With the clicking sound of his fellow general hanging up on him still ringing in his ear, Jack O'Neill held the phone in front of him and stared skeptically at it. "You've got to be kidding me."
There was no answer from his empty office, something that Jack had to admit he was thankful for once he realized that he was actually listening for one. Maybe he had been in this job too long. It probably wasn't what most people would call normal to half-expect an answer to come out of thin air.
Shaking his head, Jack finally hung up the phone. He leaned back in his chair with a sigh, reaching up to rub his temples. Well, this was unexpected. If someone had asked him a year ago if he ever thought he'd make general, he probably would have laughed in their face. But here he was, head of the SGC for over a year now... even though it had taken him ages to decide whether or not to accept the position. He'd even made lists, for crying out loud.
And now they were doing it to him again.
Jack groaned. He couldn't blame Hammond for wanting to start preparing for his retirement. He'd already served eight years longer than he had planned, seven years with the SGC and one with Homeworld Security, thanks to the ever-present threat from the Goa'uld. Now that they were pretty much out of the picture, it seemed like as good a time as any.
Then again, eight years ago he'd actually tried retiring himself. It had been a nice life; going fishing whenever he liked, sitting on his roof with his telescope, no aliens trying to kill, maim, brainwash, torture, or seduce him....
Who was he kidding? He would have been bored to death years ago.
As that unexpected thought popped into his head, Jack frowned. What was he, insane? He hated politics, and even he knew that heading up the Department of Homeworld Security would require a lot more politics than just running the SGC.
But that little voice in his head was still telling him that maybe it was time for something new. The main reason that he rejoined the military with a permanent status had been because of Skaara; he'd already lost Charlie, and he hadn't wanted to lose Skaara as well. Still, that had been over years ago. Skaara had since been freed from the Goa'uld, had gone home, had met himself a nice girl... and had died. Well, ascended. Same difference, when you really came down to it.
Jack did his best not to jump at the sound of Walter's voice, though he suspected he hadn't really succeeded. He'd never even noticed his door opening. Forcing a blasé look on his face, he quirked an eyebrow. "What?"
"It's two o'clock," Walter said pointedly. "1400 hours."
Jack just stared.
Walter sighed. "The science team from Langara is due in five minutes."
"Oh." Jack quickly pushed himself to his feet and started for the door. "Why didn't you just say so?"
Samantha Carter reread the e-mail on her computer for the fourth time, frowning a little. She'd been asked to consider taking over R&D at Area 51 for years, but they'd never seemed quite so serious about it. It had always seemed like they were asking her for propriety's sake, rather than because they actually wanted her to take the job.
Maybe it wasn't as important to them that she remain on SG-1 now that most of the threats out there seemed to be gone. The Goa'uld were fragmented and fairly powerless, in the grand scheme of things, and it looked like the Replicators had been wiped out. Sam had to admit, she could imagine how things looked from the government's perspective. For the first time since the initial mission to Abydos, Earth was safe.
The question was whether or not she saw it that way.
A thoughtful look on her face, Sam glanced at the e-mail again. It was at least worth considering. She didn't think she'd actually take them up on the offer, not as long as SG-1 was together, but you never knew what the future might hold. Just a few months ago she and Pete had been engaged, her father had been alive and well... things could change so quickly.
"I just want to know you're gonna be happy."
No matter what it took, she was going to make sure that she hadn't lied to her dad when she'd told him that she was. She was going to live her life.
Sam glanced at her clock. Shaking her head, she closed out her e-mail and pushed herself to her feet. She didn't want to be late when the team from Langara arrived.
Daniel Jackson stared longingly at the translations sitting on his desk, his fingers practically itching to go through the Ancient symbols again. After a few seconds though, he shook his head and turned his attention back to the artifacts from P6X-HFK. He should be able to keep his attention focused on his work.
The Daedalus was almost finished, and they were already making tentative plans to use it to travel to the Pegasus Galaxy. They still hadn't received any messages from Atlantis, but that didn't necessarily mean that the mission hadn't gone as planned. It might simply be that they hadn't been able to find any ZPMs, so contact with Earth was impossible.
And if that was the case, having a ship that could travel between the two galaxies would make increasing the size of the Atlantis expedition very plausible.
Daniel frowned as he realized the direction his thoughts were heading. What was he thinking? As much as he'd love to travel to Atlantis, he had responsibilities here at the SGC. He was a member of SG-1. That's why he hadn't left with Elizabeth Weir and the rest of her team the previous year.
Of course, that was before the Goa'uld and the Replicators had pretty much been wiped out.
He sighed as he realized that his gaze had been caught by the Ancient translations again. It had been so simple back in the beginning. All that he had cared about was finding Sha're and saving her from the Goa'uld so that they could return to Abydos together. But she had been dead for over five years now, and Abydos had been destroyed for nearly two.
