Author's Note: This is the final part of General Jack Year Three. I will be taking a short break to write a couple of other stories before seeing where Jack's fourth year takes him. Thanks for the many great reviews over the course of this series.
Uncertainty, Upheavals, and Bites
I hadn't realized how long it had been since I was last at the SGC until I stepped out of the wormhole and stood at the top of the ramp, looked out into the Gate Room, and saw so many unknown faces.
The weaponry pointed towards me could have taken out a small nation. I felt like putting my hands in the air and saying "I surrender" in a very loud voice. Garmr's growl was the only sound other than the nervous shuffling of several boot clad SF feet.
"Stand down!" Daniel came hurrying through the doors, yelling orders - orders which were immediately followed.
Much though I appreciated the easing of tension, I couldn't help raising an eyebrow as I looked up at the Control Room. Hank Landry was nowhere to be seen; in fact there was no senior officer in sight, only a very surprised looking sergeant and a couple of techs.
"Jack, I didn't expect to see you here."
"What, you're not getting your memos?" I saw doubt creep into his face and I smiled to myself, not bothering to tell him I had deliberately not announced my unscheduled return, wanting to keep it as low-key as possible.
There was a pause as if he expected me to explain my presence, but I just waited for a moment before moving towards the door. "Where's Hank?"
"He's in Washington."
We were out in the corridor and waiting for the elevator before the silence was broken again.
"So, how come you're back?"
I answered his question with one of my own. "Reynolds?"
He knew what I meant, shaking his head in reply. "Off duty."
"So who's in charge? Dixon?"
The door of the elevator opened as he gave me a slight smile. "No, I suppose I am." His expression became vague and he paused for a second before saying, "Or maybe Mitchell."
Now, don't get me wrong – I would trust Daniel with my life, in fact I frequently had, but no way was he qualified or remotely capable of running a military base. I didn't know what was going on, but I sure as hell didn't like it one little bit.
We all crowded into the car, Garmr pressing on my leg as he seemed to do all the time, and I pushed the button to take us to the infirmary level. I may have been away for a while, but I still remembered correct procedure. I had to be cleared before I could go off the base.
A loud sneeze reverberated in the confined space.
"Oh, I forgot." I kept my eyes front and center, staring straight at the door. "Daniel, meet Garmr."
Doctor Lam was as startled by my sudden appearance as the rest of the personnel we passed on the way to the infirmary. Or maybe it was the animal stalking along beside me. I had gotten so used to Garmr that I forgotten just how imposing he could be when you didn't know him.
Once her initial examination was completed and I was deemed to be no immediate threat to the security of Earth, she concentrated her attention on my knees, even going to the extent of taking numerous x-rays. She seemed to take genuine pleasure in my recovery and I found my irritation lifting as I answered questions about the crash and my subsequent recovery. It seemed the Asgard had been rather sparing in the details of my adventure with Thor, or at least as far as Doctor Lam knew.
She even attempted to examine Garmr, but although he allowed her to run a hand down his back that was as far as it went. For a few minutes it looked like she would insist on him being locked up for the duration of my visit, but when I pointed out that there was no way I would risk taking him off the Mountain she relented, agreeing to allow him to accompany me. I felt strangely relieved, given how much easier it would have been for me to leave him in a holding cell.
Daniel was waiting impatiently outside the curtain when I pulled it aside. "How about we go to the Briefing Room and you tell me what's been happening?"
"Hank back yet?" He shook his head. "Then let's not. I feel like a decent coffee. We can talk in the cafeteria"
"I thought you wanted decent coffee."
It was such a simple thing, but the joke brought me totally out of my foul mood with him and I laughed, finally glad to be back. By the time we found a table and my coffee was joined by a doughnut our conversation had reverted to its usual easy banter, so comfortable after years of serving in the same team, albeit interspersed with some fairly dramatic sneezes. We got past how pleased Daniel was to see me back on my feet without too much obvious emotion or manly hugs and I managed to avoid too many questions by telling him how Garmr and I hooked up.
"This is fascinating. You know, Garmr was the name of the beast that was tied at the entrance to Niflheimr, the land of the dead ruled by Hel."
I was too busy trying to fend off the massive paw that was trying to liberate my doughnut from its plate to do more than nod distractedly. "Yeah, I looked it up."
"You looked it up? When?"
"On Orilla. Stop that!"
I looked up to see what he was apologizing for, found nothing, and turned back in time to watch my plate slide off the table.
"Damn it! I told you to stop it." Bending down I grabbed at one side of the doughnut as Garmr took hold of the other. "That's mine, you stupid mutt."
