What If They Don't Come Back
Author: Rude's Mom
Disclaimer: I don't own Buffy or Stargate. I wish I did. All characters will be returned the their proper owners when I finish playing with them.
Spoilers: Buffy through season two, then AU through season four, totally AU after that; Stargate through season six, then AU after that
Rating: R for language (PG-13), violence (PG-13/R), and sex (R)
Prologue — California, Late Summer 1998
She was back. It had taken more than three months but she had finally found herself. She was Buffy the Vampire Slayer and she was going home.
"Anne" would remain and give another girl a chance to find herself.
While Anne left went to collect her few possessions, Buffy put the last of her stuff in her knapsack. She took one last look at the small, dingy, one-room flat and headed for the door. A flash of light filled the room.
Buffy Summers never made it home.
Chapter 1 — Colorado, Summer 2009
Was it already ten years? According to the invitation that the lieutenant held in his hand it was indeed. He had been invited to the "Ten Year Reunion and Memorial Service for the Sunnydale High School Class of '99." Only in Sunnydale.
Sunnydale, California. One of the few places in California were the housing costs were really low. Officially it was because of the PCP gang problem and the unusual number of deaths attributed to packs of wild dogs and homicidal barbecue forks. The truth was much worse. Sunnydale was home to the world's most active hellmouth and to a lot of things that went bump in the night.
He found out about the truth at fifteen when a cute blonde from LA moved into town. He developed quite the crush on Buffy Anne Summers within minutes of meeting her. She disappeared during their junior year but for months he held on to the hope that she hadn't been another victim of the hellmouth. At first he and his friends comforted themselves with the idea that she had just taken sometime off to deal with the Angel/Angelus situation. They had been split as to whether she had killed Angelus or runoff with a resouled Angel. Giles had the Council searching for her and made numerous trips that first summer tracking down possible sitings. Two years later, the Sunnydale Police Department found the skeletal remains of young woman later identified as Buffy in an abandoned warehouse on the edge of town. But by then, they had already given up hope of finding Buffy. Most slayers didn't make it to eighteen. Kendra hadn't and Faith barely made it to nineteen.
Faith, the anti-Buffy, dark to her light, East Coast to her West. She was sent to Sunnydale during his senior year. Faith, the one he slept with, well sleep hadn't actually been involved... He allowed himself a small smile. He understood her better now. The need to feel, if only for a moment. She had been a good slayer. She stopped the Mayor's ascension and was one of the few to make it out alive from graduation. Even by Sunnydale's standards, it had been a massacre, almost eighty percent of the seniors had been killed in addition to their families. So many died that day, Cordelia, Harmony and the rest of the Cordettes, Larry, Jonathan. Even the junior watcher, Wesley hyphenated something, died.
The graduation had been the last straw for most of the survivors. As soon as he got out of the hospital, he headed for the nearest exit out of town. Willow had followed by the end of the summer. Faith and Giles stayed on the hellmouth.
Faith lasted one more year. She survived the mysterious strain of larengitis and the accompanying rash of murders. She took out a werewolf that was stalking the Sunnydale campus of the University of California. In the end though, it wasn't a vampire or demon that took out Faith. It wasn't even the pet project of an army black ops program that got her. She stopped its demon/cyborg creation and even saved some of the idiots that were part of the program — the Initiative if he remembered correctly. She had been badly injured in doing so, crippled in fact. The Council killed her, having no use for a disabled slayer. When the next slayer arrived, not even Giles remained.
Lieutenant Alexander Harris looked at the invitation one more time before crumbling it up and tossing it into a nearby trash can. He wondered if Willow had gone to the reunion. He figured he would have if the invitation hadn't arrived at the mountain a week after the event.
He looked up as a tall, sandy-haired captain entered the locker room. "Harris, get your ass in gear. We gate out in five minutes."
Chapter 2 - Pentar, local date unknown, Earth date Summer 2007
Urak hated undercover work. By disposition he was a scholar, not a spy. He had been inserted during the chaos that followed the destruction of Anubis and his fleet. The Tok'ra had taken advantage of the power plays by the surviving Goa'ulds to infiltrate most of their courts. Unfortunately, the Tok'ra's own numbers were so depleted that even those not suited for the task, such as Urak, were pressed into service. Of course, he still could have escaped this duty if it hadn't been for her. This was the bitch's revenge for his pointing out that the Tauri O'Neill was not and never would be interested in her. Admittedly that hadn't been the smartest thing he'd ever done but she had more than gotten even with him by convincing Garshaw to send him here. Thanks to her he had been in Thoth's court for nearly three years.
Thoth was one of old ones. Pushed out of power millenia ago, he and his queen Seshat had bided their time. It paid off. They had reclaimed their place among the major System Lords and now they plotted to reclaim their old territories. They had already taken back three worlds and were poised to take back a fourth. The first three worlds were rich in slaves and luxury items, gold, ivory, and furs. Those could be used in trade and as bribes to the other System Lords. The fourth was by far the richest yet. It had a naquadah mine. It was a hotly contested world, passing from System Lord to System Lord as their fortunes rose and fell. Thoth had lost it to Apophis, who had lost it in turn to Sokar. Now he would take it back from its current owner, an insignificant young Goa'uld known as Nimue.
Urak watched from the shadows as Thoth's Jaffa army boarded the mothership. The last to board was Thoth himself. Seshat would remain on the homeworld with the loyal members of the court. Urak had been with the army on its previous ventures proving his loyalty. His dreams were haunted by those missions, the stench of burnt flesh of Jaffa killed by staff blasts. Worse still were the memories of the screams of parents as their children were torn from their arms to become Thoth's personal slaves. Parents that were then killed so that the children would know that there was no hope of ever going home. He was thankful that his presence was not required this time. As the mothership took to the sky, he returned to his chambers to prepare a report to send back to the Tok'ra.
A week later word came from Thoth's mothership that victory had been achieved. Seshat and the court, including Urak, assembled before the Chaapa'ai to await the first tributes from the conquered planet. The final chevron locked in placed and the wormhole opened. The first two Jaffa came through bearing a large, ornate basket on a litter. A second pair of Jaffa followed carrying another basket on a litter. Seshat motioned them to approach her. As they passed his position Urak realized that there was something wrong, these were not triumphant Jaffa offering the spoils of war to their goddess. He managed move closer to get a glimpse of the contents of the second basket. It wasn't naquadah. He turned to look at Seshat. When she saw the contents of the first basket she screamed in rage. Like the second basket it contained dozens of dead goa'uld larva. Unlike the first, it also contained Thoth's head. He heard the wormhole shut down as if from a great distance.
Seshat had the four Jaffa put to death immediately. Many others joined them in death in days that followed. Lacking a second mothership, she sent squads of Jaffa through the Chaapa'ai to avenge their god. None returned. With her troops sorely depleted, she turned on her court. Failure to show the proper amount of grief was a death warrant. Not enough grief shown, kill them as disloyal. Too much grief, kill them because they are faking it. The slightest suspicion of disloyalty was also enough to condemn one to death. The court turned on itself. When one faction attempted to assassinate their insane queen, another faction turned them in. The purge continued. It was more than the Tok'ra could have hoped for as the court imploded. For Urak, it was a waking nightmare and only a matter of time before he was caught.
Urak hated undercover work. He was a scholar, not a spy. He almost made it out. He had been in Thoth's court for nearly three years when he was caught attempting to flee back to the Tok'ra. His last thought was that it was all that bitch Anise's fault.
Chapter 3 - Calendon, year 5, Earth date early to late Summer 2007
A sharp cry in the early hours of the morning brought Merdden out of a sound sleep. He turned in the bed to see his mate thrashing about in the midst of a nightmare. He gently woke her, taking care to remain out of striking distance.
"Hold me Beloved," she whispered as she sat up. He wrapped his arms around Nimue, feeling the residual shudders that coursed through her body. "The time of blood is coming again."
"Tell me what you saw."
"One of the Old Ones is coming to take back our world. This one will not come through the Chaapa'ai. He will come from the heavens with a great ship in the form of a pyramid and bring many Jaffa. I saw the city burn. Many will fall."
"And our fate?"
"I don't know. There is hope. I saw many of the enemy fall as well. Although we have few of the advanced weapons of the Goa'uld, our swords and knives were effective the last time. Their shields could not protect them. Our weapons should serve us well again."
"How long do we have?"
"A month, perhaps a bit longer. You will need to take Aurora and the Chosen to the shelter."
"I do not wish to leave you."
"But you will. They are our world's last hope, our last hope. If I fall, you must protect them, teach them. They will have the power to rise up and free our people." Nimue paused a moment before continuing. "If we do repel them this time, we will have the opportunity to increase the ranks of our Jaffa."
"And to do that, you need to spawn more symbiotes."
Turning in his arms to face him, she reached out a hand to brush his hair back from his face. She knew how much it bothered him although neither was sure why that was so. "If you prefer I will seek out another."
Merdden sighed as he pressed her down onto their bed. "You know that isn't acceptable. You will, however, have to make this up to me later."
"How about I start to make it up to you now?" Her hand drifted from his face down to his chest. It then wandered further south. She kissed him softly as he smiled in acknowledgment of what she was trying to do. Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad.
The next morning Nimue and Merdden began preparations to repel the impending invasion. Notice was sent to call the Chosen and their guardians to capital. The kingdom's knights were also called to the city. They in turn called their troops. The inhabitants of the city that were unable to contribute to its defense were told to take what they could and flee.
Nimue then went to the springs beneath the city to spawn. The larvae would be relatively safe there providing the attacker didn't know of the springs existence. If the battle went well, they would be implanted in Jaffa to mature. If Nimue fell, they would have to take their chances in the springs. If they survived long enough, they would mature enough so that they could take their own hosts from any human careless enough to intrude.
The following day, Nimue resumed training with her Jaffa in the main courtyard. The newly arrived knights and their forces trained outside the city walls. Merdden worked with those who would remain in the city. Medical supplies were brought in as were additional weapons. A makeshift hospital was set up in one of the caverns beneath the city while while another set up in the forest near the plain of Gryffyd. Three weeks later, with most of the inhabitants having already evacuated, Merdden left the city with Aurora, the Chosen, and their guardians.
A week later, the remaining inhabitants watched in horror as the deathgliders swooped down on the city. They opened fire paying particular attention to the city walls. The defenders using staff weapons returned fire, downing some of the gliders. Those pilots unfortunate enough to crash within the city walls were dragged from the ships and slaughtered by the citizens. Any personal weapons they had carried were stripped from their bodies and sent to the main body of Nimue's forces.
Unfortunately, a numb
er of the wooden structures within the city caught fire. As Nimue saw her city burn in the distance she cursed its original builders for using wood and cursed herself for not having those buildings replaced. Merdden had been right, wood and thatch in an enclosed space was just a bad idea.
The mothership landed on the pyramid on the plain of Gryffyd, disgorging several hundred Jaffa. They were met by Nimue. Her Jaffa were already in place and began picking off the enemy Jaffa. As only the Goa'uld and the highest ranking Jaffa had personal shields, the damage was considerable. The snipers' positions were protected enough to make the return fire largely ineffective. A contingent of knights and their men marched to meet the enemy head on. The remainder of Nimue's forces guarded the sides of the main force, waiting for the opportunity to separate the enemy from their ship.
The battle was touch and go for a time. Then, Nimue's forces fall back, allowing the enemy to advance. The rate of fire from her snipers began to fall off. With victory in sight, Thoth and his personal guard left the mothership. The right flank of Nimue's forces began a rapid advance. The Jaffa snipers on the right left their cover and joined those forces, cutting off any possibility of an easy retreat. The remaining snipers resumed their attack as the main force stopped its withdrawal. Surrounded, Thoth's forces continued to fight until Thoth fell, a sword through his gut. A sword wielded by Nimue. She withdrew the blade and then decapitated him. The battle ended soon after, with most of the remaining enemy Jaffa surrendering. Those that didn't promptly lay down their weapons were killed. The returning deathgliders were picked off as they attempted to return to the mothership.
Following the battle, the human troops withdrew, leaving Nimue and the Jaffa to mop up. Nimue took one squad and ringed up to the mothership. As soon as it was secured, a message was sent to Thoth's queen. On the ground, each enemy Jaffa corpse was checked for a living symbiote. If found, the larvae was extracted and killed. The surviving enemy Jaffa were given a choice as to whether they would serve Nimue or join their god in death. Those who chose to change their allegiance would have their symbiotes replaced by Nimue’s children. The executions of the rest of the Jaffa and several minor Goa’uld who had accompanied Thoth continued until nightfall. The funeral pyres would burn for days. Four of the condemned Jaffa were spared to carry a message to Thoth's mate. They were given litters each with a basket of dead larvae, with the first basket also containing the head of Thoth, and sent through the Chaapa'ai.
