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 Picking Up the Pieces

 

Chapter 3

The team was settling around the conference table when the general entered the room, Colonel Mitchell immediately behind him. The commander of the Daedalus sat down beside Jack, glancing around warily before giving Casey a shy smile. She blushed slightly, but smiled in return. When his gaze moved to the man sitting beside her, Mitchell was relieved to note that there wasn’t a trace of the anger, or the hatred, that had burned in the archaeologist's eyes when the two had last seen one another. Pity maybe. Even a hint of amusement. Either of those two things he could deal with.

"All right, tell me where we are as far as this weapon is concerned," Hammond said, starting the meeting without preliminaries.

"We have one component of the weapon...Doctor Lee is continuing his examination of the stele; we know the location of two others," Daniel replied, "one being in Ba’al’s possession, and as far as we know at the moment, on his flagship. The second is on the planet identified by the gate address that had been scratched on the base of the stele."

Hammond nodded. "And the others?"

Daniel exchanged a glance with his wife. "We think we know where the final two pieces are located. One is referred to in the text from the stelai.. I believe the text is a guide to another planet. We just need to determine where the ‘Cradle of Stars’ is located."

The general nodded, checked his notes. "And the final piece, I assume, is the one Mr. Quinn believes is here on Earth?"

The Prometheus had been scanning, but so far nothing had been found. That the scans were focused on the Middle East was due to the consensus that since the Stargate and DHD had been found there, any other Ancient devices might also be there...it was possible that the Goa’uld either didn’t know about this ‘mystery’ device, or hadn’t realized what it was if they had found it. "Casey seems to think that the one located here is one of the most important pieces," the archaeologist explained. A revelation she had shared with him on the way to the elevator just minutes earlier, and one that seemed to worry her enough that he was uneasy.

The general looked sharply at the seer. "Casey?"

"I have no clue where it is. Only that it’s here," she responded softly. "And there’s something about it...I just can’t seem to ‘see’ any details." What she felt was cold...dark...dangerous. But the feelings were more peripheral than direct, so she was left to assume that her own fears were coloring her perceptions. The shiver that moved her slender body as a result of those fears was impossible to miss.

"Oy," Jack muttered. Apparently whatever Radar could sense had her nervous. And that made him nervous.

"You said ‘Cradle of Stars’?" Sam asked Daniel, a slight frown on her face.

He nodded. "That’s the direct translation. That hidden in the ‘Cradle of Stars’ is the ‘seat of power’."

"We think that it’s a literal description, so we assume it means the chair that’s part of the weapon," Casey added.

"There are several nebulas that are referred to as stellar nurseries," Sam said. "Is there anything more specific, a clue that might guide us to the right one?"

The archaeologist frowned. "I’d have to look at the tracings I have. There might be something on the ‘companion’ stele."

"How long do you need, Doctor?" General Hammond asked.

He blew out a sigh. It was obvious that the general wanted the team on their way as quickly as possible. Without a doubt he and Sam could figure out just where the hell the ‘cradle’ was...they just needed the right clues. "A couple of hours at the most," was his optimistic response.

"Can you do this work on the Daedalus?"

"Yes, sir. I only need to take along the tracings, maybe a few of the images of the stelai," Daniel said.

The general nodded his acknowledgement. "Good. I want those components collected as quickly as possible. Let’s try to keep the enemy from taking note of what we’re doing. I doubt that the Goa’uld would be interested in what we’re doing here on our own planet, even if they were able to learn about the search."

"I don’t think that’s possible, sir," Sam said. "Unless there’s a Goa’uld ship nearby, monitoring SGC communications, and to do that, they’d have to be able to unscramble the signals, anything we do here is completely hidden from prying eyes."

"I understand, major. But when dealing with the Goa’uld, I’m not taking anything for granted," Hammond replied.

"Excellent attitude, sir," Jack quipped. "You can’t trust those snakes not to do something completely snaky."

"You mean sneaky?" Daniel asked, eyebrows raised.

"No, I mean ‘snaky’. That’s even worse than sneaky," Jack declared. Tossed a conspiratorial grin at Casey when she was unable to bite back her own wide grin.

