Before the battle can begin, the slate must be wiped clean...or at least mostly clean...
Pentagon, Arlington, VA,
"This seat taken?"
"General O'Neill! Please, sit."
"Thanks Colonel McNulty."
"Ya know, after everything you showed me, you could call me Eli."
"I'd ask you to call me Jack, but I'm sure that would break some protocol here. I really don't like this place."
"How long have you had a star?"
"Less than a year. I can't tell you how much I want to be back with my old unit."
"I requested those documents you recommended. After reading through most of them, I'd have to say I agree with you. Say, I was wondering, if you might loan us a set of those fancy stun guns your teams use?"
"The Zats? They do more than stun."
"One shot stuns a target. Two shots kill the target. A third shot vaporizes it."
"Hmmm, that could come in useful in the field."
"It could. Believe me, there are times when I would have liked to have had something like that. Especially when I had a bunch of ragheads chasing me."
"Unfortunately. I mean, well, I did my part, but I sure as hell did not like the idea of their POW camps."
"I know that feeling. I was a ‘guest' at the Hanoi Hilton for two years."
"You said you flew choppers?"
"Yup. I would guess that people like us, those who have been in real wars, have an edge over most of the pencil pushers here."
"I can't understand why some people get promoted to higher rank while those deserving of such honors are left to rot in the lower grades. The first thing I did when I got my star was to promote my XO to Lieutenant Colonel. She's probably the youngest Lt. Colonel in the Air Force."
"But did she really deserve it?"
"Hell, she deserves a whole hell of a lot more than the rank. Air Medals, DFC's, hell, every one on my team got their fair share of medals, well, except for the two civilian members of my old team."
"You had civilians on a combat team?"
"Well, only one of them was really a civilian. The other was the former head of an army, so I'm not sure that makes him a civilian. He defected to our side so he doesn't hold any rank, but he could easily be an officer. The other one, well, the military and him just don't mix. You should seen the guy when I first met him. Calling him a geek or a dweeb would have been too nice. But he turned out to be one hell of a civilian soldier. Anyone that saves my life at the risk of his own earns really high marks in my book."
"Would that be the Doctor Daniel Jackson I've read so much about?"
"That's the one."
"I had no idea he was a civilian. Though it does make sense now. With half the stunts he pulled, he would've wound up at Leavenworth."
"Excuse me, General O'Neill?"
"Major Bryant. What can I do for you?"
"Sir, you're presence is requested by the JCS."
"Right. Well, nice talking to you Eli. Lead the way, Major."
"There goes a man I don't envy one bit, but I would love a chance to trade shoes with him for a day or two."
"Status of the project?"
"We've managed to stabilize the mutation factor with the addition of cancer gene sequences. As it stands now, the virus has an infection rate of ninety-two percent, with an effective kill rate of one hundred percent. Anyone it infects will be dead within hours. In our controlled lab tests, the infected animals died with minutes, but their systems aren't as complex as ours."
"What about the burn rate?"
"Using the US as an example, it would burn through the country in a matter of weeks, before dying off from a lack of hosts. The fact that any doctors examining it will see just a standard influenza virus works for us."
"How soon will it be ready for a larger scale test?"
"Is there a target in mind?"
"My superiors are inquiring about the possibility of using it in the Middle East."
"If we can maintain our current schedule, we can have it ready for aerosol deployment by late May."
"Excellent! I'll pass along the good news, Doctor."
"Report please, General Starkey."
"We will have an aerosol deployable bio-weapon by lay May. At present the infection rate is approximately ninety-two percent, with a mortality rate of one hundred percent. It will burn through a target population quickly, and then die off from a lack of viable hosts."
"So, if it were released today in Tehran, what sort of spread could we expect?"
"Keep in mind, sirs, that the desert is a harsh environment. The virus won't remain viable for long in that kind of heat, but I'm told we can expect it to remain viable for as long as two hours in the open air. Once it begins spreading, the entire Middle East could be under its influence within a matter of a few weeks. The response by the major world powers will be to quarantine that area, until the virus has burned through the population. Then we can move in and claim those oil reserves for ourselves."
"Provided of course, that the vaccine is available by then."
"Of course, sirs."
"You have something to tell us, General?"
"The project is complete, sirs. The vaccine is ready. The virus has been stabilized at ninety-nine percent infection and one hundred percent mortality. The science staff tells me that perhaps as much as one percent of the population will have a natural immunity to the virus, but that it is impossible to tell who will be immune before the virus is released. Once it is released, I'd like permission to round up those who are immune so we can study them and make our weapon all that much more effective."
"Excellent work, General. What about production?"
"Vaccine production proceeds apace. At the moment, we have several thousand doses ready to go, though by the end of August we should have more than enough to inoculate all of the personnel in this venture. Virus production is complete, and we now have enough for simultaneous releases in the various capital cities of the Middle East."
"Good. We will send a team to collect the deployment packages on the fourteenth of the month. After that, I suggest you take the vaccine, General."
Project BLUE facility,
The surface facility looked just like a subdivision in any large city in the US, except that it was literally in the middle of nowhere. The only thing that really gave it away was the high fence with barbed wire along the top, the warnings about trespassing onto a secure military facility, and the myriad of pipes running into the ground. For Private Charles Campion, the posting had come along with very nice base housing. All he had to do was act as a security guard for the main gate. Trained as an MP, this posed no problem, and he didn't ask questions of what went on below him, but he knew. There were too many scientists, too many doctors, that worked underground.
Campion was at his post when the alarms started to go off. He looked at the monitor that showed him the lower levels and a man's face appeared in it.
"Containment breach! We've had a containment breach! Seal the gates, Campion! The controls down here have failed! You have to seal the Gates before anyone gets out! Campion! Seal the gates, Campion!"
But Charlie Campion's thoughts weren't on any damn gate. He had to get his family and get away from here as fast as he could. He could see them on the monitors, dropping like flies in a pesticide storm. Whatever it was they were working on down there was killing them fast! He had to get out of there!
"Sally! Get the baby! We have to leave! We have to go, now! Come on! We have to go!"
"Charlie! You're scaring the baby! What's going on?"
"Never mind that! We have to leave! We have to leave now!"
Charles Campion had driven as fast as he dared, but it was no use. He hadn't made it out of the facility in time. He was dying and he knew it. The road was dark and it frightened him. Up ahead. Lights. Wherever he was, he knew he had to stop and get help for himself and for his wife and the baby. It was a gasoline station, and he tried to pull in at the pumps, but he lost control at the last moment, and his car swerved as he hit the pumps. Fortunately, a man inside who'd seen his approach had managed to get to the cut-off switch just in time, thus preventing a massive explosion.
"General, this just came in from the Pentagon."
"What's it say?"
"I've read it a few times, sir, but I'm still having trouble believing it."
"Spit it out, Walter."
"The CDC is reporting what looks like a bio-weapon attack in East Texas. Anthrax."
"What does the Pentagon think we need to do?"
"They want us to seal the mountain and to be prepared to implement the ‘Genesis' plan."
"The one where we evacuate personnel to the Alpha Site?"
"That's the one, sir."
"How many teams on leave?"
"Six teams on-world but outside of the mountain today."
"Damn. Ok, Recall everyone. Immediate families as well. Recall all off-world teams and have them do the same for their immediate families. Start going through the Genesis lists and have people placed on stand-by. Get Medical to set up decontamination stations at all entrances to the mountain."
"General O'Neill! Sir, this just came in from the JCS! Looks like someone set-off a bio weapon in East Texas? Why east Texas?"
"I don't know. You tell me Major."
"Accident? Whoever was carrying the device set it off accidentally? The nearest major city to the incident site is either New Orleans or Houston. The terrorist could have been headed to either place. Certainly it makes more sense than where it was released."
"Unless the city where it was released was the target. They could have chosen a small town where it would go unnoticed for a lot longer than in a larger city. Odds are, the area hospital would have been hard pressed to figure out what was wrong with the locals. Any indicators from the SGC?"
"The Joint Chiefs have recommended quarantines for all secure facilities until the crisis is past. I would imagine they'll be going into lockdown soon."
"Right. Where are the carriers?"
