Colorado Springs, CO
November 24, 1997
Jack and his team were sitting in the briefing room, waiting for their meeting with Hammond. Now that the SGC was back in operation people were milling about, corridors were full with SFs again, the scientists were all playing in their labs and SG teams were prepping for new missions. It had been almost six weeks since SG-1 had saved Earth from a Goa'uld attack, narrowly escaping with their lives, but the go ahead for the Program had only come a week ago and everyone was still trying to get back into the swing of things.
General Hammond came up the stairs from the control room, an apologetic look on his face as he greeted them. "Good morning, SG-1. Sorry I'm late, I was just going over some new protocols for the iris with Doctor Langford."
"That's okay, Sir," Jack said, smirking, "the sooner Catherine is done, the sooner we can get back out there."
"Not quite, son." Hammond took his seat at the head of the table and opened the folder that he'd placed there earlier.
"But General, we have to get back out there," Daniel cried. "Sha're was nowhere to be found on that ship and could still be alive."
"I concur. With our defeat of Apophis and Klorel we must return to Chulak and other planets within Apophis' domain to build a rebellion among the Jaffa."
Jack grimaced at the mention of Klorel. He was still dealing with what had become of the Abydonian boy Skaara and the fact that he'd had to shoot him. Of course, the sarcophagus had brought Skaara back to life but the Goa'uld had taken over again. Last they'd seen of him, was when they'd locked him and Apophis on the bridge of Apophis' ship before they'd blown it up. The view of Earth from their death glider had almost been the last thing they'd seen, before the shuttle Endeavor intersected their orbit and took them aboard. "We don't know if Apophis and Klorel actually died in the explosion," he reminded everyone. "There's more than one way off that ship, as Daniel proved. It's possible they and the Goa'uld in Captain Carter got away in time."
"We're certain it was Captain Carter?"
"Moac confirmed Herit's host was a Tau'ri, Sir," Jack said. "And the things Teal'c overheard the Goa'uld say on the ship are things only someone from Earth can know."
"And he, um, also gave a description," Daniel said, flipping through his notebook. "Ah, yes, here it is: beautiful, tall, fair-skinned, golden hair, and khesbet eyes. Um, khesbet roughly translates to blue, or lapis lazuli."
"Or to shine like heaven," Teal'c added, with a nod to Daniel.
Kershaw cleared her throat and waited until all eyes were on her before speaking. "So, we know Skaara is host to Klorel, Captain Carter is host to Herit and Sha're is a host to some unknown Goa'uld. The first two possibly escaped the ship and it looked Sha're wasn't even present. Moac said she'd been with Apophis when they first split up in two ships and by the time they rendezvoused, she was gone. Apophis is either dead or escaped with Klorel and maybe Herit."
"And Master Bra'tac stayed on Klorel's ship to capture Herit," Hammond stated.
"We do not know if he succeeded."
Jack could tell Teal'c took it hard, not knowing the fate of his old mentor. And he felt for the guy, even for that old coot, but he was more worried about Sam. There hadn't been enough time to locate her and ensure Earth's safety, so he'd been forced to make a decision. As a fellow officer, she'd have known why he did what he did, but the thought of leaving her there, with that Goa'uld in her head…
"But he managed to disable the shields and steer Klorel's ship closer to the one belonging to Apophis," Kershaw reminded them. "We know that for a fact, or the two ships wouldn't have blown up together."
"If he did not survive, at least he died free," Teal'c said.
Hammond nodded, his gaze sympathetic. "Well, we gave Moac a GDO and SG-1's IDC, so if he learns anything about Master Bra'tac's fate or that of Captain Carter, Skaara or Sha're, he'll be able to contact us."
"And when Catherine is done with her upgrades, we can go back out there and look for them," Jack said.
"Exactly, we now have confirmation that Captain Carter is alive. That should count for something, right? I mean, before we just didn't know where she could possibly be and the higher ups assumed she was dead, but we know differently now."
"But we don't, Doctor Jackson," Hammond said. "She could have died in that explosion and, considering we have no idea how to successfully remove a Goa'uld, that might even be what she would have preferred."
Jack frowned although he knew his CO meant well. Skaara had sounded torn and horrified over the actions of his Goa'uld and Kendra from Cimmeria had been traumatized, so maybe death would be preferable. "Are you saying we're not allowed to search for her, General?"
