"You were trespassing on my domain!" the Goa'uld on the throne exclaimed, angrily. He glared at the four people kneeling in front of him, his First Prime standing beside them with a painstick in his hand.
The Goa'uld on the throne was a youngish looking man, with short, dark hair, and piercing black eyes. His face was regular, and he was quite handsome, even though his cold expression detracted some from his appeal. He was dressed in the Egyptian style, as was another man - probably also a Goa'uld - standing a few steps behind him. That man's fiery red hair and green eyes made him look oddly out of place, though the lack of a cynical expression did that in any case. His look was more blank than evil.
"Sorry," O'Neill said, not looking like he meant it. "Didn't know it was yours. Maybe you should put up a sign? Who are you, by the way?"
"Insolence! I am Lord Hu! How can you not know my greatness?" He motioned at the nearest Jaffa, who gave O'Neill a hard blow on the shoulder, making him cry out and fall forward. Hu smirked. "Of course, the Tau'ri, know little of what happens in the Galaxy. SG-1! Yes, I recognize you! Heru'ur shall be most pleased with me when I present you as my gift!"
O'Neill picked himself up from the floor, and looked at the Goa'uld. "Huh? Really? That's your name?"
"That is enough!" Hu roared, furious over the insulting way O'Neill was behaving. "You will tell me why you are here, and then Heru'ur shall get you. You are going to regret your insolent behaviour, human!" He turned to his Jaffa. "Kree! Show the human what happens when you disobey your god!"
The Jaffa immediately jammed a painstick against O'Neill's neck, causing him to fall forward again, and the light to shine strongly from his mouth and eyes.
Before the interrogation could continue, a nervous man entered the room, bowing very deeply. "I... I apologize, my Lord, but you have a visitor. He is most insistent."
Hu looked at the man with such anger, that the already nervous man paled and seemed close to fainting. Hu turned to the man standing behind him. "Thopar. Handle it."
"At once, my Lord." The underling bowed and left.
Thopar stepped back into the throne room and observed the scene before him for a few moments, frowning slightly. Hu was still interrogating the prisoners, alternating between using his ribbon device and letting his Jaffa use their painsticks on them. It did not seem like they were giving Hu any information, or perhaps he was not really interested in any.
The young Goa'uld walked up to his master, again giving the Jaffa and prisoners the briefest of glances, before bowing in front of Hu. "My Lord, I regret to interrupt you, but your presence elsewhere is required. A messenger from Heru'ur has just arrived."
"Now?" Hu exclaimed, turning angrily. "While I am amusing myself? Why can you not handle this?"
"I apologize, my Lord, but he insists the information can only be given directly to you. I felt it... pertinent, that we do not let Heru'ur's messenger wait. Not after... the unfortunate accident at Heru'ur's palace last month."
Hu glared at him for a moment longer, then sighed. "You are correct, Thopar." He gave his prisoners a look of regret. "I will continue this later, perhaps. Have them placed in a holding cell, then inform the cook that he had better prepare a perfect dinner tonight..."
"Of course, my Lord." Thopar bowed deeply.
O'Neill straightened, trying to find a position that did not hurt as much. It did not seem possible. He groaned. "Tell me again, why did we go to this damn planet?"
"The 'shady character' as you called him, at the market place on P3R-325, claimed that it had been abandoned by the Goa'uld, despite there still being naquadah left in the mines," Teal'c reminded him, surfacing briefly from his kel'no'reem.
"Made us pay him a good price in gold, too." O'Neill grumbled. "Any luck?" he called to Sam, who was fiddling with the lock on the door.
"No, sir, not yet." She grimaced as a too fast movement caused the pain and nausea to return. Side-effects of torture with the ribbon-device, she knew.
"Meaning we're stuck! It's only a matter of time before the Goa'uld finishes talking with that messenger, and then he'll probably go right back to torturing us," Daniel observed morosely, not opening his eyes. He was lying on the only bench in the room, moving as little as possible.
"I don't think so. It sounded like it'll be some time... maybe even until tomorrow," Sam said. "It should give us time to heal up. Mostly, anyway."
"Yeah, why didn't they throw us in the sarcophagus? Don't they usually do that?" O'Neill asked.
"Not always. The Goa'uld sometimes use this a way of wearing down their prisoner's resistance, making them more likely to talk," Teal'c told them. "Besides, our injuries are not severe."
O'Neill snorted. "Not severe! Tell that to my neck - or my shoulder! Actually, just about any part of my body!"
