Convolutions Chapter 9. Following Orders
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).
Jack stepped down from the plane and slowly stretched his long frame, twisting and pulling to relieve the tension of muscles cramped from long hours in the cockpit. He glanced around briefly, nodded to the pilot and started across the tarmac towards the command center. There were several airmen off to this left watching as he neared the buildings. Out of the corners of his eye he could see them clamoring into a makeshift formation as the setting sun sparked a small shaft of light from the stars resting on his collar. He paused and smiled, mostly to himself, at their surprised faces and the less than crisp salutes that followed. Then with his face void of all expression, he quickly returned the salute and moved again towards the buildings.
In a few seconds he was inside and facing an officer who stood rigidly at attention, flattened hand to his forehead as he waited for Jack to respond.
Jack raised one hand to his brow as he spoke, removing his sunglasses with the other.
"At ease, Colonel. Sorry to drop in on you like this but the weather..."
"Not a problem, Sir. What can we do for you, General?"
"I need to make a phone call, Colonel...James. Got a secure line? I just need to check in."
Jack turned on the boyish personality that he often used to put people at ease hoping to make light of their sudden appearance at this remote base.
The Colonel's eyes widened a bit before he answered, stammering the words.
"Ah...yes, Sir. It's over here, General."
Jack smiled warmly, slightly amused that the man was nervous in his presence. Generals were a dime a dozen at the Pentagon and no one acted surprised when he, or any other general suddenly appeared at their desk. Focused on his plan, he'd forgotten that generals didn't usually show up unannounced and in the middle of nowhere without making a few people nervous. He shook his head slightly and walked toward the phone.
"At ease, James." His voice was soft and friendly as he spoke. "Did I forget to say that again?"
"No, Sir, thank you. Just tell them what you want, Sir and they'll patch you through."
Jack nodded and lifted the phone. "This is General O'Neill. Can you connect me to my office?" There was a short pause before he spoke again. "Yes, in the Pentagon."
The soldiers behind Jack exchanged surprised glances and the Colonel motioned for them to leave the room as Jack began to speak.
"Just checking in, Sergeant. Everything in line there?"
Jack chose his words carefully, glancing over his shoulder as he questioned his assistant.
"He's at the rendezvous point, Sir, awaiting your orders."
Jack smiled, relieved that he didn't have to question her further to get the answers he needed.
"And General Baker?"
"He's fine, Sir. Nothing extraordinary...um, and she hasn't called."
Andrews breathed a relieved sigh at his answer; she'd been unsure how he would take the news that Mrs. O'Neill hadn't called.
"Now, why are you still there?"
"You said you needed me here, Sir."
"Oh for cryin' out loud, Andrews, I didn't mean the whole time!" Jack cringed as he reminded himself to be very specific with his comments to the young sergeant who obviously took her job very seriously. "We've had a slight delay, Sergeant. Patch me through to the boss and then I want you to go home and get some rest. Understood?"
"Yes, Sir, right away."
"Thank you, Sergeant and...I'll find you if I need you."
"Yes, Sir. Patching you through now, Sir."
Jack could hear clicking and pauses as Andrews quickly routed the call directly to the desk of the President.
The now familiar voice reached him almost instantly and Jack was surprised that the man was still at his desk.
"Problems already, Jack?" There was a bit of humor in the voice that questioned him.
"Not yet, Sir, just a delay. We had to divert around some bad weather but we'll take off again as soon as possible. Chavez is already at point Alpha. I just wanted to advise you of the delay."
"Yes, well I've been thinking about this plan of yours, Jack, I think maybe I should just order you back here. I'm not sure I want to risk losing your expertise on this maniac."
"Something else going on, Sir?"
"No, no. It's just that Generals usually stay at their desks, Jack, or at least behind the lines! Now, I know you're not the usual general, but still, I'm going to catch hell if anything happens to you out there. You wouldn't put me in that position, would you, Jack?"
"No, Sir." Jack's face showed no emotion as he listened to the President's concerns.
"Good. There has been a bit of activity but Kassem seems to be content to stay where he is for the moment."
"What about the guy at Kennedy?"
"He's still in New York but there's another operative in California now and one in Florida. Get this done, Jack. Send your guys in there and get it done quickly."
"Yes, Sir, we'll do our best."
"Oh, and Jack..."
"You did hear me say, "send", right?"
Jack winched slightly before he answered. "Yes, Sir."
"No spur of the moment heroics, Jack. You've got plenty of troops to do that for you, now. Your job is to direct and advise, not participate."
