Disclaimer: I don't own them. I made no money. I'm just a poor sci/fi geek with 'delusions of grandeur.'

Invasion 'Threads' - Cleanup

by Linda Bindner

A/N: A brief synopsis so far: The 'Threads' Communication Series:

story one - Mark and Carter have a conversation on the phone

story two - Mark and Jack have a conversation on the phone

story three - a Jack and Sam email conversation with very unusual consequences

story four - Carter receives a concussion when she interrupts a meeting between Jack, the VP (Kinsey), et all. She then spends time in ICU while Jack anxiously waits for her to wake up. It's hard to have a face-to-face chat with an unconscious person

story five - Carter learns secrets - from Mark and Daniel, and from Jack - and on a side note, someone is trying to kill her - but who?

story six - codes, letters, and more secrets

story seven - What every man dreams of, but rarely gets - a cliché in the making

story eight - Sometimes it's what isn't said that's important

story nine - Earth is invaded? On the evening news?

story ten - The Aftermath: 'Public knowledge' is handled - SGC style

story eleven - Interviews... interviews... and more interviews...

now on with the series:

In a 'Gate Room reunion that was clearly being filmed for posterity's sake, whether he liked it or not, Jack met Sam five minutes later at the bottom of the Stargate ramp. He had felt his stomach do unfamiliar somersaults at the first sounds of the incoming wormhole sirens. Those twisting turns of his gut hadn't quieted since, not even at the sight of his beaming fiancée as she came bounding through the 'Gate. She was accompanied by the three men of SG-1 and Colonel Reynolds still juggling his SGC supplies as well as a heavy film camera that he had borrowed from Julia Donovan's film crew. Jack watched as Sam's features went from completely delighted at seeing him waiting for her at the bottom of that ramp, to puzzled at his decidedly uninviting stance beside her commanding General. In an eye-blink, her serene features flipped to become anxiety-filled when he did nothing more to greet her than to simply follow Landry's call of, Welcome back, SG-1! with a raise of his eyebrows in her direction. He did give a small smile, and his head a tilt towards the 'Gate Room blast doors, but the only other move he made was to silently bid her to come with him, as he had some news - probably unpleasant news, given the look on his face.

Jack hadn't said a word, but had admirably communicated his need to speak to Sam ASAP, and speak in private. The fact that she had solved the puzzle of the black box on Dakara was now beside the point. Sam felt the excitement she always experienced after figuring out the hidden purpose of one of her 'doohickeys' leave her in a whoosh of deflated pride immediately after she'd caught sight of Jack's expression. Belatedly, she thought to nod once in General Landry's direction, then gestured with her head at Jack, indicating to both men that she had business to take care of before she could debrief with Landry.

General Landry noted the silent questions and answers flowing between his superior and his subordinate, but only said a firm, We'll debrief in two hours. Colonel Carter, I remind you that you only have until the debrief to get checked out in the Infirmary, and have a shower, as well as do whatever it is that General O'Neill obviously wants you to take care of... don't be late. He gave the impression with his final words that lateness would not be tolerated, even for those who were not members of an SG team.

Sam got the message. Understood, Sir, she said, then followed her antsy fiancé out of the 'Gate Room.

The moment they were outside the room and alone, she asked, Don't you want to hear about the..?

But Jack cut her off. Not here, Carter, he hissed, not looking at her, but forcing his steely, unrelenting gaze to pierce the corridor ahead of them. Your lab, was all he would say.

Sam heard the slight hitch in his voice. Okay, she said with a twist of her engagement ring on her finger. I'm starting to get worried, she whispered to him out of the side of her mouth. What happened?

Jack's heart continued to beat a tattoo on the inside of his chest, but still all he would whisper was, Not here.

Chastised into silence, Sam could do nothing but meekly follow Jack as hundreds of scenarios, all more horrible than the last, filtered through her mind. He had been reassigned to Siberia, and didn't know how to tell her; he had been ordered to assassinate the head of the country of Uruguay (who was the head of Uruguay, anyway?); after everything they had done, they had both been ordered to take the fall for Kinsey's death, and the public wouldn't be happy with anything less than both their heads on pikes sitting on the White House lawn; he had been demoted to Major, and she was now a Captain for 'outing' the Program the day before. Several more thoughts wove through her mind, but she had to admit to herself that she had no idea what had caused that look of blank steel to invade his eyes, and he wasn't giving her any clues.

Warily, Sam plodded beside him up to level 19 and the relative privacy of her lab.

The minute they entered, and Sam had turned on the lights and quietly closed the door behind them, she said, You should know, I can read your mind. Tell me to confirm my suspicions as to what happened before I go insane. The fact that she couldn't quite read his mind in this instance was unimportant.

Jack slowly turned towards her. I doubt you will ever be able to 'read' this, Sam, he breathed on a rush of regret.

He looked the most haggard that she had ever seen him. Gasping a little at the wan light in his eyes, her face fell. What on Earth..?

Jack interrupted her. Sam, before you completely lose your breakfast...

I didn't have breakfast this morning if you recall, Sam sharply told him, unimpressed with the stall tactics that he was employing. Out with it.

So Jack got right to business. President Hayes called and gave me new orders.

