This. Is. Ridiculous.
Major Marshall Sumner has been given the task of getting up to 100 military and civilian assets through the wormhole to another galaxy in a maximum of 38 minutes. He has been given two weeks to select his guys and get them prepared for the journey.
‘Select’ might actually be a generous term for what he has to do. He was told which civilians he was getting; one medical doctor, one translator and two engineers. He was given a list of 400 military assets and told to take his pick.
The exact nature of this mission hadn’t been explained to his satisfaction. They’d said ‘retrieval’ in the mission brief, which could actually mean anything from ‘go burn the bodies, collect their tech and wait for extraction’ to ‘hunt those bastards down by any means necessary.’
To that end, he’d taken all four sentinels on the volunteer list, plus another 10 soldiers with gate experience per civilian totaling 40 assets and a full 16-man SEAL platoon, including their baby Guide-officer.
Then, they added a whole new level of difficulty to his preparations when Landry had informed him that, per the President, anyone on the roster that bonds could not go on the mission. Even if this mythical person bonds with someone else on the mission roster.
For fuck’s sake, all of his civilians and three of the four officers in his command, including his handpicked second in command, are guides.
Thank god for Evan Lorne. Sumner has worked with the guide before. He’s a solid officer and a prime resource for creative solutions.
The first solution was segregation. It bordered on incredibly illegal behaviors like unlawful imprisonment and pair bond interference, but all seven guides and all five sentinels on the mission roster had agreed to curtail their movements. The guides chose specific sections of three continuous floors, a single bank of elevators and a single set of stairs for their own use. The sentinels were assigned a similar arrangement much lower in the mountain. This allowed Landry to order all of the sentinels and guides in the Mountain to not enter any of these areas and fulfilled the President’s orders as much as possible.
The second solution had to do with organizing the expedition; something he felt firmly could not be managed by e-mail. Which lead to his introduction to the webinar.
Sumner hadn’t known what a webinar was four days ago and he could have gone his whole life happy in his ignorance. There is just something offensive about video chatting with someone at all that was made so much worse by video chatting someone in the same physical location.
The results of the webinar were more than a little hysterical. Lorne had armed three little grunts with the tablet PCs like the ones geeks in the mountain cling to. Through these PCs, Lorne is giving orders, issuing diagrams and making fucking maps of where he wants what gear staged or which person standing at the time of departure.
‘Pass the PC’ is now a popular game in the SGC. Watching full-grown men argue about the best way to fulfill Lorne’s orders is almost as funny as grunts standing around nervously waiting because they sent Lorne photographs of their work. Army Infantry getting face busting grins when Lorne responds positively or completely falling apart when he doesn’t is just not getting old.
Sumner just finished his final debrief with Landry. The last of his volunteers is back in the Mountain from a family leave and they have firmed up their departure time for 24 hours from now.
New snag: the President has assigned a civilian bonded pair command of the expedition. A pair of FBI Special Agents charged with finding John Sheppard, investigating his crimes and bringing him to justice. Sumner is still commander of the military forces but shouldn’t they have mentioned this earlier? Shouldn’t the Expedition Leaders have been involved in the planning stages, such as they were?
Oh, yeah, he’s pissed.
Now, on top of all of that, the 38-minute window for getting everyone through the gate has been reduced to 30 minutes. As a ‘safety precaution’. Apparently, the geeks aren’t certain that their current power levels will maintain a full 38 minute window.
It’s a good thing he’d gone with the minimum number of personnel he felt could effectively handle their security needs else he’d be attacking his roster with a weed-whacker and that wasn’t a stress he needed.
He enters the room where his sentinels are waiting. They all snap to attention with satisfying speed and precision. As he orders them back into their seats he takes note that the sentinel assigned to his command that has been missing for a week is in his dress uniform. The guy still looks fairly well put together, but he smells exhausted. He smells like dirt and trees, too.
This! This pipsqueak from fucking Virginia got to go serve in the Hale Family Funeral when he, a sentinel born and raised in Hale Territory, got denied?
What. The. Fuck.
Evan can feel his commanding officer’s fury building from five levels away and shakes his head. Evan’s not quite clear on why Sumner is surprised.
It’s not like they would allow a Major to lead an expedition to another galaxy and regulations forbid an online, unbonded sentinel from being promoted past that rank. They are considered just too much of a risk to lead such large units in the field.
It had been fairly obvious to Evan from the beginning that someone had it out for the original expedition. Things just didn’t add up even if you ignored all the rumors running rampant around the Mountain. A vaguely worded mandate of retrieval? Said retrieval assigned to an officer many referred to as The Terminator behind his back? A list of volunteers primarily made of soldiers with epic war records and a tendency to shoot first and question not at all?
No, if the Powers That Be actually expect this expedition to come back with prisoners, something else had to happen. Something needed to change. Handing the reins over to a pair of accomplished officers of the law would be that change.
Eppes-Edgerton have the skills to investigate and properly handle any evidence left behind and to find out what actually happened to the First Expedition if no one is left alive, as the rumor mill is convinced will be the case. The pair will ensure lawful handling of whomever the expedition finds, whether they are alive, guilty or otherwise. The pair has the experience to expand the sentinels’ investigative and hunting/tracking skills.
The change is a move that makes sense and it laid most of Lorne’s moral concerns about their mission to bed.
What is still concerning Evan is the last minute change of one of his civilian assets.
Until yesterday, Dr. Elizabeth Weir had been slotted to fill the role of translator, history geek and cultural ambassador for their expedition. He knew her, he was used to her and they had always worked well together. She’d taken over those duties in the Mountain when Dr. Daniel Jackson had stepped through the gate with the original expedition and she’d been the first civilian volunteer to sign up for the second.
