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 The Recalcitrant Lo'taur

 

Chapter 2

When SG-1 stepped through onto the planet, Daniel was barely able to move. Casey was holding his hand on one side, as close to him as she could get and still be able to walk, Jack was crowding him on the other, and Teal'c was directly behind him. Sam had assumed the lead as point-guard, her P90 up and ready should anyone other than a member of SG-12 show themselves.

"Uh, guys...a little room?" Daniel said, trying not to show his exasperation. He wasn't anxious to become a Goa'uld captive. But knowing that there were Ancient devices that needed to be removed from Goa'uld possession made him more than willing to suffer a few indignities. Whatever these 'bracelets' really were, if any snake was interested in them, it was enough for him to want to prevent said snake from having them. If two snakes were determined to own them, well, that just fueled his desire to thwart the enemy all the more. He was confident that as long as he remained alive, that everything would be fine. According to Casey's 'vision', the reason he would be captured was to do a bit of translating. Not much chance of being killed as long as the snake needed his skills. And, she'd admitted, rather testily he thought with a grin, that he did manage to get home in one piece. With a 'ghost', she'd said.

Casey looked up at him, noted the slight frown on his face. "I'm not letting go, Stud Muffin. So get used to it."

In spite of his frustration at the over-protective nature of his Wife and teammates, he couldn't help but smile. "Then hold my other hand. I need my right hand to write with."

One blonde eyebrow arched slightly. "And just what are you going to write? We just got here!"

"Exactly. I need to get the details down before we start."

She rolled her eyes. "You're just weird."

"So you keep telling me," he teased gently, squeezing her fingers slightly. He leaned over so that his lips were beside her ear. "But you love me anyway," he said softly.

"More than you could ever know," she whispered in return.

He placed a kiss on the tip of her nose, dropped his pack, and began digging for his notebook...with just one hand. Jack, Sam, Teal'c, and Casey surrounded him completely...he could barely see the path that led from the Stargate down the slight incline toward the ruins of a large city.

Jonas Quinn, the newest member of SG-12, hurried toward the group. "Hello!"

"Hi, Jonas," Casey smiled.

The young Kelownan paused mid-step as he took in the arrangement of the team. "Is something wrong?"

The smile that had lit her face faltered, and tears filled her green eyes. "Daniel is going to be captured by a Goa'uld. Not sure exactly when...just...soon."

"Oh," Jonas replied, obviously stunned by the news. "Isn't there anything we can do to prevent it?"

"Go home," Casey replied, shrugging her shoulders.

"It's okay, Jonas," Daniel said, pushing past Jack; lifting Casey's hand and kissing her knuckles before gently prying his fingers loose from hers. "It seems that a couple of Goa'uld have stumbled on information concerning a set of Ancient bracelets that might be a key to something more important. Apparently I'm going to be snatched to do a bit of translating. Ultimately, I'm going to bring the bracelets home with me, or destroy them."

"But we figure that since Radar's download showed Danny alone when he's grabbed, if we stay with him, we can avoid the heartburn," Jack added, stepping closer to the archaeologist.

"But if the Goa'uld have-" Daniel started.

"We know about the bracelets, we can figure out a way to steal them without letting Daniel be caught," Casey explained, also stepping closer to her Husband.

Major Deke Anderson strolled up the path behind Jonas. "Welcome to sunny P3R 214, General."

Oy...I hate the new rank! Jack thought, even as he nodded. "No sign of anyone snooping around?"

"Nope. Just us. Saw a couple of deer and a few rabbits. Dobson has counted about thirteen varieties of birds, so far," Deke responded. He frowned slightly...the MALP report on the planet had been specific about the lack of any current occupation by anything other than a few animals.. "Are we expecting trouble?"

Jack nodded. "Yep. Daniel is gonna be snatched by a snake."

The major's eyes went wide. "Say what? Uh...sir."

"Radar got a download yesterday," Jack explained, going over the details of the situation as they were at the moment.

"And we're just gonna stand by and let this happen?" the major asked dubiously.

"It has to happen, Major Anderson," Daniel replied calmly. "I have to get those bracelets before the Goa'uld know exactly what they have."

"What if they already know?" Deke inquired.

"Then it's doubly important that I grab them," Daniel smiled.

"We don't let Daniel out of our sight. As long as he's not alone, we figure he won't be snatched," Jack said.

The major looked at Casey. That little detail had probably been part of whatever it was the seer had seen. "Okay. I'll let my boys know."

"Jack-" Daniel started, determined to make his best friend see reason.

"Nope. Don't wanna hear it," Jack said. "You stay with someone. Period. And just to make sure you understand, this isn't a discussion."

Once again the fierce, protective love of his teammates wrapped around his heart. With a sigh of resignation, Daniel nodded slowly.

 

 

 

By the time the team arrived at the camp that had been set up by SG-12, Daniel's patience was nearly exhausted. He rolled his eyes when he realized that he wasn't going to be allowed to move an inch without at least one person standing next to him. Probably right up against me, he groused silently, just as Jack's shoulder came into contact with his...and remained there. "Just how well can you protect me if you're all up against me? You can't even maneuver when we're grouped this tightly!"

