A futuristic look at what might have happened with our favorite team.
This also took almost a year to get to where I am now, and endured three rewrites until I was satisfied.
So, enter ( If you dare ) the world of…
Jack the Tok'ra – version 4
"Well…this is certainly different."
The rest of SG1 certainly agreed with Colonel O’Neill. The MALP had not done the planet justice.
" Wow." They all did a quick 360, even Teal’c, his jaw dropping slightly. Certainly 'different' didn’t quite cover it.
The flora and fauna all seemed to be decked out in varying shades of violet, shimmering eerily in the violet sunlight. Even the far off trees seemed to rustle in peculiar purple splendor, their arms stretching up towards the unusual sky. The only exception to this strange planet was the dark brown slabs of stone that had been used to erect a huge, and now ruined, temple.
O’Neill pointed at the ruins with one arm of his discarded sunglasses.
" Danny boy, could that have been imported through the stargate?"
Dr Daniel Jackson looked at his commanding officer with vexation. " I don’t know Jack. Are you going to give me enough time to find out?"
He was rewarded with bright eyes. " Hell no Danny boy. This is a get in, look round and bug out of Planet Refracted Light type of mission."
His team stared at him, wide eyed.
" What?" But he knew. Jack O’Neill loved doing that, shaking up their preconceived dumb colonel image. It was nice to have his team on their toes. They worked better that way.
Daniel was in love.
He could see the carvings on the outside of the temple from the moment they exited the Stargate and the closer they got the more excited he became. He was almost trotting when Jacks voice reached him.
Jack’s voice was a warning growl, making him stop in confusion.
" What Jack?"
The man in question sauntered up and gave him a friendly pat on the shoulder.
" Let me and Teal’c go first this time." His eyes twinkled. " We don’t want another repeat ofW5O G4B do we?
"Indeed not." Teal’c’s voice was somber.
" I felt that I would completely lose my sense of smell," Carter added, clapping him on the back to show no hard feelings.
Jack shuddered." So did I," he said theatrically.
Daniel wasn’t impressed. How was he to know that the natives had turned the temple interior into a cesspool? He had found that fact out the hard way. And despite numerous dips in the lake, he had been unable to completely eradicate the stench, much to everybody’s disgust.
All right, Jack wanted to go first? So be it, he’d be right behind him anyway.
He made a grand gesture at the ornate entrance. " Feel free O’ fearless leader."
Jack nodded, suddenly all business. " Teal’c, you’re on six, the Major in the middle and I’ll take point." Carter and Teal’c nodded, the large Jaffa shifting uncomfortably. This was a truly unusual world, one of which the likes of he had never seen before in all of his travels.
To make matters worse, his symbiont was agitated, making him uneasy.
" Caution is necessary O’Neill"
The Tau’ri Colonel allowed his gaze to rest on him for a knowing second before nodding his understanding, making Teal’c feel more at ease. Better to have two warriors on alert for no reason at all than none on alert when alertness was required
Major Samantha Carter knew that both the Colonel and Teal’c had become super alert, making her uneasy. Just what was it about this place that so upset everyone?
Apart from Daniel, of course.
She smiled at his eager face as Colonel O’Neill cautiously ducked inside, only to drop her smile when she heard the Colonel cry out in what sounded like annoyance.
"Damn, I don’t believe this." He reappeared, his hands wiping something that looked like a liquid from his uniform jacket. " Something spat at me, as soon as I took one step inside."
He noticed Daniel’s curved lips. " Don’t you laugh," he warned. He took a step back to include all of SG1. " Don’t any of you dare laugh."
And then he collapsed. Just like that.
Sam was frozen in place for a fraction of a second at the unexpectedness of it. One minute he had been smiling and the next…
Then she Daniel and Teal’c were all kneeling next to him and she was struggling to get the bulky medical kit out from her pack.
" Nobody touch that wet patch", she commanded as she carefully checked his vitals.
" Sir?" His pulse was rapid; his skin clammy to her touch and his breathing was labored.
The situation required an instant decision.
"Daniel, dial home." He looked at her uncomprehendingly for a moment before scrambling to his feet. Then she turned to Teal’c, patiently waiting for her orders.
" Can you carry the Colonel back through the gate without touching that wet whatever it is?"
The large man nodded without comment and tenderly picked O’Neill up, walking effortlessly towards the now open wormhole.
General Hammond was waiting for them when they returned. Their signal had come much earlier than expected, very unusual for SG1, who were usually late. He stiffened as first Dr Jackson, and then Teal’c who was cradling an obviously unconscious Colonel O’Neill came through the event horizon, followed by Major Carter. He immediately called for Dr Fraiser before rapidly making his way to the gate room floor.
Major Carter stiffened. " Sir, the Colonel was the first to enter what we thought was an abandoned temple on P6N L9B when he was struck by what seems like venom. He collapsed about a minute after being struck and we bought him back immediately."
The both watched as Janet Fraiser and a medic carefully cut away the tainted uniform and began working furiously on the Colonel’s still form, Daniel and Teal’c standing close but not interfering.
" Any idea as to what it was, Major?"
She shook her head at the concerned General.
" No sir. None of us had entered the temple at that stage. The Colonel just reappeared and collapsed."
Colonel O’Neill was carefully lifted onto a waiting gurney and whisked out of the gate room, Daniel and Teal’c trailing anxiously behind. General Hammond looked closely at the blonde Major, noticing her worried expression. She wanted to be with the rest of her team, and he would let her go, after she had answered one last question.
" Major, in your opinion, is the planet dangerous?"
Her eyes were serious as she contemplated his question carefully.
" Sir, until we know just what hurt the Colonel, I recommend that we avoid the planet completely."
He nodded. "I agree." He turned to a waiting Sergeant Simmons.
" Sergeant, lock out P6N L9B."
Simmons hands flew over his keyboard, deleting the planets position from the gate room computer.
He nodded at the young man, then turned to the equally as young Major.
The infirmary was a hive of anxious activity. No one could do anything for Colonel O’Neill until all the tests had been done, so Teal’c and Daniel had to bide their time sitting in uncomfortable chairs outside in the hallway. Neither dared look to at each other, each alone with their dark thoughts. After a while Sam joined them and a silent vigil began.
A couple of boring hours later the infirmary door opened and Dr Fraiser joined them.
Daniel immediately sprang to his feet. " How is he?"
She snagged a chair with her foot and sat down with a grateful sigh. What she was going to tell them was not going to be easy.
" Sam, Daniel…Teal’c. Please bear with me when I tell you this."
She had their full attention. Taking a deep breath she gave it to them straight. She learnt a long time ago not to pussy-foot around SG 1.
" I have no idea, how, or why, but Colonel O’Neill has cancer. Terminal cancer."
" What?" As expected, both Sam and Daniel were instantly on their feet, denying it vehemently.
She slowly shook her head. " Please listen, all of you. The results have been checked and triple checked and there is no mistake."
" The planet is responsible." Teal’c’s voice was measured, inflectionless.
She nodded. " Definitely. The problem is that we are unable to analyze the venom." She shrugged her shoulders.
" Whatever it is, we have never come across it before."
She shut her eyes briefly, then straightened." We have a good sample from the Colonel’s jacket to experiment on, the problem is that we don’t know what it is."
Sam sat forwards. "Can we see him?"
Fraiser shook her head. " Not until tomorrow. We have him sedated at the moment and are liable to have to keep him that way until…"
She straightened her shoulders and allowed them to silently finish the rest of her sentence.
" It’s that fast?" Sam asked, her face stricken.
" Does he know?" Daniel asked.
She nodded again, running tired hands through her hair. " He is aware, but sedated as he is I really don’t think that it’s sunk in yet."
Daniel had sunk back onto his chair, rocking himself miserably. " Janet, how long does he have?"
Dr Fraiser hesitated. " About a week." She faced them full on. " Whatever the cancer is, it is an extremely rapid type. He already has tumors in his lungs and pancreas, and we can see shadows on his kidneys and spleen."
Daniel looked sick. " And there is no cure?"
" For cancer? Not on earth, but you already know that," Fraiser answered gently.
" No time."
Daniel looked at Sam. " Call the Tok’ra. Maybe your father knows of a cure. I’ll ask the Tollen."
He turned to Teal’c. " Can you ask master Bra’tac?" The dark Jaffa nodded gravely.
And then they were gone, leaving behind one very dispirited doctor.
The Tollen came back to Daniel almost immediately. No, they had no cure, and even if they had, their internal policies prevented them from sharing with the Tau’ri’s anyway, even if it was the illustrious Jack O’Neill.
Daniel had no choice but to believe them.
More bad news came back with Teal’c from Master Bra’tac. He had never even heard of such an illness that struck down with such rapidity, and wished SG1 well in their search for a cure.
In desperation, Sam even contacted Lya, even though she doubted that the Nox could help, and she was proven right. And that left the Tok’ra, Jack’s least favorite people.
Sam had managed to contact her father at their new base and explained the situation. They, like the others, had never heard of such a quick acting illness. When Sam explained to her father who was affected, he agreed immediately to come through and talk to the man.
" Although, knowing Colonel O’Neill as I do, it will probably be a wasted trip," he said sympathetically, aware of her distress.
Sam fervently hoped that her father would be proved wrong.
" Jack?" The rest of the team had left it up to Daniel to tell Jack of their results. It had been two days since they had returned from P6N L9B, and Jack had deteriorated rapidly in that time.
He was gaunt and gray faced; his wiry body lay shapelessly next to all the machines used to keep him alive.
Daniel fought back the tears as his best friend opened pain filled eyes and looked at him.
" Jack. Hey, how are you today?
Jack smiled as Daniel mentally beat himself up. ‘ Oh yeah good one Jackson. Ask a dying man how he is feeling. Real bright.’
But Jack’s smile was devoid of sarcasm.
" Next time…you go first", he whispered weakly.
Daniel nodded, a tear trickling down his face at how absolutely dead Jack’s voice sounded, as if he had long ago given up hope.
" Next time…we send Teal’c."
Jack tried to laugh, a pathetic sound that gargled in his throat that caused Daniel to start forwards.
Jack waved him off. " Janet told me…nothing… you can do. Nothing anyone can do…anymore."
He looked up at Daniel, noticing the strain on the younger mans face. There was not much longer now before he was gone, he knew. It was true about what they said about dying.
All he wanted to do was crawl off and find himself a hole, but he was too weak, and hated himself for it.
" Jack there’s always the Tok’ra."
Jack’s breath caught in his throat for a moment, causing one of the machines to squeal for a second, before he resumed his harsh breathing.
" No." His voice was flat, emphatic.
Daniel had known what his reaction would be, and had prepared his argument accordingly.
" So, you would rather die, give up, as you almost did once before?"
Jack pulled a face. " Being joined with a snakehead isn’t living," he whispered.
" General Carter thinks it is. So does Freya, and any other Tok’ra."
He stared down at Jack imploringly." We all want you to live, to go on. It wasn’t meant to end this way, with you dying like this."
Jack was shaking his head. " Please Daniel. Don’t," he whispered.
Daniel wasn’t going to let Jack die without a really hard fight.
" Jack, please." He looked at his dying friend with anguished eyes. " You still have so much to give, more so than anyone here." Jack had shut his eyes but Daniel wasn’t sure if it was from weariness or because some of what he said was getting through to him.
" Daniel…" But Daniel Jackson was far from finished.
" You mourn your son, even today," he said fiercely. " How do you think we will feel if we let you die when we know there is an alternative? Are you going to let us mourn you too?"
Jack had opened his eyes, his pupil’s dark. " Having a snake in your head telling you what to do is not my idea of how life should be."
Daniel gave his friend a hard stare. " So you would rather just die because you cant tolerate any other way? Are you sure about your decision? Are you positive, or can you try just once to see beyond your rigid mindset? Jacob has never complained about Selmac, not once. Not to us, nor privately to Sam. He had terminal cancer, just like you do, and accepted a symbiont in order to survive, and in doing so became a key figure in the war against the Gould.
We believe that you deserve the same chance, and luckily for us, the Tok’ra have agreed."
Jack looked wretched. " Of course they’ll agree," he mumbled to himself. " It’s not as if they have anywhere nearly enough hosts to begin with…"
Then something occurred to him, and he looked up into Daniel’s eyes, ignoring the shadows lurking there. " Who are the ‘we’ you are referring to?"
Daniel knew immediately to what he was asking. " Your family", he said gently, "SG1, General Hammond and Janet".
Jack looked distressed. " They all want me to have a damn snake implanted in my head?"
Daniel nodded. " If the alternative is death, yes."
Jack was silent for a moment, and Daniel went in for the kill. " Talk to General Carter, that’s all we ask. Just let him sit down and tell you the pro’s and cons of it all."
Jack looked miserable. "I already know all the con’s." His eyes found Daniels. " Besides, I really prefer having my own mind thank you."
Daniel was losing him. " If you die you won’t have any mind at all."
Jack closed his eyes. " Shit Daniel, you don’t play fair." He took a deep breath, as deep as he could, which wasn’t deep at all. " All right, I give up. Send him in," he whispered.
Sam had warned him, but even so, General Carter was disturbed to see just how rapidly the mysterious cancer had taken its toll on what had once been an intensely driven man. O’Neill was literally a shadow of himself, only the glittering dark eyes telling Carter that the man he knew was still inside.
" Well Jack, it has come to this."
Jack O’Neill didn’t bother to reply, shutting his eyes. When the General had something good to say he would open them again.
" You are selfish and you are arrogant, more so than we, " Selmac said pompously.
Jack’s eyes snapped open. " How so?"
Selmac was regarding him with his keen intelligence, so different from Carters.
" We chose to fight. We chose to use our knowledge to fight the Gou’ald, to our last breath.You only choose to die."
" That is more arrogant than we could ever be."
Jack frowned. Selmac had him, and he knew it, but somehow it didn’t seem to matter anymore.
" So, what do you suggest?"
Jack was already shaking his head negatively. " Oh no. One of your fine arrogant, I know better than you buddies? I’d rather die." He snorted derisively. " Hey, guess what, I am dying."
Selmac gritted his teeth and weathered the sarcasm storm stoically.
" Will you listen?"
Jack glared at him. " Like I can go anywhere else."
Selmac was blunt. " Yes you can. You can die. And that is not an option anybody will accept."
He sat back in the hard chair and let General Carter explain.
" Jack. What would you say to a brand new Tok’ra?"
O’Neill narrowed his eyes and said nothing, but Carter could tell that he was intrigued.
"His name is Tor’fu, and was carried in the pouch of one of Yu’s Jaffa. Luckily we knew that he was Tok’ra and rescued him when he reached maturity."
" And the Jaffa?" Jack couldn’t help asking.
Carter’s eyes were flat. " Some people refused to be rescued."
Carter handed control back to Selmac as Jack O’Neill considered his limited options.
" So, I would be his first…host?" Jack felt cold even thinking about it.
Selmac nodded. " His first. You can mould him to your standards." Selmac’s eyes took on a far away gaze. "One never forgets his first host."
" And I get to speak funny and have glowing eyes like you?"
Selmac restrained himself from smiling. They had him. He let Carter continue.
" No, Tor’fu gets to speak funny and have glowing eyes. You get to be you. A much healthier you, but still Colonel Jack O’Neill."
Jack looked miserable. "Jack O’Neill, Snakehead."
Carter leaned forward and played his trump card. " It’s better than destroying SG1 by dying. The Gou’ald would simply love that."
Low blow. He saw the man wince and immediately castigated himself.
" I’m sorry, Jack."
The man in question lay back on the bed, unmoving, and then Carter was startled to see a single tear roll down his cheek.
" Jacob. I have been…blended once before, and to do so again frightens me to death." He suddenly opened his eyes and pinned the older man with an intensity that Carter felt like a body blow.
" Jacob, if you were blended with Selmac against your will, no matter how hard you tried, you wouldn’t be able to fight him. I have been there. Hathor put a damn snake in my head, and there was not a thing that I could do. Oh sure, I barricaded myself behind steel mental doors, but he kept right on coming, and I was literally powerless to resist. If your Tok’ra operative hadn’t deep frozen me again and killed it, I would have been a Gou’ald now, and I would have killed Daniel and Sam without remorse." He looked pleadingly at the general. " Jake, I don’t ever want to lose control like that again."
Carter stared at the gaunt man and tried to find words of reassurance.
" Jack, Tor’fu will be different, hell, is different. The Tok’ra are caring, compassionate beings, far, far different from a Gou’ald. Believe me, I have been blended for years now. I feared the unknown at first, but all I found was a friend, and a wise one at that."
He leaned forwards and gently patted O’Neill’s shoulder. " This time you will be the wise one. You will call the shots, because Tor’fu will be new to this as well."
He gazed deep into O’Neill’s eyes, sending reassurances to the demons of doubt lurking there.
" It will be okay Jack. Please believe me."
" All right." The voice was soft with resignation.
He wasn’t sure if he had heard correctly. " I’m sorry?"
" I’ll do it. Bring in the Tok’ra snake, blend me or whatever you intend to do. I’ll do it."
General Carter rose and gently clapped him on the arm. " This is the wisest choice. Remember son, I’ve been where you are and know what…"
O’Neill held up a shaking hand, stopping him. " Thanks General, but you’ve already convinced me. Just do it before I change my mind… or die."
General Carter allowed the infirmary door to swing shut behind him before he spoke to the assembled people in the hallway.
" He’ll do it."
General Hammond sagged in relief, as did his daughter Sam, but not without shedding a tear or two. He made a mental note to watch her and Colonel O’Neill from now on, just in case. Teal’c appeared his normal impassive self, which he doubted, and Daniel typically tried to make his way past him and into the room. Carter’s hand shot out and snagged the man, but it was Selmac that spoke.
" Leave him for a while Daniel. This is a decision that is never taken lightly. We will return home for the symbiont, a journey of several hours. If he is of the same mind when we return, then we will blend him." He looked at Jack’s friends." I strongly recommend that he is left in peace until I return so he can get his thoughts in order without distractions."
General Hammond nodded. "Everyone can join Dr Fraiser in the canteen until Jacob returns."
He looked at the remaining members of SG1 and wondered how this day would ultimately affect them. " Come on, I’ll join you. Lord knows I need a cup of coffee."
They all moved off, leaving the hallway silent. Leaving one Jack O’Neill alone with his thoughts.
Could he do this? It was going against everything he ever believed in, but the real cracker was that if he didn’t than he was gonna die.This was not a pleasant way to go. Each hour bought a host of new problems, and proud as he was, what the cancer was doing to his body was too much for him to fight alone.