Mitchell noted that for all the playful banter, the eyes of the team remained serious...even a held a bit of worry. Whatever this weapon was, it had the entire SGC about as uptight as a three day clock wound for a week. He sent up a silent prayer to whatever gods might be listening. He didn’t want his crew to get into a firefight with the Goa’uld. Not so soon, anyway. They were still learning their way around the ship, for Pete’s sake!

"What about Ba’al, sir?" Daniel asked, doing his best not to grin at his friend. "Have we found any clues to where he’s hiding out?"

"So far our spy network hasn’t been able to locate him," Hammond replied, ignoring his Second-in-Command, although his cheek twitched noticeably. "I’ve sent a message to Jacob and Selmak, requesting any information they might have.’

"No doubt they’ll be curious as to why we’re so interested in just where Ba’al is," Sam said slowly.

"No doubt. But I see no reason to explain my request. The Tok’ra seem to believe such details are unnecessary when dealing with us, let them see how they like having the shoe on the other foot."

Smiles flickered over each face. General Hammond had taken a firm stance with the Tok’ra since Daniel had been declared dead...due to the lack of information for a mission undertaken for their allies.

"I suggest we leave that mission for last," Jack said. "When we sneak on board Balls’ ship, he’s not going to be the only one wanting to know why. Better to have everything in our possession before that."

"I agree," Daniel nodded. "Even if we’re just looking for the piece that’s somewhere here on planet Earth, Ba’al at the very least is going to be paying attention. And if he even suspects what we have, he could rally the others to attack before we can use it."

Again, Casey shivered. The thought of actually using the weapon left her damned near breathless with fear. Jack noted that shiver, and suspected the cause. Which increased his own wariness.

"I agree as well. That will be the final mission connected to this weapon. While SG-1 is retrieving the pieces of the weapon from out there," the general said, waving his hand in the direction of the ceiling, "the Prometheus will continue its search. The five of you will retrieve that piece if the Prometheus has located it before your return." Hammond turned his attention to Sam. "If the Prometheus has made no progress during the time SG-1 is retrieving the other artifacts, I would like for you to oversee the planetary scan. There’s a piece of that weapon here, and I want it found, before someone else stumbles onto it. A discovery by any archaeologist, or worse, some farmer digging in a field, could open up a can of worms we have no time for."

"Yes, sir," Sam replied.

"Once we have them, the items will be stored in Warehouse Two, and that storage facility will be off limits to all personnel unless cleared by Colonel O’Neill, Major Carter, or Doctor Jackson. SG-1 will be the primary team in charge of figuring out just what it is we have. Any assistance that you need will be yours for the asking."

Heads bobbed up and down, accepting the orders without hesitation. The Ancient weapon was without a doubt the single most important device the humans had located to date...the Stargate excluded. Without a doubt the dangerous nature of the device dictated that the SGC’s most brilliant and most experienced team be the one to retrieve and examine the machine that even the Ancients seemed to fear. That magical SG-1 luck would be needed to deal with this particular problem.

"Major Carter, do you believe you can rebuild this weapon?" the general asked.

"I think so, sir."

Casey tugged at her lower lip, not even aware of doing so. The panic that welled up inside her at the thought of the weapon being ‘restored’, again had her gasping for breath.

"Casey?" Hammond asked gently.

"Let’s not get in a hurry to put that thing together," she said softly, gripping Daniel’s hand tightly.

Nervous glances were exchanged around the table. "Can you be more specific?" the general inquired.

She looked around. Everyone was staring at her. Great, what the hell did I say this time?

Daniel couldn’t help but smile. "Didn’t hear that, huh?"

"Nope. Was it important?"

"I’d say so," the general replied, a smile tugging at his lips. It was often amusing to watch Casey after she had made such a comment. Her frustration could often relieve the tension that such proclamations normally produced.

"So what did I say?"

"That we shouldn’t be in a hurry to put the weapon together," Daniel replied.

She shivered a third time. "Sounds like good advice to me!"

Again with the shivering! Jack frowned, his concern only growing deeper. When Radar was freaked out about something, it was never a good thing. "We have to get the parts, at the very least. We don’t dare let the snakes find this thing. They won’t have any qualms about putting it together and using it."