"Daedalus departed for Atlantis yesterday, carrying another load of supplies and two of those Navy craft you recommended. Daedalus is scheduled to deliver a total of eight of those boats over the next several months. A base completely surrounded by ocean and we don't have any boats there? A bit of an oversight."
"Well, it's been corrected now. I fly planes, Major, not drive boats. Can't expect an Air Force officer to remember the Navy, now can we?"
"I guess not, sir. Continuing with the list, sir. Odyssey is conducting mining operations in the Belt, along with those two freighters that Area 51 managed to assemble on short notice. Ugly looking things those are."
"Ugly or not, Major, as long as they serve their purpose. And for the moment, that purpose is mining and refining the raw ores we so desperately need for construction. By obtaining those metals on our own, rather than buying them off the market, we save a lot of money on construction costs, and that money can be used for other things."
"Very true, sir. The Russians have fully outfitted Korolev, and at the moment, it is headed to the Alpha Site on a supply run."
"The Russians are taking supplies to our off-world base? How did that happen?"
"General Landry asked them to. In exchange for carrying supplies there, they will leave their first operational squadrons of F-302s there for advanced training with our own squadrons."
"Oh well, a little training can be a good thing. Next?"
"Apollo is undergoing final trials and is expected to be fully operational by the end of the month. Area 51 reports that they've laid out the hull structure for Agamemnon, but that ship won't be ready for some months yet. The report goes on to state that since the SGC was successful in establishing off-world bases at Erebus and Tartarus, particularly since Erebus has shipyards, that they will be able to build a few new classes of vessels shortly. First on the list is a missile cruiser, with a pure battleship and pure carrier next on the to-do list."
"Pure? What do they mean by ‘Pure'?"
"According to the project head, a ship designed solely as a carrier, with limited defensive armament, and a ship designed to fight off other ships with heavy armament. We have the plans that SG-20 recovered from Tollana when they went by Tel'tac last year for the ion cannons. R&D feels that combining the ion cannons with the standard Goa'uld heavy plasma cannons should make for a formidable ship. Adding in the big rail guns will make any remaining Goa'uld think twice before taking us on."
"It's not the Goa'uld I'm worried about anymore. It's the Ori."
"Yes well, this should work against them too."
"Yes sir. One more thing, sir. You have a meeting at 1400 with the President."
"Right. Make the arrangements for transport."
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,
The White House,
It never failed to amaze Jack that the President of the United States could make him feel like a rookie enlisted man. He trusted this President, but this President had also done a lot to shake up the SGC. First he'd replaced Hammond with Doctor Weir, then he replaced Weir with him, then he got bumped up to the Pentagon and Hank Landry took his place at the SGC. And all of that in so short a time. Now the SGC was overseen by an international advisory committee made up of not only the US, but also the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council. Jack felt like a relative newcomer in this room. There were others here, others who definitely outranked him. But when one looked exclusively at the ranks in the room, it was Henry Hayes, who'd retired from the USAF as a Captain that was the lowest rank. Still Hayes was now Commander-in-Chief, at the top of the military rank organization, and Jack, as a lowly Brigadier General, was the lowest ranking officer in the room.
"Jack, how're things with Homeworld Security?"
"Coming along quite nicely, Mr. President. It's more difficult to get funding from Congress these days, but the IOA has managed to provide the funds to build two more BC-304s. Apollo should be ready for duty by the end of the month, while construction on Agamemnon is just getting underway. The good news is that the off-world site at Erebus has been activated, and a contingent from Area 51 and the SGC has been shipped there to begun full-scale production on our vessels. I think, once it's fully up and running, that we will be able to build our ships faster and more efficiently."
"That's great news, Jack! What about Tartarus?"
"I have General Hammond's report with me. The small contingent of soldiers he took with him has grown to include a full squadron of F-302s. He reports that they found a couple of sub-surface hangar facilities with several hundred Death Gliders, and a few dozen Al'kesh. As soon as he's certain that there are no traps in them, we'll refit them to SGC standards. Because Anubis brought with him the full might of his forces when he attacked, there were next to nothing in terms of personnel still at Tartarus. Hammond and the teams assigned to him took the base easily. Apparently, it's one hell of a big base. He said that his teams are still exploring the facility and that so far they have mapped about two dozen levels, with more yet to be mapped out. They have found several armories though, and a portion of the weapons there have been shipped to the SGC for distribution to the teams."
"Sounds like you have matters well in hand. But that's not the real reason I asked you to in for today."
"After consulting with the Joint Chiefs, I feel it's high time you were recognized for all of your tireless efforts in keeping Earth safe. So, just a short while ago, I authorized two things. First, Homeworld Security is to become a Cabinet level position. This means, that should the worst happen, you are now in the line of succession for the Presidency. Number sixteen I believe. Also, I have approved your promotion to Major General. I've decided that George Hammond is doing a good job at Tartarus and that he should remain there as military governor of that new colony. I've also decided to post General Vidrine to Erebus as the military governor there. Major Paul Davis will be getting a promotion to Colonel, and he will be assigned to, uhm P3X-403, and the naquadah mining operation you have there."
"Me? A Major General?"
"I notice you didn't question the other actions I've just taken."
"They're all good men and very deserving of the new roles and ranks, Mr. President. But why me?"
"Because for the last ten years or so, you've done more to save this planet than anyone else in this room. Accept it, Jack. You're a true hero."
"Thank you, Mr. President."
"I'm going to assume that you've heard about this so-called terrorist incident out in East Texas?"
"I got briefed on it a few hours ago."
"It wasn't a terrorist that did it. Apparently, there was a secret military facility in California that was experimenting with bio-warfare agents and one of those bugs got out."
"What I have been told is that a seal in a lab failed and the bug got into the air vents. An Army Private by name of Charles Campion managed to run away from his post, with his wife and kid, but he'd already gotten a full dose. It acts like the flu or so I'm told. But it's one hundred percent deadly effective. The other Cabinet members are telling me that within a few days, there will be disease outbreaks across the planet. They're suggesting that as soon as law and order breaks down, that I will have to implement martial law across the US and quarantine our country from the world."
"I know that General Landry has already begun a limited call-up of Genesis personnel. I want you to direct him to go to a full call up. Genesis personnel will be sent to the SGC first to make sure none are contaminated with this virus. I need you to draw up lists of personnel for the other sites we will now have. I especially want all of our shipbuilding crews moved off world as soon as possible. And Jack? I want you off-world as soon as possible. If this virus outbreak is as bad as my advisors tell me, then we need someone in the line of succession somewhere safe."
"That'll be all Jack."
Beltway, Washington, D.C.,
En-route to the Pentagon...
"Major Bryant, as soon as we get back to the Pentagon, I'm going to need to see Colonel Eli McNulty."
"The Special Operations chief?"
"That would be the one."
"I'll make the call now, sir."
"Good. While you do that, I'm going to call Hank on the secure line."
"Hank, it's Jack."
"Hey Jack! How're things at Fort Fumble?"
"Worse than you could ever imagine. I've just come from the White House. President Hayes wants to initiate a full call-up of all Genesis personnel."
"I'm already doing a limited call up of the more essential personnel. Do I send them off to the Alpha Site immediately?"
"No. Put them in quarantine until we're sure they're not carrying what was released in East Texas."
"So it was a terrorist incident?"
"Nope. But you'll get a full briefing by me shortly. Recall all SG teams. Inform Atlantis that they might be cut off from Earth for awhile."
"I'll pass that along, Jack. You'll get me that briefing soon?"
"As soon as I get back to the office, and a secured land line."
Pentagon, Arlington, VA,
After the incidents in January, O'Neill had not expected to be back in this particular office so soon. He wondered if he was interrupting something as he noticed a tall blonde in the office with Col. McNulty.
"General O'Neill. What brings you to SOD?"
"I need a favor, Eli."
"Oh! Where are my manners! Sonny, this is General Jack O'Neill. Jack, Samantha Liston of the Counsel's office."
"Likewise. So, General, what are you in charge of here at the Pentagon?"
"You mean, Home LAND Security, right?"
"No, Home WORLD Security. It's a new cabinet level posting. President Hayes informed me an hour or so ago that I've been added to the line of Presidential Succession. At number sixteen."
"I see. So what do you do? Watch radar screens for that Deep-Space Telemetry project at out Cheyenne?"
"Something like that."
