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(Criminal Minds/SG1) Evening of the Empire for beatrice_otter

Title: Evening of the Empire
Author: skieswideopen
Fandoms: Criminal Minds/Stargate SG-1
Characters Emily Prentiss, Aaron Hotchner, David Rossi, Derek Morgan, Spencer Reid, Penelope Garcia, Elizabeth Prentiss, Erin Strauss; Samantha Carter, Cameron Mitchell, Daniel Jackson
Pairings: None
Rating: PG-13
Wordcount: 8000
Spoilers: Set in early season six of Criminal Minds and in season ten before "The Quest" in SG-1. No major spoilers Criminal Minds, but the Ori plotline from SG1 is discussed.
Warnings: Includes multiple off-screen murders and discussion of genocide. This is a bit darker than some people might prefer, but I think it's consistent with canon
Disclaimer: Criminal Minds and Stargate SG-1 belong to their respective creators
A/N: I realize the seasons I'm using didn't happen at the same time, and I apologize to those are bothered by such things. It shouldn't make a difference for the plot. Thank you to colls for beta reading!

Summary: When a serial killer strikes on an important allied world, the SGC calls on the BAU for help.



Garcia, Reid, and Morgan were huddled together around Morgan's desk when Emily arrived at the office. All three were radiating the sort of tension that twisted Emily's stomach into knots and sent visions of dead children dancing through her head.

She dropped her bag by her own desk and went over to join them.

"What's going on?"

"Strauss is here," Garcia replied darkly. "She's been holed up with Hotch and Rossi for the last twenty minutes."

Relief rushed through her--no dead children after all. Not today. For a moment she breathed more easily...and then her apprehension returned as she considered the possibilities. "Oh."

"Exactly," Garcia agreed, still scowling.

"I thought after Foyet...." That Strauss had changed her mind. That she had gained some sympathy for Hotch. That maybe she finally respected the way the team functioned.

"So did we," Morgan said.

"And we have no idea what she wants?"

Morgan shook his head. "Not a clue."

"It might be nothing," Reid said. "She's the Section Chief; there are lots of reasons she might want to talk to Hotch. It could be something purely administrative."

Morgan nodded up at Hotch's office. "It looks like we're about to find out."

Emily followed his gaze. Strauss had emerged from Hotch's office and was striding toward the elevator. Hotch appeared a moment later, coming over to look down at them from above. Emily studied his face, searching for hints of he was thinking behind that solemn facade. She couldn't find any.

"We're heading to Colorado Springs," he announced. "Wheels up in thirty minutes. Garcia, you'll provide support from here."

Which was less information than she'd been hoping for, under the circumstances.

"We're holding the briefing on the plane?" Morgan asked.

Hotch shook his head. "Apparently they're going to brief us once we land. The Air Force is sending someone to meet us."

Okay, that was more information, but not the kind she'd been expecting. "The Air Force? This is from Strauss? What's going on, Hotch?"

"I don't know," he replied evenly. "All I've been told so far is that this assignment is very important and highly sensitive. And that it comes from higher than Strauss."

"How high?" Morgan asked.

"A lot higher than we usually deal with," Rossi said, coming to stand beside Hotch. He looked serious too, in a way he rarely did. Whatever Strauss had said, it had apparently made an impression. And in that case, there was really only thing to do.

"In that case, I guess we'd better get ready to go," Emily said.

***

They were met at the airport by a fair-haired Air Force officer in dress blues.

"Lieutenant-Colonel Cameron Mitchell," he said with an easy smile. "You must be the BAU folks."

Emily evaluated him automatically as Hotch introduced the team. Colonel Mitchell's welcoming smile seemed genuine, but she suspected he knew how to use it to his advantage when he wanted to. Southern accent, and she was willing to bet it reflected a childhood spent on and near military bases in the south. Confident, of course, and young for his rank, which suggested a high degree of competence. That, in turn, suggested that his assignment might really be as important as Strauss had indicated. Or at least there was someone out there who believed it was. She ran through the possibilities in her mind...an incident on a military base? Something happening in Afghanistan or Iraq that needed to be dealt with effectively and quietly? Something with an ally somewhere?

"Pleasure to meet you," Mitchell said when Hotch had finished running through the list of names and titles. "We should get going." He nodded toward the waiting cars.

"Where are going?" Emily asked as a young Airman stepped up to take her bag.

"Cheyenne Mountain."

"NORAD?" Rossi asked, looking interested.

"Not exactly," Mitchell said. "You'll see when we get there."

"You can't start briefing us on the way?" Morgan asked.

Mitchell grinned. "Trust me, you won't believe it until you see it."

Four hours later, standing in front of the oversized ring that she'd just been told served as a portal to other worlds, Emily had to admit that he'd probably been right. She walked around it slowly, trying to imagine what it looked like when it was operational. What those other worlds looked like. Those other people. Real, live aliens. They were out there. Earth had made contact. Her faced stretched into an involuntary smile at the thought. This was far, far better than any science fiction novel she'd ever read.

Looking around, she saw her awe reflected on the faces of her teammates.

