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To Elvis, Or Not To Elvis
Sam glanced out the window of the cab. "I'd like to make a stop," she said quietly.
Jack looked at her. She'd been stationed here, had worked at the Pentagon..."Someplace specific?"
She nodded. "Bookstore."
He frowned slightly. Maybe she knew the owner, or someone who worked at this bookstore. "Okay. Where is it?"
"Hmm? Oh, any bookstore will do," she replied.
"So is it a specific book you're after?" Jack asked.
"Okay, Carter. I give up. Why?"
Her grin split her face. "I'm not going to listen to you complain about your promotion all the way back to Colorado."
"Now that's not fair! I won't complain all the way back!"
"Just most of the way," Sam countered.
"It's just..." He paused, turned to watch the businesses and buildings that passed outside the car window. "I never planned to get this far. I'd retired as a full-bird colonel. That was all I wanted. Had no intention of coming back. I mean...when I was reactivated, I figured it would only be long enough to go get Daniel, and then I'd go back to being Colonel Jack O'Neill, Retired."
Sam studied her fiancé. "Is it really that big a deal to you?"
"I've never liked the brass, Sam. They're armchair quarterbacks. They're so far removed from the day-to-day life of the rank-and-file that they have no clue what's going on. Because they're so out of touch, it can mean disaster for the men and women on the front lines." Because of 'armchair quarterbacks', his and two other Special Ops teams had been compromised. And they'd all spent a lifetime…or eight months, whichever…in an Iraqi prison. Only because of the mercies of the Tooth Fairy…and a field general too damned stubborn to let the brass sitting in the Pentagon sacrifice good men because of their mistake…he, Gary Franklin, Jessie Hatcher, and ten other men were freed. About a dozen Iraqi citizens, guilty of nothing more than voicing their own opinions, had been rescued as well.
"Not all of them, Jack," she said softly. "There are those in the Pentagon who are doing an admirable job of helping to keep this country defended, and to help our allies."
"Very few," he replied. "I was always the first to object when orders came down that were nothing more than political posturing for the general who had issued them. The first to stand against any orders that put the men and women under my command in danger for nothing more than the ego of the general sending down the order."
"That won't change," Sam pointed out gently.
"I'm not so sure," he replied wearily. "Being a general is the most political position in the Air Force. It's bad enough as a colonel...the required dinners and parties that I have to attend...or host."
"That's part of being an officer. And those duties begin as soon as you accept that commission."
"I know that," he sighed. "I've never really cared for that aspect of the officer's ranks, and to be honest, I only attend the parties or dinners I absolutely can't get out of. Being single, I've been able to shrug off any hosting duties, or just make reservations at a restaurant somewhere. But now..."
"Being married, and being a general, means you'll have to host those dinners at home," Sam finished for him.
"That's not fair to you."
"Well, first of all, being attached to-" she glanced at the driver, then cleared her throat. "The last party we had to attend was the one hosted by Colonel Dixon…and that was six months ago. Because of our schedules, those requirements have been greatly...reduced. I don't think any of the officers at the...well, none of us have the time to deal with the social expectations of our careers. From what I've heard, most of the wives...well, the spouses, still do the monthly dinners or get-togethers. My guess is that it's a bit of normalcy for them. With their significant other being away so much, and everything that spouse does a secret, it's the one way to maintain a sense of balance in their lives."
"I suppose, with General Hammond retaining command, he and I can actually split any duties like that," Jack sighed.
"That's true. Jack, the-" she broke off again, her eyes once more lighting on the cab driver. "Normal protocol just doesn't fit for us."
He sighed. "I still don't like the thought of being 'The Man'."
Sam chuckled. "I agree with Casey. That will never happen."
Jack offered a crooked grin. "I'm holding you to that, Carter."
"I'll make certain that you don't slide to the dark side," Sam replied jokingly.
He chuckled, laced his fingers with hers. "I'm counting on it."
Casey was tugging on her lip, watching as the city passed by.
"Angel?" Daniel asked softly.
She sighed. "Just thinking about Sam. She and I had a bit of a talk," she admitted.
"I figured as much, as long as it took you," Daniel teased gently.
"I understand her reasons for not wanting a big wedding, they're absolutely valid. But she'd be such a beautiful bride," Casey sighed.
"And you were looking forward to being maid of honor, or a bridesmaid," Daniel said.
She nodded slightly. "That had crossed my mind. Pretty damned selfish of me, right?"
