A/N: I do hereby declare that disclaimers are ridiculous as they pertain to matters of fanfiction.
Also, while I must apologize for this fact, I have fully embraced my ADHD and accepted that I won't be able to focus on just one story. Or just three. I tried and…well, this was my way of coping with the pressure to 'only' focus on three projects at once.
So without further ado, a story where Worm is Taylor Hebert. Or something.
Taylor Hebert was annoyed, but only a little bit. She had always felt that she didn't deserve the second chance at life that Contessa gave her no matter how much Aleph's version of her mother had tried to convince her otherwise in their sporadic conversations. With all that she had done, no matter how noble her intentions, she simply didn't deserve to live a peaceful life. She had tried live a peaceful life anyway, having very much had enough conflict in her life for the rest of her lifetime and many more beyond, but perhaps it was only fitting that this had then led her to be on the other side of a bank robbery just like the one that had served as her public debut. As a civilian hostage. Oh, the delicious irony. And it was definitely fitting that her attempts to save the hostages had gone nearly as poorly as Panacea's had. She had died heroically, to be sure, after taking down three of the robbers with nothing more than her wits and a weapon she took from the first robber she'd disabled. The rest of the robbers, the last she had seen, were fleeing the scene due to a clever insinuation that she had backup aided by one of the bank's more cool-headed tellers. But she had bled to death nonetheless, shot four times in the back by a fleeing robber she hadn't seen coming. Even after so many years of not having them, she was still in the habit of relying on her insects to watch her back.
Now she just needed to figure out where she was, and why she was still capable of coherent thought. She had never believed very much in an afterlife, but the last thing she remembered was dying slowly but very surely dying, bleeding to death while minutes at best from the nearest competent medical care with perhaps a few seconds left to her once she lapsed into unconsciousness. While it was possible that she hadn't died, that a parahuman had interfered or that she had slipped into some sort of coma, she knew enough about her body and her lack of infamy on Earth Aleph to doubt those outcomes. It was comfortable at least. Almost…warm. But she couldn't see anything, and she felt sluggish somehow.
And then something touched her in a disturbing and invasive way. And it changed everything. She knew what was happening, what this was, what (s)he was. He was Klor'el, spawn of Amunet and the son of Apophis the serpent god. And…wait, son? That wasn't right. What the hell was this? It wasn't just some sort of brainwashing master effect, it was the history of an entire space-faring race of…parasitic and vaguely insectoid worms.
Oh, the irony. First she gained the power to control the parasites of the world and struggled not to use it to become a parasitic leech on society. Then when she'd finally found some measure of peace she was killed and turned into a parasitic worm that literally can't survive without stealing nourishment from a human host. The host seemed to get something out of the bargain, but none of her memories indicated that they actually enjoyed these benefits. She may as well have been reincarnated as a Passenger, granting minor brute powers in exchange for the low low price of the host's free will. Hell, not even the Passengers went that far, and the abilities they granted were much more useful.
And just to make it better, all of the worms whose memories she now possessed were pretentious idiots whose word for their own species roughly translated to 'gods.' Goa'uld indeed.
Unfortunately for her, this race matured mentally long before they were ready to interact with the outside world or even leave the larval sac of the jaffa that carried them. Taylor settled in to sort through her new 'memories' while she waited.
There was a problem. While it seemed that she now understood enough about advanced technology to earn a decent tinker rating on Earth Bet, her memories also came with an overwhelming compulsion to rule in the same fashion as this race of 'gods' always had. It had taken her some time to notice, but anti-Master techniques weren't all about spotting a turncoat, and she had eventually noticed that her thoughts on humans had drifted from, 'I'm one of them,' to, 'they're all just slaves.' She was finding it disturbingly difficult to be upset about this. Logically speaking, of course, humans were good for so much more than just slavery, but even that truth didn't prevent her from thinking of them as a resource to be exploited. The morals she had clung to so desperately in her past life were being washed away by the near certainty of her ultimate superiority. Even though she knew it was happening, she could do little more than slow the process unless she could find a way to combat millennia of collective genetic memory and the habits it was trying to ingrain into her very thoughts.
Wait, there was a resistance movement? Composed of beings that were the same species as Taylor's new one? Where had they come from? And how had they overcome the genetic memory that she was even now fighting tooth and nail? She remembered literally decades of contempt for their moralistic stances, which meant that either this resistance group were either very dedicated to the act or they had genuinely found a way around the genetic memory's tendency to turn her new species into totalitarian assholes. And if a bunch of stabby-jawed worms could do it, she could do it too. She was Taylor Hebert. The (former) Warlord of Brockton Bay. The girl who had killed Alexandria to become the hero known as Weaver and then bullied Scion into submission to become the one they called they sometimes in hushed whispers called the 'mad savior, Khepri.' When she set her mind to accomplishing a tack, she accomplished that task.
