"Buffy, school starts next week, right?" her mom asked just as Buffy got up from her latest series of push-ups. She had adopted a regular exercise schedule ever since her excess energy had started making it nearly impossible to sleep more than a few hours every day. All summer, since a week after Daniel's death, she ran a 5-mile circuit every morning and evening, on top of generally practicing her gymnastics, martial arts, or just doing basic aerobics for a few hours. Her mom hadn't commented on it – at first because she had been kept busy at work, and later because she had probably noticed that it let Buffy sleep a full night, if she was exhausted.
"Yes," Buffy replied, while wandering into the kitchen. She went into the fridge to grab a bottle of milk, as she was currently required by her diet to increase her intake of calories. Her mom was packing a couple of bags, using the fresh laundry.
"Are you going back down to Nevada?" she asked. Her mom was involved in some project down there that took a load of her time and had her travelling down there regularly. With Daniel gone and every replacement failing within one mission, SG-1 wasn't doing much. Jack had visited last week and commented about the general lack of quality in the candidates, while insisting on teaching her baseball, claiming it was an important thing for a kid to know. She privately thought he just wanted to see them, with her mom gone so much and them not gating off to some mission every few days.
"No, actually I thought you might like a little adventure, while I take a short trip to Nevada," her mom suggested.
"Huh, are you sending me off to some camp or something?" she asked.
"No. Well, not really. Teal'c has asked me not once, but at least five times now, to let him take you to visit his family. He wants you to meet his son, his wife and his teacher. It's a cultural thing... or at least so he says. I didn't want you to go at first -- gate travel and especially things dealing with the Jaffa can become dangerous fast -- but he swears he won't let you get in any danger," her mom explained.
She grabbed her mom's hands while jumping up and down, almost performing a happy dance. "I am going through the gate again. I am going through the gate again," she gloated, then stopped. "Mom, are you sure, you want me to go?" she asked.
"Yeah, it'll be fine. Jack, Jonas, and I will head down to Nevada and see my other baby in the meantime. Teal'c has promised he'll get you back to me before school starts and you'll get a nice experience... I want to warn you, though. The Jaffa live rough lives. There won't be any luxuries or parties. And they're more likely to let you watch some fight or teach you to be a good girl and stay at home with the cooking pots than show you a good time, but it's important to Teal'c, so I hope you're still going," her mom warned her.
"Ah, well, I'll just remember to bring my shampoo, brush, toothbrush and toothpaste, then... Oh, oh, and my perfume," she said as she thought the details through.
"Don't get over-excited on me; you might start foaming at the mouth. I could start thinking you don't like staying with me," her mom said with a wry smile.
"Hey," she protested, "I wasn't saying that. I didn't mean that. I was just bored... But hey, why do I -- a mere civilian -- rate a gate trip?"
"Well, it’s because Teal'c was going anyway. He’s allowed a few private trips, and if the gate moves one or a hundred, it costs the same on the electric bill. And since you're on the Alpha list, you're the only almost-12-year-old in the entire world cleared for gate travel," her mom explained.
"Yay, me," she said, but looked at the bag before running to her room and getting a few more essentials that her mom wouldn't have packed.
Buffy was glad, somehow, that she was being recognized at the SGC now. It felt almost familial, when guards, medical personnel, scientists and SG team members nodded to her as she passed. She wasn't wearing her SGC BDUs -- mostly because they weren't really in a good state after her visit to the Alpha site. She had put on her hiking gear, instead, keeping in mind her mom's warning that Chu'lak could get really cold.
There was a heavy footstep as she turned the corner towards the gate room and saw her mom talking to Jack and Teal'c. The sound had been made by Teal'c in his massive Jaffa armor, complete with staff weapon in hand and zat mounted in his forearm. He had moved to face her. "Buffy, I am glad you made it here on time. I hope your visit to my home will be a pleasant one," he said, while the dialing sequence started to run in the background.
Her mom reached down and took her into a hug, "Now, you promise me: no reckless adventuring. You stay safe. You do as Teal'c asks and remember: try to have some fun, if you can."
"Oh, I’m sure it will be fine," Jack said – at which both she and her mom could only look up and glare at Jack.
"You just jinxed me," she said.
"What?" he replied with a teasing smile.
"I am so going to be in trouble," she said. "Teal'c, let's go before Jack makes it worse."
"Honestly, sir," Sam said, shaking her head as the gate opened.
Buffy followed Teal'c up the ramp, hearing Jack yell, "Don't worry! What's the worst that could happen?" She winced and swore she'd slap that man silly one day... It was all in good fun, of course, but Jack should know better. Stuff always happened to her... Alright, she had to admit to herself – not to anyone else – that she liked it when things happened. It gave life zest. But still, something might go wrong. She'd be hurt, and her mom would be totally unhappy. She didn't want to make anyone unhappy, especially her mom.
It was secretly so cool to her that she was almost able to call stepping through the Stargate routine. She followed Teal'c, who after glancing at her had gone first. The usual experience of light and paths moving through the galaxy filled her view until she walked out the other side, now knowing how to compensate for the slight push the Stargate gave your body on exit. She thought it was a built-in feature, probably to get people entirely clear of the event horizon. It was nice that she had learned so much in school – and, if she was honest, from listening to her mom spouting science terms. That meant she knew what words like ‘event horizon’ meant.
Immediately after thinking that, she noticed her breath fogging in the air in front of her. Somehow, for some reason, cold made her smile, as if it were unfamiliar... which it certainly wasn't, given her last year and a half living in places which seemed to regularly turn icy cold. "Have you arrived alright, Buffy Anne Summers Carter?" Teal'c said.
