“I would appreciate it, gentlemen, if someone could tell me why our allies weren’t present at our most recent battle with the remaining Ori fleet? If I remember correctly, we are allied with the Free Jaffa Nation, the Asgard, and the Tok’ra among others. So… Why weren’t they there?”
Dr. Anthony Franklin, the current head of HomeWorld Security, shifted slightly in his chair and tried to look like he wasn’t bothered by the direction the questions were going, “Mr. President, we did put out the call to our allies. However we received no response to our calls before our ships engaged the Ori fleet and the battle was over rather quickly. Beyond that, I can’t tell you why they didn’t appear.”
Gazing thoughtfully at the visibly uncomfortable man seated in front of him, Baqer Omidifar wondered what he was hiding. When he had taken office he had known, as had every new President, that there were some secrets that could only be told once you had actually taken the oath and occupied the Oval Office. But everything about this secret were things that he had never, ever expected. Confirmation that aliens were real, that the Air Force had real intergalactic capable space ships and that the galaxy was studded with habitable planets populated by humans from Earth, had shaken him to the core.
And because he had been so shaken, he had taken advantage of his office, his new found power, and had driven through some changes– all of which were aimed at getting the whole of the StarGate program under his complete control. Unfortunately, the price of his control came with experienced personnel being let go, but the President had been certain that what had been learned once could be learned again. Now it looked as if his quest for control over the SGC had allowed serious harm to come to the men and women under his command.
“Well, who can tell me why our allies weren’t there? I mean, we have had contact with these people in the last few months, haven’t we? And speaking of people who haven’t responded to our phone calls recently, has there been any news from Atlantis?”
Sitting in is chair, the President of the United States watched as the head of HomeWorld Security, and now General Balok head of the SGC tried not to squirm in their chairs. Now, wasn’t that an interesting reaction he thought. It looked as if they were trying to hide something from him. Dropping his eyes, Baqer looked at the official AAR’s in front of him and skimmed through the information again. Then he turned to the report from one man in particular and read it again. Instead of a report detailing the many ways to cover an ass, it was a clear and concise breakdown for why the fleet had suffered the casualties it had. The final conclusion that had been that due to the lack of allied ships at the battle, there hadn’t been sufficient forces to overwhelm the Ori ships with sufficient firepower. But that conclusion was not present in the official AAR’s nor had it been mentioned at during the face to face debriefings.
Keeping his voice pleasant, the man who was considered by many to be the leader of the free world, started asking questions that he just knew were going to cause several of his advisors to sweat. “Gentlemen, I have in my hand a report that has some disturbing information. Information that neither of you bothered to pass on to me. What is this I am reading about our fleet being a ship short because the Daedalus hasn’t been replaced? That the former commander of the Daedalus has been assigned to a desk job supervising the scientists at the Antarctic base and his XO is working as a glorified admin at the SGC? In addition, I have several notations stating that the reason our allies did not come to battle was due to our failure to uphold the particulars of our treaties. Or even worse, that we have gone out of our way to violate, with apparent impunity, several ironclad treaties with long time allies. Is any of this correct?”
Watching as his mildly delivered questions set off some truly interesting reactions, the President hid a wave of bitter satisfaction. While he might be younger and less experienced than most of the men who had held his current office, he wasn’t a push over. And unlike some of his predecessors, Baqer Omidifar had vowed that he would learn from any mistakes he made. After all, he had no choice but to do so even if it meant that he was going to be getting well acquainted with the taste of crow.
“Gentlemen? I asked you for answers,” and with an effort he kept his voice mild and nonthreatening.
Dr. Anthony Franklin was doing his best to not have a very messy and very loud panic attack on the couch in the Oval Office. If for no other reason than it would most certainly show that he had screwed up his appointment in a truly spectacular fashion. And he really truly had.
When he had been given the job of running the department of HomeWorld Security, he hadn’t bothered to think much on what the details behind the job title had actually meant. All he had seen was the power and prestige associated with the office and the chance to finally be one of the few who were in the know. So before he had even started looking over the files for his new job, he had made his first major decision; he was not going to work in the Pentagon. Gathering everything and everyone associated with the agency, he had them all moved over to one of the major business parks near the Mall and then had installed every bit of security he could get his hands on. Just because he was greedy for the power he had been offered didn’t mean that he was stupid enough to let it slip away.
Once his new office was arraigned to his satisfaction, Franklin had settled in and started reviewing all the files associated with his new job. He spent several weeks reading through over twelve years of accumulated reports on everything from how many bullets the SGC and Atlantis had used in a given year to a breakdown of what technologies had been brought back through the Gate since the beginning of the program. It was when he had been reading over the pages and pages of lists detailing the different types of technology that were currently being stored and studied at Area 51 that the new director realized that far more was being left behind than brought through the Gate. And that wasn’t something that Tony Franklin was going to allow to continue. So he had rewritten the mission directives for the SGC and the new technologies had started pouring in.
