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Fanfiction: Frozen in Action - Part III

For disclaimer and author's note see Part I.

 

Part III: Cracks in the Ice

Of course, Selmak loved the seedy bar. Jacob rolled his eyes at her delighted mental glee and fought the urge to back out and head straight back to the Stargate.

Relax, Jacob, Selmak remonstrated, this is a trading planet. They expect all kinds of people and nobody is interested in us.

That wasn't true; there was a very attractive brunette eyeing them warily across the room. She was a stunner; decked out in skin-tight leather and a sassy attitude that Jacob recognised as trouble. She threw Jacob another suspicious look, grabbed a jacket from the back of her chair and left through the back door.

She's an ex-host, Selmak noted inwardly putting into words the tingling sensation they'd felt. I think Qetesh's from what I remember of Carvin's description.

Jacob sighed. She wasn't keen on us.

I can't blame her if she recognised us as Tok'ra, Selmak admitted. Carvin should have made sure the host was taken care of but he admitted that he left her to the mercy of the people on the planet because he got another lead.

Jacob hushed her softly as Selmak's keen disappointment in how her fellow Tok'ra often underestimated their hosts and the hosts taken by the Goa'uld spiked through him. He looked around the bar again and made his way over to a free spot. He ordered a drink and waited.

I can't believe Bra'tac chose this place, Jacob commented dryly.

It is certainly engaging, Selmak replied, brightening as they took in the different aliens huddled around the various tables. Here he is.

Bra'tac was not wearing his usual Jaffa armour but rather a dull beige hooded cloak with a simple tunic and leggings underneath. He made his way to Jacob's side and Jacob grasped the offered forearm warmly.

'My friends.' Bra'tac said, grinning. 'It is good to see you.'

'We got your message.' Jacob said, smiling widely back at him. 'Thank you.' The communication requesting they meet had also said 'everyone safe.' It was much needed reassurance; the Tok'ra scout had only reported that Earth had defeated Anubis with an Ancient weapon.

Bra'tac harrumphed, waving away Jacob's gratitude.

Jacob motioned for the bartender to provide another drink for Bra'tac and handed over the required credits in return. 'Let's find a table.'

'Indeed,' murmured Bra'tac, 'I have much to tell you.'

They settled at a back table and Bra'tac quietly relayed what had happened.

'I do not need to tell you that the System Lords will want this weapon.' Bra'tac finished. He took a long swallow of his drink.

'And everyone else in the galaxy.' Jacob leaned back in the rickety chair. Anubis might be dead but the danger to Earth hadn't gone away.

'Ba'al is moving into Anubis's territory.' Bra'tac informed him briskly. 'He will also be a threat.' He set his cup down and clapped Jacob's shoulder. 'SG1will prevail, no?'

'O'Neill's in stasis.' Jacob retorted.

Bra'tac's dark eyes shone with pride. 'Ah, but do you truly believe your daughter or Daniel Jackson or my Teal'c will allow him to remain that way?'

Jacob opened his mouth and closed it again. 'You have a point.'

'All will be well, my friend.' Bra'tac said confidently. 'I will get us another drink.' He got up before Jacob could protest.

So, Earth is safe but only for the time being, Jacob complained to Selmak.

And this is different from the status quo, how, Jacob? Selmak commented wryly.

o-O-o

Henry sat back in his very comfortable chair and regarded the faces of the other world leaders on the various monitors in the situation room.

'I'm looking forward to meeting your representatives to begin discussing our revised Antarctica treaty.' Henry said with a charming smile. 'Thank you all for your understanding and cooperation. Ladies, Gentlemen.'

The aide in the corner ended the feed and the monitors went dark apart from the one with the SGC showing Elizabeth Weir.

'We'll reconvene in one hour and discuss strategy.' Henry said firmly, standing. He needed to take a break. He didn't wait for his order to be acknowledged. He got to his feet, fastened his suit jacket and walked out. His Secret Service agents trailed behind him, the muted chatter of the lead agent already relaying that the Eagle was on the move.

Henry made for the terrace outside of his office. It was raining; the light incessant drizzle that seemed to be so common in Washington; neither a downpour nor a fog but something in between. Maybe the weather was as determined to be as grey and uninteresting as the politicians running the country, Henry considered grimly, pushing his hands into his pants' pockets and staring up at the sky.

'Mister President.' Hammond's calm drawl behind him almost made him start.

'George, what have I told you? It's Henry.'

