Convolutions Chapter 8. Lock & Load
Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. I have written this story for entertainment purposes only and no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author(s).
Jack squirmed against the leather couch before coming fully awake to the ringing phone. He was on his feet in seconds and grabbing for the annoying instrument. Pressing the receiver to his ear, he answered sleepily. "O'Neill."
"Sorry to wake you, Jack, but I need you here as soon as possible."
"On my way, Sir."
Jack replaced the phone and headed straight for the shower, checking to make sure he had a fresh uniform handy. A few minutes later he was dressed and ready to walk out the door, hesitating only to call Mason.
When Jack walked out the exit, Mason was waiting and Jack momentarily wondered if the man missed sleeping as much as he did. He opened the door and settled into the back seat as the Sergeant pulled away.
"Not a problem, Sir. Where're we off to?"
"The White House."
"Bad news, Sir?"
Jack sighed as he met Tom's eyes in the rear-view mirror.
"It's never good when the President calls you in at 04 hundred, Tom."
"No, Sir. I guess it wouldn't be."
Sergeant Mason fell quiet then, leaving the general to his own thoughts as he maneuvered the car along the dark, early morning streets, hurrying towards their destination. O'Neill didn't speak again until Tom pulled the car to a full stop at the White House entrance. From the driver's seat, he heard the general release a long sigh as he opened the door and then felt the familiar hand on his shoulder.
"Get yourself some coffee and breakfast, Tom, this could take a while."
Tom turned to face Jack and smiled warmly, "Yes, Sir. Thank you."
The general patted him affectionately and then stepped out of the car. Tom couldn't help wonder what had happened to bring the general here at such an early hour. General Jack O'Neill was a powerful man with lots of resources under his command and Tom knew that something serious was developing for the President to have summoned him. He'd noticed a change in the general of late, an intensity that indicated concern and stress but Tom had no idea where it stemmed from. This morning he'd also noted the absence of his almost always-present smile - that alone was enough to worry him.
Jack passed through several security checks and was eventually led into the oval office, surprised to see the Joint Chiefs, Secretary of Defense and several other high-level cabinets members already inside.
"Good morning, Mr. President, Sirs." Jack nodded his head slightly as he entered and acknowledged the group gathered around the president.
"Jack, I need a status report on Kassem."
"There was no change as of last night, Sir."
"And this morning?"
"Uh, I haven't checked yet, Sir. I came straight here when you called."
The president pointed to a nearby computer terminal.
"Check now, Jack. It seems our little problem is about to spin out of control."
Jack typed in his codes and the screen was immediately filled with flash messages. He scanned them quickly and then stopped as his eyes scanned the last message.
"I need a secure phone, Sir."
Jack left the room and returned a few minutes later, running his fingers through his hair and loosening his jacket.
"One of Kassem's top men landed at Kennedy an hour ago. We have him under close surveillance, but for now he's still in New York."
"It's time to stop this thing, Jack. We can't afford to wait any longer. The CIA has intelligence that shows a possible meeting in Paris in a few days."
"Yes, Sir, but since Kassem hasn't moved, I'd like to send in my team and try to stop this at the source."
Suddenly almost everyone in the room was talking at once. Most were objecting to Jack's idea and he lowered his eyelids briefly at the verbal assault surrounding him. He listened quietly for a few moments, until the voices were almost at shouting level, then he raised his own voice. A single word shouted in his strongest command mode got their attention.
The room fell quiet around him and he couldn't help notice the President's smile.
"This isn't a debate, gentleman. This is my call. The plan is already in motion and unless you, Mr. President order me otherwise, we're doing this my way."
"I'll need your plan details in an hour, Jack."
Jack looked directly into every face in the room, some were angry; some shocked; a few ashen as they contemplated what he might be planning.
"In that case, Sir, I'd better get to it."
The President nodded and he was moving quickly out the door before anyone else could speak. As the door closed behind him, he heard the din of voices rise up again as everyone demanded to know what he was up to.
Fifteen minutes later he was barking out orders while typing on the computer. Andrews was on the phone calling in the staff members from the list he'd dropped on her desk while others were speeding past her into Jack's office, bringing more requested information and being treated to his wrath if they didn't have what he needed. Forty-two minutes later, he ordered everyone out of his office and closed the door. Then he lifted the phone and dialed the White House.
