|| Samantha Carter ||
Cargo ships, no matter the make, model, or species, were genuinely not designed for comfort; it was just something I'd come to notice. The vessels were built to be livable, tolerable, for a small number of people for a short period of time. They weren't for people, they were for things. Luxury liners they were not.
And of course, now we were in the uncomfortable position of having two extra passengers - Jadae and myself - and being stuck on board for... well, by my count it was going on two weeks.
The trip to the Nox planet SHOULD have only taken half that long, but something else I'd come to notice was that things rarely went the way they SHOULD. The skies above Tollana were teaming with Gou'ald ships - two of the big pyramid ones and countless Death Gliders - and the System Lord in this area, whoever he was, wasn't quite as amicable as Narim had made out. We'd barely made it beyond the planet's orbit when we were stopped, and were forced into two separate searches by two different, identical squadrons of Jaffa, ensuring that we were transporting food and other non-threatening goods, and not weapons.
Jadae and I stayed out of the way. We weren't recognized.
The Gou'ald had set up checkpoints; it seemed we'd gone only a paltry few hundred kilometers when we were stopped again. Waved through, stopped, searched, warned, waved through. It was maddening. No matter what the System Lord had said about allowing trade, it seemed to be his express purpose to make this process such a hassle that the Tollans would rather just remain on their planet.
Four days had passed before we'd even made it out into open space, where we were detoured by a convoy of gliders. The group was small, as were the ships themselves, but their weapons were also more powerful that anything the cargo vessel possessed. Rather than risk a confrontation we couldn't hope to win, the captain allowed the Jaffa to push him onto another, more circumspect route that would make bypassing the Nox planet seem a lot less accidental.
The captain was an older man, but that was relative to the rest of the crew. 'Old' appeared quite a subjective term with these people; even the more elderly were healthy, firm, strong. To say they aged gracefully would be an understatement; I'd always wondered if it had natural causes, or if unwrinkled skin and straight backs were fostered by medical intervention.
In any case, the captain was named Izaal; he had bright blue eyes, a long gait, and approximately three dozen different kinds of smiles. There was the smile he'd shown as Narim had introduced Jadae and me, a joking kind of grin that said "Hubba, hubba", but said it playfully. There was the smile he wore watching his six-man crew go about their daily chores, a soft beam that exuded pride and contentedness. And then there was the smile he bestowed upon the 'visiting' Jaffa, a thinly-disguised sneer that put across a definite message: "You are scum."
Thirteen days after launching from the surface of Tollana, we crossed our fingers, hoping that we weren't being observed by the Gou'ald, and changed our course to bypass the Nox planet.
The SGC had never kept in touch with the Nox as well as we probably should have, as well as we'd stayed in contact with the Tok'ra and Tollan. The Asgard had their own battles to fight, and the Nox would rather not fight at all. I always received the impression that they sympathized with us, that they didn't actually 'like everyone', but it simply wasn't in their nature to take sides, much less take a stand.
At the same time, they were systematically hunted down by the Gou'ald. The parasites had never had much luck; the Nox were good at what they did: running, hiding, using the minimum force necessary to survive, preferring a simple, quiet life to the technologically-advanced life they might have enjoyed. The colony we were headed for was, like so many others, wooded, but the Nox had terraformed it, not the Gou'ald. The Gou'ald supposably did not even know of its existence, Izaal told me, which made it ideal for running to and hiding on. Its location had been entrusted to only the Tollan. Looking back, it was a prudent decision.
It was a long journey, but most of the time was passed talking to Jadae, getting to know HER, and not the cardboard standup that Maretne had projected. Jadae was quiet, shy, almost nonchalant, even where she spoke of her desiccated homeworld and imprisonment inside her own mind. But she was also just as clever as I remembered, just as sharp and quick. A listener, rather than a talker. An observer. Analytical, reserved, subdued.
She told me that Maretne had lied about Jack's death.
