Episode Six- The West Pier- Chapter Two

(It’s my 100th post!  Yea!)

Chapter Two

Quickly walking at a have to get the massive load of daily work done and the day’s already half done pace, Brad Wright goes through one of Atlantis’ hallways with a computer tablet balancing on his forearm on top of a small stack of grey Atlantis file folders. He never looks up as he diligently types away on its smooth glass surface, somehow artfully dodging the other personnel passing through the hallway without losing pace or focus. He comes to a closed bulkhead doorway. Finally he looks up from the tablet, uses his free hand to draw a small acrylic remote kind of like the ones used for the puddle jumpers from his grey uniform pants’ pocket. He aims it at the bulkhead and pushes the built-in button on it. The bulkhead doorway splits open and the fifty-two-year old Canadian enters another hallway that’s even more impossibly crowded and busier than any other more common part of Atlantis. That’s why this is a severely restricted area.

Welcome to the more infamous and restricted part of the West Pier. With the same looking hallways as the one that it just opened up onto. Rust-colored metal walls with matching rust-colored marble floors lending a warm, cozy autumnal tone to the area, especially with it accented by turquoise patina and silvery wall sconces affixed with clear acrylic light slats illuminated with bright white light. While in the other hallways like this, potted ferns decorated some of the corners, not so here. Every piece of possible free space had to be used up by people or file cabinets brought in from Earth or something else far more valuable than decorative flora.

As soon as the bulkhead door closes behind him, Brad Wright taps his earpiece and on a private frequency designated specifically for this area of Atlantis only…

“Rob, this is Brad,” he reports in.

“I’m here and so are Peter, Allan, and Carl,” Robert Cooper’s voice replies over the radio link.

Brad returns to blindly maneuvering perfectly through the hallway. He’s old hand at this, having been with Stargate Command’s Atlantis Expedition since day one with Doctor Elizabeth Weir and serving prior to that in Cheyenne Mountain as well, “And?”

“Both Paul and Joe have radioed in and are—“

Paul and Joe come up on either side of Brad. “Here,” they answer in unison.

Brad smiles without looking up at his two new travelling companions.

“We’ll be there in thirty seconds,” he ends the radio link and addresses his blind remarks to the two men with him, “How has your day been going boys?”

Paul and Joe begin checking their own armfuls of paperwork, Paul answers first.

“I’m getting questions.”

“Who hasn’t,” Brad wonders. It’s one of the numerous rumors racing through the city that hasn’t died away into newer gossip, some of which he found absolutely absurd and some even he hoped might be true.

“But it’s getting to be questions that never end. I can’t eat without people inviting themselves to sit with me and asking the same damn things over and over nonstop. I can’t even pee without some guy coming up next to me anymore and asking me about it for God’s sake.”

“Join the club,” Brad comments drily. He’d actually just come from one of those exceedingly intimate and really uncomfortable exchanges in the public men’s room before going out into the corridor that led to this part of the West Pier.

“It’s gone out of the civilian gossip pool and it’s entering the military one now.”

“Really,” Joe can’t believe that. He hasn’t met up with any of that yet and he hasn’t heard any of the rest of their group mention it before. It’s one thing for the civilians to have gossipy issues with command decisions, that’s common place. It’d be freakish if the civilians anywhere didn’t runneth over at the mouth about stuff they didn’t know about but were only guessing the details, consequences, or whatever else they’ve been left out of the loop on. It’s another for the military personnel to start doing the same thing. A big problem. Cheyenne Mountain’s gossip chain ran primarily around who’s sleeping with who, of particular interest were the interactions between Brigadier General Jack O’Neill, then starting out as a Colonel newly returning from retirement, and Colonel Samantha Carter, then starting out as a Captain who thought she had something to prove for more than just herself but also for her gender as well as anybody of a science background. Much later it became a betting pool on when Doctor Daniel Jackson and Vala Mal Doran would get together. Whoever picked after finally dealing with the Ori, a.k.a. just after the Ark of Truth mission, would be the winner on that one. The betting pool on Jack and Sam’s winner would have to wait a bit longer, the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy didn’t just apply to homosexual relationships it extended to the heterosexual ones that violated the fraternizations policies as well.

