It's all owned by someone else, someone not me.
Spoilers for Season 1 of Stargate: Universe and 5 of Numb3rs

The Road Not Taken

"Excuse me, but are you Professor Eppes?" The knock at the door startled Charlie, and he looked up from his desk with a faint look of shock on his face.

The first thing he noticed about the man in the doorway was the uniform. He'd spent enough time around military types when consulting for the NSA to tell it was Air Force, and to realise that the three stars on the shoulder indicated someone of rather high rank.

"I'm Charles Eppes." He stood, trying to work out what the Air Force would want with someone who had lost his security clearance years before.

"General Jack O'Neill, United States Air Force." The man crossed the small but cluttered office, followed by a man dressed in a suit, "This is Dr Nicholas Rush."

"Doctor." Rush nodded politely, "I've read some of your papers; very insightful."

"Thank you. Please, have a seat." Charlie retuned the nod, trying to work out what someone with such a strong Scottish would be doing in the company of a three-star General, "So, how can I help you?"

"We need help with an advanced mathematical proof that is vital to an ongoing classified project." Rush explained as he sat, "We did some asking around, and your name kept coming up at the top of everyone's list."

"We know about you past, actions, and it took a lot of effort to get permission to even come talk to you." Jack added, "I'm afraid that there's not a lot I can tell you until you've agreed to sign a rather stringent non-disclose agreement, violation of which would result in a rather lengthy prison sentence."

"That sound rather serious." Charlie blinked, a little shocked at how forward the General had been, "What can you tell me?"

"If you agree to join the project then you will need to leave for a location I can not disclose at this time for up to six months. During which time the only contact you will be allowed with anyone outside of the team will be by vetted e-mail." Jack explained, "At the end of your time with us, you will receive the equivalent of two years pay for your job here at CalSci, and the full reinstatement of your previous security clearance. In fact, you'll have a higher clearance than ever before, but you'll not be able to tell anyone."

"That's...a lot to take in." Charlie slumped back into his chair, "How much time can you give me to think about this?"

"I'm afraid that time is of the essence, Dr Eppes." Rush shook his head, "We need a definite answer today. But I can assure you, that the work will be unlike anything you've ever done before."

"I have to say that I'm very interested." Charlie paused, his eyes dropping to the draw in his desk that contained the small velvet lines box he'd picked up from a jewellers the day before, "No, I'm sorry but I just can't take that kind of time out of my work right now. I've only just made tenure and the board are upset that my constancy work for the FBI takes up so much of my time..."

"We can talk to the board on your behalf if you like?" Jack offered.

"No, it's just...not the right time for me to be taking on such a commitment right now." Charlie shook his head, "I'm sorry, but no. If there is anything I can help you with that doesn't require six months of isolation, let me know."

"I understand." Rush stood, "Some things have to come before work."

"Well, it was nice meeting you." Jack smiled warmly, "We'll keep you in mind if anything else comes up."

"Good luck with whatever it is." Charlie shook their hands.

"We'll find a way." Rush smiled, "I hope to read more of your work on Cognitive Emergence."

The two men left as quietly as they had entered.

"Did you just have a three-star General in your office?" Don appeared, followed by Colby, "I though the NSA burned your page in their address book?"

"He wasn't NSA: Air Force." Charlie shook his head, "Said his name was O'Neill."

"General O'Neill?" Colby asked, somewhat taken aback, "You just had General Jack O'Neill in this office?"

"You know the guy?" Don asked, surprised by his subordinates reaction.

"By reputation only." Colby looked ill at ease, "His name's came up a few times when I was in Afghanistan, normally when we were discussing Special Forces guys who'd been transferred out without saying where they were going. Couple of the guys tried to dig a little; you've never seen doors slammed shut so fast in your life."

"What did he want with you?" Don sounded genuinely worried, "It's not about that Pakistan thing, is it?"

"No, the Air Force wanted my help with some maths on a classified project." Charlie scratched his head, "He couldn't say what it was, only that I'd have to be willing to leave for up to six months. I told him I couldn't, and he left."

"Yeah, well, I've got a couple of friends in DC." Don's eyes narrowed, "Maybe they can find something out."

"I wouldn't." Colby shook his head, "Whatever he's into, it's way above our pat grades."

"Maybe you're right." Don turned to face his brother, "Anyway, we've got another case that we could use your help with."

"That's what I'm here for." Charlie smiled, sure he had made the right decision, "What you got?"

The End