'Yes, Mister President.' Hammond replied on cue.

They both smiled ruefully.

'I don't know how you do it, George.' Henry admitted. 'I told those people in there that the Earth was safe and that we could protect them.' He rocked back on his heels. 'And you know the worst thing? They bought it because they want to believe that we're safe and protected.' He laughed shortly. 'Hell, I want to believe we're safe and protected.' He paused. 'Isn't this where you jump in and tell me we're safe and protected?'

Hammond closed the distance between them. 'We're safe. We have our best people manning the frontline and they're good, experienced people who will give their lives to make sure we're protected.'

Henry felt reassured despite himself; despite the briefing Hammond had given that morning detailing how Earth was at risk despite their win over Anubis.

'You know what really gets my goat about this Antarctica crap? We lost over two thousand servicemen and women in the battle with Anubis.' Henry said quietly. 'We did, not them. So you know what I really want to say to all the other leaders? Of course, our world isn't fucking safe! We're in terrible danger and you should all get your heads out of your asses and let the one team that saved us all, and not for the first time, go back and do whatever they need to do, and fuck the treaty and boundaries and who gets what.'

'I'm sure SG1 would appreciate your faith in them, sir.' Hammond said mildly.

'How long before they get sick of waiting for a political solution, and use the power they're pretending they don't have to get what they want and probably save all of us again as a result?' Henry asked bluntly, glancing over his shoulder.

Hammond smiled. 'I'd say another week, no more than that.'

Henry sighed and took a deep breath. He had to admire that kind of loyalty and determination. He shook his head. 'You think this International Oversight Committee is a good thing?'

'I think it's inevitable, Mister President.' Hammond said dryly.

'Like death and taxes?' And as unwanted as both those things. Henry nodded his agreement. 'I'm just going to stay out here a while, George.'

'Yes, sir.'

Henry was going to stay out, stare at the grey sky and pretend that he was safe; just for a moment.

o-O-o

'An international oversight committee.' Daniel complained, weaving his hands through the air sharply. 'How is that a good idea?'

'You got me.' Sam muttered, picking up a slice of pizza from the box on the bench between them. 'But if it gets us back to Antarctica, I'm all for it.'

'Oh, me too.' Daniel agreed, snagging his own slice of pizza. He nudged his glasses up his nose with his free hand and bit into the make-shift dinner. 'Where's Teal'c?'

'Sparring.' Sam said succinctly.

Daniel waggled his eyebrows. 'He actually got volunteers?'

'Marines.' Sam waved her pizza precariously in the direction of a valuable reference book.

Daniel snagged it and placed it to the side with the hand not covered in tomato sauce. 'He's going to break them.'

Sam shrugged as though the fates of Teal'c's sparring partners were of no consequence. 'So, they've transferred the cargo ship from Petersen where Bra'tac left it, back to Area 51.'

'I don't suppose Weir will allow you to go there and look at it.' Daniel thought out loud. 'I mean, if we can get onto the ship then we can…'

'Take it and go look for Thor.' Sam completed.

'I was going to say get back to Antarctica but your plan sounds good too.' Daniel lowered his half-eaten pizza. 'You do have a plan, right?'

Sam wiped her fingers on a napkin. 'Well, I have 'take the cargo ship and go look for Thor' so far.'

'OK,' Daniel murmured, 'so maybe we need to work on the details.' But a plan was a plan. It beat sitting around and waiting for the international community to allow them to get back to Jack.

'Not least of which is actually getting Doctor Weir to agree to send us over to Area 51 when everyone wants us to stay here.' Sam pointed out.

'Yeah, I'm thinking she's not just going to say yes.' Daniel sighed but he caught a dangerous glint. 'Ooh, you have that look.'

'What look?' Sam straightened with a glare.

'The 'I'm about to blow something up or take part in a really unnecessary space race' look.' Daniel shot back.

Sam arched an elegant eyebrow. 'You say that like it's a bad thing.' She teased.

Daniel grinned back at her because it was such a good thing. He truly believed that Sam could take over the universe if she put her mind to it and he had a feeling the new international committee was about to find out just how dangerous Samantha Carter could be when she decided to fight.

o-O-o

'…and I don't see why we need to continue to work as a single body if Anubis is dead.' The Tiranian representative on the Langaran Council.

'Maybe because he isn't the only Goa'uld out there who has targeted us?' Jonas countered, trying and failing to keep the exasperation out of his voice. 'The Goa'uld we found spying on us last year was working for Ba'al.'

