Chapter Thirty-nine Summary: Jack is in charge of the SGC while General Hammond is in Washington at a meeting. Things are not going well and he is about at the end of his rope. The only bright spot in his world is that Daniel, Sam, and group are due back anytime. A couple of weeks later, SG-10 comes back to the SGC under fire and two of their members have been captured. There are not enough SGC teams available to mount a rescue and it is decided to take the Special Forces teams through to the planet. It should be good practice.
"Italics" - Symbiote/Host or Telepathic communications Sevesh – A Rite of Release of a Rite, Ritual, Binding, or Bonding
Jack O’Neill sat at his desk and rubbed his face with his hands. God, he was so tired. In the three weeks since Lantash and Kataya had gone through the Sevesh, it seemed as if his life had jumped a ride on a roller coaster; one that never even slowed down, let alone stopped for him to get off.
Carter, Martouf, Kataya, Daniel, and Merdwin returned briefly for the marriage ceremony that joined Martouf, Lantash, and Carter as husbands and wife. Two husbands in one body. Jack shook his head as he thought about it. He shuddered and refused to let his mind go any farther down that road.
Carter had been a beautiful bride, though, and so happy it had shone from her like a beacon, especially when she was near Martouf and Lantash. Besides that, Jack had to admit that it was obvious to everyone that the two of them loved her more than anything, or anyone, in the universe. They would do everything they could to make her happy, of that fact, there was not the slightest doubt, and the feeling went both ways. Jack really thought that Carter would go through the fires of hell for those two. Literally.
Jack sighed, again, and rubbed his eyes. General Hammond was in D.C. for a private meeting with the President. It was the third time in the last three weeks that the general had been gone for at least two or more days, and Jack had to take command. He had been gone for several days this time, and during those few days, things became even worse than they had been. Thank whatever powers that be, the General was due back any time. Jack could not wait to hand the reins of control back to him. Over and above that, never again, would he do anything to cause the man trouble. Well, he would try not to do anything that would cause him trouble.
He missed Carter and Daniel. He missed Kataya and Merdwin. Hell, he even missed Martouf/Lantash. All five of them were on Avilion seeing to Carter’s training. They were due back today, as well. Carter could take back the oversight of the marines. Daniel could play ambassador, intermediary, and general nursemaid to the Tok’Ra and the Katteri. Kataya and Merdwin could try to restrain and contain the Katteri Warriors, and he could get a full night of sleep. Finally.
No more calls at three a.m. complaining that the Katteri could not sleep, so they had taken over the commissary. No more calls, saying that they were walking the halls and glowing, or that they were practicing manifesting and having contests to see who could change the fastest or growl the longest, at three in the morning. Did they ever sleep? He was sure he remembered both Kataya and Merdwin sleeping. Daniel insisted that they slept. So what was up with these Katteri? Why in the hell were they not sleeping? Why? Just someone please explain this to him. He suspected that the return of Kataya and Merdwin would turn all of them into eight hour a night sleepers. At least, that was what he was pinning his hopes on at the moment.
His mind wandered onto another of the recent problems that he expected Daniel and company’s return to curtail drastically. Then there would be no more two a.m. calls because the marines thought the Tok’Ra and the Katteri were moving in on the females on the base and started a fight, after spending the evening watching the female soldiers sitting and talking for hours to the Tok’Ra and the Katteri. No more four a.m. calls saying that the Tok’Ra were taking hour-long showers and using all the hot water, so the teams returning covered in sand, dirt, mud, and/or blood, had no, that was absolutely no, hot water to shower in. How did the Tok’Ra stay in the water that long without turning into prunes? The symbiotes might be aquatic outside the host, but the host’s bodies were not built to be in hot water that damn long. There weren’t even that many Tok’Ra here, so how did they do it? Every team in the SGC could shower at once and never run the water heaters out of hot water.
He laid his head on his desk. Please, please, please, no more calls at two a.m. from the Tok’Ra because the marines locked the locker room doors in the middle of the night, and they could not take their showers. No more one a.m. calls complaining that the marines locked the restrooms, and the Tok’Ra and the Katteri could not use the facilities. It was like riding herd on a group of first graders…no, kindergarteners. Comparing them to first graders was insulting the first graders. His groups rarely acted as well as seven year olds.
God, please, no more Tok’Ra waiting at his door at 07:00, to tell him that they would not tolerate the marines on the night shift disassembling all the training weapons the Tok’Ra were using and hiding the ammunition. Nor did they appreciate finding the linen cabinet empty, when they went to obtain clean linens for their beds, after they stripped them and disposed of the unclean linens. If the Tau’ri expected them to conform to their system of doing things, then they must have that which they needed to do so. They also would appreciate it, if their uniforms returned from the laundry on time for them to have clean ones. Surely, their laundry facilities were not that poorly run?
