Crown Infernal

Team Choice Award 2007

Libera Me (Set Me Free)

Novella - 17,500 words - set in late season four and contains the usual mix
~ a little action, a little humor and rather more angst than usual.

Daniel burns his bridges and Jack finds he's on the wrong side of the river.

Just One Warning:
A little nastiness but it's not real. That's all - really - trust me, okay?

As always, a big Thank You to Eos for the Alpha and for de-Britting this!

Author's notes:

1. This comes from having read a number of stories in which either Jack or Daniel
plucks up his courage to declare his love for the other. Whichever it is feels exactly the same but feared to fuck up their friendship. They fall upon each other's necks and shortly afterwards, fall into bed to catch up on lost time.

I wondered what might happen if the reaction was negative...

2. There is a footnote at the end of Part 3 for anyone who may be affected by the central theme of this story, or knows of someone who may be.

Part 1

Saturday night

There were only two possible responses - yes, or no. Daniel had it all planned out either way.

Once upon a time— A time? For over three years! —he and Jack had been close. Very close. Daniel's feelings had developed into something deeper than friendship and occasionally, little things Jack had said or done had made him think that maybe he felt the same way. Lately, it had seemed like Jack could hardly bring himself to give him the time of day, and it cut to the quick.

Daniel had reached breaking point and, as he saw it, he had little to lose. And now, he had his opportunity. S.G.-1 had a week's stand down while the annual 'Gate maintenance was undertaken. The timing seemed convenient. Sam was going to visit her brother Mark and his family, Teal'c was going to the Land of Light - of course - and Jack had said he was going to have a week's peace and quiet beside the lake with no fish.

Daniel hadn't said how he was going to spend the week, but he was hoping to change Jack's mind about his destination. The first part of his plan involved inviting Jack to dinner on Saturday evening.

Jack was taken by surprise. There had been a time when he'd regularly entertained Daniel to pizzas and wine, with beer for himself, and then a hockey game on Friday nights. He couldn't remember the last time he'd asked Daniel over. He nearly declined as he'd planned on setting off for Minnesota on Saturday morning. A feeling of guilt about his recent neglect of his team mate - and friend - nudged him into accepting.

Jack was even more surprised when Daniel opened the door and invited him in. The lighting in the dining room was low and subtle, like the music. The table was set for two with lighted candles in the center. There was a single red rose on the napkin beside his plate.


"Er, sit down, Jack," his host said tersely as he hung his leather jacket in the closet by the door.

He sounded nervous - not something Jack associated with the man who blithely baited senators and false gods alike. A little uncertain himself, Jack sat down at the table and waited for Daniel to join him. Smoked salmon parcels were already set out. The two men ate in silence then Daniel took the plates into the kitchen.

Smells wafting through indicated that steak was being grilled. Daniel had cooked it exactly as Jack liked it and had taken pains with the accompanying vegetables and garnish. Apart from compliments to the chef, they ate in uneasy silence again. Jack was feeling distinctly edgy.

The meal was rounded off by delicate porcelain plates bearing a circle of strawberries, and pieces of peach and apricot around a central mound of cream sprinkled with cinnamon, and followed by Daniel's finest coffee. Surely there was some point to all this?

"You seem to be trying to tell me something but I'm not getting it," he said at last.

Daniel looked very uncomfortable as if it was taking a great deal of effort to find the right words. He nibbled his lip for a moment then took a deep breath and began.

"Um - well." He swallowed nervously. "This is a once-only declaration. I love you, Jack. God alone knows why considering the lack of respect you've been showing me lately, but I do. Understand that this isn't something I have any control over. I think I will love you until I die and I want to spend the rest of my life with you— Somehow."

Jack's mouth fell open. Top of his list of possibilities had been that Daniel was making some pointed and pissy comment about the way Jack had been treating him. He certainly deserved it although his motives, he felt, had been justified. Daniel making a show of turning the other cheek seemed entirely plausible, given the absence of snarkiness throughout the meal. That he'd been screwing up his courage to lay his heart at Jack's feet had never entered his mind.

"Please say yes," Daniel said in a breathless voice that plainly spoke of his expectation of rejection. Then he rushed on, words almost falling over each other through the tense atmosphere between them.

"I'll leave the S.G.C. so there won't— there won't be a-a-a conflict of interests. You can set the terms. I–I-If you can't stomach the idea of sex with me, I wo... I won't expect it from you. Just say yes. Please."

