Chapter Twelve summary: Lantash, Sam, and Egeria attempt to make it to one of the escape tunnels but they are caught in an open hallway. Lantash makes it to the other end, but Sam and Egeria are mortally wounded. Ria’ta attempts to save them. Teal'c, fearing hurting her stops them firing on her and she manages to drag them away. SG-1’s Teal'c, decides to keep his alternate busy so he cannot stop her as he suspects where Ria’ta is taking her.
“Italics” – Symbiote-Host Communication
Lantash’s breath caught in his throat as he stared at Samantha, lying pale and still on the floor, next to the obviously empty urn. He strode swiftly across the floor, setting the other urn, which he still held, down, as he knelt beside her.
“Lantash, Samantha has taken Egeria as her symbiote. As healthy as she is, she should not have become unconscious. Something is wrong,” Martouf spoke quietly, and it was obvious that he was holding himself in very tight control.
“I am aware. I do not know what has occur-” Lantash broke off, as Sam’s eyes glowed brightly, when she opened them and looked intently at them.
She smiled, for a brief moment. Her voice a barely heard whisper, she said, “You are our mates.” Then she shook her head. “Forgive me. That is a discussion for later. Samantha took a great leap of faith by joining with me, and she wishes me to assure you that she has given me complete and willing access to her memories and information. As for our apparently unconscious state, we were blending and linking our minds, transferring information as quickly as possible. As you know, it is accomplished more smoothly, and with less stress, when the symbiote and host truly desire to immerse themselves within one another. She has answered my questions, as well as she can, for the moment.”
“It is a shock to me that so much time has passed, and that so much has occurred, however; we both realize that, while relevant to our present situation, it is not necessary that I know every detail of the present, or the past two thousand years, at this time. Samantha will continue to feed me as much information as she can, as we go along to fill in anything important that I may have missed. We will be switching back and forth between us, depending on which of us will be best suited to handle each situation, as it arises. I understand that we are about to be discovered, and that it is imperative that we retreat at once.”
“Yes, that is correct, my Queen. We must leave here right away, for our presence has been discovered. The remainder of our team members are waiting within the escape tunnels.”
“I understand that we are in what once was one of Ra’s Pleasure Palaces, which now belongs to Apophis. Bah! What a preening peacock he has always been. While I, myself, would have chosen to align myself with Apophis to defeat Ra, he should never have fallen to Apophis alone, and furthermore, had Ra kept himself out of every pretty boy that passed, he would not have been so distracted that he allowed that primping, prancing, pathetic excuse of a…never mind. As you say, we must go.” Egeria stood, as she finished speaking, her disgust of both Apophis and Ra evident in both her face and her words.
As Lantash turned to pick up the urn that held Astaria, the door to the room opened, and he swung toward it, bringing his zat up, and aiming it at the person who entered. They stared at one another, for a moment, before both relaxed. The young woman swiftly completed entering the room, pulling the door shut behind her, and smiling in welcome, when she saw the man who was in the room.
“Lantash! You survived! I am so very glad. Even though Teal’c assured me that he believed you died in the explosion, I always felt that he was unsure of your fate, and that something had occurred to make him wonder.” Keeping her voice low, Ria’ta moved quickly toward the couple standing near the fireplace. Her smile faded, as she reached out and gently touched the side of his face. “But, Lantash, Martouf, you must leave at once, before Teal’c and the other Jaffa return. They are searching for some intruders that I can only assume are you and your friends,” she continued, still speaking softly. “I will help you, as much as I can, but you must be aware that you are in grave danger here.” She paused, for only a moment, before saying, “I am so very glad that you survived. Selmak and Malek? Did they?…”
Lantash grasped her hands and shook his head sadly. “No. No, Ria’ta, they did not survive, and yet, they will appear to be here with me. It is difficult to explain all that has happened to me, and I do not have time to tell it all. Although it will be hard to believe, or understand, please trust me, when I tell you that I no longer dwell within your world, your - your plane of existence, your reality. I am sorry, but when we leave this time, we, Martouf and I, will not be returning. I wish with all my being that it could be otherwise, that there was something, anything, that we could do, but there is not; there is nothing that we can do to help you.”
Lantash shook his head and smiled wryly at her, saying, “Ironically, the result of our failed mission in this reality will probably enable the Tok’Ra to survive, defeat the Goa’uld, and free the worlds and Jaffa in the reality we now belong in. Because we have a chance to succeed there, we must not again fail in our mission. Indeed, we are already more successful this time than we were before in our attempt to complete the mission.” He looked at Sam, his emotions obvious to Ria’ta, before he continued, saying, “Now, we simply need to return with the object that we came to retrieve. It is in our hands, and we are ready to depart. Leaving the Palace is probably the only thing standing between us and success.”
