Intergalactic Red Tape
engineering level of the Daedalus was hushed while their resident
Asgard worked to find ways to reroute damaged power conduits and cut
the predicted repair time. Several of them had already made the
unfortunate mistake of relaying messages from Atlantis and Dr. Weir
to Hermiod. He had not reacted positively to the interruptions. Now
he was being given a wide berth. Though he could tell Dr. Novak had
not gone far. Her distant, muffled, hiccups could still be heard.
The humans were never quite sure how to react when Hermiod was in a bad mood, so they tended to keep their distance and try not to upset him further. Not wishing to upset relations with a powerful ally, most humans went to great pains to remain polite and cater to the Asgard amidst them. All with the exception of Dr. McKay, who was more than willing to bicker and argue and, hopelessly, competed with the Asgard Engineer. He responded to Hermiod as though the alien were no different than any other human.
Hermiod had been among the more vocal opponents of allying with the humans. They were far too young, far too emotional, far too primitive. They lacked advancement. The fact that the efforts of the humans thus far had saved his race and been of great assistance to multiple galaxies he could only have ascribed to what the humans themselves termed as 'dumb luck'.
He was intended to be only an observer. At the most he should run routine diagnostics, and occasionally advise so that the Asgard technology worked into the ship was not misused. But gradually the humans had come to view him as a ranking member of the engineering crew. To the point where they expected him to pitch in when work needed to be done urgently, bend the rules when their lives depended upon it and, worst of all, to be on the general maintenance rota.
An Asgard ship was run by daily routines and due process, they were purely efficient. Humans were so disorganized and undisciplined in comparison. Though, it was his understanding that Colonel Caldwell was anything but lax, by human standards. It was a taxing environment to adjust to. Still, Hermiod had managed to find some semblance of order on the chaotic ship. He even found himself enjoying some of their more colourful turns of phrase.
Perhaps it was due to his prolonged exposure that he found himself adjusting to these humans and even taking on some of their traits. After-all, he had to make do. Although, Hermiod sometimes wondered if he should be concerned that he'd begun to think of himself as 'him'self. Is a member of a genderless species capable of gender confusion? He shook his head and grumbled as he pulled out still more hopelessly burned out cabling and circuitry from the conduit leading directly to the engine.
The humans had called on him to bend the rules on how far he could assist on a few occasions. He had done so, as it was a matter of life and death, in the interests of self preservation. No doubt reading his reports and defending explanations had given Thor insufferably great satisfaction.
For some reason, Thor thought it fitting to send the most vocal opponents to this alliance to be his ambassadors. As though watching the humans at work, first hand, would change their minds and lead them all to see as he did. Thor was convinced that the humans had some special quality to their nature, their very way of thinking and being, which the Asgard must learn from if their dieing race was to survive.
Grudgingly, Hermiod had to admit that his opinion was indeed changing, and in no small part due to his observance of Dr. McKay. This human seemed to have taken it upon himself to prove to the entire Asgard race, apparently represented in Hermiod, that humans were none of the things Hermiod had assumed.
Each time the Daedalus was in port the arrogant and insistent human would arrive with a laptop filled with physics theories and calculations. And being a member of a lesser species didn't stop the irritatingly excitable human from asking constant probing, and disturbingly insightful, questions regarding Asgard technology every chance he had.
The human physicist had proven capable of insight in both his theories and in his solutions to various threatening problems. It both surprised and annoyed Hermiod. The insufferable human seemed to think it a great accomplishment each time he was proven correct, especially when he was a step ahead of the resident Asgard, and was arrogant beyond belief. Nevertheless Hermiod, again grudgingly, had to admit that even he owed his life to the quick thinking on a few occasions.
And Dr. McKay's visits, however annoying his human prattle and pride had seemed at the time, had become part of Hermiod's routine. Particularly once the earth game, chess, became part of the routine. It had been disconcerting, to say the least, when Dr. McKay had failed to visit the past two times the Daedalus was in port. Hermiod wondered if he should have sought out the human himself. Even now it did not seem right that the Daedalus was in port and undergoing repairs without Dr. McKay offering, unasked for, advice and poking his nose around. Remarkably, the human would ever so occasionally see a solution that Hermiod did not, though Hermiod would never admit it at the time.
