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Final Showdown

 

Chapter 4

The klaxons went silent as the event horizon collapsed. Five gurneys were pushed toward the elevator. Janet was racing between each, flashing her penlight into eyes opened by lifting eyelids. Finding the reactions of each to be similar. Checking pulse and respiration and blood pressure. Scrambling to locate any wounds that could explain the reason why the members of SG-1 were unconscious and completely unresponsive.

General Hammond watched the scene with a frown on his face, then turned to the team that had located the missing SG-1. "You reported that they were lying on the floor of what appeared to be a temple?"

"Yes, sir," Ferretti replied. "Looked like they'd just dropped. Don't know how or why. There weren't any signs of struggle, no blood that we could see. They still had their packs on and P-90s in their hands."

The general nodded. "We'll debrief in thirty minutes. I want a full report."

"Yes, sir," the Marine acknowledged. Knowing that the general was on his way to the infirmary, to find out what the doctor might have learned in the past few minutes about the team's condition.

"Damned freaky," Willy Lopez mumbled. "That place just felt...wrong."

"I hear that," Lieutenant Driscoll agreed. "Gave me the heeby-jeebies being in that place."

"Evil," Airman James nodded wisely. "Plain ol' evil."

The comments followed the general out of the 'gate room. He folded his arms over his ample stomach as he rode the elevator to level 21. Went over the meeting he'd had with Casey just before SG-1 had embarked on this mission...

 

"Sir?"

Hammond looked up from the report he had been reading. "Casey! What can I do for you?"

She stepped into the office. "Sir, it's time."

"Time?"

"The battle that Daniel has to face...that SG-1 has to face. It's time. I'm not certain how we'll get there...but we will. And it will be..." she paused, looked at the mission folders in the basket. Nodded toward them. "It's there. The mission marked for SG-1."

"I see." Not that he actually did. The entire concept of his premier team being in a battle with Ascended Beings on the Ascended plane of existence was more than he could wrap his mind around. He had no doubt about what Casey was telling him, however.

"I don't know what's going to happen," she continued softly. "If...well, just know that we'll do our best. Daniel is the Champion of Mankind. He doesn't like that idea," she added, smiling slightly. "He's so modest!"

The smile on his face had been genuine, one of amusement as well as understanding. "What do you need from us?"

"I'm not sure." She cocked her head sideways. "Never leave a man behind," she whispered.

Not knowing for certain what that particular comment might mean, he waited for any clarification that might be forthcoming.

The slender seer shrugged. "I'm sorry, sir, that's all I can see."

"If you sense anything else, let me know immediately."

"Yes, sir."

He reached for the folders. "I suppose you should have your teammates meet me in the briefing room. We'll go over the mission this afternoon."

"Yes, sir."

"Do you know if you should leave right away, or can this wait until tomorrow morning?"

She gave a smile. "I don't know if the daemons want to wait, but I figure we should probably get a good night's sleep," she replied.

He suspected that she had wanted one more night with her husband...just in case the unthinkable happened. "Very well. Alert SG-1. We'll brief in one hour."

"Yes, sir."

 

The general shook himself slightly, stepped out of the elevator, and hurried toward the infirmary.

In the space of those few minutes that had passed between the time the med teams had taken possession of the gurneys to his walking in the door, IV's had been hooked up, each of the five unconscious people being given the nourishment and liquids they apparently needed through the dripping fluid that traveled down the tubes, through the needles taped to the backs of their hands.

"General," Janet said, acknowledging the man's presence.

"Doctor. What can you tell me?"

"Not much, sir. Whatever is wrong with them is completely different from the condition we found Casey in," the petite doctor replied, referring to the day SG-1 had finally located their missing teammate after nearly three months of searching. She had remained in a coma for almost a week after her return to the SGC.

"I could try to bring them around. I have stimulants that might-"

Casey's voice echoed in his ears... "No matter what happens, we have to face this, general."

"No, Doctor," Hammond said, holding up his hand. "Let's hold off on that for a bit."

Janet studied her commanding officer. Knew that Casey had made a stop in the general's office just before the team embarked on the mission. "Did she have details?"

He couldn't help but smile. "No. But she was adamant that the team had to face the daemons. Let's give them a chance to do whatever it is that they need to do."

She looked over her shoulder at the pale faces and still forms of her friends. The need to do something was nearly overwhelming. "Forty-eight hours, sir. And then I'll start running tests to determine if there's something wrong, other than being on the Ascended plane in a battle with daemons."

"I agree," the general replied.

"Dealing with aliens has been strange enough," Janet admitted. "Knowing that one of our teams is fighting a literal battle on a different plane of existence is just unnerving."

"I've learned, during my tenure as commander of the SGC, that there isn't anything impossible in this universe of ours."

Janet smiled. "Just when I think we've seen it all..." she waved a hand toward her friends. "This will certainly be one for the textbooks. If...when...the Stargate program is declassified."

"Doctor, there are some things that will never be accepted. Dealing with alien cultures is one thing. Dealing with other planes of existence is another. I doubt that such information will ever be completely declassified," Hammond said. He doubted that alternate realities would be admitted to, unless something happened to make revealing that 'secret' unavoidable. He kept this thought to himself, understanding that at the moment, the doctor was feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.

