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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. Transreal Clouden

    Transreal Clouden Know what you're doing yet?

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    Another interesting chapter. It looks like this might derail at least one later episode and possibly two.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2023
    Starfox5 likes this.
  2. Threadmarks: Chapter 69: Going Home Part 1
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 69: Going Home Part 1

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, December 15th, 1998

    “Sorry! We’d really love to attend a boring debriefing, but talking to our friends back home is more important.”

    Glimmer didn’t really sound sorry, in Samantha Carter’s opinion. Adora and Bow at least looked embarrassed, but Catra was grinning widely, and Entrapta… was still talking with the fleet in orbit.

    “So… see you tomorrow, I guess. Or later today, technically,” Glimmer nodded at them as the lift stopped, then stepped out of the cabin and headed to the lift leading to the ground level. “Bye!”

    “Well, I guess it’s just us now,” the Colonel said as the Etherians all but charged into the lift. “Us and the brass. And the politicians. Can’t forget them - trust me, I’ve tried.”

    Sam drew a sharp breath, but Sir Watson, who was standing right behind them, chuckled. “I would mention that we’re diplomats, not politicians, but I assume you do not think that there’s much of a difference.”

    “Well, since you generally do what the politicians say, not really,” the Colonel replied.

    “As do soldiers, I believe - at least in civilised countries,” the British diplomat retorted, still smiling.

    The Colonel frowned. “That’s a low blow!”

    “I don’t think either war or diplomacy is a game or athletic competition, Colonel O’Neill.”

    “War has rules, though.”

    “But pointing out that both soldiers and diplomats are under the authority of the government - and, therefore, under the authority of politicians - does not violate the rules of war, Colonel.”

    “Well, it should!”

    Sam suppressed a sigh as both men chuckled. It was late already, and she wasn’t looking forward to the debriefing. Not at all. And with the news that the Etherians had finally reestablished contact with their home planet, the debriefing would take even longer. Sam was sure of that. Even though everyone should be aware that SG-1 didn’t know anything more than what everyone else knew - that they could talk to Etheria.

    And they had arrived at the meeting room - guarded by a squad of marines. And a number of people in suits. Oh.

    The Colonel stiffened as well at the sight. Soldiers were expected. But bodyguards? That meant a high-ranking official was waiting for them.

    And since Sam thought she recognised at least one of the bodyguards from her visits to the White House…

    She straightened as she entered the room - behind the Colonel, who was walking behind General Peck and Sir Watson himself.

    “Mr President!”

    Yes, as expected, there was the President waiting for them. She heard Daniel gasp next to her - he must have missed the signs. The Colonel, of course, wasn’t surprised.

    The President returned the general’s salute and shook Sir Watson’s hand. “Please have a seat. I know you must be tired, but I don’t think this can wait. Especially not with the news that our allies now can talk with their home planet.” He gestured towards the table, where more politicians - foreigners, Sam noted; she recognised the Canadian Prime Minister and the NATO Secretary General sitting there. Amongst the others would be representatives of the United Kingdom, France and Germany then. Their allies in NATO, but while the US joining the Alliance against the Goa’uld was, according to everything she had heard, a done deal, it hadn’t been formally signed yet - though that should happen any day as soon as the last detail was cleared. Unless something significant happened that could derail the process.

    Yes, as she had feared. This wouldn’t be a debriefing about the diplomatic meeting with the Tok’ra but also a briefing about the Etherian situation. Or, as Sam suspected, a lot of speculation, most of which would be rendered obsolete in the morning when the Etherians would return to talk.

    But, as Sir Watson had pointed out, both diplomats and soldiers served their government, and it was very obvious that their governments wanted to discuss the situation right here and now.

    She forced herself to focus. She was, first of all, an officer in the Air Force and would do her duty to the best of her ability.

    *****​

    Earth Orbit, Solar System, December 15th, 1998

    Catra smirked when Glimmer all but jumped on the ramp as soon as the shuttle had stopped in Darla’s hangar - before the ramp had even touched the floor. “We could have relayed the signal to the shuttle if you’re so eager,” she said - to the princess’s back; Glimmer was already rushing to the door.

    “I asked if we should,” Entrapta said behind her. “You said you could wait a few more minutes.”

    “She probably didn’t want to appear too eager,” Catra said with a smirk and shrug.

    “Ah.”

    “She hasn’t seen Micah in months,” Adora said.

    “And apparently forgot that she can teleport,” Catra said with a chuckle.

    Her lover looked at the door - through which Glimmer, followed by Bow, just disappeared, and Catra knew she was just holding back from rushing after them herself. Adora was missing her friends back on Etheria.

    Catra… well, it would be great to talk to them. Catch up. She was wondering how Scorpia and Perfuma were doing. And how the Princess Alliance and Second Fleet were doing, of course. Of course, Catra didn’t really worry too much about them. Etheria was not known to the Goa’uld, or shouldn’t be, thanks to the system having been sealed in a pocket dimension for a thousand years. And even though the princesses she trusted most were here on Earth, the other Elemental Princesses should be able to keep the planet safe and the Alliance going. You could never be sure, though.

    But the most important person for Catra - by far - was at her side. She didn’t have to rush to the bridge to call home. Home was where Adora was. She grabbed Adora’s hand as they stepped into the corridor leading to the bridge and squeezed.

    Adora smiled at her and squeezed back.

    Then they reached the bridge, where Glimmer was freaking out. “Do I have any stains anywhere? I don’t want to look like we’re in trouble or something,” she asked Bow.

    “Relax, Glimmer. You’re perfect. I would have told you if you didn’t look good.”

    Catra snickered at the scowl that comment caused to appear on Glimmer’s face.

    “But we’ve just spent hours in a diplomatic meeting! Negotiating!”

    “And you look fine,” Adora told her.

    Catra was tempted to make a comment but refrained. Glimmer did look OK, anyway. “So… what’s the holdup?” she asked. “I would have expected you to have called already.

    “We were waiting for you,” Glimmer said with another scowl as if she had expected them to run as well.

    Well, good luck with that! Catra leaned against Adora’s seat. “So, let’s get ready for the call?”

    “It’s ready,” Entrapta said. “We can open a line of communication anytime we want! The network is stable, and the lag should be minimal. That means no more than six seconds because of all the relays. I can’t reduce that further, sorry.”

    “It’s OK,” Glimmer told her.

    “Given the distance and technical limitations, that’s a great achievement,” Bow added with a smile.

    “Well, Sam helped a lot with the setup and programming - and we copied some protocols from the Internet of Earth, although mostly for redundancy. It’s not doing much for speed, and while the basics of data transfers are similar, Faster-than-light communication lag can’t be helped overly much by protocols for optical or even electronic networks.”

    Glimmer was sitting on the edge of her seat and doing her best not to bite her lips, Catra noticed. Well, Catra could ask Entrapta to go into some detail, but that would be cruel.

    “Let’s start the call, then,” Adora said.

    The screen lit up with a rotating symbol - Entrapta’s work; it looked like a stylised bot - while the call went out. Six seconds, she had said. Catra counted, then slid into Adora’s lap just as the screen changed and King Micah appeared.

    “Glimmer!”

    “Dad!” Glimmer cried out, followed by a sniffle.

    She must have been really worried, Catra realised. Well, for over a decade, Glimmer had thought that Micah had been killed by the Horde. That would have left an effect.

    “How are you doing? We’ve been waiting for a courier to return,” Micah said. His eyes were glittering a bit as well. Catra hoped he wouldn’t start crying. Glimmer would follow at once, and so would Adora.

    “Yes, we decided that creating a permanent network of bots serving as comm relays would be more efficient than using couriers,” Entrapta explained. “Six seconds of lag is better than a few months, right?”

    Micah continued. “So, we were very relieved when we received news that you made contact. And then worried when it was from a bot.”

    “Yes, Dad, but this way, we can talk any time we want,” Glimmer said.

    “Ah, that explains it. Thank you, Entrapta.”

    “I’m working on reducing it further, Micah.”

    Well, a lag of six seconds didn’t sound like much, but it made talking a bit awkward, Catra realised as Micah and Glimmer kept talking just past each other.

    “We need to space out our answers.” Glimmer had realised the same thing.

    Six seconds later, Micah nodded on screen. “Yes. So…”

    Then Scorpia appeared behind him, grinning widely. “Hey, wildcat!” She waved, and her pincer hid most of Micah for a moment. “How are you doing.”

    Catra smiled. “Doing good. Even though the humans - the Tau’ri, as you know them - are crazy.”

    “They aren’t crazy!” Adora protested. “Only some of them.”

    “Scorpia!” Entrapta beamed at her.

    Micah cleared his throat.

    “Oh, sorry - I thought we could talk,” Scorpia told him.

    “Dear, Micah hasn’t seen Glimmer in months.” Perfuma appeared on the screen as well.

    What were they doing in Bright Moon? Catra wondered. There hadn’t been enough time since the contact had been made for them to travel from the Fright Zone - former Fright Zone - to Bright Moon. She would have expected them to join through a routed call.

    “We made an Alliance with Earth - well, some countries on Earth,” Adora being Adora, explained while the other side was still talking to each other.

    “Ugh. Let them talk!” That was Mermista. Was there an Alliance meeting?

    “An alliance?” Micah cocked his head.

    “Do they really have billions of people on their planet?” Perfuma asked. “How do they feed them?”

    Glimmer looked like she was a little annoyed as she replied: “Yes, Dad, we made an Alliance with the leading countries of Earth. And we’re working on an Alliance with the Tok’ra - they are fighting the Goa’uld, but they’re, biologically, the same species.”

    Then another face appeared as they waited for an answer. WrongHordak. “Hello!” He smiled at them. “Sorry, I got delayed. Did you tell them about the attack already?”

    Catra blinked. “The attack?” she said together with her friends.

    “Not yet.”

    “We were about to.”

    “Can someone move the camera a bit back?”

    Six seconds could feel like an eternity, Catra realised as she waited for their friends to hear their question.

    Then Micah stopped smiling - a bad sign. “Ah. We were attacked during your absence.” He glanced at WrongHordak.

    “Yes.” The clone nodded - and he had also stopped smiling. That was an even worse sign.

    “By whom?” Adora blurted out. She was very tense.

    WrongHordak answered her question before he heard it: “Elements of a Horde fleet that was detached to suppress an insurrection - at least that’s what we assume based on their communication - arrived in the system. We hailed them and told them what happened, but they didn’t take the news about Horde Prime’s death well.” He grimaced. “They blamed us for ‘betraying’ him and attacked. We were forced to destroy them - they wouldn’t surrender or even attempt to retreat.”

    Catra muttered a curse under her breath. It would have been easier if it had been the Goa’uld. Probably. “Do you know if there are more of them?” she asked.

    “How many ships did they have?” Glimmer asked.

    “Did you lose people?” Adora leaned forward a little.

    Seconds passed. Catra clenched her teeth so she wouldn’t blurt out more questions. That would only make it harder to get the information she wanted. Damn, she really hated the lag.

    Finally, WrongHordak heard their questions. “Ah… We were, unfortunately, unable to confirm whether or not the ships we saw were the entirety of the detached fleet elements. We did not detect any communication with others, though; that much we can state with certainty. They had three squadrons - usually more than enough to deal with a rebellion on a planet, but there were larger deployments in the past, according to First Fleet’s archives.” He bowed his head. “We lost half a dozen ships. We didn’t expect their attack, so we were unprepared. I was… too optimistic. I am deeply sorry.”

    “It wasn’t your fault,” Adora told him at once.

    Catra didn’t quite agree - given how different Third and Second Fleet had turned out after Horde Prime’s death, and how the remnants of First Fleet had clung to Hordak, WrongHordak should have expected that there might be some hardcore loyalist forces - but this wasn’t the time to sort that out.

    “We have increased readiness, though, so that won’t happen again,” WrongHordak finished.

    “This was two months ago,” Micah said. “And there hasn’t been another contact since.”

    “We’ve sent scouting detachments out,” WrongHordak explained. “But we kept the bulk of our forces in the system, and we haven’t found another fleet element.”

    Or another fleet. But there could be one out there, Catra knew. Or even several. Horde Prime had kept too much information in his head, off his data banks - no one knew how many ships and clones he’d had under his command at the end. Or where they are. With each fleet having its own supply train, and most ships having been built in his flagship, which was now a space plant, there was no useful data to sift through, either.

    “I see.” Glimmer nodded. “It seems you have the situation in hand. Now, about our alliances…”

    As Glimmer proceeded to fill the others back on Etheria in about how things had gone on Earth, Catra pondered how to handle this new problem. They would have to spread the spy bot network out even more than planned; that was obvious. But they also would have to make a plan for handling more Horde remnants. They couldn’t fight a peer opponent and the Goa’uld at the same time.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, December 15th, 1998

    Jack O’Neill clenched his jaw. You didn’t yawn in the President’s presence. No matter how long a day you’d had and how late - or early - it was. And, a quick glance at the clock on the wall confirmed, it was getting very late indeed. Not quite so late that it started to become morning, but he really wanted to crash in his bunk. In the base - he was too tired to return home. Probably too tired to drive, at least in civilian traffic.

    But the meeting wasn’t over yet.

    “...and so I believe that the Etherians will ask for help restoring the Stargate on Etheria. Which, in this case, means adding either a D.H.D. or a replacement like the installation we use at Stargate Command. Both options are within our capabilities,” Carter finished her technical assessment.

    “But the D.H.D. is Russian,” the Secretary of State remarked. “They’ll want their pound of flesh for parting with it and then some. Probably access to advanced technology as if they were in the Alliance.”

    “Would the Etherians agree to that?”

    “No,” Jack said. Damn - he had spoken up without being prompted. He must be more tired than he had thought. “They won’t agree to that. In my opinion.”

    Daniel followed his lead. “I agree. They haven’t shown any inclination to change their stance on the minimum conditions for sharing technology.”

    “I see.” The President looked relieved. “And how fast could we provide them with a copy of Stargate Command’s, ah, installation?” He looked at Carter.

    “A copy of the installation at Stargate Command would take several weeks to a month,” Carter replied. She probably had calculated that long ago. “However, that would be inefficient. The Etherian computer and power technology allows for a more efficient setup to be developed. We would only need to share our database. About a week, I would say, at the longest.”

    “And then a month to transport it back to their home planet?” a foreign politician asked. German, according to the accent.

    “No,” Carter replied at once. “The Stargate on Etheria cannot open a wormhole to another gate, lacking a control device, but other Stargates can connect to it as soon as it is recovered from where we sealed it. We can send the control device replacement as well as a team to set it up through our Stargate.”

    And Jack would bet a month’s worth of the good jello in the canteen that Carter and Entrapta had the whole setup prepared already and were only waiting for the order to go ahead.

    Hell, he was pretty sure that they would go ahead even without official permission if the government dragged its heels. Probably with some flimsy excuse that the Etherians developed it themselves.

    And Jack would back them on that. Even a complete idiot would realise that they needed a Stargate on Etheria, Jack was sure about that. But he wasn’t as sure that everyone realised that this was too important to play power games or attempt some horse-trading to gain an advantage.

    The Etherians wouldn’t take well to that. Unlike most on Earth, they had been fighting a war for years, decades even. And that sort of thing shaped you and your views.

    He blinked. Damn, he really needed sleep - he started to sound like Daniel in his head.

    *****​

    Earth Orbit, Solar System, December 15th, 1998

    “...and that’s the current situation,” Glimmer finished summing up the state of their negotiations with the Tok’ra. “We expect the alliance to be formalised within the next few weeks.”

    Adora nodded - that was what Sir Watson had said as well. And if everything went well, the United States would formally join the Alliance before that - even though it was, as Sir Watson liked to say, a de facto member already.

    “Provided the Earth leaders don’t mess up.” Catra snorted. “It wouldn’t surprise me. Over,” she added with a glance at Glimmer before she leaned back against Adora while they waited for the response from their friends.

    Glimmer frowned at her in return. Adora gave her a smile and a shrug - Glimmer had forgotten to tell the others that it was their turn to talk, so Catra wasn’t at fault for adding it. And all of them had agreed that using old Earth radio protocols was a good idea to make communication easier and less chaotic with the annoying lag.

    Bow patted Glimmer’s hand.

    Then, on the screen, Micah nodded. “I see. That’s good news.”

    “Yes,” Perfuma agreed. “More allies is always a good thing. And it proves that the Goa’uld can change.” She blinked. “But they don’t like being called Goa’uld, the Tok’ra, right?”

    Adora owned her mouth, then waited. They hadn’t given the signal to talk yet.

    “Ugh.” Mermista sighed. “Over.”

    “Yes, they don’t like it,” Adora said, nodding. “They don’t consider themselves Goa’uld, actually.”

    “Just treat the Goa’uld and the Tok’ra as different kingdoms,” Glimmer said. “Or like the Horde and the Princess Alliance. Over.”

    Another six-second pause. And they couldn’t really talk since they were still transmitting. Maybe they should turn the transmission off? As if it were a radio from those old Earth war movies? But that would feel weird. And they wouldn’t be able to watch their friends then. Just turn the microphone off? That would feel a little rude.

    “We will do that.” Perfuma beamed. “And we have an alliance with Earth!”

    “With some of their kingdoms,” Mermista corrected her. “Which aren’t kingdoms. Whatever.”

    “The best kingdoms of Earth,” Scorpia said. “Like the Princess Alliance has the best kingdoms of Etheria.”

    “And the best of the Horde.” WrongHordak was smiling widely again. “I am happy to hear that Priest hasn’t caused trouble. Much, at least.”

    Catra snorted again.

    “So…” Micah turned to face the others in his room. “For the record: Does anyone oppose the decisions taken by Glimmer, Adora and Entrapta in the name of the Princess Alliance?”

    Adora bit her lower lip. She didn’t expect them to disagree, but…

    “Of course not!” Perfuma said.

    “No,” Scorpia added. “Good work.”

    Mermista snorted, then shook her head. “I mean, no.”

    “No,” WrongHordak said. Then he blinked. “Although I wasn’t aware that we had a veto.”

    “We don’t, technically,” Micah told him. “Glimmer, Adora and Entrapta were mandated by the Princess Alliance to conduct the exact negotiations that they then did.”

    “Ah.”

    Adora saw Glimmer shift in her seat, pressing her lips together. She obviously wanted to say something.

    “I doubt Netossa and Spinnerella will disagree, and Frosta probably won’t, either,” Micah said. “Though you’ll have to talk to Castaspella about the magic issues. Over.”

    “I will,” Glimmer said. “Where are they, anyway? Over.”

    Right. Adora would have expected the rest of their friends to be present - at least via comm.

    Micah blushed a little. “Ah, we didn’t want to disturb them. They’re resting - it’s the middle of the night here.”

    Oh. Adora had forgotten about the time differences.

    Mermista snorted again. “That’s what you call it?”

    “Frosta is resting,” Micah said. “In her palace. We informed her people, of course, but it’s up to them whether or not they wake her up. Netossa and Spinerella didn’t want to be disturbed.”

    That meant they were… Ah. Adora felt her cheeks heat up a little, and Catra snickered.

    “They’re gonna hate that they missed this,” Cara mumbled.

    “Their own fault, then,” Glimmer said.

    “Can we speak now? Anyway.” Entrapta smiled. “We need to get Etheria’s Stargate working again - then we can visit any time we want. So, you need to excavate the gate and set it up so we can send a control unit to you. Once we finish it - we need some data still. And a power supply. And you probably need some security for the gate. I have some ideas about bots and gun emplacement. We also might want a huge bomb to blow it up, just in case - Sam said they have such a bomb at Stargate Command. Uh, over!”

    Micah and the others nodded as they listened to Entrapta, but Adora could tell that they didn’t like the ‘huge bomb’ part. Well, they probably didn’t need that part of the security. Not if the rest held up.

    “Ah. Yes, that sounds like a good idea - though we can iron out the security details later, I think,” Micah said. “So, you will be able to return to Etheria? Over.”

    “Yes. Though we have a lot of work to do here, with the Stargate, we’ll be able to travel back and forth easily - and to any other planet with a Stargate,” Glimmer said with a wide smile.

    “Hence the need for security,” Catra said.

    Glimmer frowned a little. “But we’ll also have to decide how to handle travel in general. There are a lot of humans - Tau’ri - who want to visit Etheria. And, well… that could cause some trouble. Especially if they want to visit other kingdoms that aren’t in the Alliance. Over.”

    “Oh, yes,” Catra mumbled.

    Adora agreed. But compared to finally being able to see and visit their friends again, it was a small thing.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, December 15th, 1998

    Almost noon. Samantha Carter felt as if she had overslept the whole morning. She knew it was irrational - the meeting with the President had lasted until early morning, and she had barely caught five hours of sleep - but she never started her day this late.

    She pushed the guilt away as she stepped out of the lift on her floor. Now that work was to be done, she wouldn’t waste any more of her time.

    “Ah, good morning!” Iwan greeted her in the hallway. “I heard you have eventful day, da? No science, but plenty political!”

    Was he fishing for information? It wasn’t a secret that the Alliance was negotiating with the Tok’ra. And the Etherians hadn’t kept the news that they had reestablished communications with their home planet secret either. And if anyone thought that the President visiting Cheyenne Mountain would be ignored by anyone in the base… She shrugged and deliberately yawned. “Yes. It got very late.”

    “Ah, yes. Ours is not to reason why, da?”

    Tennyson. Of course, a Russian might know a poem about the Crimean War. “We’re not the Light Brigade,” she replied. “A lengthy meeting won’t kill us.”

    “Not here, but in Soviet Russia, it might very well have killed us. By alcohol poisoning or firing squad.” He laughed. “Good thing there’s no more Soviet Russia. Would be awkward to court other princesses on Etheria as soviets, da? After we shoot Tsar and princesses.”

    Ah. Of course, that Russia and China - and many other countries - would want to open diplomatic relations with other Etherian kingdoms was obvious as well. Sam nodded. “Provided the Etherians open their Stargate for travelling.”

    “You think the Princess Alliance will keep the Stargate closed for rest of Etheria?”

    Was that his angle? Did he want information - intelligence - about the political situation on Etheria? Or her views of the Princess Alliance? “I don’t know,” she said. “That’s up to the Princess Alliance.” It was a political decision, and she was a scientist.

    “Ah.”

    No comment about her close friendship with Entrapta. But as she walked towards her lab, he was walking with her.

    “Will there be a Stargate Command Etheria, maybe? Independent organisation of Etherians?” He shrugged. “Etherians wanted to talk to entire Earth, so only fair if we do the same?”

    That was true, of course. And Sam was sure that her friends would struggle with the implied hypocrisy. “Etheria doesn’t have a United Nations,” Sam pointed out. “The Princess Alliance is the closest organisation they have to the United Nations.”

    “So, Etheria is ruled by Princess NATO?” Iwan laughed, turning it into a joke.

    Sam nodded. “They were at war for decades, and they’re at war again.” And that would influence their actions. Only, Sam didn’t know in what direction.

    They reached the door to her lab, and she nodded at him. “Have a nice day.”

    He smiled back. “You too! Don’t stay too late today!”

    She snorted. Although she was planning to stay a little longer - she had a feeling she would have to.

    Once she was inside her lab, and the door was closed, she grabbed the VR glasses and switched the Waldo controls on. A moment later, she was staring at the inside of the spacelab. “Entrapta?”

    No answer. That meant her friend wasn’t in the lab. But she, or a bot of hers, would be listening, so…

    A hologram appeared next to her. “Sam! I was wondering why you weren’t around in the morning!” Entrapta beamed at her.

    “I had a meeting late at night,” Sam told her. “So I slept in.”

    “Ah!” Entrapta nodded - and then yawned. “Maybe I should have slept in as well. But we were talking with our friends, and then there was so much to do. Still is, actually.”

    “I can imagine.” Sam wouldn’t go fishing for information. Entrapta was her friend.

    “Oh! We need our gate controller finished,” Entrapta said. “Can we use your computer data?”

    Sam had expected that. And she winced. “I asked, but it’s currently in dispute if the data is the sole property of Stargate Command or if the US Government has a claim as well.”

    “Huh?” Entrapta’s hologram blinked. “But you gathered the data!”

    “Yes, but the agreement that transferred Stargate Command to the United Nations apparently is a bit unclear about that point.” Sam frowned. Russia and China were, in a blatant attempt to extort concessions, claiming that the data was part of the Stargate and, therefore, entirely under the purview of Stargate Command.

    “But… Don’t you have a majority in the Command Council?” Entrapta looked puzzled.

    “Yes. But the United Nations is getting involved.” Sam sighed. And the Alliance didn’t have a majority there. Veto powers cut both ways, too.

    “Oh.” Entrapta frowned. “That complicates matters. But since we know Earth’s gate address, and the Tok’ra’s, it shouldn’t be too hard to reconstruct the data we need to open gates to either location from Etheria.”

    As Sam knew from experience, it was actually rather hard. But she had done it before - she knew exactly how to do it. And when she had done it, she had been using computers that had been vastly less powerful than the computers she was using with Entrapta.

    Doing this wouldn’t, technically, be violating her orders. Of course, her superiours would know what Sam was doing -, and why. But they would also know that punishing her for this would not sit well with the Etherians - and that the data was crucial for the war effort.

    And Sam was a little tired of political games right now. Literally.

    She nodded at her friend. “Let’s get to work then.”

    “Yes!”

    *****​

    Washington D.C., United States of America, Earth, December 18th, 1998

    Standing in the back of the oval room, Catra struggled with the temptation to show how bored she was while the President - of America, not of any of the hundred or so other countries with one - signed the Alliance treaty. It was just a formality, as far as she was concerned. Anything of note had been settled a while ago, but, apparently, the United States had a specific way of doing treaties, which delayed the whole thing. One more reason why a proper kingdom was more efficient - a princess would have just formally signed the treaty at the first opportunity. According to Bow, in the past, some treaties had been signed on napkins at a Princess Prom. She had to suppress a snicker as she wondered if the napkins had food stains on them.

    Showing amusement wouldn’t be appropriate, after all. This was a serious occasion, at least according to Glimmer and Adora, who both stood next to the President with suitably polite smiles for the occasion. Well, Adora also was as tense as if she were on a parade ground facing inspection - or at Princess Prom - but she still took such matters a bit too seriously. At least Glimmer was more relaxed.

    “...and with this signature, the United States is now a member of the Alliance against the Goauld Empire.”

    Also known as the Alliance. Not to be mistaken for the Princess Alliance, Catra silently added. Some poor secretary now had to remove the ‘provisional’ from all the paperwork already passed in the meantime. Although they probably had a second set of regulations prepared that went into effect right now - Earth countries sure loved their paperwork.

    Everyone applauded, so Catra joined in. And as people started to shake hands, and cameras clicked wildly, she leaned closer to Adora and whispered: “Can we order some food now?”

    “Catra!” Adra hissed. But she was smiling and not as tense any more, so Catra counted that as a win.

    Besides, Earth people knew how to feed their diplomatic guests. Once the press was done taking pictures, they would have a state dinner.

    *****​

    “...so, the Yanks managed to get their act together to sign up with the Alliance before the Tok’ra do. I guess we should be grateful to our future alien allies that the Americans finally stopped trying to take over half the Alliance leadership, but....”

    “...well, it’s not as if this was something that could have been delayed further, but I think waiting one more day so we could dominate the Friday evening news would have been better…”

    “...and I know we’re already involved in the negotiations with the Tok’ra, but that was merely a courtesy. Now that we’re an official member of the Alliance, I think a few things should be revisited. Sir Watson did his best, no doubt, but since he’s a Brit, I think the American perspective was a bit neglected, so…”

    “...and yes, that’s a really good potato soup. Reminds me of…”

    “...when do you think we’ll be able to buy shuttles? My kids are asking every day when I’ll take them to the moon for dinner. They don’t believe me when I tell them that we don’t have a moon base yet, so…”

    “...don’t know why they are making such a fuss about the ‘Mars Mission’. Who cares about that? It’s just a trip riding in the back of the Etherian cab, so to speak, so…”

    “...and yes, I think the United States formally joining the Alliance will simplify many organisational matters for us, though…”

    Catra’s ears twitched as she listened to a few conversations around them while Adora was busy explaining to some dense American that she didn’t have a country of her own to rule and didn’t want one either. It sounded a lot like the Princess Prom, actually - just with less gossip about relationships. But the jockeying for position, snide remarks and backstabbing she overheard were about the same.

    It almost made her feel homesick. Or would, if she was a princess. She finished her third tuna sandwich - catering finally managed to get proper sizes for them after two complaints filed by her - and grabbed a fourth.

    “...so, you see, I am Supreme Commander of the Alliance, so I wouldn’t have the time to rule a country anyway,” Adora repeated herself for the second time.

    Catra shook her head and stepped closer to her lover as the - senator? Or representative? It didn’t matter, anyway - frowned. “But you are the most powerful princess, aren’t you? And an Ancient. Shouldn’t you rule?”

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

    “Hey, Adora,” Catra spoke up before the man could keep bothering her. Why had anyone given the man access to classified intel like the Ancients anyway if he was so stupid? “I think we’re needed over there.” She pointed at the dessert buffet.

    Fortunately, Adora was annoyed enough that she played along at once. “Oh, right. Terribly sorry, Senator, but duty calls.”

    Catra snickered as they left - and then checked that he didn’t attempt to follow them.

    “Oh, this was terrible - the man seemed to think whoever is the most powerful rules on Etheria!” Adora complained as soon as they were out of earshot. “And no matter how often I explained that that wasn’t how it worked, he didn’t listen.”

    “Go thank the press for that,” Catra replied with a shrug. “And Hollywood.” She cocked her head. “And probably their own system.”

    “What?”

    Catra grinned. “Well, you know that the most powerful countries rule the United Nations and how much they can get away with. They probably think that’s how it works back home. Of course, if you wanted a country, I don’t think anyone could stop you from taking whichever kingdom you wanted.”

    “I don’t want a country to rule!” Adora pouted at her. “I don’t want to rule anyone!”

    “I know.” Catra leaned in and wrapped an am around her lover’s waist and her tail around her leg. “Something else the idiot didn’t get. But we might have to talk to Brown and Julie about setting things straight about Etherian politics. Especially now that we are close to reopening the Stargate.”

    Adora nodded. “Yes. We need to make sure people on Earth know how things are done back home. Especially if they want to visit.”

    “If they are allowed to visit, anyway,” Catra pointed out. That was something the Princess Alliance hadn’t settled yet. It was a touchy question, too.

    But they should discuss that in private, not in the middle of a room full of Earth politicians, diplomats and officers. And spies.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, December 19th, 1998

    Jack O’Neill had expected this, but he still narrowed his eyes at his second-in-command. “So, the Etherians finished their own version of a D.H.D.?”

    She straightened slightly but didn’t otherwise react to his best ‘superior’s disapproval’ glare. “The project was started a while ago but wasn’t a priority until recently, sir.”

    “But once they reestablished contact with their homeworld, it became a priority.” He tapped the tips of his fingers together, elbows on his desk.

    “Yes, sir. It was obvious that they needed a control and a power supply unit to operate their Stargate.”

    He squinted - was that a smile? No. Carter wasn’t amused. She was… pissed off? No. Or, at least, not at him. It was more… defiant would fit best. He was familiar with the feeling. “And you asissted Entrapta.”

    “In the spirit of cooperation with an important ally, sir.” And now she smiled.

    He sighed. “And, of course, that cooperation didn’t include access to Stargate Command’s computers.”

    “Not as far as any data related to the Stargate itself was concerned, sir.”

    Now that was a relief. With the power discrepancy between the Etherians and the United States - or Earth as a whole - as blatant as it was, Carter as Etrapta’s best friend could have copied the entire database in the Mountain and the brass would be forced to smile and nod in response. Though they would likely try their best to punish her in some unofficial way afterwards - that was how things were done, after all. And while Jack would still back Carter if she had done that, he really didn’t need that kind of trouble.

    Of course, some unofficial disapproval-signalling would likely be done anyway, but that was something Jack was familiar with. He could easily shield Carter from that - he had done it for Daniel before, usually after a too-honest briefing of a senator or general.

    Still, better check - only so he knew if he had to lie or not. “So, they didn’t get our address list and code?”

    Was that surprise that he knew computer-speak? He wasn’t that old or hide-bound. But Carter nodded. “Entrapta knew the addresses used on previous missions already. With a source of power, they could, in theory, dial manually.”

    It was a lot more complicated than that; even Jack knew that - Carter had explained it once. Stellar drift something, updated data, and the Etherians would want an iris as well to keep the gate secure. But it was a fig leaf to hide behind from the brass and politicians. “But they would still profit if they had our own address list?”

    Carter’s lips twitched. “Yes, sir.”

    “So, the US government still has a bargaining chip - or bribe - once they sort out things with the United Nations.” Good. That would keep most generals and politicians happy. And if the United Nations managed to win that particular struggle, Jack doubted that anyone would mind if, somehow, the Etherians got the database unofficially. Quite the contrary, actually.

    “I would not presume to second-guess our government, sir.”

    He rolled his eyes at her. “Don’t overdo it, Carter.”

    “Yes, sir.”

    “So… when will the Etherians have their Stargate operational?”

    “I would estimate it would take them a week to set up security and the control unit and power supply - provided that there are no issues related to Etheira’s political or military needs, sir.”

    “You mean as long as the Etherians don’t have to deal with the same problems we have,” Jack summed up.

    She nodded in return.

    He leaned back, folding his hands over his stomach. “So, they know their gate address?”

    “Yes, sir.” Carter raised her chin a little.

    He got the hint. Best not to ask too many questions about how exactly the Eherians had managed that without records. “Well, everything seems to be in order then, Captain.”

    She nodded again.

    “Now, there’s another task for you, Captain.”

    “Sir?” She cocked her head a little to the side.

