Howdy folks. Well, it's finally done. I honestly don't remember when I first started to write it, but it's been at least 2 years in the making. It's a beast, wrapping up just shy of 300 pages, so I'll dole it out a little at a time. There are slow parts and fast parts and parts that are somewhere in between.
I've rated it T for some blood, emotional angst, and a few bad words. There's also some innuendo and naughty humor thrown in for good measure. It's a team story, with hints at Jack and Sam, but nothing beyond what was explored in the show.
I want to thank both Kaidromeda and Flatkatsi for being my beta readers. Any remaining mistakes are mine. I don't own the rights to SG-1 or any of the characters within the franchise. I haven't made any money writing this, and I'm pretty sure the frustration of writer's block has taken several years off my life. This story would have been done much sooner if it hadn't been for the frequent snags in my imagination. Well, that and the horrible addictive nature of 'Angry Birds…'
So, with that said…read, enjoy, and review if you can. I'll try to update every Sunday.
Bull Demon (aka Bandersnatch)
The mid-May sun hung low on the western horizon, its warm light slowly fading as it began to sink behind the rocky peaks of the Colorado skyline. Late day traffic jammed the streets and highways as the locals hurried home, eager to start their weekend routines. Hardly a thought was given to the large Air Force complex that slept beneath one of the city's mountains, nor to the specifics of the work that the men and women did behind its closed and guarded gates. Little did they know that just below their feet sat one of the military's greatest secrets, and perhaps the planet's most important asset.
General George Hammond looked down at the array of paperwork spread out before him, taking in the many images, datasheets, and reports. Around the large table sat the four members of Stargate Command's flagship team, SG-1, each with their own collection of various notes and photos. He selected an aerial shot of a densely foliated forest and considered it for a moment before speaking.
"Tell me again why you had to send a UAV to this location?"
"Because it appears that the Stargate is located on a narrow ridge of a mountain just above the tree line," Major Samantha Carter explained. She sorted through her pile of photos, stopping at one that showed a downward view of a rather abrupt, rocky slope. "The MALP was only able to travel about 150 feet from the gate platform before the descent became too steep. We sent the UAV out to get a better look at the surrounding area."
"Why would the Goa'uld put a Stargate in such a dangerous place?"
"Stargates were often transferred to locations of tactical advantage," Teal'c, the team's resident Jaffa replied. "The apex of a mountain would optimize visibility, while providing little cover for invading troops to gather."
A bemused snort came from the man seated to Hammond's left. Colonel Jack O'Neill, the team's leader, looked up from the notepad where he'd been doodling. "And here we thought it was smart putting ours inside a mountain."
Hammond allowed a small grin to appear on his face. To think Jack wasn't paying attention to the briefing would have been a mistake. The seasoned soldier just chose to focus on information pertinent to the tactical aspects of the mission and filter out the rest. This, however, didn't stop him from throwing out a stray comment now and then, be it appropriate or not. "What about recent Jaffa activity?"
"No, sir," Sam said. "There's no indication of Jaffa activity in the vicinity of the gate or the area surveyed by the UAV."
"There's no indication of any activity at all in the areas surveyed."
"What do you mean, Dr. Jackson?"
"There are no signs of human activity anywhere in the region," Daniel replied, his gaze focused on the pictures fanned out in front of him. "No plowed fields, no irrigation, no cleared land for livestock or housing. Based on these images, I'd say the area – if not the entire planet – was deserted a very long time ago. Look at this." He held up one of the photos.
"What is it?" Hammond asked, looking at what he assumed to be a large scrubby bush intertwined with thorny vines and broad, waxy leaves.
Jack's eyebrows rose in interest. "Looks like someone's been using Miracle Gro."
"It would appear the DHD has not been used for a significant amount of time," Teal'c rumbled.
Sam reached out and took the photo for a closer look. "Maybe the inhabitants live on the other side of the planet. They might not even know it exists."
