“Ah, Carter! Just the person I wanted to see. Let me introduce Ambassador Sarah Williams. She’ll be taking lead in our meeting with the Tok’ra. Sarah, this is Colonel Samantha Carter, the leader of SG-1.” The general was in a suspiciously good mood. Sam eyed him as much as the woman he was introducing.
“Ambassador Williams, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Colonel Carter. Please, call me Sarah.”
“And I’m Sam.” The two women smiled politely and professionally at each other for a moment. With the social niceties over, Sam continued, “If you’ll come this way, I’ll take you to our medical center where they’ll run a quick exam to ensure you’re not carrying any parasites.”
“Of course.” Sarah seemed remarkably undisturbed by this process, unlike most other visitors.
“One of the guards will escort you to the meeting room when you’re done here.”
“Excellent. It was good to meet you.”
Sam waited until the Ambassador had been whisked away by one of the nurses and she and the general were making their own way down to the meeting room before speaking again.
“So,” Colonel Doctor Samantha Carter said, “you flew across the country, as a passenger no less, in order to introduce a new political appointee ambassador to the SGC and the visiting Tok’ra. Really? Sir.”
“You know me, Carter, I love meetings with the Tok’ra!” General Jack O’Neill seemed to actually be trying for a look of innocence. She could only assume it was purely for his own amusement rather than either any need or any belief that it would actually work on her.
“As a matter of fact, General, I do know you.”
He continued to smile his ever-so-(not-at-all)-innocent smile at her. It tried and failed to cover the smug excitement that she could practically see vibrating beneath his skin.
The thing was that she did know him. He hated the Tok’ra. She found them tiresome and annoying, but he hated them. As much as he hated them, though, he also understood their importance as allies against the various other species of aliens who were out to destroy or enslave humanity. He tried to avoid them when he could, often leaving meetings such as these to her, but he was perfectly capable of working with them and even actively cultivating their alliance when necessary.
For him to fly out to specifically to meet the Tok’ra without any prompting, and to be this excited about it… that meant he had an ace up his sleeve and whatever it was it would be a game changer. And that game changer was most likely the ambassador he had brought with him.
“Ambassador Sarah Williams, huh?”
“She seemed nice.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t a compliment. Nice was great for civilians, but working at the SGC, nice people turned bitter and burned out all too quickly.
“You’re not going to tell me anything, are you?”
“Hmm.” The general did like his surprises. However, while the general had literally just flown in for this specific meeting they still had a few more minutes before the visiting Tok’ra would emerge from their visitors quarters and Sarah would return from her check in with medical confirming her humanity. Thinking of which… “Is she going to pass the humanity check?”
“Oh yes. She passed all the exams in D.C.”
“She does present herself like a Goa’uld, though, doesn’t she?” Sam may have only had a brief introduction, but the young woman was beautiful, confident, and dressed with a great deal of gold ornamentation. “Did you arrange that?”
The general actually winced. “Not at all. That’s just how she dresses.” He sounded pained.
“You must have had quite the first meeting with her.”
The general winced again (oh yes, Sam definitely wanted the story of that first meeting) but also side-eyed her a bit. Okay, yes, she was still fishing for information. But while Sam trusted the General with her life and the fate of the world, that trust was built on knowledge and understanding rather than blind faith.
Sam had only met the Ambassador briefly and she seemed like a nice and competent enough young woman, Sam wasn’t at all sure what about her could possibly constitute a game changer.
“Do you trust me?”
“You know I do.”
“Then trust me that I’m 99% sure that this is going to work and having Sarah as an ambassador to the Tok’ra will make your life easier and the Earth safer. But if I’m wrong and this doesn’t play out according to plan, then I want you to be able to honestly explain her away as just one more crazy Earth politician that you had to put up with but never actually believed in.”
Sam blinked at that. “But you believe she’ll be able to deal with the Tok’ra better than any of us at the SGC?” It was an honest question. She wasn’t insulted. Everyone she knew struggled to deal with the patronizing and paternalistic Tok’ra. They were awful to work with, requiring the best and brightest of their staff and then treating those people like idiots. She was surprised that anyone could be found who would be good at dealing with them.
“I think she has a theory that makes a lot of sense.” For a moment there was an honest flash of rage in his eyes as he considered the Tok’ra before it banked beneath his regular look of genial professionalism. “And if it’s true, I think she’ll be one of the few able to keep them to task.”
That was very high praise from him.
When it came down to it, Sam did trust the general. Plus, they were now out of time. The ambassador was back from medical, looking just as golden as before, and the Tok’ra delegation, looking at imperious as always, was also entering the conference room. The meeting was about to begin and Sam still had no idea what was going to happen except that it wasn’t going to follow her own agenda. As much as she needed the information from them, she was just as happy to leave it to someone else to cater to their whims and coax out the needed information in little dribs and drabs. She was sick and tired of the task herself, and just hoped that it didn’t revert back to her after this one meeting’s reprieve.
“Making her lead the first meeting is a bit like throwing her in to sink or swim, isn’t it?” She murmured quietly, only for the general’s ears.
He was just as quiet with his response. “Like throwing a shark into a lake. The shallow end would just beach her. In the deep end, it’s the snakes who had better beware.”
Sam barely kept herself from jerking around to stare at the general. For all her golden splendor, Sarah had not struck Sam as being at all shark-like. But with the image of sharks in mind, though, Sam could see the resemblance at least in the way the Tok’ra were responding to her. Sam thought it was probably Sarah’s resemblance to a Goa’uld, though.
