SG-16 stood on the gateramp, Lieutenant Monroe held on a makeshift stretcher. "He touched the pillar and collapsed, sir," Major Green called. "We got him back as soon as we could."
In the control room, Daniel leaned over General Hammond's shoulder and hit the microphone. "Was there writing on the pillar?"
Green chuckled a little. "Haven't you told us there's always writing on the pillar, Doc?" He held up a folder. "We brought video."
Daniel looked at Hammond, who nodded; he headed down the stairs and around the corner into the gateroom, where the SFs stepped aside for him. The folder Green handed over had "Dr. Daniel Jackson" printed in neat block letters across the front; inside were five sealed envelopes, each numbered. Daniel opened the first and let his eyes flick over the instruction sheet, quickly, then looked up to the control room windows.
"General," he said, "I think you should quarantine this base. Immediately."
2003 Fall Training exercises will be held the week of 13 October. The scenario is eligible to start any time past 0800 MST Monday 13 October and will start no later than 1300 MST Tuesday 14 October. All leave is cancelled and all offworld activity will be suspended from 1900 MST Sunday 12 October to 0800 MST Saturday 18 October with the exception of unscheduled emergency travel. All off-world teams will be recalled no later than 1900 MST Sunday 12 October unless prior arrangements have been made.
During this time, all base personnel should proceed with their usual duties until the announcement of training commencement is made via usual base communication channels. At this time, all personnel should open the first briefing envelope contained in their training folders. This will contain your location and team assignment for the duration of the scenario. All personnel should proceed immediately and without pause to the location specified. When your team is fully assembled, immediately open the second envelope, which will include the scenario detail and further instructions.
As we have a number of individuals new to the SGC this year, a review of the basic training scenario rules covered in Internal Policy MG-433 is included:
1. These training scenarios are intended to assess base readiness and review policies regarding certain scenarios that may occur in daily operations. They are not intended solely to provide a chance for you to shoot your co-workers, whether or not they deserve it.
(Daniel leaned over Sam's shoulder as she read the email out loud. "Jack?"
Jack looked up from where he was fiddling with the electromagnowhoosit on Sam's lab bench. "Yah?"
"You edited this memo after Hammond was done with it, didn't you."
Jack's lips tipped up. "What gave it away?"
Daniel rolled his eyes. "Oh, nothing.")
2. No live weaponry will be permitted unlocked on base for the duration of the training scenario. All checked-out weaponry must be returned to the armory before the scenario begins, and will be replaced by an intar equivalent. Dr. Fraiser wishes to remind all personnel that if anyone gets shot with live weaponry, she will be very upset.
3. General Hammond is the final arbiter of the training scenario rules and regulations. In the event of a dispute or a question about whether or not a particular 'kill' is legal, General Hammond's decision is final.
4. General Hammond is the only individual permitted to place the training scenario on hold or stop it entirely. Any attempt by any other member of base command to broadcast such a ruling shall be considered interference in the scenario.
("Ah," Sam said. "The O'Neill Rule."
"Please," Daniel said, looking hurt. "The O'Neill/Jackson Rule. That tactic was my idea."
"I am still not convinced it was an honorable method of achieving victory," Teal'c said.
"Got everyone to put their weapons down and come running out of cover, didn't it?" Jack asked. "And we won. Again. Wasn't that our third in a row?"
"This is why," Daniel said, "they don't let any of us be on the same team anymore.")
5. For the duration of the scenario, all base personnel will be considered active and involved in the scenario unless they are wearing white armbands. Any individual wearing a white armband is in the process of assisting with the scenario or performing necessary non-training activity. Wearing a white armband when you have not specifically been ordered to do so, for purposes of preparing or accomplishing an ambush, shall be considered interference in the scenario.
("That was a good one," Sam said, wistfully. "I didn't even get shot once in that one. And it was over and we were home before dinner.")
6. For the duration of the scenario, any attempt to modify, enhance, rewire, re-arrange, or otherwise alter or tamper with base equipment is not permitted. If your reactions to the scenario would call for such activity, you must contact Training Command and describe your hypothetical modifications, enhancements, rewirings, re-arrangements, alterations, or tampering. Training Command will rule on the hypothetical results of the hypothetical modifications. Any attempt to modify base equipment shall be considered interference in the scenario.
("Ah," Jack said, in perfect mimicry of Sam's earlier tone. "The Carter Rule."
Nobody argued that one. There were still scorch marks on the door to section C, level 22, and that had been three years ago.)
7. If the scenario involves obvious alien invasion, briefing materials will include a method of identifying personnel playing the roles of the invaders, and personnel playing these roles will be informed in their briefing materials. Otherwise, everyone on base should be considered to be themselves and should act in a manner reasonably consistent with their daily duties unless otherwise instructed in their briefing materials (e.g. the scenario involves an individual or individuals taken as a Goa'uld host). Any attempt to convince other players that you are not yourself, unless specifically instructed in your briefing materials, shall be considered interference in the scenario.
("That's a pity," Jack said to Daniel. "Footage of your 'lost alien who came through the Gate just before the invasion started' routine is still getting passed around the intranet."
Daniel blinked. "Still? That was five years ago."
"Daniel," Sam said, "you were dressed in robes and wearing a pair of boxers on your head. And nobody's ever managed to figure out what language you were speaking in. I think Siler's still got an open bet on it."
"I'm not sure," Daniel said, slowly -- his memory was still spotty in places -- "but correct me if I'm wrong -- didn't I win that one?"
"You did indeed," Teal'c said.)
