“I know what they’ve said, but what proof do we have?”
“Just more guards on the doors and still the Tau’ri insist that we cannot meet with these ‘Jedi.’”
Selmak kept her sigh internal, and Jacob echoed her exasperation with what was now a count of four repetitions. Even so, she was... uneasy, because her compatriots were not entirely wrong. Garshaw, Lantash, and Thoran had worked all the angles, and they couldn’t help but come to an incorrect conclusion that still sounded far too likely: the Tau’ri were conspiring with the new ‘system lords.’
She knew that was wrong, she believed Kenobi’s declarations, but one didn’t survive long against the System Lords without both a healthy ability to assess situations, and a good dose of reasonable paranoia.
Selmak was neither innocent, gullible, nor overly trusting, and to Jacob’s best knowledge only Daniel Jackson could make that work in the long run, anyway. She understood her compatriots’ concern, even though she knew it to be unfounded.
After another two rounds of talking themselves in circles, with no clear sign of stopping in spite of her attempts to bring logic into matters, Selmak decided this called for desperate measures. She didn’t like leveraging Jacob’s past, nor her own alliances, but if she didn’t do something to stop this, then it was possible that her fellow Tok’ra would worry themselves right out of the first solid hope of allies in centuries.
George Hammond had run across a lot of interesting problems in his time in command of SGC. Many of them came from Jack. O’Neill’s ability to continually raise the bar always managed to impress, but this one was a doozy to surpass at least half of the past contenders combined.
Hammond sank deeper into his chair and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Jack, don’t do this to me.”
O’Neill did the little head bob that was part faux-apology, part resigned amusement. “I wouldn’t inflict it on you if it wasn’t important, sir.”
He did his best to push any and all mental images and wild speculation to the side. “You’re telling me we have two – one confirmed, and another suspected – Jedi Queens in the mountain right now.”
“Of course we do.” Because a new potential crisis was exactly what they needed, now that things had settled down a little; the brass was rightly impressed with their new visitors’ casual display of power and technology, the Tok’ra had been taken down a peg or three, and the NID had sulked off to lick its wounds. Looking at it that way, Hammond was surprised that he hadn’t expected something new to crop up, because at SCG, it always did.
A knock on the closed door interrupted Hammond’s train of thought. Jacob Carter poked his head in and asked with deceptive casualness, “George? Do you have a moment?”
Speaking of new crises...
“C’mon in.” Better to nip this in the bud before whatever it was exploded in their faces.
Jacob ducked in with a casualness that would’ve fooled most people, but Hammond recognized the frazzled edge around his friend. As soon as the door shut again, Jacob’s head dipped down, and Selmak looked between Hammond and Jack.
“I’m sorry to interrupt, but we would greatly benefit from a bit of assistance from you and yours.”
Well that sounded...bad. George gestured to one of the chairs in front of his desk, and settled in for trouble.
He got it. Selmak danced around things a bit, but the basic problem was simple enough. The Tok’ra had turned paranoia into an art form, and looked at in the worst possible light, SGC was about to spring some kind of trap on the high-ranking Tok’ra currently cooling their heels in a small windowless room. Given such a show of – not bad faith, more like dubious evidence, which long-standing caution and paranoia was turning into trouble waiting to happen - they wanted a some reassurances, and a show of explicit good faith.
George could see Jack fighting to restrain comments about how the Tok’ra had done as bad and worse, but through some small miracle, the Colonel kept his mouth shut.
The difficulty, of course, was that while the problem was simple, what to do about this was a far stickier issue.
He lucked out, since it seemed that Selmak came prepared with requests.
Whether or not the Jedi would go for it – that was the sixty-four thousand dollar question.
George couldn’t quite decide if it was a minor miracle that the Jedi were amiable, or if it was further proof that they were, in fact, reasonable people that were actually willing to be allies. Given how the negotiation tables had turned, Kenobi would have been well within his rights to tell SGC to fuck off, or whatever colorful equivalent they had. Or that Kenobi had pulled from Jack’s head, which was disturbing in any number of ways.
Maybe it was no more complicated than Kenobi being friends with Jack, and willing to help out because of that. True, ‘friends’ and ‘goa’uld’ didn’t typically go together in the same sentence, but the Jedi continued to surprise.
