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Needle In a Haystack


"...You're the color of the sky
Reflected in each store-front window pane
You're the whispering and the sighing
Of my tires in the rain
You're the hidden cost and the thing that's lost
In everything I do
Yeah and I'll never stop looking for you...
...that's the way love is..."
"Sky Blue and Black" by Jackson Browne


Chapter 1

Three bodies fell through the shimmering circle, a tangled mass of arms and legs that dropped awkwardly to the ground. Not more than a second later two more were hurled to the grass. The Stargate behind them hissed closed, leaving them alone on a planet that held its own dangers. Slowly, those capable rose to their feet. Two remained on the ground, one simply unconscious, the other would never rise again.

Casey put a hand to her aching head. It seemed that traveling through a wormhole from a moving ship to a stationary Stargate was a bit...wilder...than the usual ride. She glanced at her companions. There was little time. She didn't want them caught, should Ba'al send Ryk'teal through the 'gate after them. These people who had been willing to put their own lives in jeopardy to help her. And she didn't want them to risk themselves further trying to protect her, while she did what she had to do. "Is there somewhere you can go?"

Nutesh nodded. "I know of a place where we will be safe."

"Go," Casey said. The pain was getting worse. She glanced at Daniel's still body. Bit back a sob.

"Dan'yel sent a message, after he discovered that the address worked," Nutesh quietly informed the slender blonde.

What was happening? She felt as if she were being tugged...pulled...from the inside. She fought against it, knowing in her heart that the struggle was in vain. Not yet! No, not yet! I'm not ready yet, she cried mentally. "Good, that's good," she murmured.

"He was certain that your people would find you here, quickly."

"I hope so," she managed to say.

"My Lady?" Shanda said, worried by how pale her Mistress...her friend...had become.

"Please, you need to leave, get to safety. There's a chance that Ryk'teal will remember the symbols on the 'gate...um...Chappa'ai. You have to be long gone before he gets here," Casey insisted.

"What of you, My Lady?" Nutesh asked.

"I'll be fine...please...hurry...go!" The pain in her head, and in her heart, made her words sharper than she'd intended for them to be.

Shaking his head slightly when Shanda would have argued, Nutesh carefully pressed the symbols that would take him to a place he'd never thought to see again, the village of his birth. Through the years he'd been able to gather information, knew that those who had survived the attack...the raid...that Ba'al had led, had slowly rebuilt. Had put their lives back together as best they could, with what had been left to them. When the event horizon opened, he turned to the woman who'd made such a difference in his life. "If you should ever need my skills, you have to but call on me, My Lady. On that papyrus are the symbols that will lead you to my world."

Casey smiled in spite of her pain. She clutched the papyrus just a bit tighter. She glanced again at her Husband. Felt the tears flooding her eyes. "Thank you. Don't be surprised if I come visit, some day."

"I will look forward to it," Nutesh replied. He bowed, took her hand, kissed it gently.

Shanda hugged Casey's neck tightly. "If you need me, I will stay with you," she said softly.

Tears began to roll down her cheeks. She was barely holding the pain in check. She couldn't give in to it...not yet, not in front of them. "No; go, be safe...and have a good life," she rasped. "Thank you, both of you, for everything."

With a worried look, but knowing that to argue would be of no use, Casey's allies...the stocky engineer and the former lo'taur...disappeared through the shimmering circle. She watched as the 'gate closed a second time. Barely suppressed the sobs that threatened to break free. She pressed her hands to her lips, willing herself to be strong. She had to be strong, for just a little longer! Daniel would want her to be strong...he'd want her to face what she had to face with all of the strength she had in her.

Her thoughts were erratic, yet doggedly focused. Can't be caught...can't let him catch me...can't be caught, was the loudest thought that tumbled through her head in a never ending loop. She had to get them to safety, in case that asshole did come through the 'gate. She figured that there was a fifty-fifty chance that the next person through the round stone monument would be someone she didn't want to see. Someone she certainly didn't want seeing her! She grabbed Daniel by the shoulders. His immobile body was surprisingly warm. Or maybe it was because her fingers were so cold...always so cold after she came through the 'gate...Maybe, just maybe, she thought frantically, I'm in shock. Why shouldn't I be? I have every right to be...she fought down the sobs that threatened to rise in her throat...gotta move...gotta move...he was so heavy! She dropped to her ass. Maybe she shouldn't have sent them away so quickly, had Nutesh carry him to...to where?