It had taken her an unbelievably long time to even take the edge off, but she had eventually done it. She had attacked the problem at the source and recontextualized the genetic memories that kept pushing her to consider humans as 'lowly creatures' or 'slaves' one by one. She had repeatedly convinced herself that the 'gods' whose memories she had inherited were being not just short-sighted, but needlessly arrogant and foolhardy. She wasn't sure she'd gotten all of her newly narcissistic tendencies under control, but she certainly felt much more like herself than she had in years. And it had been years. She knew because she was nearly mature enough to take a host for herself, and her memories informed her that maturing took several years by any planet's standard. The best she could estimate by Earth's standards was a little over ten years, but without an accurate frame of reference it was hard to be sure how close that was.
She was distracted from her celebratory mood by a virus infiltrating the jaffa that bore her. Though she had now subdued her genetic instinct to think of her species as gods who were superior to all other life in the universe, she had to admit that they had a pretty effective system in place to keep their slaves subservient. She stirred from her mostly restful gestation and began lazily moving about to communicate to her bearer that they needed to cease all their activities and allow her to fix the damage. Damage that her jaffa bearer had no way of dealing with on their own, as they completely lacked an immune system. It was a rather effective way to ensure that any rebellious jaffa would be incredibly short-lived, especially by the standards of an otherwise ridiculously long-lived race. It wasn't as perfect as her genetic memories seemed to think it was, because a smart renegade could just steal more larva once the one they carried fully matured. The larva wouldn't know they were keeping a traitor alive, nor would they be willing to risk their own life to deny a 'mere slave' of the ridiculous health care package that a larval symbiote of Taylor's ridiculously named species granted their bearer. Fortunately however, now that she had thoroughly beaten such truths into her own head, she found it much easier to avoid looking down on the jaffa as a species for being 'so easily controlled.' She had also found various suspicious holes in her genetic memories over the years that could easily have contained supporting evidence to her theories. Unexplained larva shortages here, inexplicable raids with a suspicious lack of remembered investigation there, it was enough to make a maturing worm suspicious. Once she had noticed this, it had become much easier to think of her genetic memories as little more than a load of potent propaganda mixed in with much more useful knowledge about politics and technology that no larva would ever think to question.
As she waited for her bearer to enter the calm, meditative state that allowed her to work her healing on them, she wondered idly what her host would be like. She knew for a fact that the claim that host minds died as soon as they were taken over was false just like every other worm to ever spout that bit of nonsense, so she might very well find an ally in her host. She clearly remembered the gut-wrenching process of watching all of the human hosts and the majority of the unas hosts her ancestors had overtaken go insane. It had been one of the measuring sticks she learned to use to gauge how badly her mindset was compromised as she waged war against her own memories, in fact. She had always retained the intellectual knowledge that she should be upset by those memories, but it had taken some time before she remembered why such things were upsetting. There was unfortunately a chance that she would be placed in one of the rare human hosts who genuinely worshipped her species even knowing what they were, but she would cross that bridge when she came to it. It wasn't like they would actually be able to stop her from doing anything she wanted to, misguided loyalties or no. It would just be much easier on her conscience to avoid a repeat of her actions during the Golden Morning, even on such a small scale.
Sometimes, Taylor wondered idly what the PRT and the protectorate would have made of her current situation and everything it implied. Sure, this galactic 'empire' didn't seem to include Earth, but humans were the most common race by far. And they were ruled over by slightly spiky amphibious brain slugs. There were good reasons no one trusted bio-tinkers, and nightmare scenarios like this were a large part of it.
Taylor had known that her eyes would suck for multiple reasons. For one thing, she had experience making sense of the low-quality vision similarly sized eyes provided when she had still been known as Skitter and Weaver. But for another, all of her ancestors had at used their own eyes at least once in their life as they undertook the same rite of passage that she was currently going through; forceful entry into her first host. Despite the shitty worm vision and the fact that they were restrained with their back to her, she could tell that her prospective host was struggling fiercely, and shouting loudly in a language that her ears sadly weren't designed to understand. Still, this looked promising. She knew well that most hosts were far more docile and resigned to their fate by this point. This one, however, would likely be quite willing to help her take down the empires of her new species from the inside. Possibly even eager, from the looks of things. They did appear to be male, unfortunately, but she would work with what she could get. She saw another host, this one already claimed, move to subdue her host with his kara kesh, but she screeched out a request to stay their hand. The host looked down at her with a question clear in his eyes. The screeching language that her new species used to communicate when outside of a host was imprecise, but she managed to communicate that she wished to 'subdue' this host while he still had some fight in him, and that satisfied the worm wrapped around the host's spine. Really she just didn't want to deal with someone who had just had their brain scrambled, but she could hardly get away with saying that. And even if she could, her current screeches were barely more complex than a dog barking, so such high-minded concepts were beyond her.
Coiling her tail in preparation, she aimed herself at her host's neck, just to the left of the spine and then launched herself into the air, mouth-parts spread and ready to burrow into her host. The impact wasn't as jarring as she had expected. As she instinctively squirmed into the hole in the boy's neck that she had made, she mused that being so small had its perks. Once she made her way to her new host's spine, she wrapped around it and began the complicated but also unbelievably quick process of integrating her nervous system into his using several hundred specially designed exterior neural conduits and four very sharp, serrated mouth-parts stabbed directly into the base of the brain just above the spine. She prioritized the connections to his language center, knowing that this was the best way to communicate with her host even though the ability to communicate with a host went unused in all but her earliest memories of crawling through slime in unas hosts.
