- Evil Author Day
- Rough Draft
- Character Bashing
- No Beta
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Alternate Universe
- Challenge Response
- Fix It
- Time Travel
Jack left for Florida on Thursday afternoon. Patrick had offered to have a private plane take him down to his base, but Jack refused, with a grin.
‘It might not look quite the thing if a lowly Captain were to turn up in a private jet, and I’m trying to keep my head down as much as I can.’
Patrick nodded in understanding. ‘Fine, but you do know you’re welcome here for any of your leave, at any time, don’t you? As far as Emma and I are concerned, this is now your home. And either myself or my father is at the end of a phone if you need us.’
Jack smiled at him. ‘Thank you, sir. I do appreciate it, and I’ll certainly take you up on your offers.’
Patrick stood up from his desk and leaned forward to shake Jack’s hand. ‘You’ve given me a second chance with John,’ he said quietly. ‘One I didn’t even know I needed. I’ll always be grateful to you for that, quite apart from everything else that’s going to be happening.’
‘Have you thought any more about our suggestion, sir?’
‘I have. I’ve given it a lot of thought and I’ve discussed it with both Emma and my father as well as John and David as it affects the whole family. Dad thinks I should run for Governor as a precursor to an attempt at the Presidency. It’s actually something that’s been suggested to me a few times before but I was never interested. Now, though, things have changed.’
‘I think we can both agree on that,’ Jack grinned. ‘You’ll keep an eye on Danny for me?’
‘We all will. And my father has a couple of ideas to suggest to him as well. I’m afraid he’s incapable of keeping his nose out of anyone’s business.’
‘If it’s something that’ll keep Danny safe and secure, I won’t complain. Last time… Well, his rather original theories caused him to be kicked out of his chosen profession. And even though he was proved right, because the programme was never declassified, none of his fellow academics knew and he was still ostracised. I’d rather that didn’t happen again.’
‘We’ll take care of him. You have my word,’ Patrick promised. ‘In fact you’ll both probably rue the day you became a part of this family.’
Patrick’s words came back to Jack as he tried to make himself comfortable on the plane taking him back to Florida. In the first timeline he’d been as estranged from his own father as much as John had, but whereas John had been given a second chance, Jack knew it that wasn’t an option for him. His father had been an abusive, drunken layabout, and Jack had originally enlisted in the Air Force as a way of escaping from him after his mother had died suddenly when Jack was 15. Jack had always suspected the fall that killed his mother had been less of an accident than Sean O’Neill had claimed but there was no way to prove it. Jack had simply left home as soon as he could before he became another casualty of one of Sean’s drunken rages, but he’d missed the security of a family keenly. Now, though, it appeared he’d been given a second chance, this time with a different family who actually wanted him to be a part of it. It was novel concept to Jack, but one he was going to seize with both hands.
Rodney, too, was accepted as part of the Sheppard family, but in his case he was seeking emancipation from his sole remaining parent. He’d been offered a long term home by John’s parents and also by Grandpa himself if he’d rather be somewhere a little quieter than the main family home. He’d decided to remain with Patrick and Emma for the moment, having fallen in love with having a real mother, much as Daniel had. Both of them were already benefitting from the mothering Emma was so keen to give them and it made Rodney realise just how much he’d missed over the years and he hadn’t even been aware of it. He’d also gained an extended family since he, Jack and Daniel all now called John Sebastian Sheppard Sr, ‘Grandpa’. On occasion, so did Emma and Patrick and it had become as much as name for him as a title. Fortunately, neither John nor David minded sharing both their parents and grandparent and both accepted the increase in their family with equanimity.
For Emma’s part, she simply said she’d always wanted a large family and as she’d now been given one, she wasn’t going to let go of it, and by the way both Rodney and Daniel would be going shopping with her next week as they both needed new clothes, and especially underpants.. Rodney had gulped and looked everywhere for an escape, only to see John and David propping each other up they were laughing so much.
Rodney was now in the middle of changing his place of study for his undergraduate degree to one in the US to take meet the conditions of his trust fund. He’d originally wanted to go to MIT but his mother had asked that he stay closer to her and Jeannie – something she later denied saying – so it was an easy decision to make, especially as MIT had previously offered him a full scholarship.
He found he couldn’t help the malicious grin that appeared on his face as he signed the final papers to accept both the scholarships and the trust fund, knowing the anger this would cause his biological mother. She had enough money to make sure that Jeannie wouldn’t lose out on her education, something Grandpa had explained to him when they went through the various papers concerning his emancipation. Much as Rodney disliked his remaining blood relatives, he didn’t want to be the cause of Jeannie not having the education she deserved, and he realised that he still had a tendril of hope left in him that they might one day be reconciled. Maybe. Perhaps.
Daniel had left for Los Angeles and the UCLA the same day Jack had left the Sheppard family home, but he would be returning after he had cleared his few belongings – mostly books – out of his college rooms.
‘My father has something up his sleeve to do with where you do your PhD in Archeology,’ John explained. ‘And I think Grandpa is involved as well.’
Rodney snorted. ‘Since when isn’t Grandpa involved in anything that happens in this family?’
‘I’ve already applied to UCLA,’ Daniel frowned. ‘I know to keep any outlandish theories I have to myself this time. But I do need to ensure I meet Catherine Langford at some point. She’s the one who heard about my theories and invited me to the SGC.’
‘We know that,’ Rodney scowled.
‘I didn’t,’ David cut in. ‘All this is new to me, remember?’
Rodney continued to scowl at him. He’d developed a rather uneasy relationship with the eldest Sheppard son, blaming him – quite unfairly, John had told him – for John’s estrangement with his family. David, in his turn, simply found it amusing, something which irritated Rodney no end and which left John – much to his surprise – as the peacemaker between them.
John slapped Rodney upside the head. ‘Cut it out, Rodney! We’re all on the same side here.’ He glared at his best friend who quickly subsided and grabbed another sandwich. Both John and Rodney had forgotten how being a teenager meant always being hungry – as well as horny, John added in his own mind, although he no intention of doing anything about that other than by himself. He had plenty of time ahead of him to make sure he and Rodney were on the same page this time. As soon as we get rid of DADT. And that’ll help Jack and Danny as well.
Daniel returned to Virginia just as George and Mary Anne Hammond were arriving at Morrow House, accepting Patrick’s kind invitation to stay for the weekend. David drove Rodney and John to the airport, John not being old enough to drive as yet, much to his annoyance.
‘I can fly pretty much any plane on this planet,’ he’d grumbled, ‘but I can’t even drive my own car?’
‘You don’t have a car, yet, darling. You need to wait a few weeks,’ Emma had told him, ruffling his hair, something she knew John hated, and when he’d glared at her she simply laughed and pulled him in to plant a kiss on his forehead.
Daniel looked around vaguely as he emerged from the airport at Richmond, even though John had told him they’d be there to pick him up.
‘Hey! Daniel! Over here!’
Daniel turned his head and saw Rodney and John standing up in the back of an open topped Audi driven by David Sheppard who was trying to look as though he didn’t know the two boys behind him. Daniel ran over to them, clutching his rucksack, his only piece of luggage, his books and few other belongings being shipped out to the Sheppard home by courier. A couple of cars hooted as he almost ran in front of them, and he waved his hand in apology.
‘Quick, get in,’ David ordered. ‘That security guy has been watching us.’ He glared at his brother and Rodney in the mirror. ‘Probably because these two idiots have been fooling around.’
John stuck out his tongue at his brother while Rodney pulled a face, and Daniel noticed that, if anything, they both looked even younger than they had two days ago. They certainly behaved as if they were, and he realised, almost for the first time, that they were both just young teenage boys, Rodney only just fifteen. The heavy burdens of the future were just that: in the future, and for now they were happy to play the idiot occasionally and truly act their age. John was happy in the bosom of his newly extended family and Rodney was firmly established as a member of the Sheppard household, and didn’t need to worry how to fund his education, or even how to ensure his mother permitted him to go.