Anxiety continued to gnaw at her stomach. Yet, Sam refused to jump to conclusions. And? she hesitantly prompted.

Jack sighed a sad sound that tore through the quiet room. When he spoke, it was like a Gao'uld was pulling out all his teeth. He grunted, My new orders have me filling the position of the military liaison for the Stargate Program.

Sam remained silent. Finally, when Jack didn't add anything more, Sam let her brows lower over her eyes in confusion. You say that you're a new liaison. He nodded. She considered this news, chewing it over in her mind. I'm sorry, she said at last. I just don't get why you look so...

I'm to be stationed here, Jack said again, emphasizing his last word.

Here? What about Homeworld Security? she asked next. Aren't you still assigned there, in Washington DC?

Hammond's been 'temporarily' reactivated, and he's going to coordinate from that end, Jack told her. But he's just a temporary fix, until this whole 'outing' thing runs its course. Then I guess that I'll be sent back to Washington.... or I'll be assigned here on a permanent basis.

Again Sam's brow furrowed. If you're going back to Washington... then why the long face? she echoed her earlier statement. What's so..?

Again Jack broke her off. I'm to be here, formally assigned or not... as in, at the SGC... as in, at the same base where you're stationed.

Sam shrugged.

Jack went on, We're at least stationed, if not assigned, to the same base...

Sam's face grew blank. What..? She had to swallow her sudden fear enough so she could clearly speak. What chain of command are you..?

Jack winced a tiny wince. Actually, the President and I never had time to discuss chain of command... Finally Jack sighed in aggravation. It doesn't really matter anyway, he snorted. If you think the Air Force is going to overlook the fact that one of its top Stargate experts and one of its most controversial Generals is engaged to marry while being stationed at the same base, and possibly in the same chain of command, then you don't know the military as well as I think you do.

Oh, Sam said, her fears clearly confirmed with his words. She looked Jack straight in his brown eyes as her own eyes widened. Crap, she softly intoned as she sank down to the stool that she used for her computer work. Her gaze shifted to her blue eternity engagement ring, and she fingered it in silence. Suddenly she fisted her left hand, and a fierceness that she only displayed when she was in a fire fight with Jaffa invaded her expression. They can do what they want to me, I'm not giving it up! she barked.

Sam, there's more, Jack gently told her, cutting into her tirade, effectively stopping her from saying anything unwise and regrettable. Though he liked what he was hearing her say, he didn't want to be the reason behind any regrettable comments of hers, either. He had never hurt her career or her job, or her, and he wasn't planning to start now.

Sam's eyes widened once again. More? What could possibly be worse than..?

Looking down, Jack interrupted her to softly report, I said 'no' to Presidential orders about this PR gig. Because of the base thing. He gave another look that became a grimace. I disobeyed a direct order... from the President himself. He took in a deep breath, and then let it hiss out as a sorrowful apology. He has to react accordingly to such a decision. Jack grimaced again. I expect there to be SFs pounding on your lab door to arrest me at any moment for disobeying orders. Then there will certainly be a court-martial, which I will lose, and then I'll probably be thrown out of the military as a jackass who refuses to obey a direct order from his commander in chief. But I thought then and I still think that you're worth any punishment that they give me.

But I don't think that! Sam raged in a sudden fury. Putting our engagement on hold for a time is better for you in the long run than...

Sam, Jack broke in, using a calm voice compared to Sam's furious tones. If one of us doesn't say 'no' right now, then there will always be a reason for us to 'put our engagement on hold.' He shrugged, and thrust his hands into his pockets. I just am not willing to give you up any longer, not willing to put my feelings for you on the back burner any more. He gave a wan grin that lifted the corners of his mouth for just a moment. I love you Sam, and I'm not ashamed to admit that, and I refuse to behave like I'm doing something wrong when my feelings aren't wrong, just inconvenient.

Already the sound of pounding washed through the closed door and into the lab, making it impossible for Sam to respond to this speech. Annoyed at the interruption, yet knowing what it was for, Sam opened the lab door, and two SFs carrying handguns and zats entered without waiting for permission. We have orders to apprehend General O'Neill for 'failure to comply with orders.' The SF's head snapped towards Jack. His voice softened as he gazed at the man, who looked like the SF had just interrupted his favorite TV show. General, I apologize, but you'll have to come with us.

No apologies necessary, Jack negated. He crossed to the two soldiers, who immediately prepared to march the prisoner towards the holding cells where he would await his trial.

But Jack paused at the door. He turned back to face Sam. I love you Sam, he said, and his voice only grew stronger the more he said that, as if he needed practice at vocalizing the words that he had bottled up inside for so long. And I have since I met you... well, almost since I met you. Don't forget... And then he was gone, led out the door by the impatient SFs.

Sam huffed a breath at the imperiousness of the SFs. Her fury abated as quickly as it had come. Thinking that the two soldiers could have at least shown more deference to a General, she called after the departing figures of the three men, I love you too, Jack. And this isn't the end of things - you won't get left behind. Her voice trailed into the quiet around her as she finished her vow, I promise.

* * *

They even confiscated Jack's Asgard talking/communication stone/rock/thing before introducing him to cell #3, a typical holding cell. It had a bed, a table, two chairs... and one securely locked door. Jack had checked the door the minute he was introduced to his new 'home.'

