Author's Note: I began this series well before Jack's promotion to general in the show. I've tried as hard as possible to keep the stories from becoming AU, but sometimes events occur in the show that I didn't expect. When this happens I make some attempt to drag my General Jack series kicking and screaming back to canon. Please forgive the differences.
Strange Days Indeed
It was the shot that changed everything.
Changed our little secret world.
Changed how we acted, how we thought.
Changed the way that others saw me.
Changed how I saw myself.
It changed everything.
I heard it as I walked towards the control room and arrived in time to find a controlled chaos. The General was slumped over the control panel, Davis bending over him frantically trying to stem the blood. Two extremely angry SFs were holding Lieutenant Connelly, a pistol lying on the floor in front of him. It didn't take a genius to see what had happened.
Now they all looked to me to pick up the pieces and make it all right again.
Looking at the General, I didn't think that I could.
The adrenaline kicked in about then. Hammond was stabilised and then taken by helicopter to the Academy Hospital with the Doc following him every step of the way. The Lieutenant was put into a holding cell, a guard watching his every move and I was picking up the red phone and talking to the President of the United States of America.
"How is he, Doc?" Janet had just come out of the General's ICU room. From the glimpse that I got of him before the door shut, it wasn't looking good. I had had enough personal experience of situations like this to recognise the signs.
"It's too soon to tell, Colonel" Janet looked tired, as well she might. She had been with the General since he had been brought in hours ago. "His injuries are serious - the bullet hit him square in the chest. He's lucky to be alive."
I remembered the scene - the blood obscenely staining his normally pristine shirt. It had taken all my military discipline to stop myself from shooting Lieutenant Connelly where he stood.
"Keep me apprised, Janet." As I turned to go, I could see the surprise in her eyes. She had expected me to stay at the hospital, sit with the General's family until we knew that he was out of danger, but I couldn't.
It wasn't that I didn't want to.
But I couldn't.
Washington was my next stop - called in for a personal meeting with General Ryan. There was a car waiting for me when I touched down and I was whisked straight off.
I should have seen it coming, but I didn't.
"Sit down, Colonel."
I'd met General Ryan several times previously, but he had never looked at me in quite this way before.
But like a good little soldier, I thanked him and sat. There was a brief silence. His gaze was still on me.
Now don't get me wrong, I respect the General. Hell, I even like him. But he was the top of the Top Brass and I had spent several years keeping as far away from that little clique as possible.
"I've just spoken to General Hammond's doctor, Colonel." He must have seen the look in my eyes, because he continued quickly. "His condition has stabilised and he is out of danger for the moment, but he is still a very sick man and will be for some time." He paused once more. "What happened, Jack?"
Jack? That was unexpected.
"One of our new recruits was responsible, Sir. From our preliminary investigations and statements that he has made, it seems that he has developed an almost pathological fear of aliens. He saw the General as helping to hand our planet over to them. We have had him transferred to a secure psychiatric facility." I thought back to the ranting lunatic that had replaced the placid Lieutenant Connelly and inwardly mourned for the needless loss of a promising young man.
The General shook his head. I knew that his thoughts were running along the same lines as mine.
"I've spoken to the President and we've decided that we need a more senior rank than colonel in charge of the SGC. Especially as it looks like George won't be back for some time." I could almost hear the unspoken "if at all" following his words. 'We will have to appoint someone immediately."
I won't disguise the fact that I was a bit disappointed by this. I had hoped for some time to get the Base back up to speed, to something resembling its normal efficiency after the shock of what had happened.
You see - I still couldn't see the wood for the trees.
That was when General Ryan dropped his bombshell.
"You are therefore promoted to general, effective immediately. Congratulations, Jack." And he leaned forward and held out his hand. I took it instinctively, feeling the firm grip as he shook it. "I just wish that it could have been under more pleasant circumstances."
Crap. Double crap.
If I could have taken a photo of that moment, I could have sold it for a fortune in every Airforce base in the country. The General sat with his mouth open, looking extremely un-Top Brassy.
I took a rapid mental step back and regrouped.
Not one of my finest moments.
I watched the General shut his mouth and, with an obvious effort, shut his eyes and take a deep breath. I could almost hear him counting to ten - slowly. Very slowly.
This wasn't looking good.
"I have the papers here. Signed by the President himself. We didn't take this decision without due thought." General Ryan looked me straight in the eye.
I couldn't help it.
"There are other considerations here, Jack." We were getting really friendly here. "Commander Thor."
Ah ha! The little light bulb above my head finally lit up.
And I smiled.
I let the General carry on telling me about how I was the only one that the Asgards trusted. And the Nox.