The planet's defenders remained near the Chaapa'ai for several weeks. They wiped out several minor incursions. After two weeks without incidents, the defenders dispersed. The refugees were already returning to the city to aid in rebuilding its damaged portions, in stone and slate this time. A messenger was sent to Merdden and he returned with Aurora after sending the Chosen back to their families.
Nimue and Merdden walked through the corridors of their new mothership. They passed several teams of Jaffa repairing damage caused by its defenders.
"So, do we have any Jaffa capable of flying this ship?"
She sighed, "No. The pilots chose to follow their god to hell. You will need to train some, or perhaps some of the younger humans."
"After I learn how to fly it. I understand the basics but the finer points...I hope there's a set of directions somewhere."
"We do have several Jaffa that are deathglider pilots. Thoth was using them as ground units so they had a chance to surrender. Unfortunately we only have one working deathglider although we may be able to repair two others."
"Well, at least we have plenty of staff weapons, shock grenades, and zat'nik'tels."
"I though we agreed to call them zats?"
A month later, Nimue awoke with a soft cry. It had happened again. One of her sisters had fallen. She quietly extricated herself from her lover's embrace. Putting on a fur trimmed robe she left the bedchamber and went her daughter's room.
Aurora was crying much to the dismay of her nursemaid. Dismissing the girl with a wave of her hand, Nimue sat on the bed and gathered her daughter close.
"Shh, my love. It will be alright."
"It hurt her."
"I know, but it can't hurt her anymore." Nimue gently rocked her child.
Nimue looked up to see that Merdden had entered the room. She nodded in answer. "She will have justice one day. I will find them somehow."
He did not have to ask who she was. This was not the first time one of her sisters had fallen. But justice, that was new. The others had fallen in combat, something else must have happened to this one.
"Aurora, how about letting your mother spend the rest of the night here?"
Nimue and Aurora scooted up further on the bed and Merdden pulled the covers over the pair. Kissing each on the forehead, he left the room.
Earth Fall 2009
General Ferretti entered his briefing room with Anise and Jacob. Colonel O'Neill, Major Thomas, the recently promoted Capt. Harris, and Dr. Johnson of SG-1 were already there. O'Neill and Thomas both grimaced. From previous experience they knew that Anise's presence was never a sign the day was going to be a good one.
"The Tok'ra would like the SGC's help to assess the danger presented by a new player among the Goa'uld. Anise, please fill SG-1 in."
"As you know, the rapid change in leadership among the major System Lords has created a series of power vacuums. Over the last several years the Tok'ra have been successful in placing spies among most of the Goa'uld courts. We have been receiving disturbing reports of the rapid rise of a new Goa'uld, one who has the possibility to be a major player. While she has not expanded her domain beyond a single planet at this time, she has taken out some of the older System Lords. We know she has at least one mothership and there are indications are that she may have an Asgard vessel as well."
"An Asgard vessel? And the Asgard haven't retaliated?"
"Not as far as we know. It is likely that they are not aware that she has it. It would be a violation of the treaty. However, that is not why I am here. We need more information about this Goa'uld."
"And her name would be..."
"So why come to us? Why not send one of your own spies?"
"We tried that. The Tok'ra operative was intercepted within minutes of landing on the surface. He was killed on the spot. His pilot, a Jaffa, was given the choice to serve Nimue or die. He chose to 'serve' but managed to get a couple of reports out before he disappeared. We assume that he has been killed.
"From his reports and other sources, we know that Nimue is a queen. She is also brutal even by Goa'uld standards and has a flair for the dramatic. She likes to send back the corpses of defeated Goa'uld back to their homeworlds in pieces. When she killed Thoth she sent his head back to his home world as well as two baskets of dead larvae. She will not tolerate any larvae but her own spawn. Those Jaffa who agree to serve her have their symbiotes replaced by hers. She has relatively few Jaffa and it is possible that she is strictly controlling the number of her offspring to limit the competition."
"She wouldn't be the first Goa'uld to remove the competition." Dr. Johnson noted. "Dr. Jackson observed that Ba'al was known to eat larvae before they could be placed within a host."
"You are correct. There have been several Goa'uld that have used similar methods of controlling the number of competitors. However, there is speculation among her Jaffa that she is limiting her larval offspring to please her Beloved, Merdden. What is truly unusual is that none of her Jaffa seem to have been born into her service nor were they created by her. She has very few female Jaffa and the ranks of her Jaffa seem to be exclusively drawn from the ranks of the System Lords who have attempted to take her planet."
"A Goa'uld queen that doesn't make Jaffa. That's different."
"Is Merrden as Goa'uld?"
"We're not sure but it's doubtful. He is known as an advisor and a teacher but Nimue is the one in charge."
"What can you tell us about her world?"
Jacob answered. "It bears a strong resemblance to Europe in the Dark Ages. The local economy is primarily agricultural , the political structure is feudal. The most advanced local weapon is the crossbow."
"Nimue is not presenting herself as a goddess is she?"
"She is believed to be a powerful sorceress. How did you know?"
"European, especially English, mythology used to be a hobby of mine. Nimue is part of the Arthurian legend. She was the Lady of Lake. Merdden is variant of Merlin."
"Well this version of Camelot seems to be doing a genderbender with its version of Arthur and the Round Table. There is a group of young girls known as the Chosen Ones, drawn mostly from the noble families. The Tok'ra believe that Nimue is grooming them to be hosts. One, Aurora, may be the daughter of Nimue and Merdden."
"With all due respect, Jacob, Anise, I still haven't been given a good reason to risk SG-1. You seem to have quite a bit of intel about Nimue already." General Ferritti continued, "so what is the real reason?"
Selmac took over from Jacob. "Part of the High Council believes that Nimue may be laying the ground work for a major offensive against the System Lords. The fact that the Chosen Ones are all female could mean that her larvae are all potential queens. At any given time, there are less than two dozen queens among the Goa'uld. Most of the queens are controlled by the major System Lords. Hathor and Nirrti were exceptions, and even Hathor was subordinate to Ra. Now imagine a united group of queens, controlling their own reproduction. They could produce Jaffa at a rate that the other System Lords couldn't begin to match. Since Nimue has made no attempt to leave her world, they think that she is keeping what you would call a low profile. By only killing those who attack, she is not considered a threat to the System Lords."
"So you need us to find out if we have have a new Anubis or Ba'al out there."
Jacob resumed control. "Yes. We can contain the System Lords but if a new 'superpower' emerges, we are all in trouble."
Ferretti nodded. "SG-1, pack your suitcases."
"Sir, while the rest of the team should register as pure human, won't Col. O'Neill experience as host a significant risk for detection?" Major Thomas asked.
"The effects have subsided over the years should not pose a problem. We have appropriate clothing as well as a transport vessel waiting for you at one of our outposts," Anise added. "There is no need to pack."
Ferretti and SG-1 just rolled their eyes.
As they got ready to leave the briefing room, Jacob walked over to Col. O'Neill. "So Sam, how are Jack and the kids?"
"European mythology Harris? Not what I would expect from someone from a Special Ops background."
"It was back in high school. Some friends and I were fascinated by the various myths of Europe and elsewhere. I was interested in the legends surrounding Gilgamesh but my Sumerian was never very good so I went with my second choice, English mythology."
"Sumerian? You do realize the epic of Gilgamesh has been translated into English."
"You know how it is Doc. Primary source material is usually the best. Willow and Giles were much better with languages, especially the dead ones, so they focused on the older mythologies."
"Odd group of friends you had."
"You have no idea."
Calendon, two weeks later
SG-1 were finally within site of the capital. They had landed much further out than the Tok'ra spy had in the hopes of avoiding detection. It had taken ten days to walk in. The time had been well spent as they were able to observe the local population in more detail than usual. As they neared the capital, the roads became increasingly busy as a number of families of all ranks with small children joined in an ever lengthening procession to the city.
A number of Jaffa were also present but the natives did not appear to be overly afraid or in awe of the Jaffa. The peasants treated them with the same deference that they gave the local nobles, no more, no less. The nobles on the other hand, tended to treat them as equals.
They had befriended a young man by the name of Hedric who had been an excellent source of information. He was one of the parents making the journey to the capital. He was bring his two year old daughter to the Chosing. By pretending to be from one of more remote villages, SG-1 had been able to plead ignorance of the Chosing. Hedric had been shocked that the Call had not been received by their village.
"Nimue will be most displeased that your village has been overlooked Samantha. It is too late to send word to your village this time but I am sure that it will not happen again."
"Has someone from your village been Chosen in the past?"
"No, but one was Chosen from my younger sister's village the last time. It was a great honor and a blessing to the parents."
"The Chosen receive special protection when the false gods attack. How can a parent not feel blessed to know that their child is protected?"
"But to give up your child, how can you do it?"
"Most of noble children are fostered by the age of seven. This is no different except not all of the Chosen are drawn from the first families. They serve as the Lady's court from the age of five, spending part of each year in the capital. The rest of the year they spend with their families. When they become adults they will be given the choice of returning home forever or joining with one of Nimue's other children."
As they set up camp outside the city walls that night, the team discussed this new information.
"It almost sounds like the Tok'ra Colonel."
"Or a very good piece of propaganda Harris. All of the Chosen are still a long way from adulthood. What's to say that Nimue will keep her side of the bargain?" O'Neill looked to her second in command. "Any thoughts Thomas?"
"She has apparently kept her word in regards to keeping them safe from Goa'uld attacks as well as allowing the children to spend time with their families."
"Which could simply be a matter of protecting her investment. Not to mention keeping the locals happy. She may not have enough Jaffa to maintain external and internal security."
"Well, the Chosing is being held tomorrow. Maybe we will get a better idea about what is going on tomorrow."
"You may be right Doc. So who wants to take the first watch?"
The next morning, there was an air of excitement outside of the city. At noon, the city gates opened wide and a large group of Jaffa moved towards a large tent on the east side of the city. Following the Jaffa were a number of courtiers and children and another group of Jaffa. SG-1 watched as the walls of the city filled with spectators. As first group of Jaffa reached the tent, they fanned out to either side, making a corridor for the courtiers and children. The remaining Jaffa spread out among the crowd. As the courtiers reached the tent, a small blonde woman and a man with long brown hair stepped onto a low dais where a pair of chairs were placed while a young girl moved to stand slightly the left of the man.
The woman spoke to the crowd. "People of Calendon, we are here today to Choose a Court for Our new daughter." She sat down in one of the chairs, her male companion sat in the other. The girl sat at the man's feet.
Dr. Johnson whispered "a little short for a Goa'uld don't you think John?"
The major replied, "Don't ever let Major Haley hear you say that. Size isn't everything."
"Yes, sir. Can you see the Colonel and Harris?"
"They are trying to get closer in for a better look."
"With this crowd, that could take a while."
Thomas and Johnson watched from a distance as the procession of children accompanied by a parent approached the dais. Each child was handed up to Nimue who carefully inspected each one. As she returned each child to its parent she signaled to a Jaffa who would send the pair to off to join the spectators or to a small area within the tent where each chosen child received a tattoo in the shape of a crescent moon on the forehead. The process continued for most of the afternoon with only six children being Chosen.
As the final child and parent rejoined the crowd, Nimue and her consort stood. Aurora, who had patiently stood near Merrden throughout the afternoon, moved to stand next to him. Merrden placed his hand on her shoulder. Nimue motioned to someone standing towards the back of the tent. A nursemaid brought a toddler forward and placed the child in Nimue's arms.
"People of Calendon, I present to you our daughter Kendra." A cheer went up from the crowd. "And I present her Court as well." Another, slightly louder cheer went up as the Chosen and their parents came to stand next to Nimue. The Jaffa began to fall into formation as Nimue, Merrden, and the rest stepped from the tent.
It had taken several hours but Sam and Harris had finally been to work their way forward in the crowd, being careful not to draw undue attention themselves. They had finally made it to within ten feet of the tent when the Jaffa began to move to open a path in the crowd. Nimue took the lead and pulled away from the rest of the courtiers. It was then when Harris got his first really good look at Nimue. As she passed by his position, Nimue also saw him. The recognition was mutual, the reactions were not. Her eyes flashed in rage. He paled as he recognized a face from his past.