"You know, General, it's not polite to lie to someone who has the SecDef's ear."
"True. But it's really stupid to tick off someone that's on a first name basis with the President."
"So, Jack, what can SOD do for you today?"
"Nothing. I'm here to brief you in on Project Genesis."
"You've no doubt heard about the ‘Anthrax' outbreak in East Texas?"
"The supposed terrorism incident? I got my briefing earlier."
"It's not terrorism. It was an accidental release of a bio-warfare agent by a US laboratory."
"Where'd you get that info, General?"
"Direct from the President, Ms. Liston. The bug in question has an infection rate of ninety-nine percent. Everyone who gets the bug will die from it. Until this crisis is past, I will be moving up to the Odyssey. I'd like you to join me up there, Eli. You, Sgt. Pierce, JT, and as many teams as you can recall in the next few hours."
"Is the outbreak that serious?"
"The President is considering a national quarantine and martial law, so yeah, I'd say it was just that serious."
"Damn. What's Genesis?"
"It's a project plan that dates back to the opening of the SGC. In the event of a world wide catastrophe, certain personnel will be evacuated to a secure facility until either the danger has passed or..."
"Or what, General?"
"Or until Earth has been rendered safe again. The facility in question is the Alpha Site, planet designation P4X-650. The conditions are somewhat spare, but as soon as we can determine that none of the personnel are infected, they will be moved to other secured off-world sites, either Tartarus or Erebus, both of which have been declared off-world colonies complete with Military Governors. General Hammond has command of Tartarus, and General Vidrine has command of Erebus."
"What about the ‘allies'?"
"They have been notified, and they will be sending Genesis teams to the SGC starting this evening. The SGC will going into lockdown as of midnight. I'd like your people as extra security for the various off-world locations and for Atlantis."
Samantha Liston had heard bases described in a lot of ways during her tenure at the Pentagon, but never as off-world facilities complete with planetary designations. She was beginning to wonder if this whole conversation wasn't some big gag that Eli was running on her.
"General O'Neill, if that's who you really are, since when does the US Military have facilities located on other planets?"
"Not the Military as a whole, Ms. Liston. The bases are run through the Air Force. If you have questions, I suggest you bring them up with General Jumper."
"I think I'll do that right now. If you'll excuse me, gentlemen."
"Are you sure you should have told her any of that, Jack?"
"After you mentioned her the last time, Eli, I checked her out. Her clearance came through weeks ago. I imagine General Jumper will have a few choice words for her. Anyway, get together with your people, and pick out who you want for Genesis. Include immediate families as well."
"Do you think any of your people will want to be safe while their families are in danger? I just wish we had the room to include not-so-immediate families as well. For too long, we've kept all the eggs in one basket. Time to spread them out some."
"Heinlein, if he were still alive, would agree with you."
"I believe he would. So you're familiar with his works?"
"Starship Troopers is a favorite of mine. I use it sometimes to show why some strategies work, even if they sound stupid."
"He wasn't bad for a Swabbie."
"He sure wasn't. I'll get with you in the next couple days on my suggestions."
"Sounds good. Use this number. It'll be routed directly to Odyssey."
"Right. Using a phone to call a space ship. Of course."
O'Neill had moved up to the Odyssey just a few hours after he'd spoken with Col. McNulty. He'd brought his aide along, if only for the simple reason that the man was a former Special Forces soldier who'd been invalided out of the SF owing to an injury from combat. The fact that he had no family left in the US only served to further O'Neill's reasoning in asking the man to join him. Below them, on the surface of the planet, the disease was burning its way across states and countries. Outbreaks had been reported in all corners of the globe now, and the death toll was mounting quickly. President Hayes had authorized on the 19th the full activation of the cadets at the various military academies, plus the students at the Coast Guard Academy, the Merchant Marine Academy, and Texas A&M. The mostly untested students had been told to report to various quads at their respective campuses, in full combat gear, or what passed for combat gear at the military academies. Daedalus, Odyssey, and Apollo were pressed into transport duties, retrieving the students via the on-board Asgard transporters, and delivering them to the SGC, where they were placed into temporary quarantine before being shipped off first to the Alpha Site for the briefing of a lifetime, before their eventual departure for one of the other military colonies.
Genesis was in full swing now, and O'Neill was feeling the weight of impending responsibility barreling towards him like an out of control cargo plane. The President was close to death, and most of the Cabinet were in the same place, or so O'Neill was informed by the small squad of Secret Service agents that had demanded to join him late yesterday. Their sworn duty was to protect him, as it looked like being sixteenth on the list of succession would mean nothing in the coming days. It was a hard thing to ask of O'Neill, who had saved Earth on many occasions, to stand by and watch as a silent but effective killer swept through the population. The SGC was down to a skeleton crew now, with all but three of the teams now at the Alpha Site or aboard one of the four ships now in the system; Daedalus, Odyssey, Korolev, and Apollo.
By the 24th, law and order had broken down in most of the world. Those who weren't yet sick were rounding up those who were, killing them and burning the bodies. Extreme fringe radio preachers, who'd long said the ‘end was nigh' pointed to the global pandemic as proof that God was saving the world for the meek. That the plague was God's punishment for the decadence of mankind. That those who were sick, if they were able, they should pray to God for forgiveness and give their worldly possessions to the Church of their choice, but preferably the Church of whatever radio preacher they happened to be listening to.
The virus was a silent and effective killer. Chaos reigned as ninety-percent of those initially infected began to die. Police officers, fire fighters, doctors and nurses; the ones exposed repeatedly to the virus on an hourly basis were among the first to succumb to the plague, leaving staffs woefully undermanned or non-existent. Statistically speaking, the police department of New York City would have gone from forty thousand officers of all grades and ranks, to a mere four hundred, while the city itself would have gone from a population of eight and a half million, to eighty-five thousand. Imagine it. Four hundred police officers trying to keep at least eighty-five thousand people calm and civil? Not a chance in Hell.
What the virus didn't kill, the few who remained would. The riots began in earnest on the 25th, with fires breaking out in cities across the globe. Cities burned and there weren't enough people left alive to care. Those that were still alive, but dying nonetheless from the plague, left their homes to join their counterparts on the streets. Windows were broken out and mass looting occurred. Those who had not yet fallen ill were the same who were immune to the effects of the virus, for whatever reason. Those who were immune could safely be fitted into one of two categories; basically good and basically evil. Though it might have been an accidental release of a plague that had befallen mankind, the acts behind the scenes were as old as the universe itself.
Though the personnel of the SGC firmly believed that the Ancients were the oldest of the five member Alliance that once ruled over the universe, indeed there was some evidence of an even older race. Not the Ascended, for they were relative latecomers to the ranks of the Ancients, but rather a race for which every species in the Universe could readily recognize as evil incarnate. Every planet in the universe, life bearing or otherwise, had legends of the first times, where great giants and monsters roamed at will. The very ancient battle of good versus evil.
Evil had spawned the Goa'uld parasite that took over unsuspecting Ancients and humans alike and gave rise to the great Goa'uld Hegemony of old. Good had spawned countless humanoid type races in an effort to match the Goa'uld. Evil had removed the right of free will from the Goa'uld, and the snake-like parasites were intent on removing that right from everyone else. Good had made sure that their chosen races had free will, so that they could determine for themselves whether or not they would fight the forces of Evil.
On Earth, Good and Evil became God and the Devil. Elsewhere, though the names were different, the premise was the same. When the Ancients evolved to a higher state of consciousness, they became aware of this ages old battle. And they chose not to interfere. Such was the gift of free will. In later generations, when others Ascended to join the ranks of the Ancients before them, the choice of non-interference wasn't so much made as instilled in the younger Ascendants. A few violated this ‘rule', and were punished severely for it, made to adopt human form and live new lifetimes trapped and alone on worlds devoid of humanoid life.
A million years in the past a bargain was struck, which would determine how the universe would spend the rest of time. Once every ten thousand years, a trial would befall a human inhabited world in the universe. The outcome of the trial would determine the fate of the universe for the next ten thousand years until the next trial occurred. Ten thousand years ago, the trial came to a world long forgotten by the annals of history. Long forgotten, because it lost, and because it lost, the Goa'uld rose to power and for ten thousand years, they terrorized the universe.