“Yes,” Paul goes on, “This morning a marine cut into the Mess line behind me and harassed me all the way through. Then when I finally got the message clear to him and he went away an airman sat down at my table and started in. I walked away from that one.”

“I bet he just wasn’t liking the one you were giving him,” Joe says, “and wasn’t going to let you get away with blowing him off as easily as you have everyone else.”

“It hasn’t been easy with everyone else. That’s my point. I just had to fend off two civilians with the same damn questions in the transporter and the only way they let me out of it was by coming in here where they can’t follow. It’s getting out of hand, Brad.”

“And you don’t think that they think walking away, granted it’s into a highly secured area, isn’t easily escaping telling them what they want to hear?”

Okay, Paul agrees with that, but continues his remarks to Brad, “My point is that we’re going to have to make it official or at least come up with something more official on top of what’s already been said sometime soon.”

“We already have,” Brad answers.

“They’re not buying it,” Paul replies, “Especially the military. We have to make it official. We have to make some part of it official.”

“I’m not pushing him into that,” Brad tells him. Not for the first time. This discussion has been going on for weeks now, ever since it first happened. It’s starting to circle like DuPont. Neither Bradley Wright nor Robert C. Cooper are ever going to push Richard Woolsey to write an official condemning of one of his flagship teams’ members. If he hasn’t done it yet for half of the crap Colonel Sheppard or Doctor McKay have pulled, then he can’t really do it for anybody else on that team. Every military member would cite Sheppard’s behavior as an example of what’s expected of all of the soldiers under his command here in Atlantis.

“I’m saying he’s already been pushed whether you did it or not,” Paul Mullie points out, “Something has to be said.”

“Then he’s already made it official,” Brad repeats. Next topic, please. He’s tired of hearing DuPont circle over and over again like a broken record.

They turn a corner and keep going as other personnel zip from room to room across this new part of the hallway. In a way this stretch always reminds Joe of that one scene in the ’77 STAR WARS movie. It’s so hard not to feel like Artoo Detoo and See Threepio successfully dodging the crisscrossing blaster fire of Princess Leia’s Rebel soldiers and Darth Vader’s invading Imperial Stormtroopers as the gold and white and blue droids scooted from one side of the hallway of her consular ship to the other. But still the two stiff and slow droids managed it and now three fast moving and anything but stiff men do as well, although in this case they’re the blaster bolts and the other personnel are the droids. It still counts in his mind. Different directions involved, but it still counts.

“Not official enough,” Paul won’t let it drop…because he’s tired of basically everyone except these people currently around him not being able to let it drop either. If what was made officially known is good enough in this part of the West Pier, why the hell is it so not nearly anywhere good enough outside of these walls? Honestly, one moment of peace. Please, just one moment of not having to say the same damn thing over and over to every single person he meets.

“I spent the morning with Akemi,” Joe suddenly pipes up. Giving Brad the change of subject he wanted and that Paul was refusing to give him.

The other two men stare at him. Perhaps this wasn’t the subject he wanted to change to, but…

“I mean spent the morning with Akemi.”

They keep staring at him… then Brad faces ahead again.

“Just shoot me,” he says.

Joe smiles as they keep walking.

 

A door opens at the presences behind it and Brad, Paul, and Joe enter into a small secluded conference room. It’s the one of many conference rooms in the lost city where the notorious round conference table that was originally in the main conference room right beside the Operations Center before Woolsey had the cumbersome furniture item moved and replaced in the main conference room by his Earth-made rectangular one. While its replacement is made of mahogany, this one is apparently the Ancient’s idea of modern. Made out of steel piping and frosted glass and underlit with white lighting for an air of almost flashlight under the chin drama feel. Sometimes Peter rested his chin right on top of one of the tabletop’s brighter points and made silly faces or said some line, in total character, from some old school, black and white horror movie. It made for great laughs and Lord knows there were times when this room needed it.

