TITLE : The Centre of Lies
AUTHOR : KD3 aka KRISS DREMAK
STATUS : finished in four chapters
CATEGORY : ANGST/Crossover
WARNING : Rough language / torture
PAIRING : Jack and Janet!
SEASON : AU but probably before 5
RATING : PG13
(nc17 Separated for specific lists or archives
Nc-17 portion available on request)
SPOILERS : Broca Divide, Tangent; Need and A Matter of Time
Primal Yearnings (my original au for BD)
SUMMARY : A video tape arrives and threatens sanity
All inspired from the line:
"I've done the strapped to a bed drugged thing before."
ARCHIVED : Jackfic/Crossgate/JackFicNC17,SG1Darkfic,
WWOMB/SG1H/C Zone, Jack/Janet list
and any others who would like
FILE SIZE : 309kb in Word ( plain text available)
Dedication : To Brandon and Green Eyed Monster for their inspiration And Original Cyn for the beta, encouragement, and just taking the time out to bother to offer her services as a beta.
Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE. The characters mentioned in this story are the property of and Gekko Film Corp. The SG-1 together with the names, titles and back story are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp., Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This Fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment.
All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.
(c) 2004 KD³ Tales from the Gate Kristine "Kriss" Dremak 2004
Janet Fraiser pulled her shoulder length brownish red hair back into a soft ponytail at the nape of her neck and prepared for another day as CMO of Stargate command. Things could never be considered routine when you had to watch fine men and women walk into an active wormhole and wait for their return. How many had not come back, and how many had come back broken, bleeding and even dying. The biggest offender was the Second in Command of the SGC, Commanding officer of the flagship team, SG1, and the man who had recently become her lover, Colonel Jack O'Neill.
After the Broca Divide dark side light side virus incident, their subsequent kidnapping, the Colonel's re-infection by parties unknown, and their daring escape; they had grown closer and the inevitable happened. Jack had stopped by one night to talk, to see how Cassie, her recently adopted alien daughter, was doing, and one kiss of affection lead to a night of urgent lovemaking. To her surprise, Jack had professed a deep affection for her since the incident yet both were not ready to use the word love, loving or being in a state of love.
For now they would keep the relationship a close guarded secret. It would not do to let it seep over into their military world, save for an occasional wink or a gentle touch that appeared innocent enough. Their relationship needs were not to be hurried but were going to be given time to open slowly, now that the clumsy hurtle of sex had been jumped. With that out of the way, they could build a mutual friendship into love.
Janet walked into her infirmary to find her two best nurses staring at an exam table covered in file boxes, filed to the brim.
"What in the heck is all this?" She planted herself in front of a box and looked at the two nurses.
"The Pentagon released more information on the "Gate" from the experiments in the 40's. Most of this stuff is old medical records. For once there is no real inventory." Lt. Denise Kenny said looking at the manifest. "Four boxes, Dr. Jackson got five." She added as if that was going to make them feel lucky.
"Get an airman to do the inventory, then we can decide from the list what we need or find a place to conveniently lose this stuff." Janet crinkled her nose noting the smell of moldy paper.
"Ah, Dr. Fraiser, I think you may want to look at this right now." The voice was anxious and came from Lt. Nicole Tierney, who was holding up a rather recent looking file, which was wrapped around an older thicker file. Her eyes were wide as she handed it to Fraiser.
The file was not that old and was marked CLASSIFIED.
Medical File/ Psychiatric report
Subject: O'Neill, Jonathan J., Captain
The date was from the very early 1980's.
"Must be a mistake. Let me check it out. Who's off world?" She asked casually but a cold curdled feeling was staring in her guts.
"SG 3, 7, 9, and SG1 are due back today." Denise announced looking through the other box.
Janet already knew Jack was due back today. She had managed to be standing behind General Hammond when they had left. Jack had turned and given Hammond a tip of the ball cap and her wink before he had stepped through the event horizon.
"Fine," she was preoccupied now as she opened the file. "I'll be in my office. If any Goa'uld attacks, come get me." A large mug of coffee was poured, sweetened, and carried to her private office.
There was a note inside the folder and a DVD.
Original videotape degraded image transferred.
Well, there was one thing she could do. The TV/DVD/VCR combo in her office was turned on and the shiny disk was placed in the drawer. As it slid closed she began to read. There was the usual medical military preamble which provided physicians, facilities, and participants. Janet skimmed down to the main body of the report.
Subject: O'Neill, Jonathon, J. Captain Air Force, currently assigned to Special Operations was found unconscious and the victim of torture when he failed to report after a thirty day leave. His condition was serious. The tox screens had found traces of multiple psychotropic drugs and Dilaudid, synthetic heroin, in his system. It appears the Captain had been kidnapped and held for nearly the entirety of his leave by parties unknown.
The injuries to his wrists, ankles, and neck are similar to those made when under restraint. They are additional contusions and laceration consistent with both offense and defense wounds. It seems our good Captain did put up a struggle. Our main concern was the obvious head injury and resulting concussion.
Janet took a sip of coffee to try and ease the tightness that was beginning to strangle her. What the hell had happened to Jack? She continued on.
The Captain was unconscious for two days while he was treated for his wounds and internal injuries. Upon regaining consciousness, he could not remember, initially, what had transpired during those thirty days. As his recovery continued, the Captain began to regain his memory and was able to provide a detailed description of the building he was held in but not how he got there. He explained the last thing he had remembered was arriving at his off base apartment and was packing to visit his finance'. It was to have been a surprise visit. The Captain has no recollection of how he escaped.
