Heirs and Graces - Part 1
SG-24 embarks on a mission which most of the team hope will fail.
WARNINGS: The usual military language
On Monday morning, General Bradfield strode into the briefing room some five minutes late. He was looking grim as if he were about to give SG-24 some bad news. He was fully aware that, for most of them, he was.
"Good morning, lady and gentlemen," he began. "Your mission, leaving at 0800 on Wednesday, is a - well, a foraging mission - to P5C-768."
Maxine barely restrained a gasp at this information while Bachman balled his hands into fists and muttered, "Yes!" There was the light of battle - and of triumph - in his eyes. This was so not good.
Bradfield handed out information folders about the world as he summarized the mission. "You are to bring back all available food resources, leaving only the bare minimum for the survival of the local population. Apparently, they are being... awkward"
"And need teaching a lesson," Bachmann butted in, looking elated. Bradfield tried to frown him down but was only partly successful.
"Have you learned nothing from Tyogya?" J snapped.
Bradfield sighed. He had more bad news. "As Captain Bachmann will be your 2IC, he is to accompany you to the village, leaving either Lieutenant Kern or Captain Lucarelli to - er - guard the 'Gate."
J stood up sharply. "Sir, this is ridiculous! The whole concept is a disaster waiting to happen! And it is endangering my team with absolutely no necessity."
"I'm sorry, Major, but this is out of my hands. It's a Presidential Order," Bradfield said, producing the document with its red wax seal at the bottom. "So I'm afraid you're just going to have to deal with it."
With that, he declared the meeting closed, but lingered in the briefing room to give Bachmann time to escape before Dr. Pepperday got her hands on him. He didn't have long to wait as Bachmann couldn't get away quick enough. Presumably, he was keen to brag to his cronies about having put one over on his team leader.
Maxine sighed. The odious man had presumably wormed his way back into the president's favor. She wasn't sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing. It certainly demonstrated that Warren was a capricious man, but she already knew that.
"I don't think this mission is going to go as well as Captain Bachmann thinks it will," Kern commented to J."
"I certainly hope it doesn't go as Bachmann intends, but I think we're into damage limitation here," J responded with a grimace.
"Well, you count on me to try to make things go as they should, sir."
J smiled then. "Yes, I know I can, Lieutenant."
Kern then saluted and left. Bradfield looked on with interest. "That young man is doing very well under your influence," he observed once Kern was out of ear-shot.
"Yes, he's fitting in very much better than I expected," J commented with a smile.
"And I put it down to your leadership skills," Bradfield said with a brief nod and left.
"Fly-catching, J?" Luc said with a grin.
"Well, it's not often we get unsolicited compliments here."
At Maxine's insistence, the remaining four went to the commissary and managed to find a quiet corner table now that the breakfast rush was over. J began.
"I take it this isn't a general moan about the unfairness of a world which allows people like Bachmann to live in it?"
Maxine gave a derisive snort. "No it isn't. We have to find a way to negate this mission. It mustn't succeed - at least not the way Bachmann intends."
"Because P5C-768 is Edora."
"Edora?" Theo echoed. "You mean where Colonel O'Neill was stranded for several months and then retired to"
"To be with his twin sons. Yes, that's the place. So we have to at least try to protect his family. There could be a whole clan of little O'Neills on Edora by now."
"Not necessarily," J responded.
"Well look at us. Grandfather Daniel only had one daughter, Serena, but then he had a grandson and two granddaughters, three great-grandsons and a great-granddaughter, five great-great-grandsons and two great-great-granddaughters. That's fifteen descendants of whom eleven are still living."
"Yes, I guess, and don't get me wrong. I'm in agreement - total agreement - with you in principle. And yes, the possibility of an O'Neill clan does make it special."
"You don't think Grandfather Daniel might take a hand?" Luc asked, "As he's an ascended being?"
"The Ascended have a non-intervention policy," Theo pointed out, "They aren't supposed to interfere."
"Like he didn't interfere on P4-whatever where we met Eneas and friends?" Luc grinned, then his face clouded. "Or the K-word," he whispered.
"He wasn't supposed to do that," Maxine said. "Come to think of it, the last time we saw him was in the Sunny Side Up. He got yanked away from there before he could finish giving me his message. And we were in a time tunnel at the time, yet they managed to find him. Which reminds me, we've still got that crown to deal with."
"Yes, well we can't do anything about that now," J said. "Wednesday's mission must take priority for now."
