Chapter 16: The Answer
See Chapt. 1 for disclaimers, warnings, timelines.
Thanks as always for the many kind and stimulating reviews. Thanks especially to Charles for links and thoughts.
The time has come," the Reader said,
"To talk of many things:
Of hosts--and souls--and goa’ulds--
Of sarcophagi –with strings--
And why the jaffa is a slave--
And what the future brings.
Given a few of the comments, and my own feeling on the subject, the time has come to firm up the rules a bit for this fic.
I know a lot more about SG1 than I did when I started this fic, but my knowledge is hardly complete, and the various online resources I’ve tapped still leave some gray areas, especially where goa’uld biology is concerned. To the best of my knowledge what follows doesn’t directly contradict canon, but if it does… at this point, tough titty for canon, I’m afraid.
Also I have made some assumptions that while I think they are logical, are not, to my knowledge, directly supported … For example, the idea that the sarcophagus does not
restore a jaffa’s normal immune system and free them from goa’uld dependence seems logical, because if it did I would expect obtaining sarcophagi would be an absolute top priority for Teal’c and other rebellious Jaffa, despite the side effects… and that doesn’t seem to be the case on the show.
As always I welcome corrections and/or additional information, and will make adjustments if feasible, but: For the purposes of this fic, what Doc Fraiser says, in this chapter and in future, can be taken as the One True Phlebotinum.
Secrets: A Father Goose Tale
A BTVS-SG1 Crossover
Chapter 16: The Answer
Caribbean Sea, just off Haiti, Oct 2007
Jack O’Neill slung his pack over his shoulder and put one foot up on the fishing boat’s gunnel, preparing to make the slightly awkward step/clamber up to the yacht’s stern. The slight blonde woman who had been bantering with Faith reached out a hand to offer assistance. For a moment Jack looked askance, instinctively resisting … in the first place receiving such help from small people in bikini’s ran against the grain, especially since given their relative size and weight he was so much more likely to pull her overboard than gain any advantage from her help … and by the time his frontal lobes kicked in to remind him that when it came to girls these days appearances were deceiving it was too late, the blonde’s eyes were already rolling…. she reached out and grabbed his forearm and Jack found himself lifted like a naughty child plucked from a mud puddle, found himself swinging through the air and being lightly deposited on the polished deck where yet another pair of strong female hands held him upright a moment until he was steady on his feet and salvaging a small bit of dignity by watching a startled Teal’c receive the same treatment.
“Please do not take offense, sir,” a rather weedy voice said, “the Slayer Prime can be impatient at times but she means no disrespect.”
“Oh that’s all right, it was kinda fun…” Jack trailed off as a slightly built young man with shining eyes brushed passed him and approached Teal’c, still speaking,
“In fact, sir, since the deceptive nature of her petite physique is often of great use in the initial stages of battle, one could say she has honored you with her trust.”
“Indeed?” Teal’c answered.
“Oh yes, indeed, Mr. Teal’c. And may I say, this is a great honor for me….” He turned back to Jack, holding out a digital camera, “Would you be so kind, just get us both in that little screen and push that button….”
Well, it’s not like I’m doing anything else useful at the moment, Jack thought and accepted the camera took the picture, angling the camera just enough to cut both their heads off at the eyebrow level.
“Thank you,” the man said taking the camera back, “As I was saying this is a great honor, and I just want to let you know on behalf of myself, Andrew the Wise, and everyone at the Watcher’s Council how much we admire and sympathize with what you are doing, fighting a lonely war for the freedom of your people while living in exile on strange planet, joining your hosts in an heroic battle against a vile and dastardly foe …. Renee, good, please, take our picture …. Be sure to get Mr. Teal’c’s forehead insignia… thank you, Renee, run along now, there’s a good girl….”
Uhoh, Jack thought as he saw the young slayer’s eyes narrow, Mr. Andrew the Wise is going to pay for that little remark. And I only hope I’m there to see it when he does, he thought as the voice went on…
“I’m so excited to meet you, Mr. Teal’c. I consider you my first alien, you know. I have of course met some of the captured goa’uld but I thought they were demons at the time, I cannot tell you how disappointed I was to read that the first true aliens to visit Earth were parasitic worms though of course when I read about the Asgard I was much relieved… I certainly hope someday meet this Thor, I’m sure we will have much to talk about.… But now, now you are here and you must tell me all about your homeworld, and all the planets you have visited and what it is like to have a truly foreign creature living inside you….. “
“Don’t forget to ask if you can touch it, Wiseman, he loves that,” Faith said as she and Jun came through carrying the bound goa’uld between them, taking her headfirst down the companionway. In the stern the box of treasure was being handed up, followed by the staff weapons… Deciding he could be the most help by getting out of the way Jack stepped out onto the starboard gangway and moved forward, then paused as he caught sight of Harris standing in the catwalk on the bow, holding a slim, giggling brunette out over the over the water,
“Xander, stop it, you’ll drop me,” the girl was saying.