Already seated from right to left, is Carl, still working on his laptop with only a slight lift of his dark eyes to recognize that they’re there, then an empty seat waiting for Brad then Rob, already in his seat, and a central empty seat for Richard Woolsey whenever he gets here. Followed by Peter then next is Allan, both with still drying wet hair, then another two empty seats for Paul and Joe and the last chair is filled by Marty, wide awake and ready to go; cold coffee does a body and mind good… like a slap in the face. Brad, Paul, and Joe break up their single file line they assumed when they entered to take up their vacant seats.

No sooner do they sit down than Richard Woolsey does indeed enter and take his central seat. He used to enter then stand by his chair and give some preamble before sitting down, but it was fifteen days of that daily routine before Rob and Brad, the Chiefs of the Expedition Commander’s staff, pulled the man aside and told him that he needn’t create a sort of pep talk for the day each and every time. After that, Richard simply came in, sat down, and opened the meeting as he felt comfortable with.

“Good afternoon, Gentlemen,” he opens the meeting.

“It certainly has been for Joe,” Paul, one of the two Deputy Gate Team Directors, comments about his fellow Deputy Gate Team Director.

Brad snorts and all other eyes wonder what the joke’s about, but let it slide. They do that often, something that Richard Woolsey found disturbing and extremely unsettling at first, mostly because he thought they were making some covert joke at his expense right in front of him, but he’s grown used to it over his tenure as Atlantis’ new and permanent Administrator and realized that they’re good-naturedly kidding each other rather than belittling him like he’d been expecting them to. Richard was no fool. He knew exactly what people in Atlantis and the Stargate Program at large thought of him. How could he expect anything other than being belittled by inside jokes at his expense?

“What’s the order of the day,” Woolsey begins.

Carl pretends to check one of the papers he’d brought in with him…

“Hell, Hell, oh and what’s this, more Hell,” he replies sarcastically then tosses it back on its half-inch thick stack.

Everyone takes the joke. They’re all too familiar with it and it’s relation to all the trouble that seems to find or follow the Stargate Program. Richard smiles and admires each individual with their own sense of humor. Although none of them know it, it has been something he’s found solace in quite often. Joe writes his Monday reports in the voice of Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster. Again at first, Richard thought he was being mocked and admonished in some way for unceremoniously replacing the beloved Colonel Samantha Carter as Atlantis’ leader, but he quickly realized that that’s just Joe. Sarcasm and wit with a healthy dose of fanboy. Paul seemed to temper the Cookie Monster with his own aptness for dark humor. Finding even the most gruesome horrible horror story movie on movie night to be some sort of side tickler on either its or his own peculiar way. Then there was Brad with his admiration for spoofing everything from the Stargate Program itself to STAR TREK to other science-fiction television shows and his favorite movie of all, The Wizard of Oz. There never seemed to be a single report that came from him that didn’t have some reference like ‘Hail Dorothy’ or mentioned Toto or some other aside. It occurred as often as General O’Neill referenced his beloved Simpsons. And Rob acted as his fellow Chief of Staff’s co-conspirator in the spoofing by throwing Thunderbirds-like marionette television show and zombie apocalypse survival guide references into the mix as well as anecdotes about his heartfelt love and admiration for the sport of golf. Stating quite often that he wished they could figure out a way of playing golf through the Stargate without getting in severe trouble for it both with the I.O.A as well as Stargate Command. Oddly enough, every time the idea got mentioned in front of Jack O’Neill, he’d smile this sort of knowing smile more to himself than anybody else and not let anyone else in on the joke although others have reportedly sworn they’d seen the ghost of a similar such smile tug at one of the corners of Jaffa member of SG-1 Teal’c’s mouth. And it’s that idea that always makes Woolsey smile; if John Sheppard ever heard that, then he’d quickly come up with every way possible to get rid of the driving range he and a handful of the other personnel had made up off one of the city balconies and make Rob’s outlandish dream come true. With Sheppard’s Mensa mind and his determination, he most assuredly could do it. Go much farther than the ‘good ole college’ try, he’d go for the ‘never ever gonna fail’ try that the Stargate Program has had its members turn into a guarantee.

