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Descent Into Hell 

 

Chapter 2

Staring at the water that filled the marble tub, the Goa’uld that was inhabiting the body of Daniel Jackson took a breath. Forced himself to calm down. He would find another host, a body that hadn’t been poisoned...surely that was the cause for feeling unwell...and being unable to take complete control. All he had to do was escape this body before the poison affected him any further.

Oh, I don’t think so! Daniel groused silently in the corner of his mind where he waited. He closed his eyes in concentration. Would it be possible, just by sheer will alone, to prevent the snake from leaving? For a brief moment the incongruity of the thought almost made him laugh out loud. A few hours ago, he'd been hell bent to be rid of the parasite that infested his body. Now...now it was more important to keep the damned snake from slithering away. Not just to protect some other poor innocent soul from being infested, but to have access to all of Rihat’s memories. If the snake just left, Daniel was certain he’d have no ability to recall any of the memories he’d been able to see. If the snake died, however, he was just as certain that the situation would be similar to that of Sam and Jolinar. And having information about the Goa’uld Empire, and Nergal most particularly, was damned important. He’d taken worse risks since becoming a part of the SGC for much less in possible rewards.

Practiced movements had the symbiote stretching slightly in preparation for leaving the body. Rihat was already preparing to use the sharp pincers on the top of his head to make an incision on the back of the host’s throat from which to escape. He would unwind from the spine...

Not going anywhere, asshole, Daniel thought, determination in every facet of his being. Closing his eyes, or at least doing so mentally, he concentrated on an image of the symbiote, wrapped around his backbone. Reached out with invisible hands and grasped the writhing creature firmly. Completely oblivious of the ethereal fingers that wrapped around that mental image of his hands.

Rihat was alarmed as he tried to move. Something was wrong...something was horribly wrong! One hazy memory from the host began to flash in front of him...the silver haired man...

"So, Danny, what’s this ‘The One’ business anyway?"

Daniel wondered if it made any difference that this particular snake knew that he was The One. Probably not, he decided, given that he could sense the distress the symbiote was in. Not just the terror, but the actual physical distress as his own immune system continued to barrage the ‘invader’ with antibodies.

The One. The One. The One. Champion of the Innocent. Destroyer of Goa’uld. The One. The One. The One...

The litany of words grew louder and louder in his mind. Rihat had never known panic like the deep-welling horror that filled him...held him in an ever tightening grip. If he was correct, and his host was the mythical "The One", spoken of in hushed whispers by Goa’uld for centuries, he should, he thought with a bit of hysteria, be on the verge of becoming the most powerful Goa’uld to ever have lived. Instead, he found himself being attacked...literally...by the host’s body. Surely just the power of The One could not be doing this. There was more...a piece of the puzzle that he was missing.

I am Goa’uld! I am a god! Rihat thought, somewhat desperately. I will not let this mere human defeat me! The words echoed hollow in his mind; he could feel the control he had over the body beginning to slip. All he needed was the tidbit of information that would give him the knowledge he needed to protect himself...

Poking feebly, the Goa’uld attempted to goad his host into moving, hoping to slip in and find the memories that had been hidden, to find the answer essential to combating whatever it was that was happening...before it was too late. If he knew what was wrong, Rihat thought desperately, he could counter it. Tried again to compensate for the heat that continued to assail him. Why was it so damned hot? ‘I will destroy you, human,’ Rihat threatened.

Not very freaking likely, Daniel snorted silently. He had remained motionless, waiting for the inevitable. Had no clue that the symbiote’s thoughts shouldn’t be accessible to him.

The only way to learn what was happening, the symbiote realized, was from the host himself. In the short amount of time the two had been...together...he knew that this host - this Daniel Jackson - would be less than cooperative. He had to threaten...frighten...the man into helping him. "If I die, you die, human," Rihat growled out loud.

‘Nope, don’t think so,’ Daniel replied, hoping he sounded calmer than he felt. Sam had nearly died when Jolinar had...only that symbiote’s self-sacrifice had saved the life of his best friend. He was betting on his Immortality to save him. Hoped he was right. He sure as hell didn’t need Ba’al to find his dead body in the room. Who knew what that freaking snake would do to him! Don’t borrow trouble, Danny. Positive thoughts.

"You cannot escape. Without the power that is Goa’uld, you will be taken prisoner again," the symbiote insisted, still speaking out loud. As if doing so made each word absolute truth.

‘Wanna bet?’

Rihat dropped to the floor beside the tub, rested the arm of his host against the cold stone. "I can give you anything you wish. Just tell me how to counter the poison."

‘There’s no poison,’ Daniel retorted. ‘Just me.’

"Impossible."

‘Oh, yeah? Who’s the one dying here, snake? It’s certainly not me! My body is in perfect health.’ A certainty that a quick ‘check’ had substantiated, and one that buoyed his spirits immeasurably. At the rate the symbiote seemed to be deteriorating, in just a couple more hours...maybe less...he’d be snake-free. The unadulterated glee that thought brought resonated loudly in his mind. Daniel was unaware of the demoralizing effect the echoed thought had on his ‘captor’.

It took concerted effort, and left him gasping in pain, but Rihat meticulously examined the host’s body: endocrine system, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys...all functioning normally. The heartbeat and pulse were elevated, but that, the Goa’uld realized, was the result of his own agitation. The host’s immune system however... Unlike every host he’d had before, this human’s immune system was reacting violently to his presence; and the secretions he’d emitted upon entering the body had had no effect on disabling those immunities. The host’s body was, in fact, attacking him. The symbiote attempted to secrete more of its own antitoxins, but was becoming too weak to do more than cover itself in a protective layer. Which wouldn’t last long against the aggressive antibodies of the host.

Daniel smirked, ‘watching’ as the Goa’uld became even more agitated. ‘You’re too weak to even get up off the floor! I could do it for you, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to help you,’ he taunted.