She stood up, wiped her cheeks, surveyed her surroundings. There! Those trees. Lots of cover in those bushes, and when the team came through, she'd be able to signal them. If Ryk'teal came through first, he'd never see them.

Once again she locked her hands under Daniel's arms. "I'm so sorry," she whispered, as she began to drag his battered body over the ground, unmindful of the trail of crushed grass and blood she left behind.

It took longer than she'd thought, her glance going constantly to the 'gate, terrified that it would begin to activate before she was...before they were hidden. She settled beside one of the trees, maneuvered until she had her arms around his chest. Leaned back against the tree trunk, and let the tears fall unchecked. "I love you," she whispered, as the pain overwhelmed her. "I will always love you."




Casey...Casey come to me...don't fight me. You mustn't fight, Child. You're so weary. Close your eyes. Come to me...come to me...




She opened her eyes. She hadn't even been aware of falling asleep! She jerked when she felt the touch of a hand against her face, brushing her hair back. The room was decorated with shadows, the orange glow on the horizon, or what she could see of it through the open window beside the bed where she lay, told her it was sundown. Or maybe dawn.

"Look at me, Child," the voice said.

Green eyes swung in the direction the voice had come from.

"I have been worried about you," the voice continued, chiding gently.

"I'm sorry," she whispered.

"Shh...there is no need to apologize. You are well now. That is all that matters."

Well? Had she been ill? She tried to search her mind, only to find that her memories, what she knew, seemed...odd. Out of place. Unreal.

"You suffered from a fever for several days. I feared you would leave me," the voice said. Definitely a man's voice. It was kind...loving.

"Where am I?"

"In your room, Child. Ahmose found you in the barn, unconscious. I carried you, brought you here. I have tended you. With Nebetah's help, of course," he added hurriedly, as if knowing that he'd cared for her would upset her, for whatever reason.

Dawn. It was dawn, because as the man had spoken, the room had continued to brighten. The room...seemed...familiar, in an strange way. She looked at the man now, his white-blonde hair had been cropped short at one time, but was growing out, giving him an almost wild appearance. His eyes were light gray, so light that they seemed...unnatural. She barely suppressed a shiver as she looked into them. She could sense his concern...but there seemed to be such a deep coldness in his eyes. As if...as if...as if what? She struggled to recognize the feeling of unease, to identify what about the man frightened her so.

"I will tell Nebetah that you are awake, and have her prepare a meal for you. It has been too many days since we were last able to get you to take a bit of broth." He stood, seemed to tower over the bed where she lay. She could hear him pouring something...water she assumed. "Here, you must drink this, Little One."

His arm was strong and warm behind her shoulders as he gently lifted her from the bed. His hand held the cup steady as she drank. Something in the back of her mind was panicked at the thought of drinking the water...something bad would happen if she did. But her thirst overpowered her fear, and she drank greedily.

"Yes, that's it. Not too quickly, it will make you sick to your stomach," he said gently.

"Thank you," she whispered.

"You're welcome." His hand caressed her cheek again. "I was so afraid you wouldn't come back to me," he said again.

"I'm here," she said, wanting to reassure the man. She didn't know why, but it seemed important.

"Yes, you are. My beautiful daughter. How glad I am to see your green eyes again!"

Daughter? This man was her father? Something tickled the back of her mind...

The man frowned. "Your eyes show your disquiet, Little One. Your fears. Perhaps the fever has done more...damage...to you than we realized."

A tiny voice in the back of her mind began to whisper frantically. This man must never suspect that she doubted who he said he was. Never! "I'm just tired," she said hurriedly.

He smiled. "Of course. Such a struggle could not have been easy for you."

She tried to sit up. Gave him a sincere smile of appreciation when he pushed and plumped the pillows behind her. She caught his hand before he could move away. His fingers closed around hers. "You were with me the entire time I was ill, weren't you?"

Another warm smile. "Yes, I was."

She nodded. "I remember that. I remember...feeling you...hearing you calling to me."

