Alternative Destiny series
Title: Murphy's Favored Series: Alternative Destiny, following Shifting Sands Fandom: Stargate SG-1 Genre: Time Travel / AU Rating: PG Summary: With Hammond in DC, Jack has been placed in charge of SGC. Unfortunately, between touchy alien visitors, snarky team leaders, and slimy NID observers, it seems as if the universe just has it in for him.
Stargate Command, October 1996 CE
The voice warned Jack to quickly hide away his yo-yo before the intruder burst into his room, twisting quickly to get out of the way of a large slab of titanium that was being carried to the gateroom as part of the iris mechanism that was promised to the people of Abydos.
"Agent Samuels," Jack replied blandly, wondering what the NID agent was going to harp on this time and whether if he could make a viable excuse out of paperwork to avoid speaking to the man. He hated audits of any kind, but especially the ones that obviously came with an agenda.
The agent in question came straight to the point. "Colonel, this report on the activities of the SGC in the months of its creation is unacceptable!"
"Is it now?" Jack asked mildly, misunderstanding the statement on purpose. "Funny that, the spell-checker said it was fine."
Samuels gave him an unamused look. "I don't know what kind of operation you people are running here, but you people seemed to persistently miss every single opportunity to technology and resources for the benefit of Earth."
"Such as?" Jack asked evenly.
"Look at this." Samuels pulled out the page on P3R-636. "You had a planet rich in naquadah, which you failed to obtain any part of, whether by negotiations or force. And you managed to lose the alien who had access to advanced technology which you let escape!"
Jack shrugged. "Ianshu was an ally, not a prisoner. That planet was hostile, and I don't recall SGC's mandate having anything to do with starting wars."
"Well, so far your stated mandate of exploration and reconnaissance have turned up very little results for Earth," Samuels said shortly. "If this is all the SGC has to show for, then you are endangering the Earth for nothing."
"Earth has been in danger from the minute Hathor escaped through the gate," Jack insisted. "And we'd only add to that danger if we around pissing off potential allies."
Samuels shook his head. "You're trying to find excuses for a dead project, Colonel."
At the end of his patience, Jack snatched up a folder from under the papers that Samuels had dropped on the table and stood up. "Your wishful thinking aside, Agent Samuels, I've got better things to do than to sit here and argue with you. Don't let the door hit you on your way out."
SG-2 paused in their conversation when their temporary base CO swept into the room looking like a dark thundercloud. Of the group, only Kawalsky had ever seen Jack look so angry, and he mentally winced at the memory of the body count that had accounted for the previous time.
Seeing that no one else was going to brave the colonel's ire, Kawalsky decided that it was his place as best friend to break th ice.
"Geez, Jack, if a little extra paperwork gets you this riled up, you'll never make general."
Jack gave his friend a flat stare, though he did tone down on the anger at the attempted levity.
"It's not the paperwork that's getting to me as much as it's the jokers I have to deal with like you," Jack shot back, while he passed out a thin folder to each member of the SG-2 team.
"Hey, hey! Give blame where it's due, man." Kawalsky smiled disingenuously. "I learned it all from the biggest joker you'd ever met."
"Yeah?" Jack's mouth twitched in an almost grin.
"Sure, I'm sure you know the guy."
Jack snorted, then caught himself. "Remember, I get to hand out the latrine duty around here these days."
Kawalsky coughed into his hand. "Coughabuse'o'powercough."
Seeing that there was no longer any danger of getting on the bad side of a superior office in a bad mood, Capt. Lance decided to broach the actual business they were in the meeting for.
"Colonel, isn't PXY-887 already being handled by SG-8?" she asked, looking up from her skimming of the papers that had been handed to her.
"It was," Jack nodded. "SG-7 found some kind of exotic metal out there. SG-8 was sent to set up preliminary mining operations."
Kawalsky frowned in thought. "I remember hearing the scuttlebut about it...something about an argument over naming it?"
Lt. Arthur Lee grinned. "One of the scientists who did the initial study wanted to call it mithril when he determined it was a hundred times lighter and stronger than steel. Another scientist looked up the Ancient word for it, which was unpronounceable, and put down the closest he could get on the report. By the end of the day the entire science department had taken sides."
"Which side were you on?" Kawalsky asked curiously.