Miracle or no, it was downright odd to be the only non-snaked human in the small conference room. When everyone was settled, Garshaw gave a little bow of a nod towards the Jedi, then George himself. “Thank you for taking the time to meet with us, General Kenobi, and for taking the time to arbitrate, General Hammond.”
Kenobi nodded back, stiffer than George quite liked to see but still more polite than he’d expect. “It is always unfortunate when matters start on the wrong foot. I am however afraid I still don’t have a solid notion just what we’re meeting about.”
That earned Selmak a suspicious look from Lantash, which he ignored. George didn’t know what that was about, but if Selmak wasn’t bothered by it, George would trust his judgement.
Garshaw’s smile was strained. “We...understand your position about potential hosts, but you must consider our perspective. We have spent centuries locked in a guerrilla war against the goa’uld. We interact with a number of societies where hostage exchanges and alliances via marriage are common, and to find someone so unwilling to even consider such traditional gestures towards trust.... Well. It does make us uneasy.”
George had to work hard to keep his mouth shut. Uneasy, right. That’s exactly what he’d call their attitude when SG-1 had first encountered the Tok’ra, and the terms had been a new host for Selmak – which would net SGC the potential for allies in as vague terms as possible – or nothing.
Ok, so the Tok’ra had said they’d let SG-1 go without killing them, which was better than some of the alliances SGC had made, but still. Made a man wonder how far he could trust this whole ‘willing host’ nonsense.
Kenobi did this feline little blink, his head tilting in a curious manner. “Do you normally sell your members to other factions for favors, or does the nature of a guerrilla war mean you enjoy the opportunity to plant operatives with permission?”
Garshaw bristled. “We do not and would not do such a thing! General, let us be blunt. The Tau’ri have notoriously close ranks.”
The hell they did. Thank God Jacob – Selmak – possibly Jacob looked miffed too. Nice to know he was still on their side.
Garshaw either missed or ignored the reactions. “Yet not only have they embraced you and yours, when we had no idea you even existed before this week, but Jack O’Neill was willing to host you for a time.” Garshaw narrowed her eyes. “We know nothing about you aside from your lectures about absolutes. For all we know you’re looking to recruit or fool the Tau’ri into helping you become the new system lords!” That would have been funny, except George has wondered the same thing from time to time.
Mention of Jack hadn’t elicited a reaction, but the last accusation earned an amused snort. “Madam, after eight years of war I can assure you that damn few of us have the slightest interest in further conflict, and even less in galactic domination. That’s a problem for politicians, and they’re still in a tizzy over said war.” He leaned back in the chair, and age crept over his face. It was in the blue eyes, the tired lines around the mouth – this was a man who’d pushed, and been pushed, long and hard. Quite possibly past the limits of his endurance, but he’d managed to put himself back together again afterwards.
George had seen faces like that, back in the day. The Stargate program was too new for it to be prevalent, with sufficient downtime and contact with home helping to stave it off.
Never made seeing it hurt any less.
“Regarding our soldiers, they are contracted with the army, and the Jedi Order is responsible for their welfare. That includes not sending them off on missions to unknown regions of space for an unknown amount of time, working – or potentially hosting – with beings we have never met. Our caution is not a slight against you, but a keen awareness of the responsibility we hold. In all my 300 years–”
“You use sarcophagi, then?” Garshaw asked with bitter distaste.
That stumped the Jedi for a moment. “I beg your pardon?” George was wondering the same thing - 300 years was a perfectly reasonable age for a goa’uld or even for a tok’ra. It might even be considered a young age.
“The sarcophagus technology, for healing and rejuvenation. You said you only had the one host, and three hundred is a bit of a reach for humans.”
Kenobi blinked, then he looked over at George, who was racking his brain to remember when Kenobi had said that. It sounded familiar, but George couldn’t have sworn when he’d heard it. “I’m terribly sorry, but this is the problem with accessing language the way we did. All I’m understanding is burial caskets and, ah, ‘bad juju’?”
Of course that was what he picked up from Jack. George brought himself back on track. “It’s technology we don’t understand the workings of yet, but it’s a coffin-shaped device that heals people within. We have evidence that it can even revive the dead.”
Some expression flashed across Kenobi’s face. “Is this a common device?”
