Following The Leader Series - Part 6: Commanding The Leader
How many times have I stood here, I
wonder, watching the iris obediently close under my command? Watching the SFs
rush into the gateroom, placing their lives between that gateway to danger and
this planet? All on my command.
My words, my voice, my orders - my
It’s one heck of a responsibility,
this place, one I certainly never expected when I signed up for duty. Actually,
I do remember one meeting with a certain group of unusual characters, led by a
cocky son of a gun, which paved the way for my later career. If I’d told anyone
back then what I knew, or what I thought I knew about the future, they’d have
locked me up and thrown away the key. Now, thanks to the seed of encouragement
that unlikely meeting planted in me, I’m in charge of possibly the most
important project this planet has ever known. Not that said project hasn’t been
employed before, of course, but that was a different time and man wasn’t as
independent as he is now. Back then, if a man with glowing eyes said he was your
God, you bowed down before him. Now, we tend to ask for an affidavit. I know at
least one person who would anyway. The same cocky son of a gun who convinced me
back then to believe in their crazy story and commence the most unbelievable
career I could ever think of.
It’s that same hot-head who’s out
there now - him and his unlikely team of heroes. A scientist, a civilian and an
alien. Who’d have thought that such a rum team of contrasting characters could
be turned by a reclusive retiree into the spear head of the whole operation? Not
me and I already had advance intel. The traumatised man who’d led the first
mission to Abydos was not the same man who’d met me back in 1969. Of course,
when I took over this command, I thoroughly acquainted myself with General
West’s report of the first mission, and the man who’d led it. However, if I
hadn’t known better, I’d never have recognised him from his changes in
character. I’d met a live-wire back in time, someone you couldn’t help but
respond to and believe in. The man West wrote about, who I instantly recognised
from the file photo, was a suicidal time-bomb. Yet the man I finally met again,
after ordering him back onto the base, was a cauldron of burning anger and
shattered dreams. Here was a man who’d seen too much and done too many things to
ever sleep easy in his bed. He walked with the same casual confidence I
remembered, but he was yet to become the leader I remembered.
I felt obliged to watch over him, even
though I didn’t know how things were yet supposed to pan out. The first clue was
finding out how much bending the rules my hot-head had done with his mission
report. I needed men like him, people who could think on their feet, without
waiting for backup that might never happen. This wasn’t ever likely to be a
large-scale military operation, more of a lone-wolf approach to finding out what
was going on in the universe. Guerrilla tactics and covert ops were more apropos
here and this man had that experience in spades. OK, so I had to knock him down
a peg or two at first, make him sweat, just to remind him who was in charge.
However, I had a feeling that once you gained this man’s trust, you’d never lose
it again and I planned to reciprocate, in spades.
The second sign that I hadn’t lost my
marbles, was when Captain Samantha Carter joined us from the Pentagon. I hadn’t
recognised her back then, in the back of that truck. The last time I’d seen her
was when she’d been a child, in Jacob’s back yard. When I was finally
reintroduced to her, my heart had quickened its beat. Memories and images
flooded back – things were finally going to happen. Not only was this base
*going* to happen, but I’d found half of the team who’d prove it - even if I
couldn’t tell them, yet. The sparks that flew between the two officers during
their first meeting were highly amusing to watch. I knew how well they would
work together, or at least on one particular mission. O’Neill was a fair man,
his record and what I’d already decided myself after meeting him, left me in no
doubts about that. All I had to do now was sit back and wait for the next two
members of the team to come together.
One, Daniel Jackson, civilian advisor
had shipped out to Abydos a year before and never returned, but his photo
captured the younger man’s energy as well as I remembered it. The fourth team
member had been a mystery at first. Something from my memories had been jogged
over those first few trying days, but my concerns over the dead and missing
officers had overridden those thoughts. I knew the fourth member would turn up
at some point. I merely had to wait. Of course, if I’d studied the poor quality
security tapes more deeply, I might have recognised Teal’c, but perhaps it’s
best that I didn’t. Back then, before I met the Jaffa properly, I might have let
my righteous indignation overrule my common sense awareness of what *had* to be.
