Chapter Eight: The Sun God's Legacy
Hanger 3, SGC Airfield
5th September 1998
A thoroughly exhausted Jack O'Neill approached the small door set into the much more massive rolling doors of the hanger that had for the past half-year been a place where he could just relax and unwind from the hectic schedules, organizational meetings and training of the Spec Warfare School. He was as much an instructor as he was a student; learning the techniques others had pulled out of their hats which proved useful in full combat simulation and in turn teaching them. It was so nice to work with veteran combat professionals, people who knew their stuff already, so there was a solid platform to work from in developing combat tactics for offworld ops. Pretty soon the SGC would be able to sport a solid cadre of special operators that would be able to function in an alien environment. Of course, not every contingency or situation could be planned for, that was impossible, but Jack felt for the first time confident in their ability to conduct offworld ops. Shooting from the hip, as had been done for the first Abydos mission, was firmly a thing of the past.
One of the primary differences between then and now would be a decent grasp of what was out there. The Tollan Instructors had provided Earth information on the basic environments on various worlds they had encountered. It was basic information that the Tollan saw no harm in providing. Little did they know the information was put to use in areas far, far outside the basic environmental sciences Earth had originally cited its interest in. It was far easier to design weapons, armour and technology that wouldn't fail in the field if you knew what sort of field they may be in after all.
Pulling out his ID-slash-access badge, Jack swiped the card on the reader beside the door, typed in his code and pushed his thumb into the fingerprint reader. The EM console buzzed and with a resonating "thunk" of the releasing bolt allowed him entrance. It wasn't much of a retreat from the heat, but at least he could get out of the direct sunlight. He admired the main attraction sitting in the hanger for a few moments before heading to a nearby ladder and climbing up to the gantry level, then a mere ten steps to a folding deck chair and he collapsed into it.
His eyes found the object of his fascination again and all the engineers and service crew scattered around it, the bracings attached to it and the clusters of tool racks and scientific instruments beside it. Even though it's midnight black skin was still open in certain sections allowing access to its internals – it was a thing of beauty that never failed to take Jack's breath away every time he saw it again.
The YF-23 Eagle Aerospace Superiority Fighter reminded him of a blade that cut through the air with deathly precision – of course this one would do the same in the vacuum of space as well. While it was clearly a modification of the YF-22, it now had had a much stronger blending of elements from the F117 Stealth Fighter in its look. The resulting package looked aggressive, menacing and dare he say it, even gorgeous. This was what he thought of when he imagined a space dog fight, not those silly Death Gliders.
Jack pulled out a water canteen and took a deep gulp before he noticed an equally beautiful thing in a green jumpsuit approaching his position from the direction of one of the other ladders. Climbing up and crossing the distance to his lawn chair she soon stood to attention a respectable distance and saluted. He returned the salute, not bothering to get up knowing that his interlocutor wouldn't mind the small breach of rank protocol.
"Captain Carter, at ease."
"Good afternoon, Colonel."
He gestured to the F23, "How's it coming?"
She turned to face the fighter before replying, "Another two months sir, for the first atmospheric test flight."
Jack huffed in disappointment, "Just last week, you said three weeks."
"There were some bugs identified in the thrust vector software, sir."
"Damn it, these fifth generation fighters need more than a dozen computers just to keep them in the air and flying," Jack groused. "The Death Glider has only one – and it's stupidly simple to fly."
"That's because its computer is a complex crystal based optical model, generations ahead of our own silicon based computing in performance, which does nearly everything for the pilot, sir. So we have to network multiple computers together in our fighters to manage the same."
Jack kept his voice as casual as possible, "Selected a test pilot yet?"
"Damn," Jack grumbled. Metz was a former F15 fighter jock who'd left the Air Force and been promptly grabbed by Lockheed. Jack had hoped that the SGC wouldn't go private given that Lockheed had only had a vestigial involvement since the fighter had been 'gated to Abydos due to security concerns. Now with Disclosure a thing of the past, they were back in fold on the F23 development.
She faced him now, an earnest expression in her blue eyes, "Sir, with all due respect, there's no way they would've risked an active serving senior officer in an experimental ASF.
"You're right," Jack conceded. "But look at that thing, and tell me you wouldn't give your last cent to be able to fly that thing first."
"Considering I partially designed and built it, I know what you mean, sir."
"So have you guys gotten anywhere on further production of them…"
It was Carter's turn to sigh and she rubbed her hand through her short blonde hair in frustration. "The liquid gravicite problem is… it's like… it's directly in front of me and when I try to grab it in my hands it turns to smoke. We've managed a work around using Gravicite inspired PEM Hydrogen fuel cells – of course that means the '23 will need to refuel much sooner than the Glider would."
The Death Glider got power from a very compact Liquid Gravicite Reactor – SGC scientists had figured it out after throwing every qualified brain and supercomputer they had at it – the one thing they had failed to find was the method of how Gravicite was kept in a stable liquid form. Frustratingly, current policy prevented them from questioning the Tollan regarding anything Gravicite-related so there was no help coming from that direction.
The truth was that the YF-23 as it stood in the hangar below them had the engines of a Death Glider – whilst the Inertial Dampeners, hull, avionics and everything else was made by the SGC and Lockheed Martin. The main problem now was the Glider's Gravitic engine. It was fiendishly advanced to the extent that it was estimated, even with Earth's rapidly advancing understanding of general gravitic sciences, that it would take another decade or more to field an equivalent engine.
Jack stared thoughtfully at the '23 for a few moments, "We really need to capture a production line of those things."
"That would be ideal," Carter nodded. "Sir, have you given some thought about my request."
Jack stared shrewdly at her, "You've kept up to date?"
"Physically, yes sir. I've studied the all the new off world protocols, and I'm now LECU and Z1 qualified."
"With all this," he gestured to the fighter somewhat incredulously, "on your plate, how did you manage?"
"I made the time, sir." Jack resisted the urge to grin at that attitude. He mentally ticked yet another box that represented the qualities he was looking for in the members of his team.
He'd keep her on probationary status for the first three recon missions that were slated for SG1. There would be missions where she'd have to be kept on the other side of the wormhole. Despite the fact that she had been an excellent combat pilot in the Gulf, and would be an excellent and competent soldier out there in the galaxy, able to understand and mess with alien doohickeys that were about to blow up in their faces and doom the Universe, she was not Spec Ops.
He couldn't give her a garrote, order her to stealthily strangle a Jaffa and expect her to succeed. It had nothing to do with being a woman or lack of physical strength, she didn't have neither the training, mentality or experience. Fortunately and unfortunately, the history of special operators was such that women hadn't had the opportunity to acquire either in the US armed forces – though there were signs that change was on the horizon in that front.
He also had no doubt that there would be situations in the future that would test her and forge her in that crucible of unexpected combat, and test him in keeping his team together when she was wounded and in trouble.
It was one of those things where only time would tell if it was a horrendously bad idea.
SGC Gateway Centre
12th September 1998
"Begin dialing sequence."
George Hammond had lost count of the number of times he had said that over the last couple of eventful years, and he was somewhat shocked to note that things had become routine. He had promised himself not to try to lose the sense of awe and wonder every time the Stargate activated but it seemed not to be. He didn't even blink at the sight of the wormhole erupting from the maw anymore – not even when he stood only twenty feet away from the thing. At his COPSO station he merely made a note of it on his computer and looked up at the large wall screen showing the active Stargate.
Only now did he begin to feel the excitement as he saw the launching ramp being pushed towards the Stargate.
Today marked the first time the SGC would fully recon their a world in the general unknown of the Galaxy since the Tollan exodus. They had a good idea, both thanks to the Abydos Cartouche and the Tollans, that this wormhole wasn't terminating onto a Goa'uld controlled world, but Earth wasn't putting its faith completely in either. That precaution was why the first visitor to the new world would be the MQ-2 Predator Recon UAV.
