’t decide whose skin to lick. “What do you remember about your mother?” he asked.

Surprised, Sam considered it. “I remember that she was beautiful,” she said. “I always felt like an ugly duckling next to her, but she insisted I was her greatest creation. She liked to paint. She wasn’t very good, but it made her happy to paint. She was better with gardens. And she could sew. She made a lot of my dresses and jumpers. She also made the curtains and bedspreads. I remember that she would go on a sewing spree during the summer and donate things for the Christmas clothing drive. She despaired that I didn’t have a talent for fabric.

“I remember her being sad and angry that Dad was away so much, and when he was home he couldn’t talk about his work. I remember that family get-togethers were always a little weird. My grandmother, mom’s mother, was Jewish, and there was always an argument breaking out between a Jew and a Christian. I went to classes for both religions just to please both sides of the family, but I didn’t want to go. One time when Dad was home, I told him I didn’t want to go to the classes and he told Mom I didn’t have to go. They fought over it but in the end Dad won. He said he wasn’t going to fight for the Constitution only to have his kids be denied their rights. Hmmm. Now that I think about it, I can see why Mom was so frustrated. She was home, raising us, making the decisions, only to have Dad come home and over-turn everything when he didn’t know what was going on in our lives.”

Jack squeezed her hand. “She should have been around to know the man he eventually became,” he said gently.

Sam nodded. “Yeah, he turned out pretty good. Selmak did a good job raising him.”

The men chuckled in agreement, remembering the odd arguments between the man and his symbiote.

“And how did Mark fit into everything?” Jack asked. Sam stopped smiling.

“Not well,” she said. “He understood even less why Dad wasn’t home. He wanted to do father-son things, like the other boys on the street. Dad always made promises and then Mark would get stood up. I’ve tried. It was hard for me to get together with him after I became involved with the Stargate. When I was home I would call him and invite him over. Spend some time together. He was always busy with his own work. I guess Dad did teach him something. I may have helped.”

Daniel leaned up to look at her. “No, Sam,” he said. “Mark is a big boy, he makes his own choices. Don’t give up on him. Keep trying. Have you told him what you just told us?”

Sam thought about it and shook her head. “No, I don’t think I have,” she admitted. “We were never very communicative.”

“Maybe someone needs to make the first move,” Daniel suggested.

“Dad and I tried, just after Selmak healed him,” she said. “But with Dad off-world so much, Mark went back to his old self.”

“Alright, so keep trying,” Daniel told her. “He knows why you two were distant, now make him understand that you need him, too.”

“Why don’t you invite him and Susan to be godparents to the baby?” Jack suggested. “I'm thinking of asking Mike, but there’s no rule that says there can be only two godparents.”

“If I can get through the first trimester, I’ll ask Mark and Susan if they’d like to participate,” Sam said.

Jack covered her stomach with his hand and then leaned down to nuzzle at the silky skin. “Did you talk with the doctor about getting pregnant?”

“Yes, I did,” Sam nodded. “She said I’m fine and my uterus is healthy. I had Carolyn run tests and she said all the hormone replacements are out of my system. My hormones are normal.”

By the end of the week, the men were exhausted from doing their ‘duty’ for their wife. By the end of the week, Sam was ready to declare a moratorium on sex. The kids were happy that school was starting and they wouldn’t need to shut their eyes whenever they entered a room. The parents had been weird all week.

The Tok’ra reported in and told them that the new Goa’uld leader was calling himself Vishnu. Everyone in the meeting looked at Daniel.

“Hindu,” he said. “Vishnu was one of the Trinity in the Hindu pantheon. Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Vishnu was the Preserver god. One of his aspects was also Hari, the Remover. He rests on the bed of the powerful, coiled serpent, Seshanag, who represents the sleeping universe.”

“So we are looking at possibly three Goa’uld,” Landry said. Daniel shrugged.

“It’s possible,” he said. “Then again, the Hindu pantheon has about three hundred gods. If the Goa’uld are using a new pantheon…”

“Why our gods?” Landry asked. “I mean the gods from Earth legends? How about picking on other worlds?”

“There are very few worlds that developed their own legends,” Daniel said. “Most worlds were subject to the Goa’uld, so the people didn’t invent deity. We did because our enslavement ended before most legends were written down. Also, remember that the Goa’uld deliberately kept their slaves from growing too much.”

Landry looked around the table. “Well, I guess that makes as much sense as anything else,” he said. “Thank you, Dr. Jackson. Malek, would you be so kind as to outline the location of these new Goa’uld?”

“Certainly.” Malek stood and went to the star map. “Tau’ri is here. Along this border is what you call the Pegasus galaxy, this is the galaxy Ida which belongs to the Asgard, and the Masharu are here. The Goa’uld Vishnu is taking control here.” He put a marker along a far border, on the opposite side of the known galaxy in which they lived.

“Do we have any images of this Vishnu?” Jack asked.

“We do,” Malek said. He took out a small camera, one of the few Tau’ri toys the Tok’ra conceded was usable. Sam plugged it into the computer and they looked through the frames. Daniel frowned and looked closer.

“The hosts look Indian,” he commented. “East Indian, not American. Someone’s been raiding us.”

“Not with the updates we’ve been putting into the mikku,” Jack said firmly.

“This would have been long before we got our hands on it,” Sam told him. “But the Indian population is probably where the Goa’uld got the idea of Hindu gods.” Daniel had to agree.

“The planet in question has many of these people,” Malek said as he flipped through the images. “They appear to have been there for quite some time, as Col. Carter suggests. Their gate no longer exists although there is an area far from the villages where the soil has a high concentration of refined naquadah. It is not natural to the planet. We have a theory that a gate once existed there, but it was destroyed.”

“And the naquadah is the remnants of it,” Sam pieced together.

“Correct,” Malek said.

“Wait,” Jack raised a hand. “How can a primitive people destroy a stargate?”

Malek cocked his head. “We don’t know.”

“Do we know anyone on the other side of that border?” Landry asked, tapping on the map.

“We have explored partially over the border,” Malek said. “We found no inhabited planets. There may be more farther in, but our ships do not have the energy.”

“And ours do,” Jack said. He stepped up to the map, studying it as something gnawed at him. He tapped on a planet. “Isn’t this Aschen territory?”

Sam looked closely at the ID. “I think it is,” she said. Daniel looked at them and then at the map.

“Soooo…. how did those people keep the Aschen away?” he asked.

“And yet get taken by a new Goa’uld,” Sam said.

“Maybe the Goa’uld was there all along,” Daniel said. They looked at him. “Someone had to get them from here to there, and if they’ve grown so much, it was quite a while ago. Look, guys, we’ve found several here on this planet. Locked in stasis. Set was running around for a couple thousand years. Why couldn’t there be one or more in stasis on that planet?”

Jack pointed to the images of the natives. “Do you think those people were capable of capturing a Goa’uld and locking it up?”

“No,” Daniel said. “Who locked up the ones left here? I got the impression that they locked themselves up when they saw the writing on the wall. After the rest of the Family left, they were supposed to come out of hiding and take over. Keep this planet for themselves. Why couldn’t something like that have happened there? Set was smart enough to blend into the crowd and make himself at home for a couple of millennium.”

Jack paced as he thought about it. “Do we have anyone of Indian descent on a team?” he asked.

“Yes,” Landry and Reynolds said together. Reynolds sent an apologetic look at Landry. The general tapped the computer. “Lt. Tarik Bhat, Capt. Dharmasena Sharma, Dr. Rakesh Shastri, and Lt. Yashodhara Mahadevan.” Landry was pretty sure his tongue was going to twist off. “Wow,” he breathed. “If we’re going to put in a team of entirely Indian personnel, I’d like a colonel in there. We don’t have an Indian colonel.”

Jack nodded to Sam and she brought up the national database. “We have six colonels of Indian descent,” she said. “None are currently SGC trained.”

“Only six?” Daniel asked. Sam tilted a shoulder.

“For some reason, we don’t have a lot of Indians in our military,” she commented.

“Let’s talk with General Singh,” Jack said, arms crossed thoughtfully as he stared at the map. “India is a problem at the moment, but Singh has been arguing our case. He knows his officers; let’s see if he can recommend a colonel.”

After waiting for daytime in India, General Singh came up with three colonels for the offering bowl. Mythili Bhusnurmath, Narendar Pani, and Bodhisatva Ganguly. Singh was shocked at the reason why Jack wanted a colonel on board at the SGC. He was sending all three for immediate training.

So far, the new Goa’uld were staying in their own backyard; the SGC had time to get their act together while UW ships secretly patrolled the infected quadrant. The Goa’uld didn’t seem to have ships and the UW wasn’t quite sure what the Aschen were up to or why the Aschen avoided the planet that was currently under surveillance.

While Jack drove them to HomeSec, Daniel looked at his cell, frowning at the missed message, and pressed the green button to play the video. His daughter’s face was close to the screen.

“Daddy,” she hissed quietly, not wanting to be overheard. “Our new health class teacher is making us sign a piece of paper saying we will all stay virgins until we’re married. I realize that I’m not ready to do that stuff, but I don’t think she should be making us sign this. Look at it.” She held a paper up, but Daniel couldn’t see it. Jessica Bosco and a few other girls moved in close behind Stacey to look into the camera.

“Yeah, Dr. J,” Jessie said. “Bogus!”

“Bogus!” the girls echoed.

Jack turned the corner instead of continuing straight to their offices. They checked in with school security and walked to the principal’s office. A few kids in the halls saw them and stood wide-eyed, watching them.

“Uh oh, all three?” Mrs. Herbert questioned when they entered her office. “What’s wrong?”

Daniel played Stacey’s message for her. Her face fell and she shook her head.

“I’m very sorry,” she said. “Mrs. Talmidge is new and a little conservative. I will speak to her.”

“And no signing pieces of paper without us first getting a chance to look them over,” Daniel insisted.

“Yes, of course,” she nodded. “This should never have happened, Dr. Jackson; I’m terribly sorry. You’re right; this is something that should have been taken to the parents first.”

The door burst open and a woman hurried in, stopping short at the sight of the crowded office.

“I’m sorry,” the woman said, irritated. “I need a little help. My class….. well, they’re staging a sit-in.”

“A what?” Mrs. Herbert stood.

“A sit-in!” the woman hissed. “That….. Jackson girl is behind it!”

Mrs. Herbert bit her lips hard to stop from laughing as she looked at her other guests. “Mrs. Talmidge, this is Dr. Jackson, Colonel Carter, and General O’Neill. I’m sure they can help.”

Daniel crossed his arms and peered at the woman. “And you feel that my eleven year old daughter is in danger of losing her virginity because…..?” He waved a hand in confusion.

The woman was even more flustered and patted her perfect hair. “Pre-teen children are having sex, Dr. Jackson. Thirteen year olds are having babies and STD’s! If the parents cannot control their children and guide them on the right path, then it needs to be done here and early enough to stop them.”

“I see,” Daniel nodded. “Well, that’s … presumptuous of you. Number one. And two, you did not get permission to even be discussing sex ed with my daughter much less have her sign a pledge, and three, if you had bothered to ask, my daughter could probably teach a sex ed class. It wouldn’t be the first time, just ask a few of the other kids. Where did you say she was?”

The small parade made their way through the halls and up a flight of stairs. They looked through the window of the classroom door and saw all the kids sitting on the floor under the windows across the room.

“Maybe we shouldn’t have let her watch Hair,” Jack said. They went in and stopped in the middle of the room. A few of the kids, SGC kids, saw Jack and gulped before toughening up and straightening their backs against the wall. Stacey saw all three of them and knew she was in trouble.

Daniel looked on the desk and found a pile of papers. “No one is signing anything,” he said. The kids looked at each other and began to relax. Daniel made sure the papers were the right ones and tore them up. Mrs. Talmidge was quickly silenced by the principal.

“Daddy….”

“No,” Daniel held up a hand. “It’s the first week of school. You couldn’t have waited at least a month before resurrecting Che Guevara? Negotiations and contracts first, revolution last. You’ll apologize to Mrs. Talmidge for disrupting her class.”

Back in the car, Sam looked at Jack and then in the mirror to see Daniel in the back seat. They both laughed.

“What?” Daniel asked, still pissy.

“She’s definitely your kid,” Jack said, chuckling as he shook his head. Daniel shoved his glasses up.

“Revolution is not always the first answer to a situation,” he said, obviously. “Besides. I think she gets this from you. I talk, you act.”

Once at the office, Sam used the arch to get to her own office and hustle her staff into getting the newest ships readied. Around the world, there were three yards with the new 304’s almost ready for trial launches. The ships were slightly smaller, but packed more power in their punches. They were being made for battle, not cruising the galaxy. Japan, still not a member of HomeWorld Security, protested, insisting that the US had plans on usurping its authority by aiming the ships at unaligned countries. Jack ignored Japan, treating the island as though it didn’t exist which succeeded in infuriating the Japanese Prime Minister even more. After the horror of WWII and then the Korean incident, Japan had begun to revert to its ever-present superiority complex and was taking it out on Jack. What Japan didn’t know was that Jack was closely monitoring the PM and knew the middle-aged man was having health issues. The man most likely to secede him was healthy and secretly pro-HomeSec, as were most of the younger generations. Jack was discovering that his new talent was an interesting thing to have on hand when it came to funding issues. Sending an unexpected birthday card or a get-well card to some unsuspecting fence-sitter got unexpected results.

“I’m heading to Scotland,” Daniel informed him. “Are you sure you don’t want to come with?”

“No, go on,” Jack said. “The lady seems to be more your territory, than mine. Don’t tell her much. If she doesn’t agree to join us, I don’t want her having information to spill.”

“And all the Skaara stuff?” Daniel gently asked, remembering his wife's pup-friendly little brother..

Jack shrugged. “I scanned the kid,” he said. “If our Skaara is in there, I couldn’t sense him. It’s probably a coincidence.”

“You don’t believe in reincarnation, anyway,” Daniel said.

“This is true. De-ascending yes, reincarnation no.”

“Something about those pics the Tok’ra brought in are bugging me,” Daniel said. “I’d like to take them with me.” Jack handed him the small recorder. Daniel smiled and pecked Jack’s mouth before heading off with a couple of SF to the al'kesh.

“Colonel,” Jack said as he went into Davis’ office.

“Good morning, sir,” Paul said.

“Good morning. Colonel, I promised to pass on a message. You’re scaring the neighbors.”

Paul wrinkled his forehead. “Sir?”

“You and Nick, playing in the wide outdoors,” Jack said. “Apparently, the neighbors are having a problem explaining to their kids why they can’t play in the woods anymore. Outdoors is fun, I’m all for it, just try and take it a little more out of the way. We’re having to take the same advice, so don’t feel picked on.”

“Yes, sir,” Paul said, slightly red-faced.

“Let’s talk about Goa’uld.” Surprised, Paul nodded and leaned back to listen. He was shaking his head an hour later and rubbed his face.

“This really isn’t what we need,” he said. Jack had to agree.

“We have time,” Jack said. “So far, they are only showing up on that planet. I’m sure there are other Goa’uld still out there; they’ve been keeping their heads down with Jaffa that haven’ left them. I’m concerned about these because of the Aschen.”

Paul slowly nodded. “The combination,” he began and then shuddered.

“We can’t let that happen,” Jack said. He hesitated, drumming his fingers against the arm of the chair. “Listen, Paul…. This doesn’t go anywhere. Sam is trying to get pregnant. If she does, and whatever is going to happen does happen out there, I won’t be going. I won’t leave her pregnant or trying to deal with two babies in the house. Any action will be a UW mission and I trust our commanders to deal with this. So far, I don’t see a necessity for me to be there.”

“Will you be sending me?” Paul asked.

“I don’t know yet,” Jack said. “We have three Indian colonels coming in for SGC training. India-Indian. They will possibly be heading an away mission, undercover, to find out what’s going on. We’ll decide a plan of action when they get back. We’re not in a rush, so life goes on.”

“Yes, sir. And best wishes for a baby.”

“Thank you.” Jack smiled, suddenly realizing that by the following summer there might be a little Jake or Claire in the house.

“Sir?” Paul leaned back in his chair, tilting it far back as he thought. “Why now?”

“Sam wants a baby,” Jack began.

“No, sir; that new Goa’uld,” Paul said, tapping a pencil thoughtfully against his mouth. “Where’s he been? Why haven’t the Aschen taken over that planet? You said there’s no evidence of Goa’uld technology, so how were the locals protected from the Aschen while a new Goa’uld could get in and take over?”

“Those questions are being worked on,” Jack told him. “Daniel is speculating that there was a stasis chamber.”

Davis nodded. “That would make sense, I guess,” he said, not quite convinced.

“You don’t think so?” Jack asked, hearing the doubt.

“I’m not sure,” Paul said. “Daniel’s the archaeologist, not me, though, it’s just…. something isn’t clicking. We should know by now that the Goa’uld aren’t always what they seem.”

“Well, let’s see what our new agents come up with,” Jack said. He had to agree –something was going on. More than what the Tok’ra had realized.

As he walked the short distance back to his office, he found himself stopping to check in with people. Cassie smiled prettily and pecked his cheek, Abigail had papers spread out everywhere in organized chaos, Mrs. Arthur was settling into Daniel’s offices and making sure all of his nick-knacks were in perfect condition as she dusted. She looked at Jack’s eyes and handed him a pear. Other admin assistants hustled about through the halls, getting their daily work done, while lab techs wandered around the military, discussing everything from particles and quanta to the latest episodes of something called Tripping the Rift and Eureka. As Jack walked, pausing to sign things or settle something, he realized he was edgy. He considered the ‘vibes’ and decided to give Jerrie’s idea a try. He found a quiet conference room and ordered an SF to make sure he wasn’t disturbed.

It was easier to visualize the planet by using a satellite pointed at Earth. Jack brought up one of the satellites on a monitor and relaxed into a chair. There was nothing unusual happening in his own country, Canada was its usual happy, laid-back self, Mexico, South America, various islands, a few small upsets in Africa, England was settling at the end of a work day, western Europe fine, the Middle East was being their usual cranky selves, General Singh in India was up late, worrying, Russia was feeling more self-assured as their role in the modern world continued to grow, China…..

Jack jumped to his feet and picked up the phone.

“This is O’Neill. There’s a problem brewing in China,” he said when the line was answered. “I highly recommend any of our agents over there to keep a close eye on Beijing and cover Tien. Something’s going to start by midday their time. Positive.”

Just before Jack was ready to leave for home, he was called and told that a group of Chinese rebel forces were taken into custody and charged with treason. If they had been poor farmers or students, he could have felt some sympathy for them. These particular rebels wanted China closed off to the imperial madness that was happening to the planet, and return to old ways. They wanted an emperor and the war lords returned to power, since no other form of government seemed to be able to gather the country together and recreate a once great nation. Jack thought honor had played a role in the old times, but maybe he was mistaken.

“Point to the Old Man,” he told himself. Now that he had identified what the sensation felt like, he was sure he would be able to ‘hear’ it when it called again. And thinking about things, he had to admit that his nanny seemed to have an instinct when it came to ferreting out clues and obscure hints.

Sam came into his office just before he was ready to leave. She handed him what looked like a little .22. Jack took it and looked it over and then at her. She looked around the room and pointed at a plastic plant in the corner of the room.

“It’s attacking, shoot it,” she encouraged him. Humoring her and hoping the SF weren’t going to come charging in, he fired at the innocent plastic plant. Instead of a bullet coming out of the small gun, there was a beam.

“What?” Jack looked closer at it.

“The Tau’ri version of a zat,” she told him gleefully. She squeaked with excitement and took it from him. She flicked a small switch, pointed at the plant, and fired. The plant disappeared. Jack’s eyes lit up even more. “We used the body of a .22 and rigged the zat technology inside it. In miniature! It has the same power as a regular zat! See this flat, clear surface on the trigger?” She showed him and he looked closely.

“Yeah.”

“There’s a microchip in it,” she said. “A biosensor. It’ll do a 3-zat for only people who get programmed into it. For anyone else, it will only do a one or two zat. You don’t have to hit it three times, either, just set it for three. It increases in strength, not numbers. You set it here for stun or kill, and for training purposes, it can be locked onto stun only by the trainer. Or whoever has the clearance programmed into it.”

“Sweet!” Jack crowed, taking it from her again and looking with new eyes. “How long does the charge last?”

“A thousand rounds,” she said proudly. “I know the zats last for years, but I don’t think it’s wise. We’re not Jaffa. There’s a small liquid naquadah cell inside the handle. About an eighth of the size that a staff carries. And the replacements are easy to install.”

“How’s it programmed?” he asked as he found the level switch. He pressed it and noted a small light dancing up the barrel until two lights were lit, pressed it and three lights were lit. He pressed it again and the light went back to one.

“The microchip is connected to our main computers,” she said. “The program will be accessed only by a few, well chosen people and each unit can only be activated by those people whose fingerprints agree with the program for that unit. You could, if you wanted to, give them to all the SG teams and have only a few commanders given access to the third level. Other soldiers could have access to two levels, and non-combatants would be given access to only the first level. Or however you want it done. You could trigger them all for second level in a war situation. Heaven forbid I should suggest you grant a third level for someone on a, shall we say, delicate operation?”

Jack’s eyes were in permanent OPEN. “It’s a ray gun!”

Sam groaned. “Please don’t call it that,” she begged. “We’ve been calling it NEMO22. Naquadah Enhanced Military Ordinance. .22 caliber.”

His eyes were no longer stuck open. “Too much of a mouthful,” he said. He looked at the small thing laying in the palm of his hand. “Grasshopper.”

“Excuse me?”

“Grasshopper,” he repeated. “The Men in Black already took Noisy Cricket. We get Grasshopper.”

They went to Paul and showed him. Sam told him Jack’s name for it. Paul wondered how to talk his commander out of it.

“Bug.”

They looked toward the doorway. Cassie was leaning against the frame.

“Why?” Jack asked.

“Because it’s little and cute like a bug,” she said.

“And it fits in your pocket just like Jiminy Cricket,” Paul said with a snappy smile.

“Consider yourself smacked,” Jack told him. “Make it an anagram,” he told Cassie.

“Big Ugly Gun.”

They knew Cass didn’t like weapons. Considering who she worked for and who her family was, it was an interesting suggestion. Jack looked at Sam and Paul.

“I’ll think about it,” he conceded.

Jack and Sam swung by the schools and picked up their kids before going home. Stacey was still pouting, but the adults knew she’d survive. They picked up chicken for dinner and noticed fire trucks and police cars a couple blocks from their own house. The kids wanted to watch. Jack sent them into the house with the dinner. The air smelled of smoke. A fire. The house up the street was half blackened and dripping wet.

“Started a couple hours ago,” Jerrie said. “I didn’t see much of it. The noise was bothering Olivia, so we went into Daniel’s den until things calmed down.”

The parents walked up the street and into the crowd. There were many families standing around, watching the cleanup happening. Smaller children were sent home, civilians mingled with their military neighbors. The police were doing their job at keeping people back, so the SF stayed at their posts.

“Anyone hurt?” Sam asked as they found Mandy and Maria.

“No, thank God,” Maria said, crossing herself. “Betty and Clyde were still at work.”

“Hey, Jack, how’s my sister?” Mandy asked. Several people nudged each other, looking toward them and whispering.

“She’s doing well,” Jack said. “She’s on a mission, but she sent you a note. A couple of Tok’ra came in today.” He dug the note out of his pocket and handed it to Mandy. “She’ll come home for a visit as soon as she can.”

“So how’d the fire start?” Jack asked.

Before anyone could speculate, there was a shout and the police began to run. Several feminine screeches arose from the crowd and people were shoved back. Jack urged their friends back and walked forward for a better look. When he saw what the police were running after, he stood still and watched, amused. Sam stood next to him, snickering as a naked man ran to a fire truck and climbed on.

