<<Previous  | Story Intro | Return to Stories | Next >>


Puzzles

 

Chapter 2 

Having received assurances from Doctor Meyers that Casey’s muffin would be safe from her chocolate-loving husband, Teal’c had excused himself, and headed for level twenty-seven. He knew the doctor’s daily routine as well as he knew his own. A fact he chose to ignore. That he enjoyed her company meant nothing more than friendship. There were no other feelings involved.

The elevator ride found him contemplating the color of her hair...the way the sunlight caught the auburn and created a glow around her. The warmth of her brown eyes, the way her smile could brighten his day.

When he realized the path his thoughts had taken, Teal’c pushed them aside. Even though Janet Fraiser and Gary Franklin were no longer a ‘couple’, they continued to spend time together. It would be dishonorable for him to attempt to establish any sort of relationship with her until her previous love affair had been completely dealt with.

Teal’c closed his eyes as that thought played across his brain. Pulling up every ounce of self-control he could find, he firmly shoved such thoughts to the back of his mind. He would not deal with such things now. After his duty shift was completed, he would return to his room and meditate, and clear his mind of such troublesome...feelings.

No one said a word as the Jaffa lowered himself into the chair just outside of the general’s office. He was waiting for a friend, that was all. She was just a friend...

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Casey was contemplating the ‘new guy’ as she made her way back to Jonas’s office, her muffin completely forgotten. She’d been working from the tiny room, as Daniel, Jonas, and Beth Meyers had commandeered Daniel’s office for their morning meetings. She understood that her Husband was preparing Jonas, who had more than proven his abilities, to be Beth’s assistant. The young Kelownan was a quick study, and had learned far more than anyone had expected in the short amount of time he’d been a part of the SGC. Jonas’s almost photographic memory was an asset of which Daniel was taking full advantage. Particularly with the puzzle that they were working on at the moment: the location of the Ancient weapon. Or more precisely, the locations of the pieces of that weapon.

Another puzzle intruded into her thoughts. She heaved a sigh. No matter how often she tried to ignore it, to push it away, it continued to bother her. Annoy her. It was getting infuriating. What she wanted to do was pretend this...puzzle...didn’t exist. She sighed again, one filled with the resignation of defeat. If she didn’t get that figured out soon, she’d be too distracted to be of any use around here! If she could just decide who to talk to first... Maybe it would be better to have a ‘girl’s only' conversation...

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

The elevator doors opened, and Teal’c and Janet stepped onto level twenty-one. "I didn’t need an escort," Janet teased, her brown eyes twinkling. Teal’c had been waiting for her outside of the general’s office, after she had given her weekly report. She would not even contemplate the rush of happiness that had filled her when she'd seen him sitting there. Was definitely not going to examine the way her heart fluttered when his eyes had met hers.

"Do you wish for me to leave?" Teal’c asked, his own eyes revealing his mood...it wasn’t usual to see such happiness in his dark depths. Nor would anyone nearby be able to guess the cause of his currently cheery disposition.

"Absolutely not! When you’re around, nobody wants to bother me with trifles like paperwork and needing my signature on some form or another," the petite woman declared. She resolutely refused to entertain the thought that Teal’c seemed to be around just when she needed a break, or someone to talk to, or someone to make her smile. There was nothing at all untoward in the fact that she could find all of those things in one person...a tall, dark-skinned Jaffa who was as sweet and gentle as he was big and scary. She knew that his heart was made of pure gold.

"I am pleased that I am able to offer such protection."

"I’ll just bet you are," Janet grinned.

Gary, who had been waiting in the doctor’s private office, rose to his feet when the two walked in. "Hi, Janet."

"Gary! I’m sorry I missed our coffee break yesterday," Janet said, a warm smile lighting her face.

"I was here to apologize to you…I just got back from KC about thirty minutes ago," Gary replied.

"No trouble, I hope?" Janet asked.

"Nothing that we couldn’t handle. One of the firms under contract to us was hit by a hacker last night. Looks to be an inside job," Gary explained. "I had to talk to the owner of the company, while Jess tracked down all of the data he could find. Lucky is on his way to Knoxville now."

"Well, Franklin Enterprises is the best," Janet said firmly. "Your crew will have this sorted out by the end of the week."

Gary smiled at her confidence. "Thanks." He turned to Teal’c. "Haven’t seen you in awhile."

"Things have been chaotic," Teal’c replied.

"So I heard. Seems that Jack went through hell last week."

"Indeed. No more so than your daughter, or Daniel Jackson."

The smile faded from his face. "Yeah, I heard about that, too. I can’t imagine what Casey lives with...the burden she carries around because of her gift."

"Daniel Jackson’s position as The One carries much weight as well. That the two of them bore such guilt…" Teal’c shook his head slightly, still in awe of the fact that his teammates had been struggling with guilt so strong it had brought Fifth Level Beings to their knees.

"Yeah," Gary said quietly. "I guess we forget just who they are, don’t we?"

"The One and his Guide," Janet said softly. "I don’t know that we’ll ever fully understand, or appreciate, what those two are going through…for the benefit of all mankind."

Gary shivered slightly. "Gets a bit…eerie, doesn’t it? I mean, before I found Casey, I never dreamed that aliens were real, that travel…instantaneous travel…through a stable wormhole was even possible. Now…now I have to deal with the fact that not only are those things true...my daughter, and my son-in-law, are probably the two most important people on the planet, when it comes to our protection."

