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The Devil In the Details

 

"...You keep lyin' when you oughta be truthin'
You keep losing when you oughta not bet
You keep samin' when you oughta be a'changin'
What's right is right but you ain't been right yet
These boots are made for walking, and that's just what they'll do
One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you..."
"These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" 
Performed by Nancy Sinatra; Composed by Lee Hazlewood

Chapter 1

Monday, 0930 hours.

"I am Ba'al, System Lord...Supreme Leader of the Goa'uld.  I offer my protection, in exchange for your cooperation. I have but one stipulation. Casey Jackson is to be sent to me immediately."

"I hate Mondays."

 

The message had been delivered. Carefully worded, just vague enough to guarantee that the curiosity of those annoying individuals known as SG-1 would be piqued. He'd been fastidious in the formulation of those four simple sentences, so as not to offer any specifics of just what type of protection he offered, nor what threat he was willing to protect the First World from facing. Both were questions that the leader of the now infamous SGC would be more than anxious to learn the answers to...answers that could have a long lasting impact on his facility, and his planet. That this plan had an altruistic element was a delightful twist that would be his advantage over the Tau'ri. It would be unexpected, this show of concern. The willingness to put aside the enmity that raged between himself and the Tau'ri. Particularly those of the SGC.

Ba'al paced the pel'tak, waiting. So far there had been no attempts to contact him in response to his communication. He wouldn't send any further messages to the Tau'ri base for at least another twelve hours. His hope was that they would reply, demanding to know just what, or whom, he was offering protection from. It was important that the commander, one known as General Hammond, believe that he was offering his protection from Zeus only as a matter of benevolence.

The truth was, it was a matter of convenience. Allowing Zeus to re-conquer the First World would require taking it from him later. A very major inconvenience. Oh, for the moment, Hammond had no clue that Zeus was a threat. But he soon would, when he responded, and asked those questions that Ba'al's cryptic communiqué had very intentionally created. Ba'al would tell the Tau'ri exactly what he wanted them to know, in just the manner he wanted them to view the situation. He'd tell them that Zeus was on his way to destroy the First World. Actually, he had no idea what Zeus' plans were. But using the presence of the newly returned Goa'uld as a means to set up conditions that would allow him to move freely, and hold the Tau'ri in check, didn't require such knowledge. What he knew of Zeus' plans was unimportant. It was necessary only that the recipients of the message believe that he knew.

He had every intention of taking control of the blue/white planet beneath his ship. But he would do so when it was the most advantageous for him. At the moment, he dared not commit a large contingent of his Jaffa and ships to taking and gaining control of the First World; Zeus' untimely appearance had made that already difficult proposition even more so. Ba'al had no doubt that it would not be an easy task to retake the world of former slaves...not when they'd been free for over ten thousand years. His own knowledge of the political and social climate of the planet beneath him was due to his careful placement of spies among other Goa'uld, the Tok'ra, and the Tau'ri themselves. He grunted with no small amount of frustration at that thought. At the moment, not one of those spies remained in place within the ranks of the latter two, thanks to a certain green-eyed seer. There were less than a dozen who wandered among his rivals, still sending reports on the movement of his adversaries. Tem had been a wonderful source of information, although he was certain that the madness that had taken that Goa'uld's mind colored each perception. Still, there had to be a modicum of truth to the bits and pieces he'd found on the computers of Ares' ships...or what had once been Ares' ships.

Zeus was a serious threat to his plans of securing the First World, a feat that would see him securely on the throne of the Goa'uld Empire. When that threat had been neutralized, then, and only then, would he take the final step of complete domination over the solar system, starting with the planet the inhabitants called Earth. The symbolism alone would see to it that he became Supreme System Lord of the Goa'uld Empire. The delicious irony of having SG-1 actually helping him to attain his final goal lingered in his thoughts like fine wine on the palate.

Taking the First World and becoming Supreme System Lord would be accomplished in one fell swoop. Once he was established, he would dare the Asgard to enforce the clause which referred to Earth in the Protected Planets Treaty that had been signed by Cronus and Yu. He doubted the ability of the small gray aliens to do much more than threaten him. If he was correct in his assumptions, he would take what planets he pleased, treaty be damned. That several of those protected planets boasted rich naquadah deposits would only add to his wealth, and his strength. Once the final pieces of the puzzle were put into place, and he declared 'checkmate', none would dare to stand against him.