“Oh, my God!” A man and woman pushed past them, horrified. “That’s…. don’t hurt him!” the woman yelled to the agitated police and firemen. The man on the fire truck howled and pulled at anything he could, throwing bits of broken truck into the crowd. As several policemen closed in, the man ran up the ladder.

“Who is he?” Jack asked.

“My…. brother,” the woman sobbed, not even looking at him. Her husband put an arm around her shoulder, holding her tight. “He’s…. schizophrenic.”

Jack, no longer amused, reached and felt the jumbled confusion inside the man. He walked up to the line and eyed the young deputy who attempted to push him back. The deputy got a good look and swallowed hard.

“Sorry, General,” the man said and let Jack under the rope. Jack walked toward the main group and took out his gun, taking aim.

“General O’Neill, we’re not opening fire on him!” one of the deputies shouted.

“Of course not,” Jack said. “Just be ready to catch him. Move!” he yelled, waving at the men on the truck. They saw who was taking aim in their direction and quickly scrambled out of the way. Jack fired. People looked confused as the gun issued a tight beam instead of a bullet. The naked man on the ladder twitched and was silenced. A moment later he began to fall. The men on the truck rushed to catch him.

“What the hell is that?” demanded Captain Manners. He took off his fireman’s helmet and wiped his blackened brow.

“A bug,” Jack said, putting it back into his pocket. “The guy is just stunned. He’ll come out of it in a few minutes.”

“We hadn’t actually gotten around to trying that on humans,” Sam said, watching the men carefully lower the unconscious naked man. “Just a few animals. Small ones. Guinea Pigs. Various other rodents.”

Jack looked at her and then sent a feeler to the unconscious man.

“He’s alive. It works fine,” Jack told her. “Got any more ready? Good. We’ll send them into the field with a couple of teams. They can test the things out there. I don’t see that we’re going to get volunteers to line up for an experimental shooting. If they work well, maybe Andy and his troops could take them for a test drive, too.”

A few people were walking up from behind and sidled in next to them.

“You have a new toy and you’re not sharing?” Nick asked. Jack handed the bug to him and the other men leaned over to examine it with him. Jack recognized the men from the SGC, a SF and a lieutenant, and someone he didn’t know at all and didn’t seem to be military and yet walked with the same air of confidence that other men did. The men all had leather vests on.

“Sam’s Area 51 team just introduced it,” Jack told them. “It’s a B.U.G.”

Nick looked at him. “It’s a .22,” he said, turning the small thing over in his hands. “Not much better than a fly-swatter. How’d you get it to throw out a naquadah beam?”

“A couple of teams decided to have a contest,” Sam said. “See who could make a smaller zat. Those things are bulky. So one team used the body of a .22 and redesigned the inside.”

Nick noticed that she didn’t answer his question. “Is it going on the market?” he asked.

“Not yet,” Jack said. “It’s bio-encoded for certain people. Even if someone steals it, they won’t be able to use it. We’ll probably give them to the front line teams off-world and try it out in a few cities with the police.”

A child pushed the big men out of the way and stepped in front of Jack, holding up a scraped elbow. She pouted at him. Jack sighed, having known that this was going to happen. He stroked her hair and touched her arm. She smiled and ran away.

“I am not going to walk around the planet kissing owies,” he hissed at Sam.

“Can I have one?” Nick asked hopefully, carefully examining the small gun and ignoring the child. Sam laughed at the little boy in his face.

“I think we can arrange that,” Jack said. “That one’s mine, though. You’ll need to negotiate with Sam.”

She took Jack’s hand, linking their fingers and swinging their hands. “I think the dock needs to be rebuilt,” she commented. “Instead of paying someone to do it, maybe we can negotiate for a trade.”

Jack snickered as Nick’s eyes narrowed. “You are paying entirely too much attention to the queen,” Nick informed her. Sam shrugged and took the bug from him, slipping into her pocket.

“Maybe, but she makes a mean cup of tea,” she said. “Make sure the sides of the dock are secure and there needs to be a gate on the end. Kids running around, you know.”

Jack smiled and brought their hands up, pressing his mouth to her knuckles.

“Maybe holders for fishing poles,” she said.

“That sounds good,” Jack nodded. “I didn’t think of that one.”

Nick shook his head and led his buddies back to his house where Paul was just getting out of his car and looking their way.

“Let’s see how badly he wants a new toy in his arsenal,” Jack said to her. “That was clever, honey; I never thought to bribe him to get the dock fixed.” He kissed her in appreciation.

“And I think that you can say no to adults, but the little ones need the owies kissed,” she told him. Jack wrinkled his face in protest.

“You look like Olivia just before she throws a tantrum,” Sam commented. Jack smoothed his face out and opened the door, ushering her before him.

“You’re mean,” he told her.

It was just after dawn when a body dropped into their bed. Jack opened one eye for a moment and then sank back into his pillow.

“Why is the engineering corps in our back yard?” Daniel muttered into his own pillow. Jack’s eye re-opened. He groaned as he rolled out of bed and went to the sliding door, stepping out onto the back porch. There were indeed a group of men in the back yard, all in fatigues and carrying supplies from around the side of the house. Fang was hooked up to his runner, watching the action, and wagged his tail at Jack.

“Soldier,” Jack called to one of the young men as he bent to scratch the dog. They all stopped and came to attention. “At ease,” Jack said and pointed to one of the men. “You. Who’s in charge?”

“Colonel William Grey, sir. Good morning, sir, I hope we didn’t disturb your sleep.”

Jack took a second look at the young man. “No, you didn’t, mister, thank you. What’s your name?”

“Cadet James Stinson, sir.”

“Thank you, cadet. As you were.”

Jack padded in his bare feet and pajama bottoms around to the front of the house. He found a truck that was being unloaded with wood and equipment. The cadets all paused and saluted, and once more Jack waved them on.

“Colonel Grey?” Jack called out. A man jumped down from the back of the truck and saluted.

“Good morning, sir, I’m Colonel Grey.” Jack returned the salute and looked at the man’s jacket. USACE patches.

“Jack.” He looked at the driveway. Nick was walking up to the house.

“You called in the US Army Corps of Engineers?” Jack asked. “For my deck??

Nick snapped his gum, a glint in his eyes of what Jack had learned was humor. “Sam wanted the deck fixed. She didn’t say I needed to actually do it myself.”

“But….” Jack looked around. “Over night??”

“We weren’t too far away, General,” Grey assured him. “We were on a training exercise at the Yampa Plateau. These are mostly cadets from West Point. This isn’t an imposition, sir.”

“And I did tell you I had connections,” Nick reminded him.

“Yeah, but….” Jack scratched at his head and threw his arms out. “Alright. Colonel, I appreciate the help. I have kids and a pup, so the deck needs to support and protect them.”

“Yes, sir.”

Jack shook his head and went back inside to fall back into his bed.

“Wuss doin’?” Sam muttered.

“Nick called the engineering corps to fix the deck,” Jack told her. “We have a yard full of West Point cadets.”

“Are they cute?” she asked. Jack lifted his head and looked over Daniel’s back at her. “Well, I have another day of ovulation and those boys are much younger and stronger….”

Jack leapt over Daniel and tackled her.

 


 

Chapter 60

 

One by one, the children placed flowers on the grave. Only the baby toddled around on the grass while the rest of the family was mindful of Michael saying prayers for his father and daughter over Megan’s grave. It was hard, remembering those lost while celebrating Olivia’s first year, a miracle herself. Jack had an arm around his mother’s shoulder and held Katie’s hand with the other hand. Daniel kept Davy close, standing behind him, his arms over the boy’s shoulders and hands gripped while Sam held Stacey’s hand and Fang’s leash. Matthew stood, sullen, at the back of their small crowd, his hands buried in his pants pockets. Jack knew the boy was upset. He also knew Matty would come to him when he was ready. Except at that moment. Matty turned and began to run. Fang gave a woof and Michael paused, looked at his grandson and then at Jack.

“Let him run it off,” Jack told them, watching the boy run away. There seemed to be an unusual number of police near the cemetery. “He knows where we’ll be.” He called the SF that were waiting unobtrusively at the far end of the cemetery and had one of them follow Matthew and keep an eye on him. They’d be at Cousin Joey’s house for lunch, if the boy had not returned by the time they left. By the time Michael concluded the family business in the cemetery, Matthew had still not returned. Jack sensed for him.

“He’s a few blocks away,” he finally told them. “Let him work it out.”

“He’s a child, Jack,” Maggie frowned at him. “You need to go after him.”

“He’s fifteen, Mom, he doesn’t need his new manhood babied,” Jack told her. “He needs to work it out for himself. When he’s ready, he’ll talk. It’s a guy thing, Ma, trust me.”

Jack kept Katie under his wing on the way to Joey and Erin’s house. Davy wasn’t completely sure of what was happening and was content to have Daniel’s attention. For all their delicate probing of what Davy did and didn’t understand, they found that he lived mostly in the Now. The past was an abstract subject for him and he didn’t understand questions about the future. He did miss his mother and he was sure she was still around and watching over them, so his grief didn’t take the same form as Matthew or Katie’s. They knew he was sad when he carried his mangled red feather around, which he was gripping tightly. Daniel was pretty sure she didn’t ascend, since they had seen her body in the casket. If having his mother’s spirit around made David feel good, no one was going to make him believe otherwise. He even wore a locket containing her picture. Michael questioned the wisdom of such a feminine thing, but Davy wanted it out of his mother’s jewelry box and Jack didn’t have an issue with it. If anything surprised them, it was Davy’s request for a picture of Sam for the other side of the locket where he had torn out his father Andrew’s image. Daniel commented privately, and with humor, that the boy was well on his way to worship of the Feminine Divine. They decided not to mention it to Michael.

Katie had been sniffling throughout their trip up north and all morning. Her nose was red and her face was blotchy. She alternated dampening the shoulders of all the adults. Jack was drying out, so she was on his shoulder. He felt a strong feeling from her and instinctively reached to find out what it was. Smarty-pants, he thought to himself. She’s learning how to focus. She wanted him to know without alerting the others that she feared for the return of her father. He lifted her chin, looked into her reddened eyes, and gave a slight shake of his head before pecking her forehead and stroking her hair. He had already given the SF orders to be on the lookout for Andrew, just in case he decided to show his face. Jack highly doubted he would, the cowardly piece of shit excuse for a man.

The afternoon was spent at Joey and Erin’s home with some of the family who came to celebrate a birthday instead of a death. The SF brought Matthew to them and he was quietly sent to nap with Olivia until he was ready. The family got their stories and Daniel signed books. His book had hit the stands and immediately went to the top of the charts. People all over the world were clamoring for his attention. The conspiracy nuts were typing at light speed across the internet. The nuts in Sam and Daniel’s labs, those that knew more than they should, were keeping track of the theories and making bets on which of the wackos got closest to any hidden facts. So far, there was an Aussie in Sydney who seemed to have a talent for reading between the lines. He was put on a watch list.

The day with their cousins seemed to show the children that although family will always be there for them, they couldn’t go back to the past. Their old neighborhood was no longer their home and the al'kesh flight back to Colorado Springs was bitter-sweet.

As they settled in back home, Daniel was preoccupied with a phone call. He argued with his lab and finally ordered them to send the information to his computer. While he disappeared into his den, Matthew disappeared into his own room. Jack looked from one end of the house to the other and decided to head upstairs first. Matthew was belly-down, getting his music situated and his headphones untangled. Jack watched and then took the headphones, dangling them until they unwound and then handed them back to the boy.

“Do I have to go to school tomorrow?” Matthew asked.

“Yup.”

After a moment, Jack gave Matty’s back a rub. “Want to go fishing this weekend? In the mountains, not out back. See if there’s any trout around.”

That got a little more response and there seemed to be a small spark of interest.

“I guess so.”

Jack gave a nod and touched the boy’s hair. Matthew was sore inside; he’d be alright, though. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea for the kids to visit their mother’s grave so soon. Opening wounds was never the first choice.

“Should we have skipped this?” Jack asked when he went into the kitchen. Sam and Jerrie looked at him and continued to get the younger kids a snack.

“They’ll be fine,” Jerrie told him. “Pretending the day never happened is unhealthy. Learning that life and death are equal partners is more important. Just be present for them and let them sort it out.”

“I didn’t visit my mother’s grave until I was an adult,” Sam said, putting applesauce in front of Olivia. The baby happily stuck her fingers into the bowl, making “ap ap” sounds. “I had the idea that if I didn’t see her grave, then she really wasn’t dead. Thinking about it now, I would have liked to have spent time there, talking to her, spilling my teenager girl’s heart to her whenever I needed my Mom. Next year, ask the kids what they want to do. Maybe just Livie’s birthday would be fine. If they want to go and visit their mother, they can do that, too.”

Daniel came into the kitchen, scowling at a piece of paper. He stopped short. “Am I interrupting something?”

“No,” Jack shrugged. “What’s going on?”

“This,” Daniel said, waving the paper. “That site in Orkney. The excavators must have gotten their data wrong or else decided that the readings were out of whack. It…. that….”

They looked at Jerrie.

“I think I left my radio on,” she said and left the room.

Daniel began to pace the room. “Now, we know that the Ancients were the first round of humanoids on this planet. So where is all the evidence of their past here? Where are all the cities?”

Sam also frowned as she read the paper. Jack looked over her shoulder and decided he wasn’t going to get anywhere that way.

“This is saying Skara Brae is over….. 600,000 years old,” Sam said, looking up in astonishment. Daniel nodded hard enough for his head to almost fall off.

“Yes, yes! And there was lots of life around, then, but there is no evidence of people in Europe until about 500,000 years ago and this was only in the form of flints and stuff. Very primitive. And if I hadn’t known better, and if I were one of the excavators and I saw that carbon dating, I would have thought something was wrong with the equipment or the formula!” They noticed Jack’s eyes.

“There was a major greenhouse warming that occurred around that time,” Daniel said, bringing it down a little, “warming the oceans to a point where even Antarctica was green. The entire planet was balmy. There is no reason humans couldn’t have lived here.”

“Who’s to say this was the Ancients’ original home anyway?” Sam asked. “Maybe they did come from somewhere else and live in domes which they took down when they left? Atlantis is an entire city that is capable of space travel.”

Jack found a beer and contemplated things as he opened it and took a sip. “So… are you suggesting that this Skara Brae is a leftover from the Ancients?”

“Uh, yes and no,” Daniel said. “First, it shows no signs of being something that belonged to the Ancients and there was no evidence of any technology, writings, or hidden stashes. Neanderthals were around early on, but they didn’t get much further than hardened tipped spears.”

“Daniel, what are you trying to say?” Jack asked, becoming exasperated. Daniel pulled at his hair as he paced.

“I’m not sure,” he admitted. “According to everything we know about how people spread out across the world, there should NOT have been anyone in northern Scotland before seven thousand BCE, unless you want to count a caveman or two, and no one knows where they came from, but their left-over buildings look a little like those from Crete. Celts came to Europe about one thousand BCE and England wasn’t officially an island until about two thousand BCE, if that helps with perspective.

“Now. Supposedly, the Ancients left because of some sort of disease that swept through the galaxy. I think you got a dose of it when I was Ascended.” Jack nodded and grimaced. He also remembered what happened while he was still with Kanan and the Tok'ra; he went on a mission and was captured by Baal who tortured him to death, literally, and then would use a sarcophagus to heal him, only to torture him again. Jack had been ready to die, but Daniel visited him in spirit form while Ascended. He was angry with Daniel, then, actually hated him, for not helping him out of the situation. Daniel kept telling him to trust. Soon after, Sam, Teal'c, and Jonas discovered Baal's planet, and rescued him. Jack never told Daniel about it. If Daniel remembered, one day, then they would talk about it.

“We didn’t figure out what it was, but the Tok’ra cured it,” Sam commented.

“A nasty cure,” Jack said. “I don’t recommend it on a regular basis.”

Daniel waited for them. “Okay, so what if a few of the Ancients remained behind?” he suggested. “I’m guessing that they didn’t start off as an entire society of equal classes, I’m sure they worked up to it just like we are doing. Remember that they weren’t Ascending yet. What if they left behind a few, shall we say, unwanted individuals? Look, I know that we think that the Ancients evolved here on this planet, but where is there any documentation that says that? How do we know they didn’t come here from someplace else and just settle in? Enki messed with us, or we wouldn’t be here. So how could the Ancients have evolved here long before the dinosaurs? It doesn’t make sense. I think this assumption about the Ancients evolving here is wrong.”

“Forget the Ancients’ evolution, what about that building in Scotland?” Jack asked, waving his arms for Daniel’s attention.

“I’m not sure, Jack,” Daniel said. “That place is dating from the middle Paleolithic and it shouldn’t be.”

“What about….” Sam looked at the ceiling, thinking hard. “Look, that hopper we just got rid of…. the very existence of it doesn’t make sense, either, right? What if… okay, this is completely out of the ball park, but what if the owners of that ship hid themselves in time? What if they sent themselves backward to a point where no one would find them and whatever they were doing? What if the Ancients did evolve here, but in another timeline and somehow ended up in our timeline?”

“Wouldn’t that mess with our present?” Jack asked. They had certainly had their own share of time jumping. Sam shook her head.

“Maybe, maybe not,” she said. “A small group of people would probably have died out within a couple of generations.”

“Look, we’ve been told that the Ancients were running from a virus,” Daniel said, speaking excitedly at the ceiling. “What if that virus wasn’t started in this timeline but in their original timeline, and during their run, they ended up here? What if...”

Sam's face was on fire with an inner light. "What if...! They are from the future, not the past?! What if.... OH MY GOD! What if WE are the Ancients!!!"

“Alright, alright!” Jack called out, waving his arms. “This is all a little too convoluted for me; run it by Asgard and Furling brains and the Atlantis computers. Get me proof. Without anything else to go by, I’m not down with it.”

In the morning, Daniel sent a flurry of messages to Kalam, Orilla, and Atlantis. McKay decided that Daniel had finally fallen off his rock. McKay also wanted to know who really came up with the schematics for the ZPMs because it sure as hell wasn’t O’Neill.

“Just query the computers, Rodney,” Daniel sighed. He was exhausted, having been awake all night contemplating the possibility of humans, primates tinkered with by Enki in the past, and becoming the Ancients in the future, who then went to the past to hide themselves from something unknown that frightened even them. The complex dynamics were hurting his head.

The phone rang and he looked daggers at it before answering. “Mrs. Herbert. What did my daughter do now? Oh. Let him spin; it’s his way of dealing with feelings. It’s the first anniversary of his mother’s death, so give him a little space. He should be ready in about an hour.”

“Davy?”

Daniel jumped. “Jack. Wear a bell or something, please? Yes, Davy.”

Jack went into Daniel’s office and looked at the photos on the walls. Mostly pictures of their family, handfasting pictures from Kelowna and from their recent, more private renewal which was just immediate family and dinner. A few new pictures of his cousin and their family. Jack didn’t remember Daniel having many pictures when they were at the SGC. One or two of the team, one of Sha’re. He stared at a picture of the two of them puckering up playfully at each other, and smiled.

“Yeah, Mrs. A keeps making an effort to ignore that one when she cleans,” Daniel said, seeing which of the pictures Jack stopped at. Jack glanced at him. “She’s harmless. I’m happy so she’s happy. It’ll be a another generation or two before the planet gets beyond all the puritanical nonsense. At least she isn’t out to build a pyre with us and she does like you.”

“I know she does,” Jack said, patting his stomach. “Between her and Abigail, I’m fighting a losing battle.” He leaned over and pecked Daniel on the mouth.

“You know that alternate timeline of ours where we spent it in Egypt?” Jack asked, sitting on the edge of the desk. “There were four of us and we haven’t found any anomalies from it, have we?”

“Not that I’ve noticed,” Daniel said. “If there were, I probably wouldn’t recognize it anyway, so I’m not going to stress over it. Between us and the Celts, it might explain that odd blue-eyed Egyptian or Arab that shows up, though. Other than that, I don’t think there’s anything.”

Jack thought about it and nodded. “And those other us’s that we’ve met. If one of us weren’t alive, the other could have lived their life out here, right?”

“Yes,” Daniel nodded.

“So if the Ancients were from another Earth timeline, and they somehow came into this timeline, all those thousands of years ago, we really wouldn’t be able to tell what timeline or even what time in history they came from.”

“Not if they took their cities with them,” Daniel said, “just like they took Atlantis.” He knew Jack would catch up, given the time he had to contemplate it.

“And when they came back, they came to stay so they lived as the locals do,” Jack continued.

“Correct,” Daniel said. “And I think they may have been surprised at the growth of humans, considering that they thought we were going to die out. So they contributed a little, just bits and pieces, enough for the locals to figure it out for themselves, which would explain those sudden leaps throughout early history.”

“And this was after the Goa’uld left?”

“We think so,” Daniel said. “None of the Ancient weapons had the Goa’uld in mind. Humans were advanced enough for the Ancients to blend into society by then and there weren’t enough of them left to create a social structure of their own. Not without some serious inbreeding. Jack, this is something you may want to meditate on. There’s no reason the history shouldn’t be in your head, not if everything else Ancient is.”

Jack nodded thoughtfully again and walked slowly from the room.  Daniel was next to him a moment later. “Sam emailed. The latest ship is ready for a name.” They went to the  HomeSec gate room, and walked into Area 51.

The deck was where the ships were built. Most of their section of the desert had a hollowed out underground complex for the large ships, instead of subjecting workers to the temperatures of the desert floor. They found Sam with her head inside a box of wires on the side of a ship. Jack looked into the box from over her shoulder, listening to her mumbling to herself. Sam straightened and jumped when she bumped into him.

“Jack! Don’t do that!”

“Whatcha doin’?” he asked, not sure he wanted to know.

“Trying to find a short in the wires,” she said. “It’s been driving us crazy. Hi, Daniel.” He pecked her cheek. “Want to throw a name into the hat for this ship?”

“What’s it for?” Daniel asked, taking a step back to look at the thing.

“Science vessel,” she said. “We also have two of the new classes over there.” She pointed across the three miles of space toward the other ships being built.

“How about the Hawking?” he suggested. Sam was stunned.

“Why didn’t I think of that?” she asked. “Shame on me. I’ll invite him over, see if he wants a tour.”

“Colonel Carter!” someone shouted. Sam looked over at her crew. One of the men pointed to the new 304 skeleton towering over them. “How about Cuchulainn?”

Jack looked at Daniel. “Champion of the Red Branch,” Daniel said. “Court of Ulster. Cuchulainn was the son of Lugh, the sun god, his grandmother was of the sidech, one of the fairy folk. Cuchulainn’s acts were mostly done during the winter, which makes him a champion of the dark. Or over the dark. His name was actually Setanta. He wrestled a savage dog when he was a child, saving a lot of people gathered for a banquet, and took the dog’s place as the shepherd watcher until a new dog was raised for the job. Cathbad the Druid changed his name to Cu Culann. Culann’s Dog. He’s the Celtic version of Hercules.”

Jack looked at the ship. “Is this a good thing?” he asked.

“It’s a very good thing,” Daniel said.

“Okay,” Jack agreed.

“Cuchulainn it is!” Sam informed the crew. They gave a cheer and went back to work. Someone quickly scribbled the name on a piece of sheeting and hung it on the ship’s hull.

“The science vessel is the Hawking,” Sam informed her crew. Another name tag was made and applied.

“How about the third ship?” Daniel asked, looking out at the second 304 skeleton. “What is it? Exploration?”

“Yes, it is,” Sam said with a nod.

“Hmmmmm….. Galileo?” he suggested. Sam thought about it and gave it a thumbs up. Each of the yards named the ships they built, with Sam having the final okay. It was run by Jack, but he usually left it to Sam and her people. Sam knew his guidelines and he didn’t need to do her job.

Sam called out the new name and the crew was a merry crew. A few of the more superstitious of the lot felt that the ships should have names so that the energy of the name went into the ship while it was being built. Start them off with a good personality and intent, they said. Daniel looked at his watch.