    “The traditional Stargate Command New Year’s Party is coming up.” He smiled when he caught her eyes widening. “And since I have no doubt that we’ll invite the Etherians this year, I think we need your help organising it, so we don’t accidentally offend anyone.” And Daniel’s, but he would consider that a treat.

    “Yes, sir.”

    She narrowed her eyes at him, and his smile grew wider. Yes, officially, everything was fine, but unofficially, some punishment was still merited for doing this behind his back instead of telling him.

    And, more importantly, for getting caught by him.

    *****​
     
  3. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    More than one, I hope.
     
  4. Transreal Clouden

    Transreal Clouden Know what you're doing yet?

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    And more politics happened. Also Horde remnants that's big.

    Seriously though nice chapter.

    I was specifically referring to the thing with magically protecting Jack's genome but yeah the Tok'ra alliance will change a lot of things.
     
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  5. Tiktog

    Tiktog Experienced.

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    No more mini jack.
     
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  6. Threadmarks: Chapter 70: Going Home Part 2
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 70: Going Home Part 2

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, United States of America, Earth, December 27th, 1998

    There was the Stargate. It was still closed - well, the iris was closed, and the gate was inactive - but that wouldn’t be the case for much longer. Soon, the gate would be dialling - and they would be able to return to Etheria. To their friends. To their home.

    Adora couldn’t wait. And her friends couldn’t wait either. Glimmer was alternating between staring at the gate as if she wanted to teleport through it right away and glaring at the technicians operating the gate as if that would make them divert from their schedule. Bow and Entrapta were standing before a screen carried by Emily, giving Micah and Castaspella some unneeded advice - just today, they had already checked the gate’s setup at least three times. Hordak was standing to the side and behind Entrapta, outside the angle where the camera would pick him up, but he was looking at the gate as well when he thought no one was paying attention. And Catra was…

    …perched on a computer console as if it was a wall and doing her best to fake being bored.

    She was trying too hard. Adora shook her head with a smile and wandered over. “Hey.”

    Catra turned her head to look at her. “That’s my line.”

    “It’ll open soon,” Adora said, nodding towards the gate.

    “I know.” Catra cocked her head, then sniffed the air. “Someone’s got a tuna sandwich.”

    “And it’s theirs,” Adora told her.

    “I know.” Catra rolled her eyes. “I’m just making small talk.”

    “Ah.” Adora nodded. “So, I don’t need t make a run to the cantine and get another one?”

    Her lover snorted. “If I wanted one, I’d go myself. Besides, we have a feast waiting for us in the palace.”

    “And you packed a crate full of the cans,” Adora added.

    “As trade goods.” Catra scoffed. “People will pay anything I ask for a taste of Earth. I’ll rake in the cash! It’ll be even better than the time we found that Alliance ration on the training ground.”

    “Ah, yes.” They had been able to trade for a dozen of the good Horde rations. But they wouldn’t have done that if they had known how good it was. Still… “You could have picked any kind of food you wanted. But you picked tuna.”

    Catra stuck her tongue out at her. “I wanted something that was cheap and that I liked. Just in case I have to demonstrate that it’s safe.”

    “Of course.” Adora grinned at her. She would be surprised if Catra sold half the cans - it wasn’t as if she needed money. If they needed anything, they could just ask Glimmer.

    “Clear the gate area!”

    It was starting! Adora turned around while Catra jumped down from the console, and both of them hurried to the waiting area in front of the gate. They would be home soon!

    Their friends joined them as well. Even Emily seemed to walk more quickly as she followed Entrapta.

    And there was Jack, walking over to them. “Excited?”

    Catra snorted, but Adora nodded.

    “Do you expect us to get shot?” Glimmer asked, looking pointedly at the rifle at his side. “In Bright Moon?”

    “What? Oh, no. But regulations are regulations. No unarmed gate travel during wartime! Never know when you might end up somewhere else.” Jack grinned as the rest of SG-1 formed up next to him.

    “Like on Etheria,” Entrapta chimed in. “Though the chance that there’s a malfunction is very low, in my estimate.”

    “And we’ll test the gate with a bot first,” Bow said.

    Emily took a step back, and Entrapta beamed at her. “Not you, of course! We’ve got a spy bot for that!”

    The bot - a dumb bot, Entrapta had reassured them - was standing in front of the gate ramp already.

    “Let’s get on with it,” Catra muttered.

    As if the technician - Sergeant Siler - had been waiting for her comment, the activation sequence started. Adora took a deep breath as the iris opened, the gate ring spun and the chevrons became locked in. One… two… three…

    Soon, all seven were locked in, and the gate formed.

    “Go, Spy-Twelve!” Entrapta commanded, and the bot walked up the ramp, then disappeared through the gate.

    Everyone turned to look at the screen Emily was still carrying. Adora could see the bot walking down the ramp their friends had erected for the gate.

    “It looks good… running a diagnosis… yes. No detectable structural changes,” Entrapta announced.

    “I assume that means we’re good to go,” Catra said.

    Adora nodded - and stepped onto the ramp. It was time to go home.

    A few quick steps took her right to the gate. This was… just another gate trip, she reminded herself as she took a deep breath. She had gone through Stargates many times by now.

    But it was also a return home. Smiling, she walked into the gate.

    A familiar but still disorienting moment later, she blinked - she was outside, in the sunlight - oh, the air smelt like…

    “Dad!”

    “Glimmer!”

    Adora stepped to the side when Glimmer charged down the ramp, straight into Micah’s arms.

    All their friends were there! She had known that - they had been talking to them every day to help set up the gate - but seeing them was different. There was Netossa, Spinnerella, Mermista with Sea Hawk, Perfuma and Scorpia, and…

    “Adora!” A shadow fell on her.

    Yes! Swift Wind landed in front of her, right on the ramp.

    “I missed you so much!” he told her.

    “I missed you too,” she replied as she buried her face into the side of his neck.

    “Watch the wings!” Adora heard Catra cry out.

    She felt the wings flap - once; Swift Wind didn’t lift off - but she was busy hugging him.

    “Whoa!” That was Bow. But the ramp was wide enough for him to go around Swift Wind.

    “Our sacred bond was strained but not broken even though you travelled to the ends of the universe!”

    “We didn’t even leave the Galaxy!” Catra commented.

    “Wildcat!”

    “Hey, ScoOOF! Lemme go!”

    “No!”

    “Hello!”

    Adora released Swift Wind and looked around. It seemed everyone had decided to step onto the ramp - which wasn’t bare metal, as in Stargate Command, but made from stone inlaid with crystal, she noticed. Bow was hugging his Dads, Catra was trying - and failing - to squirm out of Scorpia’s arms, Perfuma was beaming and hanging out flower necklaces to everyone, Glimmer and Micah were still hugging, and…

    …everyone needed to leave the ramp since Entrapta had just arrived, followed by Hordak, which meant Emily would be next.

    “Whoa!”

    “Watch out!”

    The ramp definitely wasn’t big enough for everyone and Emily.

    “Mount up!” Swift Wind called out as he stepped off the ramp - and hovered in place.

    Adora slid on his back, and he took off.

    “Hey!” Catra called after her. “Let me go, Scorpia!”

    “No!”

    “I missed you so much,” Swift Wind repeated himself as they cleared the tops of the trees surrounding the gate.

    Adora looked down. The Stargate had been placed on the edge of the Whispering Wood - in Bright Moon’s territory but close enough to the actual woods that there were no villages nearby. And it was mounted in a frame that would allow it to be flipped and lowered into the ground. Not quite an iris, but it would do.

    “We can’t fly off yet,” she told her friend. “I need to greet everyone first.” And introduce - well, reintroduce - SG-1.

    “I haven’t seen you in months!” Swift Wind complained. But he banked and turned around, then started to descend in wide circles.

    “We’ll fly after that,” she reassured him as she spotted SG-1 arriving through the gate.

    “I’ll hold you to that!”

    “You know, millions of little girls would gleefully kill us all to take your place,” Jack told her as soon as Swift Wind touched down next to the ramp.

    “I don’t let just anyone ride me!” Swift Wind replied indignantly.

    Adora patted his flank before dismounting. She shouldn’t have left for so long. Then she got to hug all her friends. Even if they didn’t want to be hugged.

    “Everyone who hasn’t met them yet: This is SG-1. Colonel Jack O’Neill, Captain Samantha Carter, Dr Daniel Jackson and Teal’c,” Glimmer announced after she finally pulled back from her dad. “They’re our friends and allies.”

    “And lab and science buddies!” Entrapta added with a beaming smile. “Sam and I built a spacelab! We can do experiments there that would be too dangerous for Earth!”

    “Ah.” Sea Hawk nodded. “They probably have no empty lots left on a planet with six billion people and vast oceans.”

    “Actually, we have a lot of deserts,” Daniel said. “The population is mostly concentrated in several areas.”

    “They have cities that have millions of people,” Catra added. “And more metal and factories than the Fright Zone had.”

    “Wow!” Scorpia blinked.

    “Really? Do you need help with restoring nature there as well?” Perfuma asked. “I’ve learned a lot dealing with the aftermath of the war in the Scorpio Kingdom.”

    “Ah, we still need those cities. You know, for living in them, working in them…” Jack said with a fake smile - Adora could tell. “Please don’t turn them into plants.”

    “Oh, but I can grow living buildings!” Perfuma perked up. “A city in harmony with nature.”

    Jack stared at her.

    Sam came to his rescue. “We have laws about introducing new species to an area - in the past, such things often caused small disasters. Any such project would require careful and extensive planning and experiments - and the consent of the local authorities.”

    “Well, of course, but…”

    Swift Wind stamped the ground. “Let’s go flying!”

    Adora looked at her friends. At Catra.

    Her lover snorted. “Go fly, or he’ll never shut up.”

    Swift Wind snorted at her before turning to Adora. “You heard her. Let’s fly!”

    She wanted to, but…

    “Just be back in an hour or two for the meeting,” Glimmer told her. “We’ve got this handled.”

    Well, with her friends’ blessings… Adora beamed at them, then quickly climbed on Swift Wind’s back.

    “I have so much to tell you!” he gushed as they soared up, flying high above the ground. “We’ve been making great inroads in freeing my people from slavery on Etheria! Some kingdoms are still resisting, but it’s just a question of time. But there was that one princess…”

    As he talked, Adora leaned back and smiled, looking at the land below, Bright Moon in the distance, the Whispering Woods…

    She was finally home again.

    *****​

    Gate Area, Near Bright Moon, Etheria, December 27th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    Samantha Carter watched as the winged unicorn - the alicorn, a girl’s voice in her head insisted - took off and climbed up. Yes, millions of little girls would indeed love to be in Adora’s place. And many boys, women and men as well. Maybe even including one Samantha Carter, but that was neither here nor there.

    “Well, nothing’s better proof that you’re not in Kansas any more than seeing a princess ride a flying horse,” the Colonel commented.

    “There’s only one flying horse on Etheria,” Catra commented.

    “But one is enough. He’s rather… memorable, after all,” he retorted.

    “And pushy. And needy.” Catra snorted.

    “Takes one to know one,” Glimmer said.

    Catra seemed to ignore her, shading her eyes as she looked at the horse and rider in the sky. “Well, they’ll be a while.”

    “Alright, I’ve told Stargate Command that we arrived safely,” the Colonel said. A moment later, the gate went inactive.

    “Lower the gate!” Someone - Netossa, Sam remembered the princess’s name - called out, and the gate started to tilt back, slowly being lowered into a ready-made pit.

    “We have to build a proper iris,” Entrapta commented as she watched. “And better defences.”

    Sam nodded. They had gone over this, after all.

    “And speaking of defences…” The Colonel looked around. “This is a little open, isn’t it?”

    “Fewer opportunities for anyone to hide,” Netossa told him. “And we have it under guard.”

    Sam could see bots and soldiers forming a perimeter.

    “And if everything else fails, there’s a frigate in stationary orbit above us, ready to bombard the entire area,” the princess added, looking directly at the Colonel.

    “That’s going to leave a crater,” he commented. He glanced up, Sam noted, as did she, even though she didn’t think she’d be able to spot the frigate at this distance without a telescope.

    “As would using a bomb.” The princess shrugged. “It’s just temporary anyway - we’ll build a gatehouse here once Entrapta finishes the control and power supply unit.” She grinned. “More guards, bots and automated defences, as well as a bunch of sorceresses from Mystacore. No one’s going to get through here.”

    Netossa was one of the most experienced princesses, together with her wife, Sam reminded herself.

    “We’ll get right on that!” Entrapta said. “After I’ve checked in with the bots. Some of them will need special maintenance and upgrades.”

    “Horde-trained technicians should be perfectly able to maintain and repair any bot produced so far,” Hordak commented.

    Entrapta pouted at him. “But no one’s perfect, so I should be checking their work.”

    Emily beeped in agreement.

    Sam smiled - her friend was correct, but that wasn’t the only or even main reason Entrapta wanted to check the bots. They were her friends. Or family, in a way. “We need to reassess them anyway, to incorporate them into the gate defences,” she said.

    “Yes!” Entrapta agreed, nodding repeatedly. “Can’t skimp here - this is the gate to Etheria.” She cocked her head. “It’s too bad we didn’t get the Tok’ra’s tunnelling technology yet - we could prepare a complete underground base in a day!”

    Which would be safer than a Stargate placed in a base above ground. Both against infiltrators/invasions as well as attacks from the outside. Sooner or later, they’d move the gate on Etheria underground; Sam was sure of that. The advantages were just too great.

    But not today.

    “You mentioned their tunnelling technology,” Netossa said, nodding. “But an underground base also means that if someone took it and had access to that technology, they could easily use it to move from the gate undetected.”

    “Only if they manage to take the gate without raising an alert,” Spinnerella objected.

    “And you can detect the tunnels using seismic sensors,” Sam pointed out. “Or magic.”

    The princess nodded, but with a frown. “That’ll make the whole base more expensive than planned.”

    “That’s the case with most projects,” King Micah chimed in with a smile. “We’ll shoulder the costs anyway - this is too important.”

    Seeing how he was beaming at Glimmer, Sam couldn’t help feeling that the king was probably as concerned about the fact that the Stargate would allow his daughter to return home whenever she wanted as he was about the security issues. She wasn’t Daniel, but such a view seemed quite typical for the Etherians.

    “Anyway,” King Micah continued, “Let’s move to the palace now. We have a lot to discuss, but we should get comfortable first. We’ve prepared a small meal as well, in case you’re hungry.” He grinned. “You’ve travelled a long way, after all.”

    “Oh! Do you have tiny food prepared?” Entrapta leaned forward.

    “Of course!”

    “Yes!” Sam’s friend beamed at him, then grabbed Hordak’s arm before turning to Sam. “Let’s go!”

    “We also have normal-sized food,” the king added with a chuckle.

    “Oh! I’ve missed homemade food!” Glimmer eyed the spire of Brightmoon, visible in the distance, as if she wanted to teleport ahead, Sam noticed.

    She probably could, Sam knew. They were on a planet full of magic, she reminded herself. Etheria might only have a population of fifty million, but between the sorceresses of Mystacore and the various princesses, they would have the most magically active individuals of any planet in the sector.

    She wouldn’t even think of them as ‘magic-users’. The Colonel wouldn’t stop cracking Dungeons and Dragons jokes for a long time.

    “Let’s go then. We’ve prepared skiffs for the trip.” King Micah gestured towards several of the flying vehicles - hovering vehicles, Sam corrected herself; they couldn’t fly very high - in the background.

    For a change, the Colonel simply agreed without making a snarky comment. It was almost magical.

    *****​

    Bright Moon, Etheria, December 27th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    Bright Moon was the same as always, Catra thought as their skiffs entered the main gate. OK, usually, the people didn’t line up to cheer whenever Glimmer returned home, but she had been away for months, so that was to be expected.

    But the city itself looked the same. Same buildings, same streets. No new construction - well, she could see a handyman waving from a half-dismantled balcony, but that looked more like maintenance. And the people looked the same as well. Well-fed and happy. Happier than usual, but that was likely because they were focusing on Glimmer instead of Catra.

    And while it wasn’t really home - that was Adora - and she knew that the people still resented her, and with good reasons, it still was… nice to be back. Sort of.

    “It’s safe.”

    She turned her head to frown at Scorpia. “Of course, it’s safe. It’s Bright Moon. Even we never managed to take it.” Though they had come close to cracking the shield protecting it. A small reminder that Scorpia had been with her then and there might also do some good - Catra didn’t want to get her ribs cracked by another too-powerful hug. It was also undignified; she could already hear O’Neill’s jokes.

    Her friend kept beaming at her, though. And her pincer twitched a little. “Yes. And it would take an army to crack its defences.”

    “Or a small fleet in orbit,” Catra pointed out. “Maybe a squadron.”

    “Do you have to talk about how to destroy the city?” Perfuma, sitting next to Scorpia, leaned forward and turned her head to pout at both of them. “You’re finally back! That’s a time for celebration, not… gloomy things!”

    “I’m just pointing out that Bright Moon is safe from ground assaults, but we can’t get complacent since now there’s also an orbital threat to worry about,” Catra retorted.

    “But we have a fleet in orbit. A fleet and a half - or one-third, actually, I think,” Perfuma said.

    But it wasn’t Bright Moon’s fleet. Catra didn’t say that out loud. The Horde remnants were their allies - WrongHordak was a close friend, as far as Catra could tell. But as the recent attack had proven, there were more clones out there. And she had no idea what the rest of Second Fleet thought. Or if First Fleet’s remains were still focused on Hordak.

    She couldn’t help glancing up. Yes, an orbital bombardment would probably raze Bright Moon. Sure, the shield would hold a long time, but they had nothing to shoot back.

    She snorted. In a way, Bright Moon’s situation wasn’t that different from the United States’s.

    “Don’t worry, Wildcat! Adora will be back soon!”

    Catra snorted again. Her friend had misread her mood. “I know,” she said, leaning back and watching the palace gates as they approached.

    “I bet!” Scorpia was beaming at her. As was Perfuma. Their smiles looked eerily similar, Catra noticed.

    “So…” Perfuma looked at the skiff ahead of them, where SG-1 was riding with Glimmer and Micah. “Did you make more friends on Earth?”

    Catra refrained from frowning. She should have expected that question from Perfuma. Though Scorpia looked like she wanted to know as well. And Catra couldn’t tell if Scorpia would be happy or jealous if they had more close friends. Or both. So she shrugged. “We mainly worked with SG-1. And spent time with them,” she added when Perfuma opened her mouth.

    “Ah.” Scorpia nodded.

    “What about the Earth leaders?” Perfuma asked.

    “We had some dinners with them, lots of meetings…” Catra shrugged again. “But things are different there. Their leaders are all much older, and… they don’t really do things like we do.”

    “What do you mean?” Scorpia looked puzzled.

    They hadn’t gone over that before, had they? Not in-depth, at least. Daniel would explain it better, but Catra would still give it a shot. “Their leaders just lead their countries. That’s all they do. And they don’t, ah, hang out with us. SG-1 does.”

    “Ah.” Scorpia nodded again.

    Perfuma frowned. “That doesn’t seem very friendly.”

    “It’s not how they do things. They’re different. Though some of their meetings are like the Princess Prom, just without dancing and less flirting.” She grinned.

    “They sound very serious,” Perfuma remarked. “Unlike Colonel O’Neill.”

    “Oh, yes.” Catra nodded.

    “So, you didn’t meet any new close friends?” Scorpia asked.

    Catra shook her head. “Entrapta met a Tok’ra scientist, Anise, and her host, Freya, and they and Sam seem close,” she said. “But we haven’t really had the opportunity to meet many Earth people outside meetings and such, except for SG-1. Though maybe we’ll meet more people at the Stargate Command New Year’s Party.”

    “Oh? A party?” Scorpia smiled.

    “Great! When is it? After you restored the Stargate, right?” Perfuma leaned forward with an eager expression. A very eager expression. “What gifts should we bring? What’s the dress code? Do they have a dress code?”

    Catra blinked. Perfuma expected to attend the party, she realised. Although… technically, the invitation O’Neill had passed on hadn’t really specified who was invited and who was not. He had just told them that they were invited. And since they were representing the Princess Alliance on Earth…

    Catra grinned widely. “Well, I have to ask them about gifts. I know they have a custom of exchanging gifts on Christmas, but that’s within a family and already past. And we didn’t ask about a dress code either.”

    Oh, she couldn’t wait to drop this on O’Neill!

    *****​

    The palace still looks like someone stole it straight from a Disney movie, Jack O’Neill thought as they stepped through the gate. Clean, shining marble, wide hallways, tall - very tall - ceilings. “Anytime now, they’ll break out in a song,” he muttered as he looked at the lined-up guards presenting their spears.

    “What did you say?” Daniel asked. He, of course, was looking around with a big smile on his face as if he was seeing everything for the first time.

    “Nothing,” Jack replied. “Just glad to see the palace’s still standing. What with the battle against Horde fleets and all, you know?”

    Daniel’s face fell, making Jack feel guilty. A little, at least. “Ah, yes. But it was just a small, ah, detachment, right? No real threat to Etheria. And it never came close to the planet.” And he was smiling at Jack again. “In any case, it’s great to be back! This is such a fascinating culture! Unlike most planets we’ve visited, it’s not clearly derived from an ancient Earth culture!”

    “Just don’t treat the population as some exhibit or specimen,” Jack told him.

    “I would never!” Daniel frowned at him.

    Jack grinned, but he had been only half-joking. Daniel could be a little too enthusiastic sometimes. Of course, he was a good friend of Glimmer and the others, and, seeing how the people had been cheering at their queen’s return, that should keep him out of trouble, but a little reminder never hurt.

    Oh - the King was walking towards him. It looked like he had finally been able to pry himself out of the arms of his daughter. Jack once again felt guilty for his thought - the man hadn’t seen Glimmer for months, so it was only understandable that he’d react like that. Even as a king.

    “We’ve prepared your usual quarters,” King Micah told them with a smile.

    “Our ‘usual quarters’? We’ve come up in the world!” Jack said, grinning at him.

    “Jack!” Daniel gasped next to him.

    But the King laughed. “Well, we expect you to visit very often, now that we’ll soon have an easy way to travel to Earth and back.”

    The Chair Force jokes would probably never end if that got out. Once that got out. Jack nodded anyway. Who cared what the crayon eaters thought? “Thank you. Although I expect the Alliance will send a diplomatic delegation soon enough.” As soon as the Etherians accepted the request, actually.

    “Of course. Although, as I understand, you are planning to build an embassy in the future.”

    “Yes, Dad,” Glimmer cut in. “As we told you. But we can sort this out in the meeting later.”

    Jack had seen younger officers do similar things when they felt their older, more experienced subordinates were undercutting them, but judging by the way Gimmer grabbed her father’s arm, it was probably more that the girl wanted to have her father to herself instead of dealing with their guests.

    “Yes.” Jack nodded. “I think I still know the way.”

    “Don’t worry - I’ll guide you there.” Catra had somehow snuck up on them. And the way she was grinning widely…

    Jack narrowed his eyes at her. “You’re volunteering?”

    She got the joke and laughed. “Yes. Because a question came up.” She pointed at the huge Scorpion-woman and the plant princess behind her. “Scorpia and Perfuma want to know if there’s a dress code at the New Year’s Party and what gifts they should bring.”

    Jack forced himself to keep smiling as Catra’s grin grew even wider. They also wanted to attend the party? He noticed that others were paying attention as well - all of the princesses? Oh, for crying out loud!

    “The New Year’s Party?” King Micah asked. Not him too!

    “Yes,” Glimmer said. “It’s held by Stargate Command. And Jack was nice enough to invite us.”

    “It’s not a big affair,” Jack quickly explained. “Since many in Stargate Command have to work on the holidays - we have to keep the lights going and watch the Stargate, you know? - and can’t travel to meet friends and family, we generally hold a small party for them.” And for those who had no family, were estranged from them or couldn’t visit them because they were held prisoners by the Goa’uld. Which accounted for all or, now that Carter and her father had reconciled, most of SG-1.

    “That sounds wonderful!” King Micah beamed at him.

    “Yes!” Scorpia nodded far too enthusiastically. “Like the parties we threw in the Horde, only with good food and friends, instead of rations and subordinates.”

    “Yeah, right, exactly,” Jack’s smile grew a few more teeth as he looked at the grinning Catra.

    “So, what’s the dress code?” Perfuma the plant princess asked with wide eyes and a wider smile.

    “Well…” They didn’t have one, actually, as far as Jack knew - soldiers and their spouses were expected to know to dress appropriately. “Nothing too fancy,” he said. Oh! He smiled. “But I’m no the best person to ask about this - Captain Carter here is actually helping with organising it, so she can answer all your questions!” He gestured at his subordinate, whose look of shock was quickly turning into a glare aimed at him.

    “Sam!”

    “I didn’t know that you were organising the party!”

    “Oh, you are? Can we help? I wanted to see if we could build a mix-bot, like in that movie we saw!” Entrapta beamed at Carter.

    Who, Jack noted, blinked, then slowly smiled. “Oh, I am sure that can be arranged.”

    Maybe dumping that on my second-in-command hadn’t been a good idea, Jack thought and suppressed the urge to wince as the princesses and other royalty gathered around Carter. He just knew that Hammond and the other generals would blame him for turning their office party into a high-profile event…

    *****​

    Above Bright Moon, Etheria, December 27th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “I’ve missed this,” Adora said, looking down at the fields surrounding Bright Moon from Swift Wind’s back. They were high enough so she could see most of the Whispering Woods - which reminded her that she had to visit Madame Razz once she had the time. She could also see the farm they had visited with Jack and someone moving over the fields there, but she couldn’t tell who it was.

    “...and I’ve had to personally free more horses since the princess was dragging her feet.”

    What did he say? “You invaded a kingdom?” Adora asked.

    “Micah said it wasn’t an invasion,” her friend said as he banked to avoid a small cloud.

    “But you went into another kingdom and…” She couldn’t say ‘stole’; Swift Wind didn’t consider horses as property. “...freed horses?”

    “Yes. They were keeping them leashed to carts and ploughs, can you imagine?” Swift Wind turned his head to look at her with a - for him - shocked expression. “It was slavery, plain and simple!”

    So he had raided another kingdom. Probably more than one. “And where did you take the horses?” He wouldn’t just release them, would he? They would just be recaptured, wouldn’t they?

    “Micah had them relocated to pastures in Bright Moon.”

    That was… concerning, actually. “Ah, OK,” she said. “How did you get them to Bright Moon?” He couldn’t carry them away after all - well, maybe he could carry a pony if someone helped and tied it to his back, but…

    “I led them,” Swift Wind said matter-of-factly. “I flew ahead, and they followed. Although I had to convince the stallion that I knew what I was doing.”

    Adora narrowed her eyes. He was staring at the ground a bit too attentively as he said that and avoided looking at her. Still, it was probably a minor thing, even if he thought it was important. There was something else that was bugging her more. “So, you’re working with Micah on this?”

    “I lead the freed slaves to him, and he sends them to pastures.”

    Adora suppressed a sigh. She had to talk to Micah about this. As much as she loved Swift Wind, you couldn’t just go and raid other kingdoms. And sooner or later, someone would stop Swift Wind. He was magical and smart, but, ultimately, he was a flying horse, not a princess. Well, he was probably as powerful as some princesses she had heard of, but if he were to fight any of Adora’s friends, she’d bet on them, not him. He must have gotten lucky so far.

    Or, she realised with a gasp, the other kingdoms thought he was acting on She-Ra’s orders! Swift Wind was her magical steed, after all. And her friend.

    Oh, no! What if Micah thought the same? They had never talked about what Swift Wind was doing, had they? She really needed to talk to Micah. And the others.

    She took a last look at the land below her, and the mountains, woods and glittering sea in the far distance, then sighed and patted Swift Wind’s neck. “We need to land.”

    *****​

    Bright Moon, Etheria, December 27th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “We’ve been invading other kingdoms?”

    Adora winced a little at the volume of Glimmer’s… well, it was technically a question. It was a good thing that they were in her living room with the doors closed or the entire palace probably would have heard her.

    “It’s not an invasion,” Micah said.

    “I’d say it’s a raid,” Catra commented from the couch. She was grinning - apparently, she thought this was hilarious. “Sneaking over the border and stealing livestock.”

    “Invasion, raid - it doesn’t matter! We’re attacking other countries - condoning raids by Swift Wind,” Glimmer added with a glare aimed at Micah before he could correct her again.

    He closed his mouth and looked a little sheepish.

    “You’ve gone full bandit queen!” Catra laughed. “Or is that pirate queen? We have to ask Mermista if you can give letters of marque to horses.”

    “Letters of marque?” Micah asked.

    He hadn’t seen the Earth pirate movies, Adora reminded herself as Bow explained the term. Apparently, Salineas didn’t issue such letters but formally commissioned the ships that raided Horde transports. Which worked out the same, as far as Adora could tell.

    “Whatever!” Glimmer paced in front of them, gesticulating. “This is a diplomatic crisis!” She turned to glare at Micah again. “Why didn’t you stop him?”

    “Ah…” Micah smiled weakly. “Technically, what he does outside our borders - or the borders of our allies - isn’t a concern of ours?”

    “That…” Glimmer shook her head. “This has to stop!”

    “Yes,” Catra agreed, chuckling still. “You’re going to run out of pastures to put horses on if this continues. And all the manure the herds must produce…” She grinned at the glare sent her way.

    “It’s not funny!”

    Adora had to agree with Glimmer.

    Catra, of course, disagreed. With a shrug, she said: “It kind of is. Everyone must think that you’re backing this.”

    “We compensate the owners for the loss,” Micah said.

    “Everyone thinks we are behind this!” Glimmer snapped. “And the Alliance! Why hasn’t anyone stopped him?”

    “Well…” Micah looked at Adora.

    Oh, no! “Because everyone thinks he’s doing it for me,” Adora said, sighing. “Or that if they stop him, I’ll get angry at them.”

    Micah nodded, confirming her fears.

    “Well, tell him to stop. At least he’s only been hitting the smaller kingdoms,” Catra said, looking at the map on the table where all the raids had been marked. “None of them are members of the Princess Alliance. And they’re too weak to matter militarily.”

    “But there are quite a few of them,” Bow pointed out.

    “Yes,” Glimmer agreed. “And that is going to be a problem now that we have to decide how to handle the Stargate on Etheria.”

    Adora winced. She hadn’t even thought of that.

    *****​

    Gate Area, Near Bright Moon, Etheria, December 27th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “Alright… the converter is connected! Wanna test it now?”

    Samantha Carter nodded at Entrapta’s question. “Yes.” She took a step back from the crystal array that would provide the magic power to be converted. Not that she expected or feared that the array would explode, but it was the unexpected disaster that tended to kill you. “Ready?” She glanced at her friend.

    Entratpa had also stepped back. “Yes!”

    “Powering up.” Sam pressed the main power button. The array started to hum, and the various lights on the control panel lit up, all indicators showing green. Then the main unit started to glow softly, red hues slowly turning brighter as the power increased.

    “Converter’s working!” Entrapta announced. “Power outflow… steady. Steady. Capacitors charging up.”

    Sam raised her head and looked at the capacitors. Those were an Earth design, familiar but also looking strangely out of place next to both the Stargate and the Etherian gear.

    But they worked, and that was what counted. Sam watched as the charging indicators changed until they lit up green - the power necessary to run the gate had been stored in them. She let out a soft sigh - the first step to get the Stargate on Etheria operational had been achieved. The easiest step, too - but they were ahead of schedule.

    Of course, they were ahead of schedule because Sam had used the excuse of having to work on the gate to escape the gaggle of princesses asking about the New Year’s Party; the original schedule would have had them start working on the gate tomorrow.

    Sam felt a little guilty for asking Entrapta to start their work immediately instead of letting her reconnect with her friends - especially since Sam had known that Entrapta would agree. On the other hand, her friend loved the work, and establishing the Stargate was of crucial importance. Not the least since SG-1 was stuck here as well until the gate was active.

    A fact that Sam had been counting on to get out from wasting time on the New Year’s Party assignment that the Colonel had saddled her with. She was a scientist, not a party planner! And her work on the gate control unit was much more important than preparing an oversized office party.

    But now the office party was set to become a major diplomatic event, with the top leaders of the Princess Alliance all going to attend. Sam was torn between a little satisfaction that the Colonel’s punishment had backfired on him and dread that she would have to actually spend quite the effort on planning the party, probably having to rope Daniel into it as well.

    She shook her head as the array powered down, then set the capacitors to slowly release their charge.

    “So, do you think we’ll get a mixing bot ready in time for the party? If we continue to finish ahead of schedule, I think we’ll have enough time, right?”

    Apparently, Sam couldn’t even escape the party planning here. She forced herself to smile - it wasn’t Entrapta’s fault that Sam had been assigned to this farce. It was the Colonel’s fault. And just because she had done what she knew the Colonel would have done himself if he had known - doing it without his knowledge had only served to help protect him!

    But her friend had asked a question. “Yes, I think we’ll be able to finish the bot - at least the construction part,” she said. They could reuse the schematics and parts from one of Entrapta’s servant bots. If they could serve tea, they could pour any other liquid as well. “But we will have to see how we can program it with the necessary recipes.” And they’d have to calibrate the sensors so it could check that the liquids it would be mixing were of the correct type - it would have to be refilled during the party, and Sam wasn’t keen on supervising that kind of work during a party, so it was best if it didn’t have to rely on a competent operator. Alcohol and competency didn’t tend to mix well in her experience.

    “Oh, right. I’ll have to ask my cook and Glimmer’s cooks about their recipes. And the others as well! Although probably not the former Horde cooks - I don’t know if their stills are still active.”

    Oh. Sam hadn’t even considered using a bot to make Etherian cocktails. If only because importing the ingredients from Etheria without permission would probably violate not just regulations but the law. She winced. “That might be a bit complicated.”

    “Oh?”

    Sighing once more, Sam started to explain.

    It was a good thing they were alone here. If her peers in the scientific community could see her now, dealing with the legality of a booze-producing bot instead of advancing physics, her reputation might never recover.

