Title: Personal Burdens
Author: Keira Marcos
Series: The Vanguard
Series Order: 3
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis, Stargate: SG1
Relationship: John Sheppard/Rodney McKay, Jack O’Neill/Daniel Jackson
Genre: Time Travel, Romance, First Time, Alternate Universe
Warnings: Canon Level Violence, Temporary Character Death, Discussion-Cheating (not within my pairings), Grammarly Beta
Word Count: 11,408
Author Note: See the series page for casting.
Summary: Daniel meets Sam Carter before the Abydos mission and the consequences are surprising. Oma visits John and Rodney.
* * * *
July 1, 1996
John snagged his towel and wiped his face as he left the treadmill. He watched McKay with a critical eye on the elliptical bike. He was moving well, working against the resistance level they’d chosen. “Don’t overdo it.”
“I won’t. I’d rather not be in agony later,” Rodney said. “What’s for lunch?”
“Whatever you want,” John said with a shrug. “I sent the other phone off, and I got a text from O’Neill. Jackson is in the mountain.”
“That’s nearly two months early,” Rodney said and frowned. Suddenly, he stopped moving and left the machine. “John.”
“Sateda is culled in 1998.”
John’s mind sort of stalled out. Could they prevent the culling of an entire planet? Did they have a road to Atlantis that soon that wouldn’t reveal the time travel and get them all killed? He started to think about ways to discover the ancient outpost sooner.
There was a flash of light, and an ancient shimmered into view. The woman offered them both a kind, sad smile. “I am Oma.”
“I figured,” John said and shared a look with McKay, who had crossed the room and pulled the door shut. “Can we get to Pegasus in time to stop the culling of Sateda?”
“In the time you have? No.” She looked away from him; her expression grew pensive. “Once the stargate is opened—many events will fall on the four of you like an avalanche. It’ll take you years to get ahead of the Goa’uld threat, even with your future knowledge. There will be battles to be fought both at home and off-world, as you know. I’ve considered trying to figure out what I can do personally about the wraith threat, but I’m worried that I’ll be discovered and stopped. Currently, my duality is a secret. I don’t know how long I can maintain that circumstance.”
“Could you…warn them?” John questioned.
“Not without creating some sort of religion in the wake of it. You could,” Oma said. “You have their gate address.”
“Dialing Pegasus…is outside the realm of our ability without a ZPM,” Rodney said.
“Giving your gate a temporary boost would certainly go unnoticed, especially if the other me is providing a distraction,” Oma said. “You have roughly 22 months to get to a place where you can dial the gate in secret to warn Sateda that the wraith are coming for them. I don’t know if a warning will be enough. I don’t know if they would believe it.”
“I’ll have to make it believable,” John said grimly. “Even if that means taking on a persona, I avoided in Pegasus the first time around.”
“Genetically, you are as close to my kind as any human alive, John, so it wouldn’t be a persona, but merely acknowledging the truth,” Oma said. “Our legacy burns in your veins—for good and bad.” She reached out and touched him with a glowing hand.
“Whoa, get your hands off him,” Rodney snapped and started across the room.
“Relax, Rodney, if I wanted to force his ascension, I would’ve done it when he activated the Praeventores.” Oma’s hand trailed down John’s arm, and nimble fingers wrapped around his wrist.
“What are you doing?” John asked hoarsely.
“Waking you up,” Oma said. “It is something I wished to do for O’Neill when I met him the first time, but the remnants of my kind are not as evident in his blood as they are in yours. It’s something I’ve been able to correct for him, and I’ll wake him soon. I thought I would start with you.”
“Genetically, O’Neill was less ancient,” Rodney said and frowned. “What will waking up do for John?”
“It will give him an advantage—physically and mentally. My people were capable of a great many things—telekinesis, hands-on healing, telepathy.”
John didn’t think he wanted any of that.
“But we were also stronger, faster, and more durable than humans. While I cannot wake everything that lay dormant in your genetics, I can make it harder for someone to kill you.”
John nodded. “I understand.”
Oma released him but then focused on Rodney. “I can’t do much for you, but when we landed in the past, I did give you and Daniel Jackson the ATA gene.”
Rodney’s mouth dropped open. “What?”
“I gave you John’s gene specifically. It was easy enough to do since it is an artificial creation. Genetically locking our technology became necessary during the war with the wraith.”
“So, John’s genetic legacy from the ancients has nothing to do with the ATA gene itself, really.” Rodney nodded slowly. “Does that explain his natural ease with the tech? O’Neill didn’t have enough of it.”
“It does,” Oma agreed. “You actually have alteran ancestors, Rodney, but the ATA gene was missing. It was designed to work specifically with our genetics so only our descendants can successfully accept the gene.”
“Which is why Carson’s therapy didn’t work for everyone, which was the consensus eventually,” Rodney said. “Okay, that makes sense, and thank you—it was a very frustrating experience for me not to have the best access to Atlantis.”
“It frustrated her as well,” Oma said. “And made it difficult to truly repair the damage that has been done to her over the years. I did visit her when we first returned to the past.”
“To what end?”
“When you go to Atlantis, this time around, you will be greeted with a fully powered city. Even now, she’s using the power I’ve given her to repair herself. She will be a powerful and wonderful ally to you, John. I’ve told her that you’re coming—that you will protect her and allow her to fulfill the purpose she took as her own. Atlantis watched us struggle for many thousands of years to understand our role in the universe. She watched us experiment with ascension, make one wrong turn after another. While she forgives us our mistakes, she will not allow them to be repeated. She seeks to make war on the wraith. I’ve told her that you will help her.”
“I will,” John agreed. “You speak as if she lives.”
“She does,” Oma said simply. “I should go. Lingering in one place for any length of time is unwise in my current circumstances.”
“Wait,” Rodney said huffily. “How did you give Atlantis power?”
Oma grinned at him. “I recharged all three of her ZPMs.”
“That’s…” Rodney frowned. “You’re not going to tell me how are you?”
“I cannot—it was agreed long ago that if humanity discovered such power that it must be on their own, but I will tell you that near the end of your life, you were precariously close to figuring it out. You were on the right path, Rodney. You just needed more time.”
John watched McKay nod slowly, eyes darkening as he started to think. He’d seen that look often enough to know he was about to lose his friend to a research binge. Oma disappeared at that moment, and John allowed himself to relax. Though he knew that her physical disappearance didn’t mean she wasn’t still watching them. He’d learned to deal with the fact that with ancients flitting about in ascended form meant that privacy was largely an illusion and always had been.
“You should stretch and cool down,” John said as he headed toward the Bowflex.
“Be careful with that,” Rodney advised. “She just ramped you up, apparently. Breaking your father’s toy would probably create questions we can’t answer.”
John considered that and diverted to the weight bench, where he picked a couple of barbells up to work with instead. The weight felt good and reasonable, so he sat down on the bench to work. “I’ll get a handle on it—I don’t really feel any different.”
“Hmmm, it might take time for everything to settle. A gradual change would be easier to manage, but the ancients rarely do anything gradually.” Rodney frowned. “Also, I’m not sure how I feel about her fiddling with your genetics all willy nilly.”
