Title: Jack O’Neill and the Snarky Memo
Season: Seven, between Enemy Mine and Space Race
Spoilers: Entity, Enemy Mine, and knowledge of Daniel’s inability to stay dead.
I made an icon, and after I did, I felt it needed to be fleshed out into a story.
We all know Jack’s not getting all his memos. What about the ones he sends?
Disclaimer: Not mine. No profit. If they had wanted me not to play with them, they shouldn't have made them such fun.
Jack O'Neill and the Snarky Memo
The Official Energizer Bunny of the SGC was tired, dog tired, batteries fully depleted. Just back on active duty after his lovely little run in with Ironshirt’s Unas, not having slept well (nightmares), there had been the 12 klick hike to the Grintan’s governmental seat, followed by the endless, interminable, dragged out, non-stop, did-I-mention-endless, ceremony to seal the treaty which had required that he remain absolutely still. The effort and energy that had to be expended to refrain from fidgeting was about twice the energy that he would have had to expend on doing the same thing the way he normally would have done it. And then there was the effort and energy expended on top of that to remember that he had to remember to remember to refrain from fidgeting, and to figure out that last convoluted and redundant sentence... And that was before the 12 klick hike home through the increasingly torrential downpour that turned the trail into not just a boot-sucking, fumble-footed mud hole, but an actual factual goddamn river… Brook… Really, really inconvenient rivulet. By the time they stumbled up the slimy stone steps to the ‘Gate (and now we know how they got that way, don’t we?) even Daniel was – Halleluiah! finally – silent. Teal’c was hovering right behind Carter, ready to help if she should require it, and Carter must have been dead on her feet too, because she hadn’t registered a single objection to being singled out for special treatment, in either word or deed. And all of this had taken place in what was the equivalent of Earth’s night, due to the planetary time difference.
Jack had just finished dragging his sorry carcass out of the post-infirmary-post-mission-check shower, and was looking forward to getting home, getting to bed, and getting in some pizza and a beer – in that order for once – when Hammond had handed him command of the base while he went off to some long-scheduled budget meetings in Washington.
“I’m sorry, son.” he’d said. “If I had known it would come to this, I never would have scheduled SG-1 for a mission today, well… yesterday really, but Reynolds is confined with the rest of his team with a case of PX2-599 flu as of about two hours after your team left. They just never cleared medical when they got back today. And Dave Dixon’s wife and three of his kids are still passing around that case of diarrhea, and someone needs to watch the two year old. The other team leaders are either on leave or offworld, so I’m afraid I’m going to have to leave the base with you. At least Dr. Felger is off for the week visiting his mother. Sgt. Harriman has a pretty good handle on what needs to be done to grease the wheels and handle the day to day business. I leave you in his capable hands.”
With this the General departed, only to stick his head back in the room seconds later. There was a twinkle in his eye, and the beginnings of a grin on his round face. This was General George, the grandfather, the rarely-glimpsed Air Force teddy bear, not the commander who could somehow mysteriously bring Jack up short in mid-rant with a particularly forceful glower.
“And Jack,” he added, “don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!”
And with that, he had vanished, dress blues, shiny shoes, cover and all, leaving a weary Jack O’Neill in charge of the base. Now with some other CO’s he’d served under in his years in the military, Jack would have had no problem simply handing off the duty to a subordinate and heading directly for his rack, assuming that a do-nothing stuffed shirt of a CO could be adequately replaced by a trained squirrel, let alone a bright-enough captain or major. But Hammond was the best CO Jack had ever had, he worked hard, and by damn he deserved the best Jack could offer. Jack owed him for years of discretion, tolerance, and support. He would try to leave the General a base that was better than he found it.
Almost before he had a chance to articulate all this in his own mind, and definitely before he had a chance to plant his wilting ass in Hammond’s oh-so-comfy big leather chair, Walter Harriman appeared at his elbow, bearing a terrifyingly high pile of papers, folders, and reports. The only saving grace was that he was also bearing a full and steaming travel mug of very strong, very creamy, very hot coffee.
“For me?” said Jack, appropriating it, whether it was or not, eyeing it with some suspicion and taking a sip.
