Selmak groaned softly as she slowly regained consciousness. She could hear a grinding noise from somewhere nearby.
She was momentarily confused, and could not remember where she was or what had happened. The first part of her confusion was alleviated almost immediately, as someone with a harsh voice yelled at her.
"Get up, Tok'ra scum! Move!"
She opened her eyes and looked directly into the face of an angry Jaffa, with Zipacna's symbol on his forehead. She hurriedly sat up, in what was obviously a sarcophagus.
*What is going on?* Jacob wondered, sounding even more groggy than Selmak felt.
*We have apparently - somehow - managed to become captured by Zipacna,* Selmak told him, as she crawled out of the sarcophagus.
*Yes, I can see that... weren't we supposed to be dead?*
*Yes, I cannot say I had ever expected to wake up again... though I assume we have the sarcophagus to 'thank' for that. Unless this is the afterlife, of course,* she added, sardonically.
*Very funny! We blew up Netu, remember? This can't be Hell... and it sure isn't Heaven - unless they lied in the commercials.*
"Move!* The leader of the Jaffa hit Selmak in the back with the top of his staff weapon.
*Unfortunately, this seems all too real,* Selmak observed, as she glared at the Jaffa. She did walk along with them, though, not wanting any more painful stabs.
*Very unfortunate. I wonder how Zipacna got us?*
*Maybe that treacherous Ba'al took us on Dakara and traded us to Zipacna!* Selmak suggested, as they were pushed forward by the Jaffa.
*No. Look at my memories. After you went into a coma, I travelled back to Earth, with Sam.*
Selmak quickly looked through Jacob's memories of the time she had been unconscious. *I see. Most likely our body will have been taken back with the Tok'ra, for funerary services. Unless you were going to be buried on your homeworld?*
*No, I told Sam you would have wanted a Tok'ra funeral, and that I wanted to follow your wishes. She accepted that - albeit reluctantly.*
*Meaning we must have been abducted shortly after getting back to the Tok'ra tunnels, or too long would have passed for the sarcophagus to be able to revive us,* Selmak mused, ignoring the angry Jaffa trying to get her to move faster. *Unless, of course, we were put in stasis. The healers were quite puzzled by my illness.*
*Possibly. I obviously can't say if they did!*
While they had been talking, they had been lead through several long corridors, and they now stood in front of the door to Zipacna's throne room.
*Perhaps we will learn something from Zipacna, though I fear it is going to be painful doing so...* Selmak sounded rueful.
Jacob mentally 'snorted' at that.
The door opened, and they got a hard push forward. "Move, Tok'ra!"
Selmak groggily sat up in the sarcophagus and looked at the Jaffa.
*Crap - we died again,* Jacob grumbled. *That's not something you expect to say - ever!*
*No, it is not,* Selmak agreed, and crawled out of the sarcophagus. She gave the nearest Jaffa a defiant look.
To their surprise they were not going back to Zipacna immediately, but were instead taken to a holding cell. Unsurprising, they were not given any information.
One of the Jaffa gave Selmak a push forward so she stumbled into the holding cell, then slammed the door after her.
She rose with a resigned expression, and sat down on the hard bench that ran along side one of the walls of the cell.
*So, why do you think we were sent here instead of taken to Zipacna again? Any reason why he might not want to see us again? I mean, he resurrected us, so he can't have tired of us yet!* Jacob mused.
*Very true, and I assure you it is not because I gave him useful information he needs to check the validity of. No, something of greater importance must have come up.*
*Good, let's hope it'll occupy him for a long time! I can do with him forgetting about us entirely!*
Selmak gave Jacob control, sensing he was getting frustrated and needed a physical outlet.
Jacob immediately got up and started pacing the cell.
*Yes, agreed. Goa'uld interrogation techniques are wearisome.* Selmak 'smiled' wryly. *We did learn something useful, though, however painful it was to acquire the information.*
*Like what? You'll forgive me for not having paid much attention to anything but that damn painstick... and the ribbon device... oh, and was there a knife involved too?*
*Among a number of other things, yes, but I tried to block you from most of it.*
*I know. It is appreciated.* Jacob 'hugged' her. He walked over to the door and examined it.
