A Unique Perspective

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Drama, Missing Scene/Epilogue, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  S1 & S2 - January 2, 1997 - May 20, 1999
Spoilers:  Children of the Gods, The Enemy Within, Brief Candle (minor), Fire and Water, The Serpent's Lair, Prisoners, One False Step (minor), 1969
Size:  179kb
Written:  July 5,16-28, 2017 Tweaked: August 7, 2017
Summary:  General George S. Hammond takes over as commander of a secret operation at the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, only he has his own secret and a very unique perspective on what becomes his flagship team as they explore the universe during those early years of Stargate Command.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
2) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s):  “Welcome Back - Jack,” “Beginnings,” “Clarity:  The Merging of Fire and Water,” “Wish Upon a Star,” “Prisoners and Lovers,” and “Temptations”

A Unique Perspective
by Orrymain

====
January 2, 1997
====

General George S. Hammond sat down at his desk where several files were present that needed to be reviewed.  He was at Cheyenne Mountain, noted primarily for the existence of NORAD.  However, that organization consisted of several levels higher up while his command consumed the lower levels, more specifically floors eleven through twenty-eight, though these days not much was actually present among the levels.

The proud Texan recently took over command from General West, the man who oversaw the mission to Abydos, the one where now retired Colonel Jack O'Neill met the long-haired geek, Doctor Daniel Jackson, the scientist who opened the Stargate.  Believed to have been killed by a bomb set off by O'Neill, Jackson was actually alive, living on the planet and even married to an Abydonian woman named Sha're.

None of this was known to Hammond as he began the final phase of shutting down the lower levels of the base.  With the threat to Earth seemingly gone and since no one realized that the Stargate was capable of transporting people to worlds other than Abydos, the base was being shutdown.  It was Hammond's responsibility to process the closure.

Personnel were still assigned to the secret facility, including a number of Special Forces officers, but with little to do, the personnel often did little more but sit around and even play card games in the gate room.  Hammond knew about this, but chose not to interfere as long as the men completed what actual duties they were assigned.

In actuality, the bald-headed man was simply counting the days.  This was his last assignment for the Air Force after a long and distinguished career that began as a fighter pilot.  He excelled in many armed conflicts, including the Vietnam War in which he served as a fighter pilot, and experienced some daring and sometimes curious events.  Among his many awards were three bronze clusters for meritorious service and a Legion of Merit bronze cluster.

Mere weeks ago, the major general was asked to take the assignment as a favor to his boss, the Air Force Chief of Staff, who thought this would be an easy way for Hammond to conclude his career.  He needed someone reliable, efficient, and humble, who would treat the brief assignment with diligence.  Hammond was that man and since he was in his final months of service, he agreed with his superior and eagerly took the post.

As Hammond looked at the corner of his desk, he picked up the picture he'd placed there when unpacking a couple of boxes he'd brought with him to this assignment in mid-December.  He wanted his first day to be all business, though as he sat now, business was the furthest thing from his mind.

The woman in the frame was the general's beloved Judith, his beautiful bride who endured the killer cancer with valor, but who ultimately lost her life to it a few years ago.  The couple moved to Colorado Springs, intending to live out their days there after his retirement, but Judith was dead before the landmark end of service day arrived.  Still deeply in love with his sweetheart, Hammond continued to wear his wedding ring.  He was certain he'd never find another woman to love with all his heart as his Judith.

~Two more months, Dear, and I'll have to live our retirement years for both of us, somehow.~

====
February 5, 1997
====

Hammond signed off on five more transfers for personnel under his command and was preparing to process the shipping of several boxes of materials to Area 51.  He wasn't totally sure what was in them, but he'd been told by higher ups to send these particular boxes to the secret facility at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

A commotion drew his attention.  The commander heard shouts and gunfire.  He made his way to the lowest level of the Mountain via the stairs and was stunned by the dead and injured bodies he saw sprawled out all over the floor.  Blood was everywhere, from Air Force personnel and aliens.  He looked to his left and jutted his head as he saw strange aliens in metallic serpent-like uniforms.  His mouth was agape as he realized the attackers were holding a female officer.

“Hold your fire!”

Hammond saw a dark-colored being wearing gold armor stare directly at him and then he observed the man's eyes glowing.

~What or who are these ... things?~  The man was stunned and surprised when the enemy didn't open fire and kill him and all of the personnel present.  Instead, the beings departed through the Stargate, taking the Earth woman with them.  He walked halfway up the ramp and stared as his mind processed what he'd witnessed.  ~What kind of enemy was that?~

Hammond turned around and saw the dead.  This was not what he was expecting from his last month before saying goodbye to the Air Force.  Clearly, he had a call to make to the Chief of Staff and plenty of research to do.  He had a lot of questions and he was certain someone out there had to know the answers.

====

“General, these are files you requested,” an airman carrying a sealed box marked 'Classified - For Eyes Only' on it.

“Thank you,” the general replied.

Hammond's call to his superior resulted in an order to familiarize himself with classified documents relating to the operation of the Stargate in 1995.  While the general knew the Stargate was an ancient device that supposedly allowed travel in the galaxy, he didn't know the particulars.  After all, he was simply closing down the facility and as such did not have a need to know the specifics.  With the attack from some other world, that changed.

The general opened the box and pulled out mission reports from three men, Colonel Jack O'Neill, Major Charles Kawalsky, and Major Lou Ferretti.  He read the reports with great fascination, a lot of curiosity, and some skepticism.

Eventually, Hammond reached for the jackets of the three officers who went on this incredible mission to Abydos.  He'd read about an Egyptian god named Ra and how he was defeated when an Earth bomb exploded and destroyed the entire planet.  Sadly, Daniel Jackson died in the fight, so the reports all said.  Now he needed to know more about the men who filed those reports.

Hammond began with the mission leader whose jacket was definitely larger than the other two.  He opened it and saw, for the first time, an image of Jack O'Neill.  He blinked and stared intently at the photo.  He questioned himself.  Was he seeing what he thought he was seeing, or was it his imagination?  He searched the file until he found what he wanted, more pictures of the colonel.

~Well, I'll be.  Now what?~

The man leaned back in his chair and remembered a time from his past, when he was a lieutenant assigned to Cheyenne Mountain when it was a missile silo.  He'd met four strangers in odd looking green uniforms.  One had an odd emblem on his forehead and another definitely did not look military, thanks to the man's shaggy hair.  One he knew was their leader because the fourth person called this other man, “Sir.”

~Jake, are you involved in this somehow?~

Hammond made two realizations in recent minutes.  The first centered around his long time friend and war buddy, Jacob Carter, who had a daughter named Samantha.  He'd met the blonde Air Force captain briefly while he was assigned to the Pentagon.  From what he knew of her, she was an exceptionally smart theoretical astrophysicist, though he had to admit he wasn't totally sure what that meant.

~Samantha Carter.~  Of the four people from that long ago day in 1969, the only name the general knew belonged to the female, Samantha Carter.  ~Jacob's daughter and she was there.~

Until now, the general hadn't put it together.  It was so many years ago that he'd almost forgotten.  He simply didn't connect his war pal's daughter and the keen scientist he'd met in Washington, D.C. with the woman he'd met for only a few minutes on August 4, 1969.

The second realization was that Jack O'Neill was the leader, the man who'd used a strange ray gun that rendered the then-lieutenant unconscious.  Hammond recalled the leader told him right before stunning him that what he was about to do would save him from being court-martialed.  Hammond smiled because that's exactly how it played out.  Back when it happened, there were brief rumors that the lieutenant was somehow involved with the escape of the four strangers, but no one could figure out a reason for it or explain Hammond being out cold when the men came round.  Thus, the colonel's decision to stun the lieutenant did indeed thwart investigators from connecting Hammond to the escape and prevent a court-martial from happening.

~Well, Colonel, what does this mean?  Jackson?  Is there a picture of him?”

Hammond returned to the box and found a picture of the scientist in a very small file on the man.

~That's him, and he's dead?  How can he be dead if these people came back in time, thirty years they said.  That would be 1999, and that's two years from now.  Daniel Jackson isn't dead.  He can't be.~

Hammond returned to Jack's jacket.  Multiple times he read the comments from praise for his bravery and covert skills to rebukes for failure to strictly follow orders; yet, the colonel was highly thought of for classified assignments.  In spite his sometimes unorthodox behavior and desire to do things his own way, no one questioned his commitment and toughness when it came to secret assignments.

The general also scanned his mind to recall every word spoken three decades ago by the four caught inside the missile silo.  What he remembered fully was being told that he knew these people in the future when he would be a general and they would be under his command.

The problem was that Hammond was totally dedicated to the Air Force.  He was a model military man and in the years since the meeting with the strangers, he'd thrown him into doing his duty to the best of his ability.  He was focused on that and actually becoming a general meant he was busy in action.  He'd nearly forgotten about the incident, which he also believed was a good thing.  He believed that knowing too much about the future could alter that future.  Maybe that was why he allowed himself to forget, until today.

~Who was the man with the odd tattoo on his forehead?  He's not mentioned in any of these reports.~

====

Over the next two days, Hammond studied every document and report he could dig up on the Stargate and the mission to Abydos.  Because of the sudden attack, his main superior was now the President of the United States and the traditional red phone was installed in his office.  In addition, instead of reporting to the Air Force Chief of Staff for situations that didn't require the President's attention, he was to contact the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a four-star general.

Hammond hated cloak and dagger.  The spy game wasn't his thing, but he knew now that he was going to do one dynamically believable job of acting.  Colonel O'Neill wouldn't know him; he'd be a complete stranger.  That would give Hammond an edge up.

~You're hiding something, Colonel, but I have a darn good idea what that is.  Let's just see who wins this shooting match.~  Hammond was firm in his resolve and called out, “Major Samuels.”

Within seconds, Hammond's Executive Officer entered the general's office.

“Major, I want you to find Colonel Jack O'Neill and bring him here to my office as soon as possible.  He's a tough one from what I've read, so be prepared for an unwelcome greeting.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Major, remember, the colonel is retired.”

“Sir?”

“If he resists my requests, tell him it's about the Stargate.  That will get his attention.”

Samuels nodded and left the base.

====

Hammond was correct.  It took the major mentioning the Stargate to convince the colonel to go to the Mountain with him.  As the general waited, he did one more review of the Abydos mission summary.

“Sir, Major Samuels and Colonel O'Neill just cleared the main gate,” an airman advised.

“Thank you.”  Hammond leaned back in his chair for a second and looked straight ahead as he contemplated what was about to happen.  ~You can't let him suspect anything is odd about our meeting.  He's sly and he didn't tell the truth in his report.  Alright, Colonel, time to get the truth out, and if I'm right, you might just kiss your benefits goodbye.~  He returned to his review.  ~Remember, you old goat, don't react to his appearance.  I don't know the man.~

Shortly thereafter, the major escorted the colonel to Level 27.  He knocked on the door.

“Come,” Hammond responded.  ~Expressionless, George.~

Opening the door, Samuels introduced, “General Hammond, Colonel Jack O'Neill.”

“Retired,” Jack added as Samuels closed the door behind them.

~Yep, that's him; hair's brown, though.~  Sitting behind his desk, Hammond replied, “I can see that.  I envy you, Colonel.  Me, I'm on my last tour.  Time to start getting my thoughts together, maybe write a book.  You ever think of writing a book about your exploits in the line of duty?”

Standing with his hands on his hips, Jack answered, “I've thought about it, but then I'd have to shoot anyone that actually read it.”  When nothing but silence filled the room, he clarified, “That's a joke, Sir.  Most of my work the past ten years was classified.”

“Yes, of course,” Hammond replied, his hands clasped together on the top of his desk as he quietly assessed the man before him.  ~He has a reputation for being difficult to handle.  It would seem the reputation is accurate.~

“Major Samuels mentioned something about the Stargate,” Jack prodded.

“Down to business; I can do that,” Hammond stated as he stood up.  “This way,” he said as he went to another part of the facility where Jack was shown one of the dead aliens.

While the aliens looked human, the species had a pouch, similar to a marsupial's, in their abdomens.

As if sensing the retired colonel's question, Hammond stated, “These people, or aliens, or whatever you wanna call them, came through, killed four of my people, and kidnapped another using advanced weapons.”

“Weapons, Sir?”

At that point, an airman brought over a staff weapon, which Hammond took and handed to Jack.

Samuels stated, “We can't ... figure out how they operate.”

Confidently, Jack activated the weapon.

Hammond's head to reared back at the sound of the staff weapon being primed and prompted him to cogitate, ~I don't recall any mention of a strange weapon like this in any of the reports.  Just how many secrets are you keeping, Colonel?~

Jack quickly deactivated the weapon.

“Seen one before, I take it?” the major general questioned.

“Yes, Sir,” Jack answered as he returned the alien device.  Continuing, he said, “But there were no creatures like this on Abydos.  Those people were human; they were from Earth.  Ra brought 'em there thousands of years ago.”

“I know all about that, but your report said this Ra was, in fact, some kind of alien that lived inside a human body,” Hammond reminded.

“Yeah.  His eyes glowed; that was our first clue,” Jack confirmed.

“Are you sure he's dead, Colonel?”

“Unless he could survive a tactical nuclear warhead blowing up in his face, positive.  Why?” Jack questioned.

“These people, or whatever they are, were guarding another man who retreated back through the Stargate.  I got a good look at his eyes, Colonel.  They glowed,” the bald-headed Hammond stated.  ~No comment?  Alright, let's see what you have to say about this.~

Next, the general led Jack back towards his office.  His team had orders.  In a well timed-out plan, Hammond ensured that as they returned to his office, Jack caught a glimpse of something that was sure to unnerve him.  It happened just as the general hoped.  Mid-sentence, Jack saw both Kawalsky and Ferretti apparently about to be questioned in the conference room which was situated next to Hammond's office.

Smiling inwardly at his success, Hammond requested, “Tell me about Daniel Jackson, Colonel.”

“Why are they questioning my men?” Jack asked as he walked over to the large window that separated the two rooms.

“They're not your men anymore, Colonel.  You retired,” Hammond quipped.  ~And you are going to tell me what I need to know.~  He drew a breath and demanded, “Daniel Jackson.”

“You read the report?” Jack inquired, turning around to face his questioner.

“Yes,” Hammond answered.  ~It's not worth the paper it's printed on.~

“It's all there,” Jack insisted.

“Is it?” Samuels challenged.

At the same time, Hammond thought, ~Bull, Colonel.  It's full of half truths, and we both know it.~

Jack ignored Samuels and asked, “What's this all about, General?”

“You didn't like Daniel Jackson, did you?” Hammond questioned.  ~I can't let on that I know he was part of your team.  You all seemed friendly enough, even you.~

“Daniel was a scientist.  He sneezed a lot.  Basically, he was a geek, Sir,” Jack answered.

“So, you didn't have a lot of time for him,” Samuels accused.

Perturbed, Jack responded, “I didn't say that.  He also saved my life and found the way home for my men and me; little thing like that kinda makes a person grow on ya, know what I mean?”

~Something changed.  I see respect, but there's more there.~  Hammond returned, “According to the mission brief, your orders were to go through the Stargate to detect any possible threat to Earth and, if found, to detonate a nuclear device and destroy the Gate on the other side.”

“Yes.”

“But that's not what you did, is it?” Samuels questioned.

“Not right away.  Ra's forces overpowered my team and ... took the weapon before I could arm it,” Jack replied.

“But with Doctor Jackson's help, you eventually regained control and did, in fact, detonate the weapon, yes?” the major questioned more sternly.

“Yes.”

“So, to the best of your knowledge, Daniel Jackson and everyone else you knew on Abydos is dead, correct?” Hammond quizzed.  ~Bull crap headed my way.~

“That's correct,” Jack affirmed.

~Got him!~ Hammond exclaimed silently.  “Good.”  Standing up and walking right by Jack, he stated, “Then you won't mind if I authorize a go ahead on our plan?”

Hammond and Samuels headed for the gate room where they showed the colonel a bomb that was ready to go.  The plan was to send it through to Abydos and detonate it.  The kicker was that this bomb was more powerful than the original one.

“General, you can't do that,” Jack argued as he stood in the gate room.

“Countdown's already started,” Hammond stated, his back to Jack as he stood a few steps up on the ramp that led to the Stargate.  ~This will be interesting.~  Cunningly, he added, “Unless you have something to add.”

After a long pause, Jack walked forward a few steps to stand beside the man who had just baited him successfully and stated, “General Hammond, Sir, I regret to inform you that my report was not entirely accurate.”

~No surprise.~  Hammond accused, “You didn't detonate the bomb.”

Jack clarified, “Oh, I did detonate the bomb, Sir, and it was aboard Ra's spacecraft, so it did kill him and eliminate the risk to Earth.”

“However?” Samuels prompted as he walked to stand near the two men.

“However ... Ra's ship was in orbit above the planet at the time.  Neither the Gate nor anything else on the planet was destroyed.  Daniel Jackson is alive and living with the people on Abydos.”

“You violated direct orders.  Why?” Hammond questioned furiously.

“Because the people of Abydos are no threat to us.  They deserve to be left alone,” Jack asserted.

Hammond was infuriated at the colonel's twisting of his orders, though Jack maintained that it hadn't been necessary to kill the Abydonians along with Ra.

“After we came home, Daniel buried the Gate in rocks, making my return or anybody else's ... impossible.”

“Well, those four bodies lying in the infirmary say otherwise.  *Airman*,” Hammond called out.

Incensed, Hammond stared at the colonel.  He was also still sizing up Jack O'Neill, comparing the man to his Air Force jacket, the record of his good and not-so-good deeds.  It certainly made for colorful reading.  Even so, he couldn't believe the decorated officer in front of him disobeyed orders so blatantly and endangered the entire planet.  He could certainly understand that some orders were more difficult to carry out than others, but however distasteful they were, they were to be carried out nonetheless.

~I need time to think about this,~ the general thought.  ~Let's see how he reacts to this.~  Hammond claimed, “We'll send the bomb through on schedule,” as he turned to direct the command at one of the men working on the bomb.

“General, you can't do that!” Jack shouted.

“Oh, I can't?”

“There are innocent people on that planet,” Jack said in a raised voice.

“There are innocent people *here*!” Hammond barked.  “I have my orders, too, Colonel.  I obey mine.”

Ordering Jack be taken to the holding room, Hammond swiftly walked away, thinking, ~He's insubordinate, he's stubborn, and he's a pain in the butt.~  Back in his office, he sat down in his chair and sighed.  ~He's also passionate, willing to fight for what he believes in, and he's not afraid of anything or anyone.~

Hammond shook his head as he pondered the correct thing to do.  Jack was familiar to him and having interacted with him now, he verified the colonel was the same man he'd met in 1969.  That added to his dilemma.

~Now, where does that leave me, my orders, and the people on Abydos?  I know this man was part of the team I met in 1969.  They foretold that I would be a general, and I am.  He knew about my father.  I haven't talked about that much to anyone, so if I told him that, it means I trusted him.  He did prevent me from being court-martialed.  Well, George, what do you do now?~

====

Ultimately, Hammond had to go with his gut.  He apparently trusted Jack O'Neill at some point in the future and until they reached that point in time again, he decided he had to trust him again now, in the present, though he was uncertain how far he could take that trust.

Hammond was an honorable military man and fulfilling his duty and carrying out his orders was first and foremost in his mind.  He could bend, but he needed a good reason to do so and he needed to rationalize the bending in such a way that they fit the breadth and scope of his orders.