"I don't think so," he replied easily. "I suppose it's just natural for a woman to assume she's going to be a part of her best friend's wedding day."
"It just won't be the same, going to the court house, standing in some judge's chambers. What kind of a wedding is that?"
"A civil one," Daniel replied, giving her a cheeky grin when she rolled her eyes. He took her hand, lifted her fingers to his lips. Then settled their entwined fingers on his thigh. "My...uh...counterpart," he started, glancing at the driver; noting with relief that he was totally focused on the heavy traffic around them, "told me that he and his...wife...went to the Justice of the Peace."
"Mmmhmm. He told me her counterpart had managed to get stuck at his…well, there…and she took him to his office, picked up the phone, and called that…his Casey. Handed the phone to him, and he said that they talked for hours. He almost missed saying goodbye to her counterpart."
"It's easy to talk to you," she murmured softly.
"Just as easy to talk to you," he replied in kind. "Twenty-four hours later, or something like that...however long it took her to drive from Tacoma to Colorado Springs, she was at the front gate, requesting to see him. They were married right away."
"Would you have preferred that?" Casey asked, tugging at her lip again. Wondering if Daniel resented the time and money that had gone into their 'special day'.
One look in her green eyes was all it took for him to realize what she was thinking. "No," he said softly. "Your counterpart warned me to take it slowly. I tried, I really did. And...you did without so much growing up, I wanted you to have the best of everything I could offer. I wanted you to have the wedding of your dreams. Memories that you'd cherish forever."
"Oh, I do cherish them," she whispered, tightening her fingers around his hand. "It was just like a fairytale come true."
Daniel smiled, glanced over and noticed the smile on Teal'c's lips as well. "I do, too, Angel. I can close my eyes, and see you walking down the aisle toward me, looking like a goddess come to life."
Casey squeezed her Husband's fingers, then looked up at her best friend. "I'm warning you right now, T. You and Janet had better have one humdinger of a wedding!"
Teal'c started slightly. "It is too soon to say whether or not the relationship between Janet Fraiser and myself will become...permanent."
"Oh, please," Casey huffed. "I've seen the aura. I never see auras! You two are as destined to be together as Daniel and me, or Sam and Jack! So...big wedding. No slipping off to the judge!"
"I will inform Janet Fraiser of your demands."
Casey frowned. "Not demands. Just...I just...well. Fine, my demands. Damn it, someone among my friends is going to have a freaking wedding I can go to!"
Both men chuckled loudly.
"Hey, mister," the cabby said, catching Daniel's eye in the rearview mirror. "That cab you wanted me to follow is turning off into a shopping center."
"That's fine, follow them in," Daniel replied. "I wonder what they're after?"
"Books," Casey giggled. "I'm getting one, too. Sam said she's not going to listen to Jack complain about his promotion all the way back home."
Daniel laughed. "That's a good idea. Think I'll see what I can find. Teal'c, what about you?"
"It does seem to be a valid defense against O'Neill's complaints," the Jaffa replied.
"Keep the meter running, this shouldn't take long," Daniel told the driver, when the car came to a halt.
"No problem, mister," the cabby replied.
Jack tried to be put out that his entire team was searching diligently for books. To read during the flight back to Colorado Springs. Hmmph. Just see how sympathetic I am when you guys need it! His indignation ended in chuckles. Right now, his kids were being as typical as they could get. It would be a challenge, but he was betting he'd be able to keep at least two of them at a time involved in a conversation. And Jack O'Neill loved challenges. He wandered over to where Daniel was standing. "Wha'cha doin'?"
Daniel pointedly looked around. "I'm standing in a bookstore. The safe bet would be that I'm looking at books."
"Uh huh. What kind of books?"
He heaved a sigh. Okay, if Jack wants to play '20 Questions", he can just deal with whatever answer I feel like giving, Daniel thought. Knowing Jack, he'd already made assumptions. Wouldn't want to disappoint him, would I? "History."
"Figures. Why don't you find something…I dunno…entertaining?" Jack asked.
"History can be entertaining," Daniel countered, chuckling mentally.
"Sure. Right. Ya betcha."
He glanced at the book in his hand. "Seriously, Jack. Have you ever read anything about the War of the Roses?"
"I thought that was a movie," Jack replied.
"Funny. Really, it was an interesting period of English history. It all started in 1399-"
Jack held up a hand. "Nope…not gonna listen to it." He turned on his heel to see what Sam was doing.