Ordinarily the MQ-1 Predator, introduced in service in '95, wouldn't have even fit through the Gate with its forty-eight foot wingspan and it needed a long runway for takeoff. The MQ-2 was essentially a refit that General Atomics had made to the Predator in the last year specifically for SGC operational requirements. Its fuel tank had been halved and the smallest Mass Reducer yet made squeezed in the free space. The MR wasn't fully effective though as a consequence, and could only halve the Predator's overall mass consistently. Nevertheless this meant that it needed much less lift to fly and could take a large reduction in wingspan to be able to fit through the Gate.
"Launch platform in position, General," Captain Harrell, the officer manning ROBO reported.
"Very well, launch when ready."
The officer tapped in a sequence of buttons on his station, "Three…two…one… launch."
The wall screen camera was briefly flash-blinded by the detachable launch rockets lighting off and hurtling the Predator along the platform rails and into the wormhole event horizon. While they knew, thanks to a camera ball delivered with an earlier viability dialing to the planet, that the Predator had more than enough space on the other side to fly through the initial launch and climb to cruising altitude the procedure would still all be done by the on-board computer rather than a human operator. In this respect the Predator was initially a missile until the rocket pods spent their fuel and the computer turned guidance over to the signal coming from the wormhole.
This had been done before numerous times in simulation and actual tests between the Earth and Abydos Gates. Teething out the problems had taken two crashed MQ2s and weeks of super computer time. The MQ2 had test launched successfully with no critical faults ten times since then before the green light was given to blast it into the relative unknown through a Gate.
"Receiving telemetry, General. Launch appears to be in the green," Captain Harrell reported.
Hammond looked at the relevant wallscreen as it resolved from a slight hazy static to show the feed from the MQ2s Point of View camera overlain with a tactical HUD any fighter pilot would be very familiar with. As programmed, the Predator was on autopilot and gaining altitude while executing a slow bank to the right while always keeping itself within a few miles of the Gate. The view was one of a terrestrial-like planet that was in low light conditions of pre-dawn. The feed was switched into the Infrared spectrum and now a ghostly grey and white rendered version of the view was presented.
There were some really odd shaped trees on the new planet, but otherwise the UAV was confirming the disposable atmospheric probes results as to the planet's suitability for human life.
The Predator drone's usage was actually part of an amendment to the exploration procedures the SGC had originally pioneered. The SGC had had a long good look at the Tollans own history and taking into account what had happened on Earth during the Colonial Era of Sail, quickly realized that First Contact between human civilizations with extreme technological differences had the potential to be disastrous for either side of the equation. Though Tollan and Earth had the same difference, the former weren't conquerors (Thank God), but rather a high level 'enlightened' civilization. Earth couldn't expect that happy state of affairs to always be the norm.
Earth could end up on a planet where their mere presence was the equivalent of a lit match thrown in a dry field.
Thus was born the SGC First Contact policy.
Earth did not wish to unduly contaminate any pre or post Renaissance equivalent civilization's development, but it did recognize the damage already done by the Goa'uld. As such, any enslaved population could be contacted without restriction. Any civilization not in contact with the Goa'uld in recent (within 15 years) years had to be evaluated by a Cultural Attaché on base or Intel Agent infiltrated on the planet's surface. To achieve this, Intel had to be gathered first by machines, machines that couldn't be readily looked at or handled by the native population. Therefore, was deemed ideal to send in disposable, self-destruct-capable, probes through the Gate to determine viability followed by a Predator that could fly at fifteen thousand feet and give a God's eye view. Only then would a MALC be sent through and eventually a full SG recon team.
"Predator is at recon altitude, General."
"Begin grid search, Captain."
SGC Gateway Centre
12th September 1998
Hammond leaned back in the comfortable leather chair in his rather spacious office and sipped at his cup of coffee. He dearly wished he could just go off duty, but until he knew that the drone was safely back on base and the mission complete he wouldn't be able to sleep a wink. He eyed the small television which displayed the live feed though there was currently nothing of note being displayed. That had not been the case a mere two hours ago, however, when the UAV had picked up a rather grisly event. A human figure in rather intricate colorful clothing being run down by five men on horseback complete with dogs in tow. The control room personnel had watched grimly as the dogs first tacked the fleeing man to the ground before the horsemen caught up and slashed at the figure with swords. The underslung high resolution Predator recon camera had caught the event in detail; they had seen the blood fly and then the entrails spill.
The men had then hacked off the head of their victim and put it in a bag, leaving the body to nature where it lay. Not exactly the most inspiring thing to see of the great unknown. On Hammond's order the Predator had tracked the horsemen back to a large village that reminded the anthropologists somewhat of Mongol hut architecture and design. Now, at least his SG teams would know where the sword-wielding natives were located and could better avoid them.
His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door.
His senior aide poked his head in, "Sir? Dr Jackson to see you with the LRI report."
"Send him in."
Daniel Jackson entered wearing khaki slacks and a white short-sleeve shirt. In a moment of whimsy, Hammond mentally added a Fedora, leather jacket, bullwhip and revolver in his imagination… but it didn't work; Daniel Jackson certainly wasn't an Indiana Jones. The man was still a bit too young to pull it off, and the glasses didn't help either.
"Dr Jackson, what do you have for me?"
"Preliminary work-up on the culture on P3X140, given what we've seen so far," Daniel handed over a file folder, which Hammond opened up and began to browse. "No Goa'uld activity or typical structures have been discovered in a two hundred mile radius around the Gate. So it should be fairly safe in that regard, however, there are no guarantees with regard to the local humans. We're seventy percent sure we're dealing with a late Mongol culture which is on the cusp of moving from a pure nomadic existence to living in villages and towns."
"Open First Contact is out then… I see here that they have curved shortbows," Hammond tapped the report.
"Yes, so in that regard a team sent should be pretty safe at long range, though we did see them practicing horse archery," Daniel pointed out.
Hammond nodded in understanding, "Recon team will have to go during nightfall. Does LRI have anyone who can perhaps infiltrate, once we medically clear the planet?"
"No one on Abydos unfortunately; most of who we have on staff here currently are experts on Mediterranean and Middle-eastern cultures. We'll have to put the assignment into the pipeline back to Earth."
"Thank you, Dr Jackson."
Daniel stood to leave but paused, "Out of curiosity, who are you sending?"
"O'Neill is going to be irked."
"He was," Hammond felt his mouth quirk into a half grin and elaborated when Daniel frowned in confusion, "Colonels Kawalsky, Ferretti and O'Neill played Rock-paper-scissors for it."
13th September 1998
Colonel Charles Kawalsky felt himself emerge from the event horizon of the Stargate and into the relative darkness of a new world with the light from the Gate being the only thing that illuminated the area. He rushed off to his designated position in the defense formation and activated his LECU helmet's night vision, his Z1 held low but ready to snap up in an instant. He heard the 'slurps' of the rest of SG2 emerging and counted up to ten, keeping his eyes on his designated sector. The Gate shut down and the clarity on his NV improved significantly. Though he was used to it by now, his nervous breathing echoed within his helmet as he scanned from right to left.
"All sectors clear?" he whispered. The LECU helmet would normally prevent the wearer's voice from being heard unless a switch at the base of the helmet was flicked. However, each helmet was equipped with a specialized LASH tactical communication system that the user could enable or disable with a panel affixed to the chest of their BDUs. The system allowed for a whisper to be transmitted as clearly as a normally spoken voice which prevented odd distortions due to the helmet.
"Clear, Colonel." It was repeated numerous times.
"We've got six hours before sunrise, let's make it count. You know your individual assignments…get to it."
