She sat on the far side of the briefing-room table, a quick shower and change of clothing having upgraded her from looking merely fantastic to absolutely stunning. O'Neill leaned back and drank in the sight, while trying to pay attention to the rest of the group as well.
Teal'c appeared dubious, which O'Neill chose to interpret as a comment on Carter's statement rather than her looks. He was with Carter on this one.
That's just because you want to sleep with her, Kantele said.
Wrong way round. I want to have her because she's capable of seeing the military overview.
And it has nothing to do with her being attractive, loving and compassionate?
He gave Kantele a mental elbow in the ribs to shut him up. This was neither the time nor the place. He was slightly suprised Carter had realised the tactical implication of Yu's actions, but command could do that to you, force you to see the larger picture.
"Why?" Hammond asked, from the far end of the briefing-room table.
O'Neill held himself back from the instant response he would normally have given. He'd have extended the same courtesy to any officer with a new command, but it applied doubly so to Carter. Their relationship had always been that of superior officer and subordinate; if they were to have a lasting relationship now, he'd have to hold back the reflex of command.
Half the reason you love her is because she knows how to take orders.
She's Air Force. It goes with the job. But, yeah, if she was a crap officer I wouldn't be interested. And she'll take the skin off my nose, if I try and order her round outside of work.
My Sam wasn't like that.
Your Sam didn't have to fight her way through an Air Force that still contains people who think women shouldn't be in a front-line unit.
Carter sat up straight in the manner of one about to deliver a lecture and O'Neill groaned inwardly. "With regard to the length of time a Gate can be kept open, we've previously established the principle of the thirty-eight minute window," she began. "Yu sent Teal'c back to kill Kytano which proves that he was not only aware of Kytano's actions, but also that he knew the Gate address. The ha'tak arrived less than-"
"Yu could have blocked the Gate. Sir."
"Thank you, Colonel." Hammond's Texan drawl conveyed the slightest of reprimands.
Jack, you have the grace and subtlety of a charging rhino.
He caught Carter's eye, flashed her a silent apology. To his relief, she seemed more amused than annoyed.
"Colonel," she said, "would you care to speculate as to Yu's motives?"
He shrugged. "Yu knows Teal'c is a member of SG-1. That means he knew we were there, but he still sent Teal'c back knowing he'd warn us about the attack. Gotta be some kind of a sting against the other System Lords."
Teal'c sat straighter in his seat. "There is more, O'Neill. His words to me were those of respect. Never before has a System Lord spoken to me in this manner."
Daniel spoke up for the first time. "You're kidding, right? I mean you looked as though he'd beaten you to a pulp."
"That is true, Daniel Jackson, but nonetheless he did not speak to me as a god speaks to a Jaffa. He addressed me by name, saying that my loyalty was not lightly given, and told me that Kytano had betrayed both the System Lords and the Jaffa."
"Lord Yu respects both courage and intelligence. "
Damn, he hated it when they all looked at him like that.
He spread out his hands, palm upwards. "Get used to it, guys."
Hammond was first on the ball. "Kantele, what do you know about Lord Yu?"
It was as though he could feel Kantele withdrawing into himself, piling up ramparts and raising the drawbridge.
"Yu does not play the god game."
"Yes, he does," Daniel objected. "He takes the persona of the Jade Emperor." He paused, grabbed a notepad and started scribbling on it. He looked at what he'd written, then lifted his head thoughtfully. "I always wondered... When Yu came here to sign the treaty with the Asgard, he gave his name as 'Yu the Great'. I took him to be Ta YŁ, 'the tamer of the flood' and founder of the Hsia dynasty in China. A couple of years later, when I went to the System Lords summit meeting, Jacob told me to refer to him as the Jade Emperor.
"The thing is, the Jade Emperor is a Buddhist deity from a much later period of history. Buddhism didn't come into China until a couple of centuries AD."
"So, which is he?" Hammond demanded.
