Chapter Four: Politics

xxxXXxxx

"When I was president one of the first things I figured out was that most meetings went on far too long. They were far too dull and were far too unproductive to serve a real purpose. Unfortunately, they were also far too much a part of 'governmental culture' to ever be abandoned." – Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States of America.

xxxXXxxx

Public knowledge of the Far Traveler's presence was almost instant. Hard not to, given that the gigantic starship was visible to the naked eye during the day (and at night was even more visible, as it reflected not only sunlight, but the lights of the Earth as it passed over inhabited areas).

If one were to choose a single phrase to describe the level of activity amongst the world' various governments, "controlled chaos" would be a good choice. In the United States, thousands of specialists were working non-stop. Everyone at pretty much every level of government that had any connection to the sudden revelation that Humanity was not alone in the universe.

Military leaders prepared a defense of the planet just in case the aliens weren't as friendly as they were saying they were. Everyone knew, though, that the potential threat they faced was far and above beyond what they could truly deal with. Humanity's defenders could barely handle the Goa'uld. This foe – should it turn out to be a foe – was apparently as far above the snakes as the snakes were above mankind in terms of technological advancement.

The hopeful, on the other hand, were filled with excitement. They were concentrating on the changes this revelation would bring, thanks to a group of seemingly benevolent newcomers who had already said they were going to help humanity, including sharing some of their miracle tech.

The corrupt and evil, as always, were concentrating on how to bring the awesome power of the alien starship under their personal control, in pursuit of their personal agendas.

Previous eras would have seen the government of the US trying to censor or cover up the existence of the Far Traveler. The newly burgeoning digital age was increasingly making such actions more and more impossible as time went on.

In all the United States, only those places that were so remote as to be disconnected with the events of the rest of the country ignored the new reality. That is, with the single exception of one city in southern California. But this town – Sunnydale – had always been closed off since its founding a hundred years prior. Sunnydale was too busy dealing with the madness of Halloween night, a madness that had completely disrupted the "normal" demonic activity in that town, and it was still struggling to deal with it.

In Washington, DC, on the other hand, the starship was all anyone was talking about.

xxxXXxxx

"The nerve of this… this… this alien! Dictating to us how we run our own planet!" The voice of the Senator was grating, and the sound of it was beginning to give the President of the United States a migraine. "And when you combine this… this… arrogance! Yes, arrogance! When you combine that with the panic he and his warship have caused among the American people! Its completely unacceptable, Mr. President!"

It could easily be said that William Jefferson Clinton, 42nd President of the United States, was a clear-thinking forward-looking person. He appreciated art, literature, music, and science. While his primary educational credential was a Juris Doctorate, making him a qualified lawyer, he also held multiple college degrees in the fields of philosophy, politics, and economics.

"And to contact the governments of other countries without the permission of the United States? That's treason, that's what that is!"

Say what you want about his politics, or even his personal life, but Bill Clinton was no dummy. As the Senator from Connecticut continued his outraged rant, the president stopped paying attention. He knew what the man was going to say, because he'd been repeating himself for the past ten minutes. Clinton glanced down at copies of this morning's edition of five different newspapers: the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Miami Herald, the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, and the San Francisco Chronicle. They all had the same lead story, and all had similar headlines. He particularly liked the one on the Miami paper. "VISITORS ABOVE US," it read, with the sub-headline "ALIEN STARSHIP RESEMBLES IMPERIAL SHIP FROM STAR WARS."

Given all that, he was still having trouble wrapping his mind around actual aliens coming to earth. This wasn't actually anything new, of course, and the President was aware of this. Back in 1997, when the Air Force finally decided to let him – their Commander-in-Chief – know that they had an alien artifact in their position that allowed near-instantaneous travel to other planets, he had struggled to comprehend It then, too. Not just the fact of the artifact's existence, or how it worked (about which he knew truly little, but he had scientists on staff to explain it to him), but that the Air Force was regularly sending teams to visit other planets, and that occasionally aliens from other planets were visiting earth.

The one thing he hadn't told anyone was that he was more upset over the fact that the Air Force hadn't told him about this thing on the day he had been inaugurated, back in 1993, than he was about the fact that actual aliens were visiting earth.

So here I sit, Clinton thought to himself, two and a half years after being told about the Stargate program, and there's a huge spaceship in orbit around the earth that is as big as one of those Star Destroyers from the Star Wars movies. Bigger maybe. Something few people knew about Clinton was that he was a science fiction fan. Not as much as some people out there, but he still enjoyed reading Heinlein and Niven and Pournelle and Steele and a few others. The harder science fiction was what he preferred. Which meant that like most science fiction fans, he was aware of Star Wars. Even so, he had a bit of trouble wrapping his mind around the idea of a spaceship that was one and a quarter mile long.

