A/N: Well, It's been forever. (Or at least a year and a half.) Besides RL interfering, I hit several walls with this chapter. Probably because it's not very action oriented but there was a lot that I wanted to fit in. So kept avoiding working on it.
I just want to thank all the people who've reviewed and encouraged me over the past year. It did keep me hammering away at it. So without further ado... Here's Chapter 23.
Chapter 23: Casualties
Comradeship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; but rather… it is one of those things that give value to survival.
Harry was the last team-member to complete his post-mission exam and the medic told him he could go with a pat on the shoulder. He quickly hopped off the Infirmary bed and rolled down his sleeve as the medic hurried away with his blood sample and stats.
The far end of the Infirmary was still bustling with activity. The curtains were drawn around several of the beds and healers were hurrying about between them. Harry caught a glimpse of a Marine with a heavily bandaged arm, who was being helped into a sling by a male nurse, before another medic came and pointed him toward the appropriate door where the rest of the team-members had gone.
Harry quietly sidled into the small, crowded sideroom, which Dr. Fraiser herself had set up as a waiting room. He remembered, during his initial tour, how the cheerful doctor had joked about how useful it was for 'getting the hovering ones out from under her feet'. The room was currently filled to bursting with a number of SG personnel, including SG13 and quite a few others whom Harry didn't recognize. There was very little conversation but the tension was so thick Harry wouldn't have been surprised if he'd have had to push his way through it to walk across the room. He idly wondered if the doctor would be surprised at how many people were 'hovering' for her now.
SG1 was gathered near the opposite end of the room, by the large viewing window that overlooked the main Infirmary. Sam was stiffly seated in an uncomfortable-looking plastic chair with her hands clenching and unclenching in her lap. Although she wasn't crying, her eyes seemed suspiciously red. Teal'c stood solidly at her back with his arms crossed. Outwardly, the Jaffa seemed as immovable and impassive as the mountain above them but occasionally his cheek twitched, showing how tightly his jaw was clenched. Daniel paced in front of them. Five steps up and five steps back (which was about all the space there was in the packed room.) approximately every second or third pass, he would stop and stare out into the Infirmary for a bit before resuming his restless pacing. His green BDUs were covered with partially dry, rusty-brown stains.
They all briefly glanced up at Harry as he came over to them. Daniel gave him a nod before he went back to pacing and the others to staring at Daniel or out into the Infirmary.
"Has there been any word on them?" Harry asked quietly.
Sam bit her lip and shook her head.
"No. There has not," Teal'c intoned, equally quiet. "I believe it will be some time."
"Airman Wells and Janet were rushed to surgery," Daniel stopped pacing to say. He swallowed dryly. "And Jack… They took him into ICU."
"What about Anne? I mean- Lieutenant Fairwell?"
"The nurse?" Daniel asked with a speculative glance, filled with questions. "The nurse who's -----" His jaw seemed to lock up on the last word and the archeologist stopped and looked around the crowded room. "The one who's like you?" Daniel rephrased firmly.
Sam and Teal'c gaze bounced curiously back and forth between them.
Harry frowned but couldn't honestly deny the man's implied question. "The story is hers to tell Daniel…"
Daniel gave a short nod and rounded back to the Infirmary window and his relentless pacing.
Harry sat down on the chair next to Sam and quickly found the plastic monstrosity was just as uncomfortable as it looked. At least this is something I can fix, he thought. He lightly tapped the seat of his chair and then did the same with Sam's. She started a little and gave a small bounce on her seat before relaxing back into the cushioning charm. A tiny smile ghosted over her lips.
"It's a small thing," Harry shrugged. "I only wish I could have done something more for them." He nodded toward the Infirmary.
"We got them all back home, Harry." Her voice was husky. "Sometimes… that's all you can do."
Time inched slowly by.
Harry eased back in his now-comfortable chair and leaned his head against the wall. He closed his eyes and thought back to the wild run for the gate…
There had been seven of them vertical in the group with Airman Wells. Anne, who could barely see, had kept Dr. Fraiser stabilized while Daniel had carried her. Harry and Bosworth had managed Wells' litter, which had left Duncan guarding their backs. The whole trip had been a mad dash between various pieces of inadequate cover, while trying not to drop or jar their injured passengers more than necessary while fervently hoping to reach the Gate without a confrontation with the attacking Jaffa.
Fortunately, in that respect, their luck had held. The little group made it back to the gate clearing unchallenged. A couple of solid rocket strikes had cleared the air of Death Gliders just as they arrived. SG5 had provided some heavy coverfire while the rescue group had fled toward the open StarGate. Radio calls of 'Retreat' and 'Fall Back' broke the defensive formations like a collapsing umbrella and the expedition had avalanched through the event horizon and into the GateRoom with a speedy precision that hinted at large amounts of practice.
By the time Harry and Bosworth reached the bottom of the ramp with Wells, a swarm of medical personnel had poured through the right-handed doorway adding to the confusion. They swiftly began sorting out the wounded from the general melee'.
Harry had gratefully set Wells down on an offered gurney. He shook out his cramping arms as the man was whisked off toward the Infirmary. (For the last few minutes there, he'd wondered if he was going to drop the poor bloke… and that was with a discreet lightening charm.)
Teal'c carried an unconscious O'Neill past and then two more injured Marines were helped through the doorway and out of sight just as the iris clanged shut.
