To dance with Death
Author’s Note: Thanks very much to Letomo for the beta-ing on this The following ways of notation may be found in this story. This is excluding whatever I need to represent chatting, texting and stuff like that. And you can thank Twilightwanderer for the Abbott and Costello. Speech:
“Who’s on first.” Thought:
*What’s on second.
#I-don’t-know’s on third.#
A partial cast of characters is up on the forum, as are some genealogies Reviews are much appreciated, they inspire me. Children of a Greater god Chapter 2: To dance with Death
Janet Fraiser wiped her forehead and groaned as she straightened. Her nominal superior had obviously been posted to what had been a dead end project for a reason, he was useless. She’d been lecturing at the Academy and they’d called her up, telling her there was an emergency at the Mountain. This was not what she’d been expecting at all. She thought a fire, intense and terrible within the confines of the base’s underground corridors, had raged. Not that a gate to another world had been opened and refugees from a dozen different star systems would crowd into the inadequate, mostly dismantled, infirmary.
Not that a twenty-two year old airman would fly an unknown craft through that gate and headlong into a wall and would now be lying dressed in hospital scrubs on a bed, sleeping the sleep of the emotionally and physically exhausted.
Not that a hard bitten General, in between calls to the President and Joint Chiefs and Secretary of Defense would come in to inquire after her, like an anxious father. Or the Colonel and Major, the female Captain and the rather cute civilian who came in whenever their duties permitted. Janet gently stroked the pale blonde hair. The young woman murmured something in her sleep and Janet tried to catch it, but failed.
Janet stepped away from the bed and turned to her other patients. Captain Ferreti was recovering well. She’d run complete physicals on all those we’d come through the Gate. A lot of the refugees were slightly malnourished, or tired, or in the case of the huge man Colonel O’Neill had called André, had very bad teeth. Janet had no skill in dentistry, but she could see that the thundering great abscesses in the man’s mouth needed seeing to. Happily the NORAD Base dentist had not minded coming down a level and he would be seeing every refugee in turn.
Janet went into the dental lab and smiled at the sight of the huge man, looking trustingly at her. He’d almost panicked until the Colonel had sat himself in the chair and had his teeth checked. It was amazing that O’Neill, who’d griped at everything she had done, had undergone the dental examination in complete silence. André had relaxed even further when the first anesthetic took effect, removing the worst of the pain. Apparently his world had no such amenities. She waved and went back into the main room.
Jack O’Neill leaned against the door jamb of Daniel’s office. It was a mess. As Daniel had no living relatives and his foster parents were dead as well, his few belongings had been put in cardboard boxes and with the books he’d gathered for his research had been put in storage. Catherine hadn’t had the heart to clear it out after the plug was pulled from the Star Gate project, some time after Daniel’s supposed death. Jack really had to call her and tell her that Danny was alive. It had almost broken his heart to see the grand old lady break down upon hearing the young man she’d dragged into danger had died on the mission.
“Daniel…you need to eat, and sleep.” He wrinkled his nose. “And bathe. Phew.”
Daniel glared at him, surreptitiously trying to smell himself. “I need to find the most likely places where they might have taken her!” Daniel said fiercely. “I need to find them! We need to find them!” Daniel threw down the book he had been consulting and then patted it apologetically. Jack noted the title on the spine. Egyptian Religious Hieroglyphics of the 4th to 11th dynasties
, by E.S. O’Connell-Carnahan.
“Yeah. But you also need to sleep. Tired men make mistakes, Daniel. We can’t afford to make mistakes.” Jack said soothingly.
Daniel groaned. “I know. I know. I…I want her back. I miss her.” He closed the book he was reading in frustration. “And I can’t find any reference in any of my books to that alphabet we found at the palace.” He put a hand on a well worn and used copy of J.D.C. Carnahan’s Alphabet and primer of ancient languages
“Daniel, not all the languages we run into will have their roots on earth.” Jack pointed out. *Daniel is going to kill me when he finds out about Granddad, Aunt Evy and Uncle Rick…*
“But I know I’ve seen it. Somewhere…” Daniel leafed through the Alphabet and primer,
as if the language he was looking for would jump at him if he did it vigorously enough.
“Somewhere. Come, I’ll take you to my place; the bed’s still made up. Tomorrow we can start looking for a place of your own for you to stay.”
