Title: Stepping Up
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not.
Summary: "Well, people?" General Hammond said, glancing around the conference table at the current members of SG-1. "What's your verdict?" 2000 words.
Spoilers: Angel early S4; SG-1 just before 6.3 "Descent"
Notes: For kerravonsen. I've been trying to write the "arrives at the Mountain" chapter in this series for years, but found it impossible to do so from Wes' POV. So: an interlude about him, before getting into the actual action.
"Well, people?" General Hammond said, glancing around the conference table at the current members of SG-1. "What's your verdict?"
Colonel O'Neill, seated closest of the three on the left-hand side of the table, flipped open the folder in front of him. "If you're asking does Pryce meet the minimum qualifications for the job... yeah, there's no question about that. He's in excellent shape, he cleared medical despite the..." He gestured toward his throat, making a Grrk! sound as he drew an invisible line. "He speaks half a dozen dead languages, and he certainly knows how to handle a weapon."
That last was something of an understatement, from what Hammond had been told by other personnel involved in the intake testing. The man's general state of fitness was not uncommon among civilians under the umbrella of the SGC- not with Dr. Jackson setting the standard for offworld scientists in recent years. But Pryce was also familiar with an incredible range of ballistic and edged weaponry, more than just the Berettas and P90s most commonly issued to gate team personnel, and his scores on the range would put half the soldiers on the base to shame. He might not have the brute strength of a member of one of the dedicated combat teams, but he'd have no trouble keeping up with SG-1.
But as the colonel's choice of preface had emphasized, there were other points for concern regarding former linguist and current detective. "And what of Mr. Wyndam-Pryce's ability to selectively appear and disappear, Major Carter?" he asked, turning to O'Neill's second. "Any indication of technological assistance or control by an external entity such as Nirrti or the Reetou?"
"Actually... no, sir," Carter said, her expression the familiar mixture of fascination and frustration that he'd come to associate with her discovery of new scientific puzzle. "He claims it's magic, and so far... well, I haven't been able to prove him wrong."
"Magic?" Hammond raised his eyebrows at her. That was very near the top of the list of things he'd never thought he'd hear her say. "Major..."
"Believe me, sir, I know," she shrugged, her expression disquieted. "We've seen a lot of amazing and fantastical things since the first time we opened the Stargate, and every single one so far has proven to be a manifestation of advanced technology, alien biology, or both. But he's demonstrated the so-called 'spell' he used to evade our surveillance several times, and I have yet to find a satisfactory explanation other than- well, 'magic'. If there's technology involved other than a few stinky herbs and a little chalk dust, I haven't seen it; and the rules that govern its use seem to be extremely idiosyncratic."
Hammond frowned, steepling his fingers on the table. If she was serious about that... well. Images from that popular book series his grandchildren were so in love with flashed through his mind. If reality was even half so eccentric- not to mention dangerous- as fiction, it could prove to be a real problem.
"You'll have to give me a better explanation than that, Major. One I can at least put in the paperwork and trust to stand up under scrutiny. The SGC cannot afford to have a wild card of indefinable capability, and worse, sanity, as part of our premiere team. We have a hard enough time maintaining our funding- and our allies- as it is."
"I know that, sir." She sighed. "And I think he knows that, too. Because he gave me a cover explanation as well- one that has more than a grain of truth to it, I think. It's just not quite the full story."
"Let's hear it, then," he prompted her.
She glanced across the table at her two teammates, then back at Hammond, and said: "Ley lines."
"Ley lines?" O'Neill's eyebrows flew up as he stared at her. "It can't be ley lines."
Hammond frowned. Carter hadn't even finished her explanation, and while O'Neill had a better academic record than he liked to let on, his degrees were not in any scientific field that might apply to the situation. "And why is that, Colonel?" he asked, giving the man a quizzical look.
"Because- because it can't! Back me up here, T," O'Neill said, turning to the Jaffa at his side. "You were there when Daniel lost it on that tweed-wearing type. What was it he said?"
Teal'c adopted a lofty expression. "Contrary to popular Tau'ri belief, 'ley lines' are not a historically known phenomenon. The term was coined in 1921 by an amateur archaeologist who believed he had discovered alignments of significant locations, such as ancient monuments and megaliths, natural ridge tops and water fords. But no proof exists that they have any actual substance, physical or otherwise."
"Exactly!" O'Neill pointed a finger at him, then frowned. "Huh; and he really was pretty vehement about it, wasn't he? I wonder if something like that was behind his falling out with Pryce, back in the day. Aliens versus magic... sounds like a bad TV movie."
"I wouldn't be surprised," Carter replied. "And I'm not saying it is ley lines; just that that's the simplified version of his explanation. There actually are conduits of energy running underground and throughout the oceans: they're called the telluric currents. They may not match up with the imaginary lines Alfred Watkins drew across his map of Britain, but it's known scientific fact that changes in the outer part of the planet's magnetic field induce extremely low frequency electric currents that flow at or near the surface of the Earth. They can be affected by both natural causes and human activity, and interact in complex patterns with diurnal characteristics."