"This is incredible," Reid said, running a hand gently along the edge of the ring. "Is travel limited to within our own galaxy?"

"The gates operate outside the galaxy," Mitchell replied, looking amused. "But it takes a whole lot of power to make that kind of connection. More than we can usually afford."

"I can't believe Wormhole X-Treme was actually based on real events," Morgan said.

"Don't believe most of what you've seen," Mitchell said. "They took a lot of artistic licence with that show."

"But they know about the stargate," Rossi said. It was a statement, not a question.

Emily agreed with him. She'd caught the show once or twice, and there were far too many similarities for them not to have some sort of connection to the real thing.

"The creator does," Mitchell agreed. "He's actually from another planet. But as far as the rest of the cast and crew know, it's all fiction."

"Why'd you let them do it?"

Mitchell shrugged. "Plausible deniability. The brass figured that if anything ever leaked out, we could attribute it to the show. Discredit it."

"Make whoever revealed the information sound like a crazy conspiracy theorist who can't tell reality from television," Rossi said flatly.

Mitchell shifted uncomfortably. "Something like that."

Hotch turned away from studying the stargate to face Mitchell. "Colonel. You still haven't told us why you brought us here."

"That would be Introductory Briefing Phase Two," Mitchell said, cheerful again. "Come back to the conference room, and I'll introduce you to Carter and Jackson. They'll fill you in."

Carter turned out to be Colonel-Doctor Samantha Carter, astrophysicist, and Jackson was Doctor Daniel Jackson, a name that Emily didn't recognize, but that seemed to elicit interest from Reid. Emily evaluated them as Mitchell introduced them: both in BDUs despite Jackson's civilian status, attractive, neither young nor old, competent and tough and sharp as razors. She was willing to lay good odds that they were among the best the Air Force had. But then, what other kind of person would a program like this attract?

Carter took the lead on their briefing. "We first made contact with PX4 782, known to the natives as Peletia, about eighteen months ago," she said. She brought up a series of pictures on the screen next to her showing a vaguely-Earth-like environment. "The population is human, presumably resettled by the Goa'uld, but they seem to have broken away from Goa'uld control quite some time ago, and they've managed to stay out of the way of galactic affairs since then. They're about on-par with Earth technologically-speaking. A little behind on some things, especially in regards to physics, and they haven't developed the microchip yet, but substantially ahead of us in the biological sciences. SGC medical personnel are very hopeful that Peletian help, we'll be able to develop cures for a number of common illnesses, including most forms of cancer, within ten years."

"And how will you get that out to the general population?" Rossi asked. "Since they don't know about the stargate?"

"Slowly," Carter said. "We'll run clinical trials, recreate the research on Earth."

"It's also possible that the program will be declassified before we get that far," Jackson added. From Carter's skeptical glance, Emliy suspected he was being optimistic.

"You still haven't told us why you need us," Hotch said.

"The Peletians have a problem," Carter said. She touched a button on her laptop, and a new group of pictures appeared on the screen at the front of the room.

Emily swallowed hard at the sight. Apparently crime scene photos looked much the same no matter what world they were taken on.

"There have been five deaths so far," Carter said quietly. "All young women, all found in their homes. No known connection between them." She paused to give them a moment to examine the photos, then added, "The violent crime rate on Peletia is very low. They have almost no experience with serial killers. They were having trouble figuring out how to proceed on a case with no obvious suspects, when a member of a visiting SG team mentioned the concept of profiling to one of their representatives."

"I still haven't figured out how she found out about that," Jackson said cryptically.

"Probably saw it on TV," Mitchell drawled from his seat at the far end of the table.

"At any rate, the Peletians were very interested, to say the least," Carter said. "The next day, they issued a formal request for help. Which is incredibly quick for them."

"You're asking us to travel to Peletia to help catch their serial killer," Hotch said.

"Yes, we are," Jackson agreed.

"That could be a problem," Hotch said. "We developed our profiles based on years of research into Earth-based killers and their patterns. We have no way of knowing whether those patterns will transfer to another world with a completely different culture and social structure. Our techniques may not work there."

"We understand," Carter said, "but we're in the middle of negotiating a very delicate treaty with Peletia right now. Anything you can do to help them catch this killer would go a long way toward building goodwill, which is something we desperately need right now."

"Not to mention the fact that the killer is going to keep going until he's stopped," Jackson said, looking around the room.

Emily looked at the photos again. None of the women looked to be more than twenty-five. Or was that an illusion created by their knowledge of biology? Assuming it wasn't...she began profiling automatically, looking for patterns in the cause of death and the way the bodies were displayed. It was a grotesque display--no signs of regret or shame there. Definitely not the work of an unsub who was going to stop.

"We can't make any promises," Hotch said. His eyes were on the photos too.

"We'll make sure the Peletians understand that," Jackson said. "Anything you can offer is more than they have now."

Hotch nodded and looked back at Jackson and Carter. "Then I need to talk to my team alone."

He waited until Carter, Jackson, and Mitchell had all left the room before he spoke. "No one here has to go on this trip if they don't want to. If you have any doubts, any concerns at all..."

