Trying to find a reference book in Dr. Jackson’s office was nearly as dangerous as trying to locate anything in his mother’s kitchen, Clark mused. It had that sense of order that applied only to the person who generally occupied the space. For any other random passer-by, it was a miasma of chaos and dysfunction.
And he still couldn’t find the reference book.
In the few months since his and Lex’s little chat with General O’Neill, Clark had become rather the usual sight around the complex. Those assigned to the mountain had become accustomed to seeing him strolling down the corridors, his nose buried in a book, or signing in and out of the complex at the oddest of hours.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that his fluency with languages was startlingly… well… alien.
His opinions and thoughts on all things Ancient were heartily welcomed. But once Dr. Jackson had figured out that Clark could use a language as fast as it could be explained to him, he had begun an apprenticeship of sorts under the linguist. While none of the documents or translations were going out under Clark’s name, he had become accustomed to filling his hours with dead or alien languages.
After all, he didn’t really need sleep in the way of any of the humans. He liked eating, yes, but he really didn’t need that either. Mostly, he was happy with the occasional sunbathing. He was only thankful that there weren’t enough disasters in the world to fill his free time.
And he’d discovered that it took approximately twenty-eight point three seconds for him to go from Washington, D.C. to Colorado Springs if he went straight up and then immediately across within the mesosphere. At that height, his flight line didn’t interfere with air traffic or space traffic. The longest part of the entire experience was having to stop a mile out and walk up to the security checkpoint.
It seemed that only his position as First Husband was keeping the increasingly curious military police from asking him for details. It was rather odd that someone in his position would be making such trips frequently and without escort.
Sidelining the thought and abandoning his fruitless search, Clark strolled out of the office and into the corridors of the SGC. He wasn’t going to find the book without help. Since Dr. Jackson and SG-1 were expected back from P9X-548, he could deal with a little patience.
Jack paced in the observation room, waiting for the noises that preceded the activation of the wormhole. Unsurprisingly, SG-1 was overdue.
“Siler, tell me this thing’s working.”
The sergeant didn’t even bother too look up from his console. Everyone knew how the General behaved when a team was late, especially when that team was SG-1.
“It’s working, General.”
The klaxon began to sound and the usual signals began their electronic dance.
“Is it SG-1?”
The General’s question was expected. If he hadn’t stopped smoking years before, it was quite possible he would have broken base regulations and been puffing away.
“Yes, sir. Opening the iris.”
As the protective covering gave way, the shimmering surface of the wormhole became apparent. But the people that came through weren’t as expected. The Colonel now commanding the team was nothing more than a limp figure hanging between Teal’c and Lt. Colonel Carter. But, more disturbingly, the wormhole closed before a fourth person came through.
It was apparent on the averted faces of the technicians that they knew just how bad this was even before the General slapped the intercom active with a vicious motion. He didn’t bother to summon the medics, as someone had already started the call.
She looked up, her face lined and weary. There was a tension in her jaw that leaked clearly into her words.
“The Stargate's activation caused an earthquake, sir. The locals were rather upset and the Colonel didn’t listen to Dr. Jackson.”
With the way the General was growling under his breath, it was becoming more likely by the second that the Colonel may not have the chance to listen to anyone again… ever. The team leaders were well briefed on the care and feeding of the SGC’s celebrity archeologist/linguist. Losing him on a planet somewhere in the galaxy was not within those guidelines.
“Where is Dr. Jackson, Carter?”
Samantha’s face fell even as she forced her response to remain military professional. They’d all worked together for far too many years.
“They wouldn’t let him leave, sir. And we didn’t have the manpower to force the issue.”
As medical personnel began to swarm into the gateroom, there was no further point in the conversation. Now it became a matter of cold-hearted evaluations. Could the SGC afford the risk involved for the recovery of a civilian advisor?
The General’s coffee mug fell from the table to shatter across the floor as the man stormed from the room. It was unquestionable that every reasonable effort would be made to recover any lost man. When the rescuee was Dr. Jackson, they all knew that even the unreasonable efforts would be considered.
Daniel Jackson could just see the rise upon which the Stargate was situated from his cell’s window. From long experience, he could have told his captors that prisoners should really be kept in inner locations. Not that he would, seeing as his location could be an advantage in his rescue.
And rescue it would have to be, he thought as he kicked the shattered remains of his GDO across the confined space. Even if he hadn’t watched the local shaman direct the destruction of the DHD, he wouldn’t have been able to signal his return without a GDO.
He had no desire to be a splattered crust on the inside of the iris.
