The sun stood almost directly overhead as Cadogan dismounted in the stableyard near the Am Rhyddid’s Dinas Coedwyg headquarters, handing the reins of his horse to one of the grooms. A few feet away, Gerlad and Neirin did likewise, and the three men headed into the relative coolness of the square stone building. They’d spent the morning meeting with new recruits in yet another nearby village, and the afternoon was scheduled to be taken up with in meetings with local team leaders, whom Cadogan had gotten in the habit of having Neirin advise on occasion. The cadlywydd had discovered early on that his friend appeared to have undergone a wealth of education in the mechanics of warfare and the management of military personnel, training that went far beyond that of many, if not most, of the other filwriadau in the rebellion’s service. Cadogan reasoned that he didn’t need to know the details of the reticent man’s background in order to make use of his knowledge, a situation that seemed to satisfy Neirin, who seemed more than willing to offer his talents under those circumstances.

Right now, however, an hour’s free time and some lunch would make a welcome break for all three of them. On the way through the ground-floor lobby, Cadogan and Neirin paused as Gerlad spoke a quick word regarding the noon meal to the young man behind the desk before rejoining them. As they climbed the stairs toward Cadogan’s office, Neirin commented, “You know, Cadogan, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about something. You’ve taken me to three other worlds besides this one so far, and there’s one thing I’m surprised I haven’t seen on any of them.”

“What’s that?”


Cadogan blinked at the unfamiliar word. “I’m sorry?” It sounded like a Pridanic term, although he couldn’t identify its meaning. But it certainly didn’t belong to any of the other languages in which he was conversant courtesy of his symbiote, Sabar.

“Well, actually, I’m not surprised you don’t have the word for them, since you don’t have the item itself. I’ll show you what I’m talking about.” They’d reached the office, and Neirin crossed to the cadlywydd’s desk. “Mind if I borrow a sheet of paper?” he asked.

“Not at all.”

The filwriad took a sheet of the creamy linen-rag paper his commanding officer kept in a basket on one corner of the desk, picking up quill and ink-bottle with his other hand. He carried them to the conference table, trailed by Cadogan and Gerlad, both curious to see what he was going to do.

Neirin sat down at one corner of the table, dipped the quill pen and began to sketch, the way he’d done when describing the chess set some three months earlier. Intrigued, the other two men joined him, watching as the drawing took shape. “This is what is known as a gwrthafl in Cymraeg, the language I learned as a child that allowed me to learn Pridanic quickly. In my native tongue, we call them ’stirrups’. When attached properly to a saddle — and near as I can tell, we already use an appropriate kind of saddle to add these to — a pair of them makes riding more comfortable, because you have a place for your feet. Mounting and dismounting gets a lot easier, too.” Dipping the quill again, he sketched a saddle with stirrups attached by leather straps. “I’m no artist, but you get the general idea. People where I come from have been using these for centuries.”

Sabar, have you ever seen these things? Cadogan asked his Tok’ra symbiote.

{No, but I didn’t spend much time around horses until after Berwyn became my host. I don’t recall any of my previous hosts mentioning these, though I suppose if I wanted to sift through all their memories, I might find something similar.} Tok’ra symbiotes retained the memories of their hosts as well as carrying the genetic memories of their own ancestors, though after several centuries, the volume of accumulated host recollections was generally such that a conscious effort was required to recall small details. {In any case, I can see why these would be beneficial; I don’t need to have used them before to know that.}

I wonder what world Neirin comes from that they have things you haven’t encountered in a life the length of yours.

The symbiote chuckled. {Cadogan, I don’t know that I’ve been around enough to have seen everything that’s out there. The Goa’uld settled humans on so many planets, it doesn’t surprise me to think that a lot of things have been developed here or there that I haven’t run into. Your species is pretty creative.}

Oblivious to the cadlywydd’s internal conversation with his symbiote, Gerlad spoke up, gesturing at the drawing. “What are they made of?”

“These could be made of bent wood or of metal, preferably wrapped with leather.” said Neirin. “You get a lot more stability on horseback with them than without them, and it’s a more comfortable ride. It’s even more comfortable for the horse a lot of the time, because it alters the way the rider’s weight is distributed. Don’t get me wrong; the corner horns on the front of the saddles we use help a lot more with stability than I’d expected when I first saw them, but adding stirrups would offer even more, and be a little easier on the rider’s legs.”

Cadogan spoke aloud. “Which type is better, wooden or metal?”

