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Fanfiction: The Right Decision

Fandom: Stargate SG1
Series: Aftershocks
TAG to Episode: S5 Rite of Passage
Rating: PG-13
Author's Note: Teal'c/Team friendship.  Janet & Cassie.  
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended. Written for entertainment purposes only.


The Right Decision

Candlelight bathed the concrete walls in a soft warm yellow. Shadows painted the corners in darkness; the stark lines hinted at the harsh angles of the utilitarian furniture within the room. Teal’c sat cross-legged on the floor, his hands loosely lying on his knees. His back was straight; his head perfectly still. His dark eyes stared into the black void of a corner. It was the darkest place in the room, a meeting place where many shadows gathered into one amorphous being. The infant Goa’uld within him stirred and writhed.

Teal’c ignored it. He had tried to kel no reem but his mind would not settle. His thoughts inextricably kept straying back to Cassandra. She would be released from the infirmary that evening. He had heard the news earlier when Major Carter had stopped by the table where he and Daniel Jackson had been eating lunch. She had eschewed joining them, claiming that her chess match with Cassandra had delayed work in her lab. Teal’c could not quite shake the feeling that she was avoiding him. He could not quite shake the feeling all his team-mates were avoiding him.

It had been a week since Cassandra had fallen ill with a retro-virus linked with her home world of Hanka. They had worked out that the virus was an experiment Nirtii had perpetrated on that planet trying to develop a Hauk’Taur – an advanced human being – for her next host. It was also a week since Nirtii had invaded the SGC and had bargained for her freedom with Cassandra’s life and since he had argued that they could not make such a bargain; that the life of a child was an acceptable sacrifice to keep the Goa’uld in captivity.

His team-mates had disagreed. Vehemently. He could picture them in his mind’s eye when he had voiced his opinion. O’Neill had seemed mostly frustrated, something Teal’c could understand. The military man had been arguing for Cassandra’s survival with General Hammond and had not expected to be contradicted by any of his team.

Betrayal had flickered across Samantha Carter’s delicate features. She had pointed out that it was Cassandra as though he had been unaware that she had been the child in question. He knew only too well that Cassandra was more than just another young girl they had rescued; she was a member of the family they had built and part of their lives. They had been celebrating Cassandra’s birthday before she had fallen ill. A tea party filled with happiness that the small girl they had befriended was another year older. Daniel Jackson had strategically suggested running out for ice-cream to go with the cake just before Cassandra’s friend had been due to pick her up. In hindsight, Teal’c realised the archaeologist had known the friend was male and wished to avoid a confrontation between the boy and O’Neill.

Daniel Jackson had been the most accepting of Teal’c’s viewpoint. He had been neither startled nor annoyed by Teal’c’s opinion but rather simply disappointed. He had merely disagreed with Teal’c, throwing in his lot with their military team-mates. He was also the only member of SG1 who had not actively avoided him since but the archaeologist was not seeking out Teal’c’s company either.

Teal’c frowned.

He had not thought twice about disagreeing with his team-mates at the time. Over his years at the SGC, he had learned that SG1 and Hammond appreciated his input and he had not hesitated to give it. He had honestly believed what he had said and in truth he still believed it. He could not pretend that Nirtii loose in the universe was a price he would ever have paid for the life of a child – even Cassandra. In the end, the SGC had made the deal: Nirtii was free and Cassandra lived. He could not deny he was pleased at that latter outcome as he would have certainly regretted and mourned the loss of Cassandra had they sacrificed her. But neither could he shake the feeling that the deal that the SGC had made with the Goa’uld would demand a much higher price in future.

He dismissed that thought with a quirk of an eyebrow. The future was the future; he could not predict it nor influence its unfolding. It was the present that concerned him, Teal’c mused. The situation with his team-mates could not continue. Perhaps he should not have expressed his opinion so in contradiction with theirs; perhaps it was too soon after the events wrought by his brainwashing – his betrayal of his team-mates, his brutish behaviour toward them. He and his team-mates had worked hard to retain their former closeness but the issue with Cassandra had redrawn the differences between them again. Teal’c grimaced. He could not pretend to be something he was not and he could not change the past. There was little point dwelling on the problem – he needed to fix it.

He rose to his feet in a beautifully fluid motion that belied his bulky frame. He quickly blew out the candles sending the room into complete darkness. He made his way to the door from memory and stepped into the harsh artificial light of the corridor. He headed for Daniel Jackson’s office. He believed the archaeologist was the team-mate who could most help him find a way forward. He was dismayed to find the office empty.

