A moment of truth in your lies…

Everything is so straightforward when you’re faced with the choice between telling the truth and telling a lie. The truth has one redeeming quality above all else. So simple you would think that if the opportunity arose to tell a lie, this would be the first thought that might turn you back from taking the wrong path.

You can tell the same truth a hundred times and your story will never change. But a lie? A lie becomes twisted and compounded because our ability to remember the lie we first told is caught up in the truth that started it all.

Ultimately, it is so much easier to remember a truth, especially if there’s no-one around to remind you of your lie.

As the cogs of the military machine ground in my direction, there was no escaping the inevitable. Being no stranger to mission protocols, I could do very little but accept that my debriefing would be every bit as unavoidable as it would be uncomfortable. In a strange way though, I almost welcomed it as a means of signaling that this nasty part of my life was over and all that was left was the sorting out of the pieces.

Pieces – A part of a whole. An undefined measure. A shard from a broken mirror.

It was among these sordid pieces of the whole story that my little shard lived. One story within the others that would bring me undone. Not because of what I’d done. No. I had done nothing… and perhaps that was the problem. Perhaps I should have done what was expected of me. What I’d been trained to do. What Merlin had encouraged me to follow through with. I’d fought his overpowering personality, struggled with the censure waged in that part of my mind we knew Adria couldn’t reach, and it had frightened me.

Merlin always had an unfair advantage. He had centuries of experience, while I had very little. I fought outside my weight. So, while I argued morality, he argued survival at all cost. We couldn’t hope to agree.

Confusing? It shouldn’t be.

I had barely shrugged on my robes of office--those bland cotton threads that marked me as a Prior of the Ori as much as the scarification that marked my face--and I was already doubting Merlin’s plans. According to Adria, all that was required of me as a Prior was my unwavering obedience. It was all that was expected of any loyal follower in the fold. The only difference here was that it was the Priors who walked among the stars like high-pressure intergalactic salesmen with the ultimate incentive—vacuum cleaners and religion were interchangeable in this regard.

I knew Origin beyond the long hours spent in prostration with Adria as my teacher. With my transformation to a Prior came knowledge. Stories that seemed so fanciful the first time I read them from the ‘good’ book, suddenly took on new meaning as my whole being was bathed in the blessings of the Ori. So, while part of me was screaming my injustices from that small corner of my mind, the rest of me, under Merlin’s guidance, was drowning in the faith.

Adria’s plans for me were simple and a part of me knew that she’d been cultivating her ambitions since the moment of her birth. While her loyalty to the Ori was without question, her love for her mother, and the need to have her by her side, ran equally as deep. I was a pawn in her plan and a way for her to not only convert Earth, but her mother as well…

“It's very important to me that we save her together.”

“Oh, of course.”

It was obvious she didn’t know Vala as well as the rest of us did.

So, while the monks of the Ori spent years within the City of the Gods training to become Priors, I only had a short time before being called into service. Before the final phase of the Ori incursion into the Milky Way could continue, more followers needed to be brought into the fold. My own self-importance failed me here. Adria’s physical attraction to me was obvious and moved quickly from affection to intimacy. I hated the way my body betrayed me by responding to her touch. Initially, I thought our moments of intimacy would end once she turned me into a Prior, but if anything it seemed to heighten her attraction.

I could barely suppress my surprise when she pulled me away from building the weapon to kill ascended beings... a weapon I needed finished as much as she did.

“I'm almost done.”

“I know. You must stop for now.”

“You're afraid the Ancients will take the device away from us before we can use it.”

“They've interfered once before in its creation. You're using Merlin's knowledge, knowledge he kept from when he was ascended.”

“But if I don't finish it…”

“For now, you must help bring the energy of more followers into the fold.”

My task was simple: While Adria preached to followers on one world, I would convert the poor souls on Novus Fides. If nothing else, the simplicity of this delighted Merlin, and I think he was relieved that Adria held me in such high esteem. I wasn’t so sure. The argument we shared earlier weighed heavily on my mind.