8. Your briefing materials will include instructions on what to do if you are removed from active participation in the training exercise due to simulated death or injury. If the scenario involves any form of contamination, corruption, or potential base personnel compromise, which may or may not take place during the period when you are stunned, your briefing folder will be replaced with one containing new instructions while you are unconscious. All personnel must carry their briefing folders with them at all times. Any attempt to interfere with, remove, or change the contents of another's briefing folder shall be considered interference in the scenario.
(There was a pause for a second. "We haven't done that before, have we?" Jack asked.
"I believe there is an expression about shutting the barn door before the horses escape," Teal'c said.
"After," Daniel corrected, absently, and pushed up his glasses. "I think the question should be: why haven't we ever done that before?"
"Well," Sam said, thinking it over, "isn't that ... kind of like cheating?")
9. This is an officially-sanctioned United States military training operation. It is not a game or a sporting contest. There will be no wagering of any kind permitted regarding the scenario, its outcome, or the performance of any members involved in the scenario.
("Odds of anyone but one of us winning got too bad for the betting to be profitable," Jack said, sagely, and everyone nodded.)
Good luck. Please remember that for the duration of the scenario and for adjudication purposes, all base cameras will be fully operational, set to record all data, and security audio will be turned on.
"The writing on the pillar seems to indicate that the device was some kind of memory or consciousness storage module," Daniel said, sitting on the edge of an empty bed in the infirmary and letting his legs swing back and forth. Janet pretended to examine Lt. Monroe, who appeared to be taking the opportunity for a quick nap, judging by his light snoring. "But there's something that makes me think that it might be contagious in some fashion."
"Contagious?" Hammond asked. The first few times, they'd run the biannual scenarios from the point where the whole base got involved, but it had turned out that the SGC had more than its fair share of frustrated actors; everyone had enjoyed the role-playing part of the exercise so much that when the (relatively-weak) argument that the scenario's setup could involve important information (and a chance for everyone to get into character) had been put forth, Hammond had given in with virtually no convincing needed at all. Daniel suspected him of having cherished a hidden film-star career fantasy in his youth. "If it involves memory, how can it be contagious?"
Daniel had to check his instructions sheet again for the exact "translation". The scenario was particularly detailed this year. "The warning at the bottom says -- I can't get all of it, it's in a dialect that fell out of use centuries ago, but it's something along the lines of -- 'Here is stored the imprint of a great evil. Beware letting it loose, for it will turn your people and spread among you like a virus.'" He wrinkled his nose. Too faux-prophetic for his taste, but it wasn't his job to criticize.
"All right," Hammond said, and turned to Janet. "Get SG-16 into isolation rooms, and quarantine all personnel who have come into direct physical contact with them, yourself included. Run whatever tests you can while you're in there. We'll see if anything develops. In the meantime, I'll keep the mountain on lockdown until we see if anything suspicious happens."
"Yes, sir," Janet said. She looked at Daniel, raised an eyebrow. Daniel shook his head.
"Didn't touch anybody," he said, and held up his briefing folder the way he would have held up a video camera. "I'm going to go see what else I can get from this. Maybe there's something else, somewhere on the pillar or in the ruins, that might help us out."
"Very well, Dr. Jackson," Hammond said. "I'll be in Security Room A if anyone needs me." Security A was the traditional location of Training Command; Hammond would be coordinating the scenario, sending out runners to drop new instructions and making rulings on the effectiveness of various ploys for the duration. As he turned to go, he fastened a white armband around his left bicep.
Daniel stood. "And I'll be in my office," he said to Janet. "I'll work as fast as I can, to see if we can get you out of iso quickly." He handed her one of the other envelopes that had been in his briefing folder. It had her name written across the front of it, and "open in 10 minutes" beneath that.
He timed his departure carefully, so stumbling directly into the path of Lt. Keelerman, the day-shift head nurse, looked natural. He brought his hands up to keep her from falling, and handed her the second envelope. "I'm so sorry, Lieutenant," he said.
"No problem, Dr. Jackson," she said, and walked off, opening the envelope as she went.
"Oh, goody," Jack said, as the quarantine announcement came over the loudspeaker. "Infectious disease. We haven't done infectious disease for a while. They're my very special favorite."
"Your tone appears to indicate otherwise, O'Neill," Teal'c said.
"We don't generally get to shoot people when we do disease. The shooting people is my favorite part." Jack sighed and reached for his folder; he opened the envelope marked #1 and scanned the assignment sheet. "Says here I'm supposed to be in the 'armory' supervising inventory when the alert goes out. What'd you two get?"
Teal'c looked up from his instructions, which he was treating with the same gravity and respect some people used for Holy Writ. "I have been assigned to the mess hall."
"Lab 3," Sam said, holding hers up. "Hey, has anyone seen Daniel?"
"I think he might be sitting this one out, or just doing game coordinator duty," Jack said. "He's not fully recovered from the whole ... thing yet."
There was a minute of awkward silence -- nobody knew quite how to refer to Daniel's Ascension and descension, especially Jack -- and then Sam tucked her assignment sheet back in its envelope and stood. "Well, we'd better get to where we're supposed to be." She smiled. "Good luck, everybody."
Teal'c inclined his head. "And to you, Major Carter."
"Yeah, yeah," Jack said. "May the best man -- or woman, Carter -- win."
They didn't look back as they split up and headed to their assigned positions. As of game start, it was war.
At 0955, after reading the instructions in their second envelopes, the two SFs guarding the door to Isolation Room 2 looked at each other.
"We're gonna get shot," Brooks said.
"Yup," Ramirez said, glumly.
Neither of them moved for a minute. "I have aspirin packs in my pocket," Brooks finally offered. "Intar stun always gives me a bitch of a headache. If you wake up first, feel free to take some."
"Thanks," Ramirez said. "You wanna do the honors?"
Brooks sighed. "Yeah," he said, and opened the door.