'So you're saying Langara isn't safe although Earth has defeated Anubis?' Dreylock was a picture of calm serenity at the head of the table.

'That's exactly what I'm saying.' Jonas said.

'Well, of course, you would say that.' The Andari representative said with a huff.

Jonas drew in a deep breath and tried to wrestle his anger back. 'I was requested to be on this Council because of my experiences with SG1 and the Goa'uld. It is my expert opinion that we are not safe. Earth has defeated many Goa'uld including Apophis, Hathor and Nirrti to name but a few. They have continued to face threats despite their success.'

'Thank you, Jonas.' Dreylock broke in before the Andari could reply. 'Perhaps you could leave us to deliberate.'

It was a well-executed dismissal. Jonas got to his feet and left without saying another word. He stormed down to his lab and locked the door. Dog greeted him cheerfully, his tail wagging madly. He took a moment to pet him before he tugged the Earth laptop closer to the edge of the bench and brought up the email that Daniel had sent him when Earth had dialled Langara to confirm that they had survived Anubis's attack. He'd already reread it several times.

'There's going to be a new international committee…' Jonas grimaced. He hoped Earth's international body didn't prove as frustrating as the Langaran Council. '…we think we might be able to use the cargo ship Jack modified to travel to the Asgard galaxy so we have a plan B…'

The cargo ship. Jonas frowned as his mind snagged onto the words. OK, so why…Anat. Jonas winced automatically at the thought of the Goa'uld who he had unknowingly had a relationship with. He sat up though as he made the connection. Anat had to have travelled in a ship of some description and that ship had to be somewhere on Langara. If he found it…Jonas smiled.

He stopped petting Dog and tugged the laptop closer. He would write his reply to Daniel and start planning how to find a cloaked cargo ship from the ground. The Langaran government might have prevented him from travelling through the Stargate but they underestimated him if they thought that was the end of it. If he found Anat's cargo ship, he would have a plan B of his own.

o-O-o

Anna Brightman gave a nod to the worried parents sat either side of Lieutenant Colonel Mitchell's bed and picked up his chart. She pursed her lips and read through the latest obs.

He was improving, slowly but surely. He'd started breathing on his own; his heart rate had settled into a good rhythm; his latest blood work had shown no sign of infection. The primary damage to his legs – the shattered bones and patella; horrific gouges through muscle and flesh – had been mostly healed by Major Carter's efforts with the healing device but there was spinal inflammation and they wouldn't know the extent of that damage until the young Colonel woke up and they could assess him.

Anna replaced the chart and went to take her own readings from the various devices. They confirmed everything that Anna had read in the chart; steady improvement. She picked up the chart again and wrote down everything neatly.

'Doctor?' Mitchell's mother – Wendy, Anna reminded herself – cleared her throat. 'How's he doing?'

For a brief moment, Anna wished again that Janet Fraiser was alive. Her late boss had been so much better at doing the hard part – talking to relatives, soothing their concerns with brisk but compassionate empathy. Anna put the chart down and rested her hands lightly on the end bed rail. 'He's improving.'

The good news impacted Mitchell's parents like a tidal wave. His father's shoulders slumped in relief and his hand tightened around Mitchell's limp fingers. His mother blinked back grateful tears.

Anna steeled herself to move onto the bad news. 'He has inflammation around his spinal column from the crash. We'll know more when he wakes up.'

'Will he…is he going to be…' Mitchell's father darted a look at his own crutches lined up against the wall of the room and then to Anna.

'We've ruled out a spinal break,' Anna said firmly, 'but there may be nerve damage. We'll have to wait and see.'

'This is my fault.' His Dad lowered his eyes back to his son. 'He joined up because of me and…'

'Frank.' Wendy shook her head. 'This isn't your fault.'

Anna felt awkward and uncertain. She had no idea what to say; what would Janet have said, she wondered. 'I know we can't tell you much about what happened, but there are a lot of people who wouldn't be alive if your son hadn't been there.' Her hands tightened on the rail. 'He's made it this far and he's got a long road ahead but we're going to do all we can to get him back on his feet. You have my word.'

They both smiled at her; Frank gave her a tentative nod and Wendy mouthed a thank you. Anna smiled back and walked out swiftly. She paused in the corridor, pleased. She rather thought Janet would have been proud of her.

o-O-o

Cassie tasted the sauce and pulled a face. OK, so it needed something – salt, maybe – no, pepper. She didn't really know. What she did know was that it didn't taste the same as the way her Mom had made it. She sighed and added a twist of both. The phone rang and she grumbled to herself as she turned down the heat. If it was Sam cancelling again she would pack everything up and take it to the SGC.