Kawalksy watched as his team split into five two-man elements, four of which disappeared into brush as quietly as they could. He would remain at the Gate with the two members of SG2 who were the most technically orientated, Lieutenants Tamika Moss and Keith Tucker. Both were already clustered around the MALC and busy sending landing instructions with it to the still orbiting Predator drone. He was still amazed that the thing had remained airborne as long as it had, and it still had another ten hours on the clock before it would've run out of fuel. Gravitics was a wonderful thing – if half of the theoretical applications that were being dreamed up for it became a reality…
He heard the Predator before he saw it of course, a repetitive chopping din that echoed though the air. The engine noise started to fade as it throttled down and with a sudden flaring of its flaps to bleed off a lot of its speed it came into view over the distant treeline before its bulbous nose dipped to perform a deceptively gentle landing for something its size. It didn't have traditional wheeled landing gear, but instead lowered skids which would allow it to slide to a stop on variable surfaces.
Kawalsky winced as the landing hit a little too hard for comfort; there would definitely need to be a bit of maintenance after this. The Predator shut off its throttle and engine completely as it slid to a rather noisy stop.
"The next gen Predator really needs to be a VTOL," Moss grumbled as she, Tucker and Kawalksy hurried towards the now stationary drone. Its mass reduction systems were still active and it effectively only weighed just over one hundred kilograms. This allowed it to be easily picked up between the three of them with the aid of special handles built into the sides and a tow rope. It looked mightily impressive and to the uneducated made it seem like they were near-supermen – picking up and pulling an eight meter long aircraft with only a bit of grunting effort.
When the Predator was just out of splash damage range in front of the Stargate, Kawalsky hurried to the DHD and smoothly dialed Abydos. When the wormhole roared into existence, he lifted his arm and tapped in a prearranged code into the cellphone like device strapped to it. The small black and green LCD screen flashed the letters 'Accepted', before he triggered his radio.
"Sierra Golf Charlie, Sierra Golf Two. Eagle Eyes retrieved."
"Roger that, you are cleared to send it through."
Kawalsky hurried back to the grounded Predator and the three of them pushed it into the wormhole. "Eagle Eyes en route."
Three seconds later, "Eagle Eye received."
"Understood. First scheduled check in will be in four hours. Sierra Golf Two out." The radio signal was cut and with it the wormhole winked out. "Moss, Tucker, get that MALC into cover and under some camo netting."
Kawalsky scanned the area once again; the likelihood that the locals would investigate the noise was high and he was tapping his feet with impatience. He decided to make himself useful and tried his best to eliminate the tire tracks of the MALC, keeping a beady eye for any movement.
"Colonel, Randall here. We have a problem."
Kawalsky sighed, "What is it, Captain?"
"Bottom line, a native rather literally ran in to us, sir. Situation is contained for the moment."
"Report your position, I'm on my way."
Kawalsky, Moss and Tucker moved through the darkness, threading through trees and bush in such a manner that they wouldn't be disturbed too much. It took twenty minutes to reach Randall's position from the Stargate. Their task had been to collect local flora samples, but it seemed they had been stumbled upon by a rather frightened, swarthy-skinned young man in the local garb who was now seated against a tall tree. Randall and Lieutenant Atshushi Asano were essentially standing guard over him, boxing him in to prevent escape – though the young local was not trying.
Kawalsky saw the reason why when he got close enough to the local to see a small Tollan Translator attached to his temple. The Tollan had gifted a supply of the devices to the SGC for use by the front line recon teams most likely to engage in First Contact. They were black-boxed of course, mostly because of the fact that there was a high likelihood of Goa'uld contact and the Tollans didn't want that tech to fall into their hands.
"What's the story, Captain?"
"This is Temur, Colonel," Randall gestured to the young man. "Temur, meet our leader, Colonel Kawalsky."
Kawalsky waved off both Randall and Asano, allowing Temur to stand. "Pleasure to meet you."
Temur half-bowed before rapidly speaking in his language.
"He's basically returning the greeting, sir," Randall translated. Kawalsky noted with a bit of annoyance that it would be helpful if everyoneon the recon team had one of the translators.
"What's he doing stumbling about out here in the middle of the night?"
There was a rapid back and forth speaking between the two before Randall sighed, "He was essentially spying on the village about two clicks to the north east. Not in the military sense, Sir. He's from a neighboring tribe/village and is trying to find out what became of…his girlfriend I think would be the closest translation. They were caught together recently."
"If you mean, Romeo and Juliet, in fair Verona, two rival houses? Yes, that sums it up quite nicely I suppose, sir."
Kawalsky thought for a moment of a course of action while staring at the nervous young man who was shooting them wary and amazed looks in turn. "Tell him he can go about his business and that it would be best if he not mention us at all to his people."
There was visible relief on the Temur's face and he babbled his thanks, before bowing and heading off into the night.
"All right people, I'm setting a new time limit on our mission. I want all our objectives done and dusted two hours before local sunrise. There's to be no corroborating evidence of our presence here, just in case Temur does talk and get someone to believe him."
SG3's commander and his sub-team headed off into the night back towards the general direction of the Stargate.
"Perhaps we should've just assigned someone to shadow him, make sure he gets back okay and to verify his story sir," Moss suggested.
"No, Lieutenant," Kawalsky had considered it, but they had too many things to do in a limited time now for that to be feasible. "We're not going to be poking our noses in their affairs here. There's no visible Goa'uld presence or recent activity and they're far less advanced. That means they're essentially off-limits to open contact with us. The LRI can handle this one eventually with a trained infiltrator to observe only."
"I'm still not sure I like this policy, sir." Moss shook her head. "Let's say that kid had been caught spying and their enemy village was chasing him down. He then runs into us accidentally, what do we do? Defend him or just let him get killed."
"Defending him would probably mean having to kill those sent after him," Tucker pointed out. "We can't just do that summarily either."
"What if that kid's great grandson becomes their Leonardo or Einstein?" Moss argued.
"That goes both ways Lieutenant, what if the future children of the men we gun down becomes their Mandela or Galileo?" Kawalsky sighed. "No, this dilemma is exactly why we don't interfere, on the individual SG team level at least."
Moss scowled in her helmet and was somewhat thankful that her expression was hidden. "So we'll save a civilization that's threatened as a whole, but not the individual."
"It's a dilemma that will continue to haunt us and other SG teams in the future," Kawalsky declared. "We're fighting the Goa'uld, not our extra-solar human cousins - we'll defend ourselves if attacked, but otherwise we leave them to their own business. Is that understood?"
In transit to Chulak
Teal'c stared sightlessly out the viewport of the peltak as his thoughts carried him back over the past week. A series of bloody battles had seen a single planet change hands four times between six separate combatants before his Lord's forces finally won the day. Apophis had already lavished him with praise for his success and condemnation for his failure at completely destroying the enemies of his God faster.
Teal'c had struggled not to simply strangle his "god" with his bare hands in that moment. Nearly ten thousand Jaffa in total had died across all sides of the conflict and those under the command of Apophis' First Prime felt a larger share of the death. Teal'c knew many of the Jaffa slain for a near-barren world and his anger at their needless deaths roiled within his heart.
Tukash had been one of Ra's many holdings until the System Lords began to infringe on his territory. It had begun, ironically, with Apophis' "poaching" of human slaves from a few of Ra's worlds. It was a tactic his "god" had used on numerous occasions to test Ra's boundaries and responses. In the past the Supreme System Lord had typically responded swiftly and with a brutality even the other Goa'uld, Apophis included, would cringe at. Steal a dozen slaves from Ra and suffer the loss of twelve ships, a dozen score Jaffa, or if the Supreme System Lord was truly annoyed – face the death of a dozen of your worlds.