“Maybe,” Harris answered, “are you going to be nice….”
“I’m always nice.”
“Uhuh,” Harris seemed unconvinced, “Tell me, who’s responsible for the corrupt and primordially stupid American foreign policy…..”
“Is it a Colonel, a Major, an archeologist and an alien?”
“And the pit of cowardice and shame that is Gitmo, shall we blame that on an alien, an archeologist, a Major and a Colonel?”
“Okay, okay, point taken. It’s just….”
“Do you have Hammond’s home phone number?”
“Yes, of course, but…”
“So you if you need to you can yell at him and not the poor bastards we’ve shanghaied into the darkside, right? You might even like them, you know. Carter’s wound a bit tight, but she’s still struggling with the whole science/magic thing. Jack’s pretty easy going, Renee likes him and you know she’s got good instincts. Put Teal’c in a room with Wolfboy and they could discuss the sum total of human history with three syllables and a raised eyebrow and probably have a good time doing it, and you already have a crush on Daniel ….”
“I do not…”
“You’re going to tell me you didn’t print out his picture, and make up a bunch of new Sumerian knock-knock jokes… Buffy and I still talk, you know.”
“Well, you better say good-bye ‘cause I’m gonna kill her. …..Ahhh! Xander, I’m slipping…. I’ll be good, I’ll be nice, I promise….”
Jack shook his head. Daniel scores again.
He watched Harris step back and set the girl on her feet. She was a dish. Only Daniel could take an unplanned trip, board a boat off Haiti and find a beautiful girl who included “speaking Sumerian” as one of her turn-ons.
The mood in the bow changed a little, the girl reached up to caress Harris’ scarred cheek, spoke just barely loud enough for Jack to hear,
“It’s going to work out, Xander, it will, I feel it, now that we know what we’re up against and we’re all here we’re gonna kick a little alien ass and bring everyone home.”
“Yeah, kiddo, I know, ” Harris answered gently.
She hugged him then, the hope and sadness enveloping what were clearly old friends who had been through a battle or two made Jack begin to feel just a tiny bit skeevy about eavesdropping, and he eased away, smiling, thinking about the look sure to be on Hammond’s face when Jack announced that Daniel had got engaged to one of the blackmailing vampire hunters. And smiling as well because he had been rather inordinately pleased, in a purely avuncular way, to hear Harris saying that Renee liked him.
County of Devon, England, October 2007
Dr. Janet Fraiser was standing Hammond’s office, holding her medical bag and a small suitcase and feeling a little silly….
…. And then she was standing in a sunlit courtyard surrounded by a startlingly bright array of flowers that filled the air with a rather overpowering sweet perfume. It was, to say the least, a change.
“Dr. Fraiser, welcome and thank you so much for coming,” a veddy British voice spoke behind her and she turned to find a rather handsome man with a bit of gray at the temples and just the touch of a belly that was hidden by a well tailored tweed suit and vest. The man gave his glasses a last quick polish and peered at her with eyes that seemed kind, but didn’t, she thought, miss much. On the whole it wasn’t quite the image she’d had in mind when she thought of witches.
“My name is Rupert Giles. I shall introduce you to your true hosts shortly. I am afraid some of the people here suffer under the delusion that my very presence will impress you with the importance of our work here …. Ah, Søren, good, would you take the Doctor’s bags please?”
A slim young man wearing sandals, pale purple drawstring pants, and a maroon artist’s smock had appeared, bowing slightly and reaching for her bags which, after a moment’s hesitation she let him take. He bobbed again and hurried away. She turned back and saw Giles hiding a slight smile. Caught, he let it widen and shook his head ruefully.
“Well,” he said, “at least they’ve got him to leave off the beret … and I have left off my manners. May I offer you something to drink, a chance to freshen up?”
“No, thank you, it was not… a taxing journey.”