"Both," Kantele said shortly.
"I need a little more than that."
The castle walls grew higher and a portcullis slammed down to defend the gatehouse.
"He'd rather not discuss it," O'Neill said. "I think it's personal."
He picked up a pencil and started tracing patterns on the pristine paper of his notepad.
Hammond glared at him. "Colonel, I seem to recall having this conversation before. If your symbiote wishes to remain part of this command, then he must obey orders. Am I making myself quite clear?"
"Look," Daniel said hastily, "I think I can guess part of it. Ta YŁ was a man, not a god - that's what the legends say. Suppose that for some reason, Yu didn't have a sarcophagus, but simply jumped host from generation to generation?"
"He jumped into his own sons?" Carter sounded disgusted.
Most considered it an honour. As each became ruler in his turn, he inherited the blessing and the knowledge of the ancestral spirits.
"That has to be it." Daniel was getting excited now, had that look in his eye that always came when he was on the trail of a new idea. He stabbed in the air with his pencil. "All the other Goa'uld took the persona of gods; which is great because you get complete belief from your followers. But there's a catch - you can't die. You have to remain eternally unchanging and young. In the end, they become completely dependent on the sarcophagus. Look at Apophis - he was trying to breed a son as a replacement host. His current host was thousands of years old and could only live a few days without a sarcophagus: he simply couldn't go on any longer. He had to get a new host who looked as much like him as possible and hope that he could get away with the change-over."
Hammond glanced round them each in turn. "You're suggesting that Yu isn't dependent on the sarcophagus, that he could be less corrupted by it than the other System Lords."
"Yes." Daniel nodded enthusiastically. "We-" he looked slightly embarrassed for a moment "-I - know from personal experience the effect that the sarcophagus can have on someone's personality."
"But the Jade Emperor is a god. Son, if I'm following your argument, that means that he has to appear immortal."
Daniel gestured expansively. "He's a Buddhist god, Sir."
"And Buddhists believe in reincarnation." That was Carter.
Teal'c was to the point as always. "Yu must own a sarcophagus; otherwise he would not have recovered from the attack of Osiris."
"In other words," Hammond concluded, "Yu might be a potential ally against the other Goa'uld, but we've no way of telling for sure. Kantele?"
O'Neill continued doodling. The patterns didn't make any sense, but they were pretty.
"He's gone out, Sir."
"He's not talking to me." The pencil traced another abstract pattern.
"I think Yu's been testing us," Daniel said. "When he gave me the title 'Yu the Great', he wanted to see if I would spot the historical significance. And he did eventually vote in favour of allowing us to retain our Stargate."
The voices were an irritating buzz. If he concentrated hard, maybe they'd go away.
Carter was saying something that ought to have been important about Yu's ship having fired at the Jaffa.
When Teal'c spoke again, O'Neill had a sense of it coming from a great distance. "If Yu wished to deceive the other System Lords, then the attack would be genuine. If we were foolish enough to remain, then we would die."
He blinked. "Daniel?"
Daniel reached out for the paper he'd been drawing on. "What's that?"
He looked at his own handiwork. "All Greek to me."
"Those are ideograms. I'd say it was Chinese."
He supposed it was. The symbols made sense when you looked at them that way. "It's a poem," he said. "But it doesn't work properly in translation."
He flicked the paper across to Daniel, who studied it, then passed it back again with a question. "What does it say? The only symbol I recognise is the one for 'god'."
"I don't know." He stared down at the paper. The symbols he had written looked perfectly familiar and yet he couldn't read a single one of them.
"Can Kantele read it?"
"Can't or won't?" That was Hammond.
He had the sense of stepping out over an abyss, the air empty under his feet as he started the long slow fall to the ground.
"I don't know."