He'd very carefully laid out his plans. Knew what words would net him exactly what he wanted. Which was, first and foremost, Casey Jackson. The hatred he'd felt toward her had withered and died, the anger had burned itself out, the love that consumed him rising like a phoenix from the ashes of that hatred; love that had burned almost from the first time he'd laid eyes on her. It was a condition that he carefully avoided analyzing. Because to do so forced him to admit that never, in all of the centuries, the thousands of years he'd lived, had a woman so affected him. And a Tau'ri at that! No, better to ignore what was happening to him, the hold that she had over him. Much better to concentrate on bringing her to his side, and winning her heart, and her love.

Patience. That was his current weapon of choice. The Tau'ri were in no position to oppose Zeus. Which meant that their only hope would be to ally themselves with one they called enemy. Ba'al would take great delight in subjugating the ones known as SG-1, under the guise of protecting them. When he controlled the First World, they would serve him. They would then learn that he was indeed their god.

Waiting. Just a little longer. Soon enough the meddlesome pests would understand that they had no choice. In his mind, he snapped another puzzle piece into place, creating a mosaic of his plans. Another move on the chessboard. Soon, checkmate would be reached. And he would be the winner.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

The five members of SG-1 sat at the conference table, waiting for General Hammond to complete his phone conversation with the president. They didn't say much, in fact, for the moment they weren't talking at all. They were, however, exchanging nervous glances.

Word from the Prometheus was that there was something sitting just above Cheyenne Mountain, in geosynchronous orbit above them. There was no doubt in their minds that it was Ba'al. As long as he made no threatening moves, issued no ultimatums, then he wasn't in violation of the Protected Planets Treaty. So even if Thor could arrive in time, there would be nothing that the Asgard could do, other than observe.

The spy network that General Hammond, Jack, and Teal'c had so carefully put into place...taking their cues from the Tok'ra, even going so far as to have those working for the SGC keep an eye on their allies as well...was beginning to pay off. Within minutes of Ba'al's surprise 'appearance' in the 'gate room, the klaxons had gone off again, and a message had come through from Master Bra'tac. It seemed that Zeus had sent word to Thracia that all but one of his warships were to meet him - a message intercepted by Bra'tac himself, from one of the ships stolen from Apophis, just before that Goa'uld had finally been killed for the final, and most permanent, time. Further communication between the ships controlled by Zeus indicated that as soon as repairs were completed on his flagship, he was setting course for the First World.

"Guess we really pissed him off," Casey said softly.

Jack frowned. "Ba'al?"

"Zeus."

"Yeah, well, you did one hell of a number on that ship of his," Jack replied proudly.

"I didn't do it alone. You blew the hanger bay," Casey countered.

"I did not! The Jaffa are the ones responsible for that!" The grin on Jack's face left no doubt of his opinion regarding that event.

Daniel grinned as well. "At least we slowed him down a little bit."

"By what, an hour or two?" Casey grumped. "Besides, he might not even have thought to come here if not for us."

The two grinning faces sobered quickly at that thought. "Good point," Jack allowed.

"It wasn't like we sought him out," Daniel said. "Zeus kidnapped us, remember?"

"Zeus is Goa'uld. It was only a question of when he would have turned his attention to the First World, not if," Teal'c said calmly.

"Teal'c is right," Sam added. "And if control of this galaxy has come down to a contest between Zeus and Ba'al, they'd both be heading this way."

"Looks like Balls won the race," Jack grumped.

"Controlling the First World is the most symbolic move any of the Goa'uld can make. To rule here means they have the strength to defeat any and all enemies. Rivals would become allies of whomever sat in control of Earth, just to try and stay alive, and at least retain some of their holdings," Daniel agreed reluctantly.

Silence fell back over the team as they contemplated the situation. As so often happened, things had gone from bad to worse in a matter of minutes. And this time, it seemed that solutions were damned near non-existent.

When the general walked into the briefing room, the frown on his face was severe. "The president has instructed me to negotiate with Ba'al. The risk is too great, and the chances of the Asgard being able to protect us aren't very promising. Due to the nature of this current emergency, President Miller will notify the members of the Stargate Alliance."

Groans went up around the table. Within days after the members of the G8 had learned of the Stargate Program, they had formed the 'Stargate Alliance'. Because of China's knowledge of the program, and the need to keep a tight reign on them, that nation had a seat on the newly formed political committee as well. None of the countries were as of yet contributing anything other than promises of assistance, opinions and advice; the latter of which, for the moment, could be ignored. However, it was in the best interest of the US, and the Program, to keep the group mollified, and unwilling to take the steps necessary to place themselves in a stronger position of authority.

