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Fanfiction: Never Ending Cycle - Part III

For disclaimers and author's note see Part I.

 

Never Ending Cycle

A New Dawn


All Jennifer Hailey could focus on was the pounding of her footsteps against the pavement. She let it fill her ears and her head. She ignored the drizzle of rain that had already soaked through her grey sweat shorts and the deep blue Air Force t-shirt. She kept running. Her thighs were beginning to feel the burn; her calve muscles in danger of cramping. Her breath was coming in sharp pants, bordering on sobs. Her heartbeat was racing along with her body. She ignored everything but the footsteps.

The early morning light seeped through the rain clouds and turned the asphalt to silver. Puddles glistened in the road like polished mirrors. Hailey wasn’t aware of anything but her footsteps.

She didn’t want to think; didn’t want to feel; didn’t want to remember the way General Hammond had pulled her, Satterfield and Grogan into his office the afternoon before…

It was unusual for the base CO to request the presence of junior officers in his office. Hailey felt her belly stir with anxiety as they got into the elevator. She was certain that she hadn’t done anything wrong. SG5 had just back from a diplomatic mission and she had just finished putting the final touches on her report when she had got the summons.

What do you think this is about?’ Tamsin Satterfield looked as nervous as Hailey felt.

I don’t know.’ Hailey responded.

Matt Grogan fidgeted beside her. ‘Maybe they’re going to tell us that they got it wrong and we’re out.’

Hailey shook her head. ‘I don’t think so.’

Maybe…’

Maybe we should just wait and see.’ Hailey said firmly. She crossed her arms over her t-shirt and refused to look at the others. The elevator deposited them on the right level and they made their way to the office.

Hammond waved them inside. ‘At ease.’ He kept standing; his round face incredibly solemn. ‘I won’t drag this out. As you may know Lieutenant Elliot was deployed with SG17 on a Tok’ra orientation.’ He paused. ‘I’m afraid the Tok’ra base was attacked by the Goa’uld and all members of SG17 have been lost. Lieutenant Elliot gave his life to ensure the safe return of SG1 and General Carter.’

Hailey blinked at Hammond. Elliot was dead? But he couldn’t be. She’d talked to him just before his mission; they’d arranged to meet up for a drink and trade stories when they both got back…he couldn’t be dead.

I realise you all trained together very recently and wanted to inform you before you heard it from someone else.’ Hammond said kindly.

Thank you, sir.’ Hailey managed to get the words out. Satterfield and Grogan stood shell-shocked beside her.

Hammond nodded. ‘You’re relieved of duty for the rest of the day and if any of you need to talk, your COs have been apprised or you can always speak confidentially with Doctor Fraiser.’ He looked at them gravely. ‘That’s all.’

Hailey believed it was only their ingrained training that brought them out of their stupor and enabled them to leave the office. By mutual agreement, the three of them had all left the base and headed for the bar, where only a couple of weeks before they had sat celebrating the successful completion of the training simulation. They had spent the night getting drunk.

She slowed as she rounded the corner to her apartment building. She staggered to a stop in front of the door and forced herself into a series of stretches before she headed inside. She got into the elevator and slumped against the back wall.

His first mission.

She crossed her arms tightly over her chest. Elliot had been so excited. An earlier mission had been cancelled because of Teal’c being stuck in the memory buffers. They had bumped into each other in the commissary when she and SG5 had got back from Russia having had to gate there for the same reason. They’d had a snack and arranged to meet for drinks.

It wasn’t a romance; it hadn’t been a romance, Hailey corrected, blinking back tears. Not that Elliot wasn’t cute – he was, it was just that neither of them wanted to derail their careers with anything like that. It had just been the start of what she had thought could have been a really great friendship. They were very similar; ambitious, driven, and passionate about the Stargate programme.

He hadn’t deserved to die. But then neither had his CO Major Mansfield or any of the rest of SG17. From what Hailey could make out from the rumour mill before they’d left the base even SG1 had barely made it back.

The elevator doors opened.

She limped along the corridor to her apartment and let herself in. Grogan and Satterfield had crashed at her place and she could see the discarded blankets piled on the small two-seater sofa.

‘Hey.’ Satterfield called out to her from across the room. She held up a bright orange mug. ‘Coffee?’

Hailey shook her head. ‘Just water.’ She headed for her refrigerator. ‘Where’s Matt?’

‘He got called into the SGC.’ Satterfield took a sip of her coffee. ‘He just got assigned to SG9.’

