Chapter Thirteen Summary: Lantash, Jacob, and Malek find the sarcophagus room, Ria’ta, and Nal’ka. They enter and await both Egeria and Sam’s rising, and the arrival of Teal'c, which they assume will happen quite soon.
Ka’sech lapt – A type of tea “Italics” – Symbiote-Host Communication
Lantash moved silently through the rooms, Malek at his side, Selmak taking their six. They were taking a long, oblique path to reach the chamber that they suspected would be Ria’ta’s ultimate destination. Their senses were tuned to interpret the least sound around them for any sign of a threat.
The servants that had been told to help search for them had become less diligent, since the fighting began, obviously deciding that they would remain safer by keeping a distance from both sides. Their absence was appreciated, and it could only be hoped that they would continue to remain hidden away, hearing nothing and seeing less.
As the Tok’Ra continued to move stealthily down the halls, their minds dwelled on the scenarios that they could face, when they finally arrived at their destination. At best, Ria’ta, Samantha, and Egeria would be alone, fine, and just setting out to find them. At worst, the women would all be captured, or dead, and the three of them would be captured along with them, when they arrived, or follow in their fate, and their mission would once again have been a failure.
“There are many scenarios that may await us, Martouf, not all of them completely good or bad. Therefore, we must be prepared for any contingency. Furthermore, our teammates will not be able to keep this reality’s Teal’c penned down for long. He will soon manage to remove himself from the fighting in the grand entrance hall and begin searching for Ria’ta. I am sure that you are as aware as I am that there was an undertone of deep emotion in his voice when he ordered his Jaffa to cease fire, while she pulled Samantha to safety. He would have left to follow her at once, if Teal’c had not realized his intention and fired directly upon him, drawing him into combat by personally targeting him. We can only hope that he does not bring many Jaffa with him, so that we might keep the bloodshed at a minimum. Oddly enough, I have no desire to kill any more Jaffa than necessary to escape.”
“So you heard the emotion as well. I believed that I did, but I was not sure.” Martouf sighed tiredly. “If we are correct, then the situation between them could seriously complicate matters, however, I do not believe that Ria’ta would betray us, no matter what feelings she has for him in return.” He paused, contemplating their possible relationship before continuing, “And, perhaps her feelings for him are what make us wish to finish our mission with as little bloodshed as possible.”
“I agree. I also agree that she would not betray us, and from the same depths of character, Teal’c will not be so easily swayed from his purpose, if he believes that he must capture or kill us, regardless of his feelings for her. He is Jaffa, and his loyalty to Apophis will hold sway over all else, Martouf.”
“Yes. It is too bad, for his change of allegiance in our reality has proven to be of great benefit in the battle to defeat the Goa’uld. Even without the Tok’Ra, the Jaffa could go a long way toward freedom for themselves and the many other worlds in the universe, Lantash. Hard as it is for the Tok’Ra to believe, it could be accomplished. Of course, if they did defeat the Goa’uld, they would still have their dependency on the symbiotes, and I do not see how they could overcome that. As long as they have that dependency, they will never truly be free of them.”
“I believe that there are defining moments in history that determine the outcome of events. I believe that Teal’c’s decision to join the Tau’ri is one of those defining moments. I am not saying that the Goa’uld cannot be defeated, if he does not join the Tau’ri, only that it was his decision to become ‘sholva’ and start a movement for the freedom of all Jaffa that set in motion the turning of their own warriors against them. It was simply one more of those defining moments in our new reality that has made it possible for the war against the System Lords to move forward, instead of remaining almost deadlocked, as it has for so many centuries.”
Lantash paused, his silence thoughtful, before continuing, “As for your comments about the Jaffa in this reality and their dependency on symbiotes, it could be simply solved. All they would need to do would be to capture a queen, breed symbiotes, and dispose of them as they reach maturity. But enough of these wild speculations, for we know from personal experience that Teal’ c has no intention of abandoning his loyalty to Apophis. The Jaffa’s need for symbiotes and any lack thereof is a moot point. Furthermore, we have almost arrived at the sarcophagus chambers. I hope that Ria’ta met no resistance in bringing our Samantha and Egeria here.”