Ria’ta nodded. “Though I do not understand the particulars, I trust your word, and I do believe you. It was not meant to be. You have done so much for me, already. In fact, for many in our universe. Many worlds and their peoples are knowledgeable about what the Goa’uld are, and no longer worship them blindly, even though they may have no choice but to do so publicly.”
“My own people, my own family, all of them, are free to follow their own beliefs. Those who choose to be are safe, thanks to the Tok’Ra, and for those things alone, I will give my life for you. I will do everything I can to see to it that you finish your mission here successfully and return to wherever you must go, Lantash. I promise you.”
Ria’ta’s eyes were drawn to Sam, and she glanced at her, obviously curious about her, as she finished speaking, but she asked no questions. Lantash’s body language communicated the information that whoever this woman was, she was the reason for this mission. She, or some knowledge she held, was what they had come to retrieve. He would defend her at all costs, and, though his love for her was obvious, it was apparent there was a deeper reason for his protection of her. She was someone of importance to the Tok’Ra. Her eyes widened, but still she said nothing.
“Thank you, Ria’ta. It would be much appreciated, as it was the last time you helped us, but please do not involve yourself. There is an escape tunnel on this side of the Palace, and while your people are searching for us elsewhere, we will attempt to make our way to it and hope we can arrive there before they return. You should not put yourself into danger for us, however.”
Ria’ta reached out to pull him close in a brief embrace, knowing that they would never meet again, but also knowing that she would not leave them, without helping them to escape, or dying in the attempt. The debt that her family owed them was deep, for they were some of the lucky ones and lived on a world shunned by the Goa’uld. Several of her siblings and cousins were actively in contact with the Goa’uld, but their interaction was voluntary. All were in resistance groups. All were willing to die for their beliefs. All had been saved from slavery; many had been freed from Goa’uld symbiotes by the Tok’Ra. In turn, all had mourned the loss as the Tok’Ra had been hunted to extinction. Her death would be a small price to pay for what they owed them.
She smiled at him again, as she shook her head, saying, “I will remain behind you and try to detour anyone coming upon you from behind. If nothing else, you will hear me talking to them and know they are behind you.”
“We thank you, once again.” Smiling at her, Lantash bent, picked up the urn, and turned to walk across the room. He motioned toward the other door, saying softly, “The tunnel is this way,” before turning back to the young woman who risked so much for them. “Be well, Ria’ta.”
Turning, they left the room. Ria’ta slowly followed.
“We must go out of our way to reach the tunnel from this room, but it is still closer than the others would be. I believe that once Teal’c realizes that we are not in the rooms we were occupying and that our belongings are missing, he will spread all of the available Jaffa out and start a systematic search. We may find it difficult to reach the tunnel, if they return soon.”
Egeria nodded her understanding of their situation. “We will do the best we can.”
Lantash nodded and indicated they should maintain an operational silence. As silent as shadows, they slipped from one room to the next, until they came to a doorway that opened onto a short hallway. There were two doorways toward the opposite end and they would need to enter the second one.
He had chosen a longer and more circuitous route; one that was less likely to be used, and so far, they had met no one. They were now turning back toward the grand entrance hall, which was also the area of the semi-open hallway that they would have to traverse. This short hallway and the rooms beyond were the last obstacles between them and the hall and chamber that would lead them to their way out of the Palace.
He was startled when Ria’ta slid by him, put her finger to her lips, indicating that she would go open the door. She walked calmly down the hall to the door that he indicated that they needed to enter. Opening it, she looked around and then shook her head, as she looked up and down the hall. She appeared confused, as she turned and retraced her steps. Anyone watching her would believe that she had taken a wrong turn and entered the wrong room. Passing Lantash quietly, she nodded. It was clear. They continued to make their way toward the escape tunnel and freedom.
“You say they have been here for five days? That, in fact, I have been here for five days?” Teal’ c demanded of the most senior of the house staff.
“I would swear it. Any of my people would swear the same. Even now, I am not sure you are not testing us in some manner,” Perris responded firmly. “They even mentioned that the remaining staff would probably be arriving before the end of the seven days, which, it appears, has indeed happened.”
Teal’c frowned. Who could have known that they would arrive early, and yet, still be here when they did arrive? What was their purpose for being here? They did not appear to be lying in wait for them. Surely, they were not waiting for Apophis to arrive. An assassination attempt? Unlikely, since they were using such a high profile disguise. Such an attempt would not be able to throw suspicion on him, for he had witnesses that knew he had not been here. It could cause some doubt in Apophis’s mind, he supposed, but even that was unlikely. Why else would someone attempt to pass themselves off as himself, though? It was time to enlarge the search. They would begin on the ground floor. He would gather the women and make sure that they were together and safe, and then start a room-by-room search. They would gather in the grand entrance hall.