"Colonel." The danger in Hammond's voice was unmistakable now. "You leave me with no choice. You have a symbiote who is, willingly or unwillingly, withholding information from us. I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and refer the matter to Dr MacKenzie." He held up a hand to forestall any argument. "I am well aware of your dislike of the psychiatric profession, but the situation leaves me with no other viable alternative - unless you'd prefer that I place you under arrest?"
He reached for the already-familiar place inside him where Kantele's presence should be, but there was nothing - only mile after mile of a barrier that climbed its solid stone walls over mountain and valley alike.
"I'll see MacKenzie," he said, because there was nothing else he could say.
Dr Fraiser stopped by the last bed in the infirmary where Teal'c stood in earnest conversation with the bed's occupant.
"How do you feel?" she asked briskly.
Rak'nor scowled and muttered something that sounded like the Jaffa equivalent of 'shut up and go away'. Male bravado was apparently independent of species.
"Your injuries may have healed, but your temperature is still way too high; your pulse is erratic and your symbiote doesn't seem to be taking care of it."
"There's nothing you can do," Rak'nor said, and turned deliberately away from her.
"Nonsense. You're not that ill."
"Indeed, Dr Frasier," Teal'c said, "Rak'nor is correct. There is nothing you can do. Allow him at least to die with dignity."
"How about living with dignity," she snapped. "How about telling me what's wrong with him?"
Teal'c looked a lengthy question at Raknor before the younger Jaffa finally lowered his head in acquiescence.
"His prim'ta has reached maturity," Teal'c said. "I have offered him mine in recognition of the life-debt between us, but he will not accept it."
Rak'nor raised his head high, and she could see the pride that sustained him through his fear. "Teal'c must lead our people now that Kytano is dead. Teal'c is a great leader and an inspiration to us all. He is truly Jaffa."
Not only Rak'nor... all the rebel Jaffa faced this fate. A Jaffa without his symbiote would live a day or two at the most. She could remember Teal'c slowly dying from the combined effects of the venom of an alien insect, that was rewriting his DNA, and the lack of his symbiote. He'd removed the symbiote to try and kill himself before the venom changed him entirely, before Colonel Maybourne and his NID cronies could capture him and use him as a living lab specimen.
"Is there nowhere else you can get an immature symbiote?"
Rak'nor spoke with a calm maturity that belied his youth. "We cannot steal a symbiote from the temple as the Goa'uld no longer give their new-born to our priests. We will not kill one of own kind in order to live. I am not afraid. My soul will go to Kheb."
Teal'c stood beside him, hand resting on Rak'nor's shoulder. "We shall win this war. We will destroy the power of the System Lords. We will take their queens for ourselves and enslave them as they enslaved us. This, I promised Apophis."
"And is that any reason why I shouldn't look for a medical solution in the interim?"
Teal'c's eyes met hers and something in their dark depths unsettled her. Slowly, he reached a hand into a pocket and drew out a floppy disc. He offered it to her on the palm of his hand.
"If this will provide assistance, then you may use it."
His hand was dark, with the creases showing as thin pale lines, and calloused where Teal'c habitually held his staff weapon. She hesitated, touched by an odd premonition. "What is it?"
There was no label or identification of any kind, but Teal'c recited the title without pause.
"An investigation into the symbiotic relationship between Goa'uld and Jaffa with particular reference to the impact on the immune system."
It sounded useful. It sounded extremely useful, but Teal'c was holding it almost as though he feared it. Who could have carried out such a study? Teal'c was the only Jaffa on Earth and she'd found out so little that was of any real use. All she really knew was what anaesthetics affected the larval Goa'uld, and how long Teal'c could survive without it. Blood samples had revealed a complex mixture of substances and she had no easy way of testing how they would work outside of the petri dish. Anything else would require serious amounts of Teal'c's time and procedures that were shaky ethically to say the least.
"Where did you get it?"
"It was given to me by Colonel Maybourne. It contains the death of another version of myself."
