by Karen

Odd, is it not,? When one is told to expand your horizons, you never think farther beyond a few thousand miles or across an ocean. With the convenience of modern technology vast amounts of distance can now be crossed in a matter of days As a moderately successful anthropology researcher, my reality revolved around museums, libraries, and dig sites. Be honest with yourself, Daniel the discovery of the Star Gate changed the lives of everyone it touched; and the idea that entire civilizations could be taken to other planets .... Those people enslaved by Apotheis had no idea that he wasn't really a 'god.'

I really should count my blessings; this experience has been like a gigantic roller coaster ride. And we still don't have all the pieces to the puzzle of how and why the Ancients built the Stargate. Even with what little we have learned, these 'Ancients left versions of the Gate scattered around the galaxy. I have a working theory that these aliens left them behind perhaps hoping that these societies eventually would have the scientific know-how to use them. On another note we just received reports from that another dial-up location has been found and hence our upcoming mission.

"Daniel," I heard Carter call from the halway adjacent to my quarters as the rest of the team waited for me to finish recording my field notes. As usual I was running behind which made everyone else late for our next briefing. Through the open door I saw Jack adjust his uniform lapels and Teal'C shuffle his feet. I stuffed my pen and journal into my jacket pocket and went to join them.

"Glad you could make it," Jack remarked over his shoulder.

"Sorry," I mumbled, as we walked towards the conference room.

"So, where's this person SG1 Command sent over," Carter asked.

"We'll soon find out. But I heard a rumor that she's got a degree in military history," Jack said.

"Great. She's either a university professor or a museum curator," Carter remarked, as the door signal chimed and we entered.

"Indeed," Teal'C rumbled softly, the measured inflections in his bass voice made it hard to tell whether he was referring to Jack's or Carter's comment.


I had been with the team for a relatively short period of time, and as a former civilian saluting a superior officer was not ingrained into my system. I was slightly taken aback by the crispness of both O'Neil and Carter. making my salute was a few beats behind the others. Teal'C was not into saluting, but he occasionally used a stylized hand over his heart gesture that would not have been out of place in some samurai clan. The formalities out of the way we took our seats around the rectangular table.

General Hammond stood up and strode over to the situation screen mounted on the far wall. Beside that stood an easel where a star map had been pinned, dotted with pinpricks of colored lights indcating the dial-up locations we'd been able to reach so far.

"People, I would like you to meet our newest recruit, Gerladine Mckenna," Hammond began.

This was the first time we had seen our newest recruit. Aside from the photos circulated to the various teams and support staff. She wore her hair in a simple braid and dressed in standard military fatigues. Her eyes were a warm brown. I had not heard her speak yet, but she looked European, maybe British, Welsh, or Scottish. She smiled and nodded as Hammond went around the table introducing everyone else.


As I gazed around the room it struck me that it had been a while since I had been surrounded by so much brass in one place. The last time had been working as a radio transmitter with the RAF in England during World War II.

General Hammond was a quite solid presence, vividly triggering one of those odd flashbacks Immortals had from time to time. He made me think of 'Bear' Winston Churchill. Hammond had the same mannerisms as that hard-line career officer. The General still called me 'Ma'am' when he h brought me over by helicopter. Either her was being polite or they hadn't had time to work out a proper military rank yet.

Carter was harder to read. She wore her hair in weave that was feminine enough, but also gave her an aura of a woman who belonged in the military. In a way she reminded me of Amanda, whose dark hair was often dyed when she wanted to remain incognito. You know you can never be too sure about first impressions, but I had a feeling she and I would get along and not because we were the only women present.

I expected folks to be reasonably suspicious of a newcomer and just having been in the Colonel's presence, I could tell his trust would be hard to earn, but worth it. The man was a study in suspicion and given the nature of the place, perhaps not without cause.

"Where did you earn your degree in military history?" O'Neil demanded as he leaned forward with his elbows resting on the table. He laced his fingers together and looked me in the eyes.

"Glasgow University. I majored in military history, with a minor in art. I was there for two years, then finished up at the Sorbonne in Paris. After that I did some teaching at the Tate Museum in London before signing on as a procurer of rare antiquities."

"What's your area of speciality," Jackson asked.

"Daniel, you can compare notes later," O'Neil said.

