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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. Threadmarks: Chapter 61: The Tok’ra Part 6
    Starfox5

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    Chapter 61: The Tok’ra Part 6

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, December 4th, 1998

    “...and then we returned through the Stargate to prepare a habitat and report while Queen Glimmer, Princess Adora, Colonel O’Neill, Daniel, Bow, Teal’c and Catra stayed to continue their discussions with the Tok’ra, sir.” Samantha Carter stood at ease as she delivered her verbal report to Stargate’s Command Council.

    “And you didn’t ask them to remove the parasite in Lieutenant Lenkova?” Sidorov asked with a deep frown.

    “Since we confirmed that the Tok’ra can remove a Goa’ld from their host without harming either, I am certain that this will be amongst the topics being discussed right now, General,” Sam told him.

    “Yeah!” Entrapta chimed in, nodding emphatically. “Adora and the others would never forget about her. Although if we can analyse how the Tok’ra are doing it when they extract the Goa’uld from Finran, we might be able to copy the method and do it ourselves. I hope they wait for us before they continue.”

    “They won’t start until we have the habitat ready,” Sam reassured her friend. They had an agreement about that, after all, and after SG-1 and the Etherians had been instrumental in saving the base and the Tok’ra High Council, Sam doubted that the Tok’ra would break it just to kill a Goa’uld. Though, as experience had taught, you could never be really certain when it came to aliens. “And, speaking of habitats…” Sam looked at General Hammond.

    “Go on, Captain.”

    “It seems that both Goa’uld and Tok’ra have biological and psychological requirements that we weren’t aware of so far, sir. Biologically, they need sapient hosts. Without one, their intellectual capacity is diminished to some degree. And they also seem to have a deep psychological need for a sapient host, though we haven’t been able to confirm that.”

    “Ah.” the General nodded. “That complicates things.”

    General Haig nodded in agreement, though Sidorov looked confused. Sam couldn’t tell if the Russian didn’t understand what she had just explained - or if he did but didn’t understand why they thought accidentally lobotomising prisoners was a problem. She also wasn’t sure which would be worse.

    “Yes!” Entrapta chimed in. “We need to find a better way to keep Goa’uld prisoners. But we haven’t found one yet.”

    Nor had the Tok’ra.

    “Understood.” General Haig nodded. “In that case, best expedite the construction of the habitat - and make another one for the Goa’uld in Lieutenant Lenkova.”

    Sidorov scoffed. “You volunteered Stargate Command as a prison for Goa’uld?”

    “No, General,” Sam told him. “But since the Tok’ra would kill the prisoner, the Alliance has to take them off their hands. Stargate Command would be suitable since we already hold two such prisoners, but the decision whether or not the spy will be imprisoned here as well is up to the Command Council.”

    “If you don’t want them, we’ll take them,” Entrapta chimed in as Sam had hoped. “We can house them in a ship. Or construct an orbital prison. Or maybe place the prison on an asteroid.”

    “I was just checking that you did not exceed your orders, Captain,” the Russian spat. “You do not speak for Earth or Stargate Command. That you engage in diplomacy is questionable in itself.”

    “We did not exceed our orders,” Sam retorted, tensing up. “We represented Stargate Command as per our briefings.”

    Entrapta cocked her head. “And you can’t really prevent Glimmer from speaking for the Alliance - either one. I don’t think so. Although your organisation is sometimes a little confusing.”

    “I’m certain General Sidorov was merely voicing his concerns over Stargate Command’s involvement in this,” General Haig said. “Everyone here is aware that Stargate Command has no authority over the Alliance.”

    “Yes,” General Hammond agreed. “But we should hold you up any longer. The sooner you have those habitats ready, the sooner you can free this Tok’ra and Lieutenant Lenkova.”

    Not even Sidorov could say anything against that. But it was clear he wanted to, anyway.

    Sam kept her expression neutral, though, until they had left the briefing room and were headed back to her lab.

    *****​

    P34-353J, December 4th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “...so, while we hope you’ll find a way to solve our dependency on voluntary hosts, I don’t think it’s too pessimistic to assume such a solution will not manifest within the next few years - years which will be spent waging an offensive war. If we are to take a more active and open part in this war, we need more hosts.”

    Catra refrained from rolling her eyes at Garshaw’s words. The Tok’ra were fixated on hosts. Understandably, somewhat - if Catra needed a host so she wouldn’t lose her mind, she’d certainly focus on that as well. But this was the tenth time or so they mentioned it - they sounded like a broken record, as the humans from Earth would say. Though Catra still didn’t get how a broken record could still work.

    But they were here to form an alliance - well, to lay the groundwork for one since they couldn’t form an alliance by themselves without making Earth mad - and so Catra kept smiling. And if her smile showed her fangs prominently, well, no one had complained so far.

    “Speaking of hosts…” Daniel adjusted his glasses. “You must have a lot of people waiting for a host - do you keep them all in stasis?”

    After the slightest hesitation, Garshaw nodded.

    “You must have a lot of stasis jars,” O’Neill commented.

    “Yes,” Per’sus said. “The alternative would be to let those amongst us who do not have a host suffer. And that is unacceptable.”

    Catra could respect that. Even if this must be a huge drain on their resources. On the other hand, if they had some crystal device that could grow stasis jars like they could grow tunnels, it wouldn’t really cost them much - if a stasis jar could hold a Goa’uld on Earth for thousands of years, a few decades of them underwater, without anyone checking it, they wouldn’t require a lot of maintenance.

    “Of course,” Glimmer said. “You can’t let children suffer. Or anyone else.”

    Garshaw nodded again, but Catra couldn’t help feeling that they were hiding something. But what?

    “How do you raise your larvae without Jaffa?” Teal’c asked. The big guy had been mostly silent ever since they had set foot on the planet, so this had to be an important question.

    Even though it was obvious that the Goa’uld must have been able to raise their children without Jaffa since they had created them.

    “That is classified. We can revisit that once we have an alliance. But this touches on some of our most important secrets,” Garshaw said - without looking directly at Teal’c; they were addressing O’Neill, Glimmer and Adora.

    “You mean your queen, right?” Daniel blurted out, then winced. “I’m sorry - I know I shouldn’t pry.”

    Garshaw nodded once more, but Daniel had been correct - Catra had caught how they had tensed up.

    “So that’s why the spy didn’t fake an emergency and get out after setting the bombs to explode a minute after he left!” O’Neill exclaimed. He grinned. “He was after your queen - and he didn’t want to abandon that mission to kill us until he knew more about us.”

    Yeah, O’Neill had nailed it. Catra nodded in agreement - a lot made sense now. “You must be keeping your queen isolated from your spies, so one captured operative doesn’t spill the secret.” Anything else would be… well, even Kyle would realise how stupid it would be to risk your biggest secret with every spy you sent out. Though that meant the queen would only ever meet a few of the Tok’ra. That would be quite lonely. For everyone else, she might as well not… Oh. Catra grinned with more confidence than she felt. “Unless, of course, that’s just a smokescreen to ensure that any spy who manages to infiltrate you keeps chasing after a queen who doesn’t exist.”

    All of the Tok’ra High Council tensed up and exchanged glances. And the aides looked confused and then worried for a moment before everyone was all smooth snake-like again.

    “We can neither confirm nor deny this,” Garshaw said.

    But Catra was sure that she was right. The Tok’ra didn’t have a queen hidden somewhere.

    Before she managed to decide how that changed things, with the Alliance and the war, an aide cocked their head to the side and pulled out a communicator.

    “The others have returned with the habitat.”

    Garshaw smiled. “We can proceed with liberating Finrar then.”

    And conveniently avoid the current subject, Catra thought.

    *****​

    The snakes were definitely hiding something - spooks always did; Jack O’Neill knew that from personal experience. Extensive personal experience. And the snakes were all spooks. But this particular secret seemed to go beyond the usual ‘that’s need to know, and you don’t need to know’ spiel. It could be a double-bluff, of course. Jack didn’t know those snakes very well, after all. But after today’s negotiations, dinner and bomb threat… He was pretty sure that they didn’t have a queen stashed somewhere.

    Not a hundred per cent sure, though. But he wouldn’t have to lead the actual alliance negotiations anyway. What the diplomats and spooks did with his report wasn’t his problem. And, unlike when writing reports about the Etherians, he didn’t have any reason to feel guilty about this, either, he added to himself with a smile as he followed the snakes and Etherians out of the room.

    And now he got to see a snake being removed from their host. If that worked… He glanced at Daniel. His friend looked… well, Jack had rarely seen him with such hope in his expression.

    “If this works…” Daniel muttered.

    “Yes,” Jack told him.

    If the Tok’ra could save a host, then they could save his wife, Sha’re. SG-1 would have to find her and then capture her first, of course, but that was a problem Jack was sure they could manage. Somehow. Probably with the help of the Etherians - not that Jack thought he could keep them away even if he wanted to. And they would likely need the Tok’ra’s support as well, if only for the intel.

    In fact, it would probably be best if the Etherians took the lead on this - at least officially. SG-1’s new management might not think Sha’re was worth the risks SG-1 would have to take for such a rescue. Hell, Hammond would likely have vetoed any rescue mission as well if he were in charge - but he would have looked the other way and wouldn’t have investigated very deeply if SG-1 managed to ‘stumble’ onto Sha’re on a ‘routine exploration mission’. That bastard Russian would want to send them to a gulag for such a stunt, though, and Jack didn’t think Haig or Petit would be pleased either. Insubordination tended to make generals angry.

    But if Queen Glimmer proposed a rescue mission? There might be some protests from some people, but in the end, the Etherians would get their way. Jack didn’t always agree with their priorities, and he certainly was no Marine, but ‘no friend left behind’ was a fine rule to live by.

    They met Carter and Entrapta halfway to the room serving as a holding cell - freshly grown, apparently. “That’s just a transport container,” Entrapta said, her hair holding up a cat-carrier-sized tank. “The habitat is much bigger, so we left it on Earth.”

    “Ah.” Garshaw nodded, though Jack couldn’t help feeling as if the snake wouldn’t have been bothered if the tank was the habitat - they really didn’t like the Goa’uld. A few millennia of war to the knife would do that to anyone, of course - Jack knew a few conflicts on Earth with that kind of hatred after a few decades.

    They continued down the hallway, past two guards. Two more stood outside the cell. And another two were inside, next to the bound and gagged snake. Jack approved, though it felt a bit like they were overcompensating for their earlier lapse - they really should have caught the bombs being placed. But then, this was a decoy base with a skeleton crew. If they had been in their main base on the planet, things might have gone differently. Might.

    The spy was unconscious - and strapped on a table, facing some device mounted above him. This wasn’t just a holding cell, Jack realised - this was where they would extract the snake.

    Entrapta blinked. “Oh. Are they sedated? Will they need special treatment?”

    “They’re in stasis, so they cannot kill Finran,” Anise explained. “But it’s a field, not a chemical, so they will wake up as soon as they leave the fields’ boundaries - or the stasis generator is turned off. They won’t be harmed or killed by this.”

    “Much nicer than what they deserve,” Per’sus snarled.

    Well, that snake wanted the Goa’uld dead.

    “Wouldn’t sedating them be safer?” Glimmer asked.

    “Yes,” Garshaw told her. “But if we capture a Goa’uld, we want them to be conscious when we execute them for their crimes.”

    “Oh.” All the Etherians - even Catra - seemed to be taken aback by this.

    But Jack understood the snakes’ view here. And, to his surprise, Daniel seemed to nod in agreement.

    Not the Etherians, though. “Well, we’re not going to execute them!” Adora said.

    “So, how do you extract them?” Entrapta had recovered. “Surgically?”

    “Yes. We have a precision extractor,” Anise held up a device. “It extracts the symbiont and stores them in this capsule.”

    “Is it an automated process?” Cater asked.

    “Semi-automatic. It still requires an experienced operator,” Anise replied.

    Which would mean the Tok’ra would keep a monopoly on the procedure, at least for the near future.

    “Usually, we have a ceremony,” Hen’ru explained. “We list their crimes, then extract them. It can take a long time for the older Goa’uld. Then they can speak their last words, and we kill them.”

    “We’re not going to kill them,” Adora repeated herself.

    “Yes.” Hen’ru didn’t quite sneer, but he sounded very unhappy.

    Not as unhappy as the Goa’uld would soon be, though, Jack thought with a grin as Anise started the device.

    He lost his grin a few seconds later, though, when the process began. That was… “Carter,” he whispered, “make a note - after we investigate George Lucas for alien contacts, we’ll investigate Paul Verhoeven.”

    “Sir?”

    He didn’t have to glance at her to know her expression. She always had the same when he surprised her. “That’s like in Total Recall.” Just with lasers and a needle. He suppressed a shudder as a symbiont was dragged out through a needle that seemed much too small to actually let it pass through.

    “Oh! Is that a teleportation effect?” Entrapta blurted out. “Contact-based short-range teleport? For greater precision than a contactless scanner?”

    “That’s possible,” Carter replied. “I don’t think a Goa’uld symbiont could be compressed enough to pass through a syringe of that size without dying in the process. They are vertebrates, not invertebrates.”

    “Their bones would be crushed, yes,” Entrapta agreed. “You could reconstitute them, in theory, but I think it would be fatal. Probably.”

    Jack suppressed a shudder and hoped that they didn’t propose testing that.

    “And the way a symbiont attaches themselves to the host’s central nervous system, a contact-based scan might offer greater precision - and might also suppress the release of the symbiont toxin.”

    That sounded logical to Jack. Of course, Carter was almost always correct about such things.

    Anise pulled the tube attached to the mechanism off and held it up, then ran a scanner over it. “The Goa’uld survived the extraction,” she said after a green light went on on her device.

    “Great!” Entrapta stepped forward, holding up her snake carrier. “It got an adaptive valve - just put the end with the opening in here… the container has an opening, right? Or do you teleport the symbiont in and out?”

    “We usually smash the tube,” Per’sus said.

    “Oh, right. But isn’t that wasteful?” Entrapta tilted her head with a confused expression. “A perfectly fine container… is it a security precaution?”

    “It’s a symbolic gesture,” Per’sus said.

    “Ah!” Entrapta nodded. “Like smashing glass, which some Earth cultures do at ceremonies.”

    “Err… yes.”

    “So… does it open?”

    “Yes,” Anise said. “The extractor can also be used in case we have to take out one of our own for a medical reason.”

    “Ah. So… let’s do it!”

    The tube with the wriggling snake was out on top of the tank, and a sucking noise later, the snake was in the tank, swimming around.

    And the former host started sobbing.

    *****​

    “I couldn’t do anything… they took Cordesh… and…”

    Adora winced - Finran sounded… well, he seemed devastated as two of the guards led him to a seat.

    “The Goa’uld took Cordesh?” Garshaw asked, narrowing her eyes.

    “Yes.” Finran sat down, shivering - wrapping his arms around himself. “There was a Goa’uld, Kryse, and she was… in Rosha!”

    Several Tok’ra gasped. And Sam did, too.

    “They know how to extract symbionts?” Anise asked.

    “Yes.”

    “Who is Rosha?” Glimmer asked.

    “She was Jolinar’s host,” Per’sus said.

    She was the Goa’uld who had been in Sam’s body. “So… they have Jolinar’s knowledge?”

    “Yes.” Garshaw nodded with a grim expression. “That is… a serious setback.”

    “Are your bases at risk?”

    “Our operatives don’t know all our bases - only their own,” Garish said. “But Rosha was Jolinar’s partner for a long time. The Goa’uld now know a lot about our technology and, more importantly, our tactics.”

    “Time to change them, then,” Catra said. She sounded serious, but the way her tail twitched… Adora suppressed a sigh. Sure, this was an argument for the Tok’ra to change their plans and join the Alliance, but no one liked being told to change what they were doing.

    And indeed, the Tok’ra didn’t look happy as they took Finran to another room to debrief him.

    “So… before we take the spy back to Earth…” Adora smiled at the Tok’ra. “Can I heal your friend? The one who was sick, you said.” She couldn’t do anything about Finran - that kind of pain She-Ra’s magic couldn’t cure.

    “Saroosh, yes. Selmak’s host.” Garshaw nodded, and Adora saw her relax slightly. Good. They needed to show the Tok’ra that allying with Etheria and Earth was best for everyone.

    “Can we meet them?”

    “We’ll bring her here.” Garshaw looked at her aide, who used their communicator.

    “Saroosh is very old, which has aggravated her condition,” Per’sus said. “Age catches up with everyone - we can grant our hosts our longevity, but only to a point.”

    No matter - Adora could help with that. As Jack had proven.

    But when Saroosh arrived, about twenty minutes later, on a cot, Adora had second thoughts. The woman looked so frail… And so old. Not like Madame Razz, who was a thousand years old but still spry. Saroosh looked like she could die at any moment. She-Ra would have healed her on the spot, but Selmak was still inside her.

    “So, you’re the one who has offered to heal Saroosh.” Ah, that was Selmak speaking.

    Adora nodded. “Yes. I can heal everyone.”

    “But you’re not sure if I would be expelled - or killed - by your magic.”

    “Yes.”

    Selmak laughed. Softly, and ending in a coughing fit. “That sounds like magic. I remember it.”

    “Oh?” Glimmer cocked her head.

    “I saw a few… magicians?” Selmak squinted.

    “We call them sorcerers. Or witches,” Glimmer told him.

    “Yes. I saw them do magic. But they couldn’t heal.”

    “They probably never learned it. But She-Ra’s special,” Glimmer said. “She can heal Saroosh.”

    Adora nodded, though she wasn’t as confident as her friend.

    “My leaving Saroosh might kill her,” Selmak said.

    “I can heal her as soon as you have left her body,” Adora said, drawing her sword.

    “I appreciate the attempt.” That wasn’t Selmak - the voice had changed. That was Saroosh! “But I’ve lived a long life. If I don’t survive, don’t blame yourself. Or anyone.”

    Adora wouldn’t let the woman die. She nodded anyway.

    “Let’s do it,” Saroosh whispered.

    Adora wasn’t sure if the woman was talking to her or to Selmak. It didn’t matter. She raised her sword, pointing it at Saroosh and prepared to do her magic. Healing. She had to heal the woman.

    Saroosh made a gagging noise and opened her mouth. Adora first thought something had gone wrong - but then she spotted the symbiont’s head appearing on the woman’s tongue, quickly wriggling out of her mouth - and into a container prepared by one of the Tok’ra.

    As soon as Selmak was clear, Adora released her magic, and bright, golden light filled the room.

    Saroosh froze for a moment, and Adora held her breath. If anything had gone wrong…

    But then, the woman sighed, blinking and shivering. “Oh…”

    “How do you feel?” Garshaw - no, that was her host, Yosuf, talking. Adora had rarely heard them.

    “It’s… the pain is gone…” Saroosh blinked again, a smile slowly appearing on her face. A moment later, she started to sit up.

    “Wait!” Another Tok’ra said, moving to help her.

    But Saroosh waved him away, sitting up in the bed - and then turning, swinging her legs off the bed. “It’s… it’s incredible.” She shook her head and stood up, wobbling for a moment, hunched over, before straightening. “I can move… I feel like I’m young again!”

    “Well, you aren’t young again,” Entrapta said, looking up from her scanner. “Your cells weren’t rejuvenated, and your neuroplasticity is at a normal level for an adult. But all the accumulated microdamage in your body was healed.”

    “That sounds like a rejuvenation effect,” Anise pointed out.

    “Well, technically, it’s not,” Entrapta told her. “It’s more that this is how her body would be if she had led a perfectly healthy life.”

    Saroosh seemed to ignore them and moved in front of the aide holding Selmak’s container, smiling at the symbiont inside. “It worked.”

    Adora couldn’t see any way that the symbiont could talk or communicate with the woman - except, maybe, the way it swam around - but Saroosh nodded. “Yes, let’s rejoin.”

    The aide handed the container over, and Sarsoosh opened it, then held it below her mouth.

    And the symbiont - Selmak - jumped into her mouth. It looked like Saroosh ate them. Well, swallowed them whole.

    Once more, Saroosh shivered. And then her eyes lit up, and Selmak spoke. “This is… incredible.”

    “If we could have all our elders healed like this…” Per’sus shook his head with a wide smile.

    “If this works on symbionts as well…” Malinor turned to face Adora and the others. “You haven’t tested it on symbionts outside a host, have you?”

    Adora shook her head. “We didn’t want to risk harming them.” You couldn’t experiment on prisoners. That would be horrible!

    “Well, I volunteer!” Malinor said. “We need to know if it works on all of us.”

    “Ah…” Adora blinked. That was… a little rash.

    “Are you sure?” Glimmer asked. “This could be dangerous. We don’t think that you, as a sapient being, would be harmed by the magic, at least as long as you’re not inside a host, but we have never tested it.”

    “Yes, I am sure.” Malinor nodded emphatically. “The knowledge is well worth the risk. If magic can heal symbionts like you healed Saroosh, then this would change everything.”

    Adora frowned. They would live a little longer, yes, but how would it change anything?

    “Of course, if it works, the next question would be whether it can counteract the negative effects of a sarcophagus,” Anise said. “They aren’t biological in nature.”

    “I can’t heal, ah, psychological conditions,” Adora told her. If she could, things would have been a lot easier. A lot of people wouldn’t have had to suffer so much. But that wasn’t her fault.

    “Ah. Still, we need to know if you can heal a symbiont.” Malinor nodded again. Firmly.

    “Alright.” Adora lifted her sword again as Malinor left her host and slid into the container that had held Selmak before.

    Once more, she focused on healing. Just healing. This time, she held her breath as the magical energy hit the container - and the symbiont inside. If she had just killed Malinor…

    But the symbiont was moving - and her host, Kalet, grabbed the container so fast, Adora almost expected her to spill the liquid inside. Then Malinor entered Kalet again.

    A second passed. Then another, before Kalet took a deep breath - and spoke with Malinor’s voice. “Ah… I was healed. As far as I can tell, at least. And it subtly changed my body - I had to reconnect to Kalet as if I were bonding with her the first time.”

    “Oh! Interesting. So, healing has an effect on your neural connections? It didn’t affect Selmak, did it?” Entrapta beamed at her.

    “No, it did not. Or, rather, Saroosh was not significantly changed by the experience, so I could easily reconnect,” Selmak replied.

    “But symbionts are affected.” Sam looked pensive.

    “Yes, that’s certainly a very interesting point that probably should be examined in detail - at some point. But we’re kinda up past our bedtime, and we should return to Earth now before we get grounded by the parents,” Jack cut in, clapping his hand.

    “Yes,” Catra agreed. “Unless you have another emergency, we should continue this later.”

    “Indeed.” Glimmer nodded. “We can schedule a diplomatic meeting at your convenience, where we can discuss this and other topics at leisure.”

    Garshaw nodded, but Anise and Malinor looked like they disagreed. Well, they looked like Entrapta, who pouted. “But we shouldn’t take too long!” Adora’s friend said. “This is such an interesting subject to explore!”

    And it would be a major part of the negotiations, or so it seemed.

    *****​

    Saroosh had been healed as expected. Samantha Carter made a note that being a host, even for a long time, did not affect the healing. But it had affected Selmak differently, which was a surprise.

    “As we’ve expected!” Entrapta said, dictating into her recorder. “The subject - I mean, Saroosh - was healed like any other human target of She-Ra’s magic. All the microdamage is gone, though the neural structure wasn’t altered in any way - though it did have such an effect on Malinor - apparently, a symbiont’s body and or neural structure can be altered by the magic.” She switched her recorder off. “This is so exciting - a whole new field to study. Glimmer! Do you have records of healing magic from Mystacore? I need a comparison of the healing effects on different species to check if this is specific to symbionts or if it happens to other species as well.”

    “I don’t have such records on me,” Glimmer replied. “We can look in our archives once we’re back.”

    Sam didn’t know if Glimmer meant back on Earth or back on Etheria and made a mental note to ask about Mystacore once they had some privacy.

    “Alright!” Entrapta switched her recorder on again, Sam saw. “Also, there was no transformation of the symbiont into another species, as observed with Swift Wind, though that may be a result of She-Ra controlling her magic. Further research is necessary.”

    “A transformation into another species?” Anise asked. “Magic allows a transformation on that level? But you’d have to alter the genetic makeup… just how drastic are the possible changes?”

    “There was a chance to alter Malinor’s species?” Per’sus asked.

    “No,” Adora told him. “That was a fluke - I had just gained my powers and wasn’t in full control of them. It hasn’t happened since then. Not when healing.”

    “Oh, the changes didn’t go further than First Ones experimentation,” Entrapta said. “Swift Wind just got functional wings, a horn and sapience - and magic powers.”

    “Sapience?” Anise stared at them. “You changed a non-sapient species into a sapient one?”

    “I didn’t mean to!” Adora defended herself.

    “You did it by accident?” Even Garshaw was now staring at Adora.

    “You achieved what the Ancients did?” Malinor added.

    “Well, Adora is a First One,” Entrapta said, “Although they generally used magitech, that wouldn’t preclude them from doing it with magic.”

    “Wait!” Anise said, blinking. “You mentioned the First Ones - they were descendants of the Gate Builders. You’re an Ancient!”

    Sam winced. They hadn’t told the Tok’ra that, technically, Adora was an Ancient, had they?

    “It’s not like that! I never knew them!” Adora protested.

    But the Tok’ra didn’t seem to be listening to her.

    “That’s why you have such advanced technology - and magic!” Anise said.

    “No!”

    “It’s well-known that the most powerful and dangerous technology of the Ancients - and their bases - are genetically locked to their own species,” Molinar went on. “Genetic engineering hasn’t been able to fully bypass that - the System Lords have tried, but there has to be some factor that they are missing.”

    What? You couldn’t use genetic engineering techniques to ensure that the Ancient Technology Activation gene was passed on? Of course, the Goa’uld might have simply made a mistake… no. Not for something important. And not for a thousand years. If you couldn’t reliably ensure that your descendants had the gene - no, the gene had to be passed on, or it would have died out amongst humans. But what if it needed an activation trigger…? She glanced at the Colonel.

    “Don’t I feel special now,” he muttered.

    But did he understand just how special he might be? Of course, the trigger could be something simple - like passing through a gate. You could never tell with the Ancients.

    “Well, yes, we can activate their technology,” Adora said. “But I don’t have some genetic memory that tells me how it works. Except for the language…”

    “But the First Ones didn’t leave manuals for their technology,” Entrapta said. “Which goes against basic principles of science!” she added with a pout.

    “How sloppy of them,” the Colonel commented in a sarcastic tone.

    “Exactly!” Entrapta nodded with a smile. “Just think of how much more advanced we would be if they had left proper documentation!”

    “And how much more advanced the Goa’ld would be,” Catra commented.

    “Oh. Right, that would probably be a bad thing,” Entrapta agreed.

    “It would be a catastrophe!” Garshaw said. She seemed to have recovered from the surprise, but she was still focusing on Adora. “So, the Ancients survived. Or rather, they haven’t all gone.”

    “Horde Prime claimed he had wiped the First Ones out,” Glimmer said. “Adora might be the last of her people.”

    “And the First ones were an offshoot of the Ancients, as far as we know,” Bow added.

    Adora nodded. “Yes! I’m not an Ancient - I grew up in the Horde. I can’t just… do what they did.” She turned her head to look at the Colonel. Sam opened her mouth to step in, but Adora was already talking. “In fact, I’m not really any more an Ancient than Jack, who has the Ancient gene. At least Alpha told us that. We’re descendants of colonists.”

    Sam suppressed a wince as the Tok’ra turned to look at the Colonel with various but strangely unsettling expressions. Especially Anise’s.

    *****​

    “So, you are a descendant of the Ancients as well, Colonel O’Neill.”

    “So I’ve been told. Although I’m still waiting for a second opinion.”

    “I can check your genes, Colonel.”

    Catra suppressed the urge to roll her eyes. Anise was staring at O’Neill as if he was… well, if Anise were staring at Adora like that, Catra would consider marking her claim - or clawing the woman.

    “I like my genes where they are.”

    And speaking of claims… She glanced at Sam. But the woman didn’t seem to be ready to do anything violent. Or anything at all. Although she didn’t look happy. Not at all. Hell, what did it take for Sam to admit her feelings? Granted, Catra didn’t have a lot of room to talk, but Sam hadn’t been raised in the Horde by Shadow Weaver but in a normal family.

    Well, unless Sam started building killer bots or something to attack rivals or tried to blow up the world, it wasn’t any business of Catra’s. She had her hands full with Adora, anyway.

    Leaning closer to her love, she whispered: “Next time, limit the secrets you blurt out to yours.”

    Adora grimaced. “I’m so sorry - I panicked!” she whispered back.

    “You don’t have to apologise to me.” But Catra saw that Glimmer didn’t look happy either. “I guess we need to talk about OpSec again.” And with Entrapta, of course.

    “I’m sorry. I’m not used to keeping secrets from everyone.”

    And wasn’t that the truth? Adora wouldn’t have made it far as Force Captain - she was just too honest. Not without Shadow Weaver’s protection. Then again, Shadow Weaver wanted a loyal, honest minion…

    “Anyway, I think we’ve discussed everything relevant for now,” Glimmer said with a fake smile.

    Anise opened her mouth to protest, but Garshaw nodded. “Yes. We will start focused negotiations about forming an Alliance soon. And we will extract the Goa’uld from your officer as soon as possible.”

    “Thank you.”

    And they would conduct the negotiations with diplomats. And without Adora, if Catra had anything to say about it.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, December 4th, 1998

    “I’m so sorry! They were looking at me like I was a goddess or something, and I, uh, panicked and blurted out your secret!”

    Catra sighed. Adora hadn’t even been able to wait until they were off the ramp in the gate room. Sure, it had been a gaffe, but it wasn’t the end of the world - Catra and the others were very familiar with the difference.

    “Well, it probably would have come out anyway at some point, what with all the magic scanners around. Or when we walk into the next Ancient base.” O’Neill shrugged, but it looked a little forced to Catra.

    Adora, though, seemed to be relieved. “I’m still sorry - I should have been more careful. It wasn’t my secret to share.”

    Glimmer nodded in agreement. “But what’s done is done. And we can probably use that in the negotiations.”

    “What happened?” Ah, the generals had arrived, Sidorov in the lead.

    “Well, we didn’t start a war,” O’Neill told him with a wide grin. “We got a new snake prisoner to go, the Tok’ra have agreed to remove the snake from Lieutenant Lenkova, and we will start negotiations for an Alliance as soon as possible. But I have to insist that there won’t be any marriage as part of the Alliance.”

    “What?” The Russian stared at him in apparent confusion.

    Hammond, though, looked like he wanted to sigh. Loudly. “I believe we need a more detailed report, Colonel.”

    “I made a mistake and revealed that we’re descendants from the Ancients,” Adora said.

    “And that got the Tok’ra very interested in Adora and Colonel O’Neill,” Glimmer said.

    “Of course it did.” Entrapa looked confused as well. “Why wouldn’t it? They can access gene-locked First Ones technology - although we don’t know if that extends to all Ancients technology. But the potential is obvious and so helpful with research! Once we find another base, at least - the artefacts we have don’t require them to be studied so far.”

    “Yes,” Sam explained. “But we don’t want everyone to know about Adora and Colonel O’Neill.”

    “Well, only our friends and allies, right? Honesty is the best policy.” Entrapta nodded.

    “The Tok’ra are potential allies. We hope they will join the Alliance, but they haven’t yet,” Glimmer said. “And even then, some secrets are not meant to be shared with everyone.”

    “Yeah. Some are private. Or embarrassing.” O’Neill grinned. “I feel old enough even without all the Ancient ancestry jokes.”

    “Oh. I shouldn’t have mentioned Adora’s species, then?”

    “You revealed classified information?” Sidorov glared at Adora and Entrapta.

    Catra narrowed her eyes at him in return. “None that would concern you. Alliance business. Not Stargate Command business.”

    “If it concerns Colonel O’Neill, it’s our business!” he protested.

    Well, he wasn’t completely wrong. But she wouldn’t let Sidorov attack her friends.

    “This was an Alliance mission, General Sidorov. And the Alliance will discuss how to proceed with the Tok’ra.” Glimmer curtly nodded at him. “We’ll retire for the evening - it’s been a long day.” Without waiting for a response, she started towards the door, leaving the Russian fuming and everyone else from the humans trying to hide their smiles. At least, that was Catra’s impression.

    Grinning, she tugged on Adora’s arm and followed their friends. Sometimes, Glimmer going all “queen” was annoying.

    But sometimes, it was great.

    *****​
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2022
  2. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Yeah, and I don't think many Goa'uld would want to be humans.
     
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  3. Transreal Clouden

    Transreal Clouden Know what you're doing yet?