“Think, Daniel,” he muttered to himself as he rubbed at the marks left by his glasses.
His thoughts were scattered, a possible indicator of a concussion or pre-concussion status. He was bruised thoroughly, but not broken. He had been stripped of all useful equipment, except for his spectacles, though he’d been allowed to retain his clothes.
All in all, it was a better situation than some he had faced.
From the carvings and what they had observed of the locals, he was rather certain the civilization was Aztec or Mayan derived. Not that he was a specialist in South American cultures. But he did know enough to be very concerned about the voluble exclamations of the shaman-priest and the presence of a pyramid-temple. Even though this was a far later culture than most that were transplanted for use as Goa’uld hosts, he was distinctly uncomfortable.
It certainly wasn’t in Daniel’s plans to be sacrificed to a god, false or otherwise.
The search and rescue team stepped into the gateroom. It was cleared of all unnecessary staff as the MALP stood ready to go first through the wormhole. The standard procedure, to observe if it was safe for the team to go through or if they’d be immediately attacked, held steady despite the urgency felt by the staff.
Tension was rife in the control room as the chevrons locked into place. The essence of the wormhole connection spiraled into the gateroom before stabilizing into a shimmering vertical pool. It held for barely seconds before collapsing into the ether.
“What the hell just happened, Carter?”
Samantha had no explanation for the General. She typed furiously at a console, trying to wring answers from a system without them.
“I simply don’t know yet, Sir.”
The order was carried out and the stages of gate travel proceeded normally. Until, that is, the wormhole refused to stay in place.
The General’s voice demanded answers. Samantha, unfortunately, didn’t like the only one she had to give.
“General, the Stargate has done this before only in very specific circumstances.”
He gestured for her to continue.
“The wormhole will not engage fully if the DHD crystals on the other end are nonfunctional. I believe that the instability of the wormhole is being caused by damage to the DHD. The connection isn’t stable for more than a few seconds and that simply isn’t long enough for our people to get through.”
“So what you’re telling me is that Daniel is trapped unless he can repair the DHD?”
Lt. Colonel Carter no more wanted to confirm that answer than she wanted to drop kick a puppy. Although she knew Daniel was no longer the incapable geek of years before, he simply wasn’t the person on the team best able to fix gate technology. And he certainly wasn’t likely to have the opportunity with the natives involved.
Clark garnered a few odd glances by standing in a corridor leaning against the wall. He was unbothered by the personnel, who probably assumed he was reading the file open in his hands. But as he leaned there, his head cocked slightly to the side, his attention was purely on the control room.
The answers inside were not what the General wanted and they didn’t agree with Clark. He glanced down at the file in front of him, reading the environmental specifications for P9X-548. More specifically, he flipped through until he found the original MALP’s recording on light wavelengths.
The planet had a yellow sun. Most important, that yellow sun was producing radiation in a wavelength that Lex had long ago tested against Clark’s abilities. While he would not have quite the power level he was accustomed to through exposure to Sol, he would still have approximately ninety percent of his known capabilities.
And that was more than enough.
Clark whistled faintly as he strolled through the compound to the locker rooms. They were unoccupied. No teams were readying to leave for a mission. No teams were returning. It was quiet in its vacancy, which suited his purposes perfectly.
Superman restricted himself to Earth’s major disasters. But Clark had never been able to ignore a friend in need. That personal calling had resulted in more than one timely arrival when either Chloe or Lois was threatened by a news source. And his father had even appreciated it when the tractor unexpectedly overturned.
While he couldn’t hear Dr. Jackson calling for help, Clark knew the man was trapped. Knowing that he could save him was worth the price of exposing his other secret to the SGC. He could only reassure himself that his capabilities were already classified as Ancient information.
General Jack O’Neill was still consulting with Samantha Carter about their options when one of the technicians drew his attention.
“What is it?” he barked, not having looked up from the calculations at the Lieutenant Colonel’s station.
“Mr. Kent is in the gateroom, sir.”
The General looked up just as Clark put his fist through the controls next to the gateroom door. He, with the others in the control room, gaped as the man ignored the sparks of electricity and walked towards the Stargate. Clark Kent was clothed in BDUs rather than his customary suit.
As the General engaged the intercom, Clark turned to look at the control room.
“Mr. Kent, you are not cleared for gate travel. I’m going to have to ask you to step away from the Stargate.”
Clark smiled. He knew that it would take longer to repair the damage that he had done to the gate room doors than it would take for him to get through the Stargate.
“I can’t do that, General.”