    *****​
     
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2023
  7. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Yeah, now they can sort out the trouble at home.

    Yeah, that's not likely to happen.
     
  8. macdjord

    macdjord Well worn.

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    Starfox5: Minor anachronism: the term 'alicorn' for 'winged unicorn' is a product of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. In '98, 'alicorn' was just an obscure word for the notional substance unicorn horns were made of.

    What about putting the gate in space? Convert one of the Horde cruisers and you've got the most secure base possible.

    Period after 'orbit'.
     
    Starfox5 likes this.
  9. Threadmarks: Chapter 71: Going Home Part 3
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 71: Going Home Part 3

    Bright Moon, Etheria, December 27th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “...we can’t just let anyone use the Stargate! It’s a crucial resource for the war against the Goa’uld!”

    Catra nodded in agreement with Glimmer’s argument, then caught herself. Just because Sparkles was correct didn’t mean that Catra had to publicly acknowledge it.

    “But as with Earth’s Stargate, the gate doesn’t belong to a single kingdom or faction but to the entire planet,” Adora said. “We can’t just take it for ourselves.”

    Catra sighed as Adora and Glimmer stared at each other. Her lover, well… she wasn’t exactly wrong, but they were at war.

    “We’re at war. We can’t let anyone else take it,” Glimmer shot back. “It’s not about owning the gate - but we have to control it.”

    “And why should the gate belong to everyone?” Mermista frowned. “The Princess Alliance is the reason the other kingdoms still exist. We fought; they didn’t do anything. If we hadn’t beaten Horde Prime, he would have destroyed Etheria.” She scoffed. “I don’t see why we should let people who didn’t care enough to fight the Horde have a say about who gets to use the gate. Or control it,” she added with an eye-roll.

    Catra narrowed her eyes. If not for Adora, Etheria would have been destroyed. Twice over. By Horde Prime and the Heart of Etheria.

    Adora shook her head. “But that doesn’t give us the right to rule Etheria. We are better than that!”

    “And we kind of set an example when we insisted on approaching Earth instead of the USA,” Bow said. “Even though the USA was the only country fighting the Goa’uld.”

    Glimmer scoffed. “That’s not the same! They kept the Stargate and the entire war a secret!”

    Catra nodded. That had been very short-sighted of them. But… it still was a precedent. Sort of.

    “But we have to live up to our example,” Perfuma said. “How can people trust us if we don’t act according to our own ideals?”

    Scorpia, no surprise, nodded in support of her. “Yeah. Just because we’re more powerful than the other kingdoms doesn’t mean we should just push them around, you know?” She shrugged her armoured shoulders and spread her pincers.

    Catra glanced at Adora. Her lover was wincing - no doubt thinking about Swift Wind’s campaign to ‘free’ all horses.

    “But we shouldn’t let them push us around either,” Glimmer retorted. “Besides, someone has to control the Stargate, and the Princess Alliance is the obvious choice. We’re the biggest organisation on Etheria.”

    “And you’re composed of the most powerful kingdoms,” Catra pointed out. “Earth has the ‘United Nations’, but they are controlled by their most powerful countries.”

    Adora frowned at her, but she was just telling the truth. Earth was controlled by its most powerful countries. Of course, her lover didn’t accept that. “That doesn’t mean we have to follow their example,” Adora insisted.

    “But as Glimmer said: we can’t just let anyone use the gate. Not during a war - it’s our biggest weakness,” Netossa said. “We need to control the Stargate as much as we need to control Etheria’s orbit. Just imagine what would happen if the Goa’uld manage to take control of a kingdom!”

    Adora sighed but then nodded - grudgingly; Catra could tell. “Yes, that’s clear. We need to control who travels through the Stargate. But we can’t just take it. And once the war’s won, we need to let everyone use it.”

    “Within reason,” Glimmer replied. “We’ll need an organisation like Stargate Command. But only once the war’s over. Until then, the Princess Alliance can and should control the Stargate. It’s a crucial resource for the war and a glaring weakness.”

    “And if anyone wants to have a say about the gate, they can join us,” Spinnerella said. “If they aren’t willing to fight the Goa’uld, they shouldn’t be allowed to use the Stargate.”

    Catra nodded in agreement. “That sounds fair.” She ignored the glances from Frosta and Mermista.

    “Forcing people to fight a war to use the Stargate seems not very fair,” Perfuma commented.

    “We’re not taking anything away from them - we discovered the Stargate. We defend Etheria from the Goa’uld. They can continue living their lives as before, but if they want to use the Stargate - in wartime - they need to follow our rules,” Glimmer said. “That’s not hypocrisy; that’s just common sense.”

    “And what do we do if they want to use the Stargate to travel to Earth?” Bow asked. “And what do we do if Earth countries want to send people to us?”

    “Countries that are in the Alliance - or those who aren’t,” Catra added.

    “Ah…” Adora closed her mouth.

    And Glimmer frowned again. But it was a good question. And now that everyone in the Alliance was present, it was time to answer it.

    Or, as was more likely, in Catra’s opinion, discuss and debate without deciding it. That part of the United Nations Etheria had down pat. Sometimes, she wished She-Ra was the ruler of Etheria.

    *****​

    “You know, Jack, Sam’s not going to be happy with you.”

    Jack O’Neill knew that. Very well. He had known she wouldn’t be happy before he had thrown her to the wolves - figuratively, not literally. Here on a planet with talking - and flying, mustn’t forget the flying - magical horses, it was better to clarify that. But appearances had to be upheld. So he leaned back in the best armchair in their quarters (and that meant something in Bright Moon’s palace) and said: “She managed to easily handle the situation, so I don’t really think she has any reason to complain.”

    “She claimed she had urgent work on the gate to do,” Daniel retorted with a frown. “I don’t recall hearing about such work in the briefing.”

    “Carter’s the gate expert.” Jack shrugged. It had been a bit of a copout, but it got the raving party princesses off her back. Whatever works was the rule for a reason.

    Daniel sighed with a put-on expression Jack was very familiar with. “She was fleeing the palace, Jack!”

    “I wouldn’t say ‘fleeing’,” Jack objected with a slight grin - it had been amusing, after all.

    “The wise warrior withdraws in the face of overwhelming odds to offer battle again once the situation is more favourable. Captain Carter is wise indeed.”

    “Thank you, Teal’c,” Jack commented.

    “I still don’t understand why you assigned her to the party preparations,” Daniel complained. “I mean, back then, this wasn’t a diplomatic event - just the usual party.”

    “With the Etherians attending,” Jack pointed out.

    “Those who had spent months on Earth already and were, therefore, at least somewhat familiar with our customs, and it was - or should be - a quite controllable environment.” Daniel shook his head. “And don’t you always say that we should focus on the important parts of our job and not waste time on the unimportant bits?”

    That was about paperwork. And some paperwork was actually important.

    “Indeed. It is puzzling why you would assign this task to Captain Carter. She is a fierce warrior and an outstanding scientist, but she has never struck me as a, as the correct term is, I believe, ‘party animal’.”

    They were ganging up on him! Jack looked at his friends. Daniel was frowning, and Teal’c was as inscrutable as ever, but both met his eyes. They wouldn’t drop this.

    He sighed. He could make up something about Carter needing to unwind and relax more, but he didn’t think that would fool them. Time to come clean - as long as Carter wasn’t here, at least. “It’s punishment detail.” At least for Carter. Others would thrive there.

    “Punishment detail?” Daniel blinked. “But… why?”

    Teal’C nodded. He got it.

    “A small reminder that I’m the leader of this team,” Jack explained. “If anyone has to take the heat for doing the right thing without orders, or against orders, it’s going to be me. Not you lot.”

    Daniel opened his mouth, closed it again without saying anything and made a half-hearted gasp. “Oh. But what did she do?”

    Jack sighed again. Daniel still had to learn what questions you didn’t ask in the military. “It’s what she didn’t do. If someone in my team is going to ‘creatively interpret’ orders, I expect to be informed.” So he could take the heat. Or stop a friend from ruining themselves.

    “So you can take the blame for our actions?” Daniel tilted his head. “But that wouldn’t be fair!”

    “War’s not fair,” Jack quoted his first drill sergeant.

    Daniel narrowed his eyes. “You want to sacrifice yourself for us but don’t want us to reciprocate?”

    “Yep. That’s called leadership.” Jack grinned at him.

    “But that doesn’t take into account that both Sam and I are not easy to replace,” Daniel objected. “Well, Sam at least - a number of my colleagues have reversed their stance towards my theories and would probably be able to replace me, with a bit more experience. Or a lot.”

    Daniel was too honest for his own good. And not quite aware of how brilliant he was. “No one can replace you,” Jack told him. “Your experience, your contacts, your… you-ness.”

    “My ‘you-ness’, Jack? Really?” Daniel shook his head. But he was smiling. Mission accomplished. Then his friend continued. “But then that would strengthen my point: We can take, ah, the heat.”

    “But it’s not your job. My team, my responsibility,” Jack tried again. “And the worst failure of an officer is to ignore what their soldiers are doing.” Well, when they were doing something that you had to know - some things soldiers did, officers were meant to ignore.

    Daniel, though, was digging his heels in. “But…”

    Fortunately, a knock on the door interrupted his next argument. Jack jumped up. “OK, duty calls!”

    “Or room service,” Daniel retorted.

    Jack grinned at him. “That would mean a break!”

    But it wasn’t room service. It was Adora and Catra. And they didn’t look happy. And they were standing a bit further apart than usual, too.

    Something wasn’t right on Etheria.

    *****​

    “So, what’s wrong?”

    Adora had barely set foot inside the guest quarters when Jack asked his question. Was it that obvious? Was she that obvious? She sighed. “We’ve got a disagreement about how to handle the Stargate on Etheria.”

    Catra frowned at her, but Adora ignored it. SG-1 were their friends, and they wanted their advice. And you couldn’t get good advice if you weren’t honest about the problem. Besides, Jack had been at Alliance meetings before, so he knew they weren’t always united. Not to mention that Adora was a little tired of playing games right now.

    “Ah. Ideals clashing with the realities of war?”

    Jack didn’t sound or look smug, but he didn’t sound too sympathetic either. More… matter of factly.

    “Yep,” Catra confirmed, sitting down in one of the free seats in the room. Curling up more likely - she pulled her feet up on the cushion.

    Adora sighed and took the seat next to her. “It’s not as simple,” she said. “The Stargate belongs to Etheria, not to a single kingdom or even the Princess Alliance.”

    “At least, that’s one opinion,” Cara cut in. Adora narrowed her eyes, but her lover grinned at her, flashing her fangs in return.

    “And the other opinion would be finders keepers?” Jack was grinning as well now.

    Adora suppressed a sigh. Honesty was the best policy. “Yes. There’s also the idea that since the Princess Alliance fought for Etheria and the other kingdoms didn’t, they do not deserve to have a say about the gate.”

    “For the duration of the war at least,” Catra added. “But who can say how long that will take?”

    “Yeah, such arrangements tend to last longer than the war - far longer,” Jack said. “There’s always something else that comes up.”

    Both of them grinned at each other in a very similar way, Adora noted. And that was… well, not worrying, but kind of… disturbing. In a weird way. She took a deep breath. “And that’s why we need to decide how to handle the Stargate now, and in a fair way.”

    “I think limiting access to the gate to those willing to defend Etheria is quite fair,” Catra said.

    Adora wasn’t going to continue that discussion right now. “So, we wanted to know what you thought about Earth’s Stargate and how it’s being handled.”

    “And what Earth will think about how you’re handling your Stargate?”

    Adora nodded, though she clenched her teeth a little. Jack definitely sounded amused now.

    “Yes,” Catra replied.

    “Well, Earth’s Stargate is under United Nations control. But the Alliance kind of controls the United Nations, so…” Jack shrugged.

    “So, officially, it belongs to all of Earth, represented by the United Nations, but de facto, it’s under Alliance control,” Daniel said.

    Adora nodded.

    “The Russians and the Chinese would like to change that, though,” Jack pointed out. “And they use the United Nations for that. So, business as usual.”

    For Earth. But Etheria was different.

    “And they would love to point out any apparent hypocrisy in our policies,” Catra said. “To manipulate us. At least they’d try.”

    Jack nodded.

    Adora frowned again. “But that doesn’t mean they’re wrong - not entirely. We can’t expect people to trust us if we don’t follow our own rules and ideals. And we will need a lot of people to trust us in the war.” You couldn’t persuade people to join you if you didn’t have their trust. And honesty was needed to earn trust.

    “So, what are you suggesting?” Daniel asked. He looked from Adora to Catra and back. “I mean, it’s kind of obvious that you’re, ah, struggling with the decision.”

    “Well, the Princess Alliance will control the gate until further notice,” Catra said.

    Adora nodded - she didn’t like it, but the rest more or less agreed on that. “The question is how far we’ll limit gate travel.”

    “So, you’ve got your own Russian and Chinese to deal with,” Jack said. “The information got out, then?”

    “We’re not going to keep it a secret,” Adora told him. “But we haven’t announced it yet.”

    “Ah.”

    “And the question is, what if your Russians and Chinese want to make a deal with other kingdoms on Etheria?” Catra grinned. “I think no one wants that.”

    Jack slowly nodded. “Yes. The Russians trying to influence smaller countries in your backyard to stir up trouble - where have I seen this before?”

    “We’re not in the Cold War any more, Jack,” Daniel said.

    “But we might start another one,” Jack retorted.

    And if they banned others from using the gate, they would be ruling Etheria. Unofficially, but still.

    “We can’t really afford to have to worry about another Horde forming on Etheria,” Catra said.

    “But if we keep others from using the gate, we might be seen as another Horde,” Adora retorted.

    “I see the problem,” Jack said. “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

    “Well, you could form an international organisation to control the gate, influenced to a great deal by the Princess Alliance,” Daniel suggested.

    “And we call it Stargate Command?” Catra asked, grinning for a moment. Then she grew serious. “It wouldn’t really help if our Russians want to make a deal with yours. You aren’t going to prohibit them from travelling through the gate, are you?”

    And that was another problem.

    “Well, if you’d keep the gate a secret, you wouldn’t have to deal with that,” Jack said.

    Adora glared at him. So did everyone else. Except for Teal’c, of course.

    “Sorry.” But he didn’t look sorry. “But I can’t really help you here - I’m a soldier, not a politician. He shrugged. “But you could always pull the ‘unsupervised gate travel is too dangerous for you’ card.”

    “Is it working for you?” Catra asked.

    It was Jack’s turn to sigh. So, no.

    And giving the Russians and the Chinese - hell, the rest of Earth - advanced technology wouldn’t change anything either - quite the contrary.

    This was quite a mess.

    *****​

    Samantha Carter was a little tired when she returned to the palace in the evening - local time; it was a bit later in Colorado already, and she was feeling it. One never really got used to the time differences while gate travelling, but one learned to ignore them. Usually, because there was an urgent problem to focus on - a life-threatening crisis tended to keep you awake until it was solved.

    But they had made good progress on the Stargate - the power supply unit was working as intended, though connecting it to the gate would require a lot more time to ensure it would work without issues. Such as unstable wormholes. If they had a D.H.D. to handle that… But they hadn’t.

    “So, I’ll see you at the dinner?” Entrapta asked as she hopped off the skiff that had brought them to the palace.

    “Of course.” Sam nodded - she had worked up an appetite. Tiny snacks provided by her friend could only go so far. Even if they were loaded with more sugar than the average family-sized breakfast cereal box.

    “Great! I’m going to fill in Hordak about what we did today!” Entrapta waved and headed down the next hallway to her own room. Or rooms.

    Sam softly sighed and suppressed the urge to remind her friend to clean up as well. That would be patronising. But it had been a long day so far.

    And, she reminded herself, that was the fault of the Colonel. She still didn’t glare at him when she entered their guest room, but she was a bit more professional than usual when she reported - she even saluted. Judging by his wry smile, he got the message; he didn’t even comment about not saluting in the field.

    “So, everything’s proceeding according to schedule,” he said instead.

    “We’re ahead of schedule, sir,” she corrected him. “Depending on how connecting the power supply unit works tomorrow, we might shave off a day or two on the estimated time until the Stargate is operational.”

    “Good, good.”

    “That means we’ll have more time to prepare the party,” Daniel said.

    Sam did glare at him. He was her friend and not a soldier, so it wasn’t unprofessional.

    He had the grace to wince. “Sorry… I’m just a bit excited. This is going to be an important diplomatic event. We’re going to host the entire leadership of the Princess Alliance - the most important and most powerful supra-national organisation of Etheria! And a galactic power of the first tier, as far as we can tell, at least.”

    Her glare intensified. She would be officially responsible for organising part of the event. And taking part of the blame if anything went wrong. “Thank you for the reminder, Daniel.”

    “Sorry,” he repeated himself. “But if you need any help, I would be happy to assist.”

    “I’ll hold you to that.”

    He beamed at her in return.

    And Sam sent a glance at the Colonel, who was looking far too smug right now. “And what were you doing today?” she asked Daniel.

    “Oh, we were discussing possible policies for Etheria’s Stargate with Adora and Catra,” he told her. “They’re in a similar situation as we are on Earth. The Alliance needs to control the gate for the war effort, but it belongs to the entire planet.”

    “They don’t like having to compromise their ideals,” the Colonel added with a chuckle.

    “Jack! No one likes that!” Daniel pouted. “And it is a good sign that they struggle with the decision to limit gate travel - it shows they are taking their ideals seriously.”

    The Colonel snorted. “They can do that after we’ve won the war against the snakes.”

    “What good is winning a war if we betray our own ideals?” Daniel shook his head.

    “We can make amends afterwards. If we lose, we won’t be able to improve anything - because we’ll all be dead. Or snaked,” the Colonel shot back, then winced.

    Daniel pressed his lips together - remembering his wife, Sam was sure.

    She frowned at the Colonel; he had crossed a line there - then smiled at Daniel. “Well, as you said, they won’t compromise the war effort.”

    “No, they won’t. And there are several princesses who are as pragmatic as Jack here, as far as we can tell. Not that they told us explicitly, but it was pretty clear from what wasn’t said,” Daniel told her with a slight frown aimed at the Colonel.

    “So, everything’s fine!” The Colonel clapped his hands. “Let’s get ready for a state dinner! We can probably use this as a rehearsal for the big party.”

    Sam rolled her eyes at the joke. Daniel did the same. Sometimes, the Colonel didn’t know when to drop something.

    Which, she reminded himself, was usually a sign that he wasn’t quite as confident as he wanted to appear. And she thought she knew why. “It will certainly provide you with more data for your report to Stargate Command, sir.”

    “Ah, yes. My report. Which I’ll send as soon as I’m done making it.” He frowned at her.

    Yes, she had been correct.

    “In which you’ll inform them of the slight change to the party’s guest list, right.” Daniel was getting into it as well - he was grinning.

    “A report that will need some opinions from our cultural expert,” the Colonel retorted.

    But Daniel smiled at that. “Oh, yes! I’ve got so many notes!”

    Sam stifled a giggle as she went to the bathroom. After spending more than half a day working on the gate, she needed to freshen up before dinner.

    *****​

    “...so, it’s like a Princess Prom, but with far fewer rules?”

    Frosta looked… interested, in Catra’s opinion. As usual at a formal event such as a dinner with guests from another kingdom - or another planet in this case - the princess had been trying to appear aloof and mature (with varying degrees of success). But now she was showing a toothy smile that looked far more natural on her face.

    “Well, there are rules, though they’re mostly, ah, unwritten rules,” Daniel replied.

    “‘Unwritten rules’?” Frosta cocked her head sideways with a frown. “Why didn’t you write them down? The rules for the Princess Prom are well-documented.”

    “And far too long,” Catra heard Mermista mutter under her breath. She chuckled in agreement.

    “Is this an attempt to control who gets to attend the party by controlling information?” Perfuma asked, leaning forward. “Or is there a tradition that whoever invites you needs to teach you the rules?”

    Perfect! “Well, Jack invited us,” Catra said, grinning at his wince.

    “Ah, it’s not quite like that,” Daniel said. “More formal events do have established protocol - established over centuries in some cases. But the New Year’s Party at Stargate Command is not a formal event like that, nor does it have such a long tradition.”

    “We’ve only been around for a few years, after all,” O’Neill cut in. “But the rules are mostly common sense. No fighting, no drinking excessively, no overly public displays of affection…”

    “That sounds very formal to me,” Adora commented with a frown.

    “They mean no public sex, I bet,” Catra said.

    O’Neill glared at her for a moment, but she ignored that. Watching others blush was more interesting.

    “No public sex - no public displays of sex - is a written rule, actually. A law, indeed,” Daniel said. “Well, in the USA. There could be countries where it’s allowed, but I can’t recall one off-hand.”

    “And why would you know that, Daniel, hm?” O’Neill smirked.

    “Because I had to look it up for a report once!” Daniel retorted, blushing. “Not because of what you are insinuating!”

    “Let’s drop this. I don’t think anyone is planning to have sex on the dinner table,” Glimmer commented. “Right, Catra?”

    Was that a challenge? Wrong move, Sparkles! “I would never plan anything like that,” Catra shot back. “Such things are usually spontaneous, right, Adora?”

    Her lover blinked, then blushed. “Not like that! I mean, not in public! We’d never… Catra!”

    Catra snickered, then laughed. Half the table was frowning at her, but it had been worth it.

    “So, no public displays of sex,” Entrapta’s voice cut through the sudden silence. “Noted.”

    Daniel cleared his throat. “Anyway, yes, since it was originally meant for the members of Stargate Command, the written rules were Air Force regulations.”

    “‘Were’?” Netossa asked.

    “Since Stargate Command was recently expanded from the Air Force into a multi-national unit, the regulations were adapted and expanded.”

    “So, you do have written rules,” Frosta said with a slight sniff.

    “Yes.” Adora nodded. “I have a copy if you want to read them. Though they are a little confusing in some spots. And contradict themselves in at least two areas. Unless I am mistaken.”

    Daniel blinked, and O’Neill grinned. “Well, it was a rush job, so you probably aren’t mistaken. Did you inform the command council?”

    “No. I thought that would be presumptuous since we don’t have to follow those regulations,” Adora explained.

    “We don’t?” Frosta perked up.

    “We aren’t members of Stargate Command,” Adora told her. “So, we aren’t subject to their regulations. It’s a little different in the Alliance, but unless you’re formally assigned to a unit, you generally don’t have to follow any regulations from other militaries. And then there are grandfather clauses to consider as well.”

    “Those mean that if something was allowed under your old regulations, it can’t be deemed illegal if you join a unit or formation,” Bow explained before anyone could ask what that meant. “Provided it was already, ah, going on when you joined.”

    “It’s mostly so we don’t have to deal with that silly ‘no fraternisation’ rule of theirs,” Catra added with a glance at O’Neill and Sam. Who, she noted, reacted in the exact same way of pressing their lips together and trying to ignore the dig. She snickered again.

    “Anyway,” Daniel spoke up again. “It’s really just informal or common sense, as far as rules go. It’s a lot like when you’re visiting someone’s home.”

    “For a dinner, not for a kegger,” O’Neill added.

    “What’s a kegger?” Frosta asked.

    “A party where copious amounts of alcohol, usually beer from a keg, is drunk,” Daniel explained.

    “Which this isn’t,” Sam spoke up. “In fact, there’s no alcohol available at the party.”

    “Officially,” O’Neill said. “I mean, no alcohol on the base, yes.”

    “No alcohol?” Mermista frowned. “That doesn’t sound like much of a party.”

    Frosta nodded in agreement, which caused Micah to frown at her and then at Mermista.

    “It’s a military base. Alcohol, enlisted soldiers and weapons don’t mix well,” O’Neill told her. “We would rather not have anyone starting a drunk tank-tossing competition at the party.”

    “I only did that once!” Scorpia complained. “And it was a dare!”

    Catra shook her head as everyone stared at her friend.

    “Daniel, make a note that tank-tossing competitions are against the rules,” O’Neill said in a dry voice.

    “I didn’t think we have tanks in the Mountain.” Daniel looked puzzled.

    “Not inside the Mountain, but they beefed up security outside,” O’Neill explained. “Something about repelling a landing operation from orbit.” He shrugged. “The army wanted to feel useful, I guess.”

    “Ah.”

    “So, what about dancing? Are there formal dances we need to know?” Spinnerella asked.

    “Ah… no,” Daniel said. “Dancing is more… informal.”

    “Don’t drunkenly dance on tables is another rule,” O’Neill said. “Don’t dance on tables, period.”

    “Why would anyone dance on tables?” Frosta asked.

    “Well, it’s really…Ooof” Sea Hawk’s attempt to answer was cut off by Mermista’s elbow.

    “Noted!” Entrapta piped up. “You seem to be the rules expert, Jack. Any other rules we need to know?”

    “Ah, I wouldn’t say I am an expert…” O’Neill started to say.

    “Yes, he’s the expert on rules,” Sam interrupted him.

    “Probably because he’s broken every rule at least once,” Catra whispered to Adora while O’Neill sent a frown at Sam.

    Her lover tried to hide her chuckle, and Catra leaned back with a satisfied smirk. This was a very amusing dinner - and the food was great as well.

    It was good to be home.

    *****​

    Bright Moon, Etheria, December 28th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    When he heard the alarm go off - beeping softly next to his head so the others wouldn’t be woken as well - Jack O’Neill was tempted to turn it off and just stay in bed. For a moment, at least. But duty called.

    So he got up, stretched - it was still great and a bit suspicious to not feel any of the familiar old aches any more - and nodded at Teal’c, who was, unsurprisingly, already up. Or still up. It was hard to tell with him using Jaffa meditation techniques. “Morning, Teal’c.”

    “Good morning, Colonel O’Neill.”

    Daniel and Carter were still asleep. No surprise there, either - Daniel had stayed up far too late typing up his notes from the dinner, and Carter… had worked too hard before and had still tried to ‘go over the latest code’ instead of going to bed until Jack had ordered her to rest.

    It had been a long day for Jack as well, of course. The dinner had felt more like an interrogation sometimes. Or like trying to hand-feed sharks in a feeding frenzy. Wrangling alien dignitaries was Daniel’s job, for crying out loud!

    And Jack would have expected Adora, Glimmer and the others familiar with Earth culture to handle the questions of the other princesses. But it seemed they weren’t quite as familiar with Earth culture as he had thought - their explanations sometimes were a little off. And sometimes a bit too on point.

    Shaking his head, he entered the bathroom. He wasn’t looking forward to explaining the new additions to the New Year’s Party to Stargate Command, so he’d better look perfectly presentable when he made the call at the gate.

    *****​

    Gate Area, Outside Bright Moon, Etheria, December 28th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “Yes, General. The entire leadership of the Princess Alliance - and their plus ones - expressed their desire to attend the party.” Jack O’Neill suppressed a wince at his superior’s expression on the screen next to the gate. Maybe he should have used the daisy-chain communication bot network Entrapta and Carter had set up instead of waiting for the scheduled gate contact. The lag might be useful for once.

    “I see.” Hammond nodded briskly.

    Jack continued. “And since Adora, Glimmer and the others were already invited to the party…”

    “By you.” Another short nod.

    “Just following orders to foster good relations, sir.” Jack kept his expression bland. “Anyway, they assume that means the entire Alliance leadership was invited.”

    “I see,” Hammond repeated himself, then turned his head to look at Haig.

    The limey nodded. “We were already planning to accommodate high-ranking alien diplomats. A few more shouldn’t be a problem, provided we prepare accordingly.”

    Well, this general got it. Jack nodded. Of course, the additional guests were not familiar with Earth culture at all and included a moody and, as far as Jack could tell, spoilt teenager who could cover the entire base in a glacier if she felt like it, a Scorpion-woman with pincers for hands who threw tanks around for fun, her lover who could turn a potted office plant into a jungle with a thought, and a serial arsonist, so things might require slightly more thorough preparations. Hell, someone had to ensure that no drunk soldier hit on the royal teenager. Or gave her alcohol. Well, that was…

    “So, given your familiarity with the Etherians, I think you should be in charge of those preparations, Colonel.”

    …apparently now Jack’s job. Damn. And Hammond was smiling faintly. But Jack nodded. “Yes, sir.”

    “Good. While you are on Etheria, ensure that they are familiar with our rules and expectations, Colonel,” Hammond told him.

    “Oh, we’ve already started on that,” Jack replied. “They understand the gist of it already.” A bit away, working on her computer, Carter coughed, but Jack ignored that. “I emphasised that we frown on tank-tossing competitions.”

    “What?” Hammond narrowed his eyes and scowled.

    “Pardon?” Haig raised his eyebrows but didn’t react otherwise.

    “Apparently, you should never dare Scorpia to throw a tank. She can and will do it. And since the only tanks at the base are ours…” Jack shrugged. “It’s been handled.”

    “It better have been handled, Colonel!” Hammond growled. “We’ll impress on our troops that our guests will be treated with the utmost courtesy.”

    Jack swallowed his ‘they’d better, or they might get frozen, drowned and turned to fertiliser’ comment. “Yes, sir.”

    “Anything else?”

    “That would be all,” Jack replied. They had already sent the progress report and revised estimates from Carter and Entrapta.

    “Good. Stargate Command out.”

    The screen went dark, and Jack sighed. “Wanna bet that in five minutes, all the spooks are making plans on how best to approach our guests?” he asked Carter.

    “No, sir.”

    “We’ll have to be on the ball. And we’ll have to warn the Etherians,” Jack went on.

    “Yes, sir.” She nodded curtly. And he caught the hint of a grin. “I trust you will handle this with your usual efficiency, sir. I am, unfortunately, fully occupied with my work on the Stargate, so I cannot possibly assist you.”

    He frowned at her. Maybe he deserved this. But only a little - and she didn’t have to be so smug about it.

    Well, at least Daniel would be helping. Eagerly.

    *****​

    Bright Moon, Etheria, December 28th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “Are you sure we can’t claim diplomatic immunity and bring alcohol to the party, Glimmer?”

    “Yes, Frosta, I am sure. That’s not how diplomatic immunity works on Earth.”

    Adora wondered who had told Frosta about diplomatic immunity.

    “But Daniel said it made you immune to punishment.” Frosta frowned - well, scowled.

    Adora shook her head. They should be talking about the diplomatic trouble Swift Wind had caused - was causing - not about the New Year’s Party.

    “It would also be rude,” Perfuma commented.

    “Why do you want to drink alcohol so badly, anyway?” Glimmer asked.

    “Just drink before we leave from here!” Catra interjected before Frosta could answer. “But not so much that you can’t walk any more.”

    “It’s not about getting drunk!” Frosta protested with a glare at Catra. “It’s about preserving our sovereignty.”

    Adora wasn’t sure she believed the claim - but she hoped that this was true. A drunk Frosta was a recipe for disaster. Well, any drunk princess was a disaster waiting to happen. She almost blushed when she remembered what she had done when she had been, well, it hadn’t been alcohol, but she had acted like a drunk in that Horde base with Scorpia.

    “Then it shouldn’t bother you that alcohol is not permitted at the party.” Catra showed her fangs in a toothy grin at Frosta. The princess opened her mouth to snap back something, but Catra went on: “Besides, if you want a real party, we can go clubbing on Earth later.”

    What? Adora stared at her lover.

    “What?” Glimmer blurted out.

    “Clubbing?” Frosta blinked.

    “You want to hunt seals?” Bow asked.

    “Seal hunting?” Catra looked confused.

    “Yes, because on Earth, they use clubs to kill them… I saw it in a documentary,” he explained.

    “Clubbing is going out and visiting bars and nightclubs on Earth,” Catra told him.

    “Ah.”

    “They hunt seals with clubs?” Mermista asked.

    Bow winced. “Baby seals.”

    Adora gasped. “Baby seals?” Those cute white animals? But…

    Frosta looked puzzled before frowning at her. “They have the softest pelts.” She rubbed the white fur lining her top, Adora noticed.

    Oh. Ugh. She winced. That was where the fur came from?

    “It’s actually quite controversial on Earth - as is wearing fur at all,” Bow explained. “At least in some countries, they want to ban it.”

    “Really? But they eat meat, don’t they?” Scorpia asked.

    “Yes,” Catra replied. “And fish.”

    “That sounds… not very principled,” Perfuma remarked with a frown.

    “Some people on Earth don’t eat meat,” Glimmer said. “And some eat almost nothing but meat, or so it seems. There are a lot of humans on Earth.”

    “Ah, yes, I forgot.” Scorpia nodded.

    This was her chance to bring the discussion back topic! “Anyway,” Adora spoke up, “Speaking about animals. We need to talk about how to deal with, ah, horses.”

    “You mean Swift Wind,” Mermista told her. “And his raiding.”

    “Pirate queen,” Catra whispered next to Adora.

    Glimmer glared at her, then sighed. “Yes. As I have discovered, there’s some misconception amongst some of our neighbours that Swift Wind is acting in the name of the Princess Alliance.”

    Catra chuckled.

    “What?” Frosta frowned. “What is he doing?”

    “He’s ‘liberating’ horses,” Netossa told her. “And then bringing them to Bright Moon.”

    “Really?”

    Micah, who was looking embarrassed, Adora noticed, nodded. “We’ve been compensating the other kingdoms and moving the horses to pastures.”

    “Which hasn’t helped with the impression others have gotten about our stance towards his activities,” Glimmer said with a frown.

    “I am sorry,” Adora said, wincing. “I had no idea he was doing this in my absence.” Well, she remembered some comments of his which, in hindsight, should have alerted her, but… no one else had realised anything either.

    “The question is: What are we doing about this? We can’t have a reputation as horse thieves,” Glimmer said.

    “And we can’t let the other kingdoms think that we will attack them if they won’t let him continue,” Adora added. “They’ll think we’re bullies.”

    “Or a new Horde,” Perfuma added.

