Ba'al's first prime bowed deeply before his lord. "My Lord Ba'al, I have the pleasure of reporting the successful capture of the group that broke into Factory Three."
"Good. Is the Jaffa among them?"
"There is a Jaffa with them, yes."
Ba'al grinned. "According to my reports, the Jaffa has a golden Apophis symbol. He may be the shol'vah. If so, he is a great prize!"
"They are all, except for one, wearing the green uniforms that signify that they belong to this country's warriors. They also carry the symbol on their clothing which means they work for 'Stargate Command'."
Ba'al's expression turned angry. "I was promised there would be no interference from Stargate Command! Insolence!"
"Shall I have them brought before you, my Lord?"
Ba'al considered it. The temptation was almost too much, but he was quite hungry, and the prisoners probably would only get more pliable if they were left in his holding cell for a while.
"I shall eat first," he decided. "Have the food brought. Immediately!"
"Did he have to make the cell look exactly like a Goa'uld holding cell? I mean, we're on Earth, for Christ's sake! Couldn't he go for something a bit more standard?" O'Neill glared unhappily at the golden walls, where the bottom part angled towards the floor. The lighted panels were hidden behind metal grids, and there were all the other large and smaller peculiarities they had gotten used to seeing in Goa'uld motherships, as well as in many of their palaces.
"Maybe he got homesick?" Daniel suggested, only half-serious.
O'Neill rolled his eyes at him. "Funny!"
"It may be to our advantage. These doors have electronic locks, which means they may be easier to open than a traditional metal lock," Martouf said, examining the door. "Unfortunately, Ba'al is cunning and intelligent, as well as ruthless. He will not make any of the usual errors."
Argent shook his head. "This place looks like the decorator was on drugs! I mean, golden walls in a holding cell?"
"Wait until you see the gaudy clothes the megalomaniacs dress themselves in!" Daniel said.
"Yeah, in a little while some overdressed, over the top bad guy is going to float in, gloating about whatever evil fate awaits us." O'Neill sighed, and sat down on one of the benches.
"Actually, Ba'al usually dresses more... subdued, than most Goa'uld." Jacob said. "Unless he's changed, now when he's the new Supreme System Lord."
"Well, I guess we get to see for ourselves. Looks like they're coming to get us." Sam nodded towards the door.
"Crap," O'Neill said.
"Kneel before your god!" Ba'al's First Prime shouted, hitting the nearest of them - which happened to be Jacob - over the shoulder.
"I am your Lord Ba'al. You are clearly from Stargate Command - and you have a Jaffa among you." He threw a smug look at Teal'c, who no longer wore his knitted hat. "Apophis's former First Prime, Teal'c!"
Ba'al sat on a ridiculously elaborate throne, decorated with gold and precious stones. Slightly behind him and to the left stood one of his underlings, Eshmoun - in reality a Tok'ra named Wirran/Ren'tash.
Fortunately, Ba'al was not paying any attention to his underling, because Ren'tash briefly got an expression of shock when he recognized Martouf/Lantash and Jacob/Selmak - who had been missing and declared dead more than eleven years ago. He quickly controlled his reaction, though, his expression once more returning to arrogant indifference.
"So, you know who he is. Good for you! Do you want me to congratulate you? I am Colonel Jack O'Neill, by the way."
"Impudence! Tell me, why is Stargate Command interfering with my business? We had an explicit agreement! If you are stupid enough to think you can steal from me, or betray me, you are sadly mistaken! I can crush you in an instant!"
"See what I said? Ridiculous gloating," O'Neill told Argent.
"Silence!" Ba'al bellowed. He motioned at one of his Jaffa, who moved to stand immediately behind O'Neill. "Teach him the error of his ways!"
"Yes, my Lord." The Jaffa turned on the painstick he was holding, and jabbed it against O'Neill's neck, making him scream.
Ba'al smiled evilly, then suddenly looked at Martouf. With the Jaffa no longer standing near Martouf, Ba'al instantly became aware of the energy signature from Lantash.
"I see. You did not only bring Jaffa. A Tok'ra, I presume. I thought I had cleansed Stargate Command of the influence of the vermin! Apparently not! Never mind - you shall tell me everything about any Tok'ra involvement with the Tau'ri at the SGC!"
"I shall do no such thing!" Martouf spat.
"Ah, yes. How typical of the Tok'ra. Hiding behind his host. Well, I shall see if I cannot convince the rebel himself of honouring me with his presence!" He looked towards Jacob/Selmak, realizing he sensed another energy signature. "Another Tok'ra? And both of you dressed in clothes of Stargate Command. How very interesting." Ba'al flashed his eyes angrily. "I have been betrayed!" He turned to look at Wirran/Ren'tash. "Contact our sources within Stargate Command! Immediately!"
"Yes, my Lord." Ren'tash bowed, then left quickly.
"Now, where was I... yes, you were going to tell me about the Tok'ra cooperation with Stargate Command, and who exactly decided to double cross me!" He flashed his eyes.