John grinned. “Willy nilly?”
“Shut up,” Rodney muttered.
* * * *
“She hates me.”
Jack watched Daniel slouch in the chair in front of his desk. “Any idea how it went wrong? You got along like a house on fire the first time around.”
Daniel shook his head. “Maybe I was too friendly? I don’t know. She’s been very dismissive of all of my theories regarding the gate. Sam was more open-minded the first time we met.”
“Which would be about a year and a half from now,” Jack said. “After she was overlooked for the first mission, and you were left behind on an alien world for a year. She saw you as a resource, and you provided her data that furthered her understanding of the stargate and how to use it.”
“She also thinks I’m a crackpot,” Daniel muttered. “Despite the very real evidence of alien influence. I mean the stargate, the cover stone, and the….” He flicked a hand. “It’s horrible, Jack. It’s like Sam’s a stranger to me now.”
“She is.” Jack shrugged when Daniel huffed. “Or more importantly, you’re a stranger to her, and we’ll probably never get back that part of our relationship with her. We’re different people, as well, you know. We have experiences and knowledge that we can’t share with her. Even without trying, you’re going to be the same shining star you were in the program the first time. I can’t say that Sam didn’t resent that the first time around, at least briefly. All of her talent and intelligence couldn’t compete with the excitement you generated with your work.”
“How do we mitigate that?”
“I don’t know. She’s a brilliant scientist and, despite her career advancement, not ambitious for the sake of it. She certainly enjoys her success, but I’ve never considered it her only goal. Her not taking you seriously is par for the course, right?” Jack made a face.
“For scientists who don’t know about the stargate? Sure,” Daniel said with a shrug. “But I guess I didn’t interact with many except for Catherine until after I returned from Abydos.”
“Do you want to talk about that trip and what’s coming?”
“I hope we can convince them to bury the gate before we leave,” Daniel murmured.
“And Sha’re?” Jack questioned. “She’s alive, Daniel. You could….”
“No, I still love her, but I’m in love with you.” Daniel shook his head. “Staying was never the right choice, but I felt an obligation to her and to her people after everything that happened with Ra. The power dynamic in our relationship was already an obstacle, but now it would be borderline abusive. I know too much about her, about her people, and their circumstances. I could manipulate the hell out of them without even trying.”
Jack nodded. “It was something I worried about with you, actually, so I understand. You don’t have all the memories that I have of us, but there’s enough here that I don’t worry about the situation is unequal.”
“Except you have sex memories,” Daniel muttered.
Jack grinned. “I’m more than happy to reenact them at some point in the future.”
Daniel made a face at him. “Honestly, I forgot how annoying you were when we first met.” He leaned forward a bit. “You saw Sarah for coffee yesterday.”
“We went over the divorce papers,” Jack said. “No surprises there as we’d already agreed on basic terms. It’s all as civil as it can be considering everything.”
“And Landry?” Daniel questioned with a grimace.
“Already in Alaska,” Jack said. “With no hope of reassignment. I heard he was briefly perplexed by the reassignment until General West told him that it was my suggestion. After that, he shut up and stopped asking questions.”
“He fucked your wife,” Daniel said. “I hope the thrill of adultery with another officer’s wife was worth it. He’s lucky not to be facing a dishonorable discharge for that shit.”
“Well, he could’ve also faced a year of jail time if he’d been court-martialed for it,” Jack said. “It’s considered a serious breach of conduct and speaks to his character, which is obviously poor.” He cleared his throat. “We’re ready to file, and my lawyer thinks it’ll be a little over 90 days before everything is settled since we’re filing together and there are no issues to be contested.”
“I’m glad it won’t be more stressful for either of you. How’s Charlie doing?”
“Unhappy, but I think he realizes that we can’t stay together for him. I’ve asked him if he’d like to see a therapist, and he’s considering it. He overheard his mom making arrangements to meet Landry more than once though he just thinks she was having dinner with another man. I told him I wouldn’t be upset about dinners and that his mom’s friend was nothing to worry about.”
“You realize when he gets older, he’s going to figure out that she wasn’t meeting a man for dinner,” Daniel said.
“I hope that by then that I can make him understand that the divorce wasn’t about his mother’s behavior and more about how unhappy we both were in our marriage,” Jack said. “I think our marriage was over for a while for Sarah before she fully came to grips with it. I’m just trying to mitigate the hurt for both of them every chance I get.”
“Do you regret it?” Daniel questioned. “Acknowledging her affair?”
“No, I don’t. She deserves to be happy, and being married to me was making her miserable. It made her so unhappy that she did something deeply contrary to her character and her own morals. We both deserve better than that, and I remind myself of that any time I falter.”
“Charlie.” Jack cleared his throat. “It’s hard to deny him anything, and he’s really unhappy about me living in a different house from him. He calls me more often than not to ask me to sleep in the guest room. I haven’t given in often. I don’t know how he’s going to react once one of us starts dating.”
“I don’t mind being a secret from him until you think he’s ready,” Daniel said.
“I figured maybe a year,” Jack admitted. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t meet him. I don’t want to be cliché and introduce you as a friend, but it seems like the best solution to minimize the impact. Also, I’d hate for him to assume I left his mother for you and resent you for it.”
“No, agreed. I would hate that. And it’s not…well, it’s not true. You left Sarah before a relationship was an option for either of us. You just have to do it again, and I know it’s stressful.” Daniel stood and rubbed his neck. “I don’t know how to course-correct with Sam.”
“Maybe you can’t,” Jack said simply. “Which could be for the best.”
Daniel’s gaze narrowed on him. “What’s going on with you? Did she do something after I died to piss you off?”
Jack took a deep breath. “She helped cover up your death and faked ascension footage to trick the IOA. She also destroyed your body with a ZAT, so I didn’t have a body…I didn’t have…anything, really. At least, if I could’ve buried you, I would’ve gotten some fucking closure. And I realize that I can’t resent this version of Sam for what the other one did—but that kind of behavior is in her.”
“She followed orders.” Daniel paused. “Landry’s orders.”
“Yeah,” Jack agreed. “I had more than one reason to send that fucker off to Alaska.” He picked up a pen and tapped it on the desk. “We have another meeting with Hammond this afternoon. We’re getting close to the events that lead to your original ascension in the briefing. How do you feel about that?”
“Fine,” Daniel assured. “I wonder if that’s an issue with Sam as well.”
“The closed-door meetings you and I are having with Hammond?” Jack questioned. “It’s entirely possible, but I can’t do a damn thing about that. She’s not on the list for disclosure regarding the time travel and never will be.”
“Do you think she’d try to correct it or attempt to mitigate the changes you’d want to make?”
“I know she would,” Jack said grimly and stood. “And let’s leave it at that, okay?”
“Yeah, Jack, of course.”
“You never used to be this agreeable.”
Daniel shrugged. “You look…hurt sometimes in a way that I can’t figure out how to fix. I’m trying to wrap my head around it and deal with the grief you carry that is beyond what I experienced. I can’t say what condition I would be in if our roles were reversed.”