    “Yes. Some already commented on that,” Mermista said. “We have a lot of former Horde soldiers in the Alliance now, so some princesses claim to be worried.”

    “What?” Perfuma scowled, which was quite rare for her. “The Scorpion Kingdom is completely peaceful! Anyone can see that!”

    “Well, we’ve been preparing for the war against the Goa’uld, so that could have left the wrong impression on some,” Scorpia added, scratching her head with one pincer.

    “Yes, all our kingdoms have been gearing up for war,” Mermista said. “That’s not new, though. And the fleet in orbit is kind of hard to miss.”

    That was true. The other kingdoms must be feeling intimidated.

    “We can’t exactly disarm so the other princesses won’t feel threatened,” Netossa said. “Just tell Swift Wind to stop and tell the countries who lost horses it was a mistake.”

    “And what if he doesn’t want to stop? He feels strongly about horses,” Spinnerella said.

    “Quite understandable, really,” Perfuma added.

    “We can’t let him steal every horse on Etheria,” Glimmer spoke up. “We’re already running short on available pastures. And imagine if he starts doing this on Earth!”

    “They eat horses there. Well, in some countries,” Catra pointed out.

    Adora winced. If Swift Wind heard about that… “But we have to do something about this.” It wasn’t right to push other kingdoms around.

    “Well… We could replace all of them with oxen, I guess - or maybe bots,” Bow suggested. “But that would still leave the question of what to do with them once they are free.”

    “Just let them roam in the wilderness?” Catra shrugged.

    “People and animals will hunt them. And capture them,” Glimmer pointed out.

    “We could propose a treaty about the treatment of horses,” Perfuma said. “So they aren’t hunted or worked too hard.”

    Adora wasn’t sure if Swift Wind would be satisfied with that, but it might be a start. Of course, if other princesses were afraid that the Princess Alliance was backing Swift Wind with their militaries, then they might think this treaty was the same deal and they would still feel bullied and resent it. And then there was the matter of the Stargate on top of that… “This is such a mess,” she muttered.

    “Well, it could be worse,” Catra said. Adora looked at her. “Imagine if Swift Wind and some of those PETA guys met.”

    Adora shuddered at the thought while Catra had to explain to the others what PETA was and wanted.

    *****​
     
  10. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Yes, I know - I looked it up. I decided to use it anyway. (Technically, it was used already by Peris Anthony in a novel for a winged unicorn in 1984.)

    That would make it more vulnerable to space-based attacks, though.

    Thanks, will be fixed!
     
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  11. macdjord

    macdjord Well worn.

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    That's arguable. 'He who controls the orbitals, controls the planet.' Even burying it under a mountain only buys a little time if a warship can get close enough to bombard it. And unlike a ground base, a ship in orbit can dodge, or even run away outright if attack threatens.
     
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  12. Threadmarks: Chapter 72: Going Home Part 4
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 72: Going Home Part 4

    Gate Area, Outside Bright Moon, Etheria, December 28th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    The Horde fortifications being put up around the gate were a stark contrast to what Samantha Carter had started to think of as ‘Etherian style’. They lacked the smoother curves and elegant lines of Bright Moon’s architecture - or the clean style of Horde frigates. They looked more utilitarian. Reduced to what was functional, nothing else. Bare metal and concrete, mostly, if of a slightly exotic colour. And they looked… cheap, Sam decided would fit best. She could be mistaken, of course, but since she had seen how they had been set up, she didn’t think she was.

    Entrapta confirmed her suspicions. “Glimmer’s still undecided on the final design for the main building for the gate base. Oh, and there’s some talk about Bright Moon’s architecture being presumptuous, so even once she decides on the style, the rest have to approve it.” She shrugged. “I don’t get what’s wrong with just using Horde bunkers - except that we could still improve on them, of course. But they serve perfectly fine if you need a base.”

    Sam nodded. “They might not want this to be the thing a visitor sees first upon arriving on Etheria,” she pointed out.

    “Oh? I guess that might be true. It’s still weird, though.” Entapta shrugged, then pushed her visor up and looked around. “Everyone knows we won the war. And most of the Horde soldiers deserted or joined the Alliance against Horde Prime, anyway. And his tech looks quite different. Although Hordak might have picked a similar design to Horde Prime’s if he would have had the resources available, I think. Not anymore, of course. But back then, probably.”

    Sam didn’t really want to talk about Hordak - the former Warlord still gave her the creeps, for all that she understood how he ended up doing what he did. That he wasn’t imprisoned, exiled or executed was a testament to how different the Etherians - at least the princesses - saw such things. “Well, unless they come to a decision quickly, this might end up being quite a long-lasting temporary solution,” she said.

    “Yes!” Entrapta nodded with a smile. “The Bright Moon building techniques aren’t as fast as Horde technology, either. Although that might be because they do not use bots as much. Or at all.” She pouted a little. “I hoped bots would become more accepted in the other kingdoms, but despite their help in rebuilding after the war, many princesses seem to distrust them. Even the smart bots, like Emily.”

    The bot beeped in agreement - and Sam could detect some sadness as well in the tone. So she swallowed her comment that the princesses might distrust intelligent bots even more than the dumb ones. “Well, they might associate bots with the Horde,” she said instead. “It’s hard to overcome such impressions.”

    “Well, it’s stupid. We’re not at war any more.” Entrapta patted Emily’s dome with her hair. “But I am sure that they’ll warm up to you sooner or later, Emily! We just have to keep showing how great you and your fellow bots are!” She turned to Sam with a smile. “Our bot network should help with that - the spy bots are so useful! And so brave!”

    Useful, undoubtedly. Although Sam was sure (and had ensured) that they hadn’t sent any smart bots abroad. She would rather not see sapient machines spreading through the Galaxy. So she wouldn’t call them brave. But she wouldn’t correct Entrapta - it was a minor quibble. “Yes,” she said, nodding. “I assume that former Horde soldiers are faced with similar problems?”

    “Well, yes, but they are mainly settled in the Scorpion Kingdom, anyway.”

    Which was ruled by a former Horde Force Captain. Who was the partner of a key member of the Princess Alliance. Some might even suspect that the Horde merely changed the name of their country. Sam doubted that - she had met Scorpia, after all, and Perfuma’s influence on her was also quite obvious, in Sam’s opinion - but perception rarely matched reality. Especially when it came to grudges.

    She might ask Daniel about this - his insight might be useful. And they would have to find out if other princesses in the Alliance harboured such grudges. The last thing Sam wanted was a row breaking out between two princesses deep inside Cheyenne Mountain.

    She was rather fond of her lab, after all, even if she would have to move soon anyway, and the collateral damage that such a row could cause… Before she could think of a way to ask Entrapta about it without giving offence, Emily turned and beeped, her blaster cannon aimed. Something was up.

    Sam quickly walked over to her pack, where she had put her carbine as well. She should have kept it on her, damn it! The Colonel wouldn’t be happy if he heard about this.

    “Oh. Perimeter scouts report that we’re about to have visitors,” Entrapta said - she had pushed her visor down and must be checking the feeds from the bots. “I think.”

    “Where are they?” Sam asked. They were in the middle of the camp, behind the field fortifications, but if someone took to the hills nearby…

    Entrapta pointed at the largest hill around them. “They’re up there.”

    Spies, Sam thought.

    She quickly joined Entrapta, putting Emily between them and the hill. “Do you have a visual feed?”

    “Uh… yes, let me link it to the… thank you, Emily!”

    Sam looked at the screen Emily had handed to Entrapta. It showed half a dozen people - mostly humans except for one, no, two… satyrs, she’d call them on Earth. Diverse appearance, no uniforms - though a few of the outfits they were wearing looked as if they once were part of a uniform. And all of them were armed.

    Sam recalled what she knew about Etheria’s history. “I don’t think they’re visitors,” she said. “They look like bandits.”

    “Bandits? In Bright Moon?” Entrapta blinked. “Are you sure?”

    “No,” Sam admitted. “But weren’t they trying to sneak up on us?”

    “Well, we are in the middle of a new base… which kinda looks like a Horde base, now that I think about it.” Entrapta looked a bit embarrassed. “They might not trust us.”

    “But sneaking into Bright Moon?” Sam asked while watching the six men and women slowly crawl up to the top of the hill. “They haven’t noticed the spy bot?”

    “No, they didn’t! She’s a sneaky one!” Entrapta smiled.

    Sam felt herself smiling as well but quickly grew serious again. She turned to look at the guards at the gate and those patrolling the close perimeter. “Do they know?”

    “Oops, I forgot that they aren’t in the network. Glimmer should really update Bright Moon communications.” Entrapta looked sheepish, then she turned, her hair keeping the screen steady, and yelled: “Sergeant Slater! We have visitors - potential visitors - on the hill there.”

    “Armed ones,” Sam added, and the sergeant nodded and started bellowing orders.

    The people on the hilltop hadn’t missed that, and Sam saw that they were falling back, out of sight of the base but not of the spy bot, and were looking around - trying to spot who had discovered them, she realised. That would fit former soldiers.

    The short squabble that followed, ending with one of the goat people getting cuffed on the head and sent sprawling on the ground by the apparent leader, would fit deserters as well. But they were standing their ground now - even returning to the hilltop. Bandits or not, they had guts, as the Colonel would say.

    Or they were desperate - or feared their leader more than they feared Bright Moon’s soldiers. Then again, if Bright Moon’s regular prisons were even half as nice as their converted guest rooms for special prisoners…

    She studied the leader. He was a human but as tall as Teal’c and, as far as Sam could tell, even wider. And not much, if anything at all, of that bulk seemed to be fat.

    “Should we go and talk to them?” Entrapta asked as Slater sent two squads up the hill, one gong around it to cut off a potential escape.

    “Won’t Slater take them to us?” Sam asked.

    “Well… I dunno?” Entrapta cocked her head. “If we want him to, he would, since this is a Princess Alliance base. Technically. And I am a princess.”

    Sam reminded herself that for all her experience in a war and as the absolute ruler of a sovereign kingdom, Entrapta wasn’t exactly what the Colonel would call ‘leadership material’. “I think we should talk to them,” she said.

    “Alright!” Entrapta raised her multitool and pushed a button. “Sergeant Slater? Could you lead them to the base so we can talk to them?”

    Sam heard the sergeant reply: “That might be dangerous, Princess.”

    “Well, do you think they’re dangerous?” Entrapta asked, cocking her head.

    Yes, Sam thought. “We can talk to them behind Entrapta’s shield,” she suggested. “Outside the base.”

    Slater agreed, and so Entrapta gave the order. Technically.

    Sam focused on the upcoming talk, but she couldn’t help wondering how this would have played out in a joint American/Princess Alliance mission.

    It didn’t take the soldiers and their guests long to descend from the hill - with the strangers in the middle, between two columns of soldiers. Entrapta and Sam met them in front of the gate, with Entrapta at their back and the bot’s shield in front of them.

    “Hello!” Entrapta waved. “I’m Entrapta, Princess of Dryl! And this is Sam Carter, my friend and science buddy! She’s from… a place I’m not supposed to tell you. Who are you?”

    Instead of giving his name, the man sneered. “We know she’s from space. And we know she arrived through the gate with her friends.”

    So much for OpSec, Sam thought, pressing her lips together.

    “Oh.” Entrapta blinked, then smiled. “Good! If you know that already, then we don’t have to explain things.”

    Sam suppressed a wince.

    “Yes,” a goatwoman blurted out. “We know what you are doing! You want to keep the portal to yourself! And we won’t accept that!”

    The leader glared at her, and she cowed her head. Then he turned back to frown at Entrapta. “We’re sick of the princesses keeping all the good land to themselves while we starve in the desert! We want to move to another planet with fertile land!” he all but yelled. The rest of his group cheered in agreement.

    Sam wanted to curse. She wasn’t an expert on Etherian politics, but she knew this would be trouble.

    *****​

    Bright Moon, Etheria, December 28th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “They want to use the Stargate to emigrate to another planet?”

    “That’s what Sam just said,” Catra replied to Glimmer’s probably rhetorical question. Glimmer shot her a glare, and Catra put on her most fake ‘earnestly helpful’ expression. She didn’t ask if her friend’s ears were OK, but she wriggled her own a little. Then she winced - Adora had just pinched her thigh under the table with a whispered ‘be nice’.

    “Yes.” Entrapta nodded with an honestly earnest expression. “They said they were sick of living in the Crimson Waste, and that all the fertile land was already taken, so they want to move to another world.” She tilted her head. “And they said that the Stargate belonged to everyone, not just princesses.”

    Catra couldn’t help snorting at that. “That sounds like former Horde soldiers.”

    This comment earned her a few more frowns, but Adora nodded in agreement. “Yes. That would fit what we were taught in the Horde.”

    Scorpia nodded as well. “Yeah. It’s a bit different for me since I was a Force Captain, and well, everyone loves Perfuma…” She exchanged a sappy look with her lover. “...but there’s still some, ah, suspicion towards princesses in some parts of the Scorpion Kingdom.”

    Quite significant parts, Catra thought. A lot of Horde soldiers were probably fed up with princesses - and with herself, of course, she added with a mental snort - after the war. Well, too bad for them; without the Princess Alliance, Etheria would have been conquered and then destroyed.

    “Former Horde soldiers who turned bandits don’t like us? What a surprise!” Mermista scoffed. “They’re just pirates on land.”

    “We don’t know that,” Adora objected. “Not everyone in the Crimson Waste is a bandit. Huntara is a good friend.”

    And a fellow member of the Princess Alliance. Sort of - she hadn’t really been at any meeting since the end of the war, not after she had left to ‘liberate’ the Crimson Waste from the Horde.

    “And speaking of her: What is Huntara doing? The Crimson Waste is hers. She’s been too busy conquering it to attend any meeting since the war, so she should be handling this!” Mermista commented, echoing Catra’s thoughts.

    “I don’t think she has finished conquering it,” Catra pointed out. “It’s a very large territory, and while the number of areas with any strategic value is limited to the places with water, there are still quite a lot of them, and her forces will have taken casualties fighting the Horde and Horde Prime. Also, she might have lost some followers once the Horde was beaten and stopped being a threat.” Catra knew what the Crimson Waste was like and she had no doubt that half the better bandits there would rather rule an oasis of their own than follow Huntara.

    “Ugh.” Mermista rolled her eyes. “I had to retake Salineas and didn’t take that long.”

    “You are a princess,” Glimmer pointed out. “You had the support of your kingdom’s soldiers and people. Huntara doesn’t have that.”

    The same people and soldiers who had deserted Mermista once before, when it had looked as if she would lose, but Catra refrained from pointing that out. Mermista could be prickly about that, even if she sometimes mentioned it herself.

    “We should still ask her about this. She is the closest we have to a princess in the Crimson Waste,” Perfuma cut in. “If her people want to emigrate through the Stargate because they are sick of living in the desert, she needs to know.” She perked up, “I could help her improve the land!” With a glance at Scoria, she added: “Though that would cut into my work in the Scorpion Kingdom.”

    “Oh, that’d be OK. You’ve done so much for us already.” Scorpia beamed at her. “And I think we’re doing good now. Though we’ll have to wait and see how the war changes this.”

    Catra snorted aloud. “I don’t really think this is just about not wanting to live in the desert any more,” she said. “Etheria has enough, more than enough, fertile land for people to settle, doesn’t it?” She shook her head. “I think they just don’t want to live under a princess’s rule.” They were, by and large, former Horde soldiers turned bandits, after all. Instead of joining the Princess Alliance.

    “Well, technically, Huntara isn’t a princess,” Bow commented. “She hasn’t shown any magical power so far. But she’s still going to conquer the Crimson Waste and rule it like a princess, so the difference for those under her rule is probably moot.”

    Catra nodded. The former Horde soldier had made her views clear - ‘the strong make the rules’, if she recalled it correctly. Which meant the strong ruled. Though Catra wasn’t yet sure if Huntara was strong enough - or smart enough - to rule the Waste. Time would tell.

    Glimmer huffed. “That’s all interesting, and finding out if you can become a princess without magical powers is certainly a complicated topic, but we need to decide what we do about their demand to use the gate to colonise another world.”

    “We can’t just let them conquer another world!” Adora blurted out. “That would be wrong!”

    “Just send them to an empty world,” Mermista retorted. “Better than having them trying to carve out their own kingdom on Etheria.”

    “We would have to find an empty world for them first,” Bow pointed out. “And it would have to be a world able to sustain a kingdom. Finding one, and ensuring that they can survive and thrive there will take some time - possibly a long time.”

    “And it would take resources we need for the war,” Glimmer added. “We have more important things to do than cater to a small group of deserters and bandits - whose new world we would then have to protect as well so they don’t end up conquered by the Goa’uld.”

    “But do we know how big their group actually is?” Adora asked. “And how many similar groups exist?”

    That was a good question. Catra nodded. And had to suppress a snort when she saw the glances the others were exchanging.

    How many people on Etheria would want to leave instead of living under a princess? She had a feeling that there were more than a handful.

    *****​

    Another evening, another state dinner. If this continued, then Jack O’Neill was sure that in just a week, he would’ve hobnobbed more with royalty than every general at the Pentagon put together managed in a year. Or at all - it wasn’t as if they met actual kings and queens very often in their line of work. And the food was to die for.

    On the other hand, for a dinner involving multiple heads of state - absolute rulers, even - the whole shebang felt more like a family dinner. With all the squabbling you expected over the holidays.

    As long as you didn’t think too much about the fact that half the people present had the power to turn you into a paste on the floor with a thought, of course.

    “So, you’ve got a group of discontents who want to emigrate to a planet without princesses?” he asked once Mermista and her ‘consort’ had stopped reenacting a scene from Much Ado About Nothing or something. He managed not to smirk. Not much, at least, and he hid his mouth by taking a sip from the excellent wine right afterwards.

    “You didn’t fill him in?” Glimmer raised her eyebrows at Carter.

    “I did,” Carter replied. Very reservedly.

    And Glimmer tilted her head to raise her eyebrows at him.

    Jack took it in stride and grinned. Playing dumb didn’t work all the time, especially not with people who knew you, and he was no Peter Falk, but it was best to keep in practice. “Yeah, I heard the gist. But I guess you’ve talked about it in more detail.”

    “We did.” Glimmer nodded. “But we haven’t decided how to react to their demands yet.”

    “We need to carefully consider the issue,” Perfuma said. She really had flowers in her hair at all times. Jack wondered if they grew on her head - it wouldn’t be the weirdest thing he had seen so far in Etheria. “And we need more information.”

    “You can’t trust the words of deserters turned bandits,” Mermista said.

    “We don’t know if they are bandits,” Perfuma objected. “Just because they come from the Crimson Waste.”

    “They claim to come from the Crimson Waste,” Mermista retorted. “They might be pirates who survived the sinking of their ship - or deserted their crew in a port.”

    “Indeed!” Her consort, the smuggler, spoke up, nodding. “Having broken the sacred bond of captain and crew, they would naturally attempt to hide their betrayal by laying claim to a new identity.” He stood, raising his fist, but Mermista pulled him down into his seat before he could… do whatever he had planned. Probably something dramatic, in Jack’s opinion.

    “I don’t think we should assume the worst of them,” Adora said.

    “But we also shouldn’t overlook that they sneaked into Bright Moon,” Catra added. “Of course, that’s not a big achievement since you can sneak entire herds of horses over the border without your patrols noticing, but it’s a little suspicious.”

    “Swift Wind is a special case.”

    Glimmer was frowning at her, Jack noticed. But… “Swift Wind is smuggling horses?” he couldn’t help asking.

    “He sees it as freeing slaves,” Catra explained with a grin as Adora blushed.

    Daniel blinked. “Are horses sapient on Etheria?”

    “No. They’re animals,” Glimmer told him.

    “They’re as smart as dumb bots, I think,” Entrapta said. “It’s hard to measure that. Especially without invasive surgery.”

    “Ah.”

    “But Swift Wind was a normal horse himself before Adora accidentally turned him into what he is,” Bow said. “So, his views are… kinda coloured by that.”

    “And he’s trying to pull a Planet of the Apes?” Jack blurted out. He winced when everyone looked confused. “Ah, that’s a movie from Earth. About an astronaut landing on a planet where humans are dumb like apes, and smart apes rule the world. ”

    “Sounds like a weird movie,” Catra commented. “But not the weirdest I’ve seen.”

    “So, back to your wanna-be colonists,” Jack said quickly when he saw that Daniel wanted to expand on the topic. The last thing he wanted was to discuss old science fiction movies. And accidentally starting a fear of a horse uprising.

    “It’s quite understandable that they don’t want to live in the Crimson Waste,” Perfuma said with an earnest expression. “It’s a giant desert, and the plants are mostly cactuses. Which are fine plants, but they can be a little prickly.” She blinked, then blushed as a few people - including Jack - snickered. “I didn’t mean it like that! I meant they can be hard to control!”

    “But doesn’t your planet have more habitable regions? You only have about fifty million people, and Etheria is as large as Earth,” Daniel pointed out.

    “Etheria has plenty of room for everyone,” Glimmer said. “Without counting mountains or deserts.”

    “There’s nothing wrong with mountains. Dryl’s perfectly fine,” Entrapta objected.

    “But it’s not a farming country.”

    “No, but we trade ore for food.” Entrapta nodded.

    “They want fertile land, which usually means good farming land,” Bow cut in. “Though they didn’t actually state that they wanted to farm, did they?”

    “They didn’t. That’s why we need more information before we can actually discuss the issue properly and come to a decision,” Glimmer said.

    “But we can’t just let them colonise a planet anyway,” Adora pointed out. “What if there are already people living on it?”

    “Yes,” Daniel, of course, agreed readily. “The history of Earth shows the consequences of such colonisation. The United States’ history in particular.”

    The way everyone nodded with a serious expression made it clear that Glimmer and the others had filled them in about that particular part of human history.

    “But sending them to an empty planet, as tempting as it is, is not a good idea either,” Catra said. “They’d need protection so the Goa’uld can’t take them over. Unless they all die off, of course, if their crops fail. Or if they find out that knowing how to raid doesn’t let you survive when there’s nothing to raid.”

    “Oh, yes!” Daniel nodded. “Colonies on Earth often required constant support from the country of origin, at least in the beginning, and many failed anyway. Though the Stargate would make supplying a settlement far easier, I guess.”

    “That begs the question of whether we want to support such a colony or not,” Glimmer said. “They obviously don’t care for us - or anyone else except themselves. Why should we let them settle a planet and then protect it while entire worlds full of people are occupied by the Goa’uld?”

    That was a good question, Jack had to admit. Even though he liked the thought of Etherians striking out to live free from the rule of magical princesses. In an abstract way, though - the nitty gritty details were much less appealing.

    Though that wouldn’t really bother the press back home if they caught wind of it. He could already see the headlines and talking points about a second Mayflower. And at least some back home would want to emulate them as well and make their own country. A country that would probably be very similar to what the pilgrims had wanted to create.

    Yeah, it wasn’t really amusing any more.

    *****​

    Above Bright Moon, Etheria, December 29th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    She could do this. She had to do it. Well, there were alternatives, but it was the right thing to do. Probably.

    Adora closed her eyes and sighed. What should she do?

    “Is something wrong?”

    She forced herself to smile at Swift Wind’s question - he had turned his head and was looking at her while they flew through a cloud. “No, no,” she lied. “I was just thinking. About the war.”

    Lying to her friend felt awful.

    “Ah! I can understand - it must be a daunting task to face such evil. An Empire built on slavery - oh, I understand perfectly. I am waging my own war against slavery here on Etheria, as you know.”

    Adora winced. Fortunately, Swift Wind was looking ahead again and missed it. Just the topic she had been torn about. Enough - she would face this head-on! As she should have from the start. “So I’ve been told,” she said. “You’ve been taking horses to Bright Moon.”

    “Micah has been very helpful in housing them free and safe,” he replied. “No slaver would dare to mess with the most powerful kingdom on Etheria. Of course, now that you’re back, it should become even easier to free horses - who would dare to challenge She-Ra and her faithful mount?”

    Adora blinked. Was he expecting her to help him with stealing horses? She-Ra, a thief? For a brief moment, she imagined herself wearing a mask. And shuddered at the thought of looking like Shadow Weaver. Maybe a full suit with a helmet… No! Everyone would know it was her, anyway - she was usually the only one riding Swift Wind, after all. And he would probably announce her anyway. “Well, they knew you’re my friend, my mount, already,” she said.

    “Yes, but they also knew you were gone. Some might have even hoped that you’d stay gone! But now that you’re back, they know they’ve got no chance to stop us!”

    “Yeah…” She winced again. “But I’ll still be busy with the war against the Goa’uld.”

    “Of course! And I will fight at your side! But trust me, freeing horses is easy - you can do it to relax and unwind. And there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing them free of the cruel yokes that were forced on them, galloping over the fields and hills!”

    Adora pressed her lips together so she wouldn’t curse. Swift Wind was… well, he was clearly fully invested in this. And what could she say? That he should let his people - he was a horse, after all, just a special one - just be? Well, she had been planning - considering - that, but now… “Do you know how many horses are on Etheria?” she asked.

    “No.” He laughed. “But I won’t rest until the last one has been freed and slavery vanquished!”

    She would have to talk to Glimmer.

    *****​

    Bright Moon, Etheria, December 29th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “You want us to keep supporting him?”

    Adora winced a little - Glimmer’s outburst was a bit loud. Well, she was under a lot of stress, what with having to deal with all the issues that Micah had left for her to decide during their absence. Still… She nodded. “He is set on liberating all horses.”

    “We already knew that.” Her friend shook her head. “So what? That means we have to go along with it?”

    Yes. But she didn’t say that. “Well, we have been going along with it, haven’t we?”

    “Dad has.” Glimmer sighed. “But we can’t keep doing this - do you know how many horses are on Etheria?”

    Adora shook her head. “That’s what I wanted to ask you.”

    Glimmer scowled in return.

    “I guess you don’t know either, huh?” Catra cut in from where she was sprawled on Glimmer’s couch eating a tuna sandwich.

    Glimmer’s scowl deepened.

    “We can find out,” Bow said, smiling at everyone. “There should be records.”

    “You record the number of horses? Do you tax them?” Catra asked.

    “No, we don’t tax horses,” Glimmer said. “But Mom ordered a count in case we had to confiscate them for the war effort.”

    “You wanted to fight us with horse cavalry?” Catra asked. “Or mounted infantry?”

    “Mounted infantry, of course,” Glimmer replied. “They would have been good to move troops through rougher terrain where your tanks and transports would get stuck.”

    “Ah, so in case you needed to evacuate Bright Moon and had not enough skiffs.”

    “Yes.”

    “Got it!” Bow announced. “So… Hm… that’s a lot of horses. Oh. That includes the horses Swift Wind brought in.”

    “But that doesn’t tell us how many are left,” Adora pointed out.

    Bow smiled again. “Well, if we use Bright Moon as a baseline…”

    “Can we use it as a baseline?” Catra interrupted him. “The Scorpion Kingdom doesn’t have many horses, I bet. And I don’t think the Kingdom of Snows or Salienas have many horses, either.

    Bow frowned in return. “It would be a conservative estimate, I think.”

    “A wild-ass guess. Got it.” Catra nodded with a smirk.

    “It’s the best we have,” Glimmer spat. She tapped a few keys on her tablet, still scowling. “So, all things considered… we could be dealing with a few hundred thousand horses on Etheria.”

    That was… a lot. Or was it? “How many horses are on Earth?” Adora asked. “Just to get a comparison,” she explained.

    Her friends were staring at her. Even Catra.

    “Did he say he wanted to ‘liberate’ them too?” Glimmer asked.

    He hadn’t. But it wasn’t as if they had talked about that. Adora wasn’t even sure if he knew that there were horses on Earth - wait, he had to know that after talking with SG-1. Right?

    *****​

    “So… we’ve got people wanting their own planet, without magical princesses to rule them, and a magical flying horse - unicorn - running an underground railroad for runaway horses.”

    The Colonel, lying on the couch in their room, didn’t sound as amused as Samantha Carter would have expected, given the situation on Etheria. No comment about ‘ripping off Earth history’ or about former bandits ‘founding space Australia’. He seemed to be treating the potential problem with the seriousness it deserved - for a change. She nodded. “Yes, sir.”

    “Solving that will be a little tricky.”

    “I do not see the problem,” Teal’c commented. “According to our allies’ best estimates, and supported by Captain Carter’s observations, those people are deserters from a vanquished enemy army who were too craven to take up arms when their planet was under attack. The Princess Alliance does not owe them anything.”

    “Yeah, well… obviously, the magical princesses don’t see things as simple as that, Teal’c,” the Colonel replied.

    Teal’c inclined his head, acknowledging the point.

    “And what do you think about Swift Wind’s, ah, crusade?” Daniel asked.

    “I respect his decision to fight to free his brethren.”

    “Ah…” The Colonel looked surprised. “We’re talking about horses, not people.”

    “Exactly.” Teal’c’s face showed a hint of a smile.

    “But…” The Colonel fell silent with a pout. “Were you pulling my leg?”

    And the hint vanished. “No, Colonel O’Neill.” Once more, Teal’c nodded. “I do not think that Swift Wind, having been born as a horse, would care whether or not others consider horses as more than animals.”

    “Ah… Good point.”

    And Teal’c would empathise with the idea of freeing your enslaved brethren.

    “Yes,” Daniel agreed. “His, ah, unique history would ensure that he has a different view of the whole situation. And it would be quite, ah, callous, I would say, and perhaps naive and shortsighted as well, to expect him to treat horses as mere animals - he is likely to feel a kinship with them despite their lack of sapience. Of course, since he is a horse of sorts, that’s quite justified.”

    “Yeah, I think we all realised that when we heard about his crusade to free his brothers and sisters from bondage,” the Colonel pointed out in a dry voice.

    Daniel blushed slightly. “Well, yes, I was just agreeing with Teal’c.”

    “Indeed.”

    “Yeah, yeah. But just because he thinks horses are people doesn’t mean everyone will agree with him. And that’s the problem,” the Colonel said.

    Daniel blinked. “What do you mean?”

    “We have millions of horses on Earth,” the Colonel explained. “Some people even eat them.”

    “Oh. I didn’t… How didn’t I think of that?” Daniel looked aghast. “He must think we are cannibals - using the more colloquial definition of a cannibal, of course, since, strictly speaking, cannibalism is defined as eating your own species, not merely other sapient beings.”

    “I doubt that Swift Wind will care about such word mincing.”

    Sam nodded in agreement with Teal’c.

    “But the real question isn’t what our magical flying unicorn is going to do, but what the princesses are going to do.” The Colonel was looking at her, Sam realised.

    “That wasn’t a topic that came up while I was working on the Stargate with Entrapta, sir,” she told him.

    “I expected that, seeing as everyone seems to have been blindsided by the horse crusader.” He was still looking at her. Why would… Ah.

    Sam narrowed her eyes. “Entrapta is a brilliant scientist, but she is rarely interested in such political questions,” she pointed out. She wasn’t going to use Entrapta as a source of information about the internal discussions of the Princess Alliance.

    “Yeah.” He wasn’t pressing the implied suggestion. Good.

    “We’ll have to talk to the Princess Alliance about this,” Daniel pointed out the obvious. “This could become a diplomatic catastrophe if the Etherians back his, ah, intentions! And if he uses his unique appearance and nature to run a PR campaign…”

    “I think he’d have the girl demographic solidly in his corner. Probably even the French ones,” the Colonel commented.

    Daniel nodded. “Well, yes, sure, who wouldn’t love to… Oh my God - what if he wants to attend the party?”

    Sam froze. That would…

    “We’ve never seen him indoors, have we?” the Colonel asked.

    “No. But that doesn’t mean he won’t enter buildings. He might actually live in the palace stables,” Daniel said, wincing. “And since everyone here seems to be getting excited about the party, he might want to attend as well.”

    “And someone will want to talk to the talking horse, and talking about horses that don’t talk seems the obvious topic to break the ice.” The Colonel looked grim.

    Well, he was nominally in charge of the party organisation now.

    Sam managed not to smile at the irony, but only because she was still involved as well. “I suggest you breach the subject as soon as possible, sir.”

    “Yeah.”

    *****​

    Bright Moon, Etheria, December 30th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “We should just ignore them. We don’t owe them anything.”

    “But Mermista! We can’t just ignore them - they’re as much victims of the war as anyone else who was displaced. At the very least, we should let them resettle in a more fertile region of Etheria.”

    This is getting tedious, Catra thought while she munched on a tuna sandwich.

    “They don’t want to resettle on Etheria - they want a planet of their own. If they wanted to farm, they would have returned to the Scorpion Kingdom like the other former Horde soldiers when you put the call out,” Glimmer retorted. “And we can’t just ignore them sneaking over Bright Moon’s borders! They might attempt to seize the gate by force!”

    “All six of them?” Mermista scoffed. “Even Emily could handle that by herself.”

    “Both Emily’s offensive and defensive capabilities have been increased significantly,” Entrapta spoke up. “Her shield generator should be able to hold out against a prolonged assault with portable weapons, not counting advanced bombs though.”

    “Not quite my point, but see? We can ignore them.”

    “But we shouldn’t ignore them!” Perfuma protested. “We’re better than that.”

    “And they’re kinda our responsibility - well, mine,” Scorpia added. “You know, being former Horde soldiers.”

    Catra swallowed the last bite and snorted. She was a former Horde soldier herself - former Horde leader, actually - but she didn’t owe those idiots anything.

    “You fulfilled your responsibilities by offering every former Horde soldier a place in your kingdom,” Glimmer told her. “If they don’t want to live there, that’s on them. And the place certainly fits their request for ‘fertile land’ now,” she added with a scoff.

    “Well, yeah, but it doesn’t fit their request not to live under a princess,” Catra said. Half the Alliance leadership turned to glare at her, but she shrugged. “I’m just pointing out that they don’t just want fertile land; they want to rule it.”

