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Warriors of Great Skill and Cunning

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"You are slow. Clumsy," Master Bra'tac snaps. "Get up."

Sam rolls over onto her hands and knees and starts to get up. She can't really argue: she underestimated the inertia of the staff weapon and let it sling her right around when it didn't connect.

She gets to one knee, still with her back to the Jaffa master, and bends to pick up the staff weapon with her left hand. Then she glances under her elbow to double-check his position, then rams the staff weapon up and backwards at Bra'tac as hard as she can.

It doesn't connect, but this time she's ready. She straightens her arm, flinging the staff weapon's weighted back end into the air, then lets it fall forward across her back and shoulder so the weight falls to the floor and pulls it upright with a resounding klonk! She catches the staff in her right hand, levers herself upright and pivots so she's facing Master Bra'tac, and then with her left hand grabs the top of the staff weapon's haft, pulling it forward and down as she finishes turning. The entire maneuver takes less than two seconds and leaves her aiming the staff weapon at Bra'tac, ready to fire.

Master Bra'tac is still on his feet, so it's not an ideal outcome, but he's laughing in that silent, twinkly-eyed way he does when the Tau'ri have exceeded his low expectations. "Not bad!" he says gleefully. "The young cub can learn new tricks from the old shar'pan."

Then, of course, he drops to his knees, yanks the staff weapon out of her hands, and elbows her hard in the gut - but that's all in a day's work.

*******************************************

"Are you... knitting?" Sam asks. She finishes off her water and sets the glass down on the floor.

Master Bra'tac is sitting cross-legged in one corner of the tel'tak's exercise room, cape draped artistically around him. His thin fingers are flying at some sort of handicraft.

"Nit-ting," he says experimentally, tilting his head like a bird trying out the taste of a new sort of worm. "We call this craft nei'tan, yes. I am making a new haka." He tweaks at the cap sleeve of his flexible armor-liner, which Sam can now see is knitted as well. She'd assumed it was more like Earth chain-mail.

"Why do you need to make new armor, Master Bra'tac?" Sam asks, curious. She sits down next to him, knees bunched up to her chest and arms stretched out across them. "I thought that stuff was pretty durable."

"It is strong against staff weapon blasts and the bullets of the Tau'ri," Master Bra'tac replies, fastening off part of the knitting with a complicated twist of the heavy silver yarn. "It is not proof against the rubbing of an armor plate. I have mended my armor for this reason sixty-three times since I was a boy." Then he produces a small knife from somewhere - Sam can't quite see where - as if to cut the yarn.

Before she can move, he's on one knee beside her. He's holding her left arm twisted behind her back and the knife at her throat.

"Now," he says, amused. "Quickly - three other ways I could have killed you as you sat."

"Well, you could have stabbed me with the needles," Sam says. She's thinking about ways to take Master Bra'tac down. He's got all the leverage in this situation, or it seems like he does. Bringing her right hand up to grab his knife hand won't be fast enough.

Master Bra'tac rolls his eyes, or rather, twitches his eyebrows to give the impression of rolling his eyes without taking his gaze off Sam. He obviously doesn't think she's being very creative. "Two more!"

"You could have strangled me with the yarn, I guess," Sam says, wiggling her left arm a bit. Master Bra'tac is a harsher teacher than the ones who taught Sam hand-to-hand; he doesn't slack off his grip at all.

One more chance. Sam braces her heels against the floor and her shoulder blades against the wall, straightening her back a bit. "Or, um... you could have just broken my neck while I was distracted!"

On the word, she jerks her left arm upward against Master Bra'tac's hand, but doesn't actually try to stand up. For one single instant he's guarding against the movement she telegraphed, and she's able to grab his wrist and force it away before he can nick her throat with the knife blade for a "kill".

Master Bra'tac grins and flips the knife accurately with his fingers, sending it flying into the wall by her right ear. "A good effort," he says cheerfully.

********************************************

"Major Carter begins to learn," Bra'tac reports to Jack at dinnertime, over the interesting meal of MRE innards and Jaffa field rations the guys have cooked up. "She has died only five times this day."

Jack does a double-take, caught off guard by the Jaffa master's video-game attitude toward combat training, then grins. "Good work, Carter. I guess."

"And I almost 'killed' Master Bra'tac once, too," Sam adds, helping herself to some instant mashed potatoes.

Teal'c raises an eyebrow. "On your second day of training? That is indeed impressive."

"Thanks, Teal'c," Sam nods, then remembers something. "Oh, by the way, Daniel - did you know the Jaffa word for knitting is almost the same as ours? It's nei'tan."

Daniel has his mouth full of food, but he manages to express interest with his hyperactive eyebrows anyway. “Really?” he says after a second. "I mean, it's completely coincidental - the two words have totally different root etymologies - but that's very interesting. How did the subject come up?"

"I was mending my armor," Master Bra'tac replies. "Major Carter remarked that the skill is also known among the Tau'ri."

"Yeah," Jack says, "but with us it's considered women's work. Men don't knit."

Master Bra'tac considers that for a moment, then nods. "The women of Earth are warriors," he says, as if that explains it. "On Chulak, it is the men who make armor. Every young boy must learn the craft before he enters the service of the Goa'uld. I myself have taught many."

"Yeah, well, I meant... Uh, never mind," Jack says at last, because he's getting nowhere in this conversation. "Have some more, um, stuff that looks like baked beans?"

***************************************************

After the debriefing at the mission's end, Sam stays behind to talk to General Hammond. "Sir," she says directly, "every time we've had occasion to work with Master Bra'tac, he's saved our bacon. Including on this last mission. I think we should find a way to show him our thanks."

"I agree, Major," Hammond says. He tilts his head, pursing his lips in that thoughtful way that means he's probably already two steps ahead of you, and raises his eyebrows. "I take it you have a suggestion?"

"Yes, sir," Sam says. She explains her idea.

Hammond smiles. "Well, I don't see any reason to refuse, if Master Bra'tac wants to take you up on it," he says. "Godspeed, Major... and don't kill anybody."

******************************************

"All right," Sam says, "once I get the motor running, you just sit on this seat, put your feet on these pegs here, and hang onto my waist. I'll tell you when, okay?"

"Oh Kay," says Master Bra'tac. His voice is solemn, but his dark eyes are laughing under the visor of his borrowed helmet. He probably doesn't think this little Tau'ri machine will be much of a ride compared to a Death Glider.

"Better hang on tight," Jack advises cheerfully. "When Carter gets going, the speed limit screams for mercy." He slides a drugstore box-camera out of his pocket.

"All right, hop on," Sam says. "Ready to go, Master Bra'tac?"

Bra'tac clambers onto the back of the motorcycle and slides his arms around Sam's waist. "Ready."

Jack brandishes the box camera. "Smile!" Sam smiles over her shoulder, Master Bra’tac waves one hand - keeping a firm hold on Sam's waist with his other arm - and Jack clicks the shutter.

“Cheese!” Jack says, because neither of his subjects did.

“See ya!” Sam calls, and kicks the bike into gear. They’re off.