Title: Waiting for Jacob Author: Slainte Category: POV Warnings: Minor character death - a human host Pairing: None Season: S6 Spoilers: "Metamorphosis", certainly for all Tok'ra episodes Rating: PG-13, language Summary: Nirrti and her experiments from a Tok'ra/human host perspective Standard disclaimers apply. No copyright infringement intended. No money changed hands. I borrowed the SG-1 universe, but Meg and Rukh are mine.

Waiting for Jacob

"Too long a sacrifice. Can make a stone of the heart. O when may it suffice?" William Butler Yeats Michael Robartes and the Dancer. Easter 1916

So here I am, sitting in what amounts to a very comfortable cell with a guard outside, waiting for someone called Jacob. No one will answer any of my questions, all they do is question me. I can't answer them, not until I have a better idea of what the situation is, so they are suspicious and annoyed, especially Col. O'Neill. I've explained that the symbiote I carry is a Tok'ra. No one seems to buy that. It doesn't help that I said I will only tell that part of my story to a Tok'ra, and, to be fair, I didn't greet them saying, "Hey, Tok'ra here!" I did try to conceal that I was a host; I knew it would only complicate things.

How did I get here? That's a three year story and one that hurts to remember. Pretty damned unbelievable, too, yet if anyone would believe me, these people might. If it was just me, I would spill everything, be thought a lunatic with a hallucinatory imagination and hope to be released to my family under a doctor's supervision. But it's not just me, and it's not bloody likely I'll be released anytime soon. Right now it looks like I've jumped from one form of imprisonment to another. What luck!

After the medical exams and the initial interrogation, I found myself in this comfortable cell, the guard called it the guest quarters. After I settled in, someone sent down a laptop with a request that I write out what had happened to me. Yeah, right, like Rukh would let me write anything significant until she felt it was safe enough. Looking at the laptop, though, I began to sift through my memories and tried to recall just what had happened and what I could safely write down.

First real vacation in twenty years and I was captured by a slaver while just sitting out on a beach in Maine enjoying the night sky. I was transported who knows where across the galaxy and sold to that drag queen Goa'uld bitch, Nirrti, to be a part of her hok'tar experiments. And 'they' say alien abduction is just a bunch of hooey! Go figure! So here I sit, waiting, thinking about the last few years: abducted, made a slave, experimented upon, held dying friends in my arms and tried to ease their passing, picked up an alien partner along the way and somehow survived to tell the tale. Pretty eventful, I'd say. Would anyone believe the tale, ah, that's the question?

I was lucky, if you can call it luck, not to die as soon as they discovered I was too old to breed. The slaver had made a mistake with me, but had slyly left after payment and before the mistake was discovered. Apparently English was a universal dialect, or they had some of those universal translator thingies *or* I was pretty damned good at signing, and I was able to convince the scientist who ran the lab while Nirrti was off planet that, even though I wasn't exactly what they wanted as a lab rat, I could be a general lab drudge, doing all types of grunt work, useful and definitely worth keeping. The scientist, an elderly woman named Nura, put me to work in the lab and I made myself useful cleaning, helping with record keeping and caring for the 'subjects' of Nirrti's experiments.

The first six months at the lab were the worst, as I watched the women who had been taken from Earth with me experimented upon. We were far less than human to Nirrti; lab animals were treated better on Earth. Unfortunately, PETA hadn't gone interstellar yet. I put in a lot of hours visualizing a raid on Nirrti's lab as I dealt with the results of her experiments. To my shame, I did nothing other than to make them as comfortable as I could, when I could, in those first months. In my inept way I tried to slip out food and analgesics after the experiments when the 'subjects' were back in their cells, but I was not in a position to do very much, and I was very afraid of being caught. I hoped at that stage I could blend into the woodwork and somehow survive, and maybe, just maybe, someday there might be a rescue.

After the first six months of breaking out in a sweat anytime the Jaffa guards looked or spoke to me and nearly peeing myself when Nirrti was around, I settled down a bit and began to pay more attention in the lab. I started noticing little things that, taken together, led me to believe Nura was also working to sabotage Nirrti's experiments. At first I thought no way! Why would Nura sabotage the experiments? Then I wondered if it was a trap, trying to trick me. I didn't know what to think.