“Oooh, I need to go,” he said. “I have class in an hour. Seventeen shiny young faces to temp to the Force. I’ll see you tonight.” He kissed them both and ran to security, the new home for the arch.

“He’s running everywhere,” Jack informed Sam. “This is your fault.”

Once Jack returned home a few hours later, he drove up just as Jerrie was returning from picking the kids up from school. Katie took his arm and steered him away.

“Need to talk,” she said.

“Okay.” Jack took them around back to their new deck overlooking the pond. Katie was a little nervous about something.

“I might be sleeping with Josh this weekend,” she told him. Jack sat down.

“Are you sure?” he asked. “I won’t lock you up, but at the same time I’d like to remind you about the MSATs.”

“I know,” she said, leaning against the railing and looking at the ducks. “I want to do this. I think I love him. If love is this ringing in my ears and this weird feeling in my stomach. And you should know that he won’t be around for long; he signed up with the Marines. He wants to get into the SGC. I know long distance relationships don’t work, so I want this part of him before he leaves.”

Jack leaned forward, dangling his hands between his knees and looking at the deck as he thought about it. A quick poke told him that Katie was indeed feeling love. A passionate, womanly love. She wasn’t a little girl anymore.

“Alright,” he said. “You have protection?”

“I’m on the pill and he has condoms,” she told him. She turned toward him and sat next to him, putting her head on his shoulder. “Thank you for being a cool father.”

“Thank your cousin Charlie,” he told her, pecking the top of her head. “My mistakes with him taught me a lot. I’m not going to tell you I’m happy about this, nor will I order you not to do it; I will ask you not to. Ultimately, it’s your body and you’re old enough to make this decision on your own. Come to us if there’s a problem or if you need to talk.”

They went inside and discovered Olivia laughing and toddling around Davy who lay on the floor. Davy gently pushed her away and the baby screeched. Fang woofed, cocking his head as he watched the human pup fall, pause in amazement, and laugh at herself. Olivia quickly righted herself and once more attacked her big brother, throwing herself onto him and attempting to gnaw on his face. Davy laughed and wiped baby drool from his face with his sleeve. The phone rang and a moment later Jerrie handed it to Jack.

“O’Neill. What? What the hell do they want? Well, send them away. Alright, I’ll call the sheriff.” He hit the disconnect and looked at Jerrie as he redialed. “Battle stations,” he said. “The troops are marching on the Healer’s home. Take the kids to Paul’s house.” He alerted the sheriff’s office, irritated that his SF didn’t have legal authority on home ground. He then called Sam and Daniel, warning them before they came home and found a madhouse.

“Hang tight,” Sam told him. “I’ll bring Alvin and pick you up.”

“No, we’ll deal with it,” he told her. “The cavalry is surrounding the house. We knew this was going to happen, so we deal with it. No one is going to run me out of my home.”

“Alright,” Sam said reluctantly. “I’ll be home soon.”

The flood of mail from around the world was bad enough, to say nothing of the server shutting his public email down because of the overload, and now people are about to knock on his door. Jack hoisted a bag of charcoal out and started the grill. He squirted lighter fluid on the coals and found satisfaction at the sudden high flame. The chicken was half cooked by the time the first of the crowd got through the neighborhood watch and the police. Jack glanced at the growing crowd.

“Sorry,” he said, using the tongs to gesture toward the meat. “I bought only enough for my family.”

They stopped, not expecting to see him cooking. There was desperation in them, their fear and need almost overpowering him. He had sensed it from afar and now it was in his backyard. Jack took a centering breath and forced himself not to respond as a cornered soldier.

A woman opened her mouth to speak.

“No,” Jack said before she could. “I won’t go with you to visit whatever relative is sick. No, I won’t touch a piece of whatever. No, I’m not going to make the dead walk. Go home, people. If you frighten my kids, I won’t be a happy camper.”

“God is working through you,” a woman said, daring to step up to him. “We need you. So many people need you.”

“No one is working through me,” Jack told her. “In case you’ve missed the five o’clock news break, the human race is going through something. A lot of people are doing a lot of unusual things. If you have someone who needs help, you should be at their side, not mine.”

“Please, General,” a man said. “People are in pain and crying out for help. My son. The cancer….”

“I’m sorry,” Jack said, hardening himself. “Besides the fact that all I can cure is my kids’ cuts and scrapes, cancer is a fact of the human body, according to the science geeks, and certain chemicals can trigger it; maybe you should be getting angry at the people who are causing cancer, and fight to stop it from continuing. This poor-me attitude doesn’t work on me. Get off your asses and quit looking for an outside cause. There is no God, there is no devil. Get over it. When you need an alien rousted, let me know.”

The crowd wasn’t sure what to make of this unexpected position and uncertainty began to cross a few faces.

“And if one of your kids had cancer?” the man angrily asked. Jack flipped a chicken breast and tested a potato.

“I’d be as angry as you are,” he told the man. “And I’d be trusting in the doctors to do all they can. I’ve lost a child, I do know how it feels. Your kid needs you. Your kid is scared and where are you? Holding his hand? Reading him a story? Kissing his owies? No, you’re here interrupting my family time. Go be with your kid, mister. That’s all I’m trying to do.”

A small arm slid around Jack’s waist and he looked down. The people were startled, not having noticed the boy come through them.

“David,” Jack began, worried for his safety. He shot a warning look at the crowd.

“I’m hungry,” Davy said, leaning into Jack’s side. “They’re scared, Daddy.”

“I know,” Jack said. “I just don’t want them scaring you.”

“I’m not scared,” Davy told him. He rubbed at his nose and poked a finger toward the potatoes. Jack rapped his hand.

“Germs,” he said with a frown.

Davy put the hand behind his back. “Why are you scared?” he asked the man with the sick child. The man found himself staring into Davy’s dark eyes.

“I…. don’t want my son to die,” the man told him. “He’s very sick.”

“My mommy died,” Davy unexpectedly told him. “We went to see her at the cemetery yesterday. My sister Olivia was born when mommy died. She’s just a baby. Will someone be born when your son dies?”

“No one should have to die,” the man told him in a quivering voice. “Not children.”

Davy tilted his head to consider it. “Uncle Danny says if no one dies, no one can live because there wouldn’t be enough room or food for everyone. Do you want all of us to not be here ever again?”

“I would die for my son to live,” the man told him.

“Would that make your son happy?” Davy asked.

The man choked and held himself from hitting the boy. Jack felt for the bug in his pocket.

“Uncle Danny says we each have our time,” Davy said. “If we didn’t, nothing could live. I’m sorry about your son. When I’m sick, I like my Daddy to hold me. Maybe if you hold your son, it’ll make him feel better, too.”

They jumped at the sound of a siren. Richardson and his deputies came in and quickly rounded everyone up.

“I’m sorry, Jack,” Andy said over the protests. Sam and Daniel came in through the people, both of them holding new bugs. Daniel lifted Davy and settled him on his back, turning to place Davy in the center of their three-point guard.

“You guys alright?” Sam asked.

“We’re fine,” Jack assured her.

“They’re scared, Aunt Sam,” Davy told her.

“I know they are, sweetie,” she said.

“We were on a crash site across town, Jack,” Andy told them. “We’ll find out who they are. Do you want to press charges?”

“No,” Jack shook his head. “They’re desperate. Just send them home. Listen, Andy, this is probably going to happen again. Honestly, I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t want my home turning into a Mecca for these people.”

Andy took his hat off and scratched at his head. He turned his head to watch his deputies and SF take the people back to their cars.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” he said. “I know you, Jack. Your neighbors know you. To those people, you’re a hero. You protect them from aliens, your ships come in and save people from bombs, and now you have the band-aid businesses on the run. You’re larger than life, Jack.”

“So, maybe I should move everyone off-world,” Jack suggested with a frown.

“No.” They looked at Daniel. “Immersion therapy.”

“You want us to go swimming?” Jack asked.

“No,” Daniel said patiently. “Let’s do a little show and tell. If people realize that you’re not the only weird one, maybe they’ll leave us alone.”

“I’m not weird,” Jack said, frowning.

“Yes, you are,” his partners said.

After dinner, once the kids were in bed, the trio sat in the living room with Hammond, Landry, Paul, and Nick. Gabriel was present via the computer. Hammond and Landry wanted to reroute one of the ships for a convenient upgrade. Also for a quick getaway. Paul and Nick were agreeing.

“No,” Jack said. “Not yet. Gabriel and Sam –do we have footage of other people with significant advances?”

The two looked at each other and nodded. Both their teams had been collecting odds and ends tape of people doing things a little more out of the ordinary than most.

“Anything really spectacular?” Jack asked. “Disappearing acts? Card tricks?”

Gabriel wasn’t sure if Jack was serious.

“No,” Sam told him. “No changing students into ferrets.”

Gabriel’s brow cleared. “I’ve found a few more people who can diagnose by looking at someone,” he said. “Some are rural healers. Local faith-healer stuff. A few teenagers and young adults. While our generation seems to be improving talents we already possess, the next generation seems to be the one coming up with the new, overt talents. Medicine seems to be the main focus. For our groups, anyway.”

Sam nodded. “We’re finding that, too,” she said. “More than medicine, it seems to be science that’s the main focus.”

“That would make sense,” Daniel said. “Brains expanding their networks have always brought leaps in the field of science. Those leaps bring the more sociological advances.”

“So it’s no coincidence that we have more eggheads than military?” Jack asked.

“Correct,” Sam said and tossed a pillow in his direction. “And quit knocking the eggheads. We keep the gate and ships functioning, you just remember that.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said, crooking the side of his mouth up. “Alright, so do we have enough people to put a good clip together?”

“Well, a lot of the problem we’ve been running into is that there are a many people coming from uneducated areas,” Gabriel said, frowning at the dilemma. “You were right about the problem in South America, Daniel; tribal peoples seem to be handling it well. They’ve been elevating their ‘special’ people to shaman status. There seems to be a revival of some of the old traditions. The cities have a heightened death rate, especially among children.”

“Please tell me they’re not sacrificing hearts,” Daniel begged.

“Not that we’ve noticed,” Gabriel said, understanding his concern. “No, not those tribal traditions. They’re combining the more spiritual aspects of their local religions, mostly Catholicism, with the older religions. The new ‘shamans’ are teaching the peaceful aspects in conjunction with their old gods.”

“Really?” Daniel took a more interested look at him.

“I’ll pass on the tapes to you,” Gabriel promised.

“Later, Daniel,” Jack said, knowing that look.

“They also seem to be localized,” Gabriel told him. “Not all the countries are doing that well south of the border. Mexico is having a hard time of it, but the more south you go, the better it gets. Colombia is pretty bad. Honduras, San Salvador, Venezuela, and Argentina are also bad. The other countries are taking it better. It could be because they’ve kept much of their local traditions in tact, which were always heavy in traditional magic. Any of the tribal areas take magical acts in stride. It’s everyday life for them. If we jump to Asia, Thailand is doing well, as are most of the more inland tribes in other countries of the region. China’s mainland area is bad, the countryside could be better if they weren’t so overrun with corruption. The Arab States are not doing well at all, but surprisingly the tribes, such as the Bedouins, are doing well with it. Gypsies everywhere are dancing and singing their hearts out about it.”

“How do gypsies being happy with the magic help us?” Landry asked, leaning in to look into the computer screen. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against them, but it isn’t like we can put them to work on diagnostics.”

“No, of course not,” Gabriel agreed. “What I’m getting at is that because the tribal peoples are more open to it, it’s happening faster in those areas. They think their gods are happy with them, so the children are being blessed. We need to show the cities and orthodox peoples that this is a good thing. And to get to Jack’s request, I believe we have more than enough footage to fascinate the general public.”

“Good, thank you,” Jack said, waving an irritated hand at him. “Alright, you and Sam get your prize hens together, run it by Paul for content, and we’ll get it distributed. And put an emphasis on healing. Get some of the limelight off me.”

“I want to help.” They looked at the stairs. Katie stood at the top, her night robe pulled together. She came down, frowning in a familiar, thoughtful O’Neill pose.

“I don’t think so,” Jack said. “You’re….”

“I’m a kid, I know,” she said, huffing in agitation. “So you’ve told me often enough, lately. But I was adult enough to help off-world, and adult enough to help with the radiation victims from Korea. Let me be adult enough to show people who I really am. I’m not the only one, Dad; I’ve kept in contact with other ‘kids’ who can do things. We can all help. We’re not kids anymore.”

“That’s another thing, Jack,” Gabriel said from the screen. “The teenagers seem to be maturing, emotionally, a few years earlier. If I were to use other seventeen-year old talents as an example, Katie’s development is that of a twenty-one-year old. I’ll bet Matthew’s been thinking like an eighteen year old.”

Jack considered arguing and then thought about it. “Now that you mention it,” he reluctantly said. “And now that I think about it. Is their physical development changing?”

“No,” Gabriel said, shaking his head, much to Jack’s relief. “Just emotional catching up with physical. Brains, body, and emotional development have been out of kilter for a very long time, and they are now beginning to sync. I’m not trying to tell you what to do with your daughter, just letting you know that her emotional development just might be up for it.”

“Let me think about it,” Jack said. Katie bid them good-night, knowing that he really would consider it.

“Oh, my God,” Jack groaned, putting his face into his hands. “Just what we need –mature teenagers. Next thing you know, they’ll want legal rights to marry at thirteen. Couldn’t this go the other way? Hold off on the physical changes until their brains are ready?”

The others chuckled at him and Daniel patted his thigh. “That part of the brain is too ancient,” Daniel said. “This makes more sense. It’ll mean they don’t have to wait until middle age to be adapt at their careers. They should be about thirty, instead of forty-five or fifty. They’ll work longer and enjoy a youthful life longer. Eventually, school will need to be altered so that they graduate at sixteen instead of eighteen.”

“So, do we reroute the ships?” Hammond asked, trying to get to the original meeting.

“Give me a week and I think my team can have another arch ready,” Sam said. “We can put it here in the house. If someone is caught here, they can escape to HomeSec or Area 51. It’s easy enough, the kids can use it without a problem.”

It took two weeks for the new arch to be ready. Two of them, actually; the fourth was for the SGC. Sam tested them time and again, making sure nothing would go wrong with the traveler. The last thing they wanted was for one of the kids to emerge from the other end inside out. Each arch would be programmed for seven locations. Three blocks at either side of the arch entrance would hold the ID for another arch. The seventh could be operated in an emergency and would take the traveler directly to a central location, yet to be determined. The arch was protected by a security ID which only certain people would know, so that the wrong people couldn’t use it.

“Sort of a speed dial,” Daniel commented, watching the arch being put together around the front door. “With a home-owner’s security code.”

“Exactly,” Sam said, giving him a pat. The front door would be replaced with a door that was arch shaped. All in all, it was a nice, decorative door, if no one knew what else it was.

“Why can’t it be door shaped?” Jack asked. “We wouldn’t have to replace our door.”

“The shape is part of its conductive properties,” Sam told him. “It needs to be that shape.”

Daniel frowned at his coffee cup. “Jerrie, did you clean the coffee pot? Tastes like vinegar.”

“No, I didn’t,” she said. “You like the sludge so I don’t clean it.” The cup was once more tasted and once more frowned at.

“Da!” Jack looked down at the baby who was holding her arms out. “Uh….p.”

“Stinker,” he informed her as he picked her up. Now that Jack was listening for it, Gabriel had been correct in that Olivia would be talking slightly above the previous average for a one-year old. Her six tiny white seedling teeth shone brightly as she grinned at him.

Once the arch was set and the test signal verified, one of the techs activated it and stepped through, disappearing. The phone rang moments later.

“He’s safely at the lab,” Sam said, hanging up. “We have a working arch.” The tech was back an instant later. Sam ushered Jerrie and the kids over and went through the routine of making the arch work and what the security code was to activate it, stressing to the kids that no one, absolutely no one, was to know the code. Do not write it down; memorize it. The kids promised.

“Can we use it to go to school?” Stacey asked.

“No, Miss Lazy, you can’t,” Sam informed her.

“You know Henry’s going to want one,” Jack said.

“There are more in the works,” she said. “I’ve been concentrating on the new ships, or this would have been done sooner. I think we need to discuss who gets them. I can’t see them in every home.”

“Why not?” Daniel asked. “It would cut down on ambulance time if these were standard features. Make the civilian arches for medical emergency use. People won’t have to wait for EMS, they can go directly to the hospital from their home.”

Jack and Sam considered it and nodded. “Alright, get an arch for the Academy Hospital and program one of these last three for the hospital. Good idea,” Jack said. “Can we change these from seven to ten?” he asked Sam. She shrugged and nodded.

“No problem,” she said. “We limited them so that everyone wasn’t trying to remember thirty-six symbols and all their permutations. We can make it eleven. Ten for personal use and the eleventh for our central emergency location.”

“I don’t think the general public needs to know about that one,” Jack said. “Most people know computer programmers have back doors, right?”

“We can do that,” Sam said.

Daniel looked once more at his cup and decided to put it down. A moment later, Jack handed the baby to Sam. Both men abruptly rushed from the room and could be heard throwing up in the bathroom. Sam and the kids looked toward the guest bath. She went into the master bath and looked at the stick on the counter.

“We’re pregnant!”

 


 

Chapter 61

 

Sam dug hungrily into her bowl of cottage cheese and fruit while the men stared white-faced at the curds. They forced their stomachs to behave.

“Here.” Maggie put dry toast in front of the men. “It’ll help settle your stomachs.”

“This isn’t fair,” Jack muttered. “We’re not supposed to be sick.”

“It’s only a few more weeks,” Maggie told him. “Big baby. You always were a pain in the butt when you were sick.”

“But morning sickness?” Daniel whined. He winced as Maggie tweaked his ear.

“You two can play, but you can’t pay?” she demanded. “Get your ya-ya’s off and sit back?”

“Mom!” Jack put his toast down, shocked. Matthew stuck a finger in one ear while he ate his cereal with the other hand.

“Guys, I’m sorry you’re the ones who are sick,” Sam said, putting her spoon down. “I’ve heard that this happens but I didn’t expect it. I thought I’d be sick.”

“No,” Daniel said, standing. He walked behind her and put an arm around her, pecking the top of her head. “You have nothing to apologize for. We’re being whiny. I’m sorry.”

“Me, too,” Jack said, giving her his sad dog face. A strange look crossed his face and he bit into the toast. This didn’t happen when Sara was pregnant. He had heard about the odd reaction of some men, but didn’t really believe it.

Upon informing Jack’s mother that Sam was pregnant, Maggie was ecstatic. She was still a little confused over the paternity issue, but Jack assured her that the child would be her grandchild no matter who was the father.

“But whose name will be on the birth certificate?” she asked, trying to understand.

“Just Sam’s,” Jack told her. “The baby will have her name. We’ll probably have a fight with the hospital over it, but this is how we are dealing with it. If we fail with the hospital, we will have the baby’s name changed in court to Carter. There is no law that says a child must have the father’s name. Our handfasting contract covers this, both our Wills are being changed to cover this; Daniel and I will both be father to the baby. Just like Olivia is calling both of us Daddy, so will this baby.”

Jack then had to argue with Sam about using the arch to get to work. He didn’t want hers and the baby’s molecules scrambled.

“Inanna and Enki AND Thor said it was alright!” she insisted once more. “And there is nothing in our computations that say it would harm the baby.”

“Jack, let’s think about this,” Daniel said calmly, getting between them. “Will the two of you compromise on something?” He waited until he had a reluctant nod from each of them. “Sam, just for the next couple days, you take the al'kesh to work. Jack, you get into some serious head space and dig into those buried archives and find out if there is anything that warns against gate travel during pregnancy. And, Jack, remember this –she’d been using the arch every day during the past six weeks, so if there’s going to be a problem, it would already have occurred. Can you both do that?”

“Alright,” they grumbled.

“And the ultrasound shows a perfectly formed six week old fetus,” Sam reminded Jack.

The kids were excited and promised to help Sam. Even Fang displayed curious behavior as he kept sniffing at Sam’s stomach.

“He smells the baby,” Daniel told the kids when they asked why Fang was doing that. “Animals can do that. They have good sniffers.”

They marked the kitchen calendar with her due date, June 4th, and Stacey and Davy took turns marking off the days. Stacey was especially excited because this was going to be a real sibling. Daniel reminded her that the other kids were her real siblings, but he understood. To the surprise of the adults, Jerrie started knitting a blanket.

“Just because I’m a dyke doesn’t mean I can’t do arts and crafts,” she told them. They raised hands in surrender and let her knit in peace.

The Pentagon was making a fuss over the arches. They wanted toys, too, and they were salivating over the arches and the new bug stunners. All the major powers wanted arches, once the word got out. Sam assured them that more were in the works and everyone would have arches. She and Jack also swore that ten was the limit on programmed addresses. Even the paperwork said the arches could hold only ten. The few techs who worked on that part of the arches also swore to ten addresses. The military wanted to know if the arches were portable. Can they be taken on missions? No, Jack told them; they needed to be a permanent fixture or the coordinates would be thrown off and who knows where someone would end up, if they reappear at all. The arches were also set with blocking codes, in the same way the Stargate had a doorbell. Someone had to call beforehand and ring the bell, before being let in. That eased the military minds a little. No one would be invading through their arches. Jack didn’t point out to them that that was the same reason they had asked for portable arches. Maynard knew when Jack was rewriting information and didn’t bother to question him; he had learned that Jack had good reasons. Jack wasn’t hiding behind rose-colored glasses, he fully expected someone in a government think tank to realize that the arches could be moved and could hold more addresses. Before that happened, though, he hoped to have laws put into effect that would govern the use of the arches. He sent a private recommendation to Henry.

The general population was taking things well, considering. They surprised Jack who thought there would be more of an outcry over all the alien stuff and new technology that was suddenly appearing. When Jack told the Yards to express fun and enjoyment, and let their communities see the happenings, he didn’t realize that it would work so well. Another thing Daniel was right about. It was the religious community that was having issues. Attendance in churches, temples, and mosques were down by almost seventy percent. Of course fingers were pointed in Jack’s direction. According to Rabbi Melnik, however, only a handful of those people had given up on religion. Most of them had continued with their own spiritual quest. The Rav found it humorous -“God is not found in a building,” he said, chuckling at himself. “Christians are finally hearing the words of Jesus.” Jack liked the short rabbi with the scraggly beard; he didn’t take himself too seriously and thought that life was the funniest thing he had ever run across.

After dinner, Jack and Daniel got into the hot tub, which was finally fixed, and Sam stood looking at them.

“I feel like I’d be boiling an egg,” she said, spreading her hand across her stomach. “You guys enjoy it. And Matthew wants to know if it’s safe for him to come out.”

“Sure,” Jack said after looking at Daniel. The men just wanted to relax after spending the day nibbling on crackers. “You feeling okay?”

“I’m good,” Sam said, giving him a smile and leaning over the edge to kiss him. “I’m still in high altitude. Also a little worried that something will go wrong.”

Daniel reached over his shoulder and took her hand. “This is a planned pregnancy, you have a healthy uterus, and you’re completely in tip-top shape,” he told her. He glanced over his shoulder, letting his eyes wander. “Very tip-top shape.”

Sam laughed and took her hand away, smacking playfully at his chest.

“Ow,” he complained, rubbing delicately. “Nipples are sore.”

“Really?” Jack asked, giving his own chest a rub. “Mine, too.”

Sam looked at them. “You guys are too much. I’m sending Matty out, so don’t start anything.”

“Aren’t you having any symptoms?” Jack asked her. Sam thought about it.

“No,” she said cheerfully and walked back into the house.

“I don’t care what Mom says, this is so not fair,” Jack muttered. He looked at the offending points hiding in the fur.

Matthew stuck his head out the door and Jack waved him over.