"That mealy-mouthed, scum-sucking, son-of-a- I'll bet he got a real kick out of giving you that. Missed you in this reality, but got you in another one." She pushed the disc away gently. There was no need to ask now how the ethical problems had been dealt with. "I can't use that. If I use something gained by vivisection, then I'm no better than the person who did it. I'll find another way."
Daniel's lab was comforting in its total contrast to Sam's own. Her own world of number-crunching computers, charts of solar radiation profiles and boards filled with the elegant beauty of complex formulae was where she normally felt happy and secure. Today's problem could not be solved by mathematical analysis, or spectroscopy, or by any machine she had at her disposal. Today, she needed to understand a mind, an alien mind inextricably linked with Colonel O'Neill's. Fear clawed an icy-fingered pathway up her spine and she ruthlessly rejected it. Jack was going to get through this. He was going to get through it because the rest of them were going to make it work out.
Daniel's clutter of scrolls, carvings and images from ancient cultures gave a feeling of reassurance and continuity. They were old. Not just years or decades old, but old in the kind of way that Kantele was old. They were the history and heritage of mankind. In an odd kind of way, these long-dead people lived on in Daniel, almost as though his fascination with them gave them a kind of immortality. If Daniel could understand them, then he had the best chance of any of them of understanding Kantele.
She paused just inside the doorway to run her hand over a broken stone tablet, tracing the inscription with the tip of a finger.
"It's from Giza," Daniel said, looking up from his desk. "There's a graveyard close to the pyramids where the workers were buried. That man was a quarryman."
A tombstone, then. She pointed at random to a clay tablet on a shelf and Daniel fetched it down for her. He looked puzzled, but asked no questions as she turned it over in her hands and tried to imagine the people who had impressed the marks into the clay so many millennia ago. It was as though she needed to touch the past, bury herself in it for a moment. To believe in the past was to believe in the future, to believe that life would continue, to believe that life had meaning, to believe that everything could work out between herself and Jack.
"What is it?" she asked.
Daniel glanced at the markings. "It's from the Epic of Gilgamesh." He took off his glasses and looked closer. "It's um... It's the part where Shamhat captures Enkidu. She, uh..." He rubbed a lens hard against his shirt. "Sam, you didn't come here to study cuneiform."
She said nothing for a moment, just held the baked clay in her hand. The tablet was ancient and yet the Goa'uld had already been on Earth when it had been made. It was Daniel who had seen the implications in ancient texts across so many different cultures and realised aliens must have been here. His knowledge was so wide-ranging and extensive that it was always a mild shock to find something he couldn't instantly understand.
"Were you able to translate what Colonel O'Neill wrote?"
Daniel pulled Jack's paper out from under an ornate gaming board, and a sheaf of notes from a folder tucked behind a small sphinx. "It's an early form of Chinese, but the advantage of ideograms is that the images are consistent across many different spoken languages. Unlike a phonetic script, you don't need to speak the language in order to read it."
"How far have you got?"
"Well, obviously it isn't perfect, but I've got a first draft." He took a thick leather-bound volume from the top of a pile and opened it at a book-marked page. Columns of ideograms marched down the page with translations in German against each one. "This symbol here clearly translates as child or children."
'Kinder' - she knew that one. There were some interesting scientific papers published in German and she'd started to learn the language after wanting to read the original of a paper that she suspected of being inaccurately translated. After struggling for a few months in a morass of genders, cases and modal verbs, she'd given up.
Daniel thought nothing of working through a second language to get to English. The word 'genius' seemed inadequate. She wasn't up to following a word by word translation, and she knew it.
"Can you just show me the draft?" She had a fleeting moment of sympathy for Jack's distaste of long scientific explanations, but she had no regrets about her actions on that score. Partly because it had been her job to offer them and his right as CO to accept or reject them, and partly because it had achieved the status of a standing joke between them.
"Here." Daniel took a page from the folder and smoothed it out in front of her.
The gods have many children and they have few.
