Under His Gaze
Wet slush pummelled their faces, hitting goggles and sliding down their
parkas, as the huge helicopter's rotors churned up the air around them.
"Inside as quickly as possible." The direction wasn't necessary, any
thought of sightseeing disappearing in the face of the fierce wind that
buffered them. The group hurried after the speaker, heading for the
large building sitting atop the ice.
Colin Godwin and Melody Stanmore were the last in, Melody putting out a
hand to stop Colin from slipping on a patch of ice near the entrance, the
man giving her a quick nod of thanks as they followed the rest in through
the large doors.
The interior of the building wasn't much warmer, but the sheer relief
from the elements had most of them smiling, the exception being the two
green clad air force officers who had sat alone and unspeaking
throughout the long flight.
"Follow me." The tall man who had greeted them on the surface pushed
his jacket's hood back and took off his goggles as he spoke, revealing a
thin, angular face, his small ginger moustache a mere wisp across his top
lip. "I'll do the introductions when we're a little more comfortable." His
breath puffed white vapour into the chill air. Turning, he headed for a
small metal door slightly to his left, and pulling it open, gestured them
forward. "I'm afraid it's a bit of a climb. There are plans to put in an
elevator, but for the time being we have to make do with what we have."
He twisted, entering the door backwards, and began descending the
ladder that stretched away into the icy shaft.
There were a few exclamations of surprise as each person reached the
top of the ladder and looked down before beginning their climb, and not a
few were breathing heavily by the time they reached the bottom.
They were standing in a large cavern, lit by strong lights that illuminated
the strangely shaped stalagmites and stalactites jutting out from the
floor and ceiling. Several passages branched off in various directions,
and it was down one of these that they were led, eventually coming to an
even larger chamber.
"You'll find it's pretty warm down here." The man was already pulling off
his blue parka, and the others followed his lead, peeling off the layers of
bulky clothing gratefully and hanging them on hooks attached to a metal
partition nearby. "I'm Doctor Peter Burton. At the moment I'm in charge
of the scientific side of things here, but that, like everything to do with
this project, may change at any time." He gave a short, half-hearted
smile, and hurried on. "You're the first group of scientists to arrive and
I'm afraid you'll find things are a bit rough and ready, as you saw from
the access. Over the next few weeks we'll expect to see some changes as
our presence here becomes more established."
"Ah...Doctor George Spiteri here." At Burton's nod of recognition the
older, grey haired man continued. "I know we were all given some details
before we left...at least I assume we were?" His gaze travelled to the
still silence Air Force officers standing to one side of the group.
Burton nodded. "Yes, everyone has been briefed, Doctor. Please
Spiteri looked around at the rest of the group, before continuing. "I
don't know about the others, but I'm finding it a little hard to believe
what I've been told. I mean...aliens and spaceships....it all sounds like a plot
from a Hollywood movie." There were a few muttered sounds of
agreement from the people beside him. He put up a hand to stop the
other man before he could speak, and continued. "I'm sure the
explanations we've been given for recent events are truly what the
government believes, but, let's face it, they aren't scientists. Have they
investigated other possible causes, atmospheric storms for example?"
"No, they didn't - they had no reason to. The cause of the destruction of
our warships and the resulting deaths of thousands of our troops, both at
sea and in the air in the later battle is fully known." The answer was
terse, and Burton's eyes flickered to the two Air Force officers as he
spoke. "Now, follow me please and I think you'll find all your questions
answered by what you are about to see."
They trailed after him, some hanging back slightly as they stared around,
fascinated by what their surroundings. Tantalising glimpses of strange
architecture showed through the clear blue ice, grey metallic looking
walls covered with strange decoration. Susan Pritchard, the
archaeologist of the group, already had her notebook out, frantically
scribbling in it as she walked practically backwards as her gaze shifted
from doorway to wall and over to shapes looming out of the ice. So
engrossed was she that she almost collided with the man in front of her,
who had stopped suddenly. She gasped and looked up, startled.
Straight into a pair of vacant, downcast eyes.
"Hell!" Colin's soft exclamation broke the silence.
Standing, leaning slightly sideways, his eyes open and staring, was a man,
his features obscured enough by the block of ice encasing him that all
they could tell was he appeared to be middle aged, his hair grey, and his
face lined and tired looking, his eyes ringed with fatigue.
"This sure wasn't in the briefing!" Spiteri turned to Burton, his arms up,
his hands gesturing wildly. "Surely this body could be removed - studied
under proper conditions. Why was it left here?"