General Hammond shook his head and took a few papers from the folder in front of him. "No, that's not what I'm saying, Colonel. We don't know where to start looking for Captain Carter if she survived, but we can gather intel off-world until we have some credible leads."
"So, what's the problem, Sir?"
"The problem, Lieutenant, is that SG-1 isn't cleared for gate travel yet." Hammond held up his hand to forestall their protests and sighed. "Doctor Jackson, you nearly died and if it hadn't been for the sarcophagus, you wouldn't be here today. It's SOP to undergo some mandatory sessions with Doctor MacKenzie until he clears you for gate travel. As of yet, he hasn't heard from you."
Jack shot his friend a reproving glare. He hated shrinks but Daniel was the kind of touchy-feely guy who'd actually benefit from seeing one, especially after everything that had happened – the nearly dying part and Sha're and Skaara. Not to mention that he'd told him this a couple of weeks ago and Daniel had promised to go see MacKenzie. "I'm sure we can clear that up right after this meeting, Sir."
"Not so fast, Jack," the General said. "As you know, the President and JCS have decided to add three new teams to the SGC now that Kinsey has reconsidered cutting our funding. We've talked about more thorough screening, so I want you to be in charge of the selection procedure."
He nodded in understanding and leaned back in his chair. "Will do, Sir."
"Good. Teal'c and Lieutenant Kershaw I want you two to train the other SG teams in new training scenarios, based on your experiences aboard Apophis and Klorel's ships. You can use Jaffa tactics to catch them off-guard, Teal'c. The Lieutenant can explain how SG-1, with the help of Master Bra'tac and Moac, managed to escape. With our attack on Apophis and Klorel we've made ourselves a bigger target for the other Goa'uld and I doubt this was the last time you all set foot aboard a mothership. Our other teams need you to prepare them."
"Very well, General Hammond," Teal'c said, inclining his head.
Kershaw was bobbing her head eagerly. "Yes, Sir. I call dibs on one of the zat guns we brought back!"
"Good. This will give you plenty of time to see Doctor MacKenzie," Hammond told Daniel. "Once you've all fulfilled your assignments, you can go back through the gate. Dismissed."
Milky Way Galaxy
Sam swallowed some water and placed her waterskin on the ground next to her. The cave was cold and she shivered, snuggling deeper in her cloak. Since escaping Klorel's ship, she and Bra'tac had been planet hopping. Mostly to uninhabited planets or at least ones where the immediate area surrounding the stargate was uninhabited. Their current planet didn't have a name as far as he was aware and he'd only identified it by its point of origin on the DHD. There were lots of trees and enough fruits and nuts for the two of them.
The weather sucked, though. It had started pouring and thundering about an hour after their arrival, according to her estimation. They'd been forced to abandon their foraging and found shelter in the cave. It was shallow and damp, though. That was two days ago and the thundering hadn't stopped until earlier over breakfast – some nuts and a strange-looking fruit. Bra'tac was confident the pouring rain would lessen within the day. Sam wasn't so sure, but in their brief time together she'd learned to keep things like that to herself. Bra'tac had pledged his loyalty to her and from what she could glean of what little he'd told her, he would lay down his life for her if it came to it. However, he was also the one she had to rely on for survival on all these alien worlds.
God, she couldn't wait for the rain to stop and to get out of there. The quick latrine trips were awful and left her cloak damp from the rain. And she really wanted to clean herself up properly. Most of their supplies were already gone but she still had some sodium bicarbonate – baking soda – she'd taken from Herit's stash. Sam had immediately recognized the stuff back on the ship. The slaves had used it to bathe her and the taste was quite distinctive. Years ago, during the Gulf, her bunkmate had introduced her to its versatility; she'd used it for her teeth, skin, hair, upset stomach and everything when there wasn't anything else available. But washing herself wasn't really an option in the shallow cave. Even if it was, she'd have been hesitant, because Bra'tac didn't know about her pregnancy yet and she'd really started to show about three planets ago. Not enough for it to be visible through her clothes, unless she pulled the fabric down, but there was definite swelling when naked.
"Is there any fruit left?"
"None," Bra'tac said, opening his eyes from where he was seated in lotus position. "We ate several hours ago and have not been active enough to require sustenance yet. Once the rain subsides, we will continue foraging and we can eat afterwards."
Sam gnawed her lip, unsure of how to respond. Perhaps they didn't need food, but her baby did. A handful of nuts and a piece of fruit couldn't be enough to sustain it for half a day. "If the rain lets up."