“Jaffa. Kree.” Teal’c led the way from the rooms that they were searching to no avail. Perris followed for lack of knowing what else to do in the situation. He had no way of knowing which one of the two men was the real First Prime of Apophis. For all he knew, neither of them was. This one, however, had Jaffa. The other one did not. They made this Teal’c’s claim seem more likely. And the first one and his ‘guests’ had disappeared. It seemed to him that was the most telling bit of information he had. The man walking beside him must be the ‘true’ Teal’c, First Prime of Apophis.
“Do you know why they are here? Did they give any reason for their visit?” Teal’c asked suddenly.
“They stated that Apophis was called away suddenly and wished for them to be entertained. They are great art collectors and they have spent every day examining the works of art from the paintings to the tapestries. Every piece of art in the Palace, in fact.”
Teal’c looked grim. “Then perhaps we have found their reason, for being here. No doubt, they are thieves. Have they done nothing to cause you to become suspicious?”
“To my knowledge, objects of value have been little more than moved. I have seen them do no more than pick something up to examine it and then replace it, though they have looked at and admired many objects in the chambers. I will ask the others, but I am sure there is nothing of any value missing. Any item of value is guarded by an alarm system, which has not been breached. The system has only been triggered twice since they arrived. Once was by one of my own people while cleaning, and the other was as one of the visitors was examining a statue, which they replaced after looking at it more closely. I truly do not believe that they are here to steal anything. They could have attempted to do so long before today, if that was their purpose.” Perris sighed, as he gave his information. This Teal’c was not going to like his tidy reason for the odd situation not holding up, anymore than the other Teal’c would have appreciated him rebutting his statements. He watched as a muscle in the larger man’s jaw jerked. No, he was not happy at all. He listened from his position in the demi-hall as they entered the grand entrance hall and Teal’c began to give orders.
“We will do a complete and thorough search, starting with the chambers down here. Do your best to take them alive. I wish to find out what plot is underway here, and if it is part of a larger conspiracy of some kind. If you cannot take them alive, then stop them any way that you can. I want at least four of you here in the grand entrance hall, should they attempt to escape this way. Go now.” So saying, Teal’c turned to talk to the women that he cared for most, and realized that Ria’ta was missing.
“Where is Ria’ta?”
Looking up from where they had been sitting, the women stared at Teal’c. “I do not know, Teal’ c. We discussed the art on the ceiling, and talked a little about where we should start on the redecorating, but our information is too limited yet to plan much. She was here not long ago,” Nal’ka said softly, trying to ease Teal’c’s tenseness. “I did not sleep well last night and dozed off, as we waited, so I imagine she became bored and decided to inspect some of the closer chambers. I noticed her look toward the door nearest to us several times, and you know how curious she is. She will return soon, and she will be careful, I am sure.” She watched, as his shoulders relaxed slightly.
Teal’c nodded, but walked over and opened the door to peer inside the chamber, just the same. The room was empty, but he thought that he could smell the scent that she used, so he left the door open, in case she was nearby and needed help. If she called, he wanted to be able to hear her. He decided that Nal’ka was probably correct. Ria’ta was likely to be using this time to begin planning what must be done to the Palace to ready it, before Apophis arrived. He would give her a while, before he became too concerned.
“I thought that I smelled her scent, Nal’ka. I am sure that you are right and she is exploring the rooms and making plans. I hope that she does not encounter any of these intruders. If you hear her, or anything else that sounds suspicious, call one of us at once. These imposters must know by now that we have arrived. They will be attempting to escape, so they should be avoiding this part of the Palace, but we do not yet know why they are here, and we must assume that they are dangerous until we find out otherwise. I will be sending you to your chambers shortly.”
“Ria’ta will be safe, Teal’c. I am sure she is amusing herself, looking around, and redecorating in her head,” she replied, as she smiled at him. “Even if these people came into this area for some reason and came upon her, they would probably ignore her, assuming she is a servant. Please, do not worry so.”
“You could be correct, but I have yet to see a female servant here. I believe Ra’s preferences ran in the other direction.”
“True, but Ria’ta will be careful, Teal’c. You must trust her.”
Teal’c nodded and walked towards a few of his Jaffa, who were supposed to be keeping watch in the grand entrance hall. All they appeared to be watching was the ceiling, and the erotic scenes painted there.
“You will watch the doorways and entrances to the rooms, rather than the ceiling. I do not believe that those we are searching and watching for will be found there. Keep yourselves concealed behind the pillars and the bases of some of the statues. You are leaving yourselves open to attack, if there are enemies here.” Teal’c watched them, as they made their way to places of cover around the room before turning to the servants that had accompanied them.