His decision made, the general decided upon his next move.  With no time to waste, he walked to the holding cell where Jack, as well as Kawalsky, were being held.  When he entered, Kawalsky jumped up to stand at attention while Jack rose more slowly, not bothering to stand as erect as his friend was doing.

~I hope I'm not making a mistake.~  The major general faced his opponent, not surprised by his demeanor in the slightest.  Finally, he asked, “How many people did you say are on Abydos?”

Jack answered, “That we saw, maybe five thousand.”  He glanced at Kawalsky, who appeared to be as surprised and hopeful as he was.  “Does this mean you're reconsidering sending the bomb, Sir?”

“It means I'm open to suggestions.”

Jack supplied Hammond with an idea.  He proposed taking a team through the Gate.  Hammond, however, wasn't certain what the team would be facing.  In response, the colonel claimed there was one way to know for sure if the Abydos Stargate was active.  He grabbed a nearby box of Kleenex and exited the room.

~Kleenex?~ a confused Hammond questioned.  ~And where does he think he's going?  I didn't say he could go.  Look at him -- all the way down the hallway already.  He has some nerve.  He reminds me of me before I joined the Air Force!~

====

Walking into the control room, Jack ordered, “Dial Abydos.”

“Excuse me?” the technician questioned.

“Go ahead, Sergeant,” Hammond ordered, staring at Jack as he walked over to stand behind the man who was about to begin the dialing sequence.  “A little anxious, Colonel?”

“You know what they say, General,” Jack began.  “Making hay while the sun shines.”

~What?~  Hammond stared in disbelief at the man a few feet away.  Certainly, he hadn't seen this side of Jack O'Neill yet today.  At the moment, though, there were more important considerations going on.  After the fourth chevron engaged, he requested, “Care to explain this concept?”

Jack answered, “Jackson has allergies.”

“I get it,” Kawalsky responded, grinning.

The retired colonel continued, “He'll know this came from me and not from someone,” he paused as he looked over at the general, “with all due respect, Sir, like yourself.”

====

For quite a while after Jack tossed the box through the event horizon, the group, including Hammond, waited quietly in the briefing room for a response.  Finally, the loud noise of the Stargate moving got everyone's attention.  They headed for the control room.

The response was the return of the now-empty Kleenex box that had writing on the side which read, 'THANKS, SEND MORE'.

“Permission to take a team through the Stargate, Sir?” Jack requested of Hammond in an obviously happy tone.

“Assuming I get the President's authorization, the mission briefing will be at 0800 hours.  Consider yourself recalled to active duty, Colonel,” Hammond informed, after which he and Samuels left the gate room.

====

“Captain Carter,” Hammond sighed aloud.  ~Jacob's daughter.  I didn't recognize her, but then the last time I saw her, she was eight.~  He chuckled at the reality of military friends.  He remained in touch with many of his squadron mates from his early years in service.  They wrote letters at Christmastime every year and sent postcards when on vacation.  Sometimes the buddies would exchange pictures, but that practice stopped for Jacob around the time that his wife, Sam's mother, died.  ~Samantha was a long-haired, scrawny teenager in that last picture.  I'm not sure I looked at it for more than a second.  Judith and I had dinner plans.  We threw the card in the basket and I forgot about it.~

The general thought it was odd the way things intersected between that meeting in 1969 and his friendship with Jacob.  Was it mere chance or was it fate that they were war buddies?  He had no idea.  He wondered if he was supposed to take action to bring the captain to Cheyenne Mountain, or was that the wrong thing.  He began to doubt his plan.

~No second guesses.  This is a military operation.  Do your job.~

====

In his office, Hammond observed Jack entering the briefing room and opined, ~You're a completely different man this morning, Colonel.  Last night, you looked sloppy, and not just your hair and attire, but in your attitude, too.  I sense a new you today.  Well, the real test comes now.  Let's just see how you do, Colonel.~

A couple of minutes later, the general emerged from his office, inwardly smiling at the snappy, crisp salute Jack O'Neill gave him.

~Now that's more like it,~ Hammond thought.  “Gentlemen, take your seats,” he ordered those in the room.  He looked around and asked, “Where's Captain Carter?”

Jack looked over in surprise.  He hadn't been apprised of anyone named Carter joining the briefing.  He was also a little upset when told that this person would be a part of the team going through the Stargate.

“Where's he transferring from?” Jack inquired as he began to write down the name for his records.

“*She* is transferring from the Pentagon,” a female voice answered from the doorway.  Sam walked across the room to her seat and looked at Jack, who was standing opposite her.  “I take it you're Colonel O'Neill.”  Saluting, she introduced, “Captain Samantha Carter reporting, Sir.”

There was quite a bit of banter, teasing, and sniffing one another out as Sam inserted herself into a team that was questioning her skills.

When Sam advised she was a theoretical astrophysicist, Jack asked, “Which means?”

“Which means she is smarter than you are, Colonel, especially in matters related to the Stargate,” Hammond interrupted.  ~That should do it.~

Sam spoke, “Colonel, I was studying the Gate technology for two years before Daniel Jackson made it work and before you both went through.  I should have gone through then, but, Sir, you and your men might as well accept the fact that I am going through this time.”

“Well, with all due respect, Doctor, I ...”

“It is appropriate to refer to a person by their rank, not their salutation,” Sam interrupted.  “You should call me Captain, not Doctor.”

“Captain Carter's assignment to this unit is not an option, it's an order,” Hammond reiterated.  ~She's Jake's daughter all right, tough as nails and able to handle herself just fine, which isn't easy against Colonel O'Neill.~

Eventually, Hammond got the briefing going.  After listening to Jack's plan, he approved a recon mission to see what threat, if any, was on Abydos.  He gave Jack's team twenty-four hours to either return or send a message through; otherwise, the bomb would be sent through the Stargate and detonated.

====

While the team was preparing to leave, Hammond received a call from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“I see.  He's that important? ... I understand.  I thought Captain Carter and the team she ... yes ... I see ... Noted, Sir ... Thank you.”

Hammond sat at his desk after hanging up the phone.  He was processing the additional information he'd received.  The wishes of the Joint Chiefs were clear, as was the importance of one man.

====

Once geared up and ready to go, the team entered the gate room just as the wormhole formed.

Hammond walked in with the team and then sternly ordered, “Try to follow orders this time, Colonel.”

Confused, Jack asked, “Sir?”

“This time, you bring Daniel Jackson back.  Is that clear?”

“Yes, Sir,” Jack acknowledged.

~It'll be my hide if you mess this up, Colonel,~ the general asserted mentally.  ~And if you do mess it up, I'll have your hide.  You can count on that.~

Watching the team making their way through the Stargate, Hammond wondered what would happen.  The question was always had he made the right choices, but every time he asked himself that query, he had to pause.  He could not live the next two years second guessing his own decisions.  He could not and would not do so.

~I must make my best decision for the situation, without regard for what happened twenty-eight years ago or what might happen over the course of the next two years.~

====

The day was perhaps one of the most active ones had in the lower levels of the Mountain since the original mission to Abydos.  A new age product was installed onto the Stargate.  It was an iris made of pure titanium that was hoped to be impenetrable.  As it was put in place and tested, Hammond attended to his duties, responsibilities that were apparently changing with the revelations that each new day of the week brought.

“Incoming wormhole.  Stand by for arrival.”

The announcement blared over the speaker and prompted the general to head for the gate room.  Samuels arrived there a minute or so before his commanding officer.

The team sped through the wormhole and onto the platform and ramp that led to the Stargate in the gate room.

Watching the action, Samuels ordered over his radio, “Close the iris!  Close the iris!”

The noise and action of the technology surprised Jack until Hammond told him about the iris.

With personnel returning wounded, Hammoned questioned, “What happened, Colonel?”

“Base camp was hit while we were on recon, Sir.  Ferretti's hurt.  Currin and Swope are down.”

“Same hostiles who attacked us?”

“That's a fair guess.  Jackson's wife and one of our kids was kidnapped,” Jack reported.

“Your kids?” the puzzled commander inquired.

“From the previous mission, Sir.”

Just then Daniel approached and spoke with his outstretched hand, “General, hi.  I'm Daniel Jackson; we've never met.  Um, I'd like to be on the team that goes after them.”

~Shaggy hair, non-military, and this is the mess he brings back to my base?~  Refusing to shake the man's hand, Hammond angrily asserted, “You're not in any position to make demands, Jackson.”

Hammond walked away, needing to separate himself from the two men for a while.  He went to his office and within minutes, ordered Samuels to notify the returned team that they would debrief in twenty minutes.  He also requested that he advise their visitors, representatives from the Pentagon who flew in to Colorado Springs that day, about the meeting.

====

When the briefing commenced, Hammond listened carefully to the team's report, starting with Sam.

“Ferretti might have seen the sequence of symbols they used to go through the Stargate.  That should tell us where they went.  General, Doctor Jackson found an entire cartouche on Abydos with a thousand possible coordinates, maybe more.  That's a thousand of new worlds, General.”

“And our Stargate can take us to these worlds?” Hammond questioned.

“With this new data, as long as we make the appropriate allowances for alignment in the targeting computer ...”

~She does talk a lot, and I don't understand half of it,~ Hammond admitted privately.  ~I need a simple answer here,~ he determined.  “Yes or no?”

“I think so, Sir.  Yes,” Sam responded.  “Request permission to upload the symbols into the base supercomputer for analysis.”

Jack seized his chance to interject a word or two and said, “And, Sir, I'd like to lead the rescue mission once we find out where these hostiles are.”

Hammond answered, “We'll discuss that request in a briefing at 0800 hours.” He stood and walked away, quickly followed by Jack, Daniel, and Sam.  “Captain Carter, the base computer is at your disposal.”  Still angry at the entire situation and referring to Daniel, he spat, “In the meantime, get this man some clean clothing.  He stinks.”

After the general exited in haste, Jack patted Daniel on the arm in a supportive gesture and walked away.  He headed for the elevator, but then backtracked, actually passing Daniel and some others as he walked.  He saw the general and slowed.

“General,” Jack called out.

“We've already discussed Doctor Jackson, Colonel.”

“Yes, Sir, but we haven't talked about the future.”

“The future?”

Jack looked around the corridor and somewhat apologetically requested, “Sir, could we go into your office for a moment?”

A passing airman brought home the need for privacy in the discussion.  With some reluctance, Hammond agreed and returned to his office with Jack close on his heels.

~This had better be good.~  Not sitting down, Hammond walked to the front of his desk and then turned around to face Jack.  “What is it, Colonel?”

“I don't know what's coming, but it sounds to me like there's a lot Earth can learn by using the Stargate, beyond the rescue mission.”

“I wouldn't know, Colonel.”  Hammond's stare was constant.  ~The pot is stirring, and I sense you want to make sure you're one of the stirrers.~

“Yes, Sir,” Jack responded.  “Sir, my men are the best.”

“You don't have any men, Jack.”

“Ferretti and Kawalsky,” the colonel clarified.  “Look, General, I've known both of them a long time now.  They're good men.”

“No one is saying they aren't.  What's your point?”

“Kawalsky and I go way back.  We've worked on assignments we can't even talk about with each other.”

“Colonel, I'm a very busy man.  Get to the point.”

“If the President decides to keep the Stargate running, we'll need good men like Kawalsky, and Ferretti, to make it happen.  I'm recommending Kawalsky to have command of a team.”

“A team?  Colonel, the only team in existence right now is the one that *may* be going on a rescue mission, and that's not a sure thing until *I* say it happens.”

“All I'm saying, Sir, is that *if* things move forward, Kawalsky should be considered for a command.”

“Colonel ...”

“General, even if we're just talking the rescue mission, it would be helpful to have at least one other team for backup.”

“Are you saying you aren't capable of commanding a large team?” Hammond challenged.

“No, Sir.  I think my record speaks for itself.”

“It certainly does,” Hammond responded, his tone one that encompassed the totality of the colonel's record.

“Sir, I don't need to toot my own horn.  My history stands on its own and frankly whatever happens to me aside, Kawalsky deserves a command.  Ferretti's good, too.  He doesn't quite have the experience of Kawalsky, yet, but I'd trust him with my life.  It's ... going to be a while before he's back on his feet, but when the time comes, if we're still here, he should have his team, too.”

“Dismissed, Colonel.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Hammond sighed as he considered the request and the gull of the colonel for suggesting a team leader when there were no plans for teams, at least not officially.  Even so, the general made a mental note of the recommendation.

~I don't think Jack O'Neill makes recommendations easily and not without merit.~

====

That evening, Hammond was seated in his favorite chair in the living room.  In his left hand was his phone and in his right was a half-empty glass of lemonade.  It wasn't near the refreshing homemade beverage his late wife used to make, but it was cool and tasty never the less.

“My plans may be changing,” the major general told his oldest daughter.

“How, Dad?  Why?  I thought you were looking forward to retirement.”

“I was and I am, but I may be the best one suited to continue this posting.”

“I don't understand, Dad.  I thought you were closing down a site.”

“As I said, my plans may be changing.”

“I get it, Dad,” came a chuckled response.  “As long as you're happy.”

“It may be for the best.”

“I have something that should make you smile.”

“Does it have anything to do with my darling granddaughters?”

“It does.  How would you like them for a few days?”

“I would love to have them for a visit.  When?”

“Thursday through Tuesday.”

“Ah, I see.”

“Okay, okay, Dad.  You know how Brian is about Valentine's Day.  That's when he proposed to me, so he thought we could have an extended weekend without the kids.”

“I'm happy to help out.”

“Oh, Dad, I've got to go.  I'm hearing a slight war among the girls.  Thanks for taking them.  I'll call later with all the specifics, and, Dad?”

“Yes?”

“All I want is for you to be happy.  If sitting around that house, thinking about Mom and all the plans you made for your retirement is going to make you sad, take another tour.  You never know, maybe something totally unpredicted will happen.”

“That's very possible.  Tell the girls I love them, and I love you, too.”

“Love you, Dad.  Goodnight.”

Hammond heard the dial tone and put the phone down on the side table by his chair.  He took a couple of long sips of his lemonade, smiling at the thought of having his two granddaughters with him over the upcoming weekend.  As he daughter predicted, it was definitely making him smile.

Unfortunately, the general's mood shifted as he thought about the day's events.  He'd had not one, but two calls with the President and one with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.  Those conversations were changing the course of his last tour, one that apparently wasn't happening now.  Instead of closing down the operation, he was about to be the leader of a momentous new program, one that would potentially become the greatest top secret program ever done.  It took the concept behind Area 51 to unknown heights.

~I'm going to have my hands full, Judith.  This Colonel O'Neill is going to need a close eye on him.  To be blunt, he's a dang good liar, but there's something about him.  My gut says he wants things to be right; but he's tricky.~  After a pause in which he tried unsuccessfully to switch his train of thought, the man returned to his situation at the Mountain and the colonel he was apparently connected to, at least for now.  ~He says I told him about Dad.  You know how hard it was for me to talk about him after he died.  I gotta believe this colonel when he says he knows me, but that was in 1969 for me.~

After a few more sips of his lemonade, the base commander for this new operation continued his silent conversation with his wife.

~I admit, Judith, that I may have been overly harsh with Doctor Jackson.  I suspect it's because this whole shebang seems a little overwhelming, if not farfetched.~  Hammond laughed for a moment.  ~I've seen a lot in my time, but aliens from another world is a new one.  I knew that program at the Pentagon had something to do with communicating with aliens, but how could I have ever suspected anything like this?~

Hammond finished off his drink, letting out an “Ah” at the last sip as he felt totally satisfied.  He considered getting a refill, but decided against it because of the late hour.  He needed to be fresh and decided he should get to bed within the next few minutes.

~In 1969, Colonel O'Neill looked to Jackson for assistance.  I didn't understand what someone who looked like he did could be part of a military team.  All that hair,~ Hammond sighed.  He smiled as he admitted, ~Yes, Judith, I know.  I'm jealous because my top is gone, but you liked my bald head; that's what you said. Back to Jackson, I don't understand him, but maybe that will come, with time, like by 1999, according to them.  I need to get some shuteye, My Love.  Thank you for listening.  Life's not the same, you know, but maybe this new assignment will keep me busy.  I miss you.  I love you.~

The man sighed and then stood up.  He turned out the lights and went upstairs.  Tomorrow was going to be a very big day, a day of transition, something only he and a few others knew at this point.

====

“Sir, I still contend we should bury the thing and ... yes, Sir, I understand.”

Hammond hung up the red phone and then took the waiting call on his regular phone.  He listened carefully to the further instructions he was being given.

“You understand, George, what we want.  This is a risky venture and we need the best personnel in place.”

“I believe Colonel O'Neill is fully qualified to lead the main team.”

“The Joint Chiefs agree,” came the word of approval.

“About Doctor Jackson,” Hammond began.

“We need him on base, George.  I understand his situation, but this program has virtually zero chance of moving forward without him.  He's too important to our mission to risk in the field, especially a field full of the unknown like this one.”

“He is a civilian and that does give him some choice in the matter.”

“This is our ballpark.  Jackson has to play by our rules, and he will.”

~I'm not so sure about that,~ Hammond cogitated.  “And Captain Carter?”

“She's the expert on the computer systems.”

“So she's not to be assigned to a team?”

“No, she can go.  We're confident in our team in Washington.  Keep me advised.”

“Will do.”

~I thought Carter was the most important one, but it sounds like Jackson has the edge.  Interesting.~

====

Not long after his phone calls ended, Hammond closed the button on his uniform jacket as he stared out the window and observed the personnel in the briefing room.  He was drawn away from the view when Jack knocked on the door and opened it.

“Jack, I'll be in the briefing room shortly.”

“Yes, Sir, but I was wondering if I could have a moment of your time first.”

“All right.  Sit down.”

Jack took a seat and waited for Hammond's permission to speak and when given, he said, “Sir, I'm not asking you to tell me in advance what the decision is, but there is one thing I'd like for you to consider.”  He glanced towards the briefing room and then looked back at the general.  “Sir, Daniel wants to be out there, searching for his wife, and, well, I think he should be allowed to go.”

“I'm not sure I can condone that, Colonel.  He's far too valuable of a resource to risk going through the Stargate.”

“General, who has more of a right to go through than Daniel Jackson?  We wouldn't even be able to turn the thing on without him.  I know the Pentagon is singing the praises of Carter, and I'm sure that whatever the heck she's done has been valuable, but Daniel opened the Gate, here and on Abydos.  We owe him.”

“He's not trained for that kind of work, Colonel.”  Hammond thought, ~He doesn't look like he'd last a minute in hand-to-hand combat.~

“A few weeks of basic training should take care of that.  I'll ... teach him.”

“I thought you didn't like Daniel Jackson?” the general queried.  ~You respect him for saving your life, but you sound like you're his friend.~

“I never said that, Sir.  That was that idiot Samuels.”

“Are you saying you'd be willing to have Doctor Jackson on your team?”

“Yes, Sir, I am.  In fact, Sir, I ... *insist* on it,” Jack answered, staring at the man with intensity.

“I'll consider it, Colonel,” Hammond replied.  ~And the possibility of my being court-martialed if I go along with your wishes.~

“Thank you, Sir.”

Hammond watched Jack exit and shook his head while echoing, ~Insist?  You *insist* on it.  What does that mean, Colonel?~

Tapping on the door, Major Samuels asked, “Sir, are you ready?”

“Momentarily.”

Samuels nodded and walked away from the door.