He sat down on the bed beside her, pressed her fingers to his lips. The action was also familiar. Reassuring. She frowned slightly. There'd been others with her...others whose safety was as important as her own..."The others..."

"Ah, yes. Your friends. They have been here to visit every day."

That wasn't right, she didn't think. Maybe her feelings, her thoughts, were in such a jumble because she'd been sick. What I'm remembering are just the confused images of a fever induced dream, she thought. Yes, that was all it was. She smiled. "Then they care for me."

The man chuckled. "Yes, Little One, they care for you a great deal. You have always been the favorite of the village."

"That is because your father is Shah," a feminine voice said from the doorway.

"That is not the reason," the man argued. "It is because Ishtar is beautiful, and caring, and is an obedient daughter."

Ishtar? That was her name? Ishtar...Ishtar...Ishtar. Nope. Didn't sound right. But her father would certainly know her name, wouldn't he?

The woman chuckled. "And of course you are unbiased when it comes to your daughter."

"Of course," the man grinned. "Go, fix my daughter her breakfast."

"You must leave. Before she eats she must be bathed," the woman retorted.

"One day, you will remember who works for whom," the man said. But he was smiling. He leaned over, kissed Casey on the top of her head. "When you are ready, call for me, I will carry you to the terrace."

"I'm sure I can walk on my own," Casey objected.

"Just like your father, insistent on doing things for yourself," the older woman smiled.

"She has been like me since birth, she should change now?" There was a hint of pride in his voice.

Casey couldn't help but giggle at the two. They glared at each other, but the twitches their lips gave belied those angry gazes.

The man tossed a wink and a smile at her, and disappeared through the door, closing it softly behind him.



He leaned against the closed door. Too easy, he smirked. The block in her memory had slid so easily into place. No doubt her weariness, her grief, held much to do with that fact. The few hastily conjured memories would keep her from questioning...at least until she was far enough away that she could do nothing even if she did remember the truth. She didn't even realize that he'd changed her name! Ishtar had been such a pleasing young thing. How he'd enjoyed his time with her. Until...he forced the memory away. There was no time to waste in getting her as far from this place as possible. Hidden in the 'wasteland' of the astral plane, where she'd be unable to find her way back to the mortal realm. He closed his eyes, sent out a summons for the being who was a much an enemy as a friend. The sooner this 'ceremony' took place, and Casey believed herself wed, the better. And as soon as she was safely tucked away, he'd be free to rid the universe of The One, and he could report that his mission had been completed... successfully.



"Nebetah?" Casey asked shyly, uncertainly.

The older woman looked at her. "What is it, Child?"

"I...I feel...confused. As if...as if something isn't right."

She adjusted the veil over her dark hair, the bits of gray catching the early morning light. The action gave her a moment to hide her surprise. "It is from the fever, my child. The feelings will pass soon enough."

With the older woman's help, Casey stood to her feet. She did feel a bit...weak. She stared at her reflection. Yep, that was the face she was accustomed to seeing. Eyes too large, far too expressive. She'd never been able to hide her feelings, her thoughts. Ears were too big. Neck, too long. As she hurriedly washed, using the basin where Nebetah had poured cold water, the actions felt at once familiar, and strange. Every flaw she remembered was still there. She looked at her face again. She wasn't a child. She was a woman, a grown woman..."Why am I not married?"

The pitcher that Nebetah had been holding crashed to the floor, sending water in all directions. With a muttered curse, the older woman grabbed a towel, tossed it on the rapidly spreading puddle.

"Nebetah? What has happened?" the man's voice called. They could hear his concern, the near panic.

Casey looked toward the closed door. "Nothing, Father. I bumped her, and caused her to drop the pitcher."

When the crockery shards had been picked up, the towel wiped over the spot to dry the water from the tile floor, Nebetah looked at her young Mistress. "You have not spoken of marriage since your betrothed was killed in battle against the Hittites."

She frowned. Okay, if she'd been engaged, then shouldn't she remember? "How long ago was that?"

"It has been not quite twelve years. And your father allowed you to wait until you were nearly a spinster before insisting that you be wed," the woman added, her disapproval ringing loudly.

Wow. That had been a long time to mourn! "I loved him." It was a question, more than a statement.