He had also started putting more pressure on the scientists doing research at Area 51. No one there had been able to present a good reason to him why information on the new technologies couldn’t be extracted in a faster manner than they were currently using. Protests that ‘This was how we’ve always done things’ hadn’t worked with him, so the scientists had gone along with his orders. He hadn’t of course, been able to apply the same types of pressure to Atlantis, but he had been confident that given enough time, they would have come around to the new work method. One of the artifacts getting a new review at Area 51 was something that would perhaps turn out to be the most important of all, the dud ZPM that had given its last erg of energy to send the original Atlantis Expedition to the City. Research was also going on to see if there was a way to safely remove the explosive film coating the out layer of the ZPM they had gotten from the Goa’uld Camulus.
And up until now, the results had been pouring in, proving that moving faster and more decisively was worth it. And yes, while the faster pace of research had lead to some accidents, no one had died or been too seriously injured, so Franklin had been counting the advancements as a good thing. Thanks to all the new advancements, he had found himself contemplating various ways to get Atlantis back to Earth and thus firmly under his control, but without the current leadership. In order to do that though would require more power than was present in the City and the only way to provide more would mean removing the ZPM from the Antarctic base or the national power grid. Neither option was ideal so he had shelved the idea.
With all the focus on retrieving technology from the surrounding galaxy and not playing at being diplomats, Franklin had expected the upper level officers and scientists at the SGC to protest and they had. Actually, the protests had been louder, wider reaching and more upset than he had thought they would be. Given what those people had been through over the years, he had thought that they would have been happy to not have to bother with being nice and taking “no” for an answer, but he had apparently been wrong. It seemed as if they were not the only ones upset; their allies had protested loudly as Earth changed the terms on their treaties and began doing less.
All of which was leading back to the panic attack that he was barely holding off by willpower alone. Because his decisions, both ones that had been signed off on by the Joint Chiefs and also the ones that he had made on his own, were going to be under a microscope. Franklin knew that no matter how hard he tried to say that he had made decisions in the best interest of Earth, most of his directives had been made with the intention of getting more power for himself; which wouldn’t go over too well when exposed to the light of day. Hopefully Balok could keep his mouth shut and follow along. Hopefully.
One personality quirk of his own that Baqer Omidifar had found to be ideally suited for his new office was his ability to be patient. And that ability was coming in mighty handy at the moment. He had baited his hook, to use a fishing metaphor, and the fish was about to swallow it, hook, line and sinker. “Mr. President, I think I can answer some of those questions. We started construction on the replacement for Daedalus as soon as we knew for certain that she had been destroyed and was unsalvageable. At present the ship is unnamed, but at my last update she was roughly one third completed.” Franklin paused slightly as he checked some notes on the legal pad in front of him. And there it went, down the gullet.
“Colonel Caldwell was assigned to the Antarctic base as a temporary measure until the new ship had been completed. The reasons for the reassignment are simple: one, he has worked with Ancient technology before; two, he has the seniority; and three, he has experience working with scientists on alien technology. Since we wanted to keep his former XO on staff, Major Jacobs is currently working with the Ancient Technology Department at Area 51. This is primarily due to his having a weak expression of the ATA gene and the experience will be helpful when we get Atlantis back.
“As for our allies being upset due to treaty violations, we have had very little contact with them for the last year. When they do call upon us, they have been demanding items and services that are not listed in our treaty obligations. Since there have been requests from the IOA, the Pentagon and our other Earth-based allies that the SGC & Homeworld Security keep costs down, I made the decision that we would be scaling back on what assistance we offered outside of those listed obligations. I’ve also back-burnered several treaty items that had not shown much advancement with in the last year,” and with a small smile, Franklin sat back, obviously believing…
Keeping his body relaxed, the President allowed none of his thoughts to reflect on his face. Nodding slightly as he thought over what he had just heard, he decided to corner his next victim. “Hmm…I see. General Balok, you have been very silent. What are your thoughts on how the SGC is currently running? And what have been the repercussions within the rank and file of Atlantis’s secession?”
“Uhm. Mr. President,” Balok fumbled slightly and then after a quick glance at Franklin, seemed to get some confidence. If the man was any more obvious in his discomfort at answering questions, Baqer was going to launch a discreet investigation on how he had survived his Congressional confirmation hearings. Really, no senior officer should be this obviously uncomfortable when he was making a report. “The SGC is currently running at full capacity and we have most of our teams off-world at this time. There have been no deaths or major injuries involving SGC personnel for the last six weeks and the technology the teams have been bringing home has been very impressive. Our in house scientists have managed to classify, record and in some cases, translate everything that the teams have brought in so there is no delay in finding out what our ‘treasure hunters’ have found.
