Characters: clone!Jack O'Neill, Daniel Jackson, Jack O'Neill, Jonas Quinn, OCs
Pairings: Jack O'Neill/Sam Carter
Summary: In 2003, Jack O'Neill was cloned. This is his story.
Series: This is techincially a spin-off of Sights Unseen and the whole unfinished SG1 arc and Ancient!John 'verse, taking place near the very end of S5. It is, yes, the start of the SGU part of the 'verse. As such, it is part of Locality.
Notes: This story is a spin-off of "Fragile Balance," in which a 15 year old clone of Jack is made. This story covers the 6 years from his creation in August 2003 and his graduation from the Air Force Academy. This is largely his story, but mentions events thru S5 of AJ, which has yet to be written.
1) simulacrum means image, idol, or copy in both English and Latin. 2) Nixon resigned August 9, 1974. 3) A cobbler is a maker of illegal/fake documents. 4) Per this 'verse, Charlie's full name would have been Jonathan Charles O'Neill II and he was born in 1985, died in 1995. 5) BCT is Basic Cadet Training, taking place in the summer between HS and your freshman year. 6) Per this 'verse, Sam and Jack have two kids: Jacob Daniel, born Jan 06, and Georgiana, born Nov 2008. 7) ESET is Expedetionary, Survival, and Evasion Training, taking place between freshman and sophomore years. Older students can help train younger. 8) Jonas rejoins the SGC after Sam leaves for Atlantis. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Part of Locality
28 May, 2009 – USAF Academy, Terra, Avalon
The first time J.C. graduated from the Air Force Academy – for he is in the unique position of having been a cadet twice, three decades apart, - the nation was sitting on the edge of its seat, waiting to see how the Watergate scandal would resolve. Congress was preparing to cut funding for the war in Vietnam, President Nixon was a week away from resigning, and even the Apollo Applications Program, which had dominated his childhood, was all but over.
It had seemed like the end of an era. Even his place as a newly commissioned second lieutenant had seemed precarious, insecure, completely in the hands of forces he could not control.
But that was the first time.
This time, J.C. would have been disappointed if he had come back to his dorm room after the graduation ceremony and not found a nondescript young officer waiting to whisk him off to a black town car with military plates for parts unknown.
That there are two other graduates already in the car when he slides into the backseat is more surprising.
"J.C.," says the first – Andrew Blake, a tall, gangly Georgian who has the distinction of being the oldest member of their graduating class, having managed to squeak under the age limit by three days, but who somehow managed to look like the youngest.
He knows Andy decently well, though he won't go so far as to call them friends. They'd paired up for a couple chemistry labs in their fourth year and shared a couple other classes over the years, but ultimately had run in different circles, which J.C. had always considered something of a shame. As busy as J.C. had kept himself, though, it had been all he could do to run in his existing circles, let alone think of branching out into others.
"I should have known they'd recruit you for this, whatever this," Andy continues, his hand scraping the ceiling at the top of his broad gesture, "is. If anyone in our class was going to get tapped for a top secret government program, it would have to be you."
The car's third occupant, Erika Strickland, snorts at this.
Barely twenty-one, she'd missed becoming the youngest person ever to graduate from the Academy by nine weeks. The only child of a pair of two-star generals with a staggering intellect of her own, she had been raised to believe that the universe existed to do her. Amazingly, her hauteur seems to only have grown during her four years as a cadet, despite the fact that she'd never managed to break a single one of the academic records Carter had laid down in the late '80s. Big Air Force would chew her up and spit her out in six months, tops, but if she's lucky enough to stay cloistered in the lofty towers of research and academia, she'll go just as far as her parents, if not father.
J.C. chooses to ignore this, pocketing his aviators and poking around for a mini-fridge instead. It's been a long time since he's been in a car like this, but he's never known one not to have a fully stocked bar. "Yes, well, my skillset is pretty much only good for top secret government programs, so it was a bit of a no-brainer for the recruiters."
This appears to be about as much as Erika can take. "And just what skillset is that?"
"Oh, you know, laughing at my enemies, questioning their costuming choices, mocking their aim. I've even been known to make the occasional pun when I'm particularly inspired."
Andy gives him the same sort of look Daniel used to, like he's being purposefully dim-witted but he'll indulge him anyway. "J.C., you're a computer engineer. Strickland's a physicist. I'm a mechanical engineer. The only enemies we're going to see are simulations on a computer screen."
J.C. finds the minibar. It's fully stocked, as anticipated, and since heat wave and dress blues have never been the best mix in the world whatever the decade, grabs a bottle of water. He points at Andy with it. "Never say never."
Before anyone can counter this, the car door opens one more, this time admitting two more people – a female second lieutenant who he recognizes by sight but does not by name, and a lieutenant colonel who's aged visibly in the five years since J.C.'s seen him last.
