Chapt 21: Rodents for the Duration
See Chapt. 1 for disclaimers, warnings, timelines.
Secrets: A Father Goose Tale
A BTVS-SG1 Crossover
Chapt 21: Rodents for the Duration
Island of the Left-Handed Serpent, Lake Victoria, Tanzania
Jürgen sat perfectly still, watching as Geb rose from her bed in the temple hallway and stretched the long hok’taur
body, each movement flowing, smooth and powerful, full of grace. Jürgen, as he always did, indulged himself, taking a brief moment to savor the bitter taste of his jealousy. Hok’taur.
Right time, right place. One day a nameless jaffa’s colon in a third world hellhole, the next, Geb, Goddess of the Earth.
But Jürgen allowed himself only a brief moment of self-pity. Events were still unfolding. World domination not an easy thing. Hok’taur
made it possible, but it was a long way from being a done deal and Jürgen was still in the game.
Geb had not confided in Jürgen, had not told him her plans, but that was hardly necessary. Geb was goa’uld and Jürgen was goa’uld and that meant, Jürgen knew all too well, that they thought alike. That was the problem really. That was why the goa’uld did not rule this world now.
Goa’uld made lousy minions and worse conspirators. Better to be supreme lord and master over one’s own small fiefdom, or, in Jürgen’s case, canton,
than second-in-command to the master of the universe.
The obvious way to take over the tau’ri was to infiltrate, to take as hosts the tau’ri leaders … to work their way up the ladder to supreme power… except that as soon as goa’uld A managed to arrange for goa’uld B to take as host a tau’ri in position greater than that held by goa’uld A’s host, goa’uld B decided he wasn’t goa’uld B
anymore … and he was damned if he was going to move any other goa’uld to a position above his own and so the next rung up stayed empty…
And so the goa’uld never scaled the heights. They’d scattered, carving out small empires by selecting powerful hosts, consolidating power using dependent jaffa and moving maturing goa’ulds into subordinate
positions, then watching their backs.
Occasionally brief alliances had been made … and of course, a few foolish wars fought… but the world was large, with no active queen to increase the numbers, there was room enough for all.
And there was that wonderful tau’ri invention called money, power concentrate. Compound interest very much an advantage to creatures who lived indefinitely. Who could
take it with them, letting one host die willing its fortune to the new …. Small bits of metal or paper and yet the tau’ri could always be found who would do anything from kiss to kill for them. Religious fervor waxed and waned but the love of money never faded and the rich were as Gods.
Small Gods, but all
Gods and the Lost Goa’uld, the Abandoned of Ra, had been more or less at peace, content to rule their small kingdoms, indulge their senses and simply live.
But the hok’taur
changed it all. Because the hok’taur
was power unto herself.
Jürgen sat still and watched as Geb played with her weapons, selecting a sword and long wooden spear for this night’s … hunt. Many times Jürgen had followed Geb out into the night, only to be left behind, unequal to the hok’taur’s
speed. But once he had stayed with her, witnessed the … well, hardly a battle. Witnessed Geb toying with strange creatures that Jürgen had believed lived only in tau’ri imagination, in horror movies and the like. Just as he had once believed the hok’taur
to be a myth. Jürgen had witnessed the slaughter and tried to slink away only to find Geb standing before him.
“Now you have seen. I hope you have learned. Do not follow me again. You are useful to me. Useful, but not necessary.” And then she was gone. And Jürgen had never followed again.
He watched now as Geb paused at the witch’s bedside, as she always did before going out, contemplating the sleeping form within the draped curtains with …. what, Jürgen didn’t know. Love? Hate? Fear? Envy? Definitely a little fear, Jürgen thought.
That was Jürgen’s big secret, the little nugget of knowledge that kept him alert and looking for a chance.
feared the witch.
Jürgen had seen it with his own eyes. Seen Geb return from a night hunt, flushed and happy, she had approached the sleeping redhead without the usual care, had yanked the curtains aside, grabbed the sleeper’s shoulder… startling the witch who’d let out a high-pitched cry and flung out an arm …. And Geb had been thrown backwards to hang in the air, her arms twisted painfully behind her back, her legs straight and rigid, her mouth open gasping for breath, eyes wide with fear as she writhed in futility against her unseen bonds …. It was tableaux Jürgen would not soon forget.