He detailed his plan to the President and waited while he thought it over.
"It sounds a bit too dangerous, Jack, too many chances for failure."
"It can be done, Sir, but those troops are going to be a problem. They're dug in and they can see us coming for miles."
"And just how do you plan to get around that, Jack?"
"A few men, a select team might get through undetected."
"Through all those troops?" There was a long pause as the President considered his plan. "Can you get Kassem out, Jack? Can you guarantee your team's safety?"
This time there was no hesitation, just a swift, resigned answer.
More silence followed and finally the President spoke again, the same resignation now evident in his voice.
"All right, General. I need to talk to some people but you have my permission to get started. Keep in touch."
"Yes, Sir." Jack continued to hold the phone as the line went dead and then pressed the intercom button. "Andrews, get General Landry on the phone."
His phone rang a few minutes later and when he answered he heard Hank Landry's familiar smiling voice.
"Jack! A bit early isn't it, what's up?"
"Early? Oh, sorry, Hank, it's the time difference, I didn't think but you're obviously already at the mountain."
"Ah, yes, well you know how it is. What can I do for you, Jack?"
Jack hesitated, choosing his words carefully; he didn't want to alert Hank to any of his current operations.
"Just checking in, you know, to see how things are going."
Hank misread the hesitation in Jack's voice and chuckled slightly.
"She's fine, Jack. She's just not here at the moment."
"I've got a team of scientist that ran into a bit of trouble and I sent SG-1 out to bring them home. They left about an hour ago and with no more surprises they should be back late tomorrow."
"Tomorrow? What happened?"
"What always happens? Some small problem with the villagers blew up in their faces and they missed their check in time. I won't know anymore for a while yet."
Jack let out a long sigh before answering.
"Ok, Hank, keep me advised."
"As always, Jack."
Jack hung up the phone and stared at the computer. "Damn!"
With SG1 out of the equation he had a lot of thinking to do and little time to do it. He punched up his flash messages, checking that everything was still moving along as planned. He read through the updates slowly. Around the globe troops were being moved into position along with equipment and necessary backup. He stared at the screen, momentarily taken aback by his own power. He had issued one order and in minutes it had rebounded around the planet, changing the plans and destiny of hundreds, if not thousands, of lives. He blew out a deep sigh and wondered if this was how Sam felt when she was preparing to blow up that sun. No. No it couldn't be the same. She was brilliant and must have felt a moment of pride. There was no pride in this mission; there was no sense of accomplishment, no promise of reward. Even if he managed to pull this off - the price would be too high. Kassem had chosen his hideout well. There was no way to get troops in there without a major battle. Men were going to die.
Jack stood and walked closer to the window, arms crossed against his chest, feet wide as his eyes wandered across the view. His mind was moving at top speed, processing possibilities against failures, gains against losses, tactics against insanity. This was a stupid move. He knew it. The President knew it, but the alternative was unacceptable. Kassem was a power hungry mad man who sought to rectify the problems in his world with terrorism. He already had operatives in the United States and his madness made everyone expendable; millions of lives were at stake. Not only soldiers but also the innocent lives of civilian men, women and children were in imminent danger. Jack was in charge and it was his job, his responsibility to see that the danger was contained, that it wasn't allowed to flare out of control spreading misery and mayhem across the globe.
Jack took a deep breath and allowed his thoughts to return to Sam. He'd screwed everything up somehow and that was the last thing he'd wanted to do. It was just a matter of time now, he was certain of that. He'd given her the best he had to offer, the best part of his heart. Even though she was too kind and softhearted to admit it, the fact remained that she'd opened the package and found only disappointment. She didn't love him. She was unwilling to admit it, but in time Jack knew she would arrive at that conclusion and he'd lose her forever. He didn't want to face that, couldn't face it. He wouldn't go back to that solitary existence so he squared his shoulders and taking another deep breath, made the decision for her. He was never meant to fly a desk anyway, far better to go out in a blaze of glory and take that sadistic bastard Kassem with him.
Jack lifted the phone and pressed the button that gave him a direct link to the oval office.
"Hello, Sir. There's been a slight change in plans..."
Once he'd filled the President in on his revised plan he dialed another number.
"Jack. What's happening?"
"I need you to take the reins for a few days. I've got a major problem that I need to focus on."
