W is for Washington
Jack O'Neill walked through the last Pentagon checkpoint and headed for the Metro station, his steps deliberately purposeful. He'd covered the stars on his shoulders with a light jacket he really didn't need in the cool spring air. He'd expected to feel their weight at the SGC, where lives rode on his decisions every day. Here, without the faces of the people who depended on him, they were frighteningly ephemeral. The idea that he, of all people, could lose touch, become another Pentagon desk jockey- that made his palms itch for his P-90, or even the slight weight of a zat.
He found his metrocard, swiped it through the kiosk and took the down escalator. His truck was still in transit, along with the rest of his belongings- he had a couple of suitcases which had already been delivered to his new apartment. As a colonel, Jack had tended to disparage the kinds of services that generals got- as a general, it was definitely convenient. Especially since his new position carried with it security requirements that would have made it hard to find a suitable place on his own. He grimaced and scanned the station platform. Since the Trust had grabbed Daniel last year- and that idiot Conrad had taken Carter three years before that- they'd all had to be more alert on their downtime. Which in some ways was a blessing, Jack sometimes thought. After seven-plus years of adrenaline-pumping action offworld, it was awfully hard to just turn all those reflexes off. In fact, Jumper had suggested an official bodyguard which Jack had adamantly refused. But no one in the station was taking the least notice of him.
The train swooshed in and Jack boarded. There were only a half dozen others in the car at this hour. He glanced at his watch. Late, but he should make it to the agent's office with a good forty minutes to spare. The girl- whatsername- Sharon, Sherrie, something like that- had said she'd be there until ten.
He found the office without a lot of trouble, rang the night bell.
The woman who answered the door was older than her light soprano had suggested and she smiled at him cheerfully. "Yes?"
"Jack O'Neill," he said. "We spoke earlier?"
"Certainly, General," she smiled. "You have ID?"
He showed her his battered military ID and the shiny new Pentagon passes. "Guess you need to be careful," he said.
She smiled again. "The military expects us to take security seriously, sir. Just let me get your keys."
As she picked up the keys and lease for his new apartment, Jack watched the way she moved- flat heels, light on her feet, something indefinable in her attitude. "You served?"
"Army, six years," she confirmed, pulling the door closed behind her. She glanced at him curiously. "Mind if I ask what your assignment is, sir? They seemed unusually concerned with security, even for a general."
Jack looked out the window. He was definitely out of practice at dealing with uncleared people, he decided. At h- in Colorado, he'd had a comfortable routine where the only people he ever saw were his neighbors, 'Nice day, lawn's looking good,' and the kid who delivered pizza, 'Here, keep the change,' and 'Thanks, mister O'Neill!' and a puzzled glance for the guy who sometimes ordered pizza at eleven in the morning and sometimes was his last customer at one AM. "Tell me about this apartment," he said, after a long pause.
The woman darted a glance sideways, clearly a bit surprised but not distressed. She readily accepted the change of subject. "Two bedrooms, as you wanted, and a balcony. Full security system. The building has keycard entry and guards onsite. Pool and fitness room on the premises. All high ranking military and government people- the building is wholly guaranteed for government use, and only tenants with security clearance are accepted."
Which probably meant a bunch of spooks, Jack knew. And it was practically guaranteed that the Trust had access. That was oddly cheering. "Sounds fine," he said.
Actually it was fine. The building was brick, at least, and a cut above the bland residential office blocks that surrounded it. There were trees and shrubs in the professionally tended garden outside. The apartment was bare and impersonal, but there was a cot in the bedroom for him to use until his furniture came, and a couple of stools by the kitchen counter. His suitcases were sitting in the empty living room. "Laundry rooms on level 2," Carolyn (he'd finally spotted her name on her card in the packet she gave him) said. She fanned out the contents of his packet on the counter, along with keys and security cards. " Your lease is here, and there's a map of the neighborhood- metro station, groceries, pharmacy, convenience store, restaurants, sports bar- "
"Someone has my number," Jack said wryly. He scrawled his signature on the lease, noting in passing that the rent was twice what his mortgage had been back in Colorado. DC, bleh.
She smiled. "The Avalanche was up by two goals when we left my office," she said.
Okay, that was a little too spooky. "Against Anaheim," Jack said. "Won't last."
"Is there anything else I can do for you?" she asked, leaving the maps on the counter.
"Nope, it's all good," Jack told her. "Thank you, you're very efficient."
"All part of the service," she told him.
He'd considered going out to the bar, but found that the efficient Carolyn had left a couple of beers in his fridge. He drank one and then propped the empty in front of the deadbolted door before he went to sleep.
He woke up half-an-hour before he needed to, the time sense that seemed infallible at the SGC and a hundred alien worlds confused by his urban surroundings. Not that the apartment was noisy, rather the reverse. But no amount of soundproofing could blot out the distant sound of cars, truck horns, the press of people in a city. Jack rolled out of bed and into the shower out of habit, wondering if this was it. He'd never expected this, never wanted it. He'd expected to go down in a firefight offworld, like the one that had claimed Janet Fraiser, a gun in his hand, and his team fighting beside him. But he'd woken yet again in a hospital bed, and others hadn't- Janet hadn't- and they all just kept on. And now, here he was, and damnit, he missed saving the world.