Selmak sighed. *Zipacna gloated for a fair bit of time about how he had infiltrated the Tok'ra. At least one of our people is not whom we think... Li'hna is dead, and has been replaced by Tanith.*
*That is horrible! We must find a way to warn the Tok'ra! Wait! Tanith? That can't be! We were told Teal'c shot down his Alkesh - and that the missile hit the pel'tak directly.*
*Yes, and I do not doubt the truth of that. However, the pel'tak on an Alkesh is fairly well shielded, and Tanith may have survived. Perhaps some unfortunate soul went to investigate the wreckage and became his new host. We should also not forget that a dead person can be revived in a sarcophagus.*
*As we have just had the pleasure of being reminded of. Yeah, yeah, I see what you mean.* Jacob sighed. *So, Li'hna is dead - and poor Jorof is now host to Tanith.* He gave up on examining the door, and began checking the walls for any weakness.
*It would seem so, yes. Also, Zipacna informed me - gleefully - that Tanith had been poisoning us with Sha'kek. Small amounts of it, little by little, for months! Until it became too much for me. As you know, Sha'kek is one of the poisons I am sensitive to, due to my near-fatal accident as a child.*
*Yes,* Jacob agreed. *We were reminded after Netu. Sokar had used it to weaken your healing abilities. But how could Tanith know, though? Other symbiotes wouldn't have been affected that way. I mean, it's usually impossible to poison you guys slowly, since you can just neutralize the poison or filter it out.*
Selmak 'nodded'. *It is also not exactly something I have told people about. Very few ever knew - in fact, only those who were present and alive back then, 2000 years ago, and who were also close to Egeria, knew. They all swore to keep it a secret, so no one should be able to use it against me.*
*Names? You've only ever told me that Jolinar and Egeria knew about it, and they're both dead... unless you suspect Sam could have the knowledge, and some Goa'uld found a way to get it from her.* Jacob suddenly sounded worried.
*She may well have that knowledge, but I would think it is buried deep enough that only a symbiote can find it. I doubt that is where Zipacna or Tanith got the information.* She was quiet for a moment, trying to remember who might know. *Cordesh was there too, but he is also dead. I suppose he may have informed his master, Cronus, but I believe that is very unlikely.*
*I agree. Besides, it's not like Cronus would have told Zipacna. Cronus and Apophis were enemies - and Apophis and Zipacna were allies.*
*Yes. That leaves only one - the healer who treated me and the Jaffa I was in.*
*And who was that healer?* Jacob wondered, sitting back down on the bench.
*I am not certain...* Selmak considered it. *It was a long time ago, I was quite sick, and I was still a small child... It would have to be one of those who were Goa'uld before becoming Tok'ra, as my clutch was the first Tok'ra Egeria spawned.*
*All those former Goa'uld can be trusted. They are very loyal.*
*Like Cordesh...* Jacob snorted.
He gave Selmak back control. She stretched out on the bench, before answering.
*He was brainwashed and turned, partly by using a sarcophagus. He was not truly to blame.*
*Others could have been too! Give me a list of those former Goa'uld!*
Selmak took a deep breath. *Garshaw, but she only joined centuries later. Egeria herself, of course. Jolinar, who started the Tok'ra together with Egeria. Cordesh, formerly an underling of Jolinar's...* She shook her head. *A handful or so of others, but most joined much later... no, wait! Li'hna! She was a former Goa'uld, and a healer first, before she became an operative. She still helps out - helped out - now and then, when an extra healer was needed.*
*And Tanith has her host. Would Jorof know?*
*Yes, Li'hna helped treat us after Netu, and as you know, Jorof was her host then. He would know.*
*Damn... and so Tanith may have learned of it from him.*
*Goa'uld often do not care to look more than superficially at their host's memories and knowledge, feeling themselves too superior for that. However, Tanith will have needed information to use against the Tok'ra, and to be able to impersonate Li'hna. Yes, he has found that information and used it!* Selmak concluded.
