The Way of the Wolf
Part 1: Wolf Lair
*** Summary: Willow may be done with our favorite were-wolf but the PTB have grand plans, you might say galactic plans, for him. ***
*** Spoilers: BtVS season 6. Having read the book, 'Oz, Into the Wild,' by Christopher Golden would be helpful but is not necessary. For SG1, the spoilers are sometime in from middle to late season 6. ***
*** Disclaimer: Isn't Oz too cool! I only wish I came up with BtVS and SG1, but I didn't. Someone else did. Thanks to Karen for helping me Beta, I normally do without. I still think this is my glorified prologue. Thanks to Roommate, my ever present cheerleader, I wrote this 'cause she wanted more Oz. ***
*** Distribution: Twisting the Hellmouth ***
*** Warnings: A little language, not much else. ***
Cassie looked around the dance club. There were some Earth practices that still confused her even after all the years of residence. Loud rock music and wild dancing topped the list. Cassie had begged her mother, Janet Fraiser, for days for permission to come to this teenage hangout. Cassie had to perform some fast-talking, but in the end Jack had convinced Janet that Cassie was growing up with a good head on her shoulders. Cassie looked around the club for her friends. Lynette and Kristen were in the middle of the dance floor.
Cassie settled back in her booth with a sigh. This was not as fun as she had imagined. Her ears hurt and her head ached. Her eyes returned to the band on stage. She had to smile. The lead singer was flirting shamelessly with Kristen and several other female groupies. The drummer was head banging in rhythm with the beat he was creating. Cassie was sure it was more for show than actual enthusiasm. On the other hand, the lead bass player was totally immersed in his music. He was watching his hands and nodding with the beat. Cassie could tell even from such a distance that he lived and breathed music. Her uncle had been like that.
Cassie stilled. She had not thought of her old family in so long. She was on Earth now and she had a mother that loved her. She had SG1 to spoil her. Cassie was more than lucky; she was blessed.
The band took a break and Lynette and Kristen migrated back to their booth.
“You really should dance with us.” Lynette wasted no time in picking up the argument from where she had left it.
“Yeah. Come out and play.” Kristen teased, her eyes following the lead singer on his way to the bar. “He is sooo cute.”
Cassie handed Kristen a napkin. “You’re drooling. It’s not pretty.”
Lynette choked on her drink as she laughed. Kristen’s eyes narrowed as she accepted the napkin, and then promptly crumpled it up and threw it back at Cassie. “Smart-aleck.” She said good-naturedly.
“I learn from the best,” Cassie retorted.
“Yeah, you do.” Kristen agreed. “How is Colonel Jack anyway? Is he and Major Sam dating yet?”
Cassie followed the change in topics easily. Kristen was forever hoping that two of Cassie’s best adult friends would hook-up. “They can’t date. I’ve told you that before.”
Kristen adopted a priggish tone of voice. “Regulations.” She sighed and dropped back to her normal cheerful attitude. “I know, but it’s so romantic. Star-crossed lovers.”
Lynette snorted. “It’s not romantic. They can’t do anything. It’s sad. I hated watching Colonel Jack watch Major Sam at your last birthday party, Cassie. It hurt.”
Cassie shrugged. Jack would not be pleased that Lynette had caught him, even if Lynette was the more observant, not to mention, the more sympathetic and realistic of her friends. Lynette was right; sometimes it hurt just to watch. Cassie needed to change the subject. “I’m thirsty. Next round is on me. What do you want,” she asked.
Kristen had once again zoned in on the lead singer. “Pepsi; thanks.” She waved a hand Cassie’s way. She was completely boy crazy.
Lynette shook her head at her friends’ antics. “A Dr Pepper would be great. Thank you, Cassie.”
Cassie weaved her way up to the bar. It took a little while to grab the waiter’s attention with the crowd. Finally she had a chance to order her drinks and pay the cost. The waiter slid the pop cans her way across the countertop. The guy next to her stopped them. Cassie noticed the black finger nail polish and followed the muscular arm up to a pair of green eyes. She recognized the lead guitar player and he was shorter than he had appeared to be on stage. He placed the drinks in front of her.
“Oz,” he said.
Cassie shook her head in vain hopes that she might hear what he had said over the din of the crowd. “Excuse me?”
“Name’s Oz,” he repeated himself calmly.
Cassie blushed. “Sorry. I’m Cassie, Cassandra Fraiser.” She gave her full name in hopes of sounding more grown up. She had babbled like a pre-schooler.
Oz raised his eyebrow, a lot like Teal’c would have done. “From around here?”
Cassie nodded, “Yeah, my mom’s a doctor at the Air Force base.”
Oz shivered. He was in a hurry to avoid that line of conversation. “Where did you live before that?”
“Toronto,” Cassie said. After so many years, the lie slid from her tongue easily.
“You sure about that?” Oz asked. Cassie stared at him in shock. How did he know she was lying? No one had ever caught her before.
“Yo, Oz-man. Time for our next set.” The lead singer completely ignored Cassie when he tapped Oz on the shoulder. “Let’s go.”
“Okay Dirk. Be right there.” Oz pushed the three pop cans closer to Cassie. “Enjoy your drink, and hope you enjoy our second set.”
Cassie ducked her head and murmured what she hoped was a proper reply. She gathered up her order and hurried back to the booth. Kristen and Lynette would grill her on that little conversation. She prayed to any god that was not Go’uald that Kristen would not get jealous that Cassie had been so close to Kristen’s crush.
Cassie bit her bottom lip nervously. How had Oz known she was lying?
Cassie turned to Oz. “Waiting for my ride.”
Oz sat down next to Cassie on the front step. It was on the stoop of the business next door to the dance club. For a long time he said nothing. They stared into the night. Cassie was not inclined to fill the long pause with chatter. In a short two-minute conversation, he had seen through her cover story. She did not want to say anything else that might be revealing.
Oz broke the silence. “Did you like the music?” He asked.
Cassie shot a quick glance his way and then looked at her shoes. “It was loud.”