"If this situation spirals out of control, the people of this planet will need to know," the general reminded them gently. There was no need to say out loud that the chaos that would ensue would make the threat of Ba'al taking over a mere side note in the crisis. It was completely possible that the Goa'uld would find himself, and his Jaffa, quickly defeated by hordes of terrified, and angry, world citizens. The wars that would rage in that aftermath could leave little enough that even the Goa'uld wouldn't want the place, symbolic or not.

Jack ran his hands over his face. "So we do what?"

"We'll contact Ba'al. And agree to meet with him," Hammond replied. "Doctor Jackson, I want you to be the lead negotiator in these...discussions. You'll have the full authority to enter into any agreements you feel will be the most beneficial to the SGC, and the people of Earth. I'll send SG-9 with you, I'm sure Major Farnsworth will be able to offer substantial input and assistance." And would keep the archaeologist from killing Ba'al on sight. While the idea had its merits, they needed to know exactly what Ba'al was up to before eliminating him from the picture completely. The snake had a reputation for leaving booby traps in his wake, a lesson several SG teams had learned first hand. If they knew what he was planning, they'd have more of an idea what, and where, any new traps might be hiding.

"Yes, sir," Daniel replied. His stomach began to burn. The thought of having to sit at a conference table with that Goa'uld bastard was enough to make him ill. What he wanted to do was just kill the son-of-a-bitch, and be done with it. If the chance presented itself, that was exactly what he intended to do!

"President Miller wants the treaty to be, and I quote, 'short and sweet, with no wiggle room for Ba'al'," the general continued. "For now, I want to keep the rest of SG-1 on the base. I'm guessing that the terms for negotiating will be the same as those for the Protected Planets Treaty."

"There's the possibility that Ba'al will insist on doing this on his ship," Daniel said.

"I know," Hammond sighed. "And that you and the others will be expected to arrive unarmed. However, since Ba'al will have his Jaffa present, I'm going to insist that our own 'security detail' be allowed to carry the usual tools of their trade. SG-3 will fill that position."

Daniel smiled. "Very good move, sir."

The general allowed himself a small smile. "I have a bit of experience in the game of diplomacy."

"Do we wait to hear from Thor?" Jack asked.

"I'm afraid not, Colonel. The president was insistent that we get this taken care of as quickly, and as quietly, as possible."

Daniel took a deep breath. "Ba'al knows this is going to cause a bit of...confusion, for us. We could wait until he contacts us again, and then agree to meet with him."

"That would give us time to come up with at better solution to the problem, sir," Jack added. Anything to keep his people off of that damned ship!

"Do you think you could buy that time with a message now?" General Hammond asked. "I don't want to take the chance that the next message from Ba'al might not be as...private."

"I could try," Daniel replied.

"Good. Get on it. Send it as soon as possible. Preferably within the hour," the general ordered.

"Yes, sir."

 

 

 

Casey followed her husband into the control room. "Keep it short, and to the point. Try telling him to go take a flying fuck at a rolling donut. That should keep him busy while we figure out a way to take his sorry, worthless ass out!"

Daniel snorted. "A bit peeved, are we?"

"Peeved? A bit? I moved past that half an hour ago. I'm at a full boil," she declared, her arms folded tightly over her breasts. "Give me a P90, ring me to his ship, and I promise I'll be back with that sorry snake all skinned and ready for the barbecue in five minutes!"

Siler, who was working at one of the computers in the corner, chuckled loudly.

"I should have shot that damned bastard when I had the chance," she said, shaking her head slowly. She looked up into blue eyes that watched her with amusement. "Why didn't I kill him?"

The whispered question was full of self-recrimination, her green eyes reflected her guilt...and her anger. "It wasn't the right time," he whispered in return.

"That's a crock, Daniel. He was there. I was there. I had a perfectly clear shot, and I didn't take it!"

"There were also about a dozen Jaffa standing around him, Casey. If you'd shot, they would've killed you. And tossed his sorry ass into a sarcophagus. And if you hadn't been...with us...Sam wouldn't have known to send the message with the 'gate address for where we were going. We'd still be stuck on that very cold planet with Bigfoot and his friends," he said softly.

"Ready, Doctor Jackson?" Walter asked quietly.

"Just a minute," he said, smiling at the small, gray-haired man. He began to scribble notes on the pad he had carried in. He frowned, scratched out a sentence, rewrote it. Added another line. Changed three words. "Okay, I think I'm ready," he said.

Walter opened the communication link. "If he's monitoring our communications, he'll get this immediately."

Daniel nodded his understanding, leaned over to speak into the microphone. "This is Doctor Daniel Jackson of SG-1. With a message for the Goa'uld System Lord known as Ba'al. We received your transmission. There are necessary procedures we must follow in order to contact the leaders of our world concerning your...offer. It will take several hours before we have a reply for you."