The crowd moved away from Harris and Sam as several Jaffa moved to surround the potential threat. Another group placed themselves around Merrden and the children and began to hurry them towards the city gates. Nimue walked towards the two intruders. As she reached them, her Jaffa struck each one behind their knees, forcing them to knell before her. She reached out with a hand to grasp Sam's chin. After turning her face from side to side she released her and turned to Harris.
She backhanded him across the face, sending him sprawling.
"Shol'va." She spat. She motioned to the Jaffa, "bring them."
Nimue resumed her passage back to the city as the Jaffa roughly grabbed the two pair and followed her into the city.
Calendon, Fall 2009
"Major, I think we have a problem."
Both men watched from a hillside the Jaffa below broke into two groups. As one group hurried the courtiers towards the city, another moved into the crowd. The latter group surrounded their teammates, forcing them to their knees. Nimue approached first O'Neill and then Harris. Johnson flinched as Nimue struck Harris to the ground.
"They've been made. Johnson, let's move further back."
"We can't do anything else at the moment unless we want to join them."
Once back within the city walls, Merdden and his children headed towards the palace accompanied by the newly Chosen and their parents. Upon their arrival, they were met by a large contingent of servants who took the newcomers to their temporary lodgings. The nursemaid carrying Kendra looked to Merdden for direction. Should she take Aurora with her as well? He nodded his head and she left for the family's personal quarters with both children. Merrden entered the Great Hall to wait for Nimue. Several minutes later she arrived with her Jaffa and a pair of prisoners, one of whom was apparently unconscious.
"Tar'ac, take them to the tower, I will interrogate them later."
Her First Prime bowed his head and, with the rest of the Jaffa, left with the prisoners.
Merdden waited until the last of the Jaffa had left before speaking to his mate.
"Nimue, what happened?"
"A face from my past." Nimue smiled but it was a cold smile.
He walked to her side and placed hand against her face. He could feel the tension radiating from her body. The rage. He had seen the results of her fury before and knew that he had to calm her down before she did something that she would later regret.
"I recognized a man in the crowd. He's not of this world. He is from Earth."
"Your home world."
"And I suspect yours as well. If he found a way here, he should know the way back. We can go home."
"And you can stop the Council." He was puzzled though. "That should be a good thing. So why did you place them in the tower? Are they part of the Council?"
"I doubt it. The man is the Betrayer."
"The betrayer? Xander?"
"And the other? The woman?"
"I don't recognize her and the Council has little use for women unless they are potential Slayers. There is something odd about her though. She feels like but not like a Goa'uld. It is as if she were once blended."
Tar'ac returned to the hall. Merdden let his hand drop to his side.
"Milady, it is done. The male is still unconscious but the female was left free to tend him."
"Place them under surveillance. When the man wakes up, have the woman moved to another cell." She walked towards a window and stood looking outwards for a moment. "They must have arrived by ship and it is possible that the ship may remain on the surface. How many Hunters are within the city?"
"Perhaps a dozen."
"Instruct the Hunters to search for signs a ship or a landing site beyond the perimeter. Take two squads of Jaffa and search for any additional intruders among the crowd. If you find any, place them in the tower, but not near the current prisoners."
"As you wish, milady. And the current prisoners?"
She knew what Merdden had been attempting to do and decided to postpone interrogating the prisoners until she was calmer. After all, she didn't have a sarcophagus handy to fix her mistakes.
"Merdden and I will deal with them later."
"Harris, wake up. Can you hear me?"
"Yes ma'am," Xander groaned. "Did you get the license plate?"
O'Neill shook her head. "Do you realize that this is the second time this month that you've managed to piss off a Goa'uld in under two minutes?"
"Hey, I'm not even close to the SG-1 record holder. Another year or two though and I should be able to give him some competition."
"Or you'll be dead and I'll have to find another fourth."
"So, how did you do it this time?"
"I recognized the host, and the host recognized me."
"You recognized each other? From where?"
"Believe it or not we went to high school together."
"She looks like she's still in high school. And how could she end up on a planet halfway across the galaxy?"
The latter was directed more towards herself than Harris but he answered anyway.
"I don't know. She disappeared towards the end of our junior year so that would have been May or early June of '98. We thought that she had run away but a couple years later the local police discovered some remains that they identified as Buffy. Should have known those incompetent idiots would get that wrong too."
"Some parents shouldn't be allowed to name their kids."
"No kidding. Jack wanted to name our first child Homer."
Harris groaned. "Wait, I thought Janet was your oldest."
"She is. Fortunately Jack agreed that naming a girl Homer would not be a good thing."
They lapsed into silence as each became lost in their own thoughts. O'Neill thought about Jack and her children. Maybe it was time that she stepped down from SG-1 and stayed in the lab. Xander tried to comprehend the change from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Buffy the Host of Nimue the Goa'uld.
A short while later, several Jaffa entered the cell block. One Jaffa, bearing the mark of Apophis, stepped forward and opened the cell door as two others pointed zats at the prisoners. The final two Jaffa entered the cell and grabbed O'Neill. As Harris moved towards them, O'Neill shook her head and allowed herself to be removed from the cell. Both were surprised to find that she was simply being moved to the adjoining cell. Once both cells were resecured, the Jaffa left.
"Gee, I guess someone doesn't approve of co-ed dorm rooms."
A snort of amusement came from the other cell. "That's it Harris. As your Commanding Officer I am ordering you to attend the next O'Neill barbecue. If you are going to be a smart-ass, you might as well take lessons from the master. Besides, for some strange reason, I think that Jack actually might like you."
"Well, I am a likable guy."
"Which brings us back to Nimue. Her reaction was to you wasn't the normal Goa'uld reaction to someone from the host's past. Most won't even acknowledge the host's mind still exists so why the anger?"
"I don't know. I mean, Buffy was one of my best friends."
"I wonder if Nimue was hiding on earth like Seth or imprisoned like Hathor and Osiris. It just wouldn't make sense to risk raiding earth for a host."
Harris thought for a moment. His CO deserved to know what they were up against but how do you explain the supernatural to a scientist?
"Colonel, the Goa'uld might think it worth the risk for the right host. If Nimue knew what Buffy was she might have risked it."
"What do you mean what she was?"
"I've read the old mission reports dealing with Nirrti. While she was busy trying to engineer an improved Tau'ri to become a host, there was already a very, very small subset of Earth's population that fit the bill. They are a lot stronger and faster than the general population. At least some even have precognitive dreams."
"Are you saying there are Hok'tar on Earth and Buffy was one of them?"
"Yes, ma'am. Although they wouldn't identify themselves as such, they pretty much fit the description. Even without being snaked, Buffy could have taken my head off. Hell, in unarmed combat against a Jaffa, I would have bet on her."
"That little girl?"
"Don't call her little. She really doesn't like it. And her appearance often worked in her favor. No one would expect that much power in such a small package. "
"How do you know about this group? And just how small a subset is it?"
"I found out about them when Buffy transferred to my high school. I was in the library when I overheard stuff that I was never supposed to know. And normally there is only one girl at a time, the Chosen One also known as the Slayer, although I was told that there are a number of girls with potential. When she dies, the one of the potentials is activated and no, I couldn't tell you how. But a least for a while there were two. Kendra was called when Buffy was killed. We found Buffy just after she drowned and were able to revive her. No one really understood that she had actually died until Kendra showed up."
"So, how hard did she hit you?"
"Huh?" That stopped Xander cold. "Oh, you think that she scrambled my brain. Well she didn't. I know this sounds crazy but I used to see stuff back in my hometown that makes most of what I see at the SGC look tame. A lot of the campfire stories of vampires, werewolves, and such back on earth are based on real things. There really are demons and monsters of the old fashioned variety back on earth. And to balance that evil there is the Slayer, the one girl Chosen to fight them and try to keep their numbers down. She is faster and stronger which gives her a chance to take down the bad guys. Eventually, though, one of them is going to get lucky and she'll be killed just like all of those before her. The next girl is called and cycle is repeated."
"And apparently nobody knows what's happening."
"Well, not too many know. The Slayer, her Watcher, the Watchers' Council, potential slayers, the demons of course, and part of the U.S. government."
"A black ops program at the turn of the century called the Initiative was playing mad scientist with demon parts trying to make a super soldier. Really bad idea. Faith, Kendra's replacement, cleaned up the mess."
"So you are saying that Buffy is a Chosen One. They called those children, those future hosts, the Chosen Ones."
"Yeah, I know. A snake in a Slayer. A lot of Slayers with snakes. We are so screwed."
Merdden watched as his wife, still radiating anger, left the room. He was thankful that she realized that she needed to calm down before visiting their 'guests.' Their guests from Earth. That was definitely a surprise. According to Nimue, their technology was far below that of the Goa'uld. Barring the use of a Chaapa'ai, they should still be confined to their own solar system. And they most definitely had not come through the Chaapa'ai. Perhaps she was mistaken about the passage of time since she was taken from there.
Merdden turned to see Aurora run into the room. She was wearing leather trousers and a tunic.
"Couldn't stay in your 'good' clothes could you?"
"I hate dresses. You can't fight in them."
"You are your mother's daughter." Merdden smiled and moved over to sit on a bench near one of the windows. He patted the cushion next to his and Aurora joined him. "So, why aren't you with your sister and Talla?"
"I wanted to know what happened. Talla didn't know. Who were those people?"
"One of them was Xander."
"Oh, so that's why Mother is so mad."
"Can I see him?"
"I don't think that would be wise."
"Why not? I think I need to."
"Let me think about it."
"Yeah, I know. A snake in a Slayer. A lot of Slayers with snakes. We are so screwed."
"But you said that there was only supposed to be one Slayer at a time."
"But there can be more than one. Kill one and the next is called. If you can revive the first, you've got two Slayers. Normally that would be real risky since you might not be able to revive the first, but add a sarcophagus and you've got everything you need to create as many slayers as you have Potentials. The Watchers' Council is able to identify Potentials so there's no reason not to believe that Nimue hasn't found a way do it too. All she has to do is wait for them to grow up and then she can activate and snake them."
"I don't think so Harris."
"Think about it. From what you have said, the percentage of Potentials to the general population on Earth has to be incredibly small. Otherwise the Council wouldn't have stood a chance of training the ones that would eventually be chosen. The population of this world is much smaller. Nimue picked too many for them all to be potential slayers. Other Goa'uld have been known to use phrases similar to the 'Chosen Ones' to describe future hosts. On some worlds they were referred to as the 'Children of the Gods.'" "
Great, so instead of snaked Slayers, we just have to worry about a brand new crop of Goa'uld in a few years. I feel so much better."
"Don't be too relieved. Nimue has already proven that she is formidable even by System Lord standards. As far as we know, she only controls this planet but has been able to stop other, supposedly more powerul Goa'uld. And she's done this with relatively few Jaffa. Can you imagine what she will be capable of when her 'children' mature?"
"I'd rather not."
"Then there are the 'real' children, Aurora and Kendra. If Merdden is a Goa'uld, that would make them harcesis. All of the knowledge of their parents..." The Colonel let Harris digest that unpleasant thought. "So even if the Chosen aren't potential slayers, in just a few years, Nimue could still prove to be as big of a threat as Anubis or Ba'al."
"So, assuming that she gets that far, any ideas on how to stop them?"
"Short of setting an army of vamps or demons on them? Which, by the way, would be seriously counterproductive, no." Xander contemplated the possibilities for a couple of minutes. "The Council might be able to come up with something. They're a lot like the NID, a bunch of cold-blooded bastards that can justify any means to an end. I can't believe that they don't have at least a few contingency plans to remove a slayer. I know that they've killed at least one when she ceased to be of use. I don't see them allowing a slayer to live that they couldn't control. Would they tell you how? Maybe but they'd probably try to do the job themselves."
"Do you know how they killed her?"
"She was injured. They could have just used a gun, it would have been kinder. Instead, they led a particularly nasty vamp right to her. She didn't stand a chance."
