Jay Felger was long past the point of trying to reconcile what was going on around him within the logical precepts of math and physics and was actively trying to figure out how the supernatural fit within the physical laws of the word as he knew them. Either Druana was an extreme method actor with access to a combination of technologies so far beyond his ability to even begin to understand how and why they did what they did, or she was actually summoning the tortured spirits of the angry dead. About the point where one watches the spectral remnants of a ten-year-old girl turn into a spectral amalgam of teeth and terror, pierce the veil between a dimension of shadow and the world of the living, and charge into the flaming maw of an angry dragon, one tended to re-assess their previous opinions on the relative validity of Atheism.
Jay found himself wishing that the little silver cross his mother had given him for his first communion was around his neck, not back in his dresser drawer in Colorado. Jay found himself looking up at the ceiling and sending a little prayer to St. Jude as he muttered, "I swear if you get me out of this I'll go to every single mass that they offer on base."
"What?" Coombs hissed, jumping abruptly almost on top of Felger as one of the ice-cold apparitions flitted past him. A woman with a grossly mangled face grinned at the two of them through badly mangled teeth, her eyes unfocused as she ran her fingers through where Coomb's arm had been with a mournful groan. He howled again as a crimson bold of lighting ripped through the offending spirit, rendering it into transparent ectoplasm.
The spirits had been growing increasingly bold in their approaches towards the two men since they'd lost their prey, the SG teams and dragons using Major Carter's brilliance to evade Druana's army of the dead. She'd been standing in front of the rings in contemplation, muttering to herself in two different languages that Jay didn't understand. Her eye's glowed at odd intervals as she chatted with herself, her voice alternating between the metallic rumble of the Goa'uld and a hissing screech that felt more unnerving.
She idly twirled a black dagger between her fingers as she continued her conversation with herself, the black stone giving off strange patterns of green light that she curved and molded between her fingers. He wasn't quite sure how she'd pulled the weapon out of thin air, but the consequences of the dagger were horrific to say the least.
She stood atop a pile of white bones, dragon bones without even a scrap of flesh upon them. The spirits had held down the writhing monster as she'd touched it with the blade, then they'd fed upon his rotting flesh as the green light rendered him down to boiling fluid. Not stabbed, she'd touched him with the blade.
Jay needed to get away from this woman, fast. But he wasn't entirely sure how. He didn't even quite understand how he'd been dragged into the shadow world, and he was entirely at a loss for how to pull himself out of the blue-white mirror image of the real-world. He wished Major Carter was with them, she'd know how to get them out of this jam.
"We've got to do something." Jay whispered to Coombs.
"Haven't you already done enough?" Coombs replied, his voice a furious whisper. "We were fine until you decided that what we really needed to do was start opening doors without backup."
"We're explorers Coombs. We explore." Jay replied. "And her guard is down so if we act fast, we can fix this."
"What part, of literally any of that actually sounded like a good idea to you?" Simon Coombs growled through clenched teeth Durana tossed another bolt of crimson at a spirit without looking, destroying the apparition as it tried to bite Jay's ankle. "Because your version of "guard down" does not correspond to any definition of it I've ever seen. She is the literal opposite of unguarded and I am not going to try to backstab an angry necromancer with a magical death knife who is actively talking with someone who isn't here."
"We're soldiers Coombs. It's time for us to act like it." Jay replied, trying to figure out the best way to disarm her while Coombs went in for the kill.
Coombs face contorted in utter befuddlement as he made a noise like an angry kettle for a second. "You're a physicist not a fighter. You're a contracted physicist and engineer whose prior job experience consists of giving lectures at MIT. You are not a soldier and you are most definitely not a member of the Ghostbusters, so unless you've been hiding a proton pack up your butt that I don't know about I'm not going to anger the Keymaster."
"The what?" Jay blinked in confusion.
"Really? You haven't watched Star Trek or Ghostbusters?" Coombs groaned in frustration. "What do you even do during your free time?"
"I hand make dolls and dioramas." Jay replied, thankfully having the good sense to omit the subject matter in his addled state. Coombs just wouldn't understand the skill required to replicate and re-enact SG-1's missions with entirely accurate scale dolls. Historical re-enactment wasn't just an art for the distant past. "And I watch a lot of documentaries about old airplanes."
