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Commendation

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Set somewhere between then and there and here and now. Probably after Ark of Truth for SG-1 and season two of War of the Worlds did not happen in this universe.

Commendation

 

Dr. Harrison Blackwood, head of the Blackwood Foundation and one time leader of the Blackwood Project, looked around the conference room set up for this function. Military uniforms mingled with a surprising number of civilians, all waiting for the ceremony to begin. He looked for the surviving members of his team, Norton Drake the computer genius who did so much for them and Debi McCullough-Thornton, daughter of Dr. Suzanne McCullough who was confined to an assisted living Alzheimer’s facility.

He was saddened that Suzanne, so full of life and vitality, was quickly succumbing to an early onset of the disease that no one yet knew a way to combat. Still, Debi was there to receive the accolades so late delivered for the work they led back in the mid-1980’s.

General Jack O’Neill joined him for a moment, introducing him to another man who fought a separate group of aliens on the Continent, as the English still referred to Europe. Ramrod straight, the man strangely reminded him of Paul Ironhorse, another of his team already gone from this earth, although not by alien hands. The cumulative damage of their frequent encounters with the invaders from Mortax had taken their toll and one day the man’s heart simply stopped. He was found at his desk in the Pentagon, pen in hand, looking as though he just laid his head on the desk for a few moments.

“Dr. Blackwood, this is General Ed Straker, retired. You two have a lot in common, both of you were fighting alien attacks when the rest of the world knew nothing about the invaders. General Straker, this is Dr. Harrison Blackwood.”

The two men shook hands, each measuring the other. Blackwood saw icy blue eyes, white hair precisely cut in what looked like a very modern or very dated manner, Straker’s grip was firm. There was an underlying tension. Straker didn’t want to be here any more than Harrison did.

“What do you make of all this?” he gestured to the room, but included the entire facility they were in, secreted under Cheyenne Mountain.

Straker harrumphed. “Wish I’d had their resources. We used to fight for every penny. Still, they’re doing a good job. Taking the fight to the enemy when necessary and making alliances where they can.”

Blackwood smiled at that and saw an answering slight curve to the other’s lips. “We’ve made strides,” he said, nodding. “I think they’re ready for us. Shall we?”

Everyone stood as the President, accompanied by Secret Service men, entered the room. Then they sat for the ceremony, . The short speech was the same, although the medals presented were different. Blackwood, Norton and Debi (on behalf of her mother, Suzanne) received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, as did Dr. Virginia Lake from the other organization, the highest honor bestowed on a civilian while the military members present received the Medal of Honor. That included posthumous medals for General Paul Ironhorse, several former members of Straker’s people, members of Delta Force who already dead, and Straker and his remaining staff: Alec Freeman, Keith Ford, and Nina Berry.

The applause in the confines of the room was almost deafening. Someone handed each of them flutes of champagne. Blackwood saw a brief look passed between Straker and Alec Freeman, the latter’s silvered hair cropped short and the scars of acne still visible through the wrinkles of his craggy face. They were joined by the others who received medals, including Dr. Lake. A rueful grin curved Straker’s lips as he took a celebratory sip.

Both men were inundated with congratulations and questions as the leaders of their respective projects. Dr. Daniel Jackson was full of questions. Harrison held up the hand that wasn’t gripping his cane to quell the younger man’s intense interest. “Perhaps we could schedule this for a later time,” he suggested. “I’m not as young as I was and I’m getting tired,” he said with a smile.

“I’m sorry. It’s just, there seems to be a lot I missed while doing research when I was younger and I’m curious to know what and why. I understand the threats we’ve witnessed, but to know that … that between Ra five thousand and more years ago, and now, there were issues not directly related to the System Lords is just … mind boggling.”

Harrison regarded the dark haired man for a moment. Given what little he’d been told, he found it difficult to believe that his fight against the invaders of 1938, 1953 and 1985 was anywhere near as ‘mind boggling’ as what this man faced every day, yet there wasn’t a trace of duplicity in the man’s eager interest.

“Why don’t we schedule a talk, Dr. Jackson?”

“Daniel, please.”

“Daniel,” Harrison acquiesced with a nod.

“That would be good. I guess I should stop monopolizing you,” he returned with a sudden grin as he looked around to a woman in uniform who smiled back at him. “Lt. Colonel Samantha Carter, Dr. Blackwood,” he performed the introductions before moving off to claim another flute of champagne.

“Lt. Colonel Carter,” he started.

“Sam, please.”

“Sam, and you must call me Harrison. No one calls me Harry.” Not any more since Sylvia passed peacefully in her sleep several years ago.

