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Parallel-o-gram 

Chapter 9

When Sam and Jack walked out of the room, they were hand in hand. It was the first time that their teammates had witnessed more than simple caresses, innocuous touches that were no more than what any two people who were close friends would share. As they waited for the elevator, Daniel looked at his friend, met the hard gaze head-on. As always, an entire conversation was held within that seemingly simple glance... 

 

Are you okay?

Been better.

We're here for you.

I know.

If you need to talk...

Won't.

Fine. When you need me, you know where I'll be.

Right.

I've suffered too.

I know.

I can relate.

I know that, too.

It wasn't real.

Nope. I'm really okay. And thanks.

You're welcome.

 

"We have the location. Let's go get this asshole," Jack said, his voice a bit raspy from the emotions he struggled to suppress. He didn't do emotions. Not easily. Certainly not in front of anyone he wasn't close to. Nor did he want to break down in front of his team. Not here. He'd endured torture of all kinds. This was no different. Only the emotions attached were more...raw. Made him feel vulnerable. And he hated feeling vulnerable.

It became easier to deal with as what he'd experienced took on the aspects of a dream. The images had an unreal quality to them, and knowing that, technically, none of it had been real... He frowned when he realized that he had no actual memories for them to have accessed. Sam had told him that she believed that was how the devices worked. The 'guide' knew what memories were available, accessed them, and manipulated them. So how in the hell...He stopped, turned to Casey. Something in his gut told him that the seer would have the answer. "Is it possible to plant memories, or thoughts, using those gizmos?"

Casey paused. "I guess so," she replied slowly.  Her eyes focused on something that only she could see. "The 'guide' controls the entire encounter, and sees what the 'seeker' is seeing. Manipulates memories, or substitutes his own if necessary."

"You're sure?" Sam asked.

"Sure about what?" the slender blonde asked, frowning. Took note of the grinning faces around her. "Damn! I so hate it when that happens."

"So you tell us, every time it happens," Daniel teased.

"I wonder if the devices are slightly different," Sam said, her brilliant mind working the puzzle they'd been presented with. "In order to control the encounter, the 'transmitter' would have to operate in a slightly different way than the 'receiver'."

"You'll have a chance to find out, when we take that doohickey out of whatever asshole is sitting there," Jack promised.

Sam smiled. "Yes, sir," she replied.

That simple comment shifted the team into full 'mission mode'. The other SG teams were waiting beside the van. "We've located the address," Major Tillman reported from his seat inside the vehicle. "Apartment complex on the other side of the fence," he said, pointing to the map.

The hospital was located just two blocks from the eight foot tall chain-link fence that followed the perimeter of the Peterson Air Force base. Topped with two feet of twisted razor-wire, it was a reminder to those who lived nearby that they were not to enter the government owned land.

"I knew it had to be close," Sam said, pleased that she'd been proven correct.

"Pin point?" Jack asked.

"Second floor, center unit," was the reply.

"You guys head on back to base. Tell General Hammond we'll be bringing a guest." With a nod, Jack led the team toward his truck. The other SG teams had arrived in private vehicles as well, and would follow the colonel.

"May I make a suggestion?" Dennis Ballard asked. He'd been standing just apart from the group, allowing them to do what it was that they all did so very well.

"Sure," Jack said.

"Let me go up to the door first. He'll let me in."

"Won't he be a bit suspicious that you could just show up like that?" Daniel asked.

"Possibly. But I can get through the door and keep him from doing anything...permanent."

"Cyanide?" Jack asked.

"Yes."

"Oy. Yeah, okay. I want this bastard alive. We have questions, and he has answers."

The ride off base, and to the low-rent apartments, was made in silence. Nine millimeter handguns were checked, loaded, and double checked. There was hope that the weapons wouldn't be necessary. Resignation that given the circumstances, they probably would be.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

A group of young men gathered around a small black car watched wide-eyed as the vehicles slowly entered the cul-de-sac. Teal'c pulled a knit hat down over the tattoo on his forehead, then approached the group. "You would do well to leave this area," he said firmly.

