"Well, this doesn't suck," Jack announced, as the wormhole blooped into non-existence behind him. He fished his sunglasses out and settled them on his nose.
Carter, already fiddling with her instruments, flashed him a distracted smile, but Daniel nodded in agreement, turning slowly around to look at the countryside around them.
It really wasn't that unusual a place: the stargate was located on a rise in the center of a valley, the land on three sides rising to a snow-capped mountain behind them. On the fourth side, Jack could see forests and fields dropping away into the haze, and in the distance a smudge that might be a city, or maybe a car-parts store.
The sky was clear of both clouds and death-gliders, he had his entire team with him, and they had a new planet to explore. Plus, nobody had shot at them yet, and it was already after lunch. It was a good day.
"T? Whattaya think?"
Teal'c surveyed the landscape with his usual impenetrable calm. "I do not recognize this place," he said at last, but his lips were turned down, as if he had expected to.
Jack cast him a sharp glance, then shrugged. "All right, campers," he said, shrugging his shoulders under his pack straps and settling his hands on his P-90. "Let's get this show on the road."
"Coming, sir," said Carter, as the team fell into step behind him.
Another new planet to explore, under a sun seven thousand light-years from home: just another day on the job.
The Records of the Divine Actions of the Glorious Apophis
In the 754th rotation of the 57th glorious tabernacle of the Divine and Glorious Apophis, System Lord and Emperor of the Taysun Quadrant, the Reaches of Perrilak, and the Black Star Nebula, happened the following, to the Glory of the God Apophis, Immortal and Unending:
Amaterasu the Betrayer, the Bitch of Mandal and former Consort of Jain, was possessed of the temerity to attack the Divine One's loyal planet of Merana. The Divine One's armies, under the leadership of Bra'tac of Chulak [later declared shol'va], were at that time far away, and the people of Merana suffered greatly under the depradations of Amaterasu and her Jaffa until the Divine and Glorious Apophis arrived to free them.
Two ha'taks were dispatched to free the people of Merana, and Jaffa engaged the enemy on the surface. Battalion Ama, led by Ren'tal of Persis, attacked the Betrayer's Jaffa defending the chaapa'ai, while Battalion Sera, led by Teal'c of Chulak [later declared shol'va], took the capital city of Meranis. The battle was fiercely contested, but the people of Merana rose up in support of Apophis the Divine and Glorious, and victory was ensured.
The pitiful survivors of the Betrayer's Jaffa were offered the God's mercy.
They were about two klicks from the city when Teal'c, who was on point, stopped. Daniel, who'd been arguing with Carter and not watching where he was going, walked right into Teal'c. "Ow!"
Teal'c was studying the countryside before them, the tattoo on his forehead pulled downward by something more momentous than gravity.
Jack came up beside Teal'c and shifted so he could cover their six. There was nothing obviously wrong; they'd passed a few human farmers and a family towing a goat. Nobody had given SG-1 more than a casual glance, which meant that gate travelers weren't unusual here. "What is it?"
"I have been here before," said Teal'c, and started walking again, carrying his staff weapon as if the fields about them were full of enemy Jaffa, and not small brown-and-red splotched cattle, bells ringing in the warm afternoon air.
"And?" asked Jack as he followed, nodding to Carter to take their six.
Teal'c didn't answer, but his frown deepened. The butt of his weapon thumped hollowly on the packed earth of the trail as he walked.
"What do you know about this place, Teal'c?" asked Daniel after an awkward silence. "How long ago were you here?"
"Teal'c," warned Jack, when it seemed like no answer was forthcoming. The longer this went on, the more it worried him; anything that had Teal'c, the Master of Cool, unsettled was bound to be bad for SG-1. Hunches had saved their lives too many times for Jack to ignore this one, even unspoken.
They were on a low rise when Teal'c slowed to a halt, overlooking the stone walls of the town, golden in the sun. "I was here approximately thirty years ago. At that time, Amaterasu held the planet; it has rich naquadah mines. Apophis took it from her in a surprise attack." Three sentences, and then he clammed up again.
Jack sighed. Naquadah was good--he didn't need to see Carter's face to know she had brightened at the revelation--but when Teal'c got this terse about a strategic situation, Jack's spidey-sense went off. "Anything else?"
"Apophis left a garrison here at the end of the war, to safeguard the mines, but I have not been here since that time. I do not know who may be in power now."
"Jack, it's possible that nobody's in charge now, after Apophis' death." Daniel looked cheered at the possibility, but Carter bit her lip.
"Or some other System Lord just moved in and took over."