Determined to prove the host wrong, Rihat attempted to stand. Found that he was unable to even lift the host’s head from where it lay, against the arm still resting on the rim of the marble bath.

‘Poor snake, can’t even lift your head.’ Daniel took peevish delight in lifting his other arm, and patting himself on the head. Casey, he thought, would be rolling on the floor laughing her sweet ass off if she could see and hear this.

"Casey?" Rihat jerked slightly.

Crap. Daniel grimaced slightly. Then shrugged mentally. The snake was dying, he could sense there wasn’t anything that could stop that now. ‘My Wife. The gorgeous blonde that Ba’al captured.’

Rihat gave a slight mental nod of understanding. "By now, Ba’al has raped her."

‘I doubt it. Casey has that snake eating out of her hand,’ Daniel replied confidently, unwilling to even entertain the notion that Ba’al was brutalizing his Wife. ‘And she’s damned inventive when it comes to keeping snakes under control.’

Rihat gave up in his attempts to locate the human. Wherever in his mind he was hiding, the host was doing so very well. "You are a strong man, Daniel Jackson."

For one fleeting second, a feeling of remorse flashed through him. Too quickly for the symbiote to detect the emotion. Followed just as quickly by irritation. He had no time to feel sorry for a snake...particularly one inside him! ‘Should I thank you for the...what...the compliment?

"That is how it was intended," Rihat replied wearily.

‘Oh. Well...thanks.’ His surprise echoed in his ‘voice’.

"You truly hate the Goa’uld. I could sense that immediately, even before you regained consciousness," Rihat said softly.

‘I hate them more than you could ever know,’ Daniel responded.

"Yet you admire the Tok’ra. Are they not as we are?"

‘The Tok’ra are symbiotes, yes. But they don’t take an unwilling host. And they...cooperate. The host is able to do whatever he or she wants. It’s a relationship that’s mutually beneficial to the symbiote and the host,’ Daniel said.

Rihat turned this over in his mind. "If I were to offer such a relationship to you...and offer to help you retrieve your wife from Ba’al...will you tell me how to stop what is happening?"

Daniel snorted. ‘Not even if hell freezes over.’

"You would refuse such an proposition? I can give you strength, knowledge, the wisdom of my experiences...together we could rule the universe!"

‘Sure we could. As soon as you were healthy, you’d forget all about our little deal,’ Daniel retorted.

"I wouldn’t dare...not as long as you retain the ability to..." Rihat shuddered slightly, a movement echoed in the body he barely controlled.

‘The ability to kill you?’ Daniel asked softly, tauntingly.

"Yes! For some reason I cannot leave your body. As much as you believe that as Goa’uld host you are a prisoner, I am also!" Rihat paused. "Goa’uld are as much prisoners as the host," he said softly. "For we cannot exist without a host. A symbiote can live in a properly maintained environment-"

‘Like a tank?’ Daniel asked, genuinely curious at this point. He wasn’t about to let the snake know that he was responsible for its inability to leave. He wasn’t totally sure that he had been able to prevent the symbiote from crawling out of his body. Until he was convinced that the symbiote was too weak to win, he didn’t dare get into an all-out battle with it.

"Yes, exactly like that. Or the warm waters in the rivers and lakes of our home world," Rihat replied. "But we cannot live longer than twenty years that way. Twenty-five at the most."

Daniel thought briefly about the canopic jar that Osiris had been in...for several thousand years. That, he realized, had been stasis, the symbiote hadn’t actually been ‘alive’. He also remembered Apophis, and the weary, terrorized host whom he had helped to pass over into the Field of Reeds. He’d always wondered if the poor host had been reanimated when the body had been put into the sarcophagus, or if the scars that remained on Apophis’ face were a result of maintaining the body on his own, without the ‘aid’ of the host. He wasn’t even sure that was possible, given what they knew about the symbiotes, and what he was learning... He pulled his wandering thoughts back to the conversation. ‘But, in a host...you live for thousands of years...the host lives for thousands of years!’

"We are able to maintain the physiology of the host, almost indefinitely," Rihat said. "The use of the sarcophagus helps, of course."

‘And drives you batshit crazy,’ Daniel muttered.

Rihat ‘smiled’. "I have heard that the Tok’ra believe this. It is not true."

‘I’ll believe the Tok’ra before I believe you,’ Daniel retorted. He had his own experiences with the sarcophagus to back up what the Tok’ra believed, but he wasn’t going to let this snake know that. ‘Besides, you manage to addict the host as well as yourself to the sarcophagus.’

"The sarcophagus is a means to aid in the physical ‘renewal’ of the host body, nothing more," Rihat shot back. "Goa’uld survived for thousands...millions...of years without the technology of the sarcophagus. Those first symbiotes were able to...preserve...the lives of the first hosts."

‘So when did the Goa’uld start using the sarcophagus...and why? Did they discover the uses of the device by accident? Do you know when your ancestors turned from predators to parasites?’

Rihat chuckled. "I suppose, from your point of view, that is what happened."

Do you know?’ Daniel was growing excited now, the prospect of learning about the Goa’uld, from a Goa’uld, was an opportunity not to be missed. The more they knew about their enemy, from their origins to their current status as parasitical creatures bent on universal domination, the better prepared the humans, the Tau’ri, would be to fight against them. He found himself longing for a notepad and pen, to take notes.

Again a chuckle echoed in Daniel’s mind. "I have only the basic knowledge of the beginning of our race, and history of the House of Nergal. I am of his lineage. I know how he rose to become the System Lord that he is, and that is all," Rihat said, almost sadly. "It seems that we Goa’uld are not the most...efficient...record keepers. I am certain that somewhere, there is a complete, written history of our species. But I have no clue where that might be."

‘If you’re of Nergal’s lineage, does that mean you’re destined to be a System Lord?’