He paused in the centre of the room, hands clasped behind his back, wondering what he should do next. There was something comforting about the room; the shelves lined with books and artefacts; stacks of more books along the workbenches, every space crammed with knowledge and history. A small desk lamp lit up an old manuscript in one corner and Teal’c surmised it must be the object of Daniel Jackson’s current work.

The Jaffa turned at the sound of approaching footsteps. He didn’t know whether to be pleased or disappointed when Nyan, the Bedrosian archaeologist who they had given sanctuary to in the second year of the programme walked in instead of his team-mate.


‘Teal’c!’ Nyan’s boyish face lit up with a happy smile. ‘I have not seen you for many days.’

Teal’c inclined his head in mute apology. He and Nyan had become friends after their shared experience on Bedrosia where Nyan had saved his life. They had often met for movie nights at Nyan’s apartment before Apophis had brainwashed him.

‘Are you looking for Daniel?’ Nyan asked, placing his cargo of even more books on the side table.

‘Indeed, I am.’ Teal’c agreed steadily as Nyan turned to face him.

‘I believe he went to the infirmary to check in on Cassandra.’ Nyan informed him briskly.

Teal’c repressed the urge to sigh. ‘I see.’

Nyan suddenly seemed to stop. He regarded Teal’c closely. ‘Something troubles you, Teal’c?’ His brown eyes shone with concern. ‘May I be of assistance?’

Teal’c considered his young friend’s offer. Nyan was human in many ways but he was not of the Tau’ri. Perhaps he would be a good choice to discuss his concerns, Teal’c mused. He knew he could count on Nyan’s discretion. ‘I would appreciate your counsel, my friend.’

Nyan slid onto a stool in response. Teal’c chose to remain standing. He succinctly outlined what had happened and his observation that his team-mates were avoiding him.

‘I am uncertain of how to proceed.’ Teal’c admitted in conclusion. He couldn’t maintain his usually impassivity and he feared his troubled emotions were writ large across his face. It didn’t help that Nyan was regarding him with bemusement.

Nyan cleared his throat. ‘Perhaps the others share my own confusion, Teal’c.’ He gestured at the Jaffa. ‘I thought you cared for Cassandra.’

Teal’c frowned. ‘I do.’

‘Yet you would sacrifice her life so easily?’ Nyan asked bluntly.

‘I did not recommend the action lightly.’ Teal’c replied, ignoring the spark of defensiveness that sprang up in his chest. ‘Sacrificing Cassandra would have pained me greatly but sacrifices are necessary if we are one day to win the war against the Goa’uld.’

Nyan sighed and shook his head, the light catching on the closely cropped brown hair. His eyes shone with his need to understand. ‘Are such sacrifices common among the Jaffa?’

‘Indeed.’ Teal’c confirmed. ‘We are taught from an early age that any sacrifice must be considered to defeat the enemy even a child’s life.’ It was one of the first lessons a Jaffa warrior was taught; they had to sacrifice something of value to them to enter the ranks usually a possession and not a life but the lesson was learned; Teal’c had given his father’s ring.

‘I cannot pretend Teal’c that it is most…disturbing to me to hear you say that.’ Nyan commented, rubbing his hands on his jeans.

‘In what way?’ Teal’c asked. His brow creased.

‘If any sacrifice could be considered, especially that of an innocent child, then perhaps one day you may consider my life forfeit.’ Nyan said softly. ‘Perhaps your team-mates are similarly concerned.’

‘I had not considered that.’ Teal’c’s eyes widened at the observation.

‘More,’ Nyan said warming to his subject enthusiastically, ‘I believe that the Tau’ri often believe the means by which a war is won to be as important as winning.’ He smiled shyly. ‘I have read that the ends do not justify the means. I believe they think to sacrifice a child’s life in pursuit of victory would not be honourable.’

‘It was not only about attaining victory.’ Teal’c murmured. ‘By allowing Nirtii to go free we have allowed her to perpetrate more atrocities such as that which led to the demise of Cassandra’s people.’ His brow lowered. ‘And she will do so, Nyan. She is Goa’uld.’

‘There is truth in that too, Teal’c.’ Nyan admitted. ‘It was not an easy choice. I recently watched a film where a character sacrificed his life believing that the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few yet in the following sequel, his team-mates contradicted this by acting against the needs of the many to save him once again.’

Teal’c tilted his head as he turned over Nyan’s comments in his head. He pursed his lips. While he had believed his team-mates had been unhappy with his opinion, he had not considered why beyond the obvious. If his team-mates felt like Nyan…he had much to repair.

‘I believe you should talk with them about this, Teal’c.’ Nyan said gently. ‘I am certain that they would understand.’