"You're probably right, General. It would certainly damage a lot of the belief systems of the majority of the people on this planet."

General Hammond snorted softly. "The existence of aliens will do that. Let me know immediately if there's any change."

"Yes, sir."

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

It was just a tickle at first. And then the irritating feeling became more persistent. She tossed back the thin blanket that covered her. Carefully, lest she wake the man who slept so lightly, she peered into his room. Frowned to see his bed empty. Her eyes moved around the room, the darkness of night hiding nothing from her gaze.

Fear gripped her, made her tremble. She reached out, her frown deepening when she realized that she could no longer feel the gentle 'hum' of his thoughts. She'd never been able to actually read his thoughts, not even his emotions were clear to her. But the hum was enough to let her know where he was at all times, and to know that he was still under complete control. If he wasn't here...

A flash of light, and another woman, dressed as one of the Pharaoh's most favored, appeared in the room. She wore a frown that matched that of the dark haired woman who stood alone in her 'son's' room. "The Jaffa has left the palace," the newcomer announced. She began to pace in short bursts of motion, running a hand through her thick, wavy black hair.

She fluttered a hand weakly toward the empty the room. "He is gone as well."

"It was a mistake to allow them to see one another," the newly arrived woman hissed.

"Tameri, we had no choice! Mibi himself decided which part each of them would play. It was his belief that the...lives...of those two would be so similar to that which they were accustomed, that they would easily accept their new...reality. He didn't fear that they would ever see one another, and if they did, there would be no recognition."

"Well, he was wrong!" Tameri hissed.

The woman's eyes grew wide, she glanced around fearfully. "If we do not find them..." her voice trailed off, her body shivered. If Mibi were to learn of her inability to control the archaeologist...

"Do not lose your faith, Kawit," Tameri said gently, regaining her composure bit by bit. She would never admit fearing their leader, as she saw him. She was powerful in her own right, she would never call him 'Master', as the others did. Whether Mibi knew or cared about this 'fact', was another matter. "Even if they have regained their memories, there is no way for them to leave the city, or its surrounding area. The desert encompasses this illusion, and they would not risk their lives there. Nor would they leave without the seer. She is His Guide. Without her, The One cannot battle us."

"She will remain unconscious only as long as she remains under Anderz control-" Kawit began, wringing her hands nervously.

"Did not Yuya tell you? Anderz is now a slave in the palace. Mibi rendered him mindless," Tameri said, waving a hand as if the fact were unimportant. "I suppose the simpering fool angered Mibi in some way."

Kawit gasped. Anderz had been an...associate...of Dartal. And that Being had been closer to Mibi than any other. "Then who will see that she remains unable to interfere?"

"Mibi himself will see to it that the seer remains in deep sleep," Tameri said soothingly. "Nothing has been lost. It will be inconvenient, for a time. Until they accept that they will never escape. Mibi has been generous in allowing them to continue living in a manner that will offer all that they had before."

Kawit calmed herself. "Yes, he has been."

"Come. We will find them. Insert new blocks. They will remember nothing but their life here come daybreak."

The two women left the house together, convinced of their inevitable success. They were, after all, powerful Beings. Those they sought were mere mortals. Yes, they would be in control once again, in just a short amount of time.

Dark eyes watched from the shadows. Soon, they would be free. They would all be free. Just as those who had been freed upon Dartal's death had rejoiced; the souls trapped by Mibi would also celebrate.

 

 

 

First smirked as she watched the women prowling the streets, searching for their missing charges. "Now that The One and the Protectors know the truth, nothing will stop them."

"But He cannot do battle without his Guide," Second fretted.

Third smiled. "Have you not noticed how she stirs? Soon, she will be awake."

Second began to chortle. "I wonder just how long the illusion will last once she fully awakens?"

Third snorted, then laughed. "Not long, I would wager."

"Shh...observe," First said, pointing as two figures moved up the road, toward the city.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

"That's where I was," Sam said, pointing to the house where she had been living. They had decided that the road, while narrow and not the smoothest, would be much faster than trying to make their way up the riverbank in the middle of the night. Especially when they had no idea how many other fishermen's huts would be nearby. Nor did they know if the river ran close to the city walls.

"No kidding? I passed right by when I headed to the city, both days," Jack replied. Wondered if they had seen each other on that 'first' day, if their memories would have returned sooner. Probably, considering just a glance at the festival was all it had taken to break down the mental block that held back their memories.

She glanced at the man beside her. "Both days?"

"Yeah. Day after I...well, woke up? Then today...er...yesterday...for the festival."

"What did you go into the city for?"

"Doing a little recon, I guess," Jack shrugged. "It just seemed important to know what was going on, what was around me."

She smiled. Even though they'd tried to keep his memories from him, there had been no way to control Jack O'Neill's experience and intuition. It was simply a part of him, no way to counter that!

"So do you understand what it is we're supposed to be doing?"

"Not really," Sam admitted. "I mean, I know that we're supposed to help Daniel. I just have no idea how we can do that...he's the one with the special powers."

