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Summary: Rory Gilmore always thought she was Christopher Hayden's daughter, but things are a little more complicated than that... (Gilmore Girls/Stargate xover)

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > Gilmore Girls
Stargate > Non-BtVS/AtS Stories > Crossover: Other
(Past Donor)MhalachaiFR1321125,802150702188,7092 Jan 0812 Oct 09No

The Girl With Numbers In Her Eyes

"Jack, please."

"How many times do I have to say no?" Jack adjusted the folder on his desk and straightened a pen before he picked up the darts to resume his game. "I'm not your guy."

"She's been digging in areas that she shouldn't."

"Digging into 'science'." Jack landed a bull's-eye directly on Baal's left nostril. "Send Carter."

"Carter's heading up the Atlantis expedition. You know that. Hell, you suggested it!"

"Right." Jack aimed his next dart a little lower. "Don't you have a bevy of highly trained scientist types who could look into this kid?"

"None of them understand the bigger picture."

The dart buried itself in the heart of the much-copied photograph of Baal. "Why not just recall Carter for a little while?"

"Jack."

"Hank."

Jack waited. "There's more," Landry finally confessed.

"See? There's always something. Out with it. Do you think she's a spy? Maybe influenced by the Trust?"

"It's not that." Landry sighed. "What's the possibility I can convince you to do this without the whole story?"

Jack readied his last dart. "Slim to none." He let fly, and nailed Baal in the balls. If Hank was spending ten minutes on a Friday, the Stargate's most hectic day, trying to coerce Jack into an Earth-side recon mission, then things had to be more serious than he was letting on. "Go."

"Okay. Just have an open mind."

