Title: The Devil Must
Disclaimer: I’m just borrowing them.
Spoilers: Everything that’s ever aired.
AN: Sequel/companion piece to Reboot. Kinda dark.
Major General Paul Davis of the United States Air Force watched his life go up in smoke.
The Eastern Coalition’s forces were already on the 12th sublevel, and were making their way further down even as he stood here supervising the destruction of the former SGC.
Sergeants and Lieutenants bustled behind him as they deleted hard drives, shredded documents, and then piled the remnants to be torched.
Most of them didn’t even know what was on the pages they were burning.
Paul stood in sublevel 27’s briefing room and gazed through the glass at where the Stargate had once stood. Where now there was nothing but dozens of smoking barrels being hastily stuffed with the shreds of every last piece of evidence that the people of Earth had once traveled the stars.
He turned away from the smoke-obscured glass to watch new boxes of mission reports, yellowed with age, being brought in even as others were taken down below to be shredded, before being taken on their last leg to the fire bins.
This was not how this should have ended.
Forty-one years ago, these files had been his job, his life. He had read every mission report ever generated by Stargate Command. He had been the Pentagon’s liaison to the SGC, and the foremost expert on Stargate operations. If a military officer or a political figure head in D.C. wanted to know something about the Stargate, the SGC, Atlantis, or just the universe at large, Paul Davis was the one to ask.
Even after the Ori war was lost, after the best and brightest humanity had to offer had left for Atlantis, even after fifteen years spent attempting to contact the Pegasus galaxy with no answer, even after the government had officially closed down the SGC and sealed the files, Paul had never lost hope that humanity would one day retake to the stars.
“Sir?” It was one of the officers already stationed here when he arrived, though for the life of him he couldn’t remember the young woman’s name.
“Captain,” he replied. “Sir,” she continued, “our forces just pulled back to the eighteenth sublevel; they’re erecting barricades now, but they don’t think they will be able to hold for more than another twenty minutes.”
“Are the…artifacts in place yet?”
“No sir. Estimated time of completion is just under ten minutes.”
“What’s our time looking like?”
She looked at her watch. “Self-destruct in thirty-one minutes.”
“Tell the Colonel to hold the eighteenth as long as he can, but when they fall back, to take the access shaft on twenty-three, section B; they have thirty minutes to get out of this mountain.”
“Yes sir.” She turned to leave. “And Captain?” she turned around, “as soon as the computers are wrecked, get your people to the evacuation tunnel; don’t wait for the paper files.”
“Yes sir.” She hurried out to complete her tasks, bypassing the whirl of activity as the last of the files were brought in.
Paul turned back to the window, but the smoke had almost completely blackened it, and all that could be seen behind it was the flickering of the fires.
He turned to the table and began going through the boxes.
Here was a report on the botanical life of P3X-265. Another on the trade negotiation with the Achii, written by Colonel O’Neill, and filled with Kleenex jokes. An SG-14 summary on the planetary cycle of P5Z-487’s solar system. It went on and on. Box after box after box filled with the most precious documents on Earth. And he was destroying them.
“Sir?” It was the captain again.
Somewhere during his perusal he had sat down, and must have been staring blankly at a report on Heru-Ur’s troop movements for several minutes. He looked up, and found that he was alone in the room with the Captain.
“The artifacts are in place sir, and the systems are wiped,” she reported.
“Sixteen minutes; I’ve already instructed my personnel to leave.”
“Then get yourself out of here Captain,” he answered, turning back to the file.
“What about you sir?” She asked, worry creeping into her voice.
He merely looked at her. Paul might have been what used to be termed ‘a paper-pusher’ for most of his career, but he had seen and done what few people could imagine, and what even less cared to remember. The captain snapped to attention and saluted, “Yes sir.”
And then he was alone.
He turned back to the black window, the fires behind it lighting it like some mockery of hell.
Eighty-two years old, one of the last… Well, just one of the last, he supposed. The plagues, wars, and just plain old age had killed off most of those who had any direct contact with the project. Sure, there were plenty of the younger generation of officers who had been dedicated to eradicating the last of the Trust and the Goa’uld; plenty of scientists who had devoted over a decade to sending signals to Atlantis, and waiting for replies that never came. But of the few who had been members since the beginning and had not gone to Atlantis, Paul was quite possibly the last.
He looked at his watch. Six minutes.
Six minutes until every last report, every last piece of technology or alien ‘artifact’, every last shred of evidence of the SGC’s existence went up in smoke.
It seemed only fitting that he should go with it.
He got up from his chair and put his coat back on. Buttoned his cuffs, straightened his collar. He always knew he’d be buried in his dress blues, he just never thought he’d be the one burying himself. Especially not in more ways than one.
The walk past the briefing room table was done leisurely, as he let his withered hand glide of the remaining bits of his life. These had been his weekends, his evenings, the empty home he went to every night, the wife he never married, the children he never had.
There was the anniversary he would have never missed, the daughter he would have walked down the aisle, the son who would have made him laugh.
This was the dream he had sacrificed all other dreams for.
The walk down the stairs to the control room was done even slower, as he remembered all those who had rushed up and down these stairs, all the times they had saved humanity by a hair’s breadth, the people who had died here, or on some distant planet. Janet Frasier, Teal’c…
He remembered the friends whose fates he would never know. General O’Neill. Dr. Weir. Colonel Carter. Dr. Jackson.
The control room had changed a great deal in the years since the shut down of the SGC. The computers had been removed and the space converted into storage, the walls lined with shelves and file cabinets rather than super-computers. The floor was littered with paper shredders, and trash cans. Individual sheets of paper and small shredded scraps covered everything.
The window to the gateroom hadn’t been removed though, even after all these years, and it remained un-obscured. Perhaps every general given charge of this base had decided to leave it that way as a reminder of what this place had once been. A window to the universe.
Shouts and steps could be heard, as the enemy forces approached, and he couldn’t help but pretend that the people upstairs weren’t human. That this was all some colossal mistake, and that they weren’t at war with a people who were once their partners in the I.O.A. That it was an alien force invading an Earth that was united and whole, not a torn and wrecked Earth eating itself alive.
The thought passed as quickly as it came. Perhaps there had once been a chance for a united humanity, back when they knew how large the universe was, and how small their individual countries and differences were, but now…
The control room window wasn’t as clouded as the one in the briefing room, and Major General Paul Davis of the United States Air Force stepped up to it to take a closer look, ignoring the yells of people behind him who had discovered his existence.
He could see the barrels pouring smoke, and the ash that rose up in the air only to fall down and cover the gateroom floor in a fine grey powder, and he suddenly remembered an old childhood rhyme.
Thirty seconds. Ashes to ashes...
The Coalition’s forces were in the control room now, but he ignored them.
Twenty seconds. Dust to dust.
They were shouting at him to turn around even as they sent for someone higher up their food chain to decide what to do with a U.S. general. If he strained his eyes he could almost see the ramp leading up to the gate, and a brilliant blue wormhole established in its center.
Ten seconds. If God won’t have you...
The smoke cleared for a moment, and the apparition disappeared as he suddenly saw with perfect clarity nothing but a bare concrete room filled with fire and ash.
Zero seconds. The Devil Must.