“Well, this is bizarre.” Major General Jack O’Neill rests his hands carefully on his weapon and raises an eyebrow in what he hopes is an overly dramatic manner as he looks around the small clearing. The sight of picnic rugs and food hampers scattered haphazardly across the grass makes him jittery for no good reason he can fathom and he’s damned if he’s going to be jittery alone. Jack has a bad, bad feeling about this whole expedition. However, a glance at his companions makes it clear to him that they don’t have the same feeling of impending doom that begins to not so much creep up as gallop headlong toward him at great speed.
“I think it’s charming,” says Vala, turning on her heel and waving her hands in the air. “The red and blue bunting was my idea. I found a whole heap of the stuff in a storeroom just going to waste and thought ‘why not.’ I mean, there’s no point doing something well when you can just do it more, is there?” She pauses, staring at him, her head cocked to one side, before asking again, “Well, is there?”
Jack waits, the spidery feeling still running up his spine, expecting one of the woman’s team members to translate her weird babbling and respond, but a quick glance around at the puzzled faces shows they won’t be any help. He shakes his head and mutters, “Uh ... no, no there isn’t.” It seems he’s got it right, because she beams back.
“Didn’t someone mention cake?” There, he thinks – the perfect distraction, because cake is just perfect anyway, and sure enough Walter chimes in, as Jack knows he will, with...
“Yes, sir, triple layer devil’s food, extra heavy on the frosting, just the way you like it.”
Of course, Hank Landry has to put a stop to what should be a quick transition to the eating of said cake by throwing in a totally, at least in Jack’s view, unnecessary question. “How did you know General O’Neill would be here, Walter? His visit was completely unexpected. Hell, I didn’t even know he was at the SGC until I got the call from up top.”
The helmet-clad Chief Master Sergeant stands, his mouth open. Jumping into an awkward silence for the second time in as many minutes, Jack comes to the poor guy’s rescue. “What? Walter didn’t tell you he was a graduate of Hogwart’s?”
The significant look exchanged between Jack and the suddenly pale-faced sergeant is missed in the general hilarity that greets his words. Hiding in plain sight is often the best strategy, something he’d tried to teach Walter when in charge of the SGC, but to no avail. Oh well – didn’t someone mention cake?
Worries momentarily forgotten, Jack’s eyes hunt down their quarry.
There it is, being taken from the container atop the MALP. Freed from its cardboard prison the chocolaty goodness seems to glisten at him enticingly, just oozing with fat and calories and sugar and just so much good stuff. He can even smile at Vala when she passes him the first piece. He bites into it.
And, for one brief moment Jack experiences perfect bliss.
Brief. Because the new guy is staring at him.
Wiping a hand across his chin, Jack checks for stray crumbs while giving Colonel Mitchell a surreptitious once over. What is it with him? Not only is he staring, when he catches Jack’s eye he starts smiling and – crap! – he isn’t coming over, is he?
“Great party, isn’t it, sir?” Jack edges sideways a little as Mitchell gets a little too close to his admittedly wide personal space. “Two hundredth trip through the gate is a pretty damn fine thing. It’s great you came to help celebrate.”
“Great,” Jack echoes. “But how does that work again? Two hundred is an awfully big number. You hop back and forth over the event horizon a few times with a meter attached to your belt?”
For some reason the colonel finds that funny, his face breaking out in a grin as he takes a huge bite of the slice of cake he is holding. “Ummm, great cake!”
“Oh yes, it’s great.” At least it was until Jack’s enjoyment of it had been spoiled by inane conversation.
“So you like chocolate cake? Me too.” And again with the creepy grinning. Like anyone in their right mind wouldn’t like chocolate cake. “I hear you like hockey. Maybe we could watch a game together some time? When we get back home we could arrange it or something else if you’d rather. I’m a sports fan, like you. I’ll watch anything.” Before Jack can comment, Mitchell continues. “Or we could watch a movie. I have ‘Back to the Future 3’ – great movie.” And he steps closer, brushing Jack’s arm. “I’d really like to spend more time with you, sir. It’s amazing how much we have in common.”
A refrain of ‘creepy, stay cool, he’s acting weird, be nice, stay cool,’ loops through Jack’s brain in the split second it takes him to step back several paces, but despite his mental determination to stay cool, Jack finds himself babbling something about beer and practically running away.
Generals should not be seen to be panicking. He is a grown man and quite capable of handling most situations. He slows to a hopefully nonchalant saunter and heads for the safety of his old teammates. Or is it protection?