From the corner of her eye, she saw Oz nod. Silence fell between them again. Most of the teenagers had left. The few remaining milled about, reluctant to leave but they did. Soon it was just Cassie and Oz. Finally Cassie recognized Jack’s truck pulling in the parking lot. Oz straightened up the same time she did. “Cain,” he muttered.
“That’s my ride.” Cassie gathered herself together. Oz picked up her purse and took a firm grip on her elbow and hauled her to her feet. Cassie looked at him wide-eyed; fearful and shocked.
Oz steered her toward Jack’s truck. Cassie jogged to keep up. “Hurry. Get in. Tell your driver to drive and not look back. No matter what happens.” Oz stuffed Cassie into the passenger side seat. “Drive,” he ordered Colonel Jack O’Neill.
Oz shut the door forcefully. Took a quick glance behind him, then he vaulted over the hood the 4x4.
The dramatics annoyed Jack. “For crying out lo . . .” Oz jerked in the air in front of the windshield. Half way over, the graceful leap disintegrated into an uncontrolled tumble. Jack’s voice trailed off as he realized that the young man had taken a bullet mid-jump across the hood of his truck. Cassie screamed.
Jack was out of the driver’s seat and beside the fallen male in a second flat. “Get Cassie out of here.” The wounded had grabbed Jack’s jacket with his good hand. And he was still giving orders, which Jack continued to ignore.
“You’re not my CO.” Jack grabbed the wounded man’s jacket with both hands and heaved him over the driver’s bucket seat. Oz fell to the floor, one leg trailed awkwardly over Jack’s seat. Jack climbed in behind, shoved Oz out of the way, and put the truck into drive. Jack left rubber on the dance club parking lot.
He also left a certain bounty hunter cussing up a storm about the friends of were-wolves.
The truck cab was cramped with the three of them, one laid out. Cassie hauled Oz up to inspect this wound. Oz was breathing heavy, leaning against Cassie. Cassie was trying to stop the bleeding with the skills her mother had insisted on teaching her.
“There’s a first-aid kit under your seat, Cassie.” Jack told her. He looked in his rear-view mirror. “I don’t think we have a tail.”
Oz jerked as Cassie pressed the thick pad of gauze against his bleeding shoulder. “Then let me out. You don’t need this kind of trouble.”
Jack shook his head. “You need a doctor.”
“No, I don’t. I don’t do hospitals.” Oz’s voice was weak but determined.
“Oz, please let my mom see you at the very least.” Cassie’s voice was shaking, her hands were bloody, and there were tears in her eyes. The evening had turned out so wrong. This was supposed to be a fun evening out with her friends.
“No.” Oz was emphatic.
Jack ignored him. “Hi Oz, I’m Jack. And is that Oz, as in the Wizard of?”
“Jack, please let me out.” Oz’s voice cracked. “It’s safer for the two of you if we separate.” Oz could smell Cassie’s fear. It enveloped his senses like a flood. The wolf wanted to eat it. Oz concentrated, the wolf so wanted to consume it, her, Cassie. She was just a girl and she had a name.
“Janet can take care of you.” Jack slowed to a stop at a red light. He did not want to bring attention to his truck by breaking a few laws. He also figured that if the wounded was arguing, he’d last to the Fraiser household.
“That’s my mom, Oz. She does a really good job.” Cassie pressed the point. Her fear started to fade, and with it her intoxicating scent, for which Oz was eternally grateful.
Oz decided to answer Cassie as honestly as possible. After all she was just trying to help. “The last time a military doctor looked at me, I ended up in a dog cage.” Silence followed that comment.
Jack looked from Cassie to Oz. “The Doc’s not like that. She doesn’t believe in human experimentation.”
Oz remained silent the rest of the drive. He had nothing to say. Cassie whispered encouragement and Jack concentrated on the road. In no time at all, they arrived at the Fraiser ranch house. Jack hauled Oz out of the truck. Jack made a move as if to carry the wounded.
Oz protested as he shook off the human’s touch. “It’s my shoulder that’s hit, not my legs.” He needed to center his thoughts if a woman was about to stick a knife in his flesh. He would never be able to do that if Jack were touching him.
Cassie ran up to the house, leaving the front door open behind her. Both Oz and Jack could hear her yell for her mother. By the time Oz made it to the front step, he was in obvious pain. His face was white as a sheet, covered with a sheen of sweat, but he had not made a sound. Jack was impressed with his resolve.
Janet met them at the door. “Colonel, at least steady him, he shouldn’t be walking.” She ushered Oz into the living room, where she had instruments prepped.
“Sorry Doc. He was stubborn. I thought it would be quicker to let him . . .” Jack’s voice trailed off as he realized that no one was listening. He followed the doctor and the patient to the living room. Jack looked at the improvised, but organized, surgery table laid out. “Doctor Fraiser, were you expecting company?”
“It’s just a sheet over the cleared off coffee table, the books are underneath, if you need to keep occupied.” Jack grinned at the implied, ‘stay out of my way.’ Janet sounded rather testy and distracted. She helped Oz to lay face down on the low table.
“And you just happen to have all your knives sharpened and your needles ready for stabbing?” Jack asked.
Janet did not stop to send a well-earned glare the colonel’s way. “A good doctor places her instruments in the proper order to be used again with little notice. Emergencies never give you advance warning.” She used scissors to cut away the bloodstained tee-shirt.
“Uhm,” Oz brought their attention back to the reason for the discussion, “could you please get this thing out of me?” His voice trembled. “Yeah, that would be great.”
Janet gently removed the gauze from the wound. “I only have a local anesthetic with me so this is going to hurt.” She warned Oz. “Colonel, hold him down.” Janet ordered and then she turned down the hallway. “Cassie,” she yelled, “Are your hands clean yet.”
Suddenly Oz bolted upright. “You guys are wearing gloves, right?”