Daniel grinned at the newly-promoted general's back, then went back to skimming the contents of the book in his hand. Which just happened to be a historical murder-mystery, set during the War of the Roses. Since it was based on historical facts, he hadn't lied…exactly. A thought that had him chuckling out loud.
Sam was scanning a section of technical manuals. Work on the ATVs, using schematics given to her by…well…herself, from another reality…had stalled. It seemed that her counterpart had been able to utilize technology from alien sources that she just didn't have access to. However, she had a few ideas, but wanted to confirm those theories. If she could find something useful concerning solar cells…
"Find anything interesting?"
She glanced up. Bit back her smile. Jack was going to bug each and every member of the team, she could see that in his eyes. "Yep."
"A book about solar cells." She held it up. 'The Physics of Solar Cells' was emblazoned across the cover.
"Yeah, that's some light reading," Jack replied, rolling his eyes.
"Was that a joke?"
Her cheek twitched. "You know…light…solar cells…"
"You're annoying." With a huff, Jack turned. Ah, there's Radar. Probably looking at those romance books...
Sam chuckled as Jack stalked away.
Casey had a book in each hand, reading the description on the back of one, then comparing it to the other.
She glanced up. "Hey, Jack."
"So, find anything good?"
"Well, there's this book, 'Born of the Sun', about a Celtic princess taken captive by the Saxons. Or, this one, 'Savage Promise', about a trapper's daughter in Alaska, and the Tlingit Indian who saves her from being killed by a polar bear. Here, hold this," she said, shoving one of the books at him.
Jack barely had time to think…he reacted instinctively as he took the book thrust at him. Watched as Casey thumbed through the pages of the book in her hand. "Wha'cha lookin' for?"
"The love scenes. I like to read hot love scenes."
He cleared his throat. "Oh."
Casey looked up, grinned. "Listen to this-"
"Uh, think I'll go see what the T-man has found," Jack said hurriedly, handing the book clutched in his fingers back to the slender seer.
She was barely able to bite back her giggle as Jack practically ran to where Teal'c stood, looking through a selection of gardening books.
"Planning on doing a bit of yard work, Teal'c?" Jack asked, studying the book in the Jaffa's hand.
"I am not."
"Ah. Gonna put in a garden at the Doc's place?"
"Then why are you looking at these?"
"I find them to be interesting."
Jack looked up, tried to determine whether or not Teal'c was joking. It was always so damned difficult to tell! "Right." He glanced at his watch. "Attention, campers. Pick it out, wrap it up, we gotta go," he said, loudly enough that all of the team members heard him.
Books in hand, his kids made their way to the checkout desk, each of them purchasing at least one book…Sam actually had three. Casey had decided that rather than decide between the two books, she'd simply buy both. Daniel had his murder mystery, and Teal'c was carrying a book about perennials.
"What about you, Jack?" Casey asked. "Aren't you going to buy a book?"
"Already did," he smirked. Held up a copy of Tom Clancy's newest 'Net Force' novel.
Hope flared in four hearts. Maybe Jack would read on the flight back to Colorado, sparing them a litany of complaints about being a general.
A A A A A A
The members of SG-1 found themselves sitting on a transport back to Colorado - the result of a last minute change by the commander of the flight line. The noise level was just high enough to make conversation a challenge. And, sitting as they were - lined up against the bulkhead, staring at the huge crates that filled the center of the plane - was even less conducive to talking.
Good thing we have books, Jack thought, glancing down the line, to see all of his kids reading. With a pained sigh…because he'd had a dozen great topics all lined up for discussion, he opened his own book. Missed the grins that were tossed in his direction.
The flight to Peterson was long, but not completely boring, if judged by the expressions on the faces of the passengers as they lost themselves in the contents of the books in their hands.
The plane had just touched down when Casey cocked her head sideways. The whisper was very faint, but it was there. She wasn't sensing anything urgent. A feeling of dread washed over her, was gone almost before she'd been able to register the emotion.
Sam was the first to notice. "Incoming," she intoned quietly.
Daniel jerked slightly, reached for his Wife. "Deep breaths, Angel," he whispered, wrapping his arms around her.
Green eyes locked with blue. Casey shook her head. "It's not much of a download. Just a couple of weird images, and…" She paused. "It's not bad…well, not horrible. Annoying. Definitely annoying."
"That means snakes involved," Jack said.
"What are the images, Casey?" Daniel asked.
"Oh…um…well, a really old temple. But…we're not there. Not sure who is. I can't make out that part. But...you'll be the one to decipher whatever is found there. Looks like clay tablets," Casey replied.