Not like that hadn't happened before, after all. Jack stared at Teal'c, willing him to open up; instead he got nothing but a flat stare. Not placid, no: and nobody could out-stubborn Teal'c. There was something here that Teal'c wasn't saying. On the other hand, it didn't feel like a Jaffa revenge thing, and that was the only time when Teal'c would put the lives of his team at risk.
"Okay," Jack finally said. "We'll go on in, but if you see anything funky, I want to know right away." He nodded to Teal'c to continue on, but not before giving him a sharp look. Teal'c merely nodded in return, and struck out down the road, Daniel and Carter following along like ducks on a string.
So much history Teal'c had behind him. Thirty years ago, Jack was just starting his career, while Teal'c was already a veteran of a hundred campaigns. He'd outlived most humans long before Jack ever went through the stargate to Abydos. Sometimes it was hard to remember that; it was easy to believe that SG-1 was all there was, that their lives were nothing more than wormholes and weapons, staff-blasts and hair's-breadth escapes, MREs and arguments about who had to sleep with Daniel this time.
But Jack's past was always there, in his bones and his blood; and how much more did Teal'c have to carry that way?
Jack shrugged, checked the road behind them, and followed his team towards the green flags on the city walls.
Dakara Memorial archives; The History of the Free Jaffa Nation, by S'tal of Dakara, Chief Archivist
... while B'tek of Coronel holds that the seeds of the Jaffa Rebellion were sown on Merana, during Apophis' assault in which he took control of the naquadah mines Amaterasu had been developing secretly. B'tek interviewed some of the few survivors of the massacre at Meranis, where even women and children took up arms against Apophis' Jaffa.
The report of the survivors was that Battalion Sera, led by Teal'c of Chulak, by some now called Teal'c of the Tau'ri (although this writer prefers to refrain from commentary on Council politics), was particularly effective in its subjugation of the Merana populace. The battalion was divided into three unequal teams, the two smaller of which assaulted the city gates after the initial strafing runs weakened the city's defenses. After most of Amaterasu's forces were drawn to the gates, a strike team ringed into the temple complex and set off a large explosion, destroying the garrison's armory and 20 percent of the city walls. This enabled the final third of Battalion Sera to sweep through the city, street by street, destroying the resistance. The city fell within hours, and the dead were uncounted. Apophis claimed Merana as a great victory, and while Amaterasu filed a formal complaint with the Council of System Lords about the unprovoked attack, she never regained possession of the planet.
Despite the presence of Bra'tac and Teal'c, now honored across the galaxy for their leadership, it is unclear to this writer how such a fierce and deadly battle, and one so clearly successful, could have had aught to do with the great Jaffa Rebellion more than thirty years later. Ja'nor of Brinsain is preparing a history of Bra'tac's tenure as First Prime of Apophis; this research may cast some light on this important period in our history.
"Ah, Jack," said Daniel softly, as they passed a booth where a toothless brown-skinned woman was selling some kind of green-and-purple melon, "shouldn't we be going that way, instead?"
"Which way?" Jack smiled at the toothless woman, only glancing briefly at Daniel and Carter before he went back to scanning the crowd. It was late in the day and the market was emptying out. The gate-guards on the city walls had let them enter after a cursory discussion with Teal'c, and hadn't even taken their weapons. People recognized Teal'c as Jaffa, but nobody had given them any trouble. Other than "registering" with the city authorities, there were no restrictions placed on their movement--or so it appeared. Jack wasn't sold on appearances, though: SG-1 had been betrayed by them in the past. And likely would be again.
Up ahead, Teal'c turned a corner and disappeared into an alleyway. "Shit," muttered Jack, shouldering past a kid with a load of sheepskins on her back. "C'mon!"
The alley was, for once, not dark and stinking; it led uphill between rows of stone houses with brightly-painted doors. Teal'c was about fifty yards ahead of them, walking calmly and quickly across the worn cobbles as if he knew exactly where he was going.
"The way to the city offices..." panted Daniel as he caught up to Jack.
Carter swung along behind him, her loose gait unhindered by the ten klicks they'd hiked that afternoon or the weight of the equipment in her pack. She shook her head at Jack; no one was following them--then her eyes sharpened as she glanced after Teal'c. "Sir..."
Jack turned. Ahead, the alleyway opened into a tiny plaza, surrounded by a dozen narrow stone houses, all with ornate symbols on the arches above their doors. A fountain in the center of the plaza tinkled as water poured into a small pool, where a young woman, her hair modestly covered with a blue cloth, was filling a pot. Teal'c spoke to her briefly; she turned away, but not before pointing at one of the doors.