It didn't make me feel much better. The Tok'ra had at least been truthful when she had reminded me how long I'd been away, how long we'd all been away. Something could have happened that she wouldn't even have heard of, something terrible, something that would have left the entire mountain complex a huge, smoking crater. At the VERY least, Jack and the others had moved on with their lives, thinking me dead or deserted, utterly putting me out of their minds. And who was to say I didn't deserve that, after all I'd done to them? That chamber could probably be blamed for SOMETHING, for messing with our minds and bodies in ways Janet hadn't been able to detect. But I also felt a great deal of personal responsibility here, and I couldn't shirk it. I couldn't just pawn off what I'd done, and as much as I wanted the guilt to go away, I told myself that I deserved the pain.
|| Jack O'Neill ||
The invitation sat on the fireplace mantel. When I went to bed, it was the last thing I looked at. In the morning, coming down the hall, it was the first thing I saw.
At one point I actually turned on the fireplace - no need to split logs; the hearth was operated by a small knob on the wall a couple feet off the ground - and fed the engraved card to the flames. But... I couldn't. Something stopped me. Kawalsky's ghost? Charlie's? Sam's?
And so it sat there, every bit as mocking as the telephone, every bit as silent, doing everything in its power to detract me from my goal of not thinking about Sam.
Because every time I saw it, I saw her, stepping into the Stargate with Martouf and Jadae.
|| Janet Frasier ||
I put the ceremony announcement on the coffee table, and it greeted me sprightly every morning, every night. I'd already RSVP'ed, I WAS going, and I was going alone, even though the card had indicated that we should feel free to bring a guest. Julie Piper - an irritating redhead who had followed me from the SGC - persisted in letting me know how sought-after that spot was, and how it could be put to good use. Dr. Bayly, she said, had been asking around about me, if I was seeing anyone, so on and so forth. Pitiful dramas that belonged in high school and soap operas. I was bigger than that, I was stronger than that.
And I wasn't going to give up on Daniel until I saw him at Christmas.
|| Daniel Jackson ||
"So, was there someone back in Colorado?"
I set down my fork, and wiped my hands on my napkin. "Yeah, there was." I was proud of myself for making the confession. I figured admitting Janet was the first step towards actually forgetting about her, which had so far been impossible.
Lindsey seemed to glow softly in the dim light, her curls shinning, her skin pink and healthy; an angel. "If you gave me a name, would I know it?"
I hesitated. Janet had been the base's CMO; while she wasn't as widely known as Hammond or Jack or the other former SG-1 members, her name had gotten around. Surely Lindsey, a fellow woman doctor, regardless of field, would recognize it. "Probably."
She nodded and toyed with the stem of her wine glass. "Why aren't you with her any more?"
The woman was certainly bold, I had to give her that. "I think it was a mistake," I carefully lied. "We worked together, we'd been through some hard times together, she was a... very pretty woman, and things just happened. We weren't... compatible. We had one thing in common and that was the fact we were both..."
"Doctors?" asked Lindsey, looking interested when I trailed off, after realizing where I was headed. "It wasn't Carter, was it?"
"NO." It was a question I'd been waiting for her to ask for some time, and I was unspeakably glad that it was finally out in the open. Sadly, a lot of people couldn't imagine why I'd so risk my image on national television, standing up for Sam, refuting the assumptions that had been made, if I hadn't been WITH her. "No, it wasn't Sam. And before you ask, she wasn't with O'Neill either."
Lindsey propped her elbows up on the table - manners weren't exactly her forte - and leaned forward. "I remember reading that there'd been some discord between them; the Post called it a 'lover's quarrel'." She smirked. "So that's not the case after all? They weren't in love?"
"I said they weren't 'together'," I corrected her sagely. "I never said they weren't in love."
|| Teal'c ||
"Teal'c! Mister Teal'c!"
I motioned for the driver to wait, and turned back towards the building. It was late, and I was in need of rest and meditation, but not so exhausted that I could not take a moment's pause. Something I prided myself in was not turning my back to those who required my services, be that a word of advice, a personal appearance, or, in some cases, a 'photo op'.
But the man hurrying down the stairs was not a reporter or photographer; it was not even a regular citizen. It was a fellow Senator, Charles Blake from California, one of the least outspoken men on the floor, one of the least decisive. He was not of my 'party', the political organization my name had been aligned with, but I did not see that this mattered. The media had a term for my behavior: nonpartisan.