All tests that were run on the Captain proved he was indeed telling the truth. He remembered being strapped down and repeatedly injected while he was told to admit to being someone else. He had no idea who
"Those people" were. He could not give them what they wanted. They had the wrong man.
This video tape was found on the Captain's person. The quality is bad but it does completely support his statements. The original video tape has been handed over to the Office of Special Investigation. Due to the Captain's position with Special Operation he was run through multiple psyche tests and evaluations before he was deemed to be recovered both physically and mentally.
The authorities were not called in due to the nature of the Captain's assignments and the delicacy of the matter. It would not due to embarrass the Air Force and it was determined that this case had just been an aberration and in no way was anything other than a case of mistaken identity. The heroic levels and the endurance of the Captain were impressive and he has been moved to a more select team. It is very apparent that all attempts of mind control were ineffective on the young man. O'Neill has recovered fully and has a rather flippant irreverent humor that is both genuine and perhaps a shield from pity and or concern which he finds a weakness to accept.
He is being placed on a list of young officers to watch for particularly hazardous missions. Captain O'Neill will either end up a dead hero or an old General with a chest full of medals.
The signature was of the evaluation medical officer, a Colonel J. Michael Brooks.
The rest of the materials were the medical chart and portions of interrogations ? the OSI officers. There was also a transcript marked as text for the tape. Janet felt anger boil up inside of her as she read the medical chart. Simple injuries and signs of torture, beatings, malnutrition, and dehydration for at least three weeks explained how Jack had gone through a warm up, a sick practice run for his four months of captivity in an Iraqi prisons during Desert Storm. And grimly explained why he frequently could say, when injured again, "had worse."
Her eyes burned with acid tears of outrage but she forced herself to
turn the DVD player on.
The film was black and white, the quality poor and taken from an angle where it was obvious that the camera was high on a wall. The room was concrete block constructions, the only furniture, a table with tape recorder and microphone, and a medical bed. The sole occupant an unconscious young man, striped to his waist secured at wrists, ankles, across his naked chest with thick leather straps. The marks of torture were already visible on a battered face and bruising on the rib cage that could only be from a brutal beating. He was awake and testing the restraints.
Janet felt her hands covering her mouth. There was no mistaking the prisoner to be anyone but Jack; young, maybe twenty years younger, but still Jack. One hand went to touch the screen.
A man in silhouette entered the room and sat down at the table his back to the camera but he was able to see the young man.
"Shall we start again, John?" The man asked in a soft European accent, one that seemed not easily defined. The voice was firm yet there was a gentle concern to it.
"My name is O'Neill, Jonathon J. Captain, United States Air Force. Service Number...."
"John, you are a 'Pretender'. You created this personality after you left the Centre. You were too young. You should not have been out on your own."
"Wrong, I graduated high school and enlisted. You stupid son of a bitch, I went to Minneapolis and enlisted." The man on the table spat back.
"We can keep this going forever, John. You know I can only hold off the others for a short time. Their methods are more destructive than mine. You only need to admit it, John, and we will take you back into the fold." The voice continued slowly with gentle persuasion.
"I'm a Captain in the Air Force. I don't know who you think I am." Jack's voice hissed. "You are so very wrong."
"John, please do not insult my intelligence with your training and I.Q. You are smarter than a handful of M I T students put together. Do not think you can fool us... "
"Smart? Have you got the wrong boy?" Jack actually laughed but it turned into a coughing jag, the pain clear from shattered ribs and bruised lungs.
The man stood up and reached into the pocket of his coat and moved to Jack's side. In the camera, there was a flash of silver. Then the right hand was held up. A syringe was seen, a finger tapped against the glass to clear the air bubbles and a short spurt.
Jack's body convulsed and Janet knew she was watching him being injected again.
"The combination of drugs is a special mix. Actually, you should know you helped to perfect this cocktail. Some psychotropic drugs with Dilaudid, synthetic heroin for the addiction, Sodium Amytal as the truth serum and, as you had said, a twist of LSD. The interesting thing when used in the right combinations, they cause the patient pain as long as the subject resists. John, I grow tired of this game and watching you suffer. Admit who you are and you can be taken care of again. No more pain."
"Screw you!" Jack half screamed as his body continued to spasm, his muffled gasps of pain vocalized in jagged gasps and muted sobs as he thrashed. Blood began to seep down his left wrist as he struggled.
Janet felt the hot tears crest her lower eyelids and cascade through thick lashes down her face. She quickly wiped them away with the knuckle of her right index finger. She had lost her professional attachment; there was no reason to get so worked up this all happened years ago.
The Klaxon went off and the alarm lights began to flash red. She was out of her office and into the infirmary.
"SG1 is back early, reports from the control room says they may have injuries." Denise looked up at Janet while she was preparing her emergency code equipment.
What color was left drained which left Janet's face nearly as white as her lab coat. She suppressed the urge run to the gate room. It was impossible to wait but fate was kind and SG1 trooped into her infirmary like children who had been caught playing with matches.
"Janet," Sam acknowledged walking in preparing for the post mission physical by letting herself be guided to an exam table. Teal'c entered next, bowed his head and frowned at the nurse. Daniel followed next and, as he arched his eyebrows looked over his shoulder. Jack was coming in last, holding his left arm up against his chest. The look on his face was resigned amusement hiding his pain.
