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The Devil In the Details

Chapter 4

Tuesday 0540 hours

General Hammond didn't know what Daniel had discovered. Only that young man seemed excited, and said that they might have a possible avenue of action against Ba'al. The archaeologist had also requested that General Carter/Selmak sit in on the briefing. Whether this was in deference for what assistance the Tok'ra had offered by bringing that box of scrolls, he could only guess.

Daniel dropped his load of books onto the conference table, began opening them to the pages he'd carefully marked with strips of paper, taken from his spare yellow legal pad. Casey had two legal pads in her hands, Daniel's and her own; Cam followed, carrying his own notes. Cam and Casey had gone over the Sumerian scrolls for a second time, reading every line to Daniel. In one of his brilliant leaps of logic, he'd tied together the events that had occurred five hundred thousand years earlier. Casey was convinced that he was as correct in his theory of the Goa'uld as he had been about the pyramids.

Jack entered the room, took one look at the table and barely bit back a moan. This was going to be a briefing that ran into overtime...he could feel it. How many times would he have to explain to Daniel that a briefing should be 'brief'?

General Hammond hurried into the room, Jacob on his heels. "Doctor, you said that you found something?"

"Yes, sir. I went over all of the scrolls written in an ancient dialect of Egyptian. They covered the rebellion, and what the slaves did as soon as Ra's ship had disappeared," Daniel said. "Which in and of itself, is fascinating. However, it's the scrolls written in Sumerian that held the most information."

"And that would be?"

"It's basically a run down of how the Goa'uld came to be on Earth, sir," Casey said softly.

"We know who the first Goa'uld to take a host was," Daniel announced.

"Ra," Jack said, rolling his eyes. "This we already know."

"We assume it was Ra," Daniel corrected. He opened one of the books, pushed it toward the base CO.  "However, we didn't know how, or why that happened. Now we do. These drawings were done near the turn of the century. I've already checked, and the temples that were documented no longer exist. Look carefully at this drawing."

The general studied the drawing. "What am I supposed to see?"

"Think Unas, sir," Cam offered.

With a nod, Hammond looked at the drawing again. "My god," he muttered.

"Now, check this one out," Daniel said.

The general nodded. "Why are they dressed differently?"

"The second drawing is a representation of one of the 'First Ones', those who came to Earth to create the human race. According to the text that was found around it, it was a copy of what existed in another temple. In Babylon."

"I don't understand," Jack said, craning his neck to look at the pictures.

"Those are from a temple in Honduras," Daniel said, pointing to the first drawing, and the matching sketch in the book.

"How?" Hammond asked.

"Well, from what we've been able to extrapolate," Daniel said, "the Goa'uld are responsible for every pantheon of gods that exists in our myths, world wide. The only exception are the Norse gods, and we know they were influenced by the Asgard. Whether they were here before the Goa'uld, at the same time as the Goa'uld, or after, we're not sure. We do know that the Goa'uld were spread across the planet, playing the part of gods to the groups of people who were also spread across the planet. They assumed the identities of the gods of each culture. That's the reason all of the gods of our ancient myths are turning out to be Goa'uld. And they did this long before they followed Ra's example and took a humans as hosts.

"We know that most of the Goa'uld had already left long before Ra was tossed out, mostly to carve out their own 'empires' on other planets, since he ruled Earth with an iron fist. They took as many of their 'loyal subjects' as they could. Thus the abundance of 'ancient' civilizations that we continue to discover. Ra and company were expelled between eight and ten thousand years ago. When the Goa'uld left, their legacy, the pantheons indigenous to each civilization, remained. Many of those pantheons changed over time, myths grew and changed, due to what the people remembered and recorded after the Goa'uld were expelled from Earth. The fact that Goa'uld existence had been as...eradicated...as possible from our myths and history, is the reason we never knew the truth," he finished. "Part of this is because most of the civilizations never knew the truth. The few who did were involved in the revolt that got rid of Ra...and all evidence was buried...or removed."

"And this helps us how?" Jack asked.

