[ 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 ]
Next morning, very early.
Still a little groggy and sore from the hard journey, they began the last of the walk downhill. They were hungry again, and Daniel and Sam were both grumpy since they had again not gotten their morning coffee.
The ground was by now more level, but the undergrowth was getting very dense. So much so, actually, that it was difficult to get through in some places.
Finally they reached the plains below, and soon after the forest began in earnest. Their clothing was ripped and they all had a multitude of scratches and cuts from rocks and brambles they had not been able to avoid in the semi-darkness.
The sky was reddening in the east and was lightening. Soon the sun rose and it began to get warm. The ground was still somewhat muddy, but the weather had been hot yesterday, and the sun had baked much of the moisture out of the ground, making it firm enough to walk on. They would have to be careful where they walked, if they wanted to avoid leaving tracks, but it was unlikely the Jaffa would do a ground-based search here unless they had cause to suspect the fugitives were hiding in the area.
"I believe the chaapa'ai is close to the edge of the forest in that direction..." Rosha pointed, "...fairly certain, at least. We only got a brief glance at our instruments before we crashed."
"I thought you could sense it?" O'Neill asked.
"I can. The direction is not in doubt, only the distance. It feels as if it is perhaps a day's walk away, but I cannot be precise as to the size of this forest. It would be bad if we have to walk far across an open plain."
"Oh, yeah...that it would." O'Neill nodded.
"If we keep a brisk pace all day and most of the night, only taking short breaks, we should reach the chaapa'ai a few hours before dawn, if the distance is correct. I suggest we make haste." Teal'c said.
"You may be able to walk all night, Teal'c, but I'm exhausted after all this exercise - even in spite of the sleep we got tonight. I will need a break!" Daniel complained.
"Yes, me too. My legs and my back are killing me." Sam said.
"Jolinar and I agree. While we could continue until we reach the chaapa'ai, with few breaks, it would be sensible to rest while we can. We will all need our strength tomorrow, and to be honest - both Jolinar and I would appreciate a few hours of sleep tonight as well." Rosha said.
"You'll hear no argument from me." O'Neill looked at Teal'c, who appeared miffed. "I'm sorry you have to endure the weakness of us mere humans - and Tok'ra. We can't all have your strength and stamina." He grinned.
Teal'c lifted an eyebrow. "Of that I am constantly reminded."
They walked for the rest of the day, taking small breaks from time to time. The trip was uneventful, but at least they managed to find more berries, which staved off their hunger some. That helped a little with their mood.
The sun was setting when they came to a small opening in the forest, near a stream. Exhausted, they sat down on the grass which was now getting damp from the dew.
"I suppose we can't have just a small fire? This is going to get cold quickly, otherwise." Daniel pointed out.
"Not unless you want the Jaffa to know where we are." Jolinar said, then added. "I am sorry. I am starting to feel cold as well, but it is simply too dangerous."
They slept, as close together as possible, with the exception of Teal'c who kept watch after completing his kel'no'reem. He was happy he did not have to spend such an inordinate large amount of time sleeping. This way he could guard against enemies. Besides, the grass was cold and wet.
The little group slept until a few hours after midnight before they got up. Their clothing was clammy and they felt cold to the bones. Trying to get some warmth back into their limbs, they jumped and stretched for some time before continuing their walk.
It was dark night and only one of the moons were up, and it was the smallest one. It was difficult to see where they walked, but fortunately, all was quiet and no one heard them, even when they happened to step on a branch, snapping it under their weight.
Their clothing had finally dried when they reached the outer edges of the forest. The sun had not yet risen, but there was a hint of light to the east. They carefully stepped out onto the open plains and tried to see if they could make out the Stargate yet. They could not spot it anywhere, but Jolinar estimated it was no more than maybe 10 miles away. Perhaps behind the distant hills.
This meant they would have to traverse much open territory. While there were small clusters of trees here and there, they were few and far between. They would have to hurry while it was still dark - and hope for the best.
Looking out at the land in front of them, Daniel offered. "It looks safe enough...no death gliders...no Jaffa."
"Yes..." O'Neill nodded, feeling on edge anyway.
"It's at least a mile to the closest group of trees at the bottom of the hills. If a death glider comes by during that time, we shall have no cover." Rosha warned.