Daniel had gently eased Dr. Fraiser down onto the first gurney they came to. He tried to draw Anne Fairwell away to allow the other medics to take over but the nurse stubbornly refused to relinquish her hold on the injured doctor. Instead, she clambered up onto the gurney and seated herself at Fraiser's side, never letting up on the bloodstained pressure bandages around the injured woman's neck and upper chest. Her other hand held her pen/wand over the wound in what Harry thought must be some sort of stasis charm. It had certainly slowed the bleeding from a flood to a trickle. That might take some serious explaining, he thought wryly.
"Leonard! Mike! Get us up to the OR stat!" Anne shouted. "Mary, she's going to need some A positive on tap. You and Lauren, help me get her prepped. She's going to need Dr. Ryan for an immediate exploratory and a possible ruptured subclavian," the young woman rattled off.
Anne's eyes still looked unfocused and swollen half-shut. There was a bad burn across her right cheekbone. A medic tried to get a closer look but she brushed him aside. "Never mind me- I can wait," she said. "We could lose Janet if I let go. Now get us up there." The conversation descended into heavy medical jargon as the whole cavalcade exited the room…
Harry's musings were abruptly interrupted as a weary looking doctor came into the Waiting Room and everyone stood up.
Cheyenne Mountain Entrance
A long, black car with government-issue plates and two military escort vehicles glided up to the guard booth at Cheyenne Mountain. They were halted for several minutes while preliminary checks were run and then finally allowed to drive inside the large tubular entranceway. The gate radioed down to base security to inform General Hammond about the visitors.
Hammond set aside the latest batch of reports that Sergeant Martin had handed him that morning on top of the usual growing pile in his in-box and seated himself at his desk. This undoubtedly was not going to be pleasant, he thought.
A knock at the door was followed by the entrance of Colonel Rundell. Behind him was a small, stiff man wearing a frown, a suit and a briefcase as though he'd been born with them. The man stepped forward and handed the general a thin folder with an expectant air.
"General Hammond. This is Mister Woolsey," introduced Rundell in a neutral voice.
"General," Woolsey greeted with a short nod.
Hammond didn't even bother with opening the folder. He just let it fall to his desktop. "I already know that these orders originated from Senator Kinsey's office. Why don't you tell me the rest?" His low opinion on anything coming out of the Senator's ballyhoo was apparent in his voice.
Woolsey met his gaze without flinching and calmly said, "As Chairman of the Intelligence Oversight Committee, Senator Kinsey has asked that I review your Command decision regarding the recent attempted rescue of SG13."
"Attempted?" Hammond asked, feeling slightly disgruntled at the choice of words.
"As I understand it, there were several casualties, general. I'd hardly call it a success."
Hammond reigned in his temper before tightly replying. "My Command decisions are reviewed by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force and by the President of the United States. As of yet, I haven't even filed a preliminary mission report. When I do, you're welcome to read it."
Woolsey stared back coolly. "I have been authorized to begin a full investigation into the matter, as part of a larger examination of SGC strategic policy that the Committee is preparing for the President."
"You have, have you?"
"I have," Woolsey stated.
"This isn't the first time we've been scrutinized by the NID and it probably won't be the last."
Woolsey straightened. "I firmly believe that all classified military operations require Oversight. I know that the stakes around here are always high… but there were seriously high casualties in this instance, comparatively speaking… and you can't deny that this isn't the first time that this has happened. I just want to make sure that it wasn't avoidable in this case. Despite what you may think, the only reason I am here is to get to the truth."
"The truth." Hammond could almost see the quotation marks.
The other man closed his briefcase with a quick snap and gestured to the report on the general's desk. "I've enclosed a list of interviews I will be conducting and materials I will require. We expect your full cooperation." He turned on his heel and headed for the door. Rundell held it open for him, then gave Hammond a courteous nod and followed him out.
His hand reached out for the file folder and its list of demands.
The doctor, whose nametag read 'Freiman', paused for a moment upon seeing the large crowd and cleared his throat. "Uh-um. I'm going to assume if you're here, you're interested and start with the minor injuries. We can work our way through to the complicated ones." Freiman apparently took the murmuring for agreement and went on down the list of casualties.
There were quite a number of them, including Anne Fairwell who was suffering from flash burn, two soldiers from SG7 who'd been peppered with shrapnel from a Death Glider shot, a Lieutenant from SG5 who'd taken a head injury resulting in a Grade 3 concussion and a corporal who'd received a nasty flesh wound to his upper right arm.
"…Messy but minor as far as these things go…" Freiman said. "With time and some physical therapy, Jenson'll be back on duty in 3-4 weeks."
SG5 and 7 looked vastly relieved at the news but nobody made a move to leave the room. The tension seemed to ratchet up a notch as the doctor paused in his recital.
"And Wells?" Colonel Dixon asked.
"He's just coming out of surgery and will be moving to recovery within the hour or two, Colonel. The blast snuck under his vest and hit him in the lower left side of his back. It caused some rather extensive tissue damage, including a fractured hipbone… As far as we could tell during the surgery, the blast did not damage his spinal cord. However, there's a lot of swelling… At this point, we're cautiously optimistic. We won't know for certain until he wakes up and we can do more tests."
"What about Colonel O'Neill?" Sam asked in a strained voice.
