[ Chapter 1: Captured | Chapter 2: Surprises | Chapter 3: The City | Chapter 4: Hiding in the Mountains | Chapter 5: The Attack | Chapter 6: Prisoners and Slaves | Chapter 7: Blended | Chapter 8: Thunderstorm | Chapter 9: Another Goa'uld - and a Tok'ra | Chapter 10: Free at Last | Chapter 11: To Earth | Chapter 12: Enemies and Friends | Chapter 13: Selmak | Chapter 14: Mates ]
Late that night.
Lord Arnora sat on her bed, still dressed. She had sent her servants away, not wanting their help - or their presence. She needed to think. Needed to make a very important decision. To anyone watching her, she seemed merely to be deep in thought. However, her own words were not the only ones heard in her head. A silent conversation were taking place.
*They are of the Tau'ri! Their people were the ones who killed Ra? If that is true, they surely have advanced much compared to the time when Ra held the world of the Tau'ri as his home world! We need to know more of them!*
*Agreed. We cannot allow them to perish - nor can we allow Cronos to interrogate them. I even thought...they could perhaps become an ally? In any case...they do not deserve the fate that would befell them, should Cronos get his hands on them.*
*No one does, dear one. However, we cannot help them. Not without arousing further suspicion. Too much suspicion for us to handle.*
*Kohmak already suspects. He grows more insolent every day. The confrontation today was...unfortunate.* She almost sounded as if she reprimanded her symbiote a little.
Arnora laughed, somewhat bitterly. *Unfortunate! The worm wants my position and he will do anything, tell Cronos anything, to get it.*
*He would not be so bold if he did not suspect what we are...*
*Nevertheless...I have thought...can he not just be killed?*
*You always favours the direct solution! I fear he has already communicated enough damning material that doing away with him would merely confirm Cronos's suspicions.*
The symbiote sighed. *I concur...*
*I suppose we did behave too lenient towards many people...*
*I do not enjoy mistreating anyone...* She sighed. *Cronos is a fool, but unfortunately he has competent spies. He will punish us, even if he does not realise the full extent of our crime.*
*When do you estimate he will make his move?*
*I am uncertain...not for another 15-20 days perhaps. That is, unless we free the Tau'ri and their Jaffa friend. There is no way he would not suspect my hand behind it, even if we try to make it look like incompetence, and it would give him what he needs to report me immediately. But I see your point. We would have to abandon our post here very soon at any rate. If we do it a little sooner, we will be able to save these.* She made her decision. *We must hope they can be made to trust us - at least enough to agree to a plan to flee.*
They spent some time discussing the possibilities, as well as send a secret message, before Arnora collected a few things and went to seek out her prisoners.
She found them sleeping - and in the case of the Jaffa, meditating. She had made sure all the guards were far away for the next several hours, having sent them on a fake mission to intercept a number of 'smugglers' she claimed to have been warned about. They would not learn it was a ruse until she had - hopefully - convinced her prisoners and escaped with them.
She thought with some shame of the two slave girls she had sent to entertain Kohmak. They had not looked happy, but he would not harm them. Not much, at any rate. His tastes were not like that. He had grinned happily and accepted the gift when she had offered it as a reconciliation after the heated discussions earlier today. He had thought she tried to bribe him into speaking favourably of her to Cronos, and had made it clear he would not mention her 'transgressions' or her leniency. She doubted his word, but it mattered not. He would be occupied for the next many hours.
Arnora walked up to the cell door and called out, looking through the bars.
"O'Neill of the Tau'ri!"
The prisoners immediately woke up and looked at her. Arnora merely waited, allowing them time to collect themselves. Now was not the time to antagonize them. After a little while, O'Neill got up on legs that seemed stiff, and walked closer to the bars.
He studied her. The clothing the Goa'uld wore now was very different from her earlier outfit. It was much more subdued in both style and colour, and there were no large flowing robes. In a holster at her side was something that appeared to be a weapon. The ribbon device was still on her left hand.
"Yeah? What do ya want? Decided to come back for a little gloating, did ya? Or maybe it's time for that overdue torture session you promised us?"
Arnora allowed him to finish and then took a deep breath.
"I...apologize for the imprisonment and the threats. They are unfortunately necessary. Though I believe you will admit I have caused you no harm...and I assure you, I have not come here to gloat."
"What do you want, then? 'cause I doubt this is just a friendly visit."
"I have come to offer you your freedom."
O'Neill had not expected that, but he quickly recovered from his surprise.
"Freedom, huh? And what's the catch?"
"There is no 'catch' as you call it. You will merely have to do as I say - for the time being. You will have to trust me." She gave him a mock smile.
