Fandom: Stargate: SG-1
Title: Customary Practices
Genre: GEN -- Subtle humour, veiled social commentary... hopefully fun all around.
Timeline: Set early in the show, before Carter was promoted to Major.
An hour after the MALP sent back images of a peaceful, fertile, tropical-like world, SG-1 stepped through the rippling event horizon onto P7X-310.
Jack adjusted his sunglasses and resettled his P-90. "Alrighty, then!" he called out a la Ace Ventura. "Let's make for---"
He never got the chance to finish. Just as he was raising his hand to point at the distant image of a magnificent city, the view changed. The blue sky and lush vegetation vanished abruptly to be replaced by bright yellow walls and the smiling face of a woman who would have looked human if it weren't for the iridescent scales lining her skin.
"Greetings, Travelers!" The alien woman announced brightly, ignoring the weapons instinctively levelled at her. "Welcome to Brilne! My identifying designator is Danby, and I'll be your guide through our facility. If you'll just please come with me, we'll get you processed and on your way as quickly as possible."
The team blinked as the alien waved and a door suddenly appeared in the glaring yellow wall behind her. She indicated SG-1 should step through, never losing her wide practiced smile.
"Wait a minute!" Jack said, refusing to move. "Processed through what? Where are we? And who are you?"
The woman kept smiling. "I told you, sir. My identifying designator is Danby, and I'm your guide."
"Why for this facility, of course. The Brilnian Interplanetary Gateway," she added in response to their still blank faces. "Now if you'll please follow me, we need to get you processed as soon as possible."
"Processed through what?" Daniel asked curiously.
"Foreign Tourism and Decontamination," the alien answered patiently.
Major Carter was nodding. "Like Customs at an airport, sir," Sam deduced. "They must get so many visitors to their planet that they've undertaken measures to monitor the flow of activity through the Gate."
"Swell," Jack sighed. He shouldered his weapon and gestured at their guide. "Lead on, MacDuff."
"It's Danby, sir," she corrected politely. "Right this way." And she headed out of the Gateroom with a smart step.
Jack glared at his teammates as they discreetly sniggered and, gathering his dignity, followed on point. His team fell in behind him still trying to swallow their laughter.
SG-1 followed their unusual guide through a confusing labyrinth of twisting tunnels and hideous yellow walls until they finally came to what looked like a dead end. They assumed it wasn't because of the built-in desk being manned by a male with the same shimmering scales as their hostess.
"This is the Decontamination Unit. If you'll just step through these doors, we'll make sure you aren't carrying any foreign organisms that might prove harmful to our beautiful planet."
As Danby explained the procedure, the male behind the counter manipulated some hidden switches to open the doors and reveal the sealed chamber within. SG-1 was asked to walk inside with all their gear and wait a moment while some standard non-invasive scans were run.
Carter was all but crackling with excitement as she contemplated the chamber they stood in. "I wonder if their scanners operate on a multiphasic residual electromagnetic wavelength to detect and then filter out foreign particles without damaging the carrier's surrounding tissues? Or maybe..."
As Carter babbled on about the mechanics behind the decontamination scanners, and Daniel started in on the possible sociological developments of the Brilnians, Jack and Teal'c shared a look of indulgent fondness over the scientists' natural enthusiasm.
"If the Brilnians are so used to visitors from other planets, and respond as politely to them as they have toward us, then they must have a highly advanced social conscience which overrides any atavistic sense of xenophobia. If so, it's a fascinating example of environmental determinants affecting an evolutionary response..."
***WARNING! WARNING! Hazardous contagion detected! WARNING! WARNING!***
Both Carter and Daniel snapped their mouths shut as loud klaxons started blaring through the tiny decontamination chamber. Jack and Teal'c had their weapons up and at the ready within moments, with the other two members of SG-1 not far behind. Within seconds of the alarm going off, the team stood huddled defensively back-to-back in the centre of the empty room, each one prepared to guard their friends from any threat.
Directly in front of Jack, right about where SG-1 had entered through the invisible doors, a flashing blue strobelight began flickering in time with the alarm klaxons. By the third count of its flare, the innocuous yellow walls began to mutate. Thick, grey sludge began to dribble out through small pores in the walls' surface, covering them in a layer of unknown substance that hardened instantly into a metallic-like armour.
The only area to remain un-reinforced was the section below the strobelight. Jack's finger tightened on the trigger as the hidden doors slid open to reveal a small battalion of heavily armed guards.
Danby stood by the side of the door wringing her scaly hands. With her was another female alien, this one taller in stature and wearing a wreath of pale pink shells about her head. Based on Danby's desperate attempts to excuse herself from blame, Jack judged she was in charge.