"Not gonna work, Danny," Jack replied to the complaint. "I figure if at least one of us is in physical contact with you, nobody can do a 'snatch-and-run'."

"Uh huh."

"We're dealing with Goa'uld here, not the al Qaeda," Jack continued. "Requires altering our methods a bit."

"That sounds like total bullshit," Daniel retorted.

Jack looked at Daniel for a minute. "You just do what you have to do. We'll do what we have to do."

The men of SG-12 understood that the archaeologist wasn't to be left alone under any circumstances. Sergeant Dobson rose from where he sat beside the fire, and took up a position just in front of Casey. Sergeant Childers met the group, and walked directly in front of Daniel, his eyes moving over the ruins he'd been looking at for three days...searching for any possible threat that could be hidden.

Heaving a sigh of frustration, Daniel pried his fingers loose from his wife's grip. "Seriously, Casey, I need my hand."

"Daniel-"

He put the tip of his index finger against her lips, halting her protest. "Grab your notebook, Angel, and come with me. We'll start in the temple."

She dropped her pack to the ground, searched through it to find her spiral notebook.

"I'll take it for now," Sam said, grabbing the pack. "We'll set up the tents later."

Jack looked over the top of his sunglasses at his wife.

"If that's all right, General," the colonel added cheekily.

"It's fine, Colonel," Jack replied.

Daniel glanced up at Teal'c. "I suppose you're going to insist on staying with me?"

"I am," the Jaffa responded.

"Major, you and your boys do a sweep of a hundred yards around us," Jack instructed. "Keep in radio contact."

"Yes, sir," Deke Anderson replied. "Let's go, boys. Eyes open."

"Uh...I'd like Jonas to help me," Daniel interjected.

"No problem, Doc. Jonas, grab your gear and go with 'em," the major ordered.

"Yes, sir," Jonas replied. He hurried to grab his pack and P90. Took the time to check the 9 millimeter Beretta holstered on his hip.

Daniel sighed again. "Just stay out of the way," he muttered in Jack's direction.

"Where you go, we go, Danny." Jack's voice brooked no argument.

 

A A A A A A

 

Unseen by the Tau'ri, four Jaffa hid silently among the brush. Not understanding the language, they had no idea what was being said. They did, however, recognize the potential danger when one of the men...the leader of those who had been here upon their arrival, pointed in four directions, and he and three of the men set out. It was clear that the men were going to search the area.

"It is impossible for them to know we are here," one of the Jaffa whispered.

"We can dispatch with those who are alone," one of the others whispered.

The fourth shook his head. "I have heard many stories of these warriors. If we strike down one, a dozen will appear through the Chappa'ai and seek revenge. If we strike down two, or three, or four, we would not see the end of the Tau'ri who would hunt us."

"To be caught would mean our deaths at the hands of the Tau'ri. If we do not capture the one known as Daniel Jackson, our deaths will come from the hand of our god for failing her," the leader whispered in return. "We will move back to the river that flows on the far side of the ruins. The opportunity to capture Daniel Jackson will present itself. We must be patient."

Like shadows, the four armored men moved as silently as possible, keeping their movements slow and steady to lessen the chances of their armor making noise.

 

A A A A A A

 

Chaahk listened carefully to the report the spy gave. "So, Kali has found someone who can read the text inscribed on the walls of the Ancient temple?"

"Yes, My Lord," the spy nodded. Being hidden in the chambers of Kali's priest had netted far more information than he'd dared hope for. Enough to warrant the risks he'd taken. "A Tau'ri, known as Daniel Jackson. He belongs to SG-1."

"What is an 'SG-1'?" Chaahk demanded.

"It is a group of Tau'ri who are most...annoying, according to my sources," was the reply. It seemed that Chaahk was unaware of the bounty that was offered for the humans. For the moment, the spy chose not to reveal that particular bit of information. His own desire to collect the reward was only part of the reason. "They alone are responsible for the deaths of half a dozen System Lords, and at least three times as many minor Goa'uld."

He was still curious as to how mere slaves had learned to use the Chappa'ai. What he needed to know was just how advanced the former slaves of Ra had become. "Tell me more about these Tau'ri."

The spy recited everything he knew about the infamous SG-1, and all the rumors told about the original four. He also told the newly returned Goa'uld that a fifth member had been added to the team, a woman of great beauty who possessed the skills of a seer.

He'd already heard the stories of the Tau'ri and how they had defeated several System Lords. He hadn't, however, heard the names before. His own experience with so-called seers left him skeptical. He doubted that Tau'ri woman had more than a modicum of skill at guessing. True seers were rare, and mere slaves would have little knowledge of how to best exploit those rare talents. For the moment, the seer was unimportant to him. Chaahk dismissed any thoughts of her immediately.

Without a doubt the weak and foolish Goa'uld of the Empire were frightened of these upstart slaves. He, however, would remind the Tau'ri of their true place in the universe. He would break these rebel slaves, and assume the mantle of leadership over the System Lords who cowered in fear. He would, Chaahk vowed silently, restore the Goa'uld Empire to its once glorious position. All who existed in the galaxy, and nearby galaxies, would tremble at the name Goa'uld once again.