So I’m relieved I left O’Neill to sort his own team out. He’s sorted so much out
for everyone over the years, it’s a pity he’s never managed to sort his own life
out, but there you go. Some tragedies you just never get over.
“It’s SG1’s code, Sir.” The technician
calls out obediently and my reply is automatic. I don’t even think about the
words as they’re formed.
“Open the iris.”
The metal barrier that prevents this
world from becoming the subjugated slave of who-knows-whom glides open and the
magical effect that is the wormhole beckons my gaze again. It’s a view that
never grows old with anyone around here. The day that it does, is probably the
day that person should ship out. No one can risk getting complacent around here,
the threats are just far too great. Four figures stroll out of the shimmer and
the tension dissipates around us. They’re home, in one piece, and in their right
minds, if the bantering is anything to go by. Perhaps for some people the
wormhole *has* become everyday technology.
I can see the SFs relax below me.
They’ll not drop their guard until someone in higher authority tells them, but
this is a familiar routine and we know each others’ mannerisms well. Even
amongst the SFs I allow enough leniency for individual characters to emerge.
‘Yes’ men are quickly ‘dead’ men in this place. I march on down to the gateroom,
just as my team are handing over their ordnance.
“Successful mission, Colonel?” I ask
my 2IC. His BDUs are torn and scuffed and he seems a little tired, but he
brightens up at my question.
“No signs of anything useful to us,
Sir, but at least the natives weren’t revolting.”
I smile and nod at him. His humour
will also never grow old around this place. He can afford to push the envelope,
after all we’re the ones who called him back into service and he can leave again
any time he wants. Hope he doesn’t though, as I don’t think Earth could afford
to lose his skills and knowledge. However, I’m still obliged to reign him in on
occasion, when we have the brass in. Wouldn’t want it to look like I can’t run a
“Jack’s baseball went down well.”
Jackson pipes up from the end of the line, as he leads the way out of the room.
“Children on the planet, Sir.” Major
Carter informs me, as I shoot a puzzled look at the retreating civilian. Ahhh.
It’s a formula I’ve grown accustomed to:
O’Neill + Children = Mayhem.
My own grandchildren are no exception
to this unwritten rule.
The Colonel gives me a shy grin and
shrugs his shoulders, as he follows his two scientists out, headed for the
“We’ll debrief when you’re through
with the Doctor.” I call after them, although putting voice to the expected
routine is rather redundant, and O’Neill waves a hand back at me in
acknowledgement. Teal’c, however, does honour me with a tilt of his head, before
he follows his team-mates through the door. Shaking my head, at nothing in
particular, I watch as everyone stands down and politely waits for me to leave
the room first. I reckon I’ve probably got just enough time to finish processing
SG9’s last report before the members of SG1 turn up for their first post mission
briefing. As usual, I expect anything *but* the usual to be involved in the
It’s well over an hour later and I’ve
long since finished SG9’s report, without any signs of SG1 turning up.
Something’s amiss and if Mohammed wont come to the mountain, then I guess the
mountain’s going to have to move instead. I could telephone, but I don’t want to
disturb the doctor if she’s busy and neither do I want a second hand report off
some junior nurse. In this business, there’s nothing like my stars walking
through the door to make an impact.
I’m entering the infirmary long before
some folks would give me credit for being able to. Don’t let this well-earned
padding fool you. If I couldn’t still hack the job, I wouldn’t still be doing it
– and that’s my rule, no one else’s. I walk into a scene of frenzy. Organised
frenzy, maybe, but the pace has definitely gone up a notch or two since my last
visit. It’s not hard to guess why. I can see three members of SG1 stood to one
side, outside a curtained off area, suspiciously missing one Colonel. Nursing
staff are scurrying in and out of the curtains, with never a sideways glance at
me as they speed past. Major Carter sees me standing nearby and I wander over to
her, careful to not let the worry show on my face.
“What’s the situation, Major?” I ask
her in a professional voice.
“Colonel O’Neill collapsed during his
examination. We’re not sure why. Doctor Fraiser hasn’t been out to tell us
“And the rest of you? How do you
“Fine.” “Fine, Sir.” “I am in perfect
health.” Come back three separate responses. Only Teal’c looks unconcerned, but
even though I don’t know him as well as his team do, I can see the extra effort
his facial muscles are putting in at keeping control.