Jack fell backwards at the movement. He wondered at the strength. Janet took it all in stride, more or less. She held up her gloved hands. “Never start a job without them. Colonel, you should put some on too. There’s a couple pair on the outer pocket of my surgery bag.” Janet Fraiser tilted her head as she regarded Oz. “There’s also a few face shields, grab three.” Cassie sidled up next to her mother, automatically reaching for the gloves and obediently putting on the face shield thrust to her without question.
“Mr. Oz,” Janet regarded her patient sternly. “We are now prepared for any bloodborne pathogen. You will have to lie back down and keep very still. Colonel O’Neill will assist as much as possible.” So, Oz’s strength had not escaped her notice. “Cassie will be assisting me with the actual surgery. Any questions?”
“If things start . . . changing, you will run, right?” Oz was hesitant to ask the question but he did not want to kill anyone trying to help him.
Doctor Janet Fraiser was insulted. “Mr. Oz, I have never left a patient in need. Nor do I intend to now.”
Oz immediately turned toward Jack. “If there’s a change starting, you will grab the girls and run right?”
Jack nodded, “Right.”
The men ignored the doctor’s warning, “Colonel.”
Oz laid down with a slight growl. “Get that thing out of me.”
“You heard him people; we have a job to do.”
“Oh, my.” Behind the plastic face guard, Janet’s eyes were wide as she watched Oz’s flesh literally knit itself back together.
Jack’s hands trembled as he stared at the impossibility. “Now I understand the whole military cage thing. Maybourne would’ve killed to get his hands on a person like you.”
“Don’t worry, Oz.” Cassie encouraged as she collected all the tools that had been used. “Jack would like to shoot Maybourne,” called Cassie over her shoulder and she left to clean the instruments.
Jack cheerfully rocked back on his heals. “Sure would, actually I did shoot Maybourne, twice, but that was because . . .”
“Colonel,” Janet quickly interrupted. “Sir, what time was your mission scheduled?”
Jack glanced toward the clock Janet was staring at. “Ah crap. 0600 hours. Gotta run or I’ll be late.” He patted Oz’s unharmed arm sympathetically. “You’ll be fine and you do everything Fraiser tells you to. She might be a Napoleonic power-monger, but she knows her stuff.
“Colonel,” the power-monger warned.
Jack ignored her. “I’ll take the bullet in with me to the base and see what I can find out about it.”
Oz slid to a sitting position. He stretched tentatively much to Janet’s horror. “I already know who shot me. I’ve overstayed my welcome. I’ll leave now.”
Doctor Janet Fraiser straightened her shoulders as she protested. “Absolutely not. You require at least 24 hours of observation. You will stay on the couch until I say otherwise.” Janet pointed to the couch in question.
Oz blinked in surprise. He looked from Janet to the couch. Jack watched from his position by the door, fully expecting the young man to defy the order. But Oz simply said, “Resolve face,” and obeyed. He settled himself on the couch as if for a long stay.
Jack reached for the doorknob, shocked. “Bye Janet, Bye Cassie, Bye Oz. See you all when I get back.”
Jack made it past all the checkpoints in record time. It’s amazing how many people get out of your way when you are a Colonel in a hurry. Jack blatantly ignored the fact that people got out his way when he was in a hurry, he just assumed they granted every other Colonel the same courtesy. He gained a couple of strange looks on his way down, but it was no worse then the time he had rode a bike through the halls of Cheyenne Mountain.
Jack ran into SG1’s locker room as most of his team was leaving. They were huddled around the door, trying to figure out a way to delay so that Jack would not be late without getting themselves into trouble. Jack almost barreled right into his 2IC.
He slid to a stop inches from her, his hands grabbed her arms to keep balance. “Sorry Carter. I’ll be ready in a sec.” He dug into his pocket and pulled out the bloody bullet that had been stored in a Ziplock bag. “Can you pass this onto someone that can do a complete analysis on this while we’re gone? I’ll be ready in two minutes. Meet you in the Gate Room.”
“Yes, sir.” The response was automatic for Major Samantha Carter. Then, she gave her commanding officer a once over. Concerned, she asked, “Sir, is that blood? Are you hurt?”
“No, Carter.” Jack’s voice faded a bit as he rounded the corner to his locker. “Not now Carter. Move it, Major. And Major,” Jack called as an afterthought. “Make sure they check for poisons and that they try to find the pathogen that’s in the blood.”
Carter resisted the urge to salute the disembodied voice. “Yes, sir.” She exchanged a look with Teal’c before hurrying to follow orders.
Teal’c and Jonas backtracked to Jack’s locker to find him bare-foot but already half-way dressed. Bare-chested, Jack hurried to the sink to splash soap and water on his upper torso. He ducked his head under the faucet and then stood up. He shook his head and ran his fingers through his hair and then rubbed his eyes. “Ahh, much better.”
“O’Neill,” Teal’c started. “I am sure that General Hammond will postpone this mission if there is . . .”’
“No reason, Teal’c,” Jack interrupted, his voice brisk. Jack dodged his teammates on his way back to his locker. “Let’s do this meet-n-greet, and get home.” His voice was muffled with his tee-shirt. Thirty seconds later Colonel O’Neill was completely dressed and reaching for his vest, hat and zat. “Let’s move it, campers. We’re late.” Then he was out the door.
Teal’c and Jonas followed at a slightly slower pace. “He’s not mad, is he?” Jonas asked.
“No, JonasQuinn. O’Neill is simply in a hurry.”
They met Major Carter as they were about to enter the Gate Room. “Get it delivered, Major?”
“Good. Let’s do our job.”
The wormhole engaged. “SG1, you have a go.”
SG1 stepped through the wormhole to a very wooded planet. The mountains rose majestically in the distance. Jack adjusted his hat and took a deep breath of fresh air.
Carter looked around impatiently before turning to her CO. “Sir, are you sure you . .”
“Carter,” Jack did not let her finish, “I promise to tell you all about my adventures, and Cassie’s adventures as well, as much as I know about them, when we get back. But if I had said something to postpone this mission, it would have alerted some people that we really don’t want looking into our business right now.”
Carter thought about that. “You mean the NID, sir.”