"I guess Casey will clue us in," Jack mused.

"Probably."

"Never thought I'd ever be running around on the astro turf. That is where we are, right?"

"I'd say so," Sam agreed.

"We'd better get a move on. Don't need the sun coming up before we're inside that palace."

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Moving up the street as silently as possible, he hid behind the trees, moving quickly from one to another, attempting to remain in hidden in the shadows. Daniel found himself pausing as he walked past the Library. Was there information inside that might help them? He had one foot on the bottom step when a hand grabbed his arm, another clamped itself over his mouth.

"It is I, Daniel Jackson, do not call out," Teal'c's voice whispered.

His heart pounding against his ribs, both from being startled, and from relief, Daniel nodded.

Teal'c dropped his hands, allowed the archaeologist to take a step away from him. "Do you know who I am?"

Daniel nodded. "Got my memory back a little bit ago. Lots of pain. I rather imagine it's what Casey went through when Dartal put that block in her mind."

"I also experienced pain, just before my full memory was accessible once again." Teal'c glanced around. "What are you doing here?"

"Just a little stop before I headed to the palace to look for you," Daniel replied, his voice low. "I thought I might find something..." His whisper faded and he shrugged slightly. "I don't suppose you know where Casey is?"

"I do not. However, I did see O'Neill. I believe he is being kept as a fisherman."

Daniel smiled. "Bet he's loving that."

"Perhaps," Teal'c allowed, the corners of his lips turning up slightly. "I believe he recognized me, as I did him. Just as you and I seemed to recognize one another in the temple."

He nodded his understanding. "Then I guess we should head for the river?"

"I concur."

Tossing careful glances around them, to make certain that they were still alone on the dark street, the two made their way toward the city gate. Slipping around the side of the building, they weren't noticed by the two slight figures who hurried down the wide avenue.

 

 

 

Jack yanked Sam's arm, pulled her toward the edge of the road, crouched low, noting that she mirrored his actions automatically. Damned fine officer, Sam Carter. Good kisser, too.

They watched in silence as two shadowed forms came through the gate. Both seemed to be attempting stealth, waiting until the guards on top of the wall had moved away before dashing through.

If not for the gold emblem on Teal'c's forehead, which caught the moonlight just as he passed the spot where Jack and Sam remained hidden, the teammates would have missed one another.

"Teal'c!" Jack hissed in a low whisper, knowing that the Jaffa's superior hearing would pick up his voice.

Teal'c grabbed Daniel's arm for the second time that night, held a finger to his lips, then turned slowly. Jack and Sam rose from their hiding place. "O'Neill, it is good to see you."

"Yeah, same here, buddy. Daniel, you okay?"

"I'll be better when we find Casey."

"She's not with you?" Sam asked, tugging her lip between her teeth.

Daniel shook his head. "To be honest, I was hoping she was with you."

Jack put his hands on his hips. "It's a sure bet she's in there somewhere," he said, nodding toward the city.

"We weren't," Sam countered.

"For a reason, Carter. They had to make us...comfortable. There aren't any blacksmith's shops inside the city walls. At least not that I saw."

"Where did they have you?" Daniel asked the tall blonde.

"I was supposedly the niece of a blacksmith. One who provided copper pots for the palace."

Daniel frowned. "Jack, I don't suppose you sold fish to the palace, or were supposed to sell fish to the palace?"

"No clue," Jack answered honestly, not bothering to question how Daniel had known of his 'profession'. No doubt Teal'c had figured it out when they had seen one another, and had informed the archaeologist. "Why?"

"Because there seems to be a link to the palace for all of us."

"This reminds me of P3R-118," Sam said, shivering slightly.

"Where?" Jack asked.

"Ice planet. Domed city. Stamped memories," Daniel replied dryly. "The only difference seems to be that here they wanted us in positions that mirrored our real lives as closely as possible."

"To keep us from questioning what was going on," Sam nodded.

Jack frowned. How in the hell did those two remember details like planet designations? And years after the fact, no less! "So what happened? I mean, I thought I was going bonkers. Had all of these-" He broke off, waved his hand in an attempt to find the term that fit the dilemma he had faced.

" 'Almost memories'?" Daniel asked.

"Exactly!"

"Indeed."

"I had them, too," Sam confirmed. "I thought something was wrong with me, but I didn't dare trust anyone enough to question what was going on."

"Casey said that it was the same for her when Dartal had her here," Daniel said. "I'm thinking our Immortality has something to do with it. They can put the blocks in our minds, but they don't remain in place like they're supposed to."

"Why not?" Jack asked.

Daniel shrugged. "Thought processes are chemical and electrical. Our brains are made up of synapses that electrical impulses cross over, or through. Which is how we think. Memories are a collection of chemicals and neurons firing off in a certain order. Change anything...the chemical balances in your body for example, or the temperature of your body and your brain, and the function of the brain is affected."

Sam nodded vigorously. "Precisely. So the blocks have to be some sort of a chemical composition. Our Immortality would try to retain the 'normal' chemical balances in our bodies and brains."

