"Tell us another story about you and Colonel Carter, Grandpa," demanded Kristin.
"Well," Ed said thoughtfully, "there was the time we beat the Lucien Alliance."
"What planet did they live on?" asked Luke.
"They were basically bad guys who moved around a lot stealing and hurting people," explained their grandfather. "That time we sort of ran into them by accident."
Man, I really thought we were goners that time, Ed thought.
"My ship was the Odyssey and we were checking intelligence reports on a possible ship graveyard that could supply the Earth with advanced technology. Colonel Carter was helping us. But as soon as we got there," he said with a frown, "things went bad. There were Lucien Alliance ships waiting for us."
"Major, get us out of here," ordered Colonel Emerson. Marks put some distance between the Odyssey and the enemy ships.
We'll be ok, he thought.
Then Colonel Carter was saying: "It's a minefield," in a tone of disbelief.
Oh, shit. It's a trap, Marks thought..
The ship rocked. Consoles on the bridge began to crackle and blow. The next thing Ed knew he was coming to with a screaming headache. He looked up at Colonel Emerson through the acrid smoke drifting through the air and realized he had been thrown out of his chair.
Marks remembered that Colonel Carter had been standing right behind him and looked around for her. She was in a bloody heap on the deck.
"I was worried that Colonel Carter had been thrown into the bulkhead and hurt badly," said Ed. "I saw other crewmen get up and check their stations. But before I could get my bearings, five Lucien Alliance goons burst onto the bridge, guns drawn."
Kristin cuddled closer to her grandfather and Luke's eyes were big.
"Stand down, people," Emerson ordered. One goon swaggered over to Carter and gave her a kick in the ribs. To see if she's faking, Marks guessed. Her body shifted slightly with the impact, but she didn't regain consciousness. Man, I wanted to jump that guy, Marks recalled, but of course that would have been suicidal. The biggest goon—Marks instantly thought of him as "Bluto"—seemed to be the one giving orders.
"Was his name really, Bluto—like on Popeye?" Luke asked, disbelieving.
"No, but he was big and mean like Bluto, so that's what I called him in my head," said Ed.
"She alive?" Bluto asked his henchman.
"Bring her along," he commanded, as the other goons began herding the rest of the crew out. Two guys grabbed Carter's legs and began dragging her. Her head hit the deck as she was dragged off the low platform at the engineering station. Marks gritted his teeth in anger.
Emerson stepped forward. "We'll carry her," he said evenly.
Bluto grunted, shrugged and signaled his permission with a dismissive wave.
"Colonel Emerson was very brave for standing up to those guys. I was near Colonel Carter so I started to help to carry her," Ed continued with the story. Yeah, that was smart, he thought to himself, I nearly passed out halfway down the hall. Good thing Lieutenant Madison was right there or both the Colonel and I would have hit the deck again. "But then some other airmen took over because they could see I wasn't feeling well. I bet your grandma could have fixed me up just fine," he added with a smile.
"She always cleans up my knees and puts on a band-aid so it doesn't hurt when I fall off my bike," commented Kristin.
"Right. But at the time I was glad she was safe on Earth helping any sick or hurt people at the SGC," said Ed.
"Well, the Lucien Alliance thugs herded the crew to the Cargo Bay and locked us in. The medics were really good and took care of the other injured and cleaned up Carter's head wound. But I was pretty worried when she didn't wake up for what seemed like forever. In the meantime, I helped the medics make bandages and slings for the people who got hurt. Eventually Colonel Carter got up and went to talk to Colonel Emerson. "
"Maybe ten minutes later a few of the bad guys came looking for Colonel Carter, but they didn't know what she looked like. They threatened to hurt people if she didn't come forward. She didn't want anyone else to get hurt, so she stepped forward and said 'I'm Carter.' " Actually, they threatened to space all of us, but I guess I don't need to tell the kids that, thought Ed. "They hauled her and Emerson out of there, leaving us to worry."
Hours later they shoved Carter back into the Cargo Bay, minus Colonel Emerson--and with new blood on her face and uniform.
I couldn't help it, Ed remembered, with some shame. I rushed up to her, relieved that she and not I, would be in charge now.
"Colonel, you were gone for hours. What happened? Where's Colonel Emerson?"
What looked suspiciously like tears formed in her eyes. She shook her head slightly and looked away. Marks took the hint and gave her a few minutes. The moment passed quickly.
Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter walked to the center of the room, drawing everyone's eyes.
"The bastards killed Colonel Emerson," she announced without preamble. The tears in her eyes had been replaced by flint.