*Great. Just typical! That probably gave Tanith an idea how to get his hands on a Tok'ra without that Tok'ra being missed.*
*Yes, I agree. I am certain Zipacna hopes to learn much he can use against the Tok'ra from us. The fact that we are on the Council would only have made us more appealing.*
*And with us gone, the last of the active supporters of the Tok'ra alliance with Earth is gone. There aren't many left who will really fight for the alliance, and with no one on the Council it will be even harder. I'm sure the Goa'uld would like to break up that alliance completely!*
*They would.* Selmak sighed. *We need to escape, somehow.*
*Selmak... are you all right?* Jacob asked, suddenly getting worried. *I mean, the sarcophagus doesn't remove poisons does it?*
*Actually, I believe it does. In any case, we are completely well, and if we are not exposed to Sha'kek again, we will remain well.*
*Okay, let's forget about that, then. Since we can't do anything about Tanith right now, then let's forget about him too... for the time being. So, how do we escape? This cell doesn't seem to have any weaknesses.*
*No, I am afraid we...* Selmak was interrupted when someone opened the cell door. She looked up to see a Jaffa.
*Damn! Not again!* Jacob complained.
*Wait... I believe we have seen him before...* Selmak rose, then dipped her head and gave Jacob control.
"Jacob of the Tok'ra. I am Ta'ok," the Jaffa said.
"I met you at the Alpha site!" Jacob suddenly realized.
Ta'ok inclined his head. "Yes. I am a Free Jaffa, and while I must admit to not generally liking the Tok'ra much, I remember you as an honourable man. You saved me from the ashrak."
Jacob nodded. "Right. I remember that. I pushed you aside when he fired on us."
"Indeed. Because of that, I shall risk Zipacna's wrath, and free you."
"Great! Let's get out of here!" Jacob said.
"No, you must wait. We cannot merely walk out of this place. I will return when it is safe." Ta'ok closed the door and left.
"Hey!" Jacob groaned frustrated and hit the door with his hand. "Don't just leave!"
*There is little we can do but wait,* Selmak observed.
Jacob sat down on the bench. *What if Zipacna decides to torture us again? Did that fellow think of that?*
*He knows that we will endure. We have to.*
Jacob looked up as the door to their cell opened again. Outside stood Ta'ok.
"I'm guessing you're not here to take me to Zipacna?" Jacob rose and approached Ta'ok.
"I am not. Lord Zipacna is in a meeting with one of Lord Ba'al's underlings. It is unlikely he will have either of you called for further interrogation until tomorrow."
"Good. By then I intend to be far away." Jacob smiled.
"Follow me." Ta'ok turned to go.
*'Either of you'?* Selmak noted.
*It would seem we are not the only prisoner here!*
"Wait! Ta'ok, what do you mean by 'either of you'?" Jacob wondered.
Ta'ok hesitated, his expression one of annoyance. It was obvious he had not wanted to reveal this information. "There is another prisoner here. Another Tok'ra."
"What? Who? Why haven't you freed them? How long have they been here?" Jacob exclaimed, angrily.
"He is young. Someone Zipacna discovered in one of Apophis's slave camps. I do not know his name. I have not freed him because I will not risk my life for someone who has not earned my respect!"
"All Tok'ra have fought for your freedom!"
Ta'ok scoffed. "This Tok'ra may be deserving of my respect, but I do not know."
"Well, now we will free him!" Jacob insisted.
Ta'ok looked at him for a moment, clearly considering whether to agree to Jacob's demand, then inclined his head. "As you wish. He is currently in the sarcophagus, but he should soon be healed. Come."
Jacob/Selmak followed Ta'ok through empty, little-used corridors. Many of the servants and several of the guards would be standing ready to serve Zipacna and his guest, and since it was almost dinner-time, most of those who were not on duty were in the dining halls.
"Wait here," Ta'ok told Jacob/Selmak. "I will bring the other Tok'ra. Do not leave the room, or you could endanger us all!"
"All right." Jacob sat down on a crate in the semi-dark storage room Ta'ok had taken them to.
*I wonder who he is? The other Tok'ra, I mean,* Selmak mused.
