She could have cried, she wouldn't, but she could have. Everything she had expected had been broken into bits, shattered by a single look, a couple of words and the air of negativity surrounding the table.
She should have known better, after all these years she REALLY should have known better. Bitter disappointment had flooded her, and why had she bothered to act in that way? It really wasn't her, GOD! She should have KNOWN!
Earlier that morning…
She had arrived a bit late, actually, she was on time, but the security detail she had to wait for took their sweet time in getting to her, (like she didn't know the way!!) and by the time she had travelled down one elevator, swapped to the second at 11 and gone down to the bottom level, she was faced with a choice, rush and risk looking guilty and flushed, or walk fast, be a tiny bit late, and look relaxed and confident. The latter was always going to be the better option, even in a non military situation, a telling off for slight tardiness was always better than showing weakness. She slowed ever so slightly and mentally went over what she knew, what she wanted to happen in there and what would be happening later.
At last she was looking forward to working in an environment that suited her, front line technology, enough excitement to last for ages generated in a few seconds, and the main goal of all the ambitions she had nurtured for the last couple of years, her whole existence didn't depend on it, but her sanity just might.
She held no illusions, no false modesty, she knew she was clever, 'brilliant' was the word most often used, when tested she had been in the top 0.1 of the population, but over the last few years she had become a bit disillusioned by her 'peers'. The military version was like going through high school again, being looked at as if she had two heads, the scientific 'peers' seemed to resent the fact that she wore a uniform. Here, at the bottom of an abandoned missile silo, she may just find the people that she could respect, understand and, above all, trust!
"…Carter's our expert on the Stargate" 'Uncle' George's voice came to her
"Where's he transferring from?" She heard from the room she was heading to. The voice was low, and somehow…lazy… as if he wasn't really interested in the answer to the question he had asked
She took a deep breath, "SHE is transferring from the Pentagon" she said as she entered the room and did a quick scan of its occupants. Never even blinking at 'Uncle' George, she focussed on the man whose reports she had almost absorbed through her skin, the one who may have some of the answers she needed, the one she… actually she wasn't sure WHAT she wanted/needed/expected from this man, but she just knew he was different!
She saluted and reported to him, as her direct superior and then the first shoe dropped, the Major to the left, from her point of view, quickly chimed in with a derogatory sneer in his voice "But of course you go by Sam"
Here we go, the usual reaction of the testosterone gang, she could see his thoughts as if he had a neon sign on his forehead! She had to be either the helpless, 'I need a man to protect my cute backside, but I want to be respected for joining the military' type… or the butch 'I'll kick your arse if you mess with me', lesbian type, to that sort of man there was no other option! Well, the former stereotype was just out of the question, and so she slipped into the role of the latter, noticing that the General at the head of the table had a slight smile on his lips as she gave as good as she got verbally.
She wondered at the Colonels silence, he was allowing men under his command to verbally spar with her, and 'seemed' to be taking absolutely no notice of what was happening at all! Why was he taking apart his pen?
General Hammond, (she must remember to give him his full title and the respect he had earned, even in private, he was now her commanding officer, even if it was only going to be for a few days) stopped the discussion on action figures (don't call them dolls Sam, the boys may start to cry) and handed the meeting back to the man who had stood, head down, waiting for them to finish.
"Thank you. Those of you on your first trip through the Stargate, you should be prepared for what to expect." She knew she was the main person this was directed to, but there were a couple of others at the table who it could have included too, she jumped in.
"I've practically memorized your report from the first mission. I'd like to think I've been preparing for this all my life." Damn! Oh for Gods sake, could she have sounded any more like a rookie? She made herself out to be a groupie! DON'T elaborate! No matter how sincere, she had to tone it down again, the Colonels blank look seemed to again give Kawalsky permission to lash into her.