He gritted his teeth. There were still so many things he wanted to experience again. He wanted to feel the icy wind past his face as he took on all opponents, hockey stick in hand and the crowd cheering wildly, and the sunshine as it tried to bake his brain as he vainly tried to fish…
He moved his arm slightly, the pain of way too many IV needles flaring for a moment, before the drugs deadened any sensation.
He really hated this.
Oh but it would be good to see Charlie again.
He lay with his eyes shut, remembering all the good times with his son, the fun times, before the end, and his new life began. A new life, better than he deserved, one filled with people who cared for him as much as he did for them. A tear, then another, rolled down his cheek. He had no right to leave them. The Gou’ald was not going to stop, and he had enough vanity to believe that they were making a difference. He wanted to be there when the day of their defeat came, and if that meant being joined with a damn snake, so be it.
Yet, he was so frightened. All he could see in his minds eye was Hathor’s Gou’ald writhing and squirming before forcing itself into the soft tissue at the back of his neck. Never in his life had he had something so painful happen to him. Not even in Iraq. And to make matters worse, he had to fight for his very sanity against a formidable enemy.
What he had told Jacob was the truth. If it hadn’t been for that Tok’ra…
He felt one of the nurses wipe his face with a cool cloth as he tried to calm his heart rate.
Suddenly annoyed with himself, he started to give himself a pep talk.
Come on Jack, this isn't going to be the same. This is going to be like Carter and Selmac, Martouf and Lantesh, Freya and Anise, and all the other Tok’ra you have met over the years.
Sure, you don’t trust their motives, you never will, but they are good people. They just don’t have the same ideals that you have. You work for Earth, they don’t, but you both have the same goal in mind. So now they want to stick a snake in your head, a young snake, a new snake. A brand new snake, not full of the memories of other places and people. So what was hard about that?
He opened his eyes and motioned for the nurse. He would do this.
His mind was irrevocably made up.
Still, deep in Jack’s mind a small voice screamed out in terror.
General Carter was true to his word and returned two hours later carrying a square box.
As he expected, Hammond and SG1 were in the gate room ready to meet him.
General Hammond looked at him with a puzzled expression. " Jacob, where’s your assistant?"
Carter smiled and stepped off the ramp. " George. This one I do on my own."
Hammond nodded gratefully for his friend’s thoughtfulness.
Daniel was looking faint. He pointed at the box. " Is that…the Tok’ra?"
Jacob nodded and deftly steered the man to the door. " Yes. This is Jack’s…snake, if he wants him." Sam smiled slightly at her father’s deliberate use of Jack’s favorite way of describing the Gou’ald and trailed out behind him, Teal’c behind her like a shadow.
Jack was waiting impatiently. Whilst they had been gone a nurse had lifted the back of his bed and propped him up on a lot of pillows, so he was almost sitting upright. He still looked awful, skeletal with hollows under his eyes, but he was also more animated than he had been in days.
" Hi guys."
His eyes found General Hammond, before looking at each of his team closely.
" Kids, are you alright with this?"
Typical Jack, thought Daniel. Always thinking of his team way before himself.
" No Jack. We all want you to die so that we can prop your body up in the gate room and scare away any uninvited guests." He looked at Teal’c.
" Just think, Teal’c, we would never need to use the iris again...."
Teal’c was cottoning on to sarcasm. " Indeed. O’Neill’s body would make a powerful deterrent."
Sam couldn’t help but chip in. " Oh yeah, especially when he starts to decompose…"
"Enough". Jack was grinning faintly, his eyes dancing
" So you don’t mind?"
They were all abruptly serious.
" Son, This is entirely up to you."
O’Neill nodded, recognizing the somber note in General Hammonds voice. Once he did this there was no going back. But a brand new Tok’ra? His mouth watered at the prospect.
His eyes met Selmac’s.
" Lets do it."
Sam, Daniel, General Hammond, and Teal’c took a step back, allowing Selmac room to do whatever he was going to do.
Jack’s eyes were hypnotized as Selmac slowly opened the box, exposing a tiny gray Gou’ald to the light. He felt frozen in fear, but nevertheless managed to speak.
" He looks smaller than Hathor’s Gou’ald was."
Selmac nodded as he lifted the hissing snake out.
" He is. Tor’fu is still very young. He will grow as the years progress."
Jack felt a thrill of horror. " Inside me."
Selmac nodded. "Yep."
He gestured to Teal’c, who silently took a step forwards. " Teal’c here will make sure that you don’t fall off of the bed whilst the blending takes place, okay?"
They all heard Jack gulp audibly." Okay."
" Now open wide?"
Jack had been expecting the Gou’ald to enter through the back of his neck, as Hathor’s symbiont had done. Selmac had other plans. Before he even knew what was happening, he felt a supple rubber like mass forcing his jaw apart, and sliding down his throat. For a moment he tried to gag, then forgot about anything of the kind as intense pain hit him.
His friends were horrified to see Jack start to convulse on the bed, only the strong hands of Teal’c preventing him from throwing himself onto the floor.
" Selmac, what is happening?" Hammond shouted, appalled.
Selmac sounded calm as he and Teal’c held down the furiously bucking man. " Sometimes this happens when most of the brain is utilized. He should calm down about…now."
True to his word, Jack suddenly slumped on the bed, still and lifeless looking.
Janet Fraiser, who had been watching with her nurses, immediately flew to her patient, her fingers finding his carotid pulse. She looked up and smiled. " Strong."
They all sagged with relief, Hammond finding the nearest chair.
" What do you mean, when most of the brain is utilized?" A stunned Daniel asked.
Selmac looked innocent. " I can’t believe you were fooled by that thick as… um…molasses act. You don’t get to make Colonel by being dumb." The members of SG1 just looked at each other.
General Carter smile ruefully at General Hammond. " Sorry about your boy."
Hammond nodded distractedly. " How long will he be out?"
" Depends on how bad it was, and what Tor’fu can do." He scratched his head. " Count on at least a couple of days before anybody notices any changes, and when they do, call me."
Hammond nodded his thanks as Carter closed the now empty box, hugged his daughter one last time, and was gone.
Jack became slowly aware of another consciousness in his mind. Whatever it was seemed lost and confused, and he took pity on it.
" Hello?" He mentally held out his hand.
For a moment there was no answer, then he felt another presence, a young presence, take the proffered hand.
"I’m Jack. Who are you?"
Jack waited for the expected thrill of horror for knowing that he had a Gou’ald in his brain, but it didn’t come. This was very different from a mature Gou’ald. This was very different from last time.
" Tor’fu, can you fix me?"
The voice was puzzled. "Where am I?"
Jack sighed. The snake sounded impossibly lost.
" You are in my body, your first…host. The problem is that I am...damaged. Can you fix me?"
" I don’t know. How do I start?"
Jack kicked into parent mode, something he had almost forgotten since Charlie died.
" Tofu, start at the beginning." The snake was still confused, so he added a bit of military training.
" Find the lungs. Start there." He felt Tor’fu searching, and then finding his objective.
" Fix them, then we’ll talk again."
The vigil had begun. Daniel sat for the first three hours, his eyes never leaving the still form. Then it was Teal’c’s turn, who read the entire story of Moby Dick to his warrior friend. Then it was Sam’s turn. She split her time between sitting at his bedside and helping Janet with her filing.
So it went.
For two days.
Even General Hammond helped for a while, much to everyone’s surprise.
It was Teal’c that noticed the first change.
" Dr Fraiser. His breathing has improved."
And so it had. Slowly, hour after hour, the impersonal machines recorded the gradual mending of Colonel Jack O’Neill, until they were no longer needed.
Selmac was notified, who sounded pleased.
Jack and Tor’fu had begun to forge a team. Jack found it weird to have someone apart from him think aloud in what used to be his brain. He was still getting used to it no longer being his own exclusive territory. To make matters even better, he was also relieved to find out that the young Tok’ra could only access what he decided to tell him, and nothing more. The same held true for Tor’fu as well, but Jack didn’t mind. He could only see what Tor’fu offered, and nothing more. It would take time to build trust and break down barriers. They both knew this.
However a partnership of sorts had been formed, and this partnership’s first job was to fix the damage caused by the planet P6N L9B.
Daniel was sleeping peacefully the chair when Jack suddenly sat bolt upright, scaring him half to death.
A familiar voice answered " Yeah?"
"How do you feel?"
Jack looked at Daniel with a thoughtful expression. " I don’t know. Not really. Hungry I guess."
Daniel blinked slowly, taking his time.
" And your guest? Um…Tor’fu isn’t it?"
Jack’s eyes danced. "Tofu."
Daniel raised his eyebrows. " Tofu?"
Jack was nodding. " Uh huh. New Tau’ri name." He looked over Daniels shoulder at someone.
" Hi Janet."
" Hi yourself."
Daniel stayed in one spot, patiently waiting for Dr Fraiser as she thoroughly checked Jack out. EEG’s, MRI’s and any other kind of acronym were used by Dr Fraiser and her band of nurses before she was finally satisfied.
" As far as I can tell, not a trace of the cancer remains, thank goodness." She smiled and ruffled his hair. " Lucky you."
Jack really wanted out of there, so tried his tried and tested puppy dog look. " Can I go?"
She shook her head. He wasn’t getting out of the infirmary that easily.
" When I say you can, and not a moment before."
"Why? I have fixed up Jack’s body." Dr Fraiser almost tripped over her feet at the petulant and very unfamiliar two-toned voice coming from Colonel O’Neill. She wasn’t a parent for nothing, motherhood had prepared her for every eventuality, and the Air Force had done the rest, but still. It took her a fraction of a second to regain her equilibrium.
" You may have fixed COLONEL O’Neill’s body, but I still need to confirm what you have done.
She stressed the Colonel’s rank in the hopes that he would speak to O’Neill. The military didn’t run on first names.
" Are you Tor’fu, Jack’s snake?" Daniel asked. The being using Jack’s face frowned at Daniel. "Oh, I wish everyone would stop calling me a snake." He paused, listening intently. " Oh, seeing as you put it that way, I guess that I am a snake."
Daniel had done nothing but sit there quietly and witness this peculiar exchange between Jack and his new lodger, the hairs prickling on the back of his neck. This was really strange.
" Tor’fu?" The Tok’ra looked at him. " Is Jack okay?"
Daniel was awarded a swift grin." Sure, here he is."
Colonel Jack O’Neill yawned mightily and stretched." So, Danny, what do you think?"
Daniel thought carefully. Jack had obviously decided to introduce Tor’fu to them immediately.
" Pleasant enough, but he sounds young."
Jack nodded." He is young."
Daniel had a thought disturb him. " Who has charge? Say he wanted to run off and join the Tok’ra assault, could you stop him?"
Jack’s smile was feral. " Yes, but he understands already. I am way too valuable to this base to ever leave." He looked thoughtful. " Danny, for a scientist and multiple PHD person you sure sounded like a soldier for a moment there."
Daniel’s smile was wry. " I guess you rub off on me." He ignored Jack for a moment as the man snuck out of bed and hunted for his uniform, his brain grappling with what Selmac had said earlier. " Jack, I want to ask you something whilst we wait for Dr Frasier to return, and please be honest with me." He felt Jacks dark eyes on him so plunged right in. " Jack, it was something Selmac said during your…blending.
Jack, do you also have a Doctorate?"
Jack continued pulling his tee shirt over his head. " Now Danny, that isn’t polite."
Daniel threw his hands up in the air in exasperation. " Why I even bother is beyond me."
The two toned voice of Tor’fu answered him. " Because you care, as he does for you?"
Daniel nodded, aware that Dr Fraiser was heading back their way looking pleased.
" Well Colonel, you are free to go."
" Colonel O’Neill says thank you." Tor’fu stressed his rank, making her smile. " As do I."
She nodded her thanks. " Anytime Tofu."
The young Tok’ra smiled at his Tau’ri name and followed Daniel out of the infirmary.
Jack spent the next couple of weeks acclimatizing Tor’fu to life at the SGC all whilst waiting for the axe to fall. Surprisingly enough, his team rapidly got used to having a fifth member in their midst. Maybe it was because Tor’fu was young enough to fit in, unlike the centuries old Selmac, Anise, or even Lantesh. Tor’fu was young, hip, and very polite.
Jack made sure of that.
Then the axe fell, but surprisingly not from the direction he thought it would.
"SG1 to the briefing room." Jack had been practicing with a C 90, allowing Tor’fu to take turns.
He was a sharpshooter, but every second shot, when Tor’fu took over, was a disaster.
Jack shook his head and traded looks with the armory sergeant. There were some things he could do, and there were some things Tofu could do. He could shoot and Tofu could not and that was that.
Shedding his weapon, protective glasses, and flak jacket, he made his way to the briefing room, fully expecting to see someone from the NID ready to take him away. What he did see stopped him dead.
" Selmac, you old dog." Selmac looked uncertain at that for a moment until General Carter rapidly explained it to him, and then he smiled and gripped Jack’s hand.
" You are looking well, O’Neill." He hesitated. " And Tor’fu?"
The humans in the room were fascinated to see Jack’s head obviously drop as Tor’fu took over. He and Tofu had been practicing for days now on how to transfer consciousness from one to the other without giving the game away, and had it almost down pat, but obviously neither wanted to let the Tok’ra know.
" I am well Selmac, thank you." Tor’fu turned and acknowledged the other Tok’ra in the room as well, something that Jack had failed to do.
" Anise. How nice to see you."
Anise nodded regally. " Tor’fu. How is your… Host treating you?" She somehow made it sound as if it must be hell.
Tor’fu was well aware of Jack’s hatred for her and answered in kind.
"Oh, as well as can be expected. It’s boring you know. All he lets me do is fish, swim, jog, and generally hang around in the sunshine." Jack, who hadn’t been off of the base in weeks, was obviously tutoring his prodigy.
It was worth it, because he was dealt a thousand watt glare.
" Well, luckily for you we have come to save you from your boring existence."
General Hammond frowned. " What do you mean?"
Selmac answered. " We have come here to fetch Tor’fu home." His head was raised, obviously knowing that he was in for a fight.
" Like hell." Daniel’s voice was silky. " Tor’fu is part of Jack, and Jack isn’t going anywhere."
Carter sat forwards, her body language tense. She appealed directly to her father.
" Dad. Jack is our commanding officer and the second in command of this base…" She stopped as Jack held up his hand.
He raised his head and glared at the Tok’ra. " And there lies the problem. I am second in command of this base, probably the most important 2IC job in the whole world."
He tapped his gray hair. " In this head of mine I have more codes and procedures than is healthy for me, and definitely more than is healthy for anyone in this base." His eyes were like fire as he stared at the silent Tok’ra. " I have been blended with one of your own, and I thank you for that. But I also want you to realize that Tor’fu can never leave. I have a brand new Tok’ra symbiont in me, unjoined up to now. He knows nothing of any Tok’ra procedure, world, or policy.
He, on the other hand now knows every little secret I possess, and that is very bad for this base."
General Hammond had gone pale at this, obviously not thinking that far ahead. Jack had, but he had help. Close personal snake-like help. From a tiny Tok’ra that really didn’t want to go back to being bullied either.
Jack ignored Anise’s long face and appealed directly to Selmac.
" Go to Garshaw and ask if we can stay. Hell, maybe Tor’fu can be a Tok’ra ambassador or something." He shrugged, letting them hear his deepest fears. "Ambassadors have diplomatic immunity or something. If she agrees to that maybe the NID will allow me to live."
Jack completely ignored the strange looks his team gave him.
What did they expect, that the NID would throw roses at him?
Anise arched one perfectly plucked eyebrow. " If we were in such danger we would leave. Freya would never let us stay in such a dangerous situation."
Jack, or maybe it was Tor’fu, inspected her closely. " Why? You would be as perfectly safe. Nobody would bother with you."
Anise looked at Tor’fu uncertainly, not sure if she had been insulted or not. " Nevertheless…"
Selmac continued for her." Nevertheless, Anise, we will take Colonel O’Neill and Tor’fu’s proposal to the high council and let them decide their fate."
He stood and nodded at Hammond.
General Hammond escorted the Tok’ra to the wormhole, leaving SG1 alone.
Major Carter spoke first. " Sir, what if the Tok’ra say no?"
O’Neill regarded her with clear eyes, his decision made days ago. " Them I will ask Dr Fraiser to separate us."
Teal’c hissed his unhappiness. " Without the help of the Tollan the Gua’old would live and the host would die." He raised his head and looked at O’Neill. " Or both. I also believe they will not help."
Jack nodded. " Nor do I."
He held up his hand as Daniel stirred. " Danny, hear me out. I cannot live anywhere else than Earth. It’s not that I’m so in love with here that I can’t leave, far from it. It’s just that I know a hell of a lot of codes vital to the defense of Earth. NORAD codes especially...Codes that cannot be changed." His gaze was direct, pinning them in their chairs. "I made Colonel for more reasons than my good looks and intelligence, believe it or not. I also have a canny sense in remembering things that I shouldn’t." His smile was wry. " Kids, I have more than a hundred still active codes in my head, and not one of them deal with anything at the SGC. Can you imagine what would happen if I was forced to live on a Tok’ra base and was captured by the Gou’ald?"
Daniel answered. " You would resist. You have before."
" You’re right," Jack agreed softly. " I would resist. But would Tor’fu?"
He nodded slightly at their stunned silence. " Quite right. Faced with his host screaming in agony, or even worse, dying, Tor’fu would delve into my brain and give then every code I have."
Carter stirred, a question forming on her face." So why is working within the SGC going to be different from working at a Tok’ra base?"
He smiled at her puzzled look. " Carter, you have just hit the nail on the head and haven’t even realized it. We work within." He leaned forwards to emphasize a point, no longer their friend and the leader of SG1, but a hard bitten soldier and 2IC of the SGC.
" Here we work as a team. That is the military way. I’m used to that policy. A team. At Tok’ra central they use guerilla tactics." He shrugged. " While I can see what their aim is, I cannot condone that type of warfare. I believe that a concentrated effort of more than one team member will have more success than one individual working divorced from a group."
Daniel tried to assimilate all that military information as General Hammond clapped slowly from his position in the doorway
" Bravo. I couldn’t have put it better myself, but you always were a master of tactics."
O’Neill looked hurt, making light of the situation. "If that’s the case, then why don’t I do well at chess?"
General Hammond smiled. "Because the game is too rigid for you. You like flexibility and chess offers nothing of the kind."