“As for repercussions from Atlantis’s secession, the old timers at the SGC have caused very little in the way of overt waves, but they are clearly not happy. What little scuttlebutt that I am hearing has basically seemed to fall into two areas: One group states that the Expedition had the right and the duty to stay in Pegasus and defend our allies there against the Wraith. Removing their ZPM back to Earth would have necessitated curtailing that mission, so there is some support for them for that. The second group states that the military members of the Expedition had the duty to follow his orders. And if that meant that the Expedition was going to have to reduce the mission schedule to accommodate the loss of the ZPM, they should have done what they were told and hand it over.”
Watching as General Balok spoke, Baqer saw him relax. What he was reporting was nothing new and it was all mentioned in the official reports which obviously made him feel as if things were going right. Time to ask a few more uncomfortable questions. “You mentioned that the ‘old timers’,” and here Baqer had to raise an inquisitive eyebrow at the term, “at the SGC have been very quiet on the subject of Atlantis. Did they know that Earth was requesting the turnover of their only ZPM before you issued the order? And if they didn’t know, what was the reaction when they found out? Also, do you know which of those two opinions you mentioned are supported by the majority of the troops? I am curious to know what the people who are doing the work at the SGC think.”
Appearing to mull over his answer, the General took several minutes to answer the questions. “Sir, until we dialed Atlantis, no one besides myself and Dr. Franklin knew that we were going to remove the ZPM from the City. Intelligence reports had brought to light troop movements among the remnants of the Ori forces and, due to that, we wanted to strengthen Earth’s defenses by restoring the Apollo to a fully functional state. Since we have one ZPM tied into the national power grid and one into the Antarctic facility, that required us to get the only other charged ZPM that the SGC had possession of – the one from Atlantis.
“Reaction when the troops found out about our request was indeed mixed. From the troops and support personnel who had been at the SGC the longest, there was a great deal of support for the Atlantis Expedition. Several senior officers have come to me to confirm the rumors and when I confronted them, they informed me that demanding the turnover of the ZPM was analogous to asking someone to go swimming in shark filled waters while bleeding out. My response to these personnel was to say that our best researchers at Area 51 had determined that Atlantis could be powered adequately by several Mark III generators and the Expedition would have enough power to evacuate to Midway if necessary. This was all presented as a hypothetical situation to the researchers of course.”
Holding up his hand Baqer interrupted the General, the point he had just made was something he wanted to go over again. Because what he was hearing really didn’t make a hell of a lot of sense. “General, let me see if I understand this. You and Dr. Franklin made the decision to remove the primary power source from what amounts to a colony of Earth. You also went so far as to have scientists, who incidentally were not part of the Expedition, determine the power requirements needed to run the City. Including apparently, what would be needed in case of attack by the Wraith. Is that correct?” at Baloks’ nod, he continued, “Then, you went and called the City and demanded that they hand over the only thing that keeps them alive when the Wraith come to call. And you expected Dr. Weir to do this without protest. Have I missed anything?”
“No, Mr. President, you have not. The personnel who are newer to the SGC have had a far different reaction to the decision to remove the ZPM from Atlantis. The vast majority of the newcomers have approved of the action and several went so far as to put forth the thought that we should sink the City again and bring everyone back to Earth. There were several altercations when these views were expressed to the original personnel. No one was injured, but there were some strong words exchanged.” Balok sat back; he had completed his report, and while it didn’t put him in the best of lights, it was clear that he was hoping the impression given was that he had been honest in the retelling.
Nodding his head and humming as he reread something in the paperwork in front of him might have been a bit over the top, but Baqer had to do something to fill in the time as he got his temper under control. Once it felt like he could talk calmly, he looked up and turned his attention to the men in front of him. “Right. Thank you for answering my questions, gentlemen. I do have a few final points to go over, but I thought I would call in an expert to go over the information you have provided me. I am certain that you don’t mind. General O’Neill, what do you have to say to all that you have heard here today?” Who said that then Presidential hopeful, who had campaigned on a platform of ‘Honest dealing and needed change’, couldn’t be sneaky?
Washington, DC – Earth
Jack was quite certain that the most satisfying sight he had seen in the last two years had to be the shock on the faces of Balok and Franklin as he walked in the door of the Oval Office. Because it was obvious that they sure as hell hadn’t been expecting to see him after they had gotten control over HomeWorld and the SGC. Jack was betting that the last intelligence reports showed him comfortably at home doing nothing, as usual. My, how fast things could change.