Shuddering at memories of his youth and the stories of Ra's "punishments" Teal'c quickly pulled his thoughts back to the recent battles. Once Apophis realized no retribution was coming from Ra for the theft of his slaves the serpent god grew bolder and dared to attempt further poaching from two worlds so deep within Ra's domain they had been virtually forgotten by the Goa'uld as a whole: Tau'ri and Abydos. Apophis was the only Goa'uld alive aside from Ra, Heru'ur and Yu who knew the Chappa'ai symbols for those worlds so it was a bold move. When neither planet could be successfully dialed, further attempts to other worlds began.
Tukash had been the third world Apophis chose to attempt his blatant thieving from Ra. A nearly barren world Ra had long since stopped using it for resource or slave purposes, but rumors had persisted for years that the Supreme System Lord had begun using it as a test site for new weapons. The Serpent God wanted the secrets the planet held and was convinced Ra was either too occupied or dead to stop him. His assumption was put to the test, however, when Ra's Jaffa refused to allow Apophis' forces so much as a foothold through the Chappa'ai. Apophis' assumption of Ra's status began to waver.
When Ra's Jaffa struck, and rendered uninhabitable, one of Apophis' border worlds possessing a rich naquada mine the assumptions nearly shattered. Apophis, however, cared little for the retaliatory strike. The fact that Ra himself still had not made an appearance only emboldened Teal'c's "god". The First Prime cursed Ra's Jaffa nearly as much as he praised their loyalty – even if it was misplaced in a false god. Spies from Apophis' enemies had spread word of the events and soon the general belief that Ra was no longer alive proliferated among the System Lords.
With a sigh Teal'c shook himself from the memory. Tukash was now Apophis' though it was useless; there were no secret weapons, no slaves or minerals of notable quantities. The planet had been a Jaffa planet much as Chulak was and that was the only reason for the massive forces present. Six System Lords had lost ships, Jaffa, and resources fighting one another and Ra's still-loyal Jaffa for absolutely nothing.
Sneering to himself the First Prime of Apophis turned away from his contemplations and strode purposefully off the peltak. It was nearly time to awaken his "god" as the ship would arrive over Chulak shortly. "Perhaps," Teal'c amused himself with the fanciful thought, "I will strangle him as he rises from the sarcophagus. Dying a Shovl'a would be worth seeing the look on his face as I wring the life from the false god."
Dismissing the idea as foolishness he turned his focus to more important matters than dreams of Jaffa freedom. His "god's" forces were currently engaged in countless battles across Ra's former domain. No matter the Supreme System Lord's current status it could not be denied that his Jaffa were not rolling over for the "Lesser Gods" as one, now dead, Prime had put it. They loudly proclaimed Ra's divinity and that they would pass the test he was placing before them.
It was a thought that made even Teal'c nervous. No one could deny that Ra had held power for millennia for a number of reasons, not the least of which was his cunning. Equal to his cunning and brutality was his absolute disinterest in the lives of those who served him. The idea that the Supreme System Lord would sacrifice worlds, ships, and countless Jaffa as some form of test should have been unthinkable. It was not though. Teal'c had even heard Apophis consider the possibility more than once, but greed spurred the "god" on despite the risk.
If this was all a test, a calculated move on Ra's part to determine the loyalty of his forces and the other System Lords, it would mean certain death for all. Ra would only initiate such a plan if he was completely assured of his ability to swiftly regain all he had lost and more once he was ready. Again, Teal'c shuddered at the thought of what Ra's retribution might be like.
As his journey came to an end before Apophis' sarcophagus the First Prime knelt and waited. While his "god" awoke his final thought in those precious free moments were of his wife and son and the hope he would be able to visit them before his "god" dispatched him to yet another meaningless battle.
The sound of stone grinding against stone brought a complete end to his thoughts. Teal'c immediately bowed his head in the submissive manner expected of him as the top of his "gods" sarcophagus began to open. For a few moments the grinding sound continued, the two panels that formed the top of the sarcophagus splitting apart to reveal the evil being lying in the white walled chamber within - a chamber that Teal'c had seen work many miracles in the past, healing injuries that would otherwise have been fatal.
The grinding sound ceased as the panels stopped moving. For a few moments more nothing happened and a tiny part of Teal'c hoped that something had gone wrong that the false god had somehow met his end during his rest. Sadly it was not to be and he ruthlessly pushed down the thought as a perfectly manicured dark skinned hand appeared on each panel as Apophis sat upright.
Seemingly ignoring him - though Teal'c knew the Goa'uld was fully aware of his presence - Apophis climbed out of the sarcophagus before turning in place and looking at his loyal First Prime. As always Teal'c had served him well in a campaign that he had to admit had been difficult, but which was only a stepping stone to his ultimate goal. The goal of replacing the missing Ra as Supreme System Lord.
"Report Teal'c," Apophis demanded.
"My lord we are approaching Chulak and will be dropping out of hyperspace momentarily," Teal'c answered submissively all the while hating that he had to do this. Unfortunately Bra'tac was right, there was only so much he could do to defy or temper the whims of the false god without arousing Apophis' suspicions. He had seen what happened to those Jaffa who on occasion had openly defied Apophis and rejected his supposed godhood. There repeated deaths - until of course they repented and were granted the 'mercy' of a permanent death - had been horrific to say the very least.
"Excellent, then we shall be able to hold a feast to celebrate our latest triumph," Apophis replied privately looking forward to spending some time with his queen Amounet.
"Yes my lord," Teal'c replied though he didn't feel like celebrating such a hollow and pointless victory. He just wanted to see Dray'ac and Rya'c again - especially he wanted to see how his son was doing with the warrior training he had begun now that he had been given his first prim'tah.
"Come we must be on the pel'tac for our arrival," Apophis said turning and starting to leave the room. Teal'c hurriedly got to his feet and followed, hiding a smile. If there was going to be a feast then at least he would get some welcome time with his family before being once more sent off to battle, which would hopefully not be so costly.
"Mexican Manhattan" Restaurant
San Antonio, Texas, USA, Earth
12th September 1998
'After the successful launch of the VentureStar spacecraft and its test flight around Earth a week ago, NASA, ESA, JSA and the Russian Space Agency have announced that the construction of the ISS will proceed - with the first two modules, the Russian Zarya and American Unity module launching together. Designers of the space agencies are hard at work with revising their designs to incorporate new...'
Dark brown eyes turned from the television hanging behind the bar to dispassionately survey the various tourists and locals wandering along the famed San Antonio River Walk path below. Taking a pull from the long-neck bottle in his hand the fifty-something Colonel barely acknowledged the arrival of his guest as the younger man took the seat across from him and ordered a drink. The two men sat in silence until the waitress had returned with the newcomer's drink and left once again.
"Odd place to meet," offered the young, clean-cut newcomer.
"I was in town, and I like the food. Now come on Michael, what's this about?"
Michael Tucker's face broadened into a grin that some might fancifully call sinister. "I got you in."
The only outward appearance of the statement's effect on the Colonel was the slow lowering of his beer away from his lips to rest upon the table. His eyes narrowed slightly after a moment and he responded with a simple, "How?"
Shrugging in arrogant satisfaction Tucker leaned back in his chair. "I can't take all the credit. You were one of the few smart enough to not get caught up in the NID's death-throws. A little creative editing of your service record and whispering in an ear or three...," he left the rest unsaid knowing his companion understood.
"Impressive. So who exactly will I be working for?"
"Believer it or not," Michael began with a chuckle, "you'll be following the real chain of command."
A single raised eyebrow was the only response the statement achieved.
"I'm serious Harry. The Intelligence community has all ten of its sticky little fingers in the pie and has from the word go. We've actually been given the authority to do our jobs and those in charge actually listen to us. Sure, they may not always agree, but they take us seriously. It's not like in recent history where the NID had to work off the books."
"And the benefactors behind those off the books errands? I doubt they're happy about everyone's sudden trip to the moral high ground."
"Those that didn't get caught with the NID have been retired quietly. I'm sure you've seen the news."
