O'Neill felt warm, comfortable and kind of dreamy, like he was floating on a cloud somewhere... He tried to think where he was, and why, but his brain didn't seem to be working too well.
"Welcome back, Colonel O'Neill."
He turned his head towards the voice and focussed a little blearily on the speaker, a pint-sized woman in a white coat.
"Er, where am I?" he asked groggily.
"Back in the infirmary - like you've never been here before," she grinned.
He digested the information, then took in the drips and monitoring equipment.
"Ah, what happened?"
"You picked up few bullets in a fire-fight, or so I'm told, but you'll live. It turned out to be less serious than it looked when they brought you in here."
"How are you feeling, sir?" asked another voice, vaguely familiar, on the other side of the bed near his head.
He moved his head towards it and wished he hadn't as the room swam disturbingly. He groaned.
"Felt better," he murmured.
"Well, you lost a lot of blood from that wound in your neck, you've a chipped shoulder blade, a punctured lung and a flesh wound in your right thigh. Otherwise, you're fine," the doctor beamed.
"That's nice to know," he grunted, not particularly reassured.
"And you'll feel a lot better once the effects of the anaesthetic wear off. Sam's going to stay and keep an eye on you."
Ah, Sam. Major Carter. Now he remembered.
"How long have I been out?"
"Since yesterday morning, sir. Janet's been keeping you sedated. Er, today's Wednesday."
He closed his eyes and dozed a little. When he awoke again, Major Carter was still there.
"Can I get you anything, sir," she asked softly once he'd had time to regain his senses a little more.
I wouldn't mind a drink of water. My mouth's parched," he croaked.
As she went to do his bidding, infirmary doors swung open to admit a tall man whom he was sure he hadn't seen before. He was wearing a broad smile and carrying a large bunch of flowers.
"Flowers?" O'Neill asked, slightly baffled.
"I'm sorry, have I made a mistake? I understood that it was customary on your world to 'say it with flowers'."
"Well that depends on what you're trying to say," O'Neill said trenchantly, wondering how many more aliens there were around here.
He was aware of Major Carter offering him a drink and trying to keep a straight face. Noting that the alien's B.D.U. looked uncomfortably new, he wondered vaguely whether she'd put him up to the idea. Whatever, he seemed completely unabashed.
"I'm just welcoming home my new Commanding Officer, Sir," he said, offering the flowers with a flourish.
O'Neill wondered why his second-in-command suddenly winced. He stared pointedly at the proffered bouquet and waited while his newest team member assessed the situation. Finally the penny dropped.
"Er, I'll - um - put them in some water, sir, shall I?"
"That would probably be a good idea." O'Neill grunted.
A fifth team member, huh? Could be useful - so long as he wasn't dithering when he should be doing...
"I'm really looking forward to working with you, Colonel O'Neill sir," the young man gushed, flashing a brilliant smile as he placed the vase of flowers on the trolley by the bed.
"Good. I appreciate a man with enthusiasm. Just so long as he takes the job seriously."
The smile slipped slightly.
"It'll be good to have an extra man - person - on the team and I'm sure you'll fit in well."
It wouldn't hurt to be a little welcoming, he thought, remembering that he hadn't gotten off to a terribly good start with his team.
"Oh, I'm not an extra member of the team. I'm replacing Nyan," the young man stated, smiling.
"What?! On whose say so?" O'Neill demanded sharply.
The young man flinched, but went gamely on.
"I - er - I understand that The Powers That Be, far above, approved my inclusion in recognition of what I have done for your government," the young man said with a self-satisfied smile.
Must have been a pretty exemplary act, whatever it was, for him to be so highly regarded, O'Neill thought. He tried to imagine the young man leaping into the fray and carrying out some amazing feat of derring-do. And failed. Then he caught sight of the stony expression on Major Carter's face. Oh-oh. Something going on here - something he didn't like the feel of one bit.
"Think I could do with a bit of a rest now," O'Neill said, and after a few seconds to evaluate the implications of this remark, the young man took his leave.
"Would you like me to leave, too, sir?"
"Not unless you have something pressing you need to attend to, Major."
"Well, I suppose I should be writing my report," she replied, reluctantly.
"Ok, you'd better get that done first. I'll be fine."
He paused as a stricken look hit her face, and he could swear, just before she bolted, that her eyes were filling with tears.
Chapter 20 - Hide and Seek
Some time later, O'Neill had another visitor. General Hammond had stopped by to see how he did.
"Good to have you back, Colonel," he said heartily. "How're you feeling now?"
"Oh, not too bad, thank you General."
"I think you'll be pleased to know that Major Carter managed to locate the prisoners' home planet and we've sent them back there. It appears that a lot of Boryenka's fellow slaves were taken from the same world, so we've sent them back, too. Most of the rest chose to go along with them, as they've built strong bonds during their adversity. Boryenka has asked to stay here, for a while anyway. I think he wants to thank you himself when you've recovered."
