Rebels With a Cause

"I am perfectly okay." O'Neill glared at the removed thermometer as though it had had the temerity to bite him.

      Frasier glanced at the reading. She'd occasionally wondered if it were worth going over to the new in-the-ear thermometers, but the old-fashioned variety had the great advantage of forcing the patients to keep their mouths shut.

      She glared right back at him. "No you're not okay." A passing airman grinned, quickly covering up his reaction as she aimed the thermometer purposefully in his direction.

      "It's only a cold, and I'm almost over it anyway."

      Frasier replaced the thermometer on a tray on top of a trolley. "You of all people should know that it isn't your state of health that I'm concerned about."

      "They're Jaffa," he protested weakly. "They can't catch anything from me."

      She passed clean thermometers to two members of SG-6 preparing for a visit to P3O-47Y, before turning back to him.

      "Colonel, there will be children there; Jaffa don't receive symbiotes until they reach puberty. You do not have medical clearance to go on this mission."

      O'Neill threw up his hands in resignation.

      "You win, Doc. It'll do Carter good to be in command for once." His face took on a worried expression. "I don't have to stay here, do I? I'd go stir crazy."

      Cue General Hammond. Yes, there he was, coming through the infirmary door right on schedule.

      "What's up, Doc?" the General asked.

      That wasn't in the script they'd agreed. Was he trying to make her crack up? Had Colonel O'Neill put him up to that one? She assumed her frostiest expression. "I've declared Colonel O'Neill unfit to go off-world. You know we can't risk spreading our diseases to populations that may have no immunity to them."

      He knew, and she knew that he knew, but it never hurt to remind their audience. SG-6 were among the worst for trying to claim they were never ill. They were also inveterate gossips.

      Hammond looked thoughtful. "Is it anything serious."

      "No, Sir. If it weren't for the risk of infection, I'd be happy to let him go."

      The General nodded once, decisively. "Major Carter will negotiate with the rebel Jaffa. Jack, I'm sending you to P3W-924 with Jacob Carter. It's a dead world and Jacob is Tok'ra so there's no risk of you infecting anyone. We've just received a message purporting to be from Jacob Carter."

      "But he's here on base..." O'Neill was a better actor than she'd given him credit for.

      "Exactly. Jacob says the message has things that only he would know about, but if we're dealing with a duplicate I'd rather have you along as well. This Jacob Carter claims to be from a parallel reality and to have a translation of Ma'chello's notes."

      If ears could flap, Captain Roth and Lieutenant Morris would be in orbit by now. Hammond glanced at them as though seeing them for the first time. "Colonel, I'll brief you in my office in five minutes."



The backlight of the event horizon cast flickering bright shadows on the faces of the Jaffa gathered in front of the Stargate, until the wormhole closed and restored skin tones to something closer to normal. This world's sun had a reddish tinge to its spectrum, but the planet was well within the habitable range. As Carter paused, surveying the rebel Jaffa encampment with its sprawl of tents, training grounds and workshops, Bra'tac stepped forward, grey cloak draped formally over one arm.

      "Teal'c. Major Carter. Daniel Jackson." The old Jaffa's eyes flicked to a point behind Daniel's head, as though expecting the wormhole to engage again. "Where is Colonel O'Neill?"

      And she'd thought being in command was going to be straightforward...

      "Er, Jack's-"

      She cut Daniel off with a quick eye contact. "Colonel O'Neill is indisposed. We didn't want to risk spreading any infection among your people."

      Bra'tac nodded. "That is appreciated. We have woman and children here."

      "I thought your women had symbiotes?" she said.

      "They do, but a woman cannot easily carry both the children of the gods and her own children." He laughed lightly. "You see how hard old habits die, Major?" Smile lines creased the pock-marks of his face, illuminating the wisdom of years. "A woman cannot carry the children of false gods without the risk of miscarrying her own. The symbiote must go into a period of dormancy and so our women are at far greater risk of disease when pregnant."

      "Indeed," Teal'c said, with a trace of bitterness. "Shan'auc, as a priestess, was not allowed to marry - priestesses must remain forever celibate. The male and queen larvae must never be subservient to the needs of a mere Jaffa."