"Casey," Daniel said, nodding at her notes.

"The Sumerians are the oldest 'civilization' known to man," she said. "Before their appearance, small nomadic groups and cave dwellers were the extent of humankind on Earth."

"Not telling me anything, Radar," Jack grumped. He'd listened to Daniel spout of about this stuff for six and a half years. There were just some things that stuck in his head, in spite of his best intentions to ignore it all...or anything that wasn't directly relevant to the problem at hand.

She smiled. "According to Sumerian myths, the Anunnaki were among the group who came down from the heavens and created man. The Anunnaki were the Sumerian 'gods'. Although the people didn't refer to them as gods, but 'din.gir'. Which literally means 'righteous ones of the bright pointed objects'."

"Think about a Goa'uld pyramid ship," Daniel said quietly.

"We already knew that the first hosts were Unas, because Unas were present on the planet where the Goa'uld existed...developed...evolved. We'd suspected that those 'First Ones' actually came here. We assumed that Ra was the first to take a human host, because that's what we found in all of the information pertaining to that era," Casey continued. "It's possible that Anu was the first. He was certainly the first to take humans as slaves, and to build up a city to deify himself."

Jack rubbed a hand over his face. "Tell me this isn't another Goa'uld we have to worry about."

Daniel grinned. "Actually, we already know him."

The colonel frowned, tried to remember having heard the name before. Was coming up with nothing.

His grin widened as he dropped the bombshell. "We know him as Lord Yu."

"What?" Sam was wide-eyed at the announcement.

"How in the hell can that be?" Jack demanded.

Casey held her hands up. "Anu had a son. Well, technically he had hundreds of them...symbiotes all. He chose one to become his heir. Amun."

"Who became Amun Ra," Daniel added.

"Ra killed Anu. Anu got a new host, and became part of the Babylonian triad of gods. And had more sons. One named Hadu," Casey said.

Sam frowned. "Wait a minute, that sounds familiar."

The young seer grinned. "It's an alias for Ba'al."

"You're kidding," Jack said hoarsely.

"Nope. So, Ba'al kills dad, and that's when he became 'Ba'al' by the way. One passage of one of the scrolls says that Anu took on the persona of En-lil, one of the 'other' Babylonian gods," Casey said. "Daniel thinks that Anu might have been tipped off about another assassination attempt, and took a new host to keep his enemies convinced that he was dead. So he was Anu of the Sumerians, Anu of the Assyrians, and En-lil, of the Babylonians."

"It's very possible that when Ba'al killed En-lil, he had no idea it was really Anu," Daniel said.

"And we know Ba'al killed this En-lil...how?" Jack asked.

"I did remember a little of that crap from my 'preparation'," Casey smirked.

The older man grinned. "Good job, Radar!"

She tossed her CO a wide smile.

"Now, after being murdered for the second...possibly third time," Daniel said, "whoever kept tossing Anu into the sarcophagus did so again. And humped it into what is now China."

"It seems that he was in the sarcophagus for awhile, as Yu didn't appear on the scene until several thousand years later," Cam added.

"I'll be damned," General Hammond said.

"We're left to assume that Yu has maintained his...disguise...in an attempt to prevent any further attacks on him," Daniel said.

"We know that Yu fought beside Ra against the Asgard-" Daniel started.

"We do?" Sam asked.

"Yep," the slender seer grinned. Daniel had searched his journal for the appropriate section, admitting to her and Cam that before he'd actually sat down to translate the rubbings and drawings, he'd located the second temple, and the walls of the first temple were all but forgotten in the excitement of discovering the thousands of 'gate addresses.

"Again I ask, as fascinating as all of this is, what does it have to do with our current problem?" Jack asked.

"It was Casey's idea," Daniel said, smiling at his Wife, wrapping his fingers around her hand.

"And what idea was that?" General Hammond asked.

