By Marcus L. Rowland
After Willow and Kennedy left, Jack said "Any ideas?"
"Assuming that the Key was born a few months before they fought the Knights of Byzantium," said Sam, "she'd be about four now. I haven't got very far tracing the Sunnydale group, especially Summers, but I haven't seen any evidence of a child that age."
"I didn't actually mean that. I can't think of anything more useless than a gizmo to destroy the universe, whether it's a little girl or a weapon the size of a Goa'uld starship, and Anubis is crazy enough to use it if he ever learns it exists. I think we'd better avoid mentioning the details in our reports. Edit the interrogation records and shred the tapes. If anyone needs to be told I'll do it verbally. Otherwise some idiot's bound to want to see if they can find the girl and tap into the Key without destroying the universe, and that's got to be a bad idea."
"Sir, you're... you're absolutely right, of course. We don't want news of anything like that getting out."
"I concur," said Teal'c. Daniel nodded.
"Okay. Carter, you'd better get busy on Willow's shopping list, and see if you can come up with any improvements. Daniel, give her a hand. Teal'c and I have to take care of a little unfinished business."
Teal'c raised an eyebrow and followed him out of the room.
* * * * *
"You wanted to see me, sir?" said Lieutenant Henderson, coming into Jack's office. Teal'c sat near the door in civilian clothes, apparently immersed in a report, the mark of Apophis covered by a baseball cap.
"Take a seat, captain," said Jack. Henderson looked confused. "I can't make it major yet, that might take a few months. Now sit down, my neck's aching looking up at you."
"I don't quite understand."
"That's why I'm the Colonel. You're being promoted. To captain now, to major once you have a little time in rank." Jack him tossed a small white box containing his new insignia. "Now tell me why it didn't happen five years ago."
"Sir, I can't answer that. I'm not cleared to discuss it."
"Your record's a little sparse in the late nineties up to two thousand, then from May that year you had hospital time in Los Angeles then a year in technical school while you were recovering. There's nothing on your record to explain what happened to you. As soon as you got back to work you were attached to Homeland Security and given some briefing information that shouldn't have been available to a lieutenant. A lieutenant-colonel, maybe."
Henderson looked at him but didn't say anything.
"So I started to wonder why a bright lieutenant would be frozen in rank for five or six years. The first idea I had was that you'd fouled up big-time, but they'd court-martial you if it was that bad. Then I remembered hearing about a special-ops mission going badly wrong in California around the time you were injured. Anything to say?"
"So... what did you think of Sunnydale, Captain?"
"Sir?" Henderson sounded wary.
"Let me bounce a few names off you, Captain. Riley Finn... Ethan Rayne... Graham Miller..."
"What about Willow Rosenberg? Tara MacLay? Buffy Summers?"
"I'm sorry, sir. I can't say that I recollect any of those names."
"I like that," said Jack. "Nice wording. You can't say that you recollect them."
"Let me try a wild-ass guess here. Back in oh-two your old unit didn't exist any more, and never had. That left a huge hole in your records, and made it really difficult to get you promoted, especially when everyone involved was trying to keep a low profile or cover their ass. So you were given some assignments to keep you busy and out of the limelight, jobs where your specialised knowledge might be useful. At some point you were briefed about something called a 'foothold' that sounded like it might be the same sort of deal. Any comments?"
"No, Colonel," said Henderson.
"Let me carry on with this little story. By the time you were out of hospital you had no way to make contact with your old unit. So when a load of bodies turned up that looked like it might be their kind of business, you remembered hearing about footholds and called it in that way, thinking that it'd get back to the right people. Anything to say, Captain?"
"You're quite sure?"
Jack looked at Teal'c, who nodded.
"Congratulations," said Jack, reaching over to shake Henderson's hand. "You just got yourself a whole new level of problems to worry about."
"In about a week you'll be offered a transfer to NORAD's Deep Space Telemetry operation. Accept it, and you'll find out what I'm talking about. We need people who can keep their mouths shut, and live with secrets that'll make you long for the good old days in Sunnydale. Fate of the world, that sort of thing. Think you're up to it?"
"Sir.. I can't say that I know what you're talking about, but I'd like to give it a try. But there's one thing..."
"One of the reasons why I was in hospital was an allergic reaction. I can't work in the same environment as... as my old job, or anything like it."
"Trust me, that won't be a problem... now scoot, go out and celebrate. We've got work to do. And don't forget the insignia." Jack handed him the box and a business card. "I don't know if that number still works, but if you have doubts about us you might want to give it a try, see what he says."
Henderson looked at the card and smiled "Thank you, Colonel."
"See you in a week or two."
"Yes Sir!" Henderson saluted.
"Don't let the door hit you on your way out."
When he'd gone Teal'c said "Was it wise to give him Miller's telephone number? Might he choose to return to his old duties?"
"I got a look at the summary of his medical records. I'm guessing he's allergic to vampire dust."
"That should not be a problem if he joins the SGC."
"Only one way to find out."
* * * * *
"How's it going?" asked Jack.
"So-so," said Sam. "Disney's a wash-out, I'm afraid. They just aren't equipped for the sort of mass production we'd need, and they aren't prepared to shut down Disneyland to let us have their existing stock."
"I checked with Willow," said Daniel. "She says that the important thing is articulation, she can manage without the Animatronics. So I called Janet, and she put me on to these people..." He reached down beside his desk and picked up a large cardboard box.
"We can get as many as we want for $75 a shot, $60 if we want a hundred or more. They're lightweight, they pack small, and you can put them together without tools." As he talked Sam assembled the components on a wheeled base.
"That's a plastic skeleton," said Jack. "A glow-in-the-dark plastic skeleton."
"It's full size and anatomically accurate," Sam said defensively, "and all joints articulate. Willow can do the rest. They make smaller versions that will do for children."
"You don't think that the bad guys will notice the bones? Or the stand with the little wheels?"
"It doesn't work that way," said Daniel. "Or at least that's what Willow says. Once she gets to work they'll look, feel, and move like real people. They might not fool anyone for long, but a few minutes should get us past the dream sequence."
"Okay," said Jack. "Just so long as everyone remembers that we're getting ready for a battle, not a remake of Pirates of the Caribbean."
"Although that would be interesting," said Teal'c.
"You just like Johnny Depp's makeup," said Sam.
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