But first, he needed to build up his fleet of ships. And he needed a weapon that would make him invincible. He glanced at the gold band on his wrist. It contained part of a clue to a most powerful weapon. He only needed the mate to complete the map..."Continue to monitor all that Kali does. When she has the bracelet, bring it to me," Chaahk ordered. "Bring this Tau'ri as well. He will tell me what clues these bands of gold contain."

"Yes, My Lord." The spy bowed low, then hurried away. He would return to his place among Kali's servants. More than likely he would know of any discoveries made by Daniel Jackson almost as soon as the Goa'uld, herself. Armed with a drug that would render the Tau'ri unconscious, he would be able to bring the archaeologist to Chaahk, the most frightening Goa'uld he'd ever had the misfortune of meeting. At least he would be handsomely rewarded for his efforts.

 

A A A A A A

 

"You're in my light," Daniel grumbled.

Jack continued to stand behind the archaeologist.

Daniel turned around, squinted up against the bright sunlight at the man who insisted on remaining within arm's reach of him. "You're in my light," he repeated.

With a frown, Jack shifted slightly to one side, taking a full step closer as he did so. "Better?"

With a grunt that could have been either a positive or negative response, Daniel continued to brush fine dirt away from the glyphs on the temple wall. When Casey shifted beside him, her slender body bumping into his, he lowered the brush. "Do you all have to be right up against me?"

"Yep," Casey replied, settling more firmly against her husband as she continued to carefully trace the raised text in the panel next to one he was working on.

Rubbing a hand over his jaw, Daniel did his best to rein in his annoyance. The actions of his Wife and friends were the result of their love and concern for him. Even if they were going completely overboard with the whole protection thing. If Casey had seen him kidnapped by Goa'uld, then it would happen. No matter how close they stayed to him, there would be one moment where he was alone, and that would be the moment he'd be taken. He was certain of it. The thought that those who would kidnap him could simply render unconscious any bodyguard, or worse - kill his protector, or protectors - had yet to cross his mind.

"Anything interesting?" Jack asked, stifling a yawn.

Biting back his grin, the archaeologist nodded. "This is a temple to the goddess Ninhursag. Also known as Ki," Daniel said. "She was the earth mother goddess-"

"Uh huh," Jack interrupted.

"Ninhursag was a Sumerian goddess, Jack," Daniel said quietly. "And from what we can determine, the Goa'uld were the din.gir, the 'beings of the pointed light', who came to Earth and created mankind."

Jack frowned. "So what's a temple to a Sumerian goddess doing on this planet? I thought this place was supposed to be the stomping grounds for the Ancients."

"If I'm correct in my translation, Ninhursag was an Ancient. I'm beginning to think that the original Sumerian gods and goddesses were Ancients. We've already determined that every pantheon of gods that came after them was based on the Sumerian gods."

"Cam Balinsky figured out that the Sumerians were already a thriving civilization when the Goa'uld arrived," Casey added. "The depiction of the Anunnaki as reptilian was added about a hundred years after the first writings about the gods. Which all fits into the theory that the Goa'uld just slithered in and took over. And I'd still like to know how the SGC came into the possession of papyrus scrolls rumored to have been destroyed in the Great Fire of Alexandria."

"Conquerors always took what they deemed to be important before they sacked and burned a city," Daniel pointed out.

"Doesn't explain how we got them," Casey grumped.

Daniel grinned. "We're probably better off not knowing where they were, or how they came to us."

"Probably," Casey admitted.

His frown deepening, Jack considered what he'd learned as the Jacksons continued their conversation. "So the Ancients hadn't been gone long when the snakes showed up?"

"Not from what we've learned so far," Daniel replied. "We do know that the Goa'uld took...stole...appropriated...whatever term you want to use...they took every bit of technology they could find that had belonged to the Ancients. That's how they became so powerful."

"And, being simple people who already knew about the gods...at least the Ancient gods, the arrival of the Goa'uld might have been seen as a return of their gods, just in a different form," Casey said. "Especially if there was only a hundred years or so between the departure of the Ancients, and the arrival of the Goa'uld."

"So...the Goa'uld took over as soon as the Ancients disappeared," Jack surmised.

"That's what it looks like," Daniel confirmed. "There's no way of knowing how long the Goa'uld were sentient, parasitical, and capable of using the technology before the Ancients ascended."

"Wait a minute," Jack said, "doesn't this screw with the timeline a bit? I mean, the Ancients did their glowy-light thing a few million years ago, right?"

Daniel put down his brush, warming up to the topic. "Okay, what we know, based on what we've found out here," he waved his hand in the air, indicating their travels through the 'gate, "added to the contents of the scrolls that Selmak gave us...er...returned to us, and the 'mystery scrolls' that turned up at the SGC, is this: The Ancients built the Stargates millions of years ago...three million we think...and we assume they used them to populate the galaxy. They were human, just like us, and they lived on the Earth millennia before any of the first hominids appeared. When we first looked at the scrolls, we didn't have time to do a thorough examination of them. Our basic theories about the arrival of the Goa'uld are still correct, as far as we know, but we did find references to the fact that a group of Ancients returned to the Earth shortly before the arrival of the Goa'uld. They influenced many of Earth's cultures, and moved the humans they found out of the caves. We still believe that we...at least modern man...are hybrids...the children of Ancients and early man. My guess is that it was more a matter of artificial insemination going on, using Ancient DNA, to impregnate the indigenous people. I don't think these Ancients were long gone when Ra, or Yu, whoever was really first, showed up on Earth. For all we know, they might have still been around."