“I believe that there would have been messengers sent into the grand entrance hall to inform Teal'c, if she had been found and Egeria and Samantha were with her. Since no Jaffa has arrived there, I believe that it is safe to assume that none of the Jaffa have yet come upon them. I am hopeful that we have not met them along the way because they chose a different route to return to the chamber where the tunnel is located, rather than that they attempted the hallway again, despite the added danger of being captured as they moved through the rooms toward the tunnel. If they are very careful, they could make it to the chamber where the tunnel entrance is, just as we have arrived here at the sarcophagus room without incident.”
“Do not begin to breath so easily yet, Martouf. We have yet to enter and determine the situation completely. For all we know, the Jaffa have already found and removed them from this room, or Ria’ta never made it here at all. We assumed that she was heading here.”
“Quiet! Listen! I believe that I hear voices inside, Lantash. Get as close to the door as you can, and try to see if it is latched.” Martouf held his breath, as they inched nearer to one side of the chamber door. Lantash motioned Malek to the other side of the doorway and indicated that Selmak should maintain their guard, before slowly reaching out to touch it very slightly. It was unlatched and opened minutely, barely enough for them to hear the low conversation taking place inside the room.
“Ria’ta, I have long known that your capture and subsequent admittance into Apophis’s personal household servants was not as unfortunate, unexpected, or unappealing to you, as one would expect. The others who were captured with you have either escaped, or become household servants as well, though not as highly placed as you. I know that there were only a few of you, but I know, too, that you speak rarely to one another and, for only a very limited time, when you do, as if you do not want anyone to associate you to one another. You have been absent for some time now, while our Jaffa and Teal’c hunt for an imposter who is impersonating him. When those things are viewed together, they are somewhat disquieting. I have sought you out on my own, while I am supposedly safely locked in my chamber, so that we will not be overheard. I wish us to be frank with one another.”
She paused, for a moment, before continuing sadly, “I did not consider you a threat to us and had no wish to see you harmed. I felt that you were exactly what Teal’c needed in his life, for his wife has been gone for a long time, and he has been much alone, too much alone, for far too long. But now, I find myself wondering, if I have misjudged you. I cannot allow you to betray or harm Teal’c in any way,” the voice was still soft and low, but the steel in it indicated the depth of the intent in the speaker. “I do not wish harm to come to either of you. You are both dear to my heart.”
Ria’ta sighed deeply, and then smiled slightly, before saying gently, “It is not my intention to hurt or betray Teal’c, nor, I believe, do any of those he is hunting so earnestly wish to do so, Nal’ka. So long as he does not betray them to Apophis, or anyone else, they will leave him in peace and go their own way. Those that he hunts would help him, if only he would finally put aside his disbelief in himself, his abilities, and his dreams. I cannot tell you more, but I can assure you that I will never betray or hurt him, as long as I have a choice. However, I will also be honest and tell you that I cannot allow him to harm those that he hunts, nor can I allow him to attempt to stop them in their quest, for to do so would be to kill a dream, which we all hold dear, whether we actively admit it or not.”
“You are speaking of the Gods and things better left unsaid aloud within their very walls, Ria'ta.”
“Yes, I suppose that I am, but I am not afraid to speak, for I know that they are not the Gods and Goddesses that they wish us to believe they are, and saying it aloud will not bring their wrath down upon our heads, for they cannot hear us. Truly, Nal’ka, do not fear them so, for their power comes not from the divine, but from chemical reactions of their bodies with certain elements that they have learned to use. They have no powers granted to them that are other- worldly, I promise you.”
“So I have heard. Teal’c, also, has declared it to be so, and we have trusted and followed him, for a very long time. He has never led us astray, and we have given him our faith about these things, as well. As for talking about these things, it is simply that it is safer to believe that the Gods have ears, as we all know that the walls can certainly have them. What you are saying is no great shock to me. But, it makes no difference, for their power is still greater than ours to combat them.”
Ria’ta shook her head. “You are wrong, Nal’ka, and so is Teal’c. There are those who would help us. It is being accomplished in other universes even as we speak, and it could happen here as well. Teal’c is the key to our success, Nal’ka. He has always been the key to success in our worlds. He has the strength, the following, and the respect of many Jaffa. They would be swayed by him. The people would be swayed by him, as well. And the Tok’Ra would have given us all the help that they possibly could have.”