"Something that neither of them realize, or accept," Janet pointed out. "They’ll do whatever is expected of them, or demanded of them, and never utter one word of complaint. But they’ll never see themselves as anything other than just regular, ordinary people."

"They have been blessed by the true gods," Teal’c said softly, the blue glow he’d seen surrounding the special couple a treasured memory. Tangible evidence that his two dear friends were indeed blessed.

"Or cursed," Gary groused. He had no doubt that the burden the two bore was incomprehensible to anyone not in those positions. Nor did he doubt that the burden was often more than what either of them wanted to carry.

"It can seem that way," Janet agreed. She took a deep breath. "Okay, time to lighten the mood. I know it’s still early...but have either of you had a real break today?"

"I have not," Teal’c replied. Breakfast, even belated, with his teammates was not counted. At least, not at this particular moment. And he had absolutely no intention of giving one moment’s thought to the sudden, inexplicable need to prevent Janet Fraiser from being alone with her former lover.

"Me, either," Gary admitted.

"Let’s go. I hear there’s a stash of cookies in the visitor’s lounge," Janet grinned conspiratorially. "And I hear tell there just might be coffee available there, too."

"I’m sure we can find a couple of cups of the stuff in the commissary," Gary grinned in return. This was the first time Janet had ever wanted to include anyone else in their coffee breaks. Damned interesting that it was the Jaffa.

"We’ll find hot water for you, Big Guy. You can have tea," Janet said, looking up at the Jaffa.

"That would be most appreciated," Teal’c replied, his lips twitching with a barely suppressed smile.

With Janet between them, her arms around the waists of the two men, the three headed for the elevator.

 

 

 

Casey pushed open the stairwell door. She’d finally worked up the courage to talk to Janet - waiting for the elevator…again…was just more than she could handle at the moment. The plan had been to use the time climbing the steps to figure out how to ask her question. She didn’t want details. Lordy, she wouldn’t be able to handle that…not even if it wasn’t her dad who was involved!…but she did want to let Janet know that somehow, some way, she’d come to grips with the ‘relationship’ the three shared.

If there’s any such thing, her mind pointed out. Maybe, she thought, grasping desperately at that bit of hope, it was just her imagination. Maybe she was seeing something that wasn’t there. Or misinterpreting what she was seeing. Either thought was much easier to accept than...

She barely held back her gasp when she saw the three people who had been haunting her thoughts, standing in front of the elevator doors. Janet had her arms around both men, Teal’c’s arm was unobtrusively around her hips, her dad had his arm around the petite doctor’s shoulders. And the three of them were laughing about something.

If that wasn’t bad enough, she grumped mentally, the white glow that surrounded them was unmistakable. Oh, hells bells! "Can’t argue with that," she muttered, ducking back into the stairwell, leaning heavily against the wall. Why did she have to be the one to deal with kinky friends and an equally ‘open-minded’ father?

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Seeking a place to ‘hide’, while she dealt with what she had witnessed...what seemed to prove out her theory that there was a ‘relationship’ between her best buddy, her best girlfriend, and her dad...Casey had raced to the storage room across from Daniel’s office. There were crates that needed to have the proper paperwork attached before they were moved to the upper levels for storage. She pushed the problem of the ‘threesome’ to the back of her mind. A problem only, her mind insisted, because she just couldn’t come to grips with the idea of the three being involved sexually, if not romantically. It hadn’t taken long for her to bury herself in the task at hand.

She sorted through the folder, checking the now finished list against the contents of the crate. Nothing out of the ordinary…just a few shards of pottery, three disks of images taken near the remains of the village. A half dozen tattered strips of what Daniel believed was the local version of vellum. He had yet to decipher the marks that he'd determined had been made by a sharp tool. She put a notation on the inventory list, indicating contents that needed his personal attention. Just one more thing for her Husband to do.

Shaking her head mentally, wondering just how many hours Daniel would have to spend translating so many artifacts in the hope of finding just a single clue about the Ancient weapon, she stapled the sheet of paper to the top of the crate. She determined that he would eat and sleep, in spite of the gravity of the situation. He couldn’t find the answers they needed if he exhausted himself, or worked himself into the infirmary.

"Ahem."

Whirling around at the sudden sound, putting a hand over her pounding heart, Casey came face to face with Annika in the reflection of the quantum mirror. Couldn’t help but return the grin that the redhead offered. "You just scared the shit out of me!"

"We really need to get a warning system for this thing," Annika replied cheekily, waving a hand at the Ancient device.

"That, or we’re going to continue to scare the bejeezus out of each other every time we decided to chat," Casey giggled, remembering Annika’s startled reaction when she had called out to the redhead. Taking a moment to study her alternate reality friend, Casey noted the weariness that still marred the woman’s beautiful face. The haunted look that had filled the violet eyes the last time the two had been face to face was gone. That was a good thing. There was something in those depths…something…something just a bit mischievous. And, she told herself firmly, it’s none of your business. Although if Annika was anything like her, that gleam meant one thing…Daniel, Annika’s Daniel, was in for one hell of a night. "You’re looking a lot better than you were the last time I saw you," she said out loud.

"Today’s the first day I feel like my old self," Annika admitted.

"I’m glad," Casey said softly. "I’m so sorry you went through all of…that." She took a deep breath. "It’s really all my fault, you know."

"It wasn’t really any one person’s fault," Annika replied. "It was whole lot of little unrelated events that got sucked together."