Just then Doctor Fraiser emerges from
behind the curtain, pulling the material out of the way so we can see the
Colonel. He is either asleep, or unconscious, and I’d hazard a guess at the
latter. His uniform has been removed and he’s been dressed in one of those
impersonal hospital gowns. The nurses are quick to release the wheel clamps and
he’s soon being moved away from us, toward the more intensive care area of the
“Doctor?” I ask, not needing to ask
“Well, so far, all I’ve been able to
do is take samples for testing. However, from his initial responses he seems to
be acting as if drugged. I managed to get him to come round for a short while,
but he didn’t seem to be able to focus on anything, either aural or visual. He’s
out of it again at the moment and I’m putting him in the ICU as a precaution,
until I’ve got some results back. Now I suggest you all go away and get some
rest, until I have a better idea of what’s happening.”
“But why is the Colonel suffering and
we’re not?” Carter asks, her worry evident in her voice. “He hasn’t touched or
done anything we haven’t.”
“The children.” Young Jackson points
out. “He played with them this morning.” There’s a wistful smile on his face as
the memories came back and I can’t help but smile in response. Seeing Jack with
children is nothing like seeing *The Colonel*.
“Indeed. He also returned with his
uniform sporting minor damage.”
“You’re right. Maybe the Colonel did
something then that we aren’t aware of.” Carter carries on the train of thought.
“He did mention something about rescuing a child from a fall.”
“Is that what he was referring to,
when he mentioned someone called Newton and his laws of gravity?” Teal’c asks.
“I’ll tell you later.” Jackson says in
a manner that suggests he’s repeated this reply many times in the past.
Teal’c’s polite bow of acknowledgement
suggests he’s often had to wait for explanations and is also used to it. The
ebony forehead creases in thought before he announces. “O’Neill did appear to be
withdrawn on the return journey to the gate.”
Everyone thinks over this new puzzle
and I’m not surprised to hear Carter’s eager request. “Permission to return to
the planet, Sir?”
“Permission granted.” I’m not about to
leave my 2IC lying in a bed, suffering from God-knows-what if I can help it.
“You’ll gate out in one hour, but with an escort. We can’t be certain yet what
happened to the Colonel, so I’ll arrange for additional personnel.”
“We can’t leave Jack on his own!”
Jackson states vehemently, looking at the direction the Colonel has been taken.
He wants to help, but doesn’t want to leave the man who means so much to him on
his own either. It’s a trait within SG1, no one gets left behind, no matter
where you are. Just a little rule of the Colonel’s that’s been taken up by the
whole base and I’d like to think that’s part of the reason why we’re the success
we are. Everyone cares.
“Then you have permission to stay.” I
offer him, knowing the whole team don’t need to go if there’s backup too.
“Thank you General, but I have to go
as I’m probably the only person here who speaks that ancient Russian dialect.”
“Then I shall remain with O’Neill, as
I believe MajorCarter’s scientific knowledge may also be useful in locating
whatever contagion the Colonel may have encountered.”
That having soon been settled, the two
scientists quickly disappear to get themselves geared-up, ready for
re-departure. They obviously didn’t want to go and leave the Colonel behind, but
the thought of losing him has made the decision very easy. All I can do now is
occupy myself with other matters until the Doctor has something else to go on.
Much as I might like to keep the Colonel company, he already has that, and I
still don’t know if there’s a threat to the base from whatever the Colonel
collected. So many ifs in this job and so few answers.
It’s many hours later and I’ve somehow
found myself back in the infirmary. The only bed currently occupied is the one
I’m facing now in the ICU. The patient, one wilful, opinionated, wise ass, is
anything but at the moment. There are so many words I could use to describe Jack
O’Neill, but none of them would suit the man who looks so ill and lost beneath
me right now. Many times I’ve had to pull back and *not* use those words in my
official reports, because pain-in-the-neck that he is with his unyielding
nature, that’s exactly the kind of man we need working here. Nothing else is
going to pass muster, with what they face out there on a daily basis.
