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 The Devil In the Details

Chapter 7

Tuesday 2320 hours

She'd slept for hours. Felt much better, even considering where she was. She'd taken a leisurely bath, something she hadn't been able to do in what felt like forever. And so far had managed to avoid Ba'al. Gemeti had informed her that 'Lord Ba'al' was extremely busy, when the servant had appeared to make the bed and run the bath water. Making plans to destroy Zeus, take over Earth, and declare himself the winner of the Goa'uld lottery no doubt, she huffed silently. So she was surprised when she heard the tap on the door of the room.


The door opened, and Ba'al stepped inside. His eyes went over her, noting immediately that she looked more rested than she had the last time he'd seen her. She'd bathed, her hair was still damp. She was wearing blue tinted trousers that clung to her legs and that very shapely ass, and a shirt that appeared to be woven of the finest wool, in the softest peach color. She was breathtaking, as always. "I came to inquire as to whether or not you have eaten," he said quietly.

"No, as a matter of fact, I haven't," Casey replied. And now that she thought about it, she was pretty damned hungry! Had Daniel eaten? Just what was he doing, anyway? He should have been here by now!

"I would be honored if you would join me," Ba'al said.

She could make this difficult, or she could go along for now. She was certain she wouldn't be so nervous, feel as if she were completely off balance, when Daniel was here. If he ever gets his ass up here, she thought grumpily. She had no idea what was going on, but he'd better have a damned good reason for leaving her alone with Ba'al! "Thank you. Should I change?"

He smiled. "No. It will be just the two of us."

"Not in your quarters!" she gasped, terrified that the Goa'uld was planning a seduction. Or rape. Same thing, except to him no doubt, she thought worriedly.

The smile faltered the tiniest bit. "No, not in my quarters. I have ordered a table brought into the throne room."

She relaxed just a bit. "That's acceptable."

Ba'al offered his arm. Was pleasantly surprised when she didn't hesitate to place her hand on his wrist. "There, you see? That wasn't so difficult, was it?"

Oh, great. If she let him have an inch, he claimed a freaking mile and a half! And yes, as a matter of fact, it had been difficult. She was simply trying to keep from being raped, beaten or otherwise abused. She didn't believe for a moment that the treaty would protect her from Ba'al's wrath. Keeping him mollified was her best bet for remaining in one un-bruised, unmolested piece. "I suppose not," she said. Just get through this, she thought. Daniel, where in the hell are you?


A  A  A  A  A  A


Daniel stepped into the elevator with his escorts. Felt more than saw the flash of light, and was immediately aware of being on Thor's ship. He could only imagine what those men were thinking. He almost chuckled out loud at the thought of them trying to explain his sudden disappearance.



"Yep. Thor wanted an update on the situation," Jack said, stepping around the console behind which Thor was presently standing. "Told him that it would sure ease our minds if you were on that ship of Balls' as soon as possible."



"If you are ready, Doctor Jackson, I will beam you directly to Ba'al's ship."

"You can do that?" Daniel asked, his eyes wide.

"Unless there have been significant changes in the Goa'uld shielding technology, then yes, I can do that," Thor replied.

"Uh...you'll check before you try to send me over there, right?"

"Of course, Doctor Jackson."

He wasn't certain, it was rather difficult to tell with the Asgard, but he thought Thor was laughing at him. "Thanks, I appreciate it. Here, tell General Hammond that the president can send a courier for these." He thrust the folder that contained the signed documents into Jack's hands.

"They signed?"

"Every last one of them. Thanks to Thor," Daniel replied, grinning at the alien.

Jack turned to the small gray being. "Thanks, buddy."

"It was for the safety of the Asgard, as well as the people of Earth," Thor said cagily. He looked over at Daniel. "I have located Mrs. Jackson. I will send you to her present location."

"See you later, Daniel. Remember, regular check-ins," Jack said, grinning broadly.


