With a firm grip on her neck, the Goa'uld dragged Vala's naked body down the corridor and into a nearby elevator. She struggled against his iron hold while trying to keep her balance as the man hurriedly walked her into the concealed booth. When the doors slid shut he pinned her against the wall with one hand on her neck and used the other to punch the level 19 button.

"Where…are… you…taking…me?" Vala struggled to ask.

"Be silent if you want to remain conscious," the man said, his voice once again Human, but lacking the Chinese accent. He applied additional pressure to her trachea to reinforce the point and Vala had little choice but to comply as the elevator slowly rose upward.

With the little oxygen getting to her brain, Vala still had enough wherewithal to mentally curse the Goa'uld for pressing her bare butt up against the cold metal wall as well as come to the conclusion that she was in real trouble this time. If the Goa'uld had a hand in the problems on Earth, then her recognizing the infiltrator for who he was meant that she had to die, else their secret would get out…assuming there was more than one of them.

As she pondered that thought the elevator finally arrived at its destination and the Chinese man dragged her into another long hallway…this one with four guards stationed nearby.

"Take her," he ordered them in the bizarre Tauri language.

The four men cautiously stepped forward and grabbed both her arms as she finally gave up struggling, happy just to be able to breathe freely. They pulled her into a large room on the left and strapped her down onto what Vala recognized as an interrogation table.

"Make sure they're tight," the Chinese/Goa'uld ordered. "She's a slippery one."

"Ow!" Vala protested as they cut off part of the circulation in her right wrist, then moved onto her left before tying down her legs and finishing with an abdominal clamp.

When the guards finished, one of them tested the bonds and nodded to confirm their quality.

"Alert medical to see to the two idiots in her cell," he ordered, signaling for them to leave. "And tell them they're removed from active duty until I determine an adequate punishment."

"Yes, sir," the highest ranking guard said, bowing his head as he stepped by his superior. He turned about after the others had exited and shut the door on his way out.

"So what now?" Vala asked. "You going to pump me for information?" she said tongue in cheek.

"Who were you host to?" he asked without preamble, his voice once against tinged with the Goa'uld ambiance.

Vala laid her head back down on the table and looked at the ceiling. "Do you really need to know?"

He raised an eyebrow and began to pace slowly around the table on which Vala was restrained. "I suppose it's trivial information at that, but one does not easily escape the grasp of their master. Do you have the Tok'ra to thank, or the perhaps the Asgard?"

"The Tok'ra, if you must know," Vala offered.

The Goa'uld nodded slowly. "I was aware that your companion was once blended with a Tok'ra, and had taken precautions to avoid any interaction…but I was not informed that you also possessed the latent detection ability."

"Well don't feel too badly," Vala responded pithily, "peons aren't supposed to know everything."

"It's an oversight that shouldn't have been made," he said, ignoring both her insult and her pathetic ploy to gather information as to their numbers, "and it puts me in an awkward position."

"Sorry to be an inconvenience."

"Oh, I'm afraid it's more serious than that, my dear," he said, running a finger down the length of her right leg. "I can't let you return to the Tauri as I'd planned."

"Planned?" Vala asked, a bit surprised.

"Your team is a valued asset of ours, one which we are hesitant to waste…though present events seem to have made the decision for us."

"What are you waiting for then? Or do you plan to have some fun with me first?"

"I suppose it's not a total loss. Teal'c will still survive, wherever he is, though his allegiance to the Tauri may waver if SG-1 is killed. Where is he, by the way?"

"You tell me," Vala countered, covering her surprise. She'd assumed he'd been captured too. "If we're really working for you, then you must know what mission Teal'c was sent on…or are you over exaggerating your level of influence on Earth?" she said, tilting her head to the side to glare at him.

"We're kept well informed, as you would suspect, but given the remote location of this facility I'm not always kept in the loop with regards to the most recent intel."

"What are you doing out here anyway?" Vala asked loudly, switching her tone from scorn to curious. "I know you're trying to set up a Chinese Empire, but what does it gain you? The United States is clearly the power broker in the whole international arrangement."

"And they have the most effective anti-symbiot detection systems," he countered. "The Chinese, however, are not so diligent."

"The proverbial weak link," Vala said, exasperated.

"Them and others…" the Goa'uld commented, beginning to boast a little. "Any direct takeover, however, would still be discovered and is therefore out of the question. Our predecessors failed to realize that all species must, at some point, adapt in order to survive…the Goa'uld are not exempt from this fact. Those that refused to change were killed either in the Jaffa revolt or later by the Tok'ra hunters," he said with ample disgust. "The rest of us have learned to take a…lesser approach to dealing with the Tauri."