‘Thank you, Nyan.’ Teal’c said solemnly. ‘I have appreciated your advice in this matter.’

Nyan stood up. He opened his mouth to speak but closed it as Daniel entered. He smiled at Teal’c, crisply informed Daniel that he had left him the books he had requested from the library and left.

Daniel looked up from the report he was reading and his eyebrows rose over the rim of his glasses as he realised Teal’c had remained standing in the middle of his office. ‘Teal’c.’

‘Daniel Jackson.’ Teal’c shifted his weight subtly and straightened as though preparing to be struck. ‘How is Cassandra?’

‘Much better.’ Daniel replied, his eyes straying to the report again. He looked up in confusion when Teal’c did not leave. ‘I’m sorry. Did you want something?’

‘I believe you continue to be upset at my proposal that Nirtii should not have been released to save Cassandra.’

Daniel blinked furiously at Teal’c’s blunt statement.

Teal’c looked back at him evenly. ‘I wish to clean the air between us.’

‘Clear.’ Daniel automatically corrected. ‘It’s clear the air.’ He sighed and slumped down onto a stool. He threw the report he held onto the desk. He waved a hand at a second stool nearby and Teal’c acquiesced to the invitation.

Teal’c realised after a moment of silence that the other man was waiting for him to continue. He struggled to find the words. ‘I am deeply fond of Cassandra.’

‘I know that, Teal’c.’ Daniel said encouragingly. He rested an arm along the workbench beside him. ‘Nobody thinks you don’t care about Cassie because you, uh…’

‘Would have sacrificed her life to ensure Nirtii did not gain her freedom.’ Teal’c completed helpfully.

‘I guess that works as a description.’ Daniel crossed his arms protectively over his chest.

‘Nyan suggested that perhaps my opinion had made others worried that I would similarly choose to sacrifice them in future.’ Teal’c stated calmly.

Daniel sighed again. ‘I don’t think any of us are exactly worried about you sacrificing us, Teal’c. In truth, I think we all know that there may be times when we might have to sacrifice any one of us. I mean, Jack was prepared to kill Sam to save the base; Sam killed Martouf…’ his voice trailed away. ‘We know sacrifices are necessary sometimes.’

‘I see.’ Teal’c murmured. It would seem Nyan had been wrong, he mused.

‘And if it had been me lying in the infirmary bed and if I was given the choice, I would have chosen to die rather than let Nirtii back through the Stargate. I would have made the sacrifice.’ Daniel continued.

Teal’c frowned in confusion. ‘If that is true then…’

‘Why didn’t I agree with you?’ Daniel shifted on the stool restlessly. ‘Because Cassie’s a child. She isn’t capable of making that decision for herself and we have no right to sacrifice her life just because we have the power to make that decision for her.’

‘Even if it was the right decision?’ Teal’c questioned.

‘What was the right decision?’ Daniel countered. His blue eyes met Teal’c’s challengingly. ‘Was it strategically right to allow an enemy to go free especially someone like Nirtii? Maybe not. Was it morally or ethically right to allow someone as evil as Nirtii to inflict more destruction the galaxy? Maybe not. But was it morally and ethically right to sacrifice an innocent child who had no say in the decision?’ He pushed his glasses up.

‘The Goa’uld would not hesitate to sacrifice a child’s life.’ Teal’c remarked.

Daniel pointed at him. ‘And maybe that’s why we shouldn’t. If we do we just become as bad as they are.’ His eyes widened. ‘Not that I meant,’ he waved at the Jaffa, ‘I didn’t mean because you that you, well, you know.’

Teal’c allowed a flicker of amusement at his friend’s discomfort. ‘You did not mean to suggest that because I was willing to sacrifice Cassandra’s life, I am as bad as a Goa’uld.’

Daniel looked at him sheepishly. ‘That.’

‘I can understand why you might think that given my recent brainwashing and behaviour towards you.’

‘That wasn’t you.’ Daniel said, ducking his head in unconscious agreement.

‘The Jaffa are raised to believe any sacrifice is acceptable to win.’ Teal’c commented. ‘But we are raised to believe such a thing in order to serve the Goa’uld in battle. In which case, perhaps the basis of my opinion is faulty.’ He rose and bowed slightly. ‘Thank you for the discussion, Daniel Jackson.’

‘Teal’c.’ Daniel stopped him before he could take a step toward the door. ‘I’m sorry if I’ve seemed…distant since. It’s just,’ he pulled a face, ‘even understanding intellectually why you suggested it…’ he shook his head and shrugged. ‘I guess I didn’t like that you did.’

