The soft mental touch from Obi-Wan Kenobi came at the same time the radio crackled with the voice of Qui-Gon Jinn.
Daniel. "SG-1, report."
Daniel Jackson spoke mentally, knowing that even if he wasn't a telepath, the Jedi Padawan was touching his mind and would hear him, while Colonel Jack O'Neill answered the Jedi Master's radio call.
Obi-Wan, why are you on planet? "O'Neill, reporting."
All the Stargate teams are being recalled to Earth. "Return to the gate, Colonel."
Why? "We're on our way. O'Neill out."
Not occupied in the conversations but knowing the import of another Stargate member traveling through the wormhole, Captain Samantha Carter had already begun making apologies to the natives of the planet designated at PXK-553. The natives were startled, but accepting, rising gracefully from their cross-legged positions, bowing low. "We are sorry you must leave us," the lead elder replied to Sam's apologies.
"We will return as soon as we can," she promised.
"We will hope that it can be soon. We have enjoyed our conversation."
Impatient to respond to what must be an emergency, Jack grimaced more than smiled and said, "Let's move out." The Jaffa Teal'c had already departed the tent. By the time the others stepped out, Daniel and Sam still exchanging good-byes, Teal'c had retrieved their packs from the tent they had been allotted for sleeping, and was strapping his own to his back.
The others slipped theirs on, and departed at a jog, Daniel still trying to get Obi-Wan to respond, knowing that the Padawan's hesitation meant something unexpected had occurred. Obi-Wan, tell me. What's happened?
There's been an attack on American soil.
Daniel stumbled at the news, but got his feet back under him and kept jogging. An attack? Something like Pearl Harbor?
He could hear the reluctance to answer in Obi-Wan's thoughts. What? Where?
I think Hammond wants to tell you all.
Why did you both come?
No one's going off-planet alone.
It's that serious.
Daniel and Sam were running side-by-side, Jack in front of them, Teal'c taking the rear. He saw her glance at him, but shook his head. "Obi-Wan's here but he won't tell me what's happened."
Sam nodded, understanding that gossip may run rampant in the military, but some news was only given by the chain of command. Bad news.
Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon were waiting at the gate, wearing the dark blue Stargate uniforms. As soon as the SG-1 team was in visual sight, Obi-Wan began hitting the chevrons that would dial Earth, creating a wormhole to connect the two planets. With a loud whoosh, the wormhole formed as they reached the steps leading up to it.
Jack moved aside, letting Daniel and Sam run through first. Obi-Wan followed as Jack asked Qui-Gon, "What's up?"
"Hammond will tell you."
The Colonel didn't argue, knowing the futility of trying to persuade a Jedi Master to give answers when he didn't want to, and the remaining three passed through the gate without further comment.
Hammond, clad as always in the light blue shirt and dark blue slacks of his dress charlies was waiting at the bottom of the ramp in the gate room as the six came through. SG-6 had already returned, and were waiting with two members from SG-8.
Sam lasted a few more minutes after Daniel, then retreated to her lab, unable to bear the same repetitious questions that no one could answer, the same images of the Towers collapsing and the Pentagon burning.
She whirled to face Qui-Gon. "How could they do that? Kill all those people? Without warning?"
"Do you really care why?"
"Yes! No! I just want - " Sam stalked around the lab, glancing uncontrollably at her equipment, as if the answers to human evil could be discovered in a microscope.
"To break something?" Qui-Gon suggested.
"To break their heads!" Sam snapped.
"No, you don't," Qui-Gon said with the utter confidence a Jedi Master could display.
"Respectfully, sir, you can't read my mind." Despite her words, Sam's voice was anything but respectful. She had always obeyed the chain of command, but as a woman scientist in the Air Force, Sam had experienced too many men telling her what she could and couldn't do, and had never accepted it, though usually with more restraint than she was capable of displaying at this moment.
"You're a civilized woman, Sam. A moral woman. You won't allow yourself to match barbarity with barbarity."
Sam opened her mouth, then closed it, unable to deny the truth of his words.
She resumed her restless pacing instead.
"Hit me, Sam."
"Hit me, Sam." Qui-Gon put himself in her way, raising her arms to his chest. "Release your rage." His expression was supportive and inviting.
Tentatively, she pounded her forearms on his chest. Qui-Gon took the blow without reaction, his legs braced slightly apart. She hit again harder but his eyes stayed sad, not angry.
"How could they do that?" Another thump and her voice rose in anger. "How could they?"