Merlin maintained that not guiding these people towards the teaching of Origin would doom them with their first heretical word. I argued that to each their own morality and for us to force a belief on others made us no better than the Goa’uld we had been fighting for over a decade. Naturally, he wagered that his experiences held more weight. Making these people choose a religion would at least guarantee their continued existence. But I needed the people of Novus Fides to have a choice.

Merlin didn’t agree.

He scoffed at what he called my ‘child-like view of life’ and decided that I was on my own. While he would continue to protect me from Adria, in the hopes of carrying out our plan to destroy the Ori, I would have to let my own instincts guide me. In this, he said, I would learn my lesson.

I thought I knew it all. I was so confident that a soft approach would hold more weight with people than just demanding their blind obedience that I didn’t take into account what would happen if they simply refused. No more could I have anticipated what answer the peaceful people of Novus Fides would give me after my first sermon than could I have guessed what fate awaited them when Adria discovered my failure.

With so many planets falling to the Ori, I was sure that no one would notice if Novus Fides’ population weren’t bowing down in humble reverence during what should have been their daily prostration. Surely it was impossible to keep track of every single follower amongst the many millions?

So, when my first attempt at a religious calling fell on deaf ears, I thanked the town leader for his time and lauded him on his people’s long oral history and astonishing medieval architecture. Noting sadly that had this been another time, I would have gladly spent weeks there immersed in their culture. My last view of the planet was the sun setting on the horizon as it bathed the land in the intense colors of twilight. Crawling its way across the rich landscape, the setting sun wrapped its light around the high spire that marked the town hall of Novus Fides. A cacophony of heavy bells chimed just moments before the rings sped down and snatched me back to my cloistered nightmare.

Herein started my lie. At first it was born from necessity. I couldn’t let Adria know that I had failed to convert Novus Fides to the teaching of Origin, so I told her I had. Merlin stirred in the back of my mind, whispering that my view was narrow and self indulgent, and that I had quite possibly doomed a people I should have been trying to save. I couldn’t argue back. My emotions were already dangerously close to a point at which Adria could sense them, and to involve myself in a mental sparring session with Merlin at this moment was beyond foolish. Instead, I strengthened my resolve and fed my lie to her with a strength that belied my true feelings.

Her gaze was hard and deep, almost as though she was trying to look inside my soul, which I wasn’t sure she hadn’t been doing the whole time. Her empathic abilities were chilling and without Merlin’s help, I would have been helpless to combat them. I held my focus though, never once breaking her stare or letting any other emotion beyond a false sense of accomplishment surface. As moments passed, the look in her eyes softened and a small smile curved her lips.

Stepping past me, she allowed her hand to linger against my chest and leaned close, whispering, her breath warm on my skin, “The Ori do not need to give thanks for your work, for your continued loyalty and faith is your own reward… but I thank you.”

Hallowed are the Ori.”

My response hung in the air like a foul stench that only I could smell, and all the while Merlin was laughing at me. Ascendancy should have taught you the value of a mortal existence and the fragility with which it is held. You have learned nothing.

His words echoed in my mind long after Adria had led me from the bridge of her vessel as it hung in low orbit over Novus Fides.

Our trip back to Earth aboard the Odyssey hadn’t been quite as long as anyone had wanted, but longer than I’d needed. With time to dwell on events, coupled with the mother of all headaches, I’d grown uncomfortable with the fleeting sympathetic stares from the rest of my team. It was almost as though my telling them Merlin was gone wasn’t quite enough, but without any tangible proof, there was nothing I could offer in my own defense.

Adding to the tension of their stares, and moments of uncomfortable silence came Jack’s bold statement that Mr. Woolsey had requested my company for a debriefing when the Odyssey was back in Earth's orbit. If the statement was supposed to surprise me, it didn’t. An unspoken conversation passed between us, and I quickly nodded my understanding.

“You know what he wants”.

“Standard mission protocols, Jack. We’ve been around this barbecue.”

“Hey, that’s my line. Yeah, you know the drill, only it’s different this time.”

“I’ve been in enemy hands.”

“Hell, Daniel, you became the enemy! You did get a look at yourself, right? Do Prior’s shave? Cause, you know, with all that scarring-”


“Whatever. Just be careful, okay. Be direct with your answers and don’t give him more than what the question requires.”

“You want me to lie?”