"Okay, as interesting as this, we need to find Radar." He understood what his scientists were saying about their brains. Mostly.

Daniel frowned, crossed his arms over his chest, tapped his finger against his lips. "I just wonder...when Dartal had her, she ripped through that wall pretty quickly. What are the chances that she'd recognize something like that again, and make the whole process useless against her?"

"Pretty high, I'd say," Sam replied.

"It would be to the advantage of the daemons to keep Casey Jackson unconscious, so that she did not know what was going on around her," Teal'c theorized.

Jack pursed his lips slightly. "Teal'c, you were close to that Pharaoh character. Any feelings about him?"

"He is cruel. Arrogant."

"I'll say," Daniel muttered.

"Daniel? You've met the guy?"

"Not exactly. But I was a witness for the festival. I wasn't standing too far from him."

"He is much like a Goa'uld."

The words hadn't even faded before the teammates were exchanging glances. "Casey said four, possibly five, didn't she?" Jack said, referring to the mission briefing before they had left the SGC. Three heads moved up and down in confirmation. "I'd say we just found one of them."

"Given the experience the daemons have in dealing with Casey Jackson, do you believe that all of us have been...monitored?"

Daniel snapped his fingers. "That's what was so odd about her!"

"About who?" Jack asked.

"The woman who was supposedly my mother," Daniel replied, almost absently. "She had this way of watching me that gave me the creeps."

Sam frowned. "Iteti. It had to be Iteti. He was my 'uncle'," she explained.

Teal'c frowned. The only person that he had been in continual contact with had been the Pharaoh. "I believe I was monitored by the Pharaoh."

"There was a guy, another fisherman," Jack said. "Don't know his name."

"That's four. But what about Casey?" Daniel asked.

"If she's unconscious, maybe they don't feel a need to keep a constant watch on her," Sam suggested.

Jack couldn't help but grin. "Ya know, that's liable to come back and bite 'em in the ass. Radar is pretty grumpy when she first wakes up."

It was impossible not to chuckle at the comment. He was worried about her safety, desperate to find her. But Daniel was certain that she was all right, wherever she was. He wasn't sure how he knew that. Only that it...felt...as if she were all right. Hopefully it wasn't just wishful thinking on his part. "Okay, back to my theory. All of us were put into occupations that mirrored our real jobs. Sam, you were with a blacksmith. He creates...builds...things. Jack, you're the happiest, the most relaxed, when you're fishing. I was a scribe, which is damned close to the translating I do on a regular basis. Teal'c, you were put into the same position you'd held as First Prime. All meant to make us comfortable, to keep us from suspecting, from questioning. I'm guessing that had our memories not broken through the mental blocks, none of us would ever have known the truth."

"Not hearing anything about Casey," Jack pointed out.

"Four daemons were needed to keep track of us. If Casey is unconscious somewhere, it would be the most...convenient, to have her where one of them can keep a check on her."

"The palace," Teal'c said immediately.

"That's what I would guess. Where else could they hide an unconscious woman?"

Jack nodded. "Okay. Teal'c, tell me you know the layout of that place."

"I know only the areas where the Pharaoh and his family reside," Teal'c replied.

"The architecture is symmetrical. It's why the Greeks copied it," Daniel said. "If you know just half of the layout, we'll have an idea of the entire complex. We might not know what all of the rooms are used for, but we'll know where they're located, where the corridors begin and end."

Jack glanced up at the sky, located the moon, and compared the position to where it had been earlier. "We've got two, maybe three hours of night left. Let's go, campers."

The team moved toward the wall of the city. Remained in the shadows, and slowly made their way toward the center of the ancient Egyptian metropolis. And the palace where a man claiming to be the Pharaoh was holding Casey Jackson.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Iteti sat up. Reached out. Barely bit back a moan. For one moment he contemplated fleeing. Perhaps he would find mercy if he offered all that he knew of Mibi's plans. Which, he had to admit, wasn't much. The sound of running feet pulled him from his bed. He pulled the his kilt around his hips. Met the man at the door, wondered briefly why he hadn't just thought himself to the house.

Yuya took a deep breath. "I have a problem."

"If it's the same one I have, we are both in danger, my friend."

"She is gone as well?"

Iteti nodded. "I don't know when...or how long she's been gone. The fact that I can't feel her is evidence that she's broken through the block that Mibi placed in her mind."

"As has Rami...the one known as O'Neill."

"If we find them, we can re-establish the blocks in their minds, return them to their places, Mibi need never know," Iteti said slowly.

Yuya nodded. "We must move quickly. It would not do for Mibi to sense that anything is amiss."

The two left the house, running toward the city. Iteti realized now why his companion had preferred this mode of getting from one place to another. To move otherwise would bring too much interest from the Being who held control over all of them.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Janet turned off the lamp that sat on the corner of her desk. Walked into the main room of the infirmary. Crossed her arms in front of her as her gaze moved from one pale face to the next. "Are you all right?" she asked, her voice a mere whisper.