Hell, no, they did not run the laundry poorly, but the laundry personnel had no control over what happened to it after they turned the uniforms over to the delivery personnel. They were the ones that the Marines were intimidating and forcing into giving up the Tok'Ra’s laundry. And just as soon as he caught the ones doing it, they were joining the other half of the personnel that was already in cells. Jeeze, the problems would stop soon because all of the SGC personnel would be in the brig. Well, all of the male SGC personnel would be in the brig. The female personnel appeared to be getting along with the others quite well. Too damn well, and that was half of that problem, but he could hardly order them to be rude to the Tok’Ra and the Furling. That would really put the cat amongst the pigeons. The male part of the SGC personnel were just going to have to get used to it. He didn't even know why they were being this way because the Furling women, as well as some of the Tok’Ra women, were more than pleased to spend time with some of them. Evidentially, they never learned how to share when they were kids...oh, that's right, they still were kids...at least judging by their behavior.
He sat back in his chair and scrubbed his face with his hands again, as his mind continued to run through the disruptions that had taken place over the last three weeks, usually on his watch. Please, please, let there be no more marines waiting at 07:00, to tell him that they would not put up with the Tok’Ra calling them primitive, children, or inferior. Nor would they tolerate the Tok’Ra treating them as if they just crawled out from under a rock, or were too stupid to understand a simple request. And if one more Tok’Ra looked down their supercilious nose and smirked at them, when one of the Tau’ri women chose to sit with them during a movie in the recreation room, or at a meal, they would not be responsible for what they did.
Thankfully, the Katteri and Tok’Ra males were not as possessive about their female counterparts and considering the graceful, sensuous walk and the come-hither eyes, all Katteri women seemed to have been born with, it was a damn good thing. At least they were being fairly discreet about their intermingling with the Tau’ri males, and so far, the Tok’Ra females had been as well, at least, they were when they were not giving out black eyes and busted lips.
He sighed deeply. He just was not sure what to try next, and he was desperately hoping that Daniel would be able to figure out what was up with the SGC personnel. Because nine times out of ten, the Marines started it. If they kept this up, there would not be enough soldiers to fill out the teams. They already had more airmen and marines in the brig, than they had total in the last five years, and poor Lieutenant Simmons spent most of his time chasing down lost uniforms, missing sheets, ammunition, and extra keys to the facilities.
When the Lieutenant was not doing that, he was explaining to airmen and marines, with injuries like blacked eyes and busted lips, that female Tok’Ra had the added strength of the symbiote, just like their male counterparts did. Then he had to suggest that the next time they decided to try to kiss one, they should either be very sure the woman in question wanted to be kissed, or be ready to duck and run. And, as for the injuries pertaining to the Katteri women and the Tau’ri men, he refused to discuss, or even think, about that, and refused to give any advice at all.
Then there was the hot tub incident. Jack shuddered, remembering the look on the Lieutenant’s face, as he stoically stared at the wall, as he explained to Jack that the Tok'Ra were used to using things like that without wearing clothing. He had not known this fact, so he joined them, and was actually in the tub, before he realized that the women on either side of him were, well, naked. Completely. He respectfully requested that the Colonel allow him to requisition bathing suits and deliver them. Jack expected him to resign his commission at any time and avoided him whenever possible.
What time was it anyway? Why weren’t they here yet? He was anxious to see Carter, to see how it had gone. Daniel and Lantash had been back and forth several times, but neither had been more forthcoming than to say that Artereos considered that Carter was doing well, a phrase that Merdwin had indicated, on his visits, was very high praise. Unfortunately, Merdwin felt that Sam needed his help more than Jack did, so he had spent little more time on earth than Daniel and Lantash.
He heard the klaxons come to life and sprinted for the control room. Please, pretty please, let it be his team. They only had five weeks left to pull their Special Assignment Teams into some semblance of cohesive units, and all Jack could remember, was Kataya saying that the teams would have to work perfectly together if they planned to succeed. Their maneuvers, moves, thinking, doing, all needed to be in perfect harmony, as if they were one unit, not eight separate individuals.
Well, as far as he could tell, the only thing they were perfectly in tune about, was keeping him up all night. There were no cohesive units among them at all. Moreover, all the yelling he had done had worked wonders for one or two days at a time. Then it would all fall apart again.
He admitted to frustration. He could not figure out what was wrong. The individuals in the groups were not having personality clashes; they made sure of that. So all that left was that they were uncoordinated nincompoops. How soldiers who were experts at what they do, suddenly became brain dead the minute you put them in the same group with a Katteri and a Tok’Ra was beyond him. Of course, he could not understand how a perfectly likeable Tok’Ra (and he admitted, but only to himself, that there were a few of those), one on one, suddenly became a jackass when he was put into the same group. Then there were the Katteri; they just stood back and watched, as if it was a sideshow at a circus, and then went off and did their "energy-gathering thing".