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    Now they just need to find Pangar.
     
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  4. Tiktog

    Tiktog Experienced.

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    Hey, quick note not particularly important. Noticed Chapter1 isn't threadmarked
     
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  5. macdjord

    macdjord Well worn.

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    'got' -> 'get'

    'now' -> 'not'
     
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  6. Threadmarks: Chapter 62: Diplomatic Meetings Part 1
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 62: Diplomatic Meetings Part 1

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, December 4th, 1998

    “...and then we returned through the gate.” Jack O’Neill resisted the urge to add ‘The End!’ even if it took some effort. But while it would annoy Sidorov, it would also annoy Hammond, and the general didn’t deserve that - he had to deal with Sidorov much more than Jack had to.

    The Russian prick hadn’t stopped scowling since they had returned. He was almost the total opposite of Dr Iwan the Too-Helpful - where the scientist was all smiles, all the time, the general was seeing enemies everywhere. Of course, with his personality, he was bound to make enemies everywhere…

    “Thank you, Colonel.” Haig nodded. The Limey was always polite and professional. Too polite for Jack’s taste. But better that than Sidorov’s paranoia.

    “So, you suspect that the Tok’ra do not have a queen and can’t grow their numbers?” Petit asked, frowning a little.

    “It’s a possibility,” Jack replied. “We have no way to verify it.”

    “But if it is true, that will influence the upcoming negotiations.” Petit nodded. “Of course, that’s beyond our own remit as Stargate Command.”

    Sidorov scowled even more at that. “We are involved as well - the diplomatic contact was only possible because of the Stargate. Any deal with aliens affects our own security - and the security of Earth itself.”

    “I concur,” General Li said. “While every country is, of course, free to make alliances as they see fit, the Stargate is under the control of the United Nations. It is our duty as Stargate Command to ensure that everyone who uses it does so in a responsible manner and doesn’t put our world at risk. This necessitates a certain involvement. We cannot do our duty to guard both the Stargate and the world otherwise.”

    That sounded rehearsed, at least to Jack. Though Li usually talked more formally. But what were Russia and China planning? Did they really want to seek allies of their own in the galaxy? Or was this just an attempt to force their way into the Alliance by threatening to form an alliance with other aliens if they didn’t get their way? Or were they serious about trying to control the Stargate? But the Alliance included three of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. Russia and China were outnumbered there. They could use their veto powers creatively, of course, or raise some trouble with the rest of the United Nations - the majority of the countries on Earth were not members of the Alliance, after all, and a lot of them had no real chances to join in the near future for a variety of reasons.

    “I believe that SG-1 and our Etherian friends took every precaution when reaching out to an alien power at war with the Goa’uld,” Haig said. “I also would like to point out that this contact occurred as a result of one of our exploration missions going missing.”

    “Which is another reason why this involves Stargate Command,” Sidorov snapped. “Stargate Teams were involved from the start.”

    “To recover our missing team,” Petit retorted. “Which was accomplished before the mission to contact the Tok’ra was even contemplated, I believe.”

    “Nevertheless, as my colleague has said before, SG-1 was an essential part of the contact mission.” Li smiled. “And SG-1 is part of Stargate Command. They have performed diplomatic duties before as well if I recall correctly.”

    “First contacts,” Hammond told him. “But this isn’t about first contact any more - this is now a matter between the Alliance and the Tok’ra, not Stargate Command.”

    “It is a matter that concerns the entire world,” Li objected.

    “You got the entire planet into a war with aliens before without telling anyone else on Earth!” Sidorov snapped. “The United Nations took control of the Stargate to prevent a repeat of that. And now you want to form an alliance with Goa’uld!”

    “Uh, the Tok’ra do not consider themselves Goa’uld - in fact, they consider it an insult to be called Goa’uld,” Daniel pointed out. “That was in our report.”

    While Jack’s friend weathered the glare from the Russian, Jack studied Li. The Chinese general was hard to read, but he had to have a plan - he had to be aware that Haig, Hammond and Petit could and would block him from trying to mess with the upcoming diplomatic negotiations. And even if they didn’t, Glimmer wouldn’t let Li stop her.

    “Whatever!” Sidorov spat. “But they are the same species - they can take control of your body! And we cannot be sure that they aren’t infiltrated by our enemies! This contact represents a significant risk for our world!”

    “We’ve taken every precaution to minimise the risks,” Haig said.

    “And yet, seeing as your country is a part of the Alliance with the Etherians, some might question how objective you can be,” Li retorted with a polite smile. “I think this question is a political one, not a military one, and has to be settled on an international level.”

    Were they planning to use the United Nations to delay further missions to contact the Tok’ra until their demands - whatever they were - were met? Jack couldn’t tell but he wouldn’t put it past the Russians and Chinese to try to hold the world hostage.

    Well, he added with a grin, let’s see how that works out for them. Not only were the most powerful NATO countries united in this, but he had a feeling that Glimmer wouldn’t be amused either.

    *****​

    Earth Orbit, Solar System, December 4th, 1998

    “Do you think Jack is mad at me?” Adora asked after their shuttle had touched down inside Darla’s hangar.

    “Dunno,” Catra replied with a shrug. “He’ll get over it,” she added as she hit the button to open the door with her fist.

    Adora frowned. “I’m really sorry.”

    “And you told him that. More than once,” Catra stretched her hands over her head as she walked down the ramp. “Home sweet home.”

    Adora sighed. Catra might not be the best person to ask about this. She was incredibly biased in favour of Adora. In fact, Catra would take her side over Jack’s no matter what happened, Adora was sure of that. And, of course, Catra’s view of what was a serious mistake was slightly skewed because of her past.

    She bit her lower lip. And by asking her lover, she was poking at the scars left from that part of their life. Oh, she was just making more mistakes, was she?

    An elbow in her ribs started her. “Hey!” she blurted out.

    Catra grinned at her. “You were putting yourself down again for no reason. Sure, you made a mistake, but it wasn’t a big one. Sooner or later, it would have come out anyway, as Jack said.” She narrowed her eyes at Adora with the last bit.

    “I know…” Adora sighed. Sure, Jack had said that. But had he meant it? She was well aware of the influence they had on Earth. And while Jack wasn’t a politician - he complained about them often enough - he would know that. She didn’t think he would actually lie to her because of it, but… How would she know?

    “Yes, you know,” Glimmer said, joining them with Bow, who had finished shutting down the shuttle’s systems. “So stop beating yourself up over it. Besides, Entrapta blurted out your secret, and you’re not mad at her, are you?”

    “Of course not!” Adora suppressed the urge to check if Entrapta had heard them - they had dropped off their friend in her spacelab before continuing to Darla.

    “And we’re supposed to be honest with our friends - and future friends,” Bow added with a smile. “If they found out later that we’ve kept such a secret from them, it would be worse.”

    “And Jack should know that,” Catra said.

    “I know.” But Entrapta blurting out something in her excitement was different than Adora revealing Jack’s secret to protect herself.

    “Oh, come on!” Catra sighed. “No one’s perfect. Not even you.”

    “I know.” Adora couldn’t help pouting.

    “Now come! I want to grab a snack before we go to bed. It’s been a long day.” Catra tugged on her arm.

    “You’ve eaten half the buffet at the dinner!” Glimmer pointed out.

    “Only the fish dishes!” Catra defended herself.

    “Those were half the buffet!” Glimmer snorted.

    “No, the fried fish was actually fried brain.”

    “What? You’re joking!” Glimmer gasped.

    “No, it’s the truth!” Catra grinned widely.

    “And you didn’t tell us?”

    “Well, I thought you could use some more brains.” Catra released Adora’s arm and dashed towards the kitchen.

    “Oh, you!”

    Adora giggled while Glimmer shook her head. She felt a little better as well - her friends were right, after all.

    But there was something niggling at her still.

    *****​

    A while and a tuna sandwich later - Adora reminded herself to make sure that they took enough canned tuna for Catra back to Etheria when they returned - Adora was on the bed in their cabin, and Catra was changing into her sleeping clothes. Which was stripping down to her underwear, mostly.

    And that was a very distracting sight, even when Catra wasn’t trying to tease Adora like she was doing right now. And it was working. Especially when she kept stripping past the underwear before crawling onto the bed, and…

    But afterwards, even with Catra resting her head on Adora’s chest, the niggling was back. Adora stared at the ceiling above their bed - weirdly as it was, the metal ceiling felt more familiar than the decorated ceiling back in Bright Moon - and sighed.

    “You know, after what we just did, you should sigh with a lot more satisfaction,” Catra complained at once.

    “Sorry.” Adora sighed again. “I just can’t stop thinking about something. I mean, it keeps coming back.” She had stopped thinking about anything or anyone but Catra for quite a while just before, after all.

    Catra snorted. “This better be a subtle way to ask me for another round without asking.”

    Adora had to chuckle at that despite her mood. “I would just ask,” she told her lover.
    Or kiss her and see where it would lead to.

    “I don’t know. Sometimes, you try to do something because you saw it on TV.” Catra smirked at her

    Adora pouted for a moment. The rose petal thing had seemed a good idea at the time. Who would have known that Darla would send the cleaning bots in?

    Catra shifted, sliding on top of her and facing Adora. “So, what’s got you more distracted than me?”

    “It’s not that!” Adora protested. Catra was much more important than that!

    In response, Catra raised her eyebrows.

    Once more, Adora sighed. “It’s about today’s mistake - but not in the way you think it is,” she quickly added when her lover started to frown. “I was just asking myself if I could trust Jack is telling the truth when he said his secret would have come out anyway and so it’s OK. You know, in a general way.”

    Catra blinked. “How do you mean? He is sneaky, yes, but he also is honest with his friends. Mostly.”

    Mostly? Adora filed that away for another discussion, “No, I meant in general. We’ve got a lot of power. On Earth, and back home.”

    Catra nodded, but in her ‘get on with it, you dummy’ way.

    “So, how much can we trust people to be honest with us? How likely is it that someone’s going to lie to us because they fear we wouldn’t like the truth and take it out on them?” Adora bit her lower lip.

    Catra blinked again, and Adora felt her grow tense for a moment before she took a deep breath and shifted a little on Adora. “Ah. Like in the Horde?”

    “Yes, exactly!” Adora nodded. The instructors, Shadow Weaver, Hordak - basically, everyone - had demanded that they were honest, but if you told the truth, be it your opinion or just a fact, and they didn’t like it, odds were you got punished for it.

    Catra tilted her head, her shoulders twitching a little, the best she could to shrug in her position. “We’re not the Horde. People know we won’t punish them for being honest. Well, we’ll punish them if they deserve it for other reasons.”

    “But what if they don’t know that?” Adora bit her lower lip. “They don’t know us that well - they haven’t grown up with us. They haven’t fought with us.” Catra opened her mouth, and Adora quickly added: “I don’t mean Jack, Sam, Daniel and Teal’c. I mean the rest of Earth.”

    “Ah.” Another twitch-shrug followed. “They’ll learn. We are being honest about it, after all. Even I.” Catra grinned.

    “But until then?” Adora took a deep breath. “And what about back home? How many people know us there? I mean, really know us?”

    Catra snorted, but her smile twisted a little. “Enough know me, at least.”

    That again. “You’ve changed,” Adora told her - as firmly as she could.

    “Even so, many won’t know that,” Catra told her. “Former Horde soldiers still give me weird looks when they see me.”

    Adora frowned. “‘Weird’? Like, they can’t believe you’re in the Alliance?” With her? “Or they don’t trust you?” Lonnie had taken a while, Adora knew, to trust Catra. At least Adora assumed Lonnie had started to trust Catra since it had been a while since the last time that their friend had asked Adora what she thought about Catra’s change of allegiance. Maybe she should ask Lonnie about that…

    “That too,” Catra said, shrugging again. “But they also look at me like they did back in the Horde. When they think I can’t see them, at least. You know, hoping I won’t notice any mistake or something and will leave soon.”

    Oh. That was… well, it made sense. That was how things were - had been - in the Horde. Catra had been in charge of the Horde for a few years, after all. And if you displeased your superior, there wasn’t much they couldn’t do to you. Every cadet had that beaten into them, Literally sometimes.

    “But you know, that’s the Horde. Former Horde,” Catra said.

    Adora knew that. But… “And what if people in Bright Moon think the same and are just better at hiding it?”

    “They aren’t better at hiding it,” Catra said with a twisted smile. “Trust me.”

    Adora narrowed her eyes. They were giving her a hard time? If she found out who… She blinked again. “Oh.”

    “It’s nothing,” Catra said. “I did try to destroy them a few times, after all.” She didn’t sound entirely honest, though - Adora knew her too well to fall for her tone.

    “It’s not nothing,” Adora told her. “But I just caught myself thinking that I had to straighten out whoever was doing… whatever. And that would be…” She pressed her lips together.

    “Oh,” Catra echoed her. “Yeah, that would make them hide their real feelings. More than they do, at least.”

    “You think they’re already doing that?”

    “Everyone’s doing that,” Catra said with a snort. “Somewhat, at least. You don’t take out your bad mood on people. And you don’t complain to just anyone if you feel down.”

    “You know what I mean,” Adora retorted.

    “Well, do you go up to people and tell them: ‘I think you’re with the wrong person and should pick someone else’?” Catra raised her eyebrows.

    What? Adora clenched her jaws as she felt another, stronger urge to have a talk with whoever was… Oh, she was doing it again. But this was different. “Well, if they were a friend and I were really concerned…” But she didn’t know anyone like that.

    Catra snorted once more. “So, that’s normal. It wasn’t a Horde thing. Or not just a Horde thing.”

    “But it was worse there,” Adora retorted. “And it’s one thing to not mention something about someone’s private life, but what if it’s about the war?” Lying about the war could lead to disaster. You needed to trust your troops and the information they told you.

    “I don’t think either the Princess Alliance or the Earth countries in the alliance are like that,” Catra said. “We’ve been working with the Americans long enough to tell.”

    “Yes.” Adora slowly, if a little awkwardly, nodded - she was still on her back, after all.

    But she still couldn’t help worrying that things weren’t as well as they should be.

    Because Catra, Hordak and Scorpia had changed for the better - well, Scorpia didn’t really have to change, just realise a few things - but what if a princess changed for the worse? Not Adora’s friends, of course; they might carry grudges, but they were good people. But there were a lot of princesses on Etheria. And not all of them would be as brave and good as Adora’s friends.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, December 5th, 1998

    “Normally, I’d hate to work on a Saturday, but I’ll make an exception to watch another Goa’uld get sucked out of their host.”

    Samantha Carter suppressed a chuckle at the Colonel’s comment - it would only encourage him, and she wasn’t sure how General Sidorov would react to more humour. The man seemed determined to prove the Cold War stereotype of humourless Russians true. Fortunately, the general was hovering near the stretcher onto which they had strapped Lieutenant Lenkova and so was out of earshot.

    A fact the Colonel seemed determined to exploit. “Well, looks like even our Russian paranoid officer in charge isn’t too far gone. Unless, of course, he hovers over the Lieutenant because he expects her to break the straps and go for a gun, and he wants first dibs at shooting her.”

    Sam knew better than to comment. Daniel, of course, didn’t. “Why would he want to shoot his own officer, Jack?”

    And, as expected, the Colonel jumped on it. “For failing, of course, Daniel! A true Russian soldier wouldn’t have let themselves get possessed, don’t you know? And failure is treason!”

    “But…” Daniel’s also inevitable retort was cut off when the gate crew started the activation sequence.

    Sam raised her head as she watched the chevrons getting locked, followed by the vortex billowing out, then collapsing into the stable wormhole. Even after countless trips, it was still an awe-inspiring sight for anyone who realised just how advanced the technology behind this was.

    “Our request was answered. Codes match the ones we exchanged with the Tok’ra,” Siler announced.

    “Alright, kids! Time to get another snake prisoner!” The Colonel turned to the Russian team guarding Lenkova. “We’ll go first, and you follow. And don’t stumble while going through the gate - we don’t want you to get lost on the way!”

    The Russians didn’t react to the weak joke and only moved at a nod from Sidorov. Sam sighed, hefted the transport box - she wasn’t going to call it a snake carrier despite the Colonel’s suggestion - and walked up the ramp. Once more into the breach. At least it felt like it.

    And then she went from the slightly stale and ionised air of the gate room into the hot, dry air of a desert planet. A group of Tok’ra were waiting for them on the other side of the gate, as expected. Martouf/Lantash was amongst them, which Sam had expected as well. And dreaded to some degree - she wasn’t ready to deal with… their expectations. She wasn’t Jolinar reborn. She had some of Jolinar’s memories, but that was it. And she most certainly wasn’t ready to enter a relationship with anyone, least of all a host/symbiont union! Would that be a ménage-à-trois? Technically, she supposed. Not that they would have actually said anything concrete, but the undertone… She pushed the thought away as they walked down the ramp. They were here for Lieutenant Lenkova, nothing else.

    Behind them, the Russian team - formerly their second team, now their first, with Lenkova’s team all but wiped out - followed through the Stargate, two carrying Lenkova on her stretcher and the other two with their weapons out.

    They looked nervous and were trying not to show it. Well, Sam had to trust that they wouldn’t start shooting their allies. Perhaps a subtle warning to the Tok’ra would not go amiss…

    But their hosts were already bringing up their transport.

    “So, are we going back to the decoy base, or did you grow a special base for this?” the Colonel asked with a wide smile. “Hey, is it actually easier for you to grow a new base than clean your old one?”

    To Sam’s relief, the Tok’ra didn’t take offence. Martouf - no, that was Lantash - even laughed. “No, Colonel, it’s not quite that easy. And we wouldn’t want to leave too many bases, lest we make the Goa’uld wonder how we are building them if they stumble on a complex we left. Of course, now that they are aware of our capability, we might reconsider your suggestion - no one likes to be on janitorial duty, after all!”

    The Colonel laughed in return. “Oh, yes!” In a lower voice, he added: “Who would have thought that aliens have a better sense of humour than our own allies?”

    “Well, Jack, since you always complain about Russians - and Germans - having no sense of humour, obviously, you should have expected that we would encounter aliens with a better sense of humour sooner or later,” Daniel said as they climbed into the transport. “Although, of course, just as what is considered funny varies considerably on Earth, the same would be true for alien civilisations…”

    “It was a rhetorical question, Daniel.”

    “Oh.”

    Sam was sure the Colonel knew that Daniel was aware of that and was just using the opportunity to annoy the Colonel back a little. But it was all part of their team dynamic.

    “How have you been?” Martouf asked, sitting down near her as the transport took off.

    Sam forced herself to smile. Politely. “Busy writing reports and dealing with other paperwork. Assessing experiments.” Instead of, say, working on the spacelab with Entrapta. “What about you?”

    “Ah, we were also busy dealing with the aftermath of the infiltration.” He smiled in that familiar manner - familiar to Jolinar, Sam reminded herself. “Entrapta isn’t coming?”

    “No. She is busy in her lab,” Sam told him. And, as she had confided in Sam, she didn’t want to risk revealing more information to the Tok’ra that might get her friends angry or in trouble until they were officially part of the Alliance.

    “Ah. Anise and Molinar will be disappointed.” Martouf grinned. “They will attempt to monopolise you, I fear.”

    “I hope it won’t be too bad.” Sam would actually prefer dealing with Anise and Molinar to chatting awkwardly with her former symbiont’s ex-lovers.

    Very much so, she added to herself when she saw Martouf smile again.

    *****​

    Alliance Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium, Earth, December 5th, 1998

    “...and if we were to provide them with hosts, we would create a huge security risk - the Tok’ra would be aware of everything their hosts know. Everything,” the German representative, their Verteidigungsminister, repeated himself.

    The German general next to him nodded in agreement. He had been doing that a lot, Catra had noticed. She couldn’t tell if he was just going along with his superior’s opinion or if he fully shared the view. Not that it mattered - the Germans were very clear about how their military was under the complete control of their government, as if that was not how things should be anyway. Glimmer would fire any officer in Bright Moon’s military who disobeyed her orders, and many princesses would do the same - or worse.

    “So what?” The French Ministre de la Défense shrugged. “Don’t let them possess any member of the military, past or present, and I don’t see the problem.”

    “Even civilians know a lot about our military and politics!” the German retorted. “A significant part of the population has military experience!”

    “Experience that is now outdated in key points,” the British Secretary of State for Defense cut in. “Yes, they will be familiar with our combat doctrine and weapons, which we will be using in the upcoming campaign, but the enemy is already aware of at least our small unit tactics thanks to their little war with the United States. And once we start a serious ground campaign, they will also be aware of our armoured forces and air forces.”

    That ruffled the Americans’ feathers, Catra could tell. “We have dealt decisive blows to the enemy,” their Secretary of Defense snapped. “But we do share our German allies’ concerns about crucial intelligence being fed to the Tok’ra. As we all have agreed, this war won’t be a strictly military affair but will also rely on a civil campaign to educate the indoctrinated population of the enemy and especially their forces. Even information about Earth’s culture is significant in this context.”

    “We are talking about the Tok’ra, not the Goa’uld. If we agree to let them recruit hosts, then that will be part of the Alliance agreement. Which means they will be our allies,” Adora pointed out.

    “That doesn’t mean we can trust them with such information,” the German minister insisted. “Even amongst allies, you do not share everything.”

    “Although sometimes, that includes things you should have shared.” The British minister wasn’t looking at the American one, but it was clear what he was talking about.

    And this time, the American gritted his teeth and didn’t respond.

    They were still carrying grudges over Stargate Command being kept a secret. Catra sighed softly. She could understand the sentiment, but it wasn’t really helpful.

    “Are you saying that you expect the Tok’ra to… undermine our efforts to liberate and educate the Goa’uld slaves?” Adora frowned at them. “Have you read our report about how much care they show in recruiting hosts?”

    “We’re aware of their claims, yes,” the German minister replied. “But we have to consider the long-term issues. Nations do not have friends; they have interests, as our British allies are fond of saying. And while currently, everyone’s interests align with regard to the war against the Goa’uld Empire, that might not be the case any more once the enemy is defeated.”

    Adora scowled at that. Catra did so as well. That sounded as if they expected another conflict to break out after they had beaten the Goa’uld - just like it had on Earth after their last world war. Not a really unrealistic view, in Catra’s opinion, given what she knew about Earth. On the other hand, she knew that one of the surest ways to start a conflict - or a war - was to assume it would happen anyway.

    “But even if we disregard that slightly pessimistic view,” the French minister said, “there remains the question of loyalty. Any host would become a Tok’ra, according to what we know about their society - a life-long partner of their ‘symbiont’. How is that supposed to be a true partnership?”

    “Just as marriage is supposed to be a true partnership?” Catra asked, cocking her head. That was the obvious answer, in her opinion.

    “There are parallels to marriages between citizens of different nations, though as our history taught us, couples formed by people from different countries are often put under heavy strain if their countries are in conflict,” the British minister said.

    “And it’s a bit more… encompassing… than mere marriage,” the American general pointed out with a smile. “I’m not sharing the same body with my wife.”

    “The issue is, can we trust our citizens to remain loyal when entering such a relationship? Ultimately, the Tok’ra can enforce their will on them if push comes to shove,” the American minister said. “This needs to be a concern when selecting hosts.”

    Adora frowned again. “The Tok’ra would be selecting the hosts from volunteers.”

    “Yes, but it’s obvious that we need to veto those amongst the volunteers that are unsuitable for security reasons,” the American retorted.

    “That depends on whether or not there are many volunteers,” the Minister from Canada added. “I can’t imagine that there would be too many of them who would want to share their body with an alien.”

    “There are billions of humans. There will be a lot of them,” the American minister told him. “And what do we do about volunteers from outside the alliance?”

    “We need to stipulate in any agreement with the Tok’ra that they limit their recruiting efforts to our own countries,” the German minister replied. “If we successfully negotiate an alliance, of course.”

    That seemed to be a tad optimistic. Catra shrugged. “The Tok’ra are already aware that Earth isn’t united. What if they want to open relations with other countries if they feel we’re too restrictive or something?”

    “And do we have the right to keep someone from entering such a partnership? That would be like telling people they can’t marry,” Adora added.

    “Well, I think it’s not quite like that,” the American minister said.

    “Imagine if the Tok’ra get hosts from the Russians… or the Chinese…” The German minister shook his head. “Either would love to send a spy to get all the advanced knowledge of the aliens.”

    “Or Iran or North Korea. And if the Tok’ra become influenced by such extremist ideologies…” The American minister looked grim.

    “Well, don’t try to restrict them too much, then, so they have no need to seek out other hosts?” Catra offered with a shrug.

    None of the people present seemed to like that idea. But they didn’t seem to like the alternative even less.

    “I guess we can’t really keep them off Earth. Not unless we are ready to go to war…” the American general muttered.

    “We are trying to make allies, not enemies,” Adora reminded him. Once again, the others present didn’t seem to like it.

    Catra hoped that Glimmer was doing better in her meeting with the foreign ministers.

    *****​

    P34-353J, December 5th, 1998

    And there went another snake, Jack O’Neill thought as the laser-syringe-teleporter thingie started to work on Lenkova. The woman was, fortunately, sedated - the procedure hurt like hell as far as they had been told by the Tok’ra.

    They also had been told that there was a chance of failure. Failure to stop the Goa’uld from killing the host, to be exact - it wouldn’t fail to extract the snake. But Jack wouldn’t dwell on that. It had worked with the Tok’ra host taken over by the Goa’uld spy. It would have to work with Lenkova as well. The woman didn’t deserve to be killed by a damn snake, and certainly not in that way.

    He carefully schooled his features, projecting confidence as he watched the procedure. Lenkova was one of his soldiers. He was, at least partially, responsible for this, anyway. If he had trained her a bit better, maybe she could’ve avoided capture. If he had let the fact that she was a Russian spy influence his training her... No, he didn’t think he had. But he had been avoiding her outside training.

    Daniel was watching intently as well. Jack wondered if his friend was seeing Sha’re on the table here. Jack was familiar with things like that. And with personal failures.

    He pressed his lips together. This wasn’t the time to go there. He forced the thoughts of his family - his former family - away and glanced around. The Tok’ra present were mumbling under their breath. Probably doing that recital thing on the sly - Jakar would have told them the name of the Goa’uld inside Lenkova and their crimes. Jakar was present himself, but that was understandable. This was the Goa’uld scumbag who had almost got away when he had blown up the bioweapons research lab. Jack would’ve attended as well in the Tok’ra’s place.

    Anise was at the controls of the extractor, with Carter watching her as intently as the others were watching Lenkova. Jack envied his SIC. To be able to focus on something in a situation like this instead of having the time to let your mind wander to places you didn’t want to touch must be great. And Jack would bet a week’s worth of dessert on Carter already planning to copy the extractor. Or improve on it. Probably with Entrapta’s help. They couldn’t rely on the Tok’ra for this forever, could they?

    He looked at the Russian team. They looked a bit nervous and trying to hide it. That was understandable, in Jack’s opinion - this was their first real mission off-world. Their leader, Lieutenant Babanin, wasn’t the most creative officer Jack had ever met, to say the least, but he wasn’t the worst either. Solid came to mind as a description, though he was a bit too prone to follow orders to the letter. But that was a problem with all Russian soldiers. And the Chinese, too. But he and his men would do. At least for this - Jack wasn’t quite sure he’d trust them in every situation. Not with Sidorov in charge. If the damn Russian started meddling and endangering Jack’s people…

    His thoughts were interrupted by the extractor finishing - the lights changed, and Jack could spot some snake inside the tube. Jakar stepped forward and took it, removing the container from the extractor. The spy stared at it for a moment before handing it over to Carter.

    Yeah, I would have wanted to smash the snake as well, Jack thought. But they needed prisoners, and the Etherians wouldn’t take well to such killings. For people coming from a world ruled by absolute monarchs and the closest thing to United Nations or international law being a ball thrown for princesses every ten years and ‘whatever they agreed upon at the buffet small-talk’, they certainly took human rights seriously. Or alien rights.

    “I’m administering the counter-agent to the sedative,” Anise announced. She stepped up to Lenkova and injected something into her. “Provided you have given us the correct data and drug, she should be waking up soon.”

    “We have,” Jack told her, nodding curtly. No sense encouraging the snake - she had been staring at him like some recruit in basic seeing a decent home-cooked meal for the first time in weeks before the procedure had started.

    “Good. It is a pleasure working with you, Colonel O’Neill.” And there she was doing it again, smiling far too warmly at him.

    He shrugged. “Ah, just doing what we can.”

    “And you can do a lot, I am sure.” She took a step closer, and Jack fought the urge to take a step back. Or call for help. He could handle a pushy woman, snake or not.

    That didn’t mean he wasn’t grateful for the distraction when Carter spoke up: “Lieutenant Lenkova is waking up.”

    And she was. He could see her shift, pulling against the straps - which Carter quickly released - before opening her eyes, blinking and mumbling. “Что случилось?” Then her eyes focused on Jack, and she gasped.

    He smiled as warmly at her as he could. “You were possessed by a Goa’uld, Lieutenant,” he told her. “But our new friends removed it. You’re free.”

    She kept blinking. “Free… he’s gone… Oh.”

    Then the tears came, and Jack stepped away. Carter could handle this. Lenkova wouldn’t want her superior officer to see her cry.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, December 5th, 1998

    “Oh, I’m so glad we got an excuse to skip the next ‘planning session’ in Brussels!”

    Adora smiled at Catra’s comment as she stepped off the shuttle ramp at the Stargate Command landing pad. The military had already discussed all of the parts of the Tok’ra Alliance proposal to be put forward that fell under their area of influence. At least as far as Adora could tell - they had been rehashing the same points at the end of the last session. So, it wasn’t as if they were doing any harm by skipping the rest of the meetings.

    “Welcome to Stargate Command!”

    Jack was there, personally greeting them? Adora frowned. He hadn’t been doing that for months now.

    “What’s wrong?” Catra asked before Adora could. “You wouldn’t be out here for no reason.”

    Jack raised his eyebrows. “What? You don’t think I would want to personally welcome you to the hallowed halls of Stargate Command?”

    Catra narrowed her eyes. “And stand around in this cold?” She pointed at the snow on the ground to the side. “It’s so bad, I have to wear shoes!”

    “Ah, you get used to it after the first bout of frostbite. And soon, anything above freezing starts feeling hot.” Jack grinned for a moment, then grew serious, More or less. “I’ve actually used the opportunity to check out the work on the ‘shuttleport’,” he added, pointing to the construction site next to the pad.

    “You’re expanding?” Adora asked. “I thought you were relocating. Or is this to make it easier to move?”

    “Stargate Command is moving. The Mountain’s still one of the key command centres of the United States - and the world. With shuttles finally in production in the US - and rolling off the assembly lines in Canada already, somehow - that means we’ll need shuttleports to be ready for them. At least, that’s what the Pentagon says.”

    “You could use airports and Air Force bases,” Catra pointed out. “Shuttles don’t need more space than a landing pad.”

    “Yep, that would be the logical course of action.” Jack snorted. “But unlike constructing entirely new ports, using existing infrastructure wouldn’t net the construction firms as much money. And the brass claims we need the experience.” He shrugged. “Some people are already predicting that airports will be replaced by shuttleports, causing mass layoffs and all that stuff. Stupid, of course, as long as most countries of the world don’t have shuttles and are stuck with airplanes, but I expect some protesters forming outside our base any day now. Well, maybe once it’s a bit warmer…”

    Catra shrugged. “Shuttles are more convenient. And safer.”

    “But we don’t have enough of them, and won’t have for a long while, to replace civilian air traffic. Not to mention we don’t have civilian shuttle models at all.” Jack grinned. “And trust me, civilians won’t want to fly military. Hell, I don’t want to fly military if I can get a nice American Airlines flight instead. The service is much better, and the stewardesses are prettier.”

    Adora chuckled at his weak joke.

    “You want to flirt with stewardesses?” Catra shook her head. “You like to court danger, do you?”

    Jack narrowed his eyes for a moment before grinning - a bit toothily. “As an Air Force officer, it’s my duty to flirt with stewardesses. It’s in the regs.”

    “Should I ask Sam what she thinks of those regulations?”

    “Female officers are exempt,” Jack retorted in a flat voice. “Anyway,” he continued a little more loudly, “let’s get inside before we freeze our butts off here.” He clapped his hands together for emphasis.

    “Yes,” Adora agreed. “How’s Lieutenant Lenkova?” she asked as they walked towards the entrance.

    That caused Jack to wince and grow serious. “She’s doing as well as you can expect when you’ve had a snake in your head. Fortunately, she was unconscious for most of it, so it was just a short time, but…” He shrugged.

    “Yes,” Catra agreed in a clipped tone.

