Author Topic: Chapter 5  (Read 6413 times)

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Offline Daen

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Chapter 5
« on: July 29, 2022, 04:32:03 AM »
Nelson stood with Temens on the edge of the clearing, watching the people debate amongst themselves. He had always felt comfortable with her, almost like the little sister he'd never wanted. He'd only needed a minute to make up his mind, but she seemed to be agonizing over it.

She surprised him by reaching up and touching his cheek, just under his bruised eye. "How'd you get this?"

Nelson resisted the urge to touch it himself. "One of the Cimmerians socked me pretty hard, didn't he? The little gray guy said I didn't show enough respect for Cimmerian culture and heritage." He smiled sheepishly. "I guess he just didn't like me. But if anyone else asks-"

"You got it in a bar brawl, I know." They shared a laugh. It seemed like too long since she'd laughed.

"You know, I've never actually seen a full-on black eye before." She peered at it. "Lots of burns, cuts, bruises, but nothing like this."

"Yeah, it'll do wonders for my image," he said sarcastically. "I know chicks dig scars, but a black eye? How sexy can that be?"

She smiled up at him. "I don't think the Tollan women care about that. They'll probably just wave some doohickey of theirs over it and you'll be good as new."

"I don't think so." He sighed. "I'm not going to Tollanna."

"Why not?" She sounded shocked. "You know what's out there. You know the odds!"

"I know, but Hargrove is right. About me, at least." He sighed. "I can't just stand around; I need to do something about this."

She elbowed him, harder than her usual abuse. "Even if it gets you killed, or worse?"

"Ow! Yes, even then!" He fended her off. "Cut it out! I already feel bad enough about this."

Temens stopped, giving him a pained expression. "I don't want you to… to…" He could see tears forming in her eyes.

"Hey, hey. Chin up." He put his right arm around her, and hugged her, shoulder to shoulder. "I plan on being an ignorant, inconsiderate… what was it you called me?"

"Lout."

"Right." He grinned. "Lout, for years to come."

She leaned on him in silence for a while.

"I saw you talking to the Colonel. What did he have to say about it?" She said finally.

"Just that he'd be glad for the company. I heard him and the other higher-ups chatting, and he's staying, too."

"Why?"

Nelson shrugged. "He didn't tell me. I think it's a religious thing for him, actually. You know he's big on that stuff, right?"

She nodded.

"I have to tell him. He deserves that much." She said after a moment.

"Want company?"

"No, it's better if I do this alone." She began to walk away and paused. "In case I don't get the chance to say this, be careful, Nelson. I'd hate lose my favorite punching bag."

-.-

Tony sat on a large rock, near the lab. Most of the Colonel's hour had passed, and people seemed to be winding down, at least on conversation. He could see Temens approaching from his left, and turned towards her. "Captain."

She sat down next to him, hesitantly. "Sir, I… I wanted to say-"

"You've decided to go." He kept his voice mild. The last thing she needed was to feel worse about her decision.

Temens gaped at him for a moment. "How did you know?"

He smiled. "We may not have served together long, but I think I know you pretty well. And I saw you nod when Coffey brought up our chances." She looked down at her feet. "You know I'll be staying, right?"

She nodded. "Ahardt heard you and the other Colonels talking about it."

"Well, don't beat yourself up too badly. It's the smart call to make."

"I'm afraid, sir. That's what it boils down to." She sounded like she had a head cold. "I've been under fire, before. I'm not scared of dying… but what these Goa'ulds do to you…"

"You're afraid of becoming a host to one of them," he said softly.

"Aren't you? I mean, becoming a prisoner, sir. No hope of escape, constant pain, for the rest of your life? Which could be a very long time. I… I can't face that, sir. I'm sorry." She took a deep breath, looking miserable.

"Don't be, Temens. If it helps, I'm sure you're in the majority, here." Tony smiled sadly. "Actually, I made up my mind a long time ago, before we even lost contact with Earth."

She gave him a very confused look. "How does that work?"

"Well, believe it or not, this isn't the first time I've been stuck offworld." He leaned back against the rock, thinking back. "Remember when the Stargate vanished right out of the mountain last year?"

