Stargate Command Headquarters, Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado

The SGC had been quiet all morning. No flashing red lights, no teams returning from off world missions, no gate activity of any kind. People walked at a normal pace through the corridors, and spoke in conversational tones. No hurry, no worries.

Not even a phone call! That left General Jack O'Neill with nothing to do but paperwork. And he hated paperwork. In front of him were the cafeteria menus for the next two weeks, and requisitions for the twice-monthly kitchen supplies waiting for his approval. He checked to make sure Fruit Loops and lemon meringue pie were generously available, then scribbled something illegible across the bottom of the page. O'Neill had always sneered at the hen scratching of doctors and others whose jobs made frequent signatures necessary. Now he understood.

The next stack demanding his attention was the previous day's mission reports. Three teams - SG 4, 7, and 12 - had returned from totally uneventful recons the day before, and their reports were just as boring as the trips had been. Nonetheless, Jack read each brief narrative carefully, shaking his head at the thought that something as incredible as off-world travel through a wormhole could possibly have become so commonplace as to be called boring. He himself would give his right arm - well maybe his left, after all he was right-handed - to be back with SG1 traveling through the gate to anywhere.

He glanced at the clock. Eleven forty-two. Close enough to lunch time and a brief respite from ennui - did he really think that word? Maybe Teal'c would be in the cafeteria. Or Carter, or Daniel. Even Siler or Dr. Lee. He slid the reports into their folder.

As if on cue, Sergeant Walter Harriman appeared at the door, his arms full of yellow folders.

"Just in time, Walter. Drop those and let's go to lunch." He stood and stepped from behind the desk.

Harriman, of course, ignored the invitation. "These are the new personnel files, General. You told me to remind you to go over them today."

O'Neill narrowed his eyes. "I did?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, of course I did. And now you've done your job and reminded me." He headed for the door. "Just plunk 'em down on my desk. With a little luck they'll slide off into the circular file. Coming?"

"No thank you, sir. I'm on duty in the control room in fifteen minutes."

"OK. Your loss," Jack tossed back over his shoulder as he stepped out into the corridor, closed the door behind him and nodded to a passing airman. He turned the corner into the intersecting corridor and headed for the elevator.

As he reached out to swipe his access card, there was suddenly a brilliant flash of light. Jack O'Neill vanished.

Six miles above the Gulf of Mexico, 130 miles SSW of Eglin Air Force Base, Florida

The two jet fighters screamed northwest, wingtip to wingtip, their speed perfectly coordinated.

In the starboard plane the pilot spoke into his mike. "Jaybird, this is Black Bear. Execute maneuver Beta 14 on my mark. Acknowledge."

The response was clear in the earpiece. "Black Bear, this is Jaybird. Beta 14. Acknowledged."

"Three, two, one - mark!"

The two fighters broke into a series of tight turns, performed in perfect unison, and ending in a steep two-mile dive. When the maneuver was finished they were still wingtip to wingtip, the distance between them having varied no more than three meters.

The lead pilot spoke again into his mouthpiece. "Nicely done, O'Neill! You're a natural at this!"

"Thank you, sir." Second Lieutenant Jay O'Neill replied, smiling at Major Donald Nash's compliment. "Bear" Nash was one of the best flight instructors in the Air Force; praise from him was not to be taken lightly.

"How long did you say you've been flying?"

"This is my twelfth week of flight training, sir. But I started flying small planes when I was sixteen." Of course Jay did not mention that those first flights had taken place in 1968 - thirty-seven years ago, in a different lifetime.

Nash glanced over at O'Neill's cockpit. "Excellent job, lieutenant. Return to altitude now, and we'll head back…" He broke off abruptly as O'Neill's cockpit exploded in brilliant white light. O'Neill's fighter veered sharply away, and plunged toward the water below.

"O'Neill!" Nash slammed his own craft into a dive, engines whining, as he chased the other plane downward. "O'Neill! What the hell happened?! O'Neill - acknowledge!" His call was unanswered. He thumbed his transmitter to the emergency frequency. "Eglin - this is Nash - Alpha217! Position 28.14 North, 87.53 West! Aircraft down! I repeat, aircraft down…"