And then the witch had come fully awake, seen what she’d done, wailed and with a word set the hok’taur
free and flung herself prostrate at Geb’s feet as she landed cat-like, dagger in hand, face twisted in rage. For an instant Jürgen had thought the hok’taur
would strike, he swore he’d seen the dagger start to move. And then hold. For awhile Geb had let the witch wail and beg, then slowly she had reached down to gently caress the fiery locks, pulled the witch up to her knees, held her as she wept. Jürgen could not hear the words but he could tell Geb was magnanimously accepting the witch’s oft-repeated apology, gently warning her not to do it again. They had stayed there a long time, murmuring. And then Geb had laid the witch back down, covered her, bade her sleep and backed away. And stood a moment, and Jürgen had seen the fear. Had seen it ever since, as Geb always approached the witch with a certain caution, even when demanding menial services, to have her feet rubbed, her favorite drink prepared. But especially when the witch slept.
Jürgen held still, hardly breathing as Geb took her moment, then turned and trotted down the hall, past the hurriedly saluting jaffa guards and out into the night. Jürgen waited. Waited until he was sure Geb was really gone.
Jürgen moved forward to take his own careful, distant, peek at the witch. That one Jürgen did not understand.
Witch. Another myth he would not have believed a few months ago. But he had seen the magic of the Turkish valley, had seen her fly, had himself walked on the wooden bridge that built itself before their feet as they’d crossed the lake. He had seen her power. Geb might perform before the crowd as if she herself accomplished the miracles, but Jürgen knew better, knew for all the hok’taur’s
blunt force there was a power greater still … And yet the witch kneeled at Geb’s feet, did her magic at the hok’taur’s
bidding. They were linked somehow, in some way Jürgen did not understand.
Jürgen turned and walked quietly down the hall, deeper into the temple until he found the hidden door. Guided by the same ancestral memories that had led Geb through the labyrinth, he trotted along until he too found the three dust covered sarcophagi, saw where Geb had disturbed the dust to check the queen’s vitals, just as he’d expected.
Jürgen could see the future now, through Geb’s eyes. The witch would create a paradise, as in the Turkish valley. Perhaps here on the island, more likely somewhere larger, a little less accessible, perhaps in the Congo … and there Queen Tefnut would produce larvae with only the Queen’s memory, with no knowledge of modern tau’ri history. Or modern goa’uld history for that matter. There would be natives and adventurers and refugees from the region’s unending wars, all drawn to paradise, raw materials for the ranks of jaffa for Geb to personally select and train and impress upon them the depth and range of her power. And then when the larvae were of age ….
And this was were Jürgen fancied he himself would be useful. Not necessary, but useful. He was known as a very rich man in Switzerland, equally at home in Zurich and St. Moritz, and, perhaps most importantly, in Davos where a G8 meeting might just be the place to introduce the mature larvae to their new hosts… Switzerland might no longer hold the high place in the financial world it once had, but the movers and shakers still came. It only took one to provide entrée into the world of tua’ri power… and then a few CEO’s, control of an A-list hotel, a security firm… and then a movie star or two …
And then suddenly Geb’s jungle paradise would be discreetly discovered, perhaps the witch would whip up a fountain of youth of some sort as a draw, and they would come, the robber barons and the high mucky-mucks and the Pooh-bahs and they would all leave in a slightly different frame mind, a good Geb-fearing goa’uld snuggled neat and tidy in their brainstems, and stasis jars in their luggage, carried by jaffa. Leaving Geb’s paradise and going back out into the world, golden vectors, velvet dominoes.
It would take a little time, a few years even to fully consolidate control, but the goa’uld would rule the Earth and the tau’ri wouldn’t even know they had become slaves again. Though they would learn in time…. Something would have to be done about the population, drastic reductions, then strict control …. with a little effort the tau’ri could no doubt be persuaded to do the work themselves. But that was for after, details, details…
At least that’s how I would do it, Jürgen thought. But somehow he doubted Geb had the patience to let the plan play out. Nor would she be content to rule from behind the curtain, she would need to gloat, to perform, to be worshipped as the God she would come to believe she was.
