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#5 in the Life's Little Problems Series
Playthings of a God
A Little!Danny fic by: Maj. Cliffhanger

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Part 1

Jack offered the charge nurse a cursory nod as he swept past her station - and nearly got beaned by the infirmary door as it swung open in his face. "Whoa!" he exclaimed even as he jerked backward and grabbed the offending metal panel. His day went from bad to worse as he recognized the person who'd nearly decked him - and who probably still wanted to. "Kate..."

Kate Dixon eyed him for a long moment - probably trying to decide the best way to eviscerate him - then put a finger to her lips and waved him to follow her. Merely glad not to have been summarily executed on sight, Jack frowned and followed. She stopped when they were still four beds away from his original target. Lam had put the two boys off by themselves, at the end of the observation ward. The curtained cubicles were all open and Jack could clearly see his objective - curled up sound asleep in the lap of one lieutenant colonel who was out for the count as well. Across the way from them, Col. Dixon slept in his wheelchair, his head pillowed on his arm on the side of the hospital bed where his own son lay in drugged slumber.

A touch on his arm drew Jack's attention back to Kate. She said something, but he wasn't sure what. He frowned, shook his head and motioned her back out into the infirmary vestibule. "Sorry. My ears got a bit messed up a few hours ago," he explained when it was safe to raise his voice. The ringing had subsided enough that he could make out regular speech. Well, most of the time. If he was facing the person speaking. And if there weren't a lot of other background noises.... "What did you say?"

"I have to get back to my other kids," she answered, and offered him a calm but intense frown. "What happened to your ears?"

He winced, waving her motherly concern off. "'Good case of tinnitus, that's all."

She continued to frown at him for a long moment before taking his words at face value. She'd been married to Dave long enough to know not to ask questions and it was obvious Jack wasn't injured otherwise. She dismissed her concern and repeated what she had tried to tell him earlier. "You do know if anything else happens to Jason, I'll hunt you down and make you wish you'd never been born, right?"

It was said mildly enough, but Jack knew there was nothing in the universe more dangerous than a mother protecting her child. He nodded, accepting the warning for the promise it was.

She glanced back toward the doors, separating them from the observation ward and those they were talking about. "When Dave told me Col. Mitchell was moving in up the street with a kid Jason's age, I was thrilled. Most of the neighborhood kids are older and..." She winced. "They tend to pick on Jason because he's too smart. I made up a second batch of cookies when I heard you were there and practically tossed Dave and the kids out the door. I never imagined...."

She paused for a long moment, obviously remembering the horror of being told her son had been kidnapped and weighing it against the reality of what she'd been told since. Abruptly, she turned back to Jack and changed the subject. "Was it you or Landry who sicced what's-his-name on me?"

Jack was forced to do a double-take.

"Self-important weasel in a suit?"

He blinked as he realized who she must mean. "Woolsey?"

She shrugged a shoulder. "You didn't send him to make sure I'd stay quiet?"

Jack sighed. "Kate, if I'd had any doubts about that, you'd have never been told anything to begin with."

She folded her arms with a dark frown. "Just another cover story."

"That might've been a little hard in this case."

She sighed, glancing down at her watch. "God, I've been here all night. My sister's going to kill me."

Jack glanced at his own watch: 12:03 p.m. No wonder he was dragging.

"The kids will be at school, but--" She offered a sudden quiet groan and lifted her face to the ceiling. "It's Halloween," she realized, less-than-happy at the thought. Shaking her head, she offered the closed doors a momentary glance. "There's no way the docs are going to release him by tonight, is there?"

Physically, Lam had assured them both boys were fine. Mentally.... Jack winced, remembering the report of how the six year old and been found sitting alone next to Carter, covered in her blood and fighting to keep her arm elevated. Apparently, the only thing he'd said as the medics pulled him away was, 'I think she's dead.' The calm declaration had shaken Airman Thomson as he tried to make sure none of the blood covering the boy belonged to the child.

"Do you really want them to?"

She bowed her head, offering her feet a sad and worried look. She'd only gotten an abbreviated version of the report he'd received, but it was enough to know Jason had been severely traumatized. "He was going to go as a ninja...." She shook her head and lifted it again. "I have no idea what I'm going to tell the other kids about any of this."

