Major Jefferson Mitchell took the elevator down to Level 27. He had been
sent for by Major General Samuel J. Bradfield, commanding officer of the SGC.
J was in no doubt about the reason for the summons and supposed he should be
apprehensive. Maybe he was, a little, but short of 'cuffing both his CO and the
2IC to the hitching rail and knocking seven bells out of the pair of them until
they 'got' what he was saying, he didn't think there was anything more he
could've done to prevent the revolt on P7Z-237.
It wasn't far short of a miracle that he'd managed to get the rest of SG-17
home safely. He and Lt. Cartwright had half-carried, half-dragged the
protesting Lt. Col. Bachmann back to the Stargate. They'd had to leave his 2IC,
Major McLeroy, back on the planet. He was already dead and Major Mitchell
didn't want to jeopardize any more lives to bring the body home.
As he knocked on General Bradfield's door, he wondered if this would count
in his favor - or against him. He entered on Bradfield's call and saluted
"You wished to see me, sir," he began.
"Yes, Major Mitchell. I have heard a disturbing report of your actions
on P7Z-237 which resulted in the death of Major Duncan Ira McLeroy and the
probable loss of the planet as a food source for the people of this
J discovered apprehension.
He had little respect for SG-17's C.O. and even less for Major McLeroy,
though he always tried to hide his personal feelings. It was politic to do so.
Or so he thought. Now, it looked like the blame for the disaster was going to
land solidly on his shoulders. He glanced at the stenographer. At least what he
said would go on record. Hm. Strike that. Should go on record. If
somebody wished it so, it could easily be lost. Didn't mean he was going down
without a fight though.
"This - ah - report would have been made by Lt. Col. Bachmann?"
"Your commanding officer, yes Major, it was, despite his being in
serious pain and possibly facing the amputation on his right arm below the
"I see, sir. Well, at least that relieves me of the obligation to show
any loyalty to my commanding officer."
"You have a different account of the loss of Major McLeroy and of
P7X-237 as a source of food?"
"I certainly do, sir, and I think my account will be backed up
by the rest of SG-17 assuming they are allowed to give their own accounts
Bradfield looked a little put out. "Of course there would be no
"Not from you, no sir. I appreciate that..." He let the
implication sink in, then continued. "Anyone who bothered to take a
to take an objective look at the Tyogyan people, could see that they
were becoming increasingly agitated. We have left them barely enough
food to feed themselves over the winter, and if there's to be a harvest next
year, they need enough left over to sow in the spring."
"Well obviously, Major. However, I was informed by Colonel Bachmann
that there was a large store of grain which the people of the village of Carnoa
"So he said, sir, and I'm sure that other villages further from the
'Gate do have more grain which they might be willing to... trade.
However, in Carnoa itself, I saw nothing that would remotely justify
his, er, his suspicion that the villagers were hiding further stores.
Indeed, if we do the math - the acreage of arable, yield per acre and the
quantity of grain we've already taken - there's no scope for there being any
more available without leaving the villagers to starve. The people of our own
great country had the same fears as a result of the wheat rust in 2103, and
there were - well, 'food riots' here then. Why should we be surprised
that the Carnoans were showing signs of rebellion? I tried - I really
tried to inform Lt. Col. Bachmann that we were on the brink of a serious
insurrection. The Carnoans felt they had nothing to lose. However, Major
McLeroy over-ruled me - told me not to bother Colonel Bachmann with - well,
'scuttlebutt' was the expression he used."
"And, by way of bringing the Carnoans to heel, Major McLeroy took
Melda, the chief's daughter, hostage in their Council House against their
loading up the remains of the grain from the last barn and transporting it to
the 'Gate. This was a big mistake, but not as bad as his next move. There was
screaming from inside and Major McLeroy came out waving her necklet in triumph.
It was inferred from this that he'd... that he'd raped her. She's. Twelve.
Years. Old !"
General Bradfield looked genuinely shocked. "And had he done so,
"I have no means of knowing for certain now, sir, though that is
definitely the impression he was intent on conveying, along with the suggestion
that none of their womenfolk would be safe from us unless their men did as they
J paused and gave the general a considering look. "I've been working in
the field for just over a year, and I've heard tales about this sort of thing
happening before. Is this standard operational procedure, sir?"
Bradfield looked uncomfortable. "Not officially," he
muttered, "though I have heard rumors that it happens sometimes."
J didn't ask if any action was taken against the perpetrators of such acts.
Judging by Bradfield's inability to meet his eye, he didn't need to. Instead,
he explained that, at the age of ten years, girls on Tyogya were given a
This was a leather band, dyed green and joined at the front by a bronze disk
bearing their symbol of virginity. It was removed only at her wedding, where it
was cut off - the only legal means of removing it - and replaced with a dark
blue leather band fastened by the gold disk of marriage.
Young girls were carefully chaperoned as, if the virginal band was removed
before marriage, the girl was forced to wear the red necklet and iron disk of
the prostitute for the rest of her life. The only alternative was to declare
rape in which case, the girl or a close male relative was entitled to remove
the external reproductive organs of the rapist. This in itself was a strong
incentive to accord the womenfolk the strictest respect.
