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The Simple Necessities of Life


"...Look for the bare necessities
The simple bare necessities
Forget about your worries and your strife
I mean the bare necessities
Old Mother Nature's recipes
With just the bare necessities of life..."
"The Bare Necessities" from Disney's 'The Jungle Book'

Chapter 1

It had been a very long day. The current mission had begun about three hours after an unexpected call for SG-1, and half a dozen other SG teams, to meet with the general in the conference room; a summons which had occurred almost as soon as the team had arrived on the base. The briefing had been short and concise. The objective of the mission clear. General Hammond was depending on them. Preparations had been made, and then a trip through the wormhole to the Alpha site. And then...here. Two of the teams from the Alpha site had been tasked to join them...had volunteered to go through the 'gate first. Had sacrificed themselves in order to give the SGC teams a fighting chance. That sacrifice would be duly honored and remembered.

SG-1 had been split up by circumstances as soon as the mission began...that she was with Teal'c the only thing that kept her from fearing defeat from the hands of those determined to find them. It hadn't been easy...but once again she reminded herself that she was with her best friend, and that he would do his best to protect her. That was a very good thing.

The majority of the afternoon had been spent hiding, trying to avoid the adversaries who now hunted them so relentlessly. She shifted slightly, her body curled into a tight ball, as close to the floor as she could get. Waging a battle inside a building was nearly as dangerous as being in the open. Especially when it was a building that their adversaries knew well. Casey watched as one group of that enemy moved closer. "They’re just kids," she whispered into her radio.

"Indeed," Teal'c's voice replied in her ear. He was on the opposite side of the corridor from her. "But they are the enemy."

She sighed. There was no denying that fact. She heard Major Ferretti reporting to Teal'c. He and his team were in position, moving as silently as shadows behind the group of four heavily armed young people. Major Parker reported next. He and the members of SG-6 were behind Teal'c and Casey's positions...waiting for the moment to stand up and stop the advancing enemy. Kill, or be killed. Those were her choices. She watched, noted their inexperience. Sometimes, it just didn't seem fair.

"Allow all of them to pass," Teal'c whispered.

"Right," she whispered in return, crouching further into the shadows as the first of the group approached. Her eyes sought for, and found, the barely visible form of her best friend...visible only from her vantage point, and only if one knew where to look. She would watch him, and when he moved, she would mirror him.

One by one the enemy passed, their eyes scanning around them, searching the shadows, but not seeing...none of them moving closer to examine what might be a hiding place. She held her breath, not wanting to tip them off to her presence. Kill or be killed...there were days she really didn't like this job at all. Today was...she tensed slightly, pulled her wandering thoughts under control, focused on remaining still and silent when one of the young people seemed to look right at her. Kill or be killed...

The group had slowed down, moving determinedly, cautiously. The leader seemed to be a competent young man, using hand signals to indicate where he wanted his followers looking, how close to the rough rock wall he wanted them to step.

She couldn't see them, but she knew that Ferretti and his men were moving closer as well. Between the two teams, Teal'c, and herself, there would be no escape. It really was a damned shame.

Teal'c rose to his feet, stepped out of the shadows and began to fire. Screams filled the air. Casey was on her feet as well, her own weapon adding to the confusion of the now dripping wet enemy. SG's -3 and -6 joined the fray, firing until their weapons were empty.

Lieutenant Elliot wiped water from his face, his own weapon dangling from his fingers. "That wasn't fair," he complained.

"In what way do you believe this to be so?" Teal'c asked, cocking one eyebrow slightly.

"We weren't expecting anyone to be in the corridors, not so soon after taking the 'gate room, especially this high," the young man replied, nodding toward the large black '17' painted on the pale blue wall, indicating the level.

"An enemy intent on gaining control of the SGC will move swiftly, and will take as many levels at once as possible," Teal'c said.

"The other levels were heavily defended, by experienced SG teams. It's just not possible for you to have gotten here from the 'gate room from the time the alarms went off, to now," Lieutenant Hailey argued.

"That's not true," Casey said, shaking her head. "The alarms would have started seconds after the 'gate began dialing. It takes about thirty seconds for the chevrons to lock, and for the event horizon to open. An enemy capable of breaching the defenses of the iris would be through the gate within ten seconds after that. That enemy would have entered the wormhole firing, which would have caused havoc, and most probably a few injuries, even a death or two, in the amount of time it takes to make the trip."

"Casey Jackson is correct. An enemy prepared to attack the SGC is a determined enemy. One who will have considered all avenues of attack and defense. Overwhelming the 'gate room would not be difficult. Sufficient numbers would be able to overrun the Marines."

"Is that what happened?" Lieutenant Satterfield asked, wringing water from her ponytail.

"Indeed," Teal'c replied. "Major Ferretti was most efficient in planning the attack."

"We had the 'gate room, the control room and level twenty-six in the first fifteen minutes," Casey said proudly.

"Wow," Satterfield said softly.

"The good news," Major Ferretti grinned, "is that the Marines who guard the 'gate room learned a valuable lesson. They hesitated, they didn't begin firing for nearly ten seconds, even though they were being fired at. They were waiting for a visible target, rather than opening fire."

