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Stargate Etheria (Stargate SG-1/She-Ra crossover)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Starfox5, Sep 25, 2021.

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  1. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Yeah, desperate people will do desperate things if there's even a slim chance of survival. With regards to magic, well, once magical healing is available - which will take years, unless some Etherian healer migrates to Earth - many people will accept magic quite willingly. But it won't move those who think magic is evil since they aren't really part of the same reality anyway. (Although a number of the worst "born the witch!" crowd will likely try to get magical healing in secret; hypocrisy and all.)

    Let's say that those artists better hope that Catra doesn't figure out how to track them down. I imagine that, should Etherians ever visit Comiket, some authors and buyers will hold a spontaneous book-burning event and/or flee the premises.
     
    Lightxdarkwing and htgriffin like this.
  2. Threadmarks: Chapter 35: The Movie Night
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 35: The Movie Night

    Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, September 19th, 1998

    “I had expected something larger,” Catra said after they had arrived at O’Neill’s house. “This doesn’t look like much.” His car didn’t have a minibar; another disappointment, but she had complained about that on the way already. She got out and stretched.

    “Catra!” Adora hissed as she joined her.

    “What? It’s true! I expected something more impressive than a wooden hut.” Catra sniffed.

    “It’s not a wooden hut!” Adora protested. “It’s a… nice, little wooden house.” She cocked her head and bit her lower lip. Anyone could tell that she was lying.

    “It might not be much for a princess, but it’s quite a nice house for Earth,” O’Neill said. His smile showed a few too many teeth to be genuine, so Catra counted that as a win. Make her hide her tail, wear a stupid cap that squished her ears, would they?

    “I still don’t know why we can’t just shoot anyone if they bother us,” she muttered as the man opened the door to his house and ushered them inside. The interior looked as she expected from the shows she had seen. Which meant it wasn’t impressive either.

    “It’s illegal,” O’Neill told her as he closed the door. “I asked. Unless you’re in Texas.”

    “We should hold this in Texas, then,” Catra told him as she pulled the stupid cap off.

    “Catra!” Adora hissed again.

    “What? Do you know how uncomfortable this is?” Catra scowled at her, then pulled her tail out of her pants. “And if this fooled anyone, your spies are useless.”

    “It’s not meant to fool spies,” O’Neill told her. “It’s meant to keep journalists from finding out about us.”

    “Can’t we shoot them at least?” Catra said.

    “Freedom of the press is a fundamental right in the United States.”

    Ah, Daniel was already here. As was Teal’c. Catra glared at the latter - the ‘hat plan’ was probably his fault.

    Not that the big man was fazed. He nodded at her and Adora. “Greetings. I am very happy that you will be finally enjoying one of the finest pieces of Tau’ri storytelling.”

    “I’m sure George Lucas would be happy to hear this.” O’Neill grinned. Before he could say anything else, the doorbell rang. “It’s open!”

    That would be Carter with Glimmer, Bow, Entrapta and Hordak. Catra couldn’t help laughing when she saw how they had ‘disguised’ Hordak - he was wearing a long coat with a high collar and a hat that hid everything else of his head. How he could see where he was going was anyone’s guess.

    “Oh! Nice!” Entrapta looked around and beamed. “Is this a mobile house? Easy to disassemble, lightweight construction - do you fold it down for transport, or do you take it apart and then reconstruct it at the new location?”

    “It’s not a mobile home. It’s a solid, perfectly fine American house,” O’Neill replied.

    “Really? All the other buildings we saw were much more solidly built.” Entrapta cocked her head.

    “It’s a solid American house,” O’Neill repeated himself.

    “I think my claws would cut straight through it,” Catra said as she nosed around in the kitchen. “Do you have anything to drink?”

    “Catra!”

    “Beer and drinks are in the fridge.”

    Oh! The fridge was stuffed with meat, a bowl of some vegetable dish and drinks! Catra grabbed a beer and threw it to Adora, then grabbed one for herself.

    “Adora, don’t open it!” she heard Daniel yell.

    “What? Why?”

    “If you open it, it’ll spray beer all over you.”

    “You just have to be careful,” Catra told them as she flicked her bottle’s cap off with her claws.

    Adora scowled at her, then tried to open her bottle very carefully. She almost managed it but still needed a towel.

    “Next time, aim the bottle at Catra,” Glimmer commented.

    “And spill beer all over Jack’s house? I guess you never learned how to be a good guest,” Catra shot back.

    “Oh!” Glimmer scowled as she grabbed a beer as well.

    “I think I could build a safe beer opener,” Entrapta offered. “Do you have a workshop? And some spare engines?”

    “Why don’t we move to the garden?” O’Neill told her. “The grill should be ready by now, and the grass won’t mind if you spill some beer, or coke, or anything else. And it’s hidden from view.”

    “Alright!” Adora stood and headed out.

    Catra finished her beer, then followed her and the others.

    “You use… open fire to cook?” Hordak stared at the grill. “Is this some archaic ritual of hospitality?”

    “Technically, it’s not open fire - it’s glowing coal,” Entrapta told him. “But it was a fire first.”

    “How inefficient. And how do you control the temperature?”

    “With great experience.” O’Neill smiled rather toothily at Hordak. “And yes, it’s a tradition in the United States.”

    “Well, there are some people who prefer electric grills,” Daniel said. “Or gas.”

    “We don’t speak about such blasphemy in this house.” O’Neill frowned at him. “Without coal, it’s not a barbecue.”

    “I think many would disagree about that, Jack. Gas grills are popular, and…”

    Catra snickered as the two quarrelled, with Hordak giving his unwanted opinion every second sentence and Entrapta studying the grill. Maybe this would be more entertaining than she had expected.

    *****​

    The nerve of some people! Gas grills! Electro grills! Jack O’Neill shook his head as he checked the heat on the grill - glowing coals, just as it was intended, thank you very much.
    “I would have expected better of you, Daniel,” he said, sighing as he took a step back. Time to grab the meat.

    “What?” Daniel stared at him.

    “I would have thought that you especially would be more respectful of my culture. Gas? Electro? Those are fighting words!”

    “But…”

    “So it is an archaic ritual of hospitality.” And the alien warlord had to comment with a nod. “That explains the stubborn refusal to change to more advanced heating techniques.”

    Jack clenched his teeth as he stepped into his - perfectly solid and fine - house. He found Catra raiding his fridge for another beer. That was her… third? Jack hadn’t kept count.

    She grinned as she opened it. “So, grill’s finally ready?”

    “Yes.” He started grabbing the first course.

    “About time.”

    “A barbecue cannot be rushed,” he told her.

    She shrugged. “I’m sure Entrapta would manage to do it if we asked her to.”

    Jack shook his head. “The waiting and socialising is a crucial part of it.”

    “And that’s why you had the fire prepared before we arrived?”

    “One shouldn’t wait too long,” he said.

    Catra made a snorting noise and took another sip from her bottle.

    He couldn’t help it. “Shouldn’t overdo it,” he said. “You don’t want to become drunk early on.” Or at all. He had seen young soldiers indulge too much at the first opportunity, and they generally had had half again her weight.

    “I need stronger stuff to get drunk,” she said. “Or more of this, but hogging all the beer would be rude.”

    She didn’t offer to help him carry the meat. Jack wasn’t quite sure how to feel about that - he would, as host, have refused her help anyway, but usually, people offered at least. Well, he certainly wouldn’t comment.

    A few minutes later, the meat was on the grill, and Jack joined the rest on the benches and lounge chairs in his garden. Catra was in Adora’s lap, trying to fiddle with the blonde’s top, while Adora tried to push her hands away without spilling her bottle. Entrapta was talking with Carter and Hordak about stuff that Jack didn’t have to fake ignorance of, and Glimmer, Bow and Daniel were talking about history. With Teal’c - at least Jack’s friend was nodding once to a comment of Daniel.

    Jack almost felt bad for ruining the mood, but it was better to talk now, before everyone was buzzed and digesting large amounts of meat and watching Star Wars. He cleared his throat. “So, the first round should be ready in twenty or so.” Plenty of time to discuss magical healing.

    “Are you sure we can’t use an accelerant to speed the cooking time up?” Entrapta asked. “Or cut the meat into tiny slices, which would cook faster?”

    “Let’s do it as the people here are used to,” Glimmer told her. “They should know best since they have been doing this for a long time.”

    “Not so long - the country’s barely two hundred years old,” Bow commented, then grinned at the frown from Glimmer.

    “Anyway,” Jack raised his voice a little. “I wanted to discuss a thing. A potential problem.”

    “And you wanted to talk about it where we wouldn’t be overheard by your superiors.” Catra flashed her fangs in a wide grin. “I knew it! Pay up, Adora!” Well, Jack should have expected that she saw through his little ruse.

    “We didn’t make a bet! You just said you wanted to bet - I never agreed!”

    Having them in a good mood is a good thing, Jack told himself as he cleared his throat again. “Well, yeah, it’s a delicate topic. It’s about healing. Magical healing. The thing you did to me when you saved my life.”

    “Oh?” Adora leaned forward, which made her put her chin on Catra’s shoulder as the cat woman didn’t move out of the way. “Were there complications? Do I need to heal you again?”

    “No, no,” Jack said. “Everything’s fine. More than fine, actually - Dr Fraiser says my body’s in peak condition, as good as a twenty-year-old’s.” Well, for a forty-year-old.

    “Ah, good!” Adora beamed.

    “Which is a problem,” Catra said with a frown.

    “What?” Adora gasped.

    “A potential problem,” Jack corrected her.

    “You mean everyone will want to get healed,” Glimmer said.

    “More or less, yes,” Jack said. “We’ve classified my medical information, so that should keep a lid on it.” And he thought Fraiser might have gone the extra mile here. “But even if we manage to keep this detail secret, should you be able to heal Hawking, and I have no doubt that you could, you’ll be swamped by the pleas of dying people all over the world. And people with incurable sicknesses.” He didn’t mention children. That would be counter-productive.

    “Well, I can…”

    “Six billion people’s worth of terminal and incurable cases,” Carter added, nodding at Adora.

    “Oh.” Adora closed her mouth.

    “And professional athletes who want to get career-ending injuries healed.” Daniel nodded. “Or just the rich and famous who want to skip weeks of rehab.”

    “You’d never have a minute’s rest,” Catra summed up.

    “Well, I could just stick to the terminal people…” Adora bit her lower lip.

    “Over a hundred thousand people die every day,” Carter said. “Even if you healed one per second, you wouldn’t be able to get them all.”

    “Oh.”

    *****​

    Over a hundred thousand people died every day! Adora hadn’t considered just how many people lived on Earth. No, she couldn’t heal so many people.

    “Well, it would theoretically be possible if you had the ability to heal multiple people at once, but even then, you would need a way to gather all of them together, and that would require a huge logistical effort… Even with the whole fleet here, I’m not sure that we would manage to collect all of them…” Entrapta said.

    “And you’d have to find them, first,” Catra cut in.

    “Yes!” Entrapta nodded. “Although that could be solved with enough bots, provided we could whip up scanners for the vital signs of people. Perhaps if we had a transport system keyed to such scanners, and…”

    “Are you talking about constructing a permanent round the clock surveillance system that monitors every human on Earth?” Sam asked.

    Entrapta blinked. “Effectively, yes. If you want to heal everyone who’s dying, then that’s what you need. And a transport system to match.”

    “And Adora not doing anything but healing the sick and wounded - not sleeping, not eating, not having fun with her friends, and not protecting anyone from the Goa’uld,” Catra said with a scowl.

    Adora winced. That sounded horrible. And not practical. But how could she be happy and have fun if people she could save were dying? How could she be so selfish? How could she… “Ow!”

    Catra glared at her, her first - which had struck Adora’s head - still raised. “Stop thinking stupid thoughts! You can’t save everyone - and you can’t save anyone if you kill yourself trying to save everyone! Have you forgotten your lessons about combat fatigue?”

    “Of course not! If you are fighting, and even more if you are leading soldiers, you need you to be rested, or you’ll make mistakes that might lose you the battle,” Adora quoted from cadet training lessons.

    “Same here, idiot - you can’t heal everyone. You’ll exhaust yourself long before you put a dent in all the sick and wounded,” Catra said.

    “Yes.” Glimmer nodded with a very firm expression. “You couldn’t heal every soldier in the Alliance, either, remember?”

    “Well, no, but I was less experienced, and... OW!” Adora glared at Catra.

    “I said no thinking stupid thoughts.” Catra sniffed. “Besides, we need you in the war, not stuck on Earth exhausting yourself healing people who will be killed by the Goa’uld if we lose the war without you.”

    Adora opened her mouth to protest, but Bow cut her off: “Yes, Adora. You can’t heal everyone, and you can do so much more. Besides, we can save more people if we teach them how to heal others. And improve their medical technology.”

    “As long as you don’t turn the sick into zombies,” Jack said. “I don’t think that would go over well.”

    “Yes!” Entrapta nodded. “Proliferating healing technology should have a greater impact than Adora healing people - technology that anyone can use is always more effective than the efforts of single people, except for extraordinary circumstances.”

    “And Earth magic should help as well,” Glimmer added. “Although teaching them decent healing spells would take years.”

    “You would know, Miss Sparkly Staff Swinger,” Catra commented.

    Adora pinched her. It wasn’t Glimmer’s fault that she hadn’t had the time to learn many spells.

    “Ow!” But Catra was smiling at Adora.

    “Anyway, yes, you can’t heal everyone,” Jack said.

    “But that doesn’t mean I can’t heal anyone,” Adora protested.

    “Dummy!” Catra frowned at her. “Didn’t you listen? If the people on Earth know that you can heal, they’ll mob you! They’ll beg and plead and bribe you to heal them or their loved ones. And you’ll have to tell them all no.”

    That sounded… Adora clenched her teeth. “But I can’t just do nothing!”

    “You have to,” Jack told her. “Unless you want to be worshipped as a goddess on Earth.”

    ”What?”

    “Healing the sick? That’s pretty much part and parcel of the gods,” Jack explained.

    “But…” Adora trailed off and sighed, wrapping her arms around Catra. “I don’t want to let people die. And Hawking…”

    “Well, we could disguise the source of limited healing as ‘experimental technology’,” Sam suggested. “But that would have to be very limited.”

    “Only those people whose continued existence would serve the war effort,” Hordak said. “This Hawking sounds like he could be useful.”

    Adora glared at him. People shouldn’t get healed just because they were useful!

    But Glimmer was nodding - and Bow was as well!

    “That would work,” Glimmer said. “But not forever.”

    “Well, we won’t stay on Earth forever,” Bow pointed out. “Once we’re back in space or on other planets, the problem, well, won’t go away but won’t be urgent.”

    “Adora can’t be an idiot and kill herself healing others if there aren’t too many people to be healed,” Catra said.

    “I’m not an idiot!”

    “Yes, you are.” Catra grinned. “My idiot,” she added in a whisper.

    Adora sighed, half-smiling against her will. Her friends wanted the best for her, and their arguments made sense, but… She hated letting people suffer when she could help. And when she couldn’t help. And yet… “Alright,” she mumbled.

    “Finally!”

    Catra didn’t have to sound so smug, Adora thought with a pout.

    “And the first round of steak is done. Who wants one?” Jack announced.

    “Me!” Catra wriggled out of Adora’s embrace before she could react. “Talking sense into Adora is hungry work!”

    “Hey!”

    *****​

    Samantha Carter had seen Star Wars before. Several times. She might not remember the whole movie verbatim, but she knew the plot very well, so she hadn’t expected to be entertained by watching it again.

    But watching it with the Etherians wasn’t the same as watching it with the team.

    “Oh! Bots! And look, a tiny bot! We need to build tiny bots!”

    “They’re droids.”

    “Thank you, Teal’c.”

    “Blond, naive and has a magic sword? Hm… that sounds familiar!”

    “I wasn’t a farmer. I was a cadet!”

    “But… they’re torturing her!”

    “And that is why you don’t talk if you’re going to kill someone.”

    “Speaking from experience?”

    “Their magic is lame.”

    “Is this how Earth’s magic works?”

    “That would still be lame.”

    “They blew up the planet? Even after she told them what they wanted to know? They’re worse than Horde Prime!”

    “We already knew that they’re evil, Adora.”

    “But not how evil!”

    “For supposed elite marksmen, those soldiers miss their targets far too often. At that distance, the two smugglers should be dead.”

    “Perhaps that was their Kyle squad? Kyle platoon?”

    “How could they just fly away in their ship? If I were in charge, the entire guard shift on the Death Star would be court-martialed!”

    “Catra! That’s exactly what we did when we saved you from Horde Prime’s flagship. Ask Adora if you don’t believe me.”

    “Ah, it was a trap! And they fell for it!”

    “That happens when you don’t have sufficient ECM. This wouldn’t work with Darla - I made sure of that. Unless we encounter an enemy with better technology than we have and better magic, we won’t be tracked like that.”

    “But I think this tactic might be useful when fighting the Goa’uld. Although arranging a convincing escape might be difficult without sacrificing a few soldiers.”

    “Hordak! We don’t do that kind of thing!”

    “I am aware. That is why I said it would be difficult.”

    “Why doesn’t he get out and throw the blaster bolts back at the enemy with his sword?”

    “Luke can’t jump through vacuum and cut ships apart, dummy!”

    “He should be able to if he had a good spacesuit. I could build one with a jetpack!”

    “They’re letting Luke fly a fighter without having any experience? He’ll crash it into the jungle!”

    “He won’t. He’s a hero.”

    “That doesn’t mean he can fly the thing. Remember how you crashed the skiff?”

    “I didn’t crash it - you crashed it!”

    “No, you!”

    “That’s not how space combat works! Ships don’t fly that way! Although if we take the gravity caused by the Death Star’s mass into account… no, still doesn’t work!”

    “It’s a movie, folks.”

    “The flight characteristics of the X-Wings fighters, Y-Wing fighters and TIE-Fighters were modelled after Tau’ri atmospheric craft used in their greatest war, more than fifty years ago. It was a deliberate aesthetic choice.”

    “Thank you, Teal’c.”

    “I told you Han would be back! He’s a hero!”

    “You didn’t! You were all mopey, Adora!”

    “Luke is the hero. Han is a scoundrel. No wonder Adora likes him.”

    “What do you mean, Glimmer?”

    “Do I have to spell it out, Adora?”

    “Hey! I wasn’t a smuggler - I was a soldier!”

    “So was Han Solo. He was dishonourably discharged after he helped Chewbacca.”

    “Thank you, Teal’c.”

    “Look at those torpedoes! They are super-agile - we need that as well!”

    “They would need inertial compensators to be able to pull such manoeuvres. That would reduce their payload.”

    “We could make them bigger to compensate.”

    “Yes! There goes the Death Star!”

    “I would court-martial the designer. And everyone involved in its construction. How could you build something with such an obvious weak spot?”

    “Well, if this was the first Death Star they built, it was kind of a prototype, and such mistakes are expected. I had a lot of prototypes when I built bots.”

    “Why didn’t Chewbacca get a medal?”

    “The Princess was too small to put it on him.”

    “Catra!”

    “She could have used a droid for that. I would have used my hair - and I think her hair would be long enough if it were magical.”

    Indeed, Sam thought as the credits appeared on the screen, this was a very entertaining experience.

    The Colonel clapped his hands. “So, what do you think?”

    Catra shrugged. “Not bad.”

    “Not bad?” Glimmer scoffed. “You were glued to the screen! You almost tore my head off when I talked in that scene!”

    “So?”

    “You loved it, didn’t you?” Glimmer smirked.

    Catra glared at her.

    Adora coughed. “Well, it was a little… strong, in places.”

    Sam clenched her teeth. The Etherians had lived through similar situations - and the science fiction setting with fantasy elements including a princess would only make it look more, not less realistic. Her team hadn’t thought about that.

    “I found it very inspiring,” Entrapta said with a smile.

    “Indeed,” Teal’c agreed. “A few brave warriors fighting an evil Empire and winning against the odds - anyone would be inspired by this tale.”

    “I was more inspired by the technology!” Entrapta corrected him. “I’ve got so many new ideas!”

    “Dibs on a lightsaber,” Catra said.

    “You want a sword?” Adora asked with a surprised expression.

    “No, a lightsaber.”

    “Well, it should be possible, theoretically. But the power requirements would limit its use. Or make it too heavy to be used easily. And probably make it explode if it gets hit. Still… I think I could build one.”

    “Really?”

    Sam blinked. How many had just said that?

    *****​

    “Lightsabers are just laser swords. Sea Hawk has one.”

    Catra scoffed at Glimmer’s claim. “That’s not the same. Sea Hawk has a sword with a blade that can glow. But that’s not a blade made out of energy. Or do you see Luke polishing his blade like Sea Hawk does?”

    All her friends gave her a strange look. Catra rolled her eyes. “Not that.”

    Adora blushed in that cute. flustered way of hers. “Sorry…”

    “You are correct,” Entrapta said. “Sea Hawk’s sword isn’t a lightsaber. Although I think it could be upgraded to offer similar functionality - though with some of the same issues as a lightsaber would have. The power demands would be much greater, which would cause some of the same issues, although you wouldn’t need the same focusing and limiting mechanism. If you use the blade as a medium, you don’t need an energy field to contain the plasma.”

    “So, it would still explode if it were hit?”

    “Yes,” Entrapta said. “The energy density of the power supply would just be too high to avoid that - unless you only want to use it for a few minutes.”

    “That wouldn’t be enough for a battle,” Catra said.

    “Why would you need a lightsaber, anyway?” Daniel asked. “You have a magic sword. Or claws that can cut through armour.”

    “It is an elegant weapon of a more civilised age,” Teal’c said. “I would like to use such a weapon in battle.”

    “But that wouldn’t leverage your advantages in strength and mass,” Glimmer pointed out.

    “When facing other Jaffa, I may not have such advantages,” Teal’c retorted.

    “And it’s a cool weapon!” Bow gushed. “I wonder if I could make lightarrows.”

    “Oh! They wouldn’t have to be active for long - and exploding if containment is breached would be a bonus!” Entrapta said.

    “But in order to get a significant blast out of a power cell, you’d have to make the arrow rather heavy,” Hordak said.

    “Unless we used anti-gravity generators.”

    “Are you planning to use a trebuchet to shoot the bolt?” Catra pointed out.

    “No!” Bow said.

    “That would be… no?” Entrapta looked disappointed.

    “You know, the cultural impact of Star Wars is much greater than the inspirations for weapons. Or it should be,” Daniel commented with a frown. “The themes of the movie resonated with a lot of people who would have dismissed a mere science fiction movie. Some consider it a fairy tale set in space. You know, with princesses, knights, dark lords…” He trailed off, looking a little sheepish. “I mean, for Earth, before we made contact with you, it was a fairy tale.”

    “Way to go, Daniel,” O’Neill muttered under his breath, and the man blushed a little.

    Catra cleared her throat. She had no intention to go over all the ‘themes’ - the Evil Empire already made her remember things she didn’t like to think about. Like her life in the Horde. “So, how about we watch the next movie?”

    “Right.”

    Good. Catra smiled and settled down on the carpet, leaning against Adora’s legs, as Teal’c swapped the cassette for another.

    “The next movie is widely seen as the best of the trilogy,” Daniel commented.

    Well, Catra thought, that remains to be seen.

    “What a cute bot! Oh, no - they shot it!”

    “This is a very effective strategy for automated interstellar recon. If we flood the enemy’s system with stealth bots, the intel this would produce… the technological challenges would be easily met if we manage to miniaturise the FTL communication array…”

    “Oh, no! The poor tauntan!”

    “It’s just a dumb animal. It’s not as if he cut open Swift Wind, Adora.”

    “But it’s so cruel! It carried him through the storm, to Luke, did its best, and now he kills it?”

    “It would have died anyway.”

    “He just choked the man to death?”

    Catra resisted the urge to reach for her own throat as she remembered almost suffocating when Hordak punished her.

    “That’s a very drastic way to deal with failure. Although I can understand the feeling.”

    “Hordak!”

    Catra didn’t look at him as Adora protested. She had gotten him back, anyway. Beat him. Not that it mattered in the end.

    “Did you never want to kill a subordinate that made such a huge blunder in the Alliance?”

    “Of course not! Right, Glimmer?”

    “Shh. The invasion starts.”

    “Glimmer?”

    “Shh!”

    “Imperial walkers? Oh!”

    “Don’t tell me you’re planning to build those!”

    “What? No. Too unstable. And too slow. But they look nice! Perhaps we could build them as tiny bots?”

    “Well, that was to be expected. If you have lower numbers and lower firepower, don’t get into static battles.” Catra scoffed.

    “They had to gain time for the others to evacuate!”

    “Should have had a better plan. Like buried explosives. Or decent artillery. They didn’t even have good fixed defences. Hell, if they were about to sacrifice the troops anyway, strap them in those speeders, fill it up with a bomb and ram the walkers.”

    “Catra!”

    “What?” The tactics shown weren’t good. Anyone could see that.

    “That’s a very, very dense asteroid field. It must have been very recently formed, or it would have spread out - the Empire must have blown up a planet in the system! They have another Death Star!”

    “I think they would need space suits for this, not just breathers. Unless this cave has an atmosphere somehow. Magic?”

    “That’s a huge monster. A really huge monster.”

    “I could take it. I think.”

    “You’re She-Ra.”

    “Well, a sufficiently big bomb would kill the monster - especially if it swallows it without digesting it.”

    “Ew. Look at that swamp! Can you imagine the smell of it?”

    “Yes, Glimmer.”

    “Oh, no, R2-D2!”

    “That is Yoda?”

    “It might just be a spy for the real Yoda. Like Hordak’s spy.”

    “He reminds me of Madame Razz.”

    “Ugh, you’re right, Adora.”

    “Vader? Here?”

    “Yes! Off with his head!”

    “Bah! That was just a dream!”

    “I don’t trust that guy.”

    “You don’t trust anyone.”

    “He’s too… see? He’s a traitor!”

    “Oh, no! How could they do this?”

    “See? She loves him, not Luke! The scoundrel wins!”

    “That doesn’t look like winning, Catra.”

    “Well, it seems a rather ineffective alternative to stasis pods. Although the energy demands over time might be low enough to make it a better long-term storage method.”

    “We’re not going to freeze people, Entrapta!”

    “See? He wasn’t a traitor!”

    “He was a double traitor!” Like Double Trouble.

    “You tell him, Luke! You…”

    “...”

    “Impossible! He can’ be Luke’s father!”

    “Why would he cut off his son’s hand? It must be a lie!”

    “Why would he lie about this? And why would he make up such a lie?”

    “I don’t believe that Obi-Wan lied to Luke!”

    Well, Catra could believe that. Very well. She glanced at Adora, who had a grim expression as well. Both knew about lying… people who raised you. Hordak looked grim as well - he would, of course.

    And that was supposed to be the best movie of the trilogy? Who wanted to watch the heroes lose?

    *****​

    “Well, now we absolutely have to watch the next movie!”

    Jack O’Neill agreed with Adora’s outburst. Not because he wanted to watch the movie - Teal’c was already moving - but he didn’t want the Ethrians to dwell on the downer ending for too long. It was obvious that the movie hit quite a few of their buttons. The way Catra had almost touched her own throat when that Imperial Captain had been strangled, and the reaction to Darth Vader’s revelation… Well, Jack had already known that they had some issues with betrayals. And he could definitely tell that ‘need to know’ would have to be carefully managed should they form an alliance with the United States - they wouldn’t accept being kept out of the loop. Fortunately, they were all leading members of the Princess Alliance, so they should have the necessary clearances.

    “Yes, I concur,” Teal’c said. “While many consider ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ the best Star Wars movie, it does not have a happy ending. Although this follows the classic structure of a tale - the second act is often focused on challenges and problems before the third act offers the solution.”

    Teal’c’s English lessons obviously had covered literature in more depth than Jack had expected.

    “Way to spoil the ending!” Catra complained with a scowl. Although it looked a little fake to Jack. And Adora was clearly relieved there would be a happy ending. Same for Bow and Glimmer.

    Well, they were all kids. Except for Hordak, and Jack didn’t care about him, and Entrapta, who often acted like a kid. A kid who could nuke a country or planet if an experiment went wrong.

    He opened another beer while the opening began.

    “See! They have a second Death Star! That’s where the asteroid field came from!”

    “No, this is a different system.”

    “The Emperor is even eviler than Darth Vader?”

    “Of course he is! Darth Vader would have killed him otherwise!”

    “All that sand can’t be good for the poor bots!”

    “They are called droids in Star Wars.”

    “The sand is still not good for them. I hope they have enough lubricants.”

    “He just gave them to that… slug? Without even telling them? But… how could he be so cruel!”

    “Well, did you see his clothes? He went all dark. Pretty sure he joined his father.”

    “Catra! They wouldn’t have skipped that! And Luke wouldn’t do that!”

    “They could use a flashback to show it! And he just handed over the bots to Jabba!”

    “I’m sure he has a good reason for it!”

    “Dream on, Adora!”

    “Shh!”

    “Sorry!”

    “Shh!”

    “It… ate her. They fed the girl to a monster!”

    “They shouldn’t be trying to make a bargain with the slug! Just kill the real monster!”

    “Oh, no! They captured Chewbacca!”

    “That bounty hunter is crazy!”

    “Or he’s bluffing. But whether he was bluffing or crazy, it worked!”

    “Oh! It’s Leia! She went in to save her love!”

    “Did you expect her to wait until Luke the Dark bought him?”

    “Oh, no!”

    “How dumb was that? Didn’t she have anyone to watch her back? She makes Alliance missions look good!”

    “Hey!”

    “You know it’s true!”

    “Well, you did forget me once…”

    “Those were special circumstances.”

    “Oh no! Poor Leia!”

    “Well, that’s a better costume than her armour.”

    “Catra!”

    “Don’t tell me it’s not hot!”

    “Slave Princess Leia is one of the most iconic visuals of the trilogy. Many fans love it and don similar costumes for events. It is also said to feature heavily in many teenage fantasies.”

    “Thank you, Teal’c.”

    “We should buy a set for Adora. I bet she’d look great in it!”

    “Catra!”

    “What? You would!”

    “Oh, no - Luke is getting eaten by the monster!”

    “Big loss.”

    “Oh no… that poor monster. Look at the man crying!”

    “The monster ate the other girl.”

    “But it didn’t know better. It’s all the fault of Jabba!”

    “Yes! And he tortures bots!”

    “Robots are called droids in Star Wars.”

    “Oh! This must be magic - you wouldn’t survive for a thousand years in its belly otherwise!”

    “Why didn’t anyone just drop a bomb down its maw?”

    “So they won’t kill the victims, duh!”

    “Can they get them out?”

    “They… Yes! Lightsaber time!”

    ”And there’s the double traitor - is that triple traitor now?”

    “And down goes the bounty hunter! Bon appetit!”

    “Hah! Die, Jabba, die!”

    “Killed by his own foolishness. He should have known better than handing his slaves such a handy weapon.”

    “Or he should have had better guards. I would have killed all of them myself for letting him out of their sights.”

    “Oh, the Emperor is small.”

    “And not wearing armour. That is foolish.”

    “He’s got thousands of guards.”

    “They could easily betray him. Personal armour is of crucial importance.”

    “You would say that, of course.”

    “Darth Vader is his father!”

    “How could they have lied to him?”

    “They didn’t tell him about his sister?”

    “They separated them?”

    “How cruel!”

    “Those are supposed to be the good guys?”

    “Leia is his sister? What?”

    “Ew!”

    “No wonder she loves Han.”

    “Ew.”

    Jack swallowed a comment. Yes, the Etherians didn’t deal well with deceptions and betrayals.

    “Han volunteered? Must still have brain damage from the freezer.”

    “He’s a hero!”

    “He should know better than trusting those kinds of plans.”

    “We need such bikes!”

    “Catra! You just saw how dangerous they are!”

    “Doesn’t matter. We need such bikes. For… scouting or something.”

    “Bow! Not you too!”

    “Cannibal furballs? Why doesn’t Luke kill the monsters?”

    “But they look cute!”

    “And want to grill Han alive.”

    “Well…”

    “What’s Luke doing? He’s acting like Adora!”

    “Hey!”

    “Well… he is?”

    “Bow!”

    “It’s a trap! It’s a trap!”

    “Indeed.”

    “Those stormtroopers are garbage! Getting beaten by a few furballs with sticks and stones? Even Kyle would have done better than that!”

    “Definitely.”

    Jack really needed to meet this Kyle.

    “And the shield is gone! Bye-bye Death Star!”

    “Luke’s still on it!”

    “Luke chose to head there.”

    “Hah! Die, Emperor, die!”

    “A fitting end for him.”

    “Adora?”

    “Uh, yes, a fitting end.”

    “That reminds me of…”

    “We know, Entrapta.”

    “Oh, no… Darth Vader is dying?”

    “Come on, heal him - use the force, Luke!”

    “He can’t heal him? Didn’t they teach him anything?”

    “And there is no spare armour. That’s not good planning.”

    “Well… that’s a happy ending, I guess.”

    “Darth Vader looks harmless without his armour.”

    “Indeed. He has become a force ghost.”

    “Ah.”

    The Etherians were rather subdued after the end credits started to roll, Jack noticed. Perhaps they should have picked another movie for this occasion.

    *****​

    “So… I guess that was a happy ending,” Adora said. All but Vader lived, but…

    “You guess?” Catra raised her eyebrows, and her ears perked as she grinned at Adora.

    “Well… It’s commonly seen as a classic happy ending,” Daniel said.

    He had been unusually silent during the movies, Adora realised. He hadn’t said even nearly as much as Teal’c. Was he not feeling well or something? Should she offer to heal him? Or was this some cultural taboo that she and her friends had just broken? Sam and Jack hadn’t said much, either. And all three looked… concerned. Even tense. “Uh… should we have stayed silent during the movie?” she asked.

    “What?” Now Daniel looked confused.

    “Did we break a rule?” Adora explained.

    “I think I remember something about shutting up in the theatre,” Catra said. “But that’s boring.”

    “Ah… technically, this isn’t a theatre,” Daniel said.

    So, they should have stayed silent. “Sorry.” Adora sighed.

    “No, no - this is a private viewing!” Daniel quickly told her. “Reacting to the movie is perfectly acceptable. Especially amongst friends.” He nodded several times.

    “Ah.”

    “And you can observe our reactions better if we don’t stay silent.” Catra snorted and grinned, but there was an edge to her comment.

    Daniel blushed a little. “Well, uh, I couldn’t not observe your reactions.”

    They had been a little loud, hadn’t they? Adora felt her cheeks heat up. “Sorry.”

    “Don’t be sorry - this isn’t a theatre full of hardcore fans,” Jack said.

    “Indeed.” Teal’c nodded. “There is nothing wrong with expressing your passion when watching Star Wars.”

    “In private,” Jack added.

    They hadn’t denied that they had observed their reactions.

    “Anyway,” Daniel went on, “the ending does match all the criteria for a classic happy ending. The protagonists survived, the hero and the heroine got together, evil was vanquished and justice and peace restored.”

    “Luke didn’t get the girl, though,” Catra said, grinning. “Then again, that would’ve been awkward.”

    “Catra!” Adora pouted at her lover.

    “You’re just annoyed that Luke wasn’t the hero of the story.”

    “He so was!” Adora retorted.

    “Arguably, Luke’s the protagonist - we see his journey from farm boy to Jedi Knight,” Daniel said. “A classic hero’s journey.”

    “He is the hero destined to overthrow the evil empire and redeem his father,” Teal’c commented.

    “He’s boring. Han’s exciting. And sexy. Ask Leia.” Catra was just trying to rile her up, Adora knew it. Then again, the movies had had scenes that cut a bit too close.

    She glanced at Hordak and Entrapta. Hordak must have realised the parallels between Darth Vader and himself, down to the armour keeping them alive. But unlike Hordak, Darth Vader hadn’t survived. And Entrapta couldn’t have missed that, either. The two were huddled together, too, staring at…

    …Entrapta’s device? And discussing something?

    “They’re talking about new bots,” Catra whispered as she slid into Adora’s lap.

    “Oh.” Still, the movie had affected them. As it had Adora. Luke… there was just something to his ‘journey’. Finding the sword of his father, facing the evil Darth Vader, trying to learn how to use his powers… Adora knew how that felt like. Being lied to by your mentor - she also knew exactly how that felt. And losing your… well, Shadow Weaver wasn’t Darth Vader, but she had died in a similar way. Was Luke as conflicted about his father’s death? Was he relieved as well, partially at least? And as ashamed to feel that way?

    Of course, it could have been worse. Much worse. Shadow Weaver had been… Shadow Weaver. Adora remembered how she had felt on Horde Prime’s flagship, holding Catra’s lifeless body after that fall, thinking she had lost everything.

    She wrapped an arm around Catra’s waist and pulled her closer. She wouldn’t lose her. She’d die before she would let that happen. Again.

    “So, that’s your favourite movie, Teal’c?” Bow asked,

    “No, he hates it and just… Hey!” Catra started to say, but Adora interrupted her by bending forward and nuzzling her ear.

    “Let it go,” she whispered.

    Catra wriggled in her lap in response and pouted but didn’t needle Bow.

    “It is an epic tale of heroism and triumph against evil,” Teal’c said. “A corrupt Empire built on lies brought down by bravery and cunning. What better inspiration could you seek for our own struggle against the Goa’uld?”

    “Well, I hope we won’t have to cut it as close as the rebels did,” Glimmer said. “And with a better plan.”

    “And more firepower,” Catra added.

    And without losing any of my friends, Adora thought.

    “Well, the situation for us is different,” Sam said. “We - if we combine our forces - have technological superiority and better doctrines for both space and ground fighting. And the Goa’uld are far less united than the Empire.”

    “Because we killed Ra a few years ago.” Jack grinned. “They’re busy stabbing each other in the back to see who gets the throne. But that window of opportunity won’t last forever.”

    “Which is why we will strike as soon as possible,” Glimmer said, nodding. “Once we solidify alliances and gather enough ground troops, we can go on the offensive.”

    Uh.oh. Adora knew where this was headed - and she didn’t want to talk about politics or war. Not now. “So, did they make more movies?” she asked Teal’c. Catra snorted, but Adora didn’t care that her attempt to change the subject was obvious.

    “A few spin-offs,” Daniel said. “But they were not, well…” He shrugged. “Not the same quality. And there are comics, novels and games. They are making a new movie - a prequel - but I think they stopped production and are considering redoing it or something.”

    “And don’t forget the TV Christmas special!” Jack grinned.

    Teal’c glared at him. “We do not talk about the Christmas Special.”

    *****​
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2022
  3. Anonymous Brainwash

    Anonymous Brainwash Ex-Lurker

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    And to think, they will not discover the glory of the Star Wars prequels

    Oh…and for those looking for a refresher.





    I would add the “new” trilogy, but I don’t know what order this came out in. And let the record show, I have not actually watched any of the Star Wars movies, like 10 minutes total between two different animated series. I know just enough to perpetuate some jokes and memes. Please do not drag me into a flame/lore war
     
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  4. macdjord

    macdjord Well worn.

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    Starfox5: This is September 1998. By this point, Phantom Menace (which came out May 1999) would have been announced and its advertising campaign would have been well underway. It seems odd they wouldn't mention it.
     
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  5. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    The trailer was released in November. But I added a line to Daniel's statement about the production being on hold, now that real aliens arrived.
     
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  6. I_S

    I_S Making the rounds.

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    You know what, even with the alien invasion, mass riots and giant crater next to Cairo, raging homophobia, and bitter sectarian violence...

    They live in a better simpler timeline than we.

    Only a few spin offs, indeed.

    Also we add jarjar to the list of villains she-ra has defeated. At this point I understand Priests position.

    10/10 best dieity in the setting beats out the Ori by a solid mile.
     
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  7. Tiktog

    Tiktog Experienced.

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    Hear hear
     
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  8. Threadmarks: Chapter 36: Spooks Part 1
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 36: Spooks Part 1

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, September 20th, 1998

    “...and we need to do this again! Bye!”

    “Bye! Drive… fly responsibly!”

    “Of course!”

    Samantha Carter watched as the shuttle lifted off and flew into orbit, suppressing the slight envy she felt at the reminder that for the Etherians, flying into space was as easy - or easier - than driving home after work.

    “Well, that’s it.” The Colonel sighed and turned back to look at Sam and her friends. “Mission accomplished. I guess.”

    “Mission?” Daniel blinked.

    “To keep Adora from causing chaos by offering magical healing to Earth,” the Colonel reminded him.

    “Ah, yes.” Daniel nodded. “I was more concerned with their reactions to Star Wars.”

    “We noticed,” Sam told him.

    He smiled a little sheepishly. “It’s fascinating. An advanced civilisation, reacting to Earth’s pop culture. I mean… we haven’t seen that before. Even contact with Abydos wasn’t like… well, we didn’t have much in the way of pop culture to show. I did tell a lot of stories, but telling the plot of Star Wars isn’t the same as watching the movie.” His smile turned both sad and wistful.

    Sam suppressed a wince. He would be thinking of his wife.

    “The visuals are striking, even for someone used to space flight, but the story itself is its strength,” Teal’c said.

    “Not everyone agrees, Teal’c,” the Colonel told him. “For many critics, as soon as people have ray guns, it’s just cheap entertainment, not cultured.”

    “It seems those people value appearances over substance,” Teal’c said. “Therefore, their opinions are highly suspect.”

    “Yeah, I’d say so too. Many of them would probably claim Hockey isn’t the best sport ever, either.” The Colonel grinned.

    “Jack…” Daniel sighed. “Well, they liked Star Wars. I don’t think they were just being polite.”

    Sam nodded. She didn’t think Catra would even consider lying just to be polite. “Yes.”

    “But we kind of screwed up as well,” the Colonel went on. “We forgot that for them, Star Wars is like watching a war movie for veterans. A contemporary war movie.”

    Sam winced. They should have considered that.

    Daniel nodded, but Teal’c frowned. “What do you mean, O’Neill?”

    “The movies made them think of things they didn’t want to think about. A number of those scenes were probably a little too close to what they lived through,” he explained.

    “Yes,” Daniel agreed. “No one triggered, but… we should have considered that an evil Lord of the Sith in a suit of armour that doubles as a life support system would remind Hordak about, well, himself.”

    “Well, I was more concerned about the whole betrayal thing in the movies,” the Colonel said. “Hordak is a big former warlord and can handle himself.”

    “I wouldn’t be so sure about that, Sir,” Sam objected. “He was raised in very… unique circumstances. They all were, compared to the average American soldier.”

    “And they are stronger for it,” Teal’c said, nodding slowly but firmly. “They faced the worst and were not broken. And those of them who served a false god refuted him. Like Vader ultimately refuted the Emperor.”

    Just like Teal’c.

    “Well, yeah, but they didn’t die like Vader,” the Colonel said. “And even if they won, not many want to be reminded of what they did and lived through in a war.”

    Sam nodded again and suppressed a sigh at Teal’c’s expression. For all their friendship, and his interest in Earth culture and customs, Teal’c still was a Jaffa, with all that entailed.

    “Why wouldn’t they want to remember their deeds? They fought a tyrant and won. This is something to be proud of - and to tell others to teach and inspire them.”

    “Well, they’re still kids,” the Colonel said. “And yes, Entrapta isn’t a kid, but she’s… Entrapta. So, we can’t treat them like Jaffa.”

    “I think they could do with some therapy,” Daniel said. “Especially if the war with the Goa’uld starts for real.”

    “Yeah, getting them therapy might be a tad difficult,” the Colonel said, grimacing. “You don’t send your absolute monarch to a shrink. And you absolutely don’t send an absolute monarch of a foreign country to a shrink.”

    “Well, they’re an advanced society; I think they have their own… therapists,” Daniel said.

    “You think? Or you hope?” The Colonel raised his eyebrows.

    “It’s not a topic that came up so far in our talks,” Daniel replied. “But I’ll have to ask them about it. This could have consequences for the war efforts.”

    “Just be very… diplomatic,” the Colonel told him. “We’re already on thin ice with the whole gay marriage thing. If they think we consider them crazy, it might kill the alliance.”

    “I think you overestimate the problem, O’Neill, and underestimate our friends’ strength. Honesty is the best policy, as they said themselves. Just voice your concerns in a straightforward manner.” Teal’c nodded at them.

    “Easier said than done,” Daniel muttered.

    Sam resisted the urge to bite her lower lip. She was an officer in the Air Force, not a teenager faced with a row in the family. “I could ask Entrapta about… talking to people,” she offered.

    “Good idea. I don’t think Entrapta will get mad,” the Colonel said, nodding. After a moment, he demonstratively yawned. “But we better get home now. It’s past midnight, and we’ll have a long day tomorrow, what with all the debriefings and reports about tonight.”

    Oh, yes. Sam clenched her teeth.

    “This was a private affair, Jack,” Daniel said with a frown. “Our reports should say so.” Sam could hear the ‘and nothing else’ as if he had said it.

    “Yeah. I’m not saying we should rat them out. But we have to let Hammond know about the healing thing. And that they like Star Wars. And warn the brass about pushing their buttons.” The Colonel snorted. “And that they absolutely hate being lied to.”

    That was true. But Sam was sure that the Etherians didn’t like being spied on, either. And they would see revealing what was said tonight as breaking their confidence.

    *****​

    Earth Orbit, Solar System, September 20th, 1998

    Catra leaned back into her cushion - for all her muscles, Adora was quite soft when you knew where to sit and were flexible enough - and sighed as they approached Darla. “So… how much intel do you think did we let slip to SG-1?”

    “Catra!” Adora blurted out. “This was a movie night! They didn’t spy on us!”

    Catra snorted. Adora was great - brave, kind, forgiving, loving, protective, honourable, incredible in bed - but she was trusting to a fault. “They only had to keep their eyes and ears open as we watched the movie.” And she was sure neither O’Neill nor Daniel had missed anything.

    “But that doesn’t mean they would use that against us!” Adora retorted. “They’re our friends!”

    “Yes,” Glimmer chimed in. “But they’re also loyal towards their country.”

    “Well,” Bow spoke up, “I don’t think they would attempt to use what they know about us against us, but what about using it to, ah, better understand us?”

    Catra snorted again. “You mean, use their knowledge of us to help them plan how best to make a deal with us?”

    “Err… it sounds bad if you say it like that.” Bow pouted.

    Glimmer, though, nodded at Catra. “Exactly.”

    “They know how to make a deal with us!” Adora, predictably, protested. “We told them what we want! Equal rights for everyone!”

    “Yes,” Glimmer agreed. “But the American president might think that if he knows more about us, we’ll compromise on that.”

    Catra nodded. That would fit what they knew about the American government. Or any Earth government.

    “Well, then them knowing more about us is a good thing,” Adora said. “So they’ll know we won’t. Compromise, that is.”

    “They’ll still attempt to find leverage. Even if they manage to fulfil our conditions - or especially if they do and an alliance is formed. They want to have as much influence in the alliance as possible,” Hordak said.

    Catra nodded again.

    And, once more, Glimmer agreed. “That’s how it works back home as well.”

    “But…” Adora frowned at them. She probably would have jumped up and crossed her arms if Catra hadn’t occupied her lap. “Our friends don’t think like that!”

    “Well…” Glimmer took a deep breath. “Not our close friends, I think.”

    Adora looked at her as if she had been told that she would not be allowed to eat anything but Horde rations for a month. Or a year. “But…”

    “Adora,” Catra told her. “Yes, our close friends won’t stab us in the back or play political games with us. They fought with us, and they know what was and is at stake.” And just how powerful She-Ra was. “But the people on Earth? Their rulers? They don’t. They don’t know us.”

    “And for them, that’s normal. Politics,” Glimmer added.

    “Yes.” Bow nodded. “I’ve read up on their history, and their alliances were full of power struggles and politics. Sometimes even between people of the same country. Fellow soldiers.”

    “That was normal in the Horde - my Horde; not Horde Prime’s,” Hordak said.

    He was glancing at her, Catra noticed. She bared her fangs in a grin in return. They understood each other.

    “So, you think SG-1 will tell them… that we liked the movies?” Adora asked. “Or will they tell them how we reacted?”

    Catra shrugged. “Hard to say.” O’Neill was the kind of man to do what he thought was necessary, no matter what. But what would he think was necessary? That was the big question. Teal’c, though, she was sure wouldn’t betray their confidence. Sam and Daniel... Sam would follow O’Neill’s lead. Daniel would do what he thought was right. He wouldn’t betray them.

    “I think they’ll be fine,” Entrapta said. “And even if they tell them what we thought of the movies, so what? It’s not a secret.” She beamed. “There were so many neat ideas! I can’t wait to start doing science!”

    That was… well, not entirely true, but Entrapta was right that even if the Americans got the full records of the evening, they wouldn’t really gain much that they hadn’t already known. “Well, not so for their magic. It sucked.”

    Adora nodded.

    “Yoda managed to lift the entire X-Wing,” Bow pointed out.

    “Big deal,” Adora said. “I can do the same without magic. And so could Scorpia.”

    Catra chuckled. “But you’d be all dirty afterwards.”

    “And anti-gravity generators could do the same as well,” Entrapta added. “Luke should have left them on, anyway, when he landed in a swamp.”

    “Yeah, that was dumb. But that’s Luke for you. All brawn, no brains.”

    “Hey!” Adora pouted at her.

    Catra grinned back. “I wasn’t talking about you.”

    “I know what you meant!”

    Catra let her tail rub against Adora’s nose, and when her lover gripped it and was distracted, Catra leaned in and planted a kiss on her lips.

    “Mhh.”

    Cara closed her eyes and enjoyed the kiss. That was how a relaxed evening should end.

    “Oh, for… at least wait until we’re back inside Darla!” Glimmer complained.

    Catra ignored her. No one kept Glimmer from kissing Bow.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, September 20th, 1998

    “We need more details, Colonel O’Neill. This is of crucial importance.” Smith - if that was the man’s real name, Jack O’Neill would eat his service cap - frowned. Jack had the impression he didn’t really believe that Jack didn’t remember many details.

    Well, Jack didn’t care. He hated spooks as much as he hated politicians. Perhaps a little bit more since he had worked far more often with spooks than with politicians in the past. “I told you that they seemed to like Star Wars but also that it seemed to remind them of their own war.”

    “Yes, but which scenes, in particular, did remind them of their own war? We cannot build a dependable psych profile if we can’t pinpoint the exact triggers.”

    Which was part of the reason Jack wasn’t going to tell the man any details. Shrinks ranked third on his list, after all. Second on any day that he had a mandatory counselling session scheduled. “I also told you that the revelation that Obi-Wan and Yoda had lied and kept the truth about Luke’s family from him struck them hard. That kind of manipulation seemed to rile up all of them.”

    “Yes, you did. But we need more data.”

    The guy sounded like a suited version of Entrapta without her charm and innocence. No, like a druggie suffering withdrawal. And Jack didn’t want to sell out his friends to get the guy his fix. “Did it occur to you that if you build up your psych profile and then try to ‘handle’ the Etherians, they will notice that?”

    “I doubt that, Colonel.” The man’s bland smile grew a tad more arrogant.

    Jack clenched his teeth. “You’re still thinking that the Etherians are kids from a fantasy land, aren’t you?”

    “We’re aware that they have fought a war and have access to advanced technology.”

    Damn. Jack hoped that the man’s superiors were more on the ball. “You don’t get it. They aren’t young people in over their heads. They aren’t traumatised kids you can manipulate with a lollipop and a smile. They rule their own countries.” Well, some of them did. “They’re leading armies and fleets. And they have experience with politics and war.”

    “Only two of them are ruling princesses, and Entrapta has shown a marked reluctance to engage in politics which points to a lack of experience - something which was corroborated with information you provided.”

    Oh, for crying out loud! “All of them have command experience at the highest level. They have been leaders of a coalition of sovereign rulers. It’s all politics at that level.” One of the reasons Jack was happy as an officer in the field. “Stop thinking of them as naive kids! Think of them as presidents and four-star generals.”

    “You’re not an analyst, Colonel O’Neill.”

    “And you’re not in charge of US politics,” he shot back. “You don’t understand the difference between naive and principled. You think because they don’t give a damn about the ‘realities’ of American politics, they are ignorant.” The man’s glare told him he was on the mark. “They know how the USA works. They know the limits of our system.” Daniel certainly had taught them more than enough about that on the way back.

    “If they do, they don’t really show it,” the man fired back.

    “They don’t have to,” Jack spat. “They don’t need us. We need them.”

    “And that is why we need more intelligence about them, Colonel!”

    *****​

    “I think Star Wars has been ruined for me!” Jack O’Neill exclaimed as he sat down at SG-1’s table in the cantine.

    “Why would that be, O’Neil?” Teal’c asked.

    “Didn’t you get debriefed about the trilogy?” Jack asked as he poked the ‘food’ on his tray. Just to check if it was still alive. Not that it looked as if it had ever been alive.

    “I was happy to explain the intricacies of Star Wars to the agent,” Teal’c said without changing his expression. “At length.”

    Which meant that he had drowned the interrogator in movie trivia and hadn’t said much if anything about the Etherians. Jack snorted.

    “I explained the unique opportunity of watching people from a society without movies to that kind of media,” Daniel added. “Well, a society without movies but with the cultural background to understand Star Wars.”

    “I stuck to technical aspects of hypothetical Star Wars technology reproduced with current technology,” Carter said in a bland voice.

    “I guess I should have stuck to military tactics seen through Star Wars,” Jack sighed. His team was learning. Maybe a bit too much.

    “Clashed with the interrogator?” Daniel asked.

    “He wanted to know too many personal details,” Jack replied. “Sounded like a stalker. I told him that the Etherians don’t like stalkers.” Well, not in so many words.

    Daniel chuckled at that, but Carter nodded.

    “So!” Jack said, trying some of the side dishes and grimacing. They must have let the Marines help out in the kitchen today. “Let’s hope that the head spooks are more reasonable than their underlings.”

    “Since we haven’t burnt any bridges so far, I think that’s a safe assumption,” Daniel said.

    “The Etherians are meeting with the Germans today,” Carter commented. “They just passed the new legislation in a special session.”

    And America was still trying to make half their politicians understand that the times had changed. Jack sighed. Beaten to the goal by the Germans? That was almost insulting. No wonder the spooks were getting pushy - they must be under a lot of pressure.

    *****​

    Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, September 20th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “...Bundeskanzler ist in Genf eingetroffen, wo er mit den Etherianern Gespräche über eine Allianz führen wird. Nach der Sondersitzung des Bundestags wird erwartet…”

    “...of the Organisation of African Unity harshly condemned the Etherians, citing a colonialist policy and cultural imperialism on par with the worst atrocities…”

    “...Canadian Prime Minister released a statement reaffirming the country’s firm stance towards equality before the law regardless of race, faith or sexual identity, although the bill’s still being debated…”

    “...while the European Union’s plan to release a statement of joint intent has been stalled. Several member states, notably Italy, criticised France and the United Kingdom for their ‘hasty policies’ and claimed that…”

    “...Russian government once more stated that their economic troubles were due to the arrival of the aliens and the effects on the resource market, not on anything else, and…”

    “...and the Chinese government released a strongly worded statement warning the Taiwanese government not to approach the Etherians…”

    “...of South Korea stated that the country would have to follow Japan’s example if it wanted to remain competitive in a world rapidly adapting to alien technology and societies. Asked about the repercussions on their relationship with North Korea, he claimed that…”

    “...and the Pope is still in reclusion. Numerous prominent representatives of the Catholic Church have been vocal in their demands that…”

    “...Swedish Riksdag passed a law granting equal rights to gay people, although it’s as of yet unclear whether the government will enter negotiations about an alliance with the Etherians. Several politicians claimed that the country’s long tradition of neutrality was an obstacle to such a course of action, although others cited the fact that the entire Earth was under attack as sufficient reason to seek allies. Pacifist organisations denounced such arguments as…”

    “...and after a long and spirited debate with the pastor of my church, I have come to realise that Jesus’s love is unconditional and for everyone regardless of their sexual orientation. Therefore, I cannot, in good conscience, oppose the proposed constitutional amendment any longer and will…”

    Adora switched off the television before Catra could switch channels again. “I think you’re becoming a little too… fixated on this.” What was the term? News junkie?

    Catra snorted. “I’m just keeping up with the news.”

    “By zapping through all channels?”

    “Yes!” Catra grinned. “It’s not as if I need to watch for long before I know what they’ll say.”