"Well, it's still dark enough that they'll have difficulty seeing us in visible light, and if we're lucky they have no infrared sensors." Daniel said.
O'Neill snorted. However, they had little choice but to try. After talking about it for a little while longer, they agreed to chance it.
They ran, as quickly as they could, towards the small group of trees. It did not take long before they reached them safely. So far, so good. They had survived the first part.
Throwing a glance in the direction of the sun that was now colouring the sky with a brilliant red, and would soon rise, they eyed the next cluster of trees. It was mostly in the right direction, but further away than the first - maybe twice as far away.
They again ran as fast as they could, and had almost reached the treeline when they heard a familiar sound from the sky. A death glider!
They jumped the last bit of the way into the relative safety. Had they been seen?
The hope that they had been overlooked disappeared when a shot exploded just behind them, in the exact same spot where they had been a moment before.
"He can't get us in here between the trees, but we will not be able to leave without him seeing us...and then he will kill us!" Rosha said.
"And if we wait in here he will call for backup and we will be caught and killed anyway...damn!" O'Neill exclaimed. "It's been going so well until now - couldn't our luck have held just a few hours more?"
Jolinar, now in control of the body, was putting on her hand device.
"I shall attempt to shoot down the death glider, or at the very least damage it. I cannot guarantee success - it will not be easy." She looked worried.
"What about this?" O'Neill held up the zat'nik'tel he was carrying.
"It will be ineffective at such a distance." Teal'c told him.
When they heard their enemy come around for another pass, Jolinar stepped out just outside the safety of the trees, hoping to lure him closer. Her heart beating hard, she raised her hand as the death glider came closer.
Just as it fired at her, she jumped aside, rolled, and came up standing. She immediately fired a shock wave towards the vessel. She hit it and they saw how it shook wildly and diverged.
Before the Jaffa had time to get his glider under control, Jolinar hit it again, and then one more time, finally making it spin uncontrollably. It crashed hard into the ground some distance away.
"Wow" Nicely done!"
"Thank you." Jolinar looked drained. "I had not dared hope for such success." She leaned briefly against the nearest tree.
"We need to hurry. He has most likely informed his companions of our presence." Teal'c said.
Jolinar nodded. "True." She collected herself and straightened. "I am well enough. Let us go."
They walked briskly through the cluster of trees, then sprinted across the next - even longer - bit of open space.
Moments after they reached the safety of a larger group of trees - almost a small forest - they heard some kind of ship approaching. It was not quite the same sound as that of a death glider. It passed by and disappeared.
"I fear not. That was likely a teltac - or other vessel equipped to scan the area more thoroughly. Carrying Goa'uld technology may give us away."
"So we should just dump our only weapons? Not happening! If we were detected he wouldn't have left, right?" O'Neill looked triumphant.
"Perhaps..." Jolinar had a very concerned look on her face.
They continued walking, very much on edge and listening for every sound. Nothing happened, though.
During the next hour or so they traversed a further 3 or 4 miles, without any problems. They were beginning to feel optimistic. They had reached the edge of yet another dense patch of trees and bushes, when they finally spotted the Stargate.
Then Jolinar froze.
"There is someone here..." She looked around.
"I did not hear anything." Teal'c said.
"Neither did I. For a moment...I sensed a symbiote..." she crouched low, looking around as she hid behind some thick undergrowth.
The others quickly followed her example. They waited for some time, listening as best they could, for - something.
Suddenly, some kind of energy weapon was fired at them from their right. The attacker had somehow managed to circle them, without making any noise and now came at them from another side. Impressive, with this many leaves and branches on the ground.
O'Neill shot in the general direction with his zat'nik'tel, but the energy dissipated harmlessly against the greenery. Their enemy's weapon on the other hand could easily penetrate the leaves. They threw themselves to the ground behind a fallen tree that happened to be there when they needed it.
Jolinar attempted to get him with her ribbon device, but the shock waves hit more trees than anything else. The forest was simply too dense for this kind of weapon.
"Can't you do the yellow-y energy-ribbon thingie with it?" Daniel yelled to her.
