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Parallel-o-gram 

Chapter 3

Ba'al stretched his fingers, calling attention to the ribbon device that was wrapped around his hand. Smirked when the man flinched slightly. "You are certain that she is there?"

The spy shook his head. "I do not know if she is still there. Only that she was there the day before the celebration ceremony. Those I talked to remembered her well."

Of that he had no doubt. Casey Jackson was not a woman easily forgotten. His own battered heart was proof of that fact. He glanced at the young blonde who waited at his feet. One of the girls from the harem. He couldn't remember her name half the time. He'd taken to calling her 'Shan'da', simply because that was a name he could remember. He'd chosen her because she reminded him of the woman who would be his consort. As soon as he could find Casey, again, he would not wait to perform the Purification Ceremony. He'd take her as his own, make her his queen. And keep her at his side forever.

The new lo'taur had managed to concoct a perfume that closely resembled that of the bewitching Tau'ri. Her eyes were green as well, and with enough wine, he could pretend that she was the woman he loved. As long as she didn't speak, the illusion allowed him to ease the ache in his balls, if not the pain in his heart. Hers was nothing like the soft, sultry voice of his Beloved. In fact, her nasal whine grated his nerves. She'd learned quickly, however, to remain silent. Moans were allowed. But not speaking. The bruises that colored her face as a result of that brutal lesson were nearly gone now.

"There is more," the spy said nervously.

Ba'al lifted an eyebrow, gave a barely perceptible nod.

"The Tau'ri known as SG-1 infiltrated the palace of Lord Ares. When Ares captured the one known as Daniel Jackson, apparently to add him to the group of men that he...indulges with...Casey Jackson shot him. In the groin."

He could visualize the scene. Ares preparing to fuck Daniel Jackson. Casey racing in...He burst into laughter. He knew that his future queen had a temper to rival his own. Ares had learned first hand how fiery that temper could be.

"There have been whispers that Ares plans to capture both Daniel Jackson, and Casey Jackson. He wishes Daniel Jackson to be the host of Thanatos, his friend and Beloved. He wishes the seer for his own purposes," the spy continued.

Another thought struggled to be recognized, shoved its way to the forefront of his mind. The perfect solution. "You have done well."

The spy smiled, bowed low before his god.

With the wave of his hand, Ba'al signaled that Ryk'teal should pay the man. When the jingling bag was tucked inside his shirt, the man bowed again. "Continue to monitor the palace. Let me know if there is any mention of the Tau'ri in general, or SG-1 in particular," Ba'al instructed the spy.

"Yes, My Lord."

"And see to it that Habib is paid for his...cooperation."

"Yes, My Lord."

"Tell him that he serves me well, and I will see to it that a place is found in my temples for him."

"Yes, My Lord."

With another wave of his hand, the spy was dismissed. All of the information had been interesting, and most useful. It had suited his purpose to announce his arrival to Thracia. He'd even gone so far as to make arrangements to meet with Ares. But he'd waited until receiving the report from the spy who walked among Ares' servants and slaves.

It seemed that Ares was as foolhardy as ever. Too much love of battle, be it on a field of war, or in his bedchambers. No doubt Daniel Jackson would have provided ample entertainment.

Reports from another spy among Ares' servants had arrived as well. That man also reported that Ares was in fact determined to see to it that his lover, Thanatos, inhabited the body of Daniel Jackson. It was the perfect solution to his problem. Casey would be devastated at first, to know that the man she loved no longer existed. The spy also insisted that Ares had every intention of keeping Casey for himself as well. But it would never happen. Ares could take Daniel Jackson, and good riddance. But Casey, his Beloved...no, Ba'al would destroy anyone, and anything, who tried to take her from him again. When he'd captured SG-1, he would offer Jackson in exchange for the loyalty of the Goa'uld known as Ares.

A third report made its way to him. His eyes widened in surprise. Ares had never before been so...careless! It seemed that all of his ships had Jaffa coming and going from the surface, attending that pitiful ceremony marking his return, then celebrating in the streets of the city. Ba'al was never one to pass up an opportunity. This particular opportunity had dropped into his lap. It was all he could do to hide his excitement. "Ryk'teal!"