As soon as the car door shuts, the colonel taps on the glass that separates them from the driver. Only once the car is moving and has left behind the worst of the graduation traffic does Colonel Davis – having finally been promoted – turn to him and say, "Lieutenant O'Neill, nice to finally see you again."
Life's not easy for a clone.
Sure, there are some benefits – his knees no longer bother him, his back no longer aches, and he's missing about thirty years worth of bullet holes, staff blast burns, and broken bones – but mostly being fifty stuck inside a fifteen year old body sucks. J.C. had rather gotten used to being someone people listened to, someone who people respected, someone who saved the world on a fairly regular basis and got a fair amount of leeway for it. Suddenly having to go to school and do homework again had been painful enough, but being unable to talk about any of it with anyone was unbearable.
It still ashamed him to admit it, but for most of the year J.C. had been Kyle Burgess, the emancipated minorWit Sec had set up in Ann Arbor after the SGC had finished debriefing him about all the things he wasn't allowed to do as Jack O'Neill's clone, he'd been drunk. Or, when not drunk, melancholy in a manner that made alcoholism appear the more valid life choice.
It had been during one of these melancholy moments that he'd been scanning The Colorado Springs Gazette online, clicking through the obituaries to see if anyone he'd known as Jack O'Neill the original had died when he saw it: his ex-wife's obituary, tucked in between two larger, more expensive pieces paid for by people with living relatives.
Sara, he'd seen, had died of cancer the day before at the age of forty-seven. She'd spent her last months in a hospice outside Castle Rock, alone and apparently somewhat delusional, for the article supplied to the newspaper by the nursing staff stated in no uncertain terms: she is survived by one son, Jonathan Charles O'Neill II.
J.C. had been on a bus back to Colorado less than an hour later.
Stargate Command, Terra, Avalon
Daniel is waiting for them once they get past the first layer of security.
Luckily, the first layer of security gets them past NORAD and into areas staffed by the SGC, and so the guards are used to Daniel's particular brand of madness. Even so, one or two appear somewhat fazed when Daniel strides right through the security barrier, comes up to J.C. with a great cry of, "Jack!" and wraps him in the sort of hug that's usually reserved for near death experiences.
Six years is six years, though, and so J.C. hugs back with equal abandon. "Good to see you, space monkey."
"And you. God," he says when they break apart, waving off security as he pulls J.C. to the elevators without so much as letting them scan his palm. "You look so young. How old are you now, Jack? Twenty?"
"It says twenty-three on my birth certificate."
"Pretending to be your own son… that must have been hard for you."
"Better than being Kyle Burgess of Ann Arbor." Kyle Burgess might have had a slot waiting for him at U of M when he graduated, but he'd been forbidden by the terms of his Witness Protection agreement from doing anything that might catch the attention of anyone who might have been involved with the Stargate Program. He couldn't join the military. He couldn't fly. He couldn't study astronomy or anthropology or any other subject the SGC might recruit from. He was even advised to stay thirty miles from any Air Force installation and avoid the DC area altogether. If he'd stayed in that life, he'd probably have killed himself, as surely as if he'd never found the Stargate.
Daniel shakes his head, waving him into the elevator. "I told them when they sent you away that no Jack O'Neill would never be happy living a normal life after having been through the Stargate, but nobody wanted to listen. I think Jack – our Jack – just wanted you out of the way as quickly as possible."
That sounds like him.
"What do I know about me?"
"Honestly? I think he'd forgotten about you until last month, when we were combing through files the Academy had sent over for possible candidates for the new program. He opened your file and turned about as white as a ghost… Sam thought he was having a heart attack until she saw the file."
"How is Carter?"
"Ah," Daniel says, pushing his glasses up his nose and looking pointedly everywhere but at him. "That's probably a question for you to ask… yourself."
"Daniel…" It's been six years. Whatever they may have once had, it was with a different him. He's had time to come to terms with that. He's been alive long enough to know that sometimes people fall out of love – and sometimes they stay in love with the person they fell in love with and not the cheaply made Asgard photocopy everybody forgot existed.
"She's good. Really good, actually – she's a full bird colonel now, in command of one of our 304s, but with General Landry tapped for one of the Joint Staff directorates, everyone thinks she'll replace him as base commander once the Senate confirms him."
"What happened to General Hammond?"
"He died earlier this year – heart attack. Very sudden."
The elevator rolls to a stop while J.C. processes this. Six years is six years. The galaxy has moved on without him – without this him, anyway.
"I think I've a lot to catch up on."
It is easy – suspiciously easy – to insert himself into his dead son's life.