The thing was clearly visible to the naked eye during the day, and while it took a bit to see it against the darkened sky, the ship had enough running lights on it that you could spot it at night as well. The folks at Stargate Command had said they managed to quash the initial photos of the ship, but the cat was well and truly out of the bag, now. General Hamond had informed him that sooner or later someone who looked up into the sky and spotted the visiting craft would contact a news agency, and there would be no containing it. 'Almost inevitable,' the General had said.

And he was right.

Most people had reacted with surprise and awe, but a not insignificant minority had simply panicked. In general, the effects of the public panic were worse in the larger cities. Runs on grocery stores and gas stations and banks had been out of control the first day. Arson and looting were commonplace. There had been some incidences of general rioting, and the governors of twelve states had activated their National Guard units to maintain law and order. But people were dying all over. He'd already been told of a family in rural Kentucky that had been found dead by the local police. The mother and father had murdered their two children before killing themselves. The note they left spoke of not being "taken" by the aliens.

Religious zealotry was everywhere. In one town in Texas, a synagogue had been burned to the ground; in a town in Illinois, it had been a mosque. The only openly atheist living in a small town in Georgia had been lynched. People were looking for someone to blame for the "coming apocalypse."

And the ironic thing was, according to Stargate Command, the aliens weren't even hostile. Rather, they were shipwrecked refugees with their hands out asking for help from the poor primitives from the planet Earth.

Clinton wasn't sure how to proceed if he was honest with himself. He needed to calm people down. He needed to start up a dialog with the visitors… and he needed to bring the leaders of the world in on this, not only because the aliens said they refused to deal with only one of Earth's many sovereign nations unilaterally, but because there was no way any of the other countries – be they major players like Great Britain and Germany, or minor states with no world influence at all, like Tonga and Burundi - would ever accept the United States being the only nation to interact with the aliens.

He knew what his gut was telling him to do: Help these people. But thinking about it still gave him headaches. Glancing up at the still ranting Senator, Clinton pulled open his top desk drawer, popped his third Excedrin of the day into his mouth, and swallowed it dry. Maybe this one would do the trick.

President Clinton turned his attention back to the Senator, aware that he'd been effectively ignoring the man for the past four or five minutes. "I'm sorry, Bob. Could you say that again? I missed part of it."

Robert Kinsey (R-CN), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and one of the true power brokers within the Senate, had been pacing and ranting in front of the Resolute desk, spewing some sort of angry rhetoric and Clinton had missed it all. To tell the truth, the president disliked Kinsey. Not only because the man was a Republican with all the classical unpleasant Republican attitudes, biases, and prejudices, but because the man was a flaming asshole on a personal level. Every politician in Washington recognized that there were times you had to be an asshole for one reason or another, but Bob Kinsey enjoyed it, and he tended to be an asshole for the fun of it.

Clinton watched as Kinsey turned a dull shade of red for a moment. Then the Senator took a deep breath, calmed himself down a bit, and started again. "Mr. President, you know my stance on the Stargate program. I find it unconscionable that they effectively started a war with an extraterrestrial power on their own, with no guidance from either your office or from Congress."

Kinsey started pacing again, a fact that made Clinton raise an eyebrow. Kinsey was treating the oval office as if he were the president and Clinton just another White House staffer that he could lecture to. "We are drastically outgunned and out-manned and, to be honest, cannot win the war with the aliens no matter what, not even on a defensive basis. But now there's a solution to that war in orbit around the Earth." To Clinton's amusement, Kinsey pointed upward in a random direction, as if pointing at the spacecraft in question. "We need to get troops up there to seize that ship, capture the crew, and force them to tell us how to use it to defeat the Goa'uld, and we need to do it yesterday."

Clinton started to respond but was interrupted by one of the other men, a military officer, a Colonel, clearing his throat. "Excuse me, Mr. President, Senator, but…" the officer suddenly stopped talking as the three-star general standing next to him gave him a squelching look. Clinton had to force himself to roll his eyes. The military and their protocol… such idiocy. If the Colonel had something to say, the president would prefer he just say it instead of waiting on the Colonel to say it to the General so the General could say it to Clinton.

Clinton held a hand up to the General, who had just opened his mouth. He nodded to the junior officer. "You were saying, Colonel…?"