And I smiled.
He finally stopped talking.
It was my turn.
"I'll do it on one condition, General." It was his turn to take a mental step back. I had to handle this with kid gloves. It doesn't do to antagonise your boss. But I had him and he knew it.
He gave a rueful smile. "I think that I know what it is, Jack."
He did, did he? Let's see if he was right.
"I don't want to lead from the back, Sir. I want to stay in the front line. And that means off world missions. I don't want to be stuck behind a desk"
He was nodding. Damn - he had known. He had known right from the minute that I stepped into the office.
This man was dangerous.
"Agreed, Jack. Within reason of course. We can't have the Commander of the SGC off world when the President calls, now can we?"
"Interim Commander, General. It's just until General Hammond gets back."
This time it was me looking him straight in the eye.
He nodded. "Just until General Hammond gets back." And it was his turn to smile. "We've rewritten the history books with the Stargate program, Jack. I don't see why we can't rewrite the military ones as well."
I had the feeling that he was enjoying himself and I decided that I may as well go along for the ride.
The rest of the day in Washington was slightly less exciting.
I got to have a cosy chat with the President.
I kept smiling.
I got that nice shiny new star to replace the eagle. Pity - the bird looked a lot better. I had always liked it, somehow it suited the Airforce. Although, thinking about it, I suppose that a star was more appropriate for me, given my job description.
And Brigadier General Jack O'Neill stepped into his own personal car and was driven to his own personal plane and flown back to his own personal base.
I was still smiling.
On the way back to Colorado Springs I did a lot of thinking.
Things were going to have to change.
I would have to prove to everyone that I was the right person for the job and not just Thor's pet human.
I would have to drop the act.
It wasn't until after I got into the mountain that it started to register with people. I suppose that everyone just saw what they expected to see as I walked quickly through the corridor from the elevator and into General Hammond's office. I made a quick call to the hospital for an update on his condition. Janet wasn't able to tell me much more than I already knew - George was still critical but expected to improve. He wouldn't be awake for a while though. I asked the Doc to let me know when it looked like he was waking.
I had just hung up the phone when there was a knock on the door.
I knew who this was likely to be.
Yeap - Carter, Daniel and Teal'c. They couldn't wait to find out what had happened in Washington. Well Carter and Daniel couldn't wait. Teal'c could always wait.
I jumped in before they could start talking with a quick repeat of the Doc's report. Then I realised that they weren't even trying to talk. They were just staring.
"What's up, kids?"
I can do innocent when I try.
Daniel looked like he had seen a ghost.
Teal'c looked pleased.
And Carter looked worried.
"Congratulations, General O'Neill." Trust Teal'c to get straight to the heart of the matter.
"Thanks, Teal'c." I looked over at the other two. It made a nice change to see Daniel at a loss for words.
Then I realised what Carter was thinking. No more O'Neill on SG-1. O'Neill sitting behind a desk.
"Don't look so worried, Carter. It's only until Hammond gets back."
She didn't look relieved.
"Then what, Sir? With all due respect, General, they don't promote someone and then just take it back." You could see that she had had to force herself to call me General. She almost spat the word out.
Daniel was still just sitting there. Still not talking.
"No, Carter, they don't." I stood up and moved over to where she was standing. "General Ryan and I have come to an agreement. I'm still going to go on off world missions. You see, Thor.."
"Thor." Both Daniel and Carter were nodding in supposed comprehension.
I was beginning to get just a little annoyed. Didn't anyone think that I was promoted on my own merits? Was everyone going to assume that it was only because Commander Thor of the Asgard had insisted?
I didn't feel like smiling anymore.
That was when I went into full General mode.
I made an announcement to the Base, letting everyone know that I was in charge. I read through the paper work in Hammond's in tray. I made sure that I was aware of everything that he had been working on before the shooting.
Then I delegated. See - I was learning this Superior Officer stuff very quickly.
I also took a call from the President. Just expressing his confidence in my ability.
And one from General Ryan. Just wanting to check that everything was going okay.
This was getting old very quickly.
Enough was enough.
There was a debriefing for SG-3 scheduled in an hour. I took the time to read the initial MALP report. Prepare.
I walked into the briefing room and surveyed the assembled faces. Ferretti was grinning from ear to ear. I gave him a quick nod and took the General's seat at the head of the table. Without looking down at the papers placed at my elbow by my aide I began.
"How was PS5-9Y, Major? Any problems other than the obvious?" I directed my gaze at Captain Mallor, sitting slightly hunched over and sporting a vivid bruise on his chin.