He was losing it, and he was not sure how to get it back. He was really hoping that having Daniel back would help matters along. Daniel was good at reading people and situations. He just hoped it was them, rather than some new problem that he would have to try to solve. He just was not ready to deal with a new problem.
“Who do we have, Sergeant?” He asked, as he entered the control room at a lope. “It is SG-1’s signal, sir.”
He wanted to fall to his knees, chanting, “Thank the Gods”, but he didn’t feel that would inspire confidence in his leadership, so he restrained himself and kept to the usual comments. “Open the iris,” he called, although Sergeant Davis had already done so. With no one there to make the decision, he made it, as he often had before, and since they were expecting them, it was not a hard call to make. O’Neill was already at the foot of the ramp, waiting impatiently.
He was unprepared for what he saw when the group came through. Carter and Kataya in full formal Katteri dress uniforms were certainly something to see. Carter received her rank in the Furling military this morning, before they came through and there was no doubt that the Katteri uniform looked, well, impressive. He wondered if they did the carving thing on her, but he would have to wait to ask her until later.
Merdwin, Martouf, and Daniel exited the event horizon after them, Merdwin also impressive as hell in his dress uniform. It was great to see all of them. He thought that maybe he could even kiss Lantash, well, at least Martouf. Looking back at Carter, he realized she didn’t look like Carter anymore. Until she approached him.
Eyes glowing as she walked briskly down the ramp, she came up to him and said, “Major Samantha Carter reporting for duty, sir.”
“Well, it is about time, Carter. We have been expecting you all morning,” Jack said, as he grinned at everyone there. “Daniel, it is so good to have you back,” he said, as he threw his arm around his friend’s shoulders and squeezed him slightly.
“What is wrong, Jack?” Daniel asked, at once. There was no doubt in his mind or his tone of voice that there was some problem that Jack needed help with, and the sooner the better.
“What makes you think anything is wrong?” Jack questioned innocently.
“Where is Teal’c? Where is Jacob? Where is Lieutenant Simmons? Now, like I said, what is wrong, Jack?” Daniel pointed out the obvious fact that, normally at least one of the men would have been there, and Lieutenant Simmons would have been in the control room. He also looked pointedly at the arm still firmly wrapped around his shoulders.
“Can’t I just be glad to have you home?” Jack asked, as he removed his arm and proceeded to rub his hands together.
“No,” Daniel answered, bluntly.
Sam grinned at him, “Come on, sir, what is going on?”
“Nothing really, I have just been bored while you were all away. No one to go talk to, no one to annoy and disrupt, no one to tell jokes to, no one to watch hockey with,” Jack rambled on while everyone looked at him, waiting for him to wind down and tell the truth.
Finally breaking under their combined stares, he blurted bluntly, “I have more marines and airmen in the brig than we have had over the last five years.”
“Problems with integration, Jack?” Daniel asked, sardonically.
“Yeah, I guess you could say that,” Jack answered. “I have tried everything I know. Teal’c has tried; Jacob has tried. Something isn't right. The teams work okay part of the time, but they aren't smooth. We've moved people whose personality’s clash, so we aren't really having those types of conflicts. I was hoping you could run a little interference, Daniel. Find out what the real problem is. You are good at the diplomacy stuff.”
“At least let us get settled in, Jack.”
“Hey, sure, great. See you in, oh, thirty minutes in the training area?” Jack sent Daniel a small disarming smile.
“Okay, Jack. We will meet you there.” Daniel crumbled in the face of his friend’s obvious need.
“Are the Katteri there, Colonel?” Kataya asked, quietly.
“Yeah, they should be. Everyone on a team is required to be there at this time of day,” Jack answered.
“Okay, I guess we go there first,” Daniel said, with a sigh, already knowing what was coming.
Nodding, Kataya said, “Then I shall go there first. Samantha, are you going to change first?”
“No, I think I will come with you. I want to see you in action other than with the swords,” Sam said cheekily.
“What makes you think I am “going into action”, as you call it?” Kataya looked over at her, as they both strode down the hall.
“Tone of voice. Right now, I am glad I am not a Katteri under your command,” Sam said, too softly for the others to hear.
“You should be,” was the succinct answer.
Stopping abruptly, she asked, “Colonel, is there an observation area?”
“Yeah, there is. It is this way. The area we are using is very large. It needed to be, for this many people. I think they used it for heavy equipment or something. Whatever they used to store there, it must have been huge anyway.”