Deputy Chief of Staff Peter DeLuise made fun of everything, always finding humor. Always looking for humor too. Allan, meanwhile, is the more reserved yet still fun-loving of the two Deputies Chief of Staff, balancing Peter’s insanity with his calm at the center of Peter’s wild storm. They make a great pair like Joe and Paul and Robert and Brad. Marty is relatively new to the team, having been around since the Expedition’s second year. Almost immediately he hit it off with the irascible Rodney McKay as well as the rest of the Science Department, finding he had a similar sense of humor to them, dark and sort of macabre, and quickly found an unspoken job title as Science Department Liaison to go along with his official title of Gate Teams Secretary. If there was a scientific problem or research going on in the city that people didn’t know about but were going to eventually find out about, Martin Gero, ‘Marty G.’, was your man with the answers and, in some cases, Rodney McKay’s plan. He speaks their language and translates it for everybody else, making them understand which are the more dire projects and what supplies definitely need to make the resupply list in the extraordinary quantities that they’re being asked for. And then there is Gate Teams Director Carl Binder. Constantly at odds with the world around him, except on days that he labeled his Days of Jubilee in which he sang happy songs to himself and complimented everyone and anything he saw or met to the sudden fear of his having finally gone insane to the people around him. Carl is always the one to point out the dark side to everything. The rain on any sunny day. Ironically, Richard feels the closest to Carl for exactly that reason, for his brutal and consistently negative honesty. ‘Yes Men’ don’t help and neither do ‘No Men’ for that matter, but honest men always do.

Woolsey grimaces, but is grateful, as he turns his attention to Carl, “I take it we have news from the I.O.A?”

Carl leans back in his white and chrome IKEA office chair, getting comfortable, and signaling without a word that this is going to be a long haul discussion rather than just a rapid fire report, “Well, there’s not good, bad, and potentially worse.”

“Surprise me,” Richard says with as much enthusiasm as Carl.

“There’s discussion between the I.O.A., Homeworld Security, and Stargate Command about revealing the Stargate Program to the public,” Carl states.

Dead silence. Both Joe and Paul’s faces are a strange mix of stun and blank. As though somewhere along the way to being completely wide-eyed and slack jawed stunned by what they’ve just heard, their brains actually shut down and froze their expression en route like the screen of a computer when it’s CPU has done the same thing. The men’s eyes are blank, they’re speechless. The lights are on, but the people inside aren’t answering the doors or even bothering to look out the windows. Peter’s eyes are large and when paired with his O-forming mouth, gives the impression of the three holes of a bowling ball. He blinks a few times to take the illusion away but not the look of ‘Oh my God’. Allan looks the calmest out of all of them unless you looked closely at his chest and saw it going up and down at a swift pace. Marty is smiling as though he’s suddenly expecting this to turn into an intergalactic edition of “Punk’d.” His eyes dart around quickly looking for the eavesdropping cameras then he focuses back on Carl and starts scanning his ears and chest for any sign of eavesdropping tiny microphones. Brad and Rob look like they’re waiting. Sitting back like Carl is and waiting. The benefit of old hat experience at this, exposing the Stargate Program has been on the hot list of things to do with said program since year one and Senator Robert Kinsey.

“Exactly,” Carl agrees with what he sees and tries hard not to roll his eyes or make some sarcastic remark. He really has to work hard on that last one though.

“What,” Peter’s not buying it. His face making it clear that he hopes this is some sort of joke. It’s Edvar Munch inspiration turning into the same as Marty G.’s.

“This is serious,” Carl tells him flatly. No humor, no hiding the truth. What you’re hearing is exactly what you’re hearing.