A few crew members gasped.
"Rest assured, his murder will not go unpunished and we will find a way to retake the ship. They'll be back for me, but I expect you to follow standing orders in my absence." The crew nodded in acknowledgment.
She moved toward the side of the room to check on the crew members, but Marks stood in her path.
"Are you ok, Colonel?" he asked, looking at her bloody scalp and the blood on her uniform.
She glanced down at herself. "Most of this is his." Marks knew she meant Colonel Emerson and he felt queasy. God, she must have been right next to him, he thought.
"Good Lord, Ed! What are you telling them?" Ed's wife Jo was standing in the doorway looking appalled.
"He's telling us how he and General Carter saved the world! And about you too! How you helped her get better and how pretty you were and how grandpa was your Prince Charming!" said Kristin excitedly from her position next to her grandfather.
Jo raised her eyebrows at that last bit. "Prince Charming, is it?"
He smiled at her. "As pretty as the day I married you."
"Well, can you at least make it a bit less bloody?" Jo asked Ed. "Do you want to give them nightmares?"
"I won't have nightmares," Luke chimed in confidently.
"Sorry if I went overboard, dear," Ed apologized.
Jo sat down on the bedroom chair and motioned her husband to continue the story.
"Ma'am, what did you mean when you said they'll be back for you?" he asked.
"They want me to fix the ship. They roughed me up a bit after they shot Colonel Emerson," she said without emotion, "so they think they've got me intimidated. I decided to play along and stall to buy time."
"Isn't that… well, dangerous, ma'am?" Marks asked.
She looked Marks in the eye. "If they figure it out, you're in charge as the next senior officer, Major. Try to save the crew if you can, but don't let this ship fall into their hands. Everyone will be counting on you and I know you're up to it."
He swallowed hard and replied in the only way possible. "Yes, ma'am."
"Good man," Sam said, touching him lightly on the arm. Despite the fact that I was scared shitless, Marks recalled, that really boosted my confidence.
"Colonel Carter really helped me be confident," is what Ed said aloud. "She was very clever and made them believe that she was fixing the ship for them."
On about her fourth trip back from "working" on the ship's systems she gave Marks a small hand signal to come over to her.
"I think I can trigger the hatch to open next time I'm up at the auxiliary controls," Carter told him quietly. "It will be up to you to keep an eye out and take advantage of the opportunity quickly. I can't predict with any certainty exactly when I'll get an opening."
"We'll make the most of it, ma'am," he replied.
They came back for the Colonel after about a four hour break, as per usual. When the hatch released, Marks and his people were ready. As soon as they saw the red light on the security camera go out, Marks sent out his teams to retake the key areas of the ship.
Things went smoothly at first, but when his team approached the auxiliary control room and he peered around the corner, he saw Colonel Carter seated at the console--with Bluto pointing a gun at her. God damnit! he thought.
"Hey Bluto!" he yelled.
As Marks had hoped, Bluto turned to the sound, taking his gun off the Colonel. Carter launched herself at him, tackling him and knocking the weapon out of his hand. Marks zatted him quickly.
Carter got to her feet and gave him a relieved smile. "Thanks, Captain."
"Yay, Grandpa!" cried Kristin, clapping her hands.
"Way to go!" said Luke at the same time.
Jo just smiled proudly at him.
The next instant Carter was all business. "What's our status?"
Once they had the ship back, Carter put Marks in charge of a detail repairing the sub-light systems, which was well within his comfort zone.
"I hear good things about how you handled yourself in the Cargo Bay, Ed," she commented after coming in to check his progress.
"Thank-you, ma'am," he replied with ill-disguised pleasure.
"Never doubted it, Major. Keep up the good work."
Ed smiled, remembering how proud he was to get such a compliment from Colonel Carter.
"See, you are a hero, Grandpa," declared Luke.
"He sure is, kiddo," said Jo. "I think you can tell them about your visit to Plinea."
"Ok," he said.
Lieutenant Colonel Ed Marks was reading the newspaper at the breakfast table with his wife one Saturday morning when the phone rang. Jo got up from the table grumbling.
"Who calls at 8:00 on a Saturday morning?"
Ed continued eating his eggs and turned to the sports page.
"Hello? Yes, it is. Oh, that's ok, ma'am." Jo was saying. "He's right here."
She covered the receiver with her hand. "It's for you Ed. I think it's important. It's General Carter."
That explained why Jo said "ma'am," he thought as he reflexively straightened his posture as if the General were in the room with him.