She would underestimate the tau’ri. She would push them until they fought back. She would be forced to use the warship prematurely. She would spoil it all.
Jürgen pressed a button and stepped back as the sarcophagi creaked, and then began to glow as it slowly slid open,
“Now wake and rise, my ancient queen,” Jürgen said softly, “we need to talk.”
Camp Kendra, Havana, Cuba
SG1 walked on the beach, the surf and seagulls giving at least an illusion of privacy.
“We need to inform Hammond,” Carter said.
So, vacations over, Jack thought sadly. Well, it had been nice while it lasted.
Physically he was feeling good, fresh and strong. Whatever was in Tia Laline’s pick-me-up, and he was about eighty-five, well, maybe seventy-five percent sure that Harris was pulling his leg about the pureed rat, whatever was in it, it did the trick. Even his knee, which would normally be stiff and sore after a night like the last one, was twinge free.
As if there was anything normal about a night like the last one…. except that it had been perfectly normal, really. Not a common night for Jack, but still, band, food and booze, dancing, laughter. The occasional unplanned plunge into the pool as the night wore on …. a couple small fights that were quickly broken up, a few drunks were led away, at least one stairway featured a young woman in tears being consoled in series by her friends. It was a party.
And all the time… Jack tapped the rolled up goa’uld dossier against his leg, the gory story of super goa’uld Geb’s little rampage through the ancient alien enclaves of Europe and Asia, the current gathering and all that that implied. He could almost hear Harris’ voice … What? You think it would be better to sit around and worry?
“Colonel,” Carter repeated, “We need to ….”
“I heard you, Major,” Jack answered, his tone gentle despite the ‘Major’. He glanced over at her. Jack wasn’t quite sure if Carter was angry with him, or just mad at the world at the moment. He thought at least a little bit of the thinned lips and the flash in her eyes was for him, but with Carter, it was hard to tell. It would have been nice to think that she was mad because he’d spent all that time dancing with other women, but that was, he knew, just wishful thinking. More likely her irritation was the generic anger of those who have worked all night for those who haven’t. For those who have been seduced not so much by the women as by Harris and the relaxed ambiance of the islands.
Truth be told he was a little irritated with her too.
Buffy was a fun dance partner, light on her feet and quick with the quips and the amusing commentary on the other guests, he’d danced often with her. And once with a surprisingly sedate Faith, (“At ease, Admiral, I only get down and dirty with the X-man,”
) a couple of times with a giggling Renee. He’d taken a turn with Irina … who’d leaned in and whispered in his ear (“She’s upstairs in the library, go and get her you silly man,”)
and once with Irina’s lissome daughter, (“Don’t mind Mom, she means well, which is, I admit, a nice change…”)
and with a few other young ladies, none of whom had been hard on the eyes nor heavy in his arms. He’d taken a break from the ladies to sit and share a pleasant if inconsequential chat with Giles and the other Jack, Irina’s hard-eyed beaux who’d met O’Neill’s gaze just for a moment, one professional acknowledging another, but left it at that, the mutual ask-me-no-questions-and-I’ll-tell-you-no-lies
passing unspoken but understood.
He’d eaten a bit, sipped a little rum, flirted with Buffy, and whatthehell, been reasonably merry … but all the time he’d kept watch, waiting for Sam to appear, to grace him with a weary smile, share a drink, maybe nice slow dance or two… but of course she never came. Once or twice he’d been tempted to take Derevko’s advice and simply go and get her … but he knew that would go wrong somehow. If anything was understood between them it was that Carter would have to make the first move.