"But, Sir, I may need to..."
"Stick to the plan, Jack. Get this thing going and then get your butt out of there. I'm relying on you, Jack and I expect you back here in one piece. Hell, I expect everyone back in one piece if that's possible. Is that clear?"
Jack dropped his head and let out a long sigh, responding with the same resignation he'd had when he first presented his plan to the President.
"Yes, Sir." There was a long pause with silence on both ends as the President waited for him to continue. "I understand, Sir."
"You picked Nelson yourself, Jack now, let him handle it."
"Yes, Sir. But I'd like to be here in case he needs some...direction."
Jack again glanced over his shoulder at the colonel waiting patiently behind him.
"I'm sure he'll do his best. Check out the situation if you feel you absolutely must. Give your team their orders and then get your butt back on that plane you commandeered. I want you back here as soon as possible. You can do what you need to do from here. Clear?"
The President cut off his sentence quickly.
"Good! Now get on with it, Jack! You're the shepherd on this one...get the wolves away from my sheep. And I'll see you when...day after tomorrow?"
"Yes, Sir! As soon as the weather lets up."
The line went dead. Jack held it for a moment then almost slammed it back into its cradle. He was muttering under his breath when he turned to the colonel but quickly concealed his agitation as he looked up into the man's eyes.
"Paper and pen, Colonel?"
As the soon as the objects were in Jack's hand, he sat down at the desk and began writing, signing his name with a final, almost angry flair.
"Get these on the wire now, Colonel. High priority. And the fewer folks involved, the better."
The colonel stared down at the papers in his hands. The orders were brief and to the point. The first a simple advisement of their delay and the second an order for deployment. "Colonel T. Nelson to proceed immediately to Point Alpha. Any means necessary."
"Ah, no, Sir. We'll send these right away."
"Good now you have a bunk for me, Colonel?"
"Yes, Sir, follow me."
They walked back through the office door where other personnel were moving calmly about their tasks. The colonel searched the room for a moment and finally seeing whom he needed, called out to a young lieutenant.
"Get these on flash, Lieutenant. And do it yourself, understood?"
The young man nodded his understanding and moved quickly away with the orders in hand as Jack and the colonel disappeared out the main door.
They stepped out into the early evening and were pelted with twirling grains of sand. Jack threw up an arm to protect his eyes as he moved quickly across the open space.
"Damn! Does this wind ever stop?"
"Not really, Sir. Dies down a bit, but it's always there. We'll be inside again in a minute, Sir, you can use my quarters."
"No need for that, James. Any bunk will do."
"Well, it's that or bunk in with everyone else, Sir. I think you'd prefer my quarters."
Jack smiled. "Maybe your right, Colonel. Thank you. Oh and take care of my pilot, too will you?"
"Already done, Sir."
Jack stretched out across the rough bunk willing his body to relax. Closing his eyes, he turned on his side and almost immediately Sam was beside him. His eyes flew open and he stared into the darkness of the unfamiliar room. Out of habit he reached for the radio in his vest pocket but his hand encountered only the regular pocket of his fatigues and he sighed loudly. Dreaming. He was just dreaming. Sam was in Colorado...no, actually she was a million light years away on some unexplored planet. It was what she wanted and he had to let her go. She hadn't really given him any other choice. He turned on his back and stared at the ceiling, picturing her in his mind and thinking that this was the second night in a row he hadn't called her, hadn't heard her sweet voice. He rubbed a rough hand across his tired face and wondered if she'd even notice. Then he closed his eyes again and forced himself to sleep.
Captain Frank Chavez sat on an overturned storage canister watching the desert wind toss sand randomly into the air as he waited patiently. He'd arrived two hours ago. The pilot who had delivered him to this destination had stayed just long enough to eat and refuel; then he turned his plane into the wind and was gone. Chavez had wandered aimlessly about for a few minutes but there wasn't much to see. This base was just a small "stop-off" point that he'd bet didn't get a lot of visitors. To say it was isolated would be an understatement. It looked as if someone had been forced to land here and was still trying to dig their way out.
He had already eaten, re-checked his gear and was now just waiting, staring into the dark as his mind lazily theorized about his current mission. His orders told him little; only that someone would meet him here, at this god-forsaken outpost that he hadn't known existed two hours ago.
Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of a young sergeant walking briskly towards him, the desert wind tugging at his short hair and uniform as he moved.
The sergeant extended a small sheet of paper towards him.
