The Tau'ri Enigma
I have spent several years with the Tau'ri now, and I fear that I understand them no more than I did in those few weeks after I left Apophis' service.
Our most recent experiences have done little more than to exacerbate that belief.
For the first time in a long time, I found myself on equal footing with my comrades for I possessed no more knowledge about the aliens that infiltrated the SGC than they did. The visually distasteful species with their holographic image projectors very nearly attained their goal to invade this planet.
They were only stopped by the tenacity and ingenuity of Major Carter and her puzzling alliance with Harry Maybourne. I fear that I am still lacking in knowledge of the details of her adventures, however I am sure that it is a lengthy tale indeed.
Just a few days ago, I found myself in a most unusual situation. In a way, I was grateful that Major Carter was unaffected by the sedative delivered to us by the alien impersonating Doctor Frasier. I fear that, had I been alone, I would have failed in summoning assistance. I am very aware that I lack the knowledge of Earth to successfully traverse its surface for any great distance and arrive at my destination in a timely manner.
In fact, I am not even sure what that destination would have been.
I also know that, while she found an ally in Harry Maybourne, I would not have been so fortunate. I sincerely doubt that anyone would have believed my tale had I told it. Presuming that I had not been shot on sight, I would most likely have been returned to the SGC and – ultimately – suffered the same fate that I did.
I do not regret assisting Major Carter in her escape, even as I cannot say that I would willingly repeat the experience. It was my duty to help her in attaining her goal.
I know that, as a warrior, I should treat Major Carter no differently than Daniel Jackson or O'Neill. She is just as capable as them, perhaps not in the same ways, but she is still a formidable warrior.
Yet, I could not deny a sense of protectiveness that surged through my veins when I realized that we would both not make our escape. Allowing her to leave was not only the tactically best decision, it was also the only one that I could perceive allowing.
While my knowledge of the outside world is limited, my knowledge of the SGC is not. And I hoped to use that knowledge to evade the invaders. Sadly, their skills outweighed my own, a fact that I find most disconcerting.
It is not just that they overpowered me, but that they successfully invaded the SGC with such ease. How are we to guard against an invader that we cannot distinguish from our own?
I am aware the Major Carter holds faith in her harmonic generator and perhaps I should as well, yet I wonder what could happen should we encounter these aliens again on another planet.
That troubling concern tempers my pleasure at safeguarding the SGC. Yet, my companions are not as troubled as I. They are, in fact, most overjoyed and happy to have succeeded.
Their joy is why we are here, gathered at Daniel Jackson's domicile to celebrate our success with the Tau'ri custom of baked bread topped with meat, vegetable sauce and cheese and the fermented beverage beer.
"Daniel, for crying out loud, just eat the damned pizza," O'Neill said loudly, shoving the cardboard box containing the last piece of pizza at the man.
"Jack, I've already eaten six. You want it gone so badly, you eat it." He shoved the box away, the congealed slice of bread sliding precariously across the grease stained cardboard. It nearly fell to the floor before O'Neill rescued it, shifting the angle of the box.
"So am I."
"There's always room for one more slice."
"Then you eat it," Daniel Jackson insisted.
"Oh for Pete's sake," Major Carter said. She leaned forward and grabbed the lasts piece of pizza out of the box, taking a bite before dropping it dramatically on her plate. "I hate it when my eyes are bigger than my stomach," she said as she chewed. She smiled at them, totally unapologetic for her actions.
"That was sneaky," Daniel Jackson complimented.
"That was a waste of a good piece of pizza," O'Neill complained.
"With all due respect, sir, if you wanted it that bad, you should have eaten it."
Daniel Jackson chuckled. "Logic, it gets you every time," he gloated, taking a deep draught of his beer.
"Says the man that gets drunk on one 3.2 beer from Safeway," O'Neill said, rolling his eyes. He pulled the bottle from Daniel Jackson's hand. "Come on, Mister Logic, help me clean this mess up." Major Carter moved to get to her feet. "Sit, Carter. Your party, Daniel's pad, we'll play Merry Maids."