"But the bullets wouldn't have been able to penetrate an incoming wormhole," Hailey pointed out. "Or water jets," she added, nodding at the multifarious water guns.

"No, but they could sure as hell hit whatever came out of it. Had they done so, there would have been bodies for those behind to trip over. That would have been another advantage," the Marine explained. "They waited, and let the enemy move deeper into the room, making it possible for those behind to just step over the bodies."

Lieutenant Elliot was still frowning. "Is it really possible for Jaffa to move that quickly?"

"Indeed," Teal'c said. "And a Goa'uld would not hesitate to use Jaffa as canon fodder. He...or she...would most likely use less experienced troops. But do not confuse lack of experience for lack of training," he warned.

"When Anuket and her buffoons showed up, they had the 'gate room in less than two minutes," Casey pointed out. "The fact that the Jaffa were shielded helped tremendously, of course. Most likely any breach of the 'gate is going to involve some sort of shielding for the attackers." She tossed a grin at her 'enemy'. "Besides, the alarms you heard a few minutes ago were a result of our using the 'gate, not our initial arrival."

Lieutenants Elliot and Hailey exchanged a glance. "But...when Colonel O'Neill called us in, he told us that the SGC was under attack...that the bad guys were in the 'gate room," Elliot protested.

Casey giggled. "Apparently he kept the cadets, including you, out of the game as long as possible. Good strategy, bringing in back up after losing so many levels to us."

"How long has the game been going on?" Hailey demanded to know.

"Since about ten-thirty this morning."

The young people groaned at the realization that they had been called into an on-going battle, and not at the onset of the attack. Mixed feelings regarding that knowledge were reflected on their faces. "The colonel should have told us," Elliot grumped.

"O'Neill gave you the information necessary," Teal'c replied. "Never make assumptions when receiving intelligence reports from teams under fire. Take exactly what you are told and act upon it."

The young man nodded, realizing his mistake. "When the colonel reported that Jaffa were attacking the SGC, I should have reacted as if they...you...had taken complete control of every level."

"Indeed. Your assumption that the alarms you heard upon your arrival in the facility were those of the initial attack led you to make erroneous judgments."

"Nothing wrong with asking a question or two," Ferretti tossed in. "Under fire you don't question your commander's orders. However, it's all right to ask for clarification of those orders, to make certain there aren't any misunderstandings. That can be deadly."

Again, the young man nodded. It was a damned lucky thing that this was just a 'game', or he and his team would be dead!

Lieutenant Grogan pulled himself to his feet. "So what else did we do wrong?"

"You bunched up," Ferretti replied immediately.

"We were the standard distance apart," Hailey argued.

"For a hike, or a simple recon, sure," Ferretti said. "You were walking into the unknown. Your leader was on point. None of you were paying attention to your six. You weren't checking each and every nook and cranny and shadow. It might have taken longer, but you would have found us."

Elliot shook his head. "We let ourselves be lulled by the fact that this is our facility. We thought that knowing the corridors and rooms was enough. Well, that and we believed that the attack had just started."

The Marine major grinned broadly, reached out and gave the young man's shoulder an affectionate squeeze. "Exactly. And you're all dead. So get comfortable, while we go take out the rest of the SGC personnel."

"You have to refill," Hailey said, nodding at the empty water guns. "You'll be captured at the faucets, you know they're guarded."

Casey grinned from ear to ear. "Yes, we have to refill. We brought our own ammo."

Major Parker, who had been leaning against the wall, listening quietly, nodded at Murphy and Texas. The two men sprinted back to where they had been hiding, pulled two ice chests from the shadows. Inside the chests were nearly a dozen gallon milk jugs that had been carefully rinsed out, and filled with water.

"Oh, that's just wrong," Grogan groaned.

"When going into battle, one must be prepared," Teal'c replied.

"We already control the lowest three levels. We can send our people down there to refill when we need to," Ferretti chuckled.

Casey dug around in the pack she was wearing, pulled out her roll of duct tape. "I promise we'll cut you loose when this is over. For now, you're dead, and we don't want you to forget that."

Good naturedly the cadets settled onto the floor, submitted to having their ankles and wrists taped together. They tried to protest when Casey gagged them, but gave in when Teal'c stepped forward, willing to assist her.

"Teal'c, this is Dixon...Colonel O'Neill and his people are moving toward the control room. They're using the escape ladders," a voice reported into the ears of Teal'c's team.

"We are on our way. Allow them to move forward, but block off any avenues of retreat," Teal'c ordered. "Secure the access hatches behind them, prevent them from leaving the access tunnel."

"Yes, sir."

Casey grinned. "Let's go take him out. Show him what well-trained Jaffa can do."

Ferretti snickered, fell into step behind the large Jaffa and the slender blonde. The two teams and two SG-1 members carefully refilled the various water guns, water cannons, and water pistols that they carried.

With a salute to the young people who watched, Casey stepped onto the elevator with her teammates. So far, so good. Training day was proving to be a success...at least for the "Jaffa". No doubt that SGC tenacity would kick in at any moment, and tables would turn. Until then, she was going to bask in their victories.