"What are you doing?"
He sighed and unfolded his legs, shifting on the floor to get comfortable. "I was in kelno'reem, a state of very deep meditation. It must be performed by a Jaffa each day. In this waking sleep, the subconscious mind of a Jaffa becomes one with the symbiote, allowing it to repair or heal an illness. Without kelno'reem on a regular basis, a Jaffa will die."
"Is that why you rarely sleep?"
She nodded in understanding, relieved to know that was the reason why he always seemed awake whenever she woke up in the middle of the night. Usually, she woke abruptly from a nightmare, for a moment thinking she was back on that ship with Klorel, but sometimes she just really needed to use the bathroom. Bra'tac was always awake during those moments and she'd felt bad for making him feel like he had to stand guard the whole time. "Oh."
"You do not do well with silences."
"Not when I'm stuck in a cave for days on end without anything to occupy myself with," she said truthfully.
Bra'tac seemed to process this, before he raised a brow. "Perhaps you can tell me then why you did not escape the ha'tak sooner, if you were in control of the parasite this whole time. You chose to stay and pretend to be a Goa'uld instead."
"Why didn't you leave the Goa'uld earlier if you don't believe them to be gods? Why wait over a hundred and thirty years before making a stand?" Sam asked, her tone a bit defensive. He'd made it sound like she preferred staying with Klorel. "And why did you choose to follow and join me?"
"It was time."
She frowned and waited for him to elaborate. When he didn't, she decided a different tactic. "If you tell me why, I'll tell you what you want to know."
Bra'tac narrowed his eyes, as if gauging her, "Hm, very well." He nodded to himself and took a sip of water, before opening up. "Nearly two years ago, I received my final prim'ta, even though I was no longer Apophis' First Prime. It was a reward for serving the gods faithfully. A prim'ta matures in seven to eight of your years and I will be deemed too old for another once this one is ready to take a host: it is how old warriors die.
"I long believed the Goa'uld to be false gods and I used my favored position within the court of Apophis to sow the seeds of rebellion. As mentor to many young Jaffa in bashaak training, I could easily detect spark of doubts in these chal'tii and teach them my beliefs of false gods. My successor, Teal'c of Chulak, defected to your kind, the Tau'ri, almost one year ago. Upon seeing him again aboard Klorel's ha'tak, I knew he chose well and that it was time I did what was right. I had observed you for long enough to know your true identity and from you, I learned to admire the Tau'ri spirit. That is how I knew my place would be at your side."
"You saw Teal'c on the ship? He was one of the prisoners?"
"Indeed. You know him, yes?"
Sam shook her head. "No, we've never met. But I know of him and his team. It was SG-1 in the cell?" The thought of them dying aboard that ship caused panic to well within her. Why hadn't she done more to help them? Sure, she'd slipped them enough information to let them know she was from Earth as well, but they might not have realized. Or perhaps they'd been unconscious. And she had just left them there, too concerned about her own welfare…
"Yes, but I set them free and helped them capture Korel. One of my apprentices, Moac, accompanied them to Apophis' ha'tak with Klorel as their hostage. They were determined to destroy the vessel and prevent the attack on the Tau'ri."
She regretted not speaking to them herself. But what would she have said? Could she have convinced them she wasn't Herit? Would Jack have remembered her? She knew her hair was longer from her time with the Goa'uld but other than that, she hadn't changed much. That wasn't a guarantee he'd recognize her, though. For all she knew, he'd already forgotten about that night in DC. Hell, she knew why she hadn't done all of that; it could have blown her cover and then she'd have joined them in their cell or worse, become Klorel's personal plaything or something. "I hope they made it out alive," she said instead.
"Moac is a reliable accomplice and O'Neill is an impressive leader for a human. I am certain he explored all options to abandon the ha'tak in order to keep his people safe."
Sam stared out at the pouring rain. "I don't doubt it, but that doesn't guarantee anything. I do, however, believe they succeeded in destroying Apophis' ship. Before leaving the ha'tak, I disabled the shields on Klorel's ship so it should have exploded alongside the other one."
"Then your planet is safe."
"For now. Like you said, there's more than one way off that ship; for all we know, Apophis and Klorel left as well."
He nodded and added some wood to their fire. "We will remain vigilant."
"Do you think they'd search for us?"