"Jack fell." Daniel announced in a smug little boy way,as he jumped up onto the exam table.
"With me, now!" Janet pointed at the Colonel and then towards curtain number four. The tone of her voice that of an angry mother. She pushed Jack onto the table and pulled the curtain around them. With a firm but gentle hand, she took his left hand and helped him extend it out.
"Shoulder? Wrist? Elbow?" She asked trying not to make eye contact.
"Wrist." Jack commented looking at her, seeing the darkness in her face.
Janet began to palpitate the wrist gently. She gasped audibly. How had she missed it? At the dorsum of his wrist just above the joint there was a scar, thin and faded with the years but there, just where it would be from the video.
"Doc?" Jack asked in a whisper as he felt her fingertips as they tracked over the scar. He had to prepare a lie. He'd blame it on Iraq, that was in his file, and it was something he could admit to.
Janet looked up at him another tear in her milk chocolate eyes. "X-ray, but I think it's just a strain." Her words were clipped as she tried to conceal her irritation in front of the assembled but her eyes bore into Jack, questioning him. He'd seen that face before when she searched his after he'd been infected and told her to experiment on him.
"My office, please, after ...." She walked away, searching for one of her nurses, each step she regained her control. "Take him to x-ray, splint it, or wrap it. Whatever is necessary. I'll be in my office. Get Warner to finish the exams. "
"What was all that about?" Sam wondered out loud, following Janet as she stalked out of the infirmary and into the corridor. The sound of her heels tapping out in an angry staccato.
Jack followed the nurse to x-ray feeling a black shadow from his past looming over his shoulder and the one glimmer of light in his life dimming with Janet's unexplained ire.
Janet returned to her office. As much as she did not want to continue watching the disc she had to find out more. She pressed play on the remote.
"John, the drugs are coming to their full effect on you. The sodium Amytal will make you answer. You need only relax. Remember all the time you have spent at the Centre, how we raised you, provided you with all that you needed to stimulate your intelligence. Because of you, there have been more chosen. Yes, more boys; a special few who are as talented as you, perhaps even smarter. "
"Don't know what you are talking about O'Neill Jonathan, J. Captain, born in Chicago, raised in Minnesota...." Jack's voice trailed off slurred with the narcotics. He no longer struggled against the restraints. Blood dripped off the table from his left wrist.
Janet was riveted to the screen. The picture changed and Jack was being dragged back into the room. His hands were bound in front of him with thick leather straps and his face was covered in blood. He collapsed in a corner.
"John, see what you have let them do to you? It has been fifteen days now, John." The man in the shadows continued. "You need the injection. I can make the pain go away."
"It's Jack, you rat bastard." Jack somehow managed to say through his busted swollen lips. Suddenly he clutched at his stomach and began to heave. The contents seem only to be blood and bile. "Jack O'Neill, Captain..." Jack began to shiver, he was going through withdrawal.
"John, tell me how you escaped? How did you get to Minnesota?"
"Stork brought me.... Mom did Dad; you know, dated, did it in the back seat and had to get married, crazy kids..." Spasms and another round of vomiting curtailed Jack's attempt at sarcasm.
"Withhold the drugs." A new voice stated gruffly.
"John, they want me to not give you the drugs that will make you feel better. Why are you doing this to yourself? Don't you remember all of our conversations? The scenarios we ran? The problems you were able to solve?"
"Fuck you." It was a low deadly threat from brown eyes that suddenly glowed with black hate directed with lucid concentration.
"Enough for now, John, I will be back I will leave you with your thoughts." The inquisitor walked out of frame.
The scene faded and started again with Jack now strapped to the medical table again. There was a struggle to breath; the drugs were causing respiratory complications.
"Hey, Janet, is that Jack?" It was Daniel. She hadn't heard him come into her office. She shut the video down.
"No, Daniel, are you alright?" Janet did her best to distract him. "Good, good. I'm glad. Is there something I can do for you?"
"No, just wanted to let you know that Jack only has a strained wrist. He's giving Denise all kind of hell. She's threatening to choke him with an elastic bandage: you know the usual." Daniel was trying to look at the file on her desk.
"Okay, fine. I have some work, Daniel; if you don't mind." Janet had him by the elbow and was leading him to the door.
"Are you sure that wasn't Jack on what, what you are watching. What is it you are watching?" Daniel was not about to let it go.
"Old training films," Janet had him over the threshold and into the hallway. She closed the door once he was clear of it.
A moment later, there was a knock on her door. Janet rose from behind her desk ready to give Daniel a size six suppository only to throw open the door and find Jack. His head was tilted to one side looking down from his six feet two to her five foot five, in pumps. His left wrist wrapped, apparently with duct tape, was now resting in a sling.
"Doc?" He asked taking a step inside. "You needed to see me?"
There were tears threatening like a storm in her jasper eyes. She leaned around him and locked her office door. Her defiance burned into him.
"Explain this?" Without looking back at the monitor she pulled the remote from her pocket and hit the play button.
The screen blossomed into black and white as Jack looked away from Janet's angry face to view the picture. The voice he heard first, the room next and then an image that he had never seen before, but had starred in. A trickle of sweat ran down his back and his stomach tightened for a second before he gained control.
"John, tell me why you left? Just admit it and I will give you the injection."
"No, Jack, not John, wrong person." He was balled up hugging his midsection. Defiance still in his voice as he lay on the concrete floor in his spoiled clothes, the physical withdrawal had peaked in all of the textbook possibilities.
