AU DESIGNATION: SG-7 The Crystal City Universe, a Magnificent Seven Stargate SG-1 AU
MAIN CHARACTERS: Chris, Vin
Editors' Note: The Neon Gang includes Dori Adams, Sierra Chaves, Dana Ely, Michelle Fortado, Patricia Grace, Dani Martin, Erica Michaels, Nina Talbot, Kasey Tucker, Rebecca Wright, and Lorin and Mary Fallon Zane. Art by Shiloh). This story follows The Crystal City. This is an open AU. If you'd like to come play, please do!
Vin was led into the infirmary, where Dr. Fraiser met him. She was a pleasant-looking woman, with a warm smile and kind eyes. "Hello, Vin," she greeted him. "Dr. Tyler tells me that you can understand what I'm saying to you, is that right?"
He nodded, giving her a small, almost shy smile.
"Good," she replied, looking more than a little relieved. "We're going to run some medical tests on you. Will that be all right?"
"Med… cal," he repeated.
"Medical," she repeated. "They're tests to better understand how you are, physically. Does that make sense?"
Vin cocked his head to the side for a moment, then he nodded. "Making tests me."
She smiled. "That's right, we're going to run some medical tests on you. Why don't you come in," she said, gesturing to one of the exam rooms, "and we'll get started."
Vin entered the room and she followed him, closing the door behind her. In the room there were two other technicians – a man and a woman. The guards who had followed him from the gate room waited outside the closed door.
Dr. Fraiser handed Vin a standard hospital gown and said, "I need you to remove your clothes and put this on, okay? Do you understand?"
Vin thought for a moment, then nodded. He started removing his leathers before she had a chance to step behind a privacy screen. When she stopped hearing clothes hit the floor, she walked back around the screen.
Vin was standing right where she'd left him, naked, his clothing in a pile on the floor, the gown still in his hand.
"Uh," she started, her cheeks reddening slightly as she approached him and took the gown, helping him into it. He smiled, looking down at the thin garment with a puzzled expression on his face. Then he frowned and craned his head to glance over his shoulder.
Probably trying to understand the draft, she guessed.
She tied the gown closed and gestured to the exam table. "Why don't you have a seat on the table," she said.
Vin's head cocked far to the right. "Sit table?"
She suppressed a smile. "Uh, yes, this table is meant to be sat on."
Vin looked anything but certain about that, but he obliged and she began her examination, making notes as she did. Then she drew blood samples, handing them to the female technician, who left with them.
"Sorry, I know that hurt," she told him.
"No hurt big," he told her.
"Well, good," she said, reminding herself that he wasn't simple, or a child, even if he did sound like it. "Vin, I want you to come with me. We have a few more tests to run, but I need to use some machines to do them. Did Dr. Tyler use machines?"
Vin nodded. "Much machine."
"Good, so you know that there's nothing to be afraid of. The machines just allow us to do and see things we can't ordinarily."
Vin slid off the exam table and followed her into another room where the male technician helped her take a series of X-rays. She left the tech to develop the films and took Vin to the CTG scanner and had him lie down. She explained what she was going to do, and how she wanted him to lie still. "Do you understand?" she asked.
"No move," he repeated.
"That's right," she agreed. "It won't be too long."
When she headed for the control panels the X-ray technician came over, a confused expression on his face. "Uh, Doctor, can you come take a look at this?"
"What is it?"
"I have no earthly clue, which is why I want you to take a look," he replied.
She paused to key the communications link and say to her patient, "Vin, I'll be right back, and we'll get started. You just stay right there, okay?"
"I stay good," Vin replied.
She smiled and turned, following the tech back to the X-ray lab. Vin's films were displayed on the wall. She frowned. "Is there something wrong with the equipment?"
"No, ma'am," he replied. "This is…"
"Oh, no," she breathed and stepped over to slap her hand against an alarm button.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Two hours later
Chris and Buck hurried into the infirmary to find the rest of SG-7 already there, along with Dr. Tyler and his entire research team. None of them looked particularly happy.
"Commander, what the hell's going on?" Tyler demanded, looking at Chris like Larabee must be responsible for the situation.
Chris shrugged and shook his head. "I don't know, Doc, I just—"
"Gentlemen, ladies," Dr. Fraiser said, walking in on them, "we need to run some tests."
"But we were already checked out, Doc," Buck said.
She nodded. "I know."
Chris frowned. "Doctor, how's Vin?" he asked, wondering if the man had become sick, and now they were worried about the rest of them.
She looked a little embarrassed, but said, "He's fine, I think. We're just trying to understand some… anomalies."
"What kind of anomalies?" Dr. Tyler asked.
"Come with me," she said, and SG-7 and Dr. Tyler followed her while the rest of the research team was taken for the tests.
Dr. Fraiser led them to the X-ray lab and gestured to the films that were up on the display. "These are all Vin's," she said.
"It's crystal," Dr. Tyler said, stepping up to get a closer look. "It's in all the inhabitants on the planet, as well as in the plants and animals. It's in my report."
"You knew about this?" Fraiser asked.
Dr. Tyler looked at her and shook his head as if to deny that this was his fault. "Well, yes. We ran tests on the food, water, and some of the plant and animal life – just to be careful – and we found these microscopic crystals in all of them. Then we tested some of the people we were working with. They had it as well. It's the same crystalline material that makes— made up the city, and most of the artifacts we came back with, why?"
Dr. Fraiser nodded, relieved that what she'd been hoping appeared to be the case. "I haven't seen those reports, Doctor. When we saw this…" She sighed heavily. "It didn't turn up in his blood work, or any of yours, but if you ate there, drank the water…"
"We did," Dr. Tyler said. "We were there for many weeks."
The X-ray tech came over. "Doctor, I've taken films on the research team, and, well, look…" He gestured the wall. Additional films came up with no crystals showing.
"Take some tissue samples," she told the technician, then turned back to the others. "I'll admit, at first I thought they might be nanocites, but from what we can determine, it does appear to just be crystals," Fraiser agreed. "But—"
"Is it dangerous for Vin?" Chris asked.
"No, I don't think so," she replied.
"He's grown up with them," Dr. Tyler added.
"And how about for us?" Larabee asked.
She shook her head. "I doubt it."
"Then why are all of us in here, and the entire based is on lockdown?" Buck asked.
"They're just being careful," Nathan offered. "If those had been nanocites…"
"Exactly," Fraiser agreed, nodding. "But given the fact that none of the researchers have them, and they were there for—"
"Almost three months," Dr. Tyler supplied. "They probably pass out of the body after a while."
"But you've only been back a few hours," Dr. Fraiser reminded him. "Maybe you weren't there long enough to really acquire them."
"You're probably right," Dr. Tyler agreed. "I didn't test any of us. The locals and the indigenous flora and fauna would be much more likely to have picked them up slowly over time, like Vin. Maybe none of us had any to begin with."
"So, can we go?" Buck asked.
"Not until all of you are tested," the doctor told them.
"But I thought you said—" Buck began; he hated needles.
"It's the protocol," Nathan explained to his teammate. "It's pretty wild, though, to think he's got so many crystals inside him like that."
"You know, I hadn't thought about it at the time, but that might explain how Vin and his people can use the crystal weapons," Dr. Tyler mused, "and why we can't seem to make them work – there or here."
"Shame," Ezra said, "they would have made an exciting addition to our arsenal."
"No kidding," Buck agreed. "So, how long is this gonna take, Doc? I've got a date—"
"When don't you!" JD teased, rolling his eyes.
"I just need some X-rays, tissue samples, and a little more blood," she told them.
Chris looked at the doctor and asked, "How long are you going to keep Vin?"
She thought for a moment, then said, "I should be done with all the tests by this time tomorrow. But Major Carter might want to keep him in isolation longer if she doesn't complete her tests." She glanced around at the men, then added, "So, let's get this moving so all of you can get out of here; we'll start with the X-rays."
The men followed the technician to have them done, all of them anxious to escape the infirmary.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
A little over an hour later
"Commander," Dr. Fraiser called as Chris and his men prepared to leave. "I need to see you."
"Go on, I'll catch up with you later," he told his team, then turned back to the doctor. She gestured for him to come with her, and he followed her back to her office.
"Have a seat," she said, sitting down behind her desk.
Chris sat, asking, "What can I do for you, Doctor?"
She leaned back and slipped an X-ray into a screen catch and turned on the light. "Commander, it seems that you have some of these crystals as well."
"What?" Chris asked, frowning at the image. He could clearly see a light scattering of tiny dots across the image. It was hardly anything compared to Vin's X-rays, but they were clearly there.
"It's in all of your X-rays."
"But how? I wasn't there a long as Dr. Tyler and his people. In fact I only had one meal."
"I have no idea," she admitted. "But none of the others have them, just you and Vin. Did you eat or drink anything different, do anything different than others?"
Chris' frown deepened. "No."
Fraiser frowned as well. "Well, I suppose there might be something specific about your body chemistry that binds the crystals more easily…"
"Can you get them out?" he asked.
"I'm not sure."
"And if you can't?"
She leaned back and looked at him sympathetically. "Then I guess they'll either just disappear on their own, or you'll continue to glitter whenever we take an X-ray."
"Not funny, Doctor. If this impacts my mission ready status—"
"I don't think that will be the case, Commander," she reassured him. "From what we can tell, they're just inert crystal flecks. Major Carter is running some additional tests, but we're confident that it's just… typical weirdness."
Chris looked a little surprised by that comment, but he chuffed out a laugh and shook his head. "Yeah, well, I guess it was my turn to encounter a little off-world ooga-booga," he grumbled. "What's next?"
"Your team has been released from the medical hold and can go home. Major Carter asked if you'd remain on base for another twenty-four hours – until we've completed the last of Vin's tests, and the tests on the crystals themselves."
Larabee nodded. He didn't like it, but he knew it was necessary. He'd see if Jack was around, maybe see if he was up to a game of ping-pong.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Stargate Command, 1730 Hours
Being stuck at the SGC, Chris visited his on-base quarters, showering and changing into standard duty fatigues before heading to the mess hall for some dinner. He wondered how Vin was doing in the infirmary, and briefly considered going to check on him, but he knew there was a good chance that the younger man would be stuck inside one machine or another, and he'd never been much good at hand-holding.
He'd stop by and see him in the morning.
At the mess hall, he looked over the offerings and opted for the broiled chicken, rice and gravy, and green beans. He added a cup of coffee, and a bowl of tapioca pudding, then found a seat at an empty table and dug in.
The rest of his team would be at their homes by now. He could imagine Buck and JD grilling on the balcony of their shared top-floor apartment. Buck was probably still trying to talk that leg model who lived next door to them into coming over to join them.
Josiah and Nathan would be back at the condo they shared, probably eating something with lots of rabbit food and tofu in it, and reading books while they did. He shook his head; his resident egg-heads.