‘I understand.’ Teal’c said.

He decided to seek out Colonel O’Neill next before Major Carter. The other man was not so unlike himself. O’Neill was a warrior; a brother in spirit. He found him in the gym. O’Neill was dressed in a vest and sweat pants, his hands were enclosed in red, worn boxing gloves. He danced around a punch-bag, hitting it with rhythmic jabs. He remained standing by the door until O’Neill finished the work-out.

The Colonel glanced across at Teal’c and nodded in acknowledgement. O’Neill walked across to a small wooden bench and grabbed a towel. He rubbed it vigorously over his ruddy face and through his short damp grey hair.

Teal’c approached him and O’Neill waved at him to sit down beside him as he slumped onto the bench and began to untie a boxing glove with his teeth. Teal’c sat down and watched O’Neill expertly remove one glove and then the other. The military man reached for a bottle of water and gulped down half the contents.

‘You have something on your mind, Teal’c?’ O’Neill asked bluntly as he lowered the water bottle.

‘You have been avoiding me.’ Teal’c responded with equal bluntness.

‘Ah.’ O’Neill winced. He shot Teal’c another glance and sighed.

Teal’c raised an eyebrow.

‘Well, maybe.’ O’Neill conceded. He stared at the ground. ‘I’ve been thinking you were right.’

His eyebrow shot up further in astonishment. ‘You agree with my suggestion that Cassandra should have been sacrificed.’

‘No!’ O’Neill almost yelped. He took a breath. ‘Not that.’ He looked at him with a slightly scandalised expression. ‘I’m never going to agree with you about that.’

‘Then…’ Teal’c began confused.

‘You weren’t wrong about Nirtii, Teal’c.’ O’Neill admitted. ‘We shouldn’t have let the snake go.’ He picked at the label on the plastic bottle. He took another large gulp. ‘We should have kept her, interrogated her and shot her once she’d saved Cassie.’

‘I believe that would have been wise.’

‘Yeah.’ Jack sighed. ‘I know it wouldn’t have been the honourable thing to do but I think I could have lived with it.’ He stated. ‘It’s not like…’ He stopped abruptly. He hunched over, elbows on his knees, the bottle held loosely in his hand, dangling between them.

It was not like O’Neill had not done similar things before, Teal’c concluded; just as he had done when he had been the First Prime of Apophis.

‘The ends do not always justify the means.’ Teal’c said quietly. ‘I believe this is why you agreed to let Nirtii go and why you argued for Cassandra’s life.’

O’Neill looked at him in surprise. He looked away again. ‘Maybe.’

‘I have spoken with Daniel Jackson and I see now that my suggestion to sacrifice Cassandra was seen as unacceptable.’

‘There are some sacrifices we shouldn’t have to make, Teal’c.’ Jack said tiredly. There was a distant look in his eyes. ‘A child’s life is one of them.’

Teal’c wondered if O’Neill was thinking of his late son. The man had lost one child he had loved and Teal’c knew with sudden certainty that O’Neill could not have lost another.

‘If you were given the choice again, O’Neill,’ Teal’c said quietly, ‘I do not believe that you would choose differently.’

‘Yeah.’ O’Neill tilted the bottle again and drained it of the clear liquid. ‘I just can’t help feeling that this whole thing is going to come back and bite me in the ass.’

Teal’c’s eyebrow crept up again.

O’Neill stood up. ‘I should shower.’ He picked up the towel and waved it at Teal’c. ‘How about I come find you in the commissary for an afternoon snack after? Maybe we can sneak some cake to Cassie.’

Teal’c knew the offer signalled the end of the discussion and the end of O’Neill’s avoiding him. ‘I would enjoy that.’

‘I’ll pick up Daniel. You might want to see if Carter wants to join us.’ O’Neill called over his shoulder as he walked out.

Teal’c watched as the door closed. Evidently, given the pointed look the Colonel had just thrown him, he had not been unaware of the strain between Teal’c and the others. He got to his feet and went in search of Major Carter.

She was in the first place he checked: her lab. Her attention was fixed on what appeared to be a small metal box. She had opened it and was probing into its contents with a rapt expression on her delicate features which were partly obscured by safety goggles. He hovered in the doorway and cleared his throat. Her blonde head snapped to him.

‘Teal’c.’ Sam turned back to her work.

Her tone wasn’t inviting but he persisted. ‘I have come to invite you for an afternoon snack. Colonel O’Neill has suggested we attempt to take cake to Cassandra.’

‘I have a lot of work to do.’ Sam replied without looking at him.