“General Hammond has decided you can’t permanently live on base. It’s against regulations for one, and you stink up the place for another.” Jack grinned.
“Haha, very funny.” Daniel rose, stiffly. He slugged back his mug of coffee and grimaced as the cold, bitter liquid hit his palate. “Lovely. Maybe it is
time to leave.”
“Yes, it is. Come on.”
“Sleeping. Like we should be. Home
Carol woke up. She wasn’t naked and she wasn’t cold. She also wasn’t weighted down by dead people. All in all, it was a great improvement over the last time she’d woken from unconsciousness. She cautiously opened her eyes and looked around. *Base infirmary, right.*
She frowned. “How did I get here?” She said, without thinking.
“You were carried in on a stretcher after you flew a plane through a Star Gate.” A dry female voice answered. “I’m Dr. Fraiser. Now, how are you?”
“I feel…good.” Carol sighed. “So, when’s the Court Martial?”
“Court Martial?” Dr. Fraiser sounded confused.
“I know how this goes, Doc. If I hadn’t picked up that, that whatever it was, they wouldn’t have come through. And we were playing poker, on duty.” Carol said in resigned tone.
“Ah. I must admit I don’t know anything about that. I do know that what I have heard about your future was more along the lines of ‘medal’ than ‘trial’.” Janet said gently. “You’d have to ask the General.”
Carol snorted, closing her eyes. “Yeah. I can see how that will go.”
“And how is that, Airman?” A powerful, deep voice with a Texan drawl asked.
Carol’s eyes flew open again. The man who’d spoken wore an impeccable uniform with two stars on the collar and an impressive salad bar. He was compact and balding and his blue eyes were penetrating and turned on her. *Crap. The General. Great first impression, Carol.*
“S-sir…I apologize for my cynicism.”
“You’re a senior airman. You’re allowed to be cynical. It’s practically part of the job description.”Hammond drawled as he sat down by the bed.
“Yes, sir.” Carol’s fingers tightened on her blankets
“Worried about your first impression, Airman?”
Carol’s eyes flew to her senior officer’s face, wide and anxious. “Sir, I…”
“Airman Weterings, my first real impression of you was when you emerged from a piece of alien technology in the Gate Room.” *This is not a good time to remind her she’d lost her shirt.* “
A very useful piece of alien technology. And from what I’ve heard your actions beyond the gate were nothing but exemplary. As for playing poker… I knew about that. It merely meant that there were five instead of two guards in that room, and as none of you were drinking…” He winked at her.
“What I want to know is why none of your commanding officers ever recommended you for the Academy.” He continued, serious once more.
“M-My record sir… “ Carol managed to stammer.
“Your juvenile record. Which should not
be in your file.” Hammond corrected firmly. “I’ve ordered it removed and the back up file in the Pentagon will be changed as well. Your service since joining up has been well above the norm, certainly good enough to win you a shot at trying the entrance exam for the Academy.”
Carol gawked at him. “Sir, I… I don’t know. Every time I think things are going good for me…I was supposed
to be going to Anderson, take up a post. And then I was reassigned here. No offense sir, but…”
“But until three days ago this was a dead–end assignment. I know. I’m near enough retirement age and desirous enough of peace and quiet I volunteered to wind this place up. You shouldn’t have been here.”
“You should have gone to Anderson, or the Academy. I will see that remedied. Oh, and by the way? Medal, not trial.” Hammond rose. “When will she be ready to leave, Doctor Fraiser?”
“I’ll have to run a few tests, sir, but I would say she’ll be ready to go home tonight.”
“Good. I’ll have someone drive you home. I noticed you’ve been staying on base almost since your reassignment and that isn’t healthy.”
Carol seemed to shrink before his eyes. Hammond sat down again. “What’s wrong, Airman?”
“I-I don’t have a home sir. I rented one when I first came here, but they cancelled the lease and kept the deposit. The upstairs neighbour complained about noise and I couldn’t convince them that I had night duty and it was a burglar who did that and had done the damage…” The sergeant seemed on the verge of tears.
Hammond looked thoughtful. “A mere transcript of the duty roster should have been enough. What about the police report?”
“The police wouldn’t come by; they said that I couldn’t duck behind them for my drunken behaviour. The duty sergeant told me the roster was secret. And then he showed me the sign in sheet. I wasn’t on it sir, and I was
here, sir!” Carol’s voice quavered.
