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Sand in an Hourglass

Chapter 9

They expected to see Jaffa waiting for them when the doors opened. They had their weapons up and ready to fire. They weren't prepared to come face to face with Ba'al and his personal guard. Staff weapons were charged and ready. And pointed right at them.

"Shit!" Jack swore. No way did he want to let his kids get killed. Ba'al might dissect them. Or just as bad, maybe even worse...find out about their little secret.

The Goa'uld smirked at the intruders. He knew who they were. He would be the only Goa'uld able to hold them, this group known as SG-1; he would be the one to finally be rid of the Tau'ri who had killed so many System Lords. He motioned with his hand toward Daniel. The closest Jaffa took Casey from the man's arms. "You will learn that you cannot take that which belongs to me," Ba'al said calmly.

"She doesn't belong to you," Daniel growled, his hands curled into fists.

"Ah, but she does. And now, it seems, so do you. Take them to the holding cells." Ba'al turned around, and walked away, the Jaffa carrying Casey following closely.

Daniel fought down a wave of panic. Okay, he thought to himself, we're on the same ship. Ba'al isn't going to leave with her, and not take us, we're too valuable to him...

"We'll get out of this, Daniel," Jack said softly, as the Goa'uld took their weapons, and began to herd them toward the detention area of the ship. "We'll all be home in no time."

The archaeologist nodded numbly. Yeah. Home. Where he'd never again go against his first instincts when it came to her. No matter what she said.

Sam was suddenly yanked sideways, two Jaffa taking her down a different corridor. "Watch it, tin man!" she hissed. Couldn't help but grin mentally. Jack and Casey had definitely been bad influences on her.

"Hey! Let her go!" Jack demanded. He tried to push past one of the Jaffa to reach her. A large fist connected with his jaw, sent him flying back against the wall. He pushed forward again, only to be held by two Jaffa, one on each side, while a third used him as a punching bag.

"No!" Daniel shouted, trying to reach the Jaffa who was beating Jack. He was also held back by two Jaffa, half a dozen body blows dropping him to his knees.

"Jack!" Sam screamed, tugging against the Jaffa who held her. "Don't fight them! They'll kill you!"

The fear in her voice filtered through to him, the danger of allowing them to kill him sinking into his consciousness. The older man slumped between his captors.

"I'll find Casey, we'll get you out of there, then we'll blow this joint," she continued, forcing herself to smile.

"Good plan, Major," Jack said, coughing. He spit blood from his battered lip to the floor.

Teal'c had remained impassive...due to the fact that three staff weapons were aimed directly at his head. But he'd been able to observe the altercation. And had seen the slip of a woman who'd watched, half hidden behind a support beam. She vanished from his sight when his attention was pulled back to his teammates.

Daniel and Jack were dragged the rest of the way to the holding cell.


A  A  A  A  A  A


Sam had expected to be taken to the harem. She was, after all, she thought peevishly, just a woman. She was taken instead to a laboratory. She looked around carefully, noted that there were several computers, or what she believed to be computers, in consoles in a semi-circle in the middle of the room. Her next panicked thought was that somehow Ba'al had discovered that SG-1 was Immortal, and they were going to experiment on her. It was possible, they had no way of knowing what information Ba'al had been able to retrieve from Casey's mind. Teal'c was convinced that while under the influence of the ker'nish'ta, she wouldn't have remembered anything of her life before becoming a slave, and so could have, and would have, told the Goa'uld nothing. According to Casey's own report, of all that she could remember, Ba'al had been more interested in knowing what the Tau'ri knew about Tem's ships, and about the drug that Hathor had created.

She was pushed into a chair, her hands tied to the arms, her ankles tied together. And then she was left alone. Her heart beat a tattoo of fear against her ribs. The team was captive, and being held on different parts of the ship. At the moment, Casey wasn't even coherent enough to attempt escape. Jack, Daniel, and Teal'c would be carefully guarded. Oh, this was just not good!


A  A  A  A  A  A


Casey was tossed onto the bed. Ba'al ran his hand over her cheek, then slapped her. "When I return, my pet, you will pay for your insolence. You will learn that I am your master. Your god. You will do as I say. And you will please me, Beautiful One." The memory of her oral ministrations to his aroused body made him shiver. "Oh, yes," he whispered, "you will please me!"