“Is Cassandra well?” Teal’c asked, concerned.
Jack was quick to reassure his friends. “Cassie? She’s fine, just fine. A little shaken up, but Janet’s watching her and her new friend.”
Carter was still a little worried. “Cassie wasn’t bleeding, was she?”
Jack shook his head, “Nah, the blood is all from her new friend. A kid named Oz, and he’s fine too.”
“Sir . . ,” Sam started to protest.
Colonel Jack O’Neill was starting to get annoyed. “Major, we’ll discuss this when we get home. I don’t know much more than that myself.” Jack ordered.
Major Carter was still too worried to let the argument go. “But the bullet, sir.”
Jack threw his hands up in the air. “Carter, that will just lead to many, many more questions that I don’t have the answers to. So will you please start the mineral survey so that we can get home and get the answers all that much sooner?”
“Thank you, Major.” Jack said with the tone that said, ‘Finally!’ Carter dropped her pack to begin testing the soil. Jack turned to Jonas and Teal’c. “Well?”
Jonas took the hint and got straight down to business. “The path to the Stargate seems to be abandoned, but at one time it was paved with some kind of advanced cement. Actually it looks more like blocks of stone or metal, maybe an alloy of sorts.”
“We got that much from the MALP, Jonas. Can you tell me anything new?” asked Jack.
Jonas looked rather chagrinned; it appeared that Colonel O’Neill had for once read the pre-mission briefing report. “Well no. There are no writings of any kind here. We’ll have to wait until we get to the village.”
“The woods appear to be infested with large predators.” Teal’c answered.
Jack immediately brought his P-90 to attention and took the two steps to place the working Carter within a protective circle. “Are there some around us now?”
Teal’c listened and looked for a moment. “I do not believe so, O’Neill. But there are many claw markings high on the trees, even a few faint ones on the Stargate and the DHD.”
Jack accepted Teal’c’s assessment. “Okay, eyes and ears open people. Fraiser’s not at the base to patch us up.”
“Sir?” Jack turned to Carter. Her eyes were shinning with amazement and excitement. “Sir, this planet is ore-rich. It has both naquada and trinium.”
Jack groaned. “Which means we play really nice with the locals.”
“Very well sir.” Said Carter.
Jack started giving orders. “Teal’c, take point. I’ll take drag. Jonas, stay out of trouble. Ready to go, Carter?”
Carter hefted her backpack onto her shoulders. She adjusted her P-90. “I’m ready, sir.”
The foursome walked quietly and quickly on the pathway. They did not talk. Teal’c made a vague motion to the right, to which Jack nodded. But their shadow was human and hopefully just curious. 5 klicks away from town, there was a lone log cabin. Jack noticed that the small cabin had been built sturdy many years ago and the shutters were extraordinarily thick. The house bore the same animal markings as the forest. SG1 looked at each other.
“Well, should we knock or should we continue on to town?” Jack asked the question to the group.
“Well Colonel,” Jonas started. “One assumes that this house is here for a reason. It might be a sort of guard.”
“Yeah, well it could also be an outcast.” Jack was quick to retort.
Carter had to point out a few observations. “Sir, it’s a rather well-built, well-maintained house for an outcast.”
“A handyman outcast.” Jack defended his theory.
“Or it could be the observer, the judge.” SG1 whirled around to face the middle-aged man standing before them. Jack, Teal’c and Sam aimed their weapons at the stranger. Jack noticed that his team was blocked between the house and the man, depending of course on how fast and powerful he was. Or how many really quiet friends he had hidden in the woods.
The stranger raised his arms reassuringly. “I mean you no harm.”
Jack lowered his P-90 a little. “That’s normally our line.”
Jonas stepped in. “We are peaceful travelers from a distance planet.”
“You came through the Stargate.” It was a simple statement. It was directed obviously to Jack.
“Well, yeah.” Jack was not sure where this conversation was heading but he wanted to take control. “Are you in charge here? ‘Cause we’d really like to talk to the people or person in charge.”
The stranger looked the team a once over. “You carry weapons.”
“We’ve made some enemies and we like to be prepared.” Jack defended the SOP’s.
“Who are your enemies?” the man asked.
Jack was willing to answer this question. “The Go’uald. Have you met them? Snakes in the head, glowy eyes, claim to be gods, like to conquer, kill, enslave and generally not nice?”
The man gestured to Teal’c. “He is Go’uald.”
Teal’c gave a little bow. “It is true that I carry a Go’uald symbiote. But I serve the false gods no more.”
The man nodded slowly. “The Go’uald have been our enemies for many generations.”
Jack grinned. “That’s great. We’re always on the look out for allies.” Jack held out his hand. “I’m Colonel Jack O’Neill, US Air Force, by the . . .”
The stranger had started to shake Jack’s hand, but suddenly by passed it as he shoved Jack against the wall of the cabin. He growled low and dangerous as he sniffed Jack’s neck. “You smell of blood.” He ignored the weapons pointed at him. “You smell of the blood of one of our kind, a male.”
Jack tried to rear back, his head knocked hard against a log. “Woah buddy. Friend back home got hurt, had to haul him to a doctor. I did not hurt one of your kind.”
The stranger sniffed again. “I do not know if I believe you.”
“It’s true, but he can’t be your kind.” Then Jack thought about it. “Unless you heal real fast. Do you heal fast?”
The stranger released Jack. “You will leave now.”
Jack started to argue. “Now just wait a minute. . .”
The stranger pushed the stuttering colonel toward the Stargate. “My name is Malt’en. I am the Judge. I will tell the Others that you are to be killed if you return without the hurt one.”
“Now wait a minute . . .” Jack tried to struggle against Malt’en’s great strength futilely.
Malt’en ignored Jack’s protests. “That will be how we know if you are truth-tellers. Are you truly a friend to our kind or servants of the Go’uald sent to assess our strength?”
Jack tried to change Malt’en’s mind. “Can’t we negotiate, how about some middle ground?”
“No,” Malt’en was firm. “You will return with the one or you will not return at all. Leave now.”