Since the science was completely alien to me at first, I thought I must be projecting my overwhelming desire to have the experiments backfire in what I saw. As I watched and the science became slightly more understandable, I could see where Nura *was* deftly undermining Nirrti's work, making the experimental results questionable and laying red herrings along the research path. It was very cleverly done, if I hadn't been watching so closely I would have missed it, but working around the lab every day I could see the pattern forming. I didn't have a clue why she might be trying to screw up the lab work, but if she was trying to derail the experiments, then I wanted in, too.

At that stage Nura and I began a very delicate courtship dance, trying to determine if the other could be trusted. The dance took several months with mistrust on Nura's part and never ending fear on mine. Slowly, without ever saying directly to each other, "Let's see how far we can go before we get caught and become lab rats ourselves," Nura and I began to work together to sidetrack the experiments. As long as Nirrti stayed off planet Nura was able to make a difference, but when Nirrti was at the lab, we had to try to cover up our efforts. If it had been up to me, I would have been caught immediately, but Nura, Nura was amazing. She was brilliant at her work and brilliant in her ability to conceal her disruption of the experiments. She was so collected and professional whenever Nirrti came in, while I tried to become the invisible and harmless drudge.

For two years we worked together. Nura did what she could in the lab to lessen the impact of the experiments. Then she sent me secretly at night to the 'subject's' cells with what medicine she could scrape together and food I could 'liberate' from the Jaffas' supplies. Being honest in my previous life, I surprised myself at how quickly I became adept at 'shoplifting' food rations. I kept complaining to Ber'ac, Nirrti's prize Jaffa, about our terrible vermin problem and pleading with him to *do* something.

Being the lab drudge, I could go most places in the facility without question, and I had access to the keys. Between the work in the lab during the day, and my work in the cells at night, I learned quite a bit about medicine, a lot about suffering and gained a huge respect for human endurance. I also learned exactly what I was capable of doing, things I had far rather not have learned.

During that time Nura never spoke about why she endangered herself by trying to sabotage Nirrti's experiments, and I never asked. Maybe we didn't want to know so we couldn't reveal anything if one of us were caught, or maybe it just hurt too much to think about what our lives had been before we ended up at Nirrti's lab. We just did what we could day to day, never speaking about what would happen if we were caught.

Nearly seven months ago, Nirrti returned to the lab throwing out orders left and right, demanding this, demanding that, creating a major upheaval. She had new experiments and a different direction she wanted to pursue, changes I could tell worried Nura. Something Nirrti had discovered on another planet had advanced her hok'tar research, and she wanted to change the parameter of the experiments here and she wanted them changed yesterday.

Even worse for me, Nirrti thought I could finally repay her investment (!) by being the subject of some short term experiments exploring fight or flight response using cortisol. Since I was already pumping out highly elevated levels naturally, living in gut-clenching fear all the time tends to do that, adding a cocktail of cortisol and some of her other designer steroids didn't help. With Nirrti on site, Nura couldn't do much to sidetrack the experiment, so I was pumped up with first one, then another and then a third round of Nirrti's steroid cocktails designed to screw my body to hell. And here I had thought postpartum depression with an infant sick with RSV and the ultimate terrible twos toddler to care for in my previous life had been difficult! Worst of all, Nura could do nothing.

Nura was on edge, very worried. Something she had learned from Nirrti about the other lab really bothered her. She started looking for ways to get off planet or for a way to get information out. When she had finally left to go to the other lab, Nirrti had everything here locked down pretty tight. Nura seemed frustrated at every turn. Frustrated, that is, until one of the suppliers that stopped by infrequently arrived. I didn't see it myself, only learned about it later, but Nura tried to bribe the supplier to drop off a message to someone at his next to last stop, a naquada mining community. That son of a bitch took the message and turned it over to Nirrti's top Jaffa, Ber'ac.

Then it all fell apart. Nirrti was off planet. Ber'ac wanted to win points with her by presenting her with the information the message contained *and* a confession from Nura when she returned. Ber'ac was relentless; he had his opportunity and he relished it. For two days he shut Nura up in the lab and tortured her to make her talk while I and the other 'lab rats' listened to her screams.