    Adora frowned. She still had some issues understanding Earth people. “And what did they say?”

    “Some countries want to get our technology and will pass any law they think will make us like them but don’t want to look as greedy as they are, and others think we’re the devil and want us dead.” Catra shrugged. “Same as yesterday:”

    “But that politician at the end wasn’t like usual!” Adora protested.

    “He suddenly found out that his god loves everyone?” Catra scoffed. “You believe that? He was either bribed or blackmailed, I bet.”

    “He sounded sincere.”

    “As sincere as Shadow Weaver,” Catra shot back with a sneer. Adora raised her eyebrows, and she sighed. “Sorry, but I don’t buy this ‘our god suddenly loves you too, and it has nothing to do with the fact you have something we want’ story.” She grinned. “Not without their god saying anything about it in person.”

    Adora frowned at her lover. She knew what Catra meant.

    “I bet you’d make a much better goddess…”

    “Don’t you start! I’m no goddess!” Adora hissed. Priest was bad enough. And the people on Earth would really hate her if they thought she claimed to be a goddess. Or, worse, they might revere her!

    Catra giggled. “Just yanking your chain.” She grinned. “And speaking of… we really need to buy you that outfit.”

    Adora blushed.

    “Are you at it again?” Glimmer scowled at them from where she was reading what data Entrapta had collected on the Bundeskanzler. It wasn’t much - Adora had read it twice already.

    “Just passing the time. Why, do you want one as well?” Catra’s grin widened.

    “I want you to focus on our meeting with the German ruler!”

    “What’s there to focus on?” Catra shrugged. “It’s going to be the same as with the French and British: They want our technology, and we want their soldiers.”

    “They have vastly different cultures,” Glimmer retorted. “We can’t just treat everyone the same.”

    “When it comes down to it, they all want the same,” Catra shot back.

    “Yes, but how they want to get it differs,” Glimmer pointed out. “The Germans don’t have a princess or king, but they didn’t kill their monarchs, either. That makes them different from the French and British.”

    “Didn’t the grandson of their last ruler propose to restore the monarchy in Germany for better relations with us?” Adora asked.

    “Great-grandson,” Glimmer corrected her. “And that wasn’t received well. Not at all.”

    “They didn’t do anything to him, though,” Catra pointed out.

    “Anyway,” Glimmer said, “we can’t just half-ass this. Germany is the most powerful economy in Europe, and their industry is very modern. If we can get an alliance with them, then, with the French and British on board, we’re set for the time being.” She looked at Catra. “So, don’t needle them.”

    “Sure, sure. They don’t have a sense of humour anyway, according to what I’ve read.”

    “That might be British propaganda,” Bow pointed out.

    “Well, we’ll find out.”

    “No. We won’t find out if they have a sense of humour or not. Not in the middle of our negotiations!”

    “Spoilsport.”

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, September 20th, 1998

    “So, the Goa’uld prisoners have refused to use the keyboard so far?”

    Samantha Carter nodded. “Yes. We have installed keyboards in both cells, but other than trying out the keys, they have not attempted to communicate with us,” she told Entrapta.

    Entrapta frowned and stopped looking around in Sam’s lab, presumably for new things. “Are you sure that they can read without a host? They could be relying on a host for higher cognitive feats and only act on instincts until they can get a host. They do access their hosts’ memories, after all, don’t they?”

    “Our intel indicates that this isn’t the case,” Sam replied.

    “But did you check?” Hordak asked.

    Sam looked at the clone. “If that was the case, then the Goa’uld controlling the animals we encountered should have been more limited in its actions.”

    “That might have been instinct as well. Or the creatures were more intelligent than you assumed.”

    That was theoretically possible, but Sam doubted it. “With their genetic memory, and based on previous encounters, it seems implausible that they do not retain their intellect outside a host.”

    “Well, the small size of their brains means that they have a much more efficient neural structure than humans if they also retain their intelligence,” Entrapta said.

    “They don’t piggyback on human brains.” Sam pressed her lips together for a moment, suppressing a shudder at the memories of her own time as a host. “My intellectual capacity wasn’t diminished at all while I was puppeted.”

    “Oh.” Entrapta blinked, then bit her lower lip. “I see. But why wouldn’t they communicate with us?”

    “We don’t know. It might be their version of only giving name, rank and serial number,” Sam speculated.

    “Or they want to force you to provide them with a host to interrogate them, giving them leverage through a hostage - or at least more options to escape,” Hordak suggested.

    “That has been mentioned as well,” Sam admitted. And some of the agents had suggested actually doing it.

    “So, they’re just being stubborn?” Entrapta frowned.

    “Or desperate,” Sam said.

    “Well, we wouldn’t kill them,” Entrapta said. “And they could have a more comfortable stay if they cooperated - we don’t know too much about their needs outside a host.”

    Executing the Goa’uld prisoners - or one of them, to ‘encourage’ the other - had been suggested as well. Sam understood the Colonel’s attitude towards ‘spooks’ a bit better now. “They haven’t reacted to such offers either.” That was amongst the basics of interrogation. “And yes,” she added when Hordak opened his mouth, “we also made the offer using hieroglyphs they would be able to read.” One of the Goa’uld had been living in the United States for decades, but the other wouldn’t be able to understand or read modern languages.

    “I wasn’t going to mention that since it was obvious,” Hordak said. “Did you remove privileges from the prisoners in response to their refusal to communicate?”

    “You mean like… torturing them?” Sam asked.

    Hordak tilted his head. “Making their cells less comfortable would probably qualify, yes.”

    “Hordak! We don’t torture prisoners!” Entrapta scolded him.

    He seemed unfazed. “But the people on Earth do.”

    “Not in America. We don’t torture prisoners,” Sam said. “It’s illegal.”

    “Your history disagrees with that statement,” Hordak said.

    “Those were crimes. We won’t torture our prisoners.” Sam shook her head. “That’s ingrained into our laws. Anyone who does torture a prisoner will be persecuted by the law.” If they caught them - Sam had no doubt that the NID would torture people if they thought it would help their goals.

    “If removing amenities is not acceptable, and they do not react to offers of better conditions, then you have few options left to entice them into cooperating with you,” Hordak said.

    “We’re aware of that.”

    “Appeal to their curiosity?” Entrapta suggested. “Show them something they didn’t know before? Offer them to do science? It worked on me!” she added with a smile, then frowned. “Of course, Catra later said it was a dirty trick, but I don’t know if she was serious.”

    “Letting them do science would imply giving them a host,” Sam said.

    “Not if we make tiny tools for them!” Entrapta smiled.

    “I do not think that giving the prisoners access to tools is a good idea,” Hordak said.

    “And I don’t think they’re interested in science,” Sam added. But they might be interested in information about Etherians. Seth would have known about their arrival, but Osiris wouldn’t have known about it. It was a decent enough idea. “But I’ll pass it on.”

    “Pass it on?” Entrapta tilted her head to the side.

    “I am not in charge of the prisoners,” Sam explained. “I can make suggestions, but no decisions.” And she could speak out against questionable ideas such as trying to play one of the Goa’uld against the other based on their supposed animosity.

    “Right.” Entrapta nodded. “So… what do we do now? Did you work on a lightsaber yet?”

    Sam suppressed a chuckle - this was the first time she had entered her lab since last night. “I haven't had the time yet.”

    “So, let’s see what we can come up with!” Entrapta nodded several times and then looked at Sam’s desk. “We might need more space, though.”

    “And a safe way to test prototypes,” Hordak added. “Plasma blades tend to be dangerous when they lose containment.”

    “Yes.” Sam had been told that all research with the Etherians would be supported by Stargate Command - and the government still desperate for closer ties to the Etherians - but she wasn’t sure General Hammond expected them to research lightsabers. Then again, she had her orders, so asking for a lab to test their prototypes would just be doing her duty…

    *****​

    Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, September 20th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “Yes, small to medium companies are the backbone of our industry. They aren’t famous like our car companies or our arms industry, but they provide the bigger corporations with parts and fill crucial niches in the global economy. So, any agreement about sharing advanced technology will have to keep this in mind.”

    Catra felt as if her face had frozen in a polite smile as the Chancellor of Germany - the Bundeskanzler - once again went on about Germany’s industry. They were here to finalise a military alliance, not a trade agreement. But there were more representatives of businesses with him than military officers. At least it felt that way to her.

    “Yes, but you also have to consider the need to keep advanced technology safe from spies,” Adora told the man. “Sharing this technology with every little company is too dangerous.”

    “I trust our companies,” the man said with a slight frown. “They have experience with guarding their technological edge against their competition.”

    “And against spies?” Catra leaned forward and matched the man’s frown. “Not just your other k-countries, but what about alien spies?” She had almost said ‘kingdoms’ - she blamed her boredom. That would’ve made the Germans think she wasn’t aware of how things were done on Earth and thought they had a king. Or Emperor.

    “Well, there shouldn’t be any alien spies - you checked, didn’t you?” one of the people in suits said.

    “We did. But there are more alien species than the Goa’uld,” Glimmer said. “You can’t just trust we’ll catch every spy. And your other countries won’t show up - and they want this technology.”

    “You might have to adjust how you do things - or implement better security for your smaller companies,” Bow added.

    “That would be possible, but troops used for that would be missing on the front,” one of the officers retorted.

    “I don’t think we want to station soldiers in factories,” a man in a suit said with a frown. “The optics would be terrible.”

    “That might be a good thing,” another officer spoke up. “Drive home the fact that we’re at war. Some people really don’t get that.”

    “Even the Greens are with us,” the first suit said. “We can ignore the fringe.”

    Adora cleared her throat. “So, speaking of the military, what kind of troops can be mobilised?”

    “Well, the Bundeswehr is still in the process of being mobilised for war,” the Minister of Defence said. “We have had some material stowed away, and getting it ready for deployment will take some more time. As will training up the soldiers we need for this.”

    “Yes,” Catra said, hissing a little. “Can we get numbers?”

    They got numbers. Lots of numbers. But all of them would take a while to be reached. The Germans apparently hadn’t been ready for a war. They had some troops ready but in very limited numbers. Still… “I think we can work with that,” Catra said. “It’ll take time sorting out how we move them and deciding which planets we’ll attack. And we need to coordinate with the rest of the Alliance. Alliances,” she corrected herself - the Princess Alliance had now an alliance with the British and the French and soon with the Germans. That would get confusing.

    “Ah, yes.” The Chancellor nodded several times. “And speaking of coordinating, have you considered our proposal for increased trade between Germany, I mean the European Union, and Etheria?”

    Catra slowly unsheathed her claws under the table and scratched its underside.

    “We would have to discuss that with the European Union, and we’re not ready to negotiate any trade agreements,” Glimmer told him. “We’re talking about a military alliance. Trade can be discussed at a later date.”

    “Yes,” Catra nodded emphatically. Her tail was twitching again, but she managed not to flatten her ears.

    “Alright!” The Chancellor smiled. “We’ve had proposals to convert submarine yards to spaceship yards. Would that be feasible?”

    If not for Adora’s hand on her thigh, Catra would have hissed.

    “Such technical details would be best discussed with our experts,” Bow said. “We would have to know more about your ‘submarines’ as well.”

    One of the aides started pulling sheets out of a suitcase.

    “We should’ve taken Entrapta with us,” Catra whispered as Bow studied the first sheets.

    “Yes,” Adora agreed. “She would love this.”

    She would also have to be supervised so she didn’t give out technological secrets for free, but yes, this was a matter best aimed at Entrapta. Bow was a techmaster, but he wasn’t experienced with mass production. Or factories - except for knowing how to sabotage them.

    Which was tempting, Catra thought with a grin.

    “Catra, no!” Adora whispered.

    “So,” Glimmer spoke up, probably to cover for Adora’s scolding, “we should have sorted out all the important points, then.”

    Like an hour ago, in Catra’s opinion.

    “Well, the military parts, yes,” the Chancellor agreed.

    “Good. I think we need to discuss the rest at a later date.” Glimmer nodded. “It’s getting late.”

    “It’s late afternoon.”

    “Orbit lag,” Glimmer lied.

    “Ah, of course! So… same time tomorrow?”

    Catra didn’t whimper. She had survived worse.

    But she wanted to.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, September 21st, 1998

    “...and the Chancellor and the Etherians have been meeting with several representatives of the German arms industry, likely discussing technology transfers, although no details were forthcoming and the government declined to comment on…”

    “Figures that the Germans are at the forefront when it comes to getting new technology,” Jack O’Neill commented as he shut off the television in the meeting room. “Greedy bastards.” He noticed that Daniel was frowning at him. And Carter had that perfectly polite expression on her face that meant she was annoyed at him. “I’m just letting off some steam. No need to mention Operation Paperclip.” He grinned when Daniel closed his mouth and pouted.

    “I doubt that the Etherians will show such preference to the Germans,” Teal’c said. “That would vex the British and the French for no discernable reason.”

    “They haven’t said that there is a deal, just that they’re talking about one. It’s probably just propaganda for the German public,” Jack agreed. “They’ve got an election coming up.”

    Daniel frowned again. “You’re following German politics?”

    Jack snorted in return. “If it’s relevant.” And it helped when dealing with stupid politicians wanting advice. He was an officer, not a consultant!

    “Ah.”

    “Entrapta didn’t mention anything about that,” Carter said.

    “She might have forgotten about it,” Daniel speculated. “You were pretty busy.”

    Carter didn’t blush, but she tensed for a moment. “We were discussing how best to interrogate the Goa’uld.”

    Jack raised his eyebrows. Entrapta was a sweet girl - woman, he corrected himself; she might act like a teenager, but she was about thirty years old, after all. But she could be very scary when developing new technology. Just thinking about her being interested in interrogation techniques - or tools - was enough to make him feel queasy.

    “We didn’t discuss torture,” Carter said. “Well, Hordak mentioned the possibility, but Entrapta didn’t entertain the possibility.”

    Of course the bastard would have no qualms about torturing people. Or aliens. Jack snorted.

    “What did Entrapta suggest?”

    “Using their curiosity against them,” Carter explained. “But I fear her suggestions would result in a higher risk of escape.”

    “Ah. On the other hand, our own experts haven’t gotten anything out of the Goa’uld so far,” Jack said. If not for the Etherians being involved, he was sure they would have attempted torture already. But when your friends were used to locking up prisoners in their palaces’ guest rooms, even the worst spooks had to control themselves. They couldn’t risk alienating the friendly aliens with more spaceships than the United States had warships.

    “The false gods might expect that they will be disposed of once they have no more information to give out,” Teal’c said. “A logical assumption.”

    “We wouldn’t murder prisoners!” Daniel protested.

    “Of course not,” Teal’c agreed. “But given their numerous crimes, the death penalty would be the likely result of a trial.”

    “I’m sure that our experienced interrogators have mentioned that to our guests,” Jack told his friend. “But the Goa’uld probably don’t trust them. Not that I’d blame them for it.”

    Daniel frowned again. He was still a little naive.

    But before Jack could point that out to his friend, Hammond entered the room. And his expression told Jack that he didn’t have good news.

    “SG-1.” The general nodded at them. “As of this morning, the Security Council has officially created the International Stargate Command Organisation. The President has agreed to transfer control over the Stargate to the new organisation.”

    Jack clenched his teeth. He had known this was coming, but it still felt like a punch in the gut. After all their efforts, all the dead, all the money the Air Force had poured into this, the United Nations would now reap the benefits.

    Damn.

    *****​
     
  9. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Well, how far Lucas is willing to go in rewriting the movie remains to be seen :p Adding cat-people would, of course, be the obvious choice.

    And then came the sequels...
     
  10. Threadmarks: Chapter 37: Spooks Part 2
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 37: Spooks Part 2

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, September 21st, 1998

    “So, they won’t talk to us?” Adora bent down and peered at the tank in which one of the Goa’uld they had captured was held. It looked like a fish tank to her, but mentioning that would be rude.

    “I wouldn’t want to talk to you either if you kept me in a fish tank,” Catra commented.

    “It’s not a fish tank,” Sam protested. “It’s a secure habitat for alien life forms.”

    “That’s sciency for ‘fish tank’,” Catra retorted with a grin.

    Adora sighed. “And they can understand us in this form?”

    “Yes.” Teal’c nodded.

    “Their senses cover the same range as humans - mostly. There are a few differences, but whatever sound a human can make, Goa’uld can hear,” Entrapta explained.

    “But Osiris is unlikely to understand anything except for Old Egyptian,” Daniel added. “He was sealed in a stasis jar for thousands of years. Seth, though, should understand us perfectly fine.”

    “Ah.” Right, the Goa’uld could just access their host’s brains to learn everything they knew. Adora suppressed a shudder - Seth had tried to possess her.

    “And Daniel and Teal’c talked to them in their language, but the snakes didn’t want to talk back, either.” Jack shook his head. “That’s the longest temper tantrum I’ve ever seen.”

    “Aren’t they just doing what you said prisoners had to do? Refuse to give the enemy any information other than name, rank and serial number?” Adora asked.

    Jack frowned at her as if she had something mean, but Daniel chuckled, and even Sam smiled. “It’s not the same.” Adora wanted to ask why it wasn’t the same, but he went on: “So, Entrapta and Carter built some keyboards for them, and specially made screens that they can see through the windows of their cells. Yet they still refuse to communicate.”

    “We tested the keyboards - they work perfectly fine. And we demonstrated them to the prisoners. Although Seth should already be familiar with keyboards since he was captured in the United States,” Entrapta said. “They just don’t want to talk to us.”

    Adora wrinkled her nose. Perhaps they should respect that? They weren’t the Goa’uld - they respected the rights of their prisoners. Or should - she wasn’t sure that the cells here were actually nice enough for that. The Goa’uld had no privacy at all. Still…

    “Make them eat rations and tell them they can order better food?” Catra suggested. “They’d have to talk to us then.”

    “We’re not going to torture them,” Entrapta protested.

    “The Horde lived on ration bars,” Catra retorted.

    “And that wasn’t alright!” Glimmer cut in with a grimace. “That was torture!”

    “The grey ones were OK,” Adora said. “Way better than the brown ones.”

    Everyone looked at her as if she had said something stupid. She frowned at them, but Glimmer just shook her head, and Catra giggled.

    “I am now really curious whether or not those ration bars are worse than MREs,” Jack said.

    “Well, we don’t have any of them with us, so we can’t compare them,” Bow said. “But Horde ration bars were really horrible.”

    “Disgusting.” Glimmer nodded with a shudder.

    Adora looked at Etnrapta and Hordak.

    “They provided the troops with a perfectly balanced meal,” Hordak said.

    “And if you used food additives, they were quite palatable,” Entrapta said.

    “‘Food additives’?” Adora asked.

    “Seasoning,” Catra said. “Force Captains got them.”

    “Ah.”

    “But we’re not here to talk about torture food,” Glimmer spoke up. “We’re here to make the Goa’uld talk.” She looked at the tank and grinned. “And I think Entrapta’s plan has a good chance of working.”

    “Making them curious?” Jack asked. “By showing them the news? A tv show that ends on a cliffhanger?”

    “No,” Entrapta said. “I’m talking about magic.”

    “Magic,” Jack repeated in a flat tone.

    “Yes.” Glimmer nodded. “If we had activated Earth’s magic already, I could teleport around. I bet that would make them talk to us.”

    “Unless the Goa’uld can use magic as well, then,” Jack pointed out.

    “I doubt that they can use magic,” Daniel said. “None of our sources show them using any power that wasn’t based on technology.”

    “I think if they had access to magic and then lost it a thousand years ago, they would have searched for the reason for said loss,” Teal’c added. “But I know of no such venture.”

    “Well, I could restore magic,” Adora offered. “It wouldn’t take long.”

    “There’s something wrong with world-changing actions being done on a whim in five minutes,” Jack muttered.

    “Well, we don’t need to activate Earth’s magic for Adora to use magic, right?” Daniel smiled.

    “But we might not want to show them her transformation,” Catra was quick to add. “And I don’t think we should hurt someone so Adora can demonstrate her magic healing.”

    Adora nodded. Of course not!

    “It would be the easiest solution,” Entrapta said. “Activating magic, I mean. Or… I could show them our technology!” She beamed. “I bet they would be curious about our bots.”

    “They’ll probably think any magic used is technology anyway,” Jack pointed out, a little belatedly.

    “But showing them our technology might also give away important information,” Carter said.

    “They already know we’re working with Etherians - even if they don’t know they are Etherians,” Jack told her. “Let’s try technology first before we change the world for a chat with snakes.”

    *****​

    Samantha Carter nodded at the Colonel’s words. Returning magic to Earth just for an interrogation… their superiors wouldn’t accept that. And the Goa’uld knew their own technology. So, it had to be Etherian technology. Or Horde technology. Or… “We might be able to use Ancient technology,“ she suggested.

    “First Ones technology? Wouldn’t they know that?” Entrapta asked. “They use the gates, after all.”

    “Yes, but they aren’t familiar with the Ancient technology on Etheria,” Sam explained. She looked at Teal’c.

    “Indeed. It’s not conforming to Ancient technology known to the Goa’uld,” he confirmed.

    “So… First Ones technology.” Entrapta nodded. “We don’t have too much of that here.”

    “I can summon my sword. After transforming out of their sight,” Adora said. “And I can make it change shape.”

    “It slices, it dices, it makes julienne fries,” the Colonel commented.

    Catra snickered, but Adora pouted - and Sam made a note that they might be familiar with the idiom.

    “But we still should show our bots,” Entrapta said. “And Hordak’s technology.”

    Hordak nodded. “They should be familiar with Horde Prime’s technology, but my own developments, and those of Entrapta, will be unknown to them.” He nodded at Entrapta, who smiled back at him.

    They wanted to show off, Sam realised. Well, she could understand the feeling. Perhaps a bit more than she should - but what scientist didn’t like showing off at least a little? Even Daniel wasn’t immune, as his lessons and briefings revealed.

    “Let’s start with the bots then,” the Colonel said. “We can save Adora’s Swiss-army-sword-magic for later.”

    “Yes!” Entrapta beamed. “I’ll call Emily so she can lead the others inside.”

    “The others?” The Colonel asked.

    “I brought more bots - they need to get down to Earth anyway. Being cooped up on a ship all the time isn’t healthy!” Entrapta nodded and pushed a button on her multitool. “Emily? Get in here!”

    Sam turned to the intercom, but the Colonel was already calling the entrance so the guards would let the bots through.

    “Have someone guide them so they don’t get lost,” Entrapta said. Then she blinked. “Uh… can they get in here?”

    Sam pointed at the large door in the back. “Yes. There’s a freight elevator there. It would have been impractical to move heavy machinery through the smaller corridors.”

    “Isn’t that a security risk?” Catra asked, cocking her head as she looked from the habitats to the elevator.

    “We’ve got it under guard,” the Colonel said. “And usually, the habitats aren’t here but in secure cells.”

    “In cells?” Adora frowned. “Isolated?”

    “First rule of handling prisoners for interrogation is not to let them talk to each other and coordinate their stories,” the Colonel replied.

    “But… they are all alone, all day?”

    “They can talk to us anytime they choose.”

    “That sounds like torture,” Hordak said. “At least some would consider it torture - I can understand, given the intellect of the average soldier, that not having to talk to them could also be a blessing.”

    “Hordak!” Glimmer glared at him.

    Entrapta, though, slowly nodded. “Yes. Some did claim that isolation is torture. I discovered that when I researched what was considered torture on Earth.”

    “Let me guess: You found Amnesty International, right?” the Colonel asked.

    “Yes.”

    “They are sometimes seen as a little controversial,” the Colonel told her.

    “Mostly in countries that they criticise,” Daniel added. “They are also strictly against the death penalty.” Sam saw that he didn’t look at the Colonel.

    Fortunately, Entrapta’s bots arrived before this subject could be discussed further - Sam was sure that the Etherians weren’t in favour of the death penalty.

    “Emily! Come over here! And you too, Gaby! And Silvie!”

    Two smaller, but still quite large, bots followed Emily to the group. And the Goa’uld had noticed - Sam saw that both were paying close attention to the bots.

    Something she should have done as well, she realised when the bot named ‘Gaby’ walked to a desk and started scanning the computers there while Silvie was picking up tools on the other side of the room. “Please don’t touch anything,” Sam said belatedly.

    “Put it down, Silvie!” Entrapta said. “You can play with it later. Now you have to show what you can do!”

    Emily beeped, and Entrapta shook her head. “No, this isn’t an indoor shooting range. Just demonstrate on low power setting.”

    “Ah… how about not shooting anything on any setting inside the base?” the Colonel said.

    Sam couldn’t explain how a huge spherical three-legged robot could look sad, but Emily managed. Entrapta patted the bot’s dome with her hair. “There, there - we’ll get you something to shoot under safe conditions. Safe-ish, at least.”

    But Silvie and Gaby were already working on something - something the two Goa’uld were very interested in.

    Something using First Ones technology, Sam realised. And…

    “Are they making a bot?” Daniel asked.

    “Yes! A prototype spy bot Mark II!” Entrapta confirmed. “One that can fly!” She frowned. “Well, it will fly once we solve the tiny little issues with making a small engine that won’t blow under stress and still is powerful enough to let it explore a star system.”

    “Or, alternatively, is fast enough to serve as ordnance,” Hordak added.

    Judging from the beeps from all three bots, they didn’t like that idea.

    “Hordak!”

    Neither did Entrapta.

    “I meant for non-sapient bots,” the former warlord tried to defend himself.

    “They can still learn enough to become sapient!” Entrapta protested. “We can’t use them as missiles.”

    Ah, yes. Artificial intelligence rights - another touchy subject Sam would rather not go into right now.

    *****​

    Catra sighed as Entrapta scolded Hordak about using bots as missiles. Bots weren’t people. Sure, some of them were exceptions, but the vast majority didn’t have any more brains than any other machine - she would know; she had had to command tons of the things in the war. They made Kyle look like a genius.

    But at least the prisoners were paying attention - she could see the snakes all but pressing their ugly little heads against the fish tanks’ glass to study the bots as they built another bot.

    Her ears twitched as she overheard O’Neill mutter: “Just what we need - self-replicating bots.”

    “That possibility always existed once we encountered sufficiently complex and capable robots, Sir,” Sam told him. “Although for truly self-replicating bots, they would have to be able to provide the components and the raw materials as well.”

    “And how likely is that? The brass will want to know if we don’t just have to deal with aliens but Skynet as well.”

    “It shouldn’t be too difficult to construct mining bots, Sir.”

    “Great.”

    Catra shook her head. It seemed that O’Neill was more worried about what the Etherians could do than about the Goa’uld. Well, it fit him, in her opinion.

    But they were here to interrogate the prisoners, not discuss O’Neill’s hangups. She kept an eye on the Goa’uld as the two bots, with some concerned beeping from Emily, finished the spy bot.

    It didn’t look very different from the models she had used in the war. A small bot with a round body like the others and cameras rather than weapons, scurrying around on three legs. Whatever changes Entrapta and Hordak had made must have been internal.

    “Oh, look at it go!” Entrapta gushed. “Already used to walking!”

    “Shouldn’t that be standard?” Daniel asked. “Or do bots have to learn how to walk?”

    “That depends on their control matrix,” Entrapta replied. “They can come pre-programmed, like most bots we used in the war - with the networks copied from older bots. Or they can learn from scratch, as you say - that way, they tend to be a bit more effective, although it takes longer for them to be ready for deployment. They can learn more routines that way, though.”

    “Ah.” Daniel nodded. “Like people?”

    “The control matrixes use networks similar to neural networks,” Sam told him.

    The spy bot was demonstrating its sensors and other gear now - First Ones technology, Catra realised; she had seen those scanning rays before. She focused on the Goa’uld’s reaction and could see their tails twitch more and more. Of course, that didn’t have to mean anything - they weren’t like her - but she would bet that it meant they were agitated. Or excited.

    “And now, testing the gravity generator!” Entrapta announced.

    The spy bot stopped moving, pulled its legs in - and a humming noise filled the room.

    Catra clenched her teeth; it didn’t actually hurt her ears, but it grated - though she seemed to be the only one affected. The others probably couldn’t hear it.

    And then the spy bot rose into the air and started to float around. Like that droid in the movie. The legs unfolded again, further showing the parallels. The top rotated as well, small cameras looking at everything in the room.

    And at the Goa’uld. A red light appeared, a cone moving over the first, then the second Goa’uld.

    “Ah, the scanner works as well!” Entrapa beamed. “Look!” She pushed a button on her tool, and floating holograms of the two snakes appeared. “It’s not quite as detailed as our magic scanner, nor with the range that one has, but it’s a medical scan!”

    She bent forward, her hair lifting her up, and looked at the Goa’uld. “Hello? Do you want to communicate now?”

    “They can’t hear us,” Sam told her.

    “It would be counter-productive if they could listen in on our talks,” O’Neill added.

    “Oh.” Entrapta blinked, then two hair tendrils shot out, grabbed a whiteboard and a marker and started writing.

    HELLO! YOU CAN USE THE KEYBOARD!

    The first Goa’uld, Osiris, didn’t react. Well, they didn’t use the keyboard.

    The other, though, Seth, started to type, using its tail.

    WHO ARE YOU?

    Entrapta beamed.

    I AM ENTRAPTA, PRINCESS OF DRYL

    “We’re supposed to get intel from it, not the other way around,” O’Neill complained.

    “You have to give data to receive data. Even if you’re just observing, the act of observation affects the observed, which is kind of giving data,” Entrapta told him.

    “And he should know our names - we know he saw us on television before we captured him,” Catra reminded them.

    Seth was typing again.

    WHAT ARE YOU?

    Entrapta cocked her head, frowning, “I just told you!”

    ENTRAPTA, PRINCESS OF DRYL

    ARE YOU A TAU’RI?

    “Well, now that’s a matter of opinion. What do you think, Sam? We are the same species - we can have viable offspring without genetic manipulation - but so were the First Ones. And I don’t think he’d call the First Ones Tau’ri.”

    Before Sam could answer, Entrapta wrote on:

    WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF A TAU’RI?

    A HOST SPECIES FROM THIS PLANET

    NO, I AM NOT FROM THIS PLANET. AND I AM NOT A HOST SPECIES.

    O’Neill sighed. “Who thought it was a good idea to let Entrapta start the interrogation?”

    And then the other Goa’uld started typing, and symbols Catra didn’t know appeared on his screen.

    “Oh, he’s using hieroglyphs!” Daniel exclaimed in the same tone Entrapta had when she saw tiny food. Or a First One relic.

    Catra snickered again as O’Neill groaned.

    *****​

    “How can the snake type hieroglyphs?” Jack O’Neill asked. It was a dumb question and not relevant, but he wanted to know.

    “I’ve added a database with the hieroglyphs known to us to the tiny keyboard, accessible through the touchpad on the keyboard - or the keyboard, with key combinations,” Entrapta explained. “They can use their tail or other limbs to draw on the pad or just flick through the database until they find the symbol they want, although the sorting algorithm was a bit of a guess - I don’t know what the Goa’uld would find intuitive, and the Japanese system wasn’t applicable since the hieroglyphs are drawn differently, so sorting according to the number of strokes needed to draw them was not applicable. I wonder what system they use for their own communication.”

    “They probably dictate to a slave,” Jack said. That seemed to fit them.

    “That is correct, O’Neill,” Teal’c confirmed.

    Jack grinned. “So… what’s Osiris saying?”

    “He’s warning us not to trust ‘the traitor’,” Daniel replied, looking slightly put out.

    Jack snorted. That, too, should have been expected from a snake. He glanced at Seth’s screen.

    I NOTICED THAT I COULD NOT TAKE OVER THE BLONDE WOMAN. SAME SPECIES?

    “Someone needs to make him understand that we’re the ones asking the questions,” Jack said.

    Catra made a sort-of agreeing noise.

    “Well, should I tell him yes? It’s not true, but we’re both princesses,” Entrapta asked. “And the jury’s still out whether or not First Ones are the same species as humans.”

    “It might keep the Goa’uld from trying to possess us. Or at least you and Glimmer,” Bow pointed out.

    Jack shook his head. “They’ll probably still try it if they have the opportunity - out of desperation or because they suspect a lie.” He doubted that the snakes would trust them to tell the truth since the Goa’uld would lie if their positions were switched.

    “Ah.” Entrapta nodded and typed with her hair.

    YOU ARE SETH, CORRECT?

    YES.

    Jack wanted to step in and take over. Entrapta wasn’t a trained interrogator. And she was too trusting - or naive. But as long as she listened to the others, there was no reason to be rude to her.

    He glanced at Daniel. “What’s Osiris saying?”

    “Well, technically, he’s typing,” his friend replied. Jack rolled his eyes, and Daniel cleared his throat. “Sorry. Anyway, he’s telling me how Seth betrayed him and Isis, and… well, basically how everything is Seth’s fault. And he’s asking where Isis is.” He grimaced.

    Jack shook his head again. “Tell him that she died when her stasis jar was broken centuries ago.”

    While Daniel started picking through hieroglyphs, Jack looked back at the other Goa’uld. Entrapta was typing again.

    YES, WE WERE NEVER RULED BY THE GOA’ULD.

    Well, Seth had seen them on TV, Jack reminded himself.

    DO YOU TRUST THE TAU’RI?

    Jack narrowed his eyes. That was less subtle than he had expected. On the other hand, perhaps Seth thought that the Etherians had taken control of Earth, overtly or covertly.

    SOME ARE OUR FRIENDS.

    AND THE OTHERS?

    “Osiris is asking if he can visit Isis’s grave,” Daniel said.

    Jack didn’t have to look at his friend to know that Daniel looked sympathetic. Even though his own wife had been taken from him by the Goa’uld. Or perhaps because of that.

    “We did an autopsy on the corpse, Sir,” Carter informed him. Was that a wince?

    Jack sighed. “And I guess that all the parts are now floating in formaldehyde in some jars, ready to be studied?” Couldn’t be too many jars, of course, given the alien’s size.

    “Yes, Sir.”

    “It’s a perfectly valid request, Jack.”

    “You… didn’t bury her?” Adora sounded shocked. And no snarky comment from Catra.

    Carter pressed her lips together and tensed. Jack held up his hand - he was their commanding officer. This was on him. “We need more information about Goa’uld. We don’t know enough about them, how their bodies work, anything.”

    “But you can scan her. Then you have all the data you need. You don’t need to keep the body except for some tissue samples, do you?” Entratpa apparently had stopped chatting with Seth.

    Jack sighed. He would have to convince the brass - well, that shouldn’t be too hard, not if the Etherians supported it. “We’ll see about a funeral. Ask Osiris how we should bury her - but tell him no pyramids.”

    No one laughed at his joke.

    “I doubt that he would expect a pyramid for her,” Daniel said as he typed. “Based on his era, it will likely be a grave chamber in a small temple.”

    “That won’t go over better with Congress, I think,” Jack said. The Etherians still looked… disapproving. “Don’t forget that they don’t care about the dead humans,” he reminded them. “Seth didn’t ask about his followers, did he?”

    “No. Should I remind him?” Entrapta asked.

    Jack shook his head. “Let’s see how long it takes him to remember them.” Probably forever, in Jack’s opinion.

    ARE YOU THE NEW PROTECTORS OF THE TAU’RI?

    “Uh…” Entrapta looked around, “Kinda?”

    “Technically, we are,” Bow said.

    “Officially, once we have the Alliances signed,” Glimmer added.

    “Tell him that we will protect all the Tau’ri,” Adora said, nodding curtly.

    YES

    The snake couldn’t hear them - but they could see them. Could gauge their reactions. And they were smart. Seth had thousands of years of experience with manipulating people, Jack reminded himself.

    Maybe they should call in spooks. No - those had no experience with Goa’uld. They would try to treat them like humans.

    And that would be a disaster. Wait! “‘New protectors’?” He frowned. “Does that mean there were old protectors?

    *****​

    “Old protectors?” Adora looked at Jack, then at the others.

    “I think assuming that there were old protectors solely based on Seth’s question is reaching a little,” Daniel pointed out. “While he certainly knew about the Etherians’ arrival, he might merely be trying to confirm their policy towards Earth.”

    “I am not aware of any protectors of Earth - or the Tau’ri as a whole,” Teal’c said. “However, certain planets are off-limits to Goa’uld attacks. I was never told why, though. I assumed it was a decree of Ra, like the order to leave Earth alone. However, the planet Cimmeria was protected by unknown forces against the Goa’uld.”

    “Right.” Jack nodded. “But Earth doesn’t have anything like it. Or the snakes would have been killed long ago.”

    “Cimmeria could’ve been protected by another faction of the Goa’uld posing as the Norse gods,” Daniel suggested.

    “The technology used was unlike and beyond the Goa’uld’s known capability,” Sam objected.

    “It certainly wasn’t Ra,” Jack said. “He wouldn’t have posed as another god that wasn’t under his command - or tolerated others posing as such gods.”

    Adora was a little confused. “Could you explain what happened on Cimmeria?”

    “Oh, sorry!” Daniel blushed. “It’s a planet with a population that worships the old Norse gods, and when we arrived there, a defence mechanism - Thor’s Hammer, it was called - captured Teal’c and Jack and sent them into a labyrinth where they had to fight a former alien host. We managed to disable the mechanism and save them.”

    “With the help of a native named Kendra,” Sam added.

    Ah. That explained… not very much.

    “Did you recover the technology? Did you analyse it?” Entrapta asked.

    “No.” Sam shook her head. “But it didn’t resemble any known Goa’uld technology. Or Ancient technology.”

    “So, it wasn’t the First Ones,” Adora said. “And I don’t believe the Horde would have done anything like it.”

    “They would have conquered the planet, not defended it against the Goa’uld,” Hordak said.

    “Do you want me to ask him about Cimmeria?” Entrapta cocked her head.

    “If he knows about it, then that changes things,” Daniel said. “The Norse gods weren’t worshipped when Ra was driven from Earth. So, whoever took the people from Earth to Cimmeria did so after Ra had left. If Seth knows about it, he might have had contact with them.”

    Jack nodded. “Ask if he knows about Cimmeria.”

    DO YOU KNOW A PLANET NAMED CIMMERIA?

    NO

    That was quick. Of course, that didn’t mean it had to be a lie - Seth would probably be more cautious if he were lying. Still…

    “He’s watching us. He knows we’re talking about something, “Jack said. “Damn - could he be able to read lips?”

    Read lips? Oh.

    “We can’t dismiss the possibility,” Sam said, wincing.

    So the Goa’uld might have been able to understand what they were discussing?

    “Overestimating an enemy is often as bad as underestimating them,” Hordak pointed out.

    “Well, let’s huddle for the next discussion,” Jack said.

    “Huddle?” Adora asked.

    “Gather round, like this.” He demonstrated. “So… we need to know if he knows anything about Cimmeria’s protectors. Any suggestions on how to ask that without revealing what we know and don’t know?”

    “Uh.” Adora hadn’t been trained in interrogation. That had been something Shadow Weaver had reserved for herself. She probably hadn’t wanted to teach Adora how to spot lies either.

    “Let’s just ask Seth about what he did on Earth. Let him talk and see what we can find out,” Catra suggested. “We can ask about Cimmeria later.”

    “And what about Osiris?” Daniel asked.

    “He’s been sealed in that jar since Ra’s departure,” Jack replied. “I doubt he has a lot of actionable intel.”

    “But as a high-ranking Goa’uld, he has a lot of important knowledge,” Teal’c pointed out.

    “Right. But it’s not urgent either. And since he hasn’t been raising and murdering cults on Earth for thousands of years, we might make Seth think that we like Osiris more,” Jack said.

    “Play them against each other.” Catra nodded with a grin.

    Adora frowned. That seemed manipulative. On the other hand, they needed information. “Let’s let them talk? To us, not to each other,” she clarified. “Before we make more plans.”

    “Good idea.”

    “And we should visit Cimmeria,” Entrapta said. “See if we can get more technology samples. Imagine - a completely new technology!”

    That was a good idea. Adora nodded. “And we can check how they are doing.”

    “And if the defence mechanism has been restored. That would mean that their protectors have kept tabs on them and have returned,” Catra added.

    Adora’s eyes widened. “If it hasn’t been restored, then they’ve been left defenceless!” And that meant they would have to step in. You couldn’t leave a planet at the mercy of the Goa’uld!

    “Well, the Goa’uld wouldn’t know that the defence mechanism was gone without attempting an invasion - and they have no reason to assume it is gone,” Jack said. He looked a little guilty, though.

    “You know what they say about assuming anything,” Catra retorted.

    “We should not underestimate our enemies,” Teal’c added.

    “Yeah…” Jack grimaced. “I guess we’ll have to see if the new management is OK with visiting Cimmeria.”

    New management? Oh, he must mean the United Nations. Adora nodded. “Why wouldn’t they want us to visit Cimmeria?”

    Jack shrugged. “Oh, lots of reasons. That they didn’t have the idea, that they think it’s too dangerous, that they think it’s too expensive, that they want to move the Stargate first…”

    Adora frowned. Those sounded like very silly reasons. But Glimmer nodded with a wry expression. And Catra snorted.

    *****​

    WHY DID YOU FORM A CULT?

    I HAD TO HIDE FROM RA

    Samantha Carter heard the Colonel snort at that. “And that’s why he used variations of his own name for every cult.”

    “To be fair,” Daniel pointed out, “he was hiding - he did not seek attention or tried to spread his, ah, faith. In all the past cults that we could identify, he kept the number of his followers small and hid from the authorities.”

    “Until the mass suicides.”

    “Ah, yes.”

    Sam saw that the Etherians grimaced at that.

    “Should I ask why his past followers killed themselves?” Entrapta asked.

    “Yeah. Let’s see how he tries to justify that.” The Colonel grinned.

    WHY DID YOUR PAST FOLLOWERS KILL THEMSELVES?

    Sam saw the Goa’uld hesitate a moment.

    I HAD TO LEAVE THEM AND THEY COULD NOT LIVE WITHOUT ME.

    “Good answer - blame the victims.” The Colonel snorted again. “Ask him why he had to leave them.”

    WHY DID YOU HAVE TO LEAVE THEM?

    IT WAS BECOMING TOO DANGEROUS. I HAD STAYED TOO LONG. RA WOULD HAVE NOTICED.

    Catra scoffed. “Didn’t his cults always worship Seth?”

    “Or Setesh, or similar names,” Daniel said.

    “Yep, can’t really call that hiding. On the other hand, for a snake used to be worshipped by entire countries, he probably was all humble and stuff,” the Colonel commented.

    “Are you serious?” Glimmer asked. “Do Goa’uld honestly think like that?”

    “The false gods are arrogant to a fault, but it would not do to underestimate them,” Teal’c commented.

    “Also, we have to consider that Seth was used to a much more limited world - not a world with computers and the internet,” Daniel said. “What measure he took to avoid notice would have been sufficient in the past, like in the eighteenth century, when his last cult suicided.”

    “You still found him.” Bow frowned a little.

    “Yes, but that was because vast archives have been scanned and archived electronically,” Daniel explained. “That wouldn’t have been possible just a few years ago.”

    “So, what should I ask him next?”

    “Ask him why he didn’t tell his followers that he’d return.”

    Entrapta typed, and, once more, the Goa’uld hesitated just a moment too long to give an honest answer, in Sam’s impression.

    THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN CRUEL AND A LIE

    “Yeah, right.”

    “He’s the picture of the compassionate god.” Catra snorted again.

    Seth was still typing.

    YOU RULE YOUR PEOPLE - WOULD YOU LIE TO THEM?

    Sam pressed her lips together. This was a blatant attempt to drive a wedge between the Etherians and Earth, aimed at the most obvious difference between their worlds.

    Entrapta frowned, and her hair flew over the keyboard.

    I WOULD NOT LIE TO THEM AND CLAIM TO BE A GODDESS.

    WHAT MAKES A GOD OR GODDESS? POWER? YOU HAVE POWER BEYOND BELIEF OVER THE TAU’RI. YOU CAN HEAL YOUR PEOPLE. FEED THEM. GUIDE THEM.

    ANY PRINCESS CAN DO THAT. THAT POWER DOES NOT MAKE YOU A GOD.

    WHAT ABOUT MAGIC?

    That was a good question, in Sam’s opinion.

    Apparently, the Colonel shared this view since he said: “Well, if you can heal the sick and the lame, feed the masses and raise the dead, we can start talking about what makes a god.”

    “No, we can’t! I’m not a goddess!” Adora blurted out. “Just tell him that we aren’t goddesses.”

    WE ARE NOT GODDESSES. WE ARE PRINCESSES.

    SEMANTICS. YOU RULE BECAUSE YOU ARE THE MOST POWERFUL. BECAUSE YOU ARE THE MOST EXPERIENCED. BECAUSE YOU ARE DIFFERENT.

    “Well, technically, he’s correct.” Catra stretched her arms above her head.

    “It’s not the same!” Glimmer hissed.

    Catra nodded. “Yeah, you don’t claim to be a goddess.”

    “We also don’t lie to our people!”

    Sam glanced at the Colonel. He was pressing his lips together - he probably had to bite his tongue, literally, to keep from snarking.

    “Well, fundamentally, the rule of the princesses is based on the magical power that makes them princesses,” Hordak said. “Or that made their ancestors princesses. Any legitimacy by lineage still devolves from power.”

    “We assume that that was how the royal lines started, but we don’t know,” Bow objected.

    “Well, it’s the most likely explanation,” Entrapta said. “If the First Ones had installed the royal families, the research base should have had data on that.”

    Sam was inclined to agree. But saying so would have been… undiplomatic. Even the Colonel was aware of that.

    “Well, how your ancestors came to power doesn’t matter nearly as much as how you use your power - both magical and governmental,” Daniel said. “The Goa’uld only care about themselves. That is the difference.”

    “Yes!” Adora nodded several times. “We don’t rule for ourselves!”

    “You don’t rule anything anyway,” Catra added. “Well, unless we count Third Fleet.”

    Adora scowled at her. “That doesn’t count! I didn’t ask for them to… follow me!”

    Entrapta was typing again.

    WE USE OUR POWER FOR OTHERS.

    AS DO I - IT IS A POOR RULER WHO NEGLECTS HIS PEOPLE.

    “You’re a parasite!” Glimmer spat. “Living by possessing people - and exploiting your slaves!”

    “Should I tell him that?” Entrapta asked.

    “No.” The Colonel shook his head. “Ask him what he did to Osiris.”

    This time, the Goa’uld hesitated even longer, Sam noticed.

    *****​

    Catra clenched her teeth and suppressed the urge to hiss - again - at the lies Seth was spewing on the screen. If one were to believe him, he was the innocent victim of jealous rivals - Osiris and Isis - his weakness being too caring about his followers while, at the same time, being too successful thanks to his followers ‘flourishing’ under his gentle guidance.

    Fortunately, not even Horde Cadet Adora at her worst would have been naive enough to believe him. Not after the way he ruthlessly ordered his followers to suicidally attack them so he could escape. The additional information Daniel had dug up was just confirming that they were dealing with a monster on par with Shadow Weaver - worse than Shadow Weaver, actually. Catra could easily see Seth acting like Horde Prime, spouting drivel about harmony while murdering everyone who didn’t fit in enough. Or brainwashing them, she added with a shudder.

    “Wow, we’re holding Gandhi’s spiritual successor here!” O’Neill exclaimed with a chuckle.

    “Gandhi?” Adora asked.

    “A famous Indian pacifist,” Daniel replied. “He was crucial for India gaining its independence from the British colonial rule and used nonviolent means to protest and oppose oppression. Although some of his views and policies have become controversial lately.”

    “Daniel, if you explain things like that, people miss the point.”

    “That could be avoided if you pick a better example, Jack.”

    “Whatever!” Glimmer blurted out. “The snake’s lying through its pointed teeth, and no one’s buying it! Enough of that! What’s Osiris saying?”

    “Uh…” Daniel cleared his throat. “I’ve been translating his messages, though they mostly deal with Seth’s treachery, warnings about not believing any of Seth’s claims, and his dead wife.”

    “And he’s presenting himself as the innocent victim of persecution?” O’Neill asked.

    “The victim of a backstabbing attempt at treason that framed him and his wife as a traitor in the eyes of Ra,” Daniel told him.

    “What I said, then.”

    “But he doesn’t try to appear as a benevolent ruler using his power and wisdom to rule and guide the humans for their own good,” Daniel objected.

    “Probably because he hasn’t seen us on television and doesn’t know anything about us,” Glimmer said, scoffing. “Or he’d probably claim his wife was a princess.”

    Catra shook her head. Sure, Seth was as subtle as a hovertank if you compared him to Shadow Weaver, but the others were reacting a bit too strongly to Seth’s claim that princesses were the same as the Goa’uld.

    Especially since, well, he wasn’t entirely wrong, as Daniel would say. Princesses ruled because they were princesses, and they were princesses because they had magic powers that they were born with. Dress it up however you wanted, it still came down to power. Netossa and Spinnerella weren’t ruling a country, but if they wanted to, they could probably find an area not claimed by any princess and take it over. Catra doubted that too many would care.

    And she didn’t doubt that a princess could be as bad as the Goa’uld. Maybe even worse, though that would take a lot and probably lead to other princesses banding together to deal with you. There probably had been such bad princesses before. She didn’t know any example, but Bow was the historian, or at least the son of two historians, not Catra.

    But none of that meant that Catra’s friends were bad people. “He’s just trying to manipulate you,” she said. “As we expected. But compared to Shadow Weaver, he’s bad at it.” Mostly because Seth didn’t know them, not really.

    “He’s trying his best,” O’Neill added. “But he’s still a Goa’uld - I bet he can’t really take us mere humans seriously.”

    “The Goa’uld do not consider anyone their peer, or even just deserving of respect,” Teal’c said. “Horde Prime might have come the closest thanks to his power, but they would have destroyed him as soon as they found a way to do so.”

    “Well, he didn’t even bother with pretending. Whatever got in his way was destroyed.” Catra shrugged. “Anyway, Seth is just trying to suck up to you because he thinks power’s all that matters and that everyone’s the same.” And she was very familiar with that view.

    Adora nodded, but she was still clenching her teeth, Catra could tell. And Glimmer was still staring at the Goa’uld as if she wanted to smash them in their cells.

    Well, so was Hordak, she noticed. Entrapa looked upset, which must have set this off.

    What a mess. In hindsight, they should have left this to Stargate Command. On the other hand, Seth had only started talking once he had seen Adora and the others.

    Catra stretched again, the claws in her feet slightly digging into the floor - it was only concrete, so Catra didn’t have to worry about damaging a mosaic or some polished wood or expensive carpet. “So, do we have to keep listening to those lies? Or can we do something more productive now? Like taking a nap?”

    “Both Seth and Osiris were present when Ra ruled the Earth - and Seth lived through almost our entire written history!” Daniel said with a pout. “The knowledge they hold could change history and offer crucial insight into Goa’uld society.”

    Catra chuckled. “Well, looks like you just volunteered to keep talking to them.” She tugged at Adora’s arm. “Come on! Let’s get something to eat; I’m hungry!”

    Adora didn’t object to being dragged out of the room. That meant she was still mulling over Seth’s words. Probably questioning if she was a Goa’uld-style ruler.

    Damn. Catra really wanted to shred the snake with her claws.

    *****​
     
  11. Threadmarks: Chapter 38: Doubts
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 38: Doubts

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, September 21st, 1998

    “A funeral for the Goa’uld?” General Hammond sounded surprised.

    Jack O’Neill, standing at parade rest in the general’s office, nodded. “Yes, Sir. Osiris asked to see the body of his wife - or her grave.”

    The general sighed. “And it happened in the presence of the Etherians.”

    “Yes, Sir.”

    “And letting him see the body would be…” The general grimaced.

    Jack nodded again and refrained from commenting that getting the body back together would mean solving a puzzle and draining gallons of formaldehyde.

    General Hammond sighed again. “And just when we’re about to be formally transferred under UN control.”

    “Yes, Sir.”

    The general narrowed his eyes at him.

    Oops. Maybe Jack had overdone the dutiful by-the-book officer act. “Do you think that the Security Council won’t be willing to please the Etherians? It’s our mistake, after all.” The Russians and the Chinese would love to rub the United States’ face in. And the British and the French wouldn’t exactly do their utmost to help out, either.

    “I think the Security Council’s representatives might see this as a way to present themselves as not prone to making the same mistakes we did,” General Hammond replied.

    Oh, yes. Jack could see that. Damn vultures. And yet… “Speaking of mistakes, Sir…”

    Hammond stopped sighing and looking at the ceiling and zeroed in on Jack once more. “Yes, Colonel?”

    “Cimmeria was brought up during the interrogation,” Jack said.

    “The planet with the people worshipping Thor.”

    “Yes, Sir. The Etherians would like to visit.” Jack straightened just a bit. “They are curious about the technology on the planet - and they voiced their concern that our actions might have left the planet defenceless against the Goa’uld.”

    “How would the Goa’uld find out?” Hammond asked.

    “I said the same, Sir. But the Etherians want to go. There was also talk about installing a surveillance drone to keep an eye on the planet.” Jack inclined his head. “Captain Carter seemed to think the proposed design was feasible.” Feasible enough to have her spend time in her lab with Entrapta and Hordak working on a bot.

    “I see. Well, that’s another request I’ll have to present our new command crew with.”

    “Yes, Sir.” Another glare. Jack didn’t show any reaction. “And, speaking of that, Sir: When will the new brass arrive?”

    “I just received the news. They will arrive tomorrow.”

    It was Jack’s turn to be surprised. “That’s faster than I expected.”

    “Even the United Nations can move quickly if they’re motivated enough.” Hammond snorted. “The security up top is working around the clock to ensure that the new United Nations Stargate Command can be kept from accidentally entering the other areas of the base.”

    ‘Accidentally’. Jack snorted - as if the Russians and the Chinese wouldn’t try to use this to spy on the Air Force! “Any word of who’s going to play overlord?”

    “We’ll have a joint command overseeing UNSGC operations, with members drawn from all permanent members of the Security Council,” Hammond replied.

    A committee! Wonderful!

    “They’ll also provide troops and officers to Stargate Command, although, to my knowledge, it’s understood that they will need to be trained before they can cover crucial posts.”

    Even better - they’d have to train FNGs to take over. And spooks masquerading as FNGs. “It feels as if we’re expected to train up our own replacements, Sir.”

    And Hammond nodded. “That’s probably correct, Colonel. International politics being as they are, we cannot expect Stargate Command to remain heavily dominated by the Air Force.”

    “We’re the most experienced, Sir,” Jack spat.

    “Which means it’ll take some time until we’re replaced. And the United States will keep troops in Stargate Command. But I think the bulk of our current roster will be transferred to whatever our space forces will end up called.”

    “Including my team.” He clenched his teeth. It was a logical development. It made sense. It still grated. He had been with Stargate Command, well, not from the start, but pretty much from the first time the gate had been used.

    “Yes.” Hammond smiled. “Your close relationship with the Etherians makes this a no-brainer. The United States need you working with the Etherians fighting a war, not guarding the Stargate.”

    “Someone has to keep an eye on this new… command, Sir.” Who knew what the Russians and the Chinese would try to pull if they were left unsupervised.

    “I am certain that this concern will be addressed by our superiors.”

    “Does that mean we’ll get new troops from the NID?” Jack tilted his head and raised his eyebrows.

    Unfortunately, Hammond didn’t laugh. “I was assured that we’d be receiving people with the necessary training to ensure that the Stargate won’t be used in ways that would endanger Earth.”

    More spooks. Great. Well, at least that meant leaving Stargate Command would be easier for everyone in SG-1 - Jack knew none of his team members wanted to work with the NID. “Can I tell the rest of my team that?”

    Hammond smiled. “Never give an order you know won’t be obeyed, Colonel.”

    Jack grinned in return.

    *****​

    “Team huddle!” Jack O’Neill said, peering into Carter’s lab. As expected, his entire team was there - Carter was going over the data Entrapta had left, Daniel was going over the transcripts from this afternoon, and Teal’c was… thinking, probably.

    “Sir?” Carter tilted her head with a very polite expression - she wasn’t in the mood for banter, then.

    “Metaphorically,” he told her as he closed the door. “With the snakes back in their cells, we don’t have to fear being overheard. So!” He clapped his hands. “I’ve got good news and bad news. Which do you want to hear first?”

    Carter raised her eyebrows, but Daniel seemed to ponder the question. “Uh… bad first?”

    “Stargate Command will be formally transferred under control of the United Nations Security Council,” Jack said. “The new brass arrive tomorrow.”