"Backroom manipulation…," Vala said, understanding.

The Goa'uld shook his head. "Not even that. The Tauri have proven to be of a similar disposition to ourselves on the whole…though exceedingly amateuristic to say the least. Their deviousness is to be admired in that it makes manipulating them all the easier. We needn't make radical changes to their planet, only a few carefully placed minor corrections here and there as the need arises. For the time being we can sit back, relax, and let your planet take all the risks."

"How convenient for you," Vala said, her stomach lurching as she realized how right he was. There were good people on Earth, she wouldn't have allied with them if there weren't…unless they had something valuable to steal…but a lot of the sniveling, suit-wearing cowards that ran the governments of Earth's nations did in fact mirror the Goa'uld, though in a slightly less intimidating fashion.

In particular the I.O.A. matched up eerily well. They gave orders and sat back in safety as they watched others carry them out, often with disastrous results. The whole mission to the Ori galaxy and the replicator debacle rose to mind easy enough.

They also blamed others for their own failure, often preying on those who did the dirty work in a sacrificial offering to save their own asses. Earth's nations were also constantly bickering and sometimes even fighting each other, much as the Goa'uld had before the Jaffa rebellion and the recent incident with the Ark of Truth had "Goa'uld" written all over it.

The more Vala thought through her short history on Earth the more she regrettably agreed with the snakehead.

"So what's the end goal?" she asked. "Galactic domination all over again? Same old, same old?"

"Not quite," the Goa'uld said as he paced around the table where she was restrained. "But we're getting ahead of ourselves…the question at the moment is what to do with you, my dear."

"I vote for letting me go," Vala said sarcastically.

"Democracy is so pathetic," the Goa'uld said, stopping his walk near the door. "However, sometimes it is necessary to…consult with others."

He opened the latch on the heavy metal door but refrained from pulling it open. He turned back to look at Vala. "Now, be a good girl and stay put while I'm gone. I promise I won't be long," he said with a wry smile before opening the door and stepping out. He said a few words in Chinese to the guards and the door closed with a clank, leaving Vala alone, restrained, and nude in the interrogation room.

"Ok…now how am I going to get my sorry ass out of this one," she said aloud as she considered her options.


Jack walked out of the event horizon into a small clearing of dirt surrounded by woods. A pile of melted stone stood several meters out from the gate, but nothing else was visible save for trees, trees, and more trees.

"Ok," O'Neill said as the stargate shut down behind him as his boots dug into the soft, dark dirt, "smart money says to dial another address so they can't follow…but that's what they'll expect me to do. They send some four-eyes to dig through the DHD and find the planet I gated to…so I need to gate out again three, four, maybe five times to lose my trail for good."

Jack cringed. He wasn't actually sure how well they could track him, nor how many times it would take before he truly lost them.

"Or…I can lay low here and see if anyone comes after me. They'll think I was smart and gated somewhere else," he said with a nod. "Sounds like a plan," he said, clapping and rubbing his hands together in anticipation. "Time for a nap."

Jack looked around and picked a direction. He walked into the forest and found sufficient cover to shield himself from view of the stargate but not so far as to not be able to hear an incoming wormhole. He spied a thick, toppled tree trunk and climbed over to the opposite side.

"This will do," he said, sitting down and unpacking some of his supplies. He didn't know how long he'd be here, or out here in general, so he'd packed away as many foodstuffs as he could fit into his backpack. One thing was sure…he couldn't go back to Earth for supplies anytime soon, and frankly he didn't know if he'd even want to if things changed back home. Of all the times he and SG-1 had saved their assess…

SG-1.

He didn't know where they were or how to find them and felt a pang of guilt for not being able to let them know what was going on…or even to say goodbye. Daniel, he knew, was on Atlantis. Maybe he'd find his way there eventually, but for right now he just needed to rest and clear his head. The stress and confusion that he'd endured ever since being promoted to General felt like a railroad spike had been pounded into his skull…and now it was painfully starting to pull free.

He wondered where he'd gone wrong. Maybe he never should have accepted promotion, but then again they'd have probably ended up with some scrub replacing Hammond and Jack would have had to go into retirement just to stay sane…either that or end up court-martialed. No, he had to take the job…but did it really have to end up like this?

"That's the last 'yes, sir' they'll be getting out of me," Jack mumbled as he laid down next to the log, resting his head on his pack. Within a couple of minutes he was out cold, getting a long overdue rest.