And Ezra would be somewhere at the SGC, unable to leave unless he was in the company of one of the other members of the team, just like Vin would be, if he choose to stay.
Larabee wondered what the younger man would want to do. He couldn't really go back to his planet. There was nothing left now that the city had… flown off. The very concept still blew his mind.
"Mind some company?"
Chris looked up, surprised to see Ezra standing there with Dr. Tyler. It was the scientist who had asked the question.
"Have a seat," he replied, gesturing to the three empty chairs.
The two men sat down.
Chris met Ezra's eyes as he asked, "Couldn't talk one of them into taking you, huh?"
The former N.I.D. agent sighed heavily, then said, "Sadly, no."
Chris didn't bother to hide the small grin the turned up the corners of his mouth. Most times Ezra would have accompanied Chris home to his ranch, if they were off for a few days, or to the small house he rented not far from O'Neill's. That way, if Ezra or Shabouh tried anything funny, he'd have the pleasure of shooting them himself, but he had to admit that they had been on their best behavior since joining the team – more's the pity.
"How's Vin?" Dr. Tyler asked. "Have you heard anything more?"
Larabee had no intention of sharing the fact that he, too, had the crystals in his body. "Still stuck in the infirmary with those blood suckers," he grumbled, pushing a piece of his chicken through some of the gravy before sticking it in his mouth.
"Poor kid," Tyler said, shaking his head. "I hope he isn't freaking out."
Chris finished chewing and looked at the scientist. "You planning to have Vin work with you and your team on the artifacts you brought back?"
The question clearly surprised the scientist. "Uh, no, I hadn't really considered that. Why?"
"Well, given that his city up and flew off without him, he's going to need a place to be," Chris replied, "something to do."
Tyler nodded as he finished chewing a bite of his salad. "I figured he'd be working with you, Commander. He's a fighter, not a scientist."
That was exactly what Larabee wanted to hear, although he wasn't at all sure why. Still, he was glad to know Tyler wasn't going to stake a claim on Vin. He just hoped Hammond would be amenable to putting the kid on his team. After all, SG-1 had their resident alien, so why shouldn't SG-7?
He glanced over at Ezra. Of course he already had a Tokr'a, so adding a… whatever the hell Vin called himself, shouldn't be much of a stretch. After all, he'd seen Vin's skills fighting the Jaffa, and the kid was good. He should make a valuable addition to his team. If he could talk Hammond and the Powers-That-Be into it. Not to mention Vin. Hell, maybe the kid was tired of fighting. Maybe he just wanted to settle down somewhere and lead a normal, boring life the way most people did… Naw, he couldn't see Vin doing that any more than he could see himself doing that.
"Dare I ask what has put that brooding expression on your face?" Ezra queried.
Larabee glowered at the Tokr'a, but he sighed and admitted, "Vin. There's no guarantee that they'll let him join SG-Seven."
"They damn well should," Tyler half-growled in his deep Texas drawl, making Chris grin. "That boy risked his life time 'n' again ta help us. We owe 'im that much, givin' what happened. 'Sides, what else could we do, dump 'im on some planet someplace?"
Chris shrugged one shoulder. "Seen it happen."
"He would be welcome among the Tokr'a," Shabouh added, Ezra's eyes glowing as he spoke.
Chris huffed out a breath. "As a host, you mean," he challenged.
"No, Commander, as an honored ally," the Tokr'a corrected, and Ezra added, "If he cannot stay here, that may be a better option than stranding him on some other primitive world. At least he'd be able to continue to fight the Goa'uld."
"I hope it won't come to that," Chris said, but he was secretly glad to know that there was as least one alternative for Vin. But he really did want the kid working with them. If he could talk Vin into it, and Hammond…
"Whatever ya need from me, Commander, just ask," Tyler said.
Larabee nodded. It was good to have friends in your corner, and he had a feeling Vin might just need a few before this was over, although he also hoped he was wrong.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Stargate Command, the following day, 0920 Hours
Major Samantha Carter pressed her palms to her lower back and stretched, working out a few of the many kinks. She had been going for nearly twenty-four hours, the last sixteen on the crystals they had found inside Vin and Commander Larabee.
"Anything new?" Dr. Fraiser asked, coming in with two cups of coffee on a tray, along with two croissants and two bowls of fruit.
Sam smiled at the woman as she set the tray down on the workbench. "Nothing worth mentioning," she replied, reaching for the coffee first. "This looks great, Janet. Thanks."
"I figured you skipped dinner last night," Janet replied, her scolding expression ruined by the fondness in her eyes.
"Guilty as charged," Sam admitted, tearing the croissant in half and taking a bite. She moaned in appreciation. "Where'd this come from?"
"That little French bakery Cassie likes to visit," she replied, looking over the notes Sam had made. "So the crystal count in Commander Larabee's tissue sample has been steadily decreasing…"
"Yeah," Sam said. "They disappear as the cells dry out; get caught up in the air and just float away."
The physician looked up. "Then you think they'll eventually leave his system entirely?"
Carter nodded. "From the looks of it, I'd say yes. As his cells are replaced, the crystals will probably move around and eventually be sloughed off through waste, skin, and respiration. I've run a number of tests on the crystals themselves, and except for the fact that they're some of the tiniest, purest objects we've worked with, they don't seem to be dangerous in any way."
"Any idea why Commander Larabee has them when none of the others do?" Janet asked.
Sam shook her head. "There doesn't seem to be anything unusual about his body chemistry… I'd like you to do some follow up X-rays, see if we can document a slow decrease in the number of crystals over time. That ought to waylay any fears folks at the Pentagon and NID might have."
Fraiser nodded, but she knew the Commander wasn't going to like that. "And you don't think having some of these crystals floating around the SGC will be a problem?"
Sam shook her head. "I can't see how. It's not much different than all the rocks Captain Allen has in her quarters," she said.
Janet grinned. Terri Allen was a geophysicist who had collected rock samples from several off-world locations. "Were you able to determine what they are? What kind of crystal, I mean," she asked bites of her fruit.
Sam grinned. "The closest approximation we can make is an incredibly small diamond."
"Diamonds, huh?" Janet replied.
"Tiny, flat diamonds," Sam clarified, then dug under some of the papers that were stacked on the workbench and handed Janet an image from an electron microscope scan of one of the crystals.
"They're… beautiful," Janet said, staring at the image.
"Yeah, I thought so, too."
"And this is the same material that makes up all that material Dr. Tyler and his team brought back?"
"What about Vin?" the doctor asked.
Sam shrugged. "Don't see why he'd be any different. Is there anything else we need to worry about?"
"No," Janet said, shaking her head. "He's in perfect health, and except for the crystals, he's exactly what he looks like – a young, human male in his early twenties."
Sam thought for a moment, then said, "I really can't see a good reason to keep him in isolation."
"Me, either," Janet agreed. "I'll get my report ready for General Hammond."
"Me, too," Sam said, then yawned.
"Then you go home and get some sleep, Major. That's an order from your doctor."
Sam grinned. "Yes, ma'am."
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Stargate Command, 1515 Hours
Vin trailed along with Chris as the man gave him a tour of the SGC. Vin wasn't at all sure why it was supposed to be interesting, but he listened attentively. As far as he was concerned, the base was just a series of underground tunnels that ran this way and that, but he was grateful to have escaped the clutches of the female doctor. He had no idea there could be so many tests one might want to run on another person.
He looked up, meeting Chris' eyes. "What say?"
"I said, this will be your quarters while you're on the base," Chris repeated.
"What is what?" Chris asked.
Vin looked confused. "What is… quarters."
"Oh. Uh, a place to stay, to, uh, to live – you know, where you sleep, shower, relax…"
Vin's expression cleared. "Ah," he replied, nodding. "Have quarters you?"
"That one's mine," Larabee replied, gesturing across the hallway to another door. He pointed to other doors saying as he did, "And that's Buck's, JD's, Josiah's, Nathan's, and Ezra's."
Vin smiled, glad that he had been put with the other members of SG-7. "Where quarters Dr. Joe?"
Chris shook his head, saying, "The scientists don't have permanent on-base quarters, just the members of off-world teams. The scientists are able to leave and go back to their own homes. There are a few sleeping bays, though, for people who are working on projects and don't want to leave, but they're not like these quarters."
Vin blinked, hoping he had understood most of that.
Chris opened the door to Vin's quarters and led him inside. The room was the usual twenty by twenty square, arranged to accommodate a small bathroom with a shower, a section for a bed and a dresser, and a small area with a sofa, recliner, television, coffee table, and a small refrigerator. A small desk also occupied one corner of the sleeping space, a closed laptop taking up most of the surface.
Vin glanced around, but didn't seem to have a reaction, good or bad.
Chris took him through the space, pointing to everything and giving Vin the word to identify it. The younger man dutifully repeated each word in the same Texas accent Dr. Tyler had, which quickly had Chris fighting back a grin.
When the tour was over, Chris walked over and sat down in the recliner. Vin sat on the sofa.
"Vin," Chris said, leaning forward slightly, "I need to know what it is you'd like to do."
"Do?" Vin echoed.
Chris nodded. "Do you want to stay here?"
"I stay," Vin replied, nodding.
"Do you want to work with Dr. Ty— uh, Dr. Joe?"
Vin frowned. "What do?"
"I have no clue," Chris admitted, and saw Vin's frown deepen. "I don't know," he clarified.
"Want fight Goa'uld," Vin stated.
"You want to fight Goa'uld, huh?"
Vin nodded. "Fight Goa'uld you. You cap'tn."
"Actually, I'm a commander."
The frown returned. "You cap'tn."
It was Chris' turn to frown. "I don't understand."
Vin thought for a moment. "You fight, people follow, make fight you. You cap'tn."
A leader of soldiers, Chris realized. "Uh, I think I understand. I'm the leader, a captian, of a group of men who are fighting the Gao'uld."
Vin nodded. "You cap'tn me."
Chris smiled. "Well, I hope so. If you want to fight Goa'uld, I'll ask Hammond to put you on SG-Seven."
"I want fight. You cap'tn. I fight Gao'uld you."
Chris pushed to his feet. "Well, I guess I'll leave you here to get settled in," he said, realizing then that Vin hadn't actually brought anything with him from the planet. They would have to get him some fatigues and other necessities. He'd call Josiah and Nathan, have them pick up some things.
Vin followed him to the door. "I stay?"
Chris nodded. "Yes, you stay here. Get some sleep." He opened the door and stepped out into the hallway.
"You sleep?" Vin asked.
Chris shook his head. "I'm going to go to the gym first, then I'll get some sleep. Good night, Vin."
"Night good," Vin agreed.
Chris nodded and turned, heading off down the hallway. He hoped Vin had understood him, at least a little. It was the one thing that made him hesitant to include the young man on his team. But then, they would probably have some time to work on his vocabulary before he was allowed to accompany them on missions.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Nearly two hours later Chris finished his shower in the gym, redressed, and headed back to his on-base quarters. He was pleased with the workout; he was almost back to the same shape he'd been in when he'd been with the Teams. Of course he had Teal'c's regimen to thank for that. Still, he hadn't expected to see that kind of improvement from the last time he'd been able to get a good workout in, and he was feeling pretty damn good.