O'Neill was touched.
"How did you manage to communicate with them?" he asked.
"Well, Nyan said that the Amazonian language was similar to Ancient Greek which he'd studied a little under Dr. Jackson, so he took it from there. We managed to muddle through it," Hammond smiled warmly.
O'Neill was impressed. Despite what he'd told his team at the time, the Amazonian language was quite a long way removed from Ancient Greek. And on the subject of Nyan...
"General, I'm a little concerned that Nyan's been replaced in my team. Did he have any problems that I'm not aware of or didn't pick up on?"
"No Jack. I've read his report and he seems very enthusiastic, both about the experience and being a member of your team - the 'dental treatment' excepted."
A cloud seemed to descend on General Hammond. He frowned.
"As regards Quinn taking his place. Well, I'm sorry, Jack, but it's been taken completely out of my hands. I suspect the N.I.D. have gotten involved here and probably Senator Kinsey too. We're just going to have to bite the bullet on this one, and I'll see about getting Nyan assigned to S.G.-9 or S.G.-7 whenever a vacancy occurs."
"That's a shame, General. He's a good team player."
"Better than you think, Son. He's the one who saved your life under fire. I'm putting his name forward for a commendation. I'll leave you to get some rest now, as per Dr. Fraiser's instructions. She thinks you'll be fit for light duties by Friday, all being well, so if you could see your way to writing your report, I would appreciate it. We'll debrief at 1400 hours on Monday."
By Friday, O'Neill was nearly climbing the walls with boredom. He'd hadn't been short of visitors once it was known that he was out of danger and on the mend. The members of his S.G. -1 had visited most frequently. Nyan brought Boryenka along too, which O'Neill appreciated. It was good to see him looking fitter and less worn down.
Those visits brought him much pleasure - except when he faced the painful truth that it was not himself they were coming to see, but the now long-dead and, no doubt, putrefying Colonel O'Neill. Then he came very close to hating himself. Well, he'd just have to suck it up and carry on. What was done couldn't be undone.
Quinn also popped in occasionally. O'Neill found his perpetual cheerfulness singularly wearing and came to regard his visits in the manner of a penance.
Ah well, Janet had agreed to let him out of the infirmary on condition that he didn't try to do too much. Tilk brought him some fresh clothes and offered to take him to his office in a wheelchair so as not to put too much strain on his injured leg. O'Neill accepted gratefully as he had no idea where 'his' office was. He could hardly ask for directions to it, and he certainly didn't fancy wandering around the base looking for it.
It was as he dressed that he missed his little toys.
"Ah, Tilk, what happened to the matter transmutation device," he asked, as casually as he could.
Where that was, his other gizmo was likely to be, and while the M.T.D. was a useful thing to hang on to, he desperately wanted his other device.
"MajorCarter is writing a report on it as we speak, prior to forwarding it to Area 51."
"Oh. Ah, good. Very good, Tilk. Um, could we stop by her office. I'd like to have a word with her about it."
"Very well, O'Neill," Tilk replied, assisting him gently into the wheelchair.
Major Carter was not in her lab. when they entered but Quinn was. He was holding the M.T.D., and subjecting it to intense scrutiny. At first, he did not notice their arrival and nearly dropped the gadget in surprise when he realized he was no longer alone. Shifty - very shifty - was O'Neill's gut reaction.
"Thank you, Quinn. I'll take that," O'Neill said, holding out his hand imperatively.
Quinn handed it over with the faintest hint of reluctance and an engaging smile.
"I'll have the other one, too," O'Neill continued, his face expressionless.
"Other one?" Quinn said with the appearance of vague puzzlement.
"Yes. The other one, Quinn. Silvery-grey - looks much like a cell. phone," O'Neill said brusquely.
The young man appeared to give it some thought.
"Ye-es, maybe I did see something like that. Now, where...?"
He made a display of hunting around, then, with a creditable attempt at legerdemain, produced the missing article.
"Would this be it, Sir?" he enquired with a deferential smile.
"It would indeed," O'Neill said meaningfully, retrieving his property. "Let's go, Tilk."
Once settled in Colonel O'Neill's his office, he set about finding out more about the set-up he'd become a part of. First of all he read through the reports of the past couple of years, which made engrossing reading. And Tilk was actually 'Teal'c', was he? He was pleased to find that Colonel O'Neill kept his reports short and to the point, although he would have preferred them to be slightly better organized and with bullet points.
He was particularly touched to find, tucked in the back of the account of the mission which resulted in Dr. Jackson's death, a scruffy handwritten poem, along with a first draft full of crossings out and re-workings.
It wasn't much, but it spoke volumes for the closeness of the team. He was not impressed by the part Quinn had played in the affair.
