I know it's been a while since I posted anything here! Short bit of Chuck the gate tech fluff, with input from the team. Set in the First Season. Enjoy.
Join the Army, see the world.
Well, they were partly right.
My dad didn't want me to join up. He'd been in the RCAF in the Second World War, and he did his level best to keep me away from the Cadets, the ads on TV - everyone who might push me in the direction of the Armed Forces, rather than a nice safe job in the financial sector. A bank, maybe. Or a brokerage.
In Canada, you don't get the Forces waved at you every time you turn around. There is no ROTC, no on-campus recruitment. The Cadets are there, in high school, but you had to be willing to be labelled a kiss-butt to join. And you never wore your uniform to class, even if you had drills ten minutes after school ended. If there was time to tear down the stairs, grab your stuff from your locker and change on the fly, it was enough.
I never bothered with that. But the last year of high school, faced with not-excellent grades and a deep sense of boredom, I went and signed up.
You have to search for a recruitment office, even in a big place like Toronto. The one I found eventually was way the heck and gone up the subway, second last stop on the line. The officer in charge wasn't exactly surprised I was joining, but he did eye me a couple times when he thought I wasn't looking. See, it seems most of the folks who join come from the provinces that had – shall we say – a smaller pool of job possibilities, like somewhere in the Maritimes.
I'd been raised on a farm till I was fifteen and my folks had sold it to some developer and moved to the city. I could strip and rebuild a tractor engine, I could design and build a chicken shed, I'd had a couple years as an historical interpreter at the Black Creek Pioneer Village and could make soap and build furniture and handle livestock. I joined up with the idea of maybe getting into the Air Force side – no delusions of being a pilot, just maybe a tech or something, but after doing time in the mess at Trenton – where I learned the art of feeding four hundred people at a time - I ended up in the intelligence area writing code cracking programs.
And somehow, I was noticed.
I have no idea how. I know I worked with some civilian guys on a special project to interpret some kind of new language. It was all under the radar, and between my ability to keep my mouth shut and the fact I was one of maybe three people who could work with the big cheese on the project and not either burst into tears or stalk angrily out of the room, I made an impression. I didn't mind McKay; he was that rarest of people, someone who was as smart as he thought he was, and I helped him pack and move out once the project was completed. He gave me a pretty civil nod, actually.
I thought no more about it, till some seriously MIB types showed up a couple years later. I'd begun to work my way up the food chain, as one does in the military, and after several interviews I signed a non-disclosure agreement - and then reality took a sharp left turn.
I saw the Gate.
No one believed it would really be a one-way trip. See, humans are funny that way; they always look on the bright side even when they know the truth is a lot darker. I have to say, I never expected to be pulling double duty on the other side – between working on an interface between the Ancient computers and ours, and co-ordinating the mess for the evening meal, my day was pretty much sixteen hours. Like everyone else's was.
Still, I was doing something I'd never expected to have an opportunity to do. I was doing it with an international team that was hand-picked. I still don't know how I got on the short list, but if I had to guess, I would say McKay said something, offhandedly. Because it wasn't just my IT knowledge that got me here, I know that. I've already been asked about what ingredients are needed for soap, and a request to make a batch.
It was kind of interesting being in the mess, and it was why I didn't mind it – much – when I was still low man on the totem pole. People don't really notice the folks who put the food on their trays, and there were bits of fascinating conversations to hear. It's amazing what you can put together when you have input from all over. I knew Sheppard was going to ask Teyla to join his team before she did, for instance. And I knew Kavanagh was keeping notes, he never liked the way stuff was being run and he wanted to address his concerns to Weir, but being the anal type he was keeping accurate records of every slight he thought he received and mis-step he thought he saw. Putz.
I could usually tell how the rest of our gang was faring by how the atmosphere was in the hall in the evening. A couple of excellent barometers were the head of military and the head of science – my boss, about three layers away – and it wasn't long before we'd learned to read the tones of voice with some accuracy.
Being in a computer lab during the day and the mess hall at night left me with little social life, but we did have the occasional party, and we tried to keep everyone on an even keel. It's amazing what properly prepared food can do to make a rotten day a bit better, and even when we ran out of the stuff from Earth the teams would bring us in decent edibles. We got to have some real pride in the recipes we adapted – potatoes au gratin became "some kind of root vegetable baked with something that looks sort of like cheese" but it worked, and people ate it, and mostly they didn't complain.
There were some times when I'd be woken from a deep sleep and asked to pull together something hot and decent for a late-arriving team to eat. Mostly, it was Sheppard's team, and I developed a menu I could slap together with little forethought, out of stuff that I tried to make certain I had on hand. Anything kind of rich and creamy for McKay, green and hot for Teyla, Ford would eat anything I put there, as would Sheppard. But they had their favourites, and I tried to keep them in stock when I could. Their jobs were hard enough.