There were times…. when he just ached for the little things. To just reach out and brush her hair way from her eyes… caress her cheek…. Hold her in his arms when she was tired… to give her a hug when she was excited with some new discovery…. Maybe he was fooling himself, but sometimes he really felt he could be happy with that … if she’d just let him hold her once in awhile, let him steal a kiss now and then… Okay. So one thing would probably lead to another. But for crying out loud, where was the harm? Especially here in the warm tropical night, so very very far from the dank hallways of the SGC… where for once someone else was standing guard on the outer walls and they could let their guard down just a little.
By and large Jack believed in military protocol, after all soldiers would never do the crazy and stupid things they were ordered to do if they weren’t in the habit of following orders regardless of merit … still there were times and places where standing on protocol was just … silly.
But he knew Carter didn’t see it that way and the last thing Jack wanted was to have her look at him with shame in her eyes…
Jack sighed, stared out at the sea a moment, then looked back at his team, Carter standing tense and impatient, Daniel kicking idly at the sand, thoughts clearly a long way away from the problem at hand, even the usually completely stoic Teal’c was glancing back at the house, clearly eager to get to work… For once Jack thought he could read the big man’s mind…. All this time, hanging out in the SGC, twiddling his thumbs when there had been goa’uld living the high life practically under his nose…. Teal’c wanted to make up for lost time.
Jack thought about Harris. The occasional waves of paternal feelings had faded. There was nothing of Charlie in the one-eyed man. Harris had never played a game of catch with his old man, that made difference somehow, Jack thought. He clearly respected and liked Giles, but Harris was no man’s son and never would be…
So Jack had simply come to enjoy his company for it’s own, occasionally surreal, sake. It would have been nice to think that when this was all over they could go out, have a beer sometime. Hell, maybe they would … if things didn’t work out too badly, Harris would understand. Jack had had to do what he did, just as Harris had his priorities…. Now look me in the eye, Jack, and tell me, if it were, say, Carter and Jackson, you wouldn’t do the same?
Yeah, Jack understood Harris perfectly. In his place, if it was Carter and Jackson in peril, Jack would probably have done the same, played the same ruthless bloody game, played for the same inside straight… but the fact of the matter was that it wasn’t
Carter and Jackson on that island, and the fact of the matter was the whole damn world was in peril.
And if the cold hard truth was that Carter was never
going to make that first move, well, too bad, Jack had more important things to worry about just now. Right? Right. Time to get back to work, Colonel.
“Waddya think, Teal’c, that island is big enough to be hiding a buried Ha'tak, isn’t it?” The jaffa nodded. “You think it could still be functional?” Jack asked.
“I see no reason to think otherwise, O’Neill. The ships are built to withstand extreme conditions of both heat and cold. The hull is made of an alloy that will not corrode. So long as the airlocks were properly closed, the exhaust vents shut and shuttered and hull has not been breached by force it should last indefinitely. And it would take an impact of great force to create a breach. Even then …”
“What about power….”
“One lift-off would use more power than running minimal maintenance levels for thousands of years….”
“So we have to assume that this Geb has or will have access to one or more working Ha’taks …. Which could be ….very bad.”
“So we destroy it,” Jack said. “How? I seem to remember even naquadah enhanced missiles bounced off these things…”
“That was with the force-shields active, sir, and in space where the force of the explosion could easily dissipate,” Carter said. “I have to believe that a direct strike with a nuclear device would destroy the ship if the shields were down. And even if they weren’t, if the ship were still imbedded in the earth …. I find it very hard to believe that even goa’uld shields could provide complete protection at the heart of an atmospherically contained nuclear blast. The sound waves alone would be lethal, plus the radiation, the heat …. Which is a problem, sir.”
“Well, a nuclear explosion in proximity to the ship’s naquadah stores … well, a naquadah enhanced explosion within the earth’s atmosphere could be catastrophic.”
“When you say catastrophic ….”
“I’d need to know the size of the original bomb and how much naquadah was onboard and some idea of how completely the naquadah would react to make an accurate….”
“Somewhere between turning East Africa into a moonscape and setting the Earth’s atmosphere on fire.”
“Ah. So. Global warming for Men.”
“Bad. Very bad.”
“So, let’s rule out nukes for a moment. What else?”
“It’s possible, if the shields are down, that a barrage of bunker busters might break though the hull, but we would need precise targeting information, but really when you get down to it sir, the only secure and safe method is to get inside….