Perris was standing to the side of the room, near a long semi-open hallway that led between one of the antechambers and the back of the room, where it led to another chamber and hall. Teal’ c watched him walk toward them, as he obeyed his summons. He believed that the young man knew nothing more about the imposters than he had already revealed.
As Perris drew near to them, he ordered, “Take Nal’ka, the other women, and the servants and get them settled into their chambers. I doubt that these intruders will bother them there.” He turned to address them. “Be sure to lock your chamber doors, and do not come out, until you are called. Remember to contact one of us, at once, if you hear or see anything suspicious.”
“I will see to them, at once.” Perris bowed to them before turning and leading them toward the servant’s chambers.
Teal’c watched them leave. Now, if he could only find Ria’ta and dispense with these intruders as easily, he could get on with the business that he had come to accomplish for Apophis.
And after that, he could spend the night wrapped in Ria’ta’s arms. Their time together was almost over, gone. Soon, Apophis would come, and then, they would be parted, perhaps, forever. They needed to enjoy what little time they had left. He needed to convince himself that he would permanently give Ria’ta up to Apophis and take a woman of Apophis’ choice, as his own wife. Indeed, he needed, he must, convince himself that he could give Ria’ta up to Apophis. That he could take a wife other than Ria’ta unto himself.
But, most of all, it was imperative that he convince himself that he would, that he could, stand by, attend, and assist Apophis to take Ria’ta as his own. He must be loyal to his Lord. He must, he would, and he could, allow Apophis to make her his Queen. Of course, he could. He simply had to remind himself that he was Apophis’s strong, capable, and loyal First Prime. There was no question. He could give her up.
Lantash talked quietly into his radio, “Selmak, I hope our preparations are proving to have been sufficient. Samantha and I are at the point where we must decide which direction to go. We must try to go to the newly found escape tunnel, which means going through the open section of hall, or we must make our way to the other side of the Palace. There are Jaffa searching the lower chambers now. Ria’ta is here, and she has been following us to make sure that no one comes up behind us, but she must return to the others soon, or she will be missed.”
“It will be too risky for you to find your way to the other side of the Palace. There are either servants or Jaffa near all of the tunnel entrances, except the new one and the one that is farthest from where you now are, on the lower level. We will be able to come back into the Palace through the nearer tunnel and take up positions to lay down cover fire. It is the only way. From what recon that we have been able to do, we know that there are Jaffa on guard, as well as taking cover in the grand entrance hall, so it is likely that they will open fire on you as soon as you attempt to move through the open portions of the hallway. We will be ready for them.”
Lantash was quiet for a moment. “Are you sure that is the best way, Selmak? Do you not think we could make it to the other tunnel?”
“Possibly, but they have the house servants watching, as well as the Jaffa. If it was the only tunnel opening, you would have to attempt to reach it, but it is not. I believe that your best chance is the open hallway. The most recently discovered one is nearer. Thanks to our last minute planning session this morning, the diversion was easy to assemble. We will have it placed, ready to detonate, and be in position to lay down cover fire within ten minutes.”
“We will wait here.” Lantash released his radio connection and looked behind them, as they crouched behind a large folding screen, much like the one in the chamber where Egeria had been found. Leaning toward her, he whispered, “I am going to tell Ria’ta to return to the others. I shall return shortly, my Queen.”
Sam smiled. “You can call me Samantha, Lantash, or Egeria. My Queen is a little formal, don’t you think?” She teased softly, as she leaned forward and kissed him gently before her eyes glowed and Egeria returned. “She is correct, my mate. You must not be so formal. There may be situations that require you to be so at some future time, but these things will be discussed and decided upon later. For now, let us be close.”
Lantash leaned forward, sharing a deep, slow kiss with her, and wanting, not for the first time, to lay her down beneath him and love her, long and hard. Ending the kiss with a sigh, he stepped reluctantly away, saying, “It will be as you wish, my mate.” He smiled, before standing and going to find Ria’ta.
He found her in the next room, seemingly engrossed in studying a painting. His voice low, he murmured, “You should return before they come to search for you, Ria’ta. Do not let trouble come to you because of us, please.”
Following his example, her tone no more than the ghostly breath that only a symbiote could hear, she responded to him, “I will not, Lantash. Do not worry for me. I am sure that Teal’c thinks I have simply begun planning my redecorating and wandered off. Do not distress yourself for me, as it is not necessary, I assure you. I will leave shortly, I promise.” She thrust him back toward the doorway. “There is a guard coming, and I must steer him away from you. Go back, and stay behind the screen, until you can accomplish your mission by escaping. Please.”
“Thank you, Ria’ta. You will long be remembered and honored by the Tok’Ra. We wish you well.”
