Unhappy, Bouncy Information Spikes.
Jack looked at the press secretary a few weeks later. "What did you say?"
"I joked that the other presidents had a harder job because of diplomatic problems but they were all too scared of you to screw with us." He shifted on his feet. "I said it in a bar, not in front of the press, sir."
"We do still have some enemies you know."
"I know, sir."
"They're now very pissed off from what I'm told."
"I'm sorry, sir."
Jack sighed. "No more. Just... no more."
"I'll resign, sir. You need someone you can trust to talk up the good points and ignore the bad. I put my foot in my mouth for the second time."
Jack stared at him for a minute. "I didn't ask."
"I know, sir."
"Then why pick now?"
"To be honest, I've been getting some sweet offers from a PR firm up in New York that's about double what you make a year."
"That is sweet," Jack admitted. "Were you going to take it before this?"
"Next month actually."
"Fine. Was this an intentional foot-in-the-mouth issue?"
"No, sir. I swear it wasn't. It was a joke I told in the bar."
"Fine, announce it, find your replacement."
"Yes, sir. Thank you." He went to draft his resignation speech and figure out who would take his place. If there was a small lag, he might get Buffy to do it. She liked people. She liked to chat. So maybe.
"Don't even think about it," Jack called as he walked off.
"Sorry, sir, I won't conspire to make your wife deal with reporters."
"Thank you," Jack called.
Buffy walked in. "They gave me a cutesy name, Jack."
"Inky, Blinky, and all the other guards do that, Buffy. We all have one and it changes every few months."
"Damn." She sat down. "Tan sheets, t-shirt cotton so very soft and hard to tear. Two new throw pillows, one new set of sheers since that one had holes, and a new blanket because you're chilly at night."
He smiled. "You can decorate if you want. I do make a decent salary right now," he said dryly.
"I'm all the way happy with things, Jack. I don't really know how to decorate." He grinned. "Do I get someone to tell me when I have to dress up and smile at people who want to gut me for snaring you?"
"An assistant? If you want. There's stuff the first lady usually does."
"I heard. I don't like flowers." He laughed. "I don't," she pouted. "I kill plants."
"So don't join the garden club. If you tell them you kill plants I'm sure they'll understand." She smiled at him. "As for the other stuff, someone wanted to know if you supported any charities?"
"Many. I like animals. I like books, because my sister's a nerd. And my watcher's a nerd. I like art, Mom's gallery was very good at teaching me modern art. The Smithsonians are cool. I spent days hanging out in them."
"They're having a dinner soon," the Chief of Staff said as he walked in. "We can get you tickets. No one will need a speech." Jack nodded at that. "It'll be that or going to the Russian embassy for dinner."
"Borscht, yuck," Buffy muttered.
"They're more likely to serve fire roasted meat dishes," the Chief of Staff told her. "And drinks."
"I don't drink. Buffy on beer turned caveslayer Buffy. We're not going back there."
"That's a story I want to hear," Jack said dryly.
"Ask Xander. I don't remember it." She looked at him. "Do I get a wonder assistant like Chuck who will tell me what I have to wear and how long or short my skirt can be?"
"I've already picked you out a very good social secretary, she's from a society family so she understands the skirt issue, and yes, she can help you shop." She grinned at him. "All shopping comes out of his budget."
"Giles will be very pleased he doesn't have to pay for it."
"Probably, yes. I have a list of charities other first ladies have championed." He handed it over. "And a list of upcoming possible events you can go to." He handed that over.
She looked at that first. "DAR?"
"Daughters of the American Revolution."
"So, really old?" she guessed.
"Descendants," he assured her. "But yes, mostly middle aged."
"Any nice ones about my age?"
"The Peace Corps one is going to have some of the volunteers. For that, you might want to ask Xander if he knows any of them and wants to go." She nodded, making that note. "Do you want to go?" She shook her head. "There's an upcoming candlelight vigil to highlight spousal abuse."
"I can go to that. No speaking? Because I don't do it very good."
"No, no speaking. You can show up at that without warning or planning. The guards would consider that safer." She snorted, giving him a look. "There is a program that's designed to help inner city children go to the gym after school instead of the front stoop."
"I like that one," Jack agreed. "Did we agree to fund it higher?"
"The budget is still being debated."
"Cut their paychecks, they'll get it fixed really quickly," she quipped. "And take away their raise this year too."
Jack nodded. "That's not a horrible idea." He looked at his Chief of Staff. "Anything else notable on the schedule?"
"Two senators throwing dinners. They sent formally correct invitations they don't expect you to really want to answer. One UN dinner that you should go to. A visit by the Spanish royal family." Buffy smiled. "You can borrow jewelry for that. Speaking of, I got asked about your ring by some other staffers."
"I can't decide," Jack admitted.
"I don't need something huge that'll get me Buffy-jacked," she said dryly. "Something nice, simple, won't get caught if I have to fight."
"That narrows it down to two. Want plain diamonds or a pink diamond?"
She smiled. "I love pink but it's more expensive and I can't let you do that. Giles told me they're too expensive for Buffys."
"Not that expensive," Jack admitted. He pulled it out of his desk drawer and tossed it over. "I thought you'd go for that one." He went back to his paperwork. "Anything else I should hear, have John stomp on to stop the politics of, or anything like that?" Buffy let out an awesome squeal and pounced him, knocking his chair back into the windows. "I take it you like it?" he teased, putting it on her hand.
