by Rebecca Ratliff.firstname.lastname@example.org
SPOILERS: First Commandment, Desperate Measures, Prometheus
SEQUEL/SEASON INFO: Season 6, between Metamorphosis and Disclosure. Series sequence: Abyss Novelization, Sirikat, Fields of Gold, A Nice Quiet Week in the Country, Brothers in Arms, Shadows on the Moon, Parada, Light Duty. Light Duty follows immediately after Parada, so if you are new to this series it would be best to read at least that one first.
RATING: PG-13 (Language, violence)
SUMMARY: Someone is stalking SG-1.
CATEGORY: action/adventure, hurt/comfort, romance S/J UST
ARCHIVE: Please ask first. I'll say yes, I just want to know where my stories are hosted.
All Stargate SG-1 characters are the property of Stargate SG-1 Productions (II) Inc., MGM Worldwide Television Productions Inc., Double Secret Productions, Gekko Film Corp and Showtime Networks Inc. No infringement of those rights is intended. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. Anybody that you don't recognize is probably mine, so if you borrow them please send me an email to let me know where they are and have them home by midnight. :)
FEEDBACK: much appreciated.
Dr. Janet Fraiser rang the doorbell of Jack O'Neill's two-story log cabin style house. Sirikat answered the door, looking very much like a typical American kid in jeans and a fuzzy sweater. Jack was sitting up on the couch. There was a pizza box and a chessboard on the coffee table. "Help yourself, Doc."
"Oh, no thanks, Cassie's fixing dinner for us tonight."
"Thanks for the house call."
"No problem, you're practically on my way." Fraiser set her bag down on a chair while she took off her hat and coat.
"How was Atlanta?"
"Good," she nodded, smiling. "The CDC is going to farm out the work to several established AIDS research labs around the country. We'll go from there."
"I hope how soon," he replied.
"Amen." Fraiser went on with her exam. "Come by the infirmary tomorrow morning for a physical, and I'm fairly sure I'll be able to put you back on light duty."
That was good news. He had enjoyed spending time with Sirikat, but they were both starting to get on each other's nerves from cabin fever.
"Can I leave my yard? And drive?"
Janet relented. "OK. But watch him, Sirikat, he's sneaky. If he won't stop and rest when he gets too tired or out of breath, knock him down and sit on him."
Sirikat giggled and Jack protested, "Hey! I was thinkin' about taking you to the movies, but not if you're gonna take her side."
The young warrior combed out the end of her long braid with studied indifference. "We could always sit here and play chess again all evening."
"Get your coat."
Janet stood and fished her car keys out of her purse. "I'll see you tomorrow, sir."
O'Neill had a wicked idea and picked up the phone. "Carter, are you busy?"
"No, sir, I'm just catching up on a few journals."
"Good, because Janet just cleared me to drive and Sirikat wants to go to the movies. I don't think I ought to be the only one responsible for her in a public place. Do you mind tagging along?"
He could almost hear the same evil grin on the other end of the connection. "I don't mind at all, Colonel, I'll be ready in about fifteen minutes."
He got his sidearm from the safe. Sirikat came pounding down the stairs. "Lock my crystals in there. I don't want to carry them all with me."
"Which ones have you got?"
"Just my small bloodstone and a clear quartz that I found in the parking lot." She fished it out to show it to him.
"Are you sure that isn't just a piece of busted glass?"
"No, it's an Indian arrowhead, the general said so. You can do all kinds of things with a clear quartz."
He held it under the lamp. The marks on it did look more deliberate than accidental, at least to his untrained eye. "Like what?"
"Farsee, or spark, or maybe even channel a blast but I don't think it's big enough. It can channel healing energy if I use it with the bloodstone."
He gave it back. "Are you ready? Carter's going with us."
"Yes." She followed him out to the driveway and climbed into the truck. "When can I learn to drive?"
"You have to be sixteen," he replied, thankful for that. It would be three years before he had to field that question again.
He pulled up in front of Sam's place and tapped the horn. Sirikat scooted to the middle to make room for her to get in. That was a good evening for all that it was a perfectly ordinary night out. They had pizza and roamed the mall until it was time for the movie to start.
Sirikat had never seen anything like a movie theater before. She flashed on a few more of Charlie's memories, but kept that to herself. Vanira had warned her that, especially here where she stumbled across reminders every time she stepped out the front door, that would happen for several weeks. She refused to dwell on another life except when she was actively pathworking and she did that in private. For her, all of this was new, and she was determined to stay in the moment and enjoy it.
It was snowing when the movie let out. Carter invited them in for hot chocolate. Sirikat got interested in the television. O'Neill gave it a couple of minutes then casually joined Carter in the kitchen. She looked up with a smile that chased the chill of a Colorado winter right out of the room. "Thanks. I really had a good time tonight."
Outside in the bushes of the next house, a man with a long-range telephoto lens cursed. There was no angle that he could shoot from to make it look like they were standing next to each other with the kitchen island obviously between them like that. That damn pesky kid had been in every shot at the mall, even sitting between them in the truck and at the movies. This was a huge waste of time.
The neighbor let his Doberman out. The photographer had nowhere else to go but Sam's back yard when the dog caught his scent. Unfortunately he jumped the fence and knocked over a stack of empty clay flowerpots.
Instantly the kitchen light went off and so did the yard light, just as the back porch light came on in the yard he'd just left. That scared him much worse than the dog. Most people turned lights on when they heard a disturbance. It took a pro to get rid of the light source and avoid silhouetting himself when he opened the door. He took off for the back fence as fast as he could go rather than tangle with somebody who thought that way.
"Hey, you, hold it right there!" Yelled the neighbor.
O'Neill told Carter, "Call 911!" He went over the fence after the guy. The neighbor wasn't agile enough to do that; he ran around the other side of his garage and opened the back yard gate right into the prowler's face. Holding his nose, the photographer raced down the alley and dived headfirst into the back seat of a car, yelling, "Step on it, they're right behind me!"
