Colorado Springs, CO
January 8, 1999
Doctor Fraiser jotted something down on the chart, before giving Colonel Jack O'Neill her full attention. "Well, it looks like the wound is healing nicely, Colonel."
"Took long enough," Jack groused, fingers sliding over the marred skin at the back of his neck.
"Considering the damage the Goa'uld could have done, I think we should all be grateful for the outcome, Sir."
The CMO rolled her eyes. "You're lucky you managed to pull it out before it got itself any deeper."
"Yeah, I just reacted." Jack nodded, sticking to the cover story he and Hammond had devised. Aside from SG-1, no one on the planet with the fake SGC facility knew Sam had been instrumental in saving his ass. He'd made sure of that, not even introducing her to the other SGC members around or mentioning her name in his report. Hammond had agreed to keep Sam's presence on that planet quiet, at least until they had figured out with and for whom Grieves was working.
"Mhmm," Fraiser said, eyeing him askance. "I'd say you're in good enough physical shape to return to active duty."
"Just try not to get injured again so soon, Sir. My staff would like a break from you."
He smirked, throwing her a sloppy salute. "The feeling is mutual, Doc."
She looked at him indulgently, the same way he'd often seen her look at Cassie. "I'll pass that along."
"So, I'm free to go?"
"You were never restricted in the first place," she said dryly. "But yes, you can go. Just don't forget the psych eval with Doctor MacKenzie."
He made a face. "Aw, Doc-"
"I can only clear you physically, Sir. You know this is SOP after what you went through. Without his okay, you won't be going through the gate again anytime soon."
"Fine," he muttered. "I don't know why, since I was never snaked in the first place, but fine. I'll go."
"I believe you were the one who insisted on more thorough screenings, Sir," Fraiser said dryly.
Jack narrowed his eyes at her. "Obviously I wasn't referring to myself."
"You'd prefer preferential treatment, Colonel?"
"Well, I am the base's second in command…"
She rolled her eyes again as his voice trailed off. "Speaking of which, I shall pass my recommendation onto General Hammond."
Jack blinked as she turned around and headed for her office. Had she just dismissed him? That little Napoleonic power monger… "You do that, Doc," he said to her retreating form. "I'll just go see the man himself."
He huffed when she didn't bother to reply and turned around, making his way down to Hammond's office. They had things to discuss, after all. The most important thing being Sam's return to Earth and how they were going to find out who was behind Grieves' actions. It was doubtful the guy worked alone, especially in light of the company he kept in Utah, but they had no idea if he had a person on the inside of the SGC. If there was no mole or contact or whatever at the SGC, then how could Grieves and his team obtain advanced alien technology?
Train of thought interrupted, Jack looked up to see his friend heading his way. "Daniel."
"Did you just come from the infirmary?"
"Yeah, had to get my neck checked out," he replied, grimacing. Scars in itself weren't an issue for him, which was fortunate considering he had a lot of them, but the thought of the snake coming so close... a shudder ran down his back. He could still hear the screeching when he was lying awake at night.
Daniel automatically peered at the spot he mentioned, eyebrows raised. "Looks like it's almost healed."
"Thank you, Doctor Jackson."
He smiled sheepishly at the sarcasm. "Did Janet clear you?"
Jack made a face at the second reminder of the shrink. "… not yet."
Daniel rolled his eyes. "You haven't gone to see him yet, have you?"
"I believe that falls under doctor-patient confidentiality."
"Only if you're actually a patient of his."
"Right. Then, no."
He sighed and glanced at his friend. "Look, I know you probably enjoy your sessions with that quack, but I don't need to talk to him because I don't have any problems."
"Hathor almost implanted you with a Goa'uld."
"Gee, thanks for the reminder, Daniel. I'd almost forgotten."
Daniel turned to him when they stopped at the elevator. "That doesn't affect you at all?"
"Not even after seeing Skaara… and Sam? If it hadn't been for her, you would've-"
Jack held up his hand, interrupting him, "Ack! Let's keep that to ourselves for now, okay?" The moment he ran into Kershaw and Daniel in the Goa'uld compound he'd been so relieved – both at being snakeless and finding Sam – that he'd sort of blurted it out. He hadn't had time to think it through. Besides, Daniel counted her as a friend and might have recognized her from his visit to the alternate reality.
He trusted SG-1, he really did, but there were ears everywhere in the SGC and there was no telling if anyone on base was working with Grieves. "Because," he said, after a moment of thinking, "we don't want to get anyone's hopes up when she can't return yet."
Daniel frowned. "Like, who?"
"Er, her dad," Jack said. "He's a two-star general and has been snooping around, trying to find out what happened to her. If someone accidentally lets it slip and he learns about it, then the shit will really hit the fan."
"Okay," Daniel said slowly.