“Hi guys! How’s running the SGC & HomeWorld working for you? Both of them gave me major heartburn and acid reflux.” Playing the clown, Jack touched his stomach, grimacing lightly as if it still pained him. As he did that he was closely watching the reactions of all men in the office while letting his mouth run for the moment. From the look of things, the President thought the whole shtick was a bit funny; Balok was turning red and Franklin was twitching. Perfect. “So how are you two doing? Been years since I have seen you. You never call, you never write, and Balok, you never come by to the barbeques! I’m hurt.”
“O’Neill, what the hell are you doing here?” growled Franklin.
“Cleaning up the mess you assholes have made of the StarGate Program.” Jack said, all levity gone. He could feel his face falling into the blank expression he used when he was confronting Goa’uld System Lords and he didn’t bother to hide the change in attitude. Walking around the couch, he took a seat and leaned back, making sure that his body language projected how comfortable he was with what he was doing. Maintaining the casual pose, Jack dropped his hands into his lap, covering the unlabeled leather folio he had brought in with him.
“So, the President has in his hands a report that I compiled based on information I have been receiving from the Teams, the commanders of our fleet, support staff and finally, the Atlantis Expedition. There has been an independent review of all the facts and it seems that there are some glaring inconsistencies on what is being reported. Two of the most notable are the discontinuance of the Tretonin research for the Jaffa Nation and the ‘conviction’” Here, Jack used air quotes to emphasize the word. “of the Atlantis Expedition in absentina.”
Franklin opened his mouth to say something and Jack raised a hand to cut him off. “Ahtt! This is my time to talk, Franklin. You and your buddy over there have had over two years worth of talking and now it’s my turn. When you replaced me as the head of HomeWorld, the SGC was a program that was well respected and listened to around the Galaxy. Now we are known as treaty violators, thieves and skinflints. Under your guidance the SGC has gone from primarily an exploration and front line unit to being tomb raiders. This is not acceptable to several parties here on Earth and a lot more around the galaxy.”
Jack flipped open the folder in his lap and looked at the first item on his list of things to be discussed. “So, the first thing I have ask is this; what the hell were you thinking when you decided to stop research into Tretonin, Franklin? It’s one of the major items in our treaty obligation with the Jaffa Nation and shows a great deal of promise for humanity as well. Without steady supplies of Tretonin, the Jaffa currently using it will die from the lack of functioning immune systems and any Jaffa whose infant Goa’uld matures will also die of the same condition. Thanks to your decision, you have in essence, facilitated the extinction of the entire Jaffa race unless they can find a way to go back to incubating baby Goa’uld.”
“Nonsense!” Balok scoffed. “There are still thousands if not millions of Goa’uld out there in the galaxy and the Jaffa have survived using only those resources before. Besides, the research had stalled and from all reports was still not safe to use by Earth born humans.”
Staring at his fellow General, Jack wondered if he really was that stupid. Despite many years at playing the dunce, he knew that there was no way that he would have made it to the rank of Major General without some semblance of brains, but this! Shaking his head slightly, he promised himself that when he saw Carter he was going to apologize for driving her ape with the moron act. Daniel too. Taking a deep breath, Jack struggled to hold onto his temper. He couldn’t lose it yet. “General, let me explain this to you in small, easy to understand words: If the Jaffa don’t have either a Goa’uld larvae in their pouch or a steady supply of Tretonin, they die. There are no indications – sorry, that was a big word there – that there are any more Goa’uld queens. No queens, no larvae, no Jaffa. No Tretonin, no Jaffa. Simple enough for you?”
Looking smug, Franklin shook his head, “General, from your own reports there are still the millions of symbiotes swimming in the rivers and lakes on P3X-888. The Jaffa you speak of can go there to find a baby Goa’uld anytime they want to.”
“Damn you are dumb.” Jack muttered under his breath. “For your information Doctor, the planet in question is currently populated by feral Unas and they think Jaffa are mighty tasty. Plus the Trust managed to send the symbiote poison to that planet and well, survey says there are no Goa’uld in the streams. You want to try that again?”
Quickly cutting in before things got any worse; the President looked over at Jack in shock. “General O’Neill, are you saying that the SGC and by extension Earth are parties in a form of genocide?”
“Yes sir. We are.” And Jack knew that his voice sounded very grim. “And unless we can get sanctioned production of Tretonin going soon, the Jaffa race as a whole could be extinct within the next five years.”
Jack let the silence deepen for a moment. This whole insane mess wasn’t going to get any easier despite the waiting, but at least with his next point there were no charges of genocide. Well, not directly at least. A good case could be made for all the humans of the Pegasus Galaxy being under threat of genocide by the recent actions of the SGC. Take away Atlantis and the Wraith would eat their way through what remained of that population and then come looking for Earth.