    Her lover was remembering her time under Horde Prime’s control, Adora knew. She reached out and held Catra’s hand, squeezing gently, and was rewarded with a familiar smile and Catra’s tail rising.

    Adora nodded as they stepped through the gate. Catra had recovered. And Lieutenant Lenkova would as well. In any case, Adora would do what she could to help her along, which included healing her. That’s what they were here for, after all. Amongst other things. And to get away from more meetings.

    *****​
     
  7. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    That might take a while, alas.

    Ack! Thanks, fixed now!

    Thanks, fixed now!
     
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  8. Transreal Clouden

    Transreal Clouden Know what you're doing yet?

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    International politics is complicated who knew?

    I suppose in some ways that's the tagline of this story.
     
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  9. Threadmarks: Chapter 63: Diplomatic Meetings Part 2
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 63: Diplomatic Meetings Part 2

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, December 5th, 1998

    Samantha Carter took another look at Lieutenant Lenkova. The woman was asleep. Finally. And the nurse had wiped away the tears tracts on her cheeks. And the snot from her nose. Magical healing didn’t clean you up, she absent-mindedly noted. At least not when whatever residue was left didn’t endanger your health. But Adora’s magic certainly had healed all remaining injuries of the officer in the bed. There was no need for infusions or further treatment - not physical, at least.

    She stepped out of the room and closed the door behind her. The two Russian guards outside nodded at her without a word. Sam wanted to say something supportive, but she couldn’t think of one that wouldn’t have felt trite or stupid.

    So she nodded back and walked to the lift. She felt guilty for leaving, but there was nothing more that she could do for Lenkova right now, and she couldn’t just sit at the woman’s bedside - she had her own duties. Duties that required access to her lab.

    But first, she had a report to make. So she headed to the Colonel’s office.

    “...and so I told the guy: ‘Use it or lose it’. And he lost it.”

    The Colonel was behind his desk, telling a story to Adora and Catra that Sam had heard before. Adora was nodding along on the seat in front of the desk, but Catra was sitting on the edge of the desk, on top of several papers, and stretching. Once more, it struck Sam just how much Catra often acted like a cat. The effects of the spliced genes that had gone into her ancestors must be more profound than Sam would have expected. Maybe if she had a scan of the woman’s brain…

    “So, how is the Lieutenant?” the Colonel interrupted her stray thought. Which she shouldn’t have had - she must be more tired than she thought.

    “Asleep,” Sam replied. “Physically, she’s fine, but mentally…” She pressed her lips together.

    “She’ll get over it,” Catra said with a nod. It sounded confident but also a little dismissive. “It wasn’t her fault that she was possessed.”

    Ah. Of course, given what Sam knew about Catra’s past, it made sense she would think like that. “People aren’t rational like that when it comes to trauma,” Sam pointed out. “And she blames herself for failing her team.” Lenkova had said as much to Sam before falling asleep.

    The Colonel winced. He, too, would be familiar with guilt, Sam knew. He would be able to talk to Lenkova about what she was going through, but… Sam wasn’t sure she liked the idea. On the other hand, she didn’t really trust most of the therapists on Stargate Command’s payroll to handle this. They simply lacked experience with what Lenkova had gone through. Sam knew - to some degree - how having your body taken over felt. But she didn’t know how losing your team as a leader felt.

    “But it wasn’t her fault!” Adora said, shaking her head. “Sometimes, you do everything right, and you still fail. And it was her first mission against the Goa’uld.”

    Catra snorted, though Sam didn’t see what would be amusing about the comment, and the Colonel shook his head. “All members of Stargate Command are highly-trained and skilled soldiers. And most of them have combat experience in some form. She will blame herself for missing something or giving the wrong order.” He scoffed. “Trust me, I know that feeling.”

    Catra nodded in agreement. “But she’ll get over it,” she repeated herself.

    Sam wanted to ask if the woman was speaking from experience, but that would be… You didn’t ask about things like that. Not in this situation, when they were talking about Lenkova. And Sam was certain that Catra wouldn’t react well to any attempt to poke into her past. Not at all. The catwoman would probably react like the Colonel. Or more rudely. No, some sleeping dogs - or cats - were better left in peace.

    “I hope so. I wish I could heal trauma.” Adora sighed.

    “You can’t just wave your magic wand and solve everything,” the Colonel said with a shrug. His tone was a little less gentle than Sam would have expected. He generally wasn’t as short with Adora.

    Oh. He was feeling guilty as well since Lenkova had been one of his officers.

    She suppressed a sigh. This was worse than she had thought. She wished she could just hole up in the spacelab until someone solved this. She wasn’t a trained psychologist, anyway.

    But she wouldn’t desert her team. Nor her commanding officer.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, December 6th, 1998

    “You wanted to see me, General?” Samantha Carter asked after sitting down in General Hammond’s office. She kept her tone polite, of course - the general had earned her respect. Even though she really wanted to return to her work; with Lieutenant Lenkova still asleep, Sam wanted to use the time to deal with her paperwork and then advance a research project or two - the lines to the spacelab were working, and she really wanted to test the waldos with Entrapta.

    “Yes, I did, Captain.” The General nodded. He took a deep breath, clearly uncomfortable - Sam knew him well enough.

    And she was suddenly worried. General Hammond usually came straight to the point. And not just because he was usually swamped with work. If he was hesitating, then something was wrong. But was it something that concerned Stargate Command? He had only called her, not the rest of SG-1. That meant it was personal. What could have happened? She pressed her lips together before she blurted the question out. Instead, she kept meeting the general’s eyes.

    He sighed once more. “It’s your father, Captain. Jacob.”

    Sam frowned a little as she slightly tilted her head. She hadn’t had contact with her father since that embarrassing meeting in Washington months ago - before she met the Etherians. What could he have done now? And why was General Hammond concerned about it? Her father was stubborn and prideful to a fault - he still hadn’t contacted her, and she certainly wouldn’t contact him after it had been revealed just how important her position was, contrary to his assumptions - but she couldn’t think of anything he’d actually do that would worry the general. Her father wasn’t stupid. “Yes?”

    “Now, he didn’t tell me, but his aide called me, and…”

    Sam nodded. She was aware of how information was passed on through such unofficial channels. But what was it that the General was so hesitant to mention?

    “So, long story short, Captain, Jacob has cancer. Terminal cancer.”

    Sam gasped. Her father was dying? From cancer? Why didn’t he tell me?

    General Hammond winced, and she realised she had asked that question out loud. “Well, he probably didn’t want to appear trying to use your friendship with the Etherians to get preferential treatment.”

    But… “He’s a major general! Surely the United States would ask the Etherians to heal him. He’s…” Important and influential enough to have offered Sam help to get into the NASA astronaut program. Not that she would have accepted the help - if she had achieved it through nepotism, it would have been worthless. And she was already involved with Stargate Command, anyway.

    Once more, General Hammond winced. “Not against his will, I suppose. And…” He shook his head. “Jacob is a proud man. He might be hoping that advanced technology will be adapted in time to heal him.”

    That sounded like her father. Too proud to ask his daughter for help after she refused his help. But that would still mean that her father didn’t tell his superiors that his cancer was terminal - something she wouldn’t put past him.

    Ultimately, it didn’t matter - nothing would change the fact that she couldn’t let her father die. Not if she could get him help. Which she could. She nodded firmly. “I will talk to Adora about that when she’s coming over later today. Is he still in Washington?”

    “His aide told me that Jacob rented a flat in Colorado Springs,” General Hammond told her.

    What? Was he planning to move to… to meet her? Something to ask him once he was healed. “Thank you, sir.”

    General Hammond nodded. He seemed relieved - but also worried.

    “I don’t think he’ll hold it against you,” she said. Truthfully, she wasn’t sure - her father was prideful, after all. And stubborn. But General Hammond had saved his life in Vietnam.

    “I hope so. But I can’t let him die over some foolish stubbornness, Captain.”

    Sam nodded, although she had no doubt that the General wasn’t merely talking about her father’s stubbornness.

    But that was Sam’s business, not her commanding officer’s.

    When she had left the general’s office, back in the hallway, in a moment of privacy, she closed her eyes and sighed deeply. Dad, dying from cancer… And he hadn’t even told her!

    *****​

    Sam was acting weird today, Catra had decided after the first five minutes in Stargate Command. The woman seemed distracted while they were talking about how to help Lenkova. Catra had mentioned that Lenkova needed a lover to recover, but while Adora had gasped at her, Sam had barely reacted. That was highly unusual, as they said - the woman’s focus was good, but she still tended to react to such jokes at least with a frown or eye roll.

    So, what was it that did this to her? Was she feeling guilty about something? Perhaps something related to Lenkova? Jealousy? Catra could understand that, of course. In hindsight.

    If Sam thought that, with Lenkova recovered, the other woman would once again pursue O’Neill, using the sympathy bonus, as the humans called it, to win out over Sam, who was apparently hampered by their military’s rules… Well, in her place, Catra would probably do a lot of stupid things, not just think about doing them.

    On the other hand, Sam seemed more the type to throw herself into her work if she was struggling with jealousy instead of getting distracted. At least that was Catra’s take on her - she hadn’t reacted like this when Anise had been all but throwing herself at O’Neill (and Catra wouldn’t be too surprised if the Tok’ra actually did that at the next meeting). In any case, Sam should just tell O’Neill that she loved him and settle this. If the rules didn’t allow their relationship, they should change the rules. Hell, if Adora and Glimmer asked, the Americans might change the rules. Or add an exception for O’Neill and Sam. Whatever worked.

    But if it wasn’t her love life, then what had Sam so tied up?

    “...and we won’t be able to tell until the psychiatrists finish their preliminary evaluation, but that can’t be done until she has recovered enough for a session,” Sam said. “And she might react with hostility to such a proposal, anyway.”

    “Why?” Adora cocked her head to the side. “Aren’t psychiatrists specialised in dealing with people suffering like her? Jack said something about a loony bin needing to make profits, but I thought he was joking…”

    Catra nodded, although, privately, she was sure that, while Jack had been joking, he wasn’t just joking but genuinely didn’t like psychiatrists. He had made enough comments about shrinks for that. But that was a topic she wasn’t about to touch.

    Sam sighed. “If the psychiatrists come to the conclusion that she’s mentally unfit for service, she’ll be relieved from her post.”

    “Oh. And you think that the psychiatrists would be wrong.” Adora nodded.

    “I think they tend to underestimate our ability to deal with trauma and apply standards that are better suited for civilian occupations. But I am also aware that the distrust of psychiatrists that many soldiers have might lead to some of them hiding their problems for fear of being judged mentally unfit, ultimately becoming mentally unfit as a result of not getting help,” Sam said.

    That sounded like a quote or something, to Catra, at least. Not that it concerned her. And she didn’t think Sam was worried about anything related to that either. Although… “Did they try to get you removed from Stargate Command?” she asked.

    Sam winced before showing her usual calm expression. “After Jolinar’s death, there were some concerns, mostly by psychiatrists without the necessary experience.”

    Catra nodded but made a mental note not to poke at that topic either. “But that’s not what got you so distracted, is it?” she asked, to change the topic - and to finally get to the bottom of this before Catra was driven crazy by not knowing.

    Sam tensed for a moment, and Adora blurted out: “Distracted? Is something wrong?”

    The woman sighed. “Yes. Although it’s not related to Stargate Command.”

    “What is it? We can help! I think,” Adora said. “We’ll do what we can, anyway. You’re our friend!”

    Catra nodded in agreement - Adora would do what she could for their friend. Any friend, she added to herself with a smile.

    Sam took a deep breath.”It’s my father. He’s sick - cancer. Terminal cancer.”

    Adora gasped. “No! Where is he? I can go heal him right away!” She was out of her seat and turning towards the door before Catra or Sam could react.

    “Wait!” Sam held up her hand. “It’s not that… He’s not dying right this moment. I mean, he’s not in need of immediate healing.”

    “But…” Adora stopped but frowned. “Why should he keep suffering any moment longer than necessary? He’s your father! Or are you worried about, ah, nepotism? With your father’s life in danger?”

    “No!” Sam closed her eyes for a moment and took another deep breath. “It’s… We haven’t talked for a while. We had a falling out a few months ago.”

    “Oh.” Adora blinked. “That’s…” She trailed off.

    A falling out? With her father? Catra wondered how that would have happened. Was Sam’s father like… like Shadow Weaver? Trying to control and manipulate her or something?

    “He didn’t know about Stargate. He thought I was ‘wasting my potential in a dead-end posting’,” Sam explained.

    “Ah.” Adora nodded.

    Catra pressed her lips together. That did sound like a thing Shadow Weaver would have said. To Adora, of course.

    “I’ll still heal him,” Adora said, nodding firmly.

    Sam grimaced. “It’s not... I mean, yes. But I want to talk to him before that. Alone.”

    “Oh, of course!” Adora told her. “Just tell us when I can come and heal him.”

    Sam winced once more.

    Catra almost snorted - was the other woman shuffling her feet? Afraid to talk to her own father? Well, if he really was like Shadow Weaver, then Catra could understand that, of course.

    But the other woman recovered quickly. “Alright, I’ll contact you once that’s… done. Now, about Lieutenant Lenkova…”

    *****​

    White House, Washington D.C., United States of America, Earth, December 6th, 1998

    If he had known how many stupid meetings he would have to attend as a result of meeting the Tok’ra, Jack O’Neill would have buried Jakar in a cell and faked the paperwork rather than contacting the snakes. Well, no, he wouldn’t have done that since that would have doomed Lenkova and Sha’re, but he surely would have thought about it a lot. This was all the Tok’ra’s fault for wanting humans as hosts!

    “...and, in your opinion, Colonel, what kind of threat to Earth would the Tok’ra pose if they went hostile after securing hosts from us?” the Secretary of Defense asked.

    Jack had answered that question before. In his report, even - why was he forced to write those things if no one ever read them? But you didn’t question the cabinet in the White House for not reading reports. Not as a Colonel. Not unless they were about to endanger Earth which they weren’t. For now. “That depends on whether or not travel to and from their territory is restricted and under our control,” he said with a polite smile. “And, if it isn’t restricted and under our control, on what our rules of engagement are.” They could track the snakes with enhanced Etherian sensors, but if the Tok’ra were guests of another country, things would get messy. Probably the kind of messy that Jack had been called to solve back in the Cold War.

    “We control the Stargate,” the Secretary of the Interior said. “But can we control space?”

    “Not at the moment,” the Secretary of Defense - grudgingly, in Jack’s opinion - admitted. “We depend on the Etherians for that. But we can track any arrivals, and we have the capability to intercept spaceships in the atmosphere.”

    Jack frowned as he saw a few cabinet members nod. “You mean launching nukes,” he said.

    Several people gasped, and the Secretary of Defense glared at him. But the President nodded. “I don’t know about everyone else, but I wouldn’t exactly call using weapons of mass destruction on Earth a proportionate response to our allies letting people travel to earth whom we don’t want here.” He leaned forward, folding his hand. “Ladies and gentlemen, we are, and will be for the foreseeable future, dependent on the Etherians for anything related to control of space in this war. We haven’t even laid down the first spaceships yet.”

    “No one on Earth has,” the Secretary of Defense muttered.

    “And our control of the Stargate is not complete,” the Secretary of State added. “It’s under the control of the United Nations, and while we have considerable influence in the Security Council thanks to our allies, we cannot expect to be able to unilaterally dictate who gets to use it and who doesn’t. Certainly not once it has been relocated to Canada.”

    There was some grumbling about that, even though that had been a done deal for months now.

    The President cleared his throat. “I know it’s a bitter pill to swallow, but we have to stop longing for the days when we were the undisputed superpower of the planet. Things have changed, ladies and gentlemen - drastically. The undisputed superpower on Earth is Etheria, and even amongst the countries of Earth, our nation is now merely one amongst the Great Powers. We need to adjust to that reality.”

    “That’s temporary,” the Secretary of Commerce objected. “Our industrial superiority will restore the status quo once we have finished adapting to advanced technology.”

    “The status quo has been irredeemably destroyed,” the Secretary of Education retorted. “Just because we have been the top dog for decades doesn’t mean we’ll return to that position. Demographics and geography can only carry you so far. We are talking about revolutionary technology that is transforming our entire world. The Europeans are already moving to drop their dependency on fossil fuels to take advantage of the new reactor technology the Etherians are sharing.”

    The Secretary of Commerce snorted. “Good look trying to get that past the oil lobby!”

    “Their oil lobby isn’t nearly as strong as ours. And they aren’t nearly as dependent on cars as we are, so the costs for them to change to this new paradigm is much lower - both political and financial,” the woman insisted.

    “I didn’t know you took over my department,” the Secretary of Transportation sniped. “My experts certainly haven’t been able to make such predictions with any confidence.”

    “That’s because they know you’re backed by the oil and car industry lobby and don’t want to upset you,” she shot back. “But the fact remains that we need to change a lot if we want to remain the most powerful nation on Earth. And we can’t do that by sticking to what worked before - and there are a lot of influential people who will fight any such change for entirely selfish reasons.”

    “That’s just green propaganda! And the German car lobby has even more influence than ours!”

    “But not on Europe as a whole!”

    “Ladies and gentlemen,” the President repeated himself. “This is not the time to - civilly - debate our economic policies. We are here to discuss how to answer the Tok’ra’s proposals.”

    Jack had to suppress a grin when he saw the reactions of the cabinet members to getting scolded. Not that it actually was funny, of course, to get such a stark reminder that the government didn’t know what to do yet. But you didn’t make a career in special forces without gallows humour.

    “We can’t let them take over military personnel. Or anyone with classified information,” the Secretary of Defense said. “Also, we’ve come to the conclusion that any attempts to infiltrate them through trained operatives volunteering to become hosts are doomed to failure since they will literally read the operatives’ minds.”

    “Colonel O’Neill, how do you think the Tok’ra would react to a spy becoming a host in order to access their technology and secrets?” the President asked. “Because while I agree that such a course of action would be foolish, I can think of a few countries who would take the chance.”

    “Damn Russians and Chinese,” Jack heard the Secretary of Defense mumble.

    “This is hard to say, Mr President,” Jack said. “The Tok’ra are, ultimately, a society of spies.” Thank you, Daniel, he added silently - his friend’s lectures on the subject were useful. “They will likely expect that. But we don’t know if they would consider it business as usual or an offence - or an opportunity to reach out to a country outside the Alliance for a separate deal.”

    “If only to put pressure on us for more concessions,” the Secretary of State commented.

    “And they have thousands of years of experience with such ploys - we have to assume they are aware of that possibility already,” the Secretary of Education added. “We cannot underestimate them.”

    She was, of course, correct. The snakes, even if they were nominally allies, were damn dangerous.

    “So, the best way to avoid all that is to provide the Tok’ra with as many hosts as they want,” Kinsey, who wasn’t a cabinet member but still present, spoke up. “And if they truly have such a close and intimate partnership with their hosts as you describe, Colonel O’Neill, then the more American hosts they get, the more they’ll share our views over our rivals’.”

    That was just the kind of thinking Jack expected from Kinsey. This was like… a political human wave attack or something. He had to press his lips together to comment.

    But the majority of the cabinet seemed to share the man’s views, nodding in agreement.

    Damn.

    “Of course, there are other ways to influence the Tok’ra,” the bastard went on with a smile. “According to my information, it seems a prominent scientist of them has become infatuated with you, Colonel.”

    Jack went rigid. “The only thing Anise is interested in is my genes,” he snapped, glaring at the man.

    “Isn’t that what most marriages are about, when it comes down to it?” Kinsey shrugged. “But, of course, I am not suggesting a marriage, or even a relationship, Colonel. I am merely pointing out that you have the opportunity to forge close personal bonds - of friendship - with the Tok’ra, as you did with the Etherians. Trust me, Colonel, we are all aware here that your and your team’s friendship with the Etherian leaders is a crucial factor in our relationship with the dominant power of this Alliance.”

    Jack was so busy glaring at the scumbag, he almost missed the reactions of the cabinet. Almost - he didn’t miss the frowns on some people in the room, though. Or the surprise on the faces of some, which he really hoped was there because Kinsey was - dishonestly, of course - praising Jack and not because they had somehow missed the fact that for the Etherians, politics was based on personal relationships.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, December 6th, 1998

    Each time Adora thought she understood Earth, or even just their friends from Stargate Command, they did something that left her confused. Well, not exactly, but it felt like this. Sam’s father was sick - deadly sick. Adora could heal him. But she shouldn’t be healing him right now because Sam wanted to talk to him first. That was kind of understandable - relationships with parents were complicated. Adora had no personal experience with that, having been raised without parents in the Horde, but she had seen Glimmer with Queen Angella and King Micah, and that was certainly a complicated relationship. At least with Queen Angella, but Glimmer had complained about her dad as well, though not as often. Bow had had some issues with his dads as well, but he didn’t complain about them nearly as often as Glimmer, so it probably wasn’t a problem. On the other hand, Bow tended to keep things quiet… Anyway, Mermista’s dad had run away from his kingdom in the middle of the war, leaving her to fight off the Horde almost by herself. And, of course, her other friends didn’t have parents any more.

    But what Adora didn’t quite understand was why Sam wanted her to hide that she was healing her father - if her father accepted to get healed, of course, but why wouldn’t he? He’d die otherwise! “They’re so weird about this,” she muttered under her breath.

    Of course, Catra’s ears perked up, and her lover turned away from the television in the room and cocked her head at Adora: “The humans?”

    Adora looked around even though they were alone in the meeting room. Or waiting room, now that Sam was off to talk with her dad. “Yes.”

    “Of course they’re weird.” Catra shrugged. “We’ve known that from the start.”

    “No, I didn’t mean…” Adora trailed off. “I meant about healing. Everyone knows I heal people if I meet them, and they need healing.”

    Catra nodded. “That’s why we don’t go shopping with you any more.”

    Adora glared at her. Her lover might be right, but that was still not a nice thing to say. Even if all the humans agreed that Adora’s presence caused trouble or something. But it wasn’t her fault that so many people needed to be healed!

    Catra smirked in return, and Adora sighed. “But, as I was saying, the humans know that,” she went on. “So, why do we need to smuggle Sam’s dad into Stargate Command and heal him without anyone knowing?” Catra opened her mouth, and Adora held up a hand. “I know, they don’t want to appear playing favourites.”

    “Well, that’s the reason.” Catra shrugged again. “Do you want to deal with everyone trying to become your friend so they or their family can be healed?”

    Adora pressed her lips together. Of course, she didn’t want to suspect her friends of using her like that! But no one should feel forced to do such a thing anyway because they had no other choice. “But we are playing favourites, aren’t we?” And it was obvious to anyone - there had been some official complaints by other countries, Adora knew, about favouring the USA.

    “Of course we are,” Catra replied. “Would you want to let a friend die just because you can’t save everyone? That would be stupid.”

    Adora nodded. You can’t save everyone, so you should not save anyone? She couldn’t believe some people on TV had actually said that! That wasn’t how you did things! You did what you could to help people!

    “And the humans also do it. They just use excuses, such as ‘improving the efficiency of the government by ensuring that key members of the administration aren’t distracted by health issues or health issues of their immediate family’,” Catra went on.

    Adora groaned at the reminder. Her suggestion that they could just gather everyone in the same room or hall and let her heal them had been turned down ‘for security reasons’. And for the same ‘security reasons’, she was supposed to hide healing the government. Or governments. “Why would the people have a problem with their leaders getting healed?” she complained. “They elected them! If they wanted them to die, they shouldn’t have voted for them!”

    “Perhaps they want them to suffer?” Catra shrugged with a chuckle.

    Adora scoffed. If your leaders were suffering, they couldn’t really focus on leading. And that dragged everyone down. That was basic knowledge any cadet was taught. “That would be stupid of them.”

    Catra nodded in agreement before turning back to the TV, where the news was covering the unveiling of another new factory project in… Detroit?

    Adora had missed the announcement, and the buildings all looked alike to her. Not that it mattered, as long as it distracted her from thinking about the whole thing. And from thinking about whether or not Shadow Weaver had been a parental figure or not.

    *****​

    Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, December 6th, 1998

    Samantha Carter took another look at the apartment complex in front of her. It wasn’t much of a complex - it looked more like a converted small two-story motel. To think that Dad would be living here while he was deathly ill and not in a hotel! He certainly could have afforded a hotel. Was this an attempt to be subtle? Or did he have money trouble? She hadn’t really kept up with the family finances, but a general’s pay, while quite generous for government employees, wouldn’t prevent you from ruining yourself through a few foolhardy investment decisions. Maybe she should have asked Mark if he had heard anything, but her brother might wonder why she would be calling, and if he got involved before she had Dad’s cancer dealt with…

    Sam clenched her teeth. She was stalling, she realised. Trying to delay the confrontation. And she was better than that.

    Straightening, she stepped forward, headed to door number five and rang the bell. Which was newer than the door and looked like it had been added as an afterthought. Definitely a converted motel, then.

    It took about fifteen seconds until she heard “I’m coming!”, and the door opened.

    And Sam was looking at her father. Who was staring back at her for a moment, mouth open, before recovering from his surprise. He looked thinner than she remembered him. Chemotherapy? He still had some hair. Same male balding pattern.

    She took a deep breath. “Hello, Dad.”

    “Sam.” He nodded and took a step back. “Come in.”

    She nodded in return and entered the small apartment, trying not to feel as if she was stepping into the office of a superior.

    The apartment was barely larger than General Hammond’s office, but it did have room not only for an armchair to watch TV but also a small desk turned into a table with two chairs. Sam refrained from commenting on the spartan furniture - she was here to get her father healed, not to start a confrontation.

    “Have a seat.” He gestured at the desk.

    Nodding again, she sat down, and he followed suit, putting the table between them.

    “You’re in uniform,” he said.

    “I came directly from the Mountain.”

    He frowned slightly. “Who told you?”

    “That doesn’t matter.”

    “It was probably George, wasn’t it?” He snorted with a twisted smile. “Trying to save my life again.”

    Sam clenched her teeth. “It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you have inoperable cancer.” She leaned forward. “I’ve arranged for healing by the Etherians.” There. Short and to the point.

    She saw his eyes widen, the edges of his mouth twitching as he relaxed for a moment, before a familiar frown appeared on his face. “I didn’t ask for preferential treatment!” he snapped back. “Or nepotism.”

    Nepotism? Sam suppressed a gasp. Was this what this was about? Oh, he was… “This isn’t about using your influence to get a relative a posting, but about saving a life!” she snapped.

    “It’s the same principle!” he retorted. “Why should this be different?”

    “It’s about your life!”

    “And it was about your life!”

    “No, it was about my career!” She glared at him.

    He scoffed. “We’re both career officers, Sam. The military is our life.”

    “That’s… That’s not true!” There was more to life than your career.

    “Really?” He cocked his head. “And what’s your life outside the military?”

    Not that again! “If you want grandchildren, visit Mark!” she spat.

    His lips turned into a thin line.

    “Sorry,” she pressed through clenched teeth. “I shouldn’t have brought him up.” Her brother’s estrangement from Dad wasn’t why she was here, and bringing it up wouldn’t do any good.

    He slowly nodded. He didn’t apologise for his remarks, though.

    It didn’t matter. She was here because her father was dying and she could save him. Would save him. “As I said, I have asked the Etherians to heal you. You might as well accept it,” she added with a forced snort. “I doubt that you could stop Adora.”

    “Did you think what people will say about this? They’ll accuse you of abusing your position for personal gain.”

    “They already accuse me of exploiting my friendship with them,” she shot back. “And who cares? I don’t want you to die, Dad,” she added in a softer voice.

    “And I don’t want you to sacrifice your career prospects - or your principles - for me.”

    Oh, the stubborn old fool! Sam had to take a deep breath and force herself to calm down to keep from lambasting him. “My career isn’t in any danger,” she said. She was, without any false modesty, the best scientist Earth had for researching Ancient technology and magitech. She wasn’t entirely sure if she would even be allowed to resign her commission if she wanted to.

    “You say that, but I’ve seen good officers get cashiered for petty reasons. Or as scapegoats. Just being my daughter is enough to earn you the enmity of people who can’t get to me.”

    “Removing me from my post would wreck key projects for national security,” she retorted. “Not to mention it might damage relations with our newest ally.”

    He frowned again. “Are you serious?”

    Sam nodded. “For the Etherians, politics are personal. They take friendships very seriously. If I get fired for petty politics, they won’t just shrug and continue business as usual - they’ll question whether or not they can trust America.” She hesitated a moment, then added: “And I could easily get hired by them and continue my work. With far less interference by the brass.” Though she didn’t know if the Etherians would formally hire her - she hadn’t asked how they handled such things, she realised. But she had no doubt that she would be welcome amongst them for as long as she wanted to stay.

    “You would join the aliens?” he seemed surprised.

    “Yes, Dad. They are my friends.” It would also allow her to continue working with SG-1. And she wouldn’t be bound by the regulations concerning personal relationships any more either… Best not go there.

    He nodded. “I see. I didn’t know that.”

    She swallowed the bitter ‘there’s a lot you don’t know about me’ comment that this prompted. “Yes, Dad.”

    “But it’s still…”

    “It’s your life, Dad,” she snapped. “And it’s how the Etherians do things.” With another snort, she added: “Just accept it before they make a diplomatic issue out of it.”

    He chuckled, but she wasn’t entirely joking. Adora felt strongly about family. “I guess I have no choice then? If you’re sure it won’t hurt you…” He trailed off.

    Not nearly as much as you dying would, Sam thought. Out loud, she said: “It won’t.”

    “Alright then.” He sighed and seemed to shrink a little as he slumped, and suddenly, he looked far sicker than before. Tired. Exhausted.

    Sam felt the urge to get him to Adora as soon as possible. “Then let’s go.”

    “Right now?”

    “They’re waiting for you,” Sam explained.

    “You’ve got the leaders of an alien planet waiting to heal me?” He stared at her. “Queens and princesses?”

    “I told you - they’re my friends, and they take that seriously,” she said. “They’d have the president himself reschedule a meeting for this.”

    He blinked, and Sam fought the urge to smirk at him. That would have been petty.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, December 6th, 1998

    “Dad, these are Adora and Catra. Adora, Catra - my father, Major General Jacob Carter.”

    Sam’s father didn’t look much like his daughter, Catra thought. At least not at first glance. In his favour, he didn’t stare at her ears and tail like others - though that hadn’t happened very often lately. Although they also had restricted their visits to diplomatic and military meetings and close friends. People who knew better than to stare at her. Or were used to her. The general had a firm handshake for a human, though, even if he looked frailer than others. She nodded at him. “Hi there.”

    “Hello!” Adora beamed at him.

    “Hello.” He looked around. “So, this is your lab. With all the alien technology.”

    “Yes, Dad.”

    “One of her labs,” Adora added after a moment of silence. “Entrapta and Sam also built a spacelab.”

    “So, you achieved your dream of going to space.”

    “Yes.”

    More silence. Catra rolled her eyes. If that was how you acted with a father, she didn’t want one.

    “So, where do you want to be healed?” Adora asked. “I can do it here. Or we can go to the infirmary so Dr Frasier can observe it with her instruments.”

    “Whatever is more convenient.”

    “We should do it here,” Sam said. “Fewer witnesses.”

    “Rumours will spread anyway,” her father complained.

    “Not on our end,” Sam retorted.

    They were arguing again. Catra shook her head. “Just spread more rumours. Silly ones, so people won’t believe any rumour for a while.” She had done that a few times as a cadet. It hadn’t worked all the time, but it had generally been amusing.

    Sam frowned at her, but her father laughed. “What do you have in mind?”

    “Dad!”

    “Come on, Sam - you almost smuggled me into the base in your trunk.”

    “I did not! I was merely discreet.”

    “Well, you could spread rumours that you needed, uh, to talk about…” Adora trailed off.

    “An arranged marriage? Grandchildren? A teleporter so you could visit more often?” Catra suggested.

    Sam glared at her - she should be used to such humour, in Catra’s opinion, the way she pined after O’Neill - and her father laughed some more.

    Not for long, though. He grew serious soon enough. “I think ‘family matters’ should suffice. People will make up their own rumours anyway. And I can visit George afterwards.”

    “Sounds good,” Catra agreed.

    Sam grudgingly nodded, which sealed it.

    “Good!” Adora beamed at them again and summoned her sword. “For the Honour of Grayskull!”

    This time, General Carter stared, but Catra couldn’t really fault him for that. She had seen it a hundred times and still enjoyed the sight herself. The magic. The power. Adora.

    Adora didn’t lose any time after transforming, pointing her sword at the man right away - as if she feared he might change his mind - and let the magic cover him.

    Catra saw the general stagger, gripping the edge of the table next to him to steady himself even as Sam rushed forward.