Major Carter shrugged and sat back down on the sofa, taking a drink of her beer as she raised her legs and propped her feet on the coffee table, crossing them at the ankle. "I could get used to this," she said, finishing off the beer.
"Indeed," Teal'c agreed, glancing into the kitchen and catching sight of O'Neill and Daniel Jackson working to clear away the remnants of their impromptu celebration.
Major Carter frowned and looked over to him. "How is your arm?" she asked, referring to the minor injury he'd received during their failed escape attempt.
Teal'c shook his head. "It is a mere annoyance," he dismissed. "My symbiote will finish healing it shortly."
"That's good. I’m sorry it took so long to get back." She frowned slightly. "I remember the Colonel saying something about the alien Janet doing some experiments and stuff and…"
"I am sure that you returned as swiftly as was possible," he said. I am certain that she feels some guilt for my injuries and the hardships I endured during my captivity, yet she need not. She committed no acts upon me and I believe that she completed her task as expeditiously as possible.
"You still haven't told us what happened," Daniel Jackson said, returning from the kitchen. O'Neill followed him, his hand laden with bottles. He handed Teal'c another bottle of water and Major Carter a fresh beer.
"He's especially interested in the part where you shot me," O'Neill said, taking his seat in a soft stuffed chair.
"It'll all be in my report," Major Carter said, setting down her empty bottle and taking a drink from the cold one.
O'Neill shook his head. "There's not gonna be a report," he said.
"There's always reports," Daniel Jackson said.
"Not this time."
"General Hammond didn't say anything to me," Major Carter said.
"He will when you turn it in. We had a nice long discussion about it."
"This subterfuge is sanctioned by your leaders?" Teal'c asked, puzzled by the man's words. The Tau'ri are such a contradiction. They exhibit remarkable dedication in preserving a rendition of events as they happen, yet I also do not understand the need to preserve such needless detail.
"Yep," O'Neill confirmed, taking a drink of his own beer. "A near miss on an alien invasion would play right into Kinsey's hands, so as far as they're concerned, it never happened."
"What about SG-6?" Major Carter asked.
"They were killed when an artifact they brought back exploded in the gateroom," O'Neill said.
"Convenient," Daniel Jackson said disdainfully.
"What about the imagers?"
"They were packed in a transport container, so were undamaged by the blast." O'Neill shrugged. "Maybourne has promised that they'll be locked away and deemed a low priority. All the junk we bring back, no one will even remember that they're there."
"That means I'll never get reimbursed for my plane ticket," Major Carter said, frowning.
"Plane ticket?" Daniel Jackson asked.
Major Carter lowered her bottle and stared at him across the table. "I had to meet Maybourne in DC. So I flew there."
"I thought you Air Force types just grabbed a …a jump."
"It's a hop," O'Neill corrected.
"And I can't get one without the approval of my CO, who happened to be one of the people trying to kill me and Teal'c and turn us into lab rats," Major Carter said, smiling wryly. "So I flew civilian."
"We'll work something out," O'Neill promised. "Hammond will sign off on some extra overtime or some 'work at home' time," he promised, making quote marks with his fingers in the air.
"You don't suppose I could work in Hawaii?" she asked hopefully. "Or maybe Tahiti."
"Dunno," O'Neill said. "But Hammond does have connections with the CO at McMurdo," he teased, nonplused by the baleful glare shot his way
"So, why did you shoot Jack?" Daniel Jackson asked, leaning forward in his chair.
"What's this fascination with her shooting me?" O'Neill asked, quaffing a drink of his beer.
"You got shot too, Daniel," she said.
"I did?" She nodded. "When?"
"On the plane. Maybourne shot you."
"Maybourne shot me?"
"You were an alien."
"He's an alien," Daniel Jackson said, pointing at Teal'c.
"Yeah, but you were an ugly alien," she retorted, grinning. She looked over at Teal'c and winked. Daniel Jackson frowned. "I mean really ugly, and slimy too."
"He was slimy?" O'Neill asked.
"You were both pretty slimy. You had this snotty stuff in your skin. It was really gross." She wrinkled her nose in disgust and drank more of her beer.
