Learning to Live With It Part 9
Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. I have written this story for entertainment purposes only and no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author(s).
Title: Learning to Live With It Part 9
Author: Su Freund
Category: Angst, Drama, Action/Adventure, Romance
Content Level: Age 13+
Content Warnings: Minor use of mild language
Pairings: Jack & Sam
Spoilers: Divide and Conquer, Entity, Metamorphosis, General S9 spoilers
Summary: In Area 51, Jack and Teal'c uncover something way more sinister than any of the friends had anticipated
Sequel/Series Info: Sequel to Learning to Live With It Part 8
Copyright (c) 2005 Su Freund
Art Credit: The cap of ever gorgeous Jack that illustrates this fic on my site was made into a book cover by fulin28, to whom I am very grateful as always, and can be found here if you want to take a look: http://www.ficwithfins.com/AA3_1/archive/2/learningto9.html
Author's Note: Many thanks to Bonnie for beta reading this fic, and her always useful corrections and suggestions. As ever, any remaining mistakes are entirely my own.
Learning to Live With It Part 9
Jack deliberately chose to tell no one but Teal'c about this part of his plan. He needed to see what was going on with his own eyes. That was evidence he could trust. Wearing full commando style gear and armed with P90s and Zats, Jack and Teal'c materialised inside the Groom Lake facility.
Smiling to himself, Jack was grateful that the Asgard beaming technology was at his disposal. It meant they could get in without being spotted and, if they were, they could beam out again without being captured. If caught, how on Earth would General Jack O'Neill explain why he had mysteriously appeared inside Area 51? Ostensibly, he was in charge of the place and it could be way too embarrassing.
Of course, Jack being Jack had a back up plan in mind for if the worst happened and they inexplicably got caught sneaking around. He would claim this was an exercise designed to test security at Area 51. In fact, the obvious flaw in Groom Lake defences bothered him and he realised that, once all of this was over, he had to find a way to guard against such intrusion in future.
As Head of Homeworld Security, Jack couldn't countenance such a breech. At the moment any old person could get into the place by using Asgard technology. That was simply wrong on so many levels and he could not allow it to continue unchecked. Indeed, it shocked him to consider that he'd overlooked that gaping hole, and they'd been lucky that no one else seemed to have thought of it. The Trust, or other nefarious enemies, could have a field day with such knowledge.
He didn't think that either his CO or the President of the United States would be overly impressed when they found out what was going on, or about the defect in defences he'd discovered. He'd probably have a hard enough job explaining how he'd managed to allow unsanctioned experiments to go on behind his back.
There were going to be repercussions but Jack had broad shoulders and would protect his people if possible while shouldering the blame as much as he could. General Doyle and Patrick MacDonald were so going to get it, but he was gonna get it a whole lot more.
Despite the often excruciatingly boring paperwork involved in his job, Jack wasn't ready for a forced retirement quite yet. He'd tell them when he wanted to go and that would be when he was good and ready. While he stayed, he could do a lot to help the Stargate Program, and that was still of vital importance to him. So he'd find a way to defend himself from all comers so that he could continue to fight the good fight.
He hadn't wanted the others to know about this little side trip because he thought they'd all want to come along for the ride. Two was enough. In as quickly and quietly as possible, gather what information and evidence they could, then out just as quickly and quietly; that's the way he wanted it to be and Jack sure hoped they didn't screw anything up. Despite that he could find a way to justify it, getting caught was not an option because it would ruin his carefully laid plans.
The paper trail had been pretty clear about the location of the experiments. It all led to one place. Connelly was obviously pulling the wool over the eyes of both his CO, General Doyle, and Sam's replacement as head of R&D, Patrick MacDonald. It had to be Connelly unless one of the other two men were involved. He was the only one with enough clout to keep this a secret and, if Sam was right, it was quite some secret.
Someone had aptly named it Project Palooka, which meant fighter as well as imbecile. Jack was vastly amused by this and wondered whether Connelly, or whoever it was who had named it, actually had a sense of humor. They were going to need that where they were going. Prison time was no joking matter and they would be getting a lot of that so should take their laughs wherever they could.
On the surface, the project was meant to be exploring an effective means of defeating the Ori, or their Priors anyway, by biological or chemical means. For all Jack knew they were doing that too, although Sam couldn't see how they could be because she happened to know that they didn't have enough base data to succeed in such a project. Jack had to take her word for that and he pondered how they were managing to hoodwink Doyle and MacDonald into believing that that they did.
Although he might not have been listening properly, obviously Jack had taken in some of what Sam and the others had been talking about. He always did. His ears seemed to be finely attuned to blocking out the extraneous crap that he didn't need to know but picking up the essentials. It was a trick that none of his old team seemed to catch on to even though he had worked with them for many years. It could come in handy in many situations.