Moving carefully through corridors that were already under their control, Teal'c continued to listen to Dixon and Balinsky report on the movement of the enemy. It was a most unexpected advance...his mind was working on the possible outcomes for such an attack. There was one sure way to make certain that the defenders were foiled in their attempt to regain control of the vital levels of the mountain fortress. He whispered precise orders, waited until his team was in place, before hiding himself.


A  A  A  A  A  A


The climb through the narrow, vertical 'tunnel' that offered the only emergency escape route from the caverns and concrete rooms of Cheyenne mountain was risky. And damned warm, with the bodies packed so closely together. That had been a concern, until Major Anderson had pointed out that staying close would allow them a chance to protect one another, and insure that at least one of them was able to 'survive' long enough to carry out the mission.

Reports from other SG-teams who were also on the move indicated that the few 'Jaffa' guards who patrolled the corridors were easily taken out. When they'd reached level twenty-seven, he cautiously opened the door...there were no 'Jaffa' guards, those SG team members or support staff wearing a gold armband, in sight. The ease with which they were moving at first failed to register in his mind. He continued to lead his men forward, the goal of taking the control room his only focus.

Jack held up his fist, knew without looking that the men of SG-7 and SG-12 were pressed against the wall behind him. He peeked around the corner. Cam Balinsky was sitting in front of the computer that operated the Stargate. The instinct honed from his days in Special Ops poked at him. There was no way they would leave one man alone in there...the control room was too important. Which meant...

Before he could utter a sound, order his men into a hasty retreat, doors along the corridor opened, weapons appeared, and within seconds Jack and his team were soaked to the skin. Casey walked toward him, the biggest grin he'd ever seen plastered on her face.

"You are so dead!" she crowed.

"You were just lucky," he returned.

"Nope. We have an awesome leader," she replied, patting Teal'c's broad back.

"I am surprised that you allowed yourself to be caught so easily," Teal'c said, one eyebrow raised slightly. His own instincts were telling him that something was amiss.

Now it was Jack's turn to grin. "Sometimes, in a dire situation, sacrifices have to be made."

Before the comment could register, Daniel, Sam, SG-16 and SG-9 raced around the corners of the corridor, their weapons taking down the invaders.

Casey squealed when the cold water hit her back, turned to find her husband grinning and firing at her. Because his first shot had been a 'kill' shot, she wasn't allowed to fire back. Once the actual 'exercise' was over, however, she was so going to make him pay! "Oh, that is just sneaky!"

Teal'c was studying Jack. "Your descent on the escape ladders was meant as a diversion."

"Worked, didn't it?" Jack grinned.

"Indeed," replied the Jaffa. His black tee-shirt dripped water droplets onto the floor.

Jack shoved his hands into his pockets, sauntered into the control room, and grabbed the phone that hung on the wall, punching the button for the internal P.A. system. "This is Colonel O'Neill. All invaders have been captured or killed. I repeat, all invaders have been captured or killed. We control the SGC."

"That is not entirely true," Teal'c said, smirking slightly.

His head whipped around, and Jack took count of who was present and standing in the corridor, dripping wet...and who was missing. Dixon and his team were in the control room with Balinsky, dripping wet and 'dead'. SG-3...SG-6...his eyes narrowed when he realized that each team was missing a man. Sabotti and Lopez! Son-of-a-bitch! Okay, where were they, and just what in the hell were they up to? Had they been killed at some point during the day? Nah, he'd have heard about it...so where in the hell were they?

The automatic sprinkler system came on, drenching everyone and everything. Fortunately, for the duration of the 'exercise', anything that was susceptible to water damage had been covered with plastic, or stored safely away...previous 'training days' had proven a bit hard on some of the more sensitive equipment, and of course all reports and files left out in the open were rendered completely unreadable. It had taken nearly three hours for the facility to be 'ready' for the exercise. All personnel throughout the SGC, however, were now getting drenched.

General Hammond emerged from his office...which had been deemed 'off-limits', all involved pretending that the room didn't exist during the duration of the exercise, a computer hooked into the security system allowing him to monitor the progress of the 'game'...tossed a glaring look at Jack, and took the phone from his hand. "This is General Hammond. This facility has been destroyed, most probably using our own nuclear device. All personnel to the 'gate room immediately."

It was going to be pretty crowded, Jack thought, what with all of the teams and the support staff, as well as the civilian scientists. The sprinklers stopped, just as suddenly as they had come on. He glanced into the CO's office. Dry as a bone. That was a very good thing, probably the only thing preventing him from getting a well deserved 'dressing down'. He'd have to ask how they managed to do that. It might be information that could prove useful in the future, especially if there was a real threat in the SGC.

Daniel shook his head. "I told you that it was too easy," he mumbled in Sam's direction.

She gave a nod. Berated herself for not realizing that Teal'c had been conducting raids when she had been a child...before she had even been born! And that his expertise would guarantee a 'win'...even if it meant destroying the goal. Sam had to admit that the 'training day' had been aptly named...the personnel, and the SG teams, had learned valuable lessons while safely 'at home'. Lessons that would hopefully keep them alive off-world, and give them ideas for protecting the SGC should a Goa'uld, or any other enemy, take it into their twisted minds to attack the facility.