And I belong here as well, Daniel realised with a jolt. Patrick and Emma Sheppard hadn’t just welcomed himself and Jack into their house, they’d given them a home for the foreseeable future. Something I never really had until Jack and I got together. It sent a warm feeling rushing through him and he turned to grin at his erstwhile colleagues. They’d all come home.
Grandpa joined them for dinner that night, pleased finally to meet George Hammond who he knew had been so good to his family in the future. As Jack had been, so Colonel Hammond found himself a little overawed at first, in the presence of the previous US President, but both he and Mary Anne were quickly made very welcome by the whole family.
‘I remember you, Dr. Jackson,’ George said to Daniel, shaking his hand.
‘Just Daniel, for the moment, sir,’ Daniel replied. ‘I hope to begin my first PhD in September.
‘Your first, eh? And where will that be?’
‘Well, I’ve been accepted by UCLA,’ Daniel told him, ‘but I think Grandpa has something else to suggest.’
‘Indeed I do,’ Grandpa agreed. ‘How do you feel about Oxford University?’
‘Oxford?’ Daniel repeated. ‘Oxford, England?’
‘The very same,’ Grandpa confirmed as they all laughed at the astonishment on Daniel’s face. ‘Patrick and I have had a word with a few people we know and they’re prepared to offer you a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford, if you’re interested. You’ll need to have a formal interview and write a couple of essays for them but—’
‘Oxford!’ Daniel exclaimed. ‘Oriel College, Oxford? Yes, yes, I’d love to go there? When will I—’
‘Hold your horses, young man,’ Grandpa laughed. ‘You’ve not been accepted yet, but I take it that the idea meets with your approval?’
Daniel, however, appeared to be lost in his own world of ‘that sweet City with her dreaming spires’ until Rodney kicked him.
‘Ow!’ he scowled at Rodney. ‘What—’
‘Are you back with us, now?’ Emma asked, her eyes dancing. ‘Back from ‘that sweet City’?’
‘How did you know?’ Daniel demanded, but Emma simply gave him a small, secretive smile.
‘Grandpa was asking if you like the idea,’ John told him with a grin.
‘Yes. Yes, sir,’ he told Grandpa, an enormous grin on his face. ‘And thank you. Thank you so much. When will—’
‘We’ll sort the details out later, son,’ Grandpa told him, stemming the flow of questions they all knew were on Daniel’s lips. ‘Perhaps I should have waited to tell you until after dinner.’
The party settled themselves down around the dining table and John found himself seated between his mother and Mrs Hammond, who looked very excited to be involved in such an adventure.
‘It’s like something out of a book,’ she exclaimed when Emma explained about the Ts, now minus one of their members. ‘What do I do in the future?’
Since the remaining Ts knew she died of cancer in 1994 John just smiled and said ‘I’m afraid we can’t tell you that, ma’am. If we talk about everything, some things have a good chance of happening differently or not happening at all.’
It was a lie, of course. He’d already told his father to make sure his mother got a full check up as soon as possible in the hope that an early discovery of the leukaemia, which would kill her the following year unless quickly treated, might save her. John also made a mental note to speak to George Hammond about encouraging his wife to seek a doctors help if and when she had unexplained pains or tiredness. To be honest, if John had his way, no one would die this time around.
Mary Anne nodded, accepting John’s explanation and Emma made sure the talk turned to everyday matters and it wasn’t until coffee was served in the sitting room that conversation turned back to plans for the future.
‘I’ve agreed to run for the office of Governor in 1988,’ Patrick informed the group. ‘I’ve been asked before to think about it, so it’ll be no real surprise when it’s known that I’ve thrown my hat in the ring in a year or so’s time. It’ll take a couple of years to set up everything and Grandpa has agreed to come out of semi retirement to have a more hands on role in Sheppard Inc., at least until David is ready to join us.’
‘In the meantime,’ Grandpa said. ‘I’m also going to accept an offer to serve on the Naval Research Advisory Committee. I was going to turn it down but I think it might be helpful to keep a foot in the door with the Navy, and the Military in general.’ He smiled at the group, quite a wicked smile if John was any judge, and he wondered what that might mean.
‘I might also suggest,’ Grandpa continued, ‘that since we are one of the most powerful countries in the world, we should lead the way in permitting those who make… different life choices to serve in our military.’
John almost choked on his coffee while George Hammond looked at him in shock. ‘You mean…’
‘It’s hardly fair that we’re happy to ask our young men and women to lay down their lives for our country but then object to who they might fall in love with, is it?’ Grandpa asked, a mischievous gleam in his eye.
Emma suppressed a giggle while Rodney snorted.
‘Well,’ George began. ‘I, personally, have no problem with who a man – or a woman,’ he added, nodding at Emma, ‘choses to sleep with.’ He then realised his mistake. ‘Not that I think you, Emma, because I…that is…’
Emma leaned over and patted his hand. ‘Don’t worry, George. I think we all understand what you meant to say. That the military mind is very small and judgemental, yes?’
‘Emma!’ Patrick growled, but John could see his lips twitching while David and Rodney – and Grandpa – were all grinning widely. Daniel was still lost in thoughts of Oxford.
‘I do believe you’re teasing me, Emma,’ George told her in a southern drawl, shaking his head, a smile on his lips. He looked over at Grandpa. ‘I take it this has something to do with what happens in future?’
‘It has,’ agreed Grandpa. ‘But it’s also something that’s truly concerned me for a long time. It wasn’t the right time for me to bring it up while I was in office. We had enough problems trying to get ourselves out of Vietnam, but in many ways, I’m exactly the right person to bring it up now. I have no axe to grind or superiors to please. I can say pretty much what I like.’
‘It’ll earn you a few enemies,’ George warned him.
‘That’s why I have the secret service following me every blessed day.’ He looked around as though he’d just noticed they weren’t there.
‘They’re eating their supper in the kitchen, Dad,’ Patrick told him, and turned to Rodney, eager to change the subject.
‘How’s your application to MIT coming on, Rodney?’
‘Is Grandpa really going to try and get DADT thrown out?’ Rodney asked John after the ‘youngsters’ retreated up to their own sitting room – once John and David’s nursery.
‘What’s DADT?’ David asked with a frown.
‘It’s a policy introduced in the 90s,’ John explained. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’
‘And Don’t Pursue,’ added Daniel. ‘It prevented questions being asked regarding the sexual preference of anyone in the Military. Unless there was some actual proof someone was homosexual, no one could be accused or even discharged.’
David screwed his nose up and opened his mouth, but before he could say anything, Rodney jumped in.
‘Don’t,’ he ordered. ‘Just…don’t.’
‘Or what?’ David demanded. ‘You’ll punch me?’
‘I may look like a fifteen year old, but remember I’ve got years of experience on you,’ Rodney told him, then grinned evilly. ‘Besides, I wouldn’t punch you. I’d be much more discrete.’
‘Don’t aggravate him,’ John advised his brother. ‘The few people who did that on Atlantis seriously regretted it. When geeks get their revenge, it hurts, believe me.’ He looked at his brother curiously. ‘I never took you for homophobic, though.’
‘I’m not!’ protested David. ‘Rodney jumped all over me before I could say anything. I was about to ask if it was a real problem for you.’
‘For John?’ Rodney asked in surprise. ‘But John’s not—’
‘Yeah, Rodney, I am,’ John told him, his lips curling down into a frown.
‘You’re gay? But…but…you were married!’
‘One more reason the marriage didn’t work out,’ John told him with a glare. ‘Besides, we weren’t going to talk about that, were we!’
‘You got married?’ David asked, just as John knew he would. ‘Who did you marry?’
‘Nancy Gilbert,’ John admitted, his eyes fixed on the carpet.
‘Nancy Gilbert?’ Dave repeated. ‘Nancy Gilbert!’
‘Enough, already! It was a huge mistake, okay? I thought Dad might give me the time of day if I married the daughter of his best friend.’