A  A  A  A  A  A


Ba'al dropped his fork when Daniel appeared beside the table in a flash of light. Asgard beaming technology! He frowned. Had the Tau'ri been given such technology? He shook his head mentally. No. The Asgard were meticulous about adhering to every clause of the Protected Planets Treaty. The only other way that Jackson could have appeared in such a manner was if the Asgard were nearby. That was a worrisome thought. He was walking a fine line. Perceptions. Illusions. As long as he did nothing that could be perceived as threatening, then the Asgard were helpless to do anything other than observe.

Daniel had only a moment to mark the look of fear that had flashed in Ba'al's eyes before he was wrapped in the embrace of his Wife. He hugged her, felt the tremors that moved through her body. Hoped that they would be alone soon, so that he could ease her worries, her fears. Hold her until those tremors ceased. "Hey, Angel."

"Oh, Daniel," she sighed. She allowed herself the luxury of just feeling the strength of his body against hers, the way he held her so tightly, the smell of his skin, and the cologne that she loved.

He watched, pretending to be amused. Ba'al was, however, lost somewhere between anger and pain. Someday, he promised himself. Someday she would look at him in that way. Would cling to him in that manner. As soon as Jackson was out of the picture, she would be his.

"Where have you been?" she whispered.

"Had to give a briefing to the Stargate Alliance Members. Well, their aides anyway," he replied. He looked down at the table. Nicely set up for two. Candles, wine, the whole nine yards. No doubt Ba'al had every intention of trying to seduce Casey. The only thing that kept him from reaching for the snake bastard was the fact that there were far too many armed Jaffa standing nearby. He comforted himself with the knowledge that her love belonged solely to him...of that he had absolutely no doubt. "Dinner? Great, I'm starving!"

Ba'al tamped down his irritation, snapped his fingers; and another chair and plate were brought in. "Very interesting mode of arrival."

Daniel looked over at his enemy. "Yes, wasn't it? Saved me thirteen hours or so travel time to get here."

Casey filled his plate, then hers, shuddering at the thought of being alone with Ba'al for another thirteen hours. She'd have to remember thank Thor for his 'interference'. She'd get the details later. For now, everything was all right. As long as she was with Daniel, Ba'al couldn't hurt her.

The Goa'uld watched the two eat. There was a feeling of familiarity between them, their movements relaxed, natural; they were comfortable with one another. Each glance between them was full of love. Never had he seen those green eyes sparkle so. Never had he seen her so animated as she was now...even though all she was doing was eating. Before...he pushed down the anger, the pain, that accompanied the memories of the time she had been with him after Tieel Mogba had captured her, at his behest. Never before had he witnessed her eat with such pleasure.

She could feel the weight of his eyes upon her. Knew he was watching her every move. With a silent sigh, she picked up her chalice, took a sip of wine. Looked over the rim of the cup at him.

Her eyes were guarded. She didn't know what to expect from him. Or perhaps she did. No doubt she expected him to behave as the petulant lover he was...even if their 'relationship' had not yet included physical intimacy. "Do you find everything to your liking?"

"It's very good," she replied.

"Doctor Jackson?"

Daniel started. He hadn't expected that Ba'al would try to make polite dinner conversation, especially with him. There was no telling how long he and Casey would be stuck on this ship. Better to make it as tolerable as possible. "I agree, it's very good."

One of the servants carried a bowl of fruit to the table, sat in down. Casey gave a little squeal of delight. "Strawberries!"

Ba'al couldn't help but smile as she took several of the large, red berries. Watched as she bit into one, closed her eyes and smiled happily. "I recall that you seemed particularly fond of these."

"I am," she replied. She looked at him, and smiled softly. "It was very thoughtful of you, thank you."

His heart fluttered against his ribs. "You are most welcome," he replied in kind. He glanced at Jackson. Was surprised to note that rather than the hatred he was accustomed to seeing in those blue eyes, it had been replaced by open curiosity.

"It was most thoughtful. If you'd like, we can have fresh fruits and vegetables, even meat, ringed up to the ship," Daniel offered. Casey had tried to explain to him that Ba'al was capable of kindness, even gentleness. He hadn't believed it...a Goa'uld was a Goa'uld. If nothing else, their time spent in Ba'al's presence, in a position other than as prisoners, just might give them a better understanding of their enemy. He wondered fleetingly if he'd be comfortable with any adjustments to his conceptions that might be necessary.