Jack really hated it when people said that to him.

~~~

There was something decidedly weird about Stars Hollow, Jack decided as he parked his rental car. Like someone had spiked the water supply. Everyone looked... eccentric.

Jack threw the car into park and killed the engine. He had a very specific mission and then he could get his ass to Denver in time to meet Teal'c for the basketball game the next day.

Of course, all of that depended on if Rory Gilmore was what she appeared to be.

"First off, do you remember Rodney McKay?"

"Is this some kind of a trick question?"

"The girl... hell, I can't call her that, she's twenty-four. Anyway, about two months ago, one of the algorithms built into scientific journal search engines kicked out some suspicious activity. We traced it back to Yale University. A recent alumnus was doing research into a wide swatch of quantum and wormhole physics, including every single declassified paper ever written by Rodney McKay."

Jack yawned. "Uh huh."

"What was most worrying is that after pulling all of Dr. McKay's papers, she started looking into areas that she shouldn't have; making jumps from what wasn't in the papers to whole new areas. It was almost as if she had access to the Stargate Program."

"I assume you did a full background check."

"Yes, we did. And that's where it gets really weird."

"As in funny-weird, or 'oh god we're all doing to die'-weird?"

"Both. We only found this out when we put her name into the computers on-base, but two weeks before John Sheppard and his team broke orders to retake Atlantis from the Replicators, Sheppard himself ran exactly the same background check on this girl."

Jack stopped fiddling with his pen. "Before she even started looking into McKay's research?"

"Months before."

Jack stared down at his notepad. "Why the hell was Sheppard looking at Rory Gilmore?"

"Oh, it gets better. He wasn't looking at what she was up to at the time, but at her past. Where she was born, all that."

"And?" Seriously, if Hank didn't cut to the chase...

"Rory Gilmore was born to a sixteen-year-old Connecticut debutante named Lorelai Gilmore, in October of 1984. The mother went to high school in Hartford, Connecticut. One of the things Sheppard was researching was the whereabouts of Rodney McKay at the beginning of 1984."

Jack dropped his pen. "Oh, do not tell me..."

"Sixteen-year-old Rodney McKay spent a semester in Hartford on an exchange, nine months before Rory Gilmore was born."

"No."

"Jack--"

"Hell no! Are you telling me that someone allowed Rodney McKay to breed?"

"No, I'm telling you that Colonel Sheppard thought so, and you know exactly how linked at the hip McKay and Sheppard are!"

That, at least got a nod from Jack. But hey, he wasn't going to ask. "Why didn't McKay tell us?"

"Because the girl's birth father is listed as a Christopher Hayden. It's possible that McKay doesn't know he may be the girl's father. Nothing we can find would indicate he even knows of her existence. Ms. Gilmore's sudden interest in science only started after Hayden survived a recent bout with leukemia."

Something was odd in Hank's phrasing. "What about her time at Yale?"

Hank let out a sound suspiciously close to a chuckle. "She got her degree in Journalism. Never stepped foot into a science or math class. This after scoring a perfect 800 on her Math SAT."

Jack couldn't help it. "You're making this up," he protested.

"I'm not." All amusement left Hank's voice. "She's making jumps in scientific logic that are leaving Dr. Lee and his team here scratching their heads, but in the end, she's always finding just the right piece of the puzzle. Either she knows about the Stargate Program, or she's just that good. Either way, we need someone to find out."

With a groan, Jack said, "Didn't I suggest an egg-head? Hell, send Jackson!"

"You may not know science, but you know people, Jack. I need someone to find out if this woman poses a threat to homeworld security. If she's been compromised--"

"All right, all right. And if she's not compromised? If she's just that good?"

"We need smart people and we need them badly! If this girl's as smart as she seems to be... Hell, Jack. We need this kid. I'll send over the information packet on her."

Jack rubbed at his eyes. "You owe me."

"If you prove that this woman is the secret illegitimate daughter of Dr. Rodney McKay, I owe you more than one."

"Oh, yippee."


Shaking his head, Jack shoved the papers into his bag and got out of the car. He was dressed in civvies and only carried one concealed handgun. The simple proceeds had seemed like enough... but there was still that strange air about the place.

As far as the military knew, Rory Gilmore was between jobs, living at her mother's house and taking odd jobs about town. She spent hours every day on the internet doing research on astrophysics and other areas of science that Jack had no desire to think about, all the while getting closer and closer to the secrets of the Stargate Program.

Jack knew what she looked like from a few photographs dug up by the bloodhounds, knew 'Rory' was a nickname taken from her mother's own name, 'Lorelai', but that was about it. He had no clue where to look for her. Maybe a look around the tiny town would help.

Still, he wished he'd brought Daniel along for the trip.