The nurses at her hospice had believed him when he'd shown up, claiming to be Sara's son, home from boarding school on the east coast for the funeral. Getting them to release her belongings – and, most critically, the key to the storage unit where she'd had all her belongings sent after she went into the hospice – had been the work of less than an hour. Getting into the storage unit and finding their important documents, such as Charlie's birth certificate, had taken the rest of the afternoon.
Finding a suitable cobbler to doctor a paper trail to make it seem like Jonathan Charles O'Neill II had been living a completely normal life for the last ten years had been considerably harder – not in the least because of the sick, almost morbid feeling that had descended on him every time he thought too much about the fact that he was going to pretend to be his dead son for the rest of his life and how terrible it was for him to be grateful that his son would have been about the same age as his cloned body. It had taken him a long time to come to terms with that, actually, but no sooner had he gotten his documents than he was calling in one last favour from the president to get into the Academy. And then it was BCT and classes and by the time it was winter break and he had time to actually think about what it was he'd done, Jack O'Neill's clone had started to become Cadet J.C. O'Neill in his own right. And while his new life sometimes had unfortunate shadows of the old, J.C. is different enough from Charlie is different enough from the man he'd been that he'd stopped feeling like a bad Xerox and more like what he is: a man who had somehow managed to get a second chance at life and who would make of it as much as he could.
He's gone completely white.
He's also collected three stars, so J.C. salutes the man he could have been and waits for the chips to fall.
Jack waits a beat longer than is strictly appropriate before saying, "At ease, Lieutenant. Or should I say, Charlie?" The office they're in is one of the temporary ones on Level 26, set aside for visiting officers and off-planet dignitaries they're sure they can trust. Enough papers and personal items scatter the room that J.C. feels safe in saying his other self has been here a while, though he's careful to keep from looking too closely at the photographs that line the bureau behind Jack's chair.
This is not his life.
These aren't his memories.
"I go mostly by J.C. these days."
"I thought the aim was to keep you away from people who might realized you're my clone, not throw yourself into the one place where it's almost certain someone will notice."
J.C. shrugs, settling into the chair opposite. "One of the things I've noticed in my time as a clone is how little most people pay attention to anything. They see a fireball in the sky and they think meteor not goa'uld mothership. They see somebody that looks exactly like a younger version of someone they know, they don't think clone, they think son."
Not that this is really about someone finding out about the Stargate Program. Their paths might have branched six years ago, but at the core they're still the same person. No version of Jack O'Neill would ever be happy having someone who knows all his secrets walking around.
"It was a stupid risk."
"We've taken stupider."
"True," Jack admits, fiddling with a pen cap in lieu of perusing the point further, "and we're both stuck with it at this point, but you still should have told me."
"You would only have tried to stop me."
"I'd have been right to."
"Did you bring me here just to chew me out or are you actually planning to let me go through the Stargate at some point?"
"Oh, we're sending you through the Stargate all right. We've got this new project we're setting up that's practically got your name written on it – though I've got to tell you, I find the idea of a version of me being a science geek very weird."
"We were never as bad at science as we liked to pretend," J.C. reminds him slouching back in his chair in relief. He hadn't seriously thought that the SGC would drag him all the way back here just to tell him they'd never let him near the Gate again, but it was always a possibility. There are some small, dark rooms under Area 51 where they keep people like him, whose very existence could endanger the program.
Jack smirks. "Be that as it may, there's a place for you in the Icarus Project Daniel will tell you all about after your compatriots finish signing their nondisclosure agreements. And also, in deference to our experience," he fumbles around in his desk, opening a couple different drawers and digging through their contents before he pulls out a small plastic bag and tosses it to J.C. Inside are a set of joined silver bars – the insignia of a captain, "I'm authorizing a promotion. Captain's the best I could do without ruffling too many feathers – too many people think you really are Charlie."
For six years, nobody's given J.C. anything. Everything he has, he's had to fight for. He's had to be the very best to make sure the Stargate Program would pick him up a second time around. Even having been through the Academy once, things hadn't been easy. Military protocol had been second nature to him, but it had been a struggle to stay on top in his classes and he'd not always succeeded. He could be a solider, a pilot, an officer, but being a scientist was harder – but that was the direction the Air Force was going and so that was the direction J.C. had went.
He'd never expected anything from his older self beyond a less-than-polite stay out of my way and I'll stay out of yours. Jack didn't have to do this. Even with three stars, he probably put his ass out on the line to make this happen, especially with everyone thinking J.C. is his son.
J.C. swallows. "Thanks."
Jack continues to fiddle with his pen cap rather than look at him. "And just in case you're worried, it's a new set of bars. I was going to give you our old ones, but Sam said to give you your own – something about letting you have your own life without anymore interference from mine."
"And how is Sam?"