Temens nodded slowly. "SG-1 took it, right? They needed to use it to escape before their ship crashed."

"That's right. Their plan worked, but the Stargate was destroyed in the process. Well, I was with SG-6 at the time. We were doing a normal meet-and-greet mission on some tiny little planet out there, when it happened. When we found we couldn’t get through to Earth, we went to the Alpha Site to meet up with the others."

"Just like now."

Tony looked over at her. "There were nine of us then, and we were stuck there for over a week while the Beta 'gate was being installed on Earth. Some of us wanted to make contact with offworld allies like we did this time, but the Colonel in charge of the base refused. I was about to go without his authorization, when suddenly, Earth dialed us and everything just went back to normal."

He sighed. "I had plenty of time to think about what I wanted, and how long I was willing to wait. The truth is, this time I'm not going to wait at all. I know the odds, believe me, but if I were you, I wouldn't count us out just yet. I plan on seeing Earth again, and the rest of you before that."

Temens nodded somberly, before rising and heading back to the group. Tony maintained his smile, for the benefit of the others.

-.-

Stokes looked over the final tally on the laptop. Thirteen people going, six staying. He glanced up at Marcus, who nodded gravely. The two of them and Rowe had decided at least one of them should stay, if anyone else did. Marcus had volunteered immediately. When asked why, he'd shrugged and said it was because he didn't have a family back home, and they did.

He read over the names. Colonel Marcus, Majors Hargrove and Ahardt, Captain Desousa, and most surprisingly, both Doctors Matthews. He didn't know their reasons, but he knew they had daughter back home, based on the pictures he'd seen in the lab.

"Half the people who are staying are on your team. Any idea why?" He asked Marcus.

"I noticed that. We are the newest field-rated team, and I trained them myself. If I had to guess, I'd say it's because I'm staying. They trust me, God help them."

Stokes shared a laugh with him. He suddenly realized this would probably be the last time they spoke.

"We'll help you take down the lab before we go. In less than a week, this place won't be livable anyway, from what I've heard. Every 'gate address we've got, all the intel on every planet we can remember, it's all in here." Stokes patted the laptop. "The Matthews can figure out how to keep it running better than anyone else you've got."

Marcus nodded. "I figured."

"One more thing, Colonel." Stokes leaned close. "It's about Hargrove."

"Is this about his team?" Marcus inquired. "He was one of only two survivors, right?"

"Partly, yeah. Those two teams were brought in by the Pentagon, on loan from the CIA. I don't know what their overall objectives were, but he's got training from the SAD, and he and Lieutenant Pierson are the only ones left in the SGC who do." He pointed at Hargrove and the Lieutenant next to him. They were talking quietly, but neither looked happy. Probably trying to persuade each other. "The other one's Pierson. Personally, I'm glad he's not staying with you. You'll have enough on your mind without him around."

Marcus looked thoughtful. The Special Activities Division had been around for decades, usually used to help trigger regime change in third-world countries. They'd done some good, but as with all secret military groups, had a reputation for much darker things. Still, Stokes thought, we're not in a position to judge. The SGC is secret, after all.

"What's the issue with Pierson?" Marcus cut into his reverie.

Stokes sighed. "From what I heard, Pierson's skills are in psychological warfare. The kind of person who probably would be in jail if the CIA hadn't scooped him up first. Hargrove's the intel officer. All the usual tricks, and a massive amount of intel on the bad guys out there."

"Sounds like he'd be the kind of person I'll need, then, doesn't it?"

"I hope so. Last I heard, Hargrove was fit for duty, but keep an eye on him, ok? His team was wiped out only a month ago. He may still be on edge."

"I'll keep it in mind."

"One last thing. What do you plan to do with Bonnie and Clyde, there?" He glanced at the two offworld thieves.

"I don't know. I like their style, if not their methods. Maybe they'll help, maybe not, but I'll give them the chance."

-.-

The last of the evacuees had left, shepherded by a subdued Narim, and the eight of them stood in front of the 'gate, surrounded by the pieces of the deconstructed lab, boxes of equipment, and trees.

Yet again, rain began to fall.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2022, 05:28:03 AM by Daen »