Those of the many are loyal, but their line does not continue.
Those of the few are the lines of kings, but they are formidable and dangerous to those who sire them.
Nothing is secret from one's children.
"Yes." He pointed to the last line. "I'm taking this bit to be a reference to Goa'uld genetic memory."
"That would tie into the line above. Remember Bra'tac's plan to turn Apophis and Klorel against one another? He said a System Lord was more likely to be deposed by his own children than anyone else."
Daniel nodded. "I imagine that's also why the Goa'uld kill all harsesis children. A human child with all the knowledge of two Goa'uld could be as dangerous as a Goa'uld. Shifu would have been as evil as Apophis if Oma Desala hadn't helped him suppress the memories." His eyes rested momentarily on a photograph on his desk. She didn't need to look to know who the picture was of: Shifu's mother, Sha're. You lost your love when she became a Goa'uld host. Please, let my love be safe.
Daniel focused back on the paper once more. "I'm not so sure about the many and few part," he said. "I may have mistranslated a symbol. I was going to ask Teal'c, but he's sitting with Rak'nor." He bit gently on his lower lip. "Rak'nor's dying, and I think Teal'c blames himself."
His words faded out of her awareness as the memory came. She was standing along with a thousand others in a great hall, listening to the words of a tall woman in a long flowing gown. My children, you have come of age and now you will play the role that was destined for you. We are many. We are one. We are Tok'ra.
She shook her head to clear it. Jolinar's memories still had the power to disconcert: it was the sensation of being someone else, of feeling thoughts and emotions that were not your own.
"Jolinar," she said by way of explanation for her brief fugue. "The Tok'ra are all so alike because Egeria was able to give birth parthenogenetically without a male Goa'uld. Hathor did the same thing when she was here. The result is many children who have the memories of only one parent and who are typically loyal to that parent. But the lack of a male parent means they're missing a chromosome, hence they're all neuter. Even when two parents are involved, true male and female offspring are rare. Egeria's line came to an end when she died. The Tok'ra have gained a few recruits since then, but there's always a risk that anyone not born from Egeria may be a spy."
"I don't believe it," she said.
"You don't know what I'm going to say."
"Yes I do."
"All right, then, I don't believe it either."
They looked cautiously at one another for a moment, caught somewhere between conviction and double bluff.
"So..." Daniel said carefully. "If Kantele isn't one of Egeria's children, but we don't believe he's a spy, that raises one rather obvious question."
"Two. Who is he descended from? And how does that affect Jack?"
Daniel stared at her in mild bemusement. "You know, I think that's the first time I've ever heard you call Jack by his first name."
She winced. "I'll have to watch that."
"Why? You're doing everything by the book, and everyone on the base knows you're an item now."
Item. Right. I love him, he loves me; but if I make a move he sidesteps - so smoothly that I didn't even realise what he was doing at first. We sleep together, but that's all: just sleep. Is it his distress over Sunlight, or is Kantele affecting him in some way? I thought Kantele... I don't know any more. What I do know is that I love Jack, and I won't lose him.
"Calling him Colonel is normal practice when I'm on duty," she said, "but more to the point he needs me in two ways right now. I need to give him emotional support, but if I'm to help solve this problem with Kantele I've got to keep a degree of detachment. It works best if I keep my mind in separate compartments and don't open more than one of them at once."
"I think that may be it," Daniel said slowly. "I think Kantele's blocking himself. I think there's parts of that genetic memory that he doesn't want to access. The real question is what's buried in there?"
The locker room was empty apart from Colonel O'Neill sitting, slumped, on a bench with his back to the door.
As the door closed behind her, he came warily to his feet.
"Come to see the freak show?"
His bitter self-mockery irked her.
"Is that how you thought of me when I was host to Jolinar?"
"Touchť. Why don't you take a seat, Carter. It's all I currently have to offer." He gestured at the bench beside him.
"I prefer to stand."
