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The 'gate opened with customary splendor. For several long seconds nothing happened. Four Jaffa came through, took in the carnage. One spoke into what had to be a radio. More Jaffa came through, lining up as best they could around the dead bodies. Jack counted seventy-five, and still they marched through the 'gate. They were swarming over the standing buildings, and would certainly find the C-4 that had been placed without bothering to conceal it.
The last to walk down the steps was a large man, well over six-foot in height. His brown hair lay in waves down to the collar of his blood red shirt. He wasn't handsome in the classical sense, but the features of his strong face were interesting. His eyes moved from one side of the camp to the other. No one could mistake the menacing grin on his face. "The fools have saved me the trouble of killing them!" he declared, laughing loudly.
Casey hissed a breath. "Penatil!"
Jack looked at her. "You're sure?"
"My Lord," one of the Jaffa called out, carrying a brick of C-4, the detonator in the other hand. "We have found several of these devices. We believe they are Tau'ri explosives."
Penatil took the block of C-4, then began to scan the area slowly. "Send out scouts. There are others out there. I want them brought to me. Alive."
Shit! Jack grabbed his radio. "Turk, fade."
"Contact in six hours."
"Contact in six hours, roger."
"Sam, hit the detonator…with luck they haven't disarmed all of them!"
Sam pushed the red button on the small device in her hand. Seven separate explosions rocked the area, sending several dozen Jaffa to never-never land forever. The large laboratory hut was destroyed, as well as the one of the barracks huts. The others were still standing, proof that the Jaffa had discovered more of the C-4 than suspected.
Penatil roared with rage. "Find them! Bring those who would dare to do this; to me…alive! I will kill them myself!"
SG-1 began to move carefully through the forest once again. "Haven't we seen this movie?" Casey whispered grumpily.
"Yep. Lousy ending," Jack whispered in reply.
"That's what I thought."
The sound of bodies crashing through the brush behind them sent the team running toward the river. They didn't dare allow themselves to be caught. Not by Penatil. Intelligence reports that had filtered through to Gamma had painted a frightening picture of a Goa'uld growing bolder, and more cruel, with each successful battle he waged, every conquest he made. He was making threats against the Tau'ri in general, and SG-1 in particular. He was well aware of the fact that they had been instrumental in bringing down Nergal. He had no intention of suffering the same fate.
A A A A A A
It was nearly an hour later when Jack led the team across the river. They'd taken the time to lay a false trail toward the camp that had been inhabited by the prisoners. With luck, the Jaffa would follow it all the way, and believe that SG-1 had managed to circle around them. Gut instinct told him to put as much distance between them and the Goa'uld as possible. Even if that meant moving farther away from the Stargate. When Duncan did send the MALP through, he could only hope that the Highlander would be able to collect enough image intel to know that the team wasn't being held captive before the machine was destroyed. With luck, the Phoenix or the Persephone would be in orbit in a day or two. The ships could lock in on their radio signals, and ring them aboard. Home in time for dinner. In theory, anyway.
Daniel kept his eye on Casey's back as she jogged beside Sam. Jack was pushing them, had gotten off a fifteen second communication with Turk, telling him to fade farther. A reply had been received, and he knew that the four Marines would damned impossible to find. When his gaze drifted to that firm, beautifully shaped ass, he almost moaned out loud. He was going to have to be alone with her…soon. There was always the astral plane, but he hated to let Jack know about that just yet. Of course, considering the fact that they were both going to need a bath… he shook his head mentally. Later. He'd worry about getting his fix later. When he was certain that they weren't at risk of being captured…or killed. They were fairly certain that Penatil knew just exactly how to kill an Immortal…permanently.
Casey stopped so suddenly that Daniel nearly plowed over her. "We have to go back!"
Jack stopped, turned to look at her. "Why?"
"Because that bastard has his own geneticists!"
"I believe that by this time the Jaffa are most probably in the forest searching for us," Teal'c said softly. "If we move with great care, we might be able eliminate the search party."
"How much time will that buy us?" Jack asked.
"One, perhaps two days," the large man replied.