 

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Ares heaved an impatient sigh. He was in a foul mood, still waiting for Ba'al to make an appearance after signaling his request for a meeting. The damned Goa'uld had yet to actually show up! Word from his spies had him contemplating an alliance with Ba'al; for the moment he was the most powerful System Lord in the galaxy. And had access to resources that Ares could sorely use.

Habib had reported to Tem that several of his priests were reporting directly to Kinsey, and seemed to be taking orders from the Tau'ri pet as well. It was a situation that needed to be dealt with immediately. It was also the only situation that, for the moment, Ares had any sort of control over. Tem had already decided which of his loyal followers, located in canopic jars in the Temple of Tem on Menes, would have the honor of taking Kinsey as a host. The jar had been sent for. Had arrived. It was time that the Taking occur. "You have waited long enough. The selection has been made. Bring the Goa'uld forth!"

Tem took a hesitant step backwards. "I don't think-"

"That's your problem, Tem, you don't think!" Ares growled. He turned to Habib. "Take the canopic jar to the temple. The one that holds Mehen. We will meet you there."

"Yes, My Lord."

Tem frowned, but said nothing.

"You! Find Kinsey! Bring him here immediately," Ares ordered one of the nearby servants. The man bowed and fled from the room.

"He was such a loyal pet," Tem sighed. "I hope Mehen will like sucking cock as much as he does."

It was all he could do to keep from wrapping his hands around the man's throat and snapping his neck. Obsessed with building his own version of an empire; addicted to sex, particularly the very rough variety, Tem had become a simpering, whiny fool. Ares detested fools of any kind. And his patience was fast running out. As soon as he was certain that there was no more to be learned, he'd rid the universe of the fool known as Tem. "Prochoros!...PROCHOROS!"

The priest ran into the room. "You called, My Lord?" He barely avoided saying 'bellowed'.

"Go to the temple. Prepare for a Taking. We will be there within the half hour."

So Ares was finally going to rid himself of the annoyance of Kinsey, the old priest thought. He knew for certain it had nothing to do with the fact that the Tau'ri tried at every turn to regain the respect and adoration of Tem, and everything to do with the fact that Kinsey seemed to be building his own network of spies. "Yes, My Lord. All will be ready."

"See that it is. And make certain that all of the priests who serve in my temple are present."

"Yes, My Lord." He scurried from the room. Again, Prochoros nodded mentally. This would no doubt put an end to the rumors of the priests who plotted to overthrow their god, in an attempt to return control of Thracia to their own hands. Perhaps now Ares would pay more attention to what was going on outside of the walls of his palace, and less about what was happening within his bed chamber.

A few moments later Kinsey entered the room, following the servant sent to fetch him. The look of suspicion on his face indicated that while he was certain that something was wrong, he didn't have a clue what was about to happen to him.

"Come," Ares demanded gruffly, pushing past the man. He didn't bother to look to see if Tem followed, knowing that the Goa'uld was damned near as obedient as a pet himself. It would have been more...convenient...to just open the damned jar and let Mehen take Kinsey on the spot. But having returned to Thracia, he needed to re-establish control completely. And that meant a public display of the power of the gods. All who were near the temple would be ushered to the main chamber, where they would observe as their god 'granted' powers similar to his own, to the humble human who had the honor of being chosen. It had been far too long since such a display had occurred. No doubt the local priests would rethink their treacherous ways after witnessing the true strength of their 'god'.

 

 

 

Prochoros hurried into the temple, calling out that Ares was on his way. He rushed through the blessings that would sanctify the altar. Helped the younger priests put the stone slab over the deep pit that served to consume the sacrifices made to Ares in flames of holy fire. He sent word that all those nearby were to be brought to the chamber, and that all priests and priestesses were to attend as well. No one, he informed the temple priest, was to be absent from their gods' presence.

The grumbling was kept to a minimum, and certainly out of the earshot of Ares' High Priest. None of those involved had ever seen a Taking. Had only heard about the ceremony. The youngest of the neophytes had yet to even learn about the rite. Not one of them understood what was about to happen. All would learn what true terror was by the time the ritual ended.