Jonas raised his hand as if to ask a question. Jack snagged it and pushed him the general direction of the ‘Gate. “Let’s go campers. Looks like we overstayed our welcome. Let’s get out of here before they decide to force the issue.”
Ten steps down the road, Malt’en called out. “Colonel Jack O’Neill?”
“Yeah?” The tone was wary but hopeful.
“This one that was hurt, how bad was the wound?”
Jack shrugged. “It was kinda bad. But he’s almost all better now.”
“Colonel Jack O’Neill?”
“Yes?” Jack’s tone was rather testy.
“While he was wounded, did your friend undergo the Change?”
Jack ignored the suspicious emphasis. “I don’t think so.”
“Then he did not, such would be most evident. You would know. Safe journey.” Malt’en bowed and then disappeared into the trees.
Jack turned to the rest of his team. “Okay. I’m confused.”
Teal'c inclined his head. “O’Neill, it appears that your new friend is more important than you originally thought.”
“Which means we better get some answers and fast. Come on kids. Double time. Let’s go home.”
“Unscheduled Wormhole Activation.” A flurry of personal ran to their posts.
General Hammond hurried to his habitual place behind the ‘Gate technician. “Closed the Iris.”
“Yes, sir.” He said. “Sir, it’s SG1’s iris code coming through.”
“Open the Iris.”
“They just left a couple of hours ago,” murmured Hammond. The event horizon shimmered; then SG1 stepped through unharmed. “Well at least no one is being carried.” Then into the microphone he said, “Welcome back, SG1.”
Colonel O’Neill snapped off a sloppy salute. “Thank you, sir.”
The General met the team at the bottom of the ramp. “You’re early.”
“Yes, sir.” Jack nodded. “The local told us to leave right then, so we did; before he decided to get mean.”
General Hammond was not in the mood for his 2IC’s normal antics. “You have a lot of explaining to do, Colonel. The briefing is as soon as you are checked out by the infirmary.”
Jack saluted. “Just a warning sir, I’ll have to make a little detour to a lab, . . .”
Jack turned to Carter. “Lt. Springer’s lab, sir,” She filled in helpfully.
“The ballistics report.” General Hammond held up the file folder he had been reading. “You have a lot of explaining to do, Colonel,” he repeated.
“Yes, sir. Uhm, sir, can I read the report while we’re in the . . .” The General passed over the file. “Thank you, sir.”
“The briefing is ASAP. Dismissed.”
SG1 nodded and sauntered past. Jack was not outside the blast door before he opened the file and started reading. Carter was severely tempted to look over his shoulder. She restrained herself.
She would probably get more from the briefing.
“Well, Colonel. Just what the hell is going on? You show up on base just barely on time for a mission, covered in what the rumors claim to be blood and leave a bullet in a lab to be tested while you were gone. What were you thinking? Why did you not ask to postpone the mission? Why didn’t you say anything?”
Jack tried to stem the flow of questions. “Actually sir, it’s a good thing it happened that way.”
“Colonel.” In one drawn out word, General Hammond managed to convey just how frustrated he was with the whole scenario.
Jack hurried to defend his actions. “I did not want to raise any red flags, sir.”
General Hammond snorted. “Well you failed in that regard.”
Jack nodded. “Yes sir, I realize that now, General Hammond. But I meant what I said. It was a good thing that it happened the way it did. Because I was in a hurry, I did not take a long shower like I had hoped to do. The native that we ran across somehow identified with the kid I had helped by the smell.”
The general blinked, considering all available information at his disposal. His conclusion was that he needed more information. “All right Colonel, start at the beginning. Explain.”
“General,” Jonas drew all eyes to him. “I just want to point out now that Malt’en recognized the smell of the kid on the Colonel and then he roughed up Colonel O’Neill in a rather protective gesture, leaving, we assume, his own scent on Colonel O’Neill. If this kid that the Colonel helped truly originates from the same planet, he might have a sensitive enough nose to recognize the smell of Malt’en, and we have no idea how long that scent will remain on the Colonel.”
“General, Jonas made a very good point, sir.” Carter chimed in.
General Hammond sighed. “Understood Major. Very well, Colonel, make it quick. Starting with why you were trying not to arouse suspicion.”
Jack O’Neill made a quick decision of where to start the story. “The kid, Oz, he calls himself, got shot while he was trying to get Cassie safely away from the dance club. I threw him in my truck and drove him to the Doc’s. He flatly refused to go to a hospital and was hesitant about seeing the Doc. He tried to get us to drop him off at the side of the road.”
Jack waved Carter’s question away before it was asked. “When Cassie and I tried to allay his fears, he told us that the ‘last time he had seen a military doctor, he had ended up in a dog cage.’ Cassie and I promised that Fraiser wasn’t like that, and for some reason he believed us. He was really weak, but stubborn. He never even whimpered. Janet dug the bullet out of him, and then we watched his bone and flesh literally heal itself before our eyes.” Jack glanced around the table for the reactions. Carter blinked and sat up straighter, trying to grasp the concept, Teal’c raised an eyebrow and Jonas looked like he was about to ask a question. Jack hurried on his explanation. “You know how in the nature shows, they show something that is really taking days in just a couple minutes?”
“You mean time dilatation, sir?” Trust Carter to offer the correct vocabulary word.
“Yeah, that.” Jack pointed at Carter in triumph. “The Doc and I watched Oz’s flesh do that, after the bullet was out. That’s why I asked about poisons, because it did not happen until after the surgery.”
“And at P3X-759?” The general wanted to get this done as soon as possible. He could feel a headache starting. Trust SG1 to complicate a simple meet-n-greet. Now they had news about an alien residing on Earth, another one.
Colonel O’Neill answered the question. “Malta claimed Oz as one of theirs. He said that if we came back without Oz, the others around were under orders to kill us on sight.”
General Hammond had a very sure response. “Then we lock 759 from the computer.” Thankfully this excursion had not resulted in any fatalities. Few worlds could claim such a distinction.