"Did she just say that we were snotty?" O'Neill asked.
"I think she did," Daniel Jackson confirmed.
Major Carter merely glared at the pair of them, refusing to rise to the baiting. "We're getting dessert," she declared, levering herself up off the couch.
"We are?" Daniel Jackson asked.
"We are," she said, pulling him up from the couch. "You've got something desserty in your kitchen don't you?"
"I have no idea," Daniel Jackson said, allowing her to guide him to the kitchen.
"She's drunk," O'Neill said, leaning back in his chair.
"Indeed," Teal'c agreed. "And likely fatigued from her adventures. A state which only augments her inebriation."
"Remind me to palm her keys," he requested. He sighed loudly and massaged the back of his neck with his hand. "We almost lost it all today," he said softly. "Can you imagine what would have happened if Carter hadn't have gotten out?"
"I need not imagine," Teal'c said.
O'Neill grimaced. "Yeah, guess you don't." He took another drink of his beer. "Have you ever heard of aliens like we had today?" he asked.
Teal'c shook his head. "I have not."
"So we have no way of knowing if they're only on one planet or if we could run into them again?"
"We do not," Teal'c replied.
"Nothing like a little uncertainty to keep life interesting." O'Neill smiled with sarcastic fatality.
"Can you believe that he doesn't have any chocolate?" Major Carter said, rejoining them. "He doesn't have any cookie or twinkies. The man has NO junk food at all." She dropped dramatically down on the sofa.
"If you wanted to junk out, we should have gone to Jack's," Daniel Jackson said. He reclaimed his chair and glanced around unapologetically. "I don't think anyone over the age of ten can match his sweet tooth."
"I can't believe that you even have room for dessert," O'Neill said. "I think you ate as much pizza as Daniel."
"Yeah, but we got back from that planet. Janet's evil twin drugged us. Teal'c broke me out, I climbed twenty eight stories, drove to the air port, flew to DC to meet up with Maybourne." She ticked events off on her fingers as she talked. "You guys crashed the party, we flew back. I shot you. Maybourne shot Daniel. I snuck back into the SGC, found you guys, we cleared the base. The aliens blew up, we cleaned up the mess and then had that meeting." She leaned forward and picked up her discarded bottle. She took a drink. "All in all it's been a really long day and Maybourne is such a cheap skate he didn't even spring for peanuts."
O'Neill chuckled, seemingly amused by the woman's recitation. "Daniel, isn't there an ice cream place just a block away?"
Daniel Jackson stared at him for a second. "There's a frozen custard place on the corner."
"Custard?" O'Neill made a face.
"It tastes just like ice cream."
"But it's custard."
"Ooh, do they mix stuff in it?" Major Carter asked, ignoring O'Neill.
"Pretty much anything you can imagine," Daniel Jackson answered.
'They'd have to if they wanted to cover up the taste."
"Don't knock it until you've tried it," Daniel Jackson said. He got to his feet. "Jack and I are gonna go get some custard. Sam, Teal'c, what do you want?"
"Mocha almond fudge."
"Do they have mango?" Teal'c asked.
"Mango?" O'Neill raised his eyebrows.
"It is similar to a delicacy on Chulak," Teal'c answered.
"Yes, they have mango."
"Okay," Daniel Jackson said, getting to his feet. "Mocha almond fudge for Sam, Mango for Teal'c. Jack, you can decide what you want once we get there."
"I can't carry it all by myself and Teal'c looks silly with his hat."
"It's her party, remember," Daniel Jackson said meaningfully. I look at their faces and interpret his words to mean that they are sensitive to Major Carter's condition and wish to keep her safely within this domicile.
"Major Carter and I shall remain here while you retrieve us sweets," Teal'c declared.
O'Neill stared for a moment. "Fine, we'll retrieve sweets," he said, getting to his feet. The two men left quickly and Teal'c looked to Major Carter.
The woman was still seated on the sofa but it looked as if her euphoric mood was fading. "Are you well, Major Carter?"
She slowly turned her head to look up at him. "Yeah, just tired."
Teal'c nodded. "I wish to seek out some fresh air. Would you like to join me on Daniel Jackson's balcony?"