They had entered an elevator and upon stopping at what should have been the deepest part of the SGC, Jack turned to lead them down a flight of stairs and into a small viewing room. The area they were observing was indeed large.
There were at least sixty people in it, and they had plenty of room for maneuvering. The room had both open areas and areas that had been set up to resemble both the outdoors and the inside of a compound, such as they were expecting to find Bastet in. Since they could not take a chance on someone getting a glimpse of or noticing the aliens, they had no choice but to build this inside.
From the observation area, they could both see and be seen, so Kataya allowed Jack and Daniel to step forward, but no one had noticed their presence. She watched closely and noted where each of her people were and what they were doing. She watched, as time and again, either Tok’Ra or Tau’ri made the wrong move, as her people watched. At last, she turned to Merdwin and held a very fast clipped conversation in their language.
“Colonel, they are using the intars?” Kataya asked Jack.
“Yeah, why?” He asked.
“Are there more here, so that you and the others could arm yourselves with them also?” She questioned.
“Yeah, sure. They are in a little storage room, up the stairs and on your right. It is on the way into the training area,” Jack replied.
“Give one to Jacob, Teal’c, Martouf, and Daniel and set them near maximum. Keep one yourself, also,” Kataya said quietly, thinking rapidly about what she wanted to do.
“Why?” Jack asked.
“Because we are about to become the Jaffa. They have five weeks, Colonel, and they are not doing well, as you pointed out. Moreover, they are not doing well, because some of the Katteri are not doing their jobs, or some of your people, or the Tok’Ra, are resisting the link. We are about to show them that they are, as the Tau’ri would say, canon fodder.”
“What about you, Merdwin, and Sam?” Jack said.
“We will use our swords, on a light energy setting. We won’t hurt anyone,” she assured him.
“Okay, what is your plan?” Jack asked, and Kataya told him her idea. Jack, Martouf, and Daniel were to go into the room, and just wander around for a few minutes, as if watching. They would alert both Teal’c and Jacob to the plan, and be sure they were armed. Once they had all found a strategically sound and defensible position, they would open fire on the unsuspecting soldiers. Take out as many Katteri as possible before they realized what was going on and raised shields. Any Katteri that did raise shields, the three of them would take out. It would be the same as if a patrol of Jaffa suddenly came upon them when they were not expecting them.
Sam would handle the link, thus allowing them to converse with one another, so that they were working as a unit, another way to show the soldiers inside how it should work.
Shortly, they were ready. “Okay, let’s do it,” Jack said. Soon Jack, Teal’c, Jacob, Daniel, and Martouf were walking around, talking to the soldiers, none of which paid attention to the fact that their superior officers were carrying weapons, even though this was highly unusual.
Nor did anyone comment on the fact that Daniel and Martouf were back. The three waiting outside were grim.
It was going to be a slaughter. Glancing at Kataya’s set face, Sam knew that when the dust settled she, the Colonel, and her dad were going to be furious. As the last of the men inside found their places and stood negligently relaxed, Kataya watched as Jack suddenly armed his weapon, turned to the nearest Katteri and soldiers and said, “Hey, guess what? Surprise!” Then blew them away before rolling behind a barricade.
The amount of people they caught off guard was amazing. As soon as the five inside had made cover for themselves behind the makeshift barriers they were using in the training, Samantha gave the signal to go in and which direction each was to take. With their swords using energy bolts, the confusion in the training area became complete.
When the dust settled, there were six Katteri left standing. Three pairs and all of them were fighting a battle for survival. Kataya had taken on her son, Lanwin. Gwennetha was locked in battle with her father, and Samantha was in combat with a young Katteri named Colwyn. When it was completely over, Merdwin, Kataya, and Samantha were standing. Jack and Teal’c were unscathed, also. Jacob, Daniel, and Martouf had come out with minor hits. Everyone else was down.
Kataya walked to the center of the room and stepped up onto an overturned box. Once the intars wore off, Kataya gave her comments and opinion; everyone knew what she said and exactly how things stood. There would not be one more training session, where the Tau’ri and the Tok’Ra in their groups did not know exactly what each of them was planning to do, or where they allowed any of their team members to wander too far from the shield without warning them that they were about to pass beyond its boundaries. This was their responsibility, and they would attend to it. If their team members were refusing to use the link or if they continued to shut it down, they were to take it to the team leader. This would stop at once.
At the end of two weeks, each and every team would be working in perfect harmony. Any team that was not, if it proved to be the fault of the Katteri, then they could expect and plan to lose their rank. They would be busted all the way to the bottom. If they were already on the bottom, they were back to being squires. They had volunteered for this assignment. It was perhaps the most important mission they ever had, or ever would be on, and they absolutely would not fail. A great deal depended on them, and she would not take into battle, a group she could not depend on in every way. They were Katteri-enti Warriors, and they had better start acting like it. End of discussion. From that day forward, there were no more late night eating sessions, hall wanderings, or midnight games.