"Only if Nergal deigns to name me his heir. The only way I could become System Lord without his aid would be if I can create the opportunity for myself. Those who become System Lords do so only through benefice of their genetic parents, or their knowledge...that which is imparted to them by the Queen Mother."

‘Does she decide who will be System Lords, and who will serve them?’

"Not exactly. The knowledge is imparted to all the prim’ta. Only those with enough drive, and the right opportunities, become System Lords."

‘In other words, only the sneakiest, most conniving of the bunch,’ Daniel said drolly.

For the third time the symbiote chuckled. "So it would seem. The strongest will kill their enemies, and any who stand in their way. They will destroy those who reign as System Lord, and take their place." Rihat frowned slightly. "I believe, however, that there are prim’ta incapable of retaining all of the knowledge they are given, and thus are unable to make use of it."

‘So there are those who have only the most basic of knowledge and skills?’

"Yes, I suppose so. Those Goa’uld who are useful, but not strong enough to lead Jaffa, not...cunning...enough to become System Lords. I must confess, Daniel, that I have never before thought on these things." Rihat admitted.

‘You’ve never been curious about your own race?’

"I have been too busy trying to survive, and to become more powerful," Rihat replied.

‘Lousy way to live,’ Daniel muttered. And he absolutely would not allow this tidbit of information change how he felt about the goddamned Goa’uld! If they were in a bad situation, it was one of their own making! There was no excuse for the pain and suffering the Goa’uld had caused in the past, and were causing even as he sat and conversed with the symbiote who was inside him. Dying, thankfully.

Daniel waited...almost dared to move when the symbiote remained silent. ‘Rihat?’

"I was just thinking," the symbiote answered quietly. "Perhaps by attempting to destroy our host’s will from the very beginning...perhaps we are missing great opportunities to learn. To have..."

‘To have what?’ Daniel asked, almost gently, when the Goa’uld stopped speaking.

"Friendship. There are no true friendships among the Goa’uld. Not when every waking moment is spent in planning one’s rise among the ranks of the Empire."

‘Sounds stressful.’

"It can be."

Daniel felt the symbiote shudder.

"It will not be long now, I think," Rihat said. Wondered briefly at the fact that the blind panic he had felt, just a few minutes earlier, was no longer in evidence.

Daniel debated for a moment as the idea moved through his mind. It would certainly make things easier for him. But could he take advantage of the fact that the symbiote was dying? Could he ‘use’ the Goa’uld as easily as the Goa’uld used the host, and anyone else if the need arose? He attempted to ‘check’ the symbiote. Didn’t think at this point in time the Goa’uld would be able to stand alone. Wasn’t even sure that he could speak above the near whisper he was using. Certainly couldn’t be forceful enough to make demands. And, he sighed, he just couldn’t ‘use’ a dying Goa’uld like that. It was too...Goa’uld-ish; he had no desire to become anything like the enemy he loathed.

"You have a plan to survive...to escape?"

‘A plan, yes,’ Daniel admitted.

"I wish you well, then, Daniel."

He couldn’t help the snort that escaped. ‘Yeah, well don’t be offended if I don’t believe you.’

Rihat was silent again for several moments. "For the pain I caused you, during The Taking, I apologize."

Stunned at the flood of remorse that he could feel coming from the symbiote, Daniel once again almost gave away his hiding place. ‘The Tok’ra call it The Blending. Because that’s what they do, rather than forcefully taking a host.’

"Perhaps the Tok’ra are not as...foolish...as the others believe," Rihat said.

The thought that perhaps Rihat could become a Tok’ra flashed through his mind. Daniel shook his head...at least the mental image of himself did so. Once Rihat was healthy, and not facing his own death, he would be just as arrogant has he’d been when Daniel first sensed him. Rihat was a Goa’uld. There was no changing that. Was there?

"Daniel, I can feel...I am not...I need to rest now," Rihat said, sighing deeply.

He'd been able to see...Rihat had been staring at the wall behind the huge, marble tub. Now...apparently the Goa’uld had passed out or something...everything was dark. Was this a trick? Was the symbiote biding his time, waiting for Daniel to ‘emerge’ from his hiding place in order to ‘attack’ him?

It was difficult, but he managed to remain still. If Rihat was faking...no doubt he’d say something soon. If not...he’d check to see if the symbiote was still alive...in ten minutes, Daniel decided. He began to count off seconds in his mind.

 

A A A A A A

 

Casey had been taken back to Ba’al’s quarters. Her thoughts were in a tumultuous whirl. Ba’al loved her. As deeply as Daniel did...or almost as deeply. She was convinced that the Goa’uld were incapable of such deep emotion. They were too self-serving to be able to feel anything for others. Yet, there had been no denying the look in Ba’al’s dark eyes. She’d been able to sense his emotions. He'd made Daniel a host-

Her heart shuddered in her chest. Daniel! Oh, my sweet Daniel! Are you all right? Are you still there?

She took a deep breath. What Ba’al had done, he had done because he'd been convinced that by getting rid of Daniel, she would love him. As if she could ever love a freaking Goa’uld!

It wasn’t that he looked like a monster. On the contrary. Ba’al was a handsome man. His host is a handsome man, her brain reminded her forcefully. But he was a Goa’uld. A parasite that had forcefully taken over that body, made the host a prisoner in his own mind and body.

Just like Daniel is now, she thought dejectedly.

Pacing the room - again, like she did each and every time she was a prisoner here...Casey rolled her green eyes. "This is getting ridiculous," she muttered out loud. She stormed into the large, well-appointed bathroom. Avoiding the marble tub, where she’d once been forced to ‘perform’ for Ba’al, she stared up at the vent. No way in hell was she staying in this room!

"And if Ba’al figures out how we get around on his ship, we’re screwed," she whispered out loud. Feeling as if she'd been backed into a corner, with no hope of escape, she collapsed into a heap on the floor. "Oh, Daniel, I need you," she cried, tears rolling down her cheeks once again.