    “They want an entire planet. For what, a few hundred people?” Gimmer shook her head. “And that’s only if we believe their claims. Huntara messaged us that she doubts that they have such a big tribe.”

    “And if we give them a planet, others will want one as well,” Mermista said. “Even a few princesses, I bet. More than a few, actually. I’d suggest giving them some desert island no one wants, but they’d turn pirate as soon as they can get a ship.”

    Perfuma shook her head. “They would only turn pirate if they have no better alternatives.”

    Oh… Catra suppressed a sigh. “Not exactly. Some people want to be raiders, be they pirates or bandits. They don’t want to work because they prefer fighting.”

    “You would know, right?” Mermista frowned at her.

    Catra raised her eyebrows at her. “I’m a soldier. I’m good at waging war with all that entails. Logistics, tactics, strategy…” Of course, she also was good at raiding since that was part of waging war, but that wouldn’t help her make her point. “They, though, don’t want to fight a war. They just want to plunder what others built.”

    “We don’t know that!” Adora protested.

    “Does anyone have serious doubts that we’re dealing with a bunch of bandits?” Catra asked.

    “They might want to turn over a new leaf,” Perfuma said.

    Which meant that even Perfuma thought that they had been bandits. And that meant they could easily return to their old trade, even if they wanted to change. Which Catra doubted.

    “And imagine what example we would be setting if we let bandits set up a colony in the galaxy - and then would supply and protect it.” Glimmer shook her head. “What would our allies think?”

    “That this is an easy opportunity to exploit?” Catra suggested with a grin. “If we set up a protected colony, they’ll want one as well.” The Americans had been planning to set up a ‘fallback’ colony or something, in case Earth fell, but that had been before they made contact with Etheria. As far as Catra knew, they were now squabbling with the United Nations and NATO over the whole site.

    “Yes. And you know how many humans are on Earth - and how many countries they have. Everyone will want a colony if others have one.” Glimmer scoffed. “So, it’s obvious: We have to refuse their demands.” She looked at the others in the room - well, the other princesses, Catra thought.

    Most of them nodded, some more reluctantly than others. Perfuma disagreed but didn’t say anything, and Scorpia hugged her.

    Well, it looked like they had finally dealt with this problem. Or at least come to a decision - they still had to deal with the bandits themselves.

    “OK.” Glimmer nodded, obviously satisfied. “Now that that’s settled, Jack wanted to discuss a few things, mainly Swift Wind.”

    Cara saw that Adora tensed and scowled. Swift Wind’s antics were already stressing her lover. If O’Neill added to that…

    Adora would do anything for her friend - no one knew this better than Catra herself. But someone had to look out for Adora in return, or the idiot would sacrifice herself to help everyone else.

    And that, Catra would never allow. She’d do anything to protect Adora.

    *****​
     
  13. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Yeah, but I'm still not sure putting a gate in orbit would be a good idea - it sacrifices a lot of the advantages of the gate for marginally better security.
     
  14. Transreal Clouden

    Transreal Clouden Know what you're doing yet?

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    Thanks for the chapter. The question of what to do about Swift Wind is an interesting one.

    Orbital bombardment is a bit of an exaggerated advantage when facing high-tech dug in opposition. Whether Etheria qualifies is certainly up for debate.
     
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  15. macdjord

    macdjord Well worn.

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    Not really. Etheria is not short on shuttles, so a gate in orbit is still only, what, half an hour from anywhere on the planet?
     
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  16. Threadmarks: Chapter 73: Going Home Part 5
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 73: Going Home Part 5

    Bright Moon, Etheria, December 30th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “So, how’s it going?” Jack O’Neill asked when he took his usual seat, with his team following suit. The fact that he had a usual seat in the meeting chamber of an alliance of monarchs still felt weird. Even more so because they treated him like an equal. Absolute monarchs weren’t supposed to do that - they were supposed to huff and puff about upstart or uppity American peasants.

    He suppressed a snort at his weird thoughts and focused on the people present. Glimmer was sitting with her elbows on the table, hands folded, looking directly at him. Adora was sitting straight and tense as if she were a junior officer in a meeting with generals and not the most powerful individual in the room. Catra was sitting slightly slumped over and turned to the side - where Adora was sitting. Jack almost expected her to put her leg over the armrest. Bow was sitting like a straight-A student in class, Netossa like any general from the Pentagon Jack had met under similar circumstances, a contrast to the more relaxed Spinnerella. Mermista was propping up her head with one hand, seemingly bored… Yeah, he had meetings like that before.

    “So, you wanted to talk to us?” Glimmer spoke up before he could finish assessing everyone else.

    “Yep.” He nodded. “Although I have to state beforehand that I’m not speaking for the Air Force, the United States, Earth etc.” He saw Daniel relax a bit and had to suppress another snort - as if his friend had any right to complain about potential diplomatic misunderstandings given his own history!

    “You’re just here as a friend, yes.” Glimmer nodded.

    “Yes.” Jack smiled. “And as a friend, I am a bit concerned about the whole horse business.”

    “So are we,” Glimmer said.

    Adora looked guilty, Jack noticed. And Catra was glaring at him as if that was his fault. Well, it wasn’t. Whatever the problem was was on the Etherians. But he better got straight to the point. “Yeah, I bet. Anyway, I - we - were wondering what you were doing about it, if you were planning to do anything about it, seeing as Earth also has horses.” He smiled. “And a lot of them. Some people on Earth even eat horses.” That made everyone wince, Jack noticed. “I guess you didn’t know that.”

    “I think we heard something about it but forgot,” Catra said, sighing. She was sitting straight, now. No more posturing.

    “That… complicates matters,” Glimmer said while she rubbed the bridge of her nose.

    “You eat horses?” Perfuma asked.

    “So did the Horde,” Catra said. “When we could catch them, remember?” She looked at Scorpia.

    “Right.” Scorpia nodded. “Force Captains always got their cut, yes, if anyone caught an animal.”

    “What’s wrong with eating animals?” Frosta asked with a frown. “First, you’ve got something against hunting seals for their pelts; now we shouldn’t eat game and fish either?”

    “No one’s saying not to eat animals,” Glimmer spoke up. “But horses are a special case since Swift Wind used to be a horse.”

    “I think he still qualifies as a horse,” Bow said. “Just a… magical variant?”

    “I think the wings and horn kind of contradict that,” Jack retorted.

    “Many animals of the same species have drastically different appearances. Just think how many different breeds of dogs exist,” Daniel cut in. “I would say his sapience is more important. And his ability to talk.”

    “Well, yes, but those are magical changes,” Bow said. “We don’t actually know how extensive those changes are.”

    “He might not be a new species - we would need to test his DNA for that,” Entrapta added. “And then we would have to compare it to the data from Alpha.”

    Ah, the research base they had discovered on one of the moons. Where the Ancients had been playing God. Jack pressed his lips together at the thought. And he wasn’t thinking about being related to them. Not at all!

    “Ah. So, you don’t know if he can have fertile offspring with horses,” Daniel said, nodding.

    That triggered another row of grimaces.

    “Daniel!” Jack hissed, as Glimmer pointedly said: “No, we haven’t asked if he’s, ah, trying.”

    His friend actually blushed. “Oh, I’m sorry - I’m really sorry. I didn’t think…”

    Jack swallowed the ‘no, you really didn’t’ he had on the tip of his tongue and shook his head. “Anyway, does it matter if he actually is a horse, as long as he thinks he is?”

    “Well, if he’s operating from faulty data, he might change his plans once he knows the truth,” Entrapta said. “Provided he is a different species, of course.”

    “I don’t think he, ah, thinks like that,” Adora spoke up. “Besides, his parents were horses. And he might have siblings he never met. That they aren’t as smart as he is doesn’t matter to him.”

    “Indeed,” Teal’c commented with a nod. “I doubt he will stray from his chosen course of action whether or not his species changed.”

    “Yep.” Jack thought so as well. It would have been a neat solution, but things rarely worked out like that. “So, what are you going to do about the whole horse slavery and cannibalism thing? And I know it technically isn’t cannibalism,” he added before Daniel or Entrapta could say something.

    “We’re still trying to figure that out,” Bow replied. “Oh, by the way, do you know how many horses are on Earth?”

    Jack looked at Carter, but she shook her head. Daniel looked lost as well, and he knew better than to expect Teal’c to know such a thing. “I’ll have to ask Stargate Command next time they dial in,” he said. “That should be… in half an hour.” Nice timing. But they would wonder why he was asking such a thing.

    He wasn’t looking forward to explaining the reason.

    *****​

    “...and so, if Swift Wind managed to convince everyone on Earth to free all horses, you’d be stuck with over fifty million horses to deal with - and many of them rely on human caretakers.”

    Adora was trying to listen to Daniel’s explanation, but it was difficult. She still had trouble imagining so many horses. That was more than Etheria’s population! There was no way, not even if everyone pitched in, that they could put them all to pasture in Bright Moon. Or anywhere else.

    “What do you mean, they rely on human caretakers?” Scorpia asked.

    “Ah…” Daniel shifted his notes around. “Over the centuries - millennia - of domestication, many horses were bred for specialised purposes, which means that for them, adapting to living in the wilderness without humans to feed, protect and nurse them is difficult or even impossible. And, of course, some horses of a breed that could survive in the wilderness might have difficulties adapting to a life without human contact, though that remains to be seen - there are multiple examples of wild populations developing from horses that escaped their owners, the most famous probably being the mustangs of North America. But the odds of those horses bred to race, or for pulling heavy loads, or the miniature breeds, doing well in the wild are not very good.”

    Oh. So, it was even worse than Adora had thought. Even if everyone agreed to set the horses free - and she was aware that was not likely - many horses would die as a result.

    “But enough - more than enough, I think - would survive to cause an ecological catastrophe in the areas they populated,” Perfuma said, shaking her head and leaning against Scorpia, who had her arm wrapped around her. “I can create areas suited for horses by changing the plantlife in the region, but the sheer scale of it… and, of course, I can’t change the local climate, so, even with adaptive plants, there are limits - not to mention that changing plants like that can cause an ecological catastrophe by themselves if they start displacing other plants, so…” She trailed off with an unhappy expression.

    “...so, even if your friend managed the impossible and got all horses freed, he’d end up dooming millions of them,” Jack finished for her with a wry smile.

    “And keeping those horses that couldn’t survive without humans in human hands… well, I don’t think that too many people would want to take care of horses for free if they couldn’t ride them or put them to work,” Glimmer said. “And paying them would cost a lot of money.”

    “Well, some activists would volunteer, but I’m not sure there would be enough,” Daniel said. “Unless they can ride the horses in exchange. I think more would agree to such a deal.”

    Would Swift Wind agree to that? Or would he still see it as enslavement?

    Before Adora could say anything, Teal’c spoke up: “If they have been altered so they cannot live free any more, would not taking care of them be the duty of those who have owned them and profited from them?”

    “We’re still talking about animals, Teal’c,” Jack said with a slight frown. “They aren’t people.”

    Teal’c nodded slowly. “They are not - but neither is Swift Wind.”

    “But he’s intelligent. Horses aren’t,” Jack retorted.

    “Sapient,” Daniel said.

    “Whatever. In any case, horses aren’t people, and we can’t expect everyone to treat them like people,” Jack said.

    “You don’t have to treat them like people in order to not, ah, own or eat them,” Daniel said. “Many Indians consider cows sacred, for example, and would not eat them. I think stopping the butchering and eating of horses might not be impossible.”

    “Just nearly so. If the French decide that eating horses is, like eating frogs, a core part of their culture…” Jack scoffed.

    “Jack!” Daniel frowned. “That’s a stereotype! Besides, I think many would have second thoughts about eating horses if they knew that there is a sapient horse.”

    “In his presence, sure, kind of awkward, but he can’t be everywhere - there’s only one of him,” Jack pointed out.

    It was a little weird to see them argue about Swift Wind and horses when this was all her fault. But Adora didn’t know how to solve this. Not without hurting Swift Wind.

    “Well, here’s one of him now - but could there be more?” Daniel asked.

    “We don’t know if he can have kids with normal horses. Or wants to,” Catra said. “Do you want to ask him?” She looked at Daniel, who grimaced in return.

    And then everyone was looking at her, Adora realised.

    “If Swift Wind can breed with normal horses, that would certainly change the situation, I think. Right?” Entrapta asked, cocking her head.

    “How so?” Mermista asked,

    “Well, with the advantages sapience, flight and magic grant them, they could replace horses. Eventually. Although it would take a very long time,” Entrapta replied. “But more importantly, they were the same species, just with different levels of intelligence.”

    “The horses would still be animals,” Jack insisted.

    “But we don’t treat humans as animals even if they aren’t smarter than, say, a smart ape,” Daniel pointed out.

    Jack opened his mouth, then closed it again. “But he wasn’t born that way - he was made that way!” he said after a moment.

    “So were half the people on Etheria.” Catra shrugged. “Just saying - I won’t start a crusade to free cats any time soon, don’t worry,” she added with a grin aimed at Adora.

    But it wasn’t funny. Adora would have to ask Swift Wind about his… well, his biology. And family matters. She’d rather deal with a Goa’uld or Horde attack.

    But this was all her fault - sort of. Swift Wind wasn’t a mistake or something. In any case, he was her responsibility. She wouldn’t run from it. She nodded.

    But, once again, before she could say something, someone else spoke up. Daniel, this time. And he was addressing her. “So, just, well, it’s kind of related, so… since you created him, could you create more of him?”

    Adora was at a loss for words again. Create more like Swift Wind? Alter more horses?

    “Daniel, we shouldn’t encourage people to play God,” Jack said.

    “It wouldn’t be playing God!” Daniel protested. Then he frowned. “Well, not any more, in a sense, than what the Ancients did on Etheria.”

    And Adora was a First One. “Oh, no!” she blurted out. “I am acting like my ancestors!”

    *****​

    Samantha Carter winced when she saw Adora’s face fall. That hadn’t been…

    “That’s not true!” Glimmer snapped. “They experimented with people - and tried to destroy Etheria to take out Horde Prime - but you just wanted to activate your sword. You didn’t want to experiment and create Swift Wind.”

    “Yes. So don’t try to make it sound as if she did!” Catra sneered at Daniel. “That’s not even remotely the same.”

    Daniel looked struck. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that. I just… I just wanted to point out that it’s not playing God.” He set his jaw. “But I think we do need to know what exactly happened to Swift Wind. And, ah, what the potential consequences could be.”

    Meaning, whether or not he would have offspring, Sam translated in her mind.

    “I can’t really reproduce what I did since I didn’t know what I was doing,” Adora replied. “And I don’t… I don’t want to repeat it.” She pressed her lips together.

    She didn’t elaborate on her reasons for the refusal, and Sam couldn’t tell if Adora was refusing because she felt it had been a mistake or if she didn’t want to risk something going wrong - or acting like the Ancients who had experimented on Etheria’s people. Probably a mixture of all three.

    “But what if Swift Wind feels lonely as the only one of his kind?” Perfuma asked. “What if he asks to have companions? An actual species?” She looked at Entrapta. “Assuming he isn’t a member of the horse species any more.”

    Entrapta closed her mouth and cocked her head sideways, nose scrunched. “Uh… Experimenting with animals is fine, right?”

    “That is somewhat controversial, with regard to horses at least,” Sam told her.

    “That complicates things,” Entrapta said.

    “I don’t know if having more like Swift Wind around would make things easier,” the Colonel commented.

    “Well, he might be too busy dealing with others of his kind to bother with freeing all the horses?” Daniel suggested.

    “That’s not how it works.” Adora shook her head. “You don’t stop doing what you think is right because there are more people and things to do.”

    Catra looked like she disagreed, but the catwoman didn’t say anything - although her frown had deepened, Sam noticed.

    And Daniel was being stubborn. “Well, I still think we need to know if there will be more of his kind in the future.”

    “Yes.” Adora nodded. “But that depends on what he wants - we can’t decide things for him.”

    “But he is trying to decide for us how we should treat horses,” Glimmer retorted.

    “He’s trying to do what he thinks is right,” Adora told her. “And we haven’t told him to stop, have we?”

    King Micah grimaced. “Well… no.”

    “Quite the contrary,” Glimmer commented dryly with a glance at her father.

    “I’ll talk to him,” Adora said, sighing. “I’ll explain our concerns, but…” She shrugged.

    Entrapta nodded in obvious agreement. “Until we have more data, we can’t make a sound decision. So we need more data!”

    “Yes.” Glimmer sighed. “Well, at least we decided how to handle the colonists.” She turned her head to look at the Colonel. “Unless similar requests are coming up on Earth.”

    He smiled wryly. “I am sure a lot of people wish to set up colonies of their own, but as far as I know, there hasn’t been anything beyond the proposal stage - and nothing that is even close to being approved.”

    “Not even the, what did you call it, the Alpha Site?” Bow asked. “Which I hope no one will confuse with Alpha here.”

    “Well, that was a sort of emergency project. Its fate is now a point of discussion between the United States, the United Nations and our allies on Earth,” the Colonel deflected. “And above my pay grade,” he added.

    Sam winced again. It had been a logical response to their past situation, ensuring that there was a failsafe plan should the Goa’uld conquer Earth, to have a fall-back position from which they could rebuild. But the rest of the world saw it as the United States attempting to save their own culture and leaving the rest of the world to be destroyed. Which, if Sam was honest, was exactly how it would have worked out, due to the secrecy that had been maintained at the time.

    “We’ll have to talk about colonies with the Alliance as well. And with the United Nations,” Glimmer said. “Before people make concrete plans - or go off on their own.”

    It was already too late for the former; Sam was aware of that. And the latter… what would Stargate Command do if the Russians or the Chinese wanted to set up a colony? Stop them? What if the United Nations voted for starting a colony?

    She was very glad that she wouldn’t have to make such decisions. She was just a scientist. And, she reminded herself as everyone was getting up, she had work to do at the Stargate - they were falling behind schedule because of this meeting. Well, behind the revised schedule; they were still ahead of the original schedule.

    Still, it would be good to do some productive work instead of… meetings like this. Not that they weren’t important, of course - quite the contrary. But Sam was a scientist, not a diplomat or politician.

    *****​

    Gate Area, Outside Bright Moon, Etheria, December 30th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    The gate site really looked like a Horde base now. Catra had known it would, of course - she had been involved in the planning stage and had double-checked the layout. But to see it up close, finished, the familiar pre-fabricated walls and bunkers surrounding her… It didn’t quite raise her hackles, but it brought back memories she’d rather forget. Between the bots and the fortifications, it felt like a Horde base, despite Bright Moon soldiers manning the walls and patrolling the perimeter.

    “I feel like we should be sneaking around here,” Bow commented near her. She turned her head to glance at him, and he winced a little. “Ah, sorry!”

    Catra snorted. “Well, if you want to test the guards, feel free. We can find out if Bright Moon’s best and brightest are better at guarding a site than the Horde.”

    She saw him blink before he laughed. For a moment, he hadn’t been sure if she was joking. Good. She liked being a little unpredictable.

    “Well, Glimmer picked them personally - they are usually guarding the palace - so…” He shrugged.

    “So, they might actually stop a push by bandits.” Catra snorted again. “But how well will they be doing if a princess attacks?” She had seen what happened to large numbers of Horde troops and bots under such attacks, and she didn’t think Alliance forces were that much better at fighting princesses. If at all - Horde soldiers had been trained to fight the Princess Alliance, after all. At least nominally; actual combat performance hadn’t been very impressive for their regular forces.

    “Well, how likely is that?” Bow asked.

    She shrugged. “You tell me. I wasn’t at the meeting with Princess Bee.”

    “It’s Sweet Bee,” he corrected her. She cocked her head at him, raising her eyebrows, and he sighed. “Sweet Bee wants access to the gate, but she wouldn’t attack us.”

    “And that’s why we’re here to check gate security, right.” She snorted.

    “It’s not…” He sighed. “Well, there was some concern since she was once dating Prince Peakablue, who was a member of the first Princess Alliance.”

    “The scryer, yes. That’s why Castaspella is here.” Shadow Weaver had claimed that she had countered the prince’s powers. And since the Alliance forces hadn’t run rings around the Horde - well, not even more than they had done at times - Catra was pretty sure the woman hadn’t been lying. But it remained to be seen if Glimmer’s aunt could do the same.

    “Yes.” Bow shrugged. “Anyway, I don’t think…”

    “There she is,” Catra interrupted him, pointing towards the main gate.

    “Ah.” Bow checked his pad. “A bit earlier than planned.”

    “Let’s go say hello.” Catra was already moving towards the small group entering the base, ears twitching as she tried to listen in to what they were saying.

    “...and as you can see, the site is secure. There’s no chance that this will be used to launch an invasion of Etheria,” Glimmer was saying as Catra approached.

    The other princess didn’t look impressed, wrinkling her nose and brushing some blonde locks out of her face as she looked around. Her antennas twitched, but Catra didn’t know if that was normal or a sign of tension for her species - the princess’s butterfly wings didn’t move, at least. “It looks as if we’ve been invaded already,” she commented with a sniff. Then she spotted Catra and scowled deeply.

    Catra grinned in return before turning to Glimmer. “Base’s up to snuff,” she told her.

    “Noted.”

    “Seeing you working with former invaders is not exactly filling me with trust in your ability to safeguard the gate,” Sweet Bee said.

    Catra shrugged and made sure to smile as innocently as she could. “Ah! Of course, instead, you would trust people who haven’t even had the guts to fight said invaders.”

    “Catra!” Bow hissed next to her.

    She ignored him and watched as Sweet Bee glowered at her. That had been a solid hit. The closest the princess had come to fighting the Horde had been dating a former member of the Alliance, after all.

    Instead of retorting, Sweet Bee turned to face Glimmer. “My concerns remain. And I am not convinced that this new threat is as dire as you claim. It is a bit too convenient.”

    “Convenient?” Glimmer scowled as well.

    “You’ve finally defeated the Horde, but instead of dismantling your armies and embracing peace, you meet a new enemy that requires you to build up even more forces for another war. How convenient for you - especially since you’ve also just discovered a gate that connects Etheria to other planets and a First Ones research base that supposedly was the birthplace of our civilisation - on a moon you personally lay claim to and which can only be reached through ships you and your allies control.” Sweet Bee sniffed again.

    “What?” Glimmer glared at her. “Are you saying that we made this up to… to dominate Etheria?”

    Sweet Bee showed her teeth in return. “All I am saying is that it is a very convenient excuse for keeping your armies ready to fight and taking control of artefacts that, by any right, should be the domain of all of Etheria. And I am not the only one who has made such an observation. Especially since we haven’t seen even one soldier of your enemies.”

    Ah, that was their angle. Catra didn’t think it would work out - the Princess Alliance was the supreme military power on Etheria and didn’t have to bow to anyone - but it looked like more trouble was afoot on the diplomatic front. Right when they couldn’t really afford such distractions and in the middle of the Swift Wind mess. And Adora would blame herself for this somehow and feel even guiltier now.

    Catra had to suppress the sudden urge to unsheath her claws and hiss at the princess.

    *****​

    Bright Moon, Etheria, December 30th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    Jack O’Neill knew this wasn’t the best time. Glimmer seemed more than a little stressed, probably from having to deal with flying horses on crusades, bandit raiders and now queen bees all vying for her attention. Carter’s report about the visit to the gate site had made it sound as if Catra had been the most diplomatic at the meeting, not counting Bow and the other tech heads, and that said enough about how cordial that visit had been.

    But he wasn’t sure whether there would be a better time any time soon or when he would be next on Etheria with some time to spare to address this particular little problem. Or not so little. Sure, if he asked Hammond and explained, he probably would get permission for a personal trip to Etheria, but if anything leaked… Jack could endure a lot, had endured a lot, for his country - or for Earth, now - but he could do without the endless jokes he knew this would spawn.

    So it was time to bite the bullet. Taking a deep breath, he approached the door to Glimmer’s office and nodded at the guards. “Hi. Is the queen free for a short talk before dinner?”

    “We’ll check,” the female guard said before turning away and knocking on the door. After a moment, she opened the door and slipped inside. Jack hadn’t heard any answer or command to enter, so the knocking was probably just to give Glimmer a few seconds to put down what she was doing.

    The door closed behind the guard, leaving him waiting with the other guard, a male one, pretty young, who looked completely focused on his job. Which begged for some comments and questions, like how it felt to guard a queen who could probably wipe the floor with her entire army.

    But Jack restrained himself. Pissing off the grunts of your allies was not a smart idea. Especially if you were the junior partner in the alliance.

    And if you needed a favour. A personal favour. Sure, it would also benefit the Alliance, but it still felt like Jack was abusing his friendship and position for personal gains.

    The door swung open again, and the female appeared. “The Queen will see you now.”

    Glimmer was at her desk - which, even if it was of a size that would give the worst Earth CEO a case of envy, looked small in the room and was covered with files and letters and whatnot - and as soon as the door closed, she sighed. “Hi, Jack. Don’t tell me there’s another crisis to deal with, please.”

    Yep, she was stressed - and expecting another crisis. Jack shook his head. “No crisis. None that I’d know of, at least. Just a small little personal request.” Here goes nothing, he thought. Then, taking a deep breath and grimacing, he said: “I need some magic help.”

    Glimmer’s eyebrows rose. “Oh?”

    Sighing, Jack started to explain.

    *****​

    “...and that’s about it,” Jack O’Neill finished his explanation for the second time in ten minutes. “Glimmer said you might be able to help me.” If anyone could.

    Castaspella frowned a little as she put her elbows on her desk - which was half the size of Glimmer’s and only half-covered in paper and what seemed to be parchment. “I see. You wish to prevent anyone from using your genetic material to create unwanted children.”

    “Yes. No children at all without my permission, basically,” Jack said. It was best to make that clear in case someone might think as long as one parent wanted the child, it was OK.

    “Yes.” She nodded. “It is understandable, given your situation, though more than a little unusual for Etheria.”

    “It’s also unusual for Earth.” He grinned.

    She smiled in return. “So I heard. Contraceptives and abortions are the usual means to deal with unwanted pregnancies, though that wouldn’t help you with your problem. And cloning is a very new technology - we haven’t had to deal with such issues before we encountered Horde Prime. But I can think of a few ways how this could be addressed. Maybe a modification of a sealing spell… though the side effects would need to be addressed, of course, or the results might turn out to be quite unpleasant.” She tilted her head. “And that would be a shame.”

    Jack pressed his lips together. The woman sounded a little too flippant - and a little too interested, both in his problem and maybe in himself, though he could be mistaken about the later part. As anyone in Stargate Command knew, and Daniel loved to explain, alien cultures had different social cues, so you couldn’t be sure you weren’t misinterpreting the subtext of a conversation unless you asked. And ‘hey, do you think I am attractive? I am just checking if I am reading you correctly; I am not interested in you, OK?’ was the last thing he wanted to ask a witch. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and all.

    “But I’ll have to discuss this with my colleagues in Mystacore. And I’ll have to examine you, of course, in case your ancestry has a mythical part to it that might affect a spell.” She smiled widely.

    Definitely too eager, Jack thought. Maybe he should have gone to Entrapta instead. Even though that meant Carter would hear about it practically at once.

    But the die was cast.

    “So, if you would stand up? This won’t take long.” She gestured to the round carpet in the middle of her room.

    ‘Don’t make any jokes about undressing for the examination,’ Jack told himself, very firmly, as he walked over. He really couldn’t afford any misunderstandings.

    *****​

    “Swift Wind? Yes, I’ve seen him arrive. He’s in the palace stables - well, former palace stables - I think.”

    “Thank you.” Adora forced herself to smile at the guard before she turned away and started walking.

    ‘Former stables’. She knew why there were no horses there any more. The palace horses had been the first herd Swift Wind had taken to pasture. And Bright Moon’s people had let him do it because they thought Adora supported it. Which she didn’t - well, not unconditionally. She could understand that Swift Wind wanted to free horses since he was a horse. Sort of. But horses weren’t intelligent - not sapient. They were animals, not people. On the other hand, if a human got brain damage, did they stop being human and become an animal? Was there a line, a point where you’d stop being human because you were too dumb?

    She didn’t think that was how it worked. Of course, a horse was different - a horse had never been sapient. But what if a human was born with brain damage? They were still a human, weren’t they? And while Swift Wind had been a normal horse, if he suffered brain damage, Adora would do what she could to heal him. Once sapient, always sapient, even if you were not any more? It seemed a bit unfair to treat humans like that.

    And what if Adora could repeat what she had done to Swift Wind? Wouldn’t all horses then have the potential to be sapient? And would it be right to keep them from becoming sapient? From becoming a person? It didn’t seem fair to keep people - well, potential people - from ‘achieving their potential’.

    On the other hand, even if Adora managed to discover how to repeat what she had done to Swift Wind, she wouldn’t have the time to do that to every horse. There were over fifty million horses on Earth. And the people on many planets occupied by the Goa’uld had horses as well because they weren’t allowed more advanced technology and couldn’t use magic. There was no way she could, ah, change all of them even if she did nothing but that.

    But just because she couldn’t help everyone didn’t mean she shouldn’t help anyone. That wasn’t right either. You had to help those you could.

    She bit her lower lip as she remembered Catra telling her that sacrificing her life for others wasn’t right either.

    This was so complicated! She had told the others she’d talk to Swift Wind, but she had no idea what to say! She was such a failure! She was…

    “Hey, Adora!”

    She gasped and turned. That hadn’t been Catra, but Swift Wind. And there he was, smiling at her from the other end of the courtyard she was walking through. “Swift Wind.” Once again, she forced herself to smile. “How are you?”

    “I am doing great!” her friend pranced a little, wings flapping once. “You’ve returned! Horses are being set free! And we’re about to fight to save the galaxy and free more slaves - a worthy cause indeed!”

    Adora managed not to wince. She didn’t want to dampen his spirit - and she had been away for months, so that was her fault as well - but… But she had to do this, and she would do this. “Speaking of horses…” she trailed off as she approached him.

    “Yes?” He moved closer to her, turning to present his side so she could mount him.

    Adora was tempted, but… this wasn’t a talk they could have while flying. And she had to have this talk. If only… She sighed and shook her head. “We can fly later. There’s something I need to… ask you.”

    “Oh? Ask away!” He was still beaming at her.

    Oh, this was… embarrassing. And not just because she didn’t know what she had done. She looked around. “Let’s head outside.” They would best talk about this where people couldn’t stumble upon them.

    “Alright.” He looked a little confused but nodded, and they walked out of the courtyard and towards the closest gate.

    The guards there nodded and let them through without being asked to. And they didn’t ask why Swift Wind wasn’t flying. But would they wonder? Adora didn’t know.

    Outside, she pointed at the closest field. “Let’s go there.”

    “Oh, yes! The gardeners sowed the tastiest grass there!”

    Ah. And didn’t that sound… well, no, enjoying a tasty meal was perfectly normal for all people. Especially if you had been raised in the Horde. Why wouldn’t a horse enjoy a special meal, either?

    The short walk was really short. Shorter than Adora had expected. And now she had no excuses any more. It was time to talk.

    “So…” She smiled at her friend. “It’s a bit of a sensitive question, so if you don’t want to answer, you don’t have to. OK?”

    “Of course! We’re friends, after all.”

    “Yes.” She took a deep breath. “So, ah, I was curious - well, it’s not as if I thought long about it, but it came up in conversation, kinda, so…” She forced herself to keep smiling widely. “And it’s a bit weird for me, since I was responsible, but I don’t really know how it happened, so I don’t know what happened exactly, so… Do you know if you can have children?”

    Swift Wind blinked and didn’t answer right away.

    Adora didn’t know if that was a good sign.

    “Well…” Swift Wind sounded less like… less like himself than usual. Less sure, less… enthusiastic. “I don’t know,” he said.

    “Oh.” That… What did that mean, actually? That he had never… or that he had tried, but wasn’t sure, or…

    He turned to look away. “It’s… Do you know the feeling when everyone’s doing something, everyone wants to do it, and you don’t understand why they want it so much?”

    “Uh…” Adora actually didn’t. Was that like food? Catra loved fish, but Adora understood that. She didn’t love fish as much as her lover - she doubted anyone she knew did - but she had her own favourite food. A lot, actually.

    Fortunately, Swift Wind continued, watching the horizon. “So, most horses, except for those who were mutilated, get those urges. The mares come up to the stallions, nuzzle them and… well, it might take some time, but the stallion generally wants it to, you know? And it’s not just that; they nuzzle and cosy up and such. But it’s all about that.” He sighed, still looking at the horizon. “And I don’t get that. I mean, it’s nice to be close, cosy up, but… I don’t really want to do the rest. Or, rather, It’s not that I would hate to do it - I just don’t feel the urge to do it or any… desire to do it. And it feels a little weird, you know?”

    Adora didn’t. But she nodded anyway. “Yes,” she lied.

    “Exactly! So, I usually just avoid the mares if they’re like that. And the stallions, since they get weird and aggressive.”

    “Ah.”

    “But that’s normal - I mean, you wouldn’t like it if people watched you, ah, do it with Catra, right? You’d want some privacy.” He was looking at her, but he still seemed a bit… less sure of himself. Or full of himself, a small voice in her mind added.

    “Oh, yes,” she agreed, nodding emphatically.

    “And it’s not as if I was mutilated,” he went on. “I checked.”

    “Ah.” She didn’t have to know that. Well, she did, probably, but it was… how do you ask a friend if they still had, ah, all their parts? When it had happened, Adora hadn’t known about geldings, and she hadn’t really wanted to know if Swift Wind had been a stallion before her magic hit him or if she had healed him at the same time… although that might be important. Not important enough to ask now, though. Not when he seemed so vulnerable. “I see,” she added.

    “Yes. So, I don’t know if I can have children.”

    And he didn’t sound as if he wanted to find out. Adora nodded again.

    “It’s… I guess it would be nice to have more like me, but…” He sighed again. “I’m not sure I am ready. And having children is a huge commitment. We’re about to fight a war, aren’t we?”

    “Yes.”