Dr. Freiman smiled for the first time since entering the waiting room. "I have some good news there… As some of you may have witnessed, Colonel O'Neill was struck dead center by a Staff weapon blast and was unresponsive when he arrived here. Previously, this would have either been immediately fatal or have caused a mortal wound. As it was, we were deeply concerned that the impact trauma had egregiously affected the Colonel's heart rhythms but we've managed to get those settled back down closer to normal…" Freiman focused on his audience's still worried faces. "He's going to be just fine… Incredibly sore but fine," he translated.
The tension everyone felt eased off slightly.
"How is that possible?" Teal'c asked. The big man looked shaken and disbelieving. Several others seemed relieved but rather confused.
"His vest," Freiman said simply. "O'Neill was wearing one of the new ones R&D just came up with… It prevented penetration and somehow managed to dissipate the harmful waves caused by the plasma burst. A vast improvement over the old models… I'm going to recommend the immediate adoption of the new vests for all SG personnel. The Colonel suffered two cracked ribs and some bone-deep bruising across his chest. All in all, I'd say he's one very lucky man."
"And Janet?" Daniel asked, while absently rubbing at the dried blood on his sleeve.
The doctor sighed. "She… wasn't so fortunate. Dr. Ryan still has her in surgery. The shot caught her in the lower anterior portion of the neck." Freiman tapped his own collarbone to indicate the affected area. "Her shoulder strap probably saved her life. As it was the plasma burst shattered Janet's clavicle, which also caused multiple secondary wounds due to the bone fragments. There was major concern about the amount of vascular damage that was done. The bleeding was extensive. Lieutenant Fairwell somehow contained the hemorrhaging long enough to get her back here alive. We're still not sure how Anne managed that with such limited equipment, especially considering her own condition."
"Will the doc make it?" Sparks Duncan asked for all of them.
"I honestly don't know at this point. Too many ifs… It's been touch and go ever since they got her to the table… I can say that Janet Fraiser's as feisty as they come and Ben Ryan is one of our best surgeons. If anyone can pull off a miracle… it's those two," Freiman answered.
SGC Level 18
Richard Woolsey flipped through the growing number of files in his briefcase until he found the correct one. He removed it and set it aside before shutting the case with a quick snap of the locks. The case was then set on the floor.
The file folder was placed neatly in front of his chair, which sat precisely in the middle of a small table across from another chair. He absently straightened the documents inside to a more parallel alignment and gave it a fast skim to verify the folder's contents then snapped the folder shut.
Neatness and preparation, to his way of thinking, were the first signs of a well-ordered mind.
He stood and double-checked the recorder on top of the table and then the corded, flat microphone set up in front of the other chair. Lastly, he tested the video camera set on a tripod in the corner of the room. All appeared to be in working order. Woolsey nodded decisively to himself. Time to begin…
He stepped to the doorway, where two security people stood at attention.
"Let's start with SG13. Send in Colonel Dixon."
The Infirmary was comfortably familiar… and yet not, Anne Fairwell mused.
The smell of disinfectant and fresh laundry.
Patients' complaints- some loud, some not.
The mixed-up odors of blood and sweat, overlaid by a faint trace of battlefield smoke.
The squeaks of the medical-cart wheels and rubber-soled shoes.
The murmur of quiet voices and the clink of metal instruments.
Familiar background noise to someone who'd spent over a third of her life in Healing Halls of one sort or another. Disconcerting… because as a Healer/Nurse she was usually far too busy to pay much attention to all those small details. As a patient though, particularly one with bandage-covered eyes, it seemed you had far too much time to catalog your surroundings… striving to establish landmarks on a virtual mental map.
The blindness had been rather paralytically terrifying, especially out there… on an alien planet with hostile Jaffa all around. What had proved even more terrifying was the realization that her friend and boss was bleeding to death right in front of her and that blind or not, she was the doctor's best chance of survival.
Never before had her medical magic been so useless. Diagnostic spells needed to be read. Most healing spells to close wounds required a strong visual element to work properly. Merlin knows what harm she could have done by casting one when she couldn't see what she was doing… which left mundane healing methods… and possibly a stasis charm.
Orders and questions had shot from her mouth like bullets and the others had sprang to do her bidding (Anne had never realized she had a secret drill sergeant inside her.)
Dr. Jackson had been a blessed moongift. There had to be some kind of medal for a nonmedical person to talk a blind nurse through a tactile exploratory with a graphic inch-by-inch description of a possibly mortal wound. Jackson had then helped her pack and bind Janet's shoulder and neck. Anne set a sealing spell on the quickly reddening bandages and tapped the doctor's uninjured shoulder with a 'Suspensor vitalus' charm. There wasn't time to worry about the Statute of Secrecy and they weren't on Earth anyway. Oddly enough, Jackson hadn't asked a lot of questions, just handed her whatever she asked for and lent her the assistance she needed. He'd make an excellent nurse if he ever decided to give up archeology. He'd even figured out a way to carry Janet so that Anne could be guided by him but also keep her wand on the patient. The trip back to the Gate had been a nightmare stumble… Constantly trying not to trip over unseen obstacles while holding the draining stasis charm on Janet and praying no one else would get shot. (Because she seriously doubted their ability to cope.)
A sigh escaped as she sank back against the pillows. At least my sight will be coming back… Anne thought in relief. Mundane healing was slower but over the course of her training the witch had come to trust in many of its practices. At least on her patients. She'd never expected to find herself in this situation. Always before, her medical magic had been like a great, warm security blanket… a failsafe to fall back on if ever the mundane methods wouldn't work. It had never occurred to her that the reverse might also be true.