She was well aware of what the team was facing, had attended the briefing before SG-1's mission at Casey's suggestion. And she was aware of just where they were facing those dangers. She knew what to expect...mostly. Casey had displayed the marks and bruises she had received while battling Dartal as soon as they had been made. So far, not one of SG-1 were showing any signs of torture, or battle. That was a good thing. She also knew that fact could change at any moment. So she had alerted her staff, who were checking the unconscious forms SG-1 routinely around the clock. At the first sign of 'wounds', they were to alert her, or either of the other doctors who would soon be on duty.

She'd already decided that she'd begin running tests after forty-eight hours, if the team wasn't awake...or there wasn't some visible proof that they were in a battle with Ascended Beings. Just to make certain that they really were where everyone assumed they were, and doing what everyone believed them to be doing. She would do her best to keep the tests as unobtrusive as possible. After all, she didn't want to interfere. But she couldn't take the chance that something had befallen the team before they found their way to the astral plane.

It had now been twenty-seven hours since the team had been returned to the SGC. The best guess was that they had been unconscious for at least four hours prior to that...the first missed check-in had resulted in General Hammond opening the 'gate, and examining the MALP transmissions, hoping for a message from the team.

She thought about the briefing with SG-3 that she'd sat in on. As soon as SG-3 contacted the SGC, she'd been notified. Gurneys, requested by the Marines, had been sent to the 'gate room, and then through the 'gate. Ferretti said that the rolling hospital beds had been used to keep that 'line' in place as the members of SG-1 were carefully placed on top of them. He had also reported that returning to the SGC hadn't happened quickly enough for him, or his men.

The general had ordered that SG-1 be allowed to wake up on their own. She understood the reason. It didn't mean she had to like it. Standing by and doing nothing, well, nothing more than administering fluids and vitamins that their bodies needed, was not what she had been trained to do.

The doctor sighed softly. When Casey had battled Dartal, Daniel had been with her. He had awakened first, let her know that she could stop the anesthesia that had kept the young seer out for the duration of the battle. Jack, Sam, and Teal'c had been beside their teammates the entire time. The team was together for this battle as well. Hopefully, when it was all over, this battle with Ascended Beings, they would...wake up. Just open their eyes, be all right, and immediately begin complaining about being in the infirmary. If everything went well.

She refused to consider the results of losing...of what would happen if they failed to pull that magical rabbit out of the hat. They were SG-1. And SG-1 always came home. No matter what.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

The two men hurried through the city gate. Both were startled at the sudden appearance of their companions. Kawit looked as panicked as both men felt; Tameri looked outwardly calm, but her eyes betrayed her fears.

It had been too much to hope for, he supposed. To have the members of SG-1 accept the few, planted memories that would be all that they held, until they created new ones; to accept and settle into their new lives, with their new names, without struggle. Not even Mibi could hide their true nature. Who they were, the very essence of their beings, would always slip past any type of mental blocks. The very things that made these five people who and what they were...their passions, their courage, their intelligence and intuition, all would remain unchanged. It seemed that the bonds between the individuals were not so easily overcome, either. One seemingly insignificant meeting between two of the individuals had weakened the blocks enough that those two had fled, and more than likely had sought out and found their companions. "They are fighting our control."

"So it would seem," Tameri replied. "As long as the seer is unconscious, there is nothing the others can do. They cannot leave this place."

"This is true," Iteti said, frowning slightly. "We must locate them, and re-establish the blocks. It would not do, however, to allow them contact with one another, especially if they have managed to do so now. Mibi has been quite adamant that they are not to communicate with one another. If they were to do so, they would attempt to locate, and rescue, the seer."

"Then he should have chosen different vocations for the Jaffa and the archaeologist," Kawit replied dryly. "The two stood side by side at the festival."

Iteti had not been aware that the two men were in the same section of the city! There was risk enough of any two of the four accidentally seeing one another, even in passing, by having them in the same city. To have allowed them to see one another...he wondered at the blatant stupidity of the move. No...it was arrogance. Mibi was convinced that he had complete control of the illusion, and all within it. He'd never admit, even to himself, that without the aid of his followers, not even his strength would be sufficient to sustain the illusion and retain control of the five individuals known as SG-1.

"They did not recognize one another," Tameri insisted. Mibi had been quite pleased about that, she thought. He'd been in a much kinder mood after the festival, the two girls he had taken from the harem had returned with only slight bruising.

"You are certain they did not?" Yuya asked, one dark eyebrow cocked slightly.

Tameri smiled. "Yes, I am."

"I suppose that the excitement of the festival might have made sleeping difficult. Perhaps they have simply chosen to walk, to remember the day," Kawit said quietly.

"All four of them?" Yuya smirked. "I highly doubt it."

"There is also the fact that we cannot locate them through the mental blocks," Iteti pointed out. "A sure sign that the blocks no longer remain in their minds."

"This is an inconvenience," Tameri clucked. "But it is not a disaster. We simply locate them, and return them to their places. With new, stronger blocks in place."

"And if there is...damage?"

"Who would know? Certainly not them, for they will never leave this plane," was the cold response.