"We contact Yu," Daniel replied. "And tell him to control his kid, or we will. This explains why Yu has never really attacked Ba'al, other than to destroy an outpost or research post, mostly because Ba'al has a tendency to ignore the rules of the Empire. Yu has never tried to take him out. Yu hasn't hesitated to attack or kill any other Goa'uld. But Ba'al...Yu seems to leave him alone. Obviously he doesn't want his true identity exposed."

"And when he finds out we know, he'll be anxious to keep us from spilling the beans," Casey added.

"He could just decide to attack Earth," Sam pointed out.

Daniel shook his head. "Not with the Protected Planet's Treaty. According to what Casey remembers, Yu and Ra were soundly defeated, and in a matter of days the Goa'uld Empire lost a third of its holdings to the Asgard." He didn't add how his Wife had rolled her eyes when telling him how Ba'al claimed to have offered protection to Ra and Yu, defeating their enemies in one glorious battle. Chances were, Ba'al had been nowhere near the two Goa'uld at that time.

"Whoa!" Jack said softly. "No wonder the snakes have always kept away from the Asgard."

"I'm sure that a few of them suspect that the Asgard aren't as powerful as they once were," Daniel said, "Or are too preoccupied with the Replicators to really do much here...but they're not willing to test their theories. But Yu remembers. He was there to see the defeat."

"Do you believe this will help us?" General Hammond asked.

"I can't give you a definitive yes, General," Daniel admitted. "But it's one option."

"Right now, with Ba'al monitoring all of our communications, or at least we assume he is, I'm not certain that contacting Lord Yu directly would be a wise move," the general said.

"That's where General Carter comes in," Daniel said, nodding at the man who was sitting beside his daughter.

"You wish for me to contact the Tok'ra base, and have the message sent out?" Jacob asked. He was as dumbstruck by the revelations as the others. The fact that Selmak was quiet indicated she was just as surprised. He could detect a hint of disappointment as well, that nothing had been revealed about the first days of the Tok'ra.

"Not exactly," Daniel replied. "That would be no different than sending it out ourselves, and it might possibly expose your base."

"Not possible," Sam said immediately, glad that her father had been willing to explain a bit about how the Tok'ra were able to remain hidden so well. "We actually contact a relay. And the transmission is scrambled, so first Ba'al would have to decipher the entire message, and hope that the frequency would be imbedded in the message. Then, if he was able to trace the message, all he'd find would be a communications relay, on a very deserted planet."

It was obvious that Jacob was less than pleased to have the details of Tok'ra communication exposed. He took a deep breath. "You want me to go back to the Tok'ra base, and contact Yu from there."

"Yes," Daniel said simply. He handed a folded sheet of paper to Sam, who handed it to her father. "Just send this."

Jacob nodded. He held up the paper. "Do you think this will work?"

"I certainly hope so," Daniel sighed.

General Hammond studied the book in front of him. They were quickly running out of time. Ba'al had threatened to contact the President directly, by ringing down into the White House, if the twenty-four hour deadline wasn't met. Because of the spies the Goa'uld had managed to slip into the Tok'ra ranks, and the work of one of their own SG team members, who had posed as a spy, feeding Ba'al information, accurate as well as false, the Goa'uld did know that the entire Stargate Program was a secret from the citizens of Earth. To...appear...in that manner would blow the lid off of the entire can of worms. Whether or not it would violate the Protected Planets Treaty would no doubt be left up to interpretation. Especially if no threats were made. "I spoke with President Miller an hour ago. I agree with him, we can't put off this negotiation any longer."

Walter hurried into the room. His eyes moved from the general to Daniel and back again. "Sir, we've just received a message. I don't know how he managed to find the passwords, or bypass the security systems."

"Who?" General Hammond asked.

"I think it's from Ba'al, sir. Everything is in Goa'uld." Walter handed a printout to the general.

All eyes went to Sam. "I'm on it," she said quietly. If the Goa'uld had hacked into their system, they were vulnerable. Shutting him out was simple self-preservation.

"Call Dennis Ballard," General Hammond said. "I'm certain he'll be of valuable assistance to you."