"As you wish." He promptly sat down again and devoted his attention to the floor.
He gave her a half-glance over his shoulder. "If Hammond sent you here to interrogate me, say what you have to say and then get out."
"Hammond wouldn't do that."
"Think again, Carter; you're a career officer. Personal feelings don't count."
She could see where he was coming from, didn't want to revisit that particular corner of their past. If given the order, she would do what he had had to do to her when she was host to Jolinar.
"Is Kantele connected to Lord Yu?" she asked.
"Maybe. I don't know."
O'Neill tapped his right temple. "Nobody there. He's not speaking to us right now."
"Keeping a low profile?"
"I barely know he's there." His eyes flicked to hers, held them, as though drawn taut by an invisible thread. "Carter, am I being a royal pain in the butt?"
He came to his feet, and suddenly all she could think of was the loose-limbed grace in the way he moved, of the way his hands had held her on the one night they'd actually had sex. His eyes moved over her body, with a hunger that set her on fire.
"Jack," his name came alive on her lips, "what do you want?"
"What I want," he said roughly, "is to strip off that damn uniform, pull you onto the floor and make love to you for the next two hours. Unfortunately, this is the men's locker room and you shouldn't even be in here, let alone anything else."
Butterflies chased one another in a racetrack around her stomach and her legs were developing a sudden weakness that had absolutely nothing to do with her desire to touch him, to feel the strength in his arms and to taste his lips again. Absolutely nothing...
"It's Kantele, isn't it?" she said, struggling to keep her reactions under control. "He doesn't feel the same way?"
"Oh, he does. That's the problem."
"That's the problem?" She had the sense that she was being incredibly stupid, or that Jack was being incredibly obtuse. "It's a problem because he loves me?"
"He..." The colonel was visibly floundering, hands half-spread in helpless appeal.
Putting things into words had never been his strong point, not when it came to emotions between the two of them. "If you don't tell me," she said patiently, "then I won't know."
Jack winced. "He had a guilt trip the morning after. You're Jacob's daughter."
So that was it. It made sense in a crazy sort of way. Having had both her father and her 'daughter' as hosts, Kantele's emotions had to be pretty confused where she was concerned. Could he have coped if he hadn't responded to her sexually as well? Because he had. Of that she had no doubt at all.
Right, Carter, time to fight dirty.
"Which of us are you marrying?" she demanded. "Me or Kantele?"
"Not that simple? I know. But if we decide what we want, then we'll find a solution. Do you want to marry me?"
"Yes." Not a trace of hesitation in that voice. Then: "Carter, was that a proposal?"
She blinked. "Yes. There's no law against women proposing."
Jack smiled, a sudden flash of the cheerful cheeky grin that she knew and loved so well.
"You can tell Daniel that he owes me five dollars."
"You..." She laughed, couldn't help herself. "You had a bet with Daniel as to whether I'd propose to you?"
"Only five dollars." He pulled an expression reminiscent of a small boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Then, his face brightened. "We had another one on the 'obey' issue. Which way do you stand on that?"
"Which end of the bet did you take?" she asked.
O'Neill tapped the side of his nose. "That would be telling."
It was an interesting question. Five years ago, she would have answered automatically: 'No way.' Swearing to obey one's husband was anachronistic and insulting to women. Now? She found that she was capable of surprising herself.
"Sir. I've obeyed your orders for five years in the line of duty. You have never abused that position. Not once. I promise to obey you."
He was uncharacteristically silent for moment.
"Major, I have never been more privileged in my life to lose a bet."
That was Jack O'Neill. If asked, she might have said that she loved him for his looks, or his sense of humour, his intelligence or simply the strong camaraderie that came from working together. In truth, it was more than that: the core of integrity that ran though him and affected everything he did. It was that integral sense of honour that recognised the depth of what she had promised him, and valued it accordingly.
He was worth fighting for, and fight she would, even if he didn't like it.