Hammond looked over at the briefing room and saw Jack enter and immediately begin a conversation with the casually attired civilian.

~You're going to be a handful, Colonel, and something tells me that if I do agree to let Doctor Jackson be on your team, he'll be a handful, too, and together?  I'm not sure I even want to contemplate that.~  Hammond stood, taking another moment before tackling the upcoming briefing.  “You're a maverick, Jack.  That's what your jacket says.  It may surprise you to know that while I'm more inclined to follow orders, in my own way, I'm a maverick, too, and that might just save your butt one of these days.~

====

At precisely eight in the morning, Samuels announced to those in the briefing room, “Ladies and gentlemen, General Hammond.”

In the room were a series of personnel in sharp blue uniforms, including Jack and three Pentagon representatives.  Kawalsky, wearing his green camouflage uniform, was also present as was Daniel, wearing clothes, including an old oversized brown coat, given to him by Jack.  He also was the only one who poured himself a cup of coffee to take to his seat at the large rectangular table.

“People, what is spoken of in this room is classified as SCI, top secret,” Hammond cautioned strongly about their discussion being categorized as sensitive compartmented information.  As the group began taking their seats, he continued,  “Colonel, what do we know about these hostiles that we didn't yesterday?”

Still in the process of sitting, Jack responded, “Not a heck of a lot, General.  The Abydon boys who survived the attack on base camp thought it was Ra.”

“I thought he was dead, gentlemen.  Which is it?” Hammond asked tersely.  ~Don't waste my time if our Intel is wrong.~

Looking at Jack, Daniel replied, “Oh, he's dead, he's definitely dead, I mean, uh ... the bomb.  I mean, he's got to be dead, right?”

“Then who's coming through the Stargate?” the general queried.

“Gods.”

Surprised, the general questioned, “What?”

Daniel explained, “Uh, not as in 'God' god.  Ra played a god, the sun god.  He borrowed the religion and culture of the ancient Egyptians he brought through the Gate and then he used it to enslave them.  You see, he wanted the people of Abydos to believe he was the only one.”

Sam queried, “You're saying Ra's not the last of his race after all?”

“Maybe he's got a brother, Ray,” Kawalsky joked, ignoring the unhappy stare Samuels shot his way.

“That's what we need,” Jack snarked.

“Wait a minute,” Daniel interjected.  “The legend goes Ra's race was dying.  He survived by taking over the body of his human host, an Egyptian boy, but who's to say more of his kind couldn't do the same thing?  I mean, this, it could have happened anytime, anywhere there's a Gate.  I mean, this could be happening right now.”

~That boy has some unique theories.  A week ago, I would have said he was crazy, but today ...~  Looking at Jack, Hammond spoke, “Colonel, you've had the most experience of fighting this hostile.  Assuming you have to defend yourself in the field, are you up to it?”

“We beat 'em once.”

Hammond returned, “I'll take that as a maybe.  Captain Carter, you're confident that the Stargate will take us where we want to go with this new information?”

“Well, the computer's feeding the revised coordinates into the targeting computer right now.  It'll take time to calculate, but it should spit out two or three destinations a month.”

“Let's not fool ourselves here, people.  This thing is both vast and dangerous, and we are in so far over our heads we can barely see daylight.  These hostiles we're up against possess technology so far superior to our own, we don't have the faintest idea how it works.  We would all be much better off if the Stargate had been left in the ground,” Hammond stated strongly.

“With respect, Sir, we can't bury our heads in the sand.  Think of how much we could learn; think of what we could bring back,” Sam asserted.

“What you could bring back is precisely what I'm afraid of, Captain.  However, the President of the United States happens to agree with you.  In the event your theories pan out, he has ordered the formation of nine teams whose duties will be to perform reconnaissance, determine threats, and if possible, to make peaceful contact with the peoples of these worlds.  Now these teams will operate on a covert top secret basis.  No one will know of their existence except the President and the Joint Chiefs.  Colonel O'Neill?”

“Sir?”

“Your team will be designated SG-1.  The team will consist of yourself, Captain Carter ...”

“And me?” Daniel interjected.

“Doctor Jackson, we need you to work as a consultant with the other SG teams from here.  Your expertise in ancient cultures and languages are far too valuable ...”

Insistently, Daniel interrupted, “No.”  He paused, calming himself.  “Um, look I, I mean, I know this is your decision, but I just ... I ... really have to be on their team.  My wife is out there, General, I need to go.”

Hammond looked at Jack, who responded with a slight motion of his head and a facial expression that said, 'What are you going to do?  He has a right to go'.

“I'll take that under consideration.  Major Kawalsky, you will head SG-2.”

“I will?”

“Colonel O'Neill keeps telling me it's about time you had a command,” Hammond explained.

When Kawalsky looked over at the colonel, Jack shrugged and put forth, “I had a moment of weakness.”

At that moment, word was received that the injured Ferretti regained consciousness so Hammond dismissed the team and returned to his office.  His mind replayed the briefing.

~That Jackson is impulsive and demanding, but he appears to have the knowledge that very well could be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful mission.~  Hammond sighed, ~Kawalsky is typical military.  He's got bravado, maybe too much, but he has humor, too.  That combination can mean survival.~  His mind went to Sam as he thought, ~She's done you proud, Jacob.  She's confident, tough, and smart.~  He chuckled, ~And Colonel O'Neill may have his hands full with her.  She speaks her mind.~  Reflecting on the colonel, he noted, ~You played with that dang pen through the whole briefing, and your excitement about the formation of SG teams was obvious.  Well, that's fine.  You're interested and apparently that's a dramatic change from how things were for you before the original Abydos mission.~

The general settled back in his chair, considering the team assignments.  He wanted the flagship team to be strong.  They would be the leaders, the example, and the very foundation of the new organization.

~Okay, George, finalize your decision.  You know what the President and the Joint Chiefs want.  Are you going to follow their directives or go with your gut and deal with the heat?~

====

In short order, Ferretti supplied the coordinates that he'd seen, after which Hammond was again on the phone with the Pentagon.

Jack and Daniel waited outside the general's office for the final decision.  While Jack was confident he'd convinced Hammond to put Daniel on his team, Daniel was simply hopeful.

Finally, the time for answers arrived when Hammond walked out and joined the two men.

“Colonel, you have a go.  SG teams one and two will go to the coordinates Major Ferretti supplied.”  He looked at Daniel and advised, “Doctor, you'll be a member of SG-1.” Looking back at the colonel, he concluded, “Good luck, Jack.  You'll depart in thirty minutes.”

Walking back inside his office, Hammond heard the new teammates talking.

“Told ya,” Jack said to Daniel.

“You did.  Thank you,” Daniel spoke humbly.

“We're a good team, Danny.”

“Daniel.”

“Whatever.  Let's gear up.”

~Those two are going to make interesting teammates,~ Hammond thought before returning to his duties.

====

Hammond entered the control room at the specified time and ordered Sergeant Walter Davis to dial the address given by the recovering Ferretti.  He watched the thunderous explosion that concluded the opening of the Stargate and looked down at the two newly created SG teams.  The personnel looked up and saw the general looking down on them.

The general spoke, “SG-1 and SG-2, if you do not return within twenty-four hours, your remote transmitter codes will be locked out and the iris will be sealed permanently.  At that point, there will be no return.  Is that understood?”

“Yes, Sir,” Jack responded.  Focusing on the teams, he ordered, “Let's move out.”

~I can't say I'm not worried.  Cause and effect is a dangerous game, but I have to believe you all get home safe and sound, or 1969 may not have happened at all, and maybe I'm just an old man on a farm somewhere.~

====

It was the wee hours of the next day when Hammond sat in the briefing room, not in his usual spot, but in a chair on the side.  The room was dark with just the slightest bit of lighting casting itself onto the man.

Quietly, Samuels entered the room and advised, “General, the warhead is armed and ready for you to give the word, Sir.”

“How much time have we got left?”

Checking his watch, the major answered, “Just under five hours.”

“Let's keep our fingers off the trigger until the time comes, shall we?”

“Yes, Sir,” Samuels responded and then left the room.

~I feel oddly attached to these people and I've known them for such a short time. What about the other one from 1969?  Who is he?  Where is he?  If he's not here, does that affect the timeline?~

His mind pondering the past, the present, and the future, Hammond continued to sit in the stillness of the room.  It wasn't just his thoughts about his first encounter with SG-1, but he was a man of deep devotion and his people were out there, somewhere in the unknown and unexplored part of space.  He wouldn't rest until they all returned safely.

====

“Yes, I understood the orders ... Sir, it is my strong belief that Doctor Jackson is vital to SG-1 ... I understand that, but I stand by my decision.  If you want my resignation ...”  Hammond's statement was cut off by the Chairman.  He listened to the rebuke given him and remained calm.  “They'll make it home, General.  I have great confidence in the abilities of SG-1 and in SG-2 ... Thank you, Sir.”

Hanging up the phone, Hammond breathed a sigh of relief.  He'd just informed the Joint Chiefs of his decision to allow Daniel to go through the Stargate as a regular member of SG-1.  While he'd been taken to task and threatened with the nasty consequences of disobeying a direct order, in the end, the Chairman backed down.  Hammond wasn't sure why he'd gotten away with it, but he pondered the one possible, if not probable, reason.

~Fate, or is it destiny, or are they the same thing?  It doesn't matter, but the events of 1969 cannot happen without Jackson on SG-1, but that's not why I let him go.  We don't know what's out there.  Colonel O'Neill is a tactics expert, but he doesn't have Jackson's cultural background.  We need someone who understands mythology, an expert, and that would be Daniel Jackson.  He can recruit others, build a staff with others who understand the history, but without him out there, SG-1, and other teams, would be at a large disadvantage.  That's why I let him go and it's why I assigned him to SG-1, because Colonel O'Neill will keep him safe.~  He let out a small snort as he thought, almost amusingly, ~I'm not sure why I think that, but I do.  O'Neill will protect Jackson, or die trying.~

====

More time passed.  Hammond worked in his office for a while, attending to the details of the growing military presence as the remaining seven SG teams were assigned, along with a myriad of other airmen and officers that would be needed to run the new Stargate Command.  Eventually, though, his mind couldn't think of anything except for the personnel that were off-world.  He left his office again and walked into the briefing room where he sat down again without turning on the main lights.  The passage of time eluded him as he struggled with the current events.

“You wanted to see me, Sir?” Samuels asked a bit later upon entering the room.

“Once we seal the iris, we can still get a transmission from our teams?”

“Yes, Sir, but we couldn't be sure it's not the aliens, or one of our own people under duress of torture.  Sealing the Stargate is the best way ...”

“How much longer do they have?” Hammond questioned, interrupting the major's response.

“Just under two hours, Sir.”

====

The gate room was active with personnel, all awaiting their orders.  Above them, Hammond continued to keep watch from the briefing room.  He was standing now, his own adrenaline increasing as the twenty-four deadline loomed closer.

Samuels entered and walked to the general while advising, “Sir, they have just under an hour until the deadline.  We should've heard from them by now.”

“A lot can happen in an hour, Major.”

Wondering why Hammond had so much faith in the teams, Samuels again acknowledged the general's words and left the briefing room.

====

Still overlooking the gate room, Hammond somehow believed the teams would return safely.  Though he'd promised himself not to think about that August day in 1969, he couldn't help himself.  For reasons unknown, he believed in the three people who formed SG-1 and that included Daniel Jackson.

Samuels approached and stated, “Sir, the deadline has been reached.  Standing by to seal off Stargate, Sir.”  Not getting a response from his superior, he prompted, “Awaiting your order, Sir.”

Annoyed, Hammond reproached, “In a minute, Major.”  He let a couple of minutes pass.  ~How long can I wait?  Colonel, where the blazes are you?~

“Sir,” Samuels prodded again.

“All right.  Seal it off; lock out their transmitters.”

“Yes, Sir!” Samuels acknowledged, leaving the briefing room and heading for the control room.

~That man is too chipper about sending two teams to their deaths,~ Hammond lamented.  ~And I'm still not sure if I should let this happen.~  He sighed and looked down.  That's when he heard it, the movement of the Stargate and then the kawoosh as a pathway opened.  ~What's this?~

Seconds later, Samuels ran up the stairs to the briefing room and called out, “Sir, a wormhole has just been established on the other side.”

~That's more like it.~  Hammond and Samuels went down the stairs and into the control room.  “Belay my last order.  Do *not* seal the Gate or lock out their transmitter codes.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Finally, Sergeant Davis acknowledged receiving the remote transmitter signal that said the incoming connection was from SG-1.  The iris was opened and Sam appeared, shouting for the gate room officers to hold their fire.

It was a chaotic scene as SG-1 and SG-2 returned, along with some refugees.

When everyone was through, Sam ordered called out, “Now!  Lock it up, lock it up,” after which the iris was closed and medics were called in to attend to the wounded.

Hammond moved to the gate room for a closer look.  There were several locals his people returned with and this confused him.  One figure caught his eye, but he needed an idea of what was happening before he could pursue that.

“Colonel O'Neill, care to explain?”

Sam spoke up and responded, “Um, we can use the Stargate to send these people home, Sir.”

Motioning at the fourth figure he'd met in 1969, Hammond questioned, “What's he doing here?”

Jack walked a few steps up the steps to stand beside the alien as he answered, “General Hammond, this is Teal'c.  He can help us.”

“Do you know what he is?”

“Yes, Sir, I do.  He's the man who saved our lives, and if you accept my recommendation, Sir, he'll join SG-1.”

“That decision may not be up to you,” the general replied.  ~But it's him.  I remember the symbol, if not the face.~

Walking off the ramp to allow the medical staff to attend to the injured, Hammond eventually called out, “Colonel O'Neill, Major Kawalsky, this sure-to-be-very-interesting debriefing for SG units 1 and 2 will be at 0730.

“Yes, Sir.”

~And I need to evaluate where this is going,~ Hammond told himself as he left the gate room.

====
February 18, 1997
====

“Colonel O'Neill believes very strongly that the alien Teal'c is trustworthy and reliable ... I understand that, Sir, but I agree with his assessment ... Teal'c saved their lives ... No, Sir, but isn't there a compromise? ... Yes, Sir.”

The conversation was the same as a few others Hammond had since the first official mission of the Stargate Program occurred.  It was now known that Teal'c was a Jaffa from a planet called Chulak.  Jack trusted him, and the general wanted to trust him, but all he knew for sure was that Teal'c was the emblemed fourth person he met in 1969.  He was part of that team and he was certain that for time to move forward properly, the alien needed to be on SG-1.

====

A bit later, there was a knock on Hammond's office door.

“Come.”  When Jack entered, the general attempted to have a lighthearted conversation with him, but Jack wasn't interested.  “Not much for small talk are you, Colonel?”

“How was your weekend?  Get any fishing in?” Jack asked insincerely.

“I'm rejecting your request to have Teal'c join SG-1; wasn't my choice.  A Colonel Kennedy is en route from the Pentagon right now.  He'll be asking your friend some questions.”

“What kind of questions?”

“What we're up against: troop strength, technology, weaponry.”

“I'd like to know the answers to those questions, too, Sir, but after they're done asking them ...”

“There'll be more questions; possibly tests.  After all, he's carrying the larval form of a hostile and very formidable enemy inside his body.”

“What kind of tests are we talking about?”

“Maybe you haven't noticed, Colonel, but he is the first alien species we've actually run into.  You don't think that qualifies your friend as a subject of scientific interest?”

“A subject?”

“He is what he is, Colonel.”  Hammond did not take his gaze off Jack, but inwardly, he acquiesced, ~Bad choice of a word; product of decades in military service.~

“With all due respect, Sir, I don't think he saved the lives of my team or came over to our side so he could become a dang guinea pig for U.S. military intelligence.”

“Back up, Colonel.  He switched sides once.  Are you one-hundred percent positive he won't switch back?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Well, you are alone in that assertion.  Colonel Kennedy arrives within the hour.  I promise Teal'c will be treated with dignity and respect for as long as he remains a guest of this facility.  Beyond that, I can't promise a thing.  Dismissed, Colonel.”

After Jack left his office, Hammond lamented the situation.  He knew Jack was never going to be easily controlled.  He would always be a loose cannon in one sense or another.  Yet, whatever the colonel was fighting for tended to be the right thing.

~He's passionate about right and wrong, his right and wrong, and that's not always the military's take on right and wrong.~

Hammond opened a folder to move on to his next task, authorizing a bulk load of supplies, everything from toilet tissue to industrial-strength cleaners for the mess.  Still, his mind lingered on the situation with Teal'c.

~When you're in my position, Colonel, you have to consider all sides.  It's easy to be ethical and follow your morals when you don't also have to think about the threat to your base and even the entire planet.  Maybe one day you'll get a taste of this middle position when right and wrong are tangled like a spider web.  Let me here what you say then.~

====

The day only got worse for Hammond and SG-1.  Colonel Kennedy's attitude was frustrating, to both the general and the team.  The colonel wanted Intel.  The problem was that to Teal'c, that information was part of “Goa'uld magic” and wasn't to be thought about.  He did, however, tell what he could about the Goa'uld and how they thought.

Teal'c, in turn, was surprised to know that Earth was the “first world” from which the Goa'uld harvested hosts and slaves.  As such, it was ancestors of earthlings who were scattered throughout the universe as a result of the Goa'uld coming to Earth in its distant past.  The people of Earth, Teal'c advised, were known as the Tau'ri.

The meeting itself wasn't so bad, but things turned when Kawalsky was discovered to have been taken as a host to a Goa'uld.  The event happened on Chulak, during a battle right before Daniel dialed Earth.  This was Earth's first experience with the Goa'uld in this fashion and no one knew what to do as yet.

Doctor Warner, the Chief Medical Officer at the time, examined the major and discovered the Goa'uld was like a parasite wrapped around his spine.  It was believed that the invader was not yet mature, essentially an infant and that was why it hadn't been able to completely take over control of Kawalsky.  A surgery was the best choice, but it would be a difficult one.

Hammond was willing to get anyone needed to assist Warner in the operation, but first Kennedy demanded they check on Teal'c and ensure his larval Goa'uld was still present in his pouch.  After doing so, Teal'c offered to assist the Tau'ri in their understanding of what was happening.  He explained there would be a battle for the host.

In the medical area where Kawalsky was being held, the major became very emotional, wanting the Goa'uld cut out from him, no matter the risk.  Finally, the Goa'uld gained control, but he refused to talk with Teal'c and instead spoke to Hammond.

“Release me now, or I will destroy you!” the Goa'uld threatened.

“If you leave this man's body, we will allow you to live and send you back through the Stargate in your natural form,” Hammond returned.

“This body is mine.”

“If you're unwilling to leave, we will be forced to surgically ...”

The Goa'uld began to thrash about in the restraints that were binding Kawalsky, and he and Hammond sparred verbally for another minute.  Hammond was prepared to order the Goa'uld shot, but called it off when Kawalsky emerged again.  Nothing was certain at this point and Hammond left the infirmary.

====

“General Hammond,” Kennedy called out as he stood by the doorway.

“What is it, Colonel?” the major general inquired.

“We shouldn't operate on your man.”

“His name is Major Charles Kawalsky,” Hammond stated sternly.

“Sir, we have an ethical dilemma on our hands.”

“And what exactly would that be, Colonel?”

“The ... what is it called again?”

“Goa'uld,” Hammond responded.  ~Maybe he needs to go back to school if he doesn't even understand the basics at this point.~

The general listened in disbelief to the colonel's argument and plans.