Jack had his say next, and he was just as scathing. Every soldier learned exactly how things were going to be. It was not too late for them to find replacements, and if they did not replace them, and their performance did not get better, it would not matter, because they would be dead. He had never seen such poor maneuvering and tactics. Their performance stunk, and they were a disgrace to their uniform.
Each and every one of them was aware of who their team members were, there was no excuse for not listening to the link and staying within the shield as much as possible. This was not a game they were playing. They were going to battle a formidable enemy, against which they would need every advantage they could find. If they were fighting the link, ignoring the shield parameters, or in any way fighting their fellow team members they damned well better stop and start working as a cohesive group. It was a long speech for Jack. There were no more locked toilets, missing sheets, disassembled firearms, lost uniforms, or fights over women.
Jacob took his turn and even if he had not used English, they would have gotten the meaning, just by the tone and gestures. What in the hell was the matter with them? It was obvious they had been completely incognizant to what was going on around them. Since when had they become so negligent, careless, and oblivious to the world around them that they did not even notice when someone that normally did not carry a firearm was suddenly armed? How could eight people surprise them so completely that every one of them, had this been for real, were now “dead or dying”? This mission could mean the difference between the Tok’Ra surviving, or being wiped out. They damned well better start thinking about that, instead of whatever else was on their minds.
The best chance they had was in co-operating and learning to function as if the group was a single entity. That meant listening to the link and doing what the leaders of their groups told them. They needed to pull their heads outta their butts and pay attention. Furthermore, each and every one of them was going to wipe the words primitive, children, and inferior from their vocabulary. “If I hear one more Tok’Ra call one more Tau’ri any one of those three words, I will personally see to it that you are hit with zat blasts every time the word comes out of your mouths.” He made his threat in English, so they were all aware of it. In turn, the Tok’Ra, too, became more considerate of the others and soon were part of cohesive fighting units.
Merdwin, Daniel, Sam, Martouf, and Teal’c stood back, watched, and listened. It was a lesson the units did not forget. Eight people had taken out over sixty armed soldiers and warriors. It was humbling. Of course, the attackers had their intars near max while the defenders were on a lighter level, but for practice, it had shown exactly where the problems were. Moreover, they addressed those problems and found out where their teams were stumbling. The same answer turned up in every team. They did not trust that the link did not give everyone else a line directly into their mind and therefore, their thoughts. A few forced entries by the Katteri holding the links open and they no longer fought the very simple, obviously non-invasive, link.
It took about a week before the groups were working in harmony. Soon, they came to enjoy the sight of Kataya and Samantha walking around, giving pointers, working with them to make each group more cohesive and in tune. At the end of the two weeks, the two women were favorites, and there were many memories of laughter and fun, as well as hard work, sweat, and even tears.
Now, it was just practice until the day of the planned attack. Never again did anyone succeed in taking them by surprise. Mock battles were long and hard fought and many times neither side could seem to win. Often, Sam or Kataya would intervene to tip the balance to one side or the other.
The klaxons blared, and the signal came through. It was SG-10, and they were under heavy fire. Only two came through, yelling for them to close the iris. Staff blasts followed them, and an airman was injured. The iris closed, and they could hear the Jaffa, or their weapons fire hitting it.
Jack O’Neill and General Hammond listened to the tale of a surprise arrival of Jaffa and a minor System Lord. They had thought the planet in question free from Goa’uld influence.
“Sir, there had been no instance of a System Lord being there for centuries. Evidently, this one is trying to make a name for himself; he is amassing long abandoned planets to build his power base without interference. When his army has grown large enough, no doubt he will confront the System Lord he has sworn allegiance to, whoever that might be. That is what we overheard when we were scouting to see if there was any way to rescue Martin and Stevenson, the team members that have been captured,” Major Johnson reported.
“Do you know if they are dead or alive, Major?” General Hammond asked.
“They were not dead, sir, they were very much alive, but they were being tortured. Ellen Stevenson was hurt pretty bad, and it looked like they were um, maybe going to, um,” the Major’s voice dwindled and he swallowed convulsively. “We really tried, sir, but there just wasn’t any way to rescue them without reinforcements.”
“I take it the four of you had split up?” Jack asked.
“Yes, sir, we separated into two teams. Martin and Stevenson were talking to the villagers, finding out about the history, where the ruins were, and what was in them. They had no warning that Jaffa were anywhere near, and they had no chance to escape or defend themselves. It all happened too quickly. We, that is, Lieutenant Harris and I, were doing some mineral surveys. Normally, Stevenson would have done that, but it had sounded like there was some stuff she should see. We happened to almost run into a small Jaffa patrol, and that’s how we found out that the other two had been captured in the village.”