A  A  A  A  A  A


It took nearly thirty minutes before the 'gate room was wall-to-wall bodies. The 'dead' had been untied...or 'un-taped'; everyone was wet...some more so than others, having been 'killed' during the mock battles that had raged in the corridors and rooms of the SGC. Several of the scientists who were new to the SGC were standing with somewhat bewildered looks on their faces. General Hammond stood at the top of the ramp, his gaze moving over the assembled group before speaking. "It seems that Colonel O'Neill's announcement was a bit premature," he said, casting a disapproving frown at his second-in-command.

The 'invading Jaffa' grinned broadly. Casey had her thumbs hooked just inside the tops of her front pockets of her BDU pants, rocking back and forth on her heels, her eyes dancing as she watched Jack duck his head and rub his hand over the back of his neck.

"Teal'c, you and your people performed admirably today, and I believe everyone involved was given a taste of exactly what a real invasion would be like," the general continued, nodding at the large man.

Teal'c inclined his head regally. He was standing at attention, his hands clasped behind him. He looked over the men and women who had been chosen...at random for the most part...to be the 'enemy'. They had all performed as well as true Jaffa, and had not gone down without a fight. And technically, they had won...even if the SGC was theoretically in ruins, and everyone, including the invaders, were dead.

"Security tapes of today's game will be reviewed during scheduled training classes," Hammond said. "I would like to point out that today's exercise took five hours, twenty-three minutes. I will interpret that as a sign that the defenders of the SGC did not make taking this facility an easy one. It's been an interesting day, ladies and gentlemen. Go home and get a good night's rest, everyone of you has earned it. Those who have duty tonight will be allowed first access to the showers, and front-of-the-line privileges in the commissary. Dismissed."

Casey walked over to where Daniel stood, surrounded by the men and two women who worked for the archaeology department. With the exceptions of herself and Cam Balinsky, who had requested to join her and Teal'c, accepted by the Jaffa because of his semi-permanent position on SG-13, all of the scientists in the SGC had been 'defenders'.

Daniel absently reached for her, slipping his arm around her shoulders as soon as she was near enough, listening as Dr. Beth Meyers complained that the day had been 'wasted', because she had been 'forced' to participate in 'military maneuvers' that had nothing to do with her, or her educational training.

He still wasn't over the shock of the Pentagon finally heeding his advice...and pleas...for more archaeologists to help with the ever growing stacks of artifacts. His pleas had become even more intense when several of the military archaeologists and linguists were transferred out of the SGC, and replacements hadn't been forthcoming. The four newcomers had been hired and had arrived at the SGC within the past six weeks. This particular archaeologist had been working for him a grand total of three days. It wasn't surprising that she, that all of them, was a bit...overwhelmed. However, there was a reason for the 'training sessions'. What had started out as a simple game between Teal'c and Casey had become a way to hone skills, to test strategies, to make certain that everyone who worked in the secret facility, including the civilian scientists, were as prepared as possible.

"I certainly hope that this type of...event...isn't a common occurrence. It's a complete waste of time, which would be better spent trying to decipher the boxes of scrolls and tablets that clutter numerous storage rooms. There's no reason that those of us with the skills and education to do that job shouldn't be allowed to work unhindered by such...frivolity!"

He shook his head slowly when the woman had finished her tirade. "Dr. Meyers, if this facility is ever under attack, if real Jaffa or other aliens are rushing through that Stargate, I expect you and every other member of the department to be able to help defend the SGC. This isn't a library, a university, or a museum. This is a military installation, and in case you haven't figured it out yet, we are in the middle of a war. That's the reason for the training with weapons and hand-to-hand combat you're receiving. You're scientists, yes. Here at the SGC, you're also soldiers."

Dr. Meyers frowned. She'd never been fond of the military. Never dreamed she'd ever be in a position to work for the Air Force. The opportunity, however, given what she'd learned, was just too great to pass by.

A frown creased her forehead. Daniel never spoke that way! Something else was wrong. Casey studied the woman, the way her arms were crossed over her ample bosom, anger and defiance in her expression. Daniel had told her that this woman was the leading expert on the ancient Celts. Her work was top-notch, notes that she had collected from Dr. Meyers for the database had been in-depth and precise. But there was more...something...deeper. She reached out gently, could feel that Daniel was irritated at being accosted the way he had been. His rather out-of-character response had been a 'knee-jerk' reaction to the verbal attack. She reached out again, almost timidly. 'Touching' someone wasn't a practice she was comfortable with...and she did it rarely. Only with Daniel was she relaxed enough to 'read' his emotions. She could feel waves of frustration pouring from the woman. And something...cold. Anger. There was anger in her stance. Simply missing a days' work wasn't the reason.

"I suppose that you've become more accustomed to being more a part of the military machine than a scientist since you disappeared from academia," Dr. Meyers sneered. "I never would have guessed that you, such a pacifist, would become a willing part of...this." She waved her hand in a circle, indicating the whole of the SGC in the movement. "I, however, am not a soldier, and under no circumstances will I pretend or presume to be one!"