"The Council, for all of their righteous trappings, is more concerned with controlling the Slayer than with actually supporting her. I've known three Slayers: Buffy, Kendra, and Faith. The Council trains Potentials in combat, research, and blind obedience. They didn't find Buffy until after she was Called so she didn't receive any training ahead of time. Her watchers made allowances, worked with her. She excelled in combat but research girl she wasn't. And following orders was the exception rather than the rule. Giles, her last watcher, took up the slack on the research with help from some friends and accepted that obedience just wasn't part of the deal. Kendra was found by the Council when she was very young. Her parents actually gave her to the Council. They raised her. According to Giles, she was the perfect Council Slayer. Outside of her 'destiny' she didn't really exist. God, it was sick. She couldn't even bring herself look at a boy. It wasn't permitted. She lasted less than a year. When she died, Faith was called. Faith had been identified a Potential, but lets just say she wasn't quite as trainable as Kendra and once she was Called, she didn't become their ideal Slayer. She was even more undisciplined Buffy. Her second watcher was Buffy's last watcher. Giles gave her a lot of leeway, same as he had for Buffy. The Council didn't want a repeat of Buffy so they replaced him. Faith mostly ignored the replacement. She got the job done but on her own terms. According to Giles, Buffy and Faith survived a longer than most Slayers. Kinda made the Council look like more of a liability than an asset. Killing Faith the way they did was a warning to future slayers and their watchers."
Their conversation was cut short as they heard the sound of footsteps coming towards their cells. A Jaffa with the mark of Apophis entered the cell area and used a zat on Harris and O'Neill. When Harris woke up, the Colonel was gone.
O'Neill awoke to find herself on the floor in yet another cell. Almost immediately she was grabbed by an arm and pulled into an upright position. A hand flashed out and struck her across the face. Her lip split open and began to bleed. She staggered but remained on her feet.
The Jaffa began to recite a litany of her offenses against the gods. First and foremost her part in the murder of his god Apophis which as resulted (eventually) in his being stuck on a backwater planet serving a Goa'uld so weak that she didn't wish to be worshiped. Each offense was punctuated by a blow. With her free arm she attempted to defend herself but the third blow punctured one of her eardrums. After that, the litany was only for his benefit. She didn't hear much by then. She did feel several ribs and her free arm break at some point.
By the time he finished, she was beyond trying to defend herself, or standing on her own. He let her fall to the pallet on the floor. He crouched next to her body and began tearing at her pants. She made a feeble attempt to struggle but he only stopped long enough to hit her in the face again, this time breaking her nose. She felt her legs forced apart and she screamed as she felt herself tear as he thrust forward.
He didn't like the idea of exposing Aurora to the certain aspects of life in their world. Visiting prisoners, interrogating them, was something that she would be expected to do as she grew older, as would her younger sister. So far, he had been able to shield her from the periodic executions of prisoners, both human and Jaffa. But sooner or later, she would have to attend them. Probably sooner as people were already beginning to question her absence at those events. Public executions were public spectacles and entire families came out to watch the “festivities.”
In the end, Merdden gave into his daughter's pleas to visit the prisoners. Perhaps if she met Xander, she might be feel pity for the man. If she added her voice to his, Nimue might be persuaded to release Xander. He was fairly certain that the other prisoner would be released as soon as his wife's temper cooled.
“Alright, you can go. But you are to stay next to me at all times.”
“I can take care of myself.”
“Maybe in a couple of years you can. But for now, you'll either stay close to me or you will stay here.”
- - - -
Outside of the city walls, speculation ran rampant over the events of the past few hours. Most believed that two spies had been found but few could agree on the details. The spies were variously identified as Goa'uld, Jaffa, and human in various combinations. Those closest to the incident were convinced that the woman was a Goa'uld and the male was Jaffa. Others were less certain as they recalled how swiftly Nimue had decapitated the last known Goa'uld spy. Still, others said, she had called the male a Shol'va. Why would she use that word if he weren't a Jaffa? Others countered that if the woman was a Goa'uld, the man wouldn't be a Shol'va. Meanwhile, the remaining members of SG-1 carefully pulled back to the edge of the crowd.
“Johnson, the Jaffa are leaving the city and it looks like they are searching for someone.”
“Probably.” Major Thomas took a quick look at three roads leading to the city. “And it looks like they are sealing off the area. Damn.”
“Sir? Couldn't we make it to the forest? It's not that far.”
“No one is moving that way. If we do, they'll definitely notice us. We'll just have to hope that we can pass as locals and that no one remembers seeing us with the Colonel and Harris.”
- - - -
Merdden and Aurora, accompanied by two Jaffa, approached the entrance to the tower.
“Remember, stay close. Your mother will have both our hides if you get into trouble.”
“Yeah, sure. Youbetcha.”
Merdden came to an abrupt stop. He took hold of Aurora's shoulder and spun her around.
“What did you say?” He looked into his daughter's eyes. Warm brown eyes that held more than a glint of mischief. Eyes that echoed a memory that was just out of reach.
“Yes, Dad. I'll stay by your side and keep out of trouble.”
He shook his head and continued towards the tower.
- - - -
Malkor lead his team into the crowd. Had he still be in the service of his old master, this would have been much easier since he could have rounded everyone up and used random executions to smoke out any intruders. Nimue, for all that she could be as deadly as the mightiest System Lord, insisted on less violent methods. He had to admit her methods were more successful long term. The humans were more productive and content in her territory. They even willingly went into battle along side the Jaffa, a true rarity. Malkor signaled to his second to begin the questioning.
It didn't take long before he had a good idea who he was looking for. The Choosing was a gathering for families with young daughters. The group of four adults without children had been noticed. Thomas and Johnson were caught fairly quickly. Their former traveling companion, Hedric, pointed them out.
- - - -
“Where's Colonel O'Neill?”
Merdden belatedly realized the other cells in the area were empty. “She was supposed to be here. When was she moved?”
“She was moved to nearby cell shortly after I came to. Then a guard came in and zatted me. When I woke up, she was gone.”
“Can you describe him?”
“Big guy, tall, lots of muscle, dark skin, short hair. He wore the mark of Apophis.”
Merdden checked his Zat and turned to the Jaffa. “Donlan, take Aurora to Nimue and let her know what's happened. On your way out, send in all available teams to start searching for the other prisoner. Solen, you're with me, we'll start with the lower levels.”
Captain Xander Harris was left alone again.
- - - -
It took some fifteen minutes before Merdden found the missing prisoner. He didn't hesitate as he zatted her attacker and pulled him off. The woman was unconscious, either from the zat or the assault. Solen bound the rapist and deposited him in a nearby cell while Merdden examined the battered woman.
“Solen, I need a stretcher now and I want guards on our new prisoner. I want him alive.”
“Yes my lord. The woman?”
“I don't know. Multiple broke bones, probable concussion, and I can't begin to speculate on what internal injuries she might have. I don't think she's going to make it.”
- - - -
Harris watched as several teams of Jaffa passed through his cell block. Merdden, or at least he thought it was Merdden, was serious about locating O'Neill. Then, Solen came running back past his cell only to return minutes later with another Jaffa and a stretcher.
When the stretcher came back through, the only way to identify his CO was by her jacket. Her head was covered in blood, someone's attempt to wipe off her face had been futile. A grim-faced Merdden followed.
“What happen to her? Where are you taking her?”
Merdden paused in from of the cell. “She was assaulted and needs medical attention.”
“How badly was she hurt?”
“Her injuries are severe. I'm sorry but I don't know if your friend will survive.”
Merdden left the cell block. Shortly thereafter, a squad of Jaffa escorted one of their own out as well.
- - - -
Two attendants flanked his wife as she examined the comatose woman.
His wife looked up and shook her head. “Her injuries are too severe. The healing device will only delay the inevitable.”
“Perhaps her people?”
“She'd never survive the trip to the Chaapa'ai let alone survive a trip through it.” She pulled a coverlet over the dying woman. “Damn, I wish that sarcophagus was working.”
“Then there is nothing you can do?”
“No, but there may be something her assailant can do.” A cold mask had settled over her face as Nimue turned towards her Beloved. “The penalty for this is death and it shall be quicker than I'd like. Dora, Elsbet, keep her comfortable. Merdden and I will return within the hour.”
- - - -
A bell within the city began to toll as Thomas and Johnson were taken though the gate. A Jaffa came forward and spoke briefly to one their escorts. Their group then headed left towards a tower.
“Johnson, did youcatch any of that?”
“Something about a Shol'va being executed.”
Off towards their right, a high pitched scream was heard. It was suddenly cut off.
“Harris? The Colonel?”
- - - -
Nimue and Merdden returned to the patient. An attendant trailed behind carefully carrying a bowl.
“Are you certain this will work?”
“No. It isn't fully mature but it is her only hope. She doesn't deserve to die. Dora, Elsbet, turn her over gently.” Nimue reached into the bowl and retrieved the symbiote. “If this works, she will be the eldest of the Chosen.” She placed her 'child' on the bruised neck. It plunged in.
“ If this works, she will be the eldest of the Chosen.” She placed her 'child' on the bruised neck. It plunged in.
Aurora stood in the shadows just outside the doorway watching and listening.
“It will be a few hours before we know whether or not she will survive.”
“What about the others Nimue?”
“For the time being, I'll keep them in the tower. The last two will be placed in the grey chamber. If they know who I really am...I can't take the chance that my existance will get back to the Council. They will have to stay.”
“Xander will remain where he is for now.”
“He was one of your best friends.”
“I know. But he lied to me. It nearly destroyed me when I had to kill Angel.”
“You hesitated to kill Angelus when you had the chance before. He probably thought he was doing the right thing. ”
“I was seventeen. Angelus wore my lover's face. I couldn't separate the two.”
“And was Xander any older?” Merdden turned his wife towards him and wrapped his arms around her. “You both made mistakes but you need to let it go before anyone else gets hurt.”
“I know.” She looked back at the unconscious woman on the bed. “I never expected to see him again. You said that he called her Colonel. I wonder what made him join the military.”
“Why don't you ask him?”
“Later, after I see to the other prisoners. I need to know why they came here and who they are working for. Earth wasn't nearly advanced enough for them to get here on their own, unless they used magic which would mean they might be tied to the Council. There has to be a ship out there since they didn't use the Chaapa'ai. If the hunters can find it, maybe it will hold some answers.”
“Xander was as surprised to see me as I was him. He didn't have time to tell them about me so if they aren't tied to the Goa'uld or the Council, I'll send them to the world of their choice through the Chaapa'ai.”
Nimue stopped and looked up at her Beloved. “Xander and the colonel will stay here until I am ready to take on the Council. She could be a valuable resource if she chooses to cooperate.”
“Or a threat if she doesn't.”
“But no more than any of the Chosen might become. None of my symbiotes, even the first ones, were imprinted with much more than the awareness of how to blend and sustain a human body. I will not give rise to more false gods.”
“And if she would become a god?”
“Then she will become a dead one.”
Aurora moved deeper into the shadows as her mother left Merdden's side and moved to leave the room. She wondered if she would be able to sneak back into the tower to speak with Xander before her mother did.
“Aurora, you will stay here with your father. If I catch you near the tower, you'll spend the next week mending the linens with Dora.”
- - - -
Malkor watched as the prisoners were strip searched. The contents of the haversacks that they had been carrying when taken into custody were examined as well. A few minutes later, their clothing was returned, minus a small quantity of bladed weapons.
“Take them the grey chamber. See that they are provided with food and fuel. Our Lady will question them later.”
Four guards escorted them up several flights of stairs and down a short corridor. A substancial wooden door was unbarred and opened The prisoners were pushed in and the door closed. As their eyes adjusted to the light, they heard the door close and scrape of the bar being put back in place.
Johnson surveyed their new accommodations. The room was furnished in early medieval. “Above ground, real furniture, fireplace. I think this qualifies as first class accommodations. Not bad as cells go.”
He walked over to one of the barred windows.
“It's a cell, Johnson. And we still don't know where the Colonel and Harris are or if they are even alive. You said that the jaffa were talking about a Shol'va being executed. Nimue supposedly called Harris a Shol'va.”
Johnson turned back from the window. “Oh, I don't think that the Shol'va that was executed was Harris.”
“We've got a room with a view. Check out the scaffold in the courtyard. The remains don't look like Harris, or the Colonel.”
Thomas peered out. The naked corpse on the rack below had a stomach pouch. What it didn't have was a pair of hands and something else that he didn't really didn't want to think about. “Ouch. That had to hurt.”
“No kidding. I think that explains what we heard. Wonder what he did.”
Their conversation came to an abrupt end as they heard the bar at the door being pulled back.
The door opened and two Jaffa entered trailed by two servants carrying bundles. They placed the packages on a table and retreated from the room. The Jaffa followed and the door closed.
Thomas reached the table first. Unwrapping the first bundle, he found two loaves of dark bread, a small wheel of a pungent cheese, and two flasks. He opened one and sniffed the contents before taking a cautious sip.
“Beer, kinda weak though. What's in the other bundle?”
Johnson checked. “Wood, kindling, a piece of flint and a strike. Oh, and a candle.”