He took the phone from her. "Marks here."
"I've got an assignment for you, Ed," Brigadier General Samantha Carter said. "I think you'll find it's right up your alley."
"Ooh, what was the assignment?" asked Kristin. "To go on a ship again?"
"Well, usually I was assigned on ships, but this job was a bit different," answered Ed.
"I was to go with General Carter to the planet called Plinea to finish evaluating some power and space navigation systems and negotiate a trade for them."
"To help protect Earth, right Grandpa?" interrupted his grandson.
"That's right, Luke. Because of our previous work together, General Carter knew that I worked with those kinds of things and thought I'd be able to help."
"So you were as smart as her now?" asked Kristin, remembering his first story.
"Well, I don't know about that, but I was pretty smart about this stuff," answered Ed.
Of course I should have known with a former a former member of SG1 involved, the shit was likely to hit the fan, Marks thought.
"General Carter had picked a team of four to go with her to the planet to work on this project." Ed continued.
"Who else went along? What were they like?" asked Kristin.
"Well, let's see," Ed said, scratching his razor stubble, thinking how Jo always complained about kissing him when he hadn't shaved. But he hated to shave when he didn't have to go anywhere.
"There was Captain Hillary Jenkins, who was our language specialist. I remember she was red haired, kind of short, but muscularly built. And very smart. I think she knew about six languages, before she even learned Plinean."
"Wow," said Kristin admiringly.
"Then there was our engineering specialist, Captain Jamal Tyler. He was a tall African American who wore glasses. He and his wife had had a baby recently, so he showed his picture to everyone.
"Everyone was some kind of technical expert except Major Tom Zamora. He was our security guy. And he looked the part, even in his blues. Big and beefy, but with a great sense of humor," recalled Ed.
"Blues?" asked Kristin.
"That's what we call our uniforms like this one," Ed said, indicating the uniform hanging on the valet.
"Otherwise you wear cammos, right, Grandpa?" asked Luke with the air of an expert.
"Stop being a know-it-all, Luke," Kristin said.
Carter and her hand-picked team stepped through the gate in their blues and were met by the Plinean Executive, Cato, and his staff, who escorted them to their Quorum Chamber. All went as planned—at first.
"I must admit the discussions were kind of slow and I got a bit bored," Ed commented. "So, I began to look around the room. Have you ever seen pictures of the US Senate Chamber?" he asked the children.
"Yeah, we've seen it in Social Studies," said Luke.
"Ok, so the Quorum chamber looked a little like that with the desks for the members to sit at and the big desk up front," their grandfather explained. "Of course it was a bit different, being an alien planet and all. There were elaborate murals on the wall, that I think were stories of Plinean history. Also, at the front desk is where the Quorum Chairman and Executive sat and two guards stood on either side of them. The guards did have weapons in their holsters, but they were wearing tall, puffy caps and shiny gold sashes. They seemed like ceremonial outfits to me."
"Puffy caps? Like chef's hats?" asked Kristin, giggling a little.
"Well, now that you mention it—kind of. But these were very brightly colored,"
Ed explained. "Red and purple as I recall."
"Pretty," commented Kristin, who loved bold colors.
After four hours, the parties had agreed to language involving the trade of the advanced navigational systems.
"It's getting late and if there are no objections, I will call the meeting adjourned," stated the Chairman. No one objected and he banged his ornate staff twice on the marble floor.
As the meeting broke up, Cato made his way over to the Quorum desks where Carter's team had been sitting. The two uniformed men hovered near Executive Cato. The other members made their way out the back doors, which Marks gathered served as a private exit for the Quorum members.
"Tomorrow our scientists will let you observe our systems in action," said Cato.
That's more like it! Ed thought.
The Executive continued. "But we would be honored, General Carter, if you and your people would join my family for dinner tonight and take accommodations with us." "We have a large home," he added a bit sheepishly. "One of the perquisites of this position."
"We would be honored, Executive Cato," Carter responded.
"Smashing! I know my wife is eager to meet you in particular, General. She's an amateur astronomer and when she learned that you're an astrophysicist…"
Suddenly the heavy paneled front doors of the chamber swung open violently and at least a half dozen men burst in shouting: "Death to the Traitors! Death to the Invaders!"
They began shooting almost immediately.
"Down!" shouted Carter as she pulled Executive Cato to the floor. The rest of her team was hitting the deck. Wood splintered as some kind of bullets hit the desks in front of them. The fancy guards began to return fire.
