October 10 1998, Amaunet's Jewel, The World of the Tau'ri
Mark walked slowly through the quiet street. He was early, and he had no intention of getting to his destination before he had to. It was early evening, and the stars were coming out. He suddenly noticed that the sky was already much darker than he was used to. It was of course due to the lack of electric street lights, but for some reason he had not paid attention to it before.
Taking a deep breath, he noticed something else. The air was much cleaner than it had been before. The lack of cars in the streets, and the almost complete lack of heavy industry, meant that the air was cleaner than he had experienced in a city before. Only when he had been deep inside a forest had the air been like this. He took another breath of air. It was very crisp and cold, proving that the fall had truly come now.
While it was certainly pleasant to have fresh air, that was not what hit him the most. No, what he realized was how much the world had changed, and so quickly. He had been so busy trying to survive, and working to get the best possible opportunities for his family, that he had barely paid attention to all the other things that had changed. It had just been things he needed to adapt to. Horrible things, yes, but he had not allowed himself the time to truly think about the real ramifications of what had transpired.
They were subjugated by an evil alien. Hundreds of millions were dead, billions enslaved, and tens of thousands had already been shipped offworld to a fate he did not know for sure and certainly did not wish to think about. Almost everything that had defined their daily life was gone.
Gone were electricity, computers, radio, central heating, telephones, newspapers, television - with the exception of small transmission units only used for sending messages from their Lord, and powered by only God knew what kind of technology. It surely did not have any kind of battery he could recognize.
Gone were vacations, movie theaters, schools, doctors, industrial products, premade food... most stores, actually, aside from a few that had popped up, selling what people could scavenge from before, or what they could make.
Gone were freedom and any and all kinds of human rights, as well as most of the things that had defined his society.
Mark took a deep breath and pushed the dark thoughts away. He would focus on what he had; his wife and his children, he had work, they had a place to stay, food on the table every day, clean clothes for the children.
Those were things that not everyone had. He had seen the poor and starving people, those who previously held a job that were no longer needed, and who could do no other. Those who were too old, too young, too sick to work as slaves. With that many to choose from, the Goa'uld took only the strongest. The rest had to fend for themselves, as best they could.
Of course, if they had 'dangerous' knowledge - technological knowledge - or if they were resisting the new Lord in any way, they died. So many had died during the attack, but many more had died later.
Stop it, Mark! Why was he thinking of this? He shook his head, and walked a little faster, trying to clear his mind.
He, and the other 'top-level' humans in Colorado Spr... eh, Amaunet's Jewel, had been... 'invited' to witness the ceremony of Renec, Lak Shal'Kek, which translated to something like Honour, Life, and Death.
They said it was a great honour - and besides, they would not have taken no for an answer. He thought is sounded more than slightly ominous, and he was very glad he was only invited to witness the ceremony, and not take part in it. Or so he hoped.
Mark sat in his seat on the second row of raised seats, looking out over the maybe 100-120 humans gathered.
A fairly large, oblong lake, maybe 350 feet long, had been constructed in the field behind the almost-finished palace of Apophis's. The lake was made out much like a swimming pool, with the sides paved with flat rocks. When he had walked past it on his way to his seat, he had noticed it looked to be quite deep.
The seats for the humans were placed along a quarter circle at one end of this lake. Another quarter circle at the same end had a raised platform where Lord Apophis and his queen Amaunet, and beside them were seats for several members of their court. The lo'tars stood at the sides of their Lords. All the dignitaries were protected by a fairly large number of Jaffa, and there were also many human slaves.
Most of the guests had now arrived, and Apophis rose, prepared to be worshipped by everyone present.
One of the Jaffa standing where the humans sat, gave a short order, and any humans that had not risen as soon as Apophis did, now got up very quickly. At a sign, they all fell to their knees in the space provided before each seat - which explained why there were such a large distance between the rows.