Thus, Hermiod told himself that it was in the interests of self preservation that he now pushed himself to work as quickly as he was capable to repair a ship he had no hope of repairing in time to be of use. It stood to reason that his chances of surviving this assignment would be, perhaps not significantly but at least somewhat, reduced by the permanent absence of Dr. McKay.
It was the humans around him who seemed to believe that there was hope as long as they continued to do all that they could. Hermiod found himself caught up in it, as he worked to repair the ship faster than humanly, or 'Asgardly', possible. The constant interruptions from humans with foolish questions like 'is it done yet' or 'how much longer' or 'we need a report', had finally slowed. Unsurprisingly, the deluge of questions had ended immediately after he'd announced on ship-wide, "I know that you are not the Ancients, but surely you are at least capable of understanding that it will be done when it is done and interrupting him will only slow the process. Do not interrupt me again."
What he was studiously trying not to acknowledge was that nobody had actually asked him to lead this repair effort, nor had anyone asked him to use Asgard Technology to free Colonel Caldwell from the influence of the Goa'uld. This volunteerism was disconcerting. Every such deviation from the protocol of his posting would need to be reported, and his reasoning backed up and explained, to the Council. No doubt Thor would be pleased.
Hic! Hiccup! Hic!
"That is distracting." Hermiod stated irritably.
"S-hic-ry!" Dr. Novak apologized even whilst continuing with her annoying affliction.
Hermiod narrowed his eyes at Dr. Novak.
Normally Dr. Novak would have been long past being able to be so ruffled by the chronically irritable Asgard. But he'd been getting worse for the past couple of months, and she was pretty sure she knew why. It could be no coincidence that Hermiod's irritability had begun increasing when Dr. McKay had stopped visiting, and was at all new heights now that he was missing entirely. He hadn't been pleased at all the last time she'd relayed a message from the Atlantean Command team. Not at all.
"Is there a reason you are here?" Hermiod asked coolly.
"Y-hic-ou, shouldn't hiccup worry hic." Dr. Novak hiccupped out.
"Please, take a deep breath and swallow before addressing me again." Hermiod suggested in a way he considered polite.
Dr. Novak did as requested, and fortunately was able to calm herself down, "I um, hic… ….swallow…I was saying that you shouldn't worry. I've been with the Stargate program for a while now and things like this tend to work out."
The hiccups had improved, but Hermiod sincerely hoped that this little attempt at consolation was not the sole reason that Dr. Novak had chosen to interrupt his efforts to repair the Daedalus so that Dr. McKay could be rescued.
"Dr. Weir asked me to tell you that the Asgard vessel has arrived. She is hoping that you might, hic, possibly, hiccup…" Novak always hiccupped more when she was about to ask Hermiod to go out of his way to do something. It was an unfortunate side-effect of the manner in which he usually said no. But this time it was the surprised blink of his eyes when he turned fully to her, "Um, nobody told you, hiccup, they were coming?"
Hermiod blinked at her again, suddenly less irritable, "I was not aware that an Asgard vessel was within reach of us. Dr. Weir must desire my advice to negotiate as much assistance as possible."
Novak hiccupped and nodded.
Hermiod wasted no time in beaming himself to Dr. Weir's office, with finally something more efficient to occupy his time than meaningless repairs that were unlikely to be of use to the immediate problem.
"We're allies!" Dr. Weir's pleading voice greeted him. She was not addressing Hermiod, though she nodded to him in acknowledgement before continuing her conversation with the air. "We need your help. There must be something more you can do!"
A reasonable, Asgard, voice replied through the sound system. No doubt they were broadcasting from orbit, 'As I have said, Dr. Weir, we were asked only to relay a message. I am sorry that it was too late, though it is good that your losses have been minimal. However, we are not equipped as a battle ship, nor are we authorized to engage in such combat. We are now running behind schedule and must continue our research mission.'