*No idea. I didn't think anyone was missing, but then we've been kind of out of the loop for months, so who knows?*
*That is very true, of course, but did you notice Ta'ok said the Tok'ra had been found in one of Apophis's slave camps?* Selmak wondered.
*Yeah, that's weird. Apophis has been dead for years. That is, I certainly hope so...*
*I feel confident he is actually dead this time. However, many of his planets became Zipacna's when he was killed. I am estimating about a handful of those will have been slave worlds. Most likely Zipacna has not had the opportunity - or desire - to look at them until now. Anubis has kept everyone fairly busy.*
*That means this poor guy could have been in a work camp for years!* Jacob realized, horrified.
*Yes. That also makes me wonder if there are others. Apophis mostly used his slave camps to punished people for various 'crimes of heresy'.*
*Let me guess - anyone who in some way resisted Apophis?*
*Heresy is pretty widely defined, when your master is a 'god'. Slaves who attempted escape, people trying to stop their loved ones from being punished or made a host... all the way up to actual rebellion. All of those would be considered heretics.*
*Including Tok'ra. I'd have thought they would be tortured for information and eventually killed.*
*That is usually the case, yes. Being placed in a workcamp and forced to labour as a slave is considered a much much worse and more humiliating punishment than being tortured repeatedly to death. This Tok'ra must have somehow made Apophis's hatred of him personal. I know of no one who is currently alive and not missing who might qualify for that 'honour'.*
*Well, I suppose we might.*
*True, but I do not consider myself missing.*
*Funny!* Jacob snorted. *Well, I guess we'll find out soon enough.* He sighed. *I'm starving! I can't remember when I last ate something. I wonder if there's something edible in this warehouse - or whatever this place is.*
He got up and started searching the various boxes and sacks in the room.
Jacob was happily munching on an apple - one of many he had found in a large bag - when the door opened.
"Here is your other Tok'ra," Ta'ok said, pushing a young man into the room ahead of him. "Now will you let me rescue you, Jacob of the Tok'ra?"
Jacob rose and stared in shock at the other Tok'ra. "Martouf?! How?!"
"Hello, Jacob." Martouf inclined his head. "I must admit I am very pleased, though also somewhat puzzled, to see you." He frowned. "I don't mean I'm happy to see you as Zipacna's prisoner, of course..."
Jacob shook his head. "I have no idea how you can be alive, but for now I am just going to be happy to see you!" He looked Martouf over with concern. *He is very thin. Skinny, actually.*
*I doubt slaves in workcamps are fed more than absolutely necessary,* Selmak observed, dryly.
Martouf smiled. "Likewise. As to how..."
"Can this wait?" Ta'ok interrupted them, annoyed. "We need to leave, or we are all going to die! And kindly be quiet as we walk through the palace complex and town outside!"
Jacob grabbed several apples and stuffed them in his clothes before they left.
They had followed Ta'ok for almost twenty minutes. First he had taken them through a secret corridor to a back door, and then through dark alleys in the city outside the palace.
"This whole city is located within walls," Ta'ok said in a low voice, breaking the silence that - except for the short commands he had uttered - had lasted since they left the storage room. "There are four gates, all guarded. However, I know those who guard the East gate during the late-evening shift. They are sympathetic to the Free Jaffa."
"Sounds good," Jacob whispered. "So, what are we waiting for?"
Martouf said nothing, but he looked with confusion at the others. *Free Jaffa?* he wondered.
*We have been gone for a long time, Martouf. Much seems to have changed, gathering both from Zipacna's comments during our interrogation, and from what we have heard from the Jaffa talking,* Lantash observed.
Martouf sighed. *Very true.*
A bell was heard chiming.
"That is what we were waiting for. It marks the start of the late-evening shift," Ta'ok said. "Come."
*He reminds me of a sergeant I once had! Arrogant, pompous ass who liked ordering people about,* Jacob grumbled.