"The winning side," Lee answered smugly. Then, at Jack's raised eyebrow, coughed and added, "--trinium, sir."
"Too bad, I kinda like the sound of mithril myself." Kawalsky couldn't help but needle Jack a bit more. "Is that the kind of stuff you get to decide on all day, sir?"
"I also get to decide if we don't order any shipments of tapioca pudding next week," Jack threatened him. "Anyway, SG-7 found some carvings, but no sign of people. So we green lighted the digging, and hey -- people sightings."
"Could they have hid from the first recon team?" Lance asked briskly, already thinking of the possible threat a native resistance could pose.
"The geeks who ID'ed the carvings as similar to a Native American Salish tribe think they're migratory," Jack answered her. "So by Murphy's Law, of course we'd get there just as they migrated back to the area." He huffed.
"What are we being sent in for?" Kawalsky asked, serious for once. "Negotiation? Search and rescue?"
"One or the other, maybe." Jack frowned. "SG-8 didn't have any translators, but they said the natives sounded friendly. I'd planned on sending SG-2 through to do formal first contact."
"But?" Kawalsky prompted, knowing there was a but coming from the invoking of Murphy earlier.
Jack looked at his watch. "But, SG-8 just missed their check in by 32 minutes and counting." He looked around the table and let his command voice peek through. "Take SG-3 for backup. I want you guys to make sure you don't join the list of rescuees, comprehend?"
A few hours later
Jack breathed a sigh of relief when the radio transmission came over from PXY-887 indicating the return of SG-2 and SG-8. His relief turned into slight consternation when he saw that the two groups were accompanied back by someone who was quite obviously a native of the planet.
"Kawalsky?" Jack asked mildly, inclining his head at the unexpected visitor.
"He's a representative of the natives, sir," Kawalsky reported. Before he could elaborate however, the alarms in the gateroom rang out loudly once more. Behind him came the simultaneous sound of the wormhole forming and the iris closing shut.
Jack looked up to the control room. The technician there looked up from the monitors and called down to the gateroom floor. "It's SG-5 sir!"
"Let them through!" Jack called up. Turning, he made a shooing motion at Kawalsky and the rest of the people still gathered in the gate room. "Go take your guys through the infirmary first," he ordered. "You can tell me all about it at the debriefing."
After a quick checkup, Kawalsky found Jack standing outside the infirmary doors and gave his CO the highlights of their mission report while waiting for the others to finish their examinations. The Salish had used some kind of knockout dart to capture SG-2, and probably SG-8 as well, though none of the people had been mistreated. They were understandably concerned about the explosives that SG-8 had been using to mine for trinium, and Tonane had been sent to review the information on the mining methods that will be used by SGC. What he decided will evidently determine whether the mining operation will proceed at all.
Unfortunately, the answer to that appeared to be an empathic 'no' after Tonane had been shown videos of modern mining operations, despite repeated assurances that the mine would be reclaimed afterwards. To Tonane, the only acceptable method of removing the trinium would be as gifts from the 'spirits'.
Aware of the rising frustration from the senior officers in trying to convince the man without ridiculing his religious beliefs, Lt. Lee finally offered to break the impasse by offering Tonane a tour of the base and for further information of the Salish of Earth.
As soon as they left the room, Agent Samuels, who had at some point joined the meeting, immediately insisted that they need to proceed with the mining despite the objections of the Salish.
"What makes you think they won't just neutralize the next group we send to mine behind their backs?" Kawalsky asked sceptically.
"Now that we know they're there, we can defend ourselves," Samuels replied easily.
"Excuse me?" Kawalsky looked at the man in disbelief. "Are you suggesting we use military force on the less advanced natives of that world over their resources?"
"We need that metal for technological and military advances--" Samuels began.
"Since when has the NID been interested in military advances?" Jack asked sarcastically. "All I've heard are you guys trying to shut the SGC down."
"Only because your current willy washy methods have yielded no results for the benefit of Earth!" Samuels shot back.
"Yeah, 'cause we're actually concerned about aboriginal rights, repeating history, that annoyingly pesky moral stuff!" Jack looked at the NID man in disgust.
"You have to be alive to worry about ideals," Samuels insisted, "and that means being able to defend ourselves."
"If your method of 'defending' is to start a conflict with a peaceful people who can't defend themselves from us, you're no better than the Goa'uld," Jack spat.