"I doubt it," the archeologist replied. "On every world we've been to so far, the gate platform and the DHD have always been clear. Someone always knows of its existence, even if it's just part of the cultural lore."
"You gotta keep things tidy," Jack muttered, going back to his drawing. "One never knows when their snaky, overdressed god and his minions will drop by…"
"Actually, Jack, that's just what I was about to say," Daniel said. "Even on planets protected by the Asgard, the gates were kept clear. I think it came down to the people never knowing when their particular "god" might pay them a visit."
Teal'c inclined his head in agreement. "A unkempt Stargate would be seen as a sign of disrespect. The people would be severely punished."
"General, if there hasn't been activity around the gate for as long Daniel says, than it sounds like this trip might be a wash."
"Not necessarily, Colonel," Sam piped up before Hammond had the chance to form a reply. "Even if the planet doesn't yield any technological or cultural information, we should at least do a standard plant, mineral, and soil survey. It may turn out to be a source for Naquadah or Trinium. At the very least, we may be able to add it our list of inhabitable planets for relocation."
"And there's also this." Daniel held up another photo for them all to see. It was an enhanced aerial shot of a small, boxy shape nearly hidden from view by a patch of dark green trees. While it wasn't much to look at, the object was clearly manmade. "It's a fairly large building located at the base of a massive mountain about 15 miles west of the Stargate. Now other then the gate itself, it's the only sign that there were people on P4J-592 at one time."
"An abandoned mining camp perhaps," Teal'c suggested.
"Or it could be a shrine, or a mausoleum, or…"
"Someone's collection of old tin cans and dirty socks," Jack muttered.
Daniel resisted the urge to kick his teammate under the table. He knew Jack was a man of action, preferring to chase down Jaffa than baby-sit for a survey or dig. Long periods of inactivity made him cranky and bored, and he wasn't bashful about letting the people around him know it. He decided to try changing tactics. "Or, who knows? It could even be a really cool weapons storage bunker."
Jack gave him a wry grin. "Nice try, Danny, but I think this sounds like a good mission for SG-5."
"I agree," Hammond said, holding up his hand when Daniel started to protest. "However, SG-5 is currently off world on another assignment and won't be back for several days. Therefore, I'm authorizing a 72-hour reconnaissance of P4J-592. Are there any questions?"
"No, sir," Sam replied, answering for everyone.
"Good. You're scheduled to leave tomorrow at 0800. Have a good evening people. Dismissed."
"Daniel," Jack said once Hammond had retreated to his office. "You do realize you're setting yourself up for a major let down."
"What do you mean?"
"You just seem to be getting kinda excited about something that's probably not even there."
"I always get excited about going off world," Daniel said, pushing his glasses up on his nose. "Especially an opportunity like this. I mean think about it, Jack. We might be the first people in literally hundreds of years to set foot on this planet. Isn't that even the least bit exciting to you?"
"Of course it is. I just tend to take things as they come and not anticipate finding greatness ahead of time."
"He's right, Daniel," Sam agreed. "What looks like a building from miles in the air may turn out to be a pile of rubble."
"Indeed. It is also likely any items of value were pilfered long ago," Teal'c added.
Daniel knew his friends meant well, but their words did little to curb his enthusiasm. He was an archeologist, and items seen as worthless to others were often priceless to him. Every trip through the gate was an opportunity to find another piece of the complex puzzle that was life and to help justify man's ultimate role in the cosmos.
"Value depends on perspective," he argued. "A pile of rubble to you may be a treasure trove of artifacts and information to me."
"Of that, I have no doubt," Jack uttered, having suffered through countless hours of watching the younger man sift through wreckage for minuet traces of a long lost civilization.
Hammond appeared in the doorway of his office. "Colonel, can I see you for a moment?"
"Yes, sir," Jack replied, stuffing his paperwork into a folder. Sam gave him a questioning look to which he could only shrug. The general could want to see him for any number of reasons. He addressed his team as he stood. "Get some rest, campers. We have a long walk ahead of us tomorrow."