Janet made very sure they were both lying comfortably on the floor after she stunned them.
"Great," Jack said, coming to a stop in front of Storage 48. The storage room was playing the part of the armory for the duration of the scenario; it was easier to empty a storage room and re-fill it with intar weaponry than it was to clear out the actual armory. He counted up the other three people on his team: Lance Corporal McPhearson, a Marine so green he could have passed for one of those plant things on P27-484; Dr. Novak, one of the Area 51 geeks in for the month, who looked like she was about to faint, and Airman Mehler, whom Jack vaguely thought was one of the guys in Supply who never seemed to want to part with a paperclip.
They'd all snapped to attention the minute they saw him, except for Novak, of course. "Sir?" McPhearson snapped out.
"Nevermind," Jack said. He wasn't about to tell them that they'd all been assigned to him because Hammond liked to give him a handicap. "At ease, guys."
"Do you have any idea what's going on, sir?" Novak asked, tentatively. "All our envelopes say is that we're supposed to be stationed here or walking by here when the alarm goes off, and wait for further instructions."
"Gimme a minute," Jack said. He pulled his folder out of his waistband -- he'd started tucking it into his belt, at the small of his back, to leave his hands free -- and opened his second envelope.
As he was reading it, the Gate activation alarm went off. A second later, the loudspeaker crackled to life. "Attention all personnel. This is General Hammond. Do not -- I repeat, do not -- move from your current location. This base is under quarantine. Find the nearest secure location and remain where you are. Personnel will be passing through the hallways shortly to ensure that everyone is safe. Repeat -- this base is under quarantine and lockdown. Find the nearest secure location and remain where you are."
Jack looked up from his instruction sheet and tried to remember the last time he'd gotten dumped out of the way at the beginning of the scenario. Hammond was too fond of putting him in strategically impossible positions. "You heard the man, folks," he said, and indicated the storage room with his chin. "Let's get comfortable."
There were actually a few chairs in the storage room; Jack thanked whoever had prepped the base for thinking of his knees. He paused before sitting down, though. The Gate alarm had gone off, which meant this was more than just a disease quarantine. Better safe than sorry; he didn't know when they'd get orders to move, or when something would happen that would make him break the orders to stay still, so he picked up an intar P-90 just to be on the safe side.
"Pick your toys," he said, waving a hand at the other three.
"I, uh, don't know how to work any of them," Novak said, and hiccupped.
Jack barely restrained himself from rolling his eyes and shoved a zat into her hand. "Point this end at the bad guys," he said. "Squeeze this to shoot."
"Sir?" Mehler asked. "What bad guys, sir?"
That time, Jack did roll his eyes. "Whichever bad guys find us, Airman," he said, and settled himself down to wait.
"Major Carter?" Dr. Mondego asked tentatively. "Does getting shot with an intar hurt?"
Sam kept reading her email. They never got her involved in the first half-hour or so of any given scenario; she had some time to kill. "Depends," she said, absently.
Mondego inhaled a little. "On what?"
Sam looked up and smiled, as reassuring as she could get. "On whether or not you hit your head when you go down," she said.
The mess hall had cherry pie with lunch. Teal'c obtained himself a slice and sat down at his usual table.
"Uh, Master Teal'c?" asked Sergeant Westerman. "Shouldn't we be ... doing something?"
"I am doing something," Teal'c said. "I am eating pie. I suggest that you also acquire some form of sustenance."
"Why's that?" asked Technician Miller.
Teal'c lifted an eyebrow at him. "This is, I believe, your first experience with these games?" he asked. Miller nodded. "Then I will provide you with advice: eat when you can. In the second year of this program, the scenario continued for six days before a final victor was determined."
"Whoa," said Miller.
Westerman perked up. "Hey, wasn't that the year when Dr. Fraiser was the Goa'uld? And was walking around in that gold lamé biki--" He trailed off, noticing the look he was getting.
"Indeed," Teal'c said, and pondered acquiring some ice cream as well.
Sgt. Harriman watched as a med team dressed in full contam gear dragged Major Green, who'd tried to shoot everyone in the control room and get to the dialing computer before being shot by the SFs on guard, out into the corridor.
"Not a bad performance," he said, to Green's unconscious body. "You ever thought of doing community theatre?"
Dr. Jackson, wearing a white armband and leaning against the wall, snorted. "Are you kidding? This is way more fun than community theatre," he said, and dropped an envelope on Harriman's keyboard before following Green and the med team out into the corridor.
"Attention all personnel." Hammond's voice sounded tired and a little stressed, the way it always did when he had to say something that sounded completely ridiculous. "We have confirmed that we are in a foothold situation. The intruder or intruders appear to be able to possess specific individuals. We have not yet verified how many we're dealing with, whether or not this is a contagion that can be spread, or the identity of everyone who has been compromised. Please arm yourselves with the nearest weapons and attempt to stun or disable anyone who appears to be a danger to the safety of this base. I repeat: we cannot verify the full list of people who have been compromised or the spread of this incursion. The enemy appears to be able to overtake specific individuals. We cannot confirm the vector. Use extreme caution in all contact with any individuals you encounter. The following individuals are known to be compromised and still at large: Dr. Janet Fraiser. Lt. Gary Monroe. Captain Samuel Stoppard. Captain Ellen Emmerson. If you encounter these individuals, orders are to stun or disable without physical contact and contact Command immediately. Otherwise, you are ordered to remain on radio silence."
Jack grinned. "Now that's more like it," he said, and grabbed another intar zat for backup. "C'mon, folks."
Novak hiccupped. "He didn't say we should leave."