Prowling the confines of the cell, he appeared agitated on the security camera, but in actuality, he was just bored in moments with the gray walls, the gray furniture, the gray blanket on the bed, the gray door... too much gray and nothing to do encouraged a person to think too much. And Jack was thinking... thinking that Sam was sooooo worth this... and more!

Several hour after his incarceration had begun, the door opened wide to allow three visitors into the room. Jack stared at his former team members as they entered, a sense of amused resignation in his eyes. He shrugged as he stared at them, trying to set them all at ease. What can I say, he said when they glanced around. The digs were too good to pass up.

Daniel stared at him in abject sympathy. Gray... You must be bored to death.

With those words, Carter pulled something out of her BDU jacket pocket. I've been saving this for you, Sir. She handed him a brand new yo-yo.

Jack's eyes lit up at the sight of the toy. Thanks, Sam! This makes things a lot better!

Teal'c spoke then, his sonorous tones flowing over them. Perhaps now you will not spend so much time in thoughts of regret for your decision that has placed you in this predicament, O'Neill.

Jack gave a start, and stopped examining his yo-yo in order to give the Jaffa his full attention. I don't regret this, Teal'c, Jack contradicted. His eyes darted to Sam. You guys are smarter than to think that.

Daniel rubbed at the floor with the toe of his boot, and gave a twist to his lips. You're right, he said with a grimace. We've suspected something like this for... years!

Sam sighed once, and took Jack's hand in hers. We know - we have an email proposal from you to prove it, she noted. To Jack she insisted, We're doing everything we can think of to get you out of this. We just need time...

Her voice trailed off, but the sudden knocking on the door interrupted their musings. The door swung open, and a female soldier stepped right up to Jack. She held out an envelope. General O'Neill, she saluted. I have orders from General Hammond to deliver this to you personally, whatever the situation. She gave a brisk nod of her head. Sir, she said, then gave another smart salute, and turned to leave.

Thank you, Lieutenant, Jack said as he let go of Sam's fingers in order to take the message in his own hand. The soldier disappeared into the hall, and he fingered the message, righting it so that he could read 'For General Jack O'Neill's Eyes Only - Classified.' Wonder what Hammond wants, Jack muttered, then tore the envelope open.

Inside was one piece of paper with six words written on it in a foreign language. Jack squinted at the strange letters that abruptly looked very familiar to him. I know this! he softly exclaimed. He instantly turned his back to the security camera so that his mouth wouldn't show him forming any words that could potentially be lip read as he said aloud, Warning...

Sam filled in the next phrase. Brainwashed SGC humans possible.

Jack finished the coded message, Beware. He lowered his hand holding the message to wrinkle his forehead in puzzlement. Brainwashed humans?

Surprisingly, Daniel immediately placed his own back to the security camera, then piped up, Yeah... You know. Like when I was a Lo'taur... those people had to be brainwashed, or else how would they be so loyal to a Goa'uld System Lord as to actually want to become a host. He wrinkled his nose. They thought it was some kind of reward, or something.

Jack gazed at him in confusion. And how do you know that? he asked. That slave of Ba'al - Shyla - who I had to try to rescue because of Kanan... She was a Lo'taur, and she certainly wasn't brainwashed.

Daniel replied, I think she was the personal case that encouraged System Lords to start brainwashing their Lo'taurs. The ones that I met a year later all seemed brainwashed to me.

Wait a minute. Jack wrinkled his nose in confusion. When were you a Lo'taur?

Daniel glibly replied, When I went undercover as the Lo'taur to Lord Yu.

Jack's forehead was wrinkled now as well as his nose. Really? he asked in astonishment. I don't remember that!

I do, Sam responded.

As do I, Teal'c confirmed.

Jack winced. Oh, so this is you guys saying that my memory's going, is that it? I'm not that old! he protested.

No, Teal'c dryly informed. DanielJackson mentioned his adventures with Lord Yu several times after it had occurred. His complaints made me remember with ease.

Sam looked almost guilty as she said, And it was my Dad who saved Daniel's ass when things got too hot.

Hey! Daniel expostulated. I didn't need saving that badly! Sam merely glared at him until he changed his comment. Okay, so I did. But that doesn't explain why both of you can read this message written in a language that I've never seen before, but you obviously have.

Sam said at once, The better question is, why does Hammond know this code when we're the only two who ever had the key?

Jack tilted his head in concession. That is a good question, he said.

Wait a minute, Daniel broke in to say, making them all pause. You made this up? he then inquired of Sam and Jack, sounding amazed. Sam nodded as Jack winced anew as a sudden suspicion settled over him.

Jack said, I bet that Hammond found my code key that I had left in my closet before I came to Colorado.

Sam gaped in some surprise, distracted from her previous question by his comment. You left it in your closet?! Jack nodded. Sam's facial features swooped. Please tell me that you hid our letters better than just putting them in your closet!

Jack lifted placating hands towards Sam, while Daniel looked perplexed. Don't worry - I have them stored in a locker at the bus terminal nearest my house in DC, Jack informed.

The bus terminal? Daniel then asked. You're storing coded letters that Sam and you wrote to each other at a DC bus terminal?!