“Tell me there’s beer,” he whines, already knowing the answer. Carter shakes her head while Teal’c raises the Eyebrow of Disdain. It is very similar to the Eyebrow of Confusion, but Jack is in no doubt about what T is thinking. Yes, he knew there would be no beer, but that shouldn’t stop a man in desperate need from asking, should it?
“Is there something wrong, Jack?”
Just the tone is enough for Jack to realize Daniel knows something he doesn’t, so he squints his eyes and glares. The glare works, but not in the way he hopes. Instead of being intimidated, Daniel lets out a loud chortle, followed by, “I saw you bonding with Mitchell.”
Jack’s glare intensifies. There is something going on and he isn’t in the loop. A glimpse of Colonel Mitchell in his peripheral vision, smiling, is enough to make him grab his so-called friend’s arm in a tight grip.
“What’s going on, Daniel?”
“Ouch, you’re hurting me. Let go!”
The subsequent tug-of-war, with Daniel trying to pull his arm away, is brief but enlightening. Instead of rushing to their teammate’s protection, both Carter and Teal’c show obvious signs of enjoying his predicament.
They are in on it too.
So Jack drops Daniel’s arm, taking perverse pleasure when he stumbles back and almost falls before regaining his balance. In his best General-like voice he commands, “Someone tell me what’s going on before I have you all busted down to Toilet Scrubber, Junior Grade.”
“But I’m not military,” comes the expected reply from Daniel, followed closely by, “Nor am I, O’Neill,” from Teal’c. Carter has the good sense to stay quiet, although a twitch of her lips tells him she is hardly trembling with fear at the threat.
Maybe the sound of his teeth grinding warns them they should stop with their game or it could be the curious looks they are getting from some of the assembled guests, especially Vala. Guests! It’s like a child’s birthday party. No one cared when Jack made his two hundredth trip through the gate – and that had been a proper trip, not some arbitrarily made up event that was obviously just an excuse for a party. And...
He is getting distracted again.
Stomping off several yards into the trees at the side of the clearing, Jack waits for his ex-team to join him. Naturally they do, with Teal’c taking the lead, and a somewhat sheepish looking Carter and Daniel following behind.
“Well?” He folds his arms across his chest and waits.
“It’s like this, Jack ...” But Daniel stops, his pleading look at Carter not lost on the watching general.
“Sir, remember 1969?”
He jumps in with, “Which time?” and sees Carter flinch at his abruptness.
“Ah, the second one, sir.” For a moment a puzzled expression crosses Carter’s face, as if she isn’t sure of her description, but then she continues, “It turns out that Colonel Mitchell was born about nine months after our mission.”
“And?” Jack drags the word out just enough. She hurries on with her explanation.
“We sort of implied ...” Another pause, longer this time, and some looks at her two teammates that Jack can only interpret as worried. “That you, ah ...”
“I what, Colonel?”
Teal’c’s matter-of-fact voice takes over. “That you are Colonel Mitchell’s father.”
The breath leaves Jack’s body as if he has been punched in the stomach. Through the haze of anger that falls across his eyes he sees the moment realization hits the people standing near him. People who know him are aware there is one thing you do not joke about with Jack O’Neill. Redness rises on Carter’s face, while Daniel shows the opposite reaction as his skin becomes pale. Even Teal’c responses with a twitch of an eyelid.
Finally taking a deep breath, Jack uses it to growl out one comment, “I only had one son. Charlie,” before, no longer caring what anyone thinks, pushing through the thick growth to enter further into the darkness of the forest.
A cry echoes toward him and then returns to its origin – Daniel. “Shit! Jack, stop.”
So he waits until Daniel catches up and it’s his turn to grab Jack’s sleeve. “Sorry, we didn’t think ...” The tone is vehement and sincere and he wonders if he’s over-reacted.
“We did not mean to cause you distress, O’Neill.”
The others have arrived, hot on Daniel’s heels.
“We had to think fast, sir, because he was asking questions about the missing mission, 30185, and you know ...”
Jack did know, so he nods, still not looking at them for fear of what they will see – vulnerability and hurt. They have been his close friends for years and promotion and distance hasn’t changed that, so he listens, his gaze fixed on the small branch lying on the ground a foot in front of him.
“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” Carter says as she steps closer. “Like Daniel said, we didn’t think about it from your point of view.”
“Indeed,” intones Teal’c and Jack is sure his voice has deepened over the last year or so. “It was a joke at Colonel Mitchell’s expense.” Jack’s doubts about Teal’c’s sense of humor resurface.
“It was my fault, Jack. Mitchell was being so damned smug about his two hundredth gate trip and how he knew everything about SG-1’s missions and I couldn’t help myself. I told him there was a mission he didn’t know about because it was classified.”