"He didn't say we shouldn't," Jack said. "Stay behind me, all of you. And for God's sake, don't do anything stupid." He was pretty sure Daniel had money on how long he'd be able to keep all of the members of his team alive, and Daniel generally shared his winnings.
"Oh, fuck," Sam said, as she turned the corner and ran smack into Janet. If she'd been paying even a bit more attention, if she'd been in her own lab where she had weapons stashed so she wouldn't have had to leave her team behind and go scouting for one --
Janet laughed, probably at the frustration in Sam's voice, and brought her intar up. "Sorry, Sam," she said, sounding genuinely regretful. "Better luck in the spring games, right?"
"Right," Sam said, laced her hands together on top of her head, and sat down cross-legged on the floor. "You're just trying to pay me back for last spring, aren't you."
"Guilty as charged," Janet said, cheerfully, and pulled the trigger.
Teal'c shot Captain Stoppard from behind. As he was proceeding to the phone against the wall to report in to Training Command, he stopped, turned back, and removed his jacket, picking up Captain Stoppard's head gently and sliding the jacket underneath it. He preferred to wear less restraining clothing during combat anyway, and it would be cruel to force Captain Stoppard to wake with a stiff neck.
"...How come you had an intar on you?" Westerman asked.
"I am accustomed to remaining armed at all times, including when I am on base," Teal'c said. "For the duration of the training scenario, I replaced my weapon with an intar."
"I, uh, never notice you armed," Miller said.
"You are not intended to," Teal'c said, and stepped over Stoppard's unconscious body.
"What I wanna know is," Jack said, to nobody in particular, "why does Fraiser always get to be the bad guy? I never get to be the bad guy."
"Maybe they don't think you can act well enough?" Mehler offered tentatively.
Jack stopped and fixed Mehler with one of Those Looks. "Let's all pretend you didn't just say that," he finally said, once Mehler was squirming, just a little.
"I can't believe I got knocked out in the first wave," Sam groaned as she let herself into Security Room A and nodded at Hammond, Daniel, and the three airmen who'd been randomly chosen as this scenario's game coordinators. Technically she was supposed to be in the area designated for people who'd been removed from the game, but SG-1 was traditionally welcome in Training Command to watch the fun after they'd been eliminated. "Sir. Hey, Daniel, I was wondering where you were."
"Yeah, I didn't get assigned a team this year. Courier, junior gamemaster, and general dogsbody," Daniel said, indicating the stack of envelopes spread out across the table. "Too much for one person to keep track of."
"It was a good strategy, Major," Hammond said, reassuringly, as he watched the monitors. "Protect the civilians in your area by leaving them stationed somewhere safe while you went for weapons."
"Yeah," Sam said, and dropped into a chair to watch. "Except I think Janet was coming for me specifically. She's still holding a grudge over that incident in the spring."
"What happened in the spring?" Daniel asked.
Sam blinked; she'd almost forgotten Daniel hadn't been there. "I lured her into an ambush by calling in a fake medical emergency," she said. "So, what's the scenario this time? I didn't get to figure anything out before I got taken down, and it's still so early that nobody in the Dead Room has any useful information."
Hammond smiled. "That, Major," he said, "would be telling."
Sgt. Brooks took careful aim from behind cover and waited until he had a clear shot. This was way better than being knocked out in the first ten minutes. Even if he did still have an intar headache. He'd always wanted to be one of the bad guys.
He dropped an envelope on Captain McNab's chest and closed the man's fingers around his spare intar before leaving, then went to go call in another one recruited.
"Thanks, Sergeant," Daniel said into the phone. "Once you're done there, head on over to Storage on 26 and pick up a radio. You're the only alien on your level right now, aside from Captain McNab. Your master is giving you the sense that you should try to secure the manual self-destruct in case you have to use it."
Sam could hear the voice from the phone even as the Sgt. on camera five gave a thumbs-up. "You got it, Doc."
"Oh, that's sneaky," Sam said, as she started to figure it out. "Contagion spreads by contact, right? And if someone who's been compromised takes out someone who hasn't, they're turned? Evil."
"Thanks," Daniel said, modestly. "I helped with this one. Telepathic communication, too, like the aliens from P3X-299."
"...So how come, if Janet took me out, I wasn't turned? If Janet's on their side?" Sam frowned.
"It's random--" Hammond said.
"--and by 'random', we mean we're flipping coins --" Daniel interjected.
"--because otherwise the spread of the contagion would be too fast. We're estimating the full scenario should take about eighteen hours to completion." Hammond made a note on the pad sitting in front of him as, on the screen, Captain Emmerson shot one of Daniel's linguists. "Airman Fowler, heads or tails?"
Fowler flipped. "Tails, sir."
"Right." Hammond handed over an envelope. "Go down and leave Dr. Vang a message that she should report to the lounge when she wakes up."
"Yes sir," Fowler said, and headed out at a brisk trot.
Sam propped her chin up on her hand and watched as Emmerson made her way to a phone to report in. "So, Janet's the master alien?"
"Nope," Daniel said, and picked up the phone. "Thanks, Captain. Dr. Vang's out of the game, so carry on with the rest of your orders."
On camera three, Teal'c was gliding along silently behind a lieutenant Sam didn't know by sight, apparently trying to decide if he was friend or foe.
After further study, Teal'c concluded that Lt. Acevedo was not behaving uncharacteristically, and stepped out from concealment. The lieutenant turned around, his intar rising; he paused before shooting, studying Teal'c's face.
"Master Teal'c?" he asked. "Are you you, or are you ... you know?"
"I do not believe any answer I could give to that question would be satisfactory," Teal'c said. "However, we have secured the mess hall, and I am attempting to inform as many people as possible of its existance as a safe harbor."
"Okay," Acevedo said, and lowered his intar. "Should I tell anybody else I see on my way?"