      So was that why Teal'c had married Drey'auc rather than Shan'auc? Given that Shan'auc was dead, it probably wasn't diplomatic to ask. Celibacy would be a pretty big deterrent. She stared into empty space for a moment. Everything was great between herself and Jack except that. He was affectionate, entertaining, understanding: everything a woman could wish for, except sex. Apart from that first night, their relationship remained completely platonic. She could understand his depression over losing Sunlight, but she had needs too. Had she made a mistake entering into a relationship with an older man? Sometimes, Jack felt more like her father than her lover.

      Bra'tac gestured them forward with a sweeping movement of his arm. "Come, I will take you to Kytano."

      As she walked beside him, Daniel said quietly, "Now we get to see if Kytano really does walk on water."

      "Why should he wish to do such a thing?" Bra'tac demanded.

      Daniel's face slipped into an 'oops' expression. "It's just a phrase," he said hurriedly. "From the way you described Kytano at the briefing session, he sounded like a miracle man."

      "He is a great warrior and a leader of men," Teal'c said seriously. "Who else among us can say that we have killed our god?"

      Carter's mind effortlessly supplied a picture of Jack waving a hand in the air. We've knocked off half a dozen or so.

      "Who was Imhotep anyway?" she asked. Whoops, wrong question. From the expression on his face, Daniel had obviously told her all that at the briefing session. It wasn't like her to forget, but there were so many things to remember when you were leading the mission.

      "Builder of the first step pyramid. A pretty minor Goa'uld as far as I've been able to determine. Still," he added, obviously determined to be fair, "it's a big step for any first prime to rebel against his god."

      Walking through the encampment, she listened carefully as Daniel gave her a running commentary. His cultural skills were invaluable in a situation such as this.

      "See over there-" he pointed to a wheelwright pounding a metal tyre onto a wooden rim "-that's a classic example of the dichotomy of Jaffa culture. Wooden wheels and death gliders - nothing inbetween. It's a classic Goa'uld tactic to restrict the development of subject cultures; we've never yet seen a Goa'uld-dominated culture that has been allowed to progress beyond Medieval level. They use the Jaffa, but they only teach them what they need to know to be able to fight and to serve their masters. Teal'c can fly a death glider, but he has no understanding of the principles that make them work. Bra'tac is a master of the staff weapon, but he couldn't make one."

      With a graceful movement, Bra'tac turned to Daniel. "You are wise, Daniel Jackson. You understand well how the Goa'uld enslave us. Will the Tau'ri aid us in these matters?"

      "That's one of the things we're here to discuss," Carter said carefully.

      "And you have brought weapons?"

      "Yes." The transport, long ago nicknamed 'Fred' by some airman with a sense of humour, had followed them through the Gate. "Supplies as well."

      Smells of roasting meat wafted over from a carcase being spit-roasted over an open fire. Beside the fire, a woman pounded away with a pestle, each thud emphasised by a beat in the song she was singing.

      "Classic division of labour," Daniel said. "It's more exaggerated here than in most traditional cultures. Jaffa men are all warriors - at least, all those with symbiotes are. Isn't that right, Teal'c?"

      "Indeed, Daniel Jackson. A male born without a pouch is obviously inferior. No woman would accept such a one as a mate. They perform menial tasks such as farming."

      "Which probably means that there are many men here who can hunt, but none who can produce food by other means. They'll be very dependent on supplies taken in raids and plants found by the women."

      Bra'tac snorted dismisively. "Food production is for women and ho'tars."

      "What's a ho'tar?" Carter asked.

      "I'm guessing," Daniel said carefully, "that it's a pouchless Jaffa. I imagine it's a term of abuse."

      "They are none here," Teal'c said. "None of them would have the entrails to rebel against the System Lords."

      "Guts," she said, "not entrails," and wished that Jack was with them to share the joke.



A thin film of dust coated the horizontal surfaces in Machello's underground complex. O'Neill's flashlight caught strange shapes in its beam as he moved around renewing his mental image of the place. There had been ambient light when he'd been here a few years ago, but whatever controls operated it must no longer be functioning. The air was mustier than he recalled, with a lingering tang of oil. A stale dead place linking two worlds: a suitable limbo in which to meet a non-existent man from another reality.

      Working his way round methodically, he checked for any unanticipated danger. Most rooms had been stripped of their machines by the SGC, but supporting structures remained, as well as a strange construction of thin metal rings that had been too large to fit through the Gate. It loomed high overhead, casting odd shadows that slunk and grew on the wall behind. A child might see ghosts in such a place.

      Here and there, there were marks in the dust, scuffs and smudges.