"Then I suggest we have a... a 'Council of War' tonight at Ash's pad," Theo suggested. "1900 suit everyone?"
Maxine kicked off the meeting by recounting the original problem that trapped Colonel O'Neill off-world.
"Edora's orbit passes through a debris field. Usually, this just burns up in the atmosphere, producing an annual pyrotechnic display known as the fire-rain. However, every hundred and fifty years or so, the planet gets hit - bombarded - by many large meteorites that do immense damage. On that occasion, a meteorite hit the 'Gate while the wormhole was active, so molten naquadah hardened just above the event horizon like an iris. Now, as I see it, we need to bury the 'Gate so no one can get through to Edora from Earth again. What I suggest is that we take plenty of C4 and ropes and pulleys in the PATTS to dislodge the 'Gate and pull it over. Then we can get the Edorans to cover it with rocks and rubble."
"It's a nice idea," J said as she wound down, "but I can see a number of problems."
"That's why I suggested this Council of War," Theo responded, "so we can work our way around any problems."
"Well, firstly, what are we going to do about Bachmann and Kern?" Luc asked.
"I don't think Kern will be too much of a problem," J said. "He's got plenty of blackmail material on us already, thanks to our rescuing his cousin. He's never tried to use it though and seems genuinely grateful about the rescue. I still think we need to keep him away from the 'Gate. However, if Luc stays on 'Gate Guard Duty, Kern will be in the village away from the action. Bachmann is another matter."
Maxine turned to Theo. "Can you sabotage Bachmann's PATT so the wormhole shuts down before he can follow the rest of us through the 'Gate?"
"Yes, I think so. We have a whole day clear tomorrow."
"And Ash," Maxine continued, "Would it be possible for you to fix it so the DHD develops some sort of glitch that would delay Bachmann further?"
"Well, it's not my specialty, but I think I can come up with something."
J looked thoughtful. "I hate to sound like Doctor Paranoia over there, but I suspect this is possibly a trap."
"Another attempt on your life?" Maxine looked aghast at not having considered that possibility sooner.
"No. I think Warren is trying to find out where my loyalties lie - with the president, or with the 'peasants.' If the latter, it gives him cause to get rid of me as a team leader, and possibly get me out of the S.G.C. altogether."
A thoughtful silence fell, broken by Luc. "We have a major problem to solve before he could do that."
"What's that?" Maxine asked.
Luc's voice took on a sarcastic edge. "Once the 'Gate's buried, how do we get home?"
"Oh, thanks for reminding me!" she replied, springing to her feet and grabbing her purse. "I've a couple of 'phone calls to make. Back soon."
Then she was out of the door before anyone had time to question her about it. She returned ten minutes later, grinning from ear to ear.
"That's fixed," she said. "I've to pick up 'the return tickets' at the Sunny Side Up tomorrow lunchtime. Okay?"
J shrugged. "You'd go anyway."
"Well, if you want to come home," she smiled.
On his arrival the following morning, J was summoned to General Bradfield's office.
"I'm afraid I have some bad news about one of your team," Bradfield began.
"It's Lieutenant Kern, isn't it?" J asked. He didn't think Bradfield would look so concerned if it was Bachmann who'd come to grief. "How bad is it?"
"Oh, it isn't life threatening, but he's going to be out of action for a while. He was up a ladder, cleaning out the gutters at his mother's house, when the rung he was standing on broke. The wood was rotten. He has several broken bones but nothing too serious."
"Is he in the infirmary here?"
"I'm afraid not, Major."
"Could he be moved here, sir? Under Dr. Flint's care? I'd like him to have the best treatment we can provide."
Bradfield gave an understanding smile. "I think that can be arranged."
"With your permission, sir, I'd like to take a little time off with my team to visit Mrs. Kern to see if she needs any help. I know she's a widow and relies on her son a lot."
Bradfield nodded. "I was hoping you would say that, Major. In fact, I've already postponed your mission to P5C-768 until Thursday. Just one thing, though. No more broken bones please."
"I won't be taking Bachmann, so I think we should be safe!" J grinned.
Bradfield chuckled and waved him on his way.
"We're colleagues of your son. We heard about his accident and just came to see if there's anything we can to do to help?"
Mrs. Kern suddenly seemed to make a connection. "Oh! You must be that Doctor Pepperpot!" she smiled brightly.
The rest of the team behind her cracked up.
"Yeah! Cayenne pepper!" Luc quipped and got a sharp back elbow in the ribs.