"I believe that would be inadvisable," Teal'c said. "I am more practiced at sensing deception than many others, and yet I find it difficult to be certain who is compromised and who is not. However, you may accompany me if you wish. The remainder of my team are holding the mess hall and greeting newcomers."
"Fair deal," Acevedo said, and fell into step behind Teal'c.
Whoever was firing at them took out Mehler from behind -- that was how Jack knew they were being stalked -- and Novak fell while they were scrambling for cover. Jack tried getting a few shots off around the corner, but he didn't have much of a chance to aim, and he could tell they'd gone wide when the incoming fire didn't even slow down.
"Two of 'em, sir," McPhearson panted, from his stand at the other corner of the intersection.
"No shit, Corporal," Jack snapped, and wished the lab boys had been able to develop that intar version of a grenade they'd been talking about for a few years. He ducked around the corner for half a second, keeping his weapon close and firing blind again, and after retreating back, the double set of incoming had turned into single. Got one.
"Got one!" McPhearson said -- thank you, Corporal Obvious, Jack thought -- and leaned around to try his hand at a shot or two.
McPhearson, unfortunately, had watched one too many cop movies, and his small-arms instructor apparently hadn't been able to break him of the habit of leading with his weapon. Whoever was shooting at them fired at the weapon, not at McPhearson, and if it had been a real pistol, McPhearson would have lost the hand. As it was, he simply went down, crumpling to the floor, out cold.
"Great," Jack muttered. "Can't keep them alive for more than an hour. Good work, O'Neill."
"Oh, Jack," Daniel sighed, watching the monitors. "You just lost me a hundred bucks."
Officially, Hammond was supposed to reprimand him, but since he was the one Daniel had bet with, he let it slide.
Jack ducked the corner again, fired two shots, and waited until he'd drawn a single return shot before pulling back, grunting theatrically, slamming his body against the wall -- ow -- and dragging himself down to make as much noise as he could. Then, as silently as possible, he crossed the hall and slinked into the storage room opposite, where he had a clear line-of-sight to anyone coming to check on him.
A minute later, Janet came around the corner, scanning for all four of the men she'd just 'killed'. When she saw Jack wasn't there, she tried to duck back around the corner, but Jack was too fast for her. "Sorry, Doc," he said to her unconscious body, then picked up her intar. Could never have too many weapons. "You're gonna make me pay for that at my next physical, aren't you."
Well, at least he could move faster without having to babysit.
"Fraiser's down," came Jack's voice over the phone. "She took out McPhearson, Novak, and Mehler. She was with Stein; one of us got him."
"Thanks, Jack," Daniel said, and made some notes. "We'll send someone down to take care of them. Having fun yet?"
"Loads," Jack said. He hung up. Daniel smirked and handed five envelopes to Airman Blackburn to deliver to the casualties.
Sgt. Dalton was definitely behaving erratically. Teal'c felt it was better to shoot first, ask forgiveness later.
"And that's one friendly fire for Teal'c," Daniel said, and nudged Sam. "Write that down; he's the first to take out one of our own guys."
"Ha!" Sam said, and then felt herself blushing.
Daniel smirked. Hammond shook his head and said, "I don't know why I even bother including that part about wagering on this contest being forbidden."
Sam sank back down in her chair. "Right, sir. I would never do that." She made a mental note that she'd have to collect her winnings from Siler privately.
Daniel watched the screen as Brooks and Callahan converged, from separate approaches, on the self-destruct room. "Moving faster than we expected," he said to Hammond. "Announcement time?"
Hammond leaned over and checked the roster Daniel was keeping. "Not quite," he said. "Soon."
Dr. Brightman, Dr. Anderson, and Major Green sat on the floor of the MRI room; Brightman and Anderson were in contam gear, but they'd taken off the helmets, under the unofficial "special dispensation for really annoying equipment" clause of the rules. "Got any threes?" Green asked.
"Go fish," Brightman said.
Outside the MRI room, Lt. Keelerman shot the two SFs on guard and dropped envelopes for them to find when they woke up. Technically, she supposed she could have just handed them the envelopes, but she wanted to keep her kill count up.
"You got any orders about what we're supposed to do next?" Sgt. Brooks asked Captain Callahan, after they'd finished securing the manual self-destruct mechanism.
Callahan shook his head. "Nope. Our lord and master wants us to hold our ground, that's all I know."
Brooks raised an eyebrow. "You're really getting into your role." Some people did, especially when they were tapped to play the bad guys.
Callahan grinned. "Nah, I meant, Dr. Jackson told me to stay put. He seems to be running the show this year. I haven't talked to the General once when I called in."
"Huh, yeah." Brooks thought about that for a second, then shrugged. "Guess it's gotten too big for one person to run alone. You remember how slow the runners were last time until we cleared out a bunch of the players. I guess the General enlisted some help."
Callahan leaned against the wall and kept his weapon trained on the door. "You ever think this is the weirdest set of drills you've ever been on?"
"Well, yeah," Brooks said, and then grinned. "But they're fun."
"This is driving me nuts," Daniel said, and threaded his fingers through his hair. "General, how the hell do you manage to keep track of all of this?"
"I'll let you in on a secret, son," Hammond said. "I make it up as I go along."
Daniel stared at him for a minute, then blinked and laughed. "Well, that does spoil the mystique a little. But -- did you manage to catch who McNab just shot? I'm trying to keep lists of who's dead and who's turned."
Sam was beginning to get a little bored with just watching -- they were into the second phase of the game, the free-for-all where new casualties were coming in fast and furious as everyone tried to consolidate their positions, and it was difficult to keep track; it would settle down in a few hours as the weak, the slow, and the unlucky got eliminated and everyone else settled in for the long haul. "You know, I could probably come up with something to help with that," she said.