“It is too late for that, Ria’ta, for they have perished from our worlds. I will tell you a secret that I have locked in my heart. I was so saddened, when I heard that they were indeed gone from us. They saved so many, yet we could not save them in the end.” She stopped and bowed her head for a moment and, when she looked back up at Ria’ta, tears threatened to fall, as she whispered, “I feel so guilty. They saved my little sister and young brother. They are on a safe world. I wish that I had done more, tried harder to help them. I allowed my fear of Apophis to hold me back, and I should not have. I have manipulated him for several years, and I could have helped them more. If I had it to do over again, I believe that I would stand with them, help them in the many small ways that those of us in service to the System Lords have access to. I should have helped them to escape, but I was too afraid. I was wrong not to act.”
“Would you truly do so now, Nal’ka? Would you risk your life to help, to save the worlds of our universe?”
She was quiet for a long time, staring blankly into the distance, lost in thought, before turning back toward Ria’ta. “Yes, I would. Eventually, you are going to tell me something about the Tok’Ra. Perhaps that they have not perished from our universe, and that you have found proof of their existence.”
“I sensed something in you when the last of the Tok’Ra attempted to escape, you know. You were desolate, when Teal’c told you that all of them had been killed. But then something made you doubt it, and now, you have found out something more. I do not believe your original reason for being captured, and becoming a member of Apophis’s household had anything to do with the Tok’Ra, but I believe that they became involved with your mission. Yes. That is the word. Your mission.”
“Yes.” The agreement was spoken quietly and the two women fell silent, as they each contemplated their own thoughts.
Suddenly, Nal’ka seemed to realize that she was sitting on the floor next to a sarcophagus. “Ria'ta, why are you sitting in this room next to that thing? Why have you not gone back to reassure Teal’c that you are all right and that nothing has happened to you? What exactly is occurring here? Do you know what is happening, and who these intruders are? Did you know before we arrived that they would be here?”
“I believe that I can answer those questions for you, Nal’ka, starting with the last one first. Ria'ta had no foreknowledge of our presence, and she did not know that we had survived, until she came upon us in one of the antechambers.”
“As for why she is still sitting in this chamber, I believe that she is awaiting our arrival, and the rising, if I am not mistaken, of our mate from the sarcophagus,” Lantash said softly, as he stepped silently into the room, zat gun held at the ready, but not in an aggressive position. Nal'ka gasped, and leaped swiftly to her feet, whirling to face him. She recognized him at once, and she stumbled backward into Ria’ta.
“Lantash. Martouf. So, you did not die after all.” Looking beyond him to Jacob, Selmak, Devlin, and Malek, she noticeably paled. “But, Teal’c said that he saw you both disintegrated. He saw it with his own eyes, and he would not lie about something like that to us. He would not have lied to Apophis about that, if it were not true.” She was visibly shaking, and Ria’ta quickly put her arm around her, reassuring her with her touch.
Her voice low and soothing, she said softly, “These men are not from our reality, Nal’ka. Only Martouf and Lantash survived from our reality. I do not know how he survived, but I have always sensed that Teal’c was not sure if he actually died or not. He would never admit as much, but I have always known that he was not telling me the truth about that day, when it came to Martouf’s death, regardless what he told Apophis.”
“And, as you can see, he did not, in fact, die. Devlin, Malek, Selmak, and Jacob, however, did die, and they will tell you themselves that they do not belong here; that they have come only to retrieve something, before returning to their own time and space.”
“She is speaking the truth, Nal’ka,” Selmak assured her firmly. “We are not of this universe, in this reality, but from one in a reality that is parallel to yours. We are not here to stay, or to interfere with your lives. We came only to retrieve something of the Tok’Ra’s, since you no longer have need of it in your reality. In our reality, we do need it, desperately. When Lantash arrived in our time and space, and he realized that he could not viably return here, we decided to come and retrieve it, if at all possible. All we wish, now that we have found it, is to take it and return to our own reality. We will not be returning, I give you my word.”
“Ria’ta said that you would help Teal’c. I am not sure what she meant by that, or why she believes that Teal’c needs your help, but are you saying that you will leave him, if he needs you and your help, even though you would be able to leave without hindrance, if you gave it?
