Rating: PG, Gen
Warning/Spoilers: Spoilers for ‘Meridian', 'Fallen’, but just in passing
Prompt: From Traycer_ : Cultural Differences, Team, Offworld
Characters: Sam, Jack, Teal’c, and Daniel
Thanks: Great thanks to Random, for the wonderful beta. It was invaluable, as always.
Daniel lowered his binoculars. “Well, that’s disappointing.”
“I believe this place is never left unattended, Daniel Jackson. We will be unable to destroy it without inflicting casualties.” Teal’c narrowed his eyes as he watched the change of shift at the Naquadah mine.
“Let’s see what Sam wants to do.”
Crouching low and moving silently, they backed away from the cliff, pushing through the underbrush, and joining Carter in the clearing behind them. She stood with her back to the trees, scanning the area for energy readings.
“More workers have arrived, Colonel Carter.”
She glanced up from the scanning device. “Still no sign of guards?”
Teal’c shook his head slightly, raising an eyebrow. “No. The Goa’uld who controls this world does not appear to need force to compel these people to work.”
Folding the small binoculars together, Daniel tucked them into the lower pocket of his vest. “Abydos was like that. They were too afraid not to do exactly as they were told—until they found out the Goa’uld weren’t gods. That might be the approach to take here. Teal’c doesn’t think there’s any way to destroy the mine without taking a lot of these people with it.”
“I’d hoped we could get in and out fast, we don’t have much time, or the manpower to support a rebellion, not with everyone in the field. The other teams will be blowing their targets, and once the Goa’uld realize attacks are being made on multiple points of the supply chain, we’re going to have some activity here. We’ll have to find a way to get these people away from that mine.”
“We started the rebellion on Abydos without backup. We had more than twice the number of people, but—”
“You had a nuke, Daniel. A nuke. We have two P-90s, a staff weapon, and our sidearms.”
“And you had all the time in the world. You were stuck on Abydos.”
“There’s that. Okay, point taken.”
Carter adjusted the scanner. “Still no energy readings indicating Goa’uld presence. Daniel, have you seen any signs as to who might be running things?”
“Not yet. There aren’t any steles or temples built as a grand gesture of ownership. No ruins.... In fact, everything is surprisingly rudimentary considering how competent the populace seems to be at the mine. Their behavior in the village shows that they value knowledge. They gather in groups like… well, it reminds me of the descriptions for how the ancient Greeks assembled to debate philosophy and science. Even the children seem to spend more time talking than—”
Carter held up a hand.
He spoke more quickly. “You’d think their pursuit of knowledge would be reflected in their surroundings, but it isn’t. Architecture, art, music… Those don't seem to be valued, although I suppose it’s possible they’ve been outlawed, as writing was on Abydos. But the village is entirely utilitarian. Whatever it is that occupies them, it doesn’t have much to do with the way they live their lives.”
Slipping the scanner into a TAC vest pocket, she nodded. “Teal’c?”
“The planet could be held by either Baal or Anubis, or by a Goa’uld sworn to one of them.” Teal’c looked back toward the mine, his mouth pulled down. “Even if we cannot offer aid, should we not speak to these people? They may have intelligence to share.”
Carter was silent for a moment. “Okay, we’ll give it a shot. Let’s go to the village and see what kind of reception we get.”
Teal’c left his tea untouched. He had seen the grimace that Daniel Jackson had tried to repress and felt no need to experience the taste that led to this reaction. As he listened to the conversation about the Goa’uld and the Tauri’s battle against them, he watched the villagers, who stood in groups gathered around them.
Carter and Daniel sat on stools around a small table with Tavros, the leader of the village, holding cups of tea. They explained the need to destroy the mine, and were attempting to suggest options should the villagers wish to free themselves of their oppression.
Teal’c remained standing, half-listening, entirely on guard. He wished to be able to move quickly should a threat present itself. The people surrounding them drew closer. They showed neither fear at the idea of rebellion, nor eagerness to be free. Their indifference was strange, disturbing. He examined the faces in the crowd, certain that something more than slavery was wrong in this place.