Qui-Gon's solid chest absorbed the blows, his sympathy undeterred as the force of the blows increased, her voice shrieking with pain. "How could they?"
She pounded and pounded, but Qui-Gon didn't break, and her question went unanswered for no rational answer existed. Finally, her emotions exhausted, she slumped forward to be caught to the chest she had abused. To be cradled and held with comfort and understanding as she hung loosely in his arms, shaking with fatigue.
"Teal'c, how ya doing?" Jack turned a chair around, sat on it backwards by the Jaffa, who was still watching the television with rapt attention.
"I am fine, Jack." Teal'c contemplated asking how Jack was, but decided against it. The Colonel was almost twitching with the need for action.
Jack glanced at the monitor, winced as the collapse of the second tower aired again. "I gotta get out of here."
"Do you wish me to go with you?"
"No, I'm going to see Hammond."
"I will be here if you have need of me."
"Thanks." Teal'c would understand what they were feeling, Jack knew. He had participated in the destruction of entire civilizations by the Goa'uld, until the senseless loss and death ate away at him, turning him against those he had revered as his gods. But Teal'c's commiseration would not satisfy the gnawing ache within Jack. He needed to know what they were going to do, not sympathy.
Hammond was on the phone as Jack rapped on his open door and walked into his office without waiting for permission, standing at ease in front of his desk.
"Yes, sir. I understand. I'll await further orders." The General placed the phone back in its cradle. "Colonel."
"General, what's the game plan?"
"At the moment, Colonel, the plan is to wait."
"Wait," the General affirmed.
Rocking back slightly on his heels, Jack added, "Forgive me for insubordination, General, but I'm not exactly appreciating that sentiment right now. He who serves who also sits and waits, or whatever it is. That's never been one of my favorite lines."
"I know, Jack, I know." Hammond sighed, standing up, his use of the Colonel's first name signaling the subtle shift from commander to friend. "Drink?"
Jack slumped into one of the chairs in front of the desk. Hammond brought him a shot of Scotch, then sat down in the other chair, sipping his own drink.
"The Stargate Project becomes even more important now, Jack."
Jack snorted and swallowed half of his drink. The alcohol felt good going down, the pleasant burn tingling his mouth and throat, but it didn't assuage the rage and frustration at knowing his country had been attacked on the East Coast, and he was stuck sitting under a mountain in Colorado. Not even the whole bottle would accomplish that miracle.
"You know it does." Hammond leaned forward in his chair, his words intense.
"We'll be fighting a war on two fronts, and most of the world doesn't even know our front exists. Finding weapons technology will be even more vital now."
"It's going to be hard for everyone, to be going off-planet while their country's in a war. We'll want to fight, not explore." There was no sign of Jack's normal flippancy as he spoke from the heart, including himself in that 'we.'
"We have to, Jack. You and I know the Goa'uld won't disappear. I'll need you now more than ever, to keep everyone motivated and focused."
How could he motivate others when he wasn't doing what he wanted, Jack craved to shout. But he sucked the words down. He had done what needed to be done all his life; he wouldn't stop at this critical time. "Yes, sir." In a tone more earnest than Jack was accustomed to using, he promised, "I won't let you down, sir."
"I know you won't. Dismissed."
With the lines of command re-established, Jack took a second to slug down the rest of his drink before rising, snapping a crisp salute before exiting the room. Hammond gave him only a nod, heading back to the red phone as it rang.
Jack headed immediately to the cafeteria, striding in through the hordes of people without a pause or a hello, walking over to the television, turning it off and swinging quickly to face everyone. "ATTEN-SHUN!"
The military members of the Stargate Project immediately sprang to their feet, their posture ramrod straight, the scientists more slowly and reluctantly.
Jack scanned the crowd looking for particular faces. He'd known these people for several years now, had learned their personalities and backgrounds well during the long bouts of downtime between missions. Some would be like himself, ready to crawl the walls from frustration, others struggling to hold back the tears, frantic for relatives in New York or friends at the Pentagon.
"We still have a job to do, ladies and gentlemen, and it's not watching television." His words were hard and steady, not allowing the more rebellious types to interject. "Bennett, Vasquez, I want you to prepare contingency plans for the General. How can we keep functioning if our personnel are reduced? Reshuffle teams, prioritize missions, whatever. I want recommendations on the General's desk by eighteen hundred tonight." Bennett was military and Vasquez was scientific, but both were superb logisticians who would do best with a mental challenge.