At first, I was paralyzed with fear that she would implicate me, and I would be tortured next. I had squirreled away enough poison to kill myself. Should I use it now or wait? If I waited too long to use it. Then, finally, my brain started to work again. There *had* to be a way to help her escape the torture and to get us away from here. I spoke to Geeta, the last of the remaining women abducted from Earth with me, and together we worked out a way for Nura and us to escape. With Nura dead and Nirrti gone, we would have no protection left. Two of the Jaffa were, well, repugnant didn't begin to describe them. Geeta was terrified, too, just like me, but she felt like she owed Nura, and me, for how we had helped her in the past, and the future looked pretty bleak right now.

One of the four Jaffa who took shifts guarding Nura was a young man who had shown some interest in Geeta against Ber'ac's express orders. When he stood guard that night, Geeta brought him a fruit drink I laced with a sedative 'shoplifted' from the lab and flirted with him until it took effect. When he slumped down outside the lab unconscious, I took his zat'nik'atel and went in to Nura.

She was dying. In trying to get more information out of her before Nirrti came back, Ber'ac had pushed way too hard when she had refused to answer. Ber'ac had made no allowance for Nura's advanced age. It looked like she would be dead by morning, if she lasted that long.

As I came closer and Nura recognized me, she whispered, "Please, please help me." I planned the rescue hoping that Geeta and I could help her escape to the mountains to the west of the lab. We might have been able to hide out there. At least it was a chance. But looking at her sunken eyes and bruised and shattered body, I knew that plan was impossible. Still, I had to try. "Do you think you can move? I can try to get you out of here and away to the mountains."

She weakly moved her head back and forth and whispered, "Too late."

I raised the zat'nik'atel to show her and asked, "What do you want me to do?" She whispered, "Come closer." I bent over and she weakly grasped my wrist. "Do you trust me?" she asked. Thinking of the years we had worked together, how she had risked herself to help others and how she hadn't given me up to Ber'ac, I answered, "Yes, of course."

"I am a Tok'ra, a member of the resistance against the system lords and Goa'ulds like Nirrti. Take Ruhk, my symbiote, let her use you as a host and continue fighting the Goa'uld. Someday Ruhk may be able to find a way for you both to escape from here and let the Tok'ra know about Nirrti's experiments."

At that Nura eyes faintly glowed and I heard the voice of Rukh for the first time. "I can no longer heal Nura. The damage is too severe. She is dying and I will die with her. Blend with me so, if we eventually escape, you can help me see the Tok'ra receive critical information about Nirrti's experiments. We are not like the Goa'uld, I assure you. The Tok'ra do not force their hosts; we live in a true partnership. But you must decide quickly. Nura is very near death. All I ask of you is that you take me and the information I have to the Tok'ra. After that I will release you from the blending and try to help you find a way back to your home."

Nura had never mentioned the Tok'ra before. This revelation astonished me, although I really shouldn't have been so surprised after watching her sabotage Nirrti's work.

What a choice to make without time to consider. I didn't know much about the symbiotes other than a few bits and pieces about the Goa'uld Nura had let drop over the years we worked together, and I knew nothing of the Tok'ra blending except what Nura/Rukh had just told me. What I had learned didn't make me eager to experience a blending myself.

"Hurry," Nura murmured faintly.

It came down to a question of trust and, even knowing she had deceived me for two years as to what she really was, I did trust Nura. Something inside me recognized Nura as a woman of integrity, and if I took that as a given, then I had to believe her symbiote, Rukh, could be trusted, too. Yes or no? I'd like to think no thoughts of revenge on Nirrti played any role in my decision, but that's not true. If I could hurt Nirrti by becoming a host to a Tok'ra, then yes, I would be a host.

For years in my previous life decisions had been made after agonizing research and thought. Now, here I was, making this decision on instinct. Taking a huge gamble and knowing it, I asked, "What do I need to do?"

Nura, struggling for breath, barely moving her lips whispered, "Kiss me on the mouth." Oh, boy.

