Colonel Jack O'Neill strolled aimlessly through the empty corridors of the base. It was quiet and the lack of people bustling about gave the impression it was night with a skeleton crew instead of early in the afternoon. He could definitely understand why this base had been chosen for realignment and consolidation with Fort Richardson to save Uncle Sam a couple of bucks. Then again, this area of the base was restricted and only authorized personnel such as himself were allowed to roam these corridors because of the freaks he'd found on the Arctic Ice over four weeks ago…
He'd been on his way up to the ice to supervise a Special Forces exercise when he received new orders to make a drop to check out a satellite image and a distress call. Taking two of his men they searched the ice and stumbled upon a dead astronaut and a non-existent flyboy. After marking the 'X' and dropping a buoy the USS Alexandria broke through the ice and granted them permission to come aboard. Jack had hardly had time to confer with the captain, Commander Bernacchi before they submerged and took his cargo to the infirmary where a disgraced archeologist with a frostbitten leg was waiting for them – apparently the crew of Alexandria had made another pickup and had saved the guy off the ice. The rescued trio turned out to be a bunch of freaks and he'd quickly left them in the infirmary to apprise his superiors of the situation. Jack had received new orders and relayed them to Commander Bernacchi, who had immediately set course to Anchorage.
Now, more than four weeks later Jack was still here and he was bored out his mind! There was hardly anything for him to do around here and leaving the base wasn't an option since he could be sent back to the Arctic Ice any moment to finally start the training – besides, it was Alaska, what could he possibly do off base? After the comment that archeologist had made about his son shooting himself Jack had been eager to go home and actually spend some quality time with his kid this summer vacation, but he couldn't since he hadn't completed his original mission yet. Until he knew for sure when he'd be allowed to supervise the training and go back home there really was no point in calling either, because that would only lead to more questions and possibly arguments.
Letting out a deep sigh, Jack tried to think of something to do to keep himself entertained but nothing came to mind; he'd already tried his hand at golfing last week, had worked out this morning and had lunch about an hour ago. At moments like these he thought about finally retiring but he was afraid boredom would set in after a few weeks of doing nothing but spending some quality time with his family and maybe do some fishing. He'd taken this position – training the new batch of Special Forces – to slowly prepare himself for retirement now that his back and knees were telling him he was too darn old to continue abusing his body on special ops. Maybe it would make the transition easier now that he'd be closer to home instead of traveling from one country to another, but it seemed like he was still a mere pawn being moved around. With rescuing the freaks he'd gotten himself reassigned by the higher ups and apparently now he had to answer to a General Hammond, who'd been assigned to take over everything regarding the trio by the President himself. Unfortunately for Jack the man had been busy with the interrogations of the prisoners – er, interviews with the visitors, as Jack had been told – for the past few days and didn't have time to talk to a mere Special Forces colonel.
Jack hadn't even met the man yet, but he had dropped by his office several times already only to find his secretary there, or if he was lucky the general's XO. Maybe I'll drop by in an hour or so, he told himself after turning the corner. Seeing an airman with a dinner tray walking towards what had been dubbed the visitors' accommodations, he frowned and decided to see how the 'interviews' were going. The airman stopped at the second door, which Jack knew was where the flyboy was being kept, and quickly opened the hatch and shoved the food inside before closing it and retracing his steps back to where he'd come from. Jack walked past the door and continued on his way to the surveillance room a couple of meters away at the end of the hall on the left. The isolation quarters or whatever they wanted to call the trio's accommodations were far apart from each other; the flyboy was in the beginning of the main corridor on the right, the archeologist was in the right side corridor and the dead astronaut was in the opposite, left side corridor and at the end of her corridor was a door that led to a hangar. Each had their own interview room next door as well, to move them as quickly as possible from one room to the other and without risking them running into each other or other personnel.
Swiping his card to open the door, Jack entered the surveillance room and acknowledged the men present. "Gentlemen," he muttered before joining them at the monitors. "No interviews at the moment?"