Across the table, his guest's expression hadn't changed - a graven image of stupefaction. In the dim lighting, his face even looked like granite.

"J-Jack...?" Daniel faltered, as the last vestiges of hope slid inexorably into darkness.

The response, when it came, was barely audible.


It wasn't what Daniel wanted to hear but was pretty much what he'd anticipated. He was entirely unsurprised when Jack stood up abruptly, went to collect his jacket and walked out. At least he knew now that hope was extinct. He could stop torturing himself.


Daniel had slept badly with Jack's grim face fading in and out of his dreams. He gave up trying to reclaim sleep despite the unusually - for him - early hour, and made himself some coffee.

While it brewed, he typed out his resignation, slid it into an envelope and addressed it to General Hammond. Next he filled out the form he'd bought at a stationery store some days previously. When he'd finished, he went round to his neighbors and got them to witness his signature.

That done, he put it in another envelope. He hesitated for a moment, switching the two back and forth until he settled for the one for General Hammond on top. Finally, he laid them both on the dining table and went into his study to put his cell 'phone on charge.

The doorbell rang then. His neighbor had just noticed he'd left his pen behind, she said, and had come to return it. She also wanted to enlist his support for her anti-graffiti campaign.

When he'd dealt with that, he set about leaving his apartment tidy. The last job was the kitchen. He had to dispose of the remains of the previous night, wash the dishes and put them away.

He picked up the red rose, symbol of his love and now of hope extinguished. Wistfully, he cradled it in his hand for a moment then, with a dejected sigh, dropped it headfirst into the trash can along with his dreams.

When everything was neat and tidy - more or less - he remembered his library books. He went round collecting them and putting them on the table too, for prompt return. It was a good thing he did, as he spotted his cell 'phone on his desk in his study and shoved it in his pocket. Didn't want to be incommunicado.

Then he threw a few clothes and necessities into a couple of bags, and went forlornly down to his car. He'd hoped he'd have Jack with him on the journey. Now here he was, alone again.

He felt even lower than he had when he'd walked out into the rain after that fateful lecture. Then, he'd only lost his grant, his job and his home. Hell, he felt lower than when Sha're died. This time, he'd lost Jack, his heart's choice. He'd taken his chance - shot his bolt - and it had missed by a cosmic mile. It had all been for nothing, just like the rest of his life.

He slung his bags into the trunk. A bright cheerful sun shone in a deep cloudless blue sky. He felt like it was mocking him. Why couldn't it have rained? It would've been more in keeping with his mood. Still, it wasn't as if there were any tears to hide. He just felt numb. Beyond numb. Cold and empty inside. Like the Tin Man, he thought. Damn Jack O'Neill and his stupid, fatuous 'Wizard of Oz' references. Friend of Dorothy? Not even close.

Jack had slept badly too. To say he'd been stunned had been the understatement to end all understatements. For once in his life he hadn't known what to do. Daniel had offered him everything he wanted on a plate. Just like that. And he couldn't take it— feared fucking everything up entirely.

He'd needed to get away and think things over very carefully before he said or did anything irremediable. So he'd legged it. Thank God he had the week away to mull over what to do for the best - to do what was in Daniel's best interest.

He blamed himself, felt he'd been too open with Daniel - too friendly. But everyone on the base knew that Daniel had been married and plenty knew that he, too, had been married.

Of course, having a wife didn't necessarily mean you were straight. Oscar Wilde had not only married but had a son as well, and no one could accuse him of being straight! Not that Jack imagined many people in the mountain were all that familiar with the nineteenth century Irish playwright and his scandalous life-style.

No. So far as the S.G.C. knew, they were just buddies - closer than most because of the nature of their job, but just good buddies. Then, several months ago, came that incident.

Jack had been in a cubicle in the men's room when two others entered.

"You reckon Colonel O'Neill's doin' Jackson?" said one whom Jack recognized as a marine named Flint. The other man sounded a little surprised. There was a pause while he considered the idea, and the sound of two men peeing.

"Thought the Doc. was married one time," came the voice of Baranski from S.G.-3.

"So what? So was Oscar Wilde," Flint replied.

Strike that idea then. Jack momentarily considered letting the men know that he was there, and issuing a denial, but figured it would probably only fuel speculation.

"And Jackson's such a flake," Flint went on, "that he didn't even know he was married."

