Well, as opening lines went, he'd heard worse.
Delios stood several feet away from him, arms crossed, looking every inch the well-appointed, holier-than-thou Goa'uld. From his current condition you couldn't see any indication he'd been a bleeding, sagging mass of flesh only several short hours earlier. Sarcophagus did good work, apparently.
"You seem to be yourself again," Daniel returned, hoping his voice didn't sound as shaky as he felt. "Wish I could say glad to see you."
Delios stared at him, his expression neutral, his eyes guarded and hidden. Couldn't read anything from his expression, his stance. Daniel stared back at him, locking eyes, hoping he had enough in him to stand up to him if it came to what would seem to be the inevitable confrontation.
The minutes hung between them, neither man moved or spoke. Daniel could feel his strength fading beneath the searching glare of the dark eyes, knew he wasn't going to be able to stare him down.
Oh for crying out loud, he was sick of playing games anyway!
"What?" he said finally. Loudly, strongly. "What do you want?"
"Why?" Delios returned immediately. "I want to know why you spared my life. Allowed me to retain my position. I must understand this."
There were a lot of reasons. Didn't want blood on his hands. No stomach for retribution in the shame of realising how close he had come to joining the ranks of the damned. Just wasn't the right thing to do. A host of reasons he could give Delios, not one of which would mean anything to him. So he gave him the only one he felt would.
"Devil you know," Daniel replied in what he hoped was a slightly arrogant tone. "What you are is known to me. You pose no challenge or concern to me." Flare of anger in the dark eyes, instantly suppressed.
Despite the extravagant and over-confident way he had conducted himself toward him in the past, Delios could evidently conceal his emotions fairly successfully and had more self-control than possibly he wanted others to know. File it away for future reference, but don't forget. More than meeting the eye here, don't dismiss this one, Daniel..
"You are a known quantity. I can handle you. Not any more fond of you than you are of me, but at least with you, I know where I stand. Couldn't say the same of your replacement. Might be even worse. Don't feel like taking the risk."
Delios studied him sullenly for a few more seconds as he considered what he had just heard. Then he allowed a grudging but still faintly disdainful smile to tug at his mouth.
"Not without a certain crude logic," he said finally. "Interesting. You appear to possess a modicum of intelligence. For a mere Tau'ri. I can almost find you amusing. However, you are a fool. Were I in your place you would be dead now."
Daniel smiled impudently at him. "Well then, isn't it lucky for the both of us you're not? Saved your ass this time, Delios. Don't make me have to do it again. Might not be inclined to feel so generous next time."
Daniel met the eyes of the man before him unflinchingly, allowing the full weight of the thinly veiled threat to penetrate. He could hardly expect the Goa'uld to be grateful. He knew it would be fatal to appear to be weak to him, but the reasons he had given Delios and the threat, he would definitely understand and respect. As it appeared he did. After his fashion.
"I will not forget this," Delios replied in a tone which conveyed no information about the intent behind the statement. Which was as much as Daniel was expecting. Delios had accepted his explanation but was giving no clues as to what was going on in his head. Well, let him think whatever he wanted just so long as he didn't give him any more grief.
Daniel gasped, unable to prevent himself from falling back against the couch as a sudden, unexpected wave of nausea ripped through him. Shit! Worst time possible for his body to betray him.
Delios' voice sounded closer. He must have walked up to him, sounded like he was standing right beside him now.
"What is the matter?" he asked in strangely neutral voice as empty of concern as it was of animosity. "Are you ill?"
"What's it to you?" Daniel murmured under his breath. Shit! Sick, sick of being sick, what did it matter, about to die of thirst. Delios was just standing there, looking at him. If he had any intentions of trying to thump him again he couldn't help but see there wasn't a damned thing the 'dumb Tau'ri' could do at a moment to stop him.
Daniel knew he needed help and as strange as it sounded, his former dancing partner was the only game in town. Oh well, nothing ventured, etc, etc. Worst thing the Goa'uld could do was laugh at him. Well, maybe it wasn't the worst thing...
"Listen, I know you would probably rather die than lift a finger to help me, but you couldn't possibly go out and find someone who could bring me a glass of water, could you?"
"You want a glass of water?"
Yippee, a rocket scientist. Stow the sarcasm, Daniel the guy is being weird, but he isn't being nasty.
"Yes, I would," Daniel continued in an honest voice, feeling too sick and tired to continue upholding the arrogant façade. "Not having one of my better days at the moment, just want some water but can't figure out how to ask anybody to get one for me. Fetch, carry, bow, scrape, this place is driving me nuts. I'd damned well get it myself but you seem fresh out of taps in this place."
He must have been hearing things. Delios laughed. He was laughing.
"Perhaps I have underestimated you," Delios chuckled. "There might indeed be more to you than the limitations of your species would suggest."
"Huh, you think that's something, you should see what I can do with a deck of cards." Okay, this was definitely weird, definitely not what he was expecting, but then the whole thing was crazy, he was going crazy, just might as well keep going.
"Did Chronos not show you the summoner? Delios continued, an infinitesimally warmer hint to his voice. "No, he probably would not. He seldom uses it, prefers to be waited on. As did my host, when your place was his. Somehow, I think you are not like him, in this respect. You do not like being attended, waited upon, do you, Tau'ri?"
Daniel shook his head. Delios nodded, sat down on the couch beside him, smiling slightly as he watched Daniel immediately tense and warily watch his every move. There was an enormous, deeply satisfied smile on his face as he leaned back, languidly draping himself over the couch, laying his arm across its wide, padded back. He turned his body slightly toward Daniel, spent several long, deeply contemplative moments looking at him, vast amusement dancing in his dark eyes.
Everything about him screamed "I have you exactly where I want and there is not a damned thing you can do about it."
It didn't look good, and yet as Daniel met Delios' sparkling dark eyes he felt strangely unconcerned. Definitely not afraid. No matter what it looked like somehow he knew he had nothing to fear.
As if to make a mockery of his certainty Delios suddenly drawled in a low, slightly oily voice, "I could snap your neck in a second, Tau'ri."
"Sure you could," Daniel shot back. And where would it get you? Chronos would just put me in the sarcophagus, then he'd rip your heart out, poof, I'm back, guess what - you're gone. A rather pointless piece of revenge, wouldn't you say?"
Delios laughed again. "I think perhaps you might be amusing after all. You are certainly braver than most of the other members of your species I have met. Look here, Tau'ri. I will show you how to use this."
Delios directed his attention to a small table sitting beside the right side of the couch. Daniel had noticed the small, squat pyramid-shaped, metallic - thing - sitting there before. Had looked at it, fiddled with it a bit. It had no markings, no discernible on/off buttons or switches. As it hadn't seemed to 'do' anything he had assumed it to be a sculpture or something; there were enough strange, assorted objets des arts in the place to make it a fairly safe assumption.