Dr. Weir appeared outraged, "With all due respect, your research mission is not what's important right now. One of our people has been taken and we are crippled. At least come down here and talk to me."
'Sadly, Dr. Weir, this is only a research vessel and all of our current crew are researchers. We have no-one authorized for diplomatic engagement of this nature.' The Asgard didn't sound remorseful, though their voices rarely held emotional inflection. No doubt these Asgard also believed the alliance to be folly, and viewed this situation as evidence that the humans were incapable, dependent, and thus undeserving.
"What do you mean nobody is 'authorized'?" Dr. Weir demanded. She had no way of knowing the strict casts and codes that the Asgard functioned within. Diplomats were diplomats, leaders were leaders, researchers researched, scientists were scientists, engineers engineered, it was what their genetic coding and genetic personalities were pre-dispositioned to after thousands of years of selective development.
"I am authorized." Hermiod stated firmly so that the Asgard ship would hear.
There was a short pause, 'You are an engineer. Your diplomatic status was granted due to your placement on the human vessel.'
"Nevertheless," Hermiod continued, "No such limits were placed on my current diplomatic rank. I may choose to function fully, as I see fit, in accordance to our laws."
If an Asgard could sound flustered, this one now did, 'This is not how your status was meant to be implemented.'
"I am sure you will make your opinions fully known in your report to the Council," Hermiod dismissed, "but for now you will extend full cooperation to Dr. Weir, beginning with sending at least seventy percent of your engineering compliment to the Daedalus. I expect you will have no trouble providing the replacement parts necessary in a timely manner. Dr. Weir and myself will beam aboard your vessel shortly, then I will engage in negotiations with the commander of the Goa'uld Mothership."
"Very well," The Asgard voice agreed reluctantly, "But the Council will hear of this."
When the Asgard ship broke communication Elizabeth regarded Hermiod with a look of pleasant surprise and appreciation. It was obvious that Hermiod was risking a lot by helping in this way. The Asgard, in her experience, were typically more reluctant to volunteer assistance to any less advanced species, even allies. "I don't want to sound unappreciative, Hermiod, but why are you doing this?"
Black alien eyes stared blankly at nothing in particular as he took a moment to search for an answer, it was a surprisingly human gesture, "I find that in his absence I lack a suitable chess partner."
For someone who tried so hard to keep people away, Elizabeth mused, Rodney certainly seemed to have a knack for making unusual friends, "Thank you, Hermiod."
"It is as you said. We are allies," Hermiod answered in a deceptively emotionless tone. "I estimate the repairs to the Daedalus have been reduced to a mere six hours. However, I fear that it will still be far too long. We cannot expect the Goa'uld Pyramid ship to remain in this Galaxy indefinitely. And it is true that a research vessel is not capable of engaging in such combat. They are designed only to briefly defend and retreat."
Elizabeth nodded thoughtfully, "Don't the Asgard have treaties with the Goa'uld? Surely they must be in breach of several."
"Yes," Hermiod confirmed, "But final judgements on such matters can only be made by the Asgard High Council. And it would take far too long for a ship capable of enforcing that judgement to reach us."
The human diplomat narrowed her eyes thoughtfully, "We don't need a judgement though, do we. We just need to stall them long enough for the Daedalus to complete repairs. We will work out a rescue plan if you keep the Goa'uld Mothership in this solar system."
Hermiod once again found himself surprised by human ingenuity, "That may be possible."
Elizabeth smiled, "Good. Let's get Rodney home."
Ba'al leaned back comfortably into his throne in the central command room of the Mothership. Several overhead monitors displayed key locations in the vessel; the engine room, the room housing the cloning chambers and Dr.McKay, the laboratories that had been specially prepared, and the still empty space surrounding the ship.
He was surprised that there had yet been no sign of the humans coming to retrieve their little lost scientist. Maybe he'd overestimated their loyalty to their prickly scientist. Or perhaps his servants had been less incompetent than he'd originally thought. Either way Ba'al knew he was working on borrowed time.