"Celtic and Meso-American." I wondered why Jackson had been so keen on that subject. I made a mental note to check the personnel files when we got back from the mission.

"Let's just hope you can turn all that military theory into practice," Carter remarked.

"Sounds like a challenge."

"If you are up to it," Teal'C commented.

As I shook hands with Teal' C, I immediately focused on the gold sigil tattooed on his forehead. I caught myself mentally sorting through a catalogue of languages to place the marking and coming up blank. For a second I wondered if he'd been a nightclub bouncer in a former life. Sometimes being Immortal had its drawbacks, since I'd been frozen at late 20-somethn if I had tried to get into a bar with him as the door warden, he would have undoubtedly pegged me for being underage. Rather amusing, when one stopped to think about it, not that I wanted them to think about it; too many uncomfortable questions we could crop up if they did.

"Now that we're all acquainted," O'Neil said.

"Patience, Colonel, I'm getting to that. Here's the situation. As you know, we periodically send probes through the gate when a new dial-up location is discovered," Hammond said, picking up a sheaf of papers and ruffling through them for a moment.

"According to the intelligence people, a planet in near the Tarantula Nublea, has a binary star and they've discovered a planet designated PCX 1553. There's an access point there, and perhaps another transplanted civilization."

I had received briefing on the Gate's specs, including its discovery in the Valley of the Kings beneath Egypt's desert sands. I could imagine Methos kicking himself, and not just mentally, for missing that one. Given the man's irritating habit of engineering disappearing acts there was no way of telling where he had been during the 40's and 50's. In any case, I felt like a kid in a candy store just learning about the Gate's existence. This was an experience of a life, or for me, one of many lifetimes.

"Could they provide any details about the culture, their technology level?" Jackson asked.

"Nothing concrete, Dr. Jackson," Hammond said as he swiped his palm against another console which replaced the star map with that of the Tarantula Nublea in the Magellenic Cluster.

"I thought it was just a speck on the monitor," Carter said.

"That fits the description of PCX 1553," O'Neil replied.

"That's what Intel thought, too. Until the star Sandulek went supernova. The event was only visible from the southern hemisphere, the blast came from a hot blue star with 20 times the sun's mass. The event itself took place relatively close, only 17,000 light-years away. The first that could be seen by naked eye", Hammond said.

"What causes a supernova," I asked.

"Stars generate energy either by gravitation or by nuclear fusion. Stars evolve from hydrogen burning youths to end in one cosmic blast," Carter said.

"Some fireworks," Jackson commented as he pulled out a battered spiral notebook and began taking notes.

"Indirect evidence that most Type II supernovae are red super giants when they explode. Because they occur with more frequency outside of the Milky Way, their reserves of heavy elements is less. According to Arnett's calculations stars may be blue all their lives, however red super giants give off stellar winds. When the winds hit the dense shell of matter...."Carter said.

"It goes boom; which brings us back to the the planet that showed after the dust settled," O'Neil finished.

'Exactly," Carter nodded.

"If that star hadn't 'gone boom' as the Colonel so succinctly put it, we would never have come across this dial-up location. Be careful out there. I don't need to tell you to be prepared for the unknown," Hammond advised.

"Way ahead of you." Jack grinned as he led the pack to the Gate room.


Treading on O'Neil's heels, the first thing I saw was the electric blue glow that surrounded the gigantic iris of the Stargate. It was like the nimbus around the moon. or the eye of a blue whale. I'd seen computer models and diagrams, but those were nothing compared to he real thing.

"Chevron 7 engaged," the technician announced as she inputted the final cartouche into her console.

That was the last thing I heard as walked up the ramp. As soon as we stepped through the iris. We were surrounded by a gigantic bubble that reminded me of being underwater, and I was not even aware of having trouble breathing. The water, or whatever it was, was so buoyant. It just effortlessly held you in place. Then suddenly a whoosh of air came out of nowhere. We were wrapped in concentric blue rings of crystalline blue and white which expanded like the parabola from the outer rim of a dying star then closed behind us in a brilliant burst of silver light...


As we emerged from the wormhole I half expected Mckenna to bend over and retch from the inevitable nausea the first time travellers typically suffered. I was disappointed on that score because she survived the trip without so much as a sneeze I glared sidelong at her, but no one else noticed, and we continued on our way.

