Category: Yet another mirror universe for the SGC.
Pairings: None so far… just some subtext and warm fuzzies.
Disclaimer: Stargate SG1 and all their characters belong to MGM, Showtime and Gekko Productions. But I think we all knew that, hmm? Art and Cooper (and any other newcomers) are mine.
Notes: All words in italics are phonetic foreign words, mostly Greek.
Spoilers: References aplenty to the majority of the third season here! Consider yourselves warned…
Summary: The SGC gets two new recruits who immediately begin to change some established dynamics… Things just get weirder from there.
++ Sergeant Goldston ++
It was so farfetched that I was still not certain I believed it. Despite the thorough background check for the top-secret security clearance, the extremely sober debriefing from my last commander and the thick file in my lap signed by the president himself. Wearily, I smoothed fingers over my neatly slicked-back curls and flashed my partner a wry glance. Those fathomless dark eyes immediately met mine and gave me strength. “Well Cooper, we said we wanted to do something different. This sure as hell qualifies.”
He merely snorted in reply. The Hum-vee took yet another sharp mountain curve and I wondered just how far we had driven in the dark. Then, at last, there was a glow of lights nearby that eventually revealed a small compound. This of course was the entrance to the far more interesting goings-on far below. Efficiently, my driver parked the big vehicle and scrambled to collect my few things. “Do you need a hand Sergeant?”
“No sir. As long as you have the bags, we can manage.”
A stern-eyed man marked as a Captain was striding over with two heavily armed fellows flanking him. “Lieutenant?”
“This is the new recruit, sir.”
“You Sergeant Goldstone?”
Dammit, why did everyone have to add an ‘e’ to my name?
“Yes sir. Here’s my identification.”
Painstakingly, I propped the cane under my hand and levered my protesting body out of the Hum-vee. The three guards gave my partner raised eyebrows but no comment.
“Come over to the shack so that we can verify all of this.”
In the shack, one of the guards surreptitiously hooked me a chair with his foot before taking his position at the door. Good thing too, for it seemed my arrival was a bit of a shock to somebody on the other end of the Captain’s phone call. I sat there for some time with Cooper pressed up comfortingly against my leg.
++ General Hammond ++
When the phone on my desk rang, I eyed it balefully. There were times I loathed picking it up, never knowing what was going to be on the other end. But the moment was a predictably short one and I snatched up the receiver on the second ring. “Hammond here.”
“Sir. This is Captain Jansen up at the shack. We have a Sergeant Goldstone here with recruitment papers from the Pentagon. She’s out of Eisenhower Army Medical at Fort Gordon.”
Then I suddenly realized who it must be. Why did it not surprise me that the Joint Chiefs had perversely sent me an Army dogface? Oh well, she would make an interesting addition to all the jarheads and flyboys around here. Before I could respond to Jansen, I spotted Colonel O’Neill wandering through the Control room. “Hang on for a moment Captain, I need to get someone else involved in this.”
His ‘yes sir’ was lost as I set down the phone and went to my door to flag down the CEO of my number one team.
“Colonel O’Neill, I need to see you for a moment.” While he approached, I returned to phone to finish up with Jansen. “Does everything seem to be in order? Excellent, take care of it.”
Cursing the fates for sending the new kid on a day where I was up to my chin in paperwork from the recent Goa’uld-Earth-Asgard conference, I returned my attention to O’Neill. He stood there with that sharply alert, almost cocky expression on his face that was characteristically on the fine line of being insubordinate. It was everything I abhorred and respected in the younger man.
“You wanted to see me General?”
“We have a new recruit that I want SG1 to handle personally. Particularly Major Carter. Have your team in the briefing room in twenty minutes. Oh, and can you inform Doctor Fraiser that I’ll need her there as well?”
It was said reluctantly, a thousand questions behind the two words. But I had no time to play twenty questions with Jack. He left quietly as I began to rifle through my files, desperate now to find the packet they had sent me from Lackland AFB in Texas. Once I had found the papers, I realized what my mistake had been. Since she had received her specialized training at an Air Force base, I had assumed she was in that branch. Oh well, if everything that came out of her background check was true, she could handle being the only Army personnel here. The first few pages were her duty roster, decorations and tours of duty. Beneath was a brief overview of her and her partner’s medical histories, both relatively empty until the recent accident. It still made me wince at what the woman had been put through. But what had really won her the position here was the psyche file. She was sharp, adaptable, witty and she and Cooper had proven they were willing to die for one another. Glancing at the clock, I knew I needed to get moving if I was to greet them both.
++ Sergeant Goldston ++
I was growing bored until a young Lieutenant opened the door and I could catch the tail end of Captain Jansen’s conversation. “Yes sir, her ID checks out …yes sir, I’ll send her right down.” My thick ID packet was handed back to me so I could return it to the small bag slung at my side. “Lieutenant Baker will take you to the main level. The General is waiting for you. Welcome to Cheyenne Mountain.”
“Thank you sir.”
My salute was still off from the tight scars across my chest and belly. But at least the cane made it obvious I was a cripple and the Captain made no comment on my sloppy salute. Cooper was instantly under my other hand as I painfully regained my feet. Baker turned out to be the nice fellow who had gotten me the chair and he led me into the yawing concrete arch of the Cheyenne Mountain Facility. After a few more security checks of my possessions and person, I was tired out yet again and sagged against the wall of the big elevator.
“You okay Sergeant?”
“Yes sir. I just tire easily.”
“He’s a real handsome devil.”