“Either one is fine, really. I was thinking that if I showed you this, you might want to have some made and give them a try. I know that I far prefer riding with them.”

The cadlywydd nodded. “Well, since you know how they’re constructed, get together with Dubric when we get back” — Dubric was the local blacksmith in Llanavon — “and show him this. Tell him I want three sets made, to begin with. You can also talk to Ris about perhaps doing a couple of sets in wood. That way I can give both types a try. Glesig shouldn’t have any problem making the appropriate straps and attachments for the saddles if you tell her what is needed.”

He watched as Neirin jotted notes below the sketch. As expected, it hadn’t taken the man more than a few weeks to master the Tok’ra-derived Pridanic script. Midsummer was still three weeks away, and already Neirin was writing his own reports in a bold, confident hand. He had also borrowed two more books, and seemed determined to read his way through the entirety of Cadogan’s library, a thought that left the cadlywydd mildly amused. Along with strategy games, a love of books was another trait the two men shared.

The biggest problem now was what to do with Armagil when Neirin’s erstwhile clerk returned from leave in another week. The young man had been proud and enthusiastic regarding his responsibilities as clerk for his filwriad, and losing that duty would surely make him wonder what he’d done to displease his superiors. Neither man wished to do that to him, but Neirin no longer needed a clerk to handle tasks that involved reading and writing, preferring to do them himself.

{Gerlad has been saying for a while that he could use an assistant part-time, you know,} Sabar offered, picking up on his host’s musings. {If we assign Armagil to help Gerlad in the time that he used to spend doing what Neirin can do now for himself, that ought to work well for everyone, don’t you think?}

Perfect. He’ll see it as something of a promotion, and that should help deflect curiosity about why Neirin no longer makes use of him in dealing with written items.

Neirin’s newfound literacy in Pridanic was not the only product of the time he’d spent working on that particular skillset over the past several weeks, the cadlywydd knew. As he’d suspected they would, Neirin and Tesni had grown even closer during her tenure as Neirin’s teacher. They didn’t go out of their way to display the fact, but it was quietly apparent to anyone who knew one or both of them well enough. Just two evenings ago, on a gather night, Cadogan had seen the pair walking hand-in-hand in the growing dusk along the street toward the village square. Intent on some private conversation of their own, they hadn’t noticed him watching from his vantage point on the other side of the street, where he’d been talking with Dynawd. As they’d passed, Cadogan had caught Tesni’s clear, bright laugh in response to something Neirin had said to her, the filwriad’s own deep chuckle joining it a moment later.

“Those two sound happy,” Dynawd had remarked, glancing across the street. He raised an eyebrow at Cadogan. ”I thought Tesni decided years ago that she wasn’t interested in another pairing?”

Cadogan had merely smiled. “Things change sometimes. She could do a lot worse.”

“She could, at that.”

A knock on the open door of the office drew Cadogan’s attention back to the present. A young man entered, bearing a tray of sandwiches, with a pot of tea and three cups. Their lunch had arrived, and soon the local team leaders would follow for the afternoon’s schedule of meetings.

“Thank you, Dylan,” said Cadogan as the young man deposited the tray on the conference table and took his leave. “Gentlemen, let’s break for lunch.”

Carter stared at the computer screen, willing the information on it to make sense. She’d rerun the same scenario twice for each of three sets of parameters, and they all pointed toward one thing: there was no way the amount of energy directed into the wormhole by the shaped charge she’d devised could have resulted in the wormhole’s having skipped to P2A-870, even given the effects of the gravity well whose influence it had been under at the time. Or at least, not as she understood those effects, she reflected. There was an awful lot about the situation that she was still only guessing at. The effects of time dilation and extreme gravitation on an open, active wormhole represented an uncharted region in wormhole physics, one she was just now trying to map.

She had originally thought that the gravitation and the resulting time dilation would dampen the force of the bomb, possibly blunting its effect on the wormhole. As a result, she’d opted to use a stronger explosive charge than what her calculations deemed strictly necessary to cause the connection to leap away from P2W-451’s stargate, itself even deeper in the gravity well of the black hole than the SGC’s. At the time, she’d been rather less concerned with where the wormhole’s connection might jump to than she was with making certain that it did in fact jump. Based on the accidental side-trip she and Colonel O’Neill had taken to Earth’s previously-undiscovered Antarctic gate last year, theory suggested that a wormhole disrupted in this manner ought to jump to the next-closest gate in physical space, with a couple of caveats. For some reason, even though the stargates generated wormholes that traversed a dimension of space beyond that capable of being described by any normal three-dimensional locative coordinate system, certain of the wormholes’ characteristics did map closely enough to ordinary three-dimensional space that some elements of wormhole behavior could be predicted, including their directional orientation relative to normal space.