"Davis, sir." The officer stepped forward, shrugging apologetically to his senior officer, who was still giving him a stink-face. "Colonel Paul Davis. I'm the pentagon's liaison officer to Stargate Command in Colorado." Colonel Davis paused for a moment. "Sir, doing what Senator Kinsey is describing… and I mean no disrespect to the Senator, sir… but it's highly inadvisable. Perhaps even dangerous."

The Senator looked to be about to bite the man's head off, so Clinton stepped in to stop him. "Alright, Colonel." This time the raised hand stopped Kinsey in his tracks. "What do you mean precisely, Colonel? You said it might be dangerous?"

"Uh, yes sir." The Colonel took another step toward Clinton. "Sir, from General Hammond's reports, the people on that ship claim to be from a point in time a thousand years in our future." The officer gave the Senator a sideways glance. "If this is true… and we have no reason to not believe it, given some of the things we do know about the ship… there are undoubtedly powerful defensive systems built into the ship to prevent exactly the type of piratical action the Senator is advocating. And given we are talking a thousand years of advancement, such measures are likely not going to be anything our people could anticipate or recognize, much less neutralize during a boarding action."

"Oh please." Senator Kinsey scoffed. "I think the Colonel is underestimating the resourcefulness of –"

"I don't." Clinton interrupted. Again, Kinsey's face flushed red for a moment before the man visibly calmed himself. It was clear that the Senator hated to be interrupted, especially by someone that the Senator thought was of lower status somehow. Apparently, the Senator from Connecticut thought Clinton fell into that category.

President took a moment to ponder the problem before speaking. "A thousand years. Think about it, gentlemen. Back in the year 997, state of the art weaponry was swords, spears, and longbows. Elite soldiers wore chainmail, but most line troops wore nothing but boiled leather if they wore any armor at all." The president looked directly at the Senator and asked, "Tell me, Bob, do you think a platoon of footmen from the Dark Ages, armed with nothing more than swords and spears, could take over the USS Theodore Roosevelt?"

Kinsey was silent and every eye in the room was on him. They could all hear Kinsey's teeth grind together.

"Well, Bob? Could they?" Clinton asked again, intentionally twisting the knife. It amused him immensely to have one of his political enemies squirming like this.

"No sir." Kinsey finally said, behind clenched teeth. "I suppose not."

"Right." Clinton nodded and turned to Colonel Davis and the two Generals standing nearby the Colonel. "All right, so we're not going to be following Bob's plan. In any case, I have been informed by the Attorney General that – just like General Hammond said - we are legally obligated by treaty to help the refugees on that ship. Such assistance as they need will be provided, within reason of course. General de Haviland, the Air Force will take the lead in these efforts."

"We'll get it done," the general in question responded.

"That's fine. Now, the Captain of the ship… what was its name?" Clinton asked.

"The Far Traveler, Mr. President. The ICS Far Traveler, to be precise." Erskine Bowles, the White House Chief of Staff, cleared his throat. "ICS apparently stands for 'interstellar confederation of sentients', I believe."

Clinton nodded, as if locking something in his memory. "Right. The Far Traveler. Her Captain has invited negotiators up to bang out some sort of agreement as to how they're going to help us in the fight with the Goa'uld."

"That's another thing. They're demanding to speak to people from all the major countries on the globe. There's no way we can keep this under our control. I tell you, Mr. President, you are making a big mistake by ignoring this opportunity. With the power this vessel represents, the United States could…" Kinsey complained.

This time Clinton didn't bother hiding his eye roll as he interrupted the Senator. "Who are we sending?" He ignored it when Kinsey fumed in response.

"Sir, normally in this situation, we'd be allowing SG-1 or other SGC personnel to handle the situation, since it is an alien first contact situation and that's in their remit." Erskine Bowles said in response. "But then, normal is for SG-1 to be meeting with the alien dignitaries on another planet. Since this is in orbit around Earth…"

Clinton nodded and finished the thought. "It might be a good thing to send up an actual team of negotiators…" The president thought the situation over for a bit, "hmming" to himself occasionally. He finally punched a button on his phone. "Betty, call over to Al's office and ask if he could see me for a few minutes in, say, an hour. I have a favor to ask of him."

"I'll get right on it, Mr. President," Betty Currie, out at her desk in the office's foyer, responded.

Clinton clicked off the intercom and turned his attention back to the room. "We'll put the Vice President on it. He's a decent enough diplomat and knows when to not play cowboy. And while he might gripe about me sending him to… uh… where did the aliens say they wanted to send a transport down to? To pick up negotiators?"