Casey frowned slightly. The events that had led to the attack on Annika whirled through her mind. She could follow the path back to the beginning, and would most likely never find the one defining moment that had started the entire nightmare. Oakey’s words of comfort echoed in her head like a soft caress. Which turned the frown to a smile. "Sort of like dominos, I suppose."

Annika nodded her agreement. "The last time I saw you, I wasn’t really with it."

"Yeah, shock will do that to a person. You couldn’t have been in more shock if they’d lit you up with a few hundred volts of electricity," Casey agreed.

"I just wanted to make sure that you’re really okay, after everything I…said."

Casey smiled. "Just a minor flesh wound, remember? Besides, it wasn’t actually you tossing all that crap out. I know…I saw what Mibi was doing to you, how he was using you."

"That’s what I’m coming to grips with now," Annika said peevishly.

"It’s not easy to be so controlled by someone…something else. I guess…I guess it’s just one of the hazards of working at the SGC, and being psychic," Casey replied.

Annika nodded.

"I’m glad you’ve ‘stopped by’," Casey said, moving closer to the mirror. "I have a…well, there’s this question I’ve wanted to ask…I never see auras, but…I was wondering if maybe you could help me with a puzzle I’m trying to figure out."

"Sure."

Casey took a deep breath. Had no idea how much information her friend actually needed. Should she just say there was a white glow around her father, and Janet, and Teal’c? What if Annika got an entirely wrong impression about her dad, and her Janet, and her Teal’c? Better to just be as vague as possible…as long as more information wasn’t needed. "If there’s a white…glow…around a person, but only when he...or she...is with another person…what does that mean?"

"Strong emotion for sure. As for which emotion…" Annika paused. "The colors I see are my personal Morse code of association for each emotion represented. What does the color white mean to you?"

Tugging her lip between her teeth, Casey contemplated the question. What did white mean…what did it represent…in her own mind. Purity? Too easy. And not entirely correct. Happiness? No, that had more of a yellow glow to it, like sunshine. Love? Daniel’s face filled her mind for a moment, surrounded by a glow of pure white. "Love," she said, not aware that she had actually spoken out loud.. "I see love when I see white."

"Well, there’s your answer," Annika grinned.

"Love? It’s love?" Casey squeaked. Okay…that had to be it. Which only made the freaking problem all the more perplexing.

"I take it that’s not what you were hoping for?"

"Not exactly," Casey muttered. She gave Annika a sheepish smile. "It just sort of…well, it makes the whole thing a lot more-" She stopped before she actually uttered the word ‘sordid’. Was that what she thought? Was the ‘relationship’ between her father, and Janet, and Teal’c ‘sordid’? "Um…more complicated," Casey managed to reply.

"Complicated for these mystery people, or for you, because you don’t approve?"

Damn it to hell! She didn’t need a lecture on morality and acceptance. This was her dad, for crying out loud! In a freaking threesome with two of her best friends! That was not fucking acceptable, no matter how open-minded she tried to be.

"Love strikes where it strikes," Annika continued.

"The heart loves who the heart loves," Casey sighed. But not two people at once! How could Janet love two men at the same time, with such…intensity? Casey firmly pushed away any idea that the love could be flowing in any other directions. She couldn’t deal with that, not at the moment.

"SG-1 to the briefing room."

Casey glanced up at the speaker over her head. Gave a sigh. "Duty calls."

"No problem. I just wanted to say hello," Annika smiled.

"I’m glad you did. And I’m glad you’re all right. And…" Casey’s head went sideways. "Have fun."

Annika’s smile became a grin. "That’s the plan."

With a wiggle of her fingers, Casey moved toward the door. "Take care, Annika."

"You, too, Casey."

The mirror went black, ending the ‘inter-reality’ chat. With a final smile, knowing that Annika would indeed be just fine, Casey dashed out the door, heading for the elevator.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Mitchell settled nervously at the table, sitting beside the general, to the left. He’d heard the summons go out, calling SG-1 to the briefing room. If this team was half as good as their reputation, they were formidable at best. He hadn’t had a chance to actually read any of their mission reports, but he’d managed to skim the mission summaries. It seemed this team managed to do the impossible on a damned regular basis. That was due, no doubt, to just who the members of the team were: Colonel Jack O’Neill, a man with a Special Ops rep that commanded respect on that fact alone, was the commanding officer of the team. Major Doctor Samantha Carter - astrophysicist and ‘gizmo expert’, if one believed the glowing reports of her teammates - was second-in-command. She was one of the most gifted members of the scientific team who had conceived, designed, and built the computers that dialed the Stargate. Doctor Daniel Jackson, whiz kid extraordinaire and a master at languages; served as the translator, archaeologist, anthropology specialist and was, according to the team CO, the ‘team conscience’. Teal’c of Chulak. An honest-to-goodness alien, once the First Prime of a Goa’uld named Apophis. Apparently Apophis had actually walked through the Stargate into the missile silo, killed half a dozen SF’s, and captured another. His appearance had been the spark that had restarted the entire Stargate Program. Casey Jackson, ‘Resident Seer’ as she was known within the confines of the mountain. Her insights gave SG-1 an advantage in their battle against the Goa’uld.

He would readily admit to feeling a twinge of disappointment when he realized that Casey Jackson was the wife of Doctor Daniel Jackson. He’d hoped for a sibling relationship when he’d first read the names. The mission summaries, however, had left no doubt about the fact that the two were married.

