The briefing room at the SGC was playing host to another intergalactic meeting. General George Hammond gave a silent sigh as he gazed down the expanse of the conference table. There were times he still couldn't believe the situation he found himself in charge of - the SGC and the concepts it ran on were just so unique that many times he found himself flying by the seat of his pants.
His gaze lingered on the only other member of the SGC to actually be attending the briefing; Colonel Jack O'Neill. The guards didn't count - they saw 'everything' and never breathed a word. That was their duty and they did it well.
He was proud of the guards - as he was proud of all the personnel under his command - they all did a phenomenal job knowing that they would get no outside recognition of their achievements. They did what they did out of a love of duty, and a love of planet; many had died for their dedication.
Then there were the 'stars' of the command; the SG teams. Men and women that volunteered to serve in a manner that nobody could have been expected to believe. These brave young souls had literally saved entire civilisations. What more could anybody ask of a person?
Finally, of course, there was SG-1. Four souls that meshed to form the most cohesive and effective unit this old soldier had ever seen. Any one of the trials that this team had gone through would be too much for most people but SG-1 always came back for more. Even among their enemies, SG-1 had attained the status of legend.
The Goa'uld targeted SGC personnel that went off planet; Chronos had warned that they would. The Tok'ra had long ago passed the word that the members of SG-1 had something worse to face if they were captured. This SG team was the prize that every System Lord wanted - they wanted to be the Goa'uld that finally defeated the Tau'ri's champion team. Naturally he'd told SG-1. They'd earned the right to step down from active duty and away from the danger. Surprising him not one bit, they'd refused his offer and continued to do what they did best. Explore through the Stargate.
The word had quickly spread through the base. Nothing work related was ever discussed where it shouldn't be - gossip on the other hand - was a natural part of a sealed base; SG-1 had always been the source of the best stories. The fact that SG-1 left through the Gate knowing full well the price on their heads if captured soon became common knowledge - another layer to add to the legend.
One quarter of that legend slammed his hand down on the table and said, "No!" The other people seated at the table literally jumped in their seats. There were four members of the Tok'ra - including Anise, as well as two Tollan representatives. The Tok'ra High Council had contacted the SGC the previous day requesting an urgent meeting with the SGC - Hammond and O'Neill in particular.
Anise turned her gaze to the source of the outburst and said, "Colonel O'Neill, I do not understand. What do you mean, 'no'?"
George Hammond sighed again. It was going to be one of those days. Jack had the look on his face that signalled that he had lost all patience with the goings on around him and was ready to let fly with some of his trademark sarcastic witticisms. Silently, General Hammond began to compose his speech to the President explaining why the Tok'ra and the Tollans had broken off diplomatic relations. Well, Mr. President. Colonel O'Neill said...
In a tone of voice reminiscent of an icy wind, O'Neill said, "No. Little word. Means the opposite of yes."
Anise turned to General Hammond, her tone reproving, she said, "General Hammond, in the interests of the Tok'ra/Earth Alliance..."
"Stop right there, Anise" interrupted O'Neill. "You came here to get the help of the SGC, in particular SG-1. As commander of my team I am saying no. In fact, I'm saying no way in hell!
"What gives you people the right to ask us this? My team and I have put up with a lot for the sake of harmony with our allies. Need I remind you about those damn armbands? Not this time!"
O'Neill glared at the alien representatives around the table. "In fact, I have a few words to say to you all. This is my personal viewpoint and not the official stance of the SGC so you will bear no ill will towards the General or the rest of the SGC. Just me. Is that clear?"
Hammond watched as Jack raised his hand to his neck and said, "I've had it up to here with your sanctimonious attitudes. You treat the SGC - and my team in particular - as your own personal problem solvers cum experimental subjects and I'm sick of it!
"Lose something on a hostile planet - oh I know, we'll ask the Tau'ri to fetch it back. New technology to test - or better yet, ancient technology to test that we're not really sure how it works - it's all right, we'll use the humans. Oh no! There are enemy forces in the area but it is not a politically expedient time to act, the galactic situation is too tense. No problem. We'll get the humans to handle it."
