Almost a Statesman: Teal'c and the Jaffa of the Alpha Site, 2003-2004
Rating: PGMany thanks to Brighid, Pouncer, and Tripoli for quasi-anachronism wrangling and other helpful beta. If I ever say to any of you that I want to write first-person Jaffa again, remind me that's nuts, will you? Thanks ever so. Cover by tripoli8.
This is an AU taking off sometime between Orpheus and Evolution, and does not take Death Knell into account. The introduction should probably be Blamed On Widget, at least a bit.
Rya'c, Teal'c's elder son, was intimately involved with the Jaffa rebellion from his mid-teens onward. Here, in a brief English-language memoir written in response to a graduate student's query in the early 2020s, he sets down his memories of his father during late 2003 and early 2004. While excerpts were used in the resulting thesis (Caron, A. (2022) The Price of Freedom: Politics of the Jaffa Rebellion, 1997-2007. Ph.D Thesis, University of Wisconsin, 422 pp.) this represents the full text's first publication.
Siu's Through the Gate: An Official History of the SGC includes a description of the same events, which may be found in this book on pages 297-299. While reading the selection below, watch for the relative importance given to identical events in this work and Through the Gate, along with evidence of the immense impact that contact with representatives of Earth has had on the culture and behaviors of the Jaffa who have interacted with those representatives most closely.
I think that story should begin with Master Bra'tac's death.
I did not go to Satarish with him, because it was a first meeting, and he said he believed it would give a better impression of strength if he brought an older warrior. Whether that was actually the case, I do not know. The dead speak no lies, but they cannot tell us the truth, either.
Mar'tak brought him back, after, and told us of the ambush. Master Bra'tac did not have any surviving blood kin, but we all knew that Father would want to lead the burial ceremony, so Rak'nor went to inform him while I began to prepare the body. I'd done the same for Mother when she died, and so it was a familiar thing in a way--though her skin had been unmarred, and Master Bra'tac's was not. It was the zat'nikatel that killed him, but he had first been brought down by staff weapon fire. Burns stood out high on his back and thigh, ugly enough that a small part of me wanted to bandage them.
I knew that was foolish, of course. I just washed him, soap and water, wiping away blood and the dirt of three days away followed by a running battle. Not that Master Bra'tac would ever have admitted it, but he liked a good bath when he could get it, and he disliked grime. I remember thinking that I wished he could have died clean, and then that perhaps cleanliness was a strange thing to be concerned with at that moment.
Father arrived before I was finished. While I admit I had taken my time, he must have moved quickly. It was, arguably, a stroke of good fortune that he was at the SGC at all; he could well have been off-world, and then several things would have turned out differently. I remember that it was raining, the steady cold drizzle that characterized the old Alpha Site, and I shivered when he came through the door, bringing the weather with him. I had been told that the Tau'ri believe that the spirits of the departed can make the living feel cold--Father liked to tell me their ghost stories when I was young--and I swear I almost saw Master Bra'tac's spirit leave the room, as if he'd waited until Father arrived.
I was standing between the door and the body, and so he saw me first. He didn't smile, but his voice was warm when he said my name. As it is, always. I've learned that you have to listen to Father, rather than looking, sometimes.
"Rya'c. I am pleased to see you," he said. Then his gaze went right past me, and I stepped away to give him space. He laid one hand on Master Bra'tac's chest. "Tec'ma-te, Master Bra'tac," he said, and I couldn't see his face, but I could hear him.
"You'll stay?" Rak'nor asked that night, in the final moments before we lit Master Bra'tac's pyre.
"I will," Father replied, and that was that.
I don't know how the Tau'ri took Father's decision, though I cannot imagine that they were pleased to be losing him. Assuming that was so, they didn't show it in front of us--not even O'Neill, who is in my experience not always one to concern himself with appropriate public behavior.