Ria’ta nodded and turned to intercept the Jaffa.
Lantash returned to the screen and his mate. Their teammates would be in position soon. They were close, so close, to succeeding. Crouching down next to Sam, he placed his arm around her as she sat on a low stool and held the urn. “Soon. Soon we will know what fate holds in store for us. We have done all that we can, our very best. Now, we will see if what we have done is enough.”
Hearing voices in the other room, they sat quietly, barely breathing. Lantash now completely severed his radio connection. No one could contact either of them. Sam had severed hers before they began their trip to the escape tunnel.
Time seemed to stand still, as they listened to the conversation in the next room.
“Ria’ta, Teal’c is looking for you. He is concerned. These intruders seem to have disappeared. Have you seen or heard anything?”
“I have been looking through some of the rooms and getting ideas for what we have to do before Lord Apophis arrives. I wandered around several of the chambers and have neither heard nor seen anything unusual. You are the first person that I have seen since I began looking around. Please tell Teal’c that I will return shortly. I want to finish this room, and the next one. It would seem to be a logical stopping place.”
“I will do so, after I check this next room. It will be the last one in this section of the bottom floor on this side of the Palace.”
Lantash and Sam heard them enter the room. Ria’ta walked slowly, but nonchalantly, toward the corner where the screen stood and looked up at a painting that graced the wall above and to the left of it. She stepped almost completely behind it, turning back to watch the Jaffa leave before following him at a discreet distance. She did not look back.
The couple left the shelter of the screen and quietly made their way forward. The next chamber was empty. It was time to resume radio contact with their team, to see if they were in place and ready to implement the escape plan. If they were, then it was time for them to leave and head back to their own reality and Earth.
Lantash keyed his radio and waited to see if there was a response. It came in the form of information from Selmak. “Our people are ready. When you hear the explosion, enter the open hallway. There is another, more enclosed hallway at the end of it, and we will be covering you and waiting for you there.”
“We are ready, Selmak.”
Lantash turned to Sam. “We love you.”
“I know. We love you too.” She smiled at him, and then turned serious again. “Which of us should attempt the hallway first? Should we attempt it together?”
Lantash frowned, thinking through the different scenarios. Sighing, he finally suggested, “I think that I should be the first to go. They may not start laying down cover fire quickly enough. If one of us is going to be hit by staff weapons fire, it should be me. You and Egeria must survive, Samantha.” He placed his fingers over her lips, when she would have spoken and no doubt protested his statement. “No. Do not say it. You are the future of the Tok’Ra. You are the last hope of our people. You must survive at all costs, my love.”
Sam drew a deep breath before nodding and smiling tremulously. “I know you’re right, Lantash, but I don’t have to be happy about it, or agree with it in my heart.”
“I know. We simply have to believe that we will both make it through this. We will, no matter what it takes. We must believe that.”
“Of course. And I have Egeria to help me now, as well. We’ll do all right. Her added strength will allow me…”
The explosion on the other side of the Palace was their signal to go. With one last look at Sam, Lantash sprinted from the enclosed portion of the hallway. Egeria would take control from Samantha and start out as soon as the cover fire was thick, and Lantash was well along the hallway. If they were very lucky, the Jaffa in the grand entrance hall would have been pulled away to the site of the explosion, and no one would even see them as they ran toward the next room. If they weren’t lucky, then one, or both of them, would not only be seen, but might not make it through the hallway safely.
Fifteen feet along the open section of hallway a staff blast missed Lantash by inches, and all hell broke loose. P-90 fire erupted from between the pillars at the end of the grand entrance hall, and it was being answered by staff weapons blasts, but not all of the Jaffa were aiming at those firing at them. Many of those staff blasts were following him as he ran toward safety. At least one Jaffa, and perhaps more, were firing on him as he navigated the open hallway. Lantash dived behind one of the pillars along the hallway, as a staff blast exploded pieces of it, and they showered down onto him. He regained his feet and continued running in a zigzag pattern before diving for the protection of the walls at the end of the hallway.
He turned in time to see Sam take a direct staff blast hit and go down partway behind a pillar. She pulled herself slowly forward, until she was completely behind it, but it was obvious that she had collapsed and was no longer able to move. Selmak and Sergeant Richards tackled him, as he lunged to begin the run back to her side. It would be suicide for him to go back for her right now, as the Jaffa continued firing toward the pillar and surrounding area. They had to take out the Jaffa that were covering the hallway, before a rescue could be attempted.
Jacob swore, “Damn it, Sel, she’s closer to the other end of the hallway than she is to this one, but if we can get to her, we can take her to the sarcophagus that’s on this floor. It’s the one that Ra made available for his visitors to use. Reaching her and getting her to it will be difficult, but not impossible.”