O'Neill got the license number as the car took off. They were out into the street before they got the car door closed. The driver stomped on the gas pedal and squealed out, leaving tire marks halfway to the intersection.
To the neighbor and the cops, they had foiled a break-in. The only thing O'Neill left out of his description was the camera hanging around the man's neck.
Sirikat had instinctively joined the hunt and she hadn't been happy when Carter had told her to stay out of sight. Sam didn't want to try explaining Sirikat to the police if one of the cops started asking uncomfortable questions about exactly who the little Amazon was. She hid in the basement until the police left, then popped out, full of questions. "Who was it? Was he trying to rob the people in that house?"
"No, he was a damn photographer."
She didn't miss the really pissed look the two Tau'ri exchanged.
Sam slowly grinned in spite of herself and said, "Well, he got a real cold ass for nothing."
"You reckon somebody got their hands on the reports from that zat'arc test?" O'Neill speculated.
Carter said, "I don't know what else, unless they're just fishing. Either way, let 'em waste all the film they want. We haven't done anything wrong."
"Like hell. They could graduate from shooting pictures to just plain shooting."
Carter shrugged, and put the hot chocolate in the microwave to warm it up again. "Could. I don't know what more we can do besides live on base 24/7. Maybe the cops will find out who owns that car."
Sirikat shifted from one foot to the other. It was obvious that the conversation was going on over her head. She wasn't sure if she should ask what was going on, or just stand there, or leave the room. "Umm...."
O'Neill explained, "Remember that conversation we had about regulations? Apparently someone thinks something's going on that shouldn't be, and that guy was trying to get incriminating pictures."
Sirikat made a sour face. "If they think you've done something wrong, why don't they just come out and challenge you instead of all this sneaking around? They're just showing themselves for cowards. Who will believe a coward?"
"That isn't how things are done here, Sirikat, although right now I wouldn't be too sorry if it was. I don't know if they think they can blackmail us, or if they just want to cause us a lot of trouble at work. Either way, we're going to have to keep our eyes open until we figure it out," Jack explained.
Sirikat nodded. She still didn't understand the ways of the Tau'ri, but she would take it as it came. If it did escalate from taking pictures to something more violent, she would know what to do then.
Carter distributed mugs of hot chocolate and they sat down in the living room for a little while. O'Neill wanted to get one of the SF's to stay with Carter in case that guy came back with friends. Carter protested that, but she saw in his eyes that he wanted to stay himself and couldn't, for obvious reasons. So she relented and O'Neill and Sirikat stayed until Sgt. Kellemeyer arrived.
Kellemeyer was a Midwestern farm girl, three inches taller than Carter, with dark hair and a round face. More than once O'Neill had met that steady gray gaze when he first stepped out of the wormhole onto the gateroom ramp. He had no reservations about leaving Sam in her hands.
Sirikat took a long look around the neighborhood as O'Neill drove to the highway. "I never thought about it...but these houses are...anyone could get in here."
O'Neill nodded seriously. "People here think of fighting as something that happens somewhere else, over the ocean or somewhere. Until September 11th, it wasn't something we ever even imagined happening."
She nodded, but she was thinking about the neighbor. He was not someone that she would have characterized as a warrior, but he had come out fighting when he thought someone was invading his home. "If the Goa'uld come here, I think they will make your people very angry. I think their Jaffa will not live long if they dare set foot here."
"They wouldn't dare, Punkin. They'd remember what happened the last time, and bomb us to a cinder from orbit if they got the chance."
"Jack, if you see that, and I see that, why is this Kinsey so blind? Why something as foolish as this evening?"
He was surprised that she had made that connection. She did her homework. He gave her an honest answer. "I think the phrase you're looking for is blind ambition. Kinsey sees me as a threat to his plans, and he's right. If there's anything I can do to stop him from becoming vice president, I will, because I believe that would be a disaster for the country, especially if he moved on from there to the White House. He wants me out of the way, dead and disgraced if I'm not careful. Carter is a way for him to accomplish that, or at least the disgraced part, if he can manage it."
She scowled. "Then he has no honor. I'm indebted to your government. I hope I am never indebted to him."
Jack slowed to make a turn. "I'm not so sure that you are indebted to us, Sirikat. We're providing you with arms and training so that you can fight the Goa'uld in our place. We've got at most two hundred people out there. You're talking about two thousand or more. Don't let the politicians spin that any other way."
She looked up at the ice-bright stars. "Without ships, what does it matter, two hundred or two thousand? We have no chance unless the Goddess favors us."
"Well, Punkin, she has so far," he grinned.
Sirikat couldn't help laughing at his irreverence. "Yes, she has."
The next morning O'Neill dropped Sirikat off at Carter's lab on the way to the infirmary. Janet asked, "What was that about someone sneaking around outside Sam's house last night?"
"The grapevine around here is something else."
She wrapped the elastic around his arm to draw a blood sample and a lot of bad memories came way too close to the surface. Damn it, he could face down a hell of a lot worse than this without blinking. There was no sense in freaking out at Janet poking a needle in his arm. Still, he knew enough to keep his attention focused elsewhere until she was done. He told her what had happened. "I haven't had a chance to check with the SFs yet to find out if the CSPD identified the car."
"What were you doing at Sam's house that time of night?"
"Hey! Sirikat wanted to go to the movies at the mall. I'm not taking her into a crowded public place like that without a woman along to take her to the bathroom, or go in the dressing rooms with her if she decides to try on clothes. We went in for a while when we dropped Carter off at home."
Janet finished drawing the last vial of blood and got the needle out. "I didn't mean that the way it sounded. If someone is stalking you, that's illegal these days. File charges."
"The last thing I want is more publicity."