"Daniel, you're the anthropology expert," Jack began, interrupting my train of thought.

I didn't mind, I did have a habit of rambling on. Taking a 360 degree inspection of our surroundings and the first thing I noticed from an anthropology perspective were the similarities to some of the other planets that we'd visited that supported a humanoid-friendly environment. The air was breathable, and there seemed to be an adequate water supply. The climate was hot but not humid, almost mountainous, if the peaks in the distance were any judge. As for being inhabited, I saw a large cylindrical shaped pyramid a few kilometers from the Gate's position on this side.

The pyramid drew the eye like a compass drawn to magnetic north, a multilevel structure almost 100 feet high. It had smooth sanded sides; probably from erosion than from human handi-work. The wind here was very fierce here and I spent most of the time it took us to walk towards the compound with my hands clasped to my hat. In front of the main structure, the inhabitants had constructed a flat concrete platform and scattered around were adobe dwelling places.

"I'd say it resembles a pre-Columbian civilization. Maybe Chibua, or perhaps Moche, they were a highly stratified people made up of rulers, warriors, craftsmen, and farmers. It was one of the largest , and they were presumably ruled by a god king who gained and kept power through human sacrifice."

"The condensed version," Jack got a little irritated whenever I started in on what he called 'lecture mode'.

"Great, just how many of these cultures are there, who believed in ritual human- sacrifice," Carter asked.

"Quite a few, and that belief can be found in other cultures around the world, as well," Mckenna replied.

"Lovely," Sam remarked in tones she didn't believe for a minute that it was.

"O'Neil, I have been studying the cultures of your world since my arrival. If I am not mistaken, is not said, that those who were offered up as sacrifices, were often prisoners captured in battle?" Teal'C asked.

"Right, " Mckenna said, "However, they reached a point when sacrifice wasn't enough to hold back a series of natural disasters which led to the eventual collapse of the powerful Moche empire."

"These 'natural disasters," Teal'C interrupted, his curiosity peaked, "What form did they take?"

"After constant environmental changes, the people lost their faith in the Moche deities, and the social structure crumbled," Mckenna added helpfully.

"Evidence from the changing pottery style during this period points to foreign influence taking hold. Eventually the Chimbuegan began to dominate the area and the accomplishments of the Moche were all but forgotten until the present day," Mckenna replied. "Conquistadors looted and pillaged the settlements."

"One such monument, the Huaca de Sol, the largest adobe structure in the Americas was looted and nearly destroyed by Spanish treasure hunters. They accomplished this by diverting a nearby river, in order to erode the walls and gain access to the gold inside. Over half the structure washed away along with most of the Moche's history."

"Do you think the aliens who created the technology that created the Gate, somehow knew the fate that was about to befall the Moche, and transported them here, like they've done with other cultures we've come across?" Carter speculated.

"It's entirely possible, that's what they did the people we discovered when we freed them from Apotheosis, and they've done that with over civilizations, long thought to be extinct," Jack replied, then looked towards the far side of the compound.

We noticed a group of people approaching. Their apparent leader was a woman dressed in a white linen robe, her only ornament a beaten gold belt. She wore her pale blond hair was held back from her face with a simple leather headband. As she came closer, we could make out a pair of piercing blue eyes.

"Check out the 'royal progress,' Jack commented.

I heard Mckenna muttering to herself, from what I could pick up, it sounded like 'Another one? Here? This I do not need right now,' Mckenna started like a deer surprised by a hunter, or a horse spooked by the report from a gun being fired.

"You okay," Carter asked, as Mckenna did a quick look around, and nervously brushed her hair out of her eyes. She smiled and laughed nervously. "Yeah, fine. Why?" I'd felt the 'Buzz' but that was impossible, Another Immortal?


Whatever response Mckenna would have made was lost as the silkiest tenor voice I had ever heard rang out, " Bienviendos, extranjeros, welcome to Huaca del Sol . You are strangers far from home, however your arrival is timely for a feast is about to be laid. As our guests, you are more than welcome to partake in it. I am Lorna Selenith. Might I have the honor or your names?"

"We'd be honoured." O'Neil dipped his head slightly in acknowledgement of her greeting and invitation. "I'm Jack O'Neil," that' Samantha Carter," hooking a thumb at us as he rattled off our names. "That's Teal'C, and Daniel Jackson, and Gerladine Mckenna," finishing off the round of introductions.

