Not that I want to speak too soon, but... I think we're getting somewhere. Oh, not with the talks. No, they're still firmly stuck in the mid-stages, but... we may have just found our ace in the hole.
You see, while trying to come up with a way of somehow diffusing the pocket of Naquadria about to blow on Langara, it was revealed that the Kelownans have been developing some new technology. Namely a big, honkin' excavator, which a team consisting of Sam, Teal'c, Jonas, and another Kelownan scientist, can use to drill down to the unstable ore. Apparently there's a fault line thereabouts, and it's Sam's belief that if an explosion can be triggered at the fault, it will isolate the pocket of Naquadria, and stop the chain reaction (ie: the change of Naquadah to Naquadria), which is what was responsible for the explosions.
Uh... Sam really explains it better.
Now my job is to keep the talks going, in case this plan doesn't work out. Suddenly, I wonder if there's any room for an archaeologist on Sam's team?
A subtle throat-clearing from the General brings my attention back to the latest round of sniping taking place in front of me. Sorry, sir.
You know that ace in the hole I was talking about? Has a minor drawback. See, the Kelownans have been developing this machine for over two years... *secretly*. Understandably, the other delegates are a tad pissed.
"The machine was designed to mine Naquadria," Lucia is saying. "And according to the terms of our alliance, any information relating to the Naquadria is supposed to be shared. We were misled."
"We had every intention of telling you," Dreylock denies, "once the prototype was fully operational."
"Do you take us for idiots?" Venn asks, leaning forward in his seat. "It was you who created this disaster. And now you expect to benefit by acquiring alien technology?"
Ah... Venn would be referring to the Tok'ra crystals that we need for the final leg of the tunnel. Which... we won't go in to right now. Although there's *one* little misunderstanding that does need clearing up. Talk fast, Jackson. "Ahem. I think we can all agree, um, it was unfortunate that the Kelownan government didn't come forward with this information sooner." Unfortunate isn't really the word I'd use, but I have to be diplomatic -- still. "However, regarding the Tok'ra crystals, you really have no choice. Without them, we won't be able to reach the Naquadria vein in time to save your world. It's that simple."
Wow... that seemed to shut them up.
At my entrance in to the locker room, Teal'c looks up, inclining his head.
Well... this is a little awkward. And I have no idea why. "You about ready?"
He stands, closing his locker door. "I am."
As I've just hashed out with the delegates, because of the extra distance we need to make when the drill goes down to excavate, we really need some Tok'ra tunnel-making crystals -- just pop 'em in, and hey presto, instant tunnel. The Tok'ra, once apprised of the situation, readily agreed to give us what we need. I think they're as eager to sort this problem out as us. After all, we can't go letting the only known source of Naquadria go kaboom, can we? Okay... I *am* getting cynical. Anyway, Teal'c offered his service as gatherer of the crystals -- he never misses an opportunity to bait the Tok'ra these days. Hey, he has to get his kicks somewhere. Plus, I think he got tired of hanging around with Jack.
"You sure you don't want company, or...?" I try to smile, convey that I was just joking. We both know I'm not. I don't -- I didn't... join the SGC for this. I didn't *descend* for this. Okay, technically I didn't descend at all. I was *descended*, no real choice in the matter, but... I don't think Oma or whoever it was that helped me on my way, did it so I could come back and help squabbling councilors. We have a diplomatic team, specifically for the purpose of spreading diplomacy... I should be with *my* team.
Huh? Okay, when Teal'c says my name like that, I know to listen. I look up from my boots, frowning a little at the serious expression on his face.
"Your presence is beneficial to the talks." One eyebrow goes up, making the brand on his forehead move. "Do not doubt that."
I, uh... I think I just got the Jaffa version of a pep-talk. One that, surprisingly, works. "Thank you, Teal'c," is all I can say.
He nods again, heading for the door with a hint of a curve to his lips. After a moment, I follow him.