"Please, John, I know better. I raised you. You can become anyone, anything you want. WE taught you how; you have the intelligence and the knowledge. John, you are a Pretender, but do not pretend with me."
"No, wrong person, I'm Jack O'Neill, two l's."
Jack watched himself, battered and addicted, look up from the corner of a room that had been his prison for thirty days. This looked to be about day twenty. The need for the drug was winning; the other drugs were causing psychotic visions. They were going to stop feeding him the next day. Starvation, addiction, and torture lying in his own vomit, excrement, and blood; it all came back to him.
"It was a long time ago." Jack whispered his eyelids at half-mast as he was overcome with the memories of the stampede of savageries he had endured. There on the tape and then in Iraq and most recently on Ne'tu. Sokar's little cocktail had been nothing compared to what he had endured on the tape.
"This wasn't in your medical file. I thought, I mean Iraq... was ... the only time..." Janet was stammering, "You were so young." Tears were starting she was helpless to contain.
"I got old fast." Jack turned away and reached down and took the remote out of Janet's hand. She broke and plowed into his arms. Janet sobbed openly.
"I can't stand to see you hurt." Janet pulled away and looked at him her lips quivering in anger and anguish.
Jack took her face in his right hand. Janet rested her cheek into his palm.
"Honey, it was a long time ago." Jack whispered into her hair pulling her back into the safety of his arm. In truth, it was not him comforting her but him taking comfort in her, knowing how much she cared, to know that his soul was worthy of someone caring this much, to shed tears over him.
"A long time ago." He picked up her face with a fingertip so he could kiss her tear-moistened lips. "I'm okay." He whispered on her lips. Her still trembling lips opened for him. Her tongue sought out his hungrily, the need to be assured in physical passion, to be reassured with a kiss.
The kiss ended and Jack held Janet against him swaying slightly to calm her, to reassure himself. His eyes looked into the face of the inquisitor who was, now for the first time, staring up at him from twenty years in the past.
"How did you get this tape?" He had to know as he carefully extracted himself from her arms. Jack moved to have his back to her so Janet would not see the uncontrolled rage that contorted his face.
"It came with several boxes of files the Pentagon just released to us. Colonel, what?" Janet didn't really know what to ask him.
The Colonel was the cold slap Jack needed. He embraced it; he slipped back into it, the military mind, and all business modes. "Has anyone else seen this? You're going to have to show it to Hammond, aren't you?" The tone was lifeless, concrete plain.
"As your doctor, I could withhold it."
"As the Chief Medical Officer of the SGC, you can't." Jack finished for her as he nodded his head in understanding. He felt her small yet strong hand on his arm turning him around.
"I know, I know." Jack took her face again in his good hand. "Show him and let me know what he decides. I've got a mission report to do... looks like I get to dictate it." He waggled the fingers, painfully, of his left wrist.
"Ice it. Take the pain... "Janet froze, now she knew why Jack hated d
Jack knew she understood what she didn't know was the video, if it was on the disk, only got worse from here. The hallucinations, the medical intervention when they couldn't wake him up, he could remember the feel of the leather straps on his wrists and seeing John die on the mission in East Germany over and over again. And then there had been the detox time, and the first time he was written up in medical journal, and put on display as the one whom....
"Go home, Doctor's orders." Janet interrupted his thought. "Ice it. The General will have to wait for his report." She reached up to steal a kiss. "I'll stop by to check on you after my tour." Janet had collected herself inspired by Jack's suddenly pulling back into military mode; however, the second kiss with his tongue exploring her mouth was not.
Jack hated to break the embrace, but his mind was already moves ahead of everyone. His mind was everywhere taking in all possible scenarios, preparing his answers over and over again like till he could field dress them with as much ease as his P-90. As prepared as he thought he could make himself he had to get out. The walls, the tons of mountain over him suddenly too claustrophobic; cement walls closing in on him again, and again, Jack didn't bother to change but slipped his .9mm in his waistband and signed out.
Daniel and Sam sipped coffee in the conference room Teal'c and General Hammond as they finished what seemed to be a very animated conversation.
"Dr. Fraiser has sent the Colonel home for the rest of the day. How did he injure himself?" Hammond asked sitting down.
Janet arrived as the debriefing was ending and before Daniel could answer the question. She carried the file and the disk with her. Hammond knew immediately that the petite doctor was about to present him with something grave.
"Dismissed." Hammond announced and motioned for Janet to follow him into his office. She closed the door after herself.
"Doctor?" He steeled himself for what was coming next. Janet sat down and handed him the file as she did.
"What is it?"
"It came from the Pentagon, I think by accident, with other medical reports. It's," Janet paused for effect," It's another missing piece of the O'Neill puzzle. He was not happy to see this, sir. It's not in any of his medical files."
Hammond opened the file and read the summary, looking up at Janet occasionally. The DVD lasted nearly two hours. Hammond was white with the horror of it, yet his face was expressionless, which if others knew him, this was more of a tell.
"The Colonel said it was your decision as to what to do with it from here." Janet had forced herself into being medically objective while she endured a second watching.
Hammond took the file and disk and placed them in the hidden safe in the credenza behind his back. "It won't see the light of day again unless the Colonel wants it to. Is that alright with you, Doctor?"
Her answer was a smile. Hammond had no idea on how many levels she was grateful.