When the first team member walked through the door, at least, he assumed she was a team member, manners ingrained in him by his upbringing had him rising to his feet. Tall, leggy, her short blonde hair curled around her face, accentuating the beautiful curves of her cheeks and jaw, Mitchell couldn’t help but think that the SGC had the most gorgeous women he’d ever seen. There was the dark-haired beauty in the control room. The vivacious Casey Jackson…what a beauty she was! If the gold oak leaves on her collar were accurate, this lovely creature was none other than Major Sam Carter.

General Hammond bit back his smile. "At ease, Colonel."

Sam raised an eyebrow curiously, but did nothing more than smile at the man who lowered himself back into the chair where Jack normally sat. No doubt the general would wait until the entire team was present before conducting introductions.

Teal’c was next, Jack just seconds behind him. The colonel took one glance at the man sitting in ‘his’ chair, and wondered just what the hell was going on now. Given that the stranger was in full dress uniform, there was probably going to be some sort of inspection by the Pentagon. He hated inspections. Almost as much as he hated the brass and politicians at the Pentagon.

Daniel walked through the door, his hands shoved into his pockets; Casey beside him, her hand around his wrist possessively. He also took note of the new face. Glanced at Casey. She hadn’t said anything, so he didn’t think there was anything to worry about.

For her part, Casey flashed a warm smile in Colonel Mitchell’s direction, settled in the chair between Sam and Daniel, threaded her fingers automatically with those of her Husband.

General Hammond cleared his throat. "SG-1, if you’ll open the packets in front of you, you’ll find information about our newest ship."

Casey frowned at the envelope. Large black letters were stamped across the front. "Okay, I’ll bite. What the heck is ‘S-C-I’ and ‘S-A-P’ and ‘A-C-E’? And what’s level five of A-C-E?"

The general’s cheek twitched. He often forgot that the civilians who worked at the SGC didn’t understand, or even know about, the myriad of acronyms used by the military.

"If I may, sir," Jack said, grinning at the seer.

"By all means, colonel," Hammond said. Prepared to correct any of the explanations that the colonel might try to give, in an attempt to tease the young seer.

"SCI means ‘Sensitive Compartmentalized Information’. It’s a level of Top Secret info that’s too sensitive to allow just anyone to see it. So, there are limitations on who sees what, or how much. Engineers at the Pentagon might know about Carter’s naquadah generator, but they don’t know where we get the naquadah. Others might know about the naquadah, and the mining operations, but they don’t need to know about the generator."

Casey nodded her understanding.

"SAP is ‘Special Access Programs’. To see anything pertaining to the SGC, the person seeking the info needs to be cleared to know about the program. And has to have SCI clearance as well."

"And ACE?" Casey asked.

"Alien Civilization Encounters," General Hammond replied. "A level of secrecy created especially for the Stargate Program, known in the Pentagon as ‘Area 52’. Level 5 is the highest clearance given. There are those who work here in the SGC who have only Level 1 or 2 clearance. These are mostly personnel involved with routine paperwork for procuring common supplies, laundry, cooks, the drivers who transport crates of artifacts from here to Area 51, or maintenance of the upper levels. They need access to the facility, but they don’t have the clearance for the most secure levels. Very few people have ACE Level 5 clearance."

"Wow," Casey said softly. She’d been aware that the work she and Daniel did was classified…that it was one of the most carefully guarded secrets in the US. She hadn’t realized, however, exactly how secret it was. The various classifications of security clearances had never been a matter that she’d thought about.

"Now that we’ve cleared that up," Jack said, looking pointedly at Mitchell, "can we find out about the new guy?"

The pilot shifted shyly, even as he flashed a smile at those sitting around the table, watching him with open curiosity.

"Lieutenant Colonel Cameron Mitchell is the commander of the Daedalus. Our new X303."

"Two ships? Coolness!" Casey exclaimed, to the amusement of her companions.

"Colonel Mitchell, this is SG-1. I’m sure you recognize Colonel O’Neill."

"Yes, sir," Mitchell replied. "It’s an honor to meet you."

Jack grinned, offered his hand. "I’d say I’ve heard good things about you, but the truth is, we haven’t heard squat."

Mitchell couldn’t help but grin in return.

"I’m sure you’ve read about Teal’c," Hammond continued. "It’s an honor to have him working with us."

The two men nodded their acknowledgement of one another.

"Major Samantha Carter, who helped to write the software that runs the dialing computer. Doctor Daniel Jackson, the man responsible for the Stargate Program," Hammond said, pointing to them in turn.

"I’ve read about both of you," Mitchell said, nodding at them as well. "Impressive records." Jackson certainly wasn’t some scrawny bookworm. He had the look of a seasoned soldier. Even though he was a civilian. Which meant that being on SG-1 must encompass more than just serving as translator for the team.

"And you’ve already met Casey," the general said, nodding at the young seer.

Mitchell couldn’t help but grin at the blonde, he dipped his head slightly in acknowledgement. Tried not to take it personally when all she offered was a nod in return...and just the hint of a smile. Nothing at all like the mischievous look she had given him earlier.

Daniel jerked slightly. Glanced at his Wife. Who was busy studying the reports from the envelope she’d just opened. Not a word. Not one single word that she’d met this guy. His gaze moved to the general. Perhaps Hammond had asked Casey to remain quiet about the new addition to the SGC until formal introductions could be made. He nodded to himself. That made perfect sense. That his fingers tightened possessively around hers when she slipped her hand back into his meant nothing.