"Very much," Nebetah said softly. "He was a brave man, Ba'al. He loved you deeply. You were to be wed, but the attack was sudden. He was a captain in the Pharaoh's army; he had to lead the army against the invaders. He never returned.

Ba'al. Now that name sounded familiar. She remembered him being in love with her. She did not, however, remember being in love with him. She could recall feelings of love...deep, wonderful, warm feelings of love. But not for Ba'al. She didn't know whom her affections had been for. She did know that the man named Ba'al had not been him.

"Hurry, dress. Your father is not a patient man."

"You won't tell him about...about my question?"

Dark eyes flickered toward the closed door, and back. "No, I will not tell him what you have asked."

"Thank you." She had no idea why it was important to keep the secret. She only knew that it was.


A  A  A  A  A  A


First frowned as the young male sniffed the air, far too close to where she lay, holding her husband's battered body tightly in her arms. His blood soaked the shirt she wore, as she clutched him to her chest, as if trying to prevent him from moving away from her. Though there was no chance of him moving of his own accord, given his condition. The smell of that blood was what had caught the male's attention. Daniel had known of the 'dangers' of the planet, yet had believed that his success in communicating with one of the indigenous creatures would keep them from being hunted. Perhaps had he been...she pulled her thoughts back to the current situation.

"We should do something," Second whispered.

"Yes," First agreed. She studied her young companion. "What would you suggest?"

Startled, realizing that this was a test of what she'd learned, Second wrinkled her brow in concentration. "The friends of The One will arrive soon. They will do all that..." She hesitated. Her nervousness was causing her to forget the proper term..."the rituals that must be performed..."

"Rituals?" Third interrupted with a frown.

"Do you recall the proper term for the Tau'ri customs in these circumstances?"

Third shrugged. He did know the proper terminology. But Second must recall on her own. If she were ever chosen to speak for them, neither he nor First would be able to help her.

With a deep breath, Second continued. "She who is His Beloved...she must remain on the astral plane until she understands what she must do. His...their friends will not understand this, and may try to force her to return too soon. But, we dare not leave her body vulnerable. We should protect her first," she said at length.

Third smiled. "You have learned much."

"Yes, you have," First said, smiling as well. "Although you must study the language a bit more. We will...hide her...so that none of the others will see her. Only when she is ready to return will we allow her to be found."

Nodding their understanding, Third and Second joined hands with First. And stood silent vigil over the young seer, on whom so much rested.


A  A  A  A  A  A


General Hammond hurried to the control room. "What have you got, Sergeant?"

"Message coming in from the Tok'ra, sir," Walter replied.

He could only hope that his particular message held a bit of good news. SG-1 had left just a few hours earlier, going through the 'gate to the Alpha site, and then ringing up from there to the ship they'd...borrowed. He frowned. No doubt the Tok'ra were wanting to know where their ship was. "Translation?"

"It's from General Carter, sir," Walter said.

Which meant no translation was needed. "What does Jacob have for us?"

The small gray-haired technician gave a broad smile. "It's a 'gate address sir. It was a message from Ba'al's mothership."

The general nearly collapsed; he struggled to keep his knees from buckling with relief. "What else does the message say?"

"Just that the communication burst was only a few seconds long, consisted of two letters and four numbers."

"Can we contact SG-1?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good. Open up communications with the ship they're on. We need to let them know where Doctor Jackson and Casey will be waiting."

Walter grinned. "Yes, sir!"


A  A  A  A  A  A


Jack stared out at the darkness of space. Not that it was really all that dark. Not with all the stars around. He glanced at Carter. She'd wanted to be an astronaut, had been hell-bent on getting to NASA. Into the space program. Then she'd gotten involved in the Stargate program. Her desire to get into space had become a reality, and she'd done it without once being fired from the Kennedy Space Center into orbit on a rickety space shuttle!

When the communications port crackled to life, hope surged through him so hard it rocked him in his seat. He reached over, activated the speaker. "It's your quarter."

"Colonel O'Neill, this is General Hammond."

He sat upright instantly. "Yes, sir?"

"We have an address. A message was sent using the Tok'ra frequency. From Ba'al's ship."

He closed his eyes, ran his hands over his face. Almost afraid to hope. "Where to?"