He was thinking about engaging Buck in a little wager when it came to how much weight they could each bench press when he spotted Vin, sitting on the floor in the hallway. Larabee was about to ask the man if he'd locked himself out of his quarters when he realized Vin was sitting in front of his door, not his own.
"Something wrong, Vin?" he asked as he reached the man.
Vin stood, looking hopefully at him.
More than a little confused, Chris punched in the combination to the lock and pushed the door open. "Uh, you want to come in for a little bit?"
Vin cocked his head to the side, pale blue eyes watching him with interest.
Chris stepped into his quarters, then turned and said, "Well, get in here," he told the man.
Vin smiled and stepped inside.
Chris waved his hand, saying, "Make yourself at home. You want something to drink?" He walked over to the small coffee pot he had brought in and starting making a pot.
Vin came up alongside him, watching as Chris added the grounds, then poured the water into the machine and turned it on. He sniffed. "What is?" he asked.
"Coffee," Chris replied, grinning. "Didn't Dr. Joe introduce you to coffee?"
"'Nectar 'a the gods,'" Vin drawled in a perfect imitation of the scientist.
Larabee laughed. "Yeah, I guess I'd have to agree. You want some?"
"So, what do you think of your quarters?"
"Quarters good," Vin replied, waiting while Chris fixed a cup for himself, then looked at the younger man.
"You, uh, want cream and sugar in this?"
Vin pointed to the sugar, saying, "Lots."
"Of course," Larabee mumbled to himself, then pointed to the creamer.
Vin shook his head, nose wrinkling at the same time. "Moo juice bad."
"Moo juice?" Chris echoed, then shook his head. He was going to have a long talk with Dr. Tyler – just what the hell had he taught Vin anyway?
When the coffee was ready Chris filled their cups and they took them to sofa and sat down. After they settled back and took a few sips, Chris asked, "Vin, what did you call your home planet?"
Vin thought for a moment, then said, "Home."
Chris smiled. "Yeah, it was your home, but what did you call it? What name did you have for it?"
Vin frowned and said something that sounded to Larabee like a cat gargling marbles.
"Home, uh," Larabee responded.
"What are your people called?"
"People," Vin promptly answered.
"Yeah, I know they're people, but what do they call themselves?"
The gargling cat returned.
Larabee huffed out a sigh. Maybe Josiah could translate some of it, or maybe not, given what he remembered them saying about the language. Well, once Vin had a better grasp of English maybe he could translate it himself.
The two men finished their coffee in silence, then Chris stood and took Vin's cup, carrying it into the small bathroom where he rinsed them in the sink and then left them on a towel to dry. When he stepped back into the living room space, he yawned and stretched.
"Make sleep you?" Vin asked.
"Yeah, I think so," Chris told him, starting for the door to see Vin out.
"Where make sleep me?"
Larabee paused and turned to look at the younger man. "Excuse me?"
Vin pointed to the sofa. "Me make sleep here?"
"Uh, well, Vin, you have your own quarters – across the hall. You have a bed there—"
Vin's expression was crestfallen. "Me go?"
It was Chris' turn to frown. "Don't you want to sleep in your own quarters?"
Vin shook his head. "Make sleep here."
"Vin, if you're worried—"
"You own, yes?" Vin asked.
Vin cocked his head and looked at Chris. "You own."
"I own what?" Chris asked.
Vin had to stop and think for a moment before he replied, "You cap'tn. You own. Me stay."
"You stay," Chris automatically corrected.
Vin nodded and smiled. "Me stay. You own."
"Vin, I don't understand what you mean when you say that I own. What do I own?"
Vin patted his chest. "Own Vin," he replied happily.
"Own…" he trailed off, his mouth hanging open for a moment. "Vin, we don't own other people here."
The crestfallen expression returned. "No want?"
"I didn't say that," Chris countered. "But I don't own you. You're a free man."
"Want own you," Vin argued. "You take. You own. Yes?"
Chris was about to argue the point with the man, but then decided against it. He needed some help, and before he got in over his head. "Vin, look, let's just leave this until tomorrow, okay? Tomorrow we'll get Josiah, and maybe Daniel, and we'll figure this all out, okay?"
Vin asked the question so uncertainly, and looked so troubled, that Chris felt compelled to say, "For right now, yes, I own. Tomorrow we'll see if we can't find out what that means."
Vin smiled. "You own. You cap'tn." And then he stretched out on the sofa and closed his eyes, a contented smile on his lips.
Chris sighed and shook his head. Having Vin around was going to be an adventure. He walked back to the bedroom area and removed a spare blanket from the small closet. Taking it back to the sofa he shook it out over Vin, who opened his eyes and stared up at him with an open, trusting expression.
"You thank," he said.
"Thank you," Larabee corrected.
"Welcome much," Vin replied, then pulled the blanket up and closed his eyes again.
Larabee shook his head again as he headed for his own bed, wondering how he was going to explain to General Hammond that he now owned an alien.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
The following day
Seeing the perplexed expressions on Josiah's and Daniel's faces made Larabee feel better. After all, if the experts couldn't understand what Vin was getting at, then he couldn't assume that he should have had a better handle on it. It was a relief, really.
They were all seated around a small conference table in one of the many meeting rooms on the base. Daniel and Josiah were on one side of the table, he and Vin on the other. It felt a little like being interrogated, but Larabee knew it was necessary that they get to the bottom of this.
Daniel glanced at Josiah and said, "I have a feeling this is a lot more complicated than it looks."
Josiah nodded. "I think we might have two conditions of ownership going on as well." He looked over at Vin and asked, "Vin, when exactly did Chris own you?"
Vin thought for a moment, then frowned and asked, "Chris own, cap'tn own?"
Daniel's eyes rounded. "So they are two separate things!"
"Which one owned you first?" Josiah asked.
"Cap'tn," Vin promptly replied.
"When?" Josiah asked.
Vin thought for a moment, then said, "Come me you."
Josiah sat, trying to translate that. "You mean when Chris asked you to come with him to Earth?"
"When was that?" Daniel asked.
"At the stargate," Chris realized. "After the city had… left. There was nowhere for him to go, and the planet was under attack, so I told him to come back with me."
The two men looked at Vin, who nodded. "Cap'tn own."
"So Chris, as a leader, asked you to come with him, and you did, so he owned you?" Daniel asked, scribbling notes on a pad of paper in front of him.
"Yes," Vin replied.
"Vin," Josiah said, "on your planet, those who fought the Gao'uld, did they fight because they wanted to, or because they had to?"
"Want fight Gao'uld," Vin said. "Find cap'tn. Fight. Cap'tn own."
"I think we're thinking about this whole captain thing wrong," Daniel said a few moments later. "I don't think it's Vin misunderstanding the different rank structures in our military branches." He looked over at Vin and said, "Vin, can you tell us what captain means?"
"Fight Gao'uld leader," Vin told him.
"Vin, do you understand that, here on Earth, the people who fight the Gao'uld are all members of what we call the military," Daniel said. "There are five different branches of the military here – Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. The men and women who are part of these organizations have dedicated their lives to military service. Did you have a military on your planet?"
"No," Vin said, shaking his head. "No people fight. Gao'uld come, people fight. Small people cap'tn, large people akicita."
"Ah-kee-chee-dah," Daniel repeated carefully. "I know that word," he said, shaking his hand as he concentrated, trying to recall from where. "That's… that's the Lakota word for warrior!"
"I think we're talking about leaders and followers," Josiah concluded. "The captain leads and the ah-kee-chee-dah takes orders from the captain." He glanced over at Chris and said, "Since Vin saw you as a captain, and thought of himself as an ah-kee-chee-dah, when you asked him to come back with you, it was like asking him to join your warrior band. By coming with you, he agreed, and accepted you as his captain."
"Is good talking," Vin said, nodding. "Cap'tn own."
"Vin, how does the captain own his men?" Daniel asked.
Vin thought, trying to find enough words to explain. "Give food. Make place sleep. Make fight."
"Okay, the captain feeds and takes care of the basic needs of his followers," Daniel translated. "Makes sense."
"And comes up with the strategies for fighting the Gao'uld," Josiah added with a nod.
Vin smiled, glad that they were able to understand him.
"It's a simple chain of command," Daniel said, looking at Larabee. "In the sense that you're the leader of SG-Seven, you have responsibility for those under your command. You 'own' each of us in that sense."
"But there's a difference between being your commander and owning you," Larabee argued with the man. "It sounds like a kind of slavery, and you know Hammond isn't going to go for something like that."
"Vin, when you told Commander Larabee that he owned you, in his quarters, was that as a captain?" Daniel asked.
Vin shook his head. "No cap'tn."
Chris shrugged, looking completely clueless.
"Chris, you said when you got back from the gym Vin was sitting in the hallway outside your door, right?" Daniel said.
"What did you do next, exactly," Daniel asked.
"I opened the door, I went in, and then I invited Vin inside," Chris said. "I couldn't just leave him sitting out there in the hall."
"Did he come in before or after you invited him?" Josiah asked.
Larabee thought for a moment, then said, "After. I had to ask him a couple of times before he understood what I was saying."
Josiah turned to Vin. "When Chris asked you to enter his quarters, and you entered, is that when Chris, not the captain, owned you?"
"And this is a different kind of owning than what a captain does?" Daniel wanted to know.
Vin nodded again.
"How is it different?" Josiah questioned.
Vin thought for a long time before he said, "Own home in."
Chris leaned forward. "I did tell him that our on-base quarters are where we live, but I didn't call it home," Chris told them.
"I think he made that the leap by himself," Josiah replied, realizing that Vin must understand a large part of what they were saying, even if he couldn't articulate a complicated reply. He leaned back, saying, "Okay, so we know that captains own their soldiers, and a householder can own a… what?"
"A guest?" Daniel ventured, then shook his head. "That doesn't make a lot of sense."
Josiah rubbed his chin with his thumb and forefinger as he thought out loud, "We have to remember the larger context. These are all tribal peoples who blended together…"
"Ah, I see where you're going," Daniel said. "So, maybe it's some kind of class or caste system, with those who are of a higher rank owning those who are from a lower one?"
Josiah looked at Vin and asked, "Vin, what does it mean when someone owns another person in this other way? Not as a captain."
"Get place me," Vin told him.
"Maybe own isn't the right word," Daniel said, forehead wrinkled with concentration, "but it's the one he knows that's closest to what he wants to say."
Josiah shook his head. "No, I think it's the right word, but we're thinking of it as an adjective, and I think Vin's using it like a verb."
"Care to explain that?" Larabee asked.
Josiah smiled. "Okay, when we think of the word 'own' we typically think of it as pertaining to, or belonging to oneself, or itself," he started.