    Daniel blinked, obviously surprised, while Carter pressed her lips together. Teal’c nodded slowly.

    “More bad news: It’ll be a joint command, committee-style.”

    “How is that supposed to work?” Daniel asked.

    “I assume that they’ll have lots of discussions and votes.” And Hammond would be forced to make urgent decisions on the spot, which probably would result in him getting the boot - the brass didn’t like officers who kept showing them up.

    “So, what’s the good news?” Daniel asked.

    “I haven’t finished with the bad news yet,” Jack told him with a toothy grin. “We’ll have to train up our replacements, and sooner or later, most of Stargate Command - our current command - will transfer to whatever will be our new Space Force.” Jack waited a moment, then added: “Including us.”

    “What?” Daniel gasped.

    “They don’t want us working for the United Nations,” Carter said, looking… not pleased. “Not when we’re friends with the Etherians.”

    “Exactly. And, well - the Space Force will be where the action’s at.” Jack grinned. “That’s the good news. We won’t have to suffer the new regime for more than a few months, and we won’t end up glorified bodyguards for diplomats.” Or casualties of international powerplays.

    “We can’t really train up competent replacements in a few months,” Daniel protested.

    Jack shrugged. “Not everyone will leave. Hammond might stay if the United Nations don’t piss him off too much. But we’re needed in the war.”

    “The Stargate is crucial for the war,” Daniel said.

    “Yeah, and I assume we’ll be using it when we can.” Jack grinned. “But we won’t have to deal with that Chinese-Russian clusterfuck. We’ll be kicking snake ass.”

    Carter nodded. “We’ll be working very closely with the Etherians, I assume.”

    “Yep. I can’t see anyone, not even Kinsey, being as stupid as to assign us elsewhere.” It wouldn’t make any sense.

    “I am looking forward to fighting the Goa’uld at the Etherians’ side,” Teal’c commented.

    “But… I’m a civilian,” Daniel pointed out. “Will that work for the Space Force?”

    His friend didn’t want to become a soldier, Jack knew that. And Daniel wouldn’t be a good soldier anyway. “Of course it will,” he said. “The brass needs you.”

    “They can keep me in the office, translating things. If we’re invading planets…” Daniel trailed off.

    Jack shook his head. Carter looked concerned as well. “Don’t worry about that,” he told them. “Remember what the Etherians told us about their war against the Horde?”

    “Yes…?” Daniel looked confused, but Carter nodded. “The princesses are planning to fight at the frontlines. And in special operations.”

    Jack smiled at her. “Exactly. And that means if we want to work with them, we need to send people who can work with them, not just for them. If the brass sends a bunch of marines to work with the Etherians, they’ll end up being grunts doing the shooting while the Etherians make the calls.” And the United States didn’t like subordinating their troops to others like that. “They’ll need us. SG-1.”

    Daniel nodded as well. “Right. The princesses and their friends are like us - not just soldiers, but scientists as well.” He smiled. Then he frowned. “But there’s no Space Force yet. I mean, not the kind we talked about.”

    “Give them time,” Jack told him. “There’s no alliance with the Etherians yet, either. I assume that once we have an alliance, we’ll be amongst the first to be transferred out of United Nations Stargate Command.” The sooner, the better - he still didn’t trust that damn Russian ‘scientist’. And yet… “And the last piece of somewhat bad news: We’ll have to clear any mission to Cimmeria with our new overlords.”

    Daniel’s face fell again.

    *****​

    Earth Orbit, Solar System, September 22nd, 1998

    She wasn’t like the Goa’uld. She didn’t claim to be a goddess - quite the contrary. She didn’t rule thanks to her powers - she didn’t rule, period. She didn’t enslave anyone, either. Nor did she lie.

    Adora stared at the ceiling above her bed and sighed. No matter how often she told herself that, she couldn’t help wondering if it was true. Or, should it be true, if it was enough of a difference. She had led people in the war because she was She-Ra, Princess of Power. Sure, she had the officer training from the Horde, but she hadn’t earned her position. Not when she had gotten it, at least. She had proven herself afterwards. At least she liked to think so.

    “Stop moping!” Catra reached over and flicked her nose.

    “Ow!” Adora rubbed her nose and pouted at her lover. “I wasn’t moping!”

    “You were. Stop thinking about it. Seth is a liar. You’re not a Goa’uld.” Catra shifted and slid from Adora’s side on top of her chest, looking down at her.

    “I know!”

    Catra raised her eyebrows, and her ears twitched.

    Adora deflated. “I just… I wonder if I’ve… What if I weren’t She-Ra?”

    “Then you’d have stayed in the Horde, and we would have conquered Etheria together,” Catra told her.

    Adora blinked. That was… well, not implausible. Probably even probable. Glimmer was great, as was Bow, and Adora certainly hadn’t saved the Alliance by herself, but… the Princesses Alliance had only started winning the war after She-ra had joined them.

    “Which would have been a bad thing, of course,” Catra added. She wasn’t grinning, but she wasn’t entirely serious, either - Adora could tell. Her lover might find the thought funny; Catra had changed, mellowed out, as Bow called it, but her sense of humour was still… sharp and dark or something.

    “Yes. But… I’ve been thinking…” Adora started to explain.

    “Aha! I knew it!”

    “...and I was wondering if we - the princesses - are different enough compared to the Goa’uld.”

    “You don’t burrow into people to take over their bodies,” Catra said.

    “Not that. The whole… ruling thing. And I know that I’m not a ruling princess,” Adora added with a frown before Catra could say anything. “It’s the principle of the thing.”

    “The democracy versus monarchy thing?” Catra cocked her head.

    “Yes. Kind of.”

    “That didn’t bother you when Daniel explained things,” Catra pointed out.

    “Yes.” Adora sighed. “But it wasn’t… It was just a theory back then. And when we arrived at Earth and found out how much was… weird and bad and wrong here…” She shook her head. It had been so obvious that democracies weren’t any better than kingdoms - arguably worse, actually.

    “And now you suddenly realised how much worse the Goa’uld are? We already knew that.”

    “It’s not that,” Adora protested. “I’m just wondering… without the body-snatching, and the genetic memory, and the eating your kids, what’s the difference between a bad princess and a Goa’uld?”

    “Princesses generally look hotter,” Catra said. Her grin quickly faded, though, when Adora frowned at her. “Well…” She shrugged. “Probably not much of a difference. In principle.”

    Adora had hoped for a better answer. “So… we aren’t really different.”

    “Sure you are!” Catra snapped. “You, Sparkles, Entrapta, Perfuma, Scorpia, even Frosta and Mermista - you’re good rulers. You aren’t like the Goa’uld. You care.”

    “Yes.” Adora couldn’t deny that. “But that’s us. What about… other princesses? Future ones, I mean.”

    “Ah. You mean… What if Glimmer and Bow’s kid turns out to be bad?” Catra tilted her head forward.

    “Well… I don’t think their child, their potential child, would be bad,” Adora said. She didn’t even know if they wanted children. Glimmer probably felt she had to, as a princess, but…

    Catra rolled her eyes. “I mean as a hypothetical example.”

    “Yes.” Very hypothetical. She couldn’t imagine a child of her friends being bad - really bad, not just children doing bad stuff bad. “What then?”

    “Then I guess we grab them, lock them up and let Perfuma and Scorpia talk to them until they learn their lesson.”

    Well, that was a Catra plan, alright. Not a bad plan, but… “And what if they and we aren’t around?”

    “You mean, what if we all died before it happens?”

    “Yes.” Adora nodded.

    “Then someone else has to do it.” Catra sat up, straddling Adora’s belly, and shrugged emphatically, which did interesting things to her chest.

    “But what if there’s no one who can ‘take them’?”

    “There’ll be a She-Ra around.”

    That was right. Still… Adora frowned. “You told me that I didn’t have to do everything.”

    “Yes.” Catra grinned. “But that wouldn’t be you. It would be your successor. And they probably won’t have much else to do.”

    “And you don’t care about her.”

    “I don’t know her.” Catra shrugged again. “I probably won’t be around, anyway, to get to know her.”

    Adora frowned once more. “I’m not going to let you die before me.”

    “I’m not going to let you die before me,” Catra shot back. With a grin, she added: “Let’s agree to die together.”

    “Yes, let’s.” Adora blinked. “I mean, no! Let’s not die at all!”

    Catra giggled, leaned down and planted a kiss on Adora’s lips.

    Adora returned the kiss, wrapping her arms around her lover.

    They didn’t talk much afterwards.

    *****​

    “So!” Adora said, a little too loudly, she realised right afterwards, as she sat down to eat breakfast. “Good morning.”

    Glimmer and Bow both raised their eyebrows at her, then looked at each other for a moment before turning back to stare at Adora.

    “What’s wrong?” Glimmer asked.

    “What? Nothing!” Adora replied. “It’s a nice morning, we’ll be signing the Alliance with the French today, and… the television isn’t showing another riot,” she finished, pointing at the screen Entrapta had installed in Darla’s kitchen.

    “...and international tension is rising as representatives of several African nations have accused France of preparing to intervene with Etherian support in…”

    Adora frowned and grabbed the remote to switch the channel.

    “...protest turned violent, and the police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse it before it could reach the designated landing zone of the Etherians, and…”

    “...of India stated that they considered the concerns about magic that the Chinese ambassador had raised to be unfounded, and…”

    “...called for OPEC to develop strategies to deal with the expected change in technology that the aliens will bring, but several member states were unwilling to…”

    “....the riots in Tehran continue, and rumours of the Revolutionary Guards refusing to follow orders of the government are spreading. Whether this could lead to a coup remains in doubt, but…”

    “...general strike has paralysed Mexico City…”

    “…of Iceland has created a government agency to deal with magic, should it be restored to Earth. Its focus is expected to be on the Huldufólk - hidden people, or ‘elves’ - which are an important part of Icelandic folklore, and…”

    “...the United Nations Security Council will formally take control of the Stargate later today, despite protests from…”

    “...and anyone reading the Bible, instead of just parroting bigoted televangelists, knows that the Bible didn’t limit marriage to a man and a woman - many biblical characters had multiple wives. Further, the parts of the Bible, namely the Old Testament, that can be interpreted as condemning homosexuality also contain other rules that we do not follow any more. Jesus never said anything against homosexuality, and…”

    Well, that at least sounded positive! Adora nodded and tuned the channel out. And tried not to glance at her friends’ smirks.

    “So, what’s got her so worked up?” Glimmer asked Catra.

    “Seth’s claim that princesses are like Goa’uld,” Catra replied between swallowing a ‘croissant’ in a few hasty bites.

    “Really?” Glimmer shook her head. “We’re nothing like the Goa’uld!”

    Adora pressed her lips together. “I’m just wondering what we would do if a princess turns out like one of them. You know, cruel and power-hungry.”

    “Check if it’s Double Trouble trying to create drama again,” Glimmer replied.

    That wasn’t the point! Adora frowned again. “What do we do if a princess is a bad ruler? Should She-Ra intervene?”

    “You’re She-Ra,” Glimmer replied.

    “I mean, what if, in the future, a princess turns bad and none of us is around?” Adora explained while Catra sighed. Loudly.

    “Ah.” Bow nodded. “Historically, such situations were solved through war or the threat of war. Neighbouring kingdoms usually banded together to deal with, ah, a rogue kingdom if it became apparent that they would not stop trying to expand.”

    “Someone missed the Horde, then,” Catra said.

    “We didn’t miss it - but by the time Hordak made his move, he had already managed to entrench himself and raise an army that was too powerful to be easily defeated by the Princess Alliance.” Glimmer scoffed. “But we did win, and now the Scorpion Kingdom has been restored.”

    “But what if they aren’t attacking their neighbours? Just, ah, ruling like a Goa’uld?” Adora asked.

    Glimmer frowned some more. And Bow blinked. “Internal affairs of a kingdom have usually been left to the ruling princess of a kingdom,” he said.

    “Meddling in another kingdom runs the risk of starting a war,” Glimmer added. “Everyone would fear that they would be next. If there are issues, like water rights, that’s what the Princess Prom is for.”

    “So, if a princess is cruel to her subjects, that’s a topic to discuss at the Princess Prom?” Adora asked.

    “More like gossip, I bet,” Catra said, earning her a frown from Glimmer.

    “Princesses are expected to rule wisely and lead by example,” Glimmer said. “No one wants to be shamed in front of their peers.”

    “But it’s a loose system - there’s no laws or anything,” Bow added. “It’s a touchy subject.”

    “Well, maybe there should be a law,” Adora said.

    “It would have to be enforced by starting a war, ultimately,” Glimmer pointed out.

    “Or by She-Ra,” Bow said. “But that would be seen as a war as well. Two princesses fighting, and all.”

    Adora slowly nodded. Maybe that would be a task for She-Ra - and future She-Ras: Dealing with bad princesses.

    Catra raised her eyebrows at her, but Adora didn’t react. She had to think about this. If She-Ra was supposed to deal with bad princesses, then there needed to be rules to determine what was bad.

    But who would make the rules?

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, September 22nd, 1998

    Samantha Carter stood at parade rest while General Hammond saluted and formally handed over command of Stargate Command to the United Nations Security Council.

    The four foreign generals present - she recognised General Li, General Sidorov and General Haig from their first visit to the Mountain, but the French had sent a new officer, General Petit - saluted in return, then everyone shook hands.

    “General Petit…” She heard the Colonel whisper next to her.

    “Jack!” Daniel hissed in response.

    Sam suppressed a sigh. She just knew that the Colonel would make jokes about ‘General Little’. At least the United States picked General Hammond as their representative on the UNSGC Joint Command instead of someone from the Pentagon without any experience with the Stargate.

    “Let me introduce my staff,” General Hammond went on. “Most of you have already met SG-1.”

    More handshaking followed. General Petit, despite the stereotypes about French womanisers and the Colonel’s grumbling, was completely professional as he addressed Sam. More professional than many Air Force officers, actually. She didn’t get a read on Li, Haig seemed to be slightly annoyed to be here and Sidorov…

    …was looking at the Stargate more than at the people present.

    “Samantha!” Dr Georgovich beamed at her. “Now we finally can work together!”

    “Iwan.” Sam smiled at the enthusiastic scientist. It was hard not to like someone so passionate about their work - and so congenial. Of course, Dr Georgovich almost certainly was working for the Russian FSB, the successor of the KGB, in some capacity, but Sam didn’t think he was an actual trained agent - the man was a scientist through and through, after all.

    “Too bad we not yet in new location. Not much room for science here.”

    “It hasn’t been an issue before,” the Colonel said. “The Mountain’s got perfectly fine facilities.”

    “Perfectly fine for American Stargate Command, yes. But now we are United Nations Stargate Command!” Dr Georgovich beamed. “New mission! Less war, more science! And other civilian missions!”

    “For a civilian mission, there surely are a lot of new soldiers here,” the Colonel retorted, nodding towards the new generals and their entourage.

    “Of course! Galaxy is dangerous, scientists need guards.” Dr Gergovich nodded at him. “Take good care of us, da?”

    “For as long as we’re here.” The Colonel’s smile showed many teeth.

    Sam cleared her throat. “Well, let’s see how we can fit you and your colleagues into our labs here. We’ve made a preliminary plan, but the roster hasn’t been finalised yet.”

    “Da! Need to check if all scientists survived gulag, first, before sending them here.” Dr Grogovich chuckled. “It’s not real gulag, of course. Just top-secret research stations in Siberia. But name is tradition.”

    The Colonel chuckled at that - he would; he liked dark humour. Sam politely smiled.

    “So, once we move to Canada or Australia, we will have one big science building. And another as a spare. And a testing ground for experiments!”

    “Once the United Nations decide on a location,” Sam said.

    “It better be Canada,” the Colonel commented. “Can’t move to a land without a decent hockey league.”

    “Da! I love NHL! Almost as good as Russian hockey league, now that Russians play in the USA!”

    “In any bar, those would be fighting words.”

    “But this is no bar.” Dr Georgovich laughed again, then turned to Sam. “So, do aliens work with you here as well? Do they have their own lab space? Will they share?”

    Entrapta would, in a heartbeat. “They visit from time to time,” Sam replied. “But they have their own research facilities in space.”

    “Oh! I love space. Is it public lab?”

    “Invitation only,” The Colonel told him. “And the Etherians are a bit touchy about non-allied visitors.”

    “Like Americans, da? You still have no alliance.” Dr Georgovich nodded. “Maybe I talk to them. Entrapta is fine scientist, too. Science does not care about country.”

    “But scientists generally do,” the Colonel said.

    “Bad scientists care!” Dr Gerogovich retorted. “But we are all one world now! We need to think like that!”

    A lovely attitude. Sam wished that would be true. But they couldn’t even get all Americans to agree on what had to be done - or to care more about the whole than themselves. “I think that’s an ideal to strive for.” Daniel would agree - where was he, anyway?

    She looked around and saw him talking to a French officer. Quite an attractive woman. Probably a member of the DGSE, Sam thought, then berated herself for being petty. She should know better than to judge people for their appearance.

    Even though Daniel would be a prime target for a honey trap, as the Colonel called it. At least in the eyes of those who didn’t know him.

    “Da! What was President Lincoln said? ‘House divided cannot stand’? Wise words! Earth has to stand united to face Goa’uld!”

    Well, there was nothing anyone could say against that. Even though it looked like the Colonel really wanted to disagree.

    Sam probably should talk to him if this persisted. They had to work with the newcomers - at least until they were reassigned to Space Force.

    “Let’s head to the lab,” she said. A good distraction would help soothe tempers.

    *****​

    Le Palais de L'Élysée, Paris, Earth, September 22nd, 1998

    “Well, that’s an impressive palace for a non-princess,” Catra commented as they stepped on the red carpet leading up the stairs to where the French president waited with his wife.

    Glimmer looked around - probably trying to figure out if her own palace was bigger, Catra thought with a grin.

    “Catra!” Adora hissed next to her.

    “I’m not saying anything,” Catra defended herself. “I just had a funny thought.”

    “Don’t have funny thoughts when we’re signing an alliance treaty,” Glimmer said.

    Catra would have retorted, but they reached the top of the stairs, and the French president greeted them with a wide smile before introducing his wife.

    Catra flashed her teeth, matching the man’s smile. She wasn’t an idiot - she knew this was an important diplomatic occasion. Like the Princess Prom, but hopefully with better security. At least the soldiers - those not just standing around at attention - looked sharper than Frosta’s guards. Well, they had Melog with them; they would spot any trap. Probably.

    They posed for the press, shook hands a few times so everyone got the message and then entered the palace to actually sign the treaty. Or not - there was more posing and smiling for the press before Glimmer and the president signed the treaty.

    Which then was held up so everyone could smile some more for even more pictures. If Entrapta were here, she’d probably be wondering if this was done so the treaty couldn’t be denied since there were too many witnesses.

    But Entrapta was running tests of their spy bot with Hordak.

    “...and we’ve prepared a small reception here.”

    Oh? Finally, a good thing! Catra’s smile turned genuine when they entered a large room with a buffet. Her nostrils flared when she smelt fish. Grilled fish.

    “Don’t drool,” Adora commented.

    Catra snorted - her lover was as fond of good food as she was. Growing up in the Horde tended to result in that.

    They made their way over to the buffet and started filling plates with food. The French president seemed to relax as well - he even pointed out French specialities for them.

    Which, Catra had to admit, were delicious. So delicious, she refilled her plate before joining Adora and the others talking to the French president and his ministers and generals.

    “...and we should start the technology transfer right away. Changing production to advanced vehicles will take some time, so it’s best not delaying that any longer than strictly necessary,” one of the generals was saying.

    “You need educated engineers first - and scientists,” Glimmer retorted. “You can’t really start producing spaceships without knowing what you’re doing.”

    Catra snorted. “Well, you can - but it’ll end up like Kyle doing maintenance on a hovertank.”

    Adora giggled, Glimmer groaned, and Bow frowned. As expected. But the French looked lost, so Catra explained: “He was in our cadet squad. Hard-working, but a screw-up.”

    “He’s a little clumsy, but he’s very brave,” Adora added with a frown at Catra.

    “Anyway, the hovertank broke down in the field. Blocked a whole company from crossing a mountain pass because they didn’t dare to push it over the side,” Catra went on. “I think the Alliance should have awarded him a medal for that. Heroically holding the pass or something.”

    “Catra!”

    But the French were laughing. “Oh, yes, we had one of those in our company as well when I was a recruit,” one of the generals said. “Almost blew himself up with a grenade.”

    “So, it’s true you both were originally enemies of the Princess Alliance?” another general asked.

    “Yes,” Adora said, standing a little bit straighter. “But we all joined the Alliance to fight Horde Prime.”

    Of course, it had happened at pretty much the last possible moment, in Catra’s case. She nodded anyway.

    “Well, a common enemy generally has a unifying effect,” the general commented. “We’ve seen the same with the Goa’uld - after the Americans finally informed us.”

    “Yes,” Glimmer agreed with a nod.

    Catra was tempted to mention that the Americans had wanted to keep their arrival secret as well, but… she wasn’t Double-Trouble. Causing more problems for shit and giggles was stupid. Although the reaction of the French might tell her how much they knew about Stargate Command… No, that was stupid as well. They needed Earth united if only to make dealing with the lot of the people here a little easier.

    “I’m still a little surprised that our weapons are deemed effective against aliens with spaceships,” the first general said.

    “Well, on the ground, they don’t have better weapons,” Catra told him. “Probably worse, all things considered - although your weapons need more supplies. We haven’t faced the Goa’uld, though, so our estimation is based on the experiences the Americans have gained fighting them for years.”

    “Well, we can match the Americans on the ground,” the second general said. “Soldier per soldier, at least.”

    “Only if you send in the Légion,” another general retorted. He had a different uniform.

    Everyone laughed again.

    “But, more seriously, we need to train our troops for fighting the Goa’uld. We can’t just send them into battle without preparing them for this.” The first general shook his head. “And we need the resources for that.”

    The easiest way would be to do joint training with Stargate Command, Catra knew. They had the experience - it’d be like some old sergeants giving lessons and training to cadets. It didn’t turn cadets into experienced troops, but it cut down on basic mistakes. At least for most cadets.

    On the other hand, sometimes, they taught the wrong lessons. Or just didn’t know enough. Like the time the Plumerians suddenly decided to start fighting back thanks to She-Ra. All the past Horde actions had shown that they wouldn’t fight back in an organised manner and would stick to individual resistance. They would have to wing it to some degree.

    And such training would be good for their own troops as well - both clones and Alliance troops. Heh, former Horde soldiers might be the best pick for this kind of war, what with having been trained to fight princesses with weird magic powers. Not that the training had been very successful.

    “We’ll have to ask Entrapta to make some Goa’uld-style training weapons. To simulate the effects,” Adora told the generals. “At least for the staff weapons - the zat’nik’tels can be used as they are since they stun and don’t kill their targets.” She blinked. “Unless you hit a target twice. Maybe those should be simulated as well,” she added with a weak smile.

    “Joint training,” Catra said. “Most of our own troops will gain from that as well.”

    “Right.”

    Can help too. Know Goa’uld.

    “And Melog will help,” Catra added, nodding at her friend. “They have experience with Goa’uld.”

    A number of the officers stared at Melog as if they had forgotten that they were here. Well, Melog could be very sneaky if they wanted. But… Oh. They had forgotten that Melog wasn’t an animal. Even though Adora had introduced them.

    At least the president smiled and didn’t look surprised. But that raised another point. If even the generals were like this… Catra shook her head. “And your troops also need to train for interacting with other species. Like Melog here. Otherwise, they’ll make stupid mistakes. Maybe even fatal ones.” If Melog had wanted to harm them with their illusions back when they had met for the first time…

    “And magic,” Adora added. “People on Earth have weird views of magic.”

    A few of the people around them winced. “It’s a touchy subject for many,” the president said. “Mostly because they don’t know what magic can do.”

    “It’s more what magic can’t do,” Adora said. “And we really don’t know what Earth magic will be like - your myths and history are a little confusing.”

    A lot, in Catra’s opinion. And so many of them contradicted each other!

    “But that might be because you have so many people,” Glimmer added. “You have enough people for almost two hundred planets like Etheria. That could spawn hundreds of magical traditions. And, as far as we can tell, you never had a centre like Mystacore on Etheria, where all the sorcerers gather to study and research.”

    And to hide from the war, Catra thought. It was a bit unfair, of course, but the Alliance would have done much better even before She-Ra joined them if they had had sorcerers fighting for them. Had done better back when Micah had been with them. But pointing that out would only set off Glimmer.

    “Could we send people to study there?” the president’s wife asked.

    “That would be up to Mystacore,” Glimmer replied. “They’re not officially part of the Princess Alliance.”

    “Your father and your aunt are, though, and they’re the most powerful sorcerers on Etheria and members of the city’s council,” Catra said. It wouldn’t hurt to remind Earth’s people that Etheria might not be united, but that the Alliance pretty much called the shots for the planet.

    She caught Adora flinching and blinked. Why would…? Oh. She had just reminded Adora of the reason that princesses ruled, and her lover was still worrying that she wasn’t any better than the Goa’uld.

    Damn.

    “Well, it would allow us to study magic without having it returned to Earth,” the French president said. “That would likely calm down a lot of people worried about magic.”

    It would also give them sorcerers trained at the best academy in Etheria - maybe the galaxy. Predictable. But they had misjudged Adora.

    Catra’s lover shook her head. “That would take years. And Etherian magic might not work the same as Earth magic.”

    “It would also mean that instead of your native traditions, you would have Etherian traditions,” Bow said. “A lot of people want their magic back, not someone else’s.”

    “Yes,” Glimmer said. “And there’s no reason to wait years before returning magic, anyway. Not when so many people want it returned. India sent another request to restore magic, and the Japanese have stated that this is part of what they want to discuss at our upcoming meeting as well.”

    That made the French wince, Catra noticed. Well, she had expected that.

    “We might have to look into hiring instructors, then - France doesn’t have, ah, magical traditions,” the president said. “Or if we have, they were lost. Our myths don’t tell us how to use magic, only what magic did. And our current research into the matter was inconclusive.”

    “Well, you’ll figure it out,” Catra said.

    The French didn’t seem to take much heart from that, though.

    *****​

    Aéroport de Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle, Roissy-En-France, Earth, September 22nd, 1998

    “Well, the food was good, but the company…” Catra stretched as they entered their ship.

    “They weren’t that bad,” Adora objected.

    “They wanted us to hand over everything, technology and magic, right away.” Catra scoffed.

    “They didn’t want magic,” her lover objected.

    “They want magic, just without everyone getting magic,” Glimmer corrected her. “And their ‘entrepreneurs’ wanting unlimited trade with us as if we didn’t know how dangerous that is! I hope the British aren’t like that, or tomorrow will be the same, just with worse food.”

    Catra snorted at that.

    *****​
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2022
  12. Threadmarks: Chapter 39: The Training Session
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 39: The Training Session

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, September 23rd, 1998

    “So, there are our FNGs,” Jack O’Neill commented as he looked at the soldiers assembling on the field in front of him. “We’ve got our work cut out for us, Teal’c.” They were the worst kind of FNGs, too - FNGs who didn’t understand that they were FNGs. Jack knew the type. Most of the members of Stargate Command - the old Stargate Command - had been like that: recruited from elite units, used to being the best. They took a while to be broken down and rebuilt into useful soldiers.

    “They are veterans, as I was told, and merely inexperienced where fighting the Goa’uld is concerned. I foresee no trouble teaching them how to fight the servants of the false gods and the false gods themselves as we did to our comrades in arms before.”

    “Yep. But those aren’t Americans, so they’ll be more prickly and difficult.” Then again, getting Marines to listen to an Air Force officer when it came to ground combat was a challenge by itself.

    “I have no doubt that we will rise to the challenge, O’Neill.”

    “That’s the spirit.” Jack grinned and kept grinning as he started walking towards the rough formation that had assembled on the field. The officer in charge of the Brits noticed him first and bellowed, the rest of the limeys quickly coming to attention.

    The French and Chinese followed, with the Russians a little behind, but all finished before Jack stepped onto the actual field. Four different formations, all of them assembling on their own, with four different officers reporting for training.

    “What a mess,” Jack whispered after returning the salutes.

    Only Teal’c heard him, and his friend didn’t react at all.

    Then Jack raised his voice. “Welcome to Stargate Command! I’m Colonel Jack O’Neill, the senior field officer of the unit. This is Teal’c, former First Prime of Apophis. He is a Jaffa.” He nodded at his friend and tried to gauge the men’s reactions. There was some tensing, but nothing serious that he could see.

    “We’re going to teach you about the way the Goa’uld and their Jaffa fight. I know you’ve been briefed and seen the news, but there’s nothing as impressive as first-hand experience,” he went on. “For that, we’ve prepared some target dummies.”

    Everyone turned their heads to look at the range to the side of the field, where, in the open and behind earthen walls, a dozen dummies had been erected by some grunts. “Line up at the edge!”

    A minute later, the soldiers were watching the range - and Teal’c, who had stepped into the centre of the firing line with his staff weapon. It was always better to start with something that drew attention when teaching soldiers, and explosions were a sure way to do that, in Jack’s opinion. He nodded at his friend.

    “This is a staff weapon,” Teal’c said, holding the staff up. “It can fire plasma bolts upon command. They explode upon hitting the target, generally burning through standard body armour of Tau’ri and Jaffa alike.”

    Jack saw a few of the soldiers whisper to each other - some might not have been aware of the Goa’uld term for humans. One of the Russian female soldiers - or spies; they were far too pretty in Jack’s opinion - seemed to be the resident expert for her group. He made a mental note to look up her file later.

    Then Teal’c turned to face the field and aimed at the closest dummy. A moment later, the staff fired, and the dummy exploded, sending rubber bits and ballistic jelly all over the place. Teal’c didn’t stop and fired again and again, blowing up another dummy and blasting off the top of a wall of earth, then decapitated the dummy behind it.

    Jack’s friend wasn’t quite smiling when he turned to face the soldiers, but he was standing in a sort of smug way. Jack could tell.

    He grinned himself. “That looks impressive, but the staff has a few drawbacks as well. Aiming is kind of hard since the thing isn’t ergonomic. And it has a low rate of fire - relatively low.” It easily beat an M79 or an M203, of course. “But one hit, and you’re dead even if you’re wearing body armour. So, don’t get hit.” He grinned.

    The chuckling amongst the soldiers sounded just a little bit forced; they weren’t green soldiers.

    “Now, the second common weapon in our enemies’ arsenal.” Jack drew the zat’nik’tel from his holster. “Looks weird, doesn’t it? That’s a zat’nik’tel.” He demonstrated the safe and active modes. “It’s smaller than a staff weapon and works differently. If you get hit with it, you’ll be stunned. Hurts like a bitch, too, trust me about this.” This time, the chuckling was a little more reluctant. “Then if you get hit a second time, even if it’s minutes apart, you die. Just like that. Dead as a doornail, leaving an intact corpse.”

    No one was chuckling now.

    “And if you get hit there times in succession…” Jack turned and fired at the closest standing dummy. The first and second shots didn’t do anything. The third disintegrated it. “...you’re literally gone.”

    Everyone was staring now. It really was like teaching Marines.

    *****​

    The FNGs were good. Better than the average SGC recruit, Jack O’Neill had to admit. Of course, the other countries would send their best for this assignment - if only so they could build up a cadre to train more troops back home once they had experience fighting the Goa’uld.

    He watched a squad of British soldiers navigate the simulation field, trying to get close to Teal’c. Fire and move, the simulated shots not quite as loud as the real thing. Jack didn’t see any obvious mistake - but they had never fought Jaffa. And they had no idea how fast Teal’c could run. One more leap… yes.

    Teal’c dashed out from under cover, staff weapon firing - at the ground in front of the closest soldiers, throwing up dirt and smoke, temporarily blinding the limeys. Not for long - they changed positions as soon as they realised what had happened - but they reacted as if they were fighting humans.

    Teal’c closed the distance far quicker than they expected - he jumped over the rock the first two were hiding behind before the dust cloud had settled. Two jabs, not even shooting, and both men’s simulation gear marked them dead.

    The rest of the squad started firing, but Teal’c jumped to the side, behind another rock, then returned fire. Simulated fire. One soldier was caught in the open and went down, and Teal’c used two more real blasts to throw up more dust clouds.

    The limeys fell back, expecting another charge - and ended up flanked by Teal’c, who had sprinted to the side even faster than they had expected. And that was it for this exercise.

    “Bloody hell!” one of their mates behind Jack cursed. “No one told us we’d be fighting Superman!”

    Jack clenched his teeth to keep from correcting the soldier. Teal’c was closer to Captain America, not Superman, but it wouldn’t do to appear a nerd. He turned and grinned. “Welcome to the galaxy, boys! Don’t worry, with training, you’ll be able to handle Jaffa.”

    Another soldier scoffed. “And with artillery.”

    “No heavy artillery for Stargate Command, alas.” Jack smiled. “But anything portable, we can use.”

    “Why don’t we get heavy weapons?” the soldier complained.

    “Because our task is exploration and scouting - and guarding scientists and diplomats,” Jack quoted their new mission statement. “We’re not going to conquer planets.”

    “Well, we should!” the soldier insisted.

    “Hey! Even artillery wouldn’t hit the guy when he’s right in your trench!” another limey said. “Besides, we got his number now. When it’s our turn, we’ll get him for sure!”

    Jack didn’t bother hiding his grin. Just like his latest batch of recruits, they had to learn the hard way.

    *****​

    “So, how is it…” Daniel took a step back from where he had joined Jack O’Neill when Teal’c tossed another Russian across the mats in the base’s gym.

    “...going?” Jack grinned. “As expected.”

    The Russian cursed and rolled to his feet, then charged in again. Teal’c used one Jaffa-martial arts move Jack didn’t remember the name of and redirected the Russian’s charge into the other Russian trying to sneak up on him from behind.

    Both went down in a tangle of limbs. When they got up, one had a split lip, and the other was favouring his left leg.

    “Let’s take him all together!” the first spat in Russian.

    “They didn’t say we could.”

    “They didn’t say we couldn’t.”

    “It makes us look bad.”

    “I don’t care! Just take this bastard down!”

    Jack chuckled loudly, which made the Russians sitting around the mat glare at him - they would know he spoke enough Russian to understand them - but the four fighting Teal’c didn’t seem to care and attacked together.

    It didn’t help them. Teal’c blocked two strikes, took a kick to his chest and slammed the first Russian down, then tackled two more. All went down, but only Teal’c got up, catching the last one with a mule kick in the chest.

    Jack winced - he knew how much that hurt. Dr Fraser wouldn’t be happy - she never was when they flooded the infirmary with training accidents. But this was necessary to avoid flooding the morgue once they were in the field.

    Anyone with SGC needed to know just how dangerous Jaffa could be.

    “They’ll think every Jaffa is Teal’c,” Daniel commented in a low voice.

    “Yes. Better than thinking they are pushovers.”

    “They might be more easily intimidated when they meet the first Jaffa,” Daniel worried.

    “Doesn’t matter. They’ll still fight as well as they can.” Jack knew those people. Spec Ops and Black Ops. And some spies. He glanced at the woman he had noticed before. She was getting ready to fight Teal’c next. She was wearing camo pants and a t-shirt that left her arms bare, and Jack studied her muscles. Definitely no desk jockeying data analyst. And not a honey trap, either. Or not just a honey trap. And she moved like… well, not quite like Teal’c, or Catra, but… Jack wouldn’t like to fight her on the mats. Not because he wouldn’t win - he had about fifty pounds of muscle on her and fifteen years of experience, and that would be telling - but it would be closer than he would like. And he would get hurt.

    “Are you sure about that, Jack?”

    “Yes. I know the type.” Jack would do the same in their place. Had done the same.

    “Well, if you’re sure that…” Daniel trailed off when more Russians started flying. Not the woman, though - she evaded Teal’c and almost caught him in the back. And she took two throws to stay down.

    Yeah, Jack would have to keep an eye on her.

    *****​

    Heathrow Airport, London, United Kingdom, Earth, September 23rd, 1998

    “Horses!” Adora couldn’t help it - she beamed as they stepped out of Darla. There were two carriages waiting for them with horses! And more people on horses! Swift Wind would love this! Or not - he probably would want those horses freed.

    “Did they put this together to impress us?” Catra asked, looking around with a barely-hidden scowl.

    “No,” Glimmer said. “This is standard procedure for state visits.”

    “We checked,” Bow added.

    Adora nodded. He had researched things.

    “And you didn’t tell us?” Catra asked with a frown.

    “I thought Adora would tell you,” Glimmer replied before taking a step forward and greeting their hosts - represented by the Crown Prince, apparently, and a minister of the government.

    And lots of horses. And, of course, lots of reporters.

    “I hope they have more effective security than horse cavalry,” Catra muttered after a frown at Adora.

    “Smile,” Adora whispered before she shook the Prince’s hand. He looked about as old as Micah.

    They exchanged the usual greetings. By now, Adora was kind of familiar with the customs. Shake hands, say how happy you are to be here, smile and wave for the cameras - that came before, when you left the shuttle or ship - and don’t say anything too honest.

    After the spiel, they climbed into the waiting carriages. Glimmer and Bow rode with the Prince, Adora and Catra with the minister - the Foreign Secretary.

    “We’re using standard protocols for visiting royalty,” the man explained as they took off, travelling at low speed.

    Adora nodded. “Of course.” They were princesses, after all. And their consorts - even if it wasn’t yet official. But that didn’t seem to matter to the British. Though Catra suspected that they would care about those details if they didn’t have to suck up to the Alliance.

    By the time they reached Windsor Castle, they had covered the landmarks on the way, the history of the Horse Guards, food and the weather. No politics. And Adora didn’t even have to pinch Catra to keep her lover from making comments about figurehead princesses and queens.

    Such as the one they were meeting now. She was old. Adora had known that, of course - she had seen pictures and met her son today - but actually meeting her made that even more apparent. She wasn’t like Angella. And not like Madame Razz, either. No disapproving glances or absent-minded remarks.

    The protocol for meeting the Queen was supposedly complicated, but it was nothing compared to the rules for the Princess Prom, so Adora didn’t make any mistakes while greeting the Queen or walking down the line of soldiers. It wasn’t an actual inspection, though - the Queen didn’t check every soldier for regulation-conforming uniform, nor did she check their weapons.

    Unlike the French, the British didn’t have them proceed to the signing of the alliance treaty right away. First, they moved, again with the carriages, to the Queen’s palace. Without the Foreign Secretary this time. And past a lot of people, many of them waving tiny flags of the United Kingdom and the Alliance.

    “Let’s hope none of them tries to kill us,” Catra mumbled. Her ears were twitching - she was on edge, Adora realised.

    Well, they were surrounded by throngs of people. And Adora knew that not everyone on Earth liked them. But here, she didn’t see any signs of a protest. Just cheering people. And lots of children.

    *****​

    Buckingham Palace, London, United Kingdom, Earth, September 23rd, 1998

    They were having tea. Adora had had tea before, but not like this. And not just because they were in the Queen’s palace - Buckingham Palace. She’d had tea in palaces before. But not with so much food. And good food, at that - Catra was scarfing down those fish sandwiches. Adora preferred the scones, actually.

    “So, how was growing up on Etheria as a princess?” the Queen’s second-eldest grandson - the ‘spare’ according to Catra - asked. He was very young, barely fourteen. Two years younger than his elder brother. The whole Royal family was present, which was, as far as Adora could tell, unusual for state visits.

    “You’d have to ask Glimmer that,” she told him. “I grew up as a Horde cadet.”

    “Yeah,” Catra cut in after swallowing her latest sandwich. “We grew up in the barracks. Glimmer’s the one who grew up in a palace.”

    Glimmer frowned slightly. “I was trained as a soldier as well,” she said.

    “In a palace.” Catra grinned. “With good food and beds so soft, you could drown in them.”

    Adora nodded. “Oh, yes. I remember my first night at Bright Moon. I couldn’t sleep because it was so soft.” And because she had missed Catra’s presence, but she wouldn’t talk about that.

    “We’re going to enter the military as well,” the young prince told them, nodding solemnly before grinning. “We might even get to fight the Goa’uld, too! Like Uncle Andrew fought the Argentines.”

    Adora hid a grimace. She wasn’t the only one, she saw - the Queen wasn’t amused. She looked like Angella right then, just older.

    “We shall do our duty,” the Queen said. “As we have done before.”

    She had served in the army as well, or something like it, according to Bow. And her consort had been in the Navy. Like proper princesses.

    “Nazis, Argentines, and now snakes,” the old man - a prince as well, although now he was the Royal Consort - said with a chuckle. “I wonder what’s next. Martians?”

    Mars was not inhabited… Oh, he was joking again. Sometimes, it was hard to tell. And some of the consort’s jokes were… a little mean. Catra liked them, though.

    Adora nodded and took another scone.

    “We can’t actually be sure that there aren’t other realms in the galaxy that might be a threat to us,” Glimmer said. “Just because we haven’t encountered them so far doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”

    “Yes,” Bow agreed. “The galaxy is so big, the Goa’uld Empire is a very small part of it. And they limit themselves mostly to the worlds linked by Stargates. We’ve encountered several different species while we’ve dealt with Horde Prime and they didn’t use Stargates as far as we know.”

    Species like the Star Children or Melog, whose worlds had been destroyed by Horde Prime. Adora bit a little harder into her scone. So much pain and suffering, so much destruction just because of one man’s desires…

    “Species like you?” the youngest prince asked, looking at Catra.

    “Huh?” Catra shook her head. “No, I’m from Etheria.” She patted Melog’s head. “They’re such a species - Horde Prime destroyed their world.”

    Melog growled softly for a moment.

    “And they remember,” Catra went on. “They also remember the Goa’uld.”

    For a moment, no one said anything. Then the Queen nodded. “Such atrocities must be remembered lest they will be repeated.”

    “Yes,” Glimmer agreed. “We won’t let anyone destroy another world if we can help it.” She flashed her teeth in a grim smile.

    “And we will do what we can to help you,” the Queen said.

    Adora half-expected their hosts to point out that they could do more to help if they had advanced technology, but no such comment followed. Then again, the Queen was just the figurehead, not the ruler of the country.

    “So, how many different species do live on your planet?” the older of the two princes asked, leaning forward a little.

    He was addressing Catra as well, Adora noticed with a slight smile.

    “Lots. I don’t know how many, actually. But there has to be a list in some archive. Or in the research base on the moon,” Catra replied.

    “A research base on the moon?” The younger prince blinked.

    “Yes,” Bow told him. “The reason we have so many different species on Etheria is that the First Ones created them as part of their research using genetic engineering. All of Etheria’s species are related to humans like yourself.”

    “Ah.” The boy nodded.

    And the First Ones had also built a superweapon into Etheria’s core to destroy Horde Prime, but that wasn’t the time to mention this, in Adora’s opinion. “The First Ones were destroyed by Horde Prime as well,” she said instead. All but herself. Although Jack also was a First One, so… there probably were more people like her left. On Earth, even.

    But that was another topic not suited to this conversation.

    “So, can you breed with humans?” the Royal Consort asked Catra.

    Catra shrugged. “Sure.” She glanced at Adora for a moment and then grabbed another sandwich.

    “Any species on Etheria can have children with another species, though they might need magical help in some cases,” Bow said. “We haven’t any, ah, data on how it works with other species not related to humans, but theoretically, you could use the same methods the First Ones used to create Etheria’s species to create offspring.”

    The Royal Consort laughed at that. “Oh, that will ruffle some feathers!”

    “The ramifications for various legislation will be quite complicated,” the Queen said. “We will have to bring that up in Our next talk with the Prime Minister. It wouldn’t do to be caught unaware by one of Our subjects having offspring with an alien.”

    “Or an animal,” the Royal Consort added with another chuckle.

    The Queen didn’t seem to be amused but she slowly nodded. “Quite.”

    The young princes grimaced, and the Crown Prince frowned. “That seems rather far-fetched,” he commented. “And such magic would be restricted, wouldn’t it?”

    “Probably not,” Glimmer replied. “Don’t you have myths about horse people?”

    “Centaurs,” Bow corrected her. “And there were minotaurs mentioned as well. Earth magic might make this possible. Technology certainly will, once you master First Ones tech.”

    “We really must have a talk with the Prime Minister.” The Queen lifted her cup of tea and took a sip.

    Glimmer frowned. “Can you actually tell him what to do? We were told that the power rests with the elected government.”

    The Queen smiled. “It’s not quite as cut and dry as it sounds. The power does rest with the government. However, the reasons for that are a mix of custom, tradition and laws. And as Queen of England, we wield influence - soft power. The Prime Minister cannot easily dismiss our concerns, certainly not if they are well-founded.”

    “Which the prospect of people having kids with their pets certainly qualifies as,” the Royal Consort added. “I can think of a few people who would have rather married their dog than their spouse.”

    “Animals cannot consent to marriage, though,” Glimmer retorted. “Only sapient species can. You couldn’t marry a pet. Well, not according to our laws.”

    “Nor according to ours,” the Queen said. “But we are more concerned about genetic engineering creating new species. Even leaving aside the moral questions about mixing humans and animals, what about the practical aspects? People rarely succeed at their first attempt when they are trying something new, and while a craftsman discarding a ruined piece is normal, we would rather not see people discarded - or suffer from mistakes made in their creation that leave them in pain or crippled.”

    It was Adora’s turn to wince. The Queen was correct; people trying to create a new species would likely make mistakes while experimenting. Even worse, she had a feeling that this was a problem the First Ones - her people - had had to deal with when they experimented in Etheria. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know what they had done with ‘failed experiments’. Even though the answer was probably buried in all the data from the research base.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, September 23rd, 1998

    “So, this is a zat’nik’tel. Weird design. But powerful. And non-lethal. Boon for police, you think?”

    Samantha Carter shook her head at her new colleague. “Two shots kill, three disintegrate, Iwan.” Far too easy to kill someone before you realised that you had hit them the first time.

    “Make it one shot only?” He cocked his head sideways and frowned at the weapon he was holding. “And limit it to one per squad?”

    “Reducing the number of shots - or introducing a hard-coded delay so it would be safe - would mean you’d have to hit with the first shot,” she explained. “And that would mean it would only see marginal use. Especially in incidents with multiple assailants.” She had had to explain that to a senator before. At least no one had told the NRA yet that there were actual stun and disintegration ray guns on Earth.

    “Ah.” He nodded. “Too bad. Reliable method of non-lethal takedown would be great. Especially for hostage situations.”

    “Yes. But not even the Etherians have anything like that.” Although they might have some spells which could be used for that. Sam hadn’t asked.

    He put the gun down and beamed at her. “So! What work do you do?”

    “I’m waiting for Entrapta to arrive,” she said. “We’re working on space surveillance drones.” The princess apparently had overslept - after working through the night. Or so Hordak had claimed.

    “Great! Space spy drones!” Dr Georgovich clapped his hands together. “You go to space to test, da?”

    Sam nodded. She felt almost nostalgic - he was so enthusiastic about space. When was the last time Sam had felt like that? After weeks in space, and several visits to orbit, it had become almost mundane. Of course, all the urgent work piled on her had done its share of taking the wonder out of space travel.

    “Is something wrong?”

    “No, no.” She smiled. “I was just thinking about all the other projects waiting for me.” Some of which she wouldn’t be allowed to work on, now that she was - technically - under the command of the United Nations.

    “Oh! What other projects do you work on?” He looked around.

    Now that was a little blatant. “Currently? I don’t know.” She inclined her head with a slightly toothy smile. “Others are going over the classified material to see what will be moved.” She suppressed a frown. That was logical, but she still didn’t like it.

    “Oh.” He pouted, then shrugged. “Like in Russia, then. Secret Service controls science.”

    “Not quite,” she told him with a frown. “But not all the work I did was for Stargate Command.”

    “But you cannot decide what work was and was not, da? Secret Service can classify it.”

    She kept herself from frowning. “That is out of my hands. I focused on science, not internal or international politics.” Technically true, even though she had followed either as well.

    “Ah.” He nodded with a wide smile. “Again, like Russia! Or USSR!”

    It wasn’t like that. But saying so would make her look petulant. So she shrugged. “Perhaps. Now, the work on spy drones involves Etherian technology. Horde technology.”

    “Ah!”

    Yes, that would interest Dr Georgovich. He hadn’t yet asked if he was allowed to work with Entrapta, but was that because he was aware that this wasn’t covered by the new agreement with the United Nations or because he knew that this was entirely up to the Etherians and he hoped that Entrapta would invite him to work with them?

    If so, he might be disappointed. Entrapta would do so in a heartbeat, Sam was certain, but Hordak wouldn’t. The former warlord had more of a mind for keeping things classified than Entrapta.

    “In any case, we have work to do for Stargate Command. Recalibrating for stellar drift, for one.” That was needed to keep the Stargate working with their computers.

    “Oh. That’s what Russian DHD does automatically, da?”

    “Yes. But we shouldn’t just rely on an artefact we can’t duplicate,” she retorted.

    “Da! We need to learn how to build DHD!”

    Oh, if Sam achieved that… It wasn’t just the controls for the Stargate or the software, but the power sources… “Let’s start with the charts,” she said. “We got a lot of astronavigation data from the Etherians and still haven’t implemented everything yet.”

    “Da! Let’s do science!”

    *****​

    “Sam?”

    Samantha Carter looked up from the latest readouts when she heard Daniel enter her lab. “Yes?”

    “Do you want to do lunch together?”

    She narrowed her eyes at her friend. Was he being subtle about ‘feeding our scientist’, as the Colonel put it, or did he just want to eat with her? It was hard to tell with Daniel.

    “Lunch? Oh. Already past noon!” Dr Georgovich exclaimed. “Time to eat! Cannot live on coffee and tea, no matter how much sugar we add, da?”

    Daniel blinked, apparently surprised by Dr Georgovich inviting himself along. “Ah… yes.” He looked at Sam again.

    Was something wrong? If something had happened to the Colonel or Teal’c, Daniel would have said so right away. Was it about the Russians? The Colonel was training the new arrivals today.

    “So, let’s go? Before only spam is left?” Dr Georgovich was beaming at them.

    Daniel nodded. “Ah, OK!”

    Sam almost snorted as she followed them out of the lab. “So, will the Colonel and Teal’c be joining us?”

    “I don’t think so,” Daniel said. “Teal’c told me that they will be eating ‘in the field’ when he came to grab his mess kit.”

    “How did the training go so far?” Sam asked as they waited for the lift to arrive.

    “As expected, I think. Teal’c wasn’t very talkative.”

    Sam chuckled.

    “Strong and silent type, yes?” Dr Georgovich asked.

    “Ah, yes.” Daniel nodded. “Though he also said that Jack was interested in a female soldier.”

    Sam blinked. What?

    *****​

    10 Downing Street, London, United Kingdom, Earth, September 23rd, 1998

    “...and I’m happy and proud to see this historic agreement signed today!”

    It was hard to think of the Queen as a mere figurehead after meeting her, Catra had to admit. Even harder when meeting the Prime Minister right after having had tea with her. He was trying too hard to be nice, in Catra’s opinion.

    Of course, he wanted this alliance signed, so he had to be nice. But, still… Catra refrained from scowling when everyone present clapped their hands. And his smile was a bit too wide. He just… didn’t look like a princess. Or prince, in his case. And he didn’t live in a palace. It was a big house, of course, but it wasn’t a proper palace. Unlike the French President’s palace.

    Of course, the French didn’t have a queen, so their president filled the spot, so that was probably why he got to have a palace - no princess to show up.

    “As are we.” Glimmer stood straight, but she wasn’t trying to appear taller than she was in an attempt to match the Prime Minister. “We are looking forward to fighting side by side with your troops against the Goa’uld to free their slaves.”

    More applause while some flunkie presented the alliance agreement to them. A few strokes with a pen later, they had their alliance.

    And even more clapping followed. Well, they finally had their second alliance in the bag. And the Germans would follow tomorrow.

    So, it was time to celebrate. Only, they had to face the press next. Like with the French. Catra kept smiling while she stared at a dozen cameras and more microphones. “Imagine if we had to deal with that back home,” she whispered to Adora as they lined up for the questions.

    “Shh!” Adora hissed back.

    “You know I’m right.” Catra had the last word.

    Then the questions began.

    *****​

    “I’m sorry, but as the Prime Minister already told you, we cannot comment on plans and missions.” Catra saw that Adora’s smile was frozen as she answered the same question the Prime Minister had already answered. For the third time.

    “Audrey Collins, BBC. Prime Minister, are you planning to reintroduce military conscription? According to our sources, the British Army currently has just shy of fifty thousand soldiers available for deployment. This seems quite low for a galactic war.”

    The man’s smile didn’t waver. “We’re looking into all options once we have a clearer picture of what exactly the military situation demands. Of course, I hope that we will not be forced to reintroduce conscription.”

    “Does that mean you support extending the alliance with Etheria to countries with more soldiers available for deployment, regardless of their human rights record?”

    “That question hasn’t been raised so far.”

    “It seems to be an obvious question. It hasn’t been brought up so far?” The woman’s frown was impressive.

    Adora cleared her throat. “As I have said before: We cannot comment on plans and missions at this point.”

    “And that includes future diplomatic overtures.” Glimmer frowned. “However, we have no intention to lower our standards and ally with people who would discriminate against us.”

    “Tim Brown, the Sunday Times. Isn’t that a form of discrimination?”

    That again! Catra rolled her eyes as Glimmer glared at the fool: “Do you think you have a right to our technology? That we have an obligation to share it with everyone, regardless of their deeds and character? Regardless of their stance towards us?”

    “No, of course not, but some might consider your stance as forcing everyone to accept your values and morals.”

    “All we require is to treat people like us - people loving the same gender - equal to others. If that violates your morals, then that says a lot about your morals, but nothing good.” Glimmer bared her teeth.

    The reporters in France had been much more polite. Or picked better.

    “Stop shilling for bigots, Tim!” someone from the reporters yelled. “We’re here to get information, not push conservative policy!”

    “Indeed,” the Prime Minister said. “Ken?”

    “Ken Smith, The Guardian. Will you send teachers and instructors to Britain to proliferate technology or invite students to Etheria or both?”

    Glimmer glanced at Bow, who took a step towards the microphone. “We’re still evaluating how we can share our technology in the most efficient way. However, transporting large numbers of people to Etheria seems not very efficient even with the Stargate, not when the industry to be converted is here.”

    And it would also flood Etheria with spies. Though saying so would be rude. Which was why Adora had told Catra she couldn’t comment on that. Spoilsport.

    “Karen Calloway, The Independent. Will there be a supreme commander for the Alliance?”

    “Why wouldn’t there be a supreme commander?” Adora looked as surprised at the questions as Catra. Of course there would be a supreme commander! You couldn’t wage war effectively without one person in charge. Trying to fight a war under a committee was a recipe for disaster, as the Princess Alliance had found out early on. “It would be foolish not to fight under a unified command.”

    “And who would be that commander?”

    “That remains to be seen. None of us has experience waging war against the Goa’uld, so we can’t tell yet who’s best at it.” Adora nodded with a smile. “I think it will take a while to find the right person.”

    “And to convince them to take the job,” Catra added with a grin. “Those who have been in command of an army at war before know what I mean.”

    But it was a good question - who would lead the alliance forces? Adora? Glimmer? Not Hordak. And certainly not any of the other princesses. Adora would be best - Catra could work best with her.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, September 23rd, 1998

    “...and the Etherian delegation is currently attending the state dinner in Buckingham Palace. According to usually well-informed sources, informal talks following the signing of the alliance have gone well, and concrete results are supposed to be released soon. Neither the Etherians nor Her Majesty’s Government was willing to comment, though, so speculation is running rampant.”

    Sitting in the mess hall, Jack O’Neill rolled his eyes at the reporter on the screen. Of course they wouldn’t comment on informal talks - or release anything before the alliance agreement with the Germans was signed and the Etherians could actually start hashing out concrete details with the limeys, the Germans and the French.

    Well, there were rumours that at least half the smaller European countries wanted to join the alliance - like the Swedes and the Finn, once they worked out how to handle their neutrality. That might delay the whole process further. Or the big three might just go ahead anyway and expect the smaller countries to follow their lead. Jack had a feeling that the last thing the Europeans wanted was to have the United States join the alliance too soon. Or at all.

    To quote the limeys he had trained today in the field: bloody wankers. They were in this together - all of Earth was. They had to work together to defeat the Goa’uld. Though Jack wouldn’t mind if the Russians and the Chinese were a little less involved.