Then, the commanding officer of the Daedalus came online on the bridge of his shiny new space ship. Just doing a miniature shakedown cruise around the solar system and boom! A man with no family history of either online or latent sentinels and not from one of the traditional sentinel zones comes online.
Elizabeth Weir had proven to be his perfect genetic match.
The entire situation was highly irregular but no one could argue with it. He is online. She is his match. No more expedition for her.
They are probably on said shiny new space ship bonding right now!
Which leaves him with his current problem. Jonas Quinn. A guide. The only alien guide on staff. Jonas had been called back from an extended mission with SG6 to the new Jaffa homeworld and immediately agreed to take Elizabeth’s place. He makes Evan nervous but Evan doesn’t know what it is about him that does so. He can’t readily articulate it.
It can’t be the alien thing. Evan has worked often and easily with Teal’c and Vala for years. Both together and separately, the alien sentinels…
Well, hell. Maybe it is the alien thing. An alien guide thing. He can fix that right now.
“24 hours from go.” Evan announces as he enters the room his fellow guides were waiting in. He waits for acknowledgement from each of them before moving deeper into the room. He taps Quinn on his shoulder as he walks past the younger man. “Meditate with me.”
Liam Jethro Gibbs is dirty.
He didn’t have time to even wash his hands before he was bum rushed onto a military transport back to Colorado. He’s covered in dried sweat and there are bark fibers from Uncle Jason’s memorial tree still on his hands.
Now, he has to sit through what will probably be the most pointless and painful briefing of his military career.
Liam mostly knows of Marshall Sumner by reputation. According to most, Sumner is just resentful because he’s never bonded. Without bonding, he can’t advance his career beyond Major, but if he’d never come online he’d be at least a Colonel by now.
To add to that, Sumner’s chances of bonding are probably slim.
Like John, hell like Liam, no one even knows what Sumner’s soulmark is. It appears to be some sort of fur covered, bark colored squid or maybe an octopus? But without the aquatic feel to it, according to the guides on base.
Liam had personally met Sumner only once. When he’d returned to the Mountain to put himself on the volunteer list for the second expedition, they’d had a brief conversation. It had been obvious to Liam then that the Major didn’t know the full details of the operation. But, then again, Sumner hadn’t been shamelessly eavesdropping on the Alpha Sentinel of North America when he got the news, either.
The heavy scent of pissed off precedes Sumner into the room. Liam’s commanding officer drops a folder heavily onto the room’s podium and orders them all into their seats around the table.
Sumner glares down the length of the table at Liam as if he had personally insulted the older man’s mother and sister. Since Liam has never met any of the older man’s family and has been doing nothing but minding his own business, he doesn’t even try to respond to the unspoken challenge.
Sumner’s upper lip curls back in fury and he begins his briefing. “Our mission is to hunt down Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard.”
What the – fuck it, this guy wants a fight? He’s got one.
“You know there is no way that’s going to work.” All the sentinels in the room tense at his challenge. That’s fine. He knows at least two of them are on his side. “First of all, that order has no legal grounding whatsoever. Second, Wolf Guides are way too rare for our kind to tolerate such treatment of one.”
“This has nothing to do with – ” Major Sumner tries but Liam will not give up the room’s attention. Every sentinel going through the gate with the expedition needs to know this.
“You do know what a Wolf Guide does, don’t you? What they provide the Pride just by existing?”
“Of course, I-”
“Do you know how many Wolf Guides there are in the world? How many there are in the U.S.?”
“That is not – ”
“A well-populated, typically multi-country region is lucky to have one. The United states has four.”
Sumner frowns, halting his own arguments. “Four?”
Liam ticks off fingers. “We all know Blair Sandburg.” Heads nod all around the room. “My Aunt Talia died two weeks ago,” Another round of nods and the smell of shock from the front of the room. “Stiles Stilinski just bonded with my cousin, Derek Hale, also two weeks ago.” More nods. “And my brother, Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard.”
Liam watches Sumner’s jaw work silently, but really what can the man say? No sentinel is going to get feisty with a Wolf Guide. They can’t. They are, in fact, predisposed to unite and protect the Wolf Guide.
Additionally, no guide is going to endorse any endeavor that would intentionally set out to harm another guide and there is no way they aren’t taking any guides when there are this many sentinels on the mission.
He holds Sumner’s gaze watching the man work his way to accepting the situation.
This won’t be the first time a sentinel or guide has had to wiggle Tribal orders in order to fulfill them and still meet Pride morality. It won’t be the last time either. It’s better for them all to be aware of it now than to be surprised by it in the field.
The door to the briefing room slamming open breaks the impasse. Don Eppes enters the room. He exudes badass and Liam is not ashamed to admit it gets him more than a little excited. Most Raven Guides are happy playing jokes and perusing knowledge but Eppes proves there is an exception to every rule.
Edgerton follows his guide into the room. He has definitely mastered the don’t fuck with me air that takes most alphas years to muster.
All military assets seated around the table jump to attention despite the fact that both men are civilians. Neither is a man any of them want to piss off.
Eppes takes the briefing folder from Major Sumner and glares at him until he takes a seat.
Eppes’ attention flicks to his sentinel then he turns to Liam and frowns. “Go clean up before you give yourself a reaction.”
Liam nods but looks to his commanding officer before moving from his seat. No reason to put his foot in it any further since the cavalry has arrived. Sumner nods his permission so Liam goes.
He lingers at the door long enough to make sure he won’t lose the bonded guide’s voice as he makes his way to the showers.
“Alright.” Don begins. “I’m going to tell you what we all are actually doing here. Then, we are going to review our personnel and supply lists and make sure we have everything we’re going to need covered.”