Ares led the procession up the wide steps. None who watched could deny the power that rolled off of him as he strode forward, his cape fluttering dramatically behind him. Tem followed, and Habib and Kinsey trailed after their master, the priest holding the arm of the Tau'ri.

Kinsey looked around worriedly. He was well aware of the fact that something was about to happen. He just didn't have a clue what would transpire within the walls of the temple of the Goa'uld he considered his enemy, even if his Beloved Tem did not. The old priest had proven to be no source of information, something he'd become accustomed to, as more and more the spies reported directly to him, rather than Habib. Nor had he bothered to hide that fact from the priest. That had been his fatal mistake, although it would be some time before he realized it as such.

The interior of the wide, open-roofed chamber was filled with followers, believers, and those who simply followed along, playing the game and mouthing the platitudes that afforded them a life of relative ease. All dropped to their knees, lowered their eyes respectfully as their god passed them. They did, however, sneak glances at the men who followed.

Prochoros also knelt as Ares approached the altar. Stood to his feet when beckoned to do so. He held out the canopic jar, which Ares took with a flourish. The Goa'uld turned to those assembled. "I, Ares, your god, have chosen to bestow the blessings of godhood upon one I have found worthy. I bring forth the power that is Goa'uld. And I bless the one known as Kinsey. Step forward, ye who have been deemed worthy."

Worry filled his mind. There were no distinct memories of Goa'uld. He understood that both Tem and Ares claimed to be such. He had no idea what a Goa'uld really was. He did know instinctively that he was in danger.  Kinsey struggled for a moment, wrenching his arm free from the vise-like grip of the old priest, only to have both arms taken by younger priests of the Temple of Ares, and led forward to the altar.

With a nod from Ares, Prochoros stepped forward, pulled a knife from the inner pocket of his robe, and began methodically cutting the clothes from the trembling man. In just a few minutes, the one known as Kinsey will be no more, he thought. Which neither alarmed the priest, nor pleased him. It simply...was.

Once he was naked, Kinsey was turned to face the audience who watched with silent, rapt attention. His training helped him deal with his public nakedness. It did not, however, ease the fear that was starting to grow.

"Bid farewell to Kinsey as he was," Ares said, taking the pitcher of water that waited on the altar, and pouring it over the man's head. "Even as this water washes away the dust of his travels, so does my grace wash away all the impurities of his heart."

Following the instructions of the High Priest, Kinsey was put onto the altar, face down, his arms and legs held by strong, young priests. He struggled, the animal instinct for survival kicking into full blown panic mode. Ares frowned, twisted the large ruby stone in the ring he wore, and ran it over the man's bare shoulder. Within seconds the sedative had the desired effect. Kinsey ceased fighting, although he remained conscious.

Ares held the canopic jar above his head. "Within this sacred vessel is the power, the strength that is Goa'uld. Known as Mehen, let it take that which is offered, making the one once known as Kinsey greater than he was."

He held the jar over the naked back of the man lying on the altar. He broke the seal, dumped the Goa'uld symbiote onto its host. The liquid that had sustained life dripped off Kinsey's sides, ran down between his buttocks and pooled beneath his body, causing him to shiver slightly. For several seconds the creature lay there, as if stunned. The head raised, the gaping maw opened and began hissing and screeching.

The air was filled with screams of pain as the writhing eel-like creature attached itself to the back of the man's neck. Within minutes those closest to the altar could see the blood that began to flow. It took nearly ten minutes for the symbiote to be completely inside the body of its new host, a sure sign that it was still in a weakened state from its time in stasis. The screams continued for another three minutes. Then the eyes of the man on the altar closed. When they opened, they glowed from within, with the power of a god.

Gasps echoed throughout the chamber. Several of Ares' priests trembled with fear. Obviously being 'blessed' by the gods was not something to be desired! They had no way of knowing, at least, not from the demonstration they'd witnessed, that it was a fate worse than death; that the man, or woman, chosen as a host remained a prisoner, trapped in his or her own mind for millennia, until the Goa'uld within deigned to take another poor soul.

Tem watched passively, sighing inwardly. He'd never have another pet as loyal, as talented, as Kinsey had been. His gaze moved over Ares. He had no need of the pet. Not now. Not with his Beloved at his side.

