Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit to his full height.
A/N: This one's not for Mitchell fans. Edited from Chapters 7 and 8 of what was "Unto the Breach".
…Without ever outmaneuvering a Super Soldier, and then reliving it a thousand times so others could learn, too. Without ever talking an overzealous king, speaking something 1,000 years removed from Metropolitan French, out of releasing your best friend before he bled to death. Without ever dragging a fallen airman through the frozen wilderness of an unknown planet, listening to the sound of their captors gaining ground and guessing blindly at the direction of a Gate. Without ever watching an event horizon envelop the honored dead.
No, she sighs, she can’t imagine. She doubts any of them could.
Sam shakes from her reverie, whether because of or in spite of the memories, she can’t tell. -Get out, Carter. Let’s take a walk.- Her feet stand her, grateful for one good voice in her head but wishing he’d stop using first person plural.
“Hey! You’re back.” Lou inserts, snapping Sam into alertness from the Plutonian shore. She assesses him immediately—visibly uncomfortable—and her subconscious starts verifying his body language and counting down to when she might have to check for alien interference.
“Yep, here to stay, apparently.” Ferretti nods. His inertia is clear in the set of his shoulders—he’s been standing beside the doorway. Three minutes, maybe? She knows from years of even minor infiltrations that she should be more wary of hidden lingerers, but that open door offer is more critical for her people than detection protocols. Still, there’s someone else outside. Two, maybe? Teal’c’s better at that part.
His smile is too uneasy. “So, easier than for Dixon.” The cough in his laugh is, too, as he steps inside before Reynolds and Griff, who clicks it shut behind him. Sam takes them in en masse, and her alien interference clock slows to neutral. Part of her'd been waiting for this.
Maybe more than part.
Al glances between her and Lou as Mike lingers on her very interesting door. “So.”
“Who the heck is this guy?” Sam sighs. Trust Al to cut through the brush.
“Mitchell’s the X-302 pilot that fought through his lost engine and survived an early crash-land in Antarctica.” She supplies unhelpfully.
“Yeah, great for him. Certainly luckier than Dri when he augered-in to save our flank on 6X1…” Sam nodded. Too many unsung heroes. “…Look, everyone’s glad we’re not seeing a ghost, but I see enough ghosts as it is. What does he want?” Sam preps to respond—
“—CO of SG-1? CO, of SG-1.” Griff finally interjects. “Come on, Sam, spit it out.”
“It’s not like that.” Six eyes met her expectantly. “He’s on a project. Airborne standup.”
“You…what happened to General Reese? McLaugher?”
“They wouldn’t take the post.”
“Maybe, but he’s here.”
“ “Here” ?” Mike repeats incredulously, albeit contained by three years of 1Cs. His head flips back towards the door in confirmation. “Have you heard him talk here? Any advice on diffusing every 2C in the SGC of the notion that some POG is stepping into the slot everyone and their uncle has been acing every check for? That he wants your spot?”
Reynolds tilts himself slightly between Mike and Carter, giving the younger man a stern look. He sighs, turning back to Sam.
“I did leave, Griff.” Sam supplied from her raised eyebrows. Her spot? Has no one read any of the training requirements? “The rumor mill is probably just confused.”
“Yeah, and that makes sense. And you’re back, and that makes sense. I’m back, too. What doesn’t makes sense is why he’s talking like that.” Lou finishes and meets her with a series of looks born only through too many delicate 1Cs-gone-wrong. They take a minute to read each other’s minds.
Lou sighs. “He’s never seen a Stargate.”
Sam grimaces. “He should have by now.” Lou meets her. “We’re working on it.”
“—And does he know how to override a bust? Clear a shutdown? Can he handle a bad containment run?” Too close to home for him. “Does he know any of Proto S?” Mike barrels ahead, and Sam lets him go. With his deputy laid up in the infirmary… They’d lost too many good people in too many bad ways to forget any mistake can take any life.
SGs lived as near perfection as they could get, if they wanted each other to live at all. “…He was out there when he first showed up, staring at it. ‘Bigger than I imagined.’” He trails, clamping down on his upset. I know, Mike. Jim’s gonna be alright.
“Half the base is talking about it. Especially the guys that aren’t re-GR certified since we went back on Proto S.” Reynolds finishes for his man. Everyone that’s sweated and bled there for years without being able to do that. All too many, considering that stopped after the first and last time someone had been able to tag the Gate without them noticing.
“I got the report.” Sam sighs. Landry had let him in, albeit with Davis babysitting. Her Shirt, dispelled ghost-seeing notwithstanding, was a very professional, very unhappy camper.
