"Effective immediately you are to be removed from command of Atlantis." Woolsey's words rang in Sam's head. She was still standing in the Gate room in some shock when General Landry walked in, with a female airman trailing a discreet two steps behind him.
"Welcome back, Colonel Carter," said Landry. "Your Atlantis debriefing has been postponed until tomorrow. Report back at 09:00. Quarters have been arranged on base for you unless you plan to stay off base."
"Thank you, sir," she replied. "I had thought here originally…" She hadn't planned on going to her house as this was supposed to be a one or two night trip. "May I ask if SG1 is here?"
"They're expected back in about 2 hours. I know they're looking forward to seeing you,"
he said with a smile.
Landry was acting like things were business as usual and to be frank it was giving Sam the willies.
"Airman," he said, gesturing toward Sam's bags. He nodded at Sam and turned and left the Gate room.
The airman—Bale, Sam saw on her nameplate—pounced on Sam's duffle and was reaching for her laptop and briefcase.
"That's ok, Airman Bale, I'll take these," she said picking up the work materials.
"If you'll just follow me, ma'am," Bale said, easily handling Sam's small duffle. Sam didn't know this airman with the short red hair. Sam wanted to tell her she knew the halls of this base blindfolded, but knew she was only doing her job.
Sam walked with an outward cool she didn't feel inside and exchanged polite smiles and nods with a few base personnel, but was glad no one stopped to talk. Soon they arrived at the door of the guest quarters. Bale slid the key card in the reader and the door clicked open. She swung the door open for Sam and let the colonel enter first. It made Sam feel like an outsider. But then Bale handed her the key card just like she belonged there.
Sam set her briefcase and laptop on the table at the center of the room and gestured toward the bed. "Just drop that anywhere, Airman," she instructed.
Bale put the duffle near the bed. "Thanks," said Sam. The airman nodded, left and closed the door behind her. Now her stoic military front crumbled.
She sank onto the bed, head in hands. Angry tears threatened as she thought of how she'd been unceremoniously dumped by the IOA—in the Gate room no less. She couldn't believe she'd been relieved of command. That was a career ender. She didn't know if she'd be encouraged to retire or if they'd stick her in some out of the way lab if they needed her. Either way she felt that she was leaving her people in the lurch and she was humiliated.
After a few minutes, Sam decided to stop wallowing. She stood and pulled her Atlantis reports from the briefcase and sat down at the table to work. She was reviewing the paperwork for the second time when there was a knock at her door.
"Come," she said, not looking up.
The door opened and Daniel poked his head in the door. "Sam?" he said.
She knew that voice. "Daniel! You're back early. Where's everyone else?" she asked. Then she saw Teal'c behind Daniel with Vala and Cameron Mitchell just behind them.
She stood up, but she didn't even have a chance to meet him halfway when Daniel grabbed her for a long bear hug. Teal'c followed and gave her one of his careful hugs.
"I am pleased to see you, Colonel Carter. You have indeed been missed," he said into her hair. Sam noticed he was cutting his hair short again. She liked it better this way than the long style he was sporting when he had visited Atlantis.
"Let me in there boys," cried Vala, pushing her way in and giving Sam an exuberant hug. "I missed you, Samantha. Talk about testosterone overload," she added with a glance at the guys and wink. Sam couldn't help but smile at that.
"Welcome back Sam," said Cameron, taking his own turn for a hug. "How long do we get you before they expect you back at Atlantis?"
"It's great to see you guys," Sam murmured. She noted their smudged faces and guessed they must have come straight to her quarters when they got home. She had great friends.
"Is all not well, Colonel Carter?" asked Teal'c fixing her with a penetrating gaze.
"Well, in answer to Cam's question, I may be around for quite a while. They've removed me from command of Atlantis."
"What?! Who did?" Vala demanded.
"The IOA," stated Daniel ruefully. "It couldn't be the Air Force, they know how qualified you are."
"Apparently they don't agree with you, Daniel—but thanks."
"What a bunch of imbeciles. I told you the IOA was full of idiots, didn't I?" Vala fumed.
"An accurate assessment, Vala Mal Doran," replied Teal'c.
Sam sighed. "Well, I debrief tomorrow morning and we'll see what the fallout is."
"Why don't we take you out for dinner tonight, Sam?" proposed Mitchell. "We need to catch up."
Only the fact that she hadn't seen them in so long led her to accept. They had steak at O'Malley's like old times and managed to keep the conversation light. If anyone noticed that she barely touched her French fries they didn't say anything. Sam begged off early, partly because of Gate lag and partly because it was hard to be decent company. She tossed and turned in the stiff Air Force issue sheets, but finally fell into an exhausted sleep.