* denotes host/symbiote internal communication


Many hours later, the guards showed up again and opened the door to the cell.

This time they took Sam, as well as Martouf and Lantash, and dragged them to Lord Eris's throne room. As they entered at the far end of the room, Eris looked up and smiled evilly.

"Ah, more of these foolish Tau'ri who think they can fight the gods. I look forward to teaching you otherwise..."

"I see Colonel Mitchell was right - you really are 'out of the loop'...you're no more a god..." Martouf's eyes flashed as Lantash took over.

"...than I am..." he grinned, deciding to do some damage to her self-esteem, as she would torture them in any case.

They were now close enough that Eris could easily sense Lantash. She swore to herself. The Jaffa, momentarily startled, had let go of him.

Quickly regaining her composure, Eris raised her head and looked at him with disdain. "So...Tok'ra..."

"Magnificent! You're catching on - you got it right on the second attempt!"

*You know, Lantash, maybe we have spent too much time around the Tau'ri..*

*My insults have a purpose. We should keep her attention on us and away from Samantha. I am just using Eris's arrogance against her...look at the throbbing vein on her forehead...she's heading straight for a seizure!*

Eris ignored his comment. "...Tok'ra...I see you have managed to lower yourself even further. Not only have you denounced your birthright, chosen to fight against the Goa'uld instead of ruling with us, treating your hosts as equals...what a perverse idea...but you have now decided to serve the humans?"

"Uh...ouch...now, this would actually mean something if I cared about your opinion. You see, that's one of the many differences between you and me. I don't give squat about what you think - you do think, right?" Lantash added, using his very best Mitchell imitation.

*Definitely too much Tau'ri influence...* Martouf commented to Lantash.

The throbbing vein on Eris's forehead was now visible from across the hall. She took a deep breath and steadied herself against her throne.

Before anything further could be said, a Jaffa came running into the room. "My Lord! A strange, pale man just arrived. He says he is a Prior and represents someone called 'the Ori' and demands an audience. Do you want me to kill him for his impudence?"

Eris remembered what Mitchell had said about the Ori and realized she had better meet this Prior - and that she probably would not even have a choice in the matter. She would never admit that, though. "Let us see what he has to say, first, and show mercy in this case." She turned to Lantash and the Jaffa standing near him. "Throw the human...and the human wannabe in the holding cell. I will deal with them later."

-
Back in the cell.

"Back so soon? And looking good...what happened?" Mitchell wondered, shifting painfully where he sat. He had a couple of broken ribs, so no position was really comfortable for him.

"Eris did not have time to torture us. An Ori Prior arrived and she graciously decided to meet him," Martouf said.

"Yeah," Sam added. "We might actually, for once, have something to thank the Ori for."

"It is doubtful to remain an advantage for us that this Prior has arrived," Teal'c said. "They are usually even worse than the Goa'uld. If he chooses to kill Eris, we will likely be worse off than we are now."

"And if Eris joins forces with the Prior it is even worse. Yes, I realize that." Sam sighed. She sat down heavily against the wall and closed her eyes.

Martouf went over to Mitchell and helped him lie down, making him as comfortable as possible, before he walked over to Sam, sat down beside her, and embraced her. She thankfully put her arms around Martouf and held onto him. They sat like that for some time, quietly comforting each other. Mitchell tried to sleep, while Teal'c was meditating. All was quiet in the cell - no one felt like talking.

-
Suddenly, they heard someone. Martouf looked up first. A man was standing near the door, looking somewhat nervously around him. "You are the people of the Tau'ri?"

"Yes," Sam said, getting up. Martouf got up as well and followed her to the door.

"Who might you be?" Martouf asked, when the man did not say anything further.

"I am Theros, Eris's lo'tar...is everything that one said, true?" He pointed at Mitchell, who was just waking up.

"My name is Mitchell - and are you asking if I'm a liar?" Mitchell asked, as he slowly pulled himself up into a sitting position. He grimaced as his body complained at the movement.

"Not at all," Theros reassured. "Just...these Ori. You have met them before?"

"Yes. We have had the 'pleasure'."

"...and the Ori Prior is as powerful as you said?"

Mitchell merely nodded.

Theros looked worried. "Then I fear he is bringing trouble here. My Lord Eris seems...infatuated with him and the power...and promise of ascension...he claims he and his religion brings."

"If Eris welcomes the Ori and their religion then they will soon take over everything...and the talk about ascension is merely that - talk. They do not wish to share the power, and so do not ascend anyone," Martouf said.

"However, if she does not accept the Ori and their religion...they will most likely kill her and everyone else on the planet," Teal'c added, having roused himself from his meditation. It had apparently not been as deep as the others had thought.

"In other words...you're damned if you do...and you're damned if you don't. It sucks," Mitchell concluded.

Theros seemed shocked for a moment, then nodded. "If that is indeed so, then we must stop this Prior - save Eris...no matter what the cost." He looked very determined.

"Save Eris?" Teal'c actually looked surprised. "You wish to slay the Prior to save the Goa'uld? Do you not know she is a false god?"

Theros looked at Teal'c with disdain. "I know full well that Eris is not a true god...would I ask for help if I thought she were? I truly wish she were, though, as she would then not need this assistance, and could instantly see through this untrustworthy Ori...however, as it is...can you help me?" he had now gotten a slightly desperate look on his face.

"Help you save the Goa'uld? Why would we want to do that? What's in it for us?" Mitchell wondered.