But apparently an entirely inaccurate one. Delios threw him a smarmy, superior grin as he laid his palm on the slightly concave space immediately in front of the pyramid. Much to Daniel's mingled interest and disgust the pyramid began to softly glow and emit a small beam of light which formed a lightly dancing ball a couple of inches above the projector.
It was just a sphere of shimmering light; he couldn't actually see any images in it. Daniel started as a slightly distorted female voice suddenly issued from it.
"How may I serve you, my lord?" Daniel couldn't help but grin as he recognised it.
Ah, if he wasn't mistaken, that sounded very much like Kirma. Bet it frosted her socks but good to call him that!
"The Ta'uri would like a glass of water," Delios said in a slightly imperious voice, grinning back at him as he saw his slight sign of amusement. Damn, what this was doing to his head didn't bear thinking about. "You may send it," the First Maintainer finished.
"Send it?" Daniel echoed. "Sonofabitch!"
Daniel almost tumbled off the couch in surprise as a large goblet appeared on the table in front of him, delivered by a swiftly descending and just as swiftly disappearing set of what looked very much like miniature transport rings.
Well, why not? No matter the scale on which it was employed, it was still matter transmission; the principle would be exactly the same. Oh who cared, however it had arrived here, it was still a glass of damned water, at last.
Nodding his thanks at Delios, Daniel eagerly reached for the goblet. He paused momentarily just before drinking, as an errant, absurd thought occurred to him.
Gee, hope the Tok'ra twins hadn't spit in it first.
It was a large goblet; the water was blessedly cold. He drained it quickly in several huge gulps, how good it felt, driving home to him how desperately thirsty he really had been.
"Don't suppose you could hit me again?" Daniel inquired of the man beside him as he put the goblet back on the spot on the table where it had arrived. Damn, look - there they were again, taking it away. Little bitty glowing rings. This was cool.
Wow. He was either starting to feel better or he was getting delirious.
"Hit you - again?" Delios was responding to his earlier request, a slightly puzzled expression on his face. "I haven't hit you for the first time yet."
"No - no," Daniel shook his head. "I didn't mean - hit me. It's an expression. I was asking for another one - another glass of water. Please."
"I can do that as well, however I would have been more than happy to hit you."
"I'm sure. I'll settle for the water."
Daniel eased himself back into the couch, this time sipping the water as Delios finished showing him how to use and de-activate the 'summoner.' There was something flitting about in his head, something Delios had said. Something he was trying to remember..
"Your host," he blurted out as it came to him in a rush. "You said your host was one of Chronos' Favoureds. " He'd heard something like that before, Nah'tak had said something about Delios..being..when he had first arrived. He had just assumed it had meant - Delios was the ex - but no. The host. That was different, wasn't it? All of a sudden, Daniel wanted to know, knew he had to know the difference.
"You did not know?" Delios murmured, his gaze softening a bit as he answered the question. "My host was Chronos' Most Favoured for a long time. Much longer than any of his predecessors. He grew - unwise - because of this. Proved himself unworthy for the honour which had been bestowed upon him. Still, Chronos had been fond of him, and was loathe to kill him. Instead he gave him to me. He grants the gift of godhood to all of his Favoureds who have most especially pleased him once they no longer do so. Keeps us close to him. From time to time, he chooses to bless us still."
Delios was silent for a few moments, allowing the implications of what he had just said to fully filter into Daniel's consciousness. Watched the widening of his eyes, the horror on his face as he realised what Delios was telling him as he looked into the eyes of his own future.
"I think my lord will no longer bless me as he has in the past," Delios continued softly, a hint of genuine regret in his voice. "Now that you are here. But he might - he might come to me again, if you were not.." He inched closer to Daniel, still looking deeply, still searching for what, Daniel did not know. His voice got softer, more serious, more laden with meaning.
"You do not wish to be here, do you, Daniel?"
Daniel shook his head, afraid to speak.
Delios nodded faintly, something leaping momentarily into his eyes, to be instantly hidden again.
"I think, in that, we finally have something in common."
Shaking off the painful reverie Delios favoured him with one of his former, withering glances as he abruptly got to his feet. "I will consider this," he announced haughtily. "Ungrateful Tau'ri scum. You do not deserve him."
Inclining his head slightly in a salute which was at strong odds with the contemptuous sneer on his face, Delios whirled and stalked away, up the stairs and out of the suite, his sumptuous robes billowing impressively about him.
Goa'uld was a jerk but he sure knew how to make an exit.
His head was starting to hurt again. Daniel lay down on the couch, knowing he should think about what he had just heard, but realising he had neither the strength nor the will. He wouldn't forget. It would still be there in the morning. Now, all he wanted to do was sleep. Sleep for a little while, while he was still alone. Sleep in peace until Chronos came for him again.
It was a beautiful day. So wonderful to see sunshine, and breathe fresh, crisp air. Didn't smell like the air he knew - didn't smell like Earth. Still, he was glad to be here, glad to see the open sky above him, feel a breeze upon his face. Glad to be away from the ship. He hadn't been sure he was ever going to be able to see and feel these things again. Only four days had gone by since.. And yet, it felt like an eternity. Four days.
Not the skies of home, but there was comfort in seeing them all the same. Being out in the open, his feet upon solid ground, surrounded by the sounds and smells of natural things somehow made Daniel feel more connected to himself than he had been. Like he was truly awake and aware in his own skin again, instead of the walking-around shadow he had been. He was waking up.
Nothing had changed. He was still a prisoner; still being held against his will by a being he now knew would never let him go. There was still no way out, no escape. But something was different, all the same.
He still had himself - still had Jack. Still had what was his and couldn't be taken away from him. And strangely enough, in spite of the way everything looked, he still had hope.
That surprised him a bit. That in the face of all the evidence underscoring the hopelessness of his situation, he still had hope. Maybe that was what was urging him onward, nudging him to rouse himself from the mists of apathy and despair which had been clinging to him. Don't give up - don't give into it.
As Jack had said to him - Chronos couldn't hurt him no matter what he did to him - unless Daniel let him. You're only a victim if you see yourself as one. He wasn't completely powerless. There were things he could do - ways he could make this senseless situation make some sort of sense. There were still ways he could make a difference, do good.
Daniel only had to look at the man up on the platform paying tribute to Dra as compensation for treading on his sacred ground while his satisfied and very much alive followers looked on to know what he now had the power to do.
Drasha was a beautiful world; it's people pleasant, friendly, fiercely protective of their beliefs and customs. This simple act of respect was all they had required of the alien interlopers who had unknowingly offended when they had come to the mine by walking on sacred ground without first offering the tribute to Dra which would have made it all right for them to have done so.