"Not gonna happen! We're so not gonna fall for your tricks!"
"I agree with Colonel O'Neill. It would be most unwise to trust you - or any Goa'uld." Teal'c said.
"Foolish humans..." she bristled, turning to Teal'c, "...and Jaffa. Do you wish to stay here? You would - eventually - be handed over to Cronos, to torture and death. Not until Kohmak has had his turn, of course...is that what you want?"
"But if we will just become your faithful servants and tell you all the little things you want to know, you will protect us. Yeah, right! Not! gonna! happen!" O'Neill repeated.
"I offer you life - and freedom. I ask for nothing in return. You shall have to share none of your precious secrets, but you will have to obey me and follow my plan until we are safe. Alone you will never make it out of here."
"OK. Assuming we believe you - and that's by no means certain - what do you get out of this? I'm a little suspicious, because I refuse to believe you're doing this out of the goodness of your heart."
"You do not need to know my reasons. Do we have an agreement?"
"I'm curious..." Sam interrupted. "How are you going to ensure we're not just going to kill you as soon as we get out?"
"Perhaps she believes that as a god she is immune to our attempts on her life?" O'Neill suggested, sarcastically.
"...or more likely that we will not dare attack someone we think is a god?" Daniel suggested. "Is that what you believe?"
"Don't be ridiculous! I know well you do not believe me a god - nor should you. No, I will risk my life on the assumption that you are not stupid enough to kill the one person who can get you out. I realise this may be more of a gamble than I had expected...however, the chaapa'ai is quite far away and well guarded by Jaffa. The only other way off the planet is by ship, of which only one is currently here. It is locked so it can only be used by a Goa'uld. You need me. That is why I will risk taking you with me. That - and my belief that I am faster at using my hand device, than you are at stealing my zat'nik'tel. I also give you my word that I will free you. So. Do we have an agreement?"
SG-1 looked at each other. They could gamble that she was lying, but it was too risky. Why did she want to help them? And why did she come alone? There were no answers to any of these questions. No doubt she had her own reasons. For now, all they could be certain of was that she was hiding something. However, it did not really matter. Going with her could hardly be worse than staying here and waiting to be tortured.
"I don't know what the word of a Goa'uld is worth, but...all right." O'Neill finally said, deciding it was worth the risk. "We're in. Lead the way."
Arnora unlocked and opened the door. She eyed the former inmates warily, as they left the cell. She held her hand device at the ready, and she had now also drawn the other weapon with her right hand.
"That way." She pointed to a corridor. It was not the same they had been taken through earlier.
O'Neill shrugged and began walking in the indicated direction. The others followed, Arnora bringing up the rear.
"So...Lord Arnora...aren't we gonna get any weapons? This might get dangerous despite you being here, am I right?" O'Neill asked when they had walked through long, winding corridors for a significant amount of time.
"You are not. You shall have to depend on me for your protection. Pray that I am up to it. Also, referring to me as 'Lord' will not be necessary."
O'Neill sighed. How were you supposed to use sarcasm on someone who either did not understand it - or chose not to. Somehow he suspected it was the latter. At least most of the time.
They continued for another perhaps 10 minutes before they exited the building through a door which clearly had not been used for some time. They followed a partly overgrown path for a short distance and soon found themselves just inside the walls surrounding the palace.
Arnora ushered them over a small yard, ignoring the servant who peeked his head out from his house to see who was walking about at this hour. Surprised at seeing the small group, he stood gawking for a moment. He quickly disappeared inside when they passed close by and the shocked man recognized his Lord.
They arrived at a large building. It had no windows - facing this direction, at least. The Goa'uld gestured to the insignificant looking entrance in front of them.
Daniel tried the handle.
They quickly jumped back and Arnora shot the door three times with her zat'nik'tel. It disappeared.
"Whew! What kind of weapon is that?" Daniel exclaimed.
"A zat'nik'tel." Arnora said. "Please step inside."
"One shot stuns or gives immense pain. Two shots usually kills. Three shots disintegrates." Teal'c explained, helpfully, as he lead the way.
"Cool! I'd like one of those..." O'Neill followed Teal'c inside.
Daniel and Sam went through the door as well, with Arnora trailing them.
Inside, there were various boxes...cargo, presumably, and not much else. There was room for several ships, but currently there was only one there.
"What kind of vessel is that?" O'Neill wondered.
"An Alkesh. It is a Goa'uld mid-range bomber." Teal'c said.
Arnora told them to go to the Alkesh, then pushed a button on a device she was carrying. A door opened in the spaceship.
As soon as all of them had entered, the door closed behind them. Looking around, they could see this was a large ship.