"I think what the Colonel is saying is… have you ever pulled out of a simulated bombing run in an F-16 at 8-plus Gs?" Was this planned? How often had these men worked together? She had heard of the 'unspoken' communication that developed in military units, but her experiences so far had not been on such a personal level. Piloting a plane just didn't get you THAT close to your crew. However she had an honest answer to that question that she thought may shake the cocky man up a bit
"Yes" Stop there girl! Don't elaborate, never offer additional ammo to the enemy
The shock on the faces of everyone but the General, even his aide, was all she could wish for, but O'Neill only gave a slight indication of surprise, she smiled internally.
Kawalsky muttered something about it being worse than that, and then the other Major spoke up again, "By the time you get to the other side, you're frozen stiff like you've just been through a blizzard … Naked."
Jesus did he HAVE to add that? The grin on his face as he said that last word, and the look he directed at her made her blood start to boil again, but she kept calm and gave him a reasonable explanation for his statement, and THAT was where she got a slight surprise herself, the Colonel joined in the conversation!
"Oh, here we go, another scientist. General… please." So attacking her because she was female had fallen flat, he was going to attack her on an intellectual level? Just who the hell did he think he was? Didn't he realise that without her he would not be here now? It was HER that made the interface that powered the gate, SHE had written the software, AND designed the generators, and the capacitors!
"Theoretical astrophysicist" She corrected him.
"Which means…?" Again he asked a question that he seemed not to care for the answer for, his hands made a circular motion as if inviting a reply, but his face just showed boredom.
"It means she is smarter than you are, Colonel. Especially in matters related to the Stargate." God Bless 'Uncle' George, she had promised herself she wouldn't think of him like that, but the man was just so sweet.
The two sidekicks sniggered behind their hands and shared a look, (of glee was it?) which they quickly lost as O'Neill glared at them, ahh it seemed he was THAT type of person, he would only stand insubordination one way, from him to the target, however indirect, not back in the same direction.
"Colonel, I was studying the Gate technology for two years before Daniel Jackson made it work and before you both went through. I should have gone through then. But sir, you and your MEN might as well accept the fact that I am going through this time." The two 'men' looked up at her and then slid their eyes towards their leader.
"Well, with all due respect, Doctor…"
"It is appropriate to refer to a person by their rank, not their salutation. Call me 'Captain,' not 'Doctor.'" Damn the man, he was a Colonel, he KNEW the way she should be addressed, he was doing it on a purpose and she was biting! She had to rein in her temper.
"Captain Carter's assignment to this unit is not an option, it's an order." O'Neill's face was bland as he took this information in, he didn't even look resigned to the fact that she WAS going to be on the team, she HAD to get through to him!
"I'm an Air Force officer just like you are, Colonel. And just because my reproductive organs are on the inside instead of the outside, doesn't mean I can't handle whatever you can handle." Well that would convince every one of them which 'type' of woman she was, hopefully they would look past her gender now and get on with the damn job!
"Oh," Oho, the tone of voice had changed, she had a reaction, which way would he jump now? "this has nothing to do with you being a woman. I like women." The arrogant son of a bitch! The smirk on his face said he expected her to drop at his feet in worship! "I've just got a little problem with scientists." Like hell he did! She was sure now, this had NOTHING to do with her being a scientist.
"Colonel, I logged over 100 hours in enemy airspace during the Gulf War. Is that tough enough for you? Or are we going to have to arm wrestle?"
The Colonel just shrugged and then totally ignored her! What the hell? She simmered away in her seat, not really listening with her full attention, though she did catch his reference to "Mr. Glass-Is-Half-Empty" which made her grin slightly, against her wishes.
As soon as the briefing was done with she pushed away from the table, Saluted the General and waited to be dismissed and then hurried away to find a space to boil in. The locker room was full of men, the heads were all male ones! For Gods sake, was she the ONLY woman in the whole damn mountain? She reached into her pocket and pulled out a small pad of paper and a pen, wrote LADIES on it and wedged it behind the sign on the door in front of her, she opened it and called in, asking if it was occupied, and when she didn't get an answer she entered the small room, into a cubical and shut the door, sitting on the closed lid she started to rant to herself…