Convolutions Chapter 12. Target Acquired
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).
Nelson was flat on the ground staring through the infrared scope of Chavez' weapon. He was lying on top of a bluff at the jungle's edge looking down onto a clearing that had been hollowed out of its heart. There was a large house and two other buildings in the compound; the entire complex surrounded by a low wall. The wall wasn't tall enough to be a useful barrier, it didn't need to be; the jungle was barrier enough.
He had held the weapon ready until he was sure that whoever was inside had settled in for the night and then lowered it quietly to the ground. Still holding it within his grasp, he crossed his arms over it and lowered his head to rest. Then he closed his eyes and listened to the sounds of the jungle around him; in a few moments his exhaustion overtook him but his sleep was short-lived and troubled. He was too keyed up and his position too vulnerable for him to slip away into a relaxing sleep. If one guard stumbled across him, prone on the jungle's floor, he'd have very little time to react so his mind stayed alert while his body tried to rest. Throughout the night he raised the weapon and scanned the area below him searching for any movement or sign of life and finding none, returned to his resting position.
The time had passed slowly and his muscles ached from the inactivity. He was still shrouded in darkness but in the last hour it had become less intense and very soon light would be tickling the canopy above him. Using that quickly disappearing advantage, he had stretched his muscles as much as possible pushing his boots into the ground and flexing his feet, then stretching his arms along the length of the rifle. Now, he was again immobile, resting on his elbows and staring steadily through the scope at the compound below. A single room was awash with light, its brightness slicing through the contrasting darkness of the jungle and he had been focused on it for the last five minutes. There was no other sign of life.
Two hours later, morning had arrived and his dark sanctuary had become a sun speckled hiding. There was a bit of life in the compound, as a few men moved around its interior. They were laughing and talking, their voices rising easily to his ears. That was good; he'd be able to hear them long before they were close to him but it also meant that if he moved, they would hear, they would know he was there. Suddenly Chavez' words came back to him with new understanding, "If I move...I'm dead. If I'm dead, then the job doesn't get done . . ." It was up to him now to see that this mission was successful. It had really always been up to him, since he was in command, the only difference was that now he would be the one to pull the trigger.
All thought stopped abruptly as a well dressed man stepped into the morning light of the courtyard below. He held his breath and watched as the man moved leisurely across the compound. Nelson followed his movements through the high-powered scope until he was certain that he had identified his target. Kassem seemed to be instructing the other men, giving them their orders and Nelson slowly adjusted the scope. He had to be sure of his target. There was no room for error and there would be no second chance.
Nelson followed him as he moved across the neatly trimmed grass and carefully pressed his finger lightly against the trigger. Just a bit more pressure...but suddenly Kassem slipped behind a tree and the opportunity was gone. Nelson released his breath and continued watching. Kassem was there and he had nothing to do but wait.
The other men in the compound climbed noisily into two nearby vehicles and moved quickly down the road, throwing up small clouds of dust in their wake. Determined to prevent Kassem's escape, Nelson kept his weapon trained on the vehicles until they were moving and then quickly swung back to the courtyard. He was still there. Sitting quietly in the shadows, only his feet and legs visible and for a moment Nelson wondered if the man had somehow seen him. He moved his face away from the rifle and eyed the distance. No. It was impossible.
A few minutes later Kassem moved back into the house, disappearing into a nearby door and the two remaining guards followed him. Nelson looked at his watch guessing that they were eating a morning meal and tried to relax a bit as he waited.
Less than an hour later Kassem returned to the courtyard, still masked in shadow, he seemed to be simply enjoying the beauty of his surroundings. A sudden movement across the scope made Nelson pull away and as he leaned in again, he saw a ball rolling onto the plush grass. A small boy, eight or nine years old, stepped into the light. He was laughing as a large dog chased the ball he had just thrown. Nelson grimaced as he watched the boy. "Damn!" His mind screamed the word and it seemed to reverberate off the inside of his skull, bouncing in a crazy echo before finally dying away.
There had been nothing in the intel about Kassem's family being here. He would have remembered. No, they were supposed to be on another continent out of harm's way.
Nelson's pulse increased and his mind was racing as he mentally sought an acceptable solution. He knew the importance of this mission, more so than Chavez but he didn't normally pull the trigger on unarmed, unsuspecting civilians even if they were out to destroy a big chunk of the human race. And to take out the target with his kid right there, right beside him...wasn't that...wrong?