"Peterson Air Force Base, in Colorado Springs," supplied General de Haviland.

"Right. Anyway, Al might get upset at me shipping him off to Colorado on such short notice, but he'll be excited about the idea of seeing a real-life spaceship from the inside. Al is nothing if not a geek at heart. On top of everything else, he's a known quantity. The delegations sent by other countries will probably know him."

Kinsey was almost apoplectic. "Mr. President, I insist that a member of the Senate be on this mission."

Clinton shot him a gimlet eye. "And I suppose you want to go yourself?"

Kinsey straightened up, but still managed to look like he was puffing up. "I am a senior member of the Senate, sir, and I have diplomatic experience. I served as ambassador to Norway under President Nixon."

"Right. Fine." Clinton wasn't impressed but couldn't see a way to keep the Senator off the diplomatic team. He turned to the general. "Advise the SGC that we'll be sending a negotiating team made up of Vice President Gore, Senator Robert Kinsey, and Colonel Davis out to them tonight. SG-1 will go as a security team in addition to members of the Vice Presidents detail."

Colonel looked surprised, but nodded, acknowledging the orders. General de Haviland, standing next to him, said, "I'll get word to the SGC to expect the diplomatic team tonight."

"Good." Clinton looked at his hands a moment, then back up to the people in the room. "Thank you, gentlemen, that will be all." As the other people started filing out of the oval office, the president pointed to his Chief of Staff. "Erskine, stick around. We need to talk about this."

xxxXXxxx

"As you were." General Hammond waved everyone back to their seats as he entered the conference room. He took his own usual seat at the head of the table before continuing. "I just got off the phone with the Chief of Staff." Around the table, the members of SG-1 perked up, with the seeming exception of Teal'c as always. "We're going to be receiving a diplomatic team tonight whose mission is to meet with the crew of the Far Traveler. You all will be going along as security."

The general glanced around the table, waiting for the expected comments. He wasn't disappointed.

"Security detail, sir? Who are they sending to negotiate?" Colonel O'Neill asked.

"Vice President Gore will be the primary negotiator. He will be accompanied by Senator Robert Kinsey and Colonel Davis, whom you all know." General Hammond responded.

"Wait... you mean Robert Kinsey. The Senator from Connecticut?" Daniel Jackson spoke up. "Isn't he… like… Chairman of the Ways and Means committee or something? He has nothing to do with the State Department or the Diplomatic Corps. Why would anyone put him on a negotiating team?"

"From what General de Haviland told me, Senator Kinsey effectively strong-armed his way onto the team." Hammond sighed. "It seems the good senator thinks that the SGC is a waste of taxpayer dollars that hasn't produced any results and sees this as a viable alternative." Hammond rolled his eyes at the next part. "He apparently also advised the president that the United States should launch a boarding action against the Far Traveler, capture the crew, and then force them – his words – force them to assist us in learning how to control their ship."

Captain Carter and Doctor Jackson face-palmed. Teal'c turned to stare at Hammond with a single upraised eyebrow, his mouth doing that 'I am not amused' thing Teal'c did when he thought someone was being an idiot. And Jack O'Neill…. Well…

"Oh, for crying out loud!" The Colonel said, explosively. "Does this moron have any idea what kind of advantages being from a thousand years in the future would have? Not to mention we already know that the ship has an AI – a real, no foolin' Artificial Intelligence – running it? Does he really think they wouldn't have, like, internal force fields and phaser emplacements to stop space pirates?" O'Neill swiped at his eyes with his left hand, then looked around. "Anybody else getting a headache from this?"

Carter simultaneously rolled her eyes and grimaced while nodding to the affirmative. "Sir," she said to Hammond, hoping to defuse the fuming Colonel. "Are we going to have to keep the Senator on a leash?"

"According to General de Haviland, the president would appreciate it if you could sit on the Senator if he gets too out of line." Hammond confirmed. "So yes, you're going to be keeping the Senator on a leash."

"Great." O'Neil was not amused, and sarcasm dripped from his tongue. "This is just great. Any more pleasant surprises, sir?" he asked Hammond.

Hammond glanced at his executive officer for a moment, wondering why he was so lenient with the man. "Not that I am aware of, Colonel. Now, we need to contact Captain Samson and let him know that we're taking him up on his invitation to visit. Tomorrow the negotiating team, as well as other diplomats from around the world, will meet with Captain Samson. Hopefully, a format treaty will be the result."

He looked over at Carter. "Captain, you take care of contacting the Far Traveler while Colonel O'Neil and Doctor Jackson arrange things for the VIPs. Teal'c, help out wherever you can."