I did and, suddenly, burning pain searing through my throat choking me, the exchange was made. The memories and feelings flooding through me from Rukh and Nura were overwhelming. The love and trust host and symbiote had had for each other for so very many years was almost too painful to bear. So this was what it felt like to be a host, to have memories reaching back hundreds, thousands of years with the thoughts and feelings of previous hosts ricocheting around in my head. How had Nura endured it? How did any host?

After the initial exchange and the rush of pain, memories and emotions, Rukh went silent in my mind. Very weak herself, Rukh withdrew from my consciousness leaving *me* to focus on Nura and what must come next.

Nura! How had she withstood the horror of the past two days? Bending over her again I felt more than heard her say, "Please end the pain." Unable to help her in any other way, it was time to release her. At least I could do that.

First my protector, then my friend and co-conspirator in this terrible place, Nura had saved my life, and now, for her sake, I had to take hers. I couldn't let her continue to suffer, nor could I leave any trace behind that might reveal that Rukh had left her host and gone into another.

I brushed the sweaty white hair back from Nura's bruised face and lightly kissed her cheek. Her eyes had closed and her breathing was more labored. I moved back, raised the zat'nik'atel and fired three times. Nura's body disappeared leaving nothing behind. Let that son of a bitch Ber'ac try to figure that out. If the sedated guard didn't talk, and I didn't think he'd dare, all that would be left of Nura would be a mystery. Maybe Ber'ac would think Nura somehow managed to escape to the mountains. Maybe Nirrti would experiment on him since he proved so inept. Well, I could dream, couldn't I?

I slipped out of the lab and replaced the zat'nik'atel on the drugged Jaffa. Moving silently, I managed to get back to my quarters behind the lab without being seen by anyone. Nura was gone. I had blended with a completely alien symbiote. Who knew what the next day might hold. I made sure the poison stash was still where I could find it, and then I rested while I could. When morning came, I would need to give an Academy Award winning performance.

The next day I became a shadow around the lab trying to blend into the walls. When Ber'ac questioned me about Nura's disappearance, as I knew he would, I was terrified he would realize I carried a symbiote. He didn't get that close to me, though, and the Jaffa who twisted my arm and dragged back my head as he held me during the interrogation was the same one I had drugged. When he grabbed me, I gave him my best evil eye. I think he realized right away I could rat him out about falling sleeping on duty. He definitely had his own reasons for not revealing anything about me, if he even sensed anything at all.

I blinked, shook my head and I was once again in the comfortable cell down in a deep part of what I had overheard referred to as the SGC.

Rukh emerged briefly from her sanctuary, her hiding place in my mind, crying, "Stop it, you can't help Nura by reliving it all again." She would not let me blame myself. That was about the only thing that would make her appear now.

"Okay, don't fuss. I'll stop, I promise."

When is this Jacob going to get here? Waiting and thinking about the past is too much. I've read what little there is in the room twice over with little chance of getting more until I've been vetted by this 'Jacob.' I've never heard of a Tok'ra or a host named Jacob, so I don't expect much from our 'talk.'

"Excuse me, Airman, do you have any idea when this person I'm supposed to talk to will arrive?"

"No, Ma'am, sorry."

"Do you think I could get something to drink, tea maybe? Tea, Earl Grey, hot." The Airman looked at me blankly. No one watches the classics anymore. I felt way too old.

"I can check."

Apparently I could have some tea, for in a little while another Airman came in with a tray containing a steaming cup, some sugar packets and a small plate of cookies.

Of all the little things I missed so much, the everyday things to eat and drink, tea topped the list. It was heavenly to be able to get back to the simple pleasures again, and, hey, the tea *was* Earl Grey.

While I sipped my tea, I thought back over the last month.

Weak as she was herself, after the first few days of our blending, Rukh tried to mend the damage Nirrti had done to me with her experiments. She managed to normalize some, but not all, of the out of whack biochemical levels from the 'fight or flight' experiments. Despite her best efforts, though, my body resisted a complete reset. Rukh took that as another failure. Still grieving over Nura, weakened from the torture, struggling to heal me and affected herself by my unbalanced biochemical levels, Rukh grew depressed and withdrew more and more from me. In a way, her withdrawal helped me as I tried to become even more invisible to the Jaffa.