Jack nodded gratefully. " So, that’s the problem", he murmured, eyeing Daniel, making the man aware that he was in serious trouble the next time they played.
Colonel Jack O’Neill raised his eyebrows at the General. " So, now what sir?"
General Hammond didn’t look happy. " Now son, we wait."
SG1, all five of them, spent a most productive week whilst waiting for the Tok’ra high council to make up its mind.
The most interesting thing was finding out that Jack was able to use a ribbon device, albeit with a little tuition from Tor’fu. How it came about, and what happened thereafter became the stuff of legend at the SGC.
It all started when Teal’c found Jack once more trying to teach Tor’fu the ins and outs of firing a P90 at a target.
As was becoming the norml, Jack was brilliant and Tor’fu was useless.
Teal’c waited patiently until he had finished before calmly facing his warrior friend.
" O’Neill, I believe that I can help."
Jack was puzzled, but if Teal’c said that he could help, than he usually could.
" Feel free, Teal’c. At this stage anything that you suggest would be welcome."
The Jaffa raised one eyebrow, recognizing the irritation in his friend’s voice.
" I suggest the Gou’ald devices kept in the iron room."
For a moment Jack was going to refuse, then thought better of it. If Tofu could use those weapons, then SG1 would instantly become a most formidable force.
" Sure, I’ll ask General Hammond."
Teal’c looked smug. "No need."
He pointed to the hallway and out stepped Daniel Jackson, carefully holding a ribbon device.
Jack wasn’t sure whether to be horrified that his friends had successfully managed to burgle a walk-in safe with more alarms than a mid town bank, or congratulate them on their ingenuity. In the end he did neither, merely holding out his hand for the ruby and silver 'thingy'.
He inspected it closely. To him it looked for all the world like cheap fake jewelry, bur Tofu was salivating at the bit.
" Ok, guys, stand back," Tofu commanded. Motioning the wide-eyed sergeant out of the way, he carefully aimed at Jack’s target - and completely demolished the far wall.
" Oh yeah!" Tofu was ecstatic for a moment, and then with a roar the ceiling came down.
Jack regained consciousness to find himself lying in the infirmary, an unconscious Teal’c on the next bed. He saw Dr Fraiser and a nurse working on a patient on his far side and with a sinking heart he recognized Daniel.
" Doc?" He groggily forced himself into a sitting position. " Is he okay?"
Dr Fraiser turned to him and nodded. "He will be, so will Teal’c. Just be careful next time." Jack nodded, standing up slowly. A chagrined Tofu had already fixed up any hurt, obviously faster than a Jaffa could heal himself, he thought, noticing that Teal’c was still out of it.
He ordered Tofu to move to Daniel’s bed.
The young Tok’ra had a lot of apologizing to do.
Daniel was looking battered and bruised, with a nasty cut on one arm. Nevertheless, his eyes were bright.
" Sorry Danny." Daniel nodded his acceptance of Tofu’s apology.
" Cave, Tofy. We’re in a cave. A very big, very advanced cave, but still a cave. Ask Jack next time you want to destroy a wall, okay?"
Tofu looked upset, sinking into a chair. " Does he always go on and on when he is upset?"
It didn’t take much intelligence for Daniel to realize that Tofu meant Jack. The man was obviously giving the Tok’ra a hard time.
" Oh yeah." He looked at the young intelligence staring out of his friends eyes. " He makes you more aware of your mistakes, so that you don’t end up killing someone one day."
Tofu nodded miserably. " I made a mistake, I know that now. Next time I won’t use full power, but still…" he was interrupted by Daniel sitting painfully upright." Hello, you mean that you have different power settings on that thing?" Tofu nodded. " Sure, but I wasn’t sure if I could use them…"
His eyes took on a thoughtful look. "But now I know I can. And if I can use the ribbon device…"
He rose to his feet. " ‘ Back soon," he said to his startled friend.
Ten minutes later, a back in control Jack O’Neill re entered the infirmary with the healing device in his hands.
" Here goes."
Dr Janet Fraiser watched in amazement as Colonel Jack O’Neill, not Tofu but O’Neill himself, then proceeded to use the alien technology to rapidly and completely heal his friends.
If she still thought of the Colonel as human, she didn’t from that moment on, because only a Gou’ald was capable of using that device, or obviously the host of a Gou’ald.
" Wow." Jack O’Neill gave her a quick grin and tossed the device to her.
" Keep it handy, and don’t forget to call Dr O’Neill if anybody needs me urgently."
With that, the grinning trio made their escape.
The next day was spent cautiously testing just what Colonel O’Neill was capable of doing with the ribbon device as opposed to Tofu, He wasn’t anywhere near as strong as Tofu was, but nevertheless, he still packed a mean punch.
" But I still prefer my tried and trusty P90", he said, staring at the rest of his team stubbornly.
Daniel wasn’t listening. " Jack. You can take on a Gou’ald one on one, and you’re complaining?"
Jack opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off by the klaxon. " Offworld activation."
No one was expected, so they made their way into the control booth.
It was General Carter.
The briefing room was soon filled with the usual mix of SG1, General Hammond, and Carter.
Once they all settled in, General Hammond asked the first question.
They all waited in tense silence as Carter slowly stared at O’Neill.
" You can stay."
They all laughed and clapped as Jack stared up at the ceiling, his body slack with relief.
Tofu sent him a private thought. " I’m glad Jack. You are way too precious to lose. If you had lost this fight, I would never have forgiven myself."
Jack knew that Tofu referred to the separation that he would have insisted upon, effectively killing himself. " Luckily it didn’t come to that, now shut up and listen." The Tok’ra laughed quietly.
" Now what?" The room quieted at Jack’s question.
General Carter allowed Selmac to speak, and Jack immediately allowed Tofu to take over.
" Tor’fu, the Tok’ra high council has granted you and your host ambassadorial status here on the Tau’ri planet, on the understanding that you report back on all matters of interest to the Tok’ra high council."
Tor’fu bowed soberly.
Selmac then turned to General Hammond. " This is done on the understanding that if we should need him, Tor’fu and his host be made available to us immediately."
Hammond nodded. " That is up to the Joint Chiefs and ultimately the President, but I’m pretty sure that they will agree."
Selmac rose and made his way to Tor’fu. " You have a wise host, one that over half the Tok’ra on our base would love to have taken in your place. Treat him with respect, and learn from him."
Tor’fu leaned forwards in a half bow, " I will sir", he whispered.
General Carter made his way towards the door, and then suddenly hesitated.
" George, that planet", he said thoughtfully. "Have you any plans to go there again?"
Hammond looked at his old friend, puzzled. " The planet kills humans within weeks. Of course we have no plans to go back." He gestured to his 2IC. " You know what it almost did to Jack."
Carter looked sly. "But don’t you think that whatever it is should be found, or neutralized, before the Gou’ald find it first and use it against Earth?"
The people around the table looked alarmed, and Hammond gestured him back to his seat
" Jacob, what do you suggest?"
" A Tok’ra mission. Get in find out what we can and get out."
Jack sat forward at this. " Now wait a minute. How come just a Tok’ra mission? Why not a combined Air Force - Tok’ra mission? What’s wrong with that? Don’t you think it’s just a teeny weeny bit arrogant to sit there and tell us what you are going to do?"
Carter sat back and raised his eyebrows. " No."
Jack looked stubborn. " Well it is."
The two men faced each other. " I don’t think that it’s arrogant at all," Carter said
Jack rocked back in his chair in exasperation. " You tell us about a Tok’ra mission you want to plan using our information to visit to a planet that no human can ever go near again, on a quest for a venom that kills any human it touches within weeks, and you don’t think that what you’re doing is being arrogant?"
Carter shook his head just as stubborn. " No. That is why I have told you. Because of the danger this has to be a completely Tok’ra mission."
Jack leaned forwards, his dark eyes spitting fire. " How do we know that we can trust you? How do we know that some of that venom might end up somewhere where it’s not meant to be?"
Hammond started forwards. "Jack."
General Carter merely smiled at Jack O’Neill. Sometimes life could be so sweet.
" You’ll know that we’re on the up and up because you’ll be there as well." His smile became a grin. " Jack, from now on a completely Tok’ra mission includes you."
Shit, he had forgotten. He had gotten used to Tofu, but hadn’t gotten used to the label that went with it.
" Um right." Now he sounded like Daniel. Aargh. It didn’t help that everyone around the table was grinning along with Carter, enjoying his discomfort.
Time to change the subject slightly. " So why can’t we," and he stressed the we", why can’t we take Teal’c with us?" He looked around the table. " He’s not human either."
He was gratified to see his team mates flinch. Serves them right for grinning like that.
Carter was shaking his head. " I think that it could be too dangerous. His pimta is still to small, and may not be able to cure him if something bad as this happened. Besides," he said seriously, " Selmac has this feeling that the pimta may be Tok’ra, but it’s too early to tell yet".
Everyone looked at Teal’c, wondering about how he would take this news about Junior.
They shouldn’t have bothered; he was as impassive as ever.
So Jack asked the question for Teal’c. " How long before he knows for sure?" Carter frowned, consulting with Selmac, making Jack wonder if he looked like that when he spoke quickly to Tofu.
'Probably', he thought.
" You’ll know in about fifty years or so."
Jack sneered. " I’ll probably be dead…by…then." His voice trailed off with a look of surprise on his face. " Or not."
Carter’s sly grin was back. " Jack, have you forgotten that we Tok’ra hosts live to about two hundred or so?"
He nodded weakly. "I had until Tofu told me."
General Hammond had had enough. This Tok’ra question and answer session had gone on for far too long. He stood, forcing the others to rise. " Let me know when you are ready to go Jacob, and I’ll supply SG1." He held up his hand, forestalling his friend’s objections. " Only Colonel O’Neill can visit the planet, that I understand, but you please also understand that the rest of SG1 are still his team, and as such must be kept in the loop."
Selmac didn’t look happy, Jack saw, and wondered if the others could see when the other took over. Again, probably not. He held out his hand, stopping the Tok’ra. " Thanks Selmac. You know, for the Ambassador thing for Tofu…"
That stopped the elder Tok’ra dead. " Oh yes, I almost forgot." He reached into a pocket and pulled out some official looking papers. " Your credentials." Please present them to the Tau’ri President at his earliest convenience."
" I will", Tor’fu answered, Jack having left himself completely out of it.
Then Selmac turned on his heel and General Hammond accompanied him back to the stargate.
" Well, that went well," Daniel remarked dubiously.
Teal’s raised one ebony eyebrow. " Which part, DanielJackson? The part about the ambassadorship, the part about the planned Tok’ra visit to the deadly planet and our role in it, or the part about what may be the future of my symbiont?"
Jack took pity on the poor linguist.
‘ Tell you what. If the General allows us, let’s blow this joint and get us something really good to eat at Isabella’s." He looked at his team with sparkling eyes." I don’t know about you, but after weeks of bland Air Force food, I’m really in the mood for …Garlic."
His infectious mood had the desired effect. The only minor hurdle was General Hammond.
Tofu was getting into the ambassador spirit, and when Jack started to get nowhere, he stepped in, assuring the General that he was indeed an ambassador, even if he hadn’t presented his credentials, and the NID would think very carefully about kidnapping a representative from the Tok’ra, because the average American didn’t even know where Africa was, would readily accept a new country easily enough because they didn’t know any better, and would definitely not condone a kidnapping of said Tok’ra ambassador. Besides, he was Gua’old, and could easily defend himself if need be.
They could tell that General Hammond didn’t believe their spiel for a moment, but eventually Hammond gave in, and Tofu thanked Jack, who had supplied all the information as rapidly as he could dredge it out of his rusty brain.
"However, you return here son. No visiting home until your credentials have been presented."
Tofu nodded, his eyes shining, so unlike Jack.
Isabella’s was packed as usual, but the minute the diminutive Italian spotted O’Neill and Co a table was suddenly and mysteriously ready for them, as usual.
Settling in, they perused the menu whilst Daniel chatted away happily with their host in Italian.
Jack knew what he wanted. He wanted a Pizza with everything. The problem was his new lodger, who wanted something different.
Jack O’Neill was really not fond of pasta.
Not at all.
" Jack?" Daniel looked at him curiously. " The usual?" Jack quickly reached a compromise.
" A small Pizza and this small pasta," he said, pointing at the menu. He closed it with a snap and handed it to Isabella.
"What?" He became aware of his team looking at him curiously.
Carter patted his arm sympathetically. " Having Tofu around sure is different."
O’Neill looked at her morosely. " And I’m letting him out so that he can eat the stuff, so don’t let him speak aloud or chase the waitresses.
The evening was a pleasant one, even if Jack did have to nurse his one beer. There were two reasons for that, one was the fact that he had be ordered to return to base, and secondly he dare not let his guard slip and expose Tofu.
While Tofu was an intelligent being, he was definitely different from anybody else on Earth.
Jack paid. He earned more money than the rest of them, so nobody minded. As he said his goodbyes he wondered vaguely if the Tok’ra paid their ambassadors.
Saying his goodbyes to the rest of SG 1, he climbed into his truck and headed back to base.
The trip back to Cheyenne Mountain was always one that Jack O’Neill found invigorating.
The winding road took him far above Colorado Springs, affording the weary night traveler the most amazing view of twinkling lights. Jack had gotten used to the view years ago, but this night was different.
This night he had a new visitor to share it with.
Pulling his truck to the side of the road, both human and Tok’ra sat silently in the velvet darkness, just enjoying the tranquility.
" Beautiful". Tofu sounded sincere.
" Yeah, Your new home," Jack whispered, starting the truck.
" I have never had a home before."
Jack, a man of action unused to introspection felt his heart break at Tofu’s wondrous voice.
" You do now," he said gruffly. He put the truck in gear and pressed his foot down gently on the accelerator.
Then his world exploded in a shower of broken glass and pain as the windshield imploded.
For a moment or two Jack sat stunned, fighting to drive one handed, his other hand holding his numb shoulder, then he hunched down, reaching blindly for the car cell phone.
Shit. He was unarmed, and it didn’t take a genius to figure out that there was a sniper out there looking to take him out.
'Why?' was a pressing question that would have to wait.
Breathing hard, his bloody fingers jabbed out a familiar number.
" Please Danny. Be home."
He started to weave the truck all over the road, trying to upset the sniper’s aim, commanding Tofu to watch his actions closely.
" Dr Jackson."
Jack shut his eyes briefly in relief, before straightening up slightly in order to see over the top of the steering wheel, desperately looking for the road.
" Danny. A Sniper on Mountain road. Get…"
Then he gasped as something hard punched him in the side.
Tor’fu the Tok’ra was upset.
His host, Jack O’Neill had been struck with what seemed like high velocity projectiles, rendering him unconscious. He rummaged around frantically in Jack’s unguarded brain, desperately looking for the words to tell Daniel what was happening, all the while aware that the truck was coasting to a halt.
Daniel Jackson gasped in relief upon hearing Tofu’s distinctive harmonious voice.
" Tofu. What’s happening?"
" Daniel. Jack is hurt. There is a…sniper up here. I will drive his truck but we will require help."
Daniel slammed down the phone and spent a hysterical second trying to recall the number, then dialed base security, marveling on how calm Tofu had sounded.
Tofu may have sounded calm, but he certainly wasn’t feeling it. He wasn’t sure if he was even going in the right direction, because every time he peered over the steering wheel the sniper tried to take Jack’s head off.
As that was where he resided, he wasn’t too keen on that happening. He also had no option but to leave the truck stuck in first gear, as yet another bullet had broken his host’s arm, making the changing of gears an impossibility. To make matters worse, he could feel Jack getting weaker but he couldn’t even dedicate any effort in repairing the wounds.
Suddenly the truck gave a sickening lurch and stalled.
Tor’fu knew that he could do no more, so he placidly leaned back and shut his eyes, allowing himself to finally concentrate on Jack.
He was oblivious to the Marine force that surrounded his battered truck no more than three minutes later, finding and arresting the sniper, or of being gently lifted out of the cab and loaded onto the nearest Humvee for rapid transportation to Dr Fraiser.
What he was aware of was Dr Fraiser and her team helping him by pumping much needed blood into Jack, and setting his broken arm. He focused on Jack’s internal injuries, leaving everything else up to her.
Dr Janet Fraiser wasn’t sure precisely what to do. He favorite patient was once more laying flat on his back in the infirmary, looking like he really needed her help, but this time she wasn’t sure if that was actually the case. She busied herself by checking his blood pressure, and was gratified with the fact that it was slowly rising.
Tofu was on the case. She carefully placed a light blanket over the broken body and backed away from the bed, but not before gently brushing the hair out of Jack’s eyes.
" Need a haircut Colonel," she whispered quietly, and was gratified to hear an equally soft reply.
" I’ll tell him tomorrow…" Tofu’s eyes glowed faintly.
" Son, can you hear me?"
Jack frowned. What the heck was the General doing in his dream?
Oh… right. Jack O’Neill cautiously opened his eyes and blinked at his superior.
" Sir?" He felt thirsty, but besides that he felt okay.
He sat upright slowly, just in case.
" How are you feeling son?"
" Oh fine." He paused, thinking hard. " Or about as fine as a person with a Gou’ald in his head should feel after someone has tried to wipe him off the face of the earth."
He raised his eyebrows at his nonplussed superior. " About that 'fine'."
Hammond sat down gingerly in a plastic chair. " I see."
Suddenly Jack felt bad.
General Hammond was one of the fairest commanders that he had ever had the privilege to work under, and he deserved better from his second in command.
" Sorry sir." He looked down at his blanket covered feet. "It’s just that I really thought that Tofu and I would be safe here." His eyes met Hammond’s and the General was stunned to see the pain in their depths." I can’t stay on the base indefinitely, and the thought that we might be ambushed as soon as we leave fills me with a sense of unease."
Any other time Hammond would be amused with Jack jumping from singular to plural and back again, but not now. His second needed reassurances, and he was in a position to give them.
" Son, we have the sniper in custody. He works for the B&R Group, which we all know is a front for the NID." He gazed levelly at the gray haired man. " Son, this may come as a surprise to you, but I don’t believe that they were trying to kill you. Damage you yes, incapacitate you for sure, but kill you no. He says that he got impatient when you were delayed, and shot too early when he eventually did see you. His orders were to incapacitate you and then immediately call for assistance. Two things went wrong with his plan. You were late and he never reckoned on Tofu."
