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Title: J Is For Just A Bit Off Base, for the On World Alphabet Soup
Author: Thothmes
Seasons: Stargate the movie, through the beginning of Season 8 of SG-1
Spoilers: A whole bunch of minor spoilers for the times when things leak out or people come in to the SGC. Nothing major for anything, really.
Warnings: An Asgard beams in. He beams out. Please don’t drive yourself nuts trying to find the scene in canon. There’s nothing in canon that really prevents it, and I made it up. The other events are canon, and if you want to waste your time tracking them down, don’t let me stomp on your fun.
Disclaimer: I’m not stealing the characters and property of MGM, Gekko, etc. I’m just borrowing them, and putting them back. I’m not even using many of them, and I’m not getting any money for them. Besides, TPTB, you haven’t been using them for far too long, and if we fanfic writers don’t take them out and dust them off from time to time, they’ll fade into non-entities, and won’t be worth anything to you anymore.

J Is For Just A Bit Off Base

Sgt. Otis Jefferson was coming up on his thirtieth year in the Air Force, and was thinking of retiring. Like most enlisted men, he had gone where the service sent him, moving every few years, living on or near various bases at home or abroad, often as not uprooting his family to be with him, but occasionally enduring long separations when that was not safe or possible. For the last ten years he had been lucky enough to pull a relatively cushy spot at Cheyenne Mountain. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t as prestigious as landing guard detail at the White House, but that was a job for Marines in any case. His mama, God rest her soul, had been a wise woman and had warned him against going into the Marines, and from what he had seen of what the Corps expected of them, Mama had been right. She usually was.

Be that as it may, Otis had thrown his lot in with the Air Force, and the service had suited him. He’d left a neighborhood in South Philly that was sinking from middle class make-do into urban blight and decay, and seen the world and made a life for himself, while so many of his contemporaries had found their way into prison or a series of dead-end, low wage jobs. Otis had a good job, decent medical care, and a pension, and he still had his health. Lately, though, Mary’s mother had been ill, and they’d been talking about the possibility of him getting out and moving back to Oakland, where Mary had grown up, to take care of her. Her brother Jim ran his own security firm, and could offer Otis a job with benefits, so maybe it was time to make one last move, and put down roots for good. Ten years was a long time in one place, and there were friends and places he’d miss, but with any luck, he and Mary would have another thirty years in them before all was said and done, and thirty years was time to put down some serious roots.

He’d seen a great deal in his time in the service. He’d seen the fierce blizzards of Minot, South Dakota, and the wilting heat of Eglin and McDill in the grip of a Florida summer. He’d been to Vietnam, Turkey, and Germany, and he’d been able to show his kids castles and museums, things he’d only read about in books as kids, and scarcely thought were real. This world was full of wonders, but some of the oddest things he’d run into right here, guarding the entrance to a mountain in Colorado.

He thought he was going to be spending his time securing the entrance to NORAD, the aerospace defense command facility headquartered in the nuclear defense bunker at Cheyenne Mountain, with other facilities at nearby Peterson AFB, and in other bases around the U.S. and Canada, and at first that was exactly what he did. Then they started some kind of top secret project down in the lower levels under NORAD, and the steady stream of Air Force officers and support staff was suddenly swollen with an odd collection of scientists and scholars. What they were up to down there, Sgt. Jefferson was never quite able to figure out, but he listened hard, at first just because the things the folks downstairs talked about among themselves were just plain more exciting than anything the NORAD folk had to say. Their conversation was all about radar frequencies, alert protocols, and test results. The folk downstairs were talking about massive power requirements and how to translate Egyptian hieroglyphs. It was weird, and not a little intriguing.

Then one day, Col. O’Neill turned up again. Jefferson had met the colonel back when he was nothing but an itty bitty major, up to something hush-hush in Germany. He’d seen him again in a hangar in Incirlik, Turkey. He and Mary had shaken their heads in horror and pity and held their kids a little closer when they saw his picture in the paper and read the article about what happened to his son. O’Neill had looked about as grim as Otis thought he would have been if it had been James, but the Sgt. hadn’t said a word. The colonel’s expression had not invited discussion. A couple of weeks later, there had been the first of a series of rumblings and shakings deep under the mountain. After the second series of small quakes, O’Neill emerged again, and this time he stopped to pass the time of day. He was going home, he said. Retiring. Looking forward to spending some time with his wife. And that was the last Sgt. Jefferson saw of the man for a year.

