Cam stood in General Landry's office, personnel files scattered across the general's desk.
“Colonel Mitchell, I understand Lieutenant Salosny didn't work out, but we really need to finalize your team. I think General O'Neill's two recommendations are good ones, and I'd like to hear your objections.”
“I think General O'Neill was . . . joking, sir. I mean, two aliens and two girls?” Cam stopped. He couldn't believe he'd just said that out loud. If Sam had been there she would have had his hide. Teal'c too. And Vala. . . . Well, Vala would have just laughed. “Uh, what I mean, sir, is. . . .”
“Colonel, instead of thinking of them as two girls and two aliens, you may be better served thinking of them as a genius with a knack for technology, a young but seasoned soldier with expertise in alien cultures and an experienced member of your old team with a . . . multitude of talents.”
“By that last, you would mean Vala, sir?”
Landry sighed. He wasn't even going to grace that with a comment, since he and everyone else knew that Mitchell had fought to keep Vala on his team. Landry felt for Colonel Mitchell, he did. But he wished he would see his revamped team as an opportunity rather than a punishment. While Teal'c, Colonel Carter and Dr. Jackson had graciously accepted Mitchell's command, their participation had always been more of a collaborative effort than that of subordinates. You would think Mitchell would welcome the chance to actually command someone.
“Colonel Mitchell, what exactly are your objections to Lieutenant Hailey, other than her gender?”
“Sir, I apologize for that. Hailey is a genius and has handled herself well on missions, but she has spent a lot more time in the lab than going through the Gate. I am sure she is ready for a front-line team, but I'd like my second to be someone with a little more experience giving orders and a little less . . . attitude.”
“And you suggest?”
“Well, that's the problem, sir. Everyone I—everyone Vala and I—want is already taken. I'd consider. . . .”
“What about Captain Grogan?”
Cam stopped midsentence. “Grogan? Karl Grogan's available?” That sounded too good to be true. The newly promoted Captain had grown into a fine officer, his difficult early experiences giving him a wisdom and steadiness that, Cameron had heard, he hadn't always shown as a new lieutenant.
“Yes. As you know, Major Green is retiring and Lieutenant Chin is expecting twins and has asked to be reassigned to the mountain. That leaves Grogan and Ivanson. . . .”
“I'll take him, sir. I'll take Grogan.”
Landry nodded. “And Kal'toc? The pilot program integrating other Jaffa into the SGC has the full support of President Woods, as well as HWS and the SGC. By recommending that Kal'toc be assigned to your team, General O'Neill and Teal'c have expressed great confidence in your ability to lead, and,” he held up a warning hand, “before you say anything, no, I don't think they meant it as a practical joke.”
“Yes, sir,” Cam said. “It's just he seems a little . . . overenthusiastic for a Jaffa.”
“He's young, Colonel. It's to be expected. But he is an experienced soldier, and he passed his SCG training with top marks.”
Cam sighed. He couldn't shake the thought that recommending Kal'toc for his team was Teal'c's idea of payback, although for what he wasn't quite sure. Still, the young Jaffa did show promise.
“All right, sir. You give me Grogan, and I'll take Kal'toc.”
“Good, then that's settled,” Landry said, already turning to other papers on his desk. “Now get out of here and let me work.”

Part I
The blue swoosh of the event horizon lit up the thick woods before it spit out Cam and his team. They had expected the people of P3X-289 to be there to greet them, but the small clearing around the Stargate and the path leading through the trees was empty. Cam liked the Helaskins, and he hoped, despite their urgent message, that nothing was seriously wrong. This planet, which SG-1 had stumbled across two years before, had amazingly avoided the conflicts that had ripped apart the rest of the galaxy in recent years. It was a pre-industrial backwater too insignificant for the System Lords to have bothered with since they had abandoned it centuries before, and no prior had ever set foot here. It was a peaceful place, with little more to recommend it than its kind and welcoming people.
As Cam was musing on this, the Helaskin leader, one of the town selectmen and a young woman Cam had never seen before came out of the woods.
“Minister Hans,” Cam greeted the man cheerfully. “I hear you have a problem. How can we help?”