It had been years since he had last seen Nick, and he was starting to think that he never would again. Sarah had barely spoken to him since she'd been freed from Osiris. Oma Desala was gone, even if he wasn't sure exactly what had happened to her. With her gone, Shifu's status was a mystery. And now, even Catherine was gone; hopefully reunited with Ernest once again.
Now that he thought about it, the only real ties he had left on Earth were to SG-1. And as much as he would love the chance to visit Atlantis, he couldn't just abandon his team. He couldn't be the one to break them up.
The klaxons suddenly started blaring, signaling activity in the 'gate room. Daniel glanced at his clock, frowning when he saw the time. "Damn, I forgot about the Kelownan science team," he muttered.
Quickly putting his work aside, he started out the door at a jog.
Teal'c nodded at a few members of SG-9 as they walked by him, but his thoughts were distracted as he made his way down the hallway. He had spent most of the past month away from Earth, working with his fellow Jaffa, and he couldn't help but think that perhaps his time would be better spent if he did not keep returning to the SGC quite so often.
SG-1 had gone on only a few missions since the defeat of the Replicators, and it seemed obvious that both Colonel Carter and Daniel Jackson were as distracted as himself. Their minds had been elsewhere, barely focused on the mission at hand. It was a dangerous state to be in while traveling offworld. And Teal'c suspected that it was not merely the three of them who felt the recent shift in their feelings. O'Neill had seemed preoccupied as well.
Although none of his Tau'ri friends had mentioned anything yet, Teal'c could not help but believe that they were also beginning to think of the direction their lives were traveling in. Their lives had changed greatly since their first meeting on Chulak.
Klaxons sounded, and Teal'c increased his pace toward the 'gate room.
As he stepped through the wormhole, Jonas Quinn felt regret momentarily rush through him. It had been almost two years since he had returned home to Langara, leaving SG-1 with its original members once again, but even now he sometimes wondered whether or not he had made the right decision. He was happy with his life for the most part, but it was hard to truly turn your back on something like working for the SGC.
He smiled when he saw four familiar figures standing at the bottom of the ramp, waiting for him and the rest of the science team. Truth be told, he had actually done little work with the science team. He was there more because the government had given into his request to visit Earth again, than for an actually legitimate reason.
Jonas suspected that he should feel a little guilty about pulling strings - he didn't.
While the rest of his fellow Kelownans greeted their hosts and were led away to one of the labs, Jonas held back. As the 'gate room cleared out, he tentatively smiled and walked up to the four original members of SG-1. "Um, hi guys."
Teal'c bowed his head slightly. "Hello, Jonas Quinn. It has been too long."
Jonas tried to bow his head similarly, but his attempt failed when Sam suddenly hugged him. He froze for a second, surprised, before his brain kicked into gear and he hugged her back. "Hey, Sam."
"Hey yourself," she said, pulling away. "It's been awhile."
He smiled for just a second before his face went serious. "I heard about your father," Jonas said quietly. "I'm sorry. Jacob and Selmak were both something special."
Sam squeezed his hand in thanks. Then a familiar voice cleared his throat, causing Jonas to quickly turn his attention from her.
"Col-- I mean, General O'Neill." Jonas frowned at the unfamiliar title. "Maybe I should just stick with Jack."
Daniel snorted. "Now here's a man after my own heart."
Ignoring Jack's glare, Daniel held out his hand to Jonas. "Nice to see you again."
"You too," Jonas said, taking the offered hand.
Jack paused in front of Jonas's door, hesitating for a moment before finally giving in and knocking. He heard some movement inside the room before the door opened, revealing a rather disheveled-looking Jonas. It looked like Jonas had just rolled out of bed, and judging by the half-asleep look on his face, Jack couldn't help but think that he looked that way because he just had.
"Jack?" Jonas asked, blinking blearily at him.
"Jonas," Jack replied matter-of-factly. He let his gaze run over Jonas for a second before quirking an eyebrow. "What happened to the early bird that I remember?"
Jonas rolled his eyes. "He stayed up all night trying to keep the SGC and Kelownan scientists from killing each other over a difference in opinion," he said dryly. "You left your pager lying on your desk, by the way. And apparently your home phone was off the hook."
Jack had the good grace to look at least a little sheepish. "Ah."
Shaking his head, Jonas reached up and rubbed sleep from his eyes. "Did you need me for something?"
"Oh, yeah." Jack's sheepishness faded away almost instantly. "The team and I made plans awhile back to take today off, spend some time together. Cart-- we thought you might like to come."
Jonas stared at him, the look on his face a mixture of surprise and suspicion.
"Is that allowed?" Jonas finally asked, raising an eyebrow. "I mean, isn't my clearance to go off base a couple of years out of date?"
Jack shrugged. "I'm in charge," he replied. "Who's going to tell me 'no?'"
Jonas stared at him for a moment. "Good point," he said finally. "Sure, I'm in. Just give me a couple of minutes to get dressed."
"Meet us at your old office in," Jack glanced down at his watch, "fifteen minutes?"