“Request permission to mount a rescue mission, sir,” Major Johnson asked.
“How many Jaffa are you talking about? Did they come by gate or ship, and is the System Lord there?” Jack fired his questions at the obviously tense and upset Major.
“I don’t know for sure, sir, but probably not more than sixty or so. The System Lord was with them, and as far as we know they came by gate.”
General Hammond nodded, and said, “All right, Major, dismissed. We may need to talk to you later, so stay on base after you are checked out.”
“Sir, we can’t just leave them there.” The two remaining members of the team looked appalled. “Surely there is something we can do?”
“We will, Major Johnson, but we are not just going to go running through the gate without a plan,” the general assured him. “Now, go get checked out, and get some rest.”
“Request permission to join any rescue mission, sir,” The younger man said.
“Yes, sir, I would like to be part of that mission, too,” Lieutenant Harris spoke up.
“We will see what we are going to do first, and someone will let you know. For now, though, you need to do as the general said. It was an order, not a request,” Jack said.
After the two men had reluctantly left for the infirmary to undergo their post mission medical exam, the General said, “Jack, I have SG’s 3 and 6 here. Everyone else is either on downtime or off world. I cannot send two teams into sixty plus Jaffa, who will no doubt be guarding the gate, waiting on us to come for our people. It is going to take time to organize enough teams to try to extract them,” the general said quietly.
“Well, sir, we do have a team here, and I think they are ready for action. In fact, I think it would be some of the best practice they could possibly get on the use of Tau’ri weapons and working together. Kind of a practice session that is a little more real than we have had before.”
“You want to take the Special Assignment Teams we have set up for the attack on Bastet? What if some of them are killed, Jack? How do we explain that to Artereos, or Garshaw?"” General Hammond pointed out the downside.
“Merdwin is here, and he can okay it for the Katteri-enti, and Selmak and Jacob can okay it for the Tok’Ra. I say we at least ask them. If they say no, then we just have to do it ourselves,” Jack replied.
“Okay, I will call a briefing,” General Hammond agreed, “but if they say no, we drop it. Agreed?”
“Sure, but I don’t think they will,” Jack agreed.
“You sure you want to do this, Mer? I mean, when I suggested this, I wasn’t expecting you to go. Are you sure this won’t give your presence here on earth away?” Jack asked, for what seemed to Merdwin to be the tenth time.
“I am sure, Jack. Please stop worrying. From what your people were able to tell us, it is definitely not Bastet or any of her underlings. I am going in dressed as a Tau’ri, using Tau'ri weapons, and speaking the Tau’ri tongue, as are the rest of our people. We have agreed that the Katteri will throw a shield up. Our people know how far or close they must be to stay within the shield. It is a good plan and it will work. It is an excellent idea to use the teams we have put together. This will be a good practice session. Stop worrying.”
“All right, if you’re sure,” he finally agreed. Looking at Kataya, he turned to Merdwin to ask, “What is Kataya saying to Lanwin and Taesha? She’s been talking to them for the last few minutes, and they don’t look happy,” Jack said.
Looking over at them, and then seeing the mutinous look on Lanwin’s face, he straightened and headed over to them, without answering Jack. He was not fast enough though; Lantash beat him to it. As he approached the small group standing to one side and talking quietly, he heard him say, “Lanwin, you will listen to your mother. If she says you are not to manifest, then you will not do so. She is your superior officer, and you will follow her orders.”
“I just want to know why we cannot if we need to. Surely, it would not matter in this instance. It is Bastet we do not want to alert to us, not this minor player.”
“And what do you think the surviving Jaffa are going to tell their brethren across the galaxy? I will tell you. If you manifest, or one of us uses a ribbon device, it will be in Bastet’s ears before the day dawn’s tomorrow, that the Tau’ri have allied themselves closely to not only the Tok’Ra, but to the Furling. And if you believe she will not figure out why, then you are not very bright, and I know that is not so,” Lantash spoke firmly to his son. “She is not telling you or Taesha not to manifest; it will be a standard order before we ever enter the gate, just as our people will be reminded to use only Tau’ri weapons. We cannot allow ourselves to give our plans away now.”
Lanwin nodded as he looked from his mother to his father, “You are correct, of course, and I apologize. I will do as you say.”
Taking a breath, Kataya said the words she really did not want to have to say, “Lanwin, I am going to overlook you questioning me this time. Do not ever do it again, for I will both revoke your rank and place you under house arrest. Do I make myself clear?” Her voice was stern and determined.