"Sir, I think that's a little harsh," Lance suddenly objected. "The Goa'uld start conflicts for their personal gain, not for self defense." She flinched away from the glare that was sent her way by the colonel, and immediately addressed the NID agent before Samuels could continue the verbal attack. "On the other hand, Agent Samuels, the colonel is right that SGC isn't in the business of starting wars. Our mandate is primarily reconnaissance and exploration."
"Oh please," Samuels scoffed first before Jack could get his word in, "as if a minor thing like that hasn't been 'fexible' for you military."
"Not on this," Jack told him. "Not on my watch."
Samuels returned his glare with a stubborn look of his own. "We'll see about that." With that, the NID agent whirled and left the room.
With Samuels gone, Jack swept a dark look across the rest of the people in the room. He looked like he was about to continue the argument with Lance, but then evidently decided against it.
"I want options, people."
The members of SG-2 and SG-8 all looked at each other. Finally, Captain Peterson of SG-8 spoke up tentatively.
"They are willing to share the trinium, sir."
Kawalsky snorted. "By asking their Spirits to wash it down the mountain," he parroted sarcastically. Then he shrugged. "Not that I have any ideas. Maybe we should try harder to convince Tonane?"
"Perhaps we can convince the administration to table this planet?" Lance thought aloud. "We might not have a mining method they will accept now, but perhaps at some point in the future..." She also shrugged. "Certainly this can't be the only planet with trinium out there."
Jack sighed. "That would be the smart thing to do, Captain," he said pensively. "Unfortunately, I'm not sure how well the bureaucrats will listen to reason." He lowered his voice and muttered softly, "one bureaucrat in specific."
The question was suddenly interrupted by the warning klaxons of an unscheduled gate signal.
"Oh, fercryinoutloud." Jack was on his feet and out the room in a heartbeat. "What now?"
Kawalsky and Lance looked at each other.
"The colonel seemed upset," Lance said tentatively.
"Something's bugging him," Kawalsky mused, "and I don't think it's just this thing with the Salish." He shrugged and turned to leave for the control room as well. The other members of SG-2 followed him. That just left the members of SG-8 in the briefing room, trading significant looks with each other, before silently departing the room as well.
Meanwhile, Kawalsky made it into the control room just in time to see Jack angry close the communications channel.
"Colonel?" he asked tentatively.
"Later, Major," Jack told him curtly, before turning to the communications technician. "Inform Captain Carter to join me in Hammond's office, and have SG-3 ready to go out again for a possible rescue op."
He beckoned to Kawalsky to follow him, and led the way back through the empty briefing room to the office. They were momentarily joined by Samantha Carter.
"SG-7 apparently had some kind of diplomatic incident," Jack said once both officers were in the room. "Apparently, they want to negotiate with the leader of their hostages."
"Sir, you're not planning to go yourself, are you?" Sam immediate asked in concern. "With General Hammond in DC, you're the ranking officer on the base."
"Yes," Jack answered, to both her comments. "And since SG-1 and SG-4 are both still out, that means I'm leaving you kids in charge while I'm gone."
"Oh, come on, Colonel," Kawalsky said in disbelief. "How would they know who's SG-7's 'leader'? Let me take my team out there, sir. We'll get them back."
"Isn't it a little risky to have all of the ranking officers of the base out?" Sam added.
"Hammond's supposed to be coming back today anyway. If we're lucky, I'll be back before you know it. Otherwise, you'll only be in charge for a couple of hours anyway. Ah-ah--" Jack held up a hand to stop the forthcoming arguments. "I've made my decision."
The two younger officers made a few more valiant attempts at trying to talk Jack out of his decision as he made his way to the changing room, before finally giving up. They accompanied him to the gateroom and saw him off through the gate with SG-3, before returning once more back into the briefing room.
There, Kawalsky tried to fill Sam in on the story behind the failed trinium negotiations. He was just finishing up when Captain Peterson, who was in charge of SG-8, came into the room once more.
"Sir, do you know where Tonane is?"
Kawalsky glanced at his watch and shrugged. "Lee must be giving him the grand tour," he joked. He didn't know too much about the man who had replaced Frakes on his team, but he had the impression that the younger officer was something of a geek. That wasn't really a surprise in the SGC. "Maybe if we dazzle Tonane enough, he'll find something worth trading for mining rights."