"If I may, Doctor Burton?" The older of the two Air Force officers
stepped forward, the light glinting off the eagles on his shoulders. He
didn't wait for an answer, turning immediately to face the group. "Colonel
Reynolds, US Air Force." He moved forward, the others parting to let
him through, and came to a halt facing the icy tomb. For a few long
seconds he stood silently, then, abruptly, he spun, glaring at Spiteri. The
doctor took a step back, flinching. "This is Colonel Jack O'Neill, and..."
He practically spat the words, "he is not dead. He's the reason you are all
standing here. The reason this planet is still free from the Goa'uld."
Colonel Gary Reynolds walked slowly through the room, his eyes narrowing
as he surveyed the activity going on around him. In the three weeks since
his last visit to the Antarctica site there had been a noticeable increase
in the number of staff at the isolated base. A team of international
experts had augmented the original group of scientists as the need for
particular specialities arose, and the need for appropriate facilities had
grown with them. He thought back to those early days as the mismatched
group of men and women had struggled to come to terms with the
overload of information they had received.
He sought out one particular figure, finding the man on the central
platform, bending to look at the base of the chair, and frowned. Spiteri
had proven to be argumentative and extremely demanding. Unfortunately
he was the best man they could find to try and figure out exactly how the
alien device operated. At least Rodney McKay, finally recovered from his
latest batch of flu, was due to arrive in a few days and would take over
from Burton as the overall scientist in charge of the operation. Reynolds
smiled grimly. McKay wasn't one of his favourite people, but he didn't
suffer fools gladly and Gary hoped to see Spiteri firmly cut down to size.
It had been understandable that the scientists had questioned the events
leading up to their selection - after all, it must have been a shock for
them to be uprooted from their comfortable jobs and sent to the ends of
the Earth with only a few days notice and very little preparation. They'd
certainly had no say in the matter - their participation wasn't voluntary -
but the final straw had been Spiteri's reaction to Colonel O'Neill. Now,
with the arrival of scientists from every nation, it was becoming harder
and harder to maintain a military presence on site, even Doctor Jackson
had been made to return to the States as the political posturing became
more intense. Reynolds was just grateful he had been allowed to return,
albeit under strict instructions that he had no authority except in one
vital matter only. And hadn't Spiteri just loved it when he heard that!
Reynolds turned and carried on, putting Spiteri from his mind. The
reason for his return to the base was the same as it had been on his
original trip. There was one thing that couldn't be left in the hands of
the scientists - these unknown people who had no personal stake in the
He approached a section of the room, partitioned off from the rest by
flimsy sheets of plywood, slipped through the side opening.
One thing hadn't changed. Jack still stood, sightless eyes gazing into the
room. The activity in the rest of the complex was in complete contrast to
the stillness surrounding the man, and Gary just managed to suppress a
No one knew just what, if anything, Jack was experiencing within his thick
coating of ice, but looking into his eyes, Reynolds felt an almost
overwhelming sense of loss.
After the first tentative investigations of the chamber's controls the
decision had been made to not attempt to revive the Colonel. Doctor
Jackson had concentrated his research on any information they could find
on the chamber, but, apart from managing to interpret some basic
readouts, he had come to a dead end, and he had finally been compelled to
return to the SGC. At least they now knew the Colonel was still alive.
Spiteri had almost won the argument to have the whole coffin-like box
transferred to the States for study, assuming that the man inside it was
dead. Reynolds peered at the small lights on the side of the contraption.
The ones indicating heart rate were glowing a faint teal blue, a far cry
from the dark blue light he had seen on his last visit.
"Yes, Colonel?" The soft Scottish burr heralded the arrival of Doctor
"What's this mean?" Reynolds pointed at the offending lights, and
watched as a look of regret crossed the face of the short man standing
"Ah, yes." Beckett shook his head. "I'm afraid the Colonel's vital signs
appear to be fading."
"Fading? What do you mean, fading?" Reynolds kept his voice down,
matching the low tones of the doctor. It was a phenomenon he had
noticed whenever anyone was within a few feet of the Colonel - they
lowered their voices as if in the presence of sickness or death.
"I'm sorry, Colonel, but I mean exactly what I said. From the reports,
Colonel O'Neill's life signs were very weak before he was put in
suspension. This was something we were expecting." At Reynolds look of
enquiry, he continued. "His body is too weak to stand long periods in what
seems to be a state of suspended animation. Remember that this is an
Ancient device - designed for their physiology. Despite the Colonel having
some Ancient abilities, his body is still that of a normal, average human
being and the equipment obviously can't cope with the levels needed to
sustain his life, given his condition on entering it. The fact he has
survived this long I can only attribute to the adaptation that took place
to allow him to use the Ancient technology."
