The Candlestick Chronicles
by CJay

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 around.

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, sergeant."

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 pleased."

"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 self."

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 orders."


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 fun.

A light afternoon breeze caressed the back of Jack's moist neck and tickled his nose with the scent of Juniper and pine forest.

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 exhilarating?

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 first priority.

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 bow.


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 change!'

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 favor?"

Intrigued, Danny ignored Jack's sarcastic tone. "Sure Jack, what's up?"

"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 afternoon off?"

"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 Hammond commandeered."

"Sweet!" Pocketing the package, Jack indicated his newly acquired plush dark brown leather chair with a flourish. "Have a seat 'Commander' Jackson."

"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 retreat.


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, snacks."

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 inside.

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 popped.

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 soapy solution.

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.


July 2005