In his haste to be in his throne room before Yu arrived, Ba'al had neglected to tie his prisoner. As much ker'nish'ta as he'd given her, no doubt the Goa'uld would expect her to remain barely conscious for the hour or so he would grant his enemy. It was a mistake he would live to regret.

The door closed behind him as he swept out of the room, followed by his personal guards. She rolled her eyes. Her body, aided by her Immortality, had been working against the drug in her system. Deep breath. That always helped to calm her. Nice deep breaths. It was better if she were taking them in the shower, safe in Daniel's arms, the warm water flowing over them...She sat straight up. Daniel! She had to find a way to let him know where she was!

She looked around. The first thing she noticed was the way she was dressed. "Good grief," she grumbled irritably. Why in the hell was she always half naked when she was in situations like this? Daniel would have an absolute fit if he could see her like this. Well, after he got past the rush of lust - a thought that brought a soft giggle. She moved carefully around the large room. She opened a chest. Found a box that seemed familiar. Opened it up, and gasped. "Oh, hell!"

Another glance around, to make certain that she could see no one, and no one could see her, before she gathered the vials together. She took them to the bed, and one by one, emptied the contents onto the satin coverlet. "I hope it stains!" she hissed.

Now, a weapon. She needed something to protect herself with. "Come on, snakeface, you have to have something I can use!"

Shanda watched from behind the curtains. It had been hard not to give herself away when the woman had so boldly emptied out the potion that was used during training. She didn't understand what the woman was saying. She did know that she was searching for something. This woman was an enemy of her Master...yet...if the Master succeeded in 'training' her, she could become most favored. She'd seen the Master's eyes, his face, as he looked at the woman, caressed her. He was quite taken with her. This woman was a threat to her! The young slave had been captured before her sixteenth birthday. Had been trained in the harem, where she'd spent three years. She'd been Ba'al's lo'taur for two years. She had no desire to return to the harem.

Casey felt the 'prickle' of being watched. Okay, Teal'c and Jack said to never let an observing enemy know that you were aware of them. She continued to search through the drawers of the cabinet. She tried to 'isolate' the feeling. To see if she could 'sense' where the observer was. Not easy to do. But she thought maybe that corner...With a sigh, she slammed the last drawer closed. Whirled around. And came face to face a young woman who was dressed in a similar silk chemise. And who was holding one very wicked looking knife. "Do you really want to use that?"

Shanda stopped, her eyes went wide. This woman spoke the language of the gods! But her words earlier had been in a very strange language! "I will not return to the harem! I will remain lo'taur!"

"Hey, I don't want the job, trust me! What I want is to get the hell out of here!"

The young slave frowned. "Ba'al is the mightiest of gods. It is an honor to serve him! How could you not see this?"

"He's not a god...he's a freaking parasite inside of an innocent body!" Casey exploded. "And I'm going to kill the bastard as soon as I find him!"

"No!" Shanda lunged, determined to bury the knife in heart of this woman who would harm her Master. She had no fear of his anger...as soon as he learned of the treachery, she would be rewarded.

She jumped back, managed to move to the side, and thanks to the training Jack and Teal'c had insisted that she receive, was able to disarm the young woman with very little effort. "Now," Casey said, a bit breathless from the exertion, "you're going to tell me everything I want to know."

"I will not!" Shanda hissed.

Casey studied the young woman. "You love him," she said softly.

Brown eyes went wide again, then the young woman nodded. "He is a great god. He is also a gentle god, when he so chooses to be."

"What's your name?"

"I am called Shanda."

"I'm Casey. And I really, really want to get out of here."

"Intruders tried to reach you," Shanda informed her.

Her heart lurched in her chest. "I don't suppose these intruders were an older man with graying hair; a woman with short blonde hair...um...hair like mine, only short; a tall dark skinned Jaffa; and a man with beautiful blue eyes, and glasses...um..." she used her fingers to mimic the glasses that Daniel wore.

"I have seen them."


"The woman was taken away, I am not sure where. The men were taken to the holding cells."

She pulled her lip between her teeth. "Shanda, can you move around without anyone suspecting you?"

Shanda's eyes narrowed. "I will not help you."

"Do you want to remain most favored? Because I can guarantee that if Ba'al manages to keep me, to...train me...I will be his favorite," Casey said calmly. "Your best bet is to get me, and my friends, off this ship."