    Then he blinked. “Wow. This…” Shivering, he stretched.

    Sam had frozen halfway to grabbing him when he recovered and now pulled out a scanner and pointed it at him. “Let me check!”

    “I healed him,” Adora told her with a pout. Not that Sam would listen, in Catra’s opinion. Not when it was her father getting healed.

    “This is…” The man started moving, rolling her shoulder, raising his arms. Then he bent down, slowly, carefully at first, before doing a squat, then two. “The pain’s gone.”

    “Yes,” Adora told him. “All the microdamage is healed. You’re perfectly healthy for your age now.”

    “I certainly feel like it.” He smiled, though he still looked a little… unsure? Shocked? Catra found it hard to tell.

    “The scan confirms it,” Sam said. “No anomalies.”

    “Anomalies?”

    “It’s magic, Dad. Better be safe than sorry.”

    “I won’t, ah, suddenly grow fur?” he asked with a glance at Catra. “You didn’t mention possible side effects.”

    “You were dying, Dad!”

    “Don’t worry! I haven’t changed anyone since Swift Wind!” Adora tried to reassure him. “I know how to control my magic now.”

    “Good.” The general’s grimace was soon replaced with a smile again. “But even if I transformed - this feels great! Thank you!”

    “You’re welcome.” Adora nodded with a smile.

    Catra leaned back against the wall next to her. One problem solved. And they had something to tease Sam about now. Something safer than her feelings for O’Neill. “She’s a bit like Glimmer and Micah,” Catra whispered. Just a bit, though - there was more tension there, but she was, in some way, as concerned about his health as Glimmer was about Micah’s. With more justification, of course. Micah wasn’t deadly ill. Hadn’t been deadly ill either.

    “And like Glimmer and Angella were,” Adora added in a low voice.

    Catra winced. Angella was trapped in another dimension because of her. Because she had been an idiot and a maniac willing to risk the entire world to get what she wanted. Which she could have gotten anyway if she hadn’t been an idiot. Damn.

    “Oh…” Adora reached out to hold her hand.

    And it seemed as if Sam’s father had noticed her reaction as well.

    Fortunately, Catra was saved from explaining or lying.

    “Carter? You won’t believe what Kinsey did this… Ah, good evening, General Carter.”

    Catra’s ears twitched as O’Neill actually snapped to attention and saluted. She grinned - that was interesting.

    *****​
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2022
  10. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Well, in some ways, yes :)
     
  11. Transreal Clouden

    Transreal Clouden Know what you're doing yet?

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    Well, that's not as fun a resolution to the Jacob thing as Cannon but honestly I'm baffled by the fact that canon happened.

    With all the commentary on Sam/Jack in this story I'm very curious about whether you have plans for resolving things.
     
    Starfox5 likes this.
  12. Threadmarks: Chapter 64: Diplomatic Meetings Part 3
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 64: Diplomatic Meetings Part 3

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, December 6th, 1998

    “Hello, Colonel O’Neill.”

    Jack O’Neill wished someone would have told him that Carter’s father, Major General Jacob Carter, was at Stargate Command before he entered her lab to complain about politicians in general and Kinsey in particular.

    “Hi, Jack!” And Catra was grinning widely. Damn.

    “Hello, Jack.” Adora, at least, was her usual friendly self.

    “Colonel.” And Carter was... annoyed? Or concerned.

    “What did Senator Kinsey do this time?” the general asked.

    Jack didn’t really want to answer that. Not just because it was a little embarrassing; that wouldn’t prevent him from sharing a story with a general - it wasn’t as if he really felt intimidated by them, after all. But it concerned a meeting in the White House. And while Jack trusted his team with his life, so trusting them with his career was easy, the general wasn’t quite that close. And he was Carter’s father.

    So Jack sighed. “He had some interesting ideas about interstellar diplomacy, sir. Unfortunately, they were discussed in a meeting with the President and the cabinet, so I can’t share any details.”

    The man, who looked far too fit for his age, raised both eyebrows. “But you were about to share them with my daughter?”

    “Well, they, ah, concerned her.” Jack kept smiling. “She wasn’t mentioned by name, though, but it included her as well.”

    “Really.” The general didn’t look mollified.

    And neither did Carter. “What did he say, sir?” she asked in a clipped tone.

    Time to backpedal. “He had some comments about politics and personal relationships. With aliens.”

    “What?” The general looked confused. As did Adora. Carter was still frowning. Even more so, now, actually. And Catra…

    …was grinning. “Oh, did he propose some diplomatic marriage for you?”

    “What?”

    “What?”

    “What?”

    “He was joking,” Jack replied. “I think so, at least - you never know with politicians like him,” he added before he could help himself.

    “He better be joking,” the general hissed.

    “Dad, a marriage of state isn’t on the table!” Carter could sound remarkably like her father if she was angry, Jack noticed.

    “We don’t do marriages of state!” Adora shook her head. “We marry for love!”

    “Glimmer would kill anyone who tried to make her marry someone for diplomatic reasons,” Catra agreed with a firm nod. She seemed serious, Jack noted.

    But Carter still looked angry. “Was he talking about abusing our friendships for political gain, sir?”

    Jack winced. He couldn’t really deny that.

    “I thought so,” she hissed.

    Adora was frowning as well. “Friendship shouldn’t be abused.”

    Catra nodded and didn’t make a cynical comment - to Jack’s surprise. Then again, maybe he should have expected that from her; she seemed to value her friendships more than pretty much anything else. Except for Adora, of course.

    “Well..” he shrugged. “I think everyone who matters knows we wouldn’t do that.” At least, he hoped the President was aware of SG-1’s stance on that. Or listened to advisors who were, like General Hammond. Instead of to Kinsey - that slimeball had too much influence, in Jack’s opinion, because he could manage the conservatives. “Anyway, more importantly, it looks like the government will not deny the Tok’ra their main request.”

    “They’ll let people volunteer to become hosts?” Carter tilted her head.

    “Yep.” Jack nodded.

    “Good.” Adora smiled again. “If someone wishes to enter such a relationship with a Tok’ra, they shouldn’t be denied.”

    “I assume that this is limited to people without classified information,” the general said.

    “Yes,” Jack said. After a moment’s hesitation, he added: “The idea is that we’d rather have Tok’ra sharing American minds than, say, Iranian.” In for a penny, in for a pound, as the Limeys said. And he didn’t think that the general would tattle. Not now.

    “Ah.” The general nodded. “That makes sense.”

    “Yes,” Catra agreed.

    “And what if the Iranians want to volunteer?” Adora asked.

    “That’s the thing the government hasn’t figured out yet.” Jack shrugged. Time to change the subject. “So, what brings you to the Mountain, General?”

    “Family business, Colonel,” the general replied smoothly. But Carter looked tense, and Adora guilty.

    Jack suppressed a grin. That was interesting.

    *****​

    Adora bit the inside of her cheek so she wouldn’t blurt out the truth. But why did the general lie to Jack? Well, technically, it wasn’t a lie - it was kind of family business, but that was the kind of word games Shadow Weaver would have played. Adora could understand that they didn’t want everyone to know, but Jack was a friend. A close friend - and he was even closer to Sam than to Adora and Catra. Lying to your friends, or just not being honest with your friends, was a bad idea. Adora knew that from personal experience.

    “Ah?” Jack tilted his head. “I won’t pry then.”

    Adora didn’t think Jack was telling the truth right then. And she didn’t think General Carter and Sam believed him either. But both nodded.

    And then Jack smiled at her. “So, what have you been up to, Adora?”

    “Ah…” Adora struggled not to grimace. “Well, we’re…

    “Unfortunately, my father’s not cleared for that,” Sam cut in before Adora could mention that they were waiting for Lieutenant Lenkova to wake up so they could talk to her - which was another ‘technically not a lie’ that Adora didn’t like.

    “Yes,” the general agreed. “Need to know and everything. I’ve got the clearance for a lot more these days, but since Stargate Command is no longer an Air Force project but run by the United Nations, that doesn’t mean as much any more.”

    “Well, technically, we can tell whoever we want what we want, as long as it concerns us,” Catra pointed out with a grin.

    Adora frowned at her lover. That was true, but this wasn’t the best moment to mention it.

    Sam’s father chuckled. “Ah, yes, it’s often hard to remember that you’re actually your country’s highest authority and not just another soldier.”

    “Well, Adora is - arguably. I think Glimmer could argue that,” Catra said. “But I’m just another soldier. Technically without an official position. Not that we care much about that.”

    “You’re like a princess,” Adora retorted. Everyone better be aware of that! Catra was one of those amongst the Alliance who had the most experience leading an army. Granted, it was the Horde army, but still!

    “I’m no princess,” Catra shot back. “And I don’t have a country to rule.”

    “Netossa and Spinnerella don’t rule a country either,” Adora pointed out.

    “They are princesses, though. And they were leaders in the Alliance before Horde Prime attacked.” Catra shrugged. “It doesn’t matter anyway since I’m not going to leave your side.”

    Ah. Adora couldn’t help smiling at hearing that. Even though she knew that Catra’s talents were, well, not wasted, but underused if she just stuck with Adora. Catra had almost defeated the Alliance, after all, when she had been leading the Horde. “Well, that doesn’t mean you won’t get a command,” she said. “I could come with you, for example!”

    “And who would I command? Former Horde troops?” Catra snorted.

    “The clones would follow you,” Adora retorted.

    “If you tell them to.” Catra rolled her eyes.

    Adora nodded. “Well, yes. They’d still follow you.”

    “And they’d still look to you for orders.”

    That was… well, Catra was probably correct about that, Adora had to admit.

    “How exactly is the Alliance organised?” the general askedwith a frown.

    “The Princess Alliance or the Alliance?” Catra grinned.

    “The Princess Alliance. I’m aware of how the Alliance is organised.” The general sounded… not mad, but more serious than Adora had expected.

    “Well, the Princess Alliance generally has a big meeting, everyone talks too much, and then we do what Adora and Glimmer want,” Catra said.

    “Catra!” Adora scowled. “That’s not how it works!”

    “That’s how it works out.” Her lover shrugged. “If you and Glimmer want to do something, or don’t want to do something, who’s going to make you?”

    “Sort of like the United States was in NATO,” Jack added with a grin. “And now the shoe’s on the other foot.”

    “It’s not quite like that!” Adora insisted. “We do make decisions as a council.”

    “And most listen to you and Glimmer,” Catra said. “Which is a good thing, of course. Well, Netossa isn’t bad, either. But I’d rather not have Mermista lead our campaign. Or Perfuma. I’ve conquered both their kingdoms with the Horde, so I know how bad they are at leading people.”

    “One of the drawbacks of hereditary monarchies,” Jack said. “People who shouldn’t be leading get to lead.”

    “They’re not that bad,” Adora defended her friends. But Catra was correct - Mermista and Perfuma were not the best officers in the Alliance. Well, not when it came to strategy. But.. “They’re very effective on the battlefield.” Thanks to their magic, of course.

    But this war would be fought in space, where there was no water or plant life to control - and on a scale where individual actions wouldn’t be as important. Adora hoped her friends back on Etheria understood this.

    “That makes them good soldiers,” Catra retorted.

    She was right, but there was more to it. “Perfuma and Mermista also have the support of their people,” Adora pointed out.

    “Still doesn’t make them good strategists, but yeah, I guess that will be a factor in the war.” Catra shrugged.

    Adora took that as a victory in their argument. But it also reminded her that they hadn’t heard of Etheria in months She hoped that Entrapta’s bots would soon finish the communication relays to Etheria so they could talk to them and fill them in about what had happened so far. Adora really wanted to know how her friends were doing.

    Perhaps they should have used part of the fleet as relays - then they would have had communications much sooner. But that would have strung out quite a few ships doing nothing but keeping station, and the bot network was safer and more effective.

    Well, that was how it was in war - almost every action had some drawbacks. “Let’s talk about Lieutenant Lenkova,” she said to change the subject.

    *****​

    “So, now you’ve met the Etherians,” Samantha Carter said while walking with her father to General Hammond’s office. It was a safer topic for the hallways than their family, and walking in silence would have been awkward - and would have started even worse rumours than were probably already going around.

    “Oh, yes.” Dad chuckled. “I think I understand now why Boeing, Lockheed and Northrop were bothering me lately.”

    “They were bothering you?” Sam frowned. Why would they… Ah.

    “Lobbyists,” Dad confirmed her deduction. “They usually aren’t that bad - I’m not in procurement - but I thought they had stepped up their efforts with everyone amongst the brass. But no - that was because of you and your friends.” He chuckled again. “What irony!”

    “They want you to use my friendship with the Etherians for their own goals?” That wasn’t amusing, in Sam’s opinion. It went against everything she believed in. Although she felt a little hypocritical now that she had used said friendship to save her father’s life. But that wasn’t the same thing.

    “Of course. There’s lots of money to be made in research and development,” Dad said. “Especially in the aerospace sector. Any company that gets those contracts has it made. And any company that misses out is basically done for. The stock of the smaller manufacturers is already crashing since everyone thinks shuttles will replace helicopters and aeroplanes tomorrow or maybe the day after tomorrow, and they don’t expect anyone but the biggest firms to manage that.”

    Sam hadn’t followed that very closely. “That makes no sense. It will take years, probably decades, to replace every helicopter and plane currently in service. And the militaries will have priority,” she pointed out when they stepped into the lift.

    “The stock market isn’t really sane - it’s all about what people think. Or what analysts think people think.” Dad shrugged. “The car companies are feeling the same pressure. People want flying cars for Christmas at the latest.”

    Sam snorted. Even in wartime, research and development cycles weren’t as fast. And this was about the civilian market. “They’ll be disappointed.”

    “Not just them. A lot of people will be disappointed,” Dad said. “No one knows yet how the war economy will work out. And how the rest of the world will be affected. Worst case, wars will break out over the changes the new technology brings - General Watson is already wargaming some conflicts in the Middle East in case some of the oil states decide to deal with their rivals before they are rendered obsolete and go bankrupt. I think they’re running a betting pool on the country most likely to start it, but I’ve been out of the loop lately.”

    Because he had been dying. Sam nodded. “You can’t just switch from a fossil fuel-based economy to an economy based on advanced technology in a few years.”

    “But it won’t take too long either,” Dad replied as they stepped out of the lift. “You can replace power plants easily enough once you can build new ones.”

    Leaving obsolete power plants full of dangerous substances - radioactive in the case of nuclear power plants - to be cleaned up. At least, that would occupy a lot of people who would be out of a job otherwise.

    “In a way, the war’s a blessing,” Dad said as they approached General Hammond’s office. “It’ll make transforming the economy easier since we’ll have to produce so much for the military. That will make up for the loss of civilian production. Somewhat, at least.”

    But it wouldn’t help those businesses who couldn’t get into the military market, Sam knew. Or those countries cut off from advanced technology.

    Further discussion was cut off when General Hammond’s aide announced them.

    “Jacob! Captain Carter!” General Hammond greeted them. “Come in, Jacob. You too, Captain.”

    They stepped into the office.

    “You’re looking good,” the General commented.

    “I’m feeling great,” Dad answered the unspoken question. He rolled his shoulders. “And I’ve got to thank you for that, I’ve heard. That’s twice you’ve saved my life now. I need to step up and make it up to you.”

    The General laughed - relieved, Sam realised. Well, Dad could show a temper, as she knew from personal experience. “I just passed the news along.”

    “Still…” Jacob nodded at his friend.

    Hammond nodded back.

    “Well, it worked out,” Sam commented. “And with the possible exception of Colonel O’Neill, I think the odds of anyone in the base figuring it out are low.”

    “And even if they do, we’ll manage,” General Hammond said. “So, you’ve met the Etherians. What’s your take on them?”

    “They were much less formal than on television,” Dad replied.

    “They’re not as formal in planning meetings either,” General Hammond said.

    “A logical consequence of their culture, sir,” Sam pointed out. “As ruling monarchs, they obviously don’t act like career military.” Daniel had covered that often enough, but Dad hadn’t read those reports.

    “It’ll take some time getting used to that… informality, I guess,” Dad said. “That who you know and are friends with matters more than your rank… well, to some degree, that was the case already.”

    Hammond nodded with a small scowl. “Yes. It helps with cutting through some red tape, but it also gives the Etherians an even greater influence on the Alliance.”

    “If we don’t pay attention, we’ll have our own command structure wrecked,” Dad agreed. “And discipline degrades as everyone runs to the next princess to work around orders they don’t like.”

    “It’s not quite as bad,” Sam objected. “They do have military experience.” But he was correct about the fact that Earth couldn’t afford to run things like the Ethrians did. “I’ll mention the concerns to them, though.”

    Dad was staring at her. Oh.

    Sam pressed her lips together. She was still a military officer and scientist, first and foremost. Not a diplomat or politician.

    But in a war, you did what you had to.

    *****​

    “You’re concerned about military discipline breaking down because of us?”

    Adora sounded flabbergasted, in Catra’s expert opinion. Perfectly understandable, of course - the only reason Catra wasn’t also staring at Sam with her mouth hanging open was because she had been looking at another scout bot prototype when Sam had started talking and had recovered faster.

    “It’s a concern. Nothing has happened yet, but…” Sam sighed. “We do things differently on Earth. You may have noticed that we’re not quite as informal as you are.”

    Catra cocked her head sideways. “Really? Do you shoot soldiers for disobeying orders as well?” She remembered seeing that in some movies, but those were supposed to show historical wars and generally had the bad guys doing this.

    “We might do that in wartime, depending on the severity of the offence.”

    “We’re at war,” Catra pointed out.

    “Yes.” Sam frowned.

    “SG-1 isn’t very formal,” Adora said. “Jack’s quite informal. The only one from your team who calls him Colonel is you, actually.”

    Sam didn’t blush, but she tensed for a moment, Catra noticed. “That’s because I’m the only other member of the team who’s a soldier,” she told Adora. “I can assure you that the other teams are more observant of military forms and regulations.”

    “Oh.” Adora nodded. “Yes, SG-3 was like that, I think.”

    “Yes,” Catra agreed. “Still less formal than the Horde.”

    “I don’t think the Horde is a good comparison point,” Adora told her. “It kind of makes formality sound like a bad thing.”

    Catra shrugged. “Unlike the Alliance, we didn’t have any princesses, so it comes closest to the situation on Earth.” They had had Scorpia, but she hadn’t been a princess back then. Or acted like one. Then again, she had made Force Captain…

    “The United States Armed Forces aren’t the Horde,” Sam said firmly. “But yes, we don’t have princesses. Or other nobility. We don’t have, ah, people who were born into leadership positions. Our leaders in the military derive their authority from their earned rank.”

    Catra suppressed a scoff. She doubted that every officer had actually earned their rank - people were always promoting their friends and cronies. But overall, it was a good point. “And the officers don’t like it if people don’t follow the chain of command.”

    “Yes. It can undermine their authority,” Sam confirmed. “The superior officers tell their subordinates what they have to do but leave it up to them to decide how they do it. And they report to them, not to others.”

    “That works with good subordinates who can handle the situation. But sometimes, you need to take charge of a situation as supreme commander,” Catra said.

    “Yes,” Adora agreed. “And you need to check on your subordinates. They might not be telling you the truth about how they’re doing.”

    “That’s a different problem. What we’re concerned about is soldiers starting to ignore their superiors to go directly to you or your friends,” Sam said.

    “And taking up our time with petty problems and complaints.” Catra nodded. She could see that happening. It hadn’t happened in the Horde, of course - you only annoyed a superior with that kind of bullshit once before you learned your lesson, unless you were Kyle - but she had seen princesses personally taking care of small issues in the Alliance.

    “Exactly. And if a superior does this often, they’ll undermine their subordinates’ authority.”

    “Right. But we won’t do that,” Adora said. “Don’t worry!” She beamed at Sam. “We won’t step in more than necessary.”

    But the other woman was worried. Catra could tell. And she had a point. Kind of. “I expect that we’ll be moving around too much, anyway, to disrupt your discipline too much,” she added. They would be dealing with hundreds of thousands of troops - millions in the long term. “Your officers will be able to restore discipline easily enough.” Once whatever Catra or others had had to do had been done, of course. “But you might have to talk to Glimmer about this. She’s the one who grew up in the Alliance.”

    “Yes. I will have to,” Sam said. She didn’t sound too happy. But that wasn’t Catra’s problem. Glimmer could sort that out.

    *****​

    Lenkova still looked bad, Catra thought as she saw the woman in the mess hall. She appeared healthy, at least physically, but her whole body language… If she had a tail, it would be dragging on the floor, and if her ears could move, they would be drooping. And she was sitting alone at a table. By choice, Catra was sure - it was between lunch and dinner, so none of the regular shifts was eating. None of the Russians, at least. Though Catra didn’t think that Stargate Command would leave the woman unsupervised after what she had gone through, so… Ah, there were the soldiers keeping an eye on her.

    “She looks so sad,” Adora commented next to her.

    Catra glanced at her and rolled her eyes. What did her lover expect? Adora had seen Catra after they had freed her from Horde Prime’s control.

    Adora blushed. “Sorry.”

    Catra shrugged. It had been her own fault, after all. “Let’s go talk to her.” Without waiting for an answer from Adora or Sam, she sauntered over to Lenkova’s table and plopped herself down in the chair across from her. “Hey!”

    Catra had taken care to approach Lenkova from the front, so the woman wasn’t surprised; you didn’t startle soldiers who looked like that. She glanced at Catra, Adora and Sam before returning the greeting. “Hello.”

    “Hi!” Adora said with a forced smile - Catra could tell.

    “Hello, Lieutenant,” Sam added.

    “I take it you are not here by chance,” Lenkova commented. “This is what you would call an intervention?”

    Catra grinned. “Right in one!”

    “It’s not an intervention, but yes, we’d like to talk to you,” Sam explained. “We know at least part of what you’re going through, trust us.”

    Lenkova nodded, though it was obvious that she didn’t. Trust them, that was. “Here?” she asked, making a point to glance around.

    “In private,” Sam explained.

    After a moment, Lenkova nodded. “Yes.”

    Catra looked at Lenkova’s food, which had been barely touched - and it was the good dessert, according to O’Neill. In return, the woman scoffed and got up - and dumped the food on the way out. What a waste!

    “That would have started a riot back in the Horde,” Catra commented on the way to the lifts.

    “What would?” Lenkova asked.

    “Dumping the food,” Catra explained. “Of course, just offering such food - dessert! - would have started a riot anyway.”

    “Oh, yes. We never got dessert in the Horde. Or anything else than grey and brown rations,” Adora nodded.

    “You could get other food if you knew the right people,” Catra objected.

    “That would have been against regulations!” Adora shook her head.

    “That sounds like you needed better quartermasters,” Lenkova commented. “Or less corrupt ones.”

    Catra noticed that Sam looked as if she wanted to say something about that, but the woman just pushed the button in the lift, taking them down to her lab.

    “Well, I wouldn’t call them corrupt…” Adora started to say.

    “I would,” Catra interrupted her. “They were making deals with each other.” Often, it had been frustrating to try and get the needed supplies for an operation, though that had been mostly due to Hordak, and later Entrapta, requisitioning things for their projects without regard for the Horde’s need. But the quartermasters had been rotten anyway.

    “Well, yes, but the thing is, regulations never covered other food, only rations. So there was no way to actually get dessert.” Adora blinked. “When we wanted to celebrate, we had cake made of the good rations, actually.”

    They reached their floor and stepped out of the lift.

    “You sound like old soldiers in the Red Army,” Lenkova said as they approached Sam’s lab. “They were telling such stories as well whenever the younger soldiers were griping, to show how much worse they had it back in the days.”

    Ah, the woman thought they were telling tales? She didn’t know Adora then; Catra’s lover was honest to a fault. Catra chuckled. “That’s not the point of this,” she said, stepping past Sam into the lab.

    “And what’s the point?” Lenkova dropped her fake polite smile as soon as the door closed behind them and looked at her with narrowed eyes.

    “I spent years leading the Horde, fighting the Alliance,” Catra told her. “Whatever mistake you’re worried about, I made much worse ones.” Starting with not following Adora when she asked her to, back in that stupid village, Thaymor.

    Lenkova’s eyes widened, but she recovered quickly. “That doesn’t make me feel better.”

    “It shouldn’t. It’s supposed to make you realise that fucking up isn’t the end of the world.” Catra shrugged.

    Now the officer frowned at her. “I know that everyone makes mistakes. But mine caused the loss of my team. Two of my men dead. One captured. And…” She pressed her lips together.

    “You were taken over by a Goa’uld.” Once more, Catra shrugged, though she had to force herself to act nonchalantly. “I got taken over by Horde Prime. He had chips that allowed him to take control of others - make them obey his orders. And he could jump into you to take control of your body. Speak with your voice. Act with your hands. I attacked Adora.”

    Lenkova stared at her. “I see. How long?”

    “A few days.” An eternity when being controlled. And tempted to just accept it. Accept the mindless peace and bliss that was offered. If Adora hadn’t come for her…

    “And you got over it.”

    Catra shrugged again. “With the help of my friends.”

    “And we’ll help you,” Adora cut in. “We know what you’ve been through - well, some of us.”

    “I was possessed by a Tok’ra,” Sam said. “Jolinar.”

    “I know. I was briefed about that,” Lenkova said. “And yet, we are supposed to ally with them?”

    Oh. Catra hadn’t expected that - this wasn’t just about the Goa’uld.

    “The Tok’ra oppose the Goa’uld,” Sam said.

    “They still take over people. They are the same… the same species,” Lenkova retorted.

    Catra briefly wondered what she had been about to say. Monsters? Aliens? It didn’t matter. “So?” She asked. “They didn’t do anything to us. They freed you,” she added, feeling a little guilty when the other woman flinched.

    “And they don’t force themselves on others - they ask for a partner,” Adora said. “They’re not the same as the Goa’uld.”

    “Yes.” Sam nodded.

    “They did force you. I’ve read the report.” Lenkova glared at Sam.

    “That was an emergency,” Sam replied. “But yes, I was possessed. And my body was taken over. I know how it feels. How you feel.” She raised her hand, but only a little, then let it drop to her side again.

    Lenkova clenched her teeth. Hard - Catra could see her jaw muscles twitch. “And the memories?”

    Sam winced. “Yes.”

    “But if yours were from a Tok’ra who only forced itself on people in an emergency, you don’t understand.” Lenkova shook her head. Almost violently. “I have memories… of a monster. So many crimes. Atrocities. Torture. And it liked it. I remember loving it.”

    Oh. She had been possessed by a Goa’uld working at a bioweapon research facility. Catra nodded. “But those aren’t your memories.”

    “They feel like it. When I dream, I can’t tell who I am.”

    “Yes.” Sam grimaced. “But that will get better. I know that. It’s bad, but it will get better. Trust me.”

    Lenkova didn’t look like she did but nodded anyway.

    This could’ve gone better, Catra thought.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, December 7th, 1998

    Jack O’Neill hated politics. And politicians. Most politicians. Some were OK. Probably. And you shouldn’t hate the President, your commander-in-chief. Unless they deserved it. But overall, he would really prefer it if he could just do his job and not deal with politics.

    On the other hand, he wasn’t quite sure if briefing another bunch of politicians - something that Daniel could do much better, but, apparently, he was a bit too honest for them, or so Jack thought - wouldn’t be preferable to talking to Lenkova. If Carter, Adora and Catra hadn’t managed to do any good - and Carter’s report had been pretty pessimistic - then what could Jack himself do? Well, he should be able to do as well as Catra, though that was a low bar unless the girl hadn’t been as brash as usual.

    But Lenkova was one of his, and Jack knew his duty. Any officer worth their commission put his people first. Always.

    So he knocked on the door of Lenkova’s room - she had been released from the infirmary - and waited.

    After about fifteen seconds, just long enough to start worrying that the shrink who had dismissed the suicide watch had been wrong - he heard her call ‘enter’ through the door.

    He stepped inside and caught the woman tugging on the hem of a grey Air Force sweater that clashed some with her Russian-style camo pants and… sandals?

    “Colonel O’Neill.” She shifted to a parade rest position despite her off-duty attire. Well, she was off-duty until further notice.

    “Lieutenant Lenkova.” He nodded.

    “Please have a seat.” She pointed at the only chair in the room.

    Sitting while a woman was standing wasn’t how you did things in America unless you were behind your desk and dealing with a subordinate who had messed up. But refusing would be impolite and send the wrong impression, so Jack sat down.

    Fortunately, Lenkova took a seat on her bed. Though Jack didn’t fail to note that she sat ramrod-straight and was as tense.

    “So, how are you doing?” He cocked his head.

    She relaxed a little, but he caught her frowning for a moment. “I was released from the infirmary, Colonel,” she replied.

    He had dealt with that kind of evasive answer before and raised his eyebrows at her in response.

    She was about twenty years too young to stand up to him and pressed “I am well considering the circumstances, Colonel” through clenched teeth.

    “Meaning, you’re blaming yourself for stuff that wasn’t your fault and dealing with memories of a snake in your head.” He nodded. Just talk casually. Professionally. As if this was a normal situation and he perfectly knew what he was doing.

    “Yes, Colonel.” Now that was a smile. A cynical one, and quite twisted, and probably not very healthy, but a smile.

    He smiled back. “So, I’m supposed to tell you that it wasn’t your fault and that it’ll get better if you just believe in yourself.” He shrugged. “Too bad.”

    That confused her. She blinked, then stared at him.

    He grinned. “I was never really good at following orders to the letter. Especially when they don’t make too much sense.” Not that they were orders, but Jack knew what was expected of him. But he also knew that trying to copy Carter and the others wouldn’t work since they had tried that before.

    “So, what are you here for, Colonel?” she asked. She was frowning openly now, which he took as a good sign.

    “Well, I’m telling you that as the officer in charge of your men, they were your responsibility.” He met her eyes and saw her flinch. “Yes, even if there’s nothing you can do, you’re still responsible. That’s what being an officer means. It’s not fair, but life’s not fair.”

    She nodded slowly, hesitantly. “Yes, Colonel.”

    “And I’m not going to bullshit you and claim things will be fine. Things will get better, but you’ll always remember your mistakes and the people you lost.” Like Kawalski. Or Charlie.

    “Yes, Colonel.”

    “So, I expect you to do better next time.” He nodded at her. “But that means I expect you to find out what you could have done better and improve, not wallow in guilt.”

    “Yes, Colonel.” She looked… well, not better, but determined. Good enough, he guessed.

    “About the snake memories…” He shrugged again. “Not much we can do. They’ll fade over time. And they aren’t your memories. But they might be useful intel, so, if you can, write down what you remember before you forget.”

    Her eyes widened in surprise before she pressed her lips together - probably blaming herself for not seeing that angle.

    Jack nodded, hiding how guilty he felt for manipulating the woman. But giving her a task she could do, a way to strike back at those who hurt her, an objective, would allow her to keep going and, ultimately, get over this. Find more reasons to keep going than spite. Or so he hoped.

    At least, it had worked for him, after Charlie.

    He still felt like a slimy politician when he left her room again.

    *****​

    NATO Headquarters Brussels, Belgium, Earth, December 8th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “...and several unions have announced strikes to protest the closing of factories in…”

    “...and well, those riots in France might look bad, John, but compared to prior riots, those are really nothing to write home about - or, in this case, to report. The core of the riots seems to be made up of recently laid-off workers, and as long as they do not receive more support from other parts of the population, this won’t be more than an episode, so…”

    “...stock market remains volatile as prices wildly fluctuate depending on the latest news. Analysts are concerned about the lack of information regarding further steps of sharing technology. Magic remains a wild card, as the recent meteoric rise and subsequent fall of several pharmaceutical titles showed in response to completely unsubstantiated rumours that they had recruited sorceresses for medical research, but…”

    “...while the citizens of Detroit are looking forward to the new shuttle factory, Boeing reported a series of cancelled orders from airlines and has denounced the new European Investment and Armament Program as an illegal attempt to subsidise its main competitor, Airbus, citing…”

    “...of the Green party presented a new concept for a car-free city based on advanced alien technology…”

    “...spokesperson of CERN announced the complete restructuring of the current organisation to focus on advanced technology…”

    “...Bundeskanzler sagte, er habe vollstes Vertrauen, dass die Deutsche Autoindustrie sich an die veränderten Rahmenbedingungen anpassen werde, wobei aber mit kurzfristigen Verwerfungen zu rechnen sei…”

    “...of the government of Norway stated that in light of the reveal of new power plant technology, Norway is reconsidering its focus on oil production. When questioned, he confirmed that the country is planning to use its statens pensjonsfond to finance the transition of their economy to one based on advanced technology…”

    “...OPEC members apparently are divided about the best course of action, with some countries favouring to take what profits they can while the global economy still relies on oil and others pushing to use the threat of reducing oil production to force concessions from the industrialised countries to ‘ensure the future prosperity of our countries in a world without oil’. The United States government released a statement that such an ‘artificial shortage of crucial resources’ would harm the war effort and would receive an appropriate response, but refused to go into details, and…”

    “...and these shocking videos of lynchings of gay people in Iran, with the police not only tolerating these murders but actively aiding, raise concerns that the Etherians might intervene to stop those atrocities. What do you think, Connor?