"Whoa, why are we back to the formal stuff, Teal'c?" she asked, after wincing at the full length of her name.
"I apologize, Buffy; however, I will have to address you with full name, at least in the presence of my family, until I have declared to Master Bra'tac, the leader of this community, and Drey'auc my wife that you are under my protection," he explained and noticed something in the distance.
She turned and saw the dreary-looking Jaffa camp just within sight of the Stargate. Two Jaffa with silvery skull caps in addition to their armor and carrying snake symbol tattoos like Teal'c, except not in gold, advanced on them with lowered staffs. She instantly felt her body shift her position, and mentally she assessed if she could take out one before the other could shoot Teal'c -- although the big guy could probably handle them both on his own. "Greetings, Teal'c," one of them called and shifted his staff to an upright position. After a questioning look at his fellow Jaffa, the other guard did the same.
"Greetings. Is master Bra'tac here?" Teal'c asked.
"He is at the other end of our camp," the first Jaffa guard said, but something about his tone warned her that Teal'c might not be the most popular of persons, locally, which baffled her quite a bit.
"Thank you," Teal'c said and gave the guard a polite nod before proceeding towards the camp. She followed along, while trying to take in the cold and poor-looking camp. A few Jaffa women were walking between tents in heavy clothing to keep the cold out. Their eyes were proud and unbowed, so the lack of luxury didn't seem to have embittered them. She wondered how she'd handle a life totally without mall trips, clothes shopping, and school, but rather a life with action, trouble, and danger at every turn. Strangely, for once her mind and her past did not seem to offer a ready answer.
As they approached a set of tents, she noticed that one of the men there ducked his head into a tent and said something. Another armored man -- smaller than most others she had seen in the camp, complete with a scruffy gray-white beard and a staff -- exited quickly, looking surprised. Teal'c's head was turned the other way until the man approached, after casting a wondering glance at her.
"Tek ma te, Teal'c," the elderly man said just as Teal'c noticed him and smiled. They grasped each other's hands by the forearms.
"Tek ma te, Master Bra'tac," Teal'c responded. It was clear from his tone and expression that he greatly respected this elderly man, who was apparently some sort of master.
"It is a most fortunate thing that you choose this time to come for a visit, Teal'c. Drey'auc is gravely ill," the older man warned.
She frowned. This wasn't what she had hoped. Poor Teal'c... and this would ruin her visit off-world. Apparently, Jack's jinx had really hit them hard.
"What is wrong with her?" Teal'c asked immediately, sounding more emotional and urgent than she had seen or heard him be in a while.
"It is her symbiote. It matured, and we had to destroy it," Bra'tac explained.
"Has a new one been acquired?" Teal'c said and looked around questioningly.
"Drey'auc has refused to accept a new symbiote. She does not want another Jaffa to die so she can live. And the Goa'uld do not trust the priests with their young as they used to," Bra'tac explained.
"But she will die," Teal'c said, showing a flash of anguish very unlike anything she had seen the stoic man do before.
"Yes, she knows and accepts this. The rebellion we have started, Teal'c, is a moral one. The Free Jaffa will not accept needless death, especially amongst fellow Jaffa, and your wife believes in that deeply, as do most people in this camp... My friend, she has asked me not to bring you here. She does not want you to have to watch her die. Still, I am glad you came. In her heart she will be happy, as she passes on into the afterlife, that you are here to honor her memory," the older man said.
"Where is she?" Teal'c asked, and looked around at the meager living quarters. Master Bra'tac pointed at the tent he had just left, and Teal'c bowed his head in thanks and went in.
A boy a couple of years older than her came out as Teal'c was about to enter. He had dark skin and a certain set look on his face that reminded her of something. His face seemed to contort into anger and sadness as Teal'c stood towering over him. "How dare you come back here? She is dying because of you and your precious Tau'ri," the boy yelled with teary eyes. The pair seemed to stare at each other for a moment; then the boy ran off.
"Rya'c," Teal'c called out, but the boy headed away quickly, and it seemed Teal'c would rather visit his dying wife than run after the boy.
She watched Teal'c duck into the tent, leaving her alone with the elderly Jaffa Bra'tac and the other man who had stood silent guard all the while. The much older man seemed to remember she was standing there and turned to look at her. "Who are you, human?" he asked in a very demanding tone, as if she owed him an answer.
"I'm Buffy," she replied, now knowing better than to tell a Jaffa her full name.
"I have heard the name before, from Teal'c. You are the orphan that Major Carter cares for," the man said.
"She's my mom," she insisted.
"Yes, why are you here?" he asked.
"Because Teal'c invited me... He wanted me to meet you and his family... Was the guy who ran T's son?" she asked.
"T...? That was Rya'c, Teal'c’s son," Bra'tac said, as if she was stupid or something.
"Oh, he's younger than I expected... Would you mind looking after this?" she said and dumped her bag next to the old guy, before turning and jogging in the direction of the forest where Teal'c's son had gone. She was Teal'c's friend, and she seemed to have some talent in talking to people who were grieving. She hoped the old guy would watch her baggage, but she didn't actually expect it to need much watching.
She jogged into the forest and found that a path led up a ridge hidden by the forest. It led towards what looked like some sort of watchtower. She spotted the boy sitting up there, high in the tower, looking out over the world beyond. She knew she could give the boy space, but she felt that might not be all that useful.