Blake was a large man, which could have contributed to his lack of dissention on the floor; he dominated through presence, not words. I had found myself observing him from time to time, and had decided several weeks ago that, had the situation been different, he would have made a fine Jaffa. He was intelligent, quick-witted, and analytical, and after all, not all need be warriors powered by brute strength.
Blake grinned at me almost nervously. "Teal'c, I... I just wanted to thank you for that wonderful speech you made today. I thought I'd made up my mind on the whole issue, but then I started listening to you, and what you said... well, it really hit home." He blushed. "You're a really eloquent... no, not eloquent... you're just a really POWERFUL speaker. You MAKE people listen to you. And you know what you're talking about, too. It's not just a lot of mindless pandering like with most of those guys." Blake paused. "I'm really happy to be working with you, Teal'c."
For a long moment I knew not what to say. It was one of the first times I had ever been approached by a fellow Senator while off the floor, and certainly the first time someone had ever expressed any admiration or respect for me. Such words would not have been strange coming from my friends, but I barely knew this man. What had his motivation been for such a comment? How would be expect me to respond?
"You are welcome," I said finally, bowing my head in a Chulakian gesture of appreciation, and then extending my right hand in the human gesticulation of camaraderie. Apparently, it was the correct choice; Blake clasped my hand warmly, shook it, grinned again, and then started back up the stairs, looking back only long enough to send off a small wave.
When I turned back to the vehicle, I saw Christopher Strickland, beaming at me through one of the open backseat windows.
"Feels good, doesn't it?" he asked rhetorically.
|| Samantha Carter ||
The Nox hadn't bothered to terraform the entire globe; this I noticed as we drew closer. Most of it was a drab brown-gray color: dead rock. Only sporadic areas on one of the equatorial continents bore any color, greens and blues and whites, shades close enough to Earth's own that it sent a dull pang of homesickness through me.
From space, it seemed that the most dense vegetation was clumped together around an oblong inlet on the west coast; the greenness grew more sparse the further it got from the water. Still, it gave the impression of a flower that had been planted in a specific spot, but whose seeds had been scattered and spread by the wind.
The control center of the cargo ship was not built for comfort, either; there were only small ledges for sitting, as most space was given over to technology that monitored and maintained the vessel. Between Izaal, two of his crewmen, Jadae and myself, the narrow room was cramped and stuffy, but as we had approached, the captain had asked if the two of us could please join him here.
There was something he wanted to show us.
That 'something' was dark, and far enough away from the planet that there was no silhouette. As a result, I didn't notice it at first, and focused on the wonderful, familiar colors of the biosphere below. Jadae, however, saw immediately what had concerned the captain, and her features contorted in anger and fear. "No," she spat vehemently, as though refusing to see what she was seeing. What I finally saw. What knocked me utterly speechless.
"It's Tok'ra, isn't it?" asked Izaal, after realizing neither of us were hurrying to come forward with the information. The captain wasn't smiling any longer. "My first thought was that it was Gou'ald, but it's in such a state of disrepair..."
"It's Tok'ra," confirmed Jadae, heat in her voice, the same wrath that had stained it as she'd told her tale of infestation and slavery. "An older model. I recognize some of the markings on the hull."
So did Jolinar. "There's a Stargate on that ship," I remembered aloud. "Martouf could have figured out where Dad was... one of their vessels was in the area and he gated to it."
"We don't know that it's him," Jadae reminded me, transfixed by the indistinct image before us. Despite her words, her eyes were full of mistrust that could be directed only at HIM.
"I know," I replied, not acknowledging what she was saying, not agreeing with her, but telling her and Izaal as well that I KNEW Martouf was on that ship. I KNEW that he was up to something. I knew, even though I had no idea where this certainty came from. It didn't seem to matter, exactly.
Jadae bit her lip. "Can they see us?"
Izaal nodded regretfully. "It would have been almost impossible to sneak up on them anyway, even if I'd noticed them in time. But they haven't tried to contact us, haven't even changed position since we got here."