“You can’t be serious?” Peter’s still hoping for an upcoming punch line.

“This is serious.” Carl repeats with sharp certainty. His eye contact with Peter adding the best emphasis of all that there’s no punch line coming any time soon.

“Are we talking about just the Stargate itself and of course Cheyenne Mountain or are we talking about the entire program? Homeworld Security, Earth’s ships, us?” Allan gets down to the details quickly. He likes twists and angles, but this, this is a big twist. And he’s not sure about the angles yet.

“What are they going to do,” Brad asks without betraying the unease he’s feeling. These rumors had been shifting around Cheyenne Mountain the first time then-Senator Robert Kinsey blew the whistle on them to representatives of a handful of allied nations, that was a close one. Really close. If it hadn’t been for Thor beaming into the room and dealing out the Asgard’ ultimatum to Earth’s Powers That Be… the consequences are too innumerable and far too dire to even begin to imagine. And then later when Anubis attacked the then-deeply buried Antarctica outpost and a lot more than just the world’s military satellites picked up the massive fight for the future of the planet. Well, then the public sector joined the fray. Corporations with bank accounts to match their reach and power and to get lobbyists in their pockets and everyone and everything else they could possibly dream of. The globe’s most obnoxious kids in a candy store that rivals the imaginary candyland of Willy Wonka, how do you like them gumballs? “How are they going to do it?”

“That’s all still being debated hotly behind closed doors, but I will tell you that for some of the people involved, this is a done deal.”

“If that’s the bad—“

“That’s not the bad news, that was the ‘not good’ news,” Carl tells Brad, “The bad news is that there are reports of movements happening in the Lucian Alliance. Everyone still doesn’t know what it means or what it’s about, but the movements are simultaneously both subtle and blatant which is unusual for the Lucians because it means the movements are more thought out than they normally do.”

Another cold hush falls across the room. Shock and stun replaced by dread. Every facial muscle that had been slack is now tight on the teetering cusp of potential disaster. They’ve defeated the Goa’uld while supporting the Jaffa Rebellion. They’ve defeated Super Soldiers and condemned Anubis not once, not twice, but three times and the third time was Anubis’s young and nubile clone with all of his elder self’s Ascended supernatural abilities. They’ve defeated the Ori and their ‘Mommy Dearest’-like leader Adria. Just as life was calming into what they hoped it would calm into when they were done fighting all the enemies they were facing up against, humanity’s natural propensity for playing both the Devil and the deep blue Sea rears its ugly head. The Pegasus has its own issues with the Wraith and the Genii and the Hoffan plague still running rampant among its human populations, the Milky Way… the Milky Way deserves a break. At least ten minutes for a cup of coffee without the cup being shot of their hands before, during, or after the first sip. Is that too much to ask?

Rob has to ask this, but he’s dreading it, “And the potentially worse news would be…?”

“We’ll be seeing a lot more of the Daedalus,” Carl answers.

That’s potentially worse?” Peter asks incredulously with a grin. Again looking as though he’s waiting for the joke’s punch line to hit him. He knows, hell, everyone knows that the Daedalus’ main staff and a lot of her crew and Atlantis’ lead team and some of its other personnel don’t get along. But he didn’t think the animosity was getting to be that bad. Gees.

“We’ll be seeing a lot more of the Daedalus,” Carl explains, “because Stargate Command, Homeworld Security, and the I.O.A. have both the Hammond and the Odyssey running some sort of covert operations in the Milky Way that they’re still not telling us about. Maybe someday but not any day soon. That means they’re leaving the Apollo to defend Earth while the Sun Tzu is getting detailed and,” everyone starts nodding, all of them seeing the writing on the wall and saying it with him, “the Daedalus to cover Atlantis.”