Jack shrugged. It's a cliché, I know, but who would ever suspect me of fulfilling a cliché?

Teal'c gave a nod in approval of Jack's tactic of reverse trickery. That is most wise of you, O'Neill.

Daniel snarked at Jack, Well, next time you're being cliché, Jack, include the key in the locker while you're hiding your letters! He grumbled some more under his breath, but had to concede that it was fortuitous that Jack had left the key to his and Sam's code in his bedroom so that Hammond could find it (for whatever, so far, unknown reason the General had had to search Jack's DC house). It was clear that Hammond must have somehow known that only Jack and Sam would be able to instantly translate a message to them written in their own code. So, he continued, letting himself get sidetracked by the more important topic that had lately been mentioned. Brainwashed humans...

It's going to be hard to identify brainwashed humans, Sam noted in a soft voice. Those humans...

SGC humans, Jack interjected.

Sam corrected herself, Those SGC humans - if they're members of SG teams - they could have been captured while on missions, brainwashed, then returned to the SGC with instructions to carry out some kind of Goa'uld mission at a later date, and we would never know about it unless they told us.

Daniel added, Which any brainwashed human is unlikely to do.

Jack added more, And a System Lord as slimy as Ba'al can have more than one brainwashed SGC human at a time.

Sam went on, mulling, Ba'al - or any System Lord still alive - would then be able to spread a large number of military brainwashed victims out among the populace, and no one would be the wiser. She shrugged, admiring the simplicity of that plan even as she was horrified at the thought. There is no way that I know of to detect a person who has been brainwashed and ordered to keep that brainwashing a secret.

Sure there is, Daniel instantly replied to Sam's theorizing. Then he glanced in bemusement at the other three. Don't we just have to ask them, 'Who do you serve?' and any brainwashed person will instantly supply the name of a System Lord? They wouldn't be able to help themselves. He shrugged. We could catch just such a person right here, in the SGC, before they can even leave the base. He thought again for a minute, then added. That is, if Ba'al was going to use this 'Kinsey invasion plan,' first, and in case that failed, the mission of the brainwashed SGC people would start on some prearranged signal. He glanced insecurely at them again. Aren't I right - isn't that how you find out if someone is brainwashed?

All eyes in the room turned automatically to Teal'c, the SGC expert on all things Goa'uld. Teal'c said nothing, but did nod his head once.

Jack grimaced at that nod. So, every conversation that we have from here on out is going to start with 'Who do you serve?' He glared at Daniel. I'll feel like an idiot saying something so dumb!

Daniel gave a shrug. It's better than having someone stab you in the back while you throw an SGC barbecue! he argued.

Sam had to concede, There is that. Then she grew more pensive yet. I wonder who the intended victim is? She slipped into thought, but blinked and 'woke' again to peer at them inquiringly. Well, what would be the point of brainwashing humans if there wasn't a particular target that Ba'al had in mind?

Jack added, And is there just one target? Or more?

Distressed at that idea, the four simply gazed at one another in horror at the insinuations of that kind of a plan. But before anyone could give another hypotheses about that issue, the cell door suddenly opened, and a guard stuck his head into the room to inform, I'm sorry, but your ten minutes of visiting time is up.

As one, the four original members of SG-1 sighed.

Jack quickly asked, Sam, did you discover what the black box does while on your mission to Dakara?

Sam nodded, her hand reaching into her pocket to reflexively draw out the device Jack referred to. It suppresses naquedah in a person's blood, basically rendering any 'Goa'uld pinpointer' as useless. See, push this button, and I experience no feelings of a symbiote nearby. But push this left button here, and the box is 'turned off,' and I can feel symbiotes again. She gave a nonchalant shrug. We tested it on 200 or so Jaffa... It worked every time, so I'm fairly certain of its purpose.

Kinsey must have had one all along, Jack mused. Then he gave a shrewd look to Sam. Can you reverse engineer it? he inquired as the guard stood nearby and glared the fact that they weren't hurrying enough for his taste.

Sam did give a grin at this question. Already on it, Sir.

Jack wagged a finger under her nose. No 'Sir' ever, Sam. Remember?

She gave an impish grin. I just wanted to see if you would say anything. She kissed him on his cheek. Be patient, Jack. We're doing what we can to clear up this court-martial thing. You won't get left behind again, you know.

Yeah, Jack whispered with a grin of his own aimed at her. I know.

With a sad heart, Jack watched his best friends in the galaxy depart his cell in silence.

* * *

Next to visit Jack in his cell was Julia Donovan, accompanied by a single camera man who wore the BDUs and patch showing him to be an SGC member, a portable camera resting on his shoulder. Jack instantly assumed upon seeing him that General Landry only trusted Julia Donovan, a known Earth based human, and members of his own command to be in the same room with General O'Neill, thus explaining her use of an SGC member to be her camera man.

But Jack was quickly on guard - General Hammond had warned against possible brainwashed human SGC victims: this might be one of them. Even if Jack himself wasn't the intended target, he still didn't want to be surprised by the sudden uncovering of a brainwashed individual bent on his demise by the man abruptly trying to kill him. So he focused his attention on the camera man. But despite Jack's caution, the man made no overtly suspicious moves of any kind.