"There are room for many Jaffa in these bombers. When bombardment has weakened the enemy it lands and the Jaffa pour out to suppress any further resistance. It is quite effective." Teal'c told them.
"I don't doubt it. Can you pilot it?" O'Neill asked.
"No, I cannot."
O'Neill nodded. "Then we really do depend on our friendly snake to do it...whether the stuff about it being locked to them was true or not."
"I assume you'll use this ship to fly us to the Stargate...the chaapa'ai? You said it was far away." Daniel asked.
"I also said it was well guarded. We will use the Alkesh to fly to another world." Arnora activated the controls on the ship and pushed a button. A noise was heard from the outside and they realised the roof of the building must be retractable. The ship lifted off and they left the planet at high speed.
When they had travelled for some time, Sam walked up to where Arnora was piloting the vessel. There was something which had confused her for a while.
"Arnora - the reason you didn't take us to the chaapa'ai...it was because the Jaffa guarding it would not have let you through, even if you told them to. Isn't that correct? That's why you approached us alone, in the middle of the night. And it's also the reason why you're now here, without any of your servants. You could have just ordered any of them to take us to wherever it is we're going, but you don't trust them to obey you, do you?"
"Have you considered I might have my own reasons for keeping this a secret? That I may not trust anyone but myself to handle this properly?" Surprisingly, she did not sound angry, like Sam had expected. Not angry, but perhaps a little annoyed.
Daniel had heard what they were talking about, and decided to join they discussion.
"That's true. However....I have a feeling this little escape is not entirely for our benefit, is it? You've done something to get you in trouble - as evidenced by your quarrel with Kohmak. I suspect you've not been harsh or evil enough towards your slaves and prisoners - or whatever else it is you Goa'uld are supposed to do. Basically, you've been a bit too un-Goa'uld and Cronos didn't like it. He was going to punish you for it, so you needed to get away yourself. What I can't figure out is why you decided to bring us? Wouldn't it have been easier to just sneak off on your own?"
"Maybe I consider you a potential future ally against Cronos and thus worth more alive?"
"Or perhaps you intend to give us to another Goa'uld - a more powerful one you hope to serve." Sam suggested.
"You may believe what you want. I gave you my word that I will free you and so I shall." Arnora looked at the control panel as something started blinking. "Kree'kho!"
"Language..." Daniel admonished.
"What's wrong?" Sam leaned closer to look. At the same time, the ship dropped out of hyperspace.
"We are being attacked. They forced us out of hyperspace!" Arnora worked the controls furiously.
"What!" O'Neill joined the others, just as the ship shook from a hit.
She ignored him and looked at the screen, cursing under her breath. Two enemy Alkesh's had appeared and she detected another ship approaching as well. This was bad. She tried to outmaneuver them by suddenly stopping. They flew past, but only for a small distance. It was not enough to give her time to jump back into hyperspace.
She scanned the area and detected a small moon. She made a run for it, attempting to put it between them and her. Unfortunately, just as it appeared to have worked, a third ship came out of hyperspace just in front of her. They fired immediately and her Alkesh rocked from a direct hit. Arnora were thrown clear of her seat, and everyone else but Teal'c hit the wall.
Arnora quickly got up and pulled herself back into the chair. She launched herself at the controls, trying to make the ship respond quickly enough to get them out of there in one piece. The others had by now picked themselves up from the floor. They coughed repeatedly, irritated by the smoke coming from one of the consoles.
Ignoring the burning feeling the acrid smoke was causing in her throat, Arnora turned the ship around and fired at the newest arrival. She scored several hits, but the two other Alkesh's had caught up and now joined the battle. Against three enemy vessels, each the same size of her own, she soon had no choice but to flee.
Arnora steered the ship towards the nearest habitable planet, dodging fire as she went. Soon they were zooming through the atmosphere, approaching the area where she had detected the Stargate. However, before they had a chance to get there, they were hit several times.
Fires burned all over the ship, and they heard multiple explosions. They would not be able to land safely, indeed, Arnora barely had any control over the ship. She looked at the read-outs, threw one last glance at the landscape outside, and then locked the autopilot in. They would continue towards the area near the Stargate. Or so she hoped.
She ran for the ring transporter room, calling out to the others.
"Get to the ring transporters! We need to abandon the ship!"
This was not something they needed to be told twice. In a very short time, they were all standing in the center of the ring platform, waiting for Arnora to activate it.
"What are you waiting for?" O'Neill yelled, irritable and nervous.
"Perhaps there are no ring transporter to receive us down on the surface." Teal'c suggested.
"There are. However, we are still deep within Cronos's territory."