"Daniel's office in fifteen minutes," Jonas said, grabbing a shirt that had been tossed over a chair. "No problem."
Jack turned and started out the door. Before he got the chance to close it behind him, though, Jonas cleared his throat.
"Yeah?" Jack asked, turning back around for a second.
"Don't take this the wrong way," Jonas said, somewhat warily, "but where are we going?"
Jack couldn't help it. He grinned.
Daniel took a swallow of his beer, shaking his head as he let his fishing pole drop to the ground beside him. "I'm starting to think that video from the alternate past was telling the truth after all."
Jonas obviously didn't get the reference, but he still grinned. Daniel supposed that it was easy to read his tone of voice. Sam laughed, and even Teal'c looked amused. Jack just shook his head and muttered something that sounded fairly derogatory under his breath.
Jack finished his beer, not quite meeting their eyes as he dropped the bottle on the ground beside his chair. "Hammond's retiring."
"Really?" Daniel asked, surprised.
"You can't really argue that he doesn't deserve it," Sam said. "I mean, he was planning on retiring until we found out about the Goa'uld."
Jack didn't say anything for a few seconds. Then he reached over and grabbed another beer. "They want me to take his place."
This time, Daniel did a double-take. "They want to put you in charge of the Department of Homeworld Security?"
Jack glared back. "You don't have to sound so shocked by the idea," he grumbled.
"We're not shocked, sir," Sam said quickly. "We're just...."
"Taken aback," Teal'c suggested.
Daniel grinned, and Jonas started to chuckle. It quickly turned into a cough when Jack turned his attention toward him.
"Are you actually considering it?" Daniel asked, taking pity on Jonas and pulling Jack's attention off of him.
Jack shrugged. "I'm judging the pros and cons."
No one said anything for a second. Then Teal'c broke the silence.
"I too have been considering leaving the SGC."
"What?" Daniel's gaze snapped over toward Teal'c, his voice mixing in with Sam's, Jack's, and Jonas's.
Teal'c met their gazes. "I believe that my time would be better spent working with my fellow Jaffa."
They all stared at him, varying looks of surprise on their face.
After a few seconds, Sam reluctantly cleared her throat. "I wasn't going to say anything," she said, "but they've offered to let me oversee R&D at Area 51."
Jack frowned. "Haven't they been trying to get you there for years?"
"Yeah," she admitted, "but this time I really think they're serious about it."
"Because we're not number one on the galaxy's hit list anymore," Daniel said knowingly.
Teal'c nodded. "Indeed."
Daniel frowned when he saw everyone's gaze drifting toward him, and he quickly picked up his beer again. The bottle was almost empty, but he made a big show of fiddling with its peeling label.
"What about you, Daniel?" Sam asked after a moment or two.
He reluctantly looked up from his drink, shrugging slightly. "I haven't gotten any offers or anything like that."
Jack snorted. "Daniel, you've been more anxious about the Daedalus being finished than Caldwell. Don't even try telling us that visiting Atlantis hasn't even crossed your mind."
Daniel shrugged again. "We haven't heard from the expedition in almost a year. For all we know, Atlantis doesn't even exist anymore."
"Or maybe it is and they just haven't found any ZPMs," Jonas broke in. He ducked his head a bit when everyone turned to look at him and added somewhat defensively: "I had some free time yesterday, so I read some of the more recent mission reports."
Sam smiled. "Jonas is right," she said. "We won't know for sure until the Daedalus is ready to make the trip to Pegasus."
Well aware of the looks behind leveled at him, all Daniel could do was nod. "Touché."
As conversations went on around him, Jonas casually watched everyone's faces. Even though it had been two years since he'd been on SG-1, he could still read them fairly well. Well, except for Teal'c, but he doubted he was alone there. They all seemed more comfortable than they had just a few hours earlier, like a weight had been lifted from their shoulders.
Jonas leaned back in his chair, letting the sound of the wind blowing through the trees mix in with his friends quiet talking. Then he closed his eyes. He loved Earth; he really did. This planet had taken him in when he had nowhere else to turn, and for over a year it had been home. But Langara was his real home, for better or for worse. That's where he belonged, with his own people. With Kianna, if their on-and-off relationship ever recovered.
The Goa'uld were shadows of their former selves. The Replicators were destroyed. For the first time in millennia, the galaxy was safe.
He blinked, startled, when Sam said his name. The others were all staring at him, and he couldn't help but feel a bit uncomfortable at the intensity in their gazes. "Yes?" he asked, confused.
"You do realize that you're always welcome here, right?" Sam asked. He couldn't help but notice that she sounded just as uncomfortable as he felt. "I mean, even if we do go our separate ways... we'll still be around."
Jonas slowly started to smile.
"Meanwhile, we received word that five more planets have fallen to the Ori, including Hebridan and Langara. So far, we haven't heard anything from our allies on either world."
- Samantha Carter, in "Counterstrike" -