“…with lots of C4. Which,” Jack held up the rolled dossier, “is pretty much Plan A. Fine. T, you were working with the girls this morning. You think they can handle this?”
“They learn quickly, O’Neill. We need to spend more time preparing them to counter jaffa tactics, but they will make a formidable assault team. If XanderHarris’ information concerning the likely opposition force is accurate, I am confident of victory.”
“Then let’s hope Mr. Harris’ sitrep is accurate. Daniel, you with us?”
“I need you to….”
“Go through scrolls we found on Haiti and see if I can find any information about a possible Ha’tak in East Africa.”
“Um. Well, yes… And….”
“Go down and talk to the goa’uld in the basement, now that you have more information to work with, see if you can’t bluff a bit more out of her. It.“
“Good. Carter, I need you to prepare diagrams and a chalk talk so we can give the girls an idea of what goa’uld ships look like inside and out, include death gliders and a tel-tak as well as a ha’tak.”
“Okay, then, Teal’c you ahead and get the girls started, I’m going to talk to Giles and then I’ll join…”
“Sir,” Carter said, “About contacting Hammond…”
Jack held up his hand, spoke to Teal’c and Daniel, “You two go ahead, the Major and I are going to take a little walk on the beach. ”
Carter began to speak again but Jack jerked his head at Daniel’s retreating back and she waited until the archeologist was clearly out of range before speaking,
“You don’t really think Daniel would pass on our plans…”
“Not on purpose, no. But there’s a good chance he’d look guilty at the wrong time and Giles and Harris and especially Faith, they don’t miss much.” They walked. Jack reached in his pocket and pulled out the cell phone he’d “borrowed” from a slightly inebriated guest the night before. He paused a moment, mentally running through the code phrases he and Hammond had agreed upon before they left, then dialed, waited for Hammond to answer, spoke,
“Hey, Georgie-boy how’s it hanging? Loose? Just wanted to let you know the fishing’s been great, but I think we’re gonna go with plan B and take the kids and move out tonight. With any luck we’ll catch sight of the moon coming over the mountains. Maybe do a little horse-back riding when we get there, but that’s not confirmed. I was thinking, maybe your group could head down toward Tippu Tip’s old place and hang out ‘til we can meet up. We’ll give you a call with the details when we get to the hotel. …. No, we haven’t quite settled that, nothing is certain, but when it is you’ll be the first to know.”
He bent then as if picking a rock off the beach and sent the phone skipping out across the waves.
“You think that was enough?” Carter asked.
“It’ll have to be, until we can make contact on a secure line. It should be enough to get a carrier group moving toward the east coast of Africa. They wouldn’t be able to go any faster if they knew all the details. Besides, I want to be sure you get a chance to give the brass the whole world-on-fire lecture before we give them an actual target.”
“I don’t think we need to worry too much about that, sir,” Carter said. “I don’t the think President is going to be in a big hurry to nuke the headwaters of the Nile. Not without a lot more proof than we’ve delivered so far.”
“Speaking of which, the other thing I need you to do is write up a detailed report of what we do know, just to have ready in case we get near a secure transmission point. I would
like the SGC units moved into proximity, on the ground, asap. That’s rough country, I’d much rather they had time to fly into Entebbe under civilian cover than have to jump…. C’mon Carter, we better head back, people will start talking about us.”
They turned and started walk back toward the house, the air shimmering in the heat of the noonday sun.
“Sir,” Carter said, “I think I owe you an apology.”
“You thought that staying up all night dancing with pretty girls I’d gone soft? Lost sight of the mission?”
“Something like that. I’m sorry, sir.”
“I like these people, Carter. Believe me, I hope to hell we can just do everything Harris’ way, right up to the end. I sure as hell don’t want to get into a fight with them. I hope the SGC troops end up sitting on their thumbs out in the bush the whole time. But eyes on the prize, Carter. Eyes on the prize.”
“One other thing,” Jack said, pausing before they reached the compound proper, “tell me about the witch.”