Nelson lowered his weapon and again rested his head on crossed arms. He didn't want to do this, not this way. He was still warring with his morality when the soft "click" in his ear caused every muscle in his body to contract. Chavez. Nelson glanced at his watch. It was just the regular check in, Chavez letting him know that he was still alive. Nelson slowly moved a hand to his radio and pressed the button once in answer. Chavez needed to get out of this jungle, he needed medical care and for a moment, Nelson considered using his safety as a reason to turn back but even as the thought appeared, he again heard Chavez' calm, cool, almost cold, voice in his head 'the job doesn't get done and some big shot in Washington has to send some other poor Joe in here.' Nelson bowed his head. Chavez was right. He couldn't let Kassem escape. They hadn't come this far to spare the mental anguish, or even the life of one child, not if it meant risking the lives of a thousand others. With steely determination, he pushed his sadness, his emotions, and his humanity back into the deepest, darkest catacombs of his mind and slowly raised his weapon. Don't think. Just follow orders.
They were still there, father and child, playing in the sunlight as Nelson sighted in on his target. He checked and double-checked, wanting to be as quick as possible. He waited for the right moment, barely breathing and his face against the cool metal as he leaned into the scope. He pressed his finger against the trigger, just short of firing and adjusted his body slightly as he lined up the shot. As he moved, the sidearm that was strapped to his upper thigh brushed against the gun that lay beside him on the ground. It was a small sound but definitely metallic and he watched as Kassem raised his head to stare into the jungle.
"Dammit!" He muttered softly and then froze as he watched Kassem shout something to the boy. He was already pushing the trigger home when Kassem turned to face him, eyes glowing in a strange, unnatural way. "What the hell?" Nelson spoke aloud this time, the bullet already in flight, rushing towards its destination with deadly accuracy.
Nelson watched his body begin to sag, one hand reaching toward the pain as he fired another shot into Kassem's chest. He fell to the ground and Nelson moved the scope slightly until the boy was in view. He stood a short distance from his father, motionless and staring as the soft green grass at his feet turned a deadly crimson. He seemed calm and strangely detached as he turned towards the jungle, his face showing no emotion or fear. Then suddenly he heard the sound of a door slamming and a women's voice broke through the silence. She was running toward Kassem. She kneeled beside him, taking in the scene and then let out a keening cry that sent chills along Nelson's spine as she hugged the limp body against hers. He watched quietly as the boy moved closer and pointed towards the jungle. When the woman stood and looked in his direction he was met with another pair of glowing eyes. Without hesitation, he aimed and pulled the trigger. Swinging the scope quickly to his right, his heart clenched in his chest and his face wore a painful grimace as he cursed the fate that had led him here. Zeroing in on the boy, he paused for only a moment before he fired again. He watched through the scope as his bullet struck home and a piece of him died as the small body crumpled to the ground.
His heart was pounding but his training kept him still and strong, waiting for any retaliation that might follow. When the two remaining men came running into the courtyard, weapons at the ready, Nelson fired again and again until he was sure the threat had been neutralized.
Time seemed to slow down, the jungle going suddenly quiet around him, as Nelson lay hidden in its protective arms hearing only the sound of his rushing blood pounding against his ears. He was still locked against the scope, staring at the compound and the bodies sprawled across the grass. His hands were sweating and his stomach churning as he checked each target for any sign of movement; his breath ragged as he fought against his natural instinct to pull back, to stand and run deeper into the jungle. He had to stay; he had to be certain that the job was finished. And it was that determined attitude that led him to fire twice more, sending the guaranteed kill rounds into Kassem's limp body before he moved away from his hiding and disappeared into the jungle.
Sam returned to work after only one day of leave. She was still fidgety and nervous but assured Dr. Summers that she would limit herself to a normal workday. She insisted that it would help her to stay busy; that the very act of using her mind productively would aid her recovery. Dr. Summers had listened patiently to her arguments, countering each reason with one of her own, but in the end she allowed the unfamiliar sadness in Sam's eyes to sway her opinion and after setting down a long list of rules, approved her request.
Sam went to her lab and slipped easily into her normal routines. She reviewed notes from the other scientists on their current projects, checked her own experiments and then sat down to write her mission report.