“Ah, sir?” Carter sounded hesitant. “You may not want to do that, just yet. 759 is ore rich in both trinium and naquada.”
“And there’s a good chance that they are more technologically advanced than Earth.” Jonas added.
Teal’c was the last to add his two cents. “They also claim to be enemies of the Go’uald.”
“Yeah, yeah, that’s right. And Malta knew that Teal’c carried Junior.” Jack was relieved not to be the center of attention anymore.
Teal’c frowned. “My prim’ta was aware of Malt’en.”
That gained the attention of the table. “Was Malt’en a Go’uald?” General Hammond asked.
Both Teal’c and Carter shook their heads no. Teal’c tilted his head, remembering. “I believe Junior was unnerved by the presence of Malt’en.”
“You mean Junior was afraid of that one guy?” Trust O’Neill to get straight to the point.
Teal’c slowly nodded once. “Yes, O’Neill. My prim’ta feared Malt’en. But do not be deceived by appearances. Malt’en is not human.”
“Which means, sir, that Oz is probably not human.” Carter deduced.
General Hammond shot Jack a glance telling him to tone down the sarcasm. “So the question is, how much do you trust this Oz character?”
Jack shrugged. “I don’t know sir. I just met him early this morning.”
“Then Colonel, I suggest you find out.” General Hammond was more confident now that he could give informed orders.
Jack grinned. “Yes, sir.”
“Where is Oz?” Hammond asked.
“Doc said she was keeping him for observation for 24 hours. If he’s still at her house, I’d be surprised. He was pretty much recovered ten minutes after the surgery.”
“Then Colonel, SG1’s mission is to find this Oz, discover his origins and character and if we can trust him about the Stargate, if he knows about the Stargate, and if he’s willing to journey with you to form an alliance with 759.”
“Dismissed.” SG1 hurried from their chairs to the door. “And Colonel?”
“Be careful. The preliminary on the bloodborne pathogen was disturbing.”
“Yes, sir, I saw that.”
“Good luck. And hopefully you still stink.”
Jack grinned. “Yes, sir.”
“I’ll expect a very thorough briefing when you return.”
“Of course, sir.” And SG1 disappeared out the door and around the corner.
General Hammond felt the somewhat positive atmosphere dissipate with them. He turned toward his office. It was his grave duty to inform the Commander-in-Chief of the possibility of yet another alien living in the United Stated of America, Planet Earth.
“So Carter, do you want to drive or do you want me to drive?” Colonel O’Neill sounded as if he was about to embark on a Sunday drive.
Sam smiled. “I better drive, sir. The four of us will be more comfortable in my car than your truck.”
“Then lead on.”
By the time SG1 had reached the parking lot, Sam had changed her mind. “Actually sir, would you mind driving my car?”
Jack raised an eyebrow.
“I’d like a chance to look at the ballistics report before we get to Janet’s.” Sam continued.
Jack shrugged and took her keys, trading her for the file he had carried with him. “Have it your way, Major. You know there’s a good chance he won’t be at the Fraiser’s, right?” Jack warned.
“Yes, sir. But I’d like to be prepared.”
“Okay. Let’s move out, campers.” Jack climbed in behind the wheel and started the car. Jonas slipped in the back seat beside Sam to look over the report. Teal’c was left to ride shotgun.
It was not three miles down the road before Carter found what was so disturbing about Oz’s blood borne pathogen; it rewrote the host’s DNA. “Sir, did you get a chance to read the entire file?”
The second question was asked with a much more respectful tone. “Sir, did you understand what it said?”
“Yes Carter. The bullet was pure silver, no apparent poisons. It was homemade and was most likely fired from an adapted shotgun.”
“And the blood borne pathogen, Sir.” She prompted.
“It changes the DNA, kinda like that big huge honkin’ wasp that stung Teal’c back on P3X . . . whatever.” Jack waved his free hand vaguely.
Carter smiled. “Yes, sir.”
The vehicle fell into companionable silence. Teal’c played with the buttons on the radio. Ten minutes later, they pulled into Doctor Fraiser’s driveway. “Let’s hope he’s here,” Jack muttered.
Oz was. He was immersed in the music he was creating from his guitar. Oz did not look up when SG1 arrived. Janet did look up; startled as SG1 walked in her door. She counted team members, then limbs. Everything was accounted for, except, “Colonel, aren’t you supposed to be on a mission?”
“Been there, done that.” Jack shoved his hands into his pockets. Jonas motioned for Jack to get closer to Oz. Jack muttered but edged closer. “Hey Oz, buddy, you all fixed up?”
Oz shrugged. “Sure.” Then he slowly looked up, his eyes narrowed and he gave Jack a once over. “Been to Toronto?”
Jack blinked. Cassie coughed and tried to catch Jack’s attention without Oz seeing her. She failed on both accounts. Oz turned back to his guitar, ignoring the strangers in the room. Cassie grabbed Jack’s arm and pulled him into the kitchen. The rest of SG1 followed as did Janet.
“He knows I’m not from Toronto.” Cassie hissed.
Jack folded his arms over his chest. “Oh?”
Cassie held up her hands, as if to protect herself, or maybe to yield. Then she started babbling. “I didn’t say it, he asked where I was from, I said near the Air Force base. He asked about before that, and I said Toronto and he asked me if I was ‘sure about that’.”
“And then?” Carter stepped in between her CO and her dear friend. She was much softer in her questioning.
“And then I shut up and got the he . .”
“Cassie!” Her mother was not going to allow swearing in her debriefing.
Cassie barely missed a beat. “Heck out of there.”
Teal’c and Jonas nodded their encouragement. Jack was not so pleased. “But when I went to pick you up, he was sitting with you.”
Cassie nodded vigorously. Sometimes Jack forgot that she was a beloved child and treated her like one of his soldiers. “He asked if I was chillin’ and I said that I was waiting for my ride. He asked if I liked the music, I said it was loud and that was it. I was trying to keep my mouth shut.”
Jack nodded. “And that’s it?”