She snagged the receiver. 'Hello.'

'Oh hey, Cassie.' Pete Shanahan greeted her cheerfully. 'I was hoping to speak to Sam?'

'She's not here right now.' Cassie replied, feeling sorry for Sam's kind-of-boyfriend. She fully believed she spoke to Pete more than Sam did. 'She'll be back…'

The sound of keys in the front door stopped her.

'Actually, hold on; I think she's just got home.' She put the receiver down on the counter next to the phone and hurried into the hallway.

Sam closed the door and began divesting herself of her leather jacket and scarf. She tossed a small smile over her shoulder as she caught sight of Cassie. 'Hey.'

'Hey.' Cassie pointed back towards the phone. 'Pete.'

'Oh.' Sam brushed a hand down her blue sweater and jeans as though Pete could see her and hurried through to pick up the receiver. 'Pete, hi.'

Cassie retreated back to the sauce and tried to pretend she wasn't eavesdropping.

'Tomorrow? I…no, no. Tomorrow's fine.' Sam murmured, her fingers twisting the cord tightly. 'Pete, that's…' she lowered her head, 'no, it's…dinner and dancing would be great but I'm not really…how about a quiet night in?'

There was a note of desperation that had Cassie frowning as she added dried pasta to boiling water.

'Yeah, that sounds great. OK.' Sam murmured. 'See you tomorrow…um, me too.'

The soft click of the phone being replaced told Cassie the call was over. She looked over at Sam, unsurprised to find her still by the phone a contemplative expression screwing up her delicate features into tense lines.

'Everything OK?' Cassie asked tentatively.

Sam immediately straightened, waving away Cassie's concern. 'Just tired.'

'I meant with Pete.' Cassie clarified, stirring the sauce.

'It's fine.' Sam tried a smile. 'I've cancelled on him a lot recently with…everything going on at the base and, you know, with the Colonel.'

Cassie frowned. 'Is he giving you a hard time?'

Sam shook her head and wandered over to stand beside her. 'He's been very understanding.' She sounded as though she couldn't understand why.

Cassie floundered. She and Sam were close but Sam had never confided to Cassie in her love life and Cassie didn't think she was going to start. She wondered what her Mom would have said to ease Sam's mind and couldn't think of anything. She sighed. 'Hey, do you want to taste this? I think it's missing something but I don't know what.'

As Sam obediently went to get a spoon, Cassie wished her Mom was there. Maybe she would have been found the right words.

o-O-o

Pete was under illusions; Sam Carter was definitely way out of his league. He'd suspected when they'd first dated before he'd discovered that she was a galactic superhero. But since then…he glanced over at her; she'd put more distance between them. She was curled up on the other side of the sofa watching the movie, away from where he sat at the other end.

It was his own fault, Pete thought tiredly. He had invaded her privacy and lied to her. He had lost a lot of ground with the background check and the…events that had led to the revelation that his girlfriend battled aliens on a daily basis. In many ways he had been surprised when Sam had called him and agreed to start over but he was grateful for the opportunity and he was determined not to blow it.

He cleared his throat. 'You enjoying the movie?' It was an old black and white classic – Gene Kelly. It wasn't his choice of movie but he knew Sam loved them.

'Yeah,' Sam shot him a smile, 'it's great.'

But she wasn't watching it. He was a cop. He was good at observation and he could tell her mind was somewhere else. He picked up his wine and wished it was beer. He took a sip and put it back down.

'You want to talk about it?'

Sam immediately looked guarded. 'Pete…'

'Look I'm not asking for details but you took off just before a meteor shower,' he mimed quotation marks, 'came back just after, and you've been distracted and busy since with the news that you'd had to leave Colonel O'Neill somewhere so…I know something big's going on and I can see that you're upset and…you can talk to me.'

'I can't talk to you, Pete.' Sam swung her legs off the sofa.

'Maybe not about aliens invading or exactly what's happened to O'Neill, no,' Pete acknowledged, 'but about how you feel about whatever's going on? You must be able to tell me about that.'

Sam stared at him as though he'd suggested something outlandish.

'If this is going to work,' Pete forced himself to say it, 'I can't deal with you pretending everything's fine if it's not. It feels like you're lying to me.'