Oh hell. The man’s host had died on the ha’tak, a fact the Tok’ra didn’t know. He sent up a fervent prayer that the Tok’ra didn’t inadvertently put their foot in their mouth.
Lantesh nodded. “It is available to most system lords, but there are serious side effects. Use of the sarcophagus is addictive, and destabilizes the mind. That is why we have sworn off use of them, but it means neither we nor our hosts have the kind of longevity that the goa’uld do.”
Kenobi bowed his head, holding up a hand in a ‘wait’ gesture before shakily scrubbing his face. “Gods,” he whispered at last, an odd little oath. “We lost soldiers – the engagement Jack rescued us from – are you telling me we left behind captives to be tortured?”
The Tok’ra shared a look George couldn’t quite interpret. He hoped it was a positive sign, surprise that Kenobi would care about his foot-soldiers, but he just didn’t know them well enough to say. Garshaw was the one to clear her throat and speak up. “It is...possible that some of your people might have been questioned, but unless they were clearly of a higher rank I doubt the jaffa would have thought to move the bodies swiftly enough for revival.”
Kenobi nodded, swallowing audibly. “Small blessings, I suppose,” he murmured before mustering up an empty little smile. “My apologies. My host was one of the fallen. It seems we were lucky that – that one of his friends refused to leave his body behind.”
“Another host?” Thoran asked, tone cautious.
Kenobi raised a brow. “No. Is it so uncommon for a host to have a non-host friend working with them?”
Lantesh made an expansive gesture. “Centuries of guerrilla war. Friendships of any sort have been difficult. Even more so when one party is shorter lived and considerably more fragile than the other.”
Kenobi nodded, but George could see a turn to his expression. According to Jack, Kenobi had just led his people to the end of an eight year war, ‘fragile’ or not. The urge to make snide comments must have been incredible.
“I am glad your host did not suffer the horrors of interrogation,” Garshaw murmured. “The lengths the goa’uld will go to for information are extensive.”
Kenobi dipped his head in something not quite a bow, not quite a nod. “Aurek Ta’raysh E’tad would cheerfully goad someone into killing him before giving information.” There was a flicker of a smile. “This is a proven fact. I...am glad he never had to do that repeatedly.” Another deep breath, and Kenobi seemed to pull himself together. “Meanwhile, unless any of you wish to engage lawyers specializing in Republic law, I suggest we set aside the debate over contracts about hosting?”
Lawyers were universal. Of course they were. It took a lot not to facepalm at that good news.
Sarcasm aside, it was nice to see that the Tok’ra took the comment seriously. They exchanged a look, then Garshaw nodded. “Then, as to the second matter. We wish to send a representative of the Tok’ra with you when you return to your home planet.”
George could see Lantesh puffing up to volunteer. He couldn’t tell if that was a bad thing, given some of the creepier ways the young man tended to act around Carter – he certainly wouldn’t have been happy to see a young man acting like that around his granddaughters, after all – or a good thing, because that exact same attitude could work in their favor.
It was a bit of a relief that Kenobi was visibly looking to nix that potential bundle of crazy pretty fast, if the way he looked over at Lantash and set his shoulders was any indication, but Selmak beat him to the punch. “General Kenobi and I have come to reasonable terms, and I find myself most curious about this new culture. I will go.”
Garshaw’s jaw dropped, and she wasn’t the only Tok’ra caught flat-footed. “Absolutely not! Let our oldest and wisest be dragged off to we literally don’t know where in the universe? This is madness!”
The Tok’ra shared a few sharp words with each other that Kenobi didn’t seem to understand. After some rapid-fire sniping, Thoran cleared his throat and leaned forward. “Perhaps a compromise. A reciprocal arrangement, if you will. We send Selmak with you, and you let one of your people come with us.”
“No. Absolutely not,” Kenobi said, back ramrod straight.
Garshaw pursed her lips. “General Kenobi, I can’t see how- “
“Forgive me,” Kenobi interrupted, “but I’m afraid that’s impossible. First of all, you have yourselves admitted that none of your bases are secure. Second of all, and most importantly, no Jedi will be going through any Stargate until we can determine why doing so almost kills us.” He shot a glance at Selmak. “I’m sure you’ve heard that my journey through the Stargate was...eventful.”
It looked like Garshaw and the rest wanted to argue that, if their constipated frowns were anything to go by, but having your mode of transportation be near-fatal to a guest was a pretty good counter-argument.