Jack frowned and calmly met her questioning gaze. "The truth," he told her - much to her surprise. He quickly shook his head, waving a hand at the complex around them and all it represented. "Not about this," he corrected himself. "Stick with the story we already gave you about Danny's crazy brother kidnapping them." He paused to rest both hands on her shoulders, forcing her to face him fully. He offered the muscles beneath his fingers a reassuring squeeze. "Jason's going to be fine," he told her firmly. "That's the truth you need to tell them - and yourself while you're at it."

A white uniformed corpsman suddenly interrupted the tableau, interjecting himself into the conversation with an apology. "Sorry, Sir," he offered quietly, and started to say something that Jack had to interrupt with a wave of his hand and a scowl.

"You're going to have to speak up."

"Gen. Landry is requesting you come to his office, Sir. He says it's urgent."

Jack closed his eyes and dropped his head.

"Imminent alien invasion?" Kate asked facetiously. The reality of what they did here everyday obviously hadn't sunk in yet.

He lifted his head and glanced around for a second before shaking it, assuring her, "There'd be klaxons and red lights going off, people running around all over the place and a general feeling of mass controlled panic if there were." A glance and nod dismissed the corpsman before Jack turned to offer Kate an irritated shrug. "'Probably some brown-noser at the White House demanding an update or something."

"Dave always said he never wants to make General because of all the politics involved."

Jack offered that an appreciative grunt. "Smart man!"

She answered with an indulgent shake of her head, and then a dismissive wave as she turned to head back to the waiting room where her escort undoubtedly waited to take her home. "Don't forget what I said about Jason," she called back over the shoulder. "I would hate to have to kill you."

Jack blinked - and then quickly waved off the look the retreating corpsman had paused to offer her back. Jack wasn't about to admit to anyone except himself how very serious she probably was....

Then he turned on his heel to head to Landry's office and find out what the hell was going on now!

* * *

The majestic bull elk he'd been stalking all day suddenly lifted its head and rotated its ears sharply forward. A moment later, the hunter caught the sound of a motor intruding into the early afternoon peace of the forest and watched in frustration as the animal bounded back into the undergrowth, melting from sight once again.

Damn. He lowered his rifle and let it go, refusing to risk a dirty kill.

With a frown, the older man turned his attention to what had panicked his prey. 'Probably some campers who'd gone and gotten themselves lost by taking a wrong turn. There were still a few old logging roads in the area, but they were well-overgrown and hadn't been used in years. With an irritated sigh, he lifted the scope to his eye again, finger well-removed from the trigger as he scanned the area to his east for the unwanted intruders.

There. Down in the clearing. Half a klick. Dark blue Chevrolet Express cargo van with government plates. Not exactly your typical camping vehicle. And it certainly wasn't a game warden; they used either jeeps or horses in the back country. He frowned as two men exited the vehicle and glanced around before moving to the back. Dark business suits and sunglasses. Definitely not campers or hunters.

He lowered the scope and frowned in confusion. What the hell was a pair of spooks doing out here?

Still frowning, he lifted the scope again. Oh shit! He felt adrenaline surge as he watched the two drag a third from the back of the van: Air Force class B uniform, Master Sergeant, hands bound behind his back and a dark hood over his head.

Something was very wrong here....

He continued to watch, forcing his muscles to relax and breathing to still as the two suits marched their captive some twenty-five meters into the middle of the clearing where one of them shoved him to his knees.

The other drew a weapon.

The hunter blinked and turned off that part of his brain trying to insist he was watching some sort of training exercise or counter-intelligence intimidation tactic. He'd spent twenty-five years of his life in the service and had worked some pretty shady operations in his time. This was not how it was done.

He was too far away to shout a warning or order them to drop their weapons. That left him only one option.

Dismissing everything else from consideration, he narrowed his focus to the task at hand as he fitted his finger against the trigger; noting distance, wind direction, speed and ambient temperature between heartbeats. When the man below lifted his handgun, Sergeant Major Marcus Torres, retired Marine Corp Sniper, didn't hesitate.

* * *

Part 2