"Is there a reason we specifically are being briefed about the Daedalus, sir?" Jack asked, voicing the question that also on the minds of ‘his kids’.

"I’d like for SG-1 to ride along on the shake-down cruise."

Casey shivered. "Yeah, that didn’t work out so well the last time we tried it," she murmured softly. Grimaces flashed over the faces of her teammates at the memories of the first flight of the Prometheus.

"Do you sense anything?" Hammond asked immediately.

Mitchell noted that every eye in the room was focused on the beautiful seer. Not one bit of doubt, of skepticism, could be seen. These people believed in her abilities just as much as the general obviously did.

"No. Well, nothing…specific."

Jack rolled his eyes. "So give us the non-specifics."

"There’s just…well…" Casey shook her head. "There’s nothing…nothing that I can put into words. Just a feeling."

"Bad?"

"Not exactly. More like…annoying."

"That means snakes," Jack declared immediately, crossing his arms over his chest. The body language screamed his opinion of the matter.

Daniel smiled. It did seem that whenever Casey proclaimed something was ‘annoying’, a Goa’uld was usually involved.

"Maybe we’ll get to play havoc on a ship again," Casey grinned.

"Now that has possibilities," Jack grinned in return. He looked back at the general. "Leaving when, sir?"

"Tomorrow. You’ll accompany Colonel Mitchell to Area 51. The crew for the Daedalus will be arriving the day after. They’ll be bussed from Nellis, to the ship’s location."

Heads bobbed up and down in understanding.

"Anything special we’re looking for?" Like more freaking NID agents? Jack’s silent question was another that he shared with the rest of his team.

"Not unless Casey picks up on something amiss," the general replied. "The pilots for the F302’s who will be permanently assigned to the Daedalus have already participated in ‘war games’. They’ll transfer from the Prometheus as soon as the Daedalus is in orbit."

"Bummer," Jack muttered.

Smiles flickered around the table.

"Sorry, boss. Maybe we can play with the Goa’uld later. Or at least piss them off," Casey offered.

"Gonna hold you to that, Radar," Jack replied, a grin tugging at his lips.

"I’ll leave it to you to make Colonel Mitchell feel welcome," General Hammond said, his own cheek twitching. "Dismissed."

The military members in the room jumped to their feet. The civilians stood as well, their respect for their CO just as strong as that of their teammates. It was an action that Mitchell noticed immediately.

"Had coffee yet?" Casey asked, unconsciously slipping her arm around Daniel’s waist. Found nothing amiss in the way his went around her shoulders, nor did she note that he held her so firmly against his side.

"Not yet," Mitchell replied.

"You’re lucky. Come with us, and you can have real coffee," Casey offered.

"Bull. There’s real coffee in the commissary," Jack argued. "Not that fancy-schmancy stuff you and the Space Monkey drink."

"Space Monkey?" Mitchell asked, eyeing Daniel curiously.

"Long story. Not worth telling," Daniel mumbled.

"It all started when-" Jack began.

"This way," Daniel interrupted. He tightened his arm around Casey’s shoulders, led her toward the corridor, and the elevator that would take them to the twenty-sixth level, and the small commissary there. He hadn’t missed the flare of interest that had filled Mitchell’s blue eyes when Casey had walked into the room. Couldn’t miss the fact that the man couldn’t seem to take his eyes off of her. That certainly wasn’t anything new, most of the personnel assigned to the SGC, or at least those of the male variety, had the same reaction to her. It soothed him considerably to note that Casey seemed oblivious of the attention…and that she was clinging to him as tightly as she always did.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Mitchell sat down in the chair offered to him by the beautiful Casey Jackson. Wife of Doctor Daniel Jackson. He fought down yet another twinge of bitter disappointment. Didn’t it just figure? He’d finally met someone he felt at ease with, a woman he’d been attracted to immediately…a rare occurrence in his life…and she was married. He studied Daniel for a moment. There could be no doubt that the archaeologist loved his wife, it was there in his eyes, on his face, for the entire world to see. And, in spite of his attempts to not see it, Casey was just as obviously in love with her husband.

"So, Lieutenant Colonel Cameron Mitchell, tell us about yourself," Casey said brightly, setting a mug of coffee down in front of him.

Mitchell smiled at her, barely resisted tossing a wink in her direction. "Not that much to tell," he drawled.

"Okay," Casey replied, undeterred in her attempts to learn more about the newly assigned commander of the equally new Daedalus, "where were you born?"

The smile turned into a grin. Apparently the feisty blonde wasn’t going to settle for anything less than his full life’s story. "I was born in Biloxi, Mississippi. My dad was stationed there."

She waited for him to say more. Watched as he calmly sipped his coffee. With a huff of impatience, Casey shook her head. "You’re going to make me jerk every detail of your life out of you, right?"

"I dunno…how good are you at jerking?"

Daniel’s brow knitted into a frown. That was a sexually charged innuendo if he’d ever heard one!

"Pretty good, actually," Casey retorted. Totally unaware of the undertones that the others were picking up. Missed the bewildered glances exchanged between Jack, Sam, and Teal’c, and the frown that had crossed Daniel’s face.

Mitchell’s attention was focused on the lovely Casey…he missed the silent by-play of the others as well. "I’ve always enjoyed a challenge," he murmured.

Casey smiled, rolled her eyes playfully. "You were born in Biloxi. Family?"

"Of my own?"