She walked up to the tower and climbed the steps, until the reached the top platform. She noticed that there was some sort of gun turret that seemed like a huge version of a staff weapon next to the boy. They had to be feeling pretty secure, because it didn't look like it would fire on its own.
The boy looked over at her and seemed to study her with surprise on his face. "You're a Tau'ri," he said.
"Really, what gives it away? I'd like to know. I mean, you seem to know and so does everyone else, even if we look pretty much the same," she asked.
Rya'c stared at her, momentarily shocked out of his grief. "It's the clothes... and well, the fact that you just go where no one has asked you to come," he explained.
"Oh... Really, is that why? I thought we looked, like, different to you, or something," she said.
"Well, no... Who are you?" he asked, naturally willing to talk about something besides his grief.
"I'm Buffy, I came with your dad... I am Samantha Carter's daughter," she explained.
"Samantha Carter... The blond soldier, who works with my father," he mused. "You're here to talk to me. To make me forgive him," Rya'c said, his anger rising again.
"I can't make you do anything you don't want to," she said, and sat down a few feet from him, looking out over the forests and mountains. The air was filled with an icy wind.
"Then why are you here?" he insisted after a while, probably having thought of little else for a few moments. It was what she expected he had done, anyway.
"Well, your dad made me go through a ritual... something called the Rite of Protection, or something like that, in my language. He wanted me to come here and meet you guys, because of that ritual. I was bored back home, so I decided to go," she explained.
The boy looked at her and said, "You're under my father's protection... Do you not have a father of your own?"
"Well... no... not really... I think I had a father figure once -- and SG-1 have been great, but more like uncles... So, I guess I don't have one," she admitted and wondered why she never thought about it more. It just didn't seem to worry her.
"So my father is to grant you his protection. Is he going to bring you into our family -- you, who are not even a Jaffa, you who do not have to suffer as we do? My mother lies dying, and he brings you, a Tau'ri, under his protection. How typical -- he will protect you, but he will not do anything for us," Rya'c rose and yelled at her.
She chose to remain seated; she didn't want to look in the boy's eyes and reveal the glare she felt like giving him. "You're so wrong," she said.
"What?" he yelled.
"I don't need a father, and what Teal'c is doing is just to protect me -- should bad things happen -- not adopt me," she explained.
"You have no idea... You went through the rite, but you have no idea... The Protection you're under is a protection of blood. It is the first step towards becoming a member of my family, of becoming my sister. He has made me obligated to you, as well... Why can't he just be here to make these decisions? ... Why isn't he here?" Rya'c turned away as he rambled.
She decided not to answer the boy back, right away. She had to consider her own situation first. No one, not even Teal'c, had said anything about the bond between them being a step towards an adoption. Of course, that in her head meant that Teal'c wasn't planning on anything, but it still threw up questions, like what else he hadn't told her. She then thought that maybe even her mom didn't know.
"Rya'c, your dad didn't know how bad things were here. He'd never have allowed it," she said and hoped it was true.
"How could he not have known? We live in squalor, while he lives in luxury at the SGC. We have to live off the land, fighting his precious revolution, while he seems to do nothing. Why didn't he take us there, why do we have to live here? ... Why does she have to die?" Rya'c said.
"I don't know. Have you ever asked your dad -- or anyone else of them, for that matter?" she replied.
He remained silent for a while then, before answering, "No... Maybe I should."
"It would be the sensible thing," she agreed.
"You're not dumb," Rya'c said after a while. She let her lips curve into a smile, but she decided that, not knowing Rya'c too well as yet, she had better stop prying.
Rya'c turned and looked at her. "We will go down to see my mother now. Follow me," he ordered.
"Excuse me," she said.
"I told you to come along. Now, come!" Rya'c said, after a few bewildered moments.
"Did you just order me?" she asked, a bit confused, while getting up.
"Of course, you are but a child and a female. You should not be left here alone," Rya'c told her, as though it was the most natural thing ever.
"Listen, you don't know me, so I will let this one pass. But don't you dare talk about me like I am beneath you, or I will have your guts for garters." She glared at Rya'c.
"I didn't mean to offend you... However, I am right, we need to return to camp. You are under my father's protection; therefore, I cannot leave you alone out here. So would you please return to the camp with me?" he said.
She still was unsure about his tone, but she decided that she’d freeze if she stayed up there much longer, anyway, so she might as well go with him. They walked down the path together, but she felt that she hadn't really gotten through to the young Jaffa yet. She wanted to, but it just hadn't felt right to let him in, and he certainly had acted in a way she couldn't really put her head around, yet.
They headed back to the camp, and she found that the old Jaffa had left her bag in front of Teal'c's family's tent. She didn't mind much. Rya'c seemed to reconsider speaking with anyone on their way, though, because after he had brought her back to the tent, he wandered off to talk to some other boys, who were apparently waiting for him.
Buffy considered if she should pull aside the tent flap herself and go in, or wait until Teal'c was done. "Buffy Summers Carter, please enter," Teal'c called out. She had no idea how he had known she was there, but considering the freezing cold outside she didn't think about it long. She ducked inside.
Teal'c was sitting next to a dark-skinned, beautiful woman. He had a tender look in his eyes as she lay there on a bed, wrapped in several blankets. The tent itself was warm, but not what Buffy would have recommended for anyone sick. "Come closer," Teal'c asked.
The woman propped herself up in bed and looked her up and down. "She is very much a Tau'ri, my husband," Drey'auc said, but her eyes weren't disapproving – only thoughtful.
