rigel: (A Thousand Tales)[personal profile] rigel wrote
on July 29th, 2008 at 12:00 am

Fic Post: "Spatial Orientation" (PG)

Title: Learning Curve… Tilt (the Spatial Orientation remix)
Author: Rigel
Fandom: Stargate SG-1
Rating: PG
Wordcount: 2148
Summary: The latest recruits of Stargate Command are the new breed of "steely-eyed missile men" for today's new space race – stepping through the deep void of space to touch new worlds. Julia Donovan reports.
Thanks: To my ever wonderful betas *smishes*
Original Story: "Learning Curve… Tilt" by [livejournal.com profile] lokei
A/N: Written for the 2008 [livejournal.com profile] gateverse_remix and I've made this slightly AU, in that hobviously the Stargate Program has gone public :D This fic is presented in a multimedia format. Choose your preferred viewing below!

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Learning Curve… Tilt (the Spatial Orientation remix) - LIGHT FORMAT on LJ





Twenty-two levels beneath the granite heart of Cheyenne Mountain, there is a flyer pinned to the cork notice board in the mess hall. Printed on bright canary-yellow paper it reads: "Karaoke Night – This Thursday! ALL WELCOME". Some thoughtful person has attached a clipboard for sign-ups and an enthusiastic group of people are clustered around it, jostling each other and making playful, disparaging remarks about the dubious talents that will be on show.

It seems incongruous, almost an anachronism to see this evidence of normality; after all, only a few hundred feet below where they are standing is the famed Stargate – the portal to distant worlds and our gateway to the universe. The whole world's imagination has been captivated by the rippling blue of the event horizon and the profound revelation that we are not alone. There is so much to take in, so much history to still re-write as new discoveries come to light, that this place has become something of a fantasy land to the general public. The events that have unfolded here are the makings of the fables of the future.

But this is life here; deep underground in the highly militarized environment of Stargate Command, where the delicate crystal filaments of an alien power source lie next to a Venti cup of coffee emblazoned with the Starbucks logo. The arcane and the mundane marching together.

"Oh, yeah," Airman Erin McNally says, when this odd duality is put to her. "I mean, it's weird sometimes, especially when you hear the alarm klaxons sounding and you hope to God that it's not because you've just accidentally let some Goa'uld device take over the mainframe because you touched something you probably shouldn't have. Not that, you know, that's happened," she hastens to reassure me, "it’s just an example. You see some pretty crazy stuff here, but it's all fairly par for the course. I mean it's alien technology, but it's still just my job."

Erin McNally is 27; a small, almost diminutive figure, her blue BDUs envelop her frame. But she has a distinct, wiry strength to her demeanor, and she is more than capable of tackling any situation thrown at her. First in her graduating class from the Academy, she has spent years honing her combat skills and is consistently ranked highly on the tally board of the unofficial sparring matches that are contested amongst base personnel. She plays absently with the patch Velcroed to her sleeve as she recalls first hearing about her assignment to the program. "You could have knocked me down with a feather, I was that surprised. I'd have thought it was an elaborate practical joke if it hadn't been for the really official non-disclosure agreements I had to sign."

Almost all of the newer recruits that I interview profess the same reaction. Shock followed by surprise, and then a deep sense of pride at being chosen to participate in humanity's next frontier. "Yep," McNally laughs, "You get over that whole wide-eyed thing pretty quickly. The universe is an incredible place; you can't really go out there with any pre-conceptions 'cos it'll just blow you away."

"It's freaking amazing, isn't it?" Lieutenant Sean Norton has led me down to the observation gallery above the Stargate. It looms before us, in the half-light of the gate room; a perfect circle that is etched with symbols that represent the constellations of the night sky. Our sky, as our planet – the first world – seeded the galaxy with the great exoduses in ancient times. Giant clamps on its sides channel the enormous amount of power required to establish a stable wormhole, and the steady hiss of escaping coolant can be heard, even through the thick plate glass. "Brace yourself, SG-1 are due back," Norton says as the Gate whooshes to life.

Nothing can describe the sudden and awe-inspiring sight of what has been termed the ka-whoosh – the unstable flurry of energy that surges out of the gate before the event horizon forms. It's beautiful, but for all its delicate appearance, the surge will instantly vaporize anything that comes into contact with it. It's just one of the dangers that the offworld teams will encounter on a daily basis. "Hey, what doesn't kill you," Norton jokes.

It's a timely reminder that the galaxy harbors more than a few potential enemies that would enthusiastically destroy our world and enslave the entire population. Norton dismisses many of the arguments that are leveled in criticism at the SGC. "You've gotta understand that even if we'd never opened the Gate, that eventually we'd be facing the exact same enemies. Only we'd be at a huge disadvantage, because even at the enormous rate of progress that we've managed in the last few centuries, we'd just never have had the same level of technology."

Debate is still raging in The Hague and the UN over the future direction of the Stargate Program; many are opposed to the military slant perceived by the US Airforce having command over operations, and still more are pushing for greater access to the commercial potential that the Gate represents. But for now, the program is focusing on its current mandate: to make contact with alien civilizations, negotiate alliances and seek out superior technology for the benefit of Earth.

Stepping through the Gate now, is SG-1 – the flagship team that makes first contact with new worlds. Their names are already famous, having become the public face of the SGC when the Stargate was unveiled to the world last year. Colonel Jack O'Neill strides confidently down the ramp; a black baseball cap fitted firmly to his head. Notoriously elusive toward all attempts by the media to interview him in depth, he heads straight to the locker rooms and beyond my reach. Major Samantha Carter and Dr Daniel Jackson linger briefly and even manage a cheerful wave and smile.