Ignorance of this simple fact, ignorance of the reason for the uprising and unwillingness to look for the cause in favour of simply eliminating the problem by eliminating the people had very nearly resulted in a terrible tragedy. After he had explained to Chronos the reason for the attacks and the very simple way they could be stopped, Chronos had agreed to take his advice and perform the ritual in lieu of slaughtering the people. Not simply because he wanted him to - although trying to please him was a large part of it.
He also decided against killing the people because it was no longer necessary. Another solution, a simple solution had been provided, and Chronos saw no reason to commit time, energy and resources to a redundant punitive action. Daniel learned much about the mind of his captor through this episode. Chronos was disciplined, ordered, disliked chaos. He also disliked inefficiency, unnecessary effort and waste. He sought the most efficient, expedient, logical solution to all problems. Drasha had taught Daniel no matter the situation, if he wanted Chronos to do something a certain way and could provide him with a better mousetrap than the one he already had, he was practically assured the System Lord would see things his way.
It had also taught him something important about his current situation. It was no longer cut and dried as to exactly who was running whom in this particular scenario. Chronos - loved him. Apparently. Well, as much as he was capable of understanding the emotion anyway. What was more, he wanted his 'favoured' to love him back. Apparently.
In his dreams.
Okay, so maybe finding himself in this predicament appealed to him about as much as - being in this particular predicament. Avoidance wouldn't help him here, he had to face facts. Like it or not, here he was. Like it or not - Chronos had a crush on him. Could life get any weirder? Best not to go there, might get an answer he didn't like.
So here he was. The object of Chronos' affections. I'll do anything for you, babe. As unpleasant as the prospect sounded, Daniel realised it put him in a very special position with regards to the amount of influence he could exert over the System Lord - with his complete and conscious co-operation.
That was not to say Chronos was going to roll over and dance to his tune. The System Lord would allow himself to be bent, swayed - but never ruled or bested. Also, lest we forget the downside of this, he was quite unrelenting in and consumed by his desire to 'have' Daniel. Not just physically. He wanted much, much more than that.
Daniel knew his situation was both powerful and perilous. Chronos might think he 'loved' him, but this supposed tender regard didn't make his moods any less volatile or capricious. Nor did 'love' still his desire for Daniel's complete and utter surrender.
He wouldn't get it.
Daniel knew he was living on borrowed time. There would come a day when Chronos would get tired of waiting. He'd become angry and impatient with him one time too many and that would be the day he would die. Or - or worse. Just a matter of time. Inevitable. However, until that day came, he'd take the lousy hand fate had dealt him and turn it into lemonade. And there he was, mixing his metaphors again. Or could that more properly be called a malapropism? What's the number for 911? Whoa! 'Channelling Jack was doing very strange things to his thought processes.
The ritual was drawing to a close. In spite of himself, Daniel had to concede grudging respect for the flawless way Chronos had recited the unfamiliar phrases of Dra's petition. Which Daniel had discovered, along with the ritual itself in its entirety, in a report made by the commander of the first group of alien exploiters of Drasha's mineral resources who found themselves confronted with the same problem as soon as they arrived.
Once he'd realised Chronos had not initiated the operation, but had simply handed the former owners an eviction notice and taken over, Daniel had gone looking for the history of the mine and the reports of the original operators. Sure enough, he'd found what he was looking for. An occurrence of the same kind of violent opposition to the operation, and when he looked a little deeper he found the reason and the solution. All laid out for him. No need to kill all those people - see. Let's just not.
So, here they were. Instead of overseeing a bloodbath Chronos was making, as per his additional suggestion, a personal appearance. Professional courtesy - one god to another. Rendering what was due to Dra to Dra with his own hands. Not doing a half bad job at it either. When Chronos played 'god' he really got into the part. Made it his own. He was putting on a good show for the locals, who were suitably impressed with his presence and dramatically divine posturing. Chronos is happy. Locals are happy. Everybody's happy. Everybody's alive! Daniel gets to get off the damned ship and breathe fresh air. That makes Daniel happy.
He wasn't ashamed to admit that his desire to get Chronos to personally perform the ceremony was entirely selfish. He wanted what he had right now. Temporary freedom. Standing in the fresh air and sunshine - away from the ship. He'd wanted out, and he'd gotten it.
However, there had been a benefit to the suggestion which hadn't occurred to him at the time but had done wonders for the 'god's' mood over the past couple of days. Providing Chronos with an opportunity to perform a public function that allowed him to exercise his 'divinity' fed straight into his ego. Chronos had been so pumped up about anticipating his chance to play god and getting the ceremony right he'd had little time for anything else.
Which had given Daniel a bit of a respite from his constant, demanding attentions. Hadn't been part of the original plan, but he wasn't above taking advantage of it! However, he could see, while wishing he couldn't, from the hungry look the god was now favouring him with, the small breathing space was soon going to be over. Daniel sighed and looked away from the dark eyes devouring him.
The leaping flames of the brazier consumed the offering, and the people cheered. Chronos raised his arms and uttered the final words of the ritual. It was over. After nodding indulgently to the crowd the god bounded down the platform stairs, meaning to make his way straight to the side of his 'Favoured'. Thwarted in that intention not two steps from the bottom of the platform by the eager throng of Darshi who crowed about him, seeking to touch him.
Slightly annoyed at being kept from Daniel and yet pleased by this entirely correct display of their affection, Chronos grudgingly allowed himself to be adored. Someone thrust a small child into his hands. A tiny, cooing girl no more than two or three, with large dark eyes and a curly halo of dark, tousled ringlets framing her small, pink face. As the god held her awkwardly, uncertain of what to do with her, she giggled, patted his arm and suddenly reached forward a tiny, chubby hand, grabbing his nose.
The god's eyes widened in alarm; there was genuine terror in the dark eyes seeking Daniel's, huge with the frantic question: "What do I do with it - how do I make it let go?"
Daniel stared dumbfounded at the spectacle of the great Goa'uld and supreme System Lord brought low by a little, laughing child. Who even now was pulling his hair and patting his face. Chronos was completely undone - didn't have a clue how to react or respond.
This was possibly the funniest thing Daniel could remember seeing for a very long time. It was - absurd. He couldn't help it; Chronos would probably kick him around the galaxy for daring to laugh at him but he just couldn't stop himself.
It started as a burst of loud, uncontrollable, explosive laughter tearing its way out of him. Happened again when Chronos reacted to the sound of it, looking over at him with a strangely attentive expression. Which Daniel also suddenly found funny. He had no idea why. Funny? It was hysterical.
Then he was just - laughing. Hard, loud, completely out of control. Couldn't make it stop. Couldn't control himself. Laughing so hard his sides were hurting and it was getting hard to breathe. Felt hands upon his shoulders, holding him up. Hands that could only belong to one person.