Ba'al studied the young archaeologist. Could find nothing in the offer to suggest trickery of any kind. "If you would like to have your favorites brought onto the ship, please feel free to do so," he replied.

"You've never had bananas, you told me that," Casey said. She cringed slightly, glanced at Daniel. He smiled encouragingly at her. "You should try bananas. And nachos."

"She'll do just about anything for nachos," Daniel chuckled.

"Perhaps I should try these things," Ba'al agreed. If only to see the smile that he could occasionally coax from her.

It was surreal, sitting at a table with Ba'al...and Daniel...talking about their favorite foods. If they could keep contact to a minimum, and continue with such frivolous dinner conversations, she just might survive this...just what the hell was it? Technically they weren't prisoners. The reality was that as long as she and Daniel were on this ship, they could be nothing but prisoners, certainly they weren't 'guests'. She wondered if making references to her time as his captive was a wise thing. With a mental shrug, she decided that there was no use to try to deny, or ignore, what had happened. "May I ask something of you?"

"Anything," Ba'al responded instantly, almost breathlessly.

Daniel wondered briefly if he sounded like that when Casey asked him to do things for her, if his eyes filled with such love. Figured that the answer to both questions was 'yes'. Could almost feel sorry for the man...the Goa'uld, his mind corrected, who was so in love with her. Yeah, his brain hissed. In love with your Wife. And he'll do anything to get her, including and most importantly killing you! He shuddered imperceptibly. It was a damned good thing that they'd included the clause about returning both of them to the SGC in the same physical and mental health in which they had left. Otherwise, he'd be dead, and Casey would be brutalized until she broke, and accepted her place as Ba'al's Consort.

"I told Daniel about the music I listened to while I was here. Would it be possible to hear those women play again?"

"Of course," Ba'al replied, smiling at her. It seemed that not all of her memories of the time spent with him were...unpleasant. If only he hadn't brought Jackson on board that day...if he'd sent him to one of the other ships for training...he would have won her heart. He would win her heart. She would love him. Soon. He turned to his lo'taur; the woman waited silently behind him. "Bring the musicians."

"Yes, My Lord."

In that instant Casey was reminded of exactly where she was, and whom she was with. She reached out automatically; felt familiar, warm, strong fingers wrap around hers. Daniel was here. She wasn't alone on this ship among the enemy. There would be no need to walk the corridors until she was exhausted, clinging tenaciously to every memory, reliving every moment of her life with Daniel. She would be just fine as long as he was here.

Her hand had moved out, toward Jackson, her eyes on the lo'taur. Something had upset her, her disquiet filled her eyes, but Ba'al was at a loss to know what it was. He watched as his nemesis wrapped his hand around those soft fingers. Could see him squeeze gently. Reassuringly. Those green eyes moved to the face of her husband, and he could see her visibly relax. Watched the smile that lit her face. A smile for Jackson, and him alone. His pain sat in his belly, cold and bitter.

'You are Goa'uld. Take what you want.'

The voice startled him, he jerked slightly, sloshing wine over the top of his cup. His...guests...looked at him questioningly. He was Lord Ba'al. He had no need to explain, nor apologize.

'Why do you not take her? Kill Jackson, take her to your quarters and do what it is that you long to do. Take her. Rape her. Break her. Fuck her into submission.'

He poked carefully. Surely after all this time, the host wasn't attempting to reassert himself!

'Look at you. The Mighty God Ba'al. Behaving like a love-sick fool. You have a harem full of beautiful women; women who would come to your bed gladly, do anything and everything you desire. Yet you lust after a woman who hates you!'

'Be silent!' he raged silently. 'You are nothing more than the memory, the shadow of the man who once owned this body!'

'Do you know how long I've waited for this? To see the Mighty Ba'al brought to his knees? To watch you suffer as I have suffered? To see you in pain as I have been in pain? Look at her! She will never see you! Her eyes will never fill with love for you! She would kill you in this moment if given the chance!'