"Excellent," Selenith replied. Then turned to those following behind her and rattled off something in alanguage I didn't recognize but sounded rather curt, she clapped her hands together and men and women came forward. All of them wore their black hair down to their waists. They clasped forearms with each us and jabbered words that sounded kind. We were forced to smile and nod and pretend we understood. A few moments later they led us to a long, low concrete table that apparently served as the banquet table, and began bringing around platters and bottles of clear water. We sat on the ground at the far end and found empty gourds set before us. Selenith took a seat at head of the table, then gestured towards the spread, "Begin" she invited.

"She speaks English rather well, doesn't she," O'Neil muttered.

"Daniel, you'll miss out of the meal the locals prepared for us." Carter nudged with an elbow.

"I guess it's buffet style," O'Neil muttered as he reached for a bowl and began pouring it into his gourd, and started eating.

"Sure," I agreed, not at all against taking part in the feast, which consisted of a variety of beets, rice, squash, chilli peppers, peanuts, shrimp, and crab. I couldn't identify the meat filled dishes. I couldn't name the sauce they had been cooked in, but they were delicious.

Water was served in large clay jugs, many of which depicted animals and stylized human figures. I was also tempted to pocket some of the ceramic figures lying scattered about. The one I had picked was of a half woman half owl healer treating a patient. I had no idea why she held her hand over her mouth, perhaps to summon the spirits.

"It's toquil," Selenith replied, as one of the servers held out a steaming mug of a brown liquid to me. "It's quite savory. You really should try it."

"Okay," I replied, accepting the cup and drank it. "Ugh, it tastes like turpentine mixed with muddy water."

"Here's a question for you: the secret of making good coffee," Carter laughed, "has plagued mankind for a very long time."

"You think we could borrow the recipe for this crab," Mckenna said wistfully, as she dipped a forkful into the rice and stirred it around before she popped into her mouth.

"Like that would ever happen, it's probably some trade secret," Carter replied, as she reached for the water jug, and gasped as tears sprang involuntarily from her eyes. "Too hot! Shouldn't have eaten that last chilli pepper," she said as she gulped down a healthy swallow of water.

Selenith spent the meal regaling with us some local tales about deer hunts and the some tale involving a hunt for sea lions, in quest of their furs and and the round pebbles they coughed up as they pursued them with nets, and lines, and harpoons. The pebbles, we learned where used for their medicinal properties. Selenith was a born storyteller. Her voice droned on, sometimes rising and falling, sometimes pausing at different points in the tale, then picking up again. With the amount of food we'd eaten, and the heat, it was enough to make one fall asleep.

"Where did Mckenna go?" Teal'C suddenly asked, having finished eating before everyone else.

Now that Teal'C mentioned it, Mckenna had been quiet throughout the meal and she had hardly touched her food, although she had loaded it with just as much as the everyone else.

"O'Neil,, I must speak with the woman' gesturing towards Mckenna, "alone, on matter of some urgency," Selenith announced, rising from her seat at the head of the table.

"Anything you have to say to Mckenna, you can say in front of the rest of us," Jack countered.

"I cannot." You would not understand," Selenith said.

"Try us," O'Neil demanded.

"Do not force the issue," Selenith said, it was a hint but it sounded more like a order.

"I'll come," Mckenna replied as she stood up.


"I am Lorna Selenith," the blond woman said, touching hand to her heart, then gracefully seated herself on top a pile of satin cushions next to a glowing fire pit. A hole in the ceiling allowed the smoke to seep out. Inside, the place was draped in woven textiles of every color, all with geometric designs. Stacked against the far wall were a collection of ceramics that had so fascinated Doctor Jackson. On top of a niche created by woven rattan baskets, was a knife and a pitcher of water. Wrapped in oil soaked rags were a collection of gold hairpins, bracelets, and tiaras.

"Gerladine Mckenna," I replied in the traditional fashion Immortals used to greet one another as I took the seat opposite her. Right now having my sword in my duffle bag with our supplies did not seem like such a good idea..

"They called me a goddess. Who was I to refuse?" Selenith began as she stirred a reed straw in her cup of the local brew that Jackson had said tasted more like turpentine mixed with water. "I would not poison a guest."