“Yes, sir” the sergeant replied.
“How did you know I’d want cream and sugar?” Jack was surprised, because when he was tired he took his coffee as sweetened and white as he could get it, but under ordinary conditions he preferred it black.
Walter just shrugged.
“This is the new work for the General’s desk, in order of importance. Urgent stuff on top, less urgent as it goes down. It’s all pretty vital, sir.”
And with that he plopped the whole mountain down in Hammond’s inbox, and exited silently and respectfully through the briefing room-side door, leaving an air of faintly-dubious-but-nonetheless-
Jack sat down in the cushy leather chair, feeling ever so unworthy, and a little bit like he had when he had sat in Sister Bernadette’s desk chair that time she’d left him as Room Monitor when she’d been called to the office. Hopefully he could keep better control here, and Hammond would not come back and haul him out by the ear and assign him three Hail Marys. Besides, if he screwed up here it would more likely end with a trip to Lourdes or the Stations of the Cross! Mistakes tended to balloon to enormous proportions pretty quickly when the safety of the planet was at stake.
The sitting didn’t last long. The stack seemed even larger from lower down, an Everest when it had been a mere Denali. Then there was the disturbing way that physical exhaustion and sleep deprivation combined to make the pile breathe when he wasn’t looking directly at it. If he let that chair suck him in, he’d soon be asleep, and Walter would be giving him the non-com puppy- eyes of disillusionment, and worse, he’d be letting Hammond down. Can’t have that! Jack stood up, bringing one of the General’s pens with him, and began to skim through the first folder while pacing as slowly as he could, hoping he wouldn’t be foggy and oblivious enough to pull a Daniel and start running into the walls because he was focusing on what he was reading.
When Walter approached Hammond’s office a few hours later to install the secure and encrypted laptop that Major Carter had just reprogrammed to allow Colonel O’Neill access to all the memos and emails that were necessary to the running of the base in the absence of Hammond’s laptop, which had gone to Washington with him, he was mildly surprised to see the Colonel pacing, stopping occasionally by the tallest of the General’s file cabinets to sign, initial, or make a notation on whatever file he was working on. This perhaps explained why Colonel O’Neill was such a lanky fellow. He’d looked so tired when Walter had left him, that the Sergeant had been more than a little afraid that he’d find the man asleep in the General’s chair with his head in the middle of the blotter on the big desk. Yet here he was, putting on the miles while doing paperwork. This also clearly explained why the Colonel was so seldom found in his office. The space in there would only have allowed for a step and a half for a man of that height. Walter filed this insight away in case of future need, and knocked on the door.
Clearly Walter had not been wrong in his initial assessment of the Colonel’s state of exhaustion, because the black-ops soldier was usually impossible to creep up on, and the Sergeant had been making no attempt whatsoever at stealth beyond the ordinary enlisted man’s effort to be unobtrusive unless specifically needed. Experienced non-coms knew that attention from officers was a double-edged and potentially deadly sword. When Walter knocked on the door, O’Neill had startled visibly, but motioned the little man in, and listened with quiet resignation to what he had to say about the machine he was installing, and the programs he was bringing up. Then the Sergeant gathered up the surprisingly voluminous pile in the General’s outbox, and offered to get the Colonel more coffee, if he wanted it. O’Neill had shaken his head mutely in refusal while screwing up his face in a moue of disgust and rubbing his stomach with a closed fist. Clearly, no more caffeine on an empty stomach, then. Walter made a mental note to stop by in a few minutes with a slice of cake or some danish from the commissary instead, and left, brushing shoulders with Dr. Jackson who was heading in, an abstracted and somewhat irritated expression on his face as he read (not for the first time) the printed out copy of an email he had received that morning.
“Jack!” he said without preamble, managing to startle his CO for the second time in fifteen minutes. “You have to do something about this! Remember when I came back from being ascended and I asked you if we were going to be paid for this?” Here the archaeologist waved his arms about expansively, sheet of paper and all, to indicate the SGC and by implication the activities of those who toiled there. “Well it seems I won’t be unless you or Hammond do something about it.”