This time, it is Earth's turn to face the trial. The outcome is yet unknown.
On the field south of the main runway that served the Alpha Site there were four vessels; Daedalus, Odyssey, Apollo, and Korolev. The last of the survivors were among them, including the new US President. General Jack O'Neill had not wanted the Presidency. He was a man of action, yes, a leader even. But leader of a country? Hardly. Of course, said leader was now standing on another planet, hundreds of light years away from Earth, while the remaining inhabitants of Earth died cruel deaths, the result of the plague which befell mankind on the 17th of June.
His Secret Service detail were in something akin to awe at just being on another planet. And thought it did resemble Earth in many respects, the three moons over head broken the illusion that they were still on Earth. Though they might otherwise have been nervous, because everyone around them carried a weapon of some sort, they also knew that many of those here were indeed military, and military personnel of the United States all swore an oath to defend their Commander-in-Chief. There had been Presidents in the past who had been directors of intelligence agencies, just like many former military leaders had risen to become President. But there had never been a man in that highest of office who had been a member of the Special Operations Forces. A man who could kill just as easily barehanded as he could with a weapon. It made the agents of the Detail a little more relaxed in their current state, but not by much.
"General O'Neill! Welcome to P4X-650! The last of the survivors are being processed for shipment off-world. And when you have a moment or two, Doctor Lam would like a word with you."
"Thank you Colonel Pierce. Would you see to it that my Detail gets quarters close to mine? They'll have a fit otherwise. And make sure they get kitted out in full gear. Gentlemen, you'll be losing the suits from here on out."
"Of course, Mr. President."
"President? General, is there something you haven't mentioned yet?"
"President Hayes, in all his wisdom, had the Cabinet post of Homeworld Security added to the line of succession. I was sixteenth in line and felt quite comfortable knowing that there were at least fifteen people ahead of me more qualified to do the job. Wouldn't you know it, they're all dead and I'm not."
"Of course sir. With your permission, sir, I'll make a general announcement here and have it passed along to the other colonies."
"Fine. Once you're done with that, tell the other colonies to send a representative here for an emergency conference. We'll need to coordinate our efforts. On Earth, the virus may be burning itself out, but there will be survivors, and we'll need to help them out. And while a worse thing can't possibly have happened there, I do know that there are other things out here in space that will be cheering our demise. As soon as you're able, I want SG teams to start explorations again."
"Of course, General. Sorry. I meant, Mr. President."
"General will be fine. The whole ‘President' idea is still a little too new for me."
O'Neill had appropriated, or rather his Detail had done the deed, an office from which to run his administration. Though he didn't really have an administration yet, but there were several key positions he would need to fill in a big hurry. The first visitor to his new office was Doctor Carolyn Lam, the SGC's Chief Medical Officer.
"General O'Neill. Congratulations on your ‘promotion' sir."
"I definitely don't want it, Dr. Lam. But when one is called upon to serve, one can do nothing but serve to the best of his or her ability, wouldn't you agree?"
"So what can I do for you, Doctor?"
"Moments before we left, the last items from cold storage that were transported aboard were the samples of the Wildfire influenza that I had wanted to work on. But of course, with everything that's happened of late, both on world and off, I hadn't gotten around to examining the samples. I did, just this morning. And found something I did not expect. So I looked over the official information that was provided to me by the Centers for Disease Control, and what I discovered was even more unexpected."
"What are you going on about, Doctor?"
"After I looked over the micrographs that the CDC sent to us, I noticed a similarity between the influenza virus that's running rampant on Earth, and the Wildfire virus that affected the SGC in January. So I went to look at our own samples, just to be sure. There weren't any samples, sir. I mean, the vials were labeled correctly, but the contents were just saline solutions. No virus at all. I check all the samples and the same thing came back; saline solution."
"Someone stole the Wildfire virus from the SGC? And we didn't notice it, why?"
"Other than myself, only General Starkey, of USAMRIID, had access to the vials, sir. I doubt he would have taken them, but I sure did not take them."
"Starkey? General William Starkey?"
"He's not with USAMRIID. He runs, or rather he ran, a bio-warfare lab in southern California."
"Oh my God."
"The virus that's burning through the population back home came from his labs. An ‘accidental' release, or so he claimed."
"Accidental or not sir, the virus in question is a version of the Wildfire virus. It's been genetically modified to enhance lethality and ease of transmission."
"Shit. What about the cure you and your staff developed?"
"It won't work on this version of the virus, sir. While we won't have to start from scratch, as it were, it will still take some time to adapt the vaccine to the new strain."
"Get on it. Aside from your regular duties, you're top priority as my new Surgeon General is the creation of this vaccine."
"Surgeon General? Me?"
"Yeah. You. Now, get to work, Doctor."
Just a few minutes after Doctor Lam left the office, Colonel Chekhov appeared.
"Colonel. What can I do for you?"
"Actually, sir, I was advised by the Korolev just a short time after they landed, that as I was also the Russian Minister of Homeworld Security, and that as I am apparently the only surviving Minister, that I have also become the President of Russia."
"So tell me, Mr. President, is it everything you ever wished for?"
"No. I had no desire whatsoever to become President."
"I didn't either. You and I, we're military men. We both answered a call by our countries to serve. Things were simpler for some, during the Cold War. You and I were enemies. Now, that war is over, and you and I can be friends. Can't we?"
"We must be. There is simply no other choice. The plague that has ravaged your country has left mine in shambles. And our two countries were perhaps among the more advanced in the world. The third world nations, they did not stand a chance against this virus."
"True. So what do we do about it?"
"First, we drink. Vodka. To their memory. Then we agree to work together to rebuild."
"Sounds like a plan to me. How many Russians did you manage to save with Korolev?"
"Not as many as you picked up with your three vessels, O'Neill."
"Do you know if anyone else from the Gate Alliance Treaty nations survived?"
"I was at an official function when Korolev informed me of the news. As a courtesy, I offered sanctuary to the other ambassadors who were also at that function. Woolsey, however, was not there. I would imagine he has died by now."
"Such a shame. Perhaps you would do me a favor, Chekhov?"
"I can only try, O'Neill."
"Well, I certainly don't want the job of President of the United States, and you've said as much for Russia, but we're stuck with the jobs we don't want. Rather than have the IOA jump all over us for our failures to prevent this from happening to Earth, perhaps we should disband the treaty."
"When we go back to Earth, it will be to rebuild. We must all pool our resources together in order to accomplish this. We must agree to set aside our differences in order to accomplish this. Now more than ever, we need the resources of off-world trade. Especially if we are to rebuild to what we once were. The need for the Oversight Committee is past. You and I, and the other three ambassadors, are what's left of the ‘official authority' for our governments. Maybe this time, we can do things differently?"
"You are most wise, O'Neill. While the others may not agree, I will pledge as of this moment, the remaining resources of the Russian government to aid yours in the rebuilding of our world."
Jack O'Neill was asleep, though one glance at him and one would have been unaware of this fact. His arms thrashed about and he mumbled in his sleep. If one were able to see into his tortured mind, one would see him reliving a past mission, one in Iraq, where he had been captured. But as his dream self was forced to march into a POW camp in the deep desert, the scenery about him changed from barren landscape to rich farmland. He could smell the rich, damp soil beneath his feet and he wondered for a moment, whether his dream self was hallucinating. ‘Can I hallucinate while I'm asleep?' his dream mind asked of itself. He cocked his head to one side and could hear the faint strumming of a guitar. He automatically reached for a weapon, any weapon, and was rewarded with the feel of his pistol in his hand. He set off in the direction of the music, wondering what sort of nightmare reality this was.
It took his dream mind a few moments to realize that he was in a corn field. As he walked through the rows of corn stalks, he could hear the music gradually growing louder, and now he could begin to hear a woman's voice. At last, he broke through the rows of corn only to find himself standing before a simple white painted house, with a wide porch and a rocking chair upon which sat a very grizzled looking old black woman. He approached with caution, not for the first time thinking that this was some sort of twisted dream and that he was in the hands of either the Iraqis or the Goa'uld.
"Excuse me, but how do you know my name? Who are you?"