Turning away from the villagers, he stared at Tavros, who spoke now.
“We understand that Lord Baal is not a god, but he is powerful and protects us from outside forces. He saved us from ignorance. For this, we must pay a price, but we are free to pursue enlightenment—our minds are free although our bodies are not. When we have gained greater knowledge of ourselves and the universe, we will leave these bodies behind and know greater freedom than any being of flesh.”
Carter’s eyebrows rose. She waved a hand toward Daniel, her eyes still on the village leader.
Daniel didn’t see the gesture, but he didn’t need instruction to ask questions. He stared at Tavros, his mouth open, then said, “Ascension. You’re talking about ascension?”
Tavros tilted his head. “Perhaps. I speak of becoming one with the universe, as beings of great wisdom and power. Is this ‘ascension?'"
“It is, but…” Lines deepened between Daniel's eyes. He looked at Teal’c and Carter, then back to the leader of the village. “How did you learn of this? You say Baal saved you from ignorance…”
“We did not always live here, we were not always miners. Once we were the slaves of
Cronos, and very harshly treated. One day, a being of light came through the chappai'ai. We did not know what it was, but soon after, Lord Baal arrived and told us of this being—it’s knowledge and power. He told us that one day we, too, could achieve this. That if we went with him, we would be free to advance towards this goal so as long as we also work this mine."
Free? Teal’c’s jaw clenched and his hand tightened on his weapon. Free to be slaves, serving the Goa’uld, and waiting for a day that might never come.
Daniel leaned toward Carter and spoke quietly. “Clever. Pie in the sky and you don’t even have to die. I wonder how Baal knew an ascended being had been seen by these people?”
“Maybe it was an illusion that he created.” Carter looked around the square. “This way he doesn’t have to expend any resources to get the naquadah.”
Teal’c moved closer to the table, his gaze fixed on Tavros. “Why can you not seek this goal in true freedom? Why would you choose to walk this path as slaves?”
Hands spread, Tavros leaned forward. “The freedom you call ‘true’ is an illusion. We are all slaves of our bodies, and will be so until we shed them. Struggle on the mortal plane is but wasted time and energy.”
Teal’c thought of the symbiote that he had carried. These people knew nothing of slavery of the body. “Does Baal not take your people for hosts? Their minds are not free. Would you condemn them to this?”
“It is part of the price we pay. It is as it is.”
Teal’c’s mouth pulled down. “And what of the worlds conquered with technology created from the naquadah that you give to Baal? Your compliance with the Goa’uld condemns others to slavery.”
“That is not our concern. All worlds make their own choices. We do not seek to interfere.”
Daniel slammed his cup on the table, the sound echoed through the silent village, drawing all eyes to him. “There’s no choice with the Goa’uld! They’re parasites—a plague. And you’re helping them.” Taking a deep breath, he lifted his hands. “Look, I know something about what you’re trying to do. I was ascended—”
There were gasps from the crowd, and voices grew loud, drowning out Daniel‘s words.
Raising his voice above them, he stood and addressed the crowd. "This isn’t the way to do it, at the expense of others. It’s just not… It’s not right, and it doesn’t lead to good things. We know. We’ve seen it. Ascension is about advancing, progressing…Yes, it means separating yourself from your life on this plane, but not… giving up. It has to be done with awareness that you tried to make things better. That doing the right thing is important! When beings that don’t believe that ascend, it leads to terrible suffering and destruction. You can’t want that.” He turned back to Tavros. “You can’t…”
Tavros stood, his fists tight. “Are you so desperate to achieve your goal that you would lie about something so sacred to us? Or did you fail in your goal to rise from this existence? In either case, your words diminish you in our eyes. We have nothing more to discuss.” He flicked a hand in the air and started to leave.
Daniel moved into Tavos’ path, blocking him with a raised hand. “Yes. We do. Have any of you’re people actually ascended? It isn’t always possible without the help of an ascended being—and they don’t do that much. They’re not supposed to do it at all.”