The woman planted her hands on her hips, suddenly defiant. "It's altogether possible that the Nox have one of their city-ships in orbit, or somewhere in the atmosphere, invisible to both of us. But they're pacifists; they'll do nothing to help us unless the Tok'ra make the first aggressive move. If that IS Martouf, or some of his cohorts, well... it might be best to wait until they leave, or make contact with us... in short, until we know what they're doing here."
"We KNOW what they're doing here," I reminded her shortly. Jadae looked put-out, almost embarrassed, and I chastised myself for snapping at her when she was finally becoming more comfortable with voicing her opinions. On the other hand, I couldn't afford to dance around anyone's feelings right now; if Jadae was going to be so cautious, she should have stayed on Tollana. "They're using my father as bait."
"Exactly," Jadae returned in the same determined tone, and I was surprised that she hadn't backed down and stayed there. "He's bait, it's a trap."
"It's not a trap if we know it's a trap," I said dismissively, hating myself for my manners. "If Dad isn't being held by Selmac, Martouf's going to grab him... if he hasn't already. We don't know how long this ship's been here." Damn if it didn't feel weird to be talking about Martouf like this, like an enemy, especially with the remnants of Jolinar still with me, telling me he wasn't such a bad guy, that there was a REASON he was doing this, that he MUST love me because otherwise why would he risk so much, why would he be doing this... I shook my head and wondered, not for the first time, what live would have been like if I'd never given that Nassyian man mouth-to-mouth. "You can stay here if you want, Jadae," I sighed, feeling a crushing exhaustion beginning to wear down on me again. "And Izaal, you've got to get out of here as soon as you can." Glancing at the picture on the screen, I elaborated. "He'll destroy you if he feels he has to."
The captain looked alarmed. "I have to agree with Jadae. Simply from what you've told me, this man Martouf seems dangerous, and to have planned an ambush..."
"It's not an ambush if we know they're down there," I tried to explain, but before I could continue, all five of us were startled by a white line of light on the screen. Like a pathway from the heavens, the beam arced from the Tok'ra ship to the planet's surface, one of the outlying terraformed areas sparsely shrouded by foliage. As we watched in silence, a brighter point of light shifted from the vessel's underbelly, down through open space and then atmosphere, vanishing through a soupy mixture of light-gray cloud cover... and then the dimmer trail of light vanished altogether.
"Rings," I muttered, and then, in a louder voice, entreated Izaal. "Can you drop us off there?"
Jadae crossed her arms.
"And then what?" the captain demanded. "Leave you? You have no idea who that was, where your father is, how long it would take you to find the Nox should you need assistance. I realize you are eager to attain this goal, Colonel, but please, consider what danger you're putting yourself in. You don't know what you're getting into."
I didn't answer immediately. I knew full well that I wouldn't be able to do this without Jadae, not simply because a potential jailbreak would require more than one person, but because her opinion was important to me. If she actually thought that there was no hope of success, if this half-assed plan was a serious, foolhardy mistake, I would acquiesce to her wishes and Izaal's; I would wait.
But she met my eyes and nodded. It was a small nod, almost imperceptible, and somewhat grudging, but it was there. Approval. I tried to smile, to reassure her, but I didn't have enough certainty to go around.
"I know," I told Izaal.
He landed the cargo ship in a clearing less than a kilometer from where we estimated the rings had touched down; he stood in the doorway of the airlocked hatch with a strange look on his face. "I'm not comfortable with leaving you here," he informed us.
"We can take care of ourselves," I asserted. It was true, after all. I still had the Zat gun I'd stolen in the chamber, and Jadae had the one Maretne been armed with at the Soeleeni Stargate. "And you're already way behind on your shipments."
He acknowledged this with a nod, and then took a step back, out of the doorway. Jadae lifted her hand in farewell, and I raised my own to my forehead for a casual salute, something I hadn't done in God knew how long, something Jack would have done...
* Focus, Sam *
|| Daniel Jackson ||
"I don't understand. Did the Gou'ald CREATE all these myths and deities, so that civilizations would fear them, or did they just take on the roles of previously established gods and goddesses?"