"You can put the gun down Jack, I'm not gonna hurt you. My name is Abigail Freemantle, but folks round these parts call me Mother Abigail. I'm a hundred and six years old and I still make my own bread. You come see me Jack. You and all your friends."
"What is this place?"
"This here is the Home Place. Hemingford Home, Nebraska. There are dark times ahead, Jack. The world needs you. There is much to do. You come see me, come see me soon!"
O'Neill awoke with a jolt. For sure, he wouldn't be getting back to sleep, so instead he went into his office for some coffee. The dream, if one could call it that, had disturbed him on a level he hadn't felt since he first returned from Iraq.
Elsewhere in the Alpha Complex, Teal'c was in a deep state of Kel'no'reem. It was the first night in many, since they had left Earth that he had reached such a deep meditative state. He could feel the relaxation and eventually sleep, take him to another level, to another place.
In his time under Apophis, Teal'c had seen many farming worlds, where crops grew like these, yet he was also reasonably certain he had never been to this particular planet before. In the distance, there was a form of music wafting through the night air. Teal'c had no weapons at hand, but he looked down to find himself dressed in the hated armor of a dead false god. After a short distance through the rows of this alien crop, he came into a clearing, where he saw a house and an old black woman sitting in a chair and playing what he believed to be a guitar. The home had much of the same architecture that many Earth homes exhibited, yet he was still fairly certain that he was not on Earth. Whatever his subconscious mind was attempting to reveal to him, it was certainly doing so in a most unusual and unexpected fashion.
"Who are you? What is this place?"
"All are welcome here! I'm Mother Abigail. Welcome to Hemingford Home, Nebraska, Tilk. That's a strange name your parents gave you there. I wonder what it means?"
"Nebraska is a state on the Homeworld of the Tau'ri. Answer my question, old woman! Where am I?"
"You have the mark of the devil on you Tilk, yet I can see that you are a good man. Take care to come as quick as you can. Great work is ahead for all of God's children!"
Teal'c opened his eyes with a suddenness that would have surprised anyone looking at him. Though he looked around him, searching for the danger that wasn't there, he knew that something terrible was approaching. But he couldn't see what it was.
Daniel Jackson was in a calm place, one he would be familiar with, if he were allowed to remember it. It was an open meadow filled with flowers that didn't trigger his allergies, and singing birds that lent a pleasant song to the atmosphere. He was dressed in his standard blue BDUs, and carrying a notebook and a pencil, but nothing else of what he usually carried when off-world. He looked around, trying to figure out where he was when he heard a soft voice behind him.
"Husband of my mother. My eyes are filled with great joy at seeing you once again."
"Shifu! Where am I? What am I doing here?"
"The Others have allowed me to contact you in the one place where you felt the most calm when last you were here."
"I felt the most calm here? I don't remember it."
"The memories of your time here have been trapped by the Others. In due time, those memories will be set free."
"Why am I here?"
"There are difficult challenges ahead for the Chosen of the Ancients. The Time of Trials is at hand."
"Time of Trials?"
"Once in ten thousand years, comes the Time of Trials, when the future direction of the universe is decided."
"Who won the last time?"
"The Champion of Good lost, and the Goa'uld spread unchecked throughout the universe."
"Ok. That's bad."
"The Time of Trials is at hand."
"Who will be the Champion of Good?"
"Four Tau'ri have been chosen."
"Are they here? Who are they?"
"You must go to Her. She will tell you what you need to know. She is the oldest person left alive on Earth. She was Oma's first apprentice, once."
"What's her name? How will I know her?"
"The others will lead you to her. But you alone will already know her name."
Daniel's eyes opened wide in fear and it took him a moment to realize that he was in his quarters on the Apollo. He wondered, for an instant, whether the dream had been just that, a dream, until he heard Shifu's voice echo through his quarters. ‘The Time of Trials is at hand.'
Alpha Site Complex,
A few days later...
President O'Neill walked in to the infirmary, two of his Secret Service detail guards in tow. He spotted Doctor Lam easily and walked right into her office and sat down. The lines from lack of sleep clearly etched onto his face. In fact, as he had walked from his quarters to the infirmary, he had seen those same lines etched on countless faces.
"Sir. Let me guess. You want something to help you sleep?"
"That about covers it. Been a lot of that?"
"Seems like half the base has been in here this morning, all looking for sleep aids. What did you dream about? The old black woman or the man whose eyes glow?"
"The old lady. What's this about glowing eyes?"
"The personnel that have come in here today all have either dreamt of an old black woman, like I did, or a man whose eyes glow. A man, as described by Colonel Carter, that seemed to exhale evil with every breath."
"Oh. Damn glad I dreamt about the old black woman then. What do you think the dreams mean, Doctor?"
"I can't say for certain, sir, but the message seems to be the same. Either we're being asked to go to Nebraska or to Las Vegas. But frankly sir, if the Las Vegas destination has anything to do with glowing eyes, I'll pick Nebraska any day."
"On that we agree, Doctor. Please let me know if the dreams continue, even with the pills. I'm going to meet with the SG-1 to see what they think. How goes the new vaccine?"
"Progress is being made sir. We've identified how the virus was manipulated. Now we're working on the changes to the nanites to deliver a newer vaccine. We should be ready to begin immunizing the personnel off-world in a week or so."
"Very good, Doctor. Keep me informed."
Office of the President,
Alpha Site Complex...
The military governors, appointed by President Henry Hayes in the months before the flu began to spread, had arrived a little more than two hours ago via Stargate. They were waiting in a conference room for the new President to arrive. Jack O'Neill walked in a few minutes later with his Detail entourage taking up positions inside the room and at the entrance to the room.
There were two Generals in the room and one Colonel. All three had been appointed governors of very important planets. General Vidrine had claim over Erebus and the shipyards there. General Hammond commanded Tartarus, and the infantry armor production. Colonel Davis led the mining contingent on P3X-403, a world claimed by the Unas.
"General. General. Colonel. Ok, that's the first thing that needs to be changed. Paul, I'm promoting you to General. I know it's sudden, but I don't think we really have the luxury to go through a promotions board anymore. But, while it is within my authority to make you a General, I'd like some input from you two before I do so. What do you think, sirs?"
"Mr. President, it's us who should be calling you ‘sir', sir."
"General Hammond, more than anything else right now, I'd rather be back leading SG-1, than being made President. So, how about we cut the ‘Sir' crap, at least in here, and go with first names?"
"Works for me, Jack."
"Thanks, Steven. So, what do you think about promoting Paul?"
"President Hayes appointed him as military governor of the mining station on 403. As our two facilities are run by flag rank officers, I think it's only fair that Paul gets his own star."
"It's settled then. We'll find you some stars someplace, Paul. But for the moment, let's get on to the more pressing things. What's your status, Paul?"
"With the influx of personnel, my primary concern has been for the setup of shelters to house them. But, we did manage to do that in record time. The Unas on the planet have been very accommodating to our measures to mine more. We fully recognize that their burial ground is sacred to them, and we are in the process of putting in new shafts so as not to disturb their burial places. I'm anticipating being back at full production within a couple of weeks. We did manage to send out one full load of refined naquadah to Erebus and Tartarus before I left to come here. I'm afraid that until the mining operations can re-commence, that these two loads will be it."
"Ok. So, note to self for the moment. No more naquadah for at least two weeks, is that right, Paul?"
"We should be back in production within two weeks, so yes, that is correct."
"Ok. Steven, how about you go next?"
"Right. Well, after we cleaned up what was left of the prisoner's camp on Erebus, we had some temporary shelters brought in to house the now freed prisoners. Master Bra'tac was a great help to us there. The former prisoners are now working the machinery and showing our recently arrived recruits how to run the operations there. Some of the former prisoners were high ranking Jaffa for various System Lords. Master Bra'tac pulled them aside and they now perform the duties of Drill Instructors. And let me tell you, Jack, if anyone of us here had had DI's like these Jaffa, I doubt we would have completed Basic! They're harsh, but fair. And they are teaching the security troops how to fight to win."
"Sounds like you have things well in hand. How are your geeks taking to life on another planet?"