"Teal'c is right, sir. We're sore and uncomfortable, but we've got no life-threatening injuries." Sam sighed, frustrated. "I can't get this door opened!"
"I refuse to die at the hands of a Goa'uld called something as stupid as 'Hu'!" O'Neill exclaimed.
"We won't - he's going to give us to Heru'ur, remember?" Daniel said. "Not that it matters. We're dead anyway."
"Maybe not..." Sam frowned. "I'm almost certain the underling - Thopar - is a Tok'ra."
"A Tok'ra? Why hasn't he done anything, then?" O'Neill scoffed. "He just let Hu torture us, for Christ's sake!"
"Maybe he couldn't do anything immediately, not without getting his cover blown," Sam suggested. "Wouldn't do us much good if he just got himself locked up too."
"Or maybe he hasn't been told we're friends of the Tok'ra?" Daniel said.
"I guess that's possible." Sam admitted. "I don't know how often they keep their undercover operatives updated, or even if it's something they'll deem important enough to tell them."
"Hrmph," O'Neill said. "We'll see, I guess."
Thopar - or Porwin, as his real name was - hurried to his quarters as soon as he had given the order to have the prisoners thrown into a holding cell.
*They were badly injured. Perhaps we should have had them sent to the sarcophagus first,* Jihlen sounded worried.
*If I had done so without Hu's explicit order, I would have angered him, perhaps even arosen his suspicion. We cannot afford that. You know how important our work here is. Hu may be a minor Goa'uld, but he is Heru'ur's ally, and that means he gets invited to all major meetings, and celebrations. As his loyal underling, he usually brings me as well,* Porwin told his host. *Besides, their injuries were not that severe. Even the humans will heal on their own. The sarcophagus is not a thing to use lightly.*
*They are friends of the Tok'ra. Our... allies. The are even the team known as SG-1, the ones who made contact with the Tok'ra.*
*Yes, and that is why we will take the risk and contact our base. Hopefully, Hu will go through with his plan to send the prisoners as a gift to Heru'ur - that will give some of our people the opportunity to save them. I feel fairly confident Hu will do as we expect.*
*Perhaps. In any case... do you really think the Council will agree to send a rescue team?*
*Probably. I believe Garshaw has become quite convinced of the importance that we cooperate with the Tau'ri. Also, Selmak's new host is Tau'ri, so she will vote in favour as well. Of course, there is also the fact that Jolinar's former host, Captain Samantha Carter, is among the prisoners. She holds much information which could endanger the Tok'ra, were the Goa'uld to access it.* Porwin opened the door to his quarters, and went inside, closing it after him, then locking it.
He methodically went through all the rooms and closets, checking everywhere that no one was there. When he was certain they were alone, he pushed his bed a little bit out from the wall, and opened a panel on the back.
*It is incredibly dangerous to allow this Samantha Carter to go on missions without a symbiote. Why do the Council permit it?* Jihlen complained. *What if she has all of Jolinar's memories? Then she would know the placement of a great many of our operatives and location of several bases and outposts. There are much which has not changed since before Jolinar died!*
*We cannot force Samantha Carter to refrain from going on missions, and we obviously cannot force her to become a host!* Porwin pulled a small transmission device from the hidden room, sounding tense. *Sorry, I know that is not what you meant.* He 'hugged' his host and took a deep breath. *Being undercover is wearying. Seeing the Goa'uld mistreat their slaves and prisoners, are even more so. So many suffers, and we can do little or nothing!* He took a deep breath, and let it out slowly, letting the frustration drain with it.
Jihlen 'hugged' him back. *We are doing something now. Maybe, together, one day the Tok'ra and the Tau'ri will see the fall of the Goa'uld System Lords.*
*That will be a wonderful day indeed!* Porwin went to the door and listened. All was quiet.
*Even if the Council decides in favour of a mission to retrieve the Tau'ri and the Jaffa prisoners, someone will have to agree to take on that mission. The Council would not make such an endeavour an order. Our association with the Tau'ri is not yet that strong,* Jihlen considered it for a moment. *Perhaps Selmak will go? Since her host's daughter is one of the prisoners.*
*Selmak is a member of the Council. She will likely not be permitted to go on such a dangerous mission. Not so soon after getting a new, untried host.*
*Maybe Jolinar's mate will volunteer, then? Since Jolinar is partially responsible for any danger to the Tok'ra, given that she took an unwilling host.*
Porwin sighed. He understood his host. Many of the Tok'ra shared his outrage at what Jolinar had done.
