Convolutions Chapter 10. Perfectly Clear
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).
"Sir? General O'Neill?"
"What is it, Colonel?"
"Sorry to disturb you so early, Sir, but there's a message for you."
"Yes, Sir. It's from the pentagon, Sir."
The colonel extended the paper to Jack as his eyes opened and he sat up on the bunk.
"Thank you, Colonel."
Jack took the paper and read the coded message. Then suddenly he was on his feet and moving past the colonel, mumbling lowly and pulling his baseball cap down on his head as he moved towards the door.
In a few minutes he was back in the command center and headed for the radio he'd seen there last night. Without pausing, he moved quickly to the radio, adjusting the controls and lifting the microphone to his mouth.
"Blue One to Hawkeye. Come in." He released the button and listened to the static for a few moments. "Hawkeye, come in. This is Blue One."
"I read you Blue One but could you keep it down, I'm not at the Ritz here!" A very frustrated voice whispered the reply back through the speakers.
Jack smirked slightly at the aggravation in the man's tone thinking he'd probably say much worse if some cocky general were breaking his radio silence.
"Roger. Do you have your eye on the ball, Hawkeye?"
"The wolves are on the move, Blue One. They pulled out during the night. Only a few stragglers left guarding the cave."
"Dammit!" Jack cursed loudly and then spoke into the radio again. "You positive? No chance he's still there?"
"I.D.'d him myself. I'm close enough to count the hairs on his head."
Jack pounded one fist against the table in frustration.
"Pull back to a safe distance, Hawkeye. Do not engage. I repeat, do not engage. Hide and watch. Blue One, out."
"Roger. Hawkeye out."
The radio went silent and Jack leaned against the table, his face screwed into a grimace as his mind kicked into overdrive.
"General?" The colonel questioned hesitantly. "Problem, Sir?"
"Yeah, there's too much space and too little time. What else is new?"
"Get Crawford in here." The colonel moved quickly to retrieve the general's pilot while Jack again adjusted the controls on the radio. "Williams? This is O'Neill."
"Good morning, Sir."
"No, not very. It seems your net has a hole in it, Williams, where the hell is he?"
"Over the Atlantic, Sir."
"The Atlantic! Why the hell didn't you notify me?"
Jack's voice was growing louder as he focused his frustration towards the voice on the radio.
"We sent a flash message, Sir. Hours ago. We've been waiting for your orders."
Jack looked at the message in his hand and then at his watch, groaning softly. It was the middle of the night in Washington and he had sent Andrews home.
"All right, Colonel, tighten the net and I mean tight! Don't let this bastard get away. Is he headed for the states?"
"We're trying to track him, Sir..."
"Trying!" Jack was yelling into the radio now. "I don't want "trying", Colonel. I want to know exactly where he is and where he's going! And send transport to pick up Nelson and Chavez. How long to get something over there?"
"Two hours, Sir."
"Washington could be a smoking crater in two hours, Colonel! You've got 45 minutes. Get Chavez in the air with or without Nelson, understood? And on the fastest plane you can find. I'll be in the air in thirty minutes. Relay that to Washington and the coast guard. Find him, Colonel!"
"Yes, Sir. We're on it, Sir."
"If that plane approaches the coast shoot it down."
"You heard me, Colonel. Try to contact me first but do not, under any circumstances, allow that plane to cross over into U.S. airspace. If they refuse to divert, shoot it down! Is that clear?"
"Perfectly clear, Sir."
Jack didn't bother signing off, just dropped the microphone on the desk and turned to see Crawford standing behind him.
"Can we make that, Lieutenant?"
"No problem, Sir. They're towing the plane out now. She'll be fueled up and ready by the time we get there."
Jack nodded and kept walking, picking up the pace with each step.
"Sir, if you don't mind my asking, where are we headed?"
"Is west good enough?"
The lieutenant frowned slightly, slowed his pace for a second and then hurried to catch up.
"Good enough, Sir."
Jack walked towards the door to join the pilot.
"What do you say we grab some food first, this may be a long day?"
The pilot nodded and fell into step beside Jack as he opened the door.
"How far away is that carrier of yours, Crawford?"
Lieutenant Crawford glanced at Jack, smiling slightly.
"It's just around the corner, Sir."
Sam awoke to the dimmed lights of the infirmary and was immediately aware of the unusual noise level. She could hear people scurrying about the room and slightly raised voices engaged in urgent conversations above the familiar sounds of metallic clanging and beeping machines.
A soft familiar voice broke through her still jumbled mind and she turned her head slowly towards the sound.
"Colonel Carter, I am glad to see you awake again. Are you well?"