"You really think we're going to pass up a chance to visit another planet?" Morgan asked with a grin.

"It could be dangerous," Hotch said. "And not the kind of danger we usually face."

"I'm in," Rossi said.

Reid nodded. "Me too."

"You're not leaving me behind," Emily said.

Hotch looked at them each in turn, and apparently found what he was looking for. "All right. I'll let them know."

***

Things moved surprisingly quickly once the decision was made. Two hours later, they'd been given a brief--very brief--lecture on local customs and interplanetary travel protocol, and were standing in front of the gateroom watching the stargate spin while a technician called out the chevrons.

"I can't quite believe this is real," Emily said quietly to Morgan.

"I know exactly what you mean," he replied, eyes fixed on the stargate as the wormhole leapt into existence.

Mitchell twisted his head to look at them. "You ready?" At their nod, he started up the ramp. One by one, the members of the BAU followed, with Carter and Jackson bringing up the rear. Emily paused in front of the shimmering blue surface and took a deep breath.

"We'll be right here with you," Rossi said reassuringly from behind her.

"I know," she said, and stepped forward.

Her breath caught in her throat as her feet touched solid ground. Alien ground. She stepped away from the gate and looked down at the blue sand beneath her shoes, then around at the bright green--too green--foliage.

According to the briefing, Peletia's stargate was located in the heart of their capital city, but she couldn't tell by looking around. All she saw were sand and grass and trees. Which probably made sense for a planet that elevated biology over all other sciences.

Two women, presumably Peletians, were there to meet them. Both were dressed in fitted pants and high-collared coats vaguely reminiscent of eighteenth-century menswear. One was clearly in charge, body language broadcasting confidence as she stepped forward to greet them. The other held back, assessing the team with curiosity but no hostility. Perhaps someone who wasn't accustomed to dealing with strangers from another planet? But since she was here, that probably meant...diplomatic liaison and cop?

"Welcome back, Colonel," said the woman Emily had mentally tagged as the diplomat. She smiled warmly at Carter. "Doctor Irele is looking forward to seeing you again! She thinks she's close to a breakthrough and would like your opinion on her most recent work."

"I'd be happy to take a look," Carter said. "She's doing some very exciting things."

"Colonel Mitchell, Doctor Jackson." The woman nodded at each of them in turn--polite, but perfunctory--and then turned to the BAU agents. "These are the investigative experts you told us about, Colonel?"

Carter nodded. "These are Agents Prentiss, Hotchner, Rossi, and Morgan, and Doctor Reid."

Which put Emily first, despite lacking either the rank or physical location to justify it. Curiouser and curiouser. They hadn't covered that in the briefing.

The warm smile returned. "I'm Archas Kiel, mayor of Alecta. And this is Raiza Morelle. She's in charge of finding out who is responsible for those tragic deaths."

Politician then, and not diplomat after all.

"We're grateful for your assistance," Morelle said formally. She touched her hand to her shoulder in what Emily guessed was some sort of greeting--or thank you? Emily cursed their rushed briefing and debated about whether to mirror the gesture, then decided it was safer not to make gestures whose meaning she unclear on. Around her, she could see the rest of the team doing the same calculation and coming to the same conclusion.

"Whatever we can do," Rossi said warmly.

"Raiza will get you everything you need," Kiel said. "Doctor Jackson, Librarian Rotela has asked to see you. Colonel Carter--"

"I'll be happy to meet with Doctor Irele."

"And Colonel Mitchell..."

"I'll hang out with the BAU team," Mitchell said. "In case they need an extra pair of hands."

Kiel seemed relieved. "Very well. Then I leave you in Raiza's capable hands."

No counterpart for Mitchell to bond with? Emily thought back to the briefing, but couldn't recall hearing anything about the Peletian military. Perhaps they didn't have one.

Morelle turned to them after the mayor left, attitude shifting from formal to businesslike. "What do you need?"

"Space to work," Hotch replied immediately. "And access to whatever evidence you've gathered. When did the most recent murder take place?"

"A sixth body was found this morning," Morelle said grimly.

"How long was the break between murders?" Emily asked.

"This time? Two days. At the beginning, it was two months. Then two weeks."

"He's accelerating his timetable," Rossi said. "That's a bad sign."

"We assumed as much," Morelle agreed.

" I'd like to send Agents Reid and Morgan to see the new crime scene," Hotch said.

"I'll go with them," Mitchell offered. Emily couldn't tell whether the offer reflected a desire to keep them out of trouble, or to keep them safe. Or maybe Mitchell just thought the crime scene would be more interesting than watching the team sit and work. Which was probably true.

Morelle hesitated. "We've already taken photos," she said. "Surely you can look at those?"

"Sometimes we can see things at the actual scene that can't be learned from photographs," Rossi said.

"Even if it means disturbing the family?"

"She lived with her family?" Hotch asked.

"No, but they'll be upset when they learn that their daughter's privacy has been broken."

"It is important," Emily said gently. "We'll be as discreet and sensitive as we can be, but we really need to see the scene."