“Things are better now,” Jack said. “And you’re part of that. Serving took a lot out of me before and after your ascension. I can’t say I don’t have some trauma associated with it, but I’m dealing with it.”
“Part of me wants to suggest that you just retire and go raise your son in peace,” Daniel murmured.
“I can’t turn my back on the threats that are going to come for us whether we open the gate or not,” Jack said. “Ra will come here sooner or later if we don’t take him out. Apophis will dial that gate down there, searching for potential hosts to kidnap. The only viable method we have for protecting our world is a very proactive defense.”
* * * *
John shuddered and tightened his grip on his cock. Being twenty-six again had come with a series of circumstances that he wasn’t really prepared for—number one being his libido. He felt like an oversexed teenager, and that was sort of embarrassing.
John groaned, released his dick, and slouched back against the shower stall. “In the shower, McKay!”
And because Rodney didn’t believe in boundaries, the asshole opened the door and walked right in.
“Hey, Daniel says Carter hates him….” Rodney trailed off and took a deep breath as he stared. “You…hmmm….” He put the cellphone down on the bathroom counter. “Should I leave, or can I come in there? Also, I can’t believe you are jerking off when you could be fucking me. My ass is a modern marvel.”
John turned off the shower, opened the glass door, and crowded Rodney up against the bathroom counter. “I didn’t want to rush you.”
“Rush me, for fuck’s sake,” Rodney ordered as he pulled his T-shirt over his head.
John unbuttoned McKay’s jeans, shoved at them impatiently, and laughed a little as Rodney shimmied a little to get rid of them. “Commando?”
“To my shame, I don’t currently own a single pair of boxers,” Rodney said and laughed when John raised an eyebrow. “It was a phase.”
“I’m not mad about it,” John murmured and sought out a kiss, which Rodney all but melted into.
He cupped Rodney’s ass and lifted him up onto the counter as they kissed and pressed between the spread of the other man’s thighs. John couldn’t even put a number on how long he’d gone without sex. It had been on Earth, during a leave, so probably close to two years, at least mentally. Rodney’s hands on him was everything he’d ever wanted, so he just plastered himself to McKay and held on as their kisses edged toward desperate.
“Bed,” Rodney demanded. “Now, or I’m going to kick your ass.”
“You can’t kick my ass,” John said fondly and urged Rodney’s legs around his waist. He lifted him easily and laughed when McKay yelped.
“So not gradual,” Rodney muttered.
“Nah, this is all me. You’re a lightweight right now.” He crawled up onto the bed and dropped Rodney on the mattress. “Which is kind of a shame since I used to jerk off all the time thinking about coming on your belly.” John sat back and watched Rodney flush. He ran fingers down Rodney’s chest and over his stomach, which wasn’t overtly muscled, but nearly flat. “I’ve wanted to come on you for years.”
“You filthy bastard,” Rodney accused. “Also, how dare you deny me all the sex I was entitled to, Sheppard. I ought to….” He huffed and frowned.
John grinned. “Don’t get bent, Rodney; I’ve got stamina days for right now. I’ll totally make up for all the sex you missed out on before.” He reached over and snagged the lube from the bedside table. He dropped a condom on McKay’s stomach and flicked open the lube. “I can fuck you or give you a ride. Preference?”
“I want all of that,” Rodney said huffily. “Fuck me first.”
John slicked up his fingers, leaned down, and licked up the length of McKay’s cock. It’d been an age since he’d sucked a cock, and that was a fucking shame since he loved it so much. He drew Rodney’s dick into his mouth, sucked eagerly on the head before taking him all the way in.
“Oh, what…” Rodney spread his legs and lifted into John’s mouth helplessly. “Of course…you…wow. I need a list of all the cocks you’ve sucked so I can ruin those bastards’ lives.”
John would’ve laughed, but he wasn’t interested in releasing Rodney’s cock to accomplish it. He started to work the cock in and out of his throat, swallowing around the head every single time he took McKay to the hilt. He rubbed his slick fingers against the rim of Rodney’s asshole, pressed in just a little, and started to gently, carefully, finger fuck him.
“I want…I need…” Rodney’s fingers drifted through John’s hair. “Please.”
John slid three fingers in one more time the lifted up, releasing Rodney’s cock with a pleased little pop. “I got you.” He wiped his fingers on the sheets, rolled on the condom, and slicked lube on it just in case.
“Do you want me to turn over?” Rodney questioned.
“I want to see you,” John murmured as he braced himself over Rodney with arm and used his free hand to position himself. “How do you….”
“I just want you,” Rodney said and ran his hands up John’s arms. “Come on.”
He pushed in slowly and watched Rodney’s eyes flutter shut.
“Lift a little,” John murmured, cupped Rodney’s thigh, and urged him to lift his legs up. “Just like…yeah.”
It was easy then to get lost in the quick, heated pleasure of being inside another person. John loved to fuck, loved to be fucked, and he was long past not getting exactly what he wanted when it came to sex. Living as a straight man had been soul-crushing and demoralizing.
John let Rodney pull him down for a kiss and groaned softly into his friend’s mouth. “Fuck, Rodney.”
“Harder,” Rodney demanded. “Make me come.”
“Do you need my hand?” John questioned as he started to press in deep and hard.
“No, just fuck me.”
Rodney rocked up into the thrust of John’s body, and the moments stretched between them until all that existed was the pleasure they were creating. John didn’t know how he was going to maintain for much longer and just groaned in relief when Rodney spilled messily between them with a harsh groan.
“I love you,” John whispered fiercely against Rodney’s cheek as he shuddered through an orgasm.
* * * *
David raised an eyebrow as McKay breezed out of the kitchen with two cups of coffee humming under his breath, and John just shrugged.
“He’s in a really good mood,” Matt said. “Is he sick? He didn’t even bitch about the orange juice in the fridge that no one drinks around him.”
“I was going to take him with me to work today,” Patrick said mildly. “But it might freak people out—I mean, what if he smiled at one of them?”
“We have a great health plan,” David assured. “But it might stress them out and create a hostile work environment if he acted out of character around them. All four times he’s been there, he was cruel and utterly convinced that our entire R&D division was full of idiots.”
“In his defense, he probably has well over fifty IQ points on every single one of them,” John said and just shrugged when his brother huffed. “It’s true. Anyways, I’ll keep him occupied and out of trouble for the day. I need to do some shopping for my move, and Rodney offered to go with me to Ohio to help set up the house before school starts.”
“Does he need to let the DOD know where he is?” Patrick questioned. “Because I’ve taken two phone calls from them regarding his personal security.”
“He’ll call whoever needs to know,” John said. “And for the record, no, he doesn’t want personal security. He’d pitch a genuine fit if they send a couple of Marines to shadow him and no man in uniform deserves to suffer like that.” He snagged the last piece of bacon from his plate. “What’s your agenda, Matt?”
“The beach,” Matt said. “Eli is picking me up in an hour.”
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” John said.