For a long moment, Pete thought she would bolt.

'It's not…I'm not pretending. I'm just…' she sighed and ran a hand through her hair, messing the blonde strands into disarray, 'compartmentalizing?'

'I get that.' Pete did. There was stuff he saw as a cop that he didn't want to bring home either. He reached out a hand and tangled their fingers together.

Sam bit her lip. 'Don't you want to forget about it sometimes?'

'Sure.' Pete said. 'But, you're clearly not able to forget about it.' He tilted his head and regarded her closed expression. 'It's bad, huh?'

'Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't just give it all up, find some farm in the middle of nowhere and raise chickens so I wouldn't have to deal with the politics of it all.' Sam sighed.

Pete smiled a little. He wanted to say that he'd go with her in a heartbeat but the fear that he wasn't part of her fantasy stopped him from saying anything. 'I don't think you'd enjoy it very much in the middle of nowhere.' He said instead. 'Or, you know, the chickens would turn out to be aliens.'

She smiled at the joke and his heart lifted.

He squeezed her fingers. 'Why don't we have an early night? Not to you know,' he said quickly seeing her expression; they hadn't slept together since he'd messed up and he didn't want to rush her, 'but just to sleep.'

Sam hesitated long enough for him to know he'd pushed too much.

'Or I could leave you to get some sleep and call you tomorrow?' Pete said smoothly.

'I'm sorry,' Sam began.

'You don't need to apologise.' Pete replied. He smiled at her as he got to his feet. 'It's probably a good thing; I'm supposed to meet with the D.A. for a breakfast meeting.'

Sam walked him to the front door and they kissed.

Pete dropped another light kiss on her lips when she pulled away, said goodbye and shrugged on his jacket as she closed the door behind him. He looked back at Sam's house pensively. He didn't know what she needed but evidently it wasn't him.

o-O-o

'Seriously, Bill Lee?' Rodney didn't have to fake the incredulity as he glared at General Vidrine down the web cam. 'You think Bill Lee can decipher what O'Neill did to that cargo ship?'

'Doctor Lee is an expert on Goa'uld technology.' Vidrine replied tightly. His blue shirt with its line of four stars looked as impressively starched as his expression.

'Yes, yes, an expert who almost blew up us all up with a Goa'uld bomb not so long ago.' Rodney said snidely. 'But you go ahead and get him to look at it.'

Vidrine's lips thinned so much they disappeared. 'Very well. I'll make arrangements for you to…'

'No, no, no! Not me!' Rodney said hurriedly, gesticulating at the camera and out towards the engine room of the Prometheus behind him. 'Or have you forgotten that I'm in the middle of fixing our only hope of survival if another Goa'uld shows up?'

Vidrine finally blew out an exasperated breath. 'McKay…'

'Besides,' Rodney pressed on swiftly, 'from what Sam wrote in her report, O'Neill used Ancient knowledge to modify Goa'uld technology and the last time he did that, and when was that again? Oh, right the last time he downloaded the Ancient database into his head. And oh, let's think who was the only person who managed to backward engineer what he did then? I seem to remember it was Major Carter. Well, Doctor Carter and Major Carter working together but, hello: it took two Carters!'

He felt a surge of triumph when Vidrine lifted a hand and pinched the bridge of his nose. 'Are you telling me that Major Carter is the only person who can determine what O'Neill did to the cargo ship?'

'She was right there with him, wasn't she?' Rodney pointed out with blunt logic. 'I mean, the two of us together would probably be able to figure it out quicker but, in this particular instance, and really I mean only this instant, she's maybe, possibly, the best, um, person for you know.' His left hand wafted around inelegantly in the air for a long moment before dropping.

Vidrine stared at him for a full minute. 'Very well.' He said dryly. 'Thank you for your honesty.'

The screen went blank. Rodney made sure the connection was terminated.

'I thought I'd never see the day that the great Rodney McKay said he wasn't the best person for the job.' A nearby technician muttered, reaching into the tray of crystals and changing the position of one.

Rodney shot him a look that told him to shut up and mind his own business. He brought up the internal email.

'You so owe me.' Rodney sent off the email to Sam without any other comment.

A reply from came back almost immediately. 'Thanks.'

Rodney huffed with pleasure at the single word. He immediately deleted all trace of the messages anywhere. He doubted Vidrine had someone watching their email but he wasn't taking the chance.