“Jacob, we do not use the sarcophagus.”
“Selmak, I agree that using the sarcophagus on a daily basis drained the good from the Goa’ uld. But using it once on my daughter is not going to turn her into an evil, selfish, raving egomaniac. I’m not leaving her here. Not when there is another alternative.”
“All right. I’ll talk to Lantash and we’ll put together a – wait. What the...? What is that woman doing? Who is that?”
Selmak turned to Lantash, asking him the same question aloud, “Who is that?” at the same time they heard the other Teal’c order his Jaffa to cease firing.
“It is Ria’ta,” Lantash whispered, “the young woman that helped us to escape when we were captured by Apophis.”
“What is she doing?” Selmak whispered, watching her, as she ran toward Sam and crouched down behind the pillar with her, not trusting that the shooting had stopped, at least for the moment.
“I do not know, but I believe that she will try to get Samantha and pull her to safety. If she is successful, we must keep the Jaffa busy enough they cannot go after her. I must try to reach them before the Jaffa do, Selmak. Otherwise, they will have once again captured Egeria.”
“What? What are you saying?”
“I have not had time to tell you, and we did not wish to discuss it over the radio. The seal broke on Egeria’s stasis jar, when I attempted to remove it from the mantle upon which it was set. Samantha took her, so that she would not die. She did it before Martouf or I could stop her, but there really was no other way, if we wished to take her back with us to our reality. Even if we could have reached you, either Anise or Jorlin would have had to give their lives for her, and chances are good that she would not have survived long enough for us to reach you, anyway. It was a voluntary blending, I assure you.”
“I believe you. I know that you would not force Samantha to do anything that wasn’t a free choice, Lantash.” Suddenly, he aimed and fired his P-90 at a Jaffa that was making his way cautiously toward the young woman. She had reached Sam and was slowly pulling her back down the hall. The Jaffa’s attention was successfully diverted from Ria’ta, and what she was trying to accomplish. He jumped back, and began once again to fire his staff weapon at them in return. The battle renewed in earnest as Ria’ta continued dragging Sam back down the hall toward the rooms that they had just left.
From the shadows, SG-1’s Teal’c watched his alternate reality twin Teal’c command his Jaffa. He fired at him, as he turned to head toward the door into the rooms that would lead him toward the young woman, Major Carter, and Egeria. He would keep him as busy as possible, as long as possible. He could not be allowed to interfere in what Ria’ta was attempting to do.
Teal’c glanced at the place where Ria’ta had disappeared, and then turned back to return fire on the one that seemed to be targeting him, although he could not see him clearly in the shadows.
He rejoined the fight. Ria’ta would be all right. The woman, whoever she was, was probably dead, and therefore, she could cause no injury to his Ria’ta. He would see to her after he had dispensed with these rebels, or whatever they were. Weapons fire barely missed his head. He had a battle to tend. He would take care of the body, find out what Ria’ta was up to, and scold her for it later.
Sam realized that she hurt, even though Egeria was trying to shield her from the pain. She could tell that they would not survive the injury that they had received. It was much too serious. Egeria was holding death at bay, for the moment, but they could not last for long. “I am sorry, Samantha, but there is nothing that I can do. The injury is too severe and the blood loss too great.”
“It’s all right. It’s a chance that we take every time we leave on a mission. We know that the odds are against us going into these things. Sometimes, people don’t return. That’s just how it is.” Sam paused, and then said, “Egeria, we’re being dragged somewhere, aren’t we?”
“I believe so, although, I have not yet been able to ascertain by whom, or where we are being taken.”
“Can you get me conscious enough to let the person know to stop? To let them know that we won’t make it, and that continuing to drag us is pointless?”
“Yes, I will be able to keep us alive and conscious for a time, Samantha. It is simply that I will not be able to allow us to survive.”
“Then we need to take what little time that we have left to try to find you a new host. Your survival is crucial to the survival of the Tok’Ra as a species. Even if you must take a male for a short time, until you can find a willing female, if there is a chance, we must take it.”
“We will see. For now, we must find out what is happening. I need to work at keeping us alive, for the moment. For now, you must speak to the person moving us.”
Sam heard a moan, realized it was herself, and then managed to get her eyes open. She could tell that someone had a hold of her under her arms, and that they were attempting to drag her across a floor. She tried to get their attention. “S-s-st-stop. Stop.” She managed to get the word out, her voice barely above a whisper, but the person dragging her heard her.
“I cannot stop yet. I must get you to the sarcophagus, before the fighting ends. I believe that it is in the next room. Only a little farther to go, I swear to you. Please, please, you must trust me. I will not allow you to die, or remain dead. You must return with Lantash, and help him to continue to fight the Goa’uld wherever destiny now leads him. I will not fail him or you.”