'BE SILENT!' It had been years since the host had bothered him. It took several seconds, but he located the memories he needed. Those of taking the man as host, and then ordering his wife raped in front of him. She had died before the last of the Jaffa had finished with her.

'No! I will not look!'

Ba'al was powerful. He forced the images into that corner where he could feel the host hiding. Felt the shiver of horror, of pain, of heartbreak.

"Ba'al? Are you...unwell?" Casey asked, concern in her voice, and on her face. He'd gone suddenly still, and his face had paled alarmingly. If the damned Goa'uld fell over dead, she and Daniel would be blamed, and right now they were in no position to get into a fire-fight with his Jaffa.

The look of worry in her eyes made him gasp. "I am...I am merely tired."

She nodded. No doubt he'd been awake as long as they had, longer if he hadn't taken a break after she had arrived. "We could listen to the music later, if you'd rather go to your quarters," she offered softly.

What he wanted was to carry her to his quarters, see her in his bed once again. Make love to her. Hold her in his arms. Let her feel in his heartbeat how much he loved her. "I will be fine."

"Maybe you should rest," Daniel said. God, could this situation get any more screwed up? He was actually concerned about the well-being of a freaking Goa'uld! The truth of the matter was, they needed Ba'al's help to take out Zeus much more than he needed theirs. In fact, he was fairly certain that this treaty was just a way to keep the Tau'ri under control while he did just that...once Ba'al had killed Zeus, he was set to take over the First World.

His head snapped in Daniel's direction. There was no smirk. No look of pleasure to see his enemy unwell. While there wasn't the concern on his face that reflected in Casey's delicate features, he could sense the man's sincerity. Odd, that. Because Ba'al was well aware of the fact that Daniel Jackson would like nothing better than to wrap his hands around the neck of his enemy - for he and Jackson were indeed mortal enemies - and squeeze until both symbiote and host were dead.

Casey motioned for one of the servants, who stood near the wall, waiting to serve their master in whatever way he decreed, to move closer. "Go tell Gemeti that Lord Ba'al has changed his mind, and doesn't require the musicians tonight."

The servant glanced nervously at Ba'al. He well remembered the days when this woman prowled the ship, her eyes full of misery, her face a mirror of her sadness. She had been named Lord Ba'al's Consort, did she still hold that title? How could that be, when she was obviously in love with the man who had joined them for dinner?

Ba'al nodded wearily at the servant. "Go." He returned his attention to the couple sitting beside him. "I will see you to your quarters."

"There's no need," Casey said softly...and quickly.

"Your Jaffa can escort us," Daniel added.

Was she so eager to be away from him?

"Ba'al, you don't look well." Casey stood up, walked around the table. Placed her hand on his forehead. "No fever. I suppose that you'd keep the host body from falling ill. But you should probably get some sleep."

Her touch scorched his skin. She was close enough that he could smell the sweet scent of her perfume. Her fingers were so soft, so warm...

Daniel casually reached for her, pulled her closer to his side. "I need to check in with my commanding officer," he said quietly.

"Of course." Ba'al stood to his feet. He understood exactly what Jackson's action had meant. It was an obvious movement of ownership, of dominance. The archaeologist didn't want his wife near a Goa'uld, for any reason. But Jackson particularly did not want Casey near him. He turned to the Jaffa who stood nearby.  "Ensuat, see to it that my...guests...are allowed to contact the SGC. Then escort them to their quarters."

The Jaffa stepped forward. His position and rank, as displayed by the sash over his chest, was that of Personal Guard, the leader of that elite group of warriors.

Casey bit back her gasp. He was the one who had lifted her into the ventilation shaft! She quickly looked down at the table. Reached for the last strawberry on her plate, hoping that the trembling of her fingers wouldn't be noticed.

"Yes, My Lord," Ensuat replied. He watched the slender blonde carefully. She recognized him. He didn't think that Ba'al had noticed that moment of cognizance. He stepped back, held out his arm to indicate that they should precede him.