"Sir, you have an appointment with Dr MacKenzie at fourteen hundred hours."
"Fourteen hundred," she repeated, as though she hadn't heard him.
"Carter, what part of 'no' didn't you understand? I'm not letting anyone mess around inside my head."
"Daniel thinks Kantele is suppressing memories."
"Now there's a surprise. You know, I'd actually managed to work that one out for myself."
"Yes, Sir, but you're Tok'ra. You have access to his memories if you want to."
"I don't want to. Capeesh?"
She said nothing, simply waited.
"Carter, which one of us is giving the orders around here?"
"You are. Sir."
"Just checking." He sighed. "Okay, I'll see the shrink. But, Sam, I don't want you there."
She nodded. "I know. What's between you, me and Kantele is for us to deal with. If I'm not there, it'll help you steer clear of that part of your memories. But be careful, Daniel said Kantele's memories could be dangerous."
"Did he say why?"
"Not exactly. He just said that Shifu had warned him."
Jack stood in the doorway, with a cold, set look on his face that said he was only co-operating with this because he could see no other option.
Feeling the chill, Daniel shifted uncomfortably in his chair. MacKenzie looked over at him and half-raised an eyebrow.
"I never said this was going to be easy," Daniel muttered under his breath.
The psych lab was a small room and about as welcoming as the SGC ever managed to get. The usual plastic stacking chairs had been replaced by a couple of leather armchairs placed so as to face one another without blocking the view of the oversize video screen that graced the far wall. Presently, a cloudscape drifted slowly across it, though when Daniel had first come here to talk to MacKenzine, the design had been the gentle rise and fall of coloured blobs in a lava lamp. The bland classical paintings on the wall were matched by the bland classical music playing quietly in the background. Most people would probably find it relaxing, but Jack...
"Turn that damn muzak off."
"It's to help you relax," MacKenzie said.
"Well, it isn't working."
No, it wouldn't - Jack hated anything intended to manipulate him. Hardly surprising when you considered what he'd been through over the years.
"Then sit down," MacKenzie gestured at the chair facing the screen, "and try to relax by whatever means you can." He switched off the music and pressed a button to start the tape recorder. "What I'm going to do is to take you back in time. We want to access Kantele's memories before you became his host and discover exactly what his connection is to Lord Yu. Do you understand?"
"Just get on with it." Jack sat stiffly upright in the chair, stared ahead at the cloudscape.
"There's something else," Daniel said hesitantly.
"We, uh..." He scratched at a sudden itch on the back of his neck.
"When we've finished with this," MacKenzie said, "I'll need to run a full set of psychometric tests on you."
"And this is because...?" Jack said, with a dangerous edge to his voice.
Appearing completely unfazed, MacKenzie calmly checked some papers on a clipboard. "To ensure that your personality has not changed since the last set of tests."
"I ticked boxes at random last time."
Now, you could hear strain in MacKenzie's voice. "Colonel, I really must-"
"I don't care what you-"
"Jack! He's trying to protect you and all the rest of us."
"From what? You think Kantele's a zatarc?"
"Actually, no," Daniel admitted, "but now you mention it, yes, there has to be that possibility." He should have thought of that one. It was horribly obvious in retrospect. "If Kantele thinks he could have been programmed, then he might be trying to protect us. He could have closed himself out to avoid reacting to a potential trigger."
Like a gladiator taking basic precautions against a lion he had just been informed might be a man-eater, MacKenzine manoeuvred his clipboard carefully between himself and the Colonel.
"Colonel, a Goa'uld has the ability to control the host at will, and according to what Dr Jackson has already told me, there is a definite risk in accessing Kantele's memories."
Jack didn't look at the psychiatrist, he looked straight at Daniel.
"I thought you trusted us?"
'Us' Did Jack realise he'd said that?
He perched himself on a corner of the table next to the tape recorder, aware that his palms were sweating, and tried not to let his nervousness show.