"And how did you come by this information, Major Mitchell?"
"When we first arrived, I sent Dr. Westray to find out as much
information as she could about the culture of Tyogya in general and Carnoa in
particular. I like to know what we're up against and the sort of taboos it
might be dangerous to ignore."
"Did she not report her findings to Colonel Bachmann?"
"She tried, sir, but he wasn't interested."
"And Major McLeroy?"
"He said there was no point in paying any heed to the nonsense
the the 'gorks' came out with."
"I see. Continue, Major."
"Major McLeroy continued to dance around waving the girl's virginity
necklet. He was acting like he'd done something really clever, right up to the
point where Mawbras, the girl's older brother, came racing out of the Council
House with a wood axe. He swung the axe at Major McLeroy's legs and brought him
down. As he swung again, Colonel Bachmann bravely tried to intervene. He
deflected the blow, but the shaft of the axe shattered both bones in his lower
arm. I caught him as he fell, and Captain Gavigan came to my assistance."
"Didn't anyone else take any action? Shoot the man maybe?"
"He was only a boy, sir - about fourteen - and acting to
protect his little sister's honor. And it all happened very fast. The rest of
the team were on the other side of the village green, dealing with other
matters. They weren't really aware of what was going on at first and... and
then I... I don't know... I guess we were all shocked for a few seconds. The
third swing of the axe was aimed at Major McLeroy's groin. He was already
bleeding heavily - it was arterial blood - so, mercifully, he slipped into
unconsciousness as Mawbras threw the axe away and used a large knife to
to finish his task and held up his..." J swallowed, tasting bile,
J couldn't go on for the moment - found he was shaking as the grizzly memory
played through his mind again. General Bradfield, noting his pallor, invited
him to sit down. J accepted the invitation gratefully. He took a deep breath to
calm himself then took up his narrative again.
"Being the next ranking officer of the team, I ordered the rest to fall
back to the 'Gate, which they did in good order. Lt. Cartwright and myself were
assisting Lt. Col. Bachmann. The Carnoans took no further interest in the rest
of us for a while, concentrating on the remains of Major McLeroy. I regret that
I was unable to retrieve Major McLeroy's body. However, as he was already
beyond help and, as the Carnoans had suddenly noticed our attempt to retreat, I
felt that the safe return of the rest of the team should take priority."
"What about our unwritten code never to leave a man - or woman -
"I do not feel that I have erred in this decision. Had he been alive,
it would have been a different matter. As it was, it seemed better to leave one
corpse than six..."
Silence fell as Bradfield contemplated Major Mitchell's account. J felt
that he'd said enough. He'd given the bald facts as he saw them, and didn't
think there was any need of embellishment. He just wanted to forget the sounds
of the cheering Carnoans, the screams of the doomed man and the sight of
Mawbras brandishing aloft Major McLeroy's bloody dick and balls, but he knew he
Bradfield came to a decision. "Very well, Major, I'm putting SG-17 on
stand down after I've interviewed your colleagues. In the meantime, and bearing
in mind your comments about coercion, I'm directing you to leave the base
immediately and without contacting them. We will reconvene on Thursday at 0800.
Back in civvies, J decided to swing by Captain Lucarelli's apartment. Luc
was currently filling in for Captain Sterns on SG-19. That team was also on
stand down, so it seemed likely that Luc would be home. If not, it wasn't far
out of his way, and he really felt the need to talk.
He parked outside the three storey building then walked across to the main
entrance, pulling his jacket up around his ears in a vain attempt to ward off
the icy April rain. He walked up the stairs - didn't even bother to try the
elevator; it had never worked in living memory - and rapped on the door of
Just as he'd decided his friend must be out somewhere, Luc came to the door.
He was carrying a bucket and an armful of towels.
"Damn' roof's leaking again!" he said unnecessarily. "But
come on in, mi amico. I'll pour you some coffee - just made a fresh brew. You
look like shit, by the way."
"Pretty much how I feel then," J responded morosely, closing the
door. He made his way through to the kitchen, stepping carefully over the red
plastic bowl, half full of water, inside the doorway. "Isn't it time your
landlord fixed the roof?"
Luc rolled his eyes in response. He'd been trying to get his hands on the
guy ever since the first rainstorm after he'd moved in several months
previously. The agent collected the rent promptly but, strangely, never had any
idea of the owner's whereabouts.
"I think my best move would be to... move," he sighed.
"Thing is, I can't guarantee that the next place will be any better, and I
really don't have the time to look around anyway. So what's bugging you?"
"The last mission," J replied, accepting the mug then following
Luc around the obstacle course into the living room. "What else?"
"Okay, give," Luc said once they were seated. J stared at the
bubbles still rotating on the surface of his coffee, wondering where to begin.
Still focusing on the little bubbles, said, "You subbed on SG-17 for a
while, didn't you?"
"When you were with SG-12 for six weeks? Yes, I was." Luc scowled
at the memory.