“Want to get in?” Jack asked. Matty looked down at his clothes. “Just take them off and get in,” Jack said. “It’s a guy thing. It’s okay.”

“No, that’s okay,” Matty said, a little reticent. He looked around and pulled a chair up. “I uh, I’m not sure how… remember when we talked about me going to Kalam for a while?”

“Sure,” Jack nodded. Daniel leaned his head back and shut his eyes, letting the hot water and bubbles get to the back of his neck.

“I’m uh, wondering if…. something is wrong with me,” Matthew said.

“What makes you think that?’ Jack asked.

“Because it… doesn’t interest me all that much,” Matthew said.

“What doesn’t?”

Matty shrugged and tried to look anywhere except at Jack. “Sex. Stuff.”

Jack frowned. “What do you mean? Can you tell me what you’re feeling?”

Matthew slouched in the chair, letting his gangly legs stretch out. “I’m not sure,” he said. “I don’t know the words, I guess.”

Jack nodded thoughtfully and reached out a feeler. “Maybe the words you want are not exactly disinterest, but maybe your mind is preoccupied,” he suggested. The boy thought about it and seemed a little relieved.

“Yes, I think so,” Matty said. “I mean, I like kissing girls and stuff, but I keep thinking there’s something more important I should be doing.”

“Like what?” Jack asked. “Matt, you don’t need to get torqued over this; some guys don’t get interested until they’re a little older.”

Daniel opened an eye and Jack offered him the conversation.

“Matty, can you give us an example of what goes through your mind when you’re with your girlfriend?”

Matthew held out his hands. “I don’t know how to explain it,” he said.

“Jack, what else do you get from him besides preoccupation?”

Jack sank further into the hot water, thinking about it.

“That’s actually the best word,” he said. “But I get the same sense that I get from the Rav.”

Daniel crooked an eyebrow up. “Open? Accepting?”

Jack thought about it and nodded. “Yeah, those work.”

“Matt, you spend a lot of time at church with your grandfather and you seem to enjoy the council meetings. Any chance you’re considering being a priest?”

Matthew considered it. “I don’t know,” he said. “I like how it all makes me feel, but I don’t want to be a priest like grandpa. Maybe I’ll want to get married someday. Have kids. I like helping with Olivia, even though she’s a pain sometimes.”

“There are lots of different kinds of priests,” Daniel told him. “Only a small few have celibacy rules. Matt, what do you get when read the different myths?”

“That they all say the same thing,” he said. “I mean, a lot of them talk about people and how they lived, but they also want us to be kind to each other and to be honorable.”

“What about deity?” Daniel asked.

Matthew shrugged. “I think that there’s something that feels alive,” he said in cautious contemplation. “I’m not sure how else to describe it. I’m not sure that a single God fits, though. It’s like…. this is stupid, but all I can think of is Star Wars and the Force.”

“An energy that connects all things and binds them together?” Daniel suggested.

Matthew lit up. “Yes, that’s it,” he said.

“That is spirituality,” Daniel told him. “I think it’s great that you found that wave to ride. And I agree that it can be heady enough to overshadow everything else. If you’re worried that there’s something wrong, we can certainly get your hormones tested and make sure they’re where they’re supposed to be, but I think you’re a little young to be concerned about that. Jack’s right; lots of boys are late bloomers. Not a problem. Unless you do plan on being celibate, though, you should learn to adapt that spirituality to the rest of your life. Matty, if you are meant to be a priest of some kind, don’t fight it. We will encourage and support you.”

Jack echoed him and Matthew ducked his head. “Can I ask you something?” Matthew asked Daniel.

“Sure, kiddo.”

“About your book. I’ve read it a couple of times and I keep thinking that something is missing. Something about the Ancients, I think. I keep thinking that maybe they did something more than build the gates.”

Daniel spread his arms along the side of the tub. “Like what else?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” Matthew said, lifting a shoulder. “I mean, I know you had to leave some things out. Classified things. I’ve lived here long enough to hear when things are NOT being said. I think there’s stuff you didn’t say. And I think there’s something about the Ancients that you don’t want people to know.”

“Well, when you can expound a little more on that, I don’t mind listening,” Daniel told him. Matty looked at him.

“Uh huh.” He stood and unexpectedly pecked Daniel’s damp cheek. “Thanks, Uncle Dad.”

Daniel was smiling as the boy went back into the house. He opened an eye to see Jack also smiling. “He’s going to lead the children out of darkness,” Daniel predicted.

“How about we deal with getting his new brother or sister out of darkness first?” Jack suggested. Daniel agreed and turned toward Jack with glittering eyes.

“The kids are still up,” Jack warned. Daniel didn’t seem to care as one hand slid down while his mouth found Jack’s neck. Daniel was obviously feeling better. Jack gave a growl and pushed back, splashing water over the edge of the hot tub.

Darkness hit a new high, or low, when Jack was called to the SGC late the next morning. The conference room held Landry, SG-1 and 3, and their Indian trainees.

“Morning, Jack,” Landry said as Jack acknowledged everyone and waved them down. Landry pulled slightly at Jack’s collar and shook his head at the purple bruise that was poking out. “Aren’t you a little old for that?”

“Hey, talk to Daniel, I’m just his toy,” Jack informed him. Reynolds and Bosco snickered. “Besides, Sam is being extra careful for the next seven months so we are being considerate by letting her rest.” It took the others a moment and then congratulations were offered. The trainees were a little perplexed.

“Does this mean you can’t go out for a ride with us?” Reynolds asked.

“A ride? To where?” Jack asked. With a nod from Landry, Reynolds pointed at the screen.

“You need to see this,” he told Jack.

Video from a hidden camera showed the Indian-descended locals of the Vishnu planet working hard in a factory. Tanks bubbled gently as shadowy forms swam freely in the water.

“Are those…?” Jack leaned in.

“Yep,” Reynolds said grimly.

The image changed to someone’s hands, long, slender fingers holding a Goa’uld larva gently, examining it before setting it back into a tank. The image zoomed in on another, larger tank at the far end of the room. A bloated form occupied the tank.

“That’s…. where the hell did they get her?” Jack couldn’t believe it. Someone had found a queen snake!

“We haven’t gotten that far, sir,” Reynolds told him. “Since only one queen was ever found, and she died before we could talk with her, we don’t actually know how many others there were, if there were any at all. Nothing the Tok’ra or the Goa’uld ever said made us think there were more. According to Malek, the Tok’ra didn’t think there were any more. We have a call out to Thanatos.”

“Could one have been bioengineered?” Landry asked.

“Don’t know, sir,” Reynolds said apologetically. “Not my area of expertise. We can ask the Tok’ra once they get finished reviewing this footage. This isn’t the best part, though, Jack. Keep watching.”

They all winced as they watched a snake take the human offering. Vishnu himself appeared, dark, with long black hair and a blue robe, inspecting the slaves. Jack had to admit that he didn’t know the face, although the over-the-top clothes were in character for a Goa’uld. The scene changed to more of the lab. Someone was bent over what was obviously a microscope, completely out of character for the technological level of the planet. The person was female and… blond?

“Who…?” Jack leaned in. He then sat back, stunned. “Crap.” He picked up the phone and dialed. “Daniel, come to the SGC. Now.”

“This is not good,” Jack informed the room.

When Daniel came in, via the new arch, and saw the footage, he sank into a chair. “Oh, crap,” he said, echoing Jack. “Oh, I was hoping that it wouldn’t happen.”

“Well, if she had a twisted wire or something, a little amnesia wouldn’t fix it,” Jack told him. “Look, I know you don’t want to hear this, but we should have killed her.”

“Don’t pull the I-told-you-so routine with me, please, Jack,” Daniel begged, running a hand over his hair and giving it a pull in frustration. “Is there a plan in the works?”

“Not yet,” Landry said. “We need to know about that queen and we need to know if there are any more. We also need to get Dr. Frankenstein out of there and question her. From what we’ve seen of security, not too many people get near to her and she doesn’t go out into the general public.”

“I can get to her,” Daniel said.

“Over my dead body,” Jack informed him.

“Jack, you know damned well I’m the only one who can do this,” Daniel said, knowing Jack was going to fight it.

“There is no way in hell I’d let you go without me and I’m not going anywhere until our baby is born,” Jack told him, his voice beginning to rise. “With five kids running around and one on the way, we … WE!…. cannot leave Sam to play mother-hen by herself. Absolutely not!”

“I’m not an asshole, of course I don’t want to leave them!” Daniel shouted back. “I’d be gone a week! No one else can get close to her except ME!”

The men around the table tried to look anywhere except at Jack and Daniel. “Uh.” Reynolds raised a hesitant hand. “I don’t mean to interrupt family stuff, but I might have an idea.”

Jack and Daniel scowled at each other for a moment. “What,” Jack snapped.

“Well, why do we have to actually go down to the planet?”

Everyone looked at Reynolds.

“Explain, Colonel,” Landry said.

“Well, sir, why can’t we just beam her up? From the surveillance, we know that she’s in her lab at certain hours so we set a wide beam and bring up anything registering body temp in the vicinity. We did the same thing in Korea and it worked there.”

Jack lost his scowl.

“And the Aschen?” Jack asked. Damned pirates were getting their fingers into everything out there.

“They seem to steer clear of that planet,” Reynolds said. “We still haven’t figured out why. We can plot a route to the planet that will get us around the Aschen once we check on their current shipping lanes.”

Jack drummed his fingers on the table as he thought. “I’m not happy,” he finally said. “Even if I consider allowing Daniel to go, and I do agree, however not happy I am about it, that he is the only one who can talk to her, I won’t let him go without me and I’m not going anywhere for the next seven months.”

Daniel folded his arms, shoving his hands peevishly under his pits. Bosco held up his hand. “Can I put a recommendation into the hat?” he asked. Jack grunted. “Why does the talking need to be done there? Why not beam her up, put her on ice, and bring her here?”

“Why didn’t you do that already?” Jack asked.

“Because kidnapping is not a nice thing to do,” Daniel reluctantly said. “We have a play-nice treaty and it doesn’t extend to that planet. We can’t take someone, legally, from a planet which doesn’t hold a treaty with the UW, and the citizens of that planet have not called a mayday.”

Jack thought about it, trying to remember the odds and ends of the treaty. He tapped on the computer, searching for the file.

“There’s a loophole in that,” he finally said. “Ke’ra is not wanted anywhere, but Linea is a criminal and there are who knows how many planets that she has wiped out. I’d say Linea has destroyed Ke’ra and escaped Vyus. For all we know, she’s the one who brought that snake to the planet. She’s open game.” While the evil scientist Linea had come down with a case of amnesia due to a planet-wide infection that caused all the inhabitants to have amnesia, she had reverted to a kind, gentle person who only wanted to help cure everyone. Taken back to the SGC, where, hopefully, the SGC scientists could help find the cure, Daniel had fallen in love with her. His heart was still aching over the death of his wife, Sha’re, and has fallen hard for the gentle scientist, Ke’ra, not realizing that she was the younger version of an evil scientist, Linea, who they had already had a run-in with on a prison planet. The more suspicious others had become of her, though, the harder it was for Daniel to admit to the facts being presented to him. He hurt for a while, after Ke'ra reverted to Linea, but he got past it.

He turned the computer toward Daniel for his own perusal of the treaty’s exact wording. Daniel considered it thoughtfully.

“Alright,” he said. “Just to keep things kosher, though, maybe run it by the council and make sure they’re reading it the same way. Jack, don’t look at me like that. Whatever her past, Linea has not harmed us so we cannot excuse a vigilante raid. Even with the Goa’uld hunting, it was for a specific System Lord, not an all-out extermination. We have a treaty that says we will follow certain rules, and since you’re the Big Cheese, it might be a good idea to set an example.”

Jack didn’t like it at all but he knew Daniel was right.

The teams were excused to make things happen while Daniel stood at the window, looking down at their old familiar friend. Landry glanced at him and then at Jack and got out of firing range, closing the door silently as he left them alone.

“I’m sorry,” Jack said, seeing the tightened muscles across Daniel’s back. “I didn’t mean to imply that you’re an asshole. I’m an asshole. And I think I understand how you were feeling when I went hunting last year. If you want to go with SG-1, I won’t argue. It’s been a long time since you’ve been on a mission. Go. Go play, bring the bitch home.”

Daniel took a breath, the window fogging for a moment. “You’re right. My responsibilities are here and I have no business being on the front line, not with our kids waiting for me. I’ll wait until the Prometheus gets back with K… Linea. Experiencing our new child growing is more important to me. And yes, you are an asshole.”

Jack’s mouth twitched. “Love you, too. Can we blame this on hormone changes?”

Daniel looked over his shoulder, a small smile warming Jack’s heart. Before Jack could respond, both men suddenly ran for the men’s room down the hall. When they finally lifted their faces from the toilets, they found Dr. Lam holding up the wall in the hallway. She gave them her famous inscrutable dark eyes and handed them each a package of crackers.

“We are not amused,” Jack informed her.

“Oh, but we are amused,” she told them. “Congratulations. Be sure you replace the liquids and keep your electrolytes balanced. I know you’ll be feeling tired and not wanting to even look at food, but rest any time you can and eat anyway. Lots of protein. Eat through the morning sickness and you should find that the nausea lessens. Keep crackers or dry cereal by your bed and eat something before getting up. It should help. Sometimes eating and drinking at the same time can trigger it, so try not to drink at mealtimes. Some women find that sniffing lemons, fresh grated ginger, or mint also helps when they feel it coming on.”

“We’re not women,” Daniel reminded her. Her stare told him to shut up. He wasn’t quite sure what Jerrie saw in her, only that Dr. Lam made Jerrie happy. According to Jerrie, Carolyn had a good sense of humor, a passion for life, and a romantic heart. Maybe being on base with her father, General Landry, put her on edge.

“It’s a proven fact that some men also experience some of the pregnancy symptoms,” she said. “We’re not sure why, only that it happens. As close as the three of you are, this should have been expected. Besides morning sickness, you might experience some sleeplessness and indigestion, hormones will fluctuate causing emotional upheavals including depression, and there is a possibility of postpartum depression. Read the baby books, talk to each other, and, above all, take it one day at a time. And considering the fact that one of you is the bio-Dad, if you think anything unusual is happening with Colonel Carter, bring her in. Otherwise, she should be fine with her regular OB/GYN.”

The men promised to behave and obey.

Instead of heading out, Jack side-tracked to the control room and had Walter dial out.

“Anyone home?” Jack asked into the mic when the channel was open.

“Are you alright, Dr. Jackson?” Walter asked whispered as Daniel sat and leaned forward until his head was between his knees.

“Morning sickness,” Daniel told him. Walter’s eyes opened in shock. “Sam is pregnant, not me,” Daniel said. “I don’t think the universe has gone that far out of whack.”

“Oh. Congratulations, sir. Sirs.”

Jack also had his head between his knees.

“Come on over,” they heard Ninurta from the speaker. The men reluctantly sat up, slowly, and headed to the gateroom.

“This is not going to be pretty,” Jack said under his breath, staring at the gate with apprehension. The moment they were on the other side, they immediately ran past a startled Ninurta and out of the building to find bushes. Ninurta followed them, watching, perplexed.

“Are you ill?” he asked.

Jack turned to look at him. “Alright, stupid question,” Ninurta acknowledged.

“Sam’s pregnant,” Jack told him.

“Congrat…. ahhhhh, yessss…. Jack, you are bonded to her. Bondings produce this level of sharing,” Ninurta said. He stepped up to the men and put a gentle hand on their backs for a moment. “Better?”

“A little,” Jack said, feeling the nausea subside with the redact. “Thanks.”

“Come,” the warrior said. “I will make a calming tea for you.”

They followed him into the modest manor house and through to the private family room. Ninurta spoke quietly to a servant who gave a nod and left them. The men sat gingerly into over-stuffed chairs and relaxed once they found that their stomachs weren’t going to go AWOL on them again.

“Papa!” A little boy ran into the room and climbed onto Jack’s lap. Jack winced as he accepted the hug around his neck.

“Easy, Daka,” Ninurta said. “Papa isn’t feeling well. His tummy is upset. Uncle Daniel’s, too, so sit gently.”

“He’s fine,” Jack said as the boy settled down beside him. “Where is everyone?”

“His fathers are on their way home,” Ninurta said, nodding toward Daka. “Aba is in his lab, everyone else is in the fields. Wheat harvest. I was here overseeing the silos when your call came in.” The servant came in carrying a tray which he placed on the table. Ninurta took the ingredients and began their tea.

“A bonding brings those involved closer than your average pairing,” Ninurta told them as he gently pressed the herbs into the hot water. “I will bet anything that the bond’s energy surrounded you during your lovemaking in which the baby was conceived.”

The men considered him and then each other. “Surrounded all three of us,” Daniel confirmed.

“Ah,” Ninurta smiled and nodded. “Which is why you are both experiencing it. And in the same waves, if you haven’t noticed. This pregnancy was planned.”

“Per Sam’s request,” Jack said. “She was ready.”

Ninurta handed the men each a cup. “Sip slowly.”

“Now, Daniel, about this possible Ancient site of yours,” Ninurta said, petting his beard thoughtfully. “We honestly don’t know what to tell you. Aba said that when he arrived on Earth, in his initial tour, there were only small pockets of primitives around. Barely out of the trees. Most of the Ancients had left by then, those who had not died in the plague, and a few stragglers were rounding up survivors for the final ship to the Pegasus galaxy. Our people, the Asgard, and the Nox were given the task of monitoring the life forms that seemed to be immune to whatever was killing the Ancients. They didn’t have high hopes for the primitive forms on primordial Earth. Not only were the brains of the primates not viable, but the planet was undergoing a major tectonic upheaval. The Ancients couldn’t have stayed there even if they wanted to; the planet was turning itself inside out."

"What about our theory that humans ARE the Ancients, and the Ancients came from our future?" Daniel insisted.

Ninurta tilted his head in thought. "We have been considering that," he said. "There is no precedent for it, though. Granted, you all went back in time, a couple of times, so to speak, but it wasn't really that far back. I don't know what would happen, if it's even possible, to travel millions of years back. We're pushing that one to the side, for now. The concept even managed to knock the Asgard on their little gray butts."

He stood to pace a few steps as he thought. “So Aba tinkered, amusing himself with a species that was about to become extinct anyway. I know, I know, not very humane of him. He’s mellowed in his old age. I think that my mother had a lot to do with ‘humanizing’ him. I think that once his own children began to be born, he realized the error of his ways. My own opinion, of course.

“Anyway. The Ancients eventually returned, checking out their old homestead, and you can imagine their surprise to find that not only had life remained, but it flourished. And it didn’t take them long to realize what was done with the proto-humans. They were angry about it. Not even the Ancients approved of tampering with natural evolution. But not too many Ancients were left to disapprove. In the long run, it proved to be a boon. There may not have been enough of them left to repopulate their species, but humans were advanced enough to be recognized as modern humans. Homo-sapiens.

“Our people weren’t around, at the time, I don’t know. Something about another project. So before the Ancients de-evolved back into the human race, where their DNA would at least be kept alive, they gave the Asgard the task of watching over the planet. The humans grew, the Ancients disappeared into the woodwork, so to speak, and when Aba and Nanna, Inanna's father, finally brought their troops in, your people were beginning to understand the concept of crops and villages. The Asgard returned the watch to Nanna and we spent time guiding your people. Until the Goa’uld, and you know the rest.”

Ninurta sipped from his own cup of what smelled like cinnamon as he contemplated his clan-son napping against Jack’s side.

“And the site in northern Scotland?” Daniel asked.

“We don’t know,” Ninurta said with a shrug. “At the time that site is dating, it would have been much further south. Perhaps near the equator. If so, it is possible that it is part of a larger Ancient site that has long since been turned back into molten rock. From the images you sent, it could be quarters for slaves and their families in attendance to a main house. Aba didn’t speculate much more than that. Don’t think it degrading to the primitive humans, Daniel; remember that the Ancients would not have brought them further than they were capable of understanding for their time. Considering the fact that most of your forebears were still camping out in caves and straw lean-tos, that kind of a structure would have been a castle to them.”

Whatever was in the tea, it was helping. The men were feeling halfway normal again. Except Jack’s brain which was trying to push an idea at him, and a sense of something that he’s missing. He hissed and put a hand to his head.

“Jack?” Daniel touched his arm. Jack leaned forward, holding his head. Daka slid from his resting place and looked confused.

“Time,” Jack muttered.

“What?”

“Something about….. time,” Jack said. He squeezed his head between his hands, trying to get the information out.

“Relax and center,” Daniel told him. “Just let the information come through. Talk. You can sort it out later.”

Jack breathed, forcing his awareness to the center of his being. A flood of concepts rushed over him, not offering definition only of being.

“Time,” he said again. “Something….. I don’t know… not being said.” He opened his eyes and looked at Ninurta. “You’re withholding again. I’m going to assume this is one of your games and I’m supposed to figure it out. Okay. Time. Timing….. timeline…. time…. travel. Enki isn’t hundreds of thousands of years old, only a few thousand. He went back to tinker with people, didn’t he?”

Daniel considered it and was stunned. Ninurta didn’t say anything, only sipped calmly at his tea.

“He changed our past,” Daniel guessed. “How much of the future did he see that caused him to change the past of an entire race?”

“Well, Daniel, I don’t particularly give a flying….” Jack looked down at his side, “you know what, I’m getting a little tired of word games and half-truths. In fact, I’m rather pissed about it.”

“Jack, I can’t give you anymore than you can access from your own brain,” Ninurta reminded him. “Go ahead and get angry with me, but there are things that I am unaware of myself. I give you clues when I can. If you would do as Aba continually asks you to do, spend time excavating your head, you would figure these things out for yourself. The history is in there, dammit; quit being a turnip.”

Becoming furious with the know-it-all warrior, Jack opened his mouth to object.

“Okay, okay,” Daniel held up a calming hand. “We will work on in, right, Jack? Let’s back up a minute because I have a question.”

Jack crossed his arms in a fit of pique while Ninurta’s eyes narrowed and threatened daggers at him.

“I thought the Ancients invented time travel,” Daniel said.

Ninurta pursed his lips for a moment.

“It was a group effort,” Enki said from the doorway. The old man came in, wiping his hands on a cloth, and poured himself something to drink. “Look, Jack, I’m sorry you’re feeling a little in the dark, but it can’t be helped. We need you to do this yourself, and you know it. Now, putting the time relay into the ships was the Ancients idea. Why would they do that, if they weren’t going to use it? Why equip the seneschals with it and not the other ships? Have you thought to ask yourself that? That answer is in your head. Figure it out.”

Jack stormed out of the room. Daniel murmured an apology and thanked the men before following Jack. Once in the gateroom, “….put them back into that fucking phased whatever the hell…..! bring that fucking Goa’uld back and let him…..! fucking old con artist….! tired of his bullshit….!” The SF did their best to ignore the ranting as Daniel signaled up at the window and hurried to follow Jack who had stalked through the arch. “…who died and made him almighty creator….?! …..fucking around with our brains…..! creating an entire species and for what….?! why didn’t he just go back and get rid of those fucking snakes on their own planet…..? did we ask him to create us? I don’t recall asking him to play God….! go back into OUR past and play fucking Pinocchio….!”

Jack!

Jack slammed the refrigerator door, rattling the various bottled inside.

“What!”

“Geppetto, not Pinocchio,” Daniel told him. “And we seem to have guests.”

Around the dining room table sat Michael, Maggie, Sam, Cassie, and Harper. Blood had drained from Michael’s face leaving him ghostly white.

Daniel leaned into Jack and said quietly, “And for the same reason Enki withholds information from you, you withhold information from others. You are going to destroy a hell of a lot, if you don’t make a few changes. I will deal with this, you go find a quiet corner and take a time out. Get a grip, Jack.”