David’s eyes softened. ‘Things were that bad between you, huh?’
‘Oh boy, were they ever.’
‘But…but…’ Rodney was still focussing on the fact his best friend was gay. ‘What about all the bimbos and ascended women in Pegasus? What about Captain Kirk?’
‘Rodney!’ The several syllable name was back in full force. ‘I was celibate the whole time we were in Pegasus. And for a few years before that if you want the whole truth.’ John ducked his head, his cheeks crimson.
‘Oh, really!’ came the sarcastic rejoinder. ‘Then what about that bitch, Cheya? If that’s being celibate, my IQ is only 140!’
‘Then welcome to the world of the average person, Rodney, because other than a couple of kisses, nothing happened. Just some glowy ascended sharing stuff or something.’
‘And that other ascended woman. Tara? The woman from the time dilation field? You were there for six months! Are telling me you kept it in your pants for six months, Kirk?’
’Teer. Her name was Teer, and yes, I did. Not that it’s any of your business. And, for fuck’s sake, Rodney. Stop it with the Kirk thing. If anyone listened to you they’d think I’d slept with half of Pegasus!’
Rodney’s mouth still hung open, his eyes drawn together in a puzzled frown. His whole world view had been shifted on its axis, and, considering he’d recently travelled over twenty years back in time, that was a significant shift. ‘But…but…’
‘Rodney,’ David said, quite gently given their somewhat uneasy relationship. ‘John’s gay. He’s always known he’s gay. He’s just, obviously, covered it really well.’
’So you and John weren’t together?’ Daniel asked Rodney, his brows together. ‘Huh. I think most everyone thought you were.’
‘You mean like you and Jack?’ Rodney replied, his brows raised.
Daniel’s chin jutted out, much like Rodney’s did when challenged. ‘I’m not ashamed of anything.’
’There’s no need for anyone to be ashamed.’ John put in his two cent’s worth. ‘I didn’t know Rodney would have accepted me otherwise I might have made a move, but being in the closet for so long… I guess I was worried I’d blow everything I’d worked so hard for, including alienating my best friend. I couldn’t risk that and nor could I risk losing Atlantis. I believed the brass were pissed off that I’d been given command of her and would have liked nothing more than to find a reason to kick me out.’ He shrugged. ‘I couldn’t risk it.’
With a sympathetic grip of John’s shoulder David stood up. ‘Looks like none of you will have to worry if Grandpa gets his way. And John and I both know he usually does!’ He grinned at the three remaining Ts and waved. ‘And on that note I’m off. I have a date. With a girl,’ he added in case there was any doubt. ‘I’ll see you all tomorrow.’
A number of different factors had gone into determining on which date they would return, and one of them was that US schools broke up for their summer vacation at the end of May. John simply couldn’t face having to return to school for even a few days just after having ‘landed’ in his 1985 self. Rodney, contrary as ever, declared he’d finished with school by then and was simply killing time before going to University, although at that point he’d not realised he’d be pretty much forced to leave his home and move to the USA. The end of May had also suited Daniel as he would have finished his BA by then and would himself be killing time until he began his PhD in September.
As for the year, John had suggested 1985 and hadn’t realised how much he revealed to the others when he explained that it might give him a chance to prevent the death of his mother from acute leukaemia the following year. The sigh of relief Rodney had given at the suggestion of 1985 prompted questions which revealed the underhand actions of his biological mother with regards to the trust fund left for him by his paternal grandmother, actions which had the 37 year old John Sheppard scowling with anger. Since 1985 was a logical time for Daniel to return to, he had no objections to make, and nor had Jack, who couldn’t even remember where he was at that point in time.
The decision, then, was made and each time traveller had slipped into the 1985 versions of themselves quite easily, if suddenly finding oneself in a body one had only distant memories of could be called easy. They were all aware of the amount of orientation they would each have to make and were somewhat prepared for this. None of them, though, had realised just how much free time they would have and that would require filling. They had all been used to busy professional lives which usually involved running for their lives at least once a week. Now, apart from Jack who was in his thirties, they were all teenagers, although Daniel would celebrate his twentieth birthday in July, and were all unused to sitting around doing nothing. Fortunately for all of them, no one in the Sheppard household was encouraged to do that.
Daniel asked if he might join Grandpa in Washington during the week and get himself conversant with current archeological discoveries and happenings. It would also give him a chance to meet with the trustees of the Rhodes scholarship and fulfil their requirements to enable him to begin at Oxford in September. Moreover, it had been many years since he’d had the time and opportunity to explore Washington’s museums and libraries, and he meant to make the most of it, returning home to Virginia whenever he wished.
Rodney sat down with Patrick Sheppard and discussed just what Sheppard Inc. were up to. Even though he’d have to do the work to re-earn his PhDs, he’d been at the forefront of Astrophysics and many branches of Engineering most of his previous life. He was keen to do something to repay the love and acceptance he’d been given by the Sheppards – even though they each told him it was unnecessary – and running his eye over what SI was doing was one way he knew he could help, although he was aware he couldn’t bluster in in his usual fashion and tell everyone just how wrong, wrong, wrong, they all were. Even if they were!
John was determined to keep him on the straight and narrow and had made sure he knew just what he could and couldn’t do – such as stealing a march on companies who would develop products in the future. SI were not going to launch the first iPod, Rodney was firmly told. John did allow him, however, to make a number of suggestions of which areas to concentrate the R&D of the company in, along with a few people to hire. Since they would be doing pretty much the same thing with the SGC, John could hardly complain. Furthermore, he agreed that investing in some of the companies that would be successful in the future didn’t really qualify as insider trading, and, indeed suggested a couple of company names to consider himself.
When it came to how John would occupy himself, apart from taking up riding again, along with other ways of keeping himself fit, he proposed to keep his mind active by looking at a couple of the Millennium Problems, albeit fifteen years before they would be named as such. Since it was something he was fairly certain Rodney wouldn’t be able to keep his nose out of, he decided that it was a nice occupation for the two of them to work on together as well as a means of them getting to know each other without either being shot at or having to dodge the thought police out to catch them in flagrante delicto.
Since Jack was back with Special Forces, this meant they were all occupied doing something which both interested them and which would help them in the future. Rodney was able to construct the mainframe sub system which would enable the Ts to communicate with each other as long as they were connected to a monitor and a phone line. When Jack questioned how it would work and Rodney went into a long spiel about BMS maps, CICS programmes, and native coding, Jack turned to John for help. John thought for a moment then simply said ”Jumping Jack Flash’ with Whoopi Goldberg, remember?’ and Jack had grinned while Rodney simply threw up his hands and cursed them both.
Rodney running down the steps to meet him took John right back to 1985 when it had been him welcoming Rodney to the main Sheppard family home. In the seven years since then, much had happened and many changes had been made to the original timeline. For a start, even though John was in uniform, he was able to hug Rodney and press a kiss to his lips without being concerned about who might see. Jack and Daniel, home together for the first time in over two years, followed more circumspectly, hand in hand. Again, something they never thought they’d be able to do so soon.
‘You’re here earlier than you said you’d be,’ Rodney complained, hanging on tightly to his partner. ‘Mum’s gone into town and Dad and Grandpa won’t be here ’til this evening. Some Governor stuff I think.’
‘I managed to get an earlier flight than I thought I would,’ John explained, giving Rodney a last kiss before turning and hugging his extra brothers.
‘So, a promotion to Captain, huh, young whippersnapper?’ Jack slung his arm around John’s neck, grinning like a loon.
‘The youngest in the Marine Corps,’ Rodney told him proudly. ‘Possibly in the entire US military.’
‘He knows, Rodney,’ John grinned, giving Daniel a hug. ‘Wow, Danny, have you been working out?’
‘It’s those treasure hunts he goes on,’ Jack explained. ‘Digging holes all across Egypt. I told him there were no Nazis left to hide from, but he insists on digging them.’
‘It’s good to see you, John,’ Daniel told him, ignoring Jack. ‘I’ve missed you.’