"What did you think of the team?" J asked, keeping the question
non-specific. Luc thought about it.
"Ill-matched. Morag Westray was wasted with them. Bachmann and McLeroy
wouldn't give her the time of day, so basically she was unable to do her job
properly - or indeed at all. Like I said, talent wasted. Gavigan and Cartwright
did their best. Couldn't fault them for falling short in any way."
J nodded his concurrence with that assessment. "And the rest?"
"Bachmann and McLeroy? A couple of hundred per cent, cast iron jerks.
Bachmann's an idiot and McLeroy's a bully."
"Was, Luc. Was a bully."
"W... was? He's dead?"
"Very. But Bachmann's still an idiot. And he's trying to pin the blame
J painted in the gory details with as light a brush as possible.
"What did Bradfield say?"
"He heard me out. He obviously knows that sort of thing goes on
off-world. I think he's deliberately turning a blind eye, but
reading between the lines, I really don't think he likes doing so. I guess
Warren taking such a personal interest limits his autonomy in running the
S.G.C. Having the Commander-in-Chief looking over your shoulder all the time
can't be easy."
"You're really making the most of that psychology degree, aren't
you?" Luc teased and got a wry look in return. "You going for a
"I'm seriously thinking about it," J smiled. "'Psychology,
Strategy and Tactics. Want to be a full bird eventually and that should be very
The pair finished off their coffee. "Another? Or would you rather have
J thought about it. It was an offer that had much appeal. He had plenty of
time to sleep off a hangover, but... "When are you back in the
"Make that another coffee then, please."
While he was making more coffee, Luc asked, "When d'you reckon
President Warren will declare the State of Emergency over and hold
"I don't. He's got the Civil Guard doing his dirty work for him
Earth-side and various SG teams doing pretty much the same thing off-world.
He's what - fifty-eight now? He's probably amassing a tidy pile and he'll just
keep going until he can groom someone he can trust to follow him. If he bothers
with elections - which I doubt he will - I can't imagine them being either free
Later, back in the living room, Luc wondered what Bradfield would do about
the fuck-up on Tyogya.
"Says he's going to interview the other three. I hope he did that
straight away, before anyone else got to them. I hinted at that and he picked
up on it." J laughed. "He sent me home immediately with instructions
not to contact the rest of the team - bearing in mind the possibility of
coercion. I don't think he seriously thought I would though - I could swear
there was a twinkle in his eye as he said it - and if he gets to them first,
I'm sure they'll back me up. For one thing, while I was trying to get
the rest of us back to the 'Gate, Bachmann was screaming at them to go back for
McLeroy. For another, McLeroy was his muscle for making people tell the story
he wanted them to tell. Now, he'll have to do his own dirty work."
"You reckon he'll put moves on them to blacken your name?"
J looked smug. "Oh no," he said and gave an evil little laugh.
"He's not the only one who can play dirty if needs be. I didn't contact
the rest of the team, but I did return via the infirmary. He was out of surgery
"Ahh," Luc said with a mocking smile, "you took him
J laughed. "Erm, no. I just had a quiet word with Timmy..."
Luc cracked out laughing at that. "I'm thinking he won't be able to
walk in a straight line or string more than two words together for several
hours then. You should be safe!"
Dr. Artemisia Flint knew who her friends were; they were the ones who
treated her like a human being and didn't call her 'The Mongrel' - not even
behind her back. Her mixed Creole/Jamaican ancestry would ever stand in the way
of her becoming C.M.O. That title would always go to a W.A.S.P. - in this case,
Dr. Charles Dawson. The racists of the S.G.C. went to him; the wise went to
J looked across at Luc. "I wonder if Ash will be home this evening. I
could do with a little distraction. Watching some of his old DVDs would fill
the bill nicely..."
J made a point of arriving first for the 0.800 briefing on Thursday
morning. He poured himself a mug of water from the flagon on the side-table and
sat down to await the rest of the team. He carefully avoided the seat normally
chosen by Major McLeroy. A certain person would undoubtedly make something of
it if he sat there.
Morag Westray arrived next. She gave him a friendly smile then sat down
beside him. Captain Gavigan and Lt. Cartwright ambled in several minutes later,
chatting cheerfully. They nodded to their colleagues as they took their seats.
So far, so good.
Then Lt. Col. Bachmann arrived. His arm had been saved and was currently in
plaster. Seeing J, he stopped dead in the doorway.
"You?!" he said sharply. "What the fuck are you doing here,
"I'm surprised you have the nerve to show up after your pathetic
display of cowardice in the face of a few country hicks!"
"Colonel!" Morag said, shocked by the outburst. "If it wasn't
for Major Mitchell's prompt action, it's likely that none of us would be here
"If Mitchell'd had the balls to shoot Dunc's attacker, he would
be here now."
Morag drew a deep angry breath. "It has nothing to do with J. If 'Dunc'
hadn't raped that little girl, he'd still be here today too."
"Oh, here we go. The feminist speech..."