General George Hammond outwardly kept an impassive face, while inwardly he cheered Jack on. It was about time somebody called their allies on their attitudes. The guards had no qualms about showing their feelings and grinned openly at the discomfiture of the alien representatives. From the look on his face, Colonel O'Neill was just warming up.
"We've been using our gate for a little less than five years and I don't doubt that we've stumbled into a whole mess of trouble that we weren't ready for, but we've at least tried to rise to the occasion. I don't deny that we've made mistakes, but, when we have, we've done our best to try to rectify them.
"Along the way we've done a lot of good too. 'Primitive' as we are, we've managed to save entire civilisations. Civilisations you and your people have ignored.
"We've saved a lot of lives - some of yours included - and we've never given in or given up. We've killed Ra, Seth, Hathor, Ammonet and Sokar. Apophis we've handled so many times that I've lost track. We've even helped the Asgard battle their mortal enemy; and still you say we are not advanced enough to be trusted with full intelligence briefings on the state of play in the galaxy or with some of your more niftier toys.
"Other races come to us for help. Some more advanced than us, some less. Why? They know that if we can help, we'll try. That's why. It's getting to the point where I'm starting to think of the SGC as the galaxy's police force. The races like the Tollans, Tok'ra, Asgard and Nox seem disinclined to do anything unless it's on a multi-planetary level. That leaves us to sort out the messes that the galaxy's bloody aristocracy consider beneath their notice."
O'Neill levelled a glare at the subjects of his wrath.
"We haven't seen you ever unless there was something wrong somewhere, and here you are - again. The Tollans - who have always claimed to be above such things as fighting the Goa'uld - have been aiding Tok'ra scientists in creating a new class of battle glider and you've gone and been so careless as to lose one!
"To top it all off, it's crashed onto a planet in disputed space. You know it's within two days travel of the Gate on the planet because the survivor has managed to get a signal through. So you thought, why not call the Tau'ri, their teams go through to other planets all the time. They should have no problem manoeuvring round the Jaffa and Goa'uld on the planet to retrieve the survivor and the data crystals and then destroy the ship."
O'Neill straightened in his seat. Eyes intent, voice firm, he said, "Stop treating us as your get out of jail free card. If we're going to be allies, treat us as such. Don't pop through the Stargate, tell us what's wrong and demand our assistance. Try asking for it politely. You'll get much better results."
O'Neill stood to the accompaniment of profound silence. Quietly, he said, "General. Request permission to leave."
O'Neill turned to leave and General Hammond sat and surveyed the faces of their abashed guests. The Colonel had spoken a few home truths that had needed to be heard, but it was a bitter pill for their guests to swallow. Hammond was just about to break the silence when he noticed Anise staring at something. Knowing full well what he would see, Hammond turned to see Colonel Jack O'Neill standing at attention just next to the entrance to the briefing room.
O'Neill stared directly at him and said, "Two hours, General."
O'Neill quickly departed the briefing room.
Anise turned to one of the two Tollan representatives and they shared a confused glance. She turned to the General and said, "General, I do not understand the Colonel's last remark."
General George Hammond gave the Tok'ra scientist a tight smile and said, "He was telling me that SG-1 will be geared up and ready to depart on the rescue mission in two hours."
Anise blinked and suddenly it was Freya's voice that the General heard. She said, "General, forgive me but we do not understand. We were under the impression that you were refusing to assist us."
General Hammond gave the assembled representatives a pointed glare of his own.
"Colonel O'Neill said a few things that needed to be said. The men and women of this command deserve better than your condescending attitude to the risks they take every day. SG-1 in particular. As the Tok'ra well know - after all they gave us the information - SG-1 has a greater price on their heads than some members of the Tok'ra High Council.
"Having said that, you indicated that there was a survivor. SG-1 will not allow anyone to fall into hostile hands if there is even the remotest chance that something can be done to save them. They'll be ready in two hours. If you don't have the stomach to at least attempt a rescue, they'll do it for you.
"Now then, we have a lot of work to do in the next two hours. What can you tell me of the defences in and around the immediate vicinity of the planet's Stargate?"