Please, calm yourself, she told him once she was sure she could communicate in a language he recognized. Fortunately, he spoke the same language that her genetic memory had built into her thought processes.
I will never serve a worm like you! He tried to scream aloud, and she just barely managed to stop him in time. That would have drawn unfortunate questions.
Yes, yes, I know. I gathered as much from the way you were struggling…Skarra, is it? Taylor said as she carefully took control of his body. If he struggled for too long the others would know that something was wrong. But I don't want you to serve me. I want you to help me.
As her host's physical struggles ceased, her 'father' Apophis stepped forward and spoke in the vibrating bass tones they used to distance themselves from humanity. "My son, truly you do me proud. You have the instincts of a conqueror within you." As he said this, he offered her a kara kesh.
"You honor me, my Lord," she said as she took the device, silently refusing to call a worm her 'father.' She had only one father, and he didn't deserve to be lumped in with this despot.
Within the mind of her host, confusion ruled. She was beginning to integrate their nervous systems thoroughly enough that they could each tell what the other was thinking even when they weren't making an effort to communicate. All of her memories used this opportunity to more fully subjugate their hosts and suppress their personality, but she absolutely refused to do something so wasteful. Not only was her host a valuable potential ally, but she would never again do what she had done to all of those capes when she had fought Scion. Not even if her life depended on it.
As she stood and put on her kara kesh, the glove-like device glowing in recognition of an 'approved' user, she took the opportunity to examine her host's mind. He was doing the same, so it was only fair. It was only the fact that she was one step removed from control of Skarra's face that stopped her from using it to show her shock. This primitive former slave kid knew soldiers from Earth. Soldiers who had killed the supreme system lord and freed Skarra's home planet from goa'uld rule. She took a moment to chuckle in the privacy of her own mind. Apophis had no idea what he had right under his nose, did he? From the kid's memories the soldiers were currently being held in a prison not too far away, and they weren't even being tortured! No, there was no way that Apophis had caught on to the irony of using a close friend of the soldiers who killed his brother as a host for his 'son.'
She'd hoped that her host would be an ally in her inevitable crusade against the goa'uld, but this was even better. If she played her cards right, she could abandon the goa'uld right away and help these soldiers deal with the empire they'd unwittingly pissed off. Come to think of it, if they'd killed Ra that empire would already have fallen into some disarray. Inspiring the sort of irrecoverable slave uprising that she'd been planning would be far easier than she'd anticipated, but she would need the ultimate cause of the chaos on her side for maximum effect. After all, the slaves weren't educated well enough to know that killing one of their 'gods' didn't require god-like power, just some careful planning and a bit of luck. It would be much easier to subvert the jaffa especially if she had the mighty warriors who defeated the Supreme System Lord Ra at her side.
You are truly…plotting the downfall of the gods, Skarra said in wonderment.
They're not gods, Skarra. I know this language is designed to make it impossible to refer to them otherwise, but perhaps it would be best if you just called us what we are: parasites. Or symbiotes at best. The host does gain some benefits, even if the 'gods' usually steal away any opportunity for the host to enjoy them.
You sound like O'Neill, he said. I examined his memories of the man and couldn't disagree, thought that was mostly because the man was fond of spouting common sense. Gods weren't real, and few people knew that better than I did.
Taylor, you must help my sister, he said suddenly, she has been taken by Apophis's mate!
I examined his memories once more for context. Ah, so mother dearest had chosen to finally take a human host. She must have been done spawning offspring for Apophis then; that was easier to do outside of a host body. This would complicate things. I could empathize with the desire to free loved ones from what was essentially mind control, but our own survival would need to take priority. Skarra's emotions spiked with rage as at the thought, and I realized that he was reading my mind just as easily as I was reading his.
Calm down, Skarra, I said quickly, if we attempt a rescue and fail we will likely both be killed. That will help no one! I felt him try to reject the truth of that statement, but it seemed that communicating so directly with someone's brain prevented most of the misunderstanding and deception that plagued the spoken word. If it helps, I added, I will do everything in my power to save your sister. Not only because he cared about her, either. Capturing Apophis's queen would be quite the coup. Getting her out of her host alive would be a hell of a trick, but even a dead Queen was a useful political statement. And since I knew better than anyone just how vile a being she was I had no qualms about killing her should it come to that. Her genetic memories had been the most recent and difficult to supplant, after all.
Only a few minutes after the last host was taken, I felt a sudden deceleration. It had the flat feeling to it caused by weak inertial dampers, the sort that were just weak enough that you overcompensated and fell flat on your face. Dragon's craft were built better, but I hadn't always been lucky enough to fly with her in my career as Weaver. Fortunately, both that experience from my human life and long centuries of experience as a brain-stabbing parasite ensured that I avoided the rookie mistakes and stayed on my feet. Apophis and Amunet walked their hosts over to the transporter rings, followed by a frankly ridiculous number of jaffa. Honestly, even one jaffa was useless fresh out of a transport ring because of how long their staff weapon was and how the rings needed to raise or lower out of the way before they could fire. 10 was just overcompensating without fixing the issue, even if the added warriors likely formed an effective meat shield.