Ba'al watched as they left the room. He'd received notification from Zeus that the meeting would take place as scheduled. Ares had yet to reply to his summons, but such rudeness was not unexpected, not from that one. He would appear as ordered, of that Ba'al had no worry. Exhausted physically, still stunned to have been goaded by a host so long silent, his heart and body aching for the slender blonde who held him captive to her charm and beauty, he made his way to his quarters. Even as tired as he was, sleep would be a long time in coming.


A  A  A  A  A  A


Ensuat walked beside the slender blonde, knowing that she would say something, hoping she would wait until the corridor was empty of servants and other Jaffa who moved about, going about their nightly duties.

Casey glanced around, waited until they were alone on the elevator before speaking. "I'd like to thank you again," she said softly. "Your kindness during my...stay...was most appreciated. I told my friend as soon as I was able, so that he would understand that I was treated well by...certain Jaffa."

"Then it is I who should thank you, for speaking truthfully of the honor of those Jaffa," the Jaffa replied, impressed with her intuitiveness, and her careful choice of words. If Ba'al had listening devices in the lift, this conversation would be innocuous. Ensuat had been on the ship when Ba'al had held the seer for three weeks. She'd befriended many of the Jaffa and servants during her stay, even though she spoke seldom. Twice she'd stopped the beating of slaves, once she had intervened when Ryk'teal would have violently disciplined Jaffa moving too slowly for his liking. It was not unreasonable for Ba'al to believe him to be one of those Jaffa. Nor would it be unreasonable to believe that Ensuat had performed some small favor for the Consort of his god.

Daniel looked over at the tall, dark haired man. Casey had told him everything about her escape from Ba'al's quarters the last time they had been on the ship...as captured prisoners. "I'd like to thank you as well."

The Jaffa inclined his head slightly. "I could do no less for the...guest...of my Lord."

She smiled. "Let's just hope I won't need that sort of...assistance...again."

Ensuat smiled in return. It was impossible not to react to the warmth of the smile bestowed upon him by the beautiful woman. A great seer, so he'd heard. "I do not believe that will be necessary."

When the door to the elevator slid open, the Jaffa resumed his stance; no one would ever know that he was a rebel among the loyal. He led them to the pel'tak. "Lord Ba'al instructs that this man be allowed to contact the SGC. Monitor all that he says closely. Our god will have his linguists translate it later."

"Yes, Ensuat," the younger Jaffa replied, snapping to attention immediately.

Daniel was certain that the instruction was more a warning to him, than orders for the Jaffa.

The young man worked the controls. "You may begin."

With a nod, Daniel stepped closer to the communications console. "This is Doctor Daniel Jackson, with a message for the SGC."

"Go ahead, Doctor," General Hammond's voice replied.

"This is an unsecured channel, sir," Daniel said immediately, knowing that the general and Jack would understand the implications. 'Secure' and 'unsecured' telephone lines had been one of the first things he'd learned about upon arrival at the SGC almost eight years prior. If he remembered correctly, it had been Sergeant Freeman who'd taught him the difference. He corralled his wandering thoughts.


"So far, so good, sir."


"We might be sending a request for fruit and veggies."

"Really?" Jack's voice echoed. Apparently Thor had returned him to the SGC after receiving a briefing about the situation.

He couldn't help but grin. "Really."

"Anything you need, Doctor," General Hammond responded.

"We're going to get some sleep."

"We'll expect to hear from you in eight hours."

"Right," Daniel replied. He stepped away from the console. "Thank you."

The younger Jaffa glanced nervously at Ensuat, the First of Ba'al's personal guard. "It is the wish of your god," he responded.

Casey rolled her eyes. "He's not my god, Sparky," she retorted.

Ensuat turned to watch two other Jaffa who stood guard, his lips twitching as he tried not to smile.

Daniel snorted, coughed, put his fist to his lips to hide his smile. Once he had control of himself, he looked at the young man. "My Wife is weary, and she gets a bit snarky when she's tired."

His confusion was written plainly on his face, but the young Jaffa nodded.

He took hold of her arm, turned her around and marched her toward the door. Ensuat fell into place beside them.

When they were in the corridor, Casey looked up at him. "Snarky? Snarky? I have been silly, snippy, sappy and sarcastic, but never snarky! That's your department!"