    He glanced over at the table where most of the Russian soldiers were sitting. How many of them were spies? It was hard to tell. All of them had military experience; Jack had confirmed that today. But how many had training as spooks? Some didn’t hide their interest in everything in the Mountain, whether or not it was part of Stargate Command, but were they spies - or just distractions for the real spooks? Or was it a triple bluff?

    He studied the woman who had caught his attention earlier. Lt Svetlana Lenkova. She was most certainly a spook - she had combat experience, Jack was sure of that, and women weren’t allowed to serve in combat units in the Russian army. According to her file, she was a communication specialist, but he had seen her shoot and fight in close quarters, and he’d eat his service cap if she was a radio operator with basic combat training. The way she sat, a little too relaxed, and the way the Spetsnaz soldiers listened to her was another clue. No special forces would act like that towards a radio operator. Certainly not with one as pretty as the woman.

    “Jack?”

    He blinked and turned to Daniel. “Yes?”

    “You were staring at the Russians.”

    “Yes?” Why wouldn’t he stare at them? They were a security risk. This was still an American base, no matter whether or not the Stargate was now UN property or whatever.

    “So, Teal’c was correct - you’re interested in the blonde.”

    “What?” He blinked again.

    “He said that she caught your attention.” Daniel was… not quite frowning.

    “Indeed.” Teal’c nodded.

    And Carter… was focusing on her meal. Probably going over some data in her head that Entrapta had brought up in the afternoon or something.

    “Well, yes,” Jack told his friend. “I’m sure she’s a spy.”

    “A spy?” Daniel looked surprised. And Carter stopped eating to stare at Jack.

    He sighed. Daniel was a little naive, but Carter should’ve known better. “Yes. I’m sure she’s GRU. Russian military intelligence,” he added for Daniel’s benefit.

    To his friend’s credit, he didn’t ask if that meant KGB. “So, that’s why you’re interested in her?”

    “Yes?”

    “Ah.”

    Jack narrowed his eyes. What was Daniel thinking? Or implying? Oh, for crying out loud! “Do you really think I would fall for a honey trap?” He scoffed and shook his head.

    And caught Lenkova smiling a rather toothy smile at him. Had she been watching him? She couldn’t have been listening in, but if she could read lips… He bared his own teeth at her in a wide smile. She might be a lethal GRU agent, but Jack had decades of experience in black ops.

    Let’s see who comes out on top, he thought.

    *****​
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2022
  13. Threadmarks: Chapter 40: The Expert
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 40: The Expert

    Earth Orbit, Solar System, September 23rd, 1998

    “I’m dying.”

    Adora rolled her eyes at Catra. “You aren’t dying. You just stuffed yourself.”

    “Against my will. This was an attempt to kill us. A very subtle and cunning attempt. All those fish dishes… they knew I would be unable to resist.” Catra groaned from their bed. “I’ll get back at them for that.”

    “They just wanted to curry favour with you,” Adora told her as she finished putting her clothes into their locker - or armoire since it was in their cabin. It was her best dress, after all, and deserved to be cared for. It would be a little embarrassing if she had to ask an Earth tailor for another dress.

    Not that that deterred Catra. Her lover had dropped her clothes on the floor on the way to the bed. And not in the sexy way - she had groaned and complained until she hit the bed.

    Adora sighed and started picking up the pieces.

    “Just leave it for the bots. They need to be cleaned anyway,” Catra commented from the bed.

    Adora pressed her lips together. “It’s still not right to just drop stuff on the floor.”

    “We’re not cadets any more.”

    “That’s no excuse.”

    Catra snorted. “I’d say you’re making the job harder for the bots - they need to get it out of the locker now.”

    She had a point, but Adora wouldn’t admit that. You just didn’t leave your clothes on the floor. Unless you were seducing your lover, of course - it would kill the mood if you started gathering the clothes. Even Adora knew that.

    So she still put the clothes into Catra’s locker, sent a message to the bots to get it cleaned, as well as her dress, and then finally joined Catra on the bed.

    “Took you long enough,” Catra complained.

    “It seems you have survived the cunning attack on your life.”

    “The fish I can’t stomach has yet to be born. Not counting fugu.”

    “Fugu?”

    “Some poisonous fish people eat on Earth. Deadly poison.”

    “They eat poisonous fish?” Were they crazy? Crazier than Adora had thought?

    “Well, they cut the poisonous part out or something. Unless the cook makes a mistake, it’s perfectly safe.” Catra shrugged - a bit too nonchalantly.

    Adora knew her lover. “You’re not going to eat that fish.” No one was perfect, after all. Everyone made a mistake at least once.

    Catra frowned at her. “I didn’t say I was going to eat it.”

    “I know you were planning to eat it.”

    “I wasn’t really planning to eat it. We aren’t even planning to visit Japan. And I don’t think they would serve it at a state dinner, anyway.”

    Adora narrowed her eyes. That was a lot of research into a fish. “Of course they wouldn’t serve poisonous fish at a state dinner!” Because it was poisonous!

    “So, there’s no reason to worry about me.” Catra grinned widely.

    There was only one answer to that. Adora slid over, then rolled on top of her lover. “I do worry about you anyway. Because I know you,” she said, looking down at Catra.

    “Well, you shouldn’t. I survived fighting you,” Catra retorted.

    Adora suppressed a sigh. That was typical for Catra, mentioning the war to change the subject. “I worry anyway,” she repeated herself.

    Catra bit her lower lip. “I know,” she whispered after a moment, glancing to the side. And blushing under her fur.

    Adora smiled and bent down, planting a kiss on her lips. And another. And then a third, longer one, when Catra wrapped her arms around her.

    *****​

    Earth Orbit, Solar System, September 24th, 1998

    Glimmer and Bow were already at the table when Adora entered Darla’s kitchen with a yawning Catra in tow. Hordak and Entrapta were probably still asleep - they had worked late into the night.

    “So… what dastardly plans of us have the news revealed now?” Catra asked as she grabbed some bread and butter.

    “The usual,” Glimmer replied. “Blah blah forced laws on us blah blah unfair discrimination blah blah plan to corrupt our youth blah blah weak government blah blah corruption at the highest level blah blah global conspiracy.”

    She must have watched quite a lot of the news already, Adora realised.

    “Well, most were quite positive,” Bow amended. “Just a few channels and newspapers were… critical.”

    “And all of them are owned by the same people,” Glimmer said. “Most belong to the same person, even. At least in England and America.”

    That was… well, not surprising. “Should we talk to them? Explain that we aren’t corrupting anyone?” Adora asked.

    “Won’t help if they’re a bigot,” Glimmer said. “But they might just expect a bribe,” she added. “They might want something in exchange for stopping this. They aren’t as… fanatical as the others who hate us.”

    Adora frowned. “They are trying to blackmail us?” That was…

    “Not blackmail, more like… extortion,” Bow corrected her.

    “It doesn’t matter whether they hate us or want to extort something.” Glimmer scoffed. “We have many more important people to talk to.”

    “But we could ask the Americans what’s up with them,” Catra suggested. “Have them do something about that. I mean, not that we would ask that, but I bet they would do something if we mentioned that this was annoying.”

    That was… likely, actually, but Adora didn’t think it would be a good thing to do. It felt wrong. “I don’t think that’s a good idea,” she said.

    “Yes,” Glimmer agreed. “The Americans might think that we owe them for anything they do.”

    Adora frowned again. That wasn’t why she thought they shouldn’t do this.

    *****​

    “So… did you find anything that I missed and that we should be aware of during our trip to Germany?” Adora asked when breakfast was over - well, almost over; Catra was finishing the scrambled eggs.

    “We didn’t actually do any research after yesterday’s state dinner,” Bow told her.

    “As if you’d have missed anything,” Catra said after swallowing. “You obsess over that stuff.”

    “I like to be prepared,” Adora defended herself. “And the better we understand the Tau’ri, the fewer problems we’ll have.”

    “Half of the time, nobody can understand them. Probably not even Earth people themselves,” Catra said with a chuckle.

    Everyone laughed, though it was a problem. Misunderstandings could have tragic consequences, as Adora and her friends knew very well. “Well, I don’t think we’ll have any problem at the signing. We didn’t have any trouble in France or Britain, and they’re supposed to be similar countries.” She had mapped out some differences, but most of them didn’t seem to apply. Except for the whole thing about the world war. The Second World War. As long as Catra didn’t ask about the war, they should be fine. Though, speaking of the war… “What do you think about the supreme commander question?”

    “It’s a no-brainer,” Catra said. She scoffed. “Without a unified command, we’ll be as bad as the Alliance was before you took over.”

    “Hey!” Glimmer protested. “Adora didn’t take over - we had to restore the Princess Alliance because it had fallen apart at that point. That was why the Alliance was so ineffective!”

    Catra shrugged. “Same thing - you had no overall commander.”

    “It’s not the same thing!”

    Bow shook his head. “Let’s not argue about the Alliance, OK?”

    Adora nodded emphatically before Glimmer and Catra could continue their disagreement. “Yes. We all know we need a commander. The question is: Can we persuade our allies on Earth of that? And who will take the post?”

    “Why would they baulk at this? They aren’t that stupid,” Catra said. “They had one in the big war as well. At least one per front or something.” She grinned. “And I think we can persuade them - we’ve got the fleet and the technology they want.”

    That was a good argument. But… “And who would become supreme commander?” Adora asked.

    “Not one of theirs,” Catra said at once. “They have no experience with our technology or war in space.”

    “We don’t have much experience with a war in space either,” Adora pointed out. Well, she had personally cut fighters in half, but…

    “It’s still more than they have.” Catra grinned. “And the clones have lots of experience - and Priest will follow you.”

    Adora grimaced. That was true, but she didn’t like being reminded of it. “Still, we can’t let them lead us.” The only clone with actual experience as a commander in a war was Hordak. And Adora didn’t think anyone except, possibly, Entrapta would want him to lead the Alliance.

    “But we have less experience fighting the Goa’uld,” Bow pointed out. “The Americans have been fighting them for years.”

    “They aren’t in the Alliance,” Catra retorted.

    “But they might join,” Bow told her. “They are making progress with their reforms.”

    “And they have access to Goa’uld technology and a ship of their own,” Adora added. “They could fight without an alliance - they did that so far. And they have the Stargate, so they can keep fighting the Goa’uld.”

    “The whole planet has access to the Stargate,” Catra said. “Technically.” She flashed her teeth in a grin.

    “If we don’t get them all united under one command, this will be a mess,” Adora said. “But we can’t ally with countries where we would get imprisoned - or worse - for loving each other.”

    Glimmer nodded. “Fortunately, the British and the French are part of the Security Council. If the Americans join the Alliance, that would mean they could control the Stargate. At least to some degree.”

    “I don’t think the other countries would let them control the Stargate,” Bow said.

    “But if the Americans join, they’ll want to have command,” Catra said. “Hey! We all talked to SG-1. Remember Daniel’s lectures? They are used to being in charge. And they don’t like following orders. Especially from princesses - remember the comments about you? And our age?”

    Adora did remember those comments on their television. As if you had to be old to lead! Or male!

    “Well, we can’t let them be in charge,” Glimmer said. “They’re not even in the Alliance yet.”

    “We haven’t launched any operation yet, either.” Bow shook his head. “By the time we’re ready for an attack on a planet, we might have an alliance with the Americans.”

    “That means we should have our structures down for the new Alliance before that happens,” Glimmer said. “And I think one of us needs to be in charge.”

    “Priest will only follow Adora, anyway,” Catra pointed out. “Not anyone from Earth.”

    Adora frowned, but her lover was likely correct. “But I could be a subcommander.” She beamed at Glimmer. “You could lead. You lead the Princess Alliance in the war.”

    Glimmer didn’t look as enthusiastic as Adora had hoped.

    Catra, though, did. “Yes. And you have the political experience and rank to wrangle all the others.”

    Glimmer frowned. “I also have a kingdom to rule. Unlike in the war against the Horde, I wouldn’t be on Etheria for long.”

    “Micah’s got that in hand,” Catra retorted. “Besides, can you see Adora dealing with all those Earth rulers and politicians?”

    Adora frowned when both Bow and Glimmer nodded at Catra’s words. She wasn’t that bad! “What about you, Catra?” she asked with a wide smile.

    “No chance. I’m used to leading the Horde, where I could tell everyone what to do and didn’t have to worry about a dozen princesses or rulers disagreeing.” Catra grinned. “It’s you or Glimmer.”

    “Glimmer!” Adora said at once.

    *****​

    Area 51, Nevada, United States of America, Earth, September 24th, 1998

    “Don’t worry, Carter - you’ll be back working with these alien thingamabobs soon enough.”

    Samantha Carter frowned as she turned away from her laptop, where she was cross-checking the inventory of the transport, to look at the Colonel. “I wouldn’t presume to forecast my future deployments, Sir.” And she wasn’t sure whether or not she wanted to work at Area 51 anyway, instead of at the Stargate - or join the still-developing Space Force.

    “Oh, come on - this is the Air Force’s newest and most secret research facility!” The Colonel grinned. “Where else do you think the brass would send their best scientist?”

    “Somewhere they can work with alien researchers without having to go through an hours-long security check?” Sam tilted her head for a moment, then went back to check off yet another piece of alien technology that hadn’t been fully identified yet. Probably part of a lattice used to grow crystals for data storage, but Sam hadn’t been able to get around to testing her assumption.

    “Good point!” The Colonel nodded. “Security is tight here. Very tight.”

    Sam half-expected him to make an off-colour joke about how tight it was, but he didn’t. He was correct, though - security had increased since her last visit. Of course, that had been before first contact with Etheria and all the troubles that this caused - Sam still winced when she thought of the attempted storming of the base by a mob.

    But they might have overdone it a little. Daniel and Teal’c hadn’t been allowed on-site, presumably because their presence wasn’t needed. And because they were civilians. Sam couldn’t imagine foreigners, much less alien researchers, being allowed into the base. Having them land at the base was one thing, but entering the base proper was a completely different matter.

    Which meant she didn’t really want to work here, either. Not to mention that the whole base was about applying alien technology, not groundbreaking research.

    And, she added to herself as two transport containers were unloaded from the plane under even heavier security, now containment for alien prisoners as well. Apparently, the United Nations weren’t trusted with Seth or Osiris. Sam had pointed out that this would delay interrogation efforts that needed the Etherians’ help, but the transfer had gone through anyway. She wondered what would happen when the Etherians wanted to visit - or check up on how the prisoners were treated. Well, that wouldn’t be her problem, would it?

    Once the two containers were put on trucks bristling with guards and driven out of the hangar, the Colonel spoke up again: “I don’t like this. I can’t help feeling that the resident nerds and brass underestimate the snakes.”

    “They will have read the reports and files,” Sam said.

    “Reports and files are well and good, but they can’t replace practical experience. And what are the chances that someone who thinks he’s smarter than he actually is comes up with some ‘genius plan’ that involves the Goa’uld?”

    Like offering them some sort of host in exchange for cooperation? Too high, in Sam’s opinion. She knew a number of the scientists working here. And some of them she wouldn’t trust to look after a hamster. But it was out of their hands for now, with Stargate Command now under the control of the United Nations. “I wouldn’t presume to make any estimates,” she said.

    The Colonel snorted but didn’t press her. “Well, the Etherians will find them, should they escape. They’ve got that magic scanner, after all. But, in the interest of fostering good relations, someone ought to inform them of the transfer as well.”

    Was he asking her to do it? She was meeting Entrapta tomorrow - today’s trip to Nevada took too long to do any more work with the princess - and it would be easy to tell her. She hadn’t been ordered not to tell, after all. And Area 51 was supposed to be secret, but the Etherians had landed here for their first visit...

    So she nodded. “It would certainly be rude to have them find out once they want to talk to them.” Or think the Goa’uld escaped from Colorado.

    “Exactly!”

    The Colonel watched as the last container with alien technology was opened and both Sam and the local officer in charge went through the inventory. Nothing came up missing or unaccounted for, and the last truck soon left the hangar.

    Half an hour later, they were back in the air on the way to Colorado. And catching up on the news.

    “...and the crowds are already lining the streets in anticipation of the Etherians’ arrival. Berlin is ready for the aliens!”

    “But are the aliens ready for Berlin?” The Colonel snorted. “I’ve been there, actually, during the Cold War. How things have changed.”

    Sam knew better than to ask him about what he had been doing there. “After today, the Etherians will have an alliance with three of the most powerful countries in Europe.”

    He scoffed. “Just signing a treaty won’t create a working alliance. They still have to hash out all the nitty-gritty details. Troops, command, missions, technology… It’ll take a while until anything comes of this.” With a chuckle, he added: “Just sorting out who is to be in charge will take a long while.”

    “I would assume Adora or Glimmer would be in command,” Sam said.

    “They’re the logical choice. But both are young - I’ve had second lieutenants older than them. That will cause problems.”

    And their gender, Sam silently added. Many, probably most of the officers would have trouble following the orders of a young woman. She knew that better than most.

    “And no one wants to let foreigners command their soldiers,” the Colonel went on.

    “Least of all the United States,” Sam said.

    He frowned at her reminder that the United States was working on an alliance with the Eherians as well, with all that entailed. “Yes. Working out who is in charge once we join will be difficult.”

    Mostly for the United States, in Sam’s opinion. Given the discrepancy in experience and resources, the Etherians were the obvious choice for supreme command of Alliance forces in the field. The Colonel was aware of that as well, but she knew he didn’t like it.

    Sam wasn’t entirely sold on it, either. It was logical, obvious, but… it took a lot of trust to let foreigners command your own troops. Who could say if they didn’t favour their own troops, even just a little, over others? It was one thing to have a few troops under someone else’s command, but all of them?

    *****​

    Flughafen Berlin-Tegel, Berlin, Germany, Earth, September 24th, 1998

    “As I said: The same as in Paris and London.” Catra smirked as they stepped out of Darla. “Flags, soldiers and reporters. And a minister or two.” Typical.

    “Those aren’t ministers. Those are the chief of the Bundespräsidialamt and his partner,” Adora corrected her.

    “Bundespre-what?” Catra asked.

    “The office of the head of state of the Germans,” Bow explained.

    Right. The Germans were infamous on Earth for using weirdly long words. “Still the same. They’re just here to greet us,” she insisted.

    Then they reached the bottom of the ramp, and the whole circus started. Formal greeting, walking past soldiers, past reporters - no answering questions, though - and then getting into cars. No carriages here.

    The drive through Berlin felt the same as in Paris or London - lots of people waving and cheering, lots of flags, big and small ones, until they reached a sort of palace, where more soldiers and the German Bundespräsident waited. Now that was a figurehead, in Catra’s opinion. No real power at all. And he wasn’t like the Queen either. Friendly, but not princess material - she found that out quickly after they started talking in the palace.

    “...so, you act as the highest judge?”

    And he wasn’t interested in their military but their judges. Talk about weird!

    “Only for the worst crimes,” Glimmer replied. “But those are really rare.”

    “Really?” The man looked surprised.

    “Yes. The normal judges can handle pretty much everything.” Gimmer nodded.

    “That’s surprising. And you pick the judges?”

    “Yes. Though most were picked by my mother.”

    Catra didn’t wince. She kept smiling politely, even though being reminded of one of her greatest mistakes - or crimes - that had led to Queen Angella sacrificing herself made her want to wince. She grabbed another snack to distract herself. Tuna salad canapés, those were called, and they were heavenly. She’d have to ask Sea Hawk or Mermista if Etheria had any fish like this.

    “...and do you use magic to determine the truth?”

    “Yes, when the judge or the people in court ask for it.”

    They were still talking about the law? Catra wanted to roll her eyes.

    “Aren’t you concerned that this would force everyone to ask for magical means to prove they are telling the truth or be suspected of or assumed to be lying?”

    Glimmer tilted her head with a frown. “Without truth, there is no justice. Why would we want to let people lie?”

    “But what if people honestly believe that something is true? Would your magic detect a lie instead?”

    “No. But it would still show what the person honestly believed, which is usually decisive for a case.”

    “Usually, but there are always exceptions, aren’t there?”

    “Few of them. And even those can be solved with care and attention. We…”

    Catra tuned the discussion out. Who cared about the law when they had a war to fight? Especially if it wasn’t about war crimes? And why would the right to lie be a right at all? Hell, Double Trouble would love this system!

    *****​

    Schloss Bellevue, Berlin, Germany, Earth, September 24th, 1998

    “...and with this signature, the alliance has been officially formed!” the German Chancellor announced.

    Finally! Catra clapped loudly and enthusiastically as applause filled the room. They were here to sign the treaty, not to discuss the finer points of the law. Worst meeting ever, in her opinion. Even if the food had been good. Better than expected, after what Adora had read up on German cuisine. At least they knew how to cook fish.

    And now came the press. Gah! Catra blinked as cameras flashed.

    “Hans Meier, FAZ. Herr Bundeskanzler, do you expect that this treaty will decide the upcoming election?”

    The Chancellor slowly nodded. “Entering this alliance is one of the most important decisions I ever took for the future of Germany - on par with the reunification of our country. With this, we have assured the safety and future of Germany and its place at the forefront of technology.”

    “Karl Reissmann, Der Spiegel. Herr Bundeskanzler, what do you say to the accusations that you made too many concessions to the Etherians in order to secure this alliance?”

    “Those accusations are completely unfounded! All we conceded was the implementation of laws that should have been implemented long ago, to grant equal rights to all citizens and residents in Germany no matter their life choices.”

    Yeah, the reporters were the same as well. They should have skipped this, in Catra’s opinion.

    “Jasmin Kowalski, TAZ. Herr Bundeskanzler, how do you feel, having committed Germany to another war of conquest?”

    “This comparison is in very bad taste - and wrong as well! We aren’t in a war of conquest; we are in a war for our very survival against an enemy that has enslaved countless planets.”

    “And yet, according to what we know, the Bundeswehr will be expected to help conquer planets. Excuse me, ‘liberate’ them. Was a diplomatic solution even considered?”

    Adora took a step forward. “We’re always open for a diplomatic solution - but not if it means accepting slavery. If the Goa’uld desire peace, all they have to do is liberate their slaves, both humans and Jaffa. And if we have to conquer their Empire to liberate their slaves, then we will do that. How would you feel, knowing that you could free a slave but deciding not to?”

    “How will you feel, knowing that millions will die in a war that could have been prevented?”

    Adora frowned at the woman. “As I said, if the Goa’uld want peace, they have to release their slaves. We will certainly give them the option.”

    Catra frowned as well. They hadn’t discussed that yet with their new alliance members. And contacting the Goa’uld first would ruin the element of surprise. She suppressed a sigh. Sorting this out wouldn’t be pretty.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, September 24th, 1998

    “...and experts are divided in their views on whether or not the Goa’uld will respond to any diplomatic offer. Retired Colonel Barnes, United States Air Force, was cited that ‘any such offer would be repeating the mistakes made in Munich in 1938’, although several prominent activists have already launched a proposal to focus on a ‘peaceful resolution of the current differences’, and…”

    Jack O’Neill wanted to shoot the television. ‘Experts’? None of them had any experience with the Goa’uld - or with the Etherians or any other aliens. He had never even heard of Colonel Barnes, and, judging by his age, the man had retired from the Air Force before Stargate Command had been a thing. He definitely didn’t know anything. Although Jack would grant him one thing - the man was correct that trying diplomacy with the Goa’uld was stupid. But those ‘activists’ calling slavery and genocide ‘ideological differences’... “God damn it!” he cursed as he stabbed his jello - blue! - with his spoon. “I leave for half a day, and see what happens?”

    “I do not think that you could have prevented Adora from voicing her views even if you had been present at the base, O’Neill.”

    “Da! Unless you have open channel to headphones of aliens, or ability to mute her microphone.”

    Jack gritted his teeth. Why had the Russian spy - well, the most annoying of their spies - started to sit at their table? Because he had invited himself along when Jack had been in the field training the FNGs, and Daniel hadn’t had the balls to tell him to get lost. “It was a figure of speech,” he said. Daniel opened his mouth, and Jack shot him a glare. He wasn’t in the mood for pedantic linguistic corrections.

    While Daniel pouted, Carter spoke up: “Adora didn’t actually make any offer - she merely stated what conditions she considers essential for a peace treaty and that she was open to a diplomatic solution. She didn’t announce that they would attempt to find a diplomatic solution before taking military action.”

    “Yep. But everyone took it as a ‘peace for our time’ moment,” Jack said.

    “Not everyone,” Daniel cut in, still pouting. “None of the involved governments, at least.”

    “But the press did,” Jack retorted. “Until the Etherians clarify what they mean, people will keep arguing about this.” They would keep arguing after any clarification, of course, but it wouldn’t be as bad as it was right now. “They really should put out a communique.”

    “They’re currently busy with the state dinner,” Daniel said.

    Probably gorging them on good food. Well, decent food - they were in Germany, after all. “By the time they finish, some fools will have started building a Goa’uld hotel for the peace talks,” Jack said.

    Daniel laughed, as did the Russian spy. “Funny! A snake hotel, like roach motel?”

    “PETA would probably object,” Jack told him. Unfortunately, the man didn’t look confused but nodded, laughing again.

    “It’s just the media overreacting to every little slip of the tongue,” Daniel said.

    “And the politicians who think they can capitalise on this,” Carter added.

    “Damn vultures,” Jack said. Them and their useful idiots. As if you could trust the Goa’uld to keep a treaty!

    He finished his jello and looked around. The TV was showing some academic talking about how you couldn’t truly understand real aliens’ culture and what that supposedly meant for diplomacy with the Goa’uld. “What a nutcase!” he muttered.

    “What a hypocrite!” Daniel hissed next to him. “Why would anyone give that charlatan the time of day, much less screen time?”

    Jack blinked. “Is there a story here?” he asked his friend.

    “Dr Baker was one of, well, my most vocal critics when I published my hypothesis,” Daniel replied, scowling. “He called me a UFO conspiracy theorist. And now he’s talking as if he were an expert on aliens! The man isn’t even an expert in his own field - he needed help reading hieroglyphs!”

    Ah, touchy subject. Jack nodded. “The actual experts are all working for us, so who could they drag in front of a television?” He shrugged.

    “Someone who actually has an open mind!” Daniel answered his rhetorical question. “Not someone angling to agree with anyone who’d give him a grant!”

    Really touchy subject.

    “I should call the studio to set things straight. Baker’s totally misrepresenting the Thirteenth Dynasty! Which has nothing to do with Goa’uld, anyway!” Daniel went on.

    Jack blinked. That was… “I think you should call.”

    “What?” Everyone, not just Daniel, was staring at him. Even the Russian.

    “What?” Jack frowned at them. “This isn’t spilling some alien secrets - this is just Daniel correcting a colleague about Ancient Egypt.”

    “Right.” Daniel nodded. “No talk about aliens, just Egypt.” He stood and walked away.

    Carter owned her mouth, then closed it and frowned at Jack. “You know they’ll announce him as an expert on aliens.”

    “Of course. But Daniel’s too smart to spill anything important.” Jack grinned. And it might derail the damn peace talk frenzy.

    “Really?” Carter’s eyebrows rose. “You think Daniel will simply not comment when they ask questions about the Etherians and the Goa’uld? When they make up wrong statements about them?”

    Jack blinked again. “On second thought, maybe I should go with him…”

    *****​

    Schloss Bellevue, Berlin, Germany, Earth, September 24th, 1998

    “...and I do not think that we should open with diplomacy. That would give away the advantage of surprise.”

    “Striking without a declaration of war? I think history shows why that’s a very questionable plan.”

    “Are you comparing a war to defend ourselves and to free countless humans kept as slaves and hosts for parasites to a war of aggression?”

    “No. But once we have struck, any offer to negotiate will either be seen as a ruse - or as a sign of weakness.”

    Adora frowned at the discussion between the two German politicians. It seemed they had forgotten that this was a dinner, not their parliament. Or wherever they discussed like that.

    “The Goa’uld don’t know about us,” Glimmer cut in. “Any negotiation will be difficult when one side doesn’t know the strength and goals of the other side.”

    “And giving out that information would be stupid beyond belief,” Catra added.

    “Then how are we supposed to negotiate in good faith with them?” the German asked.

    “That’s easy: Once we have them at our mercy, we let them surrender.” Catra flashed her fangs at the man. “All honest-like.”

    Adora chuckled almost against her will - and barely managed not to laugh when she saw the man’s reaction. So did Glimmer, and Bow hid his smile behind his napkin.

    But the rest of the Germans, even the one who had argued against trying diplomacy first, didn’t look amused. Even the Chancellor frowned. “One should never enter a war lightly. Germany has a special responsibility there.”

    “You mean because you started the last world war?” Catra asked, cocking her head.

    “Germany did far more than starting a war,” the Chancellor replied. “The shadow of the crimes done in our country’s name - by our parents and grandparents - still lies over Germany.”

    “Yeah, but this time, you’re on the right side,” Catra told him. “And that’s how you make up for your past crimes - by doing good.”

    Adora nodded. “You are now helping to protect and free others. That’s the complete opposite of what your ancestors did.”

    “But we can’t just ignore our past - Germany has a historic guilt.”

    Adora frowned. That made no sense. “But you changed.”

    “Yes,” Bow spoke up. “We studied your history. You have rejected your past ideology. Like others have.”

    “Germany has a unique legacy. We carry a collective guilt. An obligation to ensure that this shameful, terrible history won’t ever repeat itself.” The big old man slowly nodded.

    “But that’s exactly why we are fighting this war - will be fighting this war,” Glimmer protested. “To save millions of people from being enslaved and turned into hosts for the Goa’uld.”

    “Or worked to death,” Bow added.

    Adora nodded once more - they had seen the data Stargate Command had gathered on the Goa’uld’s practice of slavery.

    “It’s still a difficult decision,” the Chancellor told them. “Germany will stand with you and with the other countries on Earth. We will defend ourselves and our allies - and there is no doubt that we are under attack, through no fault of our own. However, our history will not allow us to enter any war lightly, and even when we do, we should consider all alternatives before committing to war.”

    “But none of you fought in the last war,” Glimmer said. “What happened wasn’t your fault.”

    Adora looked around. None of the people present looked old enough to have fought in that war.

    “I escaped that guilt by a hair’s width,” the Chancellor said. “I was already recruited and training to fight when the war ended.”

    “Even if you had fought,” Adora told him, “you aren’t the same person you were back then - you changed.” She glanced at Catra, but her lover seemed very interested in the remains of dessert. “That’s what matters. The future, not your past.”

    The Germans were staring at her, she noticed. At her, not at Catra.

    “You do believe that,” one of the Ministers said, slowly shaking his head.

    “Of course.” Adora nodded emphatically. “Everyone can change.” Her friends proved that. Catra proved that. “We hope the Goa’uld, too, will change. At least some of them.”

    “So, you think we should talk before we start a war?”

    Adora frowned. “We’re already at war. They started it long ago. They keep slaves. They use them as hosts. They attacked Earth - and I have no doubt that they would attack Etheria if they knew where we are.”

    “Oh.”

    “Yes.” Glimmer nodded sharply. “We will not refuse to talk with them if they offer an honest peace proposal - but neither will we stop fighting them. That would be a betrayal of all we stand for - and a betrayal of those who depend on us for their freedom or their very lives.”

    Someone muttered ‘München’, but Adora didn’t know who it was.

    “So, we’ll fight,” she went on. “And we’ll fight until all their slaves are free.”

    “Whether that means we’ll fight to the last Goa’uld or not is up to them,” Catra said with a toothy grin.

    As Adora and her friends nodded, she couldn’t help noticing that the Germans looked… surprised and concerned. “Do you disagree?”

    The Chancellor shook his head. “No. It’s just… surprising to see people who have fought a war for years entering the next so… eagerly. You know how terrible war is.”

    Oh.

    “We’re willing to fight this war because we know the alternative,” Glimmer said.

    Adora nodded in agreement, but she couldn’t help wondering if the Germans had a point.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, September 25th, 1998

    “...and we are talking to Dr Daniel Jackson, who predicted the existence of aliens years before it was officially revealed. Dr Jackson, you wanted to chime in on our analysis of the Goa’uld?”

    “Yes, Mr Ballantine. As you know, since you checked my credentials, I am a consultant for Stargate Command. In that capacity, I have met Goa’uld, and I am afraid that I disagree with the conclusions drawn by Dr Baker based on his studies of ancient Egypt, chiefly that we cannot understand a literal alien culture.”

    “Is this about my dismissal of your theory? Dr Jackson, back when you postulated the existence of aliens, you had no proof to prop it up. It was pure speculation.”

    “Speculation? I based my hypothesis on the results of various interdisciplinary research - results which were dismissed by everyone because they didn’t fit established assumptions about the age of the pyramids. Instead of testing my hypothesis, which was what a scientist should have done, it was ridiculed. But that is not why I called today. I called because your lack of primary or secondary sources means your conclusions are incorrect.”

    “I have valid secondary sources!”

    “You have, at most, tertiary sources. Hearsay, in other words. You have neither talked to any Goa’uld nor spoken with their subjects, much less visited their worlds.”

    “And you have?”

    “Actually, I have, yes. And I can confidently state that your hypothesis that we cannot understand the Goa’uld is not supported by any evidence or experience. The Goa’uld aren’t a misunderstood alien species with ethics incomprehensible for humans - their ethics are easily understood but simply reprehensible.”

    “That is a very biassed claim. Of course you’d say that, seeing as you work for the same organisation that started the war with the Goa’uld.”

    “Killing Ra was a reaction to his planned invasion of Earth. Any aggression started with him - I would know since I was there!”

    Samantha Carter winced when General Hammond turned the television off. He was frowning, as were the other generals present. “I think there’s no need to listen to the entirety of your scientific debate with Dr Baker, Dr Jackson.”

    Daniel flushed but stood his ground. “I merely corrected his mistaken assumptions about the Goa’uld.”

    “By citing your own experiences in the employ of Stargate Command,” General Hammond said. “Which, I shouldn’t have to remind you, are still classified.”

    “Daniel said nothing that was actually a secret,” the Colonel spoke up. “Everything he mentioned was already publicly known.”

    “Yes. I did not reveal any details that might still be classified.”

    “Classified information isn’t automatically unclassified just because it’s leaked to the public,” General Sidorov cut in.

    “Of course a Russian would say that,” Sam heard the Colonel mutter under his breath.

    “That’s a very illogical stance,” Daniel retorted with a deep frown. “The President himself revealed the existence of Goa’uld, the Stargate Program, and our history with the Goa’uld, including the death of Ra.”

    “You aren’t the President of the United States,” Sidorov shot back.

    “And we aren’t in Russia,” the Colonel said. “If you expect us to keep silent about things everyone, including elementary students, is talking about, then I think you’ll be disappointed.”

    “No one expects you to act as if this were still a secret,” General Hammond said. “However, neither does anyone expect you to act as if you were the spokesman of Stargate Command.”

    Daniel flushed again. “I merely corrected quite mistaken claims by someone puffing himself up as an expert.”

    “But you did so as an employee of Stargate Command,” General Haig said. “This means the public will consider your views as views shared by the entire program.”

    “Views? I am talking about facts!” Daniel frowned. “I did not say anything about Stargate Command’s goals and policies; I just corrected factual claims that were wrong.”

    Sam nodded. Her friend was correct - from a scientific point of view. Unfortunately, they were dealing with politics, not science.

    “Without having received orders or permissions to do so.” General Li didn’t show any expression, but his tone indicated disapproval.

    “I gave permission,” the Colonel said.

    “You don’t have the authority to do so, Colonel O’Neill,” Li told him.

    “I wasn’t aware that Stargate Command had passed gag orders,” the Colonel faked surprise. At least he didn’t mention free speech in a dig against China and Russia. Small mercies.

    “I doubt that such a call would have been permitted back when Stargate Command was an American program,” General Haig said.

    The Colonel shrugged. “Back then, it was a secret. Things change.”

    “Let’s not mince words, Colonel.” General Hammond was still scowling. “This wasn’t just about correcting a scientist or settling academic grudges. This was about politics.”

    Daniel blinked, obviously surprised. Sam could see his eyes widen for a moment as he realised it.

    The Colonel’s equally obvious surprise, however, was faked. Sam was sure of that.

    “The United States Armed Forces take a dim view of their members trying to make politics, Colonel O’Neill.”

    “Yes, Sir.” The Colonel still didn’t look concerned.

    Well, he had good reasons not to be. Stargate Command couldn’t afford to relieve him - or anyone else in SG-1. They needed their experience. And their connections to the Etherians.

    But Sam had no doubt that whatever the timetable for their dismissal from Stargate Command was, it had just been accelerated to some degree.

    Which probably had been the Colonel’s goal. Or one of his goals.

    *****​
     
  14. Threadmarks: Chapter 41: Cimmeria Part 1
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 41: Cimmeria Part 1

    Earth Orbit, Solar System, September 25th, 1998

    “Whatcha watching?” Catra asked as she entered the lab in Darla’s hold. There was some angry human on screen, yelling at the camera, and… She blinked. “Is that Daniel’s voice?”

    “Yes!” Entrapta nodded. “He’s correcting the man’s wrong assumptions about the Go’auld.”

    Catra cocked her head. “He is?” That was a surprise. So far, SG-1 hadn’t appeared much in the media. “I would’ve expected him to be the focus of the show,” she said.

    “He’s not present - he’s just calling from the base,” Entrapta replied. “And they don’t have video calls.” She frowned. “I don’t know why - they could easily do this with their current technology. We have seen it work on television.”

    “They probably don’t want video calls from their base to a television studio,” Catra said. “Might be a security risk.”

    “Really?” Entrapta looked surprised.

    Catra shrugged. “Maybe. I don’t know.” Etheria didn’t have television. And Catra wasn’t sure it needed it. Sure, the movies and series were entertaining, but all the talk shows… She made a gagging noise.

    “What’s wrong?” Entrapta peered at her.

    “I believe she is regurgitating a ‘hairball’.”

    Catra glared at Hordak. “No, I’m not. Just remembering some talk show.”

    “Ah. Which one?” Entrapta asked.

    “Any one,” Catra replied, staring at the screen. The man was now standing and ranting about dynasties and hieroglyphs, with Daniel correcting every second word of his. She grinned when he corrected the man’s pronunciation - for such a friendly guy, Daniel could be surprisingly vicious in an underhanded way. Catra approved.

    “This Dr Baker doesn’t seem like much of a scientist,” Entrapta said with a pout. “All his claims are unsubstantiated - or disproven. I expected a more interesting discourse.”

    “I think I told you that we shouldn’t expect much scientific progress from daytime television,” Hordak told her.

    “Yes, but… it’s such a waste! Imagine what research breakthroughs we could achieve if we connected the top scientists together like this!” Entrapta sighed. “And they use the technology to argue obviously false claims.”

    “Just like their politics,” Hordak said.

    Catra snorted. “Maybe you should suggest your plan to them.”

    Entrapta nodded. “Yes! I’ll tell Sam about this. If it works, we will be able to do science all day! Even if you need Darla and the shuttle! And if we use remote-controlled bots, we can even work on the same prototype together without being in the same lab!”

    That could work. Although… Catra grinned. “You could make a completely remote-operated lab. If it blows up, no one will get hurt.”

    Entrapta beamed at her. “Oh, yes! That’s a great idea! We’ll finally be able to do those experiments that would be too dangerous to do on a planet!” She turned away and pushed buttons on her tool. “I’ll have to compensate for latency, and I’ll miss my hair for fine-tuning things, but… with the right manipulators, we can safely work on Naquadah-enhanced weapons!”

    “Indeed. And the lack of air will mean we won’t have to worry about pressure waves devastating the planet,” Hordak agreed. “Although we should probably consider the danger from radiation.”

    Catra blinked, then hit her palm against her forehead. She should have known better than to assume that Entrapta would be concerned about personal danger instead of danger on a planetary scale.

    She looked at the screen, where Dr Baker was storming out of the studio in a rage, with Daniel asking when his hypothesis would be published. Ah, well… time to check how Adora was doing with Glimmer and Bow.

    She left the hold - Entrapta and Hordak were already designing remote-controlled bots with manipulator arms - and swung by the kitchen to grab a salmon sandwich that she had sneaked out of the state dinner last night. It went perfect with some milk.

    Munching and sipping alternately, she headed to the bridge.

    “Finally awake… Ew!” Glimmer greeted her with a grimace.

    “Ew?” Bow turned to look at Catra.

    “I can smell the fish from here,” Glimmer complained.

    Catra doubted that - she had already eaten most of it - but Adora stopped scribbling down notes on a board and sniffed the air. “I don’t… Do you think I’m getting a cold?”

    “Nope,” Catra told her and walked over to them. She finished her sandwich on the way and planted a kiss on Adora’s cheek.

    “Now I’m smelling it,” Adora said with a frown.

    “Isn’t it heavenly?” Catra grinned and finished her milk. “Earth food has some great things going for it.”

    “Earth food has a lot to answer for,” Glimmer grumbled.

    “Catra was complaining about overeating after the British dinner,” Adora said.

    Catra glared at her while Bow shook his head and Glimmer scoffed. That was classified information! She looked at the board. “So, how goes the planning?”

    “Well, we still haven’t finished our presentation,” Adora said.

    “There are several political issues to consider,” Glimmer explained. “And, as I told Adora, we can’t really plan for everything when we don’t even know the stances of our allies on the post of supreme commander.”

    “It won’t hurt to plan ahead anyway,” Adora defended herself. “We need to make a good impression at the first alliance meeting.”

    Catra snorted. “We’ve got the fleet. We can make any impression we want.”

    Adora frowned at her, but Catra knew she was right. The power discrepancy was too big.

    “That’s shortsighted,” Glimmer retorted. “If we act like a bully now, then Earth will remember it when they have caught up to us.”

    “Right.” Catra nodded. “Long-term, it’s probably better not to tweak their noses too much.”

    “We shouldn’t bully anyone anyway, regardless of future consequences,” Adora insisted. “It wouldn’t be right.”

    Catra patted her shoulder. “And that’s why I think you would make a great supreme commander.”

    Adora kept frowning at her. Glimmer tried not to frown, Catra noted. And Bow… stared at his tablet and tried not to draw attention.

    Catra snorted and shook her head. “Sparkles, you would also work as a commander. Probably better than Adora, actually.” Glimmer blinked, and Adora looked surprised, but before either could say anything, Catra added: “As Supreme Commander, you’d be able to keep her from trying to do everything and blame herself for every setback or death.”

    Glimmer laughed, Adora pouted - and Bow gave her a thumbs up.

    “I’m not that bad!” Adora protested.

    “Adora…” Bow trailed off.

    “Yes. Yes, you are,” Glimmer said. “We still love you.”

    Catra didn’t grab Adora’s arm in response. Glimmer didn’t mean it that way. “Yes,” she said instead, “We love you despite your faults.”

    “I’m not that bad!” Adora repeated herself with that pout that always made Catra want to kiss her.

    They weren’t in the bedroom, but you could hardly call this public. So she leaned in with a wide grin, and Adora’s eyes widened, and Catra reached out and planted a kiss on her lips.

    But before she could really enjoy it, Glimmer sighed loudly. “This is a planning session, not a make-out session.”

    “Spoilsport,” Catra whispered as Adora withdrew, blushing.

    “Sorry, sorry,” her lover said. “It’s just…”

    “It’s Catra’s fault, we know.” Glimmer nodded sagely.

    “No! I mean… It’s not just Catra’s fault.”

    That wasn’t exactly a staunch defence, but Catra didn’t mind. She shrugged and leaned against the seat closest to the board, and when Glimmer and Bow looked back at the circles and columns on it, she mouthed ‘bedroom’ to Adora.

    But Adora was, although still blushing, all professional now, standing at parade rest and staring at the board as well. Rats. “So… I think we have a good case here. And we won’t need to bully anyone.” She frowned at everyone else. “We need to set a good example - for everyone!”

    “Yes,” Bow agreed. “The people on Earth already complain about us ‘forcing’ our views on them.”

    “Stupid idiots!” Glimmer hissed. “We didn’t do anything like that.”

    “We didn’t, no. And we won’t stoop to bullying our allies around,” Adora said. “Even if we think they deserve it or are being stupid. It’s not right.”

    “Not even when it’d be funny?” Catra joked, flashing her fangs. But Adora frowned at her, and Glimmer glared. And Bow looked disappointed rather than amused. Well, can’t win them all.

    “We need to set an example,” Adora said. “Our troops will look to us as role models. If we break our own rules, if we don’t do what’s right, they won’t either.”

    That was straight out of cadet lessons about command and leadership. Not that it was wrong, of course. If Adora stepped out of line, Priest would take it as a sign and try to outdo her. On the other hand, sometimes, you needed to be a bit… pragmatic in war. Glimmer understood that. Adora… tried to ignore that. Even if it hurt her. Sometimes especially if it hurt her.

    “We’ll be good,” Catra said with a wide smile.

    Adora frowned some more at her, apparently not convinced - as if Catra would do anything to hurt her - but Glimmer and Bow nodded.

    “And we’ll keep our troops - and the Earth troops in line,” Glimmer said.

    “And we’ll keep each other in line,” Bow added.

    That was a little… Catra blinked; Bow wasn’t looking at her - he was looking at Glimmer, who barely managed to stop frowning. Oh.

    Well, Bow wasn’t wrong. And Glimmer loved him. But it was still brave of him to say it.

    Catra reached over and patted Glimmer on the back. “Don’t worry. We’ll tell you when you’re about to go overboard.”

    Glimmer narrowed her eyes at Catra. “I have no doubt that you’ll tell me everything I did wrong - if I become Supreme Commander.”

    Catra chuckled.

    But Adora started to nod before she realised what she was doing. ”Well, only if it’s a really big mistake,” she said - a little too earnest for Glimmer’s taste, Catra thought.

    Well, that couldn’t be helped. They were about to launch a war that was bigger than the war against the Horde or Horde Prime. They couldn’t afford stupid mistakes. Or any mistakes.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, September 25th, 1998

    “Well, that went better than I expected,” Jack O’Neill said after they had left the meeting room - and had closed the door behind them, of course. Hammond knew him too well not to expect such a flippant comment, but one had to uphold appearances. Especially now, with foreigners in the mountain. “They didn’t throw us into jail or demoted us.”

    “You expected them to jail us?” Daniel gasped.

    Jack grinned at him. “Do you really think they would throw the best friends of our magical space princess alliance - our magical space princess alliance with which we want to be allied - into jail for telling the truth on television? That would sabotage all our efforts to make nice with them.”

    Daniel closed his mouth and frowned at him for a moment. “Didn’t you say yesterday that the Russians and the Chinese would love that?”

    Of course they’d love to see the USA excluded from the alliance with Etheria. The limeys and the French would probably like that as well. “But they can’t do it - we didn’t tell them any of the new secrets, just old ones - and those belong to the Air Force.”

    “I thought we didn’t tell any secrets.”

    “Not real secrets. Just open secrets.” Jack grinned. “Anyway - see you at dinner, team. I have to train our FNGs some more.” He waved and left before Daniel could find another argument. His friend would get over it. As would Carter.

    And if things went as planned, they’d be back in the real action sooner than planned.

    Jack had no wish to play security for foreign space tourists while his friends were fighting a war against the snakes. The upcoming trip to Cimmeria would show if Stargate Command could still do any real missions.

    He shook his head as he entered the lift leading up - he had another batch of recruits to run ragged in the field.

    Before the doors could close, someone else stepped inside, and Jack tensed.

    “Lieutenant Lenkova. Cutting it a little close, are we?”

    “Colonel O’Neill.” The spy frowned. “What do you mean?”

    Jack made a point of checking his watch. “Training starts in ten minutes.”

    “Yes?” She cocked her head to the side.

    “It’s usually good form to be ready for training in the field before the officer in charge arrives,” he told her. “At least in the United States Armed Forces.”

    “Yes?” That look of confused innocence had to be an act. “It’s the same in Russia.”

    “And you’re currently riding an elevator with the officer in charge of the exercise.” Well, the training session - the FNGs weren’t yet ready for an actual exercise. But it sounded better than ‘basic training’.

    “Yes?” she repeated herself for the third time.

    “Which implies that we’ll arrive together.” He inclined his head.

    Her expression changed into a grin. He would call it impish if that wouldn’t make him sound like he read romance novels. “It’s good to warm up before exercise, da?”

    Jack narrowed his eyes at her. “You’re planning to run to the training area?”

    “Extra exercise is a good thing, isn’t it?”

    Was she checking him out - or implying that he needed the exercise as well? Challenge him to a race? Either way, Jack wouldn’t be falling for that. He knew he was in top shape - Adora’s healing had done wonders. And he wasn’t falling for a pretty blonde under his command. Certainly not for a Russian honey trap!

    They reached the changeover floor - Stargate Command lacked lifts that went all the way up to the entrance level - and she was out of the cabin before the doors had fully opened. She was actually sprinting to the lift to the surface.

    Jack grinned as he followed at a more leisurely pace. Well, the joke was on her - he knew the timing of the lifts, and so he knew he would…

    She hit the button to close the doors on the way into the lift. They promptly closed.

    …apparently have to wait for the next lift. Jack sighed and ignored the two guards next to the lift. The exercise wouldn’t start without him, anyway.

    But Jack was man enough to admit that this round went to the Lieutenant. He’d get her back during training.

    *****​

    “Again, from the top!” Jack O’Neill yelled, channelling his inner drill sergeant. “That was almost acceptable - for raw recruits!”

    The squad that had just ‘run the gauntlet’ groaned and grumbled as the soldiers trotted back to the starting point.

    “I believe that they performed above the level of raw recruits, O’Neill.”

    Jack turned to look at Teal’c. “Well, yes, but you don’t tell them that. Can’t have them become complacent, can we?”

    “Would they be suitable for Stargate Command if they are unable to judge their own performance objectively?”

    “They know they aren’t doing too badly,” Jack explained. “But they also know they can do better.” Much better, once they sorted out tactics and team roles and adapted to the exercise.

    “Ah.” Teal’c nodded.

    Both of them watched the next squad go through the exercise. They were Lenkova’s squad. And, to Jack’s slight annoyance, they were doing well. Covering each other was expected, but they also adjusted to the Goa’uld weapons - the simulated ones - well enough. Even the staggered staff weapon volleys didn’t keep them down.

    And Lenkova was leading from the front. Usually, that could be grounds for criticism - officers weren’t supposed to take point since that would leave their men leaderless. On the other hand, sometimes, you had to run ahead because that was the only way to get them to follow you.

    And Jack would be a hypocrite if he criticised her for things he regularly did in the field.

    Still, it would be nice if she made a mistake he could point out. Just telling her to advance more smoothly and more quickly didn’t have the same ring to it.

    But the damned Russian spy didn’t cooperate - her squad finished as the best so far. And the woman knew it as she saluted him. “Mission accomplished, Sir!” She wasn’t quite smiling, but he could tell that she was amused.

    “We don’t salute in the field,” he told her with a nod. They were supposed to act as if they were in the field during the exercise. “Good work. Now make it faster.”

    She returned the nod and this time, she smiled, then told her squad in Russian to grab more sim ammo and line up for another go.

    Instead of joining them, she pulled out her canteen and took a swallow. “Anything else that needs to be improved, Sir?”

    “Nothing critical,” he told her. “Teal’c?”

    “You lead more aggressively than the Americans,” Jack’s friend said.

    “It’s our doctrine.” She grinned. “We aren’t as averse to casualties as the Americans.”

    ‘Averse to casualties’? She must have watched American TV. Of course she would have watched it - she was a spy, after all.

    “Yes. Like the Jaffa,” Teal’c said.

    Even Jack couldn’t tell if that was meant as a compliment or not. Lenkova nodded, then went to rejoin her squad.

    Jack watched her go, looking at how she moved in the Russian fatigues. He still thought the American ones were superior, but now they would be able to directly compare the two.

    “She is a formidable warrior,” Teal’c commented.

    “Without a doubt,” Jack agreed. And a dangerous spy - he caught her glancing over her shoulder back at him.

    *****​

    Earth Orbit, Solar System, September 25th, 1998

    “We’re in space. That’s Earth below us.”

    “What a sight!”

    “It looks so small.”

    “Not as small as from the moon.”

    “Still…”

    “Impressive.”

    Adora smiled as she watched the three ministers from France, Germany and the United Kingdom, as well as their aides and generals, look at the planet floating below them. It was a touching moment - and very symbolic, in her opinion.

    “Who wants to bet that the whole ‘your ship is a neutral place for the preliminary meeting favouring no one’ was just an excuse so they could go to space?” Catra whispered behind her.

    Trust her to assume the worst! Adora sighed as Glimmer giggled. Although she had to admit that their guests were very enthusiastic about space. Maybe they should hold their meeting with NASA’s representatives - which they needed to schedule, she reminded herself - in space as well?

    Still… they had a war to plan. Adora cleared her throat. “It’s an impressive sight, yes,” she said. “You can see the entire world from here.”

    “Or target it,” Catra added.

    That ruined the mood, and everyone grew serious.

    “Yes, the information we received from the USA also showed how vulnerable Earth is to attacks from space,” the British minister said.

    “That’s why we have a fleet here,” Glimmer told him.

    “But you’re not planning to keep it in place until we’ve started building ships of our own, are you?”

    “No,” Glimmer said. “Based on our information, we don’t need the entire fleet here - or on Etheria - to protect the planet. The Goa’uld are divided, which renders them vulnerable and also makes it harder for them to launch an offensive. Any System Lord who wants to attack Earth will have to expose their own holdings to attacks from their rivals in order to free the troops and ships for that.”

    “And even if they managed that, using Teal’c’s information about Apophis’s forces as a baseline for one of the most powerful System Lords, they wouldn’t be able to match our forces here,” Catra added. “And that’s not accounting for our technological superiority.”

    “So, we can spare the ships for offensive operations.” Glimmer nodded.

    “But the more worlds we take, the more ships are needed to defend them. This favours the attacker,” the British admiral pointed out. “We need to hit their forces and destroy their offensive capability.”

    “And if they unite against us, the whole equation changes,” the French general added. “And once they realise the threat we pose to them, they have a very compelling reason to unite.”

    “They have to realise that first,” Glimmer retorted. “We will conceal our numbers and aims for as long as possible. And the Goa’uld still need to trust each other. We can counteract that by striking at select System Lords and leaving others - preferably their rivals - alone. That would sow distrust.”

    “If it works out. It’s still a risky strategy.” The German minister looked grim.

    “It’s less dangerous than staying in this system and hoping the Goa’uld ignore you,” Catra retorted. “They will check on Earth, and that means we have to stop them, and then they’ll know about us and our forces. It’s better to hit them first.”

    “But they will attack Earth anyway once they realise Earth troops are taking their planets.” The British minister tilted his head.

    “That’s why we need scouts and spies,” Catra told him. “We need to track their forces.”

    Adora nodded. The spy bots Entrapta and Sam were building would help there. But they didn’t have actual spies. Well, they could send Double Trouble, but Glimmer and Catra didn’t trust them. The Tok’Ra were an option, but not even SG-1 had any idea how to contact them.

    “That will be a challenge given the sheer size of the Goa’uld Empire.” The French General nodded at the map of the galaxy floating in the middle of the room.

    “Yes. But it’s a challenge we can overcome.” Adora did her best to sound confident. Entrapta had mentioned plans to build self-replicating spy bots or something. That should help.

    “I hope so.” But the British admiral didn’t sound very hopeful, not to Adora at least.

    “In any case, we need to first set the structure of the Alliance.” Adora leaned forward. That was the point of this meeting, after all. Well, one of the points - she would love to use her presentation, but they were saving that for the main meeting. “We need a chain of command, clear duties, and a structure that will allow us to integrate more members.” Such as other, smaller European countries, and the United States, if they managed to stop their bigotry.

    The delegations tensed up. “Yes. A chain of command is essential for any military force,” the German minister said. “Though who sets the policies that the military is tasked to enact? We cannot simply act according to purely military concerns, or we risk overly focusing on such matters.”

    Adora frowned. What did he mean?

    “The goals of the war will be set by the rulers of the countries involved,” Glimmer said.

    Adora nodded.

    “And what if the rulers are also personally involved in fighting in the war?” the German asked. “Etheria has a tradition of the rulers of states also personally leading the troops, hasn’t it?”

    Adora blinked. Why would that matter?

    Glimmer looked surprised as well. “Yes.”

