Fandom : Stargate SG-1
Characters/Pairing : Jack O'Neill, Rodney McKay, no pairing
Summary : During and directly post 48 Hours, Jack and Rodney discuss their actions and priorities while Teal'c was stuck in the gate buffer. Also makes references to events in A Matter of Time.
Length : 3202 words
[In which you cannot ship people and Jack is not a hypocrit]Jack was passing General Hammond's office when Simmons' pet physicist slammed out the door shouting. "My plane will just have to wait a while longer! Or you could use your bureaucratically atrophied brain and arrange for transport from Nevada." At an attempt to call him to heel, he just turned back and snarled, "Sorry, but you can't ship a person on a whim like a DHD. I suggest you actually read your obligations in that contract I have."
"That's kinda funny, really." Jack loomed just for kicks, and was glad to see the geek hunch down slightly. He wasn't lying back when he said he didn't like scientists, and it hadn't changed just because he'd come to care for Carter and Daniel in spite of their geekery. "If you remembered that there was a person involved in this tech call of yours, you might not be being shipped at all."
The egghead's expression changed, but it wasn't the anger he expected or the guilt he was too jaded to hope for. (Trying to actually influence or change people was more Daniel's thing, really. Jack just wanted to pop that self righteous bubble.) Instead, nervousness was replaced with pure contempt.
"Yes, well, I'd love to stay and discuss that little insight, but I'm afraid the stupidity in this complex has already exceeded my tolerance levels, and I really can't afford to listen to you throw hypocrisy on top of it." Puffing back up, the scientist managed to give the impression of pushing by him without any (hopeless) attempt at physically moving the larger and stronger man. "Now if you don't mind, I have to call a car for the airport, and I'd like to be out of the mountain before your Major tries to blow it up."
Jack looked after him blinking. Accusations of being a dumb grunt he would have blown off, but hypocrisy? Where did the geek get that from? He started moving towards the Gateroom again, but paused at the next hallway phone and punched up security. "This is O'Neill, do me a favor and delay Dr McKay's exit from the mountain a couple of hours. Nah, no real problem, I might want to follow up on something later and his address is gonna be a little fluid once he leaves NORAD. Thanks, I owe ya one."
[In which there are analogies to guns and plumbing]With his civilian clothes, Jack's target was readily visible in the upper facility cafeteria. He sat at an otherwise empty table, shoveling food into his mouth with one hand while he worked at a laptop with the other. After grabbing himself a coffee, the Colonel flopped down in a chair right beside the egghead, please at the startled flinch. The little Daniel on his shoulder frowned disapprovingly, but the Carter on the other one said some people needed taken down a peg even if it took bully tactics. "So, my Major's plan worked. Mountain's still here, too." He would have left it at that, but the admission that none of their simulations had predicted the DHD's destruction was nagging at him. "Had a small explosion, Russia won't be getting their equipment back in any usable shape." Not that he minded.
"Lovely." The physicist shoved his last forkful of pasta in his mouth and talked around it while starting something new on his laptop and diving into a mess of equations with both hands this time. "That should get me an even warmer welcome than I was anticipating, hmm? How long was the interface active?"
"What interface?" Maybe they'd just lend McKay even longer to make up for it.
"The pseudo Lorenzian..." Jack could only imagine the look on his face as the other man heaved a put upon sigh. "The shiny puddle in the big gray ring, Colonel, how long was it there before the popping and sparks started?"
Trying to smother a grin at the acidic description, he managed to make a show of thinking about it. "Couple of seconds maybe... Long enough to work." When small dig caused no distraction from the increased speed of typing, he gave in to curiosity. "Why does it matter? And why didn't anyone predict a small explosion?"
"Major Carter didn't predict any explosion because she lives in a Pollyanna world where safety protocols don't matter." Jack waited him out rather than taking the bait. He still trusted his teammate over Simmons' tool, but she'd said this wouldn't have happened to Teal'c with a DHD, and maybe adding more checks to the dialing program could have prevented it as well. "She assumed perfect structure in all of the crystals which make up the device's circuitry - no natural flaws or introduced stress points. If the world worked that way, then the massive current run through the secondary systems in the absence of a control crystal would have still been routed into the gate in it's normal usable form."
"Yeah, and a P-90 would never jam," he muttered, and tried not to to show his flash of pleasure at the geek's smirk. He had his own geeks, who were at least nice geeks. "So why did you think it would blow the mountain?"
"The microscopic fracture lines we've seen in most of the devices reverse engineered at Area 51 provide a slight impedance to current, which, during normal usage, builds up in the individual crystals and then dissipates when inactive." The slight downward tilt to his mouth turned into an all out scowl and his typing took on a distinctly angry feel for a moment, as though he could punish his computer into giving him better numbers. "But with an overload of current, the buildup exceeds the crystal's capacity, causing a chain reaction of explosions that could easily detonate linked sources of naquada, such as the gate itself."
"Oh, right." Jack gave his best slightly dim grin. "I knew that."