He turned back to his simulations and refused to consider why Sam needed to be the only one thought capable of studying the cargo ship. He'd learned on his first meeting with her that getting in the way of her rescuing a team-mate only ended up with Rodney being sent to Siberia.

o-O-o

Teal'c refrained from the urge to smooth a hand over his head and the neat wiry layer of hair that adorned it. He liked his new look and he was more than a little amused that it was garnering so much attention from others at the SGC – at least those that remained.

The base was quiet. Most of the military assets were on stand down although a number had transferred to Petersen to temporarily replace the 302 pilots that had been lost in the battle with Anubis. Travel through the Stargate was not prohibited but it was rare. If he had not believed fervently that he was needed to support his team-mates, Teal'c would have been tempted to have travelled to Hak'tyl or to have spent time with his son.

'…and then we commandeer the Prometheus and I take over the world.'

Teal'c raised an eyebrow.

Sam smirked back at him and it was good to see humour lighting up her blue eyes and softening her expression. 'You back with me, Teal'c?'

'I was not aware that I had left.' Teal'c commented dryly.

It was her turn to raise an eyebrow and Teal'c was grateful that he did not blush under her scrutiny.

'So what were you thinking so seriously about?' Sam asked, leaning over the central bench in her lab.

'I was contemplating the quiet.'

'Yeah.' Sam winced and straightened. 'It's too quiet around here.' She looked wistfully towards the door as though expecting someone else to enter and bring chaos with them.

'You were informing me of your plan to save O'Neill.' Teal'c gently said.

Sam blew out a breath and nodded. 'McKay came through; he's told Vidrine that I'm the only person who has a shot at understanding what the Colonel did to the cargo ship.'

Teal'c allowed himself a moment to contemplate Rodney McKay's surprising show of solidarity or perhaps self-preservation. Teal'c knew better than to stand between Samantha Carter and a mission to save O'Neill. Instead, he was determined to provide her with protection and support as O'Neill would have wished.

'I think the best bet is to head to the time bubble. I know Thor intended to keep an eye on it so it's possible he'll pick up the beacon that we'll initiate when we get there.'

'I am not worried, Major Carter.'

Sam looked at him fondly. 'You should be, Teal'c. This could all go horribly wrong.'

Teal'c had confidence in her; in her plan. 'Should Daniel Jackson not be present?'

'Daniel isn't coming with us.' Sam bit her lip. 'It's really dangerous, Teal'c, and if we don't make it…someone has to be here for the Colonel.'

Teal'c inclined his head. 'I take it he does not know.'

'No, I haven't told him yet.' Sam's face contorted with guilt. 'It's just…I think maybe leaving it to the last minute to say anything to him is probably the way to go. I mean, I still have to convince Doctor Weir and get permission to take the ship and…'

'I understand, Major Carter.'

They smiled at each other. Running footsteps drew their attention and a moment later their team-mate appeared in the door.

'Good,' Daniel gestured at them, 'you're here.' He left again before reappearing. 'You should come with me. Weir has news.' He beamed at them. 'We're going back to Antarctica.'

Sam shot Teal'c a delighted look and hurried after Daniel. Teal'c followed at a more sedate pace. It was excellent news and he could not deny that he was relieved that their back-up plan would not be required.

o-O-o

The ice was beautiful in the sunrise. John nudged the helicopter slightly off-course to get a better view.

The endless white expanse was all rolling hills and dunes of snow overlaid with gold and pink streaks. It was so pristine and perfect. Timeless. Nobody would guess that three and half weeks before the ground had been littered with planes and bodies; debris of a battle fought hard and won.

John still didn't know what had happened really. He'd spent forty-eight exhausting hours pulling injured and dead off the ice before he and the rest of the McMurdo squad had been stood down. As soon as they'd gotten back to the base they'd been told to sign a very thick non-disclosure agreement and to forget everything that had happened.

It wasn't John's first classified operation; he'd signed the document, eschewed the invite to drink and bitch about it all with his fellow pilots, and headed for his bed where he'd enjoyed twelve hours of undisturbed sleep. They'd been running endless patrols since but John embraced the additional flight time where it was simply him and the endless expanse of the Antarctica landscape.

Maybe in the cold of the snow he'd healed some of the wounds he'd acquired in the heat of the desert, the loss of friends and comrades, the schism of his last conversations with his father and brother; the hurt of not being good enough, fast enough, clever enough.