They stood by us at the funeral, a knot of blue and black in the firelight, connected to the rest of the crowd at the single point that was my father. Major Carter cried, a little, in a restrained sort of way, and O'Neill conveyed the sympathies of the United States President, which impresses me more now than it did then. Mostly I remember wanting them gone. It was tiring, sometimes, living on a planet that they controlled, though they'd done their best to behave as if the Jaffa inhabitants of the Alpha Site were not merely guests. I knew that it was irrational to feel that they had no right to be with us that evening, but I couldn't help it.
However, I also knew it would be a comfort to my father to have them there, and whatever jealousies I may have had I cannot recall ever doubting that the people he loved at the SGC had been good friends to him. So I smiled and nodded and accepted condolences and generally comported myself in an adult way, though I feel free to admit now that I wanted very badly to eavesdrop on Father when O'Neill drew him aside.
And no, I did no such thing. Master Bra'tac would have been ashamed of such behavior.
Father stayed with us, that night and afterwards. He didn't even return to Earth for his belongings. They were brought to him in boxes, and mostly they stayed in boxes, set aside in a corner of the small Tau'ri-made building that had been Bra'tac's.
I didn't know then, and don't know now, what Father expected to happen next, as he did not confide in me. Master Bra'tac had been away a great deal of the time, and had left the day-to-day management of more than a hundred Jaffa in Rak'nor's hands, though it was Master Bra'tac's word as Father's delegate that went in the end. So once he arrived, and showed no particular inclination toward leaving on one of the long missions his predecessor had been so fond of, people began to bring him problems to solve. Little things, mostly. A woman taking more than her fair share of the food, two apprentices whose scuffle had turned rough enough to break bones needing punishment, a couple wanting to divorce. He walked through each problem with care, leaving some to rest for a day while he consulted others in the camp--elders, Rak'nor, even, to my great delight, myself. Not that I was so foolish as to believe that he truly looked to me for counsel, but at least he thought my opinions worth listening to, and if a man chooses to groom his son for future leadership that is no sin.
Now that I can look back knowing what was to come, one incident stands out in particular. There was a warrior whose name I do not now remember who died, leaving two sons, both adults as our people judge these things. They disputed who should inherit his armor, as he and his elder son had been somewhat estranged. Father, I remember, Father smiled, almost laughed, and told them they should cut it down the middle and each take half. "As Solomon recommended," he said.
We didn't understand. He explained the story, and we all nodded and a few people laughed and the sons, well, I seem to remember that in the end they split the pieces of armor between them evenly. I wonder if that confirms the wisdom of Solomon or not?
Life continued in that manner for several months. For all that we were quite close to the Chappa'ai and the Tau'ri, we did not interact with them much outside of quick greetings when a Jaffa was traveling offworld. Once a week or so Father would go and speak with them, or Major Rodriguez would come and visit us, and they'd share what information and plans they were willing to share. The Tau'ri, to their credit, always suggested rather than requiring. In public, anyway.
The Tok'ra generally ignored us, but then that was not a surprise.
One day, when it was the Tau'ri's turn to send a representative, it was not Major Rodriguez who came driving down the path but Daniel Jackson. He was alone in the Jeep, save for several large crates in the back. His arrival was thoroughly ignored by most-we had all had enough of welcoming powerful people in chariots by then, whether they chose to pose as gods or not. But he smiled at me and lifted one hand as he came to a stop, so I sent one of the children to fetch my father and went to greet him.
"Rya'c!" he said, hopping out onto the ground and glancing around the camp. "It's good to see you. How are you?"
"I am very well, thank you." I bowed a little, hands behind my back. Yes, I'd practiced. "I have sent for my father-I presume that you wish to speak with him."
"Yes, I do, and there he is. Teal'c!"
"Daniel Jackson." They did not touch, but Father's voice was warm and when he raised his head he was smiling. "I am pleased to see you. Is all well at the SGC?"