"Oh, my Mijra! I swear, I didn't know!" Danby cried frantically. "I would never have allowed them to enter the facility had I realised."
"Excuse me," Jack interjected calmly, keeping his tone even and his weapon level, "but would someone mind explaining what's going on here?"
It was the female in charge who answered. Striding confidently into the chamber, her security force surging forward to fan out around the room, she tossed her small pointed chin in Teal'c direction while addressing Jack. "My identifying designator is Kendris; I am Mijra of this facility. You have wilfully and unlawfully attempted to smuggle a dangerous parasitic entity onto our planet. The charge is serious and will result in immediate reparation. Emergency security procedure dictates the offending being must be terminated without delay."
Oh, Jack really didn't like the sound of that.
"Okay, let's all just calm down here for a minute. Nobody is terminating anyone. We didn't even know about your laws, so we certainly couldn't have wilfully broken them. Why don't we just sit down and talk like civilized folk, work this all out over a cup of tea or something?" he suggested diplomatically.
As Kendris tilted her head in consideration, Daniel suddenly stepped forward. Jack threw his arm out to stop the archeologist's forward momentum, but couldn't stop his mouth. "You said 'dangerous parasitic entity'... you mean the larval Goa'uld in Teal'c," he realised. "You know what it is?"
"Yes," Kendris confirmed. "The parasitic entities known as the Goa'uld are not welcome on Brilne, nor are the warrior beings who serve and host their young."
"But Teal'c is a good Jaffa," Jack threw in, exasperated. For one reason or another, they often had to go through this when encountering cultures that had rebelled against Goa'uld dominion. One of these days, they really needed to get Teal'c a sign.
Teal'c nodded regally. "That is true. I no longer serve the false gods, and have allied myself with the Tau'ri in defence against the Goa'uld."
Kendris didn't look convinced. "There are no good Goa'uld," she finally decided. "All are treacherous creatures intent on enslaving the free peoples of Brilne and stealing our technology. No, the Jaffa will be terminated to prevent contamination. However, I am a reasonable Mijra. As you three tested clear of parasitic infection, you will be escorted to a relocation Gateway and permitted to return to your planet of origin unarmed."
"Well now, that's just not good enough," Jack snorted. "Look, lady, I don't care how you do things on your planet. But on ours we don't go around killing strangers because they're different."
A quiet ripple of unease passed through the watching Brilnians, but was quickly hushed by their Mijra's stern glance.
Too late. It was enough to give Dr. Jackson an idea. Staring Kendris right in the eye, Daniel boldly proclaimed her decree to be prejudiced. "Isn't it discriminatory to blame all individuals of a race for the actions of a few? Or even the majority? It's unethical and morally reprehensible to judge all members of a race by the behavior of only those few you've seen. No socially enlightened people could excuse such inappropriate bigotry."
Kendris blinked, obviously disconcerted. Behind her, the other Brilnians wore similarly confused expressions and whispered amongst themselves.
Recovering her wits quickly, Kendris silenced the chatter in the room with a decisive nod. "Perhaps you are correct," she reluctantly conceded. "Very well, we shall allow the Jaffa to live. But I must demand that you and your party leave our planet immediately, and do not ever return."
Content with those terms, Jack put a hand on Daniel's shoulder to simultaneously silence his instinctive protest and thank him for his quick-thinking. Then he nodded his assent to Kendris.
Satisfied, the Mijra swept from the room, leaving a nervous Danby and a perturbed security force to escort SG-1 back to the Stargate for immediate departure.
Danby struggled to regain her equilibrium and finally managed to pull the cloak of a consummate service professional around her. Looking as if nothing at all were out of the ordinary, she smiled brightly and directed SG-1 out the still-guarded door. "If you'll please follow me, sirs, madam. I'll take you to a designated out-going relocation Gateway." She turned smartly on her heel, and all but marched away from the decontamination chamber. The push of the soldiers closing in on their backs spurred SG-1 to follow.
They proceeded to wind through another series of yellow corridors which Jack wasn't certain, but didn't think were the same ones as before. "Excuse me, Danby," he asked their guide, "but aren't you supposed to be taking us back to the Gate?"
"The Gateway you arrived from, sir, is for incoming wormholes only," Danby explained. "I'm escorting you to our outgoing Gateway, where a trained Gateway technician will record your vital planetary information and arrange for your safe return."
True to her word, less than ten minutes later Danby was showing SG-1 into a new room, this one surprisingly decorated in tones of green instead of the usual yellow.