He found Hammond seated at his desk.
"Come in, Jack. Have a seat."
Jack… He thought as he settled into a chair across from his commanding officer. I guess this won't be overly bad news…
"I realize low-risk reconnaissance missions aren't your favorite kind of assignment."
"Not exactly, sir," Jack admitted candidly. There was no use in hiding the truth; Hammond already knew how he felt. "But it's not the recons that get to me, it's the surveys. A guy can only fill so many little glass bottles with dirt and pebbles before his eyes start to gloss over."
Hammond chuckled. "I can imagine. But you can't expect to save the planet on every trip."
"Jack, despite what I said during the briefing, there is another reason I chose P4J-592 for your next assignment."
Jack's eyebrow rose. "Is there?"
"Yes. Dr. Fraiser has requested some time off world to evaluate several new pieces of equipment in the field. I thought she might enjoy going out with you and your team, so when the preliminary assessment of 592 came back as low-risk, it seemed like a perfect match. Assuming you're willing to take her along."
The colonel's demeanor went from suspicious to agreeable in an instant. "Yeah. We'll take Doc off world," he said. "No problem."
"Good. I figured you would, but I wanted to check with you first just the same."
"It's a three day trip – what about Cassie?"
"Cassie is joining my daughter and two granddaughters on a trip up to Denver for a few days to visit the zoo and aquarium. The timing of the trip makes this opportunity work out even better."
"Sounds like fun," Jack replied, recalling the amazement on Teal'c's normally stoic face the first time he, Daniel, and Sam had taken him to the zoo. Even better were the photos he had of the large man gazing up at an elephant with a rare look of awe in his eyes.
"I'm sure there'll be plenty of stories and pictures to share," Hammond said. "That's all I have for today, Jack. I'll get these briefing notes down to Dr. Fraiser just as soon as I'm…"
Jack rose from his chair. "Oh, please, sir. Allow me."
"All right." He passed him the mission folder. "Have a good evening, colonel."
"You too, sir," Jack called back over his shoulder as he hurried out of the room.
Hammond just shook his head and sighed as he went back to his stack of paperwork, wondering what to make of the mischievous twinkle that had appeared in the other man's eyes.
"Keep it clean and covered, and we'll see how it looks in a few days," Dr. Janet Fraiser instructed as she put the finishing touches on the bulky bandage around her patient's hand. "And might I suggest wearing gloves when you try to do something like that again?"
"Yes, ma'am," Sergeant Siler replied with a sheepish look. "Thank you." Cradling his well-wrapped hand against his chest, he hurried out of the infirmary, nearly plowing into one of nurses. "Sorry," he muttered, and disappeared around the corner.
Janet just shook her head. For a walking disaster, Siler was a damn good mechanic. He could fix almost anything, and when he couldn't, it usually meant the item was beyond repair.
At least officers like him mean job security for me… She thought as she began collecting the materials she'd used to patch up Siler's hand. Through the open door, she could hear someone whistling as they walked down the hall. She didn't recognize the tune at first, but as the person grew closer it became quite clear. She smiled. There was only one person that would walk around whistling the theme song from The Simpsons.
"Colonel O'Neill," she greeted as the tall, silver haired man stepped into her domain.
"Evening, doc. What'd Siler do to himself this time?"
"He was changing a light bulb and it shattered in his hand."
Jack cringed. "Ouch!"
"You can say that again. Took me almost an hour to remove all of the glass fragments. He's lucky though – he could have done some serious nerve damage if the glass had gone any deeper."
"He'll shake it off," he said with casual confidence. He nodded at the items balanced in her arms. "You busy?"
"No, sir. I'm just cleaning up, actually. Give me half a second and I'll be right with you."