"I am certain Eris would be grateful for your assistance and you would be freed, when she realizes the Prior tells only lies."

"I highly doubt that. You will have to do a lot better if you want our help."

"I cannot free you myself. I am loyal to my mistress. I am sure the Tau'ri, at least understand that - if not this 'former first prime'." He spat the last part.

Teal'c looked at him with barely contained anger. "I am loyal - to those I choose to serve."

Theros glared at Teal'c, then turned back to Mitchell. "Regardless, Eris would never forgive me if I let you go."

"Tough luck! You would have to free us anyway, if we are to help you, you know. We need something from our home planet."

Theros seemed to consider this. "If that is the case, I shall think of a way to get you out, but I will only let one of you go. The rest stays here as my guarantee that you come back." He looked at Mitchell. "As you are the leader, you will go. The people of your world will listen to you, and your underlings here are your responsibility. You will return for them."

"I'm not leaving my people behind to be tortured!"

"You are behind bars - you should be grateful towards me! You cannot make terms here! You do as I say!"

"We should be grateful? You need our help as much as we need yours."

Theros considered this for a moment. "Very well. Then let us make a deal. Take one with you - the woman, perhaps? The rest will stay, but not here, so you will not worry about them being tortured. I will keep them somewhere else. That is my last offer. Take it, or you will all have to hope this Prior means well."

Mitchell groaned, but accepted. Theros then left to engineer a break-out.

-
Many hours later. The Jaffa had not returned for any of them, so presumably Eris must be preoccupied with the Ori Prior.

Both Martouf/Lantash and Mitchell were sleeping. Sam was taking a short walk around their cell, stretching her legs, when she noticed that Teal'c was awake, but not looking well.

"You should try to sleep - meditating doesn't work as well for you as it did when you had Junior, you know."

"I am aware of that. I will manage," Teal'c said.

Sam suddenly realized something. "They took the tretonin from you when you were captured - didn't they?"

"Indeed."

"How long has it been? When did you need another shot?"

"I was about to inject myself when we were captured."

"That was almost a day ago! Teal'c!" Sam gave him an exasperated look.

Before Teal'c could give any answer to that, Theros returned. Sam quickly woke up Mitchell and Martouf and Lantash.

"I have found a way to get you out. A few days ago an error was discovered in the control mechanism of the power generator. If a lot of power is suddenly drawn from it, there will be a cascade failure causing a short in the entire power system. This should theoretically cause the doors to unlock and all force fields to go down - temporarily. The system will start up again quickly, and reactivate any locks and force fields, but if you hurry you should be able to get out. I will attempt to cause a spike in the need for power in half an hour." He handed Mitchell a map. "Follow the markings in that map and you should not run into any guards. I will be waiting at the exit with some loyal people. We will be armed, so do not attempt anything."

"Why haven't you repaired this error?" Mitchell sounded suspicious. "Sounds a bit convenient to me."

"There is no trickery. We are currently short on qualified staff, and since the circumstances needed for a power surge of that proportion is highly unlikely, it was deemed a non-critical repair. Someone will undoubtedly be punished for this afterwards, but it will not be me."

"How good for you...got it. We'll be ready."

"See that you are."

-
Half an hour later, the power went out, and the door and force field shut off. Mitchell and the others of his team hurried outside, following the map given to them by Theros. Just as the lo'tar had promised, there were no guards. Unfortunately, they also found no other ways out, that were not patrolled by Jaffa, so they could not escape.

They were currently waiting at a bend in the corridor, having heard a faint noise, as if someone was walking close by. After a few moments, they breathed out in relief as there were no further signs of guards.

"Mitchell..." Sam whispered, pulling him to a stop. She threw a quick glance in the direction of Teal'c. He was some distance ahead of them, so hopefully he would not hear them. "You must insist on taking Teal'c instead of me. He's out of tretonin, and it's been almost a day since he should have taken a shot. He'll die if he doesn't get some tretonin soon."

"I thought he looked a bit below waters, but I assumed it was just the torture." He sighed. "Why didn't he say something!"

"He'll insist on being all stupid brave Jaffa, so you should think of something convincing to tell Theros directly, perhaps," Sam pondered it for a moment.

"Maybe that Teal'c is your best warrior and that you need him to protect you. Theros will understand that," Martouf suggested, having heard what they talked about.

Mitchell nodded. "Okay, that makes sense."

They hurried on, and reached the exit a few minutes later. Theros was waiting there with three others, all armed with zat'nik'tels.

"Mitchell..." Theros sneered. "You and the female will go with Sokhan and Nillas here." He indicated two of the men standing beside him. "I will take the others to a safe place."

"Change in plans. I'll take Teal'c - the Jaffa - instead. He's my best warrior, so I want him with me - both for protection now, and for later, when we return to take on the Prior. Besides, since you didn't see fit to heal him, he won't be able to defend himself very well, should the need arise. I mean, he's got a couple broken ribs, and whatnot."

Teal'c was about to say something, but Theros raised his zat'nik'tel and pointed at him with it. He seemed to think it over, then shrugged. "Why not? What do I care!" He turned to Sokhan. "Take Mitchell and the Jaffa. Go, quickly."

"Yes, Theros," Sokhan said. "Move!" He gave Mitchell a push.

Nillas trained his weapon on Teal'c, who followed Mitchell, a dark expression on his face.

"Try not to get yourself killed while I'm gone, kids!" Mitchell called out to Sam and Martouf/Lantash, as he and Teal'c were taken outside.