“Actually, that was me, sir. I’m the one who said we’d been sworn to secrecy and that set Vala off.”
“No, Sam, that’s not right.”
Already irritated enough by the whole incident, Jack can’t take Carter and Daniel’s bickering over who did what and why. He turns.
“Enough! What possessed you to even mention 30185 in the first place? You all know what would happen if it came out.”
Three sheepish faces stare back at him, even Teal’c having the grace to show how embarrassed he is by their behavior.
“I fear we were swept along by events. There were many surreal moments during our long conference with Martin Lloyd. It became difficult to distinguish that which was fictitious and that which was real.” If it was anyone other than Teal’c who said that, Jack would have dismissed it as ridiculous. Remembering how strange his own brief experience as ‘technical advisor’ for ‘Wormhole X-treme!’ had been, Jack can relate at least in some way to what his friends are trying to say.
He waves his hands to stop Carter and Daniel from joining in with their explanations. “Okay, so you played a joke on Mitchell while distracting him from asking for more details about 30185. I get it.”
“And Vala. Don’t forget that she was there as well and you know how she can get when there’s some new gossip,” adds Daniel.
“Actually I don’t. I barely know the woman, except for what I’ve read in your mission reports.” And that irritates Jack too – the fact that his team, and yes he still thinks of SG-1 as his team – are out having adventures with two strangers. He so badly misses the adrenaline rush of off world missions that it has become an almost physical pain. Still, the thought that he had to be replaced by not one, but two team members makes him feel a little more cheerful and less lonely.
Voices can be heard calling and it is obvious they’ve been missed, so back they go to the party and Jack spends the rest of the day pretending he could be Mitchell’s dad, just so his ex-team can feel less guilty about the whole episode. By the time they return to the SGC, full of party food, Jack can even acknowledge, if only to himself, that it has been fun messing with the colonel.
It isn’t until he’s sitting on the plane back to D.C. that he starts to think about 30185 and what would happen if the details of that mission ever became public. The shit would hit the proverbial fan big time.
It had been a weird enough experience, being back in the past, in 1969. Seeing Teal’c with his afro wig and Carter and Daniel dressed like hippies was hilarious. No way could his two science geeks relax enough to really fit into the whole flower power, psychedelic scene. And Teal’c – just how long could he have lasted without everyone thinking he was some Spock wannabe. Now Jack himself – he had been Cool with a capital ‘C.’ Yep, he’d been hip and happenin’ – and about 30 years too old.
The noise of the jet engines morph into the rattle of those of the old bus. Jenny and Michael’s faces float around the edge of his vision, mingling with stolid type of the report he’s pretending to read and he wonders what happened to them. Did Michael go to Vietnam? Jack’s never tried to find out, not because he doesn’t care, but because he cares too much. It is better to imagine Michael living a happy life with Jenny and their perfect nuclear family than the alternative – a grave in Arlington or some other cemetery. If only he had ignored Carter. If only...
SG-1 had gotten out of the bus and walked away with nothing more than a hug and a ‘take care’ from Carter. They hadn’t looked back. It had been better that way, cleaner.
Once in the complex of vast storage sheds, they set about the task of finding the one the Stargate was in. Despite the lack of CCTV cameras it wasn’t just a walk in the park – there had been the ever present danger of a guard seeing them and raising the alarm. The first two sheds were filled with trucks and assorted military hardware, fortunately all easily identifiable so they hadn’t needed to waste time searching through crates.
It had been the third shed that was the eye-opener.
Yep, good old 30185. It needed a number all its own just to keep it completely separate from the rest of the events that occurred in 1969.
The third shed wasn’t filled with military equipment. Nor was there crates or boxes in which a piece of alien technology might be hidden. Instead they had walked onto what seemed, at first glance, to be a barren landscape of small rocks and boulders transplanted indoors. Then the details registered.
Jack can still hear the exclamation from Daniel – the totally out of character cry of ‘Holy crap!’ Carter just stood stock still, staring, while Jack himself had spun, taking in every detail with stunned incredulity. Only Teal’c was unaffected by the scene. He had merely looked confused, his glance darting from each of them and back to the U.S. flag planted firmly in the middle of the vast space.
It was all there – flag bravely spread as if bolstered by a stiff breeze, the strange craft sitting on four spindly legs, the equipment scattered about and even the footprints of heavy boots laid into the thick surface dust.
Unable to believe his own eyes, Jack had approached the back of the shed. There he found several movie cameras, and two bulky white suits, complete with helmets and back packs. It had taken all his will-power not to collapse into the chairs nearby – chairs with the names ‘Aldrin,’ ‘Collins’ and ‘Armstrong.’