Anne's ever-so-helpful colleagues had bundled her off from the OR soon after Janet Fraiser had been delivered to Dr. Ryan. They'd all jabbered away above her head as if she'd suddenly gone deaf or was some brain-dead newbie who didn't know her superior rectus from her gluteous maximus. Without so much as a by-your-leave, she'd found herself stripped and changed to scrubs before being stuffed into this bed and instructed not to move. Dr. Ferrin had administered Fluorecein dye. The following corneal scans had made her eyes water from the flashing blue lights in her peripheral vision, which the doctor informed her was a good sign. Then a cool numbing ointment and bandages had been applied. The doctor had promised to check back periodically to ascertain how much of the retinal saturation had receded before patting her hand and wandering off. (Were all medical personnel so condescending?) Lauren McCall, the nurse helping him, actually smoothed Anne's hair back and patted her head. Then told her to get come rest. Lauren was now officially declared an ex-bestfriend.
That had been ages ago. No one had answered any of her questions. Nothing about Airman Wells and absolutely zip about Janet. Granted, they were probably still in surgery but surely there had to be some news… Hospital beds made one invisible apparently. Most people just hurried by without acknowledging her existence and those that did… Anne swore to herself that if one more person patted her hand and told her 'not to worry, everything will be fine' she was going to start pulling hair- hopefully not her own. How could you not worry when you'd literally held someone's life in your hands?
Anne was clenching her hands around the light-weight hospital blanket in an attempt to stop their fidgeting when a small POP to her immediate left made her jump.
"Greetings, Miss Fairywell," said a high-pitched voice. "I is Dobby, Miss."
"Dobby?" Anne repeated. She'd heard about Harry Potter's strange little 'alien' friend on the base grapevine, of course… along with some pretty wild speculation about how and where the Englishman had run into him.
"A Home Elf?" Anne asked curiously. The descriptions had sounded close enough to the ones from her 'Magical Beings' textbooks that she'd wondered. (The small, helpful creatures were fairly rare in the Americas… and even more rarely seen by any but their bonded families.)
"I is, yes," the voice replied. There was an odd sound, sort of like jingle bells as the creature came closer.
"Um… Hi." She nearly cringed at the lame greeting. "Uh- Is there a reason for your being here, Dobby?"
"I is being sent, Miss," the elf announced proudly. "Harry Potter is wanting me to ask if yous needs any potions or another Healer's help. I goes if yous needs, yes?" The elf sounded very eager to be off, practically bouncing beside the bed. (This was if the increased jingling was any indication.)
"Well… a Healer's really not necessary this time, Dobby. Dr. Ferrin said my eyes are going to be fine."
"Oh…" The elf's disappointment echoed through the word.
"But if it's not too much trouble, I could use a Farzee potion… that's the one with carrot juice… or you could just bring me my Healer's bag from my lab, Dobby." She paused as a thought struck. "Um… Do you know where that is?"
"Oh yes, Miss. Two jumps up and one over."
"Right." Come to think of it, the room was on the western side of the medical level. "Don't you get into trouble for ah… jumping?"
"No, Miss. General George sir said Dobby can pop if I goes to checkpoints so soldiermans know where I ams," the elf reported.
A couple 'pops' later the elf returned with a flagon of the appropriate potion.
"Here is, Miss Fairywell," the elf said cheerfully.
"Thanks, Dobby. I appreciate this."
There was a muffled sniffle from Dobby and a wobble to his voice when he answered. "Thanks's to yous, Miss. Is honor to serve good witches and wizards."
The slightly squeaky sound of footsteps came from the far end of the ward and the elf said "Bye, Miss" and popped away. Anne quickly hid the potion bottle and turned toward the approaching visitor only to be disappointed when they passed by without even pausing at her bed. Definitely ex-friends…
SGC Level 18- Interrogation Room
"…The ruin complex was extensive and Dr. Balinsky indicated that there was a substantial amount of Ancient artifacts scattered throughout it. An aerial survey would have given us a better understanding of the layout and narrowed down the search to places that were more likely to contain something of value…" Daniel explained for the second time, valiantly holding on to his patience.
"So- you thought it was worth risking the lives of an SG team to get this aerial footage of these ruins?" Woolsey questioned rather snidely.
"There was no indication at that point of any further danger. The robot probe had been disabled by SG13… So, yes. I thought it was worth it."
"You'd have me believe that this was an acceptable risk?" Woolsey stated, his tone disbelieving.
"This… is… what… we… do." Daniel said slowly, stressing every word.
"Make bad decisions?" his interrogator sneered.
"Yeah, it's easier to predict the score when the game's over… And if we'd found some powerful weapons in those ruins, capable of defending the planet against the Goa'uld, we wouldn't be having this conversation, would we?"
"But you didn't, and we are," Woolsey said with calm satisfaction.
Daniel sighed and finally glanced away, acknowledging the point.
"In fact, if there had been powerful weapons in those ruins, they would now be in the hands of the Goa'uld. The fact of the matter is that this mission was botched from beginning to end." Woolsey paced in front of Daniel's chair, before whirling back to face him. "Based on your knowledge of how the Goa'uld operate, was it not reasonable to conclude that this was an ambush?"
"There's always that danger."
