If one who does battle with full force survives, and one who does not do battle with full force perishes, this is called deadly ground;
Where there is nowhere to go, this is called deadly ground;
On deadly ground, show resolve to fight to the death;
On deadly ground, do battle.
Sun Tzu, The Art of War (excerpts)
Someone was watching her.
Low level awareness became knowledge, until it felt as if she had always known this truth, but could not remember exactly when it began. It was rather like dreaming. Sam considered that conclusion with distant interest. She was not awake. Exactly. She was not asleep. Exactly. Yet she was intensely aware of everything.
The slight chill.
The dry, acid bite of the tunnels.
Body heat and scent identified Daniel to her left. Sweat and the sour tang of stress. Her skin prickled as she identified the solid bulk of Teal'c standing against the far wall. The crystal whisper of the tunnels reflected each trickle of sound, a sigh, a shuffle, twisted and attenuated by distance. She was fascinated to realize she could hear the void created by his bulk. It was an absence of sound caused by his body.
Crystal reflected, flesh did not.
She continued to breathe softly, awareness expanding to include the entire room. Euphoria curled up from her toes, winding around her bones and exploding up her spine as sound caressed her skin and the scent of SG-1 overloaded her senses. Warm cotton and warm skin. Salt and wet leather. Gun-oil and metal. Top notes that spun themselves into the atmosphere, aggressively announcing their presence to the world. Hints of truth in the deeper, longer lasting layers revealed by time and proximity. Middle notes of laughter and wood smoke, swamp water and mosquitoes. Base notes of loyalty, exhilaration, and pulse-pounding fear.
Acceptance, another part of her mind whispered.
Zi'shahn, came the answer.
Wonder at the understanding. Rueful recognition of truth. She had only herself to blame. Loss, for that which could not be undone. There was no sense of separation, no conflict of interests. Yet she was changed, newly born and eager to see the world with new eyes. Old hurts muted and expanded, an awareness of pain and sadness that was memory and familiar and something that would keep for another day.
She tried to reach for the warmth, the safety, and companionship that watched over her.
We are not awake; a part of her reminded herself soothingly.
Healing trance, she remembered.
A new presence intruded into the room. Sam wrinkled her nose as the scents competed unpleasantly with those of her teammates. Where they had been welcomed and recognizable, this note was jarring. Fear nibbled its way to consciousness, a primeval terror born of helplessness and the bone deep recognition that to be helpless meant to die. Awareness of identity battled with instinct and the knowledge that the healing trance was necessary temporarily overrode instinct as the intruder moved about the room. As did the knowledge that SG-1 was watching over her.
For the moment, it was enough.
When it was required, Jack O'Neill was a patient man.
Teal'c had been watching him warily all day. Jack half suspected him of being worried he would started an interplanetary incident and given the looks the Tok'ra had been giving him, bets were being placed on when he'd pull a zat and shoot someone. Or not. They knew he didn't trust them. He also knew they didn't understand why.
It was bloody damn obvious as far as he was concerned. On the other hand, maybe that was history talking. The whole specter of brainwashing had been a cold war thing. But just because he was a paranoid bastard didn't mean he was wrong. The Tok'ra didn't call it sharing, they called it Blending. If he had learned anything about the Tok'ra over the years, it was the fact they were damn picky about the words they used. Witness the hours upon hours upon weeks fighting over the wording of the damn Treaty.
He'd have thought Daniel might have remembered that.
He might make a lousy diplomat, but Jack O'Neill was a soldier to the bone and he knew body language. Was quite good at it actually. Sort of a job requirement. And body language had made it pretty clear that there weren't two people inside each Tok'ra, there were three.
It had made sense, once he figured it out.
The Tok'ra visiting the SGC were careful to maintain a clear separation between host and snake, but the ones at the Alpha Site were less cautious. That, and they were scientists. Catch 'em off guard and they'd tell you whatever you wanted to know. Really wind them up and the problem was getting them to stop talking long enough to breathe. Or eat. They definitely stopped paying attention to how they were standing. Hell, Daniel and Carter could forget where they were standing and what they were standing on. He had vivid memories of standing in cold, slimy, swamp water the time Carter had needed to do some charcoal rubbings while perched on his shoulders. He'd have thought an alien race advanced enough to invent advanced devices could have put the instructions on DVD.
Had he mentioned that the swamp water had things living in it?
The scientists and philosophers could argue nature vs. nurture all they wanted. Maybe they were even right. Who knew? But the way Jack reacted on a day to day level, the way he decided whether to shoot or hold on just a moment longer relied on memory and training. Maybe John O'Neill was still the same man he had ever been, but General Jack O'Neill sure as hell was not. All he had was memory, training, and instinct. Take those away, or change them, and Jack O'Neill was no longer the man he used to be.
He eyed the woman in the infirmary bed and wondered who she was now.
If he was right, the presence of SG-1 should have reinforced most of Carter's reactions. He was actually kind of curious how those reactions translated when filtered through goa'uld instinct. Not happy about it, but sort of curious. That explosion in the hallway had Carter written all over it, even if the Tok'ra were slinking around with guilty expressions on their faces.
Like the one currently on Anise's face. She had stepped up to the bed to take some sort of reading and Carter popped open malevolent blue eyes and hissed at her. Freya shot him a worried look. Daniel shot him a worried look. Hell, even Teal'c was looking at him funny. Surely they didn't miss the fact she was hissing because Anise had stepped between the bed and a member of SG-1. Teal'c to be precise. So either Carter was reacting like a goa'uld, or Selmak was acting like Carter.
Either way, stage one complete.
Daniel waited until Anise had left the room and Carter had closed her eyes before looking at Jack with a wary expression. Jack decided to jump start the conversation, otherwise they'd still be discussing this tomorrow.
"Malek say what was responsible for the light show?"
Daniel nodded cautiously."Ah...yeah. He did. He thinks one of the trace minerals they used in the hydroponics system reacts to the energy frequencies given off by the Naquadah in Sam's system."
Jack blinked. "She tried to use it as a hand device?"
Daniel shifted uneasily."Er...yes. Basically."
"Ah,"Jack said, mildly impressed. That was Carter. Always finding new ways to blow things up. Slightly cheered by this evidence his 2IC was still in her right mind he narrowed his eyes at the rest of SG-1.
It was up to her team to keep her that way.