"Well, I grant you he's more'n likely a faggot," Baranski conceded, "but O'Neill ?"

"You think he'd turn it down if it was offered?"

Jack didn't hear the reply as the two men left the room. He was seriously worried, and deeply regretted his self-indulgence in taking pleasure from Daniel's company. Worse, he'd not even bothered to disguise the fact. It had clearly been conspicuous enough to draw attention to his closeness to the archaeologist. No doubt that had led to the supposition that it was Daniel whose sexuality was ambiguous - Daniel, the loyal friend who'd never given him any reason to suppose his own feelings were remotely reciprocated. At least not in that way.

So with a view to protecting Daniel, he'd withdrawn from him. Hell, he'd treated him like shit on occasions, but he wanted to demonstrate that there was nothing of a dubious nature between them - or about Daniel. Knew what might ensue if certain jarheads got the idea that Daniel was gay. Knew too, that he couldn't watch over him 24/7.

His shabby treatment of Daniel had brought out the pissy side of his nature more usually experienced by soi-disant deities. It grieved Jack, as the cause of his invective, but was all to the good as it did more to dispel any question hanging over his sexuality than an official denial would have done.

Following an encounter with a certain Tok'ra's zanex machine, he'd taken to showing his 2IC more attention than was seemly on occasions. His aim had been one of mis-direction. It was not very fair on Carter and not very honorable either. She was a junior officer and he was her superior, but he felt safe. She was far too married to her job, and probably wouldn't notice even if he tried actual flirting with her.

And Jack had fallen for his own obfuscatory stratagems, hook, line and sinker. Thus Daniel's declaration had almost deprived him of breath and inspired him to get away before he did something to ruin his carefully cultivated cover. That night he dreamed of Iraq again, only this time, Daniel was there too, and the guards had American faces.

He woke up sweating at 0515, not the least refreshed. There didn't seem to be much point in trying to claw back sleep, and anyway, he didn't need any more nightmares. So, feeling like death warmed over, he rose and showered.

Zombie-like, he went down to the kitchen and put the kettle on. Initially, he'd reached for the coffee, but it reminded him of Daniel, which shoved the memory of the previous evening front and center of his mind. He didn't feel up to dealing with that right now, so he made a pot of very strong tea instead. He wasn't really hungry but he made himself eat some breakfast before stowing his fishing gear and a travel bag into the truck and setting off for Minnesota.

He'd intended to buy supplies before setting off, but thought he'd take advantage of the unplanned early start and buy the things he needed when he arrived. He'd need fresh food anyway so he might as well buy everything together.

He considered calling Daniel before he left, but knew Daniel wasn't an early riser, especially when he had no reason to be. He also feared what his own response might be if Daniel answered. No. Best think long and hard before they spoke again.

Jack had already stopped for a break at Sterling on the I76 by the time Daniel hit the road. Both men had put thoughts and feelings on hold, just concentrating on the road and scenery. Their journeys that day were uneventful, except that Jack nearly drove off the road just before Lexington, Nebraska, and figured it was time to stop for the night.

He pulled into the parking lot of the first motel he came to that had a 'vacancies' sign and went to hire a room for the night. He laid on the bed and flicked through the television channels until he came to a hockey match. It was a good match but not one he had a particular interest in. His eyelids soon gave up their fight against gravity.

The match continued inside his head, however, and it was much more personal. Daniel was playing left wing for the Avalanche while he was a Blackhawks' enforcer, constantly hassling him. Whenever Daniel had possession, he was there, tripping, cross-checking, slashing or butt-ending him. It was for Daniel's own good. So long as he was out of the spotlight so to speak, he wouldn't get hurt.

But Daniel wouldn't give up. Every time Jack looked at him, he had control of the puck which was somehow growing larger and larger. This naturally drew everyone's attention to him. Then all the Blackhawks were on him, sticks flying. Daniel's helmet flew off and into the net. Despairing, Jack brought his own stick full force across the side of his head knocking him down. Out of harm's way.

Daniel was lying at his feet like a broken doll - a clown - ice-white face, bright blue eyes staring sightlessly up at him and brilliant red blood flowing from nose, mouth and ears like paint from upset paint cans. All Jack could do was watch as the blood-paint kept on flowing. He could hear his heart thudding with a loud, uneven beat while the pool around his skates was growing wider and deeper until Daniel vanished beneath it.