"I live here, asshole," one of the young men retorted, pulling himself up to his full height. He was still at least six inches shorter than the man standing calmly in front of him.

"Then I suggest you enter your abode and remain there," Teal'c replied. "If you do not reside in this area, leave. Now."

"Get a load of the way this asshole talks," one of the young men jeered.

Jack sauntered over to stand beside the Jaffa. "What'cha got here, T-man?"

"These individuals are not being cooperative."

"Is that so? Well, I suppose a quick call to the local PD would help. I'm sure that the police would be interested in what these gents find so fascinating about this car at nearly two in the morning. I'm betting they can find a judge and have a search warrant before these guys have given their names," Jack said, his eyes moving over the faces that watched him carefully.

"You're full of shit," one of the boys hissed. He spat on the ground beside Jack's foot.

"Of course, as a concerned citizen, I don't need a search warrant." Jack stepped closer to the car. Wasn't surprised when the young men tightened ranks, kept themselves between him and the vehicle. If he'd had suspicions before, he knew for certain now that there was something in the car, or perhaps the car itself, that these punks didn't want him looking at. He adjusted the radio in his ear. "I have a situation here."

The teenagers shifted nervously as the SG teams surrounded them. Fear began to reflect in their eyes when they realized they were completely encircled by armed military men. "Look, we were just standing out here talking," one of the teens said.

"Shut up, Wyman!"

Jack walked over to stand in front of the young man named Wyman. "Do you live here?"

"Uh...no."

"Where do you live?"

"Other side of town."

"Did you walk over?"

Wyman shook his head. "I came over with them," he said, pointing over his shoulder at three of the other teens.

"You stupid prick!" one of his friends said angrily.

"Wyman, I suggest you start walking. Riding with these guys probably wouldn't be a conducive to your health. If you're very lucky, you won't get stopped by any cops on your way home," Jack said.

Without a backward glance, the young man shoved his hands into his pockets and began walking up the street.

"Radar, c'mere, would you?" Jack said into his radio.

A few seconds later Casey approached. "Yes, sir?"

The teenagers gaped at the beautiful blonde now standing beside the man who was behaving as if he had the right to harass them.

"Tell me about these gentlemen."

Casey nodded. Jack's flashlight joined hers as she focused the beam on each face for just a moment. She reached out, examined what she could feel around them. Saw the flash of light just before more information dropped into her mind. "Just punks. None of them in school, although they all should be. I suppose they think being an idiot is 'cool', or some such thing. One of them is trying to sell a few things he...obtained...via the ten-finger discount method. Mostly CD's, a few DVD's, three cameras, two Ipods, and a few bags of pot."

"Who's our budding entrepreneur?" Jack asked.

She held the beam steady on a young man who was obviously older than the others. "This one. I believe there's a warrant for his arrest already outstanding. I think it's our civic duty to turn him in."

"I agree. What about the rest of them?"

"Two of them live here. One of them is from Denver, just visiting a cousin. Those three live in Colorado Springs."

"Vehicles?"

"Those three cars over there," she said, pointing to three small cars, one of them as battered as her old Toyota had been.

Jack turned to two of the closest SG team members. "Any of you guys have zip ties?"

"Here, Colonel," one of the men answered, stepping forward and handing Jack a bundle of the black, plastic ties.

"Turn around, Mr. Businessman."

Too stunned by the blonde woman's accurate list of his 'goods', and her ability to tell the military man things she should have no way of knowing, the young man obeyed. He was roughly tied, then pushed down to sit on the ground beside his car. His feet were then tied as well.

Jack stood back up. "Okay. The rest of you, get out of here. Quietly. Very quietly."

Shuffling away as quickly as they could, it was obvious to their observers that the boys wanted to turn and run. Only youthful pride prevented them from doing so.

It was hard not to grin. "There, now we don't have to worry about any unwanted observers," Jack said.

"Won't those boys tell everyone what happened?" Casey asked.