Giles smiled, “Yes, it does rather spoil one’s appreciation of the more mundane modes of travel. Though walking, I find, still has it pleasures. If you will allow me to give a you brief tour … fittingly enough this place was once a rather fashionable sanatorium, where the well-to-do stashed their more embarrassingly insane relatives. At times in the past the council has found it useful to have control of a place where the most outrageous behavior could be dismissed as humoring the mad, or where sane men with mad stories could be discredited. You should be aware, Dr. Fraiser, that the Council has in the past had its dark periods … but I will return to that later, for the moment if you’ll note the bright and cheery aspect of the grounds …. “
The bright and cheery, Fraiser soon found was noteworthy for its absence in the less public sections of the building where the architecture was more penal than pleasing. There was, nevertheless, bright paint on the walls and an abundance of fresh flowers and potted plants in quantities rarely found in your average dungeon, a bit of over-compensation, Giles explained, by people who found the whole prison vibe terribly disturbing.
“I suppose,” Giles said with a sigh, “that it’s really a good thing that we have a small group who have appointed themselves guardians of the goa’ulds and are insisting that they have a right to exist as well. But it’s rather a better thing that they are very much in the minority and have conceded that the hosts also have a right to live freely. Democracy can be such a pain in the … neck sometimes. Besides,” he added with a sudden infectious grin, “so far all we have to do to end the argument is ask for volunteers to switch places with the current hosts.”
There were about a dozen cells, eight of them occupied, which had been modified for the aliens, the stone walls and iron bars covered in a steel mesh fine enough to prevent a goa’uld from leaving its host and escaping on its own.
“We tried that,” Giles said, ”tempting them with regular barred cell and sounds of people going to sleep just down the hall, but either they weren’t fooled or they weren’t tempted.”
“I believe that they are quite vulnerable outside the host. I doubt they would leave without a pretty sure thing lined up as the next host,” Fraiser said. “We know they can be kept alive indefinitely in a sort of suspended animation with the right technology. And in between hosts they can survive inside a jaffa’s pouch. But outside on their own … we’ve never been able to do tests but I estimate it would be a matter of hours at best, although perhaps in an aquatic environment they might last longer. …. I also suspect that the longer the goa’uld stays in one host, and I’m talking in terms of centuries, the more loathe they are to leave it. Whether that is for physiological reasons …” she paused, for a moment her mind over-whelmed with the possibilities that eight live goa’ulds presented. Already she had all of her staff she could possibly spare from their usual duties working on the preserved specimens Harris had provided and daily requests on Hammond’s desk for additional research trained personnel.
“I’m sorry, got sidetracked, where was I?” she said.
“Right. I suspect that in time the resident goa’uld may atrophy somewhat, making changing hosts more difficult, or it may simply be that they grow attached to the host persona. The System Lords we’ve encountered, Apophis, Ra, seem to have kept the same hosts for millennia.”
“I suspect these,” Giles said, gesturing toward the occupied cells, “may have changed hosts a little more often. They’ve not exactly been forthcoming with their life stories… on the other hand they’re terrible braggarts, get them wound up enough and they’ll blurt out a lot of exploits and escapades…. Even assuming a lot of it is pure hot air … we definitely get the impression that one of the ways they’ve stayed hidden on Earth is by periodically changing hosts, generally finding a victim who has wealth and position, of course. I suspect a lot of the exploits they brag about were performed by their hosts prior to being taken … but that may be a bit of species prejudice on my part. “
He led her outdoors again, out the back door this time, into a walled garden ringed by yet more flowers surrounding a rolled green lawn. A, to put it politely, well-rounded woman sat on a bench reading a paperback, occasionally glancing up to observe a fortyish man with a rather beatific expression who was engaged in a seemingly endless game of fetch with an eager spaniel.
“This fellow,” Giles said, “I’m afraid is very much what we consider a success story at this point. He was a host for we really don’t know how long. He was injured in battle and the gao’uld left him for dead and was killed itself outside the body. He doesn’t seem to have any physical brain damage as far as we can tell, but for a long time he was practically catatonic until one bright spark thought of bringing Biggles there in. And well, you can see, he’s better. He’s still interacting with humans at a basic, go where he’s guided level, I’m afraid my guess is that he’s peaked, but he was a host for a very long time. And any sign that recovery is possible we take as a positive.”
“Well, I can tell you this much from our experience,” Fraiser said, “the host does survive as a separate, albeit suppressed individual, and can remain so for years. How long they remain sane I suspect is determined by the individual’s character rather than by any physiological changes. We also know it is possible
to remove an unwilling goa’uld and restore the host because, well the Asgard can do it, although I have no idea how…I’m afraid Mr. Clarke’s dictum about magic and advanced technology still pretty much applies to the Asgard as far we’re concerned….. unfortunately they seem to be bit busy with their own troubles at the moment …”
She paused as Giles offered her a chair at a small white metal table. She sat and continued.