"No argument there," Casey said.

"Let’s just gather the components for now. We can decide what to do with them later," the general suggested. "Colonel Mitchell, let me know when you’re ready to break orbit."

"Yes, sir," Mitchell replied, nodding slightly. "I’ll let Major Carter and Doctor Jackson determine that. Whenever they’re ready to leave."

"Very well. Do you have any idea how long it will take to recover these pieces?" Hammond asked, looking from Daniel to Sam and back again.

Two blonde heads shook a negative response.

"I suggest that you pack for an extended stay," the general sighed. He didn’t want to admit, even to himself, that he’d thought the menace of the Ancient weapon was more of a concern than even Doctor Jackson and the archaeologists who worked with him insisted it to be. He didn’t want the Goa’uld to have any of the artifacts, just on principal alone, thus his desire to see those pieces gathered as quickly as possible. However, when that stele had been brought back, and the reports began to find their way to his desk, the need to prevent the Goa’uld from getting their hands on the weapon was tangible. The danger of the Ancient weapon had become real to him. "Best time on this, people. I want this threat neutralized promptly."

"Yes, sir," Jack replied, speaking for his team.

"Gather what you need, ring up to the Daedalus. Best time."

"Yes, sir." Jack looked at each face of his team. "An hour?"

"Should be plenty of time," Daniel nodded.

"I agree, sir," Sam added.

"Works for me," Casey said.

"Indeed," Teal’c agreed.

"I’ll see to it that their quarters are ready for them," Mitchell said.

"Very well. Dismissed." The general stood to his feet. "Casey, if you can spare a few minutes, I have a few MALP reports I’d like you to take a look at before you leave."

"Of course, sir," she smiled. No doubt the team would be away from the SGC for several days. There were other teams with missions of their own to embark on, and looking out for their safety was her job.

Mitchell had risen when the rest of the team had stood to attention. He watched as Casey followed the general into his office. When he turned back to the others, it was to find Daniel studying him. He was at a loss for anything to say...after all, he had been staring at the man’s wife. Or more precisely, that heart-shaped fanny.

"I...uh...I owe you an apology," Daniel said quietly. "I never should have hit you."

Teal’c, Jack, and Sam exchanged surprised glances. They had assumed that Casey had been the one to put the bruise on the colonel’s jaw, and had speculated between themselves that the colonel had probably said something that had angered the feisty blonde...a come-on of some sort. If Daniel had been responsible for the mark still visible, something had been said; or maybe Daniel had witnessed something - an innocent action...misconstrued because of his fears concerning Casey and Mitchell - that had led to the altercation. Given the questions the young seer had been asking, Daniel’s assumptions had actually been quite understandable. Had it not been for rather surprising revelations during the ‘family dinner’, held the previous Saturday evening, those assumptions would no doubt still be in haunting him. That certainly would not have boded well for the archaeologist’s peace of mind...or the upcoming mission

"No, Doctor, you don’t," Mitchell replied, not a little surprised himself at Daniel's admission. "Let’s just chalk it all up to the...unusual circumstances...and let it go." Pheromones or not, his behavior had been less than stellar, and if he’d been in the archaeologist’s boots, he wouldn’t have stopped with just a hard right to the jaw.

Daniel smiled. "I can accept that. It didn’t help that Casey had me running scared at the time."

Mitchell’s expression mirrored his confusion. "She did?"

Jack snickered. "It seems that Radar was asking some really strange questions of everyone-" He stopped, a frown knitting his brows together as the implications finally set in. "Hey! Just why didn’t she come talk to me about her suspicions?"

Daniel snorted. "Probably because you’re about as subtle as a bull in a china shop. She wanted...needed...to know the truth of the matter. She didn’t need you exacerbating the situation."

"Uh...what situation?" Mitchell asked curiously.

Sam chuckled. "She thought her Dad, Teal’c, and Doctor Fraiser were in a...relationship."

"All three of them? At once?" he sputtered, his voice rising in pitch slightly.

"Yeah, she was asking us if ‘three people in a relationship’ was okay," Daniel laughed.

"She wasn’t so much asking, as trying to determine if we knew anything. And she was trying to let those three know that she wouldn’t stand in their way," Sam corrected, her own laugh mingling with Daniel’s.