When the rumblings started up again, damned if Col. Samuels didn’t hot foot it out of the mountain, nearly dancing with impatience at the necessity of clearing through security, only to return a few hours later with O’Neill in tow. More rumblings, and then out came O’Neill, this time with a scientist who had signed into the mountain over a year ago, and hadn’t been out since. The Sgt. spent quite a few watches trying to figure out how a man who had just spent an entire year deep in the bowels of a mountain could have sun-streaks in his hair and a bit of a tan, but finally decided, based on the huge dude with the weird gold tattoo that Col. O’Neill brought out, the rather emaciated older gent that came out with Dr. Langford, and the auburn-haired child that come out with Doc Fraiser, all of whom signed out of the mountain but had never signed in, that they must, for some reason, be bringing people in via the locked, but unguarded entrance shaft up on the slope of the mountain. If there was a breach in the perimeter fence they were using to get in, well that was some other poor bastard’s responsibility, not his. Otis pointed out the irregularity to both the commander of NORAD, and Gen. Hammond of the SGC, and after a few days sighed with relief when nothing happened. He hadn’t wanted to turn a blind eye to a security breach, but in his experience, the less attention that enlisted got from officers in general, and generals in particular, the better life went.

Besides, three individuals, spaced out over a period of several weeks was not nearly as odd as the collection of patients, some of them with serious looking wounds and terrible burns that were rushed out from below, loaded into transport trucks, for lack of available ambulances and the personnel to man them, and carted off to the Academy Hospital. That entrance shaft went down at least twelve stories. What in the world would make them lift people, wounded, in pain, some of them clearly in critical condition down a shaft, only to bring them back out the main entrance and ship them off? Not only that, but before too long, the patients were all trucked back in through the main gate, and disappeared down into the mountain never to be seen again. Surely there was a reason, but Otis remembered his mama’s warnings that his curiosity would be the death of him, and kept his eyes and ears open, and his mouth shut. At least the rumblings had pretty much stopped.

There were a few days when the giant 25 ton blast doors to the mountain were sealed shut, trapping everyone inside. When the officers at NORAD made it clear in their conversations that the threat had been contagion or invasion from below, Sgt. Jefferson had bit his tongue to keep from pointing out that if the folks downstairs would just stop bringing folks in the back way, the whole damn top secret government facility would be a lot safer. He was just one tiny little cog in a vast, unimaginably complex machine. Surely all that extra education the officers had to get to climb the ranks would help them figure it out. They got the fat paychecks and the right to boss everyone else around. Let them handle it.

If anything, over time things got more disturbing.

One day everyone poured out from down below, and trucks trundled in from Peterson, setting up tents, with temporary quarters, a mess, and command centers, and all the scientists were jawing on about a black hole. When Sgt. Siler explained what one was, it sounded very alarming, but Otis had no idea why something far off in space was causing a bivouac right here at Cheyenne Mountain. Before he could get up the courage to approach Siler with that question, everything was all over, and he was allowed to go home to Mary at last. They were still arguing about whether he’d had to stay on base eight nights or twelve. That Mary was a stubborn woman, even if she clearly couldn’t count. It was nice to know she’d missed him that much though.

Whatever it was they did in the lower levels, it was important enough to draw important people. The Secretary of Defense came. Senator Kinsey, and later Vice President Kinsey came. The President had come. So had Gen. Ryan, the general in charge of the whole Air Force. Sgt. Jefferson had been impressed.

A couple of colonels up to no good came blustering in, throwing their weight and their papers around from time to time. The streets of South Philly had taught Otis a thing or two about bullies, and he knew one when he saw one. Maybourne and Simmons were bullies alright, just like that Kinsey fellow, and it surely was a testament to the Lord’s Providence and General Hammond’s strength that they all three came out with their tails between their legs, escorted by an affable O’Neill and his giant friend with the gold tattoo. It was a sad day, though, when Col. Makepeace and a number of other officers had been led away in irons. Dr. Jackson said it was treason. It shook the Sgt.’s confidence in his judgment, because Makepeace had always seemed like such a stand-up guy. Even though Makepeace had never returned, Otis had not believed it for a moment when O’Neill had been escorted out in chains for the murder of Senator Kinsey, a few years later. His faith in his judgment was confirmed. O’Neill had been innocent. Otis and Mary watched the press conference together, and then thanked the Lord for taking such good care of the Colonel. What could have happened to him if Kinsey had died didn’t bear thinking about.