As Janet darted off with her armload of supplies, Jack sat down on the nearest bunk. The large room was quiet, none of the beds occupied by sick or wounded soldiers. He'd been a guest of the infirmary enough times to know such peace was rare, and that in all likelihood it wouldn't last the night.
He set down the folder he was carrying and picked up small magnifying glass from an assortment of instruments on a tray beside the bed. It had a powerful lens, and he could easily see every nick and scratch on his well-calloused hands.
Janet returned from the supply closest to find him still scrutinizing his palm. "What can I do for you, colonel?" she asked, chuckling when he looked up with the magnifying glass still posed over one eye.
"Nothing, really," he replied, returning the device to the tray. "Just thought I'd stop by and see how things were going."
"Oh, well…" The petite doctor was taken aback for a moment. The colonel wasn't the type of person just to 'stop by' the infirmary, even when it was made mandatory by the general. "Everything's fine. A little quiet at the moment, as I'm sure you noticed."
"I did. It's kind of nice."
"Yes, it is," she agreed, still wondering where things were headed. Silence fell between the two officers and she smiled awkwardly. "Are you sure you're okay, sir? I have time if you need…"
"Nope. I'm good," he said, standing up and wandering toward the exit. "Great, in fact. Just got back from a briefing and the kids and I are shipping out tomorrow morning at 0800."
"Sounds like fun."
Jack shrugged. "It's just a low-risk recon. Carter and Daniel are excited about it, and Teal'c, well, you know how he gets about that sort of thing."
"I'll find something to keep myself busy. If pestering Daniel gets old, maybe I'll find a small pond with some big fish in it."
"Well, good luck, sir, and be careful out there."
"Thanks, doc," he said and disappeared out the door.
Janet stood where she was, trying to figure out what happened. Jack's uncharacteristic visit had her wondering if she should have insisted on looking him over, but then decided just to write it off as one of his many quirks. As she turned to go back to work, she noticed a folder on the bed where he'd been sitting. Grabbing it, she hurried out into the hall, hoping to catch him before he'd gone too far.
"Colonel! Wait!" she called, spotting him at the elevator. She caught up to him just as the doors were opening. "You forgot something."
Jack took the folder and flipped it open. "Nope, not mine. Must be yours." He held it out for her to take.
"No, sir. It can't be mine. It's a mission folder."
"I know," he said, using his hand to keep the elevator door from shutting.
"What would I need a mission report for?"
"Because you're going on a mission."
"What? No, I'm not." Janet's confusion was quickly becoming concern for her fellow officer's well being. "Sir, I'd like you to come back to the infirmary with me. I think you need…"
Jack gave her a look of infinite patience. "Hammond said you've been asking for some time off world."
"And you have childcare for Cassie for a few days."
"Well, a low-risk recon has come up, and he thinks it would be a good chance for you to tag along."
"Didn't you say SG-1 was going on a low risk recon?"
"Ah-huh." He watched the doctor's expression slowly change as she began to put everything together.
"So…I'm going with you?" she asked slowly. "Tomorrow?"
"Yep. If you want to."
"Of course I want to go!" she exclaimed. "Why couldn't you have just told me that in the first place?"
"And miss an opportunity for a little fun? C'mon, doc, you know me better than that." The colonel treated her to one of his brilliant smiles.
The doctor shook her head and grinned. "I should have known."
"All the information you need should be in that report. Be on the ramp and ready to go by 0800." He stepped inside the waiting elevator and keyed in his destination. "And try to pack light – it's a 15 mile hike to our target."
"Yes, sir. I'll be ready. And thank you."
"Not a problem," he said as the doors began to close. "Have a good evening, Doc."
"You too, colonel," Janet replied. Left alone in the quiet hall, she looked down at the folder in her hands. She didn't get to go off world often, and when she did it was usually an emergency. The chance to visit another planet without the chaos of battle or urgency of a rescue was long awaited, and she was thrilled to get the chance. Tucking the report under her arm, she headed for the privacy of her office. She had reading to do.