Jack shifted from one foot to the other. "So, this group of Ancients didn't ascend?"

"Not sure," Daniel shrugged. "It's possible that they chose to ascend much later than the others. Or something else could have happened to keep them hanging around."

"Like a war with the Goa'uld?" Jack asked.

The frown that knitted his brows together matched that of his friend. "Hadn't thought about that, but yes, that is very possible."

"I'm not liking the idea that the Goa'uld could've wiped out the Ancients," Jack mumbled.

"The Goa'uld didn't wipe out the Ancients...the Ancients ascended en masse," Daniel clarified. "We also know that the Goa'uld had taken every bit of technology they could find as soon as the Ancients were gone. It's possible that by the time this second group of Ancients arrived back on Earth, from wherever they'd been, the Goa'uld were already in possession of all the abandoned Ancient technology, and already establishing themselves as gods."

"Which would have given them a fair shot at winning, if there was a war between them and the Ancients who stayed behind," Jack said, nodding his understanding.

"And, the group of Ancients that returned was fairly small. It could have been a matter of sheer numbers," Daniel replied.

Jack nodded his understanding. "So, all this helps us...how?"

Daniel grinned. "Not sure yet."

"When you figure it out, keep it to yourself, will ya? This stuff gives me a headache."

"Bores you to death, too," Sam interjected, her cheek twitching.

"You're insubordinate as hell today, Colonel," Jack grumped.

Chuckling, Daniel crouched back down beside the wall, picked up the brush he'd been using, and returned to his interrupted task. One thing was for certain...if the bracelets that at least two Goa'uld were aware of, and were after, had been made by the Ancients, it was vital that the snakes not be allowed to keep what might be Ancient devices of some sort. He glanced at his Wife. Even if it meant he had to be captured.

"Daniel! I think I've found something!"

Jonas's excited voice had Daniel dashing to where the young Kelownan had been working, leaving his entourage of bodyguards scrambling after him.

"Damn it, Daniel!" Jack growled, catching up with the younger man.

Casey planted herself beside her husband. "Not funny, Stud Muffin," she huffed. To make certain he couldn't take off like that again, she wrapped her hands around his arm. Made sure that it was his left arm, so he couldn't gripe about needing his hand free.

Ignoring the complaints, Daniel scanned the wall in front of him. "What?"

"There's a reference here, to a map," Jonas said. "And look at the depiction."

"Bracelets," Daniel breathed. "Two bracelets!"

"Kinda small for a map, aren't they?" Jack asked.

Daniel was running the index finger of his right hand over the text around the carefully carved pictograph. "Not if it's a star map. It could be as simple as a 'gate address. Six symbols...three on each one."

"Holy Hannah," Jack breathed.

"If they felt it important enough to make a map of-" Casey started. She shivered violently.

"Then it could be a piece of technology we really don't want the Goa'uld to have," Daniel finished.

The five members of SG-1, and Jonas, stood staring at the temple wall, the significance of the find settling on each of them.

This is the connection, Daniel thought. This is the reason Casey was alerted to what was going to happen. Those two Goa'uld have probably already been here! He glanced around. It was quite possible that the female Goa'uld Casey insisted would kidnap him was still around...had gone into hiding when SG-12 had arrived...for whatever reason. Probably hoping we'll find the damned thing for her! he thought irritably.

"According to this," Jonas said, pointing to a small section of text, "the bracelets were hidden. Each one given a 'separate resting place.'"

"Gotta wonder why," Jack mused. "What's this map to that the Ancients didn't want anyone finding?"

"Probably another freaking weapon," Casey muttered. She shook her head when all eyes focused on her. "Not a clue," she said. "But it seems the Ancients only take things apart and hide them if they're weapons. Or a map to a weapon's location," she added, motioning toward the wall.

 

A A A A A A

 

Doctor Weir shifted nervously in her seat. She'd called the bunker known as Stargate Command, to inform General Hammond of her arrival. The fact that the first thing out of his mouth was that her visit was 'inconvenient at the moment' had at first infuriated her. She'd been certain that it was simply because he wanted time to prepare those who worked within the concrete walls for her 'inspection'.

The closer to Colorado that the flight drew, the more what few mission reports she'd read, including the notes that the president had jotted down regarding his own visit, began to poke at her. There was, she realized, the chance that she was going to walk into a situation for which she was ill-prepared.

Leaning her head back against the headrest, she closed her eyes. There was no doubt in her mind that the next few days were going to be...difficult.

 

A A A A A A

 

General Hammond sighed heavily as he reached for the red phone on his desk. The call earlier in the morning hadn't brought the most welcome news. Doctor Elizabeth Weir, the new head of Homeworld Security, was on her way to Colorado. At the moment, he didn't have time for bureaucrats and their incessant need for 'dog-and-pony' shows. His hope was that a chat with the president would enable him to put the negotiator on the first flight back to D.C.