Teal'c bowed to her, then walked across the plaza to the indicated door. This one was yellow, with a red glyph above it, and Jack got a sour taste in his mouth as Teal'c knocked. This was going nowhere good. "Daniel," Jack snapped, as they came out into the plaza. "Stay here and keep watch. Carter, I want you across the courtyard, at 2 o'clock. I'll keep an eye on Teal'c."
Jack ignored Daniel as he jogged across the plaza after Teal'c, one hand on his weapon. The late afternoon sun was still bright, reflecting off the glossy paint of the doors and throwing sharp shadows in the chips and irregularities in the stone walls. There had been a firefight here once, long since cleaned up.
The yellow door was opening as Jack came up beside Teal'c, who ignored him completely. A middle-aged woman stood there: like most of the other residents of town, she had a dark complexion and light eyes. The deep blue cloth wrapped around her head had slipped back to reveal greying brown hair. She looked at Jack first, her eyes widening in confusion, then at Teal'c--and her eyes narrowed.
Bing, thought Jack.
"Who are you?" she asked, ignoring Jack. "You are Jaffa, but not--" She frowned, pointing with her chin to the west, into the sun. "Not one of the temple Jaffa." So there were Jaffa here, after all.
His face mask-like, Teal'c bowed formally. "My name is Teal'c of Chulak," he rumbled. Then stopped, hesitant in a way Jack had never seen before. "Many years ago, there was a battle here," he said finally. "Do you remember it?"
"Yes," she said. Then she frowned, her lips thinning. "But we don't call it a battle. We call it the Massacre of Bek-ra-tel."
"Indeed." Teal'c swallowed; Jack stared. With an effort Jack could nearly taste, Teal'c met the woman's eyes. "Was... there was a woman here, in this house. She had a blue robe, the same color as your hair-cloth. Did she--"
"Yes," said the woman, flatly. "She died where you are standing. Apophis did not accept the city's surrender. They killed everyone they found, in the streets and the houses--old, young, man, woman, child. Everyone."
Teal'c made a noise in his throat; the woman--daughter, Jack guessed--stepped back and began to swing the door closed. Jack jammed his boot against it, holding it open. "Hey," he said, after glancing briefly at Teal'c. "I'm--we're sorry," he said. "We'll be going." When he pulled his foot away, the slam of the door echoed around the quiet courtyard.
Records of the Great Temple at Chulak
Year 1734 of the Temple Records, Ra'nak of the Third Hand, Scribe. To be recorded: By command of the Lord Sither, Under-Chancellor to the Household Master of the Great God Apophis, the house located seven kilmets outside the city gates on the road to Chaknor is hereby transferred. The name Brin'tal to be struck from the deed, and from the rolls of the Temple. His children to be outcast; his wives to be stripped in the square and shamed before the people. None shall succor them and Brin'tal and his family and his wives shall be granted until sunrise to depart the dominion of the Great God Apophis, or suffer perpetual damnation.
The name Teal'c to be entered as owner of the house, in recognition of his worthy service to the Great God Apophis.
Year 1734 of the Temple Records, Bey'tal of Second Hand, Scribe. To be recorded: Teal'c, Third-Captain of Apophis, has taken under his cloak Drey'auc of the Cord'ai Plains, who brings as dowry four hands of cattle, seven copper pots, and a standing loom of the Kentali Lineage.
Year 1754 of the Temple Records, Ra'nak of the Second Hand, Scribe. To be recorded: A son born to Teal'c, First Prime of Apophis. Rya'c is his name, to the glory of the God.
Year 1766 of the Temple Records, Ra'nak, Chief Scribe. To be recorded: Teal'c of Chulak, former First Prime of Apophis is declared shol'va. His children to be outcast; his wife to be stripped in the square and shamed before the people. None shall succor them. The house located seven kilmets outside the city gates on the road to Chaknor to be burned and its grounds salted. So shall be made known the displeasure of the Great God Apophis.
"So," said Jack, as they followed Carter up the steep hill. The temple was on the other side of this rise, and it was time for a little quiet investigation, to discover whose Jaffa were running things around here now. "You wanna talk about it?"
If Teal'c had been upset or disturbed, there was no evidence of it on his face now. "No," he said.
One hundred yards further on, Teal'c said, "When I returned to Chulak after the campaign on Merana, I wed Drey'auc, and was rewarded with a house for my excellent service." There was no emotion in his voice: neither pleasure nor self-disgust.
Jack nodded. Thirty years really wasn't very long, after all.