Sam smiled. "I'm sure he will be, too, sir." If Ba'al could hack into their computers, then turn about was fair play. She could hack a system, but she wasn't one of the fastest hackers around. Dennis could be into Ba'al's system, download everything, and be out, before the snake was aware they'd been there. She disappeared into the corridor.

"Doctor Jackson, I need to know what the message says," the general continued, sliding the printout toward Daniel.

Daniel read the very pointed message that Ba'al had sent. "This is just a repeat of the warning he gave when I spoke to him. He's trying to frighten us by showing that he can get into our systems, probably wants us to think he can control them. If he did hack in, there's no telling what he was able to pull out." He felt the tension in the room increase.

"Doctor Jackson, I suggest that you and Casey prepare to ring to Ba'al's ship. How long will it take you?"

His heart dropped to his feet. He'd been hoping to avoid this. Had hoped that contacting Lord Yu would prevent the need to negotiate with the snake he hated as much as he'd hated Apophis. They still had three hours, give or take, until that deadline. If Ba'al was getting antsy, however..."Sir, if I might suggest that Casey and I not wear BDUs during this negotiation? He's accustomed to seeing us that way. It might throw him off a bit to see us dressed as civilians."

Jack frowned. "It might throw him more than a bit," he agreed. "If Ba'al believes that the SGC is strictly military, we might plant a seed of doubt about him being able to take us, if he learns that civilians are included in the program as well. He might assume that all civilians are as well trained."

"Exactly," Daniel nodded. "We need every advantage we can get, no matter how small it may be. Casey and I can go grab something, and be back here in less than an hour."

"Very well. I'll notify Major Farnsworth. I'll send a message to Ba'al, stating that the negotiating team, and their body guards, will arrive in one hour."

"Yes, sir."

Casey shivered slightly. As long as she was with Daniel, she'd be fine, she told herself firmly.

 

 

 

He held her hand tightly as they rode the elevator to the surface. Too long...it had taken them too long to translate the scrolls, to make the connections...to figure out the worth of what they had learned. "With luck, Jacob will have sent that message, and gotten a response by the time we get back," he said, trying to instill a bit of hope in both of their hearts.

She shook her head. "Not with the way our luck's been running today."

The predawn darkness seemed to hang like a heavy blanket over the city as they drove the quiet streets. Over the bridge that led into the suburb of Silver Springs. Past shopping centers, schools, houses. A turn from Twenty-first to Broadway, then another onto Baldwin.

Casey sighed as they pulled into the driveway. Wishing they could just go in and go to bed. Janet had given everyone on the base a vitamin injection, knowing that sleep wasn't something anyone would be getting, not for a few more hours. Adrenaline and fear were doing a fine job of keeping everyone wide awake.

"Angel?"

"I don't suppose just crawling in bed and pulling the blankets up over my head will make any of this go away, will it?"

He smiled. "Sorry, babe."

"Okay, how about this, we find a time device, and dial it back a couple of days, postpone the war games, take his sorry ass out, and then move on. Hey, that might even keep us from our little side trip to meet Zeus!"

The smile became a grin. "Now that idea has merit!"

"Okay, so how long to find that mythical time device?"

The smile faded. "Longer than we have," Daniel said quietly.

"I was afraid you were going to say that." She sighed again. "I'm wearing my black suit. So far, it's been good luck. We could use a bit of that right now."

"Yes, we could. Okay, I'll wear mine as well."

She glanced at the house again, but made no move to get out of the jeep.

"Casey, we have to move it. It's not safe to push Ba'al too far."

She knew, in the very depths of her heart, that somehow, some way, she was going to wind up prisoner to Ba'al once again. In fact, it was the only thing she was sure of at the moment. "I'm terrified," she admitted.

"Me, too."

Following him into the house, she determined that she needed to hold him, be held by him, if only for a few minutes. It seemed as if it had been forever since she had felt his arms around her, holding her close. She paused before stepping into her closet. "Daniel?"

"Hmm?"

"Hold me? Just for a minute?"

