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Fanfiction: Surface Damage - Part II

For disclaimers and author's note see Part I.

 

Daniel watched unhappily as Sam and Teal’c left the infirmary. His gaze clashed with Hammond’s and the General sighed.

‘Doctor Jackson, I need you to take a look at surveillance reports from the Pentagon. I’ve had the material delivered to your office.’ Hammond said crisply. ‘I’d like you to report to the briefing room in one hour to give a summary of the findings.’

Daniel opened his mouth to protest – at what he’d been asked to do, at Sam’s treatment, at the length of time he’d been given – but his eyes caught on the silent message in the General’s that it was important and Daniel nodded in return.

Hammond turned to the CMO. ‘Will Colonel Reynolds be cleared by then?’

Janet nodded. ‘Yes, sir.’

‘Very well.’ Hammond gestured at Reynolds. The SG16 leader had jumped to his feet at Hammond’s entry and was stood at ease in front of an infirmary bed. His sharp, intelligent features were pale from shock. ‘I’ll expect you in the briefing room as soon as you’re cleared from the infirmary, son.’

‘Yes, sir.’ Reynolds nodded, his dark hair catching the artificial light.

Hammond nodded and left.

Daniel exchanged an anxious look with Janet. He made his way to his office swiftly, knowing they were short of time. He found the tapes and transcripts waiting for him as Hammond had indicated and he jumped straight in.

Twenty minutes later, he heard a knock on his door and called for the person to enter without looking, immersed in the transcript he was reading.

‘You wanted to see me?’ Janet thrust her hands into the deep pockets of her medical coat.

‘Hmmm?’ Daniel blinked at her and remembered the call he had made five minutes earlier to the infirmary. ‘Oh. Yes.’ He got to his feet and waved at her with the report in his hand. ‘I, uh, wanted your opinion on…something.’

‘Sure.’ Janet said, joining him at his overflowing desk.

‘Have you seen Sam yet?’ Daniel asked urgently as he found the right section of transcript.

‘Not yet.’ Janet admitted. ‘I was on my way when you called.’

‘Well, you may want to ask her about this.’ Daniel said quietly. He pressed the report into her hands.

Janet looked at him briefly before she dropped her gaze to the page and started reading. Her eyes jerked back up to his suddenly. ‘It was the alien’s attempt to do this…sharing thing that caused her to collapse?’

Daniel nodded. He leaned against the back of his swivel chair and regarded her thoughtfully as she continued reading.

‘And he performed this…thing again after she went through the psych evaluation.’ Janet continued.

‘You see where I’m going with this?’ Daniel said, gesturing at the paper.

‘That I did it again?’

‘Sorry?’ Daniel frowned in genuine confusion.

Janet handed him the report back and crossed her arms. ‘I was the one who diagnosed Sam with exhaustion, Daniel.’

‘So…’

‘So, I was wrong.’ Janet sighed heavily. ‘Just like I was wrong when you were infected with Machello’s device.’

Daniel grimaced. He could remember the horror of feeling like he was losing his mind when he had been infected with a Goa’uld killing machine. He had been diagnosed as schizophrenic and locked away in a psych ward before the truth had come out. ‘Well, this is different.’

‘How?’ Janet demanded, whirling away to pace his office. ‘She told me she felt fine but I didn’t listen. I should have explored the possibility that something more was going on especially when she reported seeing the alien.’

‘You didn’t have all the facts.’ Daniel said calmly. ‘Sam should have told you once the alien told her what he’d done.’

Janet stopped. ‘You’re just saying that to make me feel better.’

‘Maybe,’ Daniel admitted with a half-smile, ‘but it’s not like Sam not to have reported something like this.’

‘You have a theory?’ Janet walked back over to him and he saw her determination to move past her self-blame and focus on helping Sam.

‘This alien seems to be the same type of energy being as Oma…’

‘The alien you encountered on Kheb.’ Janet inserted.

‘Exactly,’ Daniel nodded enthusiastically, ‘and the same as Shifu.’

‘You collapsed when Shifu shared a dream with you.’ Janet mused out loud.

Daniel pointed at her forcefully. ‘Yes! Exactly! He planted a dream into my subconscious so…’

Janet’s dark eyes gleamed brightly. ‘So you think this alien implanted a suggestion into Sam’s head to…to keep him a secret? Protect him?’