“No. I don’t want you to give him anything that might jeopardize your position any further.”

“Hands of the enemy, Jack.”

Okay, I might have embellished the conversation in my own mind, but at least this time there was no Merlin to answer me back.

Nerves had very little to do with my falsehood. Nor was the fact that despite there only being Mr. Woolsey and myself in the interview room, I was well aware of the members of my team looking on from the viewing balcony overhead. Their presence didn’t bother me, and in a strange, slightly detached way, I felt protected by their proximity... almost as though they would rise to my rescue if the questioning got tough.

Woolsey was careful though. He asked his meticulously rehearsed questions with just the barest quiver in his voice, which left me wondering if his nervousness could be attributed to the audience listening in on our every word or whether he genuinely feared me.

I can well understand the fear though. Caught up between Adria's ambitions and Merlin's powers, I'd feared myself.

Adria had no understanding of what she’d created when she played into Merlin’s hands and made me a Prior. Merlin’s very presence in my mind—the abilities that came with ‘housing’ him—were familiar to me. I can only explain the feeling as being akin to a prolonged sense of deja vu, and on an intrinsic level, I knew where the sensation was coming from.

My body was remembering what it was like to be ascended.

Adria’s faith in her own supremacy and that of the Ori would ultimately be her downfall. Merlin used this against her, and I can still hear the whisper of his laughter echoing through my mind at the very moment Adria believed she’d turned me towards Origin. While Merlin lauded his accomplishment, I felt used and toyed with. One half of me had become an object for preaching a religion that went against every fiber of my mortal existence, while the other half of me struggled to control powers and abilities that were fused to my emotions and soaked in ascended arrogance.

Why not damn them all to hell and let the Ori and the Ancients fight it out amongst themselves?

But Merlin overshadowed me. Laughed at my foolishness, and with a cruelty I didn’t expect from someone who had crossed the ascension threshold and returned, he unlocked small windows of my ascended memory, holding them open just long enough for me to get a glimpse… before slamming them shut tight.

Like a dream we don’t remember when it ends, there was nothing but a ghostly image imprinted on my mind, a sense of knowing something but never quite being able to latch on to it. Merlin sensed my distress and as much as he liked to tease me with fleeting moments of clarity, he also made me aware that the only way I could ever reach these memories was to ascend.

Not something I had planned on doing anytime soon.

So I lied to Woolsey, and with no one to counter my words, disprove my actions, my words suddenly felt comfortable.

Like I’d washed away the sins of what I’d been and could start fresh.

“Can you give me a detailed account of your activities from the moment you were captured by Adria until the time SG-1 rescued you?”

“Besides my time spent working on the weapon to kill ascended beings? Prostration, Mr. Woolsey, I did prostration.”

“Surely you don’t expect us to believe that there was nothing else? You were gone for quite some time, Doctor Jackson. That is quite a lot of prostration.”

“Well, the Ori are huge fans of prostration. All those minds channeling their thoughts into one single belief. This is how they draw strength from their followers. The act of prostration in itself is quite a powerful tool.”

Woolsey’s hesitation over my answer had almost caught me out. I wanted to leap out of my chair and tell him the truth. Tell him what I had done to prove my loyalty to gods I didn’t believe in and to a cause that left me hollow and bleeding inside. I couldn’t do it though. The plain truth of my actions gnawed at me constantly and I just couldn’t elaborate further. I didn’t want him or anyone else to know what becoming a Prior had truly cost me.

Meeting his accusatory stare, I held out long enough to see his tight features relax slightly as he broke away to read off the next in his long line of questions. I had won this round… barely. Whether my team could see through my ruse would be another matter, and deciding to ignore their presence for the rest of the meeting, I waited for Woolsey to continue.


It wasn’t hard not to get the wrong impression of P5T-119 the moment you stepped out from the event horizon and onto a planet that had quite literally been razed to the ground. According to SG-7—who conducted the original recon mission—the survivors call this planet Novus Orsa or New Beginning. As the translation ran off the tip of my tongue, I noted that even Mitchell had the good graces to bite back any witty comment he might have been contemplating in favor of maintaining the sobering mood of the landscape.