Beside me, Cooper uncertainly began to wag his tail at the compliment. My canine partner was my strength and my sanity ever since the Army paired me off with him almost six years ago. I honestly believed the accident would have killed me if not for him. We dropped hundreds of feet down to the NORAD level and I wished I’d had time to read the briefing packet more thoroughly. There had been something in there about the SGC facility being a thousand feet underground. For the next leg, I was handed off to a stone-faced Marine who probably resented the hell out of being demoted to a mere bellhop. Especially to an Army Sergeant E5 with a cane and an oversized German Shepherd in hand.
When at last we finished our decent into the bowels of the mountain, the Marine set out down the reinforced concrete and steel hallway, walking far too fast, of course. Rather than get upset, I let him go and trusted Cooper’s fine nose would take me to him. I rounded a corner and a young woman in Air Force semi-dress blues stared at my partner in shock. With a hesitant grin, she took note of my Army markings before uncertainly moving away. There were others we passed, a strange conglomeration of researchers and warriors, but all of them with a heartening sense of purpose. The seeming insanity of this whole thing was finally beginning to recede. Maybe I hadn’t lost my mind in the hospital after the accident. Maybe, just maybe, this whole ‘Stargate’ Project really was true.
Cooper led me to a steep metal staircase at the back of a busy control center and I scowled. “Figures. The-eh mou I’m tired.”
By the time I reached the top, I was shaking with fatigue and desperately needed to rest. There was a big, formal briefing room and an enormous bank of windows that looked out over the upper levels of the control center. Beyond that was a gigantic blast shield that looked as though it had been cut right from the belly of a Navy Destroyer. What could that massive chunk of hardware be protecting? Then I realized with a start that it must be shielding the actual Stargate itself. Suddenly, Cooper’s change of body language told me I was no longer alone.
“Sergeant Goldston? I’m General George Hammond. Welcome to Stargate Command.” Properly intimidated by his rank, I reflexively snapped into formal mode and gave a proper salute. Unfortunately, the effort pretty much doubled me over in agony. Sympathy and compassion ghosted across the General’s face and he waved me into one of the comfy chairs. Bless the man, not only did he say my name correctly, but he was compassionate as well. “Sit down soldier, before you fall down. I know what happened so you can relax. The others will be here any moment now.”
As though conjured up by his voice, two fatigue-clad men filed into the room followed by two more figures. First was a cynical-looking older man with eyes like a hawk that was pointedly ignoring the younger fellow dogging his heels.
“But Jack, all evidence points to the cartouches belonging to a far older language group… oh, sorry General, I didn’t realize we had company.”
He radiated an almost child-like fascination with the world around him that made me smile. The expression was quickly and briefly returned. The first man, marked as a Colonel, rolled his eyes expressively and made for the chairs across from me. Behind them was an enormous bear of a man that carried himself like an archaic, formal warrior and had the countenance of an exotic statue carved in ebony. For a moment I worried that the General hadn’t received my instructions until the lanky blonde behind the big man yanked the door closed and bumped into him hard enough to earn a speculative eyebrow.
“Sorry,” was spoken sheepishly in a distinctively feminine voice and the last person was revealed as an attractive woman with frank blue eyes and Major’s leaves on her epaulets. The-eh mou (My god) there was a lot of brass in this pit. When I moved to stand, General Hammond pinned me with a steely glance.
“Stay put. You’re excused from standing up and saluting two superior officers due to your medical history. This is my lead team, SG1. Colonel Jack O’Neill, Doctor Daniel Jackson, Teal’c and Major Samantha Carter. This is Staff Sergeant Artemis Goldston, of the K9 corps. The Army was kind enough to assign her to us for some experiments.”
“Experiments? K9 corps?”
That was Colonel O’Neill. Four pairs of eyes rested on me and I made
a quick gesture to Cooper where he lay on the floor beside me. They looked
startled when he heaved himself up to plant big front paws on the pristine
tabletop. “My partner, Cooper. He’s the real talent, I’m
just the translator.”
Before anyone could comment, another party entered the room. “Sorry General, I had a difficult time pulling myself away from something.”
“That’s alright doctor.” Now this pretty little doctor caught my eye. With a cock of his proud head, Cooper let me know that I wasn’t the only one. She looked a little disconcerted by the presence of a dog as the General waved off her apology. She was absently introduced as Doctor Janet Fraiser and fathomless sable eyes looked me over with sharp intelligence glittering in their depths. She sat beside Carter as Hammond began to explain why Cooper and I were there. “Before the recent summit here, I was presented with several new ideas relating to the Stargate Project. Some have already been implemented, as you all know. Using trained animals was dismissed at the time, but I’ve done some research since then and decided it was worth a try. We all know that dogs have sensory abilities we can’t match. It just took a little time to find the right candidate.”
I was so fascinated by the five very different people sitting across from me that a long silence hung in the air before I caught on that I was supposed to jump in now. Embarrassed, I colored lightly and cleared my throat. They were kind enough not to laugh, but I did see a few discrete smiles. “Sorry General, sir. Cooper and I are highly trained in both patrol work and explosives detection. I’m not entirely certain what will be required of us, but Cooper is an incredibly smart animal. He has a few mild quirks, but General Hammond accommodated the first one quite nicely.”
I flashed my best friendly grin in response to O’Neill’s question and earned a warm smile in return.
“Cooper always gets weird around a new place, but I’ve discovered something that puts him at ease very quickly. He likes to be introduced to a few of the ladies first.” Now everybody smiled except the oddly tattooed Teal’c. Wasn’t he the one from another world? Sto dheeahvalo, I wish I’d been able to read more of that fragging file… “It’s nothing personal, he passed up a half-dozen far more qualified male handlers before bonding with me. So Doctor Fraiser, Major Carter, if you’d do us the honors.”