“We also know it can be done surgically, because the tok’ra … you know of the tok’ra……?”
“Enough to understand the reference, yes.”
“Well they can remove an unwilling goa’uld but they haven’t seen fit to share that technology or technique with us. They may fear that we would use it against them sometime in the future, I suppose. And well, they’re not the most helpful at the best of times and they’re under a fair amount of pressure at the moment. I suppose if the President or someone like Hammond was taken they might be persuaded to help out, but we certainly can’t count on them.”
“Well, knowing it can be done is half the battle, I should think,” Giles said. “The tok’ra, they’re the same species….”
“And the answer to your next question,” Fraiser said with a smile, “is that we have no idea why they’re different. The goa’uld, their memories are genetic, and so I assume is much of their behavior. Which I think means it would have taken only one goa’uld to, for whatever reason, develop a different behavioral ethos…. and give rise to an entire branch of the species following its path. They are intelligent, thinking creatures, perhaps it is inevitable that they not be uniform. Still, the tok’ra, while being fundamentally different, certainly retain many behavioral traits in common with the mainstream goa’ulds, arrogance, entitlement, hierarchy.”
“We have noticed they aren’t the most charming conversationalists. Ah,” Giles said as Søren reappeared with a teapot and a selection of pastries. “I’m afraid I could use a bit of fuel for the engine, can I tempt you? We can also brew a rather terrible cup of coffee if you’d like?”
“Tea is fine, thank you,” Fraiser said.
“We have broached the idea to our captives that perhaps they enter into a more symbiotic relationship.… we do know they can relinquish control if they want to… We’ve observed them doing so in order, I’m sorry to say, to prevent us from torturing them by letting the host take the pain. We’ve suggested that perhaps they could take over a willing host, someone who had a terminal illness that the symbiote might be able cure. So far, no takers, and I doubt there will be until their only alternative is death. And I’m afraid they’re right in thinking we’re not quite at that point yet. Speaking of which, these sarcophagi …. I understand they can revive the dead?”
“Yes. And rejuvenate. We’re not quite sure how they work or what the limits are. I’m pretty sure if we put a skeleton in we wouldn’t get the whole person back, but where exactly to draw the line… we don’t know. Apparently they don’t restore a jaffa to his original, symbiote-free state, though perhaps there are controls we are unaware of that would make that possible. It did restore Colonel O’Neill one time, but then he’d never had a symbiote implanted, so that may have made the difference. You’re thinking of course we could remove the goa’uld, killing the host in the process, and then pop the host into the sarcophagus…”
“Given the lack of alternatives it’s certainly worth a try, but… I don’t know. We know someone dead of a zat blast can be restored… but a bullet through the brain, if they’d been beheaded, I don’t know. And removing the goa’uld involves damage to the brain. Plus there are side effects, behavior can be affected. These effects aren’t necessarily permanent … but I should think a host mind would be particularly vulnerable. As well, for example, I have no idea what might happen if we put someone like your Faith in one.”
“Yes,” Giles smiled, “idea does give rise to some disconcerting possibilities. We have as well …certain issues with resurrection, though we don’t strictly preclude it …..I think I read in one your files that the tok-ra believe using the sarcophagus damages the soul… “
“Yes, the ‘kahlesh’
is their term, I don’t know if ‘soul’ is an exact translation, but they do believe its use contributes to the goa’uld’s cruelty.”
“Well, we don’t claim to have the answers to larger theological questions, Doctor,” Giles said, “but we do have empirical experience that the soul is a real thing and not to be… risked lightly. There’s another jam left…. You’re sure?”
Fraiser smiled as she watched Giles argue with himself for a brief moment before taking the last jelly doughnut. He took a bite and sip of tea and sat back, looked out over the unseasonably lush garden. For just a moment Fraiser saw the weariness in his face, a sadness in his eyes that tugged at her heart. She thought of the look she often saw in Hammond’s eyes when SG teams were late or trapped somewhere under fire, knew how she felt herself waiting helpless in the infirmary… and she and Hammond were concerned with trained, professional soldiers, not teenage girls called by some mystic fate…
“Was she special to you,” she asked softly, “the slayer who was taken?”