"That's a good question," I complimented the student; he sat back in his seat, exchanging pleased looks with the kids sitting on either side. "I suppose you could see it either way; they both kinda make sense. Either way, the Gou'ald would have scared the living daylights our of our ancestors, don't you think?" The class, over two hundred strong - you had to love government-funded education - nodded and smiled. "It's one of those things you have to form your own opinion on, Robert, but as that's kind of a lame answer, I'll tell you what I think. I think that the Gou'ald weren't smart enough to come up with all that mythology on their own. I don't even think they were creative enough to inspire a tiny fraction of it. I think they happened upon this defenseless little planet full of people with big imaginations, and established deities that they worshiped and feared, and to some extent molded their lives to fit the stories. At the same time, the deeds they did were recorded and remembered as the actions of gods. That's why we in the SGC were usually able to rely upon ancient tales to tell us about the Gou'ald posing as those different beings."
"In other words, 'yes' and 'yes'," said Robert.
I smiled and shoved my hands into my pockets. "Pretty much."
"What about the Tok'ra?" called out a girl in the back row. "We don't often see insurgents spoken about in ancient texts, even though they've obviously been around for quite a while, right? I mean, when there are forces going up against the gods, they're almost always portrayed as the bad guys. Wouldn't these ancient, oppressed cultures view the Tok'ra as liberators?"
"I think you're giving them a bit too much credit," spoke up a young man sitting near the door. He was Jared Austin, the student Lindsey had assigned to help me out with errands and the like. Jared was a likeable kind of guy, certainly helpful, barely annoying, so I'd pulled a few strings with Lindsey for him and was able to get him enrolled in my already-packed class. There were few times when I regretted it; this was one of those times. "Who says they were trying to liberate humans? Who says there were even any of them around before Ra stumbled across Earth?" He looked at me.
"I don't know," I admitted.
"That's exactly it," Austin continued, still addressing his fellow classmates. "We don't know much of anything about them. How they started, what their goals initially were, and, well, what they want now."
|| Samantha Carter ||
Discretion dictated that we remain silent as we trekked through the woods, having little idea where the Tok'ra might be lying in wait, but I couldn't help but comment, "You think they've set up house yet?"
Jadae looked down at her feet, and the ground beneath them, in the direction the tunnels would be if the Tok'ra had in fact 'set up house'. "I don't know. It doesn't take long."
"I hope they haven't," I declared passionately, gritting my teeth. "I never want to set foot in those damn things again."
Jadae glanced over at me. "You aren't the only one."
I never had a chance to respond. No sooner had the words left Jadae's mouth than a tremendous blast, like an erupting volcano, like a shattering mountain, ripped through the air. I ducked instinctively, and Jadae dropped to the ground beside me. Automatically, we both looked to the sky, and gaped at the blossoming fireball spreading across the horizon.
"Oh my God," I said, or at least I mouthed it; the blood rushing in my ears made it hard to hear. It had to have been Izaal's ship, I thought, watching in horror as debris rained down like fireworks. It had to have been.
There was a draft, a sudden obstruction of my vision, another, another... by the time I realized what was happening, the transportation rings were too high to evade. I spun on my heel and made eye contact with Jadae... on the other side of the rings. She must have heard them coming, I thought with dark humor, and jumped out of the way at the last minute. "Go!" I yelled over the electronic whine. "Get the Nox! Tell them --"
But then she was gone.
I was gone.
|| Janet Frasier ||
Standing on the sidewalk, I gave one final stretch, and then started out at a modest pace. I'd finally been assigned more favorable hours at the hospital, but recapturing those extra hours of sleep was next to impossible. Rather than lounge around the house in the morning, I had taken to enjoying a morning jog, while the streets were clean and the air fresh.
Maybe 'enjoy' was pushing it a little bit, but it did give me the opportunity to see my neighborhood in a different light. This early, most stores had yet to open. The bums that littered the curbs during the day were curled up against buildings, shrouded in plastic and cardboard against the harsh winter nights. There was just me, the slap of my shoes on the cement, the burning of my strained lungs, and the puff of moist breath in the air in front of me.
It was as refreshing as it was exhausting. There was just me, no one else, nothing else. Not the memories of my old life, not the feelings of inadequacy for having failed letting go, and certainly not Daniel.
|| Samantha Carter ||
For the hundredth time that day, I hoisted the empty canister over my head and launched it at the wall. Though hollow, it was constructed of sturdy metal and clattered satisfyingly against the bulkhead. Buoyed by the racket, I struck my fist against the barrier, kicked it, slapped at it with an open palm, and when all else failed, took several steps back and glared at it.