Looking at her, Lanwin knew that by rights, she should have already done those things. He had challenged a direct order. Flushing, but knowing he was getting off lightly, he said, “I understand completely, Commander Kataya. It will not happen again. Thank you.”
Nodding, she said only, “Find your position, we are almost ready to deploy.”
Bowing once more, he left to assume his position with his group.
Merdwin changed course and headed to the ramp. Climbing it, he addressed the Katteri gathered in the group, “We will go in using our armbands to draw energy and set up individual protective shields. We will use no weapons except the Tau’ri’s firearms. If any of you have your ribbon or even your dagger, leave them behind. Hand any things you have over to Lieutenant Simmons, and he will keep them until we return. We cannot and will not tip off Bastet at this time and believe me, if anyone is discovered to be Katteri, she will know before first light on her planet.”
“We will go through first and throw a shield in front of the gate for those emerging and then you will use individuals as they make their way to their group’s locations. You will throw illusionary shields that will mask the presence of the symbiote in the Tok’Ra, for it is just as important that it is not discovered that they are amongst us. Those Katteri that are not in the advance guard, but are going in with your group; you will throw and maintain the shields for your group before you enter the Chaappa’ai, and you will maintain it.”
“The High Priestesses among us will be helping with the shields, so they will be somewhat stronger than they will be on our next mission. You all need to be making mental notes of what works and what does not, so keep in mind that the shields will be somewhat weaker in the next mission, and take that into consideration when assessing how things are working. We will have a group wide meeting after this exercise to discuss this type of thing.”
“Stay in formation as much as possible, but you must act as if you are Tau’ri, which means that you must look for something to shelter behind if possible. Standing and letting their weapons fire hit your shield is not something that would pass unnoticed. That goes for all of you, Tok’Ra, Katteri, and Tau’ri. You must not act as if you are behind a shield, for we do not want them to realize that. We will hope that we are able to take out the guards at the gate before the rest of you come through, however, I am fairly sure that there will be more Jaffa there than we are expecting. You all have extra ordinance. Be prepared to use it.”
“Once everyone is through the Chaappa’ai, those of you that are in the advance guard will rejoin your team and continue to keep the shield intact. Seconds are, as they know, responsible for the link. Do not drop it, no matter what. Are you all ready?” At their nods of agreement, he ordered, “Katteri, attack position three and five. Center post - take position. Left post - take position. Right post - take position. Form left flank . Form right flank.” Walking back to Kataya, he and she stood in the very center of the group he had formed into a semicircle with his few terse commands.
Turning to O’Neill, Kataya said, “Katteri contingent is in position and ready to deploy, Colonel. We will advance on your order.” She turned and faced the circle of the Stargate. Once the wormhole was established, they would be the first ones through.
Jacob faced the people that had suddenly seemed to remember who was in their team and moved into position within their own group. He smiled grimly. They realized this was something of a practice run for them, and their performance today would tell what they needed to work on, and what they were doing well. “Okay, listen up. No ribbons, if you have them with you, give them to Lieutenant Simmons, and pick them up when we get back. Use your zats and your Tau’ri weapons.”
“Listen to the link, and follow all orders given by your group leader and the Colonel. You heard the previous instructions. We do not want them to know we are shielded. And for heaven’s sake, if you are going in with the host in control, do not look up if or when you change over.”
“Remember that there will be a meeting afterwards to go over the mission. Make mental notes on what worked right and what went wrong. You know who your team members are and how you are supposed to function together. I expect to see you all doing it and doing it right. All right, let’s get it done.”
Jack stepped up onto the ramp to add his take on the mission and to give any last minute instructions he might have. After looking over the groups assembled before him, he said, “Okay, people, you heard what has been said. There is gonna be a shield around you. It is not foolproof, and we do not want it to be obvious. Do not depend on it entirely; you are all well trained soldiers, so use your skills to avoid being hit. Once we clear the gate, we will head for the house in which we know they were holding our people. Special Assignment Teams one, two, and four will work to get our people out. Teams three, five, and seven will secure and hold the gate unless needed elsewhere. Team six will use the launchers to pin down what they can to keep them away from the gate and us.”
Turning to the two officers who were new to these groups, but still wanted to help rescue their teammates, he said, “Johnson, you and Harris stay with team three. Kataya set your link, do not let it worry you, and whatever you do, do not fight it. Remember what she explained; no one is entering your mind, but any thoughts you have that you send out, especially if you attach emotion to it, can be heard. All you have to do is let the information come to you, and if you need to say something send it outward, and someone in your team will hear you. Is that understood?”
“Yes, sir, Colonel,” they responded, in unison.