"There's been a delay, Sir. Seems they ran into some weather and had to divert. It'll be several hours before your transport arrives."
Dark piercing eyes looked up at the sergeant with a stoic mask firmly in place.
"Thank you, Sergeant."
"There's an extra bunk, Sir, if you'd like to get some rest."
The sergeant shivered internally as cold eyes watched him.
"That's probably a good idea. Lead the way."
Chavez stood and followed the sergeant across the sand to a small nondescript building. It was painted the same dull color as the sand, blending into the landscape...or sandscape almost completely. From the air, it would be almost invisible to the naked eye. Chavez looked around them as they walked, thinking he'd surely been assigned to hell this time, nothing but wind and sand as far as he could see. There were only a few people stationed here, at least that's all he'd seen. A couple of pilots, the sergeant and four or five technicians called this desolation home. He didn't envy them.
"Here you go, Captain, all the comforts of home!"
Chavez scanned the room, a typical barracks with neatly made bunks standing in precise rows. At the end of each one was a regulation footlocker. There was little else.
"I can stow your gear if you'd like, Sir."
Cold brown eyes studied him just long enough to cause him to squirm and then a soft, almost amused answer broke the silence.
"Thanks, Sergeant, but no. I'll just...keep it here."
Chavez lowered his bag to the floor pushing it beneath the bunk and then removed the bag from his shoulder, gently sliding his weapon alongside the duffle.
"You'll wake me in plenty of time?"
"Yes, Sir as soon as we know. I'll come and wake you."
Chavez stretched out on the bed, not even removing his boots and was asleep before the sergeant closed the door.
Sam stepped through the gate, gritting her teeth as her boots contacted the ramp sending fresh shards of pain through her injured shoulder. Daniel had one hand on her arm steadying her against a possible fall onto the cold metal.
The room was filled with medical personnel and SF's assessing the condition of the returning bedraggled group. Landry caught Daniel's eye and motioned for him to approach.
Daniel slowly weaved his way down the ramp with Sam in tow, moving cautiously around the exhausted scientists who now sat randomly along the ramp.
"Well, welcome back and good to see you're..." He paused as he saw the dark splotch of color on Sam's shoulder. "Colonel Carter, you're wounded?"
"Yes, Sir, but I don't think it's too bad."
Landry's concerned eyes moved along her blood stained uniform as he motioned to one of the medics.
"Well, let's get you taken care of." He turned to the medic. "Get Colonel Carter to the infirmary."
As they moved away, he spoke again.
"Where are Mitchell and Teal'c?"
Both Sam and Daniel turned towards the gate just as Mitchell and Teal'c stepped through carrying Lieutenant Sands' body. Sam pulled her eyes to Landry before answering.
"Here they are, Sir. We had a bit of trouble."
Landry released a long sigh as he watched the last of his troops move down the ramp.
"Yes, I see. Carry on, Colonel. Get that taken care of."
In a few minutes they were in the infirmary and the nurses were helping Sam to remove her pack and jacket. Then Daniel was whisked away to another examination room, protesting loudly that he wasn't injured.
By the time Sam was stretched out on one of the beds the room was filled with people and noise as those with injuries were moved in for treatment. Sam closed her eyes attempting to shut out the chaos that surrounded her and unconsciously reached into the far recesses of her mind seeking comfort. Slowly the noise began to fade out, finally diminishing to a low, tolerable hum as she pulled back into herself and Jack's memory filled her mind's eye.
He was beside her again. His crooked smile shyly adorning his ruggedly handsome features as he sat in the chair next to her waiting impatiently. A slight smile tugged at her lips but faded quickly as Jack stood and approached her, hurt and anger apparent in his dark eyes, his voice strained but sure as he spoke to her. "...you don't really want me here."
She was motionless as the vivid memory unfolded around her, trying but unable to pull away. Why hadn't she heard his desperation, his sadness then? "...I want you to be happy. That's why I'm leaving." He was so real she could have reached out and touched him but instead she just watched him walk away...again. She had tried to make light of it at the time but her heart knew how badly she was hurting him, knew that she was forcing him out of her life.