“How about Son?” she asked with a grin.

For a moment his eyes darkened with memory. Forester had called him that once in a while. “Not in a long time,” he countered.

“Harrison, it is.” She asked if she could make an appointment to pick his brain in the next couple of weeks. “I’ve read as much of the records as I could find, but … there’s so much I get the feeling was either deliberately left out or has been censored, even now.”

“You and Dr. Jackson ...”

“That makes sense,” she said with a chuckle. “We both like to know everything we can. Just in case.”

“The Mortax are gone, all of them, as far as we can tell. They abandoned their home world to come here and … well, with a lot of luck and hard work, we stopped them. He didn’t mention the occasional flashes of what he could only call memory that showed him a much different world than this one, one where Ironhorse and Norton fell to the aliens and the world was far darker, far more hostile, one where the Mortax came closer to winning. He shook his head to clear those fantasies. “I’ll look forward to talking to you. Right now, I’d like another glass of champagne and a chair.”

Seated, he took the time to note that others were also being surrounded, congratulated and questioned. Straker looked like a man desperately wanting to find a way out, highly uncomfortable. Blackwood caught General O’Neill’s eye as he moved around the room and nodded to the pale haired man, Freeman at his elbow as though he belonged there. He could see worry in Alec’s gaze.

O’Neill nodded and walked over, a look of inquiry on his face.
Blackwood nodded to Straker again. “You might want to get him to the surface,” he said softly. O’Neill looked curious. “Watch him.”

Jack took a moment to observe and caught what Blackwood was talking about. “Oh, hell. No one told me … If you’ll excuse me,” he said curtly and moved to where Straker and Freeman stood.

“Gen. Straker, Freeman. I believe we promised that once the presentation was done, we wouldn’t take up too much more of your time. We’d like to show you the gate itself and then we’ll get you out of here.”

Alec gave him a nod and looked to his friend for confirmation.

Fighting the urge to ask to just leave, Straker agreed. It wasn’t like the place wasn’t roomy. Given the population on the base at any given time, it was built comfortably. Still, there was all that mountain looming over them.

The Gate Room took his mind off his claustrophobia. There was this huge relic, a circle set up with power leads running to it. Straker stared at it hungrily. A gateway to anywhere one wanted to go, presuming there was an address to take them there. Was there one that would lead to the anonymous alien home world of those he fought? They stopped coming, vanished from the skies in 1996 and never returned. Was this the reason why?

So many questions and no answers. Dr. Jackson had proposed a dying population. Did they finally become too few to continue their depredations? He would never know. Still, now he knew that not all alien populations were hostile, that there were even those of greater technology who were allies.

He knew Alec was keeping an eye on him, as was Virginia Lake, the last of the surviving command staff to arrive with an apology for losing herself in her research. He gave a nod and turned to General O’Neill. “Impressive. I’m glad to know that not all the extraterrestrial life is hostile to us. Tended to be very xenophobic there for a while.”

“Yeah. Well, Daniel was always inclined to want to talk instead of shoot. Keeps us on an even keel, which is a little odd for the Army,” he ended with a laugh. He looked to one of the nearby staff. “Lt. Donovan.”

“Sir!”

“Please escort General Straker and his party to the surface.” He turned back to the SHADO personnel. “It’s been an honor to meet you,” he told them, taking all of them in. The posthumous awards would be sent to surviving families. “Your contributions to the survival of this world were overlooked for too long.”

He took a step back, straightened and saluted them. Straker and Freeman, military long before they started SHADO, returned the salute crisply. Duty and Honor.

As Straker and his people were taken to the surface, Harrison, Drake and Debi were taken on a slightly more extended tour of the facility. Debi, now Dr. McCullough-Thornton with both an MD and a degree in microbiology, was full of questions, bubbling almost as much as she did at eleven when she met the horse at the Cottage where her mother and the rest of the Project lived. Suzanne had performed miracles and pulled their fat out of the fire so many times. Sometimes Blackwood wondered if their interactions with the aliens were the reason for her problems now.

As they were escorted to the surface and into waiting transportation, Norton looked to his long time friend and shook his head. “Good thing they didn’t know about this.”

A shudder ran through Blackwood’s frame at the thought. “Damn right, Norton.” The thought of the aliens they fought gaining access to the Stargate and all the worlds beyond was horrifying for him.

“Gertrude, forward,” Norton commanded his wheel chair and ascended the ramp into the interior of the handicap accessible van. Blackwood and Debi followed him into the vehicle and settled in for their ride to the airport.

What a long strange trip it was that brought them here.