*Jaffa are warriors. Also, he probably do enjoy treating us like this, and knowing we have no choice but to obey. Jaffa and Tok'ra have a... strained relationship, as you well know.*
*Oh yeah, don't I know it!* Jacob thought back to the situation on the Alpha site. *Are you sure it's not also because... well, because biologically the Tok'ra and the Goa'uld are the same species, and that this, sort of, makes him feel he can order his hated masters around?*
*That too, of course. As unfortunate as that is. We are both enemies of the Goa'uld, and should cooperate better. But there is much animosity on both sides.*
*With Martouf back we at least have one more ally. Together we should try and get the Council to pull their heads out of their asses!*
*Agreed. Even though Lantash is not on the Council, he is well-liked and respected. Well, at least when Martouf stops him from angering people!* Selmak observed fondly. *We are almost at the gate now. Let us continue this discussion later.*
"Here," Ta'ok said, handing a zat'nik'tel to Jacob/Selmak, and then another to Martouf/Lantash. "I cannot risk helping you further. I must return quickly to the palace, so that no one will suspect my involvement in your escape."
"We thank you for the assistance." Martouf inclined his head.
"Yes, thanks. Wouldn't it be safer for you to go with us, though?" Jacob wondered.
Ta'ok smiled briefly. "No, do not be concerned for me. I will be able to fool Zipacna easily. The blame will fall on a certain Jaffa who is hated - as much for his ambition, as for the way he ingratiates himself to Zipacna."
"Understood," Jacob said.
"The chaapa'ai is located four hours journey in that direction." Ta'ok pointed. "It is heavily guarded, and not by anyone I trust. Safe journey - and good fortune."
"Thank you," Jacob said again.
Jacob/Selmak and Martouf/Lantash hurried away from the gate, and out into the night. As soon as they were hidden among the trees of the nearby forest, Jacob took out the apples he had taken earlier, and handed them to a grateful Martouf, who immediately began eating them.
"I do not believe anyone is following us, so I assume letting us go was not a trap," Martouf said.
They were following a road through a fairly dense forest, and it was very dark and very silent.
Jacob nodded. "I don't think so either. Ta'ok is a Free Jaffa, and I've met him before. Saved him from an ashrak that attacked us at... well, that's really a long story."
"Yes, you mentioned the Free Jaffa before. Who are they?" Martouf wondered.
"Right, you've been stranded in a damn workcamp for four and a half years! I suppose you didn't exactly have much contact with the outside world."
"No... we mined naquadah, which we brought to the chaapa'ai once every three months. Jaffa would come to pick it up - and bring supplies for us. Other than that, there was no contact that I know of. I do not believe the local Jaffa that were in charge even knew that Apophis had been killed. I did not hear of it until Zipacna mentioned it during his gloating." Martouf sighed. "I assume someone must have decided it was an easy way to get naquadah, by pretending they came from Apophis."
"Very likely. We've seen that in many places, actually, with someone moving in and taking advantage of the power vacuum."
"So much has changed. Apophis is dead. Some Jaffa are now free, and from what I have been able to gather from the Jaffa that captured me, many System Lords are dead."
Jacob nodded. "Yes... listen, Martouf, I'll explain all of it to you, as soon as we're back and..."
"And the healers have examined me and determined that I - and in particular Lantash - are who we say we are. Yes, I know the normal procedure for a Tok'ra who returns after being missing for a long time." Martouf sighed, and gave Jacob a wry smile, even though he could not see it in the darkness.
*That may not be the only reason. Remember - Apophis was gloating about his evil scheme to us, before he sent us off to the workcamp on Kaitur.*
*Very true, Lantash. I hope it was just meant to make us disillusioned. In any case, we should ask Jacob.*
*Yes, I think that is the safest.* Lantash sounded very worried.
"Jacob... before Apophis sent me off to Kaitur - that is the name of the world the work camp was located on - he gloated to us about his evil scheme. He claimed to have taken code of life from both Lantash and I, and used it to create duplicates of us, which he had then sent back to take our place while we worked as his slaves. That meant no one would ever come to look for me, because everyone would think I had returned. That was not all - nor was it even the worst. Apophis said he had brainwashed my duplicate, so he would follow his orders and... and create a divide between the Tau'ri and the Tok'ra." Martouf looked at Jacob with concern. "Please, Jacob, tell me this was merely evil lies!"
