Abide: to endure without yielding
Brigadier General Jack O'Neill was a man vexed with a problem. Not that he would ever use a word like ‘vexed', however. In the aftermath of Anubis' attack on Earth, he'd been promoted to his current rank, and after taking the reigns of the SGC for a little more than a year, the recently elected Henry Hayes asked him to take on a new position at the Pentagon. A position that had so recently been filled by his former superior at the SGC, Director of Homeworld Security. The former occupant of that position had been moved to an off-world site, a former holding of Anubis. Major General George S. Hammond had become, by Presidential fiat, the first administrator of a very distant Earth military colony.
But that was the present. The past, how he got to this place, made for a very interesting and telling story. So much of it was classified, however, that merely knowing the truth of his exploits, without the proper authorization, carried the same penalty as treason. Yet there were many who knew of his exploits and were still alive to raise glasses to him and toast his excellent run of luck. Jack O'Neill had had an excellent run of luck over his career. He'd been there and done that in more places on Earth than he could name. He'd been there and done that more than he could count in places not on Earth. He'd been shot at, stabbed, tortured, and even ‘died' a few times. Too many missions to too many worlds he had problems remembering the designations for.
It had all started for him in 1995, when he had been called out of retirement to lead a suicide mission. One final mission. The military mind in charge at that time, General West, had requested an officer with Special Operations experience. Colonel O'Neill took command of the mission on the off-chance that the bright eyed new archaeologist brought into the program would succeed where others before him had failed.
In 1928, on the Giza Plateau in Egypt, a team of archaeologists led by a Doctor Langford made a miraculous discovery: A massive set of cover stones beneath which they found a single ring made of a metal heretofore unknown on Earth. The ring object was later taken to the United States were it lay in a storage facility for several years, untouched, but not forgotten.
During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized experiments on the device to determine if it could be used as a weapon. The same Doctor Langford that discovered the device was placed in charge of the civilian scientists working on the device. They managed, quite by sheer chance, to make the device function once in early 1945. A man was sent through the device, but without any understanding of the concepts behind the device, he was unable to return. Dr. Ernest Littlefield, the man who had gone into the device was presumed killed, though no evidence of his body was found at the site of the experiment. After this presumed dismal failure, the project was shut down and the device shipped off to an armory where the government could deny its existence.
In 1980, research into the device commenced again. Using the computers available, three supercomputers in fact, the research teams managed to probe and identify the control crystals of the device, though it took them approximately fifteen years to do so. By the time that Doctor Daniel Jackson was being laughed out of academia for his ‘preposterous' theories of Ancient Egyptian civilization, the project had been almost successful. The research teams had managed to ‘dial' the device using the symbols they'd discovered on the segmented cover stone, but it never activated. The previous attempt from 1945 was kept secret from the researchers.
Doctor Daniel Jackson was a prodigy among his fellow archaeologists. A man with a true gift for ancient languages. Dr. Catherine Langford, daughter of the man who discovered the ring device, found him as he was being evicted from his apartment, with all of his worldly possessions in one suitcase and a box of books, standing in the rain. She invited him to come out to their project site, to do a little translation work for her. He took her up on her offer and found himself a few days later riding an elevator down several levels into a very secure mountain facility. One of the other scientists called it a converted missile silo. ‘Great. Not a bomb shelter but a shelter for a bomb!' he thought.
He was brought into a room where the cover stone stood upright. He took one look at it and the translation began flowing through his mind. He walked up to a chalkboard where someone had painstakingly written down the hieroglyphs and translated them. He commented about the incorrect translation and immediately began striking out whole sections of the words, arriving at ‘A million years into the sky is Ra, Sun God. Sealed and buried for all time his Stargate.'
He was given the task of deciphering the rest of the cover stone, in particular, a cartouche of unknown symbols. The symbols prove problematic until, quite by accident, he saw a similarity between one of the symbols and an article on the constellation Orion in a newspaper an Airman was reading. Working quickly, he managed to identify the other symbols in the cartouche as being star constellations, proving that seven were needed to plot a course: Six for a destination in a three dimensional space, and one for a point of origin. General West gave his authorization to allow Dr. Jackson to see the device in question and to attempt to identify the final, seventh symbol, which he did within minutes.
The device was activated for the second time, with a startling explosion of energy which quickly settled down to form a sort of radiant pool of ‘standing water' in the circular opening of the Stargate. A probe was sent through and tracked to its destination on the far side of the galaxy, to a planet which the sensors aboard the probe indicated could support life. A mission was put together, including the aforementioned Dr. Jackson, who swore that he would be able to return the exploration team to Earth. Colonel O'Neill was given a secret orders, to detonate a nuclear warhead in the event there was a threat to Earth.
The team did, indeed, discover a threat to Earth, and they did activate the nuclear device, but not like how General West had intended. The team returned to Earth, slightly smaller than when they had departed. The returning members of the first exploration team reported Dr. Jackson as killed in action. After the mission, General West accepted Colonel O'Neill's resignation and the project was shut down again.
A year or so later, General West had been replaced by General George S. Hammond, a month away from retirement and at his final posting. An easy posting, it should have been, until the Gate was activated from off-world and men in strange armor came through the gateway and took prisoners. Colonel O'Neill was reactivated and brought back to the Mountain, where he met with General Hammond just before Hammond ordered the sending of a second nuclear device through to the world they had visited a year or so earlier. Jack O'Neill came clean at that instance, and reported that Dr. Jackson was alive and well on Abydos, and that the device they had detonated before had actually been on Ra's ship as it was attaining orbit over Abydos.
A new team was put together to return to Abydos and to retrieve Dr. Jackson, who had been living among the Abydonians and teaching them the ways of Earth. On that mission, they learned that the Ra look-alike had not come from there, and that the Stargate existed on thousands of other worlds.
In short, that second mission spawned a new program with a mandate to explore and to re-establish contact with all the peoples who had many centuries previously lived on Earth. In the span of a few days, Earth and in particular, the US Government, learned that there were hundreds of thousands of worlds populated by descendants those early Earthers. Over the course of eight years of explorations, they encountered civilizations that had their roots in many of the ancient civilizations from Earth; Greek, Babylonian, Norse, and Native American Indian to name but a few. The man he was now, General Jack O'Neill, had led them through the Gate on hundreds of occasions, racking up those frequent wormhole miles, and leading his world into a new era of exploration.
But the thing of it was: All of it was classified. Every last bit of it. He'd earned medals that he couldn't wear in public. He did, however, wear the Presidential Unit Citation on his Class A uniform, and then there was the Defense of Earth medal that he could only wear on those special occasions at Stargate Command. The very same medal to which he now had two clusters. Three times he saved Earth; once from Apophis, once from Anubis, and once from a ‘Foothold' situation at the Mountain.
All of these things and more flashed through his mind as he made his way through the various corridors of the Pentagon. His destination? The Special Operations Division where he had an urgent request to make for assistance. Of all the things he now had to worry about as Director of Homeworld Security, the things he hated most were the inability of civilian agencies to safeguard the materials they were entrusted with.
Somehow, and he had a good idea of just how, somehow one of those agencies had gotten a hold of some weapons grade naquadah. ‘For Experimentation Purposes', or so they'd claimed. Two bricks of the material had been couriered to them under arms. One brick was now missing. A person with a decent knowledge of explosives could make it work, not knowing the full potential of the material. But a person with knowledge of the material, and with access to the missing amount of naquadah, posed a very serious threat to the stability of the various world governments. He had, in his trusty and handy-dandy briefcase, the letters of authorization that would give an officer by the name of McNulty the clearance necessary to learn some of the sordid details of the Stargate Program, otherwise known as ‘Area 52'.
Office of Colonel Eli McNulty,
Special Operations Division...
For Master Sergeant Jocelyn Pierce, today was no different than any other day. There were always operations to plan, intelligence to look over, and people to prevent from getting in to see her boss, Colonel Eli McNulty. The scheduled eleven hundred hours appointment was no different than any other. She had no idea who this General O'Neill was, and she had no reason to admit him into the inner sanctum, other than what was stated when his aide had called and arranged for the appointment. ‘A matter of national security!' he'd said over the phone. ‘Hell, everything here was national security!' she'd thought. So she'd accessed his personnel file and saw that he'd been stationed at the Cheyenne Mountain Complex for the last nine years. She knew a few people there; one of them was an NCO that she'd first met at Camp Lejeune many years ago, when he had been there for some specialized training.
"Sgt. Siler? I'm not sure if you remember me. It's Sgt. Jocelyn Pierce."
"Pierce? From Camp Lejeune?"
"The one and the same. I guess you do remember me, then?"
"Kinda hard to forget someone who gives you an ass-chewing worthy of a 4-star. But as I recall, I deserved it at the time. Never made that mistake again, too."