It was a conspiracy theorist’s heaven.
Jack would probably have still been standing there, staring, if Carter hadn’t shouted out a reminder that time was getting away from them. Missing the brief window they had to find the Stargate, get it up and running, and jump through hopefully back to their own time wasn’t an option. This was their one chance.
They’d made it. Back at the SGC – the right one – they sat in the briefing room in uncomfortable silence waiting for General Hammond. It had taken an innocent question from Teal’c to get them talking about what they had seen.
“I do not understand the significance of the items in the third warehouse. Why did they disturb you so greatly?”
The others left it up to Jack to explain about the moon landing and how what they had seen was as upsetting as a CIA gunman on the grassy knoll.
They’d told Hammond of course. The general hadn’t needed to tell them not to talk about what they’d seen. The 30185 mission file was sealed.
But Jack couldn’t let it go.
Even now he can remember the frustration and the doubt that assailed him every time he looked up into the night sky. So in typical O’Neill fashion he’d done something about it. It hadn’t been hard to hitch a ride with Jacob Carter and persuade him to make a sweep low across the Sea of Tranquility. He hadn’t taken Sam Carter along, scared for what he might find – or might not find. The major had grown up wanting to be an astronaut. But he’d sure made a point of taking Daniel and her on his next unofficial flight to the Moon.
Because there, clearly seen in the crisp Earth light, was the familiar scene Jack remembered seeing as a blurred and fuzzy image on his parent’s TV screen.
Jack had done his homework and knew exactly what to look for.
Apollo 11 lunar module descent stage – Check.
U.S. flag – Check.
Lunar laser ranging retroreflector array – Check.
TV camera – Check.
Space suits – Check.
Scattered around the site there were so many remnants of the Apollo 11 landing that no one could doubt it had truly happened. If they had flown closer Jack was sure they would even see footprints, but a sense of wonder and a desire not to disturb the scene had them peel off, up and away toward Earth and home.
Back in his office in the Pentagon, Jack loosens his tie and props his feet up in the desk, a wry smile on his lips. He thinks for a moment then, sitting forward again, turns on his computer, calling up the plethora of sites dedicated to the fake moon landing. Not for the first time he wishes he could post a description of the set he saw in 1969 – only a few weeks after the moon landing actually happened. He has an explanation too, but not one the conspiracy nutters want to hear. It is boring, it is prosaic and far less fun than a hidden agenda perpetrated by NASA to beat the USSR to the moon.
He logs into his email and begins to write.
Remember I promised to tell you if anyone brought it up again? I was at a function today and one thing led to another and we got talking. Do you know how hard it is to not tell them what you told me? A practice set for lighting and camera angles is way less exciting than the myth though, so I restrained myself. I suppose it never occurs to them that neither of you had ever used a TV camera before and needed some practice. But then they don’t know about the stage set, do they, and it’s a good thing too. Imagine what they’d do if they did. You’d end up having to do the whole mission over again just to prove you could <g>.
Thanks again for lunch. I dropped into Malibu after I left your place and had a look at some real estate, like you suggested. You’re right, it would be a great place to retire to. Hey, I’d fit right in with the Hollywood movie star set.
Love to Lois and the kids. That grandson of yours has sure grown since the last time I visited.
All the best
Hitting ‘send’ he brings up the internet and pauses, taking a long moment to think about what he is doing. The decision made as his plane came into land isn’t as clear now, but he shakes his head and with determination types in a name that had taken him the whole flight to dredge from his memory. Surnames hadn’t been important back then and a quick look at the mission report hadn’t helped, but with the help of a short nap and a cup of coffee he’d finally got it.
Narrowing down the search results, he finds what he’s looking for – Michael’s military service.
It’s a shock. Michael ended up in the Air Force, not something he pictured at all. Jack imagined something like a medic or a grunt. But Michael Mitchell ended the Vietnam War as a Sergeant in the Air Force, flying in choppers and, to Jack’s profound relief, he had come home. Jack researches some more and finds Michael and Jenny married and living in Louisiana in the 70’s before moving back east, and he remembers Jenny telling them her mother was from down that way. They probably moved so Jenny had help with their son, born while Michael was still in ‘Nam.
Then Jack’s sees the son’s name – Cameron. Once again he is reminded what a small world it is, or even, as he knows, what a small universe.
And Major General O’Neill sits behind his big important desk and laughs until tears run down his cheeks.
Jack ficathon prompt
Cameron Mitchell found out there was one mission file he had not read in episode of 200. What happened and why is so highly classified?