“And you don’t leave your flaws behind with your body. If you aren’t ready, if you don’t understand consequences, you can get caught between states. Not alive, not ascended… Just… trapped, with all your vices intact.” Daniel let his hand drop to his side. “This is the direction you’re going. Your actions have meaning. Consequences are something you need to pay attention to now.”
Teal’c moved away from the table. He thought about all those who had died to be free, those who had sacrificed themselves for the good of others. He had no desire to hear more excuses—excuses and ignominy. These people sought an easy path, but such a path did not exist. They merely shifted their burden to others.
More people gathered around them, some covered with the dirt of labor. As he watched, yet more arrived, waved forward by the others. Teal’c saw the opportunity, and stepped into Colonel Carter’s line of sight. He glanced toward the mine, and back to her.
She shook her head, a small gesture designed to go unnoticed, pointing at herself and Daniel, then back to Teal’c.
He shook his head in return. Now was the time. If these people would not choose honor for themselves, he would choose it for them.
Glancing upward, Colonel Carter's mouth tightened, but she looked back at Teal'c and nodded slightly. Standing, she moved to Daniel Jackson's side, so that now they, and Tavros, drew all attention.
As Teal’c eased back to slip between the buildings and out of the village, he heard his teammate’s raised voices join with the voices of the crowd, creating the diversion he required.
It was fortunate he had chosen to carry his staff weapon on this mission. It was an excellent instrument of intimidation. When he reached the mine, he raised it and walked forward, firing, bolts of fire passing over the heads of the workers and exploding against the rock walls. They dropped their tools and ran—not toward the village, as Teal’c stood between them and that avenue of escape, but into the hills behind the mine.
Reaching the entrance, Teal'c grabbed a worker who had lagged behind the others. He dragged the man to his feet. “How many are inside?”
Eyes wide, stinking of hard work and fear, then miner sagged in Teal'c's grip. “What do you want? Why do you attack us? Please… ”
Giving the man a shake, Teal’c asked again. “How many?”
“F-Five… I think… Please…”
“You will bring them out.” The miner stared at him without moving. “Quickly.” Teal’c pushed him toward the mine entrance. "You will not be harmed—unless you are still inside when I destroy this place.”
The man turned and ran inside, calling out to the others, and emerged with five workers trailing behind.
Shrugging out of his pack, Teal'c removed the C-4 and stacked it near the support beams for the main shaft. As he affixed the timer, he smiled and thought of O’Neill's enjoyment of large explosions.
“I’m receiving SG-1’s IDC. They're coming in hot.”
“Open the iris.”
O’Neill jogged down the stairs and through the corridor to the gateroom, entering in time to see SG-1 run through the gate, preceded, pelted, and followed by a hail of good-sized rocks. One of them, baseball-sized, hit the rail of the ramp, bounced off, and hit him on the hand. “Ow, damn it! Shut it down, Walter!”
He turned to look at the team. Bent over, hands on his knees, Daniel drew in long breaths like he’d run a marathon. Carter sat at the base of the ramp in pretty much the same condition, rubbing her thigh. Even Teal’c sported a few bonus cuts and a goose egg-sized lump on the side of his head. Otherwise, they looked fine.
Flexing his sore hand, O'Neill ambled over. “Hey, kids. I don't remember asking for mineral samples.”
Daniel straightened. “We met some nice people and they gave us these lovely parting gifts.” He waved toward the rocks that littered the floor and ramp.
Teal’c walked down the ramp. “The mission has been completed, O’Neill. Naquadah production will be greatly delayed, if not halted.”
“Now, that’s what I like to hear.” Jack didn’t miss the twitch of Carter’s shoulders, or the way Daniel’s eyes rolled. He waved the SF’s from the room. “Carter?”
Teal’c listened as Colonel Carter reported on the people’s views of ascension and their allegiance to Baal, and on the successful conclusion of the mission. Satisfaction warmed him, particularly when she mentioned the magnitude of the blast.