"Well, in that case, whatever you do, don't sock the guy with the camera," she teased.
"Sam's neighbor was the one who swung a gate out in front of him and hit him in the nose with it," Jack grinned.
"Good for him," Janet laughed.
"Well? Am I back on duty?"
"You can go back to your office and work at your desk," Fraiser told him. She knew from experience that O'Neill could get really creative when it came to generic terms like light duty. It was a lot safer to spell out what he was allowed to do. "I'll let you know if your blood work shows anything, but I doubt it will. The gym is still off limits for a few days."
"OK, Doc." It was just as well he hadn't mentioned the part about chasing the prowler over Sam's back fence....
There was plenty of paperwork, but he had most of it out of the way by the time Sgt. Kellemeyer came by that afternoon. "Sir. I thought you'd want to know, the city police traced that car to a private investigator named Al Wilson."
"The name doesn't ring a bell. Should it?"
"Not as far as I know, sir. He was former Air Force, a Gulf War vet, then worked for CSPD for two years before he quit to become a PI."
"Thanks. Let me know if anything else turns up on him."
O'Neill figured Kinsey was pretty desperate if he was hiring some sleazy divorce PI to follow them around. The PI would eventually report that nothing was going on, and O'Neill hoped that would be the end of it. When Kellemeyer left, he laced his fingers behind his back and stretched out the office-chair kinks.
Another year or so and he was going to be flying this desk for the rest of his career. On the other hand, another year and the damn photographer could take all the pictures he wanted.
A year was forever in wartime.
He crossed the hall to the break room and poured a cup of coffee. A few minutes later Hammond came in and got coffee as well, sat across the table from him. "Anything new on the peeping Tom?"
"Some private eye. I'd like to know who hired him, sir, but not badly enough to stir up more publicity."
Hammond said, "I'll bet Sirikat ate up the excitement."
O'Neill laughed. "She wasn't happy that Carter made her stay in the house."
"I'd imagine not," Hammond grinned. Having raised a daughter, he knew what it was like to have a teenager in the house. "As far as Major Carter is concerned--this whole incident seems to have Senator Kinsey's fingerprints all over it, but take whatever security measures are appropriate until we're sure that's all it is."
"I don't think Major Carter and Sgt. Kellemeyer get on each other's nerves too badly, sir."
"OK. I'll shake a few trees and see what falls out."
Hammond looked around to be sure that no one else could overhear their conversation. "Jack, I'd have to be blind, deaf and dumb as a fence post not to know that you and Carter are something special to one another. Now, I'm not making accusations, but if there's anything floating around out there that could be taken out of context.... Well, now would be a good time for me to know about it. Before everything hits the fan."
O'Neill said, "General, I--there's nothing wrong with your powers of observation. The only thing remotely like that is the report from the zatarc test, and you already know about that. Neither the major nor myself has ever done anything to bring dishonor to this command or ourselves, or to cause a scandal for you personally, sir. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar, and I'd like to have a little chat about it face to face." O'Neill stood, comfortable enough in present company to favor his bad knee without self-consciousness.
Hammond said, "I hear you. Between you, me and the doorknob, I think we can agree that Kinsey is a pain in the mik'ta, and this kind of juvenile nonsense is the last thing anyone needs."
"This doesn't make any sense to me, sir. Anyone should be able to figure out that I'm not going to be heading up a first contact team that much longer. Why would anyone imagine that Major Carter and I would risk her career when mine is nearly over? We'd have to be crazy."
"Jack, personally I don't think the man is playing with a full deck. You're an obsession with him. He'd blame the SGC, and you in particular, if he got a parking ticket or the cleaners lost his laundry. And he sure as hell wouldn't be above using Major Carter against you, not if he was a party to threatening Tessa and Kayla. If there was ever a good time to be paranoid, this is probably it."
O'Neill nodded. "I hope it is just paranoia, sir."
Hammond nodded. As if they didn't already have enough trouble on the other side of the gate, now this. "Get things squared away with Sgt. Kellemeyer, then go home and check out your place. Make sure you and Sirikat aren't going to be getting any surprises."
The one thing they had going for them was that only a trusted few knew that Sirikat was anything other than a professional responsibility. Kinsey would know he'd be opening a diplomatic can of worms if he bothered her, and he had no reason to believe it would have any other result if he did.
After he left the general, O'Neill told Kellemeyer that she would be staying with Carter for a little while longer, then he dropped by Carter's lab to give her the same news.
Predictably, she objected. Carter was an extremely independent person who didn't take kindly to being coddled.
O'Neill said, "I know that, Carter. I just don't want you out there without backup if this escalates. Besides, Kellemeyer isn't like having a house full of SFs."
Sam could see there was no use arguing. "I suppose so, sir."
"Sirikat, are you about ready?"
"Just a minute." She put away the crystals that she had been working with and they left.
It took Sam a little longer to wrap up for the evening. By then, Kellemeyer had arrived.
It was snowing hard when they left the tunnel and started for the parking lot. It was normally a half-hour drive to Colorado Springs, but thanks to the icy road more than that time had passed before they came to the last turn before the highway.
A car came around the curve left of center. Carter swung wide and braked--and the pedal went to the floor without resistance. The rear end slewed around and hit the guard rail, spinning them the other way. Then one of the wheels got traction and they shot forward, ripping out a section of guard rail as the car went airborne and landed hard. Carter steered them between a couple of big trees and tried to miss a boulder. The driver's side wheels went up over it and the car rolled over twice before it hit a dry wash and came to rest on its top under a couple of overhanging trees.
Carter was only out for a minute or two before the cold mountain air streaming through the broken windows woke her. Kellemeyer was struggling with her seat belts. When she couldn't get the catch to open, she cut the lap belt and wriggled out of the shoulder restraint. By then Carter had unfastened her own.
"Major, are you okay?"