Jack turned the key in the lock of his front door. The moment he let it open, he sensed something amiss. The .9mm was taken out of the waistband and the safety silently slipped off. He slid the door open soundlessly and cleared the hallway, the pistol extended out and finger just outside of the trigger guard. He stepped down into his living room. Jack turned to see a tall young man, mid thirties black hair step from his kitchen.
"Did the file and tape arrive?" The stranger asked, his hands rose in the air.
"How did you arrange that?" Jack snapped. "You NID or what?"
"What's the NID? And you should know how easy it is, you perfected that little tactic didn't you, John?"
"It's Jack. Don't you people ever learn?" Jack snorted disgustedly.
"What people, John? From the Centre? Or those of us who got out because of you?" The stranger continued.
"It was you; you're the one who set me loose, back then." Jack recognized the boy in the man.
"My name is Jarod." The youth spoke softly in a calming way.
"Nice to meet ya, again. How the hell did you get into my house?" Jack took a step forward; he was not to be placated.
Jarod took another step forward and his hand picked up a stack of red notebooks from the dining room table. "We have to talk, John. The Centre has new friends, maybe this NID you are talking about. They are going through all the old files. "
Jack let the hammer down slowly and walked to his patio window. He looked out at his back yard and just enjoyed it, his home, and his world.
"It's been almost three decades. Why now?" He whispered, but in the silence of the room Jarod could easily hear it.
"Because, you were their first, their best, the brightest; the model for the rest of us." Jarod put a hand on Jack's shoulder and looked out the window with him. "Nice yard, home." There was a wisp of sadness Jarod's voice, a longing for roots.
"I should have killed Raines and Parker when I had a chance before they killed Catherine." Jack set the .9mm down. "Crap." He muttered. "Damn you, Sydney." Jack cursed within the confines of his own mind.
A short time later, Jarod drank tea while Jack drank beer, several beers in fact. Jarod was methodically going over the selection of red folders, giving Jack a summary of each.
"These are just a few of the people that I have helped since I left the Centre. Sydney would never talk about you; he intimated that there had been another, the first one. I found out, I learned, studied, and remembered. Because of you, I have been able to save some people, only one at a time but...."
Jarod continued to prattle on but Jack was listening to his own thoughts. Saving one person at a time, or saving this world or some other world, what did it matter? How ironic; here he was an emotional cripple with crutches expected to push the wheelchairs.
All he wanted was a day, one day to be nothing else, no one else. Just a day, to be Jack, with no memories or secrets, just a day to languish between Janet's alabaster thighs, the woman he had allowed himself to fall in love with. Just that one day to make love to her, to pleasure her and receive pleasure all without consequences and with the most important factor, to be safe in her loving arms. Jack shook himself back to reality.
"What do you want with me? From me? What do I have to do?" The resignation in Jack's voice denser than lead.
"Nothing, I just wanted to meet you and tell you to be vigilant. You act like you don't remember any of it."
"I didn't till I saw the playback today. I remember now! Remind me to find some painful way to thank you for that." Jack finished his beer and went to retrieve another. Like a country western song, he was doing his damnedest to drown some memories and the lies he had just dished out.
"But I don't understand?" Jarod was genuinely confused.
"You're too smart to play the simple bastard with me. I drugged myself. It took me six months to get the right combination, and it worked for years. I finally believed I forgot for all those years until they found me that day. Do you know what they did to me? Things that weren't on the video, things not even those sick fucks in Iraq would have never considered doing to a child; I was all grown up, a man." Jack let the words issue forth in thick concentrated fury, He only stopped to try to sort out the memories. Iraq and the Centre were blending together.
"I've had enough Jarod, done enough. I 'm doing enough. John never existed. I can't let him live again, even for a second." Jack was clutching the beer bottle tightly, knowing that if he let it out of his grip, his hand would be shaking. No one could ever see that; no fears, no tears, no weakness, no emotions; he had mastered these arts at the Centre long before his commando training. Sara had been the only one to tap into the buried vein of humanity, then Charlie and now Janet.
"You can't forget?" Was it a statement, an accusation, or a question? Jarod was not sure that it wasn't all three. It was now that he could see the haunted pain in Jack's brown eyes, a pain that only another Pretender could see, could know, could recognize for Jarod had seen glimpses of it in his own reflection.
"You'll always have a sanctuary here with me. I'll get you keys and the code to the alarm," Jack finally looked at the young man, at Jarod. Yes, he knew the name and he remembered it all. His days at the Centre from when he was only six till his escape at sixteen and he remembered the boy, who was about Charlie's age, who had crawled into the room where he was held. Risking it all, the young boy had slipped him a Swiss Army knife and a copy of the surveillance tape. Jack had cut the restraints and a throat or two during his flight to freedom from the Centre again, but he had left Jarod behind. Jack had never forgiven himself for that. He pulled out the Swiss Army knife and set it down between them. It was a symbol of their liberation.
There was a prolonged silence. Jack reached out his one good hand to touch the red folders. Red folders and notebooks, flashes of memories and the soothing sound of Sydney's voice all tumbled back. He wanted to forget, had to forget again.
"How long are you in town and where are you staying?" Jack asked abruptly.
"A few days, but I subleased an apartment for two months. It throws them off the trail." Now it was Jarod who has a pissed yet anxious quality to his voice.
"Leave me the information. I need you to leave. . My team has a tendency to check up on my when I'm injured. I'll be in touch." Jack's smile was as much a wince too. Anytime now they could be pulling up in driveway. They did not need to meet his past. "Do you need anything?"