But maybe not. Normally Sam started these meetings with an introduction of everyone present, but the general had told her to let the new ambassador lead the meeting and Sarah was quietly inspecting each of the Tok’ra. The silence extended awkwardly.
The Tok’ra were actually looking increasingly unnerved. Sam wondered why she hadn’t already thought of doing this, if only to throw them off their game. Normally, Sam started off the discussion as quickly as possible in hopes of making the most of their time.
She was beginning to realize, though, why a dedicated ambassador might be a useful resource for a dedicated scientist and soldier like herself. It was like having had Daniel Jackson on the team: he was the one who understood how to communicate with other cultures.
After a long and increasingly uncomfortable silence, Ambassador Williams finally stood up.
“Hello. I am Ambassador Sarah Williams. I would like to start this meeting with an apology on behalf of the previous ambassadors. As this was the first official interaction with a non-human government, the previous ambassadors came to the table with assumptions that I fear stalled negotiations.”
While Sam didn’t enjoy being blamed for failures, she wasn’t unused to being the recipient of passed on blame. She wasn’t even sure if the failure was directed at her, since she wasn’t an ambassador and had just been doing the work since no one else was. She could mostly ignore that apology. The gentle stress the ambassador had put on “official”, however, got her riveted attention. The ambassador seemed to be implying the existence of unofficial negotiations. Given her relative youth and the serenity with which she spoke to the aliens, it seemed clear that Sarah must have been party to those.
It was also interesting that she had characterized their previous negotiations as being stalled. While getting help from the Tok’ra had always been like long and tedious, nothing was significantly worse than before.
“We are, after all, a young race compared to the Tok'ra, practically a race of children.” Sarah paused and smiled faintly.
The lead Tok’ra ambassador took the moment to respond, saying, “Of course we forgive you any misunderstandings. But I believe negotiations are progressing at an appropriate pace. Young races often act too hurriedly.”
“Yes,” Ambassador Williams seemed to commiserate with the Tok’ra ambassador. “It’s one of the drawbacks of being a race of children. But it is more than made up for with the benefits. After all, all races must have children to survive.”
The Tok’ra stiffened and Sam could sense some of the other SGC personnel stifling groans. Had no one briefed the ambassador regarding the Tok’ra’s lack of children? Sam found herself, however, waiting to hear the punch line. O’Neill would not have brought in a stupid or unprepared ambassador. He was, however, a master at appearing that way himself in order to gain advantage.
The Tok’ra appeared to still be underestimating them all, and not noticing the fact that a trap had been set. The lead Tok’ra ambassador spoke sternly, as if correcting an impolite child, “We do not have children.”
“No, you don’t,” Ambassador Williams acknowledged. It could not possibly be mistaken for an apology.
The Tok’ra were beginning to look angered. They also, Sam realized, looked… threatened.
Sam found that every interesting.
Ambassador Williams continued to look politely confident as she confirmed the threat. “Since you don’t have children of your own, adopting children from other cultures is vital to your survival. Without children and the ingenuity they bring, cultures atrophy and die. Immortality is worthless if there’s no infancy as well. So, while we need meetings such as this to result in specific information, you merely need to have them continue.”
“Outrageous!” “What are you implying?” “Are you threatening us?”
Sam had never seen the Tok’ra so disturbed. They talked over themselves under Ambassador Williams’ cool regard.
Sam herself was feeling rather disturbed. And as she thought through the implication, she got angry. She had demonstrated her willingness to help the Tok’ra before now. There was no need to lie about their needs. She’d often thought they were stodgy and unimaginative, but she’d never thought that they were using the ingenuity and inspiration of the SGC to compensate for their weaknesses even as they denied the existence of any weakness. She was fine helping them. She was less than fine with the hypocrisy of being denigrated for the very feature that the Tok’ra needed from her.
She found herself looking rather coolly at the Tok’ra who had set themselves up as the responsible adults to humanities unruly children, and now appeared more as parasites on humanity’s youth.
“If you’re all quite done?” Ambassador Williams spoke pointedly, cutting through the din, and everyone quieted down. “I have prepared a list of things that we humans expect to get out of our meetings with the Tok’ra, as well as a list of things that I believe the Tok’ra expect to get out of our meetings. I would like us all to go over these lists and ensure they are complete and accurate. Choose your right words when you tell me what you want.”
Ambassador Williams looked around the table with flinty eyes. She then started passing around printed copies of a list with plenty of extra space for written notes.
“We have been generous, up till now, sharing our time and our ingenuity with you. But humans,” the ambassador stressed, “children,” she stressed, “and I,” she stressed, “can be cruel.”
Yes, Sam thought. Yes, we had been generous, hadn’t we, catering to their needs and ignoring their insults? And we don’t have to be, do we? We can also be cruel and our allies should remember that.
The Tok’ra seemed suitably cowed.
The ambassador smiled and her face relaxed into genteel professionalism once more. It did nothing to remove the sense of danger.
“Now, please take the next few minutes to review the lists you’ve all received so we can discuss them as a group.”
There were some rather shell-shocked murmurs of acquiescence as they all, Tok’ra and humans alike, bowed their heads to their assigned task.
Sam took a moment to wonder if maybe Sarah Williams could be assigned as ambassador to the Goa’uld and maybe to the Ori as well as the Tok’ra. A quick glance at the general made her think he was having similar thoughts. Definitely something to think about. But for the time being, she settled down to review the list and prepare for a discussion that would change how humanity and Tok’ra worked together.
They would be fair to the Tok’ra, Sam thought. Fair. But Sam was all out of generosity and thought that Sarah might have just the right amount of cruelty.