"And yet you thought it was an 'acceptable risk' to not only go but to take three more teams into such a downward spiraling situation?"
"That's usually what 'backup' is for, yes."
Woolsey sniffed. "You, yourself have gone into situations where you know there was no backup. That is always a possibility on any mission through the Stargate, is it not? Dr. Jackson, none of us likes to admit it, but we all know that there are military situations in which the life of one human being has to be considered an acceptable loss."
"That wasn't the case here," Daniel bit out through clenched teeth. He felt rather ill at the thought that Wells was some sort of low-value plastic marker on a galactic sand-table… no great loss…
"No, it wasn't. In this case, it was just dumb luck that there weren't even more casualties. Nine out of twenty-two people… Tell me, Dr. Jackson… Do you think a 40 percent casualty-rate is an 'acceptable' figure for this sort of mission? Or any mission?"
There was no good answer to that so Daniel turned his head away. Faces- not casualty figures- flew past his mind's eye… Wells- bleeding and desperately trying to tell his wife he loved her… Jack- hanging limply in Teal'c's arms… and Janet- deathly pale in his own.
Woolsey consulted his notes. "You stated that your group went with Dr. Fraiser to collect Airman Wells…" The man went on silkily, "In such cases, it is usually the escorts responsibility to protect the medical personnel while they do their job. As the senior team-member and the one with the most field experience, how do you explain the fact that both Nurse Fairwell and Dr. Fraiser were among the injured brought back from P3X-666?"
The archeologist sucked in a harsh breath at the implied culpability and felt his temper flare. Partly at Woolsey for picking at an open sore and partly at himself, since he had spent some considerable time the last few days fretting over what he could have done differently. There always seemed to be self-doubt in these scenarios… always the feeling that something could have been done to change the outcome. Jack called it 'pointless wheelspinning' or the 'All-Expenses-Paid Guilt-trip on the What-If Express'. Daniel had argued that it was still difficult to get your baggage off the train once it was in motion.
Even so, Daniel wasn't going to let some button-downed, stuffed up, holier-than-thou, bean-counting office jockey dictate his actions after-the-fact. He figured he had his own conscience for that.
"Come, come, Dr. Jackson…" Woolsey chided. "You must have come up with some kind of explanation or excuse for your lack of action in this instance…"
Daniel felt the only response to that lay in a simple crudity.
"F--- you," he said shortly.
Woolsey frowned at the language. "Let me remind you that while you are not an official member of our military and not eligible for court martial, you are expected to cooperate with the procedural guidelines governing this program." He leaned forward. "If you fail to testify to my satisfaction, I will have you jailed until such time that you do…"
Daniel pulled the microphone close and spoke directly into it. "You fine me; you can throw me in jail; you do what you want." He hoped the 'I don't care' came through just as clearly.
The mike hit the table with a THUNK and he made sure to shut the door with firmness on the way out.
The hallway was deserted except for the two guards on either side of the door. Their eyes snapped back to attention, although the one on the right's mouth quirked slightly. Daniel gave them an absentminded nod and walked toward the elevators.
Once onboard, he briefly thought about returning to his office but figured he'd never be able to concentrate. After a moment of indecision he decided to visit Jack in the Infirmary and punched in Level 21.
The colonel was about half-dressed and trying to get his right arm through the armhole of a black T-shirt when Daniel walked in. He immediately went to hold the shirt for him. Jack's head popped through and he gave Daniel his best 'I can do it myself' glare (which Daniel ignored) before pulling it down over his bandaged abdomen.
"I heard you were up and around," Daniel commented.
"Yeah. Still a might tender, but they say I can go home."
"Good? It's a ruby slippers moment," Jack said.
Daniel found himself smiling. "No place like home, huh?"
Jack eased himself off the bed with a pained grunt. His movements were slow and careful.
"We're lucky that Staff blast hit you where it did. Looks like the new inserts and Harry's idea works pretty well together," the archeologist said.
"Didn't help Wells or Fraiser so much."
The mood plummeted. "No."
"Has there been any news?"
"Wells is going to be alright. Should be moving toward ambulatory within a couple of weeks…"
"And Fraiser?" Jack asked with concern.
"Still uncertain. She made it through the surgery though… Dr. Ryan had to pin her clavicle back together and there was some extensive tissue damage…" Daniel swallowed bile remembering how it looked firsthand. "The big worry now is infection."
Jack sighed sadly and glanced downward before zeroing in on Daniel again. "So what had you in such a lather coming in here?" he asked.
"The Woolsey meatgrinder…"
"Oh yeah, him." Jack snorted. "Just another swell service offered by Kinsey's office to show how much they care…"
"You met him then?" Daniel asked.
"He got himself banished from the Infirmary yesterday. Dr. Freiman threatened to tattoo his boot-print on his behind if he caught him in here again." Jack grinned reminiscently. "So he sent in a written list of questions and a voice-recorder with a 'request' to get it back to him ASAP. Sweet guy. I'm surprised he's not on more Christmas lists…"
Daniel snickered. "Teal'c was next."
Jack grinned back at him and grabbed his jacket. "That ought to go well," he said as they headed out the door.
George Hammond swept down the hallway toward the makeshift interrogation room, barely acknowledging the attentive SFs who sprang to open the door for him.
Inside, Richard Woolsey sat re-reading an interview transcript and making notes. He looked up, rather startled at the abrupt entry. "General?" he queried.