Next, he set about hacking into O'Neill's computer. He was going to need access in order to write up his report on the mission to the Amazonian world. It didn't take long. He surmised that the colonel had not been terribly sophisticated when it came to I.T.
Most of the documents were familiar, being the originals of the reports he'd just been reading. There was one, however, which had not made it to print. As he read it, he saw clearly why not. General Hammond had been coerced into retirement by threats against his grandchildren, and the colonel had succeeded in getting him reinstated.
Suddenly he didn't feel quite such a rat. He'd never stooped to using children to achieve his ends. Yes, he'd had some standards, even in the worst of times.
O'Neill also found it disturbing that these were, in effect, General Hammond's own people who'd acted against him and his family - people who should have been working with him, not against him. And one of them was this same Senator Kinsey whom Hammond believed was behind Nyan's replacement by this Quinn guy.
He remembered that Quinn had said he was replacing Nyan 'in recognition of what I have done for your government'. Judging by Colonel O'Neill's report, the man was nothing but a thief.
He set about writing his report, and made sure Nyan received all the credit he deserved. He fully intended to have Dr. Jackson's protégé reinstated in his team, and if 'The Powers That Be' didn't see it his way, well, Colonel Jack O'Neill wasn't the only O'Neill who was prepared to take them on. One way or another...
Chapter 21 - Lines of Communication
On Monday morning, George Hammond received a 'phone call.
"Hello, this is General Hammond... "
" ...... "
"... I'm sorry, Dr. Tolladay, but as I've said before, he's right here on this base, and has been for the past six days..."
" ...... "
"... I assure you, I've spoken to him on a number of occasions during that time... "
" ..... "
"... Well, excuse me, Dr. Tolladay, I think I can recognize my own people!... "
" ...... "
"... I don't care how insistent your patient is... "
" ...... "
"... Look, Dr. Tolladay, he spent three days in our infirmary here, and if there was anything unusual, our own doctor would have noticed... "
" ...... "
"... Well, I'm afraid that's your problem, Dr. Tolladay, and now good-day to you, sir," Hammond said sharply and replaced the receiver with an irritated snap.
O'Neill, Major Carter and Teal'c were chatting over lunch in the commissary, when Quinn came over, bearing a tray.
"May I join you, sir?" he asked with a confident smile.
"Well, this is a... free country," O'Neill replied.
"I'd like you to know, sir, that I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on some more technology for your wonderful country," he grinned.
"Ah, yeah, about that," O'Neill said dourly, "we'd really rather you asked first. It kinda makes us unpopular with our allies if you don't."
"B-but General Hammond was happy to accept my little gift of naquadria," Quinn pouted. Major Carter's eyes narrowed.
"Yeah, well, I guess he wasn't thinking straight, just right then... Under the circumstances... You understand?" O'Neill said drily, raising an eyebrow. "Anyway, it's been put right now."
Quinn looked puzzled.
"The naquadria's been returned to your High Minister," Major Carter replied. "In return, he's agreed to enter into discussions with us as to the best way to develop its potential."
"But I thought your world needed all the technology it could get hold of to fight the Goa'uld?"
"Indeed, but not at any cost," Teal'c intoned. "We are working for the Tau'ri, not the Goa'uld. They might approve your actions. The Tau'ri do not. Excuse me, Colonel O'Neill. I think it is time we went to our meeting..."
"Oh. Yes! Do let me assist you with your crutches, sir."
"O'Neill does not require your assistance, Jonas Quinn. His leg is much improved."
General Hammond was already in the briefing room, exchanging pleasantries with Nyan, when the rest of S.G.-1 arrived with Quinn tagging along behind. Teal'c was about to close the door on him when Hammond spoke.
"It's all right, Teal'c. Quinn asked to sit in on our meeting, and I have given my permission. He wants to get a feel of the team he'll be working with in the future..."
Quinn scuttled into the room, just in time to help O'Neill adjust his chair at the table, and sat down beside him with a satisfied smile.
General Hammond opened the debriefing session by warmly welcoming S.G.-1 back from their mission to P2X-250.
"And I must extend an official welcome to Jonas Quinn as a new member of S.G.-1 in place of Nyan," he continued.
Quinn stood up and bowed.
"Thank you so much, General," he said, beaming round at his new team-mates, "and may I say what a pleasure it is to be here?"
"I'll take that as read, Quinn. Now, if we could get back to the matter in hand..." the General went on. "I've read all your your reports, S.G.-1, and although it was not as successful a mission as we'd all have liked, at least we have you all home again safely... More or less."
He shot a concerned smile at O'Neill, and continued.
"I am most impressed by the resourcefulness of all the members of the team and Now what?!" Hammond exclaimed as a sharp rap on the door interrupted him.
The door swung open hard upon the knock, and a tall, gaunt figure stood scowling on the threshold.