His aide brought in the high-security courier bag early, but Jack was ready for it. He fished through the boring crap --budgets, scientific applications of alien technology, yadda, yadda -- but stopped to read about the new hybrid zat-P-90, even if it was still mostly in the gee-wouldn't it-be-great stage of development. Weapons were always cool. Then he found the stack of papers topped with Hank's memo and settled back in his chair. Hank had called to let him know what was going on, and he'd heard quite a bit from Daniel, but he was pretty sure they were both missing the big picture.
He picked up his post-lunch cup of coffee, and began to read.
Memo -- Eyes Only
To: Jack O'Neill, Homeworld Security
From: Hank Landry, Stargate Command
Subject: Confidentiality issues
Reference: Employee # SGC-CV-2183, Gregory House, MD
As per your request, we're monitoring Dr. House's emails to all non-SGC contacts. (Frankly, I think we should be monitoring his emails inside the facility, too; there's been quite a rise in vaguely pornographic and offensive messages since he's been here. I can't prove it's him, of course -- and how the hell he can evade detection like that is something I'd like to know -- but the only other new hire recently was a 67-year-old woman with glowing references who came in to take over the commissary.)(On your next visit, I'd highly recommend the roast lemon chicken with rosemary potatoes. Not to mention the cherry pie.) We've let some of House's emails through; others have been withheld as noted below.
While Dr. House has been an effective medical officer, and has displayed an almost freakish calm (not to mention a level of curiosity rivaled only by Doctor Jackson) during his initial weeks at the SGC, his attitude toward confidentiality is, as you predicted, elastic at best. So far we've been letting this ride, based on your recommendation and the fact that his background check indicates that no one at his previous place of employment will believe a word he says. The one possible exception to this may be Dr. Robert Chase, an Australian intensivist who was one his fellows, but we can always recruit Dr. Chase if the need arises. The Australians have been arguing for an Atlantis presence for some time now, and if this Chase could put up with House he should have no problem with McKay.
On the matter of McKay -- Sheppard's teams's home leave has not been enjoyable for anyone, and that's putting it mildly. That McKay hasn't been zatted yet is one of the great mysteries of life at CheyenneMountain. McKay's continued good health may have something to do with Ronon showing up and dragging McKay off at crucial moments. Between us, I wouldn't mind having Ronon at the SGC, but scuttlebutt says he's committed to Sheppard's team. We're still waiting for a sparring session between Teal'c and Ronon. I believe House is selling tickets. My money's on Teal'c, of course. Now, if it were Teyla instead of Ronon, well, that would be another story.
Okay; that's it. Have fun with the IOC. And get back here when you can -- your team misses you.
Att: Transcribed emails from email@example.com, chronologically from 08-30-08 to date. All have been withheld pending instruction from your office. SGC Security has deemed certain messages sendable with edits. These suggested edits are
indicated with a strike-through.
Well, I'm definitely not in Kansas -- or Princeton -- anymore.
Here, when patients say they've been hearing aliens or zapped by ray guns, they really have. It makes for interesting days at the office. I work in a sub-basement infirmary that makes PPTH's morgue seem bright and cheery, but the equipment is top-notch, the research library is extensive, and the staff aren't total idiots. Despite what you might think, I passed my physical with flying colors -- largely because they didn't give me one. Instead, an Amazon named Freya, who makes Cuddy look like a boy -- seriously -- passed something that looked like a glove from a sci-fi horror movie over me and fixed my leg. (And my liver. I did tests.) You definitely need to get someone like her on staff at PPTH. The leg's still scarred, but they say they can possibly fix that, too. Apparently that depends on whether they can get access to a device they call a sarcophagus. It must be something new; I haven't been able to get any info on it. Maybe Taub's heard of it. A thing like that would be a goldmine for a plastic surgeon, and I'm sure he went into plastics for the gold.
I'm staying on base, still, so I haven't seen much of the Colorado night life yet. Or the day life, for that matter, as we work at all hours.
I've seen some pretty amazing things -- guys with larval parasitic flying reptiles living in their guts, a virus that made several people turn people turn purple and sprout the beginnings of a nice set of wings (very X-men), and battle wounds I can't even describe. Last week the whole place got quarantined because two teams came in with suspicious skin lesions. It turned out to be heat rash, but the differential was pretty cool, anyway. You wouldn't believe what they have to rule out here.
More later. I have to go be brilliant and save
alien and human lives, even if some of them do belong to idiots.
Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Subject: Hie, minions!
I need information on "sarcophagus" -- try variant spellings -- relating to medical technology. Check recent patents, experimental devices, technology still being tested, ideas scribbled on napkins, and ravings of lunatics who wander into the ER. NOW. Also: If Cuddy wears the blue top -- you know the one -- send pictures. Be sure to drop something first and ask her to pick it up.