"Only works at short distances...and you need to be able to target the enemy precisely." Jolinar said in a low voice, lying beside them. "And please be quiet. It is the ashrak from before - I am certain of it."
Suddenly, everything happened very quickly. The ashrak threw some kind of shock grenade, but with a lesser effect than the usual ones, and then he was on top of them.
He would have killed O'Neill had Jolinar not quickly pushed the ashrak off him with her hand device. The ashrak immediately got up again and turned on her, shooting several energy beams in her direction. Some of them hit her before she could move aside. She fell to the ground, dazed. The others were still affected by the stun effect and the ashrak focused on Jolinar. He quickly shot her several more times.
Leaning down, he quickly pulled off her hand device, in order to avoid any surprises. He then lifted his hand and activated another device - a sort of ring-like weapon - and began to kill his prisoner with it.
He had barely begun before he was hit by a shot from a zat'nik'tel. Turning quickly, he jumped and rolled away, only partly affected. He appeared to be wearing some kind of protective clothing.
Teal'c had regained himself enough to pick up the zat'nik'tel O'Neill had dropped and now shot again and again at the head of the attacker, since it did not seem to be a personal shield he was wearing. The ashrak fell to the ground. Teal'c shot one more time and he disappeared.
"Well done, Teal'c. That should keep the bastard from coming back!" O'Neill said. He was beginning to get up, as were the others.
"How is Jolinar?" Daniel wondered, not seeing her from where he was standing.
"Badly hurt, I'm afraid." O'Neill had now walked over to where the Tok'ra was lying and looked down at her.
Sam joined him. "Oh, no! Doesn't look good." She kneeled beside the woman she had come to think of as her friend. "Jolinar...Rosha...!"
After a little while, the Tok'ra stirred and her eyes opened just a crack. They glowed weakly and Jolinar coughed.
"The damage...too severe...please...use the zat'nik'...nik'tel to vaporize...my body. Then you must leave...quickly..."
"No! You're coming with us! We're not leaving you. Can't we take you to the Tok'ra? Won't they be able to help you?" Sam said, desperation mingling with hope on her face.
"It's...too late. Please, we...do not wish...the Jaffa...find the body...we'll be re...vived....tortured...endlessly." Her eyes closed.
Sam shook her gently. "Jolinar!"
O'Neill took the zat'nik'tel from Teal'c.
"Carter - she's right. We gotta go before the friends of that damn ass-rack show up. I'll use the zat'ni...zat-gun and...eh...vaporize her. We owe her that. I can understand why she doesn't want to be revived only to be tortured again and again - I'd want the same if I were in her position."
Sam closed her eyes and nodded sadly. She knew he was right.
The eyes of the Tok'ra opened again and focused slowly. When she opened her mouth to speak, only a hoarse sound came out at first. She coughed, and a small trickle of blood ran down her check. She spoke in a low voice. So low that Sam had to lean very close to hear.
"I beg you...please..." Rosha got out, before a violent cough racked her body. More blood oozed out.
"Yes? Anything!" Sam said, taking her hand.
"Take my Jolinar. She...she does not...have to die..."
"Take Jolinar?" Sam looked at her, uncomprehending.
"I beg you...if...one of you...becomes her host...she will live..."
Sam moved back a little in surprise, suddenly realising what she was being asked. The thought scared her, even though part of her realised it was the morally right thing to do. And she was also a little intrigued by the whole idea of the Tok'ra.
"I..." She got out, then looked at the others. "She asks one of us to become Jolinar's host."
"Don't look at me. I'm not going to be the new home of any snake - good or evil." O'Neill looked at Rosha. "Sorry. I'm sure Jolinar is a nice girl - she wouldn't want someone like me anyway."
Rosha managed a weak smile.
"She would...prefer a female host...that is...is true. However...can't...be...picky..."
"As a Jaffa, I cannot be a host." Teal'c said, looking a little relieved.
"I can't do that. Don't ask me to! Now after what happened to Sha're. It's just too fresh..." Daniel looked almost terrified.
Sam sighed. It was up to her, then, to save at least one of their new friends. Could she do it?
"I understand..." Rosha said, looking away. A tear rolled down her face.
"No...wait..." Sam swallowed. "Maybe...maybe this could be an opportunity for me."
