Colonel Jack O'Neill poured himself a cup of coffee while he awaited the arrival of the rest of his team and General Hammond. Through the window, he saw the general hang up the phone and from the sour expression on his face, he wasn't happy about something.
Jack winced. From his long experience in the Air Force he'd learned one thing was true. When your general ain't happy, ain't nobody happy. And since he was next in line, rank-wise, whatever unhappiness that caused Hammond's face to pucker up like he'd bit into a lemon was bound to darken his day in the not-too-distant future.
Steam curled up from his open cup as he gingerly sat at the table. Once there, he eyed the oily dark surface of his beverage. Spying something suspicious, he cautiously dipped one forefinger into the cup to capture whatever the heck it was. With a practiced flick of that same finger, minute droplets of coffee sprinkled the tabletop and floor.
"Are you finished, Jack?" Hammond's soft Texas drawl came out of nowhere.
"Sir?" Jack straightened from his half slouch at the implied reprimand from his commander.
Hammond said nothing, just stood there looking at the liquid dotting the surface of the otherwise spotless and shiny tabletop with a half-frown on his face.
"Oh," Jack swiped at the most noticeable drops with one hand. "That. Sorry, sir."
The general settled into his chair at the head of the table and sighed as if the weight of the world rested square on his shoulders. "It may seem small in the scheme of things, but when the top brass at the Pentagon are watching every move we make totaling up the cost of it to boot..."
"Sorry, sir. It won't happen again." He paused for a moment and considered the liquid in his cup. "The phone call?"
"Yes, it seems the congressional oversight committee has complained about the cost of the program and the fact that we haven't brought anything back that will off-set the expense."
Jack rolled his eyes, "Kinsey at it again, sir?"
"That would be my guess."
Jack scrubbed his face with both hands, "What is it with that guy? Saving the planet isn't good enough for them?"
"That sort of thing only goes so far. You know that, Jack."
"Yeah, I do. It doesn't mean I have to like it though, sir."
"You ain't just whistling Dixie," Hammond chuckled. "So where is the rest of your team? Don't you have a briefing this morning?"
"I'm surprised they aren't already here, sir." Jack glanced around and then checked his watch. "Carter was all 'a twitter' about something the UAV might have seen when she sent it out on recon the other day."
"Yes, sir. And I was right. There was something that all of you need to see," Carter exclaimed with excitement as she walked into the room, her arms full of folders and paperwork.
As she laid down the folders next to the colonel's chair, she turned her head and mouthed, "A twitter, sir?"
Jack grinned and waggled his eyebrows in response. In the meantime, Daniel and Teal'c arrived and sat across the table from Jack. Daniel was conspicuous for the olive drab scarf he had wrapped around his head, something seen in the field, but never here.
"Got a head cold, Daniel?"
"What?" He pushed his glasses back up his nose with one finger and looked around the room. "Oh, that. No, I'm feeling fine. Why?"
"It's just that you don't usually wear headgear indoors," Jack smirked.
Captain Samantha Carter took her time setting up her presentation. Though the colonel was giving her a hard time, she realized he respected her intelligence and trusted her judgment. Their relationship had come a long way since their first rocky meeting when she'd challenged him to arm wrestle. The memory always brought back a repeated fantasy of future events if she had succeeded in her coercion. She smiled at the thought of 'that' ever happening on the conference room table.
Though he didn't know it yet, he was going to la-ove what she was about to tell them, for according to her findings, their next mission would give them an opportunity to satisfy even the Oversight Committee. Her recent assignment in the Pentagon, plus growing up with a high-ranking officer for a father had given her an early education in how to accommodate the top brass all the while getting your job done the best way you could.
Added to the recordings from the UAV she'd sent out to recon the planet yesterday, she could add some intel her Dad had let slip. Yes, the colonel would be all 'a twitter' himself soon. That idea gave her some rather vivid flashes of fantasy to add to her collection, so she returned to her task to distract herself for the titillation that a certain colonel could provide in the privacy of her thoughts.
Once she cued up the tape in the VCR, she stood, awaiting General Hammond's signal to begin, who luckily was none the wiser that she had taken a short romp in fantasyland. As was typical of him, Daniel picked up his mission file and began to peruse it, his eyebrows rose as he read something interesting.
"Captain Carter? The floor's all yours." Hammond nodded and settled back to watch the television screen as she punched the remote.
"Yesterday, I sent a UAV to recon the planet designated as PBR-549," she paused and looked at her audience.
"Saa-loote," the colonel raised one finger to his brow and smirked.
"Do you have something to say, Colonel?" Hammond didn't look amused.
"What?" He looked innocent. "I'm surprised no one else had heard of that particular planet, sir. From what I remember its inhabitants have an insane urge to dress up like hillbillies and lay around the shanty all day drinking corn liquor."