I pulled, he pulled harder, and I began to topple forward, only just managing to stop myself from falling because the doughnut tore, leaving me with a handful of soggy mush.
It tasted so damned good that I was seriously eyeing the remaining half, still clenched in the werga's teeth, at least until he gave me an evil stare and growled.
"What?" This time when I looked up I kept a little more of my attention on the now happily munching creature, but I wanted to see what Daniel was reacting to.
"You ate it!"
I don't think I can remember a time when I'd seen him more obviously grossed out, except maybe the incident with the gray muddy sludge and the chieftain's toenails on that planet three or four years ago. He looked positively green.
"What?" Again I looked around, giving my fingers a quick lick as I did so. Didn't want any sugar left on them – Garmr would probably take my fingers off getting at it.
"You ate the doughnut. After he. . ." and he sneezed then pointed in what I considered an overly dramatic way at the now quietly sitting animal, "had it in his mouth."
I had, hadn't I. And I didn't think I was going to die of weird-ass alien monster germs.
"We were hungry . . . speaking of which, I need to get something a bit more substantial for Garmr to eat before he goes to find it himself." I looked pointedly over towards a nearby table of young Airmen. "And we wouldn't want that."
Garmr stood and stared directly at the group. All four of them pushed their chairs back and the one sitting closest stood and backed away.
Yeap – time to get the beast fed.
A perusal of the kitchen had Garmr slavering and the cook dancing around us like his pants were on fire. I really couldn't see what his problem was – six large steaks and a couple of trays of assorted pastries weren't going to even be missed. I warned him we'd be back in the evening and ordered, after a bit of thought, some rice pudding and a dozen hamburgers with the lot. I wanted to get Garmr used to as varied a diet as possible before we returned to Orilla. I didn't think the Asgard were big on meaty snacks.
"What did I tell you about behaving yourself? Were you listening at all?"
Garmr ignored me, his large tongue licking at a place I not only couldn't reach on my own body but sure as hell didn't want to lick. I was only glad we were in the privacy of a VIP suite and not out where he could embarrass me in public.
I had managed a short nap and a shower, and was now feeling much fresher, despite a still lingering weariness, but I was much more focused now. There were things I needed to do.
If Hank Landry wasn't available I needed to brief the most appropriate person about the Wraith situation, and that meant General Hammond. I also needed to get to my house and find some of the medication. A sense of urgency was growing in me, as if there was something pulling me back to the Ida Galaxy.
A loud whine and scratching at the door reminded me of another urgent matter. The SGC wasn't any more equipped with litter trays than the Asgard space ship – and that had ended particularly badly.
We were heading for the elevator when a blinding flash of inspiration hit me. Instead of pushing the button that would take us to level 11, I hit another and went down instead. Sure enough, Walter was where I expected him to be – in Landry's office shuffling through his out-tray.
His face, when I told him what I wanted, was priceless.
"Take him for a walk, sir?" I swear his legs were shaking. "But. . . "
"Not exactly a walk, Walter – he doesn't need to walk, if you know what I mean." I gave him a wink and he gave me a sick looking smile in return. "Just take him up top to where the guard dogs exercise and let him do his stuff. I have to make a few calls so I'll be here when you get back."
"What about a lead, sir? He doesn't have a lead. I could get one from Security and by that time you would probably be finished with the calls and could take him up yourself?"
Anyone would think he wasn't looking forward to the chance of getting out in the fresh air.
I shook my head. "No, I appreciate the gesture, Walter, but I may be a while. You head up and I'll join you if I finish before you're back."
"But how will I get him to go with me without a lead?"
I looked at Garmr, looked at the short man, and couldn't help smiling. "I don't think a lead would be of much use even if you did have one. Don't worry, I think he's as anxious to get outside as you are to stay indoors."
If wergas could cross their legs I swear Garmr would have been doing just that. I walked over to him and curled my fingers into his coat.
"Go with Walter, and try to, just this once, please be good, okay?"
He responded by shaking off my hand and drawing his paw down the office door, leaving a long deep scratch in its wake. As soon as Walter, with a last pleading look in my direction, opened the door, Garmr was off, heading straight for the elevators, the Master Sergeant hurrying to keep up with his long-legged stride.
I made sure the door was shut before sitting down in what was now Hank's chair to make the call. It seemed very odd to be sitting on this side of the desk and find nothing of mine on its surface. There weren't many personal touches except a couple of photos of people I didn't recognise and a desk set of pens and various associated bits and pieces that looked to be the sort of thing you got as a farewell gift when you left a previous command.