He nodded and stepped into the car when the elevator doors opened. "Good. Just don't mention her presence on Hathor's planet to anyone."
"For now?" He asked, looking at him with furrowed brow.
Jack rolled his eyes and hit the button for level twenty-seven. "Just do as I say, okay? Hammond and I talked this through and that's what we're gonna do."
"Okay. So, where are you going?"
"Not to see MacKenzie, if that's what you're asking," he said dryly. "Gotta see Hammond."
Daniel looked at him curiously, before he hit the button for the science department. "Oh?"
"Just some command stuff," he lied.
"You're going to try to get out of seeing Doctor MacKenzie, aren't you? Look Jack, I know you don't like to talk to him, but this could really help-"
"You're right," Jack said, interrupting him. "I'm gonna try to get out of seeing the shrink."
"The General won't let you."
He shrugged, grateful for the excuse provided. "We'll see."
Daniel didn't say anything else until the elevator stopped at level twenty-seven. "Are we still having lunch at the commissary?"
Jack checked his watch and nodded, "Yup. I'll make sure T comes to pick you up because I know you'll get lost in something fascinating."
"Okay. See you then."
"See ya," he said, before stepping out into the corridor.
The trip to Hammond's office didn't take long and a minute or two later, Jack knocked on his CO's door.
Jack opened the door and peeked inside. "Got time for me, Sir?"
Hammond looked up from the papers on his desk. "I already got a call from Doctor Fraiser about your checkup, but I can't put SG-1 back on the mission roster until you've been cleared by Doctor MacKenzie, son."
"Yeah, about that, Sir…"
Jack opened the door fully and stepped into the office. "I was wondering-"
"I can't make an exception for you, Jack."
"I know," he said, "and that's not why I'm here."
The General leaned back in his chair and looked at him expectantly. "Does this have anything to do with Captain Carter?"
Jack knew he shouldn't be surprised because Hammond was a lot shrewder than he liked to let on, but he was still impressed. "Actually, it does."
"Well then, take a seat and let's hear it, Colonel."
"Sir," he said, as he plopped in a chair, "we know that Grieves and his goons in Utah are working for someone high up. Someone with access to the second stargate."
Hammond nodded, "Very high civilian levels, if Colonel Maybourne is to be believed. Most likely NID."
"Or some offshoot, a rogue operation perhaps."
"You think they were behind Colonel Grieves' actions towards Captain Carter?"
Jack pursed his lips, mind going back to his brief meeting with Sam. "No, I don't think anyone gave him orders to shoot her. Bra'tac told us she witnessed Grieves taking the alien device on P3X-425, so Grieves probably improvised when he realized he was caught red-handed."
"The Captain didn't elaborate on this when you spoke to her?"
"No, there wasn't much time. The gate was still open and I didn't want anyone to start asking questions."
"Colonel Makepeace was under the impression you were talking to Master Bra'tac," Hammond reminded him.
"Yeah, had to tell him something. But Captain Carter and I spoke only briefly-"
"And you gave her your GDO."
Jack acknowledged his CO's statement with a small nod. He'd already told him; Hammond and Catherine were the only ones in the know about the IDC he'd given Sam. "I couldn't leave her entirely to her own devices, Sir. Not after what Grieves did. Figured the Alpha Site wasn't an option since no one would know her there and she has no way to ID herself."
"You told me, Colonel," Hammond said in an understanding tone. "So, we still don't know anything else about Grieves' motivations."
"Considering he stole the device on P3X-425 and the Touchstone on Madrona, I'd say he's under orders to obtain advanced alien technology."
"The President told me we're under more pressure than ever to bring back technology that can help us in the war against the Goa'uld. That can only come from an organization such as the NID who provide civilian oversight of top secret military operations or the Senate Oversight Committee to which the NID answers."
Jack narrowed his eyes in suspicion. "Isn't that Kinsey?"
Hammond shook his head with a small smile. "Senator Kinsey is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, although I have no doubt he's angling for a position on the Oversight Committee."
"So, not Kinsey."
"Perhaps not officially."
Jack sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Well, I wouldn't be surprised if Harry Maybourne is somehow involved."
"That would've guaranteed no one would find out about the 'misplacement' of the second stargate," the General agreed. "But we have no proof of his involvement."
"Not yet, Sir."
"I take it you came to me with an idea, Colonel?"
Making a vague hand gesture, Jack grimaced. "Maybe."
"Is Doctor MacKenzie somehow involved in this idea of yours?"
Hammond chuckled softly, before turning serious again. "Tell me, Jack."
"Right now, we have nothing, Sir. Nothing except Carter's story, our suspicions and all of SG-1 witnessing Grieves with the Touchstone. But there's got to be some Rogue NID operation that uses intel from off-world missions of SG teams to find the alien tech they're looking for. How else could they narrow it down from all the planets in the galaxy?"