Therein lay the problem she was having. P2A-870 didn’t lie near enough to P3W-451, or even quite in the right direction, to have been the next closest gate destination. Oh, certainly, she’d expected something in the P2 to P3 range, depending on factors of gate orientation that she only tenuously grasped even after nearly two years of research involving an active gate with a full catalogue of addresses available to be dialed, but A? That was a little far up the gamma axis to be considered in proximity to the gate on P3W-451. According to the 3D star chart that her modeling program used, that address should have been out of bounds for a leap of the type possible under current theory, even given the somewhat over-strength output of the charge they’d used. It wasn’t hideously far out of range, but it was far enough to indicate that something was wrong either with her theory, or with the modeling program itself.

Because clearly, P2A-870 was the world to which the wormhole had skipped. Not only had the SGC’s computer verified it at the time, but when she and the rest of SG-1 had visited the planet, they’d found that unit coin belonging to Colonel Cromwell. Carter agreed with her CO when he said there was only one way that coin could have gotten there. According to him, only two such coins even existed now, at least in the possession of anyone who might conceivably have been anywhere near a stargate since the coins were struck. Ergo, only Colonel Cromwell could have carried the coin to that planet — What did its inhabitants call it? Tir Awyr? — and subsequently dropped it there.

Absently, she reached for the mug of coffee next to her, taking a sip. It had grown cold, and she made a face as she set it back down. Again, she considered the questions raised by the results of her simulations. The problem, she realized, was that she was working with a glaringly incomplete data set. There were six known coordinates involved in a gate address, functioning in an arrangement that could be described by imagining a cube, encompassing a point contained within, and straight lines radiating out from that point to run through each of the six faces of the cube. Each line from that point to a cube face described a partial axis. These actually functioned in pairs, with each one coupling at the common point to its partner that ran through the face directly opposite. Each of the six coordinates, therefore, represented a point at which an axis passed through the imaginary surface of the cube, and each pair of coordinates described an axis running in a particular orientation and angle relative to the cube faces through which it passed.

It was an elegant system, but the problem was that six coordinates limited the amount of possible information available to only three dimensions. Since wormholes operated in — or at least through — a realm with more than three dimensions, it followed that there had to be information unavailable to the six-coordinate system. Unless some of that additional information were carried in the angular information pertaining to some of those axes themselves… and if so, she had no idea by what method, nor how to tease it out. There was, of course, the one time a gate address had been dialed using eight chevrons; the final chevron of an address — which had always been the seventh in her prior experience — indicated the point of origin for the outgoing wormhole. When O’Neill had recently dialed an eight-chevron address while under the influence of that Ancient database that had filled his head and nearly killed him, Carter surmised that the seventh chevron possibly functioned as something akin to an area code, indicating to the gate that it should dial into a specific neighboring gate network at a particular distance and direction relative to the originating gate, but which otherwise used the same coordinate system as their ”local” network.

But even that particular piece of speculation did little to shed light on the present puzzle. Carter didn’t like incomplete data sets. They made her feel like she was groping in the dark for answers that hovered stubbornly just out of reach. Certainly, the type of research she’d been involved in, and even the field in which she’d chosen to specialize, involved any amount of incomplete information. Tracking down those elusive missing pieces and plugging them into the big picture was what drove her as a scientist, but when it came to real-world applications of the resulting picture, she found herself uncomfortable with the idea that something was ”good enough” if it happened to work, despite any inexplicability of why it might do so. Especially when the lives and safety of human beings were on the line, she was always happier knowing every detail that could affect that application as it pertained to them.

The stargate was no different. Sure, she traveled through it regularly herself, despite not understanding its every parameter or each factor in its operation. She could even tune out concerns for her own safety when she did so, especially after this many trips. But when it came time to sit down and actually analyze how the gate did what it did, she still found herself bothered by the inadequacy of wormhole theory in its present state to accurately describe the process and predict each result. ”Good enough” had been working so far, but now she was faced with an instance in which it simply didn’t go far enough in giving her the tools to understand what had happened to cause the result she had clearly observed first-hand.

A knock on the doorframe of her lab startled her, and she looked up to see Daniel. ”You missed another check-in with the MALP,” he informed her.