“What, no matches?”
- - - -
Nimue approached the tower stopping at the scaffold. A few people, drawn by the earlier spectacle, were stillmilling about. A Chosing and an execution on the same day. She knew that today would be a topic of conversation for months to come, or at least until the next Goa'uld attack.
She climbed the scaffold and looked at the ruined corpse. He claimed he did it to avenge Apophis, his god. That the woman was a member of es-ge-one, whatever that was, and a known enemy of the gods.
How had she missed the signs? Had there been any? Was it just him, or were there other Jaffa that felt the same way? Maybe it had been a mistake not to play “god.” Were her methods seen as weakness? Did they see her as weak and therefore not worthy of loyalty? But if she were weak, what did that make the very dead Apophis? She shook her head and left the scaffold.
As she entered the tower, she decided to see Xander first.
- - - -
Xander was sitting in the back section of his cell. His head came up as he heard someone enter the cell block.
“Buffy, or should I call you Nimue? That is your name isn't it?”
“Why are you here?”
“Don't you remember? You had your Jaffa put me here.”
“I'm not in good mood Xander. Just answer the question.”
“You attack me, have me and my companion thrown into this lovely cell where we are attacked again and you're not in a good mood. Well neither am I.”
“The incident with your 'friend' was unfortunate. The Jaffa responsible has been punished.”
“Punished? I don't see him in a cell.”
“He won't be needing a cell. He was executed.”
Xander looked at the snake wearing the face of his old friend. He had been told that part of the host survived but he couldn't see it. There had been no emotion that he could see or hear with that cold statement. He wanted to believe that his friend was still in there somewhere. Was this what Buffy had felt when she faced Angelus?
“Now, what are you doing on this world?”
“Try again, no one ever comes here just to explore. You're a spy. The only question is whose? Which god do you serve?”
“I don't serve the Goa'uld.”
“Well you didn't get here without help. Perhaps you serve the Asgard? Colonel O'Neill was identified as a member of es-ge-one. Who are they?”
“SG-1 is my team's designation. We serve Earth.”
“If you don't tell me, I'll ask the others.”
“O'Neill, if she regains consciousness, and the other two. They weren't difficult to find.”
“What do you mean if she doesn't regain consciousness?”
“O'Neill was very badly injured before she was found. She is being treated but I don't know if she will live.”
Shit. “Healing device?”
“Her injuries were too severe.”
“What about the sarcophagus?”
“Then how are you treating her?”
“She has been Chosen.”
Play dumb Harris. “Chosen?”
“I placed one of my children in her. But it was immature, I don't know if it can heal her.”
“You snaked her? You call that treating her?”
“Would you rather I let her die?”
“She'd rather die than be a host to a Goa'uld.”
“My children are not Goa'uld.” Nimue's temper began to rise.
“Well if they aren't Goa'uld, what the hell are they? 'Cause from where I'm sitting, you look like a Goa'uld to me.”
“I'm a Slayer.”
“Your host is a Slayer. You're a Goa'uld.”
“I'm not a host.”
“Earlier today, the glowing eyes. They're a dead giveaway. Slayers don't have glowing eyes. Goa'uld do.You are a snake in the head of a Slayer Nimue. That doesn't make you a Slayer.” He added quietly, “it doesn't make you Buffy.”
“No, I'm not Buffy. Buffy didn't survive your betrayal. She didn't survive killing her lover, and she did kill her lover. She killed Angel because Angelus had opened the portal to hell before Willow finished her spell. The spell you didn't tell me about. Buffy didn't survive being thrown out of her home by her mom that night. And finally, Buffy didn't survive being abducted and used as a lab rat by an Asgard 'scientist' named Loki. No, I'm not Buffy. When I found myself on this world I became Nimue so I could survive.”
“Buffy volunteered to become a host?”
“Loki was fascinated by my DNA. One of his experiments triggered the dormant parts of my DNA. The Goa'uld aren't the only ones who have glowing eyes. Fully activated Slayers have them too.”
Chapter 9 - Old Lies and Betrayals
“ The Goa'uld aren't the only ones who have glowing eyes. Fully activated Slayers have them too.”
Okay, how much to tell him? She had trusted him once before with disastrous results. Then again, up until then he had stood beside her and he had never hidden the fact that he didn't like Angel. She knew he didn't like the Goa'uld and she couldn't blame him for that. As far as she was concerned they ranked right down there with the Council and a certain little grey alien.
Xander wouldn't be leaving his accomdations anytime soon. Whatever she told him would stay here for as long as necessary. Her decision made, she began her tale.
“The Slayers of Earth are only shadows of the true Slayers. Our power was bound millenia ago preventing us from becoming what we were supposed to be, what we were created to be. Do you remember what Giles told us? That contrary to popular belief, earth wasn't a paradise in the beginning? That demons walked the earth before mankind?”
Xander closed his eyes and let his mind go back the Sunnydale High library. He was sitting at a table with Willow and Buffy as the new librarian explained the facts of life, Sunnydale-style. “This world is older than any of you know. Contrary to popular mythology, it did not begin as a paradise. For untold eons demons walked the Earth. They made it their home, their...their Hell. But in time they lost their purchase on this reality. The way was made for mortal animals, for man. All that remains of the old ones are vestiges, certain magicks, certain creatures...” A feminine voice broke in.
He opened his eyes. “Yeah. I remember.”
“Whether or notGiles knew it, that's not true. It's a nice little piece of propaganda but that's all it is. Demons never ruled Earth although at one point they did come close to overrunning it. You see, Earth had been a paradise of sorts. But it was a paradise riddled with weak spots between various dimensions, places where what we call magic leaked through. Some humans had even learned to harness the magic. Then the Goa'uld came, led by the one who took the name of Ra. Earth had much that the Goa'uld wanted, hosts, slaves, resources. When he found out about the weak spots, Ra thought that he could increase his domain by using them to open rifts between the dimensions. He was partially successful. He did create the rifts, he opened the first hellmouths unleasing hell on earth. The demons came through, a few at first then larger numbers. Tens of thousands eventually died...human, Jaffa, Goa'uld. Ra needed a weapon against them and so a Goa'uld scientist created the first Slayer by combining the DNA of a human and Goa'uld queen. The human portion could tap into the magic, something that Goa'uld couldn't do. The other portion gave the child the physical strength and accelerated healing of the Goa'uld as well as the genetic memory. She was also a queen capable of dual reproduction, her human daughters were Slayers but her larvae could also bestow Slayerness upon their hosts, in time creating an army.”
“Sounds like a bad plan. It takes decades for the larvae to mature.”
“For Goa'uld larvae yes. Ra couldn't wait a century for his army. Our larvae matures in less than two decades. As it turned out, he still cut it pretty close.”
“So why is there only one Slayer if an army was created?”
“You may have noticed that Earth isn't exactly overrun with demons. The Slayers served their purpose, they eliminated most of the demons and sealed the hellmouths. Once that was accomplished, there was no need for an army, especially one that could challenge the 'gods.' Ra's priests included a group of human sorcerers, the same ones that had opened the rifts for him in the first place. He used them to strip the slayers of their power. He let a few of the former slayers live and breed as humans, just as a precautionary measure. When the seal on one of the hellmouths failed, he had a single slayer partially reactivated. The spell that reactivated her is still working, it's what calls the next Slayer from the 'human' descendants of the original Slayer. Ra set his priests to watching the Slayer and the potential slayers. When he was driven from Earth, those priests stayed behind and were charged with making sure that no Slayer ever became fully activated. Any that looked like they might were to be killed before they reached maturity. In time, the priests began insuring that no slayer lived long enough. One of methods that they used was the Crucimantium. It was a nice, tidy way of killing off slayers when they turned eighteen.”
“The Watchers' Council? Giles?”
A grim expression crossed her face. “Yes. The Watchers' Council and Giles.”
“Not Giles. He wouldn't, he couldn't...”
“He did. He administered the test to Faith. It's always the slayer's watcher that prepares her for the test. The one person that a slayer believes can be trusted is the one to betray her. Whether he knew the reason why, I don't know. He did cheat though, she survived. I doubtthat the Council was happy about that.”
“Wait, how do you know about Faith?”
“I've had dreams of slayers past ever since I was first called. Other dreams were of events to come. Since I was fully activated, the dreams have only strengthened. I had several dreams involving Faith and I felt it when she was killed. Just like I've felt the death of every slayer who followed her. Most of the others died in combat, but Annabelle was murdered by order of the Council in the Crucimantium.”
Shit. He'd known the Council was a group of soulless bastards but this? Okay Harris, put this into perspective. Could she be telling the truth or was this, to use her own words, a nice piece of propaganda? Was Nimue really Buffy instead of snake in the head? She didn't ask about any of her friends or her mother, point against. Except if her mother had thrown her out, maybe she was as pissed at her mother as she was at him. She did know about Faith but if the host was having the dreams the Goa'uld would know, so no point. Chances are, Nimue is a Goa'uld.
“Say that I believe you. How did Loki “activate” your DNA? And where is he?” Okay, he'd place money on the Asgard being dead but no harm in playing dumb. Regardless of whether he was dealing with the Goa'uld or the Slayer, Buffy's memories would be of the Zeppo, the hapless goofball. No need to tip her off that he was a hell of a lot more competant than the old Xander.
“I don't know how he did it. Didn't ask while he was playing mad scientist, didn't ask when I twisted his head off.”
“He was fascinated by my body, my slayer body. He did mention something about an evolutionary step towards a fifth race. Whatever he did was meant to accelerate the process. It didn't work out the way he thought it would, apparently he had hopes that my mental capacity would expand to match my physical abilities. Then he got the bright idea of crossing my DNA with some samples that he had acquired somewhere. He tried doing the test tube thing before deciding I'd be the test tube. He got careless when I was about six months along.”
“Why didn't you come home?”
“The ship crashed here. Come on, I could barely drive a car you think I was up to piloting an alien space ship?”
“Why not use the stargate?”
“The Chaapa'ai,” Xander clarified. No need to mention that she'd have gone splat if she had tried it.
“One, I didn't have the address for Earth. Two, this planet was controlled by a Goa'uld and crawling with Jaffa. Three, I was not exactly in fighting form at the time. By the time I was, I realized that going home would put my daughter and I at too high a risk from the Council. It was safer here.”
“So you took out the local Goa'uld and put yourself in his place.”
“Not quite, so no doing the god thing. Now, your turn. Didn't see you joining the military.”
Chapter 10: An old feeling and a new lie
“Not quite, not doing the god thing. Now, your turn. Didn't see you joining the military.”
“After graduation, I wanted out of Sunnydale. Since I didn't have the money for college, it seemed like a good idea the time.”
“And SG-1? S...G, star gate. Star gate one. The Air Force has control of the Chaapa'ai?”
Great Harris. So much for holding up under questioning. Then again, it wasn't actually a secret, at least not off-world. “Yes.”
“And you don't serve the Goa'uld?”
“That would be a big no.”
Nimue began pacing. She was aware that most of the old System Lords had fallen only to be replaced by other ambitious, although less powerful Goa'uld but had not paid much attention to galactic politics beyond repelling any would-be invaders. That had been a mistake, perhaps a big one. Something had destabilized the System Lords, changed the balance of power. If humans not under Goa'uld rule were using the Chaapa'ai, that could be the key. She stopped and turned back towards him. It was time to change the topic.
“So, why leave Sunnydale after graduation?”
“Let's see, vampires, demons, lots of dead friends.”
“Willow? Giles? Cordelia?”
“Glad to see you finally remembered the old gang. Cordy didn't make it but Willow and Giles are alive. Most of our class didn't make it past graduation.”
“The guest speaker at commencement turned into a giant demon snake and started chowing down on the graduating class. Got most of them too before we blew him and the school up.”
“What, no snake solidarity?”
“Damn it Xander, for the last time, I am not a Goa'uld.”
“Well, if you are Buffy, why am I still in this cell?”
Nimue's eyes flashed in irritation.
Smart Harris, real smart. Piss off the Goa'uld again why don't ya.
“I'm not a Goa'uld, but I'm not Buffy either. Not anymore. Besides, if I were a Goa'uld, you'd be dead by now. You are in the cell because because I don't like uninvited guests. You're staying in that cell because I don't trust you. You didn't get here by the 'stargate' and I don't think NASA is up to the challenge of getting you out this far. So, the odds are that you are working for somebody else, probably a Goa'uld, even if you don't know it.” Nimue turned on her heel and walked away from his cell. “Make yourself comfortable. You might be in there a long time.”