    “And there are so many horses left to free.”

    Adora suppressed a grimace. “About that…” She trailed off - this wasn’t the moment - but it was too late.

    He cocked his head and looked at her. “Yes?”

    “There might be too many horses to have them run around free,” she said. “And some might not be able to live free.”

    “What?”

    She wanted to curse herself. Why hadn’t she kept her mouth shut? Swift Wind was talking about something incredibly sensitive, and she was… But she was committed now. “Some horse breeds are not suited for the wilderness. They can’t find enough food on their own. Or they are too fragile to survive without, ah, medical assistance. They depend on humans.”

    “I know. But they’re that way because humans made them so. So, they should take responsibility and care for them.”

    Ah. What could she say to that? “Like they were doing?”

    He frowned. “They were only doing it because the horses were useful for them! And only as long as they could work! Forcing someone to work for you is slavery!”

    “But many love horses,” Adora said. “They don’t need them for work - they just love to ride them.” She had seen enough on Earth to know that.

    “That’s…” He frowned again. “I guess that’s OK. But only if they want to be ridden.”

    “Well, you like me to ride you, don’t you?”

    “Well, I am your loyal steed:” He posed, one hoof raised, neck straight and head bent at an angle, with his wings flaring. “And we share a sacred bond.”

    “Yes, we do.” She smiled.

    “But will every horse find a worthy rider?” He frowned again. “You said there were too many to run free.”

    “Ah.” She sighed. “There are more horses on Earth than there are people on Etheria.”

    He blinked. “Really? But…”

    She nodded. “We checked.” Sort of. Jack and his friends had checked.

    “Wow. But there are also more people on Earth than on Etheria, right?”

    “Yes. And the land available is limited.” That was… well, kind of true. The land was being used for other things, mostly. As far as she knew.

    “But if they can feed and keep so many horses, then there has to be enough land for them.”

    “Yes. But not enough land to just… roam and be free. Not enough good land.” Adora shrugged with a forced smile, remembering the claims from the bandits. “Or so I’ve heard.”

    “I’ll have to look into that.” His vulnerability was gone - now he looked determined again. “Maybe when we attend the party. Do they have horses there?”

    Oh… “It’s underground,” she said. “In a huge bunker. There are no horses nearby.”

    “Oh. Well, we can travel afterwards, can’t we? Once the Stargate is repaired?”

    “Well, yes, but the Stargate on Earth is also underground, and they’re going to move it.” This wasn’t where she had wanted this conversation to go. Stargate Command wouldn’t be happy. “And there’s another thing.”

    “Yes?”

    “Can you talk to horses? Like we talk?”

    He snorted. “They can’t talk like we talk.”

    She pouted a little. “You know what I mean.”

    “Yes.” He looked at the field. “They’re not… they aren’t like me, you know.”

    “Yes.”

    “They’re… simpler. But I remember what it was like, being like them. So I can understand them. And I know how to make them understand me.”

    “Ah.” That was… well, it explained a few things.

    But it didn’t make things easier.

    *****
     
  17. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Indeed. It's a mix of high-tech and low-tech and advanced magic and sword and sorcery.

    Still a bit of a problem, and Earth might not want their gate ona ship - which can be stolen.
     
  18. I_S

    I_S Getting sticky.

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    What a can of worms. Animal sapience is a complex and moving topic. At least we know that swift wind has boosted intelligence and it's not just that all etherian horses are fully sapient and simply lacked speech organs. a possibility I'm pretty sure only tealc considered.

    This does raise the question of if swift wind is ace or if he recognizes internally how different he his from horses and just cant interact with them in that way..

    Ultimately the only proper angle to question him on is volition. Do the horses he frees actually have the capacity to consent to their freedom. Without that he is no different than humans just less abusive. If that's the case then they just need to outlaw horse abuse.

    If a horse can consent to freedom though, they can join the war effort. I'm sure the tokra would love to have new host options. They might be able to swing freeing horses based on war necessity in that case... In the allied princess territories at least. No way in hell is that flying on earth. the political climate around animal rights is an absolutist abyss. You'd have to prove horses are fundamentally not like cows, or else ban meat.
     
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  19. macdjord

    macdjord Well worn.

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    As opposed to a gate on the surface, which is going to be close to - at most - one major city, and a shuttle ride away from everywhere else anyway?

    We're talking about Etheria, not Earth.
     
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  20. Threadmarks: Chapter 74: Going Home Part 6
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 74: Going Home Part 6

    Bright Moon, Etheria, December 30th, 1998 (Earth Time)

    Samantha Carter was feeling good when she returned to their quarters in the palace. They had made great progress at the Stargate. If everything else went well, they would have it operating tomorrow. Just in time to return to Earth for the New Year. Unfortunately, the party wasn’t on New Year’s Eve, or Sam might have been tempted to tell Entrapta that they needed to take an extra day or two to test the gate…

    “Hi, Sam!” Daniel greeted her from behind the stack of tomes he had borrowed from the palace archives.

    Teal’c nodded at her without rising from his meditative position.

    And the Colonel…

    “Jack had to talk to Glimmer, I think,” Daniel told her. “He’s been gone for… two hours?” Daniel blinked at his watch. “Wow! Time flies.”

    Two hours? That was a long time for a meeting with Glimmer. It must be important, then. But… “He didn’t ask you to come with him?” she asked.

    “What?” Daniel looked up from his notes. “No. Why?”

    Because if whatever the Colonel wanted to talk about with Glimmer was so important as to take two hours would be important enough to drag Daniel with them for his insight.

    Or Sam herself, she added, clenching her teeth a little. Sure, she was doing crucial work at the Stargate, but she was also an officer in the Air Force and the Colonel’s Second-in-command; she would have expected to be consulted or informed at least.

    “Did he tell you what it was about?”

    “No…” Daniel frowned. “Come to think of it, he said it was a minor thing when I asked if he needed me to come along.”

    Oh? This was getting more and more suspicious. Either the Colonel was hiding something, or something had happened that had delayed him. Sam wasn’t quite sure what would be worse. “Maybe we should look for him. It’s almost dinner time,” she said. She didn’t bother with using the radio; it didn’t work inside the palace, and the Colonel hadn’t a communicator tapping into the Etheran commnet. Which was an oversight they needed to correct, actually.

    “Do you think something happened to him?” Daniel asked, standing up again.

    “Do you suspect enemy action?” Teal’c rose gracefully and grabbed his staff weapon.

    Apparently, she couldn’t fool her friends. Sam shook her head. “I’m sure it’s nothing like that.” She certainly hoped so. But they knew from Glimmer’s own stories that the palace wasn’t as safe as it should be - or should have been; they had improved the security after the war. Still…

    The door opened, interrupting her thoughts.

    “You didn’t have to walk me back to my room,” the Colonel said as he entered. And behind him…

    “But I wanted to,” Castaspella said, smiling. “And it was the least I could do for you.”

    “Well, don’t… Ah. Already finished at the Stargate, Carter? What’s the status of it?” The Colonel cocked his head as he looked at her.

    But he was a bit too quick to ask for a report. And with an outsider in the room and the door open? He was hiding something.

    “Ah, hello, Captain Carter. Daniel. Teal’c.” The sorceress smiled at them all. But she stayed at the door. Next to the Colonel. And she turned back to him. “I’ll see you at dinner. And afterwards.”

    “Yeah, sure.” He nodded quickly. “And, ah, thanks.”

    “Oh, I should thank you. For this opportunity.”

    What opportunity? Sam almost glared at the Colonel as the woman left and the door closed. But you didn’t do that to your commanding officer. Nor did you demand an explanation in such a situation.

    “What’s going on, Jack?” Fortunately, Daniel was as curious as Sam was.

    “Oh, nothing. I just had some questions about magic, and Glimmer referred me to Castaspella.” The Colonel shrugged.

    “Oh?” Daniel cocked his head to the side. “What kind of questions?”

    “The kind of questions that are private,” the Colonel replied with a frown. “Which I’m not going to talk about.” He sounded quite firm.

    Daniel recoiled a little at the answer - and probably at the tone as well. “Oh, sure…”

    Sam nodded. The Colonel didn’t want to talk about whatever this was about. That meant that pushing him would not only be rude but pointless as well.

    But it also meant that she really wanted to know what was going on. For… several reasons. The Colonel wasn’t afraid of magic, but he didn’t like it either, so whatever made him seek the advice of a sorceress had to be important. Important enough for his second-in-command to be informed.

    And the obvious interest Castaspella had shown… Sam really wanted to know if that interest was directed at whatever this was about - or at the Colonel.

    *****​

    O’Neill had made Sam mad. Catra was sure of that. Sam wasn’t glaring at him, but she was… a little distant, yet paying close attention to him during dinner. And to Castaspella. Who, in turn, was talking to the Colonel quite a bit more than usual, although mostly about magic. Which was kind of odd for the human. She was sitting across him on the table as well, now that Catra thought of it - not quite as close to Micah and Glimmer as usual.

    “It’s jealousy, then,” Catra whispered.

    “Hm?”

    Catra turned her head and grinned at Adora. “Sam’s jealous of Castaspella.”

    “What?” Her lover blinked, then stared at Sam and Castaspella. Three. Two. One. “But… is Castaspella even interested in Jack?”

    Catra shrugged. “Ask Glimmer?” She didn’t think the sorceress was actually interested in O’Neill that way, but stranger things had happened.

    “But…” Adora shook her head. “Should we talk to her?”

    “Sam? Or Castaspella?” Catra asked.

    “Uh…” Adora winced. “Either would be embarrassing if we’re wrong.”

    “Yes.” Catra didn’t think she was wrong, but it was also funnier to just let things go on. Maybe this would be the push that Sam obviously needed to admit she was in love with her commander.

    She tilted her ears a little to better listen to Castaspella and O’Neill, but Castaspella was still talking about how great magic was. And how versatile a sorceress could be. It sounded almost as if she was advertising Mystacore, but she should already know that Earth was the last planet where sorcerers needed advertising - the humans, at least those countries not ruled by lunatics, wanted anyone able to work magic they could get.

    And O’Neill, for all he didn’t like magic, was far too smart and pragmatic to scorn magic used by allies. So, why was he looking like he would rather be fighting off a Goa’uld attack? Because of Sam? Possible.

    But before Catra could think of a way to get to the bottom of this without making anyone mad at her - or not too mad at her - Glimmer spoke up. “So, we might need to either ask a Tok’ra to visit Etheria or get a Goa’uld prisoner for a while. It seems there are a number of princesses who not only fail to understand the danger we face but doubt that the Goa’uld are real.”

    “Yes, I heard.” O’Neill was very quick to respond - maybe a bit too quick. He was hiding something.

    But everyone was now chiming in.

    “They are fools, and we shouldn’t even give them the time of the day, much less risk a Goa’uld escaping, just because they are being stupid,” Mermista said.

    “We should show them what we are facing if only so they’ll be on the lookout for Goa’uld infiltrators,” Netossa objected. “We can’t afford any kingdom being taken over like that - if they gain a foothold…”

    Spinnerella, of course, nodded in agreement.

    “How would they manage that?” Glimmer retorted. “We control the gate.”

    “But if we introduce the rest of Etheria to the Goa’uld - or the Tok’ta - some might seek them out,” Perfuma said. “And they might push even more for sharing access to the gate.”

    “We should put it into space!” Entrapta suggested. “We control access to space! And while there are some technical hurdles to overcome, we already know it’s possible since the Goa’uld use gates on their ships. We could also build a space station - maybe we could build it inside Adora’s plant!”

    “It’s not my plant.”

    “You made it.”

    “I had to use the magic power before something went wrong. More wrong.”

    “Still yours.”

    “I don’t think we should put the gate into orbit,” Glimmer said. “We can’t effectively use our powers there.”

    “Or spells,” Castaspella added.

    “And I think some of the princesses who are currently trusting us might grow a bit more suspicious - it’s one thing to have it on Etheria inside a base, but another if we moved it to a ship in space,” Micah pointed out. “Sweet Bee would have an easier time decrying it as an attempt to completely control the gate.”

    “Well, we do want to control the gate,” Catra reminded them. You couldn’t leave such an asset to others - it would endanger the entire world and damage the war effort.

    “Not if it makes us more enemies on Etheria,” Micah told her.

    Catra shrugged. As long as they didn’t have the military power to be more than nuisances…

    But Adora was nodding in agreement with the king. “Yes.”

    Typical.

    “We could use magitech to secure the gate in space,” Entrapta suggested.

    “I can’t use my spells like that,” Castaspella protested.

    “And I think a lot of princesses would be suspicious if we moved the gate to a location where their powers don’t work,” Glimmer added. “No, the gate has to stay on Etheria.”

    Catra nodded. A spaceship might be more secure in some ways, but that wasn’t counting magic being used - and that was one of Etheria’s biggest advantages.

    You had to play to your strengths if you wanted to win.

    *****​

    “...and are you really sure won’t you reconsider? You do have a significant potential for magic - no inherent powers, as far as we can detect, at least, but you could be a powerful sorcerer, should you get training.”

    Jack O’Neill pressed his lips together and tried not to show his annoyance. Castaspella meant well. He knew that much. Or was pretty sure. But she was a sorceress and didn’t seem to get that he wasn’t as crazy about magic as she was. Jack wasn’t going to learn how to cast spells; he was a soldier, not a wizard. Or sorcerer, or whatever they called it here. He was much too old to change careers like that, anyway. Even if he wanted to change tracks. Which he didn’t.

    But making her understand that without offending her was becoming a bit of a chore. He tried again, shrugging as he leaned back on the couch in her room. “That may be the case, but I can’t exactly drop out of the war just to start learning cantrips.”

    “Cantrips?” She cocked her head to the side, frowning a little as she adjusted her seat across from him.

    Damn. He should have never played the game. “Spells. Minor spells.” Daniel would be proud of him for that explanation.

    “Ah.” She nodded with a smile. “You know, it’s quite interesting to see that after a thousand years without magic, and, apparently, a significant part of your people trying to eradicate sorcerers, so much of your magical tradition survived.”

    He’d have to tell Daniel to check what exactly Etherians were told about Earth. But that could wait. He grinned. “Ah, you know how it is with popular culture. Kids always want the thing they can’t have. Alcohol, magic…”

    To his relief, she nodded. If he had to explain the United States’s drinking age again to someone from Etheria - or Europe… But then she frowned. “Although I wonder. Is that why you seem so reluctant to learn magic? Because so many in your society scorn magic and those who practice it?”

    Of course not! As if he would let some zealots dictate his actions! He shook his head. “No. But I am too old to change gears like that. And, not trying to sound arrogant, but I think I am much more useful for the war by doing the job I’ve been doing for twenty years instead of spending the war learning magic.” On Etheria, in a flying city, away from his team and Earth.

    “Well, while I doubt that anyone can confidently predict how long the war will take, I don’t think you would have to spend the entire time learning magic.” She smiled widely at him, and Jack couldn’t help feeling slightly concerned. “You have such a great potential for our art, no doubt thanks to your First Ones ancestry, I am sure you would not take that long to learn enough spells to become a competent sorcerer!”

    He didn’t want to become a sorcerer! And pointy hats looked silly, in uniform or out of it. But saying that would sound silly. And irresponsible. And would end with him explaininjg more of Earth’s pop culture featuring magic. He shook his head again. “But that would still take me out of the war for a year or two. Longer if the Air Force sends me to teach magic to others afterwards.” And they would. Maybe he would get a tour of duty on the frontlines, to get practical experience, but then he’d end up teaching magic to others. That was how things were done in the Air Force, and while it worked well, Jack wasn’t looking forward to spending his career doing that instead of leading his team.

    And the woman still didn’t relent. “Well, I could think of worse teachers than you, to be honest, Jack.”

    Why did he have to tell her to call him Jack? He should have realised that she’d do it without trouble after spending so much time with Glitter and the others - Etherian royalty didn’t act like Earth royals.

    “You might not be an experienced sorcerer, but your experience as a soldier certainly would have granted you the wisdom younger students - and older sorceresses as well, in some cases - often desperately need.”

    “Yeah, I’m not sure I’m a role model for ethics.” He grinned, baring his teeth. “I’m a bit too much of a pragmatist.” At least according to Etherian standards as embodied by Adora and her friends. “So, anyway, let’s focus on fixing my little problem, so no one’s going to raise a small army of little kids with my potential but none of my supposed wisdom? I was a pretty dumb kid when I started as a soldier.”

    “I have trouble imagining that, Jack.” She chuckled and folded her hands in her lap.

    “Well, easily manipulated instead? I believed a lot of things I should have known better.” And wasn’t that the truth!

    “Ah, yes. Well, you will be welcome at Mystacore whenever you wish, should you reconsider your decision. Now, let’s see how you react to a modified sealing spell. Please step into the circle I’ve prepared - I doubt we’ll need the containment, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

    And wasn’t that reassuring! Still, Jack stepped into the glowing circle full of runes on the floor, trying not to think of ending up as some red mist or stains on the walls, courtesy of a magic mishap.

    Or what Carter might be thinking - she hadn’t looked happy at all when Castaspella had dragged him off after dinner. He snorted. Maybe staying on Etheria and learning magic in a flying city wouldn’t be that bad - it would get him out of explaining things to his second-in-command…

    *****​

    Bright Moon, Etheria, December 31st, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “This is an outrage! A blatant attempt to exert control over the entire world! Mark my words: This will not stand! The other kingdoms won’t let it!”

    When Adora had met Princess Sweet Bee, the other woman had always seemed to be composed and, well, in control of herself and the situation. Granted, she had only met her twice before, once at the Princess Prom, and then only in passing, and yesterday, at the diplomatic meeting with Glimmer and the other members of the Princess Alliance, but even though Sweet Bee had left no doubt that she wasn’t happy with the Alliance’s policies, she had stayed polite and, well, Catra called it snooty, and Glimmer called it aristocratic.

    But the princess wasn’t looking very snooty or aristocratic right now. Nor very composed. She was glaring at them like pretty much every instructor had glared at Kyle whenever her friend had screwed up. As if to confirm Adora’s thoughts, Sweet Bee slammed the palms of her hand on the conference table and leaned forward, scowling at Glimmer.

    Who met her eyes with a glare of her own. “Noted. Is there anything else you wish to address?”

    Adora could see how the other princess was clenching her teeth - the jaw muscles twitched noticeably. “The Stargate belongs to all of Etheria! It is our birthright!”

    “Yes,” Glimmer nodded. “But the safety of Etheria takes priority. So civilian use of the Stargate will be restricted until further notice.”

    “You don’t have the authority to decide that! You don’t rule or represent Etheria!” Sweet Bee slammed her palms on the table again.

    “We represent the Princess Alliance. The ones who saved Etheira before - three times,” Glimmer retorted. “And we’ll do so a fourth time.”

    Three times? Adora frowned for a moment.

    “Three times?”

    “We defeated the Horde, Horde Prime, and stopped the Heart of Etheria from destroying the world,” Glimmer explained.

    Sweet Bee scoffed. “You claim you saved the world. But we only have your word for it - and I see your ‘defeated’ enemies amongst your ranks.”

    “And the remains of Horde Prime’s flagship in orbit, as well as the stars in the sky,” Catra added. When the princess turned to scowl at her, Adora’s lover flashed her fangs in an insufferable grin.

    “You can deny it as much as you want, but it doesn’t change the facts,” Adora spoke up before Catra could get into a spat with the princess. “We are fighting a new war, against an Empire that spans the galaxy, with enemies who can take over people’s bodies to control them. Unrestricted travel through the Stargate is too dangerous.”

    “Of course, if you wish to join the Princess Alliance and do your part in defending our world…” Mermista trailed off with a shrug and a smirk that was rather undiplomatic, in Adora’s opinion.

    And in Sweet Bee’s opinion as well, at least judging by her expression. “You will not get away with this! Etheria is not yours to rule!” she spat. “Many kingdoms are fed up with your arrogance!”

    “The same kingdoms that were happy to let the Princess Alliance fight and bleed against the Horde while they sat back?” Glimmer scoffed as well.

    “Please!” Perfuma spoke up with a strained smile. “I know you don’t like it, and I understand your reasons, but we have good reasons to restrict travel through the gate.”

    “Just as you have good reasons to consort with the Horde?” Sweet Bee scoffed with a sneer.

    Perfuma gasped, and Scorpia rose. “Hey, now, that sounds… Well, it sounds like you have a problem with me, not Perfuma.”

    “I have a problem with the Princess Alliance trying to rule Etheria just as the Horde tried,” Sweet Bee retorted.

    “But we don’t!” Perfuma protested. “We don’t want to rule Etheria!”

    “Are you seriously comparing us to the Horde?” Glimmer looked angry now - and she was standing as well.

    “You’re trying to force your policies on the entire world, and you use Horde troops, Horde bases and Horde spaceships.” Sweet Bee shook her head.

    “Waste not, want not,” Catra cut in with a smirk.

    Adora frowned at her, and her lover shrugged in return.

    “The Princess Alliance isn’t the Horde!” Perfuma looked angry. “We’ve restored the Scorpion Kingdom! We’re healing the land! We’re not trying to conquer you!”

    “You act as if you already did!” Sweet Bee spat. “But we’re not your subjects! We’re sovereign princesses! And we will fight for our rights!” She turned around, then looked over her shoulder. “You’ll hear from us!”

    “At the next Princess Prom at the latest!” Catra said before the princess left the room.

    Adora sighed. “That could’ve gone better.”

    “No, it couldn’t have,” Glimmer disagreed as she sat down. “She was set on this. The only way we could’ve avoided this was to give in to her demands.”

    “They’re scared of us,” Perfuma said.

    “If they were scared, they wouldn’t have made such demands,” Mermista objected. “They wouldn’t have dared to insult us like that if they truly believed we wanted to conquer them.”

    That sounded… well, kind of logical. “But they still believe we want to rule Etheira,” Adora pointed out. “Or dominate it.”

    “Yes. And that can’t be helped unless we dissolved the Princess Alliance,” Glimmer said. “As things are, we represent the biggest army on the planet as well as the most powerful princesses.”

    “They could join us if they want access to the Stargate,” Spinnerella said. “But that would force them to fight. And they don’t want to fight.”

    “Too cowardly to join, but not cowardly enough to just accept our policies.” Catra shrugged. “Well, that’s been dealt with. Let’s go check the status of the Stargate?”

    As everyone rose, Adora couldn’t help feeling that it wasn’t as simple as Catra made it sound. But there was nothing else she could do about it right now. Letting everyone use the Stargate was too dangerous.

    *****​

    Gate Area, Near Bright Moon, Etheria, December 31st, 1998 (Earth Time)

    “Everything reads OK - within expected safety margins. Main processing unit is working at peak efficiency. We’re ready for testing!”

    Samantha Carter nodded in response to Entrapta’s enthusiastic report as she double-checked the results of her own readings. Her numbers confirmed the same thing: they had beaten the odds and replaced the Stargate’s missing D.H.D. ahead of schedule - significantly so.

    “So, I guess that means we can now go home again? Unless the gate turns the bot into a pretzel, that is?”

    “Yes, sir.” She suppressed a scowl as she faced the Colonel - she wasn’t in the mood for his humour right now. Not because he had spent the evening with Castaspella, of course! She didn’t really think that he was having a secret tryst, as Daniel had worded it, with Glimmer’s aunt. The Colonel wouldn’t do that on a mission. Or at all, she added to herself. But that he wasn’t revealing why he was meeting with the woman - whose obvious interest in him, in turn, might not be merely professional or platonic? That didn’t sit well with her. Not that she had pressed the issue; you didn’t do that to your superior unless it was an emergency. And he would have evaded the question anyway. But she would have expected a bit more trust.

    “Ah, good.” He looked a little taken aback, then cocked his head to the side and looked at the gate. “I can’t wait to get home. Slumming it in a palace just doesn’t compare to good old Stargate Command.”

    “Really?” Entrapta peered at him, sliding her visor up. “You prefer your quarters at your base to the palace guest rooms? Did you tell Glimmer that? Because we could have refurbished your room!”

    “Ah…”

    “The Colonel was joking,” Sam told her friend. “The guest quarters are lovely and perfectly comfortable.” She glanced at the man in question, who, after a moment, nodded.

    “Yeah, sure.”

    “Good!” Entrapta made a note on her multitool. Probably in her social data file. “So… ready for the test?

    “Will it hurt?” the Colonel quipped.

    “The bot isn’t wired to feel pain,” Entrapta told him, completely serious. “And we know from experience that travelling through the Stargate doesn’t normally cause pain anyway. So, it won’t hurt.”

    Sam narrowed her eyes at the Colonel, and he winced a little. He really should know better than that by now. “Ah, OK. So, by all means, proceed!”

    “OK!” Entrapta turned and called out: “Test-Bot-2! Get ready!”

    “Wasn’t the last test-bot a twelve?” the Colonel asked in a low voice.

    “That was a spy-bot,” Sam told him. “Spy-Twelve. This is a dedicated testing bot.”

    “And what happened to Test-Bot-1?”

    “Destructive testing to calibrate the sensors,” Sam told him while she entered the address for Earth.

    “Ah.”

    The gate started spinning, and the chevrons became locked one after another. The vortex formed as it should as well. “Stable wormhole established,” Sam reported.

    “All systems nominal,” Entrapta replied. “Camera feed established. Test-Bot-2, go!”

    The bot walked up the ramp, then through the gate - and down the ramp in Stargate Command. Sam checked the sensors. “No deviations from the standard parameters.”

    “It works as expected!” Entrapta cheered. “Now we can easily travel back and forth between Earth and Etheria!”

    “Nice.” The Colonel nodded and clapped his hands together. ”So, we can go home as soon as the bigwigs return for the official sendoff.”

    “‘Bigwigs’?” Entrapta asked.

    By the time Daniel had explained - in detail - the term and its origin, Glimmer and the others had arrived.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, Unites States of America, Earth, December 31st, 1998

    “The entire leadership of the Princess Alliance is coming to our New Year’s party?” General Hammond repeated himself while he and the other generals were staring at SG-1.

    Samantha Carter stood a little bit straighter in response as the Colonel replied: “Yes, sir.”

    “And how did that happen?” General Haig asked.

    “Well… apparently, they like parties?” The Colonel smiled. “No, really, we were at dinner with them, the party came up, and it turned out everyone assumed that the invitation to Glimmer, Adora and the others included all of them. We didn’t correct them since, well… they were very enthusiastic. They were already talking about dress codes and such.” He shrugged. “It seemed rude to tell them that they weren’t invited. So, in the interest of diplomacy and good relations with our strongest allies, we didn’t.”

    Hammond sighed, closing his eyes for a moment. Sam knew the feeling.

    “I see.” Haig nodded.

    “This is an outrage!” Sidorov, who looked as if he’d wanted to send SG-1 to the next gulag, or at least the arrest cells, bellowed. “You didn’t have the authority to invite a diplomatic party!”

    “They kind of invited themselves. By accident,” the Colonel retorted. “But if you want to revoke the invitations, we can go tell them that.”

    “That would be a faux pas,” General Petit commented with a slight smile. “I am sure we can accommodate a few more guests at our party.”

    “Yes,” Hammond said. “The security measures were already increased since we knew we would be hosting three princesses. A few more shouldn’t be an issue.”

    The Colonel winced. “Ah, yes, speaking of accommodations - we’ll also be hosting a magical talking flying horse. So, best not serve horse meat.”

    For the first time, Sam was treated to the sight of the entire Stargate Command Council blinking.

    Explaining Swift Wind took much longer than their original report had taken.

    *****​

    Gate Area, Near Bright Moon, Etheria, January 1st, 1999 (Earth Time)

    Catra snorted as she watched Frosta try not to fidget. The princess was so excited - or nervous - about going to Earth, yet also desperately trying to appear aloof and collected. And failing at that. “It’s just a party,” she muttered to herself, shaking her head.

    “Hm?” Adora turned her head to look at her. “What did you say?”

    “Nothing,” she said. “Just… well, we’ve been at so many events on Earth, it’s nothing special any more, but for them, it’s something else.” She nodded at the rest of the group waiting in front of the gate.

    “They’ve never been on another planet,” Adora said with a smile. Which then turned into a wince. “They’ve never been to Earth.”

    Ah. Catra suppressed another snort. Her lover was nervous as well - worried about how the rest of the group would behave on Earth. Especially Swift Wind. “You briefed them. Thoroughly.” It had taken Catra back to their days as Horde cadets, when Adora had tried to cover every little detail and potential problem whenever she ran a briefing.

    Adora blushed a little, but her mood didn’t improve. “I’m sure I forgot something, something important…”

    And not everyone had been paying attention. But Catra didn’t say that. She shrugged instead. “As long as they behave as if they were at the Princess Prom, things will be fine.”

    “I know…” But Adora still worried. Catra could tell.

    Before she could think of what else to say to calm down her lover, Swift Wind trotted over to them. “What a glorious day! To think we’ll travel farther than any other horse has ever gone before! To a world full of horses!”

    “To a base without any horse in it,” Catra told him.

    Swift Wind ignored that. “And I had a thought, Adora!”

    “Yes?” Adora tensed a little.

    Catra did so as well.

    “There are as many horses on Earth as there are people on Etheria. A planet’s worth!”

    Oh, no, he couldn’t…

    “Yes?” Adora hadn’t caught up yet.

    “So, what about giving them a planet of their own? Where they can live free? Except for those who depend on humans, but there could be some humans there taking care of them. But imagine: a world full of horses, for horses!”

    Adora blinked. “Uh… a colony of horses?”

    “Yes!” Swift Wind nodded enthusiastically.

    “Ah… I don’t think we have the logistics and resources to handle such a colony.” Adora smiled weakly. “I’m sorry.”

    “Oh.” Swift Wind looked crestfallen.

    “And if we give the horses a colony,” Catra managed to say without scoffing at the absurdity of it, “then everyone else will want one as well. Not to mention that we’d have to find a planet first where horses could live.”

    “And the, uh, ecological balance might be a problem,” Adora added. “You’d have to ask Perfuma about that, but just moving lots of horses to a new planet is not easy. And on Earth, some horses starved when they escaped into the wilderness for lack of food.”

    “Oh.” Swift Wind frowned again. “You’re right. It would have to be a planet full of grass-covered hills and plains.” He nodded. “I’ll ask her about that.” He turned around and trotted over to the other princess.

    Catra smirked as she gleaned at her lover. “Nice dodge.”

    “It’s the truth,” Adora shot back.

    “And now Perfuma has to explain things to Swift Wind.” Catra watched, her ears twitching, as the horse approached the princess, who was fiddling with Scorpia’s dress.

    “It’s not his fault,” Adora said. “He didn’t get an education when I, ah, changed him. So, he had to learn things by himself.”

    Ah. Catra hadn’t thought of that. “And where did he learn?”

    “In Bright Moon. They have the facilities, but…” Adora shrugged. “It’s a very spotty education so far.”

    “Ah.” That explained a few things. But it didn’t make things any easier. She turned her attention - and her ears - back to Perfuma’s explanation.

    “...and so I can’t just make grass grow - sooner or later, there will be too many horses for the planet’s capacity, and then they will start starving until there is a balance. But it’s a dynamic balance, not a static one. As the numbers of horses fluctuate, so does the amount of grass available since they influence each other, and…”

    Swift Wind didn’t like what he was hearing. That was obvious.

    “Yeah, nature’s brutal,” Catra mumbled as she tuned the lecture out.

    “What did you say?” Adora asked again.

    But before Catra could explain, Entrapta spoke up. “Alright! Everyone, get ready - and stay in the marked area, don’t get closer to the gate - we’re about to dial Earth!”

    “Finally!” she exclaimed with a grin. “I’ve been waiting for this all day!”

    “You were napping all day,” Glimmer commented with a snort while they watched the gate spin.

    “I’m a soldier; I learned to sleep whenever I can,” Catra retorted with a smirk.

    “All day?”

    “What can I say? I’m an overachiever.”

    They laughed as the wormhole stabilised and the gate to Earth opened.

    “Time to celebrate a new beginning!” Perfuma announced, setting a foot on the gate with Scorpia.

    Everyone cheered.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, Unites States of America, Earth, January 1st, 1999

    “...and these are Perfuma, Princess of Plumeria, and Princess Scorpia of the Scorpion Kingdom.”

    Jack O’Neill had to suppress the urge to add ‘she’s the one who throws tanks for fun’ to Glimmer’s introduction. It didn’t seem necessary, anyway - he could see how the generals were eyeing the smiling woman. Except for Haig, who didn’t seem to be fazed at all, all of them, even Hammond, looked at least a little wary when they greeted her. Although that might be because Scorpia, with her pincers and her stinger, poised above her head, looked the most alien of all the princesses. Of course, Catra had fur, cat ears and a tail as well, but her claws were usually hidden, and she didn’t look as if she could throw a tank around.

    “Thank you for inviting us!”

    On the other hand, Catra also never looked as happy as Scorpia - the princess was beaming at everyone when she wasn’t looking around the gate area like a tourist. And she was a striking sight, in a black dress that fit her like a glove and wouldn’t have looked out of place on a catwalk in Paris.

    “Yes!” Perfuma, her arm hooked into Scorpia’s, wearing a light green dress that complimented Scorpia’s somehow, nodded with a smile as wide as her… consort’s? Wife’s? “It’s an honour to be able to attend your celebration! We’re looking forward to taking part in such an important event.”

    That was a bit too much praise for a New Year’s office party - especially one held in a military base for the soldiers stuck on duty over the holidays. Jack glanced at Glimmer, who kept smiling politely, then at Adora. The princess was wincing a little, and next to her, Catra was grinning. So, probably a misunderstanding that Adora felt guilty for and Catra found funny. Business as usual, then.

    Jack stopped grinning, though, when he noticed that Hammond was glancing at him with a slight frown. That wasn’t his fault! He’d had more important things to do than explaining the finer point of an office party to the Etherians! If anyone, it should have been Daniel!