Daniel looked at Mitchell. "What she asked me had me thinking she wanted-" He broke off, color flooding into his face.

"He thought Casey wanted to bring you to bed with them," Jack grinned.

"He what?" There was no way in hell he would ever share any woman he was sleeping with, Mitchell thought indignantly. No way in hell that he’d go after a married woman either...unless he was being influenced in some way. Heaved a silent sigh. He was still dealing with the fact that he had done just that, and for that very reason.

"If you'd heard what she said," Daniel muttered, "you’d have thought the same thing."

"Turns out, Teal’c and Doc Fraiser are an item, and her dad is hooked up with his office manager...they’ve been friends for years," Jack explained, grinning at Teal’c. Who studiously ignored him. "So Radar only had part of the ‘picture’."

Well, that was comforting, Mitchell thought, with not a little amusement, and a bit of relief. Things were strange enough at the SGC...and would be on the Daedalus as well, he supposed...without the thought of kinky sexual relationships abounding around him. You’re just an old fashioned country hick, he told himself. But if Casey had been asking about threesomes, and had given her husband the idea that she was interested in having one...that included him... He looked back at Daniel. Could totally understand the archaeologist’s anger in light of the circumstances. "You’re a better man that I am," he said quietly.

Daniel peered quizzically at the colonel from behind his glasses, adjusting them absently. "I am? How?"

Mitchell broke into a grin. "If I suspected my wife of wanting a little ‘something something’ on the side, with or without me, I wouldn’t have left the bastard standing."

"As I recall, you did hit the floor," Daniel replied sheepishly.

"But I was able to stand back up," Mitchell said, his grin growing wider.

"Casey was really upset with me for hitting you," Daniel said. "Of course, she didn’t have a clue what I thought was going on!"

"Something like that is certain to piss a man off," Mitchell agreed. "Sure would have made me madder than a wet hornet. Like I said, let’s just chalk it up to circumstances. Bizarre as they were." He frowned slightly. "Or...are? Whatever. It’s nothing to worry about."

"Welcome to the SGC," Daniel said, grinning broadly, offering his hand to the colonel.

Mitchell accepted the handshake, grinned in return. "Thanks. So, is it always this weird?"

"Oh, you haven’t seen weird yet!" Sam declared. "Just before you arrived, we had ‘Mini-Jack’ running around."

"I wouldn’t know about that. I was asleep. For three days," Jack grumped. Although he did have the memories of those days, taken from the clone who was supposed to have replaced him. And that was too disturbing to want to think about. Though he wondered briefly how Mini-me...Johnny, his brain immediately reminded him...was doing in school. Remembered the girls. Kid was probably running the place by now.

"While we were dealing with that, Casey and Daniel were battling a daemon from our reality that had escaped to another reality," Sam said, grinning broadly.

"Daemons? Other realities?" Mitchell asked, a bit weakly.

"And there was the time, when the program was still fairly new, that we all switched bodies..." Daniel shuddered. A memory fresh in his mind because of Casey’s comments the night before. "That was just freaky."

"Indeed," Teal’c said, a shudder moving over his impressive girth. "What of the time when O’Neill was pinned to the wall in the ‘gate room by that alien device?"

Jack rubbed his shoulder. "We can skip that part."

"What about the time that entity took over Sam?" Daniel said.

"That was terrifying! I thought I’d be lost forever!" Sam declared.

"Or the foothold situation with those aliens and their doohickeys? We’d have never known what was going on if the major hadn’t been so suspicious," Jack tossed in. "Carter saved the day on that one!"

Sam blushed, even as a pleased smile curved her lips upward.

Mitchell looked from face to face as they spoke. This had to be some sort of initiation; a hazing to see how much they could tease him into believing. "You’re kidding, right?"

"Let me get the mission folders for those little ‘events’," Jack grinned.

"Good God Almighty!" Mitchell exclaimed. His companions chuckled loudly.

"Not so sure even He can comprehend what goes on around here sometimes," Jack retorted.

"You really do need to understand that the unbelievable happens around here, almost on a daily basis," Sam said, as the group fell into step and moved toward the elevator.