"Well, it was a harsh lesson for anyone to learn. But you learned it well enough."
"Yep. ‘Never trust the manual when it says to cut the green wire.' Especially since the part in question is made by the lowest bidder and they used only white wires!"
"That would be the lesson in question."
"So, Pierce. To what do I owe your call to? It sure as hell can't be to reminisce?"
"No. Actually I wanted to know, since you're stationed out at Cheyenne, if you'd ever come across a one-star by name of O'Neill."
"That would be the one."
"He was the CO here for about a year. And the second in command for eight years before that."
"What kind of officer was he?"
"The kind I'd follow into Hell, Pierce. For that matter, every man and woman here would follow him into Hell. O'Neill is the kind of man you want in your corner and God help you if you manage to tick him off. Why the interest?"
"He's coming in to see my boss here at the Pentagon, and I wanted to know whether to let him in or not."
"You're still in SOD?"
"If O'Neill's coming in to see your boss, then yeah, it would be a very good thing to let him in."
"Thanks, Siler. Say, if you're ever out this way, look me up. I'll buy you a beer or two at the NCO club."
"Sounds like a good deal to me. So long, Pierce."
‘Well,' she thought ‘any officer that could engender that type of feeling among his subordinates had to be one heck of a guy. And this looks like him now.'
"Good morning, Sgt. ...Pierce?"
"Yes sir. Master Sergeant Jocelyn Pierce. You are General O'Neill?"
"So they tell me. I have an appointment with...Colonel Eli McNulty. Is he in?"
"Go right in, sir. He's expecting you."
"General O'Neill. Sir. Please have a seat, and tell me how SOD can help you today?"
"I have a small problem that's right up your alley, Colonel. And while I'd much rather that one of my own teams handles this, unfortunately, none are available."
"What sort of teams might those be, General?"
"The ‘Black' kind."
"Well, considering all Special Operations go through this office, and considering I've never heard of you before, I just didn't know what sort of teams you might have at your disposal."
"Ah. Right. Well, sign this and I'll tell you."
"Mind if I get my two Operations people in on this?"
"Sgt. Pierce and who else?"
"Why do you think it's her?"
"Simple. No officer worth his salt does anything without consulting a good Sergeant."
"I think I'm gonna like you, General. Pierce! Be a dear and find Lt. Colonel Tisnewski. Get him in here pronto."
"Already paged him sir. He's on his way."
"Hey Sergeant, when you get done here, maybe you can show my own aide how to do that."
"Do what, sir?"
"How to think like an NCO rather than a pencil pushing civilian geek."
A moment or two of BS'ing later, Lt. Colonel Jim ‘JT' Tisnewski came into the office and found a seat. A brief introduction that involved a very macho shaking of hands followed while General O'Neill explained the standard terms of ‘classified materials disclosure'. JT was no stranger to Special Operations and classified information. But this man in the room with him was a stranger. He had no idea who he was. So he looked at the medals on the General's ‘Salad Bar' of decorations. Air Medal with two clusters. Outstanding Unit award with a Combat ‘V' and two clusters. The badge devices of a Master Parachutist, Master Space/Missile, and Small Arms expert. Whoever this General was, he looked like he'd been there and done that in a lot of really bad places in the world.
"So, General, how can SOD help you out?"
"An hour ago, one of the civilian agencies that works with Area 51 apprised them of a potential problem. A small amount of weapons grade material had been misplaced. Or at least that's what they claimed. What that agency doesn't know is that this particular weapons grade material is so sensitive that all of it is tagged with a particular inert element than happens to be slightly radioactive, allowing it to be tracked and monitored. The missing material has been tracked to a location in southern California. Normally, I'd send one of my own teams out for the missing item, but none are available."
"Slightly radioactive? How ‘slightly' is slightly?"
"Not harmful to humans, if that's what you mean, Lt. Colonel Tisnewski."
"How many teams do you control, General?"
"At last count, twenty-two teams, and two squadrons."
"Well, I still haven't ever heard of you, but now that we've gotten the paperwork out of the way, I definitely want to know who you are and where these teams are based out of. Don't you, JT?"
"Hell yes, I'd like to know, sir."
"Would you believe Cheyenne Mountain?"
"Now what in the Hell does the Air Force need twenty-two Special Operations teams for at NORAD?"
"I guess it's a good thing that people outside the Mountain always assume I'm talking about NORAD. But I'm not. The command I'm referring to is actually located beneath NORAD. Stargate Command, home of the front lines in a war that spans across three galaxies."
"Hahahahaha. You know JT, I could've sworn that this General here said ‘galaxies!'"
"I think that's exactly what he said, Colonel. And, sir? He's not laughing."
"Okay, O'Neill. I'll bite. Tell me the rest."
"If you want the official history, I'll ask Major Paul Davis to come in here and give you the canned briefing. I'm sure he's done it so many times he could probably do it in his sleep. But the gist of it is, while the US has been in a ‘war' on terror, the SGC has been the frontline in a war since at least 1995. That's eleven years now. I've seen a lot of good people die in ways that no one on Earth could ever dream up of. I saw one of my teams torn apart by the gravitational forces of a black hole. I've seen good men and women subverted by the enemy, and later commit suicide because of the guilt. Until you know the full truth of the SGC and our ‘little' war, I wouldn't be so quick to judge, Colonel McNulty."
"Alright. I'll reserve judgment for now. Tell me why your teams aren't available?"
"Well, the medical team and the three science teams are no good for this situation. Neither are the two diplomatic teams. Two more teams are in the infirmary, recovering from a bout of some kind of flu bug they picked up on some God-forsaken unknown planet. Ten teams are presently involved in missions off-world. There are two teams each on the Daedalus and the Odyssey, and of course, the squadron ‘teams' assigned to each of those vessels."
"Since when does the Air Force have aircraft carriers, sir?"
"We call them battlecruisers, actually. The first one, the BC-303 Prometheus, was destroyed a few months ago, in combat. There was a fourth vessel, but its been given to the Russians in exchange..."
"The Russians! Good God man, why?"
"I don't like it any more than you do, Colonel, but it was part of the agreement we reached with them a few months ago. Politics, is all I can say, and I hear that politics makes for some very strange bed fellows."
"But, the Russians? Why would we give an ocean going vessel to the Russians?"
"Sergeant, the vessels in question are space craft, built in the good ole US of A."
"Whoa. He said space craft He did say space craft, didn't he JT?"
"I do believe he did, sir."
"So you're telling me that the US Air Force has space ships?"
"You know people, I'm beginning to wonder if I didn't join the right service. Don't get me wrong, I love the Army, but I started out as a pilot in Viet Nam! To think, I could now be flying space ships instead of a desk."
"The battlecruisers are nice ships, lots of firepower and shields, but personally, I prefer the F-302 fighters. Especially the inertial dampeners. They block out about ninety percent of the G-forces. That's what I call ‘Sweet!'"
"First space ships and now fighters too? Next thing you tell me is that little green aliens really landed at Roswell in 1947!"
"Gray. They're gray, actually."
It was probably the first time ever, in the short time at least that Lt. Colonel JT Tisnewski had known his commanding officer, that he had seen him with his mouth that opened in surprise and shock. He didn't think anything could surprise his boss as much as this new revelation had.
"Look, I can tell that this briefing isn't going as planned, so how about you indulge me for a few minutes?"
"What do you have in mind General?"
O'Neill's reply was interrupted by the shrill beep-ring of his cell phone right at that moment.
"Excuse me a bit. I really, really hate these things, but you know, I think they're a necessary evil."
"Amen to that!"
"Sir, Colonel Emerson here. We have an update on the target for you."
"Where are you, Colonel?"
"Aboard ship, sir. Why?"
"Can you get a lock on me?"
"Yes sir. We'll be over the Pentagon in about thirty seconds."
"Good. Lock me in, and add the three others in the room with me. Directly to the bridge, if you please."
"Of course sir."
"What are you going on about now?"
"You folks might want to stand up. Or else my little ‘indulgence' might end up with you on your butts."
Col. McNulty, Lt. Colonel Tisnewski, and Sgt. Pierce all stood up, wondering for an instant why they were doing so. Perhaps an ingrained and instinctive response to a ‘request' from a senior officer? It mattered little.
"Why do you want us to..."
McNulty finished his question, not in his office, but standing on the metal deck of a very high tech looking room.
"...stand up? What the Hell was that?"
"General's on the Bridge!"
"As you were. Report please, Colonel Emerson."
"Sir. We are presently in geo-synch orbit over the Pentagon, and in a few minutes we'll be over the target site again. Target is moving, General. That's why I called."
"On its current heading, it'll be at the Port of Los Angeles in less than a hour. Maybe a ship waiting for it?"
"General O'Neill. What in the Hell is going on here? Where are we?"