Teal’c pursed his lips as his heart sank. ‘You are upset with me.’

‘No, I have a lot of work to do.’ Sam insisted, shooting him a look which belied her words.

‘You are angry because I suggested that Cassandra could be sacrificed.’ Teal’c continued.

Sam froze. She turned to face him and whipped off the safety goggles. ‘You were going to sacrifice Cassie, Teal’c.’


‘Cassie.’ Sam stressed strongly, gesturing dangerously with the pliers.

‘Yes.’ Teal’c braced himself as though prepared for her to hit him.

‘Do you have any idea how upset she would be if she knew?’ Sam said passionately. ‘She adores you!’

‘As I adore her.’ Teal’c said calmly.

‘And yet you would have let her die just so Nirtii provided us with intel?’ Sam argued, pacing away from him.

‘I would have regretfully let her die so others would not suffer at the hands of Nirtii.’ Teal’c responded forcefully. ‘If there had been a way I would have gladly have offered my own life for Cassandra’s.’

Sam sat down slowly on a chair as though his argument had deflated her.

Teal’c took a hesitant step toward her and when she did not protest he sat down beside her. ‘I have realised since speaking with Daniel Jackson and Colonel O’Neill that sacrificing Cassandra, to sacrifice any child, would not have been honourable.’

‘If we don’t protect the innocent, Teal’c, it makes us just like the Goa’uld.’ Sam said quietly.

Teal’c inclined his head.

She looked at him sideways, tapping the pliers against her thigh. ‘Can I ask you a question, Teal’c?’

‘You may ask me anything, Major Carter.’ Teal’c allowed, registering that the anger had gone from her voice; the tension had seeped out of her body.

‘If it had been Rya’c, would you have held the same position?’ Sam asked.

Teal’c breathed in sharply. ‘I do not know.’ He replied honestly. ‘As I explained to Daniel Jackson the Jaffa are trained to believe all sacrifices are acceptable in battle. Yet, in truth, I believe I would have reacted as Doctor Fraiser.’

‘You would have threatened Nirtii?’

‘And forced her to heal my child.’ Teal’c agreed. ‘But I believe I would not have honoured the agreement to let her go.’

Sam nodded. She fiddled with the pliers in her hand. ‘Janet was very impressive.’

‘She was a mother protecting her child.’ Teal’c inclined his head. ‘As were you in your anger toward me.’

Sam flushed.

‘I regret disappointing you, Major Carter.’ Teal’c said gently.

‘You’re probably right though.’ Sam admitted. ‘About Nirtii.’ She waved the pliers. ‘We may have just let her out to start over with her experiments. Look what happened when we released Linea, Destroyer of Worlds loose on the galaxy.’

Teal’c regarded her seriously for a moment. ‘So, you believe Nirtii will attempt to seduce Daniel Jackson at our next encounter.’

Sam stared at him for a moment before breaking into a rueful laugh. ‘I hope not.’ She put the pliers down. ‘You said something about an afternoon snack?’

Teal’c stood up and offered her his hand. She took it and he pulled her from the chair to a standing position. She held onto him.

‘Teal’c,’ Sam began, ‘you have just as much a right to your opinion as I do to mine even if I disagree with it.’

Teal’c squeezed her hand. ‘I am pleased that we are once again friends, Major Carter.’

‘Me too.’ Sam said with a small smile as she squeezed his hand and let go. ‘Come on, we should get to the mess before Colonel O’Neill eats all the cake.’

Teal’c felt his spirits lift as he followed her out of the lab. ‘Indeed.’


Janet Fraiser wasn’t surprised to see the four members of SG1 gathered around Cassie’s bed. Her eyes took in the various empty plates and sighed. She’d seen them in the commissary gathering the provisions. Just what she needed, she mused; a teenager on a sugar high. She strode forward confidently and cleared her throat. Five guilty faces stared back at her.

Jack nudged Sam less than discreetly much to Janet’s amusement. Clearly Sam was meant to smooth the waters. Sam glared at her CO but Jack stared back pointedly. Sam turned around only to meet with Cassie’s pleading expression. She sighed and looked at Janet. ‘About the cake, if I could explain…’

‘No need. I know who was responsible.’ Janet looked at the Colonel who plastered an innocent expression on his face. Her lips twitched. She shifted her gaze back to her daughter. ‘So, my shift just ended. I think we should get you packed and home.’

Cassie nodded happily. Sam slipped off the bed to help push back the covers and allow Cassie to get up.

The men of SG1 stood up almost in unison.

Jack waved at her vaguely. ‘Well, we should probably…’

‘Leave.’ Daniel supplied quickly. ‘Give you some privacy.’ He held open his arms to Cassie who hugged him fiercely.