“Thank you for coming so quickly,” said Hans. He took in the young, fair-haired captain and the tall, bronze-colored soldier who looked barely older than a boy to his aging eyes and asked, “Are the rest of SG-1 not with you?”
Cam sighed. That question just kept on popping up.
“No, it's just us. And it's SG-13 now.”
“Yeah,” Cam said. “Long story. You don't want to hear it.” Vala patted his arm understandingly, and he gave her a small smile. He and Vala still hadn't really come to terms with no longer being SG-1, but he was working on it. “Anyway, you've met Vala, and this is Captain Grogan and Kal'toc.”
Hans nodded and focused on Kal'toc, “You are 'Jaf-fa,'” he said, stumbling over the unfamiliar word, “like our friend Teal'c?”
“Yes, I am a free Jaffa,” Kal'toc said. “Slave to no one.”
“Ah,” Hans said.
“You are all welcome,” the young woman said, stepping in to cover the slightly awkward silence that followed. “I am Adela Brechi, the town greeter. This,” she said, pointing to the other man, “is Selectman Reinster. We are pleased that you were able to come so quickly.”
“Yes, thank you,” Selectman Reinster spoke up for the first time. “Minister Hans,” he added with respect but some impatience, “should we not make haste back to the city?”
Hans nodded. “Yes, of course. We will explain while we walk.”
Cam and the others nodded as well, and the group started walking along the path through the trees toward the valley and the small city the Helaskins called home. “A woman has fallen to our planet in a conveyance from the stars,” Hans began. “She acts very oddly and seems harmless. Still, from the stories you have told us, she is to be feared. We do not know what to do with her, and we are uncertain if more of her kind will come.”
“Stories?” said Vala. “We've told you stories?”
“Yes,” said Adela. “Stories of powerful beings that would be gods, beings that we thought you had vanquished.” Her voice held a hint of a question.
“Strange as it might seem,” Cam said, “that really doesn't narrow it down as much as you would think.”
Hans and the others looked at them in confusion, while Vala and Grogan rolled their eyes. Kal'toc, though, added, almost puffing up his chest, “Yes, this is true! The Tau'ri and the free Jaffa have vanquished many false gods.”
Cam glanced over at Kal'toc and sighed before turning his attention back to the Helaskins.
“This being can make her eyes glow and speaks with a strange voice,” Adela explained.
“Ah,” said Vala, “now that does narrow it down.”
Cam stopped walking and put up his hand to stop his team. Grogan and Kal'toc stopped, but Vala walked into Cam's back.
“Sorry,” she mumbled.
Cam gave her a glare and called to the Helaskins, who had continued down the path, “Hans! Hold up there. We need a little more intel before we go farther.”
Hans was about to ask when Kal'toc said, helpfully, “I believe the colonel means information, Minister Hans. We require more information.”
“Yes, of course.”
“Was this woman on the ship by herself?”
“Yes, there were no others.”
“Does she have any fancy jewelry?”
“She's a Goa'uld, darling,” Vala interrupted. “You probably have to be more specific.”
“Right,” Cam acknowledged. “Does she have a device that fits over her hand with a jewel in the middle? Or one of these?” he said, pulling out his zat and opening it up.
Hans flinched slightly at the mechanical sound of the zat. “Not that we have seen. We have tried not to get too close. So far she does little more than wander about and rave. At first we thought she suffered from fever, but she does not appear to be ill . . . in body.”
“And the ship, the conveyance from the stars? Is there anything left of it?”
“Yes, most of it has survived intact. It is not far from the city. Selectman Reinster can show you.”
“O.K., Grogan and Kal'toc, you go with the selectman here. Check out the ship. Make sure there are no surprises onboard and see if there's technology we can use.” Vala started to say something, but Cam shook his head minutely at her. “And Vala, you're with me,” he continued.
Grogan hesitated, then said, “Colonel, if there's a Goa'uld here, it could be some kind of trap. Shouldn't we stick together?”
Cam looked at the young captain. “Are you questioning my orders, Captain?”
Grogan didn't hesitate this time, saying simply, “Yes, sir, I guess I am.”
Cam smiled. “Excellent,” he said. “Just like old times. All right, we'll all go together.”