Iteti shivered imperceptibly. His companions had no concern over what happened to the mortals. He suspected that Mibi would never be satisfied with merely imprisoning The One. It would be more to his liking to kill the young man. And to do so with His Guide present, a witness to the execution. What he would do with or to the slender seer, he didn't want to dwell upon. No doubt it would be most...unpleasant.

"There are many places for them to hide," Yuya pointed out.

Again Tameri smiled though the movement held absolutely no warmth. "When they hunger, when they thirst, they will return to us. This is why Mibi left those basic needs in place." Her three companions shared nervous glances. "Do not be such cowardly fools!"

"Did you not see what he did to Anderz?" Iteti asked in a whisper.

"He sent the fool to me," Tameri replied uncaringly. "He was a minion of Dartal's. Not one of us."

One of us, Iteti thought, shivering again. No doubt that Being...the assassin...would have been killed by Mibi had The One not done so. It seemed that those who had worked for Mibi were disappearing, one by one. When would one of his companions, or he, himself, be next?

"Stop worrying, all of you," Tameri said cajolingly. "We'll find our wayward charges, and all will be well."

Yuya studied the dark haired woman. "Remember, Tameri, your charge is missing as well. And having left the palace, you are not able to monitor the seer."

The woman's cheeks paled slightly in the moonlight. "Do you threaten me?"

"Not at all," Yuya replied, although his eyes held a warning. "Simply reminding you that you are in the same...trouble...as we, should Mibi discover the problem."

Dark eyes darted from one face to the other. Found no reassurances. If she betrayed them, they would see to it that she suffered right along with them. "Let us go," she snapped, turning on her heel. The sooner she located the Jaffa, the better. He had been relatively easy to convince of the illusion, given his time as First Prime to Apophis. Leaving her ample time to check periodically on the slender blonde who slumbered in private chambers. And to serve Mibi, making certain that all of his appetites were amply fed. Endearing herself to the powerful Being as much as possible. Regardless of her bravado in the presence of her companions, Anderz appearance in the hall of slaves had shaken her to her very core.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Jack led the team into a small barn, just off the path that led into the city. He'd seen it early, and noted then that it had appeared to be deserted. "Doesn't look like anyone has used this place in awhile," he said, gesturing at the dust that covered the meager contents of the building. There were four stalls, all of them devoid of hay. A small stool and a table, on top of which a broken crockery bowl and two cracked cups sat amid a collection of cobwebs.

"I'd say," Daniel muttered. Thankful that Immortality had rid him of his allergies. Otherwise, he'd be sneezing, wheezing, and trying desperately to keep from rubbing watery eyes.

"Remember this place. If we get separated for any reason, this is where we'll come."

"Jack, you won't actually be considered missing, will you?" Daniel asked. He'd been thinking about this...problem...for the past twenty minutes or so. Needed to know if his idea was a good one, or if it was just a way to postpone the inevitable...the looming battle with the daemons. He needed Casey at his side, and he needed her safe, and...whole, her mind functioning completely. He had no idea what the daemons might do to her if the four of them were suddenly 'missing'.

"I dunno. Why?"

"What if we go back where we...belong. We might be able to find out more if we just keep playing along."

"Indeed. If Casey Jackson is being held in the palace, there is a chance I might locate her."

"I can see about 'borrowing' a few of the swords that are supposed to be for the soldiers," Sam added. "Being armed can't hurt."

Seeing the stubborn look on Jack's face, after all, the team was together, and free...for the most part...Daniel blew out a breath. "If we go back, it will buy us time to find Casey...without the daemons doing something that can't be-" He turned his head, blinked furiously as tears formed in his eyes. Took a deep breath. "Something irreversible."

Jack frowned, studied the faces around him. Saw the same looks of fear, of concern, that he was now feeling...thanks to Daniel pointing out the obvious. There was always the chance that a hostage would be harmed. Getting that hostage out as quickly, and as quietly, as possible was always the best way to go. But...this wasn't the typical hostage situation. Most hostage-takers couldn't permanently scramble a brain...at least, not as easily, as quickly, and as permanently as this group of kidnappers. "Okay. We meet back here as soon as it's dark tonight. No matter what we find out, or don't find out, we meet here. Any one of us that's missing, we'll assume has been re-blocked."

"If that happens?" Sam asked.

"Those who get here will plan an intervention," Jack replied. "Radar didn't think we had a lot of time to get this done. We've already been here for three days. This is the last day we play the game. Got it?"

Three nods were the immediate response.

"I'll hang around here. If anyone comes looking for me, I can play it off as too much drinking during the festival," Jack said.

"Don't do anything to piss them off," Daniel warned.

"Relax, Danny. I won't do anything that could wind up hurting Radar," Jack said softly, understanding what had really been behind the warning.

Daniel gave a sharp nod. "Thanks."

"Okay, campers. Head back. Try to get an hour or so of sleep. Then find out all you can."