The sound of the lock disengaging on the door in the other room had her flying toward the chair where she sat most often. No need to give Ba’al any hints about what she had been thinking. Wasn’t prepared to see the Jaffa who stepped into the room, then studied her carefully. She cocked her head sideways. "You’re...you’re the one Ba’al ordered to kill...her," almost forgetting to speak Goa’uld.

Dark eyes dropped slightly, before defiantly meeting the gaze of the slender woman.

She couldn’t help but smile. "I’m glad you didn’t do it."

The Jaffa jerked slightly. "My Lady is convinced that she can help you escape by taking your place," he said quietly.

Casey tugged her lower lip between her teeth.

"Her anger...her hatred...burns nearly as hot as your own," the Jaffa added.

"Probably not, but I rather imagine she’s plenty pissed at him," Casey drawled.

The warrior gave a wan smile. "I cannot be seen...I have-" He stopped, shook his head. Took a deep breath. "I have betrayed my god."

"By not killing her? No, you’ve come to your senses," Casey said gently. "You and I both know that Ba’al is no god."

"Perhaps. I am faithful...I was commanded to protect her. I will do so until my death."

"Which is going to be sooner rather than later if we don’t figure out what to do!"

"You have much experience moving about the ship without being seen. Perhaps you can do so again?"

The hope in the man’s voice was almost enough to make her smile. "Well, I could show you..." If she let this Jaffa know just how SG-1 managed to move around the ship, unseen, would he reveal that to Ba’al? That would most certainly be a very bad thing. She cocked her head sideways. This particular Jaffa was no longer loyal to Ba’al. She could sense it. The fact that he’d not killed the clone, had declared his loyalty to her had sealed his fate...chances were, Ba’al wouldn’t give him a chance to say anything before killing him. Nope, this guy wasn't an enemy. She examined the armor he wore. "You’ll have to strip off the tin suit. It makes enough noise to raise the dead."

Once again a small smile toyed at the corners of his lips. This was the woman he remembered. The woman with whom Ba’al had fallen so deeply in love. The woman, he surmised, who would kill Ba’al. If not today, then soon.

"You can hide the stuff in here," Casey said, leading the way to the large bathroom.

Without hesitation the Jaffa followed the slender woman. Stripped off the armor, until he stood before her wearing nothing more than the cotton undergarment that protected his body from chaffing, and the metal band around his wrist.

She nearly burst into laughter. The Jaffa had on what looked like an old fashioned ‘union suit.’ The thought that every Jaffa wore the one-piece undergarment did bring forth a soft giggle. "Sorry, not laughing at you," she smiled. She shook herself mentally. "Can you get a zat? That thing is not going to fit where we’re going to be," she said, motioning toward the staff weapon leaning against the wall where the Jaffa had carefully placed it...within easy reach.

"A ‘zat’?"

"Zat’nik’tel," Casey explained.

Glancing at the floor where his armor lay discarded, he located his holster. Pulled the weapon from it.

Casey gathered the odd pieces of metal plating and mesh, and shoved them into the lowest cabinet in the room. Glanced at the silk shawl that was draped over her arm, tossed it into the cabinet as well. Climbing around in ventilation shafts wearing the long skirt would be a pain-in-the-ass, but she had no idea what Gemeti had done with her uniform. She’d just have to cope. She took the staff weapon and hid it beneath the bed. Glanced at the door.

"I will follow you," he said. Surprised that this woman knew enough to hide the evidence of his visit so quickly, and so well.

"Right," Casey said, accepting her position in the bizarre situation. "Just stay close...and keep as quiet as possible."

The Jaffa gave a sharp nod of understanding. Opened the door, and glanced up and down the corridor nervously. "The way is clear."

"Then here we go," Casey said. She darted out of the room; slid behind one of the support columns. The Jaffa was right beside her.

Dashing from shadow to shadow, she led her rescuer toward the end of the passageway...and the ventilation shaft that she knew was there.

He watched with silent amusement as she carefully pulled the vent free. No wonder they’d never been able to locate the Tau’ri! Very resourceful, the humans of the First World. The thought that Lord Ba’al would be most interested in this information flashed through his mind. He clamped down on the thought immediately. Ba’al would never learn from him the secrets that the Tau’ri kept. Not after sending the Consort to be killed. That woman who had shown him, a mere Jaffa, more consideration, more respect, more...kindness...than he’d ever received in his life. His loyalty lay in one place now; earned, rather than demanded of him.

Once inside the confined space, Casey twisted around as best she could, to look over her shoulder at the Jaffa. "Where is she?"

"On the lower levels. She is hidden in one of the rooms used to house slaves."

"Good. That’s good," Casey murmured. Closed her eyes for a moment, trying to call the quickest route to mind.

"My...er..." The Jaffa started, blushed slightly, and dropped his gaze for just a moment.

She opened her eyes and smiled. "Just call me Casey."

Another sharp nod.

"Had to think about the best way to get there. Move slowly, we don’t dare make a sound."

"I understand."

She eased forward. Felt the Jaffa directly behind her. This was the most horrible, craziest day she’d ever lived. If she survived, it would be a miracle. And the most important task still lay before her: getting to Daniel. She had to get him to the Tok’ra!

 

A A A A A A

 

Jack leaned back against the wall, holding his breath as the squad of Jaffa passed by. They were herding...at least that’s what it looked like...a group of slaves. Heading away from the elevators, so apparently the poor souls were being taken to carry out whatever tasks waited for them. Gaunt faces were filled with fear as alarms began to blare once again.

"I’d say someone just found out we’re not where they left us," Sam whispered.

"That’s a good bet," Jack replied.

Teal’c inclined his head. Then pointed toward the access hatch to one of the maintenance tunnels.

With a nod, Jack motioned that the Jaffa should enter first. Watching every corner, every shadow, the three members of SG-1 crept toward the place that would offer them protection.