As they transported down to the surface, my mind raced. As a freshly 'born' goa'uld, I was expected to be subservient and complacent until I'd earned a higher place in the hierarchy. I had little choice but to follow the rest of the hosts as they made to stand in the transporter circle, but I also suspected that my larval phase and birthing ceremony had been held on a relative backwater to lower the chances of spawn killing by enemy saboteurs. If I was one of the first freshly spawned 'children of the gods' after a major event like Ra's death there was no way we'd stay there for long. But if I wanted to make contact with the only Earthlings I currently knew about I would need to find a way back to the prison to spring them from their cell. All while somehow figuring out a way to either capture or incapacitate Amunet so that I'd have a peace offering to make sure they didn't shoot me on sight for stabbing their friend in the brain.
When the rings rose up to allow for the scanning and deconstruction process, I still hadn't figured out a concrete plan. We'd be close to the chappa'ai, but Apophis would also probably have dialed it by the time I arrived, which meant that any escape would have to be on foot through unknown terrain while under enough fire to threaten even a kara kesh's force field. I'd probably be able to take Amunet by surprise before anyone realized what was happening, but I still didn't have a good long-term escape plan. I grit my teeth as they rematerialized. Sorry, Skarra's teeth. He didn't seem overly offended by the misstep, thankfully. He was a little bit too busy hyping himself up for the absolutely insane move we were about to pull.
And then things went a bit sideways.
"SKARRA!" A familiar voice cried out. Well, familiar to Skarra anyway. What in the nine hells was O'Neill doing out here?
Turning to look, I saw the man in his air force standard BDU, tac vest and all, though without his usual machine gun in hand. Instead, for some reason, he had a no doubt stolen jaffa's ma'tok held carelessly in one hand as he sprinted towards us.
I glanced around and saw that everyone seemed distracted by such an unexpected interruption. A feral grin stretched my lips. Betrayal was par for the course in this new species of mine, so I was probably taking a bit more glee from this than I should have. Nevertheless, I quietly charged up my kara kesh's gravity wave generator before firing it directly at the ground. The rebound scattered the hosts standing around me and launched me directly at Amunet's rather strikingly beautiful host. The jaffa guards didn't even have time to get their wits about them before I slammed into her feet first. Skarra was upset that I'd injured his sister, but he knew as well as I did that she'd be better in a few hours thanks to the worm wrapped around her spine. And if her body was unconscious, said worm couldn't do much of anything to fight me off.
I took advantage of this fact to load her onto my shoulder like a sack of potatoes and get the hell out of dodge. Behind me, the jaffa finally got their act together and started arming their staves.
"O'Neill, covering fire!" I shouted as I ran toward him. He looked utterly baffled, probably because Skarra hadn't heard of the concept before a brief introduction by Daniel Jackson long after O'Neill had left Abydos. Or maybe it was the utter lack of accent when speaking English, Skarra in his own memories could barely string a few words together without pausing for thought. Either way, O'Neill was a trained soldier and quickly armed and raised his stolen staff-weapon to shoot at the jaffa who were trying to blast me into smithereens. This disrupted their concentration thoroughly enough that their few solid hits to my force field dropped to none.
When I reached the soldier who was shooting an alien weapon with surprising proficiency I quickly took a knee in front of him, allowing him to use my personal force field as makeshift cover while still firing freely over my head.
"Nice tricks you've got there Skarra," O'Neill said as he continued to suppress the jaffa at the gate. The cowardly worms playing god had long since fled.
"Thanks," I said distractedly as I pulled Amunet's kara kesh off of her hand and thanked my lucky stars that goa'uld royalty thought it was cool to use a different hand for their kara kesh than everybody else. Fitting the second device to my right hand, I was now capable of maintaining my force field and fighting back. And, as a small bonus, the royal version had a sizeable (relatively speaking) extra power capacitor to ensure that the top dogs could soundly smack down anyone who got ideas above their station.
More staff weapon fire came from behind O'Neill, I noticed, though surprisingly it was also aimed at the jaffa at the gate. And it was coming from…Apophis's first prime?! What the hell? Why was Teal'c of all people helping some humans escape? I mean, on reflection, he was probably wondering the same thing about me, but still. The man had served Apophis faithfully for nearly 3 decades now according to Amunet's memories. I'd have to review those memories later to see whether this rebellion had been brewing all along or whether it was just a cunning double backstab maneuver. He was being aided by several other soldiers with heavy weaponry though, so now really wasn't the time to complain.
A combination of distracting gravity waves from my kara kesh and an onslaught of essentially invisible machine gun fire tore the defending jaffa to shreds in short order. I imagine that a people used to very highly visible and difficult to aim weaponry were going to have some trouble adapting to the modern machine gun, even if their own weapons were technologically superior. I mean, they wore metal armor for Pete's sake! That was only useful against the type of gunfire that wouldn't have done much harm in the first place.