I'd been 'beamed' up from the planet's surface by the rings, and deposited into what had to be the cargo hold-slash-crew quarters. A partition in the corner of the room enclosed a small lavatory. One wall was lined with empty containers, which made the most wonderful clamor when hurled against metal; bolted to another wall were three narrow bunks. Two, now. One I'd dismantled, just to pass the time.
The hold featured a small window, hardly more than a porthole, really, which was how I guessed just how much time had passed. Through the transparent material, I could glimpse the Nox world and the star it circled; I'd assumed that the vessel was still stationary, and had been counting sunrises and sunsets since my arrival. If the colony's orbit was anything like Earth's, I'd been here for several days: PLENTY of time.
Only one person entered my little suite, a clean-cut, green eyed man who brought my meals and generally made certain I hadn't tried anything sneaky. Jolinar had never seen him, but the youth positively reeked of Tok'ra. There were others out there; I could hear their voices sometimes, too muffled by the bulkheads to form distinct words. It infuriated me to no end to have them out there and me in here and know that they obviously wanted something from me but were just bidding their time. It didn't even seem like they were stalling. They were just... waiting. Probably curious to see how crazy they could make me, how eager for their attention, no matter what it would bring.
Even more maddeningly, I had no real way of knowing whether or not my father was on board, or if Jadae was.
I was perched atop the dismantled bunk, picking at my food and drink - it was probably drugged, I thought glumly - when the door opened to admit someone other than old Green Eyes. As a matter of fact, it was a certain blue eyes who entered, closed the door behind him, and ducked, narrowly avoiding the metal platter flung at his head. For pride's sake, I desperately didn't want him to see how absolutely incensed I was, but my anger couldn't be hidden any more than it could be denied. I set my cup down on the floor plates with considered carefulness and stood.
For a long moment, Martouf stood as well, staring at me guilelessly, all but begging me to attack him. Which of course I wasn't foolish enough to do. When the rings had deposited me in this room, I'd been conspicuously unarmed; it had taken me a few panicked moments to remember what I myself had reminded Narim of not long ago. The Tollan had given the Tok'ra weapon-disarmament technology. Apparently, the Tok'ra had modified it.
The air became taunt, the silence painful. Unbidden, a Jack O'Neill quip sprang to my lips. "Do all of your friends get such royal treatment?"
He seemed almost insulted. "Samantha, there's no reason to be like this."
Rage bubbled in my chest, aerated, corrosive. "Fine. I'll try being nicer if you'll try being smarter. How am I SUPPOSED to be, Martouf?"
His hands were clasped behind his back; he appeared stiff and formal. "I know you've been through a lot, and I'm sorry for my part in it--"
"--but you have to understand--"
"I don't have to understand anything," I snapped, taking a few irate steps toward him. "You pretend to be my friend, lie to me, almost get me killed, brainwash me, screw with my head, try to use me, TRY to kill me... and now you've murdered seven innocent people, not to mention destroyed an entire culture, and you want me to understand? To hell with you!"
I was within striking distance, and fully intended to give the bastard a black eye - or at least a bruise to contemplate - and I actually draw back one hand to hit him... Too late I saw what was on his hand, hidden behind his back; my arm dropped to my side and I took one horrified step backwards.
"How can you tell yourself that you loved me," I demanded, hiding my fright. "How can you honor Jolinar's memory and still DO this?"
"I DO honor her," he replied fiercely, but the 'he' was different; the 'he' was now Lantash, and the device strapped to his arm glowed with deadly intensity. "I loved her and I DO love you. That's why I'm DOING this."
There was nowhere to run. No reason to run. This was hopeless.
The swirling cadence of energy from the ribbon device brushed the skin of my forehead; I braced myself for pain, but none came. There was no familiar mind-burning agony, no crushing torrents ripping my mind apart... just an insistent pull, like the swell of the sea, draining every last bit of strength from my body and mind.