They all accept the pronouncement. If that’s how resources are being divvied up, then that’s how resources are being divvied up, and there’s always knowing that Jack O’Neill, currently in charge of Homeworld Security wouldn’t screw over any part of the Stargate Program whatsoever. So this means that their ability to get new supplies and new personnel is going to be drastically reduced. It also means that the Daedalus and her crew are going to be pushed to their limits for the near future. Limited shore leave, if any at all, and constantly travelling from Earth to Atlantis back to Earth then back to Atlantis again with basically no stopping except for loading and unloading. And God help Atlantis if the city gets into any trouble that definitely requires the Earth battleship when it’s gone, then they are royally screwed. It’s going to be tough times all around. Nothing new, the meeting moves on.

“Next,” Richard Woolsey asks, detecting the start of a migraine infiltrating the space in between his eyebrows.

Marty chimes in, “Field research on M1W-002 is temporarily delayed while the extremely tall birch-like trees on the moon are molting their bark.”

Everyone stares at him.

“Molting,” Richard repeats to confirm whether or not he actually heard that right.

Marty nods vigorously, “Their bark.”

This time it’s Rob’s turn to not believe his ears and have to reconfirm. “Molting,” he asks slowly.

Marty nods vigorously again. “Hm-mmm. Like snakes.”

Everyone looks around the table at each other then…

“Can trees even do that,” Peter asks him. Gesturing the ‘What the Hell’ moment with his hands and a shrug and his whole face exaggerating the question.

“Apparently they can on moons in the Pegasus,” Gero answers then goes on to his next item of business that needed to be covered, “Also, members of Doctor Katie Brown’s Botany Department did manage to get some botanical samples before the moon became restricted. They found and brought back an orchid that Kanaan says has roots that are medicinal as well as leaves and flowers that are edible and its stem is poisonous. Kanaan is working with the team on how to process all parts of the plant properly in order to reap the benefits.”

Woolsey nods. Teyla’s partner and father of her child was proving indispensable to the niche he’s found for himself in the city. His life as a farmer on Athos and New Athos afterward has made him the key person to contact about all sorts of flora they’ve encountered throughout their travels in his native Galaxy. It’s good to know that Kanaan’s on the case, Richard trusts Teyla’s judgment on many things and now his trust in Kanaan is equally as great. As far as Richard can tell from the way Doctor Brown’s group and the Botany Department as a whole act when Kanaan is around and especially when he’s not, the Athosian man is as important to them as Teyla is to Colonel Sheppard’s team. It’s become a pastime of a few of the soldiers and the other civilian personnel to go down to the hydroponics labs when Kanaan is away visiting his people and see Doctor Brown and her staff suddenly acting like they have no idea how to function when he’s not there. They functioned before Kanaan came to the city to stay with his partner and their child, but ever since they’ve forgotten how to do that. Some marines chucklingly refer to the spectacle as ‘chickens with their heads cut off’. Yes, Kanaan is fitting into his new life in Atlantis very well, a life he’s had for a few months shy of Richard’s own start here. Extremely well. The briefing moves on.

This time it’s Joe’s turn to pick up the slack, “Our gate teams are still encountering many more contacts that have better opinions about the Genii than they do us.”

Wow, way to drop a hammer. A not good reaction/look goes around the room. Ooh, that’s bad. Pairs of eyes exchange knowing glances with each other around a semi-circle. Well, isn’t this shaping up to be a lovely afternoon?

“Anything else,” Rob asks on Woolsey’s behalf and wishing he had a knife or a gun to shoot or stab himself with. Maybe he could call in security and tell them to shoot him instead of having to get out of his chair and actually hunt up a weapon for himself. Yeah, he’s going to go with the security team… on the other hand, he could call the team in and have them literally shoot the messengers. So far Carl, Marty, and Joe are on his list. Hey, maybe that’ll make his pain go away.

“The teams are also hearing more and more rumors about Wraith worshippers becoming more and more ‘active’,” Paul answers with bunny ear gesturing on his last word.

And Paul goes on the list as well…

“What does that mean exactly,” Allan asks. Again spotting the approach of twists and angles.

“It means the rumors are saying that the Wraith worshippers are starting to take terrorist actions,” Joe informs them.