Harry Maybourne simply nodded and took another pull from his beer while studying Tucker. The two changed their topic of conversation when the waitress returned for their order. In all outward appearances the two were just old service buddies meeting for lunch. It wasn't until the dishes had once again been cleared from the table and their privacy assured for bit that the topic once again changed.
"Say I join. What's my job?"
"You understand the long game that's being played regarding disclosure I assume?"
Maybourne nodded. "Once I had a few of the facts it wasn't hard to put it together. I admit I'm impressed."
Tucker smirked before responding, "I'll pass that along to Dr. Jackson. Anyway, your job is going to be to 'go rogue' and be a dirty little traitor willing to sell the truth and secrets to anyone with the cash."
"Michael that sounds like it puts a very large bulls-eye on me. You're not exactly selling me on the idea."
"Relax Harry. It's just a deep cover assignment to help us keep an eye on people and organizations we can't easily retire."
"And yet you're freely talking about it in a public restaurant."
"Please Harry," Michael dismissed with a roll of his eyes, "you know very well that even without recent advances there was tech available to make a public place as secure as any bunker."
"Fair enough. When do you need an answer?"
"Soon. We need eyes and ears out there ASAP. The entire operation is progressing into the next phase soon and with more people in the program..."
Harry didn't need Tucker to finish the statement as the point was well understood. The secrecy behind any program was directly and inversely proportional to the number of people involved. "Alright, I'm in."
"Excellent. I'll call you in a day or two...and thanks for lunch," Michael responded while standing. Maybourne stood as well and shook his soon-to-be coworker's hand. As the two parted Tucker smirked to himself over sticking Maybourne with the bill for lunch.
Maybourne, however, smirked as he opened Tucker's now missing wallet and muttered a quiet, "Thanks for lunch Michael."
Teal'c walked purposefully, with all the authority expected of his position as the First Prime of Apophis, through the corridors of the palace. He had been watching his son Rya'c train with the other young warriors under the tutelage of Master Bra'tac when Apophis had summoned him. His "god" had given him a new task; a mission that he had overseen dozens of times before during his service to the false god even before his elevation to Prime and later then First Prime. Though a relatively simple and low risk task, it was a mission that always left a very foul taste in his mouth. It was only through years of conditioning and ruthless self control that he was capable of carefully hiding his loathing of the assignment as well as he hid his true contempt for the Goa'uld who'd enslaved his people for uncounted generations.
Apophis and Amounett had commanded that he take a small force of Jaffa to the planet Cartago to collect a number of the healthiest and most attractive Byrsa villagers who called the planet home. Once he had found a suitable number, he was to bring them back to Chulak where one or more of them would be chosen to suffer a fate that Teal'c privately considered to be far, far worse than death. The villager, or villagers if more than one caught the gods' eyes, in question would be presented to the mature Goa'uld symbiote that Apophis had chosen to become his newest Underlord. Should the symbiote find favor with the living sacrifice, as Teal'c thought of them, they would be claimed as the host of a new "god". It was only if the symbiote found the villager lacking that they would be granted the far more humane fate of a relatively quick death.
Navigating the hallways with his usual stoic silence, Teal'c privately vowed to do his best to give the villagers on Cartago a chance to escape, though as usual he would have to be circumspect about it. Despite knowing that the upcoming events on the small planet were to be yet another crime he could lay at the feet of the false gods ruthless practicality would have to rule his actions. The life of a First Prime and their family constantly danced on a blade's edge under the watchful gaze and fickle whims of their god. Yet, for all his ingrained and trained practicality a small part of the First Prime of Apophis deeply wished that one day the Goa'uld would face justice for this and their many other crimes. The deeper, darker, half of the wish being that he could be the one to one day exact that justice.
Coming up upon a courtyard where a dozen of his fellows were sparring he pushed aside all thoughts and dreams of dealing out justice and turned his attention to the here and now. "Jaffa," he called out prompting his subordinates to immediately stop their exercises and line up facing him. "Our lord has commanded that we go to Cartago and capture a suitable number of worthy villagers for a Ritual of Choosing," he continued walking down the line as if inspecting them. "I have decided that you twelve will accompany me. Get into armour and meet me at the Chappa'ai in ten minutes."
"Yes First Prime," Te'lok the most senior of the twelve Jaffa acknowledged before they raced off to the armory to heed the words of their First Prime and thus their god's command. Teal'c resumed his course through the palace. As befitting his position as First Prime, he was always ready for battle and thus was already prepared for the journey ahead. His trek to the clearing where the Chappa'ai resided was spent with a part of his mind praying to whatever true deity, or deities, might be listening for forgiveness for what he was about to do.
When he came to a stop next to the Control Pedestal for the 'Portal of the Gods', he rested his Ma'tok's club end on the gravel of the well-worn earth of the clearing and simply stared at the circular device. The Goa'uld often boasted that they had created the Portals across the Galaxy, but Teal'c had long had doubts about that claim. It was a heretical idea that sprung from certain events long after his old Master had broken his mind free from the chains of falsehood that had been laid on them by the false gods. The freedom of knowing the truth had given him a new perspective on events when on one occasion the Portal failed to open when Apophis himself had entered the destination. The look of surprise and frustration that had flashed on the Goa'uld's face lasted a mere moment, but Teal'c had spotted it and knew it for what it was. A god should have known that the Portal at their destination was already in use after all. Teal'c had been the only one with Apophis at the time and so the false god's equally false excuse was wasted on him.
There were also other occasions when the Portal would act in ways that showed that while the Goa'uld knew many of the ring's secrets, they were not the true masters or creators of its power. In those rare moments of idleness Teal'c often considered the true origins of the rings. He often thought that perhaps the fabled Asgard, who could deny the gods access to worlds of their choosing, were the ones responsible for the creation of the Chappa'ais. It would certainly explain the blatant taboo on all knowledge of the fabled, yet feared, race.
The sound of heavy footsteps marching in perfect cadence reached his ears and once again Teal'c was drawn from his contemplations as he turned to see the column of twelve Jaffa he had selected approaching. Arranged in a standard formation of two Jaffa abreast in six rows the sound of their march was enhanced by their armoured footwear. When entire armies marched, the sound was strong enough that the Jaffa had to close their helmets to keep their ears from bursting. It was of course also useful in the intimidation of slaves, whose naturally larger numbers could overwhelm even an experienced Jaffa column through the simple power of a mob. The synchronized and sharp metallic thuds of a Jaffa column never failed to send shivers down the spines of those who heard it; it was a sound engrained in the minds of countless worlds as one of destruction, subjugation and the will of hateful gods.
The First Prime's eyes swept the approaching column's armour in brief inspection. No matter how impervious a Jaffa's armour was to the weapons which slaves and humans could fashion, there were still weaknesses. Gaps, especially on the upper legs and arms of the armour where armouring would mean too great a loss in mobility and melee fighting presented a risk to the wearer. More than once Teal'c had seen even the strongest Jaffa felled by something as simple as a human wielding a sharpened wooden spear when it was stabbed into that area. It was an unfortunate fact that those areas of a Jaffa's body were also where blood flowed greatly - to the extent it came rushing out in thick squirts - when dealt an injury. Often the Jaffa struck at one of these weak spots in their armour was dead in less than two minutes from blood loss that no Prim'ta to could stave off.
The column came to a perfect stop and Teal'c stepped forward to address them a last time. "I do not need to tell you that while this is a slave harvest we must remain vigilant. The humans of this world are quite aware that we often come to raid them and have been known to offer resistance each time. They are as fleet footed as a masta so it shall be challenging and time consuming to capture them. They can also make accurate and powerful crossbows and are known to be well skilled in their use. Keep your helmets closed unless you wish to present them an easy kill. Any human who threatens you in this manner is defying the will of our god and may be killed. Understood?"