Nirrti's visits to our facility had grown more and more infrequent. There were few of her 'subjects' left out of the original group. Experiments had not been successful here. The poor babies, genetically altered in hideous ways, died stillborn or soon after birth and most mothers didn't survive the difficult deliveries. It seemed Nirrti had another lab off planet with more intriguing and successful experiments ongoing.

The last time she was here, several months ago, she took Ber'ac, now in disfavor, and all but two of the remaining Jaffa away with her. The two that were left guarded the lab and the chappa'ai in case Nirrti needed to return. When she and Ber'ac left, my anxiety level dropped. By being least in sight, I had managed to avoid getting close enough to Nirrti that she might have sensed Rukh.

With the departure of the other Jaffa, I began to think for the first time that escape might now be possible. I didn't know how to work the chappa'ai, but Rukh did. If I could rouse her from the depression she had slipped into after Nura's death and our blending, perhaps we could find a way to get Rukh back to the Tok'ra and me back home or, at least, somewhere I could be reasonably safe.

Rukh would have to decide where we should go to contact the Tok'ra. That was proving to be a hard decision to make. Rukh and Nura had been undercover and out of contact with the other Tok'ra for close to three years. Contact before that had been very limited and intermittent. Cloistered as we had been in the lab, Rukh didn't know what had been happening out beyond the planet. Between Rukh's depression and indecision, we were at a standstill.

I was afraid, too, afraid Nirrti would come back, afraid of what might happen next. Rukh's knowledge of the chappa'ai and its addresses looked like the only way to get us off the planet. As Rukh withdrew from me a little more each day, I worried I wouldn't be able to pull her out of the black hole of guilt and regret she had dug for herself. The blame she felt for Nura's death, and the torture that preceded it, kept her isolated and detached from me. Her failure to somehow stop Nirrti also made her feel a huge burden of guilt. It was easier for her to be detached, not to feel. I did everything I could to try and recall her back to the present, but the withdrawal continued. My own physical and mental state didn't help matters, either. I sent a lot of time either depressed or feeling tremendous pent up rage. Like a pendulum, I swung back and forth. We were not helping each other and we needed to, desperately.

At times, I felt furious at her detachment. She had asked for my help and I had given it. I had trusted her. Geeta and the others that were left trusted *me* to get them out of here, and, try as I would, I couldn't get Rukh to focus on a plan.

From the fragments of Rukh's memory, what little she let me glimpse, her life and the lives of her hosts had been given over to the battle against the Goa'uld for thousands of years. There had been so many difficult times, times of loss. As hard as it had been, there were also memories of victories, of battles won and the companionship of friends. But bitter memories of Goa'uld victories and what those victories had meant for the Tok'ra, savage Goa'uld retribution, lived inside, too. Year after year, host after host, each sacrifice, each loss, had added to the burden Rukh felt. From what little she let me see, more than I could hardly bear to know, Rukh and Nura, and the hosts before her, had made what W.B. Yeats, the Irish poet, called "Too long a sacrifice." Now the weight, the burden, of all those sacrifices caught up with her and immobilized Rukh.

If Rukh wanted to withdraw, if she had found a sanctuary, a stony darkness to curl up inside, after what had indeed been too long a sacrifice by anyone's terms, I could hardly bring myself to fault her. All I really wanted was to curl up in there myself, but to honor Nura and *her* sacrifice, we had to get the information Rukh had to the Tok'ra. I also felt responsible for Geeta and the rest. I had to get them off the planet away from Nirrti and any more of her experiments.

We were quite a pair, Rukh and I, both damaged, depressed and tired, so tired. Sometimes, though, sacrifice and duty have no end. When it becomes too much for one, then, somehow, someone else steps in and continues. Right now, it looked like that someone would be me. I had to somehow prod Rukh along, force her to make decisions so we could get off planet. We had to find a safe refuge for Geeta and the others and locate the Tok'ra. Until we had done that, until we had honored Nura's sacrifice, I refused to let either one of us quit. One step at a time, I told myself, and we'll get it done. One step at a time.