So, update time. So far, we've managed to agree to send a three-person team to a planet called Madrona, to assess it's potential for housing those evacuated from Langara. Teal'c got us the crystal's, and Sam and Jonas are still tweaking the excavation vehicle, getting ready for launch. Unfortunately, we've also discovered that we have a new player in the game. The Kelownan scientist that Sam and Jonas were working with? Turns out she's actually Goa'uld. Yeah, I know... should have seen that coming.
A few things don't make sense, though. According to what Sam and Jonas can work out, the Goa'uld has actually *increased* the chances of completing this mission successfully. The Goa'uld has an agenda... now we just have to figure out what it is.
As if all of this wasn't bad enough, from what Sam has said, the simulations that the excavation team are performing prior to actually going out there, keep ending in disaster. There's some worry that if the team can't even complete a simulation, then there's little hope for the actual event itself turning out well. However, Sam thinks she may have come up with a solution. I'll think more about that in a bit.
Surprisingly, the delegates took all of this in their stride. I guess that their time here dealing with this has taught them to expect the worst. The simulation news is a blow, though.
"Could this be a result of Goa'uld sabotage?" Lucia asks. She's gazing down at the Stargate from the briefing room window. A position I've seen many people adopt.
Hammond shifts next to me. "Quite the contrary. Major Carter believes that the Goa'uld's modifications have significantly increased the speed and efficiency of the drill."
Alright, now to try and put Sam's explanation of why they keep failing in the Sims to good use. "You see, the problem is, the system requires constant subtle adjustments to compensate for any changes in the density of the material it's passing through. It's kind of like... shifting gears on a race car." Three blank faces stare back at me. Right. Probably no race cars on Langara. "Uh... the point is, Major Carter isn't confident in her ability to run the drill." Not with the way the simulations have been going. "She thinks the best person for the job is the Goa'uld." Sam was nearly choking when she reported that, too. Turns out that she may very well need the help of one of our enemies to pull the mission off.
Now *this* goes over well.
"You can't be serious," Lucia splutters.
"We can overhaul the system," Hammond suggests, "and eliminate the modifications. But that would significantly reduce the speed of the excavator, and it would take weeks."
"We don't have that kind of time," Venn points out.
Now I get to play advocate for the Goa'uld as well as the Kelownans. "The Goa'uld could have sabotaged the excavator any time she wanted to. Instead, she helped Jonas *improve* several of it's key systems."
"Only because she wishes to preserve the Naquadria deposits for Ba'al."
That's likely, actually.
"Maybe so," Hammond agrees. "But averting the explosion is our first priority, and without the Goa'uld, we have no chance."
Trust the General to cut through all the crap.
New hitch. While the Andiri and Tiranian delegates cooled their heels with me in the briefing room, Dreylock went with Hammond to receive a communication from Kelowna. The upshot of that? The Goa'uld had a com device, that was being monitored. Turns out that her boss -- who we know to be Ba'al -- has been beeping her, as she's overdue to report. So now there's a distinct possibility that when she continues to ignore him, he's going to come looking for her.
There's no way to contact the excavator team and let them know. All we can do now, is plan the relocation.
Isn't this my lucky hour... look who's coming out of the elevator.
"Daniel. How's the whole diplomacy thing workin' out for ya?"
I go in for a little bit of that silent communication that seems to exist between Jack and I. Basically, with just a look, I tell him that I haven't forgotten how he abandoned me earlier. And that he should keep it firmly in mind for the next time that Freya comes sniffing around.
He gets the picture.
"It's not," I answer his question. "Latest argument is about the selection process. The Kelownans want a lottery, the Tiranians want to assign positions, and the Andaris want to set up a committee to discuss the problem."
"What?" Jack sounds as incredulous as I was.
"I tried to remind them they're facing total annihilation, but they can't seem to face their own mistrust."
I jump slightly as two hands land heavily on my shoulders, pulling me up short. Jack is looking innocent again... so I know that this would be a good time to panic.
"I think I can help you out on this," he says, giving my shoulders one last pat as he strides off in the direction of the briefing room, a suspicious bounce in his step.
"What do you mean?"
There's no answer.
I can hear the delegates arguing even before I'm up the stairs and in the briefing room. You know, it's the weirdest thing... the sound has been so constant for what seems like *days*, that any time I'm away from it, I can still hear them echoing around my eardrums. My presence doesn't seem to slow them down any. I can't help a quick glance over the railing, back where I've just come from. Now would be a good time for that back up, O'Neill.