He was still laughing, feeling giddy and light-headed with the violent expression of the emotions searing through him. Eyes were streaming with tears, vision completely obscured by them. Couldn't see where they were going, where Nah'tak was guiding him, strong arm around his shoulders taking him somewhere out of the sun, away from its glare, away from the noise, the people crowding.
The eyes watching him.
They stopped. Much quieter here. Nah'tak turned him around to face him, enfolding him in his arms, pressing him close. Daniel realised he wasn't laughing anymore - he was crying. Sobbing with as little volition or control as he had been formerly laughing. He hadn't allowed himself to shed a tear since the attack. Just tried to - deal with it. As he always did.
Daniel hung limply in Nah'tak's obdurate, comforting embrace, too drained by the power of the grief pouring from him to be capable of anything else. If not for the support of the man he was leaning against he doubted very much he would still be standing. He was completely crazed - insane. Just - gone. No holding it back, no stopping the tide. Nothing he could do but hope Nah'tak would hold on so he wouldn't get swept away.
Maybe he wasn't doing as good a job as he had thought getting a handle on all of this after all.
That small, single, stray thought started him laughing again. The utter absurdity of the whole thing, his arrogant, smug assumption he could actually deal with this. Find a way to make it work - make it count for something. When the truth was, all he was going to do was go mad and then be obliterated. There was no point to any of it. It was simply - pointless.
How in the world had he ever had the effrontery to imagine anything he ever was or did could make any sort of difference?
His sobbing laughter was beginning to subside. Nah'tak still held him, still unflagging in his silent support. He felt a large hand stroking his head, trusted himself enough to risk trying to look up at the kind, craggy face looking back down at him.
Piercing golden eyes, which reminded him of those of an eagle, met his own. Those eyes resided in a dark, weathered, strongly featured face which firmly wore its resemblance to that bird of prey. From the strong, high, slightly jutting brow, to the large, hooked nose and the high, prominent cheekbones which dominated the face and cast the bright eyes in deeply shadowed hollows, Nah'tak looked the very spirit of the proud eagle taken form.
He was unique among his fellows in the customary simplicity of his attire and general presentation. His long, black hair was untroubled by any sort of sophisticated adornment. It hung down his back in a simple, single thick braid. His shipboard 'uniform' was plainer and less bulky - consequently probably more comfortable - than the standard issue Jaffa model. It consisted of a breastplate, greaves on arms and legs and a stiff 'skirt' of pleated, thick leather. It was functional, not flashy. Honest, unpretentious. Not unlike the man who wore it.
Nah'tak looked down at him and the well-used face smiled at him. "There is yet much hurt within you," he said simply, stating what he knew to be so with quiet authority. "This is a start. Your true heart speaks its pain so it may tell you what you must learn from this."
Daniel shook his head at the man who still held him tightly not understanding what he was saying. Nah'tak smiled again.
"It may take time before this becomes clearer to you," the Jaffa continued in an earnest, knowing voice. "Recent wounds build on the foundations of old hurts and woes. Your pain is ancient, springing not only from what has just befallen you. There is a fertile ground of deliberately unremembered sorrow upon which the seeds Chronos has planted within you can take root, flourish and grow. Allowing those bitter weeds to choke you to death would be easier than doing what you must to uproot them and cleanse yourself completely, but somehow I think it unlikely one such as you will take that easy path. I think you will fight," Nah'tak nodded his head slightly to emphasise his words. "I think you will solve the riddle of your own sorrow, to your eventual liberation - thereby gaining your true freedom no matter your circumstances."
"You have far more faith in me than I deserve," Daniel murmured, looking away from the piercing eyes seeing straight into his soul.
"As you see yourself, so shall you be," Nah'tak said cryptically. "This is the beginning of the riddle. But now, come, let us go back and join the others. Chronos will be missing you. I think it only fitting you meet the people who are now alive because of you. What do you think?"
"I hadn't thought of that," Daniel said as Nah'tak let him go and began to lead him out the small hut where he had taken him. As soon as they emerged into the sunlight they saw Chronos seated on the ground in the midst of the Darshi, doing his best to look as regal, impressive and god-like as he could with a small child perched on his shoulders drumming her heels on his chest and banging on his head with her fists.
As soon as Chronos saw them, most specifically saw Daniel - for he was the only one the god really saw - he appeared at first relieved and then the System Lord cast him a petulant, almost pleading, and yet frustrated look. Daniel had seen this same expression on Jack's face somewhere, very long ago, or was it yesterday? Didn't really matter. It just looked so much like him, but that was okay. It didn't hurt as much it as probably should have because as he saw it, Daniel suddenly heard Jack's voice saying the words which went with the look.
...for crying out loud - DO something! Help me!
Chronos' frantic beckoning broke the spell. Daniel shook his head, looked at the System Lord, saw only what was without the glamour of Jack overshadowing him. He was all right as he left Nah'tak's side, all right as he walked over toward the man whose smile got bigger and bigger the closer he came to him.
He was all right as he felt the hand upon his arm pulling him down, then felt the arm surround him, and felt the hand grasp his chin and pull his face around. All right - didn't even shudder at the touch - getting better at this - as dark eyes blazed golden, slicing him to the bone as they raked over him. He was all right as the mouth coming close to his own purred, "I have never heard you laugh before. It is a beautiful sound," just before it closed upon him, sucking insistently, insatiably at him trying to take what he would not give.
Daniel groaned as his body heaved once more. Oh god, not again. So much for the party tidbits Chronos had practically force-fed him. Barely gone down and up they were coming again. As soon as the all too familiar feeling started to rise within him he had hurriedly pushed himself away from the System Lord, threaded his way through the assembled Drashi and quickly stumbled toward the nearest hut. Safely behind it and away from the eyes of most of the assemblage, he'd fallen to his hands and knees and the rest had been quite beyond his control.
Damn. He'd been doing this practically since he got here. Every time he'd tried or been forced to eat anything - up it had come again. Couldn't seem to do anything about it, and didn't know how much longer he could keep going, keep it hidden from Chronos. If he was sick, he just wanted to ride it out, let it pass on its own. Wasn't sure why, but for some reason being subjected to the healing device for a third time frightened him. Didn't want it to happen, didn't want to be messed with. Damned Goa'uld technology messing with him, messing up his insides.
Just leave me alone and I'll be fine. Just fine.
Finished. Finally. Thank God. Daniel crouched on his haunches, trembling from the effects of the violent vomiting episode he had just endured, wrapping his arms about himself to support his aching ribs. This was just so much not fun it didn't bear thinking about. Even though, ironically, it had given him a few moments respite away from Chronos and his mauling attentions. Even though he felt like he wanted to tumble over onto the ground and die he took a small measure of guilty pleasure in savouring the solitary moment. Wouldn't be lasting long. Any second now, someone would be there to yank him back.