O’Neill’s jaw clenched. The First Husband was going to get killed on his watch. He didn’t even want to think about what the President would do to him when this was reported.
“Look, we all want to help Danny, but you can’t do this. If the wormhole disengages before you’ve passed fully through, you will be killed.”
Clark shook his head. The smile had faded to an eerie seriousness. He straightened physically, his entire demeanor changing from the casual and easy-going man with whom they had become acquainted.
“General, please inform the President that I didn’t have the other suit with me so I borrowed from the locker room.”
Ignoring any further responses from the intercom, Clark turned his entire attention to the Stargate. It began to dial, his commands overriding the lockdown that the control room was attempting to enforce. He stood, just beyond the reach of the rush of an establishing wormhole.
But then, just as the connection engaged, he disappeared.
In accordance with procedures, the unauthorized wormhole and the control room lockdown triggered a foothold alarm.
Jack began cursing volubly as the iris locked shut. It seemed a bad situation could only grow worse. When he had a semblance of control, the General took a deep breath before giving any orders.
“Carter, get the Stargate back online and the iris open.”
“Sir, that’s going to take hours and first we have to get into the gateroom.”
“Just do it, Carter.” The General sighed like a man heading for his own funeral. “I have to inform the President.”
Clark rematerialized on P9X-548 still using his superspeed. Unlike humans, who typically experienced a faint nausea or discomfort using the Stargate, he was completely unaffected. It was easily assumed that this was because the gate was designed to be used by someone with his specific biology.
With his powers online, Clark was able to catalog the situation and avoid the group of warriors clustered near the gate in the event of return travelers. Unfortunately for them, they were completed unprepared for a being like him.
He halted his survey and movement in the cover of a copse of jungle-like trees. The warriors were suspicious at the activation and closure of the Stargate but eased when no one was visible in their arrival. Clark could understand the displeasure of the locals as the ground beneath him rumbled its dissatisfaction with the vibrations of the gate.
Setting apart the amazement he felt at traveling through the Stargate, Clark began to strategize the fastest way to return with Dr. Daniel Jackson. The first stage, location of his target, was amazingly easy.
Clark’s senses focused on a struggle occurring near the central pyramid-like structure of the settlement. With a touch of levitation, he could faintly make out the situation. Dr. Jackson was being led towards the stairs leading up the pyramid. He was resisting quite strenuously, to the detriment of his native escort.
Finally, though, it became obvious that Dr. Jackson was going up the steps. Unfortunately for the linguist, that was being accomplished bound, gagged, and carried.
From his vantage point, Clark determined that the easiest place to grab the archaeologist would be from the altar at the top of the pyramid. He knew he was fast enough to get the man out before he was injured further. Clark could only grimace at the fear Daniel would go through before that happened.
His levitation turned into a barely leashed subsonic flight. Clark nearly vibrated in place as he shifted his body in the air. The bonds were removed, the gag torn off. Dr. Jackson screamed out his objections as the shaman-priest raised his arms into the air.
And the air above the temple cracked with the thunder of the gods as the restrained man was torn from the hands of his captors.
Daniel gasped with the urge not to puke and looked at the person holding him. He knew he was gaping at the dark-haired man. His eyes were abnormally dilated due to shock, fear, and the rapid transition of movements. His linguistic abilities failed him.
Clark smiled gently as he shifted his grip on the tense scholar.
“It’s okay, Dr. Jackson. I’ve got you.”
Daniel looked down… and down… and down… at the canopy of vegetation too far below them.
“You’ve got me? Who’s got you?!”
Clark began to laugh.
It had been a difficult hour since a very terse phone call from the SGC to the President. O’Neill paced the control room. He knew his presence wasn’t getting the work done any faster but waiting anywhere else made him feel useless.
They didn’t have any answers on this problem. Unfortunately, there were going to be demands for answers a lot sooner than expected. The President hadn’t been in Washington, D.C. He’d been in Metropolis, Kansas. Rather than four hours before an outraged husband and command in chief arrived on scene, they could expect the man at any time.
As if summoned by the General’s morose thoughts, the control room door opened to admit Lex Luthor. The bald man appeared unusually composed for someone whose spouse was lost on the other side of the galaxy. Jack frowned at the thought that perhaps the man hadn’t fully understood the earlier call.
Lex looked at the technicians and their work before peering through the windows to the gateroom below. His lips twisted upwards when he spied the closed iris and he hefted his briefcase onto a table nearby.
“Clark’s brought Dr. Jackson back already then?”
General O’Neill stared at him for a moment. No, the President had certainly not understood the situation.
“Mr. President, they haven’t returned. Perhaps we should discuss this in my office?”