‘It’s possible, isn’t it?’ Daniel asked passionately. ‘Theoretically?’

‘Theoretically.’ Janet agreed. She smiled. ‘Sam may not even have been aware of it.’

‘Which would explain why she didn’t come forward after she did this…sharing thing.’ Daniel continued eagerly. ‘Sam reported him when she saw him initially and he couldn’t take the chance that she wouldn’t report him again.’

Janet nodded. ‘It’s feasible.’

‘What’s feasible?’ Jack’s question heralded his arrival as he quickly joined them by the desk.

Daniel took in the older man’s tension; Jack’s face was gravely serious, the dark eyes filled with nothing but hardness. Jack’s presence reassured Daniel, filled him with confidence. Jack would never allow Simmons to arrest Sam. ‘Jack.’

‘Daniel.’

‘When did you…’

‘Five minutes ago.’ Jack rubbed a hand over his hair. ‘Hammond filled me on the plan.’

‘There’s a plan?’ Daniel asked bemused.

‘Teal’c’s guarding Carter; you’re looking at transcripts.’ Jack elucidated briefly.

Daniel didn’t think it was much of a plan and from the emotion that flashed through Jack’s eyes, the military man agreed with him.

‘What have you got?’ Jack asked, gesturing at Daniel impatiently.

Janet was the one to reply. ‘We think we have a viable reason why Sam didn’t report the alien’s continued presence.’

‘Oh?’ Jack leaned on the computer monitor, the plastic creaking under his weight.

‘The alien tried to access Sam’s mind on the planet – that’s the reason she collapsed.’ Daniel explained.

‘I know.’ Jack said sharply. ‘It was in Simmons’s report.’

‘So you know that Sam allowed the alien access to her mind when it reappeared to her after the psych evaluation.’ Daniel stated.

‘I know.’

‘So you know what that means?’

‘No.’ Jack retorted.

‘The alien had access to the Major’s mind, Colonel.’ Janet restated firmly. ‘We think it’s possible that it was able to plant a subconscious suggestion that it was better she continue to hide its presence than report it again.’

Jack looked back at Daniel as though to check the validity of Janet’s assertion.

Daniel nodded. ‘It’s theoretically possible. We know from my experience with Shifu that these aliens are capable of manipulating minds fairly easily. I mean, Shifu’s dream felt completely real to me.’

‘And that was a deeply complex and detailed manipulation in comparison.’ Janet added. ‘This would have been more like a hypnotic suggestion.’

‘Well, I’m sold.’ Jack said straightening.

‘Really?’ Daniel was surprised; Jack usually took more time to convince.

‘Sure,’ Jack agreed with mock cheer, ‘beats thinking she just didn’t trust us.’

Daniel winced and dropped his gaze.

There was an awkward silence.

Janet cleared her throat. ‘I should,’ she motioned towards the door.

‘Thanks.’ Daniel called as she walked out. He looked over at Jack who had picked up an artefact – a small statue – and was turning it over in his hands as though it held all of his attention. Daniel plucked it from his grasp. ‘You really think Sam didn’t trust us?’

‘I think she trusts us,’ Jack said with a sigh, ‘she just,’ he winced, ‘doesn’t trust us to trust her.’

‘Well, that makes sense.’ Daniel pointed out exasperated.

Jack shrugged and ran a hand through his silver hair, sending the short strands into disarray. ‘You think this is going to be enough?’

‘I don’t know.’ Daniel admitted. ‘But it’s something right?’

‘Yeah.’ Jack patted his shoulder. ‘It’s something.’

Daniel only hoped something was going to be good enough.

o-O-o

The tension in the briefing room was stifling. Daniel fidgeted straightening the folders and taking a sip of coffee. Reynolds sat beside the archaeologist. Jack’s dark gaze was fixed across the briefing room table at Simmons on the other side. His eyes never left the other man and Jack could tell it was beginning to freak Simmons out. He welcomed the satisfaction that thought brought.

The other Colonel reached for his tie and smoothed it; he glanced at his watch and over to Hammond’s office. Hammond walked out swiftly and they all rose as the General took his seat.

