Spoilers: season 7 episode Death Knell (#148)
Note: text italics denotes the deeper voice of the Goa'uld/Tok'ra..
Constructive criticism welcomed, flames cheerfully ignored.
The king is dead: long live the king!
He dreamed of a dragon fighting a devil, talons and teeth slashing against thick scales.
He dreamed of death and destruction.
He dreamed of a man, sword held high, fighting of an army while others escaped.
O'Neill woke, his body still protesting the damage it had taken during the ambush that had befallen his team and resulted in their capture. It was somewhat comforting to know that Anubis wanted them alive, but he knew that they would be interrogated to the point of death, and then brought back to life by a sarcophagus.
He opened his eyes enough to see what was going on: the Jaffa had set up camp for the night while he'd been unconscious, and a fire was burning brightly. He could see Cater, Teal'c and Daniel where lying on the ground nearby, all still out cold.
The Jaffa looked disturbingly alert and ready for anything. O'Neill could see several of them standing around the edge of the clearing with their backs to the fire so as not to ruin their night sight.
Wondering if things could possibly get worse, O'Neill drifted back to sleep.
The unmistakable whomp of a discharging staff weapon woke O'Neill just before dawn, and he ducked down instinctively as the air was filled with bolts of plasma moving in every direction. From his position on the ground, O'Neill could tell that the Jaffa were firing blindly into the trees, while the return fire was much more accurate.
The battle was short but bloody, the Jaffa being mercilessly cut down by their unseen foes. The last Jaffa fell backwards, his dead hand still clutching his weapon as it sent a last few defiant shots into the air.
Peace fell over the forest.
O'Neill did his best to control his breathing as he waited for something to happen, his eyes scanning the tree line for any sign of movement. He tried to crawl to where a knife had been rope, but the rope holding his hands behind his back made that impossible.
He stopped when he heard near-silent footsteps approaching from out of the trees. Two appeared at first, tall figures depressed in metallic armor that covered their entire bodies, huge rifle-like weapons sweeping back and forth, looking for targets. They apparently ignored O'Neill as he looked at them, mouth open.
Two more identically dressed figures appeared from a different angle, moving from body to body, making sure all the Jaffa were dead, and striping them of weapons. O'Neill noticed that one would cover the dead warrior with their rifle while the other stripped the body of anything of use.
A tall figure, devoid of any apparent weapons but flanked by a pair of guards, moved across the clearing on a direct line to O'Neill. He swallowed as the stranger stood above him, looking down from behind a jet-black visor.
"Um, thanks." He did his best to sound friendly, "Don't suppose you'd consider untying me?"
"You Tauri never cease to amaze me." The deep resounding tones of the Goa'uld and Tok'ra responded. There was click, and the faceplate retracted back into the suit to revel a smiling face, "It is good to see you again, Sir Jack."
"Neftu?" O'Neill blinked as one of the soldiers cut his bonds with a knife before moving on to the rest of SG-1, "We thought you were killed when the alpha-sight was attacked!"
"I was able to get to a ship Merlin had hidden in the forest." The former Goa'uld-queens eyes fell, "Arthur was not as fortunate: he died defending the Stargate from Anubis' troops."
"I heard. I'm sorry: he was a good man, even for a Tok'ra…"
"He died as he lived: protecting those who could not protect themselves. After it became clear that Anubis intended to destroy the Tok'ra once and for all I decided it was best if I took my leave of them. I returned to Avalon and the court of my daughter Cassiopeia, but staying would only undermine her rule, so I gathered my personal guard and some new weapons Merlin had been working on and left by ship. We have been hitting Anubis' forces across his domain ever since."
"We've not heard anything about these raids…"
"We have not left anyone alive to tell of them. Anubis probably thinks it is one of the other System Lords trying to make a play for his domain while he is obsessed with destroying you Tauri." Neftu looked up as an Al-Kesh attack ship moved down through the sky and hovered over the clearing, "We should go: your team mates require treatment and other Jaffa on this planet will investigate what happened here."
"Yeah, sure, good idea." O'Neill nodded, looking round as more troops appeared out of the forest until they were surrounded by an entire platoon. The ring-transporter in the bottom of the Al-Kesh descended to surround them and they where teleported up.
Neftu's soldiers began to strip out of their armour as soon as they were onboard the Al-Kesh, stripping down to t-shirts and shorts. O'Neill was slightly surprised to see that a number of them were women, but he was more concerned with his team.