A possible major problem has arisen in regard to my employment here. TV reception sucks at this facility; I can't get any of my soaps. Of course, I don't really need them, what with all the drama here. Yesterday alone I saw two guys who'd regressed
due to some alien mind probe-thingy, and when I say regressed, I mean they were physically about three years old, with the attendant whining and potty problems. Luckily, they got better on their own, as I had no idea how to treat them, much less stop the wrangling over who got to sit on the examining table first. McKay -- remember him? He was with the team that came to interview me for this job; the one who got all huffy when I said he wasn't a real doctor -- came in complaining someone had tried to poison him with lemon cookies. The moron thinks he has a fatal citrus allergy. I told him no such thing exists, but he said a couple of weeks ago I probably thought people couldn't physically regress or sprout wings and anything could happen. As at that moment one of the nurses suddenly disappeared and another one briefly turned into what looked like a giant cricket -- which, by the way, fazed absolutely no one, though the nursing supervisor said, "Crap! Not again!" -- I had to admit he had a point.
There's an alarm going off. More later.
There was a note from Hank attached to the next entry:
Jack -- SGC Security deemed this entire email a security breach, but I'm including it anyway, FYI. The next email clarifies this one. If you need more information, we'll talk when you're here.
Huh. It almost sounded like -- but no, not again, Jack thought. He would have heard.
He went back to his reading.
Very weird day. I can't make sense of it. You're always spouting emotional crap, maybe you can.
There was a training exercise for some of the teams yesterday. Something went wrong, and five soldiers were hurt -- one badly. Jackson (the archeologist who came with the group that interviewed me at PPTH -- the one who said he'd been dead more times than I had) was training with the group, though I'm not sure why, since he's a civilian. Anyway, Jackson apparently saved a couple of soldiers by jumping in front of a misfiring alien weapon. I know you probably think that proves mankind does have an heroic instinct. Well, the last time I saw him, the one thing Jackson undoubtedly had was a hole in his chest the size of a bowling ball.
DOA. Nothing I could do.
Now, you have to understand, Wilson, this guy was in the middle of everything here. He was king of the geeks, and tended to wander off in the middle of conversations, but the military guys deferred to him and the science guys consulted with him, and hell, even I thought he was okay. I played cards with his team a couple of times, and the guy had a hell of a poker face. And you wouldn't believe how many languages he could curse in.
So here's the weird thing -- no one seemed to care that he'd bought the farm. And I don't mean they were callous, or they'd seen too many deaths to react to one more. I mean, his team threw a sheet over him and stuck him in a quarantine room and then started arguing over who was going to call Gen. O'Neill (who's his next-of-kin of record) and who was going to tell Vala (another teammate, rumored to be his nearest, if not his dearest) and who was going to get lunch. Then they left. No one even sat with the body, though one of them apparently wandered in and left a cup of coffee behind. And these people, they loved the guy.
I asked about the funeral, because I thought maybe I'd show up (wakes generally have decent food), and Mitchell, the commanding officer, said that he didn't think they'd bother having one.
And you think I'm callous.
I wonder about the plumbing here. I have a feeling they may flush more than goldfish, if you get my drift.
Subject: Weird, part 2
I saw Jackson in the commissary this morning.
I suggested that eating breakfast might be a problem for him, as it would probably dribble out the enormous hole in his chest. He said he was feeling much better now, but that he had extra napkins, just in case.
Did I mention that the guy was as dead as a Norwegian Blue just the day before? For twenty hours, at least? I'm absolutely sure of it. I know dead. And it's not like you could mistake a gaping chest wound for anything else. I know what you're thinking, but this isn't a matter of stubbornness, or of not wanting to be wrong, or a handful of hallucinogens I don't want to admit to. This was dead, Wilson . No wonder his team didn't want to plan a funeral. It has to be awkward when the dearly departed turns out to have been only partly departed.
Someone's knocking on my office door. More later.
Jack put the stack of papers down and rubbed his eyes. Damn, they hadn't told him about that one. Daniel not telling him, okay; Daniel often forgot to mention little things like dying. But damn it, Sam was supposed to call, even if she was on another planet. And Mitchell and Teal'c were supposed to prevent this sort of thing from happening at all. And Vala was supposed to be back-up, because who was more suited to making a man want to live, even if her methods did sometimes make a man want to kill?
"Willis!" he yelled out.
His aide popped his head in the door. "You do have an intercom, Sir," Willis said, with all the weariness of a man repeating something he's said countless times before.
"I'm going to Cheyenne Mountain," Jack said crisply.
"You're leaving at 1730," Willis replied with equal crispness.
"And don't tell me I-- wait. Did you say 1730?"
Willis nodded smartly. "A car will be waiting to take you to the airfield at 1700 hours."
Jack thought back. He didn't remember a puddle jumper. "Did I...did I arrange this already?"