Daniel bounced in his chair. "Ah! I see where you're going!" He looked at Chris and continued, "'Own' is usually used after a possessive, to emphasize the idea of ownership, interest, or relation conveyed by the possessive," he rattled off. "Something like 'He spent only his own money.'"
"But I think Vin is using it as a verb," Josiah offered, talking now to Daniel.
"Wouldn't that mean I own him like I'd own a dog?" Chris asked.
"No, I don't think so," Daniel said, shaking his head. "More along the lines of to own a fault; to acknowledge or admit."
"That's what a captain does, he acknowledges that his soldiers are his responsibility; he takes care of them in the context of battle," Josiah agreed, nodding. "But when it comes to the more personal level – Chris owning Vin in his 'home,' essentially, then it's 'own' in the sense of to acknowledge as one's own; recognize as having full claim, authority, power, dominion, etc." He could see he'd lost Larabee again. "It's own in the sense of 'He owned his child before the entire student body.' That kind of owning confers a social place or context."
Daniel was nodding excitedly. "And given typical tribal dynamics, having a place would be—"
"—critical," Josiah finished as Daniel said "—essential."
Chris looked at Vin and said, "If they don't make any sense to you, that's okay. They don't make a lot of sense to me, either."
Vin smiled. "You cap'tn, you own. You Chris, you own. Yes?"
Chris looked back at his two experts, who both nodded. He looked back to Vin and said, "Yep, I sure do."
Vin smiled happily.
"Congratulations, Commander," Daniel said, "you're the proud captain of a healthy Gao'uld fighter."
"And the, uh, proud… owner of an interesting young man," Josiah added with a grin.
"I'm sure the General will be pleased," Chris replied a little sourly. "As long as he doesn't think I own him like a slave I'm fine with it."
Josiah nodded thoughtfully. "Many of the tribes used a period of slave status for captives, but it generally lead to full acceptance into the tribe. This might be similar. The important thing is the end result: Vin has a place he can call his own, with people who are part of his… family," Josiah concluded. "He's adopted you."
Chris looked at Vin, who seemed perfectly happy. "Well, I adopted all of you, so one more won't be a problem."
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Later that day
Chris, Josiah, and Daniel met with General Hammond to talk about Vin. The two scientists were able to articulate Vin's understanding of his situation, and his desire to fight the Gao'uld. And, given that his city had abandoned his planet, there wasn't really anywhere for him to go.
Hammond glanced over at Larabee and asked, "And you think adding this young man to your team will be possible?"
Chris nodded. "Yes, sir. He understands most everything we say to him, even if he can't speak the language well at this point."
"That should change as he's exposed to it," Daniel was quick to add. "Give him a few weeks, and he'll have a much better grasp of our vocabulary and syntax."
Hammond leaned back, considering the idea. "Given what you've told me about his actions on PX1 313, he sounds like a capable fighter, but don't you think he ought to be resettled on one of the planets where we have allies who will take him in?"
"He's adamant about wanting to fight the Gao'uld, sir," Josiah added. "Given all he's lost, I'd say that's pretty understandable. I think we should give him that chance."
Hammond nodded. "Indeed it is, but I'm concerned that his lack of understanding when it comes to our language and technology might create a threat in the field."
"General," Daniel said, "I've had a couple of long conversations with Dr. Tyler, and I'm convinced Vin can adjust to life here, just like Teal'c has. He just needs a little time."
Hammond sat for a moment, weighing what he'd heard. He respected Dr. Jackson's opinion, as he did Dr. Sanchez's, and they both obviously felt that Vin could make a valuable contribution to SG-7. Still, he had some reservations. "I'll tell you what, gentlemen," he finally said. "If Vin can pass the same course we're using to prep young officers for off-world teams, I'll make the assignment. But I want to know for sure that he'll be able to handle the kinds of situations that might arise in the field."
Larabee nodded. "Fair enough, General, but I'd like him to work with SG-Seven for a few weeks before Jack and Teal'c test him. It's only fair."
Hammond nodded. "You have three weeks, Commander."
"Thank you, sir," Larabee replied.
"And, Commander," Hammond said, "let's just leave the whole 'owning' thing off the record. It's a loaded word, and I don't want to muddy the waters."
"Understood, sir," Chris said.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Three weeks later
Chris was feeling as nervous as a father with his daughter's first date. He knew Vin was ready for the situations Jack and Teal'c would put him through, but if anything went wrong…
He sighed heavily and shook his head. Nothing was going to go wrong. SG-7, and Vin, had been working nearly non-stop for three weeks. And Vin had taken to the training like a "SEAL to water," as Buck had put it.
In fact, Chris had been more than a little amazed by how quickly the young man had mastered their weapons and tactics, although Vin still preferred his own crystal weapons to their MP5s. And, after all, Teal'c still carried his staff weapon on off-world missions, so there was no reason why Vin shouldn't carry his crystals.
But everything they had taught Vin was going to be put to the test today. And Chris could clearly remember the training exercises Jack had invented for them. He just hoped Vin was ready.
Yesterday Jack and Teal'c had run Vin through several physical trials – obstacle course, sprints, long distance run, weight work – and the kid had done great in every category; he even set a new record on the obstacle course, one that Larabee suspected Teal'c would be trying to beat sometime soon.
The hand-to-hand training he and Buck had given Vin even paid off nicely when Vin and Teal'c had sparred. After the match he'd been a little surprised to discover that Ezra had won five hundred dollars from Jack, who had been convinced that the former Jaffa would make mincemeat of the smaller man. Vin might have lost the match, but he'd held his own right up to the last.
So today the wager was the same, only this time it was between Chris and Jack, although Larabee was using the five hundred he'd confiscated from Ezra the day before. If Vin completed one of the scenarios, Larabee would give Ezra back his winnings. And there would be three scenarios, so the odds were in Larabee's favor.
In the first, Vin would have to reach the DHD and 'gate on the planet they were currently using as their Alpha Site. Once there, he would have to secure control of the 'gate. Jack, Sam, and Teal'c would be on 'guard duty' at the 'gate, while Daniel was be standing nearby with Larabee, the two of them acting as the 'neutral observers' for each team.
Vin had just less than four minutes left to reach the 'gate and secure it.
"Wonder where he is," Daniel said, glancing around, trying to spot the man.
Chris, however, had already seen Vin, who was carefully creeping toward the 'gate on his belly. "He's got plenty of time," Larabee said distractedly, wondering what in the world Vin was now doing at the 'gate itself. A moment later, he had his answer.
The stargate whooshed to life, energy leaping from the ring to fall back into an event horizon. Jack, Sam, and Teal'c were taken completely by surprise. All three jerked around to stare at the 'gate and, when they did, Vin slipped from cover, crystals in both his hands. Energy leapt from them and Jack and Teal'c went down. Carter jerked her paintball weapon to her shoulder and fired, but the paint ball hit a force shield surrounding Vin and dissipated across it. A moment later, Sam was on the ground as well.
A huge smile lit Daniel's face as he walked over and stared down at his three team members. "Looks painful," he said, noting the grimace on Jack's face.
"You can release them," Chris told Vin, and a second later the members of SG-1 groaned and sat up.
Teal'c climbed to his feet and nodded to Vin, saying, "An effective diversion and attack."
"Thanking you," Vin replied.
Teal'c gave a slight bow and Vin grinned.
Carter rolled her shoulders and tilted her head from side to side, popping her vertebrae before she climbed to her feet. Sticking out her hand, she helped pull Jack to his feet. "Well done," she told Vin. "But how'd you activate the 'gate?"
"That was gonna be my question," Jack added.
Vin tilted his head to the side slightly and said, "Crystals."
"Can you show me?" Sam asked.
Vin nodded and trotted over to the 'gate. Attached to the back side of the device were the two large crystals Vin usually carried in leather pockets on the front of his leathers. He reached down and touched one and the 'gate deactivated. He handed the crystal to Sam, then stuck the second one back in its pocket.
Carter turned the crystal over in her hands, shaking her head. "But how does it work?" she asked Vin.
He shrugged. "Works."
She shook her head again and smiled. "I'm going to have to have a long talk with Dr. Tyler," she said, then looked at Jack as she added, "These crystals acted like a naqahdah generator…"
Jack looked more than a little impressed, too. "Be a lot easier to carry a couple of rocks than a generator," he agreed.
"If we can figure out how it works," Carter agreed, handing back the crystal to Vin.
Jack scowled at Vin and said, "What setting do you have those things on, anyway?"
Vin thought for a moment and replied, "Set stun."
"Hate to see the next setting up," O'Neill grumbled as he started off toward the site for the next scenario. "Probably blow my damn socks off…"
"Indeed," Teal'c added, following after the colonel.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Chris waited for the second scenario to begin. He was pleased with how Vin had handled the first. The diversion had been a good idea, and it had allowed him to quickly secure the 'gate, which, if this had been a real mission, might have meant the different between getting home and not. It was actually good tactical and strategic thinking, something the young man seemed to be blessed with.
This scenario one would be a little different. Workers had erected a mock-up of a Gao'uld temple using a wooden frame and sheets of canvass to create a labyrinthine space. Vin was tasked with getting inside that space, acquiring a supposed Gao'uld larvae, and getting back out after leaving behind five blocks of clay – with a little surprise Larabee had added just for Jack – that, were this a real situation, would have been blocks of C-4 or Semtex.
Once again SG-1 would be acting as the guards. Daniel and Larabee, as observers, walked anywhere they wanted, while the rest of SG-1 and Vin had to stick to the supposed layout of the temple.
As it neared the end of the time Vin had been given, Daniel and Chris headed outside, confused.
"Maybe be got lost?" Daniel offered.
"I doubt it," Chris replied, scowling.
"Larabee, where the hell is—?" Jack started, but his words were bit off when Vin appeared out of nowhere. "What the hell?" he bellowed.
Carter, who had been following the colonel stopped, her eyes rounding with surprise. "Vin, how did you—?" She stopped when Vin handed Chris a thermos in which the commander found a rubber snake – the larvae – and then the detonator.
Chris thumbed the switch and a series of pops could be heard inside the mock temple. Teal'c exited a moment later covered in confetti and stated in his usual deadpan, "The temple complex has been destroyed."
"But how—? I never saw—" Jack sputtered.
"That was the point, wasn't it?" Chris cut in, grinning. He might not know how Vin had managed it, either, but he was one step closer to another five hundred dollars.
Sam's forehead wrinkled as she walked around Vin. "You used the crystals again, didn't you?" she asked him.
Vin reached up and touched one of the larger crystals in its pocket and he winked out of existence.
"Holy crap!" Jack yelped.
But Carter reached out, running her hand over Vin, who was clearly still there, even if they couldn't see him. "Somehow the force field the crystals project to protect Vin is able to generate a negative refractive index."
"English, Carter," Jack said on a sigh.