"The thought never crossed my mind. No offence, I just didn't like it. I suppose you're not the first Immortal these people have looked upon as a god. That doesn't make it right,' as I set my cup aside, I couldn't stand the stuff

"The Moche are an ancient people. Their arts and sciences rival the best of the Inca. Yet, they preceded them by a thousand years. Some of their traditions go back ten generations. What makes a god, Mckenna? The faith of his/her followers, and they do need faith; and in return, I protect them," Selenith exclaimed dreamily.

"Faith? You've taken advantage of their 'faith' to place yourself in a position of power."

"What if I have? Would you have done any less if you'd been in my place? Back on Earth the Moche civilization only thrived due to a combination of three things: Their remoteness, their own skills, and their freedom. It kept them stron and safe from butchers like Cortez and Pizzarro," Selenith insisted, holding up a finger to emphasis each of her points. Her pale blue eyes blazed with her fervor until they glazed over and the whites showed.

"Everyone thought the Moches died out, but somehow they were brought here."

"Yes. Since you are here, you know that the Stargate exists. Have you heard of the Gou'ald? Do not bother to answer. I can tell by the look in your eyes that you have. It does not matter if you choose to believe me or not. I did not seek to become the Moche's goddess. I am their protector, from butchers like the Gou'ald." Selenith finished.

"Protector? From the Gou'ald. You'll forgive me if I find that a little hard to swallow."

"It was either that or let the Moche be enslaved or invaded by those thrice-dammned parasites. I've kept them safe for hundreds of years. I may not be a goddess in the strictest sense of the word, but Immortality has given me...."

"The semblance of god hood. What about the Rules, if they even apply here..."

"You do understand. The Guls themselves think I am rebellious Jaffa, perhaps. I do not care what they think. The Guls themselves do not have a body, so it forms a symbiotic relationship with humanoid life forms, wherein the adult Gul controls the body and takes them for its host," Selenith continued, ignoring any mention about the Rules governing Immortals.

"You don't have to explain the Guls. The host's entire personality is subsumed and the Gul is the dominant life-force. I understand why you wouldn't want that to happen your people you've adopted for your own. But....

"Pretending to be a goddess, Immaterial. What matter if it happened on Earth or here? Either be the power behind the throne, or be the power. What matter that many of our kind have done so in the past. People are like sheep, Mckenna, they need a shepherd. Selenith dismissed the argument with an airy wave of her hand.

"A good question, just wish I had a good answer."

"The Moche worship another god..." Selenith continued.

"If you don't mind sharing the throne, " I interrupted. I knew it was probably the wrong thing to say, given that Selenith was probably to far gone to listen to reason, but it was worth a shot.

"I have no quarrel with having a consort. Their god holds a sword in one hand and a severed head in the other. He is called the Decapitator. At the festival of the Moon, they shall see his power, " Selenith shouted.

I did not like the turn the conversation had take and that last bit about the Decapitator more than likely meant Selenith was challenging me. From the moment I'd met Selenith face to face, I'd felt the tell-tale "Buzz' that signaled the presence of another Immortal. That she'd set herself up as the divine ruler didn't surprise me. And she was right about one, thing, it had happened before.

"Can't you see that fate has played a part in this. I have chosen a successor. In almost every culture on Earth, the ruler serves his/her people, and at the end of his term must return to the earth from which he came,

"Which means?"

"Accept the challenge or your friends die, for I shall reveal our location to the Guls,"

"I don't understand. If you've been their protector for all these years, why would you betray them like that?"

"Because tradition demands it, "Selenith insisted.

"You intend to force my hand," I demanded.

"No less," Selenith said, her blue eyes staring into my brown ones.

"Agreed, " I replied as I clasped hands, my heart hammering in my chest.


Mckenna and Selenith have been locked up inside that domed building for the last three hours. Without so much as hinting what they planned to discuss when Selenith pulled her aside. O'Neil, not the most patient of men at the best of times, has not stopped cursing a blue streak ever they disappeared inside. Even the stoic Teal'C' can't remain his unflappable self for long. Ordinarily, the calm in the eye of the storm, I figure there had to be a maelstrom below the surface. Carter's been pacing around the dome.

About two hours later, Selenith pulled aside the flap to the dome with Mckenna standing behind her. The drone turned into a full- fledged roar. Selenith gathered her robes around her and ascended the steps leading to the concrete platform in front of the pyramid.