The last thing he wanted to do was to hurt his brother. Which was exactly what he did. Jack left out the back door and headed toward the woods. Daniel was right; he needed head-space. He wasn’t sure what was making him so angry; the old man was always withholding information and although it was irritating, Jack usually enjoyed working it out and playing with the new ability it usually brought. He considered the hormone factor and acknowledged the possibility of his mental processes being affected by it, and then decided that it was too early to be having hormonal temper tantrums.

He was about two miles from the house when he finally sat and rested back against a tree. The back of his head made contact with the bark of the trunk and he shut his eyes. When he opened them again, the light made him look around. Something was different. The sun was at a different angle. He must have taken a nap. Small movement caught his drowsy attention and he watched a dark pod wiggle on the thin branch that it was attached to. It tore open and a brightly colored wing appeared. The new butterfly fell to the ground and hobbled upright, spreading its wings to dry before it could use its weak, newborn strength to fly. Jack looked around, making sure there were no hungry creatures waiting to take advantage of the hatchling. An hour later it stretched its wings and took its first haltering flight. Hesitant at first, it grew more daring and flew away.

“Have a nice flight,” he told his fellow flier. He stood and slowly walked back to the house. The house was quiet. There was no one in the living room or around the dining table. He found Sam in the study working at the computer.

“Are you alright?” she asked.

He nodded. “I’m sorry if I interrupted anything.”

“We were going over wedding plans,” she told him. “Only five weeks until Cass is married. She’s a little upset. She wants to lose a couple of pounds for her dress.”

Jack frowned. “Lose a couple pounds from where?”

“It’s a bride thing,” she told him.

“Oh. Where are the kids?”

“Out playing. Mom has the baby. Daniel’s downstairs. And I think Michael will be alright. He knew you were hiding something from him, something to do with religion. I think he was beginning to guess, and was in denial. Are you alright?”

Jack thought about it. “I think I need to be in Truth-space,” he confessed. Sam shut the computer off and took his hand. They went downstairs where Daniel was also working on a computer. His desk was covered in old papers and a few artifacts. He looked over the top of his glasses at Jack and Sam.

“Feeling better?” he asked.

“Feeling…. distant,” Jack said, considering his condition. Sam told Daniel what Jack wanted and the computer was turned off while Jack began to take his clothes off. There was always a slight chill in the air of the den, which was technically underground. Daniel usually had a dehumidifier running to keep the moisture from his collection. Jack sat between Daniel’s legs and relaxed into the warmth of his body. He positioned his legs over Daniel’s while Sam sat in front of them.

“Alright,” Daniel said once Jack was settled. “What’s got your knickers in a twist?”

Jack pillowed his head against Daniel’s shoulder and clenched his fingers around Daniel’s knees.

“I don’t want to leave you two,” he said. Daniel tiled his head away to look at Jack.

“You planning on a trip?”

“Only a major head trip.”

Daniel looked at Sam as he considered. “The files in your head,” Daniel guessed. “You’re afraid you’ll fry your brain if you open the files.”

“Twice bitten,” Jack said.

“Jack, you’ve had access to those files for quite a while now,” Daniel said. “Besides the fact that the CT scans show your brain to be wired in ways no one has ever seen before, you speak fluent Ancient, you’ve been doing mechanical drawings of things Sam’s spent years trying to figure out, and you can do things that science fiction writers can only dream about. You made one of my ties the same color as my eyes.”

“And if I open those files completely, what will happen to me?” Jack asked. “I can’t handle that much information, we proved it before.”

Daniel slid his arms around Jack’s chest. “Jack, you’re not thinking it through. I told you –your brain is able to handle it. The wiring is there. It’s in place. The computer has been built, you only need to access it.”

“And how much more will I need to keep my mouth shut about?” Jack asked irritably.

“You’re afraid,” Daniel pieced together. “You don’t want to access those files because you’re afraid.”

“I’m not….!”

“You’re afraid, Jack. Scared. That thing no military officer should feel, no warrior should feel. Admit it, Jack. Say it!”

“I’m not…..!”Jack spit out, struggling against the arms that held him tight. “Let me go! Who the fuck are you to call me a coward! Let me up! I won’t…. I’m not…… God, dammit!” A fist grabbed the top of his head and Daniel’s legs abruptly changed places with Jack’s, putting Jack into a body lock.

“Say it! I’m scared! Say it!!”

Sam watched, stealing herself to remain focused and not respond to Jack’s struggles. Jack choked, fighting the arms and legs that held him. Daniel pulled the fist of hair tight, putting his mouth next to Jack’s ear to whisper gently, “Say it. It’s okay, we have you. Just say it.”

The internal fighting blackened his thoughts as a whirlwind spun within. The small voice within told Jack that this was exactly why he put himself into Daniel’s arms, so why was he fighting it? He wasn’t a coward, he put himself on the frontline time and time again! You’re scared, not a coward, he told himself. Daniel never called you a coward, Jack O’Neill, so just admit to what he wants to hear. You’re afraid and that’s the truth of it.

“I… don’t want to lose myself,” he whispered. The hand gripping his hair eased and caressed. “I… don’t want to not be human. I’m afraid… of not being me. I’ll still be in my middle age when you two are at the end of your lives. I’ll see five or six generations of grandchildren, if the rest of the world allows me to live here that long. Part of me isn’t human anymore and I’m not sure I’m happy about it. I’m afraid that if I access my brain my remaining humanity will be gone.”

Sam went to them and curled up around them, helping Daniel to hold Jack. “Whatever happens, we will be at your side,” she promised. “You need to do it, Jack. If you don’t, the pressure will grow and grow until it reaches a critical threshold and blows up. Release the pressure a little at a time. Find a way to access the information in bits and pieces. Like the internet. Search a word or phrase and see what comes up.”

“Control it,” Daniel told him. “Don’t let it control you. Find a way to bring it in line and offer information at your bidding.”

Jack closed his eyes and leaned back. “This shouldn’t have been me,” he said quietly. “I don’t deserve this. You or Daniel should have it. I’m not…. I’m just a grunt.”

“Don’t pull that,” Daniel told him. “I couldn’t use this kind of information, I’m bad at leadership. We all know what happened when I was shown an alternate future. I blew us up after I became lost in the power. I couldn’t do this.”

“And I couldn’t because I’m not the same kind of leader you are,” Sam told Jack. “I’m only just now learning how to lead. Jack, sometimes we can’t think clearly around all the information in our heads. We become so focused on one thing that we’re blind toward everything else. You know how we get sometimes.”

“And am I supposed to sit on the information I get?” Jack asked. Daniel tightened his arms and pressed his mouth to Jack’s head.

“No, you help guide us,” Sam told him. “Like you’ve done for years. Jack, we aren’t the Ancients. We might be in the future, but we aren't now. We shouldn’t create technology just like theirs. So you can come up with all the schematics, does that mean we should follow them exactly? I wouldn’t. We can, however, use the schematics to adapt technology we already have and make it user-friendly. As for the history, who cares? Sorry, Daniel. The history of the Ancients has very little to do with us, at this present time. Only about ten thousand years of history belong to us, anything before that is of a different culture. A different species. Sure, it’s interesting to learn about it, but it doesn’t help us. I don’t care when and where the Ancients came from; I care about our children and their future.”

Jack breathed, feeling calmer, and leaned over to put his head on Sam’s stomach. There was a small, hard spot just below her belly-button, big enough to be felt and yet small enough not to be showing. He kissed the spot. Sam caressed his hair.

“When can we find out if we have a Jake or Clair?” he asked huskily.

“Gender is visible at about fourteen weeks,” Sam told him. He could hear the smile in her voice. “We have about eight weeks.”

Daniel turned onto his hip and slid his legs around Jack’s. “Does it really matter to you why we were created?” he asked. “For all we know, we’ve already accomplished the task. If the problem is centuries in the future, we still don’t need to worry about it. All we can do is our best to make a decent planet for our kids.”

“I don’t like that old man’s advice,” Jack said, scowling. “I refuse to be that cold.”

He felt Daniel’s forehead against his shoulder. “Jack, I think he’s been trying to make you find your humanity. Even in the myths, Enki pushed people. You really should read some of those stories. He was a bastard, mainly to Inanna and Ninurta. He’s the king of psychological warfare and he’s been taking it easy with you. In case you haven’t noticed, he hasn’t once reprimanded you for doing things opposite of his advice. He knows if he pushes one way, you’re going to head in the other direction. He doesn’t hold hands; he expects people to stand on their own two feet and be the best person they can be, and if he has to goad you into it, that’s what he’s going to do.”

Jack thought about it. “So, does he want me to dig out the information or not?”

“That’s up to you,” Daniel said. “Either way, I don’t see that it makes a difference. The difference comes in what you decide to do with the information. If it’s important to you to know what the Ancients were doing, dig it out. Otherwise, just stick to schematics and help Sam get the planet’s pollution problem under control.”

“Don’t you want to know about them?” Jack asked, sliding his arms around Sam’s waist and warming himself between his partners.

“Sure,” Daniel said, shifting to cover Jack’s back. “But it’s an intellectual curiosity, not something necessary for existence. We no longer need to go searching for Ancient weapons, you can design them, so there’s no need for me to put puzzles together. I wouldn’t mind a history of the Ancients. I can live without it. Who knows; we might see it happen in the future.”

“You’re trying to make me feel better,” Jack accused.

“Yes,” Daniel admitted. “But I’m also being honest. That site in Orkney? If it needs to remain an enigma, so be it. I’ll live. Stonehenge? I’ll live. Pyramids around the world? I’ll live. What I’m finding more interesting is that people with these new talents that are cropping up tend to be accentuated when they spend any extended time around Olivia. Have you noticed?”

 


 

Chapter 62

 

Just before sunrise, Jack got out of bed and took a hot shower. As he dressed, he looked at Sam and Daniel, curled into each other, still fast asleep. He gently pecked both of them and then pecked Sam’s stomach. She turned, her hand finding his hair.

“What?” she murmured. Daniel pried open an eye.

“I’m going to Kalam,” Jack told them. They blinked sleepily and roused themselves.

“Are you sure?” Daniel asked, knowing what Jack was going to do.

“Hell, no,” Jack told him. “I’m going anyway. I need to. I want someone around just in case I take a dive.”

“Alright,” Daniel said. “Want us to come with?”

“No,” Jack shook his head. “Stay. Sleep. If I’m going to be late, I’ll send word.”

“You don’t have to do this,” Daniel told him. Jack didn’t need to consider it.

“Yes, I do,” he said. “This is a fear I need to face. I’m tired of tripping over myself and everyone around me.”

An hour later, Jack was leaning against a wooden fence, watching a colt prance around its mother. A presence was soon at his side, calmly blowing non-carcinogenic cigar smoke into the afternoon air.

“I want this done,” Jack said, hearing himself through a loud silence in his head. “I want to be in control of it. If I do this, will I still be me?”

“I promise, Ahu.”

Whatever Jack was expecting, it wasn’t to be taken into the baths and stripped of his clothes. “Trust,” Ninurta told him, smiling gently when he handed Jack over to three male servants. Jack bit his tongue and got into the hot bath.

“Why?” Jack asked. None of the men responded except to scrub him. He relaxed slightly when he realized that their touch was impersonal, and the humming under their breath reminded him of Daniel’s humming during their initial love-making. When they were done, they put a robe on him and took him to another room where Ninurta and Enki were waiting. They had both changed into their formal white robes.

“Did I smell or something?” Jack asked. “I did shower before I came here.”

“No, it wasn’t that,” Ninurta told him. “Since logic hasn’t been working on you, we needed you in ritual space.”

“I’m not spiritual,” Jack said, confused. It was odd, though; although not religious by any means, he felt as though he had stepped into church, which had nothing to do with religion itself because every sacred place gave him that same sensation. That he had crossed boundaries into something the profane had never touched.

“More than you realize, Jack,” Enki said. “You don’t seem to understand –spiritual is about what’s on the inside. The spiritual transforms the transcendent and makes it immanent. And this isn’t really about spirituality. Not all ritual is spiritual in nature.”

“We need to get you out of your head before we can get you into your head,” Ninurta told him. Jack didn’t understand either of them.

Enki stood in front of Jack, looking carefully at him. “Jack, your brain has completely adapted to the downloads. Your tests have proved that the neural connections are all there. It’s only your own fears, a phobia if you will, that’s keeping you from accessing them as easily as you access your own memories. We understand why those fears are in place, you had two rather bad experiences with this that threatened your life. I can put your brain on hold, if anything starts to go wrong. Just like the Asgard. Would you feel better if we called them?”

“No,” Jack said, giving his head a shake. “I’m still a little pissed at you guys, but I’ll admit that you haven’t steered me wrong. First Daniel, then Ninurta, and now this. I’ll try it. And if it doesn’t work, if I start to deteriorate, I’m going to trust you to get rid of all the bullshit in my head.”

“All or nothing,” Enki agreed. He raised a hand and gestured toward the fireplace and the rug on the floor. “Take off your robe and sit facing the fire. Ninurta is going to sit behind you and guide you. I will monitor and pull you out if I need to.”

Jack looked at the rug. “What are we doing?”

“Always so suspicious,” Ninurta said, a kindness in his dark eyes. “The fire is for a focus. The point of the skin is because you are uncomfortable without your shields.” He touched the robe. “Being in your skin will force you into an ultra self-awareness. It’s a state of being you will need in order to complete this exercise. Do you remember how we all traveled together on the ship and discovered the smoke-aliens? We are going to travel inside of your head. I won’t gain any knowledge from you; I will only show you the route to take. I will light your way, if you will.”

With the setting of guards and the closing of the door, Jack knew no one would be interrupting them. He sat on the rug, facing the fire, and slid the robe off his shoulders, letting it fall to the floor around him. There was a roaring in his head and he felt slightly ill as faces and, surprisingly, body scents, entered the front of his head. So many people he might never see again.…..

“Jack, shush,” he heard inside his head. Ninurta knelt behind him, the warmth of his body as intimate as Daniel's naked body behind him. “Focus, Jack,” Ninurta told him, a quiet humor in his voice. “Please don’t reach for Daniel in this; you need to be completely present.”

“Let’s just do it,” Jack bit out, fixing his legs and arms into comfortable positions. The flames before him began to sere his eyes so he closed them.

Follow me,” he heard whispered inside his head…….

A stinging made him smack his neck. Buzzing and birds singing caught his attention and he looked around. A lake lay in front of him, dark and familiar.

“This is Minnesota,” he commented. “Our family cabin. How’d I get here?”

“We’re not here,” he heard next to him. He turned to see Ninurta cast out a fishing line and sitting back in the old wooden lounge chair, taking a long sip from a beer. Ninurta grimaced. “How do you drink this crap? We need to teach you how to make proper beer.”

“What do you mean, we’re not here?” He smacked another mosquito.

“We’re in your head, Jack,” Ninurta reminded him. “This is your safe place. That pond is your subconscious. It’s your locked closet. Relax, Jack; toss a few lines out.”

Hours later, Jack once again brought his line in and looked at the empty hook.

“Just think about what you want on the line and bring it in,” Ninurta told him. He kept reeling in one fish after another, throwing them back after making happy faces them.

“How about a nice rainbow trout?” Jack asked, eying the fish in the warrior’s hand. Ninurta was making kissy noises at it before tossing it back into the water. “I’m hungry.” His line tugged, taking him by surprise. He reeled it in and stared at the wiggling trout. “That isn’t possible,” he said. “There are no trout here.”

“Don’t tell me about it,” Ninurta shrugged. “Find out from the fish.”

Jack considered it. “Ask the fish why it’s here?”

“Sure. Isn’t that life’s most fundamental question? Just because you and it are two different species doesn’t make it any less important.”

After posing the insane question to the slippery fish, his attention was captured by a ripple on the water. It took him a moment to recognize the close-up face of a man. His father, much younger than he remembered. Tom O’Neill yelled across the lawn and the image turned to see a boy running after a cat and scaring it up a tree. A thumb came into view and disappeared into close range. Jack realized that the boy on the lawn was Michael, about age ten. Jack would have been about three years old. His father was holding him on one arm while turning fish on a grill.

Jack threw the trout back into the pond.

“That wasn’t fair,” he said gruffly.

“It was nice,” Ninurta said gently. “Your father loved you very much. Thank you for sharing it with me. Why don’t you try asking a question and then casting out? Try the shadow under the tree.”

“Make a wish?”

“If you want to put it that way.”

Feeling as silly as asking a fish the meaning of life, which he still didn’t understand, Jack squeezed his eyes shut and then cast his line out. It tugged a moment later. Instead of bringing a fish up, the water rippled into another image. Bodies. One after another carefully, lovingly placed into crematories. Why? Jack sent the thought. What happened? He had seen bodies piled up like that during catastrophes. Instead of the radiation burns and blast wounds, though, such as the Koreans had, these people were pale and gaunt. They looked familiar. A voice began to speak, narrating the scenes.

……..Jack opened his eyes, blinking away the blurriness. It wasn’t a fireplace in front of his eyes, but a whiteness. Was he blind? No. Rafters decoratively placed while being useful. A softness was beneath his head. He was in a bed. A warmth was at his side and he turned his head. Olivia and Davy slept next to him. Jack was confused. This wasn’t his bedroom; he knew he was still on Kalam.

“Daddy, Mommy, Adda’s awake!” he heard Stacey call from just outside the room. She came in and jumped up onto the bed. “Are you better, adda?” she asked.

“I think so,” Jack said slowly. “What are you guys all doing here?”

“Rip Van Winkle awakes,” Daniel said from the door. He and Sam came into the room, concern behind their smiles.

“What do you mean?” Jack asked. He could feel the weakness in his body and the soreness in his back, in his bones, from long-term bed rest.

“You’ve been asleep for fifteen days,” Daniel told him as Sam checked his eyes and his pulse. Dr. Lam came into the room, having insisted on being on hand to keep watch over him despite the fact that the Furlings could do better. Sam moved and Lam began to examine Jack. He discovered that he had IV lines in his arms. And, if the sensation was correct, one of those damned things in his dick. He moved carefully to look over the side of the bed. Yep. Damn….

“Fifteen…. no,” Jack shook his head.

“Oh, yes,” Daniel said. “Ninurta brought you up here and called us. Dr. Lam says you’ve been in a coma, and Ninurta says you’ve been reviewing archives.”

“Coma,” Dr. Lam insisted, taking the stethoscope from Jack’s chest. She expected to hear small rattles in his lungs, considering the length of time he’d been lying there. His lungs were clear.

“Carolyn, you know the scans showed his brain has been incredibly active,” Sam said.

“Do we need to do this now?” Daniel asked the women. They both looked guilty and backed off.

Davy woke up and saw everyone around the bed. He jumped over his baby sister and snuggled into Jack’s chest. Jack winced and wrapped his arms around the boy. At a look from him, Daniel reached down and lifted Davy away.

“Daddy’s not that strong, yet,” Daniel told him. “Why don’t you give him a kiss and then go play? He’ll be alright.” Davy bent down and pecked Jack on the mouth. Daniel set him down and Davy ran from the room to tell the rest of his siblings.

“What the hell happened?” Jack asked. Olivia snuffled and turned her head in her sleep. Jack lowered his voice. “I was fishing. In Minnesota.”

“Minnesota?” The others in the room stood looking at him.

Jack waved. “Never mind. My head feels like it’s ready to split open.”

“No aspirin,” Enki warned from the door. “Consider yourself allergic to it.”

“Why?” Lam quickly jerked her head toward him.

“Because I’m…. changed.” They looked at Jack. He could sense a shift in his perception.

“You’re still you, Jack, we promised,” Enki told him as he came into the room. “The Ancient DNA is now in the forefront of your own, that’s all. Aspirin doesn’t react well with Ancient DNA. Go herbal.”

“Aspirin comes from willow tree bark,” Sam said with a confused frown.

“Willow bark tea is fine,” Enki told her. “So is the bark in powdered form. He can chew it, if he’s really desperate. The processing of the medication is where it becomes bad for him.”

“What happens if he has aspirin?” Dr. Lam asked.

“Fever and convulsions,” Enki told her. “Akin to encephalitis.” Dr. Lam made a note.

“Jack, do you remember anything that happened?” Enki asked, coming to the end of the bed. Jack rubbed his eyes.

“A little,” he admitted. He could sense that his brain was full of information, stuff he felt as though he had always known, and yet it was new. He even understood Sam's scientific explanations. He remembered every word he had ever read, every sight he had ever seen. “It’s mostly like watching a million TVs all at the same time.”

“What did you find out?” Sam asked, sitting on the side of the bed and holding his hand.

“Everything,” he told her. “You guys were right in that the history doesn’t really matter to us. It doesn’t actually have much to do with us at all.”

“Jonathan!” Maggie rushed into the room and swept him into her arms, mindful of the IVs.

“Mom. I’m fine. What are you doing here?”

Jack looked at the others over his mother’s shoulder. “What’s going on?”

They looked at each other and Jack was sure something had happened.

“Five days ago, President Tien was assassinated,” Sam told him. “China is in a state of revolution.”

“It’s terrible, Jack,” Maggie said tearfully. “They are saying they’re bringing back the old ways and that they have the rightful emperor of China. They said the aliens and all these new things happening are evil and will destroy us. They said you brought this to us.”

The looks on everyone’s face told him his mother was right. Jack lay back, giving his face another rub. He was stubbly and he needed a bath. A long, hot bath. He shuddered to think of what was happening with his intestines during the fifteen days. The swearing in his head was in a surprising number of languages. He’d have to try them out on Daniel.

“Paul is at HomeSec,” Sam told him. “General Hammond and General Landry are in constant contact with him, helping him when he needs help. We go back and forth, carefully, when we need to. The US is on high alert, but so far there’s been no attack. General Maynard strongly advised that we get off-world until this is settled. All the kids are here, Mom and Michael, Cassie is here, too, as well as Jerrie. Jonathan is on the Heaven’s Bow in orbit around Earth, keeping watch and signing your name to a few minor things to keep up appearances, Prometheus is also in orbit. The Daedalus is on its way home.”

Jack swore under his breath. He picked his head up again at a sudden thought.

“Linea is…..”

“She’s here,” Daniel said, sorrow momentarily highlighting his face. “We drugged her, bound her, and had Prometheus beam her out of security and into the gateroom before she knew what was happening, and we brought her here. Jack, she destroyed Vyus.”

“Everyone?”

Daniel gave him a nod. “There’s a haz-mat team there now, making a detailed report.”

“I'm sorry, Daniel, I know you had hopes for her. Damn. Wasn’t it dangerous to bring her here?” Jack asked pointedly.

“She is…. incapacitated,” Enki said delicately. “Erra is dealing with her. Pity her, Jack, don’t condemn her. Her wires are extremely…. crossed. The amnesia gave her a time of reprieve, but ultimately the wiring turned itself back on.”

“What’s Erra doing with her?” Jack asked.

“Are you sure you want to know?” Enki responded.

“I think I can wait,” Jack said. “What about the Vishnu planet?”

“What planet?” Maggie asked, not comprehending the conversation. Jack motioned for her to move and he tried to swing his legs out of the bed. Dr. Lam wasn’t happy about it, but she took the IVs out of his arms and bandaged him. He assumed the IVs were giving him nutrients until he could eat on his own. He’d been there before. Sam took a robe from the dresser and held it out for a sense of privacy while Daniel helped him to stand. Jack glared at the damned hollow cord sticking out from a place it had no business being, and Carolyn removed it without a blink, gathering the bag of urine from the bottom of the bed along with it. Jack’s legs almost gave out and he sat for a moment while Sam quickly put the robe around him.

“Take it easy,” Daniel told him. “You’re muscles are weak.”

“I need a specimen of the Goa’uld in order to determine its origin,” Enki told him. “The Tok’ra are going to kidnap one of them for me. Don’t give me that look, Jack, our ethics are a little different and mine work for me. And since our UW terms say the Goa’uld are forbidden to play God, we are obeying the letter of the contract.”