“Yes.” Then Cassie thought hard. “Wait. Just as you pulled up, Oz said something, kinda under his breath and then he started giving orders.”
“Well? What did he say?”
“I don’t remember, everything moved so fast after that. He was giving orders for you to drive and get out of there as fast as you could, no matter what. Then he jumped over the hood of the truck and you know what happened next.”
Jonas cleared his throat, “I don’t.”
“He got shot.” Jack and Cassie chorused.
“Okay,” Sam nodded. “You realized we left Oz alone in the living room?”
Cassie shrugged. “He has his guitar. He doesn’t care about anything else.”
“Really?” Jonas asked.
Janet nodded. “He made me go pick it up this morning. There was a note attached that Oz was surprised to see.”
Jack looked up, worried. “From the sniper?”
“No,” Janet shook her head. “He said it was from an old friend.” Janet was relatively unconcerned.
“Did you read it?” Jack asked.
“Yes, it said ‘The measure of what has been learned is what a man can teach,’” quoted Janet.
Jack thought over the proverb. “That’s it?”
“Yes.” Janet reported. “It was not signed.”
“O-kay.” Jack drew out the word. “Let’s go talk to Oz.”
The group filed back into the living room. Oz looked up amused. “If you wanted a private conversation, I could have left the house.”
“Sorry, that was rude.” Sam felt called to apologize for the group.
Jack made a move to sit in the armchair across from the couch but Sam gracefully beat him to it. She made a motion for him to sit next to Oz. Jack rolled his eyes but obeyed. Cassie sat on the floor with Jonas. Teal’c and Janet stood in opposite corners.
Oz returned his attention to his guitar. “Did you make a new friend, Jack?”
Jack leaned back and looked Oz over. He was lean, that was his only resemblance to Malt’en. Where Malt’en was tall and dark, Oz was slight and fair. Malt’en’s hair had been black. There was no telling what color Oz’s hair had been, but now it was green and brown. Malt’en called himself a judge, Oz was obviously nothing more than a musician. Well, Earth had both kinds and many in between. “Oz, we met a friend of yours.”
Oz raised an eyebrow. “He knew my name?”
“No, but he claimed you.”
Jack waited but Oz was not going to ask . . . anything. “Oz, do you know where Toronto is?”
“I know yours’s not in Canada.”
“That’s true. Do you know more?” Asked Jack.
“I know who’s from there and who’s not.” Oz said.
“Cassie, him,” Oz pointed to Jonas, “and him,” pointing to Teal’c.
“That’s Jonas and Teal’c.”
Oz nodded. And waited.
Jack released a sigh. “Does the name Malt’en mean anything to you?”
“He claimed you.” Jack pointed out.
Oz growled low. “I don’t claim all of my kind.”
Sam sat up straight. “What is your kind?”
“Different.” And Oz retreated back to the single word answers.
Jack threw up his hands in frustration. “Oz, we need your help.”
“I’m bringing my guitar.” Oz responded.
“To where?” asked Jonas.
“Do you need anything else?” Jack asked.
Jack was frustrated with Oz. He returned to a familiar military constant - paperwork. “We’ll need you to sign some non-disclosure forms.”
Oz was not fazed. “’Kay.”
They made an eye-catching parade through the SGC hallways. The fabled SG1 escorting what looked like a short musician, who was not gaping like a tourist. Dr. Janet Fraiser walked with them. They did not talk or smile. It was a somber group. Heads turned and rumors flew.
The six had a meeting with General Hammond. Then an hour later were waiting at the base of the ramp, minus Dr Fraiser. The wormhole engaged and the embarkation room regulars eyed the newbie for a reaction. He uttered a soft, “huh” and walked calmly through the event horizon.
Who was the kid?
Nobody knew the answer, but everyone had a theory.
Oz took an unsteady step out of the wormhole. What a trip. The wolf inside fought to get out and celebrate surviving the trip. Oz viciously clamped down on his emotions and concentrated on other matters. He would have to retune his guitar, the cold was sure to affect it. In the evening sky hung the evidence of a crescent moon. The wolf warned him that there was another that he could not see. Oz winced.
The mountains in the distance reminded him of the monastery of Tibet. He could see the reflection of a building blurred by low-laying clouds. The forests were dense and green. The smell of were-wolves permeated every molecule of air. The wolf-part of Oz wanted to throw his head back and announce he was home. An entire planet to roam and every step would be home leading to home. Oz belonged here. Here was wild and here was peace.
No Willow but peace still.
Oz smelled the other wolf before he saw him. He was an Alpha male, but flawed. The scent was off. Oz frowned, the other wolf smelled more than wild.
“Malt’en.” O’Neill nodded pleasantly to the Judge. “See we brought our friend like we said. This is Oz. Oz this is Malt’en. Oz was wounded, now he’s all healed up.”
“Colonel Jack O’Neill, we see that you are a man of your word.” Malt’en gestured to the path. “The Others are waiting to hear what you wish to say.”
“Thanks. Come along kids.” Jack took a couple steps but turned back as he noticed that Malt’en had stepped in front of Oz. “Oz, you comin’?”
“Oz is no longer your concern, Colonel Jack O’Neill.” The tone was devoid of emotion. It made Jack’s skin crawl.
Jack was willing to set his foot down. “Now see here Malt’en, we did not bring Oz along so that you could hurt him. He stays with us, under our protection.”
Both Oz and Malt’en offered a hint of a smile at the Colonel’s bold statement. Both knew the Colonel intended to keep it, if he could.
Malt’en gave Oz a long look and breathed deep, nostrils flaring. “Bitten,” this tone was definitely scornful.
Oz shrugged, “Controlled.”
Malt’en jerked as if slapped. Instantly he was repented. “Master Oz, we welcome you to our home, ‘Our Territory.’ We hope to learn much from you.”
Oz nodded. “Cool.”
Malt'en gestured to the guitar case. "May I assist you?"
"Nah, I'm good."
SG1 looked at each other. Colonel O'Neill shrugged his shoulders. "Okay, what just happened?"
Carter shook her head. "I have no idea, sir."