      Bending down by a large machine, if indeed it was a machine and not just some wacky piece of abstract sculpture, he caught sight of something shining by reflected light.

      Two pink beads.

      He gripped them violently in his hand, nausea clutching his throat.


      He stared at Jacob, trying to bring the world back into focus. Adults could see ghosts too...

      "What's up?"

      Beyond speech, he held out the beads in the palm of his hand.


       "From Sunlight's shoulder bag. I came this way with her." A corner of O'Neill's mind noted that Kantele wasn't in much better condition than he was. "She... It was... You gave it to her." Shit, Kantele was in worse shape, getting hit on both fronts.

      He held out his arms. "Jake, if you take this the wrong way, I'll string you up from the yardarm."

      With commendable fortitude, Jacob embraced him. He could feel the relief flowing though his/Kantele's veins.


      Jacob's arms were both support and comfort. "I'm guessing this isn't easy on either of you. Does it make it better or worse having me around?"



      Jacob released him and sat down on the floor with his back against a giant cylinder. "So, tell me. We have to stay here long enough to achieve our fictitious objectives."

      "There's nothing to tell," O'Neill said hastily. He stayed standing, leaning against the pillar.

      "Sounds like a mighty big nothing to me." Jacob glanced up at the metal rings. "Is that...?"

       "Yes. It moves you from one reality to the next. The controls are simple when you know how to operate them."

      Jack's hand slid into his pocket to touch Maybourne's wallet. "I really ought to go through, but I don't think I can face it."

      Jacob raised an eyebrow.

      "I promised Maybourne... He wanted me to give something to Cassandra. I lost it." Somewhere, somehow, the piece of paper on which Maybourne had written his pin number had become separated from the wallet with the cards in it. Guilt gnawed at him. He'd memorised the IDC code that he'd agreed with Major Davis, but hadn't even looked at what Harry had written. "I owe her an apology, but seeing me again would probably cause her more stress than it's worth. In any case, it's not as if she and Maybourne really knew one another."

      "So why did he want to give her anything?" Jacob asked.

      "She was there and he knew he was going to die. Better her than let the banks keep it."

      "For what it's worth, I agree you shouldn't go through." Jacob half-held up a hand to forestall argument. "The risk of any trip between realities is simply too great. I'm surprised that anyone would build such a portal in the first place."

      "Ma'chello used it to talk to himself," Kantele said . "Didn't you ever wonder how one man developed so much new technology? The two of them swopped ideas regularly, but never stayed in each other's reality long enough for entropic cascade failure to be a problem."

      Jacob glanced at the rings again. "Wheras my fictional counterpart will die of that in combination with physical injuries?"

      "Yeah." O'Neill shrugged off Kantele's mental objection that the other Jacob had been very real. "He staggers in here after being shot at by hostiles who couldn't tell a Tok'ra from a Goa'uld. Doesn't dare go through into the SGC in case the Tok'ra IDC code was invalid. While we were deciding whether to come or not, the emetic cascade thingy took over. Kantele can't repair the other Jacob's physical injuries fast enough-"

       "Diseases are much easier to handle. I'm okay because I don't exist in this reality. Jacob begs Jack, as his son-in-law, to take me so that I don't die when he dies."

      "That bit still sucks," O'Neill said.

      "Act it convincingly, or come up with something better," Jacob said sharply.

      O'Neill shrugged. "I don't have a lot of choice."

      "And make sure Sam has enough sense to act surprised at you knowing things that I know."

      He stared at the floor, said nothing.


      Inconsequentially, he said, "It's traditional to ask your permission first. We kinda skipped that part." He scuffed the toe of his boot in the dust.

      "You and Sam?"


      "Is that what was bugging you before?"

      "No. It's you." He tapped his head. "In here."

      Jacob got to his feet and looked O'Neill in the eye. "Then you should know I'm glad for you both. She's loved you for a long time."

      "Yeah. And you've loved her."

      "But I don't..."


       "Tok'ra don't have incest taboos," Kantele said, with complete lack of conviction.

       "But that is true," Selmak interjected. "Hosts come from many diverse places; I have never heard of two being genetically related. As we are all children of Egeria, Tok'ra relationships are of necessity between siblings; but as our genetic identity is neuter, this is of no consequence."

       "Neuter?" O'Neill asked, then picked the answer from Kantele's thought. "Oh. Birds and bees. We're birds, you're bees."