"Oh, my God, I sound like Dawn, but I love it." She kissed him. "Thank you, Jack. Love you."
"Love you too, Buffy." He patted her back, earning a smirk from his staffer. "The press secretary is finding his replacement."
"I've been looking. I'll give him my short list. Thai embassy?"
"Will they mind if we belch?" Buffy asked.
"Yes. We'll give you medicine for that," he promised. "A full dinner to welcome the royals?" Jack moaned but nodded. "At least now you have a hostess so John isn't tempted into putting on a dress and heels again, sir." He walked off.
"He'd look really bad in most dresses. Not enough boobs." She kissed him again and got off his lap, giving him a flirty look. "Dinner in tonight?"
"I had nothing to do anyway," he said casually.
She winked. "I went to Viccie's for the new stuff." She walked off.
Jack got back to his paperwork. He'd go up for lunch in about a half-hour. When she had fluffed herself up for him.
John leaned in. "I heard a squeal and the guards complained that you were going to break a window."
"I finally picked her ring."
"Royals are coming soon."
"Yay," he said flatly. "Thanks for the warning. Brits?"
"Maybe more lively then." He went to look them up online. Jack got a text and decided to take an early lunch. That was so cute it was gagging and he shared it with Rodney to make him puke too. He needed some snark time today.
John was stopped by some reporters the next time he was out for dinner with some friends he had made in town at the Pentagon. "What?" he asked, sighing at the end.
"Colonel, are you thinking about running for president when the general's done?"
"Nope. I'm thinking I'm going back to my old post and I'm going to fade into obscurity." He smiled as he walked around them. "Thanks for asking though." He hurried back to his friends. They'd protect him from reporters.
The reporters took that story and went with it. Maybe they could get him to change his mind? After all, the General's campaign was the most successful, low key, non-politicking campaign there had ever been. The Colonel would appreciate that probably.
John walked into the 'royal suite' as he called it. "Get in the dress before I have to wear it," he called. He and Buffy had become friends since she had married into the group six months earlier.
"Geez, Mr. Mean, give me time to finish my hair," she called. She stuck her head out of the bedroom. "I only got back ten minutes ago." She closed the door and went back to her fussy, non-working hair. Finally she put it up and then slid into her dress, coming out to let him zip her up and help her with her necklace while she put on her shoes. "Jack send you?"
"He got waylaid by a problem message that came from South America." He looked her over. "Do your hair," he complained. "Before they nag you in the press for weeks."
"It won't do anything today." The valet came in. "Jacques, can you do hair?"
"No, ma'am." He got one of the cleaning girls who always had nicely done hair. She fixed that travesty of a hairstyle quickly and they could go. He shook his head. "Why does she wear so much pink?" he muttered. The cleaning girl just giggled. "She does."
"She looks nice in most of them."
"Point. Most first ladies still wear more than one color though. Plus it's hard to keep it from fading." He went to clean up her mess in the dressing area. Including turning off the curling iron she left on in the bathroom. He wasn't used to such fussy, fashionable women.
Buffy and Jack got cornered on their jog by a few reporters. "Mrs. O'Neill, what do you say to those reports that you and Colonel Sheppard are a bit too close?" one called.
"Eww! He's like my brother," she called. She glared. "I have a wonderful man, why would I want to trade to a younger version who might be weaker in the manly areas?" Jack snorted, shaking his head. "Beyond that, he's like my brother. He teases me about my hair, buys me chocolate to tease Jack with, that stuff. I'd never date him. It'd be like dating Xander or something. Eww." She nodded and they took the next corner, going off their usual route. That street was sealed for pavement work so they could jog down it but the news van couldn't join them. "What started that?"
"Who knows," Jack complained. "He bought you that chocolate you teased me with?"
"Yup. He said I needed chocolate to be bouncy so I could take your mind off Peru." He snickered, nodding at that. It had been a fine mind clearing. She grinned at him. "He bought me some godiva last night because he was pouty over his last date and needed a sympathy eating buddy."
"That's cool. I like how you two act like siblings. He can take you places if I'm not there due to stupid stuff."
She grinned. "I'd probably skip if I had to." He shot her a grin and they turned onto another street. "Ten thousand laps in the pool instead since that's the NBC news van up there?"
"Yup," Jack decided. They changed direction and took an alley back to the main street with the pathway back to the White House. They had to jog past Congress but that was fine. Jack paused to look. "Is that a hole in the roof with the branch in it?" he asked.
The guard looked and nodded. "I'll mention that to the Chief of Staff to have him find someone, sir."
"Thanks, Blinky." They jogged on and made it back home to go play in the gym and the pool. Buffy was a good swimmer and she did look good in that bikini.
John walked into the press room during the daily briefing. "Who started the rumor I'm making her cheat on Jack?" he asked, staring around the room.
"A few of the gossip reporters have noticed you're able to tease her and get her to smile, sir," one said, sounding sheepish.
"Well, stop it. She's like my sister, people. Really. I'd never go for someone taken." He walked off shaking his head.
"Fercryin'out loud, John, don't make the rumors worse," Jack called from up the hall. "They'll grow up and find real news sometime soon."