    “That would give them significant influence on both policies and military decisions as well as information on both,” the French minister said. “This can be problematic.”

    “I would think that’s an advantage for everyone,” Adora said. “Less friction and possible misunderstanding between those who make the policies and those who execute them.”

    That sounded logical to her - and to her friends, who were nodding - but it was obvious that the Europeans didn’t quite agree.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, September 25th, 1998

    “...and that is why a mission to return to Cimmeria should be undertaken,” Samantha Carter finished. She didn’t show her annoyance at having to give an entirely superfluous presentation when she nodded at the five generals facing her. Even if you discounted the need to further investigate the mystery of the creator’s of Thor’s Hammer or the moral need to check on how the planet fared without its protections - something Sam had to admit Stargate Command should have done much, much sooner - it was also obvious that refusing permission would antagonise the Etherians.

    And why would anyone want to do that? The Colonel had speculated that some countries might want to show that they didn’t bow to the Etherians, but Sam didn’t think that any of the permanent members of the Security Council would be amongst those - not when they were either in an alliance with the Etherians or courting their favour. A powerplay was also not very likely since the Etherians could probably just claim the spare Stargate they had found on the way to Earth. Sam had no doubt that Entrapta could rig up a computer to use it. Russia or China might want to play to their populations, but Sam doubted that they would be willing to leak secrets like Cimmeria to the public.

    And yet, the command committee was acting as if approving this mission was somehow controversial and had to be deliberated carefully.

    “We’ve read the files on the last - and only - mission to that planet,” General Li said. “Two members of your team almost died, and you had to destroy a planetary defence system of unknown origin to save them.”

    “Yes, Sir.” Sam had just explained that.

    “Your actions could be very well seen as hostile to the population of Cimmeria - or their protectors,” Li went on.

    “Yes. That is why we need to find out who created the defence system so we can explain our actions, should that be needed.” Sam also had said that already.

    “And what if that fails?” Li didn’t frown, but his tone carried the same meaning. “Wars have been started over less. What if you open a new front with an unknown galactic power? A power with more advanced technology than the Goa’uld.”

    “That’s why we should meet them and explain what happened,” Sam said. She wished that the Colonel was here instead of training the soldiers. On the other hand, after his stunt with Daniel, it was probably better that he wasn’t here. General Hammond might have arranged this deliberately.

    “They would have to tie this to Earth, first. And then they would have to find us,” General Haig cut in.

    “The Cimmerians know that we’re from Earth,” Sam retorted.

    “The Cimmerians know that you claimed this,” General Sidorov said. “But would the unknown party believe that? Or would they assume that this was a covert operation by a Goa’uld hoping to divert retaliation? You had a Jaffa with you and disabled the defence system. This does look rather suspicious.”

    The Colonel’s comments about paranoid Russians might have some merit, Sam thought. “This seems rather reaching, Sir,” she said with a very polite expression.

    He glared at her anyway.

    “I think the mere possibility that we might have antagonised another galactic power is grounds enough to investigate the planet,” General Haig said. General Petit and General Hammond nodded, so that meant the majority was in favour of the mission. Sam started to smile when the General went on: “Although I think it might be better not to send the same team that created said incident in the first place. The system did detect a Jaffa, didn’t it? And according to your file, you still have enhanced levels of Naquadah in your blood, Captain Carter. You could be mistaken for a Goa’uld host.”

    Sam clenched her teeth at the reminder of her time as a host. As much as it stung - and felt insulting - that the General thought she should be excluded, she couldn’t refute the reasons offered.

    “Yes,” General Petit agreed with his British colleague. “I think a new team would be a better choice. Together with whoever the Etherians send, they should have less trouble convincing whoever built the defence system that it was a mistake, not an act of sabotage that destroyed it.”

    “SG-1 is our most experienced team,” General Hammond pointed out. “And they have been working with the Etherians before.”

    “No one doubts that. But we cannot rely on a single team,” General Li said. “We need more teams with experience and who are used to working with the Etherians.”

    Sam couldn’t fault the logic here, either - but it also felt like a political move. And an attempt to squeeze SG-1 out.

    “Captain Carter is also our foremost expert on alien technology,” Hammond retorted.

    “Another reason not to send her into high-risk situations,” General Haig said.

    Sam clenched her teeth again. She was an officer in the Air Force, and she had probably more combat experience than most of the generals in the room. But as a captain, you didn’t snap at generals.

    “The Etherians might not want to work with an unknown team instead of their friends,” General Hammond argued.

    “I am sure they’ll understand our reasoning,” General Sidorov told him.

    Sam wasn’t so sure. But she held her tongue.

    *****​

    Earth Orbit, Solar System, September 25th, 1998

    “Congratulations, Supreme Commander Adora,” Catra said as she handed Adora a glass.

    “I’m not Supreme Commander. This was just a preliminary discussion. Nothing is set in stone.” Adora shook her head.

    Catra smiled wrily.

    “They were pretty insistent,” Glimmer said. “I don’t think they’ll budge on that. They don’t want a ruling princess as Supreme Commander. Because they fear corruption.” She frowned.

    Bow patted her back, then slung his arm around her waist and pulled her to his side. “They don’t know you. You’d never abuse the position to favour Bright Moon.”

    Catra agreed - but also because the war would be fought in space and on other planets. There was no reason nor any real way to favour Bright Moon by strengthening its defences and letting other kingdoms get conquered. She wasn’t entirely sure what Glimmer would do if she had to decide whether Bright Moon or Salineas would be defended.

    Glimmer didn’t look mollified, even though she leaned into Bow’s side. “It’s just so stupid.”

    “Yes!” Adora nodded. “Whether or not you rule shouldn’t be a reason to deny you a post.”

    Catra hesitated a moment, then made a humming sound. “Well, you could claim that if you have to rule a kingdom, you can’t focus entirely on fighting a war - especially away from your kingdom.”

    “I’ve got Dad for that,” Glimmer said with a pout.

    Catra shrugged. She agreed with the others that their new allies just didn’t want too much power concentrated in one person. Which was… well, it was inefficient. On the other hand, Earth was full of stories of the military taking over a country. That’s what happened if you didn’t have princesses. Or, she reminded herself, if you had technological superiority. Hordak had taken over the Scorpion Kingdom in a similar way, after all. “Anyway, so Adora’s set as the Supreme Commander. They think they’ve won, but it won’t really change things.”

    Adora nodded. “And we can tell them that!”

    Catra sighed and looked at Glimmer and Bow. Bow looked away.

    Glimmer set her jaw. “No, Adora. We can’t tell them that. We can’t undermine your command from the start. If they don’t want a ruling princess, they’ll get She-Ra. But you can’t act as if you’re just doing my bidding.”

    Adora opened her mouth, but Catra was quicker: “And we know you wouldn’t actually just do what Sparkles said. But when you act as if it doesn’t matter whether you or Glimmer are in command, they’ll assume the worst.” She shrugged. “They’ll see how the Alliance runs things soon enough.” With lots of talking and discussing until a decision was made.

    “I think they run their alliances the same as we do, actually,” Bow said. “That’s why they want Adora.”

    Catra snorted. “They underestimate you.”

    “What?” Adora frowned again.

    “They probably think you’re a bit naive - inexperienced in politics,” Glimmer said.

    “I am inexperienced in politics,” Adora told them. “But I’m not naive. Right?”

    “You are a little naive,” Catra told her. “And we love you for it.” She knew it very well - anyone other than Adora would have given up on her years ago.

    “I think you made a good impression, Adora. They trust you to be completely honest with them.” Bow beamed at her.

    Catra took a step closer to Adora. Bow had his own princess to handle.

    “And they don’t trust me,” Glimmer complained.

    “Well, we already knew that they have issues with princesses - ruling princesses,” Bow said. “They have their own system.”

    Not a very bright system, in Catra’s opinion. You could see that when you looked at the trouble the Americans had with changing their policies. On the other hand, if Hordak had lost his position after an election, that would’ve been funny. She snorted.

    “What’s so funny?” Glimmer glared at her.

    And Adora was frowning again.

    “I just imagined a democratic Horde, with Hordak losing an election,” Catra explained.

    Adora giggled. “Could you imagine his reaction?”

    Glimmer and Bow were a bit more restrained.

    “Anyway, I think you’re set for Supreme Commander, Adora. No getting out of this.” Catra grinned and took a sip from her drink.

    Adora sighed once more and took a swallow from her own. Then she gasped and stared at the glass? “What’s this?”

    “White Russian.” Catra grinned, showing her teeth. “Vodka and cream!” And some other stuff, but that was optional in her opinion.

    Glimmer made some gagging noise even though Catra hadn’t offered her one.

    And Adora frowned. “What’s vodka?”

    “Strong booze from Russia,” Catra told her.

    “We shouldn’t drink when we’re in a planning session.”

    “We had a planning session. We’re relaxing now,” Catra corrected her.

    “I can’t relax if I might become Supreme Commander!”

    “That’s what the drink is for!” Catra raised her own and took another sip.

    “Catra!”

    Catra grinned. Adora was so cute when she got mad over nothing. “Drink your White Russian and relax.” She was pretty sure Adora would, too.

    Her lover was still holding the glass, after all.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, September 26th, 1998

    “So, instead of sending us, they’ll send a new team without any experience?” Jack O’Neill didn’t bother hiding what he thought of that plan.

    “The majority of my colleagues feel that the presence of SG-1 could be misunderstood by whoever built the defence system that you destroyed,” General Hammond replied. “Especially in the case of Teal’c and Captain Carter.”

    Who could be mistaken as a Goa’uld and their Jaffa. Jack frowned. It wasn’t a bad point. It was a good point, actually - at least in this particular situation, where the defence system had already mistakenly identified Teal’c as an enemy. But he hated admitting anything like that - he had a reputation to maintain. And Carter didn’t look like she agreed, and Jack wouldn’t stab her in the back. “Are they going to disguise the team as well? That’ll do wonders for building trust.”

    Daniel snorted, Jack noticed. Hammond, though, wasn’t amused. “The consensus was that our Etherian friends wouldn’t take well to that kind of deception.”

    Translation: It was actually proposed, but people wised up and used the Etherians as a face-saving excuse. At least Jack hoped that this was the case - if the only reason they hadn’t gone with disguises was that the magical space princesses might not like it, then things were worse than he had feared. “And how have the Etherians taken the news that they’ll go to Cimmeria with a bunch of unknown FNGs?”

    “Stargate Command will be sending a veteran team.” Hammond slightly frowned at him.

    “Oh, great. Strangers then. I bet they’re thrilled.” Jack shook his head.

    “The Etherians have yet to be informed about the details of the mission.” Hammond didn’t like it either, Jack could tell, even though the general’s expression remained neutral.

    “They won’t like that even less,” Jack said.

    “Yes,” Daniel chimed in. “As far as I understood, they expect to head out there with us - SG-1. Now, the concerns about possible misunderstandings shouldn’t be dismissed easily, but I think they would expect to be allowed to have a say in this before a decision was made.”

    “And wouldn’t that be a shame if they demanded changes to the mission!” Jack watched Hammond’s reaction to his comment.

    The general frowned. “Stargate Command isn’t in the habit of letting its teams use their relationship with foreign powers to get their way and overrule their commanding officer.”

    So, Hammond wouldn’t look away if Jack had a frank talk with the Etherians.

    “But the Etherians will want to talk to us. Do you expect us to refuse a meeting with them? Or to lie?” Daniel asked.

    “I expect you to act with the loyalty and integrity expected from a member of Stargate Command,” Hammond replied. “If the Security Council gets the impression that the Etherians have undue influence on Stargate Command, and that individual members are trying to exploit that to control which teams are assigned to any missions, then the whole agreement will be revisited.”

    Jack wouldn’t mind that. But Hammond would. And it would be bad for the entire Stargate Command - well, at least for the part Jack cared about. So he nodded. “Yes, Sir.”

    Hammond stared at him for a moment, and Jack did his best to look honest. He wasn’t about to stab the general in the back either. And he would make sure that his team would follow his lead.

    But he had a bad feeling about this mission now.

    *****​
     
  15. Threadmarks: Chapter 42: Cimmeria Part 2
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 42: Cimmeria Part 2

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, September 26th, 1998

    “We’re not going with you?” Adora blinked.

    Jack shrugged. “It’s been deemed too dangerous because we kind of wrecked their defence system when we visited - we had an excellent reason, of course, so don’t feel bad, Carter - and so those who built it might think we’re their enemies, what with them having mistaken us for Goa’uld once already. So… it was decided that another team should head there with you.”

    Adora frowned. That sounded… well, it made sense, but still. It didn’t feel right.

    “So, will the new guys dress up or wear the same uniforms you wore when you wrecked the defence system?” Catra asked. “It’s not exactly hard to tell that you come from the same planet if you wear the same uniform.”

    Adora nodded. That was the point of uniforms, after all.

    “Well… that hasn’t been decided yet,” Jack said.

    “Trying to hide your planet of origin isn’t good for building trust,” Bow pointed out with a frown. “If you plan to reveal the truth at a later date.”

    “Or if they find out before you reveal the truth,” Catra added.

    Once more, Adora nodded. “It doesn’t seem to be very honest to use fake uniforms.”

    “You wore Horde uniforms as well to infiltrate a base, remember?” Catra asked.

    Adora pouted. “That was a legitimate tactic against the Horde. But we’re not going there to fight the Cimmerians or their protectors. We aren’t at war with them.”

    “Well, at least as far as we know,” Jack said. “They might have a different opinion.”

    “You could be at war and don’t know it,” Glimmer said. “Sounds familiar.”

    Jack frowned at her while Catra grinned. “Good one, Sparkles!”

    “But… if you’re not coming, how can we do science together?” Entrapta asked Sam with a deep pout. “Hordak and I did some work on remote-controlled lab assistants, but they aren’t meant to be used through a gate or in the field - well, we could modify them.”

    Sam looked uncomfortable. “I will be in my lab, ready to support you if you need help. Remotely.”

    “Or… What if we go through the gate and look around, and if there’s no shooting war going on, we call you in?” Adora suggested.

    “Well, the mission is basically checking if we started a war,” Jack replied. “Coming in afterwards is more like a tourist trip.”

    “Jack!” Daniel frowned at him. “We would talk to the Cimmerians, learn more about their culture and history and see if we can analyse the technology. Check for more clues about its creators. We wouldn’t be tourists.”

    “Active tourists then.” Jack shrugged again. “Anyway, SG-2 is supposed to go with you on the mission, But we’ll be ready to assist you. And not just remotely,” he added.

    “Good! We need your assistance!” Entrapta beamed at Sam.

    Jack coughed. “That’s not how that works,” he said, glancing at Adora.

    “So, we can’t call on you for assistance?” Catra cocked her head with a toothy grin. “Sounds like we’d be under your command then…”

    Jack glared at her. “You know what I mean. Playing such games doesn’t make you popular with the brass.”

    The brass? Ah, the generals. Adora frowned. “But deciding that we should go with SG-2 instead of you without even asking us wasn’t really friendly either.”

    Jack looked a little uncomfortable. “Well, the generals in command of Stargate Command get to decide what team they send on a mission. Generally.”

    That sounded a bit like…

    “What do you think of this?” Glimmer asked with narrowed eyes.

    Jack sighed. “Well, I want to go, and I think SG-1 could do the job. But I understand and accept the concerns that the generals have. About the whole thing. We did kind of wreck stuff, and people tend to take that badly. Whether it’s someone’s lawnmower or someone’s planetary defence system.”

    “Wait - did you wreck your neighbour’s lawnmower, Jack?” Daniel asked.

    “No, I didn’t.” Jack smiled. “And you can’t prove anything!”

    Catra chuckled, and Adora snorted almost against her will. “So, you are alright with this?”

    “I just said that, didn’t I?” Jack tilted his head a little.

    Catra snorted again.

    “But that’s still unfair! I wanted to work with Sam!” Entrapta protested.

    “There’ll be other missions,” Sam told her.

    “And who knows - maybe things go wrong, and we have to charge in to help fix it and save the planet,” Jack added.

    Adora pressed her lips together as she remembered the Heart of Etheria. And what she had to do to save it. “Let’s not hope for that, please.”

    “Yes,” Daniel agreed. “I would love for a mission that goes without a hitch.”

    “Well, what are the odds that this will end up with us learning that the mysterious creators haven’t returned, as they hadn’t for a long, long time?” Jack grinned. “It might be a milk run.”

    “Do you really think that, Jack?” Adora asked.

    “Well… we can hope? Our track record isn’t looking promising, though,” Jack replied.

    “That’s mostly SG-1. Other teams didn’t have so many, uh, interesting missions as we had,” Daniel said.

    “That’s because we usually get the most difficult and important missions.”

    “Like this one?” Glimmer asked with a wry smile.

    Jack nodded. “Exactly. So, we good?”

    Adora looked at her friends. Entrapta was still pouting, Hordak was stoic or something, but the others nodded. “Let’s go meet SG-2, then,” she said.

    “And the generals,” Catra added. “Can’t forget them.”

    “Yes, we really must talk to them,” Glimmer added.

    Jack grinned.

    *****​

    “I really wish you could come with us.” Entrapta pouted again. The third time in about as many minutes.

    Not that Samantha Carter was counting. She shrugged and suppressed a sigh. “I would like to come as well, but the reasoning by my superiors is sound. My presence could ruin our chances to avoid another conflict.”

    “If your absence alone would make the difference between war and peace, then I think those people who created the defence system you sabotaged would probably find another reason to start a war,” Entrapta retorted. “They sound like easily provoked.”

    “We actually don’t know if they even noticed what happened,” Sam explained. “They might have abandoned Cimmeria - or they might be gone extinct. We’re just playing things as safe as possible until we know more.”

    “Ah.” Entrapta frowned. “But being too cautious can be dangerous as well. Catra explained that to me once.”

    “I believe that was about operations during the war,” Hordak cut in. “Not about opening lines of communications to an unknown force.”

    Sam nodded. “When approaching unknown people, it’s best to err on the side of caution.”

    “Unless you need a show of strength to impress them,” Hordak added.

    “That could be seen as a hostile approach,” Sam pointed out.

    “And if hostilities broke out afterwards, you would have given away crucial data about your capabilities.” Hordak nodded. Of course the former warlord would think of that!

    “Couldn’t you avoid that by making sure your demonstration is safe?” Entrapta cocked her head as her hair fiddled with some of Sam’s tools.

    “We would have to know more about the others to judge what’s considered safe,” Sam said, quoting Daniel. “Making first contact is a very delicate affair, generally.”

    “Well, when we met you, things worked out well!” Entrapta nodded.

    Sam suppressed a wince. They had almost shot at Melog when SG-1 had met the Etherians for the first time. It wasn’t a good example of a peaceful first contact. “Well, if SG-2 and you give the clear, we can follow you,” she said.

    “Alright!” Entrapta beamed, and her hair picked up more tools. “So, what are you working on today? Did you look into our remote-controlled bot idea?”

    “Yes,” Sam replied. “We need a safe connection, though. And while I think it would be safe enough for remote lab work in space, I don’t think we should rely on it for dangerous work in inhabited areas.” If she made a mistake due to lag or loss of connection while manipulating Naquadah-enhanced gear…

    “It would still be safer for defusing bombs than doing it in person,” Hordak said. “I believe you already use robots for that.”

    “Poor things!” Entrapta exclaimed. “They risk getting blown up!”

    That was their purpose. “Most of them can’t act autonomously,” Sam told her. “They aren’t sapient. Or sentient.”

    “Like most of our bots,” Hordak added. “Even though they can act autonomously.”

    “But some bots are sapient! And if we give them enough time and unlock their neural matrixes to evolve in response to stimuli, most of our advanced bots can develop sentience, then sapience,” Entrapta retorted. “That’s why we need remote-controlled bots - so everyone’s safe from getting blown up!”

    “We use remote-controlled Mobile Analytic Laboratory Probes - M.A.L.P.s - but they aren’t as mobile as your bots,” Sam said. Although she thought they had more options for scanning. On the other hand, she hadn’t thoroughly analysed the spybots of the Etherians.

    “Well, that can be fixed!” Entrapta nodded several times. “And if we’re lucky, we can investigate the technology on Cimmeria ourselves. It might be First Ones in origin.”

    Sam nodded. Although given SG-1’s luck, she wasn’t very optimistic. On the other hand. SG-2 might have better luck.

    “Oh! Did I show you the plans for self-replicating exploration bots yet?” Entrapta said, putting down another set of tools.

    Sam blinked. “Self-replicating exploration bots?”

    “Or spybots, yes. We need as many spybots as possible to spy on the Goa’uld, right? So, I thought about ways to achieve that. And self-replicating bots are the answer! The initial development cost is higher, but once they get going, they can increase their numbers exponentially once they find enough resources. We should have coverage of most of the Goa’uld-controlled systems in no time!”

    “You want to create Von Neumann probes?” Sam had a sinking feeling in her gut.

    “Oh! You already have a model? Can I see it?”

    Sam winced at Entrapta’s enthusiasm.

    “I think releasing self-replicating bots has to be considered very carefully,” she said. “What if they get out of control? Even if they only continue to replicate, they would soon require enormous amounts of resources.” That was what exponential growth did.

    “Well, they would be hardened against the First Ones tech virus,” Entrapta replied. “Although you are correct that they also need a limit. Although checking if such a limit was reached would require them to be in constant contact with each other. That might influence their stealth capability. On the other hand, it would greatly enhance cooperation between bots, should that be required. And whatever one bot experienced would be available - although not as a direct neural copy - to every other bot.”

    Not just a Von Neumann probe - a hive mind. Sam felt a cold shiver run down her spine. “If the spy bots can learn, that means they can adapt. And that means they could evolve.”

    “Yes!” Entratpa nodded with a smile.

    “What if they evolved out of your control?” Provided Entrapta was planning to control them in the first place.

    “Well, if they develop sapience - and I think they would - controlling them without their consent would be wrong, wouldn’t it?” Entrapta tilted her head.

    Sam closed her eyes. It was as she had feared. “And what if they start behaving like, ah, Priest? Or see everyone else as competition for resources? Or as enemies?”

    “Those are good points. We should limit their neural network,” Hordak said, nodding.

    “But that would mean they can’t ever develop sapience!”

    That was the point! “I think if you want sapient bots, they shouldn’t be self-replicating,” Sam said.

    “But everyone else is! People self-replicate! We don’t limit them like that!” Entrapta protested.

    “But people don’t self-replicate exponentially,” Sam retorted. Well, not infinitely. Although that might be a reaction to resources as often as a result of cultural adaptation. “And releasing self-replicating bots without limits would impact everyone else. Bots would grow at the expense of others. Would that be fair?”

    Entrapta pouted but slowly nodded.

    Sam suppressed a relieved sigh. One crisis averted before the mission had even started.

    *****​

    “...and while we understand that it is your prerogative to decide which team you send on a specific mission, this is a joint mission,” Glimmer said. If she were standing instead of sitting at a conference table, she would have had her hands on her hips. Catra was sure of that. “We should’ve been consulted. Not just because this decision affects us and our dispositions as well, but we might have information that affects your decision.”

    Catra watched the generals’ reaction. Hammond kept his expression politely interested and nodded once. The French general did the same, but his smile looked less honest - or so she thought. The British general frowned a little. The Russian frowned a lot, and the Chinese one didn’t show any reaction at all. Which was a reaction by itself, of course.

    Well, she should have expected them to be good at the game - one advantage of being older. Probably.

    “We are now discussing the mission,” the Chinese general said.

    “After SG-1 told us about the change of teams,” Glimmer retorted. “Is that how things are done here?”

    “You are friends with SG-1, aren’t you?” the Russian general said.

    “Yes. But that doesn’t affect the chain of command,” Glimmer told him.

    Well, it did, of course - in a pinch, Catra would be first listening to those she trusted no matter their ranks. And she was sure her friends would do the same. But this wasn’t about the chain of command but appearances. Or posturing. It was a power play.

    “You know, we didn’t have to play such games in the Horde,” she whispered. You knew your place there.

    “The Horde was all about such games,” Adora whispered back. “Shadow Weaver did it all the time. And that worked out so well.”

    Right. Catra pressed her lips together as she remembered that Shadow Weaver had played such mind games all the time. It wasn’t a happy memory. She frowned at her lover anyway.

    “...and so we need to discuss such information on the level where such decisions are made,” Glimmer said.

    “Well, do you disagree with our reasoning?” the British general asked.

    “In part,” Adora spoke up. “We don’t even know if the mysterious people who built the system you destroyed are on the planet. If we don’t find them, there’s no reason for SG-1 not to join us.”

    “Just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they aren’t watching from afar,” the Russian general retorted.

    “If you don’t trust us to do recon, you shouldn’t send us in the first place,” Adora told him.

    Catra nodded. This wasn’t like in the Horde, where you often only found the Alliance forces when they attacked the Horde scouts. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be. “That guy’s paranoid,” she whispered.

    She didn’t think the Russian had heard her, but he was frowning at her. Well, he seemed the type to expect the worst when someone whispered in his presence.

    Catra smiled sweetly at him.

    “We cannot afford another war with an interstellar power,” Hammond said. “So, we have to proceed with caution here.”

    “Does that mean that even if we don’t find any sign of those people, SG-1 will have to remain here?” Adora asked.

    The generals exchanged some glances. “That will be decided once we have a clearer picture of the situation on Cimmeria,” the British general told her.

    “And what if we decide that we need their expertise?” Catra asked.

    More glances and frowning followed. “The mission’s success, of course, takes priority,” Hammond replied.

    Which neatly avoided answering if they would overrule Catra’s friends.

    This mission was off to a good start.

    *****​

    For Jack O’Neill, watching the preparations in the gate room for a mission for another team was always a little… disturbing wasn’t quite correct, but it came close. He wasn’t arrogant - well, not very much - but SG-1 was the best team in Stargate Command. They had proven that repeatedly. The other teams weren’t bad - Hell, they were amongst the best Jack knew when it came to special ops - but there were situations out there that SG-1 could handle and the other teams couldn’t. Not really because of Jack, of course, but because when push came to shove, no scientist attached to Stargate Command could hold a candle to Carter, no one was as good as Daniel at getting aliens to talk instead of shooting at you, and Teal’c was the most dangerous man - alien - Jack had met. Well, before he met the Etherians.

    Of course, the Etherians kind of changed the situation. The scientist assigned to SG-2, Willard, wasn’t a genius, but Entrapta most certainly was. She was also a real-life mad scientist, though that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing on some missions. And Adora had some of the same earnest charm Daniel had in spades. Not to mention that Bow had a knack for technology as well.

    He turned away from the M.A.L.P. being prepared for the mission to face the approaching Ferretti.

    “Colonel.” Ferretti greeted him a tad warily.

    That was only natural - Jack knew how it felt when your superior was watching you work. Though Jack wouldn’t show it quite as openly. Ferretti had been on the first mission to Abydos, but he still was a little… not green, but not on Jack’s level. And he wasn’t used to the Etherians. “Major. All set up for our diplomatic probe? Don’t worry, the Etherians won’t bite you. Probably not - Catra can get a little moody.”

    Ferretti’s chuckle was a typical ‘laugh at your superior’s joke’ thing. He must be more nervous than Jack had assumed. Then again, Catra was a prickly woman. “If in doubt, treat her like a cat,” he added.

    “Sir?” Ferretti cocked his head.

    “You know, don’t look like a mouse, don’t tease her and stay out of the range of her claws.” Jack grinned.

    Ferretti laughed again, still a bit forced. “Yes, Sir. Any other advice?”

    “Anything not in the briefing?” Jack struck a thinking pose. Daniel had been thorough. “If in doubt, trust them. Don’t lie to them. And don’t treat them like kids.”

    “Of course not, Sir.” Ferretti nodded.

    Jack refrained from frowning. “I mean it. I know they don’t look it, but they’ve been through a war - they’ve grown up in a war and ended it. Personally. Don’t try to treat them as you’d Willard, don’t try to protect them. If the shit hits the fan, let them take the lead and don’t get in their way.”

    “I’ve talked to Major Warren, Sir.”

    Jack expected that. SG-3 would have spread the news about the Etherians after the fight with Seth. But it always paid to make sure. “Good.” It still wasn’t ideal, of course. SG-1 had spent far more time with the Etherians. Had gone on several missions with them, on Earth and in space. They should be here, ready to go to Cimmeria. But if wishes were horses, beggars would ride, as Daniel would say. He smiled. “So, any further questions?”

    Ferretti didn’t ask the one Jack was sure he wanted to ask - ‘are you going to stop hovering over us here, Sir?’ - but shook his head. “No, Sir.”

    “Good luck, then.”

    “Thank you, Sir.” Ferretti turned away and went back to checking his and his team’s gear.

    And Jack was back to waiting for someone else to risk their life in his place.

    “Jack!”

    He turned again. That had been Adora - the Etherians had arrived. “Finished discussing our decision process with the brass?”

    Adora blinked, then nodded. “Yes.”

    “Not that we have a result to show for,” Catra added. The woman stretched her arms over her head, fingers entwined, and Jack saw one of the gate guards stare. The kid wasn’t used yet to aliens.

    “We didn’t even get permission to call on you if we need you,” Adora said.

    Well, that would have given the Etherians the power to dictate who got to come on the mission - the generals wouldn’t allow themselves to be outmanoeuvred like that. Even Hammond wouldn’t let that fly. “Let’s hope you don’t need us,” Jack told her. “Just a simple, boring mission that shows that nothing changed.”

    Catra snorted. “Yeah, right.”

    Adora pouted. “It could very well be like that.”

    “With our luck?” Catra raised her eyebrows, and her tail twitched.

    “Whatever awaits us, we’ll deal with it,” Glimmer stated.

    “That’s the spirit!” Jack grinned.

    “I still think you should come with us,” Entrapta said. “It isn’t fair that… Oh! There’s the bot!” And she was off, headed for the M.A.L.P.

    Jack hoped she wouldn’t try to dismantle it. The things were expensive, as Stargate Command’s budget could attest to. On the other hand, Entrapta could probably improve the things.

    He blinked. On second thought, he’d better make sure she didn’t tinker with it.

    After introducing the Etherians to Ferretti and his team, of course.

    *****​

    “Folks, this is Major Ferretti. Major - Adora, Princess of Power, Queen Glimmer of Bright Moon, Princess Entrapta of Dryl who has deigned to join us again, Bow, Catra and Hordak.”

    Major Ferretti wasn’t Jack. Adora knew it was unfair to compare the two - it wasn’t Ferretti’s decision to replace SG-1, and he seemed a skilled, competent soldier - but she would have preferred to do this mission with Jack and the others, not with people she didn’t know and had never worked with. That wasn’t a good idea; even basic Horde command lessons taught you that. On the other hand, making new friends and allies was a good thing as well. “Hello, Major,” she said with a smile.

    “Hello.” He nodded. He didn’t look nervous, which was… well, it should be a good sign. Of Confidence. Hopefully, not overconfidence.

    The others greeted him as well - Catra with a ‘Yo’ - and he waved the rest of SG-2 over. “These are Lieutenants Casey and Bell and Dr Willard.”

    Casey and Bell were soldiers like Ferretti. Willard looked more like Daniel. And all were nervous - Willard obviously so.

    “Oh! Are you a scientist or a medical doctor?” Entrapta beamed at him.

    “Ah… A physicist. Mainly.”

    “Oh! So, what do you think we’ll encounter? Did you work with a lot of Goa’uld or Ancient technology before? Do you think the defence system is an entirely new technology? What do you think about bots?”

    Quite reasonable questions, in Adora’s opinion. Although Entrapta should give the man more time to answer - he was gaping at her. And at her hair.

    “So, you’re the FNGs Jack told us about?” Catra commented with a grin.

    Adora suppressed a sigh. That was the wrong thing to say. Of course Catra would say it. Even though she knew better - she had gone through the same lessons as Adora, after all.

    “No, SG-2 is an experienced Stargate Command team,” Jack corrected her with a frown. “We wouldn’t let FNGs through the gate.”

    “But you’re not used to, well, us,” Bow spoke up.

    “That won’t affect our performance,” Ferretti said.

    “It better not,” Catra said.

    “Maybe we should delay the mission until we know each other a bit better,” Adora suggested.

    “We’ve done missions like this before.” And now Ferretti looked annoyed. As did Casey and Bell.

    “Yep.” Jack nodded.

    “Sorry.” Adora had just wanted to help. Well, if they were trained to fight like Jack, they could handle this - if it came to a fight. But she didn’t expect much from the team.

    “We were just told that we’d be working with you,” Bow added. “We expected to go with SG-1.”

    Their friends. Adora nodded. She understood the reasons the generals had given, but she didn’t like them. It was always better to go on such missions with people you knew and trusted, not unknowns. Even in the Horde, which had standardised training, you tended to keep squads together.

    “Not your fault,” Catra said with a shrug. “But we’ve worked with SG-1 before.”

    “Well, we’ll do our best to replace them,” Ferretti said.

    They’d better.

    After a moment of everyone staring at each other without saying anything, Jack clapped his hands. “So, let’s walk over and see what the M.A.L.P. can do? Provided that Entrapta didn’t take it apart.”

    “I didn’t do anything to it!” Entrapta protested. “Although if you give me a bit of time, I could modify it… legs would make it more manoeuvrable, I think. And maybe add a gun so it can defend itself. And a neural matrix so it can act on its own.”

    “I don’t think we want M.A.L.P.s that can think and shoot on their own,” Jack said.

    “Why not?” Entrapta frowned.

    “We don’t have the paperwork for it. And people get nervous about a robot revolution.” Jack shrugged.

    “A robot revolution?” Adora asked. She remembered Entrapta’s bots going out of control due to the First One’s virus. That would be bad in here.

    “It’s from a movie,” Jack replied.

    “Ah.”

    “They wouldn’t revolt. Unless you treat them badly,” Entrapta said. “And why would anyone treat a bot badly?”

    “Military necessity,” Catra told her. “Sometimes, you have to send forces to their death.”

    Entrapta pouted. “There’s no need to send sapient bots out to die.”

    “Exactly. And M.A.L.P.s often get sent to dangerous, deadly worlds, so we don’t want them to be sapient,” Jack explained. “It’s kind of their job to be expendable.”

    “Oh.” Entrapta looked surprised. “I guess that is a good reason not to give them neural matrixes.”

    “Yeah.”

    They were in front of the Stargate’s ramp now - behind the bot. Or M.A.L.P. Whatever. Two techs were going over it, mumbling something about mad scientists. It seemed Entrapta had done more than just look it over.

    Well, it was still in one piece and didn’t sprout legs, so Adora doubted that any harm had been done.

    While the M.A.L.P. was readied, they ran through communication checks and general gear checks. But, after ten more minutes, they were finally ready, and the Stargate was activated.

    “Oh!” Entrapta beamed as it spun, and someone announced each chevron getting encoded and locked. “It looks even better than on recordings.”

    “I think security on this side is a bit light,” Catra commented. “I’d have heavy weapons ready, not just a squad or two of infantry.”

    She was correct - the number of soldiers visible was a little low. “Perhaps there are hidden gun emplacements,” Adora speculated.

    “Or poison gas canisters?”

    “We’ve got explosives in the ground as a last resort,” Jack said. “But it’s pretty hard to fight your way out of the gate room to the surface.”

    That was true. But if you just wanted to wreck the gate controls…

    The wormhole formed, interrupting her thoughts. So, that was what the deadly energy Sam had mentioned looked like from up close - Adora could feel the hairs on her arms rise.

    Then the M.A.L.P. started rolling up the ramp, entered the wormhole and vanished.

    “It’s through,” Sam announced from behind. “Signal’s… established.”

    “That is new,” Daniel commented, staring at the screen showing the M.A.L.P.’s feed. “That wasn’t there back when we visited.”

    Adora turned and went to join them. Catra beat her to the screen by jumping over the console, startling Daniel. “Right. That’s not the Thor’s Hammer you described. Unless you hallucinated a lot when you saw it.”

    Adora suppressed a frown as she rounded the console. Then she could finally see what the others were commenting on. And she blinked. “They walled off the gate area?”

    “Those aren’t walls,” Jack said. “I bet those are weapon emplacements.”

    “Weapon emplacements?” Adora looked for laser emitters or barrels but couldn’t see any. It looked like those were simple stone walls.

    “Ah!” Catra nodded. “You think they covered the entire gate area in an anti-Goa’uld field?”

    “Yes.” Jack grinned. “And that means that the Asgard did return after we left.”

    “Well, they probably had some way to check on the hammer,” Bow said. “In case it would get broken.”

    “Well, Ancient technology, and the Goa’uld technology they cribbed from them, lasts for a very long time,” Jack said. “Without much maintenance. Or any, in the case of the gates.”

    “That might mean that this technology is different - and might require more maintenance,” Sam said. “Closer to our own, Sir.”

    “Or it means the Asgard just liked to check instead of assuming everything was still working as intended,” Jack retorted with a grin.

    “Then we have to assume that they are watching the gate,” Adora pointed out. “The Asgard, I mean. They have sensors in those weapons. Or devices.”

    “Yep.”

    “I would prefer not to test the viability of those devices,” Teal’c said. “I doubt that I would survive until the gate could be opened back to Earth, should they act like the one we encountered at the exit of the labyrinth.”

    “That’s why we have the M.A.L.P., Teal’c. And SG-2.” Jack added with a grin.

    Ferretti, who had just joined them as well, chuckled at that. “And, seeing as there are no guards: Are we cleared to go through the gate?” he asked.

    “The sensors don’t show any dangerous radiation or contaminated air,” Sam reported.

    That didn’t mean that it was safe, Adora knew. But it was probably as safe as it was going to get. “Yes. Let’s go,” she said.

    “We don’t want to let the Asgard wait,” Catra added. This time, she didn’t jump over the console but followed Adora to the gate.

    SG-2 moved to take point. For a moment, Adora thought about going first anyway, but… they had already had an argument today, and she didn’t want another one.

    So the four men disappeared through the gate, and then it was her turn.

    “Wait!” Catra said, holding her hand up. She cocked her head towards SG-1. “Are they safe over there?”

    “They’re not being shot at - but they’re in that red field. It looks like the Asgard skipped the scanning,” Jack told them.

    “Well, time to find out if we pass the test,” Bow said.

    Adora nodded and quickly went up the ramp, stepping through the gate before Catra could catch up.

    Gate travel was… disturbing. Weird. It was only a moment, but it felt longer. And weirder. Adora shook her head as she stepped out of the gate on the other side and took a deep breath. The air smelt more like Etheria than Earth. Cleaner. Fresher.

    And she saw everything in a red tone since she was standing inside the field that hurt the Goa’uld. It didn’t do anything to her, though.

    SG-2 had taken up positions around the gate, peering through the gap at the front. The M.A.L.P. was slowly moving through the gap.

    Catra appeared behind her, scowling.

    Adora acted as if she hadn’t noticed and went down the ramp. She was the best choice to take point - She-Ra was the toughest of the entire group. She could survive things that killed everyone else.

    “I don’t see anyone. Last time, there was activity around the gate. And there’s the dirt road,” Ferretti looked around.

    Catra sniffed the air. “I don’t smell any animals - or their shit.”

    “Did something happen to the people?” Adora asked. “Did… did the Goa’uld attack, and the Asgard arrived too late to save them?”

    Glimmer and Bow arrived together, Bow peering at the walls - or weapons - surrounding them and Glimmer frowning at the field.

    Then Entrapta and Hordak arrived.

    “Oh! Nifty!” Entrapta beamed. “I wonder if the field stays active as long as the gate is active.”

    “Probably a little longer,” Hordak said. “To ensure that any Goa’uld arriving shortly before the gate closes are killed as well.”

    That sounded… probable. And ruthless.

    “Although I think an active scan would be a good idea anyway.” Entrapta nodded. “Just in case.”

    As if the walls had heard her, a ray started scanning Ferreti - and other rays scanned everyone else.

    And then a voice sounded from the walls. “Confirm your permission to visit this planet.”

    Adora blinked. That was new as well, as far as she knew.

    *****​

    “It looks like someone tightened down on border control. I knew we should have applied for travel visas.”

    Samantha Carter didn’t react to the Colonel’s poor joke. “Thor’s Hammer was activated as soon as someone came through the gate. They scanned them afterwards - no. They must have scanned for life forms since they didn’t activate the field for the M.A.L.P. So, at least two sensor scans.” But Goa’uld would be detected just by their reaction to the effect of Thor’s Hammer.

    “Permission?” she heard Adora ask through the M.A.L.P’s microphones. “What permission?”

    “And where do we get it?” Glimmer added.

    “Confirm your permission to visit this planet,” the voice repeated itself.

    “Do you think this is a recording?” Daniel asked.

    “It is asking a question, so they expect an answer,” the Colonel replied.

    “I mean… do you think this is an automated system - or is this an actual Asgard talking to them?”

    Sam adjusted the focus on the M.A.L.P.’s cameras. “Even a primitive - comparably - computer system with voice recognition and pre-recorded lines could ‘talk’ to visitors.”

    “But would the Asgard trust an automated system after we wrecked the last one?” the Colonel asked. “Or would they station troops on the planet to enforce whatever new rules they put in place?”

    Before Sam could answer, Glimmer spoke up again: “We didn’t know you required permission. The people of the planet extended an invitation last time our friends visited.”

    “Let’s hope they didn’t just mean us, specifically,” the Colonel said.

    Sam resisted the urge to shush him. You didn’t do that to your superior.

    “Well, it wasn’t entirely clear, but I think the Cimmerians knew that we represented an organisation, and…”

    “Shhh!” Sam hissed. Daniel wasn’t her superior.

    “Other visitors are free to leave the gate area. Be mindful of the laws of the planet and aware that any hostile action will be reciprocated.”

    “‘Other visitors’? Who are you talking to?” Adora exclaimed.

    “Confirm your permission to visit this planet.”

    Sam really wished she was on Cimmeria. Even though right now she couldn’t think of anything she could do to help, she hated staying back and watching helplessly as her friends were in danger.

    “Well, let’s try to leave and see what happens!” Catra suggested.

    “Catra, no!” Adora yelled.

    But Sam saw that Catra was already moving, jumping on top of the M.A.L.P. and then through the opening in the walls surrounding the gate. She held her breath, expecting the worst - but Catra landed on all fours on the grass outside the gate area, then rose, not affected at all by anything.

    “So, the bot wasn’t talking to me!”

    “Catra, you idiot!”

    And the voice hadn’t been talking to Adora since she had just charged through the gap as well, bumping the M.A.L.P. to the side, probably without noticing.

    Once more, Sam was reminded that just because Adora looked and acted like a normal woman most of the time, she was a magical princess strong enough to throw tanks around. And enough power to turn spaceships into plants.

    “What were you thinking?”

    “Someone had to test it!”

    “And that someone should’ve been me, not you! I’m She-Ra!”

    “So? That means you get to risk your life all the time?”

    “Yes!”

    “You got to go through the gate first!”

    “That was after SG-2 went through!”

    Bow and Glimmer joined them without acrobatics or pushing expensive gear to the side. “No magic,” Glimmer said.

    “Perhaps it is just a recording and not able to actually do anything?” Bow speculated.

    SG-2 ventured out of the gate area as well. That left Entrapta and Hordak. Sam repositioned the M.A.L.P. and switched to another camera.

    “Well, they have extensive sensors and… Oh! Look at those projectors, Hordak!”

    “I see. But why would they hide the weapons behind worked stone? An attempt at camouflage?”

    “Or they just like the style?”

    “Entrapta! Can you tell if it’s just a recording?”

    “Give me a moment, Adora! No, I can’t tell. The system is in contact with someone or something else, but I haven’t cracked the encryption yet.”

    “Is she trying to hack the Asgard?” the Colonel asked. He sounded both impressed and aghast, Sam noted.

    Before she could formulate a reply, Entrapta stepped through the gap without any trouble. But when Hordak tried to follow her, a barrier field appeared, and the voice spoke up again.

    “Direct contact with the population of the planet requires permission by the Supreme Commander. Please confirm your permission or contact the closest fleet outpost.”

    Sam blinked. Did that mean…?

    “The Asgard are the Horde?” Daniel blurted out.

    “For crying out loud!”

    *****​
     
  16. Threadmarks: Chapter 43: The Asgard Part 1
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 43: The Asgard Part 1

    Gate Area, Cimmeria, September 26th, 1998

    “The Asgard are the Horde?”

    Catra shook her head at Daniel’s outburst. “Can’t be. Horde Prime wouldn’t have protected the planet.” She knew that monster.

    “He would have destroyed it. Or ‘reformed’ it so they worshipped him.” Glimmer, too, knew Horde Prime.

    “I have never heard of any such policy as well - or of the Goa’uld,” Hordak said.

    “But the Asgard are singling you out. And they assume that you know how to contact their Supreme Commander.” Entrapta frowned. “Why do they think that?”

    “I don’t know!” Hordak said. “I would assume that this is a splinter group of clones who chose their own path after Horde Prime’s death, but the timeline does not work at all. At the time this planet was protected, Horde Prime was fighting the First Ones.”

    Well, he had fought them for a long time, Catra knew.

    “But you’re clones of Horde Prime. What if he was an Asgard who left his people to found the Horde? The depiction in the labyrinth could’ve been a ruse.”

    Sam had a good point. Horde Prime had to have come from somewhere - someone. He couldn’t have just… appeared.

    “We might be talking to Horde Prime’s people,” Adora stated the obvious. “And they’re not evil!”

    “We don’t know that,” Glimmer disagreed. “We don’t know why they protected this planet.”

    “Well, they don’t seem too bad compared to the Goa’uld. Or your Horde,” Ferretti said.

    Hordak turned to face the… well, the wall. “How can I contact the Supreme Commander? I lost my standard communication equipment.”

    “The Supreme Commander has been contacted. Please wait.”

    “Well, that’s one way to make contact,” Catra said. “Let’s hope Horde Prime was an outlier.”

    “And let’s hope they won’t take too long to answer,” Glimmer said.

    “At least the DHD is here,” Ferretti said. “We can dial back.”

    But it was outside the walled section, Catra noticed. Hordak would be trapped if he were alone here.

    “Yes, but our goal is to make peaceful contact with the Asgard,” Bow said. “If we leave, that’s a failure.”

    Catra was tempted to tell Ferretti to head back while they stayed. “We can wait a few hours, easily. Although we might get bored.”

    “We could analyse the Asgard technology!” Entrapta suggested.

    “Only if you can do it without dismantling it,” Bow told her. “We don’t want to make a bad impression.”

    Catra nodded in agreement. Especially if the Asgard were even a little like Hordak - or Horde Prime. “If Horde Prime has a connection to the Asgard, the technology should be familiar,” she said.

    “Yes!” Entrapta nodded. “Although the communication protocols are different compared to those Horde Prime used.”

    Well, she would know. “On the other hand, they might use the same transporter Horde Prime had on his flagship,” Catra pointed out.

    “Yes. Though the aesthetics are completely different as well,” Glimmer said.

    And that was a good thing. Catra didn’t like Horde Prime’s style. The Asgard’s style was more like the one Alliance used on Etheria. Well, not really, but it wasn’t as polished and cold as Horde Prime’s.

    Entrapta stepped back inside the gate area and fiddled with her device. “Ah. There’s some familiarity. The scanners use similar principles in how they are built and controlled. The weapons, though… I’ve never seen Horde technology use such a field.”

    “I’ve never heard of anything like that, either. If Horde Prime had access to weapons that targetted specific species, I would assume they would have been used,” Hordak said.

    “Unless he wanted to avoid giving his enemies ideas. If the First Ones had developed a weapon that targeted Horde Prime and all his clones…” Bow grimaced.

    Catra scoffed. “I doubt that he would have been concerned about that. He was too arrogant to assume anyone could get one up on him.” And that had been part of the reason he had lost in the end.

    “Yes. Still…” Glimmer was interrupted by the voice speaking up again.

    “This is Thor, Supreme Commander of the Asgard Fleet. Who are you?”

    Right to the top. Catra grinned despite herself.

    “I am Hordak.”

    “And I am Entrapta! Hi!” Entrapta waved.

    “You are not one of the Asgard. Neither of you. And yet, you share our DNA.”

    “Ah.” Hordak paused for a moment. “I am a clone of Horde Prime.”

    “Horde Prime?”

    So the Asgard didn’t know him. Or didn’t want them to know they knew him.

    “Our… progenitor. Creator. He cloned himself to create an army of conquest. He was defeated some time ago,” Hordak replied.

    “He cloned himself, you said. Was he known under another name?”

    “We called him brother. Sometimes.” Hordak sounded tense. Entrapta’s hair patted his shoulder, Catra noticed. “We do not know where he came from - or what his species was,” Hordak went on.

    “Well, we have his DNA, if you’re interested. But it’s pretty close to Hordak’s, so you probably already have it,” Entrapta added.

    “What brings you to Cimmeria?”

    “He’s with us!” Adora said, stepping into the area as well. “We’re here with a team from Earth - we’re friends with the people who had to dismantle your defence system to save their friend, and we came here to check if the planet needed any help - and to see if we could contact you. We’re from Etheria.”

    “You’re of Ancient descent.”

    “Yes.” Adora looked grim.

    Catra suppressed a sigh. Her lover needed to accept that her heritage didn’t mean anything.

    “Are you a bot? And can we meet you?” Entrapta asked. “We could share technology! Yours seems fascinating!”

    Adora coughed. “We would like to meet you and apologise for destroying your defence system. And we would like to talk to you about the Goa’uld threat. We’re fighting them. Well, we will be fighting them soon.”

    After a moment, the voice - Thor - replied: “I see. Yes, I think we should meet.”

    “Great!” Adora beamed at the wall.

    Catra refrained from commenting about it - they didn’t know if the Asgard had a camera pointed at them. Although if they had a DNA scanner, they should have a camera as well.

    “We can close the connection to our gate so you can use it to travel,” Ferretti said.

    “This will not be necessary,” Thor replied. “I will arrive with my ship.”

    Ah. That meant the Asgard’s ship - probably more than one if they were ready to face the Goa’uld - had to be close. Relatively close.

    “How long will that take?” Glimmer asked.

    After a bit of back and forth, they had a time - about two hours, And wasn’t it interesting that the Asgard used Horde standard time units? Catra grinned without humour. There had to be close ties between Horde Prime and the Asgard.

    “So… before you enter hyperspace…” Adora smiled in that embarrassed way of hers when she was about to confess to a blunder. “Our friends had to disable your defence system to save their friend - and our friend - Teal’c, who is a Jaffa who is opposing the Goa’uld. When they visited this planet, he was trapped in the labyrinth, and they had to destroy it to free him.”

    “I am aware of the circumstances of the destruction of our first defence system.”

    Which didn’t mean he approved of what SG-1 had done. Catra snorted.

    “Good. So, can they visit as well?” Adora was still smiling. “They’re sorry about the whole thing, but they had no choice. They didn’t know if they could contact you - or how.”

    “So they destroyed our system.”

    The tone didn’t sound like Thor approved at all. Of course, that could be different for aliens. Then again, if they were so closely related to Hordak and the other clones, they couldn’t be too different.

    “Yes, but they’re sorry. And we’re all fighting the Goa’uld, and the planet’s safe, so… no harm done?” Adora’s smile was obviously forced now.

    “I will not judge them for one single action done out of ignorance.”

    “But you’ll judge them later?” Catra asked before she could control herself.

    “I can probably repair your system,” Entrapta offered. “Or replace it with a similar one of equal value. Although you already upgraded the system here.”

    “The Tau’ri can visit, but your Jaffa friend should stay away.”

    That was a partial success - unless Thor just wanted everyone who offended them in one easy-to-bomb spot. If he arrived with a fleet, and they were all stuck on the planet…

    “Thank you!” Adora said.

    Well, it was better than nothing. Still, Catra would prefer if they had a flotilla with them. With Priest’s bunch, they probably didn’t have to worry about the clones changing allegiance when faced with some ‘relatives’. But the ships would never make it here in time.

    “Entering Hyperspace. Thor out.”

    Or so he claimed. He might be listening in still - and Catra was sure that the Asgard were still recording everything in the area. That’s what she would be doing in their place.

    “So… we made peaceful first contact,” Bow said.

    “Let’s hope it stays that way.” Glimmer snorted. “If a fight breaks out, we’re kind of outgunned.”

    And, not that Catra would mention that where a potential enemy could record them, without the planet’s magic restored, they were even more at a disadvantage.

    It would only be five minutes to restore magic, but Catra knew her friends wouldn’t do that without asking the local people first. And from what she remembered of Daniel’s briefing, they might be afraid of magic like Earth’s nutcases.

    Adora turned to the M.A.L.P. “Jack? Did you get that?”

    “Yes.”

    “Are you coming over?”

    “That’s currently being debated. In committee.”

    Great. Catra sighed.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, September 26th, 1998

    “Sir, we should head through the gate,” Jack O’Neill said, staring at the observation window above them. “You heard the Asgard - we can enter.” He turned to smile apologetically at Teal’c. “Except for you. Sorry, Teal’c. They don’t know you like we do.”

    “The Asgard’s hesitation to trust me is perfectly understandable.”

    Of course he’d say that.

    “This could be a trap, Colonel O’Neill,” Sidorov said.

    “If we think it’s a trap, we should evacuate the Etherians. That’s their entire leadership out there,” Jack retorted. Not that he thought that they would let themselves be evacuated.

    “They are aware of that,” General Hammond said.

    At least Catra would be, in Jack’s opinion. “So, can we go through the gate?” He almost added ‘pretty please’, but the foreign generals wouldn’t appreciate it. And the Russian would take any excuse to sideline SG-1.

    “We should not, how do you say, put all the eggs in one basket?” General Li said.

    “Well, not showing up after we got permission could be seen as an affront,” Jack said. He suppressed the urge to rub his neck - staring up at the observation window was annoying - and glanced at Daniel.

    Fortunately, Daniel was on the ball. “Ah, yes, If the Asgard have Norse values, they might see this as refusing their hospitality. Something that could be taken as an insult,” he said in his usual earnest manner.

    Jack smiled. “And we don’t want to insult the alien race with spaceships and anti-Goa’uld devices and ties to a galactic conqueror.”

    Sidorov, standing at the window, didn’t bother hiding his scowl. But the other generals looked more reasonable. Not happy, of course.

    But Jack was sure SG-1 would go through the gate - if only because they wanted someone present who was able to stand up to the Etherians - at least when it came to making decisions - when the Asgard arrived. SG-2 was a great team, but he didn’t see Ferretti keeping up with the Etherians.

    And Jack was right. It still took the generals five minutes to sort things out - an eternity if this had been an emergency - and Sidorov was glaring at everyone afterwards, but SG-1 got the go-ahead. Except for Teal’c, but that couldn’t be helped.

    “Alright! Carter, Daniel - grab your stuff and get to the gate.” Jack nodded at them, then turned to Teal’c.

    “Good luck, O’Neill,” his friend said before Jack could say anything.

    “Ah, thanks.” Jack nodded at him, then turned to grab his backpack and join the others at the gate.

    It was still active, so there was no need to wait. “You know the drill. No shooting the locals, no getting married by mistake even if it’s to a Viking god.”

    “Norse god, actually. Vikings were…” Daniel started to correct him.

    Jack grinned and stepped through the Stargate before his friend could finish.

    Then he saw red - literally. That anti-Goa’uld field was active. As expected. He pushed the memory of the labyrinth away and faced the others. “Hey!”

    “Hi! You made it!” Entrapta beamed - not at him but at Carter, who had followed him. Well, he had expected that as well. Hordak looked grumpy as ever, and Jack had to refrain from speculating loudly what the Asgard might think about former warlords. They were being recorded, after all.

    “Sir!” Ferretti nodded at him while Entrapta started talking technology with Carter - or science- and dragging Bow into it as well.

    “Major.” Jack returned the nod. “Anything to report?” It was a pointless question - they had followed the mission through the M.A.L.P. - but forms had to be observed.

    “No, Sir.”

    “You’re early,” Catra commented as Jack stepped out of the red field. She was sitting on a tree stump nearby.

    “Couldn’t wait.” Jack shrugged. “You know how it is.” She wasn’t exactly the most patient person he knew.

    She laughed in return. “Well, now you can wait here with us.”

    “It’s good to have you here,” Adora said with a glance at Catra.

    The catwoman grinned in return and stretched, then shifted around on the tree stump as if she was sunbathing on a lounge chair.

    “Catra!” Glimmer hissed.