"Are you saying there's something wrong with the country lif estyle?" Hammond's eyes narrowed and Sam smothered a grin with one hand. "Bear in mind that I hail from the lone-star state of Texas and was raised in the country," he paused for a beat, "and am damned proud of it."
The colonel's eyes widened as he seemed to realize that he'd put his foot in it... again. "Oh no, sir. Love the country. Some of my best friends are from the country. As a matter of fact, my cabin is in the country..." his last words were mumbled as he became extremely interested in the contents of his mission folder.
"You were saying, Captain?"
Carter smoothly returned to her presentation, happy in the thought that this amusing incident would provide her with a little ammunition to tease the colonel with.
"I think you'll all find this very interesting, sir. Watch as the camera pans over this particular valley about five klicks from the gate." She froze the video and then outlined the area with her finger. "When I did a spectral analysis of this area, I discovered it to contain an unusual combination of naquadah as well as iron alloys. This combination does not usually occur naturally."
"Wait a minute, this is very interesting," Daniel stood and walked over to the screen and adjusted his glasses. "Could you magnify this for me?"
"I'm one step ahead of you, Daniel. I magnified this to the fiftieth power." She clicked the remote and had everyone's undivided attention.
"A Goa'uld mothership appears to have crash-landed on this planet some time ago," Teal'c spoke with the calm authority of someone who had no doubts of his conclusion.
Sam nodded and smiled with triumph. "This fits with some intel my Dad let slip the last time we spoke. A rumor reached the Tok'ra about a mothership that disappeared in this area of space and no one seemed to know what had happened to it."
A mothership complete with big honkin' space guns?" Jack looked both elated and worried when he turned to Hammond. "That would be almost too good to be true. And it's been my experience that when that happens, there's usually a catch."
"But this would be the find of the century," the still standing Daniel appeared to be too excited to sit and waved his arms with enthusiasm. "Think of all we could learn from their onboard computers, not to mention the writings themselves."
"But if the Tok'ra knows about this, won't the other Goa'uld know about it too? Or at least be looking for it?" General Hammond also appeared to be having second thoughts about the opportunity that had just been handed to them.
"Did your aerial survey pick up any signs of other Goa'uld in the area, Carter?" Colonel O'Neill seemed cautious about taking on the mission. "It only would make sense that if the Tok'ra have heard about it, the Goa'uld have too and the last thing we want is to walk into trouble."
Sam shook her head and clutched her remote in her suddenly sweaty palm. This was the selling point. If the colonel and General Hammond deemed it too dangerous, there would be no mission. And she firmly believed that this would present them with a great opportunity to gain technology they so badly needed in their fight against the Goa'uld.
"I agree sir. Since I had the very same misgivings that you did when I first made the discovery, I looked for anything that seemed out of the ordinary."
She'd learned from the colonel to expect the unexpected, and found his outside-of-the-box style of attacking a problem to be extremely fascinating, and one she tried to emulate.
"And? Therefore?" Jack's eyebrows rose to his hairline as his hands urged her to continue.
"According to the Tok'ra intel, this planet is ruled by a minor Goa'uld, but they're not sure who it is. And I didn't find any overt signs of occupation, especially around the crash site. If a Goa'uld is there, they're not showing themselves."
"Or they just haven't found it yet," Daniel sounded confident in his supposition. "Maybe for once all our hard work is paying off. I say we go."
"I too believe it to be an acceptable risk," Teal'c stated calmly. "The Goa'uld do not practice subterfuge as a rule. If the one who controls this world had discovered such a find, he would immediately broadcast it to the other System Lords in order to establish ownership; if none have done so thus far, it is highly likely that it is only because they are unable to do so."
Sam waited, she knew going after this prize was a calculated risk and the colonel would be a hard sell.
"You've convinced me." Jack shrugged but still looked worried. "I guess," he added with a frown.
That frown tempered her satisfaction of winning her argument, if the colonel was worried she should be also. As his 2IC and as his friend, his concerns on the safety of SG-1 were never far off base. And she knew that the general could read Colonel O'Neill as well, if not better than her. This could still be a loss.
General Hammond turned his attention to the colonel. "Jack, you don't look entirely convinced, what's on your mind?"
"Nothing I can put my finger on, sir. Just a bad feeling." He fingered the file in front of him, tracing the edges of it with one long elegant finger. Mesmerized by the sight, Sam pulled her attention back to her presentation with an effort. How could a man like that, all macho soldier, have such beautifully expressive hands?
Her mind now safely back on her job, she held her breath as she watched Hammond's face. His eyes rested for a moment on each member of her team, before tapping the folder resting in front of him. "Your mission is a go, SG-1. You can ship out this afternoon at," he glanced at his watch, "1300 hours. That will give you about two hours to get ready."