‘You’re the one who’s been too busy to come home,’ Rodney told him, but the smile on his face showed how pleased he was that the family was almost all together again. ‘John, come on in. You must be exhausted.’
‘A little,’ John admitted. ‘Plus I came back from Germany on a transport plane and it’s impossible to get any sleep on them. I’ve not had any proper sleep for going on 36 hours.’
‘Well, you’ve got time for a nap before the rest of the family get home tonight. David should be home late afternoon. He’s been visiting one of the plants in California. Come on,’ Rodney insisted. ‘Sarah’s been baking for days since she found out we’d all be home at the same time and we’ve not been allowed to try anything.’
’So you’re pleased to see me because it means extra cakes?’
’Stoopid! I’m happy for either, but both is even better!’
John laughed and let Rodney drag him inside and into the kitchen, Sarah’s domain. It was all so very different from the first time round when he’d left home to go to Stanford and not returned home for five years, and when he did finally return, it was to an all male household which seemed perpetually gripped in mourning. This time, his mother was still alive and the house was bright and merry, home to the whole Sheppard family and the ones they’d unofficially adopted. Grandpa was still very much alive, and loved his new extended family and the politics he’d become involved in again after Patrick agreed to take a run at becoming first Governor of Virginia then to set his sights on becoming President. In the first timeline bitter family arguments and recriminations had led to John Sebastian Senior dying as an old man in 1987 aged 76. This time, he was now a youthful 81 and looked fit to continue for many more years to come.
It was the first time they’d all been home together for a long while although John had grumbled that he hadn’t wanted all this attention and he was only being promoted to Captain. Rodney had simply told him to suck it up when John had moaned to him about it.
‘Daniel’s been in Europe and Egypt for years and Jack’s been on various top secret missions. It’s over two years since we saw either of them and both Mum and Dad’re becoming clucky hens over them being away for so long. I know Grandpa saw Daniel a few months ago but Mum’s convinced he’s not eating properly.’
‘Mum’s convinced none of us eat properly, except you, of course,’ John complained – over the phone because he certainly wasn’t brave enough to say it to Rodney’s face.
‘Oh, hardy ha. My sides are splitting,’ Rodney retorted, although John could hear the crinkle of packaging in the background which sounded very much like a chocolate wrapper which made him grin to himself.
‘Still, a promotion to Captain isn’t anything special. I’m gonna look stupid having so many people turn up to my ceremony.’
‘Dad’s the Governor of Virginia and Grandpa is a former President,’ Rodney told him. ‘Believe me, the journalists and the other folk there are only going to be interested in them, not you.’
John blew a raspberry down the line and grinned when Rodney squawked. ‘So, what time will you all be arriving?’
‘I’m flying down on the Friday before. Since you’ve only got ten days of leave before you re-deploy, I want to be able to spend as long as I can with you. And Jack and Daniel as well, of course,’ Rodney added as an after thought.
‘It does help that my promotion ceremony is going to be on Memorial Day. It gives us all a long weekend together.’
‘Yeah,’ Rodney agreed. ‘Now go away. Some of us have important work to do.’
It had been pure chance that John’s ceremony was going to be held on May 25th. His previous promotion had taken place on his Corps joining anniversary, 1st July, but the PTBs had decided to use Memorial Day 1992 as the occasion for the promotions and awards due to John’s Reconnaissance Battalion. John, however, was fairly certain that Rodney had been thinking along the right lines when he mentioned the positions the senior men in their family held as being the driving force behind the larger than usual ceremony for John and his fellow Marines, although John had become a man to be watched. He’d managed to break all the existing records in his time in the USMC, from his time at Annapolis and flight school, to the two years he’d spent training to become a Force Reconnaissance officer, and his senior officers had taken note of their rising star, the year he’d spent on deployment only proving to them the sort of Marine he was.
John, himself, couldn’t help but feel he’d cheated a little, already having the knowledge and experience of sixteen years as an Air Force pilot, including three years as CO of the Atlantis base. Once again Rodney had told him to suck it up, as had Jack when he heard John’s confession.
‘You’ve earned your past experience, both good and bad,’ Jack lectured. ’So what if it’s helped you achieve better marks and grades this time around? It’s all gone into making you an excellent officer and someone both your men and your superiors can rely on. I’ll be proud to have you serve with me one day.’
Thus it was that when the double silver bars were pinned to the collar of his shirt, one by his father and one by his grandfather – the State Governor and a former US President – with both his mother and his partner watching on, John found his eyes stinging with tears at the gratitude he felt at having his family around him. His previous promotion to Captain had taken the form of a small box containing the insignia being tossed at him along with ‘pin ’em on when you have time. You don’t right now,’ from his squadron commander.
John’s was only one of a number of promotions made that day, but any worry he might have had about resentment from the other promotion candidates was forgotten when all the newly promoted members of his Company, and their families, were invited to attend the reception with the base commander on the USS Wisconsin.
‘This reception’s normally only for the brass,’ one fellow newly-promoted Captain told John, his mouth full of smoked salmon. ‘Thanks to you, we’ve all been invited.’
‘I told you it wouldn’t be a problem,’ Jack murmured to him. ‘All Marines are interested in is fighting and eating. And maybe drinking,’ he added as an after thought
John stared pointedly at the large plateful of food his adopted brother was holding. ‘So your promotion next week won’t have any of this,’ he waved his hand around, ‘afterwards?’
Jack almost choked. ‘Are you kidding? You might get a cup of tea with your cake if you’re lucky.’
‘But you’re being promoted to Lieutenant Colonel,’ John grinned. ‘Surely there’ll be some champagne?’
‘Only if Dad or Grandpa thinks to bring it.’
‘Dad or Grandpa bring what?’ Rodney demanded, stealing a canapé from Jack’s loaded plate. Jack glared at him and moved his plate out of reach.
‘My promotion ceremony next week. John wondered if there’ll be champagne and canapés.’
‘We sometimes ran to cake at the other place.’ Daniel leaned over and stole another of Jack’s canapés causing a cry of outrage.
‘Get your own food, you lot.’ Jack made sure to guard his plate carefully and scowled at his adopted family then straightened as Brigadier General Dickson and his party came over to speak to John. The three senior members of the Sheppard family also suddenly appeared causing a slight frown to appear on John’s face.
‘You’ve got a fine family here, Patrick,’ Dickson told him with a nod to group of young men. ‘You must be very proud.’
‘Thank you, Charles,’ Patrick murmured, tipping his glass slightly to signify a toast. ‘I am.’
‘Yes, congratulations, Captain Sheppard,’ the Lieutenant Governor told John, an insincere smile upon his face. ‘I expect you’re happy your Brigade was able to come home in time for your ceremony.’
This comment elicited frowns from everyone as it was well known the only reason John’s Company was back in the US was because they’d suffered three loses in combat along with several severe injuries, none – thankfully – affecting John and his platoon.
‘Thank you, sir,’ John told him stiffly, ‘but I’m afraid I’d much rather receive my promotion overseas without my family if it meant the men we lost were still with us.’
Robert Dantley was made of sterner stuff though. ‘Come now, aren’t you happy to among the bosom of your rather large family? And with your… friend?’ His lip curled a little as he glanced at Rodney.
John drew himself up to make a blistering comment when Jack slipped his arm around Daniel and gave Dantley a shark-like grin. ‘We’re all very happy to have John home safe and well, but forgive me, I can’t remember who you are. Have we met before?’
Grandpa turned away to hide his smile while Patrick stepped forward, his eyes full of mirth.
‘Forgive me, Jack, this is Robert Dantley, my deputy governor. Robert, my extra sons Major Jack O’Neill, Dr. Daniel Jackson and Dr. Rodney McKay.’
‘Extra sons?’ Dantley repeated, scowling. ‘What does that mean?’
‘It means I’ve taken them all under my wing,’ Emma told him in a tone that brooked no argument, while she smiled pleasantly at him.