"You think there's a mole in the SGC," Hammond said, making it sound like a statement rather than a question – and he didn't seem surprised by the conclusion.
"Our reports go straight to the Pentagon via you, Sir. Unless the JCS are leaking information which I find highly doubtful, someone's got to be spilling the beans."
"The reports are also accessible to the Pentagon's Xenophysics's Department in case there is relevant information in them."
Jack hadn't thought of that before and mulled it over for a moment, until he recalled something Catherine had told him a long time ago. "Doesn't Stargate Mission Analysis fall under that department, Sir?"
"That's where Colonel Grieves was stationed before he came to the SGC and where Colonel Samuels is assigned these days," the General said slowly, realization dawning on his face.
"And Samuels is a fan of Kinsey's, if I recall correctly."
Hammond let out a deep sigh as he processed the new information, "That still doesn't remove the possibility of a mole in the SGC, though."
"No, it doesn't… so, let me infiltrate them, Sir."
"You have a plan?"
"Whoever is in charge, obviously chose Grieves either because of his spec ops past or his new assignment to the SGC. Their missions are hush-hush and they need to be in and out quickly; they could probably use a disillusioned, angry and frustrated retired SG team leader."
General Hammond smiled deviously, catching on. "Someone… like you, perhaps?"
"Yeah. If Maybourne is involved, he'll want someone like me on his team."
"But if Kinsey's involved…"
Jack shrugged, not too concerned. "Kinsey doesn't like me, but he isn't stupid."
"And how do you propose we do this, son?"
"Well, I don't know if you heard, Sir," he said dryly, "but I got snaked three weeks ago and that was quite traumatizing for me. I barely passed my psych eval and am starting to get frustrated with the limitations imposed on me and my team: we can never get the advanced tech we need to defend Earth if we pussyfoot around with those damned uncooperative aliens who call themselves our allies but never give us anything."
Hammond rubbed his chin, still smiling. "Well, son, that sounds like maybe it's time you retire."
"But I don't really want to, I want rid the galaxy of all the Goa'uld and sitting around at home is not really for me."
"That's understandable, considering what they have cost you so far… Kawalsky, Skaara, Sha're, Captain Carter, SG-11, Major Boyd and all the others who've lost their lives while working at the SGC."
"Then perhaps it's up to me to force you into retirement," he said. "I understand that is difficult for you to accept-"
"I might act out," Jack supplied. "In the gate room, with lots of folks around to witness it and you'd be forced to reprimand me."
"And then you'd probably walk out," Hammond finished. "I think that could actually work, Jack."
He grinned and sat back, "Let's hope so, Sir."
"It has to be a gradual process, though."
"I know, it'll take time."
"Your team can't know. I'll have to replace you with someone else and their reactions to everything have to be genuine."
Jack made a face but he already knew that would be the case. He just hated the idea of having to lie to them. "Maybourne or whoever won't approach me right away, either."
"No, they will probably observe you first. Make sure the story checks out. That could take weeks in itself."
"And it'll take even longer before I actually 'snap'," he said, using finger quotes.
General Hammond leaned forward, elbows on his desk and dead serious. "Do you think you can handle an undercover operation like that? It'll take months and might not pay off."
"Oh, I'm ready, Sir. And it'll pay off, it has to."
They discussed some more details before Jack left his CO's office and went looking for his team in the commissary. The meeting had run far longer than he'd expected and of course, he'd missed lunch and his team was nowhere in sight. As a matter of fact, it was rather quiet in the commissary and most of the food was gone, too. There wasn't even a piece of cake left.
Jack was already nearing Daniel's lab when he thought to check his watch and realized it was closer to dinner than lunch. Daniel, however, was still hard at work and waved off his apology. It wasn't unusual for a member of SG-1 to miss lunch, after all. If Daniel didn't have his nose in the books and Teal'c wasn't putting the three new SG teams through their paces, Kershaw would be working out or Jack got caught up in his duties as second-in-command of the base.
"It's fine, Jack," Daniel said, not even looking up. "I'm going over the mythology of Hathor, Apophis and Heru'ur. I figure we're going to need all the information we can get now that we know Hathor stole Jaffa from both and they worked well together."
"But Hathor is dead and so are her Jaffa," he reminded him.
"And if the rumors about Klorel's difficulties with keeping the Serpent Guards in line and Heru'ur coming after him are true, then every little bit can help."
Jack shrugged, not really caring. So far, it seemed like the Goa'uld didn't really have elaborate plans other than fighting each other – and that suited him just fine. He'd gladly give them all a hand if SG-1 was in the neighborhood, but right now he was more focused on finding out if there was a mole in the SGC and to infiltrate Grieves' operation. "Okay. Well, have fun. You can tell me all about it on Monday."
He made a face, "Yeah, I've got an errand to run before going home. Are Teal'c and Kershaw still around?"
