One: The Care Package
Distracted by the open file in his hands, Technical Sergeant
Walter Davis strode through Brigadier General Jack O'Neill's open office
door. Glancing up, unexpectedly spying the high back of the general's
new comfy leather chair, he stopped short. A pair of boots, negligently
crossed at the ankles, and propped against the bookcase, was the only
visible sign of the chair's occupancy.
Rolling his eyes, Walter coughed lightly. "Ah, sir?"
A soft yelp, coincided with a light thunk, followed by the sight
of a bright blue Yo-Yo skittering across the floor. The booted feet hit
the concrete with a hallow slap. Abruptly, the chair swiveled and spun
Straightening up in the seat, Daniel Jackson arched his brows,
offering a laid-back. "What can I do for you, Walter?"
"Excuse me, Dr. Jackson I was looking for the general." Walter's
reaction was a study in contrasting emotions. While his voice remained
carefully polite and his bland face expressionless, his rigid body
language telegraphed frustration. "I was under the impression that
General O'Neill was completing..."
Daniel lightly tapped the enormous pile of folders positioned
smack dab in the center of Jack's cluttered desk. "...This miniature
mountain of reports?"
Perturbed, Walter nodded, releasing a long-suffering sigh. "And,
he has a meeting at..."
Daniel lost his smile. "I'll be handling that meeting,
Rising, Jackson crossed his arms over his chest and walked slowly
around the desk. Rocking back on his heels, he cocked his head,
squinting down at the smaller man. "In fact, the general made me 'Acting
Commander of the SGC' for the remainder of the afternoon."
"With all due respect, Dr. Jackson, the general has already
postponed this meeting twice." Walter's deferential tone was tainted by
carefully restrained disapproval. "I doubt the ambassador will be
"I'm quite capable of appeasing the ambassador, Sergeant." Daniel
informed him sternly, irritated with the little martinet's lack of
perception. "Sergeant Davis, haven't you noticed that lately General
O'Neill hasn't been his typically wisecracking irreverent
Startled by the uncharacteristic censure in the usually
even-tempered archeologist's tone, Walter gulped. The tips of his ears
turned pink. He'd been so consumed with making sure the general ran the
SGC smoothly, that he'd neglected to perform his most essential
function: looking after his commander. "Well, sir, I..."
"Walter, have you even once stopped to consider how difficult the
past year has been for Jack?" Daniel questioned, his voice suffused with
empathy. "No, evidently you haven't."
Warming to his subject, Jackson's voice climbed an octave. "In
the past six months, other than one brief weekend spent at his cabin,
Jack hasn't had any time off at all."
Daniel paused. Noting the sergeant's downcast eyes and
shame-faced expression, he changed tactics. "Look Walter, don't you
think that between the two of us we can run this place for a couple of
hours without the general?"
Walter recovered quickly. "Ya-sure-you-betcha." Smiling
crookedly, he added, "You know what they say, sir: 'all work and no play
makes Jack a very dull boy.'"
"Why Walter, was that a cliché?" Daniel chuckled dryly.
"Was it, sir?" Walter replied with mock innocence. "So, ah, if
you don't mind my asking, just where is our fearless leader?"
Strolling back to the desk, Daniel scooped up a small folded neon
pink note card. "Well, Walt, you might say he's following
Jack found a small flat-topped boulder, nestled under a large
copse of pines. Scanning the area to make sure he was alone, he sat down
on the cool stone.
Slipping out of the base unnoticed had been no mean feat. He
wasn't getting any younger. And, despite a daily routine in the gym,
being a desk jockey had taken a bit of the spring out of his step.
Still, he managed to climb the emergency access shaft's twenty-eight
levels to the forested crest of the mountain in a little under forty
minutes. 'Not too shabby there, O'Neill.'
He could have used the more conventional exit via the main
elevators, but his aide, Sergeant Walter Davis, tended to be an
unforgiving taskmaster who dogged Jack's every step. No doubt Walter
meant well, but frankly the man was a nudge! O'Neill speculated
ironically that perhaps the pint-sized sergeant had been some kind of
tyrannical despot in a previous life. Consequently, his alternate method
of escape seemed far less complicated. And besides, it was much more
A light afternoon breeze caressed the back of Jack's moist neck
and tickled his nose with the scent of Juniper and pine
Closing his tired eyes, he took a moment to inhale the crisp
clean mountain air. With all the fancy colognes and perfumes the world
produced, he wondered why was it they'd yet to bottle anything this
Turning his face to the warm sun, Jack tried to remember the last
time he'd 'played hooky.' Lately, the idea of finding time to play
rarely entered his head. Ah, but once-upon-a-time amusement had been his
Squinting at the fluffy clouds overhead, his careworn mind
replayed the still vivid memory of the first time his restless spirit
led him to truancy.
He'd been about eleven years old. Spring came early that year,
her blossoms filling the air with a sweet, enticing fragrance. Nature's
siren call beckoned. The idea of sitting through another of Miss
Crabtree's boring lectures seemed beyond the irrepressible young
Jonathan O'Neill's endurance. And so, while his classmates meekly
attended school, he tossed his fishing pole over his shoulder and
pedaled his bike down to the creek.
Spending the day lying in the sun, dangling his pole in the
shimmering water, Jack watched the birds soar buoyantly on the wind and
dreamed about flying beyond the stars. His friends thought he was
cracked, but even as a kid Jack had been a maverick.
Of course, Miss Crabtree somehow found out about his little
adventure. 'Disappointed by his behavior,' she'd assigned him a
five-hundred word essay on the importance of a proper education. Ah, but
it had been worth it. Miss Crabtree's lackluster disposition was about
as captivating as her subject matter.