Ares' own eyes flashed as he looked toward the group of priests who stood gathered to his right. "Know that I am Ares! I am your god! I have the power to grant life, or take life! You serve me, as is your duty. Serve me well, and you will enjoy the bountiful blessings that flow from my hand. Fail me, and I will snuff out your life as easily as I do a candle!"

Murmurs moved over the assembled crowd. The first exhibition of the power of the Goa'uld in more than five thousand years left them trembling with fear. And resigned to the fact that their lives were not their own. In that moment, they recognized their yoke of slavery to the god known as Ares.

 

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It was terrifying. The pain had been excruciating, but he'd suffered almost as badly at Tem's hand when he'd failed to obey as commanded. That pain was gone now. But he could feel the presence in his mind. Knew that he was no longer alone in his thoughts. His body moved, although he wasn't the one moving it. A robe of deep blue was brought out, and wrapped around his shivering frame. The chill he'd felt briefly disappeared. He could feel the softness of the silk against his skin, yet...it was as if someone else was running their fingers over the material on his arm. He could feel the silk beneath his fingertips, the pressure of the touch. But...the touch itself...he shook his head. Or at least, he thought he had, although what he could see didn't shift as it should have if his head had been moving back and forth.

"Welcome back, Mehen," Tem said softly.

Thoughts not his own raced forward. "It has been a very long time, hasn't it?"

The voice was his...sort of. There was that odd, duel quality to it. The same as Tem and Ares. Tem no longer tried to hold back that strange modulation in his voice. Kinsey shifted nervously. Although he realized instantly that his body hadn't moved.

"Yes, it has. Things have changed greatly, my old friend," Tem said. "We have much to discuss. Much to do."

When his eyes swung toward Ares, Kinsey could feel the surprise. No, it was shock that moved through his mind. More thoughts not his own rushed around him, too quickly for him to focus on. "You have returned from exile?" his voice asked.

"I have," Ares replied firmly.

"Then Ra must live no longer." Images of others, names that he didn't recognize floated through his consciousness.

Kinsey struggled, trying in vain to regain control of his body. He felt as if he were being watched, looked around worriedly.

'You no longer exist,' a voice hissed in his ear. 'I, your god, have taken this body in which you once dwelt. You are nothing, only a whisper, a memory.'

No, Kinsey thought frantically. That isn't true!

'It is true! All that you knew, I know. All that you were, is gone.'

'If that's true,' he shouted, 'why am I still here?'

The sound of an angry hiss echoed in his head. Glimpses of memories, images he could vaguely identify, events he could almost recall began to move through his mind. The...entity...seemed to be studying them. Why did that thought terrify him so? Fill him with such dread, and an impending sense of...betrayal? Whom had he betrayed, and how?

The Goa'uld stretched luxuriously. It had been so long, so very long. Punished by Ra for assisting Tem with his plans, Mehen had been crudely, painfully ripped from his host. No doubt the human had died in agony. Immediately placed into the canopic jar, all stimulation ceased. Darkness. Silence.

Kinsey could feel the creature searching his mind. Looking for what, he had no idea. He did his best to hide as much as possible. He began to gather the memories he could recognize; even those he didn't he pulled closer. Pushed them down as far as possible, there for him to examine later, safe from the scrutiny of the presence that had invaded his mind, his body. He could feel his body moving...walking, they were walking. It was an odd, disconcerting feeling, to not have control of his own body.

 

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Ba'al paced anxiously. If Casey was on Thracia, then no doubt all of SG-1 would be. He'd capture them, strike his deal with Ares. And he would allow her to witness the Taking. When Thanatos was in control of Daniel Jackson, she would be willing to remain at his side. She would grieve, no doubt. A heart like hers cared deeply. But she wouldn't grieve forever. Nor would he allow her to do so. The scientist...Major Carter. He had loyal Goa'uld in need of new hosts. Her training, the information hidden in her mind would be most useful. She would serve well. The shol'va would serve as a lesson to any Jaffa who had thoughts of betraying their god. And Colonel O'Neill...he smiled grimly. There were many things he could do to the Tau'ri. Making him a slave was the kindest.