Casey perched on the edge of the table that held the computers and equipment that comprised the controls of the Stargate. Jumped visibly when Ba'al's voice echoed around them. Everyone in the room noted that her hands immediately wrapped around Daniel's arm, clinging tightly.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Ba'al listened to the message, his eyes narrowing slightly. He'd already noted that two communications bursts had left the SGC as soon as he'd finished his announcement. Unexpected, they were too fleeting for his Jaffa to intercept them. He knew only that the Tau'ri had sent out messages. One certainly had gone to the Asgard. He could only speculate as to the recipient of the second message. The Tok'ra no doubt. What the humans on the planet beneath him believed the rebels could do for them, he had no idea. His own spy network told him that the Tok'ra had agents working within the ranks of nearly every System Lord. He'd already purged those nearest to him, he had no fear that any of the rebel spies remained. His spies also told him that the Tok'ra were too few in numbers, too weak militarily to do any more than be an irritant. One that would end as soon as he was secure on the throne of the Goa'uld Empire.

This was, of course, a ploy to buy time for the Asgard to arrive. He hadn't violated the treaty, he'd been very careful with what, and how, he'd offered his 'protection'. Even if the small gray beings did arrive, there was nothing they could do.

He settled on his throne, stroked the beard that covered his chin. "Open communications, I wish to reply."

"Yes, My Lord."

When the Jaffa nodded at him, Ba'al took a deep breath. "I will meet with you in twenty-four of your hours."

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Daniel frowned. "He's sure as hell in a hurry to get this done."

"Maybe he knows that Zeus is on his way," Casey offered.

"Possibly." He leaned over, keyed the microphone. "Agreed."

"Daniel!"

"Casey, we can't put him off forever. And if he decides to attack, the Asgard won't be able to do anything. They won't dare force the issue, they aren't in a position to be able to fight a war on two fronts. Right now, everything they have is being utilized to fight the Replicators. Their very survival depends on winning that war."

His words rang in her ears, felt like ice water down her spine. Fear crept in and took hold, squeezing her heart until she thought she'd cry out from the pain.

"Do not try my patience. Should you fail to contact me at the agreed upon time, I will simply go to your leader myself. I am certain that it would be most...interesting...to ring down to what you call your 'White House'."

The bastard knew more about Earth politics, or at least politics in the US, than anyone realized. Information taken, no doubt, from Tem. Daniel took a deep breath, blew it out. Pressed the button on the transmitter. "We understand."

Her shoulders sagged slightly. "We're in real trouble here, aren't we?" she asked softly.

"Looks that way," he admitted. Daniel wrapped his arms around her, held her close. It was an automatic impulse to reach for her, offer comfort to her, to take the comfort he needed.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Casey stood looking at the rings. It would be an easy enough thing to do. Her teammates and those of other SG teams had learned the 'basic' operation of the transport device...she'd only just learned the techniques herself. As long as there was a 'receiving platform' within range, she would get there. To Ba'al's ship. If it was the only way to stop the bastard...

She took a deep breath. Three more hours had passed. The messages to Thor and to the Tok'ra had gone out almost as soon as the hologram of Ba'al had disappeared. No one had expected an immediate reply, but each passing hour only intensified the feelings of panic that were beginning to take hold. This wasn't the first time the SGC had been threatened. Wasn't the first time that those who worked in the secret facility had faced attack. It was, however, the first time that the threat to 'go public' had been made by a Goa'uld. It was a threat of far more concern than any military attack. Time was ticking away, and they were completely lost as to what exactly they could do to prevent a planet-wide catastrophe. For the first time since arriving at the SGC, she could see no way out of their predicament. The feeling of desperation, of doom, was so thick in the air it was tangible. Those who worked within the concrete walls of the SGC were facing what might be the last crisis they would deal with...

All she had to do was step inside that ring. Activate it. And Ba'al would leave Earth alone. No one would ever have to know about him. Or the other Goa'uld. Or the fact that the men and women of a secret project known as the Stargate Program had saved their home world on a damned near daily basis for almost seven years. Life would go on.

One step...

It was really the most logical choice. How many lives would be lost in the violence that would rock the streets when the public was made aware of the actual danger they were in?

Two steps...

There was always the chance she could kill Ba'al, and come home. She'd escaped before...maybe that SG-1 good luck would follow her, maybe those who protected Daniel would take pity on her...maybe she was out of her freaking mind...

Three steps...