"Ok, Jack. Just let me know when."
"Clear anything that can be postponed and start now. I'll send you the updates that you'll need and you can check with Andrews on anything else. I'll be leaving in about an hour so look over the files now."
"Consider it done. Anything else?"
"That's it for now. Just be ready for anything."
He placed the phone in its cradle and turned to the computer, typing in new orders for one Captain Francisco Chavez', USMC immediate deployment. He added the date, inserted his signature and hit SEND, watching as the computer processed his commands. A few seconds later there was a response indicating receipt of his orders and Jack rose from his chair starting across the room. Stopping in mid-stride he returned to his chair and typed in an identical set of orders for Colonel Thomas J. Nelson, sending as soon as they were complete and then printing a copy of both documents. He let out a long sigh and leaned back against his high-backed chair. After a few minutes he rose to his feet again, still replaying the plan in his head as he headed for the shower, when that was finished he'd talk to Andrews.
Sam was walking steadily, almost staring at Teal'c's strong back as he moved with confident agility fifty yards in front of her. Daniel was somewhere behind her and Mitchell was near the rear of their column as they moved towards the gate. She glanced over her shoulder, doing a quick check of the scientists nestled in the center of the group. Surrounded by SG-1 and two teams of marines, the small group plodded along quietly. They were dirty and bruised, but none had serious injuries and they had been more than obedient once SG-1 had finally arrived to free them.
They were quiet now; having survived the attack and ensuing battle, content to follow whatever orders would get them home. She scanned the landscape on each side of them briefly and then returned her gaze to Teal'c while her mind returned to the day's events.
Her shoulder was aching and she rotated it occasionally, trying to relieve the discomfort. She was in for some infirmary time when they got home. The bullet had passed straight through so she wouldn't have a long stay but the doctors were always overly cautious, or so it seemed. This injury was a mere irritation compared to some things she'd been through. It was however, irritating. The whole situation was irritating. Mitchell had been so cock-sure that the villagers were unarmed. Even when she'd pointed out that the science team carried handguns and the villagers were most likely in possession of those weapons, Mitchell had insisted that they wouldn't know how to use them. She snorted and shook her head slowly as she thought of one young lieutenant who would strongly disagree with that assumption.
Ignoring all of their concerns, Mitchell had ordered them to move in without even taking time for a proper recon. Lieutenant Sands had fallen within seconds as the villagers opened fire on the approaching troops. The villagers were guarding against their attack and holed up as they were, inside local structures, they'd been lucky that only one team member had been lost.
There were a few wounded and Sam had taken a hit to the shoulder but Teal'c was instantly beside her, stepping protectively in front of her and firing his staff weapon while she ducked behind the nearest cover. The villagers continued to fire until their weapons were depleted or they were overtaken. The whole thing lasted only a few minutes but by then, Lieutenant Sands was already dead, victim to a lucky shot from one of the angry locals.
She was angry at the senseless loss of life and the inexperience that caused it. He'd still be alive if Jack had been in command. Jack would never have walked into that situation without trying to determine exactly what he was facing and she grimaced as that thought triggered others, sending a fresh wave of messages to her brain. Soft brown eyes and a crooked grin filled her mind's eye. Jack. Suddenly she longed to close her eyes and wrap her arms around him, to melt into the safety and comfort of his strong arms, to immerse herself in his unconditional love.
The vision shattered and her head snapped up quickly as a voice reached her ears. "What?"
"How's the shoulder?"
"Well, I'd say we did all right, wouldn't you? Got everyone out and on our way home without too much trouble."
Sam stopped short and turned to face Mitchell. "You can be a real ass, Cam."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
His face showed his surprise as he realized she was angry.
"It means that Sands shouldn't be dead, Cam. It means you were hasty and reckless and you could have gotten us all killed!"
"You need to get a handle on your bravado before it kills you...and us."
She spit the words at him like poison darts and turned immediately to walk away. Mitchell stood looking after her, his mouth slightly open as he tried to think of a reply.
"Sam, there was no way I could've..."
She stopped again and turned on him.
"Don't even think about finishing that sentence! You ignored everything we tried to tell you! You're in command, Cameron. You have to consider all the possibilities, not just some of them. And where do you get off being so sure about everything? You're taking unnecessary chances Cam, and Lieutenant Sands paid for your mistake!"