Shanda was a simple village girl. She understood only that being lo'taur allowed her the status to remain at Ba'al's side. She was never sent to 'entertain' his guests, as were the women in the harem. She never had to fear being used by his Jaffa if she somehow displeased him. If this woman escaped...she would not be blamed, for her Master would never suspect her of helping his slaves, his prisoners, escape. It would assure that this woman with the long hair the color of the sun, and eyes the color of the spring grass, would not replace her in Ba'al's heart. She gave a slight nod.

"Do you think you can find out where the woman is being held?"

She tossed her black hair defiantly. "Perhaps."

Casey held the tip of the knife against the woman's throat. "Okay, you're going to get me to that holding cell. And then we're going to find my friend. Try to cross me, signal any Jaffa in any way, and neither you nor he will live to tell about it."

There was no doubt that this woman meant exactly what she said. The coldness in the green eyes told her so. It had been a long time since she'd felt such fear. Again Shanda nodded.

"Let's go. Nice and easy."


A  A  A  A  A  A


Sam tried to twist and turn her wrists in an attempt to loosen the ropes that held her in the chair. She had to get free, so that she could get to the holding cells and release her teammates. Then they had to find Casey, and somehow get the hell off of this ship!

The door opened and two men and a woman entered the room. The woman was dressed like most of the women kept in harems. She stood quietly behind the men, her head down, gaze averted from the prisoner who sat silently.

Not being familiar with the culture of ancient Babylon, Sam didn't recognize that one of the men was a priest, the other an engineer. She only knew that whatever was about to happen, it probably wasn't going to be good!

Her heart was pounding against her ribs. She mentally prepared herself. No matter what they did to her, she'd tell them nothing. This wasn't the first time she'd been in such a lousy situation. It probably wouldn't be the last. And she'd survived before. She could hear Jack's voice in her head. Piece of cake. She almost smiled.

Balathu had been a priest in Ba'al's service for as long as he could remember. He'd been raised in the temple of Ba'al, learning the many rituals and ceremonies that were required of the priests and the people of the great god. He'd never dreamed, had never aspired to be one of the 'favored' priests, those who served the god directly. He took his duties seriously, and was somewhat put out that the normal ceremony for The Taking was being ignored. It was not...proper...that the choosing, and possibly the taking of a host, be done in a place such as this! It should be done within the sanctity of the temple, or the rooms dedicated as such. He dared not argue however, Ba'al himself had given the order.  He examined the prisoner with detached interest.

Nutesh had been but a child when he'd been taken from his home, forced into slavery to serve Ba'al. His natural curiosity had afforded him an education. His love of all things mechanical had put him in the company of several of Ba'al's most trusted builders and inventors. He'd grown, and he'd learned. But he'd never forgotten the terror of being pulled from his mother's arms, watching her and his father slain in front of him. Of all of those who served Ba'al, he was one of the few who understood that Ba'al was not an all powerful, omnipotent god. That he was nothing more than a creature unable to achieve anything on its own, that it needed a 'body' from which to work. Only his mind, his ability to 'out think' his companions, had kept him from becoming a host.

The engineer was also aware of the fact that Ba'al was in dire straits. He didn't have enough ships, enough Jaffa to protect him should the other System Lords band against him. He'd been on hand when Ba'al had fumed over his failure to find the 'hidden ships' owned by Tem. The Goa'uld had staked his entire empire on finding those ships. Without them, he was vulnerable. And now, with Anubis becoming more powerful with each passing day, Ba'al was in an even weaker position.

That, he thought irritably, was exactly why he was standing where he was now. Ba'al had decided that one of his most trusted scientists, a Goa'uld who had recently lost her host during an attack on one of his palaces, should have a new host as quickly as possible. And that this new host must begin working on a project immediately. Blueprints had been located for the ship that Anubis had constructed. Well, partial blue prints. Ba'al wanted the blueprints completed and construction of the new ship to begin within days.

Nutesh had his doubts. The blending was difficult for both host and symbiote. It often took days for the symbiote to have full control over the host mind and body. He was not, however, going to argue with a god already angry. "Proceed," he said quietly.

Sam looked at the man. He didn't have the duel voice. He wasn't Goa'uld.

The priest began to chant, and the woman moved to stand in front of the prisoner. She untied her robe, letting it fall open, and cried out as the mature symbiote within her pouch began to move, then slithered through the opening in her belly.