The villagers formed a loose semi-circle around the platform. Some stood, some sat.

A low, respectful throbbing started up. They were chanting. Since the Moche back on Earth had not developed a written language, except what could be deciphered from the pottery they had left behind, I had no way of understanding what they were saying. But it couldn't be good. I suspected they were chanting Selenith's name.

"My people, my beautiful, loyal followers, ' Rejoice for as foretold in my our most ancient and revered legends, once every 500 years when the gibbous moon waxes in the east. the time of Cobar Rhi comes nigh. The time when in appeasement to the Decapitator; a sacrifice must be made. A challenge has been offered and accepted. Be with me, shield me in spirit as I have shielded you in body, for the time has come," Selentih shouted to be heard over the roar of the crowd, her white arms, bathed in the shimmer radiance of the moonlight above, raised to the sky. The movement made her arm bangles clang together.

"I don't like this," O'Neil muttered as he tugged at his uniform lapels.

"You and me both," Carter replied as she wiped at the sweat clinging in droplets to her forehead, then tore a strip of cloth from her sleeve and used it as a bandanna to keep her hair out of her eyes.

Meanwhile Mckenna quietly walked over to where we had stashed our belongings and began digging through her bag.

She disappeared from sight for a minute and then came back dressed in a black outfit with an antique Scottish Claymore in her right hand.

"What the hell is that? And where did it come from?" Jack demanded.

"It's a sword," Mckenna absently replied as she ran a thumb down the cutting edge.

"I know it's a sword. The question is, what are 'you' doing with it?"

"Fighting Selenith," Mckenna replied nonchalantly.

"No, you're not. That's a direct order!" Jack shouted. "Now put that thing away before you poke somebody's eye out," O'Neil shouted.

"Shouting at her, very effective, Sir," Carter muttered.

"Colonel, the challenge was extended to Mckenna. It would not be honorable to for her to relinquuish it," Teal'C offered helpfully.

"Hang honor," O'Neil replied.

"Perhaps a proxy then?" She may select another to fight in her place," Teal'C asked.

"I'm sorry, Colonel, but that's one order I can't obey, "Mckenna replied, then took a few experimental swings with her sword. "And I'll ask no one else to take the risk that I'm not willing to take myself."

"And why not?" O'Neil demanded.

"I know what I'm about to say is going to sound completely insane," Mckenna said, leaning on the blade, as she perched on the edge of the banquet table.

"Oh, wonderful, I'm not going to like this, am I?"

"Well, it seems Selenith has entrenched herself into the mythology quasi religious traditions of the Moche. She's their divine protector. Part of her responsibilities include protection against the Gou'ald," Mckenna said.

"And what's that got to do with you?" Carter asked.

"Just how does she protect them?"

"I don't know."

"You don't know. I feel so much better now," O'Neil muttered to himself.

As farfetched as that sounded to us, Mckenna wasn't going to back down from the fight direct order or not.

"There must be some other way," Sam protested. "I mean, isn't there some diplomatic protocol to deal with situations like these?"

"Give a me a moment, Carter, maybe I can come up with something," O'Neil muttered.

"Think faster," I griped."

"What do you want me to do, Jackson?" March up there and tell both women to drop this insanity, and the drag them bodily into separate corners and tell them to find some civil way to resolve their differences?" O'Neil complained. "We'd likely find ourselves thrown in there or a spear in the back."


Her speech completed Selenith gathered a train of followers around her, and what O'Neil had referred to as 'the royal progress' marched off.

O'Neil suspicions about a spear in the back proved to be unfounded, as we were gently but firmly escorted to the far edge of the village towards a giant fire pit.

"Maybe we can still reason with her," Carter offered as we went wherever they were taking us.

We knet or sat along with the villagers and watched as both women ascended a ramp that led to the narrow catwalk that spanned the fire pit. We watched them take their positions opposite each other. From the size of the fire pit you could have successfully held a barbecue for the entire village and then some. Below the pit was a forest of wicked- looking stakes. Apparently the Moches had held ceremonies like this before because grooves had been worn into the sand for spectators to have an excellent view of the fight.

"Okay, people, anybody remember to pack the marshmallows?' Carter muttered as she took a measuring inspection from her vantage point. "If anyone fell in there they'd be either quickly burnt or impaled."