"P3X 888."

"Not ringing any bells, sir," Jack admitted. Hell, he didn't pay attention to the planet designations during the briefings, he sure couldn't remember them after the fact!

"Unas home world. Where Doctor Jackson discovered the river full of Goa'uld symbiotes." The general had that information only because Walter had pulled it up when searching for the dialing sequence for the planet.


"Jacob is waiting for you, I'm sending coordinates now. You can return the cargo ship, and 'gate to the planet from the Tok'ra base."

"Yes, sir." He turned to face his companions, who'd rushed forward at the sound of the general's voice. "Do your thing, Teal'c."

With a nod, the Jaffa settled into the seat Jack vacated. Sam dropped into the co-pilot's seat. "I have the coordinates," she said quietly.

Hope filled the air around them. If the message had originated from Ba'al's ship, and only Casey and Daniel would know about the computer-designations for the addresses Daniel had found in the Abydonian Cartouche, there could be only one conclusion. The message had to be from them...one of them. All they needed was a chance. A few minutes, a P90 and just enough intel to get them to them to the right spot, Jack thought.

"Everything will be all right..."

The teammates exchanged glances, their thoughts characteristically following the same path. Casey hadn't been wrong yet!


A  A  A  A  A  A


Sarah put her hand to her head. The pain was nearly unbearable now. She tried to smile when Jacob/Selmak entered the room.

"I have brought something for your discomfort," Selmak said softly. She quickly injected the painkiller.

"Thank you," Sarah whispered. "Selmak...I've done something...something...something horrible, haven't I?"

Jacob's head moved from side to side. "No, Sarah. Not you. Osiris."

Gray eyes went wide. "But...I thought...he's dead!"

"Yes, the symbiote known as Osiris is dead," Selmak said slowly, carefully, watching the young woman.

"I don't understand," she whispered.

"We believe that you are suffering from what is known as dissociate dementia," Selmak said.

"Dementia...I'm losing my mind, right?"

"No. But part of you, the part that was most affected by Osiris, seems to have...emerged...as a personality unto itself. It is this...person...who is distinctively different from you, who has caused so much grief."

"What has he...she...what has she done?"

Selmak sighed. Wasn't at all sure that telling Sarah what had happened was a good thing. Jacob had no advice to offer. "Osiris sent the coordinates of the planet where SG-1 were on a mission. To Ba'al. Who in turn hired a bounty hunter to capture Casey Jackson. She has been in Ba'al's custody ever since. About a week ago, Doctor Jackson was captured as well."

Her already pale cheeks went white. "Oh, god! No! Oh, poor Daniel! He...he must truly hate me!"

The pain in Sarah's eyes caught both Selmak and her host off guard. "He hates the person who is responsible."

"Me," Sarah said flatly.

"Osiris," Selmak corrected gently.

"I'll never be free of him, will I?"

Selmak writhed uncomfortably. Jacob shifted as well. "We have hope that we will be able to help you."

Sarah shook her head. "If...Osiris...is able to do things, without me knowing..." Her already wide eyes went wider. "I haven't been sleeping! Osiris has been controlling me!"

"So we believe, yes," Selmak replied.

This was too much. The pain, the physical pain, she'd endured when the symbiote had burrowed into her neck had been excruciating. Within minutes she'd felt the presence...hateful, angry, arrogant. Her body had begun doing things, hurting people; and she'd been unable to stop herself. Then the taunting had begun. When Daniel had arrived for Dr. Jordan's funeral, she'd hoped that he'd be able to help her. She'd screamed for him, begging for his help, but he'd never heard her. She'd wept then, for days it seemed, unable to do more than whisper her love for him each time they were together.

Then she'd flown to Egypt. She'd nearly killed Daniel there. She'd screamed then, too, trying to warn him.

For days the voice taunted her. Then it seemed as if he, for she'd always known that her tormentor was a he, although she wasn't sure how she knew that, had become quiet. Weak. The...being...within her had been...ill. She remembered struggling against him. Actually controlling her body, for almost a full hour at one point. When 'he' had returned, the taunting became cruel. He pulled up every memory, every embarrassing moment, every hurt, everything that had happened to her. And he began to use those memories against her. She learned how to 'hide'. Found that if she remained silent, 'he' would leave her alone.