Reynolds felt his heart begin to beat faster as the doctor's words sank in.
He looked up at the face of the man he had respected for so long, the
man he had followed into battle, the man who had saved his life more than
They weren't going to lose him. Not after everything he'd been through.
It wasn't an option.
Susan Pritchard sighed deeply as she pressed the heel of her hands into
her tired eyes. There just weren't enough hours in the day to cover even
a tenth of the work that needed to be done in this room alone, without
even thinking about the side passages still filled with ice. However much
she was revelling in the challenge the site represented, she also was
finding it frustrating in the extreme.
It had been different when Doctor Jackson had been working with her,
before he had been forced, practically kicking and screaming, to leave -
his experience in the Ancient language had been invaluable, even if most
of his energy had been understandably taken up by the Colonel.
Susan straightened, stretching her back and rotating her shoulders, and
moved away from the wall panel she was examining.
"I'm going to get some tea. Do you want anything?"
One of the two people working alongside her looked up. Colin Godwin
smiled, brushing his slightly too long hair away from his face. "No thanks,
Susan. I want to do as much as possible before I try the controls again."
He gave the man beside him a slight nudge. "What about you, Uri? Do
you want anything to drink? Susan's buying."
The older man looked over his shoulder, frowning. "Buying?" Then his
face cleared and he smiled. "Ah, another of your jokes. Thank you, Miss
Pritchard, I would enjoy an orange juice."
Susan gave the Russian engineer a quick nod and smiled as he immediately
turned back to the open panel, his short fingers already back amongst
what was to her, an incomprehensible jumble of crystals. She headed for
the small staff rest area, situated over by the elevator.
"Hey, Susan!" Her friend's cheerful voice caught her attention and she
turned to find Melody hurrying over from her work station. The other
woman gripped her arm, pulling her away from a small group clustered
around a computer. "How's it going?"
"Fine, Mel, fine." Susan grinned, waiting for the inevitable question.
Melody smiled back. "That's good. Has Colin said anything about me?"
Sometimes Susan felt like her friend was a young teenager with her first
crush instead of the supremely professional computer programmer she
knew her to be. She nodded. "Yes, he said you were the most beautiful
woman on the continent and that he wanted to marry you and have fifteen
children. You can all live here together in an igloo city."
"Idiot!" Melody's light punch on her arm wasn't designed to hurt. "It's
just not fair, me being all the way over here, and you working next to
"I tell you what - I'll swap. You can spend your day kneeling on ice with
your back bent picking away at a wall, while I sit here in a nice
comfortable chair and play solitaire on the computer all day."
"Yeah - right! Anyway, what are you up to? Getting another cup of that
weak excuse for tea that you drink?" Without waiting for an answer,
Melody started for the canteen. "I'll come with you. I could do with a
Together they wove their way between the various groups dotted around
the complex, nodding greetings as they went.
"Things have certainly heated up around here." Susan observed as she
was bumped into for the second time, smiling in response to the muttered
Melody bent her head in to the other woman, and lowered her voice. "It's
"Why? He seems perfectly nice to me."
"You obviously haven't been on the receiving end of his sarcasm then."
Melody shuddered. "He almost had Spiteri reduced to tears yesterday."
Susan sniggered. "I can't say I'm sorry to hear that. What did Spiteri
Melody's face sobered immediately and she paused as they entered the
small alcove and got their drinks from the dispenser. Sitting at one of
the small tables, she finally answered her friend's question.
"It's the Colonel." Instinctively they both glanced towards the
partitioned section. There was no need for Melody to clarify, as far as
anyone on the base was concerned there was only one colonel of any
importance. O'Neill's presence was never forgotten even as they worked
around him, and more than one had woken up in the middle of the night
and found themselves unable to get back to sleep, the look in his eyes
indelibly imprinted into their brains.
When Susan had been at her most despondent, feeling out of her depth
and totally alone, her thoughts had turned to the Colonel, locked in place,
standing suspended between two breaths, between one heartbeat and the
next with unmoving, unblinking eyes staring out at them. And she had
realised she really didn't have anything to complain about. She was alive,
and working in a job she loved, and all because of him. Admittedly, his
fixed stare had been uncomfortable at first, but after Colonel Reynolds
had had privacy screens erected around him, she had found herself
missing his gaze. Despite the screens, some of the personnel still found
it upsetting to have him here, and Spiteri had been the most vocal
opponent of his presence.