Hammond waited until they were all seated again; he leaned forward, clasping his hands on top of the folder he had placed on the table. ‘Colonel Reynolds, perhaps you could give us a brief rundown of events on the planet.’

‘I don’t see…’ Simmons began pompously.

‘You don’t have to.’ Hammond cut in bluntly. His pale eyes glared at the Colonel. ‘This is my briefing.’ He motioned at Reynolds to begin.

The SG16 leader straightened in his chair. ‘We began to set up for the test, following Major Carter’s instructions on how to power the weapon. It was just beginning to work when, uh, a man attacked.’

‘And by man, you mean the alien?’ Simmons slid in smoothly.

‘Yes, sir, I, uh, guess I do.’ Reynolds cleared his throat. ‘He managed to zat Thomas and we were responding when Major Carter arrived.’ He pressed his lips together. ‘She explained that the man had a good reason to stop the test and we should listen to him. I explained we had already begun the test and the overload was in progress.’

‘So it couldn’t be stopped.’ Daniel realised. He caught Jack’s questioning look. ‘Oh, the only way for the weapon to fire was to deliberately overload the naquadah generator and transfer the power to the weapon.’

Jack waved Reynolds to continue.

‘The, uh, alien realised that if he disconnected the generator from the weapon, it would effectively stop the test and destroy the weapon.’ Reynolds said.

‘But kill everyone when the generator exploded.’ Simmons added.

‘I’m not sure the alien knew that we couldn’t leave in case the energy transferred through the Stargate.’ Reynolds admitted. He looked at Hammond. ‘He seemed surprised when Major Carter explained it.’ He shifted position in his seat. ‘I had shot him when he went to disconnect the generator and he was dying. He, uh, mentioned that the Others were giving him another chance and it was the only way to save Major Carter.’ He paused. ‘He wanted to save her life.’

Jack dropped his eyes to the briefing room table. The alien had saved Carter; given its life for her.

‘And then?’ prompted Simmons brusquely.

‘He, er, he turned into a white glowing energy being.’ Reynolds shook his head in remembered wonder. ‘It was…well, it was…incredible.’

Simmons slumped back in his seat.

‘The alien took the generator and flew away into the sky. It exploded.’ Reynolds concluded. ‘Some kind of lightening – maybe feedback from the explosion – struck the weapon and destroyed it.’ He raised his hand from the table. ‘Major Carter suggested we leave and I agreed.’

‘Would you agree that Major Carter and the alien were working together to stop the test?’ Simmons asked bluntly.

‘You don’t get to ask the questions.’ Jack snapped angrily.

‘I’d like to answer that, sir.’ Reynolds looked over at Jack.

There was something in the younger man’s dark eyes, a plea for trust maybe? Jack nodded slowly.

Reynolds turned back to Simmons. ‘It seemed to me that Major Carter’s only aim at all times was the safety of Earth, my team and the alien. I’ve read the report about SG1’s original encounter with one of these aliens on Kheb and if I had known that the test would anger any of them, I would have supported her recommendation that we didn’t go ahead.’

‘But Major Carter knew and didn’t report the full facts.’ Simmons said, smiling.

‘There may be an explanation for that.’ Daniel said, holding up his pen. ‘We know these aliens are capable of manipulating minds. One once gave me an entire dream that felt incredibly real…’

‘I don’t see…’ Simmons tried to break in.

‘Continue, Doctor Jackson.’ Hammond said forcefully, talking over Simmons. His eyes warned Simmons against another interruption.

‘The point is,’ Daniel said quickly, ‘the alien accessed Sam’s mind when it reappeared to her after the SGC surveillance was removed.’ He fiddled with his glasses. ‘It’s possible he was able to subconsciously influence Sam’s decisions.’

‘You don’t seriously expect us to believe that?’ Simmons responded. ‘And besides,’ his eyes slid to Jack, ‘wouldn’t that all rather contradict Colonel O’Neill’s assertion that she had his permission unless of course the Colonel has had second thoughts about that?’

Jack opened his mouth to respond…

‘Actually, it supports it.’ Daniel replied quickly before Jack could get a word out.

Jack looked at him inquisitively. He had no idea how Daniel was going to make the argument work but he had every confidence he would.

‘How so, Doctor Jackson?’ Hammond asked.