SNCOs reported multiple non-ProtoS/GR guys visibly (to their credit, not verbally) upset. Davis at least was eager to have a potential Carrier on base, but Sly… Well, ‘got the report’ was a heck of an understatement. With going on 85 different containment and neutralization protocols for everything from incoming bogeys to standard off-world airbornes to ostensible defectors, “rules don’t apply” was not a description the Man Behind the Gate tolerated happily. Sam’s proud to have Siler holding his people to the same standards of perfection as any of the best SGs. But it also ensures that soothing unit morale after someone overrides their battle-forged SOPs is far from a short process. And the then SFs…
Al is studying her in those three seconds, she knows, checking how deep the rabbit hole went with her GR crews. He prods, nudging her for grievances. “You can’t tell me you’re not pissed,” he offers, lying.
Sam puffs a smile. It’s good to be back. “I’m not pissed.” Unsurprised, Al awaits the other shoe. “I’m concerned.”
“Concerned? How concerned…” Griff slows under Reynolds’s second look, but Lou finishes for him.
“How concerned should we be when this blows up in our faces? He’s a loose cannon, Sam. He can’t read people. He doesn’t seem to care that he can’t. Who’s going to die when he goes Rambo and finds out that he can’t break a dicross-lock? I’ve spent eight years on this stuff. What does DC think we’re doing down here? Because I’d love a better rationale of why I’ve missed 30 Little League games, 4 school concerts and 2 Valentines days in the last 3 years just for running OW training. Seriously, Sam, what do they think we’re doing down here? Because I sure as hell can’t fly an X-302.”
Sam sighs. Lou knew. They all did, of course, but Sam didn’t envy those with young kids. It didn’t change anything, though: at 30 light years, flawless, and nothing else, guaranteed lives.
Often not even that.
“Guys, I’m with you. You know that. But this transition has to happen. No recruit is ever perfect. And DC’s rarely been cognizant of training.” Considering how hard it is to scare up money for anything that can’t be sold or blown up immediately.
“But this?” Mike sighs. “He’s making a heck of a first impression out there. You need to quash this yesterday.”
“I agree, Major, and I’m sorry I wasn’t in this solar system yesterday to know it.” She meant it sincerely, and wished she’d been off alert at some point since she arrived. Damned Ori. She glanced at the clock. He’d be in in two hours. She blinks the sleep from her 0500 eyes.
Reynolds sighs, calling the session over. “Carter’s right. We need at least some Carriers if we’re going to move to Ancient investigations. He’s who we’ve got.” Al turns to Sam directly. “And considering how damn long that took, I suppose we shouldn’t scare him away.”
“Thank you.” Sam smiles sincerely at the newfound ally. She knows she’s been too easy, but they really could not afford to lose the man.
“—Plus Jack’ll murder me if he shows up to see I lost his Carrier before he'd even checked in,” he tags with a humored nonchalance.
Lou balks something about General O'Neill under his breath, almost certainly earning Al’s subsequent shove. He sighs and sulks overdramatically to reach Mike and Sam’s ears. “Fine. I guess I can last an hour under pain of death.” Classic Lou, the smile’s there by the end of the complaint. How did he still beat her at poker?
“If we're all back, we should really put some time into what you all want from the Carrier pipeline, too.” She dodges, firmly clamping on her internal...something...that urges an undignified squirm at the thought of the General coming from DC to sit at her Monday-morning priority review.
Mike grumbles good-Griff-edly. She proffers him an eyebrow. “What?” he tries. Other eyebrow. “…Half the 2Cs on base are grumbling behind my back. The other half are in front of it.” Spit it, Mike. “I need to rant.”
Lou huffs his chuckle, appending, “Well I need to drink.” he looks to her as pointedly as Mike did. Still, they’d make it. Maybe not her, maybe not them, but there was always a future worth fighting for.
Sam shakes them off with her smile. “Sorry boys, I’m on Quarterdeck in 30—”
“—Yup, stringers putting you back to work already.” Lou pokes more jovially.
She joins the chuckle only a little discomfited. Her and Daniel's checks went fine, but no one hopes to actually hop off Quarterdeck. “Spriggs begged. He’s turning out to be a real go-getter even shy of his 24.”
“He saw a rock he liked on the UAV, Sam. Let’s not get too excited.” But Lou’s grin was ear-splitting. They all had a soft spot for the new stringers, young heads and muscle memory stuffed with everything from small unit tactics to basic Asgard to mind-probe survival to tactical weather assessment on top of their actual needed skillsets.
“Mills and Harrier are ex-cite-ed.” Griff laughed in sarcastically. Mills and his deputy had caught Mike’s old babysitting job, and yes, excited were the only three words for it.
Reynolds let the laugh die out. “Alright boys, back to work. Bug Carter when you’re ready.” He shot her a mischievous eye. She shot it back. Not what she’d expected being the Carrier transition handler, but it’d do.