"I've heard he isn't doing too well." Susan turned her attention back to
the other woman and took a sip of the hot tea.
"No." Melody looked down, her usually exuberant demeanour subdued. "I
overheard Doctor Beckett - he doesn't think they have much time left to
find some way to revive him before..."
"Damn!" Susan couldn't help it, she was just so angry. "If they just let
Doctor Jackson come back, he might find something. I feel like I'm
hitting my head against a brick wall here, trying to interpret a fraction of
what I find."
"They're not going to, Susan."
"I know, Mel. It's just so unfair." Susan cupped her hands around her
drink, feeling the warmth. Despite it being reasonably warm down in the
complex, there was still a definite chill in the air from the surrounding
ice. "Anyway, you were going to tell me what Spiteri said to McKay that
got him in trouble."
The tall red head smiled. "He was harping on again about having the
Colonel shipped out. Said something about him being practically dead
anyway, and McKay just exploded. It took us all completely by surprise."
She shook her head. "I mean, McKay hasn't been exactly vocal in his
support of the military, but the way he was talking it's obvious he
knew...knows...the Colonel from before." At Susan's look of surprise she
continued. "Yeah, he ripped into Spiteri. Told him that he wasn't fit to
lick O'Neill's boots. He said a lot more too, but I was trying so hard not
to laugh that I missed most of it. Anyway, Spiteri ended up sitting at his
desk for the rest of the day, not saying a word. Best day we've had in
Susan couldn't help laughing. The fact that Doctor McKay knew the
Colonel wasn't as much of a surprise as him defending him so vigorously.
The acerbic Canadian seemed to object to any authority, but especially
military. There was certainly something about the Colonel that
She drank the last few mouthfuls of tea and holding the disposable cup in
one hand, picked up the orange juice she had got for Uri with the other,
and stood, Melody following her.
"Oh well, back to work we go." Mel sighed, throwing her cup in the trash
as Susan did the same. "At least it isn't long until my lunchbreak. Tell
Colin I'll come over when I've finished this program I'm working on."
A bright light flashed across Susan's retinas, and she blinked, turning to
"What the...!" Rodney McKay's voice broke the stunned silence, and people
began running towards the corner of the room, McKay amongst them.
Susan and Melody joined the throng, arriving in time to see the partitions
"Okay...now this is not good!" McKay was the only one to vocalise what
they all felt as they stood in stunned amazement, staring at the empty
space where the Colonel had been only moments before. The lights on the
outside of the chamber had turned to deep, inky black.
All that remained of the Colonel was a man size impression within a block
of solid ice.
Wet slush pummelled their faces, hitting goggles and sliding down their
parkas, as the helicopter's rotors churned up the air around them.
General Jack O'Neill thought of making some comment about the cold, but
refrained from doing so, deciding to leave the more obvious clichs to his
"God, it's cold!"
Jack grinned, knowing the parka's hood would conceal it, and kept walking,
Major Davis hard on his heels. He looked around curiously as he
approached the sizable building in the centre of the complex, seeing an
outpost much larger than he expected.
"General. It's good to see you again." A figure loomed up in front of him,
and he stopped, peering for a second as the voice registered.
"Elizabeth, please." The woman smiled as she ushered the two men
through the door and out of the wind. "You'll find things have changed
since you were here last, General."
"I don't actually remember anything at all." He took of his goggles,
shaking the snow off them. "And it's Jack. I haven't got use to answering
to General yet, and I wouldn't want you to think I was ignoring you."
"Very well, Jack." Doctor Weir nodded, gesturing to the elevator. "Shall
we? There are a lot of people who would love the meet you."
Major Davis chose that moment to interject, as he unzipped his parka.
"The General doesn't have a lot of time, Doctor Weir. We have a fairly
tight schedule we must adhere to."
"Well, seeing we've just got here, Major, I don't think that we're behind
schedule just yet, are we?" Jack faced Davis, obviously expecting a
"No, sir." Despite the General's apparent admonishment, Davis was smiling
as they entered the waiting car.
The doors opened to a group of people standing waiting.
"McKay." Jack nodded to the familiar figure.
"General O'Neill, it's good to see you, sir." Rodney turned slightly,
indicating his companions. "May I introduce Doctor Peter Burton, Doctor
George Spiteri, and Doctor Carson Beckett."
"Doctors. I've obviously come to the right place if I feel ill."
Spiteri shook his head. "No actually, I'm not a medical doctor, General
O'Neill. Beckett is the only medical doctor amongst us."
Jack smiled pleasantly. "Really. I'm glad you've cleared that up for me."