"As you can tell, this is upsetting the Colonel even though the general is laughing it off. So you can quote him to stop that." The press secretary went back to the briefing. Things were insane in the O'Neill white house some days. All they needed were aliens. He wished the news people would find something else to talk about sometime soon.
A few weeks later Buffy rushed into the office, turning on the tv, changing it off CNN. "Your people have problems."
Jack watched the news story about the Russian general who had been forcefully retired and had given an interview that mentioned stargates, aliens, and him personally. "Aw, crap! John!" He came in to watch the interview. "Get me the full tape." John nodded, going to get it for him. He looked at her. "Which show is that?"
"This is an entertainment news show?" he asked. She nodded. "Crap." He called Landry. "Turn on E! news," he said then hung up. John came in with a copy of the full interview. "Who had it?"
"Our press secretary pulled some strings to get a full copy of it." He let him play it. It was, of course, in Russian. Fortunately Jack spoke it well enough.
Buffy grimaced. "They left out a lot of the more interesting bits. You know Thor?"
"Yup," Jack sighed. "He's gone too." He kept going, his stomach knotting up. "Crap. It mentions the city, John."
John nodded with a sigh at the end. "Double shit." He walked off to call Evan and warn him. "It's me. Turn on E! news. Russian general." He hung up. They'd find it and swear all on their own. He walked back into the office. Jack had his head down and Buffy was rubbing his neck for him. "At least they didn't provide any proof," he said quietly.
"Yeah he did. He just showed pictures on the interview," she said, running it back for him. He whimpered at the pictures. That one had him too. "Shit," she muttered. "It'll make the flap over demons seem tame." They both nodded. "At least they're not going to say that you guys were endangering the world and things."
"No, we opened it and found an enemy waiting," Jack admitted. "Then ran into another one."
"Who reminds me a lot of Oral Roberts and his sort," John quipped. "Plus mine had people eating ones."
"Eww," she said.
"Basically." He sighed, slumping at the part about the 'fantastic city of the ancients' and that it was in San Francisco harbor according to a scientist who had served there. "We're in so deep."
Jack looked up. "We can deny."
"We can spin this to make the project look better and more sane than it was some days," John countered. "If we deny they'll spill more. This way we can control things."
"Can we have the Russian ambassador beat his guy?"
"Yup," they said in unison. "John, get me the Joint Chiefs and the Press Secretary. Maybe the Chief of Staff too."
She kissed him on the temple. "I'm going to read in bed," she said quietly. "Come up when you can and I'll give you a backrub." He smiled weakly but nodded. She left him alone to manage this important coming out. This was going to be bigger news than John announcing he wanted to date Rodney would be. She waved at the generals when they walked past her. "Don't give him too much of a headache, guys. He's already reaching for the stuff Xander found him."
The first general in smiled. "Your wife is concerned your brain's going to explode?"
"It will for this." He reran the tape. "I know you guys have some knowledge due to staffing."
They all stared. The Chief of Staff and one of the interpreters walked in to go over what he was saying. The press secretary came in to take notes on what needed to be put out there. Hank Landry got brought in too. Chuck got them snacks so they could eat and mumble dirty words into the sandwiches instead of out loud. By ten the next morning they had a good idea of what to do and Jack finally got to bed. Where his wife pampered him silly and gave him a blow job to make him forget about aliens and bad reporters.
John was on his own run when one of the reporters decided to do a drive by questioning. "Sir, is the reason you don't like to bother your guards because you've faced down a gou'ald?" she called.
"No, I was on the city, sorry." He smirked. "Wraith are worse than any terrorist." They changed direction. That was not subtle, but it worked for his style more. Plus they had no information on the wraith. They needed to get that out slightly to start preparing things for an attack. The gou'ald were no longer a threat. The Ori and wraith were a huge one. Though he still wanted to put a prior in a room with the biggest evangelical telepreacher and see who won.
"Wraith?" his guard asked.
"They put a hand on your chest and suck out your life force. Hurts like a bitch the whole time."
"Do you know from personal experience?" he asked.
"No comment," he said with a dirty look. "Still more classified than you think."
"Yes, sir." He'd ask his boss those questions. That sounded like something they'd have to guard against.
John looked at him. "If they get that close to earth, I'm going to be back on my city, in space, in a battle."
"Good to know, sir."
"Jack may be in Antarctica in an Ancient defense chair." They finished their run at John's house, letting him shower, change, and go to the Senate to watch the fallout from the weekend's revelations. A few gave him awed looks. A few gave him dirty looks. They were the same ones that gave anything about demons huffy looks so he was ignoring them.
One of them stepped up to him. "Prove aliens are real."
He stared at him then took off his shirt, pointing at the scar. "Wraith feeding while I was captured by another group of aliens who wanted nuclear weapons." The guy went pale and stared then whimpered. "They're not here yet and we've been preparing for an attack for twelve years now. Between Jack and I, we have fought most of those years. Jack was on the original project. I got pulled in after being in Antarctica." He put back on his shirt and tucked it in. "Any other questions?" He shook his head, going to his seat. John sat down, looking around. "Some of that is still classified information, people. Let's move onto the real business of today. I open this session of the senate." He banged his gavel and sat down. Sometimes senators were worse than debutantes and reporters.
One senator from Alabama stood up. "I forward a motion to open a hearing into this Stargate program."
"Seconded," a few voices called.