Daniel would never be able to touch her again, knowing that his enemy - that a Goa'uld - had held her, taken her. She would never give herself to Ba'al. Never. She had no illusions that he wouldn't take what he wanted...

Four steps...

Her heart was pounding against her ribs. Hell. She was heading straight to hell. She'd been so miserable, so desperately unhappy when Ba'al had held her prisoner before. Maybe she could walk herself to death on that damned ship. Maybe she'd just walk out an air lock, and be done with it...

She stepped into the ring marked on the floor...reached for the control panel...

"Casey?"

She whirled around. "Daniel!"

"Going somewhere?"

Tears filled her eyes. "I can't let him enslave an entire world," she whispered.

His heart hammering with fear, he held out his hand. "Angel, he'll do that anyway. Turning yourself over to him won't change his plans."

"I might be able to talk him out of it," she replied stubbornly, wrapping her arms around her waist.

"Taking control of the First World is symbolic," Daniel said softly. He kept his hand extended, willing her to take it, so that he could pull her back from the brink, emotionally as well as physically. "That has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with his thirst for power."

"Daniel Jackson is correct, Casey Jackson," Teal'c said, stepping into the room. Sam and Jack were right behind him. "To take the First World will signal to the other Goa'uld that he is more powerful than they."

"That just doesn't make sense," Casey argued. Her head and her heart were arguing so loudly that she wasn't sure which was claiming what...she only knew that it broke her heart to think of being away from Daniel...and that she couldn't allow Ba'al to destroy the planet when letting him have what he wanted could save every life on Earth.

"We're talking about snakes here, Radar," Jack said.

"Wanting you, and taking Earth are two very different things," Sam added. "And neither thing is related to the other. He'll threaten, yes, because that's what Goa'uld do best."

"We'll find a way out of this, I promise, Angel," Daniel said, taking a step toward her.

"So far we're shit out of ideas, and chances," she whispered.

"Never give up, Case. Never. We'll find that rabbit, we always do."

The tears that had filled her eyes spilled onto her cheeks. "And when innocent people die because of me, just how am I supposed to live with that?"

He was close enough, reached out and caressed her cheek. "That won't happen."

"You can't guarantee that."

"Radar, if anyone dies, it will be because of Ba'al, not because of anything you did, or didn't do," Jack said. "Chances are, as soon as you ring up, he'd start the attack."

"Indeed," Teal'c said nodding slightly. "Do not give in to the fear his threats cause, Casey."

With a soft whimper, Casey launched herself into Daniel's arms. Felt them tighten around her, her body as close to his as he could possibly manage. She smiled in spite of her tears to feel the hands of her friends on her back, her shoulder, her arm.

"I'm so proud of you," Daniel whispered. "You have such a beautiful, generous, giving heart. Willing to sacrifice yourself to save others."

"It still might happen, it might be the only way," she whispered in return.

"Nope. We'll find that miracle. Remember, the impossible just takes a few hours longer."

She giggled softly. "Right."

"How about some coffee?"

"I think that sounds like a good idea."

The five teammates wandered into the corridor. Casey didn't know for several hours that Jack put a guard in the ring transport room, with orders to alert any member of SG-1 if Casey was even on the same level. Until this current crisis was over, level twenty four was off limits to her, unless she was with her teammates. The colonel determined that no one, not least of all the tender-hearted seer, was doing any self-sacrificing that would ultimately change nothing.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

President Miller picked up the phone. Took a deep breath. "President Selegone, thank you for returning my call so quickly."

"I was told that this is an emergency," the Frenchmen replied.

"I'm afraid it is," Miller admitted. "Right now, there's a Goa'uld ship hovering above the planet. A message was received a little over an hour ago."

The long, silent pause made the American president worry that the line had been inadvertently disconnected. "I see," the Frenchman said at last. "And what was this message?"

"A Goa'uld System Lord named Ba'al is offering his...protection. We are assuming, from intelligence gathered by SG teams, that this has to do with the arrival of a rival Goa'uld from a nearby galaxy."

"What do you recommend?"

Tim Miller toyed with the paper on his desk. "I've instructed General Hammond to arrange a meeting with Ba'al."

"Have any demands been made?"

He closed his eyes. As much as he wanted to omit the demand, he knew that it wasn't possible. "Ba'al has demanded that Casey Jackson be sent to him immediately."

"And this has been done?"

"No."

"Why not?" Selegone demanded.

"I will not hand an American citizen over to any terrorist. Ba'al might be a Goa'uld, but in my eyes, he's nothing more than a terrorist."

"He is an...He is an alien!" Selegone hissed in sotto voice.