"You’re a pain-in-the-ass, Mitchell," Casey grumped, to the amusement of her teammates. Although Daniel’s smile was a bit strained.

With a sigh, Mitchell leaned forward, rested his arms on the table, held the mug of steaming coffee between both hands. "Biloxi was the first duty station my dad was assigned to after he and my mom got married," he said. "I was born in the military hospital there."

"And when was that? Siblings? What did you do for fun in Biloxi, Mississippi?"

Daniel watched his Wife. He couldn’t remember her ever being this interested in a new arrival to the SGC. She’d never shown as much curiosity about any of the people in the mountain when she’d started working here with him. His glance went to the pilot. Was she attracted to this guy? The dark dread that lurked in his heart, taunted him with the fear that Casey would lose interest in him, would leave him for a man better looking, more…exciting…than he was, began to twist and turn. Became an ache deep in his gut. Can’t get more exciting than a fighter pilot turned starship commander, he thought morosely.

Mitchell laughed out loud. "Okay, I give up. My dad was a test pilot, and an instructor at Biloxi. I was nine when he was in an accident, and lost both of his legs. He and my mom both had family in Kansas, so that’s where we headed after his medical discharge. My little brother and I were raised in Auburn, Shawnee County, Kansas. My grandma lived about two miles away. She was a Bible-thumper if there ever was one. Uncle Marvin and Aunt Emma were just as religious. The three of them were on a holy crusade to save my dad, my mom and us boys," he chuckled. "Mom and Dad always took us to church, but they weren’t ‘holy rollers’ by any stretch of the imagination...which always led to some interesting conversations during family dinners. I joined the Air Force so I could get a little financial help with college. Fell head over heels in love with flying. And…here I am."

"I think there’s more to it than that," Casey mused. She tipped her head sideways, listened to the quiet whisper.

"Incoming," Jack intoned quietly.

Casey reached out, took Mitchell’s hand between her own. "Let go of it," she said quietly, her green eyes locked with his light blue depths. "It wasn’t your fault. Bad things happen in war…and not even you can change that."

He jerked slightly, wondered peripherally if it was a smart move to leave his hand between her soft fingers. Images, feelings…memories best left unexamined…moved through his mind with lightening speed. "Easier said than done."

Green eyes blinked slowly. "What?"

More chuckles from the rest of the team. Sam frowned slightly when Daniel remained silent. He was always the first to tell Casey what she’d ‘missed’. "You told the colonel that what happened wasn’t his fault."

"What happened?" Casey asked innocently.

Mitchell frowned, took a sip of his coffee. "So, what time do we leave for Area 51?"

Okay, whatever had happened, the colonel wasn’t interested in talking about it. "Not before eight," Casey said immediately. "I am not getting up early!"

Daniel smiled…the first real smile that had crossed his face since the team had entered the commissary. "We can’t take the noon flight, Angel."

‘Angel’, Mitchell thought. Watched the beautiful blonde as she joked and laughed with the rest of SG-1. The name fit her perfectly. An Angel of Mercy…offering peace to his battered soul. Even if it was impossible to accept that…forgiveness? Acceptance at the very least.

"I’ll check the available flights," Jack said. "Let you know later this afternoon."

Sam sighed. "As much as I’d like to just sit here, I have a crate of new devices to catalogue and examine."

"I need to talk to the general about another trip to look at those stelai," Daniel said. "Jonas was able to get everything off of nine of them, but three of them are in a very obscure dialect of Ancient. I need to take a look to make certain that what I’m seeing in the photos is right. There are several places that could be either dirt, or damaged glyphs."

Jack nodded his understanding. "Will you need the team?"

Daniel shook his head. "Not for this."

Another nod from the team CO. "We’ve had a request from Bra’tac for a few Tau’ri weapons…he’d like us to demonstrate them. Carter, the Big Guy and I can take care of that while you’re playing Rock Whisper-er."

"Since Jonas is assigned to SG-12, and I’d like for him and Cam Balinsky to work with me, that team could go along as our backup."

"Sounds like a plan. Let me know when you’re going to talk to the general, and I’ll join you," Jack said.

"What about right now?" the archaeologist suggested.

"Good idea. Let’s go."

Teal’c checked the watch on his wide wrist. "I must meet SG-7 for training."

Casey wrinkled her nose. "The database from hell."

Daniel chuckled. "Hang in there, Angel. You’ve managed to get two entire civilizations finished."

"And only way too damned many yet to do," Casey grumped. She looked over at Mitchell. "Colonel, what’s on your agenda?"

"I think I’ll just sit here and finish my coffee."

Knowing smiles flickered around the table.

"It is a lot to take in," Sam admitted.

"Just a bit," Mitchell fired back. "You people work in the Twilight Zone, ya know."

"Oh, we know it," Casey replied. "Did they tell you about the Alternate Realities yet?"

"Huh?"

"There’s a device, known as the ‘Quantum Mirror’-" Casey started.

Daniel rose to his feet, gently tugged on her arm. "Let the colonel digest the fact that aliens are real, that we’re at war with some of them, and that we travel through the Stargate to other planets, before you hit him with the rest."

She looked up at her husband. Smiled at him. "Right. One shock at a time." She stood up, wrapped her arm around Daniel’s waist. "Talk to you later, Colonel Mitchell."

"Just call me Cam, ma’am."

"Okay, ‘Cam ma’am’, talk to you later."

Mitchell laughed. "Seems t’me you’re the smartass!"