Lex frowned in turn. “If they haven’t returned, then why is the iris closed?”
“Mr. President, I really think we should take this to my office.”
Lex’s frown deepened into what the General easily recognized as mulish stubbornness. It was a face he had often used himself.
“No, General. I believe that I will wait right here.”
Jack stepped closer, lowering his voice as he tried to explain in a compassionate fashion.
“Sir, I’m sorry I didn’t get this across in my call. We could not establish a steady connection even before the foothold procedures were initiated. We don’t have control of the Stargate at the moment. There is nothing we can do to bring either Mr. Kent or Dr. Jackson home.”
It was nearly infuriating that the President didn’t seem dismayed by this information. He smirked at the General. His eyes gleamed with knowledge that was so far unshared.
“You misunderstand, General. I don’t expect you to do anything but get that iris open so that the United States government doesn’t have to pay for its replacement.”
Daniel leaned against the tree behind him. By not shifting, he kept their noise to a minimum. Noise considerations aside, he couldn’t remain silent while faced with this situation.
“Superman’s an Ancient.”
Clark’s brow furrowed as he considered the non sequitur. “That assumption would follow your previous statement.”
“I’m being rescued by Superman.”
Clark stared at Dr. Jackson as the man spoke with a level of amused incredulity. As he watched, the linguist began to snicker. He covered his mouth as it grew into laughter then fell silent. At the questioning glance from his alien companion, he proffered an explanation.
“I’m sorry… but I am never going to live this one down.”
Clark grinned. “Just be glad you’re going to be there to be teased.”
Daniel chuckled before reality began to sink in. The thought caused him to lose the hilarity and frown.
“My GDO was crushed. Without one, we can’t signal the SGC to open the iris.”
“I’m not worried about that,” was Clark’s only reply.
“Then what about the DHD? I know it was damaged.”
Clark frowned before he nodded. “It was damaged. The connection is only stable for a few seconds.”
Dr. Jackson’s expression bespoke his frustration. “Without either of those working, how do you expect us to get back through?”
Clark just met the man’s features with calm determination. “You forget, Doctor. I’m Superman.”
The speaking looks being traded by President Luthor and General O’Neill were being nobly ignored by the personnel staffing the control room. Around them, the people worked steadily at their tasks.
Then the klaxons began to sound.
“Sir,” one of the technicians spoke out suddenly, “we have an incoming wormhole.”
The President turned to General O’Neill.
“Can you open the iris?”
Jack scowled and wished once more that he hadn’t given up smoking. “No, I can’t.”
“Then I suggest you duck.”
The words were ominous. The General understood their source as the gateroom below had sudden activity. The iris, a massive object of trinium reinforced titanium, bowed outwards into the room and then exploded open. It pealed back like a fruit, the center curled back toward the outer edges. The wormhole had collapsed within seconds.
The occupants of the gateroom stood slowly. They brushed free of the fragments of the observation window that had shattered at the pressure changes.
“What the hell?” the General asked as no one was immediately visible.
But then a voice carried up from the wall immediately beneath the control room’s missing window.
“Jack? I think we need the medics.”
Jack’s voice was amazed as he climbed partially up on a desk to look through the open space to the room below. He was in shock at the sight of Dr. Jackson leaning on a Clark Kent who lounged against the wall.
Daniel, after yelling towards the control room, was focused solely on his rescuer.
“Are you injured?”
Clark took a mental stock of his body’s state and then winced at the feel of cold concrete against his back, buttocks, and legs. While his body could survive the impact against the iris, the BDUs were not designed for that type or intensity of impact.
“Nothing but my modesty.”
Moments later, their hurried trade of words was interrupted by an almost smug voice from above.
Clark winced at the recognizable voice of his spouse. Repressing the urge to curse in Kryptonian, after all, he had expected to be back before the President could arrive, he answered the man.
In the control room, it seemed that the only person not reacting with amazement to the events was the President himself. While the General rationalized that he was going to demand a full explanation, the bald man was snapping open the locks on his briefcase.
The item that Lex pulled from inside was a vibrant scarlet square folded in his hands. He gave a slight toss, unrolling the object as it fell to the gateroom below. The bright crimson unfurled to reveal a recognizable golden crest. The unflinching dramatist in Lex adored the moment of shocked recognition.
“You might want to start wearing the suit under your clothes if this is going to become a regular habit.”
Clark snatched his cape from the air. He wrapped it around his body, better preserving his modesty than the tattered remains of the military clothing. There was only one appropriate reply to the teasing remark.