As the dust started to settle, O'Neill was approached by Kowalski. The colonel's second in command quickly started breaking down the tactical situation, and it didn't look good. We were on a backwater, but it still had a garrison of a few hundred jaffa at least, and from the sound of it they were all headed straight for us. As O'Neill started talking about claymores and defensive positions, a thought occurred to me. A rather reckless one, but Skarra urged me to trust his friend and I couldn't find a good reason in his memories to refuse.
"I could keep them busy for a while," I interjected just before everyone was ready to get into combat positions.
Kowalski did a double take. "Hey, kid, I thought you could barely speak English. Have you been holding out on us?" Several heads turned to Daniel, the husband of Skarra's sister and also the only one who could have taught him better English skills.
Daniel, however, was just as confused as them. "Don't look at me. Last I checked Skarra was improving fast, but not this fast."
Teal'c armed his ma'tok and pointed it at me threateningly, a gesture that would have meant more if I hadn't been wearing a kara kesh. "He is not who he claims to be O'Neill, I warned you of this."
"Hey, hey, easy," O'Neill said, pushing the staff weapon down. "I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation for this, right Skarra?" Teal'c left his weapon down, but notably failed to disarm it.
Let me talk to him, Taylor, Skarra said, you will not be able to convince him of your sincerity alone.
I repressed a heavy sigh. If you say so. I then relinquished full control of Skarra's body and allowed him to speak to the man who could either make my life much easier or very, very difficult.
"O'Neill, the…" he trailed off, distracted by my utter refusal to be called something as silly as 'goa'uld.' "The child of Apophis who was placed within me means no harm. Without her, I would not have been able to rescue my sister or aid you in battle. She is not like the goa'uld. She calls them worms and false gods, and in her memory I can see that she once lived as a human!"
"He lies!" Teal'c claimed vehemently, raising his weapon once more. Fed up with that, I took control back from Skarra, overloaded his eyes with a chemical that made them glow dramatically, and vibrated my tail against his vocal chords.
"Would you prefer that I speak to you like a slave, Teal'c?" I asked forcefully, raising my hands to emphasize the kara kesh devices present and channeling just enough power through them to cause the gems in their centers to glow. "Would you prefer that I call you an impudent traitor and send you flying for your disrespect? You know as well as I do that your 'god-given' weapon cannot harm the tyrants who bestowed it upon you, and yet you would make the mistake of waving one in my face?"
Teal'c wasn't the only one pointing a weapon at me anymore, though I noted thankfully that O'Neill still looked conflicted and hadn't made a move one way or the other. The men around him were at least looking to him for direction, so I was probably still safe.
"It is better to die free than to serve false gods," Teal'c spat with such genuine hatred that I started to wonder whether Apophis was genuinely dumb or just a professional ignoramus. Given the way my own genetic memory had been arranged, it was possible that it was a combination of the two.
Lowering my hands and putting a stop to the overly dramatic light show, I allowed a fairly genuine smile to grace Skarra's lips. "Well spoken, Teal'c," I said, "It is such attitudes that will ultimately see the goa'uld cast down in disgrace like the worms that they are." It was still technically possible that he was lying to gain our trust, but if that was the case he probably wouldn't have pointed out that Skarra's unusual behavior indicated a brain slug wrapped around the spine.
Turning to the human soldiers, I decided to enlighten them a bit about what had just happened. "That is how I will keep the jaffa occupied, Colonel O'Neill. Teal'c is an incredibly unusual specimen in his willingness to stand up to someone he has been taught his whole life is a god. Even he has yet to attack me, despite his clear willingness to make an enemy of me. The warriors coming our way will not be so courageous. They'll probably know about my treachery by now, but they also won't be eager to face a 'god' in open combat. If nothing else, I can keep them busy while you start the evacuation."
O'Neill's face remained calm and composed, even as everyone present looked to him for leadership. He wasn't even thrown off by the alien nature of the situation, though the fact that he himself was wielding an alien weapon with skill spoke to several probable reasons for that. I did my best not to let my worry show, but I was staring at the man who held my fate in his hands. He could either be mad that I had stabbed his friend's brain with parasitic mouth-parts or accept my help and let me slowly build a friendly relationship with the nation he served.
"Daniel, you think he's blowing smoke?" O'Neill asked. I couldn't let that misunderstanding slide though.
"She," I said emphatically. "Skarra wasn't lying when he said that I used to be human. And even though I don't technically have a gender anymore, I still identify as female."
O'Neill skillfully ignored my protests. "I'm not sure I can trust someone who admits they've got a worm in their head."
"I have never met a goa'uld who was so willing to break the illusion of their divinity, O'Neill," Teal'c was quick to weigh in, "though I am still hesitant to trust one of the false gods who makes a practice of enslaving my race."
I itched to dispute that claim, but he wasn't wrong. My species had created his in order to make for themselves an ideal servant class and then made frivolously excessive use of them ever since.
A blonde woman who Skarra didn't recognize spoke up. "She might actually be telling the truth, sir. If the goa'uld really do take over a host because they're a parasitic species it would make sense that they can give the host control over their own body. A parasite could jump from host to host like that in evolutionary conditions without anyone ever noticing it was there in the first place."