Jack stood, breathing heavily, his hands on his hips. The forest they were in now was beginning to thin out. The terrain was getting rugged, and higher. Within a day or so they would be in the mountains. He searched his feelings. Poked at his gut. "We have the hard drives. We have the data crystals. We blew the laboratory. Tell me what's up there," he said, pointing to the mountain ridge over his shoulder.
Casey nodded, closed her eyes. Daniel met her in that meadow, and she carefully moved over the landscape. "That little river starts up there. Not much wider, but it'll provide water. There are about six caves up there, five of them rather small, one about the size of the 'gate room."
"Any danger in us moving on?"
She shook her head. "Penatil is going to keep searching for us. We didn't take the time to go through those smaller labs. There's the chance he might find notes on what that group was doing."
He added this information to what he already had. Made his decision. "We move on."
No one argued. They began to jog again, anxious to get to the relative safety of the mountains. If they placed themselves just right, any approaching Jaffa could be easily picked off. Once again, staying out of sight, and out of range, was their best hope for survival.
A A A A A A
One last fifteen-second communication with Turk let them know that he and his team had also found suitable terrain for hiding. The connection was weak, and it was agreed that they would try again in ten hours. Until that time, both teams were on their own.
Twilight had fallen by the time they gave in to exhaustion. Daniel injected himself with the Hathor-gene serum, knowing that it might be one or two more days before it would be safe enough to make love to Casey. He didn't like it…but it was better than the alternative.
She pulled her lip between her teeth as she watched him put the serum and the hypodermic needle back into the narrow wooden box.
"What?" he asked softly.
"I'm so sorry," she whispered.
He shook his head. This was a discussion they'd had many times. One day, he might actually get through to her. "I'm not," he replied firmly. "I'll be glad when I can have the real thing, though." He wiggled his eyebrows.
She giggled. "I'll just bet you will." She sighed. She was just as addicted to him. Emotionally and mentally anyway.
"You could call your Dad, have him send the cavalry," Daniel said quietly.
"But he'd have to leave Mom and the kids to do that. Right now, I have no idea how safe that would be," she replied.
"He said he took them somewhere safe," the young archaeologist frowned.
"Yes. With a Stargate. Who knows what…or whom…might decide to waltz through it! Dad can certainly deal with any threat…if he's there."
He frowned. He'd assumed that Aaron would simply use his…power…to get them where they needed to go. Either the Ancient wasn't as strong as Daniel suspected him to be, or there would be unwanted repercussions to his using those powers. Either way, it made just giving him a call for help a last ditch resort. He glanced at his Wife. That was probably the reason she hadn't suggested it before now. He reached out and pulled her close. As long as they were together, they'd be okay.
Sleeping bags were unrolled, and the team bedded down for the night. Sam was on watch when she very quietly woke her teammates. In the distance they could see the light of torches moving carefully through the area.
"Shit!" Jack swore. "Let's go, campers."
As quickly as they could, sleeping bags were rolled and reattached to packs. Which were hefted onto weary shoulders. Teal'c led the way, moving carefully; an attempt to leave as little of a trail as possible. It would be easier once they were moving through the rocky terrain of the hillside in front of them.
A A A A A A
Dawn broke over the horizon, the fingers of pink and red and orange bringing enough light that night vision goggles could be taken off. They were climbing up the second hill when they heard the shouts behind them. The hunters had spotted their prey.
"Sonovabitch! Move campers, let's go!" Jack commanded.
Tired, sore, needing a rest, the members of SG-1 began to run once again as much as they could. Boulders the size of small vehicles blocked their path, forcing them to slow down. When the hill 'dipped' slightly, Jack motioned each of his team into a different hiding place. They would take out those closest to them before moving on again.
When two gliders flew overhead, firing at them, the team understood that their position had been relayed to their pursuers. They also understood that their capture was just a matter of time.
"Should I call Daddy?" Casey asked quietly.
Jack adjusted the transmitter beside his mouth as he contemplated. "Reality check here. Does anybody think we can make an escape if we let this ass catch us?"
Daniel frowned. His best friend would never have asked that question if he didn't already have an answer. "We always have before," he replied.