"Colonel, if Major McLeroy had paid a little more attention to my
"Yes, well, obviously our next mission has to be back to P7-Godforsaken
hell-hole, retrieve Dunc's body and teach those fuckers a lesson they won't
forget in a hurry!"
"Oh, I sincerely hope not," J exclaimed.
Bachmann gave him a blazing look and for a moment, he thought his C.O. was
going to come over the table at him, plaster cast notwithstanding. What he
might have said or done remained unknown as General Bradfield's disapproving
voice cut through the tension in the room.
"That sounds a little personal, Major Mitchell."
"Not in the least, sir," J replied, ignoring Bachmann's look of
disbelief. "It's based entirely on logic. Any further visit to Carnoa at
this time is likely to be an unmitigated disaster."
Lt. Col. Bachmann glowered at him. "More coward's talk!"
"No, Colonel. That's circumspection based on the facts."
"Explain, Major," Bradfield said, frowning Bachmann into silence.
"Well sir, the Tyogyans may be mediaeval, technologically
speaking," he began, looking at Dr. Westray for confirmation.
"The later Middle Ages, I would say," she nodded.
"But, they are also homo sapiens," J continued, "and
they are far from stupid. After we left, it is probable that the Carnoans
packed all their valuables, including the remaining grain, into their wains and
sent them, with their women and children, to safety far away from the 'Gate. It
is possible that they may even have the nous to bury the 'Gate, preventing our
return. I think it's unlikely, though if this mission does go ahead, it would
be essential to send a probe of some sort through first to check that they
A momentary frown flitted across Bradfield's face. J didn't notice and
plowed straight on. "Those who left will now be spreading the word to
everyone they meet on that journey that the Tau'ri are not to be trusted and
that they violate those who are unable to defend themselves."
"So. What?" Bachmann demanded.
"I'll be coming to 'so what' shortly." J addressed his comment to
General Bradfield, ignoring Bachmann. "I think it is highly likely that
some of the menfolk will remain behind to watch the 'Gate. Although they lack
our superior fire power, they can still lay their hands on plenty of - er -
'primitive,' but nevertheless effective weapons and know how to use them
as we have learnt to our cost."
"You mean Dunc Major McLeroy did!" Bachmann growled.
"Please Colonel," Bradfield intervened, "let the man
Bachmann leaned back in his seat and folded his arms across his chest
"Those men are as familiar with the whole area for miles around as with
the backs of their hands. They will be able to set up ambushes then disappear
back into their foxholes before our men have made them. Yes, a lot of them will
probably be killed, but so will a lot of ours."
As he finished speaking, the klaxon rang out and the P.A. system announced:
"Unscheduled incoming! Friendlies..."
"Dammit! I hope to God you're wrong, Major," Bradfield said,
rising to his feet.
"At 0700 today, I sent SG teams three, five and twelve to Carnoa to
bring back Major McLeroy's body," he said grimly as he set off for the
The P.A.'s next message summoned all available medical teams to the 'Gate
"Oh, shit," J murmured.
Passing J as he followed his commanding officer, Bachmann sneered.
"Think you're so fuckin' smart, don't you?"
Having no specific instructions, and feeling that it would be best to keep
out of the way of those who could do something to help, the other four
went off to do something useful.
Dr. Westray returned to her office to get on with her usual inter-mission
workload, and the three men headed off for the small gym-cum-training area for
J to continue their lessons in jiu-jitsu.
"After you'd gone home, the General interviewed us all himself on
Tuesday," Patrick Gavigan remarked as the elevator took them up to Level
"Individually," Tom Cartwright added.
J longed to know what had been said but didn't like to ask outright. So he
tried a little gentle manipulation in the hopes of getting them to open up.
"He interviewed me too, before I left. I guess Bachmann couldn't have
taken the lead in the investigation, as he'd either still be in surgery or just
Pat confirmed this, adding that he'd heard that Bachmann was pretty much out
of it until early evening. J looked down at his feet, unable to suppress a
satisfied smile at that.
"And without 'Dunc' breathing down our necks, we could tell it like it
was," Tom said.
"Yeah, and we'd both like to thank you for getting us back in one
J did smile then. "Well thank you for your support. Means a lot to
Much to General Bradfield's dismay, J's warnings about a return to Tyogya
turned out to be more of an underestimate, though definitely in the right
Several facts compounded the disaster. There had been a hold-up with the
production of probes and neither an AVCOP (Audio-Visual Communications and
Observation Probe) nor an ASP (Airborne Surveillance Probe) was available
before the start of the mission.
The marines on body retrieval duty decided against waiting any longer for
one to be made ready. They were so hell-bent on 'teaching the motherfucking
peasants a lesson they wouldn't forget' that they became increasingly
impatient; they'd already wasted a day and half waiting around, they said, and
were happy to assume that nothing much would have changed. They also had
absolute confidence in their military superiority over the peasants. They were
wrong on all counts.