I was still awake and aware when my body crumbled lifelessly to the deck, I felt the harsh ring of metal against bone. I just didn't give a damn.
Through the tiny porthole, I could sometimes spy a piece of debris from Izaal's ship, like flotsam, like garbage, drifting through the darkness of space. I could never watch it for long, partly because my attention span was somewhat impaired, and also because it was hard to look in that direction from my locale on the floor.
From this angle, I could also still keep tabs on the rotation of the planet below, and tried to continue counting the days. But I must have been wrong, I must have counted incorrectly, because it was nothing short of impossible that I'd been here THAT long.
Not that my senses were entirely to be trusted. Sometimes I would pass out, and wake with the feeling that I'd been moved or my position shifted. Even when I was awake, my brain never fully cooperated. I was high-strung and nervous, jumping erratically from thought to thought, my mind as unfocused as my vision. There was the distinct feeling of being drugged, but I was almost completely sure that the only thing responsible for my condition was Martouf's hand device.
And, of course, the man behind it.
Indisposed as I was, my body limp and useless, my captors' fears about my escape seemed to have abated. They didn't even bother to close the door, and the open passageway taunted me in my paralyzed stupor. I barely had the energy to lift my head off the cold floor, much less take control of the vessel.
There were three of them, that much I knew. Despite the small number, that fact worried. Ships like this usually had a larger compliment, six or seven crewmembers at least. So where were the others? Were there no others, was this it? Or were they on the planet's surface, looking for Jadae, or my father?
My own advantage, taken from their complacency, was that I was able to overhear a great deal. I learned quickly that there were only the three Tok'ra: Green Eyes, Martouf, and another man, one whose name I didn't know and whose face I'd never seen, but whose voice I'd often heard, deep and vibrant, emanating from the control center of the ship. Surprisingly, he seemed to be the leader of this little band, not Martouf -- and he seemed to enjoy giving the others grief.
I opened my eyes and weakly craned my neck to peer out the window. The mottled sphere that was the Nox colony had almost passed completely out of view, and I tensed. Martouf's 'visits' were like clockwork; he should be here soon. ALREADY. Where had the time gone?
Apparently the same place the last few months had gone. Oblivion.
The rise and fall of voices from beyond my little room caught my attention, and automatically I strained to listen. I was powerless to help myself, powerless to keep from being a victim, powerless to act in almost any way, so the only thing I could to do try and improve my position was to listen, and observe, and learn. And pray that I would remember something.
"Why has it taken this long?"
My interest was even further piqued. It was the leader.
"I am doing this carefully," Martouf responded, rather nastily, I thought. "I don't want to leave any mark this time that might later serve to remind her."
"Let me remind YOU that she is not necessary. Warith has personally assured me that, given the time, he'll be able to repair the damage Jolinar did. We know it worked once, correct? On the two humans? It can be made to work again."
More desperately this time: "She's still useful to us."
"Only if she's WILLING to be useful to us."
"That's what I'm WORKING on."
The air crackled with tension. I suddenly felt utterly vulnerable.
"The mistake was yours," the leader said softly, dangerously. "You allowed her to retain too much the first time, and you were too greedy. You PUSHED her and she BROKE."
"She shouldn't have broken," Martouf said determinedly. "But I'll do it right this time. Thoroughly. You have my word, Mical. And I'm close to finishing with her. A few more sessions, and she won't even be able to remember her own name."
When Martouf appeared in the doorway, I closed my eyes, listening as his footsteps tapped across the deck, which vibrated slightly under my skull. I could hear the rasp of his breath and feel his eyes upon me, weighing possibilities and dark fantasies. The air was dead and tepid, but a chill draft blew tremblingly across my face.
A voice, subdued, sober: "I never wanted this, Samantha."
I said nothing.
"It would have been so much easier if you'd never remembered. You could have still been yourself. But now... it's too dangerous. You know too much, and Mical... he's getting nervous. He wants to make you a host, Samantha. A replacement to Maretne. I know how you feel about that, and I'm trying to keep you safe, and keep you... with me. This is the only way we can be together."
Flinching, I opened one eye, and then the other. Martouf sat beside me, back turned, head sadly bowed. I refused to let even the slightest twinge of sympathy enter my heart. "I don't want to be with you."
