For some time, I have wanted to make the loudest SG-1 tale in existence. This is an interactive story that won't make much sense unless you can hear the sounds at the right times. So, please do the following in preparation:
Open a second tab in your browser.
Open YouTube in the second tab, and turn off Auto repeat.
When you see words in square brackets like this in each chapter [Hello World], you will find a collection of letters and numbers after the brackets, like this: v=RVWBJDs3lk4 . Make a note of them and enter them exactly like that into the search box on YouTube. (The Fanfiction site does not permit Copy and Paste).
Play the track (at a reasonable volume if you can, as I have made some effort to find the best sound quality tracks) and switch back to the story tab to continue reading.
If you are unlucky enough to find a track blocked due to copyright restriction in certain countries, keep searching for another version of it – it's usually on there somewhere! If not, you may have to look on another music web site.
Try not to start going clicking on the suggestions on the right hand side of the YouTube pages – a whole evening can disappear before you know it!
All publicly recognisable characters and places are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp, Double Secret productions and others. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. Previously unrecognised characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Chapter 1: The Mentor
"Cassie!" came the tormented cry. "For crying out loud! I can hear that racket from the lakeshore! It's scaring the fish away and I'm losing the will to live!"
Sighing heavily in the time-honoured way of teen drama queens, and then smiling momentarily as she recognised the silliness of it, Cassie fingered the "Off" button without looking, and after a few moments admitted to herself that the sudden silence was, after all, a relief from the drivel that had been pouring out from Jack's portable, super-quality hi-fi system. She rose from the sofa and walked through the open door into bright sunlight.
As her eyes adjusted, she looked across to the pier at one of the few people left in this world that she still trusted completely and noticed, not for the first time, how tired he looked as he lay back on the lounger with his eyes closed. The fishing rod propped beside him remained in the same position as the last time she'd looked out two hours ago, undisturbed by any passing, supposedly inquisitive fish. His hair seemed even more grey than in her normal mental picture of him, and come to think of it, there were more lines in his face too.
She wondered whether to approach or just leave him in peace a while longer, but he seemed to sense that she had come outside and rose to the sitting position with a faint groan. He opened the cooler box at his side and held up two bottles of orange juice, inviting her to join him.
Cassie smiled in return and ambled over, taking a seat beside him on the lounger and clinking her bottle against his before drinking. His next words surprised her somewhat.
"When I was a teenager in the 'sixties, our parents despaired of our tastes in music." said Jack gently. "And don't look at me like that, Cassie. I was a teenager just like you, once. Elvis, Eddie Cochrane, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones were gods and guys like me drooled over Connie Francis and Brenda Lee. The only way to listen was at maximum decibels."
Smiling at her frown, he continued "My folks idolised the musicians of their own youth like Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Ella Fitzgerald and Bing Crosby, and could only tolerate small doses of my music, and only if it wasn't blasting their ears off. I couldn't stand their tastes and of course rebelled by turning up the volume on the gramophone in my bedroom even louder."
"What's a gramophone?" interjected Cassie.
"Kind of a dinosaur-age music player." Jack explained. "Anyhow, it all came to a head one night when I bad-mouthed my mom and pa when they objected, and slammed the bedroom door so's I could listen in peace. The next thing I knew, pa burst into the room, hauled me down the stairs and into the yard. He slapped me so hard on the side of my head that I fell down and saw stars."
Cassie gasped and looked at him aghast, but Jack just grinned at her.
"He didn't do that kind of thing often, but kids getting straightened out like that wasn't uncommon then. Nowadays pa would go to jail, more like." he added. "Then he took my player and records and locked them in the trunk of his car. I kept saying I was sorry and I wouldn't ever play them loud again, but he just told me that I could forget about it as he was going to dump them."
"So that was the end of your favourite music, then?" asked Cassie.
"Not exactly. He didn't dump my stuff of course, and gave it all back a few months later, after I'd been 'educated' in what music really is." Jack's steady gaze seemed to be focussed on infinity, and a gentle smile crept across his face at the memories.