She shook her head. "I've had enough fresh air for a while." She leaned forward and picked up the remote control device to Daniel Jackson's television. "I’m gonna see what's on cable."
I nod and retreat onto the balcony. I lean against the railing and study the people below. A man runs down the street, the sweat staining his clothing testifying to the level of his exertion. A man and woman push a carriage containing an infant. Even from this distance I can see the familiarity and joy between them. It is a joy that is reflected in the faces of two children playing a game upon the stoop of the building across the street.
They are all blissfully unaware of how tenuous life is. None of them have any perception of how close this planet came to being invaded and potentially destroyed.
That is another difference between the Tau'ri and the people of Chulak. We do not hide the chappai from our people. It is as much a part of our lives as our weapons.
We also do not hide the existence of danger and threats. If Apophis has angered Cronos, our people need to know this so that they can adequately defend themselves.
I do wonder, however, how the people of the Tau'ri would respond if they were aware of the true state of their planet? O'Neill believes that disclosure would be chaotic and a mistake. And I cannot argue with his assessment. The simple fact that I must disguise myself on the few occasions that I am permitted to leave the SGC and that I am not allowed to leave unaccompanied speaks of their own fear of the reactions my presence would cause.
I understand their fear, even as I rail against it. I am the First Prime of Apophis. I have lead ships and platoons into battle. I have conquered planets and men would tremble at the mere mention of my name. I am the son of Ronon, the First Prime of Cronos and one of the few that Apophis would trust with the safety of his holdings.
I was honored and respected amongst my own. In gratitude for my successes, Apophis granted me the boon of a wife and a home.
And yet, here, I am not permitted to even walk upon the streets of this planet without a guardian. I am distrusted, disliked and even despised. The members of SG-1 are among the very few who treat me as an equal and who do not look upon me with uncertainty and fear.
My 'home' is now a small room buried under the ground and I must gain approval to purchase even the most basic grooming supplies.
And yet, I have something here that I never had with Apophis.
I have hope. Hope that I can work to expose the false gods. Hope that I can reveal to my fellow Jaffa that freedom IS within their grasp. That it is not impossible. That all they need to is to reach out and take it.
I have hope that my son may grow and marry and live, not as a slave but as a free Jaffa.
And that hope is worth any infringement upon what O'Neill terms as an ego.
I see O'Neill and Daniel Jackson return, their hands laden with the purchased sweets. They are unaware of my observances and I watch them. If I were to choose two men to be such close friends, I would have not chosen these two men. I would have believed that their attitudes and beliefs would never mesh into friendship.
But they are friends. And their clashes, instead of tearing them apart, seem to simply cement the relationship and make it stronger.
They share the same friendship with Major Carter. One that is acceptance without judgment, trust without question and faith without fear.
I walk back into the apartment as I hear the front door open. "Eat it before it finishes melting," O'Neill said loudly. Teal'c turned towards the sofa, expecting to see Major Carter retrieve her treat from O'Neill's hands. "Oh for cryin out loud," O'Neill complained softly.
Daniel Jackson chuckled, handing Teal'c his mango sundae before taking a large spoonful of his own. "When did she crash?"
Teal'c shook his head. "I am not aware," he said. "I am not surprised, however." He glanced over towards their friend. The woman was curled up on Daniel Jackson's sofa, comfortably asleep, his remote control device resting precariously in her slack fingers. "Saving the planet can be a most arduous task."
"That it can be," O'Neill said, sighing softly. He motioned towards the open balcony door. "Let's have a picnic, let her sleep."
I follow O'Neill and Daniel Jackson back onto the balcony, clutching my melting treat in my hands. The two men talk and I am content to listen as I consume the mango sundae.
No, I do not believe that I shall ever fully understand my friends or the Tau'ri and I know that I shall never understand their world.
Yet, I find that I do not care. I do not need to understand the Tau'ri to know that I made a wise decision three years ago. I am no longer First Prime. I no longer command troops and lead great armies. I no longer have the honor of my own home.
However, I have something now that I do not recall ever having in my life.
I have friends.