The older man grinned. "Does anybody think we can at least give this snake some heartburn before we make our get-away?"
"Worth a try," Sam said.
"I agree," Casey chimed in.
"Okay, let's make it count. The more of them we can take out, the better."
"O'Neill, the gliders are returning," Teal'c said quietly. When the first of the two were close enough, flying low in order to fire on the Tau'ri, the giant man rose to his feet, firing at the vehicle, causing enough damage to send it scurrying back toward the camp. The second glider moved higher, began to circle around their position.
Nearly fifty Jaffa were moving towards them. There wasn't a doubt that this was it, they were about to be captured. P90's filled the air with sound and hot metal. But after the battles already fought, ammunition was low. Within an hour SG-1 were prisoners, but only because there were twenty Jaffa remaining.
Their weapons and packs were confiscated, and each of the team members were bound tightly, hands and arms tied cruelly behind their backs. The march back to the camp began.
A A A A A A
The sun was well past its zenith when they walked into the camp the next day. The area had been transformed; the debris was gone, there was no sight of the numerous bodies anywhere, and several tents had been erected.
Casey shook her head slightly. Nothing like a few determined Jaffa and a heavy-handed 'master' to clean things up. The thought that maybe she should hire them to clean her windows brought a sudden giggle to her throat.
'Case?' Daniel frowned, looking at his wife.
'Just wondering if they do windows.'
He couldn't help but grin. That was his Casey. Find something amusing in the most dire of circumstances.
Penatil had taken up residence in one of the surviving barracks huts. It too, had undergone a transformation. Heavy tapestries covered the walls, rugs covered the floor. Several pieces of heavy, intricately carved wooden furniture had been brought in. The Goa'uld seemed to be preparing for an extended stay.
The members of SG-1 were forced to their knees, each of them struggling to remain on their feet as long as possible. The three men were subjected to several blows from staff weapon shafts for their efforts.
The Goa'uld walked around the kneeling prisoners. "Well, the great SG-1. Not so formidable as you would wish your enemies to believe," he chuckled.
"Ever entertain the thought that we let ourselves be captured?" Casey asked flippantly. Her teammates grinned.
"You do not speak unless I allow it!" Penatil shouted, slapping her across the face, sending her to her side. He reached down, grabbed the front of her filthy shirt, pulled her upright. He had information about this woman, about her gifts as a seer. "You will serve me, Beautiful One. And as long as you do, I will allow them to live. Anger me, and they will die in the most horrible manner, and you will watch!"
Daniel had tried to move toward her, was being held back by two Jaffa. It was noteworthy, and Penatil missed it, that even restrained, the man was able to continue fighting. A third Jaffa slapped the archaeologist.
The color drained from Casey's face. It had been well over a year and a half since she'd been held prisoner in Nergal's torture chambers. She remembered every moment with crystal clarity. She had no doubt that this snake meant exactly what he said. She fought against it, but the smartass in her won out. "Yeah, like that will happen!"
Penatil slapped her again. One eyebrow went up as he watched her Quickening heal the cut his ribbon device had left on her cheek. "I will have the secrets of Immortality."
"Oh, if that's all you're after," Jack said casually. "Have to be born that way. Or granted it by the Ascended. Otherwise, you're shit out of luck. Can we go now?"
A nod from his god, and the Jaffa standing nearest to the general doubled up his fist and hit the man across the face.
"My Lord," one of the Jaffa said, holding up the data crystals that had been in Sam's pack.
'Daniel, fireballs might be really good about now.'
He winked at his wife, an action not missed by the Goa'uld. He pushed the fire into his fingertips, tossed a fireball blindly behind him. Hit a one of the guards in the belly. The man fell to his knees, his symbiote dead upon impact of the blue flames. Eyes wide, he crumpled face first.
The Jaffa around them shifted nervously. Penatil glowered at him. "You are The Chosen."
"My name shall be revered forever as the one who defeated The Chosen!" The Goa'uld raised his hand, the stream of power from the ribbon device impacting on Daniel as he continued to struggle against his bonds.
"No! Stop! Please!" Casey screamed, tears streaking the grime that covered her face. "Please, stop!"