"Ah, sorry Colonel. But it seemed to me that you just weren't in a very believing mood a few minutes ago. What's going on here? I'm getting an update on the missing weapons grade material situation. Where are you? You are in the bridge of the USAF battlecruiser Odyssey. Colonel Paul Emerson here, is the ship's Captain. And if you'll just turn around, we'll show you an impressive view."
‘I'll just humor him for a minute or two before I scream for Security, and...oh my God! I'm...I'm...I'm in space! Oh my friggin' God, I'm actually on a space ship!'
The thoughts of the three visitors were the same, with very minor wording differences. But after a few minutes of gawking at the view screen, the thoughts they were thinking finally began to set into their minds as conscious reality.
‘I'm actually in Space! Oh jeez, I can never tell anyone about it! This sucks!'
"What about your two duty teams, Emerson?"
"Off-world. Helping SG-1 out of another sticky situation."
"What is it about SG-1 that always attracts so much trouble?"
"I wouldn't know that, General."
"General O'Neill? Tell me about the missing material."
"Sure. The material in question is called naquadah. In a refined weapons grade state, it can amplify the explosive power of a standard nuke."
"Amplify? By how much?"
"It'll amplify a one kiloton warhead into a one megaton unit. A one megaton bomb becomes, well, big enough to pretty much fry the northern hemisphere."
"I concur, sir. I have been going over Colonel Carter's notes on the nature of naquadah, and if a nominal kiloton device were to be detonated, say, over a fault line, well it would change the geography of the US quite a bit. At the very least, it could wipe out the population centers of the West Coast."
"I'd have to agree with my science officer, General."
"Yeah. I'd say I'd have to agree with Lt. Hailey on that one, too. I was her training officer, once upon a time."
"That would explain that irreverent attitude of hers."
"Hey! I wasn't that bad!"
"General, you've ‘been there and done that' on more worlds than most of us ‘regular folks' will ever dream about. You've saved this planet, what, at least three times? And how many times how you've been killed in the line of duty? Is it five or six?"
"A lot more than six, and all because of that rat-fink-of-a-snake Ba'al. But don't remind me. It just makes me cranky."
Sgt. Pierce listened to the banter with a practiced ear. For all her time in the service, she could tell when the ‘shop talk' was forced or real. This was very real. The camaraderie was clearly evident. O'Neill might be this Colonel Emerson's superior officer, but they talked like they were old friends. Even the awe in Lt. Hailey's eyes as she learned her training officer had been ‘killed' in the line of duty. And what about that? How could a person be killed in the line of duty as many times as was claimed and yet still be here? She resolved, as soon as she got back to SOD, to find out as much as was possible about this program that O'Neill was in charge of.
The thoughts in Lt. Colonel Tisnewski's mind, were along the same lines as Sgt. Pierce, but with a different perspective. The easily misconstrued joking atmosphere was a cover for what amounted to a very serious situation. The people on this ship acted like well seasoned pros. Every one of the crew on the Bridge, from their CO down to lowest rated Airman, all had that same look in their eyes. The look that any SF worth their salt had. A look that clearly screamed out to the world ‘don't fuck with me!' But the look aside, the feelings of comradeship that he felt on this ship felt like those he'd felt with his own team in the field. And if this ‘nakwada' stuff was as bad as O'Neill made it out to be, then it was his job to put together the mission to retrieve it. This ship, and the way they got aboard her, opened up a new realm of possibilities though, and those certainly were worth looking into.
"Say, Emerson? Any word from Hammond?"
"Last Intel I got said he was headed for Tartarus to oversee the establishment of a base of operations there. As a favor to President Hayes, no doubt."
"Ah, that would be Lieutenant General George S. Hammond, former head of the SGC, and former Director of Homeworld Security. Hayes named him as the director of our operations base on Tartarus."
"I knew a George Hammond when I was stationed in ‘Nam. I wonder if it's the same guy?"
"The Hammond I served under was a Lieutenant in 1969. If the guy you knew was from Texas, odds are it's the same one."
"Yeah, I think he said Texas one time when talking about chili."
"Oh yeah, definitely the same one."
"So, Emerson, you were saying about the target update?"
"Yes, General. We have it on the scope now. Target has stopped. Looks like a traffic jam on the I-5."
"Too many civilians around for a strike. We need them to go someplace quieter."
Office of General Hank Landry...
A General's work is never, ever done. Today was no exception to that unwritten rule. First, some days ago, SG-15 had checked in from their latest recon mission with news that they were under attack by unknown forces. SG-12 went in to back them up. Both had come back with some minor cuts and bruises, but otherwise fine. Then two days ago, half of SG-15 went in to the infirmary complaining of various aches and pains. Routine tests had shown a form of influenza in their bodies and so Doctor Carolyn Lam had brought in both teams and placed them in isolation rooms. The progression of the virus startled her shortly thereafter. Maybe it was being in close quarters with their sick team mates, and maybe it was just a matter of time before the other exposed members of the teams began exhibiting overt symptoms. Either way, within a couple of hours, all members of both teams were showing signs of a severe infection.
Blood samples were taken. Virus micrographs taken from random blood samples indicated something rather alarming. The virus causing the illness in the two teams was mutating. Doctor Lam ordered a series of micrographs taken once per hour over a twenty-four hour period. The results, when they came in, indicated that the virus was mutating every ten to twelve hours. For a terrestrial virus, this was almost unheard of, but for something that came through the Gate, well, it was beyond her scope of training. She had to see the General. But he wasn't going to like the news. Not at all.
"Carolyn. Something wrong?"
"SG units 12 and 15. I've placed them into isolation. Whatever they have, it's mutating fairly rapidly."
"I thought you said it was just the flu?"
"I thought it was too. But Corporal Martinez spiked a fever a few hours ago of 106. We had to take extra-ordinary measure to bring his fever down. We lost him about ten minutes ago."
"Lost him? What do you mean? He's dead?"
"I'm afraid so sir. Whatever this bug is, it's deadly. General, I need help on this one. I'm out of my depth."
"What do you need?"
"Some specialists from USAMRIID would be helpful."
"I'll do what I can. Anything else I need to be told about?"
"I think we need to kick off ‘WildFire'."
"You think this is really that bad?"
"General. Dad. I'm afraid I'm going to lose both teams. Nothing I've hit this with has even slowed it down any."
"Thank you for your report, Doctor. I'm going to call the President."
"Of course, General."
"This is General Landry. I need to speak to the President."
"Hank! How are things out at the SGC?"
"That's the reason I'm calling, Mr. President. A couple teams brought back something from their latest mission. A new virus that we thought was the flu. Sir, we're going to need help on this one. One of my men is already dead."
"Why is it you never call with good news, Hank? Or just to shoot the breeze?"
"I wish I was calling to do just that, sir. My CMO has recommended we activate ‘WildFire'."
"It's that bad?"
"If anything, sir, it's probably worse."
"What do you need?"
"My CMO suggested specialists from USAMRIID, could help out."
"I'll get them to dispatch a full team of support personnel."
"Sir, they'll need to be briefed in full at some point, since the virus originated off-world."
"We'll take care of it Hank. When will you be locking down the Mountain?"
"As soon as I hang up sir. Have the incoming team report to Peterson. We'll transport them here."
"Right, Hank. I'll get back to you."
"Thank you, Mr. President."
"Yes. Yes sir!"
The target material was stuck in traffic. How ironic! Colonel McNulty and Lt. Colonel Tisnewski had their heads together, in an attempt to come up with a plan of action to get the materials back into the right hands. Sgt. Pierce was on the comm-set trying to get in touch with the members of the Lt. Colonel's strike team. Whatever was going to happen, it would be quick.
"Sirs, the SGC is broadcasting ‘Code Wild Fire."
"Get me the SGC on a secure line."
"This is General O'Neill on the Odyssey. Get me General Landry."
"One moment sir."
"Jack! What are you doing on the Odyssey?"
"Trying to resolve the missing naquadah situation. What's going on there, Hank?"
"SG units 12 and 15 brought something back with them from their last mission."
"Those are the two teams that came down with the flu?"
"That's right. Hey, I guess you do read the team status reports!"
"I like to know where the teams are, Hank. Is it the Prior flu again?"
"They didn't report any Prior activity on the world they were on. Just some Lucian Alliance troops that they got into a fire-fight with."
"Keep me in the loop. Make sure all off-world teams know to go to the Alpha Site."
"Already on that. Walter's dialing the world for SG-1 at the moment."
"Good. Ask them to head over to K'Tau. We might need help from the Asgard for this."
"I'll get them on their way. Jack, Daedalus is due back any time now. Can you make sure they know what's going on?"
"Right. Will do; keep me updated. Odyssey out."
"Just another Monday, Colonel. Have you got a plan together?"
"We have the beginnings of one. But we need to contact our chain of command to get the ball rolling."