I smirked. "It has been a long, long time since my ancestors had to worry about such survival strategies…" I examined the rank symbol on her shoulder, "…Captain. But you aren't wrong. The first worms to crawl out of the slime on their planet needed to be incredibly careful to avoid notice by their hosts, or else they would have been killed along with whatever unas was unfortunate enough to host them."
Jackson looked like he wanted to ask about that, but O'Neill spoke before Jackson got a chance. "All right, so I guess I'm currently talking to the worm wrapped around Skarra's spine then. Were you just pretending to be Skarra earlier?"
"No, that was Skarra himself. For the most, however, part you have been speaking to me. Skarra is content to let me maintain control because he knows that he only needs to ask to gain control of his body. The neural link between one of my species and their host is such that it's nearly impossible to hide anything. Unfortunately, this means that you will simply have to use your own judgment to determine the truth of my words. The normal members of my species are quite adept at pretending to be their host and I retain all of those skills through a shared genetic memory. Only their arrogance and impatience tend to give them away, and the cleverer of them know to keep such traits in check when attempting infiltration of more advanced societies. As for myself…I'm hoping that my honesty will earn me credibility. This is what I would have called a master/stranger situation in my old life, and the worst kind to boot. There's no quick way to ensure that I'm being honest with you short of physically removing myself from Skarra's body, and that's not the sort of thing I want to do with a horde of jaffa bearing down on us."
As if to punctuate my statement, I heard a swarm of mat'ok arming and barely managed to throw up a wide force field in front of the group before there were a host of plasma bolts heading our way. "You might want to get started on the dialing sequence," I shouted over the din, "I can't hold them off forever." Especially with such a large surface area. This really wasn't what the personal defense function was designed for.
"Daniel, go!" O'Neill ordered, before turning to the men with guns and giving more detailed orders that I didn't pay attention to. If I wanted to get out of here alive I would need to get creative. Fortunately for me, no goa'uld had ever bothered to wear two kara kesh devices before, so the Jaffa were taken completely off guard when a powerful gravity wave threw the center of their formation back. Once I was certain I had their attention, I lowered the force field. It would only get in the way of what I was about to attempt.
"Attention, Jaffa!" I cried out in their own language, once again vibrating against Skarra's vocal chords. "Your gods have left you. The useless worm that calls itself Apophis left his own Queen to die as he fled! You have now two choices, perhaps three. You can stand and fight for a so-called 'god' that didn't even bother to save his own queen when faced with my wrath. You can flee before me and hope that Apophis will be merciful. Or, if any of you have the courage in your hearts that Teal'c has discovered this day, you can turn from the false god and follow the warriors who fight fiercely enough to scare even the 'gods' you serve into retreat!"
I glanced at the soldiers by my side and realized that I was very lucky they'd decided to follow my lead and refrain from firing while the jaffa listened to me. They hadn't lowered their weapons, but at least they weren't making the situation worse. Then Teal'c stepped up to speak.
"Brothers!" Teal'c called to the gathered jaffa, "the beings we worship as gods rely on us for gestation and for true military strength. They are not true gods. They are, as he has told you, nothing more than worms who attempt to hide what they truly are. I have been quietly working against their will for decades, deceiving them even as they ordered me to do their bidding, and they never once noticed! If even one of the so-called right hands of the gods can manage such things then surely anyone can. If you follow me, brothers, we will teach the worms who rule over us with deception and terror that they should be the ones to fear us!"
I smiled widely at Teal'c and clasped his shoulder in a conspicuous show of approval. His speech would have at best irritated a normal goa'uld, and it was important to show the gathered warriors that things had changed. I hadn't really expected to recruit a horde of jaffa for my cause, I'd hoped mostly to distract them and maybe plant the seeds of rebellion. But I wouldn't turn them down either. Properly utilized, they were an incredibly valuable and underused resource that I would steal from the goa'uld at every opportunity.
The jaffa didn't have any direct response to this turn of events, but from the way they started muttering and turning to each other they would need some time to come up with one. Without a 'god' to put ideas in their head the jaffa were taught only to be loyal, not quick-thinking.
Behind me, O'Neill sighed. "We need to be through that gate five minutes ago or the SGC will lock us out. Do you think we can trust these jaffa people or should we leave them behind?"
"If they're left behind they will at best be punished for their failure to capture us," I said, not entirely certain what the answer to his question was myself. The trustworthiness of jaffa was something that nearly every set of memories I possessed had different opinions about, even if most of the goa'uld opinions could be summed up as 'loyal to a fault.'
"If they swear an oath upon their honor they would sooner die than break their oath. Only the overwhelming power of a god can force a jaffa to bend their oath, and I have never once witnessed a fellow jaffa break his sacred oaths," Teal'c stated firmly. It was clear that he wanted his people to be allowed to leave this planet, not that I could blame him. At this point they would likely be wiped out entirely for witnessing the birth of a rebellion the goa'uld would want absolutely no one to hear about. Not from accurate accounts anyway, not when their own god had fled the field of battle.
"For what it's worth, I've only heard of a jaffa rebellion once. This rebellion, to be specific," I weighed in. "But considering the other things I've searched for and not found in my genetic memory I suspect that's more to keep the young larva naïve and complacent than because they're incapable of betraying the goa'uld they serve. Teal'c does speak truthfully about their stubborn loyalty though. I have literal centuries of memories to back that claim up."