Grinning, Jack reached for the parcel he'd slipped into his baggy
jacket pocket just before making his escape. It was heavy, weighed at
least a pound and measured approximately 12X8 inches. Wrapped in
chocolate brown paper, it was tied with an oversized bright pink
Earlier, back in his office, he scanned the return address,
scrawled lovingly across a small envelope attached to the package.
Smiling with pleasure, he pushed the stack of unfinished reports aside
and sat back in his chair to read the note card enclosed.
Dear Uncle Jack;
Thanks so much for the wonderful care package. How is it you
always seem to know when I run low on essentials? I finished my last
bite of chocolate this morning. And yesterday, believe it or not, I
tangled the strings of my green Yo-Yo!
You know, I got to thinking that maybe you could use a care
package too. I can read between the lines, ya know – even if your notes
are short and cryptic!
Seems, I'm channeling Mom a lot these days. Maybe it's because
I'm studying medicine? Any how, she says: 'You've been working
much too hard, General O'Neill! It's time you took a break. So
I'm pulling rank and ordering you to take the enclosed package and
skedaddle out of your office. Go on and get out in the sunshine for a
I love you loads, Cassie.
The kid was right! He needed a breather.
Checking his schedule, Jack picked up the phone and called
Daniel. "Hey there, Dr. Jackson, think you can pull yourself away from
your latest perusal of antiquated rocks and do me a little
Intrigued, Danny ignored Jack's sarcastic tone. "Sure Jack,
"Oh, nothing earth-shattering. Why don't you come on down to my
office and I'll explain." Jack told him mildly.
When the always-curious scholar arrived, asking for more details,
Jack shrugged. Smiling wistfully, he handed Daniel the note. "Seems I've
got new orders."
Opening the card, Daniel recognized Cassie's handwriting and
quickly scanned the missive. Smiling sadly, he nodded. "Wow, I can
almost hear Janet's voice...Cassie's her mother's daughter."
"Yep." Jack answered, his voice tinged with pride. "Look Daniel,
other than that meeting with Ambassador Herpes Zoster of Tumor Lost, my
calendar is clear. How's about you take that meeting and I take the
"That's Hectare Zoroaster of Tumulus, Jack." Daniel tilted his
head wryly, squinting one eye. "I thought you said you needed a 'little
favor?' Jeez, Jack, the ambassador is..."
"A pompous self-important windbag?" Jack quipped.
Sobering, he took the note from Daniel and set it back on the
desk beside the unopened package. "The thing is Danny; we both know
you're much better at dealing with all the diplomatic, political
mumbo-jumbo than I am. The esteemed ambassador finds my humor
'unnerving' and most likely your earnest talents will be welcome. I
expect you two will wrap things up in no time. So, how's about it? I'll
even make you temporary base commander while I'm gone."
Touched by Cassie's note, and impressed with the young woman's
uncanny perception, Daniel agreed. "Sure, why not? Besides, I've been
wondering if that new chair of yours is a comfortable as the one General
"Sweet!" Pocketing the package, Jack indicated his newly acquired
plush dark brown leather chair with a flourish. "Have a seat 'Commander'
"I've got my cell phone just in case." Bouncing on the balls of
his feet, Jack scanned the hallway for his all too diligent aide. "I'll
be back at around 1700." Finding the corridor empty, he beat a hasty
Cassie had used an inordinate amount of plastic tape to seal the
package. Fishing in his pocket, Jack located his handy Swiss Army knife.
Selecting one of the smaller built-in blades, he neatly sliced through
the thick tape and eagerly tore away the brown paper wrapper.
The box within was unmarked and sealed by another thick glut of
tape. Careful not to press too deeply, he cut through that layer as
well. Opening the lid, he eyed the contents with delight. "Ah,
The first layer of goodies consisted of several small tubes of
nuts, sunflower seeds and a box of Cracker Jacks. In addition, a packet
of bright red strawberry licorice whips winked up at him.
Beneath these riches, Jack found another smaller box, wrapped in
pale purple tissue paper. Setting the snacks aside, he made short work
of the lavender paper and flipped the inner box open.
Inside, surrounded by several tiny flat cartons of fruit-flavored
Chicklet's chewing gum, a bright pink plastic bottle awaited him. The
label read: Contains 16 FL oz (473ML), nontoxic solution and one 'magic
wand.' For ages three and up.
"Nice." Pulling the chunky bottle from the box, Jack twisted off
the cap. Inserting his index finger into the mouth of the opening, he
retrieved the long slender plastic rod, careful not to spill the liquid
Lifting the 'magic wand' into the air, Jack noted that it looked
like a tiny Stargate and stifled an ironic laugh. Bringing it near his
lips, he gauged the direction of the wind and blew lightly on the round
eye of the wet wand.
A large shiny, crystal-clear bubble formed. Catching the sun's
rays the transparent orb reflected the light. Shimmering with tiny
rainbow colored hues it hovered briefly and then gently lifted on the
breeze. Buffeted by a sudden gust, it flew upwards and suddenly
Bringing the wand up to his lips once more, Jack blew on it a bit
more forcefully. A larger bubble began to form. Bombarding it with soft
puffs, he produced an oblong fat double bubble that hung precariously
from the slender plastic for a millisecond. And then, it too rose and
danced on the breeze.
Jack watched the translucent crystal sphere flutter and float on
the light wind with satisfaction.
Enchanted, he blew one after the other; marveling at the various
sizes and shapes he was able to produce with just his breath and some
Gradually, he allowed the weight of command to sail up and away
with the bubbles. Feeling restored, his weary soul filled with giddy
delight as they silently popped and faded away.