Daniel sat at the bottom of the ramp, rubbing a shoulder. “I would have had more sympathy for their position if they’d shown any concern for their people who’ve been taken as hosts. Tavros, their leader, pretty much wrote them off. He didn’t care what Baal is doing with the naquadah they’re mining, either.” He pulled up the sleeve of his jacket to examined a large bruise forming on his arm. “I wouldn’t have agreed, but I would have understood. Sort of.”
Carter nodded. “It’s all about them, and the rest of the galaxy can go hang.”
“I’m surprised they haven’t ascended already.” O’Neill raised an eyebrow and looked at Daniel. “Sounds like they’d fit right in.”
“You didn’t fit in, did you? That’s a good thing—in more than one way.” He turned to Carter. “So— we not getting those folks fighting the Goa’uld?”
“Well, I guess we might have been able to convince them, but not quickly, and… Teal’c came up with a good plan to destroy the mine right away.”
Teal’c lifted his chin. “Tavros believes that all worlds make their own choices. He was correct. They made their choice to aid the Goa’uld. We also undertook a choice.”
Jack glanced around, seeing Daniel’s pursed lips and averted gaze, the way Carter shifted her weight. “Okay, am I missing something? As in, it sounds like you and Daniel took a big risk with the village people, Carter, diversion or not. That was pretty close to picking a fight about religion—with no backup.”
“Their path to ascension is corrupt, O’Neill.”
Daniel raised an eyebrow. “Jack, we do this all the time. Fighting about religion is pretty much our job.”
O’Neill waved a hand. “You know what I mean—non-parasite, no snake religion. And we’re not out there to look for pre-glowy heretics, Teal’c.” He grimaced. “Not that there’s anything god-like about the ascended. Look, I’m just saying, if they’re willing to be Baal’s slaves because they think it will help them ascend, they’ve got some serious convictions. It could have gotten ugly, and it’s not easy to control a mob with two people, even if they are armed.”
“Sir, it was worth the risk—”
“Besides, it wasn’t that risky.” Daniel waved a hand. “Okay, it was a little risky, but once I realized that Teal’c was gone—”
“Hold it! Stop right there. ‘Once you realized?’
“Many people had gathered to listen to Daniel Jackson, O’Neill. The chance of casualties was greatly lessened.”
“I knew he where he was going, sir.”
“I alerted Colonel Carter as to my plan, and after a brief discussion, she saw the benefits of my intended actions.”
Jack rubbed his forehead. Then he looked at Teal’c. “Lost your temper, didn’t you, Teal’c?”
Teal’c looked at his teammates. Both Daniel Jackson and Colonel Carter appeared curious, as though this was not something they had considered. This was not a question he truly wished to answer. He no longer admired the ascended beings as he once had—not since the destruction of Abydos, not since Daniel Jackson had been left in the care of strangers, his memory taken from him for no greater crime than taking a stand against Anubis. But the concept had merit. “The idea of ascension, of Kelb, inspired Jaffa to dream of freedom when there seemed no other way in which it might be achieved. To see this same dream inspiring slavery and dishonor…this is the way of Anubis. It could not be allowed.”
A thoughtful frown crossed Daniel’s face as he listened to Teal’c. He looked at O’Neill. “He’s not wrong about Anubis and ascension.”
“The whole lot of them are a little ‘dark side,’ if you ask me. Higher beings, my ass. Your rock people aren’t the only ones who’d hang the galaxy out to dry if it suited them—or watch every last person become a host.”
O’Neill looked at the team, bruises and bumps growing more noticeable by the minute. “Okay, we’re done here, time for a visit to the infirmary.” He took a step back and gestured toward the door.
Outside, the SF’s were waiting to take their weapons. Carter and Daniel unclipped P-90’s from their vests, followed by the sidearms from their holsters.
Teal’c looked at his staff weapon, then at O’Neill. “The worthiness of our battle is not lessened by those that turn from it. Enlightenment is but one worthy goal.” Nodding gravely to one of the security officers, he handed him the weapon, bowed to O’Neill, and joined his waiting teammates.