One of the airmen still standing nearby snorted softly. "Not likely, ma'am. No punk is going to admit to having been thrown off the street corner like that. Especially when they nearly pissed their pants during the confrontation."

There were quiet chuckles from the other SG team members. Jack was grinning as well. He glanced over his shoulder, looked toward the parking area where Dennis Ballard, Daniel, and Sam waited quietly. The smile faded. "Let's get this done."

 

 

 

Dennis felt as if he were going to be ill as he climbed the stairs to the second floor apartment. Hoped that whoever was on the other side of that door was 'lower rank' than he'd been on the Board. There were only three men 'above' him. Including Tem. Well, four, if Kinsey was counted. If it were a subordinate, he'd be able to maintain control over the training that still reared its ugly head, reminding him that he'd never be totally free of the man who'd been his master. If not...

He glanced down at the sidewalk. The members of SG-1 were ready to climb the steps. They'd be up that flight of wooden steps before the door was completely closed behind him. That thought gave him comfort, soothed his nerves.

Taking a deep breath, he raised his hand. Hesitated briefly. Whoever was on the other side of this door was responsible for the hell that Shannon had continued to endure after she'd been taken off of that ship. Anger raced through him; he grabbed it, clung to it. That anger would see him through the next few minutes.

 

 

 

Jack watched, frowned when he saw the man hesitate. What was he waiting for? The sound of knuckles against wood filled the still night air. "Okay, campers, this is it."

Sam led the way, her Beretta in hand, crouched low on the stairs so that whoever opened the door wouldn't see her as she moved up behind Dennis. Jack was directly behind her, Daniel behind him, Casey was next, and Teal'c brought up the six. The other SG teams were spread out, watching to make certain there were no unwanted witnesses...or innocent bystanders...who might become victims if things went bad.

 

 

 

The door opened, the dim light behind him casting the man in shadow. Dennis grimaced slightly. Even without being able to see the man's face clearly, he recognized him. Roger Taylor. For all intents and purposes, Tem's second-in-command.

"Dennis! What a pleasant surprise!" Taylor said, smiling viciously.

"I'll bet."

"I knew that sooner or later you would return."

"I'm not returning," Dennis relied flatly.

"No? You're here, are you not?"

"I'm not alone."

Before Taylor could respond, Dennis stepped into the apartment, effectively pushing the other man back, and allowing the members of SG-1 to file inside.

"Check him, Carter. Teal'c, hold the bastard steady. Radar, Daniel, look around and see what else you can find," Jack said, quickly and efficiently taking control of the situation. "Dennis, who is this piece of shit?"

"Robert Taylor. He was convicted of fraud and embezzlement in Wisconsin. Before Tem...freed...him," Dennis replied.

"Hold his head still," Sam said, watching as Teal'c took a firm grip on the man's head. Taylor struggled for a few seconds, then stilled, and stood passively. Her penlight highlighted the dark spot behind his ear. She took out her pocket knife, made a tiny incision. Watched as the device moved up. The forceps that Janet had given her grabbed onto the tiny piece of technology. She pulled a small plastic bag from her pocket, dropped the device inside and sealed it carefully.

Taylor stared at Jack for a moment, then gave a cold, feral smile. "Well, my pet, we meet in person. So obedient, and no training! How pleasant that made our time together!"

Jack felt rage, ice cold and hot as fire, roll over him. "Carter, are you finished?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good. Step back."

Without questioning why, she did as she was told. Watched as Jack's fist impacted on the man's face.

Teal'c had let go of the man at the same time Sam had moved away from him. He watched, one eyebrow raised slightly, when Taylor landed on his ass. "I do not believe he was prepared for your attack."

Jack grinned. "You're right. Very rude of me. Help him up."

The Jaffa reached down with one hand and yanked the man to his feet.

"I'm no pet, you asshole," Jack hissed. "Nor is Shannon Ballard. Your days of torturing people are over. And I'm going to hit you now."

Again Taylor wound up on the floor, his nose bleeding profusely. "You have not won, Major Jonathan O'Neill, United States Air Force. Even now Tem returns to take this planet!"