Hammond slapped his own report on the table in front of him but kept the other two folders.
"What's this?" Woolsey asked, reaching across the table.
"I've prepared a written testimony," the general said shortly.
"This is simply your mission report," the man said after looking through the folder.
"I though I'd kill several birds with one stone."
"Well, then. I guess my work is done here," Woolsey remarked dryly. "The President will have my preliminary report by the end of the week."
"Yes… about that report… I've got something here I think you should be including with that, Mr. Woolsey." Hammond tapped the second folder with a finger.
"And what would that be?" The man's eyes narrowed.
Hammond tossed the folder down. "It's the medical stats of the injured from P3X-666, including Janet Fraiser, who has been downgraded to critical this morning."
Woolsey's face didn't change. "I'm sure we're all pleased to hear that, but if you think the lack of an actual fatality will take the teeth out of my report, I'm afraid you're mistaken. The past mission statistics alone bear out the reckless mismanagement ongoing with the SGC. It's only a matter of time before there's a tragic disaster, possibly of epic proportions and consequences." He shook his head sadly and added the medical stats to his pile of reports. "I will include these, General. I want my report to be as complete as I can make it. The most important thing is that the President gains an accurate picture of what goes on here so that he can make his decisions. It should be an interesting read."
Hammond's mouth had tightened over the course of his speech. "I'm sure it will be every bit as interesting as your memo on the economics of the SGC…" He flipped the last folder down on the pile.
Woolsey blinked in shock. "I won't bother asking how you got that."
Hammond smiled coldly and folded his arms. "What was the dollar value you attributed to an SG team member?"
"You know damn well I wasn't pegging the value of a person's life. It is cold, hard fact that it costs millions of dollars to train these men and women, and that it's only a fraction of the funds being subverted by the Pentagon for this operation." He stood up abruptly and glared at Hammond. "I think it is absolutely reprehensible that the taxpayers of this country are paying enormous sums of money to wage a war they know nothing about, and are getting little, if anything, in return. If the Stargate's existence were made public knowledge and your actions were being judged in court of public opinion-"
The general broke in sternly, "You're the one suggesting that sending a rescue team worth $27 million to save the life of one man is a bad business decision."
Woolsey slashed his hand down in a sharp movement. "You're putting words in my mouth," he said, soundly annoyed.
"Well, we want the President to have a clear picture, don't we, Mr. Woolsey?" Hammond said even more coolly.
"Are you threatening me?" the man sputtered in disbelief.
"You said it in black and white, and I don't think you would have dared to do such a thing if this wasn't a classified operation. The President has asked a documentary team to film what's going on around here… Why don't we just go down and give them the whole truth 'as you see it'? We could go right now. See just what the court of public opinion will say…"
Woolsey gathered up his files. "That memo is classified. This investigation is classified. If you so much as utter even a hint of either, I'll see you put away in a cold, dark place for the rest of time," he warned, before stalking out.
Having successfully routed one adversary (if probably only temporarily), Hammond strode swiftly back toward his office and the dreaded pile of paperwork on his desk. The good news about Janet Fraiser and the pulling of Woolsey's teeth put a confident spring in his step.
From the floating scuttlebutt the general had overheard, Woolsey hadn't made any friends with his insinuations and his 'holier than thou' attitude during the extensive interviews. The word had spread faster than an ink stain and the SGC ranks had closed up tight against the NID man.
'The man did seem relatively competent and certainly thorough in his investigation,' Hammond would give him that… 'but he was definitely dogging the wrong brushbunny on this one,' the Texan thought confidently.
A shout of, "General!" brought Hammond to a halt. He turned to find Colonel Rundell bearing down on him.
"What is it, Colonel?"
The man's normally impassive face changed to apologetic. "Security caught Mr. Bregman trying to access the Infirmary, sir. He claims it was all a simple mistake, but I've shown him all around this complex…"
A wave of anger, such as he'd rarely felt flooded through Hammond. "Get rid of him," he said coldly. He was absolutely fed up with all of their unwanted visitors.
"Uh, sir? Have our orders changed?" Rundell asked.
Hammond snorted. "Toss him out on his ass, colonel. There are some lines that no one is allowed to cross."
Less than ten minutes later, Bregman himself burst into the general's office without knocking.
"General, I must protest-"
Hammond rose to his feet and interrupted. "You have exactly one hour to get off my base and out of my sight forever."
The agitated man stood nearly to attention and his jawline clenched. "You think I stepped over some line. I don't. I think-"
"I don't care what you think, Mr. Bregman. The rules you agreed to abide by are not negotiable and my people's pain is not going to be fodder to add drama points to your little video."
"Is that truly what you think I want out of this documentary?" Bregman asked rather rhetorically and shook his head sadly. "Have you spoken with the two young men who… disallowed my entrance into the Infirmary this morning, general?" the filmmaker suddenly said.
"Just what good would that do you, Mr. Bregman?" Hammond asked.
"I must insist that you ask them a couple of questions or I'll be forced to protest your decree on that red phone of yours…" Bregman said firmly.
"You have some nerve, Mr. Bregman," Hammond said through gritted teeth as a kernel of doubt threaded up his spine.
"That's what my mother used to say." Bregman stared quite levelly back at him and didn't back down an inch.
The silence stretched.
Bregman moved towards the phone. Hammond slapped a hand down over the receiver. The filmmaker rocked back on his heels, looking frustrated and annoyed. Finally, he turned away and headed for the door.