The usually even-tempered Grogan narrowed his eyes at this. He didn't appreciate being treated like a raw recruit after more than five years of going through the Gate. He looked toward Kal'toc, hoping that last exchange hadn't weakened his credibility in the young Jaffa's eyes. He was depending on that, and the normal Jaffa respect for chain of command, to help rein in some of Kal'toc's enthusiasm and keep him alive. Grogan had lost enough teammates in his time.
Kal'toc was looking thoughtfully at Colonel Mitchell as if trying to work out some puzzle.
Cam ignored both of them and continued to give orders: “Vala, would you do us the favor of running back to the Gate and letting the SGC know that we have a possible Goa'uld on our hands? You'll catch up to us before we get out of the woods.”
“Why me?” Vala whined, then saw the look on Cam's face. “Right. Me. I'll catch up.” She turned and headed back down the trail to the Stargate, just a few hundred feet away.
“O.K.,” Cam said. “Minister Hans, I'm sorry for the delay. Please take us to see Ms. Glowy Eyes.”
“The colonel is endeavoring to. . . .” Kal'toc started to explain.
“He knows what I mean, Kal'toc. Stay alert, people. We've got a Goa'uld on the loose.”
As the party started off again for the city, Kal'toc caught Grogan's eye and dropped back a little. Of his new teammates, Captain Grogan was the one with whom he felt most comfortable, as comfortable as he could feel around humans, whose ways he still found alien. Captain Grogan seemed calm and competent and had, in their brief time as teammates, tried to make certain that Kal'toc fit in and understood the ways of the Tau'ri military.
Colonel Mitchell, on the other hand, despite his reputation as a great warrior and leader and despite Master Teal'c's insistence that Kal'toc could learn much from the man, seemed extraordinarily casual for a commanding officer. And worse, he often seemed to be annoyed with him for reasons the young Jaffa could not fathom.
And Vala Mal Doran—she was even more of a mystery to him. She seemed to lack all seriousness and sense of decorum, and although he had been impressed with her hand-to-hand combat skills during training, he did not yet understand how she had come to be a part of one of the renowned SGC teams. He assumed he would discover this in time, but at the moment he couldn't imagine asking the flirtatious human for advice.
Grogan slowed his pace so that he was walking on the narrow path next to the young Jaffa. He kept his eyes trained on the woods about him, and noticed with satisfaction that Kal'toc was alertly scouting his surroundings as well.
“What is it, Kal'toc?” he said quietly.
“Captain Grogan, I do not understand everything that has just transpired. Perhaps it is another of the differences in our two cultures that Master Teal'c has warned me of.”
Although suspecting he knew, Grogan asked anyway: “What is it you don't understand?”
Kal'toc hesitated. Although he had spent most of his short years fighting with the free Jaffa and so had not been as indoctrinated as he might have been in the strict code of the Goa'uld and the Jaffa who served them, a young Jaffa still learned never to outwardly question his superiors, so he was uneasy with the questions he felt he must ask. Still, Master Teal'c had told him that there was much he could learn from the Tau'ri, and Captain Grogan had repeatedly said that he should ask about anything he did not understand.
“Colonel Mitchell's initial order that we divide out forces was . . . unwise?” he finally asked.
Grogan was silent for a moment and then said, “What do you think? Did you think it was unwise?”
“It is not my place to make such determinations,” Kal'toc responded immediately.
Grogan nodded. After all, it wasn't only the Jaffa military that believed that questioning orders was a dangerous and unwise course of action during wartime. “Just for now, though,” he said, “let's say it is your place. What do you think?”
Kal'toc, still uncomfortable with the concept, said, “Although I am certain that two Tau'ri warriors are more than enough for any cowardly Goa'uld without his Jaffa, . . . keeping the team as one until we learned more did seem the wiser course of action. However, I assumed that Colonel Mitchell, with his greater experience and knowledge, was aware of some factors of which I was not.”
“And. . . ?” Grogan prompted, knowing this was not what was truly bothering his charge.
“And yet,” Kal'toc continued, “he readily changed his mind when you questioned his order and seemed very pleased that you had.”
Grogan sighed. He really didn't want to explain to Kal'toc that his superior officer had just been testing an Air Force captain in such an obvious and insulting fashion.