“Perhaps some other arrangement,” Hammond offered. He hated to encourage the Tok’ra, but he was supposed to be arbitrating, and the less frustrated the Tok’ra were, the less likely they were to go off and do something stupid.
Thoran made a considering noise. “What if you left one of your team here, in the care of the Tau’ri? If General Hammond would allow a Tok’ra representative to remain at SGC, that lets us have access to learning about each other.”
Not the worst idea in the world, though it looked like the notion left Kenobi a little sour. “I will have to speak with my compatriots. In the meantime, I...must admit there is something we wish to ask of the Tok’ra.” He looked very uncomfortable, while the Tok’ra perked right up at the notion of the Jedi being in their debt. “We need information. The names of these so-called system lords, probable locations of strongholds. What kind of enemies we might be meeting. We also would appreciate information about the metal you call naquadah. We’ve not run across this before, and we’re most curious about it.”
Garshaw let that sit for a moment, then raised a brow. “And that is all?”
Kenobi returned the look. “I have less than no interest in subterfuge and hidden agendas. We appreciate knowledge, and we seek the end to these system lords. Isn’t that quite enough?”
Pleasantries and closing statements took longer than Rex liked, but they could finally slump back in their chair after General Hammond had taken his leave. There were still guards about, but they were on the outside of the doorway, and could be politely ignored.
#That was fun,# General Kenobi finally muttered in a snide tone. Rex couldn’t quite find it in him to snicker.
#That was a bit of a clusterfuck,# he corrected.
#Mm.# Kenobi scrubbed a hand over their face, feeling exhausted in a way that Rex associated with a week-long forced march, not sitting around a table talking. Diplomacy took more out of one than expected, it seemed. #We’ll have to discuss this with the others. Not a conversation I look forward to.#
That finally coaxed a wry grin out of him. #Well, there goes the five minutes we have before the next meeting.#
Kenobi stood with a soft huff of mental laughter. #You know, I used to miss this kind of dance, in the early days of the war. I might need to relearn some patience.# He sighed. #No, I think this might need the ten minutes between the meeting and dinner. We need to leave enough time for everyone to express what a horrible idea this is.#
Rex nodded to the guards that fell into position around him as they reached the door. #Almost a pity Echo’s hosting. He could run rings around the questions they might ask, and he’s got the rank to hold his own.#
#I can’t imagine either him or Ahsoka wanting to separate for that kind of mission, though. Who IS next in line for hosting, Jesse?#
#Technically, but I don’t want the chain of command broken any more than it already has been.# Now it was Rex’s turn to sigh. #We’re going to need some serious restructuring before either the 501st or the 212th goes back out into the field.#
#And thus the war marches on.#
Danny had come to terms with waking up alone. He’d mastered the art of snuggling deeper into the blankets and pretending. He usually allowed himself a few moments to remember before it got too painful, and he’d force himself up to face the day.
They were nice moments, where he could pretend he was still Dan’yel, back on Abydos, and Sha’re had snuck out of bed before him because she was one of those bizarre morning people, though thankfully she wasn’t obnoxious about it. On the contrary, she thought his morning shamble was adorable, she refused to believe him about the wonders of coffee, and the way she would tease him about his atrocious accent before he woke up always had that undertone of love and affection he could hear.
Gods, he missed her. It was almost unbearable some days. He’d spent his early life hopping between foster homes, connecting with things long past because things that had endured for centuries or millennia were less likely to vanish tomorrow, the way a new home or family might. Thus had started his fascination with archeology, which was as much about the people as the things they left behind. That let him start to see the patterns in how and why people acted as they did. Find the roots, find the causes, and you could predict or extrapolate so much.
For a year, he’d had...everything. He’d been proven right, even if only he, the US military, and the inhabitants of Abydos knew it. He had a home, family. The selfish part of him had wished, very quietly, that he could have had some of those connections back to Earth, but nothing was ever 100%, so it kept everything grounded, real instead of an impossible dream.
It was...strange. He hadn’t felt that sensation of home in so long, and he’d encountered it in a goa’uld’s memories.
That burned a little. Daniel Jackson had never liked admitting he had followed fundamentally wrong theories. He even, gods forfend, liked to call some things facts. The Tok’ra had been difficult enough to adjust to, but given Teal’c’s vote of confidence, he’d bought it.
