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The Return of the Gray-haired Avengers 



The file was suspiciously thin. Not so much in size, although there were only five sheets of paper contained in the manila folder - even less in the virtual copy of the file. It was the content that was questionable. Such a lack of facts wasn't unheard of, obviously Dispersing didn't require all of the information contained in personnel records, but it was unusual for the accounting office to come across a file that seemed so…incomplete. While the most important form - the Leave and Earnings Statement - was in place, nearly every field was empty. Two previous LES files were also in place - again suspiciously incomplete. There were two single-paged reports…another oddity. Normally such paperwork was delegated to the official file of a service member. The majority of the content of each report had been redacted before being handed to him; not surprising, since his wasn't the highest clearance in the department.

What he could see was…intriguing. Why was the Air Force paying a fifteen-year old kid the equivalent of the retirement pay for a full-bird colonel? He sorted through the folder again, but could find little information on the teenager, other than his name, birth date - minus the year, oddly enough, and the name and address of his foster parents. No place of birth listed. No information on the parents listed. Social security number was marked 'pending'...which could only mean the kid hadn't received his number yet. That was truly odd, since the kid would have been issued a number with his birth certificate. The only actual number associated with the file was that of the bank account where the payments were to be deposited each month, and it was listed only once on the LES.

The name seemed familiar. Which was why he was taking a second look at the file. He poked at his memory, certain he'd heard it before. He couldn't place just where he'd heard the name 'Colonel Jonathon O'Neill'. His memory poked back at him. Grainy images of a military man…and former Senator Robert Kinsey. Newspaper…it had been in the newspaper. He couldn't remember what the article accompanying the picture was about. But he did remember the names. And the photo. Blue dress uniform. That meant Air Force. With a surreptitious glance around him, he keyed in the two actual facts he had. Two dozen record jackets for Air Force service members with that name were available.

I'll know the right one when I see it…

It was easy enough to eliminate all but two…the ages were nearly the same. He examined both. The two were nearly identical, right down to being in Special Ops, although all of those missions were redacted. Entire pages of their files were nothing but solid black lines. The only differences seemed to be the middle initial and the spelling of the last name. One was retired, the other still active duty…

Well, well…here it is. Jonathon J. 'Jack' O'Neill. Seems he's a Brigadier General now. USAF 66-789-7876-324. Active duty, Joint Forces. Current assignment…classified.

Another inquiry…

Access Denied.

He stared at the screen, a frown on his face. Typed in the security code he'd copied…stolen…from an unsuspecting co-worker, a woman whose security clearance was several levels higher than his own.

Access Denied.

The frown deepened. He'd never been unable to access information using her security code before! Another glance over his shoulder, to make certain no one was watching him, or more importantly, moving in his direction and able to see what he was doing. He turned his attention back to the computer. There were always back doors to any file. All he had to do was find one…

Access Denied.

Okay, what about this…

Access Denied.

By now the frown that wrinkled his forehead was a deep furrow. Another attempt…

Access Denied.

This has gotta work…

Access Denied.

That's just weird, he thought, after an hour of failed attempts. Every trick he'd learned, every skill he had that allowed him to wander through the secure system at will, had netted him nothing.

Any attempts to find information on the kid resulted in the same thing…

Access Denied.

He sat back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. There were certain people in this building who thrived on digging out the truth to the little unsolved mysteries that often lurked among the millions of files in the system. Men and women who were willing to pay for any and all information regarding little mysteries. There was one department in particular that would be interested in this. Simply because of the name on the file. He'd already found the reports filed by Colonel Jonathon 'Jack' O'Neill regarding the illegal activities of the NID…operations which the colonel had been instrumental in shutting down.

No doubt the current NID Director would be interested to know that the Colonel…no, he'd been promoted - O'Neill was a general now, he reminded himself…was doing a little illegal skimming of his own. Using a kid to do so. I'll bet the kid is his illegitimate little bastard.

He carefully wrote down everything he'd found, every tidbit of information he could find. The Director would no doubt be able to access everything he'd been so successfully shut out of…and that thought, which should have given him pause, was lost amid the calculations of just what this information was worth.

Picking up the phone, he dialed the extension for the NID office. "Yes, I'd like to make an appointment to speak with Colonel Marshall. I've found something I think he'll be interested in. Department - Accounting, sub-department Disbursing. Yes, I believe I've stumbled onto a bit of fraud…"




Colonel Marshall glanced at the report that the lanky, nervous man had handed him. He nodded occasionally as the clerk expounded on the theory he'd concocted, one born when he'd come across the 'very interesting and very incomplete file'.

With a smile and a handshake, commending the man for his attention to detail…it never hurt to let the menial help in the building know that their bits of gossip were useful, (because sometimes, they actually were!)…Marshall dismissed the man with a vague promise to see what he could do about the promotion the man seemed eager to have. Totally ignored the obvious hints about a 'bonus' of a 'few thousand dollars' for the discovery.

Alone in his office once again, Marshall studied the report. The colonel didn't believe for one moment that Jack O'Neill was doing anything illegal, in spite of the allegations of some accounting hack. The Air Force officer was notoriously noble. There were numerous NID files to attest to that fact. Two 'fallen' Directors as well, thanks to O'Neill's…interference. Maybourne had been no match for O'Neill. Kinsey…that had been a surprise. No one had expected the Senator to be taken down…and so easily. Simmons' own stupidity had led to his downfall. Which had put Marshall in the position to lead the department. He had no intention of becoming another 'victim' of the naively 'holier-than-thou' General O'Neill and the team of misfits known as SG-1.