"Yes, and she should be proud of that. Buffy Anne Summers Carter is someone I believe will become instrumental in the future of her people, and therefore also of the Jaffa. She will be a great warrior, one day, and I felt that to allow her the chance of fulfilling her potential she needed to be under my protection. Do you approve, my wife?" Teal'c asked very formally.
The woman's eyes seemed to turn very caring for a moment, before she asked, "Teal'c, how can this child be meant to be a warrior?"
"I do not know how or why. I do know that she is. I have seen her skill in battle. She will be great," he replied, making Buffy feel very self-conscious.
"Then, husband, I approve. I hope she will be proud of the gift you have given her and help both our people and hers," Drey'auc said, then coughed and laid her head back down.
Buffy looked up at Teal'c. "You need to get her back to Janet at the SGC. They must be able to do something."
"I am afraid not. The only thing that could save Drey'auc now is a symbiote stolen from another Jaffa, and my wife will not accept such a thing," Teal'c explained stoically, although his face told her that he'd rather she did accept it.
"Be calm, husband; I will await you in the afterlife. Your concern must be with the living. Rya'c, he... he doubts himself ever since Apophis took control of him. And he believes you doubt him, too. You must..." Drey'auc was wracked by yet another cough.
Bra'tac, who had stayed in the distant shadows of the large tent, hurried up and examined Drey'auc. "Girl, fetch Rya'c -- his mother is in her final moments. Quickly," he commanded.
She knew she should have protested, but there wasn't time. So she just grimaced at his words and ran out to find Rya'c again. He was still talking with his friends, but he kept looking in the direction of the tent. She ran as fast as she could over to him.
"Rya'c, your mother, I think she's dying. Bra'tac and your father want you there, now," she explained.
"I don't want to see my mother die," he countered.
"Like hell," she said, and considered her options. If she were taller, she would just pick him up and flip him over her shoulder to carry, but she wasn't really big enough yet. "Come with me now. Your mom needs you. How can you be so egotistical? Do you want her to die without you when she wants you there? Do you want to ignore her dying wish?" she lied, knowing very well that it had been Master Bra'tac who had asked for Rya'c.
He stared at her for a while, then started to run for the tent. She followed him quietly but quickly. She stopped outside the tent, though, deciding that it was too private a moment to intrude on. A few moments later Bra'tac stepped out of the tent. "Little one," he said, "we should move away from here."
"Yeah," she agreed, wondering what the man wanted.
They walked along for a while. "I am surprised Teal'c would take a girl such as you into his care. Why do you believe he did this?"
"Because I get in trouble, and he wanted to ensure my mom understood that he'd do everything in his power to rescue me," she explained.
"You are wrong, child. Maybe your mother was to believe that, but you should know it is something different. Teal'c believes you somehow mean a better future for our people. He thinks that you might be the warrior that will bring our struggle to finality. I have no idea as to why," Bra'tac said, but didn't say what he really thought of that idea. His tone, however, was filled with disbelief.
"So, what's next? The test where I kick the crap out of whomever you want me to face, and then you'll believe me?... Like I even want you to," she said, before the strange feeling of irritation that seemed to come from outside herself at the idea of such a ‘test’ faded.
The man studied her for a short while, then said, "I did not plan on having anyone attack you." She wasn't sure she believed him, but let the discussion fall away, feeling a bit bad at having jumped to conclusions like that.
"I'm sorry, I don't know why I said that," she apologized. It had happened a few times before, during these last several months. She would get deeper flashes of what she feared was her old personality. If that was true, then her old personality was a bit more abrasive than she had expected.
"I wanted to offer you some food," he said and indicated a cooking fire.
"Now, this is more like it," she said.
Meanwhile, back on Earth the Stargate opened but for some reason stayed open. In space, several starships were hurrying to their destinations. One of them was a Tel'tak hurrying to the hidden camp of the Jaffa rebels. The other was the Mothership of Anubis himself, hurrying to watch the progress of his attack on the Tau'ri.
Buffy shuddered and thanked her stars that she was used to life in Colorado, now. She liked snow, but getting up in the morning after sleeping in a tent battered by icy winds was not her favorite activity ever. It even seemed to be a bit too much for the definitely more hardy Jaffa, who while outwardly unfazed by the weather, were a decidedly grimmer bunch in the morning. It didn't help that her trip wasn't turning out like she had been promised. She couldn't blame anyone, but she felt like she was intruding, and meeting both Bra'tac and Rya'c hadn't been much of a distraction, with the old warrior almost studying her and Rya'c too wrapped up in his grief to really notice her.
Maybe what was happening now would change that. It was night, and her second day with the Jaffa was coming to an end. They were having Drey'auc's burial, which to the Jaffa apparently meant having a pyre lit by Teal'c and Rya'c. She looked around and saw Bra'tac watching her, his eyes reflecting the flames. He had been nothing but courteous; still, she couldn't shake the feeling he was judging her every word and move. Worse, she felt like he was finding her lacking in some sort of quality.
The fire filled the camp with wisps of warm air, but she could only focus on the flames and wait. She felt tense, like there was something in the air, like something was coming.
Buffy woke up really early the next morning. She quickly washed, insisting – foolishly, maybe – on being clean rather than warm, before slipping into her warmest clothes, which were getting a bit smelly after a couple of days of repeated use. She went out and did some basic warm-ups to loosen her limbs and heat herself up. She was standing there jumping up and down, when she heard a noise she could only recall from one other time. When they had been stuck on Revanna. It was a Goa'uld ship. It seemed she wasn't alone in noticing it. All over camp, Jaffa warriors were slipping out of their tents with their staffs ready.