“This is different,” Fraiser muttered and Carter chuckled as they stepped around the table. The blonde woman was fairly tall and intelligence and enthusiasm radiated from her. Cooper dropped to all fours as I carefully got onto my knees and Fraiser’s gaze sharpened. “You’re hurt.”
“Past tense. Okay Major, since you’re in pants, you get to go first. Kneel down.”
I knew I had cut the doctor off, but I wasn’t going to get into my medical history right here. Carter was obviously highly amused by this whole thing as she dropped onto one knee and Cooper’s interest sharpened. He knew this ritual. I only introduced him to really important people on our knees. It was weird, but it worked. “Closer Major, we don’t bite. Doctor, why don’t you take a seat so he can ignore you for the time being.”
When the petite doctor was halfway into her seat, Cooper did something totally unexpected.
He growled at them.
As everyone in the room froze in shock and alarm, I realized that he had specifically growled at Major Carter. Instantly, I threw my arms around his thick neck and felt the tension in his body.
“What is it Cooper? Fovahseh? Then he did something even more shocking, at least to me. He whined plaintively, a frightened, confused sound. The pointed ears flickered uncertainly and he shifted restlessly from foot to foot. “Uh, Major, he’s… not afraid exactly, but there’s something about you he can’t figure out. Any ideas?”
Then Cooper sniffed the air with canine deliberateness and his head swung around under my chin to snarl in truly perplexed menace at Teal’c. Now I was growing concerned he might listen to some animal instincts he never displayed unless I was in immediate danger.
“Interesting that he singled you two out,” Fraiser mused as she watched Cooper peel his lips back away from white teeth.
“Hardly the word I’d use,” O’Neill scowled back.
Quickly Fraiser explained what was on her mind. “It must be the Goa’uld he senses. Why else would he single Teal’c out? And you Sam.”
Carter flinched when Fraiser leaned over to lay a hand on the back of her neck. At last General Hammond jumped into the conversation. “Teal’c, please wait outside until we can figure out a way to safely introduce you to the dog.”
“Of course General Hammond.”
With stately ease, Teal’c calmly stood and stepped out into the hall. Instantly, Cooper calmed significantly and pressed into me, whining for reassurance. Everyone and everything faded away as I responded to his need. “Oh Cooper, it’s okay, just relax. Everything will be fine…” I knew it was more my tone and not my words that he needed, but I was shaken too. After a long moment, I asked a question without taking my eyes off my partner. “Is Teal’c one of these Goa’uld I read about?”
“Sort of,” Jackson mused. “He carries a larval Goa’uld in a special chamber in his body. Maybe that’s what Cooper sensed.”
“Okay,” I said in that I-don’t-understand-but-I’ll-trust-you tone and pinned Carter with a fierce look. “But what about you?”
Uncomfortably, she glanced back at Fraiser and then her teammates. “He couldn’t possibly be that astute, could he?”
“I dunno Carter,” O’Neill mused. “Dog’s sense of smell is amazing. Maybe he can pick up on… you know.”
I was so in over my head here. Wary and curious, Cooper sniffed the air in Carter’s direction as the doctor leaned over the larger woman. “The Colonel has a good point. Jolinar’s protein marker changed your chemical makeup. Cooper might be sensing that.”
After a moment’s hesitation, the blazing blue eyes bore into mine. She had that same haunted look I get when I have to talk about the terrorist’s grenade that nearly took my life not so very long ago. “The Goa’uld are a parasitic symbiote that require a human host.” I vaguely remembered reading that and not really believing it. Then my eyes rounded in comprehension and she haltingly continued. “It was very temporary, but the… experience left me with several… physiological changes after she died.”
By the strain in her voice, that was the proverbial understatement and I shook off my shock and lingering creepy-crawlies. What exactly did being a host entail? I had a feeling I wouldn’t like the answer. So I gestured the now sober woman closer. “Okay, so your smell is funny and you’re not a threat. We can deal with that, but you need to come right over here next to me.”
Swallowing her mental anguish, Carter shifted closer to my side until our knees and boots just touched. I studied her thoughtfully while continuing to keep my hold around Cooper’s tense neck. How to prove to my canine partner that she was okay? I gave my superior officer a sheepish grin. “I haven’t had to deal with something like this before ma’am. I mean, people smell different, but this is the first time he’s been aggressive to someone who honestly doesn’t mean me any harm. I’m trying to figure out how to prove that to his doggy brain.”
We girls smiled at one another as O’Neill’s voice chimed in. “So he needs a gesture of trust from you.”
“Exactly sir, but I have to admit I’m at a loss.”
“C’mon Carter, get friendly. He’s a dog, remember that.”
Firing her superior a funny look, Carter hesitantly ran one hand down my sleeve while Cooper watched with unblinking intensity. I didn’t feel comfortable releasing him quite yet, not with him watching her fingers with that predatory look. Since first laying eyes on my partner, I’ve suspected he has a little wolf in him. That made me think about a wildlife documentary I had seen on wolves, years ago. They had such elaborate ritual behavior to display the hierarchy in a pack. That gave me an idea, an unorthodox one, but it just might work.
“Pardon my forwardness ma’am,” I warned Carter and ducked my head down to rub my curls over her cheek and under her chin. There was an odd, feral intimacy to the gesture even as the position put a terrible strain on my damaged midriff. I kept my eyes locked on Cooper where I was tucked under the larger woman’s chin. Carter didn’t so much as twitch, but I could imagine the look on her face. It was embarrassing, but it worked. Cooper finally relaxed and stared trustingly into my eyes until I could almost hear the thought.
‘If you trust her, I trust her.’