"General, you might play fast and loose with the regs where you're from, but not SOD."
"I'm not asking you to play fast and loose with the regs, Colonel. I'm just saying that planetary security comes first. Put the mission together, brief it, do it, then we notify the appropriate chains of command. This matter is too sensitive to leave it to the chance that the thieves could get away."
"That's not the way we do things, General."
"Fine then. Comms, get me the red line."
"Red line, General?"
"Jack! I take it you heard the news?"
"About Wild Fire? Yes sir. Sir, we have a situation brewing with that missing material."
"We've located it. It's currently stuck in traffic on the I-5 near Los Angeles. The direction they're heading tells me that stuff is headed for the Port and a ship."
"So, stop it Jack."
"Well, sir, because there were no teams available for the recovery, even before the Wild Fire activation, I went to SOD at the Pentagon for their help. They've got a mission put together, but they want Legal Counsel to look it over and the SecDef to sign off on it before we do anything."
"Tell them I said to go ahead and get the material back first, then notify the appropriate authorized chains of command."
"I would appreciate it if you could tell them yourself, sir. I have the commander of that section here with me. Colonel Eli McNulty. Colonel? Pick up the headset."
"Colonel, do you know who I am?"
"That's correct. Colonel, I take it General O'Neill has explained the serious nature of the missing material?"
"He has, sir."
"And did he explain just how sensitive the information is? Just how classified the information is?"
"He did, sir."
"Did he mention, that he had to pull a number of strings to get you and your people briefed in? Or maybe he neglected to mention that? How about the fact that while the SecDef is aware of the StarGate Program, no one outside of the JCS are aware? Legal Counsel sure as hell ain't aware of it. Just do the mission, then come in to the office and brief me, the SecDef, and the JCS."
"That's not the way things are done sir."
"Not usually, no. But this is a matter of planetary security. If that material gets into the hands of our enemies in the Middle East, well, let's just say that the price of gasoline could hit several hundred dollars an ounce! That's not going to happen on my watch! Am I clear, Colonel?"
"Well, General. You sure do swing a mighty big bat. JT, get the team ready to deploy. On my authority, this mission is a go."
"Are you sure, sir?"
"Son, when the President of the United States, my Commander-in-Chief, tells me to do something, I damn well am going to do that!"
"Yes sir! Pierce, have you found Wilkerson, yet?"
"He's holding the line for you, sir. They're at Bragg."
"Get them geared up for an immediate insertion. I'll see what we can do about transport."
"That won't be necessary, Tisnewski. Colonel Emerson, do you have any shuttles aboard?"
"Yes sir. We can have it ready to launch in a few minutes."
"Good. Tisnewski, have your people in the most secured hangar they can find. Their transport will be there in a few minutes."
"What do you have that can get to Fort Bragg in a few minutes?"
"Standard cargo shuttle. They'll have plenty of room for whatever gear they have."
"General, sir, SG-10 is standing by at Peterson. They were there looking over the newest Academy graduating class for possible recruits."
"Ok. Tell them to stand by in full gear. The shuttle will pick them up on the way back from Bragg."
"General, my team knows the drill. A team of unknown men could be detrimental to the mission."
"Maybe. But SG-10 knows the drill when it comes to alien technologies. Just because the naquadah was the only thing reported missing, doesn't mean that's the only alien tech the thieves got their hands on. Comms, tell SG-10 I want prisoners for interrogation. Zats first."
Fort Bragg, North Carolina,
Ten minutes later...
"Bobby, what did the Colonel mean by a really fast transport?"
"I have no idea. But he said to stand by with full gear for a deployment into the LA area. Whatever he found for us in the way of transportation will get us there in a couple hours I'd guess. Hey! Why are those hangar doors opening? I told you guys to secure this facility!"
The hangar doors were opening to admit something, but no one could see what it was. There was no movement that they could discern. The hangar doors closed almost immediately and as soon as they were shut tight, the strangest looking vessel appeared in their midst; it was cylindrical with a flattened bottom, and had the color of aged copper. A ramp at the back dropped down and a man in what looked like an Air Force flight suit stood there.
"Sir, with Colonel Tisnewski's compliments, sir. Just load up your gear and we'll be off."
"What the hell kinda transport is this?"
"Need to know, sir. Sorry, sir, but I wasn't informed that you'd been cleared into the loop, sir."
"Right. Let's get loaded up guys! Next stop, California!"
"Actually, sir, the next stop is Peterson AFB to pick up another team, then up to Odyssey for briefing before deployment."
"Right. Well, whatever. Let's get loaded and on the way then."
Peterson Air Force Base,
Ten minutes later...
The shuttle's arrival at Fort Bragg might have been unusual, but here at Peterson, the arrival of the Telemachus, a Jumper-type shuttle from the Odyssey was almost routine. Of course, no one ever saw the shuttle land. They only saw the hangar doors roll open and later saw them roll open again as the shuttle took flight. Their only clue that something had been there was the fact that sometimes men entered the hangar and didn't exit, or that some other men exited the hangar but were not seen to enter it.
Fort Detrick, Maryland,
United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease...
As soon as the notice to ‘Stand To' had come down the line from the JCS, the base commander had notified one of his Go-Team leaders, General William Starkey to report to his office for a classified briefing. The base commander was still trying to wrap his own mind around the revelations of just moments ago via secure line from the National Military Command Center (NMCC). Not only was the influenza outbreak in Colorado a danger to the personnel there, but if it got out, millions, perhaps billions, would die. How does one protect against a strain of influenza from another planet?
"You wanted to see me, sir?"
"Have a seat Billy. I think you're going to need to be seated for this one."
"Where's the outbreak, sir?"
"Would you believe Cheyenne Mountain?"
"NORAD? What, did they spill something out there? My team is gearing up for a biological emergency, sir, not chemical."
"What I'm about to tell you is so highly classified, that it can't ever leave this room."
"The command in question is called the SGC. Stargate Command. The official cover for the facility and all of its personnel is ‘Deep Space Radar Telemetry'. And while I'm sure they do that too, what they really do will blow your socks off. Apparently, the US Air Force has a command that routinely visits other planets."
"I'm sorry sir, but did you say ‘planets'? As in outer space?"
"Yep. That about covers it. Apparently, they are able to do so via something the Air Force calls a Star Gate. I've no idea what that does or how they do what they do, but apparently a couple teams that were recently off-world brought back a very nasty case of influenza. I've spoken with the base CMO, a Doctor Carolyn Lam, and she informed me that while the virus shares some of the characteristics of the flu bug we're currently working on, it does display one particularly nasty habit and that is that it mutates every ten to twelve hours. So far, she's lost one patient and she reports that three more are critical. From onset of symptoms to death is approximately four days. I need you to take your teams and report to Peterson AFB as soon as humanly possible. The Air Force will arrange a secured transport for the final leg into the mountain."
"What measures have they taken so far, sir?"
"Per their standard protocol for cases like this, the mountain has been completely closed. No one in or out. An exemption will be made for you and your teams and all your equipment. I've no idea what they have or don't have, so take everything you think you might need, and maybe some of what you don't think you'd ever use. Billy, if the contagion breaks free of the isolation wards at Cheyenne, then we could be in for a serious situation. The SGC has a protocol called ‘Wild Fire' for an emergency such as this. If the situation becomes untenable, then a self-destruct will activate beneath the mountain. I'm told that the self-destruct is a pretty good sized nuke, enough to fairly well level the mountain and seal the virus within that granite tomb."
"I'll be extra careful, sir."
"Yeah. You'd better be. Good luck, Billy."
"I think we're going to need it, sir."
Geo-synchronous orbit over Los Angeles, CA, USA,
Some hours later...
Conference Room One...
There were two sets of players in the room: SG-10, and the Special Forces team led by Captain Wilkerson, under the command of the SOD. SG-10 was a fairly new unit, with only one member of the previous team still on this one. The previous incarnation of SG-10 had been ambushed on some planet someplace, and while all of the team had made it back to the SGC, four of the five men later succumbed to their wounds; staff blasts had a nasty habit of being fatal. They'd gotten a new CO, Colonel Francois Beauchamp, recently posted to the SGC from the French Army. He was a no nonsense type of soldier, and the first thing he did upon meeting someone new was to evaluate them as a potential threat. For the moment, he relied heavily on Mitchell Ayres, his gunnery sergeant, who was the only survivor of the previous SG-10 unit. Ayres was among a unique group of soldiers at the SGC, having battled Jaffa, Goa'uld and Wraith on more than one occasion. He'd even been up against Replicators on one particular mission, and it was a mission that gave him his current intense fear of all spider-like creatures.