With the ice nicely shattered and all the introductions made, Mrs. Kern invited them in for coffee.
"I'm so glad you came," she said. "I've been wanting to thank you for a long time for looking after my boy. Eli's been so much happier since he's been working for you, Major Mitchell."
"Good! I'm pleased to hear it," J smiled.
"Yes, he'd gotten in with a nasty crowd," she reminisced. "A really nasty crowd! I was so worried about what he was turning into. But now you've given me my boy back again." A tear trickled down her wrinkled cheek. "Thank you."
During the next couple of hours, SG-24 set to work with a will. Theo fixed the ladder and finished cleaning out the gutters. Maxine fetched Mrs. Kern's shopping and did some washing, while J and Luc set about tidying the yard.
By midday, they were all ravenous. Mrs. Kern offered to make them lunch.
"Thank you for your kind offer, but we have to be going," Maxine said.
"Well, how much do I owe you for all your work?"
"Just a mug of coffee, ma'am," J replied, "so consider us square."
It was somewhat later than planned when the four arrived at the Sunny Side Up. Three of them were surprised to see Rufus Pepperday already there.
"Well, it's about time!" he exclaimed as they joined him. "I thought this was supposed to be urgent!"
He stood up and gave his daughter a hug.
"It is, but some things changed and as a result, we have an extra twenty-four hours. And no, I couldn't let you know sooner. Did you bring it?" Maxine asked.
"Of course I did," Rufus said, reaching inside his leather jacket. "More than my life's worth not to."
He pulled out a small black velvet bag with a draw-string and handed it over. "There you are. Your Aunt Claire says 'Hi' by the way. She's very well."
"Good! And thank you so much," Maxine smiled, hugging him, then stashed the velvet bag in an inside pocket. "Will you join us for lunch?"
"I've eaten already, thanks, and now I have to go." He gave her a peck on the cheek then strode off.
"So what's that?" J asked.
"Our ticket home," Maxine replied.
"Okay, hand it over. Let's have a look." J held a hand out.
"Sorry, but no. It's not mine. It's on loan from Aunt Claire."
"Couldn't we at least see it?"
"You'll see it when the time comes and not before."
"How do we know it'll work?"
"Just trust me, J. It. Will. Work."
"Have you tried it?"
"It. Has. Been. Tried. It. Will. Work. Now just leave it, J."
Noting the flashing green eyes, J opted for the better part of valor and let the subject drop. He did trust her. Mostly.
While the members of SG-24 were helping out Mrs. Kern, Dr. Timmy Flint was getting her son settled. The curtains were drawn round his bed as she carried out a number of routine tests.
Raucous voices were approaching the infirmary. Both doctor and patient recognized them - Lieutenant Thomas Bacon and Captain James Bachmann. Dr. Flint assumed they were coming to visit Lieutenant Jacob Stone in the next bed but one away from Kern. She instantly dismissed her first inclination to ask then to consider other patients and to speak more quietly. It would only be counter-productive, plus Dr. Dawson was also present in the infirmary, and he wouldn't appreciate her input one little bit.
"Looks like I'm on my way back, yeah!" Bachmann crowed as the pair reached Stone's bed. I've finally put one over on the president's little pet copper-knob, so his high-and-mighty lordship, Mitchell, won't be able to hide behind her any more."
Kern and Dr. Flint exchanged shocked glances. Kern looked as if he were about to protest, but Timmy put her finger to her lips and shook her head.
"'Walls have ears'," she whispered. "Let's see what intell we can gather." At that, Kern's eyes lit up and he nodded his agreement.
"Well that's good news, boss," Stone said.
"Oh yeah! I've finally got him to see things my way, hence this mission on Thursday. The peasants will be a total pushover and I've requisitioned enough C4 - got it stored in my li'l 'baby buggy' - to turn their village into a crater fifty feet deep!"
"Well, that'll certainly send a message out across the galaxy that the Tau'ri are not to be messed with, sir."
"Yeah, and with that moron, Kern, out of action, Lucarelli will be stuck guarding the fucking 'Gate and out of my hair."
Timmy had to clamp her hand over Kern's mouth at that comment, and decided to remain behind the closed curtains round Kern's bed until Bachmann left. Then she went over to Lieutenant Stone and administered a strong dose of 'happy juice.' She didn't want him putting two and two together and realizing who had overheard Bachmann's bragging. Not that he'd been in any way subtle about it, but still.
Stone was still in the Land of Nod when SG-24 came to visit Lieutenant Kern. Timmy met them in the entrance and called them into the office. This worried the team.