The young blonde, 'Shan'da', as he called her, waited on the bed, her green eyes wide with fear. Her god had been angry for months. In the harem she'd been able to hide from him. Although her sisters in slavery had insisted that it was a great honor that he'd chosen her to serve as his lo'taur, she'd been terrified.

When he took her, thrusting into her body with anger, he would whisper the name of the woman he'd taken as his consort. The woman that a traitor among his Jaffa had stolen from him. She did her best to please her god. Including remaining silent. Whenever she forgot, whenever she spoke, his fist would forcefully remind her.

She shivered. Being taken from her home had been horrifying...seeing her family killed, her brothers taken to the slave pens, her father tortured until he told the Jaffa all that they sought to know. She'd been taken to Ba'al, and then sent to the harem. Several of the Goa'uld on the ship loyal to the System Lord had been given permission to use her at will. And they had. A virgin when she'd arrived, her first experience had left her with scars on her body and her mind. The Goa'uld had used the healing device on her, the physical wounds no longer remained. Those on her mind would never heal.

He looked at the lo'taur. "You will bathe. I will watch."

'Shan'da' sighed. It was one of the least...offensive...things that he demanded of her. She'd performed often enough that she automatically dipped her head slightly, allowing her hair to partially cover her face. She filled the ornate gold tub with water, carefully adding the oil that her master preferred. An unusual, but pleasing mixture of floral extracts and vanilla.

"Yes," Ba'al whispered, his hand moving over his erection as he watched her settle into the water. Her hands moved over her breasts, one disappeared into the water, moved rhythmically. With his eyes half closed, he could pretend that it was Casey, sitting there as she had, doing what he'd asked of her.

The first time she'd washed, she had continued until Ba'al had reached his climax, then crawled out of the water in order to bathe him, as was her duty. He'd slapped her, telling her that she was not to leave the gold tub until she had cried out. She'd never touched herself before. Now...she closed her eyes. It was the only time that her body responded to any such stimulation. She found that she quite...enjoyed...the activity. Her soft moan of pleasure filled the air, just seconds before the Goa'uld groaned. His voice whispered the familiar name. She was surprised when he smiled at her.

"You have done well. I will reward your faithfulness." He held out his hand. When she stepped from the water, he handed her the thick towel. "Join me when you have used the lotion you created."

With a nod of understanding, 'Shan'da' watched him move into the bedchamber. He was being uncharacteristically kind tonight. It was confusing. And a bit frightening. Was he being gentle only because he was going to kill her? She shivered. It didn't matter. Death would be preferable to the hell she found herself dwelling in.

"Come. Do not fear me," Ba'al said softly. He could smell the aroma of spring flowers and vanilla. It wasn't exactly like Casey's sweet scent, but it was close. He could close his eyes, and make himself believe that the body he touched was that of the woman he loved.

'Shan'da' trembled slightly as she settled onto the bed beside her god. He never kissed her. Never. His lips against hers startled her. He was well practiced in the art of making love, and she found herself responding automatically. There was a sense of...loss, of disappointment when he withdrew. She closed her eyes when his hand began to caress her breasts, gently...tenderly. Opened them when she felt the soft touch of his lips against her skin.

Her breasts were small, pert...not the round, firm orbs of his Beloved. But the lo'taur had been obedient. And he longed to make love. He wasn't like most other Goa'uld, he preferred making love to rape. Gentleness with the woman in his arms rather than domination. He took great pleasure in making his lovers writhe and moan with ecstasy.

Unlike every other night in this bed, 'Shan'da' found herself aroused. Found herself responding to the gentleness. The caresses. She moaned softly.

"Enjoy, little one," Ba'al whispered. Smiled at the shiver that moved over the body beside him.

Green eyes fluttered closed. And she gave herself over to the tenderness bestowed upon her.

Ba'al took his time. Made love to the lo'taur. Believing that it would be the last time that he would do so. Convinced that within a matter of hours, Casey Jackson would be lying beside him, submitting willingly to his advances. Loving him as he loved her.

 

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Ares watched as Tem stood talking to Mehen. The two were scheming again, as if the preceding millennia hadn't even existed. There was no doubt that so much time in a canopic jar had had a negative effect on Mehen. The Goa'uld would be angry. Bitter. Dangerous.