"He's a parasite," Miller returned. "The creature known as Ba'al is in the body of an innocent man."

Another stretch of silence. "We must convene the members of the Stargate Alliance to discuss this matter."

"Which is why I called you," Miller replied. He was still damned angry that Selegone had managed to threaten, coerce, and charm his way into the seat of the chairman of that newly formed entity. It had become immediately apparent that the Frenchman had every intention of making certain that he had the last say in what the Stargate Alliance members decided. No doubt the man had plans of taking over the SGC. His eyes went to the portrait of Thomas Jefferson, behind which the old safe was hidden. As long as George Hammond was there, the world was safe, he thought briefly.

"I am due to address the Senate tomorrow. There is no way I can reschedule this."

"I have commitments, also," Miller replied. "To have any of the G8 leaders 'disappear' again, so soon after our last meeting, will only add to the speculation that runs rampant now."

"I concur. I suggest a telephone conference."

"I agree," Miller said.

"I will notify the others, and arrange for the meeting. We must come to an understanding with this Ba'al as quickly as possible. It would not do to have the Stargate Program become public knowledge at this time."

Miller rubbed the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. There were times when diplomacy was required. There were times when being honest was even more important. "President Selegone, don't use this crisis as a way to manipulate more power into your hands. The entire planet is poised on the very edge of possible destruction, and the chance of tumbling into the horror of Goa'uld slavery is very real. There is a time to posture, and a time to do what is best for the people of your country...of the world." The President of the United States waited, expecting a loud, elaborate denial. Instead, he heard a very heavy sigh. 

"You are right, of course. The situation...it is very critical?"

"Jean-Luc, we could be hours away from worldwide chaos. Worse than if the Chinese had exposed the existence of the Stargate, and the Stargate program. You and I, my friend, are looking down the barrel of a gun. And a madman, an alien madman, has his finger on the trigger," Miller responded quietly.

"I will see to it that the meeting is arranged as quickly as possible."

"Any information I get, I'll forward to you."

"Send it to my private email. It is more secure than that of my official account."

Miller copied down the address, repeated it, then said his goodbyes. Part of him was relieved to not be facing such a monumental crisis alone.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

General Hammond contacted the president, and told him of the twenty-four hour deadline. Of which twenty-one hours remained.

"George, you know these damned Goa'uld better than I do. I could use an honest, unbiased opinion here," Miller said quietly.

"Mr. President, if we capitulate too quickly, there's the chance that Ba'al will see it as a sign of weakness. If we try to push him, he could simply attack. I suggest we wait until the last possible moment before sending a negotiating team. Doctor Jackson is our best bet."

"You don't think his...personal feelings...will affect his ability to negotiate?"

"Sir, it's because of his personal feelings that Doctor Jackson will negotiate an agreement that will favor Earth. Daniel has negotiated with more alien civilizations than any one else at the SGC. He knows the Goa'uld, and he hates them with a dark hatred that will be our best protection. Toss in the fact that Ba'al wants his wife, and Daniel will be tenacious in hammering out an agreement that will protect us until we can come up with a way to get rid of that damned bastard once and for all."

"What about the Prometheus?"

"I'm certain that Colonel Ronson could take out Ba'al's flagship. It's the others of his fleet I worry about. Being outnumbered is never a good thing, in fact it's usually fatal."

"Are they close?"

"Major Carter believes they're hidden behind the moon."

Miller sighed. "George, you know your people better than I do. I'm giving you permission to proceed in whatever manner you believe best. Keep me informed."

"Yes, sir."

Hammond sat back in his chair. He knew that Daniel would rather kill Ba'al than talk to him. Secretly, part of him hoped that the opportunity for that to happen would present itself...after they knew what the snake was up to. Even though he was aware that Ba'al would be far too careful to allow himself to become a target.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Zeus read the list of sabotage, the repairs completed, and those still underway. How in the world had three slaves managed to cause so much damage? They had known exactly what to destroy, how far to push that destruction. He agreed with Diokles...the beautiful blonde witch had been alone when she had turned dozens of data crystals into useless shards of glass. Her demolition of the engine control room had been deadly, but not fatal. That she'd jammed pieces of crystals back into the slots she'd emptied, making certain that the crystals she used to do so were not meant to be in those particular positions, had made repairs all the more difficult. Removing the shards had resulted in the destruction of the crystals around them, one Jaffa had suffered serious burns when the resulting short caused by the shards had set fire to one section.