He started when the voice on the other end spoke...his thoughts had wandered more than he'd realized. "This is General Hammond. I need to speak with the president."

"I'm sorry, General, he's in a meeting at the moment. Is this an emergency?" The secretary had no idea who General Hammond was. Nor any clue as to what military installation he was assigned to. She did know that any time this man called with an emergency, no matter who the president was with, she was to alert him immediately. That had happened before...and the resulting panic that had seemed to fill the Oval Office had been rather frightening.

Another sigh. "No, no emergency. But please have him call me as soon as possible," Hammond replied.

"Yes, sir. I'll send the message to him now." The text message was completed almost before she'd finished speaking.

"Thank you." He heard the click indicating the call had been disconnected. He hated waiting. Right now, he was waiting for the news that Doctor Jackson had been abducted. There was no doubt in his mind that if Casey Jackson had seen the event, it would happen. He was clinging to the knowledge that the archaeologist would make his way back to the SGC. With a 'ghost', Casey had said, during the briefing before SG-1's departure...

"I'm not sure if this 'ghost' is literally a ghost, or if it's metaphorical. I'm guessing the latter, but I'm not certain." 

A quick conversation with General O'Neill...Hammond took a moment to chuckle over the fact that Jack was still muttering and complaining about his promotion...had resulted in the plan to have all available SG teams standing by. In spite of Casey's vision, it was important that the search for Doctor Jackson began as quickly as possible. The SGC had its spies. But so did their enemies.

Again the general picked up the phone. "Walter, have all available SG team CO's paged to the briefing room."

"Yes, sir," Walter's voice replied in the general's ear.

After the briefing, he had one more unscheduled meeting to hold, before tackling the stack of paperwork on his desk. Half of which he'd be able to send to his newly assigned Operations Officer. Walter would continue his duties as the general's assistant, and would most probably offer his aid to the new OO as well.

Hammond sat back in his chair, rubbed his hands over his face. Steps had been taken to ease the burden of commanding the SGC. Even though several duties had shifted, or were about to shift, from his direct control, the weight of being the officer in charge of the facility still sat squarely on his shoulders. At the moment, that weight was more than a bit heavy.

Voices filtered through his thoughts. He looked up to see eight SG team COs entering the room. He shook his head mentally. He'd never even heard the call go out. Too much on my mind, I guess. He rose, and made his way to the briefing room. He'd get this matter dealt with, and then move to the next item on his 'to-do' list for the day.

Faces looked up expectantly when Hammond walked into the room.

"Gentlemen," Hammond said, taking his customary seat at the head of the table. "At any moment we will receive word from SG-1 that Doctor Jackson has been abducted."

Nervous glances were exchanged. "Mrs. J had a head's up about this?" one of the men asked.

Hammond smiled. "Yes, she did. There is a very good reason for allowing this abduction to take place." The general explained what they knew about the Ancient bracelets.

"Man, these Ancients are as big a pain as the Goa'uld, leaving their stuff laying around," Major Ferretti grumbled.

"I agree, Major," Hammond replied. "I want each of your teams ready to leave at a moment's notice. As soon as word arrives, we'll begin our search."

Glances were exchanged. "Did Mrs. J have any clues that will help us find him?" Major Newsome asked.

"Doctor Jackson will be able to escape. She believes he'll be gone no longer than two weeks. However, we're aware that several System Lords have spies among the villages and trading posts we're allied with. We aren't certain how long it will take for these System Lords to learn of Doctor Jackson's abduction."

"But we have to be out there looking, to keep them from getting suspicious," Ferretti nodded.

"If you can locate the doctor, I want every effort made to retrieve him," General Hammond continued.

Heads moved up and down in understanding.

"That's all for now. Gear up, and stand by." The general stood to his feet, the men at the table rising and standing at attention.

"Damned Ancients," Ferretti grumbled, as soon as the general left the room.

"Seems to me that Mrs. J is right...they were pretty damned irresponsible with their toys," Newsome said.

"Let's get our boys ready," Colonel Dixon said. "With luck, we can find Doc and bring him home sooner than two weeks."

"That'll keep Mrs. J happy," Ferretti chuckled.

"Probably make Doc happy, too," Dixon grinned.

The men wandered out of the room. They'd gather their teams, get gear ready, and wait for the call to head out. Searching once again for a missing member of SG-1.

 

A A A A A A

 

This was the first visit Elizabeth Weir had ever made to an actual military base. She'd taken a cab from the airport, assuring the driver that he'd be able to take her to her destination without any problems. However, once at the gate for the Cheyenne Mountain Military Complex, she learned just how little her title meant to the young men standing guard. Without a proper pass, the cab wasn't going to be allowed onto government property.

With a sighed "I told you so" from the driver, she'd taken her carry-on bag, her suitcase, and her briefcase into the small building the guard had referred to as the 'pass office'. There, she'd been forced to wait in line behind several uniformed men and women, all of whom were getting pass renewals for their personal vehicles, or so the conversations she overheard indicated.

When she was finally standing in front of the counter, the officer listened dispassionately to her tirade on her treatment so far. His eyes never leaving hers, he picked up the phone, and called General Hammond, as she'd demanded.