The solitude suited him but he couldn't deny he was suddenly restless. John realised why easily enough; the forty-eight hours he wasn't supposed to be thinking about. Maybe it was time to think what came after the Air Force. He thought again of the maths proofs littering the desk in his room and wondered if he could back to school. Hell, it was some kind of back-up plan.

The sun was up.

He sighed and turned the helicopter back to base, radioing his approach with the control tower. He'd barely got out into the building when the Sergeant collared him.

'Colonel wants to see you.' He threw his thumb over his shoulder.

John kept the smile on his face and nodded. He'd only met Colonel DiAllo once formally as John's direct CO was Major Fillion, the squadron leader. He rapped on the Colonel's office door and opened it at the command to enter. He flowed into parade 'attention' and waited for the Colonel to acknowledge him.

DiAllo was a stocky man with dark hair, dark eyes and a face like granite. 'At ease, Sheppard.'

John relaxed a little, altering his stance automatically.

DiAllo sat back and stared at him. 'I wanted to give you a heads up on a possible new assignment ferrying stuff out to a new research station that is being proposed. The brass is waiting on the official paperwork but it should begin shortly. You'll be subject to the non-disclosure agreement you signed and you'll forget every day everything you see and hear. Any questions?'

John shook his head. 'No, sir.'

DiAllo grunted. 'Dismissed.'

John snapped back to attention briefly, turned sharply and left. He didn't stop until he stood under the shower in the thankfully empty locker room. He let the water pound his tired muscles.

A new assignment, John mused. It almost felt like the beginning of something. The sudden thought that maybe he hadn't completely screwed his career made him swallow hard against the hope that surged up alongside it. Maybe he wouldn't need to consider a back-up plan after all. He shook off the notion. It was more time in the air; that was what he should focus on; it was more time to fly.

o-O-o

The meeting wasn't going well.

Elizabeth could already see the signs of dissension and disagreement bubbling up in the tense comments and the grim body language. She tried hard to project patience but inwardly she wanted very much to bang her head against her desk – or rather to bang some heads together. Maybe it was just as well she wasn't in Washington and only attending the meetings via video feed, she mused wryly.

'…and I do not see the need to rush setting up this research station that you speak of until the treaty is fully signed and ratified, and the International Oversight Committee is in place.' The Chinese representative sat back smugly.

'I appreciate your perspective, Xaing, I do.' Richard Woolsey replied easily, betraying nothing impatient or insincere, 'but while we're safe today, we don't know how long we have until the Goa'uld arrive to test our defences. We need to understand how the Ancient weapon works and how to activate it without someone sitting in the chair. We need to explore and see if there are other weapons there that we can use.'

Elizabeth was trying hard not to feel jealous that Woolsey had gotten the job she wanted rather than the one she was doing. She should have been chairing the talks; it was her area of expertise after all.

'I find I must agree with Xaing,' Guy, the French representative gave a very Gallic shrug, 'we have Prometheus and the 302 squadrons to protect us; the Goa'uld do not know we cannot fire the weapon. I believe we have more time to agree these details than you would have us believe.'

Colonel Chekov harrumphed. 'I personally do not have an issue.'

'That's because you already have people lined up to join the Americans on site.' Guy retorted.

Chekov merely raised an eyebrow. 'Perhaps if you had volunteered personnel to work with the Americans since your country was made aware of the existence of the programme, you would also have scientists lined up as you put it.'

'Some of us haven't had the benefit of prior knowledge to get people lined up.' The Australian representative pointed out cheerfully.

'I think we're moving away from the essential point,' Woolsey broke in, tapping his pen against his folder, 'perhaps we should take a straw poll: who is in favour of moving ahead immediately and who would prefer to delay?'

Elizabeth counted the hands and stifled her groan.

Woolsey hummed and leaned forward. 'This appears to be a convenient place for a break if everyone is agreed?'

The representatives nodded. Elizabeth watched the monitor as they filed out. Woolsey lingered behind and she wasn't surprised when he shifted to catch her attention.

'They're going to press for the delay.' Woolsey stated. 'Any suggestions?'

'Apart from calling General Hammond to see if we have any further arguments to present against…' Elizabeth sighed. 'From their perspective, it's the American military who are pushing for immediate action, and truthfully, if I hadn't been part of what happened a month ago, I would be suspicious of the motives here.'

Woolsey nodded, light bouncing off his balding head and down the camera lens. 'I'll call the General. Thank you, Doctor Weir.'

'I need a break myself. I'll return in fifteen minutes.' Elizabeth said politely. She stood and left her office, walking briskly to the private bathroom set aside for the commander of the SGC. She used the facilities, washed her hands and stood in front of the mirror.