She smiled and translated, "It bends light in the opposite direction to ordinary materials, making Vin essentially invisible. It's amazing. Somehow the crystals guide light around him. We can't see him because light can't reach him, but we can see behind him as if he wasn't there, a bit like water flowing round a rock."
"Cool," Daniel said, nodding.
"Very damn," Chris agreed.
"Hrumph," Jack grunted. "Okay, last scenario, and this time all the crystals come off."
"You're a poor looser, Jack," Chris told him, grinning.
"Damn right I am," Jack replied. After all he was the one out a thousand bucks to Larabee, and five hundred to Standish. "Double or nothing?"
"You're on," Larabee agreed, grinning. Even if Vin failed on the last one he'd only lose the thousand he'd already won, and he'd still have the five hundred from Ezra. Sometimes life was pretty damn good.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
The last test Jack had lined up for Vin was a kind of Kobayashi Maru situation. In fact, it was the same one Jack had used on SG-7 – with a few modifications –complete with the locked Gao'uld box, Jaffa troops closing in, and the Gao'uld transport ship parked nearby in a large warehouse.
SG-7, minus Chris, lay scattered around the area, pretending to be wounded or unconscious.
Sweat dripped down Vin's forehead as he concentrated on getting the Goa'uld container open. Somehow he'd accidentally triggered a failsafe and the device was counting down to detonation, which would destroy the device SG-7 had been sent to retrieve.
Vin finally sucked in a breath and pressed his hand to the small screen set just above the lock. All around him the cacophony of battle raged, and he had to pause to fire at the encroaching "enemy" – namely Jack, Sam, and Teal'c.
The lock beeped and popped open. Vin scooped out the artifact, then ducked down, using the box for cover as Jack and Sam opened up on his position with overlapping fields of fire.
Vin scrambled backward, dragging the box with him and making it to the transport ship, the artifact still clutched to his chest. However, he was trapped.
Setting the artifact next to the transport ship, Vin returned fire with his MP5 paint gun mock-up, then scrambled out and grabbed JD by the ankle and dragged him to the transport as well. Reaching up, Vin slapped his hand against the control panel where an entry code needed to be entered. A moment later the door opened.
"Go inside!" Vin instructed JD, who nodded and crawled in.
More fire could be heard as Vin retrieved Ezra, this time using the box as cover. He dragged Standish to the transport.
Vin could see the three members of SG-1 inching closer.
"Go inside," Vin instructed the Tokr'a and Ezra crawled in as well.
Nathan, Buck, and Josiah were each rescued and dragged to the transport in turn, Buck yelping for real when a wood splinter from the floorboards pierced his backside. Vin's only cover was the box he'd retrieved the artifact from, but it seemed to be enough to keep the flying paint balls from hitting him, or his rescued teammates.
As soon as Josiah was inside the transport ship Vin tossed the artifact to JD, then, firing at SG-1, he launched himself into the transport and secured the door.
Scrambling to the controls, Vin pressed both hands to an inert power globe and concentrated. The windows of the transport began to be splattered with exploding paintballs.
Then, suddenly, the craft lurched and the power came on, just enough to send one energy blast over the heads of SG-1, who immediately dove for cover.
"I thought I told you no crystals!" Jack hollered.
"I have every one of them, Jack," Daniel said with a grin. It was actually rather fun, watching Jack frustrated.
"You missed one!" Jack argued.
"No, I didn't," Daniel argued back.
"Why don't we ask Vin?" Sam suggested.
Chris, grinning, called, "SG-7, stand down! SG-7, Vin, get out here!"
A moment later SG-7 and Vin exited the transport craft. Vin was holding the artifact. He walked over and handed it to Chris. "Want yo— You want," Vin said, remembering to say it correctly.
"Vin, how did you activate the ship?" Carter asked. "Did you use a crystal?"
Vin shook his head. "Take you all." He frowned. "You take all," he corrected himself, but it was still said in a thick Texas accent.
"Then how—?" Jack started, but he stopped and frowned himself. "How'd you get the box open and the transport door?"
Vin looked confused.
"I saw what he did with the door," Daniel replied. "He just put his hand over the control panel and the door opened."
"Same for the box," Chris said. "Vin, how does that work?"
Vin shrugged and shook his head. He walked over to the box and pressed his hand to the small screen, then concentrated and the box opened. "Want open."
Teal'c eyebrows climbed.
"Telekinesis?" Daniel offered.
Sam looked thoughtful for a moment, then she smiled and nodded. "I'll bet it has to do with the crystals inside Vin's body. They might be able to generate a field, or if some of them were to migrate into the object—"
Jack held up his hands. "Carter, you and the scientists can play with this stuff all you want – later." O'Neill looked at Vin, his expression neutral, then he smiled and said, "I don't really care how you did it. You did. But I want to say that I appreciate how you didn't leave a man behind; that's the most important thing any of us could've learned about you in this exercise. Nice job, son." He stuck out his hand and Vin took it.
Jack looked at Chris and said, "He'll have SG-1's endorsement, Commander."
"Thanks, Jack," Chris replied. "Oh, and about that two thousand dollars…"
O'Neill looked like he'd just bitten into a particularly sour lemon. "Yeah?"
Jack turned and stalked off, muttering under his breath. Daniel followed, grinning, and Teal'c as well, with his usual poker face.
Buck clapped Vin's back. "Nice job, Junior. But next time, watch out for the splinters." He looked at Nathan and asked, "Think you can dig this damn thing out?"
Nathan grinned. "Sure."
Sam took Vin's arm, leading him away, already asking questions. JD was trailing in her wake, asking ones of his own.
"Commander, I'm assuming I'll receive my original winnings back?" Ezra asked Chris.
Larabee thought for a moment, then smiled. "Why not."
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Three days later, a Thursday
Vin and the members of SG-7 were seated at the conference table in operations. Through the large glass window they could see SG-10 departing on a mission.
General Hammond and Colonel O'Neill walked in to join them, the members of SG-7, including Vin, standing as they did. Jack looked happy and he shot Larabee a grin.
Hammond walked to stand at the head of the table and met Vin's gaze. "Have a seat, gentlemen." He waited for them to settled, then said, "Vin, you have been cleared and authorized to join SG-Seven as an operational member. Congratulations, son."
Vin smiled. "Thankin—" He stopped, thought for a moment, then said, "Thank you, General Hammond."
"We need to come up with a last name for him," Jack added. "Keeps the computers happy, or so they tell me."
"Really?" JD asked, surprised. "I could probably write a program that would fix that if you wanted, Colonel."
"What did Teal'c use?" Buck wanted to know as he lightly slapped the back of JD's head.
"Name of his home planet," Jack replied. "Chulack."
"Not very aesthetic," Ezra mumbled under his breath.
"What's the name of your planet, Vin?" Nathan asked.
Vin's reply was unpronounceable to the others.
"That is clearly not an option in Vin's case," Ezra concluded drolly.
"Mmm," Josiah said, thinking. "Vin, here on Earth many of our last names, what we call our surnames, came from the places where our families originated, or the kinds of work our fathers did to make a living. Do you know what your father or your grandfather – your father's father – did?"
Vin thought for a moment, then said, "Curer hides they." He immediately huffed out a breath and tried again. "They cure hides… make clothes."
"They were tanners," Josiah said with a nod. "Vin Tanner… Hey, that's got a nice ring to it."
The others nodded their agreement.
"That work for you, Vin?" Larabee asked.
"Vin Tanner it is, then," Larabee announced.
"All right, that's all settled them," Hammond replied, looking pleased. "Now, Vin, I want to make some rules clear. You understand what rules are, don't you, son?"
"Yes, sir," Vin replied.
"Very good," Hammond said. "Now that you're an official member of SG-Seven, and of the SGC, you'll be permitted to leave the facility, but only if you're accompanied by another member of SG-Seven, or someone from the SGC, like Colonel O'Neill. Do you understand?"
"Yes, sir," Vin said again.
"It's very important that you not interact with the general public, uh, other inhabitants of this planet. You'll only interact with other members of the SGC outside this facility. And you will not go anywhere outside this facility alone. Understood?"
"Yes, sir," Vin agreed.
Hammond looked at Larabee and added, "Commander, for the time being I'd like Vin's trips outside the facility limited to the personal residents of SG-Seven."
"Sir, how about camping and hiking in the woods?" Buck asked. "Up at the Commander's ranch."
"As long as there's little chance of him running into civilians that should be fine," Hammond agreed, then shifted his attention back to Vin. "Son, this isn't because we don't trust you, I want you to understand that. Teal'c had the same restrictions when he joined SG-One. Later, when you've got a better handle on the language, and you understand our culture more, the restrictions will ease."
"Just don't end up in any outside medical facilities," Jack told Vin. "There's no way to explain the way you sparkle. You, either, Commander."
Vin nodded. "Und— I understand," he said carefully. "I want see outside. I see outside team only, yes?"
"Exactly," Hammond replied with a fatherly smile.
"Sir, that sounds like you might be giving us a few days off," Larabee said, looking at Hammond.
The general nodded. "I think a long weekend might be in order," he replied. "You and your team report back for duty on Tuesday, Commander."
"Yes, sir," Larabee replied. He glanced around the table. "You boys up for a couple of days in the woods?"
"Cool!" JD replied.
"Damn straight," Buck agreed.
Nathan and Josiah both nodded.
Ezra sighed. "I don't suppose I could talk you into something a little less—"
"No, you can't," Larabee interrupted.
"Very well," Standish agreed on a heavy sigh.
"Me leaving this hole?" Vin asked, his tone and expression hopeful.
"Hey, now," O'Neill said, "just what are you callin' a hole."
Vin looked confused. "SGC no hole? What call?"
Jack grinned. "Oh, it's a hole all right, but it's our hole, and we think of it as home."
"He's teasing you, Vin," Buck explained.
"Ah," Vin replied. "O'Neill is home in hole."
"I think he's catching on to Earth humor," Josiah said, grinning.
Before it could get out of hand, Larabee snapped to his men, "Be at the ranch Saturday morning – early. We'll ride up and camp out overnight. Friday and Monday you can amuse yourselves."
The others, except Ezra, cheered.
"And who will I be amusing myself with?" Ezra asked the team.
"You can stay at the ranch with Vin and me," Chris told him.
"As you wish, Commander," Ezra replied, a slight twinkle in his eyes. Maybe he could talk the others into coming over on Friday for a poker game…
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Vin sat in the passenger seat of Larabee's black Ram, his neck craning and bobbing as he tried to take in all the views at the same time. The blond grinned at the antics. "So," he said, "what do you think?"
"Much beautiful," Vin replied.
"Very," Ezra corrected automatically from the rear seat. They had been at it for nearly a month now, and Vin's command of the language was getting substantially better, but he still had a few problems.
"Very beautiful," Vin repeated back.
"Yes, it is," Chris agreed and they fell into silence as Vin continued to take in the mountain views.
"Vin," Ezra said a few minutes later, "your home, your city, was on an island, right?"