He walked to the metro station with Carolyn's map in his pocket, and got some breakfast at 'best coffeeshop in DC' en route. The young lady behind the counter gave him a pleasant smile and a warm danish and he handed her a five. "Keep the change," he said, and he suspected that this was going to be part of his new routine.
Jack walked on past the cafes, munching his cherry danish, and marked a couple of restaurants that were mentioned in his welcome packet, already starting to feel more oriented. He could do this, really he could. But it would be so much easier if a Trust agent would pop out from behind a bush and try to shoot him. Even though after a year of being grounded it felt weird and uncomfortable to walk down this unfamiliar street without Carter on point, Teal'c covering his six, and Daniel explaining something incomprehensible on his left. He spared a sympathetic thought for young Mitchell, left with a SG-1 post devoid of meaning without the people who'd made SG-1 renowned throughout a galaxy. But not too sympathetic- Mitchell didn't know what he didn't have, wouldn't feel the missing-limb sensation of losing a team not to the enemy, but to age and seniority.
The train was crowded at this hour and Jack paid attention to the stations as he learned his new route. He finished his coffee and noted that he was hardly the only one ignoring the metro rules about not bringing food or drink on the train. The train grew fuller as it approached the Pentagon, and Jack got off in such a mob of other personnel as to ensure his anonymity.
The security at the Pentagon was nothing new compared to the SGC, and Jack found his way to his new office, the desk already piled high with reports. He looked at them with disfavor. "George, what did I ever do to you?" he wondered aloud.
There was a knock on the door.
Jack turned and said, "Come in."
A man entered, carrying a folder of papers. "General O'Neill, sir," he said, saluting.
Jack returned the salute, recognizing him. "Wilson, what's a nice guy like you doing in a place like this?"
Wilson grinned. "General Hammond always liked to make sure there were some people who had served in the SGC on staff, sir."
A smart man, Hammond. SGC veterans would understand the issues better than most. "Nice to see a friendly face," Jack said wryly. He eyed the stack of paper in Wilson's hands with some trepidation. "You have something for me, I take it?"
"Yessir," Wilson said. He deposited the stack in Jack's overflowing inbox and picked up the top folder. "I wanted to bring this to your attention, sir."
Jack took it and glanced at the headers. "Training curricula for 302 crews?" He wondered in some dismay what made this urgent.
Wilson looked mildly disgruntled. "Sir, there's a proposal from intelligence to limit the background briefings given to new 302 crews, to reduce the security exposure for SGC and Area 51 operations-"
That made the hair on the back of Jack's neck stand up. "So they won't be able to study raw data on Goa'uld tactics and technology? Or be briefed on the history of our relations with other spacefaring races that they might encounter out there?"
"Exactly," Wilson nodded.
"Whose moronic idea was that?!" Jack demanded.
"I believe Colonel Senders has written the proposal, sir, but with input from--others." Wilson's expression was bland, but there was a glitter of satisfaction in his eyes.
"Yeah, well, we'll see about that," Jack said grimly. Suddenly the pile of paperwork on his desk looked less like unaltered tedium and more like a pit of snakes, littered with mantraps. He turned back to Wilson. "So, you want to give me the rundown on the players here? Starting with the official lines of communication, and then the unofficial."
"You want what I know, sir, or what I suspect?"
"Yes," Jack said.
Wilson clearly was an ally here. Jack wondered how many more he'd find. And how many enemies. And how much time he was going to spend wishing he could solve problems with his P-90 instead of with a memo. All of it.
"And sir," Wilson said. "I also thought I'd mention there's a little pool going--"
Jack raised his eyebrows. The SGC was a hotbed of goofy wagers, something he'd thought he'd be missing here. Though he still did have a fifty bucks on the chance that something would interfere with Daniel getting to Atlantis again. "A pool on what?" he asked.
"Well," Wilson said. "I've put twenty on Colonel Carter firing at least ten people in her first month at Area 51," he said.
"What odds on her finding at least one Trust agent?" Jack asked.
"Two to one against," Wilson told him.
"I'll put twenty on her finding two," Jack told him.
"In the first month?" Wilson asked.
"Yep," He handed over the cash and looked at Wilson's suddenly worried expression. He might be an SGC vet, but he clearly didn't know Carter all that well. Or the Trust.
"So," Jack said. "You were about to tell me about the folks here in Homeworld security?"
"Right-" before Wilson could start, the phone rang.
"Just a minute," Jack picked it up. "O'Neill"
"Jack, this is Hank Landry--" the familiar voice at the other end of the line said.
Jack felt a brief jolt of adrenaline, "What's up?"
"Well," Landry said, sounding chagrined. "I'm afraid I owe you some money?"
Jack shook his head. Even if he was in Washington, it seemed, some things never changed. "Okay, Hank," he sighed. "So what kind of trouble has Daniel gotten into now?"