The Carnoans had indeed sent their women and children, along with food and
valuables, to a place or places of safety, and some of the men had
remained behind. These had rearranged the terrain around the 'Gate to provide
cover from the Tau'ri weapons and to minimize their lines of sight. They had
also attempted to dislodge the 'Gate from its setting in a paved, stone-built
base, but had only succeeded in partially tipping it over. It now stood at an
angle of around fifty degrees to the ground. When the wormhole was opened, the
kawoosh on activation hit the stone base. It was only a glancing blow, but
enough to do substantial damage to the platform's surface.
The marines had gone through in pairs. The first two to emerge were
naturally expecting to step out upright on to solid ground. Instead they exited
at much the same angle as the 'Gate. One stepped on a broken rock, turned his
ankle and landed heavily on it, fracturing his leg. The other, pitching forward
awkwardly, still managed to keep on his feet, but was hit in the chest by a
crossbow bolt before he even saw his attacker. Falling forward, his body
concealed the instrument of his demise.
The next two through tripped over the first two. This at least meant they
weren't easy targets for the Carnoans, who had the sense to hold their fire and
conserve their 'ammo.' The second pair were then stuck with the job of trying
to get out of the way, get to their feet and grab the next marines as they came
through and guide them safely away from the direct line of egress. There were
also the first two men to be moved out of the way. They weren't quite quick
enough before the third pair arrived...
By the time five pairs had come through, there were enough to get organized.
They were just beginning to get into a rhythm when the two who were standing at
either side of the 'Gate to grab their fellows coming through, were hit by two
more crossbow bolts, one in the chest, the other in the neck. Several others
were brought down by a hail of arrows from longbows.
As the marines had never been to the planet before, they had no idea of what
had changed in the village in the way of defensive constructions and so could
not immediately tell where the archers were hiding. A couple of the earlier
arrivals had managed to find a modicum of cover and sprayed as much of the area
as they could with their SMGs, the standard issue Calico M960 submachine guns.
They were somewhat limited in this as there were newly arranged obstacles in
the way. Most of the area around the 'Gate couldn't come under fire unless the
marines stood up to shoot, which they were reluctant to do for obvious reasons.
And the marines kept on coming through - all eighteen of them... Without an
AVCOP, there was no means of communicating with the SGC to stop them. At this
point, three marines were dead, including SG-5's C.O. and five were
incapacitated to some degree. The rest did their best to hunker down and come
up with some sort of plan, coming under sporadic fire from the longbow men. So
far as they were aware, the Carnoans had taken no casualties. This was
definitely going to have to change...
In the distance, a young Carnoan lad was suddenly seen, running for one of
the buildings on the far side of the green, ducking and weaving as he went.
Several marines fired their SMGs at him but he reached his goal in safety.
Maybe that was the Carnoans' headquarters? Big double doors, which opened
outwards, stood wide open, almost flat against the wall. Inviting. Maybe it was
a trap...? It would definitely pay to be more careful on this mission which had
pretty much turned to shit already.
Two men were left to tend and guard the fallen. The remaining eight men
under the command of Lt. Col. Young, CO of SG-12, crept towards the village,
slithering on their bellies for much of the way and taking cover behind the
random piles of stones, wattle hurdles and straw bales. They reached the edge
of the village green without further incident, then three more men broke cover
and ran towards that building, again using evasive tactics.
A couple of marines went up on one knee and raised their SMGs to take them
down. A rattle of machine-gun fire. The two marines pitched forward, dead.
Reflex actions on the triggers set off a random spray of bullets but no further
casualties were taken.
"What the fuck?!" Colonel Young exclaimed, eyes wide in
surprise and disbelief. His men had been shot from behind by SMG fire! Friendly
fire? He turned to look behind. Nothing had changed around the 'Gate. His comm.
unit crackled into life.
"There's two guys behind the pile of stones to your left," Lt.
"Well, shoot the fuckers then!" Young yelled.
"Can't, see 'em, sir. They're on your side."
"They're on your side of the heap of stones. Sir."
"Shit. Can't see 'em. Must be two lines of rocks. And where'd they get
the SMG from?"
"Not from here, sir," Peterson said sharply.
"Okay, well Keep your eyes open."
"Yes sir. Sorry we didn't see them in time to take them out,"
Peterson said, sounding a little defensive. "Jones broke out bleeding
again and we were trying to stabilize the wound."
"We'll discuss that later," Young said. A nasty thought occurred
to him. Before he broke contact, he added, "Without compromising your own
safety, do what you can to move the survivors out of the way of the vortex. If
the 'Gate activates, you're in big trouble. Young out."
The SMG used by the Carnoans had belonged to Major McLeroy. Captain Gavigan
had had the presence of mind to grab his 9mil. but couldn't see the SMG. This
was because McLeroy had put it down in the Council House while 'dealing with'
the chief's daughter and had left it behind there. Peasants knew nothing about
guns anyway so it had been quite safe...
However, the Carnoans had seen SMGs in action, and had quickly worked out
how to activate the major's weapon. It had been kept for emergency use as they
didn't know how long it would work for. Neither did Colonel Young.
Young badly needed a change of luck. It was not forthcoming.
The remaining six marines made it as far as the building that the Carnoans
had gone into. Inside was dark as all the windows had their shutters closed.