Moving his attention back to the rest of the groups, he asked, “Did everyone get their orders and understand them? Good. Let’s do it people.” Jack nodded to the control room, the Sergeant input the symbols, and the gate sprang to life. They watched as Merdwin gave the order to ready their weapons. At his nod, they entered the event horizon. When the others came through behind them, they were surprised to see the Katteri, while having taken what cover they could, were still in a semi-formation and Jaffa were falling as if they were targets on a practice range.
As the groups began to help, it soon became obvious that Merdwin had been correct in his suspicion and there were now more than sixty or so Jaffa. Evidently, there had been reinforcements during the time it had taken them to organize, just as he had expected. The Katteri had stood their ground, and soon the teams set to get the captives out were advancing, while the others remained behind to hold the gate, and it was obvious the links were functioning extremely well. So far, there had been no mistakes.
It did not take Jack and the others long to realize that the Katteri had set up and were maintaining shields around each individual person at this point,as per their instructions. Staff weapons fire, rather than appearing to be stopped by something simply appeared to be missing its targets. Jack almost laughed aloud at the expressions on some of the Jaffa’ s faces, but he sobered quickly.
This was their first real battle situation, and he was almost overwhelmed with the information that was being channeled constantly. Seeing his problem, he heard Kataya tell them to stop the chatter and send only pertinent information. Then he watched as she and Sam worked together. It was almost as if they were one entity, knowing exactly what the other was about to do.
He sent the information of where he wanted his group to be both by link and hand signal. Jaffa littered the ground and so far, they had one member of the SGC and one Tok’Ra with injuries. One of the Tok’Ra was giving them first aid.
Once the groups started to move away from the gate, the Katteri had thrown up group shields, which were not so hard to maintain as the individual ones. It did not take them long to reach the village. Jack’s team made its way into the house, as the other two teams secured the perimeter and assured no Jaffa would re-enter the house to surprise the team that had gone in after their people. Once inside, they found only a handful of Jaffa guarding it.
The noise of the battle had pulled all available Jaffa to it, except for these few. Jack wondered where the system lord was. They had taken out the guards with almost no trouble, and Sam was with Ellen Stevenson. She looked to be unconscious, but alive, as was her teammate. Jack watched as Merdwin knelt down beside each of them and laid his hand on them for a few seconds.
Turning to Jack, he said, “They are both unconscious, and as severe as their injuries are, I do not advise bringing them around. Let us get them back to the gate. I hope that moving them will not aggravate their injuries. I do not believe it will, but I can guarantee that they would both be in agony, if they were brought to consciousness.” Teal’c picked up the limp form of Ellen Stephenson, while Merdwin picked up Sergeant Martin.
Suddenly, Jack stopped, “Where is Kataya?”
“She will be finding and disposing of the System Lord,” Merdwin said, calmly. “I will find her and tell her to hurry.”
"Kataya, where are you?”
“Up the stairs and first room on the left.” Suddenly, they heard the sound of a body hitting a wall and sliding down it, followed by three zat blasts, and then Kataya was coming down the stairs.
Jack looked into Merdwin’s eyes, and then turned to Kataya as she indicated Ellen Stevenson’s partially naked body, and said, “Here wrap her in this, and then let us go. We should head back to the gate with the injured, and we cannot leave all of these bodies for these poor villagers to deal with either.”
“What do you suggest?” Jack asked tersely.
Lifting her zat, she disposed of the guard’s bodies. Shrugging, she looked into O’Neill’s eyes, and said, “I suggest we clean up after ourselves. It is either that, or send a team through to clean up and help the villagers.”
“We will send a team through,” Jack said, after giving it some thought. He supposed she was right, and the villagers were probably in shock and needed some help. They headed back toward the gate where they could still hear sporadic weapons fire. It appeared to be a few stray Jaffa. Nothing the teams could not handle.
“Dial us up, Daniel. Let’s get these people home,” Jack said, as they reached the gate. The teams had performed in an almost perfect harmony, and the captured team members were alive and on their way home. All of the teams were present and accounted for with a few injuries, none of them truly serious. One more System Lord had bitten the dust. It had been a good day.
He would think later about the killers he had seen in Kataya and Merdwin’s eyes. Jack O'Neill shivered and realized that he had seen the true Katteri-enti today, even without the manifestation, but not only that, he had seen himself reflected there.
It brought the first conversation he and Kataya ever had back to him. “We, too, are elite killers,” she had said. “Do not be so hard on yourself. Without us, the universe would be unbalanced. No matter how much we abhor what we have had to do, what we have witnessed, and what we will do in the future, we both know that we are the best defense our worlds have. Knowing this, we will continue to kill. Any way we have to.”
She and Merdwin had taken one look at Ellen Stevenson and what had been done to her and Sergeant Martin, and she had quietly left and hunted down the System Lord responsible. And that System Lord was now dead; as dead as Bastet would be.