He caught the muffled snort from Beckett, as Davis continued to smile,
and started to enjoy himself.
McKay wasn't quite so diplomatic. He glared at the short man. "Yes,
thank you, Spiteri. I'm sure the General values your input - as do we all."
From the scowl on Spiteri's face it was clear to Jack that there was more
to McKay's words than first appeared. A little battle of wills perhaps?
"Shall we continue, gentlemen. The General is on a tight schedule."
Doctor Weir's words brought their attention back to the matter at hand.
"We thought a quick tour of the facility first, before we get down to
"Yes, indeedy. Let's tour." Jack rubbed his hands together, before
slipping off his parka, handing it to a hovering staff member with a nod of
thanks. He waited until Weir and Davis had added theirs to the pile in
the man's arms, then gestured. "After you, Elizabeth."
They had barely gone three feet before he found Beckett beside him.
"I understand you can't remember anything of your time in the cryogenic
chamber, General, is that correct, nothing at all, not even impressions?"
"Well, I wouldn't say nothing." Jack looked at the small doctor bouncing
along beside him. "I do have a vague memory of twins."
"Yes, twins. Interesting, isn't it." The General's strides slowed as they
approached a group of people.
"General O'Neill, this is Colin Godwin and his fianc, Melody Stanmore.
Melody is a computer programmer, and Colin is working with the team
attempting to reactivate the Ancient technology." Jack nodded, his gaze
caught by the gorgeous, tall red headed woman.
"We're all quite excited by your visit, Sir. This could be just the
breakthrough we need." Colin moved sideways slightly, giving the other
woman with them a small push forward. "Susan has found several
references to the Ancient's ability to mentally control the equipment."
"You read Ancient, Miss...?"
The woman ducked her head self-consciously, blushing. "Pritchard,
General. Susan Pritchard. Yes, I'm an archaeologist and linguist. But I
had a lot of help from Doctor Jackson. I couldn't have done as much as I
have if it weren't for him."
"General?" Major Davis again interrupted, and Jack turned, on the verge
of saying something, then felt better of it. The man was only doing his
job, annoying though it was. It wasn't Davis's fault that he felt a decided
reluctance to do what he came here to do - see if he could activate the
Ancient control chair again. He looked over to where it stood, dominating
the room, then let his eyes travel to the other object he had avoided up
He had spent months in that thing.
Months of his life gone.
The whole experience was condensed down into a few fleeting sounds and
images, too vague to get any grip on.
Except he seemed to remember eyes.
Staring at him. Watching him.
He looked around and found the eyes of everyone on him. And they all
had the same look - one he couldn't quite identify. It wasn't pity. He was
familiar with that one after Iraq and Ba'al. It wasn't fear, or even
curiosity - those he would have understood, given what he had apparently
done while sitting in that chair.
No, if he didn't know better, he would have thought it was affection,
mingled with a touch of something else, but that was patently ridiculous,
so he gave himself a mental shake.
"Let's get this show on the road, then shall we?" And with a
determination built more of pride than want, he strode to the platform.
"What do you want me to do?"
McKay was quick with an answer. "We think it works by thought, so if
you'd just sit in it and...ah...think." His words ground to a stop and he
looked a little sheepish.
"That's what I've always liked - you just ask Carter - a nice,
straightforward scientific explanation. Sit in a chair and think. I can do
that. Anyone got a beer?"
Jack didn't wait for a response, he just turned and sat, suddenly wanting
to get it over with.
The problem was, he didn't know what to think.
"Isn't something meant to happen? Glowy lights, maybe? At the very
least strange beeps?"
"I think you need to concentrate your thoughts, General. Can you do
Jack glared at Spiteri. "Yes, thank you, I can concentrate. I've done it
quite often. Especially when I'm shooting people."
He shut his eyes, holding back a grin at another quiet laugh from the
Just for a moment he felt a sense of peace wash over him, and on the
edge of his perception he heard excited voices, then his mind was swept
by a wave of input that overpowered him, as information, emotions,
images, sounds, all vied for room.
He leapt up, his eyes snapping open, as the lights that shone from the
chair faded away.
"No, find someone else. Not going to happen."
He was barely aware of the voices pleading with him to try again as the
pain spiked in his skull.
"General, are you alright, sir?" He looked up to find Beckett staring
anxiously at him.
"I'm fine, Doctor. Davis, we have a schedule to keep, remember. Chop,
His farewells were swift, his refusal to try the chair again definite, and
as he looked down at the base receding into the distance, General Jack
O'Neill decided never to have anything to do with Ancient technology ever