He woke up screaming and soaked in sweat. Someone was banging on the wall.


Daniel had made an overnight stop at Cedar City, Utah. He dreamt of nothing at all - or didn't remember it if he had. Somehow, he felt a little better in the morning - possibly because the decision had been made and all the agonizing and heart-searching were in the past. He was going to enjoy one last week and then— Release.

He was allowing that week's grace in case Jack unexpectedly changed his mind. Didn't want to fall into the Romeo error.

It was early evening when he arrived at the luxury beach-side property he'd hired on Vista del Isla Drive. It was some way west along the coast from Santa Barbara, so there had been a bit of a detour to collect the keys from the letting office.

He'd been lucky to get the villa, the result of a late cancellation. If Jack had said yes, it would've been the perfect hide-away, screened from the road and overlooking a private beach. At the back of the villa, a neatly trimmed lawn stretched away between curving flower beds down to the beach and the ocean. In the distance you could see the outline of San Miguel Island. It was extremely expensive, but Jack was worth it, and without Jack, it didn't matter anyway.

He hefted his bags out of the trunk and took them inside. There, he made himself some coffee and extracted his journal and a pen from one of the bags. He took the book and coffee cup and went outside to sit on one of the two cane chairs on the veranda overlooking the Pacific Ocean. All it needed was Jack, and he'd be in Paradise.

He placed his coffee cup on the small table between the chairs, laid one leg across the other knee and rested his journal on his thigh. For a few moments, he chewed the end of his pen then began to write.

This is a beautiful place - big sky over the ocean - lush vegetation to either side - low wooded ridge behind me hiding the villa from the few cars that pass by. All that's missing is Jack.

The drive today wasn't too bad. Managed to avoid L.A. Think something must have died a couple of miles past Hwy127 turn-off, as there were vultures or buzzards circling. Or maybe they were Californian condors. Well, they'll have plenty to eat come the weekend. It's a nice thought, that. Death contributing to the continuance of life.

It's funny, but now everything is done, I feel so much lighter - care-free I guess, in that my cares are all in the past now. Nothing more to worry about. Or maybe it's about power in that this is one thing I have power over. Nothing and no one have any power over me any more.

I'm just watching the sun dipping into the Pacific and painting the clouds in every shade of red and gold. The reflections in the water are magnificent and the sounds of the surf and the breakers beyond are very soothing. Think they will soon lull me to sleep. Pacific? Peaceful certainly. And I am at peace of a sort.

The journey to Minnesota was abominably slow. Much time was spent stationary thanks to a fuel truck that had over-turned and caught fire just outside Lincoln, NE. Jack had just passed an off-ramp when his truck's radio gave out information about the wreck, so he was stuck in a long tailback until the emergency had been dealt with.

Once he'd passed that obstacle, and joined Highway 77, he was stuck behind a very slow-moving trailer truck transporting an enormous piece of machinery and accompanied by police outriders. As he branched off on to Highway 75, he was pleased to note that this mobile road block was continuing on its way to, presumably, Sioux City.

He made good time for a while after that, but it wasn't to last. Shortly after making a turn on to Highway 212 heading towards Montevideo, his headlights had caught a stationary vehicle pulled a little off the road with the hood up. A man was flagging him down.

The daylight was fading fast and it was beginning to drizzle so he pulled up to see if he could render assistance. As he approached the guy, two more guys came out from behind the truck and tried to jump him. They rapidly found that they'd picked on the wrong man and moreover, one in totally the wrong frame of mind...

Unfortunately, this caused a further delay. Two of the attackers had run off into the woods lining the road. The third was out cold, his head having been in collision firstly with Jack's fist and secondly with the truck behind him.

Jack cursed inwardly. He checked the guy's vital signs, which, while not strong, seemed okay. Just to be on the safe side, as it was a head injury, he called an ambulance. He also called the local police as a formality. This meant more hanging around waiting for them to arrive in order to provide details of the attack.

It was raining heavily by the time Jack reached the minor road that ran alongside the Chippewa River. It was also so dark that he almost missed the turning into what was little more than a track that led to his cabin. By the time he arrived he was cold and wet and in a foul temper.

He went straight to bed. And had another nightmare. His three attackers from earlier in the day all had Daniel's face. Each one, he beat to a bloody pulp. None of the Daniels defended himself, merely looking with pleading eyes into his face, much as Daniel had done on Friday night.

"Love me, Jack," each one whispered, just before he snapped his neck.