He sighed. When General Hammond had tasked him to find the best minds in the fields of anthropology and archaeology, he'd done his best to do so objectively. He'd had personal reservations about hiring this woman. She was the best in her field of study. Hers had also been one of the loudest voices, outside of the Egyptian experts, decrying his discoveries regarding the pyramids. Her recent...enlightenment...that he had not only been correct, but that he'd been the one to decode the Stargate, that he'd been the one to find the Abydos Cartouche, that he'd been the one responsible for the majority of treaties between Earth and alien societies seemed to have only added to her dislike of him. She'd been especially vocal about his notes concerning two of those cultures, both precursors to the Celts. According to her, he'd been 'damned lucky' to have made the 'guesses' that he had. "If working here is a problem, I can speak to the General about releasing you from your contract," he said quietly.

The others shifted unconsciously, but very noticeably, away from the woman. Whose face had gone from angry to shocked. "You're firing me for daring to speak my mind?"

Again Daniel shook his head. "Of course not. I'm just giving you an option, if you're not comfortable working here, then I want you able to do what makes you comfortable. I would never expect...nor require...someone to remain in a situation that they found to be intolerable."

Dr. Meyers took a half-step backwards. "Oh...I...oh," she said finally. There had been no anger in the words. They weren't spoken with cold deliberation. It had been a simple, softly spoken statement of fact. "I suppose I'm still trying to...adjust."

Three days wasn't a lot of time to come to grips with the magnitude of what the SGC represented. And then to be caught up in the middle of 'training day'...yeah, this woman had been knocked for a loop, and was still reeling. Daniel gave a small smile. "It is a lot to wrap your mind around. Dr. Meyers, I suggested you for the position because you're the best in your field. Your knowledge of the Celts could be invaluable to us. But I don't want you to feel obligated to stay in a position that you're not happy in."

The woman pushed a lock of still damp hair from her face. She glanced at the faces around her, wincing inwardly that the conversation was being witnessed by her colleagues. Not, she thought sheepishly, that she'd given Dr. Jackson a choice. She hadn't even given the man a chance to speak before stomping over to him...verbally attacking him. She'd always been opinionated...but she'd never believed herself capable of such rudeness. And given her stance on his theories while they had both been 'public' members of the archaeological community, that he would even have considered her for this job...a job that was absolutely mind boggling, and so very fascinating...spoke volumes about the man Dr. Daniel Jackson was. And always had been, her mind added. She readily admitted to herself that the few times she'd met him before his crazy - albeit apparently correct - theory had been presented, she had recognized in him a man of intelligence, kindness, gentleness...honor. "Please tell me I'm not the only one to be cranky around here," she said, giving a wan smile.

Casey could sense the woman's surprise, and watched the softening of her facial features. The shift in her emotions was tangible. From angry and frustrated to overwhelmed and embarrassed. "I get downright pissy some days," she said softly. "Dealing with the Goa'uld will do that to a person...just make you downright pissy."

Cam snorted, tried to hide it behind a faked cough. Jonas Quinn turned to study the carefully stenciled instructions on the side of the electrical box behind him, his grin as wide as Cam's. Dr. Adam Warnke, whose expertise was that of the Mongols, grinned broadly. He'd been on the staff long enough, at two weeks, to have witnessed one of Casey's tirades...at her computer...while she worked on the database. Dr. Craig Nichols, who had been in the SGC for six weeks, and who knew everything there was to know about the native Americans east of the Mississippi river, concentrated on cleaning one thumbnail with the other. And Dr. Leanna Izett, whose work about and with the Polynesian tribes of the islands that dotted the Pacific Ocean had led to a special on the History Channel, turned her head and cleared her throat. While the latter two hadn't been witness to the fabled temper of Casey Jackson, they'd certainly heard about it.

Dr. Meyers gave a genuine smile, then sighed heavily. "Doctor Jackson, I apologize for my outburst. I suppose-" She broke off, frowned again. "I suppose that this exercise made me face the reality of the situation here...that what goes on here is literally life and death. That's not something my training has actually prepared me for. And it terrifies me."

Daniel smiled. "No apology necessary, Doctor. Like Casey said, we all get a little...edgy...at times. If you ever need to talk, my door is always open."

"I...thank you. That's most generous of you," the woman said softly. She was quickly re-evaluating her opinion of the archaeologist...finding he was a most remarkable man.

"I've had a few years to deal with all of this," Daniel replied, flashing that shy smile that had melted the hearts of women throughout the universe. "Trust me, I made a few blundering mistakes that could have cost me and my teammates our lives when I first became involved with the SGC."

"Somehow, I doubt that those mistakes were ever repeated," Dr. Meyers said intuitively. "You always were a quick study."

He smiled again, but didn't respond. While the details of his academic career were available to anyone who cared enough to search out the information, Dr. Meyers was one of the few at the SGC who knew the complete scope of his degrees. And his reputation as a 'wunderkind'.

With the situation defused, and in a very satisfactory manner, she noted happily, Casey smiled at her husband, just before punching his arm.

"Ow! What was that for?" he asked, rubbing his bicep. Casey had learned how to hit damned hard...probably from Teal'c.