Where once might have stood a lush forest, there were now only scorched stumps, their charred remains a sad testament to the fury the Ori had unleashed on this planet in its very recent past. Moments after the gate shut down, Colonel Jessica Cross stepped from the clearing to greet us, her outstretched hand and cheery smile seemed out of place amid all this desolation.

“Welcome to hell, Cameron,” she said hitching a thumb over her shoulder at the wasted forest behind her. “It’s a good three miles to what’s left of the city but we’ve arranged for a group of locals to meet us and guide us on to their encampment from there.”

“What sort of numbers are we looking at, Jess?” Cam asked, dropping smoothly into step beside her, the rest of us falling in behind. “The SGC gave us a figure of approximately one hundred based on your initial report. Landry would like a more accurate count before we start sending aid through the gate. Lam has also asked for a brief medical profile so she can start putting a team together.”

Cross shook her head forlornly. “No one within a one mile radius of the blast epicenter survived but Thoran, the new leader here-”

“One mile?” Sam interrupted. “Are you sure about that?”

“You’ll see for yourself as we get closer. It was a very surgical strike.”

“Even with the high-tech weaponry we’ve come across, such a small blast radius is unheard of. So you’re talking complete destruction?”

“As far as the human cost goes, yes. We’ve toured the city and there are still some structures standing, especially closer towards the center of town.”

Sam’s face lit up with surprise. “Which would make sense if you were using conventional weapons as we know it. Was there a blast seat?”

“Nothing that we can see. The locals that witnessed the attack said an intense light fell from the sky and hit the city just after dark.”

“Residual radiation?”

“Nada, we checked… clean as a whistle.”

“Could it be that the Ori are using a weapon we don’t know about?” Mitchell asked, his attention drifting over the scorched earth as they walked.

“Possible, I guess.” Sam’s answer was subdued as she chewed over Cross’ answers. “What I don’t understand is why the Ori would attack in this manner to start with. We’ve seen their tactics and this type of mass destruction doesn’t quite fit their repertoire.”

Spinning to face her, Cam held up a hand. “Whoa, we are talking about the same evil inter-galactic bible salesmen, aren’t we? All rhetoric and not an ounce of morality?”

“The very same, although they generally prefer an M.O. of convert or die.”

“Blind devotion or get your crops--and possibly your farmers--eaten by ravenous bugs,” Cam added dryly.

“From what I understand here, the Prior came, preached the good word and left. Right?” Sam turned to Cross for confirmation.

“That’s what we’ve been led to believe. The few survivors that were present when the Prior visited the city said they were given no reason to believe that rejecting Origin would be against their better judgment. Apparently the Prior accepted their decision, thanked them for their time, and left. The city was leveled a short time later.”

I stopped dead in my tracks, my legs suddenly deciding of their own volition that they wouldn’t carry me any further. “He thanked them?” I can hear the words, feel them leaving my mouth, but the world around me was graying just a fraction and I had to blink to keep from going down.

“Jackson?” Mitchell wrapped a hand around my bicep, his face suddenly very close to mine.

“You… you said, he thanked them.”

I must have still had my eyes open because I could see Colonel Cross and Sam both turning towards me. “So the story goes,” Cross said with a hint of suspicion in her voice. “We haven’t had a chance to… Doctor, are you okay?”

“I just need to—”

“Sit down,” Mitchell urged, dragging my arm downward. But I resisted, shrugging off his grip and raising a hand to fend off any further help.

“No, I need to see this.”

“See what, Daniel?” After watching me push Mitchell away, I could see the hesitancy in Sam’s steps as she moved towards me. “There’s nothing to see.”

“Yes. Yes there is.”

There was. Nestled on a plateau a few miles from the gate was the city, or perhaps more accurately, what was left of it. Even from that distance, and without the aid of field glasses, the city’s decimated remains littered the horizon as a reminder of what happened to those who defied subjugation and dared to test the might of the Ori.

In the hot midday sun, and against the backdrop of a vivid blue sky streaked with bolts of iris and yellow clouds, stood the molten remains of a proud spire. The locals may have changed the name to protect their past and start anew, but enough of the once majestic town hall remained for me to recognize where I was truly standing.

Novus Fides.

The End


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