"I think so. That car--it all happened so fast--"
"I'll climb up to the road and flag somebody down, sir."
"Just a minute, Sergeant, we'll both go." They found their purses and tried their cell phones, but the signal wasn't getting out. Carter said, "I guess we'll have to wait until we get up to the road."
"Major, look out!" They dived behind the car just as somebody opened up with an assault rifle. Carter pulled her Beretta out of her purse and returned fire. A second later Kellemeyer did likewise.
When the rifle fire stopped, they made an educated guess that the shooter was reloading and a dashed for better cover behind some rocks. Carter wished for her P-90.
Kellemeyer said, "There he is! About halfway up the slope, behind that pine tree we almost hit."
"OK, cover me. I'm going to try to flank him."
Carter worked her way up the steep slope, trying to keep track of where the shooter was. Even so, they surprised each other when Carter came out from behind some rocks. She caught a glimpse of blue eyes through a ski mask, and an Uzi swinging towards her. She pulled the trigger twice and ducked as he fell. His shots went wild over her head.
Still vigilant in case there was more than one, she checked the body. As she had expected, there was no ID.
It was a steep climb the rest of the way to the access road. From there they were able to call the mountain.
By the time Janet finished patching up the collection of scrapes and bruises that they had got from the car crash, O'Neill had taken a look at the wreck. Someone had sabotaged the brakes.
After a short bull session, it was obvious that the private eye, Wilson, was the only solid lead they had unless they identified the body of the man who had shot at them. Jack talked his way into going along with the pair of CSPD detectives who were going to question him.
They found the back door kicked in and bullet holes in the kitchen wall.
Jack could see that the two cops worked together with the ease of long practise. Leaving them to do their job, he drew his sidearm and dropped back to cover their six.
He needn't have bothered. The PI was lying in the next room in a puddle of blood. His office had been ransacked.
There was nothing they could do except curse and wait for the forensics people to get there.
Jack headed back up to the mountain and reported in to Hammond. Sam was in the infirmary for the night, under observation for a mild concussion. The rest of SG-1 and Sirikat sat around the conference table listening.
The general said, "Security is reviewing the tapes from the parking lot to see if we caught whoever tampered with Carter's brakes, but I doubt we did."
Jonas asked, "I wonder if Major Carter is the only one of us they might be interested in?"
O'Neill replied, "If you're volunteering as bait, forget it. Without knowing any more than we do, we couldn't cover your six."
Hammond agreed. "We'll sit tight for a while and wait for some results from the sniper's autopsy or from the CSPD about Mr. Wilson."
Sirikat said, "I see your wisdom and I will obey. But I would rather walk down the road and, if they dare, let them come."
Hammond replied, "That's always a pretty good Plan B, Sirikat. Get some rest, people." His tone of voice indicated that he wouldn't mind doing that himself.
Everyone stood as he left the room. Jack teased, "No symbiote arrogance there, oh no, not a bit of it."
"Say whatever you like. It's bad enough to have to hide here from the Goa'uld, but to hide from these midden rats as well?" She was all ruffled feathers and hurt pride.
"I know, but we're not gonna start the third world war until we know who's involved. I want the big-ass rat who ordered it," Jack replied.
Sirikat acquiesced as gracefully as she could. Among her people, such an insult demanded an answer in kind. Even the detested Goa'uld understood that. Here, everything was different, and she didn't know where she stood. She would watch and learn.
At precisely 0600, O'Neill's cell phone and his alarm clock both rang. He tried twice to shut off the alarm clock, then shut it in a drawer and grabbed for the phone. "Yeah, O'Neill." Fraiser wasn't kidding, he wasn't over his ordeal on Parada. He rarely slept that soundly, and normally he was already awake when the alarm went off.
"This is Detective Sanders, CSPD. We've come up with a few names from Wilson's files, I wanted to run them by you and see if any of them rings a bell."
"OK, where do you want to meet?"
"I haven't had breakfast yet. How about the truck stop at the Conleyville exit?"
O'Neill knew the place, it was about halfway between Colorado Springs and the mountain. "Yeah, I just woke up. Give me half an hour." He hung up, then reached for the base phone to wake up Teal'c and Jonas. Carter would be pissed that he'd left her out, but she should have thought about that before getting cracked upside the head.
Finally, he called the officer of the watch, who turned out to be Ferretti. "What's up, sir?"
"CSPD detectives, apparently. I'm meeting some cop named Sanders at the truck stop."
"Do you want some backup, Colonel?"
"No, thanks, Lou, I'm taking Teal'c and Jonas with me."
The three of them met at the elevator. Like O'Neill, they were in civilian clothes, and they were armed with Berettas.
Jonas jumped the tailgate to ride in the truck bed. They were all a little too obviously hoping their "friends" would show up on their way down the mountain, maybe that was why no one did. The checkpoint that the SFs had started down at the turnoff might have had something to do with it, too.
It wasn't far from there to the truck stop. They got there a little ahead of the police, who joined them at the counter.
Sanders said, "Sorry I'm late, but I was waiting for a fax from the FBI. We got a make on the guy who ran your girlfriend off the road--"
Jack almost choked on his coffee. Jonas snorted loudly. Jack gave him an evil glare and corrected Sanders, "She's my 2iC. Who was the guy?"
"Got his prints back from the FBI, from when he was part of a cocaine smuggling outfit in Miami. These guys were doing millions of dollars worth of business a year and supplying the whole freakin' East Coast. His name was Paul Brenton." He gave O'Neill a copy of the FBI information.
Jack shook his head, the name meant nothing to him. The reference to cocaine smuggling could have tied in to some of the black ops he had been involved with back in the 80's, but even if he knew that for sure, it was all still classified. "Anything else on this guy? Is there a connection between him and the private eye who was killed?"
"If there is, we haven't found out about it yet," Sanders replied. "You know, we could be dealing with two separate crimes here. I mean, why bother hiring a P.I. to take pictures of someone you've already decided to have killed?"