“Colonel, it's not going to happen, but I'll allow you to make your case in a briefing.”

“General ...”

“Forty-five minutes; now I have work to do,” Hammond propounded forcefully, watching as the colonel exited the office.  ~Ethical dilemmas happen everyday.  This dilemma is not going to cost my officer his life.~

====

“Sir?” Jack called out, entering the office without waiting for permission.

Hammond let out a strong sigh and began, “Jack ...”

“Come on, General.  When are you going to stop this persecution against Teal'c?”

“Colonel, I know what you want and I know how you feel, and in many ways, I agree, but there is a risk here.”

“To whom?” Jack asked as he lunged slightly forward with his body.  “Teal'c saved our skins out there.  He could have been killed, and all he's done since he's been here is cooperate with us.”

“What if he's deceiving us?”

Jack groaned and looked all around the room as he responded, “You don't believe that.”

“It may not matter what I believe.”  Hammond paused and waiting a few seconds before continuing.  “Jack, I'm doing my best, but this is a first for us, for the country, and for the President.  Whatever the final decision is, it has to come *after* all the angles have been looked at.  Now that's sound military procedure.  You're a colonel.  Are you going to stand there and still me that if you were in charge, you'd just go forward without due diligence?”

“Yes,” Jack snapped.  Then he let out a long whiff of air and admitted, “Maybe not, Sir.”

Smiling subtly, Hammond suggested, “Let's get over this hump with Major Kawalsky and then we'll see what happens with Teal'c.”

“Yes, Sir,” Jack sighed and slowly left the office.

====

Right on time, SG-1, Teal'c, Doctor Warner, and Colonel Kennedy were in the briefing room, sitting around the table when Hammond entered.  Jack, Sam, and Warner stood per protocol.

“As you were, people,” Hammond said as he took his seat.  “In light of the day's events, Colonel Kennedy has chosen to make certain recommendations to my superiors that I want to share with all of you.  Colonel Kennedy?”  Confident, the general thought about the visitor, ~Watch this, Colonel.  You're about to be filleted by SG-1, and then I'm going to end this once and for all~

“I know that many of you have served with Major Kawalsky, so please forgive me if what I am about to suggest appears in any way ... callous, but I believe surgical removal of the parasite may be a mistake.”

“General, this is a waste of time Kawalsky does not have,” Jack interjected.

The visiting colonel moved forward, ignoring Jack's snarky remark, and asked, “Doctor Warner, what are Major Kawalsky's chances of surviving the procedure?”

“Ten ... twelve percent at most.”

“And the parasite?  It is an intelligent being after all, isn't it, Colonel?  I believe I first read that in your report.”

“The parasite itself would not survive the procedure.”

“So, we're faced with destroying one life in the hopeless attempt to save another. You see the ethical dilemma?”

Jack quickly argued, “No, I don't.”

Warner put forth, “My team and I are completely prepared to perform the procedure, Sir.  We'll do our best.”

“Of course you will, Doctor.  Please don't misunderstand.  We all wish the invading parasite in Major Kawalsky's body could be safely removed, but the facts are the facts.”

“I'm sorry, what was your point?” Sam questioned.

Kennedy answered, “If we proceed with this operation, Major Kawalsky will have died in vain.”

“And if we don't?”

“Well, let's consider that for a moment.  These infant Goa'ulds: if they're so young, so fragile in their larval state that they require a, uh ... uh ... I'm sorry, what was it you called yourself?”

~There he goes again.  He's failing to properly educate himself, or he's being sarcastic.  Neither makes me happy,~ Hammond noted.

“Jaffa,” Teal'c answered.

“For want of a better translation, what?  Incubator?  How is it that they're so intelligent?” Kennedy challenged.

Teal'c responded, “A Goa'uld is born with all the knowledge of all Goa'ulds that came before it.”

“Genetic memory,” Daniel spoke.  “That's amazing.”

“Yes, it is,” Kennedy agreed.  “All the knowledge of the Goa'ulds.  I just want you all to think on that before we just throw it away.”

Jack responded swiftly, “I've thought about it.”  He looked at SG-1's major and asked, mostly rhetorically, “You thought about it?  I think we've all thought about it.  Yeah.”  He looked around the table and queried, “Anymore thinking to be done?”

“Colonel,” Hammond warned.  ~Hang in there, Jack.  This won't go on much longer.~

“Imagine if we could convince this Goa'uld to share that knowledge,” Kennedy suggested.

“A Goa'uld would not willingly share,” Teal'c returned.

“Teal'c is right,” Daniel attested.  “To them, we're nothing, less than nothing.  I mean, think about it.  They've taken on the roles of our ancient gods.  What does that tell you?”

Kennedy spoke, “Alright.  What if we just studied it?  How much could we learn from that?  What if we just faced up to the fact of Major Kawalsky's slim chances of survival and realize that the greatest enemy mankind may ever face has just been delivered right to our doorstep?  Even if we let it return through the Stargate as a gesture of good faith, how much could we ...?”

~Time to stop this rodeo.~  Angrily, Hammond cut off the remark, challenging, “Just what kind of an officer are you, Colonel?”

“Sir?”

“As long as there is a snowball's chance in hell that my officer will come out of this procedure alive, we'll go ahead with it.”

“With respect, General, I feel I should take this to my superiors.”

With an angry but confident snort-like sound, Hammond replied, “Well, me, I'll probably just call the President and get approval right from the horse's mouth, but sure, you go right ahead, Colonel, talk to your superiors.  In the meantime, people, let's get the job done.”

Hammond stormed out of the room and went to his office, closing the doors on both sides of the room.  He sat down and stared at the red phone.  Then he smiled and returned to his work.

====

Warner went to work immediately by enlisting Teal'c's help to find a viable anaesthetic for the operation and then the surgery took place.  It was deemed a success.

Soon thereafter, Kennedy returned to Hammond's office and reported that he had his orders to return to Langley Air Force base.  It was welcome news to the general, until he heard Kennedy had permission to take Teal'c with him.

“You do realize that without his cooperation in finding an anaesthetic, the operation might have been a failure?  I think we owe him something for that,” Hammond put forward.

“Unfortunately, Teal'c is now carrying the only living Goa'uld available for study, and we do need to study it, Sir, make no mistake on that.  These aliens are possibly the greatest threat this country has ever known.”

“I'm well aware of the threat, Colonel.  This facility is the front line.  It's the reason this command exists.  We just go about things differently around here.”

“I see.  Well, I'll make the transport arrangements in the morning,” Kennedy stated, totally unswayed by the general's remarks.

“You do that.”  Hammond stared at the man as he left his office.  ~I might have to make that call to the President after all.~

====

Hammond barely had time to decide what he wanted to do when he found himself engaged in yet another conversation with his second-in-command for the base.

Jack might give Hammond a lot of headaches, but it was clear the colonel was the best choice for the role of 2IC.  He knew the Stargate and its history better than anyone, except for Daniel.  Not only that, but Jack had the rank.

Still, the general's patience was being tested, especially when he was actually trying to thwart Kennedy's plan.  The two were standing near the door.

“Colonel, I'm doing everything I can.”

“So because he wasn't born on this particular planet, he doesn't have any rights anymore, is that it?”

“Jack, you know better.”

“Do I, Sir?”  Seeing the general's glare, Jack explained, “It's not you, Sir, it's the Brass.  They're ignoring Teal'c's rights.”

“I understand your point, but as of now, according to the Pentagon, Teal'c doesn't have any rights.”

“Sir ...”

All of sudden, Hammond and Jack heard the klaxons blaring and a commotion stirring nearby.  They exited the office and went straight to the control room where an injured Sergeant Davis told them that Major Kawalsky dialed the Stargate, setting the coordinates for Chulak.

Unfortunately, Kawalsky's surgery was not a success.  It was an illusion created by the Goa'uld, who didn't really die and was actually still alive inside the major, controlling him.  He'd set the self-destruct, closed the blast doors, and headed for the gate room.  However, having forecast what the Goa'uld would do, Teal'c was on the ramp, waiting for him and intending to keep him from escaping.

Hammond and Jack both realized the base was set to extinguish itself and quickly entered the codes necessary to stop the destruct mechanism.  Opening the blast doors, both saw Teal'c as he struggled to keep Kawalsky from going through the event horizon.

The general watched the fight in horror.  He also noticed Jack's demeanor.  He now knew more about the friendship and camaraderie between the colonel and the major.  He could sense Jack's struggle and yet, he saw no hesitation.

Jack called out over the speaker, “Teal'c!  Hold him there!”

The Jaffa pushed Kawalsky's head into the event horizon.

The colonel exclaimed, “*Shut it down*!”  His right hand was outstretched as he paused for the right moment.  Once he saw Kawalsky in the right spot, he lowered his hand and yelled, “*Now*!”

Hammond took a deep breath as he stared at Jack and then looked down into the gate room where Kawalsky's lifeless body now lie on the ramp.  If there were ever any doubt in the general's mind that the colonel would do whatever was necessary, at whatever the cost, no matter how close to him a threat might be, the doubt was gone now.

“I'm sorry, Colonel.”

Jack nodded and ran down to the gate room and up the ramp.

From the control room, General Hammond returned to his office.  More determined than ever, he had a call to make, but it wasn't to fight for Teal'c, it was to report the success of defeating the Goa'uld.  It came at a high cost, the loss of a man, and Hammond mourned that dearly.  However, the threat was gone and the chief reason for that was Teal'c's foresight into the Goa'uld's actions and his willingness to fight and kill it in order to protect Earth.

~That should seal the deal.~

====

The next morning, Hammond was speaking to Jack when he received a call on the red phone.

“Do you want me to leave, Sir?”

“No, Jack, stick around,” Hammond responded.  He also noticed Colonel Kennedy at the doorway and waved him in.  “I have a call,” he said with a smile.

“Mister President ... Yes, Sir ... He'll make a fine asset to SG-1 ... Oh, absolutely ...  That's good to hear ...  Oh, anytime, Sir.  You just come on down;, we'd be glad to have you ... <chuckling> ... Well, Sir, he's right here.  Why don't you tell him yourself?  I'm sure he'd like to hear it from you.”

Gleefully, Hammond handed the phone to Kennedy, who was rightfully nervous.  Not needing to hear the colonel having his butt verbally kicked by the Supreme Commander of the country, Hammond smiled at Jack and motioned for him to head out of the room.

“Demoted?” Jack questioned.

“No, but I doubt he'll be making any requests to use Teal'c for study from now on.”

Hammond paused to check with the technicians in the control room while Jack headed for the gate room to join Daniel and Sam, who were already there.  Two minutes later, he joined the team.

“Colonel O'Neill, is SG-1 ready to ship out?”

“We are, Sir.”

“Then you have a go for a standard recon mission on P3-575.”

“Yes, Sir.”

At that moment, the side doors opened and, holding his staff weapon, Teal'c entered and stopped in front of Hammond.

“Reporting as ordered.”

Jack tapped Teal'c on the arm and corrected, “Sir.”  Motioning with his left hand at Hammond, he repeated, “Sir.”

“Sir,” the Jaffa added.

“Welcome aboard, son,” Hammond greeted.

As Jack, Daniel, Sam, and Teal'c gathered on the ramp, the general walked forward, standing at the base of the ramp.  He watched as the unit took a few steps forward and then stood fast, staring at the shimmering water-like substance that was before them.  They were a team, a team of four, but they were not a typical team, not when it consisted of two Tau'ri officers, a civilian archaeologist, and an alien from a planet barely known to Earth.  Regardless, Hammond felt confident and certain that these four persons were special, and he was eager to get to know them.

~Now this is SG-1,~ the general thought happily as he observed the four walk through the Stargate in a near straight line.  ~We're on the right course.  I don't know what's out there, but SG-1 is going to lead the way and I'll be here to assist in whatever way I can.  Something tells me the journey's going to be bumpy, but we Texans enjoy the challenges of a good ride.~

====

When SG-1 returned, the standard debriefing was held.  When that ended, Hammond stood and looked at Jack.

“Colonel, I have one more situation that needs to be handled today before I can go home.  You might want to accompany me.”

Without waiting for a response, Hammond left the briefing room.  As he walked outside the briefing room, he caught a glimpse of a curious Jack shrugging at Daniel and then moving swiftly to catch up.

“Where are we going, Sir?” Jack asked, still trailing the commander by a few feet.

~I think I'll keep you guessing.~  The general entered the infirmary and walked to stand at the end of the bed on which a recovering patient was relaxing.  “Major Ferretti, I hear you're about ready to be released.”

“General, Sir, um, yes,” Ferretti responded, offering up a quick salute.

“At ease, Major.  We don't need that kind of formality from our sick and injured.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“Major, I share in the loss that you and Colonel O'Neill feel for Major Kawalsky.  I didn't know him well, but he performed his job with honor and handled a darn distasteful situation with great strength.  As you know, his loss leaves us with an opening on SG-2.”

The general sensed the conflict within Ferretti.  The man was mourning his combat buddy, but at the same time, he was eager and hopeful for a place in the new Stargate Program.

“I'd be proud to be a part of SG-2, General,” the major stated while hoping his assumption wasn't incorrect.

“Son, I don't want you to be *part* of SG-2.”  Hammond saw the disappointment as he looked at the major lying on the hospital bed.  “I want you to *lead* SG-2, if you think you're up for it.”

“Yes, I mean, yes, Sir, thank you, Sir, I am, Sir,” the happy Ferretti stammered in one big run-on sentence.

“Very well.  Heal up and when you're cleared for duty, you will take your place as team leader.  Rest well.”  Hammond turned and saw Jack's grin.  “I take it you approve, Colonel.”

“Wholeheartedly, General,” Jack responded.  “Thanks for letting me be here.”

Hammond nodded and left the room, looking back for just a moment to see Jack and the major exchanging a high five and both of them grinning like bears.

~That's the fun part of my job.  I hope these days outnumber the others.~

====

As time passed, Hammond realized even more that he and his second were becoming close.  Both loved the Air Force, enjoyed witty exchanges, and shared the pastime of fishing.  The more the general got to know Jack, the less he thought about 1969, the incident retreating into the back of his consciousness.

Missions continued, not all pleasant, such as the incident on P3X-797, the Land of Light, that exposed the SGC to a primitive state; and some stirred old emotions for SG-1 members, like when a crystalline entity became Jack in a quest to make amends and reunited the colonel with his estranged wife.  There were missions that were full of awe, including SG-1's first meeting with a race known as the Nox and yet another when Daniel discovered that the Stargate was once opened in 1945 and a man, Ernest Littlefield, was sent through.  He was subsequently found on P3X-972 and rescued by SG-1.

It was months after Kawalsky died and the SGC settled into a routine of missions and exploration when the major general next thought about meeting SG-1 in 1969.  SG-1 was three hours into their mission on P3X-866 when the klaxons blared inside Stargate Command.  The team's IDC was received and Hammond immediately went to the gate room to see why the team was returning early.

When the team stumbled down the ramp, Hammond was shocked by both their worn demeanor and the horrified expressions on their faces.  Doctor Janet Fraiser, now the Chief Medical Officer for the base, quickly noted the entire team was in shock.  More disconcerting to the general, however, was the absence of the team's civilian member.

“Colonel?  Where's Doctor Jackson?”

“DanielJackson,” a confused-looking Teal'c stated.

“He didn't make it, Sir,” a shaking Sam advised.

“Daniel's dead, Sir,” Jack clarified with a disbelieving expression on his face.

In fact, the colonel's statement sounded more like a question than a sentence to Hammond and he was astounded to hear them being spoken.

~This can't be,~ Hammond thought to himself as 1969 flashed through his mind.  ~There must be an explanation.~

====

After the team was checked and they got some rest, Hammond held the debriefing, only it was different than normal.  He wanted to make this as easy as possible for the three, so he talked to each individually.  A technician recorded their statements and the interviews were filmed.

Jack reported about Daniel, “He said ... he said, 'Colonel, help me' ... and then he was gone.”

“Gone?” the general asked.

“Engulfed ... in fire, Sir.”

“There was nothing you could have done, Colonel,” Hammond responded.  ~I still don't know what to make of this.~

“No, I swear to God, Sir, I tried to get to him, but the heat was ... it, it, it ... It blasted towards us.”

“And what did you do then?”

“There was a body of water somewhere nearby.  It was like a ... a lake ... or a sea, maybe.  We all submerged ourselves.  That's what saved us.”

“And by then?”

“By then Daniel was gone.  There was nothing ... nothing left ... Sir.  I ordered the team to evacuate.”

“We'll send a team through to recover the body.”

“*No, Sir*!” Jack negated loudly and sharply.  More calmly, he explained, “It's ... too volatile, Sir.  The whole area was ... very unstable.”

With sympathy, Hammond replied, “It's a hard thing to lose a member of the team, Colonel.  I have gone through it myself.  If there's anything I ...”

“Yes, Sir,” Jack said, his hands covering his face as if in agony.

Understanding the internal pain, Hammond returned, “Dismissed,” and watched as Jack left the briefing room.  He swiveled his chair away from the technician and brought his hand to his mouth.  ~I don't understand this.  How can Doctor Jackson be dead?  Maybe I should send a team through in spite of Colonel O'Neill's concerns.  We could send the MALP to check on the stability.  I'll have to think on that.~

The interviews over, Hammond left the briefing room and returned to his office.  He sat quietly in his chair.  He had to face the truth and that meant moving forward with a memorial for Daniel.

~I was quite annoyed with Daniel when I met him officially.  He wore those dirty robes and he stank like he'd been with some mangy animal for days, or weeks maybe.  I know now I was taking out my confusion on him.  I didn't understand his role on a military team.~  Letting out a small snort-like sound, he mused, ~I sure do understand it now.  He may have long hair, but he's a fighter for what he believes in and he stands up for others.  The Pentagon was right.  He's the most valuable resource this organization has.~

Hammond sighed, drawing in a few large breaths.

~I like that boy.  I like him a lot.  I can't say he's a friend, but I feel a kinship for him.  I'm not sure what that is, yet.~  After a moment, the general shook his head and asked himself a question.  ~Why do I feel like there is more to come?  It's that 'yet' I can't get over.  I'm not sure what it is ... yet; but he's dead.  That's what my people are saying, and Colonel O'Neill is Doctor Jackson's best friend.~  He laughed, ~What a pair and who could imagine those two as friends, but they are.  I'm sure of that.~

The general stood, wanting to take a walk.  He was uncomfortable remaining in his office.  He needed air.  He needed space.  He needed to figure out why in spite of the facts, he was having a hard time accepting the death of Daniel Jackson.  He could take a few minutes to let his confusion settle, but then he would have to get back to work and allow the memorial to take place.  Worse, he would have to take the next steps for a deceased worker in a classified program.

====

The memorial was over and Jack held a wake for Daniel at his house.  Hammond attended and observed first hand the upset the colonel was going through, especially after Jack used a field hockey stick to smash the window on the driver's side door of a car.  The general immediately approached Jack, who admitted he was considering retirement again.

“Well, I can't let you do that at the moment.  I've got an assignment for SG-1.  Doctor Jackson's apartment needs to be closed by Stargate personnel.  National Security aside, you're probably the closest thing he had to a family.  It's not an order, it's a request.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Why don't you come join the others in the back?”

“Yes, Sir.”

As the two headed for the backyard, Hammond asked lightly, “You know that's my car, dontcha'?”

“You should get that window fixed,” Jack quipped as he placed the hockey stick against his house.

~He's angry at losing a teammate, and a friend.  This doesn't seem right, but what can I do?~ the major general thought.