"It's 'colonel'," Jack spat. "Radar? Is he telling the truth?"

Daniel held up a communication sphere. "Probably," he said, nodding at the device.

Casey nodded. "He was contacted...yesterday...no, no it was the day before. Tem is definitely on his way."

"Always nice to know about company in advance," Jack sneered to Taylor. "Tie his ass up, and let's get him to the base. Oh, Radar? Call the police and let them know about Donald Trump out there."

"Right," she smiled. Took her cell phone from her pocket.

Daniel handed the sphere to Casey, helped Teal'c subdue and restrain the Goa'uld 'pet'. Glanced over to see the anger burning in Jack's eyes. His best friend was just fine. Madder than hell, but otherwise unscathed from his experience. At least, on the surface. If Jack needed to talk, well, it would happen. In Jack's time, and in Jack's way.

 

 

 

The ride to the base had been one of major discomfort for Roger Taylor. His hands and feet had been bound, held tightly by plastic strips. Which seemed to tighten the more he struggled against them. He'd been tossed unceremoniously into the bed of a large pickup. It had been impossible to remain sitting upright. After a few minutes of struggling to do so, he'd remained on his side, sliding from one side of the metal box to the other as the truck turned. There was no doubt that Colonel Jonathan O'Neill was taking every corner much sharper and faster than necessary.

When the truck passed through the gate of the military installation, the guard didn't even so much as give a cursory glance into the back of the vehicle. What kind of guard would be so lax? he grumped silently.

Teal'c pulled Taylor from the bed of the truck, allowed him to drop to the ground. Daniel stood with his weapon aimed at the man's head while his best friend cut the tie that held his ankles together. There was no reason to carry the prisoner to the SGC, especially now that they were on the base, and any escape attempt would be short lived. No doubt Taylor wasn't feeling the most energetic at the moment anyway, Daniel thought, watching as Teal'c pulled the prisoner to his feet. The ride in the back of the truck had no doubt left a few bruises to match those on his face.

"What is this place?" Taylor asked. His voice had a slight nasal twang, a result no doubt, of the swelling that Jack's punches had caused.

"Shh," Casey whispered. "This place doesn't exist. We don't exist. This is all a figment of your imagination."

Daniel chuckled. "Careful, Angel. Don't tell him too much. We'd have to shoot him, and we're running out of places to hide the bodies."

Taylor gasped, then his eyes narrowed. "You are making fun of me!"

"Oh, no," Jack said, shaking his head. "If they were making fun of you, they'd be talking about how sad it is that a man with a little pecker like yours has to resort to using stolen Ancient devices to torture innocent young women with his sexual predator fantasies."

"Little, huh?" Sam asked.

Jack held his thumb and index finger about four inches apart.

Casey giggled. "He should get together with Ares. Seems they're both butt-plug sized."

It took effort to keep from bursting into laughter, but he managed to maintain his calm facade. Jack glanced at the slender blonde. He did not want to know how she knew about butt plugs, or their sizes!

The elevator stopped on level sixteen, and the team escorted their prisoner into the stockade section. Jack opened the cell door with a flourish. "Welcome to your new home, for the foreseeable future."

Taylor shook his head. "When Tem arrives, you will all serve him. And I'll have you as my personal pet, I promise you that, Jonathan."

"Dream on, freak," Jack replied. He shoved the man into the cell. Slammed the door behind him.

"Must I remain tied?" Taylor demanded.

"Turn around. Put your hands beside the bars," Jack ordered. Smiled coldly when the man obeyed immediately. He cut the plastic tie, put the knife back into the sheath. "It seems that Tem trained you well. You obey very quickly."

Taylor flinched. The firm, commanding tone of voice had been what he'd responded to; the underlying hint of anger, of hatred, so very like that of his master.

Casey tossed the communication orb to Jack. "We should tell the general we have a new toy, boss," she said softly.