Apart from the lack of data on which they might base such a specifically targeted attack on the Priors, Sam was tipped that there was something else going on by discrepancies in supply orders, and the manpower they were using.
Not all the supplies fit together with the project and her curiosity had been peaked by the fact that people seemed to be going in as guinea pigs but didn't appear to be coming out. On the face of it they were coming out, all seemingly healthy and fine, but she didn't need to do much digging to find out that this was a big lie and cover up. In her opinion this was a sign of a terrible and cruel travesty. She believed they were killing people with their experiments and Jack wanted to find out if she was right.
So, because of their research and the benefits of Asgard technology, Jack and Teal'c appeared in almost exactly the right place. It was a large room filled with lots of scientific equipment and cupboards storing heaven knows what. There were also a number of other rooms connected to this project and these might contain just about anything. Jack figured there had to be way more people involved than simply Connelly, James and Peters and he wondered how many and if they all knew what was really going on.
All they had to do now was hope that no one was watching. It was late and most of the base was closed down for the night but these scientific types had a bad habit of working at all hours.
Jack was proved to be right. It was more by good management than good luck that he and Teal'c appeared hidden from view because when they arrived the lights were on in the room next door and someone was home. The pair crept over to the door, which luckily had a glass window in it. Peering through that window Jack could see Connelly and Peters standing over what looked like a person on a gurney. They could hear the hubbub of conversation and he pulled the door ever so slightly ajar, both men focussing and trying to discern the words.
"I thought it was going to go alright this time," Connelly snapped, "you assured me, Peters."
"I guess I was wrong."
"We can't go on like this. Someone other than that overly inquisitive and meddlesome woman, Carter, is bound to notice. Now we know she's still alive I'm surprised we haven't had O'Neill or someone else snooping around."
"You said O'Neill went back to Washington."
"Yeah, luckily for us he was recalled. That doesn't mean he won't be sending someone else. We have to mop up, and soon. We're at risk of becoming exposed."
"Carter hasn't gone in yet. She's still on the run. Ed will pick her up tomorrow and we'll be safe again."
"I hope so. You both told me we'd be much further forward than this by now but look at this guy! Can't you do anything for him?"
"I'm a chemist not a doctor."
"Yeah, I guess I should have recruited me one of those. You know what the success of this project could mean, for all of us?"
"That's why I'm here, Connelly. I want it to be a success as much as you do. You aren't the only one who's looking for a cosy retirement package."
A loud moan came from the gurney and both men looked down.
"For Christ's sake give the poor guy some morphine and let him die painlessly, Peters!" Connelly said.
"If you cared that much we wouldn't be doing this at all," the other man countered cynically, "so don't give me that crap! You know the longer he lives the more we'll learn for the next time."
"Just give him enough to take the edge off." Connelly responded as the moaning increased in both volume and frequency.
The guinea pig was evidently in considerable pain and Jack exchanged a disgusted glance with Teal'c, but they kept quiet. However much he wanted to go punch these guy's lights out, it wasn't part of the plan. Jack wondered if that was as cynical and hardened as Rick Peters sounded at that moment and realised that it probably was. The fact saddened him and he thought about how far he was prepared to go to reach his own goals. Pretty far.
'Been there, done that and bought the T-shirt, O'Neill,' he thought, 'So who are you to sit in judgement over these guys?'
Then he remembered that "these guys" had tried to kill Sam, which was another ball-game entirely. No one messed with one of his team! Especially not her. Although he sometimes liked to kid himself that he would have treated them all equally, he knew that he was fooling himself. However fond he was of Teal'c and Daniel, the recent experience of Sam's "death" proved beyond a shadow of doubt that no equality whatsoever was involved as far as his feelings and reactions were concerned.
When Daniel had ascended, Jack had been pretty upset. In fact, in Daniel's case they had thought him to be dead on more than one occasion and each time it had hit him hard, although he'd done his damnedest to hide it. Teal'c had been missing and possibly dead a few times too, which had also pissed him off one hell of a lot. But nothing could have prepared him for the pain that her so called death had caused. Until then he hadn't realised quite how much such an event would affect him. He had wanted to die himself.
He should have known he would feel that way, even though he wanted to hate her. Jack recalled very well that moment when she'd got trapped behind the force field, although he'd suppressed his feelings pretty well it seemed, and that had been sufficient to be considered a Zatarc for a while. Lying to yourself could be a risky business, it seemed. The memory flooded back.
Desperately, he had tried to free her, unable to leave and let her die alone. She had begged him to save himself, but he'd continued trying because he couldn't bear to give her up, or to give up on her. He had stared deep into her eyes and seen his own fear reflected there, along with other feelings that neither would admit and still hadn't. She'd wanted him to live as much as he'd wished it for her. At the time he's been unable to accept those feelings and had buried them deep, only to have them forced from him because he'd had no choice.