"Yes, First Prime," the column chorused in one voice to acknowledge his words. Teal'c nodded in satisfaction and turned to the Control Pedestal as he and the other Jaffa triggered their armor's helmets. Plates hidden within the collar of their armour began to appear, shift and expand as if by the magic of their god. In moments where once had stood twelve mortal Jaffa and their First Prime now a formation of armoured serpentine warriors stood tall and intimidating. The glowing crimson eyes of Apophis' Serpent Guard stared coldly, inhumanly, upon the world around them.
With sure movements born of years of repetition he firmly pressed on the glyphs in the appropriate sequence to connect the Portal to Cartago. With each press one of the orange lights on the Chappa'ai activated and the inner track would spin until the symbol selected was under the top-most light. The upper portion of the ring would flex downward over the glyph, as if to draw in the symbol, before continuing on to the next. Finally, with a familiar whine of power the Portal roared into being with beautiful, but deadly, column of energy rushing outward seemingly wanting to engulf the entire Jaffa column before it. Then, as if the energy had been leashed, it was pulled back into the bounds of the Chappa'ai in a deceptively mellow rippling surface.
Teal'c always thought it looked like water, but knew it was as as far from 'water' as something could be. Once, during a battle he had forced enemy Jaffa into a defensive retreat, forcing them into the shadow of a Chappa'ai as they desperately fought on. When the Portal suddenly activated the surprised Jaffa had no chance to move, blocked as they were by oncoming staff blasts, and in the blinking of an eye the roaring 'water' of the Chappa'ai had reduced them into nothing, with only their lower legs remaining.
"Scouts," Teal'c ordered instantly. Six Jaffa at the front of the column immediately separated from the unit and rushed to stop just in front of the Chappa'ai's surface, the first two of the six lowering their Ma'tok. The weapons snapped open with a sharp click and the whining sound of energy coursing over the oval head echoed through the clearing. Ready to fire at the first sign of danger the two fearlessly stepped through the Portal. Silence reigned as the perfect discipline of the gathered Jaffa held them still while awaiting the scout's report. A few moments later Teal'c's attention was drawn to the blinking light of the wrist communicator on his left arm.
"All is well, First Prime."
Teal'c gave a simple hand signal and the remaining four Jaffa stepped through in perfect lockstep. He waited for another report before he turned to face the Portal. The six remaining Jaffa immediately fell into formation behind him and as they had countless times before marched through with their First Prime leading them. Teal'c experienced the brief disjointing sensation of Portal travel; half-imagined images of a twisting starfield rushing by through a twisting tunnel of light, feeling the rush of speed as he was flung through the Galaxy as if he was a feather caught in a strong storm, and a momentary loss of physical sensation as if he was not even in his own body. Then, in the space of a heartbeat the sensations vanished and he finished his step emerging through the Portal on Cartago with ease.
Cartago was a reasonably lush world with that had very little to no deposits of Naquadah or other resources precious to the Goa'uld. The planet's only true worth to Apophis was its human population; it was a favored world by simple virtue of the fact that the human stock had always been viewed as 'strong and beautiful specimens'. Indeed, the persistent belief was that the Goa'uld who originally controlled the world had chosen its original humans from the long lost First World for those very qualities. Those traits had bred true to form in their descendants as well.
Teal'c watched as his column fanned out and secured a perimeter, his eyes examining the area with experience and looking for anything amiss. As was usual for village of Byrsa the natives had vanished, but all other signs showed the area had only recently been abandoned. Cooking fires and fresh foods on tables, work interrupted before completion, and a cart full of grain left sitting in the center of the village square were sure signs of recent activity. Overall, there was nothing different about the village than on any of his other visits to the planet. Moving down the steps in front of the Chappa'ai he immediately noted that something heavy besides the boots of his Jaffa or an overloaded cart had disturbed the grass in front of the Portal and left shallow tracks in the soil.
Familiarity with the local population had long taught him that their survival against the Goa'uld was based solely on their ability to evade the Jaffa on raiding parties such as these. At the first sight of the Portal's activation the population would scatter to the woods and hidden caves. Thus, they had developed a lifestyle based around mobility and speed; large bulky carts so burdened as to leave tracks in the grass and sail were not part of their life. Teal'c squatted down and gave the tracks the scrutiny only a master tracker could. The grass had not yet returned to its normal state showing that it was recent traffic, but the soil impressions had been disturbed slightly indicating foot travel over them after they had been made. The angle of the flattened grass indicated that the tracks began at the base of the Chappa'ai's steps and moved through the village. The only conclusion for the signs was that someone had come through the Portal. Whoever it was had arrived with a heavy cart of some sort and left without it or they were still on the planet.
The locals didn't use the Portal, and didn't know how...so...
The Prime in question hurried to his superior. "Yes, First."
Teal'c kept his body language neutral even though inside he was now tense and wary, "Be on your guard, this world has been visited, it is possible there are an enemy god's warriors here, poaching on our lord's rightful territory. Inform our brothers silently."
Te'lok eyes widened fractionally with alarm before they narrowed with determination. Nodding in both understand an acceptance of the order he returned to the perimeter. Teal'c was inwardly proud of how well trained this specific column was. The Prime hardly reacted at all to the news of possible battle and he knew the rest of the Jaffa in the unit were equally as disciplined.
"Jaffa, Kree! The humans will have fled for their caves. We must follow quickly if we are to capture any without the need for additional warriors. Do not make me report to our Lord that we were too slow to capture mere humans without reinforcements."
Bringing his Ma'tok staff into the ready to position Teal'c made a small hand gesture instructing his column to begin a cautious advance forward. Moving with both a speed and alertness that came only with hard-won experience the column quickly moved through the village and along a well worn and poorly camouflaged trail into the nearby foothills. As they neared the village proper he felt a strange sensation at the back of his neck that led him to believe that he was being watched. Another hand gesture brought the formation to a halt and he surveyed the village once again. Still there was no sign of any human presence and the sensors built into his helmet didn't show any sign of humans hiding in the nearby undergrowth or trees. Despite the proof to the contrary his instincts - instincts that had never failed him in all his years of service to Apophis - told him that he was being watched. Narrowing his eyes in suspicion he again gestured the column forward.
Still some distance from the village the path into the foothills narrowed and dropped down into a tight gully between two vertical formations of weathered, moss encrusted, stone forcing the column to bunch back up into a two-abreast formation with Teal'c in the lead. A feeling of cold tension began to form in his stomach, gripping him as he led his brothers down into the gully. Every lesson drilled into him by first Master Bra'tac and then long years of service was telling him that this would be a perfect place for enemy Jaffa to ambush and quickly eliminate his column. His instincts telling him that they were still being watched only served to further heighten the tension. The gully lasted a fair length before opening once again to a trail into the cavern-filled foothills on the other side. The limited room to maneuver would leave little in the way of options for escape or return fire for he or the rest of the column.
Each step through the gully felt like years as both Teal'c and the Jaffa under his command maintained their outwardly bold and fearless march. Tension gave way to relief when finally they passed out of the gully and stepped onto the trail leading through the foothills to the various caves used by the villagers. Teal'c began to believe that in all likelihood whichever enemy Jaffa had been here had since departed via the Chappa'ai. They had no doubt taken a great many of the fittest villagers as new slaves or hosts for their master, he thought with a mental sigh, but it was the unknown cargo which had obviously been left behind that allow for a continued sense of wary caution.
"First, I do not believe that any of the enemy Jaffa remain on this planet," Te'lok said softly over the comm device in their helmets.