"Sorta goes without saying, Radar," Jack pointed out. "Daniel does most of the translation work in the mountain."
"Not all of it," Casey said absently. "And he isn't working in his lab, or his office. I can't make out where he is. And I don't see any of us nearby at all."
"Maybe I'm going out with another team?" Daniel suggested. That had certainly happened often enough. There had been at least a dozen times when one team or another would contact the SGC regarding what they'd discovered, requesting his presence to interpret or translate those findings.
"How soon?" Jack asked.
"Hmm? Oh…not immediately. A couple of weeks. Maybe a bit longer."
"I can live with that. You'll probably get more the closer we get," Jack sighed. He had every intention of marrying Sam as soon as possible, and he wanted a few days to get away for some semblance of a honeymoon.
Casey continued to frown. There was a warning in what she'd seen. She was certain of it. If she could just figure out what that warning was…
A A A A A A
The planet was tropical; the warm air was filled with the spicy scent of flowers and the chatter of various creatures who dwelt in the jungle that surrounded the ruins. Tree limbs near the clearing where the old temple was located dipped and shook as critters of various sizes scampered back and forth, complaining about the intruders.
A tall man, with black hair and eyes as dark as onyx, strode purposefully toward the fallen stones of what had once been a large temple. The condition of the edifice, dedicated to an unknown and apparently very ancient god, left him wondering if the temples built to worship him on other planets had also fallen into such decay. Anger stirred in his breast at that thought; his eyes began to glow with golden light as he contemplated the reason for the abandonment of his temples. Apophis had trapped him, locking him in his sarcophagus, and burying it within one of the most ancient of his cities. Centuries had passed, until an earthquake had seen the huge stones that buried him falling away.
Simple farmers had located his crypt, and had opened his sarcophagus. Freeing him at last…to a world, to a galaxy very different than what he'd left. The vast city that had been standing when he'd been captured was nothing but a mass of fallen stone. No one, he'd learned, even remembered the city, or the god to whom it had been dedicated. His temper had flared at that fact, although he'd been quick to hide the emotion. Wary of being captured again, he had lived quietly in the small village of farmers. Eventually, using the Goa'uld technology left to him - his ribbon device and the healing device - he took control of the village, playing the part of a benevolent god. He recalled all too well the slave rebellion on the First World. Without a Jaffa army, he couldn't risk death at the hands of the simple slaves who surrounded him.
Slowly, with the aid of his communication orb, he'd been able to locate spies willing to work for him. He gathered information on the Goa'uld Empire as quickly as possible. What he had learned had kept him in hiding for nearly two years.
Apophis, his enemy, was dead. The news had been met with mixed feelings - delight that the arrogant bastard no longer lived; disappointment that death had not come from his hand. He had been stunned to learn of the others who had been killed as well: Ra. Cronus. Sokar. Anubis. Hathor. Seth. Tem. The latter three…abandoned on the First World, according to his spies…had returned from the dead just as he had, and recently, according to his sources. They hadn't, he had learned, remained among the living for long. They, as the others, had been killed by the Tau'ri of the First World. Slaves who now traveled through the Chappa'ai as if they were gods themselves. Mehen, once a servant of Ra, had taken a host from among those Tau'ri, and had disappeared. Probably shaking in fear that he would be killed next.
His spies also indicated that Ba'al was the most powerful System Lord in the Empire; although there were conflicting reports as to whether Ba'al was still alive after an attack by an alliance of Goa'uld, led by Lord Yu. Given what he'd learned - the number of times Ba'al had been declared dead, or defeated at least, only to return all the stronger - gave him pause. He wasn't going to write off this particular Goa'uld just yet. Not until there was absolute proof of Ba'al's death.
The most worrisome thing he had been told was that Zeus and Ares, whom Ra had banned to a far galaxy, had returned. Ares it seemed, had fallen prey to the Tau'ri slaves. Zeus, however, was still alive. And was, no doubt, very dangerous. If two of the House of Zeus had returned, it was a safe bet that others would follow.
In light of the circumstances, and what he'd been able to discover, it seemed that discretion was necessary if he was going to rebuild his own resources. Like others before him, dreams of once again conquering the First World filled his thoughts, occupied his time. To do that, he needed an army of Jaffa. And a mighty fleet of ships.