One thought continued to circle in all three minds. Grab Casey. Find Daniel. Get the hell off the ha’tak. It was an impossible plan at best. But when it mattered the most, SG-1 was always capable of pulling off the impossible. Stubborn pride, unmitigated gall, and not a little old-fashioned good luck were responsible for their ability to face defeat undaunted, and laugh in the face of Death.

 

 

 

Casey froze when she heard a slight noise, just off to her right, and slightly below her position. Like the sound of...like the sound of cloth moving against metal! She cocked her head sideways, and reached out, hoping against hope that her teammates were really nearby. Nearly gave a shout of delirious joy when she sensed Jack, Sam, and Teal’c. "Marco?" she whispered loudly.

Teal’c grinned from ear to ear. He had learned of the Tau’ri children’s game. Instantly recognized the voice that whispered just above him. "Polo," he whispered in return.

Resting her forehead on her fist for just a moment, Casey fought back the waves of relief that washed over her. With the help of her teammates, getting Daniel would be a simple feat. Onto to the Daedalus...straight to the nearest Tok’ra hideout. He’d be snake free before breakfast!

Casey inched forward, peered into the maintenance shaft. "Hey, imagine meeting you guys here!" she whispered.

Three faces grinned back at her. "How’d you get out?" Sam asked in kind.

"Have help. He’s just behind me. Ba’al has a clone."

"A Ball clone?" Jack asked.

She shook her head. "Me. He-" She closed her eyes to keep from crying...again. "He ordered her killed. The Jaffa...there are Jaffa on this ship who are loyal as hell to her."

Jack couldn’t help but chuckle softly. If the clone was anything at all like Casey, he could understand how such a thing had happened.

"We’re on our way to meet up with her. Wanna tag along?"

"Nothing better to do at the moment," Jack quipped. "Then we’ll grab Daniel-"

The pain that flooded green eyes had three hearts clenching. "We’ll get him to the Tok’ra," Sam promised.

"Snake free by breakfast," Casey murmured.

"Sounds like a plan. So lead the way, Radar," Jack whispered.

For his part, the Jaffa behind her remained silent. SG-1 always seemed to escape the holding cells in which Ba’al ordered them imprisoned. A feat nothing less than amazing. And it seemed that his Mistress’s belief that her counterpart could find her teammates had been correct. That they should meet in such a way seemed miraculous to him. If these Tau’ri could hide for hours from Ba’al, on his own ship, and find one another so easily, it was little wonder that they bested the System Lord at every turn! His own sense of disillusionment in his ‘god’ would have to wait to be examined. His only concern at the moment was protecting the Consort.

 

A A A A A A

 

Ba’al stared at the empty room. Checked the bathroom. Even looked beneath the bed, the shadows hiding the one thing that would have given him a clue as to the ‘how’ of Casey’s escape.

He dropped into the chair beside the table. Wondered if the clone had been executed as he’d ordered. Raised his wrist, intent on contacting the Jaffa he had tasked with the heinous duty, about to tell them to bring the clone back to him. Dropped his hand into his lap. The clone had looked like Casey. For the most part had smelled and tasted like Casey. But she had never...not once...been Casey.

"She will kill you."

"Silence," Ba’al muttered immediately...perfunctorily.

"If she does not kill you, she will certainly lead you to ruin."

"If I die, so will you."

"I have no fear of death."

"Neither do I," Ba’al whispered wearily.

Shocked into silence, the host retreated to that place where he remained hidden, protected from Ba’al’s wrath.

The anger, the hatred...no, the loathing...in those green eyes had been deep - so deep that he’d been unable to see the part of Casey that he’d fallen in love with. The woman who cared about those around her...her tender heart reaching out to offer comfort. To everyone but me, he thought. Never had she felt anything for him but contempt.

It would be so much easier, he sighed silently, if he could hate her. Could make her the enemy responsible for his failures. His heart, however, refused to cooperate on that score. His love for her was too profound.

He had taken such delight in thinking that finally he'd achieved what he had so long yearned for. Had been prepared to taunt Daniel Jackson with the presence of the slender blonde they both loved. If he’d only had spies among the Tau’ri, he would have known that Casey had been put into a sarcophagus and revived. He’d have known that the Tau’ri had a sarcophagus! "I really must get a spy among the Tau’ri," he said aloud, absently. For the moment, planning such a venture was more than his weary mind wanted to deal with.

Where had she escaped to? Someone had helped her. Gemeti? Possibly. Perhaps-

He jumped to his feet. No doubt Casey had demanded to see Daniel. Gemeti knew that the man once known as Daniel Jackson was now in one of the guest chambers. What would happen when she realized that her husband was indeed gone? She’d been nearly catatonic after the ceremony of The Taking...

Unconcerned about how it looked for him to be dashing through the corridors of his ship, Ba’al raced toward the elevator. This was his chance! This was the moment he’d been waiting for! When Casey found only Rihat, she would reach out for comfort, would be in need of comfort. And he would be there! He would hold her, whisper words of love to her, assure her that he would never leave...

"Don’t you understand that what you’ve done only makes me hate you all the more?"

Her words echoed in his ears...in his mind. Her hatred ran as deeply as his love. He steeled his determination. It would take time. He would send Rihat away. Or have him killed. He would have to do so very carefully... If it were to appear that someone else, another Goa’uld, had killed Jackson...Rihat, his mind amended...surely her hatred would be turned toward that Goa’uld. It would be easy enough to arrange. Yes, it would take time. He would endure her rages, her anger. Her words of hatred. Her cold silences. Until she realized that Jackson was gone...forever. Then...then she would accept his love. Would even return it. Eventually.

"I am Ba’al. A god. I have all eternity to wait," he whispered fiercely.

So lost in his thoughts concerning Casey, he completely forgot about the three escaped prisoners, and his plans for them.