"I think most of them are under the idea that it's all just an episode of Star Trek, or something like that. After the initial shock wore off, they jumped right into the task of making new ships with the massive shipyards there. Erebus has a substantial stockpile of materials, so the two weeks without shipments from 403 won't hurt us in the short term. There were five Ha'tak-class vessels in various stages of construction at the shipyards when we took over. Those vessels will be recycled into a new class of destroyers. The plans that the former Area 51 designers have shown me call for a ship just a little larger than the current Daedalus-class, brimming with beam and missile weapon emplacements. We will be implementing the designs for the Tollan ion cannons on this class of ship, in a number of sizes. The current design has sixteen anti-fighter rail gun emplacements and four heavy rail gun cannons, two aft and two forward. The Tollan guns will be used for medium and short ranges only, as we just don't have the power to project a beam with any kind of punch at longer ranges.
"In many ways, the vessel looks exactly like the Daedalus class, only without the two launch bays. I had the designers put one small bay back in, and it will be located on the dorsal side, beneath the main superstructure. In a pinch, the vessel would be able to retrieve damaged fighters, but the small hangar will be designed to carry our standard cargo ships. Don't get me wrong, Jack, but the Goa'uld cargo ships have worked well up to this point, but I just don't like them. My guys have come up with a slimmer design that while it has the same features of the Tel'tac, it won't look like one, and will be easier to store aboard ship."
"How long before we have a prototype ready to fly?"
"We're just getting started. The shipyards do have the advantage of being in space, so it's a tad easier to move the really heavy stuff around, but it's still going to take at least a month before we can field any sort of prototype."
"Well, put as many crews on it as you can. When the Ori come, I want to give them a nice welcome, preferably with a few naquadah enhanced nuclear missiles."
"We'll get it done Jack."
"George? How're things on Tartarus?"
"Pretty good, actually. Tartarus was Anubis' infantry production site. While we're not going to start producing Kull warriors, at least not under my watch, we will begin sending out the Super Soldier suits. Those suits, so long as the power sources hold out, can make a soldier damn near impervious to any kind of fire, energy or projectile. The material is so resistant to projectiles that it makes Kevlar look like paper. But as with all things Goa'uld, a slow moving knife or a bolt from a crossbow can penetrate the shield.
"We're still exploring the fortress at Tartarus. Anubis was definitely an egotistical and paranoid critter. There are more levels and more security measures than you can shake a stick at. I have four teams on a full time mission to map out the lower levels, which extend about twenty-odd floors beneath the surface."
"Find anything useful yet?"
"Armories, barracks, hell, even a hydroponics growth area. The only major find so far has been a large storage room that looks like it was either a repair or assembly area for Goa'uld sarcophagi. We found a few dozen working units in there, along with others in various states of assembly or repair."
"Well, keep me updated. Tell me, are your infirmaries reporting anything strange?"
"About an old black woman."
"Or about a man who's eyes glow."
"I'll take that as yes, then. Dr. Lam is unable to determine the root cause of these dreams. What do you dream of, Paul?"
"Mother Abigail. She's one hundred and six years old and still bakes her own bread."
"She lives in Hemingford Home, Nebraska, and she wants us to go to her."
"The Dark Man. I think he's crucifying anyone not on his side."
"Crucifying? Literally? As in nailed to a cross?"
"Nailed to a cross and left to die."
"What do you think? Could he be a Goa'uld?"
"Not many of them left now, Jack. I suppose we could have missed him. But if he's a Goa'uld, he sure doesn't dress like them. The man I saw in my dream wore a denim jacket, faded blue jeans, and boots. He could have been anyone on Earth."
"Mr. President, pardon the interruption, but Dr. Jackson is insistent upon seeing you immediately."
"Send him in."
"Daniel? Something wrong?"
"We need to go back to Earth, Jack. It's important."
"Slow down there Danny-boy. What's so important?"
"I had a dream, Jack."
"Let me guess. Either an old black woman or a guy with glowing eyes?"
"Ah, no. Shifu came to me in my dream."
"Shifu? How is the little guy?"
"He looks good, Jack."
"What did he have to say, more Zen stuff?"
"No actually. He said that every ten thousand years, a contest of sorts is held. A battle between good and evil, with the winner determining the fate of the universe for the next ten thousand years. He said the last time, evil won, and the Goa'uld were the result."
"So where is the battle?"
"Not really a battle, I think, more like some sort of contest or game maybe. Hard to tell from what Shifu said. This time, the champion of good will be four Tau'ri. Shifu instructed me to return to Earth, that you would know who I need to find?"
"The old black woman."
"The rest of us have either dreamt of an old black woman or a guy with glowing eyes. The old woman's name is Mother Abigail."
"Ok. I need to find her, Jack. She knows who the four champions will be. Shifu called it ‘The Time of Trials.'"
"Ok. We'll wrap this meeting up for the moment. George, head back to Tartarus and see if you can get production started on those super suits. Steven, put as many crews as you need to get production going quickly. We'll take two ships to Earth, but one of them will tow the Agamemnon to Erebus for completion work. Go full bore on production. We'll need as many ships as possible to fight the Ori. Daniel, go get your gear ready."
En-route to Earth...
Two ships had been assigned to this mission; Apollo and Odyssey. Freighters Littlefield and Langford accompanied them, and would remain in orbit over Earth, picking up various supplies from the surface. The ocean going vessels that Daedalus had already taken out to Atlantis had been very well received, and more had been requested. There was a hard limit, however, on the size of the vessels that could be transported. So, only the relatively smaller vessels would be taken. First on the list, were the Cyclone- and Pegasus-class of the US Navy, followed by the Nanuchka-class from Russia. This would at least give Atlantis several options in terms of anti-air defenses, along with platforms for various experiments. Four more freighters were due out of the shipyards at Erebus soon, and these would join their two sister ships on supply missions from Earth to Atlantis, and to the various off-world colonies that Earth now had.
Aboard Odyssey, O'Neill and Chekov were in the midst of another planning session. The other members of the former IOA committee were also present in the room. Russell Chapman, of the UK, for the moment, had thrown in with Russia and the US. The Frenchman, Jean LaPierre, was sitting on the fence, trying to determine which way to lean towards. The Chinese Representative had been called home on matters of State Security just before the pandemic struck her country. She'd been among the first confirmed deaths out of China, among the last news reports out of that country.
Odyssey had been in orbit over Earth for several days while she took in feeds from various satellites and her crew pieced together those dying moments of the Earth they knew and loved. When they saw the chaos saved to the satellites for later re-broadcast, when they heard the taped reports from reporters and radio journalists, when they saw with their own eyes, the great damages caused to the cities and the surrounding countryside by fires left to burn out on their own, they felt sad. Here were the greatest cities on the planet, and they had been reduced to smoldering fires and great amounts of the dead. The clean-up that awaited them was the most massive task that had ever befallen any people in the history of the planet. Statistically speaking, with only one percent of the population naturally immune, Earth now had a population of sixty million scattered into small enclaves around the planet. Small enclaves because the survivors had banded together at this, their greatest hour of need.
And at their greatest hour of need, the military had run away. The Presidents of Russia and the United States had run away. It was a shame they would bear until their respective deaths, far in the future. But it was a shame they had to live with. And something they could use to rouse the troops under their commands.
Apollo had picked up the mostly completed Agamemnon and was towing her to Erebus where she would be finished and kitted out for duty with the fleet. The two freighters had not shown up empty handed at Earth. Her regular crews had come from the two intercepted freighters that the Trust had nearly used to destroy Pearl Harbor. They were still the crews with the most experience, but younger apprentice crews from the Merchant Marine Academy now shadowed their every move, learning the trade for the eventual freighters that would join the small cargo fleet.
Littlefield and Langford had brought with them several hundred passengers, in hastily constructed crew berth areas, for deployment to Earth. Both freighters, along with Odyssey, landed at Fort Carson, near the grounds of the Academy. The freighters would take on supplies of vehicles and fuel which were desperately needed by General Davis and General Vidrine. Hammond wanted not so much the heavy trucks and Hummers, but the excavation equipment, and so his need was moved down one level in priority.