Tuning back in to the argument, I get the basic idea. There's much talk of Stargates and 'doing what's best for our people'. Arghh, enough of this.
"What, so now you wanna go to war?" I can barely get the words out of my mouth. "M- my friends are, are trying to save your world, so now you want to destroy it?" I'm having a hard time believing these people.
I hear boot steps making their way up the stairs, and nearly sigh in relief. Yup, it's the cavalry. I wonder if Jack brought a zat along. For them or for me, I'm not sure.
You know, when Jack stretches my name out like that, it can mean several things. Coupled with the smug grin trying to break free, I know that this time it means, 'Daniel, give up... I'm about to lay down the winning hand'.
And he does.
"You folks are done," he announces to the councilors.
"I don't understand," Dreylock frowns.
"Well, you see," Jack strikes a casual pose, "we actually *like* the Madronans. They're nice people. And we've decided there's no way we'd subject them to the likes of you."
Oh, boy. That's not what they wanted to hear.
"Deal's off," Jack clarifies. "You're toast." He doesn't seem all that upset about it, either.
"General?" Lucia demands.
"Colonel O'Neill is right," Hammond confirms. "You can stay until we hear back from Major Carter and Jonas."
And then it's 'don't let the door hit your ass on the way out', basically. But Jack can't let it rest with that.
"This is what you get for dickin' around."
I think it's finally sinking in with them that there's a bigger picture here. I don't know why I didn't try this in the first place. Oh, yes... I thought I'd try a little *actual* diplomacy first. Shows what I know.
Hold up a second....
Did Jack just say what I *thought* he said? Dickin' aro -- ?
Oh, for cryin' out loud....
I feel like a new man. Alright, the same man, but with a lot less to worry over.
It's done. Sam and her team managed to pull off a miracle, and completed their mission.
And I haven't had to listen to a single 'but we want', 'no, *we* want', in *hours*. Add that to the fact that all of the delegates were sent on their way a little while ago... well, let's just say I'm relieved. Pleased, happy, *ecstatic* -- well, you get the idea.
From start to finish, it's been a little bit of hell. And I suppose it all started in my office. When I was trying to sort out the jitters I had over working with you-know-who again. Since this is the ending, I guess... maybe I should have some big epiphany, you know? A real 'Oh my God, slap to the forehead, how could I have not worked that out sooner?' moment. Seems right somehow. Isn't that the way it usually works?
'Cause it's not happening.
Well, I'll just have to do it the hard way, then. Actually work my to one. So... okay. Emotional epiphany. I can do that.
I have issues. Knew that. I just have a few more than I originally thought. Starting with... Kelowna. Or their government. For all that we've achieved here, I still don't think I'll ever rid myself of the suspicion that at the first sign of trouble, they -- along with the Tiranians and Andaris -- will hang us out to dry. Oooh... where have I heard that before? Tok'ra, anyone? Story of our allies, I'm afraid.
I *did* have a few problems with Jonas Quinn, too, and I'll admit that. They've mostly been put to rest since my recorporealization (Geez, is that even a word? And since I went through it, can I make it one? I mean, who would be more qualified, right?). He's a good guy, and he's more than made up for any wrongs he may have committed.
That's why I'm looking for him now, actually. See, a lot more happened during the excavation than we initially thought. It seems that the Goa'uld masquerading as Jonas' assistant, really came through for them. Now Kiana -- the host -- is being treated for her injuries.
That was another problem for me. Goa'uld healing aside, when Kiana was brought through the gate, she wasn't in good shape. Radiation had already affected her, burning her skin, bringing her out in blisters and sores. It was a jarring reminder of what I went through before my ascension. And not just for me. It might be my imagination, but my team seem to have become a lot more interested in my whereabouts recently -- in fact, in some states, their behavior is known as stalking. Now it just makes me feel good. A little stifled, maybe, but... good. Though I must admit, I'm actually a little surprised I managed to dodge them this long.