A transport ship appeared from the sky and came in slowly for an elegant landing. Teal'c and Bra'tac walked towards it, shoulder to shoulder, apparently being expected to lead by example and approach potential danger first. She slipped closer as well, and wondered if she could get hold of a staff and how exactly it was fired. A single Jaffa left the Tel'tak and approached the two Jaffa leaders.
"Shaq'rel," Teal'c said, sounding happy as she finally got close enough to listen.
"Teal'c, it is good to see you, old friend," the equally huge warrior greeted her friend.
"What brings you here?" Bra'tac asked, also sounding glad to meet the new warrior. She felt the tension drain from the assembled Jaffa, and already a few were drifting back to their chores.
"I came with news. It is fortunate you are here, Teal'c," Shaq'rel said, "The Tau'ri are about to come under attack from Anubis. It may already be too late."
Teal'c scowled for a moment. She just felt a chill run down her spine. Although her mom wasn't supposed to talk about such things with civilians, her mom had shared with her a great deal about the biggest threat to Earth that had ever existed.
"Please tell us everything," Bra'tac said, seemingly unconcerned with the other Jaffa who were slowly drifting away, not particularly interested in the fate of her homeworld, it semeed. Only Rya'c seemed to be listening as intently as she did. He looked at her with a bit of pity in his eyes
"Anubis recently acquired many Jaffa from our former masters, amongst them several loyal to me. They told me that he had recently discovered and activated a weapon of a much older race than the Goa'uld. It supposedly uses one stargate to destroy another. However, it is a large facility, and the weapon cannot be moved. I am afraid that, even though I hurried here as soon as I heard about this threat, Earth might already be under attack," the Jaffa explained.
She wondered what it all meant. She remembered one of her mom's stories about a black hole and how they hadn't been able to disconnect the wormhole and dial out. If this weapon used the Stargate, her mom might be trapped -- and worse yet, she herself would be trapped here. She looked towards the DHD and ran towards it, leaving everyone else to their talking.
She hammered the sequence her mom had made her memorize into the DHD. They were Earth's six coordinates, followed by that Stargate’s point of origin symbol. The gate lighted up, dialled, and then the lights shut off and nothing happened. She heard the heavy clanking of three men in armor and a boy trailing them. "Buffy," Teal'c's voice rumbled forth, and she felt his arm come to rest on her shoulder.
"I can't dial home," she said without turning around, not wanting to show them her teary eyes. "Why does this always happen to me?" she mumbled.
"Destiny is a heavy burden. However, the manner in which one deals with it shows one's character. Greatness, true greatness, is thrust upon you -- rarely sought, as is great adversity. You must stand up to it, in order to discover if you are truly great," Bra'tac declared.
She looked at him and remarked, "Great speech." She earned a suspicious scowl, but the older man said nothing.
Shaq'rel said, "We cannot warn the Tau'ri, then, except by ship."
"If the attack has begun, our allies on Earth will have found out by now, and they will try to deal with the problem from their end. A warning would do them little good. The ship will do little good. However, they can have our aid in a different manner. Shaq'rel, can we borrow your Tel'tak for another effort?" Teal'c asked.
"I brought it for that purpose," Shaq'rel declared.
"Good, we must go and find a way to stop the weapon," Teal'c explained.
"My source did not know the location of the weapon, or the address of its Chappa'ai," Shaq'rel replied.
"We are in luck," Bra'tac said with a gleeful light in his eyes, as if he had just won a major battle, "Anubis has spread like a plague over the galaxy; however, he only defends a small number of planets. If we dial each of these worlds in turn and are repeatedly unable to reach one, then it will be our target."
She marveled at the old man's cunning. It seemed like Teal'c and his friends were almost as much a team as SG-1. Teal'c seemed much more commanding here, though. Everyone except Bra'tac seemed to look to him for leadership. She wondered how he handled that and the responsibility it entailed, when he had none of the same duties on Earth.
A thought hit her as the Jaffa talked and then started dialing. She backed away a bit. They wouldn't let her go with them. She was sure of that. No amount of begging would get Teal'c to allow her to go with him to whatever place that weapon was. He would never put her in that kind of danger. Even worse, there was a chance she’d be left here with only strangers to watch her, and if Rya'c had anything to say about it, it wouldn't be him. She was supposed to stay far away from any kind of trouble. But the thought of just waiting here for the danger to pass, or for the Earth to be destroyed and her mom maybe killed, was worse. She knew that if she went, Teal'c would be distracted by her presence, and that might also be a danger to Earth. She felt incredibly torn as the wormhole whooshed open a few yards away.
"What is wrong, Buffy?" Teal'c asked as he came over to sit at her side.
"Teal'c, I’m scared. My mom is on Earth, and I’m here. I'd like to be there with her. I know she is probably happy that I’m here and safe, but I'd still like to be with her. My heart tells me to go with you guys, and fight -- even cheat -- to get there, but I know I shouldn't. I'd be a distraction, and you don't need that. I feel so useless," she admitted.
The great man looked at her and seemed thoughtful. "I must admit, I had planned to search our craft before take-off, expecting to find you aboard. And having to leave you here with no one of my family to watch you makes me almost as nervous as taking you along would. In this case, however, Buffy, you must remain here. For so many reasons, but mostly because I swore an oath to protect you, and bringing you into danger myself would forfeit its purpose," he said.
"Yeah, I know. Being little sucks, when you want to help," she said.
