The White House, Washington, D.C.
“Sir, what you are suggesting is not possible.” Blair tries to keep his voice even. “It is entirely more likely that you would murder your grandchildren in their sleep than John Sheppard would betray his Tribe.”
“How can we put any sort of faith in John Sheppard? The man’s a loose cannon. Just look at what happened in Afghanistan.” The Air Force General currently in command of Cheyenne Mountain is full of negativity and bluster but empty of sense.
“Afghanistan is exactly why you can trust John Sheppard, General Landry,” Blair shoots back. “When given orders that endangered members of his tribe, John Sheppard disobeyed them without hesitation and he did everything he could to save lives. He holds the safety of his Tribe above both his own life and his own career.”
“And if his commanding officer had been worth the metal on his shoulders he never would have given such an order, especially to a guide. That’s why he’s in Leavenworth and Sheppard got promoted and moved to the Mountain, an assignment of his choice.” Ellison makes intense, significant eye contact with the current President of the United States of America, Henry Hayes. “What you all fail to realize is that, if John Sheppard were to bond it is quite possible he would be Alpha Guide of the Planet. Of Earth. A guide of his stature could not harm the Tribe. He doesn’t have it in him.”
“He’s that powerful? No one mentioned that before.”
“Sir, when he left Earth he was at least as strong as I am right now and I’m bonded. I can’t tell you how much stronger and more stable bonding made me. He’s probably the strongest guide our world has seen in over a thousand years.”
“What is your community asking for? Sandburg? Ellison?”
“An investigation.” Ellison doesn’t hesitate. “We want a bonded pair to gather evidence and prove Sheppard’s innocence or guilt.”
“I don’t care how much you trust your source, Hank. Proof and a trial before sentencing are a citizen’s most basic rights.”
“Of course, Mr. President. I am merely objecting to throwing another bonded pair away when we have already lost two to this endeavor. They are too rare and valuable to the service and once we send the second wave our ZPM will be done. We will not have the power to dial Pegasus again.”
“On the contrary, General, we must know what happened to the ones that went before.” Ellison is all but growling. “We owe it to the two pairs we have lost, to all the unbonded guides and sentinels that went with them and to all of the unbonded sentinels and guides that remained on Earth and have now lost their future bondmates to the Expedition.”
“You have a pair in mind.” The President isn’t making a guess, he knows Jim too well.
“Guide Don Eppes and Sentinel Ian Edgerton. They are FBI and are impressing the hell out of a lot of people with their handling of the Hale Fire. Don ran his own field office for several years and has a real talent for hunting down fugitives. Ian is the FBI’s best tracker and is former Army, a sniper.”
“Good, make it happen but Landry has a point too. I don’t want any other bonded pairs on the trip.”
“Assuming the worst and this is all true,” General O’Neill speaks up for the first time in the meeting. “What could cause Sheppard to?” ‘do this‘ is implied by an almost negligent hand wave.
“Something chemically damaging or otherwise altering his brain chemistry. Drugs? Maybe? I would have said nothing on Earth could violate the sanctity of a guide’s mind like that but considering the nature of his mission,” Blair Sandburg held out his hands in a gesture of helplessness.
“Sir, I would like to request that Damon and Darius Werth be added to the expedition roster.” O’Neill hands two personnel files to the President for review.
“You want to add two barely 18 year old Marines, fresh out of boot camp to the personnel list for a mission of this importance?”
“Yes, sir. They are both active sentinels and the Lieutenant Colonel was their sperm donor. In the event that Sheppard is guilty, they would have the best chance of bringing him in.”
“Is that true?” Hayes asks Ellison.
“We don’t have any record of sentinel children ever being used to hunt a guide parent,” Ellison flicks angry, impatient eyes over both Air Force men. “But, theoretically, they would smell their genetic connection with the man and would therefore be better at finding him. Chances are he wouldn’t be able to hide from them.”
“And the blood connection should also reduce the effectiveness of John’s mental abilities against them.” Blair adds in a small voice.
“You trust Landry?” Jim Ellison cuts right to the heart of the matter as they settle into the back of the limousine.
Major General Jack O’Neill doesn’t miss a beat when he answers, “Not as far as I can throw him.”
“Any particular reason?” Blair’s tone is leading.
“Two.” O’Neill acknowledges with a nod. “First, I don’t know where he came from. When I accepted my position in Homeworld Security, he was the only name on the list for me to consider for Stargate Command, but he’s never served in the SGC or Area 51 before and he isn’t publicly friends with anyone that should have gotten him the posting.”
“Which means he’s friends with them secretly,” Blair frowns.
“Or he’s blackmailing someone.” Ellison counters. “Likely several someones.”
“The second reason?”
“He said the message was sent by Sam and Danny, the last survivors of a betrayed expedition, but we have codes we use with each other. SG-1 does. All the gate teams do. Private not-really-jokes that we hide in reports. We put them in transmissions, recordings, anything. A sort of secret ‘I haven’t been replaced by an alien’ kind of thing.
“Danny has an entire stealth punctuation code. You saw that report, it was terrible but a man that speaks, reads and writes 23 languages doesn’t destroy his own grammar on accident; no matter how eccentric he may be. Some of the worst, choppiest reports he’s submitted were done so he would have the punctuation to tell the world on paper how Jack O’Neill fucked up.”
“And?” Blair prompts.
“And it’s missing from the reports Landry released. Our codes are missing. Or they’re so jumbled that they don’t work anymore. And it’s not just for one or the other of them, it’s for both.”
“You think Landry edited the report.”
“I think I don’t know what happened and I don’t like it. I do know I spent more time on SG-1 than I did married and if any of us had something to say, especially something this horrible, the code would be there.”