Stargate SG-1 fic: A Very Good Place to Start
A Very Good Place to Start
[#2 of The Great Ring series]
by jennickels (aka Jen Connelly)
In the alternate reality the new Program is established and Major O’Neill joins Major Kawalsky and Colonel Carter as part of Alpha Team…now if they could only get themselves sorted out.
don’t own… wish I did, but I don’t. No infringement intended.
“You’ve made some very powerful enemies, son,” General George Hammond said as he paged through a file on his desk.
“Yes, sir,” Jack answered, still standing at attention and feeling completely out of sorts in his dress uniform.
The general sighed, snapping the folder shut. “Anything to add, Major?”
Jack flinched involuntarily at the mention of his new rank. “No, sir.”
Hammond nodded. He didn’t look all that happy. Jack wasn’t sure if he was unhappy with his new command or the newly demoted Jack O’Neill. He didn’t wait to find out, turning crisply and escaping the stuffy office as soon as the word left the general’s mouth. “Dismissed.”
* * *
“Major O’Neill. That just sounds weird.”
“Shut up, Kawalsky,” Jack grumbled as he sunk into one of the large leather chairs around the table in the briefing room.
“Hey, you can’t order me around any more; we’re the same rank.”
“I could still kick the crap out of you.”
Several of the other men at the table snorted, getting a slight glare from Jack and a grin from Kawalsky.
“Ooh, touchy.” Kawalsky chuckled, obviously enjoying the new equality between old friends.
Jack rolled his eyes. He knew Kawalsky was only teasing. He was just as angry as Jack over the demotion and there was just no other way to really vent. That damned Kinsey. This was the thanks he got for saving the weasel’s life. Should have left him in the museum, Jack thought. He really, really, really hated politicians.
The officers, most of whom had fought at the Encounter, as it was being called, were seated around the table: both military and civilian law enforcement. The room was buried deep in Cheyenne Mountain under NORAD, overlooking an old missile silo where technicians were diligently lowering and installing the Great Ring to be used by the infant Ring Program. Jack actually had some familiarity with the mountain, having lived in Colorado Springs for years. His son was buried not far from here. He tried hard to direct his thoughts elsewhere. He focused his attention on the pen in his hand as he twisted it back and forth.
The general suddenly appeared from his office. Jack and the other military officers automatically jumped to their feet, their civilian counterparts a little unsure of protocol just half rose before the general waved them all back down.
“You all know why you are here,” he told them once they were seated. “You were all on the front line when our planet was attacked by forces beyond our imagination. You’ve all accepted this posting of your own free will on the recommendation of your superiors and your outstanding service records. I can’t tell you how dangerous this assignment will be but I’m sure you all have your own ideas. Nor can I even begin to imagine what it will entail.” He paused and glanced down at his notes. “The President has authorized the creation of nine special teams; dubbed: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, etc.; to send through the Great Ring. We’re just waiting for Colonel Carter before we begin the official briefing.”
* * *
“Who, pray tell, is this Colonel Carter?”
“Major,” warned General Hammond.
“Sorry, sir. I’m just wondering what kind of officer is late to the very first briefing of a mission?”
“Colonel Carter is the genius behind the Program and the reason you’re here and not sitting on a dishonorable discharge right now, Major, so I suggest a little respect her position is due.”
Sam stood outside the briefing room listening to Hammond lecture one of the men at the table. There was a chorus of “oohs” from the other men that reminded Sam of the fifth grade. Before things got out of hand she sucked up all her courage and, with a final wipe of her sweaty palms on her skirt, strode in like she owned the place. Now was not the time to look weak.
“She’s also a close, personal friend of mine and a damned fine officer.” He beamed at Sam as she took up a spot at the other end of the table, standing relaxed but slightly on edge.
She smiled back. “Sorry I’m late, sir. There seems to be some mix-up at security with my new rank.”
“I’ll make sure it’s taken care of, Colonel.”
Sam scanned the gathered group of officers and law enforcement personnel. They all seemed to be looking anywhere but at her. She slid into the last empty chair. Across from her a major with hair slightly graying at the temples and soulful brown eyes slumped in his chair. He tapped his pen impatiently on his folder. After a second he raised his piercing stare to her face as if analyzing her threat level.
“All right, people, settle down,” the general began. The major dropped his pen, all attention now on his superior. Sam pulled her gaze away to listen, too. “As I was saying before—the President has authorized nine teams. Their mission will be to travel through the Ring to planets unknown in search of… whatever they find.”
“Who knew the President was such a sci-fi nut,” said one of the police officers at the table. It was met with several snorts of agreement.
The general nodded towards Sam, giving her the floor. She stood, opening her file. Twelve sets of eyes turned towards her and she fought down the sudden wave of nerves. “From what we’ve gathered from the technology taken from the alien invaders there are hundreds of inhabited planets in our galaxy. Probably more. We suspect most of ‘addresses’—for lack of a better term—lead to enemy territory. We’re still in the process of downloading all the addresses and analyzing them to find suitable planets to visit with minimal threat levels.”
The major across from her raised his hand. She sighed but he didn’t seem to notice. “How are you ascertaining these threat levels?”