When the general stood, so did everyone else. "Dismissed. Report back to me when everything is settled." As his senior officers filed out, Hammond called, "Jack… space pirates? Really?"

Colonel O'Neil turned to his commanding officer and grinned lightly. "Sure, why not."

xxxXXxxx

It was four days later, and everyone on the diplomatic team was on edge. The source of the stress, for the most part, had been the Senator. If Jack O'Neil had ever met a more arrogant and self-entitled asshole, he couldn't remember when.

"They're late." Colonel O'Neill huffed for the fourth time.

Everyone else in the SUV with him – the members of the SG-1 team and a single Secret Service agent, checked their watches.

"They're not late, Jack. Not yet." Daniel resettled himself in his seat. His eyes were still on the sky, just like everyone else. "Captain Samson agreed that the transport shuttle from his ship would meet us at 9 am local. There were still a few minutes."

The runway chosen for the pickup was sequestered from the prying eyes of the rest of the base, which is why it was chosen as the landing site of the alien shuttle. The group was assembled and sitting in the back of a series of SUVs, waiting for the visitors to arrive. No one was comfortable, but it was what it was.

"Ya know," O'Neil said, just to break the silence. "I'm still a bit disappointed they don't have transporters. I mean, the Goa'uld have transporters. These guys should have transporters."

"Who knows, Jack. They might have them, but for some reason can't use them." Daniel replied from the back seat. "Or maybe they aren't high capacity. We're not the only diplomatic team going to the ship, after all. And who knows, maybe they really don't…"

With no warning at all, a flying craft the size of a city bus dropped like a meteor out of the sky, only to come to an abrupt stop mere feet above the tarmac. There was no visible exhaust, no sudden gusts of wind. The transport shuttle simply dropped swiftly from the sky and stopped abruptly.

Daniel stopped talking, a bit shocked at the spacecraft's performance.

Captain Carter, also sitting in the back seat with Daniel and Teal'c, was just as impressed. She gave a low whistle. "That was impressive. The pilot had to have just shrugged off I don't know how many G's to perform that maneuver. It must be… I'm not sure… hundreds of G's at least. Well past the Strawberry Jam limit." The Strawberry Jam limit was an informal term used by pilots and aerospace engineers to refer to the limit of G-forces past which humans not only could not survive but would effectively be physically crushed. As in, the "past this limit, and g-forces will turn a human body into a puddle of…"

Carter looked over at O'Neill who sat open-mouthed for a moment, then smiled and shrugged in return for her glance. Next to her, Teal'c, who was also an experienced pilot and who had come to the same conclusion as she had, merely nodded, and said, "Indeed."

"Did I miss something?" Daniel asked.

"Well," Carter began. "Not only does it appear that I was correct they possess reactionless drives, they also apparently have some sort of momentum control. That maneuver would have not only killed an unprotected pilot, but it would also have pulped their body entirely." As she watched, the craft spun to orient one end toward the vehicles, then gently lowered itself to the ground. Carter noted that the vehicle was a belly-lander, lacking landing gear of any type.

The transport shuttle looked like a long, flattened tube with a pair of shortened wings jutting from each side of the midsection. There was a row of the strange-looking alphabet, and a row of easily recognizable numbers. That was odd, that the lettering would be different, but not the numerals. The craft was a uniform eggshell white, except for a broad stripe of navy blue which circled the vehicle halfway up its height. There were no visible windows or doors.

"It's time, let's go." O'Neil ordered. SG-1 and their Secret Service driver piled out of the SUV. Alongside them the Vice President and his party, as well as three secret service agents, unlimbered from the other SUVs. They stood there for a moment, awkwardly, waiting for the aliens to respond.

A black oval line appeared on the end of the shuttle nearest the SUVs. The line turned into a hatch, which lowered itself and tilted until it formed a ramp. The inside of the hatch appeared to be shaped into a set of steps, leading upward into the shuttle. When the stairs were completely lowered, two of the aliens left the craft and climbed down to the bottom of the steps.

The sight of them was a bit surprising. One seemed to be a normal male human. Short blonde hair and dark eyes, dressed in a uniform that was dark blue, but possessing black highlights. If they hadn't known he was an alien, Carter could have easily assumed he was from somewhere here in Colorado. His companion, however, …

"I thought they said they were human?" Carter could hear Kinsey say. The Senator was immediately shushed into silence by the Vice President.