Once again I was humbled by his faith in me. With a groan, I placed my hand on Carter’s thigh and tried to push myself upright again. Strong hands helped me and I choked back the pain blazing across my body. With our smells mixed up and Carter’s acceptability established, Cooper was all business again.
“Are you okay?” Carter asked softly, her beautiful blue eyes gentle and concerned.
“I will be,” I answered just as softly. Something about her tugged at me, made me really want to trust her. I made a conscious effort to shake it off and get back to business. “Thanks for your patience Major, he’s okay now. Just another minute more and we’ll quit embarrassing you. Your suggestion worked Colonel, thank you.” Now back to the original introduction ritual, I wrapped my hand around Cooper’s lower jaw and spoke in my sternest ‘Handler’ voice. “Cooper, serve and protect. Major.” The hand closest to her raised up to shoulder level, palm up. “Put your chin in my hand. It indicates to him that you are among a special few that get volunteered at every base we serve at for any length of time.” After a moment I felt warm skin settle onto my hand and curled my fingers around her chin. With a light tug, I brought her sharp profile just into the corner of my vision. That was strictly for my benefit, for I loved the expressions on people’s faces when we did this. “Cooper. Serve and protect. Now, just hold his gaze until he signals you.”
She did just that, lost in my partner’s dark eyes. He really was quite hypnotic if you stared for too long. After a few long beats, Cooper was satisfied about her new role in our lives. Traditionally, he signaled this with a sloppy kiss. It earned the usual response as our victim jerked out of my loose grip and complained about the slobber. “Oh gross! Jeez Goldston.”
Bless these flyboys, that was two of them now that had pronounced my name correctly.
“He’ll never forget you now. Ever. In ten years he could run into you in a filthy back alley in Bangladesh and know you were one of his. Hence all the melodrama. Thanks for your patience. Now you doctor.”
The second introduction went smoothly, the pretty doctor’s skin silky against my hand. When Cooper reached out to kiss her, she just smiled, but jerked back and squeaked in shock when his long tongue swabbed across her throat and collarbones instead of her face. I hastened to explain to my superior officer despite my amusement. “Sorry ma’am, but you’re wearing makeup. He can’t taste anything through that. Good thing you weren’t in a low cut shirt or he would’ve gotten downright personal.”
The others laughed at that and Fraiser gave me a mocking scowl before patting Cooper’s head. O’Neill was teasing Carter as she rubbed her sleeve across her face. “What’s the matter Carter, don’t like being kissed by good-looking guys?”
“I dunno ladies,” Daniel chimed in. “Fella learns your name and you let him drool all over you.”
Even Fraiser gave the man a dirty look for that one.
“Mee stenohoriesay, ahkeen-dhino,” I soothed and received surround sound confusion. Except for Doctor Jackson, who stared at me in disbelief and delight. I was right, he had heard my earlier comment and seemed to understand.
“What was that?” He begged, practically leaping across the table in his enthusiasm. “Part of the Mediterranean group, right? It isn’t Latin or Italian, but it’s close.”
When he paused for breath, I broke in with a smile. “Greek was the first language I spoke and I slip into it without thinking, even now. I speak five languages fluently, and a few others with passable skill.”
The-eh mou! The look on his face was priceless. After a moment of shock, Jackson propped his chin in his hands to stare adoringly at me.
“Marry me,” he sighed and I laughed at his puppy dog charm. Ripples of amusement around the table snapped him out of his cerebrum-induced trance.
“Great,” O’Neill muttered. “Could you clip him, Doc? Please? C’mon, he’s gonna drive me insane.”
Among the chuckles, I managed to get settled back into my chair without further injury to myself. Much to Cooper’s delight, and mine, the two women remained on our side of the table.
“Sergeant, just how much do you know about what’s going on in this facility?” Major Carter’s sudden businesslike tone brought me back to the subject at hand.
“Uh… not nearly enough I’m afraid. There wasn’t much time for me to review the briefing document sent to the hospital where I was staying. I read that the Stargate makes some kind of travel between worlds possible.”
“It creates a wormhole, a tunnel of sorts between two Stargates.”
“A wormhole? Like in ‘Star Trek’?”
“Similar concept, only there’s concrete, verifiable science at work here.”
She sighed at my look of incomprehension and settled into a well-worn lecturing mode. With only a few words out of her mouth, I was hopelessly lost. In the corner of my eye I saw Colonel O’Neill flash me a ‘good-luck-I-don’t-get-this-stuff-either’ look, heavily laced with amusement. It made me swallow a grin and make a mental reminder to test out his obvious sense of humor. After long moments of incomprehensible technobabble that would have made Einstein wince, Major Carter began to trail off. I cocked my head in mimicry of Cooper’s inquisitive canine look. “Uh, begging your pardon ma’am… but what exactly do you do here?”
O’Neill and Jackson had been watching us interact with looks of barely constrained hilarity. As much as I hated to entertain them at both of our expense, I was well and truly confused. A long-suffering sigh was Carter’s only response as she buried her face in her hands. Even the General seemed amused.
“I’m… an astrophysicist,” Carter groaned and ignored the snorts of laughter from her teammates.
“Ah,” I said sagely, and let warm sympathy shine in my eyes. “In other words, you’re the only one in this room that really understands why it works, correct?”
That shut the two men up and the blue eyes rose to fire me a grateful and surprised look. That one had won me points with all of them, I could sense it.
“That’s what I keep trying to remind them of,” she scowled dryly.
“Aw c’mon Sam,” Jackson wheedled. “You know we love you for your brains.”