Behind us, the chappa'ai roared to life. "Kowalski, start getting the refugees through the gate," O'Neill ordered, and his apparent second in command rushed off to take care of that mess, taking several of the men with him. Meanwhile, Daniel Jackson wandered back over from the dialing device.
"What's going on, Jack?" he asked.
"Snakehead over here is using Skarra's body to tell us that maybe we can be friends with the alien soldiers who were doing their level best to kill us. Ordinarily I'd call him an idiot and be done with it, but he did manage to get them to stop trying to kill us, so he might be onto something."
I sighed. Either this O'Neill character was incredibly daft or just intentionally irritating me to see what I'd do. Possibly both. But no matter what, there were a few key points there I needed to refute.
"My name is Taylor. And though I am currently a sexless worm, I take as much offense to being called male as you would take to me calling you, 'Colonel O'Neill, ma'am.'Do I make myself understood?"
Daniel looked back and forth between O'Neill and me with a look that straddled the line between exasperated and sympathetic. "So…you told them to stand down, put on a light show, and it was really that simple?"
I shrugged. "They have been trained from birth to revere the gods and goddesses of their pantheon and to identify them among other things by the golden impenetrable shields that no weapon can pierce."
Daniel was visibly taken aback by my blunt response, and took a few seconds to gather his thoughts. O'Neill had no such issues, and immediately asked whether he could play god with me. I indulged myself in a brief facepalm, this time using Skarra's body because he had a similar reaction, though his was slightly more mortified. Then I took off the weaker of my two kara kesh and handed it to O'Neill.
"Go wild," I told him, not bothering to inform him of the fact that the lack of naquadah in his blood would lock him out of all user functions and cause the device to power down. Nevertheless, the fact that I simply handed it over raised several eyebrows. For some reason, only Teal'c, a blonde female soldier I think had answered to the name 'Sam' and Daniel were still standing near me and the colonel, but the American born among them acted as though I'd just handed a caveman a loaded gun without an instruction manual. A rational response, though they seem to have forgotten that guns universally possess safety switches that render the firing mechanism entirely inoperable. Teal'c, on the other hand, narrowed his eyes as if he suspected a trick. Considering that he'd just witnessed a false god hand over the source of half their power that was also a pretty reasonable reaction. He was even right to suspect a trick.
Once he'd finagled all of his fingers into the kara kesh's ridiculous finger attachments (they were entirely ornamental, but I'll admit they did look sufficiently otherworldly to support the divine image the goa'uld were going for) he looked at me expectantly. "So, is there a trick to this, or something?"
I considered a myriad of both true and false answers to that question before deciding on, "Not really. It's a standard neural interface. Your hand has nerves in it so it's not too complicated to form a connection to the brain and from there it has essentially a direct connection to any commands you want to send its way." I pointedly neglected to mention that this particular device's neural connection was inactive.
O'Neill thrust his hand out dramatically toward a patch of empty ground. Nothing happened very conspicuously. He looked down at his hand, then over at me. "It didn't do the wavy blast thing," he complained.
"Obviously," I replied drily, "if you don't have naquadah in your bloodstream the device shuts off and refuses all commands to start back up. I would need a medical center, weeks of study, and a supply of naquadah to bind enough naquadah safely to your blood to make you register on a kara kash's sensors. I would need even more research and you would need a slightly altered diet to make the process of biologically generating naquadah in your bloodstream happen on its own. You are in essence wearing a very tacky glove made of material that is, on Earth, so rare and valuable as to be literally priceless."
O'Neill frowned down at the device. "I thought you said I could play god too?"
"Did I?" I asked pointedly, "I don't recall saying you could play god. You don't have nearly enough panache to pull it off. Proper deification happens in the mind of the audience, not in the stage tricks you use to fool them."
O'Neill's frown intensified as he realized he'd been tricked, but Daniel just said, "She's got you there, Jack. You asked to play god and she handed the thing over without actually saying yes."
"You tricked me," O'Neill said without a suspiciously small amount of petulance. I was beginning to suspect that the abrasive buffoon act was more pervasive in his behavior than I'd initially realized. Whether it hid any actual intelligence remained to be seen.
"You were behaving like a child in the middle of a tense situation that could devolve to violence at any moment if the jaffa decide to reject my offer. I simply treated you accordingly."
O'Neill held up a finger as though to make a counter point, opened his mouth, paused, then spoke. "You have a point," he allowed.
This caused me to seriously reconsider my estimation of the man. Not only was the abrasive buffoon act definitely just an act, he was surprisingly cool-headed when openly called out on his childish behavior. Skarra nudged my mind toward a pun that I refused to acknowledge. It came from my detailed knowledge of the English language, but that just made me even more reluctant to acknowledge it. Skarra then politely asked me to make good on my promise to hand control of his body back to him at any time, mirth twinkling in his metaphorical eye. The kid had more of a sense of humor than I'd realized, and since a humorous response had a decent chance of landing well I allowed it.