"We're waiting for Doctor Jackson to finish his breakfast and then I'll go check on his leg," the man in a doctor's coat replied, motioning towards the monitor showing the archeologist drinking his coffee.
"How is the leg, Doc?" Jack inquired, even though he'd told himself not to get involved because it would only mean more paperwork for him.
"The amputation was successful, right now he's on medication against the pain and infections and if all goes well, he should qualify for a prosthetic."
"That is if the man poses no threat and can be released under certain conditions," the suited man spoke up, turning towards the newcomer. "Colonel O'Neill, right?"
He stole a glance on the other man's suit. "That's right…."
"Colonel Frank Simmons," the man supplied.
Jack nodded slowly before stepping away when the doctor – MacKenzie, he noted looking at his nametag – moved his chair back and got up. He thought it was interesting the other colonel was wearing a regular suit and not BDUs like himself or dress blues. That and his unexplained presence here probably meant he was from Intelligence, he mused.
"If you gentlemen will you excuse me, I shall look in on my patient," Doctor MacKenzie said as he moved to the door. "Doctor Jackson should be ready in thirty minutes, Colonel."
"Ah, shooting him up with painkillers in the hopes he'll talk? The other tricks not working?" Jack asked Simmons after MacKenzie was gone. "Nothing useful then since last week, I take it."
Simmons shrugged and rubbed his hands together as he watched Jackson on the monitor. "The man has lost his leg, Colonel, it wouldn't be very nice of us to withhold him painkillers."
"Of course not… I guess sensory and sleep deprivation is in their own best interest as well?" he remarked sarcastically. The astronaut's room was so dark he couldn't even make out the furniture – or her for that matter – and it was obvious that the men's body clocks were purposely influenced as well with the different meals while it was just past lunchtime. Jack had no doubt that the trio would be kept in the dark – literally at times – unless they got food or were taken away for their 'interviews'. There was a fine line between interrogation and torture and he had enough experience to recognize the different techniques. "What's next, water boarding?"
"There is nothing illegal going on here, Colonel," Simmons said in a smug tone. "Doctor MacKenzie and other medical personnel can ensure their health and safety, no lines are crossed and it has all been cleared with my superiors. However, you mustn't forget these people pose a serious threat to our country and if they-"
Jack rolled his eyes in exasperation before interrupting the man. "Oh for crying out loud, don't tell me you believe all this crap about different universes and time machines."
"Alternate timelines and time travel, Colonel," he impatiently corrected. "I know you haven't listened in on their interviews but-"
"They're crazy," he quipped.
Simmons huffed in annoyance. "Their stories seem to match up, no matter how many times they're asked."
"I wanted to separate them on the Alexandria but there wasn't room," Jack muttered. Frowning at the monitors, he nudged the sergeant sitting at the computer. "What's he saying?"
Following the Colonel's line of sight the sergeant at the desk pressed a few keys so they could hear what this Cameron Mitchell was saying to his empty room.
"… crashed, I spent months recuperating in a hospital bed and then I had to learn how to walk again. I'm just saying, you can keep this up for as long as you want because all in all it took me over a year to recover from that and you know, I've got time. Well, until Ba'al shows up of course and then-"
"Turn it off," Simmons ordered, sounding exasperated.
Jack suspected this wasn't the first time the flyboy had told that story, he remembered him telling something similar about the cold, pins in his legs and a story about Antarctica when he checked on them in the infirmary on the Alexandria, but he hadn't really been listening. He'd noticed the guy was chatty though. "What about the astronaut?" he waited until the tech changed to night vision and his eyes adjusted to the screen. Cocking his head to the side he tried to get a better look. "What's she doing?"
"MacKenzie thought it was some kind of meditation," Simmons replied curtly.
It made Jack wonder if she was one of those Zen people or something. It definitely wasn't something they taught you in the military and she claimed to be in the USAF, like himself and the flyboy.
At that moment Doctor MacKenzie entered the surveillance room again and immediately took a seat next to the sergeant. "Keep these settings; I want to check how long she continues to meditate."
"How long has she been doing that Doc?"