"Oh, sure, everything's fine. I'm at the Alpha Site for a few days, there's an artifact..." Daniel waved one hand in the air, dismissing the details. "Anyway, I talked them into giving me the rest of today to run down here. Officially I'm bringing the supplies you requested."
"Well, uh, Merry Christmas. A couple of days late, actually, but, well, our schedule's been a bitch." He hesitated, half-turned toward the crates, then back. "Can I get a hand with these? Presents are in the small one."
I asked Daniel Jackson once--years later, at Father's wedding--whether there were things that he had found to be true across all of the cultures he had experienced. I remember I'd expected him to say something about love as a universal constant, and I'd planned to point out that my parents' marriage had actually been arranged.
He didn't say anything about love, or language, or the journey toward adulthood. He lowered his eyebrows, pressed his lips together, and then said, "Actually, one thing I've been surprised by is how widely-spread the concept of wrapping paper is. Not wrapping paper as such really, but some form of decoration of a gift, often in an attempt to conceal it. I mean, it seems sort of wasteful, doesn't it? Particularly given how resource-strapped a lot of these communities are."
I had absolutely no clue how to reply to that, and I think he knew it, because he leaned in and said, all seriousness, "This is the point at which your father traditionally says 'Indeed.'"
"Surely you don't expect me to live up to Father's standard of communication," I said. I don't think he quite snorted champagne out his nose, but it was a close thing.
I've digressed. The gifts were wrapped, of course. Three neatly, with bows and ribbons and subtle patterns; another in paper that, upon close examination, appeared to be covered in snakes.
"Rip it up..." Daniel Jackson said.
"...and burn it," Father finished with him. "O'Neill, I presume."
"Why make a joke once if you can make it thirty times, right?"
"Sam said this was by far the cleanest copy, and she thought that made enough of a difference that you could put up with the Chinese subtitles." Daniel eased the disc out of its holder and inserted it into the machine he'd brought. "Also she said I should ask ahead of time if you want to be warned about the changes. I know you read the books."
"That is unnecessary. I am aware of the difficulties involved in interpreting a written work for the screen, and look forward to discovering which sections Peter Jackson has altered." Father paused. "I am surprised that Major Carter was able to obtain a copy intended for home viewing so quickly."
"Uh, yeah, about that. Jack's fault. He said world-saving exempts you from complying with copyright provisions, which would save me a lot of money if I ever get back into academia actually, because, no, never mind. The point is, Jack won. Sam found this online somewhere. Don't ask me, I have no idea how it works." Daniel shrugged. I considered whether to ask for a translation, but I'm afraid my pride got the better of me--remember, I was still quite young--and I waited instead to see what would happen next.
I don't want to give you the impression that I was completely unknowledgeable. For one thing, I had seen goa'uld communicators from a very young age. We were not savages, who believed that a moving picture was actually tiny people, or some such. It was not a method of entertainment we were familiar with, though; it's not as if Apophis transmitted comedy shows over the communicators when he wasn't using them to give orders or pass down the wisdom of the gods. So while the concept was familiar to me, the actual experience of watching a movie, just sitting there and watching and listening, was very odd.
It was obviously not so for Father. He worked the computer smoothly, familiarly, and when the music began he settled back onto a cushion. Daniel rolled onto his stomach, squirming around until he could see the screen clearly. I wanted to see too, so I stayed, settling in shoulder-to-shoulder with Father. The screen was shadowy, and while I now know that I was looking at the screen from the wrong angle, then I thought that was just the way these things worked.
It was a good enough movie. I found the concept of background music very odd. Daniel tried to explain that it was there to inspire emotion, and I suppose that made some kind of sense, but I remember having to spend a considerable amount of time reminding myself that I shouldn’t judge the movie's realism based on the swelling chords in the background. The military tactics, however, I felt completely free to judge. Father agreed with me; Daniel said he’d put up with worse in his specialties, and after all it wasn’t an instructional video, it was a movie.