She'd been fascinated, in a morbid sort of way, to learn that she was on an honest-to-god spaceship. Had watched as 'he' gathered men wearing odd-looking armor. Who called her...no, called him, 'My Lord'. Somehow, she'd known they were speaking an ancient variant of Egyptian. She'd understood every word.

The first 'raid' to procure slaves had left her feeling violently ill, although it wasn't her body that suffered, only...her. She cringed as she remembered taking that young woman into her...no...his...into his chambers. The things he'd forced the young woman to do. Remembered him laughing, and then suddenly feeling her body shiver with an orgasm that left her breathless. She remembered feeling ashamed when that had happened.

"Sarah?" Selmak said softly, reaching out and taking the young woman's hand.

"I'm so sorry," Sarah whispered, tears running down her cheeks. "I didn't want to do those things...but I couldn't stop him, no matter how hard I tried!"

Jacob put his arm around the young woman's shoulders. "You have nothing to apologize for, Sarah," he said gently. "I know this is difficult, but can you tell us if you remember...sleeping...when you were still host to Osiris?"

The young woman frowned. "I always thought he was asleep, too," she admitted. "There were times when it seemed as if we had..."

"Had what?" Jacob asked, when Sarah stopped speaking.

"I thought he did it to confuse me," she whispered. "Sometimes it was as if we'd 'jumped' ahead in time. He'd make plans for something...and then...it was over. I thought he was just tormenting me."

'It seems that you were correct, Jacob. At some point, Sarah's mind shut down, or that part that was 'Sarah' shut down. And this other...personality emerged,' Selmak said.

'And that personality remained hidden when Karinda was blended with Sarah,' Jacob replied.

'From the documents we have read, the personality that became Osiris is the one who...held...or took responsibility for the rage against the Goa'uld. The fear and humiliation of being forced to observe...participate, if you will, in the atrocities that Osiris committed,' Selmak conjectured.

'And at some point, became Osiris. Probably the only way to deal with what was happening,' Jacob concluded.

"Selmak, is Karinda...is Karinda all right?" Sarah asked softly.

"Yes, she is. And she understands that you are not to blame. She was quite worried about you," Selmak replied gently.

"Do you suppose I could talk to her? Just for a moment?"

Selmak smiled. "I'll see if she is otherwise occupied."

"Thank you."

"I know this hasn't been easy for you. I also know that you are beginning to lose control. That part of you that is Osiris is becoming stronger. You must fight her, Sarah. Do not let her win," Selmak admonished.

"I'll do my best," was the nearly whispered reply. Sharp pain shot through her head, and she gasped out loud.

'Uh oh,' Jacob whispered to his symbiote.

Gray eyes flashed with anger. "What have you done?"

"I have done nothing," Selmak replied calmly.

"You've warned her, haven't you?" Sarah's hands reached out, tried to close around Jacob's throat. "You told that weak, pathetic creature about me!"

Selmak casually brushed the woman aside. "You will not win. By now, Casey and Daniel Jackson have been returned to the SGC."

That blonde bitch was with Daniel? If you want the job done right, do it yourself, Osiris fumed angrily. Well, she'd just have to kill the bitch herself! All she needed was a symbiote. And then she'd rule the galaxy! She'd be the god of the First World, and Daniel would stand at her side...She studied Jacob Carter. If she could wound him seriously enough, Selmak would be forced to flee the body...

During the time that Osiris had been thinking, planning, struggling to retain control, Jacob/Selmak had retreated beyond the energy field that held Sarah...and Osiris...prisoner.

"No!" Osiris screeched, racing toward the door. "I will have a symbiote!" she hissed.

"I do not believe so," Selmak replied. And then turned and walked away.

Oh, that one will be the first to die! Osiris thought, as she paced furiously. I have to find a way out of this damned room!