After a moment of consideration Teal'c offered his response and gave direction and reassurance he did not truly feel to his subordinates. "I agree. We will interrogate any surviving villagers we find; our lord will want to know whose Jaffa have dared to violate his domain." Though his voice and tone held the anger that was expected of a First Prime who'd discovered his gods domain had been invaded his true thoughts and emotions were less focused the deed itself and more over the who and why. It was then that the knot of tension in his stomach vanished under an suffocating sense of dread. His pace along the trail came to an abrupt halt, startling the Jaffa behind him.
Hidden behind the facade of his helmet no one alive would see the wide eyed expression of realization that had come over Teal'c's face. So totally out of character, the expression would have shocked any who witnessed it and tales of the event would be retold for generations. However, the slow translation from unguarded shock to stoic, resigned, acceptance would have instilled a deeply foreboding sense of dread in any loyal Jaffa. It was the look of a First Prime who had accepted his death, the death of the Jaffa under his command, and of his God. Teal'c closed his eyes briefly while ignoring the world around him as he refocused on the task at hand despite the grim certainty he now held.
Ra was not dead.
Jaffa were not poaching from Cartago, but rather enacting the will of their god in retribution for Apophis' poaching of their Lord's domain.
He and his Jaffa were as good as dead and soon Apophis would follow.
Despite a grim satisfaction at knowing his "god" would soon follow him into the afterlife, Teal'c refused to simply laydown and die at the hands of Ra's Jaffa. Serpent Guard would meet Horus Guard and no quarter would be given. With a gesture to the Jaffa behind him the First Prime of Apophis resumed his march and his loyal warriors followed obediently. Soon the trail lead the column into a dense copse of trees along the side of the rocky foothills limiting visibility and once again increasing the likelihood of an ambush.
With a few hand gestures he instructed the Jaffa to spread out a little into a wider formation as they advanced cautiously through the woods. Fog rolled along at shin-height through the dusk-darkened foothills and the serpentine eyes of his warrior cast a pale crimson glow on the otherwise pale environment. All the while Teal'c still felt like he was being watched despite no new evidence to support the sensation. A wide range of potential reasons for the conflicting situation ran through his well trained mind and all of them simply reinforced his conclusion that Ra was indeed enacting his first steps of retribution against his long-time rival.
As the column passed out of the woods and into a large clearing outside one of the main caves in the hills Teal'c did his best to put all other concerns out of his mind. As he would have expected the clearing was quiet and deserted. Yet strangely, there were no signs of the fleeing villagers having passed through to the cave entrance on the other side.
It only added to Teal'c's unease about the whole situation.
Movement abruptly caught his attention and he whirled in the direction it came from, opening the weapon end of his Ma'tok with a snap ready to fire. Only to see nothing, beyond a softly fluttering of wings as a bird took flight from a tree in the distance. A small part of his mind idly noted the similarity between the bird and one in a decorative rug on the floor of the house he and his wife Dray'ac had been given as a wedding gift by Apophis himself years before.
The abrupt discharge of a Ma'tok's plasma bolt made him spin around again just as Te'lok fired another shot at something moving in the deep shadows cast around the clearing by the angle of the setting sun and the tall trees of the woods. He started to open his mouth to demand an explanation from the experienced warrior when a flash of what looked like flame erupted briefly from the distant shadows across the clearing. In that moment time slowed down for the First Prime of Apophis. A deep booming sound immediately followed the flash echoing through the air with an almost physical sensation. Abruptly, Te'lok's chest seemed to explode in a flash of smoke, sparks and blood as something ripped through his armour and the fragile flesh beneath. The impact sent Te'lok flying back with a scream of agony before he crashed down and lay still in a rapidly spreading pool of blood. A heartbeat later saw the crimson glow on the fog rolling away from the fallen Jaffa fade away as the eyes of his serpent helmet dimmed to a dull, pale red as the Jaffa's life was extinguished.
"Jaffa, Kree," Teal'c yelled instructing his fellows to locate the attacker just as another burst of sound came from somewhere off to his right followed by another to his left. Something slammed into his staff, ripping it from his startled hands with the sheer force of the impact. A millisecond later searing, white hot pain unlike anything he'd experienced since he was branded First Prime exploded in his right arm and leg and sent him sprawling to the ground with a scream.
Through a red haze of pain he heard the familiar sounds of staff weapons firing as the remaining Jaffa attempted to flush whoever was attacking them out of their hiding places. The deeper booming noise of the unknown weapons answered repeatedly and was soon joined by two more in separate directions. The crossfire continued amid screams and shouts from his brothers as they came under fire from multiple directions at once. He could see movement in his peripheral vision as one of his warriors after another fell to the assault.
The crossfire halted and an unnatural silence descended on the clearing. His remaining Jaffa have apparently moved into sufficient cover. Teal'c tried to move, to rejoin his brothers in battle against what he was sure were Ra's Jaffa. Clearly Ra had provided his forces new, and devastating, weapons. However, as he began to sit up the jarring of his arm overwhelmed his senses with a fresh wave of agony and he fell back once again barely able to withhold a scream as both his wounds flared in protest.
Despite the mind-numbing pain of Teal'c's wounds a fresh exchange of fire from both sides erupted piercing the searing pain that enveloped him. It was immediately clear to Teal'c that Ra's forces had planned their ambush well as he only heard a handful of staff blasts indicating their initial assault had greatly thinned his own forces. After a third volley of the odd booming sounds even those ceased. Silence once again filled the clearing and it filled Teal'c with a cold sensation that had nothing to do with his injuries.
The pain from his own wounds began to fade as his prim'ta finally began healing the injuries and adrenaline flooded into his system. Grimacing behind his helmet he sat up and tried to draw his Zatnikatel sidearm, only to pause at what his eyes beheld and his mind finally accepted: all of his fellow Jaffa, seasoned warriors feared for their numerous victories against horrific odds, were lying on the ground amid spreading pools of blood. His warriors, his brothers, were clearly dead. Figures began to emerge from the shadows around the clearing. Dressed in armour with helmets unlike anything he'd seen before, Ra's forces were appearing from behind cover in all directions. All of them were carrying strange but powerful looking weapons, weapons that had just cut his small column to ribbons in mere moments. They had been surrounded all along and they'd never known.
Accompanying Ra's Jaffa were a posse of the Byrsa village's males, armed with their formidable crossbows which they immediately trained on him as his movements caught their attention. In an instant they fired, sending a storm of bolts towards him which, thankfully ricocheted off his armour. It was then, the sun angled through the trees to illuminate the face of an oddly familiar Byrsan whose expression held an odd mix of loathing and satisfaction. The man leveled his crossbow with deliberately slow, precise, movements and fired. The wickedly aimed bolt struck true through the damage in his armour over his already wounded arm. A new wave of searing pain lanced into his brain and his muscles involuntarily jerked, knocking him onto his back once again. This time the impact jarring his wounds enveloped him in an agony he could not contain and he couldn't stop the cry of pain that escaped.
Darkness began to slowly encroach upon his vision as pain, shock and blood loss began to take its toll on his body. Despite the best efforts of his larval Goa'uld to mitigate the effect his body had simply sustained too many shocks in too short a period. Through the increasing darkness he felt someone taking his knife and Zatnikatel from him, before touching the retract button on his helmet. The bright light of the sunset assaulted his eyes as it pierced the treetops directly ahead of him and through the haze Teal'c faintly saw one of Ra's Jaffa standing over him.
Without thinking he started to raise his good arm to try and trip up the warrior, to offer one final resistance before he was slain like his brothers. The unknown Jaffa casually avoid the swing and stamped down hard on the offending arm, striking with enough force that their was an audible crack as a bone in his wrist broke, sending another burst of molten-pain up his spine and into the First Prime's brain.
It was one pain to many. The darkness that had been encrouching on his vision rushed in like a flood, carrying Teal'c down into a deep dark place. His last thought was of the words Bra'tac had once spoken to him when he was still young and arrogant.