    Well, Bob, so far, the Etherians have shown immense restraint considering the shocking disparity of power, but one can only wonder how long this will last if those countries - and I include more than just Iran here - blatantly commit atrocities. Yet…”

    Adora pressed her lips together. “We need to do something,” she said as the TV in the meeting room showed shaky footage of two people being dragged through a crowd.

    “Glimmer’s putting pressure on the United Nations,” Catra replied, switching through a few entertainment channels. “She said harsher sanctions were on the way.”

    That wouldn’t stop the murders any time soon, though. Adora knew that much. Some countries were under sanctions for decades without changing their policies. “It’s not enough!”

    “What do you want to do instead? Invade?” Catra raised her eyebrows at her.

    “No…” That would, at least according to SG--1, cause even more atrocities as many other countries would panic. And they didn’t have the troops to garrison a country, much less an entire region of Earth. “But we can’t let them just do this!” It wasn’t right.

    Catra sighed. “I know, But what can we do? Take out the government?”

    That would have the same results as an outright invasion. Too many governments would be afraid to be next. Adora clenched her teeth. “It’s so frustrating!”

    “I know.” Catra smiled sadly at her.

    The door opened, and Glimmer entered. “What’s wrong?” she asked as soon as she saw their expressions.

    Catra pointed a the television. “Take your pick.”

    Glimmer scoffed. “As I keep being assured by our allies, Earth is actually doing better than expected, overall.”

    “That’s too bad for those who do worse, I guess,” Catra said.

    “Yes.” Glimmer sat down at the table and grabbed a soda from the basket in the middle. “But we can’t really do much about it. Not without making things a lot worse.”

    “We shouldn’t let them get away with those crimes!” Adora blurted out. “They keep murdering people for… being like us!”

    “Yes.” Glimmer looked grim as she nodded. “We’ll bring it up in the next Alliance meeting. Once we are finally done with our response to the Tok’ra’s proposal.” She groaned. “So, sometime in the next ten years or so.”

    “That bad?”

    “They’re fighting over details. Even though the main issues have been settled. Don’t ask me how, though - first, no one wanted to send any volunteers, but now, suddenly, everyone wants to send as many as possible.” Glimmer shook her head.

    That was good news. But… “And what can we do about that?” Adora asked, pointing at a news report showing a massive riot somewhere.

    “Why are they rioting?” Glimmer asked.

    “Dunno,” Catra told her. “Either they are afraid of losing their jobs, or they are afraid of people being able to live and love like they want.”

    “We can’t do much about the first problem,” Glimmer said. “We’re doing what we can to share technology, but Earth has a hard time adjusting, and we can’t trust everyone. The second… apparently, the best we could do is accept as many refugees as possible, according to our allies.” She scoffed again. “It seems a lot of people would feel a lot better if most gay people emigrated to Etheria or anywhere else off Earth.”

    “Even our allies?” Adora asked.

    “They aren’t open about it, but the way they talk about ‘immigration pressure’ and other stuff…” Glimmer grimaced.

    “That’s not right! No one should be forced to leave their home just to be able to love whom they want!” Adora protested. “Can we take them in, anyway?”

    Glimmer winced, which wasn’t a good sign. “It depends on how many people would go to Etheria. Earth has so many humans…”

    “It’s a mess,” Catra commented. “They should settle some empty planets and spread out.”

    “That’s looking like a good solution,” Glimmer agreed to Adora’s surprise. “But we don’t have the resources for that. We’ve got enough trouble preparing for the war.”

    “And if Earth had the resources to settle other planets, we’d be spread rather thin protecting them,” Catra aded.

    That was true. Which meant they would have to let the lynchings continue.

    Adora hated feeling powerless in the face of such evil.

    *****​
     
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2022
  13. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Yeah, it was a bit weird and unlikely for the Air Force to agree to that, but it worked out very well.

    I have a few "if nothing else works out, this will settle it no matter what" plans, but I am letting the characters act and react so far and see what happens.
     
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  14. Transreal Clouden

    Transreal Clouden Know what you're doing yet?

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    Poor Adora and of course more importantly poor people getting lynched. Hopefully there's some solution that can be found.
     
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  15. macdjord

    macdjord Well worn.

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    'were' -> 'was'
     
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  16. Threadmarks: Chapter 65: Diplomatic Meetings Part 4
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 65: Diplomatic Meetings Part 4

    NATO Headquarters Brussels, Belgium, Earth, December 9th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    Samantha Carter couldn’t help feeling that while, without question, having access to shuttles that could take you around the world in less than an hour was a great thing, there were drawbacks. Such as the fact that if you could reach every point on Earth in less than an hour, people adjusted their expectations accordingly.

    Which resulted in her being flown to Brussels to provide advice to the Alliance meeting currently held there. And not technological advice - or not primarily - but personal advice.

    “...and you think we can trust the claims of the Tok’ra that they won’t force themselves on unwilling hosts, Captain Carter?” the German minister present asked.

    “I think they are honest in that they won’t do that unless circumstances such as an emergency force them to resort to such means,” she replied.

    “So, despite your own experience, you trust the Tok’ra?” The man seemed honestly surprised.

    Because of my own experience,” she corrected him.

    And then wished she hadn’t done so in such a pointed way when the man nodded and said: “Yes, we can see that.”

    Glimmer spoke up before Sam could find the best words to respond to the insinuation that she was influenced by the Tok’ra: “You have been briefed about the effects of Tok’ra - and Goa’uld - possession. The mental contamination is restricted to various amounts of fragmented memories. Their hosts, once freed, are not under their mental control any more.”

    “But we also have reports of lingering effects,” the French Ministre des Affaires étrangères cut in.

    “Yes,” Sam told him. “But not to the extent that they would compromise my judgement.”

    Most of the ministers present nodded, though Sam wasn’t sure that all of them believed her.

    “And you called Sam here precisely because she had the memories of a Tok’ra in her head,” Glimmer added. “Are there any other questions for her?”

    There were none, and Glimmer quickly added: “I move that we recess for ten minutes.”

    To Sam’s mild surprise, everyone agreed, and she found herself leaving the meeting room with Glimmer.

    As soon as they entered the meeting room that was occupied by the Etherians for the duration of their stay in the NATO headquarters, Glimmer sighed and sat down in the closest chair. “I’m so tired of this!”

    Sam nodded, even though she wasn’t entirely sure what Glimmer was tired of - she hadn’t followed the state of the negotiations very closely.

    “Sorry about that, by the way. They insisted on questioning you,” Glimmer added as she opened her eyes and pulled the basket with soda bottles closer to her using her staff.

    “You already apologised when I arrived,” Sam pointed out while she grabbed a bottle of mineral water for herself. “At least I got to check out the new shuttles,” she added.

    “Ah, yes.” Glimmer shrugged - of course, she wouldn’t be impressed by the first piece of advanced spacecraft built entirely on Earth. “Anyway, sorry. I think a few of the ministers are stalling because their governments are still trying to make deals with each other, and you were a convenient excuse.”

    “Ah.” That sounded plausible, in Sam’s opinion, but she had no way to tell if it was true.

    Glimmer took a swig, swallowed and sighed. “Anyway, how are you doing? Entrapta was all gushing about your spacelab.”

    Sam smiled for the first time since she had started answering questions in the meeting. “It’s quite useful. We can cooperate a lot more this way.” And there were much fewer safety concerns now.

    “Good.” Glimmer took another swallow. “Also, Adora told me that you think we might corrupt your military discipline.”

    Sam suppressed a wince. “It was mentioned to me that there is a concern about the chain of command suffering if high-ranking officers go around it.”

    Glimmer snorted. “I don’t think your generals pass every order to a soldier through their entire chain of command instead of giving it directly.”

    “No,” Sam admitted. “It was more a concern about subordinates going around their commanders.”

    “You mean going to Adora and myself,” Glimmer said.

    “And other princesses, I think.”

    Glimmer sighed again. “That can’t really be helped. A princess is expected to take care of problems - within reasons, of course - if asked to by their people.”

    “Do you consider Alliance soldiers your people?” Sam asked.

    “Well…” Glimmer took another swig. Was she stalling? “In a way, yes. I mean… it’s sort of a grey area. In the Princess Alliance, you generally don’t meddle with soldiers from another kingdom; they got their own princess to look out for them. But if that princess is not available, you’re expected to step in if needed. And, well… you don’t really have princesses, so…” She shrugged.

    “...so your first instinct is to act as if you would back home,” Sam finished for her.

    “Yeah. I mean, we wouldn’t do it if it’s a stupid complaint or concern, but sorting out problems with subordinates is what princesses are expected to do. It’s part of being a ruler.” Glimmer smiled. “I’ll brief the others that this is a sensitive subject with Earth.”

    That wasn’t as reassuring as it could’ve been, in Sam’s opinion. Maybe she should ask Daniel about this.

    *****​

    NATO Headquarters Brussels, Belgium, Earth, December 9th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “...and I have to point out that when the Tok’ra are looking for hosts, they are looking for life-long partners. This is an extremely personal and intimate choice for them; they will not adhere to some sort of… contingent assigned by us. Would you pick your partner according to a quota?” Glimmer’s scowl made it clear to everyone that this was a rhetorical question.

    Then again, after some of the proposals they had heard today, Catra wouldn’t have put it past some of the Alliance members to suggest exactly that. The news had speculated about marriages of state being proposed, referring to unnamed sources within one of the delegations, and Catra wasn’t entirely sure that those sources were fictional. A few of the politicians in the Alliance still seemed to have trouble accepting that Etheria’s princesses were different compared to Earth’s royalty.

    “Yes, yes,” the French minister said. “Although we can and should take steps to ensure that the Tok’ra are giving everyone a fair shake, so to say. We do need to decide on how we present the volunteers anyway, to avoid complications and misunderstandings.”

    “What do you mean?” the American representative asked with a frown.

    “I want to make sure this is not going to be handled as ‘first come, first served’, the French politician explained with a smile that was about as honest as Shadow Weaver’s, in Catra’s opinion. “If we created such incentives to rush the selection of the volunteers, we would put Earth’s security at risk.”

    “The United States won’t flood the Tok’ra with our own volunteers if you wanted to insinuate something like that.”

    “I did not, but it is good to hear.”

    Yeah, the smiles were a bit too toothy to be honest and friendly. Although it was getting late by now, and Catra was sure she wasn’t the only one getting hungry again - dinner had been a while ago.

    “In that case, I move that we settle the details later,” Glimmer said. “Perhaps after inquiring with those who have experience hosting such events.”

    “I don’t think anyone on Earth has experience with such an event,” the German minister commented with a snort.

    Glimmer shrugged. “Everyone mingling and looking for a partner at a social event - doesn’t that sound familiar?”

    That caused a few chuckles, with Adora joining in a little late - Catra’s love had started nodding in serious agreement before she got the joke.

    Although it wasn’t really a joke, Catra realised. Holding an event like the Princess Prom seemed to be a much better idea than lining up volunteers to be inspected like livestock or something. Or having a bot play matchmaker, as Entrapta proposed - as a joke, or so Catra hoped.

    But with the meeting finally winding down, Catra stretched, relieved, and didn’t bother hiding her yawn.

    “Catra!” Adora hissed.

    She snorted in return. “It’s almost midnight.”

    “But still…”

    But Glimmer was already ending the meeting, and Catra quickly rose from her seat. “Let’s get a snack on the way home!”

    “Oh… alright,” Adora caved.

    Glimmer kept smiling until they were in the questionable privacy of their waiting room, where she sighed. “This was worse than most meetings of the Princess Alliance.”

    “You handled the thing well,” Catra told her, cocking her head while she opened a pre-packaged sandwich.

    Glimmer scoffed. “Not as well as I could’ve handled a Princess Alliance meeting. I don’t know the humans well enough.”

    “Not yet,” Adora commented.

    “Probably not ever,” Glimmer said, grabbing a soda for herself. “They keep changing ministers and generals even without elections.”

    “But we only see most princesses at the Princess Prom,” Adora pointed out.

    “But we see those who matter far more often. And they don’t get replaced on a whim,” Glimmer complained. “Anyway, let’s go home. I want to cuddle with Bow and have him tell me I am doing important work, so I don’t teleport the next idiot into the ocean.”

    Catra chuckled. Whether Glimmer was joking or not, it was funny. And cuddling with your love sounded like an excellent idea.

    At least they had finally settled the proposal for the Tok’ra. More or less, anyway.

    *****​

    P34-353J, December 11th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “Another day, another planet,” Jack O’Neill commented after stepping through the Stargate.

    He had his M4 in his hands, even if he wasn’t aiming it at anything or anyone - this wasn’t supposed to be a hostile planet, and the Tok’ra had sent the codes to indicate that it was safe, but you never let down your guard when you were in alien country. Especially if you had been attacked on the planet before. And if you had civilians to guard. Or shepherd. Civilians who made Daniel look like a special force soldier.

    “Colonel O’Neill. Queen Glimmer. Princess She-Ra.” Martouf nodded at them in turn. “Captain Carter. Welcome.”

    “Martouf.” Jack nodded back, but he wasn’t relaxing. The snake wasn’t just politely smiling at Carter. There was something more there. As before, actually.

    And Carter looked a bit tenser than normal. “Martouf. Lantash.”

    “Hello!” Glimmer smiled her polite smile.

    “Hello.” Adora beamed at the assembled Tok’ra.

    “Hey.” Catra, though, nodded and kept scanning the area. And she wasn’t particularly subtle about it.

    In any case, it seemed safe. Jack used his radio to signal Stargate Command to send the actual diplomats through. Well, the actual diplomats from Earth - Glimmer and the others were diplomats as well, after all. And officers. And monarchs. Most of them, at least. Jack wasn’t sure if he should envy or pity them for that. Probably both.

    A few seconds later, Daniel and Teal’c stepped through the gate, followed by Emily and Entrapta, and then the first of the diplomats arrived, escorted by SG-2.

    Martouf didn’t seem to mind that they had brought more firepower than usual for a diplomatic mission, but then again, if your diplomats included magical space princesses who could throw tanks and turn spaceships into plants, a few killer robots and soldiers probably didn’t make a difference.

    Which would be a wrong thing to think, of course. But Jack didn’t mind being underestimated. In fact, he preferred it.

    “Hello,” the leader of the delegation, a British diplomat who wouldn’t look out of place in a Monty Python movie, in Jack’s opinion, said, giving Martouf a bow. “I am Sir Watson, representing the Earth part of the Alliance.”

    “Hello. We are Martouf/Lantash. Please follow us - we’ll take you to the meeting area.” Martouf pointed to the skiffs waiting in the back.

    At least none of the diplomats with Sir Whatshisname gawked at the hovering vehicles. That would have been embarrassing.

    But, Jack thought as he saw Martouf paying extra attention to Carter, he really had to get to the bottom of this. If his second-in-command was being hounded by an alien, Jack would have to do something about it. Couldn’t have snakes messing with his team.

    *****​

    They arrived at an unfamiliar spot in the desert - the Tok’ra had built a new base, it seemed. Or simply moved the location for the transporter pickup, but Jack O’Neill’s money was on the former. This was a negotiation, after all, and they would be showing off the technology they knew the Alliance was interested in. Like some arms dealers he had had to work with in the past.

    The Tok’ra weren’t a front for Russians supporting insurrectionists, Jack reminded himself. They were fighting the Goa’uld, not a proxy war against the United States. He still didn’t like them, and it had nothing to do with the way Martouf was smiling at Carter when they stepped off the second vehicle.

    “Please stand by for the transporter.”

    And here it came. Jack tensed a little as the rings appeared around him.

    And then he was inside a room, underground. And the air smelt… better than a bunker’s air had any right to smell. No wonder the Tok’ra were so fond of creating new bases.

    “Colonel O’Neill!”

    Jack suppressed a frown and nodded as politely-but-distantly as he managed. “Anise.”

    The snake was beaming at him. “And Freya,” she added in a human voice. And that was the host. She had a whole different body language, he noted. The woman moved more like a human instead of a well, smooth snake. But the look she gave him was the same - and belonged in a bar at happy hour, not at a diplomatic meeting. “How have you been, Colonel?”

    “Oh, the usual. Paperwork. Lots of paperwork,” Jack claimed nonchalantly. “Boring paperwork in preparation for this mission.”

    “Ah.” Freya nodded with an empathic smile. “A necessary evil.”

    Then Anise continued: “Documenting your research is, of course, the hallmark of any scientist worth their education, but filing reports for the ones in charge of your budget does get tedious and often frustrating.”

    “I wouldn’t know about that,” Jack replied - wasn’t it a diplomatic gaffe to talk to the escort at such meetings? But Garshaw was talking to Glimmer, Adora and Sir Watson. Damn. “I’m just the guy with the gun guarding the diplomats and scientists.”

    “Oh, you are much more than that, Colonel O’Neill!” Anise cooed - and Jack discovered that a snake voice cooing was much creepier than he had imagined. He definitely preferred the creepy megalomaniac snake voice to this.

    But they were on a diplomatic mission, so Jack couldn’t just tell the snake to get lost. Even worse, his team and his friends had noticed - not that this was hard to miss even for Daniel - and were looking amused. Well, except for Carter, who wasn’t amused. Probably because it looked unprofessional, Jack told himself. Even though it wasn’t his fault this time. Hell, even the diplomats had noticed! If any of them told Kinsey about this, Jack would shoot them.

    Just when he suspected that Anise was about to grab his arm and try to drag him off to some lab or bedroom - and Jack didn’t know which possibility he would find more disturbing - Garshaw spoke up, addressing everyone. “Please follow us to the meeting room. Your guest rooms are adjacent to it, and we’ve prepared a light meal before we start the negotiations.”

    Food sounded great right now. Jack might even go for a drink. On second thought, no - he needed all his wits to deal with the snake trying to seduce him.

    *****​

    Adora smiled fondly when Catra stacked her plate with all sorts of fish and almost fish dishes. Things were going well so far. The Tok’ra were friendly, and since the Alliance had decided to grant them their greatest demand, more hosts, they should be able to get them into the Alliance. Preferably as part of a new alliance between Etheria, Earth and the Tok’ra. A Triple-Alliance? They would have to sort out the exact name later. Adora didn’t think that the Tok’ra would join as another member state like the individual countries on Earth, even if Earth might want that. Earth just had too many people for that.

    “Jack’s playing with fire,” Catra commented after wolfing down a few pieces of fried fish.

    “Eh?” Adora turned her head to look at what Catra was nodding at. Oh. Jack was talking to Anise, who was very close to him - she was almost touching the plate their friend held before him. And he had his back to the wall. “It looks more like Anise is bothering him,” Adora commented with a frown.

    “He’s not doing much to push her away,” Catra retorted. “And Sam’s mad.”

    “Oh.” Right, Sam didn’t look happy. But was that because of Jack or Martouf, who hadn’t left her side since they had arrived? Adora couldn’t tell. Their friend was often glancing towards Jack, but that might be because she expected him to do something about Martouf. Maybe - the whole situation was needlessly complicated because of these stupid American regulations. She should really talk to the President about that… No. That would be meddling with their friends’ love lives, and that was a bad thing. All the human TV shows agreed about that, too. And there was another point to consider, Adora realised. “He probably doesn’t think he can push her away without being rude, and that might damage the negotiations.”

    Her lover scoffed. “If the Tok’ra don’t understand that Anise is being rude, then that needs to be settled before we form an alliance.”

    That was true, of course. Jack shouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable like that just for politics. Or worse. But… “Maybe we should do something.”

    “No,” Catra objected. “This might be the thing they need to finally stop avoiding their feelings.”

    Her lover was serious, Adora realised. “You’ve been watching those weird TV shows again?”

    “Huh?” Catra seemed confused. Or tried to appear so - her tail gave her away.

    “The ones the Japanese gave us as a gift?” Adora raised her eyebrows. “With the catgirls?”

    “Oh.” Catra shook her head with a grin. “I was saving them for us to watch together. Should be funny.”

    “Oh. OK.” Adora didn’t push. Catra’s interest in how humans saw people like her was understandable, even though the humans had never met actual people like her. But those shows were, well, weird.

    “Oh, look! Sam’s doing something! Oh, smooth!”

    What? Adora turned her head again. Oh. Sam was talking to Entrapta. But… Ah.

    Adora smiled when Entrapta went to fetch Anise, and she, Sam and Anise quickly started huddling together in a corner near Emily, who served as a holoprojector.

    “She got rid of Martouf and Anise in one smooth move.” Catra nodded - and then pouted. “But she’s still avoiding the real issue.”

    Yes, Adora thought, Catra really has watched too many TV shows, weird or not.

    *****​

    “...and if we adapt this piece so it can be powered by magic, we should be able to increase the efficiency by at least 75%. As a rough estimate.”

    Samantha Carter nodded at Entrapta’s suggestion. That would solve the power issues of their current proposal.

    “If your numbers are correct - and I bow to your experience in magitech here - then yes, that should allow us to run several crystal arrays simultaneously,” Anise agreed. “Though I can’t provide details about the exact specifications until we have finalised the treaty.”

    “Of course.” Sam nodded. This was merely hypothetical. Theorycrafting, so to speak. It was still enjoyable and productive. Far more so than watching Anise trying to seduce the Colonel. Or watching the Colonel let the Tok’ra all but crawl into his lap. Really, he should know better than that! Sam suppressed a frown. And a wince when she reminded herself that she hadn’t really told off Martouf herself - but then, her… Jolinar’s former lover hadn’t been nearly as obvious as Anise, and he had lost his love, so putting him on the spot would have been very rude.

    And this was a diplomatic meeting. Not some… other meeting. Even though some aliens might be mixing them up. On the other hand, the Tok’ra were looking for more hosts most of all, so maybe this was a sort of marriage meeting…

    Sam nodded again as she studied Entrapta’s next proposal to improve the tunnel-growing technology based on what their scans had shown. As long as no one expected her - or the Colonel - to get involved with any of this, that was none of her business.

    And that was how she liked it. She was a soldier in the United States Air Force. She knew her duty. And she knew that the regulations governing her life were there for a reason. An excellent reason.

    Even though she really loathed them sometimes. But that wasn’t something she could change. Not unless a lot more things changed - for her and SG-1.

    She forced the gloomy thoughts away and focused on the topic at hand. Advanced technology was something she could deal with, at least.

    *****​

    “...and while we see no reason to object to our people volunteering as hosts, we do hope that you will understand and respect our security concerns with regard to how such hosts are then chosen by you,” Sir Watson said with a smile that Catra would have considered genuine if she hadn’t been at half a dozen meetings where this had been hotly, very hotly, debated. “There should be enough suitable volunteers from amongst our population, anyway.”

    More than enough, in Catra’s opinion - Earth had a stupidly high population. That was something that the Tok’ra agreed with. Some of them hadn’t even believed the numbers they were told until Anise had run a few simulations. Apparently, the Goa’uld were deliberately keeping their slaves’ numbers from rising too high to avoid another rebellion like the one on Earth thousands of years ago.

    Though Catra had her doubts about the theory that sheer numbers of rebelling slaves had been the defining factor for pushing the Goa’uld off the planet. Numbers counted for a lot, but her bet was still on powerful magic. She had fought the Princess Alliance often enough - far too often - to know that the Horde would have crushed any number of the rebel soldiers if not for the princesses and the few sorceresses who had not hidden in Mystacore or one of the kingdoms not involved in the war. Although the Princess Alliance also had had access to far better technology than Earth, especially thousands of years ago, had had.

    Adora squeezed Catra’s thigh - and not in the teasing way. In the ‘pay attention’ way Catra was so familiar with from countless boring lessons as cadets. She snorted softly and patted her lover’s hand, digging her nails into Adora’s skin just a little - it wasn’t as if anything important was being discussed right now.

    “...although the exact conditions for choosing hosts have to be determined. This is a highly personal decision, which cannot be delegated, so…”

    Yeah, Per’sus was just saying what Glimmer had been saying for days. And Catra didn’t really care about how the Tok’ra wanted to do the matchmaking. That was none of her business - as long as none of the little snakes tried to go for Adora, of course.

    Oh, Glimmer was standing up to talk. Catra’s ears tilted forward a little.

    “I agree with Per’sus, and I suggest that any volunteers - after being vetted by the Alliance - will meet the Tok’ra at a location of their choosing, although for security reasons, they will not travel alone.”

    Catra half-expected the Tok’ra to make a comment about the Alliance not trusting them with security, but they just nodded in agreement. Probably didn’t think they could object after their first meeting with the Alliance had almost ended with a Goa’uld spy blowing them up.

    Catra snorted softly again. If that was what it took to run such meetings more smoothly, they needed more such spies.

    *****​

    Jack O’Neill would really love to have a Goa’uld attack right now. Or any attack that gave him an excuse to ditch the meeting and go shoot something. Or comb the desert for a possible spy. He was so sick of people arguing over minor details.

    Of course, how the Tok’ra contacted potential hosts from Earth wasn’t exactly a minor detail, given all the security concerns involved. And the diplomatic concerns on Earth since if they used the Stargate for transport, the Russians and Chinese - hell, the rest of the United Nations - would want in as well, and telling them off would piss them off. More than they already were. And probably have them look for ways to mess with the whole project - or infiltrate it. Or both. Though they would likely try that anyway. And if they held the host matchmaking meeting on Earth, they would have to pick a suitable location that was acceptable for most members of the Alliance without causing security concerns - no one wanted a snake, friendly or not, loose on Earth. Or kidnapped. Jack’s bet was on Canada - close enough to the USA and Europe while not being the USA.

    OK, some important concerns were being discussed, he admitted grudgingly to himself. It was still damn boring. And, more concerning, it was apparently boring enough for Anise to focus on him instead of on whoever was talking. At least she was too far away - separated from Jack by Carter and Entrapta - to actually talk, but the glances she kept sending him… If she was using her alien scanner to see through Jack’s clothes, he would have some words with her.

    He blinked. That might actually be a real concern. He would have to ask Carter about that - but how, without sounding like a… well, sounding like he was actually worried about alien peeping toms.

    “...and with that, I think we could use a break from negotiations.”

    “I concur. We have refreshments and snacks prepared in the room next to this.”

    What? Already? Jack blinked. That was…

    “Colonel O’Neill!”

    And Anise came at him like a Sidewinder locked on his engine. Carter got up to intercept her, but the snake was focusing on Jack. “I would like your opinion on how demographics affect the war strategy.”

    Oh. That was a safe topic - unless they started talking about personally doing your part to increase demographics. So Jack shrugged as they were walking to the buffet next door. “Well, the Goa’uld still have us outnumbered with soldiers, but the numbers of soldiers don’t count nearly as much as the number and quality of spaceships.” Who controlled the air - or space, in this case - controlled the war. Usually. Vietnam came to mind as a counter-example, of course.

    He relaxed a little as he picked up a glass of fruit juice from a tray at the door. Talking about strategy and tactics was something he could easily do.

    “Well, according to your claims - backed up by the evidence so far - your ships are technologically superior to the Goa’uld ships,” Anise said after taking a sip - more like a gulp, actually - from her own drink. “But numbers are crucial; the Goa’uld fleet is spread out, which facilitates defeating them in detail, but it also allows them to strike at many, many targets - in addition to the attacker’s advantage of picking when and where to attack. And, unlike us, you have worlds you cannot easily evacuate and have to defend. That’s a strategic liability.”

    “Yes.” Jack nodded. No need to lie about that. “But in order to attack a world, you must first know where it is. And while they know about Earth, Etheria is not known to the Goa’uld.” And the planet had only recently returned to this universe according to the Etherians - something Jack still had trouble understanding or even accepting. Sticking an entire solar system, planets, moons and sun, into a pocket dimension? It was mind-boggling!

    “But you still need to guard it anyway, just to be safe. The political cost of exposing it to danger, much less the blow should it be lost, allow nothing else. And, of course, the Goa’uld will quickly learn of its existence once the war switches to open invasions. If they manage to capture an Etherian, they might even gain enough information to find the planet,” Anise retorted.

    Jack nodded, hiding a frown. He wasn’t talking to a snake version of Entrapta, he reminded himself. Anise had the experience and background of a spy as well - and knew politics much better than Jack’s friend.

    But Anise’s interpersonal skills were still a bit less than impressive, he added mentally when the woman shot him another look that was far too obvious and added: “But I am sure a man of your talents has solutions ready for such problems.”

    “Well, I’m not in charge of strategy,” he said, raising his glass. “I’m just a colonel in Stargate Command.”

    “Not for long, I would hope.” Anise looked him over again. “Surely your government realises what a waste that would be.”

    “I quite like it where I am,” Jack said. “I’ve got the best team possible, and I do very important work. And other people are better at the paper-pushing thing. Strategy and logistics,” he added when he saw her frown. “You know, the thing that wins wars.”

    “Do not sell yourself short, O’Neill. You are a very experienced and skilful warrior. Did not General Hammond comment that you could expect a promotion in the future?” Teal’c gave honest but completely unwanted praise.

    And, of course, for once, Anise deigned to acknowledge Teal’c, nodding. “Exactly!”

    “That still won’t put me in any position where I could move fleets around,” Jack pointed out. “I won’t even be in charge of Stargate Command.” At least, he hoped so.

    Anise drained her glass. “That is a pity. On the other hand, if you are not burdened with such a high position, you have much more freedom to take part in missions - or other projects, correct?” She beamed at him,

    Oh, Hell and damnation! Jack had absolutely no doubt what kind of ‘projects’ Anise had in mind. “Ah, I need another drink. I’ll be right back!”

    He glanced around as he went to refill his glass. Carter was talking with Entrapta and Martouf and not even looking in his direction. Daniel was talking with Per’sus. Adora, Glimmer and Bow were talking with Garshaw and Sir Watson. And…

    “Just tell her you’re not interested.”

    …and Catra was standing at his side, refilling her plate. She sounded bored, too, but that was probably feigned.

    “That would be rude. And you know what they say about a woman scorned,” he told her.

    “No? What do they say?” She cocked her head, then plopped a fried piece of fish into her mouth.

    “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” he quoted… he didn’t actually know who had written that. Shakespeare?

    To his surprise, Catra nodded in apparent agreement. “Oh, yes.” Why was she…? “So, why are you risking such fury by flirting with Anise?” she asked.

    Jack blinked. What did she…? He pressed his lips together to avoid lashing out at the insinuation.

    And she sighed and shook her head. “You really need to sort this out. Trust me, I know.”

    He knew she wasn’t just talking about telling Anise to stop hitting on him. But she didn’t understand. Things were complicated. And against regulations. They were in the middle of a war - which would heat up soon - and they couldn’t afford to wreck the best team Stargate Command had. Or disrupt… He shook his head. This wasn’t like whatever Catra and Adora had. It was completely different. If this was even a thing at all - it wasn’t as if he had talked to Carter about anything. But even without anything being said, there were moments…

    “There is nothing to sort out,” he snapped - knowing it was a lie.

    Catra shook her head and turned away, headed back to Adora and the others.

    *****​

    “...of course, this tunnelling technology is very useful, but it can be replaced by conventional tunnelling techniques, while magitech opens entirely new fields of study - and more applications - so I do not think that an exchange with Ancient technology would be equal.”

    Adora frowned - Sir Watson did sound genuine, but what he said went against what she had heard about the Tok’ra technology from Bow and Entrapta.

    “Even leaving aside the potential inherent in adapting the technology to other fields, as well as the sheer value for building infrastructure on planets you have just taken, I think you’re undervaluing the fact that our technology, while based on Ancient technology, is not gene-locked to descendants of the Ancients,” Garshaw retorted.

    “Yes!” Entrapta piped up, nodding several times. “Working with this technology is much easier, from a researcher’s point of view, than with First Ones technology. Sometimes not as interesting, though,” she added with a pout.

    Sir Watson didn’t frown, Adora noted, but his smile grew a little more… polite. “Earth has the ability to produce prefab housing and bases. The differences in efficiency might be significant, of course, but not as significant as space superiority.”

    “But in order to take advantage of better FTL drives on a strategic level, you need to be able to produce ships in large numbers. We are limited by population and industrial capacity,” Garshaw pointed out. “Advanced technology could improve existing ships, but that would mostly facilitate some operations, not change the balance of power.”

    “You could use your technology to quickly set up yards, though.” Sir Watson nodded.