Daniel gave him a sharp look. “That’s cutting a fine line,” he commented. Jack tried getting up again and Sam slid a shoulder under his arm to support him.

“Never mind that now,” Jack said, silently ordering his muscles to knock off the crap as his partners walked slowly with him to the main family room. “What’s going on at home?”

It was a timed raid against the government, he was told. From the strength of the group, the plans must have been happening for years, long before the truth of the SGC came out. Individuals from a highly secret group had gained converts from the country peoples, people already hundreds of years behind current times and most susceptible to a new warlord and a new mythology that encompassed beliefs that the people retained after centuries. The Army of Emperor Shih Huang Ti, a descendent of Lord Yu, supposedly, began to declare that it was re-establishing order to the country of Ch’in. All outsiders were immediately given forty-eight hours to leave voluntarily. Anyone caught within Ch’in’s borders after forty-eight hours would be jailed, forcibly tossed out, or shot on sight no questions asked.

Buddhists and any other native spiritualities would be allowed, others were to remove their influence as they had contributed to the downfall of the great nation of Ch’in, especially Christianity. Crosses were forbidden. The fact that Buddha was from India didn’t seem to matter to them. Internet was shut down as were all television and radio programs that were not dedicated to the new regime. Non-Ch’in owned businesses were immediately turned over to Ch’in hands and contracts burned. Once the country was under control and the people settled, contact outside the country would be considered.

Materialism was to blame for the fall of the great nation, and forced borders were to blame for pollution, diseases, and population over-growth. When the people no longer had an emperor to take care of them, they turned to materialism. What did they have to show for it? One disease after another cropping up in their over-crowded, polluted cities. In the countryside, water was so contaminated from the runoff of pesticides that it was, in some ways, worse than the cities. People were abused, their daughters raped, unwanted children killed. The local government officials were to blame, the contamination of their pockets a shameful thing.

The alignment of China with HomeWorld Security was the final straw. The people were now expected to believe that the changes happening were a good thing, instead of the evil that it truly was. Demons had hold of children, and a few adults were also showing signs of possession. Such things didn’t happen until the big-eyed American O’Neill brought his evil back from the stars. And Westerners in general were to blame for chasing away Lord Yu himself from great Ch’in so long ago.

“I need a drink,” Jack announced.

“No alcohol,” Enki told him and handed him a glass of juice.

“What?” Jack asked.

“Ever.”

“Jack, Nick seems to think that the timing of this coup isn’t a coincidence,” Daniel said as Jack gave his juice a suspicious sniff. He stuck a finger in it and then into his mouth. Must be something local, he thought. It wasn’t bad, so he drank it. He wasn’t going to like being completely alcohol-free.

“How so?” Jack asked. “I was kinda enjoying being the downfall of a nation. Did any of the government get out?”

“No,” Sam told him. “All the upper tier were killed. As far as we know. That’s what we were told once the new regime announced themselves.”

“What’s the UN doing about it?” Jack asked.

“Begging and pleading,” she said. “Not much else they can do. Everything has remained within China’s borders and no one from the previous, legal government has asked for help. The surrounding nations have already asked for help, in case China wants to demand the return of old boundaries. Taiwan is a lost cause. Concern is focused mainly on Tibet. His Holiness is refusing to leave, now that he’s in his home. Japan is quickly back-peddling and yelping for protection.”

“What did Nick have to say?” Jack returned to Daniel’s comment.

“He has a theory that this has been in the making since we first made China aware of the Stargate years ago. He said that China had made a few unusual moves over the years and if he adds them together, they come up cherries. His people were expecting something to happen, and the CIA was aware of it, but they didn’t expect anything to happen so soon.”

“Someone was aware I was off-world,” Jack stated. Daniel gave a nod.

“And possibly for an extended period,” Daniel said.

“I wasn’t aware I’d be here so long, so how could anyone else know?” Jack asked. His brain made lightning moves in calculations which left him slightly dizzy. “Someone’s seeing the future.”

Sam opened her mouth to automatically object to the concept and then changed her mind.

“It is possible,” Enki told them thoughtfully. “We have Grant here to prove that a few extremes might crop up. He’s on Heaven’s Bow, by the way, doing a little recon. Precognition isn’t completely unexpected. It’s no more than sensing possibilities based on past and current actions. This is how ‘good guessers’ get their information.”

“No one in China has access to my closed records,” Jack said. “So even if everyone knew I was visiting Kalam, how would they know what I was going to do? I didn’t know until I woke up and made a decision.”

“That med tech who spilled your records about the bullet is still missing,” Sam reminded him. “Jack, you’ve scanned the planet several times; nothing popped out at you?”

“I’m kinda new at all this,” he reminded her in irritation.

“You’re offering a conspiracy theory,” Enki said to Sam. She blew at her bangs with a puff.

“I know,” she said, not happy about it. “I hate conspiracy theories. With the snowball getting larger than life, though, I don’t know what else to suggest. Nick is calling in all his markers on this one. China is one of the few places he had a problem getting into, so he doesn’t have many contacts there. He’s tracking down someone in our government that he’s suspicious of. He said you know what he’s talking about.”

Jack drummed his fingers on the arm of the chair as he thought. “Yes, I do. We’ve had someone under watch, someone leaking HomeSec information, we just haven’t had any proof. You know, all this over-the-top stuff is bringing up a familiar unpleasant odor.”

Sam and Daniel stood looking at him. “You cannot think a Goa’uld is involved,” Sam stated.

“Sure, I can,” Jack said. He slouched, stretching his legs out in front of him. “Look, we have no idea where the other snakes are, or even who’s still alive. You’ve never toured China, much less been in close proximity to how many billions of people, so you don’t know if a snake is hiding there, we’ve certainly found other snakes coming out of the woodwork over the past year, and I refuse to believe that Yu was the only Goa’uld in China. All those dragons? No, I don’t believe it. And humans developed on a parallel evolution in that area of the planet, so……”

They were looking at him again.

“That was interesting,” Jack said to himself, scratching at his raspy cheek. “It popped itself into my head just like I’ve always known about it.”

“It is a theory that’s slowly gaining popularity, but it’s a pretty recent theory,” Daniel commented.

Jack looked suspiciously at Enki. “Well?” He waited.

“Well what?” Enki asked innocently. “You didn’t think I’d play favorites with just one continent, did you?”

Jack squinted at him. “How did you….?” He stopped, looking inward as though listening. “Oh. Off, dammit, you’re giving me a headache.”

“Who’s giving you a headache?” Dr. Lam asked him. She had been sitting quietly nearby, keeping an eye on him.

“That narrator inside my head,” Jack said, pointing to his head. “It’s telling me how to alter the growth of an entire species. I’m not understanding any of it, but it’s giving me the instructions. It isn’t happy with you,” he informed Enki.

Actually, his head was talking non-stop, as though it had been lonesome for a long time and suddenly found a friend. Most of the noise was in the background but when he concentrated on something, it became louder, getting his attention. And for some reason, the narrator seemed to be in a pond which became opaque to show him images while a fish narrated. He wondered if he should mention it. He decided not to as a padded white room came to mind.

“You know, if we had the schematics for the pukku, I could try and make a wide-beam and attach it to the hull of the ships,” Sam suggested. The schematics immediately came to the forefront of Jack’s head.

“Paper,” Jack groaned.

While Daniel dug into his stuff for paper and pencil, Sam began to laugh.

“What?” Jack asked, his heart light at her smile.

“Can you picture McKay’s face when he discovers you not only have the schematics for all the Ancient devices in your head, but you also know what everything is for?”

Jack began to smile and then paused as a familiar wave began. Daniel also paused. They both began to turn green. Enki went to the table and poured two cups of tea. Sam lifted her shirt and pointed at her stomach. “I got a bump,” she informed Jack with a proud grin. Jack saw there was indeed a small roundness on her lower belly. He touched it, feeling the hardness of it, and kissed it.

“Listen, buddy,” he told the bump. “The Dads love you, so don’t take this the wrong way when I tell you that we will be much happier after this trimester.”

Daniel snorted. “You got off easy,” he said. “I’ve had fifteen days of morning sickness that you didn’t.”

Katie and Matthew ran in, hearing that Jack was up and about. They threw their arms around him for hugs, relieved to see he was alright. They smelled of sunshine and hay and horses.

“Aunt Sam and Uncle Danny have been making us do schoolwork,” Matthew complained. “We’re not home, so do we have to do work?”

“Yes, you do,” Jack informed them. “This isn’t a vacation.”

The kids pouted about it as they went back outside.

“We had their schools put a curriculum together,” Sam told him. “Technically, Daniel and I are both teachers, I don’t do a lot of classes, but I teach at the Academy once in a while, so the school board approved us as home school teachers.”

“Good,” Jack nodded. “At least they’re not getting lazy.”

“It’s been tricky teaching David,” Daniel commented thoughtfully. “I didn’t realize what a time his teachers were having with him until we tried teaching him. His attention span isn’t the classical ADD; he has a great attention span, it’s just… with him being continually in the now, and that makes teaching him an interesting experience. On our part, not his.”

“Does he need a special school?” Jack asked, looking at them intently.

Daniel shrugged and Sam echoed him. “No, I don’t think so,” Daniel said. “He’s happy to learn, and as long as we take the time to explain things, he’ll eventually get it. Teaching him hands-on seems to work best. When he experiences something in real-time, it makes more sense to him.”

“I’ve been teaching him math by letting him help with technological designs,” Sam told Jack. “He’s learning fractions by learning how to cook. Daniel’s been using a made-up dig to teach him geology and geography.”

“I get it,” Jack nodded. “Well, as long as he’s learning, we can deal with it. Daniel, what about your classes?”

“Canceled for this semester,” he said despondently. “The board understands, given the circumstances. Ninurta’s been going over for a lecture tour, and poking around unobtrusively, so the universities are happy. I left instructions with my students to take careful notes when Ninurta gets to our campus. And if Ninurta happens to request their presence while he’s there, so much the better. Ronnie and Nyan are assisting him.”

“Sam, your office?”

“I head to the office through the arch once every few days,” she said. “If we use the arches, no one outside the office knows we’re there and our people are keeping their mouths shut. So far, we’ve kept to business as usual. Everyone suspects we’re off-world, but it hasn’t been confirmed. To explain your absence, they think I’m having a difficult pregnancy and you and Daniel are nurse-maiding me. If you’re feeling up to it, you can gate to the SGC, arch to your office, check in with Paul, sign a few papers, and come back here. You’re still the Number One target on Earth, so the entire council, on-world and off, wants you off-world. A sighting would throw people off track, though, if you let someone see you once in a while. The Generals have been here to check on you a few times while you were out of it; Henry, too. We put an arch in his private quarters so no one knows when he’s not home.”

Jack began to ask her something and then changed his mind. “Where’s Inanna?” he asked, not having seen her.

“With the Tok’ra,” Enki said. “She has a team with her to find out about this new Goa’uld. She reported in a couple days ago, she should be home soon.”

“Zu is missing,” Daniel told Jack. “No one’s seen him for quite a while and he isn’t responding to hails.”

Jack held out an arm. “Zu, to me!” He waited. Nothing happened.

“We’re not worried,” Enki told him. “He’s done this before. Sometimes he’s gone for years and then returns without an explanation.”

“He….” Jack paused, his eyes widening as he listened to a sudden spat of information. “Oh, my….”

“What?” Sam and Daniel asked.

Jack’s mouth opened and shut in surprise. “Old man, I’m beginning to understand why you keep things from us and make us work for it. Zu… there’s a file on him.”

Even Enki’s eyes widened in surprise. “The Ancients had a file on Zu? What does it say?”

“You really don’t know who, or what, he is?” Jack asked, watching Enki carefully.

“Really,” he said. “Not a clue. He’s been with us for several thousand years, and he won’t tell us how he does it or where he’s from.”

Jack began to chuckle as he relaxed back into his chair. “A case of who’s watching the watchers,” he said, finding great humor in the information he was fed. “Daniel, do you remember...... no, of course you don’t but you know it anyway. Daniel, it was your choice to return from Ascension into your old self. You could have chosen a different form, if you wanted to.”

It took a moment before Daniel’s mouth dropped. “Zu’s an Ancient?!

 


 

Chapter 63

“I am getting married.”

Cassie stood with her arms crossed, daring anyone to contradict her as she glared at the group. “My wedding is in two days and I will be on my honeymoon in three days. We can herd everyone through the gate and do it here or we can go home, triangulate those three warships around the planet, have Mr. Potato Head keep an ear out for bad guys, and Jack will walk me down that aisle if I have to put a leash on him and drag him with me!”

“Grant is trying to find our leak,” Jack reminded her. He reached over and knocked the snickering Daniel on the arm. “Don’t call him that. Can’t you postpone? A month?”

“Absolutely not,” she declared. “Half of the SGC and HomeSec will be watching, several aliens including Teal’c and a Jaffa squad, you and Grant will be there to monitor the guests, all my friends, and grandma Frasier. Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve seen grandma?”

Jack sat back, wiping his mouth on his napkin. “Cass, we have an unsub running around with God knows what kind of information on all of us. He, or she, knew I went off-world and knew I was vulnerable. Even I didn’t know what I was doing until I did it. Who knows what this person knows about you.”

Cassie came closer and squatted next to him, taking his hand. “Jack, if it isn’t one thing, it’ll be another. I appreciate you protecting me, protecting all of us, and I love you for it, but we need to get on with things. We need to show whoever this person is that we are not afraid of them. Please go and scan the city for bad guys so I can get married.”

While the adults went home to get set up for the wedding, leaving the kids at home under the watchful eye of Jerrie and a squad of SF, Jack went to his office, surprising the staff and letting them know that he was fine and Colonel Carter was feeling much better. He had gone in a couple of times from Kalam, for no more than a couple of hours and to let his face be seen. Paul was at his desk, passing papers to Jonathan who was signing Jack’s name to them.

Added SF were wandering the city, as were visiting Jaffa and Anunnaki warriors. Grant Kendrick, their brilliant mind-reader, was set up in an al'kesh, cloaked, hovering over the city. His reach and focus had strengthened considerably under the tutelage of the Furlings. He had even offered Jack a sincere apology for any brain-diving that was done before he understood the concept of mental privacy. Jack was happy the young man was stationed off-world. He hoped that Grant was the only oddity showing up. He couldn’t deal with anyone flying around in colorful tights or shooting ray beams from their eyes. X-ray vision could be fun…… Much to Jack’s dismay, the fish in his head began to lecture him as to why it wouldn’t be possible. He told it to shut up.

“You’re approving a fund-raiser for the Children’s Hospital,” Jonathan told him, signing Jack’s name. “Very generous of you, Jack, thank you, you’ll make a great host. You’re considering Hammond for the Santa suit. He doesn’t know. By the way, you spooked the staff the last time you came in. They were swearing one of your new talents was invisibility.” He handed the clipboard back to Paul.

“I was considering the joys of x-ray vision, but that irritating trout in my head informed me otherwise. I’m considering trout for dinner. Cass put her foot down, so we’re home,” Jack said. He took the clipboard to see what Jonathan was signing. “Kids are remaining there until I’m sure it’s relatively safe. She’s getting married this weekend come hell or high water. Or bombs and bullets.” Nothing exciting on the clipboard, not that Paul would give Jonathan anything serious to sign. The fund-raiser was something he would have approved.

“Look at it this way,” Jonathan said. “With everyone gathered for her wedding, it might be what it takes to lure the traitor out of the woodwork.”

Jack lifted an eyebrow. “Kendrick’s in a cloaked al'kesh overhead,” he said. “The town is flooded with aliens, and Sam is in semi-panic mode because her gown is a little snug around the middle. If this doesn’t make someone do something stupid, I don’t know what will.”

Paul was looking closely at him, studying him. Jack leaned in. “Boo,” he said dryly. Paul had the grace to flush. “I’m me,” Jack told him. “My head is full of stuff I’ll probably never use, but I’m still me. Except I can’t have alcohol anymore. Or aspirin. I really need a beer. Where’s Nick?”

“He won’t tell me,” Paul said in irritation. “He could be in town, he could be halfway around the planet. I don’t know. I thought I heard someone speaking in Arabic, the last time he checked in, but for all I know he could be getting falafel in Manhattan.”

Jack sat in the seat vacated by Paul and twirled a finger.

“China is not happy with all the changes, and is trying to crack down on any information about the leaping process. The reports are telling us that the cities are in turmoil, but the countryside is apparently so used to working for warmongers that they are actually happier with an emperor. Some interesting satellite images have been coming in. The new government still has it in for you, though, sir.”

“Anything on this emperor?” Jack asked. Paul took a few thoughtful steps.

“Shih Huang Ti. It’s difficult to determine if that’s his real name, since we don’t have access to their vital statistics. It’s unlikely that’s his birth name. We have a grainy pic of him which we’re trying to match up, but no luck, yet.”

“Where is it?” Jack asked. Paul pulled a file out and handed it to him.

“We estimate him to be around fifty,” Paul said. “Average height and weight. So far, his public appearances have been under heavy guard in highly secured areas.”

Jack looked hard at the picture and closed his eyes, sending his awareness out across the planet. Since his ‘awakening,’ it was much easier to scan the planet. He still got only emotions from people, but it was easier to sense and translate them, and easier to find a specific person as long as he knew what the person looked like and their approximate location. Ti was probably in Beijing, as far as he could tell; it was difficult to judge, though, never having met the man. There was a certain ‘scent’ to people, he had discovered, and that scent made it easy to pinpoint that person. He wasn’t able to tell who was who, though, as he zeroed in on crowded Beijing.

There was fear from the entire population of China, and a lot of resentment. A few pockets of resistance, but no one in a position to do anything about it. Jack went to the hanging touch-screen and tapped it on. He looked thoughtfully at the real-time satellite images that winked in and out of different cities.

“Is there any reason we can’t offer China a deal?”

Paul and Jonathan waited, wondering what Jack was up to.

“What kind of deal?” Paul asked.

“Well, what if we offer China Lord Yu’s old planet? Tell them we will transport anyone who wishes to leave Earth, if they want to populate Yu’s planet. The home of their god-king. They can have it free of charge, set up their own government, their own laws. The planet would belong to them. Tell them his spirit offered it to them. I mean, unlike Christians, Jews, or Muslims, the Chinese don’t have any ideology that tells them their land is sacred to them. Do they?”

“No, they don’t,” Paul said thoughtfully.

“Yu’s palace has been emptied, hasn’t it?”

“Yes,” Paul said.

“All naquadah was removed,” Jonathan said. “The toy box is at Area 51, the general stuff, staves and zats, hand-ribbons, were distributed to Jaffa and Tok’ra. We kept a few odds and ends, ships were shared. The planet is empty except for a couple of research teams. Lots of empty buildings that can easily hold almost half a million people. That’s just one continent. They can colonize the rest.”

“Forward the suggestion to the council,” Jack told him. “If they’re good with it, I will make the offer to king what’s-his-face.”

Jack went down to the labs and got the chair powered up. The files in his head immediately brought up the schematics for the mikku. He was beginning to wish his brain was hooked up to a printer. The overhead called Jack to the phone and he swore before ordering a tech to keep an eye on China. A moment later, he was walking through the arch into the SGC.

“SG-17 has reported in,” Landry told him. “Thought you’d like to hear about it.”

Eight men sat at the table in the conference room and stood as Jack and Landry entered. Bryce, Franklin, Bradshaw, and Shao with Bhusnurmath, Pani, Ganguly from the Indian Army, and Gaafar as an interpreter for the Indians.

“Khalid, how’d your mother’s surgery go?” Jack asked, much to Gaafar’s surprise. Daniel kept Jack and Sam updated on everything he knew about people, rambling on during meals and whenever he could. Jack appreciated the information. One never knew when something seemingly innocent could turn into important data.

“It went well, sir, thank you,” he said. “Single bypass. She’s feeling much better.”

“Good. Let me know if she needs anything.”

“Alright, Major, what have you got for us?” Landry asked, nodding for Bryce to begin his report.

After a rapid week of training the Indian officers to the technology and how the SGC worked, they gated to a planet nearest to Vishnu and caught a ship the rest of the way. While SG-17 waited anxiously on the hidden Tau’ri owned ha’tak, the Indian team and Gaafar, dark enough to be mistaken for one of them, found their way into the society on the planet below. They got away with their bad accents by telling people they were from the other side of the world. They confirmed the presence of snakes with the hand-held MRI. Most of the upper caste was under Goa’uld control.

Pretending to be lower caste slaves, they made their way into the palace as servants. Gaafar earned himself a beating after he ‘bumped’ into the strange blond woman in a hallway. He slipped a locator onto her clothing and she disappeared several hours later when she was alone for a moment. During the ensuing confusion, they found a locked room that contained a queen Goa’uld. Gaafar tagged her tank and that disappeared, too. With the two disappearances, Vishnu himself went into hiding. All of Linea’s lab equipment and the tank of baby snakes were beamed away.

Erra came and took Linea after rendering her unconscious, and all the snakes were destroyed after obtaining samples of them. The team on the planet each grabbed a person, two with Goa’uld and two without, and beamed back up to the ship. The Furlings kept Linea, refusing to even allow her access to Earth by being in a cell in Area 51’s vast underground. The equipment and the Goa’uld bodies were sent to Area 51 to be put under microscopes. Sam was called at the same time Jack was.

Jack pressed the speed dial on the computer to Area 51.

“What do we have?” he asked when Sam’s face came to the screen.

“We’re working on it,” she said. “Our initial look seems to be showing genetic manipulation, but we don’t know how or why yet.”

“What do you mean, genetic manipulation?”

“I mean that both the body of the queen and the baby Goa’uld all show signs of genetic splicing in their cells,” she told him. “We need more time.” We’ve only had them for a couple of hours, will you chill? He could hear her admonition in his head and knew she’d be giving him evil looks when they got home. Her current look was bland, but he could see the glint in her eyes.

“Alright. Yesterday, please.”

“Do we have anything from the prisoners?” he asked the table.

“We managed to scare the unoccupied ones nearly out of their wits,” Bryce said, “but according to them, Vishnu has been there for as long as they can remember and the people have served him; the light-haired woman showed up only a couple years ago.”

“No other glowing-eyed beasties?” Jack asked.

“None, sir,” Bryce confirmed. “Not until after the woman got there.”

Jack tapped the table. “So, he was stuck there,” he said to himself. “Just like Set was stuck here. His presence kept the Aschen away. Maybe made some kind of deal with them. Where did the queen come from?”

“They don’t know,” Bryce said, knowing Jack was speaking to himself and not the team. “They didn’t know about a queen. The occupied persons went Goa’uld on us when they were questioned.”

“Could the queen have been created there?” Jack asked. That damned fish immediately began giving him the instructions for creating a queen for a queenless species. He rubbed his temples in irritation and grabbed a paper and pen, copying the diagram in his head while the others waited in polite confusion. He then brought Area 51 back up on the computer. Sam was trying to be patient with him. He held up the diagram. “Does this make sense to you?”

“Closer, please,” she said, squinting at the screen. Jack pushed it closer. “Could you fax it to me?” She sounded excited so he assumed it was understandable. Jack held it out to the SF at the door and told him to fax it.

“Do I want to know?” Landry asked.

“No,” Jack said, shaking his head. “No, you don’t.”

He shook hands with their temporary spies and thanked them. One of the men started to say something and then turned to Gaafar who listened and nodded.

“Sir, he wants to know how he can make this a permanent assignment,” Khalid translated.

“He can put in a transfer request through HomeSec,” Jack told him. “He would be under my authority, and Gen. Landry’s, though, not his superiors in India. He needs to talk to his commanding officer.”

On his way to the arch to head back to his office, the incoming alarm sounded.

“It’s the Tok’ra, sir,” Walter said to Landry when they got to the command room. Landry waved a hand and the iris opened. Malek was walking though moments later, along with several more Tok’ra and a captive.