John stared at him. "We're under military authority and an oversight board, people. None of you have a classification rating high enough to hear more than the basic facts than are being revealed. It was presidential eyes only for over a decade."
"The people of this country deserve the right to know if you got us in more trouble," the senator from Alabama said firmly. "There's no telling what you brought down on us, Sheppard."
John stared at him. "What makes you think they didn't know we were already here?" The senators gasped, almost in unison. "There have been three major threats. We have ended one, which had been on earth in the past, during ancient history. We spent most of the first decade at war with them. My project was refinding a lost city that the Ancients had built, and in doing so we discovered why they fled it. They were losing a war with the wraith.
"They don't know where earth is. We're not sure if they can spread this way or not but we're prepared in case they do show up. The other is like fundamentalist preachers who like to kill people who won't convert. Them, they found us by accident. Someone turned on a machine and it let them know. We've been fighting them for a few years and have been doing a damn good job by the skin of our teeth." John stared the senator down. "Even if you got your hearing, you wouldn't be there because you're not rated to hear things that classified."
"Were you on another planet?" he demanded.
"I've been on about thirty other planets, maybe as many as fifty. I quit counting in there." The senator swallowed. "Anything else that's not classified you want to talk about?"
"How many has the President been on?"
"None since he took office. Before then he was one of our top first contact team members. He's the one that brought back information about the gou'ald. He's the one that did a lot of the fighting and leading of the battles against them."
"Who is currently running that?"
"And the city?"
"I am." He smirked. "There's an oversight board member in place, a chief scientist, and me in charge. I get back there about three days a week right now. We have a lot of bored geeks doing fantastic things that they're slowly feeding back to the regular population."
"So you're not hoarding it?" he asked.
"No. Things that benefit humanity are let out at an appropriate rate so we don't shock and horrify anyone. Don't move things ahead too fast."
"Who is the chief science officer?" he demanded.
"Canadian. We're a multi-national science corps. Mostly American soldiers, some Brits in there but the city is almost all American and so is the Mountain." He leaned back in his seat. "You still won't get the hearing you want. There's much too much that's classified."
"Those aliens the Russian General had pictures of?" he asked.
"Ask the general that. He took Thor fishing once." He shrugged. "They were allies. They've since died out."
"Why?" he asked.
"Because it was that or let themselves be overtaken by an old enemy from what I read in a briefing. I wasn't part of the program then."
"How did you get involved?"
"I was at McMurdo doing my calming down time after a bad mission had gotten worse, so I punched a commanding officer for doing that to me." He smirked. "I got to fly choppers in the Antarctic for six months, then the general came down to the outpost we found down there. It turns out that there's a genetic switch in some of the machines they left and I have a fairly strong version of the key. That's how I ended up on my city."
"What is the name of the city?"
He gaped. "As in the lost city of?" he demanded. John smiled and nodded. "Why can't we see it?"
"Still classified, and shielded. We've been expanding the science contingent on her to study some of the things that we haven't found enough power to run before we turn it on."
The senator stared at him. "I demand to see it."
"Then you'd want to go get a security rating at least above a nineteen, Senator. I don't think anyone in here has one. I know one senator has seen it since it was back. He's the IOA rep." He pointed at him. "Ask him."
"Atlantis is very pretty," he agreed, standing up. "He's right, you don't have the classification to know this. It's far above your meager one, Senator. The only reason I know is because I was chosen to sit on the IOA board, which is the stargate program's oversight board." A few others talked. "The last president picked me and I retired to sit on it. I came back during the emergency and plan on retiring again as of this next election." He looked at John. "Is the IOA being kept?"
"Only if I can punt a few," John said bluntly. "Some of you are okay, some of you are dangerous to the universe."
He smirked back. "So we've heard, and I must say, very good job against the wraith, Colonel. You did an outstanding job on Atlantis. I've wanted to say that openly for years." John nodded and smiled at that compliment. "You don't get fully open records in any war, Bob. You won't in this one either. There's going to be things that are staying classified. If that general hadn't talked, you still wouldn't know unless an attack happened." He sat down. "Can we get on with normal business now?"
"Definitely," John said, staring at that senator. "You are done?"
"For now," he said, sitting down. "I still want a hearing and I demand a vote on that call."
"Fine. You still won't be in attendance, senator, because you're not cleared to know some of this."
"The people deserve to know."
"They will know what it's safe for them to know. What they need to know to prepare in case a battle does happen in this solar system. We've been releasing that slowly all weekend. You want classified things that won't ever be released. All you'll get is a lot of 'I cannot answer that question due to the classified nature of the mission'. That will waste taxpayer money and time. Trust me, we're opening the project more than we feel comfortable with because it might panic people." He stared him down. "Do you still want to call for a money wasting hearing?"
"I'll hear what's going to be released and then call for one," he sneered.
"That's up to you but you still won't get the answers you want." He banged his gavel. "Motion removed. Let's go to real business, people." They got back to the real work of congress, trying to fix things that were only partially broke.
Jack walked into the press room. It had to be done before people tried to dig further. "I feel like Clinton out here only I never smoked pot," he said blandly, getting a few laughs. He held up a folder. "This is the information packet on things that can be released to the people immediately. The basics of the program, what we have already leaked out to help people, the nature of the old threat and the newest two in vague details since they're not here." He put it down. "The packet is available from the press secretary's office."