Jack's eyes dart to a long, narrow table set along the sidewall. Among the model airplanes and usual memorabilia from a lifetime in the service are a series of framed pictures whose contents can't be ignored:
The first is of Charlie – the real Charlie – taken not long before his death. He passes over it quickly, not wanting the reminder. He loves his son and will always miss him, but he can't live this new life of his thinking about him.
But the rest… the rest feature a boy with piercing blue eyes, joined in the latest by a girl with blonde hair. There is no doubt who their mother is.
"How old are they?" he finds himself asking, his voice not sounding entirely like his own.
"Jacob's three. Georgiana is almost six months."
This is not his life.
It can never be his life.
J.C. had applied to the Academy with one goal in mind: the Stargate.
He'd spent enough time as Jack O'Neill the original to know what the SGC was looking for in recruits, and he'd known that it wasn't him. They needed science backgrounds these days – computers and physics and engineering – or Daniel's brand of socio-political geekiness. The typical airman still had his place, but typical airmen were a dime a dozen. To go through the Gate before he started to grey again, he needed to become something the old him was not.
So he'd chosen computer engineering. (A brief thought had been given to physics, but even he'd picked up enough about how the universe really worked to know that the professors were teaching it wrong, so computer engineering it had been). It had been hard and there hadn't been a single step along the way he hadn't had to work for, but it had been worth it, and he'd graduated with the highest marks in his major.
J.C. had attacked the rest of the Academy experience with more planning than was put into the liberation of Italy. He'd joined the Aero Club and learned to fly, becoming the most natural pilot his trainers had ever seen and gaining a coveted spot on the 557th Training Squadron. For the last two summers, he'd been a senior cadet cadre member for the third years' ESET. His final year, he'd co-captained the intramural boxing team – and so on. Whatever it took to build up a résumé that nobody at the SGC could deny.
He's still going through the mission reports from the last six years when the others arrive, trailed by Daniel and, surprisingly, Jonas.
"Charlie!" the latter says brightly, "Nice to finally meet you. I'm-"
"Jonas Quinn," J.C. finishes for him, giving Daniel an odd look. "You didn't tell him?"
"Tell me what?"
Daniel glances about – beyond the three classmates he arrived with, there've also brought a pair of ensigns fresh out of Annapolis and a couple of Marines. When J.C. fails to object, he continues, "Charlie's not really Charlie. He's a clone the Asgard made of Jack a couple of months after you left. He's been at the Air Force Academy for the last four years, pretending to be Jack's son."
Comprehension comes first to Jessica Tate – the fifth person in the town car earlier today, whose name he's only just remembered. "That explains that," she says, eyeing the conspicuous new insignia on his shoulder, the only silver in a room full of gold. "Who's the guy they cloned you from?"
"Lieutenant General Jack O'Neill, Secretary of the Department of Homeworld Security," Daniel answers for him, setting up his PowerPoint, "though he was only a colonel in charge of SG-1 at the time."
Jessica whistles. Erika glares daggers while Andy appears remarkably unfazed. One of the ensigns looks slightly nauseated.
Daniel continues: "But I'll fill you in on more of the history of the Stargate Program later. Right now I'm here to brief you for your new assignment, what we're tentatively calling The Icarus Project.
"Five years ago we discovered the Gate coordinates for Atlantis, an Ancient city-ship currently residing in the Pegasus galaxy, some three million light years away. When we sent an expedition to the city to learn more, they discovered a single living Ancient in stasis, a man by the name of Iohannes Iaindeus Licinus Pastor.
"While initially quite sympathetic to our goals, there was eventually a schism. Iohannes and certain members of the First Expedition disagreed with the SGC on the allocation of resources to the city and, more importantly, Atlantis' position with regards to Earth. As the Ancients are worshiped as gods throughout most of the known universe, he used this fact to create a confederation of planets, managing to train an army and build an armada that easily outstripped out own in both manpower and firepower in very short order.
"Luckily before it could come to blows, Iohannes saw reason, if you will. He ceded most of his power to one of the American expatriates in the city, Evan Lorne, and has done is best to keep the peace between our two galaxies since.
"This peace has largely come in the form of something he calls The Puzzle, whereby both sides follow a series of clues he left behind while he was Ascended, which Iohannes claims will lead to peace between the species on a scale never before seen. Nobody's quite sure if this is actually the case, but as following the clues so far has led to incredible breakthroughs in technology, General O'Neill is largely content to let us continue to follow them.
"The Icarus Project is an attempt to solve one of those clues: dialling the nine-chevron Gate address of the Ancient starship Destiny. So far, we have been unable to channel the precise amount of power necessary to unlock the Stargate's ninth and final chevron.
"Which is where you come in. You are some of the brightest minds of your generation – physicists, engineers, mathematicians. We want to send you to Aethiopia to help Doctor Rush and the team already on Aethiopia. We believe that together we should be able to solve the problem and discover Destiny.
"But first, any questions?"