"Now", he rose to his feet, "I have some more good news. After this the President has agreed to accept Tofu’s credentials first thing tomorrow. We will be in and out the White House as quickly as we can."
"Hopefully, once we have that out of the way the NID will back off."
Jack nodded soberly. " Lets hope so sir. Leaning on the General he cautiously stood, but everything seemed to be in order. " Just one thing General, I won’t interfere at all tomorrow, so don’t expect me to answer." He turned to the General, his eyes unwavering. " This will be Tor’fu’s show, from beginning to end." Then he smiled, unearthing some of the old Jack O’Neill that Hammond knew. " Besides, you know me and politics. I’d probably be bored to tears and throwing spitballs around the room within minutes."
Hammond didn’t deny it, much to Jack’s annoyance.
The next day was spent with Tor’fu feeling like a celebrity, which in a way, he was. The fun part was keeping the Air Force involvement to a complete zero as far as the press went, so everyone was dressed in civilian clothes. But they were still soldiers, he knew it and they knew it. Someone, probably Selmac, had left the beige Tok’ra outfit on his bed to wear, and despite Jack’s miserable protests that he looked like a drab court jester, he did.
The meeting was an anti-climax. The president looked hurried, despite his curious eyes, and was immediately hustled out of the room by his advisors the minute Tor’fu had presented his credentials. All this suited Jack to the ground. He had no time for false windbags who never did what they promised, and he couldn’t get out of there quick enough.
Both Jack and Tor’fu were saddened to return to the artificial environment of Cheyenne Mountain.
Something that Teal’c, of all people picked up on.
General Hammond was elbow deep in reports due for Washington when there was a tentative knock on his door. Pushing yet another badly worded report to one side, he leaned back in his chair and grimaced.
To his surprise it was Teal’c.
" Teal’c. He stood and ushered the man to a chair. " Come in, please." To his knowledge Teal’c had never been inside his office before. " To what do I owe this honor?"
Teal’c sat down in the proffered chair and looked at Hammond impassively as usual.
" O’Neill is the reason for the visit. Not his Gou’ald, but O’Neill himself."
"Oh?" But Hammond knew what was coming; he had seen signs of it himself.
" O’Neill needs to see a sun, General Hammond. He needs to exercise and feel the world around himself like a warrior should. As do I. If we are to remain here, without any missions, then I respectfully ask your permission to take him to Chulac."
General Hammond leaned back in his chair, contemplating the ceiling. He had been asked by the Joint Chiefs not to send Colonel O’Neill and SG 1 on any missions until they were satisfied with his loyalty, but they had said nothing about letting offworld for some R & R.
" Permission granted Teal’c."
The large Jaffa inclined his head gratefully.
" Thank you General Hammond."
Hammond rose and escorted him to the door. " Two weeks, Teal’c. Tell Colonel O’Neill I want both of you back in my office on the thirty-first by fourteen hundred, understood?
Teal’c again inclined his head. " I will convey your instructions, General Hammond."
Chulac sure was different if you have glowing eyes, thought Colonel O’Neill.
It had been almost a week since General Hammond had somehow been persuaded that he needed some much needed R & R, and so far he loved every minute of it.
This was the first time that he had actually been on Chulac just to hang out. Another plus was that, on his previous visits, he was always treated with slight contempt as the Tau’ri who happened to befriend the sholva, but now he was just one of the boys.
Okay, sometimes he felt some Jaffa giving him a sideways look as if they hadn’t a clue what to make of him, but he could handle that.
Truth be told, he hadn’t a clue what to make of himself either.
The planet was great too.
He couldn’t help it, he always had a military mindset, one that constantly clashed with the scientist in Carter and the passionate linguist in Daniel, but on this planet he felt at home.
On Chulac they were always geared up for war. Well, to be more accurate, they were constantly training for one - just in case. Most of the people on the planet were still volunteering as Jaffa for some system lord of the other, much to Teal’c’s anguish, but as long as they stayed unobtrusive and fitted in, they were welcomed, especially the Gou’ald.
It had taken Jack a couple of days to get used to people spontaneously bowing when he entered a room, and bowing again when he left, but eventually he was getting the hang of it.
The trick was to act like you deserve it, even though you don’t.
Tofu, of course, got to like it immediately, earning him a ten-minute lecture on how to be humble.
There were advantages to having a captive audience, Jack thought.
Then there were the games, games that he and the rest of SG 1 had witnessed before on Chulac, and had shied away from as being too dangerous. Indeed, for a normal human they were, but for a blended one?
Well… Jack was desperate to try.
The people of Chulac took the games seriously; the young approached them with the fearlessness of youth, and the older with the fearlessness that carrying an immature pimta in their pouches could give.
The games were brutal, no quarter was given - or expected.
Jack had been content to watch at first; just happy to lie on a small hill overlooking the arena and be able to feel the sun on his face and hopefully catch a tan, but after a while he became intrigued. As one warrior faced another for the glory of his team, Jack began to wish that he was down there, acknowledging the cheers of the crowd instead of some nameless Jaffa. He knew that showing himself was dangerous, if even one system lord knew that he was on Chulac there would be hell to pay, but despite this danger he needed to participate.
Hell, he needed the exercise.
So he rose to his feet and went in search of Teal’c.
As usual, Teal’c was with Master Bra’tac. They both watched him approach with knowing eyes.
" O’Neill. Your first opponent will be Gua’ran," the elder Jaffa said, pointing to a pile of weapons.
" Does Master Tor’fu wish to also participate?"
Jack frowned. " No Bra’tac. He is still to young and wishes to merely observe."
Bra’tac bowed. " So be it."
The crowd had fallen silent as news of who Gua’ran’s next opponent was became apparent.
Jack and Teal’c made their way towards the large pile of weapons that were there ready for use.
As they crouched down to inspect them, Teal’c spoke softly.
" O’Neill. Gua’ran is a member of the ruling council and no fool. He will endeavor to unseat you and have you call for mercy in the shortest time possible so that his followers know what a great warrior he truly is." Jack hefted a sword, feeling for its center of balance. "Is he?"
Teal’c handed him a dagger. " A great warrior, yes. A great man, no." Handing O’Neill some chain mail, Teal’c stood up.
" Be warned O’Neill."
And so, thus warned by his friend, Jack O’Neill, Tok’ra, faced Gua’ran, Jaffa.
Gua’ran struck the first blow, which O’Neill parried easily. The next fifteen minutes became a contest of thrust and parry. Similarly armed as they were, with a large sword and a dagger each, it was turning into an even contest.
Gua’ran was getting desperate. When he had seen that the Gou’ald was willing to fight he had begged Bra’tac to allow him to be the first opponent. Beating a Gou’ald in hand-to-hand contact would quite dramatically improve his position in Chulac’s ruling council. The problem was that the Gou’ald was using his host’s skills to defend himself, and quite formidable skills they were.
He was beginning to tire, allowing his sword to droop slightly, something he was sure that this Tau’ri Gou’ald had noticed, because he was smiling. So Gua’ran decided to end this fight, his way. Ignoring the rules of fair play, set for centuries, he pivoted on his heel and delivered a vicious kick to his opponent’s middle, forcing him onto his knees.
Jack O’Neill saw stars. The kick, delivered with brutal force with one chain mailed foot immediately broke at least four ribs on one side of his body, forcing him onto his knees. He was vaguely aware of the crowd hissing and booing, but whether it was for him and his weakness or because of his opponents kick, he didn’t know. All he knew was that he was down, and his opponent was coming in for the kill, and that was not on. He hunched over, still on his knees and left his sword where he had dropped it.
Gua’ran knew that he would pay dearly for winning this fight unfairly, but weighed up against him losing, and the stigma of that, gave him the emphasis he needed to finish the fight his way, once and for all. His opponent was obviously hurt, hunched over on his knees with a thin line of blood from one corner of his mouth.
" You will yield to me Gou’ald, or die." His voice was rough with victory as he watched the pathetic man.
" I would rather die than yield to you." The Tau’ri’s tone was calm, with none of the distinct tone of the Gou’ald present, and Gua’ran saw red. If his friends on the council ever found out that he had barely held his own against merely the host of the Gou’ald and not the Gou’ald himself, his career was finished, especially seeing as he had broken the rules to get this far.
An idea suddenly occurred to him. If the Tau’ri preferred death rather than to yield...
" So be it."
Jack knew that he was in deep trouble. From what he had seen, and been told in times before when SG 1 had witnessed the games, they definitely were not games to the death. If Gua’ran was proposing to do what he thought he was proposing to do, then Jack was in real deep trouble.
The man was lightning fast, driving his sword through his right shoulder before Jack could even manage to reach for his sword in another clear breach of the rules, but painful as the wound was, it had a major advantage. Gua’ran took precious seconds to pull his sword back out, allowing Jack enough time to reach for his own sword and thrust weakly into his opponent’s thigh.
Gua’ran roared in rage, backing off and allowing his opponent to shakily regain his feet.
The blow had hadn’t been deep, but it had been painful, and unexpected.
He watched the Tau’ri closely, his peripheral vision all too aware of the other warriors gathered round the sawdust ring. If they knew what he proposed to do, they would be on him in seconds, so the killing blow would have to be quick.
Jack’s pain from the swift kick was beginning to become bearable, not due to something Tofu was doing, but because of all the adrenalin his body was making. He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Gua’ran intended the next blow to be a fatal one, and was determined to survive. Not only was he determined to survive, he also intended to win, legally.
They circled each other, two bloodied exhausted men, each one watching the others eyes for the first slight change of expression that would signify an attack. Then it came, from an impatient Gua’ran. Again he pivoted on his heel, but instead of using his foot as he did the time before, he bought his sword around in a lethal arc, intending to sever his opponent’s head from his shoulders. Only O’Neill was no longer where he was supposed to be. He frantically jerked his head around, trying to find the swift Tau’ri, only it was too late. An arm like iron snaked around his torso and the sharp blade of the forgotten dagger was placed against his throat.
" Yield, or die."
Jack had seen the tiny telltale squinting of Gua’ran’s eyes and had reacted accordingly. He bet his life that he was going to use a variation on his tried and tested formula so had ducked as soon as Gua’ran had started to move. Rolling like crazy he had managed to come up behind his wildly swinging opponent and the rest was easy. Dropping his heavy sword into the dust he bought his small dagger into play and pulled Gua’ran back against himself in a dangerous parody of a lovers embrace.
" Yield, or die."
Gua’ran was no fool, and like most bullies, he was full of bluster and no backbone. He dropped his sword and dagger onto the floor in submission.
Jack had never been so sore and exhausted in his life. Well, maybe once or twice before, but definitely not recently.
Ignoring the cheering crowd and the serious warriors that had crowded around Gua’ran, he staggered to his small hill and collapsed.
"O’Neill, my apologies."
Jack O’Neill cracked open an eye to see a contrite Bra’tac standing in front of him. Shit, all he wanted to do was sleep.
Master Bra’tac sounded annoyed. " No O’Neill it is not, as you would say, okay. Gua’ran has committed a serious offence, one that we, the people of Chulac will address at first light tomorrow, if you, as victim of the offence, agree"
Oh, so they had rules and regulations for this type of thing, did they? Tofu was champing at the bit, wanting to answer Bra’tac on their behalf, and he couldn’t see the harm.
Bra’tac was startled to see the young, and obviously furious Gou’ald stare up at him, and bowed.
" Master Tor’fu."
Tofu was extremely upset. Jack had obviously forgotten that he was no longer alone in his body, deserving the ten minute lecture on personal safety that he was going to give him whilst he was still to weak to move, but in the meantime the people of Chulac were going to get it, and hard.
Careful, Tofu. We need them as allies - came the faint voice of his host, making him tone down his words.
" Bra’tac. This will be the last time that my host partakes in one of your games." Wincing he stood, ignoring Jack’s moan of pain.
" We are not Jaffa, we are Gou’ald, and as such, have our destiny meticulously planned out for us."
Ignoring Jack’s amused voice, Tor’fu continued. " Furthermore, as the victim of what should have been a fair fight, Jack O’Neill will accept whatever judgment the people of Chulac may bring against Gua’ran of Chulac at first light tomorrow."
Bra’tac bowed. " Thank you Lord Tor’fu."
Ooh, a promotion.
" Shut up Jack," Tor’fu mumbled and slowly sat back down on the grass.
" Now, if you will excuse me, I must see to my host."
When Bra’tac bowed and moved off, Tofu lay back with a happy sigh.
Alone at last.
Now, if it wasn’t for this bloody host…
The next day dawned miserable and rain filled, as if the planet itself was upset about the events leading up to the trial of Gua’ran of Chulac.
As expected, no person showed any signs from the rough treatment from the day before, in fact, one would be hard pressed to find a healthier bunch of people gathered together in one place.
They were also massive. Jack stood at six two, quite tall for a Tau’ri, but against this bunch of people, he was easily the smallest person in the room.
He was also the most honored, something he tried very hard to come to terms with. As usual for people bound in service, they saw only the Gou’ald, and not the host, and it was to this Gou’ald that everything was addressed.
Eventually Jack threw up his hands in metaphorical surrender and allowed Tofu to take over.
Just be diplomatic - he grumbled, imagining himself a comfortable armchair and an ice-cold beer.
No problem then - said Tofu snidely.
The setting of the trial was almost the same as a courtroom, had this taken place on earth. The major differences being that most of the men wore tattoos of the houses they served on their forehead and were garbed in leather and chain mail. Another difference was the fact that three judges sat in elaborate chairs instead of the usual one on earth, and the accused was forced to kneel before them on the floor.
The judge in the middle of the trio, obviously the most senior, spoke at length of the history of Chulac and it’s service to the Gou’ald. Tor’fu was fascinated to realize that as far as the people of Chulac were concerned, there was no real distinction between the Tok’ra and the system lords.
A Gou’ald was a Gou’ald, and if you happened to be in the service of a good Gou’ald, all well and good. This made for interesting information, and he made a mental note to tell Selmac as soon as he saw him again.
" What say you, Lord Tor’fu?"
Oops. He and Jack hadn’t been concentrating too hard on the proceedings at hand. Praying that he was doing the right thing, he inclined his head regally in agreement.
" Thus this ruling has been agreed to by the injured party and shall now come to pass." The senior judge banged some sort of gravel in a regal manner and they all trooped out of the room, leaving behind a volubly protesting Gua’ran and a whole lot of evil looking Jaffa.
Tor’fu rose, to have his elbows taken by Teal’c and Bra’tac. Silently they led him out of the courthouse and into a private room.
" Teal’c what did I just agree to?" Both Teal’c and Bra’tac stared at him in surprise.
" Doesn’t Lord Tor’fu understand Gou’ald?" Teal’c asked, earning an exasperated glare from the Tok’ra.
‘ My first language, and you know it," he shrugged ruefully at the two large Jaffa, " It’s just that I wasn’t really listening."
" Ah." Teal’c was his usual impassive self, annoying Tor’fu who hadn’t learned to read him yet.
" His pimta will be removed and he will be staked out in the sun to die."
" Ah." Tor’fu was perfectly happy with this arrangement. The man had after all tried to remove both he and Jack from this life, but he knew that Jack was upset. Not that upset, but still sickened by the harshness of the punishment.
Jack - he asked reasonably, would you have preferred that he had killed us first?
His host was sitting in his mental armchair looking stubborn.
No, Tofu, don’t be an idiot. It’s just that the punishment seems a little…oh, how will I say this…harsh?
Tor’fu settled down on the arm of the chair, allowing Jack’s body to collapse. The Jaffa would take care of it, he was sure. His friend was more important at this time.
His friend? When had that happened? Wonderingly he allowed his feelings to show to Jack, who smiled wryly.
I'm glad about that. It would have been traumatic to find out that we hated each other’s guts. Hey, I wonder if this has ever happened?
Tofu nodded - I know of one case that Rynar knew of. The Gou’ald was not strong enough to suppress the host completely. Eventually both the Gou’ald and host went insane. Rynar thought that it was screamingly funny.
Despite himself he shuddered and Jack looked at him sympathetically.
Tofu nodded weakly, suppressing his memories.
Oh yes. The arrogant bastard himself. One day I’ll tell you about him, the same day I’ll want to know what you keep in that locked steel box in the corner of your mind.
He was pleased to see Jack flinch.
One day - he promised.
Now, about Gua’ran. Sometimes you are going to have to make allowances for the big bad Gou’ald snake thingy in your head, and this is one of those times.
He looked at Jack sympathetically. - It’s like the pasta incident. I - he thumped his chest - I happen to love pasta, I know you don’t. Tough. We compromise.
The same type of thing is happening now. Gua’ran wasn’t just trying to kill you; he was trying to kill us. That sword was swung at your throat and had he been successful we both would have been dead.
Me maybe - Jack muttered, looking down. But maybe they could have scooped you out of my brain in time…
Tofu looked at him askance.
Hellooo. Gee, you know nothing of Human-Gou’ald biology do you?
He earned himself a glare from Jack that he shrugged off with a smile.
When we get home I will ask Dr Fraiser to show you a full body X-Ray, but in the meantime this will have to do.
He paused, thinking hard.
Okay, in simple terms, my head is buried in the back of your brain, my fins keeping me in place and allowing me access to your higher brain functions. The fun part is that the rest of me is not. My, erm, body, for want of a better word is actually wrapped around your spinal cord. I’m actually connected to your body in a lot more ways than that, but the short and simple version will have to suffice this time.
Tofu looked at Jack, concerned. He had expected a bit more than 'ah'.
Are you okay with this?
Although he didn’t look too happy.
I guess, in a way I was still thinking that one day you would eventually leave, that this wasn’t really a permanent arrangement.
Tofu tried to hide his feelings. And now? How do you feel now that you know?
Happy, I guess. I just…it’s just that I had no idea that you actually took over my body…
Tofu knew that he had to take it gently.
This conversation had been a long time in coming.
Actually Jack, I don’t take over your body, not unless you want me to. I am not a Gou’ald.
He thought about that for a second. Actually, I am a Gou’ald, but a good looking Tok’ra-like one.
Jack’s voice was dark and devoid of humor.
Tofu recoiled as Jack showed him the memories, the pain.
I never stood a chance. One more minute and he would have had me…
Despite his host’s pain, Tofu was curious.
How long did you resist ?
About ten minutes. It was about five minutes before Hathor left me to find out what the shooting was, and about an equal amount of time before the freezing process started to take over and he decided to bug out.
You were lucky.
Tofu’s voice was sober.
Had he decided to completely join with you instead of taking over your mind first, you would have died as he left.