Another reaction goes around the room, it’s deceptive in appearance. No one moves, some sigh, but for the most part it’s in their eyes. They don’t react openly, but they feel every moment of what they’ve just heard like they were doing the most semi-amusing death march ever.

Know what, screw the security team. Maybe if Rob puts his head down and runs really really fast into the wall he’ll kill himself that way and everyone else can deal with all the problems of the galaxy. He starts to gauge exactly how fast he’d need to run while rubbing his forehead, already crinkled with stress.

Carl sighs too although he’s less the homicidal or suicidal sort, “And I thought we left Al-Qaeda behind on Earth,” he grumbles.

The nods go around the room. Except no one is cheering on any winners of any sort, they’re simply acknowledging the sheer unadulterated Hell of this all. Well, Carl did begin the meeting by saying that the answer to what’s on their plate for today is Hell, Hell, and more Hell. So far it’s been the Atlantis unholy trinity of restrictions from Earth, trouble from the Genii, and the Wraith—well, at least their worshippers, those at the very least right now. There was never smoke without a fire… or a handy little military device known as a smoke can which emitted the stuff when triggered but never actually held a fire.

The muscles on the back of Woolsey’s neck and shoulders tighten inexorably as he asks with a stifled sigh, “Is there anything else?”

Brad and Rob exchange looks then Brad leans forward. The forecast did call for more showers of fire and sulfur.

“Well, while speaking of contacts, the people Doctor Mackenzie’s studying—“

“The ones Colonel Sheppard was visiting when the Travelers took him,” Peter interrupts for personal confirmation.

“The ones he calls the Mehinako after the similar Xingu tribe in the Amazon Rainforest,” Allan adds on. And showing off a little bit.

Rob nods, “Yes.” He wanted to add hotly that yes, these are one of the few people we’ve met in this galaxy that have been as peacefully kind to us as the Athosians, but holds that back in lieu of the higher priorities about these people at the moment.

“What about them?” Richard Woolsey inquires.

“They informed Sergeant Stackhouse’s team, the last gate team to visit them, that they are the last gate team to visit them and that Doctor Mackenzie will be sent back to Atlantis within a day or two, however long it takes him to pack up his stuff,” Rob breaks the bad news.

The once blank faces suddenly get wide-eyed. Wait a second, we pissed off the nice people? What?! How the hell did this happen?! When did this happen?!

“They are breaking off any and all contact with Atlantis,” Brad clarifies further. It wasn’t his intention to twist the knife, but it had to be done. It’s always the protocol ever since Doctor Weir to tell the details. Everyone had to know everything and then they go from there to try and figure out a way out of this mess.

“Why?” Carl asks, flummoxed. It’s not a common look on his face, usually Carl Binder is the person, aside from the Chiefs of Staff, that is the least baffled by a situation when it arises due to his penchant for expecting the worst all the time.

“They say that they were offended.”

Woolsey stares at Robert and Bradley for a moment before the ability to speak returns to him, “Offended? But Sergeant Stackhouse and I had a great time on our previous visit to them. Everything seemed fine. Everyone was getting along well, there were no incidents as far as I saw.”

Uncomfortable glances go around the room, different than any of those that have passed so far, and Richard Woolsey catches them all, but he doesn’t understand the meaning of the expressions.

“Sir,” Brad begins carefully, obviously trying to be delicate about this although he’s absolutely sure that he’ll fail miserably but trying nonetheless, “It was you.”

Me?

“It’s because you’re so reserved,” Rob quickly jumps to Brad’s rescue, “In their culture, to be reserved or conservative is considered offensive. They take it as a sign of deception or deceit. They think you’re hiding something from them and their culture is so open and transparent that, well, it made a bad impression on them coming from our leader. They think we can’t be trusted anymore because of it.”