Both she and O’Neill snorted in unison and Hammond smiled a bit wider as laughter erupted among SG1. Patting Carter on the shoulder, Fraiser gave the other woman a warm grin and the group settled down. It was clear that giving the blonde woman a hard time about her obvious intelligence was one of the favorite local pastimes and I made a mental note to never participate in that particular sport. Abruptly, Cooper nosed me in the leg and whimpered plaintively. Only then did I realize how bone-wearily exhausted and agonizingly in pain I truly was. Of course, the sharp-eyed doctor caught me shifting uncomfortably. “General? Can this wait sir? It appears that our new teammate is in need of rest.”
“Of course doctor. My apologies Sergeant.”
When Carter stood and tugged an arm to help me up, pain firestormed across my torso and made me groan. Of course Cooper had to go and growl at the woman again and she froze before firing him an exasperated look. “Not you… Major,” I ground out from between clenched teeth. “My stomach…”
“I’m sorry, let’s try this again.”
“Sorry you have to get stuck playing nursemaid.”
“No problem, we’re all on the same team here.”
When she bent over to help me up more gently this time, I carefully reached up to loop an arm around her neck. With a strength I wouldn’t have guessed from her willowy frame, she slowly straightened with my dead weight pulling on her. Carter was a little taller, but I was sturdier in build. Well, I used to be anyway. Once upright, she tucked me up against her side and kept an arm carefully around my waist. That perverse little corner of my brain crowed happily at the feel of her lanky body pressed against me.
“Infirmary?” Carter asked quietly, the question directed at Doctor Fraiser. Thankfully, the Major was avoiding pulling at the worst of the tender scars and Cooper pressed up against my leg. With a tilt of my chin, I drew Doctor Fraiser’s dark gaze to the bag caught between Carter’s body and mine.
“My medical file is here. You’ll want to see it ASAP ma’am.”
No one could miss the resigned pain in my tone. Ducking under my other arm and displacing Cooper, she fired me a gently admonishing glance. “Is there something perhaps you should have told me before now?”
“No ma’am, Cooper comes first. Always. A little pain is scant payment for him to be at ease in a new environment.”
The doctor made a faintly disgruntled sound under her breath, but my tone brooked no argument. Hammond eyed the three of us and I noticed the fatherly humor and concern dancing in the corners of his pale eyes. “Once the doctor clears you Sergeant, come see me and we’ll get you properly settled in.”
“Thank you sir. It was a pleasure Colonel O’Neill. Doctor Jackson.”
With a gentle shift in weight, Carter got our little procession moving. It was humiliating and reassuring to have these kind strangers care for me. Grateful tears burned my eyes when Carter glanced back over her shoulder and spoke in a firm and friendly voice. “C’mon Cooper.”
++ Colonel O’Neill ++
After the three women left with the Shepherd on their heels, a long beat passed in silence. I reflected on the new woman’s warm grin and the eerie wisdom in Cooper’s amber gaze. A long beat passed, far longer than Daniel usually let pass, and I fired him a dirty look. “What, no opinion Doctor Jackson?”
The younger man had many years of practice in ignoring my sarcasm, but this time even he almost flinched. Then I sighed heavily and gestured for Teal’c through the windows. He returned to the room as I flashed Daniel an apologetic glance. It wasn’t fair to take out my mixed feelings on him and I knew it.
“Go ahead and ask,” Hammond prompted and Daniel beat me to it.
“A highly trained Military Working Dog, Doctor Jackson. From what I hear, he’s one of the best to have come out of the K9 corps in years.”
Now it was Teal’c’s turn to ask a question. “I was unaware that the Tau’ri utilized lesser creatures to assist them in their duties.”
We winced a little at his phrasing; I doubt that Sergeant Goldston would like hearing her partner referred to as a ‘lesser creature’.
“Humans have been using dogs to help them in their day-to-day lives as long as we’ve had fire and tools. In modern days they’re used to assist in law enforcement by detecting things we can’t,” Hammond added in a faintly disapproving tone.
A sudden thought made me stiffen in my seat. “She’s military police, isn’t she?”
“She was, until a month ago when she was medically discharged. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have assigned her directly to me and rescinded her discharge status.” Hopefully, Goldston understood the impact of all of this. Hammond pinned the three of us with his best sober look and tapped the dossier under his hand. “Those two were very specifically chosen for the SGC by their superiors. Goldston has a reputation for thinking on her feet and being a bit of a maverick, and she has some very useful skills, but Cooper is the real reason she’s here. That dog is due to be retired sometime in the next year depending on his ongoing health, which wasn’t looking good there for awhile.”
Daniel hesitantly ventured the question. “If Cooper wasn’t in good health, why are they here?”
“He was in poor health because his Handler had nearly been killed. Nine weeks ago, Goldston was assigned to the UN forces in Bosnia. Some Serb terrorist threw a grenade that caught her point-blank range. That ‘lesser creature’ proved his loyalty to his Handler by grabbing her by the collar to minimize the damage before dragging her almost half a mile to medical teams. It was the only way they could have saved her in time. Despite the Sergeant’s physical status, I believe she deserves a chance to prove herself.”
I agreed with a nod, far more intrigued by this newcomer than I had been a few minutes ago. Teal’c’s expression said the same and he addressed the General. “I am intrigued by Sergeant Goldston and Cooper, but he is uncomfortable with my physiological differences.”
“That’s why they’re here Teal’c, for experiments. I’ll arrange for you to speak to Goldston alone and we’ll see what happens. Let’s give her a day or two to settle in before dumping all of the strangeness around here on her.”
++ Major Carter ++
At some point, Goldston nearly lost her footing and only the protective embrace of Janet and I kept her from sprawling to the concrete. Eventually, we made it to the Infirmary and Janet ducked away. Hauling Goldston over to a private room with a bed, I grinned at her. Sunset blue eyes, much darker than mine, regarded me from beneath the curly waves of jaw-length hair the color of inky midnight. She was bronze skinned and reminded me of the sturdy people of Abydos. “Do you need a hand getting undressed, or can you do this? Janet will want to check you out before you can rest.”