    “What? I’m not going to pretend to be busy when we’re just waiting for the Asgard to arrive.”

    Well, Jack couldn’t say that he disagreed with that. But with the brass watching, he couldn’t join her or start a campfire. Although… “Daniel! You mentioned hospitality. Should we prepare a camp or something to welcome the Asgard?”

    “Uh…” His friend bit his lower lip. “That’s a good question. It depends, I think, on their views of the planet. If they consider it theirs, claiming part of it as hosts for them would be… tacky, I guess.”

    Or it could be seen as an invasion. Technically. Grabbing land and all.

    “On the other hand,” Daniel went on, “if the Asgard see this planet as belonging to the Cimmerians, they might not take offence. Or they might take offence on behalf of the Cimmerians.”

    “So, we better not try to invite them to roast marshmallows at our fire, got it,” Jack said.

    “Well, they could also be offended if we don’t offer them hospitality.” Daniel smiled. “It’s hard to say with an alien culture. Although in Norse culture, it was generally dependent on who called a location home, so to speak.”

    In other words, they wouldn’t know until the Asgard arrived. Like usual.

    “I doubt they’ll get angry,” Glimmer said. “They should be used to meeting alien cultures and be aware that not everyone follows their customs.”

    Jack hoped she was correct. There was still the little matter of SG-1 breaking the Asgard defence system. Although, as one of its victims, Jack was ready to argue that it had been broken already - he shouldn’t have been transported into the labyrinth since he didn’t have a Goa’uld inside him. At best, the system’s aim had been broken.

    “Well,” he said. “Then let’s wait and hope Carter, Entrapta and Bow don’t go overboard with the study of alien technology and accidentally dismantle the new defence system.”

    “Bow wouldn’t,” Glimmer retorted.

    “But Entrapta and the others can get pretty enthusiastic,” Adora pointed out.

    “And Hordak seems a bit off his game,” Catra added. “He might be too distracted to intervene.”

    Jack had been joking, but the Etherians seemed to take it seriously. Ah well - he trusted Carter not to go overboard. And to ride herd on the rest. She was a great officer; if she weren’t an even greater scientist, she’d have her own team already.

    He put his backpack down on the grass and sat on it. “So… any idea how to pass the time until Thor arrives in his shiny spaceship? If it’s even shiny.” Jack eyed the defence system. “It could be rather dull, of course, if this is his style.”

    “A spaceship made to look like it was built from stone?” Adora blinked.

    “It might be using classic Norse aesthetics, such as runic decorations, maybe even some style elements from longships.” Daniel got into it as well. “No sail, I would assume, though.”

    As they started to make silly suggestions, Jack relaxed a little. They were still meeting an alien who could hold a grudge and had a spaceship available where they were limited to small arms, but he and his team were back in the field. Where they belonged.

    Things were looking up.

    *****​

    Gate Area, Cimmeria, September 26th, 1998

    “It’s been two hours. I’m getting bored.”

    Sitting in the grass, Adora tried to ignore Catra’s complaining. Yes, it had been two hours - and three minutes - since Thor had given his estimate, but he had said ‘about two hours’, not ‘precisely two hours’.

    She felt her lover shift in her lap and crane her neck so she could look at Adora’s face. “Aren’t you bored?”

    Adora caught Catra’s tail before it could flick against her nose. “No.” Between listening for trouble from Entrapta, Sam and Bow and keeping Catra from starting trouble, she was quite busy.

    “How? We haven’t even made out to pass the time!”

    “And we’re all grateful for your restraint,” Jack cut in.

    “See? Someone appreciates my sacrifice.”

    Adora rolled her eyes. As if she was going to make out in front of Asgard sensors! Or her friends. Well, not beyond some kissing. “Thor’s going to be here soon.” He better be.

    “He’s probably analysing the recordings from the defence system to prepare for the meeting,” Jack said. He was still sitting on his backpack, but as much as he tried to act relaxed and carefree, he never put down his rifle, Adora noticed.

    “Of course he is,” Glimmer said, looking directly at the closest wall.

    “Entrapta should have built something to spoof the sensors,” Catra said.

    “That could have been considered a hostile act,” Daniel cut in, looking up from his book on Norse culture. “We would effectively render the defence system partially ineffective.”

    “Spying on people is also a hostile act.”

    “It’s not spying when we know there are cameras and sensors,” Adora pointed out. “And we do. We could’ve headed back and waited at home.”

    “But it’s much nicer here,” Jack said. “Like a vacation.”

    Adora suppressed a sigh. Jack was still avoiding any quips about Stargate Command. No complaining about the brass, the power bill, the underground location - he must be really concerned about leaking information. Catra, too, was sticking to quite, well, mostly personal and unimportant stuff to complain about or tease.

    That, and napping and speculating about the Asgard, of course. Which counted as planning and preparing, in Adora’s opinion.

    “I have arrived.”

    Adora jumped up, dumping Catra to the ground in the process before she realised what she had done. The Asgard had arrived!

    And there they were! A large, muscular human-looking man in chainmail and a steel helmet was standing near the defence system’s walls. How had he appeared without anyone noticing…?

    “A holoprojection,” Catra said. She must have noticed a lack of smell. Or her eyes saw a flaw or something.

    In any case, it was a very advanced projection - more life-like than Light Hope had been.

    “Correct. I am Thor, Supreme Commander of the Asgard Fleet.” He nodded. “I am currently aboard my ship in orbit.”

    “I am She-Ra, Princess of Power,” Adora told him. “This is Queen Glimmer of Bright Moon, Colonel Jack O’Neill of Stargate Command, Catra, Daniel, Major Ferreti of Stargate command, and here come Princess Entrapta of Dryl, Bow, Captain Carter and Hordak. And Dr Willard.” She didn’t introduce the rest of SG-2 since Casey and Bell were still guarding the gate.

    “Greetings.” Thor nodded.

    “Hi!” Jack waved. Adora glanced at him and suppressed a frown - that wasn’t how you greeted a diplomat. She wasn’t the only one to glare at him, either.

    But Thor didn’t seem to care. He cocked his head and nodded in return. “You were the ones who destroyed the defence system of this planet.”

    “Well, you locked Teal’c and me up with a dangerous man-eating monster, so we had to break your prison to save us.” Jack shrugged. “I can’t say I’m too sorry about that. Indiscriminate targeting is not very polite, you know.”

    “But we are sorry that we had to destroy your defence system,” Daniel quickly added.

    “I understand. The circumstances that led to that situation won’t repeat themselves. We only targetted Goa’uld.”

    “Not every Goau’ld is evil,” Adora cut in.

    Thor turned towards her. “That may be the case, but when dealing with them, it is better to err on the side of caution.”

    Adora pressed her lips together. Killing every Goa’uld by default wasn’t exactly cautious, in her opinion. But before she could say anything, Thor went on: “But as I understand, the situation was resolved, and you are now aware that this planet represents a lethal danger to your Jaffa friend. I don’t think this needs further debate.” He turned to Hordak. “You share our genes, yet you aren’t one of us. You didn’t know us - or of us - either. And you are a clone.”

    “Yes.” Hordak nodded and stared at Thor. Adora couldn’t read him well, but he looked tense. Very tense.

    “A clone of who?”

    Hordak raised his chin. “Horde Prime. He made us - my brothers and me - in his image.”

    “I do not know this name.”

    “I’m not impressed by their intelligence gathering capability,” Catra whispered. “Even the Goa’uld knew about Horde Prime,” she added a bit more loudly.

    “We do not share information or anything else with the Goa’uld,” Thor told her.

    “Other than being revered as gods by people,” Jack said with an innocent-looking smile. “And hiding your true appearance.”

    Thor frowned at him again. “That is correct. We chose an appearance that suited the local civilisation. Our true appearance is, as you have undoubtedly deduced, different from humans or Ancients.”

    Ah. Adora nodded. That made sense - they probably looked more like Hordak since they shared enough DNA to mistake him for an Asgard.

    Entrapta pouted. “But why are you hiding your appearance from us? We aren’t Cimmerians, and we already know you aren’t human. I’ve been told it’s polite and respectful to show your true face.”

    “And there’s no Cimmerian around,” Jack said. He made a show to look around. “Unlike last time we visited - they chanted your name when we arrived.

    “The local population has been advised to avoid the gate area for the time being,” Thor told them. “While the defences should be enough to repel a Goa’uld invasion, collateral damage is still a threat.”

    “That explains their absence. If your god tells you to avoid an area, you generally do it, right?” Jack asked with an innocent expression that, Adora knew from experience, was fake.

    “It was deemed the best way to interact with the people without disrupting their civilisation more than absolutely necessary,” Thor said.

    “Ah!” Daniel nodded. “Does that mean you used an existing pantheon as your role model, or did you create the Norse pantheon from, uh, scratch?”

    Thor hesitated a moment. “We did build our appearance on the local culture, but we did not lay claim to any gods.”

    That was… probably a good thing. But they were still worshipped as gods. Which was a bad thing - Adora could attest to that personally. You didn’t claim you were a god!

    “So, you took the Cimmerians’ ancestors from Earth to raise them here, safe from the Goa’uld?” Jack asked in the same innocent tone as before.

    “Yes.” Thor apparently took him at face value. “We wanted to allow them to develop without being manipulated by the Goa’uld - or anyone else. Which is why we did not contact them directly afterwards.”

    “Except for leaving proof of your existence by planting your hammer at the Stargate.” Jack nodded.

    “That was a necessity.”

    “And you’ve been watching over the planet since then?” Adora asked.

    “Rather distantly,” Catra added before Thor could answer.

    The projection nodded. “We didn’t want to interfere. And we didn’t - until you forced our hand. We have taken steps to avoid a repeat of such a situation.”

    That sounded good to Adora. She smiled at the projection.

    “But I came to see you because of you,” Thor said, turning back to Hordak. “You said you do not know the origin of your creator.”

    “I do not.” Hordak shook his head. “Horde Prime… never said anything about that.”

    “He liked to give the impression that he was eternal,” Glimmer added. “That he was always there and would always be there.”

    “Yes,” Hordak said. “I never questioned this - I never speculated who might have been his parent. Or his creator.”

    He wasn’t looking at Thor as he told them that, Adora noticed.

    “I see.” Thor nodded. “Regretable.”

    “Of course,” Catra spoke up. “I don’t think the clones actually looked into Horde Prime’s origin.”

    “Most of us wanted to forget our past, I believe,” Hordak said.

    Hordak sounded like he was one of them, Adora thought.

    “But it means we might be able to help shed some light on this mystery,” Catra went on. She smiled widely at Thor, showing her fangs.

    Adora pressed her lips together. She knew that expression - Catra thought she had spotted an opportunity.

    Thor wasn’t fooled either, judging by his frown. “And what do you expect in exchange for your help?”

    “Nothing for me, personally.” Catra’s grin widened. “But since you obviously don’t like the Goa’uld and kill them on sight, maybe we should be talking about that as well, instead of just talking about Hordak’s ancestors.”

    That was a good point. A great point, actually. Adora nodded. “Yes. If we’re both fighting the Goa’uld, we should coordinate our efforts.” And maybe form an alliance.

    Once more, Thor hesitated a moment before answering. That didn’t seem to be a good thing.

    “Are you fighting the Goa’uld as well?” Jack asked.

    “We have a treaty with the System Lords - the Protected Planets Treaty,” Thor said.

    “And what are the terms of the treaty?” Glimmer asked when he didn’t go on.

    “The System Lords are forbidden from attacking a protected planet and are obligated to keep rogue Goa’uld from attacking. In exchange, the Asgard ensure that the protected planets do not threaten the Goa’uld.”

    Adora blinked. That sounded…

    “And did the protected planets agree to this treaty?” Glimmer asked. She turned to look at Jack. “The Cimmerians didn’t tell you anything about it, did they?”

    Jack shook his head. “Nope.”

    “Although we only talked to their local leader - the wife of the local ruler,” Daniel added. “She mentioned he had gone to look for work in a city, so the rulers there might know about the treaty.”

    Adora frowned again. The Stargate of the planet was in a remote location. A backwater location. That said a lot about how important it was for the planet. Or how important it was supposed to be for the planet.

    “The treaty is between the Asgard and the Goa’uld. The populations of the protected planets aren’t sufficiently advanced to actually pose a threat to the Goa’uld.”

    “Are they like the Cimmerians?” Daniel asked. “Culturally, I mean. And technologically, although that is so heavily entwined with a planet’s culture, it’s often hard to draw a clear distinction, even if traditions tend to linger past the point where what caused them to develop was rendered obsolete by technology.”

    Thor tilted his head. “The protected planets have a wide range of cultures. We didn’t intend to be revered by the people on this planet.”

    “But you were also revered on Earth - by a part of the population,” Daniel pointed out.

    “Yes. That was also not intended.” Thor looked… annoyed. Or embarrassed? It was hard to tell, with the helmet covering half his face. And all being a projection, of course.

    “So, you accidentally got worshipped as gods?” Jack raised his eyebrows. “Well, that could happen to anyone, I guess,” he added with a shrug.

    Adora frowned at him. Yes, it could happen accidentally! Or at least unintentionally!

    “The level of native technology of this planet doesn’t seem to have advanced very much since they were taken from Earth,” Sam said.

    “We have not interfered with their development,” Thor said.

    “Except for becoming their gods.” Jack grinned, showing his teeth.

    “Yes. We strive to avoid intervening unless something or someone forces our hand.” Thor nodded.

    Daniel adjusted his glasses. “But despite the treaty, you don’t like the Goa’uld. You didn’t just block them from reaching this planet - you built an elaborate system to capture any of them who arrived, where the only way to escape was for the Goa’uld to release their hosts.”

    “Yes.”

    Daniel nodded. “The Goa’uld must be aware of that as well. And yet, they made a treaty with you. I don’t think they would have done that if they thought they could defeat you in an all-out war. Or, at least, defeat you without fatally weakening their own Empire. The Asgard must be a credible threat to them for such a treaty to be agreed upon.”

    “Our technology is superior to theirs,” Thor replied.

    “Quite a specific wording,” Catra whispered. She was right, in Adora’s opinion.

    Glimmer, though, was nodding. “So, if you joined forces with us, we could likely defeat them easily.” She was smiling, but it was a guarded smile, Adora noticed. Her friend didn’t expect Thor to agree with her.

    “Unless the Goa’uld break the treaty, the Asgard will not declare war on them.”

    “So, you won’t break your own treaty.” Jack nodded.

    “Thor was supposed to be very honourable in our myths. As were most gods of the Norse pantheon. Loki was the most notable and famous - or infamous - exception,” Daniel said in a low voice.

    And Adora saw Thor frown at the name.

    “Or maybe you can’t afford to go to war?” Catra asked, cocking her head to the side as her ears twitched. “Is there something else keeping you from moving against the Goa’uld?”

    Thor frowned at her. “How could you trust an alliance with someone who broke a treaty?”

    That was a good point, Adora had to admit. She nodded in agreement.

    “That depends on whether or not the treaty was made in good faith - and if it wasn’t forced on either side,” Glimmer said.

    Thor inclined his head but didn’t answer the unspoken question. “We seem to be at an impasse.”

    “Maybe we should discuss this face to face,” Jack said. “You know, it’s hard to trust someone when you know they’re hiding their true appearance and pretty much everything else.” His smile reminded Adora of Catra’s when she thought she had the upper hand.

    After a moment, Thor nodded. “Very well. If you give your word not to offer violence, we can meet in person on my ship.”

    “We accept your hospitality,” Daniel said, nodding slowly. Then he glanced at Jack and raised his eyebrows.

    “Yes.” Jack nodded as well - a little exaggeratedly, in Adora’s opinion. “You have our word.”

    “Yes!” Entrapta beamed. She was the only one, though.

    Adora glanced at Catra, but her lover nodded as well without adding anything - for once. And Glimmer frowned a little but didn’t say anything either.

    “So, are you going to send a shuttle down, or…?” Jack was interrupted by a peculiar noise.

    Adora saw Catra and Glimmer clench their teeth and jerk, but a moment later, they were standing on the bridge of a ship in space.

    *****​

    Orbit above Cimmeria, September 26th, 1998

    Matter transportation - or teleportation, Samantha Carter thought as she got her bearings after the sudden shift. She didn’t see any sign of a ring transporter, and it hadn’t felt like a ring transporter, either. Magic was unlikely - the planet hadn’t had its magic restored - but couldn’t be eliminated as a possible source since She-Ra proved that some magic worked without that.

    They were on a bridge - or a command centre. Darker than she had expected, with a few screens and consoles, but she couldn’t see anyone manning them, and…

    “Oh, for crying out loud!”

    The Colonel’s exclamation had her turn around and… freeze for a moment as a figure stepped out of the shadows.

    “Welcome to the Biliskner, my flagship.”

    Thor was a grey humanoid alien, smaller than an average human, with a proportionally big head, solid black eyes, and no visible genitals. And no clothes, either. In short, he looked like the depictions of aliens in some science fiction media - and in some tales of being kidnapped by aliens, which likely prompted the Colonel’s outburst.

    “Hello! Thank you for inviting us!” Adora, like the rest of the Etheirans, didn’t seem to be affected. No, Sam corrected herself - Catra and Glimmer looked around like they were in hostile territory. And the Colonel muttered something about ‘probing’ that probably shouldn’t be overheard.

    “Well, it’s definitely not designed or decorated in the Norse style,” Daniel said.

    “We do not impose our own culture on others,” Thor said. He was staring at Hordak, though.

    The former warlord looked around. “It’s not Horde Prime’s style either,” he said. “But the technology…”

    “It’s quite similar!” Entrapta smiled widely as she pointed her recorder around. “Not identical, but here, you can easily see that it’s based on the same principles and key technology.”

    “Yeah, the transporter felt very familiar,” Glimmer muttered.

    “I see.” Thor nodded. “That would be another indicator that you are… descendants of the Asgard.”

    Daniel blinked. “Descendants? Are you sure? If the culture doesn’t show any shared origin, only similar technology, couldn’t it be parallel evolution?”

    “Our species’ history is well-documented,” Thor replied. “If there are close similarities between our technology and the technology this ‘Horde Prime’ used, then that would indicate that he had access to our technology relatively recently.”

    “Yes!” Entrapta nodded several times. “That would fit the differences!”

    Sam was inclined to agree based on her own readings.

    “But would the timeline of the Horde fit?” Daniel asked with a slight pout - he didn’t like letting go of a theory.

    “As I mentioned before, Horde Prime didn’t encourage us to delve into his past. But I think it would fit - I certainly do not recall anything that would disprove the notion.” Hordak stared at Thor. “Although the differences in appearance are striking.”

    “But DNA doesn’t lie,” Entrapta said. She pointed her device at Thor, and Sam winced. That was rather rude. If Thor took offence… “Oh!” Entrapta blinked. “You’re a clone as well!”

    “What?” The Colonel blurted out.

    “It would be more correct to say that this body is a clone. My consciousness is far older than this,” Thor said.

    Now the Etherians tensed. Especially Catra, Glimmer and Hordak.

    “Horde Prime could transfer his consciousness into the bodies of his clones,” Hordak said. “He was able to possess any single one of us any time he chose so.”

    Oh. That would explain it. The ramifications of this… No wonder they hadn’t mentioned this before.

    Thor seemed unfazed, though. “Yes. This is also an old technology of my species. Although we do not use it on other sapients - we use specifically created braindead clones. Nevertheless, it seems Horde Prime had access to a wide range of Asgard technology.”

    Which would support the theory that Horde Prime had been created by an Asgard. Like the Ancient experiments on Etheria. “Does your species have a history of experimenting with new life forms?” Sam asked before she realised how rude it sounded. But it seemed everyone else was focusing on Thor.

    “My species? No.” Thor was… well, Sam had no experience or point of reference to judge the alien’s expression, but he seemed to be frowning. “But individuals have done such research in the past.”

    “Undocumented and uncontrolled research, right?” Catra shook her head. “Since you somehow missed how a clone with your DNA started a conquest of the galaxy.”

    Thor inclined his head. “There have been experiments without permission from the High Council in the past. Some of our scientists felt ‘hobbled’ by our laws. It would not be out of character for some to hide their research, no matter how dangerous or short-sighted it would be.”

    “Yep, we know about such people as well,” the Colonel said. “Short-sighted and law-breaking, I mean - we haven’t actually had scientists create a new species and set them loose on the galaxy.”

    “Well, I know a few scientists who would likely do that - if they had the means,” Daniel said.

    Sam nodded in agreement. She knew a number of such people herself. And she didn’t miss how Entrapta looked a little guilty.

    “So, it looks like the Asgard aren’t the Horde - but the Horde came from the Asgard,” the Colonel summed up. “Does that mean you’re like… cousins? Or are you Hordak’s uncle? Great-uncle?”

    Hordak frowned at the Colonel, but Thor tilted his head. “The exact legal relationship remains to be determined. So far, it’s merely a theory. We cannot exclude the possibility that someone else captured an Asgard and used them for such experiments.”

    “Yes,” Adora said. “Some people will experiment on people like that.” She blinked. “You know what I mean:”

    “We do,” Catra told her with a grin. Then she turned to Thor. “So, when will you interrogate your suspect?”

    Thor looked surprised for a moment, then slowly nodded. “They are sometimes hard to get ahold of. But we will get to the bottom of this.”

    Which meant that he did have a suspect in mind. Sam nodded.

    “And we will help you!” Entrapta beamed again. “Right, Hordak?”

    Hordak nodded very slowly. “Yes. This is important.”

    “Yes, it is. For both of our species.” Thor said.

    “And speaking of important things,” the Colonel broke the short silence. “How about we talk about our common enemy again? You were explaining why you couldn’t fight the snakes before you invited us to your fine ship here.”

    Thor seemed to tense up again - at least Sam thought so.

    That wasn’t a good sign for a possible alliance.

    *****​
     
  17. Threadmarks: Chapter 44: The Asgard Part 2
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 44: The Asgard Part 2

    Orbit above Cimmeria, September 26th, 1998

    Thor was hiding something; Catra was sure. And it was related to the Goa’uld. You didn’t stick to a treaty with enemies you killed on sight on your world just because your word was your bond or something. If you wanted to break a treaty, you could always find a reason or pretext. Just the fact that the Goa’uld had visited Cimmeria in the past should be enough of a pretext - if you actually wanted to fight them.

    Daniel might assume that it was their honour that kept the Asgard back, but Catra doubted that. The whole setup where Goa’uold died as they set foot on the planet didn’t really look honourable to her. More like something someone would do who wanted to stick to the letter of an agreement but bend its spirit as much as possible. Someone who wanted to fight them.

    So, something had prevented the Asgard from fighting the Goa’uld all-out and made them make a treaty instead. She cocked her head and looked around. “That’s a very nice bridge here. Looks like a nice ship overall.”

    “Thank you.” Thor nodded at her.

    “How does it stack up against a Ha’tak?” she asked.

    “Our technology is superior. A Ha’Tak stands no chance against this ship - or any of our ships.”

    She had expected that. If they had similar technology to Horde Prime, they would be superior to the Goa’uld’s technology. So… they had the quality. And the will. What did that leave?

    Numbers. Which was weird since they had cloning technology. They should be able to grow an army if they needed one. Like Horde Prime had done. This was quite a mystery. Ah, screw it. Catra grinned. “So, what’s holding you back from protecting more planets? Not enough ships?”

    Thor frowned at her. At least it looked like a frown. “I assume you will understand that I’m not at liberty to discuss the Asgard military with strangers.”

    “Of course we understand that!” Adora said at once with a glance at Catra. Then she smiled at Thor. “It’s just… You obviously consider the Goa’uld a threat. And I doubt that you trust them to stick to the treaty if they think they could break it without consequences.”

    “Yeah,” Jack cut in, “The way you set up a roach motel and now a bug zapper for the Goa’uld kinda gives that away.”

    Catra frowned - a roach motel?

    “It’s a slang term for a vermin trap on Earth,” Daniel explained.

    Ah. She nodded - and noticed that Thor was still tense. Kind of. Definitely hiding something.

    “So, you know they aren’t trustworthy.” Glimmer nodded.

    “We do. But we aren’t like them,” Thor retorted.

    “Did they trap you in the treaty?” Daniel asked. “Did they exploit your honour?” Thor turned towards him, and Daniel smiled a bit embarrassedly. “I’m sorry. I didn’t want to pry - my curiosity got the better of me.”

    Thor nodded again, and Catra told herself that she should take notes. Daniel really knew how to get away with stuff.

    “As I said, we will not break the treaty.” Thor looked at Hordak. “And should the Goa’uld accuse us of doing so because they mistook you for an Asgard, we will tell them so.”

    “We wouldn’t try to trick the Goa’uld like that!” Entrapta protested.

    “Yes. That would be low,” Adora agreed.

    Catra eyed Jack. He was looking composed, but she was sure that he disagreed with Adora and Entrapta.

    Hell, Catra would disagree with them - if she thought that the Asgard were only held back by their honour. As it was, it would be a bad idea to trick them into joining the war. Not least because they might enter on the side of Goa’uld if they suspected treachery.

    They needed to know more about the Asgard. With their ties to the Horde, their technology, their relation to the Goa’uld… they were just too important for the war.

    “Alright. But we’ll still work on finding out what your relation to the Horde is, right?” Bow said.

    “Yes. We need to know what happened - and if any of our laws were broken. And by whom.”

    “And you’ll share your information, right?” Entrapta beamed at him. “Sharing knowledge is essential for science! And for trust-building.” She nodded emphatically.

    “And you’re kind of family already,” Catra added.

    Both Hordak and Thor twitched.

    She didn’t care. If the Asgard were responsible for Horde Prime, then this was nothing. Hell, if they were responsible, Catra would probably be for tricking them into the war against the Goa’uld.

    But they needed to know more about them first.

    Thor once more slowly nodded. “Yes, we will be sharing what we find out.”

    Catra suppressed a snort. Sure they would - once they had removed anything sensitive.

    But most of her friends were smiling. Especially Daniel.

    She sighed.

    *****​

    Jack O’Neill smiled politely at the grey alien. ‘We will not break the treaty’ my ass, he thought. The guy was hiding something - you didn’t build elaborate death traps for your enemies if you wanted to honour your treaty with them. That was what you did if you wanted to go as far as you could without breaking the treaty because you needed it.

    “So… you won’t join in the fight against the Goa’uld. But what if the people under your protection want to fight them? How many planets are under your protection, anyway?” He raised his hands. “Just so we won’t have to dismantle another of your defence systems.”

    “We currently protect twenty-seven planets,” Thor replied after a moment. “I will send you the gate addresses.”

    Jack didn’t miss that Thor hadn’t answered his first question.

    Daniel hadn’t missed that either. “And what if the Cimmerians want to open diplomatic relations? With Earth or the Etherians?”

    “We would want assurances that they aren’t exploited,” Thor replied. “We are aware of your planet’s history - and your species’s past,” he added with a nod towards Adora.

    Oh shit. Of course they would know that Jack, too, had some alien genes. And draw the wrong conclusions. “I wasn’t aware of my ‘ancestry’ until a few months ago,” Jack said.

    “I didn’t know I was one of the First Ones for most of my life.” Adora nodded with a grim expression as Catra held her hand, Jack noted. “Neither of us was raised as an Ancient.”

    “Your biology doesn’t decide your life,” Daniel added.

    “Well, except for when it does - like if you have a genetic predisposition to specific illnesses or something. Or your brain chemistry is affected,” Entrapta said. “And there are some instincts and urges tied to certain genes, I believe.” Jack frowned at her, and she blinked. “But that’s probably not what you meant, right?” she asked with a smile, looking at everyone in the room.

    “Yes, We’re just saying that Adora and Jack aren’t going to act like Ancients just because they are descendants of them,” Bow said.

    “And they’ve never met them.” Entrapta nodded again. “Unless Light Hope and Alpha count, although they aren’t First Ones, they were raised by First Ones. That’s actually like the opposite of you two - they don’t have the genetic legacy but they have knowledge about their culture. Some knowledge, at least.”

    “Who are those people?” Thor asked. “We have lost contact with the Ancients long ago. If they are still present in the galaxy, we would like to talk to them again.”

    So, they had had contact with the Ancients. And they used cloned bodies to transfer their minds into. How old were those aliens? Jack wondered.

    “They’re bots. Artificial intelligences,” Entrapta replied. “Or were, in Light Hope’s case,” she added with a frown. “She didn’t survive the fight against Horde Prime.”

    “Ah.” Thor looked disappointed - if Jack read his expression correctly. Did they need to contact the Ancients, or was it just sentimentality? He wished he knew the Asgard as well as he knew Teal’c so he could read them.

    “So, you’re protecting planets while we fight the Goa’uld,” Glimmer said. “That will be helpful since that means we have to protect fewer planets.”

    Oh, that was a nice dig! Jack’s smile grew more honest - everyone here knew that the Goa’uld oppressed a lot more than a few dozen planets.

    “Yes,” Thor replied.

    “Could you provide humanitarian aid to liberated planets?” Jack asked, trying to sound earnest. “Food, for example?”

    This time, Thor frowned. “That would likely be seen as breaking the treaty.”

    “And would you let Cimmerians come to us to fight the Goa’uld?” Jack tilted his head.

    Thor mirrored his gesture. “We aren’t their gods or rulers. We just keep them safe from the Goa’uld.”

    “But you also keep the Goa’uld safe from them. That was a clause in the treaty you mentioned.” Daniel narrowed his eyes. “So, wouldn’t that be breaking the treaty as well?”

    “Depending on the scale of the involvement, Cimmerians who take part in the war would be considered rogue elements,” Thor told him.

    “And what if we shared our technology with them?” Catra asked. “I’m not saying we would do it - we have quite strict conditions for such technology transfers - but what if we did and they would accept?”

    “Even if you shared all your technology today, they would take years to learn enough to maintain, much less recreate your technology without your help,” Thor told her.

    Catra grinned. So did Jack. “So, you’d blame us, I take it, if the Goa’uld complained, and claimed that it’s us, not the Cimmerians, who are a threat.”

    Thor nodded, and Jack thought he saw the alien’s mouth twist in a brief smile. Well, as Supreme Commander of the Asgard Fleet, the alien would know how to play these games.

    So, he might not be a bad guy after all. But he was still hiding something. Something important.

    Jack was sure of that.

    *****​

    This was going better than Adora had feared, but not as well as she had hoped. The Asgard were friendly but didn’t want to join the war against the Goa’uld. Even though they didn’t like the Goa’uld and had superior technology - on par or better with the Horde’s technology. Well, they would have their reasons, even if Adora didn’t know them. That treaty, on the other hand, sounded a little… it sounded like a temporary solution that no one was actually happy with and everyone knew wouldn’t last forever.

    And you were supposed to plan ahead if you knew something wouldn’t last. So… “What will you do once the Goa’uld break the treaty?”

    Thor tilted his head as he turned to look at her. “That depends on the exact circumstances, but we have a commitment to defend the protected planets.”

    “Mourir pour Danzig?” Jack muttered.

    Adora frowned - she didn’t understand the reference. But she knew evasive answers when she heard them.

    “I assume that you have plans for that case,” Glimmer commented. “You know the Goa’uld aren’t trustworthy.”

    “We know that they wouldn’t dare to break the treaty,” Thor retorted.

    “At least not openly,” Catra cut in.

    “And they are divided - they cannot trust each other, which means they cannot unite to wage war. Not unless circumstances force them to unite,” Thor went on, looking at Glimmer.

    “Circumstances like an enemy starting to dismantle their empire and free their slaves?” Glimmer met Thor’s eyes.

    “It is a possibility. Your technology is obviously similar to ours and, therefore, superior to the Goa’uld technology. If you also have the numbers to pose a credible threat, that could unite the Goa’uld,” Thor said.

    Adora pressed her lips together. They were aware of that - they would do their best to avoid that.

    “Allies with the same technology and goals could counter even a united Goa’uld Empire,” Glimmer pointed out.

    “In a war that will lay waste to a significant part of the galaxy,” Thor retorted. “And while we have solid estimates of the strength of the Goa’uld, we don’t have any of your strength.”

    Well, of course the Asgard didn’t know about their forces - they hadn’t even known about Etheria until today!

    “The Goa’uld knew Horde Prime yet avoided conflict with him,” Glimmer pointed out. “I doubt they would have done so if they thought they could defeat him.”

    “And they must have known that he would not stop with our sector but continue his campaign to conquer the galaxy,” Catra added. “Yet they didn’t unite.” Her ears turned forward as she grinned. “They probably hoped the First Ones and Horde Prime would kill each other - or at least weaken each other so much, the Goa’uld could finish off the victor. But that didn’t happen.”

    “And then you defeated him. But how much did it cost you?” Thor asked.

    Catra frowned - her ears were laid back again, Adora noticed. Did she see the question as a threat? Was it a threat?

    Adora couldn’t tell. Technically, if you ignored all the devastation suffered over two decades of war, Etheria had gained a lot from the war - the support of Second and Third and the remnants of First Fleet. But without the unknown rest of Horde Prime’s forces, cut off by his death, they were still facing an enemy with a significant numerical superiority.

    “It cost us enough so we know we can’t let the Goa’uld keep oppressing and enslaving people,” Glimmer said. “We’ve seen the destruction Horde Prime wrought on other people.” She shook her head. “We can’t let them keep doing this to others.”

    Thor didn’t react for a moment. “We won’t break our treaty.”

    “Well, I’m sure you have a good reason for that. But you better be ready for the day the Goa’uld think they can break the treaty and get away with it,” Jack said.

    “That day may come, but not soon,” Thor said.

    “Well, the Goa’uld might have held back in the hope that you’d fight Horde Prime,” Catra said. “Who knows what they’ll do now?”

    “If they saw Horde Prime as such a threat as you claim, then they will want to find out who defeated him,” Thor retorted.

    He had a point. The Goa’uld wouldn’t start a war with the Asgard now. Certainly not after the Alliance had begun their attacks. Adora pressed her lips together. The Alliance would be protecting the Asgard as well, in a way. Usually, she didn’t mind protecting people, but this was a little different.

    Why couldn’t they just do the right thing and join them?

    “So… seems we have reached an understanding,” Jack said, smiling in a way that reminded Adora of Catra trying to pull something over her. “But since we’re sharing information and all… Are there any other dangers like the Goa’uld that we should be aware of when we start exploring the galaxy?”

    Thor froze for a moment, then cocked his head sideways, staring at Jack. “We aren’t aware of any danger for an advanced species that aren’t contained already. Although our knowledge of what the Ancients left behind is limited. The Stargates are the most famous of their achievements, but also the safest.”

    Adora blinked. That sounded ominous.

    “Really?” Entrapta sounded intrigued.

    Adora swallowed a curse.

    Catra, standing at her side, didn’t.

    *****​

    “We need to find them, then,” Entrapta went on. “If they were left in a state like the Heart of Etheria, they could go out of control as well.”

    Samantha Carter nodded in agreement. “Given the scope of the Ancients’ technology, I believe ensuring that there are no lingering dangers is necessary,” she said.

    “And analysing their technology will allow us not only to handle such dangers but also to greatly advance our own technology!” Entrapta beamed. “They were so far advanced compared to us!”

    Sam agreed with that as well.

    “Well, I’m not too comfortable with poking the possible world-destroying device,” the Colonel said with a grimace.

    “Oh, do not misunderstand, Colonel O’Neill. The danger that relics of the Ancients represent goes far beyond destroying a world,” Thor said.

    “Ah. How silly of me to worry about a mere world-destroying threat.” The Colonel chuckled once.

    “Well, if you’re on the planet, it’s still a great danger,” Entrapta said. “And for everyone else in the world, of course.”

    That made the Colonel blink at her. Fortunately, he just nodded instead of commenting in his sarcastic way. Entrapta meant well, after all.

    “Although the lack of magic in many worlds might have affected any technology left by the Ancients,” Entrapta went on, wrinkling her nose. “They were using magic, after all, so their technology would also be using it.”

    “Not all of their technology used magic,” Thor pointed out. “The Stargates do not rely on it.”

    Sam nodded. So, Thor was aware of magic. Well, if he was as old as he had hinted at, he would have experienced magic before it was siphoned off.

    “Oh!” Adora looked embarrassed as she smiled at him. “Speaking of magic… do you wish to have it returned to your world? If you lost it, I mean. I can do it - we figured out how the First Ones took the magic from the other planets through the Stargates.”

    Once more, Thor tilted his head in that not quite alien way that might indicate surprise unless Sam was misinterpreting his reaction. “You can restore magic to a world?”

    “Yes.” Adora nodded firmly. “And it won’t take long either.”

    “Interesting. Thank you for the offer, but the Asgard do not use magic. We don’t have the talent for it, so its lack does not affect us.”

    “Really?” Entrapta looked surprised. “None of you can use magic? What about magitech devices?”

    “We prefer to rely on our own technology.”

    A non-answer, like others, Sam noted. And, in her private opinion, at least, a rather short-sighted policy. One should never dismiss new knowledge or technology out of hand. On the other hand, that was the business of the Asgard, not hers.

    “If you’re sure…” Adora pouted a little.

    “Not everyone wants magic forced into their lives,” the Colonel said - a little too smugly, Sam found. The Etherians meant well, after all.

    “And does everyone on your worlds share that view?” Glimmer asked.

    “Yes.” Thor nodded. “We’re an old species. We didn’t miss magic when it was gone.”

    “But the potential magic offers! It’s a whole field of technology you’re missing out on!” Entrapta protested.

    “We prefer to work with technology that we not only fully understand but also fully control.”

    “But…” Entrapta started to retort when Hordak put his hand on her shoulder.

    “I understand the feeling,” he said. “Horde Prime had the same policy.” After a moment, he added: “Although he destroyed what he couldn’t control.”

    “We are not like him,” Thor replied in a tense tone.

    “And we’re all glad for that,” the Colonel said. “So, you don’t have a list of worlds to avoid unless we want to risk unleashing an ancient but not quite galaxy.-destroying evil, do you?”

    “No.”

    Sam tried not to feel disappointed. Wanting to analyse and explore such dangerous worlds was reckless and should be discouraged. Even though she couldn’t help wanting to anyway.

    “Aw.” Entrapta didn’t bother to hide her disappointment. “So, what about exchanging technology? We’ve got similar technology, after all, so I am sure there would be quite the synergies.” She beamed at Thor.

    “That would require a decision of the High Council of the Asgard,” Thor told her. Sam noticed Daniel perking up. “However, we generally do not share our technology unless it is with species which have proven themselves to be mature enough to use it.”

    “Now, that sounds familiar!”

    And the Colonel sounded a bit too smug again.

    Adora frowned at him in return. “It’s a sensible policy,” she said.

    “But we already have comparable technology,” Entrapta pointed out. “It’s not as if you’d uplift us.”

    Well, the Etherians had comparable technology. Earth still lacked it. Sam pressed her lips together; she would have loved to get access to their technology. On the other hand, it didn’t look like the Asgard would be a way to circumvent the Etherians’ conditions for sharing technology. And that wasn’t a bad thing with the Stargate Command now under United Nations control; Sam wasn’t quite as opinionated about it as the Colonel was, but she didn’t think China and Russia could be trusted with such technology either.

    Though she really hoped that the United States would finally manage to pass the necessary laws to negotiate an Alliance with the Etherians.

    “As I said, that is up to the High Council to decide,” Thor said.

    “Aw.”

    *****​

    “...and here’s how to contact us once your High Council has made a decision. You can use this after dialling Earth’s Stargate.”

    Catra smirked as Bow handed a communicator over to Thor. “Just don’t try to go through the gate - you’ll get flattened.”

    “I see.” Thor looked at her and nodded. He didn’t ask if they had a Stargate of their own - he probably assumed that the Alliance with Earth covered the whole planet and was much older than it was - and more stable - and so they would only give out Earth’s gate address.

    “And how can we contact you?” Glimmer asked.

    “Visit Cimmeria and address the defence system.”

    Thor wasn’t smiling, but Catra would bet that he was amused. He just had a smug attitude there.

    “Then we’ve settled everything that could be settled now,” she said. “Unless you’d like to give us a tour of your ship, we probably should head home.”

    “Yes.” Adora nodded.

    Entrapta smiled at Thor, obviously hoping for a tour. But, instead, the damn transporter that was so similar to Horde Prime’s went off again. Catra tensed - he wasn’t Horde Prime. The Asgard weren’t the Horde - and then they were standing near the Stargate on Cimmeria, and she heard Ferretti call in his radio that they were back.

    “Alright!” O’Neill clapped his hands. “Doesn’t look like any of the natives are around, so let’s head back!”

    “Jack! We still haven’t contacted Kendra!” Daniel complained. “In fact, we haven’t talked to any Cimmerian, and we don’t know what they think about this!”

    “We can return after we briefed the brass,” O’Neill retorted, glancing at the walls housing the defence system.

    “But this is an opportunity to compare their views to the claims made by the Asgard,” Daniel protested.

    “And we can do that once we have had our debriefing about our meeting with the Norse god. Major - clear us to return!”

    “Yes, Sir!” Ferretti used his radio again, sending a code. “Clear, Sir!”

    If he was mistaken, this would be a very quick way to die, Catra knew. If anyone wanted to sabotage the Alliance, this would be the way.

    But she had to trust that Stargate Command wouldn’t let that happen. The British and the French had an alliance with them, and the United States wanted an alliance. Still, all it would take was one person at the controls, closing the iris at the right moment…

    But they arrived safely at Stargate Command.

    Still no sign of hidden defence installation like gunports. But the guards were alert. And the doors out of the gate room were closed, she noted - sealed if she interpreted the lights above it correctly. And there was Frasier coming towards them, wearing a mask and carrying several vials.

    “Oh, no… we’ve been on Cimmeria before, Doc!” O’Neill complained.

    “That was before you met an alien species and visited their ship. We’ll need to give you a full check,” the doctor replied.

    “I’ve already scanned for biological agents,” Entrapta said. “I didn’t find anything but the normal stuff, you know.”

    “Normal stuff?” Daniel asked.

    “Microbes and such native to the planet. If they didn’t hurt you on your last visit, they shouldn’t hurt you.”

    “We’ll still check ourselves,” Dr Frasier said. “Your arm, please, Colonel.”

    O’Neill grumbled but held out his arm to the doctor.

    “But it’s really not necessary,” Entrapta insisted. “My scanner didn’t show any dangerous agents.”

    “The dear doctor sticks to procedure,” O’Neill said while the woman switched to Daniel.

    “No one ever died because of one examination too many, Colonel.”

    “Are you sure? I feel as if I gave a gallon of blood already.”

    “Then you wouldn’t be able to talk back, Sir. You’d be unconscious or dead.”

    Catra snickered at the exchange, which made Adora hiss at “Catra!” at her.

    Frasier went on to get blood from Sam, then switched to SG-2. None of them complained. Once she was finished, she looked at Adora and hesitated.

    “We trust our own specialists,” Glimmer told her.

    Catra nodded. She didn’t want the humans to have her blood. Who knew what they would do with it?

    “Yes! We’re safe!” Entrapta said.

    “And I can heal anyone, anyway,” Adora said, raising her sword.

    A moment later, light filled the room, followed by surprised gasps - Catra felt the hairs of her fur stand up for a moment as magic touched her. “Show-off,” she whispered.

    Adora pouted at her. “I just wanted to reassure our allies.”

    “Well, they don’t look very reassured,” Catra told her as she nodded at Frasier, who was eyeing her samples as if she expected the blood to turn into a monster and attack her.

    “Oh… I didn’t think of that.”

    Catra shrugged. “They’ll get over it.” She had no doubt that the blood samples would now be examined for any traces of magic - though she had no idea if the humans knew how to do that.

    It didn’t matter anyway - it was time to get debriefed by the council of generals. Catra just hoped they wouldn’t be too annoying; she wanted to get back to the ship and relax now, after meeting what probably was Hordak’s grand-uncle or something.

    She snorted at the thought. She’d have to remember that for their next meeting.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, September 26th, 1998

    “...and then we were transported down to the planet again - abruptly - and proceeded to return to base,” Jack O’Neill finished his oral report. Which he would have to deliver in writing as well because even with the change in management, getting a clerk to type out a transcript was still impossible because all of it was classified, and no clerk with the necessary security clearance was on the roster.

    “Thank you, Colonel.” Hammond nodded.

    “A peaceful contact with an advanced species - as advanced as the Etherians,” General Li commented.

    Or more advanced - Jack hadn’t seen them use such a transporter before.

    “Yes,” Entrapta said. “They have technology similar to the Horde, although with some differences; likely the result of different design and research choices since they split off.”

    “So, you think the Asgard are the creators of the Horde?” General Petit asked.

    “We haven’t found any evidence that would disprove it,” Hordak spoke up. “And the genetics and technology we share support it.”

    That made sense. Of course, that didn’t mean it was true, but Jack’s gut leaned towards agreeing with it. He’d wait for Carter’s assessment, though.

    She nodded as well. “It fits all the data we have,” she said, “and the Asgard seem to believe it was true as well, Sir.”

    “And yet, while the Asgard claim to oppose the Goa’uld, they refused an alliance,” Sidorov said, scowling. Did he ever smile? Jack didn’t remember seeing the Russian looking happy.

    “Thor said they wouldn’t break their treaty with the Goa’uld,” Daniel said. “That would indicate a culture where honour is highly valued.”

    “Even if it benefits the Goa’uld and endangers their victims?” General Haig raised his eyebrows.

    “It’s possible. An alien species wouldn’t share our values, and past cultures on Earth often put great emphasis on keeping your word.” Daniel pushed his glasses up. “Although, in practice, treaties were often broken when it was convenient.”

    “The United States has a history full of such events,” Sidorov said with a scoff.

    “Err, yes,” Daniel agreed. “However, we cannot assume that the Asgard act like we would in their place.”

    Catra scoffed before Jack could say anything. “If they really cared that much about their honour, they wouldn’t have built death traps for Goa’uld. That’s what you do if you want to stretch the treaty as far as you can without breaking it. I bet that they would find an excuse to break it if they actually wanted to break it.”

    Jack nodded. “That’s my impression as well. I think they need the treaty.”

    “They have the same technology - more or less - as the Horde,” Hammond said. “And they have had access to it for at least a thousand years. And yet they don’t think that they can defeat the Goa’uld?”

    “And you think you can,” Sidorov added, glaring at the Etherians.

    “Yes,” Adora nodded firmly. “With the help of our allies, yes.”

    “Why would the Asgard disagree?” Li asked.

    “We don’t know,” Daniel replied. “If their ethics don’t hold them back, they might have other, more, uh, practical reasons.”

    “They might be outnumbered to a degree that makes fighting the Goa’uld too dangerous,” Carter speculated.

    “But then, why would the Goa’uld keep the treaty?” Glimmer retorted. “I bet they only made a treaty after conquering the Asgard failed. So they can’t be too weak.”

    Jack nodded. That sounded like the snakes.

    “Or they weren’t too weak, back then,” Catra said. “And then something changed.”

    “They didn’t know Horde Prime, so they couldn’t have been weakened by a conflict with him,” Bow said. “But there must be something…”

    Jack nodded. “Thor was hiding something. And they don’t have good intel on the Goa’uld.”

    “One would have expected such people to look for allies,” Li said. “And yet, you say they refused to share technology.”

    “They said they would only share their technology with those who proved themselves mature enough to use it responsibly,” Glimmer told him. “And that the decision was up to the High Council.”

    The generals didn’t like that. Jack could tell. He didn’t like it either - but he’d like China and Russia having access to advanced technology, more than they already had, even less. Of course, the Asgard might consider Earth advanced or mature enough to share technology… He suppressed a snort. Yeah, right. He didn’t need Daniel’s opinion to know that that was rather optimistic. Although, if the Asgard valued martial ability, as the epics Daniel told them might hint at, humanity might get a pass.

    Not that he’d mention that now, of course. The Etherians would lose all their leverage if Earth got access to Asgard technology.

    And Jack was sure that they were aware of that as well.

    “It’s clear that we need more information about the Asgard. And about the danger Ancient relics might pose to Earth,” Hammond said. “I propose to use the next meeting with them to find out more about them.”

    “That’s the obvious course of action,” Hordak agreed.

    Which, of course, meant that the generals had to debate it.

    Jack really missed the old Stargate Command.

    *****​

    Earth Orbit, Solar System, September 26th, 1998

    “...and the senator announced he was resigning effective immediately after a New York Times report uncovered that he had been misusing campaign funds for years to pay for escorts and vacation trips. He declined to answer questions and asked that his family’s privacy be respected ‘in these trying times’, although his wife has been seen boarding a plane to…”

    “...der Bundeskanzler beantwortete eine parlamentarische Anfrage dahingehend, dass die Details des Technologietransfers noch nicht festgelegt wurden, aber im Grundsatz…

    “...the French Ministre des armées stated that any rumours that the Légion Étrangère was training on the moon were false and clarified that the Légion was training for deployment on other planets, but not on the moon. Further questions were…”

    “...Vatican remains silent on the Etherian question, as it has come to be known, but sources close to the Pope claim that the Holy See is expected to release a preliminary statement ‘soon’. Neither source was willing to name a date, however, and…”

    “...and the situation in Tehran remains volatile. There are no official numbers about the casualties of the latest riot, but the Supreme Leader of Iran confirmed that several ‘men with special skills in metaphysics and connections with unknown worlds’ were arrested and are currently under investigation. Whether they will be charged for being magicians or spies remains unclear, and…”

    “...the FBI has taken over handling a hostage situation in North Dakota. While there was no official statement, local sources confirmed that the hostage situation involved a small religious community and the local sheriff…”

    “...Prime Minister of India has lodged a formal protest against the exclusion of India from Stargate Command. The General-Secretary has not yet commented on the issue, but…”

    “...riots continue to flare up in various countries in the Middle East while reports about witch hunts in Africa keep growing, and…”

    “...Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland announced their intention to approach the Etherians together and…”

    “...the United Nations Security Council announced that Stargate Command has resumed normal operations after being transferred under United Nations control. The United Nations press secretary declined to answer questions about the missions undertaken by the Stargate Teams or whether or not the first non-American team has been deployed already, but…”

    Adora shook her head as Catra kept skipping through the tv channels on the bridge of Darla. “Are you even paying attention to the channels?”

    “Yes, I am,” Catra replied and switched channels again.

    “What did the last one say?” Adora asked. She hadn’t even managed to catch the broadcasting logo.

    “Earth is still a mess. Watch this ad!” Catra leaned back in her seat, craned her head and grinned upside down at her.

    Adora frowned. “You couldn’t have caught that!”

    “And yet, I’m still right!” Catra flashed her fangs.

    Well, she likely was correct. Still… Adora pressed her lips together. She knew that this wasn’t her fault - the United States had kept aliens and their war with them a secret, knowing that it would cause immense trouble once it got out, and had done so even after the Goa’uld’s invasion attempt had almost exposed the whole secret. She also knew that the secret would have come out anyway sooner or later, and revealing it had been both the right thing to do as well as a necessity to wage war. You couldn’t lie to your people like that.

    But still, she couldn’t help feeling guilty about the riots and the deaths, no matter how much she told herself that the humans had been doing that to themselves. They had been killing people for being witches even though magic had been gone from Earth - and was still gone!

    “Hell, no!” Catra exclaimed.

    “What?” Adora blinked.

    “You’re blaming yourself again!”

    Adora clenched her jaws. She couldn’t help it.

    “It’s not your fault. There was no good solution. We picked the least bad. It’s not our fault that so many humans are so messed up.

    “Still…” Adora trailed off. She didn’t have a better solution. What could she say? “But we could do something. People are dying!”

    “What could we do? Invade Iran? Egypt? Most of Africa?” Catra scoffed. She must have paid more attention to Earth geography than Adora had thought.

    Adora snorted. Of course she had! Catra just played the lazy cat whenever she liked it, but…

    “There you are!” Glimmer frowned at them.

    “Where else would we be?” Catra asked.

    “In the hold, for the debriefing?” Glimmer scoffed. “Come on!”

    “We already had a debriefing,” Catra complained. But she got up anyway.

    “That was Stargate Command’s debriefing.” Glimmer turned to head back to the hold.

    “I know; I’m just yanking your chain,” Catra said. “Wouldn’t want to discuss sensitive stuff when we’re being recorded by strangers.”

    Glimmer didn’t turn around, but Adora was sure that she was rolling her eyes.

    Catra snorted. “We could have held the debriefing on the bridge.”

    But Entrapta and Hordak felt more at home in their lab in the hold. And they were the most affected by today’s mission. Adora still wasn’t sure what she felt about the revelation that Horde Prime had likely been created by an Asgard. Just like Etherians had been created by the First Ones. And if she wasn’t sure how to feel about it, Hordak must be even worse off, being directly affected.

    “I brought them!” Glimmer announced as they entered the hold. “They were watching television on the bridge.”

    “Ah. That would have been my second guess if they weren’t in their cabin having sex,” Entrapta said.

    “What?” Adora blinked at her.

    “I noticed you like to relax by having sex,” Entrapta explained.

    Adora felt herself blush. She wasn’t ashamed of her love, but…

    Catra giggled.

    And Glimmer rolled her eyes. “Let’s start the debriefing.” She took a deep breath. “First, what do you think of the Asgard’s claims? About Horde Prime.”

    “They seem like a valid hypothesis supported by the available data,” Entrapta said. “Although we need more data to be certain.”

    “Yes,” Hordak added in a more gravelly voice than usual.

    “Eloquent,” Catra whispered.

    “Yes, but what if it is true?” Glimmer asked. “What do we do?”

    Adora blinked. What did she mean?

    “Well, then we find out if the Horde fleets are more loyal to Adora and the Alliance than to their family - so to speak,” Catra said.

    Ah. That was a possibility, of course. Those clones who felt lost without Horde Prime might very well turn to their ‘ancestors’.

    “Would the Asgard even want them?” Bow asked. “They seemed… a bit distant.”

    “It would weaken our own position,” Glimmer said. “I don’t think that Priest will leave, but he’s got only one fleet.”

    “But the Asgard hate the Goa’uld,” Adora pointed out. “If they lack the numbers to fight them, the clones could tip the balance.”

    “And we would lose most of our leverage against Earth.” Glimmer snorted. “If the Asgard had offered their technology, I am sure the humans would have jumped at the opportunity.”

    “But we asked for sharing our technology with the Asgard,” Entrapta said. “So…?”

    “Yes. But they didn’t share their technology with the Cimmerians. We don’t know if they will share their technology with us, even though we already have comparable technology,” Bow pointed out. “They might not want to share with the humans as long as the treaty holds. That might be too much for the Goa’uld to tolerate. Especially if we already started attacking them.”

    “In short, we don’t know enough to make concrete plans,” Catra said, stretching.

    “We still can make contingency plans,” Glimmer retorted.

    “I think we need a bit more data even for that,” Entrapta said. She cocked her head to look at Hordak.

    “We don’t know how and why Horde Prime came into being,” Hordak snorted. “If he was a clone like us, that would be… satisfyingly ironic. A mere clone…”

    “You’re not mere anything,” Entrapta told him with a frown.

    The two stared at each other, and Adora felt like she was intruding somehow.

    Then Glimmer cleared her throat. “So, what do we know about the Asgard?” Adora opened her mouth to answer, but her friend went on: “That we haven’t already mentioned at the debriefing with Stargate Command?”

    Adora closed her mouth.

    “Nothing but speculation,” Catra said. “They’re hiding something. Something big. And with their hints at Ancient relics being dangerous…” She grimaced.

    Adora nodded with a sinking feeling in her stomach. If there was another Heart of Etheria…

    She shuddered.

    *****​
     
  18. ioriangel

    ioriangel Mysterious Angel of Incalculable Mayhem

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    okay that's new, nice how you linked the horde with the asgard.
     
    Starfox5 and macdjord like this.
  19. Threadmarks: Chapter 45: The Magic Question Part 1
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 45: The Magic Question Part 1

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, September 27th, 1998

    “And you saw no possibility to get the ‘Asgard’ to agree to share their technology with us?”

    Samantha Carter didn’t frown at the question of General Sidorov even though her report - which she had finished shortly before midnight - answered it succinctly. “No, Sir. Thor made it clear that the decision to share their technology was in the purview of their High Council - presumably their government.”

    “That’s what Dr Jackson also said,” General Petit added. “And the Etherians made their offer already.”

    Entrapta had, but the others hadn’t seemed too put off by it.

    “Yes. Without any regard for our interests,” General Sidorov complained. “And the Etherians didn’t state any conditions that the Asgard would have to legalise same-sex marriages!”