“That just cuts my options in half,” Matt said with a laugh and snagged some more toast from the basket. “Shouldn’t be hard to stay out of trouble.”
John just rolled his eyes, stood, and grabbed the last of his bacon. “Have fun. Call me if you or your friends do something stupid and need a more adult version of an adult.” He paused. “And if you need a lawyer, call David.”
Matt laughed as John left the kitchen.
He found McKay in the small office space they’d set up in his suite. John dropped down in a chair across from Rodney and watched him work on the laptop he’d brought with him. It had clearly had some aftermarket upgrades, but he didn’t know if it was government issue or not. He’d not tried to mess with it.
“You said that Carter and Jackson aren’t getting along?”
“Apparently, she’s treating him like he’s a crackpot,” Rodney said. “Which has totally ruined my plans because I was gonna be mean to him, and now, I have to have his back like a proper teammate.” He huffed when John laughed. “Seriously. Anyways, it’s annoyed O’Neill to the point that I’m probably going to be routed into the SGC sooner rather than later. It’ll earn me some enemies to make that kind of jump—to go from Groom Lake to Project Giza. Everyone knows that Project Giza is where the excitement is going to be. They just don’t know what that excitement will be.”
“And once they find out…it will be worse?”
“Especially since it will put me in a position to wedge myself into top-tier research projects that Carter kept me out of the first time around. I think O’Neill intends to ask Hammond to put me in place as CSO.”
“It makes sense,” John said. “No one alive knows more about the stargate and the technology we’re about to encounter than you do. It’s not fair, probably, considering the future knowledge. But even the first time around, you were the foremost authority on the gate within in a couple of years of joining the program.”
“True,” McKay admitted. “I did want a better working relationship with Sam this time around. She’s brilliant and….” He frowned. “But also, I’m kind of put off by what I’ve been getting from Daniel because he adored her once, and she’s working toward making him resent her. I think she’ll get an attitude adjustment sooner rather than later, but it won’t rectify the damage she’s currently doing.”
“Do you think a come to Jesus meeting with her would help?” John questioned. “Maybe she needs a different perspective. Something did adjust her attitude and perspective the first time around—before she met Daniel Jackson. I wonder what it was?”
“It could’ve been the mission reports from Abydos,” Rodney pointed out. “I don’t think O’Neill intends to take her on that mission. I know she was irritated to be excluded the first time around and saw Daniel has a unique source of data once he returned to Earth.”
“That’s kind of awful,” John admitted.
“Carter is a scientist first and an Air Force officer second; she’s often quite mercenary. But that’s not a mentality I’m unfamiliar with. I mean, the most credible death threat I got before going to Pegasus came from a fellow student during graduate school.”
“That woman was horrible, John. She’d have probably scared the shit out of Kolya.”
“I’m shooting that fucker in the face the first chance I get,” John said grimly. “I might not even introduce myself first.”
“Well, he’s more than earned it,” Rodney said intently, and John grinned at him.
“I don’t think people are really prepared for you,” John said. “And it’s funny as hell. I look forward to you surprising and horrifying people for years.”
“I’m just saying that some people need a sternly worded surface-to-air missile to their face,” Rodney continued. “And I have to be nice to Daniel Jackson, John. This is the worst.”
* * * *
“Rodney’s mad at Carter,” Daniel reported as he opened up two beers and passed one to Jack, who was staring intently at a pair of steaks on the grill. “Apparently, he has to be nice to me now, and that’s not fair.”
Jack raised an eyebrow. “That’s gonna require an adjustment.”
“Right? But he said he has to have my back against Carter since we’re a team. I think…the best thing that ever happened to McKay was going to Pegasus and learning what it meant to depend on others,” Daniel admitted. “I know, looking back on it, that he was manipulated to endanger Teal’c’s life and that he wasn’t wrong about the limits of the technology.”
“No, agreed, we shouldn’t have still been using a jury-rigged dialing system. One of my first priorities will be a dialing device like the one on Atlantis. We know where there are four Jumpers in the Milky Way, so accidentally finding them is a priority. Once we have one, McKay won’t have a problem creating a dialing device like the one in the Jumper for the mountain that will work within the system instead of against it like Sam’s dialing computer currently will. It’ll prevent a lot of accidents.” Jack frowned at the grill. “Did you want me to talk to Carter?”
“I think…you’re going to have to,” Daniel admitted reluctantly. “Because her attitude is going to spread to others. Kawalsky was snide with me this afternoon about my research and the room that Catherine gave me. He said it was a waste of time and space.”
“Well, that will definitely get nipped in the bud,” Jack said quietly. “I was on the fence about even bringing him with me into the SGC because I don’t want him…to get killed again.”
“Speaking of—did you find Captain Hanson?”
“He’s currently serving in the Middle East as a First Lieutenant,” Jack said. “General Hammond has excluded him permanently from the project and suggested to West that he get a psych eval. It’ll trickle down to Hanson’s current CO. If he goes nuts and tries to form a cult, it’ll be on Earth. So that’s something. Curiously, I also found out that Carter had marked him as a potential asset for the program.”
“He’s an ex-lover of hers.”
“Yeah, I know. Her personal feelings for him were certainly at play when it came to the rec because there’s nothing extraordinary about the man. He’s an average officer, an average pilot, and he’s only advanced through rank due to time served despite his active combat status.”
“Catherine is considering punting her back to DC,” Daniel admitted. “And we need her here in Colorado, so it’s time to…do something. I’m just not sure what exactly.”
“I’ll handle it,” Jack murmured. “Hammond is going to announce me as his XO tomorrow. I’ll be meeting with all of the officers currently assigned to Project Giza.”
* * * *
July 3, 1996
The research team for Project Giza was primarily civilian. General West had provided more security than oversight for the project. Jack’s transfer into the project had brought his whole team onboard—Charles Kawalsky and Louis Ferretti were his officers. He had one NCO, Raymond Brown. The other three men he’d originally taken to Abydos—Ryan Freeman, Kenneth Reilly, and Valerius Porro were already in the mountain and on standby for orders. Hammond had inserted them into the guard rotation as far as Jack knew.
“Captain Samantha Carter,” Jack said. “Major Charles Kawalsky and Lt. Louis Ferretti.” He motioned to each of them in return and considered the introductions done. “Kawalsky and Ferretti have served under me for the last five years, Captain, in a variety of circumstances that we’re not of liberty to discuss.”
He watched her gaze narrow slightly, but she nodded.
“Before we continue this conversation, I’d like to announce that Dr. Jackson is currently in a meeting with Dr. Langford and General Hammond discussing the breakthrough he had last night regarding the cover stone and device.”
“Breakthrough?” Carter questioned. “Jackson?”
“Dr. Jackson is one of the most talented archaeologists in his field,” Jack said mildly and watched her adjust to that. “And a world-class linguist who speaks twenty-three languages.” Her mouth dropped open briefly. “He was brought on board this project because General West, the original head of the project, came to understand that the device was of extraterrestrial origin. He moved himself to Washington to secure funding for Project Giza and put General Hammond in his place because of General Hammond’s…unique experiences both here and at Area 51.”