It was a female Brilnian who manned this desk, and to whom Danby gladly handed-over her charges. "Niaki, the Mijra has ordered these Travelers to be immediately returned to their planet of origin. Highest priority."
Niaki's eyes widened almost comically at the sight of SG-1 surrounded by the armed soldiers. "Er... yes, Danby! Highest priority, understood."
As Danby gratefully took her leave, Niaki turned hesitantly to serve SG-1. "I-I... I'll need some information from you before I can process you through the system," she explained timidly.
"No problem, what do ya need?"
Taken aback by Jack's easy acquiescence, she stuttered over her response. "Er... um, I need to record your identifying designators, that of your planet of origin, an-and the reason for your visit and unscheduled departure." The last she barely whispered as her nerve failed her.
Jack smiled charmingly at her, hoping to put her more at ease. "Sure thing, Niaki. Name's Colonel Jack O'Neill, with two L's. This here's Captain Samantha Carter, Dr. Daniel Jackson, and Teal'c of Chulak," he added formally, with a sweeping gesture to indicate each member of his team.
"We're SG-1, United States Air Force. Planet of origin? Earth. Reason for visit? We're explorers. You know, to seek out new life and new civilizations. That kinda thing." He ignored the elbows jabbed into his gut from either side. "Reason for departure? Teal'c's a Jaffa and we found out the hard way you folks don't like snakeheads."
Niaki blinked. "Um... a-a Jaffa?"
"Er, what's a Jaffa?"
Jack froze. "Uh..."
"One of the warrior beings that serve the Goa'uld," Carter spoke up, sparing her CO from embarrassment. "We're being kicked off the planet because he has a larval Goa'uld inside his stomach."
Niaki took an involuntary step backwards. "You brought an unlawful entity onto Brilne?" she asked, horrified.
"We didn't mean to," Jack muttered sullenly.
"It was a misunderstanding," Daniel clarified, glaring askance at his best friend. He ignored Jack's patently false 'innocent face' to smile gently at the Brilnian female.
Niaki's iridescent scales flushed blue.
The effect was oddly attractive. Jack raised his eyebrows, impressed despite himself.
"So you can see the problem," Daniel was saying, oblivious to any undertones. "Which is why we really need your help."
"Oh, yes, sir," Niaki breathed huskily. "I understand completely. And I'd be glad to provide any service I can to fulfill your needs."
Jack's eyes rolled as he watched her flirt with Daniel, knowing exactly what kind of 'service' she was offering. Beside him, Carter was biting her lip to hold back a smile. Teal'c remained impassive, but Jack caught the special glint in his eye that meant he was amused.
Daniel was still earnestly conversing with the alien travel agent, Niaki hanging on his every word.
"Excuse me, kids," Jack cut them off. "I hate to butt in, but we do have a busy schedule to keep and our plane is leaving."
Niaki's previously enraptured expression cooled several degrees as she faced Jack, her incomprehension of his cultural references obviously not hindering her ability to read him. "Very well, sir." Her manner instantly turning brisk and professional, Niaki's fingers flew to her control panel. "Please state your identifying designators."
"Colonel Jack O'Neill."
"Doctor Daniel Jackson."
"Captain Samantha Carter."
"Teal'c," each intoned in turn, Niaki entering the data as quickly as they said it.
"Very good, sirs, madam. And the identifying designator of your planet of origin?"
"Earth," Jack said at the exact moment Teal'c answered, "Chulak."
Niaki's fingers paused in their rapid typing, her head raising to glance between them. She kept her expression politely bland, while managing to look extremely put-upon all at the same time.
Jack glared at Teal'c. "Earth," he reiterated firmly. Teal'c raised an eyebrow, but with an acknowledging incline of his head, said nothing more.
Once again, Niaki turned to her control panel. Streams of data began scrolling past the inset screen faster than SG-1 could follow, not that they would have been able to read it if they could.
"I'm sorry, sirs," she announced a moment later. "I'm afraid we do not appear to have the planet 'Earth' listed in our database. If you would just fill out this simple questionnaire and sign where indicated, we will do our best to ensure you a safe and quick journey home."
So saying, she handed Jack a small data-pad. O'Neill quickly flicked through it, becoming increasingly alarmed at the sheer volume of questions it posed. Two minutes later, and less than half way through, he looked up at the unsympathetic Niaki waiting patiently behind her desk.
"You call this short?!" he demanded incredulously.
She looked at him blankly.
The Colonel glared wordlessly at her and returned to perusing the encyclopedic form, muttering uncomplimentary asides about the universal nature of paperwork as he did.