She was going to have to stand down SG1 from the preparations they were making to leave. She thought again of their pleased faces when she had announced the provisional agreement. They were going to be disappointed. Again. She knew their desire to return was personal, wrapped up in their loyalty to the man who had risked his life to save them all. She could only imagine how she would feel if it was someone she cared about stuck in stasis and abandoned on the ice of Antarctica.

Elizabeth sighed and rubbed at the ache at her temples. Maybe her instincts were wrong; maybe the committee would go ahead and allow a team to start the excavation. Maybe she would be able to give SG1 good news. She straightened her shoulders and went to return to the meeting, trying hard to push away the feeling of failure.

o-O-o

Sam stared at Weir as though she hadn't understood the words the other woman had uttered so apologetically but very firmly. 'I don't understand.'

'The talks have stalled.' Weir repeated. She looked completely cool and unflappable in her smart suit. 'You and your team won't be able to leave tomorrow as scheduled.'

'When will we be able to leave?' Sam asked dryly.

'I can't give you a timescale.' Weir admitted. 'These type of negotiations can take weeks even months to work out the finer details.'

Sam tried hard not to look mutinous but a glance at Weir showed she had been unsuccessful.

'I'm afraid this is one of those 'hurry up and wait' situations that I've been told the military excel at, Major.' Weir said with a small smile.

It wasn't that Sam didn't appreciate Weir's attempt to lighten the tension but she couldn't have raised the required smile if someone had pointed a gun to her head. She settled on focusing on what she needed to do.

'I'll inform the rest of the team.'

'Actually,' Weir cleared her throat, 'I'd like to speak with Teal'c and Doctor Jackson myself, if you don't mind.'

Sam frowned. She'd never had a civilian boss and she wasn't sure if she should take the words as an order or as something she could challenge.

'I feel like it's my responsibility to break bad news.' Weir continued.

Sam nodded slowly. She could use the time to review her back-up plan. 'Is there a chance of getting a more detailed debriefing, Doctor Weir? I'd like to know more about the direction of the talks.'

Weir looked relieved. 'Of course, two o'clock?'

Fourteen hundred; Sam did the translation in her head. 'Thank you.' She watched Weir walk confidently out of the lab before she turned back to her computer and began to pull up a file with her calculations for navigating to the Asgard. They had to be accurate or she and Teal'c would end up thousands of light-years away from where they needed to be and she was certain the hyperdrive engines would be burned out when they got there.

She paused and spared a glance at the picture of SG1 she had propped up against a stack of folders. It was one of the four of them, laughing and joking around somewhere off-world. Sam couldn't remember who had taken it or when it had been taken but she'd found it in her desk drawer the day before and was comforted by the reminder of it.

She stroked a finger over Jack's features, her mind filling with the memory of the last time she had seen him. He'd been so weary after the battle; so drained. If she closed her eyes, she would remember the feel of his jaw in her hand, the graze of stubble across her fingertips; the dark chocolate of his eyes as they looked back at her.

'Please, Jack.'

She had begged him to live for them – for her – and she wasn't sorry about that; couldn't be. He was alive, and maybe he hadn't told them about the stasis chamber to save himself for her despite Sam's want to believe that he had – like she had believed he had in the heat of the moment, but he'd done it and it was up to her and the guys to get him the rest of the way.

Sam firmed her lips and set the photo down, focusing on her calculations with renewed intent. They were going to save him, and God help anyone who got in their way.

fin.


 


Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
psychomonkey_29
Jun. 24th, 2011 01:43 am (UTC)
Look out world Carter has a plan! :) You showed Sam so well in this update. She knows what she can do and what she doesn't she McGuyver's something. Also the team interaction is so spot on - Teal'c being watchful and supportive; Daniel being a sounding board and go to guy.

The politicians need to get their head out of their asses and let SG1 get O'Neill back!

Will gladly wait for updates in September (birthday too!) even though it will be torture!
rachel500
Jun. 24th, 2011 08:09 am (UTC)
Thank you! Yeah, I have some other writing I need to focus on and Aftershocks can be all consuming! Glad you enjoyed this.
scifithinker
Jul. 5th, 2011 01:06 am (UTC)
When I read your stories, I get lost in them. My first response to finishing one is to think "I want more."
rachel500
Jul. 5th, 2011 08:17 am (UTC)
Thank you for the lovely feedback :)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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