Hammond leaned back. *If this is the sort of luck she has, no wonder she’s a cynic…* “
Well, I’ll deal with that. Who was the duty sergeant? And who was on guard duty?”
“Gandolfini, sir. And Perkins and Holroyd.”
Hammond rose and put a fatherly hand on the girl’s shoulder. “I’ll take care of this.”
Carol nodded. “Yes, sir. Of course you will.” Her voice was bitter.
“Airman?” Hammond’s voice was sharp.
“You’re not the first, sir. My juvenile record has been removed three times sir, it always comes back. Colonel Parkman wanted to send me to the Academy, but the letter got lost and he was posted to Europe.” She shrugged helplessly. “The universe just doesn’t like me very much, sir.” Her words were bitter but resigned.
Hammond grunted. “I see. I will
deal with this. Don’t worry.”
He turned and left. Dr. Fraiser followed him. Outside he gave her a look. “Doctor…I think she may need some help sleeping.”
Fraiser shook her head. “I think she mostly needs a shoulder to cry on, sir.”
Hammond pursed his lips at the doctor. “Dr. Fraiser, the President is bringing the establishment of this base up to a war time footing. We will need extra medical personnel. Would you be willing to serve as second in command?” *And as soon as I can get rid of that idiot Banks, the CMO spot.*
Janet blinked, biting her lip. “May I think about it, sir?”
“If you didn’t have the right to think about it, I would have made it an order, not a request.” Hammond said with a smile. “I would appreciate your presence. The way you dealt with the personnel and the refugees was highly commendable. Please consider it carefully.”
“I will, sir. I need to get back to Airman Weterings now.” She said apologetically.
Hammond nodded. “Certainly. I’ll be by again later.”
George Hammond strode off to the records department, intent on finding out what gremlins were messing up his airman’s files.
Jack grinned as he drove his car through the outer gate at the mountain. Daniel was sulking in the seat next to him, upset that Jack’s coffee supply had run out and had left him with a box of Airforce issue instant that sat on the tongue like a brick meringue and ran down the throat like ditch water.
“I like good coffee.”
“What did you use on Abydos to wake you up? They didn’t have coffee.”
Daniel blushed furiously. Jack grinned. “Ah. I see.”
“There was the bark of a shrub, kanna. It probably has a lot of caffeine. But it was less smooth to drink.” Daniel tried hastily.
“Sure, Daniel. Sure.”
It had been a busy few days at the Base, but normal life also went on. Which had caused Jack and Daniel to venture into Colorado Springs on Saturday morning. Daniel, driven by a lack of good coffee at Jacks house, had decided to find digs of his own. Jack and Daniel were checking on rental apartments. Daniel was uncertain about his pay scale and terms under which he would be employed and was hesitant to commit to a long lease or, heaven forbid, buying.
He was still hoping he’d find Sha’re and return with her to Abydos at the end of the year’s grace. Jack was the one to notice the hesitant, shivering young woman in front of the window of the Estate agent’s, wearing rather scruffy jeans over tattered sneakers and a battered windbreaker jacket that did not seem to be very watertight or cold resistant.
“Airman Weterings? How are you?”
Carol started from her contemplation of the properties in the window and was about to salute, her eyes wide like a startled doe.
“At ease. Looking for an apartment?”
“I-I…Dr. Fraiser told me the general would
take care of things…I’d like a place of my own again…” She rather longingly looked at the window again and then shrugged. “Have a good day, sirs.”
She turned away, leaving Daniel and Jack to look after her in confusion.
“Daniel, you go in there. I need to talk to Weterings.”
“Yeah, okay.” Daniel opened the glass door and Jack followed the young woman. She was hunched against the wind, her hands in the pockets of the windbreaker.
She was walking fast, almost running, as if she wanted to avoid her superior officer. When she reached an alley, she turned into it and Jack saw her mount a ramshackle bicycle and drive out the other side. Jack cursed. Making a scene by shouting out at her was not the way the gain her trust. Despite the state of the bike she moved quickly. He turned and went back to the Estate agents. Daniel was the world’s greatest ditherer and he needed a swift kick or two to make his choices.
Jack and Daniel had a list of apartments that Daniel wanted to see, mostly clustered near the base. Nothing with a garden, as Daniel pointed out he had neither the time nor the inclination to care for one. Jack had not objected. It was not for him to explain to Daniel the joys of lawn mowing.
