Chapter 3: Never Say Never.
I can hardly believe I'm here, Johnny thought. And to think I told Mom and Dad I'd never do the military thing. Here I am on stage at the Air Force Academy of all places. It goes to show, never say never.
John O'Neill PhD approached the dais with the officers and other officials who were part of the graduation ceremony. Over the suit jacket he'd worn for breakfast with the Dean, he'd donned the academic robes and colors of his most recent alma mater, Harvard. It wasn't a military uniform, but he thought it was fairly impressive.
With degrees from MIT and Harvard, John was well prepared for his career as a medical researcher. In fact, it seemed everything came naturally to him these days. Now waiting his turn as the main speaker, he sat impatiently while other dignitaries made their comments to the graduates and their families. He knew his mom and dad were in the sea of faces and within minutes he spotted them. They looked proud, almost as proud as they'd been at his graduations.
He remembered the day all of this started. His recall was startling in its intensity, nearly jolting him from his seat. Suddenly he felt once more what it was to be that small, frail child, the one his classmates mocked, the one his parents defended. Today, looking out at Jack and Sam, he was overwhelmed by the memory of what happened to change his life.
Only a few weeks after Johnny's sixth birthday, Sam came home with a package. As usual Johnny was curious and insisted on knowing what was in it. Sam hadn't kept him waiting long.
"Come on, Mom," he said. "I want to see."
"You will Johnny," Sam said. "But first you and I have to talk."
Jack sat quietly in the background, content to let his wife handle this.
"Johnny," Sam began, "I brought home a very special gift that I'm going to use to help you get stronger."
Johnny's piercing brown eyes lit up at Sam's promise.
"Really?" he asked. "Will I be able to run with the other kids?"
"I hope so," she said. Then barely missing a beat, she asked, "Can you keep a really big secret, Johnny?"
"Yep," he answered. "I'm great at keeping secrets."
"Ah," Sam replied, stuffing down her wonder at that particular statement.
"Well, this has to stay a secret, just between the three of us." Then pulling the healing device from its protective satchel, she laid the three crystal hand device on the table between them.
"It looks like a big diamond," the small boy observed, staring at the shiny object. The value of the crystal called a diamond had been impressed on him by his father at Sam's last birthday.
"Well, it's at least as valuable," Sam said. "And only a very few people know about it. Now you're one of them.'
"I won't tell," Johnny promised sincerely. "What does it do?"
Sam turned around and looked at Jack. He nodded.
"Let's check it out," Sam replied. With that she palmed the device and waited a moment for the familiar glowing light to find its way from the crystals.
"Wow!" Johnny exclaimed. "How's it doing that?"
Sam smiled and knew that Jack was likely grinning behind her. Their little boy was always the epitome of curiosity. The words "why" and "how" seemed to be his favorites. Jack frequently reminded her that Johnny sounded just like his mother on many occasions.
Sam removed the device from her hand for a moment.
"No one is really sure about that Johnny," she said honestly enough. Despite years of testing at Area 51, backward engineering the Goa'uld device had been impossible. Attempts to have others use the device, without benefit of a protein marker, had been ineffective. So frustrating had the effort been that the device was basically mothballed for the past three years. It had been rescued from a top secret storage closet when Sam persuaded the President to let her see if it could help Johnny.
"We think it focuses mental energy from the operator," Sam continued. "So I'm going to put it on and think really hard how much I want you to be stronger. And we'll see what happens. Is that alright with you?"
The little boy solemnly nodded. Of course he'd trust his mom to do most anything. With rapt attention Johnny watched while at Sam's concentrated coaxing a soothing yellow light streamed from the hand device. Slowly she directed the glowing beam over Johnny's head and neck, then down his back. Truth be told, Sam had little idea of the specific ways in which this might work, but she'd seen it work miracles before, in her own hand.
Within minutes, Johnny started to wiggle around, seemingly bored with this new activity. Sam stopped the beam, more from her own fatigue than anything else. Jack walked over to be sure she was okay.
"How do you feel," Jack asked, unsure who he was the most concerned for at the moment.
Sam simply nodded that she was fine. Johnny smiled and was considerably more vocal in his description.
"That was fun," he said. "Can we do it again?"
"Not for awhile," Sam said, determined to assess what if any difference it was making before going further. "How's your arm?"
Instead of answering, Johnny reached over, picked up the hand device, and slipped it on his palm.
And then the most amazing thing happened.
The device glowed. Both Jack and Sam watched, speechless as their child began to direct the beam over his left arm, then his left leg. Any worry they had about his safety or the effect of the beam fell away as he smiled and giggled.
"That tickles," Johnny said. "I can make it work too, Mommy."
Indeed he could. Although Johnny was born without naquadah in his system, he was able to make the Goa'uld device function. It would take years before the O'Neills began to realize how that was possible. But by the end of that very afternoon, they knew their son was getting stronger.
Yep, that's how this whole adventure started, Johnny thought. Mom had no idea how obsessed I'd be with that hand device. Sure it healed me, regenerated damaged nerve cells and made me stronger, but it was so much more. Even then, the little kid I was knew that. And I had to figure it out, had to discover how it worked. Make it work for other kids.
I couldn't believe mom and all her friends hadn't unraveled its secrets. What's more, I couldn't understand why she wouldn't let me take it to help my friends, the ones who had problems like mine. It was a long time before I really got the meaning of Top Secret. And Mom wasn't budging. So I persuaded her to do the next best thing, tell me everything she knew about the alien artifact that changed my life.
As I suspected, Mom knew a lot. They say I'm a genius, what with two PhDs and all, but Mom, she's really brilliant. Besides, it's about motivation. I wanted to know everything I needed to know to recreate that device and make it work for people. And by the time I was done harassing Mom she felt the same. We did whatever it took. She says it was me, but she's wrong. Without her and Dad, I couldn't have done any of it.
In the long run, backward engineering the device and making it work was easier than it seemed. Straightforward, really; all we needed were the correct crystals and a schooled ability to focus the natural mental energy all human beings have within them. Looking back we realized the only reason I could make it work at the age of five was that I'd inherited the Ancient gene from my father. In the long run, it turned out it was an Ancient device after all; yet another piece of technology scavenged by the Goa'uld.
John was shaken from his silent reverie by the sound of his name spoken by the Dean of Students. He was being introduced. It was finally his turn to speak. His audience would want to hear about ground breaking technique of Regenerative Touch from the man who had revolutionized the treatment of all forms of neurological illness. As always, John was humbled by the degree of deferential respect he was shown by audiences such as this one. Yes, what he'd accomplished was important. But all that mattered to him was helping people who were suffering. That was why he'd started the Foundation, why he'd refused to profit from his discovery.
And now that the Stargate program had been made public, there was more for him to do. These were exciting times.
A/N: Only one more chapter. Thank you for reading and reviewing. It's been great hearing from you.