Peterson frowned. "Sir, with all due respect, I really don't think we have anything that the Salish need."
"That was a joke, Captain," Kawalsky told the man.
Just then, the door burst open to admit Special Agent Samuels.
"Where's O'Neill?" demanded the NID agent before anyone else could speak.
Kawalsky and Sam exchanged a weary look. "Not here," Kawalsky answered finally. "What can we do for you, Special Agent?"
Seeing the captain of SG-8 also in the room, Samuels slapped down a sheaf of papers onto the table.
"I have your new orders," he announced to the room at large. "You are to proceed with the mining operation on PXY-887."
"What?" three questions in various tones of disbelief answered him. Sam snatched up the papers and began to flip through them.
"What about the Salish?" Kawalsky asked while peeking over Sam's shoulder to read the so-called orders.
"You're to monitor them until they leave the region, and then proceed with mining operations," Samuels replied, amending his early statement.
"So we're just going to steal it?" Sam asked in disbelief, handing over the papers to Kawalsky so he could look through them properly.
"If they do catch us, they might not be so lenient as they were before," Peterson spoke up ominously.
"At least you didn't go right for the Trail of Tears, mark two," Kawalsky grumbled as he read.
"Look, people," Samuels told them impatiently. "Let's get real here. We need that metal--"
"There's plenty of other planets in the galaxy," Sam interrupted.
Samuels glared at her and ignored the interruption. "--and we'll clean up after we're done. What the natives don't know, won't hurt them."
"I don't believe the General or Colonel O'Neill would agree to this," Sam insisted.
"Yeah, Jack already vetoed you earlier," Kawalsky agreed, looking up from the papers.
"General Hammond has already agreed to it," Samuels gestured to the papers that Kawalsky was still holding. "It doesn't matter if O'Neill doesn't agree. You're all military officers, and you've got your orders."
"Excuse me?" Sam protested, "but that is not true if the order is illegal!"
"Then you can start preparing for your court martial, Captain," Samuels shot back, "and I'll find some people who can follow their orders." With that, he snatched the papers out of Kawalsky's hand and stormed out of the room.
Kawalsky and Sam looked at each other in consternation.
"He...he's not serious about that?" Kawalsky asked rhetorically. Neither of them noticed Peterson also leaving the room after Samuels.
"Agent Samuels!" Peterson called out as soon as they had both entered an empty corridor.
Samuels turned around in surprise. "What is it? Did one of you do-gooders finally decide to follow--"
He didn't get a chance to finish. The creature that had the form of Peterson raised his arms and brought his fists together. There was a flash of light, and Samuels disappeared where he stood.
An hour later
Jack O'Neill returned to an utterly silent SGC. Although the alarms still blared in the air, there was not a single person to be seen as he slowly made his way from the gateroom, past the control room, and into the corridors.
Leaving SG-3 to secure the undefended gate, Jack led the rest of SG-7 to the monitoring room. The monitors there were off, but when switched on, revealed a practically empty base, except for small pockets of civilians who were off hiding in some nook or cranny until the alarm was over.
There were two things he saw which immediately caught his attention, however.
Kawalsky was apparently in the elevator, heading back down toward the gate room. Jack radioed SG-3 to intercept the major and find out what was going on, backing him up if need be.
Carter was in the infirmary, and so was something alien on one of the infirmary tables. Obviously, something had gone down there, and at the very least she could always be trusted to have an answer for him. So Jack took SG-7 with him up to the infirmary.
Unfortunately, they left before they could see the monitor showing Kawalsky exiting the elevator and rounding a corner just in time to see the SG-3 marines opening fire on a wolf, only to disappear in a flash of light. Nor did they see him raising his hands in surrender and quickly trying to say his piece to the alien before he could meet the same fate.
Up in the infirmary, Sam breathed a sigh of relief when she saw that her CO had returned to take charge of things. While she was explaining to him how SG-8 wasn't exactly what they seemed, they were also joined by Lt. Lee and the long missing Tonane.
"These creatures are definitely non-human," Sam was saying. "I rechecked the medical readings taken of SG-8 when they came back, and they were all blank. I think the ability they use to look like humans or animals are some kind of effect our minds or perception."
They all stared at the creature on the bed, or at least, they tried to. It was difficult to maintain eye contact with something that looked to be a jumble of geometric shapes fading in and out of reality.