"Teal'c. Um, I'm...yeah, I think so. What time is it?"
"It is early morning, 0400 hours."
"I feel as if I've been sleeping for days."
"Indeed? You mean...I have been...? Teal'c, what's happened?"
"You have been ill. Do you not remember?"
Sam's eyes grew wide in surprise and then her face contorted as she searched her mind for the information. Fragments of memories flashed across her mind but the most recent ones were very confusing.
"The rescue mission...the villagers. We were ambushed. I was wounded." Her hand moved absently to her shoulder in silent confirmation. "We came home and General Landry sent me here for treatment..."
"You are correct."
"Then..." She scrunched her eyes at the effort she was expending to retrieve the memories that were trying to stay locked in her mind. "I was sleeping and when I woke up Jack was here, in that chair."
"He was not, Colonel Carter, but you believed otherwise and attempted to reach him."
Her eyes moved rapidly and Teal'c could almost see the cogs of her mind struggling to find their familiar grooves. She raised her eyes back to him and recognized something that most others could only have guessed at.
"I remember feeling panic and a sort of rage... Oh, god, what happened?"
"One SF was injured but he will recover. You were not armed."
Teal'c's eyebrow rose and he moved closer to her. "He is in Washington performing his duties."
Sam shook her head 'no' for a long moment, searching the memories in her head once again while she pushed back the panic and when she finally spoke it was in agreement with him.
"Yes, of course. I just thought..."
Teal'c could see the sudden overwhelming sadness that colored her eyes before she looked away and he knew that this new pain was generated by O'Neill's absence. He leaned closer to her, his voice almost a whisper.
"Daniel Jackson has left a message for him. I'm sure you will hear from him soon."
Sam nodded but her mind couldn't get past the fact that Jack wasn't here, hadn't been here. He would have come to check on her if he could, regardless of what she'd said to him. Unless, of course, Daniel had been right and Jack wasn't just letting her have her way, he was really gone.
"I need to talk to him, Teal'c. Can you get a phone in here?"
"I cannot, Colonel Carter. Doctor Summers would not allow it and is it not still too early?"
"Early? No, it's not too early! It's two hours later there!"
"I am sorry, Colonel Carter."
Sam sighed in frustration and scrunched her face against her body's protests as she shifted to try and find a more comfortable position. Her arm was bandaged and immobilized against her abdomen. To say the least, it was awkward and sharp pains shot through her with every movement.
"Teal'c why are there so many people here? What's going on?"
"They are being treated for an infection, Colonel Carter, as are you." He pointed to the IV embedded in her arm. "Everyone who was injured has taken ill."
Sam tried to sit up and sucked in air between her clenched teeth as her shoulder screamed its objection.
"It would be best if you remained immobile. Shall I call Doctor Summers?"
"No, no. I'm ok, Teal'c, just...sore."
Sam stared down at the bandage and wondered why she was so sore. She couldn't actually remember being wounded but she remembered Teal'c stepping in front of her and scrambling for cover. She also didn't remember the trip home, except for small bits and pieces, something about Mitchell that triggered rage whenever she focused on it. There were evidently lots of missing memories but she decided to keep that to herself for now.
"I want to sit up. Can you..."
Before she'd finished the sentence, Teal'c was adjusting her bed and his strong arms lifted her slightly so that she was sitting up.
He nodded and continued to watch her closely.
Sam glanced around the room past the partially drawn curtain and noted an unusual number of SF's nearby. She pointed and nodded her head slightly.
"It became necessary to restrain many of those who were injured due to their unpredictable behavior."
Sam bit down on her lower lip and then lifted her chin in an understanding nod as she continued to search her mind.
"Someone shot me..."
"Indeed, the villagers..."
"No, Teal'c. Someone shot me here...with a zat."
Confused blue eyes locked into steady brown ones and she watched him silently as he nodded 'yes'.
"I am sorry, Colonel Carter, but you were trying to escape. I had no choice."
"You?" Teal'c nodded again. "Escape from what?"
"I am unsure."
"It's all right, Teal'c but zats don't normally knock you out for days! Why is everyone sick?"
"Dr. Summers will be here soon. She will be able to answer your questions."
The curtains on one side of the bed were pushed back and a brightly smiling Dr. Summers stepped into the space. Teal'c bowed slightly as she moved to the head of the bed next to Sam.
"She's here now, Teal'c. How are you feeling, Colonel?"
"Um, ok I think."
"Good! No anger, panic, confusion?"
"Well, I still feel a bit confused but other than that, I'm ok."
"Let's get you checked out then. Teal'c, will you excuse us please."
Teal'c nodded and made his way quietly out of the area, drawing the curtain behind him.