"Yes," he said, without thinking. "Teal'c betrayed them first and Apophis wants to kill him in the most painful way possible for revenge. I have no doubt Klorel feels similar about me and," he looked at her, sympathy in his gaze, "you are well aware of how cruel he can be, even to those he claims to love. He will not rest until he repays you for leaving, especially if you kill his mate in the process."
She let out a deep sigh and ran a hand through her greasy hair. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised."
"No," he simply said. "And now, Captain Samantha Carter of the United States Air Force, tell me why you chose to leave when you did. There were other opportunities for you, yet you stayed."
"By the time I was capable of leaving the ship was in hyperspace. Then I learned of their plans to attack Earth."
"You chose to stay to prevent them striking your home planet. Admirable," he stated, "but foolish."
"Why? Because I could have spared myself a day or two of being Klorel's mate by escaping earlier? I'd have to live with what I did to survive either way and such short respite didn't outweigh saving Earth."
"You were abandoned on the planet we first found you. By other Tau'ri."
Sam nodded an affirmative, the memory of Grieves turning on her still enough to make her blood run cold. His motives, other than stealing the advanced technology, were unclear to her and she had no idea what he'd told everyone back home about her. They probably thought she was a traitor, like he'd promised before he shot her. "Yeah, you were right that day," she said, licking her lips, "my team betrayed me and left me behind for dead."
"Yet you subjected yourself to Klorel for longer than necessary to save them."
"Of course," she said, "just because my CO betrayed me, doesn't mean I want everyone on Earth to die or suffer at the hands of the Goa'uld. I couldn't let Klorel go ahead with his plan just to get revenge on Grieves; there are close to six billion people living on Earth, all of whom have no idea about the stargate or the Goa'uld. Among them my brother and his family and our father."
Bra'tac seemed to process this, his gaze on the fire. When he looked up again there was a silent challenge in his eyes. "Yet you did not stay to ensure the destruction of Klorel and Apophis' ha'taks."
"I'd done my part by disabling the shields on Klorel's ship and I knew the imprisoned SG team would find a way out." She said with more confidence than she felt, before smiling at him, "I didn't expect it to be you, though. But I had to trust them to complete their mission."
"Why? You were telling the truth about the shield your people have in front of their chaapa'ai when Apophis interrogated you, were you not? Then you cannot go home. Yet you didn't stay but escaped to a planet you had no intention of staying at and without much of a plan for your survival. What is the secret that drove you to this, Captain Samantha Carter of the United States Air Force?"
Sam knew he was the closest thing to a friend she had right now and she had to believe she could trust him after everything he'd done for her since they escaped. Taking a deep breath, she got to her feet and undid her cloak. She could see the moment his confusion made way for surprise when she placed her hand on her swollen abdomen, showing him the evidence of her pregnancy.
"You are with child." His tone was mixture of awe and horror. "The Rite of Un ḥer ȧm setcherit… do the Tau'ri have a shorter gestation period than other humans?"
"No," she said, shaking her head as she fastened her cloak again.
"But you and Klorel-"
"It's not his."
For the first time since she'd met him, Bra'tac looked truly stunned. "You were in my custody the entire time between your capture and implantation," he said slowly. "You were with child already?"
She lowered herself back to the ground and shifted to get comfortable. "Yes, I had no idea until Herit told me."
"The Goa'uld knew? Is that how you were able to control her?"
"Yes. Herit told me my body could not host both but she had big plans for my baby, so she put herself to sleep to prevent a miscarriage. From what I understand, a Goa'uld takes nutrients and other things they need from the host to survive and remain in control. Doing so during a pregnancy would deprive the fetus - um, an unborn child - of essential nutrients and such they need to develop and thereby causing a spontaneous abortion. The deep sleep Herit entered is akin to the hibernation some cold weather animals undergo when food is scarce; they sleep for months while their bodies require little energy and nutrients, ensuring they survive the colder months too."
"She is still alive then, as I suspected," Bra'tac said, with narrowed eyes.
Sam nodded, fidgeting with her cloak. "She would only wake when I was in the sarcophagus. I don't know how long I can avoid her regaining control, which is why I want to get rid of her as soon as possible."
"That is easier said than done, Tau'ri. I have not heard of any human surviving an extraction and would not know where to begin looking for a way."
"I do," she said. "As soon as the weather clears up, we'll forage and then we travel to Cimmeria."