Crossing the street to the town square, Jack eyed the banner being lifted into the air, and wondered if he could get the hell out of town before the 'Firelight Festival' kicked into gear. Most festivals he'd been to over the last decade ended up with him being married or getting old real fast, or his team set up as a human sacrifice to the gods. Call him old fashioned, but that tended to put the grinch in his festival enjoyment.

"Lorelai!" someone called across the square.

Jack made himself glance over casually. It looked as if his trip wasn't in vain after all.

"Lorelai!" the call came again. Halfway across the street, a tall woman came to a halt, hung her head, and turned back.

"What do you want, Taylor?" the woman called. She had answered to Lorelai, but she was too old to be Rory. Sixteen years too old, if Jack's eyes didn't deceive him.

The supposed Taylor, an older man in a cardigan, huffed over to Lorelai. "We haven't received the donation from the Dragonfly Inn for the silent auction fundraiser."

The woman snapped her fingers. "You're right. Sorry," she added, sounding anything but. "I'll have Michel do it when I get to work."

"Lorelai..." The man launched into a stern lecture, which caused Lorelai to roll her eyes, and Jack to narrow his.

The woman looked nothing like Jack had expected. On the one hand, she was nothing like Sam Carter. On the other, she wasn't anything like Jack had expected in someone who'd had a kid at sixteen. She looked every inch the respectable business woman.

And damn, but she was a looker. Great legs and an amazing body under that suit, and a beautiful face. Grudgingly, Jack's estimation of Rodney McKay went up a few notches.

But she wasn't his target.

Turning slowly, Jack ambled across the park, passing close to Lorelai and the arguing Taylor. He was close enough to hear Taylor end his tirade by saying, ".. and your daughter's lack of help--"

Lorelai's whole demeanor changed in an instant. "Lay off Rory, Taylor," Lorelai snapped. "She's going through a rough time."

"We know and we all want to help," Taylor oozed sincerity, "But all she does is sit on that bench all day with her computer."

"Leave it alone, Taylor," Lorelai warned.

"Have you considered getting her professional help?"

Lorelai's spine straightened. "Rory isn't crazy--.

"You don't know--"

"I know my own kid!" Lorelai's voice lifted over the general hubbub of the festival. "Just chill, Taylor, and leave her alone!"

Defeated, Taylor walked away. "I expect to see that donation by the end of the day!" he delivered as a parting shot.

Lorelai let out a strangled scream and marched across the square towards a diner that appeared to double as a hardware store. Jack watched her go, more curious than ever about what was going on in this town.

At least he knew Rory Gilmore was around here somewhere.

He gave the town square another look, then expanded his examination of the surrounding area. He almost missed her; sitting secluded on a park bench near a footpath. Children ran past her, workers moved boxes, and she paid them no mind. All of her attention was on her laptop.

As he neared, Jack's feet slowed. The girl looked so much like Rodney McKay it was frightening. Her face was thin to the point of gauntness, long hair tucked behind her ears, but the rest was sheer McKay, down to the intense concentration and dark shadows under her eyes.

"Crap," Jack said under his breath. Until now, he'd held out a faint hope that this whole thing was a mistake, that the girl really was who her birth certificate said she was, the illegitimate daughter of Lorelai Gilmore and Christopher Hayden.

Well, no time like the present. Jack squared his shoulders and marched over to the bench.

"Hey," he said jovially when he arrived. Nothing. The girl didn't even look up. "Um, excuse me? Ms. Gilmore?"

Blinking a few times, Rory looked up the intruder. Jack's stomach sank a little lower. The girl's eyes were the same brilliant blue as Rodney McKay. "I'm sorry?"

"Hi," Jack said with a smile. "Are you Rory Gilmore?"

The confused, distant stare never wavered. It was the same see-right-through-you stare that Carter got when she was saving the galaxy with math. "Do I know you?"

"No, you don't. Can I sit?" Without waiting for her to say yes, Jack perched on the far end of the bench. "Whatcha working on?"

The question startled Rory out of her almost-trance, and she closed the laptop. "Just some stuff." Suspicious awareness grew in her eyes. "Is there something you wanted?"

Before Jack had left Washington, Hank had offered some suggestions on how to approach the girl. Jack considered, then tossed all those ideas out the window. "You've been doing a lot of research into the works of Dr. Rodney McKay--"

He got no further. The girl paled, a sickly color under her already-white skin. "I don't know what you're talking about," she stammered. "I'm just reading up on-- on world events."

Without knowing why, Jack held out his hand in a placating manner. "Hey, it's okay." The girl was spooked, and he didn't know why.

The girl shoved her laptop into her backpack, but didn't stand up. Not yet. "Who are you?"

"My name's Jack O'Neill," he offered, watching her closely for any signs that she knew the name, or the whole innocent physics-geek thing was an act. There was no reaction. "Who are you?"

Her hand tightened on her backpack, and for the first time Jack looked beyond her similarities to Rodney McKay. She was too thin, too sharp around the edges, in clothes that had been washed a few too many times.