"So if we ring down to any of the existing platforms, we will likely be captured. I get it." Sam concluded.
"Yes. I..." She pushed one of the crystals in place, "...need to reroute the mechanisms so the rings will merely activate and deposit us - just before the Alkesh crashes - and hopefully close to the chaapa'ai. It is very delicate work."
"Sounds dangerous. Are you sure..." O'Neill began.
"Now!" Arnora yelled and jumped on the platform beside them. Seconds later they dematerialized, only to rematerialize in the air, a few meters above ground and moving sideways. Moving quite fast, it turned out. They hit the ground at about the same time as the Alkesh crashed into the forest, slid a short distance and then came to a hard stop against a mountain side. It exploded with a deafening boom.
They were all a bit dazed, but alive. Teal'c got up first, brushing off some dust as he looked around for his companions with concern.
"Colonel O'Neill! Daniel Jackson! Captain Carter!"
"Here..." O'Neill groaned as he got up, limping slightly.
"Are you hurt?"
"Not badly...where's the others?"
"I do not know." Teal'c scanned the area and spotted someone moving. "Perhaps over there." He indicated a direction and began to walk.
Sam had just managed to get to a sitting position when Teal'c reached her. She gratefully accepted his hand as he helped her up.
O'Neill joined them, favouring his right leg.
"You OK, Carter?"
"Yes, sir. I'm fine. I just got the air knocked out of me. Where's Daniel?"
"Over here!" Daniel was trying to disentangle himself from the bush he had landed in.
"Great! Now - where's the snake?"
"Over there." Sam pointed. "It looks like she took a harder hit than the rest of us."
They walked over to Arnora. She was lying face down on the ground, her head touching a large rock.
"Ouch..." O'Neill commented. "Looks nasty."
"It would appear her head has impacted with the rock." Teal'c said, leaning down to check. "Fascinating..."
"No shit, T! She's bleeding from the back of her head! What's 'fascinating' about that?"
"There does not seem to be an entry scar." He pointed.
They all looked. Arnora's dress had ripped in the back and her neck could be clearly seen. There was no scar.
"You're right. Strange."
The Goa'uld stirred and they all jumped back a little. She moaned, but did not get up yet.
"She's waking up!" Daniel observed.
O'Neill quickly grabbed the zat'nik'tel from Arnora's side, then began taking off her hand device - carefully. He had only gotten it partially off her when she suddenly rolled over and sat up. He let go of her and jumped back, rising the zat'nik'tel to point at her.
"Teal'c - get the ribbon-thingie!" He looked at Arnora. "Don't try anything - or!"
She rolled her eyes and held out her hand to Teal'c. "Do you even know how to use that? Do not worry. I am not a fool. Besides, you already took the hand device off sufficiently that I cannot control it well enough to use it."
Teal'c had now removed the ribbon device and gave it to Sam, who examined it interestedly.
"How do you use it? Control it? There are no obvious buttons or anything."
"It is controlled by thought, but you cannot." Arnora got up, swaying a little. "We need to move. Unfortunately, we are too far from the chaapa'ai. The Jaffa will catch us before we can reach it."
"Not so fast!" O'Neill said. "By the way - what happened to your voice? Why don't you use the boom-box anymore?"
"Yeah, that's right. You haven't used it since we landed - it that's the right word..." Daniel suddenly noticed as well.
"We do not have the time for this!" Arnora winced and gently touched the back of her head. "Cronos's men will have seen the Alkesh crash and are already on their way here. They will arrive soon."
"OK. Let's move, then." He waved at Arnora with the zat'nik'tel. "You first."
She sighed and began walking towards the relatively dense forest. Perhaps they would be able to hide there or in a nearby city. There were well-used paths, meaning someone lived close-by.
They all hurried on, running and limping as well as they were able to, into the forest. The ground was so hard that they did not leave any footprints on the plains. Further inside the woods, they followed smaller, well-trodden paths. They could not continue moving as fast, but did their best to keep up the speed on the smaller roads. By now they heard airborne vessels, and soon after Jaffa could be heard behind them, yelling as they searched.
The ground grew softer as the terrain become more wet. Afraid they should leave tracks for the Jaffa to follow, they jumped into a small stream and followed it for a long way. They did not get out of the water until they reached a rocky area, where they could walk on a flat hard surface, again leaving no footprints.
The sounds of their pursuers grew fainter, and eventually they decided to take a break. They could hide in the thick undergrowth if anyone should appear suddenly. They were all exhausted and still in pain after the crash, and stayed there for hours. The noise from the searching Jaffa stayed distant most of the time, and eventually disappeared when it grew dark. They were safe - for now, at least.