He expected McKay to sigh and give him the executive summary (something like 'cracked crystals go boom', which he'd managed to gather for himself) but instead he was pinned by sharp blue eyes as the egghead gave him his full attention and began again, with even his hands abandoning to keyboard to gesture.
"Think of the pipe going from your house out to the sewer system. If it is perfect, not only will it handle the normal flow of water, but even a massive push of extra water will be funneled through without any problem - extra pressure just translates into a faster flow. But if there are cracks in the pipe, not only is there a weak spot that extra pressure might burst, the roots coming through the crack are slowing the flow and making that pressure even greater than you expect it to be with the amount of water you're putting through the pipes. Now that extra push of water is focusing itself at the spots most likely to rupture."
"Okay, so we're talking more of a Loony Tunes exploding muzzle than just a jam."
"While you're trying to aim a shot through an Acme warehouse of stenciled TNT crates." The physicist agreed with another smirk. He looked down and returned to rapid typing. "For the DHD to blow so quickly that it didn't build up enough charge for any greater destruction, though, either there is another factor in play or the crystals were flawed enough to act as fuses instead of capacitors... Good news for your Jaffa, I suppose, but worrisome on other lev-"
"Teal'c." Ah, that got rid of the annoying trend towards not hating the geek. "Did you even bother to learn the name of the man you were supposed to be trying to save?"
And there was that look again, though with some honest anger this time to back up the contempt. "Why Colonel, did you know the names of everyone on SG-10?"
His first thought was 'Of course I do, we were doing mission assignments Monday,' but then he caught the past tense and things started making a very unpleasant sort of sense.
Safety protocols in the dialing program. He'd assumed it was just a sort of sour grapes; that the geek was using it to try to undermine Carter's accomplishments, like Daniel nitpicking his grammar on the rare occasion he could have had the last word in one of their arguments. Well, you know what they say about assumptions. His voice sounded flat when he responded.
"You mean, did I know them when we first tried to shut down the gate to the black hole world."
"Yeah, that's what I mean." The smirk was gone, and McKay didn't look even a little happy to have scored such an obviously painful point. "Did you take as much as 48 seconds to find a solution for men that weren't your team?"
[In Which Jack does know their names and geeks are vicious about funding]"Major Boyd." At the slightly blank look, he clarified, "SG-10 was led by Major Hank Boyd, I recommended him for his own team. Captain Watts, Lieutenant Reed, Sargent Walker... and a g- a scientist on loan from Area 51. Friend of yours, I take it?"
The perpetual downward slant twisted a little further. "It will probably not come as a surprise to you that I don't actually make friends at work." Jack was tempted to throw in an 'or anywhere' but it seemed too easy. "Generally, I have minions who try to blow us all up out of incompetence unless I watch them every moment, and backstabbers who want me blown up so they can get my funding."
"Clearly you bring out the best in people."
"I'd say that you can't polish a turd, but I understand there's actually some sort of African art form based on elephant dung..." Snorting his coffee got a smirk and a swiftly moved laptop. "In any case, Jenkins was less incompetent than most of the other minions, and he was unhealthily excited by the idea of observing astronomical phenomenon that we can only theorize at."
Jack chuckled softly, cut off by the responding scowl. "Sorry, just thinking of all the times Daniel or Carter had to be pulled out of collapsing or exploding buildings because there was some vital discovery to be had if they could stay just a minute longer."
"Hmmm... Jenkins is probably running for the Gate with his camcorder aimed over his shoulder." More typing, more scowling. "I learned his name because as the head of his department I was sent to the funeral on behalf of Area 51."
Something was off there, but it seemed less important than Mr Personality consoling relatives. "Uh, I hope you said something nicer to his family than that he was less incompetent than some."
"I was very nice to his family, that's half of how I ended up in this mess. In any case, I wondered if the stargate could gather any information during the preliminary connection that would have warned us not to complete the wormhole."
McKay was quiet for a moment, just looking at his screen. After a moment, Jack gave in and prompted. "And..."
"And the information was already there. I hadn't really paid much attention to the programming that controlled the gate prior to that, the physics of the wormhole itself was more my field. But I found that the system is meant to exchange a huge amount of data between the receiving gate and DHD before a full connection is established for matter transmission. Comparative or shifting gravitational and electromagnetic fields... some of it seems to be meant to prevent either terminus from passing through a local sun... I think there's even a signal that the receiving gate is not hooked up to a working DHD, but I'd have to experiment with the data from off world gates before I could be sure."
"That could have been useful a few times."
"Well, we'll never know, because every request I made to have that kind of information gathered was rejected. We didn't know enough about the workings of the DHD to attempt it, and I couldn't study the Russian one because the program wasn't willing to be indebted to them for any reason." A not so subtle scowl accompanied that, but he moved on before Jack could argue. "I proposed an overhaul to integrate the warnings and fail-safes I had translated, but it would have required taking the stargate offline for a minimum of 24 hours, and it was flatly rejected by you and the General."