An odd look passed over her face before she chuckled and winced. Cooper whined protectively and pushed up against her hand. Thankfully, no one had prevented him following us into the Infirmary.
“Sorry, I’m just wiped out,” she apologized tiredly and gave me a searching look. “Major, will you trust me with something?” Startled and wary, I nodded tightly. “Trust me enough to tell me more about Jolinar?”
Agony and loss stabbed through me and I was amazed that it could still hurt this badly. I wished she hadn’t asked, but I knew that she needed to understand what Cooper had sensed in me as best she could. Pain had pushed her past the point of proper decorum and she must have sensed I would allow her to ask despite our vast difference in ranks. Propping her trembling frame against the bed, I unceremoniously grabbed the edge of the light green uniform shirt and started undoing buttons, desperate for something useful to do. I was only dimly aware of where I was and what I was doing as memories, both mine and Jolinar’s, crashed through me.
“I already told you the Goa’uld are a symbiotic species, parasites that physically bond with a human host and can completely subvert all thought and control.” The low, tight monotone barely sounded like me as I efficiently stripped away her shirt. Suddenly, she grabbed my wrists with surprisingly strong hands and I met her sympathetic gaze. “When Jolinar died, she changed me both physically and psychologically. Left me with painfully vivid memories and experiences and emotions that aren’t mine and subtly altered my physical makeup. Obviously, your astute partner picked up on that. There’s also an alien mineral in my blood that may be detectable by Cooper. There’s more to it than that, but the details will have to wait until after you rest.”
“I’m sorry I had to ask.”
“I gathered from your reaction back in the briefing room that Cooper doesn’t growl very often. I’m just glad he’s not afraid of me any more, I like him.”
“Good, he likes you too. You made quite the impression on both of us.”
Back in control of my emotions, I tugged up the white undershirt and curiosity drew my gaze down her half-naked torso. My eyes widened at the same moment Janet stepped in.
“Well Sergeant,” she said brightly. “I see Major Carter has taken her new role as nursemaid seriously. Take a seat so I can give you the once over.”
Grunting in familiar pain, Goldston leaned over to let me pull off her undershirt and sat heavily on the bed. She was left in a soft sport bra that was probably the only thing her barely healed injuries would allow tight against her skin. Janet pressed the stethoscope against her back and ignored the obvious for the moment. But eventually both our gazes rested on the pattern of twisted and puckered scars that traced across Goldston’s center body. A long, thick line started at her sternum to disappear under her green slacks, neatly bisecting the damaged flesh. There was a long moment before she began to speak in a tense, halting tone. “Me and Coop were stationed in Bosnia just over two months ago. Terrorists attacked and there was an explosion… I never saw it coming. The medical teams told me later that he dragged me nearly half a mile to get away from the site and to a medic. And he had some injuries of his own from the shrapnel, despite me taking most of it. When a partner goes and does something amazing like that for you, you don’t just up and die on them. I’m still in bad enough shape that the Army was getting ready to medically discharge me. A research project needing a really smart dog was a lifesaver.”
I didn’t know what to say, but the pain in her tone made my heart warm to her. Soberly, Janet looked at her, then at Cooper where he sat quietly beside the bed. She carefully crouched down and held the dog’s gaze. “You can stay here if you behave. Agreed?” Grateful at the understanding tone, Cooper nuzzled the friend and was very careful not to muss her. Then she stood and pinned Goldston with a no-nonsense look worthy of a four-star General. “Lie down before you fall down. Sam, if you wouldn’t mind staying for a few minutes until our new friends are settled?”
“Of course. C’mon Goldston.”
Startled out of my musing by Janet’s voice, I grabbed my new teammate’s legs and swung them up onto the hospital bed. Once she was comfortable on her back, I efficiently removed both boots and socks. Weariness was getting the best of Goldston and she rolled her head over to catch her partner’s eye. “You obey Carter and Fraiser, okay?”
He whined in response, pressing against her hand and stood attentive guard as sleep at last claimed Goldston’s weak frame. I was moved by his unwavering dedication to this woman who obviously adored him so. With a gesture, Janet drew me out of the room after her and we paused outside. Both of us had been moved and disturbed by these two and made our way to Janet’s office in a respectful silence.
“I only had a minute to skim through her medical file, but the grenade incident she spoke of is like something out of a war simulation. I’m shocked she’s even alive, much less walking under her own power,” Janet mused to herself as she settled into her chair.
“Sam, you saw those scars. That woman has a topographical map drawn in bas-relief across nearly the entirety of her ventral side. The file says that later investigation of the attack site showed that the grenade exploded only two meters from where she’d been standing. It’s not a wonder that she never saw it coming. But obviously Cooper did. From both her account and marks left on the collar of her uniform, Cooper jumped up and grabbed the back of her shirt with his teeth to yank her backwards. That was the only thing that saved her from getting a throat and face full of shrapnel. It also says she was in surgery onsite for over ten hours and flatlined twice. One of the doctors made a note that Cooper howled outside the tent until they let him into lay under her cot while she began recovery. It was only then he would let the doctors clean his own wounds.”
I had nothing to say. When Janet winced my attention sharpened again
“They had to split her open like a cesarean section to get the shrapnel out of her body cavity. It states the doctors removed twelve ounces of metal in fourteen different pieces. Her stomach was torn in five places and her intestines ripped in six. My God, no wonder the surgery took so long. There was some slight damage to the diaphragm and various other internal organs…”
Again she winced and I wondered how much worse it could get. “What?”