Carter stared at the woman. It was clearly a woman, after all, even though she was seven feet tall if she was an inch. Her arms and legs were proportionately longer, making her appear stretched out. Her skin and hair were chalk white. Over her eyes the woman wore a visor of some sort made of a copper-colored metal, with reddish lenses. The woman's uniform was the same basic blue, but hers was trimmed in green rather than black. Carter wondered at what the different colors indicated.

Daniel interrupted her musings. "Captain Samson said most of his surviving crew were human. Either this woman is one of the few non-humans, or else mankind has evolved a bit over the intervening millennium."

"Daniel?" Colonel O'Neil asked.

"Well, if she is human, maybe she's from a planet with a lower gravity that Humanity colonized anyway. That could explain her height." Daniel shrugged.

"And her color?"

"Are albinos not occasionally born among the Tau'ri?" Teal'c asked. He nodded his head to the tale, pale woman. "It may simply be she was born that way. Among the Jaffa, such individuals are seen…"

Before SG-1 could discuss the matter more, the female alien in question stepped forward. She was smiling. "Greetings. I am Lieutenant Commander Cassiopeia Rosenberg. I'm the Far Traveler's senior navigator and pilot and was assigned to fly you and the other diplomatic parties back up to the ship. If you'll come this way, I and Lieutenant Polk…" the woman pointed toward her fellow officer with two fingers instead of just one. "… will get you all settled for our trip. Once we hit orbit, and we'll hit orbit pretty quickly, it'll be about four hours to match orbits with the Far Traveler."

"Four hours?" It was the Vice President asking.

"Just about, yes, Mr. Vice President." Commander Rosenberg gave a jaunty shrug. "We cannot change the laws of physics." O'Neil nearly snorted. "Currently, Far Traveler is above one of your provinces, the one called North Dakota. The ship has been decelerating since arriving, and at its current velocity we will have to wait about four hours for it to come back around the planet again. Don't worry, there will be entertainment opportunities, as well as refreshments. There's even a full set of bunks if you wanted to take a nap. They're not the most comfortable, mind you, but they serve."

Carter was thrown off for a moment. The woman's voice was pleasant and easily understood, but it took her a while to realize that there were two levels of sound. The first was muted, and when Carter concentrated on it, she could tell that it wasn't English. It sounded close, in the same way that Dutch sounds close. Almost English, you might say. The second level was louder, and while it was perfect English, there was a slightly artificial, almost electronic overtone to it.

It also took a moment for Carter to recognize that the woman's mouth was not moving in accord with the spoken English component of her "voice." In addition, the spoken English was coming from the center of her uniform's collar, rather than from her mouth. It confirmed her earlier suspicions about translator technology beyond any doubt. Though, to have such tech be small and thin and flexible enough to be incorporated into a uniform blouse was incredible.

The diplomatic team shuffled onto the transport. The first thing Carter noticed when they entered the passenger area was the other passengers. There were about eighteen of them; most were in suits, but some, like the military members of SG-1, were in dress uniforms. Carter guessed that one of these other delegations were either the Chinese or the Japanese – they were clearly Asian, but she didn't want to make the mistake of thinking she could tell their specific nation of origin just by their looks – and the other was likely either the Russian delegation or the Australians.

Her musing was cut short when one member of the other party smiled, waved from his seated – and buckled in – position, and said, "Ah, Albert! Nice to see you again!"

Clearly Australian.

The Vice President smiled and nodded, moving over to shake the man's hand. "Nice to see you again, Tim. I was wondering who you guys were going to send. It's nice to…"

Whatever Gore was going to say was cut off as the pilot interrupted. "I'm sorry, folks, but we have to get a move on. I must perform the preflight startup, so I am turning you over to Lieutenant Polk. All yours, Tucker." The tall albino woman climbed a short flight of stairs and through a hatch into a passage set higher in the craft, presumably the cockpit. The door behind her closed and sealed.

"All right, everyone. As Commander Rosenberg said, I'm Lieutenant Tucker Polk." The junior officer tapped at some controls, and the hatchway they entered through closed. "It's nice to meet you, and welcome aboard the Transport Shuttle LK-804, or as we like to call her, the Lucky 804." The man gestured to the various seats; there were about two dozen, set in three rows in a circle surrounding a low-set table, as well as another two rows of six along the side walls, and a row of four along the back. "Its rather important that you get seated. Sorry to cut off your conversation."

"That's all right, young man. I understand." Vice President Gore nodded to the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and sat in the nearest chair. Kinsey followed, as did Colonel Davis, Doctor Jackson, and Colonel O'Neill, with Carter herself taking up the last seat in the circle in that row. The agents from the Secret Service and Teal'c found along the back wall of the passenger area.