For Captain Wilkerson, seated on the opposite side of the table from SG-10, the men across from him had that hardened look in their eyes. They were dressed in the Army's new ACU gear, a sort of universal camouflage that blended desert, forest, and urban patterns into one unit. The Colonel seated opposite him wore a French tri-color flag patch on one arm and the patch of the Legion on the other, along with a round patch with some sort of ‘V' shape with the letters ‘SG-10' embroidered on it in a subdued gray color. Beyond the name tags on their uniforms, and the subdued rank insignia on their collars, it was difficult to tell anything specific about the men seated opposite him. Most of their gear looked comparable to his own, with the exception of the very strange looking ‘weapon' thing slung low in hip-holsters. They looked more like the heads of cobras than any type of gun Wilkerson had ever seen.
For Colonel Beauchamp, seated opposite his number from the SOD, the weapons these Special Forces troopers carried were not much different than anything any military unit carried. It looked like they all had either the Mk16 or Mk17 rifle, with grenade launcher slung underneath the barrel. Standard deployment vests with multiple pockets for extra magazines and what looked like flash bang grenades. And had Beauchamp still been in the Legion, odds were his own equipment wouldn't be all that dissimilar. But the advantage to working with a group of men and women with access to alien technology meant that the two large round objects in his back pouch would prove an unsuspecting diversion for the enemy. Goa'uld shock grenades were similar enough in overall effect to a flash bang grenade, but the Goa'uld version could be recharged and reused, while the Earth version could not. It was a minor difference in a sea of minor differences, that added up to who would be the better team on this deployment.
"Colonel Beauchamp, Captain Wilkerson. Let's get this briefing underway. Out latest intelligence indicates the target is headed for a spot at the Port of Los Angeles, probably for a ship bound for unknown waters. Your mission is to retrieve the stolen naquadah and to take as many prisoners as possible for later interrogations."
"How much naquadah was taken, sir?"
"What the hell is ‘nakwada'?"
"Our information says that one brick of weapons grade naquadah was stolen some three hours ago from a secure research facility in southern California. Naquadah, Capt. Wilkerson, is an alien material that when combined with any sort of explosive can release a tremendous amount of explosive force."
"Is it radioactive?"
"No. It's perfectly safe to touch with your hands. But it is extremely dense and therefore extremely heavy. One brick of naquadah might look like an ingot of gold in that the measurements are pretty close to one another. A brick of weapons grade naquadah measures about eight inches by three and a half inches by about two inches in thickness. A gold ingot can weigh around twenty-seven pounds, but the same amount of naquadah weighs about three times that, or around eighty pounds or so."
"Damn. That's heavy. So, one person can lift it, but it's probably faster if two people carry it in a box or some such?"
"That's right Captain. Now, as soon as the target vehicle stops, we'll beam you down into position. Captain, your team will be backing up SG-10. Beauchamp, try to take prisoners this time."
"Ah, General, that last mission to the Lucian Alliance stronghold was not our fault. They chose to commit suicide before we could detain any of them for interrogation."
"Still, I do want prisoners this time. Whoever is behind this theft, we want to know about it. We have every reason to believe, at this time, that the Trust is involved, in which case they may have some alien weapons at their disposal. In fact, why don't you pair off your teams? One of yours with one of Wilkerson's. From the moment you separate, you'll have no-one to trust but your partner. If this is the Trust, then they could have the remaining mimic devices that are unaccounted for."
"You would have to say that, mon General."
"Nothing is ever easy, Beauchamp."
"C'est vrai, mon General."
"What are mimic devices?"
"Like the name implies, Captain, the device can be made to mimic anyone for which they have the pattern. The device is worn next to the skin and is about the size of a quarter or maybe a half-dollar. As far as I know, the patterns the devices were loaded with when they were stolen from Area 51 included mine, along with General Hammond and various other Stargate personnel. Since I will be aboard the Odyssey and General Hammond is presently off-world, if you do see our duplicates, feel free to shoot first."
"Hmmm, always wanted to shoot a General."
"I'll bet. Now, get down to the transport room. Make sure you're good to go. I'll be on the Bridge. Dismissed!"
Port of Los Angeles...
There were dozens of vessels at the Port either being loaded or unloaded. But only one ship in particular was what the six man team from the Trust was looking for. A cargo freighter on a routine run to Pearl Harbor, carrying supplies for the bases there. With luck, they would catch the ships based there unawares. If even only one ship were destroyed by their mission, then the mission will have been a success. Any ships damaged or destroyed beyond just one would make the mission an overwhelming success. It was a necessary plan designed to bring the world to a military footing, so that the companies behind the Trust could make more money than ever. It would be called a terror attack, but it would serve to raise orders from the military to all those companies that provided them with their goods.
Four of them had spent the time in the van assembling their weapon. It wasn't a nuke: It was several hundred pounds of C-4 wrapped around the brick of naquadah, which in turn surrounded a smaller core of C-4. The outer case had been filled with low-level waste radioactive material taken from dozens of landfills around the country. None of it would ever be missed. The only thing that could be missed was the naquadah, but the company from which they had taken the material wasn't due to begin testing the substance for another three weeks at the earliest. That company had had two bricks for testing purposes. The six-man team had taken one brick and replaced it with a phony unit. Two of them were wearing the very precious mimic devices that an earlier mission had appropriated from Area 51. The power units lasted just enough with one charge to enable them to obtain the material in question. They had gone in disguised as General Jack O'Neill and Major Paul Davis, both well known and respected officers with the oversight on these materials.
By the time the material was discovered to be missing, there would be ample proof that O'Neill had gone into the facility with Davis for ‘inspection' purposes, and there was even tape of them leaving the facility with a large box. The perfect patsies for the perfect crime. The van slowed to a stop, and a forklift approached the vehicle. It loaded the box onto a pallet that would be loaded onto the freighter in a matter of minutes. Their mission done, four of the men, the ones who had built the bomb, went aboard ship for the trip to Hawaii. The other two took the van away from the Port to a well-known junkyard where in a matter of some minutes, the van would be compressed down into a cube of junk.
"Sir, target stopped for a few minutes and is now on the move again."
"Where did they stop?"
"On one of the piers, sir. Though it might have been because of the heavy amount of traffic there, what with cranes and forklifts everywhere."
"Right. Where is it headed now?"
"Away from the port sir."
"Away? Could they have unloaded the cargo when they were stopped?"
"That's possible, General."
"Get me an overhead image of the pier in question. See if you can identify the ships and tell me where they're headed."
"That's going to take a bit of time, sir."
"Get on it. The quicker you do it, the quicker we can get this thing over with."
The pier in question had some dozen or so ships tied up along side, some taking cargo, some giving it up. But all of the ships were scanned from bow to stern, looking for identifying marks that would give clues to their identity. By the time the sensor operators had their list of ships identified, the one in question had pulled away from the dock.
"General, sir, there were fourteen ships present at or near that pier when the van stopped. They have all now been identified. Five were container ships and are now returning empty to their port of origin. One was a tanker that offloaded its cargo and is returning to the oil terminal in Alaska. Four were filled with shipments of wheat bound for ports overseas. Two were carrying electronic components and are returning with raw materials to their ports in Japan. The final two are carrying supplies for the bases in Hawaii."
"What sort of supplies? You mean for our military bases?"
"Yes sir. General supplies. The freighters in question make this run at least twice per week. These are regularly scheduled runs. Their manifests show no additional passengers."
"Where are these ships now?"
"Both have left the Port and are headed out to sea."
"Put us overhead and scan them."
"Sir, first scan completed. If there is naquadah aboard one of those ships, we are unable to determine it for certain. And here's the reason why. This is the official manifest of both of those vessels. Both are carrying low-level radioactive materials. The signature of the naquadah is blending with those materials and we can't identify the ship the material is on."
"Damn it. Ok. Comms, get me the Joint Chiefs. Let's take this up a level."
"Stand by for encryption synchronization. Channel locked. Go ahead sirs."
"Mr. Chairman, General O'Neill aboard the Odyssey, sir."
"Go ahead, Jack. We're getting you loud and clear."
"Sirs, at approximately zero-nine-hundred hours Pacific Standard Time this morning, the director of the Poseidon Energy Research Center contacted me to thank me for my impromptu visit to their facility. Considering that I was in a meeting with you at that time, I'd say it would be downright difficult for me to be in two places at once. The Director went on to state that Major Paul Davis was with me at the time, and since he is presently off-world assisting George Hammond, well, I found his statements curious to say the least. I asked him to humor me a bit and to have someone check on the two bricks of refined naquadah we loaned to them for energy research."