Sam regretted her harsh words the moment they passed through her lips. She was angry but command was always tough and she knew it. She stared at him a moment longer, but didn't apologize.
"We all still have things to learn out here, Colonel. I'd like to stay alive long enough to learn them."
She stomped away from him without looking back and Mitchell watched, knowing that she was right. He was still standing there motionless when Daniel walked past and slapped him gently on the shoulder, moving quickly to catch up with Sam.
"Hey, Sam! How's it going?"
She turned a hard glare on him but it quickly softened into a small smile as she realized who was speaking.
"I'm ok, Daniel."
"Shoulder's ok, then?"
"Yeah, it's sore but it'll be fine. You ok?"
"Yeah, yeah. I'm fine!" He walked beside her quietly for a while, step for step, stride for stride, watching Teal'c as she was. "Sam? Did you, um...talk to Jack?"
She glanced over at him and then turned away again, her injured arm still resting on the P-90 strapped to her chest.
"I called but there was no answer."
"Oh..." He drew the word out painfully.
"I'll call again when we get home. He was probably in a meeting or something."
"Right! Well, tell him hello when you talk to him, ok. And Sam...don't let it wait too long. I know this is tough for both of you but..."
She smiled at him. "Thanks, Daniel."
A puzzled look suddenly covered his face.
"Um, you're welcome. For what?"
"For caring. For being a friend."
"Oh! Well, I just want to see you two happy. You belong together."
"Yeah, I wish he'd been here today."
Daniel looked over his shoulder, trying to control a quick grimace.
"Yeah, me too."
His eyebrows squeezed down towards his eyes and his lips tightened in an intense look of concentration as he watched Teal'c turn momentarily to face them. He'd have sworn he saw the big Jaffa nod slightly in agreement or was that his imagination.
She looked up at him, waiting for him to speak.
"Do you think Teal'c can hear us from way up there?"
As he watched, Teal'c turned again and Daniel's eyebrows rose to extreme heights.
Sam chuckled lowly as she, too watched him turn.
"Probably. You should be glad, saved us all a few times."
"Yes, of course..."
Sam smiled at Daniel's revelation and continued walking. A few more hours and they'd make camp for the night. There were enough of them this trip that she wouldn't even have to take watch and she might even get some sleep. Then it would be an early pack up and move out for a few more hours of walking, but she didn't mind because each step would take her closer to home, closer to a resolution with Jack.
Jack was standing on the tarmac, yelling to be heard over the sound of the jet engines as darkness consumed the sky around them.
"Andrews, where's Chavez?"
"He'll join you at your first stop, Sir. He'll be waiting for you when you land."
"All right. I've given Mason some time off while I'm gone, Andrews but I'll need you there."
"Yes, Sir, I'll be there."
"Oh, and Andrews, don't forget, any orders you receive from Colonel Nelson are to be treated as coming directly from me. Is that understood?"
The sergeant nodded her head and Jack smiled slightly as she tried to hold her hat in place against the strong wind.
"How do I contact you, Sir?"
"You don't. I'll contact you. General Baker will be handling everything except Kassem and he'll keep you advised. Anything else then?"
"Your wife, Sir?"
"What? Oh! I don't think she'll call but if she does...need to know, Sergeant. Let General Baker handle it."
"Make sure Chavez gets there, Andrews. We don't want him to be late for this little party."
A voice called out from behind them, "We're ready, Sir!"
Andrews raised her hand in a crisp salute and Jack returned it, smiling slightly as he moved immediately towards the plane waiting for him to board.
He climbed into the second seat and the canopy closed around him. He strapped himself in and radioed the pilot he was ready. He leaned his head against the seat back and allowed himself to think of Sam one last time. The picture came into his mind full-blown; she was curled against him; sleeping comfortably in his embrace, warm body, tussled hair, and face like an angel. She loved him. He lingered there momentarily, a small smile tugging at his lips as he remembered the feel of her soft skin against him and then he pushed her away, forcing the memories behind a locked door in the back of his mind, buried deep beneath his duty and obligation. That's all they were now, memories.
As the engines screamed in his ears and the g-forces pressed him hard into the seat, Jack vowed not to think of her again. It was over. Everything that could be done had been done. He had to focus on Kassem and carrying out his plan successfully. It was time to lock and load.
If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to