The fear in her eyes tore at his heart. He reached for her, pulled her close. Held her until the tremors lessened substantially. Wished they had time for him to hold her until she stopped shaking completely.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Daniel had brought his black suit, Casey had brought her black jacket and skirt, adding an emerald green camisole. She knew that the men of SG-9 would be wearing their dress uniforms. She giggled at the knowledge that SG-3 would go looking their part...military body guards. Whether or not they would be allowed to keep their weapons was anyone's guess.

Casey dressed carefully. Not for Ba'al, but for Daniel. She took extra time with her makeup. Brushed her hair until it was soft and shiny. Pulled it back with two tortoiseshell combs. Gave herself a final cursory glance before leaving the locker room.

Daniel was waiting for her, his hands shoved into his pockets. His breath caught in his throat. No doubt Ba'al would find his Wife all the more beautiful. He frowned at the thought of the snake ogling Casey. Then again, maybe he'd be distracted enough by those sexy legs to agree to terms that were beneficial to the SGC and Earth. "Ready?"

She took a deep breath. "Not really. But let's get this over with."

The men of SG-3 and SG-9 were waiting in the ring transport room. General Hammond, Jack, Sam, and Teal'c were there as well.

"I trust your judgment son," General Hammond told Daniel quietly. "Just do the best you can."

"Yes, sir."

"Just buy us a little time, Daniel," Jack said. "Jacob will get that message to Yu, and we'll get Poppa to take care of the bastard for us."

"Right." He gave his best friend a weak smile. "Give me a heads up if we need to...disappear."

"You bet," Jack replied.

That she understood the insinuation in Daniel's request, and Jack's promise, only served to accentuate her fears. "Did you find out if the snake did any damage to our systems?" Casey asked, her voice shaking slightly. She was trying to put off the inevitable, just for another minute or so. Everyone in the room understood that.

"So far we haven't found any trace of him doing anything other than downloading the message," Sam replied. "Dennis is in his system now, getting everything he can, and putting up firewalls that Ba'al won't be able to get past."

"Good. Tell Dennis to send a nice computer virus. One that knocks out all of his weapons," Casey huffed.

Sam grinned. "That is an excellent idea!" She turned to the general. "Sir-"

Hammond was grinning as well. "Go. If he can do it, get it done, best time, Major."

"Yes, sir!" Sam gave Casey a hug. "Keep coming up with the great ideas, Casey. We'll get rid of Ba'al yet!"

Casey hugged her best friend. "I'll do my best."

Jack reached for her. Gave her an uncharacteristically tight hug. "Don't piss him off, Radar. Don't give him a reason," he said softly.

"Got it," Casey whispered in reply. She turned to Teal'c. "Keep them safe for me."

"I will do so," Teal'c replied. Held Casey as tightly as Jack had done when the slender blonde wrapped her arms around his waist.

Major Farnsworth tapped Daniel's shoulder. "We need to go, sir," he said softly.

Daniel reached for his Wife. Wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "We'll be home in time for lunch."

General Hammond nodded. "We'll have it waiting on the table for you."

The two teams and the Jacksons stepped inside the circle. In a flash of light they were transported to the ship of the enemy who hovered so dangerously above their home.

Jack shoved his fists into his pockets. "Let's hope Danny can buy us the time we need," he said quietly.

"I have the utmost faith in Doctor Jackson's abilities," General Hammond replied.

"As do I," Teal'c said softly. Daniel Jackson would take whatever steps necessary to protect his wife. But he would never abandon his friends, those he called family, or the place he called home. For the time being, his friends...his family...needed to find alternative plans to defeat Ba'al. No doubt it would take cunning to be rid of the false god once and for all.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A 

 

It was impossible not to cringe the slightest bit when she saw him. She shifted unconsciously, putting herself just behind Daniel's shoulder, clinging tightly to his hand. His fingers squeezed hers gently, reassuringly.

