Kanan tried to clench his teeth at first but eventually screamed out as the dagger dug deeper into his flesh. Most Goa'uld preferred to torture prisoners with the pain stick or the ribbon device. Ba'al? He preferred knives – and he became extremely efficient with them over the centuries. With each stroke the blade carved away skin and muscle but spared the arteries, crippling him bit by bit without inflicting a lethal blow.

Blood mixed with beads of sweat and trickled down the Tok'Ra's ruined body while Ba'al worked on his gruesome "masterpiece" of pain. But ultimately even the Goa'uld was forced to stop the task as the Tok'Ra's screams grew quieter. The spy would be no good to the System Lord dead and while the sarcophagus could revive a corpse it would also undo all the work Ba'al put into maiming the man.

With a wave from their lord's hand two Jaffa servants unchained the prisoner and begun to dress his wounds.

"You have no idea how long I waited for this moment." Ba'al spoke as he carefully cleaned his prized blades. Although torturing O'Neill proved cathartic the Goa'uld always regretted not being able to exact vengeance on Kanan for his betrayal. Thanks to the Praxyon Time-Machine it was one of the many wrongs the System Lord could now finally set right.

Weakened as he was the Tok'Ra spy still spat in defiance. "Torture and kill us as much as you wish – our resolve will not falter."

Ba'al smirked. "Kill you? Why, our beloved Quetesh demanded we keep you alive to witness how the fleet reduces Vorash to a burning cinder." Kanan visibly shuddered as he realized Ba'al knew the location of the Tok'Ra Base. "But I am a merciful god. The Tok'Ra may yet have a place amid my domain."

The prisoner's confusion at the statement only brought further amusement to the System Lord. "After all, I too am a Tok'Ra," he continued "I stand against Ra and the corrupt empire he has built. Why are we battling each other when we need to work together to bring down the System Lords ?"

Kanan laughed deeply despite the protest from his broken ribs. "The Jaffa might believe your false-promises of freedom but the Tok'Ra won't be fooled like gullible slaves. The High Council would sooner burn in the fires of Netu than to help the likes of you!"

Ba'al's eyes flashed in anger but the devilish smile never left his face. "Oh, I'm sure the High Council will see things differently" he continued sweetly "once they realize what I have to offer. You see, whereas my brethren rule through terror I realized that hope is a much better motivator than fear. Jaffa from all over the galaxy flock to my banner because I gave them hope for freedom. And I can offer hope for the Tok'Ra too. Teal'c!"

At the summons from his new master the former First Prime of Apophis entered the torture chamber, wheeling in a large symbiote tank. A jolt of fear ran through Kanan's host as he thought the tank was intended for his Tok'Ra partner before he noticed that the vessel was already occupied. Although the tank's walls were tinted he could see the outline of a symbiote inside: the normally-slender body was grotesquely bloated and distended to a point that the creature couldn't even move, a clear sign of a queen in the middle of a spawning cycle.

"What is the meaning of this?" an edge of concern crept into the Tok'Ra's voice as he saw the System Lord roll up his sleeves and wordlessly hand over the torture knives to Teal'c.

"A prize, acquired during my war with Lord Apophis." Ba'al replied proudly, placing a hand inside the tank to gently pet the queen. "From a neglected world on the very edge of the Serpent Pharaoh's domain. While Apophis fortified his core worlds against assaults on shipyards and mines I claimed the planet Pangar without him even noticing. The fool that he is, he saw that system as worthless and abandoned it long ago. A wise god would have remembered that Pangar was once Ra's territory and home to countless worshipers loyal only to the Great Sun. A perfect place to imprison one of the Supreme System Lord's greatest enemies."

"Who is it? Hathor?"

Ba'al threw his head back and laughed. "Hardly. Don't you recognize your own mother Kanan?"

The Tok'Ra squirmed. "You lie. Queen Egeria died in battle against Ra."

The System Lord waved his hand dismissively. "Gods cannot die. They can only be removed from hosts and imprisoned. But you do not have to take my word for it - I will graciously provide some young prim'tas from Egeria's latest batch. Examining their code of life should remove all doubt about the identity of their mother."

Kanan was struck speechless. A myriad of emotions ran through his mind. When he first infiltrated Ba'al's inner circle he thought that the Tok'Ra would finally have the upper hand over the wily Goa'uld and his seemingly unstoppable expansion across the galaxy. Now he realized that the System Lord was planning for this moment all along.

"You may rest now. Teal'c will escort you to your chambers. Once you are sufficiently healed you will return to Vorash and convey my offer of cooperation to your High Council. In exchange for providing me with information on the other System Lords I shall protect Egeria and supply you with her new spawn. The Tok'Ra will no longer be a dying race. On the other hand, if the Council chooses to reject my offer... well, I'm sure returning the rebel queen to Lord Ra would help me regain his favor, wouldn't you say so Teal'c?"

"Indeed my lord" the Jaffa replied without revealing any of his emotions.

Under Teal'c's watchful guard Kanan left the room silently, shocked and shaken by the turn of events. Finally alone, Ba'al returned his attention to the aquarium and the symbiote within as he pondered the wisdom of keeping his friends close and his enemies even closer...

Author's Note:

My second fic written for the Tok'Ra Kree! Contest #9. The story is based on the following 2 prompts:

014. SG-1, any Tok'ra, any goa'uld, A goa'uld lets a captured Tok'ra go and it is not a trick.

049. SG-1, Ba'al, Tok'ra council, Egeria, Ba'al found Egeria on Pangara (still healthy) and is demanding the Tok'ra negotiate with him or else Egeria will suffer. How far will each side go?