“Unique as in….” Kawalsky trailed off.
“That’s classified,” Jack said, and Kawalsky nodded. “But needless to say, Hammond wasn’t remotely shocked to be told the device is alien in origin.”
“Do you know what Jackson’s breakthrough is about?”
“The original translation of the cover stone was slightly off due to linguistic drift. Dr. Meyers mistranslated a hieroglyph cover stone as the phrase “door to heaven” when, in fact, it means ‘stargate’.”
“So, his theory that aliens that built the pyramids might be accurate?” Carter made a face.
“That’s not his theory at all,” Jack said pointedly. “He believes the pyramids in Egypt and in South America were built by the native population to be landing platforms for alien ships. Based on a study of religious practices, the construction period, and the existence of the stargate, it is clear that his theories are going to be proven entirely accurate.
“Going forward, Dr. Jackson will be in a position to influence the trajectory of Project Giza when it comes to research on the planet and potentially off the planet. He’s requested that we bring in an astrophysicist, so General Hammond is reviewing personnel files on current projects in the DOD, but most especially at Groom Lake.”
“Sir,” Carter began and leaned forward. “My doctorate is in theoretical astrophysics.”
“Unfortunately, Dr. Jackson is currently unwilling to work with you,” Jack said and focused on her entirely. “He was brought here by Dr. Langford, who has every single faith that he’s going to make the latchkey discovery that makes the device work. While he hasn’t filed a formal complaint, he’s made it clear that he’s uncomfortable collaborating with you currently due to your behavior.” He paused. “So, what did you do or say, Captain Carter?”
Her cheeks flushed. “He’s…eccentric, and his theories have no scientific basis. It’s difficult to take him seriously.”
“And that led you to….” Jack prodded.
“I’ve dismissed his input in several meetings,” Carter admitted reluctantly. “Dr. Meyers told me that Dr. Jackson is wildly regarded as a lunatic, but that apparently runs in the family. His maternal grandfather is also something of a crackpot.” She blushed. “I asked him about his grandfather’s crystal skull conspiracy theories as well and implied that insanity ran in his family.”
Jack nodded. “Well, congratulations, Captain, in the event that Dr. Jackson’s theories prove accurate, you’ve pretty much ensured that your role going forward in Project Giza will be largely as a military asset.”
“I…” She exhaled sharply. “Sir, what is the genuine likelihood that aliens regularly visited the planet historically and left no evidence behind?”
“Maybe we just haven’t found the big evidence yet,” Ferretti interjected. “Hell, there are parts of this planet that no human being has stepped foot in for maybe thousands upon thousands of years. Plus, the pyramids and the device are evidence. The fact that they appear all over the planet during the same time period when the spread of such ideas would’ve been difficult….” He shrugged. “I don’t believe in coincidences.”
“No, neither do I,” Jack said. “Because what would make such societies undertake huge construction projects that certainly took up resources that could’ve been used to better purposes for their peoples. Regardless, the cards will be on the table soon enough, and you have some ground to recover, Captain Carter.”
“Yes, sir,” Carter said and nodded. “My apologies for creating a difficult situation. I shouldn’t have taken Dr. Meyers’ opinions on board so quickly.”
“Dr. Jackson was brought in because Dr. Meyers had made zero progress on the project in the last year,” Jack said. “A circumstance you certainly should’ve taken into consideration. His professional jealousy will probably mean his exit from Project Giza shortly. Dr. Langford is irritated with him, and he’s upsetting her interns, which honestly takes a lot because they appear to live in their heads ninety percent of the time.”
“Who is General Hammond considering bringing in?” Carter questioned. “If you know.”
“I’ve seen the shortlist of civilian assets—Hammond is considering assembling a full team to investigate the device.”
“Can I be included in that decision-making process?” Carter asked. “I have the most research time in, so I’m the natural choice to lead….” She trailed off when he shook his head.
“As I said, your behavior with Dr. Jackson has made that a no-go.” Jack checked his watch. “I’m due in the meeting with Hammond, Jackson, and Langford. Kawalsky, get with Freeman, Brown, Reilly, and Porro and check their schedules. I want to meet with them later in the afternoon and discuss potential scenarios if this thing works and what it means for our team going forward. Dismissed.”
Carter lingered, so Jack did as well.
“Sir, how can I rectify this situation with Dr. Jackson?”
“An apology would soothe feelings, I suppose, but I doubt you can do much about the overall impression that you’ve made on him. You’ve presented yourself to be very narrow-minded and rigid, so he believes that your work style and his simply won’t mesh. It’s a shame since he read your thesis before meeting you and was looking forward to working with you. He thinks you’re brilliant and that your work is exciting, but he’s not currently interested in working with you and certainly wouldn’t work for you.”
“Sir, are you really saying that a civilian is going to have more of a say going forward on this project than you or General Hammond?”
“Certainly if he gets the device to work,” Jack said. “It’s a golden ticket, Captain, and we can be fortunate that Jackson doesn’t appear to be much of a diva. POTUS and the DOD are going to be very grateful. Jackson seems to be genuinely thrilled to be here and to be part of something so interesting that meshes with the theories that the masses have abused and disparaged him over for years….”
Her cheeks darkened, and she averted her gaze. “It’s…”
“Frustrating?” Jack questioned. “It must be difficult for you—having a soft scientist come in and figure out how to make the stargate work after two years of study on your part. Maybe you aren’t all that different from Dr. Meyers, after all, Captain, and that’s unfortunate. I hoped for better.”
“Sir.” She exhaled sharply. “I think it’s a mistake to put so much faith in Dr. Jackson’s theories considering his history. The DOD has invested a lot of money in Project Giza already, and funding going forward will depend on results and potential. He’s not known for either.”
“Currently, Captain Carter, neither are you. On this project, you’ve only managed to produce a program that can make the gate spin, and your work on previous projects, while excellent, hasn’t been groundbreaking,” Jack said mildly, and her eyes widened in shock. “Which is probably another reason why General Hammond is putting together a team of civilian contractors with experience across many government projects already. As I said, you have some work to do if you want to regain the ground that you’ve lost with Dr. Jackson and others in this mountain.”
* * * *
McKay slouched down on the sofa in front of John with a dramatic huff.
“I read Jackson’s thesis and his published papers,” McKay said sullenly.
“He’s literally ahead of his time, John. Honestly, he got every single bit of it right before he even set eyes on the stargate, and that’s really frustrating. I never paid him much attention the first time around, and that’s annoying because I think he could’ve probably furthered my understanding of the ancients to an epic degree.”
“Ah,” John said. “Well, you had a full plate from the very start of the Atlantis mission, and before that, I know that there were some political issues that put you at odds with most of SG1.”
