The wise learn many things from their enemies. — Aristophanes


0800 hours, August 13

Standing at the foot of the ramp, O’Neill pursed his lips as the Stargate’s outer ring spun. Visiting P3W-924 was the last thing he wanted to do right now. The Joint Chiefs and their schedule could go to hell for all he cared.

A moment later, the final chevron slid into place and the familiar kawoosh of the event horizon’s formation filled the Gate Room. O’Neill sighed inwardly, resigning himself to the mission. He knew intellectually that there really was nothing more he could do for Frank at present beyond waiting for the weather to clear on P2A-870. Brooding wouldn’t help, and he had his orders. Not that any of this made him feel better.

“Colonel?” Carter glanced at him, obviously concerned.

“Let’s go, kids.” He started forward up the ramp as the event horizon settled into the rippling, watery-looking surface that indicated a stable wormhole.




“Move, move, move!” Cromwell urged his men forward. The passageway ahead curved to the left, and two of the Wolves took up covering positions, zat’nik’tels at the ready. At Brioc’s all clear gesture, the rest rounded the corner and entered a larger chamber whose ornate walls enclosed a pair of equally elaborate consoles and a throne-like chair surmounting a raised central dais.

The sound of footfalls echoed from the passage opposite and a half-dozen armored figures entered the room with ma’tok staff weapons raised. At the heart of the group strode a tall figure in copper-hued armor Cromwell recognized as that worn by Bel’s generals. The helm was retracted, revealing a chiseled face and glowing eyes.

{“Who are you?”} Goa’uld harmonics echoed painfully from the chamber’s walls.{“And how dare you come armed into this place?”}

Armagil fired first, from a spot closest to the command chair. The air crackled as both sides exchanged fire, energy bolts lighting the chamber’s dim interior.

After a moment, Cromwell decided he’d seen enough. “All right, hold it!” he ordered. “Stand down!” A last sizzling bolt grazed the wall nearest him before both sides cased firing.

“I don’t care what they say, you get hit enough times in the same spot with one of those things and it burns.” Brioc rubbed his left shoulder and scowled.

“Then don’t get hit,” Cromwell advised dryly.

A chuckle echoed across the room as the other armored figures retracted their ram’s-horned helmets. Nenniaw pulled the gauntlet from one hand and ran his fingers through sweat-damp hair as his helmet disappeared into the metallic cowl around his neck. “An intar still beats live fire, though, you have to admit.”

Sefys — one of Sabar’s Tok’bel lieutenants, pressed into service playing the role of the Goa’uld general — grinned as he brushed at the copper-washed breastplate of his armor. {“They certainly make exercises like this easier, I’ll warrant.”}

Cromwell was familiar with the effects of the low-intensity weapon used for training. Visually indistinguishable – save for a red crystal in the grip – from the real weapons they were meant to simulate, intars delivered a variable-intensity bolt that could be adjusted for different training situations. Most settings only stung without causing actual injury. Until recently, the Am Rhyddid had been in possession of only a few of the devices, relying instead on target work and alternative methods for integrating the use of Goa’uld technology into their training without causing injury to their own. However, Tok’bel agents had managed to liberate a shipment of them just before Midwinter, and Cadogan wasted no time introducing them to the rebels’ training regimen.

It was around the time the intars arrived that Cromwell first suggested the idea of a training mock-up to Cadogan. He’d done so directly on the heels of discussing the prospect of the flight simulator on which he would learn to operate the ha’tak’s piloting controls. Cadogan had confirmed that Garlen was the kind of Tok’bel who enjoyed breaking new ground when it came to constructing technological devices and other items, so asking him to reproduce a ha’tak’s helm control station wasn’t outside the realm of reason. The knowledge had sparked another idea in the colonel’s brain.

“If he likes challenges, I’ve got another one for him,” Cromwell had told his CO. “Or, really, for anyone who wants to take a stab at it.”

“What’s that?” asked Cadogan, with a note of wariness in his voice.

“Well, we’re going to be operating in a completely different environment with this mission. Most of my men, and I assume most of our personnel in general, have only run missions on a planetary surface or within underground structures like the mines. The places we’ve been have a human feel to them and not much in the way of technology. You’re accustomed to tech and so am I, but a lot of the people we’ll have with us aren’t. I’d like to train them so that they’re used to its presence and can work with it to their advantage, rather than being distracted by their surroundings.”

Cadogan looked intrigued. “What are you suggesting?”

“Is there somewhere we can build a mock-up of the interior of that ha’tak — at least the crucial portions, anyway? Something so that the men and women who’ll carry out this mission can get used to the type of surroundings they’ll be working in? After all, they’re going to be up against folks who are familiar with that kind of setting, and that could be a disadvantage unless we do something to mitigate it. My men are pretty well-trained, but a completely novel environment can be disconcerting no matter how hard you try to focus on the job at hand. Trust me on this; I’m speaking from personal experience.”

He felt Tesni’s hand squeeze his shoulder in private understanding. Across the table, Cadogan nodded, his lips curved in a faint smile. “No doubt,” the cadlywydd said simply. “Sabar and I will talk to Garlen and a few of the other Tok’bel, and we’ll see what we can do.”

Today marked the mock-up’s first use. Creating it had taken most of the spring and summer and — according to Sabar — tested Garlen’s skill at manipulating the Tok’ra technology normally used for constructing their subterranean habitats. In the end, the Tok’bel had opted to simply add a chamber to their base at Caer Ynys, then used the space to construct a replica of a ha’tak’s bridge and other vital areas largely by hand. The human teams slated to hijack Bel’s ship would gate to the Tok’bel’s lonely moon for training. The decision to use the rebellion’s captured suits of Jaffa armor to enhance the experience had been Cromwell’s own, heartily endorsed by both Cadogan and Sabar.

Cromwell hadn’t been quite sure what to expect from the mock-up itself. Neither he nor his men had ever seen the interior of a ha’tak, after all. All he could do was speculate based on what he knew of the al’kesh and to a lesser extent, the tel’tak. Ger’tak cockpits were much more stark and utilitarian, but he was aware that larger Goa’uld vessels tended toward the ostentatious.

And that was putting it mildly, he’d learned. The vessels used by the Tok’bel had been either stolen from the Goa’uld outright, as in the case of Sabar’s tel’tak, or salvaged after being found abandoned in space or in some of the wilder sections of the surfaces of the Five Worlds. Sabar’s people had modified them a bit, removing the most intrusive decorative elements. Cadogan had shared with the colonel Sabar’s own descriptions of Goa’uld buildings and vessels. Cromwell reflected that if those descriptions were accurate and if this mock-up were indeed representative of their capital ships, “gaudy” might be the mildest adjective one could apply to the Goa’uld aesthetic sense.

He glanced once more about the simulation’s bridge — what Sabar called its pel’tak in Goa’uld. Reaching this chamber and securing it would be the key to seizing control of the ship. Sabar had outlined several possible scenarios for this. The teams would work with all of them, and with anything else Cromwell could think of on his own. Based on the latest estimates from the movement’s spies in the shipyards at Galla, they had maybe six months to prep for a mission that could radically improve the rebellion’s odds of success in eventually freeing the Five Worlds.

“All right, let’s run this one again,” he ordered.