She turned around, her black tee shirt still wet in the back. "I will make you pay for that," she tossed over her shoulder, just before following Teal'c out of the 'gate room.

He grinned from ear to ear. "It's not every day you get to shoot your Wife," he chuckled.

"And I'll pretend I didn't hear that," Cam said, his grin matching that of the man who was technically his boss, and very much his friend. It was Jonas who snorted now, both men chuckling softly at Daniel's wide grin.

"Let's go see how much clean up level eighteen needs," Daniel said, leading the way. It might take another hour or so to have all of the water mopped up. But he was well aware of the fact that the people who worked for...with...him had a better understanding of the enemy they faced. And that could be crucial if the unthinkable should ever happen. It seemed that Dr. Meyer's...outburst...had cleared the air enough that she was asking a torrent of questions of Daniel and Cam; about the SGC, its mission, and what had already been learned. The discussions continued during the time it took to make the archaeological level, as level eighteen was becoming known, workable once again.


A  A  A  A  A  A


General Hammond lowered himself into the leather chair behind his desk, settled back and began to sort through the stack of files that had mysteriously appeared. Seven reports from two SG teams; he'd expected them two days ago. Five from Colonel O'Neill. Since the files hadn't been present before the 'debriefing' in the 'gate room, he could only assume that word had spread quickly of his dissatisfaction with the colonel's erroneous conclusion that all was well.

He sat back. There was no way that Jack O'Neill would ever make a 'mistake' like that during a real crisis. No doubt the jubilation at finally taking out Teal'c and his 'Jaffa' had been the cause of that momentary lapse of judgment. The general chuckled. The men and women of the SG teams took their training day seriously. Fun-wise, that was. It was a way for all of them to let loose the tension that the missions and the intel and the constant stress of staying one step ahead of the Goa'uld caused. And served as an invaluable training tool...especially for the cadets and civilians who worked within the concrete walls of the SGC.

A tap on the door brought his head up. "Come in," he called out.

Jack stepped hesitantly into the room. "If you're too busy, sir," he started, waving a hand in the direction of the stack of folders. Some of which he knew were from his own office.

"No, not at all, Colonel."

"I wanted to apologize, sir. I screwed up. Got all of us 'killed' in the process," Jack said.

He studied the colonel. He'd seen the man chagrined before. Always after disobeying an order, and having the chips fall in all the wrong places as a result. Something that had happened so infrequently that he could count the times on one hand. "Yes, you did."

Jack nodded. "It won't happen again, sir."

Hammond smiled. "I'm well aware of that, Colonel. I suppose that finally being able to declare Teal'c 'dead' was a bit..." He paused, seeking the right adjective.

"Satisfying," Jack supplied, a cheeky grin tugging at his lips.

"This is the first time that none of them actually managed to escape," the general allowed. In the other training exercises, when the tables had turned against the Jaffa and his 'team', both times had seen the 'invaders' escaping through the 'gate and to the Alpha site. It meant a victory for the SGC personnel...but a hollow one.

"Yes, sir. I thought I'd actually outwitted him. I should have known that extra eighty or ninety years of experience he has would bite me in the ass."

Hammond chuckled. "I guess it's a good thing that he's on our side."

"Yes, sir, it is," Jack agreed.

"I was very impressed with the way you had the scientists in the facility positioned for defense."

He stood straighter, squared his shoulders slightly. "Yes, sir. Teal'c and Major Carter have both been working with all of the scientists, making certain that they have training beyond just which end of a P90 to point at the enemy."

"I heard that you put Doctor Felger in charge of defending level fifteen."

It was impossible not to roll his eyes. The hero worship that Felger heaped on SG-1 was embarrassing as much as it was annoying. The man was a walking disaster. Accidents seemed to occur with regularity if he was anywhere nearby. Rumors told of dozens of tools disappearing, it seemed they vanished in the mess that Felger called a lab, never to be seen again. The brief thought that the lab was the perfect 'hiding place' for anything that needed to remain top secret danced across his brain, before he filed it away for future reference. He forced his thoughts back on track. Felger had a genuine desire to do the right thing...and Sam insisted that he was a damned good scientist, able to use computers for conducting experiments that no one else would have even dreamed of, writing all of the necessary software himself. As impulsive and clumsy as Dr. Jay Felger was, Jack had known instinctively that not one of Teal'c's 'Jaffa' would have been able to take that level...not without casualties of their own. It also kept the often irritating scientist out of the way, he admitted to himself...which had no doubt 'saved' the lives of other members of the SGC. "Yes, sir."

"Very good idea, Colonel."

"Thank you, sir."

"Jack, today was just a training exercise. And not even an official one. Don't beat yourself up over any mistakes you might have made," the general said kindly.

"I'll try, sir," Jack replied honestly. He never dealt well with it when he screwed up. Not even during what was basically a game. As long as there were others depending on him, they deserved his best. Focused, dedicated...unerring. Well, two out of three, he thought, giving a mental sigh.

"Go home, Colonel. Get a good night's sleep."

"Abby expecting you for dinner, sir?" 

General Hammond smiled at the subtle hint. "Yes, she is. I'm going to sort these files, and go home myself."