Down on the center platform, Apophis grinned magnanimously and held out his arms half-way and to the sides, his hands turned upwards, as he received their praise. Beside him Amaunet stood as well, looking beautiful, but proud and arrogant. At some distance, not on the actual platform, but on a smaller raised floor, stood various minor Goa'uld. Mark recognized Lord Eskall, the head of the Human Census Office. He had only seen him once in real life, but twice more on pictures. Kohnak, his own direct leader, was not there, Mark noticed, so he was probably too low in the hierarchy to be invited for this. Or he had other things to do. Mark did not know how many Goa'uld were actually on Earth, but it would have to be fairly many, as it was a big planet with a large population, and there seemed to be a great many jobs the Goa'uld would not even let Jaffa do.
"Ai'emain !" Apophis told them, and they all rose, having learned to recognize this Goa'uld word. "You are to be honoured by witnessing the ceremony of Renec, Lak Shal'Kek - the first since the world of the Tau'ri became once again as it should be, the residence of a god!"
Another Goa'uld stepped up on the platform, this one wearing more subdued clothing, marking his lower rank. He stopped a few steps from Apophis and Amaunet and bowed respectfully. After greeting them, he turned in the direction of the humans. Mark recognized him as Sitet, one of Apophis's underlings who had taken a host from Earth, presumably in order to exploit the hosts memories and knowledge of some of Earth's languages, cultures, and traditions. It would certainly come in handy.
"One hundred of this worlds worst traitors have been selected for tonight’s ritual. You are fortunate to get the rare honour of seeing what befalls those who disobey their god!"
Mark shuddered, and he could see the other humans were feeling uncomfortable as well. There was no doubt that this was not meant as an honour, but as a warning. He swallowed as the Jaffa started leading a terrified group of humans towards the lake, most of the prisoners crying or screaming in fear, some of them struggling in vain with the Jaffa.
The Jaffa took the humans to the edge of the pool, then stopped and waited.
A small group of people wearing what looked like light brown cassocks, with a dark overcast on their upper body, stepped forward. Over their heads they had on a kind of hood that also covered their shoulders. It seemed to be made of some kind of reptile skin.
"Priests from Apophis's world," the man beside Mark whispered to the others.
The priests - or whatever they were - carried a large receptacle up to the very brink of the lake, setting it down so that it was hanging out over the water. Mark studied it as well as he could. Where he sat he was only maybe 40 feet away, and so he could see it quite clearly, but he could not guess what it was.
"Kree, Goa'uld!" Sitet said, from his place on the platform."Rak'lo najaquna shel're kowa lak! Ral-tora Kree!"
"Something about Goa'uld getting ready for a new life... and then wishing them good luck, or something - I think." The man beside Mark smiled apologetically. "They are training me in Goa'uld, so I can translate."
Mark nodded. "Okay. Thanks." He frowned, not really interested in what was said. He just wished this was over with, and soon. He wanted to get back to his wife and children, safely.
The Jaffa down at the pool now pushed the screaming and crying humans down into the water. Due to their number, they took up a fair portion of the lake, and they splashed and tried to get out of the water, which seemed to be too deep for them to stand in. The sides, however, where too high and too slippery for them to crawl out of the water, except in one place, where the water was shallow and the sides low. The Jaffa, however, kept guard just there, and allowed no one to leave.
Moments later, the sides of the receptacle were removed by the priests, and a large transparent tank was now visible. Something was swimming inside it, something with serpentine bodies. Snakes? No, they seemed to have fins. Eel-like, Mark thought.
The creatures inside seemed agitated, and he could hear them squeal. Not eels, then, or snakes, as neither had the ability to make such sounds. He remembered his sister had lectured him about it, sometime during their child-hood when she had been interested in biology. That had soon changed to astrophysics, of course.
Almost against his own will, he leaned forward to better be able to see, lured in by his own curiosity. The priests opened the bottom of the tank, and the creatures inside fell the short distance into the water below. They immediately swam in the direction of the humans in the water, some of them going directly for the nearest ones, while others continued on, sticking their heads up here and there, almost as if they were checking out the people. Mark found it creepy.