Something about her intensity reminded Jack of Daniel. It was the vibrating ferocity of obsession, looking for the right answer buried in a galaxy of haystacks.

Question was, what was Rory Gilmore looking for?

The girl opened her mouth, then closed it. She sagged back on the bench, not appearing to notice as the wind picked up and blew hair across her face.

Cardigan-man called the girl crazy. Was he right? There was no history of insanity in the McKay family, at least not as far as Jack knew. Had this girl crossed the line from brilliance to madness?

Jack frowned at his own train of thought. He didn't think all poetically like that. He left that sort of thing to Daniel. "So, what's this festival thing about?" he asked, waving his hand at the banners in the town square. "There a bonfire or something?"

Rory's attention drifted back to Jack. "Yeah, a bonfire." She pushed her hair out of her eyes. "I've always thought it was a ridiculous attempt to drag out the commercial romanticism of Valentine's Day into March, though with less commercialism and more things on fire."

"You don't like Valentine's Day?"

"My first boyfriend broke up with me on the night of the festival." Rory drew one knee up under her chin. "The legend is that two teenagers pulled the first half of Romeo and Juliet and ran away to be together, only surprise, they got lost in the Colonial backwoods and apparently a hail of falling stars brought them together here." She pointed at the gazebo in the town square. "So there's stars and burning things on fire and romantic stuff."

"I can see why you're so down on teenage romance."

Rory blinked at him. "Sorry, I'm not normally so negative about town events. I've just had this headache for weeks now and I can't seem to figure out something that really should be working."

"Something mathy?"

The suspicion returned to Rory's face. "You know, I'm really not supposed to be talking to strangers. Especially ones who know my name and far too much of what I'm doing."

Jack leaned back, putting on his 'hey, I'm harmless' smile. "You're probably going to ask how I knew your name--"

"Anyone in town would have told you that. We're not what you'd call up on the After-School Special method of stranger interaction. What I want to know is how you know what I'm doing."

"Right." Jack thought back to his own version of WWJD - What Would Jackson Do, and came up blank. If the kid was as smart as everyone said she was, then there was probably no point in any obvious lies. And if Hank wanted her back at the SGC, then now was probably the time to start with a carefully edited version of the truth. "I've worked with Dr. McKay on a few projects."

Rory's breath caught in her throat. "You have?" She sat up and dug into her backpack. She pulled out a handful of papers and began to flip through them. "Maybe you can help me, I've been stuck for three days and I can't figure out if it's a problem in the math or if I'm just not seeing something--"

"Hold on, Gilmore," Jack said, holding up his hands in surrender. "I don't do this side of things."

Rory stopped her rummaging. "But you said you worked with Rodney--"

"Sort of." Jack reached into his coat pocket and pulled out his Air Force ID. "Dr. McKay was an Air Force consultant on a project I worked on for a number of years. Deep Space Radar Telemetry."

"Deep Space Radar Telemetry," Rory repeated.

"Right."

She never looked at his ID. "So you're with the Air Force."

"A general, even."

She folded the papers back into a neat bundle. "You're a general in the Air Force and you know I'm researching work done by Rodney McKay."

"Yes." Even as he said it, Jack wondered if he'd made a tactical error. The intensity of the girl's stare was beginning to freak him out.

"Rodney-- I mean, Dr. McKay, his work has nothing to do with Deep Space Radar Telemetry."

"It was a side project."

Rory put her papers into her backpack. Her fingers trembled. "I'm not sure which is less comforting, that the Air Force has been watching me or that they know about me in the first place."

"We haven't been 'watching you', watching you," Jack said with finger quotes and everything. Hank hadn't mentioned anyone watching the girl specifically, but he may have been editing the story a little. If he even knew at all. "Your academic internet searches triggered some computer thingy. An alarm went off, I'm told. All very dramatic."

The girl spread her hand flat on the bench. "The Yale Library's not getting that donation this year," she said, voice distant. She was silent and still for two full minutes, then she looked up at Jack. She had that Carter look in her eyes again. "I can see how the searching algorithm would have been triggered. Is it ironic that Dr. McKay wrote a paper about this back in his sophomore year?"

"Wait, you just figured out some algorithm?" Jack demanded, sitting up straight. "Just now talking to me?"

Rory just stared.

Jack wasn't sure if such a thing was humanly possible. Maybe the kid was nuts after all. "People in town say you're crazy."

"The propensity of mild insanity in this town is high enough that they're probably just playing the odds."

"See, now, sane people just don't talk like that."

Rory shrugged. "I'm not crazy. Not now, anyway."

"Ah, so it was a temporary bout of insanity." The girl was beginning to ease back a little, Jack noted. "If reading McKay's writing is anything like talking to him, I don't blame you. Anyone would go a little bonkers."