Jonas is standing in the gate room when I find him, staring at the gate. This position is second only to the view from the briefing room. It's not hard to guess what he's thinking about.
"You miss it?"
Jonas jumps a little at the sound of my voice, then nods. "Yeah. I do."
As if that was their cue, the technicians in the control room begin the dial-up sequence. Destination: Kelowna.
I can't let it go without commenting at least once, though. "Well, judging from what you have to deal with back on Kelowna, I'm not surprised. I'd take life-threatening danger over one of those council meetings any day of the week." I go through a portal to other planets, facing unknown qualities that could easily result in injury or death. Jonas deals directly with politicians bent on doing what is best for their own interests. Right now, I'm not sure which takes more guts.
Jonas sort of shrugs, smiling. "Yeah. I tell ya, I don't know what Jack said to them, but... they are being a little more cooperative."
Ah... they had the fear of O'Neill put in to them. "Yeah, let's hope it lasts."
We share a look that comments without words just how likely that is. We're interrupted then by the arrival of Sam and Kiana -- sans snake, I hope.
"How're you feeling?" is the first thing out of Jonas' mouth.
"Fine, I guess," Kiana replies. She's got that shell-shocked, 'I can't believe it' look on her face. "I don't... remember everything. It's like a dream."
This is another issue for me. I'm happy for her, for them both. And after nearly four years, that doesn't stop the 'what ifs?'
"The symbiote is dead," Sam reports.
"She saved me," Kiana adds. "She could have let me die with her, but she didn't."
A selfless Goa'uld? Doubtful. But I think the line between good and evil just got a little more blurred.
Across from where I'm standing, Sam shifts uncomfortably. D'uh! I could smack my forehead, though not for the whole 'epiphany' reason. Of course, this probably reminds her of Jolinar. I'm not the only one with issues, here.
The gate opens then, bathing us in a glowy blue light. Hey, that's kind of cool.
"I know you may find this hard to believe," Kiana goes on, "but she appreciated everything that you did for her. What you tried to do."
She's right. I do find that hard to believe.
Jonas just nods. "Time to go home."
I shake his hand in farewell. You know, I have to say... I'm sorry to see him go. Like I said, he's a good man... and he was an asset to the SGC. Together, both Kelownans walk up the ramp and through to Kelowna, back to their lives.
As I go back to mine.
It's not long before Sam and I end up near my office. Strangely, we don't go in. Sam is too busy in raptures over the equipment she saw on Langara. Hmm, it's a good job I didn't say that out loud, I think.
"God, Daniel, you should have seen it!" Sam is practically drooling. "It was one of the most amazing pieces of technology that I have ever laid eyes on."
I'm glad she got something out of this. Apparently, this excavation device has really inspired Sam.
"Hey. You okay?"
It takes me a moment to realize that Sam is talking to me, and another to take the words echoing around in my head, and replay them until they make sense.
"I'm fine, Sam."
Of course that doesn't satisfy the Major, though.
"Look, I... I know this had to have brought up some pretty bad memories." I can tell by her expression that my earlier guess was right -- that the same is true for her. "The Naquadria, the politics... I just -- I thought you might want to talk."
You know that warm feeling I lost around about the time that Jack and Teal'c abandoned me? I think I just got it back.
"It's fine, Sam." I hold her eyes, trying to get her to see that it's the truth. I may never fully trust the Kelownans. I may never be able to get past their part in my... 'death'. But I'm proud of what we managed to accomplish here today. And I don't think I'd hesitate to help in the future, either.
Sam's smiling, though. "Tell that to the Colonel and Teal'c," she chuckles.
Sam does a small double-take. "Oh, uh... it's nothing, Daniel." She waves a hand, trying to dismiss it. But I know Samantha Carter -- she meant something.
I also happen to know that she can't resist that whiny, pleading 'draw out her name 'til she folds' tone. What can I say? I learned at the knee of an O'Neill master.
"Alright, alright," she gives me the Carter death-stare. The one that has no effect on me whatsoever. "While you were wrapping up things with the Kelownans --"
"Langarans," I can't help correcting her.