Crouching in the doorway, the men peered into the darkness from the sunlight
outside. They could hear voices, but couldn't understand what they were saying.
The Carnoans knew a little English, but weren't about to indulge the invaders
by speaking it.
As their eyes adapted to the low light level, they could see a single door,
half-open, in the middle of the opposite wall. Some daylight was filtering into
the far room as silhouettes of people could be seen crossing to and fro. The
Carnoans must be holed up there.
The building was actually the watermill and flour store. The stream that
powered the mill had been diverted away from the millrace, silencing the mill
and dulling the sound of the water to a gentle rippling murmur.
The flour store, nearest the marines, was empty of flour. Almost.
Young signaled to the men who sidled stealthily into the flour store and
worked their way around by the walls towards the opposite door. When they were
about halfway there, there was a yell, apparently of alarm that the Carnoans
were about to be slaughtered. Apparently...
But actually not. Two Carnoans, who had been hiding behind the wide open
double doors, slammed them shut. They dropped a beam across two new fixtures,
fastening the marines inside. With another loud yell, they legged it away from
the building, ducking and diving to safety.
As the marines were processing this new turn of events, there was a sharp
thud in the middle of the room. Unknown to the men, a large, strategically
perforated sack of flour - which could hardly be spared but had to be - had
been yanked from its position over a roof beam by the rope tied to the sack.
The sack burst apart on impact, filling the air with floating powdery specks
of flour that caught in the shaft of daylight coming from the mill room.
Lt. Challis's warning was the only bit of luck they had that day.
"Everybody get down now!" He threw himself to the ground
as a flaming arrow flew from the back door into the flour cloud.**
The building exploded in an almighty fireball, enhanced by the fact that
the atmosphere on Tyogya had a slightly higher oxygen content than Earth's.
When the six men came round, with ears ringing and blackened, burned skin
stinging, but otherwise intact, they found they were tied up and minus their
weapons - SMGs, 9mils, knives, the lot. What was left of the building seemed to
be filled with Carnoans, though there were only about a dozen. They were
pointing the captured weapons at the marines.
One, the chief, stepped to the front of his people. "Stand,
Tau'ri," he ordered and waited for them to struggle to their feet.
"Do as I say and we will not harm you. Leave Tyogya. Take your dead
with you. Do not come back. If you fight more, we kill you. All of you. Now
With that, they shepherded Colonel Young and his men back towards the 'Gate.
Two of the Carnoan escort dragged the bodies of the two dead marines along with
them. Fortunately, no one left at the 'Gate tried to get cute.
All the intruders were gathered beside the 'Gate, including the bodies that
had been in the path of the vortex. One of the Carnoans cut the colonel's bond
to facilitate his dialing Earth. Once the wormhole had established, the
uninjured and walking wounded were ushered through. The rest, and the bodies,
were pushed into the wormhole with some difficulty, by the Carnoan guards.
Finally, the remains of Major McLeroy were slung through with great force.
The arrival in the 'Gate Room of the battered, tattered and sooty remains
of the three marine teams was remembered for many years as an object lesson in
how over-confidence can lead to a gross underestimation of an enemy's
capabilities with catastrophic consequences.
By the time General Bradfield reached the 'Gate Room, it was looking like
something from a horror movie. The injured and dead were arriving on the ramp
quicker than the medical staff and SFs could move them off.
Finally, the broken and emasculated corpse of Major McLeroy hurtled through
and landed on the top of the heap. The hectic activity stopped, as if everyone
had been frozen in place. Then there was a collective moan of horror.
After a few moments, Bradfield said with quiet sadness, "Back to work,
His voice broke the stunned silence and released his people from the spell
that held them in that ghastly diorama. The 'Gate Room was suddenly a bustle of
composed and professional animation again. Bradfield waited until the last man
had been removed to the infirmary or the morgue, then returned to the privacy
of his office.
He reached to the back of his bottom drawer for the bottle he kept there for
emergency use. The whiskey burned down his throat. There was going to be hell
to pay for this. And he would have platitudinous letters to write to the
relatives of the five - no, six - fallen. He had yet to send the grim news to
Major McLeroy's family. In the absence of a body, he had retained a faint hope
that maybe he might just have survived, despite the attestations to the
Now, it was clear that his death had resulted in five more - and five who
were less deserving of their fate. It saddened him that he was unable to
explain the true reason for their deaths to their families. His grief for them
was genuine. He looked at the bottle in his hand. It offered no solutions, only
more problems. He jammed the cork back in and replaced the bottle. He'd better
compose those letters - before he faced the inevitable court-martial...
On the following Monday, the courts-martial took place. It was presided over
by Lt.Gen. Paul Jordan, appointed by the Joint Chiefs. It went better than
expected in some quarters, worse in others.
Major Mitchell made a good and compelling witness; Lt. Col. Bachmann didn't.
Moreover, Major Mitchell's testimony had the backing of the rest of SG-17; Lt.
Col. Bachmann's didn't. His outburst that they were conspiring against him did
not work in his favor; he was removed from the court for the duration.