Jack woke up sweating and shivery. He thought about getting up and making a cup of tea, then remembered that he'd arrived too late to fetch supplies. He went to the bathroom then returned to bed, stubbing his toe on the bedpost in the darkness. For what seemed like hours he thrashed around, turning over and over, churning the bedclothes into rumpled discomfort before he finally fell asleep again.

The morning was well advanced by the time he awoke again, several sets of muscles making it known that they hadn't enjoyed the night either. He groaned - groaned again as he remembered the dream. He pushed it to the back of his mind and drove over to Appleton where he had a belated breakfast at the Blueberry Café before stocking up at Jan's Food Pride. Finally, he settled down on the deck to get on with some serious fishing.

Meanwhile, Daniel was taking a tour round the Santa Ynez Valley Wineries. In a way, he was almost enjoying having no one to please but himself. He knew it was a pleasure that would soon pall, and that he could not escape for long from the stark emptiness that was his life. Sure, his work had made a small contribution to the security of his world, but as time passed, that contribution seemed less and less important and Nyan was well capable of taking over the running of his department.

For now, he was going to make the most of his last week. He drove up Highway 246 to the Spanish-style winery on the Santa Rosalita Ranch. Besides the vineyards, the ranch was also involved in cattle, farming and Arabian horse breeding. Daniel bought a bottle of Merlot there then visited a couple of wineries in Refugio Road, where he bought a Syrah and a Pinot Noir.

Although he had little appetite for food, he found that, by one o'clock, he was feeling a little peckish. He spotted a sign and pulled in at the Los Narajos Café for lunch, opting for one of their classic Greek salads.

Jack was just thinking of getting himself a very late lunch - the knock-on effect of his belated breakfast - when the unthinkable happened. He felt a tug on the end of his line. Before he could ascertain whether the line had snagged on something or if, against all previous experience, there really was something piscine living in the murky depths, he was distracted by a visitor.

"Mr. O'Neill," came the unwelcome interruption.

Jack turned to look over his shoulder and felt the line go slack. He bit back a sharp retort when he saw that his visitor was in uniform - police uniform.

"Colonel O'Neill actually. What do you want?"

"I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to come into the police department, sir."

"Oh? Mind telling me why?" Jack asked mildly. "Did I run a red light or something?"

"I think it would be better if we discussed it at the department."

"Better for whom?" Jack asked a little acidly.

"Better for you, sir."

"Well you frightened all the fish away now, so, yeah, okay. But this better be good."

While Daniel was spending a pleasant afternoon continuing his tour of the wineries of California and adding enough bottles to his collection to see him through the evenings in comfortable oblivion, Jack, sans lunch, was being interviewed by a Lieutenant Blackstock of the Montevideo Police Department.

"What's going on?" Jack demanded when the middle-aged flinty-eyed lieutenant entered the room.

"I ask the questions around here, mister," the man said in a gravelly voice.

"Colonel," Jack corrected him.

"What?" Blackstock snapped.

"Colonel. The correct form of address is 'Colonel'."

"We're checking that now."

"Wha'd'ya mean, you're checking that now? I gave you my identification at the desk."

"Which could have been stolen or forged."

Jack's jaw dropped. For a moment, he considered telling the lieutenant to call the President, but figured from this guy's attitude, that he'd think Jack was being flippant.

"So call my C.O. - Major-General George Hammond - Cheyenne Mountain—"

"We already did. N.O.R.A.D. couldn't help."

"Well, that's because General Hammond is head of the S.G.C. They have a separate switchboard."

"The S.. G.. C..?"


The lieutenant gave a grim smile. "And you think you can string a few letters together and I'll believe it's some sort of military department...?"

"Air Force, actually."

"And what does the Air Force do in Cheyenne Mountain?"

Jack took a deep breath. "Deep space radar telemetry."

"Look, buster, I'm an astronomer in my spare time, so I happen to know that there are no astronomical installations anywhere near Cheyenne Mountain, so cut the crap. And don't try to tell me 'It's classified'..."

"Wouldn't dream of it," Jack replied drily. "Now just call Hammond on the number I gave you—"

"Who is no doubt a friend of yours who's conveniently calling himself a General."

"Oh, for crying out loud! Then call the Pentagon. Hell, call the President. He'll vouch for me."

"Mr. O'Neill, believe me, this flippant attitude will not help your case one bit."