I called Hammond's direct line and listened to the dial tone, tapping one of the pens idly against the edge of desk as I waited for what seemed an extraordinarily long time, but was probably less than a minute.
It wasn't until George's Texas twang sounded down the line that I realized just how much I had missed him.
There was silence, then "Jack? Where are you?"
"In Landry's office."
This time there was no gap before he spoke. "What's wrong? What are you doing back so soon? Are you all right?"
Smiling at the concern showing in his voice, I reassured him. "I'm fine, sir. More than fine actually, if you catch my drift."
"Good as new. Better in fact. I think I'll have to retire myself as the official SGC rainfall predictor."
I could hear the grin coming down the line. "That's great, son. What about the other problem?"
I knew exactly what he meant and although would have liked to tell him what he wanted to hear, I couldn't lie. "That seems to be a bit harder. In fact that's one of the reasons I'm back so soon. I need to get a sample of the medication to take back with me for analysis."
"But they can do something?"
"Looks like it." I tried to sound a little more upbeat than I was feeling right now, but his next question showed something must have alerted him to the fact I wasn't exactly jumping for joy at being back.
"What's wrong, Jack?"
"You got my report on the incident on the way to Orilla?"
"They were Wraith. In the Ida Galaxy. How the hell is that possible."
"According to the Asgard they can't have been. The ship which attacked Commander Thor's vessel wasn't familiar to them and it appears they have been aware of the Wraith presence in the Pegasus Galaxy for many years prior to our arriving there."
"Yes, and that's another thing I don't . . ." I stopped myself, not wanting to get off track. "They were Wraith, sir. I saw them suck the life from someone just the way the reports from Atlantis describe."
"Not exactly, Jack. From what you said the victim didn't. . . "
What? Dry up and look like he'd aged a hundred years in a few seconds? I interrupted. "The result was the same. It was obvious they were feeding from him – taking his life force – call it what you will the result was the same – he died."
"But it wasn't the same. Plus the aliens you saw didn't look the same."
I was beginning to get seriously annoyed. "Okay, they had whiter hair and skin. Maybe they hadn't been out in the sun lately, maybe they were albino." I took a breath. "Look, George, I'm not saying they're identical to the Pegasus Wraith, just that they seemed related, and even a slight similarity is enough to seriously worry me. If they can get to Ida, what's to stop them coming to visit Earth's neighbourhood, especially given the contact the Wraith have had with our team in Atlantis already."
"The Asgard disagree. They say the aliens weren't Wraith and that they will investigate the incident fully – that there is no reason for Earth to be concerned." He raised his voice a little. "And we have to agree."
"Yes, Jack, we. A committee has gone over your report and sees no cause to investigate the issue further."
"A committee? Since when did committees make this sort of decision?"
I was sure I heard a sigh. "There's the funding issue, Jack. We can't afford to be wasting resources on wild goose chases, especially ones our allies are convinced are not important."
The knot in my stomach became even harder.
"George, what's going on?"
"Things have changed in the last few months, son. Questions have been raised by the International Committee about the US military's role in the program."
"Again? Sir, we've been through this before. . . "
"Not like this time." There was a finality in his voice that gave me more cause for concern than anything he had said previously. "And, Jack, they're questioning your suitability for the role of ambassador."
"Meaning keep your head down and get back to Orilla as quickly as possible. If they knew you were on Earth. . . "
"They've got no reason to relieve me of the post!" But the silence in reply was ominous. "Have they?"
Hammond lowered his voice as if leaning into the phone. "I'm sorry Jack, but they have seen Doctor Kasanji's report – all of it."
I froze, my mind spinning. "But. . . how. . .what. . . ."
"I received a call from the doctor. He'd been ordered to take all your medical records to Washington. He protested but couldn't do anything. They know everything – the flashbacks, the depression, everything. Only the fact you were already on your way to Orilla stopped them from recommending immediate medical retirement – it was decided that, seeing Thor had agreed to your appointment, it would cause too much embarrassment to recall you. How long have you been back?"
"Only about three hours."
"Good. It was lucky General Landry was called to Washington. Did the Duty Officer report your arrival?"
"That's another thing – I haven't seen hide nor hair of the DO. As far as I can work out Daniel's in charge."
There was another brief pause as if George was mulling over what I had just said. "Doctor Jackson has been given a lot more responsibility since you left the SGC, Jack."