"Ma'am, a jeep and driver will be here for you in about twenty minutes," the officer informed her, after a short conversation which had consisted of his telling someone, she assumed the general, that she was in the pass office, and three 'yes, sirs'.

"Twenty minutes? Why so long?"

The man shrugged. "Guess the general has to find someone to go to the motor pool, sign out a jeep, and come get you."

"Oh, you're kidding!" Weir didn't even bother to hide her exasperation when she sighed heavily.

"You have authorization to enter the base, you can walk to the bus stop and take the next bus to into the mountain," the officer offered.

Weir was certain the man and his associates were laughing silently at her. "How far is this bus stop?"

"About six blocks that way," the man said, pointing over his shoulder.

She glanced out the window. The sidewalk appeared to go straight up, the angle of the incline was so steep.  She shook her head. "I'll wait for the jeep," she replied coolly.

"Whatever you say, ma'am."

Without looking at him, or anyone else in the room, she gathered her luggage and went outside to wait. She was already formulating her complaint to the general. She'd called when she'd arrived at the airport. To be honest, she'd been surprised that there hadn't been anyone there to meet her. She was accustomed to transportation being provided upon her arrival, wherever she traveled. When he'd simply acknowledged that she was in Colorado, and agreed to meet with her as soon as she was 'in the mountain', not even giving her a chance to demand that someone come for her before hanging up, she'd known that her visit was more annoyance than accepted. She wondered briefly how the president would react to her report on her less-than-stellar experience so far.

The jeep arrived, a driver looking much too young to even be in the military behind the wheel. He climbed out of the vehicle, glanced around, his gaze stopping on the woman and her luggage. "Doctor Weir?"

"Yes?"

"General Hammond is waiting for you, ma'am." The airman offered to take the bags, smiled when she let him take the handle of the largest.

The ride was relatively short. The road that the cab had followed to get her as far as the checkpoint continued up the side of the mountain...she noted the parking lots that were available. Undoubtedly where those receiving their permits were parked. It went past the building that housed the administrative offices of the publicly recognized NORAD facility, then into a wide tunnel. The road ended literally in the belly of the mountain, in front of a blast door of immense proportions.

She had been inside the White House numerous times, had even had dinner with a former president in the private presidential quarters. Had visited Buckingham Palace. Had met with the Russian Prime Minister in the Kremlin during her visit to Moscow - the glittering gold-domed tops of the towers had taken her breath away. She'd been inside the Élysée Palace at a dinner party held by the French President. She'd seen the pyramids in Giza. Toured the Sistine Chapel. Her travels around the world, her meetings with the men and women who ran the largest, richest countries on the planet had made her the slightest bit jaded. Doctor Elizabeth Weir was totally overwhelmed by the sight before her now.

"Just inside is the next checkpoint," the airman told her. "They'll have your visitor's pass there."

"Yes, thank you," she murmured.

Grabbing the suitcase and the carry-on as if they were nothing, the young man led the overwhelmed political expert past the blast door. "This way, ma'am."

To say she was surprised to find herself inside a rough, rock-walled cavern was an understatement. She'd assumed that, because of the huge blast door and the concrete 'entry', she'd be led into another steel-and-cement corridor, to a room of the same construction.

As she filled out the form that one of the guards had handed her, explaining that it was a requirement for getting the pass that the general had approved, Weir noted that the second guard was unobtrusively making a phone call. Probably letting the general know that she was 'in the mountain', she thought peevishly.

The form was standard...if one was applying for a Top Secret Clearance. Which, it seemed, she was. She'd been through numerous security background checks during her career, an accepted and understood part of her job. The deals she brokered between nations required the utmost discretion. She'd been required to submit an entire ream of forms in order to procure the clearance needed to run Homeworld Security. She'd been cleared by the President of the United States, for heaven's sake! Why she was being forced to fill out a redundant form for a piece of plastic to clip to her blouse, she had no idea. The part of her that was scornful of all things military insisted that it was just a means of trying to intimidate her. Or irritate her. She slapped the clipboard onto the table in front of the guard, expecting to be handed the badge that was waiting.

"One moment, ma'am," the guard said, not at all upset by her display of annoyance.

Slightly taken aback, Weir crossed her arms over her breasts, watched as the young man turned to the computer beside him and began to type furiously on the keyboard. Every response was being entered, word for word, it seemed.

Finished with his task, the young man offered a perfunctory smile. "It shouldn't take more than a minute."

"I don't understand," Weir fretted. "I already have clearance! The president approved this visit!"

"Yes, ma'am," the guard replied easily. "This ID badge is for a secure military facility. We have protocols and procedures for assigning the badges. Even the president had to fill out these forms."

"You're kidding!"

"No, ma'am. We can't risk an imposter trying to sneak inside."

The response stopped her cold. It was, she realized, a legitimate concern. "Has that happened before?"

"I'm not allowed to discuss that, ma'am," was the polite reply.