"*Langarans*" she bites out dutifully... and there's that death-stare, right on cue. "We -- the Colonel, Teal'c, and I -- we got to talking."
"And?" C'mon, Sam.
"*And*... they seemed kind of... annoyed."
"Annoyed?" And again I say, huh?
"About the Kelownans. They were... well, pissed."
I'm frowning now. According to Jack, you can tell because my forehead goes all bumpy and my glasses jiggle. "Uh... why?"
"Daniel... they nearly killed you."
"Uh... technically, that's not true."
She shakes her head. "You died to save their planet." She must have seen something in my face, because she corrects herself before I can. "*Ascended*, whatever. The point is, you sacrificed your life... and they repay you by trying to make you take the fall?"
Yeah... judging by the fact that Sam is nearly shouting now, I don't think Jack and Teal'c are the only ones who are pissed.
Truth is, I was in the same way. Until I had to work with these people, and I finally realized... they're just people. Flawed, and occasionally foolish, but... human. Kind of.
Wow, I think I just hit that epiphany I was looking for.
Sam's still giving me those 'I care' vibes that I've come to rely on. So maybe I could... you know... talk. To her. Or, you know... Jack. The man might be terrible about revealing his own feelings, but once you corner him and wear down his resistance, he's a hell of a listener. Of course, I couldn't leave out Teal'c... right?
Suddenly, I want out of this place. Off the base, away from the mountain. Hmm... I wonder if the guys are hungry?
"Yeah, and did you see that redhead? I tell ya, at one point, her face matched her hair. She looked like a damn tomato."
I'm trying to be stealthy as I sneak up to the locker room. Since my intended targets are Jack O'Neill and former First Prime Teal'c, I doubt I'll be successful, but... it's always fun to try.
"Yo, Daniel! What're you lurking out there for... get your butt in here."
Well, so much for stealth.
Jack's sitting on a bench, doing up his laces. Barely looking up from his task, he starts in with the questions. "Where have you been? T and I were lookin' all over for you, earlier." My eyebrows head up to my hairline, a feat that Jack notices.
"Carter was worried," he hurries to clarify. Ah... feel the love. Clearing his throat, he tries for his 'Pissy Colonel' act. The one that ceased to worry me as soon as I realized that it *was* just an act.
"What are you doing, anyway?"
Teal'c is sitting on the bench opposite, already fully dressed in civilian clothes -- and not a cowboy hat or neon print in sight, thank God -- looking calm and composed. Typically Teal'c, then.
"I, uh... thought I'd come and ask you guys if you wanted to go grab a bite to eat."
I get two interested looks for that.
"Dinner?" Jack tilts his head inquisitively.
"Yup. I already asked Sam... she's just finishing up a few things before she meets us topside."
"You buyin'?" is Jack's next question.
I can't help it. It's like some sort of ingrained response as I roll my eyes. "Yes, okay. So?"
Jack nods to himself. "Sure. I could do with something to get rid of the bad taste those Kelownan --"
"Langaran." Okay, so I have to learn to stop correcting people.
"Whatever," is Jack reply, without even missing a beat. "I want those jerks outta my mouth." Apparently realizing what he's just said, he pulls a face. I pull one back. He shrugs, before going on. "T, you in?"
Teal'c inclines his head to one side. "I am."
"Great." I give them both a smile -- hey, I'm feeling generous -- before heading to my own locker to change.
Since the others are dressed, we make plans to meet topside in five minutes. I can still hear them bitching about the delegates as the move off -- alright, so Jack is bitching, with Teal'c adding the occasional 'Indeed'. Still, I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who was bothered by them.
Weirdly enough, I can't wait for our dinner. It's been a long time since we've managed to get together like this, and I've... well, I've missed it. And there's nothing like helping a planet avert mass calamity to work up an appetite
And maybe we can even deal with the last few days. Minimize the fallout.
We'd better do it soon. Something tells me this calm won't last very long. And truthfully? I wouldn't have it any other way.
|Genres:||Friendship, Missing Scene/Episode-Related, Vignette|
|Summary:||Daniel has issues. Lots of 'em. Much frustration abounds. Oh, and there are epiphanies.|