"That'd be great," Daniel said, and Sam reached for her laptop.
Twenty minutes later (after a little bit of muttering under her breath and one unfortunate mishap involving a misplaced semicolon that took her forever to find), she dumped the SGC personnel list into her hacked-together program, squinted a lot at Daniel's handwriting until she could be sure she had everyone's status correct, and set her laptop to dual-window: one listing the names of everyone on each of the three lists, and one keeping a running tally of numbers in each category:
"There you go," she said, leaning back and cracking her knuckles. Hammond glanced over, and then smiled.
"Thank you, Major," he said. "Move Captain Clare to the dead list, please, and consider yourself enlisted."
"Yes, sir," she said, grinning, and then started adding in some of the little hacks she'd thought up while programming. She'd always wanted to know which departments died out most quickly.
"I'm just saying," Miller said, "I don't see why we should hide out here in the mess hall when who knows what's going on out there."
"You just want to shoot people," Dr. Rankin said. "I'm perfectly content to sit here and let everyone else get shot. In a real emergency, I'd be hiding somewhere out of the way anyway."
Miller shook his head and paced back and forth between the tables. The mess was slowly filling up, as more and more people learned of the refuge; mostly the scientists and the support staff. "In a real emergency we'd know more about what was going on. And we'd have orders. That's the part about these games I hate; we're totally on our own. It's not realistic at all."
"I don't think it's been about being realistic since the second year or so," Rankin said. "It's a form of stress relief, really. A socioadaptive form of -- sporting contests, almost. Cultural response to feeling helpless and inadequate in the face of frequent danger. In a closed society, which we definitely are, unique forms of entertainment develop quickly. I was just surprised that General Hammond allows us to use the excuse of training exercises as a chance to play some games. They're certainly not actual training drills."
Miller came to a halt and stared at her. "You're in Anthro, aren't you."
Rankin grinned. "What gave it away?"
At the next table over, Westerman let his feet drop off the table with a loud thump and stood. "I can't stand just sitting around anymore," he said, and grabbed his intar off the table. "I'm gonna go see if the aliens have taken over the base yet."
"You're gonna get fragged," Miller said.
Westerman shrugged. "Maybe I'll take some of them with me. And hey, sitting around here is just as boring as sitting around in the Dead Room."
"Oh, hell," Miller said, and grabbed his own intar. It wasn't as though anyone ever got yelled at for disregarding standard procedure in these games, anyway. Maybe Rankin was right; maybe the whole point was to have fun.
"And there they go," Daniel singsonged, watching the mess hall camera. He scooped up a stack of envelopes and fasted on his white armband. "Time to go be the fairy of chaos and confusion again."
"You're enjoying this way too much," Sam said.
Daniel grinned at her. "C'mon, Sam. Didn't you ever play Dungeons and Dragons in college?"
"Once or twice," Sam confessed. "I never had time for it."
"Yeah, me either. But hey, we're getting paid for it now." Daniel nodded to Hammond. "I'll be back in fifteen."
Hammond watched him walk out whistling, and then raised an eyebrow at Sam. "You do know the most important rule of situations such as these, Major, yes?"
"What's that, sir?" Sam asked.
"When the GM smiles, it's already too late."
In the control room, Sgt. Harriman pushed his chair back, locked his fingers together, and stretched his arms over his head, working out some of the kinks in his neck and shoulders. "Keep an eye on things for me while I take a pit stop?" he asked Lt. Simmonds.
"Sure thing," Simmonds said.
Harriman nodded to the SFs on guard as he walked by them on the way to the door. Then he turned around and shot both of them, Lt. Simmonds, and the two technicians taking readings from the supercomputer in the back of the room, all in quick succession.
"Oh yeah," he said, and mimed blowing smoke from the tip of his intar, before he picked up the phone to call into Training Command and let them know that the aliens had secured the operations room.
Daniel kept whistling as he walked through the hallways; it was the easiest way to let people know that the approaching footsteps belonged to a game coordinator, not an enemy. The runners had started using that as a method of warning back in the second year, when they hadn't had intars yet, and getting shot at in the game involved at least a small paintball bruise.
He caught the sounds of a firefight in the hallways near the isolation room as he approached the infirmary. Oh, good. It sounded as though Green had broken out already. That would make this so much more fun.
Jack stuck his head around the corner to make sure the coast was clear, then slid along the wall of the hallway. Level 28 was suspiciously quiet; there should have been guards posted, but he hadn't seen anyone yet. He kept his weapon up as he ducked into the operations room, and the next thing he knew, he and Harriman were pointing intars at each other, neither of them blinking.
"Colonel?" Harriman asked, sounding nervous. "Is that you?"
"Yeah," Jack said, and lowered his weapon. Harriman did the same. "Where's everyone else on this level?"
"I don't know!" Harriman bit his lip. "I left Lieutenant Simmonds on watch while I went to the bathroom, and when I came back, everyone was dead. I don't know what happened. I was just trying to call for help when you came in."
Jack was getting ready to help secure the room when the warning bells went off in his head, and he saw the intar in Harriman's hand twitch slightly, as though he was about to fire. Jack shot first.
The intercom crackled on just as Jack was about to call in the kill. "Attention, all personnel," Hammond said. "This is General Hammond. We have confirmed that the alien invaders have managed to compromise a number of our personnel. Proceed with extreme caution. They appear to be able to access the memories and experiences of the people they have overshadowed and we currently have no way of verifying whether or not someone is compromised. Consider all individuals suspect. We are attempting to neutralize the threat. Until that time, continue to maintain radio silence and protect yourselves as well as you can. I repeat: Proceed with extreme caution, consider all individuals suspect."