"Henderson, I want a complete updated inventory of all equipment and armament. Provide the information to Bennett and Vasquez." Henderson had to be dug out from an earthquake on SG-9's last mission, leaving her exhausted and dehydrated. An inventory would be boring and repetitious, since the supply records were usually accurate, but the mindless work would keep her occupied.
"Dr. Frasier, is Wachowisc still in medical?" He skipped a beat for her nod before continuing, "Good. Tell him I want half-hourly updates over the comm system." Wachowisc only had a broken leg, he'd appreciate being included and the promise of updates would silence anyone who might wish to remain in the cafeteria. He didn't bother giving Frasier orders, knowing the doctor could occupy herself without his assistance.
Sam, Daniel and the Jedi appeared in the doorway - good, he wouldn't have to hunt them down. "The rest of you, we're going on a run. Get your fatigues on and assemble at the exit in 10 minutes. DIS-MISSED."
Physical exercise was perhaps not the most creative diversion, but Jack knew the military mind. Shock would keep everyone motionless for a limited time before the testosterone kicked in. Better to burn off their excess energy now before problems arose. With the base locked down, they couldn't venture very far, but he could always run them up and down stairs if necessary. And dragging their sorry butts over mountainous roads at a forced pace would provide a saving distraction for himself. The Stargate personnel filed out, Teal'c waiting to speak to Jack.
"A wise strategy, Colonel."
Half a command, half a question, "You'll bring up the rear, keep the stragglers going." Regulations required everyone who worked on the Stargate Project to be in shape, but a wide gap existed between the definition of 'healthy enough for exploration,' and what Jack intended to put people through today.
"Yes, Colonel." Teal'c saluted and left. The room empty except for the kitchen staff, Jack took a moment to turn the television back on, to the sight of people running from the smoke and dust created by the destruction of two mammoth buildings. He glanced over at Chuck, the head cook, who requested, "Leave it on, Colonel."
A jerk of his head agreed, and Jack headed out the door. "Colonel." He faced Chuck again. "Bring them back hungry, Colonel. We'll have a good dinner for them." Jack saluted; everyone served in their own way.
Though time was short, changing clothes would consume but a minute with Jedi speed. Peace of mind was the immediate concern. Qui-Gon leaned against the closed bedroom door, supporting Obi-Wan in his arms. Obi-Wan tucked his head in the bend of Qui-Gon's neck and shoulder. In normal circumstances, they would have mentally stretched toward the other lives within the structure, feeling the presence of the Force in the people around them. But everyone's nerves were too jangled and stressed, leaving them to rely on each other, the combined calm center of their own world. The minds of Master and Padawan blended together, two personalities momentarily becoming one, Qui-Gon taking strength from his Padawan's youthful energy, Obi-Wan learning from his Master's experience and wisdom.
You and I have seen worse, Qui-Gon. Melida/Daan, Querz, Isottal...even in the peaceful Republic, war raised its ugly head, fangs sharp and biting, consuming the involved as well as the innocent. But I can't help but feel for these people.
A more appalling horror does not improve a lesser tragedy.
There will be war, Obi-Wan.
A war against terrorism? Obi-Wan's mental tone was doubtful. It would be difficult to fight such an enemy.
There hasn't been an attack on American soil in decades, Obi-Wan. There will be retaliation.
Qui-Gon might frequently counsel Obi-Wan to live in the moment, but he had been trained since the crhe in strategy, developing the ability to predict the reactions of individuals as well as groups, and the probable outcome of diplomatic negotiations. Unable to dispute the logic of his assertion, Obi-Wan replied, Yes, Master, burrowing his head a little deeper into Qui-Gon's solid shoulder. The Stargate Project? Do you think it will be shut down? Will we have to return to Coruscant?
What will happen, will happen, Obi-Wan. But I would expect not. A military always receives more funding during war.
A universal constant, Obi-Wan agreed with a certain amount of sadness and resignation. The Jedi trod an unusual path, dedicated to peace and yet fully trained in the ways of war so that they might protect and defend the stability of the Republic. Every Jedi yearned for the day when their Order could devote itself to contemplation and study, but so far, the dream stayed unsatisfied.
We must go.
Yes. One kiss, a sweet and gentle kiss to reaffirm their connection and devotion, and the Jedi whipped out of their uniforms and into fatigues in seconds, their moves a blur to the eyes of any but a fellow Jedi. They paused in the doorway for a last look before stepping out into the corridor to join the parade of Stargate members walking toward the exit.
As Jedi, they could offer only support to their friends in this battle, but they would do so wholeheartedly and with trust in the Force.
~ the end ~