“Let’s move on to the next point, shall we?” And grabbing the reins of this mess again, Jack pushed on. “Atlantis. And their ZPM.”
This time Jack looked over at Franklin first and raised an inquisitive eyebrow, daring the man to say something. Thankfully he was quiet. “I would like to give you some background on Atlantis, Mr. President, and then we will get to more recent events.” Taking the Presidents’ nod as permission to continue, Jack took a deep breath and began.
“The Atlantis Expedition was sponsored by the IOA as a means to find the lost city of Atlantis and study any technology found therein. Dr. Daniel Jackson, working with an international team of scientists managed to find the coordinates in the remains of the database at the Antarctic base. Using the ZPM from Proclarush Taonas we sent 175 men and women off on a journey that we thought might be a one way trip. Because of that line of thinking, certain special provisions were written into the charter of the Expedition, which I will get into shortly. After a year of some of the worst experiences that anyone had ever seen, the Expedition was faced with a Wraith fleet determined to take the City and then Earth. In an eleventh hour call for help, the scientist on Atlantis were able to jury rig enough power together to get the word out to us and pass on what they had learned.
“Right after Atlantis managed to make contact with us, the IOA held a referendum. At that meeting it was decided to uphold the charter of the Atlantis Expedition as it had been originally written, despite strong objections of from the US. For five years, through some truly bad times, the Expedition stayed with Earth, even when they had the chance to break away. For the first few months that you were in office Mr. President, that remained the status quo, and then the Expedition started to get shorted on supplies, manpower, and backup. There came a point where the only reliable supply item that Daedalus carried from one trip to another was enough food to feed the Expedition and that was it. When push finally came to shove, Dr. Weir exercised her prerogative as the leader of Atlantis and now,” Jack moved his hands in the classic poof! gesture and looked at his President, “they are gone.”
“Oh, come on!” Franklin cried, disbelief lacing his tone. “There are no special provisions covering this in the Atlantis Charter! I would have found them when I read it!”
Looking interested to find out what the provision was and see if Franklin was right, the President cocked an inquisitive eyebrow at Jack. “General O’Neill, if you could explain? I find myself curious as well.”
“Certainly, Mr. President. Do you have a paper copy of the Charter here, sir?” Jack asked. He was very, very thankful that Daniel had written the charter and that the provision itself was easy to find. Taking the slender book handed to him, Jack quickly opened it to the body of the charter and began reading aloud “If at any time it is determined that a majority of Expedition members support withdrawing relations with Earth, all efforts will be made to facilitate a peaceful turnover. No charges, actions or displays may be taken against any member, who has legally voted in favor of this action, be they military or civilian. Section 19, paragraph 4, sentences 1-2.”
“If that is actually true, and you can be certain that I will be looking at my personal copy when I get back to my office, then why didn’t Dr. Weir cite it when we asked for the ZPM? Why did she announce the chapter and verse when she let us know she seceded?” Balok asked.
“Well given that you approached her with all the tack and delicacy of a drunk and hamstrung bull, it probably slipped her mind at the time. Did you even bother to read the paperwork she sent home with Colonel Caldwell?” snapped Jack. Even as he spoke, he knew that he was never going to win awards for his sparkling personality, mainly because he loathed stupidity in all its forms and had no qualms about letting people know this, but this guy was pushing the stupid button awful hard. Balok really had been completely and utterly negligent in not fully reading everything that Elizabeth had sent back: the records of the vote, the invoking of Section 19 and the reasoning behind it were all laid out for anyone to see. Grabbing a nicely bound document out of the folio case, Jack held it out to his commander in chief, “In case you missed it Mr. President, here is a copy of the paperwork.”
“Hey! How did you get a hold of that? That’s all beyond Top Secret!” Franklin yelped.
Suppressing the urge to roll his eyes at the guy, Jack looked at him steadily. “Just because I’m not at the Mountain anymore, doesn’t mean I still don’t know what is going on in it, Franklin. Deal.”
Baqer quickly skimmed the document that the General had handed to him. It certainly looked like it held the answers to why Atlantis had seceded, but there was always a chance that it was a forgery. The person who could most easily confirm the validity of the document was most definitely incommunicado. Wait, hadn’t O’Neill said that Colonel Caldwell had delivered the announcement of this? Baqer glanced over and asked, “Is there any chance that we can get Colonel Caldwell here to confirm that this is what Dr. Weir asked him to deliver?”
General Balok and Franklin looked at each other as the President tried to read their expressions. Whatever they were thinking apparently wasn’t good and that made him sit up and take notice. “Gentlemen? Is there a problem?”