Pain. Lots and lots of pain. And something else. She knew this feeling. She'd had it once before, but when? She opened her eyes, quickly closing them again as the pain increased. She tried again, this time just barely opening them. She took in the room from behind narrowly slit eyelids. Gray walls, but rough stone, not smooth paint. No light fixtures, natural light and what the hell? Were those torches on the walls? Definitely not the infirmary. At least not the SGC infirmary.
She closed her eyes and tried to assess just how much damage she had sustained. Difficulty breathing through her nose, possibly broken? Lips swollen, split. She ran her tongue across her teeth. All present and accounted for but a couple of them felt a bit loose. Her jaw seemed intact. One arm in a splint, torso bound. The arm felt broken, probably some cracked ribs. She raised her uninjured arm and was certain about the ribs. Legs were okay outside of some pulled muscles but lots of pain in her abdomen and... Oh god. The memory of the attack flooded back. She opened her eyes again.
A blur of color off to her right caught her attention. She gingerly turned towards it. A woman in a yellow dress stood just inside the doorway. The woman moved into the room followed by a Jaffa. In a state of panic O'Neill struggled to sit up and scoot away from the pair. The woman's lips moved but made no sound. O'Neill watched as the Jaffa retreated from the room. Her breathing slowed somewhat. The pain only increased though as she collapsed back on the bed.
The woman walked over to a nearby table. She picked up a pitcher from the table and filled a goblet. After setting the pitcher down, she continued towards the bed.
The woman gently placed one hand behind O'Neill's head and placed the goblet to her lips.
“Shh, it will be alright. You are safe now. He can't hurt you again, no one here will. You are under Milady's protection now, one of the Chosen. Drink this. It will make you feel better.”
She had no idea what the woman in yellow was saying. She couldn't hear a thing. The goblet remained at her lips. She opened her mouth and drank.
As the drugged wine began to ease her back into unconsciousness, she realized what the other feeling was. She had been snaked.
Nimue stood in the hall outside the grey chamber. Her conversation with Xander had been useful, if somewhat infuriating. This next one was a bit more problematic. She need information and, if she determined that they were not a threat, she needed them off her world as soon as possible. She suspected her latest guests wouldn't be happy to leave without the others and Xander and the woman would not be leaving. Xander because he was a security risk even before she spoke to him and the woman, if she survived, because she was now one of the Chosen. Her decision made, she grimaced for a moment, then nodded towards the guards as she smoothed her features.
Major Thomas and Dr. Johnson looked up from the table were they sat as they heard the bar on the door being removed. The door swung open and Nimue entered. They remained seated.
“I'm Daffyd and this is Hedwig. We are from one of the outlying villages.”
“Villagers would have stood and humbly bowed their heads at my entrance. You are members of SG-1 serving under Colonel O'Neill. Now, identify yourselves.”
“Major David Thomas and Dr. Howland Johnson.”
“So, what are you doing here? And skip the peaceful explorers bit.”
“Looking for naquadria. We were told that this planet was had some old mines and since it used to belong to Apophis and he's now dead...”
“You thought that you'd check it out, maybe attempt to mine it yourselves?”
Nimue walked over to the window and looked out. She watched as two Jaffa removed the corpse from the scaffold. She turned back to the two men.
“In that case, why didn't you use the Chaapa'ai to come here? I don't like spies. Now, for the last time, why are your here? Who sent you? And please do not attempt to insult my intelllegence again.”
This time, Dr. Johnson spoke up.
“We heard that there was a rising system lord here.” Thomas shot him a dirty look but allowed him to continue. “We wanted to assess the possible threat.”
“A rising system lord? I'm flattered. You are, however, mistaken. I want no part of Goa'uld politics. All I want is to be left alone, as do the people of this world.”
“For a Goa'uld not to want power is a rarity.”
“I prefer a more peaceful existance to one of endless intrigue and war.” Nimue glided over to the table and sat down next to Dr. Johnson. “Now, you could help yourselves if you would tell me where your ship is.”
“As I said, you didn't use the Chaapa'ai.”
“It dropped us off and won't return for another month.”
“And if you need to recall it in an emergency? Neither of you have any means to do that on your persons. O'Neill and Harris also lacked the means to do so. I think you are lying again.”
Thomas interjected. “Where are the Colonel and Harris?”
Now it was the time for the lie, partially couched in the truth. She wondered if Xander would appreciate the irony of what she was about to do.
“One of my Jaffa overstepped his authority. I'm afraid that your companions are dead.
Chapter 11: 3 Prisonors and a patient
“One of my Jaffa overstepped his authority. I'm afraid that your companions are dead.”
“A personal vendetta on his part, he thought he was avenging his god. He has been punished.”
Thomas recalled the mutilated corpse in the courtyard. “The Jaffa on the scaffold?”
“Bit over the top wasn't it? I mean cutting of his hands and his...” Thomas let his voice trail off.
“He committed his crime in the name of Apophis. He was fortunate that I chose the manner of his death and not his god. He died quickly and only once.” She shifted in her seat. “Now, about your ship. My Jaffa will eventually find it. You could speed things up by telling me where to find it.”
“I don't think so.”
“Then perhaps you will tell me where you got it.”
“Our government built it.”
Nimue snorted in disbelief. “My Jaffa say that you are the Tau'ri, from the first world. Your people can barely get themselves to your moon.”
“Your information is out-dated.”
“Is it? There's no way you could have advanced far enouth to leave your solar system without help. Who do you serve? Or maybe it should be who did you serve? So many System Lords have died in recent years, maybe yours was among them.”
“The Tau'ri have been free since we kicked Ra off Earth.”
“Are they?” The slightest of smiles crossed her face and only Johnson caught it. “I suppose that we will discover the truth of the matter when my Jaffa find your ship. If there is nothing in it to indicate that you are allied to the Goa'uld, you will be released and sent back to your world.”
Johnson finally spoke up. “You are just going to let us go and send us on our way?”
“If I determine that you are not a threat.”
“And if you do? Then what? A trip to the scaffold?”
“I try to avoid executing humans. If you represent a threat, you will probably find yourselves sentenced to work in one of the naquadah mines for the remainder of your life.” Nimue stood up. “If you decide to give up the location of your ship, just tell one of the guards.”
She walked out of the cell, the door closing behind her.
“Major, I don't know about you but I'd rather mine naquadah than face Jack O'Neill.”
Thomas shuddered. “Agreed.”
“How is the patient doing?”
“Not well milord. She woke up and began to panic when she saw one of the guards.”
He sighed. “I suppose that's not surprising. I will order that the Jaffa stay out of sight for the time being.”
“Milord, that might not be enough.”
Merdden waited for her to continue. When she did not, he prompted her. “Elsbet?”
She hesitated another moment before continuing. “Before Milady came, this,” she waved a hand towards the room, “was not...uncommon. There were some cases where the woman could no longer bear the presence of any male. Most eventually overcame it, others did not.”
“And you think that this will be the case?”
“I don't know. Her physical injuries are more severe than most but they may not be the worst of her injuries.”
Realizing that the discovery of those unseen injuries would have to wait, he asked about the physical ones.
“The bleeding has stopped and her breathing is easier. I'm not sure about her hearing. I gave her a sleeping draft if you would like to see her now.”
“With her head wounds?”
“She was panicking and was likely to injure herself further.”
She moved aside to let him enter the room. His eyes adjusted to the room's dimmer light as he approached the bed. He was unnerved at how still the figure on that bed was.
“How much did you give her?”
“Less than half a cup. She fell asleep quickly.”
He gently brushed the blonde hair back from the woman's face. “The bruising on her face is improving. Have you checked her ribs?”
“About an hour ago. The bruises had stopped spreading.”
“Good, can you bring a light closer.”
Elsbet brought a lamp to the bed.
Merdden carefully lifted the patient's left eyelid, then the right. “The pupils are responding.”
“It looks as if she is healing.” Merdden stood back. “I'll send Dora back to help. If there is any change, send her to me or Nimue.”
Xander finally fell into an uneasy sleep.
“Where's your team airman?” General Feretti asked.
An angry Jack O'Neill confronted him. “Where's my wife?”
A short, stocky blonde major pushed him against a wall in the gateroom. “How the hell do you make captain?”
Giles took off his glasses to clean them. “Well, what did you expect from the Zeppo? He was always the weakest link.”
The room darkened and in the shadows he could see Cordelia, Principals Snyder and Flutie, Harmony, Larry, and Jesse. Behind them were his parents, Faith, Oz, Willow.
No it couldn't be Willow with the dead. She was still alive. Wasn't she? Wasn't she?
He awoke with a start, sweat rolling off his body.
“You shouldn't swear. Mother doesn't like it.”
A small figure detached itself from of the shadows, startling him. It was the girl he had seen with Merdden.
“Nope. Neither does Dad.”
“And you're Xander. You know, Mother's still mad at you.”
He gave her a crooked smile. “Yeah, kinda figured that out.”
“You lied about Angel.”
“I understand why you did it. She does too.”
Okay, not expecting that. “So why am I in cell?”
“I said she understands, doesn't mean she's still not mad. She'll let you out. Eventually.”
“That's comforting. How about the colonel?”
“She's not a prisoner. The rest of your team is though.”
“The two men the Jaffa brought in. Mother put them in the gray chamber.”
“Where she puts important prisoners. At least the important prisoners that haven't made her mad.”
“So, I'm important am I?”
She looked at him solemnly. “You know the way back to Earth.”
Chapter 12: Husbands and Better Halves
Merdden joined his wife in their bed chamber.
“You found her?”
“She was 'visiting' Xander.”
“So, how long this time?”
“One week of mending linens and she's been banned from the stables for two.”
Nimue smirked at her husband. “And I've assigned La'tan as her guard. Maybe he'll be more vigilent than Talla was the next time she tries to disappear.”
“You think there will be a next time?”
“Isn't there always?” Nimue reflected on the number of times Buffy had slipped out on her mother. “Xander is a link to our past. She's curious.”
“She also thinks he's 'cute.'”
“What!” Nimue wondered if she could find a deeper hole to put Capt. Harris in.
“I wouldn't worry. She also said that he was a lot older than she 'remembered.'” He wrapped an arm around Nimue. “So, does that mean you thought he was cute too?”
“I was fifteen. I had no taste whatsoever, well expect for fashion.” She smiled briefly before turning the conversation to a more serious topic. “How is O'Neill?”
“Physically she's recovering but Elsbet is worried about her mental state. She panicked when she saw a Jaffa.”
Nimue nodded somberly. She had the seen the same response on too many occasions in the past. One of her first actions as ruler was to establish that rape was a crime that would severely punished. It had taken more than a dozen executions, both human and Jaffa, in that first year to drive the point home.
“I've ordered the Jaffa stay out of sight for now.”
“What about the rest of her injuries?”
“Elsbet is keeping her sedated so we won't know the full extent until later but the bruising has stopped spreading and her breathing has improved.”
Col. “Jack” O'Neill (ret.) watched as the cadets filed out out of his Military Theory, Strategy and Officership class. He'd been assigned the 100 level course as a way to evaluate students for possible tracking into the Stargate Program. It was still early but he was not enthusiastic about this batch. They'd do well in a bureaucratic setting so far none showed much aptitude for thinking outside of the box. Most were pretty good ass kissers though. He idly wondered if most of them were the offspring of politicians before discounting the notion. Ever since Vietnam there had been a very noticeable lack of the children of privilege even among the officer corps.
He gathered their papers from his desk, placing them in his briefcase. It looked like another long night of grading papers he thought as he pushed back his chair and grabbed his cane. The blown knee that signalled the end of active duty was killing him today. The terrible two were going to get pizza, again, for dinner. Sam was probably going to kill him when she got back.
Sam struggled to escape the gray clouds imprisoning her. She could feel a dull ache thoughout most ofher body and an alien presence in the back of her mind. She finally opened her eyes. Natural lighting filled the room and it took a moment before her eyes adjusted.
A woman sat next to her bed. She appeared to be mending some brownish fabric, so intent on her work that it took several minutes before she realized that she was being observed. Once she became aware that her patient was awake, she put aside the tunic she had been working on and spoke.
Sam watched as the woman's lips moved. She didn't hear a thing and tried to speak.
“Can't...can't hear you,” she managed to say.
The woman's eyes showed her dismay. She placed her hand on Sam's for a moment and then left the room.
Sam gingerly pushed herself up into a sitting position and then scooted back against the headboard. She took an inventory of her injuries, comparing them to what she remembered from the first time she woken up in the room. Overall, she was doing surprising well except for her hearing and the fact that she was probably snaked.