‘Wow.’ Hailey shook her head. ‘I didn’t realise…he didn’t say anything last night.’

‘He felt bad.’ Satterfield explained. ‘I mean, he gets an assignment and…’

‘Elliot’s dead.’ Hailey took a gulp of water. She could understand why Grogan had kept quiet. She glanced at the clock. ‘I have to get a move on.’

‘Jenn.’ Satterfield placed her mug down and hooked her hands into the back pockets of her jeans. ‘I’m putting in for a transfer.’

Hailey looked at her surprised. ‘Tam…’

‘I can’t do this.’ Satterfield blurted out. ‘I can’t.’

Hailey nodded. Satterfield had been assigned to the base archaeology department while she waited for a place on a SG team. ‘You’ve got to do what’s right for you.’ She said mildly. She jerked her thumb toward the bathroom. ‘I have to go shower.’

‘I, uh, I’m going to leave.’ Satterfield said. ‘I was just waiting until you got back.’

‘I’ll see you at the base.’ Hailey said. She walked away into the bathroom. She heard the front door opening and closing as she stripped. She stepped under the spray of hot water.

She wondered if Satterfield would really request the transfer. It was probably just the shock. It was the first time any of them had lost someone they knew so closely. It was the reality of fighting a war, Hailey told herself as she showered. They would lose people; they would lose team-mates and colleagues. The Goa’uld didn’t care who they killed.

It was sobering and Hailey couldn’t blame Satterfield for wanting out. The question was did she want out too? She remembered her mother cautioning her on joining the Air Force. The military meant learning to kill and how to survive; it meant that one day that training would matter in a real situation.

Elliot had been there and he hadn’t survived.

The question nagged at her as she got dressed and drove into the base. She entered the female locker room and redressed in the SGC BDUs. She avoided the mess; she didn’t want to bump into anyone else. She headed for the small lab space she had been assigned and buried herself in work.

A loud rap on the door made her jump. She looked up in annoyance which quickly dissipated at the sight of her CO, Major Tennyson.

‘Sir.’ Crap. Her eyes flew to the clock. She’d had a meeting with him and she’d totally forgotten.

The stocky leader of SG5 entered and closed the door. ‘Usually when a CO requests a meeting with his junior officer, they report to him not the other way around, Lieutenant.’

‘Yes, sir.’ Hailey said quickly. ‘I’m sorry, sir; it won’t happen again.’

Tennyson’s keen blue eyes settled on her with more understanding than she had anticipated. ‘First time you’ve lost someone you’ve known?’

Hailey nodded. ‘I’m fine, sir.’

Tennyson waved her onto her stool and sat down opposite. He clasped his hands on top of the workbench and looked at her directly, sadness filling his craggy face. ‘Henry Mansfield and I went to the Academy together. We served in the Gulf together. We played golf every time we got downtime together. Our wives are friends. Kelly’s over with Lauren right now. I’m going to miss him.’

‘I’m sorry, sir.’ Hailey said, flushing. She sighed. ‘I didn’t even know Elliot that well.’

‘No,’ Tennyson agreed, ‘but you trained together and were becoming friends, right?’

She nodded again. She took a breath. ‘How do you do it, sir? How do you…’

‘Keep serving, keep forming bonds, knowing there’s a possibility that the people around you may die?’ Tennyson completed the sentence.

‘Yes, sir.’

‘I’m not going to lie to you, Jenn.’ Tennyson said gruffly. ‘It’s hard. But it’s what we signed up for. We risk our lives to protect Earth and sometimes that exacts a price.’ He sighed. ‘You know those training simulations we all do test how far we’d all go in the performance of our duty. Elliot proved that he would be willing to sacrifice his own life. So did you. What they don’t teach you is that the hardest thing is not sacrificing your own life to save others – that’s actually the easy part.’

He looked over at her. ‘The hard part is seeing others sacrifice their lives for you, or others. And they don’t teach you how to deal with that.’

‘How do you deal with it?’ Hailey asked solemnly.

‘We honour the dead by remembering them.’ Tennyson responded promptly. ‘You look after those they left behind and you do the best damn job you can so their sacrifice is worth something.’

‘Yes, sir.’ Hailey took a deep breath.

Tennyson nodded. ‘And on the subject of doing our jobs, you want to take me through your report?’

Hailey acknowledged the switch in subject gratefully. She reached for her prepared document. ‘Yes, sir.’ Life went on and she would do her job to the best of her ability and more, she would always remember Elliot and the sacrifice he’d made. He would never be forgotten.

fin.
 

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