The inside space in which she found herself was larger than Carter expected, and more luxurious. It was also spotlessly clean, almost as if it had never been used before. It had a pleasant color scheme, all in soft blues and whites and the design somehow reminded Carter of the brand new 6500 computer that Apple had released that year. Rounded and softened to be less threatening.

Lieutenant Polk stood in front of the assembled delegates, raising his hands to get their attention. "Okay… new folks. If you could please push the arms of your seat inward until they lock…" The officer mimed the motion, pointing towards the armrests every seat had. Carter looked down at her seat and replicated the lieutenant's movements. All around her was a series of loud clicks. Carter let go of the seat arms, and they remained wrapped around her legs.

"Very good! Now, if you could please reach up to your seat's headrest, there is a metal toggle. Pull that over your head so the straps on the toggle rest over your shoulders. There is a similar toggle in the center of the seat cushion between your legs." Again, Lieutenant Polk mined the motion. Carter followed the directions and pulled what she realized was a three-point restraint over her head, followed by its accompanying lock from the seat between her knees. The lieutenant continued speaking. "Last step. Touch the two toggles together and press the small green button… exactly…" She held the two pieces together and pressed the button and it was almost like the pieces fused. The safety belts automatically tightened to a point just over comfort. Carter tugged at the straps and found them secure. It was remarkably like the restraints used in American fighter jets. When she looked around, Carter could see that no one was having any difficulties getting strapped in.

"Okay, if you look at your left armrest, the bottom – which should now be pointing toward the ceiling – has a big friendly-looking blue button. As soon as we hit orbit, you'll be free to move around the cabin, but until then I will ask that you *not* push the big friendly-looking blue button, which if you haven't realized yet is the control that will release your safety restraints. In the meantime, though, I need to tell Commander Rosenberg we are all clear for take-off."

Polk sat down in one of the empty seats and rapidly strapped himself in. Once secure, the officer tapped on his wrist in an odd pattern, and then spoke into the air. "Everyone is safe and secure, Commander. Ready when you are." He seemed to be listening to something only he could hear before speaking again. "Roger. Thank you, ma'am." He then turned his attention back to the assembled delegates.

"Folks, we're going to be lifting off in just a minute. As we explained earlier, we'll be in orbit shortly, and as Commander Rosenberg said, we'll be rendezvousing with the Far Traveler in a few hours. If you have any questions in the meantime, feel free to ask. I might not be able to answer anything, but that which I can, I will."

There was about a minute of silence before someone spoke. It was the Senator. "I was told the crew is human." It was a question phrased as a statement. Carter rolled her eyes.

Polk either didn't notice or chose not to react to the implied… would it be racism? Speciesism? Carter was unsure of the correct term. In either case, the Lieutenant took the question without hesitation. "Most of the surviving crew is human, yes. Prior to the disaster, about 40% of the crew were non-human, mostly Pelkons and Gulavin - two of the other founding species of the ICS - but we had our fair share of Ershun, a couple of Lyllans, a few Neo-Dolphins. We even had a Crystal Prophet and a Red-Green-Purple. Unfortunately, only two of the non-humans survived the disaster. Commander Summer, the Far Traveler's executive officer, and her mother, Rejoice. They're both Pelkons."

"I'm sorry, you said Crystal Prophets and Red-Green-Purple?" Daniel Jackson asked. He was clearly intrigued about the new cultures and how they interacted. "Are those the names of alien species?"

"Yes, sir, they are. The Red-Green-Purple are a species of sub-aquatic sentients who vaguely resemble Terran squid; they aren't actually squid, of course, but they do share the squid's capacity to communicate by shifting the color of their skin. The Crystal Prophets, on the other hand, are a species of silicon life-forms." Polk nodded. "If you can imagine a slab of black and brown crystal about the size of a family-owned ground car. but with the combined smarts of three or four human geniuses, an effectively endless lifespan, a perfect memory, and the sense of humor of the worst type of college frat boy, you've got a Crystal Prophet. The name comes from one of the humans who had first contact with them."

"Lieutenant Commander Flatness was a popular officer, and his loss has hit us awfully hard. He was an amazingly competent officer and a good friend to have when things got tough." Polk sighed. "Crystal Prophets have no personal names, so when dealing with humans they pick names that amuse them," he continued with a smile. "This one picked "The Depth of Flatness. We found out after the disaster that he was the only non-survivor left on board. All the others vanished, but for some reason he stayed in place. But his mind is gone. He's nothing more than a non-sentient supercomputer now."