"Oh, god!" Sam moaned, as the eel-like creature screamed and hissed just inches from her face. She was about to become a host, and there wasn't a damned thing she could do about it! Unlike Jolinar, this symbiote would never allow her to retain control of her mind, of her body. Would never sacrifice itself to save her. Please, God, don't let this happen! she prayed silently, fear creeping over her body like ice.

When the creature withdrew, curling itself back into the safety of the Jaffa's pouch, the priest shook his head. "The host has been rejected."

Well, nothing he could do about that, was there? Nutesh thought. Ba'al had informed him that even without Ku-Aya, this...Tau'ri?...would be able to perform the tasks set before her. Apparently his Master had a source of information that he trusted completely. Again, he was in no position to disagree. Not if he intended to stay alive. He motioned that the priest should take the Jaffa and leave.

Barely daring to breathe, understanding that once again she'd managed to escape a fate literally worse than death, Sam watched as the man who'd been chanting took the woman and left the room. Didn't miss the armed Jaffa who stood just outside in the corridor. Even if she could take the remaining man out, walking out that door would be impossible. She didn't dare look around, not right now. She didn't want to tip him off that she was searching for an escape route.

With a sigh, Nutesh began to untie the prisoner, starting with her ankles. He was a man of learning. Not a warrior, a soldier trained in the ways of warfare. Had he been, he never would have freed the woman, he would have simply asked her the questions to which he needed answers, and left her where she sat.

Sam waited until both hands were freed. When the man stepped back, allowing her to stand up, she launched herself at him, knocked him to the floor. Before he could cry out for help, she had him in a head lock. And continued to squeeze. Her muscles were beginning to tremble from the strain before he finally passed out.

She jumped to her feet, looked around frantically for any way out of the room. Grinned at the access panel above her head. The chair she'd been sitting in barely lifted her high enough to reach it. She had to make certain that no noises that would arouse suspicion echoed in the room. Every movement was done carefully, as silently as possible.

She hadn't been searched when the Jaffa had taken them. Again, she assumed that it was because she was a woman. There were advantages to being considered non-threatening. Her pocketknife served as a screwdriver. Wasn't it something that so many civilizations had the same 'advances', she thought, carefully working each screw loose, one hand holding the grate in place. I suppose, she thought idly, there are only so many ways that some jobs can be done. And the Goa'uld had influenced thinking on Earth.

The grate was heavier than it appeared, and she nearly dropped it. Her heart pounding, she lowered it to the floor. They'd know exactly how she escaped. But if she was very careful, they wouldn't know which direction she'd chosen.

Once in the safety of the air duct, which was a much tighter fit than she'd expected, she closed her eyes, and tried to get her bearings. If she could make her way back to the corridor where she'd been separated from the guys, she should, in theory, be able to locate them. She began to inch forward. Stealth. That was the key. Unfortunately, stealth meant time. And she wasn't sure how much time they had.


A  A  A  A  A  A


Casey followed the young woman, made sure that Shanda never forgot the knife in her hand. She didn't trust her, and each time the young woman pulled her into the shadows behind one of the support pillars to avoid a Jaffa patrol, she expected the slave to betray her.

Shanda had one thought in mind: Get this woman, and the intruders, off the ship. Only then could she be assured that she'd never lose the favor of her god. Her Master. She stopped suddenly. "There. That is the place where the woman was taken away," she whispered.

With a nod, Casey pushed the young woman forward. "Which direction did they take her?"

The young slave pointed.

A glance around the corner showed that there were no Jaffa nearby. She pulled her lip between her teeth. She could try to guess where Sam had been taken, or get to the holding cells, spring the guys, and hope that one of them, most probably Teal'c, would have a clue. "Did they take her to the harem?"

"No. I do not know where they took her. There is no harem on the ship," Shanda replied. Her Master had no need of his harem when she was with him, she thought smugly. Shivered slightly at the thought of the times when he was gentle with her, almost as a lover would be. It was those moments, as few as they were, for which she lived. That she willingly did whatever was asked of her.

Well, that complicates things, doesn't it? Casey thought, huffing a silent sigh. Why in the hell would they separate the team like that? "Holding cell. Which way?"

The lo'taur pointed. "It is not far."

"Let's go."