It was on the record that General Bradfield had, in the first instance,
resisted the marines' intention of dispensing with the AVCOP. He had
subsequently allowed himself to be persuaded through an ardent wish to recover
Major McLeroy - alive, he had hoped.
At the end of his testimony, he concluded, "I would like to commend the
actions of Major Jefferson Mitchell in bringing the five remaining members of
SG-17 safely back to base. Any other action would likely have resulted in the
loss of the entire team."
Lt. Col. Young also took the opportunity to commend Lt. Challis for his
prompt warning which substantially reduced the damage they had taken in the
flour store. Lt. Challis looked a little embarrassed at that. It was a pure
fluke that the image of the powdery flour in the sunlight had triggered the
memory of a tale his mother had once told him long ago about an explosion in a
custard powder factory that had killed several people.
The adjudication was due at 1400 the following day, which meant a sleepless
night for the principals involved. General Bradfield was given a reprimand for
his failure to follow S.O.P. in allowing the three teams of marines to revisit
Tyogya without sending a probe first. He was also fined sixty days pay. It was
better than he'd expected.
Lt. Col. Bachmann's case had been referred up to the Joint Chiefs. He was
reduced to the rank of Captain with concomitant reduction in his pay grade,
removed from service in the field and fined a hundred days pay, for failing to
take into account all the information available to him, resulting in the loss
of Major McLeroy. He wanted to issue notice of appeal but his lawyer advised
against it. President Warren had already intervened on his behalf; the
recommendation from the Joint Chiefs was to bust him down to Lieutenant, and
one had argued for a dishonorable discharge with jail time.
Basically, the President approved of men who were ruthless enough to get the
job done without being unduly hung up on professional ethics. Bachmann was
still much inclined to think of himself a scapegoat, and that he had been very
badly done by. J decided never to turn his back to him...
Lt. Col. Young of SG-12 was given a reprimand and a fine of thirty days pay
for risking his team's lives by not waiting for a probe. SG-5's CO had been
killed almost immediately after he'd stumbled through the 'Gate. SG-3's C.O.
was dealt with in absentia as he was still in the infirmary and likely to be
invalided out of the service. There was no further action taken against him as
his injuries were deemed punishment enough. And that was that.
Two days later, J was called to Bradfield's office. This time, he had no
idea why, and was thus surprised when the base commander thanked him for his
testimony. J was still slightly mystified. He'd only told the truth after all.
"Now to business. With the loss of Tyogya, we are in need of new worlds
J raised an eyebrow at that. Bradfield noticed.
"I don't think you and I are as far apart as you think. In fact,
between you and me, I will even go so far as to say that I like the way you
think. There are better ways of achieving our goals without going at
things bull-headed. But there are certain goals that we must achieve
somehow, specifically worlds that will supply us with food and raw materials.
With that in mind, I am setting up a new team - SG-24 - and I'm offering you
the position of commanding officer."
J blinked. "You are? Um, sir."
"I am. I'll give you twenty four hours to make up your mind. It's a
big ask given you have only had just over a year's experience in the field. But
I have confidence in your ability to lead a team, so I hope you'll give it
serious consideration. Any questions?"
"Just one, sir. May I pick my own team?"
"Subject to my approval and Warren's of course, yes."
"Then, subject to said approval, I accept."
It was Bradfield's turn to blink. "Well, that's decisive. I like that.
You have my permission to approach them about joining your team. Submit your
choices a.s.a.p. and the sooner the better." "Yes sir. Thank you,
J went to check the mission log in the control room. There were four archaic
computers in a line on the long narrow table in the center of the room. There
was one for each of the three technicians and one spare which was used as a
back-up. These were the best available except for those in the ONS building.
SG-19 was off-world but expected to return at 1600 that day. That should be
fine, assuming no delays with the debriefing and med. checks. Not that anything
was ever predictable here. He turned to leave just as Ash was entering. Good,
that would make things easier.
"Think I'll just go and grab a B.R.T. in the commissary," he
muttered, as though to himself. He nodded to Ash then, when unsighted by the
techs, he winked. Ash merely nodded in acknowledgment. Good. He'd got the
message. The gang were, if not completely paranoid, always careful even now.
He went up to the archive room. It had been hidden by a rock fall during the
Great Disaster, and had only been rediscovered about a year ago. It was
regarded as a real treasure trove as it contained written records of missions
from the earliest days. A lot were not in very good condition, especially a
section which had suffered water damage. There must've been a spring or
something close by. It was bad news for some worlds as 'Gate addresses were
found by the archivists who were slowly sorting through and cataloguing all the
J browsed through records of previous missions for something to read while
he waited in the commissary for Ash to appear. It would look like he was busy -
which would be true in that learning about earlier missions could well be
useful for future reference - and it should discourage anyone other than Ash
from joining him at his table.
It was slightly over an hour before Ash appeared and the commissary was
beginning to fill up. Ash collected something that looked like beef stew but
probably wasn't, and a soda, and wandered over to J's table.
"This seat taken?" he asked as though to a stranger.