 

A A A A A A

 

The five slipped out of the shaft in the dead-end corridor of the lowest level of the ship. The sound of slaves moving restlessly in their small quarters was discernable from where they stood.

Casey frowned. If only they could free those people...she shook her head. The slaves of Ba’al wouldn’t be able to live on their own. Not after his brutal ‘training’. And for the moment, she had a much more important goal...freeing Daniel from the Goa’uld currently infesting him.

"This way," the Jaffa said, taking the lead. He whispered into the metal band on his wrist, informing his companion of his arrival...with the woman and Ba’al’s prisoners.

The door opened on the squalid room. Inside, sitting on the cot, her knees drawn up to her chin, was the clone. On the floor beside her, a young Jaffa.

Jumping to his feet, the younger of the clone’s loyal Jaffa frowned. "What happened to your armor?"

The older Jaffa smiled. "I will tell you later, when there is time."

Once again Casey found herself staring at...herself.

"Whoa...double trouble," Jack said...unable to resist. The thought of two Casey’s running amok on the ship, causing hate and discontent, was enough to bring a smile to his lips. Even if it was only a flicker.

"I knew you’d be able to find your friends..." She paused. "Where is the other? My Jaffa told me there were four prisoners."

"He...Daniel..." Casey pressed her fists to her mouth in an attempt to hold back her wails of pain. Turned and buried her face against Teal’c’s strong chest, felt his arms lock around her tightly.

"The clone wishes to know about Daniel Jackson," Teal’c translated quietly.

"Balls put a snake in Danny’s head," Jack managed to rasp out.

Teal’c repeated what Jack had said, word for word.

The clone tilted her head sideways. "Snake? In his head?" In a flash of comprehension, she recalled the...thing...she had seen crawl out of one of Ba’al’s advisors. Images began to flash in her mind...although she had no idea from where they had come. When the barrage was over, she was breathless...and fully aware of what a Goa’uld was, and how it came to be inside a human host. "Oh, no," she said softly.

"If we can get him to the Tok’ra, they can get it out," Sam said, so emotionally weary that she didn’t realize she was revealing her ability to speak Goa’uld, as well as understand it.

Jack stared at his lover for just a few seconds. Damned if Sam didn’t surprise the hell out of him sometimes! Just how long had she- He shook his head. He’d worry about her linguistic abilities later. "Tell them we have to get Daniel and get the hell out of here."

Teal’c nodded, then translated.

The clone shook her head. "If he’s a Goa’uld, there’s no way to get him off the ship without causing trouble. He’s not going to be so willing to leave."

"We will get you to safety. Then we will set about to getting this Goa’uld to you," the older Jaffa said.

Teal’c nodded. "I believe this is the only way."

Sam resolutely shook her head. "I’m not leaving this ship without Daniel."

"Even if it means your own death? How can you help him if you’re dead?" the clone demanded gently.

"Or taken as a host," the younger of the two Jaffa said. He shrugged when all eyes turned to him. "I heard Lord Ba’al give the orders for three of the canopic jars to be brought to him. I know that he had planned to execute the shol’va-" The young warrior cringed, then looked at Teal’c, his apology in his eyes.

"Then he had plans to make Major Carter and O’Neill hosts as well," Teal’c finished, although he realized that Ba’al’s true plans would remain that Goa’uld’s secret. His black eyes acknowledged and accepted the apology.

Sam shuddered at the thought of being a host, just seconds before her shoulders sagged in defeat. "How long will it take you to get Daniel off the ship?"

"I do not know," the oldest Jaffa replied honestly. "It could take days, even weeks."

"Weeks? Oh, goddess...not that long," Casey moaned softly.

Jack listened carefully as Teal’c explained what had been discussed. He’d been able to follow most of what had been said. He frowned. "We can’t wait that long. We get back to the Daedalus, and we put together a rescue party. Then we hit this ship with everything we’ve got. While Balls is busy trying to keep Mitchell from blowing his ass to hell, we’ll ring back on board and grab Daniel."

Teal’c turned to the clone, explained Jack’s plan.

The clone stood to her feet. "There are those on this ship who are not as loyal as Ba’al believes. They will help you, I’m sure."

"Teal’c, anyway to get word to those guys?" Jack asked.

The tall Jaffa studied the two warriors who stood protectively beside the clone. "Do you know who among your brethren are Free Jaffa?"

Two heads moved back and forth with a negative reply. "I did not know that any survived the last purging of our ranks," the oldest replied honestly.

"Then do this: Say to each Jaffa that you meet, ‘The time has come to pay a debt of honor’. If they are not Free Jaffa, they will not understand," Teal’c said.

"And if they are?"

"They may, or may not, respond. But they will know to be ready."

"If this plan is to work, we have to get you off this ship," the clone said.

"I will take them, My Lady," the oldest Jaffa said.

"No, you remain here. Your...experience...may be needed in protecting our Mistress," the youngest said. "I will take them to the transport rings."

The clone rose up on tiptoes, and planted a kiss on the cheek of the young man. "You are a brave Jaffa," she whispered.

 

A A A A A A

 

Daniel cautiously poked around his mind. For the last twenty minutes, there had been nothing but silence. Now, he couldn’t even feel the ‘presence’ that he’d been able to sense, even though the Goa’uld had been unconscious. How he’d been able to remain conscious, he didn’t know. Probably the Immortality, he thought, unaware that it was his ‘power’ as The One that had seen him able to remain aware.

Just as slowly as he’d checked his mind, he began to move his body. Damn...cramped up from being in this position too long, he grumbled to himself. He managed to turn off the taps on the tub, the water was lapping close to the rim of the marble sides.

Rubbing his hands together in nervous jubilation at once again being alone in his mind, Daniel hurried into the main room. He needed to get dressed...