"Do you have a doctor onboard?" He asked the reneged Tok'ra.
"No, not on this ship." Neftu opened a cabinet on the nearby wall and pulled out a healing device, "But this should be enough to at least stabilise them. If they require more treatment, we do have a sarcophagus to treat the seriously wounded or recently dead. We reframe from using it because of the unfortunate side-effects."
"Where? This ship can't be big enough for a sarcophagus."
"It isn't." Neftu ran the healing device over Carter, "The Major will be fine: she just needs rest." She moved to Teal'c, "He is also fine: had he still been reliant on a symbiote he would have healed by now." She moved to Daniel, "Dr Jackson's injury's are slightly more complicated: he has some internal damage. I will do what I can, but it may take the sarcophagus to return him to full health."
"Yeah, so where is the sarcophagus?" O'Neill asked.
"I will show you." Neftu started to strip out of her armor as she made her way across the cargo bay to the doors leading to the cockpit. She wore the same t-shirts and shorts underneath as the others. She stopped at a locker set against the far wall and placed her armor carefully inside, pulling out a long flowing Tok'ra style robe that fastened with a broach styled like a black cat, its eyes made out of two tiny emeralds.
"What the hell…" O'Neill blinked as he looked out of the ships window: a huge Ha'Tak class mother ship de-cloaked in front of them just long enough for the smaller Al-Kesh to dock, then instantly took off into hyperspace. "Where are we going?"
"Somewhere safe, a world the System Lords do not know." Neftu explained as a small medical team appeared through the ships airlock and started to treat Carter, Teal'c and Daniel, "Major Carter and Sir Teal'c should be awake soon, but it may take some time to heal Dr Jackson."
"What's with the 'Sir' thing?"
"Arthur made the two of you knights of Logres: to our people you will always be Sir Teal'c of Chulak and Sir Jack of the Tauri. Come: it would be best if you were there when your friends woke."
"O'Neill." Teal'c opened his eyes, "Were we not captured?"
"We were, but we got rescued." O'Neill moved his chair closer to his friends bed, "Turns out Neftu isn't as dead as we first assumed. In fact, she's alive and kicking, in more ways than one."
"We are on a Goa'uld vessel."
"Yeah, she managed to capture a Ha'Tak belonging to one of the System Lords, Kali I think."
"A dangerous game to play."
"Yeah, well, Arthur didn't make it away from the Alpha Sight, so she's waging her own personal war against Anubis: I think she's looking for some righteous payback. Turns out Merlin has been working on some new weapons for the people of Logres to defend themselves with. Very nice looking too: plasma-rifle as powerful as a staff-weapon, with a built in assault rifle firing 7.65mm Naquadah-tipped rounds that explode on impact."
"An interesting innovation: it would be difficult to say if someone was attacked by Jaffa or Tauri weapons."
"Yeah, well, get some sleep: we'll be arriving wherever the hell it is we're going in a few hours."
Carter was awake by the time the ship exited hyperspace and started to descend to an inhospitable looking desert planet. O'Neill was happy to see that the throne/control room had been stripped of its ornate decorations and instead looked more like the bridge of the Prometheus.
"I am glad that you could join us." Neftu was sitting at what was obviously the command chair, "Welcome to Hamunaptra: the world of the dead. Ra annihilated the culture that once existed here because they posed a threat to him. The planet is uninhabitable, but we were able to find an abandoned military base inside a hollowed out mountain, much like your SGC, and it suits our needs."
"Makes me all homesick." O'Neill smiled, "You got a Stargate down there? We should have reported in a few hours ago."
"I regret that we have been unable to locate this worlds Chaapa'ai as of yet." Neftu's hands moved over the controls, "But fear not: we can return you to a world with one or provide you with a hyperspace-capable ship."
"You know," O'Neill raised a hand, "we've talked a lot since you rescued us…"
"Thank you for that, by the way." Carter smiled.
"You are welcome." Neftu nodded.
"Yeah, anyway, we've been talking a lot," O'Neill continued, "But I've only spoken to Neftu, not Jessica."
"As you wish." Neftu closed her eyes for a moment.
"Is there something specific you want to talk about, or can it wait? We're about to come into land and I don't actually know how to fly this ship…" The former System Lords host asked.