"We can do it, sir." Jack shot a significant look Daniels' way. "Right, Daniel?"
"What? Oh, yeah, of course," Daniel replied as he hurriedly began writing on his pad of paper.
"I shall take my leave then," Teal'c inclined his head. "As I have much to prepare."
Sam couldn't keep the grin of triumph off her face as she clicked off the television and retrieved her video cassette. Behind her, she heard the sound of chairs being pushed back from the table and when she turned, she discovered the colonel walking toward her. As she watched, Daniel all but ran out the door, probably on his way to his office. She hadn't seen Teal'c leave, but considering that he moved like a panther, she shouldn't have been surprised.
"Good presentation, Carter."
"Thank you, sir." She grinned at the compliment. He could always make her feel warm with pride at a job well done.
"If we're to keep to our schedule, we'll have to hustle. See you in the gate room in a couple of hours. And keep in mind we'll have quite a hike before we get to your space wreck, so pack accordingly."
"You can count on me, sir."
"I know I can, Carter. It's Daniel I'm worried about. Knowing him, he'll try to stuff thirty pounds of books in his backpack."
Sam gathered her notes and files into her arms and turned to leave. "If you want, I'll look in on him before I suit up in the locker room, sir."
What she really wanted to do was to get him to spill just what was bothering him about this mission; they'd gone in with worse intel in the past. So why was he so antsy about this one?
"That would be a plus, Carter and save me from hearing him bellyache about how heavy his pack is after he'd been walking for about a mile in the hot sun."
He looked at his watch and tapped the crystal. "Well, I'm off to pack some extra ammo and C-4 in my backpack." He grinned at her as she realized that his statement had startled her, his words so close to her own thoughts. "You can never have enough C-4."
"I'd heard that, sir," Sam returned his grin as her mind busily calculated the additional ordinance she could stuff into her pack.
Jack was the first to the gate room, with Teal'c a close second. As usual, Daniel was still in the locker room. He nodded as Teal'c strode to the edge of the ramp and stood there, staring at the quiet Stargate.
Jack checked his vest for the extra clips of ammo he'd stashed there. Although the reports said their mission should be short and quiet for some reason he felt like it might come in handy, along with the extra bricks of C-4 he'd placed in another pocket. He liked to call it his ounce of prevention, and if that ounce weighed a bit more than that, well, it would be worth carrying it around if he needed it. And if he didn't, well, he'd still rather have it than not.
Captain Carter appeared; her blue eyes bright with anticipation at the coming mission. She had a day of poking around in the dirt to look forward to, along with any stray bits of alien technology they might unearth from the crash site. He so loved to watch her putter about scientifically.
"Carter," Jack acknowledged her with a nod.
"I hope you packed something besides your gadgets," Jack motioned toward her backpack.
Her reply was a nod and a terse smile as she patted the weapon she clutched in her hands.
"No surprises this time, I hope."
"No, sir. I checked the readings and we won't even come close to the coronasphere of our sun."
Jack nodded but couldn't help but wonder if she knew what she was talking about. Then he chided himself. 'Come on, Jack. This is Carter we're talking about. A woman who is way smarter than you'll ever be.'
"Daniel," Jack's voice was deceptively soft, but somehow he was able to make that one word into a question as he watched Daniel arrive in the gate room, out of breath from the run from the locker room.
"Jack," Daniel answered cautiously, as if he suspected a trap hidden within the seemingly innocent greeting.
"It's about time you showed up," Jack watched Daniel struggle to put on his backpack.
"I still don't understand why I have to pack extra ammunition. I had to leave out some of my texts, ones that I might need once we find that crash site."
"If you need them we'll just dial the gate," Jack said firmly. "But in the meantime, if I find out you hid it in your locker after I left . . ." he left the threat unsaid.
"Don't worry, it's still here," Daniel pointed to the bulging pack on his back, and then muttered to himself. "Though I think it's a waste of valuable space."
"I heard that," Jack called out.
The gate began to rotate noisily. "Chevron one, encoded."
"Chevron six, encoded."
General George Hammond watched as his premiere team gathered in the gate room. Dr. Jackson had replaced the green scarf with a floppy-brimmed boonie hat and appeared to be having some trouble with his backpack. Jack stood watching as the gate rotated and chevrons locked into place. He appeared to be tense, but eager to go. Teal'c, well, even after two years, the man was hard to read.
"Chevron seven, locked," chanted Sergeant Walters as a plume of blue exploded from theorifice and then settled back to reside inside the confines of the ring of naquadah.
George bent over to speak directly into the microphone, "SG-1, you have a go. Godspeed, people." He watched somberly as Jack sketched a sloppy salute and then followed his team through the gate.
'And god help us all if I'm sending you into a bad situation just to satisfy the bean counters at the Pentagon.'