During his second Zatarc test, Anise had asked what he'd been feeling at the time and he'd reluctantly confessed "like someone who was about to die," and the words couldn't have been more truthful, but they hadn't been enough, much to his profound humiliation and chagrin. He'd needed to confess way too much more.
He remembered the look in Sam's eyes, begging him to come clean about his feelings for his own sake. Once again, he'd wanted to save her, by sacrificing himself if necessary, but she hadn't wanted him to risk his life or sanity. Frankly, he hadn't considered his brain worth saving, but she had.
"I didn't leave because I'd rather have died myself than loose Carter... Because I care about her...a lot more than I'm supposed to "
He'd been staring into Sam's eyes, his feelings as naked and raw as they generally ever got, if he ever gave them a chance to show themselves. Her feelings for him had been written in her eyes too and, although he'd almost wanted to die a thousand deaths rather than let Sam see into his heart, or even admit anything to himself, there had been some small comfort in knowing that she felt similarly about him. And, in reality, she had already known that he felt more for her than he should have, which probably meant that she knew now too.
Those words had said it all, so he should have known how devastated he'd be when it happened. But he'd never expected it to happen, and those events had taken place many years before. She probably didn't consider his brain worth saving anymore, and who could blame her for that? Certainly not him.
Then there was the time when he'd believed that she would burst open horribly and painfully to become a watery phantasm. His thoughts had been pretty bleak and terrible. He had wanted to die in her place then as well. In fact, he'd begged Nirrti to take him instead and cure her but there was no point in pleading with someone who has no heart and soul. She had merely laughed and he had despaired.
As Sam's head had rested on his shoulder he'd tried to come to terms with the fact that he was helpless. He would lose her forever and she would die as he stood idly by and did nothing. Jack had hated himself for that and knew then that he'd never forgive himself for being unable to save her. But in the end he had, and everything reverted to normality again. Denial of love and denial of self. It was always thus and always would be.
Jack had even killed her once, or tried to. That had broken his heart, pulling the trigger on the Zat for the second time. He'd prayed that the first shot would subdue the thing that had possessed her but it hadn't, so he'd killed her because it was the right thing to do even though it damned near broke him.
Having believed her dead then too, Jack sometimes wondered how things might have been for him if events had turned out differently. Could he have continued the fight that had kept them apart for too long without her by his side, knowing that he was responsible for her death? He figured that somehow he would have soldiered on, just as he did now, just as he had for months, even while he died a little inside each and every day.
So Sam had had her own moments too, just like Daniel and Teal'c and, although he'd known it would be hard if the worse ever happened, Jack had continued to deny his feelings. That was until it actually had happened. This time she really had died, and he'd witnessed her apparent horrific demise. That had been almost totally unbearable; just like Charlie, or as similar as he was ever likely to encounter
Berating himself for getting distracted at such a moment, Jack pulled his thoughts back to the here and now and Teal'c touched his arm, indicating a door off to the left of Connelly and Peters. Ed James was entering the room.
"What are you two guys bickering about now?" he asked his co-conspirators, approaching rapidly. Looking down at the man on the gurney, he puckered his nose. "Another failure, huh?" Wordlessly, he walked over to a cabinet close by and prepared a syringe, injecting what Jack took to be morphine into the man's arm. "Instead of arguing about it, why didn't you just do it?"
At least one of them was vaguely humanitarian. Jack found himself perversely pleased that the man was Ed James. Maybe Sam's ex wasn't all bad and she might find that comforting to know. Once again his mind wandered a little, trying to picture her dating the man, happy, laughing, and smiling, as well as kissing, cuddling and making love. It wasn't fair; it should have been him!
"Look, let's leave the poor guy in peace. There's nothing more we can do here tonight," James said.
"While he's alive we might still get some results that could help, Ed," Peters replied.
"Well you knock yourself out, Rick. We aren't getting any more out of him while he's still alive because he's dead."
"You gave him enough to kill him?" Peter's asked.
"He's suffered enough."
"You always were too soft, Ed,"
"And you always were a jerk, Rick."
"I hope you don't go soft when you meet that Carter woman tomorrow."
"I thought you were pretty hot on her, Ed."
"Cut it out, Rick!"
"Broke your heart, did she?" Peters countered nastily.
"Screw you, Peters! You couldn't be more wrong."
"Peters is right, James," Connelly intervened, "you'd better be able to handle her. We don't want any mistakes tomorrow. We can't afford to have that woman running around loose. She's still in Vegas and, at the moment, it seems she hasn't had the chance to tell anyone anything about us. That could change real soon."
Jack was pleased to hear that the men had been fooled. So far so good. He was beginning to wonder if they needed to carry out that part of the plan at all. There was probably enough evidence within these rooms to sink several large conspiracies and he would have to mull that one over. Perhaps they should call in the cavalry.