“No sir, not really,” Balok demurred. “but getting the Colonel here isn’t something that can be done quickly. Since he is currently stationed at the Ancient Outpost in Antarctica, the travel time back to the US is over 36 hours.”
Nodding slightly, Baqer indicated understanding and acceptance of the time constraints. “Dr. Franklin, is there anything that we can do to speed that time table up?”
Shaking his head, Franklin replied, “No sir. We would have to arrange for a special flight to get him out of McMurdo and then…”
“Bullshit.” Baqer looked over at General O’Neill, wondering why he had cut in so abruptly. “The Apollo is in orbit and she can transport Colonel Caldwell from the Outpost to a spot of your choosing, Mr. President. It takes less than five minutes – depending on how fast you blink.” There was a big grin on O’Neill’s face and it wasn’t nice.
Turning his head to look at the two men who were sharing the hot seat, Baqer looked at them in speculation. “Gentlemen? Is this true?”
Flushing an ugly shade of red, Franklin nodded slowly with obvious reluctance. “Yes Mr. President, it is.”
“Well get him down here. I want to hear what he has to say!” he said.
“I’ll need to use your phone, Mr. President. May I?” asked Franklin.
“Why bother?” asked General O’Neill. “Lemme see what I can do.” Reaching into the breast pocket of his uniform, he pulled out a small device that he slipped on over one ear. O’Neill tapped a stud at the back of the object and called out, “Colonel Caldwell, you have been called on to brief the President on the documents that Dr. Weir gave you. Please retrieve them and standby for transport by the Apollo. Do you copy?”
Baqer watched O’Neill’s expression as he made the call. It had only taken him a few moments to recognize the small, discreet communication devices that were being used by most of the personnel at the SGC and now apparently General O’Neill. And from the expression on the faces of General Balok and Dr. Franklin, O’Neill having one was news to them as well and not pleasant news either. After getting an apparent affirmative from Col. Caldwell in Antarctica, O’Neill had moved on to calling the commander of the Apollo, Col. Ellis, ordering him to pick up a passenger and then offload him at the secure location in the White House. Catching the eye of the head of his Secret Service detail, Baqer got a nod; there would be someone on hand to meet the Colonel when he arrived.
“General O’Neill!” the exclamation was abrupt and Franklin’s voice was filled with anger, “How in the hell did you manage to get a hold of that communicator? And who authorized you to order around SGC personnel?”
O’Neill sat back against the cushions of his seat and gazed at his adversary with calm eyes and, in a tone that in no way disguised how deeply pissed off the man was, stated, “Well, I got this when I went to Atlantis several years ago and they never asked for it back. Since the Outpost uses the same tech, it is easy to talk to people there. As for talking to the Apollo? Well, that’s easy too. She was built with the ability to interface with this little piece of Ancient technology.” Pointing to the black ear piece tucked against his face he smiled. “As for who authorized it? Well that would be the nice gentleman sitting in the big chair. You know, the President of the United States.”
“Thank you, General O’Neill. And yes, Dr. Franklin, I did authorize him to call whomever he needed to for today’s meeting,” Baqer said. His voice was also showing how unhappy he was with the conversation the four men were having.
Colonel Steven Caldwell, USAF, was very, very happy that he had taken the time before being shipped to Antarctica to get his dress blues professionally cleaned and that he had remembered to bring all his ribbons and medals. Steven was also thankful that Jack had informed him when he would likely get called up for this meeting and had given him enough warning so he could get out of his parka and into his class A jacket. Even O’Neill admitted that arriving at the White House in a parka and half his uniform wouldn’t make a good impression on anyone. For all of his preparation, Steven was still devoutly unhappy about the reason why he was being called up. Getting the call from Jack meant that the people who were currently in charge of the SGC and HomeWorld had screwed the pooch and now someone had to start the cleanup phase.
“Looks like it’s my turn to break out the broom,” he sighed under his breath. Jack so owed him for this whole mess. And speaking of owing… Steven made sure that the folder he had grabbed out of this personal gear held the sealed document case that he had promised Elizabeth that he would deliver and his military ID. Better to not tempt fate. Thankfully everything was there.
Signaling Abe that he was ready, Steven stood still. Moments later he was in a small room in what had to be the White House and waiting for him were two men who looked like Secret Service.
“Colonel Caldwell sir?” asked the first one on his right.
“That would be me, yes. I understand I am expected?”
“Yes sir, you are. May we see some ID sir?” the second man asked.
“Sure.” And opening the folder, Steven pulled out his ID and handed it over to the agent. When he had gotten dressed he had started to slide his ID into the breast pocket of his uniform and then paused. Looking at the action in a mirror, it seemed like he was reaching for a weapon and that impression wasn’t going to go over well with the Secret Service, even if they knew who he was. So Steven decided that he was going to be smart about the whole situation and just put the ID in the same folder as the rest of his documents. And looking at the two nervous Secret Service agents, he was thankful for his last minute thinking. Once he got the card back he carefully opened his jacket and put it away and tucked his folder under his left arm.