"That's Teal'c." Norton says, pointing towards the remaining member of the team. The former first prime of the Goa'uld Apophis is an imposing figure as he grasps his staff weapon and waits for his teammates by the blast doors. One can never forget that he defied his god to join our cause and has been forever branded shol'va, or traitor by his fellow Jaffa. "He's pretty amazing, really. What you'd call a real warrior."

I ask Norton about the experience of Gate travel. He bites his lip and looks past me, searching for a way to relate it to something familiar. "It's kind of like diving into a pool of water, where you feel that first shocking contact with the surface, where it's so cold it takes your breath away, and for a moment you feel like nothing and everything at the same time…" he pauses. "And then of course you're walking through the other side."

Norton is still working his way through the many training exercises designed to turn recruits into fully functioning members of offworld teams. "I'm kind of hoping for a shot with SG-15. I really like science and I got my Masters in Microbiology a few years back."

General Hammond is candid about the high attrition rate among potential recruits. "For every five hundred we interview, fifteen make the grade, and of those a further seven will be cut before the initial training begins. We'll end up with two or three remaining with us and even then the chances of making it offworld on a regular basis are pretty slim."

From next year, Norton and the other aspiring recruits field will narrow further, as the Gate treaty allows for countries that contribute to the costs of the program to appoint their own teams. Norton is still upbeat about his chances: "I just have to prove my worth, and I've already got some pretty valuable experience under my belt."

We pass Lieutenant Fred Howard in one of the corridors and he volunteers to take me on a tour of the science labs on level 19. Several doors on this level are guarded, with marines that are armed and standing to attention. I ask Howard what lies behind them and he responds cheerfully: "I wouldn't know Ma'am. I haven't got the security clearance. I think I'd probably have to kill you if I did tell though." I pass by them reluctantly; it's human nature after all, to be drawn toward the forbidden.

Howard is currently assigned to Dr Bill Lee as a lab assistant. "It's not terribly exciting," he confides. "It's really just watching over a whole bunch of experiments and trying not to blow the whole base up."

This lab has produced some of the most significant advances in our understanding of newly acquired alien technology and recently completed the design for Earth's first interstellar vessel: The Prometheus. Currently, Howard is working with the highly unstable element Naquadriah (a derivative of Naquadah – the element that the Stargates are composed of.) "Oh yeah, it's pretty powerful stuff. If we don't handle it right, we could blow a hole in the world – not that that would happen, there are very stringent safeguards in place."

I draw a few parallels with the Manhattan Project and he becomes defensive. "Look, sure; we're essentially developing weapons for planetary defense. But good things will flow on from this, like with nuclear energy, and even though that comes with drawbacks it still helped us to advance. Naquadah has the potential to change our world entirely. It's a pollution free form of energy."

We move on to less touchy subjects and he shows me a small work bench at the back of the lab. It's covered with small containers of enamel paint and several brushes. A tiny object is mounted on a clamp and I lean in to take a closer look, speculating as to what kind of alien device they're trying to reverse engineer. Howard smothers a laugh. "Ah, not exactly. Bill got us all into it. It started off with modifying parts from some old WarhammerTM sets we had – you know, ah, table top gaming – models. And now it's kind of grown into some pretty massive dioramas." I ask him what scenes they've chosen to render and he shrugs. "Oh, just mostly of SG-1 and some of the situations they've encountered. Who knows, maybe one day we can give them to the Smithsonian for a display."

Of course, science isn't the only pursuit of knowledge at the SGC. Encounters with new worlds and civilizations has produced a vast amount of anthropological and archaeological data. Level 18 is devoted to archiving and analyzing strange new artifacts and compiling comprehensive studies on new languages and cultures. Nyan of Bedrosia meets me at the elevator and escorts me through the winding passageways.

He shares a lab with Dr Daniel Jackson – the man who unlocked the secrets of the Gate, by translating ancient hieroglyphs on the cover stone. Nyan seems unperturbed by the level of interest generated in Dr Jackson: "He's a great man. It is good to see him recognized for his hard work."

Every surface in their lab is covered, and here and there amongst the scattered detritus you can make out a manila folder stamped in red ink: URGENT. Teetering piles of books and papers crowd around their desks and Nyan halts one that is on the verge of collapsing with a practiced hand. I ask him how he can possibly keep track of anything amongst such chaos. "Well, I am just Dr Jackson's research assistant. But this is the way he prefers to work. He can find anything he needs." I profess the incredulous opinion that anybody could make head or tail out of anything in the room and Nyan grins. "He is a man who can juggle many things. I myself have seen him carry one such pile through the entire base and not drop a single sheet of paper."

Nyan is another alien working with the SGC. His homeworld of Bedrosia is currently fighting an internal war over clashing belief systems. "We're not so different really, the same problems exist here – but I cannot go back." He insists that he is happy with the choice that he made, but admits that he does miss some of the things that can't quite be replicated here on Earth. "The Tau'ri have many marvels, but they cannot make a good tasting khielna." He shrugs. "Perhaps I should ask Dr Lee to look into it for me?"

I ask him to show me his favorite alien artifact and he reaches into one of his pockets and draws a small piece into the palm of his hand. To my surprise, it's a plastic compass; much like one of the prizes found in a candy gumball machine. He turns it about and we watch the small needle re-align itself. "This way, I always know where I'm going," he says. "And when I'm out there, I can find my way back."

//End//

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