Everything was fine for a while as she worked in the familiar format of the report but then her mind became confused as she began to encounter gaps in her memory. There were things she simply could not remember and her hands would hesitate above the keyboard, as her mind searched for the answers that she knew must be there. The first part of the mission was absolutely clear in her mind but when she tried to visualize their approach to the village and the ensuing battle in which she was injured, everything blurred. There were only brief patches of clarity, intense moments that seemed to have been burned into the intricate web of her mind led only to a deep, dark cavern where no memory survived. It was so frustrating that she finally just typed all that she could remember, jotting down single words or paragraphs as the memories came to her. When she'd finished she saved the report and began to read over her work. It was disjointed and confusing, with so many gaps that it was little more than useless.
She dropped her hands onto either side of the computer and then almost immediately raised one to rub at her temple. Her head was aching from the effort and the words on the screen seemed to blur as she attempted to read. She sighed loudly and considered that maybe Dr. Summers had been right; maybe it was just too soon. After staring blankly for a few more minutes she closed the file, making a mental note to return to it in a few days when her memories had returned.
She opened a drawer in the worktable and began to search for a headache remedy among the assorted objects that lived there. Reaching towards the back she encountered a familiar circular object and pulled it forward, cradling it in her hand. Jack's yo-yo. A smile crept across her face as she remembered confiscating it because he was being particularly annoying that day as he flung it between her face and her computer screen repeatedly. She had finally focused on his action and snapped out a hand to grab it, threatening to throw him out of her lab if he didn't stop. He had pouted so charmingly that she'd almost given in to his pleas, almost but not quite. Snatching the string from his hand she had shoved it quickly into the drawer and refused to return it, unable to suppress her smile at the look of surprise on his face. He had, with great effort, sat quietly until she finished her work and then they had gone to lunch, the yo-yo forgotten, until now.
Daniel had by chance, chosen that moment to visit her lab. He stepped through the doorway and stopped short as he caught sight of Sam. She was sitting at the worktable, feet propped up beside the computer with one hand casually across her waist, the other bouncing a yo-yo on its string and she was smiling.
"Oh, hi, Daniel!"
Her smile grew warmer as she turned her face towards him and then returned her attention to the yo-yo.
"What ya doin?"
"Um...Sam, you look like...Jack. What's going on?"
The yo-yo climbed its string coming to rest in her hand as her slender fingers closed around it and Daniel saw a slight blush spread across her face.
"Oh! I was just thinking. It kind of helps, actually. Maybe that's what the colonel was doing when he used to drive us crazy with this thing."
Daniels eyebrows scrunched slightly as a puzzled look graced his features.
"Um, the colonel? You mean Jack?"
Sam turned to look at him, eyes wide as if to say 'what?'
"Yes, Daniel. Who else?"
"Well, it's just strange to hear you refer to him like that now, I guess."
Sam cocked her head to one side before she answered.
"Yeah? What do you mean?"
"Um, Sam, you do remember that Jack's a general now, right?"
Her eyes grew impossibly wider as she studied his face then she bit down on her bottom lip and began to shake her head as she started to giggle.
"Stop it, Daniel. Is he in yet?"
Daniel tried to stop the worried frown that instantly formed at her words but it was impossible. He stood immobile, staring at her with his arms crossed against his chest and wondering how he should answer that question. He didn't respond until Sam called his name again.
"Um, no. No, he isn't here."
"Well, don't remind him I have his yo-yo, ok?"
"Was there something you needed, Daniel?"
"What? Uh, no I just wanted to see how you were doing. Maybe get some lunch."
"Lunch?" Sam looked at her watch. "Oh, wow! I didn't realize it was this late. Sure, Daniel let's go."
She carelessly tossed the yo-yo back in the drawer and slipped from the high stool. She was already in the hallway when she noticed Daniel wasn't behind her. She turned and smiled at her friend's familiar pose, he was standing in the same spot, staring off into space.
"Oh! Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm coming."
He smiled and hoped that his concern didn't show. Maybe he could convince her to go see Dr. Summers after lunch, if not, then he'd talk to her himself.
In Washington a phone was ringing in the Pentagon....
"Yes, Mr. President?"
"I was wondering if you could answer a question for me, Alan."
"I'll do my best, Sir."
"Where the hell is Jack O'Neill?" There was a long silence as the President waited patiently. "Well, Alan?"
"I'm sorry, Sir. General O'Neill is still missing..."
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