I admire O’Neill, make no mistake
about that and I’m not fooled by his obstinacy either. He needs to know why he’s
got to do something and, if he doesn’t know, he needs to know that *you* know
the reason. He places his trust in me and that thought humbles me, because I’m
no better a person than he is. What does he see in me that makes his indomitable
spirit willingly bend to my commands? He goes out through that plug-hole of
horrors, facing down the most terrifying of fake Gods, with little more than
bravado and a P-90, yet comes back to do my bidding time and time again.
Soldiers do that all the time in the
chain of command, but O’Neill isn’t your average soldier. He’s ex-special forces
and those officers, the Colonel in particular, have seen and done things that
make my tour of duty seem like a walk in the park. Not that I’ve never sullied
my hands with deals that have the President’s ‘restricted’ seal on it, but I’m
an amateur by his standards. There are people higher up than me who’d love to
get O’Neill removed from this command, probably me too, so they could get their
dirty little hands on a bit of off-world technology. Those people have no
concept of what it is to lay your life on the line for your country, to make a
choice and say ‘Today is the day I might die, so that you and others might
live.’ I can only guess at how many times O’Neill has woken up with that thought
and it makes me pale, as much as he is pale before me.
I’m suddenly feeling a little
weak-kneed and I sit down on the chair by the bed. Teal’c is sitting against the
far wall, cross-legged, in meditation. I’ve often noticed him like that in the
infirmary and think he does it to keep out of the way of the nurses. He leaves
them room to manoeuvre around the patient and they, in return, do not usher him
away. I think they’re also a little nervous of the large Jaffa. They don’t know
if disturbing his meditations, will *disturb* him. It’s a good ploy.
I know he’s probably been aware of me
since my arrival, but having respect for my silent reverie has kept silent also.
“How’s he been, Teal’c?” I ask and the
alien’s eyes open immediately, letting his worry shine out for a brief moment,
before he calms his face back down.
“He has been extremely agitated,
GeneralHammond. I have tried many times to offer him some comfort, but he seems
unaware of where he is, or who we are.”
“I know. Doctor Fraiser has kept me
The picture isn’t a good one and the
Doctor has telephoned me each time there’s been any kind of information update.
Some sort of natural toxin has invaded his system and is affecting the neural
transmitters in his brain. Anything to do with cognitive processes has been
dampened, leaving him completely unable to respond to us. From what she’s been
able to ascertain, it’s having a similar effect to a hallucinogen on him and
she’s been unable to provide him with any form of support therapy. Oxygen, IVs,
monitors, everything is forcefully rejected by him, causing him to react in a
highly volatile manner. Every time she’s tried to interfere, it’s increased the
stresses on his body to an unacceptable level. She doesn’t dare sedate him
either, because she doesn’t like the way the toxin reacts to the drug, at least
in the samples she’s been testing. That’s about as far as my understanding goes,
but if the Doctor’s sure, then that’s good enough for me.
Jack twists on the bed beside me. His
eyes are open, but they aren’t focussed and they drift without purpose before
closing again. I often call him Jack, at least if we’re not in the middle of an
emergency, and particularly when we’re off duty. I’ve grown to think of him as a
friend over the years and he’s certainly proved himself to be such. He’s a man
of many talents and can usually be found to be in the middle of any mischief
going on. He’s perfected the ‘Me? What me?’ expression, but his eyes give him
away each time. You’ve got to get up very early in the morning to catch me out,
but I don’t think he minds when *I* rumble him. I think finding this team has
given him his second wind in life, given him a chance to enjoy himself again. At
least for as long as this job will let him.
“Do you believe MajorCarter and
DanielJackson will be able to find a cure for O’Neill’s condition?” Teal’c
interrupts my thoughts and I turn around to face the Jaffa. He’s still sitting
on the floor.
I can see the inner turmoil on his
face, the muscles twitching in an attempt to keep control. I think of the two
scientists, who each care about the Colonel, although in vastly different ways.
Jackson has given up everything he ever had to follow O’Neill, twice now, and
Carter has blossomed into a seasoned soldier under his command. I try to imagine
them giving up on finding a cure and it just doesn’t compute.