“Oh, God. I’ve been so immersed in what I’m doing here that I completely forgot to look at the time. What’s the story?”

Daniel shook his head. “It’s still raining cats and dogs on Tir Awyr, at least in the immediate vicinity of the stargate. Lots of lightning strikes, too. Jack looked like he wanted to start throwing things, and Teal’c and I had to talk him off the ledge.” He sighed. “This is really eating at him, and I can’t blame him, but I don’t know how much more waiting he can take.”

Carter swore softly. “Damn it. Realistically, of course, even a major storm system isn’t going to go on forever, so eventually we should be able to return to the planet and continue the search. The question is, what can we do to help Colonel O’Neill in the meantime? I can completely understand why he’s upset, after what he told us earlier.”

“I don’t know.” Daniel pushed off from the doorframe, coming to join her in looking at the computer screen. “What is it you’ve been working on that made you forget about the time?”

“I’ve been running some computer models of how a wormhole might behave under various gravity fields with different levels of energy input from something like that shaped charge we used, or possibly from other sources. Basically, I’m following up on some interesting things I encountered while doing the calculations that told me Colonel Cromwell might have made it to P2A-870 alive.” She massaged her forehead. “The problem is, the results of the model don’t make any sense.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because they tell me that there’s no way the wormhole should have skipped to P2A-870 in the first place. And we know that it did.” She gestured toward the screen. “P2A-870 isn’t the closest stargate to P3W-451 in normal space. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But we already know the gate system uses a slightly different geometry that takes into account factors other than proximity in simple three-dimensional space. We don’t know exactly how it does this, not yet anyway, but all my prior modeling of wormhole behavior indicates that what the gate system would consider ’close’ would be a series of gates whose addresses fall into this range.” She brought up a window on the screen that listed a number of gate addresses, most from the Abydos cartouche and a few from what their CO had input during the time he held the Ancient database in his mind. “P2A-870 isn’t on the list. It’s just a short way outside the range, but still, I can’t account for how the wormhole jumped to it at all.”

Daniel looked intrigued. “Maybe the bomb gave off more energy than you thought it would?”

Carter shook her head. “No, it was made to some pretty exact specifications.” She minimized the window she’d brought up, returning the display to the chart generated by the modeling program. “It’s almost as if the wormhole translated the bulk of the energy input into travel along one specific axis of the three available when it ’chose’ — that isn’t exactly the right word, but I think you understand my meaning — which gate to skip to. Theoretically, that shouldn’t even be possible. The energy should have been spread equally across all three axes, but if it had been, then P2A-870 would have been just out of range of the skip.” She looked up, watching his blue eyes blink behind his glasses as he thought his way through what she’d just said. Daniel was no physicist, but Carter knew he actually wasn’t half bad with math and the physical sciences, especially for someone whose particular gifts had taken him in a different scientific direction. He had a natural curiosity about how the physical world worked and why, which was precisely what led to him frequently asking her the kinds of questions he’d asked while they were following that trail on P2A-870 yesterday.

“So obviously, there’s some element to this that isn’t covered by existing theory, then,” he said at length.

“Daniel, there’s so much about this entire thing — the black hole, the gravity well, their effects on the stargate and the wormhole — that isn’t covered by existing theory that I almost feel like I’ve been sent back to square one.” She gave him a wry smile. “For example, we thought we knew that a gate could only remain open for a maximum of thirty-eight minutes. But when we dialed P3W-451, it stayed open for a lot longer than that. I think one reason for that is that even if something powers down the sending gate without first initiating a closure sequence, the receiving gate can keep the wormhole open. By the time that bomb went off, thirty-eight minutes still hadn’t gone by on P3W-451, and I would guess that’s why the wormhole had stayed open so long. Now, we’d powered down our gate, but when it didn’t cut the connection, we did have someone reset the breakers so it had power once again, in case we figured another way to shut it down from our end using just the normal controls. That’s why there was enough power to maintain the wormhole through the skip, once it disconnected from P3W-451, so that we knew where it skipped to, and apparently so that Colonel Cromwell had enough time to complete his transit to P2A-870 before we performed a normal closure sequence from this end. What I don’t understand, though, is what made it connect to that gate, rather than one of the ones on that list I showed you.” She shook her head again. “I have a feeling I’m going to wind up re-evaluating a lot of what I thought I understood about both quantum gravity and wormhole physics before I’m done with this.”

<— Chapter 20 – Tutelage

Chapter 22 – Before I Sleep—>