“And that’s what happened?” General Hammond looked around the table incredulously.
“Yes, sir.” Carter said and Jack nodded. “Everywhere we went, at first they were rude to Oz and then after a short conversation, that when it was in English we could not understand it, they would be falling all over themselves to be helpful.”
General Hammond shook his head in disbelief. “And Mr. Oz just accepted it? Being chosen as king by walking through the ‘Gate?”
Jack shrugged. “The kid has a great poker face. But I think that by the end he was kinda embarrassed by all the fawning.”
Jonas spoke up. “I don’t think the natives thought he was great because he came through the Gate. They had another reason. Oz always answered, ‘controlled,’ to any accusation.”
General Hammond sat back to think. He wanted answers, answers that his team could not give. “And why didn’t you bring Mr. Oz back with you?”
Carter responded as Jack rolled his eyes. “Malt’en forbid it. He said that ‘Gate travel was addictive to their kind and the withdrawal symptoms were vicious.”
“Personally sir,” Jack added, “I think they just wanted to keep Oz and were grabbing at any excuse.”
“I disagree.” Jonas spoke up. “They obviously know what the Stargate is and what it can do. There is also a fierce predator on the planet that they cannot rid themselves of, yet they do not use the Stargate at all, let alone to flee. In fact, the path to and from the Stargate indicated neglect.”
General Hammond and the other members of SG1 paused a moment to digest the alien’s analysis. Then General Hammond shook his head. As if the rattle would allow all the pertinent clues to fall into place. “And Mr. Oz just agreed to this.”
“Yes sir, he did.” Carter answered when Jack paused.
“Sir,” Jack started. “Oz knew he was going to stay behind. He insisted on bringing his guitar for what we had assured him was going to be a two day trip.”
Jonas started nodding. “That’s right and the note said something about teaching.”
“Teaching what?” Hammond asked. He was familiar at least with the note in question. Dr Frasier had taken him aside to brief him on it.
Carter shrugged, trying to put all the pieces together into a workable theory. “Control maybe.”
Jack snorted. “Those people don’t need control. I could not read a single emotion on any of the faces when we were in the council room with the Others.”
“The others?” Hammond looked from one face to another for an explanation.
“The Others, sir. That’s what they call their ruling body.” Carter offered.
“But you did start negotiations started for a trade agreement, if not a treaty?” Surely something positive resulted from this debacle.
Carter nodded and Jack cheerfully said, “Yes sir.”
“So we can start mining immediately?”
Jack’s face fell. “No, sir.”
“Colonel?” Hammond warned. “Then what precisely was involved in this trade agreement?”
“They’ll mine for the trinuim and the naquada and when we come, they gave us a calendar marking the days we were allowed to come.” Jack slid the foreign paper over to his commanding officer; he included Carter’s notes on correlation between Earth and 759. “And when we come with the stuff they want,” Jack slid a second paper, this time a list scribbled on a piece of sheet music, “we trade.”
Hammond shook his head. “I’m pretty sure the higher ups are not going to be pleased with this arrangement.”
Jack’s face hardened. “Then remind them of what happened the last time they wanted to take trinuim without the natives permission.”
Hammond nodded. “I’ll take that under advisement, Colonel.” He glanced through the list. His head came back up, surprised. “This is what they want?”
Jack nodded. “Yes sir, just some steel, mostly pipes, welding supplies and some plants, both in seed, seedling and in dried form. Oz was most specific with all three demands.”
“I thought you said that you negotiated with the Others?”
“Well sir,” Jack hesitated as he looked Carter’s way. She showed the same confusion he felt. “We did and we didn’t.” After one look at the General’s face he hastened to explain. “The Others bartered the number of te’lis, that’s about 23 pounds, of each mineral they were going to give up but when we asked them what they wanted, they hesitated. Oz spoke up and handed us this list and without even knowing what was on this list the Others agreed. It was the first time Oz said anything in the council. Even though the Others kept trying to defer to him. It was odd since they had never set eyes on Oz before he showed up with us.”
General Hammond blinked.
At the other end of the table Teal’c yawned, loudly. Everyone looked at him in shock.
“Tired there, buddy?”
“Yes, O’Neill. I am.”
“Teal’c,” Jonas started, “I thought you didn’t sleep, you kel’no’reemed. And you could go for days without, if necessary?”
Teal’c nodded once. “That is correct JonasQuinn, but I was unable to kel’no’reem on the planet. The attempt exhausted me.”
Sam was concerned. “You couldn’t kel’no’reem? Why?”
“I do not know MajorCarter.”
“Do you need to see Doctor Fraiser?” Hammond asked.
Teal’c straightened in his chair. “I do not believe so GeneralHammond. DoctorFraiser could not find anything wrong with me during the post-gate exam. I will meditate after the meeting. I will be well afterwards.”
General Hammond grunted. “None the less, I’m ordering you to go see her immediately and tell her that it must be a short check-up and then see her after you’re done kel’no’reem-ing.”
The General looked around the table. “I want those reports ASAP. I need to report this to the President.” Heads nodded. “Dismissed.”
High above a planet very far away, the Asgard ship, the Shantou, hovered well out of range of the dormant defense system. The crew of the Shantou had watched this planet with much interest for several thousand years. The commander now watched the changes occurring on the Furling homeworld and was pleased.
The Furling prophets had promised their kind would eventually defeat Anubis on the second attempt. Most Asgard had doubted the Furling claim, especially in light of their extreme technological regression and the great power that Anubis had gained in his absence. The commander of the Shantou had not doubted. The Furling prophets had never been wrong before. The Time was now at hand.
The commander sent a message to Supreme Commander Thor on the Balissner. The Tauri would be needed to facilitate a meeting between the Asgard and the Furling. Once they were allies, two of the four great races, but they had been estranged for milleniums.
The commander was pleased. The Time was now at hand. Anubis would be defeated, and soon. And the Furling would resume their position as one of the great races of the universe. The promised Leader had come home. The Wolf returned to his lair as prophesied.