“Here's the thing, Kal'toc,” he started. “I don't believe that Colonel Mitchell ever thought it was a good idea to confront an unknown Goa'uld with just two of the team. He just wanted to make sure we were . . . paying attention.”
“Then Colonel Mitchell wanted his orders questioned?”
“Yes. Look, Kal'toc, we should discuss this later in more detail, but, while not all officers would agree with him, Colonel Mitchell wants his team to have input and even to question his orders. I believe he thinks it makes the team stronger and his decisions . . . smarter. And no,” Grogan said, anticipating Kal'toc's next question, “that does not mean you disobey an order, even if you think it's unwise, and you have to know when to question. You already know that you can't hesitate in battle, and there are other times when questioning orders can get people killed.”
“Ah,” said Kal'toc, “it is what you Tau'ri refer to as a 'fine line,' is it not?”
Grogan smiled a little at Kal'toc's grasp of idiom. “Yes, Kal'toc, it's a fine line.”
Several yards ahead of them, Cam, eavesdropping on the conversation, smiled as well.
Vala caught up with them just before they reached the edge of the woods, only a short distance away from the outskirts of the small city. “Every hour,” she said simply, knowing Cam would understand that that was when they were expected to check back in. “Did I miss anything?”
“Nothing, Princess,” Cam said, then turned to the the Helaskin leader. “So, Hans, before we walk into something unpleasant, can you tell us exactly where our Goa'uld is at the moment?”
Hans nodded toward the young boy running toward them. The boy skidded to a halt in front of them, out of breath with enthusiasm and exertion. Cam smiled down at him, knowing this had to be the most exciting thing that had happened in his short lifetime.
“Minister Hans,” the boy gasped. “She is still outside the council house. She keeps yelling at us to kneel and then forgets we are there and talks to herself.”
“And what does she say to herself, Eidrich?” Adela asked.
“We can not understand her. When she talks to herself, it is not in our language.”
“Communication device?” Grogan queried, looking at Cam.
Cam nodded. “Maybe so. Let's see if we can get a look.” He turned to the Helaskins and asked, “Is there a way we can get a look at your visitor without her seeing us? If this snakehead isn't as alone as she seems, we'll have to wait for backup.”
Kal'toc looked displeased but said nothing. He was practically bursting with anticipation and clutched his P-90 as if readying to run pell-mell into battle. He reminded Cam of the boy Eidrich, spoiling for adventure.
“Down, boy,” Vala said, beating Cam to it.
Kal'toc opened his mouth to respond, but said nothing. He looked at Grogan, but Grogan just shook his head and made a “settle down” motion with his hand. Kal'toc stared for a moment, then nodded. He relaxed his grip on his weapon and turned to scout the valley and the nearby town for any danger. Both Master Teal'c and Master Bra'tac had talked to him of the need for patience, and he realized that Captain Grogan and Vala Mal Doran were attempting to communicate the same thing to him in their own odd way.
He admitted this trait did not come easily to him. He was itching to confront this Goa'uld in person and prove himself to his new teammates. But if Colonel Mitchell determined that they had to wait for backup, he would remain vigilant and wait.
The team crept in the direction Hans and Eidrich had indicated. Cam was with Kal'toc, coming from behind, through an alley about 20 meters from the town square; Vala and Grogan were making their way to the side door of the small wooden building across the square from the council house. They could hear their target muttering in Goa'uld in her dual-toned voice and could see townspeople scurrying by, obviously attempting to keep a good distance from their strange guest. Waiting for Vala and Grogan to get into position, Cam took a chance and stuck his head out of the alley. He stared, stunned for a moment, then quickly drew his head back in. Now that was definitely not your everyday, garden- variety Goa'uld.
“Kal'toc,” he said. “Take a look, carefully, and tell me what you think.”
Kal'toc looked out and continued to stare until Cam pulled him back.
“She is . . . old,” he said. “I have never seen or heard of such a thing. The false gods are too vain to take such a body.”
“Anything else?”
“She appears to be unarmed, although she may have a weapon hidden beneath her cloak. Her garment is worn and tattered, and still stained with blood, perhaps from the crash,” Kal'toc said. “That is also not . . . usual.”
“My thoughts exactly,” Cam said. “Can you hear what she is saying?”
“No,” said Kal'toc. “I will attempt to move closer so that I may. . . .”