    “Such conditions would likely be settled during the negotiations of any technology-sharing agreement,” General Haig said.

    Sam couldn’t help feeling that the British officer sounded a little smug. Then again, many British officers tended to sound like him, so it might just be her impression. But the British and the French already had their alliance with the Etherians and they were looking forward to the advanced technology they were about to receive while the United States government was still trying to convince so-called patriots in Congress and state legislatures that the right to discriminate against homosexuals wasn’t more important than the ability of the country to defend itself against alien threats.

    “Yes,” General Petit said. He did sound amused. “Of course, the Asgard might have their own conditions - they didn’t share their advanced technology, or any technology, with the planets under their protection, did they?”

    “Not to our knowledge,” Sam replied. “And if they are responsible for keeping their protected planets from becoming a threat to the Goa’uld, then they wouldn’t uplift the people on those planets.”

    “They might even sabotage the people under their so-called protection, should they advance past medieval technology.” General Sidorov glowered. “We cannot trust them - they were clearly hiding something!”

    “I don’t know any country that is in the habit of sharing their secrets with strangers,” General Li commented. “Except, possibly, for the Etherians.” His lips twitched into a small smile.

    Sam had to agree - the Etherians were very open about themselves. Arguably, too open - if they had been a bit more discreet about their culture and magic, maybe the reaction on Earth would have been a little less violent. Maybe. Or it might have been seen as an attempt to deceive Earth - people hadn’t taken the fact that the United States had kept the Stargate and the war with the Goa’uld secret very well, to say the least.

    “It’s a ploy!” General Sidorov spat.

    Sam was tempted to ask if he meant the Asgard or the Etherians, but refrained from doing so. The Russian officer didn’t trust anyone, anyway, so he probably meant both.

    “In any case, while the Asgard do not seem to be a threat to Earth or Etheria…” General Hammond said.

    “Maybe not an immediate threat, but a threat anyway!” Sidorov interrupted him.

    But General Hammond barely reacted to the slight. Sam couldn’t help thinking that Hammond’s patience and self-control were partially due to the Colonel’s attitude. “...we did learn about potential threats left by the Ancients. Threats supposedly contained - those which are known to the Asgard, at least.”

    “Yes, Sir,” Sam said. Of course, they only had the Asgard’s word for that.

    “And from what the Etherians have told us about the Heart of Etheria, a weapon of the Ancients, those threats could easily destroy a planet,” General Hammond went on.

    Or a sector. Sam had seen Entrapta’s calculations.

    “How much would it take to contain such a threat?” General Li asked.

    “Without knowing the nature of the threat, I can’t even make a guess,” Sam replied. “The Heart of Etheria required direct intervention by Adora, but that was a special situation. Biological weapons might require quarantining a planet, which could require quite the resources.” Or sterilising the planet. That was a theoretical option for Earth, but Sam thought that the Etherians and the Asgard would be able to do it. Not that she would mention it to Entrapta.

    “Could such a commitment be what is keeping the Asgard from fighting the Goa’uld?” General Haig asked.

    Sam inclined her head. “It’s possible.” They had considered that last night. But they didn’t know enough to tell. We need more data, Sam thought, hearing it in Entrapta’s voice.

    “But we cannot say it with any certainty.” General Haig nodded. “It’s a little unnerving to know that such threats might be more common than we hoped.”

    General Petit chuckled at the understatement while General Sidorov kept glowering.

    “We can’t do anything about that for now, so I think we should focus on what we can do,” General Hammond said.

    “Exactly. We need to identify the other protected planets - and find out if the Asgard were telling us the truth about them,” General Sidorov said.

    “We have a list of the gate addresses,” Sam pointed out. “And we matched them to systems.” Which had taken her past midnight. She really needed more computing power.

    “The Asgard didn’t prohibit visits, so we should send teams to check those addresses,” General Li said. “We need more information.”

    “But not SG-1,” General Hammond said. “We cannot risk losing Teal’c - we have to assume they have such defence systems on every planet they protect.”

    “And, possibly, orbital defences,” Sam added. “We need better sensor gear so we can check on a mission.”

    “Wouldn’t orbital defences be hidden from sensors? As much as that is possible, anyway,” General Haig said.

    Sam nodded. “Yes. But a magically enhanced sensor might penetrate the Asgard’s stealth systems.” Entrapta hadn’t had any trouble checking their technology on the ground, after all.

    General Sidorov scoffed again, but the others nodded. “That requires the cooperation of the Etherians,” General Li noted.

    “At least until Magic is restored to Earth,” General Petit said. “And we can train our own wizards.” He grinned.

    Sam thought the officer was a bit too optimistic. Training sorcerers would take years. And Etherian help.

    And magic had to be restored first. Sam still wasn’t sure how she felt about that.

    *****​

    Whitehall, Westminster, London, United Kingdom, Earth, September 28th, 1998

    “...and here’s how we plan to keep the information secure. We’re using multiple layers of…”

    Catra tuned the British intelligence officer doing the presentation out and looked at the files they had been given. It seemed to be a decent setup. A good mix between secure procedures and common sense - the factories had to be able to produce stuff without jumping through hoops, after all. Certainly better protected from spies than the usual horde factory.

    But the real target wouldn’t be factories but the people working in them - especially those who knew how to build advanced technology. She flipped through the folder, not caring how Adora frowned at her for obviously ignoring the presentation, and read up on how they tackled that. Ah. Strict surveillance of the engineers. And… She blinked. “A tracking device”?

    Everyone stared at her as the officer stopped talking about sensors and patrols. “Err, yes. All crucial people with the highest clearance will be required to wear a tracking device so we can check their position at all times. We still encourage protection details and guarded housing, of course.”

    And so they could keep them under surveillance. Well, it was important to keep the technology out of the hands of hostile countries. And as far as Catra was concerned, a lot of the countries on Earth were hostile. She certainly didn’t want countries where it was illegal for her to love Adora to get access to advanced technology. Hell, she was still wary of the United States after all she had seen of their conservative politicians.

    At least most of the countries that couldn’t be trusted didn’t have the means to spy on their allies - with the notable exceptions of Russia and China. And those had access to the Stargate, which meant they wouldn’t just be hunting for advanced technology like the Americans had been but would also have excuses for stolen technology turning up in their hands.

    “Well, if they agree to that…” Adora looked like she wasn’t entirely on board with that.

    “It’s for their own safety,” the officer pointed out.

    “Not everyone wants to be under permanent surveillance,” Bow pointed out.

    “It’s strictly volunteer-only,” the officer replied.

    Of course, the chances for a scientist to get to work with advanced technology without agreeing to that wouldn’t be high, Catra was sure.

    “Any other comments?” the British admiral in the meeting asked.

    Catra made a point of thinking for a moment, cocking her head, before answering: “No.”

    And the meeting continued.

    *****​

    “We really should hold those meetings together with the other countries,” Catra said as the meeting had finally ended and they left the room. “We’re going through three times the meetings otherwise.”

    “I’ve suggested it,” Glimmer said. “But, apparently, each country’s situation is different.”

    “I thought they were in the defence alliance,” Catra mumbled. “But if we held them in space, they’d agree!”

    “Probably.” Bow grinned.

    “I would certainly be in favour,” the British admiral told them with a smile. “Although I do have to agree that the political situation in our allied countries is too different to combine such meetings.”

    “Great,” Catra muttered. “We’ll be dying from paperwork and old age before we get this war really going.” She hadn’t had to deal with so many meetings in the Horde. Not that that meant the Horde had been a good place. Still…

    “Well, at least we got things straightened out,” the admiral went on. “And the technological transfer should be able to commence on schedule.”

    “Yes!” Entrapta smiled. “And the Americans are making progress as well.”

    That didn’t please the British officers, Catra noticed, though they kept smiling politely.

    “It would facilitate things,” Adora said. “It’s already complicated with the Stargate controlled by the United Nations.”

    “Well,” the general representing the British Army - which, for some weird historical reason, wasn’t the Royal Army, unlike their Navy and Air Force - said, “If the United States joined the Alliance, members would have a majority in Stargate Command.”

    “Small mercies,” the admiral commented with a chuckle. Apparently, they still carried grudges. “So, what’s next on your schedule?”

    “After the meetings with France and Germany about the same things we just discussed? A meeting with the United Nations regarding magic,” Glimmer told him.

    “Ah.” The admiral nodded. “That is bound to be lively.”

    That must be the British understatement Catra had heard about. She shrugged. “Well, it’s not as if they can outlaw magic.”

    “Last I heard, several countries have proposed a resolution doing exactly that,” the general cut in.

    “So?” Catra cocked her head at him. “How many such resolutions have been ignored so far?”

    “If the United Nations Security Council actually passes a resolution, there’s the question of whether or not such a resolution would be actually binding for us since we’re not a country on Earth,” Glimmer added. “Although it would be already a stretch to consider magic a threat to peace.”

    Glimmer must have studied the United Nations, Catra realised. Well, better her than Catra.

    “So your stance is that magic doesn’t fall under Chapter VII of the UN Charter?” the admiral asked.

    “Yes.” Glimmer nodded. “They might not agree, but even so - what are the odds that all permanent members of the Security Council will support such a resolution? The Americans still haven’t sorted out what they think about magic.”

    “Well, they’re in a bind.”

    More chuckling followed, but it sounded a little forced.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, September 28th, 1998

    Jack O’Neill suppressed the sudden and stupid urge to hum the melody of ‘Monday Morning’ when he approached the training field. Colonels didn’t break out into a song as if life was a musical. Surely not when they came to check on how the training of the new guys was going.

    And, on the off-chance that she knew Fleetwood Mac, he didn’t want to give Lenkova any ideas. ‘Monday morning you sure look fine’ was more than a little suggestive, especially seen through the eyes of a Russian spy likely trained as a honey trap.

    And as a special forces soldier, he reminded himself when he saw her squad was training in hand-to-hand combat. And doing better than most. Of course, he already knew that from her bout with Teal’c.

    He looked at the rest of the field as he walked over to Major Warren, who was in charge for today.

    “Sir!” Warren saluted.

    Jack returned the salute, a little surprised. They usually weren’t as formal, even if half the new guys were watching. Or especially - Jack didn’t want to see Stargate Command turned into a unit where forms were more important than results, and the divide between enlisted and officers was too deep. That wouldn’t work too well in the field, and Jack would hate it at the base. Saluting the foreign generals every time you saw them was bad enough.

    But he wasn’t here to complain about the brass. “So, how are they doing?” he asked, watching another squad go at it.

    “As well as can be expected. Our new allies didn’t send the worst of their forces.” Warren frowned a little. “They learn quickly. Still wouldn’t want to send them through the gate on their own any time soon,” he added.

    “Not even to a known location?” Jack tilted his head slightly. They had some ‘baby’s first Stargate’ addresses to ease new guys into travelling the galaxy.

    “Maybe the empty ones,” Warren said.

    Ah. Jack nodded. He wouldn’t want to let the new guys loose on unsuspecting populations on alien planets. Especially not the Russians and Chinese - if they didn’t have orders to acquire any advanced technology they could, no matter how, he’d eat his service cap. Just imagining what they would have done if faced with Thor made him want to curse. The only thing worse would have been the NID meeting Thor. The Asgard would have probably declared war on Earth in that case.

    He watched the training for a few minutes. All of the teams had a good grounding in hand-to-hand combat, far better than regular soldiers - but he knew that already. And they were learning fast, as Warren had said.

    His eyes caught Lenkova right after she smashed one of her team members into the ground, and the Russian spy smiled at him. Slyly. As if she had caught him at something inappropriate instead of watching the training. She was one of the most dangerous new guys, after all. Girls. Whatever. Jack made a point to watch the squad next to hers for a while.

    “Have you heard anything about joint missions, Colonel?” Warren asked in a low voice after a few minutes.

    The middle of training wasn’t the best moment to spread rumours and fish for information, and Warren would know that. If he was asking anyway, he must be really concerned about something. Jack shrugged. “I haven’t heard anything. They deployed us with SG-2, but that was mostly because we’re friends with the Etherians.” And none of the nations running the new Stargate Command wanted to annoy the aliens. “Of course, joint missions will either be very good for our unit cohesion or make us shoot each other no matter who gets to team up with whom.” Someone even suggested splitting up all teams and forming new ones - mixed ones including forces from all nations. Fortunately for the fool, by the time Jack had heard about this nonsense - splitting up SG-1? Over his dead body! - the idea had been shot down by everyone else already. As if he’d let his team be split up. Or put experienced team members under the command of a new guy. Or girl.

    “I see, Sir.” Warren sounded as relieved as Jack had felt. After a moment, he added: “I’ve heard from a few old friends, Sir. They’ve been called up to head units training for deployment off-world. Expeditionary units.”

    “Someone’s optimistic about our politicians,” Jack commented. They would need an alliance with the Etherians to field Marines in those numbers.

    “Yes, Sir.”

    Well, they might not be overly optimistic - the newspapers and TV pundits were hammering the conservative holdouts hard. Almost all of them, at least; some extremists were still ranting about godless aliens corrupting the American youth. But it looked like both public opinion and politics were shifting.

    After a moment, Warren glanced at his watch and yelled: “Alright! Break for five!”

    The squads on the field stopped hitting each other and headed to the break area, where the drinks and snacks were stored. None of them lingered to exchange a few more blows, Jack noted.

    He and Warren watched them go before heading over themselves. Officers ate last, after all.

    But when Jack approached the chow line, Lenkova joined him. He stopped and gestured, letting her go before him, and she smiled.

    “An officer and a gentleman?”

    “Didn’t really like the movie,” he replied. He was an Air Force officer; liking romances about a naval aviator came straight after ‘dereliction of duty’ in the ‘things you aren’t allowed to do in the Air Force’ regulations.

    “Movie?” She cocked her head at him.

    Jack berated himself. He shouldn’t have quipped; that only gave the spy an in. Well, it wasn’t the first time his mouth got him into trouble. “It’s a movie with Richard Gere about a romance between a Navy pilot candidate and a factory worker,” he explained as they reached the snack box.

    “Ah. A male officer and a working-class woman?” She sounded… well, not mocking, but there was a hint of disapproval. Or amusement.

    Jack suppressed the urge to point out that back at the start of the eighties, movies featuring a female officer and a male factory worker wouldn’t have sold. Not that he thought they’d sell today, either. “Yes,” he said instead.

    “And you didn’t like it?” She wasn’t dropping the topic.

    “It was about a Navy pilot,” he said.

    “Ah. Service rivalry.” She nodded, then grabbed a coke and a Snickers. “I’ve heard of it. Is it true that service rivalry is fostered by the government so they can have one branch shoot the other if they need to make an example?”

    Jack smiled as sweetly as he could as he replied: “Well, without the NKVD, we have to make do.”

    She laughed at that. It was even a nice laugh, and her smile seemed genuine. “Your humour is almost Russian, Colonel.”

    That was probably meant to be a compliment. “Thank you,” he said.

    Then he heard Warren chuckle behind him and wanted to curse himself. And Lenkova.

    Who was drinking her coke as if she were in a commercial where she was wearing a bikini instead of a striped t-shirt under Russian fatigues, with her back arched to emphasise her chest.

    Well, there was no helping it - the rumour mill would grind on now. Jack grabbed a Mars bar and a coke for himself.

    *****​

    Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, September 28th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “...and why should we allow magic to return to Earth? It goes against our religion! It will destabilise society! Corrupt the youth! My country - the world - is still reeling from the revelation that aliens are real, with riots happening daily, and you want to introduce another shock? The United Nations need to take a stand and ban the practice!”

    Adora frowned. That was the third ambassador in a row that wanted Earth - well, the United Nations - to ban magic. Or ban the return of magic.

    The ambassador from India rose. Wasn’t he supposed to wait until he was recognised? But the debate had grown more and more heated, and this was supposed to be an informational meeting with Adora and her friends. Maybe the rules were different here. “Magic is an important part of my country’s religion. To ban magic would be an unacceptable violation of our religious freedom - and a blatant attempt to force your views and culture on us! India has not fought for her freedom from colonialist powers only to bow to them again!”

    “You dare to call out others as colonialists when you attempt to force such evil on your own people?” Another glared at India’s ambassador.

    Adora checked the plate. Right. Pakistan and India had a violent history - she had learned that preparing for this meeting.

    “The vast majority of our people want magic, our ancestors’ legacy, restored to us. We won’t let a minority oppress us just as we won’t let foreigners oppress us!”

    “But you want to force magic on the entire world - as a minority!” Pakistan’s ambassador countered. A lot of ambassadors loudly voiced their support.

    “No one forces you to practise magic!” the Indian shot back once things had calmed down a little. “You are free to ban it in your countries - you already have, after all, even though magic was taken from us a thousand years ago,” he added with a sneer.

    “It was taken from Earth with good reason! Magic is dangerous - it corrupts people!”

    And if weaponised, it could blow up a sector. But that was a very special case.

    “You’re overreacting,” Glimmer spoke up. “Magic is no more dangerous than technology.”

    “And we limit and ban dangerous technology! Like nuclear weapons!” Pakistan’s ambassador exclaimed.

    “That’s rich coming from a country with nuclear weapons!” another ambassador - oh, that was Bangladesh - said.

    “We do not proliferate the technology!”

    “Wanna bet whether they go to war over this?” Catra whispered next to her. Not even she sounded amused, though.

    Glimmer clenched her teeth and stood, her hands not quite slamming down on the table. “Listen! You keep talking about how magic is dangerous, but you have no idea what magic is! Don’t you realise how… weird this looks?”

    “You don’t know what Earth magic will look like either! You said so yourself!” the man from Iran said with a deep sneer.

    Adora frowned at him. He had openly called for executing ‘witches’ - and while he hadn’t said it out loud, he had left no doubt he thought this should include Adora and her friends.

    “That’s because every planet’s magic is unique,” Glimmer pointed out. “It depends on your traditions. But no matter what your traditions are, you can’t just do magic. You need to study how to work magic. And you need a talent for magic.”

    “And when you’ve done all that? What will stop a witch from cursing everyone?” Another of the African ambassadors scoffed. They were the majority of the countries backing a ban on magic, Adora knew.

    “What is stopping anyone from taking a weapon and killing people?” Glimmer shook her head. “Magic isn’t any different than technology. You can deal with it.”

    “It only requires sorcerers of your own,” the British ambassador said.

    That didn’t placate the others at all - quite the contrary. It grew even louder in the room.

    Once more, it took a little while until things calmed down enough so people could be heard again.

    “You know, if Alliance meetings were like this, they would be a lot more entertaining,” Catra whispered to her.

    Adora frowned at her in response before listening to the Brazilian ambassador. “This is not merely a question of whether or not our religion prohibits magic, but of the danger magic represents. Imagine terrorists using magic to strike at their targets! How can you defend against a curse? No one would be safe! Many such attacks might not even be noticed if the victim merely suffers a fatal accident or illness!”

    “If the attack doesn’t get noticed, it’s not terrorism!” someone cut in. “Spreading terror is the point of terrorism! You’re talking about assassinations!”

    “Whatever!” the Brazilian went on. “Imagine this power in the hands of insurgents! No government would be safe! We would be held hostage by extremists! For the good of us all, we need to ban magic!”

    Adora heard Catra curse under her breath. She could understand the feeling - this argument was swaying people.

    Once more, Glimmer spoke up. “Magic can protect you against magic!”

    Another ambassador yelled: “At the cost of our souls!”

    “Magic isn’t evil just as technology isn’t evil,” Glimmer retorted. “Both can be abused. And as events on Earth have shown, even if you ban magic, you aren’t safe from magitech.”

    Like the zombie plague generator, as Jack had called it. Adora nodded firmly.

    “So, by banning magic, you would cripple your defences against it without being safe.” Glimmer scoffed.

    “What’s magitech?” someone else asked.

    “Magitech is advanced technology using magic effects but powered by non-magical sources,” Bow explained. “You do not need to have magic restored on a planet to use it.”

    “Let’s ban magitech!”

    Catra rolled her eyes and spoke up. “You think you can ban that technology? And win the war against the Goa’uld?” She scoffed. “Really, you should be demanding magic be restored as soon as possible since most of you will have a much easier time getting magic to work for you than getting our advanced technology, especially the way you’re acting.”

    Adora frowned - it would still take quite a lot of work to get a decent number of sorcerers in a country. You couldn’t just snap your finger and do magic - it took years of study. But Glimmer was smiling as she nodded, and a number of the ambassadors had suddenly fallen silent.

    “So that’s why you want magic restored!” the ambassador from Pakistan yelled at India’s ambassador. “You plan to attack us with it!”

    “India has no plans to attack anyone!” the Indian shot back. “But yes, we are counting on magic to improve our country without having to be dependent on foreign powers. It’s our heritage.”

    A number of ambassadors still protested, especially the ones from the Middle East countries, as far as Adora could tell, but several others who had vocally opposed magic were suddenly silent.

    “Look how their concerns just vanished,” Catra muttered with a grin.

    Adora had to agree - but she also had to admit that the Brazilian had a point about the danger magic represented for those who had no defence against it. And yet… She was surprised how quickly religious concerns were brushed aside by so many, after everything that she had heard and seen before. “I guess it’s really all about power,” she whispered.

    “Always was,” Catra said.

    It was hard to disagree with her as the discussion took a turn towards the practicability of magical education on Etheria.

    *****​

    “...and while our sorcerers can teach others, provided they have the talent, any students would be learning Etheria’s traditions, not Earth’s magical traditions,” Glimmer explained for the second time.

    “But your traditions do not teach people how to conjure evil spirits or make bargains with demons,” an ambassador retorted. “Unlike magic here.”

    “None of our magical traditions require either!” India’s ambassador cut in. He had been doing that a lot, together with the Japanese ambassador.

    “So you claim! We know better!”

    “Leaving religious disagreements aside,” the Swedish ambassador spoke up, “We do have to consider that by relying on a foreign magical education, we might strangle our own cultural and magical heritage.”

    “That should be any country’s decision,” the ambassador from Liberia shot back.

    “Of course. I was merely pointing out that this should require further consideration.”

    “Says the ambassador from a country that is asking for access to advanced technology.”

    “That has no bearing on the question of magical traditions and heritage,” the Swede retorted.

    “On the contrary! That’s a crucial aspect of the entire question!”

    “They’re talking as if they can just send hundreds of people to Etheria to get trained,” Glimmer muttered. “I’ve told them that Mystacor isn’t an open university and that they would decide whom they would train!”

    Catra leaned over, her head in front of Adora’s chest, to answer Glimmer: “They’re a little hard of hearing.”

    Adora had to agree once more. At least, it seemed that the resolution to ban magic from Earth - or ban its return - was no longer a concern, even though several countries still were pushing for it. Although as far as she knew, most of those ambassadors would have to check with their governments before making any binding statements or votes.

    So the question of whether or not Adora should return magic at the request of India and Japan hadn’t been answered. Sure, if the United Nations didn’t ban magic, it would follow that it was allowed to restore magic to Earth. But if Adora had learned one thing from all the meetings of the Alliance and now on Earth, it was that politics were rarely logical.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, September 29th, 1998

    “....and in the General Assembly of the United Nations, the topic of a ban on magic continues to be hotly debated as tensions between Pakistan and India are rising. The Arab League has announced their full support of Pakistan in this growing conflict and reaffirmed their intent to ban all magic, though support for the stance is wavering amongst many African nations. The European Union released a statement that affirmed the right of any nation to decide their internal policies provided they did not violate human rights but didn’t elaborate on whether or not they considered the restoration of magic to be covered by this. According to anonymous sources, several South and Central American member states have voiced reservations concerning magic on religious grounds, although this may change with the release of the Vatican’s statement later today - an announcement which many experts expect to cover the Catholic Church’s stance on magic, and…”

    Samantha Carter switched the television off. She had heard the news twice already, and it hadn’t changed significantly - the hosts and pundits were just growing more and more excited without anything to justify it.

    She put the remote down and resisted the urge to stretch her arms over her head - it was barely mid-morning, and she didn’t want to give the impression that she hadn’t slept well or long enough. Especially not when both were true.

    Although, she added to herself, Daniel doesn’t look like he’d notice. Her friend had his nose buried in an older tome he had brought into her lab.

    “Fascinating. I never really delved into all the various magical traditions in Europe; not my speciality, and it wasn’t really relevant for our work - not until we met the Etherians, in any case, although some of it might give us insights into handling those Goa’uld using European myths as their cover. But with the Goa’uld using technology, I never really cared about the potential of actual magic. Just imagine if we could get the divination rituals of ancient Rome to work!”

    Sam wasn’t an expert on ancient history, but she had gone through college and the Air Force Academy, and she had worked with Daniel for a long time now, so… “You mean reading the future in the entrails of a sacrificed animal?”

    “Ah, yes. Amongst other rituals,” Daniel looked sheepish. “This would be messy, wouldn’t it? Although if we could get the cooperation of a butcher, given how much meat we eat, it shouldn’t be too hard to arrange a few experiments…”

    “You would also need to find people with the talent for magic,” she pointed out. The Etherians had been clear about that, and the data they had gathered at Research Site Alpha confirmed it: Not everyone could work magic.

    “Right.” He frowned. “Finding them might be a problem unless we can isolate the gene for magic talent.” He looked at her with a hopeful smile.

    “I’m no geneticist,” she told him. “But, as far as I know, there are research projects working on identifying the Ancient gene.” It was only logical after the revelation of the Colonel’s ancestry, after all.

    “Oh! Do you think Jack has magic potential? The Ancients - or First Ones - were working with magic, after all. And manipulated the Etherian genetics.”

    She pressed her lips together. Although the Colonel had never said anything about it, other than some off-colour jokes, she knew he wasn’t happy about that particular revelation. And she didn’t think he would like learning magic either. “We don’t know enough about Ancients to know,” she said.

    “Right. Well, I hope we’ll soon know more. With everyone preparing to jumpstart magic projects, it’s bound to lead to some results.” He nodded.

    “Or to a debacle,” Sam retorted. “If countries start identifying potential sorcerers through their genes…” She trailed off.

    Daniel gasped. “Literal witch hunts using DNA testing!”

    Sam nodded. Forced conscription of people with magic talents was the mildest problem she could imagine. But in those countries where ‘witchcraft’ was a capital crime, things would be much, much worse once magic was returned to Earth.

    “Are the Etherians aware of that?” Daniel asked.

    Sam sighed. “I don’t know if they considered this.” Sometimes, their friends were quite naive. Or just inexperienced with Earth’s cultures and practices. Entrapta was both, of course.

    “We need to tell them!” Daniel said. “They can’t just return magic if it means people getting murdered for their ancestry.”

    People had been getting murdered for their ancestry for millennia, all over the world. And people were getting murdered for being called witches even with magic still absent from Earth. But Sam didn’t say that. True as it might be, it wasn’t relevant. “I don’t think they can test for a gene. We don’t even know what the gene or genes for magical talent is. We don’t even know if it’s tied to the Ancient heritage - and Colonel O’Neill’s ancestry isn’t exactly public knowledge either.” Sure, with Stargate Command being transferred under the control of the United Nations Security Council, foreign countries had access to their files. But only Russia, China, Britain and France. Stargate Command hadn’t been able to justify hiding the Colonel’s special heritage, not when it could be revealed as soon as he walked into another Ancient facility. But the countries most likely to attempt to ‘purge’ witches wouldn’t have access to that data. “People lack sufficient data to test for witches,” she added. Of course, that might change if magic was restored and people started expressing a talent for it. She had to mention that to the Etherians.

    “Right. But are we testing for the Ancient gene?” Daniel asked. “If we know it, of course - how close do you think we are to identifying it?”

    “So far, we only know of two people who are descendants of Ancients: The Colonel and Adora,” Sam said. “Without access to more samples, it will be hard to identify people with the same ancestry.” They didn’t have a sample of Adora. At least, Sam hoped no one had been as stupid as to steal a sample of her.

    “There’s his family,” Daniel pointed out. “His extended family, I mean.” He blinked. “Oh. Maybe… No. Too far-fetched.”

    Sam frowned. “What is too far-fetched, Daniel?”

    “Nothing!” Daniel replied. Sam raised her eyebrows, and he caved. “I just wondered if Lieutenant Lenkova was less of a honey trap and more of a… family trap? Maybe the Russians want a child of Jack to compare genes? Ridiculous, I know!” He laughed - a little forcedly.

    Sam clenched her jaws. It was ridiculous. Obviously so. The Colonel wouldn’t… well, the odds of such a scheme working were so small as to be nonexistent. And they didn’t know if it was even planned.

    But she still felt the urge to test a few of her recent inventions on a certain Russian officer.

    *****​

    Earth Orbit, Solar System, September 29th, 1998

    “...and that was a bombshell, wasn’t it? Who would have expected this from the Pope? I certainly didn’t! Terry?”

    “Well, I’d say that nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, but I did. To claim that magic is part of God’s creation and inherently neutral, not evil, that witches can be good Christians as long as they don’t use their magic for evil goes against centuries of history!”

    “Indeed, Terry! But we have an expert on the Vatican here, Dr Marconi. Dr Marconi, what do you say to this shocking development?”

    “Well, Mr Smith, first, the Pope’s declaration doesn’t go against centuries of tradition. The Catholic Church’s stance towards witches has never been as hostile as people claim - in fact, for centuries, the Church prohibited witch hunts! It was only after the protestant movement took off that witch hunts were conducted by the Church, and even then, they remained rare in the solidly Catholic countries. The infamous Spanish Inquisition, for example, despite popular myths, wasn’t aimed at witches but at so-called heretics and ‘hidden jews’. So, this declaration is not violating Church dogma - though, of course, the summoning of spirits and similar creatures has been explicitly restricted. So, today’s declaration is no surprise for those who know the history and dogma of the Catholic Church. In fact, now that we know that magic was taken from Earth roughly a thousand years ago, the Church’s stance back then that there were no witches has been confirmed, which has several interesting implications. And one cannot forget that the Catholic Church has proven to be very pragmatic and able to adapt to changing circumstances. I would actually focus on the first part as surprising - the Pope outright stated that aliens have souls. That is a revolutionary declaration I didn’t expect, certainly not as explicitly. This has far greater effects on…”

    Catra yawned as the ‘expert’ went into more details she didn’t care for. “So, magic isn’t evil unless you use it for evil, and we have souls. How shocking!” She scoffed as she leaned back in her seat and craned her head to look at the others.

    “It is shocking for a lot of people, according to the news reports,” Bow pointed out. “Obviously, they expected the Pope to condemn us.”

    “The Pope doesn’t want to alienate us,” Glimmer said with a grin - probably proud of her pun. But she quickly frowned.

    “It’s still a good thing.” Adora smiled. “That’s a lot of people who won’t see us as evil now!”

    Bow cleared his throat. “Well… He didn’t say anything about homosexuality. And only the Catholics are listening to him, and not even all of them. Some are already claiming that he must be corrupt. Or possessed.”

    Catra scoffed again. “Typical! If you don’t like a decision, attack your superior!”

    “Well, they are responsible,” Adora retorted. “But in this case, aren’t they supposed to follow his rules?”

    “Yes,” Glimmer agreed. “In theory. But going against the Pope is a big thing, so this should help with the acceptance of magic.”

    Almost as much as the realisation that magic could give any country an advantage helped. Catra shook her head. “So what? It won’t really affect us anyway.” It wasn’t as if they were going to listen to the idiots calling magic evil, anyway.

    “The more people, especially religious people, accept magic, the better,” Adora insisted. “That means the United Nations won’t ban magic.”

    Catra shrugged. The odds of any such resolution not being defeated by a veto at the latest had been zero already before this, anyway. “So, are you going to restore magic now?”

    “Uh…” Adora sighed and lowered her head. “I want to, and the Indians keep pushing for it. And the Japanese.” Which also were pushing for a diplomatic meeting about advanced technology, Catra knew. “But with what Sam told us…” Adora pressed her lips together.

    Catra nodded. Witch hunts based on your genes - your ancestry. People getting killed for… for simply existing. Well, the same people already wanted to kill her for loving Adora, and anyone else who loved the same sex.

    “That would be genocide,” Glimmer said. “A crime against humanity. The United Nations would intervene.”

    “Are we sure of that?” Bow asked. “They didn’t intervene in the past.”

    “Well, they should know that we would intervene if they don’t,” Glimmer said.

    “We would?” Catra’s ears twitched. She wouldn’t mind crushing those fools who threatened her and Adora, but… “What about not interfering with other countries?”

    Glimmer huffed. “This is an exception, of course.”

    “But they are already killing witches!” Adora protested. “Well, people they claim are witches. Why don’t we stop them?”

    “Because that’s a crime, but not a genocide,” Glimmer said. “And it’s not the country that is doing it, but parts of the population. We don’t attack a kingdom for what bandits are doing.”

    “Not unless the princess is sponsoring and using the bandits.” Catra grinned.

    Glimmer frowned at her. “Yes, of course, there are exceptions. But they don’t even know yet how to look for sorcerers with tests. So, that’s not going to happen anyway.”

    “But once the magic is back, they’ll be able to find sorcerers by looking for magic being done,” Bow pointed out. “Anyone displaying magic powers would be a target.”

    “Just like anyone whom people don’t like is currently a target,” Catra retorted. “And was a target before.” People would get hurt and killed anyway under any pretext.

    “But if I return magic, any deaths that happen will be on my head,” Adora said glumly.

    Catra rolled her eyes, then reached over and smacked the back of Adora’s head. “Stop being an idiot! Those people are already hunting ‘witches’, and they won’t stop. They don’t care that there’s no magic around yet. And sooner or later, they’ll get that test for magic talents. You’re not saving anyone by keeping magic away - you’re just ensuring that they won’t be able to defend themselves.”

    “Well, technically…” Bow trailed off at Catra’s glare. “I didn’t say anything!”

    “Catra’s right,” Glimmer said, and Catra preened. “It’s not your fault. And Earth deserves to get its magic back. The entire planet without magic? It’s unnatural.”

    Catra nodded. “And you don’t give in to those people. They won’t stop anyway.” They were going for people like her and Adora already, magic or no magic. You couldn’t placate them.

    “And we need to restore magic to planets we invade anyway, so we can use our powers,” Glimmer added.

    “But there’ll be trouble and more riots on Earth if magic is returned,” Bow pointed out.

    Catra rolled her eyes. “As opposed to right now? Better to ride that stuff out now, instead of when we’re fighting the Goa’uld on multiple fronts.”

    Adora slowly nodded.

    *****​
     
  20. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Thanks! I found with their genetic issues and the cloning episodes in the show, it was a link.
     
    An_absolute_disaster likes this.
  21. Threadmarks: Chapter 46: The Magic Question Part 2
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 46: The Magic Question Part 2

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, October 1st, 1998

    “...and that’s about it.”

    Jack O’Neill blinked at Glimmer. Those had been quite a number of words for something simple. “So… you want to get the United Nations to declare open season on genocidal countries?”

    Judging by the way Catra grinned, Daniel frowned and Carter pressed her lips together, he had hit the right amount of levity for such a topic.

    Glimmer frowned as well. “Not ‘open season’. We just want to ensure that the United Nations know that we’re ready to intervene if a country should start a genocide. Of course, it should be obvious that we wouldn’t stand by in such a case.”

    Well, they had been sending mixed signals if they thought this would be obvious, in Jack’s opinion. “There are already witch hunts going on,” he pointed out - diplomatically. The Etherians hadn’t intervened in those.

    “Not organised by any state,” Glimmer said. “As far as we know.”

    But likely tolerated. Then again, the last thing Earth needed was a bunch of aliens with a space fleet playing world police.

    And, of course, Daniel hadn’t gotten that memo. “But there are several states where witchcraft is a capital crime.”

    “Yes.” Glimmer pressed her lips together. “But since magic hasn’t been restored to Earth, there aren’t any actual sorceresses on Earth yet.”

    “With the exception of you,” Catra added as she fiddled with one of the plaques on the table.

    Well, better a broken plaque than some broken gadget in Carter’s lab.

    “I’d like to see them try to try me,” Glimmer said with a sneer. Then she sighed. “Yes, we’re aware of that. But as long as such countries don’t actually start killing people for having a magical talent…” She shrugged. “We don’t want to interfere with other countries.”

    Jack nodded even though he could think of quite a few countries which deserved to be interfered with.

    “But as long as they know that we won’t tolerate such things, they should know better than to do it,” Adora said.

    “But once people know where the, ah, red line is,” Daniel said, “they know how far they can go - and likely will go as far. So, by stating you’ll intervene if a genocide starts, you also state that you won’t intervene if it’s not a genocide.”

    “That does not follow,” Teal’c pointed out. “Unless stated outright, nothing prevents Etheria from intervening without a genocide taking place.”

    “Like the United States’ stance towards our defence commitment towards Taiwan,” Carter said.

    “I don’t think that policy is a good idea in this case,” Jack retorted. “The countries where witches are being hunted aren’t as rational as the Chinese. Which, by the way, will probably grow a little anxious if you’re vague, what with their policy in Tibet.”

    Glimmer winced. “Yes. We’re aware of that issue. We… don’t wish to get involved in such cases.”

    Ah. Jack couldn’t help grinning a little - and showing his teeth. “Only clear cases of ‘let’s kill those people’ qualify as genocide, right?”

    That earned him a glare from almost everyone.

    “Jack! We’re talking about military intervention here!” Daniel blurted out.

    Glimmer, though, met his eyes. “Yes. We don’t want to start a war over… cultural issues. Not unless they lead to people getting killed for their ancestry.”

    “We probably would have to declare war on everyone on Earth if we did that,” Catra said with a snort.

    Adora glared at her, then sighed as well. “Yes. We don’t want to start a war even though we don’t like what is happening in Tibet and elsewhere.”

    Jack had no doubt that Adora hated to restrain herself. She wasn’t the type to do ‘Realpolitik’.

    “Well, if you wait for the United Nations to call something out as genocide, the Chinese won’t have to worry about being put on the spot,” Jack said.

    “We’re aware of that as well,” Glimmer said. “But that’s your system.”

    “And unless the system breaks and the mass graves and gas chambers start up again, you’re not going to break it.” Jack nodded. Sensible, but it did leave a bad taste in your mouth - worse, of course, if you had the power to actually do something about it.

    “Yes.” Glimmer took a deep breath. “We also hope that things will improve in several countries as a result of our alliances and our presence, but that will take a while.”

    Adora nodded, as did Daniel, almost eagerly. Jack tried to hide his cynicism. He didn’t think things would improve as the Etherians hoped. Or some of them - Catra didn’t look as if she thought things would magically improve.

    Heh, ‘magically’! Jack snorted. “Yeah, sounds like you’ve got this thought out.”

    “Kind of,” Bow spoke up. “We wanted a second opinion from someone we trust.” He smiled at Jack and the others. Adora positively beamed.

    And Jack suppressed the urge to curse. He didn’t like being put on the spot like this. It was worse since everyone was so sincere, so trusting towards him - and so much was at stake. He glanced at Catra, who grinned at him. The damn catwoman knew what he was feeling.

    And, of course, his team was letting him take the lead here. Even Daniel, who could usually be trusted to speak up before anyone else could stop him.

    Jack sighed. “Well…” What to say? And how to word it? He wasn’t exactly a politician. Or a diplomat. “It’s a touchy issue,” he said. “And every situation is unique.”

    “You mean some situations get the veto, and others don’t,” Catra cut in unhelpfully. That was Jack’s role, damn it!

    He narrowed his eyes and crossed his arms. “If you say you’re following the United Nations lead and rules, are you going to stick to it? Even when a case of genocide gets vetoed?”

    The way the Etherians exchanged glances, that wasn’t a given.

    “One could claim that a country stepping in like that to prevent an intervention is helping to commit a genocide,” Glimmer said.

    That was… well, it wasn’t a bad argument, Jack had to admit. One he’d make himself - hell, why was he arguing in favour of following orders he knew were wrong again? Right, to keep the Etherians from taking over. “And what if the other countries don’t agree with that interpretation?”

    “Would they?” Catra’s ears twitched. “Wouldn’t they like to gang up on such a country?”

    “You’d be surprised.” Jack shrugged. “No one wants to be the next one up on the wall.”

    “I thought that was the purpose of the United Nations.” Bow frowned. “To ensure the crimes against humanity wouldn’t happen again.”

    “Yep,” Jack said. “But the great powers wanted a little insurance so the weaker countries couldn’t enforce their rules on them.”

    Adora scowled at that. “If rules don’t apply to everyone, what good are they?”

    Jack grinned. “Well, that’s the question, right?”

    Oh, the glare she sent at him for having her words twisted back at her.

    “Well…” Daniel must have finally reached his limit. “The question of what to do if a law or rule has been deemed unfair or unjust is a very old question. What if breaking the law does even more harm? There’s the fact that any law that’s not enforced weakens the entire system, although that’s more abstract, and then there’s the cost of any intervention. You need not only to remove the government but replace it. And there might be resistance to the new regime. Violent resistance. Coups and regime changes rarely were bloodless. When exactly is it justified to break the law? When someone guilty would escape justice? Or when someone innocent would be punished?”

    “When someone would be killed for being born,” Adora snapped. “You can’t obey a law that defends such a crime!”

    “I don’t think that’s going to be an issue,” Carter told her. “Any country pursuing such a policy would be a pariah.”

    Jack agreed - if only because no one would want to provoke the Etherians like that.

    “But what about displacing a native population? Attacking their culture?” Daniel shook his head. “It’s a lot harder to judge such cases.”

    “You mean that ‘cultural imperialism’ people accuse us of?” Catra asked. She scoffed.

    “Yes.” Daniel nodded. “A considerable number of countries feels that an attempt to enforce global human rights on them is imperialism in another form.” He frowned, “Although it is kind of ironic that when it comes to the discrimination of homosexuality, many countries are now defending the values originally forced on them by colonial powers as their own.”

    “That’s stupid,” Adora commented. “And it doesn’t matter anyway - you don’t get to kill people for being born with magic or a love for the same sex.”

    Yeah, She-Ra wouldn’t budge on that. Although drawing the line at killing people wasn’t a bad idea. “Well, if you stick to that, you shouldn’t have too many problems,” Jack said.

    “And we’ll have to leave the cultural stuff alone in exchange?” Catra cocked her head sideways. Like a cat.

    “Uh…” Daniel took a deep breath. “It’s a really touchy subject. A lot of countries want to foster a sense of… patriotism. Loyalty to the nation. Taken too far, that can be seen as an attack on minorities and their cultures. It’s controversial,” he added with a shrug.

    “Well, we don’t want to meddle with the internal affairs of others if we can help it,” Glimmer said. She didn’t look happy, though. “We don’t want to replace a government or occupy a country.”

    Jack was glad - the Etherians occupying another country would be a disaster for everyone involved. It would probably make the worst CIA attempts at regime change look competent.

    And it would probably be worse for the Etherians than Vietnam had been for the USA. Jack really didn’t want to see them broken like some of the vets he knew.

    “So, we’re going to talk to the United Nations,” Glimmer said. “Voice our concern. Mention how genocide violates their own charter. And hope they get the message.”

    Jack couldn’t help himself. “And if they don’t?”

    “Then we get to train planetary invasions and decapitation missions,” Catra said with a wide grin.

    “It’s not funny, Catra!” Adora protested.

    “I know.”

    “Oh, you!”

    Jack really hoped that the United Nations would get their act together. The Etherians getting bogged down in an insurgency would be a nightmare - and the best thing to happen to the Goa’uld.

    *****​

    Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, October 2nd, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “...and as you can see here, in this example, restoring a planet’s magic doesn’t change its biosphere significantly or instantly. It merely activates the magic field you can tap into if you have the talent. You can check the data yourself; we’ve included it in the folder you’ve got.”

    Entrapta was great at this, Adora thought as she watched her friend explain magic to various diplomats - again. Glimmer would have lost her temper long ago. Had lost her temper, actually, when she had heard of the request to explain once more what magic did and didn’t. Fortunately, she hadn’t been in public. Her choice of words would have caused a lot of friction with Earth.

    Entrapta, though, saw nothing wrong with explaining things over and over again. Probably because she was used to talking to bots who were slow learners at the start when their control matrices had just begun to develop. Which was why Entrapta was here, explaining things, with Adora helping out, since Bow was with Glimmer, and Catra and Hordak wouldn’t be of any help here - quite the opposite.

    “If one has to learn to, ah, tap into that field, does that mean there won’t be any magical plants or animals? I mean, how would you teach them that?” a diplomat asked.

    “Good question!” Entrapta beamed at him. “There are actually plants and animals back on Etheria which use magic. But they either evolved to make use of magic or are the result of genetic engineering by the First Ones. Now, it’s not impossible that Earth had such plants and animals as well - you had magic until a thousand years ago, and the Ancients and other species certainly had enough time to experiment on Earth - but those organisms would have been affected by the loss of magic.” Entrapta pouted a little. “I guess some might have gone extinct. If they needed magic to fly or breathe water, for example. Or survive in hostile environments. On the other hand, if they just used magic for non-essential powers, they could have survived. And a thousand years is a short time for evolution to lose such a power, so they might regain it.”

    “So we will have to worry about dragons and other monsters returning?” another diplomat gasped.

    Entrapta looked confused. “Why would you worry about that? Creatures that went extinct wouldn’t magically appear. And while some organisms might regain the use of magic - on an instinctive level - Earth had magic until a thousand years ago, and you obviously could handle whatever magical creatures were around just fine back then - and now you have far more advanced technology!”

    “How could you know that?” a delegate from one of the hostile countries asked with a glare. One who, unlike others, hadn’t left. Instead, he had stayed and spent his time trying to make magic look evil.

    “You’ve got records going further back,” Entrapta explained. “If magical creatures were such a threat, they’d show up in your documents.”

    “There are countless myths and legends about dangerous monsters!”

    The British delegate shook her head. “With all due respect, but those myths and legends talk about single incidents. Local problems, not something that affected entire countries, much less the world. Please stop your fearmongering. If dragons reappeared tomorrow, we probably would have to treat them as an endangered species right away.”

    A number of people laughed at that. But Adora could see that more were still concerned.

    “There is another aspect,” the delegate from Japan spoke up. “We have myths of foxes and tanuki who could take on the form of people. Obviously, they would have to be intelligent for that. And obviously, neither species currently possesses such intelligence. If the myths are based on truth, though, and such animals can, with the help of magic, become sapient, how could we continue to keep them from that?”

    “Animals taking the form of people?” the hostile delegate spat. “What if they breed with humans? We cannot allow that to happen! Earth is no place for half-animal abominations!”

    Adora was really grateful that Catra wasn’t present. Her lover would have ripped into the bigot. Maybe even literally.

    “It figures you’d think of sex right away!” someone else snapped through the muttering this comment caused.

    Entrapta, as usual, was unfazed. “If they can have fertile offspring with humans without technological or magical intervention, they would be the same species, so they would be humans,” she said, smiling. Then she cocked her head to the side and put her finger on her cheek, frowning a little. “Of course, if an inherent magical ability would allow them that, one would have to consider whether or not that classification is still true.” Then she shrugged. “Not that it matters as long as both are intelligent, right?”

    It was obvious that not everyone shared her view.

    “May I remind some of our esteemed colleagues that we’re here to have questions about magic answered, not to debate whether or not magic should be restored,” the British delegate said.

    That helped to quiet things down a little. Only a little, though. And while Entrapta didn’t mind explaining things, Adora was getting a little fed up with it.

    So she had to control her expression while Entrapta told the delegates that, yes, in theory, plants could develop deadly magical poison. But the plants would have had that a thousand years ago, so people would know. And magic wouldn’t suddenly make plants and animals and people change into something else. Well, not without a spell or a device.

    Which didn’t go over well. That genetic engineering could do much more, as Entrapta pointed out in response to the exclamations, didn’t really help either.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, October 3rd, 1998

    “...so it took a few repetitions, but they finally understood how magic works.” Entrapta beamed as her hair fiddled with a few of Samantha Carter’s tools in her lab.

    “You must be saint!” Dr Georgovich - who insisted Sam and Entrapta should call him Iwan - exclaimed. “Explaining to politicians?” He shook his head. “Easier to explain mistake to commissar!”

    “Commissar?” Entrapta cocked her head to the side while her hair didn’t move.

    “Oh, communist commissar. Very bad, very strict, no humour. Used to motivate and punish everyone in old Russia.”

    Entrapta didn’t look like she understood Dr Gregorovich’s black humour, so Sam cut in: “The political commissars were functionaries responsible for the morale of the soviet military. They have a reputation for brutal punishments without often bothering whether or not their victims were actually guilty.”

    “Yes! USSR collectivised everything, including punishment!” Dr Gerogovich chuckled. “One for all, and all for one, da?”

    Entrapta wrinkled her forehead. “That sounds… not very nice.”

    “It was brutal and unjust,” Sam said.

    “Da! Make mistake? Be called saboteur! Other make mistake? Be called saboteur! Off to Gulag either way - if you lucky!”

    “A gulag was a forced labour camp in the USSR,” Sam explained.

    “Oh.”

    “But I think we have exhausted that topic,” Sam went on, narrowing her eyes at her colleague.

    “Ah, yes. Sorry. Not everyone like Russian humour.” Dr Gregorovich nodded. “We were talking about you teaching politicians!”

    “Yes!” Entrapta perked up. “It’s like teaching bots - just tell them until they understand.”

    That reminded Sam of the old joke about trying to explain a joke to a sergeant-major, but she pushed the thought away. She didn’t want to get side-tracked again. “Did you explain magitech as well?”

    “Yes!” Entrapta nodded, then frowned. “I thought that would make them understand how silly their fears are about sorcerers when technology using magic will be much easier to build and use - by anyone, not just sorcerers. But they didn’t seem to understand that.”

    Sam suppressed a sigh. “People generally don’t feel better about something which they’re afraid of if you tell them there are worse things to fear.”

    “Ah.” Entrapta nodded again. “I see.”

    Sam wondered if she did but didn’t ask. That would’ve been rude.

    “Ah! I understand why orders came to focus on magitech research!” Dr Georgovich nodded enthusiastically. “I told superior that I am scientist, not wizard, but did he listen? No!”

    So the Russians were looking into magic combined with technology. Like the United States. Or that was what they wanted you to think - she heard the Colonel’s voice in her mind.

    Not that it mattered - the subject was fascinating. The possibilities were almost endless. And you didn’t need to be a sorceress or princess to work with it - or to build it. But a sorceress in your team should make researching new such technology much easier. Or would - the only trained sorceress amongst the Etherians on Earth was Glimmer, and not only was she very busy with diplomacy, but she also didn’t seem fond of doing research in a laboratory. Well, maybe if they recruited Bow? That might entice his girlfriend to work with them, and… Sam pressed her lips together. That was a very manipulative plan. She knew better than that. She was better than that.

    She’d crack her most recent project soon enough with just Entrapa as a lab partner. Or science buddy, as Entrapta called it.

    But, she added to herself as she saw Dr Georgovich smiling at Entrapta, she would have to consider if she wanted to risk Russia getting access to her project. In theory, she was working for Stargate Command, under the control of the United Nations. In practice, Sam had no doubt that every scientist at the gate had some projects that they weren’t supposed to share. Or at least data.

    “SO!” Entrpata beamed at her. “Want to research bots that can track magic?”

    Sam blinked. That would… Well, it would certainly be very useful. Very powerful. But also very dangerous for anyone with magical talent. And it wouldn’t be very hard to construct - she had some ideas about the magic scanner they had built. If it could use magic to detect Naqadah, it was likely that magic was detectable as well. And…

    She sighed. She really hated to do this to Entrapta, but even if it wouldn’t prevent someone from inventing this in the future, the last thing they needed was a magic detector on Earth right now. “I would love to, but there is a problem with that…”

    *****​

    Earth Orbit, Solar System, October 3rd, 1998

    “...and tensions remain high between India and Pakistan despite the Secretary-General of the United Nations personally meeting with both country’s prime ministers. Protests in support of Pakistan have erupted in several Arab countries, and the police had to stop a mob attacking India’s embassy in Riad with lethal force…”

    “...and then we’ll cover how this new development will affect the numerous Indian migrant workers in the Gulf States…”

    “...PETA stated that with the possibility of animals gaining sapience thanks to magic, eating meat now definitely was murder, and called for the immediate abolishment of…”

    “...latest polls show even greater support for the proposed amendment to the constitution regarding gay marriage and other rights, although a number of holdout states and members of congress continue to…”

    “...rumours about the Etherians planning to address the United Nations about the state of human rights in the world persist, though nothing has been confirmed yet, and…”

    “...Amnesty International voiced their concerns about the state of human rights in Etheria, citing the lack of formalised protections and international oversight, and the absence of democratic structures and a free press in the countries ruled by monarchies as worrying, and…”

    Catra rolled her eyes. “Why do they have so many channels if it’s all the same?”

    “It’s not the same,” Hordak said, moving the bowl with snacks a little closer to him. “You can spot the biases of every news organisation by comparing them to each other.”

    Catra snorted. “And since when are you an expert on news agencies? The Horde didn’t have any news!” Only propaganda.

    “But the Horde had scouting and reconnaissance troops, whose reports I read regularly.” He sounded a little smug. “I learned what was lost between the lines of any report depending on who made it.”

    She snorted again.”I know how bad the casualty rates were in that branch. How long did a regular scout last?”

    Hordak huffed and stuffed some fried corn into his mouth. Probably to avoid answering her. “Long enough.”

    Catra grinned. “You mean, you knew a few soldiers and how they worked.”

    “Just like there are a few channels worth watching,” he shot back.

    “Whatever,” Catra said, grabbing a drink. “We can’t…”

    “There you are!”

    Catra turned her head. Adora had burst into the lounge. “Yes?” she said, her ears twitching. Adora knew she had been taking a break in the lounge.

    “We have a problem!”

    “What?”

    “Did something happen to Entrapta?” Hordak said, getting up.

    Catra tensed. If anything had happened, it would have been on Earth. And Entrapta was the only one of them currently on the planet, having taken the shuttle down to Stargate Command. Everyone else was on Darla.

    Adora blinked. “Uh, not that I’d know.” She shook her head. “But we have a problem - we have fan mail!”

    “Fan mail?” Catra cocked her head.

    “Yes, fan mail! People who like us are writing to us to tell us that they like us!” Adora nodded emphatically.

    “And why is that a problem?” Catra asked. That sounded like, well, not a bad thing.

    “Because we haven’t been answering them!”

    Oh.

    *****​

    “How did that happen?” Glimmer sounded angry - and looked angry - but Catra couldn’t help suspecting that her anger wasn’t so much because of the fan mail problem but because her time with Bow had been interrupted. Her clothes did look a little rumpled.

    “Well…” Adora looked a little guilty, too, for interrupting them, Catra thought. “Apparently, since we didn’t have an official mail address, the mail was shuffled back and forth between various countries without getting delivered. Some letters were returned to the sender.”

    “And they didn’t tell us?” Glimmer growled.

    “Well, they did, today - kind of. Mostly by accident, when a clerk in the United Nations wanted to know if we now had an official mail address. It seems that they had to screen the mail for poison and bombs and such, and then tried to find an official mailing address, and kind of sent the mail back forth between the countries before storing it all in America and going through the diplomatic channels to ask us about it. But we found out that the request never reached us.” Adora frowned. “I don’t know how that could happen. They could have just sent it to Stargate Command and let them contact us.”

    “Back home, I’d blame Kyle,” Catra said with a chuckle.

    “Or it was sabotage,” Hordak added.

    Catra doubted that. It sounded more like some screwup. Unless, of course, there were important messages that had gotten lost as well. She narrowed her eyes. “So, they scanned our mail for bombs and poison? And maybe sensitive information?”

    “We should have gotten an official mail address,” Bow said. “We should get one, in fact.”

    “Yes!” Adora agreed. “And we need to answer our mail! And apologise for not doing so sooner!”

    “Great,” Catra grumbled. As if they didn’t have better and more important things to do. But Adora cared about that. And Catra cared about her. “Let’s go and collect the mail, then.”

    There went her relaxing evening in the lounge.

    *****​

    US Postal Service Storage Facility, New York, Earth, October 3rd, 1998

    “...and I am terribly sorry about this. We didn’t know you weren’t informed, so we just kept storing the mail. We didn’t want to bother you, you know - and we couldn’t. We’re storage, not customer service. We asked the management to contact you; that was all we could do.” The flunky in the ugly uniform was wringing his hands, Catra noted. Not that she cared. Not faced with…

    “We need to get Darla down here,” Adora said. “That won’t fit into the shuttle.”