"What!" O'Neill exclaimed, looking incredulous. "You can't be serious!"
"Well, I'd learn a lot...wouldn't I? I could still be a scientist, and suddenly I would have access to lots of Goa'uld tech. Probably know a lot about it too...and I'd have a much longer lifespan in which to work on it." Sam said, convincing herself as much as the others.
"Jolinar is...no scientist, but she knows...much. You would be...be allowed to work with our scientists when not...on missions. Scientists...much...needed..." Rosha's eyes closed again.
"OK. Quickly, then, before I lose the nerve to do it...what do I do?"
Jolinar got the eyes open again.
"Open your mouth. Lean in...as if...as if you would kiss...me." She coughed. "If you...are sure."
Sam took a deep breath.
Before any of the others could stop her, she did as Jolinar had told her.
Moments after their lips met, Sam felt something slick slide into her mouth. As it continued to the back of her throat, she started to gag, just as a sharp pain emanated from the area. She involuntarily moved back as more of the creature moved over her lips and into her. The others saw the last part of a long serpent-like body slide into Sam's mouth.
The others looked on, with mixed fascination and horror as she stumbled backwards and sat down on the ground, her eyes suddenly flashing. She seemed a bit distant for a moment, but then she appeared to recover herself - or whomever she was. She got up and stepped back to Rosha's side, looking sadly down at the now dead woman. She kneeled beside her and gently caressed her face, moving a few strands of hair aside.
"Goodbye, my dear friend." It was the symbiote's voice. She closed her eyes for a few seconds, then opened them again and rose, a determined look on her face. "Please give me the zat'nik'tel."
O'Neill and the others just looked at her, trying to wrap their minds around the fact that their friend was now a host. Trying to accept the sound of her voice, distorted by the symbiote. The voice that was not Sam and yet came from her.
"Um...is Carter in there too?" O'Neill asked, looking suspiciously at her.
Jolinar sighed, then bowed her head, giving Sam control.
Sam looked up, a little dazed for a moment.
"It's me...wow...this is unreal! Someone else...talking with my voice! I mean, I could feel myself speak, but not control what I was saying. It was...very strange!"
"I'll say! How can we tell it's really you, by the way?"
"Well, you can't, I guess. I suppose you'll just have to trust me...but we already trusted Jolinar before, why not now?"
O'Neill shook his head. "This is a little different... Never mind, we'll sort it out later. It's just weird, that's all."
"Jolinar would really like to use the zat to vaporize Rosha. The Jaffa could arrive at any moment, and might find her soon enough to revive her - and torture her. Jolinar can't handle that thought - and neither can I." She stretched put a hand towards O'Neill. "Please - she's really mourning her, even if she's trying to hide it from me. And we don't have the time to stand around here. The Jaffa will be here soon. Jolinar is certain of it."
"Captain Carter is correct. The ashrak knew we were here. It will not be long before the Jaffa follow." Teal'c said, supporting her.
"OK. Whatever." O'Neill gave Sam the zat'nik'tel.
She immediately went to stand beside Rosha again, dipping her head and letting Jolinar come fore. She leaned down and took off a necklace, then closed Rosha's eyes. Looking at her one last time, she quickly shot the body three times. She then turned to O'Neill and gave him back the zat'nik'tel without a word. Thereafter she transferred control back to Sam.
They hurried to the Stargate. When they were only about 10-20 feet from the DHD, Jaffa appeared among the trees behind them and started shooting.
Sam had been running for the DHD, in order to open a wormhole to a safe world before going to a Tok'ra base planet, but she was hit in her left shoulder before reaching it. The shot was a glancing blow and the wound was not really serious, especially not with a symbiote to heal it, but it was enough to stun her for a little while.
Daniel ran past her and opened a random wormhole, to a world they had visited briefly before. He ran into the event horizon, O'Neill and Teal'c following, half-carrying Sam.
They made it through and the wormhole shut down after them without any Jaffa coming after them. Realising their enemy might have seen the address, Daniel dialed another one quickly. It was to a world he had visited only for a short time, as it had been in the middle of a harsh winter then. Now it was 3 months later, so he expected there to be spring.
The Stargate made its kawoosh and they all hurried through it.
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