It wasn't a question of if attempts had been made, but most probably how often it had happened, she thought. If anyone not cleared for this had been able to access the SGC, no doubt the entire world would know of its existence. While she personally believed that revealing the base to the public was in the best interest of operating with full 'transparency', and was her personal 'goal' as the head of Homeworld Security, Weir understood that for the military, everything should be kept 'top secret'. She'd battle that mindset with every ounce of her strength. A sudden chill moved over her as she thought about the mission summaries she'd read. Could the public in general handle knowing about aliens...and the war that planet Earth was in with some of them?

The computer beeped, and the guard read whatever had come up on the screen. He filled out a shorter form, handed the clipboard to Weir for her signature. "Keep this on your person at all times during your visit to Cheyenne Mountain. This pass will activate the elevators of the facility. Please note that the number on the badge indicates the lowest level you've been cleared for."

She looked at the badge. The number '28' was large, red, and centered on the white tag. The photo on the opposite side was the same one that had been taken for the badge she wore to gain access to the office she occupied in the Pentagon. (A fact that she struggled with every morning as she entered the imposing building. She was far from a fan of the military, yet found herself working in the building that embodied all things military.)

"This way, ma'am," the young driver said. He strode across the boardwalk that led to the tiled corridor deeper in the mountain cavern.

Starting to feel overwhelmed and completely out of her element, Weir followed closely. Once again paragraphs and comments of the mission summaries she'd read flickered through her mind. It was one thing to read about the Stargate Program and Area 52. It was something else again to be faced with the reality of both.

 

A A A A A A

 

General Hammond rose to his feet when the airman, carrying matching luggage pieces, stepped into the office, standing aside so that the woman who followed him could enter as well. "Doctor Weir. Welcome to Stargate Command."

"Thank you," she replied, looking around the office. The room was small. A wide, open-shelved armoire took up the entire wall behind the desk. Both the armoire and the desk were beautifully finished walnut. Also behind the desk was the requisite leather executive chair.

The wall in front of which the young airman was standing was covered with framed photographs and awards and, to her surprise, two degrees. She wasn't close enough to read just what field the degrees were in. On the opposite wall was a large glass window. It took her a few moments to realize that she was looking at a star map. Beside the window was a door that opened to the conference room beyond. Tucked between the door to the conference room and the door to the corridor on the adjacent wall, was a small wooden cart that held a coffeemaker and half a dozen ceramic mugs.

"Please, be seated," Hammond said, motioning to the two, low-backed leather chairs in front of the desk as he lowered himself into his chair. Turned his attention to the waiting SF. "Take Doctor Weir's things to VIP One."

"Yes, sir." The young man saluted, nodded at the woman, and disappeared into the corridor.

"I hope you don't mind me staying a few days," Weir said immediately. She hadn't missed the frown that had crossed the general's face when he'd noted her bags.

"Not at all," Hammond replied easily. She could stay as long as she wanted, as long as she stayed out of the way until the crisis that SG-1 was about to face had been contained, and Doctor Jackson was home safe and sound. Problems from and with bureaucrats he did not need at the moment.

"I'd like to start with a tour of the facility, to understand just what you do here," Weir said.

"I'll have someone escort you," the general agreed.

"I'd prefer that you were my tour-guide," she said, frowning. "I have questions about the facility that I'm certain only you are qualified to answer."

Hammond settled into his chair. "Doctor Weir, as important as it is that you know what the Stargate Program is about, and what all goes on here, right now I have a crisis on my hands."

One perfectly arched eyebrow rose fractionally. "Oh?"

"In the next few hours, we expect Doctor Jackson to be captured by the Goa'uld," Hammond said.

Weir sat back in her chair. "I hope you're doing all that you can to avoid the situation!"

"Actually, we're pretty resigned to the fact that it has to happen. According to Casey Jackson, there are two Goa'uld seeking Ancient artifacts...two bracelets. General O'Neill reported that Doctor Jackson suspects the two are pieces of a star map."

Her gaze went momentarily to the map on the window. "I see."

"If the Ancients left a map behind, chances are that whatever that map leads to is something we don't want the Goa'uld in possession of."

"So, Doctor Jackson's capture will prevent this?"

His lips twitched slightly. "We hope so."

"You hope?"

"For the moment, it's in our best interest to let events play out as Casey saw them."

"Saw?"

The general frowned. "You're aware that Mrs. Jackson is a seer?"

"Well, I read that in the summary report," Weir replied haughtily.

"But you don't believe it." It wasn't a question, but a statement of observation.

"No, to be honest, I don't."

"I have another meeting that I need to get to, it shouldn't take me long. Why don't you read this mission folder. It will give you the details of what we're dealing with at the moment," Hammond said, picking up a folder and handing it to her. "Please feel free to remain here. I'll be back shortly."

That was a blatant 'stay put' if she'd ever heard one! Was he afraid she'd see something...hear something? Maybe stumble onto to something he didn't want anyone knowing about? Before she could protest, the general was on his feet and hurrying through the door. She looked at the red phone on the desk. President Hayes had told her about the 'direct connection' to the Oval Office. That what went on in the SGC was really that important. She curled her fingers into fists to prevent her hands from reaching for the device. She'd never been treated as rudely as she'd been since arriving at Cheyenne Mountain! And she didn't like it, not one little bit!