‘Hey.’ Jack said loudly. ‘How about one of those over here?’

Cassie exchanged a knowing look with Daniel who stepped back and allowed her to move to Jack. She hugged him before turning to Teal’c. The Jaffa patted her back awkwardly before Cassie slipped out of his embrace and waved the men away.

A nurse passed them as they made their way out of the infirmary. She cleared her throat as she approached Cassie’s bed. ‘Doctor Fraiser?’

‘Emily.’ Janet smiled. ‘I’ve just handed over to Doctor Warner.’ Her hand sneaked out to stroke Cassie’s reddish-brown hair back over a shoulder and gave a silent thank-you when Cassie didn’t protest the action. ‘Cassie and I are on our way home.’

‘I’m sorry, ma’am.’ Emily said apologetically. ‘But you received a call; General Hammond wants to see you immediately.’

Janet tried not to show the nerves that stampeded into her belly. She had been expecting a call to see the General for days; ever since she had assaulted an SF to break into Nirtii’s cell and held a gun on a valuable prisoner, all to save her daughter. She would do it again in a heartbeat but all actions had consequences. ‘I see. Thank you.’ She turned to see Sam looking at her sympathetically. ‘Can you stay with Cassie and get her ready?’

‘Sure.’ Sam agreed. She held Janet’s gaze and Janet nodded imperceptibly, understanding the reassuring comfort Sam was providing without Sam needing to speak a word.

Janet gave one regretful look around the infirmary and walked out. She tried not to feel nervous as she entered the elevator. She had known her actions had consequences, she reminded herself. She had acted as Cassie’s mother, on pure emotion, and she had ignored all the rules and regulations of her position as an officer in the United States Air Force. She shoved her hands in her pockets and looked anxiously up at the floor indicator.

General Hammond had been fairly understanding in the immediate aftermath. Once she had established Cassie was truly on the mend, she had presented herself to him and he had informed her that he needed time to consider the events and what was appropriate. Janet licked her lips. She had been lucky that he hadn’t taken her off active duty there and then; that he had waited until Cassie was ready to leave the infirmary before he had called for her.

She couldn’t help the churn in her stomach. She wasn’t a rebel. She wasn’t a Jack O’Neill who could blithely ignore the rules when it suited him – and those situations tended to be when the fate of Earth or the galaxy rested on the outcome. There had only been one life on the line when she had broken the rules and maybe it was the most precious life of all to her but she doubted the Air Force considered it the same way. A very valuable prisoner had been released because of her actions.

Janet straightened her shoulders and checked her hair was in place. She fussed with a few stray strands. She took a deep breath as the elevator came to a halt. She stepped out with a confidence that she didn’t feel. The General’s office door was closed and she rapped on the door. He called her for her to enter.

She had to take another deep breath and tried to ignore how her hand was shaking as she pushed open the door. She paused in the doorway. ‘You wanted to see me, sir?’

General Hammond waved her forward. She closed the door behind her and moved to stand in front of his desk. He was scribbling into a report, his pale blue eyes focused on the folder on his desk. He glanced up briefly before returning to his work. ‘At ease, Major.’

His familiar Texan drawl might have relaxed her as she fell into the pose that had literally been drilled into her body, but she noted the unusual use of her rank with dismay. Normally, Hammond called her ‘Doctor’ like everyone else on base. She couldn’t remember when she had felt less comfortable in his office. Her eyes drifted around the room; over the tasteful furniture and décor – so reminiscent of the man himself. It was conservative, traditional yet with personal touches that hinted at the General’s warm personality.

Hammond closed the folder and clasped his hands on top of it. He held her gaze with a hint of regret on his round face. ‘As you are aware, Major, your actions in assaulting an Airman and holding a gun on Nirtii in order to secure treatment for your daughter would normally result in charges under the UCMJ.’

‘Yes, sir.’ Janet wondered at her suddenly dry mouth.

‘I’ve spoken with my superiors and taken legal counsel on this matter.’ Hammond informed her briskly. ‘We are prepared to forego a formal court martial if you are prepared to accept my ruling as your commanding officer. You are, of course, entitled to seek your own legal counsel at any time during these proceedings.’

Janet nodded in understanding. ‘I’m prepared to accept your ruling, sir.’

‘Very well.’ Hammond opened the file. ‘Firstly, there is the question of the assault. The Airman you injured, Fitzpatrick, has formally gone on record that he does not wish for charges to be brought and I have taken his feelings on the matter into account.’