"There isn't a problem, is there?" J asked.
"Not a medical problem, no. He's going to be fine, though it'll take a while before he's fit for active duty."
"But I think you have a problem, sir."
"Does the 'problem' have a name?" J asked, feeling pretty sure he knew what the name was.
Timmy confirmed it and filled in the details. "He even referred to Lieutenant Kern as a moron. To be fair"
"Oh, must you?" Luc interrupted, drawing a wry smile from the doctor.
"I don't think he knew Kern was there, but"
"it probably wouldn't have made any difference," J finished for her. "Well, let's go see if we can't cheer him up a bit."
Kern brightened visibly when he saw his four visitors, but then his face clouded. "I got something to tell you that you really should know," he frowned.
J was on the point of stopping him as Dr. Flint had already told him the salient details, but he figured it might improve the young man's morale if he felt he was contributing. The rest of the team followed his lead.
"And he called you, 'copper-knob,' Dr. Pepperday," he concluded.
"Not 'pepperpot?'" Maxine teased.
Kern looked like a rabbit in the cross-hairs of a rifle.
She cracked out laughing. "It's all right. I think I've heard every possible joke about my name when I was at school."
Kern looked very much relieved. Apart from her general scariness, he'd come to respect and even like her. A thought struck him.
"Have you seen my Mom?" he asked. "She has a problem with names."
Theo smiled. "We have indeed. Thought she'd like to know how you are. The ladder's fixed and the gutters are clear by the way, so you don't have to worry. We'll keep calling round and keep an eye on her for you."
"Thank you so much. Means an awful lot to me," he sniffed.
J's next task was to track down Bachmann. His quarry was in the gym, doing weight training.
"You!" J bellowed, pointing an imperative finger at Bachmann. "With me. Now!"
He didn't expect Bachmann to leap to obey so he wasn't disappointed.
J strode up to the man and yelled, "Are you deaf, or insubordinate, or just plain stupid? I gave you a direct order. Obey it. Now!"
Bachmann did so with a very bad grace. J led him down to the PATT storage area, marched over to the vehicle allotted the captain and threw open the trunk. It was packed with C4.
"Planning on starting a war, were you?" J growled.
"Just necessary supplies to teach the peas"
"Just shut the fuck up, Bachmann, and unload it." J loomed over him. "All of it. Now!"
"But " Bachmann tried to protest.
"No buts. Just shut up and unload. Ah, Captain Lucarelli. Over here, please."
Luc jogged over to his team leader and gave a snappy salute. "Yes sir?"
"Captain Bachmann's having a little difficulty following orders. I want all this C4 unloaded, pronto, then disposed of appropriately."
"Sir, yessir!" Luc responded smartly and got to work.
"Right. Now that's under control, you come with me."
With a surly 2IC (temporary) in tow, J visited every armory in the S.G.C., with the same message: "This man may not be issued with any amount of C4 at any time, without my say-so. In person. Is that clear?"
"Sir, yessir," came the instant response in every case.
"You can't do this," Bachmann tried to protest.
"I just did. Were you not paying attention? If you need any C4, you come to me. Are we clear on that?"
Bachmann mumbled something which could well have been 'screw you - sir'
"I didn't hear ya. Are we clear on that?"
"I'm still not hearing you. Are we clear on that?"
"Sir, yessir," Bachmann sneered.
J decided to let it go. For now.
"Dismissed, Captain." He watched the man stalk off down the corridor. 'Well, if you go running off to Warren,' he thought, 'at least you can't complain about weak leadership.'
His next port of call was General Bradfield's office to report. Bradfield was pleased to hear about Kern's progress and angry that he'd heard himself described as a moron.
"He may not be the sharpest knife in the block, Major, but he's far from stupid. With the right sort of encouragement, he'll do just fine."
"My thoughts too, sir. I'd like to suggest that a team of five will be adequate for this mission."
Bradfield smiled. "I have no objections to that. Whether the president will agree, we'll just have to wait and see."
When J returned to the PATT storage area, he found Theo and Maxine helping Luc. In the absence of Bachmann, they'd made good progress. Most of the C4 had been returned to the armory. Maxine had appropriated some for her father and the rest was shared out in their other PATTs. The trunks of Theo's and Luc's PATTs contained ropes and pulleys concealed under costumes and camouflage netting. Theo felt he'd done a good job of fixing Bachmann's vehicle.