Growing bored standing around waiting for their CO to get through the questionnaire, Daniel was suddenly struck by an idea. He leaned up against the counter, smiled shyly at Niaki, and pointed at her computer terminal. "Perhaps you could just check one little thing for me?" he asked nicely.
Instantly more cooperative, the Brilnian female immediately nodded. "Of course, sir. I'd be honoured to." Scaled fingers hovering over her control panel, she smiled and looked expectantly at the linguist.
"Earth is the Tau'ri homeworld," he explained. "Do you maybe have anything in your system on the Tau'ri?"
Eager to please, Niaki instantly set to searching through the system. It took only a matter of seconds to find what she was looking for and she gladly passed the information to the adorable blue-eyed man watching her attentively. "Oh, yes, sir!" she said happily, manipulating her viewscreen so Daniel could also see what she'd discovered.
He politely pretended to read the incomprehensible squibbles that looked nothing like anything he'd ever seen, while his mind frantically tried to memorize as much of the image as he could to work on translating later.
"Would you look at that," Niaki continued pleasantly. "We do have your homeworld listed, after all! 'Earth', you say? Would you like me to input your planet's correct identifying designator into the data-field for future reference?" she inquired of Daniel, only too willing to help.
She completely failed to notice Jack's strangled sputtering as he overheard. The poor man finally surfaced from the depths of the 'short' questionnaire to stare open-mouthed with a look of astonishment mixed with consternation.
O'Neill was just opening his mouth to interrogate her further when Daniel smiled sincerely and said, "If you'd be so kind? Thank you."
Not surprisingly, the clerk ignored Jack to jump to Daniel's bidding.
"Very good, sir," she chirped brightly. "Now that we have a planet of origin, we just need to get a few more formalities taken care of, and we'll have you on your way."
"Well, I'm already aware of the reason for your abrupt departure," she flushed blue again. "But I'm afraid I didn't catch your reason for coming to Brilne in the first place?" her voice rose into a question as she trailed off.
"We're explorers," Daniel supplied complacently.
"We're interested in meeting other cultures, setting up trade, and looking for new allies against the Goa'uld," Sam added, contributing to the explanation.
Daniel nodded. "That's right. We didn't mean to violate any of your planet's rules, and we certainly didn't mean any harm. In fact, we'd be very interested in establishing further comunication with your world if your leaders would be willing to reconsider. We'd send an entirely human delegation through next time. I promise, no Goa'ulds."
The Brilnian almost melted as the full force of his intense regard was turned on her. "Well," she offered hesitantly. "I could speak with the Mijra, maybe? Inform her of what you've just told me?"
"That would be wonderful, Niaki! We'd really appreciate any help you could give."
She smiled tremulously. "It might take some time, I'm afraid. She's a very dedicated Mijra, but she's also quite fair. You'd still have to return to your planet as ordered, for now... but perhaps you could come back later? We have your dialing address recorded in our system, after all. We could, maybe, contact you when we're ready?"
Jack noticed the security force beginning to get ansty as they listened, and decided they'd best skedaddle while the getting was good. He ambled forward purposefully to intercept his team.
"Well, that sounds hunky-dory, Niaki. You do that. Just remember to knock first, okay? Our Stargate wears some pretty solid jewelry as a nice accessory, and we wouldn't want to neglect to remove it for you. Messy situation, that, when it happens." He confided smartly, winking at the Brilnian.
Niaki just looked confused.
"Right. Well then!" Jack about-faced. "Let's be off, shall we? The General'll be wanting a report as soon as we get back. We've almost stayed out past our bedtime."
The team quickly gathered up their gear as Niaki programmed the seven chevrons and keyed up the Gate. The wall behind her split to reveal the swirling wormhole, and their armed escort shadowed them to the brink of crossing its threshold. Carter initiated the GDO on her wrist, and she and Teal'c stepped into the event horizon. Jack waved benignly at Niaki and the guards as he calmly pushed Daniel through.
General Hammond was waiting for them when they stepped out of the Gate back unto Earth.
"Welcome home, SG-1," he greeted them. "How was the mission?"
The members of SG-1 traded glances silently, then looked back to face the curiously waiting CO of the SGC. As one, they beamed in satisfaction.
Moonbeam's Endnote: The "get Teal'c a sign" line belongs to somebody else, but danged if I can remember who. Everybody knows who owns the "to seek out new life and new civilizations" line, I'm sure. Ta!
P.S. Unlike my last fic, I'm not only pleased with how this one turned out, I'm ecstatic. It worked out even better than I'd hoped! Go me! :D