Morelle acceded reluctantly. "Very well. Come with me to the connection hall, and I'll assign someone to take you to the house."

***

The connection hall was a series of low white buildings surrounded--as Emily was coming to expect--by more green space. People strolled the grounds in apparent relaxation, and children's laughter floated in from a distance.

"There must be more than just law enforcement here," Rossi said, looking around curiously.

"The connection hall houses all local government functions," Morelle said. "Law creation and enforcement. Education services. Information services. Various regulatory and licensing bodies."

"You run them all out of one place?" Reid asked.

"Of course," she said. She opened a door and gestured them inside.

The evidence, when they reviewed it, was depressing in its familiarity. The houses and furniture and names were different, but the actual methods of death were all ones that Emily had seen before. If it weren't for Morelle's formal, foreign attire, she could almost have believed she was sitting in a police station on Earth.

They couldn't read the reports themselves--Emily was still astonished that they could understand a completely foreign spoken language via a translation system that seemed more like magic than science--so Morelle read the statements aloud.

"The unsub brings his own weapon," Emily said when they'd gone through all six reports. She flipped back to her copies of the photos, studying the knife marks, and the absence of an obvious weapon at the crime scene. "He obviously planned this."

"Unsub?" Morelle asked.

"Unknown subject," Hotch said. "We try not to build assumptions about the subject we're looking for into the language we use to describe them."

Morelle tilted her head and scribbled a note on the pad in front of her. "And does it matter that he brought his own weapon?"

"On Earth, the planning would suggest that the unsub is what we call organized," Rossi said. "Organized unsubs are typically of normal to high intelligence. They usually hold down a steady job, and are able to interact in a socially competent manner. That also means there's a chance they interact with their victims before they attack them. Maybe even charm them into letting them in voluntarily. I notice none of the doors were forced?"

"Most people don't lock their doors," Morelle replied. She continued writing. "What else?"

"In cases like this, we tend to use a technique called victimology," Hotch said. "That involves looking for commonalities among the victims--in their lifestyles, in their activities, in who they know--as a way of determining how the unsub is choosing them."

"Because he planned it," Morelle said. "So it must be more than just convenience."

"Even if he was picking them because they were convenient, there would still be things we could learn from figuring out what made them convenient to him," Rossi said.

"You've told us the basics," Morgan added, "but we need more detail. Places they go regularly. People they might know in common. If the unsub is organized, he may be interacting with them before he kills them."

"And for that you need to talk to the families," Morelle said. Emily thought she heard a hint of resignation in her tone.

"Is that going to be a problem?" Hotch asked.

"Normally families do not speak with outsiders after a death," Morelle said. "Custom demands a week of silent mourning. For the earlier murders, it won't be a problem, but for the last two..."

"How much flexibility is there in that custom?" Rossi asked. "Will they make an exception for this?"

"It depends on how strictly the family adheres to tradition," Morelle said. She tapped her pencil against the note-filled paper in front of her absently. "We won't know until we ask."

***

Emily stepped outside, took a deep breath, and tried to clear the image of bloody death from her head. Six hours of reviewing autopsy reports and crime scene photos--along with getting a crash course in Peletian social customs following the minor disaster that had been Reid and Morgan's cncounter with the latest victim's family--had left her feeling fuzzy-headed and unproductive.

Evening had fallen on Alecta, and the surrounding park was alight with small lanterns that left the world blanketed in deep purple shadows. She strolled forward, leaning in to study a sweetly-scented flower, still unable to believe that she was actually on another world, and wished she were there in a capacity that would allow her to enjoy it.

"Emily."

Emily froze at the sound of that familiar--oh so familiar--voice, and then slowly turned around, not quite able to believe her ears. Or her eyes. "Mom?" she said uncertainly.

Elizabeth Prentiss stood just off to the side of the connection hall door. She was dressed with her usual elegance, and was regarding Emily with a practiced, neutral smile. A diplomat's smile. Or a mother's, if she was especially skilled at body language and not quite sure how her daughter would react to her presence. Or both.

Emily knew her own face was showing nothing but shock. She didn't bother trying to hide it. "What are you...wait, you're negotiating with the Peletians? This is your new assignment?"

"Yes," her mother said quietly. She took a step forward, and then stopped, as if not quite sure of her welcome. Rightfully so. "I've been here for nearly a month now."

"I don't..." A thought occurred to her. "Are you the one who asked for us?"

Her mother shook her head. "No. The decision to send your team was made by your superiors at the FBI. But I'm glad that you were chosen." She smiled again, more genuinely this time. "One grows accustomed to keeping secrets in my profession, but this is a little different. I'm looking forward to having someone to discuss it with."

"Yeah, this is quite the secret," Emily agreed. She paused awkwardly, trying to decide where to go next. It was ridiculous to feel betrayed, of course. Her mother had always kept parts of her work secret. Emily herself would have kept this secret, if her mother hadn't revealed herself here. And yet... But this wasn't the time. And what did one talk about when one encountered one's mother on another planet? Somehow the usual small talk seemed out of place. "How are the negotiations going?"

"They're progressing," her mother said in a non-committal tone. "This kind of work always requires patience. How does your investigation look?"