Ba'al had not been prepared to see Daniel Jackson, and those he recognized as being from the SGC. He'd expected to meet the leaders of the world that rotated slowly beneath his ship. He'd made special plans to greet those leaders with all of the pomp required by such an occasion, overwhelming them with the fact that he was a god, and they were on his ship; giving a demonstration...just a small taste of his power, one that would give him the advantage immediately. He held his face in a steady facade of neutrality, even as he began to worry. No need for any of his schemes now. The slaves who stood nearby, had been spared the agony of the ribbon device, were shooed away, taken by the Jaffa who guarded them, to be returned to their cells.

Nor had he been prepared to see the Tau'ri in such attire. He wondered at the difference of clothing between the men who stood behind Jackson, and that annoying archaeologist's black garb. Was the garment a symbol of his status? He damned his lack of knowledge regarding such customs of the Tau'ri, an oversight he had not even considered. It was impossible not to let his eyes wander over Casey's slender body. The black fabric hugged her sensuous curves, a bit of green flashed beneath the jacket she wore. The sheer fabric that encased her legs only served to accentuate each line and curve of the shapely limbs. His body reacted to the sight, he was unable to hold back the rush of lust that filled him. "Welcome," he said at last, his voice belying none of his internal disquiet.

Daniel watched carefully. Apparently the arrival of the SGC personnel had interrupted a bit of punishment...or Ba'al had planned to show off his...power...to the leaders he had believed he would be meeting with. It was an assumption that had been carefully fostered. That they had unwittingly prevented a bit of torture was just one point in their favor, as far as he was concerned. The Goa'uld couldn't seem to tear his eyes off Casey. Even though Ba'al was doing his damnedest to appear unaffected, dark eyes had widened slightly. He wasn't even aware of moving, didn't realize he was leaning just a bit, placing himself in front of his Wife. "Thank you. Shall we proceed?"

The Tau'ri seemed eager to begin the negotiations. Once again it required effort not to let his face reveal his displeasure. He consoled himself with the knowledge that the sooner the formality of the opening ceremony was dealt with, the sooner the conference could begin, and the sooner Casey would be his. With a slight nod of his head, Ba'al turned. He paused, moved his gaze over the four armed men who stood behind the Jackson's. "You will not need weapons here."

"Your Jaffa are armed. It is only fair that we have our own bodyguards," Daniel replied immediately, spouting off the line he had rehearsed the entire time he had been dressing.

"Such distrust does not bode well for our discussion," Ba'al returned warningly.

"You would come to the SGC alone, and unarmed?" Daniel countered.

It didn't matter. His Jaffa could dispatch the 'bodyguards' most easily. The other four men, dressed in what must be ceremonial garb, were unarmed, at least, as far as he could tell. Without another word, Ba'al turned on his heel and led the way to the room that had been prepared for the meeting, followed by his entourage of Jaffa, his High Priest and a scribe.

The room was empty, save for two tables and assorted seating. One table sat near the far wall, with a chair that could only be described as a throne behind it. The other table was across from it, in the middle of the room. Chairs lined the wall behind it, Ba'al had been uncertain how many men would arrive.

Ferretti and his men quickly lined six chairs up at the table. The Marine took a stance behind the Doc and Radar. He evaluated the situation. Having his back to the door was a problem. He glanced at Willy Lopez, then that opening, where two Jaffa stood at attention.

Willy's only response was to turn sideways, his back toward his teammates, his eyes moving over the two Jaffa in what appeared to be a cursory look. In that short glance he had sized up the enemy, and groaned mentally. This was a lousy set up. No doubt the snake had planned it this way.

Daniel remained standing until Ba'al had settled himself on the ornate throne; Major Farnsworth and his team following suit. He didn't wait for permission to sit. As soon as Ba'al leaned back, he grabbed the chair in front of him and sat down. Casey and the others sat as well. It was a small thing, but it let the Goa'uld know that he was dealing with equals, not subordinates.

Ba'al frowned. He hadn't given permission for the Tau'ri to be seated. He met the hard, cold, steady gaze of the archaeologist. There was no sign of fear. No hint that the man felt the least bit uncomfortable. "Let us begin." He waved a hand, and his High Priest stepped into the middle of the room.