Shortly after that Col. Maybourne went down into the mountain, and was never seen again. The Sgt. would have said good riddance if it weren’t for the fact that Dr. Jackson had disappeared for a year twice, and came back. Who was to say that Col. Maybourne wouldn’t come back after a few?

There were a few times over the years when scientists, military personnel, professors, and various government officials all trooped into the mountain, bearing whatever of their personal belongings they could carry with them. They mostly looked careworn and a little frightened going in, and a few days or a few hours later, when they trooped out with all their stuff, they looked like kids on holiday. It was a puzzler.

There was the time that some rather fierce ladies in strange and drape-y costumes emerged from the bowels of the mountain with a flock of goats, a herd of sheep, and several horses, and proceeded out to graze them on the mountain side, before taking them back inside for the night. This happened for several days, and then abruptly it stopped. Were the animals still alive? If not, why? It was conceivable that fodder was smuggled in and manure was smuggled out via that shaft, but there was no way in Hell that even if the sheep and goats were lifted out on ropes and herded away, they would be able to get the horses up those shafts alive. The shaft simply wasn’t big enough.

Sometimes it was clearly just practical joking. That Col. O’Neill had a very off-beat sense of humor, and clearly that was the reason for the teenage boy who arrived carrying O’Neill’s I.D. and insisting that he be allowed on base. What the point of the exercise was, Otis Jefferson never was able to see, because the joke should have been over the moment he had detained the boy and called Gen. Hammond over the issue, proving that the base was secure, but no, the boy had been declared to be O’Neill, and his team and his commander had gamely played along with the charade, insisting that this was indeed true. It was all Otis could do to bite back the “I told you so!” when the kid came and went a final time with the real deal O’Neill at his side.

All those things, though, had been real. Otis Jefferson could see them, hear them, and (especially in the case of the farm animals) smell them. Even the little boy that looked just like the son O’Neill had lost, the boy that O’Neill said wasn’t Charlie, was real. The insects from below weren’t real. Otis could see them, but he couldn’t touch them because his hand went right through, and he certainly couldn’t smell them. He wasn’t about to try and taste them. He’d had ants on a survival course, and grubs when he was stationed abroad, and that was enough insects for a lifetime, thanks! They said it was a hallucination from a chemical spill and patted him on the back, and he never saw them again, but it was disturbing. Not as disturbing as the little fellow who appeared in a blinding shower of light one day. He had enormous large eyes, and spindly little limbs, and he looked just like the little green men from Area 51. Sgt. Jefferson had stared, open mouthed at the little mottled grey man, who had clearly said “Ooops!” and vanished the way he came. Then there was the time that he had heard O’Neill, he had even, he thought, smelled O’Neill, and had certainly smelled his coffee, and felt the current of air from his passing, but he had seen nothing but a floating steel and black plastic travel mug.

Some things simply defied explanation. Invisibility was simply not possible, and yet there was no other way that Otis could think of for that to happen. It kept him up nights when he thought of the SGC in the hands of a civilian. Ms. Weir was very nice, but she didn’t inspire the Sgt.’s confidence the way Gen. Hammond had. There were nights Otis lost sleep over it. Ten years settled in Colorado Springs, in the middle of the continent, far from any of the shooting wars, and he was losing more sleep over the ways of the world than he had in combat zones.

Speak of the Devil, Mama had said, and he’ll appear. Well, Elizabeth Weir was not the Prince of Darkness, but Otis had been thinking of her, and here she was, ready to be checked through, and behind her was a surprise, Col. O’Neill, who hadn’t been seen in a few months this time. No doubt he wouldn’t offer an excuse this time either. He never did.

Otis put Ms. Weir through the formalities of checking out, and was turning to do the same for O’Neill, when she stopped the Sgt. for a moment to tell him that she would be leaving for another assignment in (of all places!) Antarctica. When he asked who would be heading the SGC in her absence, she gestured to O’Neill.

He was rocking on his heels, hands in his pockets, and a grin on his face. He pulled out his yo-yo, and tossed it up and down a few times. He cracked the gum he had evidently been chewing, and blew a large bubble. The bubble popped, and the Sgt. and Weir watched in some suspense as he managed to peel it off his nose and cheeks without involving his nearby eyelashes, and placed it back in his mouth.