"Jack’s suggestion that you read those mission summaries is a good one," Daniel added. "Believe it or not, sometimes in the heat of battle we remember something that worked in another situation. Knowing about those events, and how we dealt with them, might help you and your crew at some point in the future."

"Is this a warning that things could get weird on this little jaunt we’re planning?" Mitchell asked.

"We’re SG-1," Jack replied, with a rakish grin. "You can count on it."

 

 

 

The reports that she had ‘searched’ so far were a collection of relatively safe missions. Two could even be considered boring. Something that was a relief to deal with. At least other teams going through the ‘gate wouldn’t be faced with possible problems. One disaster at a time, as Jack always said. She put the final folder on the desk. "This one might be tricky. The paths in the cavern are narrow...and wet. Once the team gets through the cavern to the ‘outside’, though, they’ll be able to conduct all their experiments without any problems."

"Will one of the MALP units be able to accompany the team?" the general asked, jotting down notes. The CO of the team who had pulled this particular mission had already requested one of the robots, to carry the equipment that would be needed for the weather experiments.

"I think so. The paths, like I said, are narrow, but not extremely so. The team just needs to be very careful. Tell them to hug the walls as much as possible. I don’t see a lot of twists or turns...a couple of curves...but nothing that should be a problem for the MALP."

"I’ll be certain to pass that on."

"Tell the Prometheus to look south," she said, just before she stood up.

"Excuse me?"

She shook her head, glared at the ceiling. "Sorry, sir. What did I say?"

He bit back his smile. "That the Prometheus should ‘look south’."

Casey frowned. "They’re running preliminary scans for naquadah, around Egypt and Nile Valley, aren’t they?"

"Yes, they are."

"I’m not sure exactly what it means. Just that they should look...south. As far south as they can go." Her frown deepened as she tried to pull information forward, to no avail. "I’m sorry, General. That’s all I can sense."

"I’ll contact Colonel Ronson immediately."

She nodded. "If that’s all, sir, I should go get packed."

Hammond smiled. "Thank you, Casey."

"Just doing my job, sir," she smiled in return.

"And what a blessing that’s been. Good luck on your mission."

"Thank you. The hardest part will be liberating that piece from Ba’al. But it’s sure to be entertaining!" She gave a wicked grin. "Maybe we can do a little bit of work on his ship like we did for Zeus."

The general laughed. "I believe that could be considered SOP for SG-1."

"Without a doubt!" She snapped off a salute, and dashed out the door. Maybe she could get just one entry made in the database before she had to leave...

The general smiled as he watched her disappear. That woman never seemed to walk anywhere. She was a bundle of energy. He sat back in his chair. A sun had a lot of energy. He paused at the rather odd thought. Or, maybe it wasn’t so odd. Casey had certainly brought as much sunshine into the SGC as a sun. He grinned at the comparison, then reached for the daily folders. Requisition forms and reports which needed his attention. Sometimes, he felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of paperwork that he was expected to wade through every day. He could only hope that General Vidrine would have an answer for his proposal soon!

 

 

 

Casey had heard Daniel’s apology...or at least the beginning of it. She'd been pleased to see...when she'd glanced into the briefing room...that he and Mitchell had shaken hands, and seemed to be, if not friends, then at least not adversaries. While she had no doubt that the jealousy he felt could...and probably would...raise its head if Mitchell tried flirting with her again, she was glad to know that there wouldn’t be open animosity between the two men. That could make the upcoming mission damned uncomfortable, for everyone concerned. She refused to acknowledge the very feminine delight in the fact that Daniel was jealous over her. It only highlighted his love for her, the depth of that love. And she was not going to think about that. It just wasn’t...right. Even if it did make her feel good!

She hurried into Daniel’s office. Discovered that her teammates and Colonel Mitchell were there, sitting on desks or chairs, coffee in hand. They were discussing several missions, the folders of which added to the piles of paper on her Husband’s desk. She grabbed a mug of coffee, dropped down onto the empty chair beside Daniel. "Sam, apparently I just told General Hammond that the Prometheus should scan ‘south’."

"Any other hints that might help?" Sam asked immediately.

"Only that the search should be as far south as possible."