      Selmak nodded. "Indeed. Humans have equal numbers of males and females. Goa'uld have few males, even fewer queens and large numbers of 'workers'."

      "The System Lords," Kantele said, "are almost universally males such as Apophis, or queens such as Hathor. Neuters rarely have such a strong lust for power."

      The subliminal awareness of Kantele wrapped around his spine had never been stronger. Tension etched itself onto his vertebrae.

      You - he thought it silently, uncertain as to why he chose not to say it out loud - you're male.

      Oh yes, came back the confident thought, I'm male.



Kytano's tent was no different from any of the others. In style, it looked functional, but not portable, a far cry from the small, lightweight tents used by the SG teams. But then, Carter reminded herself, the Jaffa were not commandos, whereas the SGC tried to have at least one person with commando training on each team. Versatility was the watchword of Stargate Command; the fortuitous combination of linguist/historian, scientist, commando and Jaffa that made up SG-1 had proven to be uniquely effective. Other SG teams were hard pressed to find men with Daniel's degree of knowledge and could never include Teal'c... Or could they? Teal'c's knowledge of Jaffa and Goa'uld culture had been invaluable on many occasions; perhaps one of the things to discuss with the rebel Jaffa in exchange for weapons and food/medical supplies should be the possibility of other Jaffa working with SG teams.

      As Bra'tac held aside the hanging for them to enter the tent, she saw a slim, dark-skinned Jaffa rise to his feet. His gold forehead tattoo resembled an upside-down step pyramid. Presumably Kytano. Beside Kytano, a teenager with a black serpent tattoo also rose. For a moment, she almost failed to recognise him in the poor light; he was a lot taller than when she'd last seen him.

      "Father," he said.

      "Rya'c, it is good to see you, my son." Teal'c didn't exactly smile, but you could still read the pleasure in his face. He gripped Rya'c by the shoulder. "You are working with Kytano?"

      "Yes, Father. I serve him to the best of my ability."

      Kytano beamed. "Your son does you credit. Bra'tac is teaching him the skills of a warrior and he learns well."

      Was there a hint of disquiet in Teal'c's face? It was hard to tell. Did Teal'c regret that he was able to spend so little time with his son? Should he have been the one to teach Rya'c to use a staff weapon? What was the normal custom of the Jaffa in that regard?

      Kytano looked from Teal'c to Carter and then to Daniel.

      "You are Colonel O'Neill?" he said to Daniel.

      "Jack's ill. Sam, uh, Major Carter is in command today."

      Kytano eyed her from top to toe with the kind of expression generally reserved for small rodents.

      "A female? You insult us by sending a female to negotiate?"

      "Major Carter is an experienced warrior," Teal'c said.

      "You were once First Prime of Apophis," Kytano said with scorn, "now you take orders from a woman?"

      Teal'c stared at the tent wall behind K'tano's head and said nothing.

      "We intend no insult," Daniel said hastily. "Our customs are different from yours."

      Customs be hanged. She was beginning to understand why Jack was frequently so intolerant of local traditions. You could waste days messing around trying to agree on the colour of the place mats. Then again, she often felt that Jack should be more sensitive where cultural values differed. Trying to impose modern American values on people with different heritages and traditions was morally wrong. Okay, so admit it to yourself, Carter. You're be perfectly happy to go along with almost any custom as long as it doesn't affect you personally.

      If you want to be treated as though you're in command, then act like it. Hammond gave you the job; you have to find a solution.

      She stood straight and looked Kytano in the eye. "We have brought weapons." The way to a man's heart wasn't cooking, it was ammunition.

      Kytano hesitated a bare fraction of a second before saying: "We will inspect your weapons."

      "There's food and medical supplies as well," Carter added, almost as an afterthought. Kytano would want them, but admitting to needing such non-macho items might cause him to lose face.

      As they made their way back to the Gate, she took in the sights and actions of the camp in greater detail. A couple of young women, dressed in brightly-coloured clothes, carried baskets of roots in from the surrounding woodland. Whistles and ribald comments greeted them as they passed a circular area in which two young men fought with wooden staff weapons.

      "How do the women know which plants are safe to eat?" she asked.

      It was Teal'c who replied. "The Goa'uld transported humans to many planets. There would be little point in doing this unless they brought suitable plant and animal species as well."