"Then I'll say goodnight, sir," Jack grinned. He gave his usual sloppy salute, and hurried out of the office, his heart much lighter knowing that his commanding officer wasn't actually pissed at him.

With a chuckle and a shake of his head, Hammond returned to his interrupted task. He hadn't even finished sorting through the first folder when another tap on the door announced yet another visitor. He heaved a sigh.

Like a ray of sunshine, Casey stood in the doorway, not crossing the threshold, waiting for his permission to enter the room. No frown, no tugging of that full lower lip. That was a good sign. It meant that whatever she had to tell him, or ask him, wasn't going to be worrisome. He sat back, felt a smile on his face, one that was just automatic when greeted by her warm smile, those bright green eyes. "Hello, Casey. Come in."

The young seer hurried into the office. "I'm not disturbing you, am I?"

Hammond couldn't have stopped the chuckle that filled his throat if he had wanted to. Of all the people in the SGC, she was the most welcome in his office. There had been several times since her arrival to the mountain when she had stopped by, telling him that she just 'felt' he needed a bit of a break. She would often bring some of her home-baked cookies, which was always a welcome treat. When she did, she would take his cup, refill it with hot coffee, and then settle into one of the chairs that sat in front of the walnut desk, and would beg to hear stories from his younger days in the Air Force. He would entertain her with tales, remembering events and friends he'd thought long forgotten. And each time she'd left the office, he'd felt as if years had dropped from his shoulders. "No, Casey, you're not disturbing me at all. What can I do for you?"

"Actually, I think it's more like, 'what I can do for you'."

His eyebrows went up. He had learned very quickly after meeting her that what Casey said was important, but how she said it was even more so. He studied her carefully, looking for any sign that she hadn't realized she had spoken. "I see. And just what would that be?"

"Scuttlebutt has it that you're not planning on sending any teams out for the next two weeks. We're all home, things are relatively calm...well, as calm as they ever are around here."

"That's correct. For the first time in six years, everyone under my command will be home for Christmas," General Hammond confirmed. That hadn't been an easy feat to accomplish. There had been three missions that had been 'meet-and-greet's. And the diplomatic dances that had been necessary to achieve peaceful negotiations and treaties with those three cultures had seemed to stretch on endlessly. But he'd been able to set time limits that the leaders of those cultures were willing to meet. Other teams had been out on recon missions...which had a notorious habit of stretching from twenty-four hours to several days. Dr. Jackson had been a bit disappointed when he'd insisted that SG-1 return to the base, in spite of the fact that the archaeologist had requested three additional days to study ruins that appeared to be Babylonian...which meant a possible tie to Ba'al.

"Between Daniel and Colonel O'Neill, you know they're going to be grumping about just 'sitting around'," Casey continued. "Today helped, I mean, it kept them focused and busy...but now they're going to start thinking about what they'd rather be doing...and being here won't be on that list."

"No doubt," Hammond acknowledged. Especially Colonel O'Neill. Although the general had already discussed with Daniel the fact that until after the new year, none of the SG teams were embarking on missions, and that SG-1 would not be returning to...what planet was that? All of the designations seemed to jumble in his mind. Between duty rosters and approving request forms and mission briefings and debriefings, and his own reports for the Oversight Committee and the president, it seemed that he was always being pulled in a dozen different directions...recalling the sets of letters and numbers for each planet was just not on his 'most-important-things-to-remember' list. The archaeologist had been hard pressed not to argue, hadn't been able to hide his frustration at the news. The general forced his wandering thoughts back to what the young woman standing in front of his desk was saying.

"Sir, it's been a rough couple of months," Casey said softly. "If SG-1 could have a few days off, it would get both Jack and Daniel out of here...and out of your hair." She glanced at the general's bald head. "Well, metaphorically speaking."

He smiled. "Are you requesting leave for SG-1?"

"Yes, sir."

It really had been a 'rough couple of months'. October had seen them scrambling to defeat Ba'al, who had very nearly announced his existence...and his very immediate presence...to every inhabitant of Earth, and had come within hours of taking control of the planet. Thanks to Casey, Daniel had been able to negotiate a treaty with that Goa'uld which had bought SG-1, and the rest of the SGC personnel, time to contact the Asgard, and demand that the Protected Planet's Treaty be enforced. The personal cost had been nearly unacceptable. Only that fabled SG-1 good luck had seen the SGC take the day. He'd learned from Dr. Jackson that Casey was still having nightmares about that ordeal, and what she'd been forced, by sheer necessity, to do during that meeting.

Then there had been that painting. He'd seen it, and it was...had been...a magnificent work of art. He wasn't privy to all of the details, but he was aware that the painting had upset Casey; at least it had at first, from what he had been told. While that situation had been more of a personal matter, it had still affected the team. And during that time events initiated by a hacker, one whom had nearly gained access to the SGC's most top secrets, had exposed a drug kin pin and an illicit drug operation within the ranks of the Air Force and nearby bases. They'd just put that behind them when alternate reality counterparts to Sha're, Kasuf, and Skaara had shown up, walking through the Quantum Mirror. Everyone in the SGC had been aware of the tension that their appearance had caused.