Jacob gave him an unhappy look and slowly shook his head. "Unfortunately, I can't tell you that." He took a deep breath. "Someone we thought were you came back. You... he, behaved right. Until now, I thought he was you." *Selmak? Are we sure Apophis sent us the duplicate back then, and that this is the original?*
*Yes, we can be absolutely certain. No Goa'uld would have let the original go. Only the original would matter to them, and they would greatly enjoy that the original suffered while the duplicate returned and fooled his friends.*
*Right. That makes sense,* Jacob agreed.
"What... what did my duplicate do?" Martouf asked, in a strained voice. "Samantha? Is she all right?"
"She is well... but she thinks she killed you..." Jacob began telling Martouf/Lantash all that had happened when their clones had turned out to be zatarcs, and later how Lantash's clone had died.
"It is... hard to hear these things, Jacob." Martouf shook his head. "What my duplicate did... what Samantha had to do..."
"It wasn't your - or even his - fault."
"I know. Still, it is... difficult." Martouf sighed. "Then, what you told us about Revanna... what happened there." He again shook his head. "So many Tok'ra dead..." He dipped his head and gave Lantash control.
"So many of my friends dead. We... have become a dying race." Lantash shook his head sadly. "The alliance with the Tau'ri... so badly weakened. How can all of this have happened? Jacob! Selmak! They tried to kill you! They succeeded!"
"Well, that was Tanith, hiding in a Tok'ra host."
"True, but if the Tok'ra had not become so divided, so paranoid as you mentioned, someone would have noticed! I should have been there to help!" Lantash exclaimed, frustrated.
"Well, you didn't exactly choose to be a prisoner and a slave for four and a half years, and you are here now. So am I. When we've got them convinced of who we are - and I suspect I'll have almost as a hard a time with that as you - we'll expose Tanith, and together make the Council see their errors!"
Lantash nodded resolutely. "We will." He slowed his steps and lowered his voice. "We are almost at the chaapa'ai. We must be quiet - and careful."
Jacob nodded. "Right." He felt for his zat'nik'tel, and took it out.
They carefully approached the edge of the forest, and looked out at the nearby Stargate. It was located in a mostly open area, with only scrubs and a few rocks and boulders around it.
"I'm estimating the distance to be about one hundred feet," Lantash said. "Four Jaffa." He pulled out his zat'nik'tel.
"Agreed." Jacob activated his zat'nik'tel. "I'll go for the two on the right, you take the ones on the left."
"We should be able to take cover behind that rock about half-way," Lantash said.
"Okay. Go!" Jacob ordered, still keeping his voice low.
Lantash activated his zat'nik'tel as well, and they carefully stepped out into the open.
It was very dark now. The only light was provided by the stars, and the a pale, pink moon, sitting low in the sky.
The moonlight shone on the area around the Stargate, but where Martouf/Lantash and Jacob/Selmak were, the shadows were deep.
They made it almost to the large rock midway between the forest and the Stargate before they had to leave the shadows.
Just then, one of the Jaffa turned. Lantash fired twice at him immediately, not giving him time to call out or activate his staff weapon. The Jaffa was hit by both shots, and fell to the ground, dead.
Meanwhile, Jacob had shot one of the other Jaffa, and both Tok'ra now dove for cover behind the large rock, while staff shots zipped past them.
"Mai'tac!" Lantash swore.
"Just like old times, eh?" Jacob grinned.
Lantash shook his head. "Tau'ri..." He made a half-smile. "Let's get them! I take the one on the left!"
Jacob laughed. "Absolutely!"
They both rose at the same time, and fired at one of the Jaffa each. To their great surprise, both Jaffa fell, without either Martouf/Lantash or Jacob/Selmak getting hit.
"I believe we got them all," Lantash said, sounding almost disbelieving.
"Yeah... we did!" Jacob grinned.
"Come on! Let's get out of here!" Lantash suggested.
They ran to the DHD and dialled the address to a stop-over world, then hurried through.
When the wormhole had shut down, they looked at each other.
"Ready to go home?" Jacob asked.
"Very ready," Lantash said.
Jacob dialled the address to one of the Tok'ra outposts - the one where Malek was currently base commander - and they stepped through.
They were going home.