But true to form, the reporter in Julia made her ignore her own camera man to instead instantly begin beseeching Jack, General, our earlier interview was interrupted... Mind if we finish now?

Here? Jack blurted. He gave Julia Donovan an acerbic look while still keeping one eye trained on her camera man. This is hardly where the public wants to see its chosen 'hero.' Then he asked a question of his own to Julia. Isn't that what you Inside Access people want me to be for you? At Julia's conceding nod, he added, I doubt that viewers want to see me in a holding cell, waiting for court-martial.

Julia bobbed her head once in concession that he had again made a point, but then she protested, It doesn't seem to matter where you are, though. The public wants to know more about you any way they can get the information. Then she gave a sort of guilty blush. I mean, my producers say they do. The ratings of an interview of you would be through the roof. Then her blushing face cooled a bit. Besides, being stuck in here just means that you can't run away again.

Jack realized that she had also made a point, even if he didn't care about what she'd said concerning Inside Access ratings. True, I can't just leave, he agreed. Then he shuffled a bit, feeling slightly guilty now himself. About ducking out on you earlier...

I've heard all about it, Julia interrupted him. And might I say that your experience with the President has to be the most romantic thing that I've ever heard about.

Jack grimaced when she called his recent choices 'romantic.' I was just doing what I thought I had to do, Miss Donovan. I didn't do it just to be romantic in par...

Still, Julia interrupted. But she didn't go on with her protest. She merely indicated the camera with a wave of her hand. May we interview you now?

Jack gave a sigh, then put his new yo-yo gift from Sam away in his pocket. I did promise Hammond... might as well get this over with.

Julia smiled. Good. She gestured towards the chairs. Shall we sit and get comfortable?

Remembering the warning that General Hammond had just sent not fifteen minutes before, Jack said, I've been sitting ever since I got here - mind if I stand and stretch my legs while we interview? By standing, he would be in a much better position of preparedness at handling a struggling brainwashed victim if he had to.

Julia shrugged. Sure, we can do that. She adjusted the microphone that she held in her hand up to a higher level, then faced the camera. The camera person switched his camera to the 'record' position, and nodded at Julia. She spoke into her microphone, We're here with the SGC's General Jack O'Neill...

Jack interrupted, Actually, I'm based at the Pentagon, and just visiting here, but don't let that bother you.

Julia looked as if she didn't quite know what to do with this information, but to her credit, she didn't pause as she corrected herself. With the Pentagon's General Jack O'Neill, who has agreed to speak to us while he waits for military bureaucracy to catch up to him and put him on trial for simply saying 'no.'

Jack resisted the urge to roll his eyes at that comment. His resistance was easier than he'd expected... and he suddenly caught sight of the tiniest of smiles curve the camera person's lips. What in that comment would cause someone to smile? As Jack watched, the camera man's smile curved just a bit higher. Which indicated that this person was reacting with pleasure to what Julia had just said. As she had spoken about Jack's impending court martial, and this person was reacting as if it was a long-awaited promise for a fun day spent at the park, Jack's eyes narrowed, and in a perfectly expected reaction (that is to say, without first thinking about it too hard) Jack's paranoia activated, and he instantly decided to do something concerning the man's expression.

Jack first reached over to remove the camera from the unsuspecting person's grasp. Excuse me. He took the camera's weight into his own hands, and handed the delicate piece of equipment to Julia. Hold this a minute, he gently commanded, then turned back to the befuddled camera man. He didn't waste any time to ask, Who do you serve? even though he felt like a dork as he said the corny wards.

And without thought, the camera man's befuddled expression fell away, to be instantly replaced by a much blanker expression, and he unhesitatingly said, I serve Lord Ba'al.

Jack smirked. You're looking at the only man who ever escaped Ba'al's 'secret' fortress that didn't turn out to be so 'secret.' His own expression grew sarcastically thoughtful. I hear that old Lord Yu was really pissed off about having the wool pulled over his eyes for so many years. Then he casually gave a tilt of his head. That is, he was pissed after we EXPOSED the damn 'secret' for what it really was - a poor excuse of a mediocre holding facility. Jack was purposefully goading the man into losing his temper... actually into even seeing if a brainwashed victim had a temper in the first place to lose. Jack added one last goaded insult. I would have killed good old Ba'alsie in the escape process if he hadn't been a coward and run away at the first available opportunity.

Apparently brainwashed victims didn't have tempers to lose. The man took Jack's words at face value. He simply shook his head, looking as blank as ever. You cannot kill a God... or his servant, he nonchalantly argued, then reached back into his trouser waistband in a totally nonchalant action to brandish a knife pointed in Jack's direction. The entire move came off as if he didn't truly know what he was doing. He slipped into a more balanced fighting crouch, again seemingly without thought.

Jack immediately pushed Julia Donovan back against the far wall, then kicked out with his booted foot, catching the crouching man off guard, effortlessly kicking the knife aside.

Surprised beyond her years and experience as a reporter, and clearly never having been in a fight before, according to the bemused expression in her eyes, Julia Donovan obviously didn't know how to react. It was all she could do to remember to hold the camera up, and to leave it in the 'filming' mode. She fell back into the corner that Jack had thrust her into, her hair falling over her eyes, the camera jiggling against her shoulder.