And then his voice pulled her back into the memory. "Don't expect me to wait forever." Steely, dark eyes cut through her, making her want to back away, afraid of the anger she saw there. His eyes. They were usually so welcome, so mesmerizing but they appeared cold and foreboding as she searched their depths, only now realizing his despair. Fear rose up within her and she pushed it back, defiant and unwilling to allow it to overpower her. Then suddenly the memory vanished only to be quickly replaced by another... and another in rapid succession. Years of memories unfurled, streaming through her in a fluid kaleidoscope as she fought against her reactions to the vivid recall. Her mind convicted her with years of denial, of teasing and pushing him away, of her betrayal and his eternal forgiveness as the memories continued to wash over her. It was upsetting and painful. She was beginning to physically struggle against it, her body clenching and moving about the bed erratically, trying unsuccessfully to flee the assault on her mind and senses.
And then she was screaming. The room went quiet, voices froze in mid-sentence, startled faces turned towards her and Daniel was running to her side. Teal'c was already there, standing motionless at the foot of her bed, staring down at her as she struggled against an invisible enemy.
Daniel's concerned voice rang out as he moved filling the sudden eerie silence.
"What is it, Sam?"
Her eyes flew open and she turned towards his voice. Her eyes were vacant, unseeing, still lost in the memories that were torturing her. And suddenly her mind twisted upon itself and reality slipped away. Daniel reached out to touch her, his concern for her moving him into thoughtless action.
"Get out of my way!"
She snapped at him and sat up quickly moving off the bed, then turned to stare momentarily at the empty chair.
"Where's Jack? Where is he, Daniel?"
Her voice was demanding and urgent as her hands pushed against his shoulder, shoving him roughly aside and then moving swiftly past him.
Teal'c raised his booming voice in an almost threatening tone, surprised at her actions and attempting to stop her.
"Move, Teal'c! Now!"
She shoved against him fiercely, her strength surprising him and he let her pass.
"Sam! He's not here, Sam!"
Daniel's voice was filled with confusion as he watched her disappear out the door and then ran to follow her.
"What happened? What's going on?"
Dr. Summers was jogging across the room and tossing questions at Teal'c as she moved but he was already following Daniel out the door. She picked up the phone and called security.
Sam was running and she had no intention of stopping. She had to talk to Jack. She had to get to his office before it was too late, before he was gone. She clamored clumsily up the spiral stairs, yelping softly when she slammed into the wall on the landing. Her shoulder was bleeding freely again and she was breathing heavily as she stepped off the top stair focused on the office door across the room.
Suddenly, strong arms surrounded her and she could hear Daniel shouting her name from somewhere below. Her mind was still racing, twisting against itself and for a moment she was unsteady on her feet, her eyes blurred as she yelled. "Let go of me! What is wrong with you, airman?"
She struggled momentarily against the arms that were restraining her and then instinctively reached for the sidearm that wasn't there. A moment of frustration flashed across her eyes and almost instantly her elbow came up in defense. Her fisted hand moved across her body until it was almost parallel with the floor and then pushing her body slightly to the side, she reversed the movement with all the thrust she could manage. Bone struck bone as she sank it deep into the ribs of the SF, smiling as the air escaped his lungs forcefully and his grip on her relaxed. As he slumped forward against her back, both from surprise and the force of her blow, she rotated her fist powerfully upwards landing it solidly across the bridge of his nose and feeling the crunch beneath her knuckles as the bones shattered. His hands dropped harmlessly away from her and she ran across the room grasping at the door handle and leaning into the door with her shoulder.
Daniel and Teal'c were just clearing the top of the stairs and they shouted across the room for her to stop. She glanced over her shoulder at her approaching teammates registering the confusion in their eyes and the fear that had been building suddenly, inexplicitly engulfed her. With a final desperate effort she turned the handle and pushed the door open.
"Jack! Oh, my god, Jack!"
Hank Landry was already rising from the soft leather chair behind his desk when Sam burst into the room wild-eyed and shouting. A fresh wet stain covered her shoulder and she was breathing heavily as she came to a sudden stop beside his desk and their eyes locked.
Then she was on him. Grabbing at his uniform and shaking him violently, holding on with strong fisted hands, the crisp material wrinkling beneath her taut fingers and shouting angrily through clenched teeth as Daniel and Teal'c appeared in the doorway.
"Who are you?" She demanded, her face a mask of snarled features, mere inches from his. "Where the hell is Jack? What have you done to him?"
"I said, where is he, dammit! And I want to know right now!"
"Colonel, let go of me!"
"Where. Is. Jack?"
She shook him again and Landry started to turn towards the doorway as her arm came up in a threatening posture, hand fisted, arm coiled to attack.
Daniel shouted loudly unable to believe his eyes. Sam was about to punch her commanding officer.
Landry was raising his arms in a silent question as Sam released the force of her anger on him. Her arm uncoiled and arched swiftly toward its target as Daniel watched with open-mouthed total confusion on his face.