He found an assortment of trousers and shirts in the wardrobe. Luckily managed to find a pair of black pants and deep red shirt that fit him. He wasn’t crazy about going without underwear, no telling how many snakes had worn this stuff...a thought that had him shuddering slightly...but he had no choice. A pair of polished black boots fit well enough to wear.

Now, if he could only find his tac-vest! He had to have that voice modulating device or he wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting out of here...

The metallic clang of the door unlocking filled the air, and for one panicked moment, Daniel nearly dove behind the bed. He hissed out a sigh of relief when Gemeti entered the room, a tray of food in her hands. "Gemeti! Am I glad to see you!"

The lo’taur backed up a step. "Lord?"

Crap! Daniel hurried to the door, checked to make certain that no one was nearby, that there weren’t Jaffa who would overhear him. There wasn’t time to explain. Chances were the slave wouldn’t believe him anyway...nor could he risk her running straight to Ba’al with his story. He took the tray from her hands, set it on the table, then turned to face her once again. "I need the equipment...the belongings...that were taken from the prisoners. All of the vests they were wearing when they arrived."

"But-"

He hated what he was about to do, but he was really in a bind here..."Do you question my orders?"

Even though the man wasn’t speaking with the voice of a god, she knew that this man...who had once been the beloved of Casey Jackson...was now Goa’uld. She was a lo’taur, her duty was to serve her god. And to serve those he ordered her to serve. And she’d been ordered to obey this particular Goa’uld. "No, Lord. I’ll fetch them immediately."

"Good. And...thank you." He dared to wink at her when Gemeti glanced up at him.

Her breath caught in her throat. She'd been at the side of her Master when The Taking had occurred. She'd seen the symbiote crawl inside this man. But he behaved more like the Daniel Jackson who had been on the ship once before, than the arrogant Goa’uld known as Rihat, whom she’d served several times before his 'imprisonment'. Baffled, she backed out of the room. She felt for a moment as if she were losing her mind. Her training had been thorough, however, and without conscious thought she turned to do exactly what had been demanded...no...requested...of her. She had no idea why the Goa’uld wanted the belongings of the Tau’ri. But it wasn’t her business to know. Her only task was to obey.

Realizing that it would be some time yet before he could attempt an escape, Daniel sat down to eat. He really was hungry. He sniffed the contents of the pitcher. Water. He poured a glass, then held it up. "Here’s to you, Rihat. Thanks for the memories."

Chortling at his own wit, giddy with relief to be free of the Goa’uld, Daniel began to eat. And tried not to think about the - odd - conversation he’d had with his - captor - before the snake had died. Instead, be began to sort through the jumble of memories that had been left behind by the symbiote.

 

 

 

Running toward the storage chamber where the personal gear of prisoners was kept, Gemeti didn’t even notice that the blaring of the klaxons had started up once again. They’d been going on and off all day, it seemed. Intent on completing her task, so that she could return to her Master’s side, she ignored the Jaffa who ran past her, their armor adding to the cacophony of noise in the corridor.

Flinging the door open, she rushed into the narrow closet, her eyes moving quickly. There! She recognized the five vests that the Tau’ri had been wearing, when she’d seen them sneaking through the corridors. She immediately pushed away the thoughts the memory brought with it. She would not question the reason she’d remained silent - not once had she considered alerting any of the patrols to the presence of the intruders. Their weapons were on the crate as well. But Rihat had not asked for those. Just as she reached for the closest vest, a sound outside the door caught her attention. She glanced over her shoulder, and crept toward the opening to peek out. No one there. She shivered slightly, ran her hands up and down her bare arms.

When she made her way back to the vests, she felt suddenly dizzy. Raised her hand to her forehead; waited for the feeling to pass. I’m just tired and hungry, she told herself. It had been a very busy...very confounding...day.

As her hand reached toward the vests once again, she glanced at the weapons. I should really take one of them to Rihat, she thought. Not aware that the idea was not her own.

For the final time her hand stretched toward the vests. She intended to grab the first one her fingers came into contact with. Instead, frowning slightly, she examined each of them. This one, she decided.

She snatched up the vest, clutching it tightly against her chest. Grabbed the strap of one of the weapons and slid it over her shoulder. She never noticed the symbols on one of the pockets of the vest, nor would she have been able to recognize them if she had...

Jackson D.

 

A A A A A A

 

As soon as the rings had been activated, the alarms above their heads began to scream out a warning once again.

"You must hurry!" the Jaffa whispered.

Sam scrambled to enter the coordinates that would see them safely on board the Daedalus.

"Go, you must not be seen here," Teal’c said.

With a nod of understanding the young Jaffa raced away, hoping that he wouldn’t run into any of the responding squads. He slid around a corner, and dashed for the elevator used by the slaves. The doors closed behind him just as the first patrol ran toward the transport rings.

"Got it!" Sam called out.

Detouring from his path to Rihat’s quarters in response to the alarms, Ba’al appeared around the corner, his eyes narrowing when he saw the members of SG-1 standing together. "Noc!" he hissed.

Four members of the team stood in the center of the rings. Unaware that their position hid the shortest from the sight of the furious System Lord...a bit of the good luck they so desperately needed at that moment. They disappeared in flash of brilliant white light just before the Jaffa arrived.

Laqip ran toward his Master. "My Lord, scans indicate that several ships approach."

"They are mine," Ba’al retorted, not actually paying attention to the First Prime. It was infuriating, the way that troublesome group of Tau’ri managed to escape from him, time and time again!

"Not all of them, My Lord."

Ba’al started, gave his attention to Laqip. "Who approaches?"

"Scans are incomplete," Laqip replied, "But two of the ships have been identified. One is the flagship of Lord Kali, the other of Lord Olokun."

His hands curled into fists. Once again all of his carefully made plans were turning to shambles around him. Once again it was the result of interference from SG-1. One day he was going to defeat those annoying Tau’ri. Not even knowing that Daniel Jackson was now the host to a Goa’uld, one in service to him, could lighten Ba’al’s mood.