Coombs pinched the bridge of his nose in irritation. "Unbelievable, I'm going to die in a way that validates nearly thirty years of playing dungeons and dragons trapped next to a man that wouldn't be able to tell a Tefling from a Twi'lek."
"Cease." Druana spoke, snapping her fingers as Jay felt his jaw slam shut compulsively. Simeon's eyes bulged in a way that let him know that he had been similarly affected. She crooked her finger and Jay found himself lifted up into the air and outright levitated over to the rings. She dropped Jay and Simon to the ground in front of her, putting them within the rings.
She waved her hand at the exposed control components of the ring transporter, green illumination from her blade making the crystalline components glow in horrifying iridescence as the world shimmered around Druana. She cut the black stone across the open air, slicing through the blue patina that surrounded them, dragging them back into the familiar colors and odors of the Pyramid ship. Jay gasped a breath that he didn't even realize he'd been holding – realizing for the first time that he hadn't felt the need to breathe while they'd been in the blue place. His eyes bulged in sudden shock as his heart thundered in his ear, the motion of its beat feeling alien to him after having been absent its rhythm. Had he been dead?
Frost cracked and broke off his skin as the rush of ambient moisture from the open air met the shadow touched flesh recently liberated from the blue place. He shivered as the ice casing his skin cracked and shed to the ground, ripping the hair from his arms. Simon swore loudly hopping up and down as he stood up, shaking the frost out of his long hair. "Cold, cold, cold!"
Jay stood up on shaky legs, his muscles responding to him groggily as though they'd been in use for days, not minutes. The blue place had taken its toll upon his body. Jay's jaw ached as he tried to say something clever but only managed to get out, "Ouch" before Druana had begun to speak. The Goau'ld reached down and pulled the fragmented crystals crushing them in her hand as she let the multicolored sand run between her fingers.
Her eye's flashed as she began speaking in the harsh tones of the Goa'uld. "The woman fought through my spell. How?"
"I don't know." Jay replied, his eyes fixed on that terrible knife. There was no reflection to it, no light, just endless pitch-black darkness. Inky black lines ran up the woman's arm where it touched the blade, horrible darkness spreading across her spidery veins and earthy skin.
"It should not have been possible, and yet she achieved it. You will tell me how she managed that, and why the Dragons aided her." Her voice rumbled with barely contained rage as the faces of spirits started shimmering into view, brought forth from the blue place of frost. She pointed to Simon, "You will tell me, or he will die."
"Wait – wait!" Jay raised his hands, putting himself between Druana and Simon as the two scientists stood at the platform's center. Simon cowered behind Jay as he turned, keeping his eyes on Druana as she circled the now dead rings. "I don't know how she did it, not exactly, but I do know who did it. And if there was ever going to be someone to accomplish the impossible, it would be her."
"Heka's ring transports are keyed. Without a Kara'kesh to guide them, they shouldn't have connected to any rings that weren't keyed into his network, and I felt them depart towards the planet." Her lips quirked up in amusement. "Not for any mere human anyway… but she wasn't just some mere human, was she? She was different. Special?"
"She's the most special woman in the world." Jay replied in breathless fear, aware that the hungering ghosts were starting to cast their gazes upon him, and that Druana was no longer casting lightning to keep them in check. He clarified hurriedly, "Human woman, that is… not a god. Not special like you. Definitely just human."
"Please stop trying to make things better." Simon clutched Jay's shoulder, squeezing with firm but insistent pressure. "Please."
"Not a goddess, but touched by them. I could taste bloodstone upon the air." She spoke in the hissing screech of a voice, untouched by the metallic noises of the Goa'uld. Her eyes weren't glowing any more, but there was a spitefulness to them that somehow left Jay even more terrified than the glow. "There was magic in her. She stunk of power and the will to use it."
Coombs screeched. "You know what, just let her stab me. I don't know if I can handle two both of you mooning about how great Major Carter is."
Jay looked at Simon in surprise. "Really?"
"Of course not!" Dr. Coombs sqwaked in irritation. "I was exaggerating for dramatic effect. You stay right where you are."