"No, Sir. But General Landry said you'd want to go once you read the information he sent, so I took the liberty of arranging the trip for you."
"I see," Jack said. "That's very--"
"You have a meeting with the Joint Chiefs at 1500 hours, Sir. I'll see you're undisturbed till then."
"You," Jack said, already picking up Landry's stack of papers again, "are a credit to your uniform, Willis."
"I know, Sir," Willis said before closing the door.
The person at my door was Jackson
, which makes sense, because no one needs a medical consult more than someone who's just gotten over a nasty case of death. Jackson brought me a cup of coffee -- good stuff, definitely not from the commissary --and said he thought I was probably wondering about him. I admitted his resurrection was a little puzzling. He started to argue the resurrection part, but I told him I was a real doctor, and I knew what I saw. He just nodded then, and said he'd told me during my interview that he'd died a few times. And he did, Wilson , but I thought he meant his heart had once stopped for a minute, or that he'd drowned and been resuscitated after twenty minutes. And I told him that, and then I said-- well, it went like this: "I didn't think you meant dead, as in having a gigantic hole blown clear through your chest," I said.
Jackson frowned. "I wouldn't say gigantic." "I could have tossed a bowling ball through you," I told him.
And then he looked at me, and made a face, and said, "You didn't actually try that, did you?"
The guy really reminds me of you, Wilson.
I told him that due to the sad lack of bowling balls in the infirmary, I hadn't, and he said good, and then he noticed I had a book in Arabic on my shelf and we ended up talking about things we'd done in Egypt. The guy had some stories you wouldn't believe, and I have a feeling they're all true.
Sometime you should come out here and hear Jackson's stories. And maybe a couple of mine. I never told you much about Egypt, did I?
It's funny that Colorado's turning out to be the strangest place I've ever been.
It was pretty quiet for a day and a half -- athlete's foot, three physicals, appendicitis, a sprained wrist, inventory (these people go through a lot of suture kits
), a drug refill for a guy who used to have a parasitic flying snake in his gut -- the usual. I had so much free time I went to the gym and got into a pick-up basketball game -- me and Jackson against Cols. Mitchell and Carter. Did I mention I love having my leg back? Carter's got a mean jumpshot, but Jackson and I were holding our own until Mitchell and Carter stepped up their defense: they got one of their other teammates -- the one they were deciding how to tell about Jackson 's temporary death the other day -- to walk by the court. Her name's Vala, and hot doesn't even begin to describe her. She was wearing leather pants she must have been poured into, and a halter top that -- well, Jackson and I were a little distracted, to say the least. (I'm thinking neither Carter or Mitchell like girls.) Before you point out how crude I am, I'd like to point out that Vala sashayed onto the court, winked at me, asked Jackson how it was hanging, and then proceeded to check. That pretty much ended the game. I thought Mitchell might laugh himself into a case of hyperventilation, but no.
Carter called it a win for her team. She's one competitive woman. She sort of reminds me of -- well, no I guess she really doesn't. And maybe we shouldn't go there, anyway.
Subject: Some men are from Mars
Colonel Sheppard, another one of the guys who interviewed me, stopped by the infirmary today with one of his teammates. The teammate, Ronon Dex -- how's that for a name? -- could easily join any defensive line in the NFL. Hell, he could replace any defensive line in the NFL. The guy came in with a hell of a tear down his forearm. I asked how it happened, and Ronon just glared at me. I told him I had to put something down on his medical record, and Sheppard said I should just write, "the usual," and stitch him up. I decided not to argue with the two of them. I'm not a total idiot, no matter what you think.
Sheppard stuck around for a while after Ronon left. There's something going on with him -- he doesn't seem to fit in his own skin, if you know what I mean. He poked around a little, and then he said he heard I'd had a weird experience with Jackson. He said that everyone had to deal with some weird stuff when they came to work for the SGC, and that you mostly got used to it after a while.
I asked him if he died much, and he said no, but he'd turned into a giant bug for a while. "Uh huh," I said.
"I, uh...work in another universe," he said, like that explained everything. (Honestly, Wilson , I wouldn't be surprised to find the guy was born in another universe. Which it turns out Ronon was, btw. Maybe the NFL should recruit there.) "So, no medical consequences?" I asked. "I mean, you look pretty much human now." "Pretty much," he said, like he wasn't too sure. "I do have a...thing...about Raid. I really, really hate the smell. But I'm pretty sure that was true before."
I said it probably was. I'm Dr. Supportive these days. You'd be proud of me. Maybe I needed to leave PPTH to reach my full potential, huh? Or maybe...
Gotta go. There's a team coming in for a post-mission check-up, and then it's movie night. I suggested "Vertigo." I haven't seen that one in a while.