He looked around. Buffy had helped him write this speech. Which he didn't want to give. "I know people are panicking about the stereotype of aliens kidnaping people, doing anal probes, all that. I've met many aliens. I've never been probed in my life. The little Roswell looking aliens? They were the Asgard. They decided to die instead of letting their technology and their planet fall into the hands of another species. Their commander, Thor, was a very good friend. I even took him fishing."
A few snickered at that. "Yes, the stargate program is real. It has been running for thirteen years now since it first was opened. There was a year lag in there before it officially got restarted." He looked around again. "I have served this planet faithfully protecting everyone from all sorts of threats. From nanotechnology beings like the replicators, to the gou'ald, which the general nicely told you all about, to the Ori."
He glanced down then at them again. "We have lost a lot of very good soldiers fighting this war. Unfortunately a lot of them could not be brought home for proper burial. Their families could not be told more than they died honorably in combat. I wish it had been different but it was decided by the president over it then that it would panic people to know that we had an ancient enemy that had been on earth back in the time of the pharos."
Someone raised their hand. "No questions yet," Jack said. He looked at the rest of them again. "As of this moment, I have decided that opening the project a bit more is in order to calm down any panic that might be forming. I know some people are worried about things coming down on us. I know that some people are willing to grab a shotgun, get in their trucks, and go mount a stand. There's no need of either.
"The current two threats we have, the Ori and the wraith, are not from this galaxy. The Ori are trying and pushy. We've fought them back many times and have nearly ended that threat for good. A few of their ships still exist and a few priors are still out there burning whole towns if they don't convert to their ways. We're ending them as we find them. The other, the wraith, are in the Pegasus galaxy. The city the general talked about, Atlantis, was there. John Sheppard was one of the brave soldiers who went looking for it so we can better defend ourselves. We lost a lot of very good soldiers out there, nearly half of all that went. We mourn them every day."
He tapped his earpiece. "Drop it." He let it go. "The shield around Atlantis is now down so everyone can see how pretty she is." He smiled. "You still can't visit because it's got classified projects and we're learning a lot from her systems. The Ancients who built her fought against the wraith and ended up abandoning her when they decided they couldn't win the war. We are not like that. If the wraith show up anywhere we can get to, they're going to be destroyed. When you read over them, you'll see that they eat people's life force." He cleared his throat. "We're still keeping a good bit classified. The general public does not need to know the soldiers there, who fought in what battle, what each battle was or where. Like any war, you're not going to get that."
One reporter stood up. "You said there's technological advances, general. Have we seen any?"
"Yes, including some new power applications, some new plants, herbs, food products, mechanical systems. The planes that guard us all are a hybrid of Asgard and our technology." She sat down. "We worked with our allies and learned from what we were having to take down to make ourselves better able to protect everyone."
"Do we have actual space ships?" another one asked.
Jack smiled and nodded. "Yes, we have three major space battleships right now. We had a few more, they died nobly fighting against the Ori mostly. Thor even named one after me but it got destroyed trying to protect them."
"Will this open up new jobs in the military?" another reporter asked. "How would a person in the military ask to join?"
"Right now, the projects are mostly full. Before we've only recruited or borrowed some of the mostly highly trained pilots and special forces people. That's how I got in." That got a few smiles. "We are actively looking for soldiers with the genetic key that the Ancients put into their machines and then into the human race." That got a gasp. "They were like earlier humans, before we evolved this time. There's a briefing in there about them as well. Some of their equipment won't work without that genetic key. That's why we recruited Sheppard and he was the best poach we've ever had." He smiled. "Atlantis would've been destroyed many times over if it wasn't for Sheppard and McKay working together."
"McKay?" one asked.
"Doctor Rodney McKay, head of science on Atlantis and most of the project right now since Colonel Sam Carter's too involved in a current project to really do much oversight." He smirked. "Yes, she was on my team when I was going on missions."
"Sir," the first reporter said, standing up. "You mentioned ancient Egypt. A few years ago there was a young scientist discredited for his views on the pyramids and aliens."
"Doctor Jackson. Yes, I know him well. I chased him when he ran at trouble for years. He decoded a lot of what we found. He's a truly gifted linguist. He's also the one that tried to teach me diplomacy, usually with mixed results."
"Was he right?"
"Yes. They were the gou'ald." He smirked. "He's hiding from all of you before you can ask."
She sat down, looking stunned. "Their ships landed on them?"
"Their ships were huge pyramids. We think the pharos used them as burial tombs after they left. It was early in the pyramid years that they were here looking for slaves and hosts. Again, that's in the briefing packet." He pointed at another one. "What?"
"How many countries are in your program, sir?"
"The science corps have brilliant minds from I think twenty-six countries but I can't be sure of an exact number. General Landry may have added more or some may have retired. Soldiers, mostly US and British forces. We needed ones we could trust and trust if they got exposed to some technology that the world isn't ready for yet. The Russians had their own gate that they found and had some problems on missions. It got shut down during an emergency and never got restarted. Which was how that Russian general knew enough to make people freak out."
"Other countries don't get to travel to other worlds?"
"At the time, I wouldn't have trusted the Chinese or the Koreans to go on missions and not bring back something harmful," he said honestly. "The oversight board, the IOA, is made up of a few other countries, including France, China, and Russia. That's in the packet as well. We're going to be getting rid of them so they can start their own national programs to help us defend all of us. We have let them pass around things like ship designs and things that could not be used to harm humanity."