“These last few notations are a bit… personal.”
“Let’s just say the Sergeant won’t be having children. Ever.”
That sobered me even further. To have that choice taken away from a woman by circumstance… “Did they say anything about how she’s recovered emotionally?”
Janet had not expected me to ask that and skimmed through the rest of the thick document. “As well as to be expected I suppose. She cracked a few jokes at the briefing and seemed to adapt well when Cooper reacted badly to you and Teal’c.”
“Yeah, but I wonder how she feels, Janet. That was an awful thing that happened to her.”
When Janet’s hand came to rest gently on my arm, I looked up into her understanding eyes. “Sounds like the Sergeant just made a friend. Go get some of this stress out of your system and come back to check on her. Okay?”
“Okay. Thanks Janet.”
Overwhelmed by my concern for this complete stranger, I wandered out of the Infirmary and into the hallways. Maybe it was the empathy I held for the suddenness of her pain. Maybe it was because she had tried so hard to understand what I had gone through with Jolinar.
Maybe we both just needed a friend.
++ Daniel Jackson ++
A familiar figure hovering in my doorway drew my attention and I quirked a grin in welcome. “Hey Sam.” But it vanished when I saw the haunted, confused look in her expressive eyes. “What’s wrong?” She flinched when I came over to touch her arm. That stiff tension she gets across the shoulders when she’s upset or stressed was full-blown under the fatigue shirt. “Can I get you a cup of coffee?”
Grateful for the distraction, Sam nodded and crept into my lab to perch on a stool. She looked like she was ready to flee at any second. When I brought her the cup, I remained standing close to her bent knees, wanting to be supportive any way I could. Finally she spoke in a distant tone I knew all too well. It’s how I sound when I speak of my beloved wife Sha’re, taken by our alien enemies so long ago. “Goldston asked me questions about Jolinar and now I feel rotten all over again. Every time I think I’m okay, some new thing will dredge up all those memories and emotions and I worry it’ll never go away.”
“It won’t Sam.” Startled, her pale eyes came up to meet mine and I could tell she had not expected that response. “The intensity will fade with time, but it will never go away. Why did this hit you so hard this time? Do you know?”
While I had never expected to play the role of therapist, it felt great to be able to help my teammate and friend in this way. Haltingly, she told me about Goldston’s questions and the empathy the younger woman had stirred up. The descriptions of the injuries made me queasy, but I ignored the sensation. And with time and patience, the tension in her shoulders eased before she stood to hug me unexpectedly. Startled and pleased by the affection, I returned the quick embrace.
“Any time. Now go check up on your buddy.”
And with a much lighter heart, I returned to my research.
++ Sergeant Goldston ++
Fuzzily, I grew aware that something did not… smell right. That inane thought roused me with a sneeze of humor. I caught myself thinking more and more like Cooper the longer I spent with him. Naked concrete enclosed the sterile hospital room and memories cascaded through me. Something was wrong and apprehension pricked at me. Then I saw a folded piece of paper on the bed stand. There was a poorly drawn caricature of a dog scrawled on it and that was when I realized that Cooper was not in the room. That I hadn’t realized that immediately upon waking was proof enough that I had been pushing myself too hard. Inside the paper was a neat, concise note.
*Took Cooper sightseeing. Be back soon. –Carter*
Tracing a finger over the words, I smiled mistily. Thank whatever deities watched over animals and fools that Cooper had bonded with the woman who had initially unnerved him so badly. The click of heels brought my eyes to the door where Doctor Fraiser smiled at me. “Well good morning. Your partner seemed to be getting a little antsy, so Sam took him above ground to romp in the sunshine.”
Again, I gave silent thanks that these people were making such a concerted effort to understand the bond between Cooper and I. Before informing me of my own condition, my new physician had assured me that he was fine. “Thank you. Hopefully, he won’t wear her out.”
The grin turned mischievous as Fraiser pulled up a stool to sit beside me. “That’s why I didn’t take him myself. And I suppose I really should be more concerned with you, hmm? It’s just been so long since we’ve had any thing as interesting and ordinary as a dog around here. Generally surprises are a mixed blessing at best.”
We talked about my injuries as she did an embarrassingly thorough examination. With my dangerous bent towards the members of my own sex, I’d never been able to decide if women doctors were better or worse for my peace of mind. Thankfully, she was gentle and efficient, never letting me dwell on any particular sensation for very long.
“Have you dealt with many grenade cases?” I finally had to ask, merely to distract my wandering attention.
“Sergeant, I’ve dealt with worse and weirder,” she chuckled in a dry tone that made me grin. There was a sudden thump against the door that made it rattle in its frame. A muffled oath accompanied a softer impact. Immediately, Fraiser tugged the open-backed gown up and went to the door. A sheepish and winded Sam Carter was there with a wriggling Cooper panting at her feet. “I take it he’s done taking you for a walk?”
The embarrassed scowl in response to Fraiser’s dry tone made me chuckle. When Cooper yanked at the leash to get to me, he jerked Carter heavily into the small doctor and managed to free himself. Thoroughly snarled up with the larger officer, Fraiser tried to turn to check on me and only made their tangle worse. There was nothing for her to worry about. With typical gentleness at odds with his size, Cooper hoisted himself up to place big paws on either side of my hips and lovingly lick my face.
“Back off Amazon,” Fraiser groused laughingly at her friend as they finally managed to disentangle themselves without falling down. That little perverse part of my brain noted that they made a really cute couple. Definitely a dangerous place to go when thinking about superior officers.
“I hope he behaved except for that last tug, Major.”