====

“Sir, SG-1's returned from Doctor Jackson's home.  They're in the infirmary,” Sergeant Davis advised.

“The infirmary?  What on Earth for, Sergeant?”

“I don't know, Sir.”

“Have Colonel O'Neill report to my office when SG-1 is finished in the infirmary.”  As Davis returned to his post, Hammond sighed in frustration.  ~What could have caused Colonel O'Neill from completing his mission?~

After more than a half-hour, the general heard the klaxons and realized SG-6 was returning from their mission.  He went to the control room, something he often did when teams returned, simply to see for himself that the returning personnel were safe and unharmed.  This time, though, he saw SG-1 running into the gate room, followed by Janet who looked very concerned.  As such, he immediately made his way to the gate room to find out what was going on.

“General, there, uh, there seems to be some question in their minds as to whether or not Doctor Jackson is dead,” the physician reported.

~Okay, maybe he's not dead.~  Looking at SG-1, the major general spoke firmly, “Well, you three were the only witnesses.  If you're denying what you saw ...”

Jack spoke quickly, almost automatically, when he objected, “No, Sir, I saw him die.  We all did.  I know he's gone ... but I know he's still alive.  Sir, we have got to go bac...”

Jack's words were cut off by a tremendous pain,, prompting Hammond to say, “You're not anywhere but the infirmary.”  He looked at Janet and spoke, “I want to know what's going on, Doctor.  One of our people could still be out there.”

“Yes, Sir,” Janet acknowledged and then hurried away.

The general looked at the Stargate and walked a couple of steps towards it, while wondering, “Could their memories be some kind of an illusion?  Are you still out there, Son?  I don't know how, and I have to keep my focus objective, but I cannot forget that you were there that August day.  Well, let's find out.~

====

As soon as was possible, Hammond gathered SG-1, Janet, and Doctor MacKenzie in the briefing room to determine the truth, which meant reviewing all of the team's statements.  The review was lengthy, every detail discussed and analyzed as minutes torturously passed.  All the while, MacKenzie used what Jack called “mood music” to help the team remember.  It was the sound of waves that played continuously.  While it annoyed Jack, Teal'c finally became lost in the sounds and actually visualized Daniel's death.  Jack comforted the Jaffa, admitting the same thing was happening to him.

“All three of you have conflicting feelings about Daniel,” MacKenzie noted.

“I know he's dead; I know he's alive,” Sam confided.

“Both realities can't be true, yet both seem to be,” the psychiatrist stated.

~This is a dangerous situation,~ Hammond cogitated.  “It's a conflict that will have to be resolved before I'll authorize your return back to active duty, Colonel.”

“Let's review it again,” the doctor suggested.

The group went over the events several times, and Jack was becoming agitated.  His state of mind actually gave the general an idea as he recalled all the statements in his mind.

“How long do you estimate you were on the other side of the Gate?” Hammond inquired.

“Uh ... twenty minutes, twenty-five maybe.”

“Half-hour, tops,” Sam added.

“Teal'c?” Hammond queried.

“I concur.”

~Now we're getting somewhere.~  Hammond advised, “You were gone almost four hours.”

The team was stunned and didn't think it could be possible.  Immediately, MacKenzie recommended hypnosis, something Janet seconded.  Jack, however, wanted to go back to the planet, but as soon as he suggested that, both Sam and Teal'c responded strongly and adamantly argued they couldn't go back.

“If that isn't a conditioned response, I don't know what is,” the psychiatrist put forth.

“So, someone's been messing with our heads,” Jack lamented.

~And my guess is that Daniel Jackson is alive on P3X-866,~ Hammond avouched internally.  ~I should have sent that MALP through.  Follow your instincts, George.  You're trying so hard not to let 1969 interfere with 1998 that you failed to do your duty.  Don't make that mistake again.~

At that point, Sam was willing to be hypnotized.

“We'll adjourn to the infirmary,” Hammond ordered.

====

Under hypnosis, Sam remembered SG-1's visit to the planet where they met a strange looking creature that emerged from the water.  Daniel attempted to communicate with the alien and drew a sign in the sand.  He told the team that he thought the creature wanted to know if they were from the world that built Babylon.  Eventually, she recalled how the creature stunned them and held them prisoner in a cold, dark, and wet place.  She recollected them being tied to tables in a lab beneath the sea.  Then she relived the fire that wasn't and an urgent need to get to the water.  She felt the implanted memory, seeing Daniel's death, knowing their only way to survive was to leave the planet.

It was the memory all three members of the flagship team shared: Daniel burning to a crisp and their escape into the water.

The memories caused pain for Sam as she jumped up, screaming from the realization Daniel was alive.

“We left him behind,” the blonde cried.  She was so shaken that she felt her commanding officer embrace her, even as she repeated, “We left him behind.”

“I know,” Jack acknowledged as he tried to steady his teammate.  “It's all right.  We're going back.  We're going back.”  After a moment, he inquired, “Teal'c, do you remember, too?”

“I do, O'Neill.  The creature conducted tests on us.  Apparently, we did not suit his needs.”

“But Daniel did?” Sam asked, pulling out of the embrace, her body still shaking just a bit and her voice unsteady.

“That would seem to be the case, CaptainCarter.  When do we depart, General?”

~Now, if I had my way, but I think maybe they need time to process this.~  Hammond wasn't sure the team was up for it just yet.  He looked at Sam.  ~Is she strong enough for a mission right now?~

“I'm fine, General ... or I will be, once we bring Daniel home.  We need to go now, Sir.”

“We are, Carter,” Jack asserted firmly.

Hammond recognized the colonel's “don't mess with me” tone and he saw the determined expressions on the team's faces.

“Very well.  SG-1, you have a go.  Departure in thirty minutes.”

“Thank you, General,” Jack replied, acknowledging everyone in the room and then rushing for the locker room.

~Thank you.  Bring him home and put us back on course,~ the general urged silently.

It didn't take long for Hammond's hope to come true.  Less than an hour later, the team returned with a soggy-but-otherwise-healthy Daniel and his report about a water creature named Nem who lived beneath the ocean on the planet he called Oannes.  All Nem wanted from Daniel was to know the fate of his mate.  It wasn't a friendly visit per se with Daniel held against his will and undergoing great pain to give Nem an answer to his query, “What fate Omoroca?”  Yet, in the end, Earth had a potential new friend in ocean-dwelling creature.

====

SG-1 went through the usual post-mission exams with Daniel's being more involved than the others, although Janet did do a few additional tests on Jack, Sam, and Teal'c, wanting to compare them to the ones she'd performed while they experienced the effects of Nem's conditioning.

The debriefing was held, but it was rather short since the missing piece of the mission report was Daniel's chronicle.  The archaeologist filled in the gaps aptly and provided the details of his experience, though he did so in more words than Hammond and the others felt was necessary for the moment, especially since a complete review would be in Daniel's written report that would come later.

“It's good to have you back, all of you.  Dismissed,” Hammond said and then stood to return to his office.  As the others stood and began to filter out of the room, the general called out, “Doctor Jackson, a moment.”

Daniel looked at Jack and shrugged and then approached the general.

“I just wanted to say it's good to have you back.”

“Uh, thank you, Sir.  It's, uh, good to be back.”

Hammond stared at the young man for a moment.  It even felt a bit awkward after several seconds, but then he smiled and nodded.

“Enjoy your downtime, Doctor.  SG-1 has a full schedule when you get back.”

“I will,” Daniel replied, nodding at the same time.

The general turned and entered his office.  He was pleased to have Daniel back and to once again put the memory from when he was a lieutenant away.

====

Not long after he placed a period on this emotional chapter in the history of Stargate Command, Hammond decided his work day was over and was preparing to go home when a grinning Jack tapped on his door.

“Jack, you should be gone by now.”

“We have a piece of unfinished business, Sir,” the colonel announced.

“It couldn't wait?”

“No, Sir, because when we come back, I don't particularly want any reminders of how our brains were messed with by that water thing.”

“He's not a thing, Colonel, he's ...”

“Yeah, I know, Sir, and I'm sure Daniel will be talking our ears off about this for a long time.”

“What is it you need, Jack?”

“To give you this,” Jack answered, providing Hammond with a signed check that did not have an amount written on it.

“Jack, I appreciate the offer, but this is unnecessary.”

“No, it's not, George.  I was out of my head when I thought was Daniel was dead, and I acted out.  If I hadn't broken your windshield, I'm not sure what I would have done.  I thank you for not asking for this, and by the way, for not bringing me up on charges, but I pay my debts.”

“Insurance covered most of it, Jack.”

“There's still the deductible.  Please, let me pay for my actions.”

Nodding, Hammond replied, “Sure.  It's two-fifty.”

“Write it in.”  Jack cocked his head slightly and spoke, “Goodnight, Sir.”

“Goodnight, Jack.”  As Hammond looked at the check, he pondered something else.  ~That's the first time he's used my given name.~  He chuckled, ~Well, that's all right.  He's a good man.~

====

As he did with all his people at Stargate Command, Hammond observed SG-1 as the days, weeks, and months went by.  The risks and dangers were present daily, and the journey was risky and tricky.  Hathor attempted to gain control over the entire SGC, Jack and Sam were thought lost until Daniel discovered they were alive in Antarctica where a second Stargate was also found, and pushed by Senator Robert Kinsey, the Pentagon almost shutdown the Program.  Somehow, Hammond and SG-1 always came through and their exploration continued.

The work at Stargate Command continued, and then things turned grim again Apophis prepared to attack Earth.  Daniel tried to warn Hammond and his team, but they were dismissive of his claims that an attack was pending.  Finally, Jack was convinced and SG-1 secretively went through the Gate to try to fend off the attack.

At one point, Daniel was shot and Jack, full of regret, left his teammate behind so the rest of the team could continue with their duties.  Only Daniel lived, having put himself into a sarcophagus aboard a Goa'uld spaceship and going through the ship's Gate just before it blew up.

As Hammond, dressed in battle fatigues, walked down the corridor, he heard Sergeant Davis announce, “Incoming traveler!  Incoming traveler!”  As quickly as he could, he entered the control room and looked to Davis for more information.  “It's SG-1's signal, Sir!”

“Open the iris.”  Curious, the general immediately relocated to the gate room, literally running into the room where SFs were prepared to shoot should the traveler, or travelers, not be SG-1.  Seeing Daniel standing on the platform, Hammond ran up onto the ramp to meet him while calling out, “Doctor Jackson!”  He ambled upward to stand near Daniel, who now stood in place a few feet down from the platform.  In reference to the Goa'uld vessels that just exploded in space, he asked, “Was SG-1 aboard one of those ships?”

“Uh, yes.”

“Well, well how did you get ...”

Interrupting, Daniel answered, “Well, there was a, a Stargate aboard the ship we were on, so, once I realized we were close enough to use Earth as a point of origin, I dialed P3X-984.”

“The Alpha Site.”

“Uh, yeah, well, they called it the Beta Site in the alternate reality, but ...”

“Where's the rest of SG-1?”

Daniel stared at Hammond with uncertainty and concern for several seconds.

“Doctor?”

“I don't know, Sir, not for sure, anyway.”

“Son, let's go to my office.”

The archaeologist nodded and trailed after the major general, though he stopped at the blast doors and turned to look at the Stargate briefly before catching up with the base commander.

====

As he passed by the control room, Hammond said something to one of the airmen and continued to his office.

“Sit down, Doctor Jackson,” the general invited as he took a seat behind his desk.  “Before we start, do you need any medical attention?”

Daniel's hands went to his chest and abdomen and he pulled gently on his jacket, but he smiled as he answered, “No, General, thank you; I'm fine.”

“I'm glad to hear it, but your hesitation causes me to believe there may be something you haven't told me.”

“Uh, well, yes, there is.  It's a, a long story.”

“For now, give me the Cliff notes.”

“Doctor Jackson,” the airman Hammond spoke with earlier called out.

“Uh, thank you,” a grateful Daniel replied as he instantly took a few sips of his coffee and regaled in the aroma and taste.  He realized the general must have requested the coffee and smiled.  Extending the cup outward slightly, he said, “Thank you, Sir.”

Hammond nodded and motioned for Daniel to give his report while thinking, ~I know you love your coffee, Son, and that's why I asked for it, but I need to know where my people are.~

“The highlights?  When we went through the Stargate ...”

“Without my permission.”

With a hesitant, slow nod, Daniel continued, “... without your permission ... we realized we were on a Goa'uld ship.  It belonged to Klorel.”

“Klorel?” Hammond asked.  “Skaara?”

“That's right.  Jack ordered us to place C-4 over the ship which, uh, brought us back home, by the way; uh, anyway, we split up, Jack and Teal'c to try to find Skaara; Sam and me to set the C-4.  We were, we were in the ship's gate room when Klorel entered with Jack and Teal'c.  I guess things didn't go so well.”

“Were they injured?”

“No, but Klorel communicated with Apophis.”

“Where were you and Captain Carter?”

“Hiding,” Daniel spoke, rolling his eyes at how lucky the two were not to be caught.  “Anyway, Apophis ordered Klorel to remove Teal'c's prim'ta and kill Jack. They were taken to the pel'tac.  We followed.  There was a fight and Klorel had me in that, that ribbon device.  I couldn't get away.  Jack, he, uh, he shot Klorel with my Beretta.”

“He's dead?”

“Actually, Sir, I don't know.”

“Continue,” Hammond instructed.

Fidgeting with his cup, Daniel spoke, “We were about to detonate the explosives ...”

“While still onboard?”

“Yes,” the archaeologist replied in a chilling affirmation that the entire team was willing to sacrifice their lives to protect Earth.

“Go on, Doctor,” came Hammond's solemn response.

“But ... Apophis showed up in his ship right before Jack was about to give the order.  We knew we could destroy Klorel's ship, but Apophis could still attack Earth.  Then there was a skirmish and we were captured when the Jaffa used something called a shock grenade on us.  It blinded us for a while.  Annnnd then Bra'tac ...”

“Teal'c's mentor?”

After nodding, Daniel explained, “He was ... upset.  Apparently, we interfered with his plan to save Earth.”  He drew a breath and started to speak, only he decided he needed more coffee first.  When he continued, he said, “About Klorel.  See, we did think he was dead, and he was, but Bra'tac put him in a sarcophagus.”

“So he's alive?”

“I'm not sure.”

“Son,”  Hammond paused and shook his head.  Opting to let the issue of Klorel's fate go for the moment, he pushed forward.  “What happened next?”

“Uh, long story short, Bra'tac provided a diversion, and we were trying to get to the gate room.  We encountered Jaffa.  I, uh, I, I, I was shot.  Jack, I, well, I stayed behind.”

~What the ...~  Hammond heard the stuttering and the nervousness in Daniel's statement and read between the lines.  “Colonel O'Neill left you behind?  I have a hard time believing he would do that.”

“General, I forced him to go.  I was going to die.  Klorel's ship was less than ten minutes from exploding and the others needed to get to Apophis' ship and blow it up.  That was the plan.  Jack would only have wasted time taking me with him.  He had to go and I told him to go.”

“But you're here and unharmed.”

“Yeah, well, after Jack left, I remembered Klorel's sarcophagus.  I managed to get to it and get inside.  When I woke up, I was fine, but, uh, not my jacket,” Daniel attempted to muse.  “I ran to the gate room and dialed the Alpha Site.  I got through just in time, assuming the ship blew up.  It did blow up, didn't it, General?  I mean, uh, there's no way the C-4 didn't go off.  You said it exploded.  You said ... ships ... ships exploded.”

~He's just processing it all,~ the general cogitated.  “SG-1 was on Apophis' ship?”

“To the best of my knowledge ... yes.”

Suddenly, Hammond's concern for his cultural expert increased.  He saw a light go out of his eyes and felt something in Daniel's aura fade.

“Doctor Jackson, I want you to go the infirmary and see Doctor Fraiser.”

“I'm fine, Sir,” Daniel intoned, his eyes downward as he spoke.

“*Airman*!” the general called out loudly.  When the man entered, Hammond ordered, “Escort Doctor Jackson to the infirmary and ask Doctor Fraiser to tend to him.”

“Sir,” the military man acknowledged.

“Go on, Son.  We'll talk more later.”

Daniel gave a weak nod and slowly accompanied the airman to the infirmary where Janet began an extensive examination.

====

General Hammond waited anxiously for word in the control room.  He hadn't told Daniel about the search, that the space shuttle Endeavor was launched specifically to search for SG-1.  In addition to a cover story that barely passed as believable, the highly secretive launch resulted in an increase of 'need to know' personnel at mission control in Houston, employees who were quickly made aware of the situation; that is, as much as they needed to know to conduct the search and see to Endeavor's needs as well. Then he heard the message.

“Er, Houston, this is Endeavour.  We have them in sight.  I repeat, we have them in sight.”

Cheers broke out in the control room and the major general moved in closer to await the final report.  It wasn't long before the craft was able to rendezvous with the Goa'uld gliders and bring Jack, Sam, Teal'c, and Bra'tac onboard.  Pleased at the news, Hammond purposefully walked out and headed toward the VIP room where he'd ordered Daniel to rest after being released by Janet.

~This is going to be another one of those moments I enjoy.~  Reaching the room, Hammond knocked on the door and heard the soft-spoken permission to enter.  In the room, he saw Daniel sitting on the side of the bed, his torso slumped forward and his head down.  “Son, I have news you'll be happy to hear.”

“Sir?” came the question from tired and mourning eyes, eyes that also showed surprise at seeing the general standing nearby.

“SG-1 are safe and on their way home on the Endeavor.”

“The space shuttle?”  A tear falling from his right eye, Daniel stood and asked, “Jack ... they're safe?  They're all ... alive?”

“Yes, Son, and so is Master Bra'tac.  I'll let you know once I have the ETA on their arrival.”

“Thank you for telling me.”

“My pleasure.”

Hammond left the room, closing the door behind him.  He enjoyed the moment, but he was also curious at the deep emotion he witnessed in Daniel.  He saw the tear and heard the unsteadiness, a vulnerableness even, in the man's voice and tone.  He was aware that SG-1 was close.  Perhaps they were too close, but he wouldn't think of separating them, regardless of military protocol regarding fraternization among individual units.

~SGC is not regular Air Force, not when we're fighting aliens in outer space, and what we deal with goes beyond normal regs.  Being close here can be asset.~

The major general wasn't positive if that was his official position or one made to accommodate the uniqueness of the Program and the realities of exploring the universe.  Ultimately, he didn't care.  He remained curious about Daniel's emotions, but he set them aside.  After all, Daniel was a civilian and wasn't expected to react in a way that regular personnel would.

~Mission accomplished.  Now to surprise Colonel O'Neill and the rest of the team.~  Hammond chuckled.  ~And I know just how to do that.~

====

“General, you asked to see me?” Daniel asked at the doorway of Hammond's office.

Glancing at the time, the general stood and responded, “Yes.”  He approached Daniel, who he noticed looked more peaceful and seemed to be in control of his emotions again, and suggested, “Doctor, some of our personnel are going to welcome back SG-1 in the gate room in just a few minutes.  I'd like you to be there.”

“That's where I want to be, General.”

“Good.  I have an idea.”

Smiling, Hammond walked calmly with the archaeologist to the control room and explained his plan.  He was satisfied to hear Daniel agree.