The priest was wearing his ceremonial robes, the jewels and gold threads glittering in the light from the sconces that lined the walls. He unfurled a scroll, and began to read. "In the beginning of time, Ba'al, the creator of all, did set into place those laws that would govern the people who lived under his benevolent rule-"

Daniel snorted loudly. "Is this going to take long? We're here to conduct business, not listen to a litany of your supposed exploits."

"Silence!" Ba'al roared. "It is the way of the Goa'uld!"

"Well, we aren't Goa'uld. And we really don't have time for this," Daniel replied coldly. He turned to Casey. "How long did you say that ceremony you were forced into was supposed to last?"

She bit back her smile. "Six days. An attack spared me that. Did I remember to send a thank-you card to Olokun for his timely arrival?"

Blue eyes swung back to the Goa'uld, who sat seething on the throne. "We're not going to sit here for six days, or however long this would take. If you want to negotiate, you want a treaty, let's negotiate. Otherwise, we're leaving."

In that instant Ba'al realized that Jackson had somehow taken complete control of the proceedings. He could insist that the priest continue. He had enough experience with this particular group, or two of them, however, to know that the man meant exactly what he said.

Daniel watched Ba'al's eyes and face. It had been a risk, to interrupt the priest as he had. But he needed to make a show of strength, one that would force Ba'al to change his perspective. If he could keep the snake off balance, pre-empt what had to have been a carefully planned exchange of demands, it would put him on better footing for negotiating.

With an angry flip of his hand, Ba'al signaled that the priest should step back. "Then let us proceed."

He opened the leather portfolio he had been carrying. "According to your message, you have arrived here to offer your protection to our planet. We assume that you're referring to the arrival of Zeus into this galaxy. We are aware that he's moving in this direction. However, we don't have any proof that his plans are to attack us," Daniel said.

"We are planning an appropriate welcome, though, just in case," Casey smiled. "One with lots of nice ka-booms."

Major Farnsworth cleared his throat in an attempt to cover his snicker. The Kid had whispered a translation for his teammates; Ferretti and his boys openly chuckled.

Ba'al felt as if someone had turned the room upside down. He was not facing a group of leaders, unaccustomed to dealing with the Goa'uld, men who would have been frightened by his show of power, impressed by the litany of his accomplishments. Nor was he dealing with a group who were uninformed about the Zeus. He should have suspected as much. The Tau'ri moved with precision throughout the galaxy. They were getting information from somewhere. The Tok'ra, no doubt. He was well aware of the alliance between the two. "In spite of your bravado, I am aware of the fact that you are unable to defend yourselves against an attack, should Zeus decided to take your world."

"Earth, known also as the First World, is part of the Protected Planets Treaty. I was there when that treaty was negotiated, and signed. For any Goa'uld to attack Earth will bring the Asgard in full force," Daniel countered.

"Zeus is not aware of the treaty," Ba'al shot back. He'd lost control of the situation, and desperately needed to regain it. "His attack would be swift and merciless. No doubt there would be little left by the time the Asgard were able to arrive."

"Maybe you should clue him in. After all, he is your brother, isn't he?" Daniel asked, smirking slightly. "I understand that the last time the Goa'uld and the Asgard did battle, the Asgard took one-third of the empire, and in only a matter of days."

Ba'al lifted his chin slightly. "That was a very long time ago. We are much more powerful now. The Asgard are also preoccupied with fighting a war on another front. They do not have time to worry about an insignificant planet on the far reaches of an unimportant solar system."

"You're sure about that?" Daniel asked. "And if we're so insignificant and unimportant, why bother yourself to protect us?"

"I am a benevolent god," Ba'al replied, using carefully rehearsed words. "It is my duty to protect those who are unable to defend themselves."

Casey suddenly sneezed. Which sounded suspiciously like 'bullshit'. Ba'al raised an eyebrow, but said nothing.

