Earth Chapter One – Not Quite As Things Seem
Colorado Springs, CO
“Jack, you always throw the best barbeques. Thanks for inviting my crew.”
Handing over one of the beers in his hands, Jack nodded in thanks as he looked Steven Caldwell over. His friend was finally looking healthy and recovered from the wounds he had sustained when the Daedalus had crashed. “Not a problem Steven. You know that. And really, it’s a potluck that I volunteered my lawn for. Not like I’m doing much with it right now.”
The overwhelming feeling of bitterness was something that Jack knew he was having more and more of a problem suppressing. It had been over two years since SG1 had gone on that mission to finish off the Orici, and there was still no news. And that meant that he was alone in the house he had shared with Daniel almost every day, with no end to the loneliness in sight. Cutting off that line of thought, Jack turned his attention outwards to see Steven giving him a look of understanding. Cocking an inquiring eyebrow at the man, Jack wondered what he had to say.
“No one’s stopped looking, Jack. The teams here in the Milky Way are still asking for any news, and I know that Sheppard and his merry band were asking their allies as well. Don’t give up on them.” Blinking slightly in shock, Jack rocked slightly on his heels. Getting understanding looks and a pep talk from one of the men that Jack had always privately thought had a stick shoved up his ass was officially on the weirder side of his own skewed sense of normal. But then again, his life hadn’t been exactly normal since the day he had seen that long-haired geek translate the untranslatable in under five minutes. God, he missed Daniel.
“Sheppard and his people are looking for SG1 in Pegasus? Why are they looking there? As far as anyone has been able to determine, the Ori galaxies aren’t in that direction.” Confusion thy name is Jack O’Neill when things come out of far left field. Because really? That last bit of information was a bit further into the land of weird than he usually went now-a-days.
But Steven was nodding and seemed certain, so maybe it was true. Sweet. Well, it was time to move onto another person at this party so their government minders didn’t get their panties in a too tight of a twist. “Go ahead and mingle, Steven. Grab some food, have some more beer, just have fun. This is supposed to be a party forcryingoutloud!”
Laughing lightly at Jack’s last comment, Steven wandered off, message delivered. Taking a sip of his beer, the ‘retired’ Major General surveyed his backyard. The teams all had members present, Steven’s crew was mingling, most of the off duty support staff and scientists were eating him out of house and home and there were loads of kids flitting between the adults. So he was going to count this particular party as a success. Especially when Feretti turned on the entertainment system Sam had wired up for his backyard. Start loud driving music and even his people would loosen up enough to dance. Perfect.
Two blocks down from the house of retired Major General Jack O’Neill was as close as the surveillance team could get. There was simply no parking available for them any closer. And all the houses near the General were in the hands of people who weren’t planning on selling any time soon, no matter what was offered to them. So the option of putting a permanent monitor on site was determined to be unfeasible, at least until one of his neighbors was ready to move. Plus the General’s minders had been ordered to be subtle after the first group had been found bound and gagged in their own van. Thankfully the weather hadn’t been too warm and they had been retrieved quickly.
To make things even more difficult on the team, the General swept his house for bugs on a daily basis. The team had long ago decided that this insane level of paranoia must have come out his time in the Air Force’s version of Black Ops and then been refined at the SGC. This charming habit of his had thus made their jobs much harder, and much more boring. Boring because O’Neill never talked about anything interesting, well interesting from their point of view at least, and harder because they had to figure out ways of getting new bugs into the house as often as possible. The team had also agreed that it was a good thing the cost of all the bugs the General had found and destroyed wasn’t coming out of their paychecks, because they weren’t cheap by any means.
So here they were, listening to over two hundred people laugh and have fun at a kick ass party. The nearest thing they had to loose talk had been when Col. Caldwell had chatted with the General and even then nothing of importance had been said. Checking through every the listening device they had put in place for the party, the listeners heard only the vaguest mentions of what was happening in the galaxy at large and nothing specific. Once again it seemed as if O’Neill was just getting an update, or as the General called it, a weather report from his former subordinates.
It was something that the General had done at every one of his barbeques, with the same news being passed along. Nothing new, no news on the status of SG1, no changes with Atlantis. Nothing to report.
Jack sighed in relief as he sat down in his favorite arm chair. The party had been a success, the cleanup had gone without a hitch and everyone had been sent home with some leftovers. Meaning that he didn’t have a house full of food that he wasn’t going to have to eat or throw out. The clean up crews had also gone over his house with Carter’s bug zapper and gotten rid of any unwanted pests that had been placed when the caterers had done their set up thing. So everything had returned to normal.
Leaning back into the embrace of the leather chair, he sighed and took a sip of his beer. Bliss. Reaching into the chair cushion with his free hand, Jack pulled out a folded packet of papers from Colonel Reynolds and flipped it open. Time to read his mail.