"Who decides that?" she asked.
"The person in direct charge of the program. Right now that's Hanky Landry. I did for a while but I got bumped up to general in the Pentagon. Mostly because I hated the paperwork. Hank used to run Area 51 so he knew about scientists who needed geek wrangled and what we had already found."
"What constitutes a danger to humanity?"
"Things like high powered weapons that are worse than a nuclear weapon ever would be." He cleared his throat again. "In trying to build a new power source for Atlantis, Doctor McKay used their notes and forming lab. It was in the Pegasus galaxy in an uninhabited solar system. When an accident happened, it destroyed nine-tenths of that solar system." She gasped, so did a few others.
"We've since figured out how to do it safely and we're working on building a project to test that for city uses instead since it's a clean power source that can last for centuries without a new one being needed." She slumped. "I wouldn't want that in the hands of anyone I didn't trust implicitly. His was an accident. There was another scientist that got killed trying to do the same thing." She nodded. "Would you want that in the hands of the people who had been in charge of Iran or Iraq?"
"No," she admitted. "Is it going to be put into use?"
"Let us test it here on a terran source. We need to see how a fully functioning city would handle it. We don't have Atlantis fully activated yet while we fix things that were abandoned ten thousand years ago. Literally." A few sighed and one moaned. He smiled. "It's pretty science, which I don't understand; Sam Carter puts it in little words for me, but we're learning a lot to protect and help all of us. The team on the city is going to start releasing more information soon. The IOA kept them from publishing a lot of information they felt people weren't ready for."
"Who formed the IOA?"
"The last president after an attack. It was that or have our budget cut."
"You weren't the original general on the project, sir?" He shook his head. "Who was?" that woman asked.
"General George Hammond. That's why he got moved to Homeworld Security. Which is why I got moved to Homeworld before the assassinations happened."
"Home*world*?" she asked. "Like if you watched Dr. Who you could compare it to UNIT?"
Jack nodded. "Yeah, basically." He smiled. "It's a tough job. It's a mind-bending job at times. That's why I picked General Mathiason to go to it when George retired."
"Is he an American General?"
"No, he's a Canadian one but he's got the best grip on how to merge the other countries' programs into ours. The British are starting up their own program of light space capable craft to protect us. The French have plans but haven't done anything with them. The other IOA countries have the plans to do that and make their own plans. It's his job to coordinate that." He tapped his notes together. "Any other questions?"
"I dare say we have a lot, sir," one quipped.
"Talk to him after you have the briefing packet, people. We don't want people in a panic. It's a slim chance the wraith can find us and the Ori can't regroup enough to mount a concentrated attack. We can defend against either of those and we know what we're doing." He walked off. Buffy was waiting to give him a hug. "Thanks."
"You did good. You sounded like Brainy smurf," she teased with a grin, getting one back. "John's going to shout when Rodney shouts at him."
"Probably but he knew it was coming. That's why he's hiding on Atlantis for the next month." They went to his office. "At least it's not a bad scandal like Clinton's," he said. She nodded at that, giving him another hug then shifting to work on his neck again. He moaned. "Damn that's good, Buffy. You give good neck massages."
His door was open so the press secretary leaned in. "Sir, thank you for throwing me to wolves."
"Welcome," he quipped back.
He smiled, taking that box of information to the press room. "The general retreated to let his wife work the knots out of his neck muscles. That's a true hero's reward." He put down the box. "Let's be orderly." They came up to get their folders, going through them so they could ask him more questions.
Later that night, the city appearing was shown on every news program in the world. World leaders were screaming and ranting that they hadn't been told. The IOA member countries said the same but the head of the IOA got pushed in front of a camera to tell people that they had told their leaders and most of them had been at least briefed on these matters. Former leaders who were still alive said the same thing. Religions were denouncing things left and right. It caused one hell of a news week.
Xander walked out of the Council building the morning after Jack's press conference to find reporters lying in lurk. "What now?" he asked.
"Mr. Harris, did the Council know about the stargate program?"
"Some of us heard rumors about it from the demon underground. The original Council's library had books going back that far." A few babbled at him. "I haven't had caffeine yet, people. Talk slowly and clearly."
One raised her camera higher. "Sir, did you know about aliens?"
He stared at her. "I deal with demons," he pointed out. "Some of those are from other planes, so technically alien." A few snapped pictures. "Guys, I'm not pretty yet today, quit. As for that sort of alien? I've heard rumors on the underground poker circuit and things. It's a great information source. That and Giles likes to pump Doctor Jackson for information." He shrugged. "He's been being a book nerd and translating some of our library too for the last year and a bit."
"Is he here now? Can we talk to him?"
"He's in England with Giles looking over the remains of the old building to see if there's any hidden rooms."
"Sir, do the slayers deal with aliens?"
He gave her an odd look. "Why would we? If they attack, then the girls will help if it's something we can fight. We're not really set up to fight other humans. That's the military's job. If there's a threat we can help against, the president knows he can ask. He made sure what a slayer could do before he got elected when he ran into us."
"So you're saying that if they're human based they can't fight them?"