"Good question," O'Neill replied. "Maybe these people were using Wilson to gather intel for the job. They could have killed him to tie up a loose end. What about the car he was driving?"
"It's a rental. The guy used a bogus credit card and ID to rent it, but the ID had his picture on it."
The waitress leaned over the counter to warm up their coffee and take their orders.
When she had gone, Sanders said, "Look, I know you're all into some hush-hush stuff that you can't tell me about. And if the Russkies are behind it, I couldn't do anything about it anyhow. If we're going to get these people, we're going to have to divide up the work. You follow the NORAD leads, and I'll handle the civilian ones. Does Major Carter have any enemies outside the mountain?"
"Not unless they're from before she was stationed here, I wouldn't think. None of us have a lot of free time to make friends or enemies on the outside."
"Yeah, it seems like deep space radar telemetry is a hell of a lot like the SEALS that way," Sanders remarked.
"You were a SEAL?"
"Yeah, until I tore up my back on a...training exercise."
O'Neill caught the brief hesitation and replied, "Ah. It's possible that this could have followed her from Washington. She worked at the Pentagon, and to tell you the truth, that's about all I know about her life before she came here."
"We've also got a list of Wilson's clients. Do any of these names ring a bell?"
O'Neill read down the list. "Not off hand, no. I'll have Carter take a look. What about whoever was driving Wilson's car the other night?"
"We're still looking. He didn't have a secretary or any other employees for that matter. Didn't happen to get a look, did you?"
"No, afraid not. It was too dark to see anything inside the car," Jack told him regretfully.
"We're talking to his neighbors and former clients to put together a list of his associates."
That was about all the useful information they could exchange. An icy breeze hit them in the face as they left the diner. Jonas said, "They had to know when Major Carter and Sgt. Kellemeyer started down the access road to meet her at the curve like they did. Could there be another mole besides Dr. Young's wife?"
Jack thought that over. "There was a real thorough security check following the Youngs' murders, and again after I got framed for Senator Kinsey's murder. But you can't prove a negative. Someone who passed a security investigation could have been turned later."
Teal'c said, "I beg to differ, JonasQuinn, it need not have been a mole. It is possible that the sniper had a partner who was watching the parking lot from somewhere on the other side of the valley. They could have been watching long enough to have familiarized themselves with MajorCarter's routine. This spotter could have signaled the gunman when she left the parking lot."
O'Neill speculated, "Couldn't've been easy to doctor the brakes while the car was sitting on the lot, but it pretty much had to be done there. The brake fluid trail started at the checkpoint."
Jonas asked, "Colonel, how many people would know how to sabotage the brakes like that?"
"Not too many. I mean, anybody who knows how to work on cars could've just climbed underneath and cut the brake line, but that isn't what happened. They weakened the line just enough so that the first time Carter hit the brakes, it blew out on its own. By the time she got down to that blind curve, the brake fluid had all drained out. If I hadn't known what to look for, I probably would have passed it off as an accident."
Teal'c said, "Then, someone with your training, O'Neill? Perhaps someone with a grudge against you that Kinsey could exploit?"
"I never saw that guy before in my life, T. Besides, he was way too young to be anybody I served with back then."
"True," Teal'c agreed.
By then they had reached the truck. O'Neill paid much more attention to the countryside as he drove back up the mountain, studying it with the eyes of a trained sniper. He pulled well off to the side of the road.
"OK, if our boy had a spotter on this hillside, let's see if we can find his vantage point."
The three men spread out across the hillside. It hadn't snowed any more since the attempt on Carter's life. Teal'c was confident that if anyone had left tracks, he would be able to find them.
Sure enough, behind some rocks were clear marks where someone had waited, kneeling, sitting and generally trampling around a small area. Tracks to and from the lookout point led over the hill to a dirt road in the next valley.
Jack ignored a nagging catch in his back as he stopped to look around.
Calling it a road was a compliment. It was just two parallel wheel ruts, strewn with rocks and crossed by a number of small gullies. It was a washboard now and would be a river of mud come the spring thaw, passable only by a four-wheel drive vehicle. One such had pulled in here, then turned around with some difficulty and left.
Teal'c said, "I believe our spotter to be a woman or a boy."
Jonas asked, "How can you tell that?"
"Observe the tracks that we have left, JonasQuinn. They are larger and deeper than the ones left by this individual."
Jonas nodded. "We should send the SFs up here to get pictures of the tire tracks."
With nothing more to be done here, they went back to the mountain.
O'Neill said, "There's at least one other person involved. Whoever was driving Wilson's car, whoever shot him, and the spotter."
Jonas said, "It could all be the same person. According to the coroner's office, Wilson had been dead about an hour before you got there. That would have given the spotter time to go into the city and shoot him."
"Yeah....So we could be looking for a woman in a four-wheel drive."
"Yes, sir, but that's half the population of Colorado Springs."
"Hey, it's a lead," O'Neill said. "I'll pass it along to Sanders."
Sam looked over the list of Wilson's clients. "I don't recognize any of these names, sir."
"Could it be someone that you knew in Washington? Maybe they misspelled a name, or someone went by a nickname?"
She looked over the list again. "Norma Hansen. I know Jonas--Hansen, I mean--had some family somewhere. He never talked much about them, but I wonder."
Even after nearly six years, mention of Jonas Hansen, Carter's ex-fiance, still gave O'Neill the creeps. The man had been in command of one of the first SG teams when the program started. He'd gone insane and decided he was God. Eventually the folks who'd been worshiping him had realized he was a phony and tossed him through the stargate to splat against the iris, but not before he'd murdered most of his team and very nearly SG-1 as well. The idea that some relative of his could be out there looking for some payback wasn't a pleasant one.
O'Neill said, "I'll check her out. How are you feeling?"