Vin thought for a moment, then he nodded. "Yes, an island. This is big island?"
"No," Chris replied with a chuckle, "this is a continent, which is a lot bigger than an island, although we have a few islands that are pretty big."
"This is very big, very beautiful," Vin said.
A few minutes later Chris pulled into the long gravel driveway that lead to his home. He parked near the detached garage and climbed out, watching as Vin hurried over to corral closest to the main barn. Inside the enclosure there were several horses. Ezra eased from the second seat, grumbling.
Vin laughed and cried, "Tashunke!" He looked at Chris and said, "Gao'uld kill all tash—what is?" He gestured to the animals.
"Horses," Chris supplied.
Vin nodded, repeating, "Horses. Yes, Gao'uld kill horses and gitli, uh…" he pointed to the two dogs who were dancing around Larabee's feet.
"Dogs," Chris supplied, giving the pair a good petting.
"Dogs," Vin echoed. "Yes, Gao'uld kill."
Chris shook his head sadly and Ezra asked, "Why did they do that?"
"We use to fight," Vin explained as he squatted down to pet the two dogs who came over to greet him. They were both big, hairy mixes. "We miss very."
"Very much," Ezra corrected.
Vin frowned, deciding that he was never going to remember if it was very or much or very much, or why it seemed to matter so much… so very?
Larabee nodded, knowing he would as well, if they were taken away from him. "Grab your gear, Vin, I'll show you where you'll be sleeping," Chris said, shooting Ezra a slightly sour look, knowing he had brought his things in that damn ring of his.
Vin rose and went to the truck, pulling a duffel bag from the back. Larabee did the same, then they headed into the house. Ezra had gone on ahead of them, and was already unpacking his clothes in the guest room he used when staying there. Vin was given the guest room next to Ezra's. He just dropped his bag on the floor and headed back outside to look around.
Ezra, on the other hand, headed to the living room, turning on the news and getting comfortable in one of the recliners. Chris came in a few minutes later and handed Standish an imported beer.
"And where is our diamond in the ruff?" Ezra asked.
Chris shrugged. "Looking around the house, or out looking at the horses, I guess. He knows he can't wander off."
The former NID agent nodded and turned his attention back to the news, sipping on his beer. Larabee settled in the second recliner and opened a newspaper.
After nearly an hour had past, Larabee stood and dropped his paper onto his chair.
"Going to look for him?" Ezra asked.
Ezra nodded, more than happy to stay right where he was. He watched Larabee leave, then picked up the remote and started channel surfing, looking for something more interesting to watch.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Larabee checked the house first, and when he didn't find Vin there, he headed outside, walking first to the barn and checking there, then exiting the back of the structure and walking to the corral. He smiled, watching as Vin leaned low over one of the mare's withers. She stretched out her neck and ran faster through the pasture.
It was easy to see that Vin's people were, or had been, masterful horsemen.
When the mare came to a stop near the fence, Chris smiled at the joy he saw on Vin's face. "Have a good ride?" he asked.
Vin slid from the mare's back and Chris realized that the man had been riding without saddle or a bridle. He shook his head.
"Liking much!" Vin exclaimed, then restated it, "I liked it very much?"
"Yep," Larabee told him, "and I'm glad." He reached out to give the mare's forehead a scratch when she came up to him at the fence.
"Gao'uld kill our herds. We mourned deeply."
Larabee nodded. "I can understand why."
Vin walked over and climbed up onto the fence, watching the horses.
"Vin," Chris said, "do you have a family?"
The man looked down at him and shook his head, his expression sad. "Gao'uld kill father when I baby, then mother when I… six. I live with mother's father."
"Your grandfather," Chris told him.
"Ah. I live with grandfather years few, then Gao'uld kill him, and many in village."
The man's tone was sad, and Larabee reached up and patted his leg. "I'm sorry to hear that. Were you still a child when your grandfather died?"
"What did you do?"
Vin climbed down and they walked into the shade of the barn, taking seats on the bales of hay stacked inside. "I alone," he said, "walk… many days to another village. I find one there to own."
Chris frowned for a moment, then asked, "Do you mean that you found someone there who gave you a place, a home?"
Vin nodded. "Family own. I stay, Gao'uld come, attack village. Many die. Those living move city."
"And so did you?"
Vin shook his head. "I want stay outside city," he explained. "I find new village. Find bad owning."
That didn't sound good, but Chris wasn't sure he ought to interrogate Vin too deeply at this point. His comprehension of the language was growing daily, but it still wasn't up to anything too intense.
"Did you run away from the bad owner?" Chris asked.
Vin thought for a moment, then shook his head. "Gao'uld come, man who own killed. I escape, go city. I find captain, fight Gao'uld."
"You must have still been pretty young," Chris said, guessing Vin was in his very early twenties."
Vin nodded. "I… nineteen, maybe twenty, start fight Gao'uld."
Chris shook his head. It sounded like Vin hadn't been able to have much of a childhood. "Vin, why did the Gao'uld attack you? They don't usually turn on the people they seed on planets."
Vin's head cocked to one side and said, "Gao'uld no bring tribes new home. City bring. Gao'uld bring Celts, many years long."
"Many year after," Chris corrected, then leaned forward. "Are you saying that the city took you to that planet?"
Vin nodded. "City come to tribes, much years long. City say, bad things come, tribes come, city make safe. Many from tribes go city. Tribes live many… uh, what is…" He frowned, concentrating hard. "Many family lives?"
Larabee had to think about that, but then it hit him. "Generations?"
Vin smiled. "Yes, tribes live many generations, then Gao'uld bring Celts."
"The Gao'uld didn't see that you were already there?"
Vin shook his head. "City hide."
"And then the Celts assimilated into the tribes…"
Vin nodded. "After few… generations, Gao'uld come back, take some. They come back, take more, then come, start war."
Vin made a face to expression his disgust at the Gao'uld. "We no make good Jaffa, no good host. Gao'uld much angry. Want kill all."
"Why didn't you make good hosts or Jaffa?" Chris asked.
Vin shrugged, then his face lit up. "Crystals!" he said. "Gao'uld and larvae go in, they die. Crystals, yes?"
Chris sat for a moment, the enormity of what Vin had just said hitting him like a bat between the eyes. "Damn, Vin, you don't know what this means, but it makes you the most important person on my team."
Vin looked confused. "Why is?"
"You can't be taken over by the Gao'uld, but the rest of us can be. They can use us for hosts, but not you."
He looked surprised, but then he shook his head. "Gao'uld no take you."
"No, not yet of course, but—" Chris stopped, remembering that he still had some of the crystals, too. "Because I have some of the crystals inside me; they can't use me either, because of the crystals."
Chris huffed out a laugh. "General Hammond is going to love this…" He shook his head. There was clearly a lot he still had to learn from Vin about the city and the crystals. "You getting hungry?" he asked.
Vin nodded. "Much hungry."
"Very hungry," Chris corrected.
Vin slapped his forehead. "Ah, forgetting me." He snorted in frustration, then said, "I… keep forgetting."
Larabee grinned. "Hey, I think you're doing great. It's just going to take some time. Don't worry about it."
With a sigh Vin said, "Want learn more fast."
"Come on," Chris said, standing, "let's go see what Ezra wants for supper, and we'll get something delivered."
"Yeah, we have restaurants that bring food to you at home."
"What kind food?"
"Pizza, Chinese, ribs, hell, most anything you want."
Vin eyes rounded with delight. "All?"
Larabee laughed. "I guess you're really hungry!"
Vin nodded enthusiastically. "I very much hungry."
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
The following morning
Chris banged on the closed door to Ezra's guest room as he walked by on his way to the kitchen, grinning at the muffled curse he heard in reply. Standish was definitely not a morning person, especially when that morning started at the crack of dawn.
Larabee had packed his gear the night before, with Vin's help, so all they had to do was eat, saddle the horses, secure their gear to the pack horses, and they could be on their way. Vin was already outside, grooming the horses they'd be using. That left breakfast to him, or at least he thought it did until he saw the lights from a vehicle turning down his driveway.
He walked out onto the front porch to see who had gotten there first, smiling when he saw it was Josiah and Nathan. Sanchez would take over for him in the kitchen, Larabee was sure.
And, a few minutes later Buck and JD arrived as well.
There was a brief period of activity as horses were saddled and gear was packed, then Josiah called them in to eat. They gathered around the big dining room table for eggs, bacon, waffles, fruit, and coffee.
Once the meal was over, the dishes were quickly cleaned and loaded into the dishwasher, and the machine turned on. Checks of cinches and equipment were made, then Larabee locked up the house.
They mounted and headed out. The ride was relatively easy, since the trail was well-used, and the men fell into their usual mix of banter and silences for the time it took them to reach their favorite camping spot.
Once they arrived, the horses were cared for first, then turned out inside a portable electric fence to graze. The camp was set up next.
With all the hard work done, they took time to eat the lunch they'd brought along, then scattered to their individual pursuits.
Josiah and Nathan both grabbed fishing poles and went off to secure their supper. Buck and JD opted for some rock climbing. And Ezra preferred to remain in camp with a book and a bottle of expensive wine.
Chris looked at Vin and asked, "So, what do you want to do?"
"Well, we can go for a hike, or you can join Buck and JD to do some climbing. Or we could grab fishing poles and see if we can catch more fish that Josiah and Nathan."
Vin thought for a moment, then said, "Okay."
Chris grinned. "Okay, which one?"
That made Larabee laugh. "Okay all, huh? Well, we'll see what we can work in. Come on, let me show you some great views."
Vin nodded, and they headed off, taking a hiking trail that wound up the mountainside, providing them with spectacular views of the Rockies. They hiked up for an hour, then sat and rested for a while before coming back down again.
The day was getting hotter, so Chris recommended that they try their hand at fishing next. Vin readily agreed.
They found Josiah and Nathan, ensconced in shady spots, their poles held lightly in their hands.
"Catch anything yet?" Chris asked.
"Five and counting," Nathan replied, a look of smug satisfaction on his face.
"Should make for an excellent supper," Josiah stated, "especially with my three bean chili."
Larabee smiled. "I was hoping you'd brought some of that along."
That put a happy grin on the older man's face. "Come on over and try your luck," he invited.
Larabee joined them, showing Vin how the rod and reel worked. Before long they had added three more fish to their supper feast.
"Josiah," the blond said, "Vin said it was the city that came to Earth and took his people, the tribes, away. It was the Gao'uld who brought the Celts later."
"Really?" Sanchez replied, leaning forward as his interest was immediately engaged. He looked at Vin. "Are you sure?"
Vin nodded. "City come, city take. City tell tribes bad things coming, city make safe, but only if tribes no fight."
Josiah nodded. "You know, there's an academic theory that says one of the reasons why the settlers were able to colonize the North American continent at all was because many of the tribes had been depopulated. Some say it's because of disease, some because of climate change, but the numbers of indigenous people here just seems low at the point of major contact in the seventeenth century. Maybe that's because many of them left with the city."
