Broken Friends

Chapter 19

The piercing sound of the klaxons permeated the halls of SGC, and sent the adrenaline pumping through the veins of every person on the base. In between the blaring came Walter’s voice on the PA:

“Unscheduled off-world activation! Security to the ‘gate-room!”

The request was routine, as were the actions of said security personnel whose boot-shoot footfalls already echoed through the hallways. The security in place the heavy duty blast doors closed behind them, assuring that whatever came through the gate would not get further than the well-like room even if the soldiers failed to defend it.

As always a few certain members of SGC-personnel assembled to the control-room unasked. General Hammond was there, because to him it was the place for a commander in such situations, and SG-1, because their dedication to their work commanded it. Wheeling his way through the halls tinted red by the flashers, Daniel cursed the chair that made him unable to sprint to the control-room as he was used to. Eventually he made it there, as the last member of the team, only to realize that the few steps up was an insurmountable obstacle.

“Damn it!” His muttered curse should barely have been audible through the noise of blaring alarms and running soldiers, but Teal'c heard him and came to his aid. Must be that superior Jaffa hearing. The Jaffa’s extraordinary muscles also came in handy as he literally lifted Daniel, wheelchair and all, up the stairs.

“Thanks,” Daniel breathed in awe, for a moment forgetful of the situation developing around him. Then it all came rushing back as General Hammond ordered:

“Report, Sergeant! And shut that infernal noise up.”

With a push of a button Walter, who was the technician on duty, silenced the alarm and turned to the base’s CO.

“It’s an incoming wormhole, sir. Unknown origin; it’s not in our data base.”

“Any travelers?”

“No, sir, not yet.”

“A signal? Anything?”

“No sir. Nothing’s coming through…” A loud chime from the main terminal interrupted Walter. “Correction, sir, there’s something coming through now, some kind of signal.” Before he had finished the sentence the readout on the screen was gone and in the next moment the ‘gate shut down.

“What the hell was that?” Jack’s outburst summed up the feelings of most everyone in the room. The general nodded but kept his voice more level.

“Sergeant, find out what just happened. Major Carter, give him a hand, will you. Report to me as soon as you have anything.”

Walter and Sam nodded in unison, and immediately went to work. Pleased with their efficiency and reassured by years of experience the general returned to his office upstairs. Jack followed him up, placing himself in one of the briefing room chairs to await the result as well.

“Shall I assist you in returning down the steps, DanielJackson?” Daniel was not embarrassed by Teal'c’s question. He was beginning to get used to his assistance, in particular since he was the only one on the base who could make it sound like an honor to lend him a hand, instead of a testament to pity – or in Jack’s case, teasing. Daniel gratefully smiled at the big man who was respectfully awaiting his answer.

“No thank you, Teal'c. I think I’m going to stay here. In case something else happens it would be unnecessary to have to get up again.”

The Jaffa gave his trademark head-inclination.

“As you wish. I will remain as well.”

With two of the base’s brightest technical minds on the task it didn’t take long before the results were in on the mysterious ‘gate-activation, Sam called the general down on the intercom, with Jack following in his wake.

“Based on the symbols used in the dial-in we have approximately determined the origin of the wormhole. As Sergeant Walter said it is not a planet we know as of yet. The address is not in the Abydos cartouche or the Ancient data base that Colonel O’Neill entered when he…” Sam interrupted herself when she remembered Jack’s feelings about the circumstances that had made him able to add those addresses. She avoided his pleased look and continued, “Either way, there was a signal that came in for just a fraction of a second and then returned through the wormhole, as if it bounced on the iris.”

“Like a ping?” Jack interrupted and Sam was glad he had followed suit in focusing on the matter at hand.

“Yes, sir. Exactly like a ping actually.”

“What is a ‘ping’?” Teal'c posed the question with the special curious tone he reserved for learning about Tauri, and Sam gladly explained.

“It’s a technique used by submarines to locate or contact another submarine with sonar. The sonar sends out a sound wave that bounces of the other sub, placing it on the radar while at the same time making a sound against the hull.”

Sam’s explanation made Daniel’s enthusiasm level sky-rocket. He leaned forward as he excitedly shared his conclusion.

“Then it was an attempt to contact us? Do you think it could be the people from PQX-830? I did ask them to send us a message if they were interested in friendship.”

The unspoken thoughts electrified the air as each of them considered the plausibility of this. Finally the general broke the silence, his words directed to Sam.

“Your opinion, Major?”

“I’m not sure, sir. The wormhole didn’t come from PQX-830; if it did it would have registered as such in the dialing system. In fact, if our calculations are correct it came from almost the opposite end of the Milky Way. I’d say that someone definitely tried to contact us, sir, but it is not very likely it was the people from PQX-830.”

“Who else could it be?” Daniel was not ready to give up on the possibility of the off-world activation being the response he’d been waiting for.

“We have no way of knowing,” Sam confessed.

“We have the address, don’t we? We could go see.”

“Sir?” Sam deferred the question to the general, with a mitigating addition. “We could send a MALP.”

General Hammond hesitated before nodding.

“I will consider it.”

He retreated to his office again to do as he promised, and calculate the risks of sending a MALP to the unknown planet. The risk isn’t too big, is it? he asked himself. The MALP is only a machine after all, and this is precisely why we have them. But if there isn’t any immediate danger I know a certain team that will want to go through after, and a certain archaeologist-linguist who will disappointedly have to sit it out. Perhaps I should send a different team…? He shook his head to himself. No, they are number one for a reason. I just hope them missing one isn’t going to harm them. He knew full well he couldn’t convince Jack to bring a different linguist. The colonel had made that crystal clear on the very same day they returned with Daniel injured.