“Who’s this?” Jack asked, walking through the SF who had their guns pointed at the strange man.

“Perhaps a more private room?” Malek suggested. Jack agreed and they moved to an interrogation room.

“He’s carrying a Goa’uld,” Malek told him once they were settled. Jack immediately sent out a feeler, confirming the presence. “He’s Aschen, Jack.”

Jack picked up a phone and dialed. “Bring the pukku to SGC detention.”

“Come on,” Jack said to the Tok’ra after hanging up, motioning them to the door. “We’ll get rid of the snake and then we can question the host. Maybe he’ll be grateful and provide answers.”

“I will tell you nothing,” the Goa’uld snarled at them.

Jack turned to look blandly at him. “Of course you won’t,” he agreed. “I’m not even going to bother trying. Which is why I will destroy you and then question the host. I’m a lot of things, but stupid isn’t one of them.”

It curled its lip. “Stupid you must be, if you think anything of the host survives.”

Jack considered it. “Tell me this –do you snakes actually believe that? Is it part of your training? Or do you all have the same book of really bad quotations? Because if you do, you really need a rewrite.”

Jack turned his back and left the room, locking the door after the Tok’ra. “Mal, Sam’s pregnant. I’d like to buy her something special. Know any good market places?”

“Congratulations. Kauppa has interesting goods in their market places; they trade with several planets. They are a protectorate.”

“Great!” Jack patted his shoulder. “Leave the coordinates, will you?”

Human!

A flash of memory struck Jack and he paused. “You don’t get to call me that,” he informed the Goa’uld in the cell. “I am General O’Neill. What?”

“Release me. The Aschen will take me from you, if you do not.”

Jack chuckled, much to the Goa’uld’s surprise. “Let them try,” he said. “There’s a score I’d like to settle.”

Malek followed Jack while the other Tok’ra stayed behind as guards. With the unknown Goa’uld strain, they didn’t trust the SF to be as vigilant as they should be.

“So Vishnu’s people are now off-world,” Jack stated. He took his cell phone out and called his office. “Get our spy-in-the-sky working on our guests in detention. I’m going to find some food.”

“Yes,” Malek said. “That entire sector is at risk. Jack, I didn’t want to say this in front of your guards –we were unable to detect the Goa’uld. It was by chance that we used one of your scanners.”

Jack halted in mid-stride. “Repeat that,” he ordered, staring into Malek’s eyes.

“We were unable to sense them. We cannot sense that one,” he said, jerking his head toward detention. He pulled an MRI out of his pocket and held it up.

Jack picked up the intercom from the wall. “Get someone into holding room eight and take a sample from the Goa’uld in there. I want to know if there’s something weird with his blood. Page me when you have the results.” He began walking again as he dialed from his cell phone. “Anything on those dead specimens? Listen, Malek just said the Tok’ra were unable to sense the Goa’ulds. Yeah, check for naquadah. Dr. Lam is going to test living blood. I don’t know; could Linea have spliced it out of them? You said the cells looked messed with. Okay, page me.”

“The Aschen are certainly divided,” Malek said. “They are hiding it well from those they continue to torment. The pirates are even evading Aschen home space. We questioned a few people from Aschen worlds; most seem to be Goa’uld-free. It is the Aschen leadership that is beginning to noticeably change.”

Jack frowned as he thought about it. “I guess it would make sense….. come on, sarge,” he wheedled at the man behind the counter and held out his tray, “I’m a growing boy, here.” The sergeant added more enchiladas to his plate and Jack thanked him sweetly before moving to a table. “The lead snake would need to establish his court before getting their Jaffa and slaves together.”

“Correct,” Malek said, looking curiously at his own plate. The smells of the spices were strong and he wondered if his stomach lining was strong enough to handle them. “From what we have been able to determine, most of the old Goa’uld are dead. Those we did not kill were killed by their own slaves. There are very few Goa’uld left. A few were Masharu and went with Thanatos.”

Jack felt a wave of nausea and looked at his plate of spicy Mexican food.

“Is something wrong?” Malek asked, seeing that Jack’s attention was elsewhere. He was pretty sure green wasn’t natural to the various Tau’ri races.

“I think the baby doesn’t like spicy.”

Malek looked at Jack’s stomach.

“Not me -Sam,” Jack said. “Daniel and I…. come on, don’t your women get morning sickness?”

“Women with a symbiote don’t become pregnant,” Malek reminded him. “Harsesis children are forbidden.”

Jack grimaced and rubbed his stomach. “Well, once in a while, a Tau’ri man will get sympathetic morning sickness.”

“I see,” Malek said, nodding in comprehension. “The bonding.”

“Does everyone know about this except me?” Jack whined.

“Apparently,” Malek said. The food was even spicier than it smelled, and host was surprised when symbiote seemed to enjoy it. Jack scowled and took a homemade herb pill out of his pocket, tossing it back into his mouth.

They were called to the infirmary and told that, somehow, the naquadah was taken out of the cells of the incarcerated Goa’uld. The SGC scientists were at a loss and were all scrambling to find answers. Grant called in and told Jack that the Aschen in custody was screaming in one section of his brain while a Goa’uld was prancing in another. Many leaders on the Aschen homeworld were Goa’uld, as were several ships’ commanders. From the man in the cell, Koort, they knew that the Goa’uld were a recent addition to the Aschen. Unfortunately, Koort didn’t know how the Goa’uld got to the Aschen other than his own symbiote self, named Sayre, which was forced upon him while asleep on board the ship where he was an officer. From Grant’s description, the symbiotes took on their own personalities and knowledge from the host’s mind instead of being born with all the knowledge of previous symbiotes. Malek found that interesting and wondered if it had something to do with the unknown queen; if she had been created in a lab, it would make sense that she had no memories to pass on.

Once the pill kicked in, Jack managed to finish his lunch. They then headed back to detention where he stood in front of Koort/Sayre’s cell, holding the pukku against his shoulder as he studied the man. Malek and the other Tok’ra took a cautious step away, giving the pukku a wide berth.

“Well, human, are you prepared to become a host?” it snarled. “We will put the knowledge in your brain to very good use.”

“I told you not to call me that,” Jack informed it. He brought the pukku down and shook it at the Goa’uld. “Just for that, I’m not even going to give you a final meal. Your host, however, will get whatever he wants as long as he talks to us. Bye-bye.”

Before the snake knew what was happening, Jack turned the curious, innocent looking wand toward the cell. Malek watched through a scanner and gave Jack a nod when the snake was gone. The door was opened and Dr. Lam rushed in with medics to take care of the fallen Aschen.

“Wait!” the man, Koort, called out huskily. Jack squatted next to him, holding up a hand toward the medics. “You are O’Neill. I cannot be sent back. Please. I will be killed.”

Jack nodded. “You give a full report, and we will scan your mind for honesty, then we can discuss a new home for you.”

Koort thrust out a proud chin and gave a nod; the rumors of Tau’ri psychics were true.

“I will submit to your probes,” he said. “Thank you for my freedom.”

“And that report includes everything you know and what you’ve done concerning the Aschen’s treatment and intent of the worlds they have claimed,” Jack warned. “We will pull it from your head by force, if we need to.” Koort agreed.

“If he makes one wrong move, shoot him,” Jack told the SF.

Since they had the Aschen under control, the Tok’ra decided to leave and see what they could do with the rest of the Vishnu-Aschen issue. Two SG teams of Marines were placed on guard at Koort’s side, and an interrogator would begin as soon as the medics were done with the Aschen.

Jack could probably do all of it himself if it weren’t for his expanded brain making him understand why people had to experience life themselves in order to grow. He kept telling himself to delegate the authority. It was very strange, his head. The chatty fish seemed eager, if not outright excited, to have someone to tell all its secrets to. No subject seemed to be completed before another was jumped into. Whenever Jack’s thoughts wandered to a subject, the fish began with a subject closely related. He tried countering the stale dialogue with memories of love with his partners. The fish agreed that sharing love was a thing of an expanded mind and went on to tell Jack about races who also loved openly and who happened to advance rapidly. Although some races petered out just as quickly after deciding that love was all they needed and so their technology didn’t advance. Jack took it as a warning and decided to keep a small notebook in his pocket for anything interesting that Sam or Daniel might be able to use.

“Jack.” He turned to see Landry coming down the hall.

“Hank. I was just on my way to see you.” Jack waited for him. Landry looked at him for a moment and then jerked his head.

“Can we talk?”

“Sure.” Jack followed him into a meeting room. “I’m sorry the Mountain is overrun with snakes today.”

Landry waved a hand and shut the door behind them. “Oh, believe me, this is the most excitement we’ve had since NORAD moved out over the summer. Most of our people here are post-Invasion and they’ve been a little bitter over not being subjected to the alien of the week crisis. Jack….. I understand if you can’t say anything, but if you can…. well, if something’s going on and I can possibly help you, I’d like to help.”

Jack picked up the coffee pot and suddenly remembered, putting it down and sighing over the glass of water.

“Thanks, Hank, I appreciate it. Alright, something is going on. There isn’t anything you can help with, but I’ll tell you anyway. And it needs to stay here. Not even the Joint Chiefs have been told and certainly not the HomeSec council.” Landry promised and sat back, giving Jack his attention.

“I went to Kalam to get help in triggering my downloaded memories. Files. Whatever. My DNA is now more Ancient than human.”

Landry’s face was blank for a moment. “Are you telling me you’re no longer human?”

“Kinda,” Jack acknowledged. “It would take a full genetic workup to spot the differences, but yes, according to our Furling buddies I am, for all intent and purposes, an Ancient. Hank, I look at the Stargate and the schematics come into my head. I know how all the technology is made. I know their history, I know our history. I know what killed them, I know how and why we live. And because humans need to grow up, I can’t tell anyone what I know. Was a time I would have argued about it, but I now understand. And I agree with the secrecy.”

My God, Jack……

“Hank, humans have the potential to be the greatest of all the races. Surpassing the Ancients. If keeping my mouth shut will make it happen, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Landry stood and looked out to the gate room as his mind raced. “Does Carolyn know?”

“No,” Jack said giving his head a shake. “And she doesn’t need to know. Not at this time. I won’t have the regular medical needs, so if anything comes up, the Furlings will deal with it.”

“You’re going to need to explain that to the Joint Chiefs,” Landry warned him. “Yearly physical is mandatory.”

Jack shrugged. “A physical is fine,” he said. “The doctors won’t find anything. My immune system has become incredibly strong, so I won’t be getting ill. Other than morning sickness.” He dug for another pill. Landry chuckled, relaxing.

“How’s Col. Carter?”

“She’s happily eating everything in sight without one twinge of nausea,” Jack informed him with disgust.

“Carolyn’s mother had only a few weeks of morning sickness, but she had food cravings at the damnedest hours. Mint ice cream with creamed spinach.”

Jack looked horrified. “If I start to get weird cravings, I’ll kill myself.”

“I doubt it,” Landry said, humored. “Do you have names picked out?”

“Jacob or Claire. Carter.”

Landry looked closely at him. “And you really are okay with that?”

Jack’s mouth twitched and he sat, stretching his legs out. “I’m actually fine with it,” he said. “From what the files tell me, the Ancients were matrilineal. The kid belonged to the mother and had her name. And I can tell you that the conception itself was a little weird, so we really have no idea who the father is. Not without a genetic test.”

“There was a news story about a man who wants laws changed so that a husband can take the wife’s name as easily as a wife takes her husband’s name,” Landry commented. “There is no need to go to court for a newly married woman to change her name, but if a man wants to change his, it still goes through court. The world isn’t the one we grew up in.”

Jack snorted. “Tell me.” He made his way to the gate room, and arched home. As soon as he stepped through the front door arch, Fang ran by, something stuck in his mouth. Behind him came a naked baby, toddling swiftly and screeching at the running dog.

“Whoa, nelly!” Jack declared, intersecting the baby and lifting her high. Jerrie was moments away, bringing a handful of clothing and exasperation.

“Sorry, Jack,” she said, taking Olivia from him and wrapping her in a towel. Olivia snuffled unhappily into Jerrie’s shoulder. “Fang. Bad boy,” Jerrie scolded. She reached down and plucked the thing from his mouth.

“What is it?” Jack asked, not having seen the little yellow thing clearly.

“Livie's binky,” Jerrie said, waving the pacifier. “He took it right from her mouth. He’s been a little rambunctious today; he knocked her into a mud puddle. He’s just playing, but he doesn’t understand that she isn’t ready to play that rough.”

“If you see Stacey before I do, have her take him for a long walk and tire him out,” Jack told her. He wasn’t surprised that it was taking the entire family to deal with Fang; what child in the history of children and dogs actually took their vows seriously?

He brought Sam up on the computer while he changed clothes and freshened up in preparation to dinner at Cassie’s house.

“What have you got for me?” he asked when she came on screen.

“The cells seem to have been genetically engineered. The queen was engineered and so were the offspring. The cells from the one at the SGC show the nucleus of the cells were changed out. Since the queen was empty, so to speak, I’m thinking that Linea took DNA from a known Goa’uld, more than likely dead Goa’uld, and spliced it into the empty nucleus.”

Jack thought hard for a moment. The talking trout was going on about something scientific, using words and concepts that Jack was still getting used to. “She cloned them?”

“Yes,” Sam nodded.

“Who?”

“We don’t know,” she shrugged. “I’m thinking no one very important, since none of them are declaring themselves Apophis or Baal. Yet.”

“How’s the zapper coming for the ships?” he asked.

“I think we can do it,” Sam said, brightening. “We’re going to try hooking it up to the ship’s shields. If we can reverse the shields so that they expand outward instead of around the ships, I think we can get the pukku to work on a wide-scale.”

Jack frowned. “What about protecting the ships?”

“It’s a temporary stop measure just for this mission,” she admitted. “Maybe two ships zap the group and two other ships protect. Once we have this problem under control, we’ll have more time to make a proper adjustment.”

“Alright,” Jack said. Even the fish in his head had been silenced into thoughtful contemplation. It certainly wasn’t what the Ancients had planned for their little toy. “Take Daedalus to experiment on. Hermiod should be able to help get it set up. And don’t forget we’re going to Cassie’s tonight.”

There was a knock at the door and Jerrie stuck her head in.

“Sir? Lord Atis standing in the living room.”

“Tell him I’ll be right there,” Jack told Jerrie. “Don’t know why. I’ll see you later,” he told Sam.

Any Mulakma could come in and say they were so-and-so, it was a little tricky telling one adult male Mulakma from another, but this one had a more superior glint in his eyes than most of the others. Not that the newly clad Olivia was at all cowed as she attempted to tug on one titanium claw that was about as long as her arm.

“Atis, how’s the family?” Jack greeted him. Jerrie squeezed by and placed a glass bowl on the floor in front of the winged alien. He thanked her and dipped his large, powerful beak into the iced tea.

“The little ones are a handful. Their fledgling feathers are being replaced with their colors.” Atis wiggled a bright blue chin feather at Olivia. She grinned and made a snatch at it. “It makes them cranky.”

“I hear ya, bro,” Jack said with a sigh. “Olivia’s still cutting teeth. She steals the dog’s bone, the dog steals her binky…. it isn’t a pretty picture.”

Atis considered Jack’s words and decided that it would take too much time to translate. “I apologize for coming so unannounced,” he said instead. “May we speak?”

“Sure,” Jack said and waved Atis into his office. He turned back to the living room and picked up Atis’ tea. Talons were not conducive to picking up human made bowls or cups.

While Atis arranged himself in a sunny spot under the window, Jack relaxed in his chair, leaning back and setting his feet on the desk.

“From the suddenness of the visit, I’m thinking something’s come up,” he commented.

“It has,” Atis said. “I tried discussing it with the council, and they brushed me off. To be honest, I’m not sure who I can trust. I believe there is something very wrong on Taklede, but others doubt my word due, mainly I think, from our long history of aggression.”

“You think something’s going on with Karoly?” Jack asked, watching the multifaceted emerald eyes.

“I do,” Atis said with a nod. Blue and green breast feathers ruffled in irritation. “He has been most…. agreeable.”

Jack’s eyebrows went up. “You’re suspicious because he’s been agreeable? Atis, what am I supposed to do with that?”

“You don’t understand,” Atis told him. He stood and paced, taking up a great deal of what little space there was. “Karoly has never agreed with anything a Mulakma has said. If I said our star was red, which it is, he’d disagree with me just to argue which hue. And since our planets have different atmospheres which alters the hue depending on which planet you are viewing the star from, well, you can see how pointless the argument is.”

Jack stared at him. “Okay, you’re going to have to give me something else to go on,” he said. “Atis, I argue with Daniel all the time over dumb crap. What else have you got for me?”

“He has been asking us for DNA specimens and information on our genetics and population.”

Karoly of Taklede was a pissy little man with no interest in anything other than propriety and a decent wine. Jack took his comm out of his drawer to give it a tap. “Hey, who’s online?”

A moment later, he heard, “This is Gibil.”

“I need Inanna. Could you phone home and ask her to check in?” Much to Jack’s annoyance, the fish in his head began to tell him how to build an interstellar communications unit. Jack put it on pause.

“Jack, she’s with the Tok’ra in the Aschen sector,” he heard Ninurta say. “Can I help you?”

“Are you nearby?”

“There are a few answers to that question; I’m in Cairo giving a lecture, so I am on Earth. I can be available in about an hour and beam over to you then, if that will work.”

“It works. See you then.” He tossed the comm back into his desk drawer. “Let me check into it,” he told Atis. “There is something going on out there, but I’ll be surprised if it’s gotten this far.”

Atis arched back to the SGC and gated home while Jack waited for Ninurta.

Ninurta showed up soon after Jack went through reports while Olivia played quietly on the rug in his office. The warrior had shed his leathers and was dressed in Arab robes. Olivia grinned at him and held out an alphabet block to share.

“What’s going on?” he asked, picking the baby up for a cuddle. She pulled on his beard, pleased with herself.

“Atis told the council about certain concerns and no one paid attention?” Jack questioned.

“Yes,” Ninurta nodded. “And we didn’t not pay attention, we simply felt that he was….”

“He had a valid issue,” Jack informed him. “Linea somehow got rid of the naquadah zing while she was messing with cells. We got Goa’uld running around and the Tok'ra can’t sense them. When would Karoly ever want to know about DNA and population numbers?”

To give him credit, Ninurta did pale, rocked by the information. He put Olivia on the rug before he dropped her.

“Jack, we….”

“I want someone to take a scanner and see if Karoly is holding a passenger. If he is, put him in seclusion until he can be questioned. I want every single member of the council tested. The only snakes I want to see are in the Tok’ra and our own Jaffa. And put Taklede under quarantine. Yesterday, garradum.” Startled at the Ancient ‘warrior', Ninurta acknowledged and beamed to his own ship.

Before he left for Cassie’s house, he had the ships locked down and begin a scan of all bodies on board. He called HomeSec with the orders to scan everyone, just in case. Paul called soon after and requested permission to arch to the house. After agreeing, Jack found himself looking at Paul standing in front of him and SF holding a zat on him.

“What’s going on?” Jack asked, carefully watching the SF.

“I’m sorry, sir, but you’ve been in contact with off-worlders,” Paul said, daring to stop him. “I’d just like to scan you.”

Jack gave a nod. “I understand, Colonel. Perfectly reasonable.”

Once assured that Jack was snake-free, as well as Jerrie and Olivia, Paul dismissed the SF.

“No need, Colonel,” Jack said, holding up a hand to stop another apology. “You were right to do that.”

“Thank you, sir. If you don’t mind, I’ll go with you and scan the others myself. Oh, and Cassie called. She said if you stall her wedding because of an invasion, she will personally levitate you to the top of the Himalayas. Daniel’s threats were of a more personal nature.”

Jack smirked. “Well, so far she hasn’t been able to lift anything heavier than she could by hand which leaves me out, and as for Daniel –if he thinks he can carry out his threats, I’ll let him.”

Just before they walked out the door, the arch lit up to announce incoming traffic. Sam walked through a moment later.

“Hi, honey,” she said and pecked his mouth. “Paul…. what are you doing?” Paul was looking at her through the scanner and came closer.

“Uh, sir?” Jack went to him and looked over his shoulder. He squinted, frowned, and took the scanner from Paul, kneeling in front of Sam and her stomach.

“What?” she asked, suddenly worried. She put her hands to her belly.

“I think I need a chair,” Jack said hoarsely, pale and about to hyperventilate. Paul put a chair under him and handed the scanner to Sam.

“Maybe you’d like to find a mirror and take a look,” he suggested. She took the scanner and went quickly into the bathroom. A moment later there was a squeak and she came rushing out, throwing her arms around Jack’s neck.

“Two!” she yelled. “We have two!

Paul put the scanner on her again.

“That’s pretty cool,” he had to admit, looking at the two incredibly tiny skeletons nestled together in her lower abdomen.

“Let’s go find Daniel,” she begged Jack. He agreed as he reached into his pocket for a pill.

Jack drove extra carefully all the way to Cassie’s house, much to Sam’s annoyance, and Paul followed with a couple of SF. Maggie greeted them when they got out in front of the house. She was tossing a ball with David.

“Hi, Mom,” Jack pecked her cheek. “Where’s Daniel?”

“Inside keeping Cassandra calm,” she told him. “How are we?”

“We’re fine,” he assured her. He took her hand and called to the kids as they went inside. Daniel was doing something with grilled cheese sandwiches. Adding tomatoes and ham, it looked like. Cassie’s comfort food.

“Since you’re here, things must be better,” Daniel said, seeing them enter. He leaned over the grill and accepted the peck to his mouth.

“Oh, you have no idea,” Jack said. He handed a scanner to Daniel. “Take a look,” he said, gesturing toward Sam. Daniel wiped his hands and then took the scanner, wondering what Jack was up to. He swept the scanner over Sam. He paused, looked up at them, and then back to the scanner. Maggie was looking over his shoulder and drew a sudden, sharp breath. Daniel tossed the scanner and swept Sam up into his arms with a loud yip. He almost dropped her in his anxiety.

“Did I hurt you? Are you alright? Sit! Do you need anything? Should we call the doctor?!”

“Daniel!” Sam took his face and kissed him, laughing at him. “I’m fine. Relax.”

Jack caught the scanner and held it for the kids. Katie and Stacey quickly rushed in to peck Sam on the cheek while Jack carefully explained to Davy what they were looking at.

“There’s two babies inside Aunt Sam?” Davy asked, looking from the scanner to Sam’s stomach.

“Yup,” Jack said with a nod. “Two babies are called twins.”

“Oh. Are they girls or boys?” Davy asked.

“We don’t know yet,” Jack said. The trout began to show him diagrams again. “This can only show us their bones. Maybe in a couple more weeks the doctor can tell us if they’re girls or boys. Maybe one of each.”

“That would be nice,” Davy considered out loud. He went to Sam and put his face next to her stomach, giving the Bump a pat. “I love you, babies!” he said loudly into her belly button. He put two airy kisses on the Bump.

Maggie was weepy and hugged Sam. Cassie came down from upstairs and took the scanner that was held out to her. She screeched and also hugged Sam. She then turned and glared at Jack, hands on her hips and jaw thrust out.

“My fiancé is at the SGC,” she informed him. “I cannot get married without him and forget that old telephone marriage like in old war movies.” She held out a hand and her cell phone flew into it from across the room. She held it out to Jack.

He slowly took the phone from her, keeping his distance. “Alright, alright, Witchy-poo, just chill.” He dialed the SGC. “This is O’Neill, give me Gen. Landry. Hank, please send Maj. Harper home before this woman of his turns me into a toad.” He hung up and put the phone carefully on the table. “Are we happy now?”

“Yes, we are,” she said, turning with a flounce and heading back to her room to continue working on her plans.

Jack groaned and rubbed his face. “God, please let her get married only once,” he begged.