“I’ve already started plans to get rid of a lot of those political issues. I’m sure O’Neill has a hit list of sorts, and I don’t know how he wants to deal with them, but there are a lot of skeletons in various closets that I’m going to expose. I’m about to make the kind of quiet war that will ruin people’s lives.” Rodney picked up his phone and stared at the screen. “Daniel just briefed Hammond and Langford on the corrected translation of the cover stone. He’s avoided looking at it directly since his arrival to delay things. His next goal will be the point of origin discussion, and he needs a mathematician. I pointed that out already and suggested Miko. She’s currently underutilized in a DOD lab in California. I’ve also suggested he go ahead and snag Bill Lee before he goes through that thing he went through that basically ruined him.”
“What did he go through?” John questioned.
“He was working for a private company, and the owner violated his employment contract and stole his private work. That work was patented out from underneath him, and he never recovered. We have two years to get him out of that situation before it basically destroys his self-confidence and his potential,” Rodney said. “If he turns down Project Giza, can you get your dad to recruit him? Bribe him away from that asshole he currently works for?”
“You softie,” John said and grinned when Rodney glared at him. “But really, just give my dad a list of people you’d like to see at SI, and he’ll see it done in the most civilized fashion possible.”
“It’ll put SI in a better position anyway, and we’ll get better tech.”
“Twofer,” Rodney agreed. “There are a couple of people who would’ve been better served working adjacent to the program, honestly. Like Katie.”
“You were dating her when you died,” John said. “You love her, right?”
“Not as much as I love you,” Rodney said. “She’s a sweet woman, and I enjoyed spending time with her—it was easy, but it wasn’t anything…it just wasn’t enough, and I knew it. I hope my death didn’t hurt her too much.”
“She went back to Earth after you died,” John said. “And she resented me a lot. In fact, she came to me the night before she left and said that she hated how everyone was so invested in my grief while they ignored hers.”
“What did you say to her?”
“I said I lost the love of my life, and she just lost the guy she was dating. I told her to never speak to me again because grief shouldn’t be a competition, and she turned it into one. I regretted it because I hurt her, and she didn’t deserve it.” John stood and walked away from the couches to push open the French doors and walked out onto the balcony.
Rodney appeared at his side after a few moments. “Sorry I died.”
“Fuck you,” John muttered but nudged McKay gently. “Grief is a burden, you know, and I’ve carried a lot of it over my lifetime. When my mom died, I thought I’d never hurt more than that.” He took a deep breath. “I was wrong. I miss her, but when you were gone, it was like you took half of me with you. It’s was as if someone scraped all the good parts out of me and left something angry and vengeful behind. I really did consider murdering Jack O’Neill to make the Vanguard work. The worst part of that is when I confessed that to him…he wasn’t even upset. He just nodded like it was a reasonable solution.”
“I guess Daniel Jackson means a lot to him,” Rodney said. “O’Neill has terrible taste, John. What should we do about it?”
“I guess nothing,” John said with a laugh. “I mean, at least Jackson’s pretty.”
“True,” Rodney agreed. “I think I’ll probably be transferred into the mountain sooner rather than later. I don’t like it.”
“It’ll be harder to get away to see you,” Rodney said. “My security clearance will increase, and I’ll be under more scrutiny. It’ll be a hard year, I guess, with you in Ohio.”
“Could be longer,” John warned. “If I get sent overseas, Rodney, I won’t have any power to change that. I don’t know what General West and General Hammond have planned for me. West won’t be read in on the reality of our situation. I don’t know why O’Neill made that decision because it’s clear he has a lot of respect for the man.”
“He knows West well,” McKay said. “Not everyone could handle time travel or more to the point, not everyone would believe it. We know that Hammond was predisposed to believe it due to a previous experience.”
“We chose Hammond in advance,” John said. “The only one outside of you and Daniel. He was adamant that Carter not be included due to her opinions on time travel and the integrity of the timeline.”
“Ah, well, that’s probably about Charlie.”
“Yeah, but that’s his story to tell.”
“I can figure it out on my own. He time traveled once before, and I don’t believe for a second that he didn’t try to save his own son.” Rodney asked, and John took a deep breath. “Carter must have interfered in some fashion or another. If he knows that, then I don’t see how he would ever forgive her or truly trust her again.”
“I wouldn’t either,” John admitted. “She was part of his team—that meant having his back. That kind of trust, once it’s broken, there’s no getting it back. It’s hard to see her point of view in the face of a child’s life that could’ve been saved.”
“Changing the past endangers the program and the world considering we know what kind of threats are looming out there in the galaxy,” Rodney said. “Especially when no one was in the know to guide things along the right path. Messing with time is dangerous—far more dangerous than anyone is really prepared for. There’s no telling how many things we’ve already changed without even trying. My working in the mountain will change a thousand things, John, and we can’t control those changes.”
“Any foreknowledge is better than none,” John said. “We know where the threats are—at least the threats we were aware of at the point that we time traveled, and that’s more than we had the first time around. We can make better decisions, be better prepared for what is out there. It’ll just be better this time around, I promise.”
“You can’t make that kind of promise,” Rodney said roughly. “But it’s fine. Having you like this, with me, was more than I ever expected to have, and getting a second chance to get some of it right is an astounding opportunity.”
“But it’s something that scares you, too.”
“The SGC got lucky a lot,” Rodney said. “Our planet almost fell to one alien invasion force after another, and luck was often the deciding factor. There will be some situations we can avoid outright, especially with Hammond in the know, but there have be circumstances we can’t avoid no matter what we do.”
“I want to tell you everything will be okay.”
“I know,” Rodney said and leaned against him. “We’ll get through it. One way or another.”
“I’d rather you not go through the gate without me,” John admitted. “But I know that circumstance will be beyond both of our control once you go to Colorado. Outside of Daniel and himself, you’ll be the most experienced asset O’Neill has when it comes to gate missions.”
“Yeah,” Rodney said and frowned. “I’ll take care with myself. As much as I can, at least. Nothing is guaranteed, so making the most of the time we have is what is important. Are you still comfortable with the plan you’ve made to go to AFIT?”
“It’s what needs to be done, and I’m not opposed to the work,” John murmured. “In the end, it’s for Atlantis, and that’s enough.” He exhaled. “It’s got to be.”
* * * *
“You’ve been here for a week, Dr. Jackson. Why did you just now get to the translation work?” Carter asked as she shifted the papers around in front of her from the file she’d gotten from Dr. Langford.
“I wasn’t given Dr. Meyer’s translation until yesterday,” Daniel said mildly. “I’ve been working directly with the cover stone and researching the period it would’ve been carved. I had no idea the translation had gone so far off the rails. Not Dr. Meyer’s fault, of course, he wasn’t using the right resources. The cover stone itself isn’t like anything else we’ve found in Egypt—a curiosity in itself. The size alone is…intriguing, and I’m ready to see what it was covering up.”
“Unfortunately, that’s above your pay grade,” Sam said simply and turned to Dr. Langford for confirmation.
“Nothing on this project is above Dr. Jackson’s pay grade,” Hammond interjected, and Jack watched everyone adjust to the general’s statement. “Dr. Langford and I agree that going forward that Dr. Jackson will be fully briefed on the entirety of Project Giza. He needs the big picture in order to participate at the level required of him. Show him the…stargate, Colonel O’Neill.”