"Now you tell me," Jack griped, giving the security camera the hairy eyeball, and picked up the phone to call in and outline his plan.
"Hey, Jack," Daniel said, poking his head into the operations room. "You called for a game coordinator?"
Jack gestured around the room with his intar. "Sealing off the whole area. My command codes, nobody in or out but me."
"You got it," Daniel said, and pulled a roll of CAUTION tape out of his pocket. "You on the inside or the out?"
"Out," Jack said. He had a few more places to secure. "You wanna leave me the tape?"
Daniel's eyebrows climbed his forehead. "You know I can't let you cheat, Jack," he said, sounding exactly like Jack's fourth-grade math teacher.
Jack leaned back against the console. "You really feel like following me around for the next three hours with the tape and taping off the things I tell you I'm locking?" he asked. "I'll call 'em all in."
Daniel sighed. "All right, but General Hammond is watching the security monitors, and if he finds you cheating..." He underhanded a roll of tape to Jack; Jack picked it out of the air.
"So, any of us out yet?" Jack asked, stringing tape across the console.
"Sam got taken down pretty quickly. Teal'c is still active, and no, I'm not going to tell you where anyone is or what they're doing, so don't even try." Daniel folded his arms across his chest. "So, do you have a plan, or are you making this all up as you go along?"
"I always have a plan," Jack said, feigning modesty, and headed out to figure out what the next step in his plan was.
Sam's laptop chirped and updated:
"So how many of those dead are Jack's fault?" Daniel asked. He watched the security screen as Jack shot Brooks and Callahan, dragged them out of the self-destruct room, and started applying CAUTION tape everywhere.
Sam was frowning at the lists. "Thirty-seven, I think." She looked up. "Or thirty-nine."
Tap, tap, tap. "Forty-three."
Daniel grinned. "Nobody tell Jack."
Teal'c shot Dr. Benson and Sgt. Cummings. He didn't know if they were part of the enemy or not, and by this point, he didn't care. He was beginning to grow bored with this game; while the others found it an amusing diversion, and he could see the point of allowing those who did not often find themselves in combat a chance to sharpen their skills, there was always a point where he realized there was little else it could teach him.
However, that did not preclude his attempting to make as good a showing as possible while he worked to bring the game to a swift resolution. He did have a reputation to uphold, and it was a good opportunity to remind the Tau'ri that one should never cross a bored Jaffa carrying a weapon.
"Well, shit," Major Green said as he walked out of General Hammond's office and right into Colonel O'Neill holding his intar and ready to fire. He hadn't even seen him coming or heard him or anything. It was scary how the guy could do that.
Colonel O'Neill was a nice guy, though; he let Green sit down on the floor first before getting shot. And at least Green had gotten to do something this year. Last year he'd been knocked out in the first half-hour. It had been fun to be the bad guy for a while.
Jack taped off Hammond's office, put the roll of tape back around his wrist like some demented bracelet, and triple-checked all the nooks and crannies on 27 before heading up to 26. It was awfully quiet down here. Too quiet. He hadn't heard the sound of weapons fire -- other than his own -- in nearly twenty minutes, which was about fifteen minutes too long to go without running into anyone.
Well, he'd secured the base self-destruct, at least, and locked off the Gateroom, the control room, and all the routes in to both. That was a good start. He was free to amuse himself now, more or less, which meant it was probably time to go find someone on the other side and try to worm some answers out of them.
At least, that would have been his next move if this had been an actual foothold situation. He was pretty sure that Daniel was upstairs in the security room keeping score, and he was damned if he was going to let Teal'c have high score two games running.
"Holy shit," Lt. Keelerman said to Captain McNab. "You just shot Teal'c."
McNab's eyes darted around the corridor. "I know," he said. "You watch my back. I'll phone it in."
"Dude, you shot Teal'c," Keelerman repeated.
McNab sighed. "Yeah, I did, and I have to call it in before either of us get shot, okay? I said, you watch my --"
"Shoulda listened to the guy, Keelerman," Jack said, stepping around all three bodies to find a wall phone.
"You think the NORAD guys ever stop to wonder what we get up to down here?" Sam asked. "I mean, what do we tell them about why we send our entire staff up to their lounges twice a year in bits and pieces?"
"Training exercise," Hammond said.
"Mmm," Sam said. "Think they buy it?"
Hammond looked thoughtful for a moment. "Well, it's not the weirdest thing we've done."
"Huh." Sam pursed her lips and typed in another person on the dead list as Daniel hung up the phone. "Good point."
"I think they've just stopped wondering," Hammond said. "At least, I certainly hope they have."
Sergeant Westerman hung up the phone. "We're good to go," he said to Miller. "Dr. Jackson told us to head back to the mess and take out anyone who's still in there, if they haven't been turned."
"How're we supposed to know if someone's on our side?" Miller asked. "I mean, that's the thing I can't figure out about this one. Are we supposed to be pretending we're still us, or are we supposed to be acting weird or something? If we got turned?" They'd both been shot about twenty minutes after they'd left the mess; when they'd woken up, all their briefing sheets had said were that they were controlled by the aliens now, not much in the way of detail.
Westerman shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe we're supposed to just play it however we want. Dr. J's given me some names when I've called in, but this time he said there wasn't anyone on our side on the path between here and there, so maybe we're only supposed to be able to sense the ones right around us or something. I dunno. Let's go shoot things."
"Still," Miller said. "I mean, I'm curious. What the story is for this one."
"Does it really matter?" Westerman asked.
Miller grinned. "Yeah, I suppose not. Okay, come on, let's go."
"Ouch," Daniel said, watching the simulated carnage on the security camera. "That's gotta hurt."