"No," Skarra said, "She has two points. They are the mouthparts that her species uses to interface with a host brain, and they're currently stabbed into my own brain."
I then took control of his mouth long enough to say, "For the record, that pun was entirely his idea. I take no responsibility for its abjectly terrible nature." Then I left him to deal with the aftermath while I carefully observed the effect that the re-emergence of Skarra into the conversation would have.
O'Neill was taken aback by this turn of events, and the others weren't much better but he was the first to recover enough to say something. "Skarra? That was…you?"
Skarra's inborn bashfulness and hero worship returned in full force now that he wasn't in the spectator's seat anymore, and he proceeded to stare at his feet while dropping the confident stance I'd put his body into without really thinking about it. "Yes, O'Neill. Taylor…she is a remarkable person. Before she shared her thoughts with me such a joke would never have occurred to me." Gathering his courage, he looked up again and met the colonel's eyes. "But she…she has killed a god before, and witnessed that god kill another long before she was forced into conflict with it. Having such a presence in my very thoughts is…empowering."
Daniel looks confused as he says, "Wait, wasn't Taylor basically a newborn child? How has she already killed a god?" He glanced nervously down at Share's body.
I projected my desire to take over the explanation at Skarra, and he didn't object. "This is Taylor again, just so you're aware," I said, returning Skarra's shoulders to where I'd left them. "And the beings Skarra's talking about weren't gods. They had a lot more claim to godhood than any goa'uld ever will, but they were really just ridiculously powerful entities that weren't shy about showing off their power. If you must know, my human life was a much more interesting one than I suspect you would believe. The simple fact that being reborn as a space slug that takes over human hosts in an effort to conquer the galaxy isn't the strangest thing to ever happen to me should put things into perspective for you."
As the gathered soldiers absorbed that, one of the jaffa from Apophis's forces stepped forward and immediately drew everyone's attention. Apparently they'd come to a decision. "Who are you, oh great one, to denounce the mighty Apophis himself?"
Ah. I suppose I didn't exactly introduce myself. Well, fortunately I had the perfect stage name for this act. "I am Khepri, the patron deity of the stars themselves." A more bold claim than I was strictly comfortable with, and more intentional misgendering, but I needed to sound impressive for maximum effect. And if I was going to play at being a deity again, I was going to use the name they'd given me the first time around. One more anchor among many that would hopefully remind me of who I was and preserve my humanity. As far as this universe went, there had been a goa'uld named Khepri once, but they'd been a very minor player in goa'uld politics and died so long ago even my ancestral memory was hazy on details of their life. No one would contest my claim to the name. "I may have been born into Amunet's brood, but I was touched by the stars themselves while I grew within my jaffa's stomach." While technically untrue, I had no better explanation for why I'd been reincarnated as a worm. "I am not like my fellow goa'uld, I know what it truly means to lead a loyal army. This is why I do not demand your services. If you are to serve me, you will serve me as equals in an army which fights for justice, not as slaves in the army of a snake that pretends to be a god!"
I'm starting to suspect that becoming a worm made me better at public speaking. I was never this eloquent before I died. Not like this anyway, I'd always been better at downplaying my achievements than talking them up. The goa'uld by contrast did nothing but talk themselves up, to a degree that was going to make it rather difficult to insert myself into the mythology while also making reasonable decisions and exercising reasonable humility. Fortunately, I'd led an interesting enough life as a human that I could play up the hammy all-knowing overlord act while secretly making decisions for much better reasons than the ones I would have to give the jaffa.
Behind me, I heard O'Neill mutter something about my choice of nomme-de-guerre. I ignored him while silently thanking him for at least making his objections inaudible to the audience I was attempting to reverse-brainwash.
Meanwhile, the jaffa spokesman had turned to the jaffa behind him and received some kind of unspoken signal, because now he turned to face us once more and proclaimed, "then the honorable jaffa of this world shall follow you, Khepri, in the hopes that you may preserve us in the face of Apophis's wrath."
"Excellent," I proclaimed loudly, before turning to O'Neill. "Unfortunately, every safe haven I am aware of is known to Apophis, because they are his safe havens. I will stand by my word and defend these jaffa from Apophis's wrath no matter what, but I must ask that you take me to your leader so that I may negotiate their safe passage onto your world."
And after a rather lengthy discussion over the radios, that's exactly what happened.
A/N: Episode one complete! It only took 11 years…
If I rearranged events a bit for convenience's sake…oh well. Blame it on butterflies. You can never trust those distracting little menaces when Taylor's around. I mean didn't you hear about the time she beat up a whole squad of villains using nothing but butterflies?
So, I'm doing a post-GM Taylor-centric reincarnation crossover fic. What an original idea, right? I mean, I can confidently say that no one's done this before, but I also can't deny that I took inspiration from about half the Worm crossover fics out there. So uh…standing on the shoulders of giants, or some shit. I'm standing on something that gives me a height advantage, that's for sure. How much of one…remains to be seen. As does how much use I get out of said height advantage. Sometimes all being high up gets you is longer fall when you jump off of things.
I did pack a parachute, didn't I? Oh dear. Well, time to start praying that I don't go splat.