Teal'c nodded, "Time passes more quickly than you expect, soon you will be able to join us on the field of battle. In the meantime, would you do me the honor of watching my family's belongings and guarding them until my return?"
She looked up at the big Jaffa and nodded. After a short while she leaned her head against his shoulder, listening to the noise of the Stargate while the others kept dialing. She enjoyed feeling safe for a little while. Maybe, she tried to convince herself, it wouldn't be so bad to leave the fighting to someone else more often.
She watched the Jaffa shuttle fly away from the camp, leaving her alone with a few days’ supply of food and water, three tents, and a load of Jaffa weapons to care for. She wondered if she could even manage that, as she realized she'd have to take care of everything herself for days, possibly longer. Still, she had to get things going -- things like keeping the coals burning, to keep her warm.
"Excuse me," a voice said, and a shadow loomed over her.
She turned to find a smiling, young Jaffa with an eagle tattoo on his forehead standing there. "Yeah," she replied,
"Are you by chance a Tau'ri?" he asked.
"Yeah," she answered.
"And are you, as is rumoured, the daughter of a member of SG-1?" he asked. She didn't know why, because his features were filled with innocence and curiosity, but something about this guy felt wrong.
"Yes, I am the daughter of Samantha Carter and by rite of protection a member of Teal'c's household," she explained, adding the last part as Teal'c had instructed her to, if someone asked what she was doing in his tents.
"Ah, I am honored to meet you. Please convey my gratitude for their actions to your parent and her friends, should you make it back to them. I hope your world is there for your safe return," the young man said, but something in his eyes told her his last words had been insincere. She decided to look out for him in the near future and warn Teal'c about him when he came back. The young man walked away, apparently without a care in the world.
"My Lord, I have a report. I have found a child of the Tau'ri visiting off-world. I am sending you her picture," Au'rac said as he watched Osiris give him an impatient look over his communications device.
"What care is that of mine?" Osiris replied and moved to cut the connection.
"My Lord, she confirmed she is the child of a member of SG-1," he said.
"And...? The Tau'ri and SG-1 are no longer a threat to me or Lord Anubis. Continue your mission and gain the trust of the Jaffa in that camp. They have a secret hideout somewhere. I want to know of it," Osiris ordered, and the connection was cut.
He hid the gray metal ball and lay back on his mat, resting and thinking who he would talk to about recruitment into the rebellion.
She looked up in frustration. Her little scheme to infiltrate the Jaffa resistance movement was not progressing as fast as she liked. In fact, her position in her current master's plans was vastly too minor to make her entirely comfortable. Still, it was something to do while certain long-term plans came to fruition, and as long as Anubis didn't notice her pilfering away some of his precious technology, she'd continue on -- even when, as now, she was relegated to using her mothership to ferry a scientist. A passenger who was currently wandering onto her bridge with a swagger, as though he were someone important.
"Why have we stopped, Osiris?" Thoth demanded.
"It is no business of yours. I was merely talking to a Jaffa of mine," she said in anger, only to turn and find Thoth studying the image her Jaffa spy had sent and which she had still not removed from her viewscreen.
"That girl, I have seen her before," Thoth said and turned towards her.
"So, she is a Tau'ri... a child. What does it matter?" she retorted.
"Wait a moment, please," Thoth stammered and went to her console, inserting the crystal that contained his information. After a few moments spent entering codes in the secret language only Thoth and Anubis seemed to know, an image of the girl floating in a tank of some liquid appeared on the screen. More images showed up-- several in order, in fact -- showing the girl growing older, until she looked like a quite pretty human female. There were more files on this subject, but Thoth didn't open them.
"Our lord tasked my students with a project, years before he showed himself. They were to study a cache of ancient technology, including a unique object of great power. Through that power, they gathered a lot of treasure, but nothing of true value, until they found a race of humans -- females only, apparently – who could, they reported to me and our lord, serve as superhuman hosts capable of defeating even the strongest beings in hand-to-hand combat. Our lord, who is far beyond us, was not greatly interested until a test he ordered performed showed that these beings could prove valuable to him. I do not know what this test was, or its purpose, but while I ordered my students to return her to us in a younger state as ordered by our Lord, they were slaughtered by the Tok'ra, and she was presumed dead... I must admit, we expected their experimentation had done lasting damage to the girl, but we envisioned the possibility of using her de-aged and therefore higher quality ovaries to breed more such, later. If your agent has found her and alive, we must divert our course and take her," Thoth ordered.
"We will do no such thing. Lord Anubis ordered me to bring you to oversee the Kull project, and I told him I would do so. If you want to defy his orders and go after her in a shuttle, feel free to borrow one. But remember, you were told what to do. Oh, and I will tell you her location, if you really want to defy him," she said, a half smile on her lips.
"Give me the location. He will thank me," Thoth said and strode from her bridge, after her Jaffa had punched up the location on the viewscreen.
"I swear, if I ever think about going camping on my own with three tents, no running water, and no sanitation in sight, I will beat myself over the head with a club," she yelled while dancing around in the tent to make herself warm. Her brazier had gone out during the night, and it had been freezing all night and all day yesterday. Washing in cold water hadn't helped, either. She performed gymnastics and did a few handstands, when she heard something moving outside.
There was someone out there, she realized.