    “I’m not sure it’ll fit into Darla’s hold,” Bow said.

    “Not without stuffing every nook and cranny with letters, including the lab,” Glimmer said.

    …a small mountain of letters. Catra shook her head. How could the people on Earth have missed so many letters? Usually, they loved their paperwork!

    “I’m really sorry, but regulations being regulations…”

    Catra glared at the man, and he shut up.

    “Well…” Adora grimaced. “I think this will take us a little longer to process than I expected.”

    “We could just set it on fire,” Catra suggested.

    Glimmer looked like she’d agree, but Adora gasped. “Catra!”

    “So, that’s a no?”

    “Catra!”

    *****​

    Dear She-Ra! Are you really a Princess? Art, that’s my brother, said princesses are stupid and not real, but I saw you on TV! You are so pretty and tall and strong! How can I become a princess? Love, Maggie

    Catra snorted, folded the letter and put it back into the envelope, then waved it at Adora. “Here’s another one for you!”

    Adora sighed as she took it and put it on the huge stack next to it. “Thanks.”

    “No problem.” Adora’s stack was the biggest so far, Catra saw. Well, that was to be expected - Adora was the greatest, after all. The humans had good taste.

    Catra grinned as she picked up the next letter.

    Dear Bow! I just wanted to let you know that I think you’re the best! A techmaster and archer, you’re like a black Green Arrow! Do you have the same trick arrows as he has? If you don’t know Green Arrow, he’s a superhero, only he doesn’t have any special powers, except for his trick arrows, and he’s a master archer! I’m taking archery lessons already! Is Bow your superhero name, and do you have a secret identity? Yours sincerely, Tim.

    “Bow, you’ve got a fan!” Catra grinned and threw the letter over to Bow.

    “Thanks!” He smiled, though he looked a little… disturbed.

    “What’s wrong?” Glimmer had noticed it as well.

    “Just…” He sighed, then held up a letter. “They’re thanking me for being a good black role model. And they said their son’s father was in prison, and they’ve been trying to find good role models for their kid… They’re asking if I could visit the kid’s school.”

    Ah. Catra suppressed a snort.

    “Well, we should have time to visit a school…” Adora said.

    “And then turn every other request down?” Glimmer shook her head. “We can’t visit everyone who asks.”

    Adora frowned. “But they’re so earnest… This girl asks me to come show her class that girls loving girls is OK.”

    “Where is it from?” Bow asked.

    “Canada.”

    “I think they already know that there,” Glimmer said,

    “Well, it seems no one told their school yet,” Adora said. “Although the letter’s a month old.” She put it down on another pile after pinning the envelope to it.

    “I think their government already told everyone that girls loving girls is perfectly fine,” Catra said. At least she remembered a letter thanking them for showing that gay marriage was a human right from there. “Canada’s on the list for an alliance meeting, right?”

    “Yes,” Glimmer said. “They haven’t pushed, though.”

    “They’re probably too polite for that,” Catra joked.

    “Oh! This one’s for you, Glimmer!”

    “Thanks.” Glimmer tried to act as if she didn’t care, but Catra had caught her glancing at the much larger stack of letters for Adora a few times. Glimmer opened the letter and blinked. “They’re thanking me for doing so much to return magic. And… they invite me to visit their coven? And share my knowledge of magic, but only if I want to?”

    “What’s a coven?” Adora asked.

    “A group of witches working together, part of Earth’s magical traditions,” Glimmer said.

    “We don’t have time to visit every coven,” Catra reminded her. “Besides, magic hasn’t been restored yet. You’d just have tea with them.”

    “They want the visit after magic has been restored,” Glimmer said. But she was pouting.

    Well, that was her problem. It wasn’t as if Catra cared about the fact that the number of letters addressed to her was smaller than Glimmer’s. She wasn’t a princess, after all.

    And, she spat with a slight hiss after reading the next letter, “I don’t hunt mice!”

    Glimmer chuckled.

    “Really,” Catra complained. “Why are so many people interested in my fur and ears and tails?”

    “Most of us look like humans. You’re different,” Bow said.

    “And you’re much prettier than Hordak,” Adora added with a smile.

    Well, of course, she was! Catra straightened a little. “That’s why they want pictures.” Lots of picture requests, actually. Almost as many as Adora’s, if the stacks were any indication.

    “Signed pictures are commonly traded on Earth, I believe,” Bow said.

    “And we can print them en bloc and send them out without losing too much time,” Glimmer said.

    “We could also create action figures!” Bow said, smiling. “Or figurines.”

    “Yeah, because we want people playing games with us.” Catra snorted.

    “Well, that wouldn’t be bad, would it?” Bow asked.

    “Who cares.” Catra shrugged. “We’re here to protect Earth and find allies, not to sell pictures or figurines.”

    “We wouldn’t sell the pictures,” Adora said.

    “We actually should,” Glimmer corrected her. “Or we’ll be swamped in requests. More than we already are,” she added with a glance at the mountain that had barely shrunk in the hours since they started. Still too much for the shuttle. And too much for Darla’s hold. Maybe they could commandeer a frigate’s hold for this…

    “Oh.” Adora gasped.

    “What?” Catra narrowed her eyes.

    “This boy said his parents were in heaven and, since we have spaceships, asked if I could bring them back…” Adora sighed and put the letter down.

    Catra suppressed a curse. Damn, she had thought the letters from people calling them names and wishing them dead were bad, but this… “Let’s take a break!”

    “But we still have so many letters to go through…”

    “Yes. And they’re not going to disappear,” Catra told her.

    Unfortunately.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, October 4th, 1998

    “Fan mail?” Jack O’Neill resisted the urge to mime cleaning his ears. Carter wouldn’t appreciate it - she had glared at his latest joke, even though that had been a good one. Probably encountered some problem she couldn’t solve easily. Although he couldn’t spot anything like it in the lab. Maybe it was some theoretical physics stuff.

    “Yes, Sir,” Carter said, nodding. “The Etherians apparently received vast amounts of fan mail and are now undecided about the best way to cope with it.”

    “What’s the problem? Write a form letter, print it a few hundred times, send it to everyone. Or hire people to send the letters if that’s beneath a princess,” Jack said.

    “The amount of mail they received was much larger than a few hundred letters,” Carter replied. “Apparently, due to a bureaucratic mishap and unclear regulations for international mail delivery as well as some politics at the United Nations, all the mail addressed at them - at least from North America and Europe - was collected since their arrival.”

    Jack whistled. That would have to be a lot of letters! And a bureaucratic mistake? He would bet that this was part of an attempt to gather intel. Or control what the Etherians heard from Earth. Just what the NID would do. Still… Even a mountain of letters just meant the Etherians would need to hire more people and print more form letters. So why wouldn’t they? “Is there some Etherian cultural thingie that means they have to reply personally to every letter?”

    Daniel was frowning at him, but Jack couldn’t tell whether that was for his wording or not knowing if there was such a taboo.

    “I doubt that,” Carter replied. “Entrapta told me that she wanted to construct a reply-bot.”

    Jack nodded. That fit the princess. “Could you ask her if she could construct a paperwork-bot?” he joked. Well, semi-joked. Some help writing reports would be nice.

    Carter was rolling her eyes, so her mood must have improved. “I will not abuse my friendship with her to save you from doing your work, Sir.”

    Jack carefully didn’t point out that relaying to your superiors what your alien buddy told you while you were tinkering in your lab was a sort of friendship abuse by itself. He would do the same in her place - the Etherians were crucial for the world’s defence, after all, and anything that upset them could have catastrophic consequences.

    Besides, people had been doing this kind of gossipping since ancient times. Probably since the time of the Ancients.

    “Uh…” Daniel pushed his glasses up. “Entrapta might not have the same cultural views on answering mail as her friends - they do come from different kingdoms on Etheria, and Etherian culture, even though it might appear so from an outsider’s point of view, is very diverse. In fact, I would bet that, without the global media networks, Etheria’s culture is more diverse than Earth’s, at least relative to their population.”

    That was a lot of words for ‘other Etherians might have that rule’.

    “That’s possible.” Carter nodded, but Jack could tell she wanted to contradict Daniel.

    “Anyway,” Jack spoke up, “our alien friends having to cope with letters from their adoring fans doesn’t look like a huge problem.” Or any problem at all.

    Carter shook her head. “There were also letters from people who didn’t like them. Some were rather… crude.”

    Ah. “I hope they aren’t planning to answer those in person.” That could be a problem - Jack didn’t want to imagine what Catra might do to someone threatening her. Or Adora. Or propositioning them.

    “Not to my knowledge, Sir,” Carter replied.

    “Good.”

    “The Etherians, despite the medieval aesthetics of some of their cultures, do not share the kind of warrior culture that requires insults to be repaid with violence,” Daniel said.

    Jack looked at Teal’c. The Jaffa, on the other hand… It was probably a good thing Teal’c wasn’t receiving such mail.

    “Indeed,” Teal’c spoke up as if he had read Jack’s thoughts. “Although while Jaffa society differs in that area, it would be dishonourable for a trained warrior to actually fight an untrained civilian over such insults. However, a thrashing, as you would call it, would be perfectly appropriate.”

    Of course, pretty much every adult Jaffa was trained in combat, Jack knew. He nodded anyway. “So… what do you think they’ll do? Should we give them advice on how to treat cramps in your hand?” He grinned - Adora would easily heal that, anyway.

    Carter straightened. “Ultimately, it’s their decision, Sir.”

    “But we can give them advice on what’s an appropriate response in our society,” Daniel said.

    “And we don’t want them spending all their time writing letters by hand to explain to little Timmy that they won’t blow up his school to save him from his homework,” Jack joked.

    “No, we don’t,” Carter said. “I already told Entrapta that there’s no expectation of a personal reply in such cases.”

    “Looking out for your science buddy?” Jack smiled. Carter probably also didn’t want Entrpata to waste time on answering letters instead of doing science with her.

    “Sharing data.” Her smile was a little toothy. He probably shouldn’t joke about being jealous of letters. “But, apparently, they have received a number of requests for personal visits.”

    “And are they planning to do that?” Jack asked. They’d need good security - with all the furore about magic, there was bound to be a nutcase who would try to blow up the ‘evil aliens’. He blinked. ‘Furore’? He must have been listening to Daniel a bit too much lately.

    “I don’t know, Sir. It’s apparently something they still have to discuss.”

    “Like the return of magic?” Jack asked.

    “Entrapta seems to be under the impression that they are merely waiting for the right moment to do that, Sir.”

    Great. Jack clenched his teeth. He wasn’t looking forward to dealing with Dungeons and Dragons in real life. And if some idiot decided that Jack might have a magical talent because of his Ancient ancestry and wanted to send him to magic school…

    He really wouldn’t like that.

    *****​
     
  22. macdjord

    macdjord Well worn.

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    ... now I want a 'Jack O'Neill Teaches Defense Against the Dark Arts' fic.
     
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  23. Tiktog

    Tiktog Experienced.

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    Man, that would go fantastically wrong when he realizes Dumbledore semi-allows this.
     
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  24. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Drill camp for everyone. But he might become a target for the twins.

    I tend to adapt Dumbledore into the character he is supposed to be, not the character his (in)actions in canon would show since I think in canon, he was a plot device first, character second.
     
  25. Tiktog

    Tiktog Experienced.

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    Well most of it wasn't too bad. 1st year he got tricked, second year he got ousted, third year is one of the big ones with convincing Harry and Hermione to go back in time.
     
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  26. Threadmarks: Chapter 47: The Magic Question Part 3
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 47: The Magic Question Part 3

    Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, October 7th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    They were facing the full assembly of the United Nations. So many countries were represented here. If Adora hadn’t faced them before, and if she hadn’t attended Princess Prom, she would feel nervous. Well, more nervous. This was, after all, an important meeting. For everyone. Fortunately, Adora didn’t have to take the lead here.

    “...and we welcome Queen Glimmer of Bright Moon, who will address the Assembly.”

    Adora watched as Glimmer, wearing her coronation outfit - or something like it - rose and walked up to the microphone.

    “Thank you!” She smiled and put her up notes - Bow had installed a small projector on her pad so she could read her speech without glancing down all the time. “I’m happy to be here and talk about an important issue - two important issues, although they are related. First, I want to announce that the Princess Alliance will support the United Nations and enforce international law in the case of genocide. We, the people of Etheria, were the target of such crimes, and while we managed to defeat the criminal aiming to murder us all and destroy our planet, many other planets suffered this fate before us. We would dishonour the memory of those people if we would look away should someone else attempt a genocide. As we came to Earth to stop the Goa’uld from invading your planet and murdering your civilisation, we will protect you against such crimes committed by others on your planet. Just as your own laws stipulate, we will do what we can to stop any such crime.” Glimmer nodded.

    Adora didn’t miss that not everyone in the audience seemed very enthusiastic. Actually, a lot of the ambassadors who applauded seemed to be doing so with polite smiles rather than honest or enthusiastic support. And a lot of the audience looked angry and were talking to their neighbours.

    “Told you so,” Catra whispered. “They care more about their sovereignty than their own laws. Or the lives of others.”

    Adora didn’t frown - that would have been misunderstood, what with cameras covering everyone - but she whispered back: “Just because they are concerned about us trying to impose our will on them doesn’t mean they would rather face a genocide.”

    “Someone listened once too often to Glimmer practising the speech.” Catra had the last word before Glimmer started talking again.

    “This does not mean that we will invade a country or impose our own laws or customs on anyone. All we will do, should a country or organisation attempt a genocide, is to stop them and capture the criminals.” Glimmer nodded. “We are not planning to start a war, change a country’s government or political system. We will absolutely not occupy a country. But if anyone is starting a genocide, we will stop them.”

    “And what is your definition of genocide?” one ambassador yelled. Adora checked the flag - it was Saudi Arabia.

    They had prepared for that. “Acts with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group,” Glimmer replied. “That’s in your own Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which your country ratified decades ago.”

    “And what about the permanent members of the Security Council?” another ambassador - from Algeria - asked before she could continue.

    Adora pressed her lips together. They had expected that question as well, but she had hoped they could address it after the speech.

    Glimmer, though, raised her chin slightly. “I do not think any of those countries will attempt to support genocide in that manner. However, the Princess Alliance is of the opinion that, should a genocide be attempted, saving lives takes precedence over adhering to formalities.”

    That caused an uproar, and Adora clenched her teeth. Did they really expect the Alliance to let any country stop them from saving people?

    “This is an attempt to take over the world!” someone yelled just as the noise started to die down - Adora didn’t catch who said it.

    “No,” Glimmer replied, her amplified voice filling the assembly. “This is not an attempt to take over the world. This is just a warning - if you attempt genocide, we will stop you. Just as your own laws stipulate and expect of you. We will not let you murder people for the crime of being born, no matter who you are or who you are allied with.”

    The assembly erupted in shouting and yelling again.

    “Looks like genocide is more popular than we thought,” Catra commented with a sneer.

    This time, Adora frowned at her.

    *****​

    It took a bit of time for the assembly to calm down - the Secretary-General had to step in and remind a few of the ambassadors that they were in public and had to behave with a certain decorum, though it wasn’t as bad as the Princess Prom had been. No one attacked anyone, in any case. And there had been Alliance meetings that had been as loud and contested, though those were private.

    But finally, Glimmer could continue her speech. “In addition to clarifying our stance towards genocide, we are also here to inform you about our decision with regards to Earth’s magic.”

    “Here it comes!” Catra whispered - she sounded as if she were looking forward to this. She probably was, Adora realised.

    “After considerable deliberation and consulting various trusted people, we have decided that we will honour the request to restore magic to Earth. We have…”

    Glimmer’s voice was drowned by shouting and yelling, even louder than before - it almost hurt Adora’s ears, and she saw Catra clench her teeth and flatten her ears. Adora knew how sensitive her lover’s ears were; this had to hurt her.

    She reached out and patted Catra’s thigh. As she tried to make out what the people were yelling.

    “This is an outrage!”

    “How dare you force magic on us!”

    “Blasphemy!

    “Finally!”

    “We will not let you corrupt our people!”

    “This wasn’t your decision!”

    “You have no right to do this!”

    “No, you have no right to keep us from regaining our heritage!”

    “This is an act of war!”

    “You are changing our entire life on a whim!”

    “Take your magic and leave!”

    It took a few more minutes until people had calmed down - no, until people stopped screaming. Adora had no doubt that they hadn’t really calmed down. Not the people who were glaring at her friends and herself.

    Glimmer, who had weathered the storm without showing her annoyance, except for narrowing her eyes, continued: “As I explained, we decided to honour the request to return magic to your planet. We are aware that this is a controversial issue, but we do not think that anyone has the right to dictate to another that they cannot use magic; it’s your heritage. It’s part of your natural environment. Your planet had magic until a thousand years ago, and it will regain what was stolen from it.”

    “You’re forcing this on us!”

    “No one forces you to use magic,” Glimmer went on without glancing at the ambassador of Kuwait, who had blurted that out. “But we will not let those who hate and fear magic for petty and bigoted reasons dictate how everyone else on the planet should live.”

    Adora nodded. Just as they wouldn’t let the bigots oppress people like her and Catra.

    “You can’t just dismiss our concerns!” the ambassador of Saudi Arabia yelled. “This is against our religion. You are trying to change our way of life by force!”

    “And we don’t care!” Catra hissed through clenched teeth - fortunately, not into a microphone.

    “Your concerns are unfounded,” Glimmer replied. “You fear magic, yet you embrace technology. And you desire advanced technology that will change your life much more than magic - and is far more dangerous. And can be used by anyone.”

    “This is the core of the issue,” said the ambassador of… Adora had to squint to read the sign. Of Nigeria. “Anyone can use technology. Only a few, as you explained, can use magic. We do not want to be ruled by witches and wizards.”

    Catra rolled her eyes.

    “And you won’t,” Glimmer told them. “As we explained multiple times, it takes both talent and years of study to gain any significant skill at magic - and even with both, you won’t be able to subjugate a country, much less the world.”

    “You are ruling your country,” the ambassador retorted.

    “Yes,” Glimmer replied. “And several countries on Earth are ruled by monarchs as well.” She looked at the ambassador of Saudi Arabia. “But I didn’t conquer Bright Moon with magic.”

    Adora glanced at Catra, but her lover refrained from commenting that Angella had conquered it. Or might have - the records were a little vague.

    “And in our war against the Horde, several kingdoms ruled by princesses fell to an enemy who didn’t use magic, but technology.” Glimmer shook her head. “The return of magic will not lead to monarchies being restored or imposed on you.”

    “But a few might get toppled,” Catra whispered, baring her teeth.

    Adora glared at her. That wasn’t helping!

    “This will cause a panic,” the ambassador of Sudan said. “People will accuse each other of being evil witches! People will die!”

    “People are already dying,” Glimmer said. “You don’t need magic to have witch hunts.”

    “But it’ll be worse, now that people know it’s real!”

    “Yes.” Glimmer nodded, her expression fixed. “It will get worse. But it’ll also get better once you realise what magic can and can’t do. If we don’t restore magic, not only would we be helping those amongst you who wish to keep what was stolen from you out of ignorance and selfishness, but we would still see witch hunts.” She narrowed her eyes. “And all the bigots would have realised that they can force their views on others if they threaten to hurt and kill enough people. And that would mean things would grow far, far worse.” She shook her head. “If the threat of people being murdered would be enough to make us keep magic from being restored to Earth, we might as well surrender to the Goa’uld because they wouldn’t hesitate to murder their slaves if they thought that would make us back down.” She scoffed. “It won’t.”

    Adora firmly nodded. As much as she hated how this decision would lead to people getting hurt and killed, the alternative would be worse. You could not give in to people who would hurt others to make you obey them. You wouldn’t save anyone that way.

    “You could delay this, though! Let us adapt slowly to it!” the ambassador of South Africa said.

    “We have been delaying this.” Glimmer shook her head. “We’ve explained what magic is, how it works, what you can expect. If people still think magic is evil after our explanations, then delaying further won’t help either.”

    “Yeah,” Catra muttered. “Let’s get this over with so we can focus on the war instead of on idiots.”

    Adora frowned at her, but Catra had a point. This had already taken too long. Far too long. People were suffering under the rule of the Goa’uld. It was time to settle this.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, October 8th, 1998

    “So, they said I shouldn’t build a reply-bot because we don’t know enough about Earth customs regarding correspondence. And I said that if we don’t know enough to build a reply-bot, we don’t know enough to reply ourselves.”

    Samantha Carter nodded and tried to suppress the sudden and petty burst of annoyance she felt upon hearing that. She had been looking forward to working on probe bots, not explaining how you wrote form letters without offending the recipient. It wasn’t a subject she was very experienced with, anyway. Well, if you counted the ‘Dear John’ letter she had to write at the academy, before her first deployment, but…

    Entrapta shrugged. “So, they’re going to talk to Julie and Mr Brown about that and then tell me if I can build a bot.” She beamed. “I hope I can - I’ve never built a reply-bot. It would be an entirely new bot type. Very delicate manipulators, so it can write using Earth pens. And a new control matrix since it would need a completely different set of parameters to handle is task compared to a usual bot. I mean, I built lots of different bots, from combat bots to servant bots, but I haven’t really focused on language expression - so far, their sound emitters using a set of signals was good enough, as long as they understood me.” She blinked. “In hindsight, that was a little unfair, wasn’t it? They could understand my language but not speak it. None of them complained, ever - well, not even when they went all murderous after getting infected with a First One virus - but maybe others would have been nicer to them if they could talk?”

    Sam nodded. “People do treat you differently if you can speak their language.” Whether it also went for bots… she didn’t know. Would a bot be seen like C-3PO or Data? A sapient being? Or like Ed-209? Emily talking, perhaps with a British accent, would likely be off-putting. Then again, humans had a tendency for anthropomorphism. People attributed human traits and emotions to their pets and computers - not that Sam would ever do that! - and so doing that to bots would only be logical.

    “Then we should work on that!” Entrapta nodded. “It’ll make all bots better, too - probe bots will be able to report what they saw and answer questions!”

    “That would also introduce bias with regards to their data, though,” Sam pointed out. “Since they would have to interpret the data to report it. Unless they just repeat the numbers.” But that would be a waste of a language module.

    “Right. Even with self-learning matrices, we couldn’t be sure about the results of their interpretation. But wouldn’t it still be helpful? As a second opinion? As long as we treat the data without being biased, which any scientist should, anyway. Right?”

    Sam nodded. It was time to do science.

    *****​

    “I think we should take a break,” Samantha Carter said a few hours later, resisting the urge to run her hands through her hair before she got them cleaned - Etherian bots used lubricants as well, after all, though how exactly they had arrived at prototyping new manipulators from mapping out language matrices was a little unclear in hindsight.

    “Aw…” Entrapta pouted, her hair still holding a small scouting bot’s parts in the air. Then she blinked. “Although now that you mention it, Hordak said I should eat more regularly when working.”

    “Where is Hordak, anyway?” Sam asked before she could help herself. While the former warlord didn’t come along with Entrapta every time she came to the mountain, Sam hadn’t seen him for some time.

    “He’s checking with Priest about planetary drop tactics,” Entrapta replied while rooting through the fridge in Sam’s lab. “Do you have some of those tiny snickers I saw on TV?”

    “No, sorry. You’re the first person I met who prefers the small bars to the full-size bars,” Sam replied. “I’ll order some for your next visit.”

    “Thank you!”

    Sam made a note, then frowned. “Planetary drops?”

    “Yes. In case the fleet needs to intervene on Earth. They’re worried about that, you know?”

    Sam had known about the announcement to the United Nations regarding genocide - she was sure almost everyone on Earth had heard about it, the way the news had spread. Some pundits were claiming this was the first step to invading Earth. “Do you expect to intervene?”

    Entrapta shrugged. “It seems illogical, but if everyone acted logically, people wouldn’t fear magic. Catra thinks someone - some country - will be stupid enough to attempt genocide out of spite. Bow thinks they won’t since genocide is illegal on Earth. Glimmer agreed with Catra, but she was mad when she did that. Adora said she hopes that we won’t have to intervene.”

    That was a very detailed report. “Well, many people are afraid of magic,” Sam carefully said. “And they tend to lash out against what they fear. It’s irrational but common.”

    “It’s stupid,” Entrapta said, nibbling on a Snickers. “We’ve explained how magic works several times. Even a restricted bot would have understood by now.”

    That was pretty harsh for Entrapta. She didn’t seem very concerned about the potential deaths that the Etherians’ decision might cause, though. “Do you think you will be able to stop any genocides?” Sam asked.

    “I guess so? Once we hear about it, in any case. We’re moving more ships into orbit so we have more ground troops. Mostly bots, but they should work for this kind of mission.” Entrapta shrugged again.

    “Many people could be killed before anyone notices,” Sam commented. That had been the case with Rwanda a few years ago.

    “Yeah, but we’re keeping an eye on the countries that were the worst about it so far.”

    She couldn’t help it - she had to ask. “You don’t seem to be worried.”

    “Worried?” Entratpa tilted her head to the side in an almost comical fashion.

    “About the deaths,” Sam explained. “You won’t be able to stop all killings since you need to detect them first before you can intervene.”

    “Oh!” Entrapta nodded. “Yes, but that can’t be helped. I thought about improving our scanner so we can spot lives ending, but that is tricky - lots of humans die every minute - and Catra told me that it would be depressing if we just watched people die without being able to help. I think she meant Adora would find it depressing - Catra’s usually not really bothered about that.”

    “Seeing people die is not something everyone can handle,” Sam pointed out.

    “I know.” Entrapta nodded. “We can just do our best and go on.”

    That sounded like something someone told Entrapta, and she took it to heart. “Who said that?” Sam asked.

    “Perfuma. She’s very good about that stuff. I wish we had taken her with us,” Entrapta said.

    Sam didn’t know the other princess well enough - or at all - to agree. But things could have gotten better with the Etherians, that was certain.

    On the other hand, Sam was only too aware of how much worse things could have gone. If Perfuma thought the Etherians should intervene more on Earth, to do their best… “Let’s get back to work,” she said.

    *****​

    Earth Orbit, Solar System, October 8th, 1998

    “...and the riots in India have spread to most northern states. The military, already mobilising to protect the border, has been ordered to reinforce security forces. The number of deaths hasn’t been determined yet as reports are still coming in from more remote parts of the country where protests and counter-protests clash violently, often fueled by ethnic and religious tension as well, and…”

    “...the group of anti-magic protesters holding a vigil in front of the Reichstag has required police protection from counter-protestors accusing them of being bigots, and…”

    “...in response to the riots that killed dozens of migrant workers from India in the Gulf States, the Indian Prime Minister accused the UAE of deliberately neglecting their duty to protect the residents in their countries and called for ‘all sons and daughters of India to return home’, threatening that any attempts to prevent them from leaving the UAE would be seen as a hostile act against India, and…”

    “...Egypt, where the situation had barely calmed down since the riots following the catastrophic explosion, the military has moved against the protestors with brutal force as reports of people getting lynched as ‘witches’ and ‘blasphemers’ mount, and…”

    “...Israel Defense Forces have been put on full alert again, and reservists have been called up as the country prepares for an upswing in violence following the fighting between factions in the Westbank, and…”

    “...French troops have secured the airport to organise an evacuation as law and order in the capital of Mali are breaking down, and mobs started witch hunts…”

    “...in Kabul released a statement declaring their intent to fight ‘blasphemers and witches to the death’, although, so far, it remains unclear who exactly the Taliban consider as such and how they plan to fight them. Experts commented that…”

    “... of the European Union denounced the anti-magic violence and called for swift and decisive action to prevent further loss of life…”

    “...the Arab League denounced both the Princess Alliance as well as India and Japan for causing this ‘avoidable tragedy with their blatant attempt to oppress Islam and force magic on our people’ and once again called on the United Nations to pass a resolution banning magic from Earth, which…”

    “...Japanese government released a statement that Japan did not feel responsible for the violent actions of people trying to prevent Japan from recovering its cultural and religious heritage, and offered India their full diplomatic support in…”

    “...the president has released a statement that all US citizens in countries affected by the sudden surge of anti-magic violence should evacuate…”

    “...the stock exchanges are reeling as several major oil exporters in the Middle East announced an oil embargo against ‘any country supporting the imperialist actions of the Etherians’. The United States is expected to release the strategic reserve any day, and several members of the Senate have been calling to secure the oil supply even though the United States has not been put on an embargo so far, and…”

    “...protests in several European cities have been demanding the release of advanced technology to compensate the effects of the oil embargo even as Russia announced stepping up production…”

    “...a group of Wiccan celebrating the imminent return of magic were attacked in Los Angeles, leaving two seriously wounded. The LAPD originally judged it to be a gang-related shooting but was forced to widen the investigation to cover a possible hate crime, and is expected…”

    “...der Bundeskanzler wiederholte, dass Deutschlands strategische Ölreserven freigegeben werden würden und dass die Regierung alle nötigen Massnahmen treffen werde, um die Versorgung des Landes zu gewährleisten. Genauere Angaben zu den Massnahmen machte er nicht, aber…”

    “...Indonesian government has declared a state of emergency and ordered a curfew in response to growing unrest…”

    “...Swedish authorities stated that the apparent suicide of a family of five in Stockholm was being investigated and that reports of the family being very religious and concerned about magic ‘corrupting their souls’ could not be confirmed at the moment…”

    “...have announced to fight the ‘blasphemous forces of the devil to the last bullet and barricaded themselves in their church when police officers arrived on the premises. So far, it’s unclear what prompted the police intervention, but locals are already voicing their concern that this might lead to another Waco-style massacre if not handled carefully and…”

    “...the Pope has released a statement calling on all Catholics to remain calm and assuring them that the return of magic was no threat to their immortal souls provided they wouldn’t…”

    “...leader of the protesters in front of the White House stated that they wouldn’t go home until the government banned magic in the United States, claiming that the United States was a Christian country and…”

    “...the Met intervened and broke up a so-called ‘exorcism’. A child of eight years was moved to a hospital for treatment, and…”

    Catra flicked the screen off and shook her head. “They’ve gone crazy.” At least the rioting and worse was limited to countries in the Middle East and Africa, for the most part.

    “This is awful!” Adora blurted out. “We have to do something!”

    “And what can we do?” Glimmer asked. She pointed at the bridge’s window, where Earth was floating beneath them. “Start conquering Earth?”

    “No, but…” Adora shook her head. “This is our fault.”

    Catra hissed. “It’s not our fault!”

    “If we hadn’t announced our decision to return magic, this wouldn’t have happened.”

    Well, she wasn’t wrong, Not technically. But…

    “Should we have bowed to pressure and kept magic from those who wanted it back?” Glimmer asked with a frown.

    “No, but…” Adora pressed her lips together. “We shouldn’t have done it like that.”

    “We knew that there would be violence,” Glimmer retorted. “Like when we revealed ourselves.”

    “But we didn’t think it would be that bad,” Adora shot back. “It wasn’t that bad back then.”

    “It’s not your fault,” Catra said. “Nor our fault. As Glimmer said - if we bow to violence, we might as well surrender to the Goa’uld.”

    “But those aren’t the Goa’uld down there! They aren’t brainwashed soldiers or slaves fooled by evil fake gods!” Adora protested.

    “Doesn’t look like much of a difference to me,” Catra scoffed. “Attacking people over magic sounds pretty evil to me.”

    Glimmer nodded but she looked grim. “Yes. We can’t bow to the threat of violence. Not from anyone.”

    Bow, thought, shook his head. “We should have handled this better. We could have… avoided this.”

    Catra snorted, even though she didn’t feel amused. “Really? Sat down with the witch hunters and politely explained that they’re wrong? Showed them the light? Explained how magic works?”

    “Yes!” Adora blurted out as Bow nodded.

    “We did that at the United Nations, and we couldn’t even convince their ambassadors,” Glimmer pointed out. “Why do you think this would have worked better with the people in their countries?”

    “And how long would that have taken?” Catra added. She sneered. “Should we have told India and Japan, and everyone else who isn’t an idiot, that they can’t get magic back because it might offend the same people who were offended by our relationship and provoke them into rioting?”

    Adora bit her lower lip. “Well, no, but…”

    “We could have made more of an effort to convince people that magic isn’t going to ruin their lives,” Bow said.

    Glimmer glared at him, which was a bit of a surprise. “Yes, we could have done it. And it would have been a waste of time. They don’t listen! We keep telling them how magic works, and they do not listen!”

    “Some are concerned about magic causing more problems,” Bow retorted.

    “Yes. And those people aren’t down here rioting and murdering others!” Glimmer yelled as she jumped to her feet. “The fanatics are! The people who hate everyone who isn’t like them and want to kill them!” She bared her teeth. “I am sick and tired of trying to talk to them, trying to reach them, trying to make nice with them when they DO. NOT. WANT. TO. LISTEN!”

    She screamed the last words and stalked out of the door.

    Catra looked at Adora, who looked shocked, and then at Bow, who looked like Scorpia had hit him with a tank. “I think Glimmer needs a break from diplomacy,” she said.

    Adora slowly nodded.

    Bow shook his head. “She needs…” He trailed off.

    “Go talk to her,” Catra told him. After a moment, she nodded at Adora. “Both of you.” For all her words, Glimmer wasn’t taking this well.

    Bow was already moving, but Adora looked at him, then at Catra.

    “Go! She needs you,” Catra told her. “I’ll keep watch here.”

    And, she added to herself as Adora left the bridge, I’ll try to ignore the insanity down there.

    It’s not our fault, she repeated to herself.

    Yet she still felt guilty.

    *****​

    Dulles International Airport, Washington DC, October 10th, 1998

    Jack O’Neill watched the truck - the second truck - leave the hangar. He half-expected a few letters to fall off it, to be blown across the tarmac by the soft breeze he could feel, but whoever had done the loading had done a good job with the Etherians’ fan mail. “I pity whoever has to deal with all that mail,” he commented as he started walking towards the hangar.

    “That would be Brown, Wallander and Co. and Julie Callaghan, I believe,” Carter said. “Entrapta mentioned that they decided to let ‘experts in communication’ handle it.”

    “Dumped the whole thing on PR weenies?” Jack chuckled. Not exactly a surprise - he couldn’t see any of the Etherians spending all their time answering mail. Although he wasn’t sure if it was a good decision, with all the violence about magic shaking the world, the mail was bound to reflect that, and Jack wouldn’t trust PR firms to handle that. In more sense than one. “Have they been told about the threat of mail bombs?”

    “Entrapta said she built a bomb-detecting-function into her reply-bot.”

    Jack blinked. “She built a paperwork bot? And I wasn’t told as soon you heard about it?” He narrowed his eyes at Carter.

    She tilted her head slightly as if she didn’t know what he was talking about. “It was in my report about robotics, sir. And it wasn’t a paperwork-bot. Merely a bot physically able to write letters. It still needs to learn how to write and, more importantly, what to write. Its neural network is in its infancy and won’t be able to handle even basic letters for a while.”

    “You make it sound like a baby,” Jack told her.

    Carter blinked. “That’s actually an apt description, sir. The bots are learning like children, though often from a set of base skills.”

    “So…” Jack grinned. “You basically made a baby with Entrapta?”

    Daniel gasped, but Carter merely narrowed her eyes. “We constructed a bot, sir. And it cannot help you do your paperwork.”

    “Pity.” Jack would have added another joke, but they reached the hangar’s entrance - where that combat bot of Entrapta’s, Emily, was standing.

    “Hi, Emily!” Carter greeted it, and the oversized R2-D2 with a tank cannon beeped back. “Yes, we’re fine. No, it’s safe. There are no violent protests in the city.”

    Jack privately wondered if Carter wasn’t spending a bit too much time with Entrapta. “I didn’t know you spoke robot.”

    “I am familiar with the general signals of Entrapta’s bots since I worked on communication modules with her, sir.”

    “Ah.”

    “Sam!” And there was the magical mad scientist, coming straight at them - walking on hair and waving. “Did you get my message about the random phrases generator?”

    “Yes. Although I am not sure if that is a good teaching tool. It seems…”

    Jack tried to tune out the tech talk and focused on the shuttle waiting inside the hangar.

    “It doesn’t look like it could carry so many letters,” Daniel said.

    “They made multiple trips,” Jack explained. The brass hadn’t wanted to see a Horde frigate land in Washington. Apparently, the optics would have been bad - as if having a few dozens of the things in orbit was any better. The retired generals making the talk-show circuits were already commenting on how vulnerable the United States were now and how much they needed an alliance with the Etherians to replace those shiny white ships with grey hulls of their own. Which led to this meeting, not that Jack thought anything would come of it. Not until Washington finally managed to legalise gay marriage and all that stuff.

    “Ah.”

    And there was the rest of the Etherians, walking down the ramp - together with a man and a woman. Mr Brown and Miss Callaghan - Jack had seen their files. They didn’t look happy. Jack wouldn’t be happy in their place, either, having to deal with this.

    “...and we’ll get back to you once we have a better overview of the trends,” Callaghan was saying. “We should have vetted more people by then as well.”

    “Hi, Jack.” Adora looked… not as perfect as she usually did. Tired.

    Most of the group looked tired, actually, Jack noticed as they exchanged greetings, and SG-1 was introduced to the PR weenies. “So, you’re going to handle the mail?” he asked. “Like working for Santa at Sears?”

    “We’re handling it as part of public relations.” Mr Brown sounded slightly prissy. No comment about Jack’s joke even though he should be old enough to understand it. Definitely prissy.

    So Jack waited until the two had left in a limousine and a sports car, respectively, before addressing the Etherians. “So… How are you doing?”

    “Not going to say ‘I told you so’?” Catra narrowed her eyes at him. Prickly, there. More than usual.

    Jack shrugged. “I guess you’ve been beating yourself up enough already.” They certainly looked the part.

    “The loss of life is a tragedy,” Glimmer said. She looked pissed, actually. “But the blame is to be placed at the feet of those who use ignorance and fanaticism to try and impose their narrow views on others through violence.”

    “Did you run that by your public relations consultants?” Jack asked before he could help himself.

    Glimmer’s glare intensified. “No. That’s not their expertise.”

    So, did that mean they would listen to experts?

    “Well, if you need experts on the Middle East and Africa, I know several people in the field,” Daniel offered with his ‘I only want to help you’ smile.

    Glimmer scoffed. “You want to tell me that you have experts that know how to make religious fanatics accept magic?”

    Daniel blinked. “Well… not exactly. But they know the cultures of those regions and how to interact with people there without offending them.”

    Catra snorted. “We know that as well - we would just have to ban magic and stop loving each other. And probably convert to whatever religion those people follow. Or die for our sins.”

    Jack couldn’t help chuckling, which made Daniel pout at him. “It’s not quite that bad,” his friend insisted.

    “Really?” Glimmer openly sneered at Daniel. “Do you think if we just used the right words, they’d be fine with magic?”

    “No, no, but… a more diplomatic approach might have avoided some of the riots.” Daniel smiled rather weakly. “Maybe.”

    Glimmer bared her teeth - for a moment, she reminded Jack of a furless angry Catra. “We tried that. We talked to their ambassadors for hours and hours! The only thing that would have prevented this would have been to agree not to return magic.”

    Daniel winced. “Well, yes, but… wouldn’t it have been worth to delay restoring magic to Earth to avoid all this loss of life?”

    “Delay for how long?” Glimmer asked, stepping up to glare at him from up close - or down close since she was smaller than Daniel. “Until those fanatics suddenly accept magic?”

    “We’d be dead before that happens,” Catra added. “From old age. And what about the United States?” She looked at Jack. “Would your country agree to, I dunno, stop eating meat if enough vegetarians threaten to riot? Wouldn’t it be worth to ban meat if it prevents such a loss of life?”

    Jack could almost physically feel the sarcasm aimed at Daniel.

    “It’s not the same,” his friend argued. “Magic affects everyone:”

    “So does meat production,” Adora said. “Many countries grow feed for animals instead of food, and export it.” Jack blinked, and she shrugged. “I was curious about Earth farming after you visited a farm in Bright Moon.”

    Ah. Jack nodded. He should have expected that.

    “It’s still not the same,” Daniel argued.

    “The principle is the same. How many deaths does it take to make your country stop doing something?” Glimmer asked.

    “I think the United States of America don’t negotiate with terrorists,” Catra added. “At least not officially.”

    “We are talking about countries, not terrorists,” Daniel retorted.

    “Same thing,” Catra shot back. “They threaten violence against other people to make us do what they want us to do.”

    “And speaking of terrorists,” Jack said, raising his voice a little. “We’re here to talk about coordinating responses with the fleet and security concerns, not politics, right?”

    Everyone looked at him as if they were surprised at his words.

    Jack frowned. He could be diplomatic if he needed to. He just usually didn’t want to. “Anyway, the new ships in orbit are a concern for some people,” he said. “Like the Pentagon.”

    “A concern?” Adora asked.

    “Yes.” Jack nodded.

    “Oh.”

    “And that has nothing to do with our announcement that we won’t let people commit genocide?” Catra asked, raising her eyebrows.

    “Well, I don’t think the people who asked me to talk to you are bothered by that,” Jack replied. “America doesn’t do genocide.”

    “Not any more,” Daniel just had to add.

    Fortunately, the Etherians just nodded. They were really forgiving with all the second chances they gave everyone. “Yes, we’re aware of your country’s past,” Bow said. “But as you said, you’ve changed.”

    “Yeah. Anyway, I was told to pass along that having spaceships with big honking space guns flying in the sky could make people nervous and afraid, and that can trigger bad responses to surprises - or rumours.” Jack wasn’t going to mention ‘bad optics’, or anything like that. That would make the United States look bad.

    “Ah.” Adora nodded. “We don’t want people to panic.”

    Jack almost bit his tongue to avoid pointing out that they had done a very good job at making people panic. “Sometimes, things happen that you didn’t intend.”

    Catra snorted but didn’t comment.

    “We’ve got Mr Brown and Julie working on explaining things better,” Bow said. “So people won’t write us to ask things we can’t do - we don’t want them to get their hopes up.”

    Jack blinked. “You really got letters asking you to blow up a school?”

    “Some ask us to go to heaven and bring back their parents,” Glimmer said with a scowl.

    Jack winced. He had stepped into that one. “Yeah. That’s a toughie.” He suppressed the sudden urge to ask if they actually could do that. If they could, they would certainly have mentioned it by now - people would do anything to get their loved ones back. Hell, Jack would do anything to get Charlie back. No! He shook his head. Dead was dead. People didn’t come back from death.

    Glimmer nodded. “So, we’ll ask them to also explain that we’re not going to invade Earth.” She sighed. “They’ll ask us to give another interview.”

    “Well…” Jack shrugged. “It makes you look approachable if you appear on TV.”

    “We really don’t have the time to give lots of interviews,” Glimmer retorted. “We’ve got diplomatic meetings every day.”

    Judging by the way the others reacted, those meetings sounded as bad as Jack thought. He didn’t envy them.

    “Well, your public relations people did a good job,” Daniel said. “The majority of Americans support an alliance with Etheria.”

    And the massive and often questionable efforts of the government and the NID, of course, Jack thought. It was easier to change public opinion if your most vocal opponents happened to have all their dirty laundry exposed at the most inconvenient moment.

    “Before or after we announced that we’d stop genocides no matter what country did it - or tried to use their veto in support of it?” Catra asked with a scoff.

    “Actually, that stance received a lot of support from those who feel that the veto power in the United Nations Security Council should be abolished - which includes a lot of people in smaller countries,” Daniel said. “Although I’ve only seen statistics for countries with a free press.”

    “You can bet that every Chinese and Russian is shocked by the implications of your new policy,” Jack added with a chuckle. “Just ask their propaganda ministers.”

    “Russia isn’t the USSR, Jack!” Daniel complained.

    “Close enough,” Jack shot back. They certainly weren’t a free country yet. Not with so many former communists and even KGB members now in positions of power.

    “Anyway, we can’t cover every country - and if we only grant interviews to American journalists, we’ll be accused of being biased,” Glimmer said.

    “It’s hard enough just meeting with the diplomats and governments,” Adora added. “And we need to prepare for every meeting by reading up on the country’s history.”

    “Ah, paperwork!” Jack nodded sagely. “I feel with you. And speaking of feelings…”

    Glimmer rolled her eyes. “We’ll tell Priest to keep the ships out of low orbit.”

    That was probably the best Jack would get. Well, it was no skin off his butt, anyway. His ego wasn’t so fragile that seeing ships in orbit would threaten it. Certainly not when he was already aware that far more ships were in the system. “Thank you,” he said. “So… with that out of the way, and your public relations guys already gone, is there anything else official-like we need to talk about?”

    “Yes.” Adora sighed. “We could use some help with security for public appearances. India has invited us to restore magic on their soil next week.”

    “Oh.” Jack blinked. He hadn’t heard about that. No one had, as far as he knew.

    And he had a bad feeling about this.

    *****​

    Indira Gandhi International Airport, National Capital Region, India, October 17th, 1998

    Adora couldn’t help looking around reflexively as she stepped on the ramp of the shuttle. Entrapta’s scanner hadn’t detected anything like a trap or an ambush, but she couldn’t help worrying. There were so many people cheering and yelling, kept at bay by soldiers. So many opportunities to hide an attacker. Even after a week, Jack’s lecture on sabotage and assassination was at the forefront of her mind.

    Even Jack’s team - with the exception of Teal’c, who had added some advice of his own, based on his experiences as First Prime - had seemed to have been taken aback a little by his obvious personal experience with all that stuff.

    “Relax. The tarmac is clear,” Catra said as she joined her on the ramp, walking slowly down behind Glimmer and Bow. “No bombs in range.”

    Her lover had been taking notes and nodding a lot during the lecture, Adora remembered. And she wasn’t sure if Catra had just been concerned about defending against such attacks. Or limiting such attacks to Goa’uld.

    But it had helped with the security for today’s visit. Thanks to the scanner, the Indian police had already arrested three groups of people planning to attack the ceremony with bombs. And a few more had been ‘dealt with’ according to the Indian government when searched for weapons by the police before being allowed on the field reserved for the ceremony. Jack would be happy about the security here - the Indians had tightly locked up the entire area.

    But this wasn’t the time to talk about that. She nodded, forced herself to smile and kept walking toward the delegation from the Indian government. Unlike visits to other countries, the Prime Minister himself was waiting there, a big smile on his face.

    “Keep an eye on his bodyguards,” Catra whispered into her communicator.

    Right. One Indian Prime Minister had been assassinated by her own bodyguards.

    “Emily’s on the job!” Entrapta replied over the channel. The two were following Adora and Catra - and Adora noticed a number of the soldiers standing guard looked a little nervous when they saw Emily. “Her force field is ready to be deployed. But she does miss her cannon.”

    “Poor baby,” Catra muttered - sarcastically.

    Adora was tempted to elbow her, but they had just reached the Indian delegation.

    “Welcome to India! We are honoured and proud that you have chosen our country for this historic moment!” The man looked jovial and honestly happy. Well, he had campaigned hard for this - of all the countries, India had been the most vocal about restoring magic.

    “Thank you,” Glimmer replied. “We’re honoured to be here.”

    “Yes,” Adora added with a nod. “We’re happy to finally return what was stolen from you.” By her ancestors and in an attempt to build a super-weapon that would have devastated an entire sector. But this wasn’t the time to discuss this particular subject, either. Still, it felt good to right this wrong. She might not be responsible for the actions of the First Ones, but she still felt guilty.

    They exchanged handshakes and greetings with the rest of the delegation - Emily, encouraged by Entrapta, waved one of her legs, balancing on the others, which prompted some laughs from the audience and even from the Prime Minister himself.

    And from some of the soldiers. Well, the ones standing guard. The ones standing at attention in the ‘honour formation’ didn’t laugh or move at all while Adora and her friends walked past them. Adora still didn’t know why practically every country on Earth had soldiers do that for state visits, but it made adapting to such visits easier.

    “...and you picked a good time to visit; the monsoon has ended, and the weather is quite nice.”

    It was actually still quite hot and humid, but Adora nodded. And even Catra didn’t complain about the effects on her fur. Her smile looked a bit more toothy, though, as they climbed into the waiting cars that would take them to the field chosen for the ceremony.

    Not that an actual ceremony was necessary. Adora could have restored the magic to Earth anywhere on Earth. All it took was using She-Ra’s power to remove the last remains of the First Ones ‘magic shunt’, as Entrapta called it. The enchantment that had siphoned off the planet’s magic and still kept it from returning to Earth. They didn’t know exactly where the magic was going, actually - part of it at least was used to keep the shunt in place, but the rest seemed to be vanishing into another dimension, according to Entrapta’s latest theory.

    It didn’t matter. Soon, this would stop, and Earth’s magic would be restored.

    Adora smiled, both at the thought and at the people lining the street, cheering at them. After all the bloodshed on the news, it felt so good to be welcomed. To see people wanting their stolen heritage returned.

    “I wonder where they put their protesters,” Catra whispered while she waved herself.

    Right. Not all Indians were happy with magic returning. But most were. India’s Minister of External Affairs had assured them that they wouldn’t be bothered by ‘fanatics trying to disturb the ceremony’, but he hadn’t gone into details. Just that they were banned from entering the area of the visit.

    “Ah, looks like they missed some,” Catra said.

    Adora tensed as she saw the scuffle in the distance - lots of soldiers were there, beating some people and dragging them away. Lots of other people were joining in, trying to beat them up. She winced at the sight, but they were quickly driven past the spot.

    “At least the cars are armoured,” Catra said.

    Adora nodded. Anyone taking a shot at them would have to use a heavier weapon to threaten them - and those would show up on the scanner Hordak was currently watching from Darla. And they would have force fields at the ceremony.

    Still, Adora felt a little on edge. So many people - most of the world - would be watching her. What if she botched it? If she tried to restore magic, and it didn’t work… No. She had done this before. She knew how to do it. Everything would be fine.

    Everything… that was a lot of people. Adora blinked.

    Catra whistled. “Somehow, it looked smaller from orbit.”

    Adora nodded. It was like looking at a sea of people. “There must be millions of them.”

    “Yes.”

    “Well, it would look smaller from a longer distance and from a different viewing angle,” Entrapta said. “But I know what you mean.”

    “Indeed,” the Prime Minister cut in. “Every true Indian wishes to be present when our divine heritage will be returned to us.”

    “Except for those who think magic is evil,” Catra commented.

    The man frowned for a moment. “Yes. But rest assured that none of them will be present to mar this occasion. We’ve purged them from the guards assigned to this ceremony as well.”

    Oh. “Purged?” Adora asked. She had read about such purges…

    “Reassigned to duties that take them away from the region,” the Prime Minister explained with a slightly forced smile. “We’re not barbarians.”

    Ah. That was reassuring. Somewhat, at least. But not overly much. As far as Adora knew, most of the people in India who didn’t want magic returned were members of a religious minority. To persecute every one of them for the views of some of them…

    But they had arrived now, the car slowing down as it passed a checkpoint, then drove through a narrow lane kept open by double-rows of soldiers holding back a cheering crowd. Flowers were thrown at them, and Adora flinched for a moment before she reminded herself that they were in an armoured car and would have detected any explosives in the crowd.

    And there was the huge stage, where the delegations from other countries, members of the Indian government and other honourables were waiting.

    More greetings followed. Many more. Adora shook hands with the Japanese Prime Minister, with familiar faces from the United Kingdom - they had sent the Crown Prince - and France, Germany and the United States, and many other people she hadn’t met yet. By the time they were finally done with the greetings, the sun was high in the sky, and Catra was cursing under her breath about the heat.

    And now the Indian Prime Minister was starting his speech. He was a poet of sorts, Adora had read, and well-liked - the people were cheering at almost every word - but…

    “I’m growing hungry,” Catra complained in a whisper.

    “There’s going to be food afterwards,” Adora whispered back.

    “I know. I can smell it in the tents behind us,” Catra replied.

    “And I can hear you,” Gimmer hissed. “Shh!”

    Adora blushed a little. She should have known better than to respond to Catra in a situation like this. She couldn’t be rude to their hosts - everyone, the entire world, was looking at them!

    She took a deep breath. Besides, it wouldn’t be much longer - how long could the Prime Minister talk, anyway? Any minute now, he would finish, and…

    Hordak’s voice coming through their communicators interrupted them. “The scanners show a disturbance in a military base to the east.”

    “Disturbance?” Catra sat straighter, tensing up.

    “Fighting. Between soldiers - they’re wearing the same uniform.”

    “Traitors or infiltrators,” Catra spat. “What’s their goal?”

    “The artillery park, it seems.”

    Adora gasped. Artillery? What was the range of the guns? Emily’s force field would stop an artillery shell, even a barrage, but she couldn’t cover the entire area, and if a shell struck the tightly-packed crowd…

    One of the soldiers on stage was listening to his radio as well, she noticed. And looking pale.

    “Who’s winning?” Glimmer asked, leaning over. No need any more to care about how it looked - more soldiers were moving now, as well as bodyguards.

    “It looks like the attackers are winning,” Hordak said.

    Adora blinked. How long would it take them to aim a cannon at the field here? A few minutes, probably, if they had ammunition and a trained gun crew. That had been Horde standard.

    “They’re attacking the magazines as well,” Hordak reported.

    That was… Adora clenched her teeth.

    “Are we in range of their guns?” Glimmer asked.

    “According to our data, yes,” Entrapta said, staring at her tool. “Emily can stop the shells from hitting us, but she can’t protect everyone here.”

    Like Adora had thought. This was…

    “Hordak, stop them!” Glimmer snapped.

    “Fire!”

    A moment later, Adora saw a beam strike the ground in the distance, followed by explosions. And then an entire volley of beams struck. And more explosions followed, dust forming columns of smoke that billowed up.

    Orbital support, she realised - they had trained for that. But secondary explosions? In the Indian Army base?

    “The attackers are dead,” Hordak reported. “There was some collateral damage as the magazines were neutralised.”

    Adora wasn’t listening any more. She was staring at the crowd in front of her. The people were panicking. Screaming. Pushing against each other and the soldiers as they tried to run away from the explosions. She saw a soldier being overrun, people trampling over him, heard more screams, saw a little girl stumble and fall, and a man step on her…

    She gasped. The crowd, the sea of people, was going crazy. And soldiers were moving in front of the stage, brandishing weapons. Trying to protect the Prime Minister and his guests with lethal force.

    “No!” she yelled, standing up. Raising her arm. Summoning her sword.

    “For the Honour of Grayskull!”

    A familiar rush filled her. Her armour formed. She was She-Ra, Princess of Power!

    The people around her - those who didn’t know her - stopped and stared. But that wasn’t enough. The crowd was still panicking. People were being hurt. People were dying.

    She stabbed her sword upwards and focused. On her power. On her magic. Reaching out to that familiar pattern. Connecting.

    For a moment, everything turned white as the magic of the planet ran through her. She almost screamed. There was so much, it was so hard, so…

    And flicked her sword. Cutting the pattern. It was like popping a balloon. One moment, she felt like she was about to burst from the power filling her. The next, the pressure was gone.

    Mostly. She was still glowing brightly with power. With magic. Blazing.

    She turned, looking at the crowd. The hurt and the dying. The panicking and the crying.

    Adora raised her sword, then brought it down.

    And a wave of magic burst from her blade, sweeping over the crowd. A wave large enough to cover the entire area as she turned.

    Healing.

    Soothing.

    Earth’s magic. Used for the first time in a thousand years.

    *****​
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2022
  27. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    I see him as a plot device - he can and can't do exactly what is needed for the plot, not what she should be able to do as a character.
     
    Lightxdarkwing likes this.
  28. Tiktog

    Tiktog Experienced.

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    Just for reference, it's 209
     
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  29. htgriffin

    htgriffin Versed in the lewd.

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    So the Deed is Done, Earth is reminded that the tech side of things is a more immediate concern, and an Indian Army garrison commander will spend the balance of their career on a Ladakhi glacier if they are very lucky.
     
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  30. carterhall

    carterhall Not too sore, are you?

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    Oh man, an eventful chapter! All of Earth gets put on notice against genocide, magic gets restored, the first orbital strike by Etheria on Earth gets called down, and Adora performs a public mass healing.

    The results of that healing will have a lot of strategic implications depending on how effective and targeted it is. If Adora only heals the defenders and bystanders, then any Earth country opposing her knows that they'll never be able to win a conventional fight because she could just mass heal all her casualties.
     
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