“Like you, I am not sure how we could help him, or why he would ask our help. From what I understand, they were not exactly on friendly terms the last time any Tok’Ra were alive here in your reality. If you mean as a bargaining chip for an uncomplicated and unencumbered return to our own universe and reality? Then, certainly, we would not be adverse to…discussing it.”
“There are things that you do not yet know, Selmak. Lantash does not know, either, but this is not the time to go into long discussions. I am sure that Egeria will explain, when she awakens.” Ria’ta wished that she could share Egeria’s ancient secrets with them, but knew that it was not her place to tell them. Egeria would explain what she left behind in her old reality, when she felt that the time was right to do so, and not before. “I perhaps misspoke to Nal’ka. The help that you give to Teal’c will benefit both sides. And, the truth is that much of how the remainder of this plays out will, perhaps, remain between Teal’c and myself.”
“Samantha will explain it to you once you are back in your own reality, unless, that is, we are unlucky enough to have the Jaffa and Teal’c find us before she arises, and we don’t survive,” Ria’ta added, almost under her breath. The more time that passed, the more uneasy she became. Her fear of a confrontation between the Tok’Ra and the Jaffa was growing. She wanted to avoid it, if possible. She just was not certain how. If Egeria did not arise soon, the Jaffa would arrive, and Teal’c would be with them. She could feel it coming. She only hoped that if it had to happen, the outcome would be good, rather than the bad that she was afraid it would be.
Teal’c sighed to himself, as he made his way quickly down the hallways and through the rooms, a few Jaffa behind him. He could not believe that Ria’ta would take the woman to a sarcophagus, but it was beginning to look as if that was exactly where she must have taken her. Why? Why would she take such chances, risk her life before both friendly and enemy fire, wear herself our physically, cause him such agony of fear and worry, all for a woman that she did not even know? What was the matter with her? He had never known her to act so rashly.
He stopped dead in his tracks, and the Jaffa walking behind bumped into him. He looked over his shoulder at them sharply, but said nothing, as he recommenced walking, albeit much more slowly. He had just answered his own question. Not only had he never known her to act so rashly, he had never really known her…at all.
He knew that her family had been burned out. Their farm was destroyed in a Goa’uld attack many years ago, and they were no longer living on the world where she was born. She never mentioned where they lived now, though, which seemed odd, as he thought about it. She had a brother in service in one of Lord Yu’s households and a cousin in Bastet’s.
She had been desperate to get work in Apophis’s household. Evidently, wherever her family was, they could not help her, and her alternative to Apophis’s household would have been prostitution on a mining world. Mining planets were not good places to go into that line of “work.” She had preferred being, hopefully, one rich man’s whore over being one whore to many poor men. An obviously sensible choice, in his opinion. Managing to be “captured” was the only way that she had to bring herself to Apophis’s attention. With her looks, it had worked.
He knew her age, her eye color, and that she was a natural blonde. She loved children and animals. She took in strays, fed them, cared for them, and she sang when she worked. Her eyes sparkled, when she laughed, and her smile would light the room. Her body was luscious and could drive a man wild with desire.
And, soon, she would become Apophis’s Queen. No matter what he did not know about her, he must retrieve her for that reason, if for no other. But the knowledge that she was not what she appeared to be, that there were hidden depths and buried secrets that he did not know, made him uneasy.
He frowned more fiercely than before. He had always suspected that she had helped the Tok’ Ra escape, had suspected that at the very least, she was a Tok’Ra sympathizer, but now he was beginning to wonder if she had become Apophis’s lover for a more sinister reason.
Why was she really in his bed and with him day and night? What was she learning, and was she reporting it to anyone? Could she be part of a resistance group? He groaned to himself. She would never allow herself to become Apophis’s Queen, if that were so, for she could not allow the Goa’uld to have access to her memories, her knowledge.
Furthermore, where did these people, these imposters, who were so obviously unafraid of being caught here, fit into all of his speculations? Had she known that they would be here? Perhaps even made arrangements to meet them here? No, that made no sense. If she had made arrangements to meet someone, it would not be done in such an obvious way. He would not believe that she knew of these people before her arrival here, though he could believe that she might have recognized them, just as he thought that he had recognized them.