She tried her best to stay out of the way as the man who was only seconds ago relegated as her back up camera man, SGC style, struck out at Jack with punches and flying arms in an attack that was blurrily fast as much as it was intense.

Caught on film for the sake of Earth's public, Jack met each of the man's thrusts with blocks that were equally as fast, making such defensive hand fighting look easy. He blocked punches, kicks, and slaps like he was swatting at particularly annoying mosquitoes. He stabbed at the air several times with his own hands, punching back, kicking, and knifing with the edge of his fingers. Very soon he succeeded in distracting the man with another punching block to his facial area, only to take him down a heartbeat later with a well aimed sweep of his foot. The man crashed to the floor, felling one of the room's two chairs and cracking his head on the floor in the process. As Jack reached down to check the unconscious man's pulse, the two guards, aroused by the noise of a chair falling over, burst into the room.

Ba'al needs to train his human servants a bit better in self defense, Jack was muttering as the two rushed through the door. The guards had drawn their weapons as they entered, but didn't know who to fire them at. This man needs medical attention, Jack informed them, still kneeling. He's a Goa'uld agent, so he should be placed under guard, even in the Infirmary.

Then Jack took hold of one of the guard's zat guns and fired once, catching the brainwashed man in his midsection, where the blue arcing energy zipped into all his extremities, making his blonde hair light up to blue for a brief second before that light, too, faded away.

Jack gave a disarming shrug as he deactivated the zat. Only way I know of to 'cure' Goa'uld brainwashing.

Harsh breathing was the only sound in the otherwise silent cell. The second guard now had his handgun out of its holster and aimed at the unmoving man, his eyes wide, a gurgling sound of terror beginning to well up from his gut. Julia Donovan still knelt in a corner of the room, her hair over her eyes, visibly shaking as the camera that she held bobbed back and forth. She looked green, as if she might throw up at any moment. Holy shit, she whispered into the quiet of the cell as she finally thought to pan the camera across the carnage that had been an organized room only moments before. Not only the chair was overturned, but so was the table. When had that happened? The mattress was half of the bed, and the one blanket from the bed lay in a puddle on the floor. Even the extra set of BDUs that had lain in a neat bundle on the pillow were now scattered throughout the tiny room. Julia stared with wide eyes, and valiantly tried to catch her breath.

Jack gave a slight smile at Julia's use of a curse word in her previous comment, and idly wondered if that would be edited out of the final recorded footage before that footage was aired, or not. But he had little time to comfort the trembling newswoman. Instead, he reached over to gently remove the handguns from both guards fingers, released both magazines, which he pocketed, before making certain that the weapons were completely unloaded before sliding them under the bed. They were still in sight, but reaching them would be difficult. Then he pulled both knives from vest holsters, then slid both those items, as well as his own zat gun under the bed. Then he reached over and slid the radio out of the the second guard's vest. He toggled the 'talk' button, and said into it, Whoever can hear this message, we need immediate medical assistance in Holding Cell #3, and send Colonel Carter here ASAP.

Then, looking straight into the camera that still hadn't been shut off by the heaving Julia Donovan, Jack calmly admitted, Sam Carter, I trust. Daniel and Teal'c, I trust. Some of these others... they could be System Lord slaves for all I know. I don't know them from Adam.

* * *

Five minutes later, Carter entered Holding Cell #3 at a run. When she saw the sight a body lying on the floor, she actually hiccuped a sob, and called, Jack! That was when her gaze finally centered on the silver haired man kneeling on the floor, feeling the pulse of the one prostrate man.

The silver haired man's head rose up with a jerk, and a shudder ran through Jack at his first sight of her. Sam! Are you okay?

Are you? she asked, quickly slipping to her knees in order to sit beside him on the floor. She gave him a quick hug. I was in the Control Room when I heard the call for a medical team to go to the Holding Cells... I ran here as fast as I could...

Jack suddenly gave a grin. You beat the medical team.

But Sam wasn't amused at the humor in the situation. Jack! she practically sobbed in distress. For all I knew, you were injured or dead or..! Then she paused, and her eyes lit onto the carnage in the room, as well as its single victim. Brainwashed slaves, just like General Hammond warned us about? she inquired with a chin jerk to indicate the unconscious man. I didn't know that we had to be concerned about them as a potential enemy connected with you while in a holding cell.

Jack calmly pushed into the unconscious man still lying on the floor with the toe of his boot. This sure is a Goa'uld servant/slave, he said absentmindedly. But I can't guess as to what he's doing here. Then for the benefit of the still filming camera, he explained in more detail, How a System Lord human slave slipped past our radar like this is... unknown. We even vouched for this fellow, as he was one of our own members to help Miss Donovan and her film crew. I never even saw this coming. He tried hard to suppress the shudder that coursed through him. If Daniel hadn't made that comment about asking people, 'Who do you serve?' I wouldn't have known what to do to make him reveal himself without harming anyone.

For cryin out loud! Sam exclaimed, oblivious of what she was saying, according to the irritated look on her face. How are we supposed to fight against slaves that could have been staying in hiding here for years? She breathed through her nose, trying to remain calm. Though calmness was difficult just then.