I spotted the slightly startled expression that had crossed Lou's face when I had so easily given the correct planet designation, but he managed to school his features before I turned back to him.
"Just the usual, Sir. Some pissed off Jaffa looking for the same thing that we were - nacquada. We managed to watch them for several hours. It looks like they have found a deposit, but we couldn't be sure. They kept arguing amongst themselves, repeating the same thing over and over again, but we couldn't tell what the problem was. Then we were spotted and had to high tail it for the gate. That was when the Captain here got hurt."
I raised my eyebrow in enquiry at the Captain. Teal'c was rubbing off on me.
"Its nothing serious, Sir. Just a cracked rib and some bruises. Doctor Fraiser said that I will only need to be on light duties for a few days."
"Glad to hear that, Captain." I was using my best Concerned Senior Officer voice.
"I thought that we could get Teal'c or Daniel to tell us what the phrase meant, General, so I wrote it down as best I could." Lou was looking extremely pleased with himself whilst searching through a grubby looking notebook.
"What was it, Major?"
He looked up from the page for a moment, before reading out a short sentence in an atrocious accent.
I repeated it in perfect Goa'uld.
The silence was deafening.
"The phrase means - There is nothing here." I shook my head. "Looks like the Jaffa have done our work for us. Just to be on the safe side, we'll wait for a week or so until we are sure that they have left and send a team to confirm their findings"
"I didn't know that you spoke Goa'uld, Sir."
I fixed Ferretti with my firmest I'm In Charge stare. I was getting quite practised at them.
"We have been fighting the Goa'uld for over six years, Major. Didn't you think that I would want to understand what they were saying?"
He looked uncomfortable and moved slightly in his chair. I knew exactly what he was thinking. How do I get out of this one?
"No, General, of course not. Its just that you've never used the language before." Good recovery, Lou. Don't admit that you thought that I was too dumb to even think of learning it.
"There really hasn't been any point. SG-1 has two other members that are fluent in Goa'uld. It's not like I would need it in day to day conversation around the Base, now is it?"
"No, Sir." Ferretti sat up straighter in his seat. His face was expressionless, but I knew that this story would be around the SGC within minutes of the end of the meeting.
And so it began.
I had never really made a conscious decision to appear dumb.
Maybe dumb is too strong a word.
To appear more stupid than I was.
It just happened.
First there was Carter and her assumption that I didn't want her on my team because she was a woman. Therefore I was a stupid sexist soldier. Then when I had said that I didn't like scientists, they all assumed that it was because I didn't understand them and was intimidated by them.
That I was just a soldier, no more, no less.
It was so much easier to go along with the assumptions. My own unique sense of humor probably hadn't helped. Coming out with a smart comment was my way of throwing everyone off. Confuse them. Make them stop and blink.
It had saved my life on more than one occasion.
Then I realised that seeming stupid served another purpose. It made people think. I would give Carter or Daniel that look and I could almost see the cogs turning in their brains as they tried to explain things in simpler terms. Then they came up with explanations or solutions.
Hey - it had worked for so long. Don't knock it.
But now I had to change.
Several weeks went by relatively uneventfully. I had taken the hard decision to allow the other members of SG-1 off world without me. Carter joined SG-4 when they discovered a new piece of alien technology.
Alien technology - I wasn't going to touch that one. Literally.
Daniel got to travel to a planet far far away with SG-3 and play in the dirt with little brushes. He was in heaven without me around to annoy him. I gave him permission to take all the time that he needed to investigate the remains of the ancient civilisation that Ferretti and his team had found.
I don't think that Ferretti appreciated it very much.
Teal'c joined various teams on their missions when they were a member short. When he was at the SGC he conducted training in Jaffa weaponry and fighting techniques.
Yes - my team was kept suitably busy.
It was a quiet time for us. Very few incidents off world. The Goa'uld were suspiciously absent from the equation. Maybe they were on their Summer Break.
I was getting bored.
The President called.
I was use to his calls by now. They usually came late in the evening, just as the Base was going on to night shift. They usually came just as I thought of leaving my office for the day.
Sometimes he just wanted to know how things were going. We got on quite well, Mr President and me. He liked my jokes.
Sometimes he actually had something to tell me.
This was one of those times.
The Chinese president wanted to meet the Commander of the SGC. He had been getting reports on our operation and was worried to hear about General Hammond. He wanted reassurance that Earth was in safe hands.
Even I wasn't sure about the answer to that one. After all - they were my hands.
And my hands could never be called safe.
We scheduled a trip to Washington to coincide with his visit to the US. Carter was coming to give a bit of a technical talk on Wormhole Technology. Teal'c was coming to wave the flag for the alien races. And probably because both presidents were curious.