"We've reviewed the crimes, we've talked to a couple of the families. We're talking to the rest tomorrow, if they'll let us. We're not really sure whether our knowledge will transfer here, but we're doing what we can."

"The Peletians aren't terribly dissimilar from us. I think you'll find that your insights are quite valuable to them."

"I hope so. This guy's not going to stop until someone catches him." She paused, debating whether to ask the question, and then decided it couldn't hurt to have a second opinion. The connection had been made very explicit, after all. Her mother would know she knew. "How badly is it going to affect negotiations if we can't catch him?"

"I'm sure it won't come to that," her mother said immediately. "But if it does, we'll make do. Negotiations rarely hinge on just one thing. It will help, of course, if you can catch this killer quickly, but it's not the end of the world if you don't."

Emily nodded and thought about the effort that had gone into bringing the BAU here. "We'll do our best," she said.

"I know you will," her mother replied affectionately.

"Speaking of which, I should get back inside."

"Of course. If I don't see you again while you're here, I'll call you once I'm back Earth."

"Great," Emily said. "We can exchange stories." She was willing to bet her mother had some very interesting stories after a month on Peletia. And how many other planets had she visited besides?

Her mother stepped forward and hugged her lightly. "Good luck."

"You too, Mom," she said and waited until her mother had walked off, heels clicking on the stone path, before she went inside.

***

"We still don't know how he's meeting his victims," Morgan said in frustration. He dropped a thick stack of paper on the table. "This is a lot harder without electronic records," he grumbled.

"It's just like the good old days," Rossi said. "You should have been there when we first started out."

"No thanks," Emily said fervently. "I'll take computers any day, thank you."

"And Garcia to run them," Rossi agreed.

Morgan leaned back in his chair, setting aside the case for a moment. "You know she's going to kill us when she finds out where we were, right?"

"We're not allowed to tell her," Rossi said. "We're not allowed to tell anyone. That's what all those papers they had us sign said."

"We're going to have to tell her something," Morgan insisted. "She's going to be wondering why she hasn't heard from us."

"Someone must have told her something by now," Emily said. "Fed her some sort of story. Surely they know better than to just leave her to worry."

"I hope so," Rossi said. "God knows what trouble she'd get into trying to find us."

"Strauss told Hotch to leave her behind," Morgan said.

"Strauss doesn't have the clearance to know about this," Rossi said. "If she did give him orders about Garcia, it was probably the assumption that we'd need her there, not because she wanted Garcia left out."

Morgan frowned, unsatisfied. "I don't want to lie to her."

"Agent Prentiss?" said Morelle from the doorway. "Yari Balach's family has agreed to speak with us. Will you accompany me?"

Emily glanced at her teammates.

"Go ahead," Rossi said. "Morgan and I will stay here and compare notes with Hotch and Reid when they get back."

"All right." Emily pushed back her chair and stood up, grateful for the break.

"Do you mind walking?" Morelle asked as they exited the hall. "We can take the tram, but it's a bit crowded at this time of day. We'll probably get there faster on foot."

"Walking's fine," Emily said. She always went with sensible shoes on a case. You never knew when you might have to chase a suspect down the street...or walk a mile to interview a bereaved family on another planet.

Morelle fell into step beside her as they headed to the street. "May I ask you something?"

"Of course."

"What we're doing now...this looking at photographs and talking to the families of victims...is this what you do all the time? Is this your main role in your society?"

"We don't always work on murder cases, but yes, most of what I do is profile violent and dangerous criminals."

"How do you keep doing it?"

Behind Morelle's even tones, Emily could hear a note of desperation, contained but present. She recalled Carter's comment about Peletia's violent crime rate and wondered how many murder cases Morelle had handled. Not too many, judging from her demeanour. And what was the secret to that? Perhaps something else they could learn from the Peletians and import to Earth.... Most people don't lock their doors here. She considered her answer carefully. "I suppose I don't really feel like I have a choice."

"So you were assigned to this job? To this career? Don't you get a choice in how you spend your life?"

"No, we do," Emily replied. "When I say I don't have a choice, I mean that I keep doing it because I know someone has to. Because what we do saves lives."

"Isn't it hard? To see these things? To know that people are dead because you didn't act quickly enough?"

"Sometimes," Emily agreed. "Some cases are harder than others. Some things...some images...stay with you. But the survivors stay with you too. And the families of the victims."

"I'd think they would be the hardest of all to remember," Morelle said. "All that pain, knowing you were too late to prevent it."

"Yeah, but a lot of them are grateful too, when we catch the person who harmed their loved one. It gives them peace, sometimes, knowing that justice has been done. Knowing that no one else will be harmed."

"Justice? What justice can there be once death is involved?"

"I don't know. At least they can know that the unsub won't hurt anyone else's loved one."

"That requires great generosity of spirit, to be concerned with another's pain at a time like that," Morelle said. They walked on in silence for a few minutes, then Morelle turned her head to look at Emily again. "What do you think of our world?"

"It's beautiful here," Emily replied honestly.

"Have you travelled much past your own world?" Morelle asked.