Oh boy, Carl clears his throat, “Well, since the topic’s already been brought up, Mister Woolsey, the International Oversight Advisory did remark on the lack of First Contact situations involving you. They’re feeling under-represented and they feel that Atlantis is not putting its best foot forward in those situations. Not that the gate teams aren’t appropriately representing the Expedition and it’s intentions, it’s because the I.O.A. doesn’t trust the gate teams to keep to the message the I.O.A. wants to pass along.”

“They don’t think the gate teams can be trusted?” Joe’s fishes knowingly for the truth.

“Yes,” Carl admits, “And I can’t imagine where they’ve gotten that sentiment from considering their previous dealings with the gate teams in Cheyenne Mountain.” Reminders always helped. No one in the Stargate Program, whether on Earth or in the Pegasus Galaxy, liked the International Oversight Advisory and they have no problem showing it to the organization’s face whatsoever. So the I.O.A. isn’t exactly out of line not trusting the gate teams to abide by their rules.

“But still, we haven’t screwed up any First Contacts here,” and almost as immediately as the words leave his mouth, Joe wishes they’d go right back in. Not to mention all the eyes that look at him with the same sentiment behind them: I can’t believe you just said something that stupid. It’s like a press conference that suddenly goes silent when the person at the podium suddenly blurts out something they really shouldn’t have. Like a pride of lions hunching down in the grass, coldly giddy with the anticipation of the target prey abruptly self-exiling themselves away from the rest of the herd.

“Let’s begin shall we,” Carl’s bitter nature takes up the challenge, “There was the Wraith whom we woke up all them. The Genii whom we were supposed to be going on a joint mission with and that’s after we were supposed to be just negotiating for some God damn beans with. Oh and how can we forget the Asurans, human form Replicators made by the Ancients that make the Wraith look like humanity’s best friends!” His voice is all sarcasm taking a nice stroll down memory lane and climbing a hill in volume, getting louder and louder, “All of which were calamitous. For God’s sake, we were put on trial for this. Colonel Sheppard’s team was put on trial for this!”

Silence follows his outburst. His intensity not just scolding Joe but also everyone else in the room.

“Calamitous,” Peter questions the old fashioned word usage after a few moments.

“My word, not theirs.”

“What was their word?” Allan asks.

“Not nearly as nice.”

Peter and Allan swallow hard, normally Carl didn’t sugarcoat things. So if he is… what he’s covering then up had to be really bad even by his standards. And knowing the man’s bitter and malcontent with the world disposition that’s pretty damn bitter and pessimistic.

Richard Woolsey eyes travel around the table. So that’s what the looks meant. To confirm Richard’s suspicions, Marty, Joe, and Paul nod when his gaze meets their and lingers for any length of time. The men were perhaps not agreeing with the I.O.A.’s opinion of Atlantis’ gate teams, but most likely seconding that Richard’s stiffness and his seemingly intentional avoidance of First Contact instances are indeed a problem.

“I…,” Richard doesn’t know where to begin but he realizes that the seconds of his silence ticking away were adding up, “I will take that into consideration and will also be taking any ideas anyone has on how I might be able to rectify the situation.” He hates himself for how political baby-kissing that sounded, but the statement is true and some old habits like how you talk when addressing a courtroom die hard with attorneys, it’s all the years of costly education.

The group nods again around him along with the unanimous verbal acknowledgement of ‘Yes, Sir’. They look down at their briefing folders and other stacks of information and Richard can practically hear the rest of the mental thoughts, they’ll start coming up with any corrective ideas throughout the meeting and jot them down then hand them over to their leader by the end of the meeting or throughout the day as the ideas occur to them. They’re on top of this. And again the briefing moves on.

“And speaking of rumors,” Paul brings up; now’s as good a time as any, “we need to talk about Lieutenant Kenmore.”

All eyes shoot to Mister Mullie but he keeps his eyes focused squarely on Richard’s. Richard’s dark eyes lose focus from alert to this is the last thing he wanted to be talking about, haven’t they already discussed this. He hadn’t wanted to discuss the matter then. Now, with all the other issues so far… why isn’t this problem going away? Oh that’s right, he brought her here.

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