J scowled. "No," he replied, moving his file closer to himself as
though displeased at the interruption.
"Problem?" Ash asked under cover of rattling cutlery as he
transferred his lunch from tray to table.
"No. Opportunity," J replied, moving his lips as little as
possible. "Can you contact Theo and Maxine?"
"Your place or mine?"
"Mine." If it turned into a party, Ash was thinking, Theo would
have a legitimate reason for staying over, and witnesses to say he was too
stoned to make it home safely.
"20.00. I'll tell Luc."
With that, he snapped the file shut, stood up and headed for the door
Ash watched him as he left and shrugged, wearing a look that said, 'Huh!
Everyone was already at Ash's pad by the time J arrived. They were all keen
to know what was going on.
"Hey! Let me get through the door, why don'tcha!" he laughed. He
grabbed a soda and sat down. "Where do I begin?"
"Well, how about the court-martial?" Luc suggested.
"What court-martial?" Theo asked sharply. It had been a while
since they'd last got together as a group. They all had busy lives now, and
with J and Luc working with random SG teams - a couple of weeks with one, a few
months with another - free time didn't often coincide for all five of them.
"We were playing robber barons on P7Z-237 and the natives started
getting restless. Bachmann, the CO, was cocksure the natives were holding out
on us. Didn't want to listen to anything to the contrary. Then the 2IC did
something evil and paid for it with his life."
"Doesn't sound like much of a loss then," Theo commented.
J pulled a face. "It was messy though - very messy. The rest of us made
it back through the 'Gate but had to leave McLeroy's body behind. Bachmann
wanted us to bring the body back with us, but the rest of us weren't in a
particularly suicidal frame of mind and legged it."
"Then Bachmann tried to put the blame on J," Luc said, scowling.
"No!" came a united cry of outrage.
"Is that what the court-martial was about?" Theo asked.
"That was part of it," J replied, then filled them in on the
Maxine raised an ironic eyebrow. "Nice company you keep, J."
"Well I didn't pick 'em," J said. He glanced around the group with
a mischievous smile.
Maxine responded with a suspicious look . "Alright, give. I can tell
you're holding out on us."
J chuckled and held up his hands in submission. "Ok, ya got me! Right,
well... I got called down to Bradfield's office. I supposed it would be about
my next assignment. There was a possibility that he'd offer me a permanent
posting with SG-17, possibly as 2IC. At least with Bachmann being grounded, I
wouldn't be on the same team as him for a while."
"You think they'll let him back in a field team?" Luc asked.
"Almost certainly. He has Warren's favor, probably because they neither
of them allow any sort of scruples to hold them back. Bachmann is a dangerous
guy and he has a good reason to hate my guts - already feeling an itch between
my shoulder blades in fact..."
"So what did General Bradfield want?" Maxine asked, wanting him
to get back to the point.
"To thank me for my testimony," J said, poker-faced.
Everyone glowered at him.
"What? He did!"
"And. Then...?" Maxine prompted, the light of battle in her eyes.
"Then he said he likes the way I think - so not altogether a 'company
"Cut to the chase, J, if you value your gonads!" Maxine growled.
"Ouch! You know, Dr. Pepperday, you are going to have to be a lot more
respectful in future..." J grinned. Maxine's eyes widened, as did J's
"You are not going to believe this - I hardly believe it myself - but
he wants me to command a new team. SG-24. The mandate is to find new worlds
that will supply what our country needs. I said I'd accept if I could pick my
own team, and he agreed subject to his approval and also - probably -
Silence enveloped the group for several seconds. Ash broke it. "Who are
you going to pick?"
"Sorry, Ash, not you," J apologized. "I don't think there
would be any chance that The Powers That Be would let you go off-world other
than to the Alpha site. You're far too valuable for them to risk you in the
field. And though they may not realize it, you're a lot more use as our
eyes and ears here too. We need you to watch our backs."
Ash gave a gentle smile. "I thought you'd say that, and although I'm a
little disappointed, I can't in all honesty disagree with your arguments, so
I'm fine. Just take good care of Theo for me."
"I'll do my best. As for the rest of you, I'm hoping you'll all join my
"Ya have to ask?" Theo exclaimed. "Of course we will!"
"Who else will be in the team?" Luc asked.
"I'm hoping to keep it to the four of us with Ash as our 'Homeworld
Security.' The original teams mostly had four members, not six."
Maxine frowned. "Ah. That raises something else to be aware of."
"What now, Dr. Paranoia?" J asked mildly.
"Well, you and Luc know about the Stargate. Theo and I don't
officially, so we're going to have to play dumb for a while. And once we
are accepted members of the SGC, we're still going to have to watch what
we say. We can't seem too knowledgeable about it until we've reasonably had
time to have found out about it from scratch - reading archive reports and
"Good point - as you said when Luc and I joined..." J said with
an ironic grin. "To be fair, raising our awareness helped us to blend in
with the rest of the novices. So, about joining my team... You're all
"Agreed!" came back as a Greek chorus.
"Good. Let's watch MacGyver then!"
** DON'T try this at home!!!
Seriously - DON'T