"No, not really." Jarod was standing up and heading for the door. Jack had risen also and was pulling out his wallet. He extracted a white and blue business card. He motioned towards the pen in Jarod's breast pocket. With it he wrote a number on the back of it.
"This phone number is a special number. It can reach me here, on my cell or at the base. There are only six people who have this number, five of them are here, and one is in a big white house in DC. Don't lose it, and only use it if you'll know you need to use it. Otherwise, use the regular cell number.
"Take care. Call me if you need to see me, or how can I reach you?"
Jarod pulled out a card and handed it Jack.
"Sweet," Jack laughed for the first time. The card read Jarod Anderson, PHD Professor of Middle Eastern Studies. "I'm doing a couple of lectures here at the Air Force Academy on the rise of terrorist activities since the 1970's. I have a beeper."
"Jarod, be careful." Jack had him at the door and opened it and looked around first before the young man was allowed to leave. "Car?"
"Parked two blocks away. I came through a couple of yards and streets to get here." Jarod reach out his hand to Jack. "Still an honor."
"Yeah, yeah, yada yada, take care of yourself " Jack was now in full dismissal mode. "I know what you are trying to do but I have my own way to do it. I'm the last person you need to use as a role model."
"On the contrary, Colonel O'Neill, you are the first, were the first." Jarod stepped out of the house and sauntered off whistling the Air Force theme.
Jack walked back into his dining room and picked up the folders with his good hand, he slipped the other arm out of the sling. The pain was ignored; he had worse this was only a minor annoyance. He took his beer into the living room and sat down the folders across his lap. The decision to read them had already been made. He opened the first one.
Two hours later he was through all the folders. Jarod was a very good Pretender. They had seasoned him well at the Centre. The idea that a boy was taken away from his family and raised in the cloister of the Centre, kept from normal interactions with children his own age and the love of a parent enraged and sickened him, and guilt swallowed him whole.
Once he had established himself, Jack realized that he should have gone back and made sure that they could never do to another as had been done to him. But he had taken the easy road, the road of denial in a concoction of drugs that made him forget the past. He remembered the whispering behind hands held to mouths about the poor boy that had to give him injections. Each one brought him closer to embracing only the identity he created, Jonathon Jarod O'Neill born in Chicago, raised in Minnesota.
The doorbell brought him out of his tortured memories. Knowing that it was probably one of his team, Jack stuck the folders in the hall table. Leaving them out or putting them away in front of his team would only entice Daniel to sneak covert peeks at them. He opened the door, startling Janet, but she gathered it back with one of her 100-watt smiles that filled up the space between them. Jack let it pour over him, it felt so good.
"Colonel, I see you're self medicating and not keeping the wrist elevated." The smile softened the reprimand.
"Caught me, come on in, Doc." Jack looked over her head and checked the perimeter for additional quests or spectators. He held the door as she stepped through.
"So how is the arm?" Janet asked as she stepped down into his living room. A glance up to the dinning room revealed a cup with a tea bag in it and two empty beers. Jack had had company, a twinge of jealousy twisted her stomach, but she denied it life. A large hand with long fingers touched her shoulder and encouraged her to turn around to face him. She did and found his mouth descending to hers. Jack's first kiss was slow and thoughtful. She wondered what Jack was up to as she crossed her legs trying to ignore the tingling that had started between her legs from his kisses but it only made it worse.
"What did Hammond say?" Jack's voice breaking the silence as he stepped into the room and sat down on the coffee table in front of her.
"He locked the file and disc in his private safe. He said that they'd never see the light of day unless you agree otherwise." Her brown eyes searched his face for a glimmer of the warm sexy man who had greeted her at the door. She found coldness and, for a brief flicker there was fear, but it dissolved with her answer.
"Jack do you want to ..." She stopped herself; Janet knew better Jack would only talk when he was ready to and that was usually never.
"Where's Cassie?" The abrupt topic change threw Janet.
"Spending the night with a friend."
"Then you don't have to rush off?"
There was an appeal for a positive answer in his near whispered question.
"No, I have the night free." Janet leaned forward; it was time to take the initiative, and she took his injured wrist in hers. Jack didn't wince as she checked the fingers for coldness; there was none, the circulation fine.
Jack's other hand came to side of her face. "Wrong, Doc. I think I have some plans for you." Behind his brown eyes smoldered passion and Janet could read it clearly as he took her by the hand and lead her up the stairs to his bedroom.
Jarod turned the key in the lock of his sublet apartment; in one arm he cradled a bag of groceries from the organic grocery store a block away. His mind was on the meeting. Meeting "John" or "John Doe #1 " as he was known in all the files, had not been all that he had expected; that was inaccurate - it was different than he had fantasized. John Doe #1 was a man, but to say just any man, average or normal, that was wrong. Using every trick he had learned at the Centre and those since his departure, he has still was only able to pull up the basic file on the man, the press release version from the Air Force.
Colonel Jonathan "Jack" O'Neill, Special Forces trained, first seeing action in the very last days of Viet Nam and his deployments included time in Desert Storm. His current assignment was with NORAD doing deep space radar telemetry research. So much of his career had been classified that there was barely more than a paragraph to read; however, there was a list of medals, citations and awards that were more than impressive - they were awe inspiring. It was obvious with his record that last thing he was doing was deep space radar telemetry research. There was also the brief mention of a marriage and family and the death of a child, a boy, Charles Richard O'Neill, "Charlie."