“We have three more girls to get rid of, possibly two on the way,” Daniel reminded him. “Let’s hope at least one of them elopes.”

Stacey thought about it and counted on her fingers. “But, Daddy, isn’t it five already? What about Matty and Davy?”

“They’re boys, honey,” Jack told her. “Shove them into tuxes, give ‘em a bachelor party, and they’ll never remember the wedding.” The women gave him a look. Jack backed away and grabbed Daniel.

“Come with me,” he whispered. “We’re surrounded.”

Family concerns took over and Jack forced himself to push politics and aliens to a back-burner. Harper came home and calmed Cassie while he sent Jack a silent look of appreciation. Jack had to admit that Harper was an okay person; a little cocky, but he was good for Cassie. Harper was certainly trust-worthy so Jack grumbled and told himself to quit being a pill and give the man a break. They got the kids together and headed out for home. Nanna passed out kisses and gave Jack a worried look; she knew something new was going on with him and he couldn’t tell her.

It was his kids that soothed his mind and heart when they got home, playing on the floor with the younger ones, crawling playfully across the floor to Sam and worshipping the Bump, and giving horsy rides to Olivia. Once she was tired out, Jerrie took her and got her ready for bed. Jack sat on the floor, leaning back against the couch while he caught his breath. Fingers combed through his hair, caressing his scalp.

“We have birthdays coming up,” Daniel commented. Stacey snuggled into his side and he kissed her brow. “Twelve and fifty-six. Are we doing a party at home or dinner out?”

“Can I have a party and invite friends from school?” Stacey asked, tilting her head up to look at him.

“Yes, you may,” Daniel said, feeling a slight nod under his hand and seeing the acceptance in Sam’s eyes across from him. “How about ten?”

“Okay,” Stacey readily agreed. “I didn’t have friends before; I hope people will come.”

Daniel hugged her. “They will,” he promised.

“We can do a family dinner, but I want a date with the both of you,” Jack said, raising a hand. “I don’t care where as long as it’s out of town.”

“Can I have a date, too?” Stacey asked. Jack tilted his head back. “My birthday is first and then your birthday. Can’t you and me have a date in the middle of our birthdays?”

“It’s you and I, and yes, that’s a very good idea,” Jack told her. “Alright, Miss Jackson, I would be honored to take you on a date.”

The kids were sent to get ready for bed. The adults relaxed in the nightly routine of listening to the kids stomp around and complain about their bedtime. Davy came down the stairs in his pajamas and straddled Jack’s lap, looking at him with quiet concern. Jack knew that look.

“I’m fine, buddy,” he told the boy and gave him a hug. “I have a lot of new stuff in my head and I just need time to adjust to it.”

“Okay,” Davy nodded. He passed out goodnights and went back upstairs.

“Are you alright?” Daniel asked once they went into their own room. Jack tossed his shirt onto a chair.

“I will be,” Jack told him. “It would have been better if I had time to adjust before the planet began to wig out.”

“Is there anything you could do if current laws weren’t in place?” Sam asked, wiping skin cleanser from her face.

“Honey, that damned fish in my head wants me to leave the primates alone and let them deal with their own primitive natures. I won’t do it and yet I need to stand back and let things happen as they happen.”

“You need to witness,” Daniel clarified.

Jack agreed. He stepped into the shower, quickly rinsed off, and got out again within five minutes. He dried off, got into his pajamas, and slid into bed, curling into Daniel’s back and reaching beyond to caress Sam’s belly.

“What’s being done about China?” Daniel asked quietly.

“I don’t know,” Jack said. “I haven’t heard back about my offer. There is nothing HomeSec can do. We’re about aliens and nothing else; we can’t go outside jurisdiction, if I did I’d be no better than that shit who killed Tien.”

Daniel took his hand and held it to his chest. “I know, Jack.”

“The offer of Yu’s planet is a good one,” Sam told him. “He’d be crazy not to take it. Several groups have been arguing for their own planet.”

“If we can get China off world, it would relieve tensions,” Jack said. “That country is too big. They are their own world population and their own worst enemy.”

He touched Sam’s stomach again and leaned over Daniel’s hip to kiss the Bump. Sam snuffled in amusement and stroked his hair. He took the scanner from the side table and looked at their babies again.

“I cannot believe how tiny they are,” he murmured. The Bump was still barely noticeable; unless someone knew she was pregnant, they’d probably take the small curve as a couple extra pounds of feminine roundness. “When will they start moving?” he asked.

“Few more weeks,” Sam said. “This is only the ninth week, give them time to grow a little more.”

Jack put the scanner back on the table and curled into Daniel again. His stomach twinged and he reached for two pills, slipping one into Daniel’s mouth and then his own.

“I’m sorry,” Sam said, her eyes twinkling in humor.

“I’m not,” Jack said. Daniel echoed him.

While they relaxed into sleep, Jack’s mind continued to be busy. He hadn’t been sleeping as long as normal, maybe a few hours a night. Most of the time was spent with his brain talking to him and reviewing events. He could see why more advanced civilizations didn’t want them to have weapons –they were barely out of the Dark Ages and still playing with fire. He had to trust that heads open to the leaping process would prevail. The next couple hundred years or so would make or break the Tau’ri.

Most of the country was still arguing about the new customs that had begun to permeate Colorado Springs. More and more people were coming out of various closets, brains were being used to greater capacity, children were being allowed to stretch their minds, and, much to the fear of the clergy, more and more people were discovering handfastings and forgoing the traditional marriage ceremony of a man and a woman. Petitions were being sent to the state capitol, insisting that marriage laws be changed. Most didn't understand that the federal government was bound by the US Constitution, and that each state had to vote in their own laws before Washington could do anything. Local troops had, for the most part, accepted it mostly due to the example Jack was setting and the fact that locals had more contact with aliens with whom same-gender situations were more commonplace. Jack reminded himself that it took a while for pebbles in a pond to send their energy outward.

Michael. He had to deal with Michael. His brother was once more in seclusion since he found out what Jack had been hiding from him. There were times when Jack really wanted to smack Michael silly. None of the other clergy in town were acting weird, so Jack could only assume that Michael was keeping his mouth shut. Matthew was of the opinion that it was the message of peace that mattered, not the stories behind the various spiritualities. Daniel was proud of the boy. Matthew often sat in Daniel’s library with a dictionary, trying to find the words that would best verbalize his thoughts and feelings. Daniel had warned them that spirituality was once more reaching a head and would implode or explode. Jack’s narrator agreed, scenes and words speeding through his brain at light-speed as the fish examined the evidence.

The bean-counters in DC were still bitching about the lack of advanced weapons for the US military. The ships were very nice, but the US needed them, too. Jack was still refusing and still promising to move the entire program off world if they continued to kick up sand. The US was NOT going to have toys to threaten the rest of the world with. No bullies allowed. Since Jack could prove that there were several other worlds willing to host them, many politicians and military leaders were gnawing at the bit.

Jack’s attention was abruptly swung away as the fish caught wind of a subconscious image and made a suggestion. He sat up, careful to not wake Daniel, and reached out to the man in the image. The man was asleep. Jack couldn’t get much from a sleeping mind.

Kendrick.

Here, sir,” he heard in his head.

What are you doing right now?

Taking notes from Ti’s head,” Kendrick said. “It’s the middle of the night, so I didn’t want to wake you up.

You found him? Good. Stop for a moment and pick through this man.” Jack sent him a clear image and a name. He felt surprise from the young man.

Yes, sir.

Tell me one thing,” Jack said. “Is Ti a Goa’uld?

Not that I can tell, sir,” Kendrick said. “Just a major ego and delusions of grandeur.

Jack was actually disappointed; he really wanted Ti to be a snake so he had an excuse to take the man out.

He left his bed and went to find a glass of wine. There was no wine. He remembered that all the alcohol was taken out of the house so that his partners could support his sudden allergy to it. The closest he got was grape juice. He wrinkled his nose and took a can of soda. Fang looked up from his blanket on the porch and thumped his tail.

“Did I wake you, boy?” Jack whispered as he leaned down and scratched the dog. “I’m sorry. Go back to sleep.” He sat on the porch swing and listened to the nighttime insects.

The door opened and Daniel stepped out, rubbing at his eyes.

“Are you alright?” he asked.

Jack nodded. “I’m good,” he said. “Can’t sleep.”

“You haven’t been sleeping well for while,” Daniel noted as he sat next to Jack.

“It’s the brain,” Jack told him. “I’m not sure if I need to learn how to turn off or if I just don’t need as much sleep. Go back to bed. You can sleep even if I can’t.”

Daniel took his hand, letting the swing sway a little. “Wanna go down to the dock and fool around?”

Jack smiled and kissed him. “No, not now,” he said. “Too preoccupied.”

Sir?

Jack held up a hand, silencing Daniel.

Here. What’d you find?

He’s the one, sir. There’s a small group within the Pentagon, an outcropping of something called the NID. I have names for you. And your home is bugged, sir. I couldn’t get locations; he gave the order to place the bugs but not where.

I will deal with it,” Jack told him. “Unless Ti is doing anything immediate that I should know about, see if you can get anything else.

He pulled Daniel close and whispered into his ear. Startled, Daniel gave a nod. No longer trusting the phones, Jack silently changed into street clothes and took off in his truck. Once across town, Jack knocked on a door. Since the household was asleep, it took a few knocks to get someone up.

“Jack? What….?” Mason wiped the sleep from his eyes. “Is Sam alright?”

“She’s fine. I need to take Keith home with me.”

Mason stilled and looked at him. “Is this official?”

“Very.”

Mason’s younger son was awakened and came to the door in his shorts. Since discovering that Keith’s talent made him sensitive to electricity, Jack allowed their home to be put on a separate naquadah generator. Keith’s room was additionally shielded from any electrical interference with a Tok’ra design which was placed in the walls. Keith had been much happier and more able to deal with the world as long as he had a sanctuary to return to. Before Keith could say anything, Jack shushed him and whispered into his ear.

“No, nothing unusual,” Keith said quietly.

Jack motioned Mason close. “Go to your box and shut the house off,” he whispered. Mason lifted an eyebrow, and went to find the crystal box.

“Go into each room and listen,” Jack whispered to the boy. “Pick up the phones, too, including cell phones. If you get any weirdness, you tell me like this.” He raised a hand and showed Keith the appropriate signal. Mason came in and gave a nod. They followed Keith as the boy nervously began in the living room, poking his nose around as though smelling for the location of an unusual scent. He looked at the men and shook his head.

He raised his hand twice; once in Mason’s bedroom, where they quickly silenced a surprised Melanie, and once at Mason’s cell phone. Jack shushed him and motioned him outside.

“Leave things for now,” Jack whispered. “I’ll send an extraction team in the morning. Not your fault. I need Keith to come home with me and find the bugs in my house.”

Keith got dressed and rode with Jack back to his house. The boy wanted to ask questions, but Jack kept him quiet. The power was already off at his house and the kids and Jerrie silently beamed out by Prometheus. The SF were on guard as Sam waited on the front lawn.

The moment Keith stepped onto the front porch, his radar went up. Jack took careful notes of where each bug was placed. Sam looked at the tiny dot attached to the inside of the phone in the living room. Since the SF would never have allowed anyone close to the house, they assumed it was someone who came in as a tech or maintenance person. By the time Keith was done, they had tagged twenty transmitters.

“In the morning, take him to my mother’s house and have him do the same thing,” Jack whispered to Mason on the sidewalk. “Michael’s, too, but I’ll be surprised if he finds anything at either house. I’ll have a list ready by then; I want all key people’s houses checked.”

Mason took his son home for the rest of the night while Jack, Sam, and Daniel beamed up to Prometheus to reassure the kids.

“Kendrick.” Jack opened a link to the cloaked ship. “Is he still in bed?”

“Yes, sir,” Kendrick said.

Jack gave a nod and Col. Markham himself triggered the beam. Moments later, a man was laying on the floor, awakening in a confused state and finding himself surrounded by SF holding guns and zats on him. Jack stepped forward.

“General Robert Allegash, you are under arrest for conspiracy, espionage, and treason. To start with.”

“What?” Allegash struggled to his feet, shocked. He jumped when someone else beamed in. Guards caught him and held fast to his arms.

“He doesn’t know a name, only the contact information,” Grant reported, staring at the General. “A face. I don’t know the man. Hammond and Landry’s homes, Dr. Lam and Dr. Warner, SG-1 and 3, Col. Davis, Maynard.” Grant went on, naming one person after another, much to the horror of Allegash who stared at the strange young man in alien leathers. His mind opened, his fear caused one person after another to be brought up; people being watched, members of his deeply hidden cabal.

“You are the traitor!” Allegash shouted at Jack. “You are a US Air Force General; it was your job to protect your country! You failed! You sided with aliens and left your people to defend themselves! It is you who should be executed! I have been doing the job you should have been doing!”

“Put him in lockup,” Jack ordered. The SF led the man away. Grant found a chair and began writing names and notes. The sun was rising over the east coast of the United States. Jack had to wake up the Joint Chiefs and the president.

“Orders, sir?” Markham quietly requested. Jack paused, noting the man’s stance and unspoken offering of complete support.

“Stand by,” Jack said, appreciating the colonel’s strength. “We may be filling up detention.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Kendrick.” Grant looked up, giving Jack his attention. “I’m going to beam up my chief of security. I want you to talk to him.” Jack went to the console and brought up Nick’s ID. He was in Italy. Nick was standing inside the ship moments later, surprise glancing off his face in the blink of an eye.

“You rang?” Nick drawled. Jack quickly filled him in.

“Kendrick is going to show you a face we have no name for,” Jack told him. “Tell me if you know him.” Grant impressed the image into Nick’s head, once more startling the man. Nick recovered quickly. Zu had done it to him a couple of times.

“I know him,” Nick said grimly. “He doesn’t do a lot of hands-on; he has a small team he farms out to. He moves around a lot; the latest rumor is that his operations comes out of Columbia. Drugs, arms, information.”

Jack brought Columbia up on the screen and Grant stared at it.

“How do I…?”

Jack showed him how to zoom in and out. Grant took over and zoomed in closer until cities were in view. He kept zooming in until he had one house in view.

“Are you sure?” Jack asked.

“Yes, sir,” Grant nodded. As he spoke, armed guards came around the house, on patrol in the early morning hours. They waited as the sun rose. People began to appear in and out of the house.

“That’s him,” Grant and Nick both said as a man stepped out onto the balcony. Jack nodded and the man was beamed up. Down below, it took a second for the guards to realize that their employer disappeared and began shouting and drawing guns. As soon as the man appeared on the floor, SF took him into custody, ignoring his yelling and superstitious fears.

“Two down, one to go,” Jack said. Sam and Daniel looked at him, not bothering to tell him that he was beyond protocols. The screen swung around to China, already midway through the day. Once more, Grant zoomed around until he found the location of the mental signature.

“I believe he’s alone, sir,” Grant said. “He’s commenting on his lunch. He usually eats lunch alone. It’s his meditation time.”

“Bring him up.”

Emperor Ti fell flat on his butt, having been taken from a chair. Daniel shot Jack a look and quickly stepped forward to offer a hand to the emperor. The man began spouting angrily, slapping Daniel’s hand away as he got to his feet.

“I’m O’Neill. We need to talk. And you cannot tell me a worldly man like yourself doesn’t speak English.”

“I will have your hide!” the man hissed.

“Whatever. We made an offer of an entire planet. I want to know if it’s being accepted.”

The man’s eyes narrowed.

“It’s a pretty planet, no pollution; we can even show you pictures.” Jack twirled a finger and stock footage of Yu’s palace was put on the screen. The emperor’s eyes were so narrow, they were dark line slits. “Now enough farting around. All this can be yours for the asking price of……. one million American dollars. That’s the cost of using the ships to transport your people. And it’s extremely cheap. Very under budget. We are willing to transport up to one million people. Willing people. That’s a dollar a person. You get this beautiful palace and an entire city, empty of people but still supporting livable homes. We will even throw in the energy battery to run the place. Only one –if you want more, you’ll need to figure it out on your own. We will give you all the literature we have about the planet, tell you all about weather patterns, edible plants and animals, and which predators to watch out for. You may rule there as you see fit with no interference from us.”

He’s weakening,” he heard Grant say.

“This palace belonged to Lord Yu himself,” Jack continued. The screen showed Yu in action. “Owner of over one hundred thousand slaves. Although he was on the enemy’s side, he was honorable. His slaves served him because they wanted to, not because they were forced. You can see by how well the planet was kept that Lord Yu respected nature. He was very long lived, proud, noble to the cause. Whatever cause he had. We haven’t taken over the planet because, well, we don’t have a leader worthy of it. We’re offering it to you.”

He’s going to prance around about it to save face, but he’ll accept it.

“How about we let you sleep on it?” Jack offered. “Dr. Jackson here has the contract and treaty; I’ll get it to you for you to look over. Sleep on it. I will keep the offer open for two weeks. Fourteen days.”

Emperor Ti was sent home with a lot to think about.

“Fucking politics,” Jack muttered. “No more bullshit. Daniel, would you please make up a treaty for that asshole?” He excused himself and beamed down to Maynard’s office.

By the time most of the day was over, houses had been overturned for bugs, offices swept through for traitors, and several threats from angry Colombians had been dealt with. Even the fish in his head had been silenced from sheer amazement. It made an attempt at informing Jack about procedure, but didn’t make it too far after Jack snarled at it. The shocked public was told that a conspiracy had been uncovered and they didn’t need to know anything else. Henry went on air to condemn the traitors and praise Jack and his team for uncovering them. Since it was alien related, HomeSec rules came into play. All the people rounded up were to be taken off world for trials and judgment. Lawyers all over the country protested. The HomeSec rules were being pushed into questionable territory but no one needed to know. There was no way these particular people would spend any jail time, if they were left to American courts, so the alien aspect was pushed forward into the spotlight. Jack knew he was playing with fire, but dammit he was done with all the crap.

Three days later, with the kids on Kalam until things were calmer, Jack sent Keith through the house once more. Everything was cleared and Jack allowed Sam and Daniel to come home. The SGC and Area 51 were two of the few places that were clean of bugs, so they slept on base. With Jack’s permission, Daniel went on air to explain the treaty that was being used to condemn the prisoners. The lengthy debate also included the United Worlds treaty and the new treaty that, much to the shock of the world, Emperor Ti announced he would accept. Few legal experts could find fault with any of the treaties, other than nit-picking.

Instead of beaming in, Ninurta ‘knocked’ by calling on the comm, requesting permission to beam into the house.

“Come on in,” Jack said wearily, holding a cold glass to his forehead. Ninurta, Inanna, and Enki beamed in. They stood looking at him, not quite sure what to make of him.

“When you decide to clean house, you really clean house,” Inanna commented.

“How do you feel?” Enki asked curiously.

“I’m fine,” Jack said. He took a peeled orange from Daniel’s hand.

“Are you up to hearing about Goa’uld?” Ninurta asked delicately.

“Only if it’s good news,” Jack said. Sam sat next to him, a reassuring comfort.

“Well, we had to quarantine Taklede,” Ninurta told him. “Karoly’s been de-snaked. He’s completely beside himself about getting taken. There were a couple other representatives that were also freed, their planets are alright. We rigged the ha’taks with the new pukku-shielding sequence that Sam sent to us and it worked. Jaffa and Tok’ra are working on the Aschen before heading over to Vishnu. From what we can tell, the Aschen are grateful for the freedom, but they still want to take over the galaxy.”

“Good. Easier to deal with the Aschen than it is a Goa’uld infested Aschen,” Jack said.

“Will you be staying for Cassie’s wedding?” Daniel asked tiredly. “She postponed it because of the emergency, it’ll be happening tomorrow before anything else interferes.”

“We will stay, thank you,” Inanna assured him.

The Furlings left and Jack found himself in Sam’s arms. She smiled, sniffled, and wiped her face.

“I’m very proud of you,” she informed him huskily.

Daniel engulfed them both in his long arms. “Me three,” he said.

In the morning, kids were bathed and dressed into their wedding clothes and hustled out of the house. Harper and Grandma Frasier were keeping Cassie as calm as they could. Jonathan came in and made comments until she laughed. Since Cassie wasn’t known to have alien friends, Teal’c and the Furlings were almost unrecognized in their Tau’ri clothes.

“Dad, someone at the door for you,” Katie told Jack as he watched the crowd with paternal eyes. “Uncle Danny and Aunt Sam, too.”

Jack lifted an eyebrow and motioned for the other two. Whoever it was must have good ID to have gotten past the SF.

“Can I help you?” Jack asked the woman at the door.

“General O’Neill, I’m sorry to bother you at this time,” the woman said. “My name is Imelda Sigurdssen. I represent the Nobel Committee. I have invitations for you and your family for the upcoming awards in December. Congratulations, sir.” She handed him three envelopes and left. Confused, Jack handed two out and opened his.

“This can’t be right,” he said, reading it. “It’s got to be a joke. Where’s the camera?”

Daniel was turning pale as he read his letter.

“Oh, my God…,” he breathed. Sam needed to sit down. Jack looked over at her letter.

“Well, yours looks right to me,” he said. “Danny’s, too.”

“What’s going on?” Hammond came to the door, seeing the three of them in shock. Jack held up his letter and Hammond took it, giving it a quick read before looking at Daniel’s and Sam’s letters. He chuckled. “Jack, I can think of no one better for these awards. Congratulations. I know you’ll bust something, but wait until tomorrow before telling everyone, will you? Let this be Cassandra’s day.”

“George, I….. I’m a soldier,” Jack pointed out. “I shouldn’t be getting this award. It has to be wrong.”

Hammond looked closely at him with that wise old owl look he sometimes gets.

“Jack, the job of a soldier is to bring peace. Between you and Daniel, who else has done so much for peace in this past year? Sam certainly deserves the prize for Physics. And the two of you, in my opinion all three of you, in words and actions, deserve to share the Nobel Peace Prize.”

 

The End

 


 

 

 

Notes: In trying to find the right words for Paul’s handfasting, I ran into this wonderful site: ArtKetubah.com. There was even text for same-gender vows. I did a little editing and it seemed to call Paul’s name. I hope you like it. The song Jonathan and Ninurta are singing is from Rent. It is called I’ll Cover You.

 

 

Thank you for reading my story. It took years to put together. Thank you to Roni for her wonderful proofreading and editing, and correcting a few mistakes that I hadn’t realized were mistakes.

Vocabulary

 

Ze ki angu = I love you
Aba =father
Adda= Daddy
Agashu =youngest son
Ahatu =sister
Ahatatum = little sister
Ahu =brother
Sehru =little brother
Ammartu =eaglet
Anna =yes
Innna =no
Babu =small child or baby
Ba’eru =hunter (not really a son of Enki, I made that up. He has only Ninurta, according to the myths.) 
Binu =son
Bishru =small child
Dadu =darling
Daltu =door of heaven / underworld
Didila =child
Ezib sha =never mind
Gade =I’m off
Gerru =lion cub, puppy (they used to believe felines and dogs were the same species. I don’t know how they figured it.) 
Hasduk =beloved
Mersiya = sweetie pie
Salimu =peace
Inanna =Queen of Heaven and Earth, Goddess of Passion
Enki =Lord of the Earth, God of Water (It’s a long, complicated story. If a lot of people are interested, I’ll post a summary on my site.) 
Ninurta =Lord of Storms, God of fertility –plants and livestock. The sweeping, all-consuming storms, not the gentle rains. He was a warrior, not a gardener. 
Shara =warrior at Ninurta’s side, his name means ‘foundation’
Gibil =god of fire. The consuming, destructive fires. 
Erra =demon of disease, consort of Ereshkigal. Demon in the Greek sense, daemon, meaning spirit. He’s a warrior. His name is also spelled Irra, depending on the translator. 
Ereshkigal =Queen of the Underworld
Zu =a very naughty, colorful bird. See The Myth of Zu in the myths section of my website. VERY naughty bird.