They were driving along at a steady pace, Daniel frowning at the list and the few grainy photographs that had been printed out by the estate agents. They were approaching the third address and Jack wondered on what grounds Daniel would decline this one. He got out and Daniel, still studying the brochure, did the same.
“I’m going to check the neighbourhood. You go inside.” * I don’t need to hear you to start about shelf space again…* “
Wouldn’t want you to get robbed and beaten. Location, location, location.”
“Okay, Jack, thanks.” Daniel told him absentmindedly, while stumbling on the first step up to the shared foyer of the apartment building.
Jack rolled his eyes. *Make certain that Daniel has no books with him on missions.*
“See you in twenty?”
“Yeah, sure.” Daniel had reached the door and was pulling. It was marked push. He was still perusing the brochure.
Jack sighed and left. He sauntered through the neighbourhood, hands in the pockets of his jeans, his coat open. He wore a warm lumberjack shirt and a sweater underneath and the day had gotten warmer. The neighbourhood was not great. Most of it had been constructed in the boom years of Colorado Springs’ growth after the foundation of the Air Force Academy. The houses and apartment buildings had not aged well. Several streets were undergoing gentrification but Jack had doubts about the speed and staying power of the urban renewal.
He heard the noise before he consciously knew it, and reacted. It was the noise of a younger person, most likely a female, in trouble, and it flipped all his switches. He ran into the alley way the sound had come from and saw the three men, dressed in jeans and jackets, who had hold of a young blonde woman and were dragging her to a white van. He automatically noted the bike lying on the ground, the front wheel still spinning, and sprang into action.
He hit the biggest man from behind with a jumping kick, viciously. He was one man against three and was not going to take chances. He heard the cry of pain and knew the man would have a sore back, but he’d moved just in time to save himself from a broken one. Moved instinctively, in a way that Jack did not
The blonde brought up a knee but the groin she had been aiming for twisted away and the man was struck on the thigh again. He chopped a hand down on the side of the girl’s neck and she gasped, going down, her eyes rolling up. Two more men emerged from the white van and Jack cursed. “Oh, fer crying out loud!”
He sprang into action, taking on the biggest man, hoping to take him down quickly. The five men moved like a well oiled team, but not like a special ops type team. *Trained, but not to face the best of opponents…trained to take opponents like the young woman.*
He saw a flash from the corner of his eye and a twirling shape joined the fray, wearing jeans and a cable sweater and hiking boots. *Good moves.* He
noted as the man took down a larger opponent by a double chop to the Adam’s apple and groin.
Jack grinned as he went low and swept his opponent’s legs out from under him with a near full body sweep and then pushed himself of the ground with his arms, made a complete roll and swept another man down with his legs. The new comer obliged by kicking one of the downed men in the head and then engaging another. Jack rose to his feet and struck out as he did, his fist connecting with an unsuspecting rump. The big man he hit grunted, but took the blow in stride. Then a large piece of wood struck him solidly on the back of the head and his eyes crossed, he darted to the left and ran for the van, as did his two friends who were still mobile. Jack blinked and looked into the enraged blue-grey eyes of Airman Weterings as she stood looking after the departing van. *The blonde girl, the bicycle. Right.*
Jack turned his attention to the stranger and looked him over. He was six feet tall and wiry rather than tremendously muscular, like a runner or swimmer, not a body builder, but Jack noted he moved with a cat’s grace, a hunting cat’s deathly intent. He had an ascetic, strong boned face with a long nose and a sardonic twist to his mouth. His brown eyes under straight brows were dark and hooded and he wore jeans, a blue cable sweater and heavy soled walking shoes he’d previously noted, not new, but of good quality. A long blue raincoat lay at the head of the alley, obviously dropped before he’d gone into battle. *Not a vagrant, not a bum.*
The man nodded at Jack and then moved to Weterings. “Are you alright?”
Weterings shivered and glared at the men groaning on the ground. “I will be, as soon as we get this scum to the police.” She gave him an inquisitive glance. “Who are you?”
“Adam Pierson. I was just passing by when I heard the noise, I came to check.” He spoke easily and Jack almost believed him. Almost.
Jack dug out his cell phone and called 911, summoning a squad car, and then called Daniel. The man had picked up his coat and moved towards Jack.