“I’m sure they will Teal’c.” I wonder
how the Jaffa is coping. After all, he’s a man of action, like O’Neill and I
are, and all he can do is sit here and wait, like the proverbial fifth wheel.
“How are you doing, son?” I ask him. I notice the slight twitch of his lips as I
say ‘son’ and remember again that this younger looking man is in fact many years
“I am finding it difficult to maintain
an attitude of peace.”
“I know how you feel. So would the
Colonel. You want to help, but there’s nothing you or I are qualified to do but
“O’Neill might understand how we feel,
but he would be unable to remain still.”
“You’re right about that. Can’t keep
this Jack in a box.”
Teal’c merely looks confused at that
reference, but is too preoccupied to query any further. For a moment I feel a
little slighted, a little left out of the camaraderie that follows SG1 around,
but immediately quell those thoughts. My thoughts should be directed towards the
man responsible for the strong feelings engendered by my flagship team. Deciding
it’s time I got back to some work and leave the two members of SG1 some privacy,
I make my excuses and leave them alone.
I’ve only been back in my office for
an hour when the klaxons sound their warning and I rush over to the control
room. I stand there, in an eerie repetition of the last time I waited for SG1’s
signal and breath a sigh of relief when the technician parrots the earlier
“It’s SG1’s code, Sir.”
“Open the iris.”
The metal against metal grating sound
can be heard, even up here, as the barrier retreats into its housing and the
hypnotic puddle shimmers before me again. Six figures hurry out of the blue and
I can see the urgency in the members of SG1, as they hand over their weapons.
Carter is holding a package closely to her chest and I can only hope the natives
have been helpful. I dash down the stairs, just in time to see the two
scientists exit from the gateroom.
“Successful mission, Major?” I ask,
again getting that feeling of déjà vu and Carter nods.
“Yes, Sir. Permission to debrief
Jackson is smiling, but the urgency is
not hard to miss in his impatient body movements.
They’re gone like a pair of
will-o-the-wisps and I’m left alone again, wondering if everything is now going
to work out OK. I make my way back to my office and try to concentrate on
running the rest of the base until the next call from Doctor Fraiser. I remember
when I was part of a team, a small group of hard-bitten individuals, whom danger
couldn’t touch. That was a life time ago. A life time of being proved all too
human and vulnerable. Something about the Colonel makes me believe in the power
of the human spirit again, the ability to look death in the face and deny its
existence. All right, so I know that’s not true, no more for him and his team
than it was for me and mine. However, there’s something deeply moving about his
ability to take fate by the throat and make it meet him on his own terms. His
body might lose, but his mind never will. His team seems to have picked up that
ability, recently. I can only hope so today.
The telephone rings and it’s Doctor
“The cure’s working, Sir. Colonel
O’Neill is starting to respond.”
“That’s good news Doctor. What’s your
“He’s already starting to settle down
enough to handle and I should soon be able to get him onto some IV nutrients and
stronger doses of the anti-toxin. I can’t tell you yet when he’ll be cognisant
enough to talk to and only then will I be able to give you any indication of
when I’ll be able to release him. However, if you’re thinking of personnel duty,
I think we might be talking about days before he’s back to even light duties.”
“That’s all I need to know Doctor,
I’ll be down to see him later on, when his team have had some time.” I don’t
know quite what else to say, after all, she’s only doing her job, but I feel the
need to say something more. “Thank you for all your efforts.”
There is a slight pause from the other
end of the line and I can tell that the Doctor is struggling for words too.
“You’re welcome, Sir. The Colonel is
worth the effort.”
I think of the man lying in that bed,
probably now surrounded by that small team of people who care so much about him,
as he does them. The scars that cover his skin are only a poor imitation of the
ones that he carries on the inside and I fully expect him to earn a lot more
before the stargate is finished with him.
I’m more than a little envious of the
bond between those four exceptional people, knowing the extremes they’ll go to
in protecting each other. I left those bonds behind many years ago when I took
up the desk. I’d like to be there when he wakes up, but as the CO of this base,
I can no longer afford to. Yet O’Neill knows, I’m absolutely certain of that.
I’m also certain that I’ll be hearing his wise cracks about the whole affair in
“Yes, Doctor. He certainly is.”