Daniel chuckled. "Right. I'm the snarky one."

"And don't you forget it!"

Ensuat didn't have to understand the words to know that the man was teasing her. He smiled, and escorted them to the room where they would sleep.

Once again, the sound of the lock engaging reminded her that, for all intents and purposes, she and Daniel were Ba'al's prisoners.




They performed their evening ablutions in relative silence, not for fear of being overheard, but from sheer fatigue. Even though both had slept, the combination of the stress they'd been under for forty-plus hours, and having dinner with the Goa'uld who was on the top of the SGC 'hit list', had left them exhausted.

Her sweet scent was sending messages to his brain that his body refused to ignore. "Casey?"

She looked over at him. Could see the need in his eyes. "I'm here, Daniel," she replied softly. She led him to the bed, stripped off the teddy she'd been wearing. "I'm here," she repeated in a soft whisper.

With a moan that encompassed a myriad of emotions...love, lust, need, desire, gratitude, Daniel began to kiss her. Her eager responses assured him that she was as needy as he, and that his touch was as welcome as hers. When she settled herself over him, those slender hips just above his face, paradise his for the taking; he wrapped his arms around her, moaned softly as the first taste of her sweet honey rolled over his tongue. A shiver moved over his frame, shaking him from head to foot as he indulged, quenching the thirst that she created, that only she could satisfy.

Their climaxes came quickly, and too tired to do more, she settled at his side, her head on his shoulder. Holding one another, they drifted to sleep...comforted by the fact that they were together.


A  A  A  A  A  A


Zeus frowned as he stared out the window of the pel'tak. The lights had been dimmed, in deference to the illusion that it was night. In the darkness of space, it was always night. Only the guards on duty were in the room with him. He'd been away for a very long time. Ba'al had nowhere near the strength that he had, of this he was certain. The numbers of ships and Jaffa, planets and slaves, servants and skilled laborers that he owned were staggering when compared to what his enemy claimed. He understood that there were more Goa'uld in this small galaxy, much smaller than that where he and those of his house resided. There were others there as well, but only Nergal posed a threat to him. The two had stopped trying to destroy one another long ago, forced to be content with merely keeping what they owned, and preventing the other from growing stronger.

The frown faded. Taking this galaxy, pulling the Goa'uld here under his rule, would finally allow him to accomplish what he had long dreamed of doing...defeating Nergal, and ruling the...what had that report called it...oh yes, the Andromeda galaxy. The name taken from Greek mythology. Mythology that had been created around the Goa'uld who had become the 'Olympian' gods. Stories and tales that had kept alive their names and greatest feats, even if the rest was mostly rubbish. Although, some of the stories told were most interesting...if the information from Tem could be trusted. His spies had reported that that Goa'uld had gone mad, abandoned as it were on the First World, without benefit of any of the trappings of his godhood. Rumor had it that the very young First Prime of Tem had killed him, then offered himself and all that had been Tem's to Ba'al.

How many millennia had it been since he'd last seen these stars? Far too long. He had returned. He would never be away for so long again. Especially once control of these star systems was firmly within his hands.

Moving past the outer planets of the solar system, Zeus settled back into the throne on which he sat. His heart was beating just a bit harder, a bit faster. He would soon lay eyes on the planet of his birth...or at least the place where he took his first host...became what he was destined to be...a god.


A  A  A  A  A  A


There was a reason he'd chosen to remain so far removed from the others. Not the least important was the fact that it was more difficult to approach his territory without being noticed. He attacked when necessary, whether in retaliation for attacks on his holdings, or as a matter of 'discipline' for some wayward upstart in the Empire.

Oshu had given him the message. His First Prime wore a worried expression. It had been a very long time since he'd heard those names, and obviously young Oshu had never known him by any other name than the one he now answered to.  He'd been surprised...he'd been shocked, actually...that mere slaves had learned his name, that which he had called himself so long ago.  That those slaves seemed to know of his sons...