‘Look, I think we all agree that Sam is usually a very by the book officer, right?’ Daniel didn’t wait for agreement. ‘She phoned in the minute she encountered the alien the first time. Now if we take that as Sam’s usual baseline reaction then her responses afterwards all show she was constrained in some way.’ He gestured at Jack with his pen. ‘Rather than reporting the alien presence outright, she asks Jack if she should gather intel before coming forward formally again; she tries to get the test stopped without saying exactly why.’ He gesticulated wildly. ‘I think that proves that Sam was somehow, I don’t know, trying to fight the subliminal suggestion that the alien made to keep him secret.’

‘If the alien was capable of doing this then why wouldn’t he have taken further measures to ensure Major Carter didn’t reveal his presence at all.’ Simmons countered.

‘He cared about her.’ Jack replied without thinking but he knew it was the truth as soon as the words left his mouth.

‘Jack’s right.’ Daniel replied evenly. ‘The alien obviously had some feelings for Sam. He followed her here from 636, inserted himself into her life. I don’t think he wanted to hurt her. Maybe he gave her the suggestion to simply give him enough time with Sam for her to return his feelings.’

‘You’re clutching at straws.’ Simmons said strongly. ‘The fact is that Major Carter failed to report the possible danger of the test.’

Jack’s eyes narrowed. ‘So did you.’

Simmons raised an eyebrow. ‘Excuse me?’

‘You knew.’ Jack pointed his pen at the Pentagon man. ‘You read the transcripts, hell you may have even listened into the original conversations.’ His eyes glittered dangerously. ‘You knew all along about the potential danger to the test team – and maybe even Earth – from the aliens on 636 if we used the weapon.’

Simmons laughed uncomfortably. ‘That’s…’

‘He’s right.’ Daniel said supportively, gesturing at Simmons. ‘You also failed to report that a member of the SGC might have fallen under the influence of an alien entity.’

Simmons looked from Daniel to Jack and back again. He turned to Hammond. ‘You can’t possibly believe any of this.’

Hammond regarded him with an even blue stare. ‘I think Doctor Jackson has provided an entirely plausible explanation for Major Carter’s behaviour. As we have no evidence one way or another, I’m inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt especially given Colonel Reynolds’s testimony that her aims were to keep everyone safe. She can’t be held accountable.’ His eyes glittered. ‘I think you’re done here.’

Simmons stood up and buttoned his jacket. ‘This isn’t over.’ He strode out.

Jack breathed a sigh of relief and threw down his pen.

‘Thank you, gentlemen; you’re dismissed.’ Hammond stood up. ‘Colonel O’Neill; a moment, please.’

Jack shook his head at Daniel’s silent question on whether he should stay. He watched as his team-mate departed before he followed Hammond into his office. ‘General.’

Hammond slipped behind his desk and gestured for Jack to close the door.

Jack followed the implicit order and moved to stand in a loose ‘at ease’ pose in front of the General’s desk. The familiar space with its antique furnishings and Hammond’s personal touches that spoke of the General’s warm personality didn’t bring its usual comfort.

‘Off the record, Jack,’ Hammond began tiredly, ‘you don’t believe Doctor Jackson’s theory on alien influence, do you?’

He rocked back on his heels as he took in Hammond’s knowing look. ‘Off the record, sir?’ Jack sighed. ‘I don’t believe it anymore than Simmons.’

Hammond gave a short laugh in agreement before he sobered and leaned back in his chair, the leather squeaking. ‘He’s a piece of work alright.’

‘What’s going on with that, sir?’ Jack asked bluntly. ‘Since when did the Pentagon start spying on us?’

‘Since you and the rest of SG1 took out Apophis.’ Hammond sighed. ‘We may have lost some political ground given he was a major threat and our agreement with the System Lords keeps Earth relatively safe.’ He levelled another knowing look at Jack. ‘Which is beside the point.’

‘Right, sir.’ Jack inwardly sighed; he might have known Hammond wouldn’t have fallen for his attempt to change the subject.

‘You should know that I also don’t believe your story either so don’t even try to bullshit me that Major Carter had your permission.’

Jack winced and looked down, unable to hold Hammond’s pointed gaze.

‘What happened, Jack?’