      "We're pretty certain that other cultures were seeded by the Ancients and the Asgard," Daniel added. "Not all colonies would have survived, but nearly all the worlds in the Gate network seem to have some flora or fauna that are useful to humans. Many plants have cultural significance as well as food value. "

      "Either that," Carter said, "or the Ancients were humanoid themselves and only built Gates to worlds where they could live."

      Daniel looked frustrated. "We've never found any pictorial representation of them. We've simply no idea what they looked like."

      Reaching Fred, she stood for a second, anticipating the moment, then opened the lid of the first crate to reveal the weapons inside.


      "These are not real weapons," said a Jaffa beside her. Disappointment hung on Rya'c's face, as he took in the reactions of those around him.

      "We need proper weapons," Kytano said emphatically, "staff weapons, zat'nik'tels." He spun decisively on his heel.

      "These," Carter said, with equal emphasis, "are the weapons that have beaten Jaffa in combat. I see men here with the marks of Cronus, Apophis, Heru'ur and others. Ask them who won." The Colonel would have been proud of her.

      There were murmurs among the onlookers. Hard to say whether it was resentment at being reminded of old battles, or dislike of the weapons. Or, possibly, resentment of her personally.

      "Teal'c, would you please demonstrate the use of the P-90?" She needed to gain face among these people, but right now so did Teal'c.

      Teal'c calmly lifted a P-90 and an ammunition clip out of the crate, Rya'c's eyes following him apprehensively.

      On the outskirts of the camp stood the firing range, a set of targets hanging from wooden frames. Teal'c chose his distance carefully from a trio of logs suspended vertically by ropes.

      "Bra'tac, how many targets will an experienced staff user hit from this distance?"

      The old Jaffa studied the targets. "One, perhaps two."

      Teal'c flashed a sudden brief manic grin and sprayed two seconds worth of bullets at the targets, sending all three logs swaying madly with the impact. Bra'tac clapped him on the shoulder. "Well done."

      Kytano was less easily impressed. "The weapon is wasteful of ammunition. We would all be dependent on the Tau'ri."

      "If the user is skilled," Teal'c said, "then the weapon may require only a single shot." He started to walk away from the target, paused when he had doubled the distance and turned to Carter.

      "Major Carter is skilled."

      You had to love that guy.

      She took the P-90 that Teal'c held out, hoping to heaven that the sights were set correctly. There had been a time when she first joined the SGC when she'd spent every spare minute on the firing range, so desperate had she been to prove herself the equal of any man there. But as she'd gradually come to feel accepted in her own right, she'd cut down to a less excessive level and used the time to develop her knowledge of alien science instead.

      As she raised the P-90 to her eye, she thought for a moment of Jack. She'd been with him two days ago, and they'd been playing some silly game. She couldn't even remember what it had been now except that it had involved free-wheeling word association and had had them both laughing. Afterwards, they'd settled down on the sofa, Jack listening to opera while she leaned against him and doodled on a pad of paper. Relaxed and energised at the same time, she'd jotted down random ideas until patterns started to emerge. Three-quarters of an hour later, she had found the answer to a problem in physics that had been bugging her all week.

      The log or the rope holding it up? Both were achievable at this range, but what if she missed? Go for it, girl, said a warm voice in her heart. She squeezed off the shot and watched Kytano's surprise, with pleasure, as the log fell to the ground.

      He recovered quickly though.

      "Teal'c," he said, "I will negotiate with the Tau'ri reagarding these weapons, as soon as they send Colonel O'Neill. In the meantime, I would speak with you regarding matters of importance."

      Teal'c caught her eye and she gave him the slightest of nods by way of permission. One of them needed to be able to function freely here and there was no sense in letting pride stand in the way.



"Jack," Hammond asked, "what do you make of this?" He pushed a sheet of paper over his desk. "It's a transcript of a report Major Carter sent through the Gate an hour ago. She asked whether I wish to replace her on this mission."

      O'Neill scanned down the sheet, while Kantele helpfully created a mental image of a Jaffa (with a button labelled Kytano) swinging by his neck from the log-target stand.

      "Sir, would it cause a major diplomatic incident, if I just punched this Kytano character on the nose?"


      Jack, suppose we -

      He grinned. I like it

      "Sir, Kantele formally requests permission to continue his studies of Jaffa folklore and music on PX-whatever it is."

       "Naturally, we would be under the command of Major Carter and would not do anything without her permission."

       Hammond looked thoughtful. "It could work. Even though you're no longer a member of SG-1, if you are seen to respect her command, then Kytano might fall into line."