It was late when Jack made it to Cheyenne Mountain, but of course almost everyone was still working. He stood by the door to the CMO's office and ran his fingers over the nameplate that had once said, "Janet Fraiser, MD," and now bore the name "Gregory House." House didn't look up when Jack breezed into the office. Jack figured people were always trooping in to drop off files and lab reports, and anyway, he could see House was busy watching an operation on his computer. Then Jack saw the ABC/General Hospital logo on the bottom of the screen, and cleared his throat.
"Just put it on the desk," House said without looking away from the computer.
"You shouldn't say that unless you're sure who you're talking to," Jack said. "I said that once to a Retu, and it ...well, you probably don't want to know. But considering they only do it once a month, it was pretty impressive."
House looked up then. "General O'Neill."
"And that's not even getting into the time I accidentally said that to Vala."
House leaned forward. "Do tell."
Jack grinned a little. "Actually, I'm here to--"
"Check on the new hire?" House finished for him.
Jack shrugged and took a seat. "It's procedure. Gotta keep the higher-ups happy, after all. At least, since Landry took away my zat. So...how're things?"
House took a moment, and then made a face. "Nasty appendicitis case last week, and a challenging suturing job earlier this week. You know, same old, same old."
Jack nodded. "The suturing was challenging, you say?"
"The patient was Ronon," House explained.
"Ah," Jack said. "And the leg?" He nodded toward House's thigh. "How's that?"
House grinned. "I almost beat Mitchell and Carter on the basketball court last week."
"Carter plays to win," Jack said.
"So does Vala," House said.
Jack chewed his lip thoughtfully. "I didn't know Vala played basketball."
"I don't know that she does," House said. "She's...something."
"A force to be reckoned with," Jack agreed.
"I'm surprised the teams that travel with her have to carry guns."
"Some species," Jack observed, "reproduce through cloning."
"Only because they haven't met Vala yet," House said. He suddenly leaned forward and typed something on his keyboard. Jack couldn't make it out.
"Another email?" Jack asked mildly.
House just looked at him, and then turned his attention back to the keyboard.
"You know," Jack said, "we can't let the ones you've written to Dr. Wilson go through."
House nodded without looking up. "Wouldn't matter if you did," he said. "Wilson's not at Princeton-Plainsboro anymore. No one knows where he is."
It was Jack's turn to nod. He sank back in his chair and sighed.
House looked at him. "You're not going to ask why I'm writing emails to someone who isn't there?"
Jack put his hands behind his head, rocked the chair back, and looked up at the ceiling. It needed painting. "Daniel died of radiation poisoning once," he said. "Well, technically he ascended to a higher plane of existence, but, as far as this plane of existence went, he was pretty much dead for a year. I still bought him a cup of coffee every morning."
"That's...disturbing," House said.
Jack's chair came down with a thump. "That I bought a cup of coffee for a guy who wasn't there?" he asked. "It's not like you can talk."
"That Jackson died once from radiation poisoning," House clarified. "That can't have been..."
"No," Jack agreed. "But that's life at the SGC."
"Yeah," House said. "So...a year's worth of coffee. Expensive coffee, I'm guessing. That's worse than a bunch of email, in my book."
"I drank the coffee," Jack pointed out. "And anyway, it was a sound strategic decision. Daniel has a history of coming back from the dead, and trust me, you don't want to get stuck with a reanimated, uncaffeinated Daniel."
"Huh," House said. "Well, I guess that explains the Starbucks cup in the quarantine room when..." He didn't continue, and Jack didn't ask for an explanation.
"That would be Vala. She likes the name 'Starbucks,' " Jack said. "I don't think she gets the whole coffee thing. Now, Carter understands Daniel and coffee. She buys him special roast from a place on Fifth Street." He shook his head. "Mitchell still gets Daniel commissary coffee, but he's learning."
"Teal'c doesn't buy coffee?"
"Teal'c doesn't get into town that often," Jack said. "But he buys beans online, and he's got a grinder in his quarters, so..."
House sat back, jiggled his leg, looked at his computer screen, and then glanced at Jack. "How'd you know Jackson would come back?"
"I didn't, really," Jack admitted. "Not that time. And not the first or second time he... The last couple of times, though, I was pretty sure. Which reminds me --"
"I'll call you," House said.
"I'd appreciate that," Jack said.
House met Jack's eyes. "So -- how come you were sure the last time? Gut feeling? Experience? Or are you going to hand me some bull about faith?"
Jack thought a minute. "Yeah, all of that," he finally said. "And I owed him seventy-five bucks."
A tiny smile crossed House's face. "I owe Wilson a crapload of money."
Jack stood up and stretched. "With all you're making here, you can afford to pay him back," he said. "Next time you email him, maybe you should let him know."
A siren went off then. "Ah, life at the SGC," Jack said, already halfway out the door.
"Yeah," House said, and went out to face whatever was going to happen next.