A couple of times I'd get that knock on the door, and it would be Bates or someone with a serious expression, and I'd know someone was in bad shape.
First time it happened, Ford and McKay had managed to fall through ice into freezing water, then hiked ten miles in a gale to the gate, Sheppard and Teyla egging them on every step. I put together some hot "chicken" soup and made up some big, sweet mugs of hot chocolate – the last, almost, of the stash – and that was just from experience, because I don't know a Canadian, or for that matter, an American who lives anywhere near the northern latitudes, who hasn't gotten wet accidentally and frozen for a couple hours waiting for the bus, or for mum and dad to show up at the ski hill or the toboggan run. I'd made five mugs, one for each of them and one for Beckett, and turned a blind eye to the large shots of "medicinal" hootch (where did Sheppard get that, anyway?) that found their way into the mugs of the folks who hadn't fallen in. If he'd tried to doctor the mugs for the swimmers, I'd've said something. Even a Boy Scout knows that's a no-no.
The next time it was to deliver coffee-substitute, fresh cheese biscuits and some sliced mystery meat to the infirmary waiting room, to a pair of fairly grubby soldiers and a remarkably un-mussed Athosian – the SGA1 team had gone missing and returned almost five days later with their scientist badly damaged and another planet of folks who wanted our heads. In fairness, it wasn't their fault, they'd landed in the middle of a civil war, but nothing can bring two warring sides together like a perceived threat from outside. Anyway, it was an address that was now locked out of the base computer.
Bates had told me he didn't know when the team had eaten last so I was generous with the portions, and I didn't even need to ask where it had to go – if one of them was in the infirmary they all would be. Teyla and Ford noticed my arrival and aimed tired grins at me, but Sheppard hardly looked up, didn't show any interest in the food at all. He was sitting in a chair, and his hands were covered in what I thought was dirt, but realized suddenly was blood, dried up and flaking off. I tilted my head over at him, and Ford just grimaced slightly, glancing behind him to where the surgery was set up. I understood. In a small world like ours, with no television, a subject of great discussion was feuds, friendships, and who was porking whom. One generally accepted tenant, though, was that Sheppard was as protective of his team as he would be of family, and if he was Dad and Teyla was Mum (in a non-biblical sense, natch) then Ford was the favoured younger son and McKay was the…usually the analogy broke down there, but I saw it that McKay was Dad's slightly crazy brother who hung around to help with the family business. OK, so insert "farm" and you'd have my Uncle Jack, but there you go.
Anyway, I did up a cup of the hot stuff and left it and a biscuit next to Sheppard. He glanced up and I gave him a small grin that was returned, if only faintly.
I was due in the lab in a couple hours anyway, and it wasn't worth it to go back to sleep, so I went back to the kitchen and gave the morning crew a hand. Later, while working my way through a particularly nasty little subroutine that was bunging up my connection, I heard McKay had pulled through. There was a sense of relief that went through the room. McKay himself wouldn't have believed it, but almost all of us, even those of us who could rightly be called drones – if there were such things in this galaxy – we still admired him, even envied him. OK, the envy was mostly on my side – ninety per cent of the folks I worked with were civvies, I was an unusual animal by crossing the line to the geek side of the world – but he was out there doing stuff, seeing stuff, and though you'd think finding Atlantis and working with her systems would be enough adventure, well…when you've seen one million year old city you've seen them all.
I know it's not a million years old. But my point is, I'm not an archaeologist.
I'm not certain what I am.
Then came the siege, and Grodin was killed, and they needed someone on the gateroom console right bloody now…
And there I was. This time I know it was McKay who suggested me, based on what I'd done in the computer lab, and the fact my team leader knew I was getting itchy feet. I had just come off a full shift when the runner came to my door, and there I was, moments later. I knew the basics of operations, we all did, but here I was tossed in the deep end AND we were under attack…
Still can't believe I pulled it off. All that training, but the thing that got me through the craziest parts of it was…well, we had a really old farm, and the barn was built on seven foot tall, two foot thick fieldstone foundations. We needed more room for the cows, especially somewhere for the winter, and so Dad decided to punch through and clear the crawlspace into a real stable. That meant hacking through the wall, and digging out the inside. Seemed like an unending task, but Dad said "Just concentrate on what's in front of you, work hard at it and don't rush it." We had it dug out before I knew it.
That's what I did there. Didn't care about stuff happening around me, not right then, I just concentrated on the scanners and did what I was told, and what was needed to keep the thing running. And we came out the other side.
So here I am, permanently assigned to the control room, with orders to find a couple others to train up in case I get hit by a Wraith, too. I still have enormous respect for the bosses, and for what they do, and I still hope and wish I get assigned to an offworld team, but I guess that'll depend on when I get my backups trained. I'm part of the team up here, though, and I really like it.
I still get the midnight pages, every now and again, though I'm not officially on mess duty anymore.
I don't mind. I have to keep my skills up. Never know where I'll go next.