"I'll be OK as soon as I get rid of this headache."
"Get some rest. I'll let you know if this goes anywhere."
"If this is some relative of Jonas Hansen, why wait almost six years?"
"I don't know yet, but if she had anything to do with this, I'm going to find out."
O'Neill looked up as Fraiser came in. "Well, Doc, when are you going to spring my 2iC?"
"Probably this evening, sir. How's the headache, Major?"
"It's still there," Sam replied. "Just feels like I hit my head."
"I'll send a nurse with more Tylenol. It's just a good thing you girls were wearing your seatbelts."
"Yeah, if we hadn't been, things could have gone a lot differently out there. We were lucky."
Kellemeyer reported a few hours later, "Norma Hansen's no relation to Jonas Hansen that I could find."
"She's been dead for two years, sir."
"Well, now we know who we're looking for. Let's get to know this damn ghost. DMV, credit card and telephone records for the last two years."
After she had gone, O'Neill put in a call to Detective Sanders to let him know about the phony Ms. Hansen. "We're working on it from our end. If she's left a paper trail, we'll find it."
O'Neill heard Sanders set his coffee mug down. "We found a lot of fingerprints that weren't Wilson's. Maybe we'll get some hits from the data banks. If this woman was someone that Major Carter met on the job, you just might have her prints on file."
"Yeah. If we can figure out who she is and cross-reference her with Paul Brenton, then we'll be on our way to getting to the bottom of this."
Sirikat perched on the edge of Jonas' desk. Not only were they hiding from shadows, she was bored. Jonas was busy translating some hieroglyphics that SG-16 had photographed on their last mission. "Looks like this was one of Heru-Ur's planets," he mused.
"Who is he?"
"Was, a system lord that SG-1 killed a few years ago. He was also known as Horus. This falcon is his symbol."
"What does it say?"
Jonas said, "So far, it's just a lot of nonsense about what a great and powerful god he was. We're hoping for a weapons cache."
"And they would paint on the walls, weapons cache hidden here?"
Jonas laughed, "I've seen them do things that were nearly that stupid. The one thing that the Goa'uld seem to have in common is complete confidence in their own invincibility. But what I'm looking for now is something that says Authorized Personnel Only."
"I wish I could help. I speak Goa'uld but I've never learned to read it."
"The modern language isn't that difficult. It has an alphabet just like English. But these inscriptions are about two thousand years old. The writing system was in the process of evolving from the old hieroglyphics to the modern alphabet."
"So each one of these pictures could either be a letter or a word?"
"It makes this complicated," Jonas replied.
Sirikat nodded. "Everything is, here."
"And you mean more than this inscription."
"Yes. I do not understand why we just wait here."
"You, because you're too important to risk against, what did you call them, midden rats? Good description, that. Anyway, you need to pick your battles, and wait for one that's more important than that." He grinned. "The rest of us are waiting for more information. Think of this as the center of a spider web."
She nodded. "Yes--but am I the spider or the moth?"
"Oh, you're definitely the spider," he teased.
Sirikat resisted the urge to drum her heels on the desk. If she annoyed the Kelownan while he was trying to work, he'd put her out of his office. With Sam in the infirmary, the lab was off limits. She hopped off the desk and perused the titles of a stack of books.
Fraiser checked O'Neill's back. "I think those last two sutures are ready to come out."
"It's about time."
He felt the cold metal scissors against his back, a snip, and then a tug as the stitch came out. Then she removed the next one.
Sam was pretending to be asleep and enjoying the view through slitted eyes. She really, really shouldn't be ogling her commanding officer just because he didn't have a shirt on. But life had to give out a few consolation prizes, didn't it?
A weird movement caught her eye. She focused on a reflection in a shiny metal supply cart and suddenly yelled, "Colonel, get down! GUN!"
O'Neill grabbed Fraiser and threw her to the floor, underneath him, as a shot flew through the space he had just occupied and tore through the plasterboard wall on the other side of the infirmary. Sam had rolled out of bed as well. She looked up to see an airman who had been delivering freshly laundered towels come in with a gun and deliberately take aim at O'Neill.
Fraiser screamed and raised her hands in an instinctive defensive gesture. A green fireball the size of an egg shot across the room to detonate when it hit the would-be assassin. He flew out the door and hit the wall on the other side of the corridor, quite dead. There was blood splattered everywhere, and a huge streak smeared down the corridor wall.
People came running, after arming themselves with their sidearms. O'Neill immediately took charge and ordered everyone to stay clear of the area around the corpse. He sent an SF to secure the dead airman's locker, and called General Hammond.
Half an hour later, the four of them gathered in the briefing room, along with Teal'c and Jonas. Quinn had brought Sirikat with him. He hadn't wanted to let her out of his sight when he wasn't sure who could be trusted.
Hammond asked, "Doctor Fraiser, what happened?"
"I thought it had gone away," she said.
"The powers that you gained as a result of your exposure to the water on P2X-947? You haven't been able to do that except for that once in the desert? Anyhow, they picked a good time to come back."
"Yes, sir. I didn't intend to kill him." She was still pale and shaken, though she did her best to hide it behind a professional mask.
Jack said, "Well, I have no doubt about his intentions. Sir, the airman pushed a cart into the room, and he had a Beretta hidden under the towels. Carter saw him reach for it and warned me. He missed that time. He wouldn't have missed twice, except Doc took him down."
Hammond was furious. He said, "We don't know if this was an attempt on one of you, or if he was after Major Carter and you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Carter said, "I've never had any trouble with Airman Walcott. I can't think of a reason for him to want to kill me. I never would have expected him to do anything like this."
O'Neill agreed, "Same here, I've never had any trouble with him either."
Fraiser said, "There was one thing...about a month ago he was in the infirmary complaining about headaches. He's Dr. Warner's patient, so I didn't pay any attention at the time."