Jack shared the memories of his dead friend.
Yes, like Kawalsky. Once the blending has taken place, there is no separation possible for the host without intensive advanced medical support.
So from now on, you feel what I feel, I feel what you feel…
Not really. Remember please, we are still two different beings that just happen to reside in the same body. You can’t make your eyes glow, I can. Alternately, I can’t shoot at a target with that blasted P90 and you can. Just remember this Jack, and never forget it. You are responsible for more than just your life now, you are responsible for mine as well.
Jack stared at Tofu.
No wonder you thought that Gua’ran’s punishment fitted the crime."
His new young friend patted him on his shoulder.
Oh yes, friend Tau’ri. Now, go out there and wake up, I think that Teal’c is getting worried.
Jack O’Neill awoke to find himself tucked securely into bed, Teal’c sitting patiently by his side.
When he stirred, Teal’c stood up and silently left the room, only to return minutes later with a cup and a pitcher of water.
" Drink O’Neill. You have been unconscious for two suns."
Jack struggled into a sitting position and took the proffered water. " Two…suns?"
Teal’c nodded soberly. " Yes, two of what you would call days, and one night."
Jack was silent for a moment as he sipped the cool water, then he looked up at his tolerant friend.
" Teal’c, I’m sorry."
The giant Jaffa raised one eyebrow." An unnecessary apology, O’Neill. You and your Gou’ald had much to discuss."
" How did you know that?" Jack asked, surprised.
" You talked in your sleep occasionally."
" Ah." What else was there to say?
" Come O’Neill. We will eat and Master Bra’tac will regale you on the swift demise of Gua’ran."
Jack grasped Teal’c’s wrist in the classic warrior’s grip and allowed himself to be pulled from the bed.
" I will be looking forward to that," he murmured quietly.
Two weeks to the day, a tired and sunburnt Jack O’Neill accompanied by Teal’c stumbled through the Stargate and back into reality.
" Hello kids." He could see Carter and Daniel in the control booth behind General Hammond, and smiled. Chulac had been great fun, but he was glad to be home.
" Permission to come up sir?"
Hammond nodded with a smile. " For a moment, then you and Teal’c will get clearance from Dr Fraiser."
Sam smiled as the Colonel bounded up the stairs. His eyes were clear and he looked rested.
" How was Chulac sir?"
" Fun, wonderful, besides one man trying to kill us…"
" Sir?" For a moment she thought he meant him and Teal’c before reality set in. He meant him and Tofu.
" And how did Tofu find Chulac?"
" Great, although the gravity is a bit lighter," Tofu replied with a smile. " It’s good to be home though."
Hammond was pleased to hear this in the light of the Joint Chief’s decision. But de-briefing would have to wait.
" Gentlemen. Infirmary first please. We will meet back here at…" he looked at his watch and back to the returned members of SG1, " 14H00."
" Yes sir, Tofu replied with a cheeky salute, and both he and Teal’c vaulted over the railing.
" Well, they look well rested."
Hammond nodded dourly at Dr Jackson. " All three and a half of them."
As expected, the post mission, or in this case, the post holiday medical was going smoothly.
Dr Frasier was actually beginning to wonder why the General was even bothering to send down Colonel O’Neill anymore. Even Teal’c was more fun than he was.
The one thing that worried her was his insistence on a full body X-Ray.
" Sir?" She was stalling, and he knew she was.
" It’s okay Doctor," he said with a smile, "Tofu has told me on how far he has stretched. I just need to see it for myself."
She had been dreading this moment, not knowing on how much the evidence might affect the Colonel.
There was no way around it, the Gou’ald were symbionts.
Actually, come to think of it, the ‘Gould'’, as Daniel would say, were more like parasites, completely dependent on their hosts.
The Tok’ra were really the true symbionts, having a mutual and beneficial relationship with their hosts.
The problem was just how Colonel O’Neill was going to take this news
Sure, there were distinct differences between the Tok’ra and the Gou’ald, but not psychically. Both were built the same, and both were dependant on their hosts, in this case, Colonel Jack O’Neill, and she really was at loath to show him what his body looked like now one had moved in.
" Janet." His tone was a warning. " I could make that an order."
Abruptly she gave in. " Stevie, I want a full body X-Ray on Colonel O’Neill, stat.".
Ten minutes later the X-Rays were ready.
Once the innocuous envelope had been delivered to her, she did an unusual thing.
Ignoring his querulous expression, she dismissed everybody in the infirmary, leaving them alone.
There was a reason for this, if he cracked, she wanted no witnesses.
" Okay Colonel, ready?"
Dry mouthed and apprehensive, he nodded.
Jack waited until she had hung up all five X-Rays before slowly approaching them. It took him a few moments to recognize what he was seeing, and then it was easy, and horrific.
" So, if my skull is there," he pointed with a blunt finger, "then this thin spinal column is Tofu and…"
Dr Frasier watched him closely as his finger slowly traced the spinal column down his neck until it merged with his own spine.
" Son of a bitch." To her relief his voice was tight, but not annoyed. Her small finger continued tracing small items she felt that he might have missed. " Tofu and you share nerves as well, see? Here and here, so don’t go and get zatted either…"
All of a sudden he swayed his way towards the nearest bed, startling her.
" Will you be okay?"
" I will be, give me a minute. It’s quite a shock to find out that you’re not quite human anymore."
" I thought you knew a while ago," she said softly, swiftly putting together a strong sedative.
" I guess." His eyes had taken on a far away look that a great shock could produce. " It’s just the confirmation is a bitch. To know that…" He flinched as she injected the sedative into his arm.
" I have a briefing in ten minutes." His eyes looked lost.
" You did." An idea occurred. " If they come here, can Tofu attend?"
He shook his head, his eyes heavy. " No, and you know it. You sedate one you sedate both." He settled back with a small moan, his eyes closing.
Shit, she did. Wondering on how long the sedative would keep them under, she reached for the phone.
General Hammond was worried. Having just Teal’c to debrief took just fifteen minutes, the man having a very economical use of the English language. However, he had told them about the Colonel’s mysterious collapse on Chulac, and the subsequent time it took for him to recover.
Teal’c acted as if it was to be expected, and maybe he was right, but nevertheless, Hammond was uneasy.
Coupled with this latest incident in the infirmary, he was really worried about Colonel O’Neill.
Sighing, he decided to take the bull by the horns. If O’Neill was no longer fit to be his 2IC, he would rather see it for himself. Absentmindedly acknowledging salutes, he slowly made his way to the infirmary. If O’Neill wasn’t conscious, then maybe Dr Fraiser could be an accurate gauge.
" Doc, please. I’m fine…cut it out will ya…Tofu, help."
Hammond smiled as he heard the slurred voice of Colonel O’Neill emanating from the infirmary. He didn’t sound stressed, in fact he sounded annoyed verging on panicked, a common occurrence when Dr Fraiser had him in her sights. It was the other voice that made George Hammond skip a step.
" Dr Fraiser, please, Colonel O’Neill is very unhappy about this."
It was still going to take some considerable time for him to get used to the idea that the Colonel was now two entirely different consciousnesses, himself and a Tok’ra Gou’ald. In fact as far as the Tok’ra were concerned, the Colonel was now one of them, and that was that. Also, because he was now joined with a creature not of this earth, the Joint Chiefs were still not entirely convinced that he wasn’t a massive security risk, which made things at the SGC somewhat fraught and complicated.
Shaking his head at his thoughts, he walked into the infirmary.
" What is Colonel O’Neill so unhappy about?"
" Giving blood," Tor’fu replied grumpily. " General sir, I am able to fix most things without Dr Fraiser’s help, so why do we have to give blood?"
The petulant alien in Jack O’Neill’s body was so different in tone and attitude than the Colonel himself that Hammond couldn’t help but smile.
" Because Dr Fraiser says so son," dismissing the doctor with a nod he sat on the edge of the bed.
" I still do not see why I have to," he muttered angrily, sounding very like his granddaughter.
General Hammond sighed and caught the departing Dr Fraiser’s eye. This young Tok’ra was still such an enigma. One minute he was acting like a dignified ambassador in a room full of curious people, the next he was acting like he was sixteen.
Then a thought occurred.
" Tofu. May I speak to Colonel O’Neill?"
" He’s just gone to sleep again," came the muttered reply. " Do you want me to wake him?"
Ah ha. General Hammond wondered if the young Tok’ra realized just how much the consciousness of Colonel O’Neill actually affected his attitude.
" No. Tofu. It’s you I really wanted to talk to, and I’m actually pleased to speak to you without Colonel O’Neill’s influence."
" Oh?" The Tok’ra shifted his arm slightly, frowning at the IV angrily. " What about?"
The young Tok’ra’s head snapped up. " Me? Why, did I do something wrong? I’m sorry if I did. I have been trying really hard to fit in, and I have been studying real hard and Jack…I mean Colonel O’Neill says that I’m almost ready to pass the Airman Basic exam, assuming you let me, and…"
General Hammond shook his head at the torrent of information coming his way and held up his hand.
" Woah, wait, slow down son. First of all, keep that IV in, or Dr Fraiser will have both our heads."
Head bowed, Tofu complied. " I still don’t know why I have to," he muttered under his breath.
" Because you were ordered to son, and around here, you do what you’re told."
" Yes sir."
" And now, about you. What I want to know is whether you are happy here. Because, I’m at loath to do this, but if you aren’t, the Joint Chief’s have given me the power to allow you and Colonel O’Neill to leave this base and join the rest of the Tok’ra."
" No." Tofu’s eyes had been getting wider and wider the more the General spoke.
" Please sir, I don’t want to go."
Hammond frowned, ruthlessly suppressing his sudden flare of hope.
" Because I belong here." He looked beseechingly at the General. " Late at night, when Jack is fast asleep like now, I sit in front of the computer and learn what it is to be in the US Air Force. I know that I will never be accepted out there," he swung his hand at the wall, but Hammond knew that he meant the world outside, " but here, in Cheyenne Mountain, with you, I belong. That’s assuming that you’ll have me?"
A relieved General Hammond chuckled and patted a hopeful young Tok’ra on the knee.
" Tell you what. Pass the Basic Airman’s exam, become one of us, and I’ll talk to the President about promoting you to Colonel. I know that it will be unusual, but two people of different rank in the same body would very rapidly become very confusing to one and all."
Tofu made to speak, but Hammond held up his finger. " Not that the promotion would stop you from continuing to study. Colonel O’Neill worked long and hard to earn his rank, and it took him years. I will expect the same dedication from you." He stopped for a moment, carefully thinking things through. " Obviously you won’t have the field experience that a Colonel should have, yet, although a few years of going through the Stargate will soon sort that problem out, but you can do all the written exams, and Colonel O’Neill will be able to guide you but hopefully not help you."
Tofu nodded, his eyes shining. " He helps me with strategy, that’s all, although so far most of the ways of winning wars I already know from the many years of being in Rynar, Lord Yu’s Jaffa." He shrugged carefully, mindful of the IV. " Rynar called the movements different names, but they are essentially identical."
General Hammond looked confused. " I thought that immature Gou’ald were oblivious to what’s going on around them."
Tofu shook his head and smiled. " Believe me, General Hammond, you would be surprised to know just how much information a pimta picks up."
Hammond frowned. " You mean Teal’c’s…"
" Junior?" Yes, he knows what is happening, but he is still very young…"
" Um." Luckily the problem of Teal’c’s pimta was way in the future, and going to be someone else’s problem someday.
" Okay, you can pass everything that we have spoken about to Colonel O’Neill when he awakens and see what he thinks about it." Hammond got up with a groan.
" Actually sometimes I envy Colonel O’Neill. At least he no longer has to deal with the pain of getting old anymore."
Instead of smiling Tofu looked sad. " Yes General, but he had to give up his independence to do so. He seems to have accepted it as a fair trade, but I sometimes wonder if I would have done the same thing, had our situations been reversed."
Hammond looked at the Tok’ra with a slight smile. " Tor’fu O’Neill, just as I am beginning to get a handle on you, you come out with esoteric statements like that."
Shaking his head, he exited the infirmary, chuckling and feeling much better.
Tor’fu sat perfectly still in bed, arms wrapped around his knees in an unconscious show of juvenile athleticism that belied Colonel O’Neill’s gray hair.
It had a nice ring to it.
You deserve it - came a tired voice from inside his head. Everybody needs family.
Tofu caught faint echoes of an old pain, but before he could investigate, the echo was gone.
" Thank you Jack," he whispered, garnering a curious look from a nurse that was detailed to remove the IV needle from his arm.
" There you go sir, but Doctor Fraiser says that you must stay here and eat this sandwich and drink this before leaving, okay?"
Tofu nodded politely at the homely nurse, his eyes firmly fastened on the sandwich sat neatly in the middle of a white plastic plate. Could it be? Then his eyes strayed to the innocuous red can.
Woah. Dr Fraiser must surely be behind this. Peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches and his favorite cola? Just about everything that Colonel O’Neill hated. Oh wow. Ignoring the groan that Jack sent his way; he rapturously began eating, in heaven at last.
A week later the Joint Chiefs reluctantly allowed Colonel Jack O’Neill to go home.
Home at last.
Jack O’Neill stood staring sadly at his overgrown and leaf-strewn lawn. Oh man, he hardly recognized the place. In fact, so much had happened since the last time he was here he hardly recognized himself. The thought made him smile as he dug his keys out and deactivated the alarm. Home, after over a month of living on the base and visiting Chulac he was alone at last.
Not quite - a soft voice said.
You’re okay, you belong in me now. And somehow Jack knew that Tofu did. He wouldn’t be whole without Tofu. It was as if somehow the last barrier of resistance had crumbled, allowing the Tok’ra to be part of his very being. That which was done was done and could never be changed.
Woe betide us if we ever hurt in an accident and I get carted off to hospital before you can fix me. Can you imagine their faces?
He let Tofu see what a typical nurse looked like, making him laugh.
Is anything the same anymore? My blood?
Still red, but full of Naquada.
So, if I smoke I go 'boom?''
I’ll let you know if you ever start smoking again - came the dark reply.
And I’ll find the gate every time?
Yes. Sit and think about it…after you order us takeaways. Chicken?
An hour later, after the dishes were put away, Jack collapsed back onto his couch with a happy sigh. The base and his friends were fine, but even they could be a bit much after a while. It was nice to do what he wanted, well, they wanted.
Tofu sounded replete.
That was nice. There’s nothing like southern fried chicken.
Too true. Now, you were going to show me something earlier?
Hmm, yes. The gate. Lie back and don’t fall asleep.
Grumbling, Jack did as he was told.
Allow yourself to feel.
Sighing impatiently, Jack did as ordered, allowing his lanky body to relax.
Now what? - he asked sleepily.
Feel the gate.
Ya mean like Carter does?
You will feel it better than she ever will. A million times better, a trillion..
His voice was hypnotic, slow and even.
Shut your eyes Jack and feel with your senses.
Jack O’Neill frowned, allowing his eyes to flutter shut. There was something there. Something…
It was like being hit with a pain stick set on high, or a fully charged zat. All of a sudden he was aware, intimately aware of the whereabouts of every piece of Naquada on the planet. He knew to a matter of a millimeters precisely where and in which direction their stargate was, the one in use, and the deactivated one. He ‘saw’ the heavy concentrates residing in Carter’s lab. Hell he even saw her, with her faint traces of Naquada in her blood. He saw all this and more. And then his system crashed.
Moaning in agony he rolled onto the floor, unheeding of Tofu’s pleas to calm himself. Eventually Tofu did something that he had agreed not to do. He took over Jack’s body and marched him off to bed.
The next morning Tofu found Jack in the middle of his complicated early morning exercise routine. Privately Tofu wondered why he still did all of it, seeing as he could keep him slim and trim forever, but as usual, stopped himself from commenting. Jack seemed so happy.
Tofu grunted in response.
I should have blended with Daniel - he said nastily.
At least he knows that ten in the morning is a decent time to get up…
Jack sounded disgusted.
There is nothing wrong with waking up at 05H00. I get in half a day before Daniel even stirs.
But he has all the fun at night…
Belatedly Tofu remembered Jack and last night.
By the way, how are you feeling?
Better thank you.
Jack hesitated, hanging upside down from a parallel bar, searching for words.
Tofu, what else can I do?
Besides punch a person through a wall and heal yourself?
Tofu didn’t wait for the expected sarcastic reply.
You can also speak pure Gua’old. Go on, try some.
Jack closed his eyes for a moment, remembering Hathor. She with the cruel eyes and auburn hair.
"Muk’sha…telmac’a ...kree" , he murmured bitterly.
Move your butts and find out what the disturbance is?" Tofu asked, surprised. What on earth?
Not 'on earth' Tofu, thank God. Not 'on earth' ever again.
He sighed deeply, remembering,
Hathor said that to her guards’ moments after introducing her…friend to me via the back of my neck. Colonel Makepeace and some SG teams were trying to rescue me and the others, you see. I would have helped him, but I was otherwise…occupied the minute the snake slithered in.
Jack shook his head ruefully, dropping to the floor where he lay in a heap.
No battle between any soldier and Jaffa was anywhere near as vicious as the battle that I waged in my head. The problem was, as strong as I thought I was mentally, I wasn’t anywhere near as strong as he was. He was winning, inch by inch, then that nice Tok’ra lady put me back into cryogenic suspension, causing him to die.
Jack frowned. He had expected sympathy or something, not relief.
If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have got you, the host that everyone seems to covet.
Well gee, um thanks.
Jack wasn’t sure what to say, so contented himself with a nice relaxing shower.
As was always the case when you least expect it, two minutes or so into the shower, the front door buzzer went off.
At first Jack ignored it, reasoning that if it was the base they would either have paged him or caused his cell phone to ring. Neither thing had happened, so he ignored the banging that soon started on the front door. Whoever it was, frantic or not, would just have to come back.
Then he heard the distinctive sound of breaking glass.
Buck naked, he ran to the bedroom and grasped his 9mm Beretta. This was getting beyond ridiculous. If he seriously wanted to stay a free man, he really had to sort out those NID men once and for all. Slowly and carefully he made his way into the kitchen, where he head unusual noises, like the fridge opening?
"Jack, your fridge is like an experiment from hell."
The voice was smooth, cloying, and definitely the last thing Jack O’Neill wanted to hear.
" Maybourne," he muttered under his breath, walking into the kitchen, his gun still unerringly pointed at the dapper Colonel as he peered into the dank fridge.
" Jack," he yelled, " Got any beer?"
