As far as offworld facilities went, the Gamma site base might not be the most elaborate, but it was still relatively comfortable. With the Gamma site having been built around the Stargate of an uninhabited planet whose address had been found on the Ancient database, the base itself was a relatively basic construction, consisting of an F-302 hanger and various F-302s attached to a small tower and a couple of low, grey laboratory facilities, located in a decently-sized forest with a good view of the immediate surrounding area, as well as some mountains a short distance away to provide a natural cover. The base's interior was also comparatively straightforward in design, possessing the typical grey corridors and occasional signs that Daniel had come to expect in any military base.
As the tour began, Sam took the IOA representatives on a quick walk around the base, explaining some details about the reasons for establishing the Gamma site on this planet while giving the delegates the chance to look at some of the work that was being done in the base; from what Daniel recalled from the last report he'd read about the site, one of the major projects right now was studying some kind of insect that had been found on planets that had been recently visited by the Priors, which preferred moving in darkness, stayed alive for longer if they didn't eat, and apparently 'navigated' by echo-location (Daniel had to wonder what Hagrid would make of them, but he wasn't going to think too much about that; if nothing else, after Hagrid's creation of the Blast-Ended Skrewts, as much as he valued the half-giant's friendship, the last thing he wanted was to give Hagrid more potential creatures to breed)...
As much as Daniel appreciated the chance at a relatively relaxing mission, he had to agree with Mitchell's assessment; this was nothing but a PR stunt to improve Stargate Command's image in the eyes of the IOA, and Shen's low opinion of the SGC from the beginning was going to do little to improve anyone's mood at a time like this.
The diplomat he'd found himself becoming after he joined the SGC might understand where she was coming from with her objections to the lack of technology they'd shared with the Chinese, but the rest of him just resented Shen's narrow-mindedness; like the Ministry of Magic that had caused him such trouble as a child, she was unconcerned about anything that didn't involve immediate practical benefit to her.
With that thought in mind, when he noticed Shen sitting on a separate table from the rest of the delegates, with nothing else to immediately occupy his time, he decided to relocate over to Shen's table after putting his tray together; as the most potentially problematic of the IOA delegates currently on the tour, it made sense to try and establish what she was here to accomplish to ensure that she didn't do anything that might damage the SGC's reputation.
"Don't feel like joining us at the other table?" he asked, as he walked up to stand alongside her table.
"I'm just in the middle of-" Shen began.
"OK, don't mind if I do," Daniel interrupted, casually sitting down at the table; in his experience with the Ministry of Magic, the best way to make your point to politicians was to put them in a position where it was more awkward for them to get rid of you than it would be for them to just let you do or say whatever you were trying to do. It appeared that the philosophy applied to magical and non-magical politicians, as Shen merely smiled politely at him as he sat down before turning her attention back to her notebook.
"You were in the middle of something?" he asked, turning the question back on her.
"Taking notes on my visit here, while the details are still fresh on my mind," Shen clarified with a sigh before she looked at him with the pointed stare that Daniel recognised from experience as the stare of someone who knew they weren't getting the full picture and wanted more information. "This tour has provided me some wonderful insight into tedious off-world research and the lunch menu here on your Gamma Site."
"Well, believe it or not," Daniel began as he swallowed his latest mouthful of food, "the-"
"Is this where you tell me the SGC has no choice but to maintain its air of secrecy surrounding its operations?" Shen asked. "That as an outsider I could never understand or appreciate the work you all do, saving our planet time and again?"
"Well," Daniel replied, allowing some of his 'inner Harry' to get out as he glared at the Chinese diplomat, "considering that you have only ever read about our victories after
they've happened, you probably think it's a bit easier to pull it off than it actually is, but I would just like you to keep one thing in mind; we became this good because we have had eight years of training dealing with the worst that this galaxy and the next had to throw at us, and that's the kind of thing that you can't just pass on that quickly."
"Does this belief that you're better than us tie in to the reason why the Gate Alliance Treaty has left us out in the cold as your military technology continues to develop?" Shen asked; as with the most frustrating politicians of Daniel's experience, she was clearly ignoring the rest of his argument in favour of focusing on what parts of his statement 'proved' her point.
"I can't exactly speak for the US military's reasons for such a policy," Daniel said at last, after taking a moment to consider the most diplomatic response he could make to such a statement; stating that he thought that the SGC was 'better' only because they had more experience wouldn't exactly accomplish anything as they both knew what he had really meant by that particular statement. "They're in charge of the program, and that's the way it is."
"Perhaps it's time that changed," Shen said, a slight smile on her face that made it clear that she was testing how he'd react to such a suggestion.
"There's no way that the American military will ever give up control of the Stargate program," Daniel said, looking back at the Chinese woman before him with barely-concealed shock; the idea that she was even contemplating
something like that- whether to improve our country's reputation on the international scene or her own personal standing for pulling it off- was so short-sighted it was ridiculous.