Just as his hand settled over the knob, Hammond spoke… as though the words were being dragged out of him. "What are the questions?"
The quiet of the darkened Infirmary was broken only by the occasional footsteps of the passing night-nurse and the soft tapping from Sam's laptop keyboard. She stopped typing from time to time to gaze at the sleeping form of her best friend before returning to her report on the 'probe droid'. (Lee insisted they call it that) It was truly an elegant, streamlined bit of equipment, especially from a goa'uld. The design reminded her of something she'd seen somewhere before but she couldn't quite place it.
A slight noise from the bed drew Sam's attention to the patient at her side and she closed the computer's lid with a snap.
"Janet?" she whispered softly.
There was no answer. Janet Fraiser's eyes were still closed and her breathing was slow and even. However, her pale face had tilted slightly to the side, showing off more of the white bandages encasing her left shoulder and neck.
The doctor somehow seemed much smaller lying in the hospital bed than she ever had on her feet. Sam's lips curved into a faint smile as she thought about the first time she'd ever seen Janet Fraiser. She'd come down to the Infirmary because of a nasty electrical burn. (courtesy of Lt. Allen turning the power on too soon) The tiny doctor had been reaming out some six foot plus Marine over a bone-headed sparring stunt that he'd seen on TV. Even though the man had towered more than a foot over her, he'd been staring at the floor and scuffing a toe by the time she'd finished, Sam remembered with warm amusement. Thoughts of shared jokes and girl's night outs where they'd laughed so hard Sam'd snorted diet Coke through her nose (nearly burning her sinuses out). It had only made them laugh harder.
Humor soon faded away faced with the reality of the bruised and bandaged figure on the bed. The major stood up abruptly and stretched out the aching muscles in her neck and back. Mostly gained from the hours of sitting time. Hours of worry and waiting.
She paced the room and back before reluctantly reclaiming her seat.
For the last few days, Janet's friends had been taking it in turns to stand watch at her bedside. There'd been so many volunteers that Dr. Ryan had put his foot down and organized shifts. Cassandra and Daniel in particular, had been given strict orders to stay no later than 20:00 hundred hours in the evening or show their faces in the Infirmary any earlier than 09:00. The medical staff had been nearly as bad, coming in every few minutes to check Janet's chart and monitors or fussing with her immaculate covers. It was rather sweet in a totally annoying sort of way that would probably drive Janet up the wall if she ever… no, when she woke up, Sam thought.
A soft click from the door opening jerked her out of her thoughts as a dark figure slipped inside.
It was Teal'c. His large, solid presence moved to Sam's side in absolute silence. (It always amazed her how quietly he moved.) The Jaffa stood there, almost at attention for several, long moments without speaking… just gazing down at Janet's sleeping form.
At last he turned away and bowed his head in greeting.
"I found I could not find rest this evening," the big man said in his calm way. "I thought it would b time better spent here."
Sam found herself smiling. "I'd enjoy your company." She didn't comment on the fact that quite a number of people were having trouble sleeping lately. It was why she'd taken the night shift.
"Has there been any change?" he asked after he'd brought the other chair around the bed and taken his seat.
"No. Not since yesterday."
A comfortable silence settled between them for a time. She finished her report and set the laptop aside to find Teal'c, still sitting quietly at her side, was holding a large, cream-colored candle. The kind he used to use during his nightly kelno'reem (deep meditation).
"Whatcha got there?" she asked curiously.
"It is the candle of Longevity," he answered. The Jaffa looked down and idly watched his hands, which were turning the cylinder of wax over and over. His fingers tracing patterns up and down the side.
Sam waited patiently, knowing Teal'c would go on when he was ready.
"When I first came here from Chulak, I did not fully understand what function a 'doctor' served," he finally said quietly. "Jaffa have the symbiate for healing and there is very little concern for physical well-being. We live and die as fate and the gods dictate." He paused.
"After I arrived and the first interrogations were concluded, General Hammond granted me a room. O'Neil and Doctor Fraiser guided me there. She asked if there was anything she could get for me to make it more like my home… I asked for a small light to focus on for kelno'reem." A brief flicker of amusement shown across the Jaffa's face. "O'Neil gave me a flashlight."
Sam laughed softly… that was so Jack.
"Doctor Fraiser returned later with a box of candles. She said she found the scents relaxing." He paused again. "I have found I agree."
"And the candle of Longevity?" Sam asked, gesturing toward the one he was holding.
"Three main candles are lit for Kelno'reem. The three tenants of strength. Honor, Loyalty and Longevity. I found myself explaining this as well as the intended purpose of the meditation. Doctor Fraiser was… concerned, when I did not light the candle for Longevity. I explained that I hoped to regain my Honor by Loyalty to a newer and more worthy cause, but that Longevity was not an option after turning against Apophis. She laughed, took the tapir and lit the candle herself. She said that she would take care of my longevity if I would handle the other two."
That had to be one of the longest things Sam'd ever heard him say in the six years she'dknown him. "And now?" she asked.
Teal'c reached over and set the candle on the bedside table. "I had thought to light a candle of Longevity for Janet Fraiser," he said simply and struck a match to put words to deeds.
The tiny light flickered and then finally held. A clean, fresh scent wafted toward Sam and she inhaled deeply.
"What scent is it?"