" No", Jack whispered, gently placing the barrel of the Beretta into the other mans ear, making him jump and spin around.
" Well, hey. Sorry, I’m not that way inclined," he simpered, referring to Jack’s nakedness, making O’Neill scowl.
" Maybourne, you must be the only person in the world who makes bad jokes while staring at imminent death," he said softly
Maybourne grinned and carefully sat in a chair. " Nah. Come on Jack, If we were mortal enemies for real, we would have killed each other years ago."
" Someone from your organization sure as hell tried recently." Jack snarled, his gun steady on Maybourne’s chest, making him throw up his hands placatingly.
" Hey, whoa, slow down. That wasn’t an officially sanctioned mission. If they had realized who the snake was coupled to, nothing would have happened." He looked up at O’Neill. " I’m here to apologize to you and…the snake."
" The snake." Chuckling quietly to himself, Jack O’Neill abruptly turned his back on Maybourne, padding back to his bedroom to dress.
Harry would stay. He was too curious about Tofu to go anywhere else for a while.
He returned to the kitchen to see Maybourne replace the phone.
" We have a six pack of beer and a Mario’s breakfast pizza en-route."
Jack looked at him in disgust. " Only you could find a twenty four hour Pizza place."
Maybourne raised his hands and looked innocent. " Hey what can I say apart from the fact that the breakfast pizza is mucho delicious…"
" Call them back and order a small pasta as well," Jack said quietly, straddling a chair, " Tofu doesn’t like Pizza."
" Okay," Maybourne drawled thoughtfully, reaching for the phone and hitting redial. His eyes never left Jack O’Neill as he amended the order.
Replacing the receiver, Harry Maybourne faced his greatest foe, and one of his best friends; such was the complicated life he led.
" So, what’s it like?"
For the first time in months Jack O’Neill really thought about it. Really, what was it like?
" A life-changing event, Harry. Something, once committed, you can never change." He frowned at the wall, trying to get his scattered feelings in order.
" Did anybody tell you how far gone I was, Harry?"
Maybourne nodded. " Yes. The scuttlebutt had you dead within a week." He looked serious, " I’m glad it never came to that."
Jack nodded, a small smile on his face, his eyes distant. " So am I, although I gave up my independence in order to live."
" So, what’s it like?" Harry asked again.
" It’s like sharing a room with someone. Remember the Air Force Academy? It’s like that. The food is shared, the work is shared, but your stuff is your stuff."
Harry looked confused. " So, he doesn’t just come in and take over?"
Jack’s eyes snapped to the other man. " Oh no. He is totally different to a Gou’ald. He’s…" Pausing he rose to his feet and opened his front door just as a startled pizza deliveryman was going to ring the bell. " Come in, come in. The man over there will pay."
Sighing, Maybourne threw some notes at the man, who took off with startled thanks.
" Harry," Jack smiled, shutting the door. " Methinks you rather overdid the tip."
Harry Maybourne wasn’t going to rise to the bait, this was too important. Carefully holding their food, he made his way into the lounge, forcing the other man to follow him.
" Now," he said, reaching for a beer, " you were saying that your, um, new tenant isn’t like a Gould because?"
Jack sighed. He was under no illusions that everything he said was going to be reported back to the NID where his comments would be dissected and reassembled.
" Harry, bring out the tape recorder and let’s do this properly."
Nodding, unembarrassed, Maybourne carefully removed a small recorder from his coat pocket and laid it on the table between them.
"Okay, the Snake isn’t like the Gould because?"
" Because I don’t take over unless I have to, like when Jack was shot whilst he was driving."
Tofu watched calmly as the startled man leapt over the back of the settee, his gun drawn, before Harry’s common sense told him that Tofu meant him no harm.
" Harry Maybourne, will you kindly relax and enjoy the pizza?" Tofu said calmly, reaching for the pasta.
" Just leave one slice for Jack." He sniffed his meat aroma appreciatively." After this he won’t want more than that."
Slowly Maybourne retook his seat, watching as a totally different Jack O’Neill began to attack his food with relish.
" How do you like earth?" It was a totally inane question, making him wince the minute he uttered it, but thankfully the alien took him seriously.
" First off, let me introduce myself. I am Tor’fu O’Neill. My friends call me Tofu, as in the food."
A flabbergasted Maybourne found himself shaking hands with a complete stranger.
" Um, pleased to meet you," he mumbled.
Tofu sat back and scrutinized the human closely, mindful of Jack’s warning. He didn’t look like the smooth con artist that had tried to kill Jack on more than one occasion, but then he had no idea what one would look like in the first place.
"So, why did the NID try to kill us?"
Maybourne looked uncomfortable. " Well, actually they had orders to take you alive for study but that’s before we found out who your, um…"
" Host?" Tofu asked quietly
Maybourne nodded weakly. " Ah, yes. That was before we found out that your host was Jack O’Neill, one of the few people the NID couldn’t turn...."
" Oh, I don’t know if that’s true," Tofu said, " Most of the SGC are impossible to turn as well."
Harry Maybourne scowled. " That’s only because most of them have been personally trained by O’Neill. Luckily, not all."
He stopped abruptly, aware of how much he had given away, but the alien seemed oblivious to his gaffe, making him relax somewhat.
He wouldn’t have relaxed at all if he could see how carefully Jack O’Neill carefully stored away that precious nugget of information. So, the snitch was someone that hadn’t been trained by him. Interesting. He would dearly love to know who the person was who leaked his condition to the NID and also his subsequent blending.
It would have to been a sporadic contact, or they would have known about him before the sniper tried to take him out.
He also didn’t believe for a moment that they had stopped trying because he was the famous Colonel Jack O’Neill. He wasn’t that egotistic or naïve. If he walked into Hollis Air Force base tomorrow, he would never return, and if he did, he would never be the same person that went in originally. This he knew for a fact, something he passed on to Tofu.
" Then I shall take to wearing the ribbon device when I leave base," Tofu murmured.
" Excuse me?" Maybourne was looking at him, confused.
" Sorry," Tofu treated him to a brief grin. " Colonel O’Neill was just filling me in on the…activities of the NID over the years. Quite a horror story, don’t you agree?"
It was plain that an uncomfortable Harry Maybourne wasn’t going to answer that.
" So, what can you tell me about the Tok’ra?" he asked abruptly, changing the subject.
Tofu raised an eyebrow and answered slowly. " They are blended humans, like O’Neill and myself, totally dedicated to the overthrow of the Gou’ald System Lords."
Maybourne frowned, obviously not happy. "And?"
" And what?"
" Well, what are they like? Their structure, who’s in charge, how the ruling council works, things like that."
Tofu looked confused. " Didn’t Jack tell you? Colonel O’Neill is my first host."
Maybourne shook his head obviously unhappy about the way the conversation was going.
"He and I haven’t spoken together in months."
" Oh well then, let me tell you what happened. Jack was going to die rather than accept any symbiont, but somehow Selmac managed to convince him give me a try, on the understanding that if it wasn’t going to work, or Jack was unhappy with the situation, then he could be separated again. Luckily it never came to that."
Maybourne frowned, confused. " I thought that Tok’ra couldn’t be separated?"
Tofu nodded. " They can’t, not without help from a race called the Tollans. If attempted without their medical expertise there is almost always fatal damage to the host." He leaned forwards and put the half finished pasta on the table.
" Jack was willing to be used as a guinea pig, as long as he had an out, even if it meant death. Luckily it worked out just fine. Jack is my teacher, and I’m this annoying snake that can help him get closer to the enemy then he has ever been before."
Maybourne made to speak, but Tofu stopped him with a raised finger. " As to your original question, I can’t tell you anything about the Tok’ra because, in human terms, I was blended as a baby of a few weeks. I also know this, when I speak with other Tok’ra, Jack is the one they listen to, not me, because some of them are centuries old, whilst I’m less than a year."
" But surely you can give me something," Maybourne said, despairingly.
" He can’t," said Jack O’Neill, sitting upright. " And even if he could, he wouldn’t."
" Jack," Maybourne cried upping the end of his name by an octave to stress his annoyance. " If I return to my masters with this, they’ll exile me to Bali again." He looked at the gray haired man with a pleading expression.
" Come on, you and the snake can surely give me something."
" No." Jack rose to his feet as his cell phone shrilled.
" O’Neill." He listened for a moment. " On my way."
Snapping the cell phone shut he continued his conversation with Maybourne.
" Harry, The people you work for aren’t very nice people. Even if Tofu or I had any information on the Tok’ra for you, or anything else for that matter, that information would be twisted and corrupted until there was nothing good left."
Maybourne sat silently as O’Neill leant over and carefully picked off the topping from the last piece of breakfast pizza and ate it.
" So you’re giving me nothing," he said at last.
Jack shrugged and stretched before stuffing the breakfast debris back into its bag. " Maybourne, I have nothing to give, believe me." He shoved the garbage at the other man. " Be a good man and shove this in the bin on the way out, will ya?"
Maybourne rose slowly. " Off on a trip again? He enquired. Jack nodded distractedly, checking that the house was in order.
" Uh huh." He fixed his dark eyes on Maybourne. " To Bulgaria," he lied. " You know how it goes in the Air Force…" He shrugged his shoulders, smiling at the despondent man. " Always rush rush rush." Setting the alarm, he pushed Maybourne out ahead of him, making him stumble onto the garden path.
" Now Harry. Go back to your masters and tell them the truth. Tell them you got squat because I know squat."
He climbed into his truck and started the engine. " Oh yes, And Harry?"
The man looked in the window. " Yes Jack?"
"Thanks for breakfast." With a wave, he took off in a shower of stones.
Jack spent the trip back to the SGC in a contemplative frame of mind. He had no illusions that Harry Maybourne would stop at what he had given him. From now on he and Tofu would have to be extra vigilant. The idea of carrying the ribbon device on him at all times actually had appeal.
Of course, it helped when he was offworld.
At least then they could relax, if you called facing a whole load of sna.. Gou’ald relaxing.
At least he wouldn’t have to look over his shoulder twice a day looking for the NID.
Waving his ID at the guard at the gate, he pulled into his reserved parking spot.
When he reached level 27, he was immediately directed to the briefing room.
" Colonel O’Neill, about time you got here."
He made his apologies to General Hammond as his eyes scanned the room. Somehow he knew that there were three Tok’ra in the room before he had even gotten out of the lift, something that would bear investigation at a later stage.
" Sorry General. NID problems." He shrugged at his frowning C.O. " Just Harry Maybourne, nothing I couldn’t handle." When the General nodded, albeit with a frown that spoke of a later discussion, he greeted the other people gathered around the table.
" Selmac, Freya. Sorry, the other I don’t know." He smiled a greeting at them as he took a chair.
Selmac did the introductions. " Colonel Jack O’Neill and Tor’fu, meet Ter’l."
Jack let Tofu do the welcoming for him. " Welcome to the SGC," Tofu said. " I’m always pleased to meet other Tok’ra such as myself."
The tall man nodded courteously. He was tall with brown haircut in a severe military style that completely contradicted his warm green eyes and laugh lines around his mouth.
" Greetings friend Tor’fu, I am Ter’l. I believe your host may have inadvertently discovered the planet Lorru, a planet of myth and legend that I have been studying for years."
Tofu looked at Selmac. " The Colonel’s 'Waterloo'?"
He waited patiently as Carter filled Selmac in. When the older man nodded, he sat back with a sigh.
" So, planet Cancer has a name." He looked at General Hammond with a wry smile. " Colonel O’Neill is rather upset. He quite liked the name he gave it."
Freya shifted in her seat, looking impatient.
" Did your host see anything before he collapsed?"
Jack raises an eyebrow. " Like?"
She had fire in her eyes. " Legend has it that the secrets of the God Wadjet were hidden on Lorru."
Jack frowned. Like all Tok’ra, getting any real information out of them was like pulling teeth.
" And those secrets were…" he asked patiently.
" Legend has it that she was working on a transportation device non-reliant on ring technology," she said softly.
Everyone stared at her, aghast.
" You mean, a way of getting around without using Stargates," Jack asked softly, " or just a way of getting from a TelTac ship to a planet?"
Freya shrugged her shoulders. "I don’t know," she answered.
Jack became aware of Ter’l scrutinizing him closely " So you saw nothing on Lorru?"
Jack looked thoughtful. " I didn’t say that," he said slowly. " I did, or rather I thought I saw something, just before I was… struck."
Freya leaned forwards, interest on her pretty face. " A sarcophagus?"
Jack sat up straight, shocked. " How in the hell did you figure that?"
She smiled sweetly. " I had hoped that might be the case. The Goddess Wadjet was…" she looked thoughtful, "or maybe is, The Goddess of knowledge."
Jack rocked back in his chair. " Oh no, don’t tell me, let me guess," he moaned. " This Widget character is safely tucked into this sarcophagus, just waiting for someone to free her."
Selmac nodded and contributed to the conversation for the first time.
" We believe so, yes. And whoever does may very well be given her secrets of ring technology."
" That’s if she doesn’t keep them for herself and barter them for power and position," Freya spat.
" Which will probably be the case," Ter’l sighed, " and that would shift the balance of power in the galaxy quite dramatically in favor of whomever she gives this knowledge to."
" Could we get to her before she wakes up?" Jack asked.
Selmac nodded. " Sure, but we have nothing to offer her."
There was a despondent silence in the room, broken when General Hammond stirred.
" People, we may be getting ahead of ourselves here," he said, his nasal Texan voice cutting through the room.
" Colonel O’Neill isn’t sure just what he saw in that room, which came through clear as day in his post mission report. Now you are telling me that there may be a sarcophagus in there, filled with some important Gou’ald. Maybe."
He scanned the room slowly. " Tell you what. Why don’t you gate to the planet from here, get some proper intel, instead of these vague guesses and suppositions, and return. We can work better if we know for sure what we’re dealing with."
Slowly the Tok’ra nodded, all agreeing with Hammond, and then Jacob spoke. " You’re right as always, George." He shrugged ruefully. " Sometimes it seems years since I was a General in this man’s Air Force."
" Guess what?" O’Neill interjected. " It has been."
" Ooh, so that’s it," Jacob smiled, rising. " The brain goes soft. All the training goes out the window?"
Jack endeavored to look shocked. " You have windows?"
A smiling Jacob Carter didn’t reply, merely turned to General Hammond. " Mind if we borrow your boy?"
Hammond waved his hand expansively. " Feel free, return him in one piece, or should I say, them?"
" Indeed, them."
" Aah, P6N L9B. My favorite place in the entire universe," Jack said, looking around the familiar lavender landscape with a distasteful look on his face.
" Ah yes, how quickly one forgets. Been here, done that, got the t-shirt, most definitely was not impressed."
He would have been amused to see both Carter and Daniel roll their eyes, had he been looking. Even Teal’c no longer asked for a translation, having long ago learnt that the first comment out of O’Neill’s mouth when he exited the stargate rarely made sense.
Even Selmac, with the benefit of General Carter’s wisdom, ignored him, but not Anise and Ter’l, who both looked at him askance.
" Pardon? Ter’l asked
At first Jack didn’t believe his luck, then the unique possibilities of two naïve Tok’ra gathered around him all ready and waiting to be teased hit him.
" Hey Tofu, this is gonna be fun."
To Jack’s immediate consternation, Tofu didn’t reply.
Jack stood still, ignoring the others, the first tendrils of worry clenching his gut.
But his friend and other half of him still didn’t answer.
The rest of SG 1 looked on horrified as their C.O. suddenly collapsed, looking to all intents and purposes as if he were having a seizure. For a moment he convulsed, then went slack.
" Dad," Sam said, horrified. " What happened?"
Her fathers eyes were dark. " Damn, Pr’sh’nala. Selmac forgot."
They watched as he knelt next to the comatose man, pulling him into a sitting position. " Guys what I’m going to do next won’t be pretty, but is essential, okay?" He waited until they all nodded dubiously, even Teal’c. When he had their approval, he slapped Jack, rocking his head back.
Jack could feel Tor’fu, but his friend still didn’t answer.
Tofu? - Jack had never felt so alone in his life. Not even Iraq had been this bad.
Tor’fu! - Jack screamed his friends name with every fiber of his being, but he still heard … nothing.
Slowly, as if from a great distance, he became aware of pain. Someone was slapping his face, the blows rocking his head back and pulling him away from his search.
" Jack, he’ll be fine. Snap out of it. Jack!" Selmac’ voice sounded strained. " Come on Jack."
Suddenly Jack’s hand shot out and snagged the other mans hand in a crushing grip.
" Selmac," he growled, his eyes dark. " If you’ve hurt him, I swear…"
" No no, Ter’l interjected, kneeling at his other side. It’s Pr’sh’nala."
" Pish what?" said Sam.
Jack was quite content to lie in the dirt; his eyes closed and let his team ask the questions. All he wanted to do was hear one word from Tofu. Just one word and he’d be happy.
But there was only deafening silence.
"Pr’sh’nala." Selmac said calmly, rising to his feet. " Gate sickness."
" Oh you’re kidding right?" Daniel asked incredulously. " You mean Tofy’s car sick?"
It was General Carter who answered him. " Kind of. Some Gou’ald have this reaction the first time they travel."
" They all do," Ter’l stated flatly.
" Most," Selmac insisted.
" Okay, all," Selmac conceded.
"We had forgotten what it was like at first, and consequently didn’t think of warning O’Neill/Tor’fu."
He looked down at the cataleptic man at his feet.
" It’s getting late. I suggest that we make camp next to the Stargate tonight and start out towards the temple at first light.
" I concur." Anise lightly prodded Jack with her foot, making them all scowl. " They should be back with us by then.
The remaining members of SG 1 had no choice but to agree.
Jack awoke to hear the low voices of Daniel and the others talking quietly together. Someone had wrapped him in a survival blanket and put him next to the fire, which he would have really appreciated had he not felt like a foil-wrapped potato. Rolling away from the fires edge, he lay silent and still, allowing the neglected side of his body to warm up, searching for Tofu whilst listening to what they had to say.
"... So, all Gua’old get this sick at first?"
" All. The problem with our symbionts is the age factor. We are all centuries old, and had consequently almost forgotten how badly gate travel affected us at first. We gave O’Neill/Tor’fu no warning. For that we must apologize."
"O’Neill/Tor’fu." That’s the second time you have referred to the Colonel as that," Daniel said quietly.
" That’s because he is now known as that to us," Selmac said softly. " He is more than one individual now, he is Tok’ra..."
" I still find that very hard to accept", Sam said.