Fort Carson had been home to elements of the 4th Infantry Division. That meant trucks, HumVees, weapons, armor, helicopters and everything else a small but mobile unit would need in the war against the Ori. Ships would duke it out in space, but on the ground, it would be a job for combat infantry and aviation support of said infantry. O'Neill left Colonel Dave Dixon, of SG-13 and his more than capable team in charge of the project, that of equipping and arming the new infantry units that were being formed at the Alpha Site made up of members from the military academies. Though it wasn't anything Dr. Balinksy would be good at, that of categorizing modern military equipment, Dixon assigned SG units 9 and 10 to assist him with the task of recording the dead at Fort Carson. It was a gruesome task, but it needed to be done. And though it pained him to do so, the dead would be buried in a massive slit trench. There were just too many of them to bury them individually. But a roll would be kept of the dead. Someone someday, would want to know how many lives had been taken by the plague. While there would never be an accurate count, the counting of dead military would be as accurate as possible. They owed it to their brothers-in-arms to do as much.
O'Neill and his detail commandeered four HumVees, and four trucks. The trucks were driven by cadets, with one driver, one gunner, and two loaders at the rear of each truck. They stopped at the first warehouse type grocery store they saw outside of Fort Carson, and loaded up on an assortment of canned goods, boxed foods, water, sodas, juices, beer and wine. They didn't want to show up empty handed at Mother Abigail's. O'Neill didn't want to show up empty handed, so he brought the trucks, and the supplies they loaded, and one hastily formed squad of MPs, that he would leave behind to help keep law and order in Boulder.
Later that day...
Life had settled into something of a routine, though everyone, or at least the major players, could sense that something was coming. Something big. But it was just a feeling, and not something they could pinpoint. Life for Stewart ‘Stu' Redman, was good. He had the love of a beautiful woman, and the knowledge that both of them had been immune to the plague that had killed almost all of mankind. Sure, there were a lot of things that were gone now that he missed. Baseball. Of course, that presupposed that one had electricity to run the radio or the television, and that even with electricity, there was something to listen to or watch beyond the still repeating emergency broadcast messages.
Maybe they could go to the local TV station, but beyond the vague impression of how a camera works, what good would it do? There was still the matter of no one outside of Boulder hearing the broadcast. And that was because no one really cared for the old ways anymore. Sure, there were some talking about getting the power back on, or burying the dead of Boulder, or reaching out to like-minded communities to establish trade, or anyone of a dozen different things, but Stu was content to curl up with a decent book, or cuddle up with Frannie and just say, to Hell with it all. But not today. Especially not today. Mother Abigail said they would have a lot of visitors today. That's why he, Glenn, Frannie, Nick, Ralph, Tom, and Larry and Lucy were all here this morning, helping Mother get a mass of food ready. But it was Tom who heard it first. That low rumble in the distance that sounded like thunder.
"Thunder Stu! Gonna be rain, Laws yes! My momma always said that thunder means rain. M-O-O-N, that spells thunder!"
"That's right Tommy. Thunder usually do mean rain. But this thunder is different. Sounds more like diesel engines to me. A whole lot of diesel engines, coming up the main road!"
The folks inside went to the door, though a few did help Mother get up and get outside onto the porch. But it was men like Stu Redman, Larry Underwood and Ralph Brentner, and even to some extent Nick Andros, who stood on the porch like hounds or bird-dogs, ready to pounce on the newcomers should Mother not like them. They were the alpha male wolves to Mother's alpha female clan leader, ready to protect her at a moment's notice. And of course, the preparations had not gone unnoticed to others whose eyes were always watching. People like Nadine Cross or Harold Lauder. As nice and saccharine sweet they might have appeared on the outside, inside they were full of hatred.
Hatred can do bad things to a person. It can make them jealous or envious. It can even make them kill. It had come to Harold in a dream of the Dark Man. But it was really all Harold's idea. Soon, he would have the perfect location, and soon, they would all die. The ones that had excluded him. The one who had taken his woman. Even the feeble-minded Tom, and for him, the reason was ‘just because he could'. And then he and Nadine would leave, heading for Vegas. Nadine to her man, and Harold to his rightful place near the head of the table of the Dark One. Nadine and Harold both noticed the goings-on at Mother's home. They stopped Teddy as he passed on the sidewalk and asked what all the hub-bub was about.
"Mother says a lot of new folks are coming in today. Important folks. She won't say why they're important, just that they are. She's got the whole of the Committee over there, cooking up a storm, wanting fresh bread and corn on the cob for everyone. But she won't say how many are coming...say, do you hear that?"
It sounded like thunder to Nadine. Harold said it sounded more like diesel engines. A whole pisspot full of big and heavy diesels.
"I guess they're almost here. You coming for the food?"
"Maybe later, Teddy."
Sure enough, just down the street, a convoy of vehicles turned the corner, spreading out into two even columns with military precision. Harold wondered if they were military, or just pretending to be. He would watch the proceedings with interest. He wondered if this event would force him to alter his plans any.
The convoy turned onto Mother's street and separated into two columns, with the ease born of practice. HumVees at the head, trucks in the middle, HumVees at the rear. HumVees carrying the President of the United States, the President of Russia, and the British Prime Minister. Russell Chapman had received a message for his eyes only aboard the Odyssey once they had achieved orbit. The message had been painstakingly clear. The British government was dead, and only he remained. As Minister for Planetary Security, the role of the government fell on his shoulders alone. And because he was a distant relation to the Queen, his title of Chapman, Duke of Eddings, also made him next in the line of succession of the Throne of England. The transmission had included all the proper paperwork. All he needed was an Anglican priest to crown him, and he would be King. It made him wonder whether the British people wanted their King or their Prime Minister.
The twin line of vehicles pulled to a stop with the trucks squarely in front of Mother Abigail's home. Security guards, dressed in what looked like slick one-piece suits and some kind of weird helmet, stepped out of the vehicles first, and took up a protective stance around the three most important men in the convoy. Well, the ones they thought were the most important. O'Neill, Chekov and Chapman knew better.
The suits had been approved for use just prior to the mission. Hammond's R&D staff at Tartarus had managed to get the Super Soldier armor production line back up to operational levels. The first twenty four suits had gone to members of the protection detail for the three leaders of the free world. The suits were the standard military digital camouflage, in this case they were a subdued urban pattern, with an interwoven force field layer, that became active when the power was turned on. Without the power, the suit acted like any other suit of clothes, but with the power, it became something much more. Because the field was a part of the weaving of the suit, the user could manipulate the field like an extension of their own body, using their hand to exert a crushing force in a handshake, using their body to lift something as large as an SUV and toss it a few hundred feet, and using their own legs to run ten miles without requiring rest. The helmets had been reformed to something appearing less demon like. It was a standard helmet like those used by any modern military, with a face plate that allowed the user to see out, but no one else to see in. The interior of the plate displayed all manner of information from ambient temperature and trace gas indicators, to one-fifty-X magnification, to a visual aim-point and targeting lead system for air and ground targets.
The detail fanned out from the vehicles, taking up protective spacing while the drivers and loaders of the trucks got down and dropped their tailgates in anticipation of unloading their goods. Finally, after some unseen or unheard signal, the head of the detail, Senior Agent Paul Hayes, allowed his principle to exit the vehicle.
Jack O'Neill stepped out of the confines of the HumVee and took a breath of fresh air. It smelled cleaner here in Boulder, for reasons he couldn't begin to imagine. Fort Carson had smelled like a tomb. He stepped up to the small fence, just like he'd dreamt of doing for the last several weeks. Then he walked up the short walkway to a porch, and an old black woman sitting in a rocking chair.
"Mother Abigail. You're real. I've had a lot of dreams, but this is the first time I've ever met someone from my dreams!"
"Come on up here and let me get a good look at you. Yes. I can see it, Lord. That Henry Hayes made a good decision with you. He was right. He's a counting on you, jest like I am, and jest like the Lord is too. You're special Jack. You've seen and done things no man here in Boulder could ever imagine! Welcome to the Boulder Free Zone, Mr. President!"
President? Stu Redman turned and looked at this man. President? Of the United States? Damn. He must have missed a memo somewhere cause this didn't look like any man he had voted for. Or not voted for, as the case might be. Might have been a Cabinet member, but not one he could recall.
"Jack O'Neill, at your service, Mr. uhm?"
"Stewart Redman, but most folks round here call me Stu."
"Nice to meet ya Stu. Henry Hayes, before he died, made me a Cabinet Secretary. Sixteen on the line of succession. Never figured I'd be in line for the Presidency, but here I am."