"No, most of the girls could not. Some of the girls could but the majority are trained to fight demons, non-humans, those things. If we have an invasion here in Cleveland we'd step in, help the agents we'd hope would help us this time, and do what we could. Slayers are soldiers in a whole different war than that one."
"That demon you took down after the invasion, it said something about Ori."
He looked clueless. "How long ago was that?" he scoffed. "I don't remember every single one I fight with, guys. There's too many. In the last week, we took down fifteen different vampire families and three rampaging demons trying to eat a mall. I'd have to look back at the Council logs." Which was a lie but it would make people less panicky. He fully agreed on O'Neill with that.
"Sir, who is the head of the Council? You or Mr. Giles?"
"Him. I only run this house and threaten the girls' boyfriends." He walked around them. "Going for coffee, people. You're interrupting the sacred trek." They got out of his way but followed asking questions.
"Sir, do you think John Sheppard would make a good president?"
"I think if he wanted it, he'd do fine. Most of the world leaders know him, know where he stands on things. He's good at the shooting down egos game without making it seem like he is. Buffy said he's really a nice guy. So yeah, I think he'd do okay if he wanted to. I don't know if he wants to do it or not. Ask him." He walked into the coffee shop, giving the clerk a look. "I should have the truck driver size today," he muttered. "Before I go off and start grunting." They knew him here so they knew what he wanted. Buffy appeared. "And get her a petite latte, fake milk and extra sugar." The clerk rang him up and got them personally. "Thanks." He handed her the smaller cup and walked off with her. "We're going over staffing for the next possible apocalypse in Spain, people. Shoo before I go back to Africa to get away from you guys."
"Mrs. O'Neill, where's your guards?" one shouted.
She looked at him. "Like Jack, I can take care of most anything that comes near me. If I can't, Xander can shoot it." Xander smirked at them. The reporters decided they had enough of a story. All but one very brave soul that followed them back. She looked at him. "What?"
"Yeah, we found an apocalypse cult. They know but have no idea what to do with them. The local slayer told the local authorities and they're not sure what they can do either. So we're making just in case plans. Anything else?" He smiled and took a picture. "Gee, thanks, not exactly my prettiest today," she said dryly. "And he's dressed like he just got up."
"I did just get up. I make crappy coffee and Andrew's not back yet." He took a sip as they walked into the gates. The wards repelled the reporter and they went inside to sit and talk in quiet.
One reporter that day raised a hand. "Where is the Council's Housemother?"
"Why would I know?" the press secretary answered.
"His last facebook entry said that he's off to the great beyond to help with a cool issue with Illyria and someone named Gorm."
"Still no clue why you'd ask me."
"Illyria was a mythological God-King. Mr. Wells seems to like space things. I was wondering if the general had coopted him perhaps?"
"No one's mentioned anything yet. How do you know he's gone?"
"Mr. Harris noted that since he hadn't come back yet, no one made good coffee at the slayer house in Cleveland. He was chatting with Mrs. O'Neill about an apocalypse cult in Spain."
He shrugged. "I haven't heard a thing yet. I'll ask." He went to do that, shaking his head the whole walk. "Sir, someone asked if Andrew Wells was borrowed by your people?"
"Yup, they're making the Ori leave us alone. He's converted a few worlds to the Jedi code from what I'm told." His minion moaned, shaking his head. "Anything else strange come up?"
"Apocalypse cult in Spain?"
"They know, they're trying to shut them down. They're of the bombing sort. It would be Harris and a few of the more military trained girls going if the slayers handle them." He looked up from his paperwork. "Any other issues?"
"Not yet." He went back to the press room. "Mr. Wells volunteered to help some worlds that had been converted by the Ori get back to a normal existence. I'm told he's teaching some of them about Jedi for some reason. As for the cult in Spain, they know, they're dealing with it, and if not, Mr. Harris will probably lead that team."
"Too late," Buffy called as she walked past the room. "He already fixed it on us. I swatted him good for it too." Xander yelped. "See?"
"I think Mrs. O'Neill has that matter well in hand," he finished with a smirk.
Xander walked Buffy into the oval office. "Here you go, one fussy, mean wife who thinks I'm helpless again." He handed her over to the guard in there. "Make her quit trying to dress me or make me shop please." He looked at Jack. "That apocalypse cult is no more as of last night. The reporters did ask where her guard was since she slipped it, she quipped that she could beat most anything and if not I'd shoot them. Atlantis is having a power spike from what the underground said. Something about solar power chargers were left on." He waved. "Let me go back to my insane girls." He walked off. John stopped him to stare at him. "Tell your boyfriend the solar chargers were left on so they're having a power spike."
"Rodney's not my boyfriend, Xander. What did you do in Spain?"
"Took out the small group of demons who wanted to explode a nuclear bomb in Rome to end the tyranny of the Church." He shrugged. "There were only eight of them and a bomb I turned over to the locals, and I told them I found a nuclear warhead sort of bomb so they called the military once they saw it and panicked."
"Good of you. Some warning perhaps?"
"Why? Buffy's retired."
"The Spanish ambassador asked me earlier if you're insane or just suicidal."