“We’re looking for planets that seem to be abandoned or ignored by these aliens. From what we can tell they are only interested in planets that have some kind of natural resource they need or people. Most of the abandoned planets have long since been mined of all valuable resources and the ignored ones are uninhabited.” He nodded and motioned for her to continue. She tried very hard not to frown at him. “We should have the files mostly translated and several planets selected by the end of the week.”
A captain sitting to the right of the general raised his hand tentatively, obviously feeling a little silly at the gesture. “Do we know anything about these aliens.” He seemed even more uneasy mentioning aliens.
“We’ve had experts from many fields looking over the information we’ve gathered and they have concluded that they are at least part human, maybe even originating here on Earth. They seem to have taken on the personas of ancient gods.”
Sam looked across the table at the major and nodded. He gave her a skeptical look. “According to one prisoner, their god was Apophis. He-”
“You mean the guy with all the gold.”
“Yes. Apophis was the Egyptian god of darkness and chaos, represented by a serpant.”
“The guys at the museum had snakes tattooed on their foreheads,” said another major sitting several chairs down from Sam.
“Apparently the servants—Jaffa—are tattooed with the god they serve when they are young. The lead Jaffa-”
“There are more ‘gods?'” the major across from her, O’Neill by his name tag, asked.
“Many.” Sam spent the next hour explaining her rudimentary understanding of Egyptian and other mythologies as they related to her extremely limited knowledge of their new alien enemy. When she was done the table was unnaturally quiet except for the very vocal O’Neill.
“Alien snakes that incubate in the stomachs of servants to later possess a human host and are hell bent on galactic domination. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes…”
“Are you done, Major?” asked Hammond.
He just shrugged, leaning back in his chair.
“Very well,” the general continued, “I’ve already set up the first teams. Colonel Carter will lead Alpha team with Majors O’Neill and Kawalsky. Colonel Sawyer, Captain Villaire and Police Sgt. Mapp will be Beta team.” He continued until each person around the table was assigned a team, leaving spots open for incoming recruits.
O’Neill raised his hand, looking uninterested in the proceedings. “I thought you said nine teams, sir.”
“I think four will be fine for now. We’ll see how things go then adjust the teams as needed.” The major just nodded in understanding. “Any other questions?” When no one said anything he dismissed them, returning to his office.
Sam took a deep breath as she gathered her papers. She was surprised to find the room empty except for her two new teammates. She swallowed hard as they eyed her, taking stock probably. And she just showed apprehension—way to win over the troops.
After a rather uncomfortable moment O’Neill cleared his throat. “Lunch?”
“I could eat,” Kawalsky answered with a grin.
Sam stared at her briefcase with a frown.
“Coming, Colonel?” O’Neill sounded slightly amused at her discomfort and indecision.
“I can’t, I’m sorry. I have a departmental meeting to go to.” She really did. She had meetings up the wazoo. Her stomach grumbled in protest causing her to blush and both men to grin.
“Rain check then?” O’Neill flashed her a stunning smile that made her heart skip a beat and her face to go a shade redder. All she could do was nod dumbly. The two snickered as they left. Sam sighed. She had no idea how she was going to keep these two in line. She was so out of her element.
* * *
“So, this is where you’ve been hiding from us.”
Sam turned from where she was hunched over the computer sitting on her lab table. O’Neill and Kawalsky were standing in her door. Well, Kawalsky was standing. O’Neill was leaning, his hands shoved deep in his pockets and a devilish grin on his face.
“I wasn’t hiding from you. Or anyone,” she retorted. “I just have a lot to do today.” She turned back to her computer.
“I’m sure,” said O’Neill as he came to stand next to her. Sam frowned up at him. She had no idea what he meant.
Kawalsky wandered around the room, looking at the numerous half-unpacked boxes before settling on a stool across from her. “You’re kind of young to be a Lieutenant Colonel, aren’t you?”
He put his hands up. “I’m just saying—you’re, like, what… twenty-four… twenty-five?”
Sam bristled, drawing herself up to her full 5’9″ height, but before she could say anything O’Neill laughed.
“Don’t you know it’s rude to ask a woman her age.” He picked up one of the diagnostic tools from the table, examining it half-heartedly. “Besides, I asked around—two weeks ago our Colonel was a major.”
Sam snatched the device from his hands, her eyes narrowing. “And two weeks ago, Major, you were a colonel. You’re point?”
Kawalsky snorted then tried to cover it with a cough. O’Neill looked irritated but the expression disappeared quickly behind a mask of disinterest. He shrugged. “No point, just saying.”
Sam turned to face him full on, mentally preparing herself for the inevitable confrontation. “Are we going to have a problem, Major?”
O’Neill cocked one eyebrow but managed to look slightly abashed. “No, ma’am.”
She glanced at him one last time then turned to the other major who was still trying to cover his growing smile with his hand, but not doing a very good job of it. When he saw her watching he put his hands up. “I’m good. I was still a major two weeks ago. Makes no difference to me.”
The three stared for awhile, grins growing slowly across O’Neill and Sam’s faces to match Kawalsky’s. Sam broke first, a gurgle of laughter escaping her tight-lipped smile. O’Neill beamed as if he’d just accomplished some monumental feat.
“So, Colonel, explain how this Ring thing works again.”