A  A  A  A  A  A


Daniel had ceased pacing. He was sitting beside his teammates. The longer they were here, the longer that sonofabitch had Casey. And the longer he had her...he closed his eyes, let his head rest against the wall behind him. How much of that shit was Ba'al injecting her with? How brutal was the 'training' that she endured becoming? How long would it take for her to return to him this time? "We can't just sit here," he mumbled.

"I know, Daniel. I'm thinking," Jack replied.

"There is no way to escape this cell," Teal'c said calmly. He continued to stare at the Jaffa who guarded them.

"There's always a way out, Teal'c, you should know that by now," Jack said, trying to bring a smile to the faces of companions.

Casey had said something about that once. Well, twice actually. The first time was to point out that it would be a bitch when their fabled SG-1 good luck ran out. The second time was to inform them that they were being 'watched over' because he was the 'champion' chosen to protect the Innocent. That, Daniel thought wearily, is just more responsibility than I want. And he couldn't do a very good job protecting the innocent if he couldn't even keep his Wife safe! "We always find a way out," he agreed. 



A  A  A  A  A  A


Karinda ordered the ship to stop. Why was Ba'al just sitting there? Was this a trap? "Contact Ba'al. Tell him he will return my property immediately, all of my property, or I shall destroy him."

"Yes, My Lord."

She waited. Of course there would be the usual denials. Ba'al really was innocent of the charges...this time. This just made up for the times he got away with something, Sarah insisted. Which nearly made the Tok'ra smile.

"My Lord, a message from Lord Anubis. He is joining us at these coordinates."

"Very good," Karinda replied, barely able to hide her surprise...and dismay. It wasn't good. It wasn't good at all! Jacob/Selmak was hiding just beneath Ba'al's ship. With the scanners Anubis possessed, it was very possible that he'd find that cloaked ship. It hadn't been a concern earlier, Anubis had no reason to doubt his second in command. Her second thought was that someone had given Anubis her position, he'd have had no way of knowing otherwise. Her third was to worry about just why Anubis felt it necessary to join her, after telling Osiris to return to him as soon as the prisoners were retrieved.

"My Lord, if I may," M'zel whispered. "I would not say anything in front of your First Prime that you do not wish repeated to Anubis."

Karinda jerked slightly. Hoped that none of the Jaffa had noticed. She didn't turn to look at M'zel. "You have proof of this?"

"Yes. I overheard the First Prime speaking to Anubis. His ship was destroyed, but he managed to escape. The First Prime sent your position and heading, and was told to continue monitoring your moves. No doubt he contacted Anubis as soon as we came within range of Ba'al's ship."

"No doubt. Thank you, M'zel. You have been most helpful." She debated...it would not have been unusual for M'zel to be watching and listening, thus discovering the deception, the treachery of her First Prime. As her personal guard, he was charged with her safety, well, the safety of Osiris, at all times. For now, she'd use the First Prime as a source of disinformation. Perhaps M'zel and his rebel companions could be convinced to remain with her. They'd be most welcome as her personal guard, and would have access to information that Osiris would not.

Ba'al appeared on the screen in front of her. "What is it that you accuse me of?"

"You took my prisoners! While you sat with Anubis and myself, your Jaffa were raiding my ship!"

"That is a lie!" Ba'al hissed.

"Then explain to me how my ship could have been destroyed, if you did not send your Jaffa to do so?" Anubis' voice rang coldly, unexpectedly.

"I had no idea your ship was destroyed. I take it that this just occurred?" Ba'al replied, barely able to conceal his delight that Anubis was now without his most important means of intimidation. "It could have been Osiris, you know. Perhaps she sent her Jaffa to sabotage your ship."

"What of my prisoners?" Karinda demanded.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Ba'al said smugly. SG-1 had ringed aboard his ship. From where, he wasn't sure. He did know, however, that it wasn't from Osiris' ship. She'd only just arrived in the quadrant. He'd worry about that later. Right now, he wanted to keep Anubis and Osiris right where they were. Yu and his allies would arrive soon. It would be all too easy to rid the universe of both Goa'uld. And he wouldn't have to ally himself with anyone!

Anubis didn't reply. Instead, he ringed aboard Ba'al's ship. This Goa'uld had destroyed what belonged to him. He'd take this vessel as his own. And Ba'al would suffer until he tired of the game.

Karinda cringed when the Jaffa informed her of Anubis' movements. If he were to find SG-1...things had just gone from bad, to worse.

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