"Can’t get any further south than the South Pole," Jack quipped.

Daniel and Sam exchanged glances, the same look of astonishment mirrored in both sets of blue eyes. Leave it to Jack, Daniel thought amusedly, to state the obvious and solve the puzzle.

The second Stargate and its DHD had been located in the Antarctic; a discovery made by Sam and Jack when they'd been tossed there, the result of a system overload which had caused a malfunction in the Stargate sitting in the ‘gate room. That discovery had proven that the Ancients had inhabited the continent. Daniel had even suggested that since there hadn’t been any signs of human occupation located to date, it was possible that the Ancients had settled there in an attempt to prevent the indigenous tribes of cave dwellers from knowing about them. At some point the Ancients had interacted with those primitive people; when and why were two answers they would probably never have. But if their theory was right, if Casey’s ‘clue’ was meant to focus their search in Antarctica...the Ancients might have left more of their ‘toys’ there.

"What?" Jack said, noting the expressions on their faces. The Brains had figured something out, he could tell that by the look in their eyes, and apparently Radar had just confirmed it for them.

"Just an idea," Daniel murmured.

"Such as?"

"Later, Jack," Daniel said, rising to his feet. "We need to get to the Daedalus as soon as possible."

"I’m going to contact Colonel Ronson on the Prometheus right away," Sam said, jumping to her feet as well. "If they can make the initial sweeps, they might have solid information for us on by the time we get up to the Daedalus."

"Right. What are you talking about?" Jack insisted.

"Apparently they think the Antarctic is where that damned thing is located," Casey said. And why didn’t that feel ‘right’? "We need to find it, but it’s not what we’re looking for."

All eyes turned to the seer. "Casey?" Daniel asked softly.

"Dammit to hell! That’s the third time in an hour! I’m not amused!" she hurled toward the ceiling.

Chuckles filled the air.

"So what was it this time?" she asked, heaving a pained sigh.

"You said, ‘we need to find it, but it’s not what we’re looking for’," Daniel replied. Watched her carefully for any signs that she could ‘translate’ what she had said.

"Well that’s a nice bit of gibberish," the seer grumped.

"May I make a suggestion?" Mitchell asked, a bit shyly.

"By all means, sir," Sam smiled.

"What if you have the Prometheus continue their scans for whatever it is that you’re looking for. We can take a look at Antarctic when you get to the Daedalus. Having two ships scanning might cut the time down to find...whatever it is."

"Very good idea, sir," Sam nodded. "That would give Daniel time to work out just where our second stop should be. We really need to know where we’re going before we start out, or we’re liable to make the wrong people curious about what we’re doing."

Daniel took Casey’s hand. "Angel, I hate to ask you to do this, but we’re sort of running against the clock here. Do you think you could take a look, see if you can find what it is we’re looking for?"

"I can try," she replied.

Mitchell watched with undisguised interest as Casey settled onto Daniel’s lap. Watched her close those amazing green eyes. And felt the tension that immediately surrounded him; visible on the faces of the members of SG-1. It was most pronounced in the slight frown on Daniel’s face. Nor did he miss the fact that the other three team members had shifted closer, standing within touching distance of the couple. "What’s going on?" he whispered to Teal’c, not sure why he felt it important not to distract the slender blonde.

"Casey Jackson is attempting to do a ‘search’. It can be dangerous for her, in that we are unable to come to her aid if anything should happen to her," Teal’c explained, his own voice low.

"What could happen to her?"

"There are those on other planes of existence who would not hesitate to do harm to the Guide of The One, if the opportunity presented itself. Casey Jackson is vulnerable when she travels the plane of the Ascended."

Okay, that was just freakier than hell, Mitchell thought. He’d ask about ‘The One’ and ‘The Guide’ bit later. When it wouldn’t feel as if he were interfering by doing so.

 

She glanced around. The meadow was warm and sunny, and the honeysuckle was in full bloom. She sniffed appreciatively. "Miss Eloise?"

"Hello, Sunshine!"

Casey couldn’t help but smile. The old seer was stretched out on her back, one arm behind her head, a long stalk of dried grass between her teeth. "Taking in the sun?"

"Whenever I can."