But good goa’uld? Ones that made friends, kept loyalties, cared about family? A whole society of them?
He wanted to believe Kenobi’s outrage over the prim’ta, for all that it made his stomach churn with the horrible implications. Most disturbing, honestly, were the implications about him and all of SGC.
There were too many jaffa to count, that they’d killed in self-defense. There had been a tank of prim’ta that he himself had destroyed. The notion of them being something other – more – than feral murdering parasites....
He didn’t feel like the kind of person capable of war crimes.
Did anyone ever? Or was it always a matter of believing in a righteous cause and acceptable sacrifices?
Danny forced his eyes open, unsurprised to see the infirmary’s ceiling. Janet was probably going to have kittens over this latest escapade. A mindmeld with a goa’uld queen, of all things, and the notion of it still broke his brain more than the mindmeld itself.
There was someone sitting at his bedside, too distant and too quiet for it to be anyone from his team. Danny rolled his head to the side to see who, only to freeze. The Jaffa medic was there, scanning the medical equipment around Danny.
=Welcome back,= Medic Kix declared softly. =You were out for a few hours.=
=Does Janet know you took over her room?= he asked, not quite sure if this was real. It earned him a bit of a smile, so he’d take it.
=She and several guards are keeping a close watch, but we have come to friendly terms. Somewhat.=
‘Somewhat.’ Oh that boded well. Danny pushed himself upright, glancing around. Janet was talking to–
He blinked and scrubbed his eyes before pulling his glasses from their usual location on the bedside table. Dr. Fraiser was busy talking to the robot that had arrived earlier. He both was, and wasn’t surprised that the thing was managing stilted but decent English.
=Do I want to know?= he asked, trying to keep up the sense of normal banter because he wasn’t sure how well he was going to keep it together otherwise.
=Teaching Besh-Two-Peth-Osk medical terms. She wants the best possible translations as soon as she can. She’s a little terrifying.=
=Says the man with ‘A good...something is dead’ written on his head,= Danny muttered, getting a snicker from Medic Kix.
=That,= he said, pointing to the robot. =A good majen. Besh-Two isn’t dead, but we’ve been fighting an army of the bastards.=
Ah. Robot. Ok. =Why did I travel unconscious?=
Yikes. Ok, Janet wasn’t the only scary medical type in the room. He was being glared at like a naughty patient who was being stupid, but he hadn’t done anything to deserve it for once. =Yoda’s little memory trick should not have done that. You have to have been thorough exhausted to need sleep like that.=
...ah. Danny coughed and studied some fascinating medical equipment for a moment, wishing desperately for a cup of coffee to play with.
He made himself look up at the medic. =I have been worried.=
Kix gave a sympathetic nod, but there was no softening to his resolute expression. =I understand – I am a Medic, this is what we do – but you cannot help your brothers if you do not remain well-functioning yourself. If it helps, consider your sleep an investment in their health.=
He hated that lecture, it made sense but other things always seemed more important in the moment. Danny nodded, because agreeing was usually the best way out of those issues.
=Also, General Yoda wished for me to pass on his apologies.=
Danny blinked and stared. “Excuse me?” He shook his head. =I mean, sorry?=
Kix sighed and shook his head. =Jedi sometimes do not think through potential problems, even Jedi as old as Yoda. Asking for permission can be thought of as asking about physical limits as well. He was wrong.=
It was a good thing he was as rested as he now was, because his shoulders wanted to crumple under the weight of that. He wanted to like these people. He hadn’t exactly managed to do anything but piss them off so far, and trying to reverse that tide felt overwhelming.
The silence was kept from being too much by Kix letting out a deep sigh. The man nodded over to where Janet was gesturing extensively with her favorite tool. =I do not understand you people’s worship of the penlight,= Kix muttered.
He hoped that wasn’t the right translation. =It’s not – look. Janet likes using it for basic checks, and Jack really hates it, so it’s...just spread?=
Kix gave him the hairy eye, then snorted. =He is impossible to keep in medicinal, isn’t he.=
=Only a lot. Speaking of escape: you and the rest have been let out of holding?=
=Yes. After your collapse, it was thought best that we be reunited with our Jedi.=
He nodded as if that wasn’t of any consequence, but inside he relaxed a little. Jack had gotten the point and made sure they had better protection.