No sooner had the thought crossed his mind, than did an Asgard science vessel drop out of warp and settle alongside his great Mothership.
"Ha!" he let out a quick, mirthful, laugh. "Surely that can't be the rescue."
A Ba'al monitoring another station raised his eyebrows amusedly and looked up at himself in the Throne. "They're requesting an audience."
"Then I suppose I should give them one." Ba'al suggested to himself.
"It would be rude of me not to," Ba'al agreed.
Ba'al waved his hand familiarly across the air, and a holographic screen appeared in front of him. An Asgard face, boringly identical to any other, blinked back at him. More interestingly, a pretty human female stood at the Asgard's side.
"Ah," Ba'al greeted with a polite bow of his head, "You must be the lovely Dr. Weir. How may I help you?"
"That's an Asgard Warship?" Ronon looked between his pleased looking Commander and the unimpressive ship that had just arrived carrying Dr. Weir.
Teyla had doubts as well, "That does not look like a battleship."
Sheppard's eyes remained lit up, "Oh, believe me. They're tougher than they look.
"You have seen them in battle?" The Satedan looked disbelievingly at Sheppard.
"No," Sheppard answered a bit defensively, "but I've read the mission reports and they have really good weapons."
"Then why are they requesting an audience?" Ronon asked blandly.
Sheppard searched for a sensible answer to the admittedly good question, "They're just giving the bad-guys a fair chance to surrender."
Teyla and Ronon shared a tired look and turned their gaze back onto the smaller vessel facing the enormous Mothership.
The authoritative voice of Elizabeth addressed the Mothership, and she sounded like she meant business. "This is Dr. Elizabeth of Earth and leader of the Atlantis Expedition. In keeping with treaty 67934-2 of the Trimvorathius Accord I charge you with crimes against Earth and humanity. Also, you have one of my people and I want him back."
Sheppard threw an 'I told you so' look at Ronon. Ronon ignored it as he always did when waiting for the other shoe to drop.
"Those are some big charges, Dr. Weir," The Goa'uld answered amiably. He didn't sound the least bit intimidated. "Asgard ship Carter II, I presume you will be acting as intermediary during these preliminary discussions?"
"I will," answered that same Asgard voice. "Am I to understand that you agree to enter into negotiations?"
"Of course!" the Goa'uld seemed scandalized that the Asgard would suggest otherwise. "I have nothing to hide."
There was a short pause before the Asgard responded again, "Am I to understand that you deny charges?"
"I submit that the esteemed Dr. Weir has, quite understandably, mis-interpreted my actions. I am not attacking the human race. Rather I am working to save it!" The slippery Goa'uld announced.
There was another short pause before the Asgard responded, "I will hear your arguments."
Teyla and Ronon levelled their gazes on Sheppard, who in turn shrugged awkwardly, "Ok. So it's not a warship."
His two team members appeared entirely unsurprised by this revelation, and not at all pleased.
Ronon was never one to let his displeasure pass in silence. "So now we're supposed to sit here and wait while they try to TALK these Goa'uld into letting McKay go?"
The tactical wheels turned in Sheppard's head as he looked grimly at the little Asgard ship, "You know Elizabeth. She'll have a good plan. More ships must be on their way. They must be stalling, to make sure the Goa'uld stay here long enough for help to come."
"I hope you're right," Ronon grumbled, and settled down to wait again.
John watched the sensor readings for any change in the Mothership, and he waited. He thought about all the things that could be happening to his team member and friend while he just sat there, doing nothing.
"Before we begin," Elizabeth interjected, "I would like to speak with Dr. McKay, to see that he is alright."
"I'm afraid that won't be possible." The Goa'uld's voice oozed with false regret, "He really is quite engaged at the moment."
Sheppard clenched his teeth, and the aura of rage emanating from Ronon increased exponentially. If those power-crazed uber-slugs did anything to Rodney they were going to hunt them down to the end of the universe personally.
"Then you admit you have him." Elizabeth stated. It wasn't a question. And so the fierce, and long, negotiations began.