The darkness and ghosts in the brown eyes of John Doe #1 were not from the Centre. Although it had provided the haunted house, there had been other events that had conjured those specters. There was a blood blackness swirling in the chocolate eyes that spoke of extremes, abilities and emotions once unleashed or left to roam that even he Jarod could not pretend he could approximate or fathom. All of this held in check in the lean outer trappings of a simple soldier. He was inspired and frightened by the possibilities and determined to delve no deeper respectful of John's need to maintain the pretense of a life he had created.
"You know the little book store on the corner has much better coffee than that large chain. They grind it special for you and have some great blends." A friendly voice drifted over to Jarod as he got the key to open the lock.
Jarod had not noticed his neighbor, though he had observed him before. The thirty something man stood before his own front door dressed in tan Dockers, a black turtleneck, and a light jacket.
"Jackson, Daniel right?" He asked opening the door and stepping inside. "Please come in." Suddenly Jarod needed company after years of isolation. The need for companionship seemed to be a wound that would not heal.
"That would be nice, okay." The sandy haired man smiled and his blue eyes seemed to twinkle with honesty behind his glasses. "You here for long?"
"No, and it's Jarod Anderson, just subletting for a month or so. I am doing some lecturing at the College and the Academy. At least it's furnished. "Jarod liked the man already.
"Lecturing? Are you a professor of?" Daniel was now curious.
"Middle Eastern Studies. I'm doing series of lectures on the terrorism. Jarod began to unpack his groceries as Daniel looked around.
"Middle Eastern Studies, just modern or ancient?" Daniel looked at Jarod over his glasses before he scanned the apartment. The only thing different or out of place was a metal briefcase and a stack of newspaper clippings that were laid out on a desk with a red folder.
"Well, you need to know the history to understand how it affects the present. Any interest to you, Daniel?"
"Yes, actually, I'm an archeologist; Egyptology is one of my specialties." Daniel tried to make it sound like he was not bragging.
"So you are 'that' Dr. Daniel Jackson. I've read your work. Interesting theories. Are you here teaching or what?" Jarod was running mentally through all the material he had covered on this young professor.
"No, I am with NORAD, deep space radar telemetry, kind of a SETI thing. I'm also a linguist. It keeps a roof over my head." Daniel smiled secretly at his own lies.
Jarod had his back to Daniel at that moment. NORAD, deep space radar telemetry, an archeologist/linguist and John Doe #1, the Pretender of Pretenders and a highly decorated Special Ops operative, this was a mix that might bear looking into. Maybe, he would need to see Jack one more time.
"Does this little book store offer more than coffee?" Jarod turned on his charm.
"Well, they have some very nice organic sandwiches and dishes, health food stuff; I think it is to counter all the caffeine."
"Daniel, I really don't want to cook. Would you care to show me this book store? I would like to discuss some of your theories with you."
Daniel was charmed and it was not often he got to sit and drink too much coffee with a fellow academic, especially someone in his own field, sort of, close enough. There was also the idea of eating. He was not a gifted cook, and the MRE's they had eaten planet-side had not been very satisfying, the old taste like chicken, but it's really macaroni and cheese thing.
Jarod smiled a dark crooked smile, organic food, hot coffee and a subtle interrogation. This was going to be an interesting evening. He slipped a notebook into his inside jacket pocket before he closed the door.
Staring out the window looking at the gate, George Hammond was lost in thought. He turned his chair back to his desk and looked at the file in front of him. The images of the video playing back in his head.
"Damn it Jack." He mumbled and put the classified file back in his safe.
Jack lay asleep, peacefully, curled up in a half fetal position. Janet found she was able to extricate herself from the bed. She slipped on Jack's discarded shirt and made a quick trip to the bathroom. What she need now was a cigarette, filthy habit. She quit years ago, but on rare occasions she would have one. Once a smoker, always a smoker; just like an alcoholic - one drink too many, a hundred not enough. She might had quit smoking, but she was still a smoker. There was a stale pack of KOOL Milds in the bottom of her purse most of them crushed and broken, but she found there were a few still salvageable. The clock on the kitchen wall told her it was 0139 in the morning.
As she padded down the staircase to the dining room she bumped into the hall table. The drawer was slightly open and the corner of a red folder jutting out. Women are curious and Janet tried to just close the drawer but instead found herself opening. Four red notebooks, the handwriting not Jacks lay there waiting to be read. How could she even thing about invading his privacy like this? Janet knew how obsessive Jack was about his privacy. Intimacy did not always give one the combination to the safe. She took out the book of matches and forced herself to close the drawer properly.
Silently she opened the sliding glass door to his patio and lit the cigarette. Lost in her own thoughts she didn't hear him until he was behind her.
"I bring out all the bad habits in you, don't I?" Jack questioned, slipping one arm around her waist and taking the cigarette from her other hand. Instead of tossing it out, he took a deep drag. "Damn! Menthol," he gasped but took a second drag and blew out smoke rings. Both were ex-smokers who fell from the tobacco wagon occasionally.
"Jack, is that why you said before 'you've done the strapped down to a bed, drugged out thing'?" Janet took the smoke back from him and walked back towards his dinning room.
Janet knew she might have to drag the rest out of him. She headed to the kitchen for a drink. She already knew where the beer was but a shot of bourbon would be in better order. Sometimes intimacy granted the right to question. The bottle of Southern Comfort was there and she found two juice glasses.
Jack was dressed only in a pair of jeans, she knew with no boxers, sitting across his table in the moonlight waiting for her. The man was so astute he knew there was more than just a need for a cigarette involved in her nocturnal wanders.