There was the hand on his shoulder. Another on his arm, starting to raise him up. Nah'tak, no doubt. Recess over - time to go back. Sighing, Daniel allowed himself to be lifted to his feet, and then turned to the last thing he expected. The eyes he looked into were dark and veiled, not the open golden eyes of his friend. The hands still upon him were not those of Nah'tak.
"Having fun, I see, Tau'ri," the First Maintainer jeered at him.
"Ah, kiss my ass, Snake Boy," Daniel groaned as he struggled to stay on his feet. It was hard; his legs weren't working right. He was starting to fall back down again. Was falling, would have fallen, except for the arm holding him up. Strong, the grip was strong. Strange, such strength, once used against him, now helping, holding.
The hand upon his arm was gentle, supporting; the voice in his ear harsh, mocking.
"Perhaps you will die now and solve all our problems."
"Wouldn't give you the satisfaction," Daniel choked. Was getting hard to think, to see. He was passing out. Damn. Going to be hard to hide this now.
"Nah'tak! Nah'tak! Help me!"
Was that Delios? Someone was calling for help. Couldn't be Delios, he hated his guts. Yup. Hated him. Friends were enemies, enemies were friends, and as soon as he got a minute he was going to figure all of this out.
If he lived that long.
Kirma/Maya stood silently beside the bed, holding the healing device Chronos had just handed them. He had not looked at them as he had done so, his full attention trained on the wan, pale man lying unconscious on the bed.
Daniel was quiet now. He had not been so a moment ago. As soon as the energy from the device touched him he'd started to writhe and moan as if in pain. Confused, not understanding this unexpected reaction Chronos had continued to train the ray upon him, abruptly ceasing to use it only when Daniel started to actually cry out.
"How long has he been like this?" Chronos finally asked in a low, calm voice.
"At least three days, my lord," Nah'tak answered him from his station on the other side of the System Lord.
"And you did not tell me? Any of you?" There was a suggestion in his voice he was trying to be angry, but it was as if he did not have sufficient will to give the intention enough strength to actualise it.
"He ordered us not to, my lord," Nah'tak replied in a deeply contrite voice. "He did not wish you to know."
Chronos sighed and nodded. "Very well," he murmured as he brushed Daniel's hair away from his forehead. "You were only doing as you were told. I will not punish you."
"Thank you, my lord," Nah'tak bowed to signify his gratitude. The Tok'ra woman deemed it prudent to emulate his example. As did Delios.
"Besides, he would not wish me to harm you for his sake," Chronos added in an absent voice. "Doing so would not please him.
"What is wrong with him?" Chronos continued in an almost plaintive voice, after a brief pause. "If he is ill, the device should help him, not hurt him as it seems to. He is a human. There is no sickness or injury beyond our technology, no ill that can assault the human body which we cannot put right. What, then, is wrong with him?"
"I cannot say, my lord," Nah'tak advanced, wishing to comfort, knowing he had none to offer. "Perhaps with rest and quiet he will improve by himself. Perhaps if we just - let him rest..."
Chronos shot an indignant look at him. "I do not wish to wait! I wish him to be well! Now! I wish him at my side. There is no reason why the healing device should not work on him. It should work. It will work. Give it to me!" he snapped at Kirma.
Snatching the offered device from the woman's hand, Chronos resolutely set his jaw and turned back to the man lying on the bed beside him. Activating it, he once again trained the soft golden light it emitted upon him.
Daniel screamed. The sounds shattered the air for a few brief seconds before his cries choked away into silence as his body began to spasm with frightening, convulsive, violent jerks. With a terrified cry Chronos flung the device from him, grabbing hold of Daniel's arms, trying to restrain him as the seizure continued to rack and twist his body.
"What have I done?" he cried out, anguished. "Daniel! Daniel, I'm sorry!"
Delios watched Chronos as he tried desperately to soothe and calm the convulsing man beneath his hands. Many long, terrible minutes elapsed before the seizure showed signs its power over Daniel's body was diminishing.
The First Maintainer had seen his lord exhibit many emotions during the time he had known him, served him - loved him. The emotion now possessing Chronos, clearly marking his face for all to see was one Delios had never known him to demonstrate before.
Chronos was afraid. Completely, utterly terrified. Faced with a situation he could not control, over which he had no power - Chronos reeked with fear. All who stood in the room saw it. Could not miss it. Could not escape the inevitable conclusion to be drawn from it.
Whoever controlled Daniel Jackson - controlled Chronos.
That one saw it. The woman. Look at her, look at the look on her face. He knew what she was. Knew she thought he was a fool, knew she was using him. Let her think what she would. Her body was not unpleasant, her attentions amusing. She had plans; so did he. She would bear watching.
Daniel was quiet once again; the seizure had passed. Chronos was cradling him in his arms, crushing him tightly to his chest. Eyes closed, mouth slack, head resting heavily on the System Lord's shoulder, arms hanging lifelessly down by his sides. No response, no movement, barely even breathing.
Chronos shook with fear, his voice almost wild with disbelief. "This is not possible, this should not be," he ranted. "I will not have this - will not allow this. " He turned grim, accusing eyes upon the three assembled in the room watching him, silent guardians of their own very different thoughts.
"I will not have this," he howled. "I wish it to stop! Stop it! Fix it! Discover what is wrong and make him better. Do it quickly or you will die. All of you! Get out of here and do my bidding!"
Nah'tak bowed before his god. "It shall be as you wish, my lord," he said placatingly as he threw a stern look at the other two occupants of the room, admonishing them to quickly leave while they still could. He knew what the god had just said, knew also why he had said it. Chronos spoke unthinkingly from his fear for Daniel. He would not carry out his impulsive decree once fear no longer talked for him.
Nah'tak heard the others leave; he had no time to worry about them. Even though he also had been told to leave, he instead drew closer to Chronos, standing directly at his side. As he gently put his hand on his god's shoulder the divine head dropped, resting against the one he supported.
"We will find a way to make it right, my lord," Nah'tak told him soothingly.
The god said nothing. The shoulder beneath his hand shook slightly, Chronos continued to hold Daniel in his arms, Nah'tak remained by his side to offer what comfort he could.
Did you see that! Did you see! The fool is utterly besotted! I tell you, we are going about this all wrong.
Kirma, Kirma, where are you going? We have to meet with Aurloch/Joss. They're waiting for us - we have to make our report!
Not yet. Not yet. We have to think, make plans. Don't you understand what you just saw? And you can't be stupid enough to think Daniel is going to meekly cooperate with us and do what we want. He's wilful. Dangerous. He very nearly turned on us. Still, I don't know why I am surprised, why I should have expected anything more from a mere human.