Emily started to shake her head, then stopped as she realized she had no idea how the gesture would be interpreted. "No," she said instead, uncertain of how much to reveal about Earth's policy of secrecy. "This is my first trip off-world."

"I've never left this planet," Morelle said. "We travel very little here. We've found it best to stay out of interplanetary affairs, especially when war is brewing. There's a great deal of debate in the consensus committees about whether we should even be dealing with you."

"War?" Emily asked. "What kind of war? With whom?"

"A group called the Ori, I believe," Morelle said. "And before that the Goa'uld. It was your people who warned us about the Ori. They say the Ori are from another galaxy and are intent on conquering our galaxy. They told us that the Ori might send a representative here asking us to join them."

"Really?"

Morelle raised a surprised eyebrow. "You didn't know?"

"I think maybe they're trying to keep things quiet, to avoid panicking people," Emily said carefully. Interplanetary--no, intergalactic--war, and no one at the SGC had even hinted at it. She wondered briefly if her mother knew about this. If she ever planned on telling her daughter that Earth was a possible target for conquest.

"But if war comes, wouldn't it be better if your people were prepared?"

Yes. "That's not my call," Emily said.

"That's an odd way to run things," Morelle said. "Sending your diplomats here to negotiate for weapons while hiding that fact from the people in whose name those weapons will be wielded."

Shock number two. What else had her mother and the SGC forgotten to mention to them? "It's very odd," Emily agreed. "Do you know what kind of weapons they're negotiating for?" She recalled Carter telling them that the Peletians were behind them in their development of physics, which would seem to limit their usefulness as arms dealers. Unless the weapons were...

"Biological," Morelle replied promptly. "They want something that will wipe out the Ori followers while sparing the humans of our galaxy. It's been a matter for great debate in the consensus committees."

"Genocide?" Emily said. This time she couldn't hide her shock. "That's what we're negotiating for? The ability to commit genocide? I thought...what about medical technology?"

"We've traded you a great deal of that already," Morelle said. "I think your people are asking for more, but there's no real debate about that. It's just a matter of determining what a fair trade is. We leave that to the negotiators."

"So the main negotiations are about weapons?"

"You really didn't know," Morelle said wonderingly. "I thought...your planet is a democracy, isn't that what you call it? You gather regularly to vote for your leaders?"

"We do. In some places, anyway."

"Then how can you vote if you don't know what your leaders have done?"

"That's a very good question," she said. Which it really was. Hiding an affair or some funding irregularities was one thing. But this? This was beyond all imagining. "Do you know how close are they to coming to an agreement on the weapons negotiations?"

"General opinion was against helping with the development of such a weapon," Morelle replied. "It would take a lot of time to develop, and the moral debt would be very heavy. We were close to saying no. But then the killings began."

"And now the agreement is that they'll hand over the weapon if we catch the killer?"

"People are very scared," Morelle said. "The whole city has shut down. No one goes out after dark, and no one stays in their house alone. If you help us catch this killer, that will put us deeply in your debt. Your diplomats have stressed that there's only one way to pay off that debt. My sense is that many of the consensus committees believe that it's...not a fair trade, but one they are willing to make."

"So the final decision is up to the consensus committees?" They had touched on consensus committees in the SGC briefing. It had struck Emily as a rather burdensome way of getting things done.

"Mostly. Normally we'd run consensus committees all the way up, sending representatives from the lower levels to the higher ones. But that takes too long, so they're holding regular votes instead, trying to gauge where majority opinion lies." She stopped abruptly. "This is the Balachs' house. Their daughter was the coordinator of her local consensus committee. I'm told they're finding it hard to replace her."

Emily nodded and followed Morelle to the door, trying to refocus her mind on the case.

***

Hotch was alone when Morelle dropped Emily off at the connection hall. "How'd it go?"

"The interview was fine," she said, setting down her notes carefully. "But we need to talk." She pitched her tone to stress just how urgent the situation was. Hotch looked up from his notes immediately, attention fully engaged.

"What's going on?"

"I just found out that Earth is apparently on the verge of an intergalactic war with a race called the Ori. And that we're negotiating with the Peletians for biological weapons. My mother is negotiating for biological weapons. And the price the Peletians have set on those weapons is our success in catching this killer."

Hotch looked as stunned as she felt. "Are you sure about that?"

"It's what Morelle told me. I don't think she was lying. She could have been misinformed, but...apparently the Peletians are big believers in transparent government. Very transparent."

"What do you want to do?"

Emily collapsed into a chair beside him, suddenly exhausted. "I don't know," she admitted. "I don't really want to be a party to genocide, but on the other hand--how can we just let this guy go on killing?"

"We'll talk it over with the rest of the team," Hotch said. "And maybe you should talk to your mother. Confirm the facts."

Emily nodded and stood up. "You know, it's funny. After I got over the shock last night, I actually thought this experience might bring us closer together."

"See what she says," Hotch said. "I'll brief the rest of the team when they get back from viewing the crime scenes."