“This way Colonel,” said the first agent.
Caldwell noticed that neither agent had bothered to give their names, but he really couldn’t say that he was particularly bothered. They weren’t going to be spending all that much time together anyway. “Thank you,” he said, nodding to the Agents.
Walking through the hallways of the White House was a little weird, Steven decided. Thanks to a number of movies over the years he had formed a mental picture of what they would look like and for the most part; they lived up to it. There were neither mysterious passages opening up nor were there any unknown men pouring over faded maps in the hallways. Snorting lightly at his own thoughts, Steven turned his attention to the meeting that he was heading towards. He was going to be meeting his Commander in Chief and giving evidence at the most important junction of his career. Failure was not an option today.
Stepping into the Oval Office was just surreal, Steven decided. But surreal or not, the courtesies that had been drilled into him by four years at the Air Force Academy demanded that he accord his President the respect that he was due. Stepping forward until he was the appropriate distance away, Steven stopped and performed a picture perfect salute. “Colonel Steven Caldwell, reporting as ordered, sir!”
Relaxing slightly at President Omidifar’s murmured “At ease,” he turned his attention over to Jack. Getting the nod that all was well, Steven presented the folder he was carrying and then walked over to where his friend was sitting. Taking up the position of parade rest at O’Neill’s left shoulder he tried to stay calm, his part in the unfolding drama was done. Catching Jack’s gesture, Steven shook his head and leaned forward slightly, “I feel better standing, sir.”
Jack took that about as well as he took anything; with a smile, a nod and the trust that his officers knew what they were doing.
Baqer opened the folder he had been handed to see a closed and sealed diplomatic pouch. Examining the pouch carefully he noticed that it matched others he had gotten from Atlantis which reassured him slightly. Pressing his thumb against the seal, he waited briefly for the imbedded circuitry to read his fingerprint and then pried it up to get at the documents contained within. Pulling them out, Baqer started flipping through them.
It took him thirty minutes to read through the contents of the pouch and that was just at a fast skim. Everything he read backed up the reasoning behind Atlantis’s secession and there was mention of Section 19 and the populations vote on the matter. Even though the paperwork seemed genuine, Baqer knew that he would be getting one of the White House’s own special document clerks to look over the pouch’s seal. If it checked out, General O’Neill was going to be proven right and that presented a big problem.
Gathering everything together, he stood up and moved over to his desk. Dropping the documents onto the blotter, he made sure to open the pouch again to confirm nothing was missing. Finding a DVD case taped to the inner lining; he pulled that out and set it on top. Waving over the head of his detail, the President murmured his orders and passed the pouch on. Given the time of day and the level of urgency, he knew that he would have his answer very soon.
While he had been busy reading he had glanced up occasionally to see Balok and Franklin shifting uncomfortably in their chairs and O’Neill was apparently sleeping in his. The only one who seemed to be comfortable was Colonel Caldwell and he was staring out the windows of the Oval Office watching the world go by. If he had to decide what was going on by body language, it looked like the first two were as guilty as sin and the other two weren’t. But lessons learned while playing the game of politics had shown that everyone lied in some form or another and body language could be controlled.
“General O’Neill, if I could have your attention please?” Baqer asked. O’Neill’s eyes opened and he looked as awake and aware anyone else in the room, belying his ‘nap’. “From preliminary indications, it seems that the documentation that Colonel Caldwell presented is exactly what you said it was. There are records of a vote, there is a document signed by everyone who stayed behind detailing their intentions and it seems that I have a home movie to see later. Now what?”
Ignoring the sputtering coming from the men who had taken over his program, O’Neill just looked at him. The expression on his face was calm, but Baqer could feel the fierce determination from across the room. “Now, Mr. President, we work on getting the SGC and HomeWorld back on their feet. We ramp up our Tretonin production and try to figure out a way to approach Atlantis. The easiest of these will be the Tretonin production. Dr. Lam states that she can get back to pre-drawdown levels in about a month and be ready to move the production facilities off-world about a month after that thus fulfilling one of our major treaty duties with the Jaffa Nation. I suggest we set up two facilities, one on Dakara and the second on Chulak, so all our eggs aren’t in one basket.
“Getting our galactic reputation out of the sewer will take a while, but it can be done. None of our allies are simpletons and they know that political agendas change, sometimes overnight. Which will play in our favor. That will make the whole process go faster is if we return everything that was stolen to their rightful owners and offer some form of reparation. It will take a while, and it might get a bit expensive, but it will be a lot less expensive than replacing another 305 and her crew.