    But Glimmer was already moving to introduce the next couple. “Mermista, Princess of Salineas, and Sea Hawk.”

    Hammond didn’t say ‘the Smuggler’ in return, but Jack was sure - pretty sure - that he was thinking it.

    “It’s a great adventure!” the man in question, dressed quite flamboyantly, exclaimed.

    “Ugh. Behave,” Mermista, who apparently had also gone to great effort in picking her pearl-studded dress, added with a scowl before smiling at the generals. “Thank you for having us. I’ll make sure he won’t set fire to anything.”

    “I would never! We’re underground, after all!”

    Sea Hawk’s comment wasn’t as reassuring as the man probably thought. Jack decided to impress upon Siler that they should double-check the smoke detectors.

    “Princess Frosta of the Kingdom of Snows.”

    “Greetings.” The teenage princess nodded with such seriousness, it made her look even younger than she was. At least in Jack’s opinion.

    But the girl was the sovereign leader of one of the largest kingdoms of Etheria. And could freeze you in a block of ice with a thought. And the generals greeted her with the utmost courtesy. Well, except for Sidorov, who went through the motions and said the words but couldn’t quite keep the sneer off his face. If the man kept this up, then the formal diplomatic event scheduled to follow the party would have some grievances to deal with. And they would blame Jack for it; he was sure. Even though it hadn’t been his idea to let Stargate Command handle the party even after the entire Princess Alliance announced their intention to attend.

    “Princess Netossa and Princess Spinnerella of the Alliance.”

    Not ruling princesses, in other words. Still the Etherian version of generals. But the government - governments, actually - preferred to err on the side of caution and just treated all of them as sovereigns. At least etiquette didn’t require you to bow. That would have felt wrong - you didn’t bow to anyone in your own home. At least in Jack’s opinion.

    “King Micah of Bright Moon. My father. And Castaspella of Mystacore, my aunt.”

    Jack kept smiling and reminded himself that the sorceress was helping him - had helped him already. Even though she made no secret of her opinion that Jack should become a sorcerer himself. Under her tutelage. In a magical flying city. But she wasn’t pushy. Well, not as pushy as, say, Anise.

    And Micah and her were old enough to be taken seriously even by Sidorov, which facilitated matters.

    “Swift Wind.”

    And there was Jack’s biggest problem.

    “Faithful mount of She-Ra, linked by a sacred bond, and liberator of horses everywhere!” the horse boasted as he stepped forward, wings flaring - and sending a few sheets of papers in the back flying. “Greetings, people of Earth!”

    Someone must have shown him cheesy science-fiction movies! Jack was sure of it. He kept his thoughts off his face, though.

    Unlike the rest of the people in the room, who were more or less openly staring at the magical talking flying unicorn.

    Except for Haig. The damn limey merely nodded as if Swift Wind was a normal guest.

    Of course, as a British officer, he probably was used to dealing with eccentric blue bloods.

    Well, Jack had a feeling that even the general’s composure would be tested before the party was over. It would be funny if Jack wasn’t going to be held responsible for it.

    Even if it wasn’t his fault at all!

    *****​
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2023
  21. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Yeah, uplifting is one thing, but there's also the question of whether or not an animal can consent to have sex with a sapient. Although "We're banning butchering horses since there's at least one sapient horse" is much easier to pass than "we're banning meat".

    I've added another reason why a ship isn't Etheria's preferred choice for a gate location in the chapter. All princesses (except for Adora) can't use their powers in space.
     
    macdjord and Anonymous Brainwash like this.
  22. Threadmarks: Chapter 75: The New Year’s Party
    Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Chapter 75: The New Year’s Party

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, Unites States of America, Earth, January 1st, 1999

    Adora was a little nervous as she approached the mess hall. The Stargate Command New Year’s Party - that was the official title, as a poster next to the door announced - wasn’t an Earth version of the Princess Prom. If her friends expected a ball and grand buffet, they would be disappointed. Sure, she had told them that it was a party for the soldiers stuck on the base over the holidays. Several times, in fact. But the way the others were beaming, looking at everything along the way, she feared that they might not have really understood what that meant. They were princesses, after all. And they had always been princesses. Except for Sea Hawk and Swift Wind, and, technically, Micah and Castaspella. OK, most of them were princesses. But they were used to the parties thrown by and for princesses. Not parties thrown by and for common soldiers in an army of millions.

    Adora couldn’t help thinking that the Stargate Command New Year’s Party would be more like what parties they had thrown as cadets in the Horde than the Princess Prom or the victory celebrations of the Alliance after Horde Prime’s defeat.

    “Remember, this is a military base,” she said as they stepped through the door, following Jack and the others. “They can’t…” She blinked. The mess hall looked very different - if she hadn’t been here before, and seen the hallway outside, she would have thought she had entered the wrong room.

    Catra whistled. “They’ve pulled out all the stops.” She sniffed the air. “Tuna salad. Smoked salmon. Fried fish. The good stuff.”

    “Look at that buffet!”

    “Oh, look at the stage!”

    “Look at the sound system! Emily, scan it!”

    “Oh! And so many different uniforms! I thought this was all the same army, like the Horde!”

    “Air Force, mostly - and not any more,” Adora corrected Scorpia. “Soldiers from five countries are now guarding the gate.”

    “Oh.”

    “And they’ve got several different branches in each army,” Bow added. “With different uniforms. Although I thought it was a more casual affair. Those are dress uniforms.”

    Indeed. Adora frowned - she was sure that the dress code in the invitation hadn’t mentioned dress uniforms. On the other hand, maybe that was the standard for such events, and so they hadn’t mentioned it?

    “Well, you said this was a small party, but this doesn’t look small,” Perfuma said. “Not at all.”

    “Beats Force Captain parties for sure.” Scorpia nodded. “We usually had no decorations and mostly pilfered food and drinks.”

    Indeed. It was grander than Adora had expected. It looked more like a formal state dinner, with all the white tablecloth covering up the… were those new tables? Definitely new chairs.

    “I think that’s our fault,” Glimmer said.

    “Our fault?” Micah cocked his head to the side.

    “When they heard that all of us would attend, they probably went over their plans for the whole thing,” Glimmer explained.

    “Yep,” Jack chimed in with a grin. “The funds for the party were mysteriously but generously increased this week. This isn’t how our New Year’s party usually looks like.”

    “I thought so,” Catra said with a matching grin.

    “Me too,” Adora added.

    “You did all of this in a few days?” Frosta sounded impressed. Well, she had organised the last Princess Prom, so she would know better what went into such events than Adora.

    “Yep. The United States have a long tradition of doing miracles when it comes to logistics.” Jack snorted. “Of course, I can’t take all credit since I spent most of the last week on Etheria.”

    “What a coincidence,” Catra commented.

    “I know - but duty comes first.”

    Once more, their grins matched. It was… kind of weird, in Adora’s opinion.

    “Colonel O’Neill - we shouldn't leave our guests standing,” General Haig said, nodding at the table.

    “Right, right! This way, please!” Jack gestured to the table with a flourish, as if they hadn’t seen it from the entrance. “We’ve left one spot free for Swift Wind.”

    Indeed, there was one chair missing - and there was open space behind it, more than enough for him to stand there comfortably.

    “Oh, nice!” Swift Wind beamed.

    “We try.” Jack smiled.

    Unfortunately, the route Swift Wind took wasn’t quite as roomy, and Jack’s grin vanished when Swift Wind’s wings almost pushed two people out of their chairs. “Ah. We asked an expert on horses. We probably should have asked an expert on pegasuses.”

    “You have more like Swift Wind on Earth?” Perfuma asked. “I thought you didn’t have any magic for a thousand years…”

    “They’re talking about fiction,” Glimmer told her. “Imaginary creatures.”

    “Ah.”

    “I am sorry,” Swift Wind said as he settled at his spot.

    “It’s OK,” Jack told him.

    “Although, it is intriguing,” Castaspella said. “You closely match creatures of legend and myth on Earth. Perhaps those creatures lived on Earth during the time it had magic.” She smiled. “It bears investigating.”

    “But after the party, I think,” Jack said with a slightly strained-looking smile, gesturing again at the table.

    “Oh, yes. We can discuss this afterwards - do you have quarters here?” Castaspella asked.

    Jack’s smile grew more strained, Adora noticed, as General Hammond’s eyebrows rose.

    And Catra was grinning again.

    But all things considered, the party was off to a good start.

    *****​

    Samantha Carter was late for the New Year’s party. It wasn’t her fault - well, not really. That experiment had run a bit longer than expected, and cleaning up after it, as well as sorting the data, had taken a bit longer as well. If she hadn’t been roped - ordered - into helping with the party, she would have finished in time, of course. But between the mission to Etheria and the scramble to turn a casual party for soldiers into as close one could get to a state dinner without turning it into a state dinner, there simply hadn’t been any time.

    Of course, usually, that wouldn’t be much of an issue - she had been late to the last two New Year’s parties as well. As long as she arrived in time to grab something to eat from the chow line - the buffet, she corrected herself - no one made much of a fuss. Although the Colonel would probably have threatened to drag her out of her lab if he hadn’t been swamped with the preparations himself, she added to herself with a smile.

    Things were different this time, of course, but she was only late by about fifteen minutes. And she had a good excuse. Not even Sidorov could complain about her work taking precedence. Her presence wasn’t needed amongst the welcoming party, anyway - the Colonel could handle that perfectly fine, no matter what he claimed. Especially since he had Daniel with him - her friend had no excuse not to attend since his work didn’t rely on experiments; books could be put aside without ruining an expensive set of components.

    She approached the door, nodding at the two guards outside - marines had drawn the short straw, it seemed; security had been increased as a response to the additional guests - and opened the door.

    And blinked. She had known that the decorations would be more extensive than usual, but… This was a bit excessive. No, not a bit - a lot. She couldn’t even see the walls behind all the plants, and only the lighting fixtures in the ceiling were not covered by foliage and flowers, either. Flowers that looked as if the decorator had raided an exotic greenhouse. Well, Perfuma loved it - she was beaming as she pointed at a particularly colourful flower dangling overhead.

    Sam managed to greet her friends without being too distracted, but as soon as she was seated next to the Colonel, she leaned over and said in a low voice: “I don’t remember seeing that in the plans.”

    “Yep.” The Colonel grinned. “It seems no one told General Petit that you should not comment about the challenge of decorating a mess hall on short notice when a magical princess with control over plants can overhear it and wants to be helpful.”

    “Ah.” That explained it. And why the French General was so focused on his discussion with King Micah and ignoring the glares from his fellow officers. And why Catra was smirking.

    Well, no harm done - Sam trusted Perfuma’s power; she didn’t doubt that the plants would hold up nicely. Probably better than the original decorations since those had been thrown together quite hastily - Sam had been there when the changes had been made.

    She blinked. Maybe she should ask Perfuma to ensure that the plants would come off without too much effort. Or wilted in the morning, or whatever. The princess might be easily capable of creating plants that thrived underground and could take root in concrete. Or at least adhere to it. And if those were genetically - magically - altered plants based on alien flora, they might have just violated a few laws…

    “Cleaning up afterwards might be a bit of a challenge,” she commented as she filled her glass.

    The Colonel frowned for a moment. Then his eyes widened, and his lips moved as he muttered something under his breath that Sam was sure was a curse.

    Well, that wasn’t her problem. And she wouldn’t mind a greener mess hall, either - Stargate Command was moving anyway.

    *****​

    “...and don’t worry, the plants won’t require too much care - a bit of watering and the artificial light will be enough to sustain them as long as you want to keep them going since I changed the foliage so they can extract nitrogen from the air to serve as fertiliser.”

    Catra smirked as she listened to Perfuma’s enthusiastic explanation to the not-quite-so-enthusiastic General Hammond.

    “Catra!” Adora hissed.

    “Hm?”

    “It’s not funny!”

    “Yes, it is,” Catra disagreed. And it was. The general was obviously trying to find a way to politely tell the princess that they didn’t want permanent flowers in the mess hall without making her feel bad for misunderstanding their intentions. And probably without Perfuma changing the flowers into vegetables or something.

    “That is very impressive,” he said. ”Although we were not planning to have the plants take root here.”

    Perfuma beamed at him. “Oh, don’t worry about that! I changed the plants so their roots don’t bury into the ground - or the walls and ceiling here - but simply adhere to the surfaces. They’ll also filter out some of the pollutants in the air and improve the microclimate in the room, so your air filters should be under less stress.”

    “Fascinating.” Haig leaned over. “Could this replace conventional air conditioning in underground bases? Combined with the Tok’ra tunnelling technology, this could provide forward bases with greater autarchy.”

    “Oh, I would have to modify and optimise the plants for that, and you’d need a pretty large area covered - depending on how many people are in the bunker, of course; the fewer you have, the fewer plants you need to provide enough oxygen.”

    Catra didn’t miss the subtle frown Hammond sent at the other general and grinned again. “I think that would require further research,” he said. “We can’t really use untested technology in our bases.”

    “Oh, we can test it easily - this room can serve as a testing site!” Perfuma turned her head and called out to Entrapta. “Entrapta! Can you test how well the plants here filter and replace the air? So we can use them in bases?”

    “Sure thing!” Entrpata nodded. “I’ll set up some sensors to collect data!”

    Hammond’s frown wasn’t subtle at all any more. “I think such a decision needs to be discussed amongst the command council.”

    Haig raised his eyebrows. “We are already using this technology, so to speak, so it would behove us to thoroughly test it as the opportunity presents itself.”

    “And Perfuma can adjust the plants as you wish,” Scorpia chimed in, beaming at her lover. “If you want different colours for daily use, for example.”

    “Or adaptive colouration.” Perfuma nodded. “If you wish to make the plants more discreet. I wouldn’t think it’s necessary - quite the contrary; plants add so much character and comfort to a bunker - but I am a bit biased.”

    “Oh, yes! The Fright Zone has become so much more appealing and nicer thanks to all the plants covering the buildings! And that’s all your work!”

    And more beaming followed. Hammond glanced at O’Neill for some reason, but the other man was still talking with Castaspella. And Haig nodded.

    “It seems that the plants are going to stay,” Catra commented as she stood. “I’m going to grab another plate. Want some as well?”

    “Uh…” Adora joined her. “Yes.”

    As they walked over to the buffet, Catra overheard Swift Wind talking to Dr Fraiser.

    “...but why would I have problems with people eating cows or pigs? They’re nasty! Have you ever tried to reason with a bull? Besides, you don’t have any problem eating them either, right?”

    “Ah, no, of course not.” Fraiser grimaced and tried to hide it by taking another sip from her glass.

    Catra smiled. Good food, good entertainment and good friends. This was going to be a great party!

    *****​

    This was a disaster! Jack O’Neill already knew it. And he was going to get the blame for it, even though it wasn’t his fault! The mess hall had been transformed into an indoor jungle - at least the walls and the ceiling; the floor seemed to be unchanged so far, but he expected some plants sprouting up in a corner near the buffet as soon as someone mentioned the lack of fresh fruits in the regular menu where Perfuma could overhear it.

    And he had thought that Entrapta was the one princess to be watched lest she started some unauthorised alterations to the base or unleashed some replicating bots or grey goo! If only he had known…

    And it wasn’t as if he could’ve stopped Perfuma anyway - as a colonel, he couldn’t just go over the heads of the generals in charge of Stargate Command. At least not when they were right there. That simply wasn’t done - short of a life-and-death situation, of course. But an alien princess enthusiastically redecorating the room after misunderstanding Petit’s comment wasn’t such an emergency. Not even when the entire command council was just sitting there and staring as the room turned into what could have passed for a jungle set of an old tv show. At least Haig seemed to be more intrigued than shocked by the whole thing, but that could just be that British stiff upper lip thing. Jack somehow doubted that the limey was too fond of his base turning into a jungle.

    And speaking of jungle… He glanced at the ceiling, squinting a bit. The last thing he wanted was some alien plant dropping pollen into his food or something.

    “Don’t worry. Perfuma is an expert with perfect control over her creations. Only cactuses gave her some trouble, but she has overcome that for the most part, I believe.” Castaspella smiled at him.

    Jack forced himself to smile. “Yeah, you know - trust but verify. Instincts.”

    “Of course, if you are truly worried, I could cast a spell to protect our food, although it might be seen as a slight against Perfuma’s competence.”

    “No, no, that’s OK.” Jack wasn’t really worried about inhaling or eating weird alien pollen - Perfuma didn’t strike him as the type who was overconfident or reckless. And he didn’t really want Castaspella doing magic right now, either. Her attempts to show him how useful magic could be were subtle, but he hadn’t missed how she had never failed to offer a magical solution to the smallest problem ever since he declined her offer to become a student at Etheria’s flying magic school.

    As if a bit of convenience would be enough to go back to school - and leave his team in the middle of a war. And learn magic.

    “Oh, I like this dessert.”

    “Yeah, it’s not blue jello, but apple pie is an American classic.” Jack smiled. It was actually far better than the pies they usually served in the Air Force - they had ordered them from a bakery in Colorado Springs. And paid a premium for the rush order.

    “I didn’t see blue jello at the dessert buffet, though, I think,” Castaspella added with a slight frown.

    “That’s because blue jello is not sophisticated enough for such a swanky event,” Jack told her.

    Daniel, sitting across from him next to Castaspella, sighed. “That’s not quite correct. Blue jello is… well, mass-produced.”

    “And tasty!” Jack cut in.

    “And full of additives of questionable quality,” Daniel continued.

    “That’s what makes it so good!”

    Castaspella snorted at that.

    “We can sneak you a cup later,” Jack told her. “I’ve got a key to the kitchen.”

    “Jack!” Daniel gasped.

    “What?” Jack pouted at him. “I’ve got a key for every door here. Legitimately.”

    “That’s not what I meant!”

    “I think I would like to taste this blue jello, if only to compare it to your other fare.”

    “Jack! Are you honestly trying to take our guests on a snack raid?” Daniel looked aghast.

    Well, Jack had been joking, but now that he thought of it, it seemed like…

    “A snack raid? That sounds like an adventure!”

    …a really dumb idea, Jack finished his thought. How had he missed Sea Hawk passing by their seats, carrying a tray loaded with all the dessert dishes? A tray the man was now holding high as he posed, one boot placed on an empty chair. Attracting the attention of everyone in view. Which included all the generals. And the princesses. And everyone seemed to be frowning at him and Sea Hawk.

    “No, we’re not going to raid the kitchen,” Mermista snapped.

    “But… Jack said so!” Sea Hawk, still balancing about a week’s worth of dessert on the tray, turned to pout at the princess.

    “He was just flirting with Castaspella,” Mermista retorted. “It wasn’t a general invitation. Now come and put the tray down.”

    “Ah, of course! That’s different, then!”

    Jack blinked as the man winked at him and Castaspella. “That’s not…”

    But Sea Hawk was already walking away, humming what sounded like a shanty.

    Castaspella was chuckling, and Jack hoped that was because she knew he hadn’t been flirting with her.

    He really didn’t need any more rumours about alien women trying to seduce him - or, worse, him trying to seduce them. If Daniel started to call him ‘Kirk’...

    At least Carter didn’t seem to have noticed the whole thing - she was still deep in conversation with Entrapta.

    *****​

    Well, things were going better than Adora had expected - feared, actually. Most seemed to like what Perfuma had done to the plant decorations, even though a few seemed worried about it. But General Haig was quite interested in the potential applications of those plants for the war effort. At least as far as Adora could tell - the man was, well, he didn’t seem very emotional. When he smiled, it was a polite smile, and when he didn’t smile, it was a polite non-smile. Something, Jack once had told her, was typical for the English. Stiff upper lip, he had called it. Although it wasn’t a medical condition - she had asked.

    Adora wasn’t sure if he was correct, though. What she had seen of the English in their news seemed to contradict it - they had looked like a rather rowdy bunch to her. Especially during protests and when watching sports. Some sports, at least. But then, Britain had more people than Etheria, so it should be obvious that they would be at least as diverse as the Etherians. Probably - she wasn’t an expert on that stuff, and both Bow and Daniel were currently busy talking with others, so it would be rude to interrupt them. Especially since they seemed to be having fun.

    Like Catra, who was on her third trip to the dessert buffet. “They should be serving that stuff every day,” she said as she retook her seat.

    Adora snatched a muffin - blueberry - from the plate and nodded. “Yes.”

    “So, why don’t you?” Catra asked General Hammond between devouring two such muffins herself.

    Adora refrained from frowning. Unlike on other occasions, Catra wasn’t intentionally rude, simply caught up by how good the dessert was.

    “We don’t have the budget for it,” General Hammond replied. “And if we had the budget, we probably wouldn’t find enough suppliers for everyone.”

    “Oh.” Well, it wasn’t too bad - compared to the Horde rations, even the regular food Jack kept grumbling about was good. But Bright Moon’s food was better, even in the field.

    “You should reevaluate your priorities,” Catra said with a smirk. “Some Horde soldiers deserted for better food.”

    “Really?” That was the first time Adora had heard this. She knew - although she had only been told after the war - that there had been a thriving trade in Alliance food in the Horde, but for people to desert for it…

    “Oh, yes. Glimmer and Bow told me about your reaction to decent food.” Catra snorted.

    Adora blushed as she remembered that day. “That was after I had deserted already!”

    “Ah.” General Hammond chuckled.

    And that had been the day that Thaymor had been attacked. By Catra. Adora felt her smile slip.

    Catra shrugged. “Anyway, we’ll make sure we’ll get our food from our own sources, then.”

    “That might be bad for morale,” General Hammond pointed out. “If people in the same unit eat different food, that could breed resentment.”

    “Really?” Adora frowned. Both the Horde and the Alliance had different food for the leaders than for the soldiers.

    “Don’t you have officer’s clubs as well in your army?” Catra asked.

    Hammond shook his head. “That’s not the same. In the field, both enlisted and officers eat the same food. At the base, officers might have the opportunity to go to restaurants - they receive money to buy their food.”

    “Ah.” Adora nodded. That was different - although not quite as different as the general claimed it was, at least as she understood things.

    “Doesn’t sound that equal to me,” Catra commented. “Though it depends on how long you spend in the field. And how things work out on the ships. I don’t think we’ll have restaurants on the ships.”

    Adora didn’t think so either. Adapting a frigate to transport human troops in sizeable numbers was already complicated. The soldiers expected more comfortable quarters than what the clones and bots had used under Horde Prime. And that meant that, unless some structural changes were made, the troop complement of a frigate would be on the short side. Which meant they would need more frigates for transport - and while they would still be able to fight, you generally were not supposed to use transport ships on the frontlines. If the troops expected restaurants and clubs in a frigate, then that would reduce the transport capacity even more…

    “I don’t think so either,” General Hammond said. “Though, even if it is playing to the worst stereotype about the Air Force, I expect our field bases will be quite comfortable.”

    “Oh, definitely!” Adora smiled. “With the Tok’ra’s technology, we’ll be able to build and expand a base quickly and easily. And if Perfuma and General Haig’s plans work out, it will be even easier. Fresh produce inside the base, for example!”

    “We should put in some fish tanks, too,” Catra added. “Like in restaurants.”

    “I don’t know if we could put in enough such tanks to feed a base,” General Hammond replied politely.

    “Well, we could install clone pods for fish.” Catra grinned, and Adora wasn’t sure if her lover was serious. Although…

    “Yes. I think Entrapta mentioned cloned meat as a way to make supplying troops easier. With Perfuma’s help, we could probably produce both vegetables and meat on any planet - or in a ship,” Adora explained.

    “I see. But would that be safe?”

    “Probably safer than using animals and plants from wherever,” Catra told him. “You’ll know exactly where the cloned animals have been and what they have eaten.”

    “We have strict standards for our food production,” General Hammond said.

    “Yeah, but whether or not they’re strict enough seems a bit controversial.” Catra shrugged again. “And we could pick the best animals for cloning - the costs are the same per animal, anyway.”

    “I see.” Hammond nodded. “Of course, that would be a boon for the war effort, though it might raise some concern amongst the civilian population.”

    “Really?” Adora frowned. “Because they don’t trust the technology?” She had seen a rather passionate debate about genetically modified food once, she remembered.

    “There is that, But that technology could also render our entire agricultural sector obsolete,” he said.

    “Oh.” Adora wasn’t an expert on Earth, but she knew enough to tell that this would probably cause trouble.

    “Yeah.” Catra nodded. “But it’ll greatly simplify logistics. And logistics win wars.”

    “Yes. But at what cost? If we lose the support of the people, we’ll lose the war.” Hammond shrugged. “And the agricultural lobby has a great deal of influence in Washington - and in Brussels.”

    That was the capital of the European Union. If you could call it a capital since the Union wasn’t a country but more of an alliance, as Adora understood it. Still, with so many of those countries in the Alliance, using cloned meat for food might be more of a problem than Adora had thought.

    “Well, then we can keep the technology to ourselves,” Catra suggested.

    General Hammond winced a little. “A lot of our agricultural businesses are also expecting contracts to supply the armed forces.”

    “It sounds like those businesses have more power on Earth than princesses have on Etheria,” Catra commented.

    Adora nodded in agreement.

    “It’s not quite the same, I would say, but the government has to balance the military needs with those of the economy.” General Hammond inclined his head.

    Catra snorted. “Whatever it is, it’s a problem if it means we’ll have to eat bad food in the field!”

    “The regular food is not that bad,” Adora pointed out. “It’s much better than Horde rations.”

    “That’s a very low bar,” Catra retorted. “Anyway…” She trailed off and frowned. “I think Sidorov made a mistake. Frosta looks like she’s about to hit him with an ice gauntlet.”

    Adora turned her head. Oh, no - Frosta did look angry. Not angry enough to actually start a fight, though. Or so Adora hoped. But… “What is he saying?”

    Catra cocked her head. “Oh… he’s talking about Russia. And the North Pole.”

    That sounded safe, actually.

    “But he’s sounding very arrogant - patronising,” Catra went on. “He could only make things worse if he blew up her palace at her ball.”

    Adora winced. “We have to stop that. We…”

    A gust of wind blew most of the napkins on the table across the room - Swift Wind had flared his wings, this time knocking a man out of his seat. “Sorry!” he said before turning to look at one of the young soldiers who had wandered over to talk to him during dessert. “See? They fold out like that!”

    “And you can fly with them?” the woman asked. “With a rider?”

    “Of course! I can show you!”

    Adora gasped. “Not indoors!”

    Swift Wind turned his head. “Of course not, Adora! You’d hit your head on the ceiling here. But we could step outside for a moment, and I could show them how we can fly.”

    The soldiers - many of the women, Adora noticed - nodded eagerly.

    “Ah…” Adora glanced at Frosta, whose hands had disappeared under the table. That wasn’t a good sign. But maybe…

    “Don’t look at me,” Catra told her with a snort. “The kid won’t listen to me, and Sidorov won’t either.”

    “Adora, come! Just a short flight!”

    “You could take one of us up!”

    “Or all of us!”

    “Ah, I am sorry, but I am Adora’s faithful steed, ladies.”

    “And this is a party, not a rodeo,” Jack stepped in. “So, please don’t bother our guests about giving you rides, OK?”

    “Yes, sir!” Half of them saluted. The rest pouted. But it seemed they had one crisis averted. That still left Frosta to, ah, calm down. And… what was Entrapta doing there at the sound system?

    *****​

    Samantha Carter caught the flying napkin before it hit Entrapta in the face, then glanced at the culprit. Just to check that it wasn’t anything serious; this was a party, not a mission, and she was here to enjoy herself.

    And it didn’t seem to be anything serious. Swift Wind was flaring his wings, probably to impress what could only be called a bunch of fans. And the Colonel was there. Nothing to be concerned about, then. Sam could focus with Entrapta on her current project.

    “...and with that, we should be able to increase the output by three hundred per cent. Now we need to sync that with the holoprojectors. Hm. Maybe… Like this?” Entrapta pointed at the interface of the sound system.

    Sam checked the connection while she quickly ran through the specs in her head. “Yes, I think that should work - provided that the emulator can handle the data and extrapolate a 3D projection from the television signal.”

    “Oh, it should! I’ve run months of broadcasting data through it, with all the multiple angles, and the neural matrix’s error rate has steadily gone down. And it’s just for fun, so some mistakes are acceptable, right?”

    “Yes.” Probably - there might be the matter of copyrighted material, but adapting a 3D projector could be called transformative, couldn’t it? Not that there was a chance that a lawsuit would go anywhere, anyway - or be launched at all; people wouldn’t risk getting excluded from using the technology for their own business. Provided it worked, of course.

    Which it should - Sam had gone through Entrapta’s data between the main course and dessert, and it was a really simple project; all the crucial work had been done already, and now it was just about adapting the different machines.

    “Good! Now… power supply.”

    “There’s an outlet there.”

    “Right! Hordak can plug in the converter once he’s back from the shuttle.”

    A sudden commotion - chairs being pushed back, people getting up in a hurry - made Sam turn around. Sidorov was at the centre of it, with Hammond next to him, and Frosta marching away from… an ice sculpture of a monster, a monstrous walrus, it looked like, taking up a big part of the table in front of the Russian? Including his plate?

    Well, it wasn’t her problem, and General Hammond was already handling it. Although Sam still took a few readings, just to have some data on magically created ice and how it reacted to the environment. That might be useful for a number of projects.

    “Oh, Frosta looks mad!” Entrapta commented as the young princess stomped out of the room. “I wonder what he said to her.”

    “I don’t know,” Sam replied. “It could have been anything.”

    “It was probably a misunderstanding. The general has a granddaughter her age.”

    Sam suppressed a frown as she turned her head. Lenkova had joined her and Entrapta without Sam noticing her approaching them. Granted, according to the Colonel, the Russian was a spy, but still - Sam wasn’t used to being blindsided like that.

    “Oh?” Entrapta smiled at the other woman. “You think he mistook her for his granddaughter?”

    Lenkova blinked, then grinned, if a bit weakly. “In a manner of speaking, da. He tends to be a bit protective of children, and the princess struck me as… not appreciating that.”

    Sam pressed her lips together. She didn’t know Frosta very well, but from what she had seen and heard, the girl did have a chip on her shoulder about being treated as a child. Even though she was a teenager.

    “Ah!” Entrapta nodded. “Yes, Frosta likes to fight and protect others.” She cocked her head to the side. “Oh, Micah is going after her. I think.”

    Indeed, the king was leaving the room as well.

    “Is that a good thing?” Lenkova asked.

    “Yes. I think.” Entrapta shrugged, then smiled at the Russian. “So, are you interested in music?”

    “Music?” Lenkova raised her eyebrows but otherwise didn’t react to the abrupt change of subject.

    “I noticed that we don’t have a live band here, so Sam and I decided to get the next best thing: A holographic projection of a band! Any band! You just insert the data from a video, and the projector takes it and turns it into a projection! Of the band.”

    “That sounds… difficult.”

    “Oh, it’s not too difficult. In theory - we’re testing the theory now!”

    Lenkova glanced at Sam. “I see.”

    Sam smiled, although she couldn’t help showing her teeth. “It’s perfectly safe.”

    “I didn’t doubt that.” Lenkova didn’t quite snap at her, but the Russian pressed her lips together for a second after her small outburst. “I just wondered why you’re doing it now and not, ah, earlier.”

    “We didn’t think of it before now,” Entrapta explained. “And we were busy. And it’s fun, and you’re supposed to have fun at a party.”

    “Ah.” Lenkova seemed to accept that.

    “Here is the converter.” Hordak had returned, handing the piece of technology over, then cocked his head sideways as he looked at Lenkova. “Are you here to help?”

    “What? No. I was just curious,” she replied.

    Hordak nodded but kept looking at her, Sam noticed. “About the project?”

    “Yes.”

    “Well, now you know! Do you have a favourite musician?” Entrapta asked as she knelt down, her hair fanning out as it grabbed cables and started plugging them in.

    “Bogdan Titomir,” Lenkova said. “Although I doubt that you have videos of him.”

    “Emily, check our data!” Entrapta ordered.

    The bot beeped in response, and Sam went back to checking the interface when the Colonel approached them.

    “What are you doing, Carter?” He looked a bit harried, she noticed.

    “We’re installing a holoprojector,” Entrapta explained without looking up from where she was now halfway under the main amp, which was held up by her hair.

    “And I asked if they had videos of Bogdan Titomir,” Lenkova added.

    “Can’t say I know the man,” the Colonel said, glancing at her. “And how are you liking the party so far, Lieutenant?”

    “It’s… interesting. But a bit tame,” she replied.

    “Tame?” The Colonel’s eyebrows rose.

    Sam felt a bit surprised herself. They had magical princesses and an alicorn here, the ceiling and walls were covered by magical plants trying to turn the scene into a jungle, and Lenkova called it tame?

    “In Russia, everyone would be drunk by now.” The woman smiled a bit ruefully, in Sam’s opinion.

    “Ah, yes. No drunks here,” the Colonel said. “Which is a good thing, of course - imagine trying to tell Frosta she couldn’t get a drink while everyone else was drinking.” He looked at Sidorov, who was now seated again and scowling at General Hammond.

    “Why not serve her a drink, then?” Lenkova asked.

    “Because drunk teenagers with magic are as bad as drunk teenagers with weapons,” the Colonel said, clenching his teeth for a moment. Then he took a deep breath and looked at the ceiling. “Imagine if Perfuma were drunk doing this!”

    “Ah.” Lenkova nodded as if that hadn’t been obvious. Then she glanced at Castaspella, who was still sitting at the table. Good. “Is that what you talked about with the witch?”

    “Sorceress,” the Colonel corrected her. “Witches are different - it’s a touchy thing for them or something.”

    “Ah.” Lenkova smiled as if that had answered her question - which it had, of course.

    “Yes.” Entrapta slid out from under the amplifier. “All set here!”

    Sam looked at her readouts. “Same here.”

    “Good! Then we can now test it!”

    “Test what exactly?” the Colonel asked.