It was what he didn't say that was significant. They were questioning the military presence again, and Daniel wasn't military. I didn't know who had thought of it – the Air Force or the International Committee, but having Daniel take a more hands-on role could be to either take some of the pressure off or be the first steps in another move to make the SGC a civilian run operation.
Hammond's words cut through my thoughts. "Jack, don't leave the base. Send someone you trust to get the pills from your house and get back through the Gate asap. If they know you're here they'll order you to Washington and have someone else sent back to Orilla in your place, probably with some story about you being unfit for the position."
And they wouldn't be too far wrong, would they? It was only Thor's intervention that had given me this chance. Then I realized – if I didn't get back I would never be rid of this illness and I'd spend the rest of my life relying on drugs to keep a tentative grip on some form of sanity.
"I understand. I'll be out of here within the hour."
"Son. . ." I found myself holding the receiver a little tighter as I listened. "I'm sorry. This isn't much of a welcome home."
Home. It suddenly didn't feel at all like home. Instead the SGC and Earth itself had become enemy territory – somewhere to flee.
George had told me to find someone I trusted to get the pills from my house, but who? Daniel would have been the obvious choice, but now I wasn't sure of anything any more. Teal'c was on Chulak and Carter was in Nevada. I couldn't even make the call I had intended to her, couldn't even exchange a few words without fear of someone reporting my presence. As it was, the fact I was back had more than likely already spread. I felt like a criminal on the run. I needed to get out of here.
"Hey, Jack, you got a minute? I wanted to go over this report you sent. . ."
An hour ago I would have jumped at the chance to discuss the Wraith with Daniel, but now. . .
I stood, hurrying him to the side of the room away from the now open door. He looked somewhat startled as I backed him against the far wall and spoke rapidly. "I need you to go to my house. . ."
"I can't. . ."
"You have to. You have to go get the packet of pills in the top drawer of my bedside cabinet and bring them back here as quickly as possible."
I didn't have a choice – there was no one else to ask. Plus, years of trust didn't just vanish overnight. He was still my friend.
He looked at me, holding the file in his hand as if about to open it. "But. . ." Then he lowered it. "Okay. Here, take this." Passing the papers to me, he turned and strode off, and as I watched I knew my momentary doubts had been unworthy of me.
The call to the phone was unexpected and I almost considered not taking it, hiding out instead until Daniel got back and I could leave, but I couldn't do it. Habit won out and I picked up the nearest receiver.
It was a request to come up top, to the guard dog enclosure.
What had that stupid creature done now?
What I found when I reached the fenced area at the rear of the parking lot was chaos. Several guards, their weapons drawn, were running towards the far end of the compound. The sound of snarling and barking was loud in the crisp mountain air.
"Sir! Here, sir!" I saw Walter beckoning to me frantically and I took off, as fast as I could manage, towards him.
I arrived just in time.
I was pleased to see I could still stop junior ranks with a word. The two SF's pointing their guns at Garmr pulled back, coming to attention, and looked at me as if not sure what to do next.
I could see why they had been willing to take such drastic action. Garmr was standing over one of the guard dogs, his teeth bared as he snarled down at the quivering animal beneath his feet. Another dog lay nearby, on his back with his belly exposed, whimpering.
At least there didn't seem to be any blood.
Except. . .
Garmr's coat was matted with blood, the liquid still running freely from a large wound in his side.
"Sir, it was the dogs. They attacked without warning." Walter looked as if he was about to cry. "We were just coming inside and they took me by surprise. There was nothing I could do."
"He's right, General. I tried to call Beau off, but he wouldn't obey. I don't understand it."
I spared the worried handler a glance, seeing the panic he was trying to hide as his dog cowered under Garmr's paws. The werga certainly looked menacing, with his strange eyes fixed on the dog's exposed neck.
I didn't have time for this and it certainly wasn't helping to keep my presence quiet. Moving nearer, and ignoring the warnings from the men around me, I grabbed Garmr by the back of the neck and yanked – hard.
"Get off him, you idiot."
He took a step back, releasing the guard dog, and leaned his weight against me, almost making me stagger – almost. I couldn't stagger around in front of the junior ranks so I pretended I meant to move, bending to run a hand along his side. It came back red. He was still snarling.
The dogs stayed on the ground, both belly up, and I wondered if they would ever recover from the embarrassment.
We had attracted a few more interested passer-bys, mainly other handlers. It was time to get out of here.
The handler who had spoken before looked up from where he was crouching over his dog. "Looks like, sir, but he won't get up."
We both turned to the other dog, and his handler shook his head as well. "I think they're too scared to until you take your . . ." He looked at Garmr doubtfully. ". . . dog away."