“You were doing some research on her… is she really as powerful as they seem to think? I mean, if we do come into conflict, is she just going to grow bananas at us or is there more…..”
“Well, there’s all kinds of stories, sir. Impossible to verify, of course….”
“Yessir. One of the more consistent stories is that she once flayed a man alive, sir. I’m still …. struggling with the whole idea of magic sir, but still… I think we need to consider her dangerous until we know otherwise.”
“Yessir. Ripped his skin off with a wave of her hand, according the stories. Colonel?”
“Who’s Tippu Tip?”
“Oh for crying out loud, Carter, read a book sometime. You know, one with more letters than numbers.”
“Those who don’t study history are condemned to repeat it, Carter.”
“What about those who watch the History Channel, sir?”
“They can change the channel when it repeats, Major.”
Dawn and Daniel were in the library, unrolling scrolls onto the long center table. Daniel jerked his head toward Derevko’s office and Jack and Carter went in to find Giles waiting for them, a largish tome opened on the desk before him. He looked up as they entered, eyebrows raised in the interrogative.
“Okay,” Jack said. “We’ll play it your way. I’ll just remind you once more, if there is a ship, it’s absolutely vital that we disable it as soon a possible. Once a ha’tak is airborne, we’ll be at their mercy.”
“Duly noted,” Giles said. “And thank you, I’m so glad you’ve agreed. If you hadn’t I’m afraid we’d decided it would be safer to turn you into rodents of some kind … just for the duration of course… But that spell is so tiring for one of my limited magical aptitude… Would you like to use this office, Major? I’ll just get out of your way then.”
Jack followed the head watcher back down the stairs.
“You’re kidding about the rodent spell, right?” he asked.
“Of course,” Giles said insincerely. “Absolutely. Total wheeze. Ha ha.”
“Ha ha,” Jack said. “Good one.”
Island of the Left-Handed Serpent, Lake Victoria, Tanzania
Mjima Nduna, Keeper of the Hidden Temple, awoke staring into the terrified face of his third wife. And his second. And his first. And his nephew whose duty it was to be one of those standing watch in the village this night.
“What?” Mjima Nduna grumped.
“She has been seen, in the moonlight, walking the island…
” His second wife added with significance
“Which,” Mjima snapped, ‘is when you get moonlight. What do you want me to do about it? She is a Goddess, so what if she wants to walk at night? Who are we to question…”
“She was walking toward the caves,” his first wife said with finality.
“She is a Goddess!” Mjima said, “Did you not see Her today? Was She not magnificent?”
“And the Thing in the caves is a Devil,” his first wife said. “Your Goddess must be warned!”
Mjima cursed and rose from his bed. On the whole Mjima found his world to be a reasonably well-ordered place. The women did the routine, day to day work and the men fought the lions and did the hunting. It was not his fault that the only lions left around were bait for the tourists and the same was true of the game. And his good fortune that the yearly stipend allowed him to avoid the hard work of the fishing boats. But now, there it was, try as he might, Mjima could hardly argue that going out into the midnight bush to warn mad Goddesses of cave-dwelling monsters was women’s work.
He thought, briefly, of sending his nephew. But he knew if he did he would never be a man in is wives’ eyes again. Better the monster in the cave than life with three wives who hold you in contempt, Mjima knew. He put on a clean shirt. He was going to see the Goddess, after all.
The old Honda 125 sputtered and coughed and died and Mjima had a moment of hope…. If the bike wouldn’t start …No, they’d make him take old man Thick-eye’s bicycle. On the third kick the motorbike caught, the headlight sending a pale weak finger of light out to poke in futility at the darkness of night, at the black on black shadows of the trees in the moonlight.
Mjima grabbed his best panga and stuck it in his belt, then paused a moment to strike a pose, then rode off down the dusty road that that lead down to the northern beach. He paused where the little, rarely used path broke off to wind around the island to the point of sacrifice where once a month they staked out a cow for the Thing in the caves. He took a breath. Then knowing full well that every ear in the village was listening the whine of the little bike’s overworked engine, he turned on the path and toward what he fully expected was to be his untimely fate.