She shook her blonde head. "I hear that at least once a freaking day!"

"Because it’s true," Jack said. "Colonel, if you have any questions, the door to my office is always open."

"That’s because he’s never in it," Casey teased.

"You’re flirting with insubordination, Jackson," Jack growled.

"Really? And here I thought I’d been flirting with Cam," Casey tossed back. She turned to leave. Didn’t see the expressions of open surprise that covered three faces, and the flash of worry that crossed the fourth. Or the look of interest from the man still seated at the table.

Daniel was barely able to make his feet cooperate as he walked beside his wife. Grabbed at the comfort offered by the fact that her arm was around his waist, holding tightly. "So, what do you think of Colonel Mitchell?"

"He’s a nice guy," Casey replied easily.

A nice guy. Daniel shuddered mentally. And wondered briefly just how ‘nice’ she really found the pilot. The fear in his heart twisted yet again.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Jonas was waiting eagerly in Daniel’s office. "You were right. There’s more there," he said as soon as the archaeologist walked into the room. "This phrase seems to be an explicit instruction to check one of the other pillars. What I don’t know is which one."

Daniel scanned the notes the Kelownan had thrust at him. Nodded his enthusiasm. "I just spoke to General Hammond. SG-12, Cam, Casey, and I will make another trip to 611."

"We’d better find more than just another bit of text to translate," Casey muttered as she settled behind her desk, began sorting through notes for the database.

He turned to look at his wife. "Case?"

"It just seems that we’ve spent a lot of time on these stelai, and all we have are more questions, that can…or should be…answered by what’s there."

The frown that covered his handsome face was troubled. "Is there a problem? Are you sensing something?"

Casey’s head came up. "Problem…regarding what?"

He didn’t know whether to grin or be worried. "Did you hear what you said?"

"About the stelai? Yes," she replied.

"Then what’s the problem?"

She shrugged. "I just don’t think the general is going to agree to any more trips to 611 if we aren’t actually finding anything."

Funny, the general had expressed the exact same concerns…that sending a team to the same planet again and again, when it seemed that little or no progress was being made on finding the much needed clues to the Ancient weapon…was a waste of time and resources. "We have the pieces to the puzzle, we just have to get them put together in the right order," Daniel said. "We’ll do that this time," he added confidently.

She nodded. "Do you mind if I work in Jonas’s office again? I’d really like to get at least one full entry done today, and if you, and he and Cam are going to be working in here…"

That she was asking his approval let him know that she was sensitive to his feelings about not working near her. That she understood that he didn’t like letting her out of his sight. Which is totally pathetic, he thought irritably. His need stemmed from jealousy and insecurity, and was a less than favorable reflection on him. As if he didn’t trust her to remain faithful to him. Colonel Mitchell’s face flashed across his mind. Casey had done absolutely nothing to warrant his sudden concern about her love. "Of course not, Angel," he said softly.

After gathering her notes, shoving them into a folder, she stopped long enough to kiss the top of his head as he sat bent over his own work, Jonas beside him, before dashing out the door and down the corridor. If she could get just one entry finished today, she’d take Daniel up on that offer to take a couple of days off.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

"Colonel Mitchell to the general’s office. Colonel Mitchell, report to General Hammond’s office."

He’d been sitting there in the commissary for nearly three hours. Nursing his coffee, working on his third cup. Mitchell looked up at the speaker just above the commissary door. He’d love to oblige, but he had absolutely no clue how to get there…he’d been escorted through the facility so far today. He remembered that the office was on the twenty-seventh level. If he could get that far, he’d surely be able to find someone to point him in the right direction.

The problem with having a military base in the ‘remains’ of an old missile silo, he decided, as he walked to the elevator, was that the circular layout, with the myriad of zig-zag corridors, made finding one’s way around the place a bit like trying to navigate a maze. It took him a moment to realize that there was no call button, just the magnetic reader beside the door. He took the pass he’d been given from around his neck, ran the card through the device, then slipped the cord back into place. The doors opened immediately.

The ride down was relatively short...he’d only been one level up, he thought. He’d studied the layout of the SGC that he’d been given...which had actually been nothing more than a list of the levels, twenty-eight in all, and their primary uses. No maps to give him a clue how the facility was actually laid out. He wondered if that was on purpose. Often, the rank and file of a base would have some way of ‘initiating’ the new arrivals. Getting them lost was a favorite.

Stepping off the elevator, Mitchell looked around, trying to get his bearings. If he was remembering correctly, the first time he’d been led to the general’s office, it had been in this direction…

The name plate on the door brought a grin to his face. Not bad for the first day, Mitchell thought a bit smugly. He tapped on the door.

"Come in."

"Sir, you wanted to see me?" Mitchell said, stepping into the room. Didn’t know whether to be surprised or delighted to find that Casey was already sitting in the room.

"Yes, Colonel, please come in," Hammond said, motioning to the second chair in front of his desk. "I received a phone call from Area 51, from the colonel in charge of production of the Daedalus. It seems that there have been a few problems in the latest tests. I’ve asked Casey to take a look to see whether there’s anything we should know about, or if this is just run-of-the-mill production hiccups."

Mitchell nodded his understanding.

Casey smiled in greeting, then closed her eyes.

Mitchell watched her, wondering whether the general had called her to his office, or if that ‘radar’, as Colonel O’Neill had referred to it, had sent her once again on a collision course with his own path.