"You don't need to worry about Sam Carter. She's crazy about me. Putty in my hands," James replied.
Jack squirmed a little at those words but Sam had denied it and he couldn't really think of any reason she should lie to him about that.
"Yeah, sure. That's why she stopped seeing you, I suppose," Peters inserted.
"We both had our reasons." James retorted defensively
'Yeahsureyabetchya,' thought Jack, 'you mean she had her reasons, you prick!'
Jack thought it sounded pretty much like Sam had broken Ed James's heart. He knew how that felt although his own reactions might have been different. As he'd told her, that made her ex a dangerous man, at least for her. He'd have to keep a special eye on the guy next day. The three men in the next room weren't the only ones who didn't want to make any mistakes. Sam was putting her neck on the block and Jack wasn't about to be the person who let it get chopped off.
"Will you two knock it off?" Connelly interrupted. "We're all behaving like a bunch of kids. We need to stick together right now. No mistakes." He covered the dead man's face with a sheet, "Come on. Let's get out of here and get some rest. We all need it. You can tear this guy apart tomorrow looking for clues." The other two men nodded in acquiescence and the three started to leave, turning the lights out behind them.
It had been quiet and still for around 10 minutes before Jack indicated that they move out from their hiding place and take a look around. He made his way towards the dead man on the gurney while Teal'c started to peruse the rest of the room. Uncovering the man's face, a look of horror appeared on his own.
"Oh god!" he exclaimed, "Poor Sap."
The dead man was excessively pale, but red blotches covered large areas of his skin. It looked nasty and painful, and Jack felt a little sick. What the hell were they doing to these men? The people who had done this were cold, calculating and greedy. It was an important thing to know, as is any detail about one's enemy.
Sam believed that the conspirators managed to shuffle around the paperwork for these volunteers so it got permanently lost. Nobody seemed to miss them. Maybe they were well chosen for that reason. Then they were probably made to feel like they were going to be heroes if they volunteered. Everyone wants to be a hero given the chance.
"O'Neill," Teal'c called softly and Jack went to join him. In a large space next door lay half a dozen men, clearly more volunteers, asleep or drugged. They were trying to make these men super soldiers? From what Jack had seen he didn't think they were doing so well and he wondered what ridiculous theory they were trying to prove. What was the basis of their experimentation? What made them think they were going in the right direction? Sam would probably understand it all.
"I hope we'll be in time to help those guys," Jack commented and Teal'c nodded in agreement. "Let's keep looking around. This place is huge."
He was surprised to find that they could quite easily get into the room holding the other guinea pigs and they stealthily tiptoed around with revulsion for what they saw.
"I think we need to call in the cavalry to close this place down as soon as possible T," Jack whispered. "these guys need treatment, and there must be enough evidence here to blow this thing sky high."
"Let's keep looking. There has to be more. And let's keep quiet. There must be a nurse or someone around here. They sure aren't leaving these guys alone all night."
"You are correct O'Neill," but he didn't move and stared thoughtfully at his friend, "I do believe that you are thinking of cancelling Colonel Carter's rendezvous tomorrow."
"I'm considering it. I don't know that it will be necessary."
"But to have their confessions before we capture them would be useful would it not?"
"And would not Colonel Carter resent that she lacked involvement in the capture of these men?" Teal'c added and Jack stared at him silently for a while and nodded.
"Teal'c, have I ever told you that you're a very wise man?" Jack replied eventually and his Jaffa partner showed a hint of a smile and bowed but said nothing. "I thought you guys didn't bow to any man anymore."
"You are someone I deem worthy of such respect O'Neill."
"Hey, thanks T!" Jack smiled and thumped him lightly on the back. "Okay, back to immediate business, huh?"
Jack was beginning to lose interest because he'd more or less decided to call in the hounds next day while still continuing with their part of the plan. Let other people tear this place apart while he and his friends had some fun. Nevertheless, he continued looking because he was there now and might as well. He was pleased that he did because he found something else of supreme importance and it made his blood run cold.
"Teal'c, old buddy, I don't think Connelly's the boss of this thing. Someone else has to be calling the shots."
"What makes you say so, O'Neill?"
"Come take a look. You aren't going to like it. Can't say I do."
The implications of what he had found made his head reel. This was so not good. Who could be behind this conspiracy? The Trust, or someone way more sinister? And why use Area 51 as the base of operations if it could be run elsewhere and raise way less interest? It was a conundrum that he was determined to resolve.
When Teal'c joined Jack and saw what he saw, his eyes widened with surprise, his mind immediately considering the connotations of the discovery.
"That's how I know it's someone else," Jack said, "I can't say I know many people who can lay their hands on a tank full of fresh young symbiotes, and Connelly certainly isn't one of them."
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