He sighed. He was left with little choice in the matter. On the surface, his actions could be explained away as an attempt to protect the Goa'uld Empire from attack by the Asgard, in response to violating the Protected Planets Treaty. He had no doubt that Ba'al would never be foolish enough to actually break the treaty. He would never endanger the Empire. He would, however, push the technicalities as far as possible. Unless his temper flared, Yu thought worriedly, and he reacted without thinking, as he had so often in the past. It wouldn't take much to make him that angry, if reports from spies were believed.  

"My Lord, should I send a reply?" Oshu asked quietly.

"No. Prepare my ha'tak. We will leave at once for the First World. And stop a fool from destroying us all."

"Yes, My Lord."

Yu stood and made his way out to the garden. Pushed away the thought that it might be the last time his eyes would behold the blue of the sky, the colors of the flowers that bloomed. He wondered if he would ever smell the fragrance of the Acacia trees that lined the perimeter of the garden. He was tired. Perhaps it was time to just...let go. Time to sleep...to stop worrying about which Goa'uld would attempt to kill him next, in the bid to become the Supreme System Lord. Young fools. To become the highest meant only that one became the focus...the target of all. He sighed. He'd had his time at the top. And had paid the price, many times. Only his guile, his intelligence, had seen him as far as he had come.

"My Lord, shall we go?"

"Yes, Oshu, we shall."


A  A  A  A  A  A


It had been a long day...no, it had been a long two days. He stretched out on the bed. His mind was tired, his body weary. Thankfully none of the aches and pains of age would keep him awake. In moments like this he remembered the gift he'd received. It was because of days like the past two that he had accepted that gift.

The members of the Stargate Alliance were still making noises about leaving Casey Jackson in the custody of Ba'al, if that was what he demanded, once the terms of the current treaty between him and the leaders of Earth had been met. Damned idiots had no idea that it wouldn't mean a damned thing...that the Goa'uld would still attack, would still turn the billions of people living on the planet into slaves, the unluckiest few becoming Goa'uld hosts.

He'd sent everyone on the base to their quarters, insisting that they all rest. For the moment, the crisis had been contained. And they all needed to be at their best while dealing with Ba'al. He hoped that the...arrangement...between the SGC and Ba'al wouldn't last long. The more time that passed with Doctor Jackson and Casey on that ship, the more danger they were in.

Teal'c had insisted that Ba'al no doubt would attempt to be rid of Daniel Jackson...that he would most likely hand the archaeologist over to Ares simply to torment Casey. Reports from the Tok'ra indicated that a deal had been struck between the two Goa'uld, Ba'al offering Daniel as host for one of Ares' Goa'uld minions. Casey, of course, Ba'al wanted for himself.

Jacob had sent a dispatch, hopefully one that Ba'al had been unaware of, informing him that the message Daniel had prepared for Lord Yu had been sent. Now they waited. If the oldest of the Goa'uld...and apparently the father of the Goa'uld Empire...didn't intervene, they'd be forced to deal with Ba'al on their own. The general closed his eyes. One way or another, that bastard had to be taken out. The sooner, the better.


A  A  A  A  A  A


Jack sat with his back to the wall. Staring at the Stargate, as if willing it to give him the answers he needed. So far he and Teal'c had been unable to come up with any plans that had more than a fifty percent chance of being successful. The only way to get onto Balls' ship was by ring transport. Alarms would be screaming before they had a chance to move to safety. Which meant that any team undertaking a rescue mission would be in immediate danger. And Daniel and Casey could be killed, or even taken by Ba'al in one of the scout ships Teal'c was certain sat waiting in the hanger bays of his ha'tak. Lose-lose scenario.

If Daniel and Casey could get to safety, which meant disappearing into ventilation and access shafts, and keeping out of sight, it might keep them alive, and on the ship, but then came the problem of locating them. Every moment spent searching for them increased the risk of the rescuers getting caught.

There was no guarantee that Balls wouldn't just take off, with Daniel and Casey as his prisoners. There was nothing left to guess about his plans. Between the spies who reported to Master Bra'tac and to General Hammond, through various SG team missions, and the Tok'ra, everyone was aware of what that damned snake wanted. He'd turn Daniel over to Ares to become a host...if the damned bastard didn't keep him around for the same purpose, and he was determined to have Casey as his Consort. Jack figured that had as much to do with her 'gift' as much as the fact that the snake had the hots for her.