“R-Ria’ta?” Sam cleared her throat and tried again, with better results. “You must stop. The Tok’Ra, they don’t use the sarcopha...”
“I know. But, this time you will do so. I do not know who you are, but Lantash would not have risked his life to come for you the first time, nor would he have come back this time, if it was not important, if you were not important. You must live, and from what I have seen of your wound, you will not do so without the help of the sarcophagus. So no matter what, this one time, you will use it. It is my will that you live, and I am stronger than you are at this time. You can berate me or kill me later, if you wish to,” she panted, as she again strained to pull the slightly larger, heavier woman closer to the sarcophagus, “for it will be worth my death or every word of your anger, if you survive to fight against the Goa’uld.”
Sam’s lips quirked upwards, a travesty of a small smile. “Egeria says - that since you feel so strongly about it, we will - do our best - but, Ria’ta,” Sam paused, to rest, gain breath and some strength before continuing, “There is an alternative…to using the sarcophagus. We could find her another host.”
Ria’ta stopped, for a moment. “Egeria? The Tok’Ra Queen? Now, I know why it was so important for them to come for you, and I am even more determined that you will survive. You must see that you must live for them. As Egeria, you cannot allow your children to perish from the universe, which they will, if you die. As their Tok’Ra and human mate, you must live for their love of you and yours of them. There is no time to find another host. And, it would be foolish to try, when the means to survive is here and available,” she chided softly, before placing her flat on the floor beside the sarcophagus. Sam could hear her moving around, and before long, she heard the slow grinding of the sarcophagus top opening. When it stopped, the young woman returned to her and once again grasped her under the arms to pull her closer to it, uncaring of the blood that was becoming smeared on her body and clothing.
As she dragged her up the steps of the sarcophagus, Egeria came forward to speak to her, and Sam’s eyes glowed brightly, as she looked up at the young woman. Her voice was stronger, and full of determination. “You must listen to me, Ria’ta. There are things that I must tell you. You, and you alone, will be the keeper of the secrets of the Tok’Ra in your universe. Their future will depend on you. You must hold these secrets until you feel the time has come when they can be put to good use. Until then, you must tell no one. The information should be passed to the next generation, should you be unable to make use of it. However, I believe that you would make an admirable host yourself, so if you have a strong and brave consort, one that you can trust and depend upon, you should, perhaps, attempt once again to overthrow the System Lords. You will know best who could accomplish the most against them. But, only you will know when the time is right. I must have from you an oath that you will tell no one my secrets, until that time arrives, and that you will seek death rather than betray them.”
Ria’ta stared at the Tok’Ra Queen. She somehow knew what she was about to be told. It would be a great challenge, a great responsibility, but it could set her people free. It could change the worlds, as they knew them. Perhaps not today, or even tomorrow, but someday. She knew that she would give her oath to this Queen. And she would keep her word regardless of the cost to her personally. “You have it. I will hold my own counsel, until I feel the time to act has come, and rather than betray your words, I will still my own tongue forever. This I promise you.”
Egeria closed her eyes. It was obvious that the effort it was taking to talk was draining her badly. Feeling alarmed, Ria’ta spoke urgently, “You should wait to tell me, until after you are healed. I need to place you within the sarcophagus.” She watched her closely, seeing the life force slowly leaving her.
Egeria shook her head. “No. There is every chance that someone will come before I arise. You must have the information first. If your people get to me, before mine arrive, I may never get the chance to tell you. Listen carefully and remember what I say, for I will have the strength to say it only once.”
Sam’s bright blue eyes closed, for a moment, before Egeria once again gathered the strength to continue speaking. “When the time is right, you must go to a world called Azurat. In my time, before I was captured by Ra, it was unpopulated. There were very small deposits of Naquadah that had been mined out, so the waters were rich with it. And they teemed with food. The world was mostly water, another reason it was not populated.”
“You must go there and walk straight from the Chaappa’ai to the edge of the large body of water that will lie directly ahead some short distance away. If you will sit at the edge of the water and call to her, Anasharya, my daughter, will come to you. Place your hands into the water, side by side, with your palms up. She will swim to you and first touch each of your fingertips. If she feels that you will be compatible, she will then swim onto your palms and allow you to lift her from the waters. Place her in a shallow chamber or on someone’s chest and lie on your side facing her or them. Close your eyes then open your mouth, and she will blend with you.”
“If she no longer lives, then her clutch mates should come. They will touch only the fingers of your left hand. There should be several thousand adult Tok’Ra on this world, Ria’ta. Enough to begin another assault against the Goa’uld once you have found hosts.”