"OK. Time for some truths, Arnora. It's obvious your employer - this Cronos fellow - is pissed at you too. I'm thinking we could perhaps turn you over to him and strike a deal. He doesn't know us, and he'll probably be happy to let us go." O'Neill said.
Teal'c looked as if he was about to say something, but O'Neill held up a hand, telling him to keep quiet.
"If you believe that, you are a bigger fool than I thought. Cronos will certainly be pleased to get his hands on me - you are indeed correct there. However, he would be very interested in you as well. Teal'c, of course, is Apophis's former First Prime. Not only have you lured him from his former master - being therefore of great interest and also potentially dangerous - but Cronos is an enemy of Apophis's. He would never allow Teal'c to leave...and you would surely be tortured to death just for knowing him - and now me. Unless you have other, more interesting secrets...Tau'ri...Cronos will never let you leave.!"
"Perhaps...or perhaps you are merely trying to save your own ass." O'Neill observed.
"In this, at least, she is being truthful. Cronos would torture us all to death, many times, regardless of whether you bring him this Goa'uld or not." Teal'c said.
"OK. That plan's off, then."
"Arnora...why have you stopped using the voice-distortion? I know Goa'uld doesn't have to use it - Hathor didn't when we encountered her - but why don't you? You didn't answer before." Sam asked, curious.
The Goa'uld took a deep breath, deciding it was time for some honesty.
"I am the host. When we hit our head, my symbiote was affected more severely than I. She has been unconscious since then. I do not believe she is hurt badly, so she should awaken soon...I hope." She looked genuinely worried.
"That's officially the worst excuse ever. The host! Listen, lady, if you were the host you'd be behaving lots differently. Asking for help among other things...panicking...perhaps even crying a little from the relief of finally being able to control your own body..."
"And you wouldn't hope for your Goa'uld to awaken soon." Daniel added.
Arnora seemed to consider this, or perhaps she was just unsure what to say. Meanwhile, SG-1 studied her. They had to admit she appeared changed somehow. Held herself a little differently, perhaps. Actually, her whole behaviour was subtly unlike what it was before. Could it really be?
The Goa'uld - or was it really the host? - finally came to a decision.
"Have you ever heard of the Tok'ra?"
"Nope. Can't say I have. You?" He looked at first Daniel, who shook his head. He had not read about them. Then he turned to Teal'c.
"I have indeed heard of such a group."
"Really? Who are they?"
"A legend among the Jaffa. Or so I believed. The Tok'ra is a small alliance of Goa'uld who oppose the System Lords. It was my teacher Bra'tac who first spoke to me of them. They are traitors. Heretics. Supposedly they have denounced their birthright and godhood."
"But they're just a legend?"
"No one truly dared believe such blasphemous stories."
"Believe them! They are true, Teal'c. The Tok'ra are real!"
"So, you claim Arnora is part of this group - and that you're her host! Even if she really is a renegade snake, that wouldn't mean she'd let her host out to play, would it?"
"There is much to explain. The Tok'ra are very different from the Goa'uld. They do not suppress their hosts. Indeed, they only take willing hosts. However, we need to find a better place to hide, so the explanation will have to wait. Tomorrow, at dawn, the Jaffa will return to search for us. We must be long gone by then." She got up.
"Not so fast. I'm still not trusting you. Willing hosts my ass! Walk slowly in front of me - and when we find a place where we're safer, you'll get your chance to tell your story. And better make it the whole and true story." O'Neill said.
"Of course." She started walking in the direction where she believed she had briefly glimpsed a city before they crashed.
"So...if Arnora is the Goa'uld, what do we call you? Assuming anything you said was the truth, of course." Sam said.
"Arnora is neither my name, nor hers. It was the name of her first host. We needed an undercover name and Arnora seemed...fitting. My name is Rosha. My symbiote's name is Jolinar of Malkshur."
"Jolinar of Malkshur!" Teal'c actually managed to look surprised.
"You've heard of this Jolinar?" O'Neill wondered.
"Yes. He...she once tried to overthrow one of the System Lords, but was defeated when Apophis joined the battle. Jolinar escaped during the slaughter of her armies."
"OK. So...Rosha...if that's really who you are...can you prove that Jolinar's indeed Jolinar?"
"No, of course not! Don't be ridiculous! If we carried proof of our identity around, the Goa'uld might find it."
"I suppose...so you claim you're host to this Jolinar...and that you're Tok'ra. Which we don't really know what means."
"I doubt it would be to her advantage to tell us she's a member of an illegal, underground organisation, fighting the Goa'uld." Daniel pointed out.
"True. There's that." O'Neill agreed.
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