Daniel wasn't invited.
Boy, was he pissed.
But really - what was the point?
He couldn't speak Chinese. It wasn't one of his twenty-three languages.
But it was one of my nine.
Know thy enemy.
Yeap - Russian, Chinese, Arabic, Goa'uld and a few more - all reflecting the conflict that I was engaged in at the time. I would tell you the others, but then I'd have to shoot you.
When I got back from impressing the Chinese I went to find Daniel. It didn't take a genius to know that he would be in his office. And, needless to say, the others were with him, Carter talking fifteen to the dozen. It sounded like her head was about to explode.
"I couldn't believe it, Daniel. At one point in my talk the Colonel interrupted and clarified something that I was saying. And the surprising thing was that," she paused and I could picture the look of incredulity on her face, "he was right."
Should I mention here that I was listening outside the open door? I'm not proud of the fact - wait - I am. Yet another one of my many hidden talents. Eavesdropping.
No one said anything for a while and I began to think that I would go in. Lucky that I didn't, because they started talking again.
"I wonder what else Jack has been hiding from us." Daniel's voice sounded a little, what's the word? Peeved? No that's not it. Sulky?
"I do not see why you are upset by the General's recent actions." Ah, Teal'c - the voice of reason. "He has always been an extremely capable warrior and now is showing himself to be an equally capable leader."
I would have to wait a little now. Just until I got the grin off my face.
"It's just unexpected, Teal'c."
Okay, it was about time that I showed myself. It wouldn't do to have a passing airman find his leader skulking outside an office obviously eavesdropping. Not good for the image.
I stepped around the door. "Hi, Guys. What's ya doing?"
I'll give Teal'c credit. He didn't jump. In fact he just raised an eyebrow as if to ask what had taken me so long to come in. The other two looked like kids caught with their hands in the candy jar.
"Major Carter was telling Daniel Jackson of our trip to Washington."
I could swear that Teal'c smiled slightly. For him it was the equivalent of a broad grin. He was enjoying himself.
So was I.
Carter blushed. Now that was something that I didn't get to see very often. Carter blushing.
Daniel looked up from his office chair. He obviously wanted to say something so I thought that I would make it easier for him.
"What's up, Daniel?" I asked him. "Cat got your tongue?" But I asked it in Russian. And it wasn't cat got your tongue exactly. It was more like "has a wolf eaten your underwear" I never said that I was fluent in Russian, I just have a wide knowledge of the finer things in the language - insults and the like.
"What other hidden talents do you have, Jack?" Daniel had that pissed look that seemed to be permanently fixed to his face lately.
"They were never hidden, Daniel. I just had no reason to use them, what with you geniuses around and all."
"I wasn't ever really fooled by the dumb act, Jack. I just don't see why you had to do it around us."
I just grinned. I admit that I probably looked like a cat that has found a bowl of cream, but I just couldn't help it.
"What other talents have you been hiding from us?" Daniel was starting to look annoyed. "Come on now. Answer the question."
"Well you knew about my degree, didn't you?" I was surprised by the look on Daniel's face. "What? You didn't? All these years working with the military and it never occurred to you that I had to have a Masters at least to get to the rank that I was." I turned to Carter. "Didn't you tell him?"
Was that a smile that threatened to break on her lips? Naughty, naughty little Major. She had been playing up the dumb Colonel act all these years. We exchanged a conspiratorial look.
"No, Sir. It never came up."
"A Masters! What in, Jack?" Daniel stood up and walked towards me, his hands gesturing wildly.
I knew that I had to tell him quickly. It was like pulling off a plaster - get it done as fast as possible and deal with the pain after.
"History, Daniel. It's in History. To be precise the Greek general Demetrius." And I watched as his mouth fell open. "You never asked, Daniel."
I have to say - it was one of my finest moments.
"I didn't know to ask, Jack!" Daniel said through gritted teeth. "Any other little surprises waiting for me, Jack?"
"Well, I do play a mean game of ice hockey."
General Hammond was recovering slowly. The first time that he was conscious enough to see the star on my shoulder, he just gave a quiet groan and went back to sleep.
I knew just how he felt.
By the time that he was able to hold a conversation with me, I found that I'd done the impossible - got use to being a general.
The occasional off world trip had kept me from feeling that I was losing touch with what I loved - the action and the unexpected. And I found that I was actually enjoying having my finger on the pulse of the Base. I knew everything that was going on.
I didn't tell George that though.
I complained bitterly.
I even whinged.
Acting was another one of my hidden talents.
I didn't want George not to come back. I just wanted to stay a general.
It was fun.