“Patience, Kal'toc, patience. Let's see what Vala and Grogan can come up with.”
Cam looked across the square and saw the cloth covering the window in the building move aside slightly, and he knew Vala and Grogan were in position.
“Vala,” he spoke quietly into his radio. “Can you hear what this dame is saying?”
“Something about support hose, I think,” Vala said.
“Come again?”
Cam could hear the end of a sigh as Vala keyed her radio again. “Hold on. She's sort of mumbling. Right, well, she seems to be annoyed that no one will come close enough to offer her a new body . . . understandably . . .” Cam rolled his eyes. She really never quit, his Vala.
Vala continued, “. . . and she says she had them and let them out and nothing happened, and why did she have to get the broken ship, and where are her Jaffa, and isn't there anything to eat in this miserable place. . . . Hans is right. She appears to be raving.”
When Vala had finished, Cam said, “Grogan?”
“Whatever she's saying, she doesn't seem to be using a communication device. I suppose it could still all be part of some elaborate trick or trap.”
“Hold on,” Cam said, and turned to Kal'toc, who had a skeptical look on his face. At least this kid was easier to read than Teal'c. “You don't think so?”
“I do not believe that any Goa'uld would humiliate himself in such a manner, even to trap an enemy. It is not in their nature.”
Cam nodded slowly, and glanced back out to the square. The Goa'uld was maybe five-foot-four and too thin and had long scraggly gray hair topping an angular face. As Cam watched, a boy ran up to her and, while other children across the way cheered him on, yanked on her robe and ran away, laughing and screaming. Selectman Reinster, who was standing on the porch of a nearby building, came out and scolded the children soundly. As they ran from the square, the Goa'uld let out a horrible screech, and the dual tones sounded clearly for the first time. Gone was the strange, distracted mumble, and the Goa'uld yelled after the fleeing children and advanced on the selectman, who stepped back in surprise. Several Helaskin men stepped forward, ready to act if they needed to. Cam realized that the men, who he had thought were lounging, had actually been there to guard their visitor, and he was suitably impressed. Still, it wouldn't be good for them to tangle unarmed with a Goa'uld.
The selectman apparently agreed, telling them sharply to stay put, and he alone faced the Goa'uld head on. She stopped well before she reached him but continued to speak angrily, still in Goa'uld, forgetting, apparently, to give orders in a language her “slaves” could understand.
“You will obey me,” Kal'toc translated without being asked. “Kneel before your god Heronus!”
“Yadda, yadda, yadda,” Vala helpfully added over the radio, echoing Cam's sentiments exactly.
When Reinster did not respond, the Goa'uld suddenly put her hand up, palm out toward him, and pushed it forward as if intending to toss him with her hand device . . . only . . . she wasn't wearing a hand device. Selectman Reinster stared at her in bewilderment and took a few more steps backward; the other men shifted uncomfortably but stayed where they were. The Goa'uld made the gesture several more times, each time drawing herself up in a regal manner with that look the Goa'uld always got when they were about to cause unimaginable pain and then shooting her hand forward with confidence. Finally, she stopped and looked at her hand quizzically, then walked back toward the courthouse, muttering to herself again.
“Huh,” Cam thought.
“O.K., Grogan, Vala,” he said over the radio, “you cover us from there. I think Kal'toc and I should go out and say hello.”
“Yes, sir,” Grogan said.
Cam started to stand up from his crouch, and Kal'toc stood and raised his P-90 in readiness. Cam looked at the young Jaffa and said, “We're going to take this nice and easy, O.K.? We're going to get a little closer, then I'm going to zat her. Do not shoot her, unless our lives are in imminent danger, you got that? I know how you feel about the Goa'uld, but that could be someone's granny, you know, and I ain't killing any grannies today.”

Before Kal'toc could ask the question Cam saw forming in his eyes, Cam said, “And maybe we can get some kind of intel, all right?”
Kal'toc nodded, then smiled. “I understand, Colonel Mitchell. I would never allow my personal feelings to interfere with my duties to the SGC.” Cam was tempted to use Vala's “Down, boy,” line on the overenthusiastic warrior, but instead he nodded back and pulled his zat'ni'kel from his belt. Cautiously, they both stepped out into the square.