No, there was something else going on. Something far more interesting, he was certain. Something linked to the SGC. He picked up the phone, gave a set of very precise orders to subordinates he'd hand-picked to assist him in 'rebuilding' the NID. Thanks to the interference from those at the SGC, an entity that he believed required stricter oversight, his department had been told the equivalent of 'sit down and shut up' by the White House. He would not sit by and allow politics to override the protocols of civilian oversight of military operations.

With a quiet 'harrumph' of irritation, Marshall sat back in his chair, his hands clenched around the leather-upholstered arms. He was, after all, Director of the National Intelligence Department. It was his mandate to protect the United States of America, and the citizens within its borders. There were differing opinions on just what was in the best interest of the country and its citizens, of course. And Marshall, like those before him, wasn't above making personal profit while protecting those interests and citizens.

He would probably never know just exactly what had caused Woolsey to write such a damned impotent report. Marshall had been certain that the death of the civilian archaeologist would be the catalyst he needed to have agents permanently assigned to the SGC. Just thinking about the conversation with the president…held over the phone, rather than in person as he'd requested…still rankled. Hayes had told him in no uncertain terms that General Hammond and General O'Neill had his full support. That he didn't believe the NID had anything to worry about when it came to the SGC. The president hadn't made any actual threats, but the gist had been there. Back off…or suffer the consequences.

Marshall eyed the drawer where he kept a box of cigars, although not even he was arrogant enough to flaunt the no-smoking rules of the Pentagon. He gave a another 'harrumph', this one filled with the disgust that coursed through him. Until he was in full control of the SGC, there was plenty to worry about! Blaming Doctor Jackson for Doctor Balinsky's death hadn't worked. Woolsey hadn't been able to offer the 'conditions' of allowing the archaeologist to continue to work at the SGC in exchange for a 'confession'. No, according to the investigator, Jackson had tossed his own threat out, and had simply walked out of the room. Once again he wondered just exactly what had happened during Woolsey's visit…

His eyes dropped to the report from the Dispursing clerk. This tidbit of information just might be the leverage he needed. Not even the president could protest an investigation for potential fraud. Which would be the perfect 'cover' for digging into O'Neill's file, and finding out exactly what was going on. All he needed was enough to blackmail just one member of SG-1, and he had his way into the top-secret facility. The information contained within the folder in his hand was the most promising of all the bits and pieces he'd been able to collect.

There was no such thing as a completely secure computer system. And Marshall had men in his employ who could find their way around the circuits and lines of code as easily as he found his way to the men's restroom. When he declared he wanted information on a subject, those men provided every detail available. Classified or not.




Within two hours he had all of the information he needed. The reports in his hand hadn't been redacted. He wouldn't bother to ask how complete copies of the actual files had been secreted to him. He didn't care.

The information contained in the folder was about to make him a very wealthy man. There were others who believed as he did, that Stargate Command should be put into the hands of civilians. Robert Kinsey had believed civilians whose only concern was profit had the most to gain by protecting their assets…and the country those assets happened to be in…and as such, would be the most successful in that protection. Governments were too liable to come to agreements that benefited no one, leaving populations open to attack…agreements that hindered corporations in their quest for profit. Controlling the governments, Kinsey had told his followers repeatedly, was the key to avoiding such problems. The former senator had also believed businessmen who understood the value of the artifacts…and the income possibilities in exploiting the hundreds of planets rife with natural resources…available via the Stargate, would make the United States the richest, most powerful nation on the planet. No one would dare to stand against them. The citizenry would be safe, and with higher incomes than the world average, would be more than willing to sit back and allow the leaders to do whatever they saw fit. It was a scenario that pandered to the ego and the beliefs of a man like Marshall.

He had met several of Kinsey's…associates. Men who were more than willing to obliterate the Goa'uld, regardless of any collateral damage that might occur - something, Marshall consoled himself, that would protect every man, woman, and child on Earth. Men willing to do what was necessary to take control of the Stargate Program. Men who would pay handsomely for unhindered access to the Stargate. And if those men were to plunder far-away planets for the riches they contained, who was he to argue? Why should he care? As long as his bank account was flush, and as long as Earth wasn't in danger, there were no problems. Marshall was completely oblivious to the fact that his opinions had been forged by those who had come before him…never contemplated the thought that his own aspirations were leading him down the same road that Maybourne, Kinsey, and Simmons had traveled before him. Not once did he stop to consider the fact that 'absolute power corrupts absolutely'. He had his agenda, set into motion when he'd met Senator Kinsey for the first time, and was so focused on it he would never see the dangers that lurked around him.

In his hands, Marshall had exactly what he needed. He wouldn't even have to attempt to reach SG-1…or Jack O'Neill. An official request would be made. A very nice 'red herring'. He would initiate an investigation. Make it look 'covert'. Whoever was monitoring the computer system of the SGC would certainly take the bait. And no one there would be the wiser to the identity of his true target.

It only took the sketch artist another hour to offer up an idea of what the target looked like, using General O'Neill's ID photo. A bit more research, this time through an online high-school yearbook, and he had his proof. The photo and the drawing were identical.

"I want him," Marshall told his aide. "I don't care who you hire to do the job. Just make sure I get him, alive and well."

"Yes, sir," the aide replied immediately. He already had his phone in hand, searching through his list of phone numbers - copied from files that had once belonged to a prominent senator. There. Michelson…

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