Jack ground his teeth. "What fucking case?"

"The attempted murder of Kelvin Hayward Stutter III, son of the mayor of this town."


"You heard. The guy you nearly killed - and who is currently on life support - is the son of our mayor."

"Well, I hope your mayor's proud of his son—"

"Oh, he is. Kelvin is a grade A student who was going to join Harvard Business School this fall."

"And funding his studies with a little highway robbery, huh?"

"This - heartless - attitude does you no credit, O'Neill—"

"Look, Lieutenant, I'm sorry about your mayor's son, but I was only defending myself. Against him and his two pals."

"He was alone—"

"Yeah, well, his 'friends' had legged it into the woods."

"Not according to witness statements from a coupla people who were traveling in the opposite direction at the time and saw you ride Kelvin off the road—"

"What? There were no other people on the road last night, and Kelvin's truck - if it was his - was pulled over and parked with the hood up. I just stopped to see if I could help. More fool me..."

"More fool you if you thought you could get away with it. There was nothing wrong with the vehicle."

"Well, doesn't that suggest to you that it was a set up?"

"No. It suggests you ran him off the road."

"Look, if I'd wanted to kill Kelvin and his friends, they'd be dead now. And if things had happened the way your - witnesses - say, do you really think I'd'a stuck around and called an ambulance, not to mention your good selves?"

"You knew you'd been seen and you tried to cover yourself - to avoid the consequences of your unprovoked attack. Only you picked the wrong victim."

"Look, this whole thing is obviously contrived. I reckon your witnesses are probably the same two people who tried to bushwhack me, and I'm not saying any more without a lawyer present."

"Fine. I'll assign you one—"

"Not one of yours, thank you very much. And I'll have my one 'phone call."

A 'phone was brought into the interview room and plugged into a socket in the wall. Jack called General Hammond. Who was not available. Jack sighed.

"Well then, get him to call— what's your number, Lieutenant?" Jack passed on the number. "Tell him I'm being held by the Montevideo police who seem to be working on the principle of guilty until proven innocent," he continued with a baleful look at Blackstock. "And, Sergeant - tell him it's urgent, would'ya? ... Thanks."

Jack, stomach rumbling, was still kicking his heels in the Montevideo lock-up and wondering what the hell was keeping Hammond when Daniel wandered into the Belle Vie restaurant in Santa Barbara. It was fairly quiet at that time of day, which met with Daniel's approval. He ordered 'bourbon and maple-glazed duck' but declined the wine list as he would be driving back to the villa.

While he was waiting for the food to arrive, he thought sadly that this was not an establishment to which he could have brought Jack. It wouldn't have been much to his taste. There was steak on the menu though, but he didn't think a request for beer would go down terribly well with the management.

He smiled wryly at a sudden thought. How ironic was it that he, who planned to end his life at the end of the week, should refrain from driving under the influence? It wasn't like mattered if he got himself killed. Funny, the vagaries of the wandering mind...

Then again, if there was an accident, he might take out some innocent person - maybe a child, perish the thought. No, he'd made the right choice.

He'd intended to have only the main course, but was seduced by the 'warm chocolate molten lava cake' which was every bit as good as it looked. He closed his eyes and enjoyed the sensations in his mouth. If he kept his eyes closed, maybe he could imagine that Jack was with him, feeding him the wickedly rich fare...?

No, it didn't work. He knew he was alone, as he had been for much of his life.

It was mid-evening by the time General Hammond 'phoned. He'd been having his own problems with S.G.-7 failing to make a scheduled sit. rep. from P4X-225. To make matters worse, Sergeant Davis had been unable to get a lock on the planet. Sergeant Siler had run a full diagnostic on the 'Gate which showed nothing wrong at the S.G.C. end, and contacted Major Carter by 'phone.

She interfaced her lap-top with the base computer and tried a few further tests. Eventually, she was driven to the conclusion that P4X-225's 'Gate was out of alignment for some reason. A number of attempts, based mostly on trial and error, failed to have the desired effect and she was beginning to think she'd have to cut short her leave and return to the S.G.C.

Finally, after another minor tweak and by great good luck, she managed to get a lock on the other 'Gate, much to the relief of S.G.-7.

An earthquake on the planet had trapped two team members - both injured, one seriously - and disturbed the 'Gate's mechanism. It was still malfunctioning, periodically sending out showers of sparks, so S.G.-11's team of engineers, along with Sergeant Siler, were sent on a mission to fix the 'Gate and bring back S.G.-7.