"Since she woke up this morning at 0600 hours and pretty much the entire time after her interview and before she went to sleep at 2300 hours last night."
Jack looked at Simmons, who seemed to be upset at hearing this and quirked a brow. "Despite your… interrogation tactics she maintains a normal rhythm?"
"Yes," MacKenzie nodded. "Doctor Jackson also seems to practice the same kind of meditation when he's awake, although he seems to sleep more which could be down to his medications. Or maybe he just sleeps longer than her; she's military after all."
"So she says," Jack mumbled. "Well, I should go and see Hammond. Keep me apprised."
Interview Room One
Sam blinked a couple of times at the bright lighting as the door closed behind her. She didn't have to look over her shoulder to know the SFs had left her alone. Once her eyes had adjusted she walked over to the other side of the table. It had become her regular spot for what she guessed had been about four weeks now. The moment they were brought on base they'd been sent to the infirmary and split up; she hadn't seen the guys since or any friendly faces, actually. She'd assumed this timeline's version of Jack O'Neill – a colonel – would have made sure to get as far away from them as possible; not just because of their story and her technobabble but what Daniel had said about his son must have sounded crazy to him!
Taking a seat she forced herself to think of other things; she simply wasn't ready yet to think about Jack O'Neill – no matter which version. It was too painful after what had happened during the extraction ceremony and this wasn't the time or location to think about his fate. She'd grieve when she was alone. She wouldn't give these people the satisfaction of watching her crumble into a pathetic little heap as she mourned him – for now she needed to stay strong and collected. That required being Colonel Carter; Sam could come out when she was safe from prying eyes.
At first they had been kind to all three of them but after she'd been escorted to the interview room and started telling her story their attitudes had changed; she'd tried to explain the situation they were in and how important it was to fix this mess before Ba'al would come and take over the planet. They had been polite enough not to laugh in her face. She knew it must sound ridiculous to them but something must have convinced them there was a grain of truth in her words because she was still here.
If she was honest she had no idea what these people were thinking. After a few days and hours of interviews their attitudes had changed and they became more aggressive in their questioning and treatment of her. They tried to keep her off-balance that much she knew; overstimulating or depriving her of light, sound or sleep, giving meals at irregular hours and pulling her from her room without warning to shove her in the interrogation room… If it wasn't for the kelno'reem Teal'c had taught them years ago she wasn't sure how she'd be able to handle all this on top of losing Jack and not knowing what was happening to the guys. She hoped Daniel had pulled through the surgery but they wouldn't answer her questions about him…
Straightening on her chair and placing her hands on the tabletop she waited until the interviewer would join her and they'd start from the beginning again. Just like yesterday, the day before and all the days before that. It could have been worse, she thought; at least they hadn't put cuffs on her or made her wear a prison jumpsuit. Although that would probably be warmer and more comfortable than the infirmary scrubs she was still wearing from all the medical exams she had to undergo.
The door opened silently and a woman emerged. Seating herself, she leaned over to the camera next to her chair and turned it on. "Samantha Carter?" After placing a folder on the table, she immediately started with her questions like her male predecessor had done and didn't even bother to introduce herself.
"It is common knowledge that four years ago a computer failure forced the space shuttle Intrepid's main engines to shut down before it could reach a safe orbit or a secondary landing site. When the autopilot also failed, Mission Commander Samantha Carter stayed behind to fly it, while her crew bailed out of the escape hatch. The orbiter went down over the Atlantic, and her body was never recovered," the woman read aloud from a paper in her file.
"It wasn't me."
She frowned and looked up from the folder. "You just said your name was-"
"I was recruited into the Stargate Program in my timeline, not NASA," Sam replied in an exasperated tone.
"So you have no recollection of the crash whatsoever?"
"Oh God help me," she muttered. At least her previous interrogator had abandoned that line of questioning!