"Maybe it won't have a choice-" Shen began.
"And you're an idiot if you think you can make it work," Daniel interjected; he'd lost all patience for that kind of crap over the years, and he wasn't going to put up with government manipulations trying to ruin his life any more.
"Excuse me?" Shen asked, staring at him in surprise, clearly unprepared for the archaeologist to speak back to her in such a manner.
"This isn't a question of China setting up its own Stargate program to continue the work that the American military has established, Miss Shen," Daniel said, staring firmly at her; he'd been content with a direct refusal of Scrimgeour's requests for him to act as the Ministry poster-boy in the war against Voldemort, but now that he was older he felt more comfortable making counter-arguments to 'offers' like the one Shen had probably been thinking of making. "The fact of the matter is that Stargate Command is the agency that several offworld civilisations have established treaties and connections with, ranging from those primitive cultures who let us set up bases on their worlds to more advanced races like the Asgard whose aid has been vital in keeping us safe from other species while we're developing our own technology; if China took control of the Stargate, you'd lose several officers and employees who helped to establish those treaties in the first place as they'd prefer to remain in America, which would almost certainly result in the loss of the connections between Earth and those worlds, and you'd lose valuable time and resources in our current campaigns against the Ori and the Wraith- neither
of whom are going to just withdraw and leave us alone until we're dead, worshipping them, or their latest food supply, so don't even try and argue in favour of leaving them alone- that we can't afford to lose if we're going to survive, so this whole discussion is completely worthless."
"We have a right-" Shen began.
"This isn't about entitlement, it's about practicality," Daniel said, glaring firmly back at Shen. "The Stargate program isn't just about getting out there and taking technology through theft from our enemies or as gifts from people we help; it's about forming alliances in the long term and working with the other races out there for the betterment of everyone. Maybe we have some problems, and maybe your country could receive more from the treaty than you do, but you need to remember that Stargate Command is the reason we're all still alive and free; you can't just expect to step in and take control and think that you'll receive everything we've spent the last decade assembling because you're the ones in charge now."
For a moment, Shen could only stare incredulously at Daniel's detailed rebuttal of everything she might have used to try and convince him to join a Chinese-run Stargate program, until she collected herself and looked solemnly at the archaeologist.
"You've changed, Doctor Jackson," she said, looking contemplatively at the former Boy-Who-Lived, her tone the frustratingly neutral tone that so few politicians had mastered in Daniel's life as Harry; he'd always known how they felt about him back then, but nowadays it was a lot harder to know
how they felt about him and his friends. "I always heard that you were in the SGC for exploration more than anything else."
"As you know from my revised personnel file, I've been dealing with war since I was a teenager; you can't afford to think about public appearance when you're dealing with the kind of adversaries I've encountered as a kid and at the SGC," Daniel replied, staring back at her; if he had to acknowledge his past as Harry, he was going to acknowledge the lessons he'd learned back then as well. "If the Chinese had started the Stargate program originally, I would probably have joined it, but the fact is that the Americans were the ones who started the program and have formed all the connections you'd need to actually get anywhere in the galaxy as it exists."
"And you think that we can't form those connections?" Shen asked critically.
"I think that you can't re-establish them in the time you'd need to hold your own in the current war against the Ori, and even if we didn't have that to worry about, in the end, it would be nothing more than your attempt to begin your country's own self-centred power trip," Daniel replied firmly; faced with the potential annihilation of the human race if the wrong decision was made, he wasn't going to try and sugar-coat his responses. "I'll see what I can do to convince General O'Neill to look at providing you with some more examples of our technology than what you've received so far, but in the end, your government getting control of the Stargate would just force Earth to start all over from scratch at a time when consistency is important; we've started, so you missed your shot and that's that."
Shen stared silently at Daniel for a few moments before she turned her attention back to her food, leaving Daniel to resume his own food in silent contemplation.
Maybe he'd been somewhat excessively harsh to Shen, but it was the best way for him to make sure that she understood what he had to tell her; taking control of the Stargate wouldn't give China automatic access to all the resources that America had acquired over the last decade, and Earth as a whole was in no position for its first line of defence against the current threat of the Ori to change hands.
An hour later, with their meals eaten, Sam and Daniel were sitting in the mess hall in relatively silent contemplation; with the delegates being shown around the Gamma site by the base commander for the last few hours before their return to Earth, and all duties on the base being already filled, there wasn't much for the four of them to do but wait for the delegates to be finished so that they could take them home. Mitchell was out taking a look at some of the other parts of the base, and Teal'c was taking the opportunity to give some of the military forces deployed to the gamma site a crash course in unarmed combat, leaving Sam and Daniel to take a break in the mess hall out of the lack of any experiments or research they could actually help anyone with in the rest of the base.