"I need to take a look around. I’m looking for something, although I’m not sure what it is."

"Well, that’s interesting. Think you’ll know it when you find it?"

"I hope so," Casey sighed.

"Look, Casey. Don’t force it...listen. Let it call to you."

If she'd thought about it, she might have sensed the warning that the command contained. It would be some time before she became aware of just how dangerous the device she was seeking truly was.

Hovering above the blue and white planet as it slowly turned, Casey marveled at the beauty...the unmarred majesty. From this distance, the problems that plagued the planet weren’t visible. The division among the sentient creatures known as humans couldn’t be detected. If only everyone could see this, she thought briefly.

A whisper...too faint to make out individual words, caught her attention. And it seemed to be coming from...holy shit! It was coming from Mexico! Wait...no, that wasn’t right...not exactly. Just a bit north of there...Texas? No...that wasn’t right either. Hmm...that was Las Vegas...whatever it was, the ‘whisper’ was close by. How close was difficult to determine, given how high she was.

As she moved lower, attempting to pinpoint the source of that whisper, the ‘hum’ of the planet began to interfere. By the time the sky had turned from inky black to azure blue, it was lost completely.

With a sigh of frustration, Casey returned to the meadow. "I have a general idea of where it is. But it’s so damned faint!"

"I’m betting that the folks you work with will be able to figure it out," Miss Eloise said sagely.

"No doubt," Casey smiled. "Guess I should tell them what little I was able to find out."

"Never underestimate the importance of the tiny tidbits of information," the old seer admonished. "Sometimes, they’re more important than the big discoveries."

"I’ll remember that," the slender blonde promised. "You go back to sunbathing. I have a mission to go on."

"Yes, you do. Take plenty of sun screen."

Casey frowned. "What?"

"You can thank me later."

"Right."

The old seer closed her eyes. Casey opened hers.

 

"Well?" Daniel asked, when those beautiful green eyes fluttered open, and her gaze locked on his.

"Miss Eloise says we should take plenty of sun screen."

Amused glances were exchanged. And not one of the team would forget to pack a full bottle of the protective lotion.

"Anything else?"

"There was a...a whisper. I couldn’t make out words...just...just the sound of a whisper. It’s somewhere between Mexico, Texas, and Las Vegas," Casey said, still frowning slightly.

"That’s a lot of ground to cover," Jack drawled.

"It’s faint...very faint," Casey added.

"We’ll have to boost the scanning capabilities," Sam said immediately.

"You can do that?" Mitchell asked.

"Yes, sir. Easily," Sam replied.

"Let’s get our gear together, team, and get busy. I’d like to get this wrapped up before the weekend."

"Want to catch that Simpson’s marathon, huh, boss?" Casey teased.

"It had crossed my mind," Jack retorted.

"We’ll do our best to oblige," Daniel grinned.

Jack rolled his eyes. Looked at Sam. "Set up the VCR before we leave."

"You still haven’t figured that thing out?" Casey chortled.

"Watch it, Radar. I can still assign you to latrine duty."

"Promises, promises," the seer taunted. She rose to her feet, poured the last of the coffee for herself and her Husband. "Drink it fast, Stud Muffin, or the boss will get cranky."

Snickers moved around the room as the team finished off any coffee left in their mugs, and then made ready to leave.

"Better let the general know about Radar’s visit with Miss Eloise," Jack said, as the group, sans Casey and Daniel, made their way to the door.

"I’ll do it, sir," Sam volunteered.

Jack nodded. "Okay. Grab whatever it is you think you’ll need, then head to his office. We’ll meet up in the supply room."

"I’m heading that way myself," Mitchell offered. "I could at least tell him that the major will be stopping by."

Jack nodded. "Thanks. Appreciate it."

"No problem, sir. See you on the Daedalus," the ship’s commander smiled.

"We’ll be there." Their hope was that they would be gone only a few days. Reality had a nasty habit of dashing such hopes.

The teammates and Mitchell left the room, and Daniel began to gather his notes, and the photographs he was certain he would need. He completely missed the shiver that moved Casey from head to foot, and the worry that crossed her features, just before she pushed it aside.