I had to explain what we’d been doing in there more than a dozen times the next day. People thought it was a very odd way to spend an evening. I eventually told them all never mind, it’s a Tau'ri thing and that seemed to put an end to it.
I regret now that I said that, but it was true, after all. Father actually tried to introduce the concept to the rest of the camp, which went as well as you might expect. A few Jaffa were taken with the idea, then pulled back in the face of disapproval from the larger community, since after all it wasn't a very Jaffa thing to do, was it? Sitting and looking at a picture?
Father didn't seem to care one way or the other, not even when I confessed that even I did not see the point. He did teach me to play chess during that time, I remember. I enjoyed that, because the concept was not so foreign, and Father even went so far as to tell me that he was glad to have the opportunity to play with me, as he had missed the game since he left the SGC. I was glad too, that I could give him that; I'd assumed that he would miss some of the people, but it was only then, I think, that I realized there were other things he missed.
I cannot say whether I wasn't observant enough to see the signs or whether they were not there to be seen. I myself did not notice anything wrong until Father went on the mission to Anubis’ homeworld. He saw the first drone himself, offworld with Rak'nor, and he knew how important it was to discover as much about them as possible. I think he would have been content to leave it to the SGC, but as Daniel Jackson and O'Neill were in the process of recovering Telchak's device, Major Carter asked for and received his assistance.
No one said a negative word about that decision in my presence, not then. It was a small encampment, though, and gossip traveled fast. There were as many ways to say it as there were Jaffa, but in the end what it came down to was this:
Where is Teal’c? Oh, he’s away in the service of the Tau’ri.
The fact that people would say such a thing was not, I think, a disaster. Father could have depicted his actions in a way that seemed reasonable to the Jaffa, had he tried to do so. After all, while in any group of free Jaffa at that time you would have found mostly the most zealous, any Jaffa who remembered living under the goa’uld could well understand the idea that sometimes one must give service in order to gain later benefit.
The problem was that Father was unwilling to make arguments that he felt were not completely honest. He believed firmly in our right to self-determination, of course. But he also believed that he had a better view than they did of the problem of the goa'uld and the Jaffa on a grand scale, and of course he knew the Tau'ri intimately. "They came to ask my assistance," he said, "not demand my service."
I think that may have been true, as it happens. Father was only ever a willing tool of the SGC, and he used them as well in their turn. But my compatriots--I say “my,” as if I was one of them and Father was not!--were becoming tired of giving, whether information or assistance or just respect, without access to the rooms where the larger decisions were made. Father, of course, had that access, but he didn't use it, not since he'd returned to us.
The break was so clean for him in some ways, so clear—I was serving my people by serving the SGC, and now I am serving my people by leading them, which will entail my cooperation with the SGC—that it took him longer than it should have to realize that others did not see it so clearly. People still came seeking decisions and advice, but they were less open and more argumentative than they had been before, and eventually I had to tell him what I knew of why.
We talked about it, he and I and Rak'nor, two on one, trying to convince him to bend. He knew how to bend, once. He must have been a master at it when he was Apophis' First Prime, though I was not then aware enough to see. This time, however, he refused. If anything, I think he made things worse, because he turned to the disaffected and tried to convince them. Not kindly, or coaxingly. I would have called his manner blunt; others might have called it arrogant.
He saw it all so clearly, and we are not a people accustomed to collaboration when making decisions. Father had spent many years in a position of authority over Jaffa; returned to that position, I believe that he expected the same obedience he had once had, though he would have denied it. So when the murmurs grew louder, more pervasive, his response was to stand more firmly on the ground he had chosen.
Two months after going on that mission, Father was challenged by a young man named Tsorak, who was a year my elder. Tsorak claimed jomo secu, as Father had years before, and Father did not refuse him.
The jomo secu challenge is to the death.
I asked Father about that, after. Whether he’d expected the challenge, and whether he’d known beforehand how he would behave during it. “I believed they would see I was in the right,” he said, “and I made no decision about Tsorak until he was down.”