"I think that's the general idea," I said.

"They are beginning," Teal'C said.


Both opponents brought up the hilts in the time-honored salute of sword fighters throughout history. Then lowered them, with the points horizontally five feet off the ground, and held firmly in white-knuckled grips.

"Anybody want to give the play-by-play," Jack grimaced.

"Affirmative," Teal'C replied as he rose to his feet.

"That was a rhetorical question, Teal'C," O'Neil said.

"Not that this should be billed as a spectator sport," I remarked.

"Mckenna handles her sword right-handed, using her center of balance to draw a tighter grip on the hilt. She uses a series of thrusts, using its length to dart in for arcing cuts at Selenith, dancing back to stay out of the taller woman's range," Teal'C commented.

Selenith hacks at her torso, tearing a long gash through fabric and flesh, using the opposite edge of the blade to protect her hand from slamming into Mckenna's," Teal'C continued.

Mckenna just parried a thrust made with the flat of the blade and used its cross guard to block and trap the opposing weapon. Interesting technique," Teal'C said.

"Yeah, like she's done this before?" O'Neil said.

I narrowly missed another slash at Selenith's ribs and who countered with another blow to the back of the knees, a move intended to ham- string an opponent. Darting into range I attempted to lock up Selenith's weapon, swiveling around my sword, around Selenith's weapon, She teetered for a split second struggling for her balance. I decided to try something I'd picked up from Methos. I grabbed the pommel and tried a high arcing thrust at her exposed left flank, then struck close in. She parried the blow, then went for the knees.

I had to concentrate on keeping my footwork so I wouldn't be caught with one crossed over the other. Not having a lot of room to work with was not helping matters any. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Selenith make that mistake, and it was only a split second before she corrected it, but enough to get in a few thrusts. Suddenly Selenith stumbled, and brought her left hand to wipe at a droplet of blood from a cut on her cheek. She bite her lips and smiled, the madness in her eyes knocked me for a loop. "Finish it, Mckenna," Selenith whispered.

"There can be only one!" then relieved Selenith of her head.


"This can't be good."

"There can be only one? What the hell does that mean?" Carter demanded, shouting to be heard over the roar of the crowd.

Whatever else she may have said was lost in a smothering white fog that appeared out of nowhere. You've heard about pea soup so thick you couldn't cut it with a knife; well this was worse. Carter and O'Neil were standing right next to me, and Teal'C ahead of me by only a few paces, but it was as if the fog had swallowed them up. That's when we heard a clink of metal on something solid. When it finally cleared up, I kind of wished it hadn't, because Mckenna's entire body was sheathed in lightning bolts.

"Oh my God,' was the only thing that came to mind.


The Quickening contained memories, talent, and knowledge of its previous owner. It was all there for her to tap into, both the good and the bad, and all that entailed, bound up into the Quickening. Floating in the storm wind, the other woman's essence flooded into my own. As much as a rush as the Quickening was, as it hit, I had a sudden flash of insight into why Selenith had pressed me to accept her challenge; the traitor she had feared was not among her own people, but herself. Decades of keeping the Guls away, of leading raiding and scouting parties against scouting parties had finally come to an end a mere five months ago; when a Gul had taken her captive and made her a host. She fought, of course, but eventually it had taken over. Not completely, but enough for it to drive her insane. In a way, I felt sorry for her.

Then all rational thought was swept away, as sparks of energy swept over my entire body and struck at my ribs, upper arms, and legs. I tried to remain upright and hold onto my sword, but I lost my grip, fell to my knees, screaming as the Quickening ran its course.


"Teal'C" O'Neil urged in an undertone, nodding his head towards where Mckenna crouched like a wounded animal onto of the walkway.

"Understood," Teal'C replied, climbing up the ramp to the walkway. When he reached her, he picked her up bodily and back-pedalled back down. Her brown hair had come loose from the braid she wore it in and her face was coated with sweat and dust. Despite that, she still stubbornly clung to her sword. With the other she wearily beat at Teal'C's muscled chest and who ignored her half formed protests.

"You look like hell," Carter greeted. "What the hell was that?"

"The Quickening," Mckenna gasped.

"The what?" O'Neil demanded.