 

 

 

General Hammond strode down the corridor, grumbling under his breath about people from D.C. and their penchant for showing up at the worst damned times. He stopped and took a breath before going into the office where Colonel Reynolds was nervously waiting. "Colonel," he greeted.

"Sir," Reynolds replied, coming to attention.

"So, what do you think of the office?"

Confused, the SG team leader looked around. "It's an office, sir."

Hammond chuckled. "If you accept my offer, this is where you'll be working."

Reynolds looked around the room again. "I don't understand, sir."

"Colonel, I'd like to put you in charge of all routine operations of the SGC," Hammond explained.

The colonel's dark blue eyes went wide. "Sir?"

Waving at one of the chairs in front the wall directly across from a wide, nondescript desk, Hammond lowered himself into its twin. "Colonel Reynolds, routine operations of the Stargate Program have grown in the past few years. We have twenty-two teams on the mission rotation roster. Not to mention four scientific departments tasked to learn everything they can about the artifacts and technology that come back through the 'gate. There are also two ships, a third being built. One person simply cannot keep up with all of it."

"No, sir," the colonel replied, nodding his understanding.

"Your record is exemplary. I believe that you're just the man to deal with the day-to-day operations of the SGC, most of which deal with the entire facility. General O'Neill will oversee the ships that are assigned to the SGC. Which leaves me dealing with missions, teams, alien diplomats, and whatever else comes up," Hammond explained. "I'll still be required to sign all final copies of any reports you create, and of course authorize any and all requisitions that don't fall under General O'Neill's jurisdiction."

"I...I don't know what to say, sir," Reynolds said.

"General O'Neill is still, obviously, second-in-command. I believe that Colonel Carter is the logical choice for the next in line, given her experience with SG-1."

"I agree, sir."

"Son, I need someone I can trust to deal with all this paperwork. Jack O'Neill hates paperwork almost as much as he hates the Goa'uld," Hammond confided. "I have him dealing with a few requisitions, simply because it's a requirement of his rank."

Reynolds' cheek twitched slightly. Everyone in the mountain was aware of Jack O'Neill's penchant for passing off paperwork on anyone not quick enough to get away from him. "Yes, sir."

"According to your reports, Major Wheaton is more than capable of taking command of SG-5."

"He is, sir. Probably better equipped to run the team than me."

"I doubt that, but it's good to know that command is going to someone who's earned it," Hammond smiled.

"When do you want me to..." Reynolds waved his hand in a small circle.

"The sooner the better. Walter has a list of the duties you'll be taking on, and all pertinent information. If you have questions, the sergeant is the man to ask," Hammond replied.

"Yes, sir." Reynolds looked at the desk. "I have to admit, as awesome as it can be going through the 'gate, I don't think I'll miss it."

Hammond nodded. "I understand. You're still going to be in the heat of battle whenever anything happens here. And in an emergency, you'll head any SG team necessary."

"Yes, sir."

"And don't let O'Neill talk you into doing those requisitions. That's his job."

Reynolds snickered. "Not to worry, sir. I'll see to it that he gets them done."

"Good man, Colonel," Hammond sighed. "I'll send Walter in with that information. You can tell your team about the changes."

"Yes, sir."

Hammond started for the door. "Thank you, Colonel. You have no idea how much your help is going to mean around here."

Reynolds smiled. "Paperwork's a bitch, sir."

"That it is," Hammond chuckled. He gave a nod, then turned back toward his own office.

Reynolds looked around the room. Felt the weight on his shoulders shift. It wasn't gone, just...different. He picked up the phone on the desk, and was greeted immediately by the SGC operator. "Page SG-5 to office number 3, level twenty-seven." He bit back a grin. In a few days, the small room would be known by everyone in the bunker as 'Reynolds' office'.

"Yes, sir."

The call was going out over the intercom when Sergeant Harriman tapped on the door. "Colonel Reynolds?"

"Yes, Sergeant?"

"General Hammond said you're ready for this. He also asked me to stay and go through the first folder with you."

Reynolds nodded. "Okay, tell me what I need to know."

Walter fought to hide his grin. He'd tell Ferretti about the new arrangements. And lay a bet that Reynolds would be complaining about his new position as the permanent Operations Officer by the end of the week.

 

 

 

Hammond paused outside his office. The folder he'd handed Doctor Weir was lying on his desk. He'd not been gone long enough for her to have thoroughly read the contents. She was standing in front of his pictures, looking at each of them carefully. "Doctor Weir."

She jumped slightly.

"Did you read the notes in the folder?"

"What I understood of them," she replied. Her 'snooping' had led to the surprising discovery that the general had a degree in Political Science, as well as one in Statistical Analysis. She wondered just how well those disciplines served him as the commander of the SGC.

He glanced at the clock on the shelf behind his desk. "It's nearly lunch time. Let's go to the commissary. You can tell me exactly what you know about the SGC, and I'll do my best to fill in the blanks."

Weir gave a slight smile. "That's acceptable."

"After lunch, we'll see about that tour." Something told him that the bureaucrat wasn't going to be satisfied with less than his taking her through every level, and explaining what went on in every department. Basic information she should already know. President Hayes had confided his suspicions. Hammond was about to find out for certain whether the president was correct in his assumptions.


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