Sam waited until Daniel and Teal'c had slipped out of the barn. Gave Jack a kiss, hugged him tightly, then hurried back to the house where she had been held prisoner. Like Casey said, just because you could wander around didn't make it less of a prison if you were being held against your will, where you didn't want to be.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Tramping up and down the quiet streets, examining the shadows of the few alleys behind the workshops, looking into doorways and onto balconies, searching for the missing SG-1 members was taking far longer than it should have. They were Ascended Beings! The mortals should have been easily located! The four daemons were too worried about the situation to consider that perhaps they were not the only Beings of higher levels within the city. Would never have entertained the thought that The Others, those of a level just beyond Ascension, would even be interested in the humans, certainly those Beings of even higher levels would never deign to become involved in their...escape.

The sun was peeking over the horizon when the daemons agreed to return to their places of waiting. It wouldn't do to have Mibi suspect, and their own absences would certainly cause him to become too...curious...about their activities, which would lead to the discovery of the missing mortals.

Iteti wandered back into the house. Found Sam sitting at the table, parchment in front of her, drawing furiously. He nearly gave himself away as the relief flooded over him. He managed to send a quiet message, received word that three of the four had returned. An hour later Yuya laughingly reported that 'Rami' had managed to get falling down drunk, and had passed out near the gate to the city. They had, he said, walked right by the fallen man.

Tameri's smug response that the 'loss' of the blocks had been a temporary anomaly, and that it was quite possible that they had become so fused in the brains of the mortals that it would require actual searching to locate them. She suggested not doing so, at least not unless it became necessary. The less energy they expended, the better. All of them were feeling the draw that the illusion was making on their powers. Not one of them realized that Mibi's powers were no longer mingled with their own, that the four of them were maintaining the illusion without the much needed input from their leader.

He doubted Tameri's confident conclusion, but for the moment, wouldn't question the fact that his 'niece', was back where she belonged. "You're up early," he said jovially, deciding not to let her know that he had taken note of her absence.

"Had an idea," Sam murmured. She continued to draw what she could remember of Da Vinci's crossbow machine. She remembered seeing it, studying the drawing, amazed at the detail, and the sheer genius that the drawing reflected for the time.

Grinning broadly, he peered over her shoulder. The drawing looked familiar. There was the chance that some bit of memory had seeped through. It appeared, however, that 'Sammy' believed the idea to be solely hers. "What is it?"

"A war machine," she replied. "I figured if I built a war machine, then the Pharaoh might listen to me about the water wheel."

He let loose with a full belly laugh. Yes, Tameri, as annoying as she could often be, had been correct after all. The mental block wasn't 'missing', it had become a part of her. He settled at the table beside her. "And just what gave you that idea?"

"I couldn't sleep. I was...am...still angry that that fat little man wouldn't even look at my idea. But if I want the Pharaoh to notice, I have to offer something he'd be interested in. At least at first." She gave a slight shrug.

Iteti patted her shoulder affectionately. "I'll leave you alone to invent," he said. He rose to his feet, hesitated, gave into the urge, and dropped a kiss on top of the blonde head. As long as Sammy was content in her new life, then no harm had been done. He pushed away thoughts of The One. Was certain that The Guide would fare no better, she would live, but as a slave, most probably as a harem slave. He was well aware of Mibi's...tastes.

He was so relieved that he returned to his room, stretched out on his bed. Closed his eyes and simply enjoyed a time of absolute silence and peace.

Sam watched from the corner of her eye, patting herself on the back mentally for not pulling away from the daemon's touch. So far, so good. Now, she just had to figure a way to get into the city...

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Daniel slipped back into the house. Found the woman who claimed to be his mother waiting in his room.

"Where have you been?" she demanded.

"Am I a child to be watched every moment?"

Kawit stepped closer. Smelled the subtle odor of cleansing oil. One that was popular among the women of the city. Bit back her smile. "No, you are a man. I often forget. You will always be my precious boy."

He grimaced. He'd noticed the way she stepped closer, the deep breath she had taken. Taking a deep breath himself, he realized that when he had hugged Sam, a bit of her perfume must have rubbed off on him. He decided to play on that fact. "Lucky for me not all women view me in such a manner."

She nearly laughed out loud. While she'd been frantically searching the streets, the archaeologist had been taking his pleasure with one of the prostitutes who wandered at night. She thought about his wife, the stories she'd heard about the deep, strong bond of love between The One and his Guide. Only if he were truly immersed in the illusion would he have willingly gone to the bed of another woman.

"If you're like your father," she said dryly, both relieved and amused at the turn of events, "then at the moment sleep is all you'll be wanting."

Forcing a smile to his face, he dropped onto the bed. "I am my father's son."

She backed out of the room. Dartal had been an arrogant fool. He had attempted to control the seer. The secret was removing her from the equation completely. She wondered idly if Mibi would kill the seer...after all, if the others were settling into their new lives, risking her escape would not be to his benefit.

With a light heart, she crawled back into her bed. Even allowed the old man to whom she claimed to be married to pull her close. What did she care if he took a moment of pleasure? The poor soul was a mere slave in the illusion...his life was one of repetition, and misery if he chose to fight his circumstances. She reached back and patted his hip, then sent him into a deeper sleep.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Tameri watched as the Jaffa entered his room, Sheriti with him. Just as Kawit had reported the archaeologist doing, it seemed that her charge had been enjoying the pleasures of the flesh. That he was doing so with the wife of his best friend...a woman who looked like the late wife of his best friend, she corrected herself...was all the proof she needed that Mdjai had accepted his place as Captain of the Guard. She wondered briefly just where Mibi had managed to find the woman, she so closely resembled the archaeologist's first wife.

