Author Topic: Chapter 8  (Read 5642 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Daen

  • Administrator
  • We Don't Care
  • *****
  • Posts: 525
  • Karma: +1/-0
Chapter 8
« on: July 29, 2022, 04:31:49 AM »
Argyros waited in the forest outside the clearing for the Elder and her chieftain to clear out. Four of his countrymen each stood next to a fully-loaded cart of food drawn by a borhok. The beasts were slow-moving and heavy, but extremely strong and durable; perfect for this kind of work. Especially considering using a skimmer to haul the food would definitely draw attention from the Zau. It helped that their naturally docile nature made them difficult to scare or upset.

Frankly, he sometimes envied them.

As soon as the coast was clear, he signaled the others, and the convoy began moving towards the portal. He winked at the pair of Zau watchdogs he'd bribed earlier, who waved back, and set to work on the control device. Opening the portal to his home was easy; he'd done that hundreds of times, but then he set to the harder work as the convoy moved through. Using a specialized device given to all convoy leaders, he tapped into the control device's memory banks, and sifted through the data there. Symbols flashed past the wrist-screen in combinations of six, and he recognized them all. Not one was unfamiliar.

He paused the display, with a rising feeling of confusion. The tau'ri and his recruits had left through the portal; he'd witnessed that. The crystals within the control device maintained imprints of the most recent worlds visited from here, but not in what order they'd been visited. He recognized all those worlds, most of them from personal experience, and he would have heard if there were any new arrivals to any of them. Where had they gone?

Grudgingly, he had to respect the young tau'ri man. He must have gone through two separate portals. It was an old trick, certainly, but a good one. With the number of worlds listed here, and the number of worlds each connecting to those, his chances of finding the other tau'ri had just jumped past difficult, and straight into impossible.

With a rueful smile, he wiped the portal's recent travel history, erasing his world's coordinates, and stepped through it.

-.-

"What about P2V-829?"

Tony and Ahardt both stared at the 'gate list, coming up with a list of where to go next after their successful trip to Cartago. Outside the command tent, they could hear the new recruits being shown around by Blake.

"Refresh my memory."

Ahardt scanned the limited information on the laptop. "Let’s see… the locals were a nomadic tribe until a few years ago. It says here that the SGC warned the locals they’d settled on a flood-plain. Their new settlement is about a mile from their ‘gate."

"Add it to the list."

"How about P3X-779?"

"No, I was just there. That one’s uninhabited. Put it on the list of backup planets."

"Right. Um… P5C-353?"

Tony paused. "Better make a third list. Planets no one should visit."

Ahardt looked up. "Ah. Goa’uld stronghold?"

"Worse. It’s uninhabitable. There’s no atmosphere there."

"Gotcha. Big red ‘x’ confirmed." Ahardt yawned and stretched for a second. "I don't know, boss. There's still a lot of possibilities here."

Tony glanced at Ahardt, startled. "Boss?"

"Well, you're more than just a Colonel now, remember. The people here could be all that's left of the SGC, and you're in charge. I can't promote you, but I suppose I could try calling you 'jefe'. Or 'kemosabe'?"

Tony had to chuckle at that. "I guess I can't exactly court-martial you or anything."

"Sometimes that's the only protection I've got." Ahardt grinned. "Boss it is."

"Just… make sure the recruits stick with 'sir', ok, Captain? Or I'll start calling you Screech."

That brought Ahardt up short. He looked back with shock and chagrin. "That’s what Temens used to call me. She told you?"

"I overheard it several times. What did it mean, anyway?"

Ahardt laughed. "My car has loud brakes, especially when I make turns. I gave her a lift once when her own car died, and she started joking that it sounded like I was in a high-speed chase or something. I wonder if I’ll ever see that car again…" He shook his head at the memory and looked back at Tony. "I’ll make sure they keep it formal… boss."

The tent rustled as he spoke, and Hargrove stepped in, followed by Cayo. He saluted, then looked curiously at Ahardt. "Boss?"

"Long story. Welcome back. I heard you got back with quite a group. Nice job, you two."

Cayo remained quiet as usual, but Hargrove smiled slightly in response. "Seventeen from Zau, thanks. You got six from Cartago, I heard?"

Ahardt nodded. "The Byrsa are eager to fight, but there were only a few hundred who heard the pitch. We're going over other possibilities now." He pointed at the laptop on the strategy table. "Even when we rule out human worlds currently under Goa'uld control, and worlds with entirely peaceful populations, we've still got a long list."

"What about Cimmeria? They must still be upset about the Goa'uld attack last year."

"Not a good idea." Ahardt touched his still-puffy eye gingerly. "Turns out most of them blame us for that. And they're right. We messed up the asgard technology that was protecting them, and they lost a few thousand people because of it. I doubt we'll find anyone there who won't just punch us in the face for our troubles."

"We still have a list of about a dozen worlds." Tony put in. "I'll draw up a mission list for the SGC people for tomorrow."

"Goodie." Ahardt rubbed his hands together. "My chance to catch up to you, Hargrove."

"You won't get that chance, Ahardt. I've got another job for you."