Jack had to bite back a quip as he listened in on the interview in the surveillance room, his mask of indifference not revealing anything to those around him. Besides, he didn't think MacKenzie and Simmons would appreciate his sense of humor – not many people did. He had just learned General Hammond didn't as he'd finally introduced himself to the man to request permission to go back to the Arctic and start his Special Forces training. Unfortunately his request had been denied and Hammond, who hadn't been in the mood for his jokes or arguments, told him to listen in on the current interviews and then give his professional opinion about the danger these freaks posed. "I take it you've heard this before?"
Simmons turned slightly towards him and huffed in annoyance – something he seemed to do quite often. "Yes, this is how it usually starts off; my superiors had hoped bringing in someone new might help."
"So… how's that working out for you?"
"It was the same with Mitchell earlier this morning."
Stuffing his hands in his pockets Jack rocked back on his feet and focused on the other occupied room. "What about the archeologist?"
Simmons snapped his fingers impatiently and the tech at the computer quickly muted the two women and pulled up the visual and audio from the other room on the central monitor.
"… you were raised by foster parents but followed in the footsteps of your real parents and pursued a career in archeology." The man paused as he looked up from his papers and, seeing the archeologist's questioning face continued. "You also have a PhD in anthropology and philology?"
"Yes, that's right."
Jack refrained from rolling his eyes and briefly wondered where the orphan had gotten the money from to fund his academic achievements, but decided he really didn't want to know; he wasn't very fond of scientists. "So the guy knows a lot about dead cultures and speaks a bunch of languages… How does that explain why he thinks he travels amongst the stars? Wait, don't tell me; I don't want to know," he quickly backtracked, holding up his hand as Simmons opened his mouth. The only thing he needed to know was if this guy and his friends were dangerous; not if they were delusional – that was MacKenzie's job. He turned back to the monitor and, noting the interviewer looked surprised, focused his attention back on the interrogation.
"… that you speak twenty-one languages?"
Okay, maybe more than a bunch…
"Actually… that would be twenty-seven," the archeologist corrected after a short pause, as if he wasn't even keeping track.
"That's quite impressive," Doctor MacKenzie muttered from his seat next to the sergeant. "From what I've heard these past few days it seems he and the Doctor Jackson living in Egypt share the same background with the exception of this space progr–"
"Ack! I don't want to know," Jack quickly interrupted him, once again reminded why he disliked scientists so much. Besides, he still wasn't convinced these freaks were telling the truth. "Save it for your report, Doc."
Simmons cast a glance at his watch and shrugged to himself. "Well, gentlemen, it's time for me to leave and check in with my superiors; I want these transcripts on my desk within an hour after the interviews, Sergeant."
As the two other remaining men focused back on the interview with the archeologist Jack blocked out the sound and moved to the other side of the room instead to get a better view of the dead astronaut. He didn't have to hear what she was saying because he was sure he'd zone out if she started to technobabble again like she had when he'd pulled her off the ice, but her body language was important to him; from what he could tell she seemed to be sincere and her ramrod posture definitely suggested a military background. Not only that but she was composed and while exasperated and exhausted by the endless interrogations no doubt, she seemed unperturbed; like it wasn't that big of a deal to be held against her will under less than cushy circumstances. Jack reluctantly admitted to himself that he was impressed with how she was handling the situation. He'd gotten a similar impression aboard Alexandria but he'd reasoned to himself she was probably still in shock if not hypothermic but now he started to wonder if anything would faze any of them.
The archeologist was also holding his own as the interviewer's efforts intensified despite his medical condition but by the time the guy started talking about ancient Egyptians, aliens, symbols and constellations Jack rolled his eyes and gave up. He might not have a PhD but as an amateur astronomer even he knew a transportation system to other planets based on using the right constellations made no sense since the constellations were only visible from certain locations and he imagined some stars wouldn't even be visible from other planets. Jack was just about ready to declare them insane because they obviously hadn't done their homework for this fabrication when MacKenzie instructed the sergeant to switch on the sound of the astronaut's interview and the woman started babbling about points of origin, wormholes and the planet being in danger. "That's it," he muttered under his breath, shaking his head and heading for the door. These people were giving him a headache the size of Alaska!