"We're sorry for your loss. I'm sure it was difficult, losing your friends and colleagues." Vice President Gore said. It wasn't much. Such statements never are, but it seemed to work.

The Senator cleared his throat. "What I was asking… of all those species, which one is our pilot from?"

Lieutenant Polk stared at the Senator a moment before catching on. "Oh! Oh, no Senator. Commander Rosenberg is completely human. Are you asking because of her height and coloration?" At the Senator's nod, the officer continued. "That's because of her homeworld. She's a native of Barbara's World. They have a low gravity, so everyone is tall and thin. For some reason they also had a high number of albinism carriers in the initial population, and it became a dominant trait."

"Which means most of the population of this… Barbara's world, was it?" The vice president asked.

"Yes sir. Barbara's World. Named after the newborn daughter of the ship captain that discovered it. It's a beautiful place."

"Sounds great." Gore smiled. "So, most of the population are now albinos. Interesting."

"That's correct, sir. There are a lot of planets with similar stories. The people of Volkov are all heavy-worlders. Short and wide and muscled like crazy. Nearly the entire population of Bliss is a redhead of one shade or another. Just one of those things, I guess."

"When are we going to lift off?" asked Colonel O'Neill.

Polk just smiled. "Colonel, we lifted off some time around the point at which I was talking to Doctor Jackson about Crystal Prophets. We've been in flight for the last six or seven seconds or so. In another four minutes or so, everyone can release their safety harnesses and move about the cabin."

"What? I never even felt us move!" O'Neill reacted. He looked around at the others in the party. All of them were having the same reaction.

Carter looked down at the deck. "You have artificially generated gravity?"

"Uh, yes ma'am." Polk nodded. "It's been a basic technology for a while now. Interestingly, we – I mean humans – didn't invent it. We ended up purchasing it from the Tonalse."

"Who are the Tonalse?" Daniel asked.

"Well… the Tonalse." Polk started, then abruptly stopped. He opened his mouth to start again but didn't say anything. Then he tried a third time. "Okay, you know how in the sci fi shows where intrepid explorers explore intrepidly, there's always one race of aliens that's millions of years older and much more advanced than the main characters?" Everyone nodded. "That's the Tonalse. They first became an interstellar species back when human beings thought tying a sharpened rock to a length of wood was the cutting edge of weapons technology."

"Sounds like the Asgard." O'Neill muttered.

"I agree." Carter responded, just as quietly. "Wonder why we never heard of them before."

Polk hadn't heard either of their comments. "Like I said, you'll be able to get up and move around shortly. If you'd like to read or watch an entertainment vid, the small black panels on the table will respond to your gestures. Just waive your hand over one to pull up a holographic menu." Daniel was about to ask a question, but the lieutenant smiled and answered before he could. "Don't worry, we altered the language used to English."

He pointed to an array of green panels along the side walls. "If you're hungry or would like a drink, each of the green panels is a dispenser will supply what you need. Again, we altered the menus so they are in English."

Finally, Polk pointed toward a hatchway in the back wall. "Through there is a bunk room and a fresher. I guess you call them 'bathrooms' though you can't take a bath in this one. There is a shower of sorts in there if you want one; freshers for humans haven't changed a lot in a thousand years."

XxxxxxX

Author's Note: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the property of Warner Brothers in conjunction with Mutant Enemy Productions. Stargate SG-1 is the property of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in conjunction with Double-Secret Productions, the Gekko Film Group, Sony Pictures Television, and the Showtime Network. The Hundred Worlds novels and roleplaying setting are both the property of Passionate Worldmakers, Incorporated in association with Bard's Tower Media. All elements derived from The Hundred Worlds is used here with permission of the author.

Author's Note the Second: If you are wondering about the second Pelkon, don't worry, it will be explained later. The other sentient species described in this chapter are all taken from The Hundred Worlds.

Author's Note the Third: Originally this chapter had some stuff in it where the diplomatic parties made it to the Far Traveler and met the captain and his crew, but I cut it due to rewrites. Most of it will be in the next chapter.

Author's Note the Fourth: In response to "Chris Baker," who reviewed this story as a guest, and who said that he was "offended" by the story's politics, and then went on to spit this utterly bullshit racist screed about Barack Obama, and black people in general for some reason, let me just say this: I AM GLAD MY STORY OFFENDED YOU, YOU MORONIC WHITE SUPREMACIST ASSHOLE! GO FUCK YOURSELF! Your "political views" go against everything this country was founded on. You say I offended you? Good. Do us all a favor and crawl back under your fucking rock, shitbird.