Jack sighed, regretting the need to scare her so badly, but knowing that lack of information was as bad as misinformation, and he refused not to tell her something just to spare her feelings. I don't understand this any better than you do, Sam. But I do think that we should try to think of a way of handling this problem before any more brainwashed guys attack one of us here at the SGC.

Suddenly deflating, Sam plunked down on the cold concrete floor where she and Jack had been kneeling. I don't know, Sir, she said, falling back into her comfortable military protocol to get her through this unexpected situation, as if she didn't even realize what she was doing. The really scary part of this 'Sir' scenario was that Jack didn't seem to comprehend what she was doing, either. Sam continued, I need to think for a moment.

And just as she said that, the medical team burst through the door. While Sam considered possible solutions to their brainwashed servant problem, Jack helped the medical team with the man he'd recently felled in hand battle. He brushed at the servant with his boot. This one hit his head as he went down. He could be concussed. He was also brainwashed - when, I can't tell you. He's not a Goa'uld, but he still swears that he serves Lord Ba'al. Then he blinked, feigning calmness. I gave him a zat blast to cure him of the brainwashing thing.

Right, Sam said then from the corner that she had retreated to in order to think. If I'm remembering correctly, we used a zat blast the one time that Teal'c's son Rya'c was brainwashed by Apophis.

Jack groaned again. Apophis, that damned filthy snakehead! Then he seemed to remember that he was in front of a filming camera, for he ran his hand through his hair, but only agreed with her. Um, yeah, I think a zat blast worked with Rya'c. Or else I just gave this guy a zat blast for nothing.

Sam ignored his commentary to concentrate on his agreement with her about using a zat blast to reverse the effects of the Goa'uld brainwashing that Rya'c had undergone. If we could use zats on these servant/slave victims...

Jack turned to regard her, a scowl on his face. What are you thinking of, Carter? Zatting everyone on Earth? 'Cause that's billions of people! That's a lot of zat blasts! And the SGC doesn't have the kind of manpower to take on a job like that!

Sam sent him an acerbic glare. Then what do you suggest? she sarcastically asked, her voice irritated again. It was a way that she had never addressed her commanding officer before, but one that she used now with her fiancé. Zatting billions of individuals is better than having a brainwashed slave stick a knife in your back while you're barbecuing in your yard, just as Daniel said!

Jack had to concede that she had a point, just as Daniel had done an hour earlier. Okay, you're right, but that still doesn't give us any extra manpower in order to handle this. Sam shrugged her shoulders to show that she agreed with his assessment, but didn't know what else to suggest. She sighed, biting her lip as she continued to sit thoughtfully in her corner.

After a quiet moment, she let her lip-chewing end so that she could ask, Does Thor know of a way to pinpoint brainwashed victims? Kind of like the way his ships pinpoint the Goa'uld by zeroing on the naquedah in their blood?

Jack's brows lowered in thought. He's never said that he could do something like that before, but that doesn't mean anything. If I ask him, and he says yes, and then I ask him why he never told us that choice bit of information, he'll only say, 'Because you did not ask, O'Neill.' Jack did a perfect parody of Thor.

Sam giggled. Did you practice doing that? she inquired in a lighter tone. You sounded just like him. You know, the whole emotionless thing...

Jack smiled as she trailed off. Yeah, I used to pretend to sound like him all day during our downtime, he informed. At her look of incredulousness, he defended, Well, I had to entertain myself somehow! Another silence settled on them until at last Jack commented very quietly, in almost a whisper, And it's good to hear you laugh like that. You didn't laugh that way for almost a year.

Sam's forehead gave a minute pucker before it again smoothed out. In a voice that matched his in volume, she softly stated, You didn't even smile for a long time, to say nothing of laughing. I worried that you never laughed.

Jack regarded her. What did I have to laugh about? he asked, making Sam wince. Sorry, I shouldn't have said that, he instantly noted in a sorrowful tone. They both fell into another protracted silence.

No, Sam at last negated his protest. You should say that. It's the truth, and I deserve to hear it, no matter how much it hurts.

They had both seemingly forgotten the fact that Julia Donovan and her camera were still in the far corner of the room, and the camera was still saving this entire scene on tape for future display on television. It was more like they thought they were alone, and let their memories pour forth because of that aloneness.

Jack quickly showed his grief by wincing. I guess that it doesn't really matter now what happened, he slowly stated. You hurt me, but that was because I hurt you by sticking to rules and regulations when I had never bothered to stick to them before. And I knew that by doing so, I was causing hurt to you specifically...

Don't, Sam said in clipped tones. We both knew what we were doing, Sir. I was just so afraid of what Dad would say to me if I ever actually defied regulations... uh, that regulation... that I let it dictate how I treated you... for years. She sighed, and thoughfully stared at her engagement ring. I don't know how you can get over something like that so easily.

Instead of stating that it hadn't been easy, Jack just grinned an evil looking grin. Oh, that's simple, he said as he regarded her, waggling brows that let her know that he was teasing her. He went on, I just always daydreamed about something like what happened last night...

Sam blushed a fiery red. Jack! she hollered, but in a laughing way. She darted a look at the camera, abruptly recalling that it was recording everything she and Jack said or did. You're impossible! she retorted at last.