Nathan nodded. "And if that happened pre-contact with white settlers, then the city was right about bad things coming."
"Good point," Josiah agreed. "It's a fascinating idea. And it would blow some existing theories away, too – like the currently accepted reason why the Anasazi disappeared." Josiah glanced over at Vin. "Did the city take all the tribes at one time?"
Vin shook his head. "Take different tribes, different times. Not all come my world. My peoples no have horses, but later, more tribes come, bring horses."
"Fascinating," Josiah said again.
Nathan snorted. "Careful, Josiah, you're starting to sound like Mr. Spock."
Sanchez chuffed out a laugh. "I guess I am, but it's true."
"Did the various tribes remain peaceful?" Nathan asked.
Vin nodded. "Make peace, make one tribe."
"Now there's a skill we could sure use," Nathan said.
They fished for a couple more hours, taking back enough fish for everyone. When they reached the camp they found that Ezra had done a little foraging as well, and a stack of edible greens, flowers, mushrooms, and roots was waiting to be prepared.
"Manual labor?" Nathan asked the Tokr'a. "You actually did some manual labor?"
"Of course not, Doctor Jackson, I just took a leisurely walk and happened upon some plants I thought might supplement your catch," he replied, looking completely relaxed in the hammock he'd strung up for himself.
"Guess that means you expect us to fix 'em," Nathan replied.
"Of course," Standish agreed with a smile. "My work is done."
Nathan shook his head, but he took everything over to where Josiah was setting up his small propane stove.
"Buck and JD come back yet?" Larabee asked the Tokr'a.
"Briefly," Ezra replied. "They changed into their swim-trunks and headed for the pond to cool off and remove the accumulation of sweat and dirt they acquired climbing – a favor we should all be grateful for."
Larabee nodded. That actually sounded like a good idea. He glanced over at Vin, who was examining the various edibles Ezra had found. "Hey, Vin, you want to take a swim?"
"You know, jump in the water, flail your arms about," Ezra offered.
Vin smiled and nodded. "Like swim."
"Okay, great. I brought along an extra pair of trunks you can use," Chris told him.
"Trunks?" Vin echoed. "What is?"
"C'mon, I'll show you," Larabee said, leading Vin into the tent the two men would share. He dug into his gear and pulled out to sets of trunks, tossing one to Vin. "Take off your clothes and put those on," Chris instructed.
"This is what we wear when he go swimming."
Vin frowned. "You wear clothes to swim?"
Chris smiled. "Uh, yeah, we do."
"Because we… I mean… Hell, I don't know, that's just the way things are done here."
"You people very much strange."
"Yeah, I know," Chris told him. "I guess it's because we're not comfortable seeing other people naked. And don't ask me why, because I don't know. Ask Josiah when we get back."
Vin nodded and was quickly changed. Chris led him to the pond where they found Buck and JD lying on the rocks, soaking up the sun.
"Hey, guys!" JD greeted. "What did you go do?"
"Chris, me, hike and fish," Vin said.
"Did you catch our supper?" Buck inquired.
Vin nodded. "Catch many fish. Make good supper."
"Mmm," JD replied, his mouth watering at the thought of fresh fish.
Chris walked over to the pond and jumped in, letting the cool water sluice the sweat off his body.
Vin walked to the edge of the pond and dove in. A few moments later Buck and JD also joined them, both of them cannon-balling into the water from the rocks. Buck and Chris moved to one end, letting JD and Vin engage in a water fight.
When the two finally settled down, all four men climbed from the water and lay down on the rocks, letting the sun quickly dry them before they headed back to the camp.
The food was fixed and eaten, the camp and equipment was cleaned, then they settled in around the fire, sharing cups of coffee and conversation.
Vin looked over at Josiah and asked, "Why you not want to see naked people?"
Josiah choked on the coffee he was drinking and the others laughed.
"Why would you ask a question like that?" JD wanted to know.
"I was trying to explain why we wear clothes when we go swimming," Chris offered.
"That's a good question," Buck agreed.
"Chris say you no like see naked people," Vin added. "You very much strange."
"It isn't that we don't enjoy seeing a naked body," Josiah told him, "It's that, in our culture, the times and places where it's acceptable for someone to be naked are limited. Does that make sense?"
Vin thought for a moment, then nodded. "When is naked good?"
That caused another round of laughter.
"Well," Josiah said, "when we bathe, those who are married, small children…"
"Don't forget strip clubs," Buck tossed in.
"Commander Wilmington, please refrain from corrupting the young man."
"Well, he did ask!" Buck replied.
"Vin, for you, only in the showers, the infirmary, and when you're in the privacy of your own quarters," Josiah told him.
"And if someone comes to your door, be sure to put something on before you open it," Nathan added.
Vin nodded, still thinking that the people of Earth were very much strange.
When the stars were all out Chris and Josiah pointed out various constellations to Vin. Before too long, they all retired to their tents and settled in for the night.
The following morning, each man grabbed a fishing pole to go catch his breakfast, which Josiah supplemented with flapjacks. Once they were full, they cleaned up, then packed up their gear before taking a hike together. They ended up at the pond for a refreshing swim.
After walking back to camp, they collected their horses, loaded the packs, and headed back to the ranch. Once there, they took care of the horses, stowed the gear, then headed for the deck where they drank beer while waiting for Larabee to grill steaks for supper.
They ate outside on the deck, watching as the horses grazing in the pasture.
Coffee and dessert ended the day, then the four of the team headed back to their own homes, leaving Chris, Vin, and Ezra at the ranch for one more day.
As the three of them sat in the living room, watching the news, Chris caught Vin's eye and asked, "So, did you enjoy your first camping trip?"
Vin nodded. "Like much. We go again?"
Chris smiled. "Yeah, we'll go again."
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Vin looked down the empty hallway and frowned. "Ezra sleeping long."
"Ezra is not a morning person," Chris explained, but seeing the total confusion in Vin's expression he added, "He likes to sleep as much as possible."
"Ah," Vin replied. "Want me go wake?"
"Sure," Larabee agreed. "Breakfast is almost ready."
Vin trotted off down the hallway of the newest addition to the house, a wing of four guest rooms and two full bathrooms, for those times when the entire team decided to stay at the ranch. He didn't bother to knock on Ezra's closed door, just pushed it open and entered, calling, "Breakfast is ready!"
Standish was sitting at a small desk in the room, typing on his laptop. He jumped slightly at the intrusion and looked up, saying, "Mister Tanner, you've been spending far too much time with Lieutenant Dunne."
Vin cocked his head to the side, not understanding the meaning of the man's words. "What is?"
Ezra shook his head. "Nothing important, my friend."
Vin came closer and looked down at the computer. "What are y' doin'?" he asked carefully in his adopted Texas drawl.
"It's called on-line trading, but it's really not important," Ezra said. "Has Lieutenant Dunne shown you how to use a computer?"
Vin nodded. "Learn much."
"I'm sure you have," Ezra said, closing down the laptop.
"City learn much, too."
"The city?" Ezra asked, confused.
Ezra frowned. "Vin, did the city—? Did the crystals get into the computer?"
"Oh, damn," the Tokr'a breathed. He hurried out of the room, heading straight to the kitchen. "I think we might have a problem," he told Larabee.
"Vin said the city— uh, the crystals, have gotten into the computer."
Larabee looked over at Vin. "Here or at the SGC?"
"Both," Vin replied. "City want learn… about you."
"Oh, crap," Larabee said, reaching for the phone.
"City no more in computer," Vin said.
Chris drilled him with a hard look. "Are you sure?"
"Vin, is the city— uh, the crystals anywhere besides in you and Commander Larabee?" Ezra asked.
"In things Doctor Joe bring back," Vin replied.
"But nothing else?" Ezra asked.
"Thank God," Ezra breathed, looking at Chris. "Perhaps we ought to keep this information to ourselves, avoid an all-out panic?"
Larabee thought for a moment, then nodded. He looked at Vin and asked, "Did the crystals do anything to the computers, or any other equipment?"
"No," Vin replied, "city want learn about you. City learn. Crystals leave computers."
"What did the city learn, Vin?" Chris asked. "Has our security been compromised?"
Vin scowled. "City no harm, no harm Earth. City just learn."
"Too bad this 'city' isn't inclined to aid us in our fight with the Gao'uld," Ezra said.
"City help," Vin said, then patted his chest with his open hand, "I come, I help fight Gao'uld."
"And we're glad you're here," Chris said. "But, Vin, the city can't just do whatever it wants here. If the brass finds out that base security was compromised, there'll be hell to pay. They might decide that you can't stay here."
Vin's eyes rounded, and he said excitedly, "City no hurt. City no bad. Crystals gone. Only inside you and me."
"And it has to stay that way," Chris told him. "Do you understand?"
Vin nodded. "They do what you say." He sat down, looking frightened. "They make me leave?"
"No," Chris said, trying to reassure the man. "Look, Vin, we've met some people on other worlds who have said that they want to help us, but really they were trying to find a way to defeat us. So this conversation has to stay between us. I trust you."
"We all trust you," Ezra cut in.
"But you can't let something like that happen again," Chris admonished him.
Vin nodded. "Crystals stay in you and me. No go outside."
"That's right," Chris told him. "They can only be inside you and me." Seeing that Vin was still worried, he reached out and gave the man's shoulder a squeeze. "It'll be okay. Just… if you think they might have done anything to the computers, anything at all, I need to know now."
Vin shook his head. "No hurt, no change, just learn."
Chris huffed out a deep breath and looked at Ezra. "What do you two think?"
"We're agreed that this needs to be kept from the general," Ezra said, then his eyes flared with light and Shabouh said, "Vin has given every indication that he is trustworthy," the Tokr'a stated. "And his 'city' as he calls it also seems to be an ally. However, until we establish better communication with the city, or those truly in control of it, it may be wise to conduct more tests. Perhaps Dr. Tyler can be of help in this matter."
Chris nodded his agreement. "Thank you, Shabouh."
"I am always happy to be of assistance, Commander," the Tokr'a replied, then Ezra's eyes flashed and the former NID agent said, "Well, now that that's settled… I'm famished."
The three men ate, then Chris and Vin did chores around the ranch while Ezra enjoyed another day of quiet relaxation.
In the late afternoon, Chris left Vin with Ezra and ran into town to pick up supplies and groceries. He also stopped by an Italian restaurant Ezra enjoyed visiting, picking up his usual dinner order, and a large sausage pizza for himself and Vin.
The three men shared the meal together, then spent the rest of the evening watching a movie. Knowing that they would have to leave early to get back to the Springs, they went to bed early.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Tuesday, 0800 Hours, Cheyenne Mountain
The elevator doors opened and Chris, Ezra, and Vin stepped out and headed to their on-base quarters to change into their uniforms. They met up with the rest of SG-7 in their assigned conference room, where information for their next mission had already been left for them.