“Hmm. Oh,” He paused, took his glasses off, pulled out his handkerchief, looked at both a moment, then smiled and began to polish. “No, no more than the others, really.”
“Of course, I didn’t mean…”
“No, no,” he held up his hand, “I understand, and you’re right. They’re all important, but yes, there are some I know better than others. The one who was taken, she’s special to Xander, she’s one of his…. He found her, pulled her out of a very bad place…. And she him. That was when he got the leg.”
“And Xander is special to you,” she said.
“Well then, Mr. Giles, perhaps we should get to work and see if we can’t find a way to save her.”
He put the glasses back on, his stoic, calmly affable visage back in place, said, “Yes, Doctor, you’re quite right, we should.“
He stood, invited her to join him on the path, led her to the top of a set of stone stairs leading down under the sanatorium, at the bottom she could see a greeting committee gathering underneath, she realized after a second glance, a stuffed alligator dangling from the ceiling,
“I should warn you,“ Giles said, “that while there is method to our madness, there is also some madness in our methods. Ready to go through the looking glass?”
“Ready as I'll ever be,” she said.
Caribbean Sea, Oct 2007
Jack found Carter standing one foot on the stern gunwale, peering out into the night, watching the wake pass behind them.
“Watchya doing?” Jack asked.
“You see the geeky little guy over there memorizing Teal’c life story?”
“Oh, yeah, him. Annoying, but hardly reason to kill yourself, we won’t be on the boat that long….”
“No, no, that’s not it. That kid… that’s ‘Andrew the Wise.’ That’s
the guy who I couldn’t find on the net. The guy who traced me
and stole all our files. He told me not to feel too bad. He said he’d had to use his pan pipes……”
“Oh, well, if he had to use his pan pipes….,“
he started then shrank away from Carter’s glare. Jack stepped back and sighed and rubbed his slightly distended stomach, one thing, he had to admit, travelling with this crew you ate well. Jack turned and looked over the lazing group. As predicted Daniel and the slim brunette, Dawn, were huddled together over one of his new scrolls down in the saloon, Jun and Renee were up on the bridge teasing the Captain, Guillaume, who Jack could hardly keep from addressing as Captain Ron and whose slightly unfocused grin and ganja effluvium made Jack grateful for the calm weather…
His gaze fell on Teal’c and for a noble moment thought of rescuing him from his biographer, but the mood passed quickly. Pan pipes?
Amidships in a small group of deck chairs Faith was smoking a long thin cigar and arguing with the young latin woman who’d been introduced as Caridad and the impatient blonde, Buffy. The Slayer, the world-saving god-killing superhero’s superhero, sleepily toying with her hair, rubbing idly at the peeling skin on her sun-burned nose, occasionally joining in the argument…
“Hey Admiral,” Faith had caught him looking and was waving him over, “C’mon, pull up a chair, have a cigar, join the party, bring sourpuss with you…”
Jack glanced back at Carter, “I think she means you. C’mon, Carter, you can stare moodily into the night anytime. When it’s night, I mean. How often do you get to chew the fat with someone who’s killed a real God, not just some puny fake?”
“Afraid to face her alone, sir?”
“Fine, Major, go rescue Teal’c…”
“Right behind you sir.”
Jack bowed Carter into the open chair, Faith got up and perched on Harris’ lap to free her chair for Jack, drinks and cigars were offered, Jack hesitated but let Faith’s “Genuine Cubano, man,” convince him and he took the panatela.
“You realize,” Harris said, “that this could be a truly historic moment? We could actually settle this. These guys might actually know
“I don’t know,” Buffy said, “they’re probably biased.”
“Answer to what?” Jack asked.
“Astronauts and cavemen, who wins?” Faith said.
“Do the astronauts have weapons?” Jack asked.
The rapping on the cabin door woke him, Jack sat up stiffly and stretched, heard the seabirds and the not-too-distant cars, saw Daniel sitting up in the bunk opposite.
“Yeah?” he answered and Harris poked his head in, dropped a small wad of cash in his lap. “What’s this?”
“Pesos. Little walking around money. You can make dollars work here, but you can get people into trouble if you do. Beautiful island, lovely people, stupid damn government, though it has its uses. … Faith and I have to do a little private business, you all go have some breakfast, see the sights, Santiago’s a pretty town. Caridad will help you make a call if you want.”
“I figure you’re gonna want to give Hammond a ring, tell him you’re having a good time, wish he was here and all that, right? Bienvenido a Cuba,
Jack Daniel and Dawn do a little sightseeing in Cuba.