But, that, too, he refused to delve too deeply into, for the people that he thought he had seen running through the demi-hall were both dead. He sighed again. They were supposed to be dead, but he had seen neither of their bodies with his own eyes and had only rumor about the woman’s death. The other, he had thought he saw, after he was blown to pieces, and so, he could not be sure.
He mentally shrugged his shoulders. He must find Ria’ta and this woman. He would get his answers, and then he would know what he should do. He let his mind wander to the past, even though it was pointless to wonder about might-have-beens.
It seemed that since meeting and coming to love Ria’ta, he had been dwelling more and more on the past. What might have transpired, if the Tok’Ra had not been defeated? What if he had found the courage to defy convention and gone against Apophis? Many opportunities had come his way, and he had thrown them all away. What if he had at last said yes and taken a chance? Would Apophis have become the Supreme System Lord, or would he have fallen instead? Would the Tau’ri have failed, if he had been there to steer them through some of the mistakes that they made? Why had he never found the courage to free himself from Lord Apophis?
He sighed yet again. It did not matter now. The past was just that, the past, and he had work to do for his Lord. He had already made his decisions, and it was too late to change them now. Therefore, he would do whatever he had to do to protect those that he had sworn to protect. And these imposters, whoever they were, and whatever they wanted, could very well pose a threat to all of them, as well as to Apophis. They must be found, questioned, and then eliminated.
After that, he might pursue these questions that plagued him. And Ria’ta. He would definitely speak seriously to Ria’ta, for if she was not what she said she was, then she must get as far away from Apophis as possible. And helping her to escape, well, that was something that could cost him his life, and he was not really prepared to do that, was he? There was little point in thinking of those things. Until he talked to Ria’ta, his thoughts were nothing but speculation and any planning he did could very well be for naught.
Stopping again, he turned to the Jaffa following him. “I do not believe that this is an efficient way to check the rooms. You two will continue on with me, the remainder of you will proceed back the way we came and then continue on to the rooms on the far side of the Palace. We three will continue searching on this side, but I believe that they may have left here and somehow slipped over there. Spread out once you are over there, and when you finish the rooms on the bottom floor, proceed to the next floor.”
“What of Ria’ta, Teal’c? Do you wish us to bring her to you along with the woman she took?”
“I believe that the woman is dead and that Ria’ta is probably very much shaken. She may even be hiding behind something, or in a small antechamber. If you find her, then see to it that she is taken to Nal’ka, and that I am apprised at once. If the woman is still with her and is alive, see to it that she is given medical care at once. I wish her alive for questioning, if at all possible.”
Bowing their heads in understanding, the Jaffa turned and began to retrace their steps. Teal’c turned and resumed his journey in the direction which Perris had assured him that a sarcophagus could be found. When Ria’ta had failed to return, he had asked the young man where she could have taken the obviously badly injured woman, and Perris had at once indicated that a sarcophagus lay within the Palace wing that Ria’ta was in. No doubt, Ria’ta would have found it during her wanderings thorough the many rooms. She might take the woman there, but Teal’c was not convinced of it until now.
Now that he’d had time to think, he was almost sure he would find her there, and he did not wish the other Jaffa to be present, when he confronted her and the woman, whoever she might prove to be. The two Jaffa with him now were loyal to him over all others, and he could trust them with anything they might see or hear.
If the woman was Samantha Carter of the Tau’ri come back to life, well, then, his life had suddenly become, not only more complicated, but very much more confusing. That meant that he had probably also seen Martouf and Lantash of the Tok’Ra. He hoped that he found the sarcophagus room, before very much more time elapsed. He must find them before the imposters managed to find them. He needed answers; he needed answers, soon, before his thoughts and questions drove him insane.
The five people in the room continued to stand and watch one another for a short time. The Tok’Ra patiently, and Ria’ta warmly, while Nal’ka’s gaze was guarded and suspicious, yet hopeful.
As they became more comfortable with one another, the three men shifted their attention to the sarcophagus. “How badly was she injured, Ria’ta?” Lantash murmured evenly, his voice low and smooth, no hint of his anxiety being allowed to show through either his demeanor or his tone. He could have been asking about the weather, or so one would have thought, unless you listened closely and heard the minutest tremor and the merest waver hovering there.