Not many people could combine looking crestfallen with curious, but Ahardt was one of them. Over his confusion, Hargrove spoke up. "Colonel, if we're going to continue recruiting, I think we should put some security measures in place."

Tony hesitated. Security could be a touchy subject in the SGC, especially between different branches of the military. "Ahardt, could you and Cayo show our new arrivals around? Make sure they have a place for the night."

Ahardt gave him another curious look, but nodded and the two of them left.

-.-

Tony sat down next to the strategy table, and gestured to another chair. Hargrove took it and continued from before. "Without an iris shield like the one on Earth's 'gate, we're vulnerable here, sir. Anyone could just walk into the SR and start shooting the place up."

"I had the same thought," Tony nodded. "but we don't exactly have the means to build an iris. We could try blocking the 'gate with something big and heavy to stop anyone else from dialing in, but I'm not sure how well it would work."

"I think we can do one better, sir. I asked Haley Matthews and Desousa about it, and they think it'd be possible to make an adjustment to our DHD. I didn't understand all of what she said, but apparently it would be like sending a status message to the 'gate, putting it into a kind of diagnostic mode. All incoming and outgoing travel would just stop. Even better, the adjustment could be undone just as easily."

Tony was impressed, despite himself. "Sounds too good to be true. Are they confident about this?"

"Desousa seemed pretty sure, sir. Apparently, he did some work on DHD programming after the Beta 'gate was discovered in the Antarctic. Haley also mentioned a schematic that Colonel O'Neill drew based on the original Ancient designs. Apparently," he added, "It's the same status message the 'gates send out if they get buried, so the Goa'uld won't know the difference unless they actually send a ship here to check it out."

A thought struck Tony. "How come the SGC never did this? The iris doesn't always protect us, and we could have used this trick a few times."

"They couldn't, sir. Remember, we don't have a DHD back home. Not one that's still powered, anyway. Our control over Earth's 'gate is based on our crude understanding of how DHDs work. It's nothing compared to actually having one keyed to a 'gate."

"If it works, it could protect us, but only if we don't have any teams offworld." Tony looked out of the command tent at his people. "If we shut down our 'gate, we risk stranding our own people."

Hargrove nodded. "We'd have to set up a schedule, and a backup plan. Each mission would have to be given a timetable, and whoever's trying to come here would need to know when the 'gate would be open, and what to do if they couldn't connect."

Tony thought about it. It sounded extreme, but weighed against the possibility of a few hundred Jaffa pouring out of their 'gate at any time, it seemed a good plan. "All right. I'll talk to them about it. If it's not an exaggeration on their part, I'll get Desousa started on it. I'll ask him to train everyone on the base in how to do that trick, if it works." Tony paused at Hargrove's expression. "Was there something else you had in mind?"

"Several things, actually, sir." Hargrove took a deep breath. "I took the liberty of taking my group to P3X-779 before bringing them here, and I made sure none of them had a good view of the DHD when we left."

Tony leaned back in his chair. "You didn't trust the Zau, even the ones we brought here?"

"Not completely, no sir. I thought if any of them wash out of whatever training you have planned for them, and we had to send them home, it'd be better if they didn't know exactly where this world was."

"I didn't think about that. Good idea."

"There's more. I think we should strictly compartmentalize 'gate information whenever we send people offworld. Only the team's leader should know the 'gate address to the destination, or back home, and only they should know when they can dial in successfully."

Tony held up a hand to Hargrove. "Whoa, hold on there. We never needed to do any of that at the SGC. We all had that information."

"The SGC had an iris! Has an iris, I mean." Hargrove seemed to have to remind himself of that. "Sir, the SGC also has a treaty protecting the planet itself, not to mention medical people who could check us out and make sure we weren't compromised. We don't have any of those things here! We need to be careful, and I mean paranoid levels of careful, or we might as well give up now before we get ourselves killed." He stopped for a moment, apparently collecting his thoughts. "You know better than anyone how easy it is for the Goa'uld to get information from humans. It would only take a moment for them to dose us with an organism, making us compliant, or to implant us with a symbiote. Or they could just program our minds, turning us into those zatarc suicide soldiers!"

Tony gave him a moment, to be sure he was done, before responding. "Say we follow your plan, and only one person per mission has all the information. If something happens to him, the whole team is done for. Those kids out there will be risking life and limb for us, Hargrove. They'll put their trust in the training we give them. How can we expect them to trust us, if we keep such vital information from them?" Tony paused to let the message sink in. "I agree that we need to keep our 'gate secure, so rerouting from planet to planet is a good idea, as is keeping our ‘gate offline most of the time. But as for the rest, the answer is no. Everyone we send offworld should be able to come back, alone if necessary."

Hargrove's face showed a struggle of emotions for a moment. "With respect, sir, you're 'thinking with your heart' on this one. We could lose everything."

"Except who we are, Major." Tony sighed. "I appreciate your suggestions, and we'll definitely use some of them. Dismissed."

The struggle had ended, returning Hargrove's features to their usual, unreadable state. He saluted, a bit too formally, and left.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2022, 05:25:28 AM by Daen »