"We can't stay here, General!" shouted Major Zamora. Two of the attackers went down under the guards' fire, but the Earth team was unarmed.
As a unit, the Tauri and Plineans tried to make their way to the back doors--the Plinean guards attempting to protect Cato and Zamora attempting to protect General Carter. A few feet from the door the guards went down. Carter and Zamora grabbed the fallen men's weapons and returned fire. So much for keeping the VIP safe, Marks thought wryly. As they passed through the door Marks felt a burning pain in his leg, stumbled and fell into the hallway.
Carter saw him get hit and moved ahead the few steps to him. Grabbing him under the arm she half dragged him down the hall.
"This way," Cato said urgently. "I know a safe place."
Tyler took over helping Marks as Cato led them out the back door, through an alley and to a small home.
As the bloody, armed group burst in, a man and woman stood up from their dinner table in alarm.
"Marcus! We must hide!" cried Cato.
Kristin was now clutching her grandpa's arm.
"Was it a safe place, grandpa?" asked Luke.
"I was just getting to that, kiddo," replied Ed.
With no further conversation, the man called Marcus led them to the next room, lifted a wildly patterned carpet and opened a trap door. He handed Captain Jenkins a flashlight and said, "You'll be safe down there. I'll check on you later."
Zamora looked uncertain, but General Carter apparently read something in Marcus' and Cato's faces and signaled them to go down. They clambered down the ladder and Marcus closed the trap door above them.
"Ok. What the hell was that all about?!" hissed Carter.
"There is a small group who vehemently oppose contact with other worlds. But their activities have been limited to street protests. There have been clashes with security forces, but I never thought they'd stoop to assassination," replied Cato, slipping off his ceremonial robe.
"Speaking of security forces, where the hell were they?" asked Zamora, glancing at Tyler, who was bandaging Marks' upper calf.
"I don't understand it." Cato shook his head in disbelief.
Carter was skeptical. "If you didn't expect assassination attempts, how did you just happen to know about this "safe house," Cato?" she asked. "Just what did you lead my people into?" She groaned slightly as she sat down.
"General, you've been hit!" Jenkins cried, shining her flashlight on Carter's left arm. Her blue sleeve looked wetly purple in the dark.
Tyler made to come over to look at her wound.
"Take care of Marks first, Captain. As cliché as it sounds, I think mine's a flesh wound and it's not bleeding too badly. How is he?"
"There's some kind of bullet in there, ma'am."
Well, duh, Marks thought. I hope they don't try to take it out here.
"We'll have to get it out before we move him." Oh, crap.
"Ok," said the General. "Back to my question, Cato. How did you know about this place and can this Marcus help us?"
"Marcus was the leader of an underground movement before the establishment of the Quorum at a time when we were ruled by a dictator. He was never caught and no one knows of this place. And to answer your other question, he can indeed help you."
"Well then I need to talk to him. You and I are going back up there." Carter said to Marcus, pushing to her feet.
"General, I don't think that's a good idea," Zamora objected. "Let me go bring him down."
She gave him what seemed in the dark to be an annoyed look. "You're injured," he continued, "and you need to get bandaged up, Ma'am."
Zamora signaled to Jenkins. "Check the General, Captain," he ordered.
"Very well Major, but I'll be right at the door and in there at the first sign of trouble." Carter said.
A few minutes later, Zamora returned with Marcus, who was carrying what appeared to be a medical bag. He gave Jenkins some disinfectant and materials to re-do the bandages Jenkins had started to put on the General and went over to Marks.
"The bullet is still in the leg," he said, probing the wound. "It's deep, but I should be able to remove it before it does more damage."
"Are you a doctor?" asked Marks warily.
"No, but I've handled my fair share of gunshot wounds," Marcus replied, taking some sharp looking surgical instruments out of his bag.
General Carter made her way over and squatted next to Marks.
"Hang in there, Colonel. I'll get you out of here," she said quietly.
"I know you will, ma'am," he replied through clenched teeth. "All in a day's work, huh?"
Against his will, Marks passed out when Marcus started digging for the bullet with what felt like a sharpened spoon.
"Oh, poor Grandpa!" cried Kristin. She released the arm she'd been doing a limpet imitation on to give him a hug.
"Do you have a scar?" asked Luke.
Ed looked to his wife. "Ok, go ahead and show them," she sighed.
Ed pulled up his left pants leg to the knee. On his calf a fairly large, puckered looking scar on the skin was evident.
"Cool," said Luke in awe.
"Does it hurt, Grandpa?" Kristin asked.