      "That's the general idea. And if that fails..." He paused to catch the drift of Kantele's thought. "There's a Jaffa custom that allows a man to give a woman his full authority. It's rarely utilised in its full form, but Kantele knows of references to it being done."

      I don't think she'd go for it, though, Kantele commented. She's too independent to take an authority that only comes because you grant it.

      She might. I would have an equal right to speak on her behalf.

      She might if it wasn't for...

      O'Neill grimaced. Whose fault is that?


      "Scratch plan B. I don't think she'd marry us. Not yet, anyway." He picked up a model airplane from the desk and twisted it round and round in his hands. Hammond was mercifully silent.

       "Something's odd about Kytano."

      "What?" O'Neill was relieved by the change of subject, and talking out loud kept Hammond from thinking too much about what he'd just said.

       "When I was last among the Jaffa, the ballad of Lady Jala was still well known."

      "And that means?" Hammond asked.

       "Listen. I'll borrow Jack's voice - it'll sound better."

       O'Neill's fingers tapped the rhythm on the edge of the desk.

       "Ride, Lady, ride.

      "With your warriors by your side,

      "You will ride to kill Lord Baal,

      "For you were Tenar's bride."

       "That's just the chorus, but it should give you the general idea. Baal executed Jala's husband and she raised the Jaffa and rode against him. If he hadn't had a sarcophagus, he wouldn't be around to plague you now."

      "It's possible the song's been forgotten," O'Neill said, "but Daniel always claims that the products of a culture reflect the values of that culture. If they could write a ballad about a woman leading men into battle, then a woman in command shouldn't be such an insult to a Jaffa."

      "I was under the impression that you never listened to Doctor Jackson," Hammond said.

      O'Neill looked at the aircraft in his hands, as though he'd forgotten it was there. "He makes sense sometimes."

      Hammond looked pointedly at the plane. O'Neill plonked it on a corner of the desk and sat upright.

      "So what you're saying," Hammond reached out and returned the plane to its original position, "is that Kytano isn't a typical example of Jaffa culture?"

      "He's probably been hanging around the Goa'uld too long, got hooked on all that lovely grubbing after power." O'Neill spread his hands wide. "Or else he's just a misogynistic bastard. In either case, is he really someone we want as any ally?"

      Hammond nodded decisively. "Kantele, Colonel O'Neill, you have a go to carry out research into Jaffa folklore."

      "Just don't tell Daniel; I'd never live it down."



"O'Neill." Bra'tac inclined his head in recognition, with no obvious indication of surprise. "I was led to believe that you were indisposed."

      O'Neill waved a hand in casual greeting from the top of the steps and came down to meet him. "Found a cure. Got better. Which kinda reminds me; I need to introduce you to a friend of mine."

      Bra'tac's eyes flicked to the Gate, as though expecting someone else to appear, then to the Jaffa by his side. "I am remiss," he said. "I have not introduced you to Rak'nor."

      "We've met." It didn't require Goa'uld genetic memory to remember Rak'nor, the blotted-out tattoo on his forehead was pretty distinctive. Besides, O'Neill tended to remember people who'd saved the life of one of his team; Teal'c had been in pretty hot water that time.

      Rak'nor bowed his head. "You are here to see Kytano?"

      "Nope. Here to study traditional Jaffa music." That was worth it, just for the look of surprise on Bra'tac's face. He wasn't sure if he'd ever managed to score a point off the Jaffa Master. "Where's Major Carter?"

      "Major Carter and Daniel Jackson are talking to the women to determine our needs for foodstuffs, while they await the return of Teal'c."

      "So where's the big fellow off to?"

      "Kytano has received news of a rebellion among the Jaffa who serve Lord Yu. A ha'tak under their control is heading towards Cal Mah to join us. Yu is weak, his Stargate unguarded. There will never be a better opportunity to kill him. Kytano gave Teal'c the honour of leading the attack."

      And Carter agreed to this?

      Kantele gave a mental shrug. The Jaffa would view Teal'c's refusal as a sign of cowardice.

      I think either Carter's bending over too far to avoid offending Kytano, or else Teal'c's trying to impress his son. I don't care much for either option. SG-1 should have gone together or not at all.

      Bra'tac addressed the younger Jaffa. "Rak'nor, you will await Teal'c's return while I take Colonel O'Neill to Kytano."