=If you don’t mind me asking?= Kix asked, cautious for the first time. Danny blinked at him, then motioned for him to proceed. =What was so important that General Yoda would share memory with you?=
Trust a doctor to ask an easy question. Danny considered the ceiling tiles for a moment. =It is...very very difficult for me to trust a goa’uld. My wife was taken against her will to host.=
The medic’s eyes closed for a moment, then he nodded. =No Jedi in their right mind would.=
He was starting to believe that. =He showed me a memory of a– a room? Pools, and people watching over– over young.=
Recognition lit Kix’s eyes, and he said a word Danny could only presume was ‘nursery.’ It only took a few repetitions to get the pronunciation down, and he could see the clone’s approval for his speed. Nice to know he wasn’t lingering too badly in Jack’s shadow. Meanwhile, he had to tug the tiger’s tail. =If you don’t mind me asking, what kind of families do your people have? You, ah, soldiers.=
That got him a casual grin. =A wide variety. Once we are out of the army, we are just people like any other. In the army, it tends to be within or from other attachment.= He hated not having vital vocabulary. Something must’ve shown on his face, because Kix continued. =Some marry. Some have informal arrangements. Some are like Wax and Boil, who have a found sister.= Found sister. Adoption? Had to be. Kix studied him for a moment, then reached down and did something to the wristguard he wore. A moment later, one of the blue hologram things popped up. It was of Kix and another clone, this one bald with a large round tattoo set off-center of his head and face. It looked like the same gear symbol they wore on the long-johns Jack was so obsessed with.
Kix pointed to the bald man, getting a goofy, enamored smile. =Jesse. My husband. He’s on the Resolute One – I’ll admit I’m looking forward to getting back.=
Oh dear. Danny adjusted his glasses, breathing deep and tilting his worldview again. That was possibly important intel he should get to Jack, making sure no one asked something they shouldn’t be told. Stupid military and its stupid heteronormative worldview.
Time to get back to work. It was amazing how that felt good.
Clarence McGregor was genuinely having a great day. He’d seen the Stargate in action, met several aliens, seen an honest to God UFO, and then he’d gotten to watch the National Security Advisor match wits against said aliens. Best of all, during that process, the somewhat unflappable Tara Hayes had been just wide eyed enough for McGregor to notice. He was going to cherish that slip from her normal hard-edged blasé attitude for YEARS.
She hadn’t let it shake her from her usual poking and prodding at weak spots, but that wasn’t the point.
The second meeting between McGregor and his fellow brass with the Republic folks had a far different atmosphere. Everyone had gotten a catnap or the chance to settle from meeting actual aliens, and meanwhile the Republic side now had several spokespersons. It all got translated through Kenobi, with Colonel O’Neill corroborating, but there was now a very different balance of power.
This ‘Yoda’ – he’d been quick to wave off the title of ‘master,’ which everyone had worked hard to reassure everyone else was about skill and not something...unpleasant – had the air of a somewhat addled grandfather, but the sharp insight and occasional cutting comment that meant it was all just an act. It was like negotiating with Mr. Miyagi in a good mood.
Honestly, McGregor was beyond grateful he had Hayes there, both because she was good at foiling that, and because it meant he got to sit back and just enjoy the show.
It was an interesting horsetrade, all told. The Republic folks were now openly angling for solid support against the goa’uld – that was an intriguing move, since that was Hammond’s purview, and likely to happen anyways. Either they really wanted their help to be in writing, or they didn’t want anything else.
That was a bit of a problem. Earth had to have something these people would want. Technology might not be comparable, but that also meant there had to be interesting applications the Republic didn’t.
The alternative was a bit too ugly to consider. He wasn’t used to being in the position of having no bargaining power. On the upside, it meant that nobody was doing the equivalent of demanding nukes or blood sacrifices, so that was good.
By the time evening rolled around, everyone was equally disgruntled about not getting all that they wanted. It was amicable enough that a nice casual diplomatic dinner was arranged, in the hopes of getting everyone to mingle and make nice.
On the one hand, he hoped everyone kept playing nice. On the other, it would’ve been interesting to see how various parties cut loose.
On the other other hand, he quietly wished the Jedi might deal with the increasing pest known as the NID.