A  A  A  A  A  A


Casey looked around the small courtyard. The house behind her was made of adobe, and consisted of four rooms. The largest was the depth of the house, and about two-thirds of the width, and comprised the main living area. Three smaller rooms for sleeping opened off a narrow hallway, and made up the remainder of the width. The courtyard itself was the width of the house, nearly as deep, and surrounded by a high wall, at least eight feet, she estimated. A small garden lined two of those walls. A fireplace, also made of what appeared to be adobe, was nestled in the corner of the courtyard closest to the wide, open doorway to the house. The chimney was fifteen feet high, taking the smoke and any embers well above the house and courtyard. The area near the fireplace was shaded by a brightly colored canopy, beneath which was a wide bench, with open shelves built into the wall above it. Crockery and storage jars and baskets covered the surface of the bench. A table in front of the fireplace had a scarred surface, and was obviously where meals were prepared. In the center of the courtyard, protected by another brightly colored canopy, was another table. The top was covered with small tiles that depicted a scene...one of pastoral tranquility. It was at this table, seated in one of the four available chairs, where her father sat waiting for her.

"You look lovely, Ishtar," he said softly.

She wore a simple, sleeveless linen shift of pale green, a sash of deep gold around her narrow waist, and a dark green robe. Unlike Nebetah, neither her face nor her hair were covered. Her hair was pulled back, however, and held with a solid gold clasp. "Thank you," she replied.

"I suppose the fact that you're vertical, rather than horizontal, might have something to do with that."

She giggled at the grin that spread over his face. At the look of...happiness...in his eyes as he teased her.

"Your coffee, Dartal," Nebetah said, putting a cup down in front of him. She winked at Casey and placed another cup down as well. "Heavens forbid that either of you face the day without it."

Casey's giggle turned to a full throated laugh. "Are you saying we're grumpy without our morning coffee?"

"That is exactly what I'm saying," the older woman replied. She turned her back to them and hurried back to the outdoor 'kitchen'.

Casey sat down, sipped from the cup. It was strong. She didn't think she liked it this strong...did she? She knew that someone did...she liked sugar and cream as well, he liked his black...He? He who? She watched her father sip from his own cup. Of course! How silly!

"I do not want you to leave our home this day," her father said softly.


"You have just awakened from a very bad fever. I wish for you to remain here."

"But...I have...I have...there are things that must be done," Casey objected. She knew there had to be duties...chores...that she performed daily! She just couldn't remember what they were!

"Not today."

His tone was loving...but firm. She shivered slightly. Crossing this man...her father...wasn't done. She didn't know how she knew that...but she did. She...remembered...that much. Didn't she?


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It was all they could do to keep from bouncing where they stood as they waited for the dialing sequence to be completed. Jack tightened and relaxed his grip on the P90 in his hands, clenching and unclenching his fingers, ready to dash through the event horizon as soon as it stabilized.

Teal'c stood at the ready, his staff weapon held in position to fire should there be a need to do so. Hope swelled in his chest...hope that this would not be yet another disappointment. Hope that when he and his teammates ran through the Chappa'ai, Daniel and Casey Jackson would be waiting on the other side. He'd gladly listen to Casey complain about how long it had taken them to mount a rescue, and the fact that she'd had to 'rescue herself', as she had the last time Ba'al had taken her.

"Eyes open," Jack said quietly.

Sam watched the final chevron lock into place. Could barely wait long enough for the initial 'whoosh' to settle before she was running forward. Jack and Teal'c were right beside her.

The area in front of the 'gate was dark...saturated with blood. Jack narrowed his eyes, scanned the area around them. Sam was doing the same thing.

"O'Neill," Teal'c said quietly. He pointed to a second area that was obviously covered with blood.

"Well, hell," Jack muttered. He motioned with the muzzle of his P90 at the path of flattened grass, the blood that stained it here and there. "It looks as if somebody was dragged."


Carefully, P90's ready, afraid that the Unas had managed to capture Daniel again, and Casey as well, the three followed the trail.

"Oh, god!" Sam's cry of dismay echoed around them. She'd found Daniel.

"Son-of-a-bitch!" Jack exclaimed. "Sam, get that 'gate open! Tell the general we need a back board. And see if he can't send another team through. We'll need the help. Teal'c, look around. See if you can find Casey. She must have dragged him here, to keep him out of sight." The two hurried to do as ordered. He reached out gingerly, as if to take the archaeologist's pulse, pulled his hand back instead. Tears filled his eyes. He glanced around. She must be falling apart, he thought worriedly. "Where the hell are you, Radar?"

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