"Yeah." I couldn't help a feeling of pride that Garmr had so easily taken them both down without even inflicting a scratch on them – something I didn't think he would have had the restraint to do. I gestured to Walter. "Let's go."
The Master Sergeant spent the whole trip across the wide grassy area apologizing despite me telling him he had nothing to apologize for. From everything he said it was obvious the guard dogs had made the first move. I was more concerned about getting Garmr's injury looked at as quickly as possible.
This had been a hell of a day – looked like neither of us were welcome here.
Doctor Lam didn't even bat an eyelid when I asked her to treat the werga. She didn't hesitate, immediately asking me to get him up on an examination bed.
I patted the soft surface. "Get up here so the doc doesn't have to bend."
He hardly needed to jump. I was pleased for the doctor's sake that he had stopped snarling after the elevator had dropped a few floors and wasn't looking too menacing. Lam waited until he had settled on his uninjured side and then got to work, expertly cleaning and stitching the wound. Garmr didn't even flinch through the whole thing, lying completely still until she was done.
"Finished." She took off her gloves as she spoke, turning to dispose of them in the trash as she did so. "He should stay still for a while if possible, but I don't think the wound will be any problem."
"Thanks, Doc." I ran my hand along his side, up to his head, and gave him a rub behind the ears. He pushed his bony skull into my hand and, to my surprise, his tail gave a few thumps. "I'll wait with him, if that's okay?"
She nodded her agreement and moved away, leaving us with just Walter.
"Would you let Daniel know where I am, Walter?"
He took it as the dismissal it was. "Yes, sir. Can I get you a coffee or anything to eat while you're waiting?"
"No, I'm fine." I hopped up on the bed next to Garmr's and lay back. "I'll try and get a bit more rest."
He left us there.
I must have fallen asleep, but looking at my watch told me it had only been about twenty minutes before I woke to find Daniel walking across the infirmary towards me.
"What happened? Are you okay?"
I sat and pointed to an obviously bandaged Garmr. "I'm fine. He tangled with a couple of guard dogs. Did you find them?" The infirmary was too busy to come right out and ask if he had brought back General O'Neill's antidepressants.
"Sure, they were right where you said." He pulled the packet from his pocket and quickly handed them over, obviously understanding my concern. I pocketed them and stood.
"Thanks, Daniel." Garmr raised his head at my movement and immediately jumped from the bed, coming to my side.
"Say hi to Carter for me." I was already at the infirmary door as I spoke. "Tell her I'm sorry I didn't have time to call, and let T know I was sorry to have missed him."
"What? You aren't leaving already, are you? You just got here!"
We stepped into the elevator and I took the time to clasp him briefly on the shoulder. "Yeap, sorry, but I can't stay. Let Hank know I was on a tight schedule. Next time I'll call first and make sure he's here."
The door opened and I hurried to the Control Room, a loud sneeze telling me Daniel was still hard on my heels.
"Dial up Orilla." I snapped the small device I had carried in my pocket the whole time into a panel and tapped in the commands that would give the Gate the extra power it needed to get me to the other galaxy. Unfortunately it only worked to a Gate equipped to receive the signal and was a once only thing – not something even Carter could use to Earth's advantage. At least it gave me the ability to come visit if I wanted.
I turned to Daniel. "Really – I'm sorry I couldn't stay longer."
He smiled, scratching at his arm. "I understand – next time." He scratched again, this time his leg.
Then he sneezed.
I was sure Garmr gave a smirk as we walked out of the Control Room together. I looked at him, realizing he hadn't scratched once while we'd been at the SGC. His fleas seemed to have gone – somewhere.
I stopped, thinking about going back and telling Daniel, but changed my mind when Garmr gave me a nudge that almost sent me flying.
Stepping into the Gate Room, I looked up to where Daniel and Walter were staring out of the large window and gave a quick wave. As the eighth chevron lit and the Stargate roared into life I spared a thought for something I had remembered while waiting in the infirmary.
My third year as a general had come to an end a few days ago – this time without fanfare. It certainly hadn't been the best of years and had seen many changes in my life, most not for the best. I wasn't sure where the next was going to take me. I felt like I was adrift – leaving one home behind without really belonging to my new one, being driven, this time not by my own choice, from my friends and my very planet. I didn't know who to trust anymore. The Asgard were hiding something, that much was clear in their refusal to acknowledge the Wraith's presence in their galaxy, and the people now behind the scenes running the Stargate Program seemed to find me nothing more than an embarrassment.
I stepped through the wormhole, thankful to be leaving.