Teal'c had not been so slow to react and as her arm reached out in anger towards Landry, he intercepted her blow with one outstretched hand. Her fist landed harmlessly in his palm and he immediately enclosed it with his massive hand while the other reached around her, pulling her against his chest.
"Let go of me, Teal'c! He's got Jack!"
"He does not, Colonel Carter. I can not allow you to hurt General Landry."
"Sam, what the hell is going on?"
"Daniel! I've got to get to Jack! Help me!" Her voice was desperate, pleading.
"Sam, he's in Washington. He's fine!"
"No! No, he isn't! Please, Daniel."
She was twisting and struggling but she was no match for Teal'c's strength as he held her snug against him, restraining her gently.
"She has re-injured herself, Daniel Jackson. You should call Dr. Summers."
"I don't need a damned doctor! Why won't you listen to me? I have to get to Jack! You have to help me!"
Daniel's face was clouded in worry as he again tried to assure Sam that Jack was in Washington and that everything was fine but she continued to struggle against Teal'c, insisting that she see Jack, totally convinced that he was in danger.
Dr. Summers entered the small office and surveyed the situation calmly.
"All right, Colonel, you need to come with me and we'll take care of everything."
Sam stared back at the woman defiantly.
"If you don't, I'll have to sedate you." Her voice was monotone and matter-of-fact, leaving no room for question or discussion. "So which is it, Colonel?"
Sam looked around the room at each face, searching desperately for an ally.
"I'm sure he's fine, Colonel. We'll call him as soon as we get to the infirmary. You can talk to him there, ok?"
Sam studied the doctor for a long moment, her mind racing through all the possibilities.
"Sam, please. It's ok, you know we wouldn't lie to you."
Daniel's tone was soft and reassuring, hoping to convince her to cooperate.
Something in his words sparked a memory and as she watched, Daniel's image briefly shimmered in front of her. She closed her eyes and shook her head slightly but it didn't go away. Then suddenly the word popped into her mind. 'Foothold. They were all in danger. And Jack...I remember shooting him. No, no. An Alien. I shot an alien.' Confused eyes looked back to the doctor and she went suddenly still in Teal'c's grasp.
"Washington? You're certain?"
"Yes, Sam, I'm positive." Daniel assured her again.
She twisted her wrists slightly against Teal'c's grasp as her eyes darted once more around the room.
"Uh, o...ok. Ok. And I can call him?"
"Yes, Colonel. Dr. Jackson can call him now while we're on our way. You can talk to him as soon as we get to the infirmary. Ok?"
Sam shook her head in agreement and Daniel sighed in relief, noticing that everyone else in the room relaxed a bit, too.
"Ok." Sam shook her head and stated her agreement more firmly this time and Teal'c relaxed his hold on her slightly. "It's ok, Teal'c. I'll go with her. Something must have...I don't know...happened...something..."
"It's all right, Colonel. We'll take care of it. Don't worry, you'll be fine."
She shook her head again and the small group began to move toward the stairs. Teal'c released her completely but stayed close to her side, Daniel on the other, as they moved into the hallway.
Sam stared straight ahead, the gray walls stretching out endlessly in front of her. They were lying; she knew it as surely as she knew her own name. They were all lying and Jack was the only person she could trust. She had to get away. She had to find Jack.
At the far end of the hall was the elevator that would take them to the infirmary. A few SF's remained in the hallway, waiting for them to pass, making sure that the situation was under control. Dr. Summers walked calmly in front of them, an SF beside her, leading the group toward their destination, looking over her shoulder occasionally and smiling briefly at Sam.
Daniel glanced at Sam nervously, worried and confused as to what had happened to cause her sudden erratic actions. He wanted to comfort her but hesitated, afraid he might set her off again and for once...he kept quiet.
There was a metallic growl in front of them and the elevator doors opened slowly. A few people stepped out and headed away from them down the long hallway. Sam bolted. She shoved Dr. Summers and the SF apart, moving past them easily and running all out for the open elevator.
"Sam! Teal'c, stop her!"
Daniel yelled as he began to run, following behind Teal'c.
"Colonel Carter! You must stop!"
She kept running and was within a step of the door when Teal'c fired the zat. Her body contorted in pain and she slumped heavily to the floor across the open doorway, her mind going suddenly quiet as Jack's voice, sweet and soothing, whispered, "Goodnight, Sweetheart" and the terrifying memories faded away.
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