~Colonel, you're about to be one happy man,~ Hammond silently spoke to Jack.  ~I can only imagine the heartache you felt when leaving Doctor Jackson behind.  Maybe this surprise will erase that.~

====

Glad to be back on Earth, Jack, Sam, and Teal'c, along with, Bra'tac, entered the gate room to be welcomed home by several of their colleagues.

Hammond stood off to the side, allowing his people to celebrate the moment.  Then he moved forward and smiled, somewhat smugly, before the returnees.

“Master Bra'tac.  Words cannot express our gratitude.”

“You are Hammond of Texas,” Bra'tac surmised, having heard about him from the team.

“I am,” the general responded.  ~And proud of it, too.  Yee Haw for Texas!~

Looking back at Jack for a moment, Bra'tac put forth, “Your warriors serve you well.”

“I know they will be sorry to see you return home so soon.”

“I must return before word of our rebellion reaches Chulak.  My place is there.”

Bra'tac said his goodbyes, most of which were visual or physical versus verbal, and then he was ushered away to answer a few questions before returning to his home planet.

~And here we go.  Prepare for a big surprise, Colonel.~  With a bright expression, the major general announced, “SG-1, there's someone who would like to see you.”

As Hammond moved aside, Daniel emerged from the back of where the base personnel were standing.  The general could feel the anticipation from his flagship team as they could see someone moving forward, and he also saw eyes full of hope.  He heard Sam call out Daniel's name and then he saw his 2IC break out into a broad smile and move forward to embrace his teammate.  He heard Jack's happy laugh and that made him feel happy, too.

~Space Monkey?  Is that what Colonel O'Neill just called Doctor Jackson?  What is a ... space monkey?~  Hammond sighed, a pleased, satisfying sound.  ~This is a good day.~

The room was bustling with elation.  SGC won the fight and their entire lead team survived.  People were hustling to get to SG-1 and offer their good wishes and joy that all was well.

Off and on, Hammond made eye contact with Jack.  At one point, they connected from some distance.  The general smiled at Jack, then at Daniel, and then back at Jack.  Then he saw the colonel mouth, “Thank you, Sir.”  Hammond nodded before others sought his attention and began speaking with him.
 
When things calmed and most personnel were gone from the room, Hammond called out, “Welcome home, SG-1.  It's good to have you back.  Get checked out by Doctor Fraiser and we'll meet in the briefing room in twenty minutes.”

“Yes, Sir,” Jack responded.

Hammond left the room and returned to the warmth of his office.  He stared at the flag of the United States and thought about the miracle of SG-1's safe return.  He glanced at his watch and then headed for the control room to get a status report before the debriefing.

====

“Have a seat,” Hammond ordered those standing.  Inwardly, he smiled at Daniel, the civilian, who was never required to stand when a ranking officer entered the room.  ~He doesn't have a ranking officer.~  After he sat, he spoke, “People, let's keep this short, shall we?”

“I'm in favor of that,” Jack responded.

“Let's forget, for now, about how you all left my base without permission.”

“If we hadn't, Sir, we'd all be dead,” Jack put forth.

“Orders are orders, Colonel, and ...”

“We'd be dead,” Jack repeated, albeit more softly.

“Let's move on,” Hammond requested.  He looked at Daniel and was about to call for his report, but knew that would prolong the briefing.  Besides, he already had the Cliff's Note version.  His stare shifted to Sam.  He wondered how much science could have been involved in the mission.  He figured not much, but he didn't want to risk it.  He looked at Jack.  He was positive the colonel's rundown of the mission would be full of rhetoric and might or might not tell him what he needed to know for the night.  “Teal'c, I want the facts, from the moment you renegades went through my Stargate until the shuttle picked you up in space.”

Teal'c nodded, while the rest of the team stared at one another in surprise.  However, they were all thrilled when in less than twenty minutes, the Jaffa managed to give the essentials of the entire mission, except of course, for Daniel's survival.

“Well done, SG-1.  Doctor Jackson, welcome back.”

Sam's eyes were still misty as she looked at her friend.  She even reached over and put her hand on his arm.  He glanced at her and smiled nervously, not used to such affection.

“Indeed, DanielJackson, I am glad you are alive.”

Jack nodded, but was unable to speak.

“It's been a long few days,” Hammond said, stating the obvious.  “Take forty-eight hours, and we'll have a full debriefing at 0900 on Monday.  Dismissed.”

The team stood as Hammond exited the room.  Exhausted, he finished off his business for the day and was driven home by an airman.  Another airman drove his car to his lakeside home.

Inside his house, the general changed into comfortable civvies and drew a beer out of his refrigerator.  Like SG-1, he was off for the weekend, barring an emergency.  Supervising the base for the next forty-eight hours would be Robert Makepeace, a Marine in charge of SG-3 which was the Program's lead combat team.  Hammond kicked back in his favorite chair and simply enjoyed the relaxing feeling he got from sitting in the comfortable recliner.

“Ah, that's good,” the general said to the air.  ~It's been a long week, Judith, but we've had a good ending.  SG-1 did it again, but if I say that too loudly, Colonel O'Neill will become even more cocky.  He knows he's good.  Oh, he likes to pretend he doesn't know what's happening, but if I believed even a pinch that he wasn't totally engaged, he would *not* be leading our flagship team and I wouldn't trust him with my base.  Jack: what can I say about him?  He's a friend now, Judtih, and a confidant.~

Hammond shook his head in disbelief and chuckled.  He drank some of his beer and let it settle.  He was grateful he had the weekend off.  He only drank the brew, or anything alcoholic, when he knew he wasn't scheduled to work for more than twenty-four hours.

~Judith, do you know what I did last week?  It was Father's Day.  I was thinking about Dad and watching some documentary I have on tape about Neil Armstrong when Jack dropped by with some fish and a bottle of wine.  I told him about Dad and his heart attack, the one he'd had in '69.  It wasn't until he left that I realized what I'd done.  He told me in 1969 that he knew me and that I'd told him about watching the moon landing with Dad while he was in the hospital, and that's exactly what happened.  Was that my subconscious making some prophecy come true, or was that something that simply had to be and happened on its own?~

The man finished his beer while contemplating the evolution of life and the concept of fate and then he retired for the evening.

====
August 1, 1998
====

“General, your signature is needed on these,” Sergeant Davis announced as he entered the office with a few requisitions in his hands.  As he watched Hammond sign the papers, he added, “And, Sir, SG-1 is overdue.”

Looking up, the general asked, “When were they due back?”

“Twenty minutes ago, Sir.”

“Any messages?”

“No, Sir.”

~They left at 1000 hours for a standard recon,~ the general reminded himself.  He glanced at his watch to gauge how long he wanted to wait, if any, before beginning a search.  “If they don't communicate or return within thirty minutes, have SG-3 conduct a search on ...”

“.... P3X-775,” Davis completed.

Hammond signed the last form and leaned back for the sergeant to pick up the group of papers.

“Ah, Sir, I ...”

“Walter, pass my orders on appropriately and you have a good vacation,” Hammond wished sincerely.  “Don't think twice about this place until your downtime is up.”

“Thank you, General,” Davis replied, heading out of the office to communicate Hammond's orders to the technician handling his job while he would be gone, process the requisitions, and then leave the Mountain to enjoy some well-deserved time off.

Hammond's thoughts returned to SG-1.  He wasn't yet worried about his leading team.  So often the reason for the team's late returns was Daniel's getting to know the locals and establishing a rapport with them.  Even so, it was rare for the team not to communicate with the base on schedule as oftentimes Jack would send Sam or Teal'c to send a message with an update for their return.

~He's probably got the team engaged in some ritual they can't get away from,~ the general thought about Daniel before returning to his work.

====

Hammond checked his watch when he heard the loud blaring of the klaxons.  He headed straight for the control room.  His calm about SG-1's tardiness was now full-fledged worry since the team was more than three hours overdue for their check-in.  He wondered if perhaps there was a problem with their remote transmitters, but if that were the case, SG-3 would have returned with SG-1 right away.

“We're getting SG-3's remote transmitter signal, Sir,” Sergeant Laara Shaheen, the technician handling the Stargate controls, advised.

“Let's hope they found SG-1.  Open the iris.”  Hammond watched as the Marine team walked down the ramp.  He saw the team's current leader, Major Warren, look up at him and shake his head.  “Have them report directly to the briefing room.”

“Yes, Sir.”

~Where is SG-1?~  Hammond went straight to the meeting area and waited for the team to arrive.  As soon as the major entered, Hammond ordered, “Report.”

While his men placed a pile of weapons, vests, and other devices onto the conference table, Warren stated, “I left one of my men by the Stargate and the rest of us split up to cover more ground.”

“There were no signs of SG-1 by the Stargate?”

“Only a few tracks, but after a while, we couldn't tell which way they went, and that's why we split up.”

“Whose are those?” Hammond asked about the items on the table.

“They belong to SG-1,” Warren answered.

“What?” Hammond asked in disbelief.

“I was proceeding east when I heard a voice.”

“Excuse me?”  The general paused.  “What do you mean you *heard* a voice?”

“I never saw them, General.  I was walking along and then I was stopped by a very strong bright light, Sir.”

“How?”

“I'm not sure and I don't know what it was, but they seemed to know Earth when I mentioned it.  I told them I was looking for my friends and all of a sudden, all of this appeared,” Warren said as waved his hand over the items.

Confused, the general queried, “They just handed you SG-1's weapons and remote transmitters; offered no further explanation?”

“Only that they had been accused of a crime and sent through the Stargate to some sort of prison.”

“What crime?”

“They said it wasn't my concern and sent me straight to the Stargate.  I was going to take my men back ...”

“No, you did the right thing returning to base.  From what you tell me, this has become a diplomatic problem.  That means SG-9.”

Not wasting time, Hammond ordered SG-3 to immediately accompany SG-9 back to the planet.  Since Warren knew where the alien race contacted the major, the general figured if they went to that position they could make swift contact and end this situation quickly.

However, an hour later, the two teams were back from their diplomatic visit to the planet.  In the briefing room, Major Kovacek, SG-9's team leader, advised Hammond of what was learned, which was that the team was accused of aiding a murderer.

“This doesn't make sense,” Hammond claimed.

“Sir, SG-1 broke the law on P3X-775.  We don't have to agree with their law, but we may have to respect it.”

“Sounds to me like they just made an honest mistake.”

“We tried to explain that, Sir.  On our world, unknowingly abetting a criminal doesn't merit this kind of punishment.  However, the Taldor, they're the judicial body, they believe in zero tolerance almost religiously.  No appeals process, essentially, a single sentence: life imprisonment for nearly all offenses.”

“That doesn't sound like justice to me.”

“Perhaps not, Sir, but the fact is they have virtually no crime, just crimes of passion, sometimes the occasional sociopath.”

Major Warren interjected, “General, Sir, SG-3 is prepared and willing to go in.”

“No, Sir,” Kovacek objected.  “With all due respect, force isn't the answer, Sir. They're far more technologically advanced than we are.  We couldn't possibly succeed in extracting SG-1, and we'd just be making an enemy.”

“They've already made an enemy,” Warren put forth.

“No. I disagree.  Sir, they are open to relations with us.  In fact, next time I think several members of the Taldor are going to allow us see their faces.”

Warren refuted, “Sir, this is nuts.  Let my team go back.”

Facing SG-3's leader, Hammond ordered, “Major, as of 0800 tomorrow, your unit is scheduled for standard recon of P2A-509.  I expect you to be ready to carry out your mission.”

Reluctantly, Warren affirmed, “Yes, Sir,” and left the briefing room.

“Major Kovacek, return to P3X-775.  Let them know we mean business.”  Hammond paused.  ~No.  It's time for me to take direct action.~  Having reconsidered his order, he stated with intensity, “Better yet, I'll tell them myself.”

Kovacek left the room, after which Hammond went to the window and stared down at the Stargate.

~Whoa boy, George.  Take a breath.  You're about to ride a bronco you've never ridden before.~

“Sir,” Kovacek called out from the doorway.

“Major?”

“Permission to return to the planet and announce your intention to speak with the Taldor yourself.”  Kovacek saw the curiosity in his commander's eyes.  “I think it would be best, Sir, not to spring the surprise on them.  They may have their own customs surrounding meetings with higher ups from other worlds and with SG-1 in the balance, I don't think we should push it.”

“Permission granted, but make it quick.”

With a nod, the major again left the area, while Hammond's gaze returned to the Stargate.  He waited and watched for several minutes, long enough to witness SG-9 go back through the Gate.

~Maybe this is a mistake, but I can't meet SG-1 in 1969 if they're imprisoned in ... Hadante, wherever that is.~  Hammond allowed himself to smile as he cogitated, ~But SG-1 has an increasingly amazing ability to get themselves out of their messes, but I can't take chances.  I need to do everything I can to help them get home and dagnabbit, I'm not going to let them sit in prison for trying to help someone.~

Raising his shoulders for a second as if giving himself strength, Hammond left the room to await SG-9's return, after which he would get into the proper off-world gear and, for the first time ever, go through the Stargate.

====

Ninety-five minutes later, SG-9 returned and Kovacek advised Hammond that the aliens were willing to speak with him, but not until morning.  The general didn't like the response, but decided he should go along with the request, especially since the Taldor apparently couldn't be seen, making them hard to fight or even debate with unless they were willing.

Reluctantly, the general went home for the night.  There wasn't much of a chance that the situation would change and he wanted to ensure he was at his sharpest when the meeting took place.

The first thing the major general did was review the mail received that day, after which he headed upstairs to change into more casual attire.  He watched the news and then went to the kitchen.  He'd eaten something at the base before making the decision to go home for the night and the reality was that he was tired and wanted to settle down for a good night's sleep.  However, he felt restless so he thought about the beverage his mother used to give him as a child whenever he felt this way.

As a young adult, Hammond realized the beverage didn't really have a magic effect on drinkers, but there was a very real psychological advantage to finishing out the day as he was doing now.  The drink was essentially a placebo, one that would fool his mind and body into falling into a deep sleep very soon, not that sleep wasn't threatening to overtake him already.

With the beverage heated, the general added two further ingredients and stirred.  Then he walked outside with took a couple of sips of his warm milk accentuated with honey and topped with nutmeg.  He smiled.

~Makes me think of home.~

Holding his cup, the man looked out over the lake that ran alongside his house.  The moon was shining down, the water glistening from the glow.

Hammond looked up and studied the moon for a moment.

~A half moon.  What did you call it, Jack?~  Hammond shook his head, unable to recall the name.  ~You were rambling on about the moon that night trying to distract yourself from worrying about Doctor Jackson.~  He chuckled as he thought back.  ~That planet set off his allergies.  He puffed up like a turkey that night.  You stayed on the base.~

The general remembered dropping by the infirmary to check on Daniel before leaving the base that night and finding Jack sitting by his friend's bedside.  He'd convince the colonel to take a walk and they went topside.  That night was much like the current one.  Jack looked up at the stars and the moon and began talking about what he saw.  It was impressive and revealed to the general an aspect about his 2IC that he was previously unknown to him.

~A waxing gibbous,~ Hammond chuckled after another sip of his milk.  ~It's a half-full moon, after the quarter moon and before the full moon; it's beautiful.~  He finished his beverage, tired and ready for sleep.  ~Don't worry, Jack.  SG-1 will be home soon.  I'm going to make sure of that, and if anything happens to me stepping through that contraption, I'm going to demote you to airman and send you to Elmendorf.~

Amused and weary, Hammond went inside, leaving the moon to shine down on the lake in its natural beauty.

====

Bright and early the next morning, with the arrangements made, Hammond and Kovacek walked briskly through the corridors of Stargate Command.

“We better hurry, Sir.  The Taldor believe punctuality is emblematic as civilized behavior,” Kovacek urged.

“They do, do they?”

“We'll be transported almost immediately upon our arrival to their Tal'al, or speaking area.  Once there, the Taldor may or may not be willing to show you their actual face.”

“Why's that?”

“To put it politely, Sir, they're xenophobic.  To put it frankly, they're arrogant, narrow-minded, self-centered ...”

“I get the picture.”

Upon entering the gate room, the two headed for the ramp.  Hammond stared at the event horizon that was already formed.  Inwardly, he'd always thought of it as the puddle, a very simplified view of the mysterious and scientific wormhole that was beyond the substance that looked like water to most observers.

“But they do seem to want to maintain diplomatic contact,” reported the major.

“Special envoy, you may embark when ready,” Shaheen called out over the speaker.

Hammond and Kovacek stepped up on the ramp and reached the platform.

~Buckle up, George.~  Hammond took a big breath and stated, “Well, here goes.”

“Since this is your first time, Sir, a quick word of advice.  It's better to exhale just prior to crossing the event horizon.  One's instinct is to inhale immediately upon arriving on the other side.  Also ...”

“I think I'll figure it out on the way,” Hammond interrupted.  He leaned in somewhat toward the other man and questioned, “You're sure they dialed the correct address?”

“Yes Sir.”

Steeling himself, Hammond spoke, “The things I do for these people,” and then walked through the Stargate with Kovacek.  As he came through on the other side, he paused as he got his bearings.  “Major Kovacek?”

“Sir?”

“The next time you offer advice to someone about to go through the Stargate for the first time ...”

“Sir?”

“Make sure they listen to you.”  Hammond took another few seconds, intentionally ignoring the major who he knew was working hard not to laugh, and then instructed, “Lead the way.”

====

After several minutes, Hammond remarked, “Colonel O'Neill frequently talks about the trees on these planets.  I can see he wasn't exaggerating in his reports.”

“This world is a little more tree invested than some,” Kovacek responded. “We'll be there soon.”

It wasn't long before the bright light shone down upon the two representatives from Earth.

“You are most punctual,” a female voice noted.

“Thank you,” Kovacek replied.

A male voice asked, “You are the one called General Hammond?”

“Yes.  I am responsible for those people you have imprisoned.”

Quickly, Kovacek clarified, “By using the word 'responsible', the general is in no way assuming accountability for the actions of SG-1.”  He spoke quietly to the general, “Begging your pardon, Sir, but I don't want you to end up in prison along with them.”

Speaking loudly and openly, Hammond refuted, “On the contrary, I would gladly hold myself responsible.  I ordered them to this world in the first place.”

“Is this an admission of guilt?” the female questioned.

“No,” Kovacek answered.

Hammond contradicted, “Yes, it is,” to the major and then talked to the aliens.  “As a matter of fact, if you would allow me to take the place of SG-1 ...”

The male being interrogated, “You ordered them to aid a murderer?”

“No.”

“Then you're not guilty,” the female entity put forth.

“Not guilty,” the masculine voice agreed.

“Assumption of guilt by proxy is rejected,” the ladylike voice ruled.

Strongly, Hammond threatened, “If my people are not released, the imprisonment of the members of SG-1 will be considered a hostile act.  Peaceful relations between our two worlds will end, right here, right now.”

“Our law is immutable,” the male voice advised.

“Your law is unjust.”

Concerned, Kovacek began, “Sir, I'm not sure if this is ...”

“What's it going to be?” Hammond demanded from the unseen voices.

“Release is impossible,” the female voice responded.

With anger in his tone, Hammond asked, “Why?”

“There are no returns from Hadante, for anyone,” the manly voice explained.

“We will not let our people go,” Hammond advised.

“We have ruled.”

“And we have rules.  We do *not* leave our people behind.  You are holding SG-1 without cause and we *will* fight to get them back.”  The bright light faded without warning and Hammond and Kovacek were back in the woods.  “Let's get out of here.”

====

“General Hammond?” the SG-9 leader called out as he tapped on the open door.

“Any progress, Major?”