"And, one of those bricks is confirmed as missing, sir. Naturally, since the Odyssey was in orbit on work-ups, I had them track the missing material. All of the naquadah that we locate is tagged before it leaves the mountain with a slightly radioactive element that enables us to track it. In any case we tracked the material moving in a van towards the Port of Los Angeles. The van stopped for less than five minutes on a pier before moving off. At that time, we assumed that the van had stopped for cargo traffic, but now we believe that the naquadah was in fact removed from the van and loaded on to a ship that was at that pier. We have since identified the ships that were present at the time. Out of fourteen vessels that were dockside at the time, we've managed to narrow it down to one of two possibilities. Fortunately, both are headed for the same destination. Unfortunately, if the material in question has been mated to a bomb, well, the destination in question can be written off if the device explodes."
"Where are those two ships headed, Jack?"
"Pearl Harbor, sir."
"Are you sure?"
"That's according to the harbor master sir. Both ships are carrying military-grade supplies for the bases in Hawaii. Part of a regular cargo run for that company."
"Refresh my memory, Jack. How much naquadah are we talking about here and what kind of bang could we expect?"
"Sir. The SGC loaned two eighty-pound bricks of naquadah to Poseidon. One was taken. As for the explosion, well, you might remember a few years ago when Apophis tried to attack from orbit? Colonels Samuels and Maybourne headed up a project out at Area 51 to build what they called ‘Goa'uld Buster' bombs? Those were Mk 12's with a few grams of naquadah. The Mk12 went from a 12 kiloton nominal yield to well over a thousand megaton yield. That was just a few grams of naquadah, sir. The people have their hands on eighty pounds of it."
"Oh my God! Admiral Benson! Get warning orders to Pearl! Have them sortie every ship at anchor!"
"Sir! If I may sir?"
"Go ahead, Jack."
"Sir, rather than sending out all the ships and possibly alerting these people to the fact that we just might be on to them, why not intercept them at sea. Less chance of the press getting a hold of this story."
"Quite right, General. I knew we gave you that star for a reason. Admiral Benson, what assets do you have available for us in California?"
"Coronado. Best place they could start a mission from. Commander Wilkes, what is the current availability there?"
"Sir, two Mark V Special Operations Craft and three PC-1 Cyclones as of zero-eight hundred."
"Will that work, General O'Neill?"
"It will have to work. Emerson, we'll need a shuttle to take us down to the Naval Station at Coronado. Admiral Benson, we'll need a secure storage facility for the hangar."
"I'll get right on it, General. How many personnel do you have for this mission, General O'Neill?"
"SG-10 and one team from SOD."
"There are three SEAL teams home ported there. Need any?"
"Sir, I'll take whatever help I can get at this point."
"I'll pass along warning orders to have the teams STAND TO."
"General, after this is all over with, I'd love a tour of the Odyssey."
"Hell Admiral, I'll give that tour personally to all of the JCS if we can resolve this matter quickly and quietly."
"We'll take you up on that Jack. I, for one, would like to see where seventy percent of the SGC's budget has gone over the last few years."
"Sir, if we could operate with any less at the SGC, I'd love to see more of these ships around. With Prometheus destroyed, we have only Daedalus and Odyssey available to our forces. We would have had one more, but it went to the Russians. Daedalus is pretty much on permanent runs to Pegasus, so that leaves the Russian ship and Odyssey for Earth defense. Sir, frankly, we need a whole fleet of ships."
"That's a big request, Jack."
"I know sir. But we need them if we want to stand a snowball's chance of defending Earth against the Ori."
"Which is the reason we sent Hammond to Tartarus. The facilities there, plus the shipyards at Erebus, will mean a heck of a boost to our production capabilities."
Coronado Naval Amphibious Base...
For the Shore Patrol personnel assigned to guard the hangar at the adjoining air station, the shuttle Telemachus was perhaps the most unusual looking vessel they'd ever seen. It's didn't use any sort of jet or propellers that they could see, yet it floated gracefully into the hangar at the Air Station. They saw several battle hardened soldiers deplane from the thing, followed by two very serious looking crewmen who stayed behind to stand guard over the craft Though what they could defend against using only staves was anyone's guess. The soldiers had quickly run to the flight line to board a helo for the short trip to Coronado. At this time of day, had they used vehicles, even with emergency flashers in operation, the short trip would have become close to an hour, such was the amount of traffic.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff had approved an at-sea interdiction mission, calling it a terrorism readiness exercise. The Navy had detached two Cyclone-class patrol boats, the Hurricane and the Monsoon, and two Mark V Special Operations Craft for the interdiction mission. An additional vessel, a 110 Island-class belonging to the Coast Guard was also dispatched, so that the mission would appear to be a Coast Guard driven operation. SEAL Team three was put aboard the two Mark 5's, with SG-10 on the Hurricane, and the SOD team on the Monsoon. The targeted vessels had a substantial head start on them, but with the freighters plodding along at just under 20 knots, and the slowest ship in the pursuit group moving along at thirty knots, the ten knots of overtake speed would enable them to catch the targets in about four hours, considering the targets had left some three hours before them.
Still, it was a lot better than trying to board the vessels close in to shore either here off the West Coast, or closer to Hawaii. At their rate of travel, in some seven hours, they would be about a hundred and twenty nautical miles from shore, well outside the territorial limit, but with the two vessels in question sailing under American flags, and the two vessels carrying supplies for US military installations, the rules were somewhat different.
It hadn't taken the team from Fort Detrick all that long to fly out to Colorado. They were waiting now, talking to someone named Odyssey who was arranging transport for them for the final leg of their journey. General Starkey didn't pretend to know anything about the wonders of alien technology. All he knew was that someone with the very odd code-name of Odyssey was making the arrangements. Cheyenne wasn't all that far from Peterson, but, the mountain had been shut tight. The heavy blast doors, meant to withstand a very big nuke, had shut all access from the outside.
Starkey thought it strange that the Airmen assigned to this command would arrange his crates of equipment the way they did, but he guessed it was in accordance with some strange Air Force rule, and considering he wasn't Air Force, well, that explained their arrangement.
"General Starkey? Are you ready for transport?"
"We are, Odyssey, though we have yet to see any sort of cargo truck come near this hangar."
"But the hangar doors are closed, correct sir?"
"That's affirmative. Hangar doors are closed."
"Excellent. Stand by for transport."
"...no transport in sight. Ok. What the Hell just happened?"
"General Starkey, sir. Welcome aboard the USAF vessel Odyssey."
"How did we get here?"
"Transporter beam, sir. If you'll move to one side, we'll get your crates up here. In a few minutes we'll transport you down to the SGC's embarkation room. It's the largest area for receiving you, sir."
"The room where the Gate is located sir."
"I see. Well, let's get a move on it then!"
"Of course sir."
"Sierra Golf Command, Odyssey. We have your packages ready for delivery."
"Standing by to receive, Odyssey."
"Affirmative. Delivering now."
"Packages received, Odyssey. Please be advised, Daedalus ETA now at two hours. Upon their arrival, you are to brief Colonel Caldwell on current operations, then depart for Alpha Site to pick up SG teams, then come back here."
"Affirmative. Odyssey out."
"General Starkey, pleasure to meet you sir. I'm Hank Landry, commander of this facility. This is my CMO, Doctor Carolyn Lam. She'll fill you in on the details. We've assigned you and your personnel to VIP quarters on Level 25. I'll be with you shortly, but Dr. Lam can show you and your team around."
"Thank you General Landry."
"So, Dr. Lam was it?"
"Any experience with this type of infection?"
"I spent some time at the CDC in infectious diseases, but this particular virus is beyond my experience."
"Oh? How so?"
"For one, it seems to mutate every ten to twelve hours, almost like it's trying to adjust to we ‘Earth humans'. Second, the first version that presented itself looked like the common cold. Now it's something far worse. The patients that have died have done so due to an overwhelming amount of congestion in their lungs. It's like they drowned. But, we have managed to micrograph a few earlier samples, and we're taking micrographs every four hours to chart its mutative progression."
"Your facility has an electron microscope? Isn't that rather odd for an Air Force facility?"
"You'll find that a lot of things that shouldn't be found on an average base will be here. A lot of that is thanks to my predecessor, Dr. Janet Fraiser. She set-up the facility so that they could treat and cure almost anything down here. There is too great a chance that something a team brings from off-world could get out into the general population and create havoc."
"What happened to your predecessor? The Air Force move her someplace? Did she become the personal physician to some General?"
"Sadly, no. She was killed in the line of duty two years ago while off world. She and a medical team responded to a call for assistance from one of the SG teams. While she was helping out one man, an enemy soldier came up behind her and shot her. She was dead before she hit the ground. The enemy soldier used a staff weapon and those fire superheated blobs of plasma. The plasma burned through her body, vaporizing her heart and part of her lungs."
"Ouch. That's gotta be a horrible way to go."
"I'm sure it is, and I do hope I never have the misfortune to experience that. But, I daresay it would have been very quick. At the very least, she didn't suffer."
"Did she leave anyone behind?"