"What's the status of the base?" Jack asked at last, giving up trying to get a good look at the alien.
"Destiny has been safe so far, sir, and I've put both the ship and the base in lockdown," Sam summarized. "We armed the self destruct, but didn't have enough authorization to set it."
Jack mentally made a note to add her to the list of officers on the self destruct authorization list.
"The alien is still alive, but it seems to have a bad reaction to being zatted. With the doctors all zapped away and I have no idea what to do for it." Sam looked at the alien on the infirmary bed helplessly. "Major Kawalsky said he was going to try and make contact with the other aliens and see if he can convince them to take their wounded and leave."
"The spirits are very angry," Tonane spoke up suddenly, from where he had been marveling at the fact that the obviously alien creature on the bed was one of the spirits his people worshiped.
"Because we were going to steal the trinium," Jack finished before Sam could. He rubbed his temples and idly wondered if Hammond had this much problems when he was in command.
Before recriminations could fly again, the door to the infirmary opened to admit a nervous Kawalsky followed by another of the aliens. SG-7 reacted automatically to the perceived alien threat and were flashed away from existence before everyone's eyes.
"Whoa! Whoa! Wait a minute!" Kawalsky boldly held up his arms in protest while he stepped in front of the remaining.
"Sir!" Sam chimed in as well, "maybe we should let them see to their friend." She gestured to the alien that was probably Xe'ls on the infirmary bed. "You know, as a gesture of goodwill."
"Gesture. Yeah, sure. You betcha." Jack muttered under his breath while he slowly lowered his gun and moved out of the alien's way.
"Look," he began as soon as the other alien, T'akaya, finished healing her friend. "I promise you that we'll give up on this mining operation. There's no need to continue with...hostilities."
The two aliens examined him silently for a long moment. Jack tried not to squirm.
"What of the orders from your superiors should they not be swayed by your oath?" T'akaya asked at length.
"And how would you prevent those less scrupulous among you from proceeding even if your superiors agree?" Xe'ls asked as well, mockingly mimicing the NID agent that had been his first victim. "'What they don't know won't hurt them.'"
"You can bury your stargate," Sam suggested quickly.
"Yeah," Kawalsky agreed. "Without the gate no one will be able to get to your planet."
"What of the ship you supposedly have?" Xe'ls persisted.
"I'm the only person who can command Destiny," Jack assured them, "and I can promise you I won't be taking it to your planet either."
"That's right," agreed Sam. "Destiny is our only ship right now, and by the time we can build more, we'd already have access to alternate sites for trinium and wouldn't need to go to your planet."
The two aliens looked at one another for another long moment.
"We shall agree to this," announced Xe'ls finally.
The humans in the room breathed a collective sigh of relief. The aliens' secondary complaint of having revealed their true forms to Tonane seemed almost anticlimactic after that, easily diffused by Tonane's mellow acceptance of them.
Moments later, standing at the foot of the ramp in the gateroom, Jack ignored the closing wormhole behind him as he gazed over the bewildered group of people that had been returned to the base by the aliens. His eyes alighted on one person among them and narrowed.
"Security!" Jack called out. "Would you be so kind as to escort Agent Samuels off the base?"
He ignored the loud protests from the man in question as Samuels was ushered out of the room. Unfortunately, his satisfaction was short lived when the gateroom doors suddenly opened to admit a very concerned General Hammond, flanked by several commandos who had been obviously prepared for a fight.
"Colonel O'Neill? What is the meaning of this!"
Jack groaned almost inaudibly. The universe must have it out for him.
Notes: 1. I'm ignoring the trinium arrow shooting through bulletproof glass. Although trinium is strong enough, no human could have provided the force behind it (via bow and arrow). 2. Yes, this is the same Arthur Lee as in the series prologue/epilogue. 3. Here, Earth hasn't been directly attacked yet by the Goa'uld, so the need for self defense shouldn't as acute as in canon. That's why Lance can bring up a long term solution she had. And that's also why the NID's arguments sound more like they're motivated by greed than self defense. 4. I changed the looks of the Spirits aliens so they're less obviously humanoid and more, yknow, alien. I'm sure if Stargate wasn't constrained by a budget, they'd have done the same. 5. I glossed some parts since I don't want to just parrot the original episode dialog. Hopefully the chapter is still readable on its own.