Sam winced. "Kinda brings new meaning to 'shooting fish in a barrel', doesn't it?" she asked.
Daniel shook his head, his eyes on the monitor, where Westerman and Miller were cleaning up the last of the people who'd taken refuge in the mess. "That's what happens when they all congregate, I guess," he said.
Sam started the laborious work of adding names to the dead list. "Isn't this just a little unfair, though, Daniel?" she asked. "I mean, you're pretty much telling the bad guys where to go to find huge pockets of people to shoot. It's kind of like cheating, isn't it?"
Daniel didn't look away from the monitors, but Sam could see the faintest hint of a smile tipping up the corners of his lips. "It would be if I were a game coordinator, yeah," he said.
Sam blinked. "If you were --" She did a doubletake, and realized: "You've only been wearing the armband when you go out there to drop things off. You're -- you little -- oh, you sneak."
"Why, thank you," General Hammond said, with a note of pride. "I'm rather proud of that one."
"Whups," Daniel said, taking his feet off the desk and leaning closer. On the screen, Colonel O'Neill ducked into the mess hall, shot Westerman and Miller, looked around himself, sighed at the body count, and ducked out again. "I think that's got it. What's the count?"
Sam said, "Hang on." She checked off the last few names and ran the numbers again. "Twelve infected, five active, five hundred and ninety-five dead."
"Got it," Daniel said. He was just getting up when the phone rang; Airman Blackburn scooped it up, said "uh-huh" a few times, and then hung up.
"That was Captain Emmerson calling in that she'd taken out the last four active except for Colonel O'Neill," Blackburn said. "Anybody recruited off that list?"
Daniel looked at General Hammond. "Sir?"
General Hammond sat back in his chair. "Seems like we could all be home for dinner," he said. "You go on ahead, son."
Daniel grinned. "With pleasure."
He didn't, Sam noticed, bring the white armband with him when he left this time.
It was quiet. Too quiet; Jack hated when it was quiet, because quiet meant somebody was plotting something again. These exercises brought out the best and the worst in everyone: the best planning and strategizing, the worst cowboy stunts. Still, it was a comfort to know that in the worst-case scenario, just about anybody in the base would be familiar enough with procedure to at least attempt to put up some kind of a fight. And it was nice to blow off some steam.
He heard footsteps down the hall and ducked into one of the storage facilities, waiting to see who would walk by. A second later, though, the footsteps were followed by Daniel's voice calling, "Ahoy the storage room!"
Jack lowered his intar and waited; a second later, Daniel poked his head into the room. "Hey, Jack," Daniel said. "How's it going?"
"Little of this, little of that," Jack said. "What's the situation?"
"Down to just a few of you," Daniel said, leaning a shoulder against the doorframe and peering into the storage room. "In fact, you're the only one still active who hasn't been turned. Nice work."
Jack frowned. Something wasn't right. "So if I'm the only one left active, why are you --"
It was some small consolation that Daniel remembered his quick-draw lessons, at least.
Daniel hopped up to sit on the table and waited through the end-of-game announcement on the PA, through Hammond dismissing the members of the SGC who weren't on scheduled duty and setting up the postmortem briefing lecture, through Sam sticking her head into the storage room to check that he was all right. It took Jack twenty-three minutes to shake off the intar stun, and when he finally sat up, he looked murderous.
"Hey, Jack," he said, trying to forestall the inevitable explosion. "I've got aspirin if you need some."
"I am going to kill you," Jack said. "Slowly. For days."
Daniel laughed. "It wouldn't stick," he said, and jumped down off the table. He held down a hand; Jack took it, and Daniel heaved him to his feet. "We've proven that pretty conclusively."
"I can't believe you just said that," Jack said. Daniel could tell he wasn't as annoyed as he was pretending to be. Annoyed, yes, but not as much as he was pretending. "I also can't believe that you shot me."
"Casualty of war," Daniel said, cheerfully. "If it's any consolation, you really were the last-man-standing. That should be enough to win you some money in the pool."
Jack folded his arms over his chest. "You shot me," he said. "You spent the entire game making me think you were a neutral party, and then you waltzed right in here, lied to my face, and then shot me."
Daniel pursed his lips. "I did not lie," he protested, indignant. "I think you'll find that if you look back over things, I never once said that I wasn't playing. I may have made you think I wasn't playing, but I never actually said it. And you were the one who spent six years harping on the fact that in a conflict situation, we should use every advantage we have. It just so happens that in this case, my advantage was the fact that you all still think I'm not quite with it yet."
"I'm still going to kill you," Jack muttered.
Daniel let it go. Sooner or later, Jack would realize the tactical merits of his plan. Once the blow to his pride wore off. "Fine," he said. He fished the pack of aspirin out of his pocket and tossed it at Jack; Jack caught it neatly in midair. "In the meantime, wait until you see the software Sam wrote for us. She's got all kinds of statistics. I think you may have actually beaten Teal'c in the standings this year." He couldn't resist adding: "Although, you know, you get points off for having lost."
"Death," Jack muttered. "Slow strangulation. In your sleep." He opened the pack of aspirin and swallowed it dry, then gestured an after-you to the corridor.
Daniel turned his back on Jack and walked out into the hallway. Jack wasn't serious about the death thing. Probably. "You looked kinda cute out cold and snoring," he said.
Jack followed, matching his stride as they walked down the hallway. "Ants in your bedroll on the next overnight mission."
"Although I think you might have drooled on your uniform."
"Sell you to the next System Lord to make up this year's budget shortfall."
"It's your own fault, really. I wasn't wearing the armband. You should have noticed that. I'm surprised you didn't, actually."
"Glad you're back with us. You traitorous fuck."