“I request you putting SG-1 on stand-down until we know about Daniel,” he had said, in that tone of voice the general would never permit any other subordinate to use. Jack had earned it though; as far as Hammond was concerned saving the world multiple times entitled a man to some leeway. Of course, putting the team on stand-down was also the reasonable decision, at least until Dr Fraiser had given her prognosis.

When she had notified him that Daniel might be permanently paralyzed however, he had tried to reason with Jack along the lines of ‘it’s better to just get out there again’. That boat didn’t float very well with the colonel. He had insisted on staying Earth-side.

“I’d rather be permanently grounded, sir,” he had claimed.

When the general pushed him for his reasons Jack had taken insubordination to a whole new level and blankly refused to answer, stating that it was between him and Daniel. Hammond had been dumbfounded but finally just wrote it down to the stress of the present situation.

Perhaps this is an opportunity, he thought, returning to the question of answering the alien call. Sending SG-1 will let them find out if they can deal with leaving Daniel behind.

General Hammond paused in the door to the briefing room to regard his premier team. He had given them overnight leave before the meeting, allowing for a good night’s sleep before facing them with the prospect of separation. The clock ticking to an only-coffee-made-it-so bright 06:58 they were all assembled, if not as well rested as Hammond would have wished.

Sam stifled a yawn. The probable culprit for her lack of sleep was a file lying on the table before her, containing a written analysis of the occurrences of the day before. Daniel was on the other side of the table, flicking a thick binder containing every ounce of information gathered from the PQX-830 database so far while absentmindedly rubbing his eyes. Jack slouched in his chair, a last minute attempt to gather as many seconds of rest as he could. He had never been an early morning kind of person and anyone who knew him was accustomed to the colonel sneaking a snooze whenever possible. The forth member was, as per usual, the only one on the team who seemed alert at the early hour. Teal'c was in his usual attentive position, his never faltering gaze oscillating between his fellow teammates.

Clearing his throat the general entered the room and took his place at the head of the table, ignoring the fact that not even the military members of the team rose to greet him. They mean no disrespect. His opening revelation however was more effective to sweep away the drowsiness from the room.

“I have decided to authorize a MALP recon to the coordinates of the off-world activation yesterday,” he said, trying not to smile when a full four quarters of SG-1 came to regulation attention in their chairs. “Have you been able to gather any further information from the dial-in data, Major?”

“No, sir. No more than we had yesterday.”

“And you, Dr Jackson? Any hints in the PQX-830 data base as to what we might find?”

Despite his thick binder, Daniel’s answer was in the negative as well.

“I’m afraid not, sir. The information we have been able to decipher is still too fragmented to be reliable.”

“Very well. We will proceed as planned by sending a MALP at 0800 hours tomorrow. If the environment is viable and there are no evident threats I will authorize a team to investigate further. Colonel, I would prefer that team to be SG-1.”

The general’s last comment, almost phrased as a question, took three fourths of SG-1 by surprise. Every face in the room turned to Jack, who determinately avoided the questioning gazes and fixed his eyes on his CO.

“I will consider it, sir,” he said in a hard-set voice, receiving a conceding nod from Hammond before the general left the table. Jack rose to follow suit, but Daniel hurried to wheel himself into his path. He needn’t say a word; his crossed arms and eyes that locked into Jack’s fully communicated his demand for an explanation. The colonel sighed and flopped back into his chair.

“Fine. We’ve been on stand down because I told Hammond SG-1 wouldn’t be going out without Daniel. If we are going on this mission we would have to do just that, so I have to decide whether we’ll be going or not.”

“Of course you are going!” Daniel exclaimed, his voice implying that it was the most obvious thing in the world – regardless if he was coming along or not.

“No!” Jack crossed his arms in a mirror image of Daniel. “There is no ‘of course’ about it. We’re a team and we work best at full strength. ”

Daniel’s face and posture softened.

“I am grateful, Jack, for your…show of loyalty, but this is way too important. You have to go! It’ll be fine; it’s just once. You said it yourself; I’m not off the team just because I can’t go with you right now.”

To his own ears Daniel sounded a lot more confident than he felt, but he had more or less promised both Jack and himself to try and be positive. Besides, visiting the aliens that had called for them was too important to throw away because of sentimentalities. The colonel glared at him, huffed another loud sigh and grumbled something unintelligible.

“What was that?” Daniel put a hand behind his ear in a mock gesture of hearing aid.

“Fine!” Jack snarled. “We’ll go. There – happy?!”

A grin broke across Daniel’s face and he leaned back in his chair.

“Yes, Jack. I’m happy.”

In the face of his victorious grin Jack couldn’t keep his sulky face straight for long. With a wide smile of his own he jumped up from his seat and waltzed out of the room, shouting over his shoulder something about checking the commissary for pie. Daniel shook his head and left as well, no doubt to get back to work.

Sam watched Jack and Daniel leave, her thoughts for the moment straying from the strange alien dial-in to revolve around the two of them and a riddle she hadn’t thought of for days. Why did Jack ask him to move in? Initially she had been curious, friendly interested, but the longer the two men refused to reveal their secret the stranger the secret had become. SG-1 was as tight-knit as any team could be, practically family. With all we’ve shared, it’s weird that Jack and Daniel are having secrets from me and Teal'c. It wasn’t that they weren’t allowed some secrecy, she told herself, but the curiosity awoken by the strangeness of this specific secret was killing her. Maybe I should recruit Teal'c to help me find out.

“Teal'c…” Sam halted the Jaffa mid-stride as he went to resume his self-imposed occupation as Jackson-aid. “I need your help with somet
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