"Jack, you are getting to be the master of the anti-climax!" Cassie said laughingly. "So?"
"Come with me." replied Jack, easing himself off the lounger.
Cassie followed him across the grass and back into the cabin. He asked her to wait and disappeared into the back room, but emerged moments later carrying a lightweight stepladder, which he proceeded to extend and rest against the edge of the mezzanine roof gallery, under the eaves.
"I'm going to hand down a few things to you, OK?" he explained. "Then we'll talk." He climbed up and crawled off to one side, out of her direct view.
The scrapings of who-knows-what being moved around, accompanied by frequent grunts, thumps and one "Oh, shoot!" filtered down, and Cassie mounted the first few steps to get a better view of proceedings. As her head appeared above the top of the ladder, Jack pushed two cardboard boxes towards her, and turned around to retrieve something else.
"They're not heavy, but take one at a time, please." he requested, and saw that she made light work of them. Then he descended himself, clutching a large soft, black case, handing it to her as he made to lower the ladder and return it to the back of the house.
Cassie sat back on the sofa and undid the two case straps, drawing out an old, but obviously well-preserved guitar. Jack soon re-joined her and smiled as she passed it to him.
"I'm guessing that your father gave you this?" she enquired. "To 'educate' you?"
"Exactly so." he said. "We weren't well off, and it was second hand when he gave it to me. He paid for a few music lessons as well. He wouldn't put up with the sound of me practising in the house for long, though, so I spent a lot of time in the garage and when we came to the cabin, I'd hike a mile or so up the lake and serenade the ducks from there."
"Do you still play? Are you planning to teach me?" Cassie wasn't sure whether to show enthusiasm or not.
"Haven't picked it up in years, so relax." said Jack. "It wasn't in great condition when I last used it, and this isn't the best place to store a wooden instrument for years on end. But I keep it for the memories, and it's how I learned that really good music isn't necessarily what's popular, or what gets played all the time. It can come from all ages and cultures, and you can get a real buzz from trying it for yourself – especially if you can do it well."
He placed the instrument to one side, and turned to her. "Do you like what you were listening to when I complained?"
Cassie thought for a moment before replying. "Not really. But it's what nearly everyone at college is into, and I still need to not stand out as 'different', for obvious reasons." She sighed and leaned back. "Sometimes, I can still hear the Hankan music I grew up with in my head. Just every now and then, some Earth sound or other brings on the memories, and I wish I could sing those songs out loud."
"Well then," said Jack softly, "with just the two of us here, you're in the right place to sing whatever you want. Whenever."
"Really?" she smiled. "And you're sure we can't be heard?"
"Nope. I know that for sure, because no-one I know round here has ever complained about my singing." he replied. "My specialty is opera, and in my head I sound just like Pavarotti or Caruso at La Scala in Milan, but it's not a talent that's been acknowledged to exist by others across the galaxy."
"Here's the deal. You make coffee for us while I tune up. You've never tried to play a musical instrument yourself?" Seeing her head shake, he continued "No bother. But I'd like you to listen to some of my CDs, just to hear different kinds of music. I don't expect you'll get into most of it, and you don't need to persevere with anything you can't stand. But if you do find a song or artist you like, just have a go yourself. OK?"
Cassie's smile and nod of the head didn't somehow convey total acquiescence, but she moved off to the kitchen and took down the coffee pot from the shelf. Discordant notes and mutterings from the sofa were not the stuff of inspiration either, but she knew that Jack was doing what he always did - making an effort on her behalf, and so she was determined to give back her best in return. The welcome thought of being able to sing her oft-remembered childhood songs out loud was foremost in her mind, though.
As the notes from Jack's guitar slowly approached a recognisable scale, she returned with two cups of coffee and placed them carefully on the low table. Jack beamed at her when he saw the slices of rich fruit cake that accompanied them.