The SGC was a small enough command that everyone knew everyone else, at least to say hello. They had their share of usual suspects for the kind of minor infractions that were all the discipline problems he usually had to deal with. Walcott hadn't been one of them.
Over the next few hours, at least a few pieces began to fall into place. They put together a picture of the phony Norma Hansen's movements, which included two trips to Miami. She had spent a week in a rented cabin in Montana, a time that coincided with a leave that Walcott had taken.
Walcott's autopsy revealed an implant behind his ear that turned out to be a radio receiver. Two other airmen had been on leave at the same time. They had similar implants, and once these were removed, they started to recall having been tortured and brainwashed at the rented cabin. They had been lured up there when they had been told that they had won a free ski-lodge vacation. One of them had been programmed to kill O'Neill, while Carter had been the other one's target. They didn't have a clear memory of Norma Hansen, but they did know that their programmer had been a woman.
O'Neill cut off an apology and made the horrified young airman look him in the eye. "Listen to me, son, this wasn't your fault. You did the best you could. Nobody blames you, least of all me. I know what you've been through and I know this was not your fault."
Sam saw Janet slip out and quietly followed. She found her friend leaning against the wall in the nearest women's room crying.
"Walcott--Hansen made him do it--I killed an innocent man."
"Who would have killed us if you hadn't. I am absolutely sure that right now he's glad you didn't let him do that. Sometimes we don't get a choice. Sometimes collateral losses can't be avoided. You did what you had to do," Carter said.
"I can't stop seeing his eyes."
"I know, Janet. I know. There are so many nights when I can't sleep for seeing the faces of the people I've killed. The ones I lied to and betrayed. The mistakes I made early on, like telling people that they'd be safe from the Goa'uld if they buried their stargate. But I did the best I knew how, and so did you."
Fraiser got herself under control. "Sorry to fall apart like this."
"We're all entitled. Sometimes the job sucks," Sam told her. "But now we're onto Hansen. She won't get the chance to do anything like this again."
"Why do you think this is happening? Do you think she's working for Senator Kinsey?"
Sam shook her head. "I don't know what to believe. If they were only after the colonel, I'd be sure of it. On the other hand, if they were hunting all of us, that would make a different kind of sense. But who in hell would single the two of us out?"
"Because you're the only two in the military? Or--a jealous ex-girlfriend with the wrong idea about you and the colonel?"
"I don't know that the colonel has any jealous exes. I just can't see him going out on Sara, and we've all been living in each other's pockets ever since then. I mean, can you see an old flame suddenly deciding he done her wrong after twenty years? I guess someone could have a bug up her butt over the war in Iraq, but again, why us?"
"Well, Col. O'Neill was on TV with Senator Kinsey. Something like that could light a crazy person's fuse. Maybe she's not an ex. Maybe she's just some deranged person living in her own fantasy world."
"But taking Norma Hansen's identity? This has been going on for almost two years." Sam said. "Damn it, every idea we have fits some of the facts but not all of them."
"There could be more people out there, programmed to kill Teal'c and Jonas. We can't be sure we found everyone."
"No, I don't think there are any more. We've been able to trace Hansen's whereabouts. Except for that one week in Montana, she's been in the city."
"No isolation, and she couldn't have been with anyone 24/7," Fraiser sighed in relief.
"Come on, let's get back to the others. I don't know what help MacKenzie will be to Phillips and Marchiano, but maybe he can profile this whack job before she tries again."
"Now that's the best idea anyone's had all day," Fraiser said.
There was some excitement going on in SG-1's ready room. Carter asked, "Did you find something?"
"Got Hansen's address from the credit card company," Jack said. "Get a vest and your sidearm, we're meeting the police there."
Fraiser asked, "Mind if I ride along?"
Fraiser fished for a reason to go with. "We know she tortured three people. What if she has more victims in there?"
That was good enough for O'Neill. He knew Fraiser would keep her head down if things got crazy, just as she had on Parada. "OK. Get your stuff together and meet us at the armory."
Detective Sanders was waiting with a SWAT team. In the interest of maintaining good relations with the city of Colorado Springs, O'Neill deferred to the SWAT lieutenant. "Our job here is to secure anything that could present a threat to national security. Hopefully that won't include the suspect, but it might, depending on what we find in there."
"No problem." The SWAT lieutenant, a short, stocky transplanted New Yorker named Capelli, unrolled plans of the building. "The suspect's apartment is the third floor rear unit. We're going to come in the front door and up the stairs here, and up the fire escape simultaneously. There are two small children in the apartment, so we're treating this as a hostage situation until we have them secured."
O'Neill nodded. "OK, Jonas, Murray, you take the fire escape. Carter, Doc, you and I'll go in the front way."
They climbed three flights of stairs, and by the time they got to the top, O'Neill didn't know how the noise his knee was making hadn't alerted every criminal within a three-block radius. He knew he was going to pay for it later, but right now he had too much adrenaline in his system to feel it.
Capelli held up his hand to stop everyone, then readied a flash-bang and clicked his radio. The guy with the battering ram prepared to bust the door. Everything went completely silent. Thirty seconds ticked by as they waited for the other team to get into position.
As soon as the answering click came from the other side of the apartment, all hell broke loose. The door crashed open, two stun grenades went off almost simultaneously, and the apartment was flooded with cops, SG-1, and one little doctor. Capelli roared, "POLICE! FREEZE!"
Some guy on the couch started to reach for a sawed-off shotgun, but thought better of it when the barrels of two assault rifles appeared right in his face. He reached for the ceiling instead. Someone ordered him to the floor and handcuffed him.
O'Neill checked behind the couch and found a terrified two-year-old boy. "Got one of the kids here, L-T." The kid started screaming when O'Neill pulled him out of his hiding place and handed him off to Fraiser.