Finding her mother was easier than Emily thought it might be. Morelle escorted her to the negotiation site herself, and sent a messenger to fetch the ambassador before apologetically leaving Emily to wait alone. She didn't wait long.

"Emily?"

"Hi, Mom," she said. Her mother wasn't smiling this time--instead she looked concerned, and just a little annoyed. That was fine with her; she didn't feel like smiling either. "I found out you forgot to mention a few things last night. Like the fact that we're apparently involved in an intergalactic war. Or the fact that my team's success at solving these murders is the key to getting Earth access to biological weapons so that we can commit genocide."

Her mother's expression didn't flicker. "Emily. It's not that simple. It's < i>never</i> that simple. You know that."

"I think genocide is pretty simple, Mom."

"And if it's a choice between wiping them out or having our whole planet bow down in submission to them? Because that is our choice right now."

"Oh, come on! There has to be a better way than that."

"We've already suffered several major defeats to the followers of the Ori," her mother said quietly. "We lost almost our entire fleet in one offensive."

"Fleet? What fleet? I thought we travelled using the stargate."

"Stargates have limited use in military offensives," her mother replied dryly. "We've picked up a lot of technology from our allies. Including starships. Unfortunately, none of that technology seems to be enough to hold the line against the Ori. And it's not just Earth that's in danger, Emily. They plan on conquering the whole galaxy."

"Why?"

"It's a religious war. They want to convert us all to worshipping the Ori. And trust me when I tell you that would not be a good thing."

"Why didn't you tell me any of this? Why didn't you tell me that I was being used to help get those weapons?"

Her mother sighed. "Because I didn't want you to have to live with that burden." She paused--a calculated pause, Emily thought, timed to let that message sink in--then added, "I should have known you'd find out anyway. The Peletians don't really believe in secrecy."

"Must make negotiating simpler," Emily said.

"At times. It's not as helpful as you might think. Endless honesty has its own challenges."

"How can you be involved in this, Mom?"

"Because I've seen what the alternative looks like, and it's not a world I want for you."

"For me?"

Her mother smiled sadly. "I won't be around that much longer to live in it, Emily. You're the one who will have to grow old on your knees, bowing down to invading gods."

Emily recognized the manipulation in her mother's words, in the deliberate sorrow, in the calculated helplessness of her posture, but recognition didn't render her immune to it. "Mom," she said and stopped.

This time her mother filled in the silence. "What are you going to do?"

"I don't know yet. I have to talk to the team."

"Will you really let a killer walk free to save the lives of our invaders?"

"I don't know."

"Well, let me know once you decide. It's going to affect the negotiations. Which I need to return to now."

"Right."

For the second time in two days, she watched her mother walk away. "I have no idea what to do," she said once she was alone.

***

"We think we've found the connection," Morgan said as she entered the room.

"What?"

"All six victims frequented the same café," Rossi said. "And none of them were there at the same time."

"Which means our unsub must be there all the time," Morgan said.

"And since we think he probably works," Reid said, "it's likely that he either works in the café or works a job with very flexible hours."

She looked at Hotch. "You didn't tell them?"

"Not yet," he replied. "I was waiting to see what your mother had to say."

"Say about what?" Morgan asked.

Emily sat down. "About the fact that she's negotiating with the Peletians for a biological weapon designed to wipe out an enemy that's threatening to conquer our entire galaxy."

"What?" Rossi asked. His expression might have been comical, if the situation hadn't been so serious.l

"Apparently we're being threatened by a race from another galaxy that wants to convert us all to worshipping some sort of alien gods. Earth's plan for stopping them apparently involves some sort of biological weapon. And both Morelle and my mother think that Earth's success in gaining access to those weapons is going to depend on our ability to solve this case."

"Wait...you're saying this is all on us?" Morgan said. "We decide whether Earth gets to commit genocide?"

"Yeah," she said. "That's exactly what I'm saying."

Whatever he reply he was going to make was interrupted by the arrival of their military escort. Carter, Jackson, and Mitchell filed into the room without knocking. None of them looked happy.

"We heard you were told about the negotiations," Carter said.

"Glad to know my mother's keeping you up-to-date," Emily replied.

"You haven't been honest with us," Rossi said.

"I know," Carter said. "I'm sorry. The exact details were on a need-to-know basis."

"And we don't need to know that we're helping with an act of genocide?" Morgan asked.

"You're helping to stop a killer," Mitchell said. He leaned forward earnestly. "Using those weapons--if it comes to that--will be up to the president and the brass. And us, when we pull the trigger. And trust me when I say that we're all hoping it doesn't come to that."

"We can't escape moral culpability that easily," Rossi said. "Not now that we know."

"Which is one of the reasons we didn't want to tell you," Jackson said. He took a deep breath. "I know it sounds terrible, but I've been to their worlds, and I'm telling you--you don't want to live that life."

"There must be other ways of fighting back," Emily said. "Something we can do besides wipe them all out. They're people."

"Yes, they are," Carter agreed. "People who are heavily oppressed by alien beings who will do the same to us if they can. You have to understand, we're not just dealing with other humans here. The Ori are ascended beings. Their power is far beyond anything you can imagine."