“If I survive, then I must leave you and go with Lantash to help his new family. Their Egeria was captured before she could travel to Azurat to give birth to more Tok’Ra, and those alive today in their reality are the last of their race. Though I cannot remain with you, I leave you with these secrets and thus this hope for your reality’s future.”
“I think you would make a good, strong Queen, Ria’ta. In you, our race would have a loyal and determined leader, something that they would need to allow them to become a viable, formidable force against the Goa’uld. They had mentors among the humans who helped our kind find hosts before; this time they may or may not have that help, and so it will be up to you. I believe that you would know where to find those who would become such mentors and wise ones for them.”
Ria’ta listened, as Egeria’s voice became no more than a whisper, as she gave her the Chaappa’ ai address of the world sheltering her children, her daughter, indeed, the last hope of the Tok’ Ra in this universe. Her eyes closed as her breathing ceased, and Ria’ta knew that it was time to place her into the sarcophagus.
She stood back and watched as the top closed. She hoped that no one came looking for her, but knew that the longer she was here, the more likely it would be that it happened. She could not allow anything to happen to the Queen. She could not be permitted to fall into the hands of Apophis.
Though it was not cold, Ria’ta shivered, as she stood watching and waiting for the sarcophagus to perform its miracle of healing. Where was Lantash? Surely, they saw her pull Egeria away, and knew that she would take her to be healed? Martouf would reassure Lantash, if needed. Why did they not come for her? Had they been injured? Killed? Captured trying to reach them? She refused to believe that had happened. They were still alive and on their way to rescue their mate and their Queen. She could still faintly hear sporadic weapons fire, though, it did not sound so constant, as before.
All she could do was hope that Lantash found them before Teal’c did. She knew that Teal’c loved her, but she did not know if he loved her enough to turn his back and pretend that he did not see what she was doing.
Though it was a subject that was never spoken of aloud, she knew that he would like nothing better than to see the System Lords overthrown, defeated, or removed. She also knew that he did not believe it was possible for it to ever happen. He felt helpless to ever do anything to gain them their freedom. He did the best he could to protect them all and by being sure that they all protected one another. She hoped he would continue to protect her in this.
If what Lantash and Egeria said was true, then when they left, they would be leaving completely. They would not only be leaving this world, but this universe and this reality. They would be living their lives in a different reality. Surely, Teal’c would not care, as long as they were gone from here. She loved Teal’c, but she would not allow him to stand in the way of freedom for the peoples of the worlds from the tyranny of the System Lords. She could not allow him to stop her. If only he loved her enough to leave his place with Apophis. They could do so much together. But she was afraid that the chances of that happening were slim to none. She could not let her feelings for him sway her from her duty. She would not betray her fellow rebels, her family, her commitments, or her mission.
She sighed. It would take time for the sarcophagus to revive and heal Egeria and her host. She turned her back, and slowly lowered herself, until she was leaning against the sarc’s golden side. For the moment, all she could do was wait.
And think. Definitely think. Egeria had placed the means to help the resistance, her world, and the universe directly into her hands, if only she was wise enough, and brave enough, to use it. But, it all rested on her shoulders. Fear blossomed in her, but underneath the fear, she felt the stirrings of excitement and the rising of a new hope, and a new dream. All it would take was determination, luck, and finding the right people to work with, many of whom she already knew. It would take a huge leap of faith to become a host to a newly discovered symbiote, but she could do it. She would do it. As she had realized earlier, she knew that it would not be today or tomorrow, but someday, before very long. Yes. Someday soon, she would go to Azurat, and if Anasharya accepted her, then she would accept the responsibility of becoming the host of the Queen.
Soon, she would see the culmination of the mission she had been sent to accomplish in the household of Apophis. She had discovered all of the information she had been sent to find, and she knew, without a doubt, that given enough time, they would have succeeded in their quest. But, time was at a premium, and they no longer had any left to wait upon.
Now, only destiny could lead them forward, and they could do no better than to follow where it led. It was hurtling them all at a frightening pace, though time seemed to stand still at the moment. It was an odd sensation to be both streaking toward the future, and yet be standing still, stopped at a moment in time, as if waiting for the stage to be set for the next act to begin. Waiting for the threads to be woven into place in the tapestry of the universe, by the fates, and the words to be written down and recorded, and so to be known for all time.
Her decision made, Ria’ta leaned her head back against the sarcophagus to await the rising of the Queen, her Queen, and the arrival of her rescuers…as well as, the arrival of the man that she loved. The man that she would face with the zat held firmly in her hand, pointed steadily at him, never flinching, never wavering, ready to do what she had to do, if the need arose.
She wiped a tear from her cheek, as she picked up the zat’nik’tel that she had taken from Egeria and settled in to watch the doorways, waiting for their destiny to arrive, and thus set them firmly onto the paths their futures were about to take.