"So," Sam asked, looking curiously at Daniel as she sat down beside him, "what were you and Shen talking about earlier?"
"Basically, she wanted to know if I would join a Chinese-run Stargate program if they had established such a program before the American military did," Daniel replied; after everything else he'd been forced to reveal he was keeping from them, he was resolved not to lie to his teammates any more now.
"And from there establish if you'd be interested in joining a Chinese program if they got their hands on the Stargate, right?" Sam finished, looking at him with a slightly uncertain expression.
"Which I wasn't," Daniel replied firmly, enjoying the relieved smile on Sam's face at that news before he continued his explanation. "I mean, it wouldn't have made a difference whether I received the first job offer to translate the Stargate from either government- America or China; if they were willing to employ me and give me the chance to discover something new, I'd have worked for either of them, particularly given the state of my career at that point-, but any attempt the Chinese might make to set up a Stargate program now would just be them trying to get more power for themselves, completely ignoring the wider issues of the treaties and alliances they'd have to re-establish at a time when we just can't waste any if we're going to stop the Ori... and that's without the fact that I wouldn't want to work for an SGC that didn't include all of you there as well."
"To say nothing of Voldemort, right?" Sam said, looking curiously at her friend, trying not to think about the feelings evoked by Daniel's simple statement that he wouldn't work for an SGC that didn't employ the rest of them...
"Well, that too, but I didn't mention that; I didn't want her accusing me of focusing on my... more personal reasons for wanting to go through the Stargate right now," Daniel said, shrugging slightly before he looked more uncertainly at Sam. "Am I... being selfish?"
"For wanting to go after Voldemort?" Sam asked, shaking her head. "Daniel, he killed your parents, several of your friends, and was even responsible for the death of your fiancé; add in everything else that you told us about his actions during his last two attempts to claim power for himself, I think that wanting to stop him is as far from being selfish as it's possible to be."
Daniel wondered if he had imagined the slight hesitation in Sam's voice as she mentioned his fiancé, but pushed that aside; it was probably nothing more than natural uncertainty about whether Ginny should be considered a fiancé or a girlfriend given that she'd only been engaged to him for a few hours at most before she was killed.
"Still," he said, smiling slightly as he turned his attention back to the present, "at least this time around I don't have to worry about Voldemort coming after me when I'm at school or anything like that; with him out in another part of the galaxy right now, he doesn't exactly have many opportunities to attack me directly."
"He really made a regular habit of that?" Sam asked.
"Well, he lured me in to dangerous situations on two separate occasions and attempted to attack Hogwarts while I was there in my first couple of years; he wasn't remotely concerned about the fact that I was just a child at the time," Daniel replied, shaking his head grimly at the memory. "Even before I was fully qualified as a wizard or set foot through the Stargate, I found myself facing death more times than most soldiers or aurors twice my age..."
"Was that part of the reason why you wanted to join SG-1?" Sam asked. "The chance to get back into action?"
"Well, I told myself that it was
just about saving Sha're at first- part of the reason I went into archaeology was that it was unlikely to put me in a position where I'd have to fight for my life again-, but..." Daniel began, shrugging slightly as he looked at his friend. "As much as I didn't like having to fight for my life at Hogwarts- and I definitely didn't miss losing people-, I did
miss the fact that I'd been able to make a difference back then as well."
"It's hard to let go of that part of life, huh?" Sam said, her mind briefly flashing back to one of the movies that they'd watched during one of their old movie nights with Jack O'Neill back when they'd been filling Teal'c in on some of the finer details of Earth's popular culture...
Further conversation on this topic was cut off as Mitchell suddenly hurried into the dining area, a grim expression on his face as he glanced around the room before he spotted them and walked over to their table.
"Cam?" Sam said, looking apprehensively at her friend's expression. "What's wrong?"
"We've got trouble," Mitchell said. "Doctor Myers has just collapsed right in front of the IOA delegates, and he was present at an earlier incident where RL-75 breached containment."
"The bugs?" Daniel said, looking at SG-1's commanding officer in surprise. "How could they breach containment?"
"That's something Pearson wants to talk to me and Sam about before he takes any more action; he's prepping Myers to be sent back to Earth for closer analysis, but he'd like our input before he takes any definitive action," Mitchell said, looking apologetically between the two scientists. "Second-most-senior military officers present, you know how it is..."
"Of course," Daniel said, nodding in understanding at his friends. "I'll get Teal'c and keep an eye on the delegates?"
"Good call," Sam said, smiling reassuringly but apologetically at him as she got up and walked off with Mitchell.
It might just be a minor problem, but when dealing with the Ori, Daniel had learned long ago to assume that anything they'd created was going to be more than it initially appeared.
He just hoped that his current fears were just paranoia; how dangerous could a bunch of insects be...?