"Jolinar is dead - and she could not have foreseen what would happen as a result of one rash decision - however much against the law of the Tok'ra it was. As for Lantash, he is not at fault for what his mate did, but knowing how passionate he is about Tok'ra principles, he may still feel it is his responsibility.* Porwin sighed again. *Regardless, it will soon be out of our hands. Please, be silent while I record and encode the message. As you know, I have some transmissions I need to send for Hu very soon. I am hoping to hide this message inside that signal.*
"Move, human!" the Jaffa shouted, pushing Daniel in the back with his staff weapon.
He stumbled, and would have fallen if Sam had not steadied him.
They were walking along the road to the Stargate, on the way to being handed over as a gift to Heru'ur. Hu apparently wanted to use them to ingratiate himself with the other Goa'uld.
Ahead of them was a dense forest, with the path meandering through it. It was not a very wide road, but since it was not overgrown at all, it was probably reasonably well travelled. Probably it was mainly used by Jaffa travelling to and from the Stargate, perhaps escorting slaves that brought food and other supplies to Hu's palace.
"This looks like a good place for an ambush," Lantash observed, indicating the dense shrubbery and the thick foliage of the trees.
"I agree," Tiana said, after studying the terrain for a few moments. "The Jaffa should not be able to see us from here." She turned and looked back the way they had come. "The chaapa'ai is somewhat further away than what I would prefer, though. We would have to move swiftly to make our escape after rescuing SG-1."
"How certain are we that they will even be taken this way?" Aldwin asked.
"Fairly certain," Lantash said. "According to Porwin, Hu would probably present SG-1 to Heru'ur, as a gift. He apparently needs to increase his standing after accidentally killing Heru'ur's favourite hunting falcon."
"And they are unlikely to be taken there by ship, so since this is the only road to the chaapa'ai, they will pass by here," Tiana added.
Aldwin nodded. "That makes sense. Do we have any estimate on when?"
Lantash shook his head. "No. Hopefully soon, since later probably means Hu wishes to torture his prisoners for information before handing them over." He looked up at the Sun which could be seen straight over their heads - the only position where it could actually be seen from inside this dark forest. "We shall just have to wait and see."
This part of the road went through fairly dense forest, and just when the guards and the prisoners turned a bend, the lead Jaffa was suddenly hit by a zat'nik'tel shot. Chaos erupted, but before the Jaffa had time to get their bearings, three more of them had collapsed to the ground. Six Jaffa were still standing, confusedly looking around, but with their staff weapons at the ready, trying to determine where the attackers were located.
The members of SG-1 took advantage of their guards apparently having forgotten about them, and the fact that only their feet were chained together.
Teal'c grabbed a knife from the nearest Jaffa, and cut his throat, killing him before anyone could stop him. Meanwhile, O'Neill and Sam had each snatched a zat'nik'tel from a Jaffa, and shot one enemy each. Another volley of zat'nik'tel shots came from the dense trees beside the path, felling the last three Jaffa.
Seeing that all the Jaffa were down - and dead or unconscious, Lantash and the other Tok'ra crawled down from the tree tops where they had been sitting.
Lantash gave control to Martouf. Not wanting to risk getting shot at, he called out to SG-1. "Do not shoot. We are Tok'ra." He stepped out onto the road.
"Martouf," Sam exclaimed, surprised, but pleased.
"Marty! Good to see you!" O'Neill grinned. "Thanks for..." He waved his hand, indicating the Jaffa on the ground. "This..."
Martouf smiled. "You are quite welcome." He indicated his companions. "These are Aldwin and Tiana."
"Hello," Aldwin said, making the small Tok'ra half-bow in greeting.
Tiana did as Aldwin. "Greetings."
"Hi, guys!" O'Neill nodded at them.
Martouf went to the Jaffa leader, and searched him, quickly locating his keys. While the other Tok'ra disarmed the Jaffa, who were starting to wake up, Martouf quickly worked at unlocking the foot chains that held the members of SG-1 locked together.
"We should move quickly. It will not be long before the Jaffa are back on their feet," Martouf warned.
"Perhaps we could zat them again?" O'Neill suggested.
"Wouldn't that kill them?" Daniel asked.
"It very well may. The time which has passed since the previous zat'nik'tel shot is, perhaps, not quite long enough. Shooting them again may risk killing some of them," Martouf answered, removing the last of the chains.
"I honestly can't say that's something that's concerning me much right now!" O'Neill exclaimed, thinking of how the Jaffa had kept pushing and hitting him and the others, when they did not move fast enough.