Martouf's eyes flashed as Lantash took over. "We'll never do that!" he exclaimed, hotly.
"Lantash! Let me handle this!" O'Neill ordered. He glared at Ba'al. "You're crazy if you think we're going to tell you anything!"
Ba'al allowed his hand device to activate, and raised it. An energy ribbon sprung out from it, making contact with O'Neill's head. He gasped as Ba'al held him in the energy for what felt like ages to him, but was in reality less than a minute.
The others had attempted to go to O'Neill's assistance, but the Jaffa surrounding them quickly stopped them, using their painsticks to keep control.
"Now..." Ba'al said, a smug grin on his face. "Let us start over. You will tell me about the Tok'ra cooperation with Stargate Command, and who at Stargate Command made the decision to betray me!" He activated his hand device, and the energy ribbon again focused on O'Neill's head.
"My Lord Ba'al," Ren'tash bowed. "I regret having to interrupt the interrogation, but I have important news from Stargate Command."
Ba'al let the ribbon device shut off, and sighed, looking with regret at Lantash who was still able to sit up straight, and now gave him a defiant expression. "I had only just started my interrogation of this Tok'ra. What is it that is so important?"
"General Jenkins - who as you know has been placed there by yourself, and is completely loyal - was deeply shocked to hear we had captured some of their people. That two are Tok'ra, and one is Jaffa was something he did not even accept at first."
"Such insolence! Not only did he not believe the word of one of his gods, but he had the audacity of denying his involvement! He is either incompetent or a liar! In either case he should be replaced. Immediately!" Ba'al sounded furious.
"I agree - especially since he insisted on demanding the people be turned over to him, at once!"
"Demanded? He cannot demand anything! I see that I have been far too lenient with the blasphemous fool!" Ba'al rose. "He has destroyed my mood. Have the prisoners returned to their cell. I will interrogate them later. Right now I need to go and rectify this mistake!"
"Of course, my Lord. Shall I have the traitor Jenkins sent for?"
"No, I will go there myself. It has been too long since I checked on them anyway. No doubt they are involved in more seditious acts!"
"Thank God he decided to go check on them at... Stargate Command!" Argent said, sitting down on one of the benches in the holding cell. "How are you, Martouf? O'Neill? That energy ribbon... device looked extremely painful. Even more painful than that damn painstick they kept jabbing all of us with."
"It is... unpleasant and painful. Very much so. Still, we were fortunate Ba'al only used painsticks and kara'kesh for the interrogation. He is... infamous for his innovative torturing devices and the... creative use he makes of them." Martouf grimassed.
"What a nice fellow!" O'Neill snorted from the corner where he had been sitting, being very quiet. It was obviously he was not feeling well.
"It would be good if we can escape before he returns," Martouf said, giving O'Neill a worried look. He then turned back to Argent. "In any case, Lantash and I are well. O'Neill was exposed to it for far longer than we were - and he has no symbiote to help him recover."
"I told you I'll be okay - if you'll just leave me alone!" O'Neill mumbled. "My head hurts worse than any hangover I've ever had!"
Sam and Daniel looked at him with concern, having both experienced the same, or similar Goa'uld weapons of torture.
"Someone with a symbiote is approaching," Martouf told them, going to look out through the small, partially transparent section of the door.
"Jaffa?" Sam asked.
Martouf stepped aside as the door opened, and they all saw that the one standing outside was the Tok'ra Ren'tash. There was no one else with him.
"Ah." O'Neill looked up, smiling despite his headache. "You're here for the rescue? Because, you know, we could have gotten out on our own."
"I very much doubt that, human. You are, however, correct. My intention is to free you. I cannot merely let you out, though, as Jaffa are guarding the door at the end of the corridor."
"What, then?" Daniel asked.
"I shall engineer a power failure. The locks on the doors to the holding cells are vulnerable when they have no power, and a hard strike in the right spot will cause them to release. It should be hit exactly here." Ren'tash pointed at the lock.
Martouf nodded. "Understood."
"I expect to be able to cause the power failure in one hour. Be ready - the power will only be off for less than a minute, before the emergency backup starts. By then the lock must have been opened. I will make sure the Jaffa guards will be otherwise occupied for maybe ten minutes following the power failure."
"What about the rest of the guards? How do we get out of the building?" Sam wondered.
"That will be harder, though hopefully not impossible. There is a secret compartment in my quarters, where you should go to hide until I can get you out. The access is located behind the table by my bed. My quarters are in the north-eastern part of this compound, on the floor above this. Be careful - while Ba'al should be away for the rest of the day, Joh'nar just arrived, and his chambers are in the same corridor as mine."
"Sounds good." O'Neill smiled, looking a little better at the prospect of getting out of the cell.
"Do you have access to a healing device?" Martouf asked.
"Yes. It is in my rooms, in the drawers in the table by my bed." Ren'tash looked worriedly towards the door at the end of the corridor. "I will take my leave of you now, before the guards become suspicious."