It had been touch and go. Contact was lost a couple of times before the 'Gate was fully functioning again, then heavy lifting gear had to be assembled and taken through to extricate the two trapped men. Unsurprisingly, Colonel O'Neill's presumably non-life-threatening problem was not a priority with General Hammond at that time. Now, with the situation resolved and the two casualties in Doctor Fraiser's tender care, he set about sorting out his 2I.C.

Initially, he got short shrift from the Montevideo Police Department. The person to whom he spoke seemed much inclined to doubt that he was whom he said he was.

"And whom do I have the pleasure of addressing?" he asked rather tartly.

"Officer Pearson... sir."

"Well, Officer Pearson, that is not the way to address an officer in the United States Air Force. Now get me Colonel O'Neill."

"I'm sorry sir, but O'Neill's—"

"Officer, did you get what I just said?"

"Yes, sir, but—"

"No more buts. Get me Colonel O'Neill, right now."

There was a short pause then another voice came on the line.

"Mr. Hammond, I'm Lieutenant Blackstock in charge of the investigation into— "

"I don't care who you are, son. Just get me Colonel O'Neill."


"I heard you... Lieutenant... Please don't waste any more of my time. Colonel O'Neill. Now."

There was along pause and a few clicks and finally he was connected to Jack.

"Am I glad to hear your voice, sir!" he said.

He filled him in on the salient facts, interspersed with acerbic comments about the police department in general and Lieutenant Blackstock in particular, in the fond hope that they were eavesdropping on the conversation. There was a sound like a smothered cough at "backwoods vigilantes", so it seemed likely.

"Don't worry, son," Hammond said, as Jack concluded his report. "I'll get on to the Pentagon. They'll find you a reputable lawyer and we'll have you out of there a.s.a.p."

"Thank you, sir. I think the best place to start would be Blackstock's so-called witnesses. I'm willing to bet a year's pay they're Stutter's accomplices."

"Will do. Take care, Jack."

An hour or so later, David Casey, the local lawyer approved by the Pentagon, arrived. He brought the uncomfortable looking Blackstock close to incoherence, pointing out, after a list of shortcomings, that it was the lieutenant's job to first find evidence to connect the perpetrator to the crime, not to decide who the perpetrator was and then start looking for evidence. Jack was then released on his own recognizance and with distinctly grudging civility.

It was nearly 23.00 by the time the police driver delivered him to his cabin. He'd almost gone beyond hunger by then. At around 18.00. he'd been given one plate of food which looked like it had been specially flown in from the S.G.C.'s commissary, and he'd had nothing since. He didn't feel like cooking anything, so he settled for a generous shot of Jack Daniels as a nightcap and went straight to bed.

Daniel had been spending a pleasant evening, sitting on the veranda, nursing a glass of Merlot and looking out across the wide ocean. To his amusement, a little lizard ran over his foot. He was sitting so still. He watched as it scuttled on its way, pausing only to send a long tongue snaking out to snag a fly which was buzzing lazily in the warmth of the evening. Then the lizard was gone, disappearing under the boards of the veranda.

He turned his attention to his journal which he meticulously wrote up each evening. Well, each evening that he wasn't trapped off-world somewhere or sedated in the infirmary. He was certainly tired of the latter. Having finished his account of his day, including the activities of the lizard, he let his mind drift on the wings of wine.

He wasn't sure if he believed in an afterlife or not. He'd not found any evidence either way, but that was to be expected. There wouldn't be if there wasn't, and if there was, it would be kept hidden from mankind. If it were certain that there was a heaven, the human race would probably die out in a single generation because who would hang around on Earth?

Although, if heaven was full of angels singing hymns, there probably wouldn't be any sex. Not that that would be a big change!

It would be nice if there was an afterlife though. He'd see his parents again, and Sha're, and Robert Rothman maybe, and all the good people in his life who'd gone on before him. If there was an afterlife, he wondered what his parents had been doing all the long years since their deaths. Had they been watching him? Were they proud of him? Or was it all totally irrelevant in the grand scheme of things? If there was a grand scheme.

At worst, if death really was the end, then all the ills that bedeviled him in life would trouble him no more. No more fending off implacable false gods, no more contending with corrupt politicians. No more heartache...

Part 2 Part 3

Crown Infernal