Dr. Summers went to work checking out Sam's vital signs and then doing a thorough examination. In a few minutes, she was finished and stepped to the foot of the bed to make notations in the chart that rested there.
"Well, you seem fine, Colonel. All your vital signs are normal and there's no fever. I think you're over the worst of it."
"Well, as near as I can tell the villagers made some adjustments to the weapons they confiscated, actually, to the ammunition itself. They must have painted it with some sort of poison or viral agent, but according to the reports, I'd say poison, similar to that used in a poison dart. Consequently every person that was shot, even nicked, by that ammunition developed a powerful infection. We've been trying different combinations of antibiotics and it seems we finally have the right mix."
"And this...infection affected our memories."
"Not exactly. I believe the infection quickly invaded your brain cells creating a disability in your brain's interpretation of stimuli. Everything quickly became distorted and you lost the ability to distinguish between real and imagined situations. In most of you, that triggered your trained responses. We've had a few interesting days."
"Why have I been asleep for so long?"
"You were sedated, Colonel. You believed yourself to be in a...." Dr. Summers glanced at the chart, searching for the proper word, "...foothold situation and all of us to be the enemy. Believe me, it was in your best interest."
Sam shook her head and furrowed her brow as she tried to remember.
"You don't remember any of it?"
"Just a few flashes here and there."
"Well, with a bit more rest perhaps your memories will return. We just don't know yet but all of you appear to have the same memory loss and confusion, so I'd say it's normal for now. All of your earlier memories are in tact?"
"I think so, yeah, perfectly clear."
"You remember your teammates, your name, birthday? The project you were working on before the last mission?"
Sam paused momentarily and then shook her head 'yes'.
"Good, then you won't mind telling me."
Dr. Summers smiled warmly as she continued to make notes in the chart and Sam rattled off the requested information easily.
"I'd like to speak to General O'Neill."
"I'm sorry, Colonel. He isn't on the base, he's in Washington."
"I know. But I'd like to phone him. Is that possible?"
Dr. Summers glanced at her watch and then moved to Sam's side again.
"Why don't you get a bit more sleep first? It's still early and whether you think so or not, you need the rest. We'll talk about it again when you wake up."
"Is he all right? Nothing's happened to him? You'd tell me, wouldn't you?"
"As far as I know the General is absolutely fine, Colonel. It's you that we've been worried about."
The doctor patted her arm comfortingly and then returned the bed to its prone position.
"Now, get some sleep and I'll be back later."
Sam smiled briefly and shook her head in agreement. She stretched her legs and then tried to relax but her mind insisted on returning to the last events she could remember. She closed her eyes and replayed them over and over, analyzing and searching for answers. At the end of each sequence of replays was Jack. And the nagging fear that something wasn't right.
Jack had been escorted to the radio room and was now seated at a desk with a phone in hand, as the call connected.
"Jack! What the hell is going on? I've just had the Air Force Chief of Staff in here raging about you declaring war! What the hell are you up to?"
"What? No, Sir!"
"Did you order a Colonel Williams to shoot down an aircraft, General?"
"Well, yes and no, Sir. My orders were that he not allow the aircraft into our airspace and to shoot it down if necessary."
"That sounds like war to me, Jack!"
"Sir, the target is no longer under direct surveillance. I had to cancel the planned mission and am redirecting now but we cannot allow him in the US."
"Yes, I agree but we also can't go shooting down aircraft without knowing who or what is aboard."
"Would you rather the aircraft approach Washington, Sir or somewhere else along the eastern seaboard? Weren't your orders to keep him away..."
"Dammit, Jack, you are an exasperating man!"
"Yes, Sir. Sorry, Sir."
A grin had spread across Jack's face as he heard a change in the President's voice that told him he thought Jack was right.
"Believe me, Sir, I have no intention of starting a war."
"I ordered you back to Washington, Jack."
"Yes, Sir. I'm on my way but I needed to stop off here, change planes, check out the latest info, re-direct...."
"Yes, yes, Jack. I'm familiar with all your delaying tactics and I'm granting you more leeway than I should. Just...get it done and get back here. Now."
Jack checked in with his other operatives and learned that Kassem's plane was still on route but was taking a more southerly course than expected. He stood for a long time staring at the map and thinking, trying to read the mind of a madman as he journeyed across the ocean to an unknown destination.
Williams had secured Chavez and they were also on route over the Atlantic. Nelson had not been at the rendezvous point when transportation arrived and following his orders Williams had left without him. Jack was still staring at the map when Crawford walked up behind him.
"We're fueled up and ready to go, Sir."