Hammond frowned, digesting that explanation. "I've heard the term before," he ventured, recognizing it from his knowledge of American history. "I believe early telegraphers sometimes used earth batteries, powered by such currents, as an energy source?"
"Exactly," Carter nodded, brightening. "Apparently, that energy can be used for, shall we say, alternative purposes as well."
"So Pryce is saying what we think of as 'magic' is actually natural electricity, tapped into somehow by a human being?" O'Neill glanced between them in disbelief, making finger quotes in the air.
"It's a theory," she said, shrugging. "We know that more than one alien race has visited Earth in the past. Is it possible that the ability to access such energy is a product of genetic interference by a third party? That could explain its rarity among our population. It also suggests an explanation for the fact that those not native to the field, such as Teal'c and Jonas, were affected differently than everyone else when he cast the 'spell' in Los Angeles." She echoed O'Neill's finger motions.
"How so?" Hammond asked.
"Because while most people don't have the ability to use the energy, they've lived their whole lives under the influence of Earth's geomagnetic field. They're attuned to it, for lack of a better term- and it makes sense that those who were born on other worlds would not have that same sensitivity. But I hesitate to speculate further without conducting more experiments."
"How familiar is he with other applications for this- energy? And if it's limited by access to Earth's geomagnetic field, how useful will this ability be offworld?"
"He says he does know a few- a form of energy manipulation that mimics telekinesis, for example, another that mimics pyrokinesis, and a method of tracking that wouldn't rely on GPS or transmitters, among others. But when we took him to the Alpha Site to test them there?" She winced. "The results were wildly inconsistent. It seems reasonable to assume that his ability to access that energy will vary widely from planet to planet, and is therefore unlikely to be useful in missions of short duration."
"Damn," O'Neill replied. "As much as all this creeps me out, that firemaking thing could have come in handy. Not to mention the tracking ability."
"Indeed," Teal'c commented. "There have been times such a talent would have benefited us greatly."
Hammond nodded, considering that. "I would agree. But it does simplify matters from a political standpoint. I can classify Mr. Wyndam-Pryce's unusual abilities under the same umbrella as Cassandra Frasier's brief experience with telekinesis, or Major Carter's ability to access Goa'uld technology- that is, occasionally useful but not extraordinary- rather than risk bringing his expression of 'magic' to the attention of other agencies such as the NID."
Carter nodded, her expression troubled. "That had occurred to me too, sir. Although when I aired the subject with him in passing, he was dismissive about it; he seemed to believe that the Pentagon was already aware of 'magic' under the auspices of an Army program known as the DRI. Unfortunately, the DRI seems to be just as highly classified as the SGC."
"I suppose it's no use asking what the initials stand for, then?" O'Neill drawled.
"Sorry, sir," Carter shrugged.
Hammond had heard of the DRI- but only in passing, and only in a manner that verified its existence, and that something had gone very, very wrong under its auspices a few years back. No surprise, perhaps, given what they were apparently involved with- but he supposed the same could be said of his command. "I'll look into that, Major. Thank you," he said.
Then he turned to Teal'c. "And your assessment, Teal'c?" Between the Jaffa's alien background, which often led him to see and question things that many Tau'ri would not, and the fact that he had spent a number of years as the supreme leader of Apophis' forces, he was an excellent judge of character; his opinion might very well make or break Wyndam-Pryce's acceptance on the team.
Teal'c inclined his head in response, relaxing Hammond's nerves. "I believe he will be an asset."
"Is that all?" O'Neill tuned, raising his eyebrows at his teammate. "You don't find him a little... secretive, maybe?"
"Not unduly," Teal'c informed him. "He has spoken at length with both myself and JonasQuinn about our reasons for joining the Tau'ri, and the reaction each of us faced from our peoples. It seems likely that something similar was behind his change of occupation; he was himself exiled from the community of his peers for attempting to do what was necessary. In addition, he is dedicated and swift to learn; he has already become conversant in spoken Goa'uld."
"Considering he was working from the equivalent of a phrasebook when he arrived, that's quite impressive," Hammond said, nodding. It said something that he was making the effort to connect with other members of the program, as well. "So are you all agreed?"
"Well, let's see," O'Neill said, slouching back in his chair. "He's a little screwed in the head, talented in some ways we could really use and a bit of a wildcard in others, and cares more about doing the right thing than the easy thing." He glanced thoughtfully at Carter, then at Teal'c, then turned to Hammond and nodded. "Sounds like he'll fit in just fine."
Hammond took a deep breath, then let it out. The Russians would be disappointed, as would Mr. Quinn, but he'd made a deal, and O'Neill had proved its worth. "I concur," he said. "The Tok'ra liaison will arrive in two hours; he'll accompany SG-1 to check out that mystery ship Major Carter detected in orbit. You'll greet him as a four man team, and we'll reassess after the mission."
He knew it would never be the same- but it would be good to see the team filled out again. SG-1 was more than just four remarkable individuals or a legendary record; they were a symbol of the SGC, its 'public' face to those in the know and an inspiration to the other teams. It was time they were out in the galaxy again, taking the sorts of missions they used to and bringing home new allies, resources, and yes, even enemies.
He only hoped Wesley Wyndam-Pryce was up to the pressure.