When all was set up, ready for the morning, the four left via the 'Gate Room. Ash, on the qui vive in the Control Room above, came to join them. With no teams either expected to return nor due to leave, the place was quiet. Deserted, in fact.
SG-24 gathered round the D.H.D., staring as if in rapt admiration at the 'Gate. This gave Ash cover in order to investigate how to access the innards of the D.H.D. so he could at least look like he knew what he was doing, and so that he could organize a minor malfunction.
Theo was inclined to worry but Ash waved away his concerns. "Most people think that if The Geek can fix computer problems, The Geek can fix pretty much anything. It won't be a problem, so relax. I've found what I need to know and everything's set, so now we can go."
On the Thursday morning, SG-24 minus Bachmann arrived in very good time. That Bachmann was late suggested he'd been hobnobbing with the president again. If so, his visit had obviously not prospered, since he was looking petulant and there were no last minute presidential changes of plan.
Maybe the president was expecting, or at least hoping, that a team of five would fail. Of course, from the president's point of view, it would. God willing...
Bachman's lateness meant that, as everyone else was in line waiting to depart, he perforce took last place. The 'Gate was activated immediately and Luc, taking point, led the team through.
Theo, second to last, heard a satisfying muffled thump as he approached the ramp, followed by a string of curses and demands that he return and fix the fucking thing. Theo, naturally, feigned deafness and slipped through the 'Gate. So far, so good.
Things were not so good on the other side. There was a large 'welcoming party' waiting to greet them - with several zat guns and P90s as well as the more expected mediaeval weapons. Presumably they had been alerted by the earlier arrival of an AVCOP. Maxine was pretty sure the former weapons were those that SG-1 had left behind when Colonel O'Neill had 'retired.' She also suspected that they were no longer functional, but wouldn't have wanted to put any money on it.
Holding her hands up to show she was unarmed - more or less - she approached the man who seemed to be their leader. He looked vaguely familiar, so she decided to take a punt.
"Mr. O'Neill?" she enquired politely.
"I am Finn O'Neill, yes. You know me?" he asked in amazement.
"No, but I think I know your face. My name is Dr. Pepperday and I am the great-great-granddaughter of Dr. Daniel Jackson."
There was a collective gasp at that, but Finn O'Neill was still cautious.
"We were told that the Tau'ri were coming to rob us of yet more of our food stores that we were to have it here waiting for collection. Is this not so?"
"That is what we were ordered to do," Maxine confirmed to angry mutterings from the welcoming party. "But those are orders we do not intend to obey. In fact, we plan to make it impossible for anyone to steal food supplied from you again."
Finn looked skeptical. "You can do that?"
"I think we can, but time is short and we'll need your help."
"What must we do?"
"We plan to bury the Stargate so that it cannot connect to other stargates. I know that this happened over a hundred years ago with the 'fire-rain,' trapping Colonel O'Neill here."
"That part is true," Finn conceded, relaxing a little.
"My cousin, Theo - who is a great-great-grandson of Dr. Jackson - will dislodge the 'Gate and pull it over, then we need cover it with rocks and stones. Can you do that? Find lots of rocks and stones?"
Finn O'Neill issued orders and everyone got to work. He remained with SG-24 to make sure they were up to no tricks.
"I think we have to lay the 'Gate down on its front," Theo said, "then if anyone does come through, he won't fall back into the event horizon."
Finn pounced on that utterance. "I thought you said no one could come through any more?"
"It's unlikely but it's just possible that someone may come through by mistake. In which case, he'll have to dig his way out from under all the rocks, assuming he survives the weight of them, so he's not going to be much of a problem. Plus he won't be able to get back home again, so it's unlikely anyone's going risk more lives to see what's happened to him."
"Hm, maybe not," Finn responded. He didn't look convinced.
Meanwhile, back in the SGC, Bachmann had climbed out of his PATT and was furiously kicking it. An impressive string of expletives accompanied his actions. General Bradfield came down to see what the trouble was, then held up a hand to silence the rant.
"Then you'll just have to go on foot, as you used to. I seem to remember you saying you didn't need nannying like a girl or a - what was it? - gork."
Back-chatting Major Mitchell was one thing. The base commander was another, so he bowed to the inevitable. Then the wormhole collapsed.
The general signaled Corporal Roberts, substituting for Sergeant Purvis, to redial. This, the young man did, but while the inner wheel slithered sluggishly around, producing much steam, he couldn't get it to connect.
"We seem to have a problem, sir," he said.