‘We made it difficult for Carter to come forward after sending her for the psych eval.’ Jack responded honestly. He pulled a face. ‘She did talk to me although her suggested approach may have been, possibly, framed as hypothetical.’ He grimaced and looked up again. ‘I think she had good intentions but got in over her head.’

Hammond nodded sadly.

‘And I genuinely believe Carter would have come forward to warn us of the danger before the test, sir, if your original two weeks had stood.’ Jack assured him.

‘I’d like to think so too.’ Hammond said quietly. ‘And while I agree we may not have made it easy for her to come forward, there’s no getting away from the fact that she showed poor judgement in hiding the alien and trying to go it alone. Protocol dictated that she should have reported it and she should certainly have come forward when she realised the danger with the test.’ He sighed. ‘Then there’s the matter of her following the alien off-world without permission no matter how well-intentioned her motives.’

Hammond waited for Jack to absorb his words before he leaned forward. ‘I don’t believe her actions warrant a full scale arrest and court martial and if I even hint that the alien influence thing doesn’t stand up, Simmons will jump all over it, so I can’t reprimand her formally for this.’

‘So you want me to informally reprimand her.’ Jack realised, his gut twisting.

‘Is there a problem with that, Colonel?’ Hammond asked evenly.

Jack registered the shift back to formality. ‘No, sir.’

‘I’ll leave it with you then.’ Hammond said calmly. ‘Dismissed.’

‘Sir.’ Jack came to attention and left.

He paused in the corridor outside, running his hands through his hair and wondering how the hell he carried out the General’s order. He was only too aware of how difficult they had made it for Carter – how difficult he had made it. He sighed and headed for the elevator.

Daniel and Teal’c were both waiting outside of Carter’s quarters and he slowed as he saw them.

‘Jack.’

‘Daniel.’

‘O’Neill.’

‘Teal’c.’

The three of them looked at each other expectantly.

Jack sighed. ‘Why don’t you guys head to the mess? Carter and I will join you once we’ve had a little…talk.’

Daniel started. ‘You don’t want us to, uh, talk together?’

‘Not this time.’ Jack said firmly. He took in Daniel’s affronted expression. ‘Daniel, I have to do…’ he struggled for a phrase that would hint at what he needed to do but without telling them the specifics – Carter didn’t need everyone knowing she was getting reprimanded. ‘CO stuff.’ He concluded finally.

Teal’c’s hand landed on Daniel’s shoulder before the archaeologist could argue. ‘We will wait for you in the commissary, O’Neill.’ He firmly guided Daniel away and Jack waited until they disappeared from the corridor before he rapped on the door and used his own access card to enter.

Carter was half-way through climbing off the bed. He waved her back onto it and she settled for perching on the side of the bed. He joined her, sitting beside her, careful to keep a foot of distance between them and trying to ignore the evidence that she had been crying.

Jack leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. He rubbed the palm of his left hand with the thumb of his right. He noticed that she was hanging onto the edge of the bed with both hands as though it was a high precipice and she was about to fall off. He cleared his throat. ‘Simmons left.’ He figured he would start on relatively safe ground. ‘He won’t be arresting you.’

He watched as her blonde head dipped in acknowledgement.

‘Daniel claimed you might have been subjected to some kind of subtle alien influence when it did the sharing thing to stop you from reporting its presence again.’

Her head dipped lower and he could see a hint of colour in her cheeks as she registered they all knew about her experience and maybe, he realised, she was considering Daniel’s theory on whether the alien had influenced her.

‘Of course Simmons didn’t believe the whole alien influence thing.’ He wet his lips. ‘He can’t disprove it though.’ He linked his hands together loosely. ‘What do you think?’

‘I don’t know.’ Sam admitted quietly. ‘I don’t think he influenced me.’

‘So you want to tell me what you think happened?’

For a long moment, he wasn’t sure she was going to reply.

‘I thought I was doing the right thing, sir.’ Sam began tentatively.

He looked at her.

She flushed. ‘When I realised it was the same kind of alien as Oma Desala, I didn’t want to scare him away. They’re so far advanced from us, sir, and I thought there was so much we could learn from him. I really thought if I reported his continued presence then he would just disappear again and everyone would think I was crazy.’