"And you say you worked with him?" Rory said, almost playful.

Jack eyed her. "We're all mad here," he said mockingly. "McKay was the least of my problems."

"I'm so very sorry," she said, not sounding very convincing.

"Say, shouldn't you be freaking out about the invasion of your privacy?" Jack asked, switching gear.

"How would you know what feelings I have on the matter? Maybe I'm flattered the government has taken such an interest in me."

"That's not what you wrote last year." Jack opened his bag and pulled out a much-thumbed magazine. "In the New York Times magazine, you contributed to a four page article on government invasion of privacy. You were a little vehement."

Jack expected her to be outraged, or at least annoyed. He certainly wasn't expecting the calculating expression that crossed her elfin features. "Let me see if I have this straight," she said. "I triggered a government search algorithm through my research on Rodney McKay. The Air Force sent you, a general who probably has much better things to do in this time of war and who says he's not into science, to talk to me, armed with a collection of my writing?" Not seeing what harm it would do, Jack nodded. "And this entire conversation is designed to make me trust you."

Jack squinted up at the sun. "How am I doing?"

"Badly." She stopped and waited expectantly.

"What?"

"I'm waiting for the other shoe. You know, the point to this whole thing?"

"A point..." Jack promised himself he was going to make Hank pay for this. "All right. Are you Rodney McKay's daughter?"

"What makes you think that?" Rory asked, composed, even as her pallor whitened again. "Does it matter who I am?"

"What made you start searching for McKay's research when you did?"

Rory arched her eyebrows. "Come on. You invaded my privacy like you did, you know something about me that not even my mother knows, and can't find the point when my whole life inverted?"

"So, when you found out that you weren't Christopher Hayden's biological daughter and therefore were an incompatible bone marrow donor."

Rory grew even paler, and Jack honestly wondered if she was about to pass out. But no, she wasn't faint. She was pissed. "Leave Christopher out of this," she said in flat voice. "You can be as flippant as you want about the rest of my fucked-up life, fine, but not about him!"

Jack knew loyalty when he saw it, and it was that which fueled Rory's anger. In the twenty-three years that Rory thought Hayden was her father, he'd treated her like an afterthought for the most part. He'd called her regularly, but he'd seldom bothered to visit or even chip in any money for child support, even though his family was loaded.

Although, considering how rich Lorelai Gilmore's family was, and the relative poverty in which Rory spent her early years as her high-school drop-out mother worked her way up from nothing, that might have more to do with the mother than the father.

"I'm sorry," Jack said quietly. "He's going to be okay, though, right? The transplant took?"

"He's fine," Rory said. She slipped her backpack to the ground. "What the hell do you want from me? That I'm sorry I made the alarms go off in the Pentagon? I'm sorry I'm not who everyone thinks I am?"

Jack should have brought his sunglasses from the car. The glare was getting to him. "Answer me one question, and I'll tell you what I want."

Rory rubbed at her temples. "You already know everything about me, what the hell could you possibly want to know?"

Interesting how she swore when she was angry. Jack pushed that thought away. "Your research search path thingy. What you were looking for. How did you get from point A to point B?"

"What?"

"You weren't just looking for things that were written by McKay. The other stuff, why were you looking for it?"

Rory pushed her palm flat against her forehead. Eyes closed, she said, "Because it was the logical path."

"No one else I've talked to would say that."

"What?" Rory opened her eyes. "It is."

"So where's the missing link?" What was the comparison Dr. Lee had used? "It's like saying that humans are related to modern-day cats without knowing about evolution and prehistoric mammal development."

Rory lowered her hand. "It makes logical sense to me."

"Again with the 'why'?"

"Because!" Rory shook her head, hair catching on a button of her worn jacket. "It's all there in the numbers. If you look at it from the beginning, General--"

"Call me Jack."

She didn't seem to hear him. "The numbers don't lie, they can't lie. If you take a very few fundamental laws of physics, which match the numbers, then everything else has to fall in line or be wrong. I just looked at what was wrong and tried to make it fit."

"Human to cat," Jack said.

Rory held out her hand. "Human perception is on such a small scale that it's almost impossible to move outside that box. If you can get out from there, away from the scale that fire and wind are essentially it for energy, you can get anywhere."

"To... nuclear power?" Jack guessed. He really didn't like how this conversation was moving.

"Beyond that! You could take the power of a trillion stars, whole galaxies, condensed to a single point." Rory closed her hand into a fist. "Small enough to hold in your hand."

Jack tried to figure out if it would be an overreaction to have hysterics that this child, who had spent less than two months learning mathematics, had just perfectly described a Zero-Point-Module.