Penatil looked at her. Such green eyes. So full of love for the Tau'ri. And fear. Yes, there was much fear there. He dropped his hand, studied the now unconscious man. Perhaps this 'Chosen' wasn't as powerful as he'd been told. "Take them to the pens. Take this one and clean her up," he said, pointing at Casey.
A A A A A A
She shivered as the slaves pulled her battered, dirt caked clothes from her body. As much as she wanted to, she resisted the urge to fight them. She stepped into the brass tub, settled into the scented water, let them do what they had been instructed to do. Kept her eyes closed as the three women worked. Didn't even feel their hands on her as she tried again to reach Daniel. He was still unconscious.
When the slaves were satisfied that the woman was clean, they dried her, rubbed scented oil into her skin, then draped a thin, sleeveless linen robe over her slender body. A heavy belt of silver and platinum - encrusted with emeralds - was fastened around her narrow waist, holding the robe in place. Her long hair was brushed until it was dry, then braided once again.
The Goa'uld looked up from where he sat at a table, calmly examining notes that had been found. His breath caught in his throat. Truly this woman was worthy to be the consort of a god! He had no clue that he was not the first Goa'uld to think such a thing. He stood to his feet, held his hand out as she approached. "You are breathtaking, Beautiful One," he said softly.
She stared at him, trying not to shudder at the endearment. Nergal's endearment.
Casey stood stubbornly. Watched as the Goa'uld's eyes flashed with anger and impatience.
She remained firmly in place.
"Do you wish for me to begin torturing them now? Which one will you chose to be first?"
The words had the desired effect. She stepped closer. Allowed the snake-infested man grab her hand, tug her against his body.
"You will sit with me. And you will tell me what these papers say." Penatil pushed her onto a stool beside the chair he had been sitting in. He settled himself once again. Handed her the first sheet of paper.
Trembling fingers held the page. "Let me see them. To know that they're alive," she said.
"You will do as I command you! I am your god!" Penatil roared.
"You're nothing but a snake, infesting the body of an innocent man. You'll die for that. I'll kill you myself!"
He studied her. Threw back his head and laughed. "I do not believe so, Beautiful One."
"Yeah, that's what Ba'al said. And Nergal. They're both dead. I helped kill Geb too. Camulus? Dead. Because of me," she said. It was the truth, just not exactly the way that Penatil was thinking. "Daniel killed Anubis, with me at his side. Then there was Toren. And Dagon. Yep, every damned one of them I helped kill! I personally killed Osiris…for daring to mess with my Beloved. You're nothing! You'll die just as easily as they did!"
He was well aware of the fact that Nergal had been killed by Dr. Daniel Jackson, and this beautiful witch. Rotalle, who had once served as that Goa'uld's High Priest had watched from the distance as the Tau'ri had surrounded the small cottage, and had killed the Goa'uld. Penatil did not wish to be reminded of that fact. Nergal had been…untouchable…unstoppable…for centuries. Within months of coming into contact with SG-1, he was dead. Ashnan and Laurel had fallen during that battle, victims of the Tau'ri. Penatil had no intention of falling to these Tau'ri as well! The back of his hand impacted on her cheek, sent her flying backwards. "Be silent!"
She was on her feet in an instant, fists up, taking a defensive posture.
"You have much fire," Penatil said, grinning broadly. "I shall soon discover if you are as fiery in my bed as you are standing here, defying me."
"Never gonna happen, snakeface," she growled.
He reached out, grabbed her by the belt, hauled her to stand beside him. He let his fingertips move over her face. "It will," he hissed softly in her ear.
She struggled, panicked when his arms went around her and pulled her close. "Let. Me. Go!"
Penatil lowered his face to kiss her. Grinned when she turned her head. "Soon, Beautiful One." He shoved her back onto the stool, forced the paper back into her hand. "Read it to me!"
She shuddered. Better this than trying to fight off sexual advances. Better chance of staying out of his bed this way. She began to read what was written. Glanced at the desk. There were a lot of notes to go through. This was going to take awhile. She could only hope that Daniel and her friends were all right. And that she could drag this out long enough to come up with a plan of escape.
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