Chris glanced at Buck and said, "Get started on this. I'm going to go talk to Hammond."
"Will do," Buck replied, the others all getting themselves coffee and taking seats around the table.
Chris glanced at his men, taking a moment to appreciate them, and their talents, before heading out, making his way to General Hammond's office. He paused outside the door, then knocked.
"Come," he heard the general call.
Pushing the door open, Larabee stepped inside. "Sir, if it's a good time, I'd like to speak with you."
"Have a seat, Commander," Hammond said, gesturing to the chair opposite his desk. "No trouble with Vin— Mr. Tanner, I hope?"
"No, sir, he did great," Chris said, sitting down. He looked across the desk and offered the general a slight smile before he said, "Vin told me why the Gao'uld went to war against his people."
"The crystals protect them from being used as hosts, or turned into Jaffa."
Hammond leaned back in his seat, a little stunned. "You're sure?"
Larabee nodded. "That's why the Gao'uld were trying to wipe them out; they're a threat to them, maybe as big a threat as we are."
The general nodded. "And then the Gao'uld saw Vin's people with us…"
"It's got to be making them more than a little nervous," Larabee said.
"Hopefully not so nervous that they decide to attack Earth," was Hammond's reply.
"Yes, sir," Larabee agreed.
"Thank you for letting me know, Commander. How was the long weekend?"
"It was good; thank you for giving us the time. Vin's fitting right in."
"None," Chris replied. "Vin's an excellent horseman. He said the Gao'uld killed the dogs and horses on his planet because they were using them to help fight the snakeheads. He took to the mountains like a natural."
Hammond shook his head. "I'm sorry to hear that about the animals, but it doesn't come as much of a surprise. And I take it you think Vin should be able to go out to your ranch when you have downtime, or would you rather he go with one of the others?"
"Yes, sir, he's welcome at the ranch. After all, I do own him, and I think trips up there will make him much happier. Besides, it helps having someone else there to keep Standish in line."
That put a slight smile on the general's face. "Just keep him away from the general population until he sounds more like us."
"Will do, sir," Larabee said, then stood. "I'd better get back to the briefing."
"Let me know if anything else of interest comes up as far as Vin and his crystals."
"Yes, sir," Larabee replied, already feeling a little bad about not telling Hammond about the crystals incursion into computers, but he was still worried about the repercussions of that one.
"Commander, do you think Vin's going to work out?"
"Yes, sir, I do," Chris said, then left, heading off to make one more quick stop.
Reaching one of the research labs, he entered and asked if Dr. Tyler was in. He was pointed to a small private office. Tyler was seated at his desk, peering at the computer screen. "Hey, Doc, you have a minute?"
Tyler looked up and smiled when he saw Chris. "Sure, Commander, come on in." He waited until Larabee was sitting down before he asked, "What can I do for ya, Commander?"
Larabee glanced around, wanting to be sure they were not overheard, then said, "Doc, I was wondering if you might do me a favor."
Tyler's eyes narrowed slightly. "What kind 'a favor, Commander?"
"I want you to see if any crystals from the artifacts you brought back have gotten into the computers."
"The computers?" Tyler echoed. "Commander—"
Larabee held up his hand to stop the man. "Doctor, I'm just wondering if the crystals might not be connected to the city in some fashion, and if I was a smart city, I'd want to know more about us, and it seems to me that the computer system might be the easiest way to figure us out. Given the large number of artifacts you brought back, made of the same crystals as the city, or so you told me… well, call me paranoid, but…"
Tyler thought for a moment, then nodded. "Well, if it'll make you feel better about having all these… artifacts here on the base, sure, I can do that."
Larabee nodded. "And since it's just me worrying about this, there's no reason to mention it to anyone. Wouldn't want the rest of the teams to think I'm some kind of Nervous Nellie."
"Oh, of course not," Tyler said, nodding. "Probably be a good idea if Dr. Fraiser checked me and my team again, too. Make sure we're not picking up any from working on the artifacts."
"Probably not a bad idea," Chris agreed. He stood. "Well, thanks for your time. Oh, and Vin says hello."
"Really?" Tyler replied, surprised. "Then his English is improving a great deal."
"Well, he said, 'telling Dr. Joe hello,' but that's close enough."
Tyler laughed. "Tell Vin I'll drop in and visit with him in a day or two."
"Better make it today, Doc, we'll be heading off-world in a couple of days."
Tyler nodded. "This evening, then."
"I'll give him the message," Chris said, then headed back to rejoin his team.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
One week later
Larabee and his team stepped through the stargate and out onto the metal ramp in the gate room. "Welcome home, SG-Seven," Hammond said over the speakers.
"Good to be home, sir," Larabee replied.
"We'll debrief in three hours," the general told them.
"Yes, sir," Larabee replied for the team.
They headed straight into the Clearing Center, stripping and undergoing the decontamination process. A shower followed, then the medical checks to complete the process.
"Well, Commander, you still have approximately the same number of crystals as you did before," Dr. Raine Levi told him, "but other than that, you're fine and cleared for duty."
"Thank you, Doctor."
She smiled, the pretty mixed-race woman glancing over at Nathan, who was her next stop.
"We're probably going to down for a week or more," Chris told her. "Why don't you talk him into taking you someplace fun."
Raine grinned. "I think I might. Thanks, Commander."
"No problem," he replied, watching the smile that bloomed on Jackson's face as she approached him. Something told Chris that there was going to be a wedding in the team's near future.
Larabee exited into the locker room and headed for his clothing cabinet, where a fresh uniform was waiting for him. As he dressed, he saw Dr. Tyler slip in to the room and make his way over.
Tyler glanced around, but only Buck was there, getting dressed as well. Speaking quietly, the scientist said, "Ya can put your mind t' rest, Commander. I looked into that, and I couldn't find anything; and if there'd been something t' find, I would've found it."
Larabee nodded. "Well, better safe than sorry."
"Nothing unusual at all?"
"Nope, not a thing," Tyler replied. "'Course might not be anything t' find."
"Thanks, Doc," Larabee told him. At least he knew that the computers had not been compromised. The city might have had the crystals check them out, but they were not longer in the system, and that was what he'd wanted to hear.
"Tell Vin my group's gettin' together on the Mountain for a barbeque this Friday. He's invited; you and your team, too."
Larabee nodded. "I'll let him know. You'll probably see us there."
Tyler left and Buck wandered over to join him. "Something up?" he asked.
"Nope," Chris replied.
"Uh-huh," the ladies' man replied, not buying that for a moment.
"Tyler's group is having a barbeque on the Mountain this Friday; we're invited," the blond told him.
Buck grinned. "Really? Now that's a piece of good news. I was hoping I might get the chance to talk to Dr. Jamison again."
The blond shook his head. Dr. Caitlin Jamison was a very pretty, petite redhead – unmarried, too. "Pass the word," he told his second.
"Will do, boss," Buck replied, spotting JD entering the locker room. "Hey, JD!" he called and headed over to the younger man.
Larabee waited until his team was ready, then led them to the main conference room in operations. Hammond wasn't there, which surprised the blond.
While the others took seats around the table, Chris started to head for Hammond's office. He was stopped when he saw the general coming toward him with two other men dressed in business suits. He didn't like the looks of the pair, but he saw the warning look from the general and held his tongue.
"Sir," Larabee said, "SG-Seven is assembled for our debriefing."
"Thank you, Commander," Hammond replied. "These are Agents Rafferty and O'Brian, from the NID."
Chris frowned, wondering what the NID wanted with him and his team.
They stepped into the conference room, and Larabee saw Ezra's eyes harden as he stood for the general and spotted the two agents. The general walked up to his usual chair at the head of the table and Larabee took his position between Vin and Ezra.
"Have a seat, gentlemen," the General said.
They did. The two agents remained standing just off the general's right.
Hammond's expression was sour as he said, "The NID would like to borrow Vin for a few days."
"Borrow?" Larabee echoed, already bristling.
Agent Rafferty took a half-step forward. "Yes. These crystals of his, if they can protect him from Gao'uld influence, they might be just the thing we need."
"As a weapon against the Gao'uld," Ezra finished.
"As protection for all SG teams," O'Brian snarled back at Standish.
"That work can be done right here, gentlemen," Hammond said.
"The facilities at Area Fifty-one are better equipped to exploit this opportunity," Rafferty stated, starting forward toward Vin.
"Vin isn't an opportunity for you to exploit," Ezra snarled at the man. "He is a valued member of this team."
"He'll do what he's told," Rafferty snarled back.
Vin stood and took a step back, his eyes seeking out Chris'.
"You're not going anywhere," Larabee told him.
"Not your call, Commander," O'Brian told him. "We might need to see you as well, given the crystals you have."
"That a threat?" Chris growled, the glare he turned on the NID agent enough to have the man backing up a step.
"You need to come with us," Rafferty said, reaching out to grab Vin's arm, but before his hand closed on Vin's arm, a shimmer in the air around him brought the man up short. He paused for a second, then reached for Vin again, this time his hand striking a force field that surrounded the younger man. He yelped and jumped back. Vin looked as surprised as the NID agent.
A disembodied voice said, "Greetings, people of Earth."
Hammond's eyes widened. "To whom are we speaking?"
"We are the city," came the reply. "General Hammond, we thank you for welcoming Vin to your world. We ask that he be given the status of our envoy."
"I would be happy to do that," Hammond replied, nearly grinning at the outraged expressions on the NID agents' faces.
"General!" Agent Rafferty protested.
"It is in our interest to keep our allies on our side," Hammond told the man.
"Especially ones who can kick Goa'uld ass," Buck added.
Rafferty shot a hot glare at the men, then glanced back at his partner and said, "We have our orders. O'Brian, come get him."
The other man shook his head.
"I stay here," Vin said. "I fight Gao'uld with SG-Seven."
"But—" Rafferty said, reaching for Vin again, but he was once again stopped by the force field.
"We thank you, General Hammond," the voice stated. "We entrust Vin to you, and his team. In time we will contact you again. Until then."
"Yes, until then," General Hammond said.
The force field flickered out and Vin sat back down.
"Gentlemen, I'd suggest you go, now, while you have the opportunity," Hammond said, glowering at the NID agents. "We'll let you know what we find when it comes to the crystals."
"See that you do," Rafferty snapped, then he retreated, O'Brian on his heels.
Hammond waited until they were gone, then said, "Vin, was that the city?"
Vin nodded. "They say so."
"Has anything like that ever happened before?" the general wanted to know.
Vin shook his head. "Much surprise for me," he said. "What is this envoy?"
Hammond smiled. "Don't worry, son, it just means that you're a little more important than we thought you were."
Vin looked confused, and Chris reached out, resting his hand on Vin's shoulder. "It just means that you're a part of SG-Seven, and nobody's going to take you away from us."
Vin smiled. "This is good."
"It is indeed," Ezra said.
"Now, let's go over what you found on PX1 777," Hammond said.
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