9 August, 0930 hours
Hammond stared across his desk at the three members of SG-1 occupying his visitor chairs. “Would you mind repeating that, Captain Carter?”
“Sir, there is reason to believe that Colonel Cromwell may not have exited the wormhole until after it jumped to P2A-870. Someone should go and look for him.”
“I’ve suspended all outbound gate travel until our technicians have thoroughly checked out the gate on this end. Our equipment took one hell of a beating from that gravity field. Sergeant Siler and a team are working on it now.” The general held up a hand to forestall the protest he knew was coming, but to no avail, as Daniel half-rose from his chair.
“General, there have been teams returning from offworld since disconnecting from P3W-451. The gate is working just fine. I should know, because if it weren’t, I wouldn’t be here right now.”
“Son, just because it’s working properly for incoming wormholes, that’s no guarantee that it will properly generate outgoing ones. Or so a certain Captain has told me in the past.” Hammond eyed Carter.
“Of course, sir,” she responded. “But Colonel Cromwell could be injured, especially given the circumstances and the way he entered the gate. He went feet-first and at a high rate of speed. So just as soon as the gate checks out, we need to get a team to P2A-870 to look for him.”
“We will, Captain. We will. But I’m not willing to sacrifice any member of this command by sending them through a possibly faulty gate.”
Teal’c spoke up. “General Hammond, Colonel Cromwell was willing to sacrifice himself to save this world. He showed himself to be a brave warrior. I would like to go with whichever team is sent to attempt his rescue.”
“So would I,” added Carter.
“I’ll take that under advisement. But Captain Carter, do me a favor? Try to get some rest between now and the time the gate calibration and tests are finished. Siler estimates that will be around 13:30, just before the memorial service for SG-10. You have quarters here on base; use them.”
She nodded; Hammond knew she was aware that his words were really a thinly-veiled order. “Yes, sir. I’ll try, sir.” At his frown, she amended her response. “On my way, sir.”
“I assume you have dress blues on base, for the memorial? Or shall I send someone to your home to retrieve them for you?”
Daniel spoke up before Sam could say anything. “I’ll go get them, Sam.” She gave him a grateful look.
Hammond watched as the trio rose and left his office. He hadn’t shown it during the discussion, but he chafed every bit as much as they did over the need to wait. He felt the urge himself to get a team out there looking for Cromwell. But the SGC had already lost one entire team in this disaster, and morale was going to be awful for weeks. He wasn’t about to take any chances on losing even more personnel. Boyd had been well-liked by virtually everyone on base, and the same went for the other members of SG-10. While it was true that they owed it to Colonel Cromwell to mount a rescue mission ASAP, in this case ASAP meant as soon as the gate was tested and declared safe. Hold on, Colonel, he thought. You won’t be left out there for a moment longer than can be helped.
9 August, 1300 hours
O’Neill arrived on base an hour before the memorial service was scheduled to begin, and retreated immediately to his office. He wanted to say a few words about Henry Boyd at the service, but was having trouble getting them organized in his mind, let alone down on paper. Eloquence was not really among his strongest talents, he felt, but surely a man ought to be able to put together something meaningful for a comrade and friend lost in the line of duty. Maybe it was a combination of losing Boyd, being injured himself, and losing Frank that was messing with his mind. Sure, youbetcha. Well, whatever it was, here in the businesslike confines of his office perhaps he’d find it easier to do his own duty toward the man he had personally helped to propel into the very command which got him killed.
He debated closing his office door while he worked, but decided to leave it open. Much as he might need to minimize distractions right now, he’d also had enough of feeling isolated for one day. He settled for hoping that people would just leave him alone long enough to do what he needed to do, without his having to actively shut them out of his workspace. However, just as he seated himself at his computer and began to type, someone knocked on the doorframe. “I’m busy!” he snapped, without looking up. No sooner were the words out of his mouth than he regretted them, as the next voice he heard was Daniel’s. While the archaeologist could be annoying at times, when it came right down to it O’Neill was fond of him, considered him a close friend, and had no desire to be mean to him. That’s no way to treat a friend, O’Neill, and you know better.
“Uh, Jack? I’m sorry to bother you. I only need a moment.”
“Come on in.” Sighing, he swiveled his chair away from the desk. “I, ah, didn’t mean to bark at you like that.”
“It’s all right. You’ve been through a lot lately.”
“It’s no excuse, Daniel. What did you need?”
“Oh, actually, I came to tell you something.”
“Please make it something good.” O’Neill didn’t think he could handle another crisis or piece of bad news just now.
“Well, yeah, it might be.”
The colonel fidgeted impatiently. “Well? Don’t keep me in suspense.”
Daniel’s eyes took on that earnest look he got whenever he was about to launch into the long version of whatever it was that he wanted to say. O’Neill groaned inwardly. “Make it the Cliff’s Notes, please? There’s still the small matter of a eulogy I haven’t finished writing.” He watched the younger man’s expression change: eyebrows up, mouth closing again, a slight nod.
“Uh, right. Well, I’ve been talking to Sam, and she’s done some calculations…” He sped up as the colonel gestured for him to cut to the chase. “Sam thinks that Colonel Cromwell might’ve survived after all, and made it to P2A-870 but nobody’s gone there to look for him yet because General Hammond suspended all outgoing gate travel until after all the repairs check out on this end but — hey, where are you going?” he finished as the colonel pushed past him and out of the office, pelting at a dead run down the corridor. A moment later, O’Neill heard the archaeologist’s steps following behind in an effort to catch up.
They found Hammond in the Control Room, overseeing the final phase of testing the gate systems. The general turned from the window as O’Neill entered with Daniel hot on his heels. “Sir, let’s get this show on the road. SG-1 will take the rescue mission.”
“Stand down, Colonel. No one is going through this gate until it checks out one hundred percent. We’ve already lost SG-10. I’ll not risk losing any more personnel at this moment.”
O’Neill gaped at him. “With all due respect, we’re risking Cromwell’s life if we wait. We don’t even know what kind of conditions there are on P2A-eight-something-whatever. Isn’t that the world SG-4 tried to recon last month and only went long enough to retrieve the MALP after it found a raging blizzard? You want to leave a man, possibly an injured man, to freeze to death?”
“Colonel O’Neill. It’s been two days since the wormhole contacted that planet. I’m sorry to say this, but if Colonel Cromwell arrived there injured into a blizzard, he is most likely dead by now. If not, then after two days’ time, assuming he hasn’t run into hostiles, his condition and situation are likely to be such that one hour won’t make a difference either way in his survival.”
“One hour, sir?”
Hammond nodded. “That’s how long the remaining tests and calibration are estimated to take. I am not an unreasonable man, Colonel. Given that preliminary tests went smoothly, I’ve postponed the memorial for SG-10 and given the rescue mission priority. I want you to report to Dr. Fraiser and be examined. Assuming she clears you for duty involving gate travel, you and SG-1 have a ‘Go’ to visit P2A-870 and attempt to locate and rescue Colonel Cromwell.”
“And assuming he has run into hostiles?”
The General gave him a wolfish half-grin. “I suggest you arm yourselves fully for that eventuality and be prepared to give them a fight. I’m sending SG-5 with you for backup.” Hammond motioned O’Neill forward, gesturing with his other hand toward the window and the gate room below, where a MALP was being readied off to the side of the ramp. “You’ll have some recon before you enter the gate.”
“I see.” Pause. “Thank you, sir.”
Hammond nodded. “I don’t want to leave him out there any longer than you do, Colonel. Go see Dr. Fraiser, and then prep your team. Dismissed.”