“Finally, there’s Atlantis. That’s going to be tricky. Thanks to the ham-handed duo over there, there has been a manhunt for the City and her citizens going on since Dr. Weir made her announcement to the point where the SGC has put out wanted posters. I’m guessing that hasn’t endeared us to anyone over there. We are going to have to figure out a way to contact them without making it look like we are out for blood and that is going to take time. For now, they’ll keep. We have enough on our plates without screwing with Pegasus any more than we have to.”
Apparently reaching critical mass, Franklin finally broke and started yelling at O’Neill. “You cannot be serious! Thanks to our management we have moved our level of scientific advancement forward more than five years faster than the pace you and Col. Carter had set. Under General Balok we have visited three times the number of planets in the last year than under Landry! We have acquired technologies that are benefiting us in our war against the Ori, the remaining Goa’uld and are even paying off here on Earth. All of this is to our benefit!”
His expression no longer calm, General O’Neill looked at the head of HomeWorld Security with deep loathing, “Oh, I am so very serious, you jackass. Thanks to your ‘management’,” and he used air quotes to emphasize his derision, “there has been a huge upswing in the numbers of accidents both minor and several near fatal ones among the scientists at Area 51 and at the Mountain. As for the increased mission tempo? That has lead to an increase in injuries among the Teams as well with several having to be disbanded due to deaths among their members. And you have the gall to call that a good thing? I call it the worst thing to happen to the program since the NID tried to replace Hammond back in our fourth year!”
“Gentlemen! That is enough!” Glaring at both men, Baqer took back control of his meeting. “General O’Neill, do you have the casualty figures to back up your claim?”
Flipping open his folio, O’Neill took out another bound sheaf of paper and stood up to give it to him. From the title written across the top, it looked like an official memo from inside of HomeWorld and it even had the red Top Secret stamps to prove it. Reading the first few pages certainly seemed to suggest that Balok and Franklin had known the injury and fatality rate had soared under their tenure and were working on hiding that fact. Not good. Flinging the memo at Balok, Baqer waited for answers.
General James Balok gulped as he looked at the bound memo that had landed in his lap. Even if everything else that he had done while in command of the SGC was eventually excused, this one item could very well be the one to sink his career. Every officer who had ever fought in a war knew that you had to send your men out into situations where they could die, but they also learned when and where to do so. The best ones even learned when it was okay to go against orders if it would keep your men alive. Hell, he knew that too, but he hadn’t done that while in command at the SGC. He had used his men’s lives like water to acquire whatever Franklin had told him to, even in the face of intelligence that stated there was no hope; it hadn’t mattered – and that was what was going to ruin him.
Despite fighting a war that had lasted over a decade, Hammond, O’Neill and then Landry had never, ever had the casualty rate that he did.
Reaching out, Balok flipped through the pages, snippets of his own damning words registering briefly as he moved his eyes over the text. Taking a deep breath, Balok made a decision and placed his fate in the hands of his commander in chief. “It’s all true, sir. The casualty figures, the approach we took with Atlantis, the treaty violations, all of it. We knew what we were doing and we did it anyway.”
It was freeing to say the words, to feel as if he had gotten back some shred of his honor with his confession. Franklin had turned a sickly white as he had started to talk, but James Balok no longer cared. He knew that he wasn’t going to get out of the whole fucked up situation without some form of censure, but right now his honor was worth more. “And I didn’t tell the full truth earlier about Col. Caldwell’s posting to Antarctica. He was sent down there as a form of punishment for not retaking Atlantis.”
Sitting back in his chair, General James Balok fell silent. No matter what happened now, he knew he was out of the game.
Blinking several times in shock, Baqer glanced over at General O’Neill. Neither of them had expected that to happen when they had discussed possible outcomes of this meeting. But he was willing to go with it. However it looked like Franklin was going to raise a fuss. Time to put that loose end to rest. “Dr. Franklin, you are dismissed as the head of HomeWorld. You will be escorted by the new head, General O’Neill and a Secret Service detail, back to your office. There you will remove all of your personal belongings and turn over all passwords and keycards to the General. Am I understood?”
Turning away from the now former head of HomeWorld Security, the President looked over at Col. Caldwell. “Colonel, I know that this is a bit abrupt, but I want you to take command of the SGC for the moment. At least until we find someone who can take permanent command. While you are there, I want you to review all personnel added in the last two years and assess if they are suited for posting at the SGC. Also, all missions are currently cancelled until further notice. General O’Neill, I want you to go over the lists of technology and figure out the best ways to get everything back to the rightful owners. This meeting is adjourned and I will be deciding what to do you two later.” Pointing at Franklin and Balok, he made a little circle gesture.