" Why Sammie? Because of what his feelings were before the blending? Or what he has become since?"
Jack snuggled deeper into his silvery blanket and listened to her gasp of dismay.
" Oh no Dad, you think that I feel bad about what he has become? Far from it. But you’re right about one respect; I do still feel uncomfortable about how…easily he has accepted Tofu. After all his protests about having his brain as his own, he sure took to Tofu extremely quickly."
" He had no choice, Major Carter," came the voice of deep voice of Teal’c. " He had to accept the symbiont, or die. I am sure Lord Tor’fu told him of this."
" Adapt or die?" Daniel asked thoughtfully. " That seems a very military concept."
" Or a very Tok’ra concept," Anise chipped in quietly. " O’Neill really had no choice. Once he had agreed to the blending there was no returning to what once was. He has accepted Tor’fu as his confidant and friend, someone who will always be there to talk to when the night is long and he cannot sleep. That is why you must accept them both."
" Oh we do. We didn’t mean for you to think otherwise. It’s the adjustment that’s hard. But we’re almost there."
They sat in contemplative silence for a while before Daniel spoke again. " Anise, what you said earlier, about having a friend to spend lonely nights with. You were speaking from experience, weren’t you?"
For a moment there was dead silence, then Freya answered. " Yes. My childhood was not…nice. I had thought of ending it all on many occurrences. Then I was introduced to Anise. When we were blended my whole outlook on life changed. I found a friend that day, someone I could trust implicitly, something I had never had before. My friend taught me how to laugh again, and was always there when I was down, giving much needed advice. This is the reason why O’Neill lies there, silent and unmoving. His friend is sick. Given time, hopefully before this planet’s morning, Tor’fu will recover sufficiently and speak to O’Neill. When he does, and he will, O’Neill will recover."
" I really cannot believe that nobody remembered to warn Jack and Tofu about this sickness."
" We are all centuries old, Major Carter," Selmac replied. " We had quite simply, forgotten."
Daniel gave a muted bark of laughter. " You know, I find it really funny that the Guo’ald discovered a network of Stargates, and then found out they were allergic to them."
" They aren’t allergic to the actual gate, just traveling through them," Ter’l said. " And after the fifth or sixth time, the sickness ends for good, as O’Neill/Tor’fu will find out."
Daniel’s voice was still light. " Still, I find it so ludicrous that a race of beings so hell bent on universal domination had to use a gate that made them so sick."
" But use it they did, DanielJackson, again and again until the sickness passed and most of the worlds were theirs. That bears thinking about quite closely, friend Tau’ri."
Daniel’s voice was hollow. " You’re quite right Teal’c. As usual, you’re quite right."
Jack O’Neill spent his long lonely night without Tofu, and found it hell.
Sometime just before dawn, in the very back of his brain, he felt his friend stir. He wasn’t talking, yet, but he was there. And so eventually, a tired Jack began to relax, his breathing eventually reaching that of deep sleep
Major Samantha Carter had last watch, the one the Colonel liked to do had he been conscious. Leaning over him to check his condition, as she had been doing sporadically all night, she was gratified to see that his eyes were open.
" Hey," she said softly. " How are you feeling?"
" Sick, tired, dizzy, nauseous. Take your pick," Tor’fu said quietly, making Sam grin exultantly.
" Tofu, thank God. I think you gave the Colonel a heart attack."
" Almost, but not quite." He snuggled under the silver blanket, vainly trying to find a more comfortable spot, before sighing and sitting up.
" May I make coffee?"
Sam smiled at him, Jack but not Jack. " If you’re sure you’re up to the task. But remember, Daniel’s fussy about what you give him.
Tofu nodded, looking over the sleeping camp. "I know. Jack’s still asleep, but I’m sure he won’t mind me raiding his coffee memories."
It wasn’t long before the aroma of the burbling coffee awakened the others.
" Coffee. The best Tau’ri invention ever."
Sam looked on amusedly as Anise slowly made her way towards the pot. Contrary to popular myth, Anise wasn’t perfect 24/7. With her hair mussed up and her eyes half gummed shut, she looked just like everybody else that morning, shivering in the cool morning breeze whilst impatiently waiting for their cup of coffee. Well, like nearly everyone else. Sam now understood why the Colonel liked to take the last shift, the couple of hours given to her allowed her to dress and freshen up at leisure, something she was sure that Anise had noticed.
" Down, Carter." The voice was soft and pure Jack O’Neill.
" Sir, how are you feeling?"
His eyes were direct. " Okay, now. But that was a very disconcerting feeling. It felt like…ah," he looked around helplessly for a moment, aware that Daniel and Teal’c had joined them. " It felt like someone had scooped out half of my brain." He shuddered. " I can now see why the host dies if the symbiont is removed." His eyes turned dark as he remembered. " The Tok’ra were stupid. By forgetting something as serious as this they could have compromised the entire operation." He stared over Carter’s shoulder at her father, his face like stone. " Good intel is the lifeblood of every successful mission. We should have been there by now. Instead we are still stuck at the Stargate while you all acted as nursemaids." He rose to his feet, tossing the rest of his coffee into the fire, and raised his voice.
" General, I suggest we secure this area, leaving Daniel and Car…Sam here to provide back up if necessary."
" Good idea Colonel," Jacob said, his voice warm. " Is Tor’fu back with us?"
" Sort of. He’s weak, and wants me to strangle someone, but he’s here."
" Selmac says sorry. Maybe one day you would like to accompany me somewhere and read up on the history of the Tok’ra/Gou’ald race. That way you won’t find any more pitfalls the hard way."
Jack stopped dead and regarded the older Tok’ra with a horrified expression. " You mean there’s more?"
" Probably," Selmac answered.
" Probably? You mean you don’t know?"
" No," Selmac said testily. " I haven’t read the book in centuries. It’s not safe."
Daniel’s caffeine intake had finally reached his brain. " What book?"
" Oh, the book that depicts the history of both the Tok’ra and Gou’ald race since they were both worm buddies way back when and living in…ouch!"
Daniel looked on in amazement as Jack suddenly lurched forwards and rubbed his leg.
" Tor’fu get you? Shame," Selmac said, not looking sorry at all. " In answer to your question Doctor Jackson, we do indeed have a written record of the history of the Gou’ald and Tok’ra race. The reason why I have never told you about this before is because of the fact that it is protected by the Serpents of Light."
Daniel stared at the Tok’ra with raised eyebrows. " Is that supposed to mean something to me? Because if so, I’m sorry. The only Serpents of Light I know of were the Nit sect in ancient Abyssinia. They died out in about 200BC."
" That depends on your description of ‘died out’ Dr Jackson." I prefer the term ‘moved on’."
" They were Tok’ra?" Sam asked incredulously, joining the conversation.
" Most. When they realized that the Tau’ri were in danger of really becoming a force to be reckoned with, they took the record through the Stargate to an undisclosed location."
" And that is?"
Selmac looked at his feet.
"I’m sorry Dr Jackson, but the location is only known to the top members of the Tok’ra high council. Even Anise and Ter’l have no knowledge of its location."
Poor Selmac, Jack thought amusedly, still absentmindedly rubbing his leg. He should never have mentioned the blasted book. Tor’fu had a vague racial memory of it, which was all, which was just as well by the way Daniel was laying into Selmac. The lure of knowledge was too tempting for an academic of Daniel’s standing to pass up.
Even Sam was looking interested.
" Guys. Hey guys?" When he was ignored by all and sundry, he put his hand to his mouth and whistled shrilly.
" That’s better", he said smugly into the resulting silence.
" Now, I know that the last resting place of this fantastic book is of great interest to certain members of this group, but a location of a certain sarcophagus is of equal attraction to other people as well. Now seeing as we are all on the planet where said sarcophagus is located, let’s concentrate on the job at hand before going off at a tangent across half the Galaxy. That can wait for later, okay?"
He was gratified to see Daniel nod, albeit reluctantly. " Okay Jack. It’s just that the sect of Nit were thought to be…"
He couldn’t resist. " Danny, please stop nit-picking and concentrate on the here and now, okay?"
Laughing, he snagged his pack and turned to them. " Listen up, you secure this site, and we’ll see you shortly."
The minute they left the gate Jack went all military; leaving not a trace of the laughing man of a minute ago.
" Teal’c take our six, I’ll take point, seeing as I know where to go."
Although General Carter was technically no longer part of the US Air Force, Jack still found himself waiting for his nod. When it came, they set off, soon arriving in front of the dark brown stone that was the ruined temple.
Jack stopped dead, his face pale. " This is it. I walked through that fancy carved entrance. After that, the next thing I really remember well was the infirmary."
" Hmm." Selmac stood still in front of the exquisitely carved entrance, looking up at the writing with an awed face.
" I see it, next to the seal of Wadjet."
Jack stared impatiently at the two Tok’ra, no; make that three, as a clearly stunned Anise slowly joined them. There was more than a simple homage to Widget written on that wall from the looks of their body language. Not that he cared. Okay, so if he looked closely he could also read what was written there, which spooked him no end, but he wasn’t gonna actually look that closely. Hell no, no matter how loudly Tofu ranted and…"
" Oh Crap."
Selmac turned slowly towards him, his shoulders bowed. " Succulently put, Jack O’Neill."
Ter’l was still staring at the doorway; his face looking eerily like Daniel’s did when something went wrong. " It can’t be as bad as it looks," he muttered to no one in particular." So it’s the seal of Ra. So what? All we need to do is find out where he took her, and follow." His voice trailed off as the other Tok’ra stared at him. " What?"
" And how do you propose we do that?" Anise asked quietly, her face vicious. " Ra was killed on Abydos years ago, and I don’t know about you, but I’ve sure heard nothing about any new ring technology being bounced around the universe."
The quiet voice of the forgotten Teal’c stopped them dead. " Maybe because the Goddess Wadjet still lies within her sarcophagus." As usual, he somehow managed to make the question sound like a statement.
" How stupid." Ter’l looked up at the Jaffa with a grateful expression. " You’re probably right."
"But if that’s the case, what the hell is Ra’s symbol doing on the lintel then?" Jack took a step back, not waiting for a reply. " I think that we could do with Daniel’s expertise here." He reached for his radio, summoning the rest of his team.
" A warning."
Daniel looked at Ter’l who nodded in confirmation.
" I suspected at much Daniel," Jack said grumpily. "But a warning of what? That anybody that steps inside is gonna die, or about Widget?"
When Daniel shook his head helplessly, Jack sighed. " I guess we’ll know that for sure once we actually find the sarcophagus, that’s assuming it’s even there."
He looked at Selmac. " General Carter and I will find that out shortly. The rest of you stay here."
As expected, there were immediate objections.
" Hey, why you and not me?" Anise grumbled, Ter’l moving to stand next to her in a visual show of support.
" Because there are gonna be more surprises inside, and I would rather have a person who has been trained in the same manner as I have in there with me watching my back."
He gave her a long look. " SG 1 are out of the question, so that leaves General Carter."
She still wasn’t mollified. " O’Neill…"
He held up his hand in the usual O’Neill manner. " Ah! Stay. Talk to Major Carter about the latest developments in Naquadah reactors or something. We’ll be back shortly."
With that he turned on his heel and entered the temple, General Carter at his heels.
For a moment he couldn’t see a thing, instinctively stepping one side of the doorway so that he wasn’t silhouetted nicely so anybody inside could take a pot shot at him. As his eyes rapidly adjusted to the dim light, no doubt helped by Tofu, he became aware of Jacob on the other side of the door, crouched exactly like he was. They exchanged grim smiles and slowly reconnoitered the room.
It was a large empty and sandy area about the size of an…ice hockey rink, and generally the same shape. For a moment Jack found the lack of corners disconcerting before he pulled his mind back to the matter at hand. If the room was so empty, then where the hell was whatever had spat at him? Not to mention the sarcophagus.
Carefully he scanned the room, alert for anything out of the ordinary. The roof didn’t seem to fit flush with the walls, allowing the light from outside to filter in, creating a most depressing mixture of brown and purple colors that only served to accentuate the very alien ness of the situation.
Jack kicked the dark brown sand with one boot. " So, where in the hell is my nemesis?" he asked quietly, causing Carter to grunt.
" Don’t ask me," he replied, his voice equally hushed. " As far as I can tell this place is as empty as they come, which is a real pity because…"
Jack’s soft hiss stopped him short. " Jacob, against the wall…one o’clock.
Carter’s eyes immediately found what Jack’s had. What appeared to be a solid wall wasn’t. As they watched, a long snake-like form emerged and wriggled its way towards their frozen figures.
" Oh shit," Jack muttered half to himself, cradling his Armorlite and feeling faint, "I really hate snakes."
Tofu decided not to reply, not wanting to break Jack’s concentration, although he could feel the man’s heart beginning to race. Not that he blamed him. Hell no. The snake was about as thick around as one of Jack’s tires on his truck and seemed to stretch out forever. As it got closer Tofu could see what looked like black diamond markings along its back, as well as stumpy protrusions along its body. Feeling that Jack was once more in charge, Tofu sat back and watched.
Jack peered closely, his teeth clenched. " A snake with legs? Eww, you’ve gotta be kidding me."
Jack felt Jacob shrug. " Looks like it. You wanna do the honors or shall I?"
Jack spared him a quick glance. " Oh no. This is all mine." He pointed the nose of his weapon down at the snake, his hand caressing the trigger guard. " That thing spat its venom at me and put me through hell, for that alone it deserves to die."
Jacob nodded in assent. " Believe me, I know how you feel, but just how close are you gonna let it get?" He stared at the snake as it reared up and flared its hood, staring at both men with beady eyes.
" That close," Jack grunted, shattering the silence, the force of his bullets sending the lifeless snake clean across the room to impact against the far wall with a thud.
" Happy now?" Jacob said into the ensuing hush.
" Ecstatic." Jack readjusted his weapon to a more comfortable position and strode towards the far room, a grim Jacob covering his rear.
What they found in the hidden room made both men speechless.
" Are you seeing what I’m seeing?" Jack’s voice sounded strangled, not that he cared a whit.
The room, if one could call a perfectly oval area a room, was completely covered what looked like thick sheaves of gold. Not one inch of the original temple could be seen. The gold even covered the ceiling, and was brightly polished, creating a very disconcerting feeling if one looked up, which Jack naturally did.
" Hey this is neat," he murmured, before bringing his mind back to the task at hand. " That, on the other hand isn’t."
General Carter tended to agree, as did Selmac. Jack was pointing to a beautifully crafted jewel-encrusted sarcophagus, carefully raised on an equally exquisite dais dead center in the room.
It would have been a beautiful sight, destined to lift the hearts of many a weary traveler, if it wasn’t for the gem-encrusted scepter that was impaled through the roof of the sarcophagus, roughly where the head should be.
" I couldn’t agree more," Jacob said, his voice tight with apprehension.
They both cautiously made their way towards the sarcophagus, prepared for anything, although from the layers of dust covering everything, nothing seemed likely. Nevertheless, neither had reached the age they were by being reckless. Eventually they were right next to the sarcophagus, Jack’s hand resting on the scepter.
" Shall we?"
Jacob grunted, his knuckles white on his zat. " Lets."
Slowly Jack removed the scepter, Tofu’s added strength helping him greatly, so forcefully was it rammed in. Once it came free he dropped it with a clatter and reached for his weapon.
" Selmac, it’s all yours."
As Jack watched, Selmac took over, carefully running his hands over the ornate surface checking for any traps that Ra might have left behind. When he was satisfied he nodded with a distracted expression on his face.
" Sarcophagus’s are usually opened from the inside by whoever needs them, but there is usually a way of getting it open from…" With a soft click the sarcophagus slid open, causing Selmac to step back smartly.
"Shit, damn and Goddamnit. We have a serious problem," Jack snarled.
Selmac knew precisely how the younger man felt. The Sarcophagus was empty.
" Okay, lets think about things logically," Daniel said. " So the sarcophagus is empty. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Wadjet escaped somewhere." He looked around at the despondent group gathered around the campfire as yet another night crept in. He turned to Selmac. " Why, you yourself commented on the amount of dust inside. Maybe she is still there, just reduced to dust."
Jack grunted, desolately prodding the fire with a thin purple stick. " We’re grasping at straws here, Danny boy," he warned.
" Maybe not," Ter’l said thoughtfully, after a quick translation from Daniel. " I have seen it before, in the Sands of Terralee. A Gou’ald was forced to leave his host after almost two of your earth centuries. Within hours of doing so, the discarded host began to turn into dust." He looked up at Selmac, a glimmer of hope reflected in his eyes. " You know, the Tau’ri could be right. Just maybe the remains of Wadjet still lie within the Sarcophagus."
" It’s better than the alternative, that she still lives somewhere, hiding until the time is right to crush the System Lords," Anise muttered darkly, endearing herself to no one.
" Surely she wouldn’t wait this long to extract her revenge?" Sam asked aghast.
" Why not?" O’Neill answered. " Remember, Apothis has been around since the year zero-zero AD as well, and only made his move four years ago."
" Oh no sir," Sam said immediately. " The Gou’ald were on earth way before…" her voice trailed off under his withering glare.
" Hey, maybe she died on Abydos with Ra," Daniel said optimistically.
This caused Jack to transfer his glare to the younger man. " Hello Daniel, I was there, remember? I don’t know about you, but I saw only one pair of glowing eyes, which was quite enough, believe you me. If there had been a second Gould, don’t you think she would loved to have met us? If nothing else, just to see us suffer?"
" I guess," Daniel said, staring at his feet, making Jack O’Neill feel like a heel.
" Tell you what," he said with a sigh, " Let’s all go back there tomorrow and see for ourselves, one way or another, okay?" When Daniel nodded he threw his stick into the fire and rose to his feet. " I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m gonna turn in." He turned to the expectant faces of his team. " Daniel, you have first watch, followed by Teal’c, Car…Sam and then me." When they nodded, he rolled into his sleeping bag, resolutely shutting his eyes against the sight of the dejected people still sat around the fire.
Do you think that Daniel’s right? - a soft voice asked from the dark recesses of his brain.
That she may still be in there, killed by Ra?
Jack snorted derisively.
Ah, c’mon Tofu. I never thought I would ever be saying this, but think like a Gou’ald for a moment.
Ra would not want her dead, anymore that we do. She’s a scientist, for crying out aloud. That species is rare, full of knowledge that could be tapped and used for maximum effect. The last thing Ra would have done was shove a golden scepter through her head, believe me.