"Secretary of what?"
"Secretary of Homeworld Security. I'll explain later. There are some other folks who want to meet Mother Abigail."
"Sergei and Russell. You two are far from home, but you're welcome here. You have loads of work ahead of you, but the Lord God will show you the true course, if you just listen to him. Russell, a decision weighs heavily on your mind. I would think it would be plain as day for you. Your people need a symbol and a King is a good symbol. I don't know why I said that, but sometimes God speaks through me."
Daniel Jackson made his approach cautiously. Not that he was afraid of a little old black woman, but rather of the power in the aura she had. He hadn't felt anything quite like it since Oma.
"Hello Daniel. You know what your name means, son?"
"Yes. ‘God is my Judge'."
"That's exactly right, son. God is your Judge. And you've been exposed to His heavenly light twice? Some folks die and come back from the dead, telling of tunnels and lights and other nonsense, but you know different, Daniel. How many times have you resurrected?"
"Twice. And both times I was cast out by the others, because I dared to interfere with this lowly plane of existence."
"You weren't cast out by God, just by some of his Angels with too much time on their hands. Those Angels have a long way to go before they can commune with God as easily as I do. You've been hurt by the False Gods twice, had your women taken as slaves by them. But still you treat the son of your wife as if he were your own."
"He's all I have left of her; all I have that reminds me of her."
"You honor more than her memory, Daniel. You come see me after dinner, Daniel. We needs to have a long talk, you and I."
"What's in all these here trucks, Jack?"
"Supplies for the people of Boulder, Mother. We didn't want to come in empty handed. Supplies, and a squad of Military Police to help keep law and order in these parts."
"That's right neighborly of you Jack. Why don't you get your folks to unload them trucks there, Jack. I want to speak to Sergei and the King."
O'Neill had to fight the need to salute Mother Abigail. He wasn't sure what it was about her that made him want to salute her like she was his CO. These were strange times indeed.
"Just call me Stu."
"Stu. Well, here's a list of what we brought. What say I get my men to unload, you tell them where to put the stuff so the other residents can get what they need. Once that's done, we can crack open the giant refrigerator in the first truck."
"Running off a portable generator no less. Ice maker is full by now. And extra ice in the trays. Beer should be fairly well cold. And for those that don't care for beer, there's sodas and juices too."
"Beer? Cold beer? And ice? Oh damn. I can have my whiskey on the rocks again!"
"On the rocks? No. Straight up for me, when I do drink it. It's that Irish heritage I have to live up to."
"So you're the President now?"
"Looks that way. Mother Abigail mentioned a committee? Would that be the ‘government?"
"Or a close approximation to it."
"Good. Do me a favor, and get your committee together. As the only other recognized government around in the US, it falls to me to give y'all the briefing of a lifetime. Cold beers and ice for the whiskey will probably help out some, to ease the blow."
"I'll do that. How long were you planning on staying?"
"I sent one of the HumVees up to the local park. They're setting up our tents and campsite for the night. In the morning, we're headed back to the Springs."
"Alright then. Let's get this stuff unloaded, and you to meet with the committee. Mother's been cooking up a storm since early this morning. She knew a lot of folks were coming in. There's mounds of fresh bread, corn on the cob, and a ton of venison stew."
"Yep. She makes it daily."
"Alright! Listen up. Get these trucks unloaded, and the crates stacked wherever Mr. Redman tells you! Then unload Gift A here at Mother's, and Gift B wherever Mr. Redman tells you. Then you can get some chow. According to Mr. Redman here, that chow includes fresh baked bread, corn on the cob, and venison stew. What do you say? Shall we get things unloaded?"
"Sir! Yes Sir!"
It was that final shout that confirmed Harold's feelings. Definitely military. But did it change things or his timetable? He wished he had some way of asking Him, what to do.
After the arduous task of inventory, Stu had moved the whole kit and caboodle to the supermarket the residents were using, where they could pick up what they needed. The refrigerator had gone into Mother's house along with the small brick-like generator that O'Neill had promised would run for at least a year without refueling, considering just how little was plugged into it. The second gift, the largest ice chest he'd ever seen had been set up at the welcoming party first, providing ice cold drinks to all who had come to welcome the newcomers, and then moved to the Redman residence for the meeting that night. Frannie had been ecstatic over having ice cold juice and water available, especially now that the hot weather had really settled in and seeing as how swollen her belly was getting.
O'Neill had shown up at the appointed hour, and had asked his detail to secure the perimeter and then remain outside. They had balked at that, but O'Neill had been adamant about that little detail. They had finally acquiesced after Mr. Redman had allowed them a walk through of their home to search for the weapons that could possibly kill their principle. And Stu Redman agreed with them, saying O'Neill was President now and he needed to be protected. It scored the right points with the detail, and the right attitude with O'Neill, even if he did shake his head at the whole idea.
When everyone was seated with drinks in hand, O'Neill began his tale. He'd agonized over what to tell them, and finally decided on the truth. How much of it he would tell them depended on their reaction to the first part of his story.
"First off, for those of you I didn't meet earlier today, the name is Jack O'Neill. The second thing is need to say, is that I am sorry. So very sorry. You see, this whole plague thing was my fault. It happened on my watch, and I couldn't stop it. So many dead, and I don't know how to atone for that."
"Wait a minute here. What makes you think you're responsible for the plague? Did you create it?"
"No. But I am responsible for it."
"Why do you think you're responsible for it?"
"Well Mr. Underwood, it's like this. The plague that many called the Super Flu or Captain Tripps is what we called Flu Specimen 21X-389. The original version of the flu was contracted by two SGC exploration teams while off-world. They came down with it, and all but one man died from it. The flu spread quickly through the SGC, and we had to call in assistance from USAMRIID. And of course, we had a back-up plan. We couldn't let the virus out of the SGC. If it breached containment, well, Colorado would have been short one mountain. But we found a vaccine and a treatment for it! And then we stored the samples in case we ever ran across it again, so we could make more vaccine. Only we didn't discover that one of the members of the USAMRIID team had taken the two vials of live virus from our lab until after the Super Flu was rampaging across the US, and I was safely away from here."
"What's the SGC? You mentioned it a few times."
"SGC stands for StarGate Command. It's an Air Force command charged with exploration of other planets. The Air Force has been exploring other worlds for about ten years now."
"Well, the detailed explanation will have to wait for one of the science geeks to tell you that. But in a nutshell, the Stargate is a device that creates a stable wormhole between two points, and allows for instantaneous travel between those two points. Now, we didn't create the Stargate. We found it, buried beneath the sands in Egypt right about 1928. It was brought to this planet by a much advanced race in order to enslave our primitive ancestors. They chose us because they could easily manipulate our bodies as they saw fit and spread our ancestors across the universe. But while we did make enemies on our first trip through the Gate, we also made allies on our first trip. One of those allies helped us come up with a delivery method for the vaccine for the original version of the flu. And once we had a sample of the second one, it was a simple matter of revising the vaccine to work with the newer strain. Everyone that left Earth as a part of Plan Genesis has had both vaccines."
"So, you're telling us, that while NASA has been sending up shuttles every now and then, the Air Force has been visiting other worlds?"
"That's it. That's exactly it."
"My sentiments exactly Larry. I find this all rather easy to believe, Mr. O'Neill. The United States covered up Roswell, after all."
"Actually, while there was a crash of an alien spacecraft at Roswell, it wasn't the Air Force that covered up anything. The space ship in question was a probe mission that took an unlucky hit from a small meteor and came down near Roswell. One of the aliens died, but the other two survived long enough to be rescued by their people, taking the remains of the ship, and the remains of their dead crewman with them. Those same aliens have since become one of the most trustworthy allies that Earth has, and they were the ones that helped us create the delivery method for the vaccine. They call themselves the Asgard."
"Like the Norse Gods of Old?"
"I would imagine, Mr. Bateman, that the tales of the old Norse Gods were based on interactions between the Asgard and primitive human tribes of that region."
"So Thor was real?"
"Is real. Thor is the Supreme Commander of the Asgard fleet, and one of my best friends. The little guy really likes me for some reason."
And while O'Neill was explaining the reasons why he felt responsible for bringing a plague down upon the House of Man, Mother Abigail walked off into the night and the wilderness.