"We also cannot risk the Jaffa raising the alarm," Martouf said, somewhat apologetically. "We must simply hope enough time has passed to allow them to live." He fired at one of the Jaffa who were already sitting up. "We should leave." He shot two more Jaffa that had woken up, and O'Neill shot a fourth, then SG-1 and the Tok'ra all ran in the direction of the Stargate.
"We don't have a GDO," Sam said observed.
"It is of no concern. The Tok'ra have one, so we will got to our base," Martouf said, as he quickly dialled the address to a stopover world.
"Jaffa!" Tiana suddenly called out, shooting at the approaching enemy with one of the staff weapons they had taken from the Jaffa.
They all quickly crouched down behind what large rocks they could find, or dove for bushes, activating their staff weapons - unfamiliar as these were to some of them.
The firefight was as violent as it was brief, and mere minutes later all the attacking Jaffa lay dead or badly wounded on the ground.
"Everyone okay?" O'Neill asked, getting up from where he had taken cover behind a fairly large rock.
"I think so..." Sam said, looking around, seeing Daniel, Teal'c, Martouf/Lantash, and Tiana getting up.
"Aldwin is down!" Martouf exclaimed, hurrying to the other Tok'ra's side. He kneeled beside him, holding his hand over Aldwin's head, as the Tok'ra usually did when checking on the energy signature and strength of the symbiote.
"How is he?" Sam asked, worried.
She and Daniel joined Martouf. Tiana, O'Neill, and Teal'c kept guard while the others checked on Aldwin.
"He was hit in the back, just under the left shoulder," Martouf told her. "Gerim will be able to heal it, but it would be better if we could get back to our base quickly."
Martouf redialled the Stargate, and then he and Sam carefully lifted up the still unconscious Aldwin. They hurried through the wormhole, followed by the others.
"Sure you should be out of bed already?" O'Neill asked.
After he had talked to the Council, he had gone to the healers rooms, to check on Aldwin, feeling somewhat responsible since the Tok'ra had been injured while rescuing him and his team.
Sam, Daniel, and Teal'c, as well as Martouf/Lantash were still being debriefed. Tiana had talked briefly with the Council, then left on an important errand for them.
"Yes, I am healed, but thank you for your concern." Aldwin smiled at him.
"Guess having a symbiote is good for something." O'Neill grinned.
"How gracious of you to admit that," Lantash said, somewhat acerbically, as he walked into the room, followed by Teal'c, Sam, and Daniel.
"Oh, hi." O'Neill turned to look at them. "Lanny."
Lantash frowned. "'Lanny'?"
"Aw, come on! It's... an affectionate nickname," O'Neill insisted.
"I see." Lantash's frown deepened, then he suddenly grinned. "In that case, thank you, Jacky!" He got a smug look on his face.
O'Neill made a face and shuddered. "Oy! You know, on second thought, perhaps our normal names are good enough, wouldn't you say, Lantash?"
"Absolutely." Lantash smiled, triumphantly.
Sam and Daniel both rolled their eyes, and Teal'c raised an eyebrow, as they observed the exchange.
"Well, if no one else has said it, I'm going to - thanks for coming to save us, guys!" Sam said, wanting to steer the conversation in a different direction.
"Indeed. We are grateful for your assistance," Teal'c offered, bowing his head in respect.
"Yeah, good work - of course, given a little time, we might have made it out ourselves..." O'Neill began, then Daniel elbowed him in the side.
"Um, okay." O'Neill shrugged, then smiled. "Okay. I'll admit it. Just this one time. We were totally screwed."
"Thank you," Aldwin said, smiling at him.
Lantash smiled as well, then inclined his head. "Thank you. We're pleased the rescue was a success."
"Well, if the situation was reversed, and all that... you know..." O'Neill said. "We don't leave anyone behind."
Lantash nodded. "I understand. Your people and ours are friends. Allies."
The others smiled. Allies. It was a good word.
"Do your mess hall - or whatever it's called - have cake?" O'Neill asked.
"Yes... I believe we can get some cake." Lantash said.
"Then what do ya say we go get some of it - and celebrate a mission well done?" O'Neill suggested.
"And the friendship between the Tok'ra and the Tau'ri," Daniel added.
"It sounds like a very good idea." Lantash smiled.
They all agreed, and together they went to the Tok'ra mess hall, looking for cake. The rescue - and their friendship - were indeed worth celebrating.