Rak'nor still believes that Father should have killed Tsorak, and I believe Father when he says he considered it. It was an easy win for him, and had he not considered the possibility, he would not have kept Tsorak pinned so long, long enough for the noise from the spectators to fade from excitement to almost complete silence. I don’t think Tsorak quite believed it when Father let him go—he laid there for some time, long enough for Father to back away, lay down his weapon, show the gathered crowd his empty hands.
“This death is unnecessary,” he said. “I am clearly victorious. Tsorak has behaved foolishly, but honorably; I trust he will show better judgment in the future.”
A moment of stillness, followed by a rising buzz from the crowd, and then Tsorak came for him again. Father put him on the ground—the boy was injured by then, even had he been a match for Father when healthy, which he was not—and said, again, “Your death is unnecessary. Desist.”
“You reject the challenge?” someone asked.
“I do not. I reject the idea that it must end with death.”
“Kytano is dead,” someone else said, very clearly. Tsorak, ashamed, was backing away, pride not overcoming his desire to live.
“Kytano was a goa’uld,” Father said. “What kind of leader kills his own people?”
“One who knows our ways,” the first speaker said, and there was a wave of assent. I looked at Father, and I could see that he looked sickened, for just a moment.
He laid down his weapon and said to them all, “No. I will not do this. You will follow my lead in this matter, or you may select another leader in whatever way you choose, but I will not shed the blood of a warrior barely out of childhood. The world is changing. Our ways must change as well.”
“Tau’ri,” someone hissed.
Father walked away the next morning. It was Rak'nor who finally talked the rest of the encampment into submission, and yes, it was only words in the end, though there were a few moments when I doubted that would be the case. Still, Rak'nor was a capable warrior, and made it clear that had he been the one challenged, Tsorak would have been dead the first time he fell.
I was angry with him, then, because I felt that he was betraying Father, though I must admit I was also angry with Father, who I felt had betrayed me. Looking back now, I do not think the camp could have been held to Father’s path without bloodshed, and after all the avoidance of bloodshed was his goal that afternoon. Rak'nor was well-respected, and no enemy to the Tau’ri, without having been tainted by a life with them.
Father didn't see himself as tainted, though I don't think he'd realized it until that day.
So he walked away, back to the SGC. I chose to stay, despite the difficulties I knew this would pose; we are a people who are perfectly happy to visit the sins of the father upon the son, and the time after Father’s departure was tricky, in many ways. I was afraid of becoming too much like him, I think, and no longer like myself, no longer Jaffa.
That’s funny to me now, but remember, I was still young.
He gave an interview once, after the existence of the Chappa'ai had become public knowledge on Earth. He'd become used to his role as the designated friendly alien spokesperson, though it still amused him, after so many years spent trading on fear instead. The interviewer referred to his home in Colorado Springs, and Father cut her off, told her that his home was on Chulak.
“Do you plan to retire there?” she asked, brightly.
“I do not," he said. "I used the past tense for a reason, and expect to live out my life in Colorado.”
Father won in the end, of course. Well, we did, all those who were part of this war, but I hope it will not seem overly sentimental if a son gives his father special credit. He won, and when he visits us now, he is treated with respect by everyone but his grandchildren. That makes him smile; they’ve summered with Father and Jenny and their children before, and when he comes to see them he always brings chocolate and Tau’ri music and tells them how the Rockies are doing, because my youngest has fallen in love with baseball.
When he visits us officially, it is as a representative of the Tau’ri. A liaison. He dresses like us, and speaks our language, and is welcomed as an honored elder among the Jaffa by our Council. He won there as well; no one has come to power among us through a deadly challenge in many years. But he will not come home, because the home he wants to come to is gone. He took it apart with his hands and rebuilt it into a shape that he could not inhabit, not as he is now.
I hope he does not regret that. I cannot believe that he does. He is my father, after all, and I want him to be happy, even if it must be in exile.