"Hey, pervert!" she yelled, tearing the tent flap aside, only to find nothing except the wind moving a toppled-over pot
He moved back inside his tent. The girl had an uncanny ability to detect his presence. He been completely covered by the personal cloaking device given to him by Osiris, yet the girl had sensed him through that and the tent canvas. She fascinated him a little. A blond human girl, not even of age, yet she had a presence that he found intriguing. He had to be careful, though. It appeared she was under the protection of Teal'c, a man whose suspicions he mustn't arouse. As he rested back against his blanket, he felt a spot of warmth underneath it.
He moved the blanket aside and, while looking around and listening for anyone who might overhear, he activated the small communications globe. An image appeared of an unknown man dressed in plain black robes. He was about to will the globe to shut down when the man said, "In the name of Osiris and her master Lord Anubis, I bid you to heed me, Jaffa."
He looked at the globe, surprised by the voice of a god coming from the unimpressive man. "I hear your words and obey, my Lord," he intoned.
"There is, where you are, a girl -- a visitor. You must make ready to bring this girl to me when I arrive. I will be there tomorrow at dawn," the Goa'uld explained.
"It will endanger my position with the Jaffa resistance," he warned.
"I do not care; if your skills are adequate, you will succeed and still continue with your mission," his lord said.
"My Lord," he intoned, thoughts and plans growing in his mind as the picture of one of his gods faded from the globe. The girl was interesting, anyway. The best idea, he thought, was to drug the girl, but he had no drugs. He would have to rely on the zat'ni'katel to subdue her, and then move her under his own power during the night. Maybe he could swing it so he would be put up as one of the guards for the night shift. It should not be too much trouble. The night watch was the most hated, and he hadn't stood guard in days. He got up and looked for the nearest older Jaffa. He was sure a volunteer would be welcomed by his ever-so-honest and earnest people – fools as they were.
She was almost infinitely bored. And the fact that she had no idea if Teal'c was having any luck saving Earth, if there even was an Earth to return to, gnawed at her mind. She needed something, anything, to do to keep her mind off these things. She saw several Jaffa men training with their staffs. She decided, patriarchal rules notwithstanding, she wanted to try that.
She walked over and observed for a few moments, just as her hand-to-hand teachers had drilled into her. Apparently, a part of her talents was the ability to know the weaknesses of her opponents’ fighting styles. She quickly noticed that these guys were incredibly skilled, better even than her sensei on Earth. However, while there were no glaring mistakes in their style, she was quickly sure that she could defeat most of them, using minor failings in their style, and -- if she was honest -- her superhuman physique would assure her of winning.
She realized that all she would achieve by fighting would be to make a few Jaffa angry and satisfy her own ego. She felt rather proud of that insight for a moment, only to realize those thoughts had come from her older self. Her flashes of that personality were getting more frequent. According to her therapist, that meant she would one day be able to remember everything. She was sure of the source of these flashes -- the fact that her other self had been some kind of legendary female warrior with a rather abrupt sarcastic personality fitting with what little she knew.
She felt a bit depressed as she borrowed one of the training sticks and decided to do a bit of mock fighting, instead of taking out her frustrations on one of the Jaffa. As she lost herself in the dance of strikes and movements, she remembered flashes of doing the same with an older man with graying brown hair. He seemed to be proud of her, in the moments that he thought she wasn't looking. She remembered secretly treasuring those moments.
"Excuse me," a deep bass voice interrupted her thoughts. She stopped and blinked, before looking towards a Jaffa looking at her curiously.
"What?" she asked, and looked around to see if she had done something or inadvertently entered their training area.
"You seemed to be warming up. Would you like to spar with me?" he asked.
"Ah, I actually didn't... Well, it wouldn't be a fair fight," she said.
"No, I agree. However, it is important even for women to be able to defend themselves," the Jaffa said, and made some darker part of her wish she had the age and face to glare with.
"Alright, but don't cry foul later," she said.
"And don't complain about any bruises," the Jaffa suggested. She couldn't help smiling. It felt like her teeth were showing.
They both readied, then their fight began. She parried, dodged, leapt and kicked. The Jaffa tumbled to the ground, rolled and came at her again. She deflected his lunge, swept his feet out from under him with her staff, then moved out of range of any reprisals. They continued for a while. She was toying with him, she realized. In battle, her combined skill and superhuman body made the contest as unfair as it had been in her thoughts. Still, the Jaffa wasn't angered by this; it seemed, instead, to spur him on.
He struck her arm. She jumped forward, rolled sideways on the packed dirt, and came back up onto her feet. He turned but exposed his side as he did. She swept away his left leg, his guard opened as one hand slipped off his staff, and she used that to push her staff forward into his chest, putting a bit more of her strength into the blow than she had originally planned. The Jaffa sank to his knees, winded. He clapped his hand in the sand to signify his surrender, but she had already run to his side.
"You are a great warrior for one so young. I have never seen any boy or girl fight with such skill. You must have a great teacher," the Jaffa said while gasping for air.
"It is all thanks to the training of Teal'c and the strong inheritance from my mother. She is a member of SG-1, after all," she said, only half lying.
"That much is indisputable now," the Jaffa said.
It was later that day, and somehow her defeat of that Jaffa had opened more metaphoric doors than it had shut. People were more willing to approach her, or at the very least look at her now. Maybe they had just needed to see her do something real, or maybe it was something else, a Jaffa respect for warriors, that made them more willing to accept her. Anyway, that night she ate and talked with Al'rak -- the Jaffa she had defeated -- and his family. It was a different impression of the Jaffa than the one she had gotten from Teal'c, but then he was a very stoic man, whose family was under a great deal of pressure, and had been for a long time.