"No, just wanted to make sure everything was ok!" O'Neill glanced out of the window at the fast approaching planet, "Can we have Neftu back?"
"Certainly." Jessica nodded and closed her eyes.
"Happy now?" Neftu asked as she brought the Ha'Tak in for a perfect landing. The controls chimed, and she moved her hand a crystal, "Neftu."
A voice replied in a language that O'Neill, Carter and Teal'c didn't understand. The person on the other end spoke for some time, with Neftu asking the occasional question in the same language. Eventually she moved her hand back over the crystal and turned to SG-1.
"Our doctors have been able to heal Dr Jackson without needing to resort to use of the sarcophagus. He will be awake soon." She smiled, "I will have guest quarters prepaired for you until he is fit for travel."
"You think we can trust her to just let us go?" O'Neill asked as he sat staring at the lounge ceiling in the suit of rooms SG-1 had been assigned, "Hate to say it, but she was a System Lord once upon a time…"
"Neftu has done nothing to lose the trust we placed in her on Avalon." Teal'c sat calmly across the low table that was covered in the remains of their lunch, "I for one believe that she has indeed remained true to her oaths as a Tok'ra."
"I have to agree, sir." Carter nodded, "I mean, if she had returned to her System Lord days, would she have helped us like she did? From what you told us she risked her entire operation, her own life even, to free us. That doesn't strike me as the actions of a Goa'uld."
"Yeah, come on Jack: lighten up." Daniel smiled, still feeling mildly euphoric as a result of the painkillers he had been given, "We all know you've never liked the Tok'ra, apart from Arthur, but he trusted Neftu enough to marry her and give her domain over half his planet."
"Yeah, I know that." O'Neill glared at the Egyptologist sarcastically, "But why won't she let us know where this planet is? She's already admitted that Hamunaptra isn't its real name."
"Security." Teal'c's voice was calm as ever, "If we were ever captured, we could revel its location to Anubis or one of the other System Lords. She is merely looking out for her people."
"Yeah, well." O'Neill sighed, "Doesn't mean I have to like it."
"I hope you understand why we can not transport you to Earth ourselves." Neftu stood outside the airlock leading to the Al-Kesh that she had given SG-1 to make their trip home in, "But I am not sure that Merlin has told his people about my control of this ship, and I do not wish to end up on the receiving end of a Asgard assault."
"I can understand that." O'Neill nodded, "Look, I'd like to apologies for the way I've been treating you: I'd grown to like Arthur as a friend, and I was upset when he died. I admit that I have never really trusted the Tok'ra, but I did trust him. And if he trusted you, than that should be enough for me."
"I…" Neftu looked genuinely upset.
"I am sorry." Jessica took control of her body, "Neftu is still in grieving for Arthur, as I am, to a lesser extent. They where together over 1,000-standard years, and I don't think they ever contemplated a time when they would be parted. There are times when Neftu is unable to deal with the loss, and she locks herself away for days. As a species the Goa'uld, and as such, the Tok'ra, are unaccustomed to deep emotional attachment. But over time a Tok'ra gains experience from their hosts, but they lack the psychological buffer to protect them."
"It must be hard." O'Neill nodded, "Although it would explain how 'touchy/feely' some of them can be."
"You learn to live with it." Jessica smiled, "Neftu had several crates of weapons loaded into the ships cargo hold for you: mainly staff-weapons I am afraid. We can not spare many of our Plasma-rifles, but there are a few in there."
"Thanks: maybe the eggheads at Area-51 can find a way to duplicate the. Is there anyway we can contact you if needs be?"
"Merlin has a communicator that has been modified to send a shielded and coded signal to our base on Hamunaptra: contact him on Avalon and he will pass along any message."
"Thanks." O'Neill nodded, "It was good to see the two of you again."
"You too, Sir Jack." Jessica bowed as the door closed.
"We're all set and ready to go, sir." Carter sat at the weapons station in the Al-Kesh's cramped cockpit, "We're approximately two hours from home by hyperspace."
"Ok, take us out." O'Neill sat in the commanders chair as Teal'c expertly flew the attack ship out of the Ha'Tak's huge hanger deck and into space.
"Coordinates set for Earth-space." The former Jaffa reported, "Neftu's ship has already entered hyperspace and is outside of sensor range."
"Ok, let's go home." O'Neill leaned back in his seat, "Engage."