I was a 'mere human' once.
Yes dear, I know, but you're much better now, aren't you?
I know what you're thinking, and the logistical difficulties aside - Kirma I don't think the High Council would sanction this. This is -
Daring? Clever? Audacious?
I was thinking more along the lines of - calculating. Cruel. Reprehensible.
Maya, darling, he is only one man. We've used many people to further our purposes. What troubles you? What makes this instance, this man, any different from any of the rest?
If you can't SEE that, I don't know how I can possibly explain it to you. There is a vast difference between trying to persuade him to work with us to - what you have in mind.
Think of the goal, think of the prize. That's all that matters.
Where are we going?
The humans have a doctor. We must take care of him, and his diagnostic equipment, before either Delios or the Jaffa remembers about him and tells Chronos to take Daniel to him.
What? What for?
Getting rid of the doctor will force Chronos to take the ship to an external medical facility. Once we are stationary we can make other arrangements for our intractable Tau'ri friend.
Are you even going to bother to mention this to the council?
What do you think? What they don't know, they don't have to tell. Or lie about. Don't worry, once they know we have him, they will be quite pleased to keep him.
You're going to get us both killed, you know that!
Just be quiet and watch me work!
They had problems. Big problems. The colonel was going to have kittens when he heard about this one. Great big honking furry Goa'uld-eating - kittens.
Sam paced restlessly about in the room the Tok'ra had assigned her during the duration of her 'sojourn' with them, waiting impatiently for Martouf to join her. They were going to be heading back to Earth as soon as the Council had finished giving him his instructions. Sam did not look forward to the report she had to deliver.
The communication from Chronos' ship had finally come in. There had been a five day gap between the receipt of this message and the last one the operative had gotten out on the second day, confirming they had made contact with Daniel, delivering some other information about an attack Chronos had planned on a planet named Drasha. Although apparently it was not unusual for operatives to become incommunicado for long periods of time, in this particular instance - given the amount of danger involved in the assignment - this silence was ominous.
Consequently during the days which had followed everyone had waited anxiously, holding their breath, hoping for the best while more realistically fearing the worst.
Now all fears were allayed for the moment. Fears for the operatives, that is. The substance of the report they had tendered left plenty of room for speculation and terror along other lines. Ones which meant far more to Sam and others who also waited for word.
Sam had been uncompromising in her insistence she be allowed to hear the messages, in their entirety, as soon as they were received. No second hand transcripts, edited or excised. She was determined to get all the information as soon as it came in, not simply because it was her job to do so.
The Tok'ra were going out of their way to be co-operative. After what Selmac had told her - which the Council undoubtedly knew about - they hardly had the moral ground upon which to stand and make an objection either to her presence or her demands. Even though in their eyes she might be almost 'one of them' because of her status as Jolinar's last host, their courtesy toward her was - she was sure - not motivated so much by that as it was by their desperate desire to gain her approval and understanding. What she now knew could cause an irreparable rift between Tok'ra and Tau'ri. They knew it. She knew it. What she didn't know was what she was going to do with what she knew.
She had been wrestling with that thorny little problem for the last five days. During the course of which she had been able to access a great deal of the portions of Jolinar's memories dealing with what Selmac had told her. And with them the history of the Tok'ra's struggle itself, as Jolinar had participated in it.
The techniques Luena had taught her had really come in handy. The dreams which had resulted from the focused mediation had been informative, detailed and troubling. She had not only seen the truth of the beginnings - as related to her by Selmac - she had felt it, lived it. What he'd said about the Goa'uld's plans and the reason for their attitude problem - okay, that was all true. That really came as no surprise, and wasn't what was bothering her the most. What she found the most disturbing was what she'd learned about the Tok'ra from the mind of Jolinar herself.
They were sincere in their desire to become equal partners with humans - to protect the human race from enslavement and domination. However, they shared one trait with their less considerate brothers, which was the one more than giving her pause.
The ruthless, single-minded, complete and utter dedication to the accomplishment of their goals no matter the cost or consequences. Goa'uld - Tok'ra, in this there was no difference between them. They would do anything to win. Anything. And wouldn't give up until they won.
The end justifies the means? All that and more. Sam now understood while Earth and the Tok'ra were fighting for the same cause, the Tok'ra could and would turn on their allies if they judged circumstances left them no choice but to do so. The end result being more important than anything else. Really hard to trust someone to watch your back when you were never sure if and when they were going to stick a knife in it if they thought they had to.
That fact alone would seem to make one think the decision to dust them off would be a fairly obvious one, but like everything else, it just wasn't that simple. Selmac was right. In the absence of any other technologically advanced and less 'personal-agenda-ed' allies, without the Tok'ra, Earth didn't stand a chance. To have even a fighting chance of staying in the fight and protecting themselves Earth needed the edge of their technology, their intelligence network and their allies.
There wasn't anyone else to turn to. The Nox? The Tollans? Unlisted number. The Asgard? Not a safe bet by a long shot. While the Asgard had shown a cursory interest in the affairs of Earth, they had already demonstrated they had their own problems and there were limits to the assistance and intervention they were willing to extend on Earth's behalf. Likewise, they had also exhibited a curious detached ambivalence about the nature of their concern, which left the impression they too would not be above abandoning Earth if such an action were deemed necessary to whatever grand plan they were following.
Nice to know they were so important and yet so expendable.
If she was a paranoid person she could almost see a disturbing pattern in the actions of their alien partners/benefactors. It was almost as if both Tok'ra and Asgard were using the Earth as some kind of cosmic Judas goat to lure the Goa'uld toward some unknown purpose. A goad to prod them in certain directions, in aid of some vast and secret plan. A pawn on the chessboard.
She had really been trying not to think about this, but it wouldn't go away. The nature of their alliance with the Tok'ra. What it was based upon. The only thing they had to offer them the Tok'ra had been interested in. The ultimate value of the human race not only to the Goa'uld, but to the Tok'ra as well.
Never forget their alliance was based solely upon an offer of and its acceptance of humans as hosts..
Sam shivered, deciding she definitely didn't want to go any further down this particular road. This whole situation was getting much too big for her, taking her into areas way outside of her comfort zone. She was a soldier and a scientist, not a diplomat or politician. She solved problems and carried out orders, didn't make policy. She found herself desperately wishing Daniel was here right now, so she could talk it out with him, hear what he had to say, so he could help her decide what to do.
Sam sighed unhappily, unconsciously increasing her pace. Daniel. Her friend Daniel. The innocent nexus of the contest upon whom was heaped so many hopes, expectations, plans and schemes. About whom there seemed to be so little concern, for all the wailing, brow-beating and mouthed 'we are so sorrys.'