Grogan and Vala watched from the window as their teammates left the alley. The Goa'uld—Heronus, did she say her name was?—paid no attention to them and continued to pace back and forth in front of the well and pump in the middle of the square. Off to the side, Reinster visibly let out his breath in relief that SG-13 (Vala reminded herself of the number somewhat bitterly) had finally made an appearance. As Cam and Kal'toc walked a few paces closer, Cam opened his zat, pointing it at the elderly looking “god.”
The Goa'uld turned toward the sound and stared at the two men. She looked at her hand, then back at the zat. As Cam raised his hand to shoot, she stated, quite clearly, “Hal'toc koal stee.”
Grogan and Vala watched the Goa'uld fall and remain still. Grogan looked to Vala and asked, “What did she say?”
Vala shrugged. “Loosely translated?” Grogan nodded.
“ 'Oh, shit,' ” Vala provided with a grin, and the two of them walked out the door to help restrain their latest captive false god.
Hours later Cam and his team headed back to the Gate. Cam was pleased with the mission, considering it an overwhelming success. His team had worked well together, no one had even a scratch, the locals were happy and they had even managed to capture instead of kill the Goa’uld. A good day all around.
The SGC had sent a backup team to take their captive home to hold and interrogate until the Tok’ra responded to their request to remove the symbiote from its host. SG-13, in the meantime, had remained on the planet to tie up loose ends. Cam had sent Vala and Kal’toc to investigate the downed ship, the first time that the two had worked together without the others, and they had reported back that its technology was antiquated and that it contained little but some empty metal boxes and containers. Vala thought it may have once been used as a small Goa'uld supply vessel, and Kal'toc concurred. Neither could find any clues as to where the ship or its strange Goa'uld pilot had come from.
Minister Hans had guaranteed that none of his people would approach the ship again until the SGC could send some technicians to check it out in more detail.
Cam and Grogan, in the meantime, had interviewed the Helaskins who had first appeared at the site of the crash and helped the “old woman” from the ship. She had appeared disoriented at first, and one of the women, Betras, swore that when the Goa'uld first spoke, it was in a normal voice. This was not surprising, of course. The symbiote often did not take control right away when the host regained consciousness. Unfortunately, Betras did not understand the language spoken.
Not long before they were scheduled to leave, Vala had suggested they gather the Helaskins together so that she and Kal’toc could make sure no one else had been taken as a host. Vala reasoned that, while none of the empty containers on the ship looked as if they could have held a Goa’uld symbiote, it was better to be safe. It took more than an hour for the 1,700 or so Helaskins to file past, but Cam figured it was well worth the time, and he reminded himself to commend Vala later for the idea. She would laugh off his words, but he knew that she would appreciate them nonetheless.
Yes, it had been a very good day.
As they walked to the Stargate, Cam asked Vala and Kal'toc, “So, you two never heard of this Goa'uld? What was the name?
“Heronus,” Kal'toc supplied. “No, I have never heard of this Goa'uld.”
“No, me neither,” Vala supplied.
“Well,” Cam said, “Maybe the host can tell us something, or the Tok'ra.”
Grogan went to the DHD and dialed Earth, and Cam punched in their IDC.
“Whoever she is,” Cam added, walking toward the Gate, “I'm guessing she belongs in a looney bin somewhere.”
Vala stopped dead in her tracks. “Oh,” she said. “Oh, my.”
Cam stopped and held up his hand, and Grogan and Kal'toc stopped as well.
“Something you want to share, Princess?” Cam asked.
Vala was silent for a moment, staring straight ahead as if trying to catch a distant memory.
“Do you know who Heronus is?” Grogan asked, curiously.
“Why, yes,” she said as she started forward again. “I think I do.”
“What are you thinking, Vala Mal Doran?” Kal'toc asked, also curious.
Vala turned and looked back at Kal'toc. “Only Muscles calls me that,” she said firmly, but with humor in her voice. “I told you, you call me 'Vala' or, if you prefer, 'Beautiful.' And I am thinking . . .” Vala hesitated. “I'm thinking that the inmates have got hold of the keys to the asylum.” And with that she turned and stepped through the event horizon, leaving her teammates to stare after her.

Part 2


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