She set a both glasses down in front of him and poured three fingers in each, neat, and waited.
"They had the wrong man, I don't know, didn't know who they were. The guy on the tape just kept at me in a soft kind of away, gentle and promising not to hurt me, scolding me like I was a little kid day after day. After about fifteen days, they decided that making me addicted to Dilaudid wasn't as efficient as they had thought. So they roughed me up, tenderized me so that I would have less resistant against the drugs. " Jack let the words just roll out. He cleansed his throat by empting the glass. He poured another one and offered the bottle to Janet.
"So now you know why I don't like needles." He gave her a bitter smile setting the filled glass down. He sat back in the chair arms crossed over his chest, his body language defiant.
"I had to ask. What they did to you..." Janet stammered and clutched her glass with both hands.
"Jan, I've had worse, well, that was the first time." Jack sipped on the bourbon relaxing, his arms wide and one leg folded across a knee.
"I had to ask." Janet's voice was tiny; it was not the doctor who spoke but the woman who cared.
"One more smoke and what say we get some sleep?" There was playfulness now.
Janet rose and sought out her purse. She brought the crumpled pack out from the depths of it and found another bent but not broken Jack lit it and pulled her down into his lap. Through the jeans she could that he was aroused.
"Sleep you say?" Came the giggle as draped her arms over his shoulders and now sat astride him.
His cell phone began to ring. It was next to his wallet on his table beside his bed.
The two looked at each other and sighed. His cell phone ringing this late at night only meant trouble. Both felt themselves slip into full alert mode. Jack mounted the stairs two at a time. Janet took them one at time but was only a second behind.
"O'Neill," He listened closely. "Daniel, what the hell are you saying?
You hurt? Hold on Danny." Jack snapped the phone shut. "Get your clothes on Daniels hurt." Jack reached into his bedside table and pulled out his .9mm and two extra clips. It didn't matter about appearance - one of their own was in trouble.
"My bag's in my car." Janet buttoned up her blouse and stepped into her pumps. Within five minutes they were in Jack's truck and backing out headed to Daniel's. Half way there Jack reached into his glove compartment and pulled out a .9mm and handed it to Janet. He didn't have to ask if she knew how to use it. He'd seen her in action before.
The drive was furious but not reckless. Jack was too experienced in both pursuit and evasive driving to be a danger to anyone. Besides it was after midnight and the city was settling down for the night. Jack gave her silent hand signals as they both crept up the three flights to Daniel's apartment. Finally reaching Daniel's door Jack tried it, found it ajar, and used his fingertips to push it fully open. Janet went low and he went high but only found Daniel collapsed on his side on the floor, his cell phone still clutched in his hand.
"Easy there, Daniel." Janet whispered soothingly as she checked the inert figure over. He'd been beaten, his right eye was swollen shut, his bottom lip was split, and he also had a large lump at the back of the head.
"Jack? Janet?" Daniel recognized the two semi- out- of- focus faces.
"Who did this to you, Daniel?" Jack's voice was harsh with urgency.
"Don't know, never saw their faces. My neighbor and I went out for coffee. They got him." Daniel was drifting. Janet pulled out her trusty pen light and checked his pupils. They were slightly sluggish.
"We've got to get him to the infirmary." Janet spoke over her shoulder to Jack who stood at the door as if on guard.
"They got him. Jarod." Daniel was persistent and agitated. "They said tell O'Neill, he'll understand and ...." Daniel pointed in the general direction of his living room.
Jack looked around and both he and Janet recognized what Daniel was pointing at a red folder on his coffee table. Clipped to it was a note in clear block printing.
"Time to come home, John."
Jack swallowed hard but it was his only outward reaction till he met Janet's gaze. She was looking at the red folders and back at him questions dancing in her brown eyes. His stomach turned to lead. Somehow Janet had grasped the importance of the folders, and she recognized the sentiment.
"We have to get him to the infirmary." Janet broke the glass of silence first.
Jack picked up the folder and helped Daniel up.
"I can do it. I can walk." Daniel grimaced and allowed Jack to help him out. Janet closed and locked the door. They took the elevator to the parking lot and laid Daniel in the back seat.
The red folder sat between the two of them in the front seat. Jack refused to make eye contact with her, but Janet knew she had just stumbled into one of Jack's secrets and she was not welcomed.
She'd watched them arrive; the silver haired man reeked of combat training, Special Forces, maybe, but more than a cop. Now they helped the sandy haired man out to the big green Ford truck, the guy that had been with Jarod at the coffee shop. From the looks of the man, he'd been worked over. She had arrived too late. Even in the dark, the red folder in the gray hair guy's hand was noticeable.
She was on her third cigarette and placed it between full deep red lipstick covered lips when her phone rang. She was following them outside of the city and up into the mountains.
"What!" She could hear Broots stammering in her ear. "Shut up." She snapped the phone closed and tossed it on the seat next to her. The green Ford truck continued on but had to stop, authorized personnel only. Before her, the road to Cheyenne Mountain and NORAD.
"What the hell is going on here?" She questioned watching the truck waved through the checkpoint.
From the seat next to her she could hear a voice repeating her name over and over again, "Ms. Parker."
She picked up the phone and held it to her ear. "For crying out loud, Broots, this had better be good." Miss Parker snapped venomously.
"I think they got Jarod." A very apologetic and scared male voice told her.
End Chapter one....