"Right." sighed Jack. "Prepare to be underwhelmed.", drawing a genuine grin from Cassie. "This was a hit in the seventies by James Taylor. He's still out there today doing live performances, and unlike me, he sounds even better these days than back then. It's called 'Fire and Rain'. I learned to play it when I was serving in Vietnam, because it seemed to be about my life at the time."
[ James Taylor Fire and Rain ] v=wSqT_PeiV0U
Cassie inhaled sharply in surprise as Jack played the opening chords. As he started singing, slightly off-key for a moment before he got into his stride, her mouth opened in anticipation, and she leant back in her chair as he closed his eyes and put his heart into it. It certainly was nothing like she had heard at school or college, but this was her Uncle Jack! He didn't even need to look at the instrument as he played.
"Wow! Just, wow!" she exclaimed as the last chords died away. She got up and moved to sit beside him on the sofa. "That was fantastic!" she added, squeezing his left arm and leaning in. "Don't kid yourself that you can't sing, either."
"I can't!" he laughed. "I can get away with it in a soft folk song like that, but not when it matters in public. Anyhow, The SGC wouldn't appreciate it. The acoustics there are crap."
"Another song, please?" asked Cassie, making puppy eyes.
"Not right now. It's your turn." Seeing her puzzled look, he added "I'll show you the best place down the lakeside to hear your own voice being reflected back. Then I want to hear something from your homeland. Maybe after supper we can both try something more."
"Only if I can hear you singing across the lake as well." she replied quickly, attempting to cover a certain, sudden nervousness.
Thirty minutes later, in the still of the late afternoon, Cassie stood at the water's edge and broke into a gentle, lilting refrain that drifted across the surface of the lake, and returned teasingly to somehow underline the sound coming directly from herself. Jack sat nearby on a fallen trunk, relaxed and smiling. It had so been worth countering the arguments she had put up on the walk here. As the song came to an end, he gently applauded and stood up to hug her.
"Now that's real talent." he said softly. His tone showed her that he was nothing but sincere, and she hugged him back. "It sounded a little like a song on one of my CDs – we can play it later if you want?"
She nodded her agreement and stood back and looked about her. "Thanks, Jack. I'd like that. And you're sure no-one can hear us?" At his nod, she stood back and pulled him by the hand. "Come on, I'm getting hungry. You promised you'd sing too, remember?"
"I'll take a rain check on that." he replied swiftly. "Need to tune up myself first! Straight up, Cass, you have one of the most beautiful singing voices I've ever heard, and I won't spoil the moment. Maybe tomorrow."
As they strolled back to the cabin, Jack took the opportunity to explore something she had said earlier.
"Cass, how well is your background story about being brought up in Canada holding up? How careful do you really have to be?" he asked gently.
"Oh, it's not so bad." she replied. "I pronounce and spell occasional words the Canadian way, and use the metric system quite a bit to keep the cover, and nobody seems any the wiser. It's just that there's an undercurrent of jibes about immigrants taking jobs and living on 'our' money from a handful of guys around the campus. They hand out leaflets ranting about patriotism and duty from time to time, but I'm hardly their main target. Most students don't think that way at all, and I feel quite safe."
"Good. Good." Jack mused. "But you'll let me know if anyone starts getting aggressive or nosy?"
"Of course." said Cassie straight away. "Is that likely? And why do you ask?"
"I'm just a little sensitive about the topic. I was out with Teal'c one evening recently and had to stop him flattening someone who started on the usual immigrants and racial abuse tack." He saw her consternation and continued, "He's getting frustrated living on base all the time and I'm trying to get him out more often."
They walked on a while before Cassie took a deep breath to ask the other question on her mind.
"Jack, look, tell me to butt out if you want, but you do look so tired these days. You're not ill, are you? You've got me worried."
He thought for a few moments before answering. "You know not to breathe a word about what I say, don't you?" Seeing her nod, he explained "Commanding the SGC folk and dealing with all the day-to-day stuff in the mountain isn't all that different to what I've been used to these past years. Frustrating, annoying, repetitive, occasionally stressful, but immensely satisfying when things go well, and George Hammond was a saint for doing it as well as he did. I'll never match his track record.