Here he thrust the paper under Jack’s nose, clearly intending for him to read it, but not being nearsighted like Daniel, Jack had to rear back to get it in focus. Daniel was vibrating with pent-up zeal and frustration, and rather than trying to read a moving target, Jack snatched the thing from his hand with an abruptness and a scowl that betrayed his own frayed temper. He did not enjoy surprises, and being ambushed twice in fifteen minutes was twice too often! He held the paper further away from his over-fifty eyes than he wanted to admit, and read it.
The printout indicated it was from one of the cogs of the slow-grinding wheels of the Pentagon, announcing to one Dr. Daniel Jackson, PhD, Air Force Civilian Contract Employee, Social Security #, etc., etc., etc., that from the current pay period on, he would no longer be receiving further paychecks through his direct deposit, or by any other method, because he was dead. His estate would be billed for repayment of monies disbursed since the date of his death nearly a year and a half previous.
This was a last straw for Jack. He knew what a paperwork hell it was to convince the Pentagon that Daniel was indeed alive and kicking, because as his CO, he’d filled it all out himself – in triplicate – and more than once, since re-animating seemed to have become a minor hobby of Daniel’s since he’d met Catherine Langford. Wading back into this paperwork quicksand was sooo not what he wanted to face just now.
But there was Daniel, nose screwed up in indignation. Jack knew what came next. Those spinning, childish, almost girly little hops-with-hand-waving that were Daniel’s ultimate expression of impotence and frustration. Jack hated those. They made a little pit of embarrassment by proxy in Jack’s stomach. Besides, the man had a point. There was rent and heat and food to be bought, and a shockingly high monthly Starbucks bill. Jack would lend his friend what he needed for a while, but he couldn’t do it indefinitely. In any case, Daniel, with his civilian pay scale reflecting his double PhDs was used to a standard of living Jack would love to maintain. Jack was not about to support the man’s serious book and museum piece addiction. He needed to fix this.
With a sigh of resignation, he allowed his knees to buckle, flopping into the big leather chair with an uncharacteristic lack of grace, and sighed. He waved the paper in his left hand in Daniel’s direction by way of a white flag.
“I’ll see what I can do,” he said.
Daniel took a few calming breaths and seemed to look at him for the first time since entering the office.
“You look beat. Have you slept?” he asked.
“Out, Daniel!” O’Neill growled. “Can’t you see I’m busy?”
The archaeologist looked at the inbox with only two files in it, and the empty outbox.
“Busy as a beaver, I see,” he said dryly. “You should consider a speed reading course for a work load like that. I have some real reading to do.”
“Out!” was the only reply.
His concern being handled, and clearly with no more sport in the offing, Daniel left, closing the door on his way out. Better to keep a temper like that contained. He shrugged his eyebrows in time with his shoulders and headed for his office, by way of the coffee urn in the commissary. At least there was always food and coffee – if you can call it that and the Air Force seems to – available to him there if he was desperate.
Jack O’Neill was not by nature a patient man. He might have been once, but a lifetime of living by arbitrary rules (little had the teaching Sisters known how well they were preparing him for adult life in the Air Force), a series of blown missions, and a horrifying amount of loss had honed his bullshit detector to an amazing precision, and burnt away any need to present an air of geniality or deference when he didn’t want to put out the effort. Daniel’s sarcasm was sharp and cut with the razor action of a scalpel. Often the victim took a moment to realize he was bleeding. Jack’s was a blunt instrument. He beat the victim heavily about the head with it, and left him reeling. The reply he crafted for the office in the Pentagon was a veritable spiky metal medieval mace of heavy-hitting sarcasm.
Jack O’Neill was also an expert tactician. The Sisters had drummed grammar and his catechism into him, and his home had instilled excellent Midwestern manners. “You catch more flies with honey” had been one of his mother’s mantras. Even if he often preferred a flyswatter these days, he did know that attacking the faceless desk pilot who uncritically wrote memos to dead men to advise them to refund their salary was unlikely to get results, other than creating a terrible Gordian knot that Hammond would have to untangle if Daniel was ever to be paid again. This would be Letting Hammond Down, and that was not what O’Neill wanted to do. Still, he was suffocatingly tired, he had been forced to bear the GrimTim’s endless ceremony with good grace, the multiple cups of coffee he’d filched from the carafe in the briefing room had soured his stomach, and he was stuck in an office that was inconveniently without a punching bag. He needed to blow off some steam before he tackled the thorny problem of how to word the message he actually intended to send, so he allowed himself the small indulgence of firing off a masterpiece of snipe and snark, which was intended only for his own gratification.