“Errr…This is going to sound bad…” He looked rather embarrassed.
“What were you going to buy?”
“I see. Frequent user?”
The man snorted. “Hardly. Every time I go and buy some, I get into trouble. Last time it was a bar fight.”
Jack grinned. “Don’t live in the neighbourhood?”
The man shrugged. “I’m a PhD student, Harvard. I’m supposed to teach a class in ancient warfare at the Academy. Of course that will end as soon as I confess to smoking.”
Jack grinned. “I think we can keep that one out of the statement.”
Adams nodded. “That would be much appreciated.”
Adam Pierson carefully considered the roster of Immortals that could be trusted to teach Carol Weterings the ways of Immortal life. He was certainly not going to do it himself. He wouldn’t even have interfered if Weterings hadn’t been unconscious upon his first approach and unlikely to feel his quickening, or realise what it was. *MacLeod, he’s been in the military often enough to tell her what to watch out for. Darius, but she’d have to move to France and he wouldn’t teach her how to fight. Fitzcairn? Almost as bad as Amanda would be. No, it would have to be Macleod, boyscout though he was…A mail to Dawson that he thought he’d spotted an Immortal? Can I trust the man enough for that? Does MacLeod trust him enough to accept an anonymous letter sent to Dawson as a need to travel across the continent? Or…Yes. I’ll work through Dallman Ross. Ross owes me, after all.*
Adam smiled to himself. Dallman Ross knew his limitations and would contact the Highlander. And the two had become quite friendly since they’d taught the Howard’s young ward and their joint search for her killers.
The squad car had come and driven the men away. And then, when the witnesses and the victim had arrived at the station, a bland faced sergeant had told them no 911 call had been logged, no car had been dispatched and no detainees had been delivered to the station.
Jack had never seen a look of utter defeat as the one on Carol Weterings’ face. He resolved to take a close personal interest in the matter of Airman Weterings.
Major Bert Samuels was a patriot. He believed in his Country, he believed his Nation was the best in the world, and deserved the best defence, the best people to serve it. Sometimes the Nation was more important than the people. He hung up the phone and leaned back in the General’s chair. The operatives had been released; the matter had been dealt with.
Samuels scowled. The problem with bringing exceptional people into Marigold was that they were exceptional, and that meant people sometimes paid attention to them. The hope had been that the asset would be driven to them, but action had been needed once Hammond started to take an interest in it. That O’Neill and the passer-by had thwarted the acquisition of the asset was more than unfortunate. The Director suspected that O’Neill was aware of Marigold, due to some of his Black Ops work in the late eighties. His elimination was being discussed. It couldn’t come fast enough, to Major Samuel’s mind. O’Neill might have had his uses in the past, but now he was merely an obstruction on the Nation’s road to safety. And obstructions were always
Not many people considered that Jack O’Neill was not as dumb as he acted. Even a cursory examination of his Academy transcripts would have shown that. Few people bothered making such an examination, even if they had the authorisation to look at his file. One of the things Jack O’Neill, much like his Grandfather, was good at, was misdirection. A sleight of hand of personality, to let people underestimate him, his leadership, his insight, and yes, his intelligence, was part and parcel of his very being by now. People rarely noticed the clown.
And most people would not know that Jack knew very well that most people used birthdates and names of loved ones as passwords. And they would have been surprised to know that Jack knew how to turn on a computer, let alone how to erase his tracks after using one. Most people conveniently forgot that Black Ops was more than just blowing things up and shooting holes in dictators from eight hundred yards.
Walter Harriman was an excellent NCO. He had an almost sixth sense of when what was needed, but he had his habits. And Jack had observed them. So he knew that Walter would never tape his passwords to his screen. Or use his daughter’s birthday *in three days time, remember to congratulate Walter* or
wife’s name *Bethany Muriel*
as one. But he did have a rather interestingly annotated version of a local take out’s menu. Jack sat down at Harriman’s computer and used the sergeant’s password to get into the phone system. The only call logged from the Mountain to the outside had come four minutes after a secure call had been patched through to Major Samuels. And it had been made from the General’s office. “Oh, for Pete’s sake!” Jack muttered as he logged off. “And here I was just starting to like the guy.” End note: This is the end of this particular story, but the Star Gate Universe will have more Carol Weterings. The tale will be picked up in Lonely souls.