Well, she should be so surprised. He was after all, just another means to an end. As they all were.
According to the report, the 'subject' was performing well above and beyond expectations. The operative could not provide confirmation Daniel had agreed to become an active ally, only that so far he had responded in a way, as circumstances had required, conducive to assisting the purposes of the movement.
Which was just a fancy way of saying Daniel was still being Daniel. Wherever he was, whatever was happening to him, he was still finding a way to do the right thing.
She forced herself to recall what else the report had said. "Despite recent incident all operatives functional continuing uncompromised." Sam smiled grimly to herself. There was a story behind that one she was sure.
"Subject continues to supply regular, accurate intelligence. Detecting noticeable influence upon Chronos. System Lord sensitive to opinions, observations, beginning to incorporate same in formulation of policy. Non violent solution to Drasha situation, intervention on behalf of the Toris Nar, imposing summit meeting upon several minor System Lords in order to arbitrate disputes cited as most recent examples of influence."
Go get 'em Daniel.
There was a darker side to the report. One single, stark statement. Which said so much in all it did not say.
"Some concerns for health and mental condition of subject. Will advise as situation progresses."
Nice to know you care. Wouldn't want your pawn to crap out on you before you got your money's worth.
All of this was bad enough, then came the part which would have the colonel spawning small, furry mammals. The part that had her heading back home as fast as she could.
They had a spy in their midst. An Ashrak, for god's sake. How they were going to find him, and what they were going to do about him, she didn't have a clue. However, knowing he had been there all along, and what his being there had undoubtedly contributed to Daniel's abduction, made her blood boil.
If she didn't already hate the Ashrak enough, she'd just gotten a whole new reason to loathe both the spy and the thing he reported to. There was a long, long line forming of those who wanted Chronos dead. She knew she wasn't at the head of it, but she sincerely hoped whoever was ahead of her would leave her enough of a piece to work out some righteous frustration on.
The Tok'ra weren't the only ones who could be single-minded about achieving their purposes.
The woman addressed started as she heard the unexpected voice behind her. "Martouf!" she smiled uncertainly. "Scared me - didn't hear you come in. Set to go?"
Martouf looked at the determined, closed face of the woman before him, feeling a deep sadness. This situation was so unfortunate, in so many ways. Had inflicted too many wounds which might never heal.
There was no warmth in the eyes of the woman who looked at him, only grudging tolerance, and deep suspicion. Samantha had been his friend once, at times he had dared to hope someday it might be more. That seemed very unlikely now. If she did not hate him by virtue of what he was - it could not be much longer before she did.
There was nothing he could do. No way to comfort her, no assurances he could offer her for the future of her friend. Nothing he could say that would ease her mind, or make her hate him less for what had to be.
Since arriving she had kept mostly to herself, hardly spoken a word to him or her father since their initial conversation. She had said nothing about what she now knew, keeping her thoughts and feelings to herself. The council had talked about not allowing her to communicate with Earth because of what she knew and their uncertainty about what she would do with the information. Selmac had vigorously opposed the idea, and in the end, it had been decided to abandon the notion. The problems with Earth such a course of action would cause were at least as bad as taking the chance she would advise her leaders to sever the alliance.
Because the Tok'ra represented the only opportunity that presently existed to have news of her friend or render aid to him, the council had decided Samantha would not do anything to jeopardise the current situation. Martouf smiled ruefully to himself. In that they were probably right. Samantha wouldn't knowingly do anything to hurt Daniel. Which was more than could be said about the ones he was looking to for help.
He realised Samantha was still looking at him, waiting for him to answer. Pushing away his regrets, Martouf forced his face to wear a smile as he replied.
"Yes, Samantha. I have the detection device. We can expect the Ashrak to have bugged most of the sensitive areas of the complex, possibly your homes as well. The surveillance devices he uses are far too advanced to be detectable by your technology." He extended a hand to show her a small, square, black, plain, palm-sized device which he was holding. "This device, however, is a different story."
She frowned at it uncertainly. "Sure doesn't look like much. But if it does the job, who cares. Got any instruments that will detect Goa'ulds in a hurry?"
"If it is a Goa'uld," Martouf replied. "There are many human Ashrak in Chronos' service. However, I agree it is most probably a Goa'uld given the problem of the security surrounding your facility."
"Yeah, me too," Sam said thoughtfully. "However, if and when we find him, what are we going to do with him? Not that it's up to me to decide or anything."
"The council has a few thoughts about that they wish me to share with your superiors. It is far too late to - close the barn door - as you would say. Chronos undoubtedly knows everything we discussed after Daniel's abduction, and everything which has happened in your headquarters since. He knows about our operatives, knows there is one close to Daniel, probably knows about our plans to enlist Daniel in obtaining information for him."
"So, if I read you right, what you will be suggesting is using the Ashrak to do a little 'damage control.' Feeding him information we want Chronos to have. Turning the tables a little."
"Might be the only way to save our operatives. And your friend." Martouf said carefully.
"Hear you," Sam sighed unhappily. "Man, I hate this shit. Give me a nice clean, uncomplicated particle accelerator any day. Well, we might as well get going. Been thinking about getting a cat for a long time. Here's my chance."
Sam grinned at Martouf's puzzled expression. "Never mind. Let's just go."
"Hey, sir, how are you doing?"
Sam looked down at the man lying in the infirmary bed struggling to fight his way through whatever was happening in his head in order to be able to focus on the woman addressing him.
When Sam returned she'd been quickly brought up to speed as to what had been happening with her team-mates since she'd been gone. Most specifically Colonel O'Neill.
Two days ago, without any sort of warning, the Colonel had had a seizure, immediately falling into a coma which had lasted for thirty hours. Since waking he'd been drifting in and out of consciousness, fighting to stay awake, fighting to stay with Daniel.
Whatever was going on with their distant friend, it was bad. One had only to look at the condition of the man linked to him to be able to know this. Whatever the colonel had used before, to rise above the effects of the things Daniel was experiencing didn't seem to working now. Whatever was going on, the colonel was scared.
So was everybody else.
Janet was walking around frowning a lot. Shaking her head, using the kind of language she only employed when any other words just didn't do it. Sam felt more than a small pang of sympathy for the good doctor's consternation. There was no good, logical, provable scientific reason for what was happening to the colonel. There was nothing wrong with him. All his tests were normal, normal, normal. No reason why any of this should be happening, and yet, it was.
Was happening and yet it shouldn't be. As there was no 'cause' for his distress, there was no way to alleviate it or treat it. Not that he wanted her to. At one point, when the headache was the most severe, she'd offered him some painkillers.
Sam always suspected the colonel knew more bad words than anyone living except for possibly Daniel; his response to his doctor's suggestion had more than amply proven her hypothesis.