    “Those would still require a workforce that we cannot provide and tooling we lack at the moment, and even with both requirements filled, we’d be talking years to show the first results.”

    “We can help out there! We did that for Earth’s shuttle factories - bots are working there while the humans learn how to produce the designs!” Entrapta smiled widely.

    “And we already agreed to let people volunteer as hosts, so that should cover the numbers you currently lack.” Sir Watson added.

    “In theory, but even so, we could not match the numbers of one of the prominent System Lords, much less your numbers.” Garshaw shook her head.

    It wasn’t about who was more powerful within the Alliance! Adora pressed her lips together so she wouldn’t yell at the diplomats. They were here to form an alliance to defeat the Goa’uld, not to compete with each other.

    Glimmer stood. “We cannot lose sight of the overall goal - the defeat of the System Lords and the liberation of their worlds and slaves. While we do have to take the future after the war into account when we discuss the proliferation of advanced technology, we first need to secure victory. Also, it should be obvious that Earth could easily, once the humans adapt Ancient technology, become a dominant power in the Galaxy by sheer weight of numbers.”

    That… wasn’t quite how Adora would have put it. You couldn’t effectively fight in a war if you were already worried about what your allies would do after the war.

    “We will need time to adapt advanced technology,” Sir Watson objected.

    “And you aren’t united,” Adora pointed out. “Many of your countries do outnumber Etheria, many times in some cases, but most of them lack full access to advanced technology.”

    “Yes.” Sir Watson nodded again.

    “And you’ll probably fight each other before you would unite,” Catra commented.

    Sir Watson frowned at her. “I would hope that humanity has grown beyond that.”

    “Well, you might stick to a cold war like last time.” Catra shrugged.

    Adora cleared her throat. “We’re here to form an alliance against the Goa’uld,” she reminded everyone. “Working together, we’re much stronger than alone since we complement each other.”

    “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” Sir Watson agreed.

    “We have a common enemy,” Garshaw said. “But we do need to take care not to sow the seeds for a new conflict while we fight this war.”

    Adora nodded. They needed trust and cooperation. And she knew that fighting the Goa’uld could provide both - if they managed to form an alliance first.

    Which they would. Adora would make sure. The others would see that it was the best course of action.

    Of course, she added to herself with a glance at Sam and Jack as the debate continued, sometimes, even smart people don’t see what is obviously the best course of action. Stupid Air Fore rules! On the other hand, judging by what Adora had read up, the rules didn’t say officers couldn’t have a relationship with each other at all - just not within the same chain of command. But that would mean breaking up SG-1, which would be stupid as well.

    The Air Force really needed to be more flexible, in Adora’s opinion. Not every rule needed to apply to everyone. Everyone was different, after all.

    *****​
     
  17. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Well, some problems don't have easy solutions, but they'll do their best.

    Thanks need to fix that!
     
  18. Transreal Clouden

    Transreal Clouden Know what you're doing yet?

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    hmmm, I understand Adora's feelings here but those rules really do exist for good reasons. Power dynamics can easily become coercion even if people have the best of intentions to begin with.
     
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  19. macdjord

    macdjord Well worn.

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    Now, are these 80s catgirls, or the more modern type? Because I expect Catra's reaction will differ significantly between the two.
     
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  20. Threadmarks: Chapter 66: Regulations
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 66: Regulations

    P34-353J, December 11th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “...and I think we have determined the key points that remain to be settled during the negotiations,” Sir Watson finished with a smile as they gathered for the sendoff in the transporter room of the Tok’ra base.

    For a man who had been negotiating with aliens for most of a day, the diplomat looked quite fit, in Samantha Carter’s opinion. Of course, the Alliance wouldn’t have sent the man if he couldn’t stand a marathon negotiation session - and this was just the preliminary meeting to prepare the actual negotiations. They would only send their best diplomats.

    And SG-1. Sam was very much aware that she wasn’t just here because she was the best expert on Ancient technology on Earth but also because she was best friends with Entrapta and had good relations with Anise. Although, she amended her thoughts when she watched how the Tok’ra scientist smiled at the Colone, if Anise keeps bothering the Colonel, I might have to rethink my stance. The woman - either woman, Freya obviously shared that interest - shouldn’t exploit the fact that the Colonel couldn’t rebuff her as he obviously wanted due to diplomatic considerations.

    “You should say something to them.”

    Sam froze for a moment, then turned to look at the speaker. Martouf. “Pardon?”

    “Anise and Freya wouldn’t go after someone who’s involved with someone else,” he told her in the same low voice as before. Too low to be picked up by anyone else in the room. Except for Catra - the woman’s ears were twitching already.

    Sam considered denying the implied statement, but that would have been lying. And she wouldn’t stoop to that. “We aren’t involved,” she said instead. “Regulations prohibit a relationship between officers in the same chain of command.”

    “But I think neither your nor his heart cares about regulations.”

    Sam bit back on the angry comeback - a good officer followed regulations. There were exceptions for saving the world, but not for personal… desires. But Martouf’s expression was so… empathic fit it best, she decided. And she knew, thanks to the pang of guilt she felt, why he could feel that way - he and Lantash were both pining for someone they couldn’t get, either.

    Sam.

    So she returned the smile in kind. “But we don’t let our hearts rule us. There are good reasons for those regulations.”

    He inclined his head. “I don’t doubt that, but I doubt that they are good enough to justify your and his unhappiness.”

    “We aren’t unhappy.” She had a great career. She had friends she trusted with her life. She could work with the most advanced technology on Earth and was making further advances. She had a lab in space and was best friends with a genius alien scientist. She could travel the galaxy. She wasn’t unhappy.

    But she didn’t have… She pressed her lips together and pushed the small, nagging voice in the back of her mind away. Some things weren’t meant to be.

    But she could apply for a transfer. Away from SG-1. She would get it, Sam knew - as the leading scientist for Ancient technology, she could pick whatever posting she wanted. And that didn’t even count her… influence with the leading power in the Alliance.

    But that would… She was needed in SG-1. She couldn’t leave. Not to mention what everyone would suspect about her reasons for leaving. And about her - and the Colonel.

    Martouf inclined his head again, clearly not believing her. But he didn’t push further. “I wish you happiness anyway.”

    Sam nodded in return. “Thank you. To you as well.”

    Then his lips shifted into a wry smile. “You should still talk to them, though.” He glanced at the others in the room, gathering on the spot for the transporter. “And your friends, I think.”

    Sam caught Catra shaking her head at her. And elbowing Adora.

    Yes, she thought with a sinking feeling, I need to talk with them. Before they tried to ‘help’ her. The last thing Sam - or anyone else - needed was a galactic superpower trying to meddle in her personal life.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, December 11th, 1998

    “So…” Catra didn’t grin when she approached Sam in her lab. Not much, at least - that would have been petty. And a bit cruel. Not that she had trouble with being either, but Sam was a friend, not an enemy.

    Sam still gave her a flat stare that Mermista wouldn’t have been able to top. “If you overheard my conversation with Martouf and Lantash, then you already know my response to whatever you are going to say.”

    Ah? Catra was tempted to claim she agreed with Sam’s stance just to be contrarian, but that would have been petty. And stupid. “That’s why I am starting with my response to your last statement,” she said instead - with a grin.

    Sam’s eyes narrowed. “And what is your response?” she asked with a sigh.

    “That your rules are stupid. You love him, he loves you, and rules that prevent two people in love from loving each other are stupid.” Rules, people, orders - whatever stood in the way of love was wrong.

    Sam actually rolled her eyes. “It’s not as simple. Those rules were made for a very good reason.”

    She hadn’t denied the other part of the statement, though. Catra sat down on the edge of Sam’s desk and picked up a screwdriver to fiddle with. People didn’t react to that as they reacted to sheathing and unsheathing her claws. “Don’t you have a saying about good intentions paving the road to hell?”

    “Yes,” Sam admitted, and Catra’s grin widened. “But that’s not the case here. If relationships between an officer and one of their subordinates were allowed, it would be open to abuse.”

    Catra shrugged. “The people who do that stuff generally don’t care about rules anyway.” At least, that had been her experience in the Horde. Not that the Horde had had such regulations.

    Sam sighed again. “Some will be discouraged. But even if some would not care, the rules make it easier for the victim to seek help.”

    “You don’t have such rules for your civilians, though. So, it can’t be that crucial.” Catra hadn’t heard that such stuff was common, anyway.

    “Many private businesses and bureaucracies have rules to limit such relationships.”

    “Really? Your movies and TV shows are wrong, then.” Catra snorted. She was aware of that. Mostly.

    “Hollywood takes liberties with reality,” Sam said with a wry smile followed by a wince.

    “But that’s not important,” Catra went on, cocking her head to the side as she crossed her legs and juggled the screwdriver. “Do you think Jack would do such a thing?”

    “Of course not!” Sam snapped. “But that’s not the issue. Even if the majority of the people wouldn’t do a thing, there are always some who would if it were allowed, and the rule is meant to stop them.”

    “And stops you and Jack. And probably others as well.” Which was stupid. “You should get an exception.”

    Sam frowned deeply. “That’s not how it works. If exceptions are possible, then those who would abuse their power would abuse such exceptions.”

    Catra shook her head. “Why don’t you stick to punishing those then, instead of everyone else?” It was easier to go after criminals than to turn everyone into criminals. Hell, even the Horde had taught you that punishing everyone for the faults of one or two was something you only did in special situations. Of course, in practice, things had been different, but still…

    “Because the intent is to prevent such… problems. Not deal with them after someone got hurt.”

    That still didn’t make much sense. “But you don’t have such rules for everyone. Just the military,” Catra pointed out.

    “And many public and private organisations.”

    Yes, she had mentioned that before. “You still should have some exceptions,” Catra insisted. “Too rigid rules are bad.” She knew that from personal experience. Damn Shadow Weaver.

    Sam pressed her lips together. “Not everyone’s a princess who can make their own rules. And not every princess knows best.”

    Catra didn’t wince at the barb even though it wasn’t… completely wrong. She shrugged. “Yeah, but you and Jack are an exception.” No one deserved to be unhappy. Especially not her friends.

    “No, we aren’t. We’re both officers in the United States Air Force. We have sworn an oath, and we will keep it.” Sam pointedly turned to her computer, which Catra took as telling her that this conversation was over.

    Well, one down, another to go. But she might have to change her approach now.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, December 12th, 1998

    “Hi, Jack. Coffee?”

    “Daniel?” Jack O’Neill generally liked every opportunity to put off his paperwork - well, the unnecessary paperwork; the kind of stuff someone once thought would be a good idea, ages ago, and which was kept on despite serving no purpose. Like writing a report for something he and everyone who had been there, as well as a few who hadn’t, already had written a report about. But Daniel showing up so early in the morning, with the good coffee from his civilian-bought coffee maker? Without getting prompted by Jack? That raised some concerns. He still took the cup with a smile, of course.

    “I thought you’d come in later today. Didn’t you stay on past midnight to file your report?” Jack asked - as if he hadn’t checked his subordinates’ paperwork already; he would also have to tell Carter not to burn the midnight oil outside emergencies. Again.

    His friend blushed. “Well, I like to write my reports when the memory’s still fresh.”

    “Well, your memory’s not going to stay fresh if you don’t get enough sleep,” Jack told him with a slight shake of his head.

    Daniel pouted in return. “Who said that they could sleep when they’re dead?”

    Jack chuckled. “That was in the middle of an emergency. Not after a boring diplomatic meeting to prepare the actual meeting.”

    Daniel perked up instead of pouting some more, which raised more alarm bells in Jack’s head. “Well, it wasn’t that boring, was it?”

    Jack shrugged. “People talking about talking. Of course, you’d find it interesting - you even find broken ceramic interesting.”

    “Even so-called trash can tell us a lot about an ancient culture,” Daniel retorted. “But that’s a topic for another day.”

    Like never, if Jack could help it. “Won’t see me arguing that.”

    “Anyway.” Daniel took a deep breath. And another when Jack raised his eyebrows at him. “Glimmer asked me a few weird questions yesterday.”

    “Yesterday?” Jack frowned. They had returned quite late through the Stargate, and Daniel had headed straight to his office, as far as Jack knew.

    “Yes. She, ah, teleported into my office. Almost toppled a stack of Sumerian stone tablets.”

    “I thought we agreed that she wouldn’t do that,” Jack said.

    “Well, she didn’t know I had them, and so appeared a bit too close.”

    “I mean the whole ‘teleporting into bases’ stuff,” Jack explained.

    “Ah. She forgot, I think - it was late.” Daniel shrugged. “Anyway, she was asking a lot about marriage customs, relationships, and the cultural significance of rules and regulations.”

    That was weird indeed. Glimmer had read up on that before, Jack knew - when the Etherians had negotiated with the various countries about gay marriage and other rights. But that was, as far as Jack knew, a done deal. And had been for a while.

    “Mostly the latter,” Daniel explained with the forced smile he usually had on his face when he wasn’t sure about something but thought it was bad news.

    So, what could… “Oh, damn!” Jack cursed, clenching his jaws.

    “Yes. She was, well, not in those exact words, but she was asking about exemptions for certain rules about, ah, fraternisation?”

    Jack closed his eyes to calm down and forced himself to unclench his teeth. Then he took a deep breath and sighed. They meant well. And they were stupid kids in some areas. Like this. “Don’t tell me that magical space princesses are planning to meddle with my private life.” At least Daniel had had the presence of mind to inform him.

    “Well, they aren’t meddling, at least I don’t think they are - Glimmer seemed very aware of the cultural differences between Etherian and American military - but they’re, ah, concerned.” Daniel weakly smiled, Jack saw when he looked at his friend again.

    “I said don’t tell me.”

    “Technically, I told you they aren’t meddling.”

    “But they’re thinking about it.” Jack sighed again and muttered another curse under his breath.

    “They care about y… their friends,” Daniel finished with a wince at Jack’s glare. “They come from a completely different culture and social position, Jack. They don’t really get why, ah, certain rules are the way they are. The idea that, ah, relationships between two adults could be prohibited by law goes against both their culture and their personal experience.”

    Oh, right. With the kind of messed-up personal history Adora and Catra had, they would completely misjudge the whole issue. The issue that Daniel wouldn’t spell out if he knew what was good for him. “Great. Did you tell her not to meddle?”

    “Well…” That wasn’t the confirmation Jack wanted to hear. Not at all. “I explained the historical and cultural significance of the rules in question?” Daniel smiled weakly.

    “To an absolute queen used to getting her whim.”

    “That’s an unfair characterisation, Jack.” And the pout was back. “Glimmer understands the importance of the rule of law - Bright Moon isn’t an anarchy, and the queen can’t just ignore the law on a whim. But their law generally is more, ah, flexible. It has more exemptions.”

    “You mean the princesses can play favourites.” Jack pressed his lips together. Sure, there were mitigating circumstances, but on Earth, Catra and probably Scorpia and even Entrapta, but most definitely Hordak, would be behind bars for their actions in command of the Horde. Well, probably not Entrapta.

    “They value their friends highly,” Daniel sort of agreed. “And politics are personal for them, often based on personal relationships. Their culture reflects this.” He shrugged with a smile. “It’s actually not that different from the, ah, flexibility our own politics, especially international politics, has displayed in the past, just adapted to their own culture.”

    “Did you just compare meddling with my private life to propping up a dictatorship in the Cold War?” Jack asked with narrowed eyes.

    Daniel blinked, mouth half-open. “Uh… I didn’t mean… I mean, technically? I didn’t mean that specific example, though. Just the leeway some people were shown for political reasons.”

    That still sounded like corruption to Jack. Whatever. “Well, next time you see them, ensure that they respect my… privacy.” It wasn’t as if he had a love life, anyway.

    “Sure.” Daniel nodded a bit too quickly.

    “And I’ll personally talk to them,” Jack added.

    “That’s a good idea, yes.”

    Jack sighed once more. His friend was a bit too obvious. “Soon, then.”

    Daniel nodded again, looking relieved. Damn.

    Jack nodded at him. “Thanks.” For telling him about this.

    “Yeah, well…” Daniel shrugged, then nodded back and left.

    Well, at least Jack had a good excuse not to finish his second report.

    *****​

    Earth Orbit, Solar System, December 12th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    Adora frowned when Glimmer had finished the summary of her talk with Daniel over breakfast. “So we can’t help them?” She didn’t like that. Not at all. A couple kept apart by stupid rules…

    “Well, he didn’t quite say that,” Glimmer said as she refilled her glass with fresh juice.

    Adora refilled hers as well. Entrapta’s juicer was working very well, as long as you remembered to check if whoever had used it last had not forgotten to push the ‘clean&empty’ button. Certain flavours really didn’t mix well. Like anchovies and oranges, no matter what Catra said.

    “But Sam was pretty angry when I talked to her,” Catra reminded her. “They take their rules seriously. Far too seriously.” She stretched and swiped another slice of dark bread to top with smoked salmon.

    Adora agreed. Catra might not take all rules seriously enough, but this was a very stupid rule.

    “Daniel said it was a cultural thing,” Glimmer said. “He said Earth, and especially the United States, was ‘beholden to the rule of law’.”

    “And they have no princesses to step in and correct mistakes.” Adora shook her head. “Isn’t their president supposed to do that?”

    “That would be favouritism, according to Sam. And they don’t think it’s a mistake,” Catra said with a shrug. “Earth people don’t really trust each other, so they want to make rules and laws that don’t need trust.”

    Glimmer scoffed. “Oh, yes. Even the countries in the Alliance seem to expect the others to stab them in the back in the middle of the war.”

    “It’s not that bad,” Bow objected. “But they’ve had bad experiences with rulers and with allies. That colours their view. And Etheria has seen similar issues in the past. The Horde changed things since it was a threat to all of Etheria, so things are different in the Princess Alliance, but the other kingdoms haven’t changed as much. Such actions were quite common once.”

    Adora nodded. She remembered the Princess Prom. So many princesses hadn’t cared much or at all about the Horde threat. Not even after Catra and Scorpia had blown up Frosta’s palace. Well, part of it. “But they wouldn’t make such laws.”

    “Of course not. Limiting a princess’s power like that would weaken their rule,” Glimmer said.

    “And we can’t have that,” Catra drawled with a smirk.

    Glimmer shot her a glare. “Those who have the responsibility and duty also need to have the corresponding power.”

    That sounded like a quote. Probably from Queen Angella. Adora pressed her lips together for a moment. “Anyway, how do we help our friends then?” There had to be a way to work with the system.

    “That’s the question,” Catra said. “Sam was annoyed at me for telling her she should do something about it.”

    “Uh…” Entrapta spoke up. “Are we sure that they love each other? Maybe they’re just friends.”

    “Oh, yeah, they’ve got it bad for each other,” Catra said.

    Glimmer nodded. “Definitely.”

    “Yes.” Bow nodded as well.

    “Yes,” Adora agreed with her friends. It was obvious.

    “But why wouldn’t they want to be together if they loved each other?” Entrapta asked.

    “Because they don’t want us to ‘play favourites’ or something,” Catra said. “They think that will weaken the whole system they have and open it to abuse by others.” She shrugged.

    Adora frowned again. “If they have officers who would abuse that, they need to get rid of them.”

    “They have a lot of officers.” Bow shook his head. “They have more soldiers than a lot of kingdoms on Etheria have people. And not enough princesses. Well, people with the power and prestige of princesses. Almost everyone has someone above them - or is limited in other ways.”

    “The numbers are like the Horde,” Catra said. “I couldn’t check everything myself, and the Force Captains were, well… of mixed quality. Couldn’t trust all of them, of course, but as long as things worked out more or less, other stuff took priority.”

    “Yes, loyalty was a concern in the Horde,” Hordak agreed. He was staring at Catra, who smirked back at him. “But I think harsh punishments for those who abuse their position would be better than preventive prohibitions.”

    “We can’t really make them reform their whole system,” Bow objected. “They have it for a reason.”

    “A stupid reason,” Catra retorted.

    “But intervening in another kingdom is not done lightly,” Glimmer said. “Usually, you don’t do that over a stupid law.”

    “But we can’t let our friends be unhappy like that,” Adora reminded them. We all know where that leads to, she thought with a glance at Catra.

    “But they might not be happy if we meddle,” Bow said.

    “Not at first, at least,” Catra added with a grin.

    “Should we meddle?” Entrapta asked. “If they don’t want us to…” She shrugged. “Sam isn’t afraid to say what she wants, is she? She would have said something if she wanted help, right?”

    “She might be too proud for that,” Hordak pointed out. “Or she thinks the consequences of doing something aren’t worth it.”

    “Yeah, that sounds like her,” Catra agreed.

    “Oh.” Entrapta pouted. “Poor Sam.”

    “And poor Jack,” Catra added. “So, we should…”

    Darla announcing a call interrupted her. Adora quickly checked who was calling. Stargate Command? “Put them through,” she told the ship.

    Jack’s face appeared on the smaller screen in the kitchen. “Good morning, everyone.”

    He was smiling, but he didn’t look happy, Adora noticed when she returned the greeting. Too many teeth were showing.

    “I think we need to talk about a few things,” he went on. “In private. Face to face. So, any chance you could visit today?”

    That sounded… ominous. Adora felt a little queasy. On the other hand, maybe this was an opportunity to talk things through with Jack? Honesty was the best policy, after all.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, December 12th, 1998

    “So… How’s the lab work going?”

    Samantha Carter suppressed a sigh at Daniel’s comment. Her friend’s attempt to make conversation while avoiding the elephant in the room - or, to be precise, the Colonel missing in the mess hall - was very transparent.

    And that meant he knew why the Colonel had suddenly left the Mountain for a visit to the Etherians in orbit - without anyone else from SG-1. Well, Sam had a suspicion about the reasons for that, but she needed confirmation. So she narrowed her eyes at him. “So spill, Daniel - why did Colonel O’Neill leave so urgently this morning?”

    “Ah…” Daniel opened his mouth, then closed it again and pushed his glasses up his nose. “I, ah, don’t know exactly, actually.”

    “But you have a reasonable suspicion,” Sam pressed.

    “Indeed,” Teal’c surprisingly supported her.

    “Ah… Well, it’s really just a guess…”

    “Daniel…” She raised her eyebrows at him with a sigh.

    He caved. “I think he’s gone to tell our friends not to, ah, meddle with his private life.”

    “Ah.” Sam pressed her lips together. Just as she had thought. Her friends had bothered the Colonel as well with their nonsense.

    “They mean well?” Daniel’s tone and weak smile turned it into a question.

    “It’s none of their business,” Sam spat. Then she glanced around. If someone overheard them, the rumour mill would go into overdrive. And the damage that would do…. “We’ll continue this in my lab.” That would assure their privacy.

    “Ah, I still have a report to… Alright.” Daniel forced another smile.

    Teal’c merely rose without a word.

    By the time they reached Sam’s lab, she had calmed down. A little, at least. It was true that their friends meant well, but they didn’t understand. Not even after she had explained things to Catra. She sighed as she sat down at her desk.

    “The Etherians have a different view of, ah, the private life of soldiers,” Daniel said, sitting down on one of the tables with non-critical parts.

    Teal’c cocked his head to the side.

    “I am aware of that,” Sam said. “But we’re on Earth. In the Air Force.”

    “They grew up in a very different culture,” Daniel tried again. “And their personal experience also has an impact. Adora and Catra, well…” He shrugged. “You know their history.”

    Sam did. And that mess was completely different from… living in accordance with sensible rules and regulations. It wasn’t as if an abusive parental figure was manipulating Sam’s life. Dad might not have been the best father possible, but he certainly cared for Sam and tried his best.

    “So, it’s only understandable that they, ah, would react to what looks, from their perspective, like a rule prohibiting relationships such as theirs, by attempting to fix what they would see as a great injustice.”

    “I am aware that they see our laws as a problem,” Sam snapped. Her friend was dancing around the issue, which was annoying.

    “I think they are primarily troubled by the Air Force regulations that prohibit two soldiers from forming a relationship,” Teal’c commented. “Such as Colonel O’Neill and yourself.”

    Sam suppressed a gasp and stared at him. He was going there?

    Teal’c weathered her glare with a slight tilting of his head and a small smile.

    She clenched her jaw. Maybe dancing around the issue would have been better.

    Daniel cleared his throat and went to refill his mug. Coward.

    “My relationship with Colonel O’Neill is strictly professional,” Sam very carefully said.

    “Indeed. But it need not be.” Teal’c took a sip from his own cup.

    Sam took a deep breath, suppressing both the urge to yell at her friend - friends - and the feeling of longing. “What ‘need not be’ doesn’t matter. We have those rules and regulations for a reason. A very good reason.”

    “Well, relationships between officers are only prohibited if they are within the same chain of command,” Daniel pointed out.

    As if Sam wasn’t aware of that! But that would mean breaking up SG-1. And apart from the personal cost that would incur - Sam didn’t trust anyone else as much as her team, and she would loathe seeing them fight without her - there was nobody else who could replace them. Not yet, at least. None were as qualified as Sam and Daniel in their fields. And Teal’c was… Teal’c. His knowledge of the Goa’uld was crucial, and he was the best fighter she knew. Not counting princesses. And the Colonel… Well, he would be promoted sooner or later.

    But not today. Or tomorrow. And when the Colonel was promoted, he would likely move up to command Stargate Command. Or whatever formation SG-1 would be serving in at that point - Sam was aware that the odds of them staying in Stargate Command as the war began in earnest were low.

    In any case, she would still be in his chain of command for the foreseeable future. She could apply for a transfer, but… Sam didn’t want to become stuck in a lab. She was a soldier, not merely a scientist. Sometimes - quite often, actually - her skills were needed on the frontlines. She was needed there.

    And she wouldn’t sacrifice that for personal, selfish reasons.

    No matter how much she wanted to.

    “I’m not going to transfer out,” she said, nodding firmly.

    Teal’c nodded, and Daniel looked both relieved and disappointed.

    *****​

    Earth Orbit, Solar System, December 12th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    O’Neill was annoyed. And angry. Catra could tell the moment he stepped off the ramp of the shuttle in Darla’s hangar. His smile showed his teeth, and if he had had the ears for it, they would have been flat against his head. She half-expected him to hiss, too, as he greeted them. “Hi, kids.”

    “Hi, Jack!” Adora beamed at him, but Catra’s lover was nervous. Her smile was just a tad too wide, and her tone just a bit too loud.

    “Hi, Jack!” Catra waved. She wasn’t nervous. It wasn’t as if they had done anything to feel really guilty about. No war had been started, and no one had been killed. Just trying to help out two friends. Even if they didn’t want to get helped. Or especially if they didn’t want to get helped.

    “The others are in the lounge. That should be private enough for… whatever you want to talk about.” Adora nodded twice and gestured towards the hangar door as if O’Neill hadn’t spent more than a month on the ship and knew exactly where everything was.

    Catra sighed and shook her head as she followed the two.

    “Hi, kids!” O’Neill repeated himself when they entered the lounge.

    “Hi, Jack!” Bow smiled at him.

    “Hello, Jack!” Glimmer nodded.

    “Good morning, Colonel O’Neill,” Hordak said in a flat tone.

    “Kids? I don’t think we qualify as kids according to the accepted definition, Jack.” Entrapta looked puzzled.

    “For someone my age, you all look like kids.”

    “Even Hordak? Since you’re actually younger than him, I think.” Entrapta frowned.

    Catra grinned at the question - O’Neill looked momentarily taken aback.

    But the man recovered quickly and sat down in one of the chairs to the side, facing the couch with Glimmer and Bow and the armchair where Catra decided to sit on Adora’s lap, leaving Entrapta and Hordak’s couch to the side. As expected.

    “So… I’ve heard you were looking into certain Air Force regulations,” O’Neill said.

    “Yes? I mean, yes,” Adora replied with a nod.

    “Regulations about the proper conduct of officers in the Air Force.” O’Neill leaned forward with a frown.

    “Regulations that state you and Sam can’t get together.” Catra flashed her teeth at him.

    He narrowed his eyes at her for a moment. “And you are planning to do something about that,” he went on in a flat voice.

    “Yes?” Adora shifted a bit in the seat. Not enough to move Catra out of her lap, but enough to force her to adjust her own seat. “I mean, it’s obvious that you two…”

    “Stop,” O’Neill interrupted her. Yes, he was angry now but controlled himself. Oops. “I don’t know how things are done on Etheria, but on Earth, you respect your friends’ privacy. And you don’t start spreading rumours about them.”

    “Your TV shows disagree with that,” Catra pointed out.

    “That’s TV.” O’Neill glared at her. “It’s not a role model - and not funny when it happens to you.”

    Catra wanted to disagree with that, but O’Neill was mad right now.

    “But aren’t you in love with Sam?” Adora asked.

    The man closed his eyes for a moment and sighed. But he was still tense when he looked at them, Catra noticed. “That’s not important. Not at all. You don’t mess with your friends’ - or anyone’s - private life.”

    “Not even when they are, ah… ‘showing self-destructive behaviour’?” Entrapta asked. “That would be an ‘intervention’ according to my data.”

    “We’re not talking about drug abuse or drinking or whatever,” O’Neill replied. “We’re talking - entirely hypothetically - about two people not doing a thing that would break rules and regulations. And contrary to what kids might think, not acting on every urge isn’t the end of the world.”

    Catra glared at him. Not acting on such ‘urges’ had almost caused the end of the world! Worlds, actually.

    “We’re talking about love, not urges,” Adora objected.

    “And if you don’t want friends interfering with your love life,” Glimmer added, “then why do you let rules interfere with your love life? That’s basically the same thing.”

    O’Neill sighed again. “It’s not the same thing.”

    “Why not?” Entrapta asked.

    “I should have taken Daniel with me,” Catra heard O’Neill mutter under his breath. “Look, those rules were created for a good reason. It’s like… You know, it’s like traffic rules.”

    “Traffic rules?” Glimmer cocked her head to the side.

    “Do you mean trafficking?” Entrapta asked.

    “No! Traffic. Cars on roads. On roads, you have a speed limit - the maximum speed you’re allowed to go. That’s because letting everyone drive at whatever speed they wanted to drive would mean a lot of people would drive too fast and endanger others. And even if you think you could drive faster without risking an accident, you don’t do it. Because if you do it, others will do it as well - and they might not be able to safely handle their car at the same speed. And that means they’ll crash. Probably into someone else.”

    “Ah.” Entrapta nodded. “So, you serve as a role model for others by conforming to laws that shouldn’t apply to you.”

    “But you have exceptions for that,” Glimmer retorted. “The police are allowed to drive faster.”

    “In emergencies,” O’Neill replied. “And this isn’t an emergency.”

    “But we’re talking about your… private life,” Adora protested. “Not about cars.”

    My private life, yes. If I need help, I’ll ask for it.”

    Catra had her doubts about that.

    “Look, I know you mean well, but messing with our rules like that will hurt a lot of people. I have seen lives ruined by people… getting involved with each other. Or abuse their power. We need those rules. And every exception would weaken them.” O’Neill shook his head. “It’s not worth it.”

    Catra doubted that. Love and happiness were worth it. Everyone deserved to be happy.

    But it was O’Neill’s life. And Sam’s, though Sam hadn’t wanted them to help either. So, it was, ultimately, up to them. Even though they were being stupid about it.

    He looked at them. “Do you understand that?”

    Catra was tempted to shrug, but everyone else was, reluctantly, nodding, so she did as well. But once they finally saw reason, Catra wouldn’t let them forget this for a long, long while!

    He sighed. “Ask Daniel about the reasons for those rules.”

    “I did,” Glimmer said. “His explanation didn’t sound very convincing.”

    “Well, ask him again.” Under his breath, Catra heard him add: “He deserves it.”

    *****​

    Jack O’Neill felt a bit guilty about throwing Daniel under the bus. But this was something his friend should have handled when he had been talking with Glimmer. If Daniel had done his job, Jack wouldn’t have had to read a bunch of well-meaning magical princesses the riot act and wouldn’t have to look at half a dozen disappointed faces. Well, four. Hordak looked bored, and Entrapta was focusing on her portable super-computer. Or three - Catra didn’t look too disappointed.

    Still, Jack felt guilty about that as well. “So, yeah, that was what I wanted to talk about.” He nodded, suddenly feeling awkward.

    “Sorry,” Adora said. She looked far too sad for someone with their lover in their lap, Jack couldn’t help thinking.

    Glimmer, though, frowned. “But with those rules, what about mixed formations or chains of command?”

    “Ah… everyone follows their own rules, I think,” Jack replied - but he didn’t think it would be so easy.

    “Our rules say a princess can adjust such rules,” Glimmer pointed out with a wry expression. “And our people are used to that.”