Tok'ra Base, undisclosed planet
Jacob was beginning to worry. Sam and SG-1 had been on the planet for over a week. They had made contact just once as they approached the planet. The plan had beenfor the team to land several days walk from Nimue's stronghold. All parties had agreed that the mission stood a much better chance of success if radio silence was maintained. Still, he had hoped that this would be a relatively short mission.
/Jacob, it's only been thirteen days. It was going to take them at least eight days to walk to the city assuming that the weather cooperated./
“I know Sel, but I just have a bad feeling about this.”
/Is it because of Anise's involvement/ she asked.
“You know me too well.”
/Hardly surprising since I've taken up residence in your head/ Selmac retorted. /Anise may have underestimated the dangers, but SG-1 is quite capable of getting themselves into and out of trouble./
“Underestimated? I've been double checking the old reports from Calendon. Nimue has been able to predict and prepare for at least two incursions, three if you count our operatives. There's no evidence that she is in contact with any other Goa'uld or anybody offworld for that matter.”
“SG-1 was to land at a distance to minimize any chance of detection. We were assuming that she was using some sort of radar or other technological detection method. But these reports indicate that Nimue had advanced warning of days, not hours.”
Sam was still sitting up when the woman returned. She was followed by Nimue, a ribbon device on her hand. Sam was still far too weak to even go through the motions of putting up fight so she settled for a dose of O'Neill defiance.
“It's going to be a little hard to torture me for information since I won't be able hear your questions.”
Nimue drew closer and raised her hand towards one side of Sam's head. The crystal glowed.
“...but tor...what I had in mind. Can you hear me now?”
Chapter 13: Conversations and a Confrontation
“...but tor...what I had in mind. Can you hear me now?”
The soft voice sounded normal. If she hadn't seen blonde's eyes flash earlier she might have believed the child/woman beside her bed was human. Well, that and if she wasn't currently using a ribbon device, albeit an apparently modified one. Maybe this was a kinder, gentler Goa'uld. Yeah right.
Sam blinked as she refocused on her captor.
“I'll take that as a yes,” Nimue said as glow of the ribbon device's crystal slowly faded.
“Interesting use of a ribbon device.”
Nimue briefly shifted her eyes to the device encompassing her left arm and hand. “It's a tool. It has multiple uses, good and bad, if you know how to use it properly. The Goa'uld, not much interested in anything but self-protection and torturing people. ”
“And you're not?”
“A Goa'uld or interested in self-protection and torture?” Nimue lowered her hand and sat down next the bed.. “I'm not a Goa'uld but I am definitely interested in self-preservation. As for enjoying frying someone's brain? No.”
O'Neill remained silent for a few minutes.
“The rest of your team is unharmed,” Nimue restarted the conversation.
“Where is Captain Harris?” She deliberately refrained from mentioning Thomas and Johnson in the hope that Nimue thought SG-1 was only a two-man team.
“Xander? He's still in his old cell but he will be safe there. I've placed additional guards on duty just in case another Jaffa forgets where his loyalty should be. Major David Thomas and Dr. Howland Johnson are enjoying better accommodations.” Nimue frowned. “Of course, I not sure that I believe that those are their correct names. I mean one sounds like he should be serving up Frosties and the other is just a little to close to HoJo's. Kinda lame.”
Score one for Harris, O'Neill thought. A Goa'uld wasn't likely to know that much about Tau'ri culture, and more specifically American culture, unless its host really was from Earth. But was he also right about the host being Hok-Tar? What had he called her, a Slayer?
“So, your host really is from Earth.”
“I am.” Nimue saw no reason to deny it. “A lifetime ago. What else did he tell you?”
“That your host might be considered Hok-Tar, Hok-Taur'i, an advanced human,” she explained at Nimue's look of confusion.
“Not exactly. I am a Slayer.”
“Your host is, Nimue, not you.”
“You've definitely spent too much time with Xander,” she replied with a grumpy edge to her voice. “Things change. I was Buffy, now I'm Nimue. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Goa'uld.”
Sam could still feel the Goa'uld in Nimue but she decided to let it pass. It really made no difference. Besides, she could feel herself rapidly losing strength and concentration.
Nimue was aware that O'Neill was fading and decided to leave for now. After all, she had other prisoners she could interrogate, or perhaps, another method would be appropriate.
“I'll leave you to rest,” she said as she rose to leave the sickroom.
Nimue smiled as she exited the room. Yes, she thought, perhaps Corryn might prove to be useful.
Tok'ra Base, undisclosed planet
Jacob, in perfect harmony with Selmac, stalked through the base's crystalline tunnels. More than one Tok'ra pulled back out of the line of fire as the oldest among them headed towards Anise's laboratory.
“Selmac,” Anise began.
“Can it. I'm in charge right now and I want a straight answer,” Jacob snarled.
“This little recon mission that the Council requested the SG-1 be sent on.”
“What is there to know? Nimue has defeated several System Lords making her a potential threat. SG-1 went to assess the level of danger that she represents.”
“Nimue hasn't tried to capitalize on her victories. Hardly the actions of a budding System Lord even if she is a Goa'uld queen. Try again.”
“I really don't...”
“I just spoke with with Per'sus. We just received word that Menhit is poised to attack Calendon. But you knew that already, didn't you?”
Realizing that her deception had been discovered, Anise capitulated.
“We need to discover how Nimue knows about impending attacks. There is no sign of any technology that would give her advanced warning. Nor is there any sign that she has spies off-world.”
“So you used me to send in SG-1 blind.”
“It was necessary.”
Corryn clutched his scrolls to his chest as he approached the gray chamber. Nimue's charge was unprecedented. Certainly in his lifetime no mere clerk had ever been given such a mission of such magnitude. Neither his father nor his father's father had even hinted of such an important task. He would not fail his lady.
The prisoners had taken up positions at opposite ends of the room when they heard the scraping of the bar on the outside of their cell door. A servant girl had already brought them their day's rations so they were not expecting visitors. They watched as a spindly young man entered. The door closed behind him and the man flinched ever so slightly as the bar was slid back into place.
“I am Corryn, clerk to the Lady Nimue.” He placed his scrolls on the table and extracted a small bottle and quill from his robes.
“Yes, I'm here to assess what galanas and sarhad may be owed to your people for the lives of your companions.”
Thomas looked at Johnson for direction.
“Galanas? Sarhad?” Thomas asked.
Corryn looked up from arranging his papers. “Compensation for the loss of Colonel O'Neill and Captain Harris. If our Lady determines that you do not serve the Goa'uld then their families are entitled to payment. I am here to determine the level of payment owed based on their familial and social status.”
The anthropologist in Johnson couldn't resist the opening.
“How does that work?”
“All humans have a base worth. After that, the galanas is based on whether they are the sole support of their parents or children. The age of the children is also taken into consideration. A infant still at the breast receives more than a child who is near adulthood as its caretaker must be compensated. The sarhad is derived from the social status. I have been given to understand that a Colonel is a higher rank than Captain although both are military ranks, although I am unclear as to the degree of difference.”
“A number of early European cultures had a similar concept. Economically it made sense. An eye for an eye didn't do as much for the victim's family as financial compensation.”
“Precisely,” Corryn nodded happily. “Of course, as the Jaffa responsible is already dead, the Lady will be providing both the galanas and sarhad if required. She is most kind.”
Chapter 14: Betrayal and a Return
Tok'ra Base, undisclosed planet
“Per'sus, you approved this?”
The leader of the Tok'ra High Council spoke.”Selmac, calm your host.”
Jacob's eyes flashed as Selmac took over his body. “Considering Anise sent his, no our, daughter into a war zone with inadequate information he and I arequite calm. The mission that the SGC agreed to was to determine the level of threat Nimue posed.”
“And her ability to determine when an attack was imminent is part of that threat,” Per'sus stated.
“They had a right to know.”
“And if they had been captured, their foreknowledge of the attack might have fallen into Nimue's hands. The Tok'ra need to know how she learns of an attack.”
“SG-1 had a right to know. They are our allies, not cannon fodder.”
“They are soldiers.”
“But not disposable ones.”
“Nimue,” Merdden said quietly as he entered their bedchamber.
His beloved continued to look of the room's main window with unfocused eyes, her left hand slowly rubbing the ribbon device on her right.
“Nimue,” he said again as he reached her side.
“Time is running out.” She turned towards her husband. “The Hunters have failed to find the Tau'ri's ship. I can not wait any longer. I need to know if they are connected to the upcoming invasion. Corryn's report was less than helpful.”
“As you knew it would be,” Merdden countered.
“They needed to believe that the other prisoners are dead. They also expected to be interrogated. I did, however, expect to get some information,” Nimue stated. “I was hoping to eventually get more reliable information from the Hunters but SG-1 has hidden their ship well.”
“If there is a ship, perhaps they were only dropped off by one.”
“Perhaps. But either way, it has not been found.” Nimue flexed her right hand. “I need to know if they are involved with the attack.”
“And if they are? Wouldn't you have foreseen it?”
“I don't know but we can't take the risk. If they are part of the attacking force, they die,” she said. “If they are innocent, I'll send Johnson and Thomas through the Chaapa'aii before the battle.”
“And O'Neill and Harris?”
“Harris will remain where he is. O'Neill,” she paused, “O'Neill will be sent to one of the shelters, under guard.”
Thomas and Johnson were slowly going crazy. It had been over a week since Corryn's visit. Nimue had not returned and no one, other than the same two servants with their Jaffa guards, had entered their room since.
The only thing that was keeping them slightly sane was watching the goings on in the courtyard. Activity had been steadily building, with troop levels rising and the civilian population slowly diminishing. The previous day they had watched as Nimue and Merdden escorted a young girl, presumably Aurora, to the courtyard below where she joined a small troop of Jaffa and humans. As the group left, the watching men had realized that they were going to have a ringside seat of yet another attempted Goa'uld invasion of Calendon. Their jailers refused to confirm or deny it but the evidence was steadily mounting.
Thomas was dozing off on the room's only bed when Johnson finally made the connection.
“They knew didn't they?” Johnson asked.
“Jacob wouldn't have sent the colonel in blind. Anise, probably. The rest of them, who knows.”
“Remind me again why we call them allies.”
Before Thomas could reply, they heard the bolt drawn back on the cell door.
This time, no human servants entered. Only four Jaffa.
“Come, Nimue will see you now.”
A furious Brigadier General Ferretti leaned back in his chair. Across the conference table sat a subdued Jacob Carter.
“Jacob,” he asked, “is there any chance that you might be mistaken?”
“No. Per'sus eventually admitted the truth. Nimue is not considered a threat by the Tok'ra at this time. The true goal of the mission was to determine where Nimue's intelligence was coming from.”
“And damn the consequences.”
The base alarm sounded off closely followed by the announcement of an unscheduled off-world activation.
The pair headed to the control room.
The sergeant on duty confirmed that the wormhole originated from the Alpha site and that they had incoming travelers.
Ferretti and Jacob watched as only two members of SG-1 arrived.
Menhit watched from the balcony of his pyramid ship as the preparations continued for the assault on Calendon. If the reports of this new Goa'uld were true, there was a queen for the taking. Her current consort would be disposed of but by holding one or both of her children hostage, he was sure that she would be compliant. A fertile queen would ensure the increase of Jaffa to the point where, in time, he could take his rightful place as the leader of the System Lords.
The debriefing of the surviving members of SG-1 began in the base infirmary, starting with why only Thomas and Johnson returned.
“According to Nimue, one of her Jaffa killed them.”
“Any proof?” Ferretti barked.
“No sir, but there was no sign of either the Colonel or Harris after we were captured,” Thomas reported. “Other than a brief interrogation on the first day, we were just kept locked up in what was known as the gray tower. The only people we saw were the Jaffa guards, a couple of servants, and a clerk. It wasn't until today that she became serious about finding out who we were.”
“So, what changed?” Ferretti asked.
“We did notice a build up troop levels in the city over the last few days as well as an exodus of civilians including Nimue's oldest daughter.”
“So do you think that between the time that you were captured and today, she learned about Menhit's plans?”
“Yes sir. But her information didn't include whether or not SG-1 was part of the Goa'uld's attack. She used a ribbon device on us to find out what we knew before sending us through the gate.”
“She just tortured you and then let you go?” Jacob was surprised.
“Not exactly,” Thomas said. “I've been ribboned before. She just wanted information. She could have made it hurt a lot worse than she did.”
Johnson nodded in agreement.