"Lemon. Doctor Fraiser said it was considered uplifting and proven to reduce stress as well as helping one to relax…"
"You sound like a bath products commercial, Teal'c. Have you been watchin' daytime television again?"
The voice came from the doorway and their heads jerked around to find Jack O'Neil standing there, an arm protectively held around his tender middle.
"Colonel! You shouldn't be here," Sam said, springing to her feet. "You're supposed to be at home- Resting..."
"Ran out of Simpson videos…" the Colonel said facetiously. (Considering the shear number of videos the man owned, Sam wasn't sure that was even possible.) "Thought I'd come down and make sure Teal'c here wasn't raising Cain. You never can tell with these quiet types."
Teal'c, who had also risen upon seeing O'Neil, didn't reply to the man's sally, although his eyebrow rose to his nonexistent hairline. He did take the Colonel's elbow and then guided him over to the now empty chairs. O'Neil sat down rather gingerly but otherwise ignored the solicitude.
The colonel's normally good-humored expression, which made him seem so boyishly young, had melted away into something more haunted. The gray hairs on his head didn't seem as out-of-place as they usually did. "How's Janet?" he said gruffly, getting straight to the point.
"Pretty much the same, sir," Sam answered. "Although Dr. Ryan said he was more optimistic now that her temperature has come down. They're hoping she'll wake up soon… maybe tomorrow."
"The Doc's tough…" O'Neil commented, "Though you wouldn't think it to look at her."
Teal'c nodded gravely. "As many have found to their cost."
"Do you remember her after we booted Hathor?" Sam smiled. "Or Nirrti?"
O'Neil smirked. "Yeah… Like Doc Rambo or somethin'."
Sam's smirk grew to match. "Remember last October?"
O'Neil's face went indignant, "I'll have you know that was totally unnecessary."
"Huh. That's not what Janet said."
"Aren't medical details supposed to be private?" O'Neil groused.
"It was hardly public, sir. Just us."
"She did warn you, sir. Several Times."
O'Neil grinned ruefully. "Did you know that she came to my house that week… barged in on a telephone call from the General. Although she waited until I was finished to start lecturing."
"She told me that she threatened to announce it over the P.A. if you didn't stick to the schedule she set up," Sam remarked.
"I know… I know… Every day, without fail, no matter what alien emergency crops up," the colonel said in a put upon, sing-song voice, as if taking his blood pressure medicine was an incredible hardship.
Sam, Teal'c and O'Neil looked at each other and then down. Janet's eyes were dazed but open…
"What was that?"
"I… said… Twice a day… without fail…" she swallowed painfully. "And the P.A. is still an option, sir."
Sam thought their grins might split their faces. O'Neil laughed hardily as the door flew open and the on-duty medical staff burst into the room.
General Hammond knocked and then motioned for his companion to remain outside before he eased open the door to Janet Fraiser's room. When he'd called to see if she was up for visitors, the nurse on duty had laughed and said that they'd fit him in.
The patient was propped up in bed with her arm and shoulder immobilized. She looked pale and tired but alert. She mustered a small smile at his entrance.
"Janet. It's good to see your eyes open," Hammond said warmly. "You had us all very worried there."
"Not my intention sir, I assure you."
"I suspect not."
She motioned for him to sit down but he shook his head. "I sit too much as it is, Major. Actually, I brought you a visitor… He has something for you. Might cheer you up."
"Oh? What's that?"
Hammond opened the door and ushered in Eugene Bregman. The filmmaker was carrying a poster-sized roll of paper and looked very hesitant, as if unsure of his welcome.
"Mr. Bregman? How nice of you to come." Janet's voice was mildl surprised but pleased and Hammond's tension eased at knowing he'd made the right decision.
"I, uh… didn't know if you'd want to see me… especially, um… now." Bregman gestured to the hospital bed and her bandages.
"It's fine," Janet said. When the man still looked uncertain, she dryly remarked. "There's not much to do as a patient, Mr. Bregman… Visitors are usually very welcome."
He smiled and relaxed.
"So what's this present you have that might cheer me up?"
"Oh, um… Well, I thought flowers first but didn't think they would, uh, be allowed… top secret base and all… so I thought maybe a card or something and then we had all these pictures… The film, you know, and I just, um… cobbled this together. The general, he, uh… helped."
Janet's eyes flicked between the two men. "Uh, helped with what exactly?"
The filmmaker gestured with the roll of paper in his hand. "This. Uh, General? Could you hold this end?" Hammond stood while Bregman went to the opposite side of the bed and they slowly unrolled the collage.
The final piece was 6 foot long by 3 foot high and was totally covered with pictures of SGC personnel, many with little, well-wishing notes and signatures. In the middle, was a larger picture of Janet Fraiser and her daughter, Cassandra. Just about everyone on the base had signed it.
Janet looked on, speechless. Her good hand trailed gently over the nearest faces. Jack O'Neil, Sam Carter, Teal'c, Daniel Jackson, Connie Smith, Ian Hules, Simon Wells…
"Uh, General Hammond said that it would have to remain on base but, well, I thought maybe you could hang it in your office or something…" Bregman's voice trailed away in panic as tears welled up in her eyes and spilled over. "Um, if you don't like it, uh…"
"N-no, it's perfect." Janet sniffled a bit and accepted the handkerchief that Hammond gave her. "Thank you…" she said with a watery smile. "Tell everyone thank you…"