Janet breathed out in a sigh of relief. Of all the things that she had done, she had felt most guilty about knocking out Fitzpatrick.

‘There is the second matter, however, of you threatening a prisoner in custody with an unauthorised firearm and effectively attempting to blackmail this command into a course of action that may or may not have been in the best interests of this planet, this country and the United States Air Force.’ Hammond continued.

She flinched at his words and her hands tightened into fists behind her back.

‘Do you have anything to say in mitigation?’ Hammond asked.

Janet cleared her throat. ‘Only that I am sorry that I have disappointed you, sir.’

Hammond’s stern face softened. He cleared his throat and tapped the neat stack of paper. ‘Over the past week, several officers have come forward to testify to your good character and previous exemplary behaviour. I also have written statements from several members of the SGC that your normal good judgement was impaired due to severe emotional distress at the potential loss of your daughter.’

Janet’s eyes flickered to the ground.

‘It is clear to me that your actions were down to this emotional distress and you therefore have a solid defence of diminished responsibility.’

She was surprised into looking at him and almost started at the look of kindness the General directed at her.

‘In normal circumstances, had this been any other patient, I have no doubt that you would have conducted yourself with your usual common sense and level headed attitude. But these were not normal circumstances.’ Hammond said softly. ‘As a doctor, you should never have had primary care of your daughter and as an officer, you should never have been placed in a situation where your emotions would so clearly affect your judgement or in a situation where you, as an officer, would have the ability to do what you did.’ He sighed. ‘But there was no choice here: Cassandra is under your care because of her unique physiology. This base, this infirmary, was the only place where she could receive care and you are the Chief Medical Officer of this facility.’

Janet nodded jerkily.

‘Taking all that into account, I am making the following ruling: you are hereby suspended from active duty for one week. To be clear, once you leave the base today, you will not return for seven days unless there is a galactic emergency and you are recalled to duty. Is that clear?’

‘Yes, sir.’ Janet said crisply. Effectively, she had been seven days of leave; seven days she could spend looking after Cassie at home. She didn’t fool herself. Hammond had clearly timed it deliberately; he’d left her on duty when Cassie needed to be in the infirmary and now she was going home he was suspending her. She felt a flood of affection for her CO and tears of gratitude sprang to her eyes that she blinked back furiously.

‘Your pay will also be docked for that week,’ Hammond continued with a hint of regret, ‘and your file will contain a formal letter of reprimand that may affect your next promotion.’

‘I understand, sir.’ Janet managed to get the words out. The pay stung; her budget was carefully worked out especially since she had begun to build a college fund for Cassie. The loss of a week’s pay would hurt. She didn’t really care about the letter of reprimand or any mythical future promotion. Saving Cassie’s life had been worth it.

‘That’s all.’ Hammond shut the folder and nodded at her. ‘You’re dismissed, Major.’

‘Sir.’ Janet came to formal attention and spun on her heel. She made for the door.


She stopped with her hand on the door handle and turned back to her CO.

Hammond smiled at her. ‘Give Cassie my best.’

‘I will, sir.’ Janet returned his smile tremulously. ‘And thank you.’

‘For what, Doctor?’ Hammond teased gently. His eyes sobered. ‘I’m certain that there’s not a parent on this base that wouldn’t have done the same thing in your shoes. I know if it had been my daughter or Kayla or Tessa...’ he shrugged.

Janet nodded. She walked out as though she was floating. She hit the call button for the elevator and waited impatiently. The doors slid open and revealed Daniel. He was holding a manuscript in one hand and a mug of coffee in the other. His eyes on the manuscript, he almost barrelled into her. She caught hold of his arm as she unbalanced and for a second they wobbled uncertainly before he steadied her.

‘Oh, sorry.’ Daniel smiled shyly.

‘No problem.’ Janet said quickly. She went to move past him and he caught hold of her. ‘Is something wrong? You seem…’ he gestured with his mug and the coffee sloshed very close to the edge.

‘I’m fine.’ Janet avoided his gaze and stepped into the elevator.

He frowned at her; a crease appearing between his eyebrows. The doors started closing and Daniel suddenly dived between them. She looked up at the ceiling as he juggled the manuscript and mug again.

‘What’s wrong?’ Daniel repeated. He reached out and touched her arm gently. ‘And please; don’t tell me you’re fine because you’re clearly not.’

Janet looked over at him and felt her guard drop at his sincere concern. She sighed, unaccountably embarrassed. ‘General Hammond just suspended me.’

‘He what?’ Daniel’s eyes widened behind the panes of glass he wore. ‘But you were just protecting Cassie! He can’t suspend you for that!’