If he ever found those three troublemakers, their deaths would last for days...weeks! He tossed the scroll onto the desk beside him. He'd been delayed for nearly a day, and the repairs still being done would take at least another day to complete, although Diokles had informed him that all systems were at least operable, if not fully so. His fleet surrounded him. The remainder of the repairs could be made as they traveled. The order had been given to proceed toward the First World. When he arrived, his vengeance would be swift...and brutal. There would be no mercy.

He glanced at the bed on the other side of the room. Maia watched him carefully, but said nothing. She remained huddled near the headboard, a pillow clutched tightly in her arms, as if she expected it to protect her. She'd been unusually quiet since the night that Althea had arranged such a pleasurable diversion, after he'd learned that Ares had slipped away from him. The young slave had performed as commanded, although it had been obvious more than once that she was obeying only to avert punishment. At one point he'd been convinced that Maia's senses had deserted her, she'd lain so still, her eyes glazed, not responding until Althea had slapped her across the face. "What troubles you, my little whore?"

She cringed. Ever since that night, that horrible night, he had called her by that cruel name more often than not. He would whisper it in her ear as he took her. Twice since then he had insisted that she take on his most favored Goa'uld assistants, watching with lust burning in his eyes. When they were finished, he would make her crawl to where he sat, offer him oral pleasure. Then he would take Althea, pumping into the lo'taur while he continued watching her with his dark, angry eyes. "I am not troubled, My Lord," she lied.

He sat back in his chair, spread his legs. "Come here. Prove your love to me," he commanded. His hand worked his already hard cock from the confines of his trousers, stroked slowly as he watched her, the fear that flashed over her face was as arousing as her movements.

Her heart pounding with fear...not knowing if she would be beaten as soon as he had been pleasured, which had happened just yesterday...she crawled, as he expected of her, off the bed and across the floor, her naked breasts swaying with each movement. She knelt in front of the man who owned her; who treated her well, or as an animal, at his whim. Closed her eyes at the same moment she opened her mouth.

Zeus watched for a moment as the slave began to suck him off. He caressed her cheek, ran his fingers through her hair. She no longer responded to him as she had, leaning against him, sighing with pleasure as she touched him, or when he caressed her. Since the night of the orgy, it was obvious that she wanted to pull away from him, away from his touch. For the first time he realized that he missed the love that had filled her dark eyes, her eagerness to please him. "My sweet Maia," he whispered. "Have you been so frightened by what has happened to you that your wits have fled you?"

She dared to open her eyes and look up at him. Feeling braver than she had since her capture she pulled away from him, although her hands continued to caress and stimulate him. "No, My Lord. I have been frightened, yes. I have been greatly shamed. But my wits are still very much with me."

For a moment he was so taken aback at the boldness of her reply that he could only stare at her. He gave in to the urge, tossed his head back and roared with laughter. "You have been a very obedient slave," he murmured. "Now, finish what you have so expertly started."

With a silent sigh of resignation, Maia resumed her ministrations. Her talents had been improving, due to the almost constant practice she obtained in order to please her master. In only a matter of moments she had Zeus breathing hard. When he began to thrust his hips toward her, holding her head as he forced more of his length down her throat, she knew that he was seconds from his climax. She fought the reflex to gag...relaxed as Althea had taught her. Swallowed quickly as his release sent warm fluid flowing down her throat.

Zeus sat back limply, his arms hanging over the arms of his chair, his eyes closed, a smile of satisfaction on his face. "Very good, Maia," he murmured softly, after catching his breath. "Stand up, spread your legs."

Ever obedient, Maia did as she was told. Gasped out loud when he leaned forward, grasped her ass with both hands, lowered his head and began to feast on her very center. She filled her hands with his long, black hair without realizing she had done so, and it didn't take long before her hips were moving back and forth in response to what he was doing.

Zeus teased and tormented until the shivers in the slave's slight body were almost enough to bring her to collapse. He was skillful in the ways of pleasing a woman. Enjoyed doing so. Smiled at the gasps and cries that filled the room as she moved closer to her climax. His fingers slid into her hot, wet well, and within seconds she was moaning, her body convulsing, and shaking.

Unable to remain standing, Maia dropped to her knees. "Thank you, My Lord," she intoned immediately.

"Reward for your obedience," he replied, wiping a hand across his face. "Come, let us bathe. I'll have you before I must return my mind to my duties."

She wondered briefly if she would be allowed to dress after their bath. Althea had come into Zeus' quarters the day before, when the alarms had been so loud; stripped her, and removed all her clothing from the armoire that stood in the corner. The only thing that adorned her body was the gold collar around her neck, put there when Zeus had chosen her from the harem. Each time the Jaffa would enter the room to give their reports, or the slaves came to clean or the servants arrived with food, she had huddled on the bed, holding pillows against her naked body, mortified to be seen in such a manner.