At the moment, he had little in the way of either…what few Jaffa now served him had been conscripted from the ranks of minor Goa'uld, half a dozen of whom had fallen to his blade. The majority of the Jaffa had been in service to Ares…left alone on a small planet with a handful of slaves to construct a temple and palace. Work that continued…only now the walls of those buildings would be covered with his praises.
It had been during his most recent travels to rebuild his armies and his fleet that he had discovered a mystery older than he. A single gold bracelet, reminiscent of those he'd worn on his arms as a god of his beloved Mayan people. Inside was an inscription. He recognized the symbols as the writing of the Ancients. He could not, however, decipher those symbols. One of the spies who had reported to Ares…and now most readily reported to him…told him of a priest whose reputation for translating obscure dialects and discerning the meanings of strange carvings was known by many Goa'uld. Locating the old man, he'd taken the bracelet to him, hoping to find a clue to what the inscriptions meant. He'd learned that the bracelet was a part of map. It seemed he needed the mate to complete the map. To where, or what, the priest had been uncertain. But he had been just as convinced that the second bracelet would answer those questions.
Legends lingered concerning the devices and the weapons that the mighty Ancients had left behind. The Goa'uld had taken everything they'd found, adapting those discoveries to fit their own needs. But still, there were certainly other hidden treasures waiting to be unearthed. He had every intention of finding the other bracelet, and unlocking the mysteries…and the power…they undoubtedly controlled.
Convinced that he'd found evidence of a weapon, one controlled in some manner by the deceptively simple-looking jewelry, he'd declared the entire thing to be a clever hoax. The trader from whom he took the bracelet had given him three addresses for the Chappa'ai, one of which was the location where the bracelet had been found. He quietly began his search for the second bracelet. The first address had been to a small planet in the throes of an ice age. Careful investigation of ruins near the Chappa'ai had revealed nothing…scans from the single al'kesh he owned had been fruitless.
The second set of coordinates, according to the trader, had been where the bracelet now in his possession had been found. Hoping that whoever had found the first bracelet had merely missed finding the second, he had spent nearly two weeks examining the area himself. Searches there had wrought nothing as well.
This was the third and final planet associated with the bracelets. Or so he'd been told. Bronzed muscles rippled in the sunlight as he pushed stones out of his way, searching for any hiding places that might hold secret caches of gold or silver or gems, which his coffers sorely needed. And, if he were extremely lucky, the second bracelet itself.
The clanking of Jaffa armor around him reminded him that he was no longer alone…that he could assume the role of the god that he'd been for so many millennia. He straightened his back. Adjusted the robe…made from the skins of creatures similar to the alligators of the First World…on his shoulders. "Search the area. Anything that you find is to be brought immediately to me."
"Yes, My Lord," the leader of the squad of Jaffa replied. He turned to those around him and began to bark orders, effectively splitting the warriors into teams which could quickly search the ruins.
Tension filled the air when the Chappa'ai came to life. He stood to the side, prepared to do battle if whoever stepped through the circle was a foe. He would never admit the feeling of relief that washed over him when one of his spies stepped wearily down the steps, bowed low before him.
"My Lord Chaahk, I beg your forgiveness. I was unable to complete my mission. The planet you sent me to is under the control of the Tau'ri. The villagers there are loyal to those who brought an end to their servitude to Olokun. Twice I was nearly handed over to the Tau'ri, I barely escaped with my life."
Chaahk gave a snort of disgust. That none of the System Lords had stopped these Tau'ri was testament to how weak they had become. All that he had learned led him to believe that the Goa'uld who remained were little more than fools, clinging to whatever they held with tenacity, striking at each other like frightened children, rather than joining together to rid themselves of the enemies of the Empire. When the Ancient weapon was in his hands, he would unite the Goa'uld as never before, and teach the impudent Tau'ri a lesson they'd not quickly forget.
"As I made my way to you," the spy continued, "I was able to learn that Lord Kali has been making similar inquiries. She's asked specifically about gold bracelets with…peculiar…markings. She does not know that you possess one of them."
One large hand pushed dark tendrils of hair from his face. "How convenient," Chaahk murmured. "Go…follow her. What she knows, I wish to know."
"Yes, My Lord." The spy turned toward the DHD, prepared to dial to the planet he knew to be frequented by System Lords.
"Do not allow her to learn of your…interest."
"I will not, My Lord."
A feral smile crossed the Goa'uld's handsome, arrogant face. While the spy's failure had meant he'd have no access to a planet rich with naquadah, the informant had learned of something far more critical to his immediate plans. It was always so much easier to let someone else do the work, then sweep in and reap the rewards…
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