‘And that we’re all family,’ Rodney added with a tilt of his chin.
Dantley looked at the eight people in front of him, muttered something, and disappeared from sight.
‘That was fun,’ David said brightly. ‘Who else can we terrorise?’
It was a late and leisurely breakfast the following morning in the Sheppard house. Patrick and Emma had returned from the Governor’s mansion for the duration of the extended holiday they were all taking and would remain there until after Jack’s promotion ceremony when the family would each go its separate way, although both Jack and John would be flying back to Germany together. The family knew better than to ask where they were each going after that.
Rodney was half way through a two year Air Force funded programme for his third PhD in Aeronautical Engineering with Computer studies at MIT and knew he would be moving to the Pentagon in a year’s time to work on the top secret project for which they’d recruited him.
‘I’ll get to work on the dialling computer for the ‘Gate a full year before Carter will join me,’ he told the others. ‘That’s if they decide to recruit her this time.’
It was a possibility they’d discussed but were prepared to accept if Carter didn’t join the Pentagon team trying to get the Stargate to work.
‘It’s a wonder there weren’t more accidents like Teal’c’s,’ Rodney had complained on more than one occasion. ‘She stripped so many failsafes from the original design that Teal’c being stuck was one of the least dangerous outcomes, except for Teal’c, of course,’ he added hurriedly.
‘Sam did pretty well considering she had nothing to guide her,’ Daniel pointed out.
‘I’m not decrying that at all. I’m simply saying that it’ll be much better for everyone if some of the safety elements are retained. If Sam doesn’t join me at the Pentagon, we can make sure she does get posted to the Mountain at the very least.’
‘The priority is having the programme up and running a full year before we did in the last timeline,’ Jack said.
‘Why is that so important to you?’ Daniel asked for the nth time.
‘I still don’t know,’ Jack retorted. ‘If I did, I’d’ve told you. It’s just—’
‘An itch in your gut,’ the other Ts chorused together.
The last week of May was a wonderful month to spend doing nothing much on the coast of Virginia. The warm temperatures meant the pool could be used by everyone, not just Jack and John, each trying to show just how macho they really were.
‘It doesn’t make you look tough at all.’ Rodney lectured them one January as they shivered, each with a towel wrapped tightly around their shoulders and glaring at each other. ‘It just makes you look,’ he paused and looked up and down the pair of them, ‘less gifted than the rest of us.’
Their howls of protest were drowned out by the gales of laughter from all around.
Now, though, most of the day was spent either by the pool, and in or on the sea, although the Sheppard men did enjoy their time on the golf course a mile or two away.
‘You know what Mark Twain said about golf, don’t you? Rodney had grumbled, the first time he’d been invited to learn to play golf. ‘I’m in total agreement with him, now buzz off and leave me alone.’
Daniel had been no better. ‘What he said,’ he told them, waving a hand towards Rodney, not lifting his eyes from the book he was reading.
Jack had been the only one who chose to join John, David and Patrick. ’Teal’c and I played once,’ he told them thoughtfully. ‘I wouldn’t mind trying again.’
‘When on earth did you and Teal’c play golf?’ Daniel demanded, Jack’s comment making him look up from his book. ‘I don’t remember that.’
At the time Jack had simply smiled an enigmatic smile and joined the others on the golf course, but he quickly discovered that hitting a small ball around a grassy field didn’t hold much interest for him.
‘I’m going fishing,’ he announced at breakfast one morning in their first year back in time. ‘Anyone want to join me?’
‘I used to fish a little in my youth,’ Grandpa said thoughtfully. ‘I wouldn’t mind having another go. There’s probably enough rods and stuff in the boat house.
After that, Jack and John Senior had spent much of their time together fishing, exchanging their life stories – two lives in Jack’s case – and catching nothing.
‘I thought at least we’d be able to eat what you caught,’ David told him. ‘What’s the point in doing it if you don’t catch anything?’
But Jack had treated David to one of his enigmatic smiles and continued his trips out with Grandpa.
Their short holiday was over so quickly John swore they’d all time travelled again.
‘I thought you were looking forward to being back out in the field again?’ Rodney asked him curiously, rocking his chair on the veranda slowly, his eyes closed. When no reply was forthcoming he opened his eyes and sat up. ‘What is it? John?’
John was silent for a moment then grimaced. ‘It’s just… After my promotion to Captain last time, I got shot down and had to try to make my way back to my base before I was captured.’
‘I didn’t know about that,’ Rodney frowned. ‘Where were you?’
’Somewhere I shouldn’t have been, at least that’s what the brass would have said if I had been captured,’ John grimaced.
‘And you’re worried in case it happens again?’
‘John, things are very different now. For a start, you’ve been promoted a few years before you were last time, right?’
‘I know that. It’s just… There are so many ways this can all go wrong. We’ve laid all our plans out, but they all depend on the four of us being able to be in the right places when we need to be. Otto told us that we’d already failed six times.’ John buried his head in his hands. ‘I’ve just got the awful feeling I’m going to screw everything up.’
Rodney knelt in front of him and tried to lift John’s head. ‘Hey. Look at me.’
John lifted his head from his hands and looked into Rodney’s blue, blue eyes. ‘
‘It’s going to be all right, okay? It’ll be fine,’ Rodney told him. ‘Trust your training, eh? That’s what you used to tell me when we were on missions in Pegasus. Trust your training. Things are so very different this time. You’re not even in the same uniform as you were before. Things’ll be fine.’ He bent and pressed a kiss to John’s hair, or what was left of it, John sporting a typical Marine crew cut this time, so very different from the non regulation hair he’d sported around Atlantis. ‘Thing’s will be fine.’
’I’m going back to Egypt to work with Catherine Langford this summer,’ Daniel told the others when they asked what he would be doing next. ‘Then I have another year at Cambridge to finish this PhD. After that,’ he shrugged. ‘I’ll see what offers I get, although I think Catherine is building up to asking me to help her on a project she’s kept close to her chest. Trying to understand what the ‘gate is and does I think, at least I hope so.’
‘It would help enormously if we can find the DHD we know is down near the Antarctic gate,’ Rodney said. ‘It would help with many of the shortcuts we’re going to have to make to get the tooped computer working and it’ll keep the NID from using it.’
‘There’s no hope of getting the original DHD back from the Russians, then?’ Jack asked, swishing his feet in the water of the swimming pool they’d gathered around.
‘The Russians have it?’ David asked. ‘How did they get hold of it?’
’They took it from the Germans at the end of World War Two,’ Daniel explained. ‘The Germans got it from a museum in Egypt but we’ve never known how it came to be there, except it must have been found near the Giza Stargate.’
‘And you’ve no way of getting it from the Russians?’
’Not unless we can get the Asgard to steal it for us with their beaming technology,’ Jack grinned with a sly glance at Rodney.
Rodney didn’t disappoint. ‘It’s not ‘beaming’,’ he made air quotes with his fingers. ‘I’ve told you before it’s—‘
‘Relax, Rodney,’ John drawled, poking him with a finger from where he lay stretched out by his partner. ‘He’s just winding you up. You fall for it every time.’
Rodney made a grumping noise but David ignored him. ‘What about this other DHD, then? The one near the Antarctic gate?’
David had become fascinated with the stories about the Stargate and the technology associated with it, and had been quietly preparing a part of Sheppard Inc. to devote to research of the alien technology when it became available. The Ts had appreciated both David’s interest and the facility to keep much of the technology from falling into unfriendly hands once the programme was begun.
‘We’re going to try to duplicate the conditions that sent Jack and Sam there as soon as we can,’ Rodney explained. ‘And when we do, we’re going to make sure both the gate and the DHD are locked up tight in Cheyenne Mountain. It’s the best we can possibly hope to do.’
Patrick closed the file, set it to one side on his desk and raised his eyes to look at his eldest son.
‘He’s a complete bastard.’
‘And he’s already approached you?’