‘Which is when you came up with the plan to learn as much as you could before you reported him.’

‘But then the weapons test was scheduled and I, I really believed we needed his help especially if the Others of his kind tried to stop us testing the weapon.’ Sam sighed. ‘He said he had a plan.’

‘You trusted him.’ Jack realised. He looked away from her.

‘Yes.’ She was hesitant but her admission was like another sucker-punch.

Jack stared at his hands. She had trusted the alien but she hadn’t trusted them.

‘I wanted to tell you, sir,’ Sam said urgently as though she had heard his thoughts, ‘but he asked me for some time and I…’

‘You weren’t sure I would believe you.’ Jack finished, striving to keep the bitterness out of his voice.

Sam shrugged awkwardly and averted her gaze. ‘I understand. I mean, I’m not sure I would have believed me given the empirical evidence.’

Jack straightened and he waited until she looked at him again. ‘Sometimes we screw up.’ He said bluntly.

Surprise flickered across Carter’s delicate features. Her gaze darted away from the honesty in his.

‘And sometimes so do you, Carter.’ Jack added evenly.

Her eyes shot back to his. He held her gaze. Finally, she nodded.

‘You want to tell me what you should have done differently, Major?’ Jack prompted.

‘Reported Orlin when he reappeared to me; reported the information he told me about Velona and the weapon immediately.’ Sam rubbed her arms.

‘And we probably shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions that you were crazy just because we didn’t see what you did.’ Jack finished. ‘Although, if you ever scare the hell out of me by running off-world without permission again, I will bust you a rank.’

She winced at his tone but her eyes shone with understanding.

Jack pulled a face. ‘Look, things turned out OK, so’ he waved a hand at her, ‘let’s learn from it and move on.’

Sam nodded. ‘I just wish Orlin hadn’t sacrificed his life to save…’ she stopped abruptly and he detected the sheen of tears before she looked away.

To save her. Jack knew how the alien – Orlin – had felt. He would have done the same thing in Orlin’s place and he was sure Orlin had believed the sacrifice worth it. Not that he could say that to Carter. He wet his lips, unsure how to respond. He could see she was genuinely grieving alongside her evident guilt and self-blame at what had happened to Orlin. He didn’t know how to comfort her; wasn’t even certain whether it was appropriate he should be comforting her at all given their screwed up feelings.

Jack searched for safe ground. ‘Simmons has them removing the Stargate from your house.’

It took her a moment to assimilate what he’d said. She sniffed and looked back at him. ‘Is my house…is it badly damaged?’

‘Some surface damage.’ Jack shrugged lightly. He reached over and touched her arm, unable to stop himself offering some small comfort. ‘We’ll fix it.’

She looked away and Jack had the sudden notion they weren’t talking about the house at all.

Jack removed his hand and tapped his knee. ‘Daniel and Teal’c are waiting for us. How about we grab them and head to my place for pizza and movie while we wait for the teams to clear your house?’

She shook her head. ‘Thank you, sir. But I’m not the best company right now.’

‘Consider it an order, Carter.’ Jack said firmly. He might not be able to comfort her directly but he was damned if he was leaving her alone; he’d been doing too much of that lately.

There was a flash of something in her eyes but she nodded.

‘Sir,’ Sam said hesitantly, ‘I just want to say I’m sorry.’ Her lips twisted wryly. ‘About everything. I hope I’ll be able to rebuild your trust in me.’

‘I trust you.’ Jack replied immediately. She blinked as though surprised. He wondered if he should say something more but he had no idea what else he could say and he didn’t want to ask if she still trusted him; he wasn’t sure he wanted to know the answer. He sighed. ‘Come on.’

He stood up. He held out a hand and helped her to her feet. He squeezed her hand gently before he let go of her reluctantly.

‘You know who I definitely don’t trust?’ Jack commented, as they headed for the door.

‘Simmons.’ Sam replied dryly.

‘Got it in one.’

‘You think he’s going to cause us trouble, sir?’

‘Let’s just say I’m suddenly missing Maybourne.’ He quipped, opening the door and waving her through it. Maybe the trust between them was a little damaged but they’d fix it, and he figured they were going to have to fix it fast because he had a bad feeling they hadn’t heard the last of Simmons.

fin.


 

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