      It would have been easy to underestimate Bra'tac, to dismiss him simply as the Jaffa who had been First Prime of Apophis before Teal'c, who had little education and no knowledge of anything beyond fighting. But that would be to ignore one hundred and thirty-seven years of experience and the razor-sharp mind that had trained Teal'c. In all likelihood, he'd already worked out part of what O'Neill wished to discuss with him.

      As they walked away from the Gate, O'Neill took in the forested surroundings: the pine trees and the low cloud that hung over them. He couldn't see the birds, but he could hear them all around. This was a beautiful world.

      "You must understand, O'Neill," Bra'tac began, "our ways are not your ways."

      "What about Lady Jala?"

      Bra'tac stopped dead in his tracks. "I was not aware that you were familiar with our history."

      "A little bird told me."

      Bird? Kantele commented.

      You gonna quibble over whether wings have scales or feathers?

      Neither. They're an elegent membrane.

      Which makes you either a flying fish or a bat.

      He was getting the hang of this mental ping-pong now. Images and words mixed in together in a cheerful melange that would have driven lesser mortals 'batty'.

      Ouch. Don't tell me I'm hitched up to a punster.

      He grinned inwardly. If there was one thing living with Kantele did, it was to keep you on your toes.

      "Colonel O'Neill?"

      He became aware that Bra'tac was staring at him.


      "You are concerned about Major Carter."

      "Carter can look after herself. My concern is whether you guys can recognise that. Now, you - you've worked with Carter. Culture shock, maybe, but I didn't see you having a big issue with it at the time. So what's with Kytano? Is it some Jaffa thing I've missed out on, or is the guy just a moron?"

      Jack, you have the diplomatic subtlety of a bull in a china shop.

      "Okay," O'Neill ammended, "so he may not be a moron. But is he what he claims to be? I mean, would you know if he was still loyal to a System Lord?"

      Bra'tac strode forwards angrily. "You insult us."

      O'Neill grabbed him by the shoulder, spun him around. "When you did that rite of marshmallow on Teal'c, you said you could see into a man's heart, know if he told the truth. Try it now. Look at me."

      Bra'tac flung off his hand. "You dare mock-"

      "-Look at me."

      He stood still, feet slightly apart, hands by his side, away from his weapons. Waited.

      Bra'tac glared, then slowly placed his hands on O'Neill's shoulders, stared deep into his eyes.

      "I see a good man. One who is ignorant, one who can be irritating, but essentially a good man." He paused, a slight frown creasing his forehead. "Do you believe the Goa'uld are gods?"


      No way.

      "Will you do all in your power to destroy them?"

      "You betcha."


      Bra'tac's eyes bored deep. They stood unmoving as errant breezes tugged at Bra'tac's cape and at O'Neill's BDUs. Birds passed unheeded, their song wasted on the empty air. Finally, Bra'tac said:

      "You speak truth and it comes from your heart, but it is as though you speak with two hearts, not one."

      "Anything else?"

      The old Jaffa closed his eyes and steepled his fingers together in a way that reminded O'Neill of Teal'c's meditations. Sometimes, you could see the pupil in the master, in that calm serenity that most Jaffa simply didn't have. Or at least, O'Neill ammended mentally, not the ones he'd met.

      It is only when they see past the Goa'uld, only when they seek a faith of their own... Then, they can become something more. They are the ones who seek Kheb: the ones who have found an inner wisdom and serenity.

      Bit like Buddhism? A religion with no god? Does that mean that if I gaze at my navel long enough, I'll go all mystical and be able to do kung fu?

      Bra'tac opened his eyes slowly and looked once more at O'Neill.

      "Shan'auc convinced me that a Jaffa may have some limited communication with the creature within him. This, I have never mastered nor desired to master - yet I sense that it is aware of you-" in one fluid motion, his staff weapon came up to point at O'Neill's chest "-or rather of the creature within you."

      "Yeah, well, remember there was someone I wanted you to meet?"

       "Tek ma'tae, Master Bra'tac. I am Kantele of the Tok'ra."

      Bra'tac stood firm. "I have heard of the Tok'ra; I have never met one."

       "You said we spoke truth. Do you doubt your own wisdom?"

      Bra'tac made the smallest of nods in acknowledgement. "Well spoken, Kantele of the Tok'ra." He tossed the staff weapon to his left hand and reached out for a firm, fore-arm clasp. "Tek ma'tek."

       "Then will you look into the heart of Kytano? Judge him as you have judged us?"