Ria’ta paused, holding her breath for a moment before saying, quietly, “She did not survive, Lantash. I am sorry. I tried to get her to the sarcophagus as quickly as I could, but she was very badly injured. She passed just as I was ready to lift her inside. I believe that is why it is taking so long.”
He nodded abruptly, before managing to say, “Yes, of course, that would be the reason. It will take some time for her to both revive and heal.” He again paused to gather himself, before asking, “How many injuries did she have?”
“As far as I could tell, only one that was serious, but it was quite severe. The others were all minor, but there were many of them. There was quite a bit of blood loss,” she stopped to wave her hand toward the floor and the streaks of blood that she had not yet wiped up, “as you can see. I did try to make sure that we left no trail in the hallways and rooms, but I did not bother in here. By the time someone traces us here, it no longer matters if they are attempting to follow a trail.”
Lantash smiled slightly, “That is very true, Ria’ta. You have done more than we could have asked or expected of you. Once again, you have earned our thanks and gratitude. We will be forever in your debt, and I only wish we were in a position to repay you.”
Ria’ta shook her head, then smiled impishly, first, at him, and then, at Selmak and Malek. “You have no way of knowing, at the moment, what you have given me, but I assure you that you have given me a gift of greater value than any other you could give. You have given me hope for our future, for all of our world’s futures. You owe me nothing. You will understand, when you return to your own time and space, I promise you.”
Lantash nodded. “I have no choice, nor wish, but to believe you. I will take your word as truth, and say no more about it.”
“Thank you, Lantash, it truly is unnecessary.” She turned back to gaze at the sarcophagus, and then walked toward it. Nal’ka followed her, puzzled by the sad, almost longing look in her friend’s eyes. The three men took up positions across from them on the other side of the device and the room settled into a hushed, waiting silence.
Soon the Tok’Ra found that they had melded back into the shadows of the walls and furnishings of the rooms, and the two women found chairs some distance away, carrying out their vigil in relative comfort. They sat, unspeaking, lost in their own thoughts. Time passed slowly and tension seemed to be re-entering the room. Surely, the sarcophagus would open soon, now.
Instead, the door on the opposite side of the room opened and Teal’c gazed into the room. His eyes went immediately to Ria’ta sitting calmly upon a chair between him and the sarcophagus. She showed no alarm or excitement, no dread or fear. The eyes she turned to him were clear and trusting. He hesitated upon the threshold for a moment before stepping farther into the room, followed by two of his Jaffa. Of all the scenarios he had imagined, this was not one of them. His Ria’ta was sitting as calmly as if she was taking afternoon ka’sech lapt with Nal’ka.
He stopped as he reached the women and placed his hand on Ria’ta’s shoulder, looking up, as a shadow moved and stepped forward to greet him. Both of the Jaffa brought their staff weapons to bear on the man standing there, though Teal’c raised his hand to stay them, noting that Lantash was making no threatening gestures.
“So, you did survive. I have often wondered if what I thought I saw that day was real, or my imagination. Why have you come here, Lantash? Do you not realize that your life will be forfeit?”
Lantash shrugged. “I do not think that my death is in your best interests, or even something that you are particularly interested in, since Apophis is not here at the moment. As for why I have come, that is simple enough to answer. I came to complete the mission that was interrupted a little over a week ago. I have now done so, and as soon as possible, I will depart, taking what I sought with me, not only away from this Palace, but away from your universe. I am no longer of your reality, Teal’c, and as such, after this day, we will never cross paths again.”
Teal’c frowned. “I do not know why you think that I would believe such a story. Nor do I care. You will be a great prize to take to my lord, and I will enjoy turning you over to him. My rewards will be great.”
“I am afraid that I cannot allow you to do that, Teal’c. I had hoped that we could come to some kind of sensible and bloodless agreement such that neither your people, nor mine, would have to die. I still hope that something can be worked out. But if it cannot, I must tell you that I will be leaving here, and I will be taking my mate with me. If your people, and you, must die for me to be able to do so, then so be it.”
Teal’c laughed, as he faced Lantash. “I am not sure how you believe that you can stop us from taking you with us, but, by all means, you are welcome to try. I believe that my Jaffa are more than capable of shooting you before you can do much harm.”