    Just forbidding fraternisation wouldn’t work - Jack knew soldiers; fraternisation would happen anyway, but under strict rules, people tended to be more discreet. If they expected a princess to bail them out…

    “You can’t really expect us to forbid our people from following their hearts,” Glimmer added. “Or not help them if they ask us to.”

    Yeah, Jack knew better than to expect the same people who picked their allies according to how tolerant they were of gay love to play along with a strict non-fraternisation policy. “Well, that seems like a question that should be handled by the brass,” he said. He absolutely didn’t feel guilty about throwing them to the wolves - handling that was their job, after all. And Hammond was good at it.

    And now everyone was frowning at him. Damn.

    “Now that you said your piece, it’s suddenly none of your business any more?” Catra shook her head.

    And Adora nodded. “Yes. You obviously thought about this.”

    “We would like your opinion on this.” Glimmer wasn’t smiling, but Jack was sure she wanted to.

    He sighed. “Well, we have different cultures - military cultures. We don’t really like the idea of staff officers playing favourites.” He had explained that, hadn’t he?

    “Yes. But our people expect us to take care of them,” Glimmer insisted. “Even - or especially - when visiting another kingdom.”

    And there went Jack’s ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’ idea. Not that that would have worked well once the Etherians found out how the United States insisted on not subjecting their soldiers to foreign laws.

    “We could just treat any formation with Etherians as an Etherian formation,” Bow suggested.

    “Yes!” Adora nodded. “That would mean they wouldn’t be subject to your regulations! And they would be free to have relationships with soldiers in other formations since those wouldn’t be in the same chain of command!”

    That sounded… well, if no Etherians served with Americans, that would work. Sort of. The brass wouldn’t be happy, of course. And Jack knew, though some politicians might not, that soldiers would fraternise anyway. And since this would, technically, not break any rules… He shrugged. “Well, I’m no lawyer or politician, but it might work. Don’t quote me on that, though,” he quickly added.

    The last thing he wanted was to be dragged into a discussion of this proposal with the brass. Handling politics like this wasn’t his job - he was only here to ensure that his completely hypothetical relationship - it wasn’t as if he even knew what Carter thought about that - wouldn’t be meddled with by magical space princesses.

    And that was a job well done, if Jack did say so himself.

    *****​
     
  21. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Indeed, as today's chapter shows.

    80s and 90s - Dominion Tank Police, All-Purpose CUltural Catgirl Nuku-Nuku, Outlaw Star, to name a few. Although what do you consider such a difference to modern ones?
     
    macdjord and Transreal Clouden like this.
  22. Transreal Clouden

    Transreal Clouden Know what you're doing yet?

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    Interesting chapter. I can see both sides here. I think the key insight here is about the number of people involved and how there's too many for personal oversight.
     
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  23. macdjord

    macdjord Well worn.

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    Oh, Jack. You're usually smarter than that! How often does SG1 work with Etherians?


    I was mostly referencing the meme, but the Old School catgirls tended to be more dangerous, less cutesy.
     
  24. Threadmarks: Chapter 67: Mistakes
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 67: Mistakes

    Earth Orbit, Solar System, December 12th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    Adora sighed once Jack had left with the shuttle. “We made a mistake.”

    “We underestimated how attached they are to their stupid rules,“ Catra said. “That’s all. If they want us, we can solve their problem for them.”

    Adora frowned at her. “You sound as if you expect them to come back and ask us for help.”

    “Of course I do,” Catra said. “If they could solve their problem themselves, they would have done so already.” She snorted and stretched her arms over her head. “Although we could have saved some time and effort and just asked beforehand. Or we could have been a bit sneakier so they wouldn’t have noticed.”

    “But then we would have done it against their wishes,” Entrapta pointed out.

    “They obviously don’t know what they want,” Catra retorted. “They think rules are more important than their love.” She shook her head.

    “Well, Jack made a good case for why they don’t want to get an exemption from that rule,” Bow said. “I mean… he explained his reasons,” he added when Glimmer frowned at him. “And we need to keep in mind that they come from another world. They do things differently on Earth.”

    Adora nodded, though she wasn’t sure if she agreed completely. As long as you didn’t count the bigotry, love and relationships were basically the same on Earth and on Etheria, that much she knew. And not just from watching television. Well, mostly from television, but she had seen couples as well.

    “And they’re wrong,” Catra insisted. “Sticking to rules against common sense is a recipe for disaster.”

    Adora nodded again. She agreed with that. Well, with the rules comment.

    “The question is,” Bow spoke up again, “do their rules go against common sense?” Both Catra and Glimmer frowned at him, but he shrugged. “We’re talking about a country with five to six times the population of Etheria. I am not sure if such a country could be run like one of our kingdoms.”

    That was a good point. The instructors in cadet training had told them that what worked for a squad wouldn’t work for a company or battalion.

    “They still need flexible rules,” Glimmer said. “No rule can cover everything and remain fair.”

    “Yes, exactly!” Catra agreed emphatically - before blinking and frowning - and looking away from Glimmer, who was frowning as well.

    Adora suppressed a chuckle at her friends’ antics. She quickly grew serious again, though - this was a serious problem. “But they have experience with their way of doing things. We don’t.”

    “So? The Horde had a lot of experience doing stuff the Horde way, and they were wrong,” Catra said.

    “Adapting an organisation for clones mindlessly following Horde Prime to incorporate soldiers that could not share the same thoughts is a challenge,” Hordak said. He wasn’t looking at Catra, but everyone knew he was responding to her criticism.

    “Yes!” Entrapta chimed in. “We’re still fiddling with the new Horde organisation. Although the differences between Second and Third Fleet also make this a challenge.”

    “So? As long as they follow Adora’s orders, it works.” Catra shrugged again. “Better than the rest of the Alliance.”

    “The circumstances are quite different,” Glimmer objected. “Every member of the Alliance has their own military led by their princess. It took a long time to earn their trust.”

    And Adora still wasn’t sure she deserved that trust. She was She-Ra, but she had grown up in the Horde, not as a princess.

    Although, since now they had so many countries from Earth in the Alliance, maybe that wasn’t a bad thing. It was clear that they had to adapt their rules as well. And they needed to do so before they started the actual fighting side by side with the Earth soldiers.

    But rules that required you to abandon your love and happiness were simply wrong. No matter what Jack said about that, there had to be a way to solve this so Sam and he could be happy together.

    They just had to find it.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, December 12th, 1998

    Thanks to the latest experimental version of the magic scanner alerting her and her computer’s connection to the Mountain’s security system, Samantha Carter watched the shuttle touch down on the landing pad outside the Mountain from her lab. The Colonel had returned.

    She made a note about possible improvements for the scanner’s interface - especially a better method to mesh the scanner’s data with camera footage - and then headed towards the Colonel’s office. If he was returning from an official mission or even an errand, he’d usually report to General Hammond right away. So, if he wasn’t headed to the General’s office but his own…

    And there he was. “Colonel,” she greeted him.

    “Carter.” A half-wince appeared on his face before it settled into a polite smile. “What’s up?”

    Sam had an excuse ready. Multiple excuses, actually. She could report on her work with the scanner. Ask about the performance of the shuttle - she had been involved, if only in an accessory capacity, with its design. Give him an update about her work for the relocation of Stargate Command. All true and, therefore, good excuses for going to see the Colonel.

    She didn’t feel like using any of them. Instead, she followed him into his office and asked: “Did you succeed in convincing the Etherians to respect Air Force regulations, sir?”

    His eyes widened slightly before his polite smile turned into that familiar wry grin. “I hope so,” he said. “They apologised for trying to… meddle.” With a sigh, he added: “Though I don’t know if it took - they wanted to discuss regulations for mixed formations after my talk.”

    “Ah.” Sam nodded slowly. That was… better than she had expected but not as good as she had hoped.

    He shrugged. “You know the kids - they mean well. But that doesn’t excuse their meddling. This is Earth, not Etheria.”

    “Yes, sir.” Sam nodded again. “They are from a different culture, but they need to respect our own.”

    “Yep.” After a moment, he added: “It doesn’t help that they’ve been watching TV, of course.”

    Sam pressed her lips together. Friends meddling with their friends’ love lives was a common plot in many TV shows - and often, far too often, in her opinion, that behaviour was presented not nearly negatively enough. “Hollywood has a lot to answer, sir.” She had to struggle a little to keep herself from grimacing when she realised what she was doing - thinking about this as affecting her love life was a dangerous line of thought.

    “Definitely.” He snorted. “But I don’t think they get the different culture bit. I can’t help thinking that they apologised because I told them in person to stop and not because they realised their way of doing things won’t work on Earth.”

    And the Colonel wouldn’t have asked them to stop in person and in private unless he, too, felt… She shut down that line of thought. She really didn’t want to go there. “To be fair, sir,” she said before the short pause became awkward, “They didn’t get the best impression of our customs.” Entrapta, in her usual inadvertently blunt but honest manner, certainly had not left any doubt about that. “And since we actually changed the Constitution to meet their standards for the Alliance, they wouldn’t have felt any need to question their own values.”

    He grimaced. “Yep, that certainly didn’t help either.” After a moment, he shrugged - a bit forced, in her opinion; she knew him well enough to tell. “Well, it’s in the hand of the brass; I told our friends that they needed to discuss regulations for mixed formations with the people paid to worry about those things.”

    Sam frowned. “What do they consider mixed formations, sir?”

    Another grimace. “I would say soldiers from Etheria and Earth in the same unit, but I didn’t actually ask how far they would break that down - or how far they would scale that up.”

    Sam nodded. She could see the problem. “If they consider any unit under the command of an Etherian a mixed formation, then that would have unfortunate implications.” Adora was the designated Supreme Commander of the Alliance, after all.

    “Yep. But I don’t think they’re that sneaky. They wouldn’t try to argue that. Not Adora, at least.”

    “But Catra might support that interpretation,” Sam pointed out. She could easily see that.

    “Yeah. But she’s just one of them. And not a princess. Technically.” The Colonel sounded as if he was trying to convince himself.

    But Catra was Adora’s lover - and amongst the Etherians, she, together with Hordak, had the most experience in commanding forces similar to Earth’s armies. “You might need to talk to Adora about that, sir,” Sam said.

    Sighing, he nodded. “I guess so. I really hoped I could dodge that bullet,” he added with a wry grin.

    She matched his smile. “I trust you, sir.”

    “Thanks.” His smile shifted a little, and, for a moment, Sam didn’t know what to say now.

    The moment grew awkward quickly. They were still standing in the middle of his office - too close, Sam belatedly realised. Far too close for comfort. If she reached out, she could touch his shoulder. Or he hers.

    Stiffly she nodded once more. “Well, it seems you have this handled, sir.”

    “Ah, yes, Captain,” he replied with a slightly jerky nod.

    “Good. If that’s all…?” she said before she caught herself. Hell, this was suddenly awkward.

    “Ah, no, that’s it.”

    “Then I will return to work, sir.”

    “You do that, Captain.”

    She turned as if she were on a parade ground and marched out of his office.

    Then she sighed. She felt as if she had dodged a bullet herself - and like she had missed a shot.

    *****​

    Earth Orbit, Solar System, December 13th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “...and negotiations with the Tok’ra continue in the face of persistent protests against making a deal with the Goa’uld…”

    “...you have to understand, Bob, that the Tok’ra aren’t Goa’uld. Well, biologically, they are, but the differences between them and the Tok’ra are as significant as the differences between the Nazis and the Allies in World War II.

    Well, Bill, our allies in World War II weren’t exactly nice either, were they? Two colonial empires that were oppressing half the globe and a bloody dictatorship that would go on to subjugate half of Europe. Who’s to say we won’t end up in a Cold War with those people? We need to keep that in mind when dealing with those snakes, and we need to ask ourselves if we really need them as allies.

    We’re currently allied with a planet ruled by princesses, Bob. Absolute monarchs. Do you expect them to turn against us as well?

    I’m just saying we need to be prepared. The United States cannot depend on anyone else for its security.”

    Sitting in Adora’s seat on the bridge, Catra rolled her eyes at the screen. They went from discussing the Tok’ra to discussing Etheria - and she hadn’t missed the copout at the end. “Those people really expect everyone to betray them,” she muttered.

    Probably because they were ready to betray everyone as soon as it was convenient for them. Or if they thought it was convenient for them. She knew from experience that misjudging the long-term consequences - or dismissing them - was a grave mistake when making plans. But if there was one thing she had learned after Adora had saved her - apart from how stupid Catra had been for not realising they were in love, of course - it was that you had to trust to be trusted.

    But she also knew that trusting the wrong people was a potentially fatal mistake. “Shadow Weaver,” she muttered as she switched the channel.

    “...and despite the Secretary General of NATO’s repeated assurances that the Alliance had no intention to attack or threaten any other country on Earth and the building up of forces, as well as the incorporation of advanced alien technology in its arsenal, was purely aimed to counter the threat posed by the Goa’uld Empire, many nations have voiced their concerns and fears about the shifting balance of power, citing historical precedents, and a proposal in the United Nations is gathering support…”

    “...and it pains me to see that even so close to the most holy day of the year, when we should be preparing to celebrate the birth of our Saviour, the world is not only ready to plunge into war but preparing to join forces with evil. Haven’t we learned anything from history? Doesn’t the Holy Bible tell us what happens if you trust snakes? We need to…”

    Catra scowled - why did the news keep giving those religious nutcases any screen time? She switched the screen to a feed from the bot network surrounding Earth and spreading into the Solar System and leaned back. What a way to start the day.

    “What’s wrong?”

    Catra turned her head. Adora had just entered the bridge, carrying two steaming mugs. Chocolate, Catra’s nose told her. “Just commenting on the stuff the news cover,” she said as she slid out of the seat. “Come, sit down!”

    “You just want to sit in my lap,” Adora replied as she handed over Catra’s mug. But she sat down anyway, and Catra did slip in her lap, then took a sip. “Mhh.”

    They sat in silence for a little while, watching the Earth through the windows - and the various other planets on the screen - until a ping announced a message. Catra was tempted to ignore it, but Adora being Adora, reached out and put it on the screen, replacing Mars.

    It was their mail report from - whatever was considered important enough to pass on to them instead of being handled by a bot. While Adora grabbed a pad and started to go over the letters - scanned, of course - that were mostly calls for help, Catra picked up her own and checked the rest of the report.

    Oh. “Speaking of religious nutcases…” she said, shaking her head.

    “I thought we didn’t get told about hatemail anymore,” Adora commented.

    “We don’t. This is the summary of what the security bots have found. It looks like the bombs are getting more sophisticated, and one bigot upgraded to poison.” Catra snorted. “All that effort, and they didn’t bother to check whether we actually receive the mail in person!” Of course, the kind of scum sending such stuff probably considered everyone working with them an acceptable target. Well, the police were on the case. And Entrapta’s scanners could detect any such threats.

    Still, with Earth starting production of advanced weapons, the threats would grow more sophisticated. How soon until a nutcase tried to hijack a shuttle? How soon until a nutcase succeeded and tried to ram Darla?

    Yeah, extending trust to people also had drawbacks. Catra would have to hope that Entrapta kept ahead of their enemies with her technology.

    *****​

    P34-353J, December 14th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    Jack O’Neill wasn’t a diplomat. Sure, he had talked his way out of trouble before, a couple of times, maybe more often than he had talked his way into trouble, but he was a soldier, not a negotiator. And he was a field officer, not a flag rank. Sure, he was a colonel, one rank below a one-star, and it wasn’t as if he knew nothing about strategy, but his main experience was on the tactical level. So, it should have been obvious that he wasn’t the best choice when it came to picking officers for the alliance negotiations with the Tok’ra.

    But, apparently, his experience with aliens was ‘invaluable’, and his advice ‘crucial’, and so he had been attached to the delegation meeting the snakes. That was the official reason, at least - unofficially, Jack was sure that they had sent him along because he was friends with the Etherians and had done his part to defuse the bomb that would have blown up the High Council of the snakes, and the brass, as well as the government, counted on that to influence the negotiations. General Pecks, the ranking US officer of the delegation, certainly had hinted at that in the briefing.

    At least the ground pounder hadn’t told Jack to lie back and think of America, but Jack couldn’t help thinking that the interest Anise was showing in his genes was also a factor. It wasn’t as if anyone had needed his advice so far.

    “...and while we agree that there are clear advantages to a unified command, there are also disadvantages. If the supreme commander makes a mistake, the consequences could be fatal. A more diverse force can survive such mistakes and keep fighting.” Per’sus smiled as brightly as when the negotiations had begun hours ago.

    “While that is, technically, true, it is a stance based on fighting a shadow war - a war fought by spies and saboteurs, where being discovered is lethal. Our war against the Goa’uld will be fought by armies and fleets, not small teams of saboteurs. And in such a war, defeat in detail is the bigger threat - and a lack of coordination will result in higher casualties than we’d suffer with a unified command that can have all forces support each other and follow a coordinated strategy.” Glimmer’s smile wasn’t quite as bright - and not just because she didn’t have the superhuman stamina of a snake, in Jack’s opinion. She wasn’t happy with the proceedings so far.

    Well, he wasn’t happy either. Even a cadet would be aware that you need a unified command to effectively fight a war. Well, maybe not a first year, but a second year for sure. But the snakes were still stuck in their spy mindset - and no matter how often Daniel claimed that it was perfectly logical given their history, it was holding things up.

    Of course, Jack could understand not wanting to fight under the command of a foreigner - or, worse, a Navy puke - but if the US had to accept that, the Tok’ra could do so as well. Even more so since, apparently, the Tok’ra had no issues with Adora’s age - though that was probably because they considered her an Ancient.

    “And you will have a say as well about the strategic decisions,” Adora added - for the third time, by Jack’s count. “You won’t have to obey blindly. Decisions will be debated, and advice will be listened to.”

    “But ultimately, it will be your decision,” Garshaw said. “Yours and your closest advisors’.”

    Adora frowned, but Glimmer narrowed her eyes and spoke before she could reply. “I don’t like this implication. That’s not how we do things. Everyone gets a say.”

    “But some voices weigh more than others,” Garshaw retorted. “That’s only natural.”

    “That depends on their arguments and experience,” Adora said.

    “Yes,” Glimmer agreed. “And we will be relying on your experience when it comes to the Goa’uld. You can count on that.”

    “But we won’t be blindly following your advice either,” Catra cut in, not bothering to straighten in her seat. Jack almost expected her to put her feet up on the table. “Also, you don’t have to worry about getting ordered to suicide-charge Jaffa lines anyway - we know that that’s not your strength.”

    “And who will you order into suicide charges?” Hen’ru asked.

    “Bots,” Catra shot back. “Dumb bots.”

    Adora nodded.

    “And what if there are no bots available?” Hen’ru didn’t relent.

    The guy probably had spent too much time amongst snakes - evil snakes, in Jack’s opinion. Well, time to justify why he was here. “Whoever’s available in that case,” he said. “You can’t really plan that. It’s a difficult decision, yes, but you have to trust your commander to use their best judgement.” It all came down to that - trust.

    Adora nodded. “Yes. We need a unified command, or the alliance can’t really work. But we won’t abuse that power. You have my word.”

    The Tok’ra exchanged glances. For a moment, Jack hoped they would realise that Adora was honest to a fault.

    “Yes, of course, but we do have concerns,” Per’sus said. “Even with the best intentions, a commander can make a mistake if they rely on faulty intel.”

    “Well, that’s what happens in war.” Catra shrugged. “And when it happens, you take your losses and keep going. You can’t tell me you didn’t have screw-ups that killed your people.”

    Jack suppressed a grin. They certainly couldn’t - not after a spy almost blew them up.

    The Tok’ra exchanged more glances. “Yes, of course,” Garshaw said with a polite smile. “However, while we agree in principle to a unified command, crucial details still need to be settled.”

    Jack sighed. This was going to take a while. At least, it looked as if the Tok’ra accepted Supreme Commander Adora.

    *****​

    After another hour, they were still not done with all the crucial details. The Tok’ra might be attempting to exhaust them into agreeing, in Jack’s opinion. Although they might have underestimated how stubborn Glimmer was - and Sir Watson, for all his politeness and British-ness, kept insisting on changes to the Tok’ra proposals that even Jack wouldn’t have worried about.

    But they finally could take a break - even though, Jack suspected, for Glimmer and the other leaders, it merely meant that they would negotiate more informally over food. But at least they got to eat - just sitting and listening, in case his advice was actually needed, had left him quite hungry.

    He looked around for his friends, but Daniel had made a beeline for Per’sus as soon as the break had started, and Carter was already talking in a corner with Entrapta and Anise. Maybe he should go over there and remind Carter to eat? No, that would be patronising. Besides, if she was occupying Anise, then the least he could do was honouring her sacrifice.

    The buffet was stacked as before, so Jack could pick what he already knew was good and leave the rest for the diplomats and Peck. If he felt like it, he might even point out the fried brain snacks before everyone had tried them. Now, where did the snakes place the noodles? The fish dishes were easy to find; Catra had headed straight to that part of the buffet, but the noodles were…

    “Are you looking for the Ka’met, Colonel O’Neill?”

    Jack turned and smiled at Anise. “Ka’met?” he asked while he glanced around - he couldn’t spot Carter, but Entrpata was at the other side of the buffet.

    “Fried noodles, I think, you called them before.”

    Had she ordered them hidden to have an opener? No, Jack didn’t think Anise was the type to be so subtle - the snake had no problem being blunt. On the other hand, she had apparently noticed last time that he had liked that dish. Did he have an alien stalker? “Yes, actually,” he said.

    “The grain-based food is over here.” She pointed at a row of owls with various mashed stuff in it - it looked like a mashed potatoes display at a barbecue after the kids got the food colouring set.

    “Thank you.” He stepped over there and spotted the noddles - cleverly hidden between green and bright orange mush that no red-blooded American man would want to look at.

    “It’s been quite a tiring negotiation session so far.” Anise had followed him and was scooping out two helpings of the green mush.

    Jack shrugged. “That’s par for the course for diplomatic meetings. People can never simply agree to something.” Not unless you asked them at gunpoint, and some of the diplomats he had seen today might object out of principle even then.

    “It’s quite vexing when people do not agree to the logical solution,” she seemed to agree.

    “I bet our diplomats say the same,” Jack retorted.

    “I was talking about both sets of negotiators.” She tilted her head towards him. “The High Council is, unfortunately, understaffed with scientists.”

    Jack snorted. “Well, if scientists were negotiating, I bet they would decide everything by experimenting.”

    “Of course. That would be the rational solution.” Anise nodded with a smile, and Jack wondered if he had to work on his sarcasm.

    He started eating the noodles - Or Ka’met, whatever - and shrugged again.

    “Anyway, I am happy that you are part of the Alliance delegation,” Anise went on. “Since until the alliance has been formally sealed, travelling to Earth is restricted, I was hoping to meet you here.”

    And Jack was pretty sure why the snake wanted to meet him. “I think security precautions will still put some limits on travel to Earth.” No one wanted to grant the snakes the freedom to travel unrestrictedly. Hell, the Etherians only got that because they had a fleet of spaceships with big honking guns and the tech everyone wanted.

    “Well, limiting travel to the countries in the Alliance would be a rational compromise, I believe,” Anise said.

    “Maybe,” Jack said as noncommittally as he could. Oh, Carter had just entered - and was headed straight towards him and Anise.

    And he didn’t think she was frowning as deeply as she did because she was hungry. Or that the frown was purely aimed at Anise.

    Great.

    *****​

    “Oh! Looks like Sam’s about to stake her claim! Hah, so much for ‘there’s nothing between us’!”

    Adora suppressed a wince at Catra’s gleeful tone. Sam was their friend; they should respect her wishes. And Jack’s. Even though she agreed with Catra - the two were obviously in love - that didn’t mean they should be so eager to see their friends proven wrong. That was just… petty.

    But Catra was correct - Sam was frowning at Anise and Jack. Which was a little unfair since, as far as Adora could tell, Jack hadn’t done anything to encourage Anise and Freya. On the other hand, maybe Sam thought that he should have done something to discourage them.

    “Do you think she’ll hit them?” Catra asked - still sounding more amused than concerned.

    Adora shook her head as she kept watching the scene; they were both at the buffet, where Catra was waiting for fresh fish dishes, so it wasn’t rude. “She’s got too much self-control,” Adora said. They wouldn’t have to fear a diplomatic incident.

    “Oh, yes - if she had less self-control, she would have jumped at our offer. Or jumped his bones,” Catra agreed.

    Adora pressed her lips together. She shouldn’t indulge, but… “What are they saying?” she whispered.

    “Nothing interesting,” Catra replied. “She’s just asking Anise some technical stuff.”

    But Sam had been scowling openly while she was approaching the others; Adora had seen that clearly. And Jack was, well, his smile was strained, and he looked like he was trying not to wince. Anise, though, looked puzzled. But why…

    “Supreme Commander?”

    Oh. Malinor/Kalet had approached them. And Adora hadn’t even noticed. Well, Catra must have missed it as well. “Yes?” Adora cocked her head slightly to the side and smiled as if she hadn’t been staring at her friends.

    “I was wondering about your plans for returning magic to the Galaxy,” the Tok’ra councillor said. “Do you expect that this will facilitate rebellions on the planets held by the Goa’uld?”

    Hadn’t Glimmer covered that already during their talks? But pointing that out would be rude - they were here to formalise an alliance, after all. So, Adora shook her head. “That’s unlikely. Magic - the kind sorceresses do - requires training. Years of training.” And as far as they knew, the Goa’uld had taken great pains to eliminate any knowledge about magic amongst their slaves.

    “But that’s not the only kind of magic, is it?” Malinor leaned forward a little. He was holding an empty plate, but he didn’t seem to be interested in getting more food.

    “Yes, there’re also magical talents that people are born with,” Adora told him.

    “Some people,” Catra interjected between two bites from a large fried fish she had managed to grab from the buffet as soon as it was restocked. “Princesses. And they’re limited to Etheria.”

    Adora nodded. That was true, as far as they knew at least.

    “And Ancients, right?” Malinor smiled.

    Right. That again. “She-Ra’s a special case,” Adora told him. She didn’t know for certain why she had become She-Ra. She had found the sword the First Ones had made to control Etheria’s magic, but She-Ra had existed before the First Ones had arrived. Her friends claimed Etheria’s magic had chosen her, that this was proof that it wasn’t the sword the First Ones had created that made her She-Ra, but Adora just didn’t know. And, knowing what the First Ones had been preparing Etheria for, she wasn’t sure she wanted to know.

    Malinor nodded. “But as every scientist knows: If something was done once, it can be done again. Magitech can be used by anyone. Sooner or later, the Goa’uld will use magic as well - sooner rather than later, I fear, since they remember the time before magic disappeared.”

    “They can’t activate a planet’s magic, though,” Adora pointed out. Only she could. “That will limit their options.”

    “But you will activate magic on planets that you invade, won’t you?”

    Of course - how else could the princesses use their magic? “Yes.”

    “And the Goa’uld already can use magitech - what they have left, at least,” Catra said after finishing her fish.

    “Some might be locked to Ancients and their descendants, they often limited their technology like that,” Malinor said.

    “Then they just have to take over such a host.” Catra shrugged. “It’s something that will probably happen anyway. At least, they can’t use magic that way.”

    “Yes. But have you considered the threat of the Goa’uld using indoctrinated slaves to do magic? It might take a long time to conquer a planet.”

    Adora clenched her jaw. People raised from birth to unquestioningly serve the Goa’uld - that sounded very familiar.

    Catra shrugged again. “They won’t be very effective.”

    “Not at the start. But the longer they have, the more effective they’ll become.”

    “Then we’ll ensure that they won’t have enough time,” Adora said. “And the longer we have, the better we’ll be prepared.”

    “Which brings us to another question: Did you consider waiting a bit longer with the overt parts of the war so we’ll be better prepared?”

    “That again!” Catra sighed. “We can’t let them have the initiative - they will strike at Earth again, sooner or later. Better to hit them first and make them react to us.”

    “And we can’t just let them keep oppressing people,” Adora added with a frown. “We’ve gone over that before.”

    “Of course, but we didn’t touch on how magic would affect that question. So…”

    Adora grabbed a fish from Catra’s plate and bit into it so she wouldn’t grind her teeth. This was as bad as the negotiations on Earth.

    *****​

    “And yes, I think that would work out well - provided we can harden the power supply to withstand the drain.”

    I shouldn’t have done this, Samantha Carter thought. Intervening had been a mistake. I should have just ignored Anise hitting on the Colonel.

    Yes, that would have been the best choice of action - it wasn’t as if he was interested in starting a relationship with either Anise or Freya. Sam was sure of this - the Colonel’s many comments about the Goa’uld left no doubt about how he felt about the ‘snakes’.

    But when she had spotted Anise making a move, Sam hadn’t been able to simply ignore it. Instead, she had made a completely transparent attempt to derail whatever discussion Anise and the Colonel had had going by talking about their shared projects. Way to go, Sam, she told herself.

    “Yes! I think we can solve that by doubling the powerlines - and adding more redundancy on the power supply side,” Entrapta said.

    That it had worked was no small consolation, though - Anise had stopped flirting with the Colonel. Or what the Tok’ra scientist considered flirting.

    “Well, I see you’ve got the tech-talk going, so…” The Colonel smiled. “...I’ll go check if someone needs a tactic-talk. Or a hockey-talk. Or maybe I’ll see if Catra wants to discuss the Simpsons’ new catgirl character.”

    And with a nod, he left before anyone could say anything, leaving Sam wondering what he thought about her lapse.

    “Oh. I think we’ve been rude, right?” Entrapta said, cocking her head while her hair continued to hold two plates, a glass and a computer. “Since Jack’s not a scientist or involved in our projects - at least, I don’t think he’s involved in granting the funding, is he? Anyway, so he probably wasn’t very interested in our project. And talking about something not everyone present is interested in is being rude.” She nodded twice. “We might have to apologise, I think.”

    “I started it; I’ll talk to him later,” Sam said. “It was my fault, not yours.” And it would allow her to sound out the Colonel without, well, being obvious about it. More obvious.

    “OK. But we all bored him, right?”

    “Only after I started it,” Sam repeated herself. “Don’t worry, if the Colonel’s blaming anyone, it won’t be you.”

    “Oh. But… didn’t you know it was rude? Or were you impatient? I know it’s hard to wait sometimes, but we’re still in the planning phase.”

    Ah. Sam suppressed a wince. How to explain her actions without making her look foolish or lying to Entrapta? Maybe…

    “Are you interested in Colonel O’Neill, Sam?”

    Sam stiffened at Anise’s question. “Regulations prohibit relationships between an officer and their subordinate,” she replied almost reflexively before pressing her lips together. That wasn’t a question you asked!

    “That doesn’t answer my question,” Anise said, frowning. Then she cocked her head and grew still, somehow suddenly looking very alien. “Ah. Maybe it does.” She nodded.

    Freya must have commented, Sam realised. Anise’s host saw what Anise was seeing. And Freya was interested in the Colonel as well, Sam reminded herself.

    “It does?” Entrapta blinked. “Ah, I see.” She nodded. “Yes, all my friends think so as well.”

    Sam really didn’t like the smile on Anise’s face, but it was quickly replaced by a sigh. “You should have stated your interest clearly, Sam,” she - no, that was Freya’s voice - said.

    Was she insinuating that Sam had missed her shot? Sam could think of a few things that wouldn’t miss Anise or Freya… She pushed the irrational bout of overrating aggression away. “As I said, regulations prohibit any relationship between an officer and their subordinate.”

    “Yes!” Entrapta chimed in. “We wanted to help them abolish that regulation - or get an exception - but that would be bad. Apparently.”

    Sam refrained from glaring at her friend. Unlike the other alien participating in this discussion, Entrapta didn’t know any better and didn’t mean anything by her comment. Nothing she didn’t say, at least.

    “But you are interested.” Anise nodded. “If there were no regulations…”

    “Those regulations were made for very good reasons,” Sam interrupted her through clenched teeth. “And that’s not going to change.”

    “And yet, you don’t plan on finding another partner, do you?” Anise slowly nodded as if she already knew the answer.

    “I am very busy with crucial work - as you already know,” Sam told her. “Too busy to look for a relationship.”

    “Well, you could pick a lab buddy! That’s how Hordak and I got together!” Entrapta beamed at her.

    Her friend didn’t know any better, Sam reminded herself again.

    “What about Iwan?” Entrapta went on. “He’s funny and nice, isn’t he?”

    “I am not interested in Dr Georgovich that way,” Sam said. Not to mention that their cooperation would only last as long as Sam was assigned to Stargate Command.