The worst of all, however, had been a mission to a small planet that had shown traces of naquadah. The MALP report had been promising. What the robot hadn't shown, however, was the village that was built directly above that deposit. Casey's gift had shown only a small group of people. Their cool reception had been as much of a surprise as their location. Two facts for which she still castigated herself.

Highly superstitious, and very suspicious of the strangers who had arrived through their 'sacred circle', the natives had been less than friendly. Overwhelmed by larger numbers, SG-1 had quickly found themselves captive. Casey's gift of sight had saved the daughter of the village chieftain from a disastrous fall into a nearby river...there had been hope among the team that the warning would see them freed, at least to return home. Instead, she'd been pulled from the cage the team had been placed in, and had been taken to 'serve' the chieftain. Who had then forced Daniel, at spear point, to dial the 'gate; had his warriors shove SG-1, sans Casey, into the event horizon. It had taken eight days to get her back. The chieftain had been a wise man, and had known that the strangers would return for their seer. He'd ordered his people to move their village. Three days had been spent trying to find a clue as to which direction the people had gone...the natives' ability to hide and move through the surrounding jungle had left few tracks.

They had been on a mission during Thanksgiving, struggling to help a small town in the grips of a flood. So many lives lost, he thought sadly. Casey's gift had allowed them to save many more lives, the planet hadn't even been on the mission list when she received the 'information download' about the disaster. He was certain, however, that she was blaming herself for not 'seeing' more, and sooner.

He didn't know about the rest of the team, but certainly Casey could use a break from the intensity of life at the SGC. General Hammond leaned forward, folded his hands together. "I think that's a very good idea."

Casey smiled, her eyes dancing with happiness. "Thank you, sir!"

"I'll have Walter start the paperwork immediately."

"Thank you!" She snapped off a salute that a drill sergeant would have been proud of, spun on her heel, and in true Casey fashion, dashed from the room. 

He gave in to the laughter that filled his throat, reached for his phone. "Walter? I need five leave forms filled out. SG-1 is going to take a few days off."

That he was still smiling as he pushed the files away, stood and adjusted his jacket over his shirt in preparation of leaving the mountain for the night was proof that the day had been a complete success. Tension levels were noticeably lower. He'd even heard laughter coming from the control room, the techs exchanging their experiences of the day, no doubt.

The general strode to the elevator. Every face he saw held a smile. Yes, the day had been a complete success. And all of the members of the SGC had learned valuable defensive lessons while working out the stress of the preceding months.

It wasn't until he was signing out at the level eleven check point when he realized that without Casey Jackson, the idea of 'playing' with water guns, of using those games as training, never would have occurred to anyone within the SGC. He chuckled out loud again. Ignored the questioning looks from the Marines who stood guard at the check point.

He pushed the button for level one as soon as he stepped onto the lift. It had also been because of her that he'd put casual gatherings and parties, along with the more formal events, onto the SGC calendar. She hadn't asked for them. But her presence had stirred others to make those requests...or suggestions, as the case had been. The first 'SGC Prom' had been a way to welcome her home, and celebrate the birthday missed while she'd been a prisoner of Ba'al, and then Dartal. There had been the first SGC Halloween party. More chuckles escaped as he remembered the theme that Casey had suggested...'I Love TVLand'. Teams and departments had come dressed as the characters from their favorite classic television shows.

His grin nearly split his face when he recalled the creativity of the people who worked for him. Major Ferretti and his team had shown up as the 'A-Team'. Doctors Warner and Fraiser had turned their staff into the characters from 'M*A*S*H'. Dr. Lee and his assistants had represented 'Leave it to Beaver', with Dr. Lee donning a blonde wig and pearls as June Cleaver.

And the fact that SG-1 had shown up as characters from the movie 'The Wizard of Oz' hadn't caused so much as a batted eye. Colonel O'Neill had been the Tin Man. Teal'c...the Cowardly lion. Dr. Jackson had been the Scarecrow. Major Carter had worn a dark wig to be Dorothy, and Casey had been Toto, wearing a tail, ears and whiskers. Each of them the total, absolute antithesis of the characters they portrayed. There wasn't a braver man alive than Teal'c of Chulak. Jack O'Neill had more heart than he would ever admit to, but that many refugees and now free villagers could attest to. Was there a more brilliant mind in the fields of archaeology, anthropology or linguistics than Daniel Jackson? He certainly didn't think so. Major Carter was the most capable officer it had been his pleasure to serve with. And Casey...well, she was certainly 'playful', he'd give her that.

The night air was cold, he pulled the collar of his overcoat tighter around his throat. By giving SG-1 leave, and knowing that they would actually take advantage of it, would prevent them from finding an excuse to go through the Stargate before the holidays were over. And no team in the mountain deserved a break more than they did.

General Hammond slid behind the wheel of his car. Adjusted the heat. Without SG-1, there really wasn't an SGC. A fact of which most everyone in the mountain was well aware. And a fact of which the members of SG-1 were totally oblivious. "Have a good time, SG-1," he said softly, his breath forming a cloud in front of his face. "Merry Christmas."

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