"A daughter. Cassandra. She adopted her some years ago. Cassandra was born on a world called Hanka. A Goa'uld by the name of Nirrti killed everyone on the planet except Cassandra. The little girl was implanted with a bomb that would react with the material of the Stargate. They managed to deactivate the bomb in time, but she was left with a marked amount of naquadah in her blood. It gives her, among other ‘gifts', the ability to sense the Goa'uld symbiote within a person. She couldn't have been more than seven at the time."
"Any person or alien, that would use a little girl like that for such a terrible purpose, must be a monster."
"Nirrti, like all Goa'uld, believe it is their right to use Humans like that. That their natural superiority gives them that right."
"I hope I never have to meet one. I'm not sure what I would do."
"Believe me, I understand the sentiment. So, General, level 21 is the infirmary, where most of my patients are currently resting. The infected teams are in medical isolation rooms on this level and on 19. Most of the labs are on these two levels. If this virus gets out of control, we also have isolation quarters on level 22."
"What's on level 20? I noticed you said the labs and medical rooms are on 19 and 21. Why not 20?"
"Level 20 is storage areas, some offices, workout rooms, and one of several armories."
"One of several?"
"Understand sir, this is a frontline base. Sure, it's not like the bases in the Middle East, but the threat is just as real. Only the SF's are constantly armed. If armed intruders come through the gate, well, I'd rather not have to run too far for a weapon, and I'm sure the men and women in my infirmary will say the same thing."
"It just seems so quiet in here."
"It usually is. Now then, my office is on 21. The labs that you and your teams will be using are mostly on 21, but the heavier equipment, like the electron microscope and the MRI's are on 19. One more thing, sir. I initially thought that the teams in question had come back with a form of influenza, and I followed the protocols for a Level 2 pathogen. However, as the disease began to mutate into a more lethal form, I upgraded that to a Level 4. Please make sure your people are aware that this virus, as near as I can tell, is airborne. It is very infectious, and appears to be quite lethal."
"Thank you Doctor Lam. I'll see to my teams now."
"Of course, sir."
Cyclone-class Patrol Boat...
If there was one thing that General O'Neill hated more than the Goa'uld, it was being on a boat. Sure, aircraft carriers were fine ‘cause you couldn't feel the ocean beneath the deck, but on this little ship, even the smallest of swells made him slightly nauseous. Still, if they managed to catch up to the freighters before they reached their targets, it would have been worth the slight discomfort he felt at the moment.
They had the two suspects vessels on radar now, and it was only a matter of time before they caught up to them. The Coast Guard vessel, Tybee, had moved out ahead of the three naval vessels as they would handle the principle intercept. A look-out on the bridge near him reported the vessels in sight, still several kilometers away, but the distance was closing with the ten knot overtake the small flotilla had on their targets. It was just a short wait now.
"Attention freighter vessel, attention. This is the Coast Guard cutter Tybee. Stand to, and prepare for DHS inspection. Repeat, stand to and prepare to receive teams for DHS inspection."
"What the hell does that mean, Captain?"
"We're a US flagged ship. If the Coast Guard wants to inspect us, they can."
"We're outside the territorial limit though!"
"Doesn't matter. It's a freedom of navigation inspection. They happen all the time."
"Can you out run them?"
"Are you kidding me, Mr. Smith? That cutter has at least ten knots on us. Even if we were empty, there'd be no way in Hell that we could. Plus, they're armed and all we have are maybe a few pistols aboard. Look, long after you've left this ship, I'll still have to run this route for the US Government. I'd rather still have a future after this, if you don't mind."
"Alright then. What all do they usually inspect?"
"Generally, they come up to the bridge, look over our documentation, maybe they'll check out our rescue gear, life boats and what not. I imagine they may also want to inspect our engine room, make sure we're operating a clean ship, that sort of thing."
"What about the cargo areas?"
"I've never seen them do that, but it does happen now and again. Course, that would be a search for contraband like drugs, and you're not carrying drugs, are you Mr. Smith?"
"No. No drugs."
"Good. Then you don't need to worry. Now, you and your partners need to get below deck in your cabin. Coast Guard inspections never look at the crew quarters. And technically, since you're not on our manifest, you're a stowaway."
"Right. Cabin, here I come."
"Chief, get on the radio, let our sister ship know what's going on. And let's get this tub stopped."
"Hurricane, Tybee. Target vessel is slowing. We should be in range to launch a RHIB in a few minutes."
"Affirmative Tybee. Teams from our vessels will be joining you. What about the other freighter?"
"We caught message traffic from one ship to the other, apprising them of the situation. No other details at this time."
"Johnson, this is Smith. We're about to be boarded. They might get the dummy device we have, but under no circumstances should you allow the freighter you're on to be stopped. The package must reach its destination."
"Affirmative. Luck, Smith."
Within moments, the Tybee had launched her one RHIB to motor over to the freighter, which obligingly lowered a ramp for the inflatable boat. The vessel was fully stopped now and her crew were being asked to move to the area in front of the wheel house. Everything would be shut down while the Coast Guard carried out their ‘inspection'.
The radar image showed another picture though. The other freighter wasn't stopping. If anything, it was accelerating. The Mark V was directed to tail the other vessel at a discreet distance. The gunners aboard the Hurricane kept their weapons trained on the freighter, just in case. All that they had been told was that one of the two freighters, and quite possibly both of them, were carrying terrorists aboard with at least one weapon of mass destruction bound for Pearl. It made them very sober. If they failed to do their jobs properly, Pearl was at risk of massive destruction and huge loss of life. It was them or nothing as there were no other ships in the area to handle the intercept.
The Coast Guardsmen boarded the freighter and within moments had the crew all present and accounted for on the main deck. SG-10 boarded shortly thereafter along with General O'Neill.
"Colonel, do your duty."
"Alright people, let's do this one smartly! Travis, O'Toole! Get your scanners out! Find me a target!"
The two men in question pulled out what looked like a PDA from a pouch on their web gear. From another pouch, they pulled out something that was ‘T' shaped and attached it to the tops of their PDAs. Within seconds of this attachment, small beeping noises could be heard. Both men set about scanning the containers on the deck, and within seconds, both had readings of naquadah, though it would take some minutes yet to narrow the location.
"Are you the Captain of this vessel?"
"I am. Levander Handley. And who might you be?"
"Just call me General. Is this all your crew?"
"And what about your passengers?"
"Does this tub look like we carry passengers?"
"Wrong answer Captain."
O'Neill pulled a Zat gun from his holster and shot the Captain once. The man promptly fell down, writhing in agony as waves of energy coruscated over his body."
"How about you sailor? Are there passengers aboard?"
"Deck 6. Two of them. Just don't shoot me!"
"Colonel! Deck six, two targets. Alive, please."
"On the way!"
Travis and O'Toole had managed to narrow their search down to one container, and they were in the process of examining it for traps. From below deck, they could hear the muted and far-off sounds of Zat fire. Some minutes later, the remaining members of SG-10 brought up two men, unconscious, and trussed up like Thanksgiving Day turkeys. Travis had found and disarmed several trip wires and other small traps on the container doors. He once again thanked himself for paying attention to his fellow juvenile hall prisoners so many years ago. That one experience in his past had led him to the straight and narrow by means of a military recruiter. And now, here he was, a decade later, serving his country and defending the planet! For a kid from the wrong side of South Central Los Angeles, he hadn't done bad at all. Course, the bad part was that of the friends he'd grown up with, most were dead now, and those that weren't were serving very long prison terms.
The doors to the container were open now, and O'Toole let out a low whistle, which brought O'Neill over to investigate.
"Well, this can't be good."
"A bit of an understatement, sir. This container has got to have about four dozen Mk. 82 bombs. Add those explosives to the naquadah, and hell, this ship could have taken out a good chunk of the fleet!"
"Naquadah doesn't explode by itself, and I doubt that these bombs would have been shipped with the fuses in place."
"Back here sir. There's the naquadah. Looks like it's surrounded by C4."
"Can you tell how much naquadah is in there?"
"I'd say maybe two pounds, sir."
"Damn it. That would mean the other ship also has a bomb. Alright. Rather than disarming it, just tag it with a beacon. I'll get Odyssey to beam it off the ship and into space."
O'Neill walked over to where he could use the radio to the Coast Guard vessel without being overheard. He called the ship's captain, a Lieutenant Commander Connors, by radio.
"Connors here. Go ahead, General O'Neill."
"We've got the evidence we need, Connors. You'd better request whatever back up you need. I want the crew placed under arrest. Hold them, strip them of their certifications, then let them go with a stern warning. It's a matter of national security, and I doubt they know what the real mission was."
"Right, sir. I'll get straight on it."
"Hurricane, this is O'Neill."
"Read you loud and clear sir."