It really wasn’t his fault that Walter scared the crap out of him for the second time today, sneaking up on him with a piece of carrot cake. He’d shot up out of the chair, helping his tired thighs by pushing down on the desk with both arms. For a moment, as he resisted the strong temptation to yell “I’m awake! I’m awake!” like Peppermint Patty caught sleeping in class in an old Peanuts cartoon, he missed the significance of the dialogue box on the computer’s screen. He’d inadvertently hit something in surging to his feet, and the memo was being sent. Frantically he’d started clicking around in an attempt to abort it, but it was too late. There wasn’t even the possibility of ripping out the connection, because Carter’s new super-dooper souped up genius encryption program meant that they had been authorized to go wireless a few years ago, and thus there were no connections he could reach to rip out. It was all just too much. Jack roared. In a moment he was going to be reduced to the Daniel Girly Hop, or more likely he would be doing time in the infirmary after a violent knuckles vs. concrete wall incident.
It wasn’t Harriman’s fault either, and the little man was standing there, clutching the cake on its plate, and peering at him through his round little glasses with goggled and watery eyes. Was that a lip wobble? He looked like a distraught and anxious owl. There was no time to waste. This was disaster. Jack needed to move and move now. Seizing the laptop and jinking expertly around the gate tech on the way out of the office, thanks to skills honed through years of playing hockey, he tossed a swift word over his shoulder.
“Not your fault, airman!” came the receding call.
Walter, badly shaken, wandered off to his post, and calmed his agitation with the piece of carrot cake but decided against another cup of coffee, for the sake of his troubled nerves.
Once past the Walter barrier, the traffic was much easier to deal with. Most people, hearing the pounding of boots on concrete, and conditioned by the frequent rush of airmen to man the Gate Room, moved almost instinctively to the wall. Jack’s over-six-foot broad shouldered form and ferocious scowl bearing down on them warned off all those who were facing him as he came, and those few that were turned away and didn’t move fast enough scattered quickly enough when he bellowed “Move it!” or “Make a hole!” In moments he had skidded around the final bend, scrabbling like a dog trying to make a tight turn at speed on waxed linoleum, and approached his salvation.
Sam Carter looked up her work to discover the sudden apparition of her commanding officer in her doorway, and surged to her feet. His body language screamed panic, and this was a man who laughed in the face of Goa’uld threats, and had never, in all the years she’d known him, considered any of their situations - no matter how grim - to be hopeless. She could feel the hairs rising to full alert all over her body. Wide blue eyes flew to piercing brown. The Colonel visibly relaxed, and with a few long strides, he made his way to her lab bench and put down the laptop he was carrying, and opened it, plugging in its power cable with an ease she would not have expected, and gestured towards the screen. His breathing rate almost normal now, he booted up the machine and navigated his way to the email program, and the “Sent Messages” screen. He pointed to the bottommost entry.
“I sent that one. By mistake. To the Pentagon. Can you take it back?” he asked. And in his eyes was that look, that unshakable conviction that she would find a technological way to save his world and everything in it, that unquenchable faith in her that simultaneously warmed her soul and terrified her, because of the deep trust it represented from a man who gave it rarely, and only to a few, and because statistics and probability dictated that one of these days, she’d fail him. She only hoped that it wouldn’t be the fate of this or any planet that hinged on it when that day came, and that the fall from the pedestal wouldn’t be too bruising. Thank God, today was not that day!
Frowning slightly, as she mentally rehearsed the steps to take and the algorithms she would need to use, she gave him her answer.
“I can’t take it back, sir, but I think I can fix it. I’ll just hack the server and delete it.”