Jack's eye followed the coastline: Canada, New England, Florida, Cuba, Mexico and then South America. He raised a hand up to the map and slowly moved one finger along the coastline, retracing the line his eye had just taken. As his hand slide along the glossy paper and touched the outline of Central America his hand slowed and his mind quickened. Jack stared at the coastline of Mexico and the finger that had been sliding along its outline suddenly tapped against the map.
"The Mayan ruins in Mexico...could we make those in a single hop from here?"
"Ah, yes, Sir."
Crawford answered with a confident voice but a bit unsure as to why he was being asked that particular question.
"Damn!" Jack swore loudly as his eyes measured the distances and he considered the possibilities. "I must be getting old."
"Sir?" The pilot was totally confused now.
"Oh, right, Lieutenant! I'll be there in a minute I just need to make a few more phone calls."
A few minutes later he was crawling into the cockpit of a jet and strapping on his helmet. As his mike came online he heard the Lieutenant's voice.
"Ready, Lieutenant. Let's go home."
They were in the air over the deep Atlantic when his satellite phone rang. He answered knowing that it would be Andrews on the other end of the connection.
"Projections show the Yucatan, Sir."
Jack grimaced and slapped an open palm against his knee.
"All right, Andrews, send the orders. Do it now. You know where Nelson is, right?"
"Yes, Sir." He closed the phone and Crawford's voice filled his ears.
"Another problem, Sir?"
"No, Crawford, everything's perfectly clear but sometimes I just hate being right."
Crawford shook his head in confusion. He didn't think he'd understood a word the man had said since he'd met him and he wondered if he was always this mysterious, this vague but he didn't amend his answer, he just kept flying.
"How about we kick it up a notch, Lieutenant?"
Crawford didn't answer but the plane's speed suddenly increased dramatically and Jack stared out into the blue sky hoping the plane that was carrying Chavez was closer than he was.
Sam awakened again a few hours later and her first request was a phone. After a few minutes of arguing and Dr. Summers checking her again she was allowed to place the call.
The phone rang several times before someone answered and Sam asked to be transferred to General O'Neill's office. There were a few more long rings but finally Sergeant Andrews answered.
"General O'Neill's office."
"Sergeant Andrews, this is Lt. Colonel Carter. I'd like to speak to the General, please."
"I'm sorry, ma'am but General O'Neill isn't in his office at the moment."
"Sergeant, has he received the message from Dr. Jackson?"
"I'm not sure, ma'am." The Sergeant grimaced slightly as she looked down at the pile of pink message slips on her desk.
"Ok. What time do you expect him?"
"I'm sorry, I don't have that information, ma'am."
"Are you aware that his cell phone isn't working?"
"No, ma'am I was not aware of that."
Sam's frustration was growing with each calm answer provided by the Sergeant. She wasn't getting anywhere so she decided to change tactics.
"Sergeant, I need to speak to General O'Neill right away. You do know who I am?"
Without pause or hesitation, the Sergeant answered.
"Then let me strongly suggest that you give a message to the general to have him call me as soon as you see him. If I don't hear from him within two hours, I will be calling back. And find out what's wrong with his cell phone! Is that clear, Sergeant?"
"Yes, ma'am, perfectly clear." The Sergeant's voice was calmly measured as she answered Sam's obviously heated question. "I'll give him the message as soon as I see him, ma'am."
Sam slammed the phone down in frustration just as Daniel entered the room.
"Whoa! What's going on, Sam?"
"Have you talked to Jack, Daniel? I mean actually talked to him since he went back to Washington."
"Well, no, but he's..."
"Yes, yes, I know. It's hard to reach him, but not for me, Daniel. He always takes my calls and now..."
"Sam, he's obviously involved in some crisis or he'd be here, right?"
"Is that what you think?"
"Well, yes...don't you?"
"No! I think you were right in the first place and that he's avoiding my calls. I can't even reach him on his cell phone! I think I pushed him too far! Oh, god, Daniel, what have I done?"
"Hey, take it easy, Sam. This isn't the first time you haven't been able to reach Jack. I'm sure he'll call you as soon as he can. You know, he can't exactly reach you sometimes, either. I didn't leave a very specific message the first time I called, I didn't want to worry him unnecessarily."
"The first time? How many times have you called?"
Daniel looked away, not wanting to meet her eyes and not wanting to admit that he had called several times a day since she'd been injured, not to mention the official notification that had been sent to Jack by the Air Force. He didn't want her to see that he was worried, too because he knew that any message he left saying that Sam was injured would bring Jack running. Only, this time, it hadn't.
"Let's not jump to conclusions, ok. He'll call. I know he will. I'm sure everything is fine."
"Really? Well, I'm not, Daniel, I'm not sure at all."
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