“They refuse to negotiate with us, Sir,” Kovacek answered.

“I thought you said they were open to discussions.”

“They are, but not about SG-1.  The Taldor are curious about Earth and are interested in establishing a relationship with us, but they continue to say their laws are simple and that's how they maintain peace.  It's a little like the innocence by ignorance idea.  They say the fact that SG-1 was ignorant about the prisoner's crime has nothing to do with their giving him aid.”

“Bull,” Hammond spat.  “I want to speak to these people again.”

“I ... had a hunch you'd say that, General.  They say they will not speak about this again.  They're annoyed with us.”

“Let them be annoyed.”

“Yes, Sir.”

====

Though he was extremely concerned about the situation with his flagship team, the general still had other responsibilities to attend to in his command. At the moment, he wanted to check on one of the wounded.

“How's he doing?” Hammond asked about Lieutenant Rice as he looked at the unconscious newcomer to SG-5.

“He's responding slowly.  This,” Janet walked over to her office and retrieved an object, “is what hit him.”

“It looks like a spear.”

“I know, but it's not.  It's closer to a bullet, but it housed a chemical that intensified the damage.  It's a good thing the team was able to get away quickly.  We need to have this analyzed.”

“Have it done,” Hammond ordered as he began to walk out of the infirmary.

“I hear you're going off-world again,” Janet remarked as she walked with the general.

“These Taldor aren't making negotiations easy, and I won't have SG-1 imprisoned for helping a stranger.”

“I'm going to ...”

Just then the klaxons sounded.  Aware that no teams were scheduled to return, Hammond moved swiftly to the gate room with Janet following him.  Just as the two entered the room, the kawoosh thundered and then the four members of SG-9 rolled through the Gate, as if having been thrown through the wormhole.  All stopped their forward momentum about halfway down the ramp, except for Kovacek, who rolled all the way to the bottom.

“Major, what happened?” the concerned base commander questioned as he reached down to help the man up.

“Sir, I regret to say that diplomatic relations with the Taldor are no longer possible.”  Kovacek continued, “They said they might talk to us in five or ten years, but they are ...”

“They are what, Major?” the angry Hammond questioned.

“They're putting us in what is essentially a time out, Sir.”

“They think we're children?”

“They say if we can't understand the very core of their laws then we aren't ready to see them.  They called us universe babies.”

“Universe babies!”  Hammond was angry and responded, “Well, we'll show them what babies from Earth can do.”

“General, I wouldn't advise going against them at this point,”Kovacek responded.

“And why not?”

“They said if we returned again we'd be punished for our crimes.”

“What crimes would those be, Major?”

“Trespassing on their world.”

Hammond drew a large breath and walked out.  He wasn't about to let the situation go, but for something like this, he needed to develop a solid plan of action.

~But how do we fight a people we can't see and who are capable of throwing our butts back through the Stargate?  Well, there's a way.  I just need to find it.~

====

Throughout the early afternoon, the general worked on several plans to rescue SG-1.  Unfortunately, his strategizing wasn't getting him anywhere.  For one thing, while he knew where the Taldor were, he had no idea where Hadante was located.  He knew only that it was a place, more specifically a prison, where SG-1 was sent.  This meant that at the moment, he was going with the status quo.

Just as he switched gears to attend to other business, the general heard a knock on his closed door and called out, “Come.”

“General,” Kovacek called out.

“What is it, Major?”

“Request permission for SG-9 to return to P3X-775 and attempt to reopen negotiations with the Taldor.”

“You realize that if you do that, you and your men risk being sentenced to this Hadante, right along with SG-1.”

“We're willing to take the risk, General.  We can't leave SG-1 there.  Sir, I believe in the diplomatic process.  There's a way to get through to the Taldor.  We only need to find it.”

Hammond smiled slightly and replied, “That sounds like something Doctor Jackson would say.”

“As a matter of fact, Sir, Daniel and I have had many discussions about this.  We both agree that finding a common ground is crucial for these types of situations.  Sir, I believe if we keep at it, keep searching for that common place, we can free SG-1.”

“Thank you, Major.  I'll let you know my decision within the hour.”

As his door closed behind the exiting officer, Hammond felt gratitude that his personnel were always willing to go all in to save one another, even at great risk to themselves.  He also knew he would have to take Kovacek up on his offer.  It wasn't just his need to have his flagship team saved or that always present question about 1969, but Daniel was still considered essential to the exploration through the Stargate.

~That boy still doesn't understand how important he is in the eyes of the Pentagon.~

There was Sam, too.  She was considered to be the computer genius, the expert in the operational programming of the Gate.

~The President wants them found and returned to Earth, and so do I.~  Hammond pulled out the mission schedule for review.  ~How long do I let this go on?~

====

Two hours later, SG-9, with SG-2 as their firepower backup, stood in the gate room.

“Rest assured, if the same fate falls upon you as that of SG-1, this command will continue to fight for the release of all our people.  No one, *no one*, will be left behind,” Hammond addressed the two teams.  “Major, good luck and God speed.”

“Thank you, General,” the man replied before motioning for the teams to move out.

====

“Dismissed,” Hammond stated as the briefing for SG-4 ended.  He remained in his seat, deep in thought.  Then he heard his name and swiveled his chair around.  “Doctor.”

“I thought you'd like to know that Lieutenant Rice is awake and on his way to a full recovery.”

“That's good to know.”

“Are you all right, General?”

“I'm fine.  Thank you for asking.”  Hammond gave the redhead a smile and then asked, “Are you much of a gambler?”

Janet walked to the table, noting as she did so that the sergeant who was recording the debriefing stood and walked out.

Sitting down, the physician replied, “I've had my moments.”

“Been to Las Vegas?”

“Once or twice,” Janet answered with bright eyes and rosy cheeks.

Hammond smiled, sensing the doctor's bets were victorious.

“You aren't deterred by the risk?”

“Sometimes.  It depends on what the stakes are.”

“Right now, Doctor, I'm playing for some very high stakes.”

“You'll get them home, General.”

“I have two teams off-world that I don't know what's happening to them, and that doesn't include SG-1.”

“Colonel O'Neill seems to always find a way home,” Janet put forth with calm.

“Let's hope he does it again, and soon.”

“Yes, Sir.”  Janet stood and offered, “If I can be of any help ...”

“You have been, Doctor.  Thank you.”  Janet exited and Hammond stood.  As he so often did, he walked to the window and stared out at the Stargate.  ~Doctor Fraiser is right.  We'll find a way, peaceably ... or not.~

====

Hammond was happy to see SG-9 and SG-2 return safely and on schedule toward the end of the afternoon. Kovacek advised the Taldor agreed to more discussions, but they were relentless in their insistence that SG-1 would not be freed.  Another meeting was scheduled for the next morning.

~If we don't get anywhere tomorrow, I'm going to have to make some strong suggestions to the President and the Joint Chiefs.~

====

Still daylight out, but as day was ebbing into evening, Hammond heard the klaxons sounding yet again.  He quickly headed for the control room and was advised that SG-3's signal was being transmitted.

“They aren't due to check in yet, are they?”

“No, Sir,” the technician responded.

“Open the iris,” Hammond permitted and then headed for the gate room.  He entered just as the Stargate shut down and was stunned by what he saw.  Home again were the four members of SG-1.  “Where in the name of heaven did you come from?”

“Prison, actually,” Jack answered.  “We just broke out.”

Shocked by what he heard, Hammond asked, “Well, how?  Your remote transmitters have been returned to us.  SG-9 and I spent the last two days trying to negotiate your release, with no luck, I might add.”

Daniel explained, “Well, actually, we returned via P2A-509.”

Sam elaborated, “Daniel remembered that SG-3 would be there, Sir.  Major Warren found us and was good enough to let us borrow a transmitter to open the iris.”

“And if I may ask?” the general queried as he motioned at the woman who was with SG-1.

“Oh, I'm sorry.  General Hammond, this is Linea,” the colonel introduced.

“We wouldn't have gotten out without her, Sir,” Sam informed her superior.

After the woman nodded, Hammond told her, “Then we owe you a great debt, Ma'am.  Welcome to the SGC.”

Linea replied, “I've never seen such a place.  It seems so alien.”

Teal'c responded, “So it was with me, but over time it has become ... home.”

“General Hammond, Sir, with your permission, I'd like to offer Linea quarters here at the base,” Sam requested.

Hammond glanced at Jack and read his non-verbal take on the question.

Enthusiastically, Sam added, “There is a great deal she has to teach us.  In fact, I brought back samples of a root that with Linea's activators can generate ...”

Interrupting, Hammond replied, “I'll take that into consideration, Captain.  In the meantime, I'd like you all to report to the infirmary, including your guest.”

Hammond assured Linea that the trip to the infirmary was “merely precautionary” and then told Jack the debriefing would occur later, after everyone had a chance to rest.  ~And I have a chance to evaluate this Linea woman.~

====

The trip to the infirmary turned out to be more extensive than the team wanted.  With Jack having some bruising from a fight with prisoners during which a cord was wrapped around his neck and Daniel potentially having a concussion from the same fight, Janet insisted they stay in the infirmary and rest, so after dinner, all four teammates, plus Linea, settled down and fairly quickly fell asleep.  None were allow to leave, not even Teal'c who didn't sleep but who did a process called kelno'reem to rejuvenate his body, until seven hours passed.

Hammond dropped by on his way home, but by then, the team was asleep.

“They're fine, General,” Janet reported, approaching the base commander upon seeing him near the entry area.

“Heading home, Doctor?”

“In about a half-hour.”

Hammond nodded and then remarked, “You were right, Doctor.”

“About what?”

“Colonel O'Neill always seems to find a way home.”

Janet smiled, looked over at the sleeping colonel, and replied, “Yes, he does.”

“Goodnight, Doctor.”

“Goodnight, General.”

====

After breakfast the next morning, SG-1 was cleared for duty.  Eager to fulfill their promise to Linea for helping them escape, Sam received permission from General Hammond to skip the debriefing.  With zeal, Sam brought Linea, who was wearing one of the standard green uniforms worn by SGC personnel, to a lab and introduced her to Doctor Colleen Greene, a scientist on Sam's team who she respected a lot.  Sam and Colleen spent a couple of hours teaching Linea how to use the computer while also explaining about the thousands of planets in the Stargate system.

Meanwhile, Jack, Daniel, and Teal'c reported to the briefing room.

“Let's keep this informal until Captain Carter can join us,” Hammond suggested, sitting down in his usual seat.

Jack sat with Daniel taking a chair across from him.  Tired of his prolonged state of lying on an infirmary bed, Teal'c chose to stand and did so a few feet behind and to the general's left.

“Give me a brief rundown, Colonel.”

The three teammates took turns explaining the events on the planet and at Hadante, the prison they were sent by the Taldor.  As they talked, they heard the klaxons sound and the Stargate activate.  Hammond wasn't alarmed as SG-3 was due to check in and he assumed that was what was happening.  Thus, the conversation with the male members of SG-1 continued unabated.

“Of course, that was about the time Daniel picked a fight with this big, smelly guy.  He actually won,” Jack jested.

Hearing a loud pounding against the door, Hammond called out, “Enter.”  He was surprised to see who was approaching.  ~Who is that man?~

Major Warren walked in with an unknown man and explained, “I found him lurking near our base camp, Sir.  You need to hear this.”

Jack recognized the person standing next to Warren and told Hammond that the man's name was Simian.  He was a prisoner at Hadante and he was blind until Linea used some of her unique abilities to make him see again.

To the colonel, Simian said, “The first thing I see, the Destroyer of Worlds.”

“Excuse me?” Hammond asked.

Simian explained, “She created a sickness, the one you call Linea.  She, the Destroyer.”

Hammond noted the confusion on the faces of both Jack and Daniel.  His own expression said he wanted to know more and fast.

Jack expounded, “Uh, she told Carter there was a plague.  She offered to help.”

“Not help.  She started it,” the escaped prisoner claimed.

With Major Warren still standing near the stranger, Hammond demanded firmly, “Tell us your story, from the beginning.”

“Our island states were at war.  She created a sickness, one she couldn't get herself, a terrible sickness.”

“Go on,” Hammond prodded.

“Half our people died.  She came, promised to save the rest.  By then, it had spread, island to island.  By the time they caught her, she had destroyed half a world.”

“I don't like this, Colonel.”

“Neither do I, Sir.”

“Take him to a holding room and keep a guard there at all times,” Hammond ordered an SF who was standing behind the group.  “Come with me,” he commanded the three male members of SG-1.

Hammond's intent was to locate Sam and Linea, but the blare of the klaxons caused his direction to shift and he and the others ran to the control room.

“What's going on?” Hammond questioned.

Shaheen reported, “Unauthorized Gate activation.”

Hammond studied the computer for a moment and then ordered, “Abort the countdown.  Get a team to the gate room.”

“It's sealed, Sir.”

“Unseal it,” Hammond ordered.  He looked at Jack and instructed, “Colonel O'Neill, affect the manual override.”

As Hammond and Jack feverishly typed in their command codes, Sam and her associate hurried into the room.

Looking at Sam, Daniel asked, “Where's Linea?”

“When we came to, she was gone,” Greene responded.

Shaheen called out, “Wormhole has been activated.”

Surprised, Hammond inquired, “You were unconscious?”

“Only for a few minutes,” Greene answered.

Shaheen advised, “The abort command is not responding, Sir.”

Sam joined Hammond and Jack in trying to gain control of the computer.  The countdown was continuing and then the blast doors rose, revealing Linea walking up the ramp to the open Stargate.

Hammond ordered firmly, “Step away from that Gate,” and then ordered Shaheen to, “Shut it down.”

As the computer voice advised, “Self-destruct in thirty seconds,” Shaheen's monitor flashed, “Access Denied.”

“It won't take our codes, Sir,” Jack stated.

“Close the iris.”

As Linea calmly looked up at the control room and the countdown continued, Hammond suggested shutting down the entire system, but Sam said there was nothing to be done.  Linea controlled the computer and she'd retrieved an untold number of coordinates to other worlds.

Hammond and SG-1 were mystified.  They'd done all they could and now it was a matter seconds.  They watched as Linea turned and walked into the event horizon.

“The codes have been erased,” Shaheen said.

“This doesn't make any sense,” Sam opined.

~Well, this can't be.  1969 can't happen if this base is destroyed,~ Hammond put forth in his mind.  ~There has to be more to this.~

Suddenly, the Stargate shut down.  There was stunned silence until Jack ordered Shaheen to dial the same coordinates Linea used to escape.  He requested and was granted permission by the general to go after the murderous woman, only at that point, the system crashed completely.

Within seconds of the crash, Sam's computer screen displayed a message that read, “Thank you for your kindness.  All debts have now been paid.

Silently, Hammond and SG-1 realized what happened and the consequences of Linea's freedom.

Thinking about Hadante, Sam dejectedly spoke, “We let her out.”

“The Destroyer of Worlds,” Daniel responded, repeating the phrase used by the prisoner Simian.

For another moment, everyone was silent, each contemplating their role in the release of a woman who apparently was a serial killer, not just of individuals, but of entire worlds.

“We had no way of knowing,” Jack spoke, wanting to relieve his team of guilt, though he felt plenty of his own, primarily from assuming that just because SG-1 was in Hadante for a trivial offense he likened to jaywalking that other prisoners, specifically Linea, could easily be there for innocent reasons as well.

“We have to find her,” Daniel insisted.

“We have no way of knowing where she went, Daniel,” Sam responded.  “She has the addresses, Sir.  I don't know if she got them all or ...”

“Karma,” Jack spoke out of the blue.

“What?” Daniel questioned.

Jack looked at his teammates and also at Hammond and then answered, “What goes around, comes around.  Maybe we won't find her, but karma has a way of extracting justice.  She'll get hers.”

With a nod, Jack turned and left the control room.

“Karma,” Sam sighed, her guilt huge since she was the one who not only showed Linea the computer system and how to retrieve gate addresses, but encouraged the general to give Linea free access to the base.

“What is this karma?” Teal'c inquired.

“Well, it's, uh ... it's ...” Daniel stammered, not really sure how to explain the word.

Shocking everyone, Hammond answered, “What it means, Teal'c, is that with any luck at all, that so-called woman will be destroyed herself one day, perhaps by one of her own plagues or experiments.  That would justice, and karma.”  He paused and then ordered, “Briefing room, fifteen minutes.  Make sure the colonel is there.”

“Yes, Sir,” Sam acknowledged.

====

At the end of the briefing, Sam and Teal'c quickly left the room.  Daniel took his time standing up, but finally did.  He gave Jack a smile and walked to the door.  Jack hung back, waiting for the SFs to clear the room.

“You wanted something, Jack?” Hammond asked while still seated in his chair at the head of the table.

“So, General, you went through the Stargate,” Jack noted with a curious smirk.  “How was it?”

“Cold, Colonel.  It's all in the exhale.”

“Not like it was on the original Abydos mission,” Jack laughed.

“It was a thrill, Colonel,” Hammond confided.  “I wish the circumstances had been different, but it was an experience I don't regret and one I might like to repeat, given a different situation.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

“For what?”

“You tried to rescue us.”  With a pleased expression, the colonel spoke, “I appreciate that.”

“Then you're welcome.”  Hammond stood and added, “You know, Jack, sometimes I wonder how we walk away from these situations we get ourselves into.  It's a mighty risky business out there.”

“Here, too, Sir.  Carson slipped in one of the showers last week,” Jack mused.

“I heard.”  Pleasantly, Hammond urged, “Rest up, Colonel.  Something tells me we've only just begun.”

“Yes, Sir,” Jack acknowledged as the general turned and headed for his office.

====

Time marched on and life remained an adventure at Stargate Command.  There were struggles, tremendous ones, especially when Daniel became addicted to the sarcophagus and when the knowledge of the Ancients was downloaded into Jack's mind.  Danger was a way of life at the SGC, off- and on-world.  Proof of that occurred when Jack was infected with a virus by an alien device.  Teal'c was almost lost, thanks to a huge bug bite, and the entire team were at risk more times than Hammond could count.  Earth itself was threatened by a black hole that came close to engulfing the planet.

There were surprises, too.  Daniel saw Sha're and, when she prevented him from being discovered by Apophis, verified that something of the host survives.  Then there was the time when Sam's father, Hammond's old war buddy, Jacob Carter, was saved from a certain death due to cancer when SG-1 met the Tok'ra and he agreed to be a host to a friendly symbiote named Selmak.

More allies were found, especially the Asgard, and there was a huge presumed victory when Apophis died at the SGC, only then Hammond and SG-1 learned that the false god would probably be revived and tortured by his enemy, Sokar.

Then one day, the past and the present met up.

====
May 12, 1999
====

General Hammond walked into the control room and asked, “Sergeant, any word from SG-3?”

“Yes, Sir.  They reported in that everything is going as scheduled.  They expect to return at 1200 hours.”

“Thank you,” the general responded.  “Captain, any problems with the computer?” he asked, curious what Sam was working on at the moment.

“No, Sir,” the blonde answered.  “I'm running some test applications for ...”

“Never mind,” Hammond interrupted, willing to accept that whatever Sam was working on had a purpose.  Then he noticed the woman's right hand.  “That looks painful, Captain.”

Lifting her hand up, Sam shrugged and responded, “Not really.”  She noticed Hammond continuing to stare at her injury.  “Really, Sir, it's fine.”