A small part of her brain was reading the memo. He certainly hadn’t minced words. Oh well, anyone who had even a nodding acquaintance with Jack O’Neill soon knew with conviction that he did not suffer fools gladly. Those who were privileged to know him well also learned that he suffered it least gladly when the fool was Jack O’Neill. She would do everything in her power to save him from himself. After all, he would do that for any of them, without hesitation or qualm.
He was relaxed enough now to be leaning on the lab bench, but his arms were crossed, and he was still frowning.
“But you can delete it before the Pentagon reads it, right?” he insisted.
“It will be complicated, but I think so, sir,” she said.
Silence fell, broken only by the sound of their breathing and the clicking of the keyboard. Jack didn’t want to interfere with her concentration, and Sam was in the zone, focusing all her wits on beating her own personal record for breaking into the system while leaving no electronic finger prints that might be traceable, considerably aided by her macros from her previous endeavors.
A few minutes into the process, not too long after Carter gave a triumphant final keystroke, and the errant memo with its burden of snark vanished into the ether as if it had never been, Sergeant Harriman appeared, with a plate bearing another piece of carrot cake and a fork, a parfait cup of blue raspberry Jell-o, and an ice tea spoon to eat it with. He considered himself amply rewarded by the grins he received from each of them, both wide enough to show their back teeth.
As the two officers slowly ate their treats, Jack had Sam grinning with tolerant amusement at his wry and self deprecating tale of what had happened to lead him into trouble. Jack, for his part, was relieved that he had gotten the chance to explain himself, and was hopeful that knowing the full story would allow him to look like less of a bonehead than he must have seemed at first.
All too soon, the last bites had been savored, and it was time to head back to work. As Colonel O’Neill began to pack up the laptop and its cords for their trip back to Hammond’s desk, Carter volunteered to take responsibility for returning the dishes back to the commissary.
“Thanks, Carter,” Jack said, and his little half-smile made it clear that he was not just talking about taking the dishes back. “You know, I’m always losing the memos that are sent to me. It’s a mite irksome. But I’m eternally grateful you were able to ‘lose’ the one I sent. I sooo didn’t want to see the look on Hammond’s face if that one made it through!”
With that he strode out of the lab, laptop tucked under his left arm, cords in his right hand, and a spring in his step that Sam hadn’t seen in a while. She gazed at the doorway for a while, a fond smile on her lips, then shook her head in amusement, and turned back to the neglected artifact she’d been studying. It had been a helluva memo. Jack O’Neill at his snarky best. And now he owed her one. And somewhere in the bowels of the Pentagon, some dimwitted clerk owed her one too, although he’d never know it.
George Hammond arrived back at the SGC at 0930 the following morning, and was met at the elevator by Walter Harriman. Wordlessly, he handed over a travel mug of strong black coffee and a sheet of paper with a bare bones version of the General’s schedule for the day, and a second one with a brief report of the activities on the base for the previous eight hours. Scanning the sheet and seeing nothing unexpected, Hammond then inquired about his Second.
“Is Colonel O’Neill in my office?”
“No sir,” came the reply. “We sent him for a nap. He was getting…a bit cranky. Sir.”
Hammond fixed his subordinate with the stare of minor disapproval. It was difficult to maintain in view of the vivid mental picture he had of a 6’2” grey-haired battle-hardened Colonel being ordered off to a nap by a moon-faced sergeant some six inches shorter, like a four year old after a tantrum. No doubt Walter had instead suggested, quietly but firmly, that “you might be able to get through this more efficiently if you took advantage of this quiet moment to take a short nap, sir…” but Jack O’Neill could play the superannuated child like nobody’s business when the whim took him, so Hammond’s initial imaginings were not entirely out of the question.
In any case, the General had served enough years in this man’s Air Force to know who really kept things running around here. Still, letting the Sergeant know that he acknowledged this fact, or even conceived of it, would be waving the flag of surrender. Sergeants should not be speaking of high ranking officers in that way, no matter how accurate and apt a description it might be. When Harriman apologized, Hammond permitted himself an incipient smile, but only because Walter’s face was downcast, and he would not see it. Order and discipline had been maintained.
“He only went to lie down forty-six…” - Here Walter consulted his watch - “forty-seven minutes ago, sir. He was determined to clear off your desk.”