"No, it's just the job," he sighed. "I so need a vacation," he finished quietly. "Upcoming minor apocalypse in LA this year, not in Cleveland, and we'll have a bit of fussing in a few months when the head demon in the city dies to shift the power order. Oh, Wolfram and Hart are back. They're behind a lot of bad shit in LA. Have fun with them. They want the city too." He walked around him, calling Dawn. "Home please?" he begged. "Before more people give me strange looks for wearing a shirt today." She sent him home. "Thanks." He hung up and went to lay down. He *so* needed a vacation around men. He never saw guys anymore. He was almost stunned to realize he wasn't the last man on earth some days.
"Xander, I broke the bathroom again," Faith called.
"Tell Giles to call a plumber and turn off the water valve," he yelled back. "I need a damn nap!"
"Sure, X." She did that and called Giles to warn him Xander was cranky and they needed a plumber. Maybe even a general handyman around the house with the way things got broken. Hopefully Andrew got back soon so Xander had another guy around again.
Rodney hung up with John. "What solar power chargers?" he complained. A board lit up. "Oh, that one," he said sarcastically. He looked it over and flipped it to the reset setting. The power quit being held and got used in places. That was better. He went to tell Radek he had a new system to examine. "We apparently had solar chargers that couldn't come online before."
"Wonderful," he said from under his machine. "Will examine them later, after I fix this wiring travesty."
"That's fine, Radek. Want to go out to dinner tonight? I want off base and at least you won't bore me by babbling at me."
Radek came out from under the machine. "Gladly. I could use company that was more genial as well."
"I'm not taking you on a date," Rodney snorted.
Radek smirked at him. "Was not asking for one. You would only want sex because has been too long." He went to get changed.
"No it hasn't," Rodney complained. "I've had some more recently than you have." He went to get changed as well. They came out to the gate room and found Willow there pouting. "He was wiring if you want to finish it for him," he offered.
She shrugged. "It's a sucky day. My new girlfriend broke up with me."
Radek patted her on the back. "Will work itself out. No woman with your brains will be alone for long." He looked at Rodney, who rolled his eyes. He gave him a pointed look. Rodney shot back a dirty one.
"No, you guys go have fun. I'm going to pout in botany since nothing grows in the mountain and I need time with the Goddess." She walked that way.
"Fine," Rodney muttered. "Willow, do you want to come with us?"
"Unless you're going to only have dessert for dinner, no thank you."
He smirked. "Those can be fun but I was hoping for a steak."
She smiled at him. "John hasn't told you that eating steak means that you're going to be elected to something?"
"He did share that superstition, yes. Come along. You're dressed well enough I suppose." She considered it then snapped her fingers. He stared at her.
"My only one today," she promised. "I haven't used it in days and it was getting itchy anyway." She went out with them. It was good to get off base. She got many happy looks from the local women too, which she blushed but needed to feel sexy again. She even got stolen from the guys by a cute woman who was an artist.
Sam Carter looked around later that night. "Where did Willow go, Cam?"
"Did you lose your girlfriend?" he teased.
"I don't like women like that," she shot back. "Where is she?"
"Atlantis somewhere making things grow. She got dumped for being too smart."
"I know how that goes," she sighed. "I wonder if McKay's seen her. He's not answering his phone either." She went to call out there, getting Miko. "Where's Willow and Rodney?" She listened. "Like a date?" She gave the chalkboard in her office a confused look. "Huh. Okay. I guess that's fine. Yeah, she needed a night off." She hung up and shook her head.
"She's not even blonde," she muttered. McKay had stated a desire and fascination for blondes. That's why he had drooled on her for years. Him going for Willow was different but she'd accept it if Willow swung back. It might make them both happier. She decided to settle in and watch some mindless entertainment show to see what they were leaking about the project now. They kept getting hold of things from Atlantis that made John look tragic and heroic. It was enough to make him swear and her giggle. They had done it to Jack for weeks and then gotten hold of Cam's profile and done him too.
This time they were reporting that the all important Doctor McKay was off on a date with his second-in-command and another scientist had come with them but left with an unknown woman. "Shit," she muttered, calling Landry to let him know that. No wonder Rodney wasn't answering! He clearly needed the time off too. He had been working since they got back. And if Willow was happier that was all good too. She moped and caused others to mope back.
John looked at the member of the press that came up to him at the dinner. "What now?"
"Sir, is Doctor McKay really dating his second-in-command?"
"No. He and Radek are friends. What were they doing that started that rumor?"
"They went to dinner with Miss Rosenburg?"
"They could all use a night off," he said dryly. "Rodney is the sort to work himself to death. Radek too. I'm sure it was just a night off and a good dinner with a friend."
"Is he the one that rumors said you may have been seeing while you were stuck in another galaxy?"
"No," he said dryly. "We've never been anything but friends, no matter what any rumors say. I like Rodney as a friend. I still like women." He pointed at his date. "Pretty, smart women. Ones who appreciate more than my body." His date giggled at that, swatting him on the hand. He smirked at the reporter. "Anything else?"
"Miss Rosenburg is Council?"
"Yes. Head of the magic department."
"Why is she on your project?"
"She's helping discover the line between magic and technology."
"Oh, I see. That's nice. She's gay?"
"I never asked."
"Thank you, sir." She jogged off to call that in.
He shook his head. "Sorry, they ask some of the stupidest things sometimes." She patted him on the hand and poured him some more wine. The dinner tonight had plenty of wine and very bad, dry chicken with a wine sauce. But it had a charity auction later so they must really want people loosened up to bid high.
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