So where is she? - Tofu asked quietly - and why haven’t we heard of her before now?
Jack mentally shrugged, then caught himself as a kernel of an idea began to germinate.
Maybe we have, and just haven’t realized it.
Who says that Wadjet is still female?
Jack sat upright, still swaddled in his sleeping bag, unaware of the curious looks his team gave him.
Think about it Tofu, there is no way in hell that a host could stay alive for almost twenty centuries…
He was aware that instead of clarifying things for the young Tok’ra he was making things worse so decided to enlist the help of Daniel.
" Danny boy?"
Daniel sighed at the use of his hated nickname.
" Yes Jack?"
" When were the Gou’ald actually on earth?" His gaze sharpened, pinning his friend down with its intensity. " By that, I mean…how many centuries ago."
Daniel straightened with a gleam in his eyes. " Well, there was always a debate about when they, or should I say the Pharaoh’s actually…"
Jack frantically slashed the air with his hand, stopping Daniel before he could slip into full lecture mode. " Danny, I’m trying to make a point here, not listen to a speech, okay?" He smiled at Daniels pout. " All I want to ask is how many centuries it has been since the Gou’ald were on earth?"
" A shit load Jack," Daniel muttered sulkily, his expletive shocking them all.
" Precisely," Jack stated, giving Daniel a dark look that spoke volumes. " And how many years does a host survive with a Gou’ald in his head?"
Selmac answered. " Fay‘ad lasted just over two centuries," he said thoughtfully, a glimmer of understanding in his eyes. Sam on the other hand, saw where he was going immediately.
" Are you thinking that Wadjet changed hosts?"
" Uh-huh. I think that all we’re going to find in that Sarcophagus is dust." He smiled at his still sulking friend, " Maybe a lot of dust, but still dust, cleverly put there by Ra to allow anyone discovering the sarcophagus to think precisely what we are thinking, that he killed her off.
In the meantime she and Ra snuck out into the galaxy where Ra finally met his grisly end, never to return, unlike some other false god I could mention." Teal’c nodded slowly.
" So where is she, or he?" Anise burst out angrily rising to her feet and pacing agitatedly. " And why has no one heard from her in all the centuries?"
" I dunno", O’Neill snapped. " Maybe she embraced Christianity and became a nun…or monk or something. Or maybe the stories about her were a complete lie and she knows nothing. All I know is what I see, that she ain’t here. Now, I suggest we get some sleep, wake up bright and early, get a sample of Widget dust, and get the hell off this purple ball of trouble. comprende?"
With that he lay on his side and pulled his sleeping bag over his head, booking no arguments.
The next day went exactly as planned. SG1, Anise, and Ter’l waited by the gate until Selmac and O’Neill returned with a carefully packed sample of dust.
At his nod Daniel punched in the co-ordinates for earth and they all stepped through the blue event horizon with sighs of relief.
" It’s not even dust Colonel, it’s sand." Jack O’Neill looked at his second in vexation as she once again stared into the powerful microscope, verifying her findings.
" You sure?" he asked. " Not a trace of Gould host skin flake thingys?"
"The only thing around here capable of shedding Gou’ald host skin flake thingys is standing in my light," she said irritably. " Sir," she said as an afterthought.
" Oh." He may be perceived to be thick, but he wasn’t really that obtuse.
Tor’fu, on the other hand wanted to sympathize.
" I’m sorry," he said softly. " I know that finding this Wadjet was important to you. I’m sorry that it didn’t work out."
He was pleased to see her straighten away from her microscope, a small smile cutting through the pall of gloom in the room.
" Thanks Tofy," she said softly, her hand light on his arm. " By the way, how are you feeling?"
He swallowed quickly, having forgotten the nausea of his return through the stargate until she mentioned it. But now that she had…
" Not good. Doctor Fraiser gave me some medicine that is helping a bit, but mostly it’s not…"
She stood back as Tofu hurried to the sink and coughed up bile, then handed him a soft white towel.
" Thanks Sam." The voice behind the towel was once more the tone of Jack O’Neill, making her smile.
" Is Tofy back in his mental sickbed?" she enquired gently as Jack straightened.
" Uh-huh," he nodded, trying not to look green. It hadn’t taken him long to realize that when Tor’fu was in charge, his body reacted to it’s new owner. Hoping that his roiling gut would soon slow down, he faced Carter bravely and ushered her towards the door.
" Shall we find the others and see if they have another plan of attack?"
The gloom was back. " I don’t think they will," she said miserably.
They found Daniel sitting despondently in the canteen, staring morosely into a large cup of what looked like cold coffee. Teal’c and the other Tok’ra had pulled together three plastic tables, making one large table and were talking softly together in Gou’ald, a language Jack was finding to be a very easy language to master.
Hell, it was better than English by far.
In Gould there weren’t multiple meanings for simple words, like there were in the English language.
Standing with Carter at the door, looking on at the miserable bunch, Jack had an idea.
" Carter, how is your Gould? You know, as in language," he said hastily when she gave him a funny look.
" Passable sir," she replied, looking puzzled. " Remember, I was blended with Jolinar for a little while."
Ignoring her, he made his way past the curious off duty personnel in the canteen and found a seat, after courteously pulling one out for Carter…Sam.
" Guys, we need to eat, and we also need to thrash things out," he said in Gou’ald. " What I suggest is that we stay right here, get some of that canteen food, eat and…just talk."
He shrugged as two pairs of human eyes, one pair of Jaffa eyes and three pairs of Tok’ra eyes regarded him with various shades of emotion.
" Hey," he chided. " As momma O’Neill used to say, sometimes the best ideas come out when you stop digging."
To his relief, Selmac was the first to nod, followed by Ter’l and a reluctant Freya. Once they had agreed, it was a done deal.
" I suggest we all keep on speaking Gould," he said quietly, nodding to the curious personnel at other tables, " if for nothing else, for security reasons. I would prefer it if what we may think up stays with us."
" Like we are gonna think anything up," Daniel said miserably. He had no idea why he was feeling so down. Maybe it was because everything seemed to be going so well. They were on the fast track to finding Wadjet and her mysterious ring technology, then all of a sudden…wham.
According to what he had deciphered on the walls, she had maybe accompanied Ra to one of his outposts. Of course, that was a very big maybe.
" To the suns eye we go, bound together – sky and air," he said softly, recalling a verse written on the wall above Wadjet’s sarcophagus.
He slowly became aware of three pairs of Tok’ra eyes staring at him, four if you included Tofu.
" What did you just say?" Selmac asked slowly.
" It was a verse I saw written on the wall," he said, aware that something of deep significance was happening. " It was one verse of many. The only reason why it caught my eye was that it seemed almost as if it was written in…italics." He shrugged. " Like the Gould language can ever be written in italics," he said self-depreciatingly.
" Not normally no," Ter’l said, looking spooked.
" However, there have been exceptions to that rule." He stared at Selmac, his eyes distant.
" Many years ago, way before my current host was born, when I was blended with, well, it doesn’t matter now, I saw writing similar to what Dr Jackson is describing."
Selmac was nodding as a plainly puzzled Freya and Tofu looked on.
" I remember now," Selmac said slowly. " It was the dark age, when the Tok’ra were still very vulnerable. Legend had it that a Gou’ald had arrived, one that could either make or break the entire Gou’ald race. Rumor had it that she was being kept against her will."
His eyes cleared as he faced the others. " I was very young back then, like Tor’fu is now, in a brash host. We believed that if she was being kept against her will, then she might be sympathetic to the Tok’ra cause. I recall I climbed up the outside of a tall tower of some sort, desperately clinging onto the rocks, knowing that one slip would mean both our deaths. Our intelligence had told us that she was being kept prisoner inside, and of course, I had to be the one to have a go at rescuing her, like the fairy tales of old," he continued, ignoring Freya and Teal’c’s puzzled looks.
" I only just made it. If it hadn’t been for a young Tok’ra guard the high council, or supreme command as they were called at the time, had managed to place inside grabbing my hand as I tried to force open the window, I would have been long dead."
" It was my pleasure Selmac," Ter’l said, clearing that little mystery up.
" It was to no avail," Selmac continued. " All my efforts, all our efforts had been to no avail. The nameless Gou’ald had been taken elsewhere, or so we thought at the time."
" It soon became apparent that she had in fact absconded," Ter’l said dryly, "when Ra suddenly decided to reorganize his house, big time. This began to really upset the slaves, of which Ra had in the thousands. Most of us, if you’ll excuse me, saw the writing on the wall and quietly left."
Freya had been getting impatient. " It’s a nice story friend Ter’l, but how do your adventures on a long ago planet help us now?"
Ter’l smiled, his eyes dancing as he caught Selmac’s eye.
" As I was saying, I had seen such unusual writing before. The Gou’ald had been a prolific writer, and in the absence of good writing material had used the walls themselves in order to jot down her thoughts. Most of the writing was plain Gou’ald, or hieroglyphics, but not all."
Ter’l sat up straight, a small smile on his face. " In some instances, when whomever she was wanted to emphasize something important, she wrote in italics."
" Oh God," Daniel choked, his lightening quick brain making the connection. " You mean, the…" he stumbled over his words in his haste to get them out in coherent order. " Ra took Wadjet somewhere else, somewhere where you almost made contact." Daniel’s brain finally started to work in synchronization with his mouth.
" Where did you see her? Well almost see her?"
" Here," Selmac said with a big grin. " Here on earth, at a place in Abyssinia called Nit."
" The Serpents of Light," Tor’fu breathed.
" Holy Hanna," Sam exclaimed. Her pet phrase, said in Gou’ald, sounded so weird that everyone smiled, dissipating the tension around the table.
" You see?" Jack exclaimed. " Momma O’Neill was right. Sit great minds round a meal table together and great things happen." He looked round at the white surface devoid of any food. " Of course, I’m sure she meant for us to eat something before all this eureka-ing, but I’m not too worried."
He rose to his feet with a theatrical groan as Daniel looked at him quizzically. " Eureka-ing?"
" Yeah, as in more than one eureka at the same time."
He ignored the familiar look Daniel got on his face when he was digesting another 'O’Neillism', and headed for the food. " I don’t know about you, but I smell something with egg in that’s gotta be full of cholesterol and therefore definitely worth eating."
He looked at the others over his shoulder, his eyes bright.
" Feel free to join me."
" So now what?" Daniel said ten minutes later, prodding at a large helping of spaghetti bolognaise on the table in front of him. " According to legend, the Serpents of Light died in a great cataclysm in about 200 BC. It was a huge disaster at the time as the temples the sect occupied had vast repositories of knowledge, similar in scope to the great library of Alexandria."
Ter’l nodded, staring at his own similarly laden plate dubiously. " Close friend Daniel." He laid his fork down with a disgusted air and faced the bright-eyed archaeologist. "Nit had no desire to be noticed, especially by Cleopatra, or any others in the blood line of Ptolemy. The golden days as we knew it were finished. It was just a matter of time before the slaves revolted. The Serpents of light, or the Tok’ra as they would one day be proudly called, knew that it was time to go, as did Ra."
"His name was no longer venerated, as it had been for so many centuries previous. To make matters worse, the Egypt that Ra knew was in ashes, its new rulers Greeks from the Ionian sea, people who cared not a whit for the so called gods of before."
"Ra, being the crafty leader he had been for centuries, decided head south and retreat through the stargate with his entourage, allow the dust to settle and return to claim what he thought was rightfully his at a later date. Of course, the minute he left, both Gou’ald and Tok’ra alike experienced mass panic. It didn’t take long for every person bearing a symbiont to leave through the gate, including all the Serpents of Light, or Nit."
" Everyone except for Seth and Hathor," O’Neill said dryly.
Selmac nodded in agreement. " To continue. The Serpents of Nit very quickly realized that in the ensuing panic, nobody had realized that they were in exclusive possession of the complete chronology of the Gou’ald, from day one. Being crafty Tok’ra, they settled down and waited the storm out. When it became apparent that the Tau’ri gate had been buried, they stole away to an undisclosed destination, taking whatever information they had with them. There they stayed, alone and isolated, until another Tok’ra, now long dead, called Te’farr, happened on them, a couple of centuries ago your time."
" Selmac," Sam Carter said. " To cut a long story short, do you think that Wadjet somehow escaped Ra’s clutches, and joined the Serpents of Light?"
They all held their breaths as Selmac faced Ter’l, his face grave. " I do," Selmac said slowly.
" As do I," said Ter’l, sounding eerily like Teal’c.
" Wonderful," Daniel breathed, his face shining. " Now all we have to do is get the co-ordinates of their planet and pay them a visit."
" Where upon exiting the stargate, you and Major Carter’s lives as you know them would be measured in minutes," Ter’l said placidly, sipping what had to be cold coffee with obvious pleasure.
" Oh and why is that?" Daniel asked warily.
" Tok’ra legend has it that the entire planet is swarming with symbionts whose only function in life is to protect the Nit." Ter’l shrugged.
" Having never been to where the Serpents of Light reside, I cannot say as to how true that information is, but if it is true, you would be blended within minutes, either to be sent out to protect the Nit, or killed."
" Oh damn," Daniel said, his eyes meeting Sam’s.
" If I may?" a gravelly voice asked.
Selmac nodded courteously to the Jaffa. " Of course."
" I see no reason why Sam Carter and Daniel Jackson cannot wait above the planet in a Tok’ra ship, as did I above the planet Netu."
He looked around the table. " We may find their presence…advantageous."
" Maybe…" Jack said slowly, rapidly filling Tofu in on Sokar and goons, " That’s actually a good idea, assuming that the Tok’ra have any ships in the general vicinity."
The Jaffa gazed at the three Tok’ra calmly. " I believe that they do."
Selmac nodded in agreement. " I believe they do," he echoed.
Things progressed very rapidly from that point.
When General Hammond notified the joint chiefs that the SGC may be in pursuit of someone that had intimate knowledge on how the ring technology worked, he was given a green light to assemble a team.
They were less then enthusiastic to learn that their target was hidden on a planet believed to be infested with Gou’ald symbionts.
Whether Gou’ald or Tok’ra, they didn’t want the security risk of anyone returning to earth who may have an uninvited passenger in their brain.
Things immediately turned for the better when it was pointed out to them that they had their own Tok’ra, completely loyal to earth, in the form of Colonel Jack O’Neill.
From then on it was one complete rush, culminating on the same combined team as went on the mission to the planet Lorru once more gathering at the foot if the ramp in front of the Stargate.
General Hammond couldn’t help but smile as he watched the new team, if you could call them that, assemble at the foot of the ramp.
O’Neill had gotten to calling them SG1-T, much to the disgust of Selmac and Freya. Ter’l didn’t seem to mind, but then this was all very new to the ancient intellectual.
General Hammond leaned against the briefing room glass, staring at the thin man deep in discussion with Daniel. He still found it hard to believe what he was seeing wasn’t a normal human who say hailed from Nebraska. He still found it incredibly strange that he was dealing with human beings that looked just like him who weren’t like him at all. Hell, when he had told the joint chiefs that the symbiont in Ter’l’s brain was around in Egyptian times, they almost didn’t believe him. He had a hell of a half-hour on the phone just trying to convince him that was indeed the case.
He nodded as a cocky Jack O’Neill sauntered into sight and gave him a sloppy salute, noticing how having a symbiont of his own in his head had changed O’Neill.
There were no obvious differences, but there were plenty of subtle ones. He no longer wore his almost trademark sunglasses around his neck, Tofu well able to adjust his eyes to suit the sunlight of whatever planet he was going to. Nor did he wear his flack-jacket, preferring a normal vest for the essential things that a SG team needed when offworld.
He was also dressed in a light brown desert uniform, his only concession to being a Tok’ra.
It had taken Selmac to pull him to one side and explain the symbolism of their uniforms. It seemed way back in the mists of time, when the first Gou’ald objected to the way his race were doing business, he voiced his objection by having his host wear plain earthen colors instead of the more elaborate colors the Gou’ald were wearing at the time.
At first the Gou’ald had found it amusing, until they felt the opposition to themselves growing stronger and had taken action, driving the Tok’ra underground.
The Tok’ra had worn drab uniforms ever since then, knowing that their humble attire set them apart from their more elaborate brothers. Of course, wearing a shapeless brown uniform for the rest of his life had not sat too well with Jack O’Neill. Hammond still clearly remembered his objections. In fact O’Neill’s objections had been so loud and vociferous he had a feeling that the whole base now knew how O’Neill felt about the color brown.
Luckily for everyone’s ears, Major Carter had come up with the simple suggestion of the SGC desert uniform, something all the Tok’ra had agreed on. In fact, the idea had been so good that the other Tok’ra had asked if they too could be dressed similarly, something Hammond had readily agreed to.
Now, looking down at the mixed team, three of them dressed in olive and black, and four dressed in khaki and brown, he made a note to send as many brown uniforms to the Tok’ra home world as they wanted.
Who knows what they could get in return?
He watched as O’Neill made a hurry-up motion to Davis in the control room beneath where he stood, noticing how calmly his premier team looked as they waited for the gate to open.
He had no illusions that sooner or later both Major Carter and Daniel Jackson would also ask permission for their own symbionts. The team of SG1 was too tightly knit for them to allow themselves to get old and die whilst O’Neill didn’t do anything of the kind. And when the time came, he would give them the permission they needed, assuming he was still able to.
He smiled watching as Carter laughed at something that Anise, or maybe Freya was telling her, and rested his head against the cool glass. It wouldn’t be long before SG1 became SGT, of that he was certain, but before that they had a mission to complete, to find Wadjet and the people of Nit.
He watched as the stargate opened with its usual spectacular whoosh and SG1-T stepped through, heading for the other side of the galaxy, and wished them God speed.
Not the end, just give me a while to think up what happens next….....
BetaTested by CiGiK
NOTE: THE SEQUEL TO THIS STORY :
'TOK'RA,TOK'RA AND MORE TOK'RA' - NOW AVAILABLE!!
I found your Jack the Tokra story and I LOVE Tofu. Jack could use a loyal
The Tokra aren't very diplomatic but they ought to get SOME credit for
trying to defend the host/slave races for millennia.
If they were just morally more superior to the goauld, they wouldn't need to
fight at all, they could just get a few dying volunteers and lay on the
I'm glad that 6th season is dealing with them a little more. Cure is the
saddest episode so far to me.
Thanks for writing for us.
CCase in SC
found your site – WOW! Thank you
for putting up your fiction in one place – I normally read you at WAM.
really liked Jack the Tok’ra – I can see Jack talking to Tofu like he did