"Fine, fine." Jay sighed, turning back to the Goa'uld. "Look, Ma'am? Milady? I…. uh… what do you want me to call you?"
"I am your Lady and Mistress Druana, conqueror of Death, Goddess of the Forbidden Paths." Druana snarled, flipping back into the metallic tones of the Goa'uld.
"Yeah… but do you want us to call you all of that at once? Do you have like a nickname or title we can call you?" Jay turned to Simon hopefully. "Because, I lost track of that at Conqueror of Death."
Simon shrugged, "I mean, it is king of a mouthful." He flinched at Druana's glare. "Which… which I love! But, uh, it takes a while to say. And we humans aren't as clever as you are. I mean, the two of us are pretty smart and we're having trouble, and you can't rely on always having the smart slaves. Probably don't even want them, smart slaves are a recipe for trouble."
Druana closed her eyes for a moment, muttering to herself, before opening them. "You many call me Lady Druana."
"Lady Druana." Jay replied in what he hoped was a placating tone. "I don't know what you want, but you don't need to use that on Simon. We're cooperating."
"Than you shall cooperate in replicating Major Carter's work so that I might follow her." Druana growled.
Jay's blood ran cold. Betray Major Carter? Never! He clenched his teeth, steeling himself for what he'd have to do. "No."
"What?" Druana growled, green sparks spitting from the blade as octopus like tendrils of green light writhed around it.
"I don't know what she did. I don't know how she did it. And even if I did know and could replicate it, I wouldn't. Not for you, not for anyone." Jay swallowed the fear welling in his throat as he felt Simon's hand on his shoulder grow rigid. He looked back at his fellow scientist, making eye contact with the other scientist.
Simon looked back at him, exhaled through his nostrils, and nodded. "We… we're not going to help you. Not at the cost of our friends. Not at the cost of our world."
Druana laughed, harshly and entirely without mirth. The boiling mass of hungering ghosts spun around the room, gnashing teeth and howling anger anticipating the kill to come. There was an utter madness to them that seemed beyond the limits of bloodlust. Druana purred in amusement at Jay's insouciance. "Fools - If you will not help me in life, then you will be forced to serve me in death. I will bind your souls to my will and purpose."
Jay hadn't considered that, and didn't like the idea of being bound to the whims of an angry space Necromancer. But short of appealing to a Goa'uld's sense of reason he wasn't quite sure what he could actually do about it. " I can't help you. I don't understand what she did. I don't even entirely understand why she needed to do it. Just because I'm a scientist doesn't mean that the right type of scientist for this. I'm an engineer, but that just means that I have a vague grounding in the relevant sciences and technologies used for this. Major Carter is a freaking savant when it comes to this stuff. I can't just make things happen."
"Yeah." Simon agreed. "It's not like I can just snap my fingers and make this thing work."
He lifted his hand up, holding thumb and forefinger up as he twitched his wrist and snapped them together loudly. Though obviously intended to demonstrate the absurdity of the idea, upon touching forefinger to palm, the rings surrounding them kicked into life. Druana howled in rage, unleashing the torrent of spirits upon them only for bounce off the pillar of light as the two scientists were whisked away.
Simon continued to look at his hand in amazement as they re-materialized in the cargo-bay of a Goa'uld transport ship. Jay joined in his amazed examination, looking from Simon's face, to the hand, and back before saying. "Nice one."
"Thanks…" Simon replied, though it was more of a question than an answer as neither one of them had the remotest clue what was going on. They clutched each other fearfully as the cargo bay door opened abruptly and a bearded man with glasses poked his head in. Doctor Rothman, archeologist and peer of Doctor Daniel Jackson, was a welcome sight for weary eyes.
The nebbishy archeologist squinted into the dark cargo hold, speaking through a phlegmy cough. "Good! I wasn't sure if it worked…. What… What are you… Why are you hugging?"
The two scientists abruptly parted from each other, brushing off the front of their uniforms. Jay, eager to change the subject, spoke over Rothman's next question. "Where are we? We have to get off the ship! We need to get to safety."
"Mission accomplished. I took off before they started repelling boarders. I've been floating in orbit with this thing cloaked, waiting for someone to tell me what to do next." Dr. Rothman sneezed loudly before taking a puff from his inhaler. "I saw that you guys needed help, and I figured here was better than there, so I lined up over the ship and turned on the rings."