I am, he agreed with her, chuckling as well. But it got you smiling again, and that's worth a bit of 'impossibleness.'

Teal'c entered the room before Sam had the time to either respond, or laugh some more. O'Neill, he urgently voiced. Are you unharmed? I was in the Infirmary with Rya'c and Kar'yn when the brainwashed slave arrived. I heard that some form of battle occurred... Then Teal'c noticed Sam sitting in the corner. ColonelCarter, he formally announced, sounding surprised, and not surprised, to see her there.

Teal'c, Jack greeted as he rubbed at his fist, reminded that his fingers and arms hurt from the battle that he had just lived through. He suspected that he would have bruises on his forearms by morning. But he continued, What can you tell us about Goa'uld brainwashing? Is there any way that we can counteract it? Besides using a zat blast?

Teal'c seemed a bit taken aback by the direct question, but gamely replied, Some kind of electrical discharge, like a zat'nik'tel, will counter brainwashing. Suddenly, Teal'c stopped talking as he was struck with a new thought.

Jack recognized the look of a Jaffa with a new and startling idea. What is it, Teal'c? he hurriedly asked.

But Teal'c turned instead towards Sam. ColonelCarter, is there a way to remotely suppress the possible Goa'uld suppressors that are in use on planet Earth?

What do you mean, Teal'c? Sam asked, sounding tired now, but taken with this new subject. Do you think that it would do any good if we take on all the 'Kinsey Objects' that might be in use at any time by blasting them all at once? Teal'c nodded his head.

Jack asked, But how do you hit them all at once? His question interrupting Sam's musing. A moment later, he answered his own question with a suggestion, What about using the satellites that we have in orbit right now?

Sam's brow wrinkled. Sir? she asked, for more detail by saying just that one word.

Jack secretly marveled at the way she could get that one word to mean so many things. He glibly replied, Can't we somehow rig one of Earth satellites to send some kind of 'planetary pulse,' or something, hit the possible 'Kinsey Objects' all at once? And can't we also do the same thing with some kind of electrical discharge? He watched as Sam began to instantly chew over that idea. Well, we have those satellites... we might as well use them for something. Hey, we could use those Star Wars satellites... Then he turned to Teal'c. 'Star Wars' as in planetary defense system, not 'Star Wars' as in the movie. Then he grimaced. You know, that always confused the Hell out of me. Whose idea was it to name that satellite thingy the same as the movie, anyway? He asked it as if the person who had named the defense system had used that name on purpose to confuse him in particular.

Sam had to smile at Jack's petulant tone. I also always get confused between the two. Then she turned her inner problem solving skills to the suggestion that Jack had made. I don't know if we can use the satellite system to project an electrical pulse the way you suggest, Sir, she said. We might need the Asgard to help with something like that, both to suppress possible 'Kinsey Objects,' and with a pulse. She considered some more. Maybe I should talk to General Landry about this idea... Her voice trailed off just as Daniel ran into the room.

Jack! he yelped. His head swung wildly around for a moment. Teal'c! Sam! His gaze alighted on the still filming Julia Donovan. His eyes narrowed as he looked around again. I heard that there was some kind of fight... but what is she doing filming all this? He regarded them again. And what are you doing in here, anyway?

Jack was the first to respond to Daniel's question. He gave an ironic chuckle. Here we are, trying to save the galaxy, and you're worried about why we're all here? He snorted. Why are any of us here, truly Daniel - you tell me. And that's really the least of my worries right now!

Daniel balked at Jack's tone. Um... Why is he so cranky? He looked around at the others as they laughed: Jack had just lived through a hand battle, after all - he had reason to be a little cranky. Teal'c? Daniel fianlly asked, turning to the one among them who always seemed in control of any situation. Why is everyone laughing? Did I miss something?

When still no one answered him, and Teal'c simply walked quietly out of the room, Daniel gave a start.

Uh... Teal'c? Daniel asked as he moved to follow his friend. Am I missing something now? he repeated. He and Teal'c disappeared.

Sam and Jack laughed again. Jack spoke first when he had calmed. It's scary to think that the fate of the galaxy is in the hands of that archaeologist!

An archaeologist and an alien! Sam corrected.

Jack smiled in affection at her, and at the concept of SG-1. Yeah, he said, but looked more comfortable than he had looked in a long time. Great, isn't it?

* * *

But Jack didn't think things were so great when, two hours later, after Sam had disappeared to her lab, and things had been set to rights in Holding Cell #3 so that it didn't even look as if a fight had recently taken place there, and Julia Donovan had disappeared with her camera, muttering about taping and footage and ratings... After all that, and once quiet had again settled onto the holding room, the calm was shattered. All hell broke loose once more when a blinding white light flashed into the shadowed quarters. When it had vanished, President Hayes stared balefully down at Jack sitting in a chair, his feet propped up on the second chair, his new yo-yo swinging wildly from hands now drooping in surprise.

Hello, Jack, the President nonchalantly greeted as if he beamed into holding cells all the time. I've got a lot to tell you. And he unceremoniously grabbed the cell's second chair, dumping Jack's propped feet off in the process, and plopped down with a sigh, as if he'd been standing for a long time. Let's talk.

Continued in Invasion 'Threads' - Presidential Favors


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