‘Yes, he can.’ Janet argued, reaching out to catch hold of his hand. ‘It’s fine, Daniel. After what I did, I could have ended up with prison time and instead, the General’s given me a week at home with my recovering daughter.’

‘Oh.’ Daniel seemed barely mollified. ‘You’re still shaking.’ He said it almost accusingly and she smiled in response.

‘It’s probably just some delayed reaction to everything.’ Janet blushed and realising she was holding onto his hand, she let go. ‘I’m fine.’

Daniel looked as though he was going to argue but he nodded slowly. ‘You know if you need anything…’

‘I know.’ Janet assured him. ‘Thank you.’

The elevator stopped and Janet alighted. Daniel waved her goodbye with his mug as the doors closed. She paused for a moment in the empty corridor and collected herself. She needed to get Cassie home, she told herself, as she headed to the female locker room to change.

Cassie was waiting for her when she got back to the infirmary. She had dressed in a teenage uniform of jeans, a t-shirt which proclaimed her as a rebel without a cause and a matching denim jacket. Her back-pack sat on the bed beside her.

Sam stood up as Janet approached. ‘Everything OK?’

Janet nodded and helped Cassie as she jumped off the bed. She grabbed the back-pack before her daughter could get to it. ‘Everything’s fine.’ She glanced at Sam. ‘The General’s given me some vacation.’

Realisation sprang into Sam’s eyes. ‘How long?’

‘A week.’ Janet attempted another smile as Cassie regarded her with an unhappy frown. ‘Come on. Let’s get you home.’

Cassie hugged Sam and they were on their way. It was much later – once they were home and their relaxed evening of dinner and a movie was over that Cassie raised the unexpected vacation as Janet was settling her back into bed.

‘You got into trouble because of me, didn’t you?’ Cassie asked, guilt written all over her youthful face.

Janet sighed and sat down on the bed. She stroked Cassie’s bangs from her forehead. She had always believed Cassie deserved to know the truth but she hesitated a little wondering how best to phrase it. ‘I got into a little trouble because of what I did.’

‘To save me.’ Cassie countered. She sighed huffily.

‘Hey. What I did was my decision and I don’t regret a single moment of it.’ Janet took hold of her chin and held her gaze forcefully. ‘This was not your fault.’

Cassie nodded reluctantly. ‘Do you think Nirtii will ever come back?’ She asked hesitantly, her fingers ruffling the fur of her dog as he jumped up on the bed.

‘I don’t think so, honey.’ Janet shook her head and let go of Cassie. ‘We haven’t really had a chance to talk about…everything. About what she did. About how you feel about that.’

‘I wish she was dead.’ Cassie said bitterly. ‘She killed everyone just because she didn’t want anyone to know that she was experimenting on us and I hate that’s she’s out there probably doing it to someone else.’

Janet smoothed the blanket flat around her daughter.

‘But in some ways, it’s a relief, you know? Knowing why she did it.’ Cassie looked at the dog, avoiding Janet’s gaze. ‘At least I know why my parents died.’ Her breath caught and Janet rubbed her shoulder comfortingly.

‘You miss them.’ Janet determined.

Cassie looked at her guiltily.

‘It’s OK.’ Janet assured her. ‘They were your family and you loved them.’ She said quietly. ‘You’re allowed to miss them, Cassie.’

‘I do.’ Cassie admitted huskily. ‘I miss them so much.’

Janet pulled her into a consoling hug as Cassie began to cry a little. The dog whined beside her, pushing his head between them as he tried his best to provide his own brand of doggy comfort.

Cassie eventually pulled back.

‘I know it’s difficult, Cassie,’ Janet began, ‘and you have every right to be angry with Nirtii but don’t let it define you. You have so much potential; don’t let her spoil the rest of your life.’

‘I won’t.’ Cassie said, accepting the tissue Janet handed her and scrubbing at her face. She lowered it sheepishly. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘What for?’ Janet asked bemused.

‘For being mean to you.’ Cassie blushed. ‘All the things I said. I promise I’m going to do better.’

Janet smiled at her. ‘Me too.’ She kissed Cassie’s forehead. ‘Now, it’s time you got some rest, young lady.’ She slid off the bed and headed for the door.


‘Hmmm?’ Janet turned to look over her shoulder.

Cassie was snuggling into her pillows, rearranging the blankets. ‘Can Dominic come over tomorrow?’ She looked at Janet hopefully.

And there was her perfectly normal teenage daughter, Janet thought wryly. ‘We’ll see.’

‘Mom!’ Cassie protested.

Janet grinned and closed the door.





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