"If there is one thing you must learn Teal'c it is that arrogance has its cost. All Goa'uld are arrogant and they must all pay for it. Look upon this dead world child and know it was once a home to Apophis' Jaffa just as Chulak is. It is lifeless and barren now because of Apophis' arrogance in seeking to poach what belonged to the Supreme System Lord. This, my young student, is the Sun God's Legacy: those who defy him suffer, but those who serve the defiant are left dead and consigned to cautionary tales."
Staring sightlessly as the Cartago sky Teal'c knew then that he was now consigned to be nothing more than another cautionary tale - another chapter in the Sun God's Legacy. "You serve your god well..." he murmured.
Then he knew no more.
Jack O'Neill looked down on the big, bald, dark-skinned Jaffa below him and lifted up his combat boot - he looked carefully to see if the guy was faking it, but it didn't seem so. His eyes found the forehead of the Jaffa and saw the solid gold plated circular symbol showing a wavy snake in relief. Jack had known this was the squad leader simply by his position in the formation of Jaffa. Team 3 on Gate watch had already pegged the guy in any event, but the gold forehead tattoo was final confirmation on the potential intel goldmine they had just snagged.
"Coleman!" he snapped to one of SG1s two resident medics, who immediately rushed over from his position, "Get over here and patch this guy up."
"Yes, sir." Coleman detaches his backpack and hurriedly got to work.
Jack backed away and let the medic get to work. "Everybody else keep you damn distance from the bodies!" He noted some of the natives coming closer to the dead Jaffa bodies curiously and occasionally directing awe struck looks at SG1, but at Jack's shout they jumped away as if scalded by hot water. The LECU armour had flexible finger-width armour plates meshed around the neck as part of it, protecting his team from any attempts at a Goa'uld parasite trying to jump ship from another Goa'uld host or Jaffa in field ops.
The only way a possession could conceivably happen was if they were captured and the armour removed. There was even rumors of a proposal that future versions of the LECU and other armours that were on the drawing boards offer the wearer a 'Capture Denial' option. Which was military speak for, 'I can blow my own head away.' Jack didn't like it, but he'd rather be dead than a host for the enemy, leaking the existence of Earth and other vital intel, not to mention the capability of the Goa'uld to put you in a sarcophagus and resurrect you even from death had the Intel weenies screaming fits.
In any event, the Byrsans didn't have protection, and he wouldn't have a possession occur on his watch if he could help it.
Carter approached him and her gaze settled on the downed Jaffa, "Sir, isn't that..."
"Their rough equivalent of a Brigadier General? Yeah... not bad for our first real mission."
"Think he'll make it?"
"He better. Make sure you get Team 2 to grab their staffs, and those Serpent helmets, see if we there's any difference with Ra's. Oh, and what do you make of this doohickey?"
Carter accepted the shiny metallic grey device with sinuous lines that Jack had taken from the First Prime. It was clearly a weapon of sorts, due to it's convenient holster on the Jaffa's arm and the pointed end. She turned it carefully in her gloved hands. There was odd chiming sound as she felt her hand brush over a small circular raised portion of one end, the device suddenly snapped open, uncoiling into an S-shape. It happened so suddenly she almost dropped it.
"Ah, easy there," Jack winced.
"Clearly an energy sidearm of sorts, sir."
"You can play with it back home, Captain."
"Yes, sir." Sam pushed a finger against the same spot and the weapon snapped closed, before she put it in a secure container for transport.
It took Coleman some fifteen minutes of work before he declared that he at least stabilized the First Prime for transport after treating the Jaffa's wounds as best as he could. While the man worked O'Neill had stared thoughtfully at the wounded Jaffa. " 'You serve your god well' ," he thought, "was an odd thing to say right. Why would he think we were Jaffa?"
"Something wrong, sir?"
"No Carter. Just something he said before passing out. Worth following up on...could be useful," Jack replied as an idea began to form in his head. If this Jaffa, a big-wig by all indications, could think they were Jaffa it could work elsewhere too. How better to keep off the Goa'uld radar than to have them looking at one another. His mind's eye recalled images of the numerous Jaffa helmets from Ra's warriors sitting in Area 51's storage lockers. It was then that something clicked in his memory.
One of the numerous briefings he had been forced to sit through over the past year summarized the state of the Goa'uld Empire as the Tollan knew it. Their intel wasn't the best, but they did try to keep abreast of the latest big developments with the snake-heads. Apparently things were still in total disarray and chaos after Ra's death. The chief snake-head's Jaffa and Underlords were not going to go down easily or quietly; many still protesting that Ra was alive. Skirmishes, raiding parties, full space battles, and assassinations-aplenty had just about every System Lord fighting each other plus Ra - despite his being dead for years now.
Well if they wanted to believe Ra was alive and it was his forces mucking about their territories...
"Could be useful indeed," he whispered as a devilish grin spread unseen on his face.
SGC Area 51
Level 5: Conference Room
The fifteen occupants of the cluttered room stared at the small, cloudy-white crystal sitting inside it's foam-padded case resting at the center of the conference table. This was the Holy Grail of each of their respective three projects and the focus of their work since the day the Goa'uld Death Glider was first cracked open. Now, sitting there innocuously was the answer to every frustration, the key to unlocking avenues of research thought closed for years to come, and the validation of countless man-hours of research and work.
It was the first one hundred percent Earth-made control and data crystal.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," began Franklin Schertz the Lead of Project Prism, "Project Prism has succeed. Thanks to a few subtle and obscure questions asked of the Tollan Instructors we were able to overcome several of the setbacks we had been experiencing. Not only that, but thanks to our discrete observation of Tollan cystals verses Goa'uld crystals, and a little reference to the new elements discovered with the Heliopolis archive we were able to come up with some improvements of our own. Initial testing shows a nearly thirty-five percent improvement in storage capacity and processing capabilities over the Goa'uld crystals found in the Death Gliders, and a nearly twelve percent improvement over the small Tollan data crystal we acquired."
He waited a moment for the second shocking revelation of the evening to sink in to the gathered R&D staff.
"Now, with the successful completion of Prism, Project Cray can begin focusing on adapting what we've learned from the alien computers to making our own with these crystals. I'll be sorely disappointed if I find Windows loaded on one of these. Furthermore, those of you on Project Gibson can begin finding new and inventive ways of crashing Goa'uld Computers with our shiny new ones."
The members of Project Gibson, consisting of purely under-thirty year old hackers, gave their counterparts on the Cray team sinister grins at the news. Sure, they'd had plenty of success in simulations between current Earth technology versus the simulated Goa'uld systems, but now the real fun could begin with systems on equal playing fields.
Well, not so equal actually. One thing Project Gibson learned almost immediately after its formation was that the Goa'uld had almost no concept of Cyber Warfare. Their encryption was wholly laughable to the team of six and the "antivirus" and firewall systems in place were simply pitiful. What truly boggled their minds though, was the only slightly better off state of Tollan computing. It was almost as if no one else in the galaxy had ever thought about it beyond the most basic levels. In many ways the members of Project Gibson were offended; in many other ways their sadistic sides were cackling in mad glee.
While the the Gibson project members were busy loosing themselves in daydreams of wreaking havoc on the Goa'uld in Cyberspace, the members of Project Cray were lost in far different dreams. The plateau current Earth technology had reached in regards to computing was something they were intimately familiar with. Yes, innovation and improvement continued, but everyone knew that no new major breakthroughs could occur until something broke in regards to the medium utilized. Now that the long awaited breakthrough had come, and done so with such staggering success it was time to put it to use.
Franklin cleared his throat to once again regain the room's attention. "Those of us from Prism will begin work on improving and expanding that," he continued with a gesture to the crystal that started the meeting,"we can't take this for granted. The big boys at the top of the food chain know about our success so you can expect to be mobbed by the folks from the other projects soon. Get some sleep, it's going to be hard to come by for a while."