“For some reason, they’re making me a general!” he said with glee. “There’s a big leather chair, a much better parking space, and a bump in pay for me too!”

“More paperwork too,” said Elizabeth Weir, dampeningly.

Soon an evidently chastened O’Neill had been checked through, Sgt. Jefferson had offered The Man his congratulations, and the two leaders were walking off towards the parking lot.

“Walter understands paperwork. It’s practically his mother tongue!” O’Neill offered, and the spring was back in his step.

Ms. Weir shook her head ruefully, and Otis made a mental note to warn Harriman when he came out what was likely coming his way, unless O’Neill was joking. He always did have that strange sense of humor. It was hard to tell.


A general.

In charge of the top secret base under NORAD.

That night Mary was in the kitchen when Otis got home, lifting a pot roast out of the oven. He waited until it was out, the oven door was closed, and the lid was lifted off, releasing a fuller, richer version of the smell that had been making his mouth water from the moment he got in the door. He stepped up behind her, and pressing close, put his arms around her, while she turned her head over her shoulder and leaned to one side just enough to drop a kiss on the edge of his chin. He hummed his appreciation, and took a moment to appreciate how much better he liked hugging this full-figured woman than the skinny little thing she’d been when they met.

“I’m gonna do it, Baby Girl,” he said. “Call your brother Jim and tell him I’ll take him up on that job. It’s time for me to get out of the service. We’re gonna pack up one last time, and move to Oakland.”

Let someone else worry about what Col. Gen. O’Neill will be up to under that mountain!

Find the rest of the entries for this Alphabet Soup Here in complete form on DW

and here, abbreviated but with links on LJ


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 18th, 2014 12:29 am (UTC)
Thank you. I do find that there is this phenomenon that goes on where the story I think over ahead of time (this one) never satisfies me as much as the fic I pull together in a hurry as a pinch hit (my other one for this soup).I think it's probably a perfume-fatigue-like thing going on where the thing I spent more time with begins to seem a bit trite, so it's lovely to find people out there who get a kick out of it. Thanks again.
Feb. 11th, 2014 02:54 am (UTC)

what a lovely character!
love the black hole argument with hte wife :D
-snort-@warning harriman of the impending O'neill

you *do* have to wonder what those guards had to think all those years.... and I wonder how many too-curious ones had to be shifted away ASAP before they reached critical where no distance would make htem stop nagging

-going to read more sergeant fic :)-
Feb. 18th, 2014 12:23 am (UTC)
I definitely think that guarding the entrance to Cheyenne Mountain is definitely one of those postings where "too smart for his own good" would apply. It probably helps when their superiors can order them to ignore any weird s**t. Actually, I'm betting that the problem would be less acute than we think because it is improbable that one guard would be on duty and catch all the highlights like this, and most would assume that the odd thinks coming out came in while they were off-shift.

I,m glad you liked Otis. I have a soft spot for him myself.
Feb. 18th, 2014 12:37 am (UTC)
um, but men gossip as much as women... he'd ask whoever was on guard before him just to hear how wacky it was going the other direction... and the story would be stitched back together into a 'wtf is this s---?' picture
Feb. 18th, 2014 12:54 am (UTC)
True dat!
Feb. 21st, 2014 02:55 am (UTC)
I really like Otis.

MacDill isn't that bad, really—not like much of Florida. It has never been over 99°! (touch wood as climate change continues) I haven't been on base, but I lived close to it for several years. I hear they have a lovely golf course.

Vietnam, Turkey, and Germany would all be more exciting than Tampa, though.

I think Otis is wise to get out while he can!
Apr. 25th, 2014 03:53 pm (UTC)
Okay, I have finally got back around to reading this (it has been two months since this alphabet soup? really? how did that happen) and omg. I laughed so hard. Outsider point of view can be so much fun and this one is a real gem. Well done.
Apr. 25th, 2014 06:14 pm (UTC)
Cute! And funny, how did I miss this? Did you post this at any of the comms?
Apr. 29th, 2014 12:51 am (UTC)
I always assumed that all the men with guard duty had a pretty good idea of what was going on, but I like need-to-know-make-up-the-rest so much better. :)
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )



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