She hurried down the corridor, opened the door forbidden to all but her, or the Pharaoh himself. The seer was lying as still as death on the low cot. Her lips and cheeks seemed colorless. Breath still moved her chest, she was alive. For how long Tameri didn't know. Nor did she care.

Her steps were light as she returned to the harem, and her own luxurious chambers within. Noted that three of the girls were missing. Apparently Mibi had decided that he would not need sleep this night. Those he had used earlier, celebrating his success thus far, were sleeping soundly, exhausted after servicing him. He had voracious appetites. But, he was a god, after all.

Pulling a silk coverlet over her nearly naked body, she laid down, and contemplated her plans for the day.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Teal'c held his finger to his lips as he checked to make certain that only the guards at the Pharaoh's door had seen them. He knew exactly what his return with the harem slave in tow looked like. It would appear that he had taken her out, perhaps for a walk. There would be speculation on what other activities had been...enjoyed. But there would be no questions.

He turned to look at the woman's tear stained face as soon as the door was securely closed behind him. "Why did you leave?"

"I awoke, and you were gone," Sheriti replied, her voice quavering. "I thought...I thought perhaps you were seeking your...pleasure...with another. Because I have been..." she waved a hand over her battered body.

"Hurt?"

"Damaged."

The reply made him wince. So much pain. A heart so similar to Casey Jackson's. "So you were seeking to find me?"

She lowered her eyes, shook her head. "I was trying to escape the palace."

"And if you had been caught by anyone but me, you would have been killed."

"Stoned to death," she clarified, the simple statement telling him far more than the words she used.

That death was more desirable...Teal'c shook his head. Hoped that when the daemons were defeated, those who were as trapped in this place as he and his teammates were, would be freed. "Do you trust me?"

"With my life," Sheriti replied solemnly.

"You must not leave this room, unless I am with you. Do you understand? Do not attempt to flee again, for I may not be able to save you," he warned.

"I understand." She stretched out on the bed. Her dark eyes betrayed her fatigue. "We will sleep now?"

He smiled. "We will sleep."

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Yuya took another look at the man sprawled along the side of the road. Wondered just how realistic the illusion would be. If it was as real as he suspected, poor Rami was going to have a horrible hangover.

Whistling cheerfully, he turned and sauntered away. Rami wouldn't be awake for hours yet. He had his own pleasure to see to. And he knew from where he would seek it. Mibi's harem wasn't the only place in the city where whores were readily available. Women who understood exactly where they were, and would do anything to make their...existence...in this place at the very least tolerable.

Jack barely opened one eye, watched as the daemon walked away. As soon as he was certain that he was alone, he stood up, brushed his clothes off, and put the very drunk man he had literally stumbled upon back into place. The jug that had contained some sort of liquor was empty now, half of it sprinkled on his clothes, some of it he had actually drank. It had tasted a bit like Southern Comfort. No kick though. At least, not for him.

He'd noticed a slave pen, and knew that traders who peddled flesh often knew things they shouldn't. And enough...encouragement...could garner the information he needed. "Thanks for the donation," he whispered, tying the strings of the small, leather pouch to the belt around his waist. It had been filled with several rings, four of them had very large, colorful stones in them. There had been a pair of turquoise earrings as well. Hopefully enough to buy a story or two.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Daniel put his hands behind his head. Where was she? Was she safe? Was she being hurt...or god, what if she was being tortured? He shook his head. No, his gut told him that she wasn't being hurt. How safe she was, that was anyone's guess. And if their suspicions were true, if they had made the right connections with their theories, she was unconscious.

He thought about Jack's prediction. Felt a smile on his face. If she woke up before they located her, she'd tear the whole damned illusion apart! That, he thought, chuckling quietly, would be something to see.

His thoughts moved on to the priest who had befriended him. Or at least, it had seemed as if he had been befriended. A frown creased his forehead. There was something odd about that entire situation. Would the daemons who created this...illusion...attempt to add such intrigue? Wouldn't it have been better, or at least easier, to keep him from thinking too much, from possibly questioning his place, by setting him up as just a simple scribe?

The frown deepened. There was more going on than what appeared. As if...almost as if the illusion had taken on a life of its own. Just how had the daemons 'created' so many people? It would take a great deal of power...power? Yes, power. It would take a great deal of power to make a city the size of this one seem real. Add all of the people, and the drain had to be extreme. Which could be a distinct advantage to the team. Weakened daemons would be easier to fight.

But the people...they were too real. Those he had met in his routine days were just too real to be mere illusions. So who were they? Where were they from? Or was this a real city, with real people, and the daemons were just making use of them? Which would mean, Daniel thought, that this wasn't the astral plane after all.

Too many questions, and not enough answers, he huffed silently. More weary than he'd realized, his eyes drifted closed. His last thought before sleep claimed him was the hope that the woman pretending to be his mother wouldn't decide to check the block in his mind.


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