He still wondered if she was a Trust plant, but the insanity theory was starting to slide off the table. "How did you come up with that one?"

Rory glanced up from her hand, as if she'd forgotten he was there. "In McKay's research."

Jack swallowed. "Nothing in his public papers has anything like that." He was pretty damned sure that nothing even remotely related to ZPMs was in anything declassified by the Air Force.

"But it's under the numbers!" Rory exclaimed. "If you look underneath what he's saying, and examine the direction his research was going! He'd have gotten there eventually!"

And you made it there, without any help, Jack thought. Out loud, he said, "So you made it from zero to McKay in a few weeks?"

Rory nodded, eyes bright. Jack really hoped that was excitement and not lunacy. "I was working and the numbers made sense, but it was as if I was missing something. I had the same stupid headache as I do now, and it was late and I'd had way too much coffee and then all of a sudden it was like I'd been pushed over the edge and everything made sense!"

All of a sudden it was like I'd been pushed over the edge.

She's making jumps in scientific logic that are leaving Dr. Lee and his team here scratching their heads, but in the end, she's always finding just the right piece of the puzzle.

Jack decided right then and there that he didn't care if the kid was insane. He wanted her at the SGC now. If she was insane, they could have her committed. If she was a Trust plant, they'd lock her up.

But if there was any chance that she was right, if there was any chance that she had been pushed in her understanding of math...

No one got that smart, that fast. Not without a little help.

He reached into his bag and pulled out a research paper, something just off the presses from Dr. Lee and the scientists at the SGC. Hank had made Jack promise not to show it to the girl until after she'd signed a non-disclosure agreement, but Jack would just fudge the numbers. It didn't mention the Stargate, anyway, just some stuff about the fundamentals behind the ZPM they were using to power the Odyssey.

"Here," he said, handing the paper over. "What do you think of this?"

Rory took the paper, reluctantly at first, but then she saw the first set of numbers and her whole face lit up. "Where did you get this?" she asked, rifling through the pages.

"Deep Space Radar Telemetry..." Jack mumbled, but it was obvious the girl wasn't listening to him.

She pulled her feet up underneath her on the bench, oblivious to the world. She bit her lower lip and mumbled to herself as she went back and forth in the paper.

This was going to take a while. Jack settled himself on the bench and looked around. Festival preparation went on around them, cars drove, kids played. All very small-town America. Jack wondered if they had good fishing.

"This is wrong," Rory said suddenly, drawing his attention back.

"What is?"

"This," Rory stressed, pushing the paper at him. "The numbers work but they're based on a logical fallacy! It's the same sort of problem I was working on earlier today, where the numbers work but they shouldn't and I can't figure out how!"

Jack took the paper. "Someone wrote something down wrong?"

"No, there's a total misunderstanding on the assumptions laid out in the third paragraph--" Rory stopped as Jack held up his hand. "The whole thing's wrong."

"Just give me a sec," Jack said. "I need to make a call."

So it seemed that Rory was crazy, after all. Dr. Lee wasn't going to give him a research paper with incorrect science. He'd just call Lee and see what the man said about Rory's comment.

"Fine, but I'm right," she said stubbornly, looking very much like the Rodney McKay Jack remembered.

Jack got to his feet and walked a few steps away before dialing the SGC on his secure cell line.

"Dr. Lee."

"Hey, it's General O'Neill."

"General, what can I do for you?"

"That research paper Hank snagged for me--"

"Oh, for the mysterious McKay girl?" Lee's voice was apprehensive. "Look, about that paper--"

"I'm the general. Me first."

Lee stopped talking.

"The kid took about two minutes to find something wrong with the paper. Something about a wrong assumption in the third paragraph."

Dead silence.

"Um, Dr. Lee? That's it. I'm done."

"It took her two minutes to find that?"

"Are you kidding me?" Jack crumpled the paper in his fist. "Here I was, thinking the girl was a nut-job and all the time you were trying to punk me--"

"General, you don't understand!" Lee interrupted. "We only just discovered the problem a few hours ago! Thankfully before the Odyssey made its first jump to hyperspace using the new power schematics based on that very paper. If we hadn't found it in time..."

Jack breathed his way through the spike of adrenaline. There were over two hundred people on the Odyssey. "But you found it in time."

"Just in time. General, there have been twenty highly trained scientists working on this problem for months and we almost didn't find it. If this girl located the problem in two minutes..."

Jack glanced back over his shoulder. Rory Gilmore sat, staring at him, hands folded in her lap. Holding galaxies in her hands. "Goodbye, Dr. Lee." Jack hung up amid a myriad of protests, and dialed the General's office.

"Landry."

"You should really recall Carter for this one."

"Jack? Is Ms. Gilmore what she appears to be?"