"Give me a moment," Mckenna gasped, as a flash of light came from the wounds she had garnered during the fight, and they closed.

"Okay, you might have a little trouble with this, just warning you ahead of time. You see Selenith and I belong to a race of beings that have longer life spans than regular folks. I'm really not supposed to be to telling you this, but under the circumstances you deserve to know."

"Let's rewind, what's the Quickening?" I asked.

"I'm getting to that. You see there are others like me, some good, some evil, and about as many shades of gray. You're probably going to have a hard time with this, but we're Immortal. And for the last 10,000 years , give or take a decade, the forces of good having been squaring off against the forces of darkness."

"There are rules that govern us, the most important rule is that there can be only one,

"Only one left in the end. What does the winner get?" Carter asked.

"Legend has it the last Immortal left standing at the end will have the memories and power of every Immortal who ever lived. Enough power to rule the world forever.

"Looks like Immortality isn't all its cracked to be, it didn't do Selenith much good.," O'Neil griped.

"We can die, we just don't stay dead, unless we lose our heads," Mckenna replied.

"That's what the swords are for," Carter guessed.,

"Exactly, " Mckenna smiled, but the smile was not reflected in her eyes.

"Which leaves us with another small problem, the natives are without a leader at the moment, since you so oh so conveniently dispatched their 'divine' protector, and they don't look happy about it," O'Neil said.

"I'll take care of it," Mckenna said, and rose to address the crowd. She began rattling off something in the Moche's language. Which made me wonder if she had known how to speak it all along. Whatever she told them seemed to have worked and she began walking back to the village.

"Immortals, bah humbug," O'Neil muttered to himself.

"Let' put it another way, Selenith term as ruler was almost up, according to legend every 500 years the ruler must appease the god known as the Decapitator with a ritual sacrifice or select a challenger. If she had succeeded in defeating said challenger her rule would have continued."

"Why didn't she?" Carter asked.

"I only learned this during the Quickening, about five months ago Selenith was taken prisoner by a Gul platoon, they made her a host. She was able to fight off the mind controlling effects of the parasite, but the experience left her mind shattered. If I hadn't fought her she or the Gul inside her would have sacrificed you instead, and then revealed our location to the Gou'ald."

"Okay, now I understand why you had to fight her, but that does not explain how you knew that she was a Jaffa," I said.

'The Quickening is like a transfer, most of what happens during it, includes a great deal of the memories and talents of the previous owner," Mckenna explained.


Mckenna accompanied us back to Gate and had changed into one the white linen robes everyone wore here minus the golden bangles and necklaces.

"I have to stay, they expect it of me, " Mckenna trailed off.

"You must do whatever one's destiny obliges one to do," Teal'C offered.

"You're not helping, Teal'C," O'Neil said. He then turned around and ordered me to dial home.

Nodding in acknowledgement, I began pressing the corresponding cartouches carved in relief on the granite slabs that made up the Gate.

"Look, I understand the per regulations, you're gonna have to put everything that's happened her down in your reports, Mckenna said.

"That is standard procedure," O'Neil replied.

"Do me a favor, I kinda broke one of the unwritten rules by telling you as much as I did. Could you maybe keep the number of people you tell about the existence of Immortals to a minimum? I wouldn't want anyone else to get into trouble because of me."

"I promise," O'Neil.


When we returned to the SG 1 Command Hammond hadn't taken kindly to having 'lost' our newest recruit, some of what Mckenna had told us about Immortals sounded like the Jaffas, but even so....they only gained their regenerative abilities and expanded life spans from the symbiote and the nature of the host. If the little we had learned from Teal'C was any guide. The Immortals that Mckenna had told us about, the idea of an entire race of people, some good, some evil, living for centuries, .. But it was too late to do anything about it now. I never knew whether Jack had made good on his promise to keep the existence of these "immortals' or not, and he wasn't taking any bets. In any case, it wasn't as if we 'lost' her, even if we did have to list her as MIA in the SG commands records When I had first met her I had the feeling she had an 'old soul. Guess I was right.

And into this gate they shall enter, and into that house they shall dwell, and where there shall be no cloud, no sun, no darkness. nor dazzling, but one equal light. No noise, nor silence, but one equal noise, no fear, no hope, but one equal possession. No foes, nor friends, but one equal communion, and death, no end, nor beginning, but one equal eternity.


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