"Um, I don't know. They said something about going to O'Malley's with SG-2 and -3," he said, smiling. "Teal'c mentioned something about taking advantage of the inebriated people over pool and Christina probably took the opportunity to hang out with Makepeace."
"Okay, well, I'll see them after the weekend then. Don't forget to actually go home this weekend!"
"Oh, ha ha."
Jack smirked and left the lab, heading to the locker room. After exchanging his BDUs for civvies, he went topside and got into his truck. Grabbing his wallet, he retrieved a piece of paper with a Colorado Springs address on it and double-checked it before driving away. He still had a promise to fulfill…
On his way to the apartment building he stopped to pick up some takeout and took the food with him when he went up to the first floor. It took two knocks and more patience than Jack usually possessed until the door was opened and he came face to face with a weary-looking General Jacob Carter.
"Jack! Is there any news about Samantha?"
"Hello Jacob," he replied, holding up the bag of takeout. "Can I come in?"
The General stepped aside and beckoned him in. "It's been almost three months since we spoke, I was starting to think you'd forgotten about me."
"I figured you hadn't eaten yet, so I brought takeout with me."
"I don't have much of an appetite these days, but take a seat while I get us some drinks."
Jack took the cartons out of the bag and set them on the coffee table, before taking a seat on the indicated sofa. He waited until Jacob returned with two chilled beers. "Last time I told you about our contact setting up a meeting with an informant who claimed to know Sam's whereabouts."
"I take it you've finally met up with him?"
"About a month and a half ago."
Jacob looked peeved at only being told now, but didn't voice it. "Did the intel check out?"
"Yeah, he filled in some of the blanks for us and he gave me a lock of hair-"
He nodded and reached for the beer. "I wanted to stop by when the lab confirmed it was hers, but Hammond happened to mention you were visiting your son."
Despite his earlier claims, Jacob opened one of the cartons and put some of the food on one of the plates he'd brought back from the kitchen. "I reached out to Mark after… Sam. Trying to make amends before I go, I suppose. He invited me over to spend the holidays with his family. He and Laura, his wife, have two kids. A baby boy and a three-year-old girl. God, she reminds me of Sam at that age. Not that I was ever around much, the Air Force always came first. But I don't have to tell you that."
"No," Jack said softly, taking a sip of beer. "No, you don't."
"I bet George was relieved I wasn't around. He checks in regularly, making sure I haven't kicked the bucket yet, I guess. I told him this thing's going to go on for months, but he's pretty insistent. Anyway, he keeps telling me it's classified whenever I ask about Sam and I can tell he hates keeping the truth from me."
"The classified nature of the Program complicates things," he affirmed.
Jacob took a few bites of food, murmuring his appreciation. "The chemo robbed me of my appetite," he explained, "but they changed my treatment after Christmas. It wasn't working anymore, so they've put me on something experimental. Guess my appetite is coming back."
"How are you doing?"
"You get me my little girl back," he said, pointing at him with his fork, "and I'll make sure to hang in there. Don't worry about me, worry about Sam. Speaking of which, what's the plan now that you know the informant was right? What have you been up to since then?"
Jack leaned forward, elbows on his thighs and beer bottle dangling between his knees. "I saw her, Jacob."
"You... what?! Where, when?"
"Just before Christmas. We happened to be in the same area, completely by accident. My team was under attack and, well, it all went downhill from there. We were captured and things weren't looking good for me when Sam busted in and saved my ass."
Jacob looked at him intently, waiting for more. When none was forthcoming, he gestured at his neck. "Is that a little souvenir from your mission?"
Jack touched the scar self-consciously and nodded. "Like I said, close call."
"I take it that since you're here, telling me about it, you didn't bring my daughter home with you. What the hell happened? Why did you leave her in that hellhole?"
"We talked about it," he said, bracing himself for the lie he had come up with, "and she understood that she couldn't come back yet-"
"What the hell's that supposed to mean?"
Frustrated, Jack ran a hand through his hair. "It means that she went undercover to maintain her safety and stayed behind to complete the mission."
Jacob frowned, looking away. "She's still out there."
"But she's safe?"
He nodded, "Yeah. She's with the informant who knows the layout of the land and has been at her side this whole time. Look, I know this is hard, but Sam trusts him with her life and she's not coming back until she's completed the mission."
"She's always been stubborn, even as a kid. It's not in her to give up like that, not when there's a chance to finish whatever the hell she's been doing."
"If she'd quit, the past year and a half would have been for nothing."
Jacob sighed, before taking a sip of beer. "That's my girl. How long do you think it'll take her?"
"A couple of months at most," Jack said. "I'm doing my part to help out and the rest is up to her."
"A couple of months… I can do that. Anything for my little girl. You just make sure she gets back here in one piece, Jack O'Neill."