"Remain on station and assist the Tybee as needed. The Coast Guard will be taking the crew of this ship into custody, and their ship will be impounded. A container load of Mk. 82 bombs has been found to have been tampered with. The entire load would have gone off if the container had been moved."
"Right sir. We'll take ‘good' care of them, sir."
"We're taking the two ‘terrorists' to another ship for immediate interrogation. Have Monsoon stand by for departure. The other freighter has a similar bomb aboard."
"Shit. Yes sir, I'll pass the word along."
"Go ahead, sir."
"Two TRUST prisoners ready for transport. Slap a Tok'ra memory recall device on ‘em before the wake up."
"With pleasure, sir!"
O'Neill and his team boarded the Monsoon and joined the SOD team already aboard. The Mark V was reporting that the second freighter had sped up and somehow was now making better than thirty knots! At full speed, and with the current sea state of level two, the Monsoon could make a top speed of thirty-five knots, giving them a five knot overtake speed, but it would still take them the better part of two hours to intercept the vessel. The Mark V, with its top speed around fifty knots, could overtake the freighter in minutes, but they didn't have the sensory equipment to search the container ship. Still, they could force it to stop, allowing the Monsoon to reach her in a much shorter time. O'Neill ordered them to do so.
The second vessel, though it tried to outrun the Mark V boat, stopped after only a few shots were fired across its bow. No Captain in their right mind would continue to try and outrun a smaller and faster boat belonging to the US Navy, especially when said boat not only had weapons aboard, but wasn't at all hesitant to use them. Two more members of the TRUST were captured without much incident, and a second bomb was taken off the ship. Yet, the problem that O'Neill still had was that one-fourth of the naquadah brick was still missing and unaccounted for. The captured members of the TRUST were not at all forthcoming, and even with the memory recall devices were they unwilling to give away that particular bit of information. The truth of it was that the member of the TRUST strike team that had disposed of the van was the one who had stolen the naquadah to begin with and had taken the remaining portion for some other plan of the TRUST. The other four members had thought they had equally divided the naquadah among the two devices, but that wasn't the truth.
Even the small portion that the remaining TRUST member had was enough to do the task required by the TRUST, and that task was soon to be named. But for now, things returned to the status quo ante.
At the SGC, the team from Fort Detrick had quickly found that the new influenza virus responded well to a particular anti-viral, but only when it was applied to a virus grown in a Petri dish. Inside the body, the anti-viral broke down too quickly to be of much use and a massive does that could be of use in fighting this particular bug also had the unfortunate side effect of causing various vital organs to shut down.
Main Conference Room,
"Any news Doctor?"
"Some, General Landry. While the virus has continued to mutate, we have had limited success in killing it with a combination of readily available anti-virals."
"That's good, right?"
"Actually, sir, the killing only occurs in Petri dishes. A dose large enough to have an effect on the virus in the human body, unfortunately also causes various organs to shut down."
"Ok, so that's not the good news. Tell me you have good news?"
"Not yet sir, but we are working on it. We need some way to accurately deliver the drugs to the virus so that they only affect the virus and not the surrounding systems."
"Actually, I'd like to set up a video conference, if we can, with Colonel Carter. If anyone can come up with something, she can, or so I'm told."
"I'll ask Odyssey to pick her up then."
"Thank you sir."
"Any other news?"
"The remaining members of SG-12 have gone critical."
"What about the two that were alive still from 15?"
"They died about ten minutes ago."
"Damn. Ok, get back to work, doctors. I'll see what I can do to get Carter here."
"Walter, get the Daedalus on the horn."
"Right sir. Channel active sir."
"Colonel Caldwell. Any word from Odyssey?"
"None as yet sir. They departed a few hours ago and probably won't be arriving at the Alpha Site for another few hours yet."
"Damn. We may not have that much time. Would you ask your resident Asgard if he knows anything about human physiology and medical treatments?"
"Hermiod? We have an official request from the SGC for you?"
"They're asking if you have any knowledge of human physiology or human medical treatments?"
"Of course not. Why would I bother to learn these things?"
"Never mind, Hermiod."
"General Landry, that's a ‘no' on the Hermiod question."
"Well, it was worth a try. We'll just have to wait until Odyssey returns then."
"Maybe we can help in other ways, sir?"
"Not unless you know someway of delivering massive doses of a specific drug into the human body without killing said human body."
"Uhm. No sir, I sure don't."
"Right, well we'll have to wait for Carter to return on the Odyssey."
An hour later, the situation on the surface with the two freighters had been fully resolved, and O'Neill and the SOD strike team had been transported up to the Daedalus for a debrief before the SOD team was to return to their otherwise regular duties. They were in the mess hall discussing the outcome of the mission when the alert klaxons blared out. O'Neill quickly contacted the bridge and was told that an Asgard battleship had just dropped out of hyperspace. O'Neill postponed the rest of the briefing until later and almost ran the full length of the ship to get up to the bridge. He was followed by the visiting team from the SOD.
"Ya know, Caldwell, a sight like that never gets old."
"I agree, sir. The way their ships move through space makes this hunk of tin look like a Model T in comparison."
"Well, maybe more like something from the forties, I'd think. Our shuttles are more like the Model T."
"Yeah, I'll buy that."
"Sir, Asgard vessel requesting communications. I believe they said Freyr, sir."
"Open up a channel."
"General O'Neill. It is good to see you again. I regret that Thor is unavailable to offer his assistance, however, he directed me to come here and offer mine. And I believe you already know Loki and Heimdall."
"Any help at all is definitely appreciated, Freyr. Caldwell, can you add the SGC to this channel?"
"Certainly. Watts, get it done."
"Right away, sirs."
"Hank, the Asgard have arrived. Freyr brought Loki and Heimdall to help us out. Better get Doc Lam to sit in on this."
"They're on their way now, Jack."
"We had to bring in a team from Fort Detrick to help us out. Carolyn felt like she was in over her head on this issue. General Bill Starkey is the head of that team."
"Don't know him."
"Neither did I before this, but the JCS swear by his abilities, so I have to accept that."
"Right, well. Good then."
"And here they are now. Doctor Lam, I believe you already know General O'Neill. General Starkey, General O'Neill is head of Homeworld Security. One of our allies, whom we contacted for assistance, has just arrived. Could you explain the situation to them?"
"Doctor Lam, why don't you take point on this, since you've been involved the longest?"
"Of course, sir. Freyr? Will it be you that I am explaining this to?"
"I will, of course, listen in on the information as it is passed to us, however, it will be Heimdall and Loki that will eventually assist you. Heimdall specializes in medicinal therapies, where Loki is more known for his work on your species."
"It is a pleasure to be working with all of you. Now then, the virus in question is similar to those found on Earth. We call it an influenza virus. I'm sending you a micrograph of the virus structure. Please note that there are several images in this transmission, as we have discovered that this virus is mutating at a regular interval. Now, while we have tested some of our more powerful anti-viral medicines in a laboratory, the dosage required can cause severe disruptions to the vital organs. What we need is a method for targeting the medications directly at the virus without affecting the surrounding systems of the body."
"Doctor Lam, are you familiar with nanite technology?"
"Only what I've read in the reports left by my predecessor. I've never worked with it directly, however."
"But the Tau'ri have been exposed to nanites in the past, yes?"
"Yes, that is essentially correct."
"Good. Then granting you this technology will not violate any treaties already in place. Since you have seen nanites in the past, we believe that we can use them to deliver minute amounts of the medication in question and have them directly target this virus you have identified."
"How long will it take to create the nanites?"
"A few hours to design the nanite, and then perhaps a day to manufacture enough to treat those among who are ill with this influenza."
"That's all well and good, and don't get me wrong, I am grateful for your assistance, but is there any chance you could also help us with a vaccine? In case other SG teams encounter this virus off-world?"
"Our understanding is that a vaccine, as you term it, is a weakened form of a virus. Allow Loki and myself to examine the protein structure of the virus and we will give you an answer shortly."
Within hours of the arrival of the Asgard vessel, a suitable nanite had been fashioned and the manufacturing process begun. The vaccine took a little longer, but by the time it was done and ready to be injected into the personnel at the SGC, the team from Fort Detrick had departed. General Starkey had managed to obtain a sample of the virus but not the cure and he delivered it to his other ‘superior' at Blue Base in California, where it would undergo experimentation as a potential biological weapon.
By week's end, the members of SG-12 were well on their way to recovery, but SG-15 would have to be re-made. The vaccine that Doctor Lam and the Asgard were able to create was essentially a weakened form of the bug, and as soon as they had enough of it, they began inoculating the personnel at the mountain. The battleship that Freyr was on had not been named as yet. O'Neill made a request and gave his reasoning for the request. Freyr honored that request by naming the vessel George S. Hammond. The next Jackson-class science vessel that came out of their shipyards would bear the name of Janet Fraiser.