He smiled grimly. Wondered how Mehen would react when he learned that Tem had told Ra that the conspiracy against him had been the work of Hathor, Seth...and Mehen. Tem had served his purpose. Ares was weary of dealing with the Goa'uld who had been nothing more than a passing fling, so long ago. A means of collecting information about Ra. He motioned to Prochoros. "Send a woman...no, two, to my bedchambers. And see to it that I am not disturbed."

The High Priest smiled. At last! His master would at last attend to more pressing matters than fucking that fool known as Tem. "Yes, My Lord."

With a snort of derision in the direction of the two Goa'uld still talking across the room, Ares rose and left. Eager to feel the passion of two supple young bodies. He was not there to witness the look of betrayal, of anger; the tears of a spurned lover in Tem's eyes when the cries of passion echoed throughout the palace.

 

 

 

Kinsey continued to listen. It was all he could do. He was finding it difficult to 'see', as Mehen grew ever stronger. He could feel the Goa'uld - for he understood that the entity inside his body, controlling it, was a parasitical creature thus named - searching; looking for his memories, an attempt to learn all the he knew. When those memories began to make sense to him, he carefully hid them. He wasn't sure how he was doing it, or even what he was doing that made the chemical and electrical impulses...unavailable...to his tormentor. Only that he able to do so. Knowing that it infuriated the creature within him filled him with peevish delight.

Mehen could feel the meager human moving. Knew that somehow he'd managed to hide the most important of his memories, information that would give Tem the key to attacking and taking the First World. Much had changed, he'd learned. The mighty Ra was dead. All of the Goa'uld had been banished from that planet by rebellious slaves. It was amusing to know that the Tau'ri had banded together and effectively organized against their gods. He would never believe that they'd done so without the help of outside forces. Unarmed slaves, regardless of how many there might have been, were no match for their Goa'uld masters, particularly those Goa'uld who commanded large, well-trained armies of Jaffa.

He cast a glance over his shoulder. Caught the gaze of Ares, who gave him a lazy, predatory smile, his robe barely closed, one of the women from the harem still at his side. It was obvious that Ares was letting Tem know that no longer would he share the bed of the much more powerful Goa'uld. There was something else, something more...sinister...in the looks that Ares tossed languidly in Tem's direction.

Mehen had never been more than just a minor Goa'uld. He had served Ra until Tem had convinced him to join in the movement against the iron-fisted tyrant. Tem, he'd discovered in just a few minutes of conversation, had gone mad. No doubt his 'imprisonment' alone on the First World, left without any of the devices of his godhood, was responsible. Mehen was first and foremost a survivor. Serving Tem would bring him nothing but grief.

Ares caught the look. "Tem, why don't you see to arrangements for our meal."

Tem's eyes glowed, he tossed his head haughtily. He was seething silently as he attempted to ignore the woman at his lover's side. Was too arrogant to realize that Ares hadn't bedded the woman in a fit of jealousy over his attention to Mehen. Had been too long from the company of other Goa'uld to understand the implications. "Am I now your servant?"

"Go!"

Taken aback by the sudden danger that lurked in those brown eyes, Tem nodded slightly. "As you wish."

Mehen watched the Goa'uld walk away. "The Tem I knew would have ordered you killed before submitting to serving in such a way."

"The Tem you knew has long since perished. All that is left is a twisted, sex-crazed cock-sucker," Ares replied easily.

Mehen pulled in a gasp of air. "You would dare to speak of the son of Ra in such a way?"

"He kneels before me, presents his ass as if he were a slave. He does as he is told." Ares could see the revulsion that flashed in blue eyes. "He also trains his 'pets' in the most brutal fashion."

"Ah. A trick learned no doubt from Ba'al," Mehen said slowly.

Ares jerked slightly. "He was allied with Ba'al?"

Mehen pulled Kinsey's face into a smile. "No. But he did steal the ideas for breaking slaves, creating mindless drones who obeyed without thought. They weren't good for anything but the simplest of tasks, but there are many of those to be performed in order to offer us the life that we have accustomed ourselves to, are there not?"

Ares simply nodded his acknowledgment. He studied the man once known as Kinsey. "I will take the First World. I will have the seer known as Casey Jackson at my side. Her husband will be a most suitable host for Thanatos."