‘He made a point of coming to speak to me when I went to the business leaders conference in Chicago last month. He said he’d heard you were intending to run for the nomination and as he’d also be throwing his hat into the ring for his party, you shouldn’t waste your money. He also suggested that he’d be very happy if you decided to switch sides and run as his VP. Apparently your money and his connections would be unbeatable.’
‘He said that?’
David nodded and grinned at the look of distaste on his father’s face.
‘I… I…’ Patrick shook his head and sighed. ‘If I hadn’t been convinced that I needed to run, I’d run anyway just to wipe the smug smile off that twat’s face.’ He rubbed his face with his hands. ‘I had lunch with Peter Sackville yesterday. He’s pretty happy with my proposal and promised me his backing. Apparently, there isn’t any one person who stands out from the crowd and according to him – since I’ve done a good job with the Governorship, have a decent war record, and am a Sheppard – I stand a very good chance of getting the nomination.’
‘Which is what we thought.’
‘Yes, but it’s never wise to be complacent. Robert Kinsey, however, does concern me. I’ve dealt with his ilk before and they can be very dangerous. I think we need to go with Rodney’s suggestion and get all the dirt we possibly can on him ASAP. Whether we use it all is up to us later, but as the Stargate Programme isn’t even a dot on the horizon as yet, we have a good chance of finishing him and getting him out of the way before it gets off the ground.’
David nodded. ‘And this Weir woman?’
‘Nothing. She’s an activist for an anti-war group in California and although she’s a salaried member, she would appear to share their political aims. Jack thought she might just be a protester for hire, but everything I’ve found out about her seems to imply she is genuinely in agreement with their aims to cut military spending, shrink the US military, and basically ban the bomb especially given the fall of the Soviet Union. How she came to be a part of the military machine later on beats me. Jack said she was a well known diplomat with several graduate degrees including two PhDs and she did a lot of work for the United Nations, but something’s wrong there. She simply didn’t have the time to learn several languages, do two PhDs, teach at Georgetown University and be a well known diplomat by the time she was thirty, so unless she did a spot of time travelling herself, or began her degrees even earlier than Rodney did, she’s a fraud.’
‘Does she have any degrees yet?’
‘Not that I can tell. She’s not quite twenty and has worked for this not-for-profit for two years – since she left high school in 1992. And she did finish High School in 1992 because I checked.’
‘John said something about her lying to him about his role on Atlantis,’ David said thoughtfully. ‘Apparently told him she fought to keep him as her military commander, but Jack said he was the one who fought to keep John out there and who got him his promotion to Lieutenant Colonel. She was appointed to the Stargate Programme by the new President in 2004 soon after his inauguration, which means she has ten years to get her two PhDs etcetera etcetera.’
‘And if she’s starting from scratch, as she is, she doesn’t have the time. It took Rodney six years from his bachelors to his second PhD and he’s the smartest man on the planet.’
‘We definitely need to keep an eye on her then, although if you can manage to get the Programme declassified while you’re still President it will put them in a much better position as regards having leaders foisted on them. At least, that’s what Jack and Daniel said.’
Patrick nodded. ‘And John’s situation will be very different this time too. He’s a damn fine officer and the Commandant of the Marine Corps loves him. The most difficult problem might be getting him released from them to go into the Programme.’
’And we collect everything we can on Kinsey and keep an eye on this Weir woman?’ David stood up and stretched. ‘It’s a plan.’
Rodney clutching his head with his hands and yelled at the scientist to get out of his office. The man – several years older than McKay – glared at him.
‘I was working on this project when you were still in short pants, sonny, and I say it can’t be done.’
Rodney glared right back, then pushed Pilbody out of the way and stomped out of his office to the main part of the lab. He sat down in front of the terminal the scientist had been using and typed in a few commands, read the coding that appeared then deleted several rows of it. There was a degree of muttering from behind him, which he ignored and continued to read lines of code, then delete and rewrite it. After a few minutes, he sat back, hit another key, and watched as the system did exactly what he had said it would.
‘But…but…you don’t have a degree in mechanical engineering,’ Pilbody stammered.
Rodney snorted. ‘I don’t have a degree in nuclear physics either, but I can build a nuclear bomb.’ He stood up and glared at Pilbody again. ’So, when I say you need to do something, old man, just go and do it and don’t bother arguing with me, otherwise I’m perfectly happy to come out here and show you up in front of your so called peers. I’m your boss, not your nursemaid.’ He turned away as the phone in his office began to ring and glanced at his watch. ‘Just get on with what I asked you to do or I might not be quite so polite next time.’
He stomped back into his office and kicked the door closed then slumped into his chair and grabbed the phone. ‘John?’
Hey, Rodney. What’s up? You sound pissed?
‘You got that from me just saying your name?’
McKay, I’ve known you for two lifetimes. I know exactly how you sound when you’re pissed. What did the monkeys do this time?
Rodney laughed in spite of himself. ‘I suppose you do. One of the so called scientists pissed me off and I had to show him up, which was fun admittedly, but I wish they’d just do as I ask the first time. It’s tiring.’
And how did he piss you off? Do you want me to come and kick his ass?
‘He’s worked on this project for the last ten years and thinks he knows better than me. When I told him how to do something he told me I was still in short pants when he started here and called me sonny.’
‘And what? It’s not enough that he insulted me and my intelligence?’
No, tooped. And what did you say to him? I presume you showed him just how wrong, wrong, wrong he is?
‘Of course I did,’ Rodney grinned. ‘It’s what I excel at. He asked how I could know what to do when I didn’t have a degree in mechanical engineering.’
‘I just wish I’d been able to hire the scientists I want, and get rid of some of these idiots. Miko Kusanagi has just got her first PhD and I’d like to hire her as she’s brilliant. I’d like Radek Zelenka as well, but at the moment he’s studying in England and in any case, I doubt the Pentagon would hire him because he’s not American. It was only because of my relationship to Grandpa, and him claiming me as a nephew, that I got clearance to work at the Pentagon.’
What about any scientists from the services? Is there anyone coming through who might be any use?
They’d had to be very careful about what they discussed over the telephone, and to a degree by mail, since Rodney began to work at the Pentagon the previous July. Both men knew the line they were using was most likely being recorded, but they had both always been careful not to mention anything that would sound alarm bells to anyone monitoring their conversations. The same went for John’s postings. Rodney had no idea where John was or what he was doing. They both knew better than to say anything incriminating and had to phrase things carefully.
‘There’s a Lieutenant about to come out of AFIT with a PhD in Astrophysics I’m interested in. I’ve asked to interview her, along with Dr. Kusanagi, with the view of recruiting her when she graduates at the end of August.’
If Dad wins the election, can he get some of the other scientists you want cleared?
Rodney hummed. ‘Maybe? If he knows how important this project is he might. I can’t tell him anything, though, because of all the non-disclosures I’ve signed.’
Won’t he be read into your project?
‘Probably. I hope so.’ He sighed again. ‘When are you likely to be home? Will you be here for the election? For Thanksgiving?’
I’ve got ten days leave at the end of September when I’ll come home but I doubt I’ll be home for the election or Thanksgiving. This tour isn’t due to end until next February, although if Dad wins I’ll probably be allowed home for his inauguration. Dad was for Grandpa’s and that was in the middle of Vietnam. How’s Mum taking the news of his selection?
‘In her stride, as you’d expect. She knows how important this is to him and it’s not as if she’s not seen the impact on the President’s family before. By the way, have you heard from Jack? Mum was asking because he’s not been in touch for a while.’
I haven’t heard from him but I know he’s okay. A couple of Zoomies joined us for a mission recently and they knew Jack was my brother. At least, they knew he claimed me as a brother but not how we were actually related.
Rodney laughed. This particular subject had a number of important people irritated. ‘Did you tell them what Mum usually says when she’s asked?’
Yeah, but they were still curious.
‘I guess they’ll get their answers shortly. He’s bound to be asked about his extra sons in an interview, if not in a debate, especially since we’ve all paired off with each other. Not everyone is happy with the legalisation of homosexuality.’