“Very well,” the general responded before returning to his office and closing the door.  He sat down at his desk and put his hand to his mouth.  ~Is this the time?~

A few days ago, during SG-1's mission to PJ2-445, Sam was injured when one of the locals grabbed Daniel's knife.  In her attempt to get it back, her hand was cut. Hammond didn't think anything of it at the time.  The bandage was bigger then and he hadn't seen the aftermath of the injury.  Just now, though, his view of the wound was up close.  He recognized it instantly as the cut he'd noticed on the then-unknown woman back in 1969.  He remembered the gash and the three small pieces of tape that stretched across the wound in different places.

~The note said to help them, and it gave two dates on it.  I don't remember those dates.  They didn't mean anything to me.~  Hammond didn't have the note any longer, either, since back in 1969, Sam requested to look at it.  He gave it to her and never saw it after that.  He considered his next move and it didn't take him long to know where to turn for his answers.  ~She worked on the alternative applications project.  I'd bet my horse, if I had a horse, that the answer is there.~ He bobbed his head up and down twice as he recalled some of the particulars of the project.  ~Yes, there was a time travel piece to that endeavor.~

Certain he was on the right track, Hammond immediately went in pursuit of the research data from the project that was conducted in Washington D.C. after the original Abydos mission.  While he wasn't involved with the research at the time, he knew Sam was their star scientist and on something so important, she would have been involved.  Somehow, he suspected his need for two dates in 1969 and Sam's involvement in the applications research would be connected.

Hammond was right.

====

A few days later, Hammond and Jack were going over the upcoming mission assignments.

“SG-2 can handle that one, Sir, and SG-1 will take P2X-555,” Jack stated.

“I'm not sure I like that, Colonel.”

“Sir?”

“What about P3A-229?  It looks intriguing.”

“It does, but we still need to go 555.  We can tackle 229 next week.”  Jack looked at Hammond with uncertainty.  “Is there a reason you don't want us to go to 555, General?”

“No, Jack, I was just considering the alternatives.”

Jack signed his initials to the copy of the schedule and asked, “Is there anything else, Sir?”

“No, Colonel.  Dismissed.”

Jack stood and headed for the door, but he looked back at the general and couldn't stop himself from asking, “General, I don't mean to butt in, but I guess I am butting in.  Is there anything you want to talk about?”

“Not a thing, Jack.  You can go.”

A bit hesitantly, Jack walked out the door.

~I'm back to that old question.  Do I let them go, knowing what happened, or do I try to stop it, and if I do stop it, am I changing my future, and theirs?~

====

The next day, SG-1 was in the briefing room, waiting for General Hammond to give the final go ahead for their mission.

Meanwhile, Hammond sat in his chair in his office, staring at the team through the window.

~What if I'm wrong?  Maybe these aren't the right dates,~ the general wondered as he stared at the two dates he'd written on a yellow piece of paper. ~George, you know this is the time, but so much could go wrong.  Would it be a bad thing to keep them here?~

The major general sighed.  He knew the answer and knowing that, he finalized the note, writing his first name on the paper and folding it up as he remembered seeing it as a young lieutenant in 1969.  He slid the paper into his pocket and then joined the briefing.

“Colonel, have we received the MALP report on P2X-555?” Hammond queried, glancing around at the various members of SG-1.

“Ah, right in front of you, Sir,” Jack responded, leaning forward.  “Everything looks good.”

“I think we should be able to ...” Sam began.

“Just be careful out there,” Hammond said, getting up and returning to his office, leaving a very confused SG-1 behind.

The general focused on his work, not wanting to second guess himself even further.  That would be a mistake.  He saw a notation in his calendar to contact a fellow general and decided this would be an appropriate time to make that call, especially since he anticipated the call would last until his flagship team was ready to depart through the Stargate.

At one point, Hammond heard a tap on his door.  It was Jack.  The general waved him on, preferring to stay on the call and avoid the temptation to stop the planned mission.

The plan was perfect.  Right after Hammond's call ended, he went to the control room and saw Sam as she telling the technician that they could engage the Stargate.  As she was about to leave the room, she was surprised to see the general looking at her.

“Sir?”

Looking down, Hammond asked, “How's the hand?”  He reached down and took hold of Sam's hand to study it one more time.  ~It's even more purple and bruised today.  There is no doubt in my mind that this is the cut I saw on Captain Carter's hand in 1969.~

“It's a little sore, but it'll be all right.  Thank you.”

As the countdown to the opening of the Gate began by the technician on duty, Hammond held up the yellow paper and told Sam, “I'd like you to take this note along with you.  Keep it in your vest pocket until you get on the other side.”  Handing the note to her, he added, “It's fairly self-explanatory.”

“Sir, is everything all right?”

“Everything's fine,” Hammond answered.  ~I hope.~  With the third chevron encoded, he advised, “Time to ship out, Captain.”

As she put the note in her vest pocket, Sam acknowledged, “Yes, Sir,” and headed for the gate room.

Hammond walked forward, standing near the technician while watching his flagship team below.

~I hope I've made the right decision.~  The general saw Sam looking up at him and for a split second, he almost stopped the countdown.  ~It's not too late, George.  Say the words.  Order them to stop.~

SG-1 stepped through the event horizon and disappeared from Hammond's sight.

====

That evening, Hammond stood in the briefing room, looking down at the Stargate, when a technician entered and reported, “Still no sign of SG-1, Sir. They never made it to P2X-555.”

Very well. SG-5 will have to complete their mission.”

“If I may ask, Sir, what are we going to do about SG-1?”

“They're out there somewhere.  Hopefully, they'll find their way back.”

“Shouldn't we start a search?”

Reluctantly, the general replied, “I'm afraid this is one mission they're on their own.”

“Yes, Sir,” the man acknowledged and left the room.

~He's confused.  Why aren't I sending out a search and rescue team?  Well, there's no point in that.  SG-5 will go to P2X-555 safely, but SG-1 is lost in 1969.  May they find their way home and when they do, I'll be glad not to have to think about this fate business anymore.~

====

The next day was one of the longest in General Hammond's life.  He had no idea how long SG-1 could be locked back in 1969.  He felt helpless.  For the most part, he kept the personnel away.  He knew there was talk.  No one understood his behavior, why he wasn't sending teams to search for SG-1 and why he wasn't contacting Earth's allies to assist in rescue missions.  In fact, he knew that the base staff wondered why everything seemed to be business as usual.  Still, he remained quiet.  He could not reveal the story to anyone, unless and until his flagship team returned.

Finally, an incoming traveler was announced.  Hammond's heart raced about as much as it ever had while he hurried to the control room.  He knew the schedule.  No team was set to check in or return.

“It's SG-1,” the technician reported in surprise.

“Open the iris,” Hammond ordered and then made haste to the gate room.  ~They made it,~ he thought joyfully when he saw the wildly dressed flagship team walking down the ramp.

“Yes!”  At the foot of the ramp, Jack snapped off a rare salute and said, “We're home, thanks to one sparky young Lieutenant Hammond.”

“How did you know, Sir?” Sam inquired as she stood next to Jack.

“When I was a young lieutenant, I was ordered to escort four people out of Cheyenne Mountain.  In the vest pocket of one, I found a note with my name on it.  Needless to say, I followed its instructions.”

“But you couldn't have known when to give it to me,” Sam stated.

“No, not until I saw the cut on your hand.  Remember when I took your cuffs off,” the general stated, referring to the moment in 1969 when he decided to help the group and freed them from their handcuffs.

“Then you've been waiting for this to happen,” Sam deduced.

“Ever since we met.  I almost didn't let you go,” the general confided.

“But if you didn't, you would have changed your own history,” Sam put forward.

“It's going to be a long debriefing, people.  We'll start in one hour,” Hammond ordered.

“Yes, Sir,” Jack acknowledged.

“Oh, by the way, Colonel.  With interest, you owe me five-hundred thirty-nine dollars and fifty cents.”

As Sam and Daniel grinned, Jack smiled and said, “Yes, Sir.”

“I'll take a check, Jack,” Hammond stated jovially before turning around and walking out.  He was a happy man and a curious one, eager to know everything that happened on the team's adventure.  ~It's going to be a long night and I'm a-okay with that.~

====

Hammond's curiosity about SG-1's adventures was satiated during the beginning of the briefing, though he had to endure a bit of musing first.

Jack summarized the entire mission by saying, “I had split personalities with some cliché cloak and dagger guy who thought smoking was the best part of life, we went on a road trip, Teal'c learned about fashion, Carter found a new gal pal, and I had a great time with a huge honkin' telescope.  Oh, and we found the Stargate.”

“And we saw Cassandra, Sir, only she wasn't a teenager, but an ...”

“Watch it, Carter,” Jack warned.  “You know how your type are about age.”

“My type?”

“Women.”  Jack quickly raised his right hand and waggled his finger.  “Don't lie.”

Sam wanted to argue, but she couldn't as she knew the colonel's words, teasing or not, were based in truth, so she completed her sentence with an alternative phrase, saying, “a mature woman.”

“There you go!” Jack chimed.

“And DanielJackson taught me how to drive,” the Jaffa announced, sounding about as happy as he ever did.  “Perhaps it is time I bought a car.”

“Let's put a hold on that for now, Teal'c, shall we?” Hammond responded, though it wasn't really much of a question.  “And, Colonel, maybe you could put a little more detail into that report.”

“Yes, Sir,” Jack acknowledged.  “We walked through the Stargate and found ourselves back where we started.”

“We were here in the gate room, Sir,” Sam revealed.

Jack continued, “But it wasn't the gate room, General.  We were here when the base was a ...”

“... a missile silo, and I was stationed here.”

“Apparently,” Daniel replied with a grin.

There was much to tell and a lot of questions to be answered, but Hammond did get the full report he wanted.  Then attention turned to the intriguing part of the puzzle: what Hammond knew, when he knew it, and how he dealt with it all throughout the last couple of years.

“Sir, let me get this straight,” Jack began.  “If you knew this had to happen, then in all our past missions, you had to know everything would turn out okay, right?” he asked, looking around at his teammates and Janet, who was sitting in on the debriefing.

“On the contrary, Colonel, I had no idea.  I'm just a general, not a fortune teller,” Hammond answered.  “While I anticipated the event, I had no way of knowing if it would ever happen.”

“But, Sir, that first day at the SGC, when you threatened to send the bomb through to Abydos ... you already knew me!” Jack spoke.  “And you knew Daniel.  You had to know he was alive before I told you!”

“I didn't know until I saw your picture, Colonel.  I hadn't been told your names, and I wasn't sure until you first walked into my office.”

“So, you knew?” Jack questioned.

“Let's just say it made reading between the lines of your report a little easier,” the general commented.

“Then the last two years ...” the colonel began.

Hammond shook his head, refuting, “Jack, we weren't together that long, and it was almost thirty years ago.  Did I remember you?  Of course, and Doctor Jackson and you, Teal'c, but I could never be certain of the events or their timing.  All I knew is that I had to proceed with due course and vigilance.”

“I have a headache,” Jack whined, leaning back in his chair.  “You said you were a month away from retirement.”

“I was,” Hammond acknowledged.

“Sir,” Sam interjected.  “Let me try and explain.”

“Carter, please don't,” Jack stated, afraid of his headache becoming worse.

“Captain,” Hammond ordered, giving her a nod.

Taking a breath, Sam began, “In the mid-eighties, Doctor Igor Novikov developed the self-consistency principle to help solve the problem of paradoxes in time travel.”

“This wasn't a paradox,” Jack refuted.  “We weren't meeting ourselves, and even you called meeting Cassie a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

“Yes, Sir, but that was different than what happened with General Hammond,” Sam attempted to clarify.  “You see, it's like the grandfather ...”

“Sam, allow me,” Daniel interrupted, surprising everyone.  “Jack, remember that episode of 'The Twilight Zone' where the man wants to go back in time, wanting to stop famous events, unpleasant ones, from happening?  He realizes the past can't be changed and decides to settle down in some small town.”

“So?” Jack asked, totally uninterested thus far.

“So,” Daniel continued.  “He reads in one of his books that the schoolhouse burns down because of a lantern falling off a wagon.  He sees the wagon and tries to stop the fire, but ends up tripping over the lantern and causing the fire himself.”

“Okay, and that helps me ... how?” Jack asked.

“The fire had to happen, Sir,” Sam interjected.  “If the fire hadn't happened, the character would never have gone back in time.”

“Isn't that the self-fulfilling prophecy bit?” Jack asked, looking back and forth between Sam and Daniel.

“Yes and no,” Sam answered.

“Carter!”

“Colonel, what it says is that there are many ways to bring about the exact same thing.  General Hammond may have had one month to retire, but, even if he had, something else might have happened to bring him out of retirement, or stop it from happening all together,” Sam stated.

“My point still remains that if he *knew* there had to be a time when we went back through the Gate to 1969, then he had to know that we'd somehow survive all the other messes we've been in.  Tell me I'm wrong,” Jack dared, turning to look at the major general.

Hammond leaned forward, his hands clasped on the table, and spoke, “I have always had an amazing belief in SG-1 to accomplish their missions.  Whether that belief was born in 1969 or in 1997, I can't say.  Colonel, I don't have a crystal ball, nor do I have the benefit of understanding the laws of physics like Captain Carter does, but I do have my gut, and my gut tells me that the people assembled here are unique.  What that means, I don't know, but I'm glad to know you, all of you.”

The general took the time after his remarks to look at all four members of his flagship team, as well as at Janet.

“It's like the example Novikov used -- a billiards ball being fired into a wormhole in such a way that it would go back in time and collide with its earlier self, thereby knocking it off course and preventing it from entering the wormhole in the first place,” Sam put forth.  “He discovered that the billiards ball could travel a number of paths and, therefore, many different trajectories could result from the same initial condition.  It could be knocked slightly off course and miss hitting itself, or it could only lightly tap itself and not go too far off course.”

“Carter, my headache is coming back,” Jack groaned.

Sam concluded, “Novikov found that the probability of consistent events was nonzero, and ...”  Seeing Jack's glare, she said, “Well, he believed that no matter what a time traveler might try to do, he will always end up accomplishing consistent non-paradoxical actions.  In other words, we could have done a number of different things in 1969, but, ultimately, we'd end up right back where we are now.”

“Wondering if General Hammond knew all of our missions would end ... happily?” Daniel asked.

“Son, I knew no such thing,” Hammond responded.  “I hoped, but that's the most I could do.  I had to trust in my own instincts, as well as your own.”

“Because you never knew if you could do something to throw off the timeline,” Janet surmised.

“Yes.  What if I hadn't seen your hand, Captain?” Hammond questioned.

“But you knew she injured it on PJ2-445,” Daniel spoke.

“Plant people,” Jack interjected.

“Yes, but in the last two years, you people have been a magnet for injuries.  It wasn't until I saw her hand, the way the cut was and the style of bandaging used to protect it, before the mission that I knew for sure this was that moment I'd been waiting for.”

“You weren't sure we'd get back,” Sam surmised, uncertain whether or not to be troubled or amused.

“I wasn't sure,” Hammond confided with a reverent nod.

“Argos,” Daniel suddenly spoke in a whisper, earning him looks from everyone.

“*Old* news, Daniel,” Jack spoke, thinking back about the planet he'd been on when he had aged to that of a very old man.

“Yes, but my point is, you ordered us not to go back, even though we wanted to,” Daniel reminded as he stared at the major general.  “I was angry, and you were resolute.”

Sam smiled and said, “You knew that something, somehow had to happen to save the colonel.”

“It's why you didn't hesitate to let us go back when Jack contacted us,” Daniel pointed out.

“That something, somehow had happened, Doctor.  I knew I wouldn't understand, but I was counting on you people to understand it,” Hammond admitted as the others in the room smiled.

“Sir,” Daniel said quietly.  “Thank you ... for the note.”

The simple sentence filled the air with a tender poignancy as the friends let the experience settle.

“I think we've said all we can say,” Hammond spoke, standing up.  “Dismissed and ... welcome home, SG-1.”

====

That night, Hammond made an exception to his personal beverage rule and pulled out a beer.  He was celebrating the successful conclusion of the 1969 event.  He went outside and walked to the edge of the lake.  It was peaceful, calm, and felt untouched by man.

~I wish you were here with me, Judith, to experience this.  Walking with you, holding your hand as we strolled was one of my secret treasures.  You gave me such strength.  Of course, I wouldn't be able to tell you much about my days at the Mountain, but you'd know.  You always knew when things were tough and you knew how to distract me, at least for those precious moments when you made the world go away.~

Feeling light and carefree at the moment, Hammond removed the slippers he was wearing and walked down the incline to the point where the water met the land.  He let the water refresh his feet.

~'George, anytime you can cool your feet, you'll cool you'll head, too, but you'll warm your soul with renewal.  Water is life.'~

The general smiled as he remembered one of his wife's favorite sayings.  He didn't know where or how she came up it, but over the years, she'd spoken it to him many times.  Her love for the water equaled his, which was one of the reasons they bought this home.  They'd lived in Colorado Springs during his early years in the Air Force.  It was where Judith gave birth to their two daughters and the place the girls spent much of their childhood years.

Later, Hammond's assignments took him to other parts of the country and his family went with him.  It was a decision the couple made before they were wed.  They were a partnership and would always be together.  The agreed upon exception was overseas assignments.  They took those on a case-by-case basis.

When the general's retirement was on the horizon, they sought out a place to live out their lives together.  Their oldest daughter returned to Colorado Springs for college and found her husband at the university.  Though they considered Texas as well, the lure of being near their daughter was a major factor.  Then their realtor told them about this house.  The moment they saw it, they knew it was their sanctuary.

“Water is life, George.  This place is our life, for the rest of our lives,” Judith had said the day they first looked at the lakeside home.

Hammond let out a giant sigh as he stepped out of the water.  For a moment, the sadness of Judith's death threatened to cut through the renewal of life, but then he felt a sharpness, like a knife running through him.  He laughed.

“All right, Judith, but I miss our square dances, our walks, and waking up next to you.”

After finishing his beer, the man picked up his shoes and took another look around.

~It wasn't the renewal I wanted, Sweetheart.  If it were, you'd be standing here by my side, but SG-1 is back home, safe, for the moment.  They can be frustrating, exasperating even.  To be frank, they try my patience, but Jack and Daniel?  Judith, in their own ways, they're like the sons we always wanted, but never had.  I hope you agree.~

The water rippled in a light, playful way, causing Hammond to grin.

“I'll take that as a yes.”  With a happy sigh, the general spoke, ~Goodnight, Judith,~ and returned to the interior of his home, feeling cool, refreshed, renewed, and ready for whatever the mysteries of the universe would present in the future.

====

Midmorning the next day, Jack whistled as he entered Hammond's office.  With a smile, he tossed a check atop the file the major general was reading.

“Paid in full, Sir,” Jack chimed.

Hammond chuckled, taking the check and slipping it into his pocket.

“You're really going to take it ... General?” Jack asked, his eyes growing big.

“Colonel, do you know how much a lieutenant got paid back in 1969?  You bet your wings I'm keeping this.”

Jack smiled ruefully, saying, “Don't cash it until payday.”

Hammond laughed, “Get out of here.”

“Yes, Sir,” Jack responded, giving his commander a half-salute and then walking towards the door.  “General, you aren't withholding any other experiences from us, are you?”

“Colonel, would I do that?”

“No, of course, not ... Sir,” Jack said as he walked out the door.

Hammond kept an eye on the colonel and smirked teasingly, well aware Jack was watching him.

~Let him guess,~ the general mused.  ~I do *love* this command.~

~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~

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