"Not any more, sweetie," Ed answered, giving her a little hug.
"What happened next, Grandpa?" Luke questioned, ready to move the story forward.
The next thing he knew, the sun was in his eyes, his leg was pounding like a kettle drum and he realized was being carried on a litter by Zamora and Tyler.
"Good thing we wore slacks with our blues, huh, Hillary?" General Carter was saying. "Of course, I never expected we'd be hiking today."
"Me neither, ma'am," replied Captain Jenkins.
"What I'd give for my nicely broken in combat boots right about now. Don't get to wear them nearly enough these days. Next time we wear BDUs—the heck with protocol."
"Next time, ma'am?" Jenkins asked uncertainly.
General Carter didn't reply. Ed looked around and saw her glance down at him and then scan the area, weapon drawn. Despite her light comments to Jenkins, she was clearly on high alert. Everyone seemed to be armed with Plinean weapons. Evidently Cato's friend had been very helpful.
"We're almost at the Gate, Ed," she said with a reassuring smile.
"I think I'd like to stick to ship duty after this, ma'am," he replied. He heard her chuckle softly.
They were within about 100 meters of the gate when shots rang out. Marks lifted his head to see what was going on. Carter shoved him back down on the litter. Yeah, way to get your head shot off, Ed, he scolded himself.
"Dial the Gate, Jenkins!" Zamora shouted as he and Tyler began to run with Marks' litter.
Marks heard the sound of shots behind him and knew that General Carter was covering them and returning fire. Everyone else had his or her hands full.
The Gate whooshed open. Bullets pinged around them. The litter see-sawed as Zamora attempted to give his end to Jenkins to free his gun hand. Damnit, I should be helping, not lying here, Ed thought, though he was admittedly dizzy.
"Get through the Gate, all of you!" Carter shouted. "I'm right behind you."
A second later they were thudding down the ramp and Marks was being lowered to the ground just off the ramp. As medical techs began to work on his leg, he strained to sit up, spotting Jenkins, Tyler and Zamora, but not General Carter.
Long seconds passed before she backed through the Gate, weapon pointed. "Lock it up!" she shouted. The iris whirred closed.
The General's left sleeve was bright red with blood. Marks wasn't sure if it was a new wound or if the original one had opened up again.
"The General's wounded!" he called. And then he was being whisked off to the infirmary.
"Poor General Carter," commented Kristin. "Does she have a scar too?"
"Probably. But it's not like she's showed it off to me," he replied amused.
Some time later after they got him settled in a comfortable infirmary bed, with a nice dose of painkillers, the General appeared at his bedside in BDUs, arm in a sling.
"General! Are you ok?" he said trying to sit up.
"I'm fine, Ed, " she replied, motioning him back down. "Doctor Grant says you will be too." She smiled suddenly. "Kind of reminds me of the first time we met-- only our positions are reversed."
He was amazed she remembered after all this time.
"But I promise I won't make you do power module analyses this time," she added.
"General, I need you to sign these papers," came a voice from the doorway.
"Always paperwork," she sighed. She looked him in the eye. "Take care, Colonel." He watched as she walked out to the waiting Lieutenant with the clipboard.
"Did you help Grandpa get better, Grandma, like you did with General Carter when you met Grandpa?" asked Kristin.
"I sure did. But I wasn't working in the infirmary at that time, so I helped him get better at home," Jo answered.
"That's good," said Kristin and Luke was nodding in agreement.
"You sure are a hero, Grandpa," said Luke. He loved his grandfather and thought he was great, but he had developed a whole new appreciation for him this afternoon. "Can we see you in your uniform now?"
Ed put on the coat laden with ribbons.
"You look just as handsome as the day I met you, dear," said Jo fondly.
"Very cool," said Luke.
"Just like a Prince Charming," declared Kristin, beaming.
"Oh, brother," said Luke, rolling his eyes.
"Ok, how about some baseball?" Ed said, taking the coat off and hanging it up.
But the children weren't quite done yet.
"Grandpa, when you see General Carter at her party tomorrow, tell her we think she's a hero, too," ordered Luke. Kristin was nodding in agreement.
"I sure will, kids," promised Ed. He and Jo exchanged a proud look.
"Ok, who's pitching?" he asked as he put his arm around his wife and ushered the kids from the room.
"You pitch, Grandpa. Luke doesn't pitch right," said Kristin.
"I do so. You just can't bat," countered Luke as he headed down the stairs.
Ed Marks chuckled as he headed downstairs, behind the kids.