"Wait… how… how did you know that we needed to be rescued?" Simon blinked.
"You're welcome." Rothman laughed dryly as he walked into the cockpit of the cargo ship, pointing to a crystalline orb attached to the command console of the transport ship. Hundreds of windows floated around an exaggerated video feed piped in directly from the room they'd just escaped. Distanced from her by a ship's armored hull and the void of space, Jay was able to find the image of an irate dark-skinned Goa'uld-Nox slashing at sprits in impotent rage to be comical, but only just so.
"I turned off the sound." Rothman waved at the display. "She started getting loud."
"How long have you been able to use the rings?" Simon asked, an irritated note to his voice that Jay couldn't quite place.
"How long? What do you mean?" Rothman blinked. "The entire time. That's how Major Warren got back to help repel boarders after he launched it."
"And you left things down to the wire like that?" Simon's fists balled in impotent rage. "Were you waiting for dramatic effect?"
"Hey…. That's right!" Jay nodded emphatically. "And why didn't you rescue Major Carter?"
"What am I, psychic?" He jiggled his radio. "I was waiting for someone to give me the all clear, when they didn't I turned on the computer and activated the surveillance system that Doctor Jackson found on the cargo ship. And I found you in the middle of…. Whatever those things were."
You could have rescued us way earlier." Coombs insisted as he reached down to the ground and pulled up a compartment. Jay joined him, pointing to a green crystal. "That one."
"You're sure?" Simon pointed to a slightly lighter green crystal.
Jay nodded, certain of himself. "Yep. I use one in my plasma rifle prototype. Pull that one and it can't receive incoming rings."
Coombs pointed the crystal at Rothman, "We were standing at knife point for like five minutes on the pad!"
"I'm an Archeologist, I don't know how this crap works. I'm not pulling stuff out. Before I turned on a freaking teleporter, I read the manual." Rothman pointed to the raised silver hieroglyphs above the door. "It took me a couple minutes to translate prehistoric tech support, so sue me."
"Wait… what's she doing?" Simon pointed at the display as Druana flew from tiny screen to tiny screen, moving with impossible speed through the distant Ha'tak, her spirit army flitting about each image.
Rothman shrugged, "Unless I miss my guess… I think they're fixing the ship."
Jay whistled out a long, low tune. "Jeeze, how long do you think it's going to take her?"
"Not long." Simon replied, his voice hitching with worry. "Not long at all."
Jay looked up as the hulking form of the pyramid loomed up from the moon's surface, the Ha'tak taking to the stars. He swallowed nervously. "Uh… we're cloaked right."
Rothman shook his head. "I… I had to turn it off to activate the rings. I didn't know how to turn it back on."
"That button! That button right there." Simon paratactically jumped over Rothman to activate the cloaking device, jumping into the pilot's seat and flying the transport away at break-neck speeds.
"Do you know how to fly this thing?" Rothman asked in genuine curiosity.
"Space is empty and full of places we weren't only seconds ago. I can get us to one of those without crashing." Simon replied immediately. "After that, I'm not making any promises."
"She's insane Coombs." Jay replied, looking at the madwoman as she sat on the bridge, holding court in her sea of spectral crewmen – laughing manically as she commanded a warship. As Jay considered the horrific damage that one could cause with even a single blast from the Ha'tak's main guns, a terrible idea occurred to him. It didn't take a deeply creative mind to imagine the horrible army a woman with Druana's abilities could raise if she turned those weapons on even a single major metropolitan area. One blast into Beijing and she'd be nearly unstoppable. "We can't let her get away Simon. I can't let her get away. I let her out, she's my responsibility."
"Well Jay, we're in an unarmed transport ship that none of us entirely know how to use. I think we've reached the limits of our actual ability to do anything." Simon sighed, "I think it's time to let this one go."
Jay shook his head, grinning from ear to ear. "No, we're going to do this. We're going to take her down."
"I'm not loving this idea." Rothman replied nervously.
"It's ok Rothman." Jay nodded. "I have a plan."
"God damn it Felger." Coombs groaned.