"Right..." He kinda remembered that and was starting to feel an unpleasant sensation much like guilt. "George brought it up in a meeting a year or so ago, I think. He said Area 51 wanted to replace the entire dialing computer with a fresh design, but he didn't want to risk an emergency with our off world allies that we couldn't respond to."
McKay actually made the sound 'harumph', which he'd never heard outside a Mel Brooks film, but Jack held tight against a digression to tease.
"Things were a little precarious with them at the time, Doctor. The Trust was causing a lot of trouble, and frankly we were all a little paranoid about outside interference with the program. Carter said the changes weren't needed."
"And you believed her without question. No," the geek stopped his retort with an almost apologetic gesture. "I get it. I've worked with or around people like you for a long time. You trust Major Carter in the field, and you don't have the time or luxury of looking for a second opinion there. She's kept you consistently alive, and not questioning that she's right on technical matters becomes a habit. And top secret work doesn't exactly lend itself to peer review."
The tease could no longer be denied. "Especially when her peers want her blown up so they can steal her funding?" This time McKay snorted his coffee, and Jack got to smirk.
[In which Tealc is not Rodneys sister]"I get the thing with your teammate too, you know."
The geek was looking intently at his computer again, but some subtle difference made Jack think it was more to avoid eye contact this time. "The 'thing' with Teal'c?"
"The whole..." a hand waved in a vague circle but still no eye contact. "Not wanting any limits on how long it took to get him out, not caring who you had to make deals with or what you risked. He's important to you, to your whole team, more than I anticipated in a military operation, but it makes sense. I suppose I'd act the same way if it was... I don't know, my sister or something stuck in the buffer."
Jack saw where this was going. "But Teal'c isn't your sister."
McKay laughed out loud and looked up again. "A stunning observation, Colonel. No, he isn't, and so I looked at the data and gave the mostly likely outcomes, balanced against the immediate physical risks, and the long term risks to the program - hell to the planet - of destroying an invaluable piece of technology for one man."
"You were kinda a jerk about it."
"I am kinda a jerk, as it happens. I've also gone cold onto enough military bases to know that short of an intensive workout program and fake uniform I'm going to be treated about the same in the end no matter how I act. So if people will see me as an arrogant outsider no matter what, I might as well skip the pleasantries and get things done."
Jack couldn't help but grin. Considering he'd decided a long time ago that if eggheads were gonna treat him like a dumb grunt no matter what, he might as well get some amusement value out of them, he didn't have any serious objections to that philosophy.
"Point is, I get why you were all fighting me, and I can deal with being the Designated Bad Guy on the scientific end of the debate..."
"Actual Bad Guy status went to your boss for working with the Trust."
"Not my boss in any meaningful sense, which you know full well or I'd still be in an interrogation. I just don't take well to being viewed as some unfeeling bastard because I treated a guy I've never met like he isn't my sister." He laughed, and the geek flashed a brief lopsided smile before continuing quietly, "Especially by a guy I know contributed to the same sort of choice about someone I did know."
Jack sobered and took a moment to gather his thoughts. He still didn't like McKay, was maybe determined not to, but he figured he owed the guy a little honesty back. "When I was in Special Ops, I always hated the idea that some people were worth risking a team to get out of trouble and some weren't. I followed the orders, but I was glad I wasn't giving them. It's not a happy place to realize that I've come around to not just giving the orders but making those decisions in favor of my friends, and having them made for me." He sighed heavily. "I can argue SG-1's value as a symbol of the victories we've had and personal contacts for our allies, but really all I was thinking was that Teal'c had lost too much to be killed by that bastard, and I'd lost too much accept his death."
"Well, I'm glad you got to make that decision," The other man looked away to start packing up his laptop, blushing slightly. "And that probably sounds sarcastic, when what I mean is... never mind, I'm not very good at, you know, people."
"It's okay, off world, Danny talks to everyone we don't want to risk shooting at." He passed the cord around a half full coffee cup and coughed lightly. "I, uh, I guess we could have paid more attention to at least minimizing the risks in advance. Maybe you should email me the brief on that safety protocol stuff, and we can revisit it now that things are a little less precarious."
The geek gave him a long, assessing look before nodding shortly. "I could do that. I have to work in the information gained from this entire ordeal anyway, so you'll get the updated version by the time I'm in Russia."
"Cool. Just make sure it's to O'Neill with two Ls. The other guy doesn't have as high security clearance."
"Right, two Ls."
"Right." Jack walked out of the cafeteria with the other man, feeling only slightly awkward. "Send me the stuff about the DHD crystals too, I'll get somebody to autopsy what's left, make sure the whole gate system isn't past warranty."
McKay quirked a small smile. "Those advanced ancient races are terrible at setting up service calls anyway..."
He grinned as he turned the opposite direction back into the mountain and threw over his shoulder, "We'll be in your galaxy between 1999 and 2027, so turn all your planet's power off early next year."
"...but the 20's is the decade our axial tilt is getting adjusted!"
As the elevator doors closed, Jack chuckled quietly and made a mental note to keep a closer eye on his email than usual. Maybe he could take one more geek in his life on a long distance basis.