The night turned out to be quite pleasant, and she ended up going to bed way after ten. She snuggled into her warm tent, now that she had been taught how to light the brazier and set it up so it'd stay lit all night. Al'rak's wife had taught her.
Pain woke her up. Her body was wracked with jolts, and she was unable to move. "That should hold her," a male voice said, apparently to himself. She wanted to jump up and fight, but her limbs felt numb. A fight could be dangerous like that. Someone drew her blankets tightly around her, and soon she was slung over someone's shoulders. She let herself stay limp as he tried to move her out of the tent, apparently struggling to stay quiet. Feeling a bit mean, she let him carry her, while she tried to recover quicker.
He seemed to choose a strange path out of the tent area instead of the direct one. Their goal was up one of the ridges. She grinned to herself as the cursing guy tried to heft her up the hill. She let him carry her halfway up there. Just as he was about to drop her, she pushed herself off the guy, so she could look him in the eye for the moments it took to hammer her fist into his throat. However, her lack of leverage weakened her blow, and he was only left coughing.
She tumbled backwards and came up in a fighting stance. Her opponent reached for his weapon. She jumped forward, over her adversary. She landed behind him, and just as he rose and tried to turn, still wheezing, she kicked with all her power against his lower back. There was a brutal snap, and her opponent fell limp. She stopped dead in her tracks, and a cold shiver ran down her back. She edged forward and took away the weapon that lay abandoned in the forest. To her relief, she saw that the guy was still breathing. In the pale, rose-colored light of the morning that was starting, she recognized him as the creepy Jaffa from earlier. She had to decide how to move him. If she had broken his back, maybe it was better that she didn't.
For a moment she felt like some undefined danger was approaching. She grabbed her blankets and ran for the tent camp. She hoped maybe Al'rak or someone else would be willing to help her.
Teal'c piloted the Tel'tak back towards the tent camp. They had been successful, but they had been unable to dial Earth yet, and he feared the worst. Bra'tac had privately counseled him to let Buffy stay behind while they went to see if the Tau'ri Stargate had exploded. But he knew the girl would want to see such disaster with her own eyes. Bra'tac liked the girl and had suggested that they spare her such a sight. Teal'c promised himself that he would make Bra'tac more amicable to the idea of female warriors in the near future. He felt with what he and his people owned Samantha Carter they'd be fools to waste the talents of half their population. And Buffy might be the next generation of that.
He watched the people of the camp approach as they landed, including a mysteriously Jaffa-clad Buffy standing ready with a staff weapon of her own. She looked quite the little warrior, like that -- in fact, only the chain-mail seemed to be missing.
"It seems your charge has made herself at home," Bra'tac suggested.
"She has a talent for entering diverse groups of strangers," Teal'c agreed.
"Father, will you be having the camp moved?" his son, who had made him very proud in the recent battle, suggested.
"The Tau'ri have their base on another world where it is not only comfortable but also where they can give us resources, as well as shelter. For now, the Jaffa and the Tau'ri need each other, and the friendship they offer is a true," he explained as he moved towards the airlock.
He had barely gotten outside before Buffy ran up to him and said, "Teal'c, look what Al'rak gave me after I kicked the ass of a spy."
He looked up at Al'rak, an old family friend from Chulak, and nodded his thanks. "She speaks the truth, Teal'c," Al'rak approached and explained.
"Duh," Buffy replied and rolled her eyes. She ran off to greet Bra'tac and Rya'c. He considered having Rya'c visit him on Earth more. Exposure to the human ways of thinking would do him great good, and Bra'tac as his teacher would follow along.
"What happened?" he demanded with the girl out of earshot.
"Au'rac, a son of an old ally, was a spy for the Goa'uld. He had a communications globe, and he tried to kidnap Buffy Summers Carter. She defeated him yesterday morning and apprised me of what had happened. I took charge of him, and although I told her I executed him, in reality he died of the wounds she inflicted on him," Al'rak explained.
"The killing blow was hers," Teal'c said and looked over at the still-smiling child.
"Yes, she had shattered his spine. He was beyond the healing of his symbiote," Al'rak explained, "As he was a spy, I left him to die a slow death."
"Tell no one of this, especially her," he ordered.
"Of course not," Al'rak agreed. "Teal'c, if I may, can I add my voice to your protection of this child? Not because she is beautiful, but because she will become a legend one day, and even legends need a hand from time to time."
"It would be a great honor," Teal'c said, and they shook hands, sealing the decision.
He knew it was too late. It had been too late that morning when that incompetent spy had gotten caught by some guard and stopped. He did not have his prize, nor did he possess the weapons to retrieve her from the rebels. She was a Tau'ri, though. Or at least she lived there. His master would know where that world lay, and with his permission sooner or later he would retrieve her, and then she would reveal the secrets that had already cost both loyal Jaffa and his prized students their lives.
"General Hammond, I can report that Anubis' weapon has been destroyed," Teal'c's voice said over the radio.
"That is great news, Teal'c; congratulations on a well-fought battle," the General said.
"Actually this victory belongs to Rya'c," Teal'c explained.
After the General finished talking to Teal'c, she and Jack went to the microphone and asked, "Teal'c, how is Buffy?"
"I bet she got into trouble," Jack commented.
"She is fine, Major Carter, and she bids me to say she didn't put herself in any danger or get herself involved. So you can... unbunch your panties, Jack O'Neill... Those are most strange words, Buffy Summers... Excuse us, Major; we will talk again when we are on the ground," Teal'c said. She turned her head and saw Jack smirk.