      Bra'tac looked doubtful. "It may not be as easy as you think. To do so would be a grave insult."

      Feet pounded down the gravel track behind them, each heavy step emphasising the length of the runner's stride. As they turned to look, they could hear the deep pants that dragged oxygen into demanding lungs.

      "Hey, Teal'c, what's-"

      Straight past, without even a pause, Teal'c ran, yelling, directly towards Kytano's tent.

      "Murderer! Traitor! Betrayer of our people!"

      O'Neill and Bra'tac looked at one another with wild surmise and ran after him.


      The camp was in commotion as people dropped weapons and tools and came forward to see the cause of the uproar. Fires burned unattended and baskets of roots lay where they had been abandoned. Voices were raised, but none so loud as Teal'c's.

      "Kytano! Come forward. Show yourself to the people you have betrayed."

      Emerging from his tent, Kytano stood calm and collected.

      "What nonsense is this, Teal'c?"

      Teal'c faced him across the space that seemed to open up magically between them as people fell back.

      "Lord Yu knows of your deception, of how you turned against him and the System Lords."

      Kytano turned around slowly, raised his arms to the crowd. "I have deceived no one. I despise the System Lords and all they stand for. Wait until the ha'tak arrives; then you will see that I speak truth."

      "Did I not say Lord Yu knows of your betrayal of him? The ha'tak is under his control, not yours."

      Kytano smiled, condescending, and walked into the centre of the space. "Teal'c has been too long among the Tau'ri. He has forgotten what it means to be Jaffa."

      Something tingled up O'Neill's spine. Here, surrounded by Jaffa, he and Kantele had an awareness of each and every one of them, but Kytano was - different. Kytano turned, locked eyes with him.

      He touched Bra'tac on the shoulder and spoke quietly into his radio at the same time. "O'Neill to Major Carter. Kytano isn't Jaffa; he's Goa'uld. Trust me, it takes one to know one."

      The instant he released the PTT button, he heard Carter's voice. {"Radio" on}"Daniel, dial us out. Keep the wormhole open; if a ship is coming, they'll dial in to prevent us escaping."{"Radio" off}

      Even as she spoke, his eye caught a speck in the sky.

      "Jolma'sheku!" Teal'c shouted the word at Kytano.

      Challenge of leadership, Kantele translated. It's a fight to the death.

      Kytano raised a finger to point at O'Neill. "It is not I who has betrayed you. It is Teal'c. He has brought a Goa'uld among you. The Tau'ri who stands among you is Goa'uld."

      "I have challenged you, coward," Teal'c shouted. "Do you refuse my challenge?"

      The crowd was shifting, turning nasty. He was being pushed, jostled. Any moment now, things might break into open violence. He gripped the butt of his P-90 and shouted over the hubbub.

      "Kytano's a damn snakehead!"

      A kick landed on his shin. Someone else punched him in the ribs.

      The sharp sound of a gunshot cut across the scene. People froze, then fell back to give him breathing space.

      {"Radio" on}"Colonel, I've got your six," {"Radio" off}a calm voice said over the radio.

      He could shoot Kytano. It would be an easy shot now. But he couldn't do it for the same reason Carter hadn't. They'd never get out alive.

      Kytano smiled, calm and commanding among the chaos. "When Teal'c dies, you will follow him into the realms of the damned along with Major Carter." He reached out a hand for a practice staff weapon held by the aide beside him. Teal'c grabbed one from a Jaffa next to him and strode forward into the ring.

      "This is insane!" O'Neill exclaimed. "We need to evacuate and they're having a goddam duel!"

      Bra'tac was unmoved. "The people will not abandon Kytano. While he commands their loyalty, they will remain with him."

      "And while they fiddle, Rome burns."


       "While Dansak played dice, Telmor died."

      "Ah." Bra'tac glanced up at the sky, as the combatants took up their stance, weapons ready for the first blow.

      "Jolma'sheku is our tradition," Bra'tac said. "But sometimes," he added with a sudden fluid move of his staff weapon, "traditions must adapt." Energy gathered, flared and flew true. The shot blew off the top of Kytano's head, spattering blood in unexpected directions.

      The crowd roared its anger as Bra'tac strode forward and grabbed at the neck of the lifeless body. "Here," he shouted, fist thrust upwards with a bloody handful of snake ripped from the spine. "Here is your leader!" Amidst the wails and the cries, his voice rose again. "Go. Leave this place. Only death awaits us here."

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