“What information was she looking for? Or should I ask, what information did she extract?”
“She found out that we didn't know about the attack,” Johnson said. “Since we weren't involved, she let us go.”
“After she finished with us, she had us escorted to the Stargate. We dialed to Cimmeria and from there we 'gated to the Alpha Site,” Thomas added. “But she did warn us that if we came back, she would not be so generous.”
“And you saw no sign of Sam or Captain Harris?”
“No, not after they were captured. I'm sorry Jacob.”
He was given bread and water twice a day which allowed him to keep track of time. It had been at least two weeks since he had seen anyone besides the Jaffa that brought him his rations. As the bread was exceptionally coarse and dry, he found himself longing for the joys of an MRE. At least Buffy, no Nimue, wasn't intending to starve him to death although the joys of malnutrition were definitely a possibility if his diet didn't improve.
Xander stared at the bars of his cell. For the thousandth time he replayed his earlier encounter with Aurora. If the child had been telling the truth, his team was not going to be riding to the rescue. Given the unpleasant reality that he was still locked up after nearly a week, he doubted that she had lied. There were no signs of even a thwarted rescue. Odds were that Thomas and Johnson had been captured. With colonel badly injured (he wasn't even going to contemplate that she might be dead) SG-1 was royally screwed unless the SGC sent in a retrieval team.
He rearrange his long body in an attempt to find a more comfortable position when he heard the first explosions.
Chapter 15: Fears and smiles
Jack watched from his front doorway as Lou Ferretti's car headed back to the mountain. As the taillights faded from view, he retreated inside, quietly closing the door.
MIA, presumed KIA. Not officially of course, not yet. Sam hadn't been missing long enough for a cover story to go into effect. Besides, she was a part of SG-1, the team that always came back. The SGC had lost entire teams over the years, but SG-1 was the magic team. Oh, a team member might get misplaced from time to time and, on occasion, the entire team would go missing, but SG-1 always came back. Except the one time. SG-1 had lost Daniel Jackson, first to ascension, and then in the battle for Abydos. Anubis had been stopped but Daniel had never been seen again.
Lou and Jacob had delivered the news about Sam personally. Only two members of SG-1 had returned, released by the latest snakehead in Goa'uldville. And since when did a Goa'uld just let a member of the SGC go free? Jack ran his hand through his silver hair. Something was going on, he just knew it. Leaning heavily on his cane, he went to check on the children.
After a brief lull following the first explosions, Xander realized that the sound was not that of the cavalry coming to his rescue. A Jaffa brought several days worth of rations to his cell as the bombardment resumed. He had seen no one since.
“Great, as if this wasn't a big enough cluster fuck already,” he grumbled as the bombardment picked up in intensity on what he thought was day two. He checked to make sure that rest of his rations were protected as his cell shook. Nearly half of his water had spilled during an earlier volley and he wasn't going to take any chances on losing the remainder. Unfortunately, the vibrations, while knocking loose part of the ceiling, had no noticeable effect on the cell bars.
If he ever got out of his cell, and off this planet, he was going to personally track down Anise and wring her neck. He'd only kick Jacob's ass as he didn't think that the retired general would sent his daughter in blind on purpose. Then again, maybe Selmak would have. He'd have to think about that some more.
He closed his eyes and attempted to get some rest, if not sleep. Eventually, he succeeded. He awoke to silence.
The battle above ground appeared to be over.
The only question now was which side had won. Somehow, he had a feeling that Nimue had. He wasn't sure if that was a good thing.
Quentin Travers reviewed the paperwork that his assistant, Jeffrey Slocum, had just delivered. Everything looked to be in order.
“Excellent work, Slocum,” the head of the Watchers' Council smiled. It was a cold smile.
“Thank you, sir. Mr. Townsend has sent word that he is ready to begin as soon as you give the word.”
“Tell be to start as soon as transport begins. Everything must be in place by the time the cargo arrives.”
Nimue surveyed the devastation that was her capitol city. Several sections of the outer wall would need to be replaced. A perfect job for her newest Jaffa, especially as they were responsible for the damage. Luckily, much of the housing was still habitable, if somewhat scorched. Her living quarters, however, had taken a direct hit.
Merdden and Aurora were returning with the Chosen and their Jaffa guards. The latter would also pressed into service repairing the damage, as would the returning civilians. Every able bodied individual, human and Jaffa, would be needed in the coming weeks.
On a more positive note, she now had a second ship. And this time, those who knew how to fly it had decided following their god to the underworld was not in their best interest.
A cold smile graced her face. “Soon, my sisters will be avenged,” she whispered.
It was a beautiful Monday morning in Bott Park. The O'Neill terrors, Janet and Danny, were having a blast while their father sat in the nearby shade with his female companion.
“Jack?” Her voice was deliberately quiet as she tried to get his attention. Even his sunglasses hadn't been able to disguise the fact that he was staring off into the distance.
“It's Sam.” He turned to Cassie. “Lou called this morning. It's official. Missing, presumed killed.”
When Jack had asked her to meet him in the park, she had known something was wrong. She just didn't realize just how bad the news was going to be. After Daniel died, she lived in dread that she would lose what little family she had left. The loss of Janet Fraiser, her adopted mother, had only compounded the dread. It was something that she never spoke of though, as if by ignoring it she could prevent it from happening again.
“Are they sure,” she asked.
“Close enough. Half of her team made it back.” Jack looked over to the sandbox where his children were playing, unaware of how their world was about to change. “How do I tell them Cassie?”
“Maybe you don't, at least not yet. It's only been a couple of weeks,” she said softly. “Sam's pulled off miracles before.”
In the weeks since their return to the SGC, Thomas and Johnson had undergone every physical and psychological test known to Tau'ri and Tok'ra. They had been poked, prodded, and head shrunk. Finally, positive that neither man had been compromised, the powers that be declared both men fit for duty. That was when General Ferretti dropped his little bombshell. With Colonel Carter now officially classified as MIA, Colonel Evan Lorne had been appointed to lead SG-1.
“Lorne,” Johnson questioned his teammate as they headed to locker room carrying a couple of boxes, “what's he like?”
“Good man. He's been with the program for over a decade but for the last couple of years he's been stationed at the Gamma site.”
“Yeah, I wouldn't wish that posting on anyone.”
Major Thomas stopped at the Colonel's locker. He started to open it, then stopped.
“Dave, do you want me to do it,” Johnson asked his friend.
Thomas shook his head. “No, I'll do it. You empty Harris' locker.”
Both men worked in silence as they cleared out their old teammates' belongings. It was only when Johnson reached the last of the items that a couple of photographs fell to the floor. As he stooped to pick them, he realized that there might be more to the loss of the Colonel and Harris than they originally thought.
“Holy shit,” he swore. “Dave, you are not going to believed this.”
Thomas looked the top picture of three pretty teenagers. A blonde, a brunette, and a redhead. It could have been the beginning a dirty joke if the blonde hadn't been Nimue's twin.
Chapter 16: New Fears and Old Memories
“Is Lady Samantha awake yet?” Nimue stood at the entrance of what would be the colonel's quarters for the foreseeable future.
“No M'lady. She was given a sleeping draft before we returned,” the healer said.
“Is she still unwell?”
“In body no, but she is still greatly disturbed by the presence of the Jaffa. To travel back this far in their presence...”
“I see.” And indeed, Nimue did see. In some ways it was too bad that she didn't have a working sarcophagus on hand earlier. She rather thought that the traitorous Jaffa's death was too quick. She could only hope that it would remind every male on the planet that some things were never to happen again. Still, the eldest among the Chosen would have to become accustomed to Jaffa, and men in general, unless she wished to spend the rest of her life as a hermit.
“Send me word as soon as she is awake. Merdden and I will speak with her.”
- - -
Willow was working in the small garden in front of her townhouse when a dark sedan turned on to the street. It approached her yard and slowed down, coming to a stop just beyond her driveway. As the engine turned off, she looked up from to see two men exiting the vehicle. She wiped her hands off on her jeans and stood. One man was in uniform.
“No, no,” she whispered. “Please, not Xander.”
“Dr. Rosenburg?” the uniformed man asked.
“Yes. Can I help you?” Please, please let Xander be okay.
“I'm Major Dave Thomas. Captain Harris listed you as his next kin.”
Willow sank back to her knees, tears slipping down her face.
“Way to go Major,” his companion said under his breath. “I can see why the Air Force usually farms this duty out to trained personnel.”
The civilian stooped down to her level. “I'm Dr. Howland Johnson. The major and I work with Captain Harris. I'm sorry to inform you that he is currently listed as MIA.”
“Missing in action? He was stationed in Colorado. How could he be MIA? Was he transferred to the Middle East?”
“I'm sorry that's classified,” the major answered. “All I can say is that he is a member of my team.”
“And you came all this way just to tell me he was missing?”
“Well, actually no.” The major looked decidedly uncomfortable. “When we were emptying his locker we found some pictures that we were hoping you could identify.”
For the first time, Willow noticed the briefcase the major was holding. She stood up and started walking towards her home's back door.
Johnson also stood and both men followed the red head into the house.
“Thomas, you know you can be a real ass at times.”
“Showing a little sensitivity would not be a bad thing,” Johnson said quietly.
“Emptying his locker?” The civilian shook his head. “You pretty much said that Harris is missing and presumed dead.”
- - -
“Let me see them,” Willow requested as they sat around her kitchen table.
The major unlocked the briefcase and withdrew a manila folder. He opened it and pushed it towards the red head.
She looked at each photograph, tears pooling in her eyes. Her hands caressed the picture of the boy with green hair before picking up another photograph.
“Ma'am, can you identify the individuals in these pictures?”
She nodded. “Me and Oz, uh, Daniel Osbourne. Jesse McNally. Cordelia Chase. Buffy Summers and Xander. Faith. What does this have to do with Xander being missing?”
“We're not sure. A woman matching the description of Miss Summers was seen in the vicinity when Captain Harris disappeared.”
“Well it wasn't Buffy.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Are you certain?”
“She disappeared at the end of our junior year in high school. Her body was found about two years later.”
“Are you certain it was her body?”
“The police said it was. Giles agreed.”
“He was our high school librarian. He was pretty much the only adult that gave a damn about her in the end. Buffy disappeared after Mrs. Summers threw her out of the house. Giles spent the summer looking for her. Her mother joined a book club. When the police finally stumbled across her..body...her parents didn't even bother to claim her. Giles had to make the arrangements.”
“Is it possible that he made a mistake?” Johnson really wanted to know how the body was identified but he couldn't quite say it to the frail woman in front of him.
The body had to be Buffy's. Dear goddess it had to be.
“No, some of her belongings were found near the body,” she stated firmly. “It was Buffy.”
- - -
Sitting under the shade of some scaffolding, Xander readjusted the rag around his left wrist, carefully tucking the rough ends under the gold gauntlet. Shortly after the end of the battle the damned thing had been put on him. It had taken three Jaffa to do it however. After its purpose had been explained to him, he had been taken topside and placed on a work detail repairing the city's outer wall. He tried escaping the first day only to fall unconscious before reaching the tree line. K'tar, the Jaffa wearing the matching bracelet, had not been amused as he had been walking on the scaffolding at the time. Falling twenty feet to the ground when he lost consciousness had not endeared Xander to the Jaffa. K'tar's head wound had healed quickly thanks to his symbiote. Xander's head wound, courtesy of K'tar, was still scabbed over. K'tar was also apparently immune to the chafing that Xander was trying to prevent with the rag.
With escape no longer an option, Xander had been concentrating on gathering intel. The attack on Calendon had been launched by Menhit, a Goa'uld that he had not heard of before. Menhit had failed, leaving Nimue with a new crop of Jaffa and a second pyramid ship. Nimue's Jaffa had also discovered SG-1's transport ship at some point. He had less luck finding out about the colonel. One worker, a human female, had claimed that O'Neill had been moved to a more secure location before the attack but was unaware of her current location.
“Break's over,” a voice called as a stone-filled wagon rolled into view.
Xander stood back up and headed towards the wagon.
- - -
“Willow, the dental records matched. It was Buffy,” the elderly man spoke into the telephone handset. “It must be a coincidence... No, if Angelus had turned her, they would have come back and killed us all... Alright, I will see what I can find out. Yes, of course without letting the Council know.”
Several minutes later, Giles hung up.
It was a coincidence of course. His first slayer, like his second, was dead. Like he would soon be. Willow would truly be alone then if Xander was lost. Still, for Willow's sake he would speak with the coven as they could be trusted not to report back to Quentin and his cronies.