We can serve openly now.
‘It doesn’t mean everyone agrees with it. I know a few people around this place don’t like the fact I’m in a gay relationship, especially with a Marine. Fortunately, I’m their boss and can tell them—
To kiss your pale Canadian ass. I know.
The sound of John’s laughter came down the line and Rodney grinned. ‘It shuts most of them up. Those it doesn’t, I just fire. I am allowed to do that.’
Daniel sat back on his heels and wiped the sweat from his face with the back of his hand, leaving a streak of mud across his forehead.
‘Here,’ Catherine said with a smile on her face, offering a wet facecloth to him. ‘It’ll cool you a little as well as clean you up.’
Daniel wiped his face and smiled his thanks to her. ‘Do you think we’re any closer to finding whatever it is you think is here?’
Catherine tilted her head. ‘I’m not positive there is anything to find. But the absence of what I thought might be here is interesting in itself.’
‘And are you going to let me in on your secret?’
‘You’d think me crazy if I did.’
Catherine opened her mouth, but before she could speak, one of the younger students came over to ask for her help. Catherine followed him back to the area on the outskirts of the dig and was quickly enveloped in a group of student archeologists.
Daniel sighed. He’d thought for a moment that she was going to tell him about the Stargate. He wondered how he could engineer a conversation which could lead to her asking for his help since they were running out of time. They were a few months out from when Jack wanted to go to Abydos and Daniel needed to be invited to translate the coverstone within that time. He watched Catherine talking to the students, running through different ways of broaching a conversation with Catherine about the Stargate. When she’d approached him in the first timeline, it was because he was pretty much an outcast from the archeological community due to his outlandish theories on the Pyramids – theories which were proved to be correct although, due to the secrecy of the Stargate programme, were unable to be made public.
Since the intention was to make the whole programme public as soon as possible, partially to avoid the creation of the avaricious IOA, Daniel’s unorthodox views would be quickly proven correct, but he was hesitant to voice such views. He’d been awarded various grants and bursaries to fund his education and research after the initial Rhodes scholarship, and was reluctant to bring discredit upon the awarding bodies, even if, ultimately, he would be vindicated. He sighed and rubbed his face again, no doubt leaving streaks of mud again. It was a difficult situation and he wasn’t quite sure what to do for the best.
A quick glance at the sun told him it was late afternoon, so he pushed his concerns to one side for the moment, and began to clear up his tools and the various bits and pieces which always seemed to get scattered around no matter how careful he was. He looked over towards where Catherine and the students were and saw they’d begun to pack up as well, indeed, when he looked towards the city, Daniel could see a cloud of sand moving through the desert towards them, undoubtedly the dig’s bus, come to take them all back to the dig house.
Having spent almost all of the evening meal deep in thought, after dinner Daniel approached Catherine and invited her to take a walk with him. They wandered alongside the Nile on Zamalek Island, where the dig house was situated, in silence for a while, Daniel still not entirely sure how to begin the conversation he wanted to have with Catherine. They paused and sat on a bench on the promenade to watch the tourist boats go past. Eventually, Daniel summoned up the courage to speak.
‘Catherine, I know all about the device your father discovered at Giza in 1928.’
He sat back and watched the various emotions pass over her face as she opened her mouth to speak then closed it again a couple of times.
‘How do you… what…’
‘Catherine, you need my help to decipher the writing on the coverstone of the ring, the Stargate.’
‘Stargate? What’s a…oh.’ The penny had dropped. ‘But how do you know so much about the…stargate? The whole thing has been top secret for many, many years.’
Daniel was silent for a moment. He’d thought long and hard about how to explain his knowledge and had decided to go with the truth, although it was a huge risk to take. Still, he could always deny he’d said what he was about to tell her if it came to it. He nodded to himself and took a deep breath. ‘I’m from the future.’ He watched that sink in. ‘Myself and three friends were sent back in time by the people who built the stargates to prevent our world from being destroyed by enemies from another galaxy.’
Catherine stared at him and shook her head. ‘How… No. You’re teasing me, playing a trick. How…’
‘Catherine, you have a necklace which was found at the dig in 1928. Your fiancé went through the stargate in 1945. Your father told you he was killed, but in reality, he went through the gate and didn’t know how to get back.’
She still looked shocked and disbelieving.
‘The Stargate was brought to the US by the freighter Achilles in 1939 to prevent it falling into enemy hands. The Air Force now have it and it’s probably already in Cheyenne Mountain. If it’s not, it will be shortly.’ Daniel paused again and watched her. ‘Still don’t believe me?’
‘How can you know all this?’ she whispered.
‘Because I’m from the future where this has all already happened. We were sent back to… fix some things which will save Earth and billions of lives, but I need to be a part of Project Giza.’
‘How did you become part of it last time, then?’ she asked guardedly.
He gave a short laugh. ‘I’d long believed that the pyramids were built millennia before the archeological community posits they were, and that they were, in fact, landing sites for alien spaceships. That, along with my theories on the cross pollination of ancient cultures was enough to get me kicked out of the community and my theories became a joke to most archeologists. You, however, knew that some of my ideas weren’t a million miles off the mark as the coverstone has been dated at around ten thousand years old by sonic and radio carbon tests.’
‘You use the past tense. Don’t you believe that to be true anymore?’
‘I know it to be true, but I wanted to keep a foot within the archeological community this time so I’ve kept my ideas to myself. Unfortunately, that means I’ve flown under the radar in terms of you approaching me to work on Project Giza.’
Catherine looked at him silently, clearly thinking about what he’d said. Eventually she spoke. ‘Why is it so important you work with me on Project Giza?’
‘Because the Stargate programme will become the biggest, most secret mission of the USAF, and because I – and a couple of friends – know what needs to be done to protect us in the future I have to be invited by you to work on the coverstone.’
‘And if I don’t invite you?’
‘Then it makes things more problematic, but not impossible. My preference is that I work with you on deciphering the cover stone and become part of the programme organically. The Stargate has to be opened. There are enemies of Earth already in the Milky Way Galaxy and the only way we can get ready to meet them is through the Stargate. If we do nothing, they will still come at some point. Far better to have a means of determining when and where we fight them as well as having the resources to fight them.’
Daniel watched Catherine absorb this information until she finally asked:
‘And did you orchestrate our meeting and working together? I considered you a friend. Was I wrong to do so?’
’No!’ Daniel frowned at her. ‘I consider you a friend too and I admire you tremendously for your work in our field. I knew who you were when we met in 1990 but that’s it. Like I said, there are other ways for me to become a part of the project, but I value your friendship for you, not for something you can provide.’ He took a deep breath. ‘In the last timeline we were very good friends and when you died, after a long and productive life, I gave a eulogy at your funeral and remained in contact with Sabrina, your niece.’
Catherine sat gazing at the Nile for several minutes, deep in thought. ‘I’m going back to the US in a few weeks and I’ll be going to Cheyenne Mountain to see if my team there have made any progress. One of the reasons I’m running this dig is to look for a second part of the Stargate.’
Daniel nodded. ’Yes. The dialling device.’
She stared at him in astonishment then shook her head. ‘Of course, you know how it works. Do you know where the…dialling device,’ she stumbled over the words, ‘may be found? Is it here?’
‘No. We suspect the Germans removed it from Egypt at some point and then it fell into the hands of the USSR. The Russian Federation has it now.’
‘So we’re wasting our time here?’
Daniel tilted his head. ‘Yes, if we’re looking for the DHD. The Dial Home Device,’ he clarified at her puzzled look. ‘Yeah, I know. Not the greatest of names. Anyway, if the dig is just about the DHD then it’s a waste of time, but we’ve come across some interesting artifacts here and the students have enjoyed themselves and learnt a lot, so in those terms, it’s not a waste of time.’
Catherine nodded. ‘Alright. You’ll finish this dig with me, and then we’ll go to Colorado together and you can astound us all with how wrong we’ve all been, yes?’