Daniel bit back his grin. "I see. Of course this benevolent protection comes with a price."

"I ask only that of which I am entitled, as a god. Your appreciation. Your...worship, if you will."

"Is that all?"

Ba'al gave a feral smile. "Not exactly. Zeus is powerful. Not as powerful as I am, of course, but he will be a challenge to defeat, none the less. That I should risk my ships, my Jaffa, to protect your world, there would be...payment...expected."

"Of course there would. What sort of payment?"

"A sacrifice, of sorts. Your Wife." Ba'al watched with satisfaction as blue eyes flared with anger and undisguised hatred. "One woman, for the safety of an entire planet. It is really a small pittance, when viewed objectively."

'Small pittance'? Now that pissed her off! She'd show that snake just what a 'small pittance' could do to his sorry ass! Her eyes hurled darts at the Goa'uld, her fingers itched to be around a P90. This 'small pittance' could put enough holes in him to call him lace!

It was impossible to speak for a moment. What he wanted to say, wanted to shout, was that it would be a cold day in hell before his Wife was offered up as a sacrifice. Fought down the terror that the politicians of Earth would be more than willing to meet that demand. Diplomacy was a dance of sorts. If he wanted to keep Ba'al off-center, he couldn't respond as he knew the Goa'uld expected him to. "Of course, payment would not be made until you have proven that no threat to Earth exists."

"From Zeus," Ba'al replied. There had been no adamant, angry refusal. There was no doubt that Jackson had wanted to do just that. He hadn't, and that was surprising in and of itself. Had Jackson been ordered to appease him? That thought had very pleasant connotations.

"Right. From Zeus. What makes you think we can't take him out before he even arrives here? We've killed other Goa'uld with little trouble. Ra, Apophis, Cronus, Hathor, Seth, Osiris, Marduk...oh, and Anubis.  Took him out, too."

"I do not need a list of those foolish enough to fall prey to mere slaves," Ba'al sneered. Would never admit, even to himself, that such an impressive list of fallen gods was indicative of the audacious tenacity and the previously underestimated abilities of the Tau'ri. He could not doubt that these Tau'ri had killed Ra, his spies had confirmed that Goa'uld's death shortly after it happened. Nor did he doubt that Anubis had fallen at their hands...that death had occurred on his ship, as SG-1 escaped from him yet again. Could he then doubt the veracity of the remainder of their claims?

"And about two dozen minor Goa'uld, some whose names we don't know," Daniel finished, as if Ba'al hadn't spoken. "I believe that we're quite capable of taking out Zeus. Or you, for that matter."

Dark eyes flashed angrily. "Do not be so certain of that, Tau'ri."

"According to our information, Zeus is a threat to you, or at least to your attempts to achieve status as the Supreme System Lord."

"I am Supreme System Lord," Ba'al growled.

"Right. Do the other System Lords know that?" Daniel smirked. "Considering that our intelligence reports indicate that Zeus is very powerful, we would be willing to...work together...with you, to be rid of him. We propose a treaty that will ally us for the duration of such an undertaking."

Ba'al sat back. This was not going as he had planned. However, such a treaty would allow him to place his ships strategically, in the guise of offering them protection. Then, he could take the First World without interference. "Continue."

"We suggest a cessation of hostilities between us, until Zeus has been eliminated."

"And when he is no longer a threat?"

"Then the treaty will have fulfilled its purpose, and neither party will be required to honor it. Upon Zeus' death, the treaty would be null."

Ba'al's eyes narrowed. It wasn't exactly what he had wanted...however, the possibilities were still there. The option of addressing the people on the planet beneath him always remained open. No doubt they would be more than willing to give him whatever he demanded, in spite of the protests of those who operated the SGC. What he wanted was the woman sitting beside his enemy. "This idea intrigues me. I will hear more."

Daniel was a bit surprised that the Goa'uld had capitulated so easily. No doubt their arrival and behavior had given them an edge...but not enough to have Ba'al agreeing so easily. The bastard was up to something. He had to figure out just what exactly that was.


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