"I can’t sense anything out of the ordinary. Just something about crimped wires. Or wires not crimped." Casey frowned. "Crimping and wires. That’s all I have for sure."

Hammond smiled. "I’ll pass that along, it might help the crew working on the ship."

"Hope they know what it means," Casey huffed.

Hammond chuckled. "For the moment, it seems that the shake-down cruise is on hold. I’ve granted permission for Doctor Jackson to take a team to 611 for another look at those stelai. He seems convinced that he’ll find what he needs this time."

"If Daniel thinks he’ll find it, he will," Casey said, her voice full of the conviction of absolute belief in her husband’s abilities, touched with not a little love.

"I’m sure he will," the general allowed, a smile tugging at his lips. "Colonel Mitchell, this will give you more time to go over mission files. I’ve arranged quarters for you in the officer’s section."

"Yes, sir."

"I’ll let you know as soon as the ship is ready."

"Yes, sir. If I could, sir, I’d like to request a list of the personnel tapped to serve on the Daedalus. I’d like to take a look at their folders."

"I think that can be easily enough arranged. I’ll have Walter get that list together for you."

"Thank you, sir."

"Very well. Dismissed."

Mitchell waited until he was standing beside Casey in the corridor to voice his question. "So, phone call or ‘psychic radar’?"

"Excuse me?"

"Well, if your presence in that meeting just now wasn’t one or the other, I’ll have to think that you’re just inventing ways to meet up with me," Mitchell teased.

Casey giggled. "Actually, the general called me as soon as he’d finished talking to the guy at Groom Lake. We discussed the matter, and he asked me to be there for your little get-together. Personally," she said conspiratorially, leaning toward him slightly, "I think the general just wanted you to see me in action."

I’d pay good money to see that, Mitchell thought, before tamping down the images that started dancing in his head. "No doubt," he grinned.

"It really wasn’t impressive. Wait until I get a ‘download’. That’s impressive," Casey joked.

"I look forward to that," Mitchell teased in return. "Should I keep my camera ready?"

"At all times, around here."

"No doubt."

The comment was enough to let her know that the colonel was more than a bit overwhelmed. "Here’s something to contemplate while you’re reading those mission reports. The best of the best are here at the SGC. If you’re part of this group, then it’s because you’ve earned the right to be here," she said quietly.

"Thanks…I think," Mitchell replied.

"Hey, at least you have military training. Imagine being a civilian and tossed into this Rabbit Hole!"

"That could be a bit difficult," he admitted.

"A bit? Oh, let me tell you, it was more than a ‘bit difficult’. Well, the first week wasn’t too bad. The first mission I was on went okay for the most part. But then the next week, this Goa’uld twit lost her freaking mind, and decided to attack."

"Here?"

"Yep. She’d somehow figured out a way around the Iris…we still haven’t figured out if it was just a lucky shot…that she’d found some device she was playing around with, or if the snakes are actively trying to find something to overcome our defenses. Anyway, Daniel puts me off on level twenty-one, with Janet. Uh…Janet Fraiser, she’s the base CMO. Be nice when you get your physical. She’s got a thing for honkin’ big needles. At least according to Jack," Casey grinned.

"Got it. Nice to the CMO." Mitchell pretended to write a note to himself. "Okay, go on, what happened?"

"The snake twit decided to take SG-1 home as a door prize. That bitch had the balls to think she was going to make my Husband her Consort!"

He couldn’t help but chuckle at the absolute ire in those amazing green eyes. "Wrong idea, huh?"

"Like you wouldn’t believe! To be honest, I sort of go fuzzy there. Jack had been teaching me how to use the Beretta nine millimeter and a P90. I grabbed a P90, headed down here…I just wanted to protect Daniel, ya know?"

"Right," he murmured. What would it be like, to have the love of this very beautiful, very passionate woman? Once again the thought that she would probably be a little wildcat in bed flittered through his mind. This time he clamped down on the thought, pushed it away as fast as he could.

"So, I hit the ‘gate room, shot at anything metal that moved…and managed to take out the Queen Snake herself. And then I promptly passed out. They’ve called me 'Annie Oakley' around here ever since," Casey groused.

Mitchell laughed. "Wish I could have seen that!"

Her smile was just the faintest bit wicked. "I’m sure it’s on tape around here somewhere. There are security cameras everywhere."

He glanced up. Yep, there did indeed seem to be cameras in every corner, in every corridor. Even, he noted, on the elevator.

When the doors opened on level eighteen, Casey put her hand on his arm. "No matter how fantastic the mission reports may seem…more than likely the teams have understated what happened. What happens out there is very real, and very scary. And sometimes I’d like nothing more than to stay at home with my head under the pillow," she said softly.

"I’ll remember that," he replied quietly.

Daniel had heard the elevator open, assumed that it was Casey returning from the general’s office. He stuck his head out of his office door, in time to see Casey standing beside the newly arrived colonel. Her hand on his arm. The two of them gazing intently at one another. He watched as she disappeared into the office everyone referred to as Jonas’s, then glanced again at the elevator.

Mitchell was holding the door open, his eyes on the her as well. Light blue eyes shifted, locked with cerulean blue orbs. The two men stared at each other for an eternity…or a moment. The colonel stepped back into the elevator, and the doors closed.

Daniel shivered. He actually glanced up at the ceiling when it felt as if a dark cloud had moved over him. His heart sank to his knees. He could already feel her moving away from him.


<<Previous  | Story Intro | Return to Stories | Next >>





SciFi Topsites