By this time they had reached the General’s office, and Hammond was astounded to see a neat surface, bare of papers, yo-yo’s, coffee cups, or disassembled pens. There was a laptop, closed and recharging for use, but that was all.
“He was awake the whole time until then?” he asked, incredulous.
He’d put Jack in charge, but had naturally assumed that Jack would get a good night’s sleep, with instructions that he be called if anything requiring his personal attention arose. The man was always so deliberately nonchalant and given to flippant remarks that it was easy to overlook the fact that he took his responsibilities very seriously.
“I think he may have nodded off for a while last night, sir,” Walter offered. “Lieutenant Sadiq mentioned when I relieved her that he came out of the office at about 0400 with what looked like key imprints on his cheek.”
“Sergeant?” Hammond asked, knowing that he might not like the answer. “Did you give Colonel O’Neill all the base inventory reports, and the monthly supply orders?”
“Just the base-wide ones, or did you give him the departmental requisitions too.”
“All of them, sir.”
At this point Hammond was goggling at the man, open mouthed. Jack had done more than he would have expected to do in twice that time.
“Well, I certainly hope you fed him!”
“We nearly emptied the commissary of desserts sir.”
The General sat down weakly in his comfortable well-padded chair, and marveled again at the polished wooden expanse of his empty desk. He was going to have to post a guard outside Jack’s quarters to be certain that no one disturbed his rest. He’d earned it.
It was some five hours later, and Hammond had just returned to his office after welcoming SG-6 home from their botanical specimen collecting expedition, that Jack O’Neill came barreling into his office with what might perhaps have been a knock on the side of his door, but might also have been an errant hand hitting the door frame. The Colonel arrived in some haste, in crumpled BDUs, with what was obviously – even given the usual rebellion that was his hair – a serious and ongoing case of bed head. He didn’t wait to be acknowledged, but spoke right up.
“So sorry, sir. I went for this little nap” – a grimace and a pinching of thumb and forefinger to indicate how tiny – “and I guess it got kind of out of hand…”
“That’s okay, Jack. You’d been up nearly forty-eight hours. You needed the sleep.”
The Colonel’s relief was visible, and Hammond was glad to have granted it, but still, with an officer like Jack O’Neill it was important to keep him on his toes and a little off-balance.
“You know, Colonel, while I was at the Pentagon, between meetings, I went down to see an officer who had been sending a rather absurd series of emails and memos regarding Dr. Jackson’s status on the payrolls, to see if by appearing in person and vouching for Daniel’s condition personally, I could grease the wheels of progress. While I was there, a memo came up on his screen, from this command. He was turned away from it to address me, but I could see it over his shoulder. A few moments later it disappeared as if it had never existed. Do I need to know something about that memo?”
“No, sir. The problem is all taken care of, General.”
“And I take it I don’t need to be talking to Major Carter about, oh say, ethical use of the base’s computers?”
“I’ll make sure she knows that we need to take security protocols for the Pentagon seriously, sir. No need for you to speak to her about it.”
“See that you do. Oh, and Jack?”
“Maggot-witted is spelled with two g’s.”
“I know that, sir. I just don’t think my fingers do.”
“That’s what the spellchecker is for, son.”
“Believe me, sir. If I’d intended to actually send that memo, I’d have made full use of it. The thing kind of got away from me, sir. Won’t happen again. From now on, vituperation delivered strictly orally, sir.”
As Jack’s form retreated and could be seen through the partly frosted window to the briefing room heading off and about his business, Hammond contemplated having Siler rig a kill switch for the phones in his office, perhaps for Walter to use at his discretion.
As for Jack O’Neill, he decided that ultimately it was all Daniel’s fault. He’d played with naquadria without permission. (And how many times had Jack told him not to touch?!!) He’d gone and died, or close enough for government paperwork. He’d come back to life (again!) and caused this bureaucratic tangle. Not only had Daniel’s tangled life loused up Jack’s, it had almost caught Carter in its snares. Maybe this time Jack would kill Daniel himself. And Jack was pretty sure he knew a number of ways to do it would ensure that he stayed dead this time.