"Yep. I'm certain he'll be tickled to know we've added more to our stock of Goa'uld hardware," Jack replied. As they walked past the control panel, he hit the button that raised the force field; added when Sam and Siler had figured out how to do so, after their experience with the Ash'rak who'd nearly killed Sam.

 

 

 

General Hammond was waiting for their report. He listened carefully. There was no doubt that not all of the details would be filed officially. Nor was there any need for such specifics. It was enough that the man had been captured. Even more important was knowing that Tem was on his way to Earth.

"Once I compare the two devices, I'll be able to tell more about the differences," Sam said, concluding her portion of the debrief.

"Very good, Major. It's late, I suggest you all go home and get some sleep. The next few days are going to be difficult. I want you back here by thirteen hundred tomorrow."

The teammates exchanged glances. "Something up, sir?" Jack asked.

"Yes, colonel, there is. I think you'll be quite...pleasantly surprised."

Another shared glance. "Yes, sir," the colonel replied.

"Dismissed."

Jack waited until the team was gathered at the elevator. "Is it just me, or is the general extremely pleased about something? And not the fact that we have that bastard in custody."

Sam nodded. "He just found something out," she agreed.

Everyone looked at Casey. "What?" she said. Rolled her eyes. "Even if I knew, which I don't," she exclaimed, holding one hand up to ward off the excited questions she could see in their eyes, "I wouldn't say anything unless the general had given me permission to do so."

"Not even a hint?" Daniel asked, teasingly.

She smiled. "Not even a hint."

Jack grinned. "You must just piss the Goa'uld off to no end. All they get from you is attitude!"

"They aren't even worth that, but I just can't help myself sometimes," Casey retorted. Her teammates laughed.

Sam yawned. Rested her head against the wall of the elevator. "It's been a long day," she said softly.

"It's been a productive day," Daniel said. They'd caught the man who'd continued to torment Shannon Ballard. Had learned more about the Ancient devices, and the fact that Tem was returning to Earth. The latter was cause for concern, but for the moment, the team was willing to take their victories where they could find them and, if they didn't bask in them, then they at least savored them.

Goodnights were exchanged when Teal'c stepped off the elevator on level twenty-five. Casey had expressed concern about the fact that he was still living on the base. He'd been touched, but had informed her that he had no wish to move. He was quite content with his life, including his living arrangements. She was certain that the strict military protocol around him was the reason for his comfort within the walls of the SGC.

It was an effort to put one foot in front of the other as they walked from the bus to the Jeep. Casey dozed off before Daniel had turned onto the highway that led into Silver Springs. He smiled. Wrapped his hand around hers, pleased to note that even in her sleep she responded to his touch.

He thought about the conversation they'd had earlier in the day...yesterday, he corrected himself, with a glance at his watch. She'd told him that things were about to become intense for the team. But that the team would remain together.

It would be nice to catch a break. Have a few very boring, very routine recon missions. But as long as the team remained together, as long as Casey was safe and at his side, well, he'd not complain...at least, not too much.

No doubt there was a mission in their immediate future. He was still nervous about going off world, still feared that she would be stolen from him again. It was a fear he'd lived with from the moment she'd entered his life. Perhaps more intense now, considering that she had been taken from him, three times. Her sweet love, her patience, her understanding would help him deal with that dark fear.

She stirred when he gently lifted her from the car seat. "I can walk," she mumbled sleepily.

"I know," he replied. His hip pushed against the vehicle door to close it. "Hit the button for the remote, babe."

She reached out and pushed the control for the garage door opener. Daniel stepped out just before it was too low to walk beneath. She reached out, took the keys from his hand, unlocked the back door when they reached it.

After quickly performing their nighttime ablutions, they fell exhausted into bed. Casey curled around the warmth of his body, and slipped back into the slumber she'd been disturbed from.

Daniel closed his eyes. She was in his arms, safe beside him. He was right where he was supposed to be. And that was all he needed in life. All he'd ask. He'd worry over what they were about to face...later. As long as SG-1 remained together, the good guys would always win.

THE END


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