 

A A A A A A

 

"Sir, they’re here!" the tech reported as soon as the team appeared.

"Good. We’re getting the hell out of here," Mitchell’s voice responded.

Jack leapt toward the console. "Belay that order!" he barked. "We have to get back over there and rescue Daniel!"

"Colonel, there are seven Goa’uld ships headed this way from one direction, and twelve from another. Now chances are, according to my second, some of those ships belong to Ba’al. The others don’t. We’re gonna bug the hell out of here and find somewhere safe to hide for a few minutes," Mitchell responded.

Jack ran a hand over his face. "Find a planet with a Stargate. We have to go get more backup."

"Copy that," Mitchell said.

Casey stood in the center of the rings, arms tightly around her waist, eyes wide and full of trepidation.

"Oh, hell," Jack muttered, when he turned around and saw her. "You with me, Radar?"

She barely nodded.

Jack moved to stand in front of her. Put his hands on her shoulders and shook her gently. "Radar?"

"We have to get him, Jack. Daniel will hate having a snake in his head," she murmured.

"I know, Case. We’re gonna get him. But it’s gonna take more firepower than just the four of us."

"And we need experienced backup on this mission," Sam added quietly, standing beside Jack, her hand moving up and down Casey’s back.

"Right. Ferretti and Major Anderson. Their teams will help us," Casey said. She looked up at Jack’s face. "I couldn’t help him! He was in so much pain, and I couldn’t help him! I couldn’t stop it!"

He caught her just before she would have crumpled to the floor. "I know, Casey, I know."

In what seemed to be one movement Sam, Jack, and Teal’c had surrounded the slender seer, were hugging her and one another. Bitter tears of anger and frustration rolled down their cheeks as they wept, dealing once again with what had happened...facing it together.

After a few moments, Casey sniffed, and gradually pulled away from the embraces of her teammates. "We have to get him," she whispered.

Jack raked a hand over his face, clearing away his tears. "We will."

The tech cleared his throat. "Uh, sir? What happened over there?"

"Things went to hell," Jack growled.

"Daniel Jackson was made host to a Goa’uld," Teal’c said.

The tech’s face went pale. "Oh, god."

"I need to contact the Tok’ra," Sam said, drying her own tears. "I have the frequencies, I just need a private place to make the transmission." She might not always like the conditions that her father put on the information he shared with her. But at least she had what she needed. If keeping the secret would make him happy, and keep her up-to-date on the quickest way to contact her dad, she’d do it.

"I’ll check with the colonel, ma’am."

One sharp up and down movement of her head was the extent of Sam’s response.

Jack led his team to the bridge, all of them silent in their grief...and determination.

 

 

 

Mitchell looked up when the team walked onto the bridge. The transport control tech had notified him of the circumstances. He immediately recognized the desperation in three pairs of eyes. The grief in one pair of green eyes. "We’ve located a planet nearby with a naquadah signature. We think it’s a Stargate. On our way now."

Jack nodded. "Contact the SGC. Let them know what’s going on. Tell them we need SG-3 and SG-12 ready to head out." There was a reason Radar had specifically mentioned those particular teams. He didn’t need the details to follow her recommendations.

"Yes, sir," Mitchell replied. Looked over at the comm tech. "Send the message."

The young lieutenant nodded. "Yes, sir."

Casey gulped back a sob when Ba’al’s ship began to grow smaller outside the windows of the bridge as the Daedalus sped toward a planet that would allow the team to ‘gate to the SGC. "Daniel," she whispered, her heart breaking a little more...the pain physical and excruciating.

"We’ll get him, Radar, that’s a promise," Jack said firmly.

"Indeed," Teal’c said softly.

"Hang in there, Casey. We’ll be back on that ship in just an hour or so," Sam said gently.

"He’s gonna be pissy when all of this is over," she managed to say.

Jack gave a small smile. "He’ll have every right to be."

"I should probably kill Ba’al; Daniel will just torture him to death if I don’t," Casey continued. "And then beat himself up for it."

"Probably," Jack agreed.

"Just one clean shot between the eyes." Casey said, nodding slowly. "Well, I might shoot him in the ‘nads first. Damned bastard deserves it."

"True," Jack replied.

She took a shuddering breath, looked around, as if surprised to find herself standing on the bridge. "An hour, huh?" she said, looking at Sam.

"At the most," the major promised.

"How about getting into a BDU?" Jack asked softly.

She looked down. Hell, she was still dressed in the damned black silk outfit that Ba’al had insisted she wear! "Yeah, good idea."

Mitchell had already noted her ‘harem’ attire, the dress showing a lot more of Casey’s cleavage and flat belly than he actually wanted to see. Which was doing nothing for his sense of well-being. No doubt the memory of Casey in that get-up would provide ample inspiration for dozens of dreams about her. Probably wet-dreams at that!

"Major Ferretti will appreciate it," Sam teased. "Otherwise his Marines will be too busy watching you to notice if any bad guys get through the ‘gate behind us!"

Casey tried to smile. Gave a watery impression of lifting the corners of her lips. "It’s better than that green thing I had to wear. Although Daniel liked it...I was wearing it when-" She broke off; closed her eyes. "At least he’s not being tortured...physically anyway. He’s strong. He’ll fight that goddamned snake."

"Damned straight he will," Jack said. "Probably have the ugly thing ready to crawl out on its own, just to get away from him and that attitude of his."

Again her smile was a barely noticeable movement of her mouth. "I think I’d like to change now."

Jack’s arm resting on her shoulders, Sam’s arm tucked around her waist, Teal’c directly behind them, his hand on her back, Casey walked toward the elevator. Glanced just once over her shoulder. Could hardly see past the Jaffa’s broad frame to the window of the bridge. And saw Ba’al’s ship disappear from sight. She barely managed to hold herself together.


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