Daniel smiled and nodded. ‘Good plan.’
Well, I never imagined I’d be about to do this Jack mused to himself as he straightened his tie in the mirror. Daniel appeared suddenly, already dressed in a pale blue suit with a fine grey pinstripe, a clothes brush in his hand.
‘Stand still, Jack, while I brush you down.’
‘F’pete’s sake, Danny,’ Jack held up his arms in defence. ‘I brushed it already.’
‘Well, clearly you have something to learn about brushing a uniform,’ Daniel told him severely, brushing him down.
‘Danny,’ Jack whined.
‘Suck it up, buttercup, as you’re so fond of saying,’ and Daniel whacked Jack on the behind with the back of the brush.
‘Did you just…’
Daniel grinned at him. ‘My hand slipped?’
‘Your hand slipped?’ Jack repeated, and spun around, about to chase his partner when the door to their suite opened and David stuck his head around the door.
‘Are you two ready? Mum’s having kittens and wants us all on parade in the Pink Drawing Room to make sure we’ve got all our buttons done up properly.’
‘The Pink Drawing Room? There’s a Pink…’ Jack’s screwed up face left no illusions of what he thought of a room designated ‘pink’.
David grinned. ‘Y’know, that’s just the face John pulled when I gave him and Rodney a shout. Come on, before Mum comes up herself!’
Jack and Daniel exchanged a quick glance before joining David in the corridor on the second floor of Blair House in Washington DC. All three men hurried down the stairs, not wanting to make Emma Sheppard have to come and get them. John and Rodney were waiting at the top of stairs on the first floor.
‘We thought we’d all go down together. Mum won’t yell at us if we’re together,’ John told them.
Jack snorted. ‘You really believe that? This is the woman who threatened to turn that reporter who kept pestering Dad about his nomination, over her knee for his ‘bad manners’. You think she’d balk at yelling at any of us? Especially today.’
The others nodded in agreement, even John.
‘Yeah, right. I just thought…’
’She’s been wound up like a top since the election,’ Daniel said as he began down the stairs, the others following. ‘I just hope she enjoys herself today. It’s as much her day as it is Dad’s.’
Emma was waiting in the hall below, her finger tapping her watch. ‘You made it by 30 seconds. Now, line up. I want to check everyone’s dressed properly.’
Over his two lifetimes in the Air Force, Jack had paraded in front of several important figures, but he’d never, ever felt as inspected as he did today by Emma Sheppard. She walked up and down their little row, then made them all take a step forward and turn around so she could check their backs.
Finally she announced they passed muster and each of the five young men heaved a sigh of relief, then, as one, their heads swung towards the laughter they heard.
‘If it’s any consolation, boys, she inspected Patrick and myself just as thoroughly,’ Grandpa told them, his eyes twinkling.
‘I’ve known Drill Instructors who were less thorough,’ Patrick muttered, then smiled when he felt his wife’s eyes upon him. ‘Are we all ready then, dear?’
She glared at him, but it was one of her low level glares. ‘I just want my family to be perfect, is that a crime?’
’No, sweetheart,’ Patrick told her, kissing her cheek gently. ‘It’s not a crime, and we love you for it.’
There was a chorus of affirmations from the others.
’Sir?’ A young man in a black suit with an earpiece in one ear stepped forward. ‘The cars are ready to take you to church now, sir.’
Patrick took a deep breath, nodded, took Emma’s arm and stepped forward.
Afterwards, Jack tried to recall everything that happened, but struggled to remember each component part. The overwhelming emotion had been of awe, mixed in with surprise, that he, Jonathon O’Neill, son of a drunken layabout, should find himself introduced as part of the First Family.
‘I call them my extra sons,’ Emma had explained on numerous occasions. ‘I was sent three extra sons I didn’t even know I was missing. I’m their mother in everything except birth, and that’s very special. Now I have five sons, and I’m proud of each one them and I love them all.’
The five young men and John Senior had stood slightly to the side of Patrick, as first the Vice President, Jacquetta Hobson, was sworn in and then as Emma held the Sheppard family bible – reputedly brought to America by an ancestor in the seventeenth century – for Patrick to swear the oath which made him President of the most powerful country on Earth. Never in his wildest dreams had Jack considered this would happen when he, John, Rodney and Daniel, had cooked up their list of what they’d like to achieve back at his old cabin, half way to ascension.
The fact that John’s grandfather had held the position of President had allowed them to voice the idea in a ‘wouldn’t it be great’ way, but Jack had never, in a million years, thought it would come to anything. He looked around at one point during the day, wondering if this was all a dream, perhaps caused by nanites, or even those mist creatures the Atlantis expedition had discovered in their first year, but a pinch on his arm from Daniel – who had noticed his lack of attention – brought him back to the realisation that this was almost certainly happening for real.
Patrick’s inaugural speech included references to ‘this era of new technology’ and America leading the way in ‘research and innovation in the Digital Revolution’ that was happening right before them. His determination to keep the US at the forefront of the ‘Age of Information’ was popular with both politicians and business leaders, but what they didn’t realise – couldn’t realise – was that he was laying the ground work for the technologies that would be developed as a result of travel through the Stargate. All the Ts were determined that this time humanity would benefit from the discoveries made in everything they found off world, from new medical research to power production, rather than being kept secret to all but a tiny minority.
As Patrick and Emma, accompanied by Jacquetta and her husband Philip, walked the outgoing President to the helicopter which would take him and the former First Lady to their new, post-presidential lives, the rest of the family made their way to Statuary Hall for the luncheon hosted by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Following a series of speeches and presentations the new President and Vice President, along with their spouses, made their way to the cars which would take them to the White House – or rather the Reviewing Stand outside the White House from which they would watch the Inaugural Parade with their families and guests.
There had been some discussion about how this short journey would be made.
‘I’d like the whole family to walk up Pennsylvania Avenue with Emma and me,’ Patrick had told the family when they’d been discussing just what would be happening on Inauguration Day.
‘I remember when you walked with me on my first inauguration,’ John Senior said reminiscently. ‘Just you and me as Emma had stayed at home with David and John. It was bitterly cold.’
‘And I hadn’t known we’d be walking and had worn new dress shoes,’ Patrick added with a smile. ‘I had the worst blisters when we finally got to the White House.’
‘I didn’t know that,’ Grandpa frowned. ‘Why didn’t you say anything at the time?’
Patrick just looked at him for a while until Grandpa laughed. ‘I suppose it wouldn’t look good if a Navy SEAL complained he’d got blisters.’
‘At least it’s in winter and I can get away with comfy boots,’ Emma pointed out. ‘I’d be in a worse state than Patrick was if I had to wear anything with a high heel.’
’So will you?’ Patrick brought the conversation back to his original question.
‘I’m not sure if it’s the best idea for us to walk with you,’ Jack began. ’We’ve talked it over as Grandpa thought you might bring this up, and we think it’s best if you and Mum and the VP and her husband walk. We’ll all go in the cars and meet you at the White House.’
The other young men nodded in agreement.
‘Are you sure?’ Patrick asked quietly. ‘It’s not because you’re afraid people will ask questions?’
’They will ask questions,’ John said bluntly. ‘Probably ‘Who the hell are those people behind the President?’. People are there to see you and Mum, not us, and quite honestly, I get enough attention from my fellow Marines when they realise I’m your son. It’d be ten times worse if I’m seen swanning up Pennsylvania Avenue waving to the crowds. And I’m sure Jack feels the same.’
‘John! I’m doing this because you asked me to!’
‘And we’re grateful, Dad,’ John told him. ‘But first of all, I don’t think any of us thought it would really happen, and secondly, it’s in all our interests that no one thinks any promotion or job or, hell, even a medal, we get is because of who we’re related to or call family, but because we’ve earned it on our own merits. If the Joint Chiefs thought for a single moment that the only reason I’m selected for the Stargate Programme, when it begins, is because you’re my Dad, we’re all in trouble.’