    “Ah.” Anise’s smile shifted into an expression of pity. “You are in a bind, then. You’re unwilling to defy regulations - and you are in love with Colonel O’Neill. Is he aware of that?” Before Sam could think of an answer that wouldn’t lead to a diplomatic incident, she nodded. “He would be - and he would return your interest. Otherwise, you would have moved on, I am sure.”

    Yes, of course - Sam wouldn’t pine after a man who wasn’t interested. She didn’t say that out loud. And she was aware that the difference between pining after someone who wasn’t interested and someone who wasn’t allowed to have a relationship with her was mostly a technicality.

    She didn’t say that either, of course. Instead, she said: “Emotions are not very rational.”

    “Ah, yes.” Entrapta nodded as if Sam had something insightful.

    Sam was looking at Anise, anyway.

    The Tok’ra nodded as well - with a smile. “This simplifies things.”

    “What?” Sam blurted out.

    “Yes. While regrettable from a personal point of view - Colonel O’Neill is a very impressive man, and both Freya and I think he would be a great partner - now that this has been revealed, we can stop trying to entice him into a relationship and focus on convincing him to donate his genetic material. That should be much easier!” Anise beamed.

    Sam stared. Were they serious?

    And Catra started laughing behind them.

    *****​
     
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  25. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Yes, it's not a problem with an easy solution.

    Jack: That doesn't count!

    Ah, yes. That's definitely a factor. Although I hope the whole Moe-theme in Anime is fading.
     
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  26. Transreal Clouden

    Transreal Clouden Know what you're doing yet?

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    Somehow I don't think O'Neill will be too happy about this change.
     
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  27. Tiktog

    Tiktog Experienced.

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    I on the other hand will enjoy it immensely.
     
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  28. macdjord

    macdjord Well worn.

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    Well, that would be an interesting conversation. Now, does Catra know that every Simpsons character, excepting those that are or or are based on specific real people, is an insulting stereotype of some group (or, arguably, a paraody of such a stereotype)?
     
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  29. Threadmarks: Chapter 68: Misunderstandings
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 68: Misunderstandings

    P34-353J, December 14th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    Catra met Sam’s glare with another chuckle. “See, that happens if you aren’t honest about your feelings,” she said - even though she was too far away for Sam to hear her words.

    “Catra!” Adora hissed next to her.

    “Oh, come on!” Catra pouted at her lover. “It’s funny!”

    “It’s not!” Adora retorted. “What did they say, anyway?”

    And that was also funny! Catra turned to grin at her, wriggling her ears to make her point.

    Adora rolled her eyes. “What did they say?”

    “Oh, Anise and Freya realised that Sam is in love with Jack, and Jack in love with her, and so they told her that they will stop trying to seduce him.”

    Adora frowned. “That’s a good thing, isn’t it? I mean…”

    “They will simply try to get his genetic material from now on,” Catra interrupted her.

    “Oh.” Adora blinked. And then she blushed a little. “Not like… that, right?”

    Catra shrugged. “I don’t think so. But who knows what Tok’ra think about that?”

    “Daniel. He would know.” Adora nodded. “Let’s go ask him!”

    That was a good idea. But even better, it proved that Adora was as curious as Catra about this. She grinned widely.

    But when she looked around to see if Daniel was still talking to Per’sus, she noticed that Jack had gotten to Daniel first. Damn.

    “Oh.” Adora pouted. “We can’t ask Daniel now - Jack would realise what this is about even if we don’t name names.”

    “So?” That would only make it funnier, in Catra’s opinion. And Daniel would probably tell Jack anyway, just as he must have done after his talk with Glimmer.

    “We can’t just ask Daniel if Anise wants to, ah, just sleep with Jack to have his child if he’s there!” Adora hissed.

    “Oh.” Catra blinked. Not because she agreed with Adora - she didn’t; they could and should - but… “I just realised. Anise and Freya want Jack’s genetic material to make a baby.”

    Adora gaped at her. “Oh. But that would… They can’t do that!”

    Catra nodded. That wasn’t funny. You didn’t make a baby and then just… left. Both Catra and Adora knew what growing up without parents was like, and growing up with one parent out of the picture because they weren’t wanted wasn’t good either. It happened too often - on Earth and Etheria - to let it happen to a friend. Or to let a friend let it happen. “We have to talk to them.”

    “We have to tell Jack,” Adora said.

    Catra cocked her head. She had meant talking to Anise and Freya, but Jack worked as well - Sam was already trying to tell Anise that they couldn’t just make babies. And Entrapta… totally misunderstood the problem. “We need to talk to all of them!” she whispered. “Entrapta just offered to loan Anise and Freya one of the cloning pods from Horde Prime because she thinks this is a technical problem.”

    “Oh, no!” Adora looked from Jack to Sam, Anise and Entrapta and back, biting her lower lip.

    “I’ll take Jack; you take the others,” Catra told her.

    “Alright!” Adora nodded, then took a deep breath, raised her chin and started towards the three women on the other side of the buffet.

    Catra sighed, grabbed another fried fish and headed to Jack and Daniel.

    *****​

    Jack O’Neill would have to thank Carter once they were back on Earth. The Captain had neatly distracted Anise. Although he would have to be careful so this wouldn’t end up as awkward as their last talk about… similar topics. The last thing Jack wanted was to touch on why Carter had seemed to be annoyed with him as well as with Anise. Or his subordinate’s exact motives for helping him out.

    He needed a distraction for himself before he dwelt on that too much and started thinking thoughts a good officer didn’t think about his subordinate. “So, what’s your take on the negotiations?” he asked Daniel before taking the last bit of his alien noodle bowl.

    His friend narrowed his eyes slightly. So it was a transparent change of subject - not that talking about the food had been very engaging either, anyway. “I think we’re going to get an Alliance, though ironing out the details might take a little while longer.”

    Stating the obvious, are we? But Jack nodded instead of snarking. “Yeah. The Tok’ra might not like it, but they need us if they want to beat the Goa’uld.” They survived until now, but as any officer worth their commission knew, you couldn’t beat an Empire like the Goa’uld’s with just saboteurs and spies. You either needed a revolution with the support of the military - and good luck trying to get the Jaffa to rebel against their gods in sufficient numbers - or an outside power that supported you and could increase the pressure until the Empire cracked. Or defeat it in a war and let you pick up the pieces.

    “They need the Alliance, yes,” Daniel said, nodding.

    Jack rolled his eyes. “I am aware that ‘us’ doesn’t mean the United States.” Unlike some of his fellow officers, Jack had accepted the new reality. Then again, he had known that the United States wasn’t the top dog any more ever since he had started fighting the snakes. And the Etherians were decent ‘leading allies’, all things considered. Even if they needed to be taught about privacy.

    His friend nodded with a smile. “Or just Earth. There’s been a lot of changes since we met the Etherians.”

    “Meeting aliens tends to do that,” Jack commented.

    “Well, we’ve met aliens before - but we’ve kept it secret, and so any changes were very limited. But now… the whole world knows. This knowledge changes how everyone works and lives. Every country is now at least considering the galaxy when they formulate their policies.”

    “And all the riots and economic shockwaves, and, oh, right, the war,” Jack pointed out.

    “Well, yes, massive changes rarely happened without such effects in human history.” Daniel didn’t seem to consider that much of a drawback. Then again, he had been willing to live a basically bronze-age life on Abydos with his wife, so Daniel’s standards of what was an ‘acceptable cost’ were a bit off, to say the least.

    “You know…” Jack trailed off when he saw Catra walking straight towards them - with a concerned expression. “Don’t tell me you found another spy!” he mumbled, knowing she could hear him.

    She jerked at that, her eyes widening, but she kept coming. “No, not a spy,” she said as she reached them. “It’s about making babies, Jack!”

    “What?” Jack glanced around. Had someone from their delegation snuck off and was now engaged in the hanky-panky with a snake?

    “Making babies?”* Daniel asked.

    “Yes. Or, in this case, about not making babies. Jack! You can’t let Anise take your genetic material and make a baby!”

    “What?” Jack stared at her.

    Now she rolled her eyes. “Duh! What do you think she wants your genetic material for?”

    Jack blinked. Not that he would let a snake get his… whatever. But wouldn’t exactly expect Anise to use that to have his babies. Seducing him was one thing - attempting to seduce him - but this was…

    “I would have thought they want to analyse it so they can isolate the gene or genes that make you an Ancient - at least according to their AIs,” Daniel said.

    “Yes, but that’s just the first step,” Catra said. “What do you think comes once they have that knowledge?”

    “They… use it?” Daniel grimaced.

    “To make babies with it. Your babies, Jack.”

    Oh. Oh damn. Jack hadn’t thought of it like that.

    “But just sharing a gene wouldn’t make someone your child,” Daniel said. Then he blinked. “Or would it?”

    That wasn’t a question Jack wanted to answer. “I’m not going to have any snake test tube kids,” he said. Charlie would… He pressed his lips together and forced the painful memory away.

    “Well, would they be your kids, Jack?” Daniel really didn’t know when to stop. “Or what about, ah, modifying someone’s genes with that gene? Would that make them the donor’s child? Or relative?”

    Jack clenched his jaw and glared at his friend, just in time to make him shut up before he could speculate further. “I’m not going to let anyone get my genetic material for anything like that.”

    “Good.” Catra nodded. “We don’t need more kids growing up without their parents.”

    That… Oh, Hell! That was how the Etherians saw this? Damn. Jack sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. This was even more messed up than he had thought.

    “No one will be growing up without parents because I won’t let anyone take my genetic material,” he said. “No matter what for.” Well, Dr Fraser had samples of his blood and stuff, and not just to check if he wasn’t replaced with a double on a mission, but that was different.

    But Catra didn’t look very impressed. “You can’t guarantee that.”

    Jack pressed his lips together. This wasn’t a topic to be discussed in the middle of a diplomatic mission in an alien base, but it didn’t seem as if he had a choice. He sighed. “Anise won’t take my genetic material against my will,” he said. “Not if she knows what’s good for her.”

    “She does seem to plan to persuade you.” Catra nodded at him.

    “No chance,” Jack said in a flat voice. He wasn’t ready for a kid. Another kid. Not after Charlie.

    “I don’t think Anise is planning to, ah, make babies,” Daniel said. “For one, they would take too long to grow up to help any project.”

    Ah, Daniel, both ruthless as well as naive. Jack glanced at Catra, who seemed to share his thoughts. “You don’t need to be an adult to do things. We were taught how to fight from an early age,” she told him.

    Of course, she would know this from experience. Jack would really love to have a talk with Hordak about that, no matter how much the alien claimed to have reformed. And speaking of Hordak and the Horde… “And I’m no expert, but couldn’t Horde Prime grow adult clones?” Jack knew that had been the case.

    “Right.” Catra nodded with a grim expression. “And even if Anise won’t do it, others might do it. You might not be able to keep from having… kids.”

    “I don’t know if you could call other people who share some genes with you your kids,” Daniel insisted.

    “Family, then,” Catra retorted.

    That was debatable. Only, Jack didn’t exactly know how to debate that without sounding as if he would actually abandon family. Even though just getting some genes spliced, modified, whatever didn’t make anyone family. Family was more than just genes. Oh, damn - now he sounded like a character out of some sappy soap opera. At least, he was only doing it in his head. “Look,” he began, nodding at Catra and Daniel. “I’m not going to abandon a child.” Not that there would be one, ever. “But if some Goa’uld adds some of my genes to their Jaffa Prime, then they’re no family of mine.”

    Daniel nodded, but Catra still didn’t look convinced. Hell, this argument would have… Oh, for Crying out loud! Jack narrowed his eyes at her. “It’s not the same as your situation.” Not at all.

    “What about Teal’c?”

    “He’s a special case,” Jack replied. Before she could protest, he went on: “And yes, he’s not unique. But he’s not special because of his, ah, genes, but because of his character. And yes, Daniel’s right - you can’t just claim to be family like that.”

    His friend nodded but then said: “Well, I doubt that the question of whether or not you can create familial ties through genetic engineering was ever answered, although they might consider the cases involving sperm donors as precedents.”

    Jack had no idea whether the rulings from those cases would support his views. He raised his eyebrows at his friend.

    “Well, they’re not conclusive…” Daniel shrugged. “It depends on the circumstances of the, ah, donation. I’m no expert, though.”

    “If you have a child, you can’t just abandon them,” Catra insisted.

    “It’s not that simple,” Daniel said. “Though I think I recall that there have been issues with the biological parent suing the legal parent...”

    “Just in case it might be in doubt: I’m not planning to sue for visiting rights to a Jaffa with my genes,” Jack said. “And it doesn’t matter anyway since I’m not going to let anyone get my genetic material.” Oh. That might work. “In fact, I’m going to ask Entrapta to ensure that that can’t happen against my will.” That should work perfectly. He nodded.

    “Ah…” Daniel raised the index of his right hand with a grimace. “Just ensure that there are no misunderstandings. The traditional way to prevent unwanted progeny is kind of… invasive.”

    Invasive? What…? Jack grimaced himself. “Of course, I didn’t mean that!”

    Daniel nodded, but Catra looked puzzled. “What do you mean?”

    And, not for the first time, Jack’s friend was unhelpfully helpful and told her.

    “They do that?” Catra asked with wide eyes.

    Jack clenched his teeth and debated in his head whether heading over to the other group would be less embarrassing than staying here.

    *****​

    Adora pressed her lips together as she approached her friends. She had to be subtle. Subtle and diplomatic. She needed to be honest and persuasive. She couldn’t just tell others what to do - she had to convince them to do the right thing. And, more important, not to do the wrong thing. She could do this. She had to do this.

    “You can’t make a baby with Jack’s genes!”

    Adora grimaced as everyone - Anise or Freya, Sam and even Entrapta - looked surprised at her outburst.

    “What?” Sam snapped, starting to scowl.

    “Actually, you can do it,” Entrapta said, nodding. “Science makes it easy - well, relatively easy. But the Horde - Horde Prime’s Horde, I mean - already had the necessary technology. Of course, you need the right genetic pattern and base material for the cloning pods - unless you want more Horde clones; that pattern is the default - but it’s totally possible to make a baby with Jack’s genes! We just have to reverse.engineer the clone pods.”

    Sam turned her head to frown at Entrapta. “Adora didn’t mean that it was impossible.”

    Adora nodded. “I meant, you shouldn’t make babies without their parents to raise them.” There - much better! She should have started with that.

    “I wouldn’t do that!” Anise protested. “Using Jack’s genetic material to create offspring without his consent would be an unacceptable breach of trust.”

    Adora nodded in agreement. That was good. Although now she felt a little foolish for rushing over to her friends. Apparently, she had been worried over nothing. She looked over to see how Catra was doing - she must have overheard their discussion, so… She blinked. Her lover seemed focused on Jack.

    “And what would be an acceptable beach of trust?” Sam asked with a twisted smile which, well… Shadow Weaver had always worn a mask, but if she hadn’t, she probably would have had such an expression when she had been annoyed with Adora.

    It wasn’t a good look.

    Anise cocked her head to the side. “That depends on the circumstances, obviously. What is acceptable and what is not acceptable changes according to the actual situation. If you are trying to preserve your life, more actions are acceptable than when you are merely trying to avoid an inconvenience.”

    “The ends justify the means?” Sam was still not happy.

    “Yes.” Anise nodded.

    Adora shook her head. “That’s not true. Some things are never justified. Like destroying a world to defeat your enemy.” What the First Ones had been planning had been monstrous.

    “A single world would be a small price to pay, relatively, to end the threat the Goa’uld present to the entire galaxy,” Anise retorted with a frown. “They have scorched and destroyed multiple worlds during their evil reign.”

    But that was… “That doesn’t mean we should do as they do!” Adora protested. “And there’s always a way to defeat them without destroying a world!”

    Entrapta nodded. “Yes. Although alternate solutions might not be as effective.”

    “That doesn’t matter when we’re talking about innocent lives,” Adora told her.

    “Even if it means higher casualties for our own forces?” Anise asked.

    “We don’t sacrifice civilians to win,” Adora replied at once. You didn’t attack the helpless! That was what the Horde did! Had done.

    “Sometimes, the enemy uses civilians as human shields,” Sam said.

    “Then we save the civilians first,” Adora said firmly.

    “I see.” Anise nodded. She looked pensive, Adora noticed. Or talking to Freya in her head.

    “But we were talking about using Colonel O’Neill’s genetic samples,” Sam said. “Which you still intend to do, don’t you?”

    “Well, yes.” Anise nodded. “As an Ancient - or a descendant of an Ancient - his genes could unlock so much technology…”

    Adora pressed her lips together as Anise glanced at her. She was a First One - an Ancient - herself.

    “Oh, yes!” Entrapta nodded emphatically. “Adora helped us so much with using First Ones technology.” She tilted her head to the side. “Although she did that by helping in person. We didn’t clone her or graft her genes on others. Which would be tricky, I think - the First Ones were expert geneticists, so they would have thorough checks for such attempts to bypass their security.”

    “Yes. Simply inserting the relevant genes is unlikely to work.” Anise agreed. “The Ancients would have expected such crude methods. And we don’t know how much gene grafting we would have to do to satisfy the requirements set by their technology. However, their own descendants would qualify. We know that already.”

    “Yes.” Entrapta nodded. “Alpha proved that when she identified both Adora and Jack as First Ones.”

    “Exactly. And that means their progeny would qualify as well,” Anise said. ”Probably - there’s likely a combination of genetic markers necessary that not every child might inherit.”

    “So, you do want to make a baby with Jack,” Adora said.

    “Only with his consent, of course.” Anise smiled. “And without sexual intercourse, of course.” She nodded at Sam.

    Adora blinked again. Uh… “But the baby would still grow up without one parent.” And that was bad. Not as bad as being an orphan, but still bad.

    Anise’s stance changed, and Freya said: “That does not need to be the case. With a Stargate, Colonel O’Neill could easily visit as often as he wanted. With the demands of the war, many children won’t see one of their parents for long stretches of time, will they?” She smiled warmly.

    That was… She wasn’t wrong, Adora had to admit. And if Jack agreed to that, well, she couldn’t tell anyone not to have children, could she? Wait, she had just done that - but that had been different.

    “The Colonel won’t agree,” Sam said with a scowl.

    “That remains to be seen,” Freya said. “Of course, he could raise the child - or children - and we could visit. I am sure he would be a good parent.”

    Adora blinked. She wasn’t the only one. That was… well, Jack had had a child, so he had experience, but… he was also very busy. But… “That would be his decision,” she said. But she doubted he would want to raise a child during the war - he would have to quit the Air Force, wouldn’t he?

    Sam shook her head. “He won’t.”

    But Freya kept smiling, and Adora didn’t think Sam sounded as certain as before.

    This was getting complicated.

    *****​

    The Colonel wouldn’t give consent to having a test tube baby with an alien. Samantha Carter was confident that her assessment of him was correct. Mostly - she wasn’t a hundred per cent certain. And, she realised, she didn’t know enough to tell. She knew - from talking to others; he had never talked about it, and Sam knew better than to bring it up - that the Colonel had lost his son to a tragic accident with a firearm three years ago, which had also destroyed his marriage.

    But would that push him to reject Anise’s offer? He was almost certainly blaming himself for the accident; any parent would in his position. So Anise’s offer might be seen as a sort of second chance. Unlikely, but not impossible. And since Sam knew, from personal observation and experience, that the Colonel had a soft spot for kids, possibly accentuated because of this tragedy, she was also reasonably sure that if someone managed to create a test tube baby with his genetic material, he wouldn’t reject the child.

    But she didn’t know for certain how he felt. And not just about the issue of test tube babies. Another reason for not breaking regulations, a small voice whispered in her head. If she never found out the truth, she couldn’t be disappointed.

    She pushed the voice away. She wasn’t afraid of the truth. And she wouldn’t let fear dictate her course of action. Complying with regulations was the reasonable course of action, nothing more, nothing less.

    But she still felt the urge to punch Anise - and Freya; both were in obvious agreement about their plans - in the face. It was irrational and unfair, she knew that. They were from an alien culture. Two alien cultures, actually, and they were, as far as Sam was aware, acting perfectly acceptable according to their standards. And, she added to herself, according to some standards of Earth and possibly Etheria as well - donating sperm and oocytes was a relatively common procedure, after all.

    But trying to trap someone in a relationship by having their child was not too rare either in many cultures, she added with a frown.

    “Well…” Adora broke the short spell of silence. “That would be his decision, right?”

    Of course, it would be the Colonel’s decision! Sam nodded sharply.

    But Freya kept smiling so confidently. She knew nothing about the Colonel, Sam knew. Anise and Freya only knew of his reputation and fame and had barely spent a day with him, less than twenty-four hours in total. Sam had spent months with the man, much of it in extreme situations where people generally showed their true colours, but they had also spent considerable time socialising.

    She raised her head and met their eyes. Yes, she told herself again, the Colonel would reject their offer.

    He’d better!

    *****​

    “...so, you see, it’s technically reversible, but the odds aren’t that good. So, it’s practically a final decision not to have any more children.”

    Catra didn’t grimace at Daniel’s explanation, but she couldn’t help feeling a bit queasy at the thought of asking a healer to permanently remove her ability to have a child. Although healing magic should be able to reverse that. Of course, with Entrapta’s help, she could have a child with Adora any time she wanted, no matter the condition of her body - and in a pinch, Adora could carry a baby to term, though they would have to find out how transforming into She-Ra would affect that - but to do that to your own body? When you had other alternatives?

    She shook her head. “That feels like a pretty drastic way to save on money spent on contraception.”

    “Well…” Daniel shrugged with a sheepish expression. “It’s one of the most effective ways. And you, ah, can’t forget or mess it up. But it is not an uncontroversial procedure; many men think, although quite irrationally, that it would hurt their masculinity.”

    “Ah.” Well, cutting something in your body might do that - Catra was no expert on Earth culture. “But you don’t cut off their balls.”

    “No, we don’t. Not any more, at least,” Daniel said.

    “I think we all got your History of Eunuchs 101 lesson,” O’Neill cut in with a toothy smile. “Thank you.”

    Daniel pouted at his friend. “I felt it was important to explain the differences between a vasectomy and castration. You really cannot afford any misunderstandings here.”

    O’Neill tensed and nodded jerkily.

    Catra agreed. “And it wouldn’t help you anyway since Anise could take your genetic material from any cell.” At least, Entrapta could do that, so Anise should be able to do it as well.

    “Yes, I assume so.”

    “So, how exactly do you expect her to keep your, ah, genetic legacy secure?” Daniel asked.

    For a moment, Jack frowned, then he smiled and shrugged. “Magic?”

    Daniel snorted, but Catra nodded. That sounded like it might work. “You should ask Glimmer, though. She’s the one who was trained as a sorceress. Entrapta’s the specialist for technology.”

    “I will then.”

    Catra narrowed her eyes. She couldn’t tell if O’Neill was serious or not. He sounded serious, and it was a serious subject, but… he also didn’t like magic.

    Well, it was his body, so it was his choice and none of her business. And if he could get over his dislike of magic, then that could only help him.

    *****​

    And he would. Jack O’Neill was sure of that. He suppressed a shudder. Magic was creepy, but he would rather have a spell cast on him than find out someone made a test tube baby with his genes. Or a clone. Or an alien-O’Neill clone. Yes, despite the creepiness, he would talk to Glimmer about this.

    But not right now. This was a diplomatic meeting, after all, and Glimmer was the most important member of the Alliance delegation. Mostly because she was more of a diplomat than Adora, of course. In any case, Jack knew better than to bother her about his personal problems in the middle of diplomatic negotiations. Even though they were currently being conducted at the buffet. With his luck, he might derail a crucial breakthrough by distracting her - the Etherians might take politics personally, but, as Catra had just proven again, they cared about their friends so much, they might prioritise Jack’s issues over the good of the Alliance.

    And that, Jack wouldn’t allow. Couldn’t. He knew his duty to his country and to Earth. And he would be a damn hypocrite if he defended Air Force fraternisation regulations to the Etherians, then turned around and asked them to help him with a personal problem at the expense of the overall goal of the Alliance.

    No, there was enough time to handle this once they were back on Earth. More privacy as well - Jack wasn’t keen on letting everyone know he wanted to use magic to keep aliens from taking his genetic material. Carter would probably call it ‘preventive contraception’ or something sciency-sounding, but she would do it with that faint smile of hers that…

    Jack sighed and grabbed another bowl of alien noodles. He reminded himself that he knew his duty. And that he would do his duty.

    And just as he started to eat - Daniel was well into lecturing Catra about the finer points of masculinity as seen by various cultures on Earth - the Head Snake called everyone to the meeting room again.

    Great. Jack started shovelling food into his mouth on the way to the door. He had a feeling he’d need the calories.

    *****​

    “...and yes, I think we can agree on the necessity of a united intelligence council. However, the exact composition and purview of such a council need to be defined more clearly before we can move to the next part.”

    Jack O’Neill struggled not to yawn. Sir Watson had the boring, droning tone of a bureaucrat down pat. The man could speak far more engagedly, Jack knew that, so either he was feeling the hours himself, or this was by design - it was hard to tell with career diplomats. Not that Jack could think of a reason why you wanted to be boring unless it was to tire out the other side or make them fall asleep at the table.

    Which, he confirmed with a glance around, wasn’t working anyway. At least not on the snakes and their hosts. Though they probably cheated by switching between Goa’uld and host so one of them could rest. Or something.

    But Catra looked like she was only awake because Adora would elbow her if she fell asleep, and even Daniel seemed to be too tired to keep paying a hundred per cent attention to ‘history being made in our presence’, as he had called it. Before the meeting, of course.

    “Indeed,” Garhsaw said. “And, given the importance of intelligence for waging war, I think the council’s purview should include some oversight on how the information provided and curated by it is being used.”

    “As long as that is strictly limited to advising, of course,” Glimmer cut in. “We cannot allow such a council to usurp the role of command.”

    Sir Watson nodded, and Garshaw smiled. “Of course.” Jack couldn’t tell if she had seriously expected to be able to outmanoeuvre the Alliance like that, but he was sure that she wouldn’t have minded if the spook council would have gotten veto powers or something. It certainly would have fit the sneaky snakes to try for some ‘rule from the shadows’ role, and you couldn’t get more shadowy in war than a spy.

    But with that line drawn, they settled for the details of how to staff said council. Surprisingly, the Etherians didn’t propose some magical superspy as the leader of the council. Or not so surprisingly - Jack remembered that they didn’t seem to be terribly fond of spies, the way they sometimes spoke of ‘Double Trouble’.

    Well, Jack approved of being wary of spooks. Based on his own experience with them - he was sure that the Etherian version of spies wasn’t any better than the CIA agents he had worked with during the Cold War. Probably worse since they had all sorts of magic.

    While Glimmer, who seemed to be holding up well, actually, and Sir Watson hashed out the details with Garshaw and Per’sus, Jack risked a glance at Anise, who was taking part in the meetings as a technological advisor - and immediately wished he hadn’t. The snake met his eyes with a smile. Or Freya did; Jack couldn’t tell right now, not without them talking or moving.

    Two people - or a snake and a person - occupying the same body was just creepy. How were you supposed to have a relationship with that, anyway? What if you liked one but not the other? What if you liked both but preferred one? Or if one of them hated you, and the other loved you? It was difficult enough to handle a relationship with just one person, especially as a soldier - Jack’s marriage had seen some rocky times even before… He pressed his lips together as he, once more today, had to force the memories of that terrible day away. Anyway, handling a relationship with two people? That would be a nightmare.

    No, Jack would stick to plain boring relationships with a single partner. Hypothetically, of course, since regulations were regulations, and they forbid relationships between an officer and a subordinate.

    *****​

    Adora suppressed a sigh when the meeting finally ended. Almost midnight Earth time, according to her watch, but it wasn’t the hours, it was the drudge, or what you called it. Catra, of course, wasn’t nearly as subtle or diplomatic. “Finally!” she exclaimed when Glimmer, Sir Watson and Garshaw agreed on finishing for today. “I think I fell asleep twice already!”

    Everyone chuckled, though Adora wasn’t quite sure that her lover had been joking - there had been a few spots during the last two hours or so during which Adora had been too absorbed by the discussions to pay enough attention to Catra. And since those discussions had been more political than military, Catra might not have cared enough for them to pay rapt attention herself.

    Well, it was over for now. And they had made progress! Sure, the devil was in the details, but a lot of the big stuff had been settled. More or less, at least. Adora trusted Glimmer and Sir Watson would handle the rest. Of course, this was just the preliminary negotiations, so there were still important subjects left for the elected leaders of the Earth countries to discuss and settle. Though as Sir Watson had explained, if the preliminary meetings were going well, odds were the actual official negotiations wouldn’t divert too much from what the diplomats had already sounded out.

    It was different from what Adora was used to. On Etheria, princesses handled that kind of stuff - preliminary meetings were mostly about protocol and stuff setting up the actual meetings since you needed a princess to actually make decisions, but then, since they had Glimmer and Adora herself here, that wasn’t a problem.

    Still… she was glad to return home, or sort of home, now. “I’d rather fight a tank platoon than do this again,” she muttered before she caught herself.

    Catra snickered. “Of course, you would,” she said. “Tossing around tanks is fun for you.”

    One of the officers in the delegation walking behind them laughed aloud. General… Peck, Adora confirmed with a glance. The American.

    “You should have seen her whine about not being allowed to throw tanks back when we were fighting mind-controlled allies,” Catra told him with a smirk, walking backwards as they left the meeting room.

    “Throw tanks back?” Peck laughed some more.

    Adora pouted. “Scorpia was throwing tanks at us!”

    “One tank,” Catra said. “And she later apologised for that.”

    The general suddenly looked a little confused.

    “They’re not pulling your leg, sir,” Jack chimed in. “There are at least two individual Etherians who can physically throw light tanks like we’d throw a backpack.”

    At least light tanks,” Catra said.

    Adora nodded. They hadn’t tried it with heavier tanks since the Horde didn’t have them.

    “The antigravity engines throw off the equations a little,” Entrapta said. “But both Scorpia and Adora should be able to handle the mass.”

    The general wasn’t laughing any more, Adora noticed. And Per’sus was staring at them as well. “I thought we mentioned that,” she commented. She was sure they had. Pretty sure.

    “It was in our report,” Jack said. “But it might have been dismissed as an exaggeration.”

    “I must have missed it,” Peck said. He added something else under his breath that Adora didn’t catch, but Catra snickered again, so it was probably a curse.

    Ah, well - they could address their allies’ lack of knowledge about their capabilities later. Right now, Adora really wanted to return to her bed and rest. And relax.

    They reached the transport room, but it took a few more minutes of shaking hands and saying their goodbyes before they were finally off, and then there was still the trip back to the Stargate.

    There was something to be said for placing the Stargate close to or into one of your bases, Adora found. It cut down on travel time a lot.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, December 15th, 1998

    Adora sighed without restraint when she walked down the ramp in Stargate Command’s gate room. Almost home! Well, almost back to Darla.

    But the generals were already waiting for them. Four of them - the French one was missing. “Good to have you back,” General Hammond said. “Was there any trouble?”

    “The Stargate worked like a charm, sir,” Jack replied. “No security concerns either.” He shrugged with a glance at the Russian general. “I think that’s all that concerns Stargate Command.”

    The Russian general glared at him, which prompted Catra to chuckle. Adora almost chimed in before she caught herself - she must be a little more tired than she had thought.

    “Alright, Colonel. The Alliance delegation is waiting at NORAD to debrief you.”

    Right, Adora reminded herself. Officially, Stargate Command wasn’t an Allied base but under United Nations control, so the Alliance officials would be waiting in the base right above this one.

    Earth customs were weird sometimes. Not too rarely, actually.

    “More meetings,” Catra whined. “Let’s just tell them we’ll talk to them tomorrow! At noon!”

    “And leave us to face them all alone?” Jack frowned at her.

    “Yes.” She beamed at him, showing all her teeth.

    “That would be selfish,” Glimmer said, shaking her head.

    “So? Don’t tell me you want to have another meeting right now,” Catra shot back.

    “It’s not about what we want, but about what we need to do,” Glimmer replied. “So…”

    “Oh, great!” Entrapta cried out, interrupting them - she was talking into her multitool, Adora realised. And she smiled widely. “The relay network is done!” she announced. “We can talk to our friends back on Etheria! And a few days earlier than projected, even!”

    Adora gasped, then smiled.

    Yes!

    “We need to return to Darla at once,” Glimmer said.

    “Oh, now we do?” Catra asked - but she was smiling as well.

    “Sorry,” Adora told Jack with a smile.

    Though she didn’t feel too sorry. She really wanted to talk to her friends back home. She hadn’t seen them in almost half a year!

    *****​
     
  30. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Nope, he isn't.

    :p

    She's probably more the type to enjoy the humour without caring too much about the parody.
     
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