“Yes, of course they could, but then, you see, my friends would probably shoot them first, and a ribbon device is quite quick.” Lantash raised his hand and threw both Jaffa against the far wall as Selmak and Malek made themselves known, covering Teal’c with a zat and a P-90. “We will not harm any of you, Teal’c. We wish only to return to our own reality with the article we came to retrieve.”
Teal’c shook his head, as he frowned. Turning slightly toward his Jaffa, his eyes widened as he realized that Ria’ta, too, held a zat in her hand, and that, although it was not pointed at him, it was not pointed at the Tok’Ra either. It was, in fact, pointed at his Jaffa, and Nal’ka was tying them up. He blinked rapidly, trying to dispel the scene before his eyes, but it would not go away. His Ria’ta was holding his Jaffa captive while one of his oldest friends tied them up!
Without conscious thought, Teal’c moved toward his Jaffa and the women with them. The three Tok’Ra followed in parallel, keeping distance between them and continuing to keep the doors to the room within view. They wanted no surprises. They moved toward the other end of the room, the sarcophagus forgotten for the moment.
Suddenly Teal’c’s head swung back to the three men across from him and he stated bluntly, “You are dead. I saw you die and then be disintegrated. I saw it happen. I was there, close enough to know that it was done. The only one that I could not be absolutely sure was dead, was Martouf and Lantash.”
“I did not die, Teal’c, but Jacob and Selmak and Devlin and Malek did. These are not the same people that you saw die that day. I have already told you that I am no longer a part of this reality, and I am telling you the truth. That day, the day we escaped, you saw what happened to them. You also know that I went through the Chaappa’ai. I entered a very large building and ran into a storage room. I had been injured several times. I refused to be returned to Apophis, so I set my zat to overload, but I dropped it. I picked up a control to a mirror that was actually a doorway, a portal, to parallel universes, instead of my zat’nik’tel. Somehow, I turned it on, and then fell into it. What you saw that day was me, in an alternate reality. One where Jacob and Selmak, Devlin and Malek, and many other Tok’Ra are still very much alive and doing well in their battle against the Goa’uld. It is now my home reality because in that reality, I was no longer living. My mate was alive there as well, so I decided to stay. There is much for me there, Teal’c.”
Lantash smiled wryly, before continuing, “For one thing, you are my friend in my new reality. You are a member of a Tau’ri SG team. You have started a freedom movement of the Jaffa, and between the Tok’Ra, the Tau’ri, and the Free Jaffa, the Goa’uld have had a few major setbacks and are not doing nearly as well there, as they are doing here. That is why I came back. I left something here that is desperately needed there. I now have it, and I am taking it back with me. I meant what I said, Teal’c. I will return to my new life, to my mate, to everything that my new reality has to offer. No matter what. Nothing, not even you and Apophis, will stand in my way. I do not wish to kill you, or your people, but if I must, I will.”
Teal’c stood in shock as he heard another voice added to Lantash’s, “Neither will I allow you to stop him, Teal’c. As much as I love you, I love my freedom more. I hope that you will listen to what he has told you, and think about what he has said, for it is very important. If you love me, you will do this.” Ria’ta’s voice was soft, but firm.
“It matters not how I feel, Ria’ta, for when Apophis arrives, you will be implanted with his Queen and as his Queen, anything we had together will be gone. She will allow nothing of what we have felt for each other to survive.”
Ria’ta shook her head in wonder and sorrow. “You will truly allow this to happen? You will betray not only me, whom you profess to love, but your own deepest beliefs? Your deepest desires? You will stand by and assist as everything that I am is subjugated to a Goa’uld?”
Teal’c stood silent, the muscle in his jaw jerking wildly, his emotions obviously erratic.
“I will take my own life first, Teal’c. Never will I submit myself to that kind of torture.”
“That will not be necessary, Ria’ta. We will take you with us and find you a safe place to…,” a deep, dusky, and obviously aristocratic voice sounded from behind them, cutting off Lantash’s words. Caught up in the emotions of the moment, no one had noticed the sarcophagus opening. Egeria, truly a Queen, now stood regally behind them. She had found the secret panel worked into the sarcophagus and taken out the ribbon device. Her eyes glowed and her voice reverberated as she stepped out and swung her hand toward Teal’c, smiling evilly. “Kneel before your Queen, Jaffa, for now you belong to me.”