“Yes,” Catherine said with a delighted smile. “Let’s show Daniel the stargate.”
“Also,” Daniel paused. “Based on what I’ve read about the discovery of the cover stone, the US government has had the stargate for decades. I’d like to look at the historical data.”
“Historical data?” Carter questioned. “What purpose would research done decades ago do?”
“I don’t know and won’t know until a review has been done.” Daniel focused on Catherine. “Your father was involved in that research, correct? I saw his name on some of the reports from the original dig in Egypt.”
“Yes,” she said and took a deep breath. “I took on this project because of his work and because of…the loss that was suffered during those experiments.”
“Then I definitely want to see those records,” Daniel said and shared a look with Jack, who was frowning.
Jack knew that Daniel wanted to rescue Ernest Littlefield as soon as possible and study the ancient meeting place before it fell into the sea. Doing that would open up a lot of research in the mountain going forward and maybe even lead them to Asgard sooner rather than later.
An hour later, Daniel was once more immersed in the gate, the cover stone, and the implications. He reaffirmed his desire for a team of physicists and engineers. Then he asked for a schematic of the gate and was met with shock. There were several panels that could be opened and should’ve already been studied. The fact that no one had sat down with AutoCAD and created working plans for the stargate was kind of startling. He’d seen them in the future and wondered who’d done them.
He took a sip of his coffee and watched Daniel make faces at the people in the room.
“But, if you don’t know how it works physically and you are uncertain of power requirements, how safe would it be to actually activate and use?” Daniel questioned, and Carter flushed with what Jack figured was fury. It was clear that Daniel planned to hold a grudge. “I might be a soft scientist, Captain Carter, but even I know it’s a bad idea to give power something with as much destructive power as the stargate has without a thorough review.”
“What?” Hammond interjected. “What are you talking about?”
“Just a moment,” Daniel said and walked over to his desk.
They’d retreated to Daniel’s office space for the conversation after the gate tour. He shared a look with Daniel, who looked a little flustered. They hadn’t really covered that information with Hammond yet. The theory was sound, but experience told them that the current setup was fine when it came to the power supply and the current danger level of the stargate itself in the mountain. He was probably going to get some flak from Hammond about it, and he deserved it.
“Dr. Hayden Callahan, a geologist, reported that the unknown metal the stargate is made of is stable, but in the right circumstances, could be used to enhance weapons to an immensely destructive degree. The more of the element available, the more the magnification would be. Based on the math of his report, the destruction of the stargate currently sitting in the mountain could create an extinction-level of event with the right materials at hand.”
“Extinction level,” Hammond said flatly and checked his watch. “O’Neill, I want Dr. McKay here as soon as possible.” He paused. “And the rest of the shortlist of scientists we created within the next week.”
“Captain Carter, meet me in my office in the next two hours with all of your research into the gate. I’d like to know what you’ve learned over the past two years.”
“Of course, sir,” Carter said with a confident smile.
Jack winced because she clearly wasn’t reading the room. Hammond was furious that no one on the project had mentioned how dangerous the gate was physically if mismanaged. It was one of the things he’d wanted addressed early on so that the first chance they got, they could install a DHD of some sort to mitigate the danger of the gate itself and the dialing program that had been used in the first timeline.
It had been the first thing he’d addressed with Hammond—how casual the team was being with a device that could easily be turned into a weapon of mass destruction.
* * * *
“I don’t like this.”
Rodney looked up from his packing. “I know, and I’m sorry. O’Neill is, too, for whatever that’s worth. But Hammond is really unhappy with how utterly unconcerned everyone in the project is with the gate’s destructive power. Fortunately, Zelenka and Kusanagi are also being brought in very soon. And they successfully wooed Bill Lee away from his private-sector job, which is a win. I’m sorry I can’t go to Ohio with you.”
“That part is fine,” John said huffily, though he didn’t mean it at all.
Everything was moving in the right direction, and he knew it. He just wanted more time with McKay, and not getting it was painful. The plan depended on their separation and their ability to get through the time apart without losing the plot. It just sucked, and John was mentally mature enough to handle it, even if physically he was a hormonal mess.
“I’ll drive you to the airport.”
“No,” Rodney said. “No need for someone to see you with me that shouldn’t. I know your father is working on getting rid of DADT, but there’s no need to take risks.” He zipped up the last of his bags. “We need to keep your career as clean as possible, John, and you know it.”
John huffed and crossed his arms. “This sucks.”
“I know, but I’ll work on a leave schedule and try to get to Ohio to see you as often as possible, which granted won’t be often, and we’ll have to be careful about who sees us. Also, I don’t know how security will go because if I end up with an escort, then I won’t be able to see you at all without the Air Force knowing.” He waved a hand. “By the way, what’s our origin story?”
“Did you ever do spring break in Florida?”
“My last year of undergrad—1989,” Rodney said. “I kind of hated it.”
“I was stationed at MacDill in Tampa, Florida shortly after basic. I was there from 1988 through 1991. So, we met in Florida on your spring break. Absolutely no one would be able to disprove that due to how hectic that time period is every single year. Hotel reservations never match up; people travel in cars and party all week in various states of undress. Plus, lack of real Internet means that there’s no social media footprint to investigate. I doubt anyone would care enough to verify.”
“Would they be able to say you were on base the whole week or whatever?”
“No, because we weren’t. We regularly partied with spring breakers from the first of April through the middle of May. Though, we also regularly got hauled back to base by MPs, too.” John grinned when Rodney huffed. “It’ll be fine. The story works, and it’s so mundane that no one is really going to be surprised or concerned.”
“You’re right,” Rodney said. “Well, I’ve got two hours before I have to leave.”
“Let’s watch a movie,” John suggested and snagged his hand. He laced their fingers together and tugged him close. “It sucks that we have to wait until some of our favorite movies are made.”
“Oh, true,” Rodney said with a frown. “Let’s watch something ridiculous.”
Rodney grinned. “Sure, nothing wrong with a young, gorgeously maladjusted Angelina Jolie.”
* * * *
July 7, 1996
The McKay that entered Cheyenne Mountain was nothing like the one they’d met the first time around or really the one that he’d crossed paths with after the Atlantis mission had established contact with Earth. He was subdued, watchful, and he carried himself with a confidence Jack found more of a relief than anything else. They needed McKay to be at the top of his game especially considering the situation with Carter.
Jack did wonder if his own standoffishness with the woman was causing her to respond so negatively to Daniel. The talk they’d had seemed to help a bit, but it was clear she wasn’t used to be being sidelined on any topic, much less a project she’d considered hers on some level for two years.
McKay had sat through the briefing with no overt irritation, asked pointed questions of Carter, Daniel, and Catherine Langford. He asked about the previous research done on the gate and asked for Dr. Paul Langford’s notes. Daniel admitted to having received the archived boxes from Area 51 on Sunday.
“I’ll help you go through them,” McKay offered. “The more we know about what was done to and with the device before, the better off we’ll be. It’s my understanding that it’s no longer attached to a power source.”