    “I told you - a holoprojector!” Entrapta smiled. “Switch it on, Hordak - wait, we need to pick a video first!”

    Emily beeped.

    “You found one? Great! Science buddy, hit it!”

    A moment later, the machinery they had spent half an hour setting up sprang to life, and a life-sized hologram of a singer appeared on the small stage set up in the room.

    Not just a singer, a rapper, Sam realised as the man opened his mouth.

    “You made this for a Russian Rapper?” The Colonel sounded both amused and put off.

    “Ukrainian, actually,” Lenkova corrected him. “At least these days.”

    “And they like it!” Entrapta beamed.

    Indeed, people were clapping and cheering. Of course, seeing a hologram would be a novelty, and there were a significant number of Russian soldiers present who recognised the singer, but she wasn’t wrong.

    Sam smiled at the Colonel.

    Of course, he had to have the last word: “Well, as long as you don’t show a polka band…”

    Unfortunately, Entrapta overheard him. “What’s polka?”

    But clearing up that wasn’t Sam’s job either. She was here to have fun, as the Colonel had told her three times today already.

    And she was having fun.

    Until she noticed the officer in charge of the night shift entering the hall - and heading straight towards the table with the generals. Something must have come up.

    *****​
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2023
  23. macdjord

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  25. Threadmarks: Chapter 76: The Intervention Part 1
    Starfox5

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    Chapter 76: The Intervention Part 1

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, Unites States of America, Earth, January 1st, 1999

    Catra perked up as she noticed the officer approaching the generals. Not that it took a particularly sharp eye to catch it - the man wasn’t wearing a dress uniform, so he stood out amongst the party’s guests. O’Neill had noticed him as well and was already heading back to the general’s table.

    But it took damn good ears to listen in at that distance, with Entrapta’s holo-singer going off in the background and everyone talking - and Catra had the best ears in the room. She turned them in Hammond’s direction just in time to catch the gist of the message.

    “...didn’t open the iris, but we accepted the radio call from the Tok’ra. They claim it’s an emergency and want to talk to the Alliance leadership.”

    Oh.

    “I see.”

    “Let’s get up,” Catra told Adora as Hammond frowned. “It’s for you.”

    “What?” Adora looked at her.

    “Call from the Tok’ra,” Catra explained. “For the Alliance leadership.” Technically, Stargate Command wasn’t part of the Alliance. At least not directly. And the Russians and Chinese certainly weren’t part of the Alliance. And Adora was the Supreme Commander of the Alliance.

    “Oh. Glimmer!” Adora called out. “We have to take a call!”

    “What?” But Glimmer was already on her feet, Bow following her.

    And that started a general move towards the doors by everyone from Etheria - and a lot of murmuring and speculation amongst the soldiers from Stargate Command. Which quickly drowned out the singing.

    Sometimes, having the best ears in the room wasn’t a good thing.

    She grabbed a last sandwich on the way out.

    *****​

    “I’m sorry, General, but this is Alliance business - not Stargate Command business.”

    “What? This is Stargate Command! This is the Stargate!”

    “Yes, but only in as much as it’s needed for transportation and communication, General.”

    “We have oversight over all gate activities! This is a matter of security!”

    “The majority of the Command Council is present, sir. Therefore, it shouldn’t…”

    Catra shook her head with a sigh as the door slid close and cut off the angry ranting from Sidorov outside the gate room. “We should take control of the Stargate here as well.”

    “What?” Adora gasped at her.

    “I mean the Alliance,” Catra explained as they walked over towards the gate. It was still covered by the iris, but she could see Garshaw on a screen next to the ramp. “Or the Earth parts of it, at least. Like we did on Etheria.”

    “Uh…” Adora bit her lower lip. “That should be up to them, I think. The Alliance, I mean. And they already have the majority of the generals in Stargate Command, so…”

    “Then they should kick out Sidorov.”

    “Oh, yes!” Frosta chimed in. “He’s such a pig-headed walrus! I’m a princess and a war veteran, not some baby!”

    Catra held her tongue - not because she feared Frosta’s anger; the girl had gotten one free shot back in the war for… reasons. But this wasn’t her problem. She didn’t like Sidorov for entirely different reasons.

    “Well, he doesn’t know you.” Adora, of course, considered it her problem.

    Frosta scoffed. “That’s no excuse. He knew I am the sovereign of the Kingdom of Snows!”

    “Things are different on Earth,” Adora replied. “And, well…”

    Fortunately, they reached the screen before Adora could put her foot in.

    “Good evening, Grand Councillor,” Glimmer greeted them.

    “Good evening, Queen Glimmer. Princess Adora. Princess Entrapta.” The Tok’ra leader looked… well, not too concerned, but she had a good poker face, so that didn’t mean anything. “I see you’ve restored gate access to your home planet.”

    Now, that probably means there’s no immediate emergency, Catra thought as everyone was introduced to everyone. Which took a little while.

    But after that, Garshaw cleared their throat. “I am calling because we have received disturbing news. Apophis is planning an attack against a planet under the control of a rival in order to frame a third faction for the attack.”

    Ah. That sounded… well, kind of smart - and just the sort of thing the Tok’ra did.

    “And he is planning to use weapons of mass destruction to ensure this will lead to war - and to hide his involvement.” Garshaw looked grim. “According to our intel, most of the planet’s population will be killed, should he succeed. And, even worse, for such attacks, the general Goa’uld policy is to retaliate in kind.”

    Which meant another planet would be razed. And then another. And another.

    Damn.

    They had to stop that - but that would mess up their planned schedule for the war.

    *****​

    “Alright. According to your intel, dear old Aphophis wants to frame Sokar for the attack on one of Heru’ur’s garrison worlds so he can then sit back and watch his two most dangerous rivals destroy each other.” Jack O’Neill shook his head. And then the snake would polish off whoever remained - if he waited so long; Jack wouldn’t be surprised if Apophis would attack both once they’re weakened enough just so no one else got to kill them.

    “Exactly.” Garshaw nodded.

    “And that intel is dependable?” Jack had been on missions based on wrong intel before. He wasn’t keen on repeating the experience.

    “It comes from one of our best operatives. They have infiltrated Apophis’s court for years.”

    Jack nodded even though that didn’t mean the intel was good - in the spook game, once you discovered an enemy agent, you either turned them or left them in place and fed them bogus information. You could never be sure that the intel was good until after the mission was over. And sometimes not even then. The soviets had gone to great lengths to fool their enemies; even sacrificing a few soldiers or spies of their own hadn’t been beyond them. And compared to the commie spooks, the snake spooks were worse.

    Not that the American spooks were that much better, of course. At least some of them would fit in with either the KGB or the snakes. Like the spook in the room. Jack glanced at Colonel Maybourne and didn’t bother hiding his frown.

    Maybourne ignored him, seemingly focused on his notes. Jack resisted the urge to make a face at him. If only they were in private…

    “So, they’re planning an orbital bombardment to wipe out the ground bases, then loot the mines - and probably have some survivors identify their forces as Sokar’s. Pretty simple plan,” Catra commented.

    “As long as they manage to convincingly pass for Sokar’s forces, they won’t need a more complex scheme,” Garshaw said. “Sokar has only recently resurfaced - he was thought destroyed by Ra and his allies after an attempted rebellion thousands of years ago, and he is reviled amongst the other System Lords. Wiping out the population of a planet is exactly what they would expect of him. All Aphophis needs to do is make his force act sufficiently sadistic when killing the majority of the bombardment’s survivors and Heru’ur will be fooled.”

    Jack scoffed. “What a charming fellow.” It would take a lot to get reviled by the other snakes.

    Then Maybourne spoke up for the first time during the briefing: “Will acting on that intel put your agent in danger?”

    Jack clenched his teeth at the man’s comment. He should have expected that question from a spook.

    “What?” Adora obviously hadn’t, though. “We have to stop this attack!”

    “Yes!” Glimmer nodded sharply.

    Jack looked at the Tok’ra. They had good poker faces, but… Garshaw didn’t show any reaction, but Per’sus was glaring at Maybourne. Of course, that could be an act to impress the Etherians - the Tok’ra were well aware of who was the dominant power in the Alliance. Hell, they might even think sacrificing an agent - or setting up this attack in the first place - was worth it if it made them best buddies with the Etherians! Jack was sure that they had done such stunts before, setting up one snake to fight another.

    Maybourne, though, appeared undaunted by the anger directed at him - by aliens able to reduce him to a stain on the floor without trying. Of course, they wouldn’t do this, but still - many would show some fear faced with that. The spook even had the gall to smile at the angry princesses. “This could be a ploy by Apophis to discover the agent.”

    “Other sources have verified that some of Apophis’s most loyal and capable forces have disappeared,” Garshaw cut in. “I doubt he would risk angering two of his most dangerous rivals just to hunt a spy.”

    “It could still be a consolation prize.” Maybourne shrugged. “But the real question is: Should we stop this, risking that the Goa’uld learn of the Alliance’s existence, or would it be better if we let the attack happen and let the Goa’uld fight each other for a bit before we reveal that it was a ploy by Apophis? And then let them fight each other some more?”

    Jack narrowed his eyes. That was the kind of cold-blooded thinking common amongst spooks. But, a small voice in the back of his head added, the man wasn’t wrong - letting the attack happen and then expose Apophis’s treachery would do a lot of damage to the Goa’uld. They would tear each other’s armies up.

    But it would also kill a lot of civilians.

    “You want to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of people?” Adora jumped up, her chair clattering to the ground behind her.

    “That’s unacceptable!” Glimmer slapped the table with both hands. “We’re not going to let them murder people - we’re fighting this war to save people!”

    A crackling sound drew Jack’s attention to his right, and this time, he winced. Frosta was standing, both arms covered to the elbows in gleaming ice - and Jack could feel the cold around the little princess.

    He almost quipped about cold rage.

    Maybourne finally showed a reaction - he winced. “I’m just asking questions!” he said. “I’m not saying we should let civilians get killed - but it’s my job to ensure that our leaders are aware of the costs of intervening. This is a planning meeting, after all.”

    “I think everyone here is aware of that, Colonel,” General Haig spoke up with a frown.

    “Yes!” Adora hissed.

    “And of the price of our inaction.” Bow looked angry as well.

    And Catra looked like she was plotting an accident for Maybourne.

    “Colonel, I think we need more data on the status of our various forces. Please start compiling a briefing,” Hammond said. “The president will want it later.”

    “Yes, General.”

    The spook got up and left the room, and Jack relaxed. A little. Why had Maybourne done this? He had to know how the Etherians would react. Was Kinsey behind this? Was this an attempt to sabotage this meeting in preparation for the Alliance meeting where the actual decision would be made? Not that Jack doubted that they would intervene since the Etherians were unified in this. Had that been the goal? Show that resistance was futile? Or had someone set up Maybourne to take a fall to replace him?

    And what was the Tok’ra’s game?

    Jack clenched his teeth again. He hated dealing with spooks as much as he hated dealing with politics.

    *****​

    Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, Unites States of America, Earth, January 2nd, 1999

    “Here’s another argument for the Alliance taking over the Stargate: We could cut the meetings in half.”

    Adora frowned at Catra’s whispered comment, but her friend had a point, sort of - this was the official Alliance planning meeting, and they were going over mostly the same things that they had covered in the first meeting here at Stargate Command.

    And judging by Glimmer’s snort, her friend agreed. Still, while Adora didn’t like rehashing things, she also knew you couldn’t just rush everything. And even with shuttles, it took some time to ferry in the Alliance leaders from Earth.

    “You’re the Supreme Commander,” Catra went on. “Just tell them what we’ll do.”

    That… wasn’t how things worked either. And Catra knew that. But this was the second hour of the meeting, and they hadn’t made much progress.

    “...and why is Apophis doing this now?” the German general, Müller, asked. “At the best time to hamper our build-up and make us throw away our plans?”

    “No plan survives first contact with the enemy,” Jack commented.

    Müller frowned. “We both know what Moltke actually meant with that, Colonel. And that’s not the point. I’m wondering if Apophis is doing this as a reaction to the preparations of the Alliance - if he knows about our plans.”

    “Our operatives have not found any hint that would support this,” Garshaw replied. “If Apophis - or any System Lord - would suspect this, they would reach out to their peers, not attempt to play two rivals against each other.”

    “His reputation suffered following his defeat at the hands of Stargate Command,” Per’Sus added. “His material losses were minor, but he was personally leading the attack. His rivals will wonder if he had gravely underestimated his enemies, showing a lapse of judgement that might be exploited - or if he couldn’t spare the forces to ensure victory, showing a fatal weakness. This might be his attempt to counter that and present the conflict between Sokar and Heru’ur as a distraction.”

    A distraction that would cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of people! Adora pressed her lips together. They couldn’t let that happen! At least none of the Alliance leaders here had suggested that they should let it happen. This Maybourne… She clenched her teeth. How could anyone think like that?

    “Why Apophis is doing this doesn’t matter as much as what we’re doing to stop it,” Glimmer spoke up. “We can’t let him murder countless people. We have to stop him.”

    “Can we stop him?” another European General, Hansen, asked. “Can we reach the planet with the fleet before his ships reach it?”

    “If he sticks to the schedule our agent discovered, yes,” Garshaw said. “The Horde frigates can reach the planet in time to meet the attack.”

    “Convenient,” Müller muttered.

    “If we send the fleet, we will expose ourselves. The Goa’uld Empire will be aware of our forces - and that we’re about to fight them. We have to keep that in mind,” the British General - Forsythe - said. “We will have a harder time preventing information from getting out than if we struck a target of our own choice.”

    “We have to send the fleet - we can’t stop an orbital bombardment with whatever forces we could send through the gate. If we can secure the gate in the first place,” Jack pointed out.

    “Maybe.” The Canadian representative, Miller, didn’t seem convinced. He looked at Adora, she realised. “Princess She-Ra, Could you activate the planet’s magic and use the, ah, surge of power to attack the ships in orbit?”

    Adora winced. “That was a unique event that can’t be repeated.” And that was a relief! If there were another Heart of Eheria-style weapon… “Not to mention that it would mean that I would have to do this right before the bombardment starts, but after the attackers are in position. The timing would have to be perfect.”

    “So, that’s not an alternative. We’ll have to bring the ships out. And the Goa’uld will know those are Horde frigates,” Catra cut in. “They will investigate Horde Prime’s former Empire.”

    “But they won’t know about the Alliance. Not right away,” Forsythe said.

    “Sooner or later, they’ll find out about us,” Glimmer said. “We didn’t attempt to keep his defeat a secret.”

    Of course not! They had spread the news so his subjects knew they were free! Adora nodded.

    “We’d still gain some time. It would be better if we could use Goa’uld ships, to make them suspect each other, but…” Forsythe looked at the Tok’ra.

    Garhsaw shook her head. “We do not have nearly enough ships for that.”

    That was putting it mildly.

    “Can we mask the Horde ships as Goa’uld ships?” Miller asked.

    Entrapta cocked her head to the side. “We can use false transponders, but camouflaging their visuals is tricky. The frigates are very different designs.”

    “We could ambush the attackers before they reach the planet. That would cut down on the number of witnesses,” Catra suggested. “Jam their communications and wipe them out.”

    “And make Apophis wonder what happened - if we can pull this off.” Bow nodded.

    “It would make him suspect a mole,” Garshaw said. “But any defeat would result in that.”

    “Yeah, that’s Dictator 101 - it’s always the fault of traitors, never your own incompetence.” Jack scoffed. “But if you deal with Apophis’s forces in space, that still leaves Heru’ur’s troops on the planet - and what assets they have in space.”

    “And they would have the sensors to detect the battle and will investigate it. At least a few scouts will be sent,” Per’sus said. “We will have to deal with them as well.”

    “But that won’t take a full invasion. More like a strike by special forces,” Forsythe added.

    “So, a space fleet action and a ground-based commando strike. At least, it’s not a Forest Moon,” Jack said.

    Adora blinked, then snorted. “The Alliance won that battle anyway,” she pointed out.

    “But it was still a trap!”

    A number of people were laughing, but they had to explain the comment to the rest of the room. Still, joking aside, they had the start of a plan.

    *****​

    Alliance Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium, January 3rd, 1999

    “You know, riding a space shuttle to reach a meeting at the other end of the world just doesn’t have the vibe of boldly going where no man has gone before,” Samantha Carter heard the Colonel comment as they stepped off the shuttle ramp.

    “It’s a Horde shuttle, not a space shuttle,” she corrected him. “And we didn’t leave the atmosphere during our flight.”

    “It’s a shuttle and it can fly in space - it’s a space shuttle,” he retorted.

    She didn’t have to look at him to know he was grinning. She did it anyway.

    “It’s amazing, Jack!” Daniel chimed in. “This is revolutionising travel. Or will, once the shuttles spread to civilian use.”

    The Colonel shrugged. “Making it so you have to commute around the world is not the kind of revolution that we want, I think.”

    “Once holoprojectors become more common, many meetings won’t be held in person any more,” Sam pointed out. “And many office workers will be able to work from home. With advanced waldos and matching headsets, even industrial work could be done from home.”

    “That would be a security nightmare,” the Colonel retorted. “Imagine having access to classified material - or weapons - from your home. Go on a toilet break, and come back to find your kid driving a tank across a base as if it was a remote toy!”

    “That can be handled with proper computer security,” she pointed out as they entered the building.

    “The computer security that can defeat human laziness hasn’t been invented yet.” He grinned again. “I think we’ll have meetings in person for a long time yet. No offence, Carter.”

    “As you say, sir.”

    “Want to bet?”

    “You want to bet whether or not commuting will still be common?” Daniel sounded surprised.

    “Yes, Daniel.”

    “But how would you define what counts as common? Or commuting? Especially since with shuttles, what would be considered a long commute might become a quick trip down the block, comparatively. Further…”

    “And we’ve arrived!” the Colonel interrupted him. “Welcome to the really official planning meeting! Not to be mistaken for the official planning meeting. Or for the planning meeting. Oh. Sir!” He snapped a salute.

    The American general - General Smith according to his tag - standing at the door that had just opened didn’t look amused. “Colonel O’Neill. We’ve been waiting for you to finally arrive.”

    Sam half-expected the Colonel to make a joke about traffic, or about generals answering the door - though Sam was sure the officer had been on the way out of the room. But he just nodded. “We came as quickly as we could once we got our orders, sir.”

    General Smith harrumphed. “Well, you’re here now. Let’s get this started.”

    Sam wondered if he didn’t want them here - technically, they were still assigned to Stargate Command, not the Alliance forces. Though since they were the foremost experts on gate travel and the Goa’uld… They stepped inside.

    “Hi, Jack!” Adora greeted them.

    “Hey.” Catra looked up from her pad and waved.

    Next to them were Netossa and Entrapta, waving as well.

    “I saved you a seat!” Entrapta beamed at them. “Glimmer and Bow are meeting the presidents and prime ministers.”

    Sam nodded, though she had known that already.

    “Alright.” Adora rose after everyone had taken their seats. “Let’s get started. We’re here to discuss how to spoil Apophis’s attack on PZ-921.”

    As she spoke, a holoprojector turned on, and the floating hologram of a planet appeared in the middle of the room.

    Next to Sam, the Colonel muttered something about Endor, but she tried to ignore it.

    “This is the world in question. Heru’ur is using it to grow food for his forces and mine ore for his industry, but according to our intel, it also serves as a Jaffa training camp. The planet’s Stargate is located here, and the main mining sites are here and here.”

    As Adora pointed out the various locations, they lit up on the projection.

    “According to Apophis’s intel, the base housing the Stargate is fortified and has two squadrons of Death Gliders assigned to it as well as a battery of anti-aircraft artillery.” Adora nodded at the others. “We’ll have to verify that once we have assets in the system.”

    “We’ve sent spy bots to the system, but since it’s not close to their current line of advance, it’ll take some time for them to reach it. But they’ll reach it before our fleet does!” Entrapta chimed in.

    “So we will have advance warning in case this turns out to be a trap for Apophis’s forces,” the British admiral commented.

    The Colonel mouthed something that Sam missed.

    Adora nodded. “If it is a trap, we’ll let them handle Apophis’s attack.”

    That made sense, of course - the Alliance was only intervening to save the civilians.

    “But if it’s not a trap, we’ll have to deal with the planetary garrison. And that’s where it gets tricky,” Adora went on. “We have to take control of the base housing the Stargate without them calling for help.”

    The projection zoomed in on the gate location, showing an extensive Goa’uld base.

    “I’d rather sneak into a shield generator,” the Colonel muttered under his breath.

    Sam agreed.

    *****​

    Bright Moon, Etheria, January 4th, 1999 (Earth Time)

    “I’ve got some experience assaulting and defending similar bases, you know. Well, mostly defending, back when I was a Force Captain, but still, that should be useful, right? And, well - I’ve received so much help from you, I think I should start helping others in turn. And I don’t need my magic power to fight, as you all know.”

    “We didn’t help you and your people because we expect your help in return but because it was the right thing to do. And we are bringing back magic to every planet in the sector anyway, so there’s no reason not to start with this planet. And I could do some good on that planet as well - and it’s a whole planet full of new plants! And you might need my help if the fields get damaged during the fighting so there won’t be a famine as a result.”

    “You could handle that after the fighting; you don’t need to be on the frontlines. And both of you are ruling princesses, unlike us. We don’t have other responsibilities, and we need first-hand experience if we are to lead similar missions in the future. With or without powers.”

    “This sounds like an adventure!”

    “Sit down, idiot! But as the map shows, the Stargate is near a body of water. I could cover that and grant us a decisive advantage.”

    “I can freeze the entire lake and form walls around the base. And I can do that without having to have water nearby. Or setting things on fire.”

    “You lack the experience for this kind of mission.”

    “What? I’ve been doing the same things in the war against the Horde!”

    “This is a different war.”

    “War never changes.”

    Another meeting. If there was one thing Catra didn’t like about the Princess Alliance, it was how often they had meetings. And squabbling princesses. And politics, which was usually squabbling princesses. Alright, there were a few more things she didn’t like about the Princess Alliance, but right now, meetings were pretty much at the top of her list.

    Of course, some meetings were necessary. A number of her operations as Horde Leader would have gone a lot better - or wouldn’t have gone off at all - if there had been a meeting where others could have pointed out any flaws with her plans she had missed (and there had been a number of those, obvious in hindsight, but she wasn’t going there).

    But the meeting she was currently attending? In Sparkles’s palace? This wasn’t about the best way to deal with a Goa’uld fleet and garrison. Or about potential problems and complications that they might have to deal with in the middle of it.

    No, this was just about telling people that they couldn’t come along. And the relative novelty of having more volunteers than spots to be filled in a roster had long since worn off. Especially since it looked as if half the princesses would be ready to fight each other if that meant the would get to fight the enemy. “So much for the vaunted power of friendship,” she muttered.

    Adora shot her a look before speaking up - again - in an attempt to keep order in the meeting. Or peace. “Look, all of you have good arguments, but we can’t take everyone with us.”

    “Why not? Overwhelming power focused against the enemy’s weak point is a good strategy, isn’t it?” Scorpia asked, slamming her pincers together.

    “Not always, as the Horde found out a few times,” Glimmer retorted. “And no, we won’t bring back magic for this battle.”

    “What? Why not?” Frosta pouted as she glared at her.

    “Because we - I - don’t have enough experience with that yet,” Adora said. “If I make a… if anything goes wrong, the middle of a battle isn’t the best time to try to fix it.”

    “But you’ll do it afterwards, right?” Perfuma asked.

    “We’re not sure yet,” Glimmer told her. “We have to find out more about the planet’s situation, the population… Apophis didn’t really care about knowing anything about them, other than how to kill most of them, so his intel doesn’t cover that.”

    “We do know that Heru’ur seems to have a better relationship with his Jaffa than most System Lords,” Bow added. “He is said to fight at their side and value them as comrades, which Apophis considers a weakness. But that doesn’t tell us anything about the humans on the planet.”

    “You think they would pick their oppressors over their liberators?” Perfuma stared at her.

    “We don’t know. The System Lords pose as gods so their slaves obey and revere them. That kind of conditioning is harder to break than slavery,” Glimmer said.

    Adora didn’t say anything, but Catra saw how she tensed. She sighed - the differences between what the Goa’uld were doing and the situation with Third Fleet were obvious, namely that Adora hadn’t done anything to be revered as a goddess. Not intentionally, at least. But her lover still blamed herself for it. “Don’t be silly,” she whispered, letting her tail brush over Adora’s calf.

    Adoa smiled, though a bit weakly, at her in return.

    “Anyway,” Glimmer went on. “We’ll have to run this mission without our magic powers. Which means those amongst us who are effective without magic will take point.”

    And that meant Catra as well - not that she would let Adora fight alone, of course. And speaking of her… Catra waved at her lover with a grin. “And those who can use their magic powers anyway.”

    Adora blushed.

    Glimmer nodded. “But you’re right about the overwhelming power, Scorpia. We need to not just win, but win decisively, shocking and awing the enemy and their enslaved population to break the Goa’uld’s grip on them.”

    “I can do that!” Scorpia grinned and slammed her pincers together again.

    “Yes. You and Adora will be crucial for that. And Catra will help.”

    “And our bots!” Entrapta chimed in.

    “Yes.” Glimmer nodded again. “But we can’t take everyone - that would mean our entire command structure is in this battle. And that would be foolish.” She glared at a few of the princesses for a moment. “Anyway, we’ll use stealth shuttles to land at the three key locations, then hit them right before the fleet action starts. Two will be held in reserve, and Entrapta, Bow and Sam will be present as well to ensure the enemy communications are cut.”

    It was a decent plan - Catra would have objected otherwise. Not perfect - they also had to keep a reserve to deal with straggling or unknown elements, and getting those in time would be tricky if they had FTL comms, but it was the best they could do.

    She just hoped it would be enough.

    “I still want to go!” Frosta said.

    “It certainly wouldn’t hurt if we came along,” Netossa added.

    Catra sighed as the bickering started again.

    *****​

    Earth Orbit, Solar System, January 5th, 1999 (Earth Time)

    For a moment, Jack O’Neill felt as if he was on a base in the United States as he stepped on the ramp of the shuttle that had brought him and his team into orbit and heard the sergeant in charge of the platoon assigned to the same bellow, the man’s voice filling the entire hangar.

    “Alright, form up! You’re bunking by squad, so don’t lose your squad leader!”

    It sounded like, well, home. Even though the soldiers forming up next to the other shuttle were marines and not airmen.

    Then he heard another familiar voice, and the illusion was shattered.

    “Hello! Welcome on board the ‘Three-Two’! I am Lucius the Faithful, and I will be your guide today! Please follow me to your quarters!”

    The clone was far too cheerful for an American base. And far too polite when talking to the enlisted. And far too alien, of course.

    Jack glanced at the marines as they lined up. A few of them were staring at the clone, and he hoped it was just surprise at the cheerful tone. If they had sent people who had trouble interacting with aliens, that wouldn’t be a fun trip. And not a smooth mission on the target planet, either.

    “You heard the man! Follow us! Forward, march!”

    The marines marched off - and ran into their first problem when the clone turned out to walk more slowly than they were used to. Well, that was for the sergeant to figure out, and none of Jack’s business. Hell, since SG-1 was still part of Stargate Command, he wasn’t even officially part of the chain of command of this operation - at least not of the Earth part of it; officially, SG-1 was here on detached duty at the request of the Etherians.

    “Hi, Jack! Hi, Sam! Hi, Daniel! Hi, Teal’c!”

    And speaking of said Etherians… Jack nodded at Entrapta. “Hello.”

    “You came!” the princess went on - as if that had been in doubt.

    “Yep.” Jack grinned and resisted the urge to joke about having an opening in their schedule. Instead, he commented: “So, Three-Two? I expected something like ‘Righteous Wrath of the Goddess’.”

    “Oh, no - all frigates have numbers. Three-Two means this is the second ship of the Third Fleet. Priest wanted us on the flagship, Three-One, but Adora explained to him that the flagship shouldn’t serve as a transport or shuttle carrier. I am not entirely sure if that’s correct - they could launch the shuttles way before the fleet action since they’re stealth shuttles - but Adora insisted.” Entrapta nodded.

    “Yeah, I can see that.” Jack wouldn’t have wanted to travel on the same ship as Priest either. Hell, travelling in the same fleet was already a bother, and Jack wasn’t being worshipped as a god by the clones.

    On the other hand, neither Anise nor Castaspella was part of this mission, which was definitely a plus in his book. Sure, they were about to launch a landing operation on a planet occupied by snakes, but Jack could deal with Goa’uld and their Jaffa warriors much more easily than with a Tok’ra scientist or an Etherian sorceress interested in his ancestry and progeny. Ugh, ‘progeny’? He must have been listening too much to Daniel and Carter!

    “So, everyone is on this ship? Wouldn’t that make it the flagship by default?” Daniel asked.

    “I’ve asked the same thing!” Entrapta beamed at him. “But no - the fleet will be commanded by Priest on Three-One. Adora will command the landing operation from this ship, though. Well, until we launch the shuttles, that is. Then I guess the shuttle she’s on becomes the flagship?”

    “I don’t think that’s how it works,” Daniel said. “But I’m no expert.”

    Why was everyone glancing at Jack? Did he look like he was a Navy Puke? He was Air Force, and the Air Force didn’t have flagships! “Well, it’s not as if we’re doing things by the book - whatever book there is.” Otherwise, Adora wouldn’t get to fight on the frontline. Most of the Alliance brass had protested against that part of the plan, though Jack suspected that many of them just didn’t want to look bad when the Supreme Commander led from the front and they stayed behind. No matter how insane that was. But then, if you were a magical princess that could cut spaceships apart with their magic sword, it wasn’t as insane as it sounded. But still insane.

    “Ah.” Entrapta nodded as if he had told her something profound. “Anyway, we’re all here - well, all those who take part in the attack. They’re in the planning room, but I’ll show you the lab space for us first!” She beamed at Sam. “And, I guess your cabins, too. Come!”

    *****​

    “Your chosen companions are on board the assigned ships, Your Divine Highness! The fleet stands ready to depart at your orders!”

    “Thank you, Priest.” Adora managed not to wince. Her title was She-Ra - or, maybe, ‘Supreme Commander’ in the Alliance - not ‘Your Divine Highness’. And the ‘chosen companions’ should be the ‘Alliance Expeditionary Force’. But she knew from experience that trying to correct Priest would only lead to frustration and waste time.

    Time they couldn’t afford to waste if they wanted to stop Apophis’s plot. “Set out at your convenience, then.”

    “Your slightest wish is our holy command!” Priest bowed so deeply, she could only see the back of him, then straightened and snapped orders.

    Adora watched Earth pass as Three-Two turned and fell in formation next to Three-One, the other frigates of the task force forming a screen around them and the other transports.

    They were underway for the Alliance’s first operation in the war. She straightened. This would be the official beginning of the war. And it would see them foil a callous, cruel plot by a Goa’uld. A plot aimed at his rivals. In Adora’s opinion, that was a good omen.

    “And now we wait,” Catra commented next to her.

    “Even in hyperspace, we have a lot of work to do,” Adora corrected her. Planning the assaults, going over the latest intel - the spy bots should be reaching the target system soon, so they would be receiving more data to go over, which would mean their plans would have to be adjusted and refined, there would be all kinds of problems cropping up that she would need to deal with, and…

    Her thoughts were interrupted by Catra elbowing her into the side. “Stop that!”

    “Stop what?”

    “Worrying yourself into a frenzy!” Catra snorted. “We’ve got this. We’ve done this before - hell, we’ve done entire invasions before.”

    “But never one like this,” Adora retorted. And those had been Horde invasions that Catra had done, but she didn’t say that.

    “The principles are the same. Which means that the Supreme Commander gives the orders and doesn’t try to micromanage everything.” With a toothy grin, she added: “And if an idiot tries to bother you with small issues, I’ll take care of them.”

    Adora blinked. Catra was an experienced officer, but to volunteer for dealing with all the nuisances… Oh. “Are you talking about taking care of the issues or the…” She wouldn’t call them idiots.

    “Both.” Catra grinned again. “Can’t have our Supreme Commander stressed and exhausted when the battle starts. Well, maybe a bit exhausted is OK…”

    Catra’s gaze left no doubt about what she was hinting at, and Adora blushed. “But…”

    “No buts!” Her lover shook her head. “There’ll be enough stuff to personally handle for you, anyway, so you can feel like a proper princess.”

    That wasn’t what it was about! Adora pouted at her. Or it was just a small part of it.

    But before she could retort, the frigate - the task force - entered hyperspace.

    They were on their way to the first battle of the war.

    *****​
     
  26. macdjord

    macdjord Well worn.

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    Um, why? If I understand correctly, their plan is to destroy the attacking force before it reaches the planet. Why not just... go home, having accomplished their goal of preventing a genocide?
     
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  27. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    Because the garrison would still detect the battle. They want to silence such witnesses (and free the population while they are at it).
     
  28. macdjord

    macdjord Well worn.

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    That doesn't seem to make much sense. It was mentioned that they could disguise their energy signatures as Goa’uld as long as they stayed out of visual range, which was why they needed to engage Apophis's forces well out from the planet and leave no survivors. So if they just went home, they leave distant witnesses who could report only that two unknown Goa’uld forces fought each other then left. If, on the other hand, they conquer the planet, either they stay - in which case their identity will be discovered by whoever Heru’ur sends to find out why his planet is answering hails (or Apophis sends to find out what happened to his invasion force) - or they don't stay - in which case they are leaving behind lots of direct witnesses in the form of civilians.
     
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  29. Starfox5

    Starfox5 Experienced.

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    They also want to free the planet. But staying out of sensor range makes intercepting Apophis's forces considerably more difficult. I might need to add that.
     
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  30. macdjord

    macdjord Well worn.

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    Yeah, if it was mentioned that the outer intercept was difficult, I missed it. In fact, if I understand you correctly, they're not actually using that option at all, and that too I failed to pick up from the chapter.
     
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