"Then fix it!" Bachmann yelled.
"Sorry sir, I can't," Corporal Roberts replied, looking ruffled. "I'm only on temporary assignment down here, and my training hasn't covered technical problems yet, just day-to-day operations."
At this point, Ash, who'd been lurking in the shadows, decided it was time for him to put in an appearance in the 'Gate Room. He walked over to Corporal Roberts and asked, "Could you dial up the Arlington Building, please?"
"I'm sorry, sir," said the hapless young man, "but the 'Gate isn't working?"
"Not working?" Ash feigned alarm. "But I have to Um, is it the 'Gate or the D.H.D. that has the fault?"
"I don't know, sir."
"Ya don't know anything much, do ya, you worthless piece of"
"Captain, that's enough!" Bradfield broke in. "Unless or until you have something useful to contribute, don't say another word!"
A quarter of an hour later, the 'Gate technicians confirmed that the fault was not with the 'Gate, ergo it must be the D.H.D. that had the problem. Bradfield looked around in search of inspiration. His eye alighted on Ash.
"Mr Kirkwood, you're something of a miracle worker with machines, so I've heard. Is it possible that you could fix this?"
"We-ell," Ash began doubtfully, "it's not really my area of expertise, but I'm willing to give it my best shot."
"Good man!" Bradfield beamed.
"I'll need to fetch my toolkit first," Ash smiled with a departing wave. He figured he'd get away with ten minutes before Bachmann blew his top. Although, with the general keeping him on a fairly tight leash...
Fifteen minutes later, he reappeared and got a frosty look from Bachmann. Ignoring it, he laid a dust sheet on th floor around the D.H.D. then set out an impressive array of tools. He would only be using two or three of them, but the display looked good, and setting them out took up time.
He took more time, carefully opening up the D.H.D. and making 'exploratory' pokes around inside.
"Ah," he murmured, "it'll probably work a little better without this!"
Holding it by the tail, he pulled out a dead rat - which he'd caught the previous day - and held it aloft. With the other hand, he discreetly palmed the remains of a remote-controlled detonation cap. "Yes, it seems to have chewed through a couple of wires and caused a short-circuit."
"But how on earth did it manage to get in there?" Bradfield exclaimed.
"No idea, sir," Ash replied, since 'from my pocket, sir' wasn't really an option, "but it should start working again once I've reconnected the wires. Makes a change from a bug in the program."
"What bugs?" Bachmann asked suspiciously.
"Ooh, a praying mantis. It was headless, ergo it was a male. The females bite the heads off their mates."
"Really?" Bachmann squeaked.
"Oh yeah. Worst thing I've had to deal with was a live scorpion."
Bradfield smiled to himself. He should really order Kirkwood to stop winding the Captain up, but he was enjoying the moment.
"But usually," Ash continued, "a bug in the program is just a bit of coding that causes a computer to cease working. The expression comes from an actual dead moth found by an early programmer called Grace Hopper in 1947."
"No that's perfectly true."
"Well, quit stalling! Get on and fix it!"
Ash managed to spend a good half hour swapping crystals around. He had a mental map of the original arrangement so he could, finally, declare the D.H.D. working again. Bachmann, running true to form, kept butting in with complaints about how long it was taking mixed in with derogatory comments about Ash's abilities and parentage.
Ash stood up and glowered at the captain. "You know, I'd get on a lot quicker if I didn't have so many interruptions. I'm going as fast as I can but you keep breaking my concentration, so I have to start again each time."
"I don't think you have a fucking clue about what you're doing."
At that, Ash grabbed Bachmann's hand and slapped the long-nose pliers he was using into his antagonist's palm. Hard. "You think you can do it better," he snarled, "go ahead! Be my guest!"
Then he strode away, all offended dignity. Bradfield decided it was time to intercede. "Captain Bachmann! My office. Now. And stay there until you're sent for. Airman, retrieve Mr. Kirkwood."
Ash returned, and in approximately the time it would take Bachmann to reach the general's office, he restored the crystals to their correct places, rejoined the snapped wires, wrapped them in insulating tape and put the D.H.D. back together again.
"There, I think that should work," he told the general. "Shall I fetch the captain back, sir."
Bradfield bit back a smile. "That might not be a good idea," he said and despatched the nearest SF instead.
When Bachmann returned, Corporal Roberts was completing the dialing sequence, and Ash had beaten a strategic retreat.
"You're cleared to go, Captain," Bradfield said as the event horizon settled into its usual rippling calm.