“Yes, I had the power supply cut once it became clear that no one could promise that it is stable,” Hammond interjected.
“It probably isn’t,” McKay said as he stood and walked stand in the large window in the conference room. “It’s clearly one part of a system.”
“You can’t possibly know that for certain.”
“How do you suppose it was used in the past?” McKay questioned and focused on Carter. “There is a control mechanism of some sort, Captain Carter, and we don’t have it. It’s a concern.”
“Why?” Daniel asked curiously.
“If this is a gate, it stands to reason that it connects to at least one more gate, Dr. Jackson. Maybe it connects to dozens of such gates, and if that is the case, then there is a management system in place that we aren’t going to be a part of without the control.”
“I’ve designed a computer program to dial the stargate,” Carter interjected. “We’ve just not made a connection.”
“I’m sure it’ll work fine when it comes to activation,” McKay allowed. “But what about management? What about stability? What will form when you make a connection? What about power containment?”
“We can’t calculate for any of that until we’ve established a connection, and you know it.”
“I do.” He paused and glanced toward Hammond. “But plenty of people in this room didn’t. You can’t expect them to have any sort of oversight concerning this project if it’s not being explained to them. We also can’t trust this program that you’ve designed to maintain the integrity of whatever gateway is formed. It’ll need to be tested extensively. Plus, we should work to find the missing control device. If it was dug up in Egypt at some point, then someone has it. Either it’s sitting in a museum’s storage room because they don’t know what the hell it is, or it’s been seized by another government.”
“If another government has it—we’ll never find it,” Jackson said with a frown.
“Yes, well, that’s what espionage is for,” Rodney said and waved a hand. “Not really my field, but we can make an educated guess about who has it. Britain, Germany, and Russia were all at one time or another deeply invested in excavating Egypt.”
“You’re suggesting we steal it,” Jack said in amusement.
“As I said, I don’t know how that stuff works, but it’s best that we find it and get it before they realize what it is or realize we want it.” Rodney shrugged. “Let’s hope the Germans didn’t dig it up. The Nazis made a hobby of selling the cultures of others for a profit. If it’s in the hands of a private collector—it’ll be hard to locate and perhaps even harder to remove.”
“You worked with the CIA, Dr. McKay,” Hammond pointed out dryly. “So, I think you do know how that stuff works.”
“Oh, well,” Rodney shrugged. “I wasn’t a spy or anything. I was a technical advisor.” He focused on the gate again. “Even with no power, it’s dangerous, you know?”
“Dangerous how?” Jack questioned, though he certainly knew the answer already.
“I’ve always found the things we don’t understand to be the most dangerous—it could take us decades to unravel all the secrets that single device holds, but I have a feeling we won’t get that kind of time.” He turned and focused on Daniel. “I’ve read your work.”
“Hmmm, which work?”
“All of it,” McKay said simply.
“Were you bored?” Carter asked in confusion.
“I was curious,” McKay corrected. “And eventually intrigued. Even in your first published articles, Dr. Jackson, you were already alluding to a deeper truth that is threaded through the mythology of cultures all over the world. How far do you think the influence spread?”
“I don’t think it had a limit,” Daniel admitted.
“And the lack of explicit documentation?”
“Perhaps the details were absorbed into the very fabric of the mythologies of ancient cultures,” Daniel speculated. “Or maybe fear created a situation where discussing it became taboo.”
“Isolation, fear, and the lack of reliable worldwide communication….” McKay speculated. “Combined with fear, rapidly establishing monotheistic religions, which often proved to be deeply intolerant of anything outside of their own doctrine….” He nodded. “Right.”
“What’s your doctorate in?” Carter asked in confusion.
“I have dual PhD’s—astrophysics and mechanical engineering,” McKay said off-hand, like that wasn’t impressive, and Jack watched Carter’s mouth drop open slightly. “Jackson, take me to your office. I want to read everything from the first experiments. When Zelenka gets here—we can start running internal diagnostics on the device and get a good grasp on the condition of the electronics. Not that I have the first damn clue what sort of baseline we should assign to crystal-based technology. But we have to start somewhere.”
“Sure, McKay,” Daniel said and started gathering up his books and notepads.
“Are you coming, Carter, or do you have Air Force stuff to do?” McKay questioned. “If you’re busy—I can send you an email with my questions about your dialing program. Also, can I have a copy of that program? I’d like to see how you built it and compare it to the firmware on the stargate.”
“The firmware isn’t written in an Earth-based language,” Carter admitted reluctantly. “At least not one we’ve been able to identify.”
“Then Jackson definitely needs to see that. Kusanagi is the programming and math expert en route—fortunately, she picks up languages easily and speaks six already.” He paused at the door as Daniel slipped past him. “So, coming or Air Force stuff?”
Carter looked toward Jack for direction.
“Go on,” Jack said. “I’ll send Lorne after you if you’re needed for anything else.”
The door shut behind the three scientists with a click, and Catherine Langford laughed a little.
“He’s a firebrand,” she said wryly. “I think I’ll keep Gary Meyers out of his way until I can send him back to Yale. I doubt he could handle being in the same room with McKay and Jackson at the same time.” She folded her hands together in front of her and stared at Jack. “You’ve been making some interesting moves since your arrival, Colonel O’Neill. My funding tripled overnight, I’m getting coveted scientific assets that I couldn’t have dreamt of getting even six weeks ago, and I’ve noted an uptick in the arrival of highly trained military personnel. What are you thinking? Because if you think the stargate is a weapon….”
“Not a weapon,” Jack said. “I think McKay’s right about being dangerous. I also think Jackson was right about the aliens.”
“I think we’re lucky they haven’t already come back,” Jack said. “And maybe digging up the stargate has already gotten their attention. Or maybe it will gain their attention shortly. What if there is a network of them? What’s on the other side of that network? Why did the Egyptians bury the stargate and cover it as they did? What were they afraid of, Catherine, back then? What should we be afraid of today?”
“I don’t know,” she admitted. “I protested your assignment to the project. I also didn’t agree with William’s transfer to Washington. You’ve all been maneuvering around me, and it’s disconcerting. You’ve made it a point to befriend Dr. Jackson. What’s your end game?”
“Do you think I’m influencing him?” Jack asked mildly.
“I think he’s more likely to influence you,” she admitted, and Jack laughed. “But there’s something going on, and you’re a married man.”
“I’m a man on the way to divorce court, Dr. Langford,” Jack said mildly and glanced only briefly at General Hammond as he spoke. “And such an accusation could get me court-martialed, so please be careful.”
“Ah, I have it on good authority that DADT is about to get knocked to the ground and kicked about by presidential authority,” Langston said. “Apparently, there’s some big deal tech company that the DOD wants to work with whose CEO won’t give them a single contract because of the systematic government-sponsored discrimination against gays in the military.”
“I find Dr. Jackson interesting,” Jack allowed. “It’s not often I encounter anyone like him since I’ve spent my entire adult life in uniform. You can trust I won’t see any harm done to him.”
Series Page: The Vanguard