"Not sure about that, but I suspect that Dr. Lee will be up in your office in a few minutes turning cartwheels," Jack said. "I'm going to suggest that she come to the Mountain."

"I see. How certain are you that she's not a Trust plant?"

"I think all the usual procedures should be in place."

"Meaning you want her in a contained environment when we dig deeper."

"Smart man."

"Are you bringing her in?"

Jack let out a breath. "I think the approach we took with Jackson would be better."

"That's-- Let me guess. You think she might be able to hear you."

"The Firelight Festival isn't making that much noise."

"Christ, Jack, you don't make it easy, do you? You want to draw her in based on her own curiosity rather than bring her involuntarily?"

"Yup."

"And if she doesn't come in on her own volition?"

"She will."

"You seem mighty certain of that."

"Call it a hunch." Jack hung up and tucked the phone back into his pocket. He wandered back over to the bench. Rory was looking at him... or at least was looking in his direction. Her eyes were staring at a point three feet behind him. "Hey, kid, good news."

"Your scientist friends figured out what was wrong with their math?" Rory asked, gradually focusing again. "Was it the wrong variable?"

"Uh..."

"I mean, I think that's what it is." She blinked rapidly. "It's not a pretty solution, but it gets the job done."

"You just figured that out?" Jack sat down. "That's a little weird."

"No weirder than a General making cryptic phone calls." Hesitantly, Rory held out her hand. "If you'd like, I can write down the solution so your friends can see if it works."

"Sure." Jack handed back the paper and watched as Rory very carefully smoothed out the wrinkles and wrote in a precise hand.

When she was done, she stared at the paper.

"What's up?" Jack asked quietly.

Rory's fingers hesitated over the writing. "It's just... I've never written any of it down. It's all in my head." She handed him the paper. "I hope it helps."

And that, Jack decided, was very unlike Rodney McKay.

"Was that your question?" Rory asked. "You wanted me to see the paper?"

"Not really." Jack folded the paper into his inner pocket. If he lost it between here and the SGC, Dr. Lee might have a stroke. "There's some... science stuff, that you might like to see. This sort of stuff."

Rory's eyes grew impossibly wide.

"But you need to sign a non-disclosure agreement and come out to Colorado."

"I--"

Jack handed her his business card. "Cheyenne Mountain. But call me before you get there so I can meet you at the gate."

Rory took the card. "What sort of non-disclosure agreement is it?"

"That you never talk about what you learn."

"Or what? I get sued?"

"It's a little more complicated than that."

"What kind of complicated?"

"Let's just say that we're really not kidding around about it."

For a moment, Jack thought Rory would hand him back his card and run away. Then the moment passed. "Is... Is Dr. McKay at Cheyenne Mountain?"

"I can't discuss that."

"But--"

"Look, I know you want to know about McKay, and if I was more of an asshole, I'd use him to reel you in." Jack picked up his bag and stood. "But I really cannot discuss Rodney McKay with you until you've signed the non-disclosure agreement and you've been properly vetted for security clearance. I'm sorry."

Rory also stood. She looked so vulnerable that Jack wanted to shove a sandwich into her hands and send her to bed. If they needed her to save the world, she needed to take better care of herself.

Jack shook his head. He couldn't go getting all protective of the kid. There was still the possibility that she was one of the bad guys. But if so, better she be in the SGC than running around being brilliant for the enemy.

"And if I do sign the agreement..."

"Yeah?"

"Would I still be able to talk to my mom?"

"Yeah. Just not about stuff at work. There's a whole orientation thing for civilians. We don't lock you up."

"Only monitor communications."

Jack pointed his finger at her. "You're too smart for your own good."

"I thought that's why you wanted me."

"Good point." He paused. "So. Am I going to see you in Colorado?"

"You're not going to make me come with you now?"

"Nope."

"Good." She smiled faintly. "Because I wouldn't."

"I knew that." Jack smiled back. He held out his hand. "It was good to meet you, Ms. Gilmore."

Her hand was beyond delicate, but her shake was firm. "I hope you don't mind if I reserve comment on my take of the meeting, General O'Neill."

"Jack," he reminded her. "I have to run. Where are you going?"

Rory glanced across the town square at the hardware diner. "I'm covering a friend's shift at the diner. To make some spare cash."

Jack wanted to let it go, but he was curious. "Why did you ditch your job reporting?" he asked.

"This thing with Dr. McKay--"

"No, that was before you even learned that Christopher Hayden had leukemia."

Rory shouldered her backpack. "I had my reasons."

"Don't we all," Jack pontificated. "Anyway, I'll see you in Colorado."

"You don't know that."

Jack smiled to himself as he walked away. "Yes, I do."

~~~

Regardless, the first thing Jack did once he reached the car was to call for around the clock surveillance on Rory Gilmore.

Better to be safe than sorry. After all, the SGC needed the kid in one piece.

And Landry was going to kick his ass for not getting her to sign the non-disclosure form.
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