But I get called to Washington around twice a month now, and that's downright soul-destroying at times. There's two kinds of people in the Pentagon – those who had lengthy military or business experience, have lead others and faced the challenges that come up. I get on with most of those.
A few others seem to be administrators and bureaucrats whose exposure to real life seems to have been minimal, to put it kindly. And then there's the politicians and their staffs. A lot of them only seem interested in advancing their own careers, or in being seen to do the bidding of their party lords and masters. The younger assistants are the worst - they've come out of business schools with huge egos and a firm belief that complex spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations are all that's needed to manage anything. We get lectured at with fantastically complicated charts – maybe you've seen this kind of thing in college?"
At the shake of her head, he continued, "Well, I hope you never do. George Hammond stays on top of it because he has Paul Davies to run interference and provide him with his own personal pre-meeting summaries of what's coming up. Paul has a handle on these things, and I don't have that luxury before leaving The Springs, and he can't always get to me before we go into meetings.
The assistants talk numbers from spreadsheets ad nauseam and use mnemonics for subjects that seem to change every 3 months or so. Sometimes I haven't a clue what they're talking about, and by the time I've caught up for the next meeting, they're onto a different tack.
Most of the Senators, on the other hand, like to ask questions about operations in a manner that means you're screwed whatever your answer is. The only time they're nice is when they're angling for jobs or money for their own districts. I tell you Cass, sometimes there's more support from the international delegates than our own people. I hate it, and I don't know how George can stand it."
As they neared the cabin, Jack sighed and laughed softly. "Sorry I unloaded on you like that, Cass. I know it's the way of the world these days, but you've got to wonder." He brightened up. "That's why you need an interest outside of work to stay sane, believe me. In my case, it's music and amateur – very amateur – astronomy."
"Fishing?" she queried.
"That's therapy more than a hobby!" He paused a while, and added, "One more thing I want to say, though. I'll help you in whatever way you need to get through college and find a job that satisfies you. That's my other interest in life now. The rest is up to you."
"Thanks, Jack. I won't let you down, I promise." said Cassie softly, choking up slightly, and not knowing what else to say. She stayed quiet as the realisation dawned upon her that, although she was over the worst of the shock and mourning after her mother's death, she could now start to look forward to the future again. To quite what, she wasn't sure, but it was a start.
As usual after supper, Cassie preferred the soft light from Jack's ancient oil lamps to his small but bright electric lights run from the storage battery, now fully-charged from day-long sunlight on the roof solar panels. He had assured her that the hi-fi would run for a few hours if necessary, and so she had asked to hear the song that sounded like her earlier performance by the lake.
Together they searched through the CD collection until she came across the artist he had mentioned, and she offered it to him to place in the machine.
"Kathleen Ferrier sung opera and traditional folk songs in the nineteen fifties." he explained. "Her voice was 'contralto' and I've loved 'Blow The Wind Southerly' since I first heard it in the 'seventies." He selected the track, sat back and closed his eyes in anticipation.
[ Kathleen Ferrier Blow The Wind Southerly ] v=dXQuaq_2icU
A slight sniff from Cassie as the song came to a close alerted him suddenly, and he was surprised to see tears glistening on her cheeks.
"Oh, Cassie! I'm so sorry. Has it upset you?" he asked gently.
She shook her head and wiped the back of her hand across her face.
"No, not that!" she said, smiling at him. "It's just like my mother's voice on Hanka, I swear. I thought I'd never hear the sound again. I can't tell you how much it means."
"Well, OK then." said Jack, much relieved.
He didn't know just when he had fallen asleep during the evening, listening contentedly as Cassie delved into his music collection. When he awoke to the sight and sound of the oil lamp quietly guttering in the early hours, he was alone in the lounge. He gathered that Cassie must have switched hoped that she would be sufficiently absorbed in the music for the next day or so to avoid boredom.
What an underestimation that turned out to be.