"Jack, there's something I need to tell you."
"I left the gas on? No? It's the jacket, right? Doesn't tone with the decor. I just knew I should have worn blue today."
After joining the SGC, it had taken him all of a week to realise that Jack had learned the trick of using humour as a defence, but it had taken a lot longer to figure out ways past it. Now, he had both the knowledge and the confidence in them both to know when to cut to the chase.
"It's about Shifu." He turned to MacKenzie. "Doctor, I know we discussed this earlier, but I think it should go on the tape recording as well."
"Nice one, Daniel. Get it all down for posterity."
Daniel winced. It wasn't just humour Jack used as a weapon.
He didn't want to go though this, didn't want to recall what he'd done, but he owed it to Jack to warn him of the dangers, to let him have the option of getting out of this.
The worst bit might as well come first. "I had the memories of a Goa'uld once. I ended up murdering thousands, only spared you so I could gloat."
"I never thought you had it in you. Gloating, that is. I guess I must have been looking in the other direction when the mass murder happened."
"It was in a dream." Daniel flinched inwardly as more painful memories worked their way to the surface. "Shifu showed me what would happen if I had all the knowledge of his parents. You can't separate the knowledge of the Goa'uld from what they are. I tried to save the world and ended up becoming a dictator. Apophis's memories were just too strong for me.
"It was gradual at first. I started mistrusting Teal'c: I was sure he'd betray me. One day, he had an 'accident'. I told myself that it was justified, that if he'd betrayed Apophis, then he'd betray us too. Then I started gathering power. Everything was too important to allow anyone else to control it. I had to keep it all in my own hands.
"You were the only one who realised what I was doing and you tried to stop me. I thought it was amusing that you, a mere human, should think you could outwit me. You never had a chance."
Jack's face was an open book. Neither of them needed to say anything. He'd known Jack for long enough to know what was going through his friend's mind, probably pretty similar to what had gone through his mind when he'd awoken and realised that it had all been a dream, except that for Jack it might not be a dream... It could happen for real.
"What about Selmak?" Jack demanded. "He's got those ancestral thingies."
"But only from one parent," Daniel countered, "and we know who that parent was. Selmak was born parthenogenetically of Egeria and he has her memories, like all the other Tok'ra - except Kantele."
Jack was getting into stubborn mode. "Egeria had parents."
"And we don't know anything about them." He spread his hand wide in frustration. "They were extemely minor Goa'uld. The myths say that Egeria was a nymph; that's pretty low ranking by System Lord standards. Maybe her parents didn't have access to a sarcophagus, maybe they weren't as evil as most Goa'uld. Maybe she was just an exceptionally strong character. The thing is, we just don't know." He could feel the urge to grab MacKenzie's clipboard and bang Jack over the head with it. "And we know nothing about Kantele's ancestors. Nothing."
Coming to his feet, Jack reached out a hand to rest on Daniel's shoulder. "I know something." His eyes searched Daniel's. "Kantele's over a thousand years old. Whatever he's got in there, he's managed to deal with it this long. Besides," he shrugged, "I know him. I don't believe he'd anymore go bad than you would."
Daniel jumped off the table, bouncing up and down on his heels. "Don't you see! That's just the point."
"Yeah." Sobriety had settled in. The old Jack, the one he remembered from Abydos. No humour now, just a cold ruthless assessment of the situation. "If we're to stay at the SGC, then this has to be done. Doesn't matter if Kantele wakes up half an hour from now and tells me everything's right as rain. We deal with Goa'uld problems all the time, here - if this can happen once, then it can happen again."
"I know. Risking my neck is what they pay me for. But, Danny Boy, do one thing for me, will ya?"
"If you have any doubts afterwards, contact Bra'tac. Tell him he can shoot me if he thinks there's anything wrong."
"You really think he can..."
Jack shrugged. "Maybe. I'd trust him over a psychbabble test or a polygraph."