“He was great,” Carter enthused. “But we need to work on the communication issue. He’s either deliberately ignoring some of what I tell him, or he really doesn’t understand.”
“A little of both most likely. I’d be happy to train you on some of his basic commands.” We both cringed under Fraiser’s sharp look and I gave her my best sheepish puppy look. “When the doctor says I can of course.”
“Great. You’ll need to know more about what’s going on here anyhow. Just let me know when you’re available.”
“Have a good day, you too Janet.”
After a few more pokes and prods, Fraiser let me go with strict orders not to overdo it. While I slowly dressed, she knelt to give Cooper a cursory once-over. “I’m no vet, but I’m sure I can spot anything obvious, right?”
Cooper wagged his tail enthusiastically at her attention. Her comment had gotten me thinking about who would take care of his medical needs. So far I had always had access to the veterinarians in the K9 Corps. I made a mental note to talk to General Hammond about that when I spoke with him next. Even with my hampered movements, clean fatigues were soon settled around me with familiar assurance. The oddity of my identifying marks was immediately apparent as I hobbled out into the Infirmary proper. I really was the only Army personnel on this base. How bizarre. Bidding Doctor Fraiser a warm goodbye, I took a solid grip on the aluminum cane and Cooper’s guide harness. Very quickly the irritating blandness of the place grated on my nerves. Every hallway and door looked identical except for the ID numbers. How the hell was a new kid supposed to find her way around? As though conjured by my thoughts, a voice spoke from nearby. “You look like I did the first few weeks I was here.”
“Weeks? That’s not encouraging.”
Daniel Jackson flashed a brief grin and stepped closer. “I think you’re probably better prepared for this kind of environment that I was when I arrived.”
“Thanks for the vote of encouragement, Doctor Jackson.”
“Call me Daniel, I’m not military and I’m sick of formalities. Are you hungry? We actually have a pretty decent commissary here.”
“Great. I need a guide anyway. If you’re a civilian, why are you here?”
“I’m a Egyptologist.” My look of confusion and skepticism must have spoken volumes. “Ancient Egyptian mythology heavily influenced Goa’uld culture. We’ve found that dozens of ancient cultures influenced various groups of both the Goa’uld and other aliens.”
“Wait, there’s more than just these Goa’uld?”
“Oh yeah, plenty. You’re in for quite a ride Sergeant.”
“Call me Art.”
“Okay, Art it is.”
He was a very conscientious man, measuring his pace to match my awkward stride without any obvious indication he had done it. I decided right then that I liked him. Over a light meal, Daniel began my education on the Stargate Project. He was far more interesting than the dry document I had managed to skim through. Passion and enthusiasm for his work radiated off him like a palatable force while he spoke. The cook provided me with scraps for Cooper until I could get some proper food sent to the base. Some time passed with various personnel periodically interrupting us to admire my partner. Eventually my brain informed me that it had reached its weirdness threshold and I gently cut Daniel off with a gesture.
“I rarely get to ramble on for so long,” he admitted sheepishly and I laughed.
“So Major Carter’s not the only one that gets a hard time around here?”
“Absolutely not. Jack, ummm… I mean Colonel O’Neill can’t stand that he needs us scientific types as much as he does.”
“Well, I’m no scientist, maybe he’ll like me.”
“You have a dog, he’ll adore you.”
“Good. It never hurts to have an in with superior officers.”
We laughed over that one, but I knew I needed to track down O’Neill as soon as possible. All indications were that he hated being left out and his brainy teammates did that to him enough. Cooper would win him over of that I had no doubt. We just needed the opportunity. Now Teal’c was a whole different story. How to make Cooper understand that this alien was okay, but anything else that smelled like him might not be? Filing that problem away, I said goodnight to Daniel and went in search of General Hammond again. Luckily, I caught him right before he was going off shift. “Sergeant Goldston, good to see you up again.”
“Thank you sir. Doctor Fraiser and Major Carter took excellent care of Cooper and I.”
“Good. Come in and sit.” He was very helpful with my list of needs for Cooper and promised to look into providing medical care if he needed it. Quarters were assigned and an Airman sent to get my bag moved there. The formalities aside, Hammond leaned back in his chair and fixed me with that laser blue gaze. “So how are you adapting?”
“Better than I would have expected in all honesty sir. With as little warning I received about this assignment, I’m grateful that things are falling into place so smoothly. Doctor Jackson was very helpful over dinner in filling me in on some of the basic history of the Stargate Project.” I flashed a loving grin at Cooper who was lying quietly on the carpet nearby. “And Cooper seems to have developed a crush on Major Carter.”
That earned a soft huff of amusement from the General and Cooper wagged his tail. “She does seem to have quite startling effects on people, and now your partner. She’s one of our best assets here. Listen to her and Jackson and they’ll have you up to speed in no time.”
“Yes sir. I got that impression from everybody but the two of them.”
“All of SG1 is like that, unassuming almost to a fault.” I suspected that Hammond was not normally quite so open and forthcoming. Funny the effect a dog had on people. Glancing at his watch, the General was suddenly all business again. “You should go get settled in. I’ll be certain to schedule SG1 to spend time with you for the next few days. There’s no specific policy on military dogs in this facility, so I’ll trust you to use your best judgment. Keep communicating with Doctor Fraiser; we want you as strong as possible to test your full potential for the project. Anything else?”
“No sir, none that I can think of at the moment.”
“Very good then. Dismissed.”
With a halfway decent salute, I left him. Automatically, Cooper slid under my left hand and my fingers closed around the short leash. Fatigue was pulling at me again, but I felt terrific. With all the new knowledge I had accumulated today, I knew this was going to be a wonderful assignment.
To be continued…