As long as Balls' ship remained as close to the planet as it was, attacking it with the Prometheus wasn't a good idea. According to Carter, if they were lucky and took the damned snake out, there wouldn't be enough time for the pieces that a few well placed missiles could make of the ha'tak to move far enough apart. In fact, she'd said, it was possible that the ship would remain largely intact as it hit the Earth's' atmosphere. And it was sitting above Cheyenne Mountain...for the moment. It could move quite easily, and hover above Washington, D.C. if Balls took the notion into his head. So if that hypothetical attack took place, big pieces of a burning Goa'uld ship would plow straight into the unsuspecting citizens of Colorado Springs, all the way to Denver and beyond; or take out a nice chunk of Maryland and Virginia, wherever it happened to be. Of course the secret would be out if that happened!

Teal'c had also pointed out that such an attack would bring out the ships that Colonel Ronson and his crew were fairly certain lurked on the far side of the moon. Carter had ringed aboard the Prometheus long enough to conduct a thorough scan of the area, and while she hadn't come up with anything, she did agree that there were at least seven distinct areas of distortion. So at least seven ships were sitting there...waiting.

He ran a hand over his face, glanced at his watch. When was the last time he'd done more than doze in the chair in his office? General Hammond had ordered everyone to their quarters for sleep. He just couldn't do it. Two of his kids were out there, in enemy territory. It wasn't a typical hostage situation, the Space Monkey and Radar hadn't been captured. But the result was the same. They were on Balls' ship. No one would ever convince him that the Jacksons weren't prisoners.

Daniel had pointed out that even with the clause concerning their treatment, the stipulation that he and Casey 'be returned in the same physical and mental condition in which they left', there was always the chance that Balls would interpret it in a slightly different manner...after all, the healing device would see to it that no bruises, marks or scars remained. Same 'mental condition' only gave them the a way to fight him concerning that kernel shit that he had used on both of them in the past.

Lou Ferretti wandered into the room, a frown on his face as he contemplated the Stargate. All of those worlds out there. All of the people that the SG teams and the SGC itself had helped. There had to be an answer to the perplexing situation out there somewhere! It sure as hell wasn't here!

"Thought you went to your quarters."

The major started, looked over at the wall. Shrugged slightly. "Wouldn't be able to sleep."


"Think the Tok'ra will help us?"

Jack snorted. "Ya, sure, you bectcha. Just like they've helped us every other time our fat's been in the fire."

"They've always been good for a ride home."

He hated to admit to that, but he nodded slowly. "Jacob said if Balls takes Earth, the Tok'ra could be exterminated in a matter of weeks."

"Won't go to well for the Free Jaffa, either," Ferretti replied. He settled beside Jack. "Wonder if she's driving him crazy yet."

"Huh? Who? What?"

The Marine grinned. "I've seen that little lady in action. By now she's got to have him half out of his mind wanting to kill her."

Jack chuckled. "God, I hope not. I specifically told her, no snake baiting. Not this trip." At least, he was pretty sure he had. He'd certainly intended to issue the warning...the order.

"If he gets half a chance, Doc will take that bastard out, the Free Jaffa ranks will swell by a few hundred, and we puny Tau'ri will have one gen-u-wine Goa'uld ha'tak to add to our fleet."

"True." That would be sweet, Jack thought. Do Daniel a world of good as well.

"This floor is cold."


"Let's get some coffee."

He pulled himself to his feet. "If this thing blows up in our faces, we take care of our own first."

Lou nodded his understanding. "I'll pass the word among the team COs."

If Balls got the SG teams, then the Earth really would be screwed! To hell with the damned politicians and bureaucrats. If things went tits up, the people who had been risking their lives for the past six-and-a-half years deserved the first chance at safety. And he'd be damned if he'd make one of them leave family behind! He'd set the self-destruct sequence himself. Blow the freaking mountain straight into Balls' ship. And then they'd get the bastard from behind. 

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