 

 

 

The bath had lasted a full two hours, as Zeus thrust in and out of her, not rushing to take his pleasure. By the time she had bathed him, and herself, her fingers and toes were wrinkled from the water.

Immediately after dressing, Zeus had left the room. Althea had arrived a short time later, carrying a tray of food. The older woman had taken note of the way the slave continued to try to cover herself.

"There is no need for such modesty," Althea said softly. "It would be best that you learn to stand proudly in your nakedness."

"Why?" Maia asked, worried that the answer would be more than she could bear.

"I doubt that you will be allowed to wear anything but the collar that signifies that you are the favored of Lord Zeus for quite some time."

"Have I displeased our god in some way?"

Althea gave the young slave a sad smile. "No. But after what happened, it is his way to make certain you do not try to escape."

A frown pulled at Maia's brow. "I don't understand. What has happened?"

"You have not heard?"

Maia shook her head. She spent her days in this room. Slept when she could, tried not to think about the things she had done, that had been done to her. Nostalgically examined the memories of her life in the village from which she had been taken, crying over the warm days of innocence she had spent, knowing that never again would she find the peace that had filled her heart, her life. She watched as Althea sat down at the table where Zeus took his meals. Crossed the room immediately when the lo'taur motioned that she join her, her obedience as automatic as breathing now.

"Two days ago, Lord Zeus captured three humans. They were Tau'ri, from the First World," Althea whispered.

Not having a clue what the 'First World' was, nor who the Tau'ri might be, Maia simply nodded to indicate she was listening.

"There were two men, and a woman. The woman was a powerful witch, with great healing powers. I heard that Diokles had nearly killed the men in the interrogation room, but the witch healed them after she escaped from the harem, where Lord Zeus had ordered her taken. She had been in a locked room, but managed to just vanish!"

Maia knew the local healer of her village. Had spent many an hour watching, listening...learning. Understood that often what seemed like magic was merely slight of hand. The fact that Althea didn't seem to know this, seemed willing to believe that some sort of magic had been involved with the woman's escape, was another awakening. She suddenly began to see the raven-haired beauty in a much different light. The woman might be older, but she'd been a slave much longer; she wasn't as...wise...as Maia had thought. In fact, the young slave mused, it seemed that her years as a slave had left Althea with more than a lifetime of sexual experience, but none of the experience or understanding that came from a life as a free woman. Had the lo'taur been a slave for so long that she could no longer remember living any other way?

"The witch freed the two men, and after she healed them, they began to damage the ship! They moved like smoke through the walls, destroying whatever they wished. They managed to blow one of the glider bays completely off of this ha'tak!" Althea continued.

Her eyes went wide. "How is that possible?"

Althea shrugged. "I do not know. I heard the Jaffa talking...the witch and her minions tried to threaten Lord Zeus, but he is a god, after all, and he defeated them."

Maia frowned. This witch would have to be very powerful to even attempt to threaten one who was a god. If these prisoners weren't already dead, there was no doubt that they soon would be. "Where are they now?"

"The Jaffa searched for hours before they realized that the prisoners were no longer on the ship," the lo'taur replied.

"Where did they go?"

"The Jaffa on the pel'tak say the prisoners used the rings to flee, but there were no other ships nearby, so they are most likely dead," Althea continued.

If the woman was a witch, as Althea claimed, could she not have hidden a ship nearby? The frown deepened. If Zeus was a god, wouldn't he have known exactly where these prisoners were, and what they were doing? How could he not know when they'd escaped? Why had he allowed them to cause so much damage? A new thought poked at her. Perhaps Zeus wasn't a god. He was unable to bring forth the bright light from his hand without the device that covered his fingers. Would a true god have need of such a thing? She didn't think so. More doubts began to crowd her thoughts as she began to carefully examine everything Zeus had said and done since he had strode into the village square, and announced that he was their god, and that the villagers were to serve him as he saw fit.

Althea noticed the frown. "What bothers you, Maia?"

"Nothing," the young slave replied quickly. She knew that Althea was loyal to her master. In love with him. She'd seen that love many times in the lo'taur's sapphire blue eyes, and on her face. She knew instinctively that to voice her doubts could bring painful punishment. "I was just hoping that this witch didn't leave a curse on our god."

"Zeus is a mighty god," Althea huffed, tossing her dark hair over her shoulders. "There is no power stronger than his!"

Maia wasn't so sure about that.


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