There wasn’t anything specific...nothing that she could warn her teammates about. Just that awful feeling that they were about to do something they might come to regret. And the sense that the worst thing that could happen for the SGC was allowing that weapon to fall into enemy hands. What the hell was it about that thing that was so damned scary? With a sigh, Casey took the time to put her database notes into a folder, and marked where she had left off. She doubted that any of the archaeologists or anthropologists would attempt to wade through the mountain of notes on her desk in an attempt to add more to the blasted thing. But it was a pleasant thought to contemplate.

 

A A A A A A

 

It had taken less than ten minutes to go to her office, pack, and then head for level twenty-seven. The knapsack containing the hastily gathered devices that she thought she might need slung over her shoulder, Sam tapped lightly on the door to the general’s office. "General?"

"Ah, yes. Come in, major. Colonel Mitchell said you’d be giving a report on what occurred in Doctor Jackson’s office," the general said, sitting back in his chair.

"Yes, sir." Sam explained what had transpired, and what Casey had found.

"I see," Hammond mused. Not particularly pleased to know that there were apparently two devices that the Ancients had left behind on Earth, still waiting to be discovered.

"I’m going to adjust the scanners on the Daedalus, and scan that area, while Daniel tries to locate a clue as to which stellar nursery we’re looking for."

"Very well, major."

"Sir..." Admitting her fears had never been an easy thing to do. She lowered her eyes.

"I know, Sam. I’m worried, too," the general replied. He'd never used her given name before. But somehow, in that moment, it felt natural to do so. He supposed the fact that they had known each other for so long contributed greatly to those feelings. Before she had been assigned to the SGC he had met her on several occasions because of his friendship with her father. They would, thanks to a miracle that neither of them spoke about, and both tried not to think about, continue to work together for a very long time to come.

"It’s just...I’ve never seen Casey so spooked by anything we’ve come against before. Anubis frightened her; Ba’al...I think Ba’al just annoys her-"

Hammond couldn’t help but smile at what he felt was a accurate summation of Casey Jackson’s feelings toward the Goa’uld named Ba’al.

"-but this..." Sam took a deep breath. "If she doesn’t think we should put the weapon together, I’d like to go on record agreeing with that assessment."

"So noted," Hammond nodded. Even though the military part of him would like nothing more than to assemble that weapon, aim it toward the Goa’uld and ‘pull the trigger’, his own sense of foreboding concerning Casey’s feelings toward the weapon had him leaning toward erring on the side of caution.

"We’ll be ringing to the Daedalus in about ten minutes."

"Very well. I’ll meet you and the rest of SG-1 there."

She smiled. Through the ‘gate to a far away planet or to a ship by ring transport, no team left the SGC without the general’s ‘blessing’. "Thank you, sir."

"Is there anything else?"

"No, sir."

"Dismissed."

With a nod, Sam left the office.

 

A A A A A A

 

The team was waiting beside the ring transporter when General Hammond entered the room. He nodded at them, then pinned his gaze on Jack.

"Colonel O’Neill, I’m giving you carte blanche to conduct this mission."

"Yes, sir," Jack replied, slightly taken aback. While having complete authority over the mission would eliminate any need to contact the SGC to get permission to make any trades that might be necessary, it also put the complete burden of the mission on his shoulders. If anything bad happened, he was ultimately responsible. That could be one hell of a heavy load to bear. He glanced around at his ‘kids’. No, he thought, with just a bit of wonder, he would never stand alone. They would be right beside him, every step of the way. And if the shit rolled downhill, they’d be with him then, too. "We won’t let you down, sir," he said quietly.

"I know you won’t, colonel," Hammond replied softly.

"Okay, campers. Let’s get this done. The sooner we have all those doohickeys here, the happier I’ll be," Jack said. He waited expectantly.

"Good luck, and Godspeed," the general said.

"That’s the word," Jack nodded. He looked over at the technician who was in charge of operating the ring transport. "Beam us up, Scotty."

The snickers of the team filled the air.

In a flash of bright light, three rings seemed to drop into the floor, then rose with a whisper in the blink of an eye. When the light faded, SG-1 was gone, transported to the ship that would take them on a dangerous scavenger hunt. With luck the team was the only group interested in the items that they were seeking.


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