"Ascended beings?" Something else that hadn't made it into the briefing.

"Former humans who have managed to evolve to a higher state of being," Jackson said. "They're pure energy now, with knowledge and power beyond anything you can imagine."

"If they're that powerful, how is a biological weapon going to take them down?" Morgan asked.

"It's not," Jackson replied. "We're relying on some other ascended beings for that. Not all of them agree with forcing people to worship them. There's a group called the Ancients who practice non-interference. They're currently keeping the Ori out of our galaxy. Unfortunately, they refuse to do the same with the humans who follow the Ori--they consider that a form of interference."

"So rather than targeting the perpetrators, you're going after their victims," Hotch said flatly.

"If we have to," Mitchell said. "It's not Plan A."

"This will be a weapon of last resort," Carter added. "We don't use it unless we have to. But you have to understand--if the Ori get a foothold in this galaxy, then that's it. We will never escape from them. All human development will cease."

"And we'll all be spending five hours a day praying," Jackson said. "Those of us who survive the invasion."

"So you want us to go ahead and give the profile and catch a killer and trust that you'll use a genocidal weapon responsibly," Rossi said.

"There's no such thing as responsible genocide," Jackson said quietly. "There's only necessity and regret."

"Is that supposed to make us feel better?" Emily asked.

"No one's going to walk away from this feeling good," Mitchell said. "If you'd asked me a year ago if I'd ever support this kind of solution, I would have thought you were crazy. But now…there aren't a whole lot of good choices here. Just bad and worse. And trust me, the other way's worse."

"Agents?" Morelle knocked and stepped inside the room. "They've found another body."

It was such a ridiculous thing to hear after the discussion of the theoretical murder of millions. And yet…there was one young woman who had suffered unimaginably and now lay dead. One more family now in mourning.

Morelle held out the photos to them. She looked completely defeated. Emily wondered later if that more than anything wasn't what forced her decision. Not another dead victim, or thousands of potential future victims, but one woman who held faith in them and who Emily could not bear to disappoint.

Hotch looked around the room at the team. One-by-one, they nodded. "Get your people together," he told Morelle. "We're ready to give the profile."

***
The apprehension of the unsub was almost anti-climactic. There were only a handful of regulars at the café and it didn't take the workers long to pick out the most likely candidates based on the profile. A search of their homes--no search warrant needed as long as at least two members of the owner's local consensus committee were present--revealed a host of biological evidence of precisely the type that the Petelian law enforcement was prepared to process. (Emily wanted those on-the-spot DNA analyzers, even as she shuddered at the privacy implications.)

Morelle escorted them to the gate herself.

"Thank you for your help," Morelle said. "We wouldn't have caught him without you."

"It's our job," Hotch replied, all grave sincerity. On another world, Emily would have chosen him to deliver the last line. But given Peletian mores, the team had agreed that had to fall to her.

"You don't owe us anything for doing this," she said, clear and firm and as powerfully as she knew how. "Knowing that we've stopped a killer is reward enough." She stopped there; less is more, they'd agreed. She wondered if it would be enough. There were so many factors...would Morelle understand? Could she persuade others? How much power did the consensus committees actually have?

It was all they could do.

"The rest of your people are on their way," Morelle said, stepping back. "Forgive me--I wanted to see you off, but I must return. It was a pleasure working with all of you, and if I'm ever on your world, I'll seek you out."

"That'd be great," Emily said. There wasn't any point in explaining just how impossible that would be. She didn't think the SGC was going to Morelle to visit anytime soon.

"Will we even know if they use it?" Morgan asked after Morelle was gone.

"Not if they're successful," Rossi said.

"So we get to spend the rest of our lives wondering whether we helped commit genocide," Emily said.

"Or helped stave off an invasion," Rossi said.

"Ready to go?" Mitchell called as he approached. Carter and Jackson trailed behind him, talking animatedly to a couple of Peletians.

"How are the negotiations going?" Morgan asked.

Mitchell tilted his hand back and forth. "They're still discussing it. It sounds like it'll be a while before there's a decision."

So maybe there was still time for Morelle to make a difference. If she wanted to. If she could.

Carter and Jackson joined the group, apparently having finished whatever business they were conducting with the Peletians.

"Ready to go?" Carter asked, smiling brightly.

"I'll dial us home," Mitchell said.

Emily took one last look around at peaceful, transparent Peletia. A planet where no one locked their doors and not telling the population the truth about what was going on was unthinkable. A planet Earth was trying to turn into a source of unspeakable horror, laying on a burden of guilt that the whole planet would share. And if they refused? The diplomats would do their best to see to it that the Peletians were inflicted with another kind of guilt.

She wondered if she'd eventually rationalize away her own role in that process.

She wondered what she was going to say to her mother, the next time they spoke.

She stepped through the gate.


-END-



Prompt:
Scenario: One of Earth's allied planets (maybe humans on a similar technological level?) has a problem with a serial killer--they want to learn profiling. So the FBI's best get brought in.

Tags: exchange: fall10, fandom: criminal minds, fandom: sg1, rating: g/pg/pg13
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