They started clearing the rest of the apartment. O'Neill and a female cop were on opposite sides of a bedroom door. She nodded for him to kick the door.
At first glance the room was empty. They checked every potential hiding place and found no one. The cop felt the crib mattress. "It's still warm."
O'Neill kicked another door, which turned out to be a small closet.
By then the rest of the apartment had been cleared.
Jonas looked around in the bedroom that O'Neill had just cleared, looking for anything classified. He glanced in the closet, empty except for a few clothes and a pair of shoes.
Something was off. He went back around to the kitchen to check the dimensions of the pantry. "Colonel, I think that's a false wall in the back of that bedroom closet."
They carefully checked it out. O'Neill found a hidden catch that allowed the bottom half of the back wall to slide up, revealing a hidden trap door to the apartment below.
That apartment was empty. The door to the corridor stood open.
The uniformed police guarding the building hadn't seen anyone leave. They spread out to canvass the other apartments.
O'Neill and Carter found the stairway to the basement and descended cautiously, weapons ready.
They first cleared a small laundry room with a coin-operated washer and dryer. Then they crossed to the only other way out of the room, a door that stood slightly ajar.
O'Neill toed it the rest of the way open. It was a junk-filled boiler room with a million places for someone to hide. They worked their way into the room.
Behind the boiler, a dark-haired woman sat on an old kitchen chair holding the baby on her lap. In the other hand she held a dead-man's switch wired to enough explosives to bring the whole building down on top of them.
"Isn't this convenient? I thought I'd have to hold Matthew hostage to get the two of you down here. Put your guns down," she ordered.
O'Neill did so carefully. "Who are you? Why do you want the two of us dead?"
"My name is Belinda Conrad."
Recognition dawned. "Adrian's sister."
"I'm here. You don't need the baby as a hostage any more. Let Carter get him out of here."
Conrad said, "She's the reason that thing was able to control my brother. She survived. If she'd told them the truth, Adrian would still be alive."
Carter edged away from O'Neill, toward the super's work bench. "I would have told them everything, but they kept me drugged. Let me give the baby to the police and have them get all the innocent people out of the building."
Jack lied, "I shot Adrian. You don't have a reason to kill anyone else, especially your son. Let them go."
Conrad hesitated, then agreed. Sam edged over and took the baby.
O'Neill ordered, "Clear everyone out of here, Sam."
She looked up at him, his use of her given name saying everything that he wasn't allowed to say in so many words. The look in her eyes was her silent answer. Then she left with the baby.
"Belinda, I'm sorry about your brother. But there was no other way things could have worked out after he became a host for a Goa'uld."
"We could've gotten that thing out of him."
"I wish that were true, but I think you know it isn't. Adrian made his own choices. He took the only chance he had, and it didn't work out the way he wanted. He wouldn't want you to die and leave your kids without a mother." O'Neill had moved a step closer.
Capelli called from the laundry room, "Belinda, don't do this. Disarm the bomb, release Colonel O'Neill, and let's all walk out of here alive."
Conrad yelled back, "Get out of here, I'm not going to warn you again!"
O'Neill watched her fingers on the detonator, opening and closing. She was working up the guts to let go of it. He prayed that Sam had got everyone out of the building, but he knew once all the innocent bystanders were out, they would come back for him. "Belinda. Look at me. This won't bring Adrian back. Your two little boys are all the future he has. They won't know anything about him if you aren't there to tell them. All they'll know is that their uncle died and their mother committed suicide."
"If I don't get the death penalty, I'll be locked up for the rest of my life," she wavered, her eyes filling with tears.
"You know what Adrian never did? He never quit. Don't you quit."
For a moment, O'Neill thought she was going to set off the bomb. He wondered if he would have time to feel the explosion rip him apart before the building came down. Then she held out the trigger. He grabbed it and yelled, "I've got the detonator! She's surrendering, hold your fire!"
The cops swarmed the room. O'Neill disarmed the bomb, and turned it over to the SWAT team's explosives expert.
Capelli said, "Good work, Colonel."
O'Neill saw his own relief for his team's safety reflected in the police lieutenant's eyes. "Thought I told Carter to get everyone the hell out."
Capelli grinned, "I'm glad to cooperate with the Air Force, but I take my orders from the police chief."
"I owe you guys a beer or three."
"Goes both ways. We get together at Shaunessy's Pub most Fridays."
A few hours later, they gathered around the briefing table and told General Hammond their version of what had happened.
O'Neill asked, "What will happen to them now?"
"Conrad's in the mental hospital until it's determined that she's competent to stand trial. It's doubtful that she ever will be. Her accomplice has already confessed to murder two. He'll serve life in prison with no parole," Hammond explained.
Jonas said, "Sir, you took a big risk telling her you shot her brother."
"Hell, I'd have told her I shot Jimmy Hoffa if it would've gotten everyone out of there. Those kids, what was I gonna do." It wasn't a lie, but he didn't say those kids and all of you, including Sam. That would have been the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Fraiser said, "We were so sure it was Senator Kinsey. Instead it was a deranged woman on a personal vendetta."
Hammond said, "I'm not absolutely certain of that, Doctor. Belinda Conrad had to find out somehow that Col. O'Neill and Major Carter were involved, and someone had to supply her with the mind control devices. That must have been the Senator, Simmons, or the Committee. We'll probably never know for sure."
O'Neill said, "Anyway, let's hope it ends here."
"Amen," Hammond said. "I'll see you all Monday morning before I catch my plane for Washington."
"Yes, sir. If you'll excuse us, some of Colorado Springs' finest and ourselves owe each other a few rounds."
Sam dropped by her lab to check the status of a few experiments that would be running over the weekend in her absence. Sirikat helped her. "It is over?"
"Yeah. The bad guys are all locked up and none of the good guys got hurt."
"That's a good day," Sirikat said.
"Yes, it is," Sam smiled. "That's a really good day."
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