As it turned out, I didn't have to make Rukh choose an address and make a plan after all.

When SG-1 came through the chappa'ai, those few of us left watched as the four member team dispatched the two Jaffa guards. Then they examined the lab and searched the facility. As we listened to them talk and got a closer look at the uniforms and the Air Force symbol on the arm, I realized that, as unlikely as it might seem, three were from home, but what was a Jaffa doing with them? Jaffa or not, they were our best bet of rescue.

Geeta and I came forward calling, "Hey guys, we're from the U.S., too, Texas and Indiana." When SG-1 turned to look at us with jaws dropping, very surprised, we immediately introduced ourselves and explained how we had been Nirrti's lab rats, and how the slaver had abducted us from Earth. In the face of their disbelief, we appealed to them; we asked that they take us back home and help the other four 'lab rats' left here with us.

The team talked among themselves and then to someone over a radio. At that point the materials the team had taken from the lab were loaded on a small tank-like looking object, an address was entered and the chappa'ai opened. The older man, the Colonel, motioned us all up the ramp.

During the rescue, I hadn't considered that they might discover I carried a symbiote. The glitch for Rukh and me came when I happened to pass next to the blonde woman, Major Carter, on the ramp. She turned to the Colonel and said, "This one is Goa'uld." Weapons went up and Major Carter moved back away from me. Oh, great, just what I needed. Rukh finally stirred and for the first time her voice spoke through me to another person. Very weird, indeed.

"I am Tok'ra, an enemy of the Goa'uld. I must contact the Tok'ra immediately. I have information about the Goa'uld Nirrti that I must share with them."

"Sure," the one called O'Neill drawled. "Teal'c, keep an eye on this one."

Guarded by the Jaffa called Teal'c, I stood to the side of the ramp and watched Geeta and the others go through the chappa'ai. Once they disappeared, Teal'c motioned me to step through, too.

On the other side I was surrounded by other guards and taken to an infirmary where I was poked and prodded and examined six ways from Sunday. I also spoke with the doctor, Dr. Fraiser, about what I knew of the experiments on Geeta and the others, what Nirrti had intended to do, and what had really happened. I wanted her to know as much as possible. Rukh and I weren't sure if the experiments could be reversed, but maybe something could be done so Geeta and the others could be helped.

Finally, after what seemed like hours of exams and questions, I was allowed to shower, bliss *hot * water, first time in three years, and change into clean clothes all under the watchful eyes of a female guard.

After that the guard escorted me to the cell, excuse me, guest quarters, and said I was to wait there. Not too long after, another guard came in with a laptop and said I was to write as complete a report as I could. I did type out what had happened to me, my abduction and the experiments, but I didn't write anything about Rukh or the Tok'ra. She didn't want to reveal anything about that until she knew more about the current situation. She had been out of the information loop too long to be sure about anything.

My refusal to say anything about Rukh, or even reveal her name, made the situation difficult. Rukh didn't trust them, and they certainly didn't trust us. Major standoff.

Later that evening, Major Carter stopped by. She picked up the laptop, glanced through what little I had written, only information about myself, the experiments and what had happened to me in Nirrti's lab before the blending. Major Carter asked me again about my symbiote, if I would like to add anything. I just smiled and said no.

I did ask her once again about contacting my family. "I'm afraid not," she replied, "not until we have more information about the symbiote and confirmation from the Tok'ra."

I didn't know what I could say to Pat and the kids anyway. That would have to be all sorted out later. "Oh, I've got an alien inside me and I've been a slave and experimental lab rat off world for three years." Yeah, right, that explanation will work.

"And when might that happen?" I asked.

"By tomorrow we should have someone from the Tok'ra here to speak to you."

"Guess that will have to do, then. Good night, Major."

She left taking the laptop with her.

The next morning the guard outside my door knocked and said Major Carter and General Carter were on their way down to speak to me. Was the General the mysterious Jacob?

A few minutes later the guard tapped twice on the door, opened it and stood aside so Major Carter and an older, balding man could enter.

"Meg Tierney, I like to introduce my father, Jacob Carter."

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