That was when the first of the humans cried out, and Mark turned his head just in time to see what looked like the man's eyes flashing, like he had seen the Goa'uld do. Immediately it hit him - why had he not realized it before? - the rumours said that the true form of the Goa'uld were eel-like. The creatures in the tank where Goa'uld, of course. Goa'uld who were now getting hosts...
Mark shuddered and again wondered how he had not realized that until now. Perhaps because the Goa'uld seemed to put such importance on choosing their hosts, and this was prisoners? Prisoners, which a group of host-less Goa'uld were allowed to fight for. He shook his head, revolted. He could not stop watching, though, and followed the spectacle with a morbid fascination.
Lord Eskall - or Karak, as his real name was - observed the happenings, frowning slightly. Only once had he been witness to something like this happening before, and that was also when a Goa'uld had just taken over a previously free planet and had wanted to make sure the population was properly subdued.
It was not that the Goa'uld did not normally hold competitions for the symbiotes who were about to take their first host. They did, or there would quickly become too many Goa'uld, at least that was the general feeling among the Goa’uld. The new Goa'uld would be rivals. On the other hand, large numbers of larvae were needed, to keep the Jaffa alive, and the Jaffa needed to be dependent of symbiotes, to be kept under control. Thus, there was no choice but to allow vast numbers of symbiotes to be born, but only a few were allowed to live past maturity and take hosts.
A small number were chosen for high positions, and picked to be heirs and honoured children of the System Lords, but most would be extremely lucky to get a host, and even if they did, they would have to slowly work their way up from unimportant positions. Very minor Goa'uld, who mostly stayed that way.
Those who even got a host, were chosen in a competition, much like this one, with two very important differences; First, it would normally be held in secret, with only Goa'uld and some high-ranking Jaffa as witnesses, since the true form of the gods were usually kept secret, and only rumoured. Second, there would be a small number of hosts, and a large number of symbiotes - who would then compete for the hosts, with usually only the most aggressive and driven ones getting to take a host.
This had the side effect of keeping the Goa’uld an aggressive, power hungry species, since those were the ones that got hosts.
Karak sighed, making sure to hide the spectacle from his host Loskhar. Given what he had seen happen to his sister, he would not handle this event well.
He had realized ot was going to happen when he overheard Apophis ordering the traitors rounded up and prepared for the ceremony. Most of the humans had been reported by their neighbors, for speaking out against Apophis. He wished the people had not been put on the lists, but he had been unable to remove them from the registers.
Ten Jaffa had needed new primta's, and so there where now ten mature symbiotes available. Usually, except in the case of the chosen few, usually heirs of System Lords, the mature symbiotes would be removed from their Jaffa and put together in a tank a few hours before they got their 'host opportunity'.
Mark watched as ten Goa'uld walked out of the pool, one by one, and then approached Apophis, prostrating themselves before him, loudly proclaiming their eternal loyalty. Of course, Apophis needed more underlings to control the planet, and now he had ten more. They might not all be as loyal as they proclaimed, but in that case they would probably die if they could not hide it, or escape before it was discovered.
Mark wondered what would happen with those humans who had been lucky enough not to be picked? The answer came right away, when the Jaffa opened fire on the people remaining in the pool, quickly killing everyone there. Mark - and seemingly everyone around him - gasped out loudly, shocked by the barbarism.
"Remember, loyalty is life!" Sitet bellowed from his position at the edge of the platform. Mark noticed the obvious smirk on his face. The evil son of a bitch was clearly enjoying the horror of the humans.
In stunned silence, the humans hurried out from the ceremonial grounds as soon as they were dismissed, and walked back to their residences in silence, deep in thought and still shocked to the core.
Apophis looked with satisfaction after the departing humans. When the stories about this spread, no one would dare defy him! He had even gotten ten underlings out of it. They would have to be watched for the first time, of course, but hopefully at least half of them would be both competent and loyal. Pleased, he turned to his wife, giving her a loving look. "Shall we return to the palace, my love? I have ordered the head cook to prepare a light dinner, and there is sparkling wine from the area of the Tau'ri they call 'France'."
"Yes, thank you my Lord. It sounds lovely. You know I adore that wine." She smiled at him.