The Lines Are Drawn
I am caught more than a little off-guard when I see Jack and Jim coming our way though --come to think of it-- maybe I should have realized that that was inevitable. As soon as the conversation turned to recruitment there was no point in them staying away and they probably knew it. In fact in a way I think I am almost relieved by their presence.
Even though there was no way I was going to agree to anything without Jim here, the fact is that he is probably going to be far more effective when it comes to this particular negotiation than I could ever hope to be. I just don't know enough about the military to handle this one. I don't know what our options are likely to be and what kind of things we should watch out for here. In that regard this is Jim's field and I trust him to do most of the talking.
"Hi big guy!" I say, wondering how this is going to go.
"Hi, chief, sorry to butt in."
"It's okay, man. So, I take it this means we are ready to talk shop?" I ask.
"Looks that way."
After that things get kind of awkward, again, not that I'm particularly surprised by that fact. We are all here and we all know where this is going but no one seems to be willing to go first. It is a game of chicken... and the truth is that by now I'm growing more than a little tired of these childish pissing contests. Of course, with the stakes as high as they are, I know better than to say anything about it.
I'm looking at both Jim and Jack and I can see that neither one of them is particularly inclined to back down... and I cant help but wonder whether or not our grandkids will be in college by the time these two figure out that chances are they are on the same side. A look Daniel's way tells me that he shares my frustration. Finally it is Sam who breaks the silence, thus enabling her CO to break the standstill without losing face.
"Are we going to ask them to join us, sir?" she asks, looking at O'Neill.
"That's kind of the idea. So, what do you say?" asks the colonel.
"It depends," says Jim, giving nothing away.
"On what you mean by join you, basically," he pushes.
"I mean you come to the Springs and join us, how hard is that to understand?"
"I understand that but the truth is that while we are willing to hear what you have to say we have some concerns of our own and we are not making any promises as to what our answer will be," Jim explains.
"It's not rocket science, Ellison, we want you to help us fight a bunch of galactic bullies who want to enslave our whole planet. What more do you need to know?" growls Colonel O'Neill.
"As I said, I need to know what you mean by 'join you'. We may be willing to help you out but we do so on our own terms," explains Jim.
"And what are your terms?"
"We work with you but we go in as civilian consultants."
"You know it doesn't work that way, Ellison. You are military," says O'Neill.
"Nope, I'm not military, I'm ex-military," Jim reminds him.
"If you join us you would be recalled to active duty, you know that."
"In that case the answer is 'no'."
"What do you mean the answer is 'no'?" asks O'Neill, looking more than a little frustrated.
"It means just what I said. I was screwed by my CO once and I dont want to find myself in that kind of position ever again. We go in as civilian consultants working for the SGC, both of us, or we don't go in at all. I work with Blair, he is my partner and I want to make sure we can't be separated, I can do that as a civilian consultant but not as military personnel and you know it," says Jim before going on.
"The fact is that even though I'm more than willing to help you, that doesn't mean that I'm willing to run the risk of being reassigned or turned into a guinea pig... and that means I have to stay in control and retain the freedom to get out at a moment's notice. Major Carter was using my safety as a bargaining chip earlier and the fact is that the only way in which my safety can be ensured is if I'm not in the military. If we are civilian consultants working specifically for the SGC, rather than for the Army or the Air Force, we remain in control of our own destiny, if I were to be considered military I could be reassigned and there would be nothing I could say or do about that, not without running the risk of being court-martialed. That is not an option."
"I understand, but you know I can't promise you that!" exclaims O'Neill.
"I know, and I'm not asking you to give me an answer right now," says Jim, sounding oddly conciliatory. "I understand the chain of command and that everything you are saying here is tentative at best. I know the final decision rests with your CO but you have to understand our position too. If I were to be recalled to active duty, what would happen if someone were to decide that my talents would be more useful elsewhere? What if someone were to try to reassign me without Blair? Those are risks we can't afford to take so, yes, we are willing to do our share but Sandburg and I watch each other's backs and we are not going to agree to any kind of deal that threatens our ability to do just that."
So this is it. I look from Jim to Jack and back again... and I know that the lines are drawn. The ball is in their court, though somehow I suspect it's not quite that simple. I suspect that there is a lot more to this encounter than meets the eye... and if I'm not mistaken my sentinel has already come up with at least half a dozen contingency plans for us to disappear without a trace.