"Just peachy, Carter," Jack responded in a weak, faltering voice, trying and failing utterly to smile. "Why do you ask? Don't I look so good?"
"You look like crap, sir," Carter knew her own attempt at a brave smile was anything but successful. "With all due respect."
"Yeah, well you should see the other guy.." Jack began in another attempt at glibness, his voice trailing away as he realised what he was saying. "He's all messed up, Sam," Jack began again, in an almost inaudible voice. "Don't know if he's going to make it."
"He'll make it, sir," Carter tried to console, furiously blinking back the tears springing into her eyes. "You know how stubborn Daniel is."
Jack looked away, fond sorrow possessing his dark brown eyes. "Stubborn, thick-headed, hard-nosed, impossible, single-minded..don't change now, Daniel, whatever you do."
Jack shook his head weakly as if to throw off the darkening shadows of doubt. As he turned his attention back to the woman who watched him she could see him drawing upon whatever inner well of strength he was tapping into in order to keep on going, making himself focus, bringing his attention back to the job at hand.
"So, how's it going? What did you find?"
"It's weird, sir," Sam replied, knowing exactly what he was asking her. "Martouf found some surveillance devices all right, but not where we were expecting most to find them. Except for your office and Daniel's and both your rooms, the base is clear." Sam paused, not wanting to tell him the rest of it.
"And?" He pressed in a quiet voice.
"Who said there was an 'and', sir?" She hedged.
"Oh, I think there is an 'and', all right," he returned. "Not going to like it either, am I?"
"'Fraid not, colonel," she grimaced. "The only other place that was bugged was - your house. Ah, everywhere," she finished in a quiet voice, averting her eyes.
To her surprise the colonel took this news very calmly. He was deeply pensive for a moment as he considered what he had just heard. "Well, that would track," he said finally.
"Not following you, sir," Sam replied.
"Daniel was his target, makes sense he would bug personal areas," Jack explained in a quiet, slightly tired voice. "We have no way of knowing if other areas of the base were bugged before Daniel was taken. If they were, they aren't now. Which would seem to suggest Chronos isn't interested in the petty everyday operations of the SGC. Guess we're not important enough for him to bother with. But the Ashrak is still here, and so are his little bugs. If he isn't here to spy on the SGC - you have to ask yourself - why is he still here?"
"Good question, sir," Sam nodded. "I wonder - " she broke off suddenly as an alarmed look crossed Jack's face. Thinking he was in pain again, she impulsively put a concerned hand on his shoulder. "Sir? Colonel are you all right?" she asked him, deeply concerned.
"Me." Jack fixed horrified eyes upon her, gripping her forearms tightly. "The son of a bitch bastard is watching me. That goddamned snakehead is blackmailing Danny - holding me over his head. That's why the Ashrak is still here - he's hanging around waiting for his boss to give him the word to take me out if Danny doesn't cooperate. Dammittohell!"
"Well if that's true sir, that means you're a sitting duck here until we find him," Sam said, trying to calm him. "Maybe we should put you in protective custody until we do. Teal'c, Luena and Martouf are covering the base, checking out all the personnel. I was going to go and help them after I finished briefing you. That Goa'uld won't get away from us."
Jack shook his head, closing his eyes as if he was in pain. "No - no, stupid. We've been so stupid. Waste of time, it's not a Goa'uld. How could I have been so stupid? Help me up out of this damned bed."
Jack paused, wavering as he leaned up against the side of the bed, "Whoa! This isn't going to be easy. Gotta do it. We gotta catch that bastard, we need him, but gotta be careful, could be anywhere. Have to catch him, but not let him know we're after him. Getting a little bit tired of being jumped through hoops. Just about time to get control of the ball, here.
"Give me a minute, I'll be fine, where the hell are my clothes?"
Sam watched, concerned, as it seemed for a moment the Colonel was going to slide right down to the floor despite her assistance. He gripped her shoulder tightly, took a huge breath and shook his head like a wet dog shrugging itself dry.
"Okay, okay," he hissed with deep determination. "I can do this."
He lifted himself up from her support, grabbed her by the arms and swung her around to face him.
"Find the others," he said urgently. "Tell them to meet me topside. Have to get off the base. We're going to go for a drive and have a little chat."
"She's lying to us, Veltas."
The second member of the resistance cell aboard Chronos' ship looked at his superior. "So it would appear, Aurloch, but why would Kirma do that?"
"I don't know, but I do know she was lying to us about the Tau'ri's condition. He's been in a coma for the last three days. There is no possible way she could have talked to him yesterday, which is when she says he told her about the Ashrak at the SGC, and told her he was continuing to gather intelligence for us. Right now Daniel isn't doing anything, much less talking. To anyone."
"You were able to make the other contact in the inner retinue?" Veltas continued.
"Yes, one of the human menials who makes up Chronos' personal staff. She is new, ambitious, and eager to make friends. She's actually been in the suite. Seen him. Not as certain as being able to be there in person, but the best we can do for now."
"Why would Kirma lie to us, lie to the council? Veltas continued, a worried look on his face.
"I don't know," Aurloch replied thoughtfully. "I knew it was a mistake letting her take the inside track on this. She's zealous, to be sure, but I 've been worried about her. Something is not right."
Veltas cast a sidelong look at the man walking beside him. "Maybe you should ask the council - if -"
"If I should pull her out of the field for a while?" Aurloch continued, pursing his lips unhappily as he considered the prospect. "Maybe that would be the wisest course of action. She's been out here for a long time. Possibly too long. It's bad timing to lose the inner track to the Tau'ri. It will take us time to re-establish it again, but if we can't trust her, the potential danger she represents is even worse. If she's gone rogue, we have one hell of a problem."
"You don't think - you don't think she's done that, do you?" Veltas said in a slightly frightened voice.
"I don't know what to think anymore, " Aurloch replied grimly.
They had almost reached their destination down in the service areas of the ship; parts of which were unsurveilled because the energy fields generated by the massive ship systems interfered with the devices. The only safe parts of the ship to meet, to plan, to send their messages.
Aurloch thought he saw movement out of the corner of his eye. Alarmed he started to turn. There wasn't supposed to be anyone down here. He barely had time to start the movement when the high pitched whine of a zat-nichetel discharge registered upon his consciousness. As he fell, he heard the weapon sound again, then heard nothing more.
Kirma stood over the fallen bodies of her former associates. She frowned darkly at them for several seconds, unable to finish what she had started until she gained further control over the efforts her host was making to stop her from completing her task.
Two more shots apiece and both bodies were gone.
"There will be no interference with my plans," she said menacingly to the empty air. Concealing the weapon once more beneath the generous material of her robe, she smiled happily to herself and quickly walked away from what she had just done.
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