"Yes, Tem told me what you are planning," Mehen replied.

"And no doubt he is making plans of his own."

"No doubt."

"I will kill him."

"I have no doubt of this, either. Perhaps it would be a...kindness. He is not the Goa'uld he once was."

"He was never the Goa'uld that he had convinced others that he was. He was a sneak, a liar, and a thief. That Ra didn't kill him in a fit of rage still puzzles me."

"Have you never been a father?" Mehen asked softly.

Ares had sired numerous children, the results of his dalliances with human females. He'd even given his essence to a Goa'uld who had bred dozens of symbiotes. Not once had he claimed any of his offspring. "No."

"Then you would not understand. You have your plans in place, I take it."

"I am working on it, yes."

"Am I to be given a choice, or was I released from that jar only to be killed alongside of my former...Master?" The word still rankled. It still angered him that he'd been lowered to the rank of priest, rather than being worshipped as a god himself. He had, however, not been able to rally enough support to overthrow even Tem, in order to establish himself as the god he was.

"Tem chose you, I did not. I merely wanted to be rid of the human annoyance known as Kinsey."

"So it is merely the luck of the draw that I stand here."

"It is. I suppose it was a matter of his guilt, goading him to free you at last," Ares said, watching carefully. "It was Tem who informed Ra of the rebellion among the Goa'uld. It was Tem who named Hathor, and Seth, and...you, as the masterminds behind the plots."

This was not the most pleasant of things to hear. Tem had said only that he'd chosen one who'd been his closest friend. Not that Mehen had ever considered Tem a friend. An ally of sorts, but never a friend. He hadn't trusted Tem then. He had even less of a reason to trust him now, it seemed. No doubt Tem had learned that Ra suspected. Perhaps Ra had even approached his son about the whispers and rumors. And coward that he was, Tem had betrayed them all. "What would you have me do?"

Ares smiled. The action held no warmth or mirth, but was instead the look of an animal poised to kill. "You, Mehen, will kill Tem."

"And how am I to do this?"

"That is for you to decide. I want it done by sundown tomorrow."

"That leaves me very little time."

"How much time do you need? It is a simple task. Kill Tem."

Mehen frowned. "As you wish," he murmured. He wouldn't deny that the thought of exacting his revenge on the one responsible for his imprisonment was most...pleasing.

Tem, who had been standing in the corridor, hidden from sight by one of the large, ornate pillars that lined the passageway, shuddered. He slipped away, gathering any of his slaves who happened to be nearby as he went. His ship was in orbit. He would find Habib, and they'd ring up together. The priest had tried to warn him. So had Kinsey. He felt a stab of regret. Kinsey. What a wonderful pet he had been!

 

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Ba'al settled onto this throne. "Contact Ares. Tell him I am ready to see him now."

The Jaffa at the communications console nodded, and obeyed.

Ares' face filled the window in front of him. "Well, I see you finally deign to respond to my inquiry," he sneered.

"There were other, more important matters that required my attention," Ba'al replied lazily, secretly pleased at the flash of yellow light in the Goa'uld's eyes. "Shall I ring down, or would you prefer to meet here, where those who plot and scheme against you cannot overhear?"

Again Ares' eyes flashed. "There are none here who plot against me!"

"Then you are more of a fool than ever," Ba'al replied. "Your own priests plot your destruction. It seems that your return has removed the reins of control from their hands, and they are most unhappy at the development."

Prochoros had whispered that there were those in his temple who wished to see their god, if not dead, then certainly gone from Thracia. Ares looked down his nose at Ba'al. "Those who would conspire against their god will die most horribly."

"I'm certain they will," Ba'al replied, allowing his amusement to show.

It would be most difficult to kill Ba'al on his own ship. But it wasn't impossible. Nor was Ares willing to allow anyone to overhear what plans might be discussed between him and Ba'al, especially mere human priests. "I will come to you."

Ba'al could barely hide his delight. He sent word to Ryk'teal. As soon as Ares was on board, the First Prime was to send Jaffa to the city below to search for SG-1. He'd made certain that it was understood that all were to be brought to him...alive.


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