He gave no indication that he was surprised by my answer. "You don't have anywhere to go, and the universe is a very dangerous place by yourself. No, I'm doing this for you. It's for the best. You just have to stop fighting me. If Mical knew," he whispered in a half-shudder "how little progress I've made, I wouldn't be able to stop him from making you a host." His tone was reproving, a parent scolding a child, a nobleman chastising a peasant. "Is that what you want?"
"I want you to let me go."
Martouf merely sighed at my foolishness, and I knew there was no longer any reason to argue with him. He was the enemy now, with no further hope of salvation, no prospect of convincing him to return from whatever dark side he'd found himself on. The condescending tone of voice, his parental demeanor, as though I was asinine and helpless... And maybe I WAS helpless at the moment, but that was only because of his actions.
If the bastard really believed that I would thank him later for what he was doing now, there was no way I could change his mind. And no way I could keep thinking of him as a friend.
Even through my numbed, paralytic state, I could still feel the flush of dread and nausea that ripped through me at the sight of the ribbon device. He was using it to screw with my head, to damage my brain, to take my memories and destroy who I was. All he needed was my knowledge of the Soeleenie chamber and information concerning the SGC -- that much I was able to glean by the frequent contact with his mind.
But he wanted more than that.
"I won't be Jolinar for you," I warned him, voice shaking, breaking, as he positioned one gold-clad hand over my forehead. The headache never truly went away.
Martouf's expression was pensive. "We'll see," he said simply.
Then there was the familiar light, the familiar pain, and the familiar flashes of days long past. Shopping with my mother... my first day at the Academy... the night I'd broken off my engagement to Jonas... working in the SGC lab with Daniel... manhandling and being manhandled by Jack O'Neill in his base quarters...
Small things, inconsequential things, but all things that made me me, that gave me a sense of individuality, that comprised my soul. All being wiped away.
As the flashes came, I grasped frantically at the memories, terrified that I might never see them again.
|| Jack O'Neill ||
Two plates, two wine glasses, two white tea candles flickering weakly in an unfelt current. I couldn't remember ever feeling so lonely... or so pathetic.
"No I'm not making that promise again, Nothing can change my mind Nothing at all. Cause love has a way of coming undone Till I'm all alone with my heart. And here's I'll stay."
I sat at my own place, staring across at the empty place setting across from me, the one I had painstakingly set, compelled to do so by some veiled source. It would have been nice to think that this was the night I would finally be able to say good-bye to Sam, to release her memory through this strange ritual. But I knew, KNEW, that wasn't the case. That she was just as much here as she had ever been.
"Cause I always thought I'd see you again. Oh how it hurt every time you've crossed my heart since then. Had to give up all it takes to hold what might have been Cause I always thought I'd see you again."
I'd spent last Thanksgiving with Daniel, Teal'c, Tony and Janet; we'd all been on relatively good terms then, even with Sam recently gone and things strained between us. I'd thought that holiday had been empty and desolate, without Sam making jokes about my questionable turkey-carving skills and joining me in berating the referee during the football game. It hadn't been the same, but at least it had been similar. I'd had no context for this kind of isolation.
"Now there's no reason to run for the phone No need to hold my breath Hoping it's you. Each time I see someone we used to know Or go someplace we used to go, It's not the same.
Cause I always thought I'd see you again. Oh how it hurt every time you've crossed my heart since then. Had to give up all it takes to hold what might have been Cause I always thought I'd see you again."
I put my elbows on the table - she would have commented on that - and cradled my head in my hands. It wasn't just the loneliness, it wasn't just my detachment from the rest of the world.
"Love doesn't come when you need love It's not always there when you fall. Try as you may you've got nothing to say Nothing at all.
Cause I always thought I'd see you again. Oh how it hurt every time you've crossed my heart since then. Had to give